The effect

It’s where we contacted that I’m bruised
Where I ground your bones against me

A small, secret mark I made with you
It has stung for days
(They always do)
And each sting is like being
With you

When you left, I was too fuckwired to sleep
I Skyrimmed while I waited
For your homesafe text and
Now all of Whiterun smells like you
Finished three unrelated poems and
Now each one tastes like you on my tongue

You're not supposed to know
You affect me

We talked about, well, everything
You said how much you like my formal work
I don't do much of that but

lover, lover
            let's mark each other
            come over, come under, come 
            let's make each other
            you leave me diff'rent when you leave
            me give me something I can
            to bring you to me in the
            darkness now, a scent, a sound a
            lover always haunt my Whiterun
            lover mark up every page
            flavor all my words for me
            and follow every mage
            spend one more night beside
            spend forever on this page


Grandpa picks up the strangest things by the road and sends them to me:
1. A tent without poles
2. A Speedway card
3. An honest-to-god troll doll
4. Santa and a reindeer in a car. It plays Jingle Bell Rock.
3. What I find out is a “geri chair”, which most likely someone died in

My mother’s packages have sea glass, or strange rocks. Seashells. I will send you snippets, or links, or pictures of my cat. It’s all the same principle.

Grandma gets science magazines. She teaches me about petrified wood and warm-blooded dinosaurs. With mom it’s architecture and history. From me it could be anything I’ve picked up: the earth’s axis wobble, computational theory, sociology, but what we’re all saying is that we love you.

I am nine years old the first time I hear the phrase “idiopathic neuropathy”. This is when I find out why grandma doesn’t walk much. She’s helped make me too smart not to understand: neuro pathy—your nerves are dying—idio pathic—cause unknown. My grandma is dying from the outside in, and no one knows why.

Grandma once tells me, “if anyone ever hurt you boys, I’d have them killed. I know people.” She laid into me once because she thought I was saying that people aren’t born gay—her Donnie, my uncle, was a GIFT to her—and she had misheard me but I could tell she had given that lecture many times in our small town. She loves fiercely, with her claws out, and sometimes it’s hard to love her back but it’s always impossible not to. She is a warrior of love.

Grandpa makes me a little wooden plaque that says “my funny, funny clown”. One of the Ns is backward. Grandma teaches me to cook a turkey. Mom will be my best friend through every breakup.

These people are baking bricks of themselves, and they are building me structures. They are making a lonely little boy into a man I’ll be proud to be.

I am 22 years old when grandma steps on a nail. She doesn’t know until she gets home, because she has no feeling in her feet. It’s decided that she won’t walk around outside the house any more. It is like watching a monster take bits of her.

I am 32 years old, in a nursing home with the family. We are talking. Around her. This fierce, clawed woman, this warrior, who owned every room I ever saw her in isn’t part of it. She’s smoke where there was fire. Fog. She


She’s there behind the eyes. The conversation is light. She manages…barely…to kiss me before I leave. She loves me still, even claws in.

I am 34 years old and I am at her funeral. It seems like the whole town is there. I talk about the magazines and the petrified wood and I find out that when I grew up she would give those magazines to the neighbor kids, that they loved her, too. Everyone talks about her.

Everyone there had known that fierce love. She left everything on the field. My grandma was not here to be forgotten.

I am every age that I will ever be.
My mother’s feet and fingers crack, parts fall away, like a torch lit from both sides.
Mine go slowly numb.
Idiopathic neuropathy means I am dying from the outside in. No one knows why.

But I got more from these people than some bum genes, so
I have been giving my magazines to the neighbor kids
I have been picking you trinkets from the roadside and the shore so you’ll know
I love you
Claws out
I have been baking myself into bricks. I am building structures.
I am leaving everything on the field.
I am not here
To be


The slogan of so many kids in my class was“You wear your X and I’ll wear mine”
Despite the fact that we only had one black kid
And Jay wasn’t sporting Malcolm’s gear

I wanted to shake them, should have shook them
Should have shouted “It’s not! Your! X”
This was a northern state
This was a Quaker town
The Friends Church where my scout troop met
Had a little room with its own lock
Where they used to hide runagates
Every old house here has hidey holes
We were founded for the Underground Railroad
This town was the opposite
of your X

