note: “Electric Parade” is now “Bullet Train to Tokyo” because “Electric Parade” no longer suits me and I’ve never set foot in Japan, much less one of its bullet trains.


once upon a time, i was poor. in Prince George’s County, Maryland–close enough to Washington, DC to claim the district as my home–empress and i rarely ate well. we survived in a two bedroom apartment on Nigerian fare she learned from her family, but we struggled. a bohemian struggle, yes–we fucked and wrote poetry and ran an unprofitable business–but still a struggle. cheap rice & boiled chicken in a tomato broth: sometimes with onions; sometimes with seasoning; never with pleasure.

better times in Georgia; elle and i ate better. i made money. with money comes stuff. i had no stuff; i loved hip-hop; i had to have stuff. i got around to buying my own Dell laptop for $300 used. but it wasn’t the right stuff: top of the line; materials to fill the void; labels to brand me beautiful.

i’m often asked why i buy Apple products. i believed–once–that their products would make me beautiful, imbue me with worth. the same reason i buy Moleskine notebooks now, in New Jersey, with amira. we eat well–English fare three floors above the River Thames–and the beauty seen in particular stuff outweighs its actual worth.

i acknowledge i’m a fool for (or of) marketing. Hemingway used little black notebooks, so goes the legend, and while i’ve read little Hemingway, and have even less interest in emulating his sparse style, the Moleskine’s alleged history promised beauty. beautiful notebook to beautify my disfigured works.

Moleskine srl, the parent company which branded & released The Notebook since 1997, knows its audiences.

some buy for status. which is comical–no status is more ignored than the act of writing anything, even a grocery list or the pornographic sins of last night, into a notebook.

some buy because money is no object. true–money, at a certain amount, becomes a way of life, a philosophy or, god help us all, a religion.

and then there are the artists, the squirming bodies shoved into the base foundation of culture, who buy Moleskines for the same reasons we buy writing prompt books and “how to get published’ webinars chaired by social media ninjas. art is a magical trade, the one form of wizardry accesible to humanity, and talismans come in all shapes, sizes, prices–products with varied promises as altruistic as campaign slogans. yes you can.

i am not immune. disfigured words written in a drugstore notebook, or typed into a black plastic monstrosity with an equally reprehensible operating system, appear even uglier, scarred. Moleskines, like MacBooks, are akin to extreme makeover shows.

the homely, stretch-marked blonde becomes a redhead, her face dyed with Revlon, her shabby clothes replaced with McCall and Choo (or reasonable facsimiles), and the crowd applauds as she enters the room, re-made: still homely; still stretch-marked; branded “beautiful.”

every artist longs to be beautiful. this is a good thing–there is beauty in truth. but beautiful tools, like the oil-skinned Moleskine–fashionably black and slim; its pages suited for pencil and ballpoint pens, lest ye be judged for smears and feathering caused by fountain pens (like the one in my hand)–are easier to purchase, attain. right there, begging you to beg for truth inside its covers.


for more info on the author, please visit or find him trolling on twitter @mensahdemary.

death scene: denzel as malcolm x approaching the audubon

cue: Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”

play up to a loud, ear-splitting crescendo: the opening violins which slices every black American down his/her back.


i was told–once–as a little boy, “denzel was despondent when he shot that scene.” i’m adding despondent for effect; it’s a stronger word than sad. my mother, anyway, said this to me, or maybe to all of us as we watched X on vhs. it reaffirmed the myth that malcolm embodied ghostly-like the flesh of denzel throughout the film. “he transformed into malcolm,” they said–all the black people i knew–once–as a little boy–and they said it with twinkles in their eyes, tears i mistook as sunlight.

the myth was further entrenched during the death scene: denzel as malcolm x approaching the audubon. if one took the movie as fact, as i did–once–as a little boy, one can assume malcolm knew death awaited him. malcolm, in disguise as denzel, waved off security and made sure betty & the girls sat up front to listen to husband-father give a speech.

these days, i call myself an adult–so i don’t know if he knew, he being malcolm (the real version).

but i recall wanting to cry during the death scene. not the bullets. not the blood. not angela bassett as betty wailing and helplessly protecting the girls. before that. before


before denzel (as malcolm reincarnate) waved off security

before people strolled into the audubon and sat down on uncomfortable folding chairs (wooden, i think…or steel…one or the other).

