Placeholder Poetry: “The Odds” (2013)

This is Why We Don't Visit You Guys

Well, not in so many words, but…

So I could have sworn I shared this one before, but I can’t find it anywhere on the site.  What may’ve happened is that I nixed the original post in advance of submitting it to a journal a few years ago (to no avail).  Or maybe aliens deleted it!

Beyond Belief

In any event, this is another piece I wrote while studying creative writing at the UW — Advanced Poetry, to be precise.  This time, exploring two opposing perspectives was the focus.  So, consummate geek that I am, I thought:  what if when extraterrestrials do visit the Earth, they’re just as impressed by finding other life?  At least… at first.

The Odds

What are they,
these green-gilled, ten-limbed creatures?
In what world could such features flourish?
How do they go about their days
and yet find time to sculpt such ships,
raptors’ curves ‘round ventricles of light?

What’ve we found, touching down­
in this land of two-armed, soft-skinned hue-men?
Their shades do vary, but their clout astounds.
How can such simple, slender beasts survive
training ranks for spears, not gears,
as the flag on their pallid moon droops, collecting stardust?

Now, how’re we to speak
to them? To which words would they respond
or language listen? Their eyes compacted,
ears concealed, our promises of peace may crash
like satellite static—or worse, they’ll misinterpret it
as calls to war we couldn’t win.

Their gestures hint they think us dim,
but, at once, we sense their intents
like a shallow grave under brilliant blooms.
Round faces surround us, imploring “meet our leader,”
but the grins within have torn
meat from marrow and pride from the poor.

What’re the odds?
Centuries, we search—
scanning sky, loosing computers
in paternal spurts of fuel and tax dollars
to capture languid nebulae and sullen suns,
‘cross spans new units were coined to comprehend—
and another life finds us first.
We might need to steal some machines,
dissect a couple of “natural” deaths,
but who knows what we’ll learn!

What’re the chances? We’re even
in this infinity. One thousand solar-cycles journeyed,
working ‘til our tails numbed cataloging charts and channels,
all fifty fingers pinching a dwindling budget.
Hoping the last galaxies held knowledge to spare:
cleaner engines, illness’s end, peace after death.
Yet our complement is a wet and mottled mirror
in the grip of these fraught and frightened creatures.
Our work paid off,
but the currency? Worthless.

Placeholder Poetry: “Beautiful Battlefield” (2012)


A light at the beginning of the tunnel.

Holed up inside during the “ice storm” blowing across Lake Erie tonight, I find myself reflecting on warmer, more floral environs back in Washington State…

Until mid-2013, my childhood home was surrounded by a huge forest of evergreens.  So when an assignment arose in my first Poetry course at the University of Washington to write a poem based on a class journal entry, I ran with one I’d jotted at some point about this lush upbringing!  I was taken with exploring how a forest can be both a place of solace and, in its own way, chaos.  I revised it a few times, including for the internal application which eventually got me accepted to the creative writing specialization program at the UW, so I’m surprised I never shared it on here!  A few new edits for readability aside, it is as it was then.

This is also a rare time where I chose to wrote in the persona of someone else. Descriptions of natural splendor aside, none of this correlates to my own life (thankfully).

Beautiful Battlefield

The forest marks the borderline
sprawled ’round me, west to south,
fencing in with evergreens the yellowed yard
and box of shingled bricks I’m told is home.
From here, my parents’ arguments are almost mute.

The sun surveys all, layers heat upon my back.
As I march through lashing grass,
rubber boots squeak and stick
with golden seeds, like a flag’s stars.
On the horizon, shouts and slaps fade like gunfire.

I enter, where spiders guard their dewy webs
‘cross saggy limbs and sloughing moss.
Boughs block light seeking rest
on a dark carpet, where logs rot in solitude.
No sign of broken dishes or discarded cigarettes.

Over here, a corps of scotchbroom huddle,
swapping pods, as tansies talk in plots;
over there, ferns protest paths of missions past
from which their leaves once prospered.

I head forth, through the birch;
seven shoots arc up and earthbound
— a bunker’s tunnel, taken root.
I pass the anthill army’s bustle
on a mound of silent static,
and a black ant scrambles up an oak
at eye level, AWOL.

The snail shell by the roadside,
a broken house vacated, sprayed with mud;
the devil’s clubs’ clusters
of spikes, conspiring to poison;
and the narcissus, victorious
over pinecones —
I take it all in stride, for

this war is mine
                           to run, holding aloft a stick
                           wrenched from elm.
                           I strip its bark, expose within
                           my ivory-shaded sword, and order
                           birds to fly and plants to part the way.

