Monday, October 5, 2015

Tiny thoughts

Just thought I'd poke my head out and say a word or two.  You know, instead of sleeping.

Presently, things are humming along in the life of David at more or less adequate conditions.  One can never tell if a bad day is just around the corner, and I have to take the time to remind myself of all the things I wrote in that affirmational post.  But my days have been mostly good for the past couple of weeks. 

Writing is definitely something that's been giving me pleasure and satisfaction.  I'm happy with how The Secret Egg is developing, even though I haven't quite figured out how it ends yet.  That just means that, for now at least, we get to experience the suspense together!

Actually, that brings me back to something.  A little while ago, I wrote about making peace with the fact that basically nobody reads my writings.  To be honest, sometimes that feels like a lie.  It's not really that liberating to work on something and have it elude the notice of the world completely.  As far as anyone is anxiously awaiting the next installment of The Secret Egg, I may be the only one.  Then once it's done, I get to reread it a few times, compare it to previous efforts, and wait around until I finally gather the energy to tell myself another story.  It's easier than beating myself up for not attracting any feedback, but not nearly as fulfilling as actually getting the attention.

There is another story of sorts in the pipe, though.  I have been working in spare moments on a long narrative poem, in ballad form.  It has a sort of fairy tale setting, with elves and enchantments and other fun elements.  So far it's about a hundred and twenty-some lines, so it's already the longest poem I've made by far.  I have a lot of warm feelings for this effort.  A small handful of people on Tumblr seem intrigued by it too, and that makes me feel good.

With all that said, I thought I'd make a note about my personal life.  I met a girl about a month ago now, who I thought things were going well with.  Unfortunately, after going on a total of two dates with me (both of which were very nice), she left town for a family emergency, and from what she told me she'll be gone until after the new year.  If I'm still available then, she says she'd like to catch up.  That's really heartening, in theory.  But one thing I've had to relearn this year is not to count chickens until they actually pick up the phone and call you.

The thing is, I really like this girl.  We talked quite a bit before meeting the first time, and for all I've learned about her I feel like we're a great match.  I think about her a lot.  We had some poor luck in our timing though, and it's taking all of my positivity to convince myself that I could possibly have a second chance with her in a few months time.  Personal experience doesn't bear out that possibility, though I know I should have faith in the surprises of life.

So what do I do in the meantime?  Well, I guess I keep taking care of myself.  Trying to get healthy and stable, keeping an open heart and mind, learning as much as I can.  Being the best me I can be, as it were.  Ultimately, worrying about things like this is a waste of energy.  Given time, the world will present me with opportunities, and I will take them when I'm ready.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Poetries #2

It never stops, though truth be told I'm now closer to emptying out the infamous backlog than ever before.  These poems all date from the end of May through July of 2015, which is really not that long ago.  That means they're fresh, just like the emotions that inspired their composition.
Anyway, these poems represent a somewhat difficult time for me.  I returned to Eugene at the start of June, and found myself quickly sinking back into despair and depression.  I was preoccupied with loss, loneliness, and an acute sense of my own failings and deficiencies.  Truth be told, I wasn't dealing very well at all.

Eventually I took some steps to take care of myself.  I saw a doctor, who prescribed an antidepressant to me (sertraline).  I quit drinking (again), more or less.  I started exercising seriously.  Thanks to these and other factors, my mood steadily improved and so did my quality of life.  Of course, I cannot discount the effect of working through my feelings with poetry, either.

Now, a word on the content of these poems.  Death and self-hatred figure into several of them, a direct manifestation of my depression.  Others are concerned with sex, which I think is a coping strategy more than anything else.  The figure of my ex-girlfriend still appears from time to time in these poems, but only two of them are specifically about her.  There are also poems here that strike a hopeful note, which I wrote with the more or less direct intention of inspiring myself to feel better.  One cannot cure depression, of course, with a few hopeful words.  But words can help.  I'll have more details on all of this in the commentary below.

Human Skin

In nearly thirty years of life on Earth,
I haven't learned the secret locked in skin,
though I am firmly wrapped inside, its confines
stretching tight, and bursting from within.

How easily it burns, it tears, it scars
at every shallow stimulus or stress,
yet holds my meat and bones so well together,
lest I split into a shapeless mess.

And how, amongst its other duties, can
the touch of naked skin produce
erotic pleasure?  Oh, the sight alone's
enough to let our sober senses loose,

enough to keep us locked within our rooms
for six or seven hours in a day.
With two or more (or even by ourselves)
our skins can keep us occupied with play.

A Sighting of the Anima

Thou art so evocative,
thou archetype of dreams;
I would have liked to know thy face
by any other means,
but in my panicked state I shot
an arrow through thy chest.
I murdered thee: before thine eyes
this crime I have confessed.
I watched thee, creeping through the window,
soldiers standing near,
and begged thee not to let them in,
I begged thee disappear -
then in a fluid motion, smashed
thy heart within its cage,
and woke an instant later, fever
twisting me with rage.

My Veronica

I had to leave our home in ruins,
broken motives on the floor,
and kiss my dear Veronica,
her perfect image at the door.

I had to know she wouldn't wait,
no matter what I'd thought she'd said -
it was the final night that my
Veronica would share her bed.

If only my Veronica
could help me struggle with this grief!
She made the choice she thought was right,
and that is my sincere belief,

But she will never hold me close
and warm my body with her breast.
The game was fixed, and I have lost
Veronica despite my best.

Social Media for the Youth

This is what we have in common -
each of us has seen a murder
caught on video,
and tried to share it with our friends.

If they made a horror movie
called "The Youtube Generation,"
nobody would go
(I hope),
it hits too close to home.


Union - this is two of us together,
closer than the salt and water,
intimately bound by
pressure, blood, and

Motion - like the ancient paradoxes,
locked in interception, always
closing on position,
inches, centi-

Rhythm - this is music in crescendo,
conversation in an urgent
tongue of spells and whispers,
reaching for a

Satisfaction - beating hearts, exploding
in a gasp of air and mercy,
fire under skins
subsiding, soothed with

Synthesis - a vital act of love and
alchemy beneath the surface
may conceive a wonder
out of our

It Goes From One To Explode

I might conclude
that this is how it ought to be:
all counting days
from one to three, to six, eleven,
just to see
how high the count of days can go.

Starting over
every time I start to cry again
I might survive,
no matter how the years go by.

A pint or so
of ale to roll the meter back,
an empty page
to fill afresh with tally marks,
an empty drawer
to stuff the other pages in.

My Imagination's Done Worse

No surprises anymore,
no unexpected
new developments.
I don't believe that
anything you say to me
would register
as a surprise,
at least not anymore.
Disturb me,
slash my lungs, perhaps,
or maybe break my heart again
in pieces
smaller than they broke before,
but nothing could surprise me,
not anymore.

