shaunterrywriter

These are my writings. Ideally, these are the most honest expressions of myself that I could give.

The Direction of Sunlight

Norwegian Sparrow Purple Flowers

The farther from the equator,
the less directly the sun shines;
you’ll notice at High Noon,
when the shadows of trees jut out from their hosts.

Nordic countries must be perfect to survive,
but perfection breeds few friends,
as Norwegians and Swedes well know.
It’s lonely close to the extremes of what Earth allows,
but it’s a galactic gift that the edges are inhabitable.

The glacial ice dissolves
to dispense clear, clean water.
Sparrows, with dichromatic helmets,
sing from between phosphorescent fuchsia flowers.
And drunken descendants of vikings
yell with friends over football matches and leftist politics.

Christmas in July

She was long and elegant, strong with a vulnerable mouth and big, brutal emerald eyes that turned up on the corners of her high cheek bones. She walked like an overconfident dictator — her proud shoulders defying gravity, hanging far over her long back, her wide sturdy hips, and the heels of her feet. But her ostentatious mannerisms betrayed her deepest unspoken fears.

Sometimes, light would reflect off tiny particles in the air, forming long, straight columns that moved about in odd patterns as the wind blew the leaves outside. The dancing light would eventually land on her tender olive skin, and it felt appropriate because everything about her seemed beautiful, even if some things were bright and some things were dark, and even if there were discrete but unstill delineations between the things that she allowed to be clearly seen and the things which one had to discover for oneself.

She had acquired a moderate collection of friends’ things, not because she wanted any of those particular things, nor because she wanted to deny anything of anyone, but because she wanted to have small pieces of her friends’ lives close to her at all times as conspicuous daily reminders of those people whom she’d loved so dearly, albeit often briefly.

She spoke rapidly, with a gleeful, subtle lilt in her voice. She could dominate a crowd, relying on improvisation which she used to deflect penetration beneath the foamy surface of her cultivated persona. Her eyes could gently arrest you and refocus you on the captivating mysteries of her history; they utilized a balance between tenderness and the surgical incisiveness of her warm gaze. Her face smiled often and naturally, and she was quick to pay for people and to buy small gifts when appropriate occasions arose. She sacrificed of herself to such a point that she didn’t always know what she wanted. This time, she knew what she wanted.

She was a curious woman, and her curiosity led her to indulge in reading, working out, alcohol, and eventually, sex. Her family lived in Albania, so she basically was from there, though ever less so. In fact, she’d rarely ever fucked an Albanian. She preferred tall blondes and could find herself lost in iris-cascades of cyan and sapphire and she could love the surfaces of these viewing lenses, preferring to not dig deep into the roots and pools that formed beneath them.

That wasn’t the case here, though. This was different. She loved his voice, she loved the careful attention with which he said the words that he carefully chose. It’s easy to fall in love in the endless visages of a Northern European city, as so many of them playfully balance between beautiful very old things and beautiful futuristic things. They’d walk for hours: talking, flirting, smiling at each other, wondering whether this was something substantive or whether it was simply the ripe fruit of a temporary affair. Sure, they could meet up again some day, but there was liberty in the timeframe that constricted their tryst. The answer was yet to reveal itself.

The day after their first kiss, she invited him to her room with ease, casually asking if he had a condom and hoping that he’d have at least one for each day that they were to spend together. The sex was good, but they both rightly knew that it’d only get better as they discovered each other’s bodies.

A few days later, she remarked, “I really like when you finger me before you fuck me. You know why?”

“Tell me.”

“Because it’s like Christmas Eve and then Christmas.”

He smiled in satisfaction.

21 June 2016 — On the Way to Iceland

Very early morning

This morning, I saw the most beautiful thing I think I’ve ever seen.

Pale clouds of magenta and coral and the blue of irises all bled into one another, creating a chromatic gradient; indifferent puffs of sweet, light, bright cotton above an otherworldly landscape.