            And after all, if Something finds me —
            The neighbor dogs, with shambling coats and eyes;
            Dad, stumbling under branches,
            bourbon on the breath, in his self-inflicted aftermath
            a family’s traitor —
            one must always be prepared.

            I know I’ll have to go
back. But for however long it takes
to trek past a beehive and risk the stings,
to kick away a molehill
and tread on something weaker saying “I was here,”
and know I’m moving over rocks and rivulets while
Mom goes nowhere in her TV chair
— I’ll stay and fight.
Back there, I’m underfoot and out of rations,
but here I walk above. I strike
fear, from the vine-throttled pines
to graves of frogs and pond scum.

There are no shoves and screams.
No slamming doors and stomping feet.
            Just a chirp and scuttles, shuffles and a breeze
            racing through the trees.
            It’s earth’s own beautiful battlefield
            and I command it all,
            as much as
I surrender.

#TBT: THROWBACK THESIS (“The Digital Campfire: Interactive Horror Storytelling and Web 2.0”)

I don't know, I got bored once.

“Ben Drowned” fan “art.” I got bored once.

Happy March! So things have been picking up in the last few weeks, relatively speaking: I’m a Managing Editor on the Cornell Law Review now, I got a part-time Spring internship offer from a local firm helping represent protesters in the fight to keep petrol storage out of Seneca Lake, and I’m in talks with a Ph.D from the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute to possibly do some research and legal writing on proposed international legal regulations for handling emergent AI in an increasingly internet-dependent world. That, and the snow’s starting to melt around here in Ithaca!

All told, though, that means I’m definitely pretty busy, so I’ll cut to the chase: in the spirit of not having inordinately large update gaps on this purportedly professional portfolio-ish blog anymore–as well as throwing a quick bone to the “on Wednesdays we wear pink”-esque trend that is #ThrowbackThursday–I present to you my thesis paper from my senior year in the University of Washington‘s Honors English program, circa 2013.

Consummate geek that I was/am, while others were analyzing T.S. Eliot or non-heteronormative narratives in Latin American fiction, I wrote about… creepypasta. Well, not just creepypasta–I dove into how the modern internet has allowed the time-honored ritual of collaborative fiction to partner with interactive fiction as well, particularly in the case of the bite-sized “this really happened!” horror stories we all know and love to read in minimal lighting. I explain how The SCP FoundationSlender Man, and “Ben Drowned” each utilize(d) wikis and/or social media in similar but unique ways to present engaging, believable horror stories, then briefly discuss where and why Hollywood has succeeded or failed to capture this magic for “mainstream” appeal with films like Cloverfield and The Devil Inside.

So draw the shades, open a couple more browser windows, microwave a s’more if you want, and follow along as I analyze the thrills and chills of sitting down in front of…

The Digital Campfire
Interactive Horror Storytelling and Web 2.0

[A brief “P.S”: I initially considered shopping this around to relevant academic journals after I wrote it, but the plan got away from me and before I knew it I was writing legal notes instead! Part of me thinks this piece is best at home free on the internet anyway, like its subject matter; I have no idea whether putting it on my dinky WordPress blog puts me out of the running for a print journal picking up a variation on it some day, but at this point I just want to share the work and see what you folks think. With that “time capsule” quality in mind (and like I said, #TBT), I’ve done very minimal editing–mainly just new spaces between sections for clarity and a few egregious typos fixed, including the time I spelled “Doctor Who” as “Dr. Who.” As such, some details will be a tad outdated–most prominently, Marble Hornets finally wrapped up (with a polarizing ending), and I’m psyched for the SCP Foundation movie!]

“UW” (+General Update!)

So I know it’s been a while since my last update ’round these parts… but I have a reason! Specifically, three: the first is my week-and-a-half-long trip to Italy in July, which sent my family and I “down the Boot” from Venice to Pompeii in a flurry of pre-modern churches and gypsies. The second is the continued writing of my first novel, “There’s Something Wrong with the Neighbor’s Cat: A Hyperawesome Nick Smiths Adventure,” a process which I don’t feel lends itself well at this stage to being shared in internet-size segments (however, while the informal write-a-thon has concluded, the most thorough and earnest summary of the project can still be viewed here).

