bishop's castle

in the wet mountains of southern colorado
in the san isabel national forest
a man named Jim Bishop
decided he wanted to build a castle

at the age of fifteen
Jim Bishop payed $450
for a two and a half acre
parcel of land
he earned the money
by mowing lawns,
being a paperboy
and working with his father
on the family business
of iron

jim dropped out of school
after a teacher yelled at him
“you’ll never amount to anything,
Jim Bishop!”
but Jim Bishop didn’t hear that at all

Jim Bishop began building a cottage at 25
and since rocks were free and in abundance
he decided to build a stone cottage
people around him would say to him
“wow, Jim, are you building a castle?”
and he heard it too much for the answer to remain no

over many summers
stone by stone
Jim Bishop turned his endless insatiability
into in a castle in the mountains
towers 160 feet high
it still stands to this day

everyone tried to stop Jim Bishop
his teacher, society
even the government tried to halt him

that to me is the american dream
not letting anyone or anything get in your way
including america


Jim Bishop is currently in a very hard battle against cancer. To donate to help him and his loved ones through this, please visit this site.


if my skin vanished like a styrofoam plate on a hot burner
if my muscles began to wriggle down my body like slugs escaping
if my veins and arteries and capillaries
all wound up like a tape measure into my heart
and then i loaded my heart into a potato gun
and shot it straight up into space

if i plucked out both of my eyes with my fingers
unscrewed the top of my mason jar head removed my brain
and donated it in the name of scientific progress
if i tore off my tendons and ligaments
filled my lungs with hydrogen tied them tight with a string at one end
and let them float off into space like two really creepy balloons
if i made my intestines into a giant rubber band ball
and kicked it into the atlantic ocean at night
if i threw my liver my spleen my kidneys my stomach
my bladder my diaphragm my apendix my pancreas
into a shopping cart and pushed it over a cliff

if i stood before you some strangely joyous skeleton
would you still love me?
where does the soul reside?
where is the heart, the actual heart, the
heart of the heart?
where does the soul reside?
i will remove the phalanges
the metacarpals the carpals that type this poem
i will rip out the pharynx the larynx that sings to you
to try and find where the song comes from
where is the heart of the heart?

what is the ghost hand that squeezes the heart like a stress ball?

what generator generates the static electricity of a kiss?

these questions aren’t easy
these are questions for skeletons
and i am warm and typing and breathing
and beating and thinking and blinking and blinking
and i am no skeleton today
but maybe i should be practicing
going to skeleton classes trying to figure out
how to be a skeleton
how love is eternal when on a long enough timeline
most of us are already dead
most of us are skeletons
unprepared to answer these skeleton questions of love and loss.



displays impatience and

feels that life has far more
to offer
and that there are still
important things
to be achieved-
that life must be
to the fullest.

as a result,
he pursues his objectives
with a fierce intensity
and will not let go of things.

becomes deeply involved
and runs the risk of being unable
to view things
with sufficient objectivity
calmly enough; is therefore
in danger
of becoming agitated
and of exhausting his
nervous energy.

cannot leave things alone
and feels he can only
be at peace
when he has finally
reached his goal.

impatient involvement.

and given to fantasy
and day-dreaming.

longs for interesting
and exciting things to happen
and wants to be admired
for his charm.

the fear
that he may
be prevented from achieving
the things he wants
leads him into
a restless search
for satisfaction
in the pursuit
of illusory
or meaningless activities.



i have swallowed every instrument there is.

the beating drums the wailing saxophone the
screeching violins the heavy bass the cello the oboe the sitar
the bells the woodwinds the brass the entire gospel choir
all sucked into my lungs and now i cannot hide their noise

their sounds within me needs to be heard
and tonight the world is deaf ears
a silent film without the cue cards
without the charming player piano
just the sound of clicking reels and nobody
no one hears the hurricane of sound in my lungs
no one could be bothered

sometimes people don’t laugh, she says,
and i hear that, i hear that more than most things
lately i just don’t know where my head’s been
sometimes people don’t laugh
and i remember sometimes people don’t cry at funerals
sometimes people spend 100 years on this planet
and accomplish close to nothing
but they make for okay fertilizer, someone said

i am in a very small way a refuge
forced to leave my homeland in fear of paralysis
home is where the heart is but where is the heart?
blindfolded spun around with a dart in my hand i pull back
and i hit it dead on
right on the target

i sure as fuck hope so


The Star-Spangled Banner (Remix)

o does that star-spangled banner yet wave?
the land of the free? the home of the brave?
we watched the red glare o’er the land of the free
the bombs unbursting in air at the gleaming’s last twilight
the rockets gave proof, the bombs gave proof
broad bombs bright rockets, stars through the perilous
the perilous flight, the dawn’s early light
can you see o’er the rockets and the ramparts we watched
we watched we watched we watched the stars
stripes and stars, rockets and bombs, free and brave
can you see? so proudly we hailed at the dawn
so proudly we hailed at the twilight



