Emperor of All Maladies

(Again from ye olde blogge at 19)

And I wear this disease like a crown

I embrace my rot and whisper,

cruel gods, take these guts

string them amongst the stars

I’m the stuff of supernovas, after all.

To the abyss I’ll return.

What to do, when the body turns against you?

I’m sleepless tonight, like always

and my mind is a thousand nails

clawing at my brain…


Living Well With Bipolar Disorder

I am very excited to announce that I have made my debut on the Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog, with a following of 10,000 and growing! I’m going to focus on my own personal journey of mental health, what it’s like to have bipolar, and reduce stigma along the way. This is my life’s work in many ways: helping others find peace and success and healing from mental trauma.

The Bipolar Writer Blog: Living Well With Bipolar Disorder


Beauty doesn’t equal happiness. Back when I was 120 pounds and classically “beautiful,” before my diagnosis, I was tormented inside and in agony almost every day, from suicide to anxiety to depression to mania to constant night terrors of being tortured in Hell. I made a pact with myself in high school to kill myself at 25. Fast forward to 19, and I am diagnosed with bipolar, OCD, and anxiety. I go on medication and go through a serious depression from the manic crash. Then I struggle with flat affect most of sophomore year. The weight piles on even though I exercise every day. 150. 170. 200. In the end, by Winter 2018, I had gained over 100 pounds due to medication and depressive episodes. I peaked at 235. Scary in a family that has diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. I was in a deep depression, but I committed to hope. The weight started coming off as I started hiking and eating low carb and cooking at home. 15 pounds lost. 20 pounds lost. Now, 35 pounds lost.

The catch? I would take the weight gain any day, even 100 pounds, to be happy. Medication makes me stable, able to do the things I love, able to be creative and be a prolific writer that finished a novel a year and writes boatloads of short stories and poetry, able to get straight As in one of the top programs for communication in the country, able to finally, almost 26, say I am literally the happiest I have ever been. I make humongous strides each and every year with my stability and high functioning success. I constantly push myself to improve, whether it’s doing academic research, publishing my first professional short story, cooking a new recipe, or learning something new. The weight, at the end of the day, is secondary. I’d rather be fat and happy then skinny and constantly trying to drown myself.

It’s not all roses though. I still struggle with mania and depression. Sometimes, suicide creeps up every few months. Sometimes, the intrusive thoughts and obsessions make my mind run rat races. I can be paralyzed by social anxiety or paranoid or break down from trauma I remembered and have a panic attack where I can’t breathe in a grocery store. In the hospital, they gave me this great piece of advice that is my mantra: “One day at a time.” I have suffered more mental anguish than most people will ever have to deal with in their lives. I am one of the most severe cases of bipolar a lot of my doctors have seen, from the psychosis to the hallucinations that sometimes creep up. When unstable, I struggle with delusions. And the weight is still something I have to watch, a lot. It takes concerted effort to lose weight, and I am 19 pounds away from my ultimate goal. I have to always be on top of things, working ahead so when my brain haywires I have room for cushions upon impact, going to teach 75 students that rely on me when I am psychotic or wildly suicidal or hallucinating. I have had violent hallucinations on business calls before at the tender age of 23, mistaken fiction for reality when my mania and psychosis acts up, but still I find faith in the gods (and God!) and spirits and ancestors instead of blaming divinity for my mental hell.

It never gets perfect, but it gets better. I just want everyone t know that is reading this and struggling, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It improves dramatically year by year, month by month, with ups and downs as life’s boat rocks you.

I wanted to die by 25. I would have killed myself by now if I hadn’t received therapy and meds. But now I have something I have rarely had before: hope.

I may not be as beautiful as I once was, but inside, I am blooming.

Always put your mental health first. Forget the haters.