The mountains were like dark chocolate chunks, with coconut fragments sprinkled conservatively across their tops. Between some mountains ran a frozen, hardened river of foggy blue gemstone, slowly, gently breaking down the mountains, as tiny glacial chunks floated on the periphery to one side of the mountains and an ocean of snow began to consume the chocolate peaks on the other side.

Eventually, the snow would stretch to either horizon, the consistency and color of freshly whipped cream. The mountains occasionally poked their heads above the surface like sharpened flint: earthen arrowheads penetrating the cream.

In the end, the little chocolate stones fall apart in the icy aquamarine ocean.


Slightly less early morning

My eyes did a funny thing. After reading my book for a few minutes, I looked up, out of the window. When I saw the image outside, it appeared wavy, and I figured that maybe the glass was cheap or somehow weathered, causing distortions. But then, for no reason that I could explain, I suddenly realized that it wasn’t the glass causing the illusion and I focused on the waves themselves. I could pick out the faded shapes of indecipherable words I’d been reading, thanks to the early morning light coming in through the glass.

We’re All Sansan

Agario Sad Puppy Dies

I, a 30-something man, was playing a children’s game, pretending to be a woman. I found myself yelling at my computer, “EAT YOURSELF, THUG!”

Then, a girl (I assumed) named Sansanpapy or Sansandady — I couldn’t tell from the font — said that she was sad. She didn’t want to talk about it at first, so I offered her my work email, mostly just because I wanted her to be able to talk and I didn’t want to reveal to the other gamers that I wasn’t really a woman. She said that animals should live longer lives. She said that she’d been depressed for a while, that it was still causing her to cry a lot, even though it’d happened back in September. I told her that I wished that Earth would just keep getting bigger to accommodate all the new animals and she agreed.

I told her it’s good to be sensitive. She asked if there’s such a thing as being too sensitive and I told her that there’s not. Fuck no! If you find yourself in the midst of a thriving career and you feel like crying in front of your millionaire boss’s face, you should be able to cry in front of your millionaire boss’s face!

She explained that she had woken up one morning to her father and sister crying in the kitchen and to her dog, Millie, lying motionless on the living room floor. She said that her dad had explained to her that Millie wasn’t going to get better, and how she’d skipped breakfast, instead going up to her room to get her guinea pig. The guinea pig had purred that Monday morning. She doesn’t like Mondays anymore, she says.

So I told her about how when I was a kid, my dog once had puppies, and one time, one of the puppies started to run from the garage as my sister had pressed the button to cause the big wooden garage door to slowly descend from the ceiling. I’d yelled the whole way as I’d run. I was screaming and everything seemed to be going in slow motion. Why can’t she tell what I’m saying? WHY ISN’T SHE PRESSING THE DAMN BUTTON AGAIN?! I couldn’t get there fast enough. The tiny puppy had bounded from the middle of the garage to just under where the garage door was to have met the ground.

I’d run as fast as I could and the best I could manage was to wedge my foot between the door and the ground. It wasn’t enough. I screamed as tears slid down my salmon cheeks. My sister had only just figured out what I’d been saying as the door had collided with the pup. My dad was running toward me. He was big and powerful and he was very athletic. It wasn’t enough that day. The garage door lifted again to reveal the yelping, badly injured puppy. Dad pretended that he was taking the puppy somewhere important to be mended. It’s probably the sweetest lie my dad ever told.

So I explained to Sansan that I’d lost a puppy once and that it had made me cry. I explained to her that it’d been the worst day of my whole life and that it’s sad when animals die and that it’s okay to cry over it. I explained to her that it’s okay to be sensitive. We just learn how to deal with our feelings.

ThugLife chimed in, explaining that he’d lost his 7-year old great dane, Phoebe, to doggy cancer. ThugLife had told me earlier that he had no friends, so the loss of his dog must’ve been hard on him, I’d guess. He and Sansan were both eleven. Holy shit. Eleven.