And when shots were fired on Sumter
So many Quakers set aside their peaceful ways
Stood up
Said “If I fight for anything it will be this”

These kids want pride so bad they’ll
Wring it from the rags of slavers
But not so bad they’ll crack a book
Not so bad they’ll look at themselves
Their houses
Their church
And see that they could have been proud of the right things

Growing up in a red state you fight or you break or you leave
And I fought until it was leave or break and I left

But the Xes stayed.
As my years on the Brain Game turn to years spent as brain drain
I go back to my old high school
And they’ve put up a shiny new main street
They tore down all the old Quaker houses
Tore down that holy place with its hidey hole
Tore down all our history
Tore down a place where the people stood up

Side Character


I think Fatty Bolger was the bravest hobbit.
He knew that someone had to stay behind,
And that straggling halfing would have just as much at stake
With no glory. I mean he wasn’t even in the movie.

When we met you were already moving but you said,
“It’s okay, I move fast” and you did, and then you left
And we stayed in contact for a while
And then we didn’t, and I know why, and it’s fine
But the internet is a whale’s song
In my distant sea it sings me sonar snippets of you
I am always glad to know you’re well

But when they make a movie of you, I won’t be in it


I wish Oberyn Martell had more time
He just seems so important, right up until the last
But that’s the way those books go
Sometimes you just get one moment

We were months of messages and one weekend
And you said “If my history is anything to go by
We’ll either see each other a lot or never again”
And it was that last one, of course
The whalesong brought me news of your tumor
Years after I could have done anything
Which of course I couldn’t, and you did just fine without me

It’s just that I thought we’d have more moments


I think Aberforth Dumbledore was the better brother
He only comes in at the end, but he’s clear with Harry
He doesn’t hide anything in riddles, he doesn’t keep secrets
But he doesn’t have much time

It was three months before I talked to you
The only other whale in my naptown sea
And three more months before I asked you
When we were chatting on a Thursday evening, the way we always did
And you said yes, and then you drifted off
I didn’t hear from you on Friday
On Saturday your ex called me because I was the last number in your phone and

What do you mean she’s dead?!
How is that possible?!
How did she get it?!
What kind of doctor gives an ex-junkie morphine?
What do you mean, I can’t save her? The hero always looks like me!

He says they found you on Friday morning, dead for hours
And I count backward to Thursday night
When I thought you fell asleep

I had all the trappings of a main character
I thought we’d have more time, but no one told me
That I’d only meet your parents at your funeral
No one told me I should have spoken sooner
No one told me it was your last chapter
And I was the wrong Dumbledore

open letters from an openly bisexual man

To whom it may concern,
I’m told invisibility is the superpower that everyone would choose
And I think that’s funny because they could just, like,
Indicate an attraction to more than one sex and

And maybe they’re right, it is a power
I will never know how many dates would flee
If they knew
How many
I’ve been saved because it does not say “man love” on my sleeve
I only know how strange it is to be this
Big, loud, corn-fed farmboy cum hipster and
Sometimes be so hard to see

To the people who ask “why did you come out? I’d never have known”,

You answered your own question.

To Michael Hutchence,

Your videos are where I first realized. I was a teenager. I am, indeed, one of your kind. Rest in peace.

To Grandpa Simmonds,

I wish I came out before you died. You’d have gotten over it, just like the hair, which is to say mostly, slowly, grudgingly.

To Grandma Zeigler,

I wish I came out before you died. You’d have been so proud.

To the American Red Cross,

Take my money
As you will not take the blood from these veins
Too tainted by too much love
I never knew how to draw your lines
Would that I could do the same good somewhere else
I will pay thy poverty, o
Thou bigot Apothecary

To the people who ask if my wife knows,


To my wife,

I love you.

To Grandpa Zeigler,

Thank you for the support. Get over the hair.

To Grandma Simmonds,

We’re cool, I just didn’t want to leave you out. I love you.

