Why the Zombie Apocalypse?

November 24, 2014

This update posted to the About page.

The zombie apocalypse to me represents the near-complete alienation we experience as a result of succumbing to — and even fending off — colonizing forces that threaten and destroy life and love.  As such, it serves as a potentially-fantastic analogy and tool to explore the predicaments and challenges that alienating and colonizing societies pose toward us, and build a solid foundation for decolonization work.

Though no real clear distinction exists, the poetry typically serves to establish and explore a cosmology of the zombie apocalypse (especially the haiku), whereas the stories begin to ground those explorations.

013111 cultural tendencies

January 31, 2015


poetic medium of my ironies
concrete oceans, polluted streams
damn the rivers, do you hear?
will we wince as the last salmon screams?

complex forests, beautiful trees
ship them out in board-feet, please
it’s not just the land we feed
to satisfy monster economies
everyone here will sacrifice, bleed

conquer your dependencies
reify our social tendencies
from lush and green to harsh and mean
bring the planet to her knees

and when there’s nothing left to eat
no water to drink, no air to breathe
make the workers make-believe
because false hope is comforting

action without agency
consequence without responsibility
so much work, so little pay
betray your brother, blame your sister
the boss’s best pet may get a raise
our chains are when we think this way
embrace the lies and live like a slave

erase the highs, look around
no surprise with open eyes
we’re already under ground
buried six to an unmarked grave
nothing to lose, no names to save
consider this, our judgment day
look away, go back to sleep
shine away the dark
with fearful light
or stay, wake up, see with us
leave the cave and fight

011715 forgetting things

January 22, 2015


forgetting things again
for a moment
starving, slaving
children take a back seat
in my memory
to my experience as i eat
a gluten-free, squash-spiced
chocolate chip waffle
where grain, sugar, theobromine
and caffeine combine to create
(with butter and honey)
a decadent colonial treat
the just desserts of slavery
(or “triangle trade,” sorry)
a breakfast of candy on my plate.

i think about such things
like the legacy of slavery
in which we still stand mired
with a mind now well-wired…

giving thanks seems to me
sometimes a tricky feat
on the one hand
to transcend hate
necessary to appreciate
without static satisfaction
on the other.

if my words seem to you
as inflammatory
as the things i just ate
in summary, then, let me state:
i will take every opportunity
for appropriate action
to destroy in complete
the source of such
colonic compaction

one way
and another
our food will run free
so, then, in life
and in death
will we.

022311 gentle beauty

January 21, 2015


time says spring but it’s winter in my soul
i have a house, but not a home, and nowhere else to go
so i wander in the snow, roaming through the weather
never knowing if tomorrow will be worse or will get better

my mind is set to “never” as the chill seeps through my clothes
gnawing at my chains, scratching at my tether,
every flake a tear, frozen falling down in droves
whiteout courses through the land damping noise
and numbness creeps into my bones

eyelids heavy, hear the joyous laughter
in the distance, i see the love i’m after
so i take her hand and follow
toward the welcome warming glow

i’m not asleep, i’m dreaming of the day
i’m not alone, i’m in an honest place
with all the gentle beauty we could know

she smiles and all my worries melt away
a blink, my body lying, and i learn to let it go
footsteps leading to it, desperate shouts become a whisper
and calmly disappear just like the rest, in time, beneath the snow

Allegory of Fire

January 21, 2015


I painted a room the other day.  Brightened it up.  The previous inhabitant used the room as his personal home theater.  He painted the walls a hasty, dark purple (eggplant?) color, ostensibly to absorb and block rather than reflect the ambient light.  Along with heavy shades on all the windows, the darkness of the room maximized the draw of and focus on the lights and sounds emanating from his entertainment shrine.  Maybe less a shrine than an altar.  It certainly involved sacrifice.  Either way, the room clearly served as a place of worship to the gods of the commoditized, commercial entertainment industry.  Until we painted it, and in spite of its large window area and south-facing position, the room seemed so dark that I called it “the dungeon.”  By painting it, we restored its warm, welcoming functionality and returned the space to the land of the living present.

