poetry writing

cold shower

went for cold shower this
morning, one knob twisted
until i could bear it; so
you seek the lurch in your
throat, the one that cripples
armies bound for moscow.

think of mason jars,
perched under the eaves
& filled with every last
thought you're waiting to
ferment into something useful.

i would've crossed the alps
for you, on elephantback,
were it not for the condition
of my shoes.

& then i wrenched my spirit
out of permafrost & set
in front of the hearth, &
waited, & waited, until it
bloomed again.

still see frostbite along the
petal edges, reminders of cold
showers & cold winters.
dungeons & dragons fiction

Explaining the Karmic Balance of the Wish Spell

This is (hopefully) an ongoing series of posts within the world of my D&D campaign setting, Avo. Peruse the wiki.

From a lecture by Professor Cerapham di Lien at the Conjuric Academy in Valwyria, 13 Midspring 3308. Transcribed by Lenna Whirk, St.B.Est.

We’ve all heard it before: word your wishes carefully. We know that the more powerful the thing wished, the worse it will backfire. There are many, many stories out there of your local country bumpkin discovering a monkey’s paw in the fields, making a wish to become rich, only to discover that the treasury in Neven has been completely emptied of its gold. Or the chance meeting between a prince and a dao, or a djinni, and making a wish to marry the most beautiful princess in the world, only to find out that the princess’s father is a tyrant warlord, and the marriage has incited his anger, leading to a decades long war that ends up getting both the prince and princess killed.

If the latter example sounds like a joke to you, you need to revisit your Letoran history books.

So, why does wish come with some sort of cost? It is the only spell in our canon that does so, and the cost is exponential; the larger the wish, the more the cost. In addition, there’s a roughly one-third chance that if you cast wish, you may never be able to cast it again! Why is that? You’d think that after thousands of years, we would have been able to come up with some way of circumventing such an issue, yes?

Well, the answer to this is somewhat fascinating because, in essence, wish is the only arcane spell bound to divine reaction. Note that I did not say it is a divine spell. This is surprisingly rare; most spells of a divine nature do not cross into arcane territory unless the caster has specialized in such weaving; spells of healing, for example, are simply untouchable by plain wizards, no matter their skill with magic. And while wish, intrinsically, is strictly arcane in nature (and, in truth, is unknowable by divine spellcasters unless they specialize in arcana), extrinsically, wish, and spellcasting in general Post-Catastrophe, is bound by the divine law. To cast it is to dip into the divine karmic balance which was codified during the Catastrophe. It is, in essence, a request to the divine will.

Before the Catastrophe, spellcasting was at its height of power, and many of those spells beyond our ken today, of the renowned tenth through thirteenth grade, were sufficiently powerful that the only way they could be cast successfully was if sacrifice was woven into the spell itself, whether intended or not. One such spell, reality warp, was a twelfth grade spell which, when cast, fundamentally changed the nature of reality within a certain range. One could, for instance, exchange up for down, left for right. One could make rocks edible, or make a tree turn a body into thin strands the closer one approached it. And these are the things we are able to comprehend! In truth, reality warp was capable of changing reality into something so fundamentally and completely foreign to our minds that it could make the viewer–or taster, or smeller, et cetera–go mad, instantly, with no recourse. One story goes that a wizard who cast this spell went so mad that her brain literally melted and seeped out of her own nostrils. In short, the sacrifice was one’s own mind, and the chance of this happening was roughly equal to 25%! Imagine, casting the fireball spell and having a one in four chance of it exploding in your face instead. The Age of Magic was extraordinary.

Obviously, since it was the gods who hold dominion over reality, a spell capable of fundamentally changing it was not ideal, in their eyes. So it was that during the Catastrophe the gods suddenly and irrevocably revoked our jurisdiction over these grades of spells. Gone were the days of wizards holding the ultimate power over the worlds in which they lived. Spells were since curated, so to speak, by the gods, to ensure that mortal beings could not devastate the world on their own.

