Saturday, December 31, 2011


When the earth’s eye shuts into darkness I fight to keep mine open.
Every night I hang around
like some schlup
standing on the side of the tracks
while the rest of the world – riding coach – sleeps soundly in their seats.

From the platform I watch them take-off
and stare idly at my un-punched ticket
trying not to think about
what it all means
to let oneself
be carried

But I can’t help it.

They must be going places.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Of all the punctuation marks the colon is the best. It is the most hopeful. It says to you, “Wait—wait, we are not done yet: we can still build upon the past”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let It Snow

I wanted to stay with her too but Mama said I should head off to bed since I had to go to work in the morning. Mama stayed with her the whole night though she didn’t deliver until morning. She waited to give birth with the sun. Mama and I don’t normally help with the lambing, but then again we’ve never done it in the wintertime before. Not since I've been born at least. We’d never had to. But this way Mama said we’d have lambs ready by Easter and then again in the fall. Normally I wouldn’t mind. Winter’s not too busy after all and I like to help with the lambing, but ever since summer I been working a job off the farm too. It makes for less time to help around here. So this morning while I been in the house bringing oatmeal to a boil, Mama and Louisey been out in the shed bringing baby lambs into the world.
When I finished breakfast I put on my coat and headed out to the shed. Mama wasn’t with her though. She was sitting on a stool, face in her hands.
She looked up and forced a smile. “Hey Sug!”
“What’s wrong Mama?”
“Poor Louisey, she had dystocia. Real bad. By the time I could deliver they were stillborn.”
“Oh Mama, I’m sorry!”
“Two precious little lambs.”
“Oh Mama,” I kneeled down and wrapped my arms around her. “I’m sorry Mama. Where's Louisey?”
“The dystocia, it was real bad.”
“Oh, Mama!” I squeezed her tighter. “Why didn’t you call me to help?”
“Wasn’t nothing another set of hands could do anything about.” Her smile was brave, “You better go to work.”

            I crawled into our truck and rolled out onto the road. I followed it over the river, through the woods, and started my ascent up out of the valley. I breached the crest towards the county road when the truck stuttered and stalled. I turned the key. Not a sound. I tried again. The engine didn’t turn. It was still. I sunk a little further into my seat. There was a gas station up on the county road but it wasn’t for another couple miles. If I stayed with our truck on the back roads it could be hours before someone came along. Maybe longer. I zipped up my coat, knotted my scarf, and headed towards the county road on foot. I knew what this meant for Mama and I. Where else would I be able to work? I walked to the gas station in shame. What will we do now?

The lights are turned way down low, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

*          *          *

            “Hello, Allison? It’s Sophie.”
            “Sophie, where are you?”
            “Allison, I’m so, so sorry. I know my shift started over an hour ago but our truck stalled and I couldn’t get it to start again.”
            “Where are you calling from?”
            “I’m using the pay phone at the gas station.”
            “Your truck’s at the gas station?”
            “Erm, no. A few miles from the gas station.”
            “Oh, Sophie dear! You walked for over an hour in this weather!”
            “I’m so sorry Allison, It just died!”
            “Sophie, don’t you worry about that. These things happen. I’m going to send Danny over and he can pick you up. Are you okay?”
            “Yes, I’m fine.”
            “Just sit tight, Soph. Danny will be right over.” She hung the receiver on the hook.
“God bless you Allison.”

            I was so relieved to see Danny. I could tell he was happy to be running this special errand for me too. I ran out to his truck and popped up into the front seat.
            “I hear you went for a morning stroll.”
            “Oh, Danny.”
            “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t kid. Are you okay?”
            “I dunno," I slipped him another smile, "I guess I’m okay now.”
            He beamed back. “What are we gunna do about that ‘ol truck of yours?”
            “Gosh, we woulda been better off if Dad just left us one of his horses instead of that rusted clunker!”

            After work Danny drove me back to our truck.
            “Alright, try starting it now.” The flywheel engaged, the crankshaft rotated, the engine turned over, rolled, groaned, and coughed to life. “Don’t be afraid to push heavy on the gas when you’re coming up on the clutch. It’ll help keep it from stalling.”
            “Thanks Danny! I’ll see you tomorrow.”
            “If you ever have any trouble again, give me a call. Anytime.”
            “Okay! Thanks again!” I shifted into gear.
            Danny jumped down from his truck, motioning for me to roll down my window. I craned the side of my head out the window to hear over the rumbling engines. He bounded over and kissed me on the cheek.
            After chores I helped Mama put Louisey’s body with her lambs in the compost windrow. We covered their bodies with sawdust and snow and walked back to the house.
“I started some stew in the crock-pot during breakfast Mama. It should be nice and melded by now.”
“Thanks Sug.”
I paused and turned to face her. “I’m sorry about Louisey, I—”
She stopped me with her hand on my shoulder. “All that hope and anticipation that builds in us with their growing bellies—it’s so hard when we lose the first one. But it’s alright Sug. These things happen. Tulip, Emma-Lee, and Georgette will have their turn. Then Valentine, Miss Havisham, and Wanda-Jack soon after. Can you imagine by Easter? We'll have so many sweet little lambs bounding about! Oooh, that stew smells so good!”

