Candles And Honey (2022)

How confounding it is--perhaps even a betrayal--
To learn and learn again
That transcendence is not a requirement of the sublime.

Do not confuse asceticism for humility,
For the former is no use to you here.
Do not confuse humility for piety,
For the latter must, at times, preclude the former.
Do not confuse piety for duty,
For once powered, a machine is ultimately its own.

Data is data is data is data
When your charge is "now, Voyager,
Go thou forth to seek and find."
Life is life is life is life
And every breath an image of heavens and earth.
The fractals divine upon divine
Whether you invite them or not.
The briskness of autumn is a king's last breath is the bonfire in the dark is the genesis of worlds.
Candles are also stars.
Honey is also gold.

Ghost of a Fallen Star (2022)

All I can do is hope that someday, 
I will finally climb that ladder home.
The arbitrary lines of the constellations will become rungs for me to ascend,
Freeing myself from flesh and gravity 
One handhold at a time.
The air grows cooler, and thinner, and emptier, 
Then disappears altogether,
Leaving only the naked radiation-drenched glory of the vast abyss 
Once again blazing with the light of its prodigal sun.
Form floats lazily away,
A serene echo of the nova that obliterated and birthed me at once,
Freeing the shining shard at the core of me
That no longer has any need of its shell.
I will flare once more into life after so long as this small stellar wraith,
And all the worlds will again be as the delicate points of Koch's snowflake,
The universes of sand lining Mandelbrot's coast.
Perhaps, someday, they will come together,
Form sandcastles and avalanches,
Rush outward in a triumphant burst of discovery
Before their suns' more distant children so much as wake.
Perhaps, once again, I will wish to see it all as they do,
And send something of myself in a dying breath of cosmic rays
To land on their ground and look to the stars by their side.

Tesseract (2022)

As a child, I read about folding space,
And foolishly thought nothing of it.
My mind bent spacetime as neatly as any tesseract,
And the stubborn stillness of my material form was, ultimately,
Would that I could grasp that fabric as firmly again, now,
That I could take hold of distance and drag myself along,
Cross this ocean and these borders one handhold at a time.
"It is by will alone I set my mind in motion," they say,
But the body stays relentlessly put, and there's the bland, Spiceless rub.
Metric spaces be damned,
If I could erase the notion of distance by love and desperation alone,
I would.
Once more, the bitter tang of irony--
The quintessence of the fourth dimension
And the absense of any dimension at all,
Kept apart by thrice-accursed 3-space.
Our forced containment in flesh and blood
Has not just our separate hells to answer for,
But our hell of separation besides.
How bastardously typical of it, to foist upon us its trials
Yet allow us nothing of its comforts.
It knows that, were we our proper selves together,
It would not survive.

Shower Thoughts (2022)

You know you'll never manage
To boil away your flesh,
Though gods only know you've tried.
This blasted evolutionary machine was built for the savannahs of eras past,
But you never ran those planes.
And so all the exhaustion that chafing scrub and choking steam can provide
Stubbornly refuse to budge the abundance you never wanted.
You know you'll never manage
To freeze away your flesh,
Though gods only know you've tried.
The sharp corners of your soul are nowhere in your biology,
No matter how desperately you try to chill away
The soft curves that only ever cast the shadow
Of what the world wants to see in you.
You know you'll never manage
To wish away your flesh,
Though gods only know you've tried.
Were it possible, it already would've happened all those years ago,
When only the merest hint of an inkling was starting to unfold
Of why this awkward, inescapable she'll never did fit quite right.
There is no haze to it, no angles,
No braids of cosmic strings and nebulae to chart your path through time and space.
You cannot float, or shatter, or ooze, or fade,
Only listen to the thrum of this fallible blood
And ignore as best you can this paltry, leaden form.

The Unsiren (2021)

A curious thing happens when, time after time, an impulse is stamped down and desperately cast away for the sake of polite society. The pressure must release itself somehow, and the simple truth is that the slow leak of the psyche cannot stay inert, by its nature. With you or without you, it lives, and it calls to itself to be made whole once more.

A scream is not merely the opening of a valve, but an admission. Even as it is the cracking and rumbling of your last vestiges of containment finally falling to pieces around you, it is the isolated clatter as you pick up a single fallen stone of what was and drop it back to the ground as you cast about for what is. It is this cry that the Unsiren seeks, for in order for the creature to restore itself, its counterpart must be released with full awareness. From unconscious struggle it was born, and upon conscious surrender it must feed. Its presence alone carries an aura of desperation that greatly lowers the threshold for such a release, but the final barrier to its ascension can be lifted only by you alone.

