Disambiguate the Precedent (Assassination Attempt No. 1)

god is
an alligator white
dunce cap common
supernatural they are kind
of fragile wicked mother
i said i don’t know you
reveal your in
cantatory power
vanishes soon of dawn
alligator called
maeve anything is yours
big smile looking
at leaves
going around
your big breath rattling
every baby born after
june 07
confused about cost and course
are you wind wisened
carried from child
to child in red eyes
we haven’t slept
for weeks drink
some of this
we need to talk
blockchain saprophyte
you imagine
not wanting to die
at cost
suddenly his girl
friend her
cadillac mania
smoldering munitions
return from orbit
burn bump and birthright debased
marlboro of denial
indifferent save a dream
david shields trashes
my bike the hourlies
and the salary men
hide like armor
ed doors
between you and i
and me confusing
memory with money
untold nights buzzing spent
the gin flower in my heart
explodes
killing myself
there’s nothing
i want more
than desire
be alive 🍼
see my alligator
grow up i was 14
or 15 didn’t know anything
in lieu of replication error
chomped a personality
by liquor light 🥃
and it worked
at immense cost
20 years
pry open my skull 💀
exorcise the inadequate
physical ruins of love 🫀
collapsed by mid-morning
one suddenly
recognizes
at immense cost
the crushing power
of Their jaw 🐊

Negative Poem

i don’t want
to do your work
do you want to
do your work
work is screaming
at the dog
a terrible person
who can’t be bothered
with other people
the dog lays there
right there
her allergies
her anxieties
on the leafy greens
and onionskin
and cries not at me
she’s a good girl
at the baby nursing
on her belly little
heart beating so fast
i don’t want to think
of the hummingbird
her fragility
her natural work
her glitter
where’s my glitter
there she is right there

A Wild Penitent Appears

Manasquan Party House, 2021

please o god help your subjunctive soldier offer up one original thought

before moving on to black coffee rising to meet morning disassociated

walking dog blue-striped potential-of womanly veil of soul-making

one must have ample reason and the right instruments to break this silence

real question what system gotten oneself into legitimate danger from

answers to deeper form of question dark web hits fashion subliminal

advertising models come go sticky anywhere but there/their blood thirsty wild

board memory of japanese steel through pink paper time slips frame

every once in ochre while please body of clay this is me begging

Snorting a Lexapro With You

Fucking at the Zoo

Cow lounges at Bergen County Zoo

rich fucks poor schmucks grey donkeys pink goats
loser communist cattle roaming cocks black pig

gnaws vestigial arm of long-dead
stump pink pig dreams of shit in dry sun

all pant in red heat zoo as palace
of great social inequity lonesome horse shreds grass

beside canada goose both children
enamored in their wielding

large white girl swings twig black girl
arcs storybook of freckles red polka dots

on tawny field of mask skipping mirrors through corridor of meat
two indian condors fuck in nearby cage

and insignificant small brown deer neither getting their
money’s worth older schmucks inarticulately elsewearing

zoo — $6 a head— equalizes even verbs
animals people objects subjects as commercial rents plummet

dirt everyone fucked and fucking sun and moon
penetrate sky kiss asphalt i go back where i came from

play volleyball with colombian neighbors
i go home to america feel lonesome as stars

imagine america and hang cheap black tarp
like flag with expensive steel clamps

over
and over

union made folding in america where wind is ideal
and idea and erase myself between parked cars

another picture made with shitty
attitude fueled by quarter crackers

we feed one another
from vicious passive hands

release fang fur leather feather plate-mail instinct river
bloat low medicine white phosphorus art school upheaval


In a Photograph of Heaven

An empty carousel at Bergen County Zoo

cold floorboards creak
and broken feet labor, yr

tiny vertebrae at arms
fingertips asleep on a giant’s shoulder, my

one hand raking its grave across
her back taut guiltless guileless unwalking preverbal, yr

the object holds fear
her out there like
just her out there
with the fulsome dogs of envy, my

wrapping themselves in wallpaper and music and great
ambiguous hurdles that jump jump jump
over trees canals and land on a better
partner who tells himself
the day’s failures remain, okay, yr

that when one sits down
to analyze their respective scroll
everything beneath our feet,
vulgar back catalog, mines and thines

bedrock rot
head-in-the-clouds metaphor
head-in-the-sand metaphor
she cleaves the fall harvest at winter’s end


