Driving along a country road through
harvested corn and soybean fields.
The sun has freshly sunk into the horizon.

I am a bead of condensation,
rolling down a dark windowpane towards its edge
with inexorable velocity.

My high school friend Mark
used to drive us down this road at top speeds in his
hand-me-down white Chevy pickup truck —
the same one he’d use to carve donuts
in his stepdad’s farmland,
even at peak growing season.

There were — still are — three large bumps
in that road, and if Mark hit them fast enough,
the suspension would get us airborne
by the third and final bump.

I haven’t lived here in twenty years.
But this place is so changeless, so empty, so flat,
my dreams of it are now indistinguishable from memory.
Driving through it feels less like an exercise in nostalgia,
and more like the ambling disquiet of a nightmare.

This place isn’t real.

I want to drive and keep driving.
I want the oceans and mountains of where I live now.
I want towering anchors against the realized horror

that we are just barnacles
on the hide of a lumbering planet,
sailing through the waters
of the great abyss.

A poem inspired by a drive through my hometown during Thanksgiving this year. I promise, I had a much better time than this poem implies.

Chambered Nautilus

The chambered nautilus is an outlier among its kindred cephalopod. Octopuses and squids abandoned their shells somewhere along their evolutionary journey, sacrificing protection for increased mobility. The nautilus, however, lives the best of both worlds, maintaining its shell while still deftly navigating the ocean with its jet propulsion skills. Don’t let anyone say you can’t be two things at once.

Vampire Squid

Although its Latin name literally translates to “vampire squid from hell,” the vampire squid is the epitome of misnomers.

For one thing, it exists in an order separate from squids and octopuses, thanks to retractable filaments that allow it to feed on dead plankton and other detritus half a mile below the surface of the ocean.

For another, it is not a vampire in any conceivable way — except maybe for its love of dark, inaccessible depths. In the face of predators, the vampire squid prefers deception and escape over bloodlust.

Perhaps the only shared trait it has with vampires is its propensity for hypnosis. When threatened, it inverts its webbed tentacles to become a gelatinous ball of harmless but foreboding spikes, and its tentacles pulse with blue luminescence to lure hungry jaws away from its vitals.

For better or worse, names define us. Most of us inherit our names with no real agency in the matter, and even if we change them, identity is a hard thing to evade once it’s been established.

In the case of the vampire squid, perhaps this is a good thing. When you are a peaceful scavenger with no defenses, maybe it’s better to perceived by your enemies as an abyssal horror who’s thirsty for blood!