Scenes and Secrets

Jacob likes the thunder lizards,
loves the shapes of cakes and gardens,
hates the night of mother's book club.

School is out for snowy weather,
everything is under water,
Jacob's playing with the matches.

Cats are leaving mice on pillows,
father's looking for a shovel,
no one's seen the place he keeps it.

Jacob doesn't get in trouble
if he keeps a B in English -
he can write his own excuses.

A Time of Living and Dying

Creeping to the east,
the shadows have abandoned me,
sleeping in the sun.

Above the green grass,
beneath the clean sky and the
ultraviolet rays,

I dream prophecies:
a slow season of drying,
weeks of dying skin.

Turning back to front
to even my exposure,
burning front to back.

Let Me Count The Ways

The way I look,
the words I speak,
the way I fail the things I try,
the way I fall
apart so easy,
yet my cheeks are always dry;

I hate the way
I hate the lonely
people whom I should embrace,
the way I wear
this weak expression
on my vulgar, empty face;

The way I run
my weasel life
as if it were a tired scam,
the way my body
thirsts for someone,
never learning who I am;

my every sin
must be remembered,
every day I lose control;
I won't leave out
the way I dare
to offer up my heavy soul.


Fill your hearts with fire and ale,
for joy has come to Ettenfall -
the days of starlight dread have ended,
dawn is cast on heaven's wall,
as monstrous shades of murk retreat
beneath the mountains, shrinking small,
and flights of drums and flutes resume
their high ascent in Ettenfall.

The years have made us young this morning,
children of the yearning hall -
what fortune we have found in summer
long was promised Ettenfall,
calamity was long endured
but love has made our bodies tall.
Our fear is quashed, our foes are banished
by the will of Ettenfall.

Though battered down, though bruised and sore,
our bodies leap to music's call,
for wisdom grants the warmth of flesh
should not be wasted, not at all.
A fool could hardly fail to see
the blesséd state of Ettenfall:
a fellowship of friends and lovers
wakes the streets of Ettenfall.

The Gardens Try

Every year, the gardens try.
The daffodils will have no care
for poison, drought, or freezing air:
the gardens either live or die,
it doesn't matter if it's fair.

The poets offer guarantees
that spring will rise forever, though
within their poets' hearts they know
the life that coils within the trees
is tenuous at best.  They grow

again, they whither up, they lack
a shepherd to defend their flock:
the gardens of the world walk
the path to their extinction, back
and forth, from hardy root and stalk

to ashes dead.  Disasters near,
and yet, a billion eons bear
their witness that the gardens' daring
gamble pays off, year by year -
They always try, and they are spared.

Every year the gardens try
despite the constant hand of doom:
the seeds of life resist their tomb
and spread their petals to the sky,
determined all the more to bloom.

Return of the Muse

Some of the languorous candle
the edge of its reticent perch.

A little bit gets on the floor,
it drips,
it's hard to get out of the rug.

A little bit stays on my finger
the scent will linger for months.

Some of the flavor on
my lips
reminds me of sensual death.


When did you become a sunset,
beautiful in your descent?
Maybe, at the very moment
you ascended, glorious dawn,
the western border was determined
as the object of your search -
and morning was the youthful province
of a once and future queen.
The sky becomes your crown of embers,
evening graced with clouds and planets:
this was beauty all along,
but still I watch the east, and miss you.

Permission to Stop

Every crisis,
I forget to ask myself
for permission:
permission to have
a very bad day,
for permission
to trade in my brain
for silence and emptiness.

Like it or not,
it's going to happen anyway -
if I asked for
permission, would I
be less of a cheat?
Would it settle
the issue of what
a fuck-up deserves?


Human Skin is  pretty self-explanatory.  Skin is an intriguing thing, and everybody's got some, to be endlessly intrigued by.  Maybe seven hours of "intrigue" is too much sometimes, though.  I wrote this mostly just to get used to my new poetry journal.

I had a dream that ended in a scene very much like what's depicted in A Sighting of the Anima.  I was an archer and the last defender of a fortified position, and I was scared.  When I told a friend about the dream and how it made me feel (sick and disturbed), he did a little Jungian-style dream analysis and suggested that the woman I shot may have been a manifestation of my "anima", or the archetypal feminine personality; hence the title.  I had also been thinking about playing around with archaic pronouns, and I figured it made a certain amount of sense to direct a "thou" at a piece of my subconscious mind.

My Veronica might not be any good.  It sort of grew out of something I read in Kierkegaard's Either/Or; one of the translator's notes indicated that the name "Veronica" meant something like "perfect image".  Being interested in etymology, I looked it up and, it turns out, this is not the truth.  Veronica (alternately "Berenice") actually means something like "bringer of victory".  However, the "perfect image" or "true image" theory is a historically popular folk etymology that Kierkegaard (and his translator) apparently believed.  The idea was stuck in my head at that point, and I translated it into a melancholy reminiscence of the last time I had seen my ex-girlfriend.  Her name isn't Veronica, but that's not really the point.

Now, I am certainly in favor of certain video depictions of death becoming widely circulated, such as evidence of police brutality.  But it struck me as unsettling one evening that most of us have watched someone die on our screens, the same screens we use for entertainment purposes, and the socially conscientious thing is considered to be showing the video to people you know.  There, I just restated the poem.  I guess it's not that complicated.  I'm sure other people see nothing weird about this state of affairs, but it makes me feel uncomfortable.  I guess it's just Social Media For the Youth.

Principles is a sex poem, and a pretty good one if you ask me.  I like reading it, anyway.  I tried to make the meter and structure suggestive of intercourse, so maybe it's kind of like concrete poetry?  The shape is just more of a motion than an object.  Anyway, this looks like the sauciest thing in this group.  Has anyone ever compared sex with Zeno's paradoxes before?  If not, you're welcome.

As I said before, I felt very lonely during this time.  I still feel lonely, but it was worse back in June.  So I wrote something mopey and depressing about counting the days until I found love and companionship again, imagining that I might count to some impossibly high number before dying alone.  BUMMER.  But you see, I never completely lost my sense of humor, hence the reference to Red vs Blue in the title:
"We have to hurry, the bomb's on a timer!" "A count-down timer?"  "No, a count-up timer.  It goes from one, to explode!"

My Imagination's Done Worse started as a riff in my mind on the song No Surprises by Radiohead.  It expresses a sort of world-weariness and pessimism that I would not recommend.

