Season Eight, Episode Two: 305

air heavy with moisture
charcoals clouds smudged against an azure sky—

palm fronds like fingers,
reaching towards the heavens
clawing their way towards the hidden sun

technicolor grass
verde blades sprinkled with water droplets
lazy iguanas warming their bellies on the rapidly drying concrete—

thunder threatens low in the distance,
menacing grumbles carried lightly on the damp wind—

a woman in a floral kimono hurries across the lawn
trying to beat the storm,
the sage talons successful at raking into the cumulonimbus
as a torrent of rain tumbles to the earth.


Season Eight, Episode One: Robin’s Egg Blue

walking home this morning i found a robin’s egg, pale and blue in a crevice on the cracked sidewalk.

it was slightly chipped on the side and cold to the touch,

other bits of broken shell and smudges of yellow yolk were smeared across the gray concrete,

a miniature crime scene leftover from when the orange tabby nick and i saw on the way to school was slinking around the tree in question.

the tree.

i looked up into the bare branches, hoping to find a nest to put the tiny egg back into and finding nothing.

the tabby must’ve knocked it from the tree and the mother bird would never try to look for her lost babies, she would just simply lay more and incubate until they hatched, little purple and pink skinned veiny babies, life still perilous for them until they grew feathers and could fly away.

i turned my attention back to the egg that rested in my palm, now warm from my own body heat.

the part of me that will forever be nine suggested that we could incubate the egg ourselves and the baby could still be born.

the adult part of me replied that incubation would be impossible and even if the egg hatched, caring for a newborn chick would be equally impossible.

we should let it go and leave it for nature.

leave it for nature.

i look back at the egg in my hand, my fingers curled around it to protect it from falling and i marvel at how beautiful something so tiny could be and i can’t bring myself to drop it in the grass where i know it will be smashed and destroyed, yet i could find no nests on the walk back to my house.

so i sit, with a tiny kernel of possibilities in my palm, mourning for just a moment the life inside that will never be.

—“the circle of life”

Season Seven, Episode Three: Fractals

I give so much of me up
To those who don’t deserve it
(So much kindness to ones
Who end up selfish and shitty)
Knowing that they won’t change.
Yet I continue breaking off little bits of myself,
Handing off the smallest slivers,
Trying to fix their problems,
Agonizing over things I cannot control,
Hoping that one day
Someone will appreciate me

Instead of using me up.


Season Seven, Episode Two: Benediction


–growing up, sundays were for family
that’s what dad always said–

mom woke us up early
took us to church, where we sat on the kneelers and listened to father mcgonegal,
his big booming voice talking about god and jesus and how we should be better human beings 
i used to sit on the padded kneelers and draw on the back of the sunday bulletin with a pen my mom had buried at the bottom of her purse
careful not to press too hard on the paper because i was afraid if i accidentally wrote on the wooden bench of the pew
god would somehow know and be disappointed in me.
(i was too young to be pissing off omnipotent deities)
not really paying attention to the broadway musical of the liturgy of the eucharist going on behind me
this is the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, do this in memory of me

–years later i would sneak away during mass to the cvs across the street, losing myself among the lip glosses and single slabs of eyeshadows that i’d sometimes fantasize about slipping in my pocket 
because dad would forget to give me my allowance and i was afraid to remind him
always making my way back to church just in time for communion–

sundays were for family

back at home
mom would make bacon and eggs and pancakes
grits for dad, he loved to put half a block of cheddar cheese in them
dad’s breakfast was first, especially if he had drank his first breakfast before we came back from mass
if mom didn’t take care of dad first, there would be screaming and yelling 
and sometimes dad’s fist would find mom’s cheekbone
then she would cry,
saltwater mixed with bacon grease, 
a brunch version of christ’s baptism