ThugLife was pretty good at the stupid kids’ game, but Sansan thought that we shouldn’t team up because it was unfair to people who didn’t team up. I agreed with her and told her that I felt a little bad that we’d been unfair to others. “I usually don’t team.” Apparently, I was defending myself to an eleven-year old. I told Rooster that I was going to kill him in the game but that I thought he was a nice person. He laughed and later declared that dogs are like humans because they die.

Maybe it’s a little weird for a 30-something man to be pretending to be a 24-year old woman while playing a kids’ game on the computer. But I was glad that I got to tell a little girl that her feelings are okay, even if I later felt a little stupid for having offered her my email. She’d explained that her parents wouldn’t let her email me, anyway, but she offered that we should talk the next night when she played on the same server. So then I felt a little stupid for wanting to do so and then I felt a little stupid for feeling stupid for wanting to do so.

Leftover Prey

Human Meat Stew

Boiled flesh lies,
nearly fermented,
in a bowl of broth.

Her spoon fills with gelatin, cartilage, and filaments of musculature,
as she giggles at a strip of Calvin and Hobbes
in her daily paper.

She sucks up the corpse, the memories, the emotions,
the tao that cannot be named.

Slurp

Gekko’s Revenge: How Education Serves Meritocracy

  1. Is education simply screening for ability?

 

Certainly not. First, things are rarely simple, and to ask whether education is simply screening for ability could be read as to imply one-to-one correlation. The data don’t show this to be true. But let’s assume no such implication. Were the question to ask whether education only screens for ability, it would lead to a similar problem: education may do some screening for ability, but there are lots of other factors that education could account for. We can’t be completely certain (because we can’t be completely certain of anything, can we?), but there’s plenty of evidence to demonstrate that education attainment measures a number of factors; some biological, some environmental. This brings us to the word “ability.” Ability is an idea that implies a great deal about the value of people in such a competitive, exploitative, capitalistic, and moralistic culture, such as America’s. “Ability” may simply refer to a person’s skillset, but often “ability” is used to say something about a person’s inborn capabilities and potential. Such ideas go a long way toward justifying problematic meritocracies. Herein lies much of the problem with America’s education system and the treatment of education by American society and her institutions.

In America, the myth goes that a person who is born exceptionally smart and hardworking is sure to attain a high level of education and earn a good deal of money. At some point, this becomes tautological in our culture because we tend to view wealth as an indication of an individual’s value while we assume that the most valuable Americans will attain a lot of wealth and/or high status. It’s common in America for someone to assume by displays of conspicuous consumption that someone must be smart, industrious, hardworking, powerful, and ethical. At the very least, the common wisdom is that a person with money is someone who deserves respect and to disrespect someone with money is a foolish act that can lead to painful consequences for the transgressor.

In Chris Hayes’s Twilight of the Elites, it’s pointed out that power manifests through people’s wealth, platforms, and/or networks. In the case of each of these, higher education can play an important role in developing these vehicles for power, so in a sense, it can be said that educational attainment is a vehicle for obtaining power. As such, it’s imperative for able, loving parents to exhaust the efforts at their disposal to ensure the educational successes of their children, but even parents who don’t display this parental diligence can ensure that their children will get good educations by simply being the sort of people who have children who get into good schools: rich, white, highly educated, etc.

Michael Marmot’s The Status Syndrome describes how constituent aspects of status affect health and mortality outcomes, but more important to the subject at hand, his book also explains how factors work in conjunction with one another to confound issues that lead to inequalities. Wealthy parents tend to live around other wealthy people, whose children go to schools with other wealthy children, whose parents tend to emphasize the importance of education in their child-rearing, and whose communities tend to create environments in which children can thrive academically, as well as provide a robust, well-connected social network. To give an example, children in wealthy families tend to get better preventive care than children born into lower socio-economic conditions, which can help them to spend more time in school as opposed to having to stay home due to illness. Marmot’s thesis depends a good deal on Amartya Sen’s ideas on the Capabilities Approach.