To those who say the word should be “pan” or “omni”, not “bi”,

I don’t care for your words, but I agree with you that attraction is not a coin flip. When I say “bisexual”, I am using it as a shorthand for:

Humanity isn’t one binary, it is a spectrum, it is spectra, it is a grand sky stretching out in all directions and all dimensions
and for some people attraction is the sun, bright and focused
and they know that to see their light they can look in one direction
for me attraction is the night sky, and everywhere there are pinpricks of light

Maybe they collect in patterns, and
over here is the constellation riot grrl
over here the constellation glitter boy
and here in the middle are librarian, musician, scientist, all
straddling what some would pretend is a dividing line
but if it’s there I don’t even see it

I don’t begrudge anyone their basking in the sun
knowing where their light will be
but I would never trade it for my night sky
where my light comes to me from all directions all at once
unpredictably and beautifully

I also think maybe more of you should admit that even on the brightest sunny day
you can see the moon.

I am real

The death of Chivalry

They say “chivalry is dead”, but they don’t knowI was there, we saw him come
Galloping up to, I don’t know, hold open a door or something, and
Sick of his shit we
Grabbed his ankles and dragged him from his shiny steed who
Turns out to be a horse named Mark he’d spraypainted silver and
Mark was pretty chill so we washed off the paint and we sent him on his way and then we
Turned back to Chivalry, sitting there, in his fucking armor and we
Kicked and kicked him, all
A fat femme with a pierced septum stripped his cloak off a mud puddle and
We dragged him there and pushed his face in it and
An androgynous queer kid with spiked purple hair stood on Chivalry’s head until the

We picked up the body and bore his pall to
The Cemetery of Outmoded Creatures where
We walked past the grave of Trickle-Down Economics and
The tomb of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, and
We buried Chivalry between a Megatherium and a Trilobyte
And carved a headstone of coprolite so we could write
“Here lies shit so old and tired it has fossilized” and
On the way out we bought plots for
Evolutionary Psychology and
Sociobiology, so
You two should know
We’re coming for you

When we got home, we had a wake
Not out of respect for the dead but just because we like a party and we
Held doors for each other because it’s nice and not because
Women are too weak and frail to manage doorknobs or whatever and we
Bought each other food and drink just because we love each other and want to see each other fed and
We freed the mud puddles of their cloaks and we jumped joyously into them with no care for our shoes

The legends say that to this day
On dark and moonless nights
Chivalry still stalks these streets
You can hear him around corners and in dark alleys
M’lady….. m’laaaaadyyyyyy
But we have been buying garlic
And we have been carving wooden stakes
And we are waiting


Someone asked me what you were
“Is that your girlfriend? I saw you with.”

And I’m like… maybe?

Mostly she was important talks and giggles and… you know

And someone who needed things I had to give and to teach

We weren’t long (well, I was)

We were flea markets and ice cream and one damn fine summer

And that one night with the two of us and my friend

Late night walks and learning each others quirks

We were that salted caramel and the salted duck eggs she left me

We were salt, and sweat, and central air

We were the Mayan chicken salad at Olga’s and she was picking out the crumbs with those tiny little hands I like so much because sometimes I’m embarrassed to say “celiac”

We were a late night poetry reading on a bench in the park

We were invested—I was invested—in a way I didn’t expect and wasn’t prepared for

We weren’t around each other for long enough

We were… something.  I don’t know what the word is.

I don’t think it’s “girlfriend”, but I know what you mean

I know what you’re really asking behind the words and the answer is

We were a thing, for a while, but she had to leave

Maybe we will be a thing again

We’re a different thing now

The answer, I guess, is


Listening to the audio book of Fire on the

Listening to the audio book of Fire on the Prairie, which is an excellent book read by a terrible narrator.  Get it in print.

Anyway, I wanted to find a cite for a statistic that’s mentioned in it, because it startled me in one of those this-shouldn’t-startle-you-Nick sort of ways.  One of those moments where one realizes ones own subtle racism.

Anyway, found a reference here which had a slightly different number but is close enough:

The term “black on black” crime is a destructive, racialized colloquialism that perpetuates an idea that blacks are somehow more prone to violence. This is untrue and fully verifiable by FBI, DOJ and census(pdf) data. Yet the fallacy is so fixed that even African Americans have come to believe it.

What Will, Steele and O’Reilly failed to mention is the exacting truth that white Americans are just as likely to be killed by other whites. According to Justice Department statistics (pdf), 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites.

