Showing posts from 2014

A short poem dedicated to my daughter in the womb


They say, in March,
my life will
be a tidal wave.

But, I don’t know
if they know
how tidal waves behave.

The water recedes from the shoreline,
laying bare the ghost of its silence,
showing us the upset coral of thousands of
stranded souls who never quite made it.

Then, off in the distance,
the penitent potentiality
rises up to the sky in prayer,
and hurtles itself,
with all abandon,
against the
rocks and muck and grime
as if shouting will never work the same way it had in the past.
Its hammer-fist renders the cliffs to melting metronomes,
the beach becomes an avalanche.
Floundering, staccato becomes the life,
and the line between earth and salt and water
is erased by the hands of an angry toddler,
who, incidentally, is crying to be held
only to be shushed by a spinning, lighted mobile
(the one with the soothing sound effects that
could never replace, nor should ever replace,
the beauty in the lullaby).
If there were people,
there aren’t now,
for they’ve cradled each other w…

Things I'm Learning

For those of you who don't know, I'm slated to be a father in a few short months, and I could quite possibly, if I weren't restrained, dance in the streets every day, shake hands and hug everyone I meet, and whistle myself into a silly little happy-pile. It's my hope that every father-to-be feels the same way when they hear their littles are on their way. I know that some aren't. So, here are some things that I've come to learn as this process continues.

1. Do the right thing. I love my wife, wildly, passionately, and with every fiber of my being. Mainly, it's because she's awesome. Secondarily, it's because we've been through a lot together, and the spark still sparks. We talk to each other. We make each other laugh. We learn from each other. I'm lucky. I want to be here. I know some of you guys out there approach pregnancy with a cross, holy water, strands of garlic, and a plague suit. That's actually how you should approach the reason …

Here's a short story cranked out today...


Three of them at "Oracles Den", a novelty, which made me feel uneasily like MacBeth. And here I thought they just left off the possessive apostrophe.

“Welcome,” said the ugly one with the mole.

“To,” said the one-eyed ugly one.

“Your,” said the last ugly one, the one with the hunched back.

“Futures,” they all said in unison.

Theresa, my girlfriend, stood there, mouth agape but smiling at the women (?). I couldn’t help but chuckle. I whispered under my breath to Theresa, “just don’t ask me to kill a king…” She responded by elbowing me in the side.

“Hello, ladies.” Theresa has always been fascinated with fortune readers. Last year at the carnival we stopped into no less than 10 different tents, each with the same archetypal psychics: flowing sleeves on patchwork dresses, stringy hair, wild eyes, voluptuous lips, missing teeth. I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to scoot on out of here.

They motioned for us to sit down; I took There…

An Aside

So, we (my wife and I) found out we are expecting a little bambino in March. I haven't said much about expecting a kid yet because I've been at a loss for words. So here goes nothing:

1) My wife is amazing. Brewing inside of her right now is a person, a person who will one day walk and talk, who will make friends and lose friends, who will have to make tough choices like whether or not to fall in love or stay home instead of walking the dogs. My wife is going through changes that would make me break down and cry. Daily. And yet, she smiles and laughs ...and is still ticklish. She's amazing.

2) I'm going to be a father, which I still can't wrap my head around. In 4 months, my child will be swaddled in my arms sleeping, pooping, eating, and then doing it all over again. I'm going to be pretending a spoon is an airplane. I'm going to be throwing a ball to expecting hands. I'm going to be giving the "birds and bees" conversation, yanking on the e…

She Never Used Words

A cinquain:


I’ve practiced
in the mirror
the looks that I had tried
to avoid growing up under
my mom.

-JR Simmang

Tell it to the Coal Miner's Daughter

This poem is a runner up in the Writer's Digest April Poem-a-Day challenge. The form is the Lai, the French puzzle. It drove me crazy the first time I wrote one.


Our winter
lands, hindered
tools splintered,
breath rendered
[Sic] Centered,
filled by her
-JR Simmang

Two By Two

Forewarning: this one's a little weird.


