WORDS & MUSIC CLUB
brain damage head.jpg

01. WRITER

Brian Stout


02. THEME

Elevation


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Speedy Ortiz:
Raising the Skate


04. WRITING

As soon as she could string together a couple words at a time, I taught my daughter to say, “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.” I’d read a few articles around that time addressing the tendency to call women “bossy” rather than “confident” or “visionary.”

Well, fuck that.

As a new dad to this little girl, I wanted her to feel like it is natural to lead and to expect that others will listen and respond to her. Her parents have both had (and still have) issues with assertiveness and self-confidence, and the desire of all parents to guide their kids past their own foibles to something better.

Fortunately, her self-confidence currently outstrips her mom’s, her brother’s, and mine. She dances as if no one is watching every time “Let It Go” comes up in Frozen, twirling in circle after circle and encouraging her big brother to join in. She nods her head with her eyes closed when we listen to “All the Stars” in the car. She gleefully shouts the “Hey!” in Taylor Swift’s ”Bad Blood” and requests it every time we go for a ride. Music is strength, and I cannot wait to introduce her to Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney one day. She is also blessed with a strong woman and musician for a mom. I go along with all the directing that comes with playing hospital or restaurant. I see the determination in her tiny face and eyes and I know my girl is going to be all right.

Sometimes I like to hang back when I am picking her up from school. It is a joy to see her leading on the playground. Kids like her. They listen to her. At home, she is encouraged to speak up positively, to communicate calmly and clearly. She still has toddler tantrums and meltdowns, but she is also extremely perceptive and adept at expressing her feelings.

The mixed blessing of confident children is guiding that undisciplined trait, to teach them to wield it for good. For now, she naturally leads in playgroups and loves to direct our play. She also has a very special mission: eventually advocating for her older brother.

Having children is a tremendous blessing, but it is also a stern reminder of one’s mortality, further amplified by having a child with a disability. The thought that one day I will not be here is always lingering somewhere in the background. I hope that my daughter will fight as hard for my son as we do. Seeing the love they share makes me optimistic. She makes a point of introducing him to her friends. She loves him. I hope there is never a time when she is embarrassed of him because of Down Syndrome. It is not exactly fair, but we are depending on that.

Other parents have told me that school teaches girls to step back, to minimize achievement. I do not recall it from my time in school, but I could imagine it thinking back. She is too bright for that, but I remember coasting through grade school with confidence, only to be derailed by relentless teasing in middle school. I went into a cocoon that I did not emerge from until graduation. For her mom, it was less severe at school, but no one emerges from public education unscathed. And the real world is even worse in many ways. I hope she never has to rebuild the way her parents have, but we hope to instill the determination to do it if she has to.

Chief, not the overthrown. Captain, not a crony. So if you wanna throw, you better have an awfully big stone. How naïve to trample she who’s running the stampede. I’m raising the skate.

 