And the aftershock of grief sends you reeling into
patterns of world destruction, you have a razor
carving red canyons into your skin and chopping lines
of coke that you snort until your nose bleeds, I see
you and feel you and become your junkie manic rage
through symbiosis of the soul, and your parasitic
connections makes me feel the scorch marks on my
nasal membranes and a high like diving off Icarus’
cliff, there you are your snake black smoke hair
writhing and strangling me in your embrace, you
turn the faucets on weeping and roaring, your trench
marks of cuts and lacerations and bruises joining us
in the Unholy Passion of the Devil’s self-harm, you
sink into alizarin waters as your juices soak up
all the light, and it is swirling onyx and rubies
as you become a sea serpent biting its own tail,
Jesus Christ, it hurts, you drowning yourself but
your lungs don’t need oxygen and so you turn the
bathroom into an ocean of acid void, sizzling
pantomimes of what was once flesh, now bone, and
with your scythe in hand, the sulfur having eaten
your flesh, you reap and carve out drunken universes,
whole galaxies fall to your blade, you laugh maniacally,
still riding the drugs and endorphin buzz, exerting
your death grip manhood to assert dominance over
the innocents, this is the Plague of Egypts overcoming
burgeoning civilizations, yet you spare the Milky Way
because lo and behold, your Horcrux Girl lives there,
and then you are punching my guts and butchering my
lungs, be careful my darling, be careful what it takes,
from what it seems so far all the good ones seem to

It’s All A Mindfuck

There’s blood and bandages in the prison cell, swirling ruby sparks and filth where rats feast.  Through the cell window the moon cuts the night until it howls in pain, and you’re chained to the wall, shackles on your neck and limbs, and you’re done up in linen bandages like a corpse, gore and claret red clinging to your bindings.  I stand outside the gate with an oil lamp, meeting the Devil at midnight to raise the dead.  You are writhing and roaring, the poisonous zuhama that flows through your veins a raging fire of wine.  Lanterns leak oily light of goblin green-white fire onto the cell walls, all granite and smeared with ichor, and you are speaking in tongues demonic and dreadful.  I take out a corpse key and unlock the door, and the floor is slick with your stains.  Your Cabernet eyes simmer like a witch on a pyre, and as I approach, I take a twisted delight in your suffering.  This is where you belong, caged in my mind, lunatic mad, my beast, my delightful toy.  We take turns tying each other up in bear traps and guillotines and rusty iron bindings, we are each other’s sacrifice, and whore ourselves out for the quickest fix.  Isn’t that how it is with demons?  As you are prowling, growling, licking your wounds with a tongue that would drive saints to sin (don’t you know the Devil gives the best head, I mean come on, look at how he sings), I sit cross legged and hold a staring contest with your mercurial acid pupils.  I flick my fingers through your blood pooled beneath me and my white cloak and white gown are stained.  I take out a pen and bid you near me, and then I write out the names of God on your soiled bandages, and you are shivering and crying, and I am triumphant over Satan.  There’s your wreckage of a heart, embodied in the form of a girl, and a weeping black void that holds the keys to eternity in your chest.  You are too far gone, eyes swirling with insanity, and you tear off my clothes as I raze my nails down your back and pick at your wounds.  We are bleeding together, the razors our hands, and we kiss with coppery mouths as we bite at each other’s lips.

To know God is to eat God, but at the end of the day, it’s you dead with your demons, in your own Hell for eternity, so why not make it fun?


