lords of vapor

Lord of Vapor

She rides the air beside me as we drive in straight lines.

A knee up high and the seat reclined,

she looks away along the outstretched hand that moves against the tide.

We end at each horizon and then begin again the same,

riding endless waves of earth and forgetting both our names.


“You should buy me a drink,” she says at the bar.

I was staring off again and thinking of the car.

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” I replied.

We never really say any of these things.


Wicker chairs and bamboo shades; wares that creak and knock in the steady blow.

We sit under shadow surrounded by the grey candescence of a deserted beach.

I at the bar, and she, well, she’s there, too,

but just out of reach.


She pulls the hair back on one side and leans in closer to squint at me,

the seat creaking below her exposed, crossed legs.

I imagine skin touching skin,

and eight-bit illustrations of holes hosting pegs.


“What?” she says without moving her lips.

I smile and watch her fingertips.

I like the way her fingernails play snare upon the lacquer surface as she waits.

I like the way she holds her cigarette between fingers and lips,

and the way it makes me think of life between her hips.


“It keeps the wasps away,” she says of the smoke.

Not that I cared to begin with anyway.

I’m less concerned with the cause of her disease than I am the treatment of the symptoms.


We don’t need to know the names.


She turns to look over her shoulder,

turns to look out across the acreage of darkened, liquid suede.

Rain, misting and steady and cold, coming down all around.


I turn and look where she’s looking,

and there at the edge of the rising tide lies the half-dissolved face of a fish,

with a pair of birds on either side.


Neither the birds nor the fish head move,

as if frozen in time and tide and there perpetual in the grey candescence.

Even the tide seems stuck in its lines.


I turn to tell her what I really want to say then,

only to see that I’m alone at the bar and dry -

no keeper, no bottles, nothing but wind and creaking, knocking mockery.




fish head

Poor Fish Head



The lonely, decomposing fish head on the beach. No one ever loved you. They used you, then threw you away.

Or perhaps you escaped, achieving in death, and without a tail, what you could not achieve whole and alive.

And now you rot. There, on the beach. With the kids coming close to look and the parents shouting “Don’t touch!”

2:44 A.M.

Old, gray dreams.

Concrete feet,

sinking dark between oceans.

Colors but shades;

similar but different.



Darker down,

absorbing sound

in cold indigo pressure

where neither sight, nor smell, nor taste, nor sound can reach.


Darker down,

hands fighting stiff, liquid blankets, tightly wrapped and anchored deeper in the black.

There visions emerge,

bright but only halfway whole,

like broken memories;

interrupted signals;

scratches in the disk, jumping, lurching, never closer.

Never really there.


Blackest depths,

feet and hands still bound and mouth still muffled.

Punches thrown and never landed,

curses of the deepest deep,

where nothing lives but that which died

and in subconscious sleeps.

Muted Sounds

We float.

Or perhaps we sink.

I suppose it all feels the same.

In dreams we are immune from these sensations,

at once cemented to our hidden fears yet free to be ourselves.

And my eyes open to yours,

looking back and forth from the pillow to where the fingers thatch themselves in permanence.


Weight of an Empire Excerpt (and a little behind-the-scenes info)

As you may know already, I published a book last fall called Weight of an Empire. I consider it my first serious work. It was the first novel I completed, and it was quite the experience. Well, I wanted to give a little insight into the process of writing the book. Also, another excerpt is below.


First, listen to this while you read the excerpt:




I woke early that Monday morning when the light came on in my room.

“What the hell?” I mumbled, rising and holding my hand above my eyes to block the light.

“There you are,” he said. I opened my eyes and saw Riley Tiergarten standing beside my bed. I rubbed my eyes. “Nope, it ain’t a dream,” Riley said. He chuckled. It sounded like a dry cough that came from his upper chest.

“What are you doin’ in my house?” I asked.

“Nevermind that. You know you got a fine ass woman in the other room? Why the fuck are you sleepin’ in here?” He sat on the futon and tilted his head to the side as he looked at me. He had a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun across his lap. Bits of snow melted into the shoulders of his heavy old Army field jacket. It smelled like stale cigarette smoke. Riley’s nose was red and he wiped it with the back of his gloved hand and sniffled loudly while he stared at me.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“Well… I came to pick you up,” Riley said.