rewind the vhs back to the opening violins which gutted me as a little boy–violins i never heard before–violins that make my eyes twinkle now–back to where malcolmdenzel walked down the sidewalk. his face was sad. despondent, perhaps. or knowing. i don’t know. but behind him, over his head and above the gray clouds, beneath the wrinkles of the little old black woman who tried to console malcolmdenzel, sam cooke sang for us all, whether we acknowledge it or not.

a change is gonna come bleeds despair. cooke cries through his soulful voice the sense that one accepts reality as it presents itself –the past, cursed present and blurred future–but the refrain (and title) a change is gonna come is hope.

change. hope. perverted words, today. lies, all lies.

sam cooke, even digitized and blared through overpriced headphones, saves these words now, long after his death, after malcolm’s death, from indifference: the bitch of a virus which infects all words and phrases heard and said and heard over and over again on television (especially during election season).

we all knew. we all knew in the movie theater and, later, in our living room, watching X. we knew it well; conversely, we didn’t know our family was doomed to die by divorce in two years. denzelmalcolm had to die. he had to die as MLK had to die, as Bob Marley had to die, as Miles Davis and Amy Winehouse and my best friend and my unborn children had to die–it was foretold.

it was life exacting its indifference upon malcolm, reenacted for our viewing pleasure (?) with, perhaps, the best musical choice one could select for a man walking to his own dirge. oh, oh god–we all knew–a change was about to come and maybe in my little boy heart, i wanted malcolm to live. i wanted X to continue for another forty years.

sam cooke’s seminal work, then, is a message from god–if you swing that way–or a masterpiece riding our earth’s winds surfer-style, sent shimmering in silver as a herald, to remind us, in Octavia’s voice, that change is the only god. malcolm never stood a chance–those fucking violins. they were, and remain, clairvoyant, and filled with…

"mensah demary"

for A.
down the rabbit hole…

the name “mensah” is Igbo (some believe it is Twi) for “third born son.” this makes “mensah” a far more accurate name than “Thomas.” i retained my last name (real) to honor my father. combined, mensah demary references my parents—I love them—and it represents definintion—agency. i am free to define myself, i am free to define myself, i am free to name myself properly.


i’ve never been called a nigger. but i have been called nigger-lite—nigga—as a term of endearment, as a word in search of a new definition. i’ve called people “niggas”—i’ve called you one under my breath. i have a long way to go.

no one called me a nigger, but images whisper in bold letters.


the current web sensation “Awkward Black Girl” captivates young black people like me. it is not, however, the fetishizing of awkwardness. “awkward” can be swapped for “nerdy” or “normal” or “frustrated”—words in direct opposition to nigger or merely “lazy.”

“Awkward Black Girl” challenges the ignorant & humiliating portrayals—rhymes with “betrayal”—of so-called black life. it is satire—if CNN & other channels like to run shows about the “black experience,” then we can use the same medium to mock them, to bolster us. “Awkward Black Girl” is about identity: love yourself, or don’t—but be yourself.


these words are from a black man. they should be associated with black men. black women, meanwhile, fight the good fight against “The Help.” soon, i will join them on the battlefield, at the intersection of Mammy and White Guilt.


i’ve never been called a nigger, but i was accused of “talking white.” i blacken my words with agency; i await the accusation of writing “african-american.”

as a child, when i knew I was losing at checkers or Candyland, i flipped over the board or smacked away the game pieces.


if all black men in america spoke up, one by one, just to tell their side of the tale, then Toure, Tyrese and Steve Harvey would pipe down. just an idea.


i never been called a nigger, but i do call myself “mensah.” not a sudden change—in my head, i haven’t called myself by my real name in twelve years.

the act of naming is holy, but not permanent—and far from automatic accuracy. naming defines you while attaching you to lineage, to history.

i am the third born son of Diane. that’s all i am.


i never been called a nigger, but if you call me a nigger, i assure you—a nigger will be revealed and it won’t be me.

black men are not victims.

note: “victim” and “victimized” are not the same.