The third arm scratched my butt before I realized I had an itch, so I said thank you as if it were someone else. The fourth arm, the one sticking straight from my left nipple tipped over Roland’s water cup.

“Dude, watch out!” He lurched forward to catch the glass before it shattered on the ground.

“Sorry, man. Still trying to get used to this.” One arm out my nipple, the other out my back.

He looked up at me, his lip curling upward, his eyebrows cocked. “Bro, you are messed up.”

“Yeah. I know. Thanks.” The single wing sitting on top of my head flapped, downy raining down around my eyes. I inhaled a feather. “What the hell am I going to do with this? It could’ve sprung forth from my back, all majestic and shit, and instead an anemic chicken somewhere is flying around in circles.”

Roland burst out laughing. “Well…” he took a deep breath. “You’re going to have to drink it all.”

“Fuck you.”

“Do it.”


“DO it!”


“DO IT!”



The last in a line of sea monster themed stories... for now.

I saw her again on the tarmac, I tell myself again because no one is listening. Her blonde hair, her thighs, her elfin hands. Cypher sidles up next to me, and we’re off toward the SS Farborn.

The helicopter makes its touchdown on the helipad, located aft, 2.3 hours later. We are greeted by a man in bright orange coveralls. He introduces himself as Sgt. Maj. Raleigh.

“Come with me,” and he motions toward the cabin.

I follow behind and squint back over the horizon as the sun shudders. The quick solution for seasickness, they say.

Inside, Raleigh runs through the bells and whistles on the control panel. “This is the most advanced
SONAR surveillance system to date. It can penetrate depths of 20,000 leagues [insert gratuitous Nemo joke], and no surface is clear of echo.”

It sounds impressive.

“Captain. It’s back.”

He bows briefly to join the ensign at the readout. “The same blip?”

“Yes sir,” he says.

Portside, the ship rocks…

A Kracken to Call Our Own

A light-hearted piece:

Quanahoc Island. 2014. The water is murky, cloudy, dirty, no doubt the intention of some dastardly plan.

I am submerged, isolated. Yet, I am the only hope for the planet. My captain, and only compatriot, has gone AWOL. I cannot blame him.

Oh the humanity. HUMANITY!

The water begins to boil underneath me. All over, tiny whirlpools dip and drop beneath the surface. I feel as though I am a salad being tossed by the sea.

The first tentacles wrap up either side of the boat, and the line drops. Water seeps onto the prow.
“No!” I cry. “Save yourselves,” I beseech.

There is a tug again, and I resolve I must-

“Ellis? Did you just shout something?”

-fight back!

I grab the shipboard axe, take a deep breath, and leap over the side! With one hack, I send a tentacle into the deep. That’s when I get a look at its face. IT’S HUMAN!

I’m splashing all around me, my axe slamming into the tentacles as a moth does into a light bulb! And soon the water turns into a sludgy slime.


The Adventures of a Wayward Professor

This, I believe, has potential for development. Those of you who read, if you'd be so kind as to leave honest feedback.


After a restful night, it was wonderful to wake up to the sounds of lumber cracking and the screams of men. I gathered my notebook, knife, and collection tubes. I sleep in my clothes.

“Professor Richmond, I believe you are being summoned above decks!” shouted young Master Delvish.

“Good heavens,” I said as I wobbled my way up the narrow staircase. “He seems to be a little larger than how I read him.”

Water was pouring in through the doorway. “He’s certainly large!” My young protégé laughed as ocean brine soaked through his smart doublet and trousers.

On the deck, my men were scrambling to gather the ropes, harnesses, and nets.

“Where’s Captain Forsythe?”

Master at Arms Griffin cast a sideways glance at me (ever the stoic). “It appears the dear Captain has decided now was the appropriate time to learn how to do the front stroke.” He coc…

Day One, and the beginnings of something else

I've decided to try my hand at some sort of psychological horror. It's a genre that's entirely not in my comfort zone.