Then there's Scenes and Secrets, a poem that has nothing to do with my various anxieties and hang-ups.  How about that?  I think it's ultimately better for that.  I tried to write something mysterious and vaguely creepy.  Unsupervised children are creepy.  A friend of mine assumed that "thunder lizards" was a reference to some cartoon from the nineties that I don't remember ever having heard of.  Obviously, it's not.  It's just another term for dinosaurs.

In a weird, roundabout sort of way, A Time of Living and Dying is a poem about climate change.  Specifically, the heat and drought that has been afflicting the west coast this summer.  It mostly started as a metrical exercise.

I actually made myself cry when I wrote Let Me Count The Ways.  I got it into my head that I could get all of my depression and self-loathing out of my head by putting it all down in one place.  I no longer think that was a brilliant idea, but the poem exists and I want to record it here, as evidence of how thoroughly mean I can be to myself, and how not to think.

Ettenfall sure sticks out here, doesn't it?  I had been reading J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of Beowulf, and my head was full of the theme of a place besieged by monsters and nightmares, and the joy of its people upon liberation.  "Ettenfall" is a place name I made up, sort of an etymologically garbled word meaning something like "place of the giants' (down)fall".  The tone is unabashedly hopeful, which is something I really should try more often.  Of course it also seems quaint, but I like to think it has a certain Tolkien-esque quality, thanks to some choice alliteration.

The Gardens Try was a more measured effort at writing in a hopeful tone.  Again, the drought is a contributing subject here, but the real focus is on life.  It strikes me as magnificent how easily all life could be extinguished from the Earth, and yet how it has endured for eons in one form or another, to the point where we take it for granted that somehow, no matter how badly we fuck up the environment, it will continue to endure.  A flower doesn't know that the prospects for growth are any worse or better than the last season: it just gives its best every year.  So far, that's been good enough.

I bought a few scented candles this summer, and if there's one thing I inexplicably love doing, it's writing poems about candles.  Thus, The Return of the Muse.  Literally, it's about wax dripping on the carpet.  If you have a dirty mind, there might be another meaning buried in there somewhere.

Undiminished is another poem about Tara, my ex-girlfriend, this one a reasoned attempt to make peace with the fact of our separation and the way it has made me feel.  It's built around an obvious metaphor that, in retrospect, may be a little too self-centered if taken to its logical conclusions.  But I call this a tribute to her, and all the good she brought into my life.

This wild ride ends on a somewhat sour note.  I had a very bad day, and felt of course like every bit of progress I'd made was for naught.  But I had a bit of self-awareness before bed, which led to the writing of Permission to Stop.  The message of this poem is muddled, I think.  I may be coming down on myself too much.  But it was an honest reflection of how I felt, f-bomb and all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Secret Egg - Part Two

What did it mean to love a thing?  Jenna thought she knew what it meant to love a person; she had her doubts from time to time, but she always had to admit that she really loved her mother and father after all.  Animals too, she could love.  And somehow, the stuffed rabbit she had owned since her earliest memories, perhaps the most inanimate subject she had ever loved.  But with all the memories it carried, she couldn't quite label it a "thing" in an absolute sense.

The secret egg was a thing.  For all of its apparent ability to distract her mind and bend her thoughts, she never hesitated in calling it a thing.  Yet her grandfather's "poem" came back to her in fragments, unbidden. is alive.

...only perish in flames. will grow to love it.

It will not hatch unless you love it.

Do not forget about the secret egg...

In the three nights since she had hidden it in her dresser drawer, she had only once thought to destroy it.  A wild impulse came over her, to follow the apparent instructions in her grandfather's hand and throw the wooden egg and its esoteric diagrams into a furnace.  She could do no such thing.

If any one had come to see her in those three nights, they would have noticed instantly that Jenna was not herself.  But no one came to see her, and Jenna was too preoccupied by the secret egg to notice how preoccupied she was.  It became harder and harder to focus on anything else: difficult in the case of organizing her grandfather's effects, and impossible in the case of her schoolwork.

By daylight, Jenna could behave with a fair approximation of normality.  But there was always the question, nesting untouchably in her brain: could she really love this thing?  What was to love - its shape?  Its texture?  The arcane symbolism on its "shell"?  Or was she supposed to love the interior, as solid as it seemed?  Sometimes, she remembered that the scroll had in fact been very specific.  She was not "supposed" to love it.  She was "supposed" to incinerate it.  At night these thoughts became all-consuming.  But for three nights she never seriously considered burning the egg.

For three nights she pondered the possibility of loving a thing.  She would examine the egg in detail, trying to examine herself simultaneously, trying to name the emotions it evoked.  She would shove it back in the drawer of winter clothes, and attempt to take her mind off the problem.  It never lasted.  A visitor to her apartment would have called it a mad obsession.  A more superstitious observer might have thought the egg was charmed.

And on the fourth night, something changed.  After returning from dinner out with old friends, Jenna opened the door to her apartment, and did not proceed to her dresser.  She hung up her coat, sat down at her desk, and got to work taking inventory of her grandfather's documents.  It was difficult work as always, but she made real, decent progress.  After an hour, she was exhausted.  She turned off the desk light, and went into the kitchen.  She put on an ancient record by Miles Davis, and prepared a cup of chamomile tea.  When she had finished enjoying that, she went to the bedroom, took off her clothes, and went to sleep in her bed.

She forgot about the secret egg.

At first it was a dream.  As unbelievable as the truth turned out to be, she remained convinced to the end that it began as a dream.  There was no other explanation for how she'd acted, how she'd felt, and where this strangely passive adventure had led her thus far.

Truly, what could explain how Jenna came to be floating on the Southern Ocean?  That is where she was, there could be no doubt.  It was strange that the raft that supported her appeared just like her bed, and that the waves were indistinguishable from the hardwood floor of her room.  But the stench of wet salt and the bitter, cold wind that rushed through her sheets, as well as the startling and exotic constellations glowing through and from beyond the ceiling, left no doubt that she truly was at sea.  Even out her window, past the trees and familiar landmarks lit by orange streetlights, she thought she could make out the Cape of Good Hope looming in the darkness.

Apart from that, there was nothing her mind could do to rationalize the sensory confusion that  overwhelmed her.  It was only in dreams that a person could be so absolutely and certainly in two places at once, their contradictory qualities reconciled by the logic of the subconscious mind.  And for the first time in days, Jenna was aware of just how out of her conscious mind she'd been for the past three days.  "Have I been walking in a dream," she thought, "and have I been asleep all this time?"  But if it was a dream, she could no longer enjoy it from the numb security of sleep.  She was alert, and aware of the bizarre sensation of both lying peacefully in bed, and being rocked by violent ocean swells.