sundays were for family

if my friends called, i would have to quickly talk and then hang up the phone 
because the lord’s day wasn’t for the things i could do on saturday
and lashawn you are always on that phone a bit too much, always running your mouth about some nonsense 
why don’t you come over here so i can show you what tonight’s pick three is gonna be
i dreamed about your great uncle again, that means death, 769 is gonna come out or maybe his birthday, 214
where the fuck is your mother, i bet she’s sitting in the kitchen reading some damn book again 
when i was your age i had to sit and read the bible on sunday afternoon or else i’d get the switch 
i would sit there and half listen, watching him spend my allowance on state licensed and operated number running
i wasn’t quite sure gambling was part of the lord’s day

sundays were for family 

hop the top for twenty, horn high aces for five 
doesn’t anyone here spend time with their family, it’s sunday
hands throwing twenties into the center of the table,
dice hitting the back wall and landing on 7
that final stanza of the biblical sabbath,
off-broadway but juliet still always dies
cleaning up the cheques just to set them up again
father mcgonegal sermonizes no more,
his pastorage taken because he got high on pig tranquilizers and asked a park ranger for a quickie 
go in peace to love and serve the lord



Season Seven, Episode One: Ghosted

I thought that I’d miss you 
once you’d inevitably leave
but here I am
and there you’ve gone

and I don’t miss you
not one bit
I’ve stopped crying over ghosts.


                   –“Untitled”, 03/24/2018

Season Six, Episode Three: A Shout Into The Void


Hey kid.  Shit, I can’t believe it’s been one year already—seems like it was just yesterday that Courtney messaged me on Facebook to tell me that you had died.  It seems like just yesterday that I screamed in the darkness of my bedroom when I read that message, not caring if my neighbor heard me, my mind not even comprehending that you were dead.

Dead.  You weren’t supposed to die, Z.  We all prayed and begged the heavens that you would wake up, that we would get to see that goofy grin and hear you say “yooooo what’s good, why y’all look so sad…I’m okay”.  That we would get to show you the pictures we took at the benefit held in your honor, tell you how worried we had been and how relieved we were that you made it, even if your brain and body needed some work.  But you didn’t wake up.  You died in some hospital bed in Metro because your body had just been through too much.  You weren’t supposed to die, Z.  You just weren’t.

I remember calling Reggie and Rico, texting Mike…not really being able to see my phone screen because I was crying so hard I was hyperventilating.  I’m not a crier and yet I cried more tears that day than I think I have in my entire lifetime—so many tears that I had to throw my contacts away that night because they were so full of salt.  Lydia came and sat with me on my porch while I cried and insisted that you weren’t supposed to die because you were Zach.  You were so young and bubbly and kind and so full of life and you honestly were the last person I ever would have expected to say goodbye to in a funeral home.  Even though I don’t want to, I can still see you in that casket, bow ties at your feet (because there really was no better way to pay tribute), hat on your head…I remember staring at your face, covered in that makeup that fails so badly at making a cadaver look lifelike, trying to find something that was you…I was in shock and denial and told myself there was no way that was you lying there.  I remember looking at your hands and for some reason that triggered the switch inside me that said yes, this is Zach.  I remember rushing past everyone to go outside and compose myself because I didn’t want to cry in front of everyone in that funeral home, but I cried anyway when I was back in that room, tears running down my face as I stood next to Maria and watched the video of you through your entire life.  I remember thinking how unfair it was to have to say goodbye to you, how unfair that we were all so broken, how unfair that you were gone.

It’s still unfair.  I lost my best friend.  Your friends miss you, and your family aches for you.  Your kids are doing well, your mother posts pics of them often on Facebook.  I bought them presents for their birthday and so many of us bought them things for their first Christmas without you.  I guess it’s a blessing and a curse that they were too young to understand what was going on, and too young to have really made tangible memories with you…it makes the loss easier and harder at the same time.  They really are the cutest kids—your daughter is a beautiful little girl and your son has your personality from what I saw at the dinner after the funeral and from what your mom shares on social media.  I try to check in on your mom every now and then, I know it’s what you would have done if roles were reversed in this situation.  She’s such a strong woman and I see that you got a lot of who you were from her.  You would be proud of her strength.