But as long as you love me so, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Some nights I still can’t sleep
after waking in the middle
from dreams of being there
everything still the way it was.
                          To lay here
                          recollecting the past
                          the way it was is gone:
                                                                 an impossible pill to swallow
                                                                 another early start to the day

What A Peculiar Thing

Having walked the earth devoid and empty for so long he now finds himself in the peculiar position of fearing for his life. How different it was: that freshly filled-up feeling of life. He had been a wrung-out sponge for so long. Then all of a sudden life flowed by. It rushed through him and as simply as it came he soaked it up. Oversaturated with life he stumbled and tripped and now he was about to spill it all out again.
So here he is: a set of bare living arms standing with springy living legs upon the shoulder of a frozen dead road, dandruff falling from the sky, and he’s so close to the seething, steaming, giant mound of meat and muscle that he can feel the heat of its fury radiating from its big angry body. He has stumbled into this fight. Life made him do it. He is squared up against a giant of a man but he feels so much life swirling through him he can sweep away mountains. And that right there is the type of feeling that can turn a newly living man back into a dead one.
“I’ma fucking kill you!”
“I've been waiting so long for this!”
“I’ll fucking kill you!” The beasts words are nothing to him. He waits for his foe to give him a reason. He is alive and he wants more reasons to live. “I’ma fucking kill you!”
"I'm ready! I'm ready!"
“I’ma fucking kill you!”
'Make the move already' He thinks, 'I'm ready for anything now.' A regrettable thought. A flick of the giants wrist. A glint of light. The shine of the knife pierces through him, illuminating another unfamiliar feeling, for fear only comes when something’s worth losing, and before tonight he held nothing to lose. Now he is afraid of being spilt. As reckless as picking this fight was he was looking forward to the beating: the beating that comes with a purposeful pounding heart—not the stabbing that ends one.
“It seems you fail to grasp the notion of a fist fight.”
“I’ma fucking kill you!” This time he knows the brute means it. He knows he is about to be spilled onto the frozen blacktop.
What a peculiar thing, to be alive.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It Only Happens When You Don't Want It Too

“Excuse me,” She looked down at her list, gesturing with her fingers. “I’m looking for two things. Do you think you could help me find them?”
“Of course, what are you looking for?”
“First thing on the list: I’m looking for candles with light bulbs. Large ones.”
“Oh, you mean artificial candles?”
“Yeah, the light bulb kind that use electricity or batteries.”
“Well, normally we carry them in aisle B8, and you can find the small ones there – the ones the size of tea lights – but we just had a guest looking for them earlier this morning and it turns out we don't have any of the bigger ones left in stock."
“Oh, wow! You don’t even have them in stock anymore!”
“No, but we should have more available later this week.”
“Oh? Oh! You still carry them, you’re just out!”
“Yes, we should have more later this week.”
“Okay, well that’s good to know. Secondly,” she announced holding her list resolutely, “I am looking for sand, you know, to put a Christmas tree in, to keep it up.” Not the strangest inquiry of the day, but certainly pushing the bounds of normal.
“Sand?” I repeated.
“Yes, sand, for Christmas trees.” Yes, certainly pushing the bounds of normal.
“Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve run across sand before, let me ask a team member.” I pulled out my walkie. “Hey sales team, does anyone know if we carry saaan-duh?”
“Sorry Ma’am, we don’t have sand.”
A look of genuine surprise, “But they were right there in your ad.”
They? “Ah! Stands! I thought you said saaand!” I whirled around and pointed to the Christmas tree stands. “Our Christmas tree stands are right over there!”
“Oh I see them now! You thought I was looking for sand?” she smiled as she patted me on the side of the shoulder, “That’s so cute!”

I don’t get it. This is quickly and horribly becoming a recurring trend. That’s the third time today a guest has called me cute. I haven’t even taken lunch! People always have a way of ruining a bad thing. The first time it happened in the candles aisle – B8 – the same place the light bulb kind that use electricity or batteries are. I was cutting open boxes to stock shelves. I cut into the corner of a box and it spewed glitter like a slit unicorn’s throat. The dazzling red unicorn blood spilled onto my front and sprinkled down my legs. I had cut into a box of “seasonal glitter candles/red”. I would then go on to slaughter a box of “seasonal glitter candles/gold” and then “seasonal glitter candles/silver”. By the time the spewing, sparkling, holiday flame sticks were stood up on their shelves like fabulous gravestones, I was a shimmering showcase of mono-equestricide (that's Latin for unicorn murder apparently). Eagerly pushing my cart of glitter-stained boxes back to the compactor – to dispose of the evidence – I was stopped by a guest. But when she started to ask me her question she became dumbstruck, evidently caught-up in my murderous malaise. That or momentary blindness. Her wide eyes looked me up and down.
A Glitter Candle Horse
“Glitter candles,” I said, “A lot of glitter candles.”
“That’s adorable!” She glowed. My walk back to the compactor was less than iridescent.

The last time it happened I was in the toys department. I can't even begin to comprehend the exchange. I was facing the merchandise and making things look neat. The aisles were crowded as it was the second day of our 2-day Black Friday Sale. People were squeezed in tightly. The woman was standing next to me, almost touching me. She was with a friend who was on my other side, right next to me too. The woman was fondling some item. Reserving her gaze for the toy she dictated her speech at me.
“It looks like you’re keeping busy today.” It wasn’t quite a question.
“Oh yes, very busy!”
            She smiled, “And you probably had to work late last night, huh?"
            "Uh, yeah I guess so."
"And then get up early and work this morning, huh?”
"Poor thing."
“Huh, that’s cute.” Her friend laughed a little, or maybe giggled. She put the item down, walked over to her friend, and they strode away.