She drew her comforter tight around her body to protect against the cutting winds, and tried to make more sense of her condition, to separate one location from another before she lost all sense of boundaries and, she feared, her sanity.  Scanning the open sea, which was also her bedroom, she noted the dresser, and remembered suddenly the secret egg.  And as the subtle memories began to return, and she considered what role the egg had played in these events, the room seemed to respond to the sudden change in her mental state.  If she were somehow experiencing two realities at once, the manifestation of a third seemed to be asserting itself.  A formless vortex, not really visible but definitely perceptible, seemed to be drawing one of the other two realities into itself; to Jenna's relief, it seemed to be the ocean that was receding.

The ethereal whirl seemed to center around the dresser, which only confirmed to Jenna that the secret egg was at the heart of the mystery.  An ominous glow was now emanating from that location, radiating warmth.  As the Southern Ocean faded from her perception, its elements all seemed to swirl about that spot, lingering visibly around the dresser's edge.  One by one, the stars ceased shining through her ceiling; the Cape of Good Hope phased out of sight.  But as normal reality reasserted itself in her presence, the energy surrounding the egg's hiding place grew brighter and hotter.  She was certain it would be noticeable from the street, blazing out of her window like a scene from an alien abduction movie.

In an unexpected instant, the spreading mass of light suddenly collapsed into a tiny point.  Its intense brightness forced Jenna to close her eyes, and a second later she heard a dull popping sound, and a heat like a broiling oven passed over her face for a moment.  She became aware that the glow was gone, and she opened her eyes.  It was dark, of course, but there was enough light from the window to make out the shape of things.  She could read the clock on the wall, which showed only a few ticks past one in the morning.  There was only one reality left in her room, as far as she could tell.

The drawer containing her winter clothes slid out, seemingly of its own accord.  It was not especially slow, but it was deliberate and unrushed.  Jenna's eyes fixed on that motion, even as she instinctively pulled her blanket back around her shoulders.  Undressed and bewildered, she didn't know if she could defend herself from the unknown.  However, she comforted herself, she didn't really know that it was dangerous.

There was a sound like the cracking of eggshells, and a small, dark form rose up from where the secret egg had been hidden.  It appeared solid, yet lacked a firm boundary, and as it stepped out onto the floor it appeared to be slowly increasing in size.

The creature that had hatched from the secret egg was essentially round, with small spikes, limbs and other appendages that seemed to fade and undulate about its body in steady fashion.  Its color was like a very deep blackness, accented with a faint iridescent blue when it passed through the light.  It moved noiselessly across the floor, reaching the side of her bed in only a few seconds; Jenna tried to remain facing it, unsure of its intentions and capabilities.

She noted how it moved in a way that defied description.  At times it seemed to be floating effortlessly, at other times walking in an almost ordinary fashion on two legs.  Which form of locomotion it used at any given second was, of course, ambiguous, as it usually seemed to be doing both at the same time.  But Jenna could not help but observe that, when it gave the impression of having legs, its left leg seemed to be smaller and more malformed than the right.  Increasingly doubtful of her senses and their ability to discriminate, she found that one consistency to be very interesting.

By the time it reached her bed, it seemed to have reached full size, growing from a few inches to about the size of a large, fat house cat.  It paused for a moment before ascending the mattress in its own peculiar fashion, a motion that was halfway between a ghostly levitation and an exaggerated step with impossible feet.  Jenna pulled as far back as she could, to maintain a reasonable distance, but the creature was now only a few feet from her face.  Now, she could tell that it had a face of its own, its features slowly appearing from the misty blackness of its round body.  First a mouth, or something like one: really just two rows of sharp, interlocking triangular teeth, stretched in a cartoonish grimace.  Soon afterward came its eyes: large, round, blue, and startlingly human, yet uncanny in their suggestion of a child's doll or a CGI model.  The creature blinked a few times, which is to say that the eyes would vanish for a fraction of a second: they had no discernible lids.

Finally, a green sigil developed between the eyes, in the center of the creature's "forehead".  Jenna recognized it immediately as the glyph which decorated the seal of her grandfather's scroll, as well as the secret egg: a six-pointed star with an eye inscribed within.  The resemblance to the creature's own eyes was only natural.  The symbol glowed with a very faint light, just bright enough to show the faint iridescence of the surrounding face.

With the arrival of the sigil the creature's dynamic form seemed to stabilize, though it was still as much a creature of shadow as one of flesh.  It looked briefly about its surroundings, perhaps seized by a childlike fascination with the new world it had been born into.  And then its eyes fixed swiftly on Jenna's, and even as she flinched she perceived a mature and devious intelligence behind them.  She was frightened, and yet her fear subsided when the creature spoke, its voice like a scratchy old vinyl record from the forties.

"You look... quite a bit like him.  It's good, that you turned out to be the one.  It is how he intended things all along.  I had my doubts it would work out, but here you are.  Here we are".

Jenna felt sure this was certainly no dream anymore; she felt more awake, and more aware, than she had in a very long time.  And naturally, though the encounter was entirely unprecedented and there was much she did not understand, she soon put together an idea.  "My grandfather sent you, didn't he?"

"The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree," replied the creature, widening its grin, "but does it taste as sweet as last year's harvest?"  Jenna recoiled at the monstrous implication, and the creature let out a high, mellow laugh.  "Only a joke, my dear girl.  I don't intend to eat you, and I didn't eat him.  In a way, I am as much of his issue as you are.  That makes us relatives, and eating you would be like cannibalism, I should think."  It smiled innocently, though the effect was dubious, as it did not have an innocent face.  "You don't think me capable of such a thing, do you?"

She chose her words carefully.  "I'm not sure what you're capable of.  I'm not even sure how you got here".

It flailed in mock surprise.  "Why, you saw how I got here!  I took the boat, of course!  Though I suppose it must have been very confusing for one not versed in the trade.  I can assure you that it was a very orderly, rational, and scientific process.  Or at least it looked that way, from the other side of the veil of reality".

"Well," she said, picking up her courage, "I'm not versed in the trade, and whatever the 'veil of reality' is, I'm sure I've lived my whole life on this side of it.  I don't understand the process, or where you come from.  And I really don't understand what I've been doing with that egg all this time, or what it's been doing to me.  So maybe you could try explaining it a little more clearly?"

"Very well, very well," the creature intoned semi-seriously, closing its eyes and nodding in exaggerated style.  "I suppose it is time to begin the beginning.  Now I know this may seem to be a little 'out there', but I imagine you've figured out by this point that your grandfather was a sorcerer?"

It sounded daft to admit it, but it did seem to be the most logical conclusion.  "I think I can accept that".