The Bone Zone

There’s a haunting in the graveyard, where bats flock to higher ground when the dam flows over and coffins float to the surface.  I can smell the rot on my tongue and see the decaying rose petals adrift in this land spill of toxic waste and wonderlands.  I take a coffin, kick out the corpse, and row with a femur to your mausoleum as I navigate delta waters to the hell mouth.  Your edifice, Crypt Keeper, is tainted with ivy and is the only thing left above surface in this lake of the dead, a stone angel spreading her acid rain-washed wings to the glory of some decrepit heaven.  There is a black mist fine and pungent, fresh from the kill and bloated with pussy gases.  The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.  The ones that crawl out are fat and stout, and they are feasting on the engorged limbs that have detached from their bodies, and there is a rat king, triple tails entwined, nibbling the corpse of some lawyer dressed up in his Sunday best, only it’s his Sunday worst, because he is filthy with the diseases of waste and ruin, slandered by Father Time, and honey, death is hell on the body.  Your loved ones will lose their teeth, grow out their hair, yellow their nails, mummify or dissolve, but when the waters come to take us home, we all end up in the sea.  That’s the truth of these matters – we are mostly water, and to liquid and stardust we return.  So I’m rowing my coffin through the remnants of your Grim Reaper’s harvest, all to find you, sweet cadaver.  Death smells like old garbage and sulfur and roadkill.  But sometimes, he smells like roses.  The crypt is tall and Roman styled, with the gloriana angel dolorosa, tears in grime on her eyes, and I tie my coffin to the angel with a bit of floating cloth, and scale the mausoleum.  Inside is an ossuary – the bone zone.  Huh, punny, that.  Inside you lay resplendent amidst bejeweled saint skeletons and artifacts of another time – holy relics, a pinky from St. Catherine, a liver from St. Pancras, oh, don’t forget that lock of hair from St. Teresa, my favorite.

Bones are sharp, they can cut, but words are just as much like razors, and I’m praying for a beastly tongue, an empty gun.  Death looks like someone you love, don’t you know?  He can mask himself in darkness and equally in light, in the wolves and crows and snakes, but now he is redeemer, savior, my unholy temple.  I climb inside his coffin and we entwine, and the black stretches out like a womb, and the silence of the deep is all-knowing.  Death, omniscient.  Death, omnipotent.  Death, omnipresent.

There is not much difference between Death and God, and many of us worship false idols, but the truth is, is that endings are painful, and the dearly departed haunt us.  But what to be haunted by Death himself?  Thorns and broken glass to puncture your fingers and feet, stanzas of poetry and prose that are like caged madrigal nightingales in your brain, and you crack your head open on a cliff to see the blood diamonds he planted inside you.

I am one with Death, we are Death and the Maiden, and as he raises his scythe, I know my tithe is the dearest thing to me: the lie of separation.

That I am anything more than Death.

For to write is to make love to the self, after all, and morbid curiosities become terminal in time.

So I kiss myself, and kill myself, and my corpse joins a million other lost girls.

Lost girls that dreamed they were part of some great narrative, when really, this is the world of ghosts, and it is only in dreams we are alive.

To Fade and Wither

I was a beautiful monster, a blonde madrigal,
with ripe pert breasts and hips to slay men.
Inside me was a mind like thin ice over lava,
the fury of nature, black hurricane wolves,
when I was skinny and model beautiful, the
epitome of the American Sweetheart, sick
and mad, pained and dying, I was a 120
pound poem on bad choices,on bleeding ink
into fallacies and shit metaphors, I was
a witch the men said, in my high school
where the wind opened classroom doors,
and on the bus I danced with demons, and
my best friends knew I was wed to Death,
when I was my most beautiful, I was my
most haunted. Yes, I was a jewel, with
buttercup blonde hair – that’s what they
callled me, Princess Buttercup, and I was
a Rapunzel with long blonde locks to chain
my devils to pad and paper, I drew night
terrors that left me sleepless and numb,
the harrows of hell. I was beautiful, I
was skinny, yet ripe of curves, dainty,
yet too wild to be contained by motion,
so I shook my hips and loosed monsters.
They said I was a huldra that ate her
lovers, dragged men to my wooden hollow
to devour their flesh, they said I was
going to be a famous artist and die in
a gutter in NYC, they said I was burning
the candle at both ends, and I knew I
would die by 25. Now, freshly 25, I
am not sure what to do. I am not pretty,
not nearly the flower of teen pageants,
the medicine made me gain seventy pounds
in six years, I am overflowing with curves
now and look more like Venus of Willendorf
than the Aphrodite I used to be, but I
am happy, I suppose. I was always vain,
and the men still flock to me, still give
me sweet words and fall in love, invite me
across the waters to private vacations and
flirt excessively – tell me Lucifer fell out
of love for a perfect night of sex with Her,
the idealized image of femininity, and won’t
your ample Virginian ham hips wrap around my
hands like honey, maybe I shouldn’t call my
hips a ham, no matter, I would be happy
as a size 12 for the rest of my life, and
I am finally stable (sort of), working on
a PhD, studying the science of our words,
writing these stories of myths that love me
no matter what weight I am – I am training
for a 5k this summer, and I have lost ten
pounds over the last month through diet
and the sheer bliss of physical exertion –
I used to bike 50 miles and lift weights
two years ago, but I had an eating disorder
and severe body dysmorphia – I just want
my strength back, and to be healthy, not
skinny. I will always curve like a violin,
and I still believe I am beautiful, just