01. WRITER

Sam Moore


02. THEME

Elevation


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

DJ Shadow:
Ashes to Oceans


04. WRITING

I picked up another stone and tossed it out into the gray blue waters. It made a tiny splash, and then all was silent again. Small ripples spread and grew and disappeared just as quickly as they arrived. How many stones had I tossed now without a response? I leaned back, let my legs dangle over the edge, let the subtle waves lap at my feet. All around this tiny island was nothing but water and sky. It was nothing more than a tiny crag barely tall enough to keep from being buried underneath the endless ocean.
I grabbed another stone, let it plop into the waters.
This was my favorite spot. Follow a worn out path until it wears out completely, cut through a shadowy canopy of trees, up one small hill and down another. It spat out into a tiny haven, an edge without any shoreline. The waters were bottomless as soon as you stepped into them. No gradual declination here, just a bottomless pool beneath your feet. As I looked out and saw only a great and overwhelming nothing, this spot made me feel like I was at the edge of the world itself. I came here often.
Another stone, another plop in the same spot.
The clouds swirled and churned overhead like the concoction of some dark potion. Not terribly different than the waters below, I thought. Endless sky above, endless waters below. Trapped between two infinities, both full of wonder and power and destruction. The thin line in the distance where the two met seemed to blur more and more each day. Perhaps that far off into the horizon they are one and the same, not that anyone on this tiny rock would know. When was the last time anyone left? Or, came back after they did? I couldn’t remember.
Plop.
Maybe they weren’t coming today, I thought. Oh, well. I could lay here for a while either way and ponder my plan for tonight. One last throw and then I fell back, resting on the ground with my hands behind my head and watching the sky as if waiting for it to speak.
I heard a slightly bigger splash than the ones my small rocks had made. Then, one landed next to my head as it bounced and rolled behind me.
“You called?” said a gurgly voice I knew well.
I sat up. “I didn’t think you’d come,” I said. “Almost ran out of rocks.”
“Have I ever once missed a day when you called?” The squid lifted several tendrils out of the water, each holding a stone. “I couldn’t help but try and catch as many as I could on my way up. A game of sorts. Have to find enjoyment where you can, no?” The squid then deposited the stones onto the ground next to me in a neat pile. “For next time,” it gurgled.
“I hope there’s a next time,” I said, gazing up at the sky. “A great storm is on the way. Probably tonight.”
The squid rubbed its temple as if trying to decipher a riddle, and then disappeared under the water. It resurfaced a few seconds later several feet away. “Yes, probably tonight,” it offered. “But I dislike your choice of words.” It dove under once more, popping up in a different spot. Moving around seemed to help gather its thoughts. “There is always a next time, and this time is no different. You’ve seen plenty of storms, have you not? Same as always. You know how to handle a mere tempest. You air-breathers are a resilient lot.”
My plan when a storm was brewing was always the same--I had discovered a tiny cave far up the isle, elevated beyond what most people explored. I’d gather some wood for fire, enough food for the night (perhaps some berries, or a piece of fruit), and stay hidden away. Then, wait for it to pass. Each and every time I’d done this, and survived thus far.
“Yes,” I said. “I know how to handle one.”
“Of course you do,” the squid agreed. “Then why so frightened?”
“This one feels different.”
The squid disappeared under the water once more. Several seconds passed, but it had still not resurfaced. The seconds stretched on. Still nothing. What had happened? Was something wrong? Had I misspoke? The wind felt like it was picking up. I thought I felt a raindrop. I wondered if the creature hadn’t left altogether. But it wouldn’t--?
A sudden splash and the squid was back, apparently having gathered all its thoughts.
“It might feel different, but that doesn’t mean it will be.”
I said nothing back.
“Look,” the strange creature continued. “I’ve come to look forward to these talks. As always, I look forward to the next one. You surface dwellers are such odd folk. I still have so much to learn about you and your kind! Don’t let one tiny little tempest stop my quest for knowledge.”
“Yes, well, I’m jealous of your kind whenever a storm hits up here. What trouble is water falling from the sky if you live beneath it anyway?”
“Don’t worry,” the creature said. “The seas are full of their own terrors.”
We sat in silence for a brief moment. “I should probably prepare for tonight,” I finally said.
I stood up to leave, but tossed one last thing into the water. The creature quickly scooped it up in a tentacle and examined it like a treasure hunter appraising a rare jewel.
“What might this be?” it asked.
“A berry. For eating.”
“A berry,” it said barely above a whisper. “Fascinating.”
I made my way back through the canopy of trees, back onto the worn out trail as I ventured inland. The wind had picked up noticeably by now. Tree branches looked like flailing limbs trying to tread water as they bobbed up and down in the gales. The sky grew darker, and a heaviness was settling onto the air.
After some time I stopped to rest my feet. I sat on a large rock on the side of the path and munched on a few berries. Not too many--had to save the rest for tonight. My small bag was still roughly halfway full, which was enough to get through an overnight storm.
A rustling behind me. I quickly tied up my sack of food and turned around. Through the tall and wavering grass and brush was a figure approaching my way. I could hear slashing and then crunching underfoot as it made its way towards me.