"Well, if you can accept that he was after all an exceptionally powerful sorcerer, I think I can answer both of your questions".  The creature cleared its throat, or whatever it had, clearly relishing the chance to pontificate.  "You see, my dear... Jenna is it?"  She nodded affirmatively.  "I thought so.  Anyway, for some time now you have been bewitched.  It happened when you first broke the seal," -it indicated the sigil on its forehead- "and read your grandfather's instructions.  That was the most precarious part of the whole mechanism.  I warned the old fellow that he could never be certain you'd be the one to open the scroll, but you know how sure of himself the old man was".

Jenna had no idea how to respond.  As it had become much more painfully obvious, she knew almost nothing about the old man.

"In any event, once that obstacle was cleared, the spell worked basically like it was supposed to.  The person who read the scroll would find the egg; the old man painted it himself, you know.  The person who found the egg would fall in love with it, in a subtly jealous and obsessive way.  Then, as suddenly as all that, the same person whose thoughts were warped by the egg would forget about it completely.  In the act of forgetting, the way was clear for a creature from my side of the veil, yours truly, to pass through to yours, hatch from the egg, and manifest into this world.  Are you with me so far?"

She nodded, though she thought the mechanics were still more obscure than the creature would admit.  "But the instructions told me to burn the egg.  What would have happened if I'd done that?"

The iridescence around the creature's eyes seemed to flush at the possibility.  "Well, suffice it to say, you could never have done that.  Once you discovered the egg, the spell prevented you from harming it in any way.  You see," and here the creature again assumed a prideful air, "a being as powerful as myself needs a little more than forgetfulness to pass whole through the veil.  Your grandfather added a disobedience rhythm to the spell's arrangement, to boost its power.  Your failure to comply with the 'instructions' was a vital component of a delicate instrument.  But it was the forgetting that brought me through in the end."

"I did forget about it," she murmured, incredulous.  "How could I have forgotten about it, just like that?"

"It was all in the spell, my dear; you really weren't yourself this week.  You followed the script, and you did so beautifully.  But I have to say, you remembered the egg a little sooner than I had expected; my leg was nearly caught in the veil.  It still hurts, you see."  The creature held up its smaller leg to demonstrate; it had started to firm up, the same as the other, but it was obviously weaker.

"Tell me why," she demanded, and she tried to be firm despite all she didn't understand, despite the menace inherent in the creature's teeth.  "Tell me why my grandfather did this.  Why he manipulated me, why he couldn't have just told me all this himself?"  Of course, her grandfather had never really told her, or her mother, or possibly anyone about anything important in his whole life.  "Tell me what the hell you're doing here... little thing," she said, much bolder than she'd intended to sound.

The creature laughed that same high, mellow laugh.  "You're getting ahead of yourself, dear Jenna.  I am here to answer all of your questions, in due time.  I have been granted a special authority by your grandfather, in exchange for passage into this realm.  You see him and his life as a mystery - I am to demystify him, so to speak.  I can show you his past, his work, his innermost thoughts; everything you've ever wondered about the shifty old fellow.  It was his last wish, and I am bound to grant it."

"You can show me... everything?"

"Right away, if you'd like".

There was never any real doubt in her mind.  If Jenna hesitated, it was not from a lack of curiosity, for she still burned with unanswered questions about the history of her family, the things her poor mother had never been able to tell her.  She felt resentment to the old man for using her in his mysterious rituals, and she did not easily trust the ghoulish thing on her bed.  These things could make her hesitate, but they did not make her refuse.

"I'll need to get dressed", she said, quietly.

The creature smiled, and closed its peculiar eyes; Jenna believed it not unlikely that it could still see through the power of its sigil.  It laughed, a little bit higher and a little less mellow, as she climbed out of bed and put on her clothes.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


My name is David, and this is an affirmation of myself.  I am a good and decent person, and I deserve to live.  I deserve to be happy and I deserve to be loved.

I have bad habits, and I wish to reduce or correct them.  But they do not define who I am.  I also have good habits, and I wish to cultivate them.  These do not define me either; I am neither the sum nor the balance of my habits.  I am a human being, as worthy of life and the good things in life as any other human being.

I am private, introverted, and sensitive.  With these attributes I often find it exhausting and difficult to live and operate in the world around me.  But it is not impossible for me to do so.  There are ways in this world for a person like me to find peace and satisfaction.

These attributes do not make me a bad person, and they do not make me weak either.  In fact, they are sources of virtue and strength.  Because I am private, I have much to share with those closest to me.  Because I am introverted, I have a good vantage point from which to understand myself.  Because I am sensitive, I can experience the rich pleasures of life as deeply as I can experience its pains and disappointments. 

I can survive the pains and disappointments of life, and have done so for many years.  It is worthwhile to survive them, because life is also filled with happy surprises and joy.  I will not live forever, but I may live for a long time, and I do not know what the rest of my life has in store.  It would be wrong to assume that there is only sorrow waiting for me.

I have many talents and fine qualities.  I have a good memory and deep thoughts.  I have some skill as a writer and an artist.  I am an effective teacher.  My body is healthy and resilient, and physically attractive.  These things do not make me better than other people, and they are not the sources of my worth as a human being.   However, they are treasured gifts, and sources of great joy to myself.  With these qualities I can make a valuable contribution to my world, as well as improve the state of my own life.  They are proof that I am not helpless.

I am sometimes alone, and it is all right that I should be that way.  I will not be alone forever.  My friends care for me, and they are happy that I am alive.  I am blessed with a family that loves me and helps me.  I will succeed in finding a romantic partner who will love and cherish me for my strengths and accept me for my faults.

I have accomplished much in my life, and I will accomplish much more.  For this reason, I deserve to feel proud of myself.  I do not have to feel guilty for taking the time needed to live a happy life, nor for the time I have spent feeling unhappy.  Though I may be sad or angry or depressed, I am still a good person.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Poetries #1

What's this?  A new series, a new number one?  A re-branding, as it were?  A gritty re-boot?

With twenty posts entitled "Poetry Jam", and beginning to type out the twenty first (that's this one here), I started thinking about the name.  And as anyone who knows me knows, I'm generally terrible at naming things.  Or at least, they know that I think I am.  And truth be told, I've been thinking that "Poetry Jam" is a silly thing to call these posts for a while now.  When I email poems to my friends for comment, however, I usually write "Poetries" in the subject line.  Frankly, I feel like that's a better title, one that is more unique to my sensibilities.  So that's what I'm calling these posts now, though I won't be going back to change the previous twenty.  Hence, the re-numbering of the series.