The Race to Fire Island Lighthouse

Cars racing at Laguna Seca

hey, listen
i want to explain it
to you
the difficulty
of love curled
up like a roach
‘s obvious hunger
sense organs engaged and something
like a heavy-lidded
lighthouse lying grandiloquent
on its side elbows
sore forearms sore my exercise
anymore to soften desperation
melts that selfsame bedrock

do you understand the line
through love and pest and lighthouse
i’m snorting a lexapro with you in this zoo

beauty bubbles up like a distraction
desperate not for
good genes we’re all needled scaled
or broadleafed
nor unabashed of scholarship
and easy love hidden in history

reader, when i’m gone tell her
how quickly the tunnel nootka was built

how direct its line from here to there
a plurality of good intentions
some heartbreak
‘s unavoidable but not
too much that she’ll come to understand
as mere fact like a new crime
the prosecutor says

dig a little
in the dirt

the ear the chin the crown
of the head missing uncombed
not as wild as any
newborn mind pull back
a meter stop digging the prosecutor
says gun badge law degree
and no sense of aesthetic pride

reveals some pretty
incriminating things
the truth isn’t the best way
to get a bad actor
off a clean street

i am not a fan of creation
neither nor perpetuated myth
it is what it is it is
until the skin burns
the maps draw themselves
and murderers prop up little books
of poetry a little knuckle
a little knee a choice to remove
the lighthouse debris
i abide the law with a straight spine
from space presumably
hemmed in by caught-shadow
i remember her face
as it dances across
every unknowable constellation
of beauty

The 8 Best Games for a Mush-Brained Parent Holding a Baby

The author and his daughter Maeve playing The Binding of Isaac.
The author and his daughter Maeve play The Binding of Isaac.

As a new dad, I’ve found my priorities suddenly shifted away from gaming. I work long hours at an insane job. I take care of my now-17-week-old daughter. I try to be a good partner to my wife. If I’m lucky, I steal some time to eat, shower, and brush my teeth.

No one can smell me over Zoom, so what’s the difference?

Once in a while though — between burpings, diaper changes, and bath time — the dad gods bless me with thirty minutes of idle time. Do I do the reasonable thing and nap? No. I grab a controller and settle in with my old, now-frivolous-seeming first love: Gaming. 

My pathetic, frustrated yawps at the “You Died” screen, which might as well be burned into my TV, woke up my tentatively sleeping tot every time.

I’ve discovered a few things during these blissful little interludes. I should not be launching into a Destiny 2 raid with my infant hypothetically dreaming in the bassinet or drooling on my shoulder. Nor is it the time for a round of Overwatch. Feats of gaming such as these require focus, some level of team communication, and a not-insignificant time commitment. 

Nor can I recommend diving into that 80-hour JRPG like Octopath Traveler. I tried playing it on Xbox Game Pass, but found it was a challenge. I couldn’t stay focused on the details of Therion’s quest. What’s a Dragonstone? My daughter’s doused me in spit-up. I need a wet washcloth, not a Dragonstone.  

Ditto for any Souls-likes. My pathetic, frustrated yawps at the “You Died” screen, which might as well be burned into my TV, woke up my tentatively sleeping tot every time.

Octodad, ironically, presented a significant physical challenge for this infant-toting dad. The 2014 seafood sitcom simulator’s flicky, one-handed mouse controls were spastic. Thirty minutes with the game left my wrist cramped in agony.

That said, I’ll always be a gamer at heart. Here are my favorite 8 games that I’ve enjoyed since becoming a distracted dad gamer. Consider it a Father’s Day gift from one me to you. 


A screenshot of the video game Griftlands (Klei Entertainment)
Griftlands (Klei Entertainment)

1. Griftlands (2019)

Play it on Windows, Linux, macOS, Switch, and Xbox One

  • Little one asleep on your shoulder? No problem! Griftlands’s card-based combat, set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world, isn’t tied to twitchy reaction speed, but instead strategic and thoughtful choices. One-handed gameplay is simple and intuitive.
  • There’s no battle clock, so if you walk away to change a diaper your character won’t be dead when you return.
  • You can save anywhere, anytime outside of battle; something you’ll see in many of the games on this list. The whims and worries of modern parenting strike unexpectedly so this is a great feature.
  • Dad brain is real and you’ll forget your own name often. Griftlands helps fight this by implementing an encyclopedic lore reference system right into the game’s dialogue boxes. A simple feature I never knew I wanted, this helps me tell my Spark Barons from my Grout Bogs.
  • You and your non-verbal offspring can bond over the game’s art style, which has a vibrant Saturday morning cartoon with radiation scars vibe.