While painting the final coat around the windows, my partner noticed a ladybug crawling on the window.

“it needs to go outside,”  she said.
“it’s just hibernating,” i replied.
“no, it’s not,” she said.  “it’s moving.”
“of course it’s moving — it’s like 95 degrees in here!” (i had stoked the fire once already that morning on top of a fairly warm day to create a warm, fast-drying painting environment, since we had limited time for the second coat of paint).

a few minutes later, in between paint refills, i asked, “did you take the ladybug outside?”
“no, i didn’t, i thought you were going to,” she said.

i put down my paint roller and walked over to the window, looking for the ladybug.  it rested in stillness on the sill, and refused to climb onto my finger.  having gone through such scenarios before, i fetched a piece of paper, and bugged the beetle until it felt bothered enough to start scurrying again.  It climbed onto the paper readily and immediately came to rest.

Earlier, while stoking the fire, I noticed another beetlebug of a different sort on a piece of wood.  A bug of a type unfamiliar to me, rounded in body and spritely in movement.  I figure it had enough trauma today already by virtue of hanging out inside a piece of wood I split open with the maul.  Cutting to the chase, I set up the same paper platform I gave the ladybug and used my hand to get the second bug moving.  It moved immediately.  But it didn’t intend to run away.  Instead, it hopped onto a piece of kindling and buried itself deeper inside the wood underneath the bark.

I took the paper with the ladybug outside and set the paper down in some dirt and walked away.  Plenty of ladybugs make their way inside my house, only to die there for want of food and water.  It had a better chance of finding food and shelter anywhere outside.

Later, I stoked the fire again, using the kindling that held the bug somewhere in its core.  I thought of that bug’s traumatic experience, first, from my rending its home in two with a metallic wedge in flash of weighted momentum approaching terminal velocity.  I thought of its attempt to escape from me, deeper into the wood.  Its refusal to leave the wood.  I thought of these things as I watched the wood burn. I thought of the bug feeling the steady temperature increase, first from outside to inside, then from ambient room to firebox.  Although it probably died from something else, I wondered which spark and pop represented the explosion of the boiling liquid from inside the shell of its body.

I assume every piece of wood I use to heat my home teems with levels of life that I cannot touch, see or even understand.  I wonder how many bugs on average I burn to heat my house every year.  I thank the wood — and the trees the wood comes from — for the heat, every time I start a burn.  But I burn more than wood.  I experience trees and bugs as people.  I burn people inside and outside my body to stay warm, and (among other conversations) I thank those people for the warmth they give.  Some people might consider this sadistic.  I consider it honest:  Every day, countless others die so that I can live.  Life works in no other way, and only death exempts us from this rule.  One of my greatest hopes in death?  That my body feeds wild and free spirits in turn.  Until then, I try to live in a way worthy of such a death, worthy of the wild lives that sacrifice themselves to sustain me one more day.

I wonder to what extent either bug somehow represents my behavior in life.  Represents indominatable wildness or domesticated passivity.  Do we live to our fullest capacity, taking risks well-outside our comfort zones to pursue our passions toward a life worth living?  Or do we seek to burrow more deeply inside the womb of comfort?  Do we have the wisdom and courage from life well-lived to recognize when a hand seeks to help and support us, and act accordingly?  Or do we, so traumatized already, run blind and senseless from every helping hand as a potential source of trauma straight into the firepit of trauma itself?  Do we have the wisdom and courage to stay and fight for our homes when others conspire to appropriate, colonize, and destroy?  Or do we run blind and senseless from every aggression, living a reactive life on the run from fear?  When we run from fear in search of peace, we bring our fear with us and destroy any peace we actually encounter.

