©2021 Michael Raven

into the earth
fissures and crevasse creep
slender, thin and lean
pushing to the heart
throbbing in a dark
deeper than any night
i heartsong sing
rhythm throng hum
with every living beat




can you hear your mother?

Not into the gross out

It’s strange how most things really just don’t creep me out that much. I mean, I was unable to eat and almost barfed up my lunch when I utilized my first responder skills at a major car accident in the early ought’s, but it wasn’t until after the ambulance carried the young lady away with her caved in forehead. Shakes and shudders and vomit was on my mind after she was gone.

Nor was I all to happy (at first) helping with fingerprinting a dead man who had blown his brains out helping out for the crime lab when I was training to be a CSI. His girlfriend’s prints were on the weapon too, and they needed to see if they could make sure her story held water when she said she just moved the gun after she found him (turns out she was telling the truth). It was strange, even in the controlled environment of the morgue, holding a guy’s hand to stretch out the skin to get a decent fingerprint, all the while trying not to look at the bag they had scooped everything into from above the neck, or the remains of the autopsy from the neck down. But, oddly, I got used to it after a few deep breaths. Just a body. Not even a person anymore. Sounds crass, but that’s how I processed the information at the time.

I get the willies with bugs. Man, I can go a long time without dealing with bugs. And I’m not a big fan of blood when it comes to the living and it leaking out of them. And you won’t catch me swimming in deep water (levitation-horrors, I suppose).

But not much else. Gross out is not creepy, just… gross.

So, that’s what came to mind as I rewatched the first season of Black Summer the past few days. Not even grossed out, really, although I still found the zombie’s persistence and mobility awe-inspiring after years of shambling horrors that are easily distracted. “Huh, I’m still not creeped out.”

I’ll watch the second season tonight (or part of it, rather). The impression I’ve gotten from social media is that the horror might come from me not having the engagement to finish the second season, rather than any horrors depicted in the show. Which is too bad — I like me some good jump-scares. Not that most films or shows can manage to elicit jumps out of me, but hope springs eternal.

What I really like are films/shows that create a sense of real dread. Unfortunately, I can’t think of the last time that threatened to happen. Too many shows rely on the gross out to create horror and, as the master himself describe the hierarchy of horror:

“I recognize terror as the finest emotion, and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find I cannot terrify him/her, I will try to horrify; and if I find I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.”

Stephen King

Too many shows, movies and even books resort to cheap gross-out and call it horror. That was the problem with The Walking Dead, especially after a certain point — everything became “torture porn” and zombies slowly rending flesh or pulling out intestines. That’s not terrifying. It’s just gross and, frankly, mind-numbingly boring. That’s why I don’t “get” the splatterpunk novels out there. Anyone can ketchup-spray a room in a book or get deeply into describing the popping sound an eyeball makes as it gets exposed to a hot iron during a torture sequence. Not terrifying in the least.

What I liked about the first season of Black Summer was not so much the hint that something bad might happen at any moment (which they tried hard to cultivate, but by using old tricks), but that they didn’t resort to the typical gross-out effects. The most gross thing was a few chunks of coughed up mucus mixed with blood and the suggestion that chomping was occurring. But even the eating of formerly alive subjects was not the point — the point was for the infection to spread, so once the victim was dead, the show didn’t linger on the idea of someone slowly pulling out entrails to munch on them, but the zombie went off to spread the joy to another victim right away.

Was it the best show I’ve seen on zombies? Nah, that praise is still held onto by Return of the Living Dead, mostly because they didn’t even try to take themselves serious and just had a fun time. Not scary at all, pure campiness.

But kinda gross in places.

Dark that night.

©2021 Michael Raven

Dark that night, down by the river, I wandered — listless, the insomniac, the waking somnambulist. The moon, a pregnant rabbit giving birth to the stars pouring out over the sky scattershot white vomit and winking; that moon filled all the grey spaces with ghosts and pale reflections of verdant colors thrusting themselves from the earth in patches and bursts.

I wandered, as I said, the light catching everything sidewise and specter. They should have been weeds — I told myself they must be weeds — but the wrong it prevailed, rippling in rhythm with the everchanging flow of the river, whip-snapping with the current, was her hair, a phantasm of pale ribbon in the flux-tugging pull of change.

I might have screamed, but I don’t recall doing so. It is hard to scream with lips sutured shut.

Pushing back the rushes, the cattails and bramble, I captured her porcelain pale face mirroring the moon, photographing with the flicker-shutter of my eyes spying. clickclick. My hands reached out, down there my the river, to take her hand in mine, draw her forth like water from the water on the river water song, but my actions with the foliage freed her from her moorings and that jezebel rusalka drifted away, flowing over lodged branches, those makeshift arbitrary dams found in all rivers, poured over stones and eddies, flowing downstream.

I waved goodbye, watching until she was lost to sight before turning to trails meandering through the night.

Dark that night, down by the river, I wandered — listless, the insomniac, the waking somnambulist.


©2021 Michael Raven

don't ply me with
words like "love"

use "want":
it is just as fleeting
and honest about 
the matter

Not that I have to worry overmuch about this subject, but this thought occurred to me during a bout with insomnia and so… I might as well spew my cynical ponderings to the interwebz.

Reoccurring rags

I have certain reoccurring visions… visualizations… whatever — that visit me in dreams and when I’m staring off into space (maybe eyes open, maybe closed) while daydreaming. They seem important, although I couldn’t say why.

Regardless, rags/ is one of those themes that keeps entering my psyche. An alpine trail, sometimes snow drifts across the trail and fills up the space; other times, it is a summer or spring meadow amongst the crags as the trail meanders, switchback, up the slopes to the inevitable pass. There are clutches of trees scattered across the mountains-scape, huddled together like scrawny sentinels against the winds.

The wind is dominating in these images, whether brisk or gentle. Trees sway and rustle, or they stand still while the snow skitters or the meadow grasses for waves of yellow and green, caressing the granite.

And, marking the path, there are always stone cairns or stout sticks emblazoned with scarlet red (and sun-washed) strips of cloth — shifting in the breeze or making snapping noises in the gusts. This is the strongest, most important, image I cling to when I move on with my life: Red flags on staves or stones, playing in the wind.

I’m always walking the trail marked out by these flags, although I never seem to be in motion. I receive these as snapshot images, nothing more — maybe taking a breath as I watch the flags move in the wind and survey the landscape before resuming my journey along the trail.

Or rare occasions, I envision myself in a denser bit of woods with pine needles littering the dirt path wending between the thick trunks. The cairns, flags and wind are there as well and the fluttering of the rags is muted behind the wall of trees, but they still move with the wind that manages to make it through.

I have no clue what my brain — or whatever — is trying to tell me. It reminds me a bit of my trek through the Beartooth Mountains in the 90s, except there were no switchbacks, just a steady upward path along the Stillwater River (there is no river in what I dream), nor were there cairns and flags in that reality. And I would have liked a bit of wind on that trip, as it was blazing hot during the day (albeit freezing each night). In reality, the similarities actually end with the backdrop of the mountains and there was no real mirroring of the images I am enthralled by.

All the same, I can feel these images drawing me to them, calling like ghosts from the past. I’d travel that trail if I knew where it was.