But the third is my impending attendance at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, NY! Getting my affairs in order for the big move, from getting my superfluous books in suitcases to taking a train home for a single pertussis shot, has been a surpringly taxing affair, but knowing that I’ll be getting a righteous legal education (in the Bill & Ted sense of the word) in a brand-new community is encouragement enough.

However, when looking towards an uncertain, one cannot help but reflect on the collective memory formed by the triumphs and trials of the past that led to where they now stand. It was in just such a pensive mood that I ressurected an old childhood hobby of mine and composed a collage, made exclusively of images taken with my iPod Touch’s camera during my undergraduate career at the University of Washington. However, I saw the opportunity for this to also be a visual story of sorts, quietly encapsulating the passage of time, with all its uplifting beauty, humorous absurdities, and emotionally-trying moments that college students go through. As such, I deliberately omitted pictures that showed my face or centered in on my name, and while the majority of these pictures are in chronological order, a few have been rearranged to act as a “chorus” or signal reflection on the part of the “narrator”.

…Or something to that extent. I don’t know, I’m not an art major or anything. I was just in an introspective mood and felt like making my first “visual story” piece. By all means, enjoy and critique!

The difference between "college" and "collage" is but a vowel.

The difference between “college” and “collage” is but a vowel.

“Dour Number One” don't swat it in the process of looking for more!

…so don’t swat it in the process of looking for more!

Poem number six, coming right up! This one’s prompt was for a “sonic poem” that values rhythm and rhyme over coherence, and the possibility of a rap-like piece was suggested if not recommended. As such, the exercise became something of a welcome excuse for me to practice my hip-hop chops, though a performance of this “on tha mike” is pending, because I’ll admit the beat isn’t perfect all the way through. Still, I kind of had fun with it, and I hope the sentiment I injected still makes sense in-between all the alliteration and assonance!

Dour Number One

AU Around the Bend!

Well, it’s that time of quarter/year again! The snow had better be coming soon… but in the meantime, the seventh issue of the University of Washington’s preeminent speculative fiction journal AU, themed “Homeland,” is raring to be released this Thursday. For those in or adjacent to the UW campus, stop by Smith 115 on December 6th from 6-8pm and partake in not only a variety of delectable comestibles (read: popcorn and probably some animal cookies), but readings of prose and poetry from Seattle’s student sci-fi fantasy finest! I’ll be delivering a sample of my newest story, “In Finiti.” Some manner of interactive game will also be put on, to test your knowledge of renowned “homeland” stories past… in any case, don’t forget that issues will be available later at Bulldog News on the Ave, or in the basement of Padelford Hall!

Meanwhile, Love&Darkness is oh-so close to undergoing the printing process. Some pretty pennies had to be parted with to get this longer, snazzier volume out the door, but once these formatting snafus get dealt with, its time shall come!

Write Away, Write Here — Oct. 10

Alright, so as I’ve no doubt mentioned before, every Wednesday evening is “Write Away!” at the UW, where eager wordsmiths run through a trio or quartet of semi-random prompts for about fifteen minutes apiece, then share the results (no self-criticism beforehand!). I’ve shared the fruits of this group in the past (“Fyrewrit,” for one), but I thought to myself: why not start posting this stuff on a weekly basis? So straight from this last Wednesday, here we go–(mostly) unedited, (generally) uncensored, and (largely) unfinished:

18th Ave NE” [Prompt #1: Write something based on a classified ad]

At first, the alleyway that bisected the brownstone buildings of 18th Ave NE seemed a woeful picture of the effects of gentrification clashing with overblown artistic sensibilities in Seattle. Specifically, it was a rectangular strip of reinforced windows opaque with spray paint and dumpsters in practically neon shades from the same, but at the narrow path’s center was something unlike anywhere else in the city: an apartment in Paris.

This is to say that between 5266 18th Ave NE (Dave’s Pizzeria) and 5270 18th Ave NE (Flannery’s Tavern), there existed a casual spatial anomaly wherein what appeared to be the greater studio of a lavish French condo suddenly grew into existence as one entered the alley’s epicenter. The well-polished floorboards merged with the crooked surrounding bricks like two Lego sets jammed together by a thoughtless child, and a solitary window that should’ve looked into a chrome-filled kitchen instead faced a metropolitan skyline filled in no small part by an outline of the Eiffel Tower, above a modern computer desk and chair. With enough time, the surroundings as a whole would fade and shift into a full loft apartment, with a simple exit (and further defiance of physics) achievable by exiting through the front door and into the pizzeria restroom.