We cannot avoid death.  When it wants us, it will have us, however it wants.  Quick or slow.  Painless or agonizing.  It may sneak upon us and rest at our side with a gentle whisper, or it may hunt us and rip out our throats.  Until then, trauma will have its way with us throughout our lives.  I don’t fault either bug for its behavior.  I have seen my life through theirs.  I have seen myself towering, nine miles tall, over them.  I have felt their willingness to fight and live in a world bent to the whims of psychopathic and narcissistic giants incapable of care, love and respect.  I incorporate the lives and behaviors of these bugs as mentors, guideposts and guardians of my own.  They remind me of my giant status, that I need not adopt the narcissism dominating and poisoning my species at the moment.  I ready myself for when either helping hand or fire comes for me and my home:  Will I act with with wisdom in acceptance of past and future trauma, and courage in the face of fear?

031411 spring ahead

January 13, 2015

i have a pretty antagonistic relationship with time
we’re often not on the same page
and it’s not through any fault of hers
and not through any fault of mine

it’s the fault of mechanistic industry
serving as an intermediary
distorting each time we try
distracting thought by thought,
derailing, line by line

“ethan, it’s time, wake up”
but you went to bed too late, you fuck up
“ethan, it’s time, plant alliums and brassica seeds”
no, go to work, make money, pay the rent
pay messed up corporations
pay your late fees and usury rates
pay the wealthy men in time you spent
indoors, underneath fluorescent lights
climate-controlled, days become nights
summer, winter blend together
into the ink-black scape of oil in front of me
as opaque as our ability
to see the limits of our prison
our ability to envision
our escape into the waiting arms of time
not free, just surrender
unto the chaotic beauty of time,
unmediated by anything less than divine
unfiltered, that’s the introduction to my rhyme…


spring ahead, fall behind
AST through ZST
what a messed up way to be
i’m sick of all this BST
stop the clock
pull out the battery
put your pennies in the sock and swing
to reclaim your sanity
it’s not time we’re dismantling
it’s the shadow abstract of industry

it’s the seasons, sun, moon and tides
who define the meaning of time for me
who inspire a meaningful rhyme for me
and conspire to teach us to thrive, let’s see
what life’s like past trying to survive
when we celebrate the time we spend alive
as a community…

Prelude for Strings

January 11, 2015


This was a class assignment in college, with specific harmonic and song structure parameters:  We needed to include specific progressions and cadences, needed to transition to the relative major or minor, and transition back to the original key, etc.  Given the numerous parameters already imposed on us, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to compose something meaningful to me within the those limits.  However, I started and finished this piece easily (minus the tedious notation) within the space of an hour.  The limitations actually made it easier for me to focus on what was important.  I was also pleasantly surprised to hear how diverse the entire class’s compositions were.  It was a fun lesson in how important voice is to musical expression.  I originally composed it in Eb minor by ear (because that’s the tonal center I heard), and my instructor made me change it to E minor on account of it being “an ugly key for strings.”  I think it sounds better in Eb minor.

sheet music

View this document on Scribd

Download all sheet music for free at https://www.scribd.com/ayoungethan/

092513 no escape

January 10, 2015


my partner and i were escaping from a vast industrial complex.  another nightmare, and we wanted out.  that much was clear.  the rest was a fuzzy blur.

our partnership was an artifact of our shared understanding and intent to be free from everything we knew to be true about life up to this point. slowly. methodically. over time, through careful communication, making sure we did not raise any suspicions that could jeopardize our freedom.  through knowing glances and hidden notes we planned our escape.

the time came, and we made a break for it.  we knew when and where the guards patrolled.  who was on shift.  the employees who would suspect something was wrong.  how much time we had before someone would discover us missing.  how to maximize that time.  calm and methodical, the process was surprisingly unexciting and matter-of-factly.  sneaking down the long, windowless hallways bathed in waves of flickering flourescent light. passing through locked doors while security guards who were supposed to be monitoring the cameras watched porn. crawling through maintenance ducts.  hiding in containers as they moved from one end of the complex to the next.

at some point, something we did tripped an alarm.  they were on alert, looking for us. it was ok, though — we never expected a clean break, and weighed the risks.  almost there, almost to freedom.  we just had to avoid getting caught for a few more minutes.  pounding hearts and hot sweats belied our fight or flight circumstance.