An older man emerged from the brush. His face was bitter and weathered and reminded me of the craggy cliffs where the waves crashed the strongest. He huffed and cursed as he finally made his way out. He held a large knife in his hands.
“Damned overgrown brush,” he muttered. “What are you looking at?”
“Nothing,” I said quickly, avoiding eye contact.
The old man huffed again like a tired beast. “Storms brewing. A bad one. I always know these things. Feel it in my bones. Bones never lied to me yet. Only thing I can trust anymore.” I said nothing back, offered up a slight nod.
“What’ve you got there?” the man asked, pointing at my bag with his knife.
I hesitated a second too long, wondering how to respond. Tell the truth and he might try and take my only food for the night, tell a lie and he might become suspicious anyway.
“Only a few berries for the night,” I coughed up.
The man grunted. “Not worth the trouble, then,” he decided. “Be glad you answered honest, child. Another thing I can always tell--whether someone speaks true or not. The trick isn’t in the words themselves but how the words are said. The voice, the language of the body, the eyes. You look too frail and frightened to speak falsely. Wise choice, young one. If you’d have even answered ‘Nothing’, I’d have snatched your bag away by any means just to sate my curiosity. Never know what you might need for days like today, what might come in handy for survival. A bad storm approaches, indeed.”
I opened the bag and held out several berries in my hand. “You can have some,” I offered.
The man’s face scrunched up in confusion. Then, he laughed madly. “You’re a fool, you know that? Say--now that I think about it, you’re that odd child that’s always running off and speaking to strange creatures aren’t you?”
I said nothing back. My eyes gazed down at my dirty feet and collapsing shoes, waiting for the man to continue. A drizzle had begun, barely noticeable except for the tiny dots of darkened ground appearing beneath me.
“Yes, yes you are,” the man continued. “I see it now. Not many of us left here, I’m surprised I didn’t realize it sooner. All alone, you find company and conversation in the oddest of animals. Truly, a fool! You shouldn’t trust the words of man, let alone the words of strange beasts. Best to brush off any advice they give you, whether it be the beasts of the air or of the deep. Nothing good comes from either.” The man spat out a single syllable of coarse laughter, apparently realizing something amusing, and added, “Not that anything good comes from the surface, either.”
The man began to stride off in another direction. “Keep your berries,” he called out over his back. “Our tiny rock will be washed away by the morrow, anyway.”
I walked for a great deal of time, switching to climbing when the elevation made walking impossible. This entire section of the island--where my hidden sanctuary from the story resided--was ignored by most of its inhabitants. Aside from the elevation which made the journey difficult and tiring, rumors of its dangers had spread. Murmurs of strange poisonous creatures, sinister things that lurked in the shadows of its thick trees and in between the rocks of the jagged cliffs, of traps and loose ground, had reached the ears of everyone by now. My own experiences taught me these were all false. Certainly, there were strange creatures and patches of difficult terrain but I’d never had a problem with either. The journey wasn’t so much dangerous as it was draining.
The rain was picking up, now a step above a mere drizzle. A palpable heaviness permeated the air as if the entire sky itself was about to plummet. I had snatched some pieces of wood along the way to make a fire. Hopefully they weren’t too wet to be of use by the time I reached my destination.
Finally, I reached my destination. Dead center in the middle of the section everyone else ignored. My legs felt as if they might collapse underneath me. The cave was small enough that I had to duck slightly to get inside. It wasn’t much bigger on the inside, either. Much closer to a small hut than an expansive cavern. Only a tiny fraction of remaining daylight peered in. I set about making a fire--it took some time, the wood being slightly damp in places, but I finally got it started. I warmed myself, and waited.
Night had arrived. I could see leaves scuttling by in the winds as they grew stronger, branches swinging back and forth, plunging up and down like they were weak ships being tossed about by mighty waves. I sat motionless for I don’t know how long. Waiting.
When the sky did finally crack open with a piercing bolt, it felt like there would be no sky left by the time it was over.
A curtain of heavy rain blocked the exit of the cave. I felt as if I was at the bottom of the ocean inside a tiny bubble. Branches were ripped apart and thrown about. Flashes of blinding white light illuminated the sky followed by bursts and explosions nearby.
A new fear entered my mind--what if someone else found this place? Would they attack me? Try to take my little bit of food left? Kick me out forcibly?
Another explosion outside, the sound of something bursting into pieces.
Nobody had found this place before, but that didn’t mean that wouldn’t change today.
What if the storm never stopped? If the skies emptied themselves out, dry as sand, until the waters reached even my hidden sanctuary? What if that man was right, and the storm buried our island underneath the waves?
What if?
What if?
Another deafening crack.
What if? Anything was possible--which made me think back to my conversation earlier...
“It might feel different, but that doesn’t mean it will be.”
I thought about that strange creature’s words. Perhaps if anything was possible, that meant it was possible that this, too, would pass. The worst case scenario could happen, but that also meant a multitude of other scenarios could happen instead.
Those words rang in my head as I leaned back against the hard walls of the cave, drifting off as the flames danced around my shelter from the storm.