However, within the upper echelon of spell grades lies the only outlier to potential world devastation: wish, and with it, the potential for danger. Why the gods left this spell within our grasp is unknown. Based on my own research, there are two rising and competing theories: one is that wish was granted to mortals by the trickster gods, such as Asmodeus, Cyric, or Tymora, but in doing so, they warped the spell into its current incarnation for the express purpose of their own pleasure; that they, in short, enjoy seeing mortals bite off more than they can chew. The other theory is that the truth may lie within the primordials, whose kin, the genie, are sometimes capable of granting wishes outside of the purview of the gods, which may mean that the wish spell itself is beyond the purview of the gods, and instead is something that they are beholden to as much as you or I. This is a dangerous thread of thought to tread, however, for if the gods hold no dominion over wishes … who does? Surely not the forever-chained primordials!

I trust the answer will never be laid cleanly before us by the gods, as distant and unseemly as they are. All we know about wishes is that the larger the scope, the worse off it will be for you in the long run. So please, students, should you ever be able to grasp the upper echelon of spell grades, remember the words, tried and true: word your wishes carefully.

lunchtime poems poetry

7.2.18 / cushions

Cushions velcroed to the wooden bleachers.
Close-cropped curly haired man gives no shit,
He wrenches that cushion from its home
Like an ICE officer, plopping himself down as if
He owns the goddamn place.

lunchtime poems poetry

thunderstorm 6.17.18

You watch the rain and wind
Make spotty waves against the concrete.
The sky is resolved to sunder.
Trapped in dark thoughts
Your momentum a broad stalemate
Between self and self.
Above, the gray thunders,
An aching crease in the heavens.
Portents are all your own,
You choose to see what you see in tea leaves,
Just as you make the words
On a Ouija board.

lunchtime poems poetry

pettygrove park 5.22.18

Commisserating over sunburns.
He keeps his socks on;
Thus, a stark contrast
Between his feet and his legs.
She laughs:
“You’re cute but that’s gross.”
On “cute” I know it’s on.
And like a viper he strikes,
I hear the rustle of clothing
Against the wood bench
As he sidles closer.
“Can I ask you something?”
In a voice above a whisper,
Then whispers,
Then the silence
Of a first kiss(es).
I’m reading Ursula Le Guin.
They pull away and continue talking,
And I listen for his interest in that.

lunchtime poems poetry

waterfront 5.16.18

Rest your head
Against my shoulder.
Rushing water was
The first tv static,
This I say a propos
Of nothing.
Kiss me with your pasta breath,
Laugh a little less
Each time we clack
Our teeth together.
When you ask me
What’s wrong
I am a boar
Hunting for truffles.

lunchtime poems poetry

5.11.18 / to scott

Where did you go
And why
And how
Did it get to that point?
When will we see you
Is that it?
Did you fight with yourself
In the darkness?

lunchtime poems poetry

garden bar 5.9.18

“All black everything”
She mouthed to herself
In the mirror this morning.
She eats a single slice
Of salami from
A plastic Ziploc bag.
(Or at least that’s
What it looks like
From my periphery.)
She in short hair
Hunched over her phone,
Laughing at things
But not too loud
To draw attention.
The salad zone
Blasts Bohemian Rhapsody.
It’s quiet, everyone
Drinks the diet version
Of things. I’m thinking
About the carrots
I didn’t eat for lunch.
The clouds roll in.

lunchtime poems poetry

garden bar 4.27.18

You remember
Everything fades.
All memory
Rests on the precipice.
She walks with purpose–
She reads Ghost World–
She eats a salad.
This will be nothing
In 1,000 years.
This will not exist.
Your brain is loose
With information.
She wears Christmas colors.
Your life as long
As an atom’s mass
To a black hole.
She turns the pages–
She ignores everyone.
When we are gone
Instead of monuments
There will be bones
In the dirt.

lunchtime poems poetry

pettygrove park 4.26.18

It’s warm out
So I’m outside again,
A ghost of translucent skin
And awkward-angled sunburns,
Draped in cheap Target cloth.
A single man in cyan
Sits on a sun-drenched hill
Staring into a bright rectangle.
I write about him
In a similar rectangle.
I do my best to not ogle
The women in sundresses
But let’s face it:
The world is blooming now
And there’s much more
To look at.

I, and maybe you,
Pull clods of earth asunder
As we haul ourselves
From the sunken winter,
Shaking our lumbering frames,
Inhaling the soft scent
Of flowers. We smell love,
And feel the warm breeze
Against our cheeks.
We’ve won our annual
Fight against the seasons.
We’ve won once again.