I don’t get it. Why do people always end up lifting your goddamn spirits? Can’t they see? Is my pale, rugged and bearded face not weary and haggard? I'm not trying to look gruff or mean, but I'm certainly no fair-haired boy. It’s not fair: These days I’ve been trying so hard to feel ugly. What is it they see? Or do they see right through me?

"Light bulbs are in A39, unless you want them on candles, then B8. Yes, you're welcome."



It's okay

It was all right

Look. Look out over there. Do you see that? Would you call it beautiful? We have come such a long way haven’t we? And for as far as we have come no one would know, for not even our footprints remain. By now they have all washed-out with rain and grown-in with grass. But do we need footprints to remember, to know? I remember the pieces: the steps that were toughest, the steps that were lightest, and some steps that fell in between. No, I do not remember them all, but enough to know: together they brought us here. Do you remember?


It’s okay

It’s all right

No, I can not see what lay ahead of us either, but was there ever a time that we could? And look how far we have come! Yes, on our way we may stumble upon what remains of the footprints of others, but does it matter? Can we ever know them like we remember ours? It's okay, there is so much more to go, we can rest a while longer. There is so much more left to go. It's all right. Shhhhhh, rest now. Let go of my hand now.


It's okay

It will be all right

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Either Way, I'm Gunna Fuck Something Up Tonight

I spare you the finger and flip open my laptop
Scream at the screen, saving your ears
And punch the keys instead of your big fat mouth
So if it comes out a mess and a wreck and a rustled-up piece of shit
At least it was the poem and not you

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

And Tomorrow We Get To Do It All Over Again

My buzz is starting to go. I have one more cold beer in the fridge but I’ll let it chill. I've got two good poems in the books tonight (now three?) so I’ll retire while I’m ahead. I have to work tomorrow anyways. For five and a half hours I’ll make thirty-five dollars. That’s what I’m going to sleep for. That’s what I’m committing myself to tomorrow. Maybe I should commit something else.

Monday, November 28, 2011

After The Party

last night’s trophies effetely on display
recording humanities triumphs
only until recycling day:

the memories were never encased
“C’mon baby, I’ve got gusto!”
She restrained.
“Catch my fervor!”
She pulled from the bottle.
“Embrace the night!”
She grimaced.
“Don’t make that face!”
She smiled.
“That’s it baby, let’s get reckless!”
Another pull. Another smile.

To think: another night almost wasted.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I sit here alone, in the middle of the night, in a cold house,
under a quiet light, in a small chair, resting my sore feet on a distant table,
thinking about my first day on the shit job, and I can't believe this morning,
less than sixteen hours ago, I was crying.

Like I deserved something more.

How relieved I feel now.

To know,

The world owes nothing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Two Pot Brownies, Eighty-four Ounces of Beer, And an Undisclosed Quantity of MDMA

This one is better spoken. Try reading it out loud if you're feeling playful.

MJ Thriller hot tub head bob
outside steam rise fog machine
werewolves and zombies no room in here
not moving don’t want to
could not do
beat it supernatural monsters you’re no son of mine
that’s against human nature and so is melting
but I’m boiling in this roiling
need to strategize can’t think just do
popping out solo still got the nod-nod-nod on
to the song-song-song
sweeping ‘cross the porch all cool and flow
chlorine droplets go drip-drip-drip
towel off the hang and in hand
now I dry-dry-dry
then go inside-side-side
another world of lights and noise then captured in a tractor beam
gaze locked to computer screen
pulled in with every step-step-step
surrender to the missing puzzle piece
that fits the deepest nook of me
virgin connection receiving infiltration
hook-up and download
now I'm 2.0 and after that watch another
and I am 3.0
then 4.0
on and on until my upgrade is finished
now I will operate differently
and when I reboot to complete
I wake up the next morning and think
Michael Jackson is good, but Nine Inch Nails videos are fucking crazy

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We're Here To Get Each Other Through This Thing, Whatever It Is or Thanksgiving

To Target Corporation who pays me $7.75/hour to not think about myself,
to those who think about me even though I’m gone,
and to my Family who continues to be my Family
even though we don’t understand:
I give thanks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day Off

I just woke from 13 hours of exhaustive sleep and now I’m huddled over the bathroom sink, shoving a toothbrush in and out of the putrid hole in my face.
            “He has risen!” my sister mocks. She posts up inside the doorframe. She points, “Do you know what that is inside the rim of the toilet bowl?” I swivel my head. It’s speckled with shit stains. “It makes me gag when I try to clean it. Would you like to?” I swivel my head back into the sink and continue brushing my teeth. I pause for effect,
“I would like to clean it!” My sister laughs. I am funny to her.
“I will give you five bucks if you clean it.” I don’t pause this time.
I am a goddamn custodian.