 

01. WRITER

Kathryn Gillespie


02. THEME

Elevation


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Death Cab for Cutie:
Transatlanticism


04. WRITING

On Topography

Never understood
maps and bright shades,
splaying forth in tree ring watercolor,
coding pages with secrets of height,
distance. And cannot understand
as layer and layer,
reads higher and higher,
blending hues as earth
kisses itself tectonic.

Trenched in valley,
you cannot teach me elevation,
altitude, like reaching hilltops,
each finger gliding softly
across weathered page
can’t speak to breeze against
grass hewn skin, sinking.

 

01. WRITER

John Duffy


02. THEME

Elevation


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Ben Folds Five:
Army


04. WRITING

Freedom Isn’t

This is the light of autumn, not the light of spring. /…How privileged you are, to be still passionately / clinging to what you love; the forfeit of hope has not destroyed you. / This is the light of autumn; it has turned on us. / Surely it is a privilege to approach the end / still believing in something.
—Louise Glück

No intelligent radical can fail to realize the need of the rational education of the young. …Only by freeing education from compulsion and restraint can we create the environment for the manifestation of the spontaneous interest and inner incentives on the part of the child. ...It will produce men and women capable, in the words of Francisco Ferrer, “of evolving without stopping, of destroying and renewing their environment without cessation; of renewing themselves also; always ready to accept what is best, happy in the triumph of new ideas, aspiring to live multiple lives in one life.”
—Alexander Berkman

It’s lunchtime and the military’s back.  Their operation is bigger than before. There’s a chin-up bar with streamers on it.  A crowd has formed. Only 10 minutes until 5th hour. A woman in an army uniform is directing traffic.  The medals she’s wearing suggest that she’s seen active combat, one kid says. Behind her, a middle-aged man eyes potential candidates.  He’s wearing a grey suit and a light blue tie. His hands are crossed in front of him and his nose is in the air. He looks like a TV mob boss.

One kid signals that he’s ready to participate.  He writes his name on the sign-up list. The challenge requires it.  If you win, you get a water bottle emblazoned with a military logo. Lose, and the crowd will laugh at you.  No water bottle. But your name remains on the list.

The kid wins and the crowd cheers.  The girls in front take pictures and shout in excitement.  The line of hopeful boys now stretches all the way to the bathroom doors.  Two other Marines step in to man the desk. An unsure boy asks one of the Marines about his gun.  They start a conversation, and the Marine urges the boy to sign the list. I’d rather not, the boy says.  I can’t do a chin-up. Don’t worry, the Marine says. We’ll give you a call and maybe we can talk guns or something.  The boy beams. A connection.

The spectacle continues.  TV mob guy whispers to the woman in uniform.  He saw two boys who looked interested but who then walked away.  Her pursuit lasts less than a minute. Have you considered the challenge, she asks.  The boys look at each other and shrug. She points back to the crowd, to the girls, to the water bottles.  The boys are quietly escorted to the front of the line. They sign their names, compete, and win. Water bottles for them, too.