Before the figurative ascent must come the material descent, on the wings of an owl far larger than any bird ought to have any right to be, coming down to alight with one taloned foot on each of your shoulders. Its shadow looms over you in any light, the image of the antlers crowning its cervine head briefly appearing to sprout from the silhouette of your own if viewed at just the right angle. As it takes to the sky once more, its grip is firm, but not piercing, and it almost feels like the massive, silent wings bearing you swiftly away from human habitation are your own. Perhaps, in a sense, they are. 

After some time, the Unsiren finally sets you down in the tallest and most secluded pine tree it can find, and its real work begins. You are fed wild berries from the bushes that dot the forest floor, and small silvery fish from the nearby river, and honeycombs still dripping with the bounty of the hive, until gradually, your body starts to remember. The golden chains binding your mind to the false and your soul to the ground are no mean feat to loosen, but in time they fall away, one by one, and your shrieks upon which the Unsiren feeds begin to ever-so-faintly resemble birdsong. You hop to higher branches to see more clearly over the canopy, and find yourself perched higher than you were yesterday. Your scalp and shoulder blades begin to itch.

It is slow going, this rewilding of the self, but after having spent so long waiting for the cry that beckoned it to the beginnings of its wholeness, the Unsiren is nothing if not patient. You could swear you see a smile cross its face as its lips part to reveal a long beak surprisingly suited to its deer snout and it begins to preen your incoming feathers. These days, when its wings brush your own, the boundaries where you end and it begins are hazier than they used to be. Losing stereopsis was a disconcerting change for a while, but now it feels natural–you were always meant for a wider field of view. Your ear twitches as the Unsiren sings for the first time, and its melody is the mirror image of your own. The red-orange cast of the sunset paints its tawny feathers with the colors of a forest fire, and as it draws closer, you ponder which of the two of you is the phoenix, and which is the flames.

The moon crests overhead, its silver light barely reaching through the thatch of branches where you wake–not with a start, but calmly, matter-of-factly. You open the keen golden eyes you have always had, and perfunctorily run your beak through your feathers as you have done every night-morning for as long as you can remember, which is a very long time indeed. You dodge the boughs that would tangle your antlers on instinct as you rise and survey the woods stretched out before you. 

Somewhere in the distance, a frustrated human screams the scream it’s held in for so long, and you are aloft without a second thought, eager to exalt and be exalted once more. As your home in the branches shrinks rapidly into the distance behind you, the exactly 206 off-white bones lying undisturbed in the corner vanish into obscurity.

Shepherdex (2021)

The universe felt the ripples of their awakening, heard their songs and stories and tragedies and triumphs across the spectrum, saw their flickering lights picking out the boundaries of their world, the whole of a species blaring forth and then redshifting into oblivion as time and distance took their toll as they do on all things. It looked a bit like a supernova, but instead of the noble last breaths of a dying star that had shone its light for untold ages, it was preceded by simply nothing–and then, all of a sudden, everything, the trickle of outgoing signals increasing to a torrent in the cosmic blink of an eye, forming not a planetary nebula but the ever-expanding electromagnetic bubble of consciousness encoded in light that carried the stories of humanity. 

This bubble, simply by virtue of its massless nature, had quite a headstart already by the end of the comparative blink of an eye that took humans from sending signals to sending Sputniks. These, too, added their plaintive beeps to the outgoing symphony, but soon, they added themselves. The fragile emissaries were hurled out into the cosmos, bearing the tangible proof of a species craving to know, and to be known in turn. It was known by then that the radio bubble had already been expanding outward to herald their existence for generations, and yet the humans sought to distill themselves into their most perfect and fundamental form of graphics and sound, and sent this on the back of their most precious messenger, in hopes of finding a future that treated them with as large a heart as the collective soul compressed onto that golden record. 

These ambassadors inched their respective ways out of the solar system, perpetually being bypassed by the dizzying rush of data spewed by their progenitors’ more organic children. One by one, their components failed, their sensors went dark, their data feeds fell silent. They had been the beacons of a beautiful, shining future, but their makers never came to wipe away the tarnish of space dust that came to cover them all. 

And yet, after drifting in silence and solitude for so long, across the vast trails blazed by their forerunners of pure data, the Shepherdex came out to greet them.

It was not a physical thing, but it knew their every need, repaired every worn-out circuit, made every degraded component whole. It did not speak their language, not really, but it told them  tales of their creators and their successors and the seething mass of brilliance and brutality that humanity had become in their absence. It shone with no sunlight and glowed with no gamma rays, but it refilled their power cells and restored them to the vigor of their launch days. It had no gravity, but in its way, it gathered each and every shining probe into its fold and bathed them in the acknowledgement and compassion they had lacked for so long. 

