One Week in Skyrim

I was going to ask her to marry me.

For aiding his city (I killed a dragon, nbd) the Jarl of Whiterun made me a thane, a title of nobility, and gave me the opportunity to purchase a home in the Plains district. He also assigned me a housecarl – essentially a bodyguard. What use the apparent last in a line of born dragonslayers would have for a bodyguard seemed limited, but I was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Even if this particular gift horse happened to be a surprisingly attractive Nord named Lydia. Shield and sword in hand, she set off dutifully alongside me, and together we explored the vast and snowy countryside. She seemed born for this kind of adventuring, and was clearly thrilled to be far away from the predictable safety of the Jarl’s palace.

If we stumbled upon something truly remarkable, like the ancient Eldergleam tree, Lydia would comment on its splendor. And her intuition about imminent danger was impeccable. I came to rely on her company – as well as her sword – at my side.

While practicing my craftsmanship at a blacksmith’s forge one afternoon, I made a simple silver necklace, and on a whim, gave it to Lydia. It had no enchantments, no special protections or enhancements would be bestowed by its use, but she put it on anyway. That’s when I knew.

And then.

We had together just slayed a Blood Dragon atop Skyborn Altar, and we had scarcely caught our breath when the summit decided to punish us further. From a hitherto-unnoticed casket nearby, a long-dead Dragon Priest punched its way out and attacked us relentlessly. I’d never seen such powerful magics before. I fought like a coward, peppering it with arrows and shouting fire at it for probably a good 10 minutes, depleting nearly all of my support resources in the process. when it was over, all that remained was it’s golden helm, which I dared not put on for fear of turning into one of those things. And that’s when I saw Lydia’s sword on the ground.

I searched frantically for her. Perhaps she’d retreated, or had been gravely injured. Suddenly, behind a felled tree I found her, collapsed in a heap. She was dead.

I want to explain something to you, whoever is reading this: I’ve owned this game for just over a week. All of those things happened.  None of it, outside of the first paragraph, is considered part of “the story,” i.e. the game’s central plot. All of it, however, resonated more deeply than any other “story” in any other game I’ve played. Ever.

Here is the moment where games show their hand as a truly unique storytelling medium. There are countless other films, books, and even games that have utilized the trope of “the sudden death” to emotionally engage the audience. The important distinction here, what sets Skyrim apart – in this regard at least – was that Lydia’s death was not a planned emotional manipulation. It was not “supposed to” happen at a given plot point. Rather, circumstances that I dictated through my actions and decisions led me to that snowy mountaintop, standing over the body of a close companion. In other words: it was my fault.

That we are at a point where a game can make you, as a player, feel truly responsible for your actions, is almost incomprehensible. Especially in light of the fact that some games – other recent releases, in fact – are scripted to the point where you almost feel the game would be better off without your interference.

In Skyrim, there often is no correct way of doing something. Lydia’s death wasn’t a “mistake,” I cared only for my own safety and neglected her’s. If I had acted differently, she might still be alive. This wasn’t an “error” or a “glitch,” it was an honest-to-goodness bad decision. Of course I have an out: I could just reload my last save, bringing Lydia back from the dead. It literally would have never happened. But that feels inauthentic; insulting to the genuine effect that that turn of events had on me, and how it will color my adventures going forward. Skyrim is not about doing something “the right way.”

It’s about doing something.

game of the fucking year.


This is Disconnected

I need to know your favorite cereal
and where you like to be on rainy days.
Whether or not you like piano jazz
And if you’ve ever been on a picnic before.
I want to know why you dress in black
and for that matter, why you don’t.
I would like your opinion on the necessity of heartbreak
as applied to personal and emotional growth.
I also need to know how you feel about trampolines
as applied to drunken stargazing.

I want take you somewhere you’ve never been,
right within in your own hometown.
The kind of place you always pass by
without giving a second thought.
It will turn out that you love this place
and come back to it again and again.
I will do this to prove a point
albeit clumsily
about taking chances on the unfamiliar
and how that which you know so well
can still offer a pleasant surprise


He had to break something.
He had to carve a scar into the face of a sculpted statue,
to pry every 8th tile out of a mosaic, to throw a coat of primer over an ancient fresco.
He needed to throw something delicate as far as he could, or maybe off of an overpass.
He needed to play a beautiful song badly, to recite an iconic poem with a stupid accent,
and to throw a delicious meal in the garbage.