I didn’t pause because of my secret. A secret only yet known by me and apparently my subconscious: I am saving up so I can get out of here.
“And when Grandpa gets here this week he’s going to piss all over the seat and the floor.”
“I’m going to be rich!” My sister laughs. I am funny to her.
Piss away Grandpa.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Difference

The difference I suppose, between people like Asimov, Bukowski, Camus, DeLillo, Ellison, Faulkner, Goethe, Hemingway, Ionesco, Joyce, Kafka, Lawrence, Melville, Nabokov, Orwell, Pynchon, Roth, Shakespeare, Twain, Updike, Vonnegut, Wallace, Malcolm X, Yates, Zola, and people like us is that they have something to say, while we just wonder, "Who is Q?"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Set Yourself on Fire

There is no such thing as an artist: there is only the world, lit or unlit as the light allows. When the candle is burning, who looks at the wick? When the candle is out, who needs it? But the world without light is wasteland and chaos, and a life without sacrifice is abomination.
-Annie Dillard, Holy The Firm

When there's nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.
-Stars, "Your Ex-Lover is Dead"

Friday, November 4, 2011


At 2:00am I had to go to the bathroom so I got out of bed. The bathroom light was already on and standing inside was my brother, casting a dreary brown gaze into the mirror, razorblade in hand, slicing off chunks of long bristly hairs from under his chin. Earlier in the night, during dinner, Mom and Dad had appraised his unkempt look.
“You’re not helping your chances.” Dad said.
“Why do you keep it?” Mom asked. My brother hadn’t shaved since he moved back in. Striding past him across the hall and down the stairs I could hear the fragile knocking of rain atop the roof and against the windows. Before I stepped into the downstairs bathroom I flicked on the floodlight out back to take a look. It must have been coming down for a while because I could see two small puddles that had pooled themselves in a little depression on the far side of our yard. In their reflections I caught glimpses of the woods that lay past our home. The leaves were gone now. It was getting cold. All there was to see were barren brown branches and ashen tree trunks. Those puddles looked so trapped and dreary all wadded-down in that little depression.
            “Don’t worry little puddles, It’s not gunna rain forever. Things’ll dry up.” After I finished in the bathroom I walked back up the stairs and past my brother again. This time he had his beard trimmed down and there was shaving cream over his face and around his lips and he was making short choppy strokes at his cheeks with a disposable razor. I stopped in the doorway for only a moment. I wasn't used to him again. His petrified self-stare: a pillar of salt.

By morning the rain had stopped and as my parents and I were leaving for work we could hear my brother in his bedroom getting ready for his interview.
“Did you shave?” Dad asked.
“Yeah.” My parents smiled at each other.
“Good luck!” Mom wished as she stepped out with Dad. I reached for my keys from the counter and my brother came out of his room. He had cuff-linked his wrists, had a tie wrapped around his neck, and was sporting a terribly fuzzy mustache that crawled over his lip. I gave him a smirk as I grabbed my keys and he lilted his eyebrows at me like he used to do when we were younger, before he moved away. He almost looked happy. I walked out to my car and as I pulled away I wondered if those sad little puddles had any chance to escape, before they froze.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Show Me Your Metal: Exploring the sounds of metal music II

I'm continuing my series on metal music. My first post of the series was a flushed-out introduction to melodeath metal. This one will be an impulsive quickie-post which I may or may not elaborate upon later. The reason why is because it is not so much a primer on a sub-genre of metal as much as it is highlighting a subject that is influencing metal music, arguably much more so than in any other genre of music - Environmentalism.

Say what? Michael, you seriously mean to tell me that the same genre of music known lyrically for brutishly admonishing the worst traits of human nature and exhorting the impending rapturous apocalypse is down with treehugging? Well, yes, Reader. Exactly that. Hear me out, because it is actually quite a perfect fit.

Metal music is known for being angry, cynical, and critical; particularly of humans - those deceitful, destructive, devious, diabolical humans. Another popular subject matter in metal music is death and destruction. Apocalypse, fire and brimstone, all that jazz. What better avenue for metal music than to channel that spite and malice towards those irresponsibly contributing to the environmental degradation and eventual destruction of our hospitable planet?

Well, it's not just a perfect hypothetical. Environmentalism is already a focus for a lot of metal outfits. Here are some good examples:

Tool is known for having cryptic lyrics, but this one is not too hard to interpret. Global warming raising sea-levels, washing the earth clean of the human scourge. A more apocalyptic take. Learn to swim -

No interpreting here, Testament is straight-in-your-face with this thrashing anti-ballad. Simple ultimatum proposed: Take a stand, or Environmental Holocaust -

Global Warming, Ocean Planet, and Toxic Garbage Island are the names of just three songs from French metal outfit Gojira. If any metal band could be considered an "environ-metal band" Gojira would be it. Environmentalism has been THE dominant concept of their albums and driving influence of their music. I really am quite enamored with Gojira at the moment. I don't know if it is their unwavering passion for their subject, their unique stylistic blending of progressive metal, groove metal, and technical death metal, frequent  incorporation of atmospheric sounds and instrumentation, or their uncommon song structures and rhythm patterns. I think it's all of those things. Here is a beautiful and accessible (for those not accustomed to Gojira's more avant-garde style) song from their album From Mars To Sirius. Lyrically it is more magical, mysterious, and ambiguous and it ends with potential hopefulness rather than pessimism - something the first two examples from Tool and Testament did not -


I Hope you liked this installment. So the next time you hear a metal song with guitars riffing, drums kicking, and lungs screaming, you can think about how much they probably care about recycling.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Grew Up on Corn Dogs and Zucchini Bread

We had a zucchini bake-off on the farm on Sunday. Prior to the event I told everyone I was going to make something unorthodox. I did. The inspiration came from my childhood. I ate corn dogs growing up. I ATE corn dogs growing up. Hella. I had a lot of fun making the Dogz (the z is for zucchini) and watching Wes try to restrain from eating them all. I didn't win but Wes' approval was more than enough consolation. Needless to say, the vegetarians didn't like my dogz quite as much. Katherine won and she deserved it. Her Zuc cakes with Phil zauce were awesome - in taste, complexity, and appearance - and she hustled votes like a true victor. Her double-zucchini traffic-controlling needed some work however.