tell me white men save black women from unmarried lives; tell me our children have no fathers; tell me we don’t read & we can’t create (except babies); tell me in your soft tone, with disingenuous babble about race (post), how we mean nothing to everyone; tell me about the niggers in jail and in rap videos, waiting for my smile & nod; tell me my name is Thomas; tell me you’re not listening—

tell me something good

they say athena is the greek goddess of love. i used to say this, before i learned the gods’ names and their accompanying powers, abilities hitched to human elements. they say athena is the goddess of love because, in my mind, athena–phonetically speaking–sounds lovely, or is flicked off the back of teeth like thick chocolate, or because athena is a well-known god, alongside zeus and hades, so it stands to reason, given athena’s beauty–and womanhood–she should be the goddess of love.

i’m tempted to say this is ignorance on the part of people, but i understand it as a matter of space. the brain can only hold so much information before data is deleted, or pushed into mercurial pools where the forgotten drowns. adults have little reason to remember lessons from grade school, and they have all the reasons they need to confuse athena with aphrodite, although–clearly–the latter is a given. aphrodite, aphrodisiac, aphro, a common hairstyle for aphro-americans, one athena wears now, one that turns me on like ginseng and pomegranate.


i met her before i met empress. i met her before i renamed myself mensah. i was still Dennis and i wrote like him, too–badly–but i shared my work online, as did athena. we weren’t friends, but admirers of each other’s art, i suppose. i thought her far more precocious in the matters of poetry than i; i said as much; i said, “i want to write poetry like you when i grow up.” i don’t know her response, since memory is a bitch and besides, monitors and code separated us. whatever she muttered over yonder in ohio, or whatever she wrote in the box label REPLY TO, i can assure you…LOL was not attached at the end. and if it was, it was done so genuinely, as opposed to LOL shut the fuck up.

athena rarely cusses. she is, in that sense, the better wordsmith.


in the video game series, “God of War,” i–as Kratos, maddened and ashen and wielding swords affixed to chains welded to forearms–was forced to kill athena. she was his guide, his rabbi of sorts as he marched through levels of skeletons and cyclopses on his way to a final showdown with Zeus, his father. athena wanted zeus dead, though i can’t remember why. Kratos–i–got my wish, but not before he (me) accidentally killed athena.

athena came home from running errands and asked for a status update; she liked to watch me play video games and i liked playing them for her; in this way, i performed a movie for her; i entertained her; i made her smile. she asked, “what happened?” and i replied, “i killed athena” and she asked, “you killed me. why?”  and i, “well, the game told me to. it was a part of the plot.” she nodded and kissed my forehead. “that’s foul,” she said.

later in the game…part iii if i recall…Kratos–i–fucked aphrodite on his (my) way to killing her husband. this factoid is somewhat related.


in georgia, i slammed my head onto a tiled wall. i didn’t bleed, but i did weep–before the blow, mind you–because a nameless force, one i knew for years, tripled in weight and rested its fat ass on my chest. the doctors called it major depression; i no longer doubt them. however, in the shower, my head still on the tiled wall, i said, “i need athena.”

this was seven years after we met online, six years after i last saw her face-to-face when i caressed the tattoo on her thigh while my girlfriend was nearby, a year after we reconnected on AOL messenger, two months after we both admitted to “feelings,” five months before i would see her again–differently–a year before my divorce.

love happens, so i’ve heard.


we had phone dates because i lived in georgia and she lived in ohio and we both lived with others (i with the wedding ring, she with the years–the years, the reasons to stay, the memories). i parked at a park, she parked at a botanical garden, and we dated over the phone.

she sent me music. fiona apple and sarah vaughn, no doubt and zero 7; i sent her dilla and the beatles and slum village and michael jackson (off the wall version). i sent her music because i wanted to, but also to return the favor twice over, for her music meant everything to me. she didn’t have to take the time to do a silly thing like make a mix CD and say in an email, “read between the lines,” but she did–and i read–


they say athena is the goddess of love and if i were still Dennis, i’d say something stupid. like:

they say athena is the goddess of love–and i agree.


they say athena is the goddess of love. maybe. but she’s my goddess.


athena is, in fact, the goddess of wisdom. athena is also a woman. just a woman. just–

athena. the name i utter. over and over. whispering it. turning it into an incantation to invoke not wisdom or love…but maybe…solace. stillness.


love, indeed. so much love.