These poems date from March to May of 2015, apart from the last one, Twice, which is from January.  I held it back from the last post because I felt it was a little too explicitly erotic.  But as I've grown more comfortable in that realm, I found myself less embarrassed by it, so I decided I may as well include it here now.  Be warned though, it's fairly graphic.  The rest are not especially shocking, but they do get intensely personal, and in a couple of cases political.  I was still feeling quite depressed in these months, though there are a few signs of optimism to be found.

Investigation of the Well

There isn't much to tell -
the poor, misguided boys
went swimming in the well.

Their parents thought they fell,
surprised by some sharp noise.
But as far as I can tell,

the boys themselves were yelling
from the simple joys
of swimming in the well.

They missed the warning bells
and never heard their noise
or what they had to tell;

the river drowned the dell
and didn't spare the boys.
There isn't much to tell,
their feet stuck in the well.

Paintings of Saints

That's the man up on the wall,
looking down with eyes of paint
and a genial shadow of a smile;
he's the one they call a saint.

Money has it he'll be hanging
in the family room for years
beyond our living memory -
maybe this is what he fears?

If I were him, I'd like to forget
my indiscretions, slights and stinks
that don't get better in the light
(maybe this is why he drinks?)

But he's the man who paid their mortgage,
helped the family sort their books,
and brought the iron hammer of justice
on the heads of real crooks.

You see, he's earned his portrait here,
he bought that halo in his hair
with kindness, endless charity -
the sort of thing a saint should wear.

But every time I waste my breath
when he lies wasted on a cot,
and when he laughs at my success
without a hint of care or thought,

I long to tear that painting down
and suffocate that impish grin
with charcoal from a fire pit
and several pints of flaming gin.

I'd hate to hurt the real man,
who felt as well as dealt me pain -
but I would do such violence
to the passive image of a saint.

Free Range Vision

She has eyes like animals,
and no one knows what makes them move:
an independent consciousness?
An automatic vital force?
A sudden noise?
A plan,
a choice?

She cannot explain the way
her eyes can move about the room,
for even when she’s sitting still
they never stop their soft patrol.

They pad across the carpet, slowly
picking through the coarsest fibers,
singling out the choicest patterns.

They climb the curtains,
feel the honey comforts of the fabric,
warm in the sun.

She can’t say how, but still her eyes
can open windows and escape
into the whispering forest.

They don’t,
but it doesn’t change the fact that they can.

She can’t explain their loyalty,
but puppies guard their mistress’s bed
and eyes return to heads
at last;
her eyes return like animals
to curl in their dens
at last,
they hibernate until the morning.

She can’t explain what makes them move,
but she can always live with that.


Half of you go out the door –
help me up and out the window.
Someone’s coming through the back,
because I wasn’t sly enough
to cover my distinguished tracks.
As few of you that stayed behind,
I’ll need you all to keep me going:
one step, two steps, faster than
my never tiring persecution,
closing faster as I run,
repeating every step of mine,
pulsing with this life of mine
that ought to be inside my chest.
Help me down into the streets,
I have to move, to keep escaping,
grasping at the present breath
before my life arrives as death.

Sending to

I carry an artifact here, in my pocket,
a powerful object engraved with your name
and a message: it ticks when I wind it, it breaks
if I drop it, it snaps like a heart in its frame.

If it’s sending to me, I appreciate that,
but I’m losing the message (I guess) and the absence
is digging this hole.  As it empties, it seems
like I'm destined to send in a negative balance.


Why are people so surprised
when history reveals its weights?
Don't they know
we live in the United States?

Can you remember when this land
was free for people who are brown?
I'm not surprised
that cops are gunning women down.

I know you think Jim Crow has died,
could swear you've seen the graven dates,
but don't you know
we live in the United States?

You might have closed your eyes
if you don't happen to be black,
and never seen
a brother take one in the back.

Your government was built to keep
these grieved, unhappy folk at bay;
did you forget
we're living in the USA?

She and She

She and she
were soldiers in the wind-blown fields,
wore blades amongst their foes
that cut like summer grass.

She and she
stood breathless in a glade of life
with flowers on their breasts,
and proudly bore the thorns.

She and she
were hard as heart and smooth as sap,
were fixtures of the land
and permanent as dirt.

She and she
leapt up like painted canvasses,
a potent source of fuel
combusting at their feet.

It's Not About Conscience

The Generalissimo's son
wept bitterly
at his father's trial.
As the charges were cited,
"assault and conspiracy,
murders in first and second degree",
the Generalissimo's son
was stunned
that such manly guidance,
fatherly, wise, benevolent care
could be so badly misrepresented -
hadn't the nation suffered, and
hadn't their leader offered them hope?
The Generalissimo's son
felt proud
on the day his father
had the dissidents strangled -
as proud as the day he wore
his first miniature pair
of epaulettes.

Do You Have Any Floss?

I want to start this interview by noting,
yes, there's something stuck between my teeth:
a poppy seed.  I found it in the mirror,
popping out as I was driving over,
black from what I do insist is white.
I used my tongue, I tried my fingernails
at every stop between my house and here,
and nothing worked, I couldn't knock it loose.
I thought I'd bring it up before you noticed,
wouldn't want to make you think I was
that kind of slob, who wouldn't even notice
when his teeth offended decency.

Spring Fling

Birds of every size
are circling.
High and low, they circle
with the bees.

The hawks beneath the blue,
the hummingbirds
about their nectar vessels
with the bees.

They've somehow stopped their humming,
settled down
on tiny plastic perches
with the bees.


I know this smell
means things are going well,
my fingers can tell.

I stumble, wind
the steps below, and find
the bottle in mind.

relax enough
to slowly, gently slough
the skin from the rough.

my fingers grasp
the edge, our voices rasp
the bottomless gasp.

the end is nigh,
I never know whose thigh
is dangling high.

You May Not Know Who You Are, But You Know Me

I have to make my peace with this -
I know that I cannot possess you,
yet I look at you with pain.

Every footstep kills:
the way you wear your skirt is
fatal to my brain.

You are like
a billion others -
glimpsed in vain.

And if I cannot meditate
away these feelings any longer,
how could I survive the strain?

I am like
a billion others,
quite insane.

We Are All Of Us Birds

O beautiful creatures,
how are you so despised?
Why aren't you given
praise and eternal love,
in light of the brave and
delicate way you fly?
Who labeled you filthy?
Who could have seen those wings
caressing the air, and
told such a heartless lie?

On the Eve of First Dates

Wish me luck, boys -
she's beautiful,
she's got degrees,
she's giving me the time of day;
I'd even bet
she's got a good heart,
but now's the time to test it out.
I'm sentimental,
won't deny it:
something feels right
about her name.


Eyes on me, your hands on me, your fingers
tight, your breath, your voice, your words excite;
the wine of music, touch of honey lingers
still, the stillness holds us to your pillow.