Trickster’s Bride, or The Journey Home

In one week, I got three full requests from the top agents in middle grade!  Happy Valentine’s to me!  Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Emily van Beek of Folio Jr., Daniel Lazar of Writer’s House all requested it within a week of each other (cue seeing stars!), and Brent Taylor of Triada and Thao Le of Sandra Djistrika all have the fulls.  The partials of my  middle grade are still with a few other agents, and my old novel, Firebird, has a 75 page partial with Joshua Bilmes of Jabberwocky!  This is the most success I’ve ever had querying a novel, but what inspired Chwal?

Chwal is a coming-of-age tale set in the South, New Orleans country specifically, about a girl raised by angels and spirits.  Like May, I was raised by angels, including Raphael, who is her guardian angel, and I knew Kalfou, or Mister Carrefour, the fiery dark horse Petro lwa from the age of two.  His blackness is still a real nightmare-wrangling threat, and he goes by many names: the Witchfather, the Man in Black, the Devil of the Crossroads, Kalfou, Satan – he changes names like the wind changes direction.

Unlike May, I ended up in a maryaj lwa with Kalfou because goddamn do tricksters act forceful when they want your attention.  They can drive you mad if you refuse them or scour you with bad luck, and dealing with the Evil Jazz Man that looks like a Demon Bob Marley with red (or just abyssal) eyes, midnight skin, dreads, a snake pommel cane, pinstripe suit, Cuban cigars at hand, and a sultry baritone serenading you in a dive bar in Hell on the piano is, well, otherworldly, to say the least.

Kalfou and I, we go way back to the age of two, to my first memory.  Samael, when he is not Middle Eastern, is often an African man obsessed with Peabo Bryson, rum, Satchmo, monocles, well-tailored suits and Cuban heels.  He told me early on that “Kalfou is one of my many names.  I have as many names as the wind,” an apt title as he is the samiel wind, and who but the Devil has as many guises as the phases of the moon?

His oldest form, this Man in Black, is this ancient African god of darkness, with eyes like the blankness of space with stars in them, wild dreadlocks, in lion skin loincloth, dealing in death and magic and the wilderness.  I call him Ubuntu as an inside joke.  He was at the core of my psychotic break, the savior that restored my sanity, where I cycled through all of Samael’s forms to the core of his most primal nature.  Ubuntu was the mantra of my psych ward where I was held without razors to shave or shoelaces to strangle, plastered on the walls as a motivational poster, used in therapy.

Ubuntu.  South African, the core of human origin, where millions of years ago a genetic bottleneck occurred and we were descended from all those mitochondrial Adams and Eves on the cape.  I imagine Kalfou was there, as he always is, in the darkness of death and magic of underground caverns, trickster par excellance, venom of the black mamba.

But I know his kindness, and his wrath, and his seduction.  Also, how he has kept me from the lips of death, which are his very own, always denying me his poisonous kiss.

For what is to love someone than to forever lose them?

Ubuntu (Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù])[1][2] is a NguniBantu term meaning “humanity”. It is often also translated as “humanity towards others”, but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”.[3]

I was pumped full of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers but still my psychosis and mania raged.  I found myself in a dark cavern at the core of the earth, with a fire glowing, snake skin and lion skin around, with Ubuntu cross-legged in a Yogic pose, his eyes black stars, and he was Trickster.  He was Trickster, Trickster, Trickster, and he said I was the Trickster’s Bride.