“tell me something good,” she whispers into my right ear and i say,

…and she smiles, sated.

what is exhausting is what i wanted…

the time is 10:32 PM est. i am hunched over my laptop, shoved into the corner of our apartment. the desk–my wife’s–is positioned next to an open window, where humid air blows in, where expensive cold blows out–along with the cigarette smoke. this is my smoking section now, a place where i light up a Marlboro menthol and conduct the work. it’s isolating–i face the white wall where a painting i hate hangs far away from our living room’s disheveled decor. we’re moving in three weeks; i’m moving too in two weeks: 29 to 30. and i think about time as i ignore the fatigue in my body: its gaps; its waste; its application.

time, my use of it, is a matter of extremes: i devote it to a project or thought…or i hoard it all to myself as i sit on the couch, reading, watching, waiting. right now, i type because i devote my time to literature; i write out of a conflation of desire and obligation: my word is my bond–i owe PANK a column–and the work brings a stretched smile across my face, my cigarette bobbing up & down amid a chuckle. there is no better way to utilize time than to work on craft of any kind, in every sense of the word: craft as tools for prose; craft as spells casted to make HTML bend to my will; craft as in creation, formation, of bonds between myself and allies.

sometimes, i want to videotape myself. just to see how i use my time, to watch my movements while reading a book or typing on my laptop or the way i stroke my beard during an episode of Hoarders. it feels like work–to appear busy with one thing while my mind crafts ideas. conversation starters. or conversation explosives, some neutron bomb dropped by smart, crafty men & women spending time online like me–or working on their individual arts, collectively. the more i chat online and write long emails to my favorite writers, or the most interesting strangers, the more it feels like work. purposeful work. a reminder, maybe, that i’m not so alone, even now at this time, writing by the open window, puff-puffing my life away, to the chagrin of my wife. this desk, then, is considered marital compromise.

some might consider my work as time-sinks. i’m writing a blog post off-the-cuff as the clock swings toward 11; i wrote a small note on Tumblr about the visibility of a lit mag editor; i tweet about Reality Hunger; i re-read emails on ghostwriting; i accept my new role (begrudgingly) as a sort of expert, since all expertise needs–literarily speaking–is the intent to publish other writers. i find that funny since i don’t even know my own work or why i’m suddenly fearful–figuratively–of uppercase letters. but i spend my time writing in this manner, as i spend time conversing with people. making them laugh, making them think, making them pause: these are the sparks & dust specks of community. i said i wanted a home; it takes time to give people reason to help build a home with you.

what is exhausting is the fretting over: plans and layout; the need to make minor adjustments to incorrect objects–wrong font, wrong spacing–because i notice them; the rejection letters sent out; the monitoring of traffic analytics; the role of conversationalist. but i asked for it; i went and done it by wishing for these moments. i just want to belong; i also want to be generous with my time. and i do so without complaint. what is exhausting is what i wanted all along. home is worth the sleep deprivation, the smoking, the fretting. burnout as a brilliant sun suffocated and collapsing into itself; burnout as a portal to life as a phoenix. snuffed out & rising again–every night, every day–is what i was put on this earth to do. to spend my time online, in a corner, coughing and puff-puffing, living a simple dream coming true.


Like Gambit Hurling Race Cards…

Author’s note: this was written in February, 2011–undoubtedly during a blizzard.

Two weeks ago, I grabbed my red marker and wrote on my noticeboard, “opinionated writers.” Earlier, I perused Twitter and my RSS feeds, feeling inferior about my own work. “I need an emphasis,” I said to myself. I’m troubled by my growing indoctrination. An emphasis? I had an emphasis. I think.

Once, I was a stupid twenty-something, espousing esoteric, anachronistic angst regarding racial disparity; I’ve since learned black people are as screwy as everyone else, and equally susceptible to self-sabotage.

Then there’s Egypt: Mubarak was comedic fodder for my tweets, and he bounced so—onward with the search. The world is a veritable cavalcade of wonders and horrors, of sunshine, lollipops and pistols. What the hell is my problem?

I’ll lurk in the shadows of my favorite sites and blogs. The topics are serious; even when the site is quirky and bubbly and replete with 80s references—can we move on to the 90s?—everyone seems so worked up, so passionate. I got worked up the other night. My wife was upset because the local hip-hop station played a song from 2003 and called it “old school.”