Kisses on your neck, and little breezes
puff, but they don’t cool us down enough
to stop.  By pleasure anything you please is
meant: my seed is sown, it isn’t spent.

Without retreating, disengaging, losing
hold, we start again: you feel so bold
to ask, you needn’t ask, if I am choosing
bliss: of course I have no choice in this.

It’s easier, your legs so high, the lantern
lit, a deeper pathway, smoother fit;
in luminescent velvet glow, the caverns
burn, while underneath you grasp and churn.

The morning's hot, and hungry, nothing's missing
yet, and if I have the strength you'll get
your fill of me, you'll shake, you'll steam like hissing
ice, exhausted, pressed together twice.

I am not a hundred per cent satisfied with how Investigation of the Well turned out.  The basic story I wanted to tell comes through pretty clearly, though I can't really remember why I wanted to tell a story about a group of boys drowning in a goddamn well.  Villanelles are always tricky because they require so many rhymes on the same sounds, and I am sensitive to awkwardness in my writing when it comes to rhymes.  A thought occurs that I did not specify how many boys died in this particular well.  I pictured it as three?

Paintings of Saints, even more than Twice, is the poem I struggled the most with in deciding whether to include here.  I think it's a damn good poem, but it is intensely personal.  In fact, it was written as part of a therapy assignment, and I don't think it takes a lot of analytical skill to tease out the issues I was considering.

Free Range Vision is kind of horrifying.  I can't quite figure out what I was going for in terms of the meter/structure, and honestly that's just as well.  I like when my work is a little mysterious to me, it helps me enjoy it better.  Ever think about what your eyes do when you're asleep?  Hopefully they aren't ambulatory.

Escape is a good poem about my depression, I think.  Or rather, my chronic depressive tendencies, and my irrational belief that I am always being stalked by the end of my life.

Sending to is is about more of my ex-girlfriend feelings.  Three years ago she brought me back a piece of art from her vacation with the words "Sending to" written across the bottom; one our one year anniversary, she bought me a pocket watch with those words engraved on it.  I still wear it in the left breast pocket of my jacket, though I don't always remember to wind it.  The second stanza, I feel, is a little awkward.  But it's an important poem to me.

Baltimore is, appropriately enough, a poem about the Baltimore Uprising of 2015.  It is a poem in opposition to white supremacy and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as all the other groups of people (such as Native Americans and Latinos) who suffer from police brutality.  Its main idea is that racism is a central feature of American political culture, and pretending that we can ignore that when we live in a country with such a history is foolish.

On that theme, It's Not About Conscience is also about police brutality, though it's expressed less directly to be more about the politics of force and authoritarianism.  In conversations and debate's I've had, it's often struck me how hard it is to impress upon people the problems with police as an institution when they have close relationships with police officers, whether they are friends or family members.  Somehow it made me think of people like Augusto Pinochet; I have no idea if Pinochet had a son, but I know he has die-hard admirers, no matter how many people he murdered.  All dictatorships justify their blood lust with patriarchal crap about strength and discipline, and I saw a parallel with how people justified police brutality.  Think of the "Generalissimo" in the poem as a police chief, and the son as wide eyed fascist in training, raised on apple pie and swaddled in the American flag.

She and She is not nearly so political, no.  It's a poem about nature and female spirits, and I think it came out lovely, with a very mythological quality.  It's one of my favorites in this group, at least one I like to read more than some of the others

I wrote Do you Have Any Floss? while sitting in the waiting room of my therapist's office and it's basically autobiographical.  When I was finished I saw my therapist, and he reminded me that my appointment was not actually for another two hours, I had the time wrong.  So I went home and cleaned my teeth.  As a side note, any time I do blank verse monologue-style poems you can be sure I'm thinking about My Last Duchess by Robert Browning the entire time.  One of those little tics from high school, I guess.  I tried to make Floss relate to the negative thinking that characterizes my depression, but it's also weirdly hilarious to me.

Spring Fling is a dumb title for this particular poem, but whatever, that's just its title and that's just how it's going to be.  The poem itself I like a lot.  It was written in my aunt and uncle's back yard in Escondido, drawn from natural observations all around me.  It's a relaxed, natural kind of thing, very pretty if you ask me.

Taste and You May Not Know Who You Are, But You Know Me are both poems about my continuing sexual frustration.  Sorry, but that's what I'm feeling these days.  The first one has some cute rhyme work, which I like, and is somewhat sensual, tracing the arc of the erotic act in a sort of vague way.  The second poem is more... despairing, I guess?  I honestly don't even remember who I had in mind when I wrote it, but it was definitely someone I won't be getting with in this universe.  How to come to terms with impulsive desire, that's the theme here.

We Are All Of Us Birds is a sentimental little thing about some crows I saw in a parking lot.  I thought about how a lot of people don't like crows, and I've always found that to be upsetting.  I guess I identify with them, for better or for worse.  Crows (and all birds, for that matter) are beautiful creatures and and they have a lot to teach us, especially those of us with depression.

I had a date with a real live human woman back in June, just after I returned to Eugene.  I'd met her online, just like I'd met my ex, and although things ultimately did not work out, I had pretty high hopes going in.  Thus the optimistic spirit of On the Eve of First Dates, which I wrote just before I drove back to Oregon.  I will try to bring that spirit to future romances.

Lastly, there's TwiceTwice is a sex poem, pure and simple, and while I don't think it's "crude" it is definitely explicit.  Writing about sex in a totally graceful way is basically impossible, and anyone who writes "caverns" when he clearly means "vagina" has clearly not managed to square that circle.  But personally, I see tenderness in this poem, and I like the rhyme scheme quite a bit.  Maybe I'm just too shy to ever be fully comfortable sharing this kind of thing, but I'm sure there are people who would agree this one has merit.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Adventures in No Internet

Actually, it would be a little difficult to make this blog post if I had absolutely "no internet".  In fact, the more I think about it, it would be quite difficult in this modern age to be without any kind of internet access to the web, at least for a person of my socio-economic class.

I am of course not considering the potential impact of a catastrophic natural disaster or nuclear attack devastating our digital infrastructure.  Who has time to think about things like that?

But given all the other facts of my life, I am as without internet as I can be.  About a week ago, the connection in our apartment suddenly failed.  Though I struggled mightily with customer service and technical support to restore the connection, it appeared that nothing could be done in the time being.  It probably won't be fixed until sometime this weekend.

What does this mean for me?  Well, in the short run, it meant I could not complete a project for an online class that was due that afternoon.  In a desperate lunge, I managed to finish the assignment at the local library, and participate in the final class session via phone connection.  But given all the time I wasted trying to solve an insoluble problem, it was still a stressful and harrowing experience.