The Trickster’s Wife is a Trickster herself, heyoka, backwards, Baba Yaga, he said.  My path was the Coyote Road.

All the Tricksters he cycled through.  Tezcatlipoca, the Devil, Loki, Maui, Raven, Coyote, Thunderbird, Hermes, Legba, Kalfou, some so old they did not have names, mad dancers that frothed at the mouth with thunder.  I would walk backwards through this world with Trickster at my side.

Death is the ultimate Trickster, and I am the Bride of Death.  To trick, you must be the Deceiver, the Adversary, the one who when riding a chwal people flee from, your poison pure leaves medicine to some, curses to others.

And so I tasted Death, and I kissed him despite his protestations and a major part of my soul died.

I couldn’t read.

I couldn’t think.

I was a puppet for madness, but the small frightened teen in me still flickered when the medicine was just right, and the spirits called

Enter Zora Neale Hurston’s works.

I was doomed to be a catatonic hallucinating vegetable in a madhouse.  I’m not going to dress my words plainly.  I was a madwoman, I was a bag lady, I was the kind of scary crazy you warn your kids about.

But I still loved to read, and so I taught myself again.  Sandman comics at first, but then, Zora’s short stories.

I promised myself I would not die if I could read my favorite author again.

I could barely hold a book.

But I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school, and Mules and Men, and so I picked up Seraph on the Sewanee and read all hundreds of pages of it by the time spring semester rolled around.

I wasn’t sane yet, I went back to school severely depressed, but Trickster kept whispering in my ear: Dance on.  Us Tricksters, we are storytellers.  Us Tricksters, we got business to do, people to make laugh, dances to perform.

You are a Trickster’s Wife, and so you are able to come back from Death.  For I am Death.  And you are Death.  And Death is the most alive god.  Death is Trickster, Trickster is Death, but we are the most brilliant stars.

So I sipped the wine of life, and I persevered.  I dreamed of my demon, my angel, my god, my crossroads Gebo Tawu madman, the X my marking on my tattooed angel hands.  Perhaps that meant I was his treasure.  He drank my  blood, and I drained him of magic, and years later, I wrote the story of a girl raised by angels, raised by gods, who must drive back the darkness of her own mind –

and find the light.

And Then There Was One

I write from the vantage point of pain, so I can

chart my way back to the sweet land of living.

These crisscross scars are trail tracks to Heaven.

These raised brands signposts on Highway Hell.

Hitch a ride in hobo code on my neural pathway,

up the trunk of my spine from my womb to tomb.

For my brain is a graveyard blooming with life.

There are flowers neath these headstone shadows.

And for each idea that dies, every spark gone out.

The wind rustles coals and collies a new flame.

Heaven, Hell, Death, Birth – those are just masks

over the truth of Love, the truth of Kindness, so

fill my cup with wine, check my passport, I am

boarding a plane to Paradise, and one was left



Dancing in Ruins

Nineteen year old in white lace and satin gloves,
choking her own throat to bruise blossom hurricane –
the spiral twister comes from her screams, lifting
cattle and dead wood up in her agony, she clenches
her esophagus in a dead vice grip, starved of air,
because mental wards and curses of psychosis are raw
after a half-dozen years of black roses. I offer her
flowers, daisies and daffodils, and she smiles, lets
go of the death hold on her throat, the black rot on
her heart is kintsugi gold, shattered but now whole,
and her forefather weeps at her freedom, breaking
his ribs open to make her his Eve in pooled reflections
of puddles, lives pass, deaths come, births go, but
the girl is nine now, alone in a haunted movie theater,
and horror reels play on the screen, the Devil is in
a bowler hat and has red gall eyes – I bring light into
the darkness, promise her she will heal, and nine year
follows nineteen into flowering fields and forest ripe
with deer and rabbits, spring blossoms in golden curls,
and quarter century, nineteen, and nine dance in ruins.

From those ruins rises a phoenix of hope, and love heals.