Mother said that our lives are messy homes. Sometimes, the doors to the rooms are locked. As we travel through the rooms, learn them, clean them, we find the keys to doors we knew were locked. They will open for us (but not until we’re ready), and on the other side we’ll find another dirty room that needs us to straighten them up.

I’m in the kitchen, the heartstone. Mother left clues for me. I found the key to the kitchen in the living room, under the broken brick in the fireplace. She said that’s where I first landed when I was learning to fly. I sat down in the middle of the floor, exhausted and perturbed. I had to think. Think. Think.
Then it hit me. The refrigerator magnets. I stood up almost too fast; the blood rushed from my head.
But I could see it there shining and perfect, and I plucked the key from the refrigerator door. This one would o…

Memory is a Fragile Thing, Part 3

Chapter 3: Sevastopol

The boat onto the shore of southern Ukraine. This skiff pilot and I have one thing in common: silence. I nod my head as I disembark and he passes me a parcel. I can only assume it’s my per diem and passports. He fades off into the ink once again, and I am stranded.

Sevastopol’s city lights clang off the low-lying clouds in the early morning. 0400. The hour of quixotic renege and only 28 minutes away. I feel my mind drifting into other parts of me.

I shake off this persistent nag and move my feet toward the city. The ground is mainly flat, affording me a steady pace. The earth is holding its breath, and the sound of the waves soon becomes a waning tingle at the back of my neck.


“Report: 07.23.13.


Rafe and Tomas,

Shred paperwork, 02114-02116.5″

“And that’s all it says?”

“That’s it.”

“So, we’ll have to can it.”

“It’s too late now, Tomas.”


“…He’s gone.”


There’s a small inn near the South Bay. That i…

Memory is a Fragile Thing, Part 2


The breeze is welcome, salted like caramel should be, and the sounds of Trebzon are absorbed into the walls of this hotel room. I lay back on the bed and let the perspiration pool on my forehead and
cool me. My fingers reach out and touch the twin Sigs on the nightstand. Suddenly, I’m furious.

I jolt upright, stand, and rush to the curtains. I rip them from the wall, and quickly I begin tearing at them, ripping them, shredding them with my hands, leaving strips of white muslin gathering into puddles on the floor.

I devolve into sobbing.

And it passes. I retreat back to the bed and reach out once more to my pistols. They are but bits of metal. Eventually, I realize they will return once again to the Earth.

In the corner of the room, the hinged box beckons.


“In his room.”

“So the procedure worked.”

“9 out of 10 times.”

“I don’t like those odds, Rafe.”

“You don’t have to. If he fails, he dies.”

“And we start over.”


I open the box, which is of recent design, metal, heav…

Things I Think at a Stop Sign

Left again,
my weary friend,
on the side of lonesome road. A pistol hand,
a horsefaced liar,
a liturgy too old, a saw-toothed swan,
rattlesnake limp,
and a cup that o'erflowed showed me to
a curbside preacher
who'd left for Abbey Road. And I, a chump,
a sinner and a man
looked him square
and said a prayer
while my soul condemned danced a while
to a child's school tune
all while the half-sun set.
I laid my bet
to the brilliant new moon; Exeunt actori, stage right!
into the deadened night! For this side of lonesome road
an echo is your friend, but
friends they lie and friends they fold.
Here, you're better off untold. -JR Simmang, 07/22/14

Memory is a Fragile Thing

This is part one in a series. It's a departure for me, since I've never written an espionage thriller before.

The mirror, attached to the wall, was smudged and bronzing, old, like a reliquary of the Mad Hatter’s. It was there I first saw my face. It was there where I found the wash basin and a couple Tylenol, and I was thankful for both. I swallowed the pills without water, washed my face, and sat back down on the cot. I was growing accustomed to this white-walled prison with it’s fancy door as if saying welcome to your purgatory but there’s no sense in whining about it.