Look, I try, but I had no idea how staggeringly more likely it was for a white person to be victimized by another white person.  Despite it being obvious with a moment’s thought.  Despite the only time I’ve ever been a victim of a real crime, it having been perpetrated by a guy who looked like me (eerily so, down to the goatee and windbreaker at the time). I’d just never checked.

Every time I find another one of these, it’s a shock.  There must be a million more in there, little toxic pods leaching poison in my mind. That part of my brain that throws up a black face when the word “thug” is uttered.  The part that’s relieved when I walk into a Mexican restaurant and there’s at least one other non-Hispanic white person. The bit that thinks “black on black crime” is an understandable result of economic conditions but never gets around to asking whether it’s actually a thing at all in comparison to anyone else.

There is ugliness in me. I’ll never be done digging it out.

Music and copyright

I haven’t been able to work out a good venue for this, but it’s been percolating for a while and I need to write something, so here goes.  Let’s talk copyright.


Let me start by saying that, while I lean more toward the “free culture” end of things, there are a lot of problems that people on the techy side of that argument are ignoring when they go into “information wants to be free” mode.  It is true that there is very little marginal cost to producing a copy of a recording these days, and it is true that labels in the “bad old days” were often shitty to artists.  And while it’s true that some small number of artists out there are also rich jerks, those artists are a rounding error on an industry that’s mostly full of struggling folks who aren’t making a living.  Even if you’re on the right side of history when you talk about free distribution and the death of copyright, you are usually gloating and it’s unseemly.  Artists ought to make money from their labors.


We have a sad tendency to dismiss creative endeavors in this society.  There’s an odd sense that if someone wants to do something, if it’s a calling, it doesn’t count as work.  But I don’t see a lot of people suggesting that nurses, or engineers, or programmers, or policemen ought to work for free and be grateful if someone drops a dollar on them.  A lot of people want to be nurses, too.


Another bizarre argument I’ve seen bandied about is the idea that there’s an “infinite upside” to writing a song—do the work once, then profit forever.  That works, perhaps, if you write Louie Louie, or Mr. Boombastic.  But that’s essentially like winning the lottery.  Those are outliers and can also be ignored for any reasonable discussion.  The vast majority of recordings are a labor that won’t really ever pay for itself, and that’s only more true every day.


Also, there are a lot of people who essentially made a bargain with the world that the world is reneging on. Newer artists, sure, know what they’re stepping into, but people who began recording five, ten, twenty years ago built a career on a set of entirely reasonable assumptions that have been suddenly rendered unreasonable.  And it was mostly a kind of shitty career to begin with—see earlier re: undervaluing creative endeavors.  Much like a construction worker in the current climate, or an automotive worker twenty years ago, their life model doesn’t work anymore and it’s not a simple thing to pivot that.  Not only that, but recording music was much more labor intensive and expensive before, so older recordings required a great deal more investment that is now not ever going to be recouped.


There is a great deal to be optimistic about here, but there are real people who are losing out and we owe them both sympathy and help.


I had a whole bit in the middle here about David Lowery’s piece at the Trichordist, but I don’t think I need it so I’m excising it.  No one wants to rehash that, anyway.  If you want me to go over each of his assertions for you, let me know and I’ll do it privately.


There’s a lot to be optimistic about, there are a lot of winners in the new paradigm here, and things are looking good for a lot of people.  Worldwide music industry revenues are actually climbing—the numbers that you keep hearing about falling sales only count recorded music (  People are spending phenomenal amounts more on live music worldwide as recorded music gets cheaper.  Folks don’t pump less money into the music industry, they just consume more, and the more they’re consuming are the less labor-intensive recordings.

And there really are big winners out there who prove that you can still become big, if “bigness” is your measure of success.  Everyone brings up Jonathan Coulton, and then  everyone else dismisses him because he’s a niche nerd act, and that’s fair.  I don’t want a world in which only the Jonathan Coultons can make money playing music.  Have you heard of Justin Bieber, though?  He was discovered after he released his recordings free on Youtube.  There are people out there doing it, and there are more of them every day.


