December 30, 2017

There is a weird mist in the streets tonight,

and in my heart a howling.

My four dead friends are in the mist,

less dead than usual.

All around the world,

people are wanting a drink,

and I’m no better than them.


In high school I took a handful of mushrooms

and spent the whole night in communion

with a pot bellied stove,
a warm god in that cold cabin.

The name of this minor deity

was Jøtul: squat, strong, demanding

nothing but kindling, which was plentiful,

and giving in return

a place to be safely lost.

Truthfully I was drawn

in the wild destructions of my adolescence

to many less worthy saviors

than Jøtul.

Here's to that good old stove

and to the long talk

that lasted deep into the night.


Men are terrible to women; this I have always known,

hearing from my own mother the stories of her deprivation

and abuse. How to process this, as a boy tumbling headlong

into his own manhood? I didn’t know then, and don’t now.

The robes of power are presented to boys; we are allowed

to hide ourselves in them, and wreak havoc. Most try it.

Some abandon it.

Men are terrible to women, because men are strong and

lost, with no purpose for their strength, and no map.

Men are terrible to women because men are weak and 

yielding, weaponized by the world.

Men are terrible. And yet in the arms of my brothers I feel

a beautiful manhood, perhaps not yet born,

or perhaps we abandoned it.

Men are terrible to women because pain hurts, and we

put it on whom we’re allowed to put it. — Carry this for us,

we say to the women, not waiting for a response. Oh,

there is little dignity in this life: mostly humiliation

and shame, passed back and forth like a burning cup.

— Carry this for me. — I can’t. — Carry this for me. — I can’t.

— Help me abandon it.


I carried you as long as I could.

I sank lower as you hung on

like a heavy child. My breath burned.

I lessened as you grew large.

But when I left you by the road’s edge

you seemed not heavy but frail:

a clutch of leaves, a bird’s bone,

my fearsome lonely father.

Will Stenberg is a writer, musician and bartender in Portland Oregon and, being born in 1980, came through the Gen X window a year or two before it closed.

JJ Cromerhttp://www.jjcromer.com/shapeimage_7_link_0