My face looked oddly familiar; I’d seen it before, a thousand times before. It was the same face that made me laugh and cry, though my face did neither of those now. I crossed my legs on the cot, closed my eyes, and breathed deeply.


“Good morning, Rafe.”



“Doing fine. Adjusting.”


The clipboard with the date scrabble across the top in block letters passed hands. “The next one is sc…

Project Columbus

We've counted the stars. There are 186 billion, 233, million, 12 thousand, six-hundred one. Most have either died off in some galactic catastrophe, and it serves as a constant reminder that we, as humans, will also at some point diminish into a blue ball and implode.

I've been on The Santa Maria with an operating crew of thirty thousand, and a civilian population of roughly 120 thousand for roughly 23 Earthyears. We are a small, hydrogen-fusion powered, weightless city in between galaxies. In 2033, the year after I was born, our sun erupted a massive coronal ejection which stripped the atmosphere off my parent's planet. My parents were the terraengineers behind project Columbus, so when the sun blew the Earth the kiss of death, they used it to power our sails. Over the years, we've piloted ourselves out of The Milky Way and into the universe at large. My job is primary facilities management, which is fine. From what I understand, the plants need tending.

On Deck 18, we…


I'm on Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter. Guilty as charged. I toyed with the idea of removing myself completely from all social media, but all my friends with whom I don't see face to face on a daily/weekly/yearly basis reeled me back in. But, there are things posted on The Face that can't be unposted. There are thoughts and opinions, and angry swipes and pessimistic turmoil. And it got me thinking about things, which can be dangerous.

There's a new (perhaps it isn't new) trend that's floating around social media. It's the act of painting all people of one particular set of beliefs with the same brush. It's saying that since one conservative believes being gay is tantamount to murder, since one liberal out there believes that being pro-life is treachery of the highest degree, then all people of those beliefs must also feel the same way. Which is what brings me to my point. We have become too concerned with labels.

Conservative, Liberal, Libertarian…

Highlights of Atmosphere

Uttered wasteland,
a pile of garbage
tipping the
like mountain

perched on top
a pop of color,
vaguely in the shape
of a Boeing 707.
Once upon a time,
it found purchase on a desk,
perhaps the landing a little too rough,
and was handed to a fist;
sent to the end of the world
with only one passenger.
-JR Simmang

Because the Beat Generation has Changed

who began their days with their feet to the fire and lept to the skies without anything but their shirts and their jeans
who left the morning light in favor of the bright fluorescent scathing rabies of ceiling tile torture
that left their skin molting like little caverns and cages
who stuck out their chest, emaciated and prolonged, only to beat the breath from their lungs and be so
goddamned proud that their children were going to be less emaciated and perhaps even one day find their stupid little trinkets and give them up to charity
who deftly defied the 9 to 5 when they really worked the 6 to 10 and only after the humdrum blue glow of that soul-devouring seraphim tripped a circuit breaker did they finally pour themselves a drop of scotch to stave off the hunger
who let themselves stay hungry so that others could eat, never realizing that if they dried up and withered the fruit they bore wouldn’t be as sweet,
who toiled their fingers and twirled their tongues and held signs and c…


It’s as if we’ve forgotten
what it was like
to built a fire together,
to gather
around the heat and
let the stories spill from our hearts
and impart
the wisdom of our ghosts
to the ones who needed it most.

It was in that first flame
we became the same,
for the fire melted our admonition
and left behind the admiration
of the story in the flame.

The heat was wondrous,
and its divine surplus
filled up through the woods
just like the words
of our fathers.

We listened then,
and when
the fire demanded
we were commanded.
We hoisted the piles
and smiled our smiles
as we carried the wood
to the flame.

Yea, as time flew on,
we saw the dawn.
The sun brought a new age
of impotent rage.
This fire we shared
couldn’t be compared
to the brilliance of the sun.

How then, when the moon
brings all too soon
the biting cold,
and winter too bold,
will we sing our tune?
The sun will return,
perhaps that will spurn
on our blessings,
clothe us in new dressings
(when will we learn?).