It’s been a hard year for me, and you dying was the first in the series of deaths I had to face—but you know that, because if there is some sort of an afterlife you are there with my dad and grandpa.  I hope that you are keeping my dad company because I know he misses me and you two would get along so well.  It was very hard to lose my dad and to not have you here to comfort me and to keep my mind busy, but you would have been happy to see that I kept it together and pushed through.  I never realized how hard it would be to not have you here—other friends have stepped up, but it doesn’t fill the void completely.

I miss you.  So much.  It’s insane how often I forget you are gone and I find myself wanting to text you about the stupidest, most random things.  I wish I could call you and sit on my floor and just talk to you—you had a way of being deep and inspiring one minute, and then silly and ridiculous the next.  I miss you coming over and hanging out on my porch with me and just bullshitting while you sit on the steps and smoke your Black and Mild.  I miss how you used to hide behind things and then jump out and scare me, and how hard you would laugh because you thought it was hilarious.  I miss walking out of the craps pit with you, arm in arm, laughing and carrying on like we did when we still worked together, making fun of you on break when you still had that old ass phone that you had before your iPhone, and hanging out with you when we would all go to the club.  I find myself scrolling through our old texts, looking at photos, laughing at goofy videos I have of you, and just reminiscing with everyone.  Your death has left such a hole in our circle of friends—Craig and Daesha moved to Las Vegas, I barely speak to a few in the group, and we aren’t as close as we all used to be.  I haven’t stepped foot in a nightclub since you died, and I haven’t gone Downtown to party since last June.  It just doesn’t feel right.

I wish I could tell you that your family got justice in your death, but they really didn’t.  The two men who killed you were sentenced to eight years in prison, and that doesn’t seem like nearly enough.  Your life was worth so much more.  You were truly a one-of-a-kind person who made an impression on everyone you met, and you were destined for great things that never came into fruition because you accidentally bumped into someone in a club.  Yet again, I’ll say that wasn’t fair.  So many things about your death were not fair.

I think about you all the time, I’m sure all your friends do.  It stormed last night and I got this impulse to run in my backyard and play in the rain, and I decided that if there is some sort of a heaven I hope that you get to look down at us and see moments like that and smile.  I hope you check in on all of us, that you have peace where you are, and that you are as happy as you can be without being on earth with us.  I hope that you are wearing those skinny corduroy pants that you loved (cuffed at the ankles, of course), some Converses, that Army jacket you sweet-talked that lady at Chelsea’s into selling you, and your NY Jets cap, because no one could wear any of that like you.  We all teased you, but you wore your unique style so well.  You were a special individual that we were all so lucky to know, kid.  I hope you knew that.  I hope you knew that you made a difference in the world, and it’s hard for someone to do that–you managed to make such a positive impact on so many people in your short lifetime, and it breaks my heart that we will never get to see what you could have done had you lived.

I don’t think we truly knew how blessed we were to know you until you were gone.

I’m gonna wrap this up the best I can, I could probably go on, but I don’t have an eternity like you do!  Keep watching over us, and we will keep trying to make your memory live on.

I love you, Boo Bear.  Always will.




Season Six, Episode One: Daddy’s Girl

“you’re so strong”, they say

as if I had a choice

as if there was any alternative.

you taught me to be strong,

and you were the strongest man I know.

you were my first best friend,

my truest friend

you got me when no one else did

a perk I guess of sharing some of the same DNA

you taught me how to properly dunk mini donuts into a glass of milk

tried to teach me to play the keyboard, 

but I was too impatient to learn.

you taught me to be gracious

told me that I was capable of the world and so much more

I learned to appreciate sports from you

learned to carry an intelligent conversation

how to make people laugh.

I inherited your stubbornness

the tendency to work too much.

I’m certain that my love of true crime came from you 

and I will miss watching our “murder mysteries” together 

because of you I’ve never felt short,

even though I’m the tiniest person in the family

confident in every step I take, head up because your daughter would never, could never, won’t ever walk with her head bowed down

you passed on your fierce pride,

along with your quick and ferocious temper

I think of you constantly, 

pushing my sadness aside because it does not bode well to dwell on tragedy

I hope to make you proud one day, if the human soul exists

if your human soul is somewhere out there

I hope that wherever you are, you smile and say 

“you see that strong and accomplished woman? that’s my baby girl, my Caker Boo.”
I love you, Dad.