the container we hid in stopped moving.  voices.  footsteps.  getting fainter.  minutes passed.  no noise.  time to get out. i opened the container carefully, and a blast of cold, moist air hit me before giving way to a clear fall night.  outside.  we’d never been outside before.  the chill and the darkness frightened us.  we peaked around the corners to make sure no one was watching, and left the last sanctuary of the container.

a full view of the industrial complex from which we had escaped greeted us.  gigantic, smooth, angular concrete. non-descript save for the uniform placement of floodlights on the walls to illuminate the surrounding grounds, giving the complex a halo of light by the hands of human industry surrounded by darkness.  our bare feet struck softly on hard asphalt.  another new sensation, leaving us in awe of what it feels like…on the outside?  a chill wind blew past us.

in the distance, we could make out the dim shadow of a jagged treeline resting ominously against the night sky.  except we didn’t know them as trees.  we had never seen trees before, and stumbled like frightened ghosts through the darkness.  light is good, they taught us.  the darkness presented us with a disturbing image of the unknown.  food?  clothes?  shelter?  we had no idea when, where or how we would come across these things.  still, desperation drove us on, toward the treeline.  we ran toward their jagged shapes, entranced.

shouting behind us.  lights, dogs plunging into the darkness after us, tracking us by our scent.  radio signals.  they know our location and our direction of travel.  afraid, we ran as fast as we could toward the treeline.  our legs pumped acid and our lungs burned.  not much time left.  each desperate footstep seemed to take weeks to fall, never fast enough.  they closed in.

i didn’t look back.  i was too focused on the treeline and too afraid to know how closely our pursuers followed.  i was determined to fight defeat until the very end, even if the only weapon i had to weild was ignorance of the ultimate futility of all my struggles.  i wanted to feel surprised when they caught me.  i refused to know when the dogs would nip and tear at my feet.  i didn’t want to see how they outflanked us, closing in on every side.  i didn’t care about the accuracy of the snipers setting their sites on me while i waited for the sting and shock of the bullet entering my back and exiting out the front of my chest with an aching explosion.

suddenly i arrived.  a dark, somber wall of trees stood stoicly before me, at once beckoning and guarding the entrance to the forest.  the dogs and others pursuing us sounded somehow more distant now.  i’d never seen trees before, let alone the specimens growing up amdist a thicket of brambles at the edge of civilization, like a wall separating us from the wilderness, from wildness itself. us? gasping for air, suddenly, i grew cold, hesitated and looked back.

a wave of relief washed over me to see how she followed close behind, how they followed further behind her.  no turning back, i thought. we can make it, i waved to her and smiled.  naked.  barefoot. i reached back behind me to start my way into the embrace of the brambled woods, knowing she would soon do the same.

a giant claw scraped my chest and tossed me aside like confetti.  in a flash, several large, dark objects shot out of the treeline toward the compound.  i rose to my feet, aching, in a daze, my chest burning and bleeding, just as another salvo of these fearsome four-legged creatures bounded past me without so much as a threatening glance.

stay out of this, they warned as they moved effortlessly toward their query and their kill.  toward her.  toward them. us.  a frozen wind wafted gently from trees out toward the complex.

i couldn’t see her.  i ignored the warning.  it was too late. it all went wrong. my desperation escalated to impossible levels as i ran clumsily after them, toward her, back toward the compound, shouting.  threats. epithets. anything. noise.  my ears rang over the muffled sounds of humans screaming.  dogs yelping. blood-curdling roars and firearms as blood dripped down my face into my eyes. i couldn’t see into  the chaotic orgy of violence unfolding like shadows in the silhouette of the compound flood lights, another alarm. in the space between civilization and wilderness.

they had used us like bait.  i cried and sank with limp knees into the futility of my rescue attempt. one of the beasts, hearing my pursuit, slowed and turned toward me, bounding back in a flash with the taste of blood already on its tongue.  we locked eyes, and i understood without mistake as i stared dazed into the giant sharp-toothed maw closing in on me, and met it awake in a cold sweat, gasping for air and crying out to the darkness.   at them. for her.  my heart beat like an angry sledge hammer against its fragile cage, demanding freedom.  but there is no escape.


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