Category: Uncategorized


Poem first published in We Don’t Break, We Burn: Poems of Resilience by Mindwell Poetry Press and edited by Zachary Kluckman

Quarantine swoops in like snowfall, sucking voices from air.
Forcing us to hide from each other, come together in isolation.

But you’re an introvert.
You like what it means to be alone to be dead to the world,
be shadow with no sun to hold your hand,
make you matter, make you appear,
to have others create you.

And isn’t that what you really mean?
That if nobody’s around to see me,
walk in their footsteps,
I somehow enjoy being cloudy day?
That life is better without someone to call friend?

What you don’t understand is I don’t value
small talk, don’t appreciate how
counterfeit conversation steals my energy,
robinhoodwinks me of lifeblood,
mails it to you the extrovert
as you roll your eyes at me when I show up anemic.

So explain to me again how I enjoy
missing my niece’s birthday, my aging grandma who raised me,
Take your IV from my arm.
Let me know how it feels to not have a host
to be parasite to
and I’ll happily show you the healing bite marks on my back.

Front Yard

Earlier version of poem first published in We Don’t Break, We Burn by Mindwell Poetry Press and edited by Zachary Kluckman

Mosaic of pots paint a garden
tomatoes struggle to stretch fingers
herbs barely bubble out dirt
too scared, bland afternoon sun
old man spinach sneers
watches shadows yawn across ground

But onions, oh those damned onions
crowd like matryoshka dolls

Wants to be flavor on tacos
or bite on smoked turkey sandwiches

Only planted life capable
standing up to this pungent world


Poem published in 2015 in Bear the Pall: Stories & Poems about the Loss of a Parent.

Book can still be purchased HERE

I hate having to say good-bye,
I hate having never said good-bye.
That my head knows but my heart
doesn’t seem to care.
That my heart cares but my head
That I couldn’t see past your illness,
your beatings,
your apathy,
your internal struggles,
or your lack of care for mine.
I hate that people hated you
before you were laid down to rest.
I hate that they tell me to love you
for who you weren’t,
for whom my heart still wishes you were.
I hate you for leaving,
every time you left.
I hate me for letting you come back.
I hate you for putting me in this position.
I hate me for making you put me in this position.
I hate that some day I’ll end
up in the same bed you did, dying
of broken innards and a bleeding heart.
I hate that I couldn’t get past the things
you did to me.
I hate that you’re my father.
I hate that I’m a terrible son.

Episode 10: Katrina Crespin

Poet and managing editor for Swimming With Elephants Publishings Katrina Crespin talks about her life as a poet, an editor for an Albuquerque small press company, her growth as both a traditional and performance poet, and reads some of her poems.

You can find Katrina Crespin’s work under her maiden name Katrina Guarascio at Her works include ‘my verse‘, ‘The Fall of a Sparrow‘, and ‘September: traces of letting go‘.

Among Others: 19th Chapter

NaNoWriMo 2011 is little more than a day away from completion. I was about 12k away from making the 50k finish line this morning. Today alone I’ve written three chapters so far. That’s 3,500 words today.

Needing a break from writing, I’m doing this…writing a blog post ^_^

But, it’s back to the grindstone.

Among Others: Chapter 19:

Nobody spoke until nightfall. The old man wearing overalls and the woman with knotted red hair sat watching the television with tears in their eyes, holding each other’s hands like two elderly people watching Death himself walk up to them to take their lives one by one. The fat man and young man with the broken face had moved to the tiny kitchenette to gorge themselves on different canned meats in a victory celebration feast. Collins locked herself in her bathroom perfecting her concealer mask she neglected the last twenty four hours while they waited for news reports of their despicable act.

Coming out of her bathroom, she directed everyone to put on their makeup and present themselves for approval. The fat man never moved so quickly, before or since his current condition. The young man with the broken face followed a short distance behind. They elbowed each other for a spot in the cramped bathroom to view their progress in the studio apartment’s only mirror.