It’s not impossible now, but it may be harder.  And if so it’s on those of us with the know-how to make it easier.  If live music is the way to make money these days, we need to be using our tech tools to connect small artists with small venues at least as much as we’re using them to download music.  If recorded music has to become a loss leader, and it probably does, we need to find ways to minimize those losses.  And if we download music and we like the artist, we need to buy some merchandise or kick in some funds, or we’re not right with the world.


Labels, at the core, are not a bad thing.  They aggregate risk for artists, but because they can’t predict who is going to be a winner, they need to be able to recoup their costs from the ones that do win.  Labels will probably have to move toward a role more like a venture capital firm, funding bands as if they were startups in return for some cut of total revenue, especially if playing live becomes the way to make money.  The music industry could also do with some “angel investors”, individuals who find bands they like and give them smaller startup loans, again against future revenues.  And we need to drive costs further down; not just costs of recording, but costs of promotion and distribution.  We need better ways to “discover” new music from artists that aren’t established yet.


It is simple economical law that the marginal cost of a copy of a song is going to approach zero.  There will be no revenue here, eventually.  But professional musicians predate recorded music by thousands of years, and professional music will survive the internet.  What gets lost too often in the shuffle are the current musicians (and authors, etc.) who put their career plans together in the brief 70-year window when the way to make money was to put a lot of personal time in up front recording music and then try to sell that.  Maybe those people need to find another way to make their living, but those of us who are benefitting from their discomfort owe it to them to make it easier.

great     ...





                                beast between my ears


hold still you fuck

we have all these fields to plow

and still you buck


you know I love you

                you know

I hate to do this


I would


                                                run free


                with you


                                                in the green night


but we and those we love must eat

so you and I must sow

accept the yoke god damn it

Grandma Zeigler Stories

We always used to talk about science, whatever we’d run into that was new and interesting. One time—I forget the context—I brought up the then-new research indicating that womb conditions after having multiple boys seem to have a tendency to trigger genetic preconditions that cause a boy to be gay.  Grandma misunderstood what I was saying, and thought that I was implying that being gay was a choice, and she laid into me, because it sounded like I was saying the sorts of things she’d heard about her son from friends, family, and acquaintances for years.  Her Donny was a gift to her, and she was going to spit furious fire at anyone who tried to imply otherwise.  Or even anyone who, as I did, just sounded like he was trying to imply otherwise.
I eventually convinced her that I was on her side, and that I would never say anything like what she thought I had, but it was a perfect illustration of the fierce and protective way that she could love.  There was no hesitation, and I have no doubt that she has launched the same salvo at dozens of people over the years.  It was too practiced to be anything but a common occurrence.

An Ally's Manifesto

I am overprivileged compared to virtually everyone in the world, and I know this.  Recognizing my own privilege incurs certain obligations on me.  This is a place for me to write down the ways that I will be an ally.  It is a living document, because I will never be done documenting these things.
It is not my allies’ job to make me feel welcome.  Safe spaces are not for me, because spaces are safe for me by default.  Sometimes, generous folks will invite me into private spaces, which is gracious of them.  If my presence makes anyone feel uncomfortable or unsafe, I will leave, just as graciously, because it is not my space.

When I am told to check my privilege, I will check it.  When I am told I am derailing, I will stop.  I am virtually always operating with privilege; if anything, I am called on it far less often than it happens.

Before I was an ally, I operated on the assumption that my privilege was simply owed me, and I acted thus.  I will attempt to correct for that behavior, but I am not owed forgiveness for it, nor should it be forgotten simply because I am attempting not to be toxic any longer.

I am human, and I will backslide.  When I do, I must do my best to make amends. After those amends, I will not be owed forgiveness, or acceptance.  Some of my allies will forgive me, but it is not incumbent on the others to do so, and it is understandable that they would not.

I cannot usefully contribute to arguments between different groups that I am allied to.  I can only mediate between my allies and people like me.  Attempting to interject or intercede in arguments between allied groups or individuals is necessarily patronizing, and my opinion is not needed.  I will not participate in these arguments and, if I find myself doing so, will bow out with as much grace as I can manage.

There are words that I cannot use, even though others can.  There are places that I cannot go, even though others can.  There are roles that I cannot perform, even though others can. These things are not unfair.  There are so many things open to me that are not open to the vast majority of others that the balance is and will always be far in my favor.