Farmer Michael's Zucchini Batter Corn Dogs

For deep frying
1 qt peanut oil

Dry ingredients
1 c all purpose flour
1 c yellow corn meal
¼ c white sugar
2 ½  tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper or hot sauce
Mini picture for
mini dogz
A few grinds of black pepper

Wet ingredients
1 ¼ c of buttermilk
1 FCF egg
1 c grated large FCF zucchini

2 lbs dogs (cut in half for minis)
BBQ skewers (cut in half for minis – cut side not in dog)

-Bring oil to medium heat, ~375
-Combine dry ingredients in a bowl
-Ad the wet ingredients and mix
-Dry off dogs with paper towel before coating them in batter so the batter sticks
-Insert wooden sticks into the dogs, dip into batter and shake off excess
-Fry to desired color, ~4 min for golden brown
-Drain on paper towels
-Om nom nom!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Show Me Your Mettle: Exploring the sounds of metal music

In this multipart series I’m going to shed light upon some of the more well-established sub-genres of metal, as well as share with you my favorite metal acts within them. You may be surprised by the diversity in tempo, song structure, vocal style, and instrumentation within the metal genre, and hell, you may even come to discover that you too like metal!

I like metal.

Not that kind of metal.

No, those are medals.

Those are no good, meddling kids. I certainly don’t like no good, meddling kids.

Limp Bizkit


Fucking Ridiculous

Err…Well…Hmph. At least now we are finally in the musical realm, but I said I like metal, not shit. Kidding aside, I understand your misconstruction, Imaginary Reader Who Enables Me To Write In Second-Person Narrative (I’ll just call you Irwem for short). Metal is a very broad, expansive genre Irwem, but also one that receives relatively little recognition and even less appreciation from the general public (at least here in the states). This is not your fault. It is mostly an issue of exposure. It is rare for you to hear metal in everyday life; It is not played on the radio, in TV adverts, movie soundtracks, hotel lobbies, diners (Enya is played in diners), etc. If you are exposed to metal, it is probably because the douche-bag with truck nuts on his Dodge Ram is blaring Nu-metal (shit) with his windows down at the intersection you’re stopped at (and now you’re regretting that you didn’t run the yellow). So I understand why you may have a general aversion to metal. But if you are thinking, “You know what Michael, I honestly can’t say that I have actively explored this deep, complex, and powerful genre of music before,” Then I’d say to you, “Irwem, turn up your speakers and show me your mettle! Let’s delve in deep and explore some metal!”

Melodic Death Metal/Melodeath Metal/The Gothenburg Sound

Melodic death metal or melodeath metal is a subgenre of death metal that emerged in Europe in the early 1990’s. The style rose to prominence in Scandinavia with Gothenberg, Sweden acting as the epicenter of the musical scene. In fact, Gothenburg was such a hub for this style of death metal that before it was classified as melodic death metal, it was referred to as “The Gothenburg Sound” or “Gothenburg Metal”.

In Gothenburg, the North Sea is so cold
women wear Uggs to  the beach.
Although I don’t listen to as much melodeath metal as I used to, I still hold a special place for it in my cold, dark, metal-loving heart because melodeath was the first and only sub-genre I enjoyed when I started exploring metal. And by exploring metal I mean accidentally stumbling upon it. I will never forget the level of peculiar wonder I felt when my Pandora player inexplicably cued Dark Tranquility’s “Lost to Apathy”. What was this ruckus, I thought? I didn’t know metal could sound like that. It was unique, intense, yet complex and subtly beautiful. I was piqued. I had to hear more. From there I found fellow Swedish acts; In Flames, Arch Enemy, and Soilwork. Eventually my audial lust exceeded the corporeal  bounds of "The Gothenburg Sound", but I could never forget or abandon my first metallic love. You do understand how it is with first loves Irwem, don't you?

Is this music or math?
Melodic death metal distinguishes itself from traditional death metal in that – you guessed it – it is more melodic in nature. Some of its more melodic characteristics include the use of guitar harmonics and melodies over the heavy guitar riffs of traditional death metal, the occasional use of acoustic guitars and keyboard, and the interspersion of cleanly sung vocals among higher-pitched screamed or growled vocals as opposed to exclusive use of low-pitched growls found in traditional death metal. The melodic nature often makes melodeath metal more accessible and appealing to those not as accustomed to the dissonant, heavy sounds of traditional death metal. It worked on me. I hope you give it a chance. Who knows, maybe you’ll find it interesting too. Or even like it!

“Lost to Apathy” by Dark Tranquility. This was my first ever exposure to death metal. To be fair, I didn’t like it right away. Because I couldn’t wrap my head around it! I was not conditioned to handle sounds like that. But it blew my mind and I was intrigued by it. I wanted more intriguing of said blown mind.

“Reroute to Remain” by In Flames. Another Swedish progenitor of melodeath metal, In Flames has a classic, melodic, “Gothenburg” sound. This track is a good example of the mix between sung, screamed, and growled lyrics, as well as melodic guitar work.

"My Apocalypse" by Arch Enemy. Arch Enemy doesn't utilize clean vocals but I think their guitar work and bridges are classic melodic death metal and their lead singer is a super cool badass (i.e. hot). “My Apocalypse” is really heavy. Straight-up, it's demon-worshiping music. The bridge at 1:56 is awesome.