                    –“Sunday, November 13, 2016 @ 7:28 pm”

George Chillious, 04/26/1944-11/13/2016

Season Five, Episode Five: Pretty Fair for a Square


A serial number of a life. Numbers that tell a simple, yet complex story. 01091987—the beginning of a life. 08052016—the end. It fails to tell you the life lived between those jumbles, the memories made and accomplishments achieved, the lives touched by the person who was the sum of those 16 digits. A person who was so much more than those 16 digits, whose hopes and dreams couldn’t even begin to fit in that numerical sequence.

A person I was lucky to have as a friend.

On August 5th, 2016 at 1:41 am Zachary Larney breathed his last breath after being in a coma for 10 days and left behind two children, his mother, and two brothers. He was only 29, so full of youth and promise. I’ve never met a person who was so full of joy and laughter, so motivational, so silly. I wish that the two men who ended his life could have known Zach; perhaps they would have hesitated in beating him essentially to death in a senseless act of violence outside a nightclub in downtown Cleveland. They would have brushed off whatever happened inside Rumor and would have walked off in the opposite direction…Zach would still be alive. We would have never known what it looked like to see Zach unconscious, hooked up to a ventilator, dried blood on his forehead. We would have never seen what ultimately was our last living image of Zach, inside a special bed that was meant to keep him alive while he fought bravely against brain swelling and ARDS. We would have never had to deal with this unbearable pain of losing a person we loved. We wouldn’t have to watch his amazingly strong mother forgive the men who killed her son or watch her grieve the death of her oldest child.

I keep thinking of the pebble in the pond—we all have heard of it, where a single pebble thrown into a pond causes ripples that go out far beyond just where the pebble broke the water’s surface. We are taught that analogy to learn that one action can have tremendous effects outside of just the initial moment. In that case, with regards to that analogy…murder must be a boulder thrown into that metaphorical pond. The aftermath of such an event is violent and far-reaching. I’d liken it to a tsunami, perhaps. Devastating and all-consuming.

I don’t want to spend this entire post talking about the events that ended one of my best friend’s lives, but it must be touched upon because it needs to be touched upon. The ten days leading up to Zach’s death were torture—you couldn’t help but feel helpless reading the updates his mother Debra posted about his status in the hospital. His injuries were so severe that they placed him into a medically induced coma. I woke up to messages that Monday morning asking me about what happened and one of my friends told me to go to his Facebook page, where his mother had informed us that Zach was in a coma and to please pray for him. So pray we did. We prayed for ten long days, begging and bargaining with whatever deity would listen to please let Zach wake up, to please let him live, to please keep him here with us. We held our breath for the first few days, waiting for some kind of positive news, and we did receive some—his vitals were stable, things seemed okay, Saturday would bring an assessment. We prayed that meant that Zach would be brought out of his coma. We all worried when we saw the update the next day informing us that things had gotten worse during the night and that they had to perform emergency surgery to try to relieve the pressure on his still swelling brain. We told ourselves it would be okay, that the partial removal of skull meant that the brain would swell and then go back down and it would delay him waking up for a few days. He was Zach, he was a fighter, he had this. No worries. We breathed a sigh of relief when he became stable again, when his mother posted that even though he was still hooked up to a ventilator, the initial scan on his brain from the night of the attack showed that things looked okay and he would make an eventual full recovery long term. We were nervous because he was still in the coma, but things sounded okay.

Okay seemed to be like a balm for us. It soothed our worries, it gave us something to hold on to. It kept us from panicking every time one of Zach’s positive steps forward led to three gigantic steps back. He would be okay. Okay. Even when she posted that there was fluid in his lungs, we said he would be okay. When he had to have another emergency surgery to drain the fluid because his oxygen levels were low, we said he would be okay. The tubes they put in his lungs meant that he would be okay. Everything would be okay. Okay okay okay okay.