“For what?”

“To go for a ride.” He wore a calm, contented expression on his hairy face.


“Down the road a little.”

“I ain’t goin’,” I said.

Riley stood and took a breath. He pointed the shotgun at me and said, “Lucky for us you ain’t got a choice.”

“So that’s it, then.”

“That’s what?” He had a wry smile stretching across his face.

“I figured you’d come around eventually.”

“Oh yeah?”


He sniffed and nodded. “But you ain’t gonna sucker punch me this time,” he said. “Come on. Get up.”

I surveyed the room and rubbed my eyes. The closet was behind me, and in the closet was a small safe where I kept a little 9mm handgun. I used to sleep with it under my bed, but I always told myself I was being paranoid. So it went in the safe in the closet. I looked at the closet and then at Riley’s shotgun again. “How’d you know where I lived?”

“Ted showed me one day.”

“And where’s he at?”

“Don’t worry about that,” he said. He wagged the shotgun at me and said, “Come on.”

The longer I was awake the more I began to panic. This is really happening, I thought. I tried to stall him until I could figure a way into that closet. “How’d you get in?” I asked.

“The back door was unlocked.”


“Not bullshittin’,” Riley said.

“I always lock it at night.”

He smiled. “Or not.”

“Son of a bitch,” I mumbled, sighing and rubbing my face.

“So come on,” Riley said, wagging the shotgun again. “Get up.”

“All right.” I nodded. “I’ll come quietly as long as I know she’s all right.”

He scoffed. “She’s still sleepin’. So is the baby. Now come on.”

I stood and scratched my head, still trying to figure a way out of it. I found a mental rut on the idea of stalling him so then I said, “Ain’t it supposed to snow?”

“It’s snowin’ already,” Riley said. “That’s why we’re gonna do this now.”

“Well, what is it?”

“You just need to come on.” He showed me the ends of the barrels again.

“Take it easy,” I said, showing him my palms. “It’s all right. I just need to get dressed real quick.” I kept my hands up and pointed at the closet with one of them.

“You’re fine like that.”

“I’m only wearin’ sweatpants.”

“You’re fine like that.” The muscles in his face relaxed and the smirk disappeared as his eyes seemed to darken. He held the gun steady and took a few slow steps to the side, angling around me until he stood between me and the closet.

“All right,” I said. “I’m fine like this then.” Helplessness twisted itself in my stomach and climbed outward with nothing better to do than spread for the sake of spreading. He stood in the center of the room and waited for me to leave first, repeatedly jerking the barrels of the shotgun toward the door.

He followed me out of the house, and I peeked down the hallway toward Allison’s room along the way. The door was open and I could see her sleeping in the bed. At least he didn’t do that, I thought. We went out the front door and into the dark and cold. The falling snow was thick and steady. It was already ankle deep. I hugged myself as I walked, bending forward against the falling snow and clenching my teeth with each frozen, barefooted step.

Teddy’s truck was parked on the shoulder of the road near the house. The engine idled quietly. The lights were off. It was barely visible through the thick haze of falling snow and hanging darkness. When we reached the truck the parking lights came on and Riley ordered me into the back seat. I paused at the back door, shivering and cradling my elbows in my hands as I pushed my shoulders to my neck. I looked at Riley. He stood at the front of the truck with the shotgun. The gun, and his sleeves and gloves were drenched in the warm glow from the parking lights on one side and empty and black on the other. The falling flakes flashed past the half-lit shotgun. The thought of running came and went, bursting up from the abyss in my stomach and then dissipating faster than the falling snow. Then, from the shadows above the ambient yellowish light a throaty voice snarled.

“Get the fuck in the truck.”


This scene in the book is the beginning of the end – the buildup to the climax. The song is “The Rat” by a local band called Dead Confederate.

And here’s the album featuring “The Rat”: The entire track list is excellent.


The significance of the music and that scene is that this whole story began with a mental image of some serious shit going seriously bad in the middle of a snow storm. From a brief mental image the story unfolded into who’s who and why’s this and all that. It consumed me for a short time while I was working another job, capturing my mind in idle night-shift hours. That was in 2009. The story evolved a bit during a three month mental obsession. I never really wrote any of it down back then, instead simply cataloging imagery and quotes in my mind for apparently no other reason than to take up brain space. One morning on the way home I drove up a rise in the land at dawn, just as a black car coming the other way entered my field of view. Something about the aesthetics of that moment clicked, and I logged that away for memory, too.

