Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Goddamn, I’m hot,
he told her.
I’m ready to just strip down to my socks.
Aren’t you?
I’m sweating like a pig.
This concerned her
because they were above Camp IV
and were in the Death Zone on Everest.
It was July, a good morning for climbing,
but the temperature was still -2.
(That’s -19 in Celsius.)
She knew that one of the symptoms of severe hypothermia
is feeling hot flashes, and an already confused climber
will start taking off his clothes
before losing consciousness.

They were alone at the moment.
Other teams had started much earlier
and were higher up, close to the summit.
He had decided they didn’t need to go with
one of those professional climbing companies.
Didn’t need Sherpas.
Didn’t need supplemental oxygen.
It was so hard to breathe up there.
She would inhale raggedly but was oxygen-starved
and then cough until her ribs ached.
She forced him to drink some soup from a thermos.
He was sitting down now.
It wouldn’t be long.
She would have to leave him if she wanted to survive,
but that was impossible.
Who would want to die alone on this terrible frozen rock?
She wished he had been nicer to her overall.
No one would move their bodies.
They would be together forever up here.

Tenzing Sherpa found her first,
assumed she was dead 
(like the man) 
until he saw her stir.
You’re not supposed to help people in the Death Zone.
It’s every man or woman for themselves.
The Sherpa owed her nothing.
But Tenzing flung her over his shoulder like another heavy pack
and carried her down to the camp.


Wow, we just discovered a new world
four billion times bigger than our Earth and
49 billion billion billion miles away.
It’s populated mostly by horrible wasps.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Closed-Door Meeting

He asked me to close the door behind me.
I sat in the black leather chair
in front of his desk.
My feet couldn’t quite touch the floor.
He asked me for my side of the story,
but he wasn’t really listening.
Kept glancing at his monitor.
Sometimes his watch.
I was calm,
Maybe left out a few especially damning details
but, still, honest.
He looked up suddenly with tired eyes.
What else can I do? He asked me,
uncharacteristically candid.
I always liked you, he told me,
which was a surprise to me.
He reminded me that Barb had to go to the emergency room,
which had certainly not been my intention.
And he talked a lot about liability,
which was understandable.
And everyone knew about The Incident by now,
so I agreed it would be best for me to go.
You’ll have to have a security escort, he explained
with apology in his eyes.
I completely understand, I replied.
I closed the door behind me as I left,
feeling everyone’s frightened eyes watching me
as I walked down a long beige corridor
back to my beige cubicle,
accompanied by Ted, who was unthreatening and overweight.
The silence was eerie,
but I smiled to myself.
It was the first time I would leave that place
with no regrets.

I Was Told...

Wake up an hour early, preferably before the sun peeks over the horizon.
Write one thousand words a day without fail.
Don’t edit your work now—you’re still writing.
But you’re going to make a lot of changes.
Come up with something wholly original
but do your research.
Please explain that idea.
No, that’s an information dump.
But you didn’t tell me what she looks like.
Cut the description in this scene and get to the action.
I would like to know exactly what’s going to happen right now
but don’t ruin the suspense.
I really liked it,
but I found it unreadable.
It would be better if you changed every word.  I’ll help.
You have to do what you think is right,
but publishers won’t like this.
We regret to inform you that we cannot accept your work at this time.
Oh fuck it, I’m just going to write a poem.

End Rhyme

It was a peaceful night in June.
I was stationed with my platoon
on the unnamed planet’s unnamed moon.
I knew that just over that dune,
we would meet our doom.
Jimmy—I called him "Goon"—
he and I shared a room.
He was laughing like a loon
at some silly kid’s cartoon.
It wasn’t fair: he was only twenty-two.
I grimly stared at my fading tattoo.
Remembered things I didn’t want to get into.
We were supposed to advance the following afternoon.
The dusty, rocky ground would be covered with human maroon
and alien blue.