More Angela Gassow:

Look so pretty, sound so scary.


“They Will Return” by Kalmah. Hailing from Finland, Kalmah blends melodeath and power metal. Fast tempo and blazing guitar work is the name of the game here.

So Irwem, I hope you found this post and the sounds contained in it somewhat interesting. I love when people share new things with me, and it sounds like you are not too familiar with metal, so I hope I got to share a new experience with you. Let me know what you thought, or if you actually liked any of it!

Coming in future installments of Show Me Your Mettle:

-Viking Metal
-Doom Metal
-Progressive/Alternative/Technical Metal

And more?

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Waiting at airports is nice. When you’re not pressed for time, or in a hurry, or in a worry, you can appreciate the experience. I’m at the airport because I’m about to see some of the most important people in my life. It shows in my face—with wide wandering eyes and flashes of irrepressible open-mouthed smiles. I don’t know what brings everyone else to the airport, but it’s fun to look and see if they wear the experience on their faces too.

Saw this man at the airport.
Judging by his face, I can tell you that
his airport experience is tiring.
And that he's Tom Hanks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I have a confession to make. I kill (present tense). I actively kill on a regular basis.

Oh, shit! Michael is a fucking psychopath.
Recently I have been doing it more and more. It is important to kill.

What the fuck. Michael is insane. It’s the death metal, isn’t it!? All that death metal has finally made Michael go fucking insane.

I will continue to kill.

Oh Dear God.

Because life is not possible without death. The more life I end, the more life I can pass on. As a farmer I honor this earthly consecration. I am the agent of this sacred passage. Life flows through me.

*Mind Blown and/or Whaaaa?*

Recently I started sharing the responsibility of trapping squirrels on the farm. Squirrels are the farm’s #1 pest (that is, the worst). They are capable of bringing nightmarish devastation upon entire rows of lettuce, beets, and squash, even before the last plants have been tucked into bed. Our crops are catalysts for life—all forms of life: Humans, squirrels, insects, mold, bacteria, viruses, and sometimes even chickens. If us humans don’t eat 'em, some other life form will.

If Death looks like this, she can
visit me any time she wants
The day the first farmer stopped hunting and gathering and planted a seed, the contest with Mother Nature began. This thing called agriculture doesn’t mean we’ve won, it just means were getting away with bending the rules. But even if we aren’t playing honest, the ones that do are strong in number. To keep humanity at civilization status we have to keep our edge. We can’t be bested by squirrels.

Our rise to civilization yields a paradox. Our heightened command over Mother Nature in the form of agriculture enables specialization and modern civilization. Free of the daily toil of collecting food we learn to thrive organizationally, intellectually, and technologically. Yet in turn we struggle with a concept that is most intrinsically human: Intimate understanding of the fuel that sustains our life. Food. Our ascendancy to civilization threatens to separate us from understanding our sacred connections to the earth and the rules it mandates.

At first killing squirrels was a little troubling and even disturbing, but quickly the troubles shifted into a sense of privilege. A privilege to be connected with the undeniable reality of life: Life can not exist without death.

Michael is not an insane psychopath. He is a very nice, sane, young man who just appreciates life in a unique if not unusual way. Michael will not kill me. The only thing insane about Michael is his crazy good looks.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Love Letter

Dear Beard,

We’ve been together for a while now. I remember back in November when you and I were just getting started. You weren’t even a beard back then. You were actually kind of a prick. Sometimes you’d get your stubborn stubble all up in my face and I’d get so irritated that I couldn’t sleep at night. But I stuck with you. Looking back I don’t know why I did. It would have been easier to shave you away, just like every other time. But for some reason, I thought I’d give you a chance. There was potential for us. I just needed to be willing to give you the opportunity. Willing to not be afraid. Willing to let us grow together. Willing to commit to you.

I stayed with you.

When I decided to let you into my life things were immediately exciting. You caressed my finger tips when I ponderously fondled my chin, you shielded my neck when the harsh wind whipped, you tickled my lips when I smiled. But the freshness of our courtship dampened. I started to notice your patches and weak spots. I began to recognize where you grew uneven and scraggly. I remember waking up in the morning, gazing at you in the mirror, and hardly being able to recognize you. It was like you changed with each cycle of the sun. Who were you? What was I doing with you?

Why does my beard look so different every day?
And why do I have such a hard time
looking directly into the camera?

Why was I still with you? Did I keep you around just to hide behind my insecurities--you veiled my shallow jawline? Did I stay with you because of laziness--you didn’t make me shave every morning? Did I only like you because you made me feel special and unique--like a megalodon among a vast sea of baby-faced manlings? I questioned you. But when I doubted you, you never doubted me. You stayed with me. When I ate messy sopes and spilled salsa and hot sauce all over you, you never once complained. You stayed with me. When I trimmed your ‘ol pal Mustache you didn’t protest or try to dissuade me. You simply stayed with me. When I scratched and clawed you with my cracked hands and stubby, dirty fingernails you never once fussed.

You stayed with me.

You didn’t doubt me, complain, protest, or fuss because just as I committed to you, you committed to me. And for that, I love you.