While it may be obvious to me when I am being ironic or sardonic, it is not always obvious to those who know me, let alone obvious to those who don’t.  Jokes that rely on the listener’s knowledge that I would never actually espouse bigoted beliefs do not always come across as jokes.  When they don’t, they aren’t jokes.  The line between parodying a thing and simply performing that thing is very fine, and I have to police it very carefully.

I am not, will not, cannot and should not be a leader in these movements.  That is simply another form of colonization and appropriation.  It is not my role to cajole, coerce, or guide.  It is mine to aid and abet, to advise and comfort.  It is on me to assist from the background with my privileged position, and not to use it to step to the forefront.

Just as I am an individual, so are all other people.  We do not exist to represent the races, classes, sexes, religions, creeds, etc. to which we belong.  I, however, am recognized for my own actions by default.  I must always remember to extend that courtesy to others, and to correct it when I see other overprivileged folks failing to do so.

Pursuant to the above, I will not boil people down into categories. I will be very careful with this, and will especially treat the following words with great care if I use them, which should be uncommon. I will take this care even when applying these words to myself.

  • articulate
  • inspiration
  • X for a Y
  • foreign
  • exotic

I will not engage in conversation merely to demonstrate my status as an ally.  I have plenty of cookies.  I will especially not engage strangers in conversations about my status as an ally to “people like them”.

When I see someone acting in a privileged manner, or failing to recognize their own privilege, I must call them on it.  I am the one with the standing to do so.  I cannot be dismissed the way that my allies can.

I will handle the 101-level instruction for others like me.  Having learned it myself, it is both something I owe to my overprivileged fellows and a burden I can shoulder for my allies.

I am not a hero.  These narratives are not mine.  I am not The One Good Man.  I am not The White Guy Who Is Down.  I am not the Pahana.  I am not The Straight Friend, the Cis Friend, or the Able-Bodied Friend.  I am a sidenote to these struggles. I am the supporting cast, not the protagonist.

I am not doing enough.  I do not have laurels to rest on. I am proud of the my recognition, proud of my actions, but they are not sufficient, let alone above and beyond.

The things in this document are only things that I owe, and not things for which I am owed gratitude.  They are minimal requirements, and if someone thanks me for them, I will appreciate that but I will also recognize that it is a sad commentary on the state of the world rather than something at which I am excelling.


I burned my fingers tonight.
It was stupid, really. I tried to steam a tamale in too little water. I used a ceramic plate as a lid because the pots with actual lids are wastefully large for this application. Some time late I smelled smoke, and took everything apart carefully, cooled the pot with water, and retrieved the mercifully edible tamale. The smoke smell ranged.

Back at the stove, I tried, foolishly, to pick up the plate. A quick spinal reaction, three jumps, more curses, and a run to the sink… ouch. Only first degree, but right on the fingertips.

It’s my left hand. Non-dominant. It’s hard to explain how crippling this is, though. Typing at speed requires two hands. Even at full speed, the words back up, but one handed is terrible. I can manage something like 20 words per minute with just my right hand. It’s not nearly enough.

Writing is not good.  I have motor dysgraphia. My hands cramp and I slow to a fucking crawl. I can’t move. When I try my hand at handwriting, I












I need my words.  This is how I breathe. Without a keyboard I suffocate.  Burnt fingers are a collapsed lung and I am using ice as a respirator.


Summer strolls through my windowsRedoles with Maillard
Cracks and pops
Slow roast over compressed char wafting

Heat means
Cooking raw meat while we wear
Skin in the lazy sun gone orange
This is a good time
For legs of all sorts
Flesh slowly browning all around
My every sense devours

If you can create, you have an obligation to do so
No, I don’t care if “everything ends”, I don’t even care
You are still required to go out screaming
Beating your fists into bloody stumps against the Second Law

I wounded myself
You know, you were there
Of course, we were both
And didn’t find out until later
We laughed

I was dressing it some time after
When I noticed that
The wound had the smell of you
About it
Platelets, proteins
Or mimicked
Your scent

I want to tell you
But first
I want to know
You’ll take it for the compliment it is