When I was a kid, I hoped that I would grow temples of white hair like Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four as I aged. I got them — along with a widow’s peak as sharp as a letter opener.

My hair was always wispy, even at its thickest. I buzz it all now. I like the feeling better, not so tussled by the wind or tickling on the scalp. It’s less to manage, less to restyle after being matted down in a beanie during the New England winters.

I’m fortunate to have a nice, round head. It made me a shoe-in for the lead in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown when I was in college.

I also buzz it because my hair only wants to fall to one side. The follicles grow like a crew without sea legs, leaning too far starboard and leaving the boat feeling lopsided.

But I miss the white temples, which are translucent with my hair this short. I’m sorry, Mr. Fantastic.

I wonder if I was in a rush for white temples because the people around me seemed to need me to be old more than they needed to be young.

I felt like people needed me to be a Reed Richards. Not just smart but genius. Not just flexible but elastic. Not just durable but indestructible.

When I look in the mirror, I see a shorn head, and I think, ah, there he is. Not Reed Richards.



The T-shirt tag that I forgot to cut out. The nice wool sweater I bought that feels like burlap. The jeans that hug my calves a little too tight.

The scrape of silverware in the sink. The hand full of sludge as I open the drain. The clank of dishes as I line them up in the washer.

The alarm in the boiler room of the complex, skimming the surface of audibility through the bedroom wall.

Smacking lips. Dry mouths. The unexpected brush of a loved one’s fingers (I’m sorry).

But hey, there’s also music. So it’s not so bad.


He swirls the sifting pan, skin leathery from the sun. The river soaks his ankles. He thinks he catches a gleam of gold, but then it disappears. Perhaps it was a glint off the sweat beading on his eyelashes.

The family he left. The family he will never have.

I will break the mountains, he murmurs. I will drive a pick-axe through the core of this planet.

He throws aside the pan and thrashes the river bank with his bare fingers. His callouses begin to crack. The water streams with trails of crimson.

Meanwhile the sun looks down with incredulity.


I hereby declare the ineffable. I proudly exclaim the nonsensical. I smell what is seen, and it sounds like it tastes. I’ll write it in prose that is lyrical.

It’s as plain as the sock that I wear on my head, or the shoes I put on before going to bed. It’s an optional edict, for better and worse. It’s ice cream for dinner and steak for dessert.

Now, stand up and bow! I’m a king made to serve! I’ll rule with submission! Straight on we shall swerve!

Also the end won’t rhyme.


He carved his way through the ocean with a calcified backstroke, the horizon forever escaping him. With the abyss below and the sky above, he felt like prey suspended in a spiderweb.

The seas trembled. He turned on his chest, plunging his face into the water, staring through it as if through one giant tear.

A face of stone glared back at him, a face like a sunken island, stretching on all sides into the blackened depths. The eyes glowed red, and the lips cracked. The mouth opened, and he surrendered to the whirlpool, smiling back as he was swallowed.