“I don’t like this any more than you do,” Collins added at the old man wearing overalls as she sensed animosity. “Desperate times.”
“I will not kill again.”
“Nobody is asking you to kill anymore. Now we just need to let others know they have support. We need to provide them with understanding of how they can help the cause, how they can help their own cause.”
By this time, the woman with knotted red hair had meandered about ending up behind the old man. He crossed his legs and laid his hands on top of each other crossing at their wrists. The woman with knotted red hair placed a shaking hand on the old man’s shoulder, then added, “I can not do this.”
“You have to,” Collins snapped back.
“No, she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do.”
The woman nodded in agreement.
“You could always take your chances out there. Normals will happily make sure you don’t suffer in this world much longer.”
The woman drew back.
“That’s not fair and you know it,” said the old man as he uncrossed his arms.
“There’s no room for people not willing to fight.”
“There’s always room. If they want to kill me for who I am, I can live with that. I answer only to God.”
Collins and the old man stared each other down until the fat man and young man with the broken face barged in for inspection. The fat man was beaming with pride. The young man with the broken face stood in his most dangerous gangster stance.
“You know what,” Collins finally said, slamming her chair into the table with enough force to rattle the woman with knotted red hair. “You are right. Not everyone has to do the same thing. But,” she searched the apartment for a ‘but’ to add, “But, if you want to stay here where it’s safe, you will have to earn your keep.”
“Fair,” the old man nodded.
“Okay,” she said, still looking around for something the old man and woman with knotted red hair could accomplish while the rest of their team was out risking their lives.
“We are running out of food and concealer. Here is some money. Get as much as you can fit in my cart.” She threw her debit card at them. “The PIN is 1105.”
“We will do that. Right after we register ourselves.”
“Are you insane,” Collins jumped.
“We have to. It’s the law. And it will protect us while we are out in public.”
“You will compromise this whole safe house I have created for you just so you can feel a little safer among them? They do not have your best interests in mind. I do.”
“That may be at least half true. But we do not have to give this address.”
“And which address do you propose,” she asked, truly interested.
“Our real addresses. I lived alone before coming here. I can give my real address.”
“They will use your new ID to track you.”
“Maybe. But it is our duty. It’s the law.”
Collins stepped away and walked around in a circle several minutes scratching her head. Then, as if an epiphany fell from somewhere above, she darted back to the group, which did not take much in such a small room.
“That’s not a bad idea. We will all go register. But in shifts. That way nobody knows that we live together. We can’t be seen together.” The old man smiled. The woman with knotted red hair squeezed his shoulder in relief. The fat man and young man with the broken face looked sorely disappointed.
Collins looked at her phone for a time check. Half past five in the morning. Suddenly she was aware of the dull red hue peeking in through the kitchen window curtains.
“It’s too late now,” speaking to the two deflated men once eager for action. “But you two,” pointing to the old man and woman with knotted red hair, “Get makeup on and grab a face mask. You have provisions to purchase. After you register, of course.”
“It’s illegal to hide our identity now,” the old man interjected.
“Fine. Just. Go make sure you do not have any concealer on. Then go register. You still have my card.”
The old man stood slowly, creaking as any old man would after sitting too long in one position without shifting enough to keep his joints well oiled. He walked off toward the bathroom with the woman with knotted red hair in tow. After they disappeared behind a closed bathroom door, the fat man sank his fat head into his fatter chest. Collins moved in close to him and his partner in crime.
“I have something else for you two.”
Their eyes began to light up again behind their caked on war paint.
“This is a list of all the Council Members. Their names and addresses.” She handed the young man with the broken face a printed copy of addresses from a website. It contained eight names, phone numbers and addresses.
Scanning the list, “One has a line on it. Did we kill him?”
“No,” her hands shook, “That person is off limits. You are not to go there.”
Both men looked at Collins like she started speaking a language they did not understand.
“He is on my side. Our side.”
“He is one of us,” wondered the young man.
“Not that I am aware of. He is a friend of mine. You are not to go to his house or harm him in any way. Is that clear?”
They both nodded.
“Good. It’s too late now. But tonight, you have your orders. Do not tell them,” Collins pointed at the closed bathroom door, “about any of this. Understand?”
Both nodded again.
“Good. Put that away. Tonight, when night falls again, you two will move out.”
They were so pleased with their mission and what it entailed it cracked their concealer creating smiles that split from ear to ear. They shuffled off to watch more television in relative silence. The bathroom door opened pulling Collins’ attention away from her two obedient minions.
“You look,” she struggled for an appropriate word, “normal.” All three would have smiled if her comment was not so accurate.
Blue veins mapped out around the faces of both the woman with knotted red hair and old man. Neither looked happy but Collins did not know if their sadness drained from what they looked like now without concealer or that they were no longer satisfied with the position they felt forced into as of late.
The woman with knotted red hair tried to smile but it sputtered away. Unsure where to stand or what to do, she stood fiddling slowly with her hands. Her older partner sat back in his chair at the small kitchen table. He gasped slowly for air like a fish out of water taking its last two struggling breaths. Age and lack of oxygen was clearly taking its toll on his wiry frame.
“We will go first,” the old man Signed at last. “We do not know how long it will take or what will happen down at the, um,” he was unsure of the correct Sign.
“Police station,” Collins assisted.
“Yes, thank you. When we are done there, we will go shopping for food and concealer if we can get it. It’s illegal to conceal ourselves now. But I think I can convince anyone asking that she is my daughter and just wants to look Normal at home.”
“Great idea,” Collins added. Irritated she did not think of such a well thought out plan. Everyone’s eyes struggled to find something acceptable to look at without causing discomfort to anyone else. Instead all eyes bounced around avoiding each other until the old man managed enough energy to wave the woman with knotted red hair to follow him out.
As they left, Collins tapped the old man’s shoulder.
“You need this,” handing him her only key to the apartment. “If you find a place, buy another one. This is my only copy. You can probably justify one extra. We will make it work somehow.”
He took her key, nodded, and left with his female counterpart trailing close.