Then I went on with life, quitting one job to work another, quitting the other job to go back to school and finish my English degree. In the spring of 2013, when I was almost finished with school, this story came back. I didn’t really bring it back. It just sort of… returned. And it was different; more complex. Unusual. It meandered through my mind with its hands in its pockets, slowly telling me the story in parables and brief explosions of imagery.

So I started writing it in February of 2013. Started from the beginning – the bonfire scene. New characters arrived. Pard showed up and began narrating what was originally going to be a third-person psychological thriller – slash – tragedy about Teddy. Riley showed up then, really pushing hard against Pard’s natural ambivalence and cowardice. The whole damned thing changed. The style changed. The voice changed. Before I knew it I was over 40,000 words in. When it was all finished that May, I stepped back and read through the whole first draft one time. All that remained the same from the original 2009 idea was the mood, and then that scene in the snow at the end. But even the climax changed a little bit – the motivations were tweaked and the sequencing changed with the added characters. The way I told it changed as well, because we see it all happen as Pard saw it.

Well, anyway, while I was writing this thing I used that Dead Confederate album to get in the mood. I listened to “The Rat” every day that I wrote, sometimes several times each day. The music captured the mood perfectly. And now you know some shit you didn’t before – shit that probably doesn’t do you a lick of good in life… but maybe you’ll check out the book or help spread the word a little bit. You know, ‘cause you got insider knowledge and shit now.

Thanks for reading.


It’s March Madness! Have You Filled Out Your National Speculation Championship Bracket Yet?

Have you seen the 24-hour coverage of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappearance? Well, apparently what we know is that we don’t know. But why not speculate anyway?

Or Maybe This happened.

Oh, we figured THIS out! Or did we?

Look, whatever. We don’t know. What I do know is that if I had a loved one on that missing plane I’d be pretty sick of the media speculation circus. This is for all those goobers on TV who can’t shut up about their great ideas for what happened to this plane, which was filled with real people.


Down at CNN headquarters, somebody apparently started a tournament pool:


Over at Fox News, a breakthrough discovery was made by the hard-working folks behind the scenes:


The History Channel has reportedly started shooting a new episode of Ancient Aliens:


And MSNBC is leaning forward… until their heads are in their rectal Morpheuses:


You see, while everyone else took the Red Pill, the media (yes, the whole lot of networks and bobble-headed narcissists therein) has opted for the Blue Pill.

All I’m asking is can we just give it a rest? It’s okay to not know and then hope for the best. Right?

Milgram Street

Cool air comes steady past the metal wind chimes hangin from the eave.

We can hear them from here – all the way across the empty street.

Just me and Ronnie,

And some half-lit cars and some half-lit houses

In the bronze haze of sulfur street lamps.

Just sittin.


Ronnie’s a cop, you know?

A good guy.

Tells himself that somebody’s gotta do it,

And then he tells me the same thing as we sit there and waft.

The beer is nice and cold.



I remember back when we was kids and Ronnie used to leave the party early.

He used to drive home drunk as fuck, too.

And I bring that up just when a car passes by,

The bass rattlin every inch of that monoxide-soaked hoopdie,

And Ronnie just scoffs and says, Man, that was a long time ago.


Well, that got us talkin about the law.

Had me askin, what about this, or what if they passed a law that said this?

You know.


And Ronnie says, Orders is orders.

That’s all he says about it – says he don’t make the laws,

Like that’s apart from my hypothetical shit, you know?

He can’t participate, you know?

Like that shit’s separate.


It goes on for a while, us out there talkin.

Listenin to them wind chimes go…


It ends with Ronnie pissed about somethin I said –

Somethin about morality or freedom or some other shit I barely understand anymore.

So then I just look at him and go, to hell with it I’m goin inside,

But before I go in the house I turn to him and say:


I guess you gonna need a shovel.


He cocks an eyebrow and leans back,

Head all tilted like a dog.

You know?


So then I clarify:


But you can’t use mine.