Words & Music Club
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Brian Stout




Speedy Ortiz:
Raising the Skate


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.



Kathryn Gillespie




Death Cab for Cutie:


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.



John Duffy




Ben Folds Five:


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.



Michelle Lukezic




The 2nd Law: Isolated System


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.







Somewhere Up Here


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 

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


effortlessly fading

into the blue sky)

there is a philosophy

not to hold any belief too strong

and everything is temporary -


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




Miranda Ireland




Khai Dreams:


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



Dan Waters





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