   With all my face,


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thieving Misfits

Last night our farm was broken into. Fortunately not much was taken. As a nonprofit farm, we have few things of value to offer opportunistic thieves unless they are the type of thieves looking for an opportunity to start a villainous organic farm or enjoy the wicked pleasures of gardening. Most of the harm came in the form of cut locks and damaged fencing. They stole some canisters of gasoline from our fuel locker, ate some Twizzlers from our tool shed, nicked Rose’s iPod from the greenhouse, and took some random tools presumably to be used for future breaking and entering. I felt bad for Rose but she had a very Zen attitude about the whole ordeal. All-in-all we were pretty fortunate that nothing the thieves took greatly impedes our ability to do what we do: grow wholesome food and serve our community.

But as relatively harmless this particular outcome was, being the target of a criminal act like this left a sharp bitter taste in my mouth. My visceral reaction upon discovering the pilferage was anger and fury. It made me want to track-down, tackle to the ground, and repeatedly punch in the face the assholes who did this until my knuckles were split open and coated with an unhealthy layer of blood, mucus and saliva.

(set to the tune of One Last Caress by The Misfits. Context:

I got something to say 
I stole your iPod today 
And it doesn't matter much to me 
As long as I’m ahead 

Well I got something to say 
I ate your licorice today 
And it doesn't matter much to me 
As long as I’m fed 

Sweet lovely theft 
I am waiting for your breath 
Come sweet theft, one last caress 

Sweet lovely theft 
I am waiting for your breath 
Come sweet theft, one last caress 

Well, I got something to say 
I took your fuel cans today 
And it doesn't matter much to me 
As long as I fled 

Sweet lovely theft 
I am waiting for your breath 
Come sweet theft

One last caress

One last caress, sweet theft 
One last caress, sweet theft

Demonizing the thieves made me feel better. But that’s the easy way out isn’t it? Although it brings me much satisfaction reveling in the idea of exacting penultimate vengeance, I doubt these petty pilferers are the baby-killing, mother-raping monsters I project them to be. In reality I have no idea who these people are, what their motives could be, or why they did what they did. They could be simple opportunistic thieves who overestimated the potential of stealing from a non-profit farm, young hoodlums looking for fun and excitement, or pitiful, desperate vagrants looking for anything that could help them get by. I think what I am trying to get at is that my preliminary assumption of these individuals and consequent feelings of anger and repudiation stands completely counter to what I try to strive for as an AmeriCorps member, a Full Circle employee, and a decent human being: compassion and a selfless willingness to serve my community.

When there are weeds to mow, beds to hoe, seeds to sow, and plants to grow, there’s no time to feel mad, angry, or low. Important work is to be done - rise and let it go.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Getting Lost

Sorry, no poems this time. Today I went on a bicycle adventure. Here is my tale.

   Oh, here is DeAnza College. I think I’ll ride around campus. Everyone is walking. Am I allowed to bike here? I hope no one tells me I can’t bike here. I bet they are all thinking, “What is that douchebag doing on his bicycle? Is he trying to be a hipster with that awful beard?” No one here looks happy. Everyone dresses similarly – zero percent irony. Absolutely no hipsters. I feel old. And awkward. How do I get out of here?

   I have never gone farther west than DeAnza.  What’s westward? Hills. Jesus these hills are big. A Park? Stevens Creek County Park. I want to see it. A couple are making out in their car in the parking lot. I would too; it looks like a good spot for that sort of thing. I'm probably the only other person here. I feel creepy. I should stop looking. This park looks big. I wish I brought my Vibrams for walking around. Well, I’ll just take this map and think about coming back some other time.

  Where to next? North. Foothill Expressway. This is a nice expressway. I feel fast. Cruisin’. Woop, no hands. Daniel style. Hey, I recognize this area. I have been on this road with Charlie when we went to Greg’s neighborhood to pick persimmons. Yep, I’m in Los Altos now. Los Altos is nice.  I wonder if I’ll see Greg. Downtown Los Altos. Ooh, a library! This library is ok. I’ll just check-out a few things. The librarian seems genuinely interested in the items I am checking out. I would think it’s peaceful being a librarian, but also boring as shit.

  Where to next? Hell, keep going north. Good ‘ol Foothill Expressway. Wait, Foothill Expressway is ending. Where am I? I should go east before I get very lost. I’m seeing lots of things for Stanford. Am I close to Stanford? I think I am. Oh hey, El Camino! I guess I’ll head towards home now. Wait. Fuck it. I’m going to keep exploring.

   Palo Alto – boy some of these neighborhoods are nice. The landscaping of these yards is beautiful. Every. Yard. Is beautiful. This is really nice. The neighborhoods are getting less nice. Am I gunna end up in East Palo Alto? Oh my gosh, I have been here before. I am in East Palo Alto. I was here on an AmeriCorps site visit back in November. Cool. Well, here’s University Ave. I don’t want to go farther west so I’ll go the other direction. Hey, there is the giant Ikea! I went by here with Gina and Daniel when we went to Stanford. There’s Runnymede Street. That is the road Daniel let me drive his car down on MLK Day. I never got above 2nd gear. I stalled once I think. Ok, I think I am getting into the Baylands. Should I be biking here? Well, I’m still on a bike path. I should go eastward.  I’m heading towards a huge bridge. Can I cross it? I am on a bike trail now so it looks legit. Oh my, this is the bridge Rose and I crossed when we went to Gina’s. To Fremont. Holly shit. Where the hell am I? I don’t think I want to go to Fremont. Well, if I do end up in Fremont maybe Gina can give me a ride back. This bike trail is cut-off by construction anyways. Shit. I’m going back.