 

01. WRITER

Michelle Lukezic


02. THEME

Elevation


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Muse:
The 2nd Law: Isolated System


04. WRITING

In an isolated system, entropy can only increase.

I’ve always felt different, indescribably different. Different felt shameful. Different felt unworthy. Different felt like no one could ever understand me; and certainly not to the depth that I intuitively could understand them. So I hid. I thought that I was fostering connection through providing utility for others. In desperation, I taught myself how to bend who I was in attempt to belong. If I could just provide more utility, or find a way to fit in; just maybe I would get the connection I was searching for.

It turns out that my strategy was a poor one. It didn’t foster connection; it conditioned me to be an inauthentic doormat, and it amplified my feelings of shame, unworthiness and aloneness. I lost who I was; I lost my voice.

When it became unbearable, I really had two options:
1. Figure out a way that I could exist in this world (while managing the crushing pain of loneliness), or
2. Figure out a way to die.

There wasn’t some grand pivotal moment or turning-point of clarity; however, because I asked myself the above question (and other questions like it) I started to turn towards introspection. I found joy in curiosity and discovery. I started diving into philosophy & theory (perspective); art & music (creation); writing & journaling (expression); and dance & sport (release). I dedicated energy towards self-growth. I made a promise to never stop improving.

I have a current (work-in-progress) conclusion: To alleviate the pain of loneliness, I have to be willing to experience the potential pain of being vulnerable. To be both unafraid of, and accepting of pain. To be myself, to speak my truth.

It seems that people find it easy to connect with me. A lifetime of feeling disconnected has acutely taught me that I never want someone else to feel the same pain from loneliness the way I do. I try to advance the conditions requisite to allow someone to be vulnerable; to be seen, heard and valued for all their messy raw awesomeness.

It’s in the realness that we can find genuine connection.

It’s in the connection that we can find order–together–and become whole again.

 

01. WRITER

Anonymous


02. THEME

Elevation


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Deadmau5:
Somewhere Up Here


04. WRITING

There's a secret I wanna show you
Let me take you into the garage.

What you see here,
these projects, these machines

What I've been working on here –
a new invention

I've been engineering.

I've been doing research for a while

This, a hyperpowered jet thruster,
an antigravity flow chamber
still small enough to fit in the soles of your shoes.

...biogradium steel component
endogrativity manipulator
 - a mobile propeller - 
I've actually designed shoes 
for actual human flight 

And
a shield
of invisibility 
to bypass TSA air space

I've been going outside at night.
I've gone a lot of places
Places of my dreams

I want to take you into the air
I want to show you the city, 
from above

Let's go back to Michigan
We'll cross the Lake
imagine what the city looks like from far away
far across the glassy water, waves rippling
horizon to horizon

- - - - 

only water in sight
just hold on tight
We own the night

I remember 
as a little kid
standing at the flight deck of my oreo airship 
listening to “we will become silhouettes” 
before crashing into the sea of milk


You can really do anything;

alter reality

step by step

with the knowledge you ascertain


(Fading

effortlessly fading

into the blue sky)

there is a philosophy

not to hold any belief too strong

and everything is temporary -

time 

the difference:

you can decide to be happy

you must constantly be challenging yourself.


only water in sight
just hold on tight
We own the night

;


 

01. WRITER

Miranda Ireland


02. THEME

Elevation


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Khai Dreams:
Ultimately


04. WRITING

I told you something that I probably shouldn’t have

It was a lie why did I try to make you understand it if it wasn’t even real

I was kidding myself I was living in the highest fantasy

It was a dream, I could conceive of better things of make believe

But I didn’t know what I had and so I’m glad you told me to fuck off so I

Could get some help

Is it weird that after all of this I still want to be friends? I know the end has come and gone but I’m still trying to hold on

I need to move along and get my shit together and maybe I will be happy

I don’t believe in choosing happiness you need to

Choose the things that make you happiest

That makes more sense to me

 

01. COVER ARTIST

Dan Waters


02. THEME

Elevation


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Tool:
Lateralus

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