A screenshot of the video game Binding of Isaac: Repentance (Nicalis, Inc., Edmund McMillen)
Binding of Isaac: Repentance (Nicalis, Inc., Edmund McMillen)

2. Binding of Isaac: Repentance (2021)

Play it on Windows, macOS and Switch

  • The twitchiest game on this list, Binding of Isaac was originally released in 2011 but received a major DLC in March. Repentance rebalances the game and adds new characters, levels, more than 130 items, and a treasure chest full of content.
  • It’s about a baby! As a parent, you’ll relate to items such as “Used Diaper,” “C Section,” and “Mom’s Bra.” Some of these items (“Meconium” comes to mind) I couldn’t fully appreciate until I was a father.
  • On Isaac’s most basic level, gameplay cycles occur from room to room and each room typically takes a minute or two to complete. You can save between rooms and come back later once parenting releases you from its milky grip or, if you’re lucky, play an entire floor or two while the baby sleeps.
  • You’re definitely a better parent than Isaac’s mom who, in the game’s precipitating events, attempts to murder our young protagonist with a knife and chases him into the basement.

A screenshot of the video game Disco Elysium: Final Cut (ZA/UM)
Disco Elysium: Final Cut (ZA/UM)

3. Disco Elysium: Final Cut (2021)

Play it on Windows, MacOS, PS4, PS5, and Google Stadia

  • This iterative update of the 2019 point-and-click RPG includes superb new voice acting and some additional features.
  • By far the best game I played in 2020, Disco Elysium is allegorical, fantasy storytelling at its finest. The player embodies the dark and vibrant world of a down-on-his-luck cop in Revachol, the “disgraced former capital of the world”. The game presents an imaginary foreign land that comments on our own with a rich, philosophical, and entertaining script, an unforgettable cast of characters, and masterful pacing.
  • This one requires a little more headspace from the player as the story, which demands your attention, involves a world of deceit and political and psychological manipulation. Disco Elysium — at its core — is about the choices we make that determine who we are over the course of one’s life. And, while the game certainly has nothing to do with parenting, its story is a deeply human tale about empathy, relationships, and change — themes that should resonate with new parents.

A screenshot of the video game Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)
Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

4. Kentucky Route Zero (2013-2020)

Play it on Windows, Linux, and MacOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

  • Raising a child is at turns surprising, dispiriting, unprecedented, and quotidian. As such, nothing prepares you for the journey like an education in the classics of absurdity (I’m thinking especially of Beckett, but also Sartre, Kafka, and filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos.) Cardboard Computer’s episodic point-and-click adventure Kentucky Route Zero reminded me of this time and time again. Pandering to neither genre conventions of the point-and-click video game nor any one literary archetype, KR0’s story deserves a place in the pantheon of itself.
  • This one vibed hard for me during those quiet, late nights where sleeplessness takes hold, anything is possible, and your hands are not your own.
  • One of the slower-paced games on this list, KR0 offers players the opportunity to meander around existential and absurd set-pieces while contemplating broad themes that include the imagination, family, storytelling, pleasure, work, folk themes, and childhood. Its precisely crafted cast of characters will stick with you for a long time.

EVE Online (CCP Games)

5. EVE Online (2003)

Play it on Windows and MacOS

  • An unlikely pleasure for me, it takes a special kind of person to enjoy EVE Online.
  • Players will discover multiple gameplay types within this free-to-play space MMO.
  • Inexplicably to family and friends, I prefer to spend my limited time in EVE mining raw materials from asteroid belts in high-security space (a reasonably safe endeavour) and then sell these resources on the game’s player commodities markets. It’s an oddly satisfying gameplay loop that, as a new parent, doesn’t overcommit me.
  • Corporations, EVE’s version of an MMO clan, allow the player to make fast friends in-game. I highly suggest the clan EVE University, which specializes in teaching newbros (EVE-speak for new players) the ropes of this nuanced game.
  • For parents, corporations are especially great; because the game is played worldwide, you’ll find friendlies online any time of day.
  • Diapers are expensive. EVE Online is free to play. Sweet.

A screenshot of the video game Kind Words (Popcannibal)
Kind Words (Popcannibal)

6. Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) (2019)

Play it on Windows, MacOS, and Linux

  • Logging into pen-pal simulator Kind Words is like going for an easy stroll through a forest you’ve hiked thousands of times since childhood. It’s likely to bring warm, familiar calm to your soul and offer up a few pleasant surprises.
  • No time pressure and no lose state, Kind Words encourages you to take your time and offer kindness — in the form of anonymous letters — to strangers on the internet.
  • Popcannibal designed Kind Words’ music, interface, and soft, neon aesthetic to deliver maximum chill. It’s like playing one of those lo-fi hip hop YouTube videos.  
  • Shoot your shot, dad! You’ve got a lot of kindness to offer the lost children of the internet.