I got mad at the phrase; I proceeded to rant for ten minutes about the nebulous definition of “old school,” which devolved into a diatribe on hip-hop itself: how it refuses to grow up; how its Peter Pan complex is of its own design, making “old school” music a sliding scale, a term relative to the listener’s age. It’s a hollow phrase used by crusty old-heads clawing for the “golden age” of hip-hop, a period that never existed.

Let’s move on.


A fellow blogger called on me to add perspective to her post on the VIDA count. As I wrote, I listened to the emcee Common; his song started off with, “I heard a white man’s yes is a black maybe.”

My comment on the VIDA post juxtaposed gender disparity in literature with race, because the hesitation of black writers to submit, to say nothing of acceptance, is similar to that of women. Similar is the not the same as the same but same difference. I’m writing in circles.

It’s presumed black writers create for black readership, a tribal exchange spoken in foreign, culturally irrelevant tongues; I know when I pick up a novel written by a woman, independent of her race and nationality, I arrive at the same presumptions. What VIDA exposed was a truth we all knew, men and women, and my hurling race cards like Gambit was my passion expressed, though muted.

In my comments, I wanted to write, “Stop the self-aggrandizement because you read Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Diaz. Anyone can read Pulitzer winners. Widen your reading habits and all of this other shit will correct itself with time—at least it’ll expose sexist, racist pigs once everyone else is enlightened, for lack of a better word.”


I didn’t write that. I posted a comment without stating my stance. That bothered me, but what helped removed the irritation was the initial request. Maybe I undervalue my own opinions, or perhaps I over-inflate the vitriol I expect to receive, but I’m always shocked when someone wants my opinion. I’m not one to offer it unsolicited: such is the life of the fat introvert.

Author’s note: the previous sentence is no longer applicable to said author.

Cool Story, Bro

Humility is acceptable, right? It’s not so odd to stare at the ground–or my big-tongued Adidas sneakers, black or burgundy, depending on the mood–and take the compliments in stride, as in silence, instead of feeling full of myself? Am I asking a larger social question here? What am I asking? Should I switch to declarative statements, instead?


I’m trying not to turn my column into the musings of a newborn literary magazine editor, though that is my life these days. Not so much writing, however. My therapist asked me why. I said I don’t know who I am anymore–which is to say, I’m no longer depressed and, as a result, I’m no longer driven by the feeling that writing, cathartically speaking, will help parry madness.

The words come easy–easier, maybe–because the murk is gone, but I’m in search of topics. The few scraps I do jot down raid my childhood memories, a writerly habit long overdue. Beyond that, what I have is my literary magazine, my role in it. Don’t ask me for its name; seek it out, if you want. This is PANK; I want to be PANKish here instead of skanky, a suitable word for someone promoting his mag on another mag without permission.

I’m no skank. I am, however, a fan of the word.

In this, my chemically-regenerated life, I’m quietly teaching myself humility. Re-learning it, maybe. Or, perhaps, attempting to slot it back into my life, figuring out where it fits, what it means. Humility before the anti-depressants was mere ownership of a situation I couldn’t change, akin to an unattractive man calling himself celibate.

I didn’t choose to be humble; it was a requisite for survival, since I wanted to avoid eye contact. Eyes say everything, more so than words and on par with kisses, and I had to parse my meager ability for intimacy carefully–as in, I saved it for my wife. My beautiful wife. My literary magazine partner. My genius.

But as I said, I’m no longer depressed. I no longer default to humility and I’m scared. I stand in line for a pack of cigarettes, keenly aware of my increased smoking rate (not out of nervousness, but because I enjoy the slight high), and the cashier looks me in the eyes. I stare back. She smiles. I smirk because she’s not attractive to me, but I’m attractive to her and being attractive to anyone always triggers a smirk, even a socially awkward one. She says hi and I say hi and I feel the looseness in my limbs, the ease of being self-assured (?). I do nothing else but pay for my cigarettes and bop, not walk, out of the store. This is life, I think to myself. Cool.

What is life as a literary magazine editor? Odd.