Among Others: 7th Chapter

Chapter 7 of “among Others” is one of a two part situation that tests Dr. Collins’ will.

Enjoy “among Others” Chapter 7. Remember, of course, that this is a NaNoWriMo rough draft (2nd draft edit 12/29/11):

Two more days passed. Not having spoken to Miller since their last encounter in her office, she texted him requesting they meet at the coffee shop around lunch. Before she placed her phone back in her pocket, a response came through.

“I can be there at 1. Can we meet then?”

She responded with a ‘See you then’, closed her phone and dropped it back in her pocket.
Not able to read her research, she struggled to find an outlet for her awkward feelings and rambling mind. Research meant normalcy. That’s all she really wanted: normalcy. Tearing into a raw chicken neck, she resigned herself to waiting until noon before heading out to see Miller.
Cleaning up after her meal, she stumbled off to shower off yesterday’s concealer. So embarrassed about her complexion, she now wore it to bed. Not even her hands touched her face anymore, at least not without  dollops of pasty concealer on them. The game of pretend exhausted her.
The water warmed her cheeks and nose as the concealer melted away in the stream. She slumped down onto the floor of her bathtub and hugged her bare legs, her blue-veined face perched on equally blue knees. Behind closed doors, in a shower, nobody hears or sees the crying face of the silent voice. Or cares.

Satisfied with her replaced mask, she pulled on her coat, being careful to not rub against her face or neck. She locked the door behind her.

