Published—”Directions After Death”

This isn’t my achievement, but my wife’s. Coffin Bell has published J. Motoki’s “Directions After Death” digitally and physically in their first print issue. If anyone’s interested, the anthology, Coffin Bell: ONE, is available for preorder ($15). Per usual, I’m both horrified and impressed by my wife’s dark literature. Where I’m satirical and speculative, she’s weird and wonderful and clearly, clearly, the better writer.

Medicolegal Death

My wife and I went to see a medicolegal death investigator from the Douglas County Coroner’s Office discuss her profession—a presentation that was surprisingly lively. I thought I’d share a few interesting bits from the morbid monologue.

Naturally, the coroner was late a few minutes. Her Excuse? “Sorry, everyone, somebody died. No, really.”

According to her, a physician determines cause of death. But her job is to determine the manner of death. Both examine the body, but she also goes through the corpse’s effects, to the scene, to their homes and work places. Unlike the police, she doesn’t need a warrant.

The cause of death is something like this: stab wound to the heart. the initiation of the chain. The mechanism is what actually does the killing. So, stab wound? Mechanism: Exsanguination, i.e. blood-loss.

Cause: Pneumonia. Mechanism: Hypoxia, or lack of air, leading to organ failure.

As for manner? That’s the context of the killing.

She gave us the list of manners: homicide, suicide, natural, accident, undetermined. While the examiners will provide comprehensive data about the death, the manner ends up fitting into one of these five simple categories.

One of the coroner’s examples was an x-ray of a man with a nail in his skull. The point was near his ear, the dull hammerable bit in the center of his brain. Cause of death? A nail through the brain. But what was the manner?

After examining the wound, it’s entry, the equipment nearby, we determined the manner involved a nail gun. Judging by the angle, it was likely a suicide. He took a nail gun to his temple and blasted away.

We took cases (from out-of-state and with names removed) and had to determine manners of deaths. Mine was a guy who tried to prove a gun wasn’t loaded by putting it to his forehead and pulling the trigger. She called it a stupidicide but it was officially an accident.

We also looked at photos of grisly ends and did the same. There was a man who was struck by deer antlers. You could tell from the prong-pattern across his chest, the lacerations on his sides. There was someone who fell from a chair while fixing a lightbulb. Well, there was the chair, there was the lightbulb. We also looked at scenes without bodies and determined the cause of death. An alcoholic’s bed (the bottles, the trash basket, the sheets). A suicide by driving into a near-stationary bus (no skid marks).

One of my favorite anecdotes was about a skull she found. The examiner being a generalist, she passed on the item to an anthropologist, who determined the age and time period of the skull. She sent isotopes (water) to a lab and DNA to another lab. A femur was discovered with bite marks; this led her to find bone fragments in old bear scat. Within two weeks, they knew everything about this teenage girl, including how she was murdered.

The entire presentation was highly disturbing. I was appalled. My wife was enthralled. I hope she doesn’t get any ideas.

Published—”Boar Song”

My poem, “Boar Song” published in Ink & Voices, an online publication devoted to “unapologetic expression, unedited art.” The magazine seeks to provide a space for “humanness” and has a predilection for the “honest, raw, and original.” My poem, about how my wife turns goblinesque when I tickle her, was an attempt to express my adoration without convention or praise-filled language. I couldn’t have found a better venue to publish.

Published—”Like Flies, Like Lights”

This isn’t my publication, but my wife’s. “Life Flies, Like Lights,” which published in Nowhere.Ink, is a dreamy spelunk into a maze of madness or what might be the halls of the dead. I have no idea, actually, but it’s still freaky, especially the line “All around me are sounds like suppressed laughter in mausoleums, like bouts of applause, like flies on a cat corpse in summer.”

Anyway, I’m so proud of J. Motoki and the products of her horrifying brain.

Nowhere.Ink is a digital collaborative devoted to dark minds and cooperation over competition. Its members have several outlets. Polished pieces go in their Library (like my wife’s) while anyone can post prose or poetry to the Facebook page. Then there’s other worlds like Twitter and their Red Light District.

Actually, my wife and I have a little history with the collab. We, along with its creators, used to post to a literature platform called Prose.

That site went south, forgetting its manners and indulging in toxic utilitarianism. Lost were Partners and $100 weekly contests; found were advertisements, random rules, and Prose Gold, a pay-to-be-a-partner subscription service. Suddenly good writing wasn’t based on its popularity but how much you could pay.

There was also a (now-infamous) Simon and Schuster challenge where fifty stories were picked from 500+ entries and submitted to S&S for review. Some of the entries “selected” were written by the Prose judges themselves, a little bit of unethical behavior that did not go unnoticed. (My piece, Iron Abbie, was also chosen, and I add that only to establish that I’m not bitter for losing.)

The first generation who’d given Prose its style split away. Luckily, Tony Cavanagh and Amanda Cary, two brilliant contributors to Prose, gave some direction to the Great Migration. They created an alternate platform, a place devoted to the exercise and excitement of writing. Funny enough, the “nowhere” in Nowhere.Ink comes from Tony’s old Prose handle—Miles Nowhere.

Fiction—”Duck Marston”

[A literary quickie for Valentine’s Day.]

Duck Marston ran home and kissed his wife and patted his daughter’s head and asked them both: “Be Mine?” It was Valentine’s, that nasty holiday of love making, and despite all the chocolates and flowers Duck had brought, his women gave him little attention. The wife turned away so he kissed her by the ear, inhaling an orange grain of wax. His daughter took his pats like a surly dog and bit three of his fingers. The chocolates they threw away—“We’re dieting, remember?” The flowers went in compost. The girls were too disgusted by this desperate mewling man to explain that flowers were just twenty dollars to watch something die, and they already had front row seats—free of charge—to his life.

[Click here for “A Few Valentine’s Day Literary Cards.”]

[Click here for “everything you need to know about my love life in haiku.”]

Nonfiction—”The Elemental Darkness”

My philosophy is a lone night, with the wife far-flung on the couch watching videos about tape worms. I’ve gone to bed early, and the rain is caught by the tree canopy, except for a black fall from the roof that taps the cement. In the dark it could be the crackle of fire. My philosophy is my beating heart compared to her’s. I can only imagine she still lives, eyes fixed on the doctor’s spool, trapped by elemental darkness.