I’m never one to question a person’s motives; if you can believe it, this approach isn’t rife with pitfalls, since people’s true selves always come out–no sense digging into flesh and sentences only to find a vault’s door set to a timer. Anyway, I receive more and more compliments for my work. And I say thank you.

I pause and think You could say more. You could expound on your overall artistic goal–undefined as it is, but I could fake it. I could also be a clown or a chest-thumping gorilla: be the writer who attracts guffaws for outlandish one-liners; tower over other writers, look down on them.

In the last few days, I’ve tried both permutations. They feel awkward. Inauthentic. I’d rather be humble (re: boring) than inauthentic. When called out on it, all I could say was My man, you’re right.

What that means for me tomorrow, I’m not so sure. Tomorrow is what it is, so I’ve heard, and today ain’t over. I’m no longer depressed; I no longer default to humility; all I have is authenticity: as pure and hopeful as the blank page.

Literature for True Hipsters (aka The Literary Web)

Earlier this year, I ranted on Twitter. For about an hour, I bemoaned the state of the online literary magazine or, to quote Roxane Gay’s recent tweet, “the literary web,” and wondered why it all seemed the same to me. The same quirkiness; the same insular, inside jokes which inadvertently made people like me feel stupid. Literature for true hipsters, I suppose. Pardon my bitterness.

Anyway, I didn’t see a slot for me in these little worlds–important literary cyber-planets, but small nonetheless–so I suppose I did the logical thing. I started my own literary magazine. But that’s not the point here; my shameless plugs can be found at

Look, I understand my place. I’m a black male literary fiction writer–I have to wait for Mat Johnson and Colson Whitehead to disappear before I get a shot at the top spots. I consider myself a black writer–I own such a label–even if my stories aren’t necessarily about black people.

What makes me a black writer is the same collection of historical and cultural kernels which run through much of the Diaspora–in other words, what makes me black beyond my tightly-packed melanin.

I guess what I’m saying is as a black person, I am well-versed in Exclusion, deliberate or otherwise. I’m used to it, even. I don’t fit the mold of the stereotypical black male, which makes the situation more precarious amongst my own people. But–that is a whole separate topic.

I look around for online magazines and blogs which speak to me. It’s not that hard: I’m a two-time college dropout who listens to J-Dilla and reads Bolaño; surely, there must be a place for me. I wonder if other writers of color, independent of their race or nationality, feel the same way.

Literature, at least here in America, was and remains dominated by white people. I should say, writers of color have a difficult time finding equal footing with their white contemporaries; one group of varied voices bellow over the multitudes. Again, I get it.

That this fact translates into the digital domain doesn’t surprise me, though it should. I thought the Internet did away with barriers, divisions. We’re all a global community now: blogging, commenting, tweeting, posting, sharing, loving. Of course that’s not the case.

Indeed, I feel like a whiner. A website, even an online lit mag or blog, can’t cater to every visitor. Which is why I’m not naming names or posting links. Conventional wisdom suggests I keep it moving. Go find a lit mag or blog which “speaks to me,” but they’re hard to find. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. Or maybe they don’t exist–well, not enough of them, anyway.

It’s vital for a writer to see his/her reflection among the hordes; kindred spirits, or mere like-minded folk, help dissuade the nagging notion that a writer is so odd, so specific in his/her proclivities and habits, likes and dislikes, that no reader (or editor) will dig his/her work. I’m talking about community, here: the healing factor found and activated between artists.

It’s fucking lonely being a black literary writer–or a black writer in general, I suppose. Community–artistic kinship–fosters creative growth and improves overall well-being; it helps to not feel like an outsider all the time.

That’s the whole point, that’s the entire reason writers–singular, lonesome creatures–bother to fraternize with each other: to get something worthwhile out of it, something which can be applied to individual art. Without this, the writer can still succeed and grow–it just makes it that much harder, and perhaps less fulfilling.

I know how I feel, but I doubt I’m articulating it clearly. I’m reaching here, stretching my arm through the literary web to grab onto a truth. Maybe it’s as simple as you don’t like the site? Bounce! Cool.

All I’m saying is, for me–and maybe for other writers of color–all I do is bounce around. Looking for home. Looking to be understood. Looking to be respected as something other than a creator of black literature, as if the category is a foreign land ripe for occasional excursion or exploration. I’m not exotic–just different.