Several protest groups gathered at different ends of the same street. Each hollering about the same thing to the same wandering pale passersby. None of the passersby acted violently. It was as if the pale beings did not react to the yelling at all. She wanted more than anything to intervene. To ask these angry people what it was about these infected individuals that angered them so much. Yet none of them understood Sign. Fewer still would see past her own condition. One screaming person would see past her concealer, call her out for what she was, and probably end her worries where she stood with their bats and fists.
Collins walked on as fast as her cold feet took her to ensure she looked as normal as possible. She chose to walk passed trying to pretend she saw no violence, trying to hide from herself that she was the very object of their disdain.
It was not until she came up on the only coffee shop on campus that she even blinked, focusing on moving at a normal rate of speed of an uninfected person.
Lunchtime isn’t even over and already they were outside tormenting their pale prey.
Collins pointed out a small coffee cup to the petite barista and handed her a debit card. With coffee in hand, she found an empty seat at the back of the crowded shop.  It felt like no time at all passed before Miller swished over and sat across from Collins.
“Um,” he stumbled into Sign, “Where have you been? I have been worried sick, Helen.” Miller’s fingers darted around so fast her stunted eye moment hardly kept up with him.
“I’m okay,” she replied.
Hand to mouth, finger shaking at Collins’ pale hands, “You. You. You,” Miller stuttered out loud. She took one look at her hands. All this time, it never occurred to her to hide her pale hands. Suddenly her stomach twisted. Gloves. She needed gloves before she went back outside.
Miller was still stuttering the same word when Collins remembered where she was. She was never so glad to know Sign than in that loud coffee shop filled with normal people.
“Oh, my God, Helen. Are you OK? How do you feel? What’s it like? Who have you eaten? How did you get passed CAUZ? What are you going to do? Where are you going to stay? Are you gonna eat me?”
Collins watched with pity as Miller rambled out a million questions, some of concern, most out of pure curiosity but meaning no disrespect, for sure. She knew he was not that sort of person.
“I have not eaten anyone,” she Signed as fast as her cold hands let her. “And I am not going to eat you. Although I am getting hungry.” Miller snapped backward knocking the chair behind him but garnering no response from the person sitting there.
“I’m kidding.”
“But the reports. They say, um, the undead, well, um, you, have to eat flesh.”
“Lots of steak.” She tried to smile but the dried on concealer cemented to her face refused to allow it.
“You can’t be seen, Helen. People are scared. I am scared.”
“You said we could meet here.”
“You need some gloves. And maybe, um, a mask.”
From his coat pocket he pulled a ball of masks. A half used tissue fell to the floor.
“Here,” he said aloud, “You’ll want this when you leave here.”
Collins took a sip of her coffee. It tasted so bitter she set it aside.
“I just wanted to get out of that apartment. Talk to someone. Maybe I will go to the library, take out a few books.”
“Trust me, Helen,” Miller’s face reddened, his combover stood ruffled, “You are not safe here, or, um, anywhere.”
“Fine,” she gave in, “I won’t go to the library. I’ll go straight back and lock myself in that cage of mine. That’s all I am, right? An animal?”
“I do not think that at all,” his eyes welled, “But, um, others will hurt you. People are scared.”
“Are the reports true,” she asked as her Sign softened somewhat, “Is it true infected people have attacked other people?”
“What,” he asked, taken aback from the conversation switch, “Um, I do not know. I have not seen footage. I’m sure they would show it if footage existed.”
“I thought as much.” She leaned back in her chair, relieved.
“Please, Helen. Go home. Stay out of sight. At least until this blows over.”
“Spoken like a true soldier.” Collins did not know what possessed her to say something so biting but she felt no inclination to apologize. As caustic as it was, she meant it. Miller felt an urge to adjust his combover while his face darkened further, beads of sweat gathered. His hands shook. It looked like he wanted to say something but would not or could not.
Collecting her things, Collins said, “Spit it out before I go back to my cage.”
“I may not buck the system. But, um, you’re the one hiding behind that mask, Helen.”
Miller was correct. Neither of them wanted any trouble.
She hoped to shove Miller aside as she worked her way toward the exit, but he swished sideways to let her through. She passed unencumbered. Before she was a full arm’s length away, she spotted a flyer on the coffee shop wall. Collins tore it down with almost normal speed and turned to Miller.
“What is this,” she demanded.
He did not answer at first.
“Answer me, Chris.” Usually she tried not to use his Signed name but felt no pity today, just anger.
“It is, um…”
“Just say it.”
“There is a, um, city council meeting the end of the week.” When not Signing, he was wringing his hands fervently.
“But why?”
“Public outcry. They want government to stop spending money on well, um…”
“You know you want to say it. Undead? Zombies? Abominations?” If her face could change color it certainly would have done so even under that mask.
“No.” Tears flowed down his face. Already looking like a coy balding child, now he just looked pathetic. “I hate those terms. I just do not know what to call them, you, I mean it, or this.”
Her anger washed away by her friend’s sincere good nature. Collins’ body temperature may be significantly lower due to her infection but she still had a warm heart hidden somewhere underneath that blue-veined pale skin.
“I’m sorry.”
“Me too,” Miller wiped away tears between sniffles.
“Can anyone speak?”
“I assume so. It is a public meeting. Why?”
“And it is at six?”
“Yes. Why?”
“Saturday night? And today is what?”
“Um, Tuesday. Why do you keep asking?” Then like a light bulb popped in his eyes, “Wait. You are not considering? No.”
“You can’t.”
“I will.”
“You can’t even talk. And nobody on the Council speaks Sign. You know that.”
“But you do.”
The light bulb in Miller’s eyes went dim again.
“You’re going to translate. Hell, you’re on the damn Council!”
As Miller interjected, Collins waved at him, “See you there at six on Saturday.”
She walked toward the exit.
“Helen,” Miller yelled aloud. When she turned back, he pointed at his mouth, then back to her. Flustered she had yet another mask to wear, she swung back toward the door and stormed out.

In the campus courtyard, the same protesters stood with the same angry signs, but now there were more of them. What was once three had now become more than a dozen. She remembered who she was, tucked a tuft of hair behind her ear, ducked into her jacket collar, and buried her hands in her pockets. It was cold. Perhaps the protesters believed her ruse. Looking around, there were no pale bodies wandering around the courtyard. Her mind wandered to the beatings she witnessed previously. Had they rid the town of all of them?
Then she realized she that meant she was the only infected person in view. She doubled her pace to appear normal.
Please don’t notice me. Don’t see me. Just let me get home.
She did. For whatever reason, her ruse or their interest in seeking out more obvious prey, they left her alone. Locking her studio apartment door behind her, she dropped to the hardwood floor bursting into an uncontrollable flood of silent tears.