So the flame dies down now,


-An Abecedarian

Able-bodied and
blushing amid
concentrated masses of
desiccated corpses
emulating the
flocks of
golden eagles that wend and whinny through
haunted houses,
impotent rage silently
jousts against the
kinesthetic sphere.

Lock-step and
one seems to notice the
pressure rising
quickly against our
sides. Our
transition from
ubiquity to
violently reviled has been
welcomed by the
xenophobic sitters.
Yet, we have faltered, shrunk, and our
Zittau has become our zero.

It's all in your Head

Don't Forget it's All in Your Head
is all he said to me as he wrapped his arm around my mouth. Brothers, right?
I remember a time when I stood over him, he in my shadow, and cradled his dreams in my hands.
I remember that his first words were bubba hold. Of course, he said that when he was hungry too.
I remember his first skinned knee and the first time he climbed to the lowest branch of our
That oak. Two stories tall and swaying with the breeze. That's how we knew there was a wind storm,
the oak would shiver and shake only when there was a wind storm as if saying it wasn't afraid of anything else. My brother took the challenge when he could barely pronounce the word bravery, courage, and followed me up to the highest branches.
He smiled when he made it to the lowest hanging ones, his teeth visible behind the family lips, while I strove to make it to the top-most branches. He didn't fall. He just sat there, staring up at me until I reached the top.
I r…

Concessions of a Blind Man

We lost our father.
As he laid in his smoke-filled coffin
with hand-crafted nails,
my mother hugged me close.

My brother was still in wonder of death.
He couldn’t figure out how dad could
hold his breath for so long.
He tried and passed out.
At least he was quiet on the ride home.

I learned how to cook eggs first.
Then meatloaf,
then pizza
and fish
and soups.

I learned how to tie shoes,
and drive,
and drop off
watery-eyed little men
in little suits,
and kiss goodbye,
and be proud like a good father.

I learned how to fight
and slam doors,
and drink too much,
and rely on black coffee.

I learned that my brother
knew that I was always going
to be older than him,

I suppose

that meant I would
always be wise…
I learned what it meant to
truly cry,
and know that I would
never live up to his
greatest expectations.

And as I sat back, wishing it all
to go to hell,
I remembered that,
when I cradled his head
in my lap
and felt him fall asleep,
we were both still children.

-JR Simmang

Creativity, and the Pursuit of Happiness

I don't know when the change happened. Seriously.

It used to be that people would work, and they would do so without constant carping or waging war on their bosses. People would travel miles underground in soot and filth, emerge completely covered in charcoal, go home and sleep, and wake up the next day to do it all over again.

Were they happy? Sure. But, was this happiness a result of comfortable complacency, or did people truly, honestly love their livelihood? It seems to me that people in those old, iconic photographs are smiling most often when they are engaged in their lives. They laugh when they have been completely and utterly submerged in the company of creativity. Sorry for the alliteration.

Creativity is a sticky wicket. We have a tendency to look at solutions to major problems and say, "my that was a creative solution. Howsoever did you concoct such a unique answer?" We also will look at a painting and say to ourselves (because it's bad form to speak in …

Back in the Swing of Things

It's the new year.
... a few days late...

So, let's get this thang crankin'.

I've recently found myself sitting in the classroom, watching my students plug away at what can only be described at mathematical interpretive dance, and staring out the windows. That's right, folks. Windows, as in more than one, as in "I've cycled through my first window, time to move on to the next one." And it hits me.

The next afternoon, we had a staff meeting. My principal talked to us about responsibility because our center is holding hands with the other centers and we're all just swimming around in the bottom of the barrel. He tells us that it's time we take responsibility for our test scores. And all the while I sat there thinking, when was the last time I took a test?

Answer: about five years ago when I certified as a teacher.

The test he was referring to is the TABE exam. It's basically a test for adult students. And, apparently, our center doesn'…