I want the literary web to look like me, selfish as that might seem. Just a little bit of the web. Even a tiny thread. A speck of dust.  A mangled housefly’s wing ensnared. Something. Anything. Anything besides this literary homelessness.


I think I’m getting old. Too old for Tumblr, maybe–or most social networks in general, but Tumblr’s on my mind at the moment. Almost a year ago, I opened my Tumblr account; my intent was to supplant my WordPress blog with the smaller, walled-off garden.

Size mattered. Few people read my WordPress–an amalgamation of literature + personal thoughts, a conflation which bordered on the schizophrenic–not to mention the monthly server bill I had to pay because I just had to have a self-hosted blog. Only the cool bloggers use dot-com domains, so I’ve heard.

Let’s back up a second. I’ve blogged off and on for about five years. They’re all dead now–the blogs: there were incidents; mistakes were made. Anyway, kinda like fiction, it took me awhile–five years–to understand that there’s a craft to blogging.

I’m frustrated by this fact; I wasted five years; writing is never a waste, mind you; I’m referring to writing without cognizance. Ignorant writing/blogging: I could’ve done without that, but at least now I know.

Tumblr again. I don’t get it. I mean, I get the logistics–I know how to use the dashboard, post up quotes and links and pictures. When I got to Tumblr, I gravitated toward the Text button. Tumblr users, generally speaking, don’t like text–well, large swathes of text.

A blurb is acceptable, a stray thought as shiny and ephemeral as a gum wrapper, depending on what is written and who’s following, will get re-blogged. Two paragraph maximum–get in, speak your peace, get out–while copious amounts of visual media are heralded: the gifs; the videos; the gifs; the gifs; the gifs; titty pics; the gifs.


The blogger must have a reason to do this thankless, penniless, lonesome work; man does not live on bread and author platforms alone. Is social networking a veiled ruse, a feigned attempt to connect?

Today, I’m a member of Generation Y—I read it on a blog—and we’re accused of wanting to be stars. Bloggers as viral wordsmiths. Funny. Maybe there is no other way to connect anymore. Show me yours; I’ll show you mine—or a reasonable facsimile I right-click-copied from another blog.

To go viral is to infect. Fuck you. I’m a man.

The allure of the blog, in all its vapid splendor, is the hope for a reliable narrator. I want to trust in you. I want to know your pain is my pain, that you’re more than a chain email, a robotic voice imprisoned inside an automated call system.

You automaton motherfucker, blessed android wanting to return to analog, fleshy form—do you blog as I blog? To stretch your wires through the ether, hoping for bony or stubby fingers at the other end?

The Gifs

Back to WordPress

So anyway, while I still have and use my Tumblr blog, I’ve since gone back to WordPress–under my real name, in fact, but that’s irrelevant. Like I said, I don’t get Tumblr–but I get it. I get what its inventor(s) intended: micro-blogging mixed with user-created media to build, update and communicate one’s lifestream.

This is where we part ways to a degree–Tumblr and I–because nothing about my life requires a stream of media. Hell, I tend to forget about the camera on my iPhone. Granted, I love Instagram–blame it on the filters–but I rarely provide updates and flicks and blurbs in real time. I forget to report on my own life. In the moment, that is.

I’m not shitting on Tumblr or touting WordPress. I should’ve mentioned this upfront. Oh well (nope, not editing).

WordPress is tougher to master than Tumblr. I have nothing to sell–no product, no brand (not even myself)–so I have to work at blogging. To make you care, I mean. This is my biggest problem with blogging; I’m sure this infects my creative writing as well: I get all blocked and messy and diarrhetic when I start blogging, thinking What would make my reader care? I could be like, Well fuck the reader but that’s not optimal customer service, so care I must.


For every “I” in a blog post, there is an equal and opposite. Blogging is literature, the symbiosis between author and stranger. “In the year three thousand and thirty, everybody wants to be an emcee.”

Until then? Bloggers. In the year two thousand and eleven, everybody has a story to tell. I’m game. You game? Awesome. I got the hotel room key right here. My name’s Thomas. And you are?