August 3rd a benefit called A Night For Zach was held at a local bar for Zach, to help with his ballooning medical costs and just money to help him financially until he was able to go to work. Debra had set up a GoFundMe campaign for Zach that had been absolutely tremendous—the initial goal of $5000 was met in hours. The goal was then raised to $15,000 and was met in a few days. We were willing to do anything to help, because we all knew that Zach would do the same for us if we needed it. So we all met up at Harry Buffalo in Lakewood and we celebrated our friend that we just knew would wake up and love to hear all the stories of the love and the friendship that we had for him. We took photos, we donated money, we came together. We saw a post on Zach’s page telling us that his lungs were not functioning the way they should and that oxygen was not getting into them…that due to his TBI, they couldn’t perform surgery, and short of a miracle, there was nothing else that could be done. The finality of that post put a crack in our iron-clad okay—this was the first time that we had to acknowledge that maybe Zach wouldn’t be okay. So we prayed, and prayed, and begged whomever would listen for a miracle. Thursday the 4th greeted us with the picture of Zach in what appeared to be a modern-day take on the iron lung—it was a special bed that would hopefully allow his lungs to heal. The bed had gotten him through the night. Hope sprang eternal again, and we patched up our slightly damaged okay. Things would get better, because Zach couldn’t not make it. We had never considered the option.

But that was the option that happened. August 5th, 2016 at 1:41 am Zachary Larney breathed his last breath after being in a coma for 10 days and left behind two children, his mother, and two brothers. The Plain Dealer, the city’s local newspaper, states that he is the 62nd homicide in Cleveland for 2016. But Zach is so much more than a crime statistic. He is so much more than #62 on some depressing list. He was an amazing person. My Facebook newsfeed is a testament to how wonderful of a human being he was—8 out of every 10 posts is about Zach. He was full of love. He adored his two children, ages 2 and 3, and it showed in the videos he posted to Snapchat and Facebook. Those videos make me cry now, because the world has lost that love and his children will grow up without their father. He literally lit up the room with his personality. His life, and his death, made such an impact on so many people…it is amazing to go to his Facebook page and just see the mixture of pain and sadness and disbelief…and LOVE. So much love. Very fitting for a man who was so full of love and positivity.

I used to tease him that he could never just stand there and smile for a normal photo—he was always making some crazy face or doing something silly. Thinking about it now, it was because he had so much joy inside of him and he couldn’t keep it to himself. He made anyone feel like a friend, he had such a vibrant way of life. He was well-spoken and intelligent, a man with unshakeable faith in the Lord—I remember how he would sometimes go in the locker rooms on his breaks when he worked with me at the casino and read the Bible. He had such a bright outlook on things. He loved to make people laugh. He was there for me whenever I needed him. He was my person, and I loved him like a little brother. It’s hard to put our friendship into words, but we just connected and it’s a friendship I will treasure for the rest of my life. I believe that anyone who knew Zach feels that way. I feel blessed for having him as a friend.

I think about the memories I have of him, and even though my heart is broken and I miss him so badly, the memories make me smile. I’ll always remember us going on break together, arm in arm, like we always did, laughing like we always did…him knocking on my front door and then hiding around the corner of my porch, jumping out and scaring me and laughing so hard…him listening to me cry about my dad’s cancer when it came back again, and the joy of telling him just a few weeks ago that it was gone once more. I’ll always remember him teaching my son a handshake that they would use when he would come over, the way he knew how to make you feel like you were capable of doing anything if you put your mind to it…we had planned on making time to see each other soon, we had spoken on the phone and texted in the week and a half before the assault, and he told me “Shawnster, I have plans this upcoming weekend but hit me up on Monday and we will make plans to see each other soon, I miss you”. Monday came, and Monday went, and I never spoke to him again. We lost a beautiful soul to a senseless and random act of violence, and Zach’s death is a hole that we will never be able to fill.


A serial number of a life. The dates that tell the beginning of a life…and tell of an abrupt end.  Numbers that tell a simple, yet complex story. Yet it’s the life behind those numbers that words will never properly bring to justice. The world was blessed to have Zach in it for 29 years…I only wish I could have seen what 60 more years of Zach living on it would have been. I love you, Boo Bear.

