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image from The Fly, 1986

Somewhere in Kingsbury Hall

Minding his own business

Is a fly

Who doesn’t know he is famous

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image from The Dark Crystal, designed by Brian Froud

I don’t get spooky. Not as a rule. I don’t see auras or ghosts, don’t worry too much about whether my chakras are aligned.

But I am and always have been highly empathetic, and that often makes me feel things that drift past most of the people around me. I feel emotional winds blow across the back of my neck, look around for the source, and find I’m the only one who noticed. …

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Sculpture by Alexander Milov

I’ve done it. I’ve given up.

I have done so because a few things have become clear to me.

The purpose of political debate has shifted. These exchanges are no longer for the purpose of persuasion. We, the huddled masses, have had enough taken from us that now we have nothing left but to chase the high of proclaiming our righteousness with the shiny megaphones provided to us by our immortal corporate owners. It makes us feel big when we make others feel small. That is all.

And if this is true…if no one will be persuaded one way or another, then the results of November 3, 2020, are already set. We are merely waiting to see what those who have not yet screamed into the void end up deciding for themselves in that black box of the voting booth, and the inevitable ruckus afterwards. …

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illustration for Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

Whatever we become
From this moment on
Will not be what we were
Embrace that
Or live the rest of whatever is left
In regret
I tell myself
Every day
Only occasionally successfully

I still want to be
Want to see
All the things I was shown
The vast vistas of possibility
Not this eking
This daily plod
Like a brute beast
Where is the food?
Where is the sex?
Where are the threats?

But in many ways
We are being brought back to the fundamentals
Caring for loved ones
Preparing meals
Keeping clean
Passing the moments
One by deliberate one
And maybe that is…

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image by Wallpaperflare

Everything has its time
And then it ends
Blown away into the dust
Of memory
If that

Which is why
Perched in the highest levels of wisdom
Is finding happiness
In being a part of something wonderful
All the while knowing
That one day
It will cease to be

You may live to see its end
Or your own being may cease beforehand
Hard to say which is more difficult

I have watched many beautiful moments pass
Into the sunset
Never to return
I miss them
But am the better for having seen them
When they were in full flower

So many friends
So many plans
So many dreams
So many brilliant ideas
Those that made it to conception
And even those that didn’t
They stir in my recollection
Like ripples on the surface
Of all that makes me who I…

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photo by Edward Brown

We see what we need to see.

My whole life long, I have balanced the yang of my father’s misanthropy with the yin of my mother’s ability to see the good in everything. It’s a combination I credit with remaining alive for forty-six years, overactive empathy nodes weary but largely intact.

When I was nine years old, we moved from the modest Fort Worth suburb of River Oaks to three acres outside of Weatherford, Texas, a change which was more important than I could have realized at the time.

Viewed by outsiders, the Parker County seat might be seen as a garden variety smallish Texas town, though these days its population is larger than some state capitals. …

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On this day, with images of unmarked vans and faceless mercenaries radiating across my screen, it feels like some zero-day moment is coming. A BC/AD transition that historians will mark ever after.

Maybe it already happened. Maybe that’s what I felt on November 8, 2016. That seismic shift under my feet, the sickening lurch into an alternate universe. The wrong timeline. The abyss.

The workings of history do not operate so simply, of course. The wave that broke that day had built for decades. The pardoning of Nixon, the rise of Friedman and Rand, the Chicago School experiments in Latin America, Newt Gingrich’s realization of the power of cable news, Reagan’s annexation of the Falwell contingent into the GOP ranks, the blinkered centrism of Bill Clinton passing the 1996 Telecommunications Act and repealing Glass-Steagall, the PATRIOT Act, Obama’s refusal to prosecute the war criminals of the Bush administration, the steady expatriating of U.S. jobs and capital under multiple administrations of both parties, the flaccid DNC, and of course the cumulative effects of underfunding education for two generations. …

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image by Alan Smithee

I don’t dream
Not as much as I used to
So when I do
It makes me think

This one was odd
Hanging out with friends
Driving around town
We needed a place to crash
So I took them to my grandmother’s house
It was empty, my key worked
We were there a few hours
Until I saw a car pull up in the driveway
And suddenly remembered
My grandmother died over a year ago
Her kids sold the house
Someone else lives here now
They came in
And I had to spend an hour explaining myself
Managed to talk them out of calling the cops
I’m good at that
Talking my way out of trouble
But the whole time I was kicking myself
Why didn’t I remember? …

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image by emubz

It amazes me now
How impressive it was to me
That drive to live beyond
The grave
The ordinary
The normal
Flowers watched, unfazed
Mountains couldn’t be bothered
They were wiser than I
Alone of all the planet’s inhabitants
Only man dares
Through struggle
Against odds
Sundering all around him
For a chance to write his name
In a ripple of water

A fight I once admired
A folly I can never forget
The blinkers
Applied in youth
Once removed
Can never be replaced
Without the wearer knowing
The true world is so much bigger
Than a man can ever understand

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photo by Alan Smithee

I have poured my truth
Minute by minute
Hour by hour
Year by year
Into vessels of art


Each capped with its own seal
The maker’s mark
A breadcrumb
In a vast forest of like vessels

For a long time
Filling one bottle
Would precipitate reaching for another
The spillover
So much to say
Too much for a lifetime

That as I look at them all now
It is as if from a great distance
And I see
A sort of completeness
A grand tapestry
One work, into which every ounce
Of truth I had to give
Was distilled


Matthew Broyles

writer, musician, amateur historian, someone’s dad

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