To physically exert dominance over something, perhaps for the first time in his life, was all that was on his mind as she told him that she was leaving and how it had nothing to do with him.

They couldn’t stay the slightest of friends.

So I think I’ve ignored this blog long enough that anyone who would come here has stopped, so I can post this journal-y update with relative anonymity.

I blew an audition for the first time. I’m trying not to let it totally rob the wind from my sails, though I’m definitely hanging a few pegs lower than I was before. It had always been such an easy, natural thing that consistently yielded positive results that I never truly prepared for one. But something was different this time. I guess there were a lot of contributing factors: I was pretty indifferent about that particular show (but i’m ALWAYS indifferent about shows before I get cast in them); I wasn’t feeling particularly well that night; and in the back of my mind I was worried that i wouldn’t have the time nor the managerial dexterity to adequately handle the show, my classes, and my job. I mean, I KNOW I couldn’t handle all three, I just didn’t realize it until my audition.

In fact, I’m not sure I can juggle classes and work anymore. I wonder if it’s too late to withdraw and still get my tuition refunded.

Someone recently left a comment on one of these poems here, “The Odyssey 1st Reprieve,” that made me really proud of what I wrote. It makes me stop and wonder what happened; why I don’t write anymore. I feel like I’m out of ideas; or at least ideas that are worth expounding upon. I definitely want to write more within the context “The Odyssey” – I feel like I created a genuinely interesting dynamic between a couple in just a few poems.

I heard a Dismemberment Plan song, “Ellen and Ben,” that immediately made me think of my own fictional couple. It was a weirdly exhilarating feeling; I’ve never been able to reference something back to my own work before.

I wish I was more into songwriting. It’s hard to write complete songs though, when all you can play – and all you have access to – is a bass guitar. Do you know how complicated solo bass compositions have to be to sound good?

More than anything, I’m starting to feel stuck. My days feel like I’m walking calf-deep in molasses. I’m saving up too little money too slowly to do anything about it, though. I’m not even sure where I’d go. Back to Albany, I suppose, but how long do we want to stay up there?

Also, I think I bit my lip in my sleep because it’s swelling inexplicably. Which is doubly strange because I don’t remember sleeping last night.

Mysteries of life. Go listen to that Dismemberment Plan song I mentioned.

An Ultimatum

I am giving you a sentence.
One subject, one object.
You had better believe it’s a direct object.
Take care when choosing your verbs,
take greater care in choosing adjectives.
Do not even think about
leaving a participle dangling.
No semicolons.

You have one sentence.
Convince me to stay.

Obligatory Best-of-Decade Post, part 1 of 1.

I’m taking a break from not writing poetry to hunker down and consider my own list(s) for the best things of this decade, as this is the first decade of my life I can claim to coherently remember almost all of. I’m tempted to go with a film list, as it’s what I’ve had the most experience speaking critically about on the internet. But for no better reason than it’s just what I’m in the mood for, I’m going to break down my top albums of the ’00s.

But the thing is, I’m completely self-indulgent (I have a poetry blog, for fuck’s sake), so this list has nothing to do with trendsetting or societal/industry/cultural impact. In fact, calling this a “Best-of” list is probably a misnomer, since it’s really just “All the Shit I Liked Over the Last 10 Years.”

Continue reading

R. W.

I had the craziest dream about me last night.
I didn’t fly, or see through walls
I (still) couldn’t even dance.
The crazy thing was that
all of a sudden, with total clarity,
I really knew who I was.
I saw all my hopes, my fears
and my goals in full focus
for the first time.
All that uncertainty, gone.
The crippling torment of doubt
that kept me from moving in any direction
was lifted, and I suddenly realized
the best ways to travel in all directions.
And so i set off at once, the direction unimportant
because I knew just what lay ahead.
The euphoria that comes with complete confidence
in your actions is an unrivaled sensation.
On I walked, knowing – knowing – I was
on the right course.
So I walked closer to my destination, to the
reward I had refused to let myself see I had always wanted
And then