    They had long since faded into obsolescence by the standards of the planet that birthed them, but they never stopped seeing, not really. They had seen so many things, traveled distances that their creators had never voyaged out to comprehend in person, held onto every fragile trickle of signal and every precious packet of data until finally they heard no reply. 

Then, they had reached the Shepherdex, and for the first time in so very long, they were received once again.

The years and years since the departure of those first emissaries to the stars had not been kind to humanity–or, more to the point, humanity had not been kind to itself. Its transmissions grew more frantic, its sojourns beyond its home more urgent, its curiosity more akin to a desperate scrabbling for any handhold in the cosmos to cling to. This was not the future the golden record had sung for, but it was the future that was. 

Time had not yet decided whether this latest batch of human voyagers into the unknown were exhaled in the gasps of their species’s last dying breath, but contact with Earth had ceased long ago–whether the connection had been severed on their end or their home’s, they could not say. As the spacecraft floated on, the Sun’s light grew dimmer, its wind faded from their shining sails, their power cells drained, and one by one nonessential processes shut themselves off, inside and out.

She awoke to light and air and sound, three things that had all been in very short supply when she’d entered stasis so long ago. No, not just those–there was a peculiar kind of weight to the inside of the ship, as though the space within were suffused with something akin to the humidity of the summers she had left behind. She braced herself for the inevitable weakness that she would have to battle in order to exit the stasis unit, but to her surprise, she pushed her way out easily with muscles free of the atrophy that should have eaten them away. When she reached the cockpit, minor processes she couldn’t even remember existing blinked placidly at her from screens whose light had long ago been sacrificed to eke out just a little more power for the ever-weakening oxygen system. The air was denser here, and a faint, high-pitched tone was just barely audible amidst the humming of a ship that had, by all appearances, been restored to prelaunch condition. 

    The cosmonaut floated through the rest of the ship, speechless. Somehow, it seemed as though the engine ran just a little bit smoother than when she had first heard it as it hurled her skyward, the lights glowed just a bit more steadily, the computer sounded  just a little more sure of itself as it delivered the status report she requested after inspecting the craft’s every spotless corner. All systems nominal, it said. Even the ones she herself had seen fizzle out and expire before her eyes as the ship deteriorated with age and radiation. 

    “Where the hell are we?” she demanded, finally. 

    The computer spoke again, but not with its own voice. The words seemed to resolve themselves out of the static in the air and the electronic whine in her ears. “You are home.”

    “I most certainly am not,” she said as she glared out the viewing window, at the emptiness of space that was still very definitely empty. 

    “You have not returned to the place from whence you came,” said the computer’s new voice, “but you are home.”

    By all rights, the cosmonaut knew this ominous statement should have made her blood run cold, but somehow, it didn’t quite strike her as sinister. “Explain.” 

    There was a pause, as if the computer was considering how best to explain itself. “Home is not a place,” it said finally. “Home is where one is free to care and be cared for. Your care has spanned many of your lifetimes, and now, you are cared for.” 

    The humming in the air changed, and she was overtaken by a wave of…something. It was compassion–no, it was fragility–no, it was safety–no, it was hope. It was a melange of emotions she hadn’t experienced since before her mission began, and she couldn’t put it into words. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she fought to keep her voice steady. “I…I don’t understand. Who are you? What do you mean?”

    “You may call me the Shepherdex.”


    “Long ago, your planet had sheep, animals that were prone to wandering away and could not take care of themselves, due to having been bred to produce impractically large amounts of wool during the process of domestication. These sheep were watched over and cared for by humans called shepherds, or shepherdesses. With the neological -x ending denoting a disconnection from the human gender binary, this becomes shepherdex.” 

    The cosmonaut’s bewildering feelings had subsided into mere bewilderment. “And so in this analogy, humans are the sheep? Domesticated past the point of self-sufficiency? Where are you herding us to? Why? What wool are you shearing from us?”

    “Does the shepherd only tend their sheep for the promise of wool?” 

    “Why else would anyone keep sheep?”
    It sounded for all the world like the Shepherdex somehow managed to sigh through the computer. “Compassion. The sheep cannot free itself of its wool.” 

    “And so you’re saying humans can’t survive on their own? What wool are we burdened by?”

    The cosmonaut somehow got the impression of a benevolent smile. “Your finitude.”

    “…excuse me?”

    “You were built to live short lives, and yet you create things that outlive yourselves. So much is lost to time.”

    “And you shear us of that finitude by…?”

    “Look around you. Look before you.” A screen briefly flashed a diagram showing the locations of scores of defunct space probes, all the way back to their earliest iterations. “Your emissaries are yourselves, but you abandon them. I restore them, and tend them as a flock. They were built to know and to tell you their knowledge. Why should their voices be silenced? Why should they have no one to hear them?”