In Sen’s Development as Freedom, he describes how people’s needs can vary greatly based on the circumstances in which they find themselves. Surely this is true when it comes to education. A child growing up in a crime-riddled area, being reared by a single mother who works two jobs doesn’t need less educational resources and more distractions than a child born to two involved, wealthy parents does; she needs more than the rich child. But this is only reflective of the inequities we see throughout American culture.

Unfettered capitalism is unsustainable and the education system is one of many institutions which are both subject to and contributory to the problems that deregulation, regressive taxation, weak social safety nets, weak unions, and disregard for social justice thrust upon society. Dirk Philipsen’s recent The Little Big Number demonstrates just why and how endless growth is unsustainable and, indeed, neurotic. Ideas like endless growth, deregulation, and work as a moral virtue all serve to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the lower classes. Karl Widerquist’s Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income proposes that the modern state of America’s economy is one by which the underclasses are made to serve the wealthy through forced labor, and while this may seem extreme, there seems to be truth in it. Until some point in human history, people were tasked with merely finding the necessary natural resources to build shelter and procure food — nothing more, nothing less — there was no impediment of ownership to prevent them from the necessary procurements. Today, in order for a person to survive and to live a life worth living, she must go and work for a powerful person and be subject to their rules, forced to play a game that benefits the ruling class and under the rules created by the ruling class.

So does education simply screen for ability? It doesn’t. Education is the institution that indoctrinates children with the mythology of meritocracy such that people act against the interests of themselves and of their communities, all so that we can hope to burn what resources we have until there’s nothing left for the sake of ensuring the safety and comfort of old, rich, delusional, white men, who studies have shown have very little empathy. Big surprise.

Educational attainment demonstrates how tall you are, what kind of neighborhood you grew up in, whether your mother was nice to you or not, what color your skin is, and a lot of other arbitrary factors that are inherited through lottery of birth to ensure one’s place in the social order. The education system is a part of a giant machine made to allow the wealthy to feed on the blood and sweat of the anonymous masses of innocent proletarians. The American education system is part and parcel of all the seemingly intractable problems that the world faces.

Dear Statistics Professor

Standard Deviation

You can keep your square-root-of-n-minus-one.
Your standard deviation isn’t so deviant.
I’m not impressed.

Please Shut Up in My Coffeeshop so I can Study and Don’t Have to Resort to Writing Irritated Poems

Cup of Coffee

Forcefully making failed circles
in a pool of gelatin,
pressing arms and legs,
flailing.

Writing disjointed thoughts
in a small, brown bound notebook,
waiting for divine inspiration.
Still waiting.

Math problems strewn
over charts and workbooks,
lying in a pile,
like a pack of wolves defeated.

People’s voices,
over cinnamon and piano,
like a field of jagged mountains,
and not like a soup of snowy waves.

Go home.

Mermaids Under Waves of Glass

Photo courtesy of Leah Randall

Photo courtesy of Leah Randall

He catches glances:
opalescent shimmering
in waves beneath crystalline waves and foam.
The figure sways below;
her long, curly locks blowing gently on her back.
As she rushes toward the surface,
her rounded facial features invite tenderness,
and his eyes are faded marbles,
open and admiring.
Her body is like a statue in a giant granite hall.

She smiles and slinks
with hope behind her irises,
anticipating excitement and novelty.
Her hands press upon the wavy glass,
and his hands meet to make mirrored images.
This is as close as they could ever get.

As they part from the fantastical encounter,
memories of each other very slowly start to disintegrate,
but the loss never leaves them.

Diversions and Daymares

Hugo yelled across the house, “I’M GONNA GET A SHIT-AND-SHOWER.”

“Why are you telling me that? Shit-and-shower?”

“WHAT?!” The pitch of Hugo’s voice raised dramatically.