“…’So hard to die.’ I don’t doubt that it is, but it cannot be much harder than being left behind.”—John Green, Looking for Alaska

Zach’s GoFundMe is currently at $23,144 and is being used for his funeral costs, medical bills, and his two children.  Please visit the link below and donate if possible.  Thank you.

Season Five, Episode Four:  Un Peu de Prose Contre

I’m that unconventional kind of pretty, I suppose
If one were to try to define one’s features and retain modesty.
Sometimes I think I’m cute, other times I hate my reflection
I constantly feel too big for such a small person
A walking contradiction
Unsteady yet confident,
The girl who doubts herself in a room full of women
Who feels most like herself in jeans and a tee shirt,
At her best with just lip balm, mascara, and a smile.
I stumble over nothing when I walk,
Clumsy but certain.
Athletic grace has not once entertained me
Just look at my ankles as proof.
I stay up all night and wake up early,
Partly because life is so damn short
But mostly because I’m afraid to miss all the things the Muses have to offer.
I wear my hair up almost at all times
Because life has to be lived and I don’t need hair in my eyes.
I say things over and over in my head,
Because I worry that I’ll trip them up once I say them aloud
And I usually do,
Words have a way of getting stuck in my teeth like caramel popcorn.
I suck at guys, and am perpetually single.
The real world Liz Lemon.
I chew on the edges of my nails when I’m worried,
I make jokes to cover up my nervousness and thin skin
Because I’m a tough girl on the outside,
Who will never let them see how deep they cut her
And who keeps her insecurities inside.
She is braver than she realizes
And stronger than she believes.
Lazy but a dreamer
I’m a mom and a person,
A badass and a debutante,
Indie but mainstream,
Naive but jaded.
I might stumble but I’m never completely down
My glass is eternally half full.

–“autobiographie”, 07/01/2016

Season Five, Episode Three: 32/26/49

I will never forget

One of the most terrifying moments

In my life thus far


The night is forever etched in my mind

I was seventeen

I still believed I was invincible

Because when you’re that young,

You’re convinced that you will live forever


I was at work

We were getting ready to close up

I was in the dining room of the Burger King

Checking the garbage cans


And there were two of them

Two males

One in a gray hoodie, his face covered with something

I think maybe nylons, I can’t remember exactly

The other is a blur in my memory


They opened the door

And stepped into the vestibule

I remember seeing a glint of silver

And time both slowed down and sped up

I remember thinking “gun”

How crazy is it that I just knew

Instinctively I just knew


And the door flew open

Everything froze but raced forward

I wish I could say that I was brave in that moment

I wasn’t

I was so so scared


The one in the hoodie, whose face I couldn’t see

He pointed his gun in my face

I remember that I was shaking

And all I said was “please”

Because I was seventeen

And I didn’t want to die


He stood there, his face unseen

The gun pointed at me

My life did not flash before my eyes like they all said it would

Instead my heart raced in my chest

My pulse thudding in my ears

My thoughts moving slow like mud

Thinking of my mother and brother sitting across the room

In danger because they had come to take me home


The other jumped the counter

Ran in the back, grabbed my manager

She was crying, she was so scared

He made her open the register

Her hands shaking

Tears streaming down her face, gun pressed to her head


Sixty-five dollars

Our lives were in limbo over sixty-five dollars


Miraculously they left after that

We could have died that night

All over sixty-five fucking dollars

So many lives worth more than what was in that register


I’ll never forget that night as long as I live

The night I realized I was not invincible

And that is why,

All of you people who don’t understand why

Because you weren’t there

All my nightmares end with bullets


I don’t dream of that night

But all my nightmares end the same

Guns are not sacred or special to me

They are heavy reminders of the violence they bring

They sicken me

All of these shootings sicken me

And solidify why I could never revere firearms the way some others do

And that is why, in case you wondered

That is why I want gun control


You might not understand,

But I will never forget.