Thomas DeMary, whose work has appeared in Up The Staircase, Monkeybicycle and is forthcoming in 4’33”, Used Furniture Review, Hippocampus and PANK Magazine, currently lives in southern New Jersey. Visit him at or @thomasdemary.

“Give It To God”

“Give it to God,” she said.

I’ve written this story a million times before. I’d like to do it differently, this time.

When I think of John, I never know where to start.

In the beginning.


We became friends in the first grade, John and I. But his shadow invades my few memories of kindergarten. John was around. Somewhere. Perhaps sipping from a school-issued milk carton; maybe asleep on a cot during school-issued nap time, when the lights went out and I, horizontal, stared at the ceiling. Six years old and already an insomniac.

I used to subscribe apathetically to Christianity. There was a church in the middle of nowhere, a white building with a dirt parking lot, surrounded by electric poles and straightaway roads, runaway roads, highways you take to evade. John didn’t attend my mother’s church; it was a black church; I think John was Catholic, I never asked him; he would’ve enjoyed the music, the stomping and the showmanship–I think–while I flipped through Psalms and fought through urges to sleep.

I don’t know if John is in Heaven or Hell; all I know is that I miss him less. Ten years since he died. Ten years. Once, I couldn’t conceive of ten years into the future. In two months, I’ll turn thirty. Ten years thrice over. Each day, I’m forgetting him in triplicate. I don’t even know what that means. All I know is that he’s no longer here. Dead for ten years. A day in Heaven equates to 1000 years on Earth. If he’s in Heaven, then John hasn’t had time to look down on me. I don’t know what that means.

“Give it to God,” she said. “It is so–so–so–so helpful.” Her face scrunched as she said the so refrain. “Fair enough,” I replied.


In a dorm room in North New Jersey, on a college campus, three bodies lie charred on carpet. Or asphyxiated, their faces ballooned to planetary proportions, sucking in Universe air, not receiving the expected, reciprocal favor of life renewed. Three spirits are pulled from their bodies; three spirits drop three tokens–one each–returning their priceless currency, life, to God. Give it to God.

In therapy, I surmised that John’s death was a watershed moment for my psychosis. Ah, yes. He was eighteen when he died–my eighteen, too–and had all the futurework in front of him. Ah, yes. John’s death frightened me; my sense of immortality ruined forever more. But. I buried grandparents and saw, on multiple occasions, squirrels spin themselves into delirium in the middle of an avenue, their skulls th-thumped by Pontiacs. I was well aware of death before I was old enough to voice it without parental and clinical intervention. Ah. Yes.

I did not attend his funeral. I do not know where he’s buried. I do not know the names of the two other boys, his compatriots on a journey back to God, copper tokens in hand. I know the fire was arson. I know someone went to prison. I know John’s parents, his siblings, though I have nothing to say. I only hope they remember him in triplicate, folding and refolding and folding his life into origami shapes–a buoyant swan, perhaps–and never forget, never let it slip, never give it to God. Holding on, carrying that weight like true blood families should. I was only a friend–a best friend, once–but only a friend.


“Give it to God,” she said to me, wanting to touch my hand, to breach clinical ethics. Which is fine by me. Rules are made to be broken in the name of human showmanship. Show me, I wanted to say, that you care. “Fair enough,” I said in reality.

In my previous retellings, a million times over, I ended with the perfect final scene. Our last time in each other’s presence. Never for his benefit, though–the scene was used to flog myself into making the same life change still waiting in queue: be gracious and selfless with my time. Ten years and I still prefer loneliness, at times. Ten years and I rarely share my time; my family reads none of my work, because they don’t know it exists. Ten years of the perfect ending–a parable in scene–but the lesson remains lost to me. Or there’s no lesson at all. I am who I am. God–help me.

“Give it to God,” she said, although I looked skeptical. I perceive religion as a series of tenets for weak people. People like me, if I dare to participate in honesty. I identify myself as a Buddhist, but I never meditate; an introvert is intimate with constant, persistent meditation; I need to wake up. “Fair enough,” I said, giving God the benefit of the doubt.

Thomas DeMary, whose work has appeared in Up The Staircase, Monkeybicycle and is forthcoming in 4’33”, Used Furniture Review, Hippocampus and PANK Magazine, currently lives in southern New Jersey. Visit him at or @thomasdemary.