And yet there was a caveat: the sight would only become apparent to those in active need of a new apartment, which was how the phenomenon came to the attention of Laura Chance, fresh off a lease in a higher-priced University District complex and more than a little curious as to the numerous local police reports of inebriated homeless people claiming to have found solace for the evening in a public art exhibit on 52nd…

18th Ave NE, Part II” [Prompt #2: A hypothetical response to said ad, though it was apparently supposed to be for another ad.]

The story behind Laura’s investigation of, introduction to, interest in, payment for, and eventual exhaustion with Seattle’s only Parisian apartment is one that need only be addressed in regards to its final phase: Ms. Chance simply got sick of the place because the window to the outside was a good twelve hours ahead of the time zone in Washington state, she was taking too many credits already to bother learning French to take advantage of the computer, and she was at times paralyzed by the possibility that a garbage truck driver living on his friend’s couch would plow through the lot while she was dusting the varnished redwood bookshelves.

Instead, let us turn our attention to Max Smith, the neurobiology major who encountered a listing which read: “$750-850. UTILITIES and internet included. Available Now.”, accompanied by a short list of contact info and the address. It was this early that Max felt confused, for priding himself on a block-by-block knowledge of the neighboorhood that rivaled that of Google Maps, he knew that there was no actual building at 5268 18th Ave NE, at least not anymore.

If anything, the call to Laura was a matter of correcting her misprint, but the girl’s assurance that she was not mistaken piqued Max’s interest, sleeping as he had been for long enough on the top bunk of a bed in a dorm room with all the square footage of a dwarf’s tornado shelter. That Friday, he went on over…

Anda Mir” [Prompt #3: Inspired by some poem about “The Tarantella”, which reference someone named “Miranda” throughout]

Does anybody really call their daughters Miranda anymore?

Maybe it’s just as well, since it

mostly makes me think of George Miranda,

then Carmen Miranda, and I

get confused and wonder why we named a law

after a woman with bananas in her hat.

That, or Miranda Cosgrove,

who last I heard was playing pop music

as only the Disney brand can manufacture.


And after that, I start thinking of anagrams:

I ran mad, raid man, an ad rim,

and so on, ad nauseum, ’cause it just goes round

and round in circles like a silly shaking head—

Mirandamirandamiran—damn, man, that’s enough

of that.


We need to bring back Crystal,

or Stephanie, if indeed they ever left.

A good name is hard to find,

at least when you always have one in mind.


I am Rand. Mar a din.

Dammit, I’m doing it again.

Hey, does anybody call their daughters Amanda anymore?

I hope so.

It’s an adamant decision, after all.

Newspaper” [Prompt #4: Group Poem – Newspaper. Everybody comes up with some lines on the topic and we read ’em one at a time in a circle. These are my lines.]

Got a dollar? I want to hear what this ink and shredded wood have to say.

If computers rule, one will still blow down the street when the world ends.

Politics are a joke—Garfield is serious business.

1) This 2) That 3) The Other

It’s been… what, a month and a half? Yeah, that sounds about right. Anyway, some significant events are upcoming!

1) The next issue of UW’s “AU” journal — Volume VI, “Oneiros” (Dreams) — will be having its launch party at the UW Bookstore on May 24th at 6pm! I will… actually not be attending this time, unfortunately, because the induction ceremony for the Tau Sigma honor society got bumped forward an hour. Still, the compilation will be available for purchase from the usual locations thereafter (the English advising office in Padelford, Bulldog News on the Ave, and — in all likelihood — my grandmother), containing my poem “But Crazier Things Have Happened”, among other fine pieces.

2) Immediately after the above event (7pm), I’ll be at the Jacob Lawrence Art Gallery on campus for the debut party of another regular journal, “Bricolage”, for which my poem “Fyrewrit” was graciously accepted. It won’t have the fancy fonts that I pride my PDFs on, but I’ll be reading it aloud and… in the general vicinity of copies of the journal, I suppose.

3) On a tentative afternoon in early June, myself and a group of other burgeoning authors will descend on Chehalis, Washington for a book signing at Book & Brush. I will, of course, have my crate of Distortions in tow, as well as answers to whatever questions you may have about Love&Darkness, and anything else that preparing for gradute school is preventing me from writing. The particulars are underway, but there should be a formal update at or its papery predecessor within a week or two. So check it out!