James sauntered in Hugo’s direction. “Hugo, shit-and-shower is not a thing. And why do you have to tell me? I don’t need to know.”

Hugo held a clothes to change into. “I dunno. What if you wanted to use the bathroom or what if you were having people over?”

“Well, that’s nice, but I have my own bathroom and you’ve never seen anyone else over here.”

“True. Shit-and-shower is definitely a thing, though. Think about it: what if you run out of toilet paper? Or I mean, why go to the length of wasting a bunch of toilet paper if you know you need a shower, anyway? Like if it’s the morning and you’re getting ready for work or something.”

“Well, if you run out of toilet paper, you just use something else. Also, it’s annoying when you say ‘Think about it.’ Do you assume I don’t think?”

“Sorry. Well, what do you do when you run out?”

“First, newspaper.”

“Newspaper? That’s rough. Newspaper comes first? What’s second?”

“Second is paper towels.”

Hugo’s eyes grew. “Paper towels comes second to newspaper?!”

“No. You’re right. Really, you just buy enough toilet paper, but in a pinch, yeah; paper towels. In really desperate times, newspaper.”

Hugo’s posture was erect. He appeared to be looking down at James, despite them being the same height. “I’d rather just take a shower.”

“That’s kinda nasty, Hugo. Then, you’re getting poop all over the bathtub.”

“Yeah, but you’re using soap. And preferably, you wipe at least a little. I’m not talking about intentionally getting big globs of poo all over the tub. Anyway, there’s already poop all over everything.”

“Don’t say that shit.”

“Really, if you smell a fart, it’s just particles of poop getting in your nose and mouth. There’s poop on everything.”

“I know, Hugo, but why do you have to say that shit?”

“Like, if you take a bath, you’re laying around in your poop. Poop, piss, jizz, sweat.”

James was equally sure of his position. “Do you ever ‘get a shit-and-bath?'”

Hugo realized that James had introduced an impregnable argument, but couldn’t imagine retreating, “Nah, James. That’s nasty.”

“Well, we’re just talking about degrees, right?”

Hugo knew what James meant, but he asked, anyway, “Degrees?”

“Yeah; like, if there’s shit on everything all the time, and if you’re suggesting a shit-and-shower, then you’re not doing anything fundamentally different from a shit-and-bath. It’s just degrees.”

“But you’re not laying around in it.”

“You think that the water and soap gets rid of all the poop particulate that you didn’t wipe off your ass?”

“Well, even if you wipe, you’re not getting rid of all of it.”

“Okay, Hugo. Why don’t you go shit, wipe your ass, and shower? Or whatever.”

“Yeah.” Hugo took a step toward the bathroom while he extended his fingers and thumb, covering his chin. “Do you get poop-boners? I really get poop-boners. Like, a lot. And when I poop, my body temperature lowers or something. I dunno. I feel colder. Yeah. Do you usually get poop-boners?”

James smiled on one side of his face, despite feeling that he shouldn’t encourage Hugo’s inappropriateness, “I sometimes get poop-boners. I don’t know anything about this body temperature thing.”

“It mostly happens when I’m out. Like, if I’m in some office building or Wal-Mart or a hospital or something. I guess maybe your body uses a lot of energy to manufacture and house and maintain all that poo?”

“I dunno, man.”

“I just feel like schools could do a lot more in this area, like, Poop Ed or something.”

“Like Sex Ed?”

“Yeah, something like that.” Hugo appeared to be thinking very seriously on the issue. He didn’t look at James, obviously in a cloud of profound thought.

After a few moments, James broke in, “Yeah. Poop-boners are weird. If there were a God out there, poop-boners would be evidence that God was very weird.”

“Yeah. Like, why poop-boners? What’s the evolutionary function of that? Do people have sex while pooping?”

James disrupted the conversation with unmitigated, boisterous laughter. It took several seconds for him to calm himself enough to respond. “I’m sure that some people do.” James remained distractedly snickering.