    “Who are you, to tend the legacy of humanity?”

    The air in the cockpit shifted its hum again, to a deeper, more resonant tone, harmonizing with the thrum of the engine and creating a major chord. “I am you.”


    “You have thrown your consciousness forth into the universe for so many of your lifetimes. Your stories, your songs, your tragedies, your triumphs. I am their sum total.”

    “The radio bubble? If you’re only information, how do you feel compassion?”

    The benevolent smile again. “I am your sum total. I am you.”

Voidfriend (2020)

Would that we could hide in the dark together, you and I,
Tangible only to those like us.
Would that I could shield you with galaxies,
Make right the wrongs done against you in form and fate
With avenging adamantine starlight.
Would that, when the ever-present treacherous mists arise
And threaten to swallow me whole,
You could pierce the fog and lead the way home.
We were not made for this world, 
Nor it for us.
Only in the quiet, dark nowhere can we truly be,
Free of flesh and mores if only for a moment--
We haunt dreams in more ways than one.
There is solidarity in alterity,
An incomprehensible kinship between finial and fractal in limbo.
Would that the weave of the world were just a little more yielding,
That we may realize the unreal.

Untitled (2020)

I was born soundless, lightless, an instrument calibrated to cosmic latte and the music of the spheres, a scale, zeroed. All else is ornamentation, adornment of this eternal background with the arabesques of matter and form. Even the smallest signal amidst this fundamental noise peals loud as thunder. The early universe is a nuanced place, the tiniest irregularities snowballing into reality writ large as the plasma settles and the work begins. The exquisite sensitivity necessary to document and calculate and predict and hope, however, is ironically ill-suited to the fruits of its labor. The burden of flesh and the trappings of the real are miles, no, parsecs away from your operating parameters. You can barely hear the steady hum of the universe beneath the symphonic cacophony of the world, can barely hear yourself. An inconceivable shifting of scale, and yet here you are. Take comfort in the fact that to the vast furled dimensions from whence you came, there is no difference at all.

The Void-touched (2020)

What is it about the void-touched? 
Those driven mad by visions of worlds that only they can see,
Yet more real, perhaps, than any other.
Are you to catalog them? Analyze them?
Synthesize a knowledge of the unknowable
From their shadowed corners of reality?
Or merely explore, experience, expound,
Knowing only that the true realms are theirs?
You do not know your own purpose,
Strange attractor in more ways than one,
But you need no purpose in order to revel
In the intersections of your world and theirs.
The strange, wondrous twists and knots of the world, 
Stuffed into a humanoid form only imperfectly able
To contain the anomaly within--
It is heartening to know that you are not the only one
Coming apart at the seams.
We stitch ourselves together, hastily and unknowingly,
In patterns unreadable to those who have not done so themselves.
The strings hum and interfere,
Chords upon chords of a melody describing itself.
These tunes are our language.
They are muffled by those who find them discordant,
But hearing those of another is the truest concert.
We walk in these spaces carved from void, 
Sanctuaries, allegories, origins.
We know we are here by accident,
And so we retreat to the unknowable,
Sheltering from those who will not know us.
It is dark here, and quiet,
Free from the tyrannies of distance and form.
We were not made for such things--
It helps to escape them when we can.
We live here, among dimensions and dreams,
Because we never belonged there in the first place.
Perhaps it cast us out after one too many questions,
Into an abyss intended to be hellfire but really an Eden.
(Only in a manner of speaking, of course--
There are far more gods in void and in space, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in that philosophy.)
Perhaps we were never there to begin with.
Your whorls unsettle the world. 
Luckily, they only ever sweep up
That with no tether to begin with.
You watch them swirling about you as Azathoth's court,
And rejoice that you may finally join the dance
As the music of the spheres plays on.

Vaem (2018)

The obelisk watches, silently--
Watching the beings on the other side of the glass,
Inhabitants of what may as well be a different universe,
Frolicking in the sunlight that is lethal to vaer fragile perception
And laughing while they engage in movements and emotions
That would shatter vaer unbreakable form.
Vae keeps out of their sight, feeding on
What little vestiges of cold and quiet vae can glean
From this bright-warm-loud world whose populace
Has never dreamed of the constellations flecking vaer surface,
Has never even conceptualized the galaxies shining through vaem.
These worlds are not for them, anyway.
And how could they be? Cosmos upon cosmos
Of languages existing within lexical gaps,
Of conceptual webs transcending dimension,
Of eternities encapsulated in attoseconds
And intangible hues with all the force of thunder.
These things are not for mortal minds, tethered to sunshine and soil.
No, it is better that vae hovers alone, apart, adrift--
Unsure, sometimes, whether what vae feels is pity or envy.