A screenshot of the video game Into the Breach (Subset Games)
Into the Breach (Subset Games)

7. Into the Breach (2018)

Play it on Windows, MacOS, Switch, and Stadia

  • In the time-traveling-mech strategy roguelite Into the Breach by Subset Games, failure is inevitable. This is a lesson that has become familiar to me as a new parent. The progression one makes and the lessons one learns through every screw up are key in both scenarios. Unlike Into the Breach, however, I’ve been unable to reset a terrible, no good day and unscrew my parental snafus. And that’s okay.
  • I hadn’t played this one until it landed on Stadia earlier this year. Google’s cloud gaming platform lends itself well to the impromptu gaming sessions dads often find themselves delivered unto.
  • A basic concept: Strategy games are great for dad-gaming because they provide the time and space to put down the controller and slowly consider the implications of each move.

A screenshot of the video game Judgment (Ryu Ga Gotoku)
Judgment (Ryu Ga Gotoku)

8. Judgment (2019)

Play it on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, and Xbox Series X/S

  • I suspect it’s incredibly common for a new father to find themselves unexpectedly pinned under a sleeping baby on the couch. One minute you’re feeding her and half-watching TV, the next she’s snoring, mouth agape, in your lap. When you can’t stand up but want to play a game, Google’s Stadia, for all the bad press and typical Googlian fear of abandonment, has been invaluable to me during those times.
  • Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s 2019 detective noir beat-em-up Japanese arcade simulator has been at the top of my list since it released on the cloud platform earlier this year.
  • Judgment plays out like a narrative-heavy prestige TV drama with its action focused less on combat (though this is a Ryu Ga Gotoku beat-em-up and you will smash hundreds of Yakuza with bicycles) and more on your skills of observation, exploration, and deduction. And drone racing — have I mentioned you race drones through the skies of Tokyo?
  • In the best of times I imagine traveling with a baby is a challenge, it’s near impossible to consider it during a global pandemic. This game, with its gorgeous and precisely recreated city, quietly scratches my itch to return to Tokyo.
  • As with Into The Breach, playing this game on Stadia made booting, loading, saving, etcetera, a breeze. Plus you can take your game with you to any room in the house and play on TV, computer, tablet, or phone.

That’s all I’ve got, folks. There are like two or three hundred different video games out there, so please let me know in the comments if I missed your favorite title for gaming while parenting.

A Great First Line

“When you are all sinew, struggle and solitude, your young — being soft, plump, vulnerable — may remind you of prey.”

“Ducks, Newburyport” Lucy Ellmann

Dear Oblivion


dear oblivion
i hear you
shredding bone
in the golden
place
salivating
somewhere
unknowable
a man
grills
meat
a child
screams

what i mean to say
is this, dear oblivion:
i remember
the littoral darkness
of the rising afternoon
the light
never
having
been
enough

dear oblivion
i hear you
crawling away

High on Queen Anne Road (Cerberus)

Wikipedia Poem, No. 970

why 

are
you  
  the poet  
      
you
are  
  the poet  
         
consequence 
        of   shit 

in love with the marauder 

heracles slept in his crate 
hera summoned snakes
the snakes moved without reason
heracles strangled the snakes
one by one by one 

The Artists’ Head Strung from The Artist’s Head

Wikipedia Poem, No. 885

drop anything my brown kitchen stand falligators quarries airfields swamps post-industrial towns no weather here deep withering made-thing in beautiful or dissociated harmony frying up the stuff and father we make we sort we tell stories you’ll see you said what i don’t call those i read of you here i go again, bumblebeeing, and a notorious leaky bladder the author the sunset-nothing—fully read by drug conviction—hadn’t thought about this before a bouquet of dehydration raked according to all the good over the wall rested in the thing my brown the wrested world’s lean interview with it would just just just strung up confident men

Empedocles and Exaenetus (Wikipoem for My Father)

Wikipedia Poem, No. 824

PROVE2D

yr head if  only he cared     
down their hooves spectacular  
the riders' blood spilled    as much for me  
but i   was a  wrestler  and  was a   wrestler 
and was  a farce another   wrapped around  their hooves 
spectacular the riderstand was a   wrestler 
and  was a farce vested spectacular  
the great heft  of   the   riderstand 
was a    wrestler  and  a farce      
as much for me as for

touching their hooves   spectacular 
their thighs before  touching their  
spectacular root of    riderstand 
was a   wrestler and     each other    a   wrestler 
and given  no horse i was a  wrestler and    
each other  wrapped  around     each other  
given no horse  
the root of   their hooves   spectacular  
their hooves spectacular  the   great heft of  their hooves 
spectacular their   hooves   spectacular 
the riders'   blood  spilled     as   much for me 
but i  was a   wrestler