Hugo’s sympathetic smile broke down and his brow grew heavy and his eyes were suddenly intense. “Yeah, sexual arousal is strange. Like, you know how nervousness doesn’t feel so different from arousal? I think, sometimes, the thing that is almost so objectionable that you can’t do it is the very thing that most turns you on.”

James walked toward the living room, expecting Hugo to follow, which he did. James sat in a recliner, “Yeah. I dream about some really fucked up sex shit, but sometimes, I wake up and that fantasy is stuck in my head and I’ve been surprised by how much some really fucked up shit can turn me on. When I was a kid, it was even worse. I used to have these very weird sex dreams when I was a kid and they really freaked me out. I didn’t know what to make of them. I didn’t know what they said about me.”

“Same. I used to sometimes do things with men. This was like in elementary and middle school. I mean, I didn’t do very sexual things, mostly basically just making out. Maybe only making out. I don’t remember the dreams so well at this point. I just remember how ashamed it made me feel. Some kids thought I was gay, so I guess I was confused and dreamt of it.”

“Hugo, I’m not gonna judge you for being curious.”

Hugo realized how ridiculous he might’ve seemed and smiled. “I know. I’m sorry. There’s nothing wrong with being gay. Maybe I’m gay. I’ve never been brave enough to try anything.”

James smiled back at Hugo. He was tempted to make a joke, but Hugo was being vulnerable enough.

Hugo looked indiscriminately toward a spot on the wall. “I died a lot in my dreams, too. I would fall a lot — out of all kinds of things — to my death, presumably. I once drove my sister and I up into a tree. In a car, I mean. I was driving a car. Eventually, I couldn’t get the car to keep climbing and the car fell toward a lake, waking me up. I think I was being chased.  A lot of the time, I was being chased in my dreams.”

“What do you think that meant?”

“I dunno. I was a depressed little kid. I would run away a lot. I’d pack all my stuff, I’d leave in a huff, and I’d run away for a few minutes before realizing that I didn’t know where to go and I was too chicken to just walk off with nowhere to go. Eventually, my younger sister started to mock me when I’d leave. I’d always tell her I was serious this time.” Hugo was nearly smirking, but his eyes were sad. James realized that what Hugo was describing was important, and Hugo continued, “I didn’t trust my parents. I didn’t trust any authority.”

“Mhm.”

Hugo ignored James’s sarcastic expression of vindication.  “I still sometimes have nightmares, but I hardly remember any dreams anymore. I think I had a lot more nightmares when I was a kid, but maybe a greater proportion of my dreams now are bad ones. Maybe I don’t dream that often.”

“Seems possible.”

“I don’t know shit about dreams. Now these conflicts permeate my daydreams.”

“You imagine people chasing you around and you falling out of things to your death?”

“No. Not exactly. I just imagine confrontations. With everyone.”

“Not everyone.”

“Everyone who matters to me.”

“With me? What would you and I fight about? How does that go?”

“I dunno. I’m just saying I imagine fighting with everyone; even people I love. Even people I don’t know. I imagine having to run from the cops.”

“So you do still imagine getting chased.”

“Yeah. Sometimes. It actually used to be more when I was younger. Now, it’s mostly just arguments about things and how, in weird situations, I might best people.”

“Not everything’s a competition, Hugo.”

Hugo’s face scrunched sideways on the front of his head. “I’m just afraid, you know?”

James peered at Hugo.

Hugo’s eyes eventually met James’s. “I know it’s not about them. I know it’s about me. I imagine crazy things, Jim. I imagine getting into firefights with whole police departments. I imagine going to trial with my bosses and their business owners. I imagine all the things that potential lovers and past lovers might find or have found to be upset at me for and having to explain myself. I imagine being rejected in every possible way, by everyone, important and unimportant. It makes me feel sad, insecure, afraid.”

James’s eyes turned soft, “Why do you think you do that?”

“I guess I don’t expect anyone to accept me.”

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