   Ok, making my way back through East Palo Alto. No more black people, must be in gentrified Palo Alto now. Hmm. Maybe if I just go east I can find a quicker way. Embarcadero Road. This road looks legit. And it’s going east. I’m on it. Feeling good about going east. 101 is here. It doesn’t look like there is bike access here. Gotta find a way around. Oh, here is the pedestrian access. I’ll go back and take that. Wait. Is that MoBowl? It is Mobowl! William from MoBowl is driving. He’s waving back! He recognizes me! That is so crazy! I wonder if MoBowl is setting up in that lot. Should I go check? Hmm. I am lost and want to be un-lost. I think I’ll just keep trying to cross 101.

   Man that was crazy seeing MoBowl. I’m kinda regretting not stopping in that lot and seeing what’s up. Maybe they would give me free food again. Maybe they would think I'm stalking them. Oh well, better to get back home before it gets dark. And at this pace, it may take a while. Wait, I’m running into the bay again. I thought I was well south of the bay. Baylands Park. Maybe I can get through the other side. Bayland Park smells. It’s not that bad, just different. A dock. I think I reached the end. Ok, I’m pretty sure I can’t get through here. Shit. I’m gunna have to back-track again.

   How the fuck do I get out of these baylands!? Where did I end up? This is not where I was before. Oregon Expressway. It looks to be going south-ish. I need to go south-ish if I don’t want to run into the bay again. I’m taking Oregon Expressway. This feels ok, but I think I’m going southwest. I don’t want to go much farther west. Hmm, Middlefield Road. It is going southeast. I think that should be ok. I’m feeling good about Middelfield. I feel like I should be in Mountain View by now though. Uh-oh. Middlefield is splitting into Middlefield and Old Middlefield. Middlefield looks to be turning south. Old Middlefield is staying more eastward. I think I want to go east, right? I’m going to try Old Middlefield.

   Old Middlefield was a mistake. It is turning into fucking 101 again. Why did I choose Old Middlefield? If it was the better of the two Middlefields it wouldn't be qualified with 'old' would it? I need to go around that shitty 101 highway. Thank God for these vaguely helpful and extremely indirect pedestrian route signs. If it wasn’t for them I’d be hopelessly lost instead of just regular lost. This sign is telling me to go north. If I get stuck in the bay again I’m going to cry. Or call Rose to come find me and pick me up. Probably both.

   Well I made it across 101. Thank you signs. I need to go east now? Wait. I feel a faint sense of familiarity. Why. Why do I feel this? Google. Oh God, please tell me Google campus is around here. Oh fuck yes! I love you Google campus! I’m finally in Mountain View! I can do this! I won’t need to cry or call Rose.

  God the Google campus is big. And windy. What? How did I end up going Northwest again? Fuck’sake. Google your campus is ridiculously big and meandering. What? I’m in Palo Alto again? No, that’s opposite of where I want to go. Fuck. How did that happen? I thought I wasn’t lost anymore. Ok. Just go Southeast from here. Have faith that southeast will bring you home. This bike route is turning into a bike trail. This bike trail is going through a golf course. This golf course trail has turned into a maintenance road. What. The. Hell. Well, If I get stuck I’ll just backtrack again. It’s actually beautiful here. Another park. Shoreline Park. I hit the bay again. But I think this is the south end. I think I’m ok. No need to get frustrated. Just live in the moment. Ahh. Oh yes, a road going South.

   Shoreline Boulevard. I’m feeling good about this. There’s more Google buildings. There is a man riding a Google painted bike. Google, you are fucking huge. How many buildings do you have? Can I have a painted bike? Have mercy on my poor soul; Highway 101, why do you always impede me! I hope Shoreline goes over it. Thank you highway 101 for not being a total roadblock this time. Still going South. I’m feeling good about this. Crossing Middlefield Road. Yep, definitely should have taken Middlefield over Old Middlefield. What'evs. Too late for could haves. Well, I’m definitely in Mountain View at least.

   Downtown Mountain View. This is real nice. I wonder if Karen lives close to downtown. If I see her I will impersonate Wes and pretend to kick her and say, “Byah!”. Is that the Caltrain? Oooooh! I know where I am! Awww Yeeeah! Hey, that tea place is supposed to be here. This place is very Chinese. I don’t know what I want. The store clerk keeps saying things to me and I don't understand. Oh wait, he's telling me to come back tomorrow. He's closing. Maybe I’ll come back sometime.

   I’m really tired. I haven’t eaten today and it’s getting dark. Time to go home, cowboy. Good ‘ol downtown Sunnyvale. Goodwill is still open. Too tired to shop. I just want to be home and not biking.

   I needed to get groceries today. My backpack is pretty full of library CDs and the largest book on beer I have ever carried though. I’ll just have to get crafty. My bike basket is so precarious right now. I do not need a spill tonight. Just smooth sailing from here on out would be great, Captain. Swinging by the farm. If I lived here I would be home by now. Looks like some of the cover crop got cut. I wonder how that happened with absolutely no one coming in today. I’m almost home. I've had enough riding to last me a while. What a trip.

9 hours in total. I don't want to try to calculate my mileage on Google Maps right now. I wish I had done something like this a few months ago, but I guess it took me until now to feel comfortable enough to do it.  Although this was a solo venture, I don’t think I could have done something like this unless I knew several people who would be willing to bail my ass out if something went wrong along the way (like staying lost somewhere or having serious bike failure in East Palo Alto after sundown). Sometimes it takes a lot of support from others to feel privileged enough to do grand things on your own.