In the medium run?  Well, I spend a hell of a lot less time on Tumblr.  My epic streak on Duolingo has been interrupted, and I can already feel the Irish slipping away from me.  I have more time to dedicate to reading books, which is good because I have to read one for my last online course (an independent study, not something I need an active connection for presently).  On top of all my other daily routines, I now take a little walk to Starbucks every day, and spend a half hour or so enjoying tea and donuts.  I use my Galaxy tablet tap into their wifi and update Goodreads (with all these books I'm reading), talk to my cousin on Facebook, check my email, and briefly make sure the world hasn't ended.  Then I go home and waste my life on video games.  But that's all very normal.

In the long run, there's no effect.  None.  In a week, the connection will be restored and I will be back to my old tricks.  Unless it isn't, in which case, I don't know?  Maybe I'll just move into the Starbucks.  I see a comfortable nook over by the counter.

Anyway, it's been much less unpleasant to be cut off from modern civilization than I expected.  I'm not in an enormous rush to get it turned back on.  There are worse things to be without, as we all know. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Very Old Video Game Review: Earthbound

I think that Super Smash Bros., the classic Nintendo 64 fighter from 1999, was one of the most brilliant releases that Nintendo ever made.  Not because of its own merits (which are many), but for the way it effectively transformed Nintendo's relationship with its fan base.  For me personally, it marked an awareness that there was more to the company's catalog than my own experience had revealed, and sparked an intense interest in lost classics and future developments in the company's franchises.

When I first played Smash Bros., it was full of surprises.  Most observers would have been familiar with the likes of Mario and Donkey Kong, and the rest of the cast was hardly obscure to many gamers.  But this game was my first introduction to the characters of Samus Aran and Captain Falcon, the stars of the Metroid and F-Zero franchises, respectively.  Perhaps the deepest cut of all was a weird-looking kid named Ness, who packed his own baseball bat and had a "third jump" move that was frankly baffling.  I don't think he was ever the favorite character for any of my friends, but he did prompt a lot of curious questions about just what sort of game this little goofball with the psycho-kinetic powers came from.

Sixteen years later, I've finally finished my first play-through of Earthbound, a 1994 role-playing game for the Super Nintendo.  And what sort of game is Earthbound after all?  Perhaps the platonic ideal of the "cult classic" in video games, it defies conventions of genre at every turn, putting its faith in weirdness and good humor to bring to life an odd little tale about four kids and an alien invasion.  It's a JRPG with a decidedly Nintendo bent, emphasizing fun over conventionality.

Chosen hero Ness and his three companions travel from town to town to visit mystical landmarks and gain the power to stop an invader known as Giygas, whose malevolent psychic influence has turned the relatively peaceful country of Eagleland into a very dangerous place.  Ramblin' Evil Mushrooms roam the fields, brainwashed cultists are painting the world blue, and a runaway capitalist squeezes the metropolis of Fourside.  Some kid named Pokey is giving pretty much everybody a headache.  A gloomy little town is besieged by zombies, and malicious works of modern art terrorizes a city's nightmares.  But despite these troubles, Eagleland is vibrant and (mostly) cheerful.  There's good food to eat, a happening music scene, and at least some of the aliens you meet (like the bizarre creatures collectively known as Mr. Saturn) aren't bent on the world's destruction.

In the realm of gameplay, Earthbound makes some significant departures from the norm for RPGs of its era.  Battles are turn-based, but damage from attacks proceeds at a steady rate while the action continues: this allows quick fingered players to heal a character who has received a mortal blow before they are knocked out of action.  This makes battles more interesting and dynamic, though not less difficult (there are plenty of frustrating sequences).  Players are not forced to grind enemies for currency, as Ness can use his ATM card to make withdrawals from a generous fund continually resupplied by his father.  While other classic RPGs often treat towns and villages like way stations on the way to the more interesting dungeons and temples, in Earthbound the exploration of towns is paramount and the vast majority of the action takes place in urban and suburban areas.

This shift in settings makes Earthbound much more people-oriented than traditional, high-fantasy role playing games, and the people of Eagleland are a delightful bunch.  They are at turns silly, serious, and often a little more self-aware than you might expect, and it's well worth talking to everyone you meet for more than just plot-advancing information.  One of the most endearing aspects of Earthbound is how consistently funny it is, and not in the accidental, bad translation "Engrish" sort of way that characterizes the glorious messiness of other games of that era.  Earthbound's English script is actually quite fluent and natural: the humor comes from its satirical perspective on RPG tropes and its recognition of its own silliness.  There is something very refreshing about a game that tries to be funny, and actually succeeds.  Call it a Nintendo specialty. 

Noted for its simple, colorful, and childlike graphical style, Earthbound actually has a fairly complex visual approach.  A psychedelic undercurrent runs through everything, most obviously in the undulating backgrounds of every battle screen, and in the party's not-infrequent sojourns to alternate dimensions and realms of the mind.  Nothing is quite what it looks like on the surface, and there is real depth in this two-dimensional world that can't be accounted for by its deliberately flat appearance.

The soundtrack is also a treasure, noted for its frequent allusions to classic rock and jazz pieces as well as its own startling originality.  Nothing else in the Nintendo canon really sounds like it - composers Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka take the ear to some very strange places.  The creative concord between music, graphics, and story is a big reason for Earthbound's timeless appeal: the whole is more than the sum of even its most exceptional parts.

Earthbound bears obvious similarities in tone and setting to Pokemon, another Nintendo-developed RPG that achieved unprecedented and phenomenal success while Earthbound lingered long in obscurity.  Why is this so?  Pokemon's obsessive collection element is a big part of its success, obviously.  It's also less aggressively weird, focusing more on its gotta-catch-'em-all ethos than on the odd details of its world.  There's certainly nothing in Earthbound with the sheer marketing potential of Pikachu and the scores of other pocket monsters in that game.  But anyone who's logged the hours training in the Pokemon gyms of Kanto will recognize a familiar spirit in Earthbound.  It might never have been a mega-hit, but under better circumstances it might have gotten more of the recognition it deserves.

Two decades after its original release, Earthbound is as much a delightful throwback as it is progressive and experimental.  Even those of us who missed it the first time around can't help but be caught up in the whimsy and nostalgia, and Earthbound actively cultivates those feelings.  It's not easy to look forward and backward at the same time: that's what makes this a classic.

One last note: in a saddening coincidence, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata died of cancer this weekend, a fact which I learned shortly after putting down my controller from this adventure.  Mr. Iwata was a producer and programmer for Earthbound, to say nothing of his numerous other contributions to Nintendo's art and legacy.  People like him made Nintendo the beloved institution it is today, and he will be missed.