Photo by Nathan Cowlishaw

Photo by Nathan Cowlishaw

ten thousand years ago
the world was taken up into a dust storm
a giant funnel grabbing everything
and spitting it out all across the earth
that dust storm died in the western united states

the edge of humanity
it took us moving that far west
to take a minute to stop moving
expansion is a two headed dog
one head foaming out the mouth insatiable
craving bone craving blood craving more
the other with closed eyes dreaming dog day dreams
we walked this whole world over
to end up in a desert

the wind dry and honest
the sky as blue as the potential of rivers
vast canyons like empty graves
scattered skulls dust of bones
trains on unending pathways through mountains
and valleys and hundreds of miles of death
a tree in the middle of nowhere
buzzards picking apart skulls
this is the end of the line
the last page of a long and confusing story
este es mi casa
this is my home

the rebels who rebelled against everything
the tongues that never found their taste
the swelling ground the shaking core the sun
the sun unabashedly breaking through clouds
the giant microscope in the sky
watching down over these red fire ants
these farmer’s tan arms these dust bowl workers
these women on porches holding in their arms the future
the mother of invention is necessity
and we are living in drought
we are drinking the water of life
while we die of thirst
this is the beautiful west
the largest ghost town i’ve ever seen
where the spirits never leave
because there’s nowhere else
for them to go


Nathan Cowlishaw, one of my favorite photographers who provided the photo for and inspired this piece, currently has a kickstarter going to raise money for a trip across the Mexican border and to continue to document this beautiful country. To pledge support or learn more, click here. To follow Nathan on Instagram, click here.


making your bed
is the sorriest excuse
for human existential crisis
i have ever heard

i cannot think
of any activity
more wasteful
for someone to do

the definition of insanity
is doing the same thing
again and again
and expecting different results

a good example
of insanity
is making your bed each morning
just to unmake it
that evening

take that gap of time
and use it for literally
anything else
repaint your white walls white
just don’t make your bed

model homes
have nicely made beds in them
yes i know this
but so do coffins
and don’t open the door
to my opinions
on model homes

if you make your bed everyday
i dare you not to
you’ll feel off all day
like you left the oven on
i dare you

if you never make your bed
this poem may have been a waste of your time
and for that
i sincerely apologize



it’s pitch black out
you can barely see her in the dim haze
of the lights from the convenience store windows
and the overhead lights above her as she pumps her gas
one hand in her black peacoat the other grasping the handle of
the gas pump. she stares blankly at the screen calculating her total
number of gallons of gasoline and her total cost. her eyes do not flinch.
she just stares completely blankly ahead of her. no one else is there. it is just her.
even the clerk inside is in the back, maybe closing a drawer or watching the news.
but it is night and it is just her and the nothingness of three in the hollow morning
her vacant eyes stare onward and she cannot look away from this something
this unavoidable something that comes creeping in on us all
when the night turns worldless and empty
when the stars hide and you are left
to face the silence and yourself
alone in this giant world where
the lights beam down just
on you and there is
just you.


scapegoat, by sarah jane penney

Aaron the great discovered a way to punch out evil.
the unwanted ills of israel were cast out, placed on a goat
who was exiled & presumably died in the wilderness.
but i think that the goat lived a long and happy scape goat life,
unaware that he was fostering the sins of a nation. goats are hardy creatures
and it was hardly a death sentence to be cast out in the wild
so the sins of the nation probably lived a fulfilling life
under the hot blue sky of zion
and the scapegoat might
have even met a nice other scapegoat
and they may have had
and all these sins just kept on going until someone was like
oh shit
wild goats
and they were captured for the nation!
everything fell to hell again
that just happens sometimes


my tragedy
is so much worse
than your tragedy.

you think you’ve
got it bad?

you think you know

well my ship
knows hard ship.

you’ve not survived
these storms i’ve weathered.

you have not seen
wreckage through the tide.

i have walked
through fire
and come out

the other side.

your grass
is so green.

you are blind
to the things
i have seen.

when i cry
i cry songs
you’ve never sang.

i die each day
in a brand new way.

so who are you
to complain?

who are you
to tell me
about pain?

(there was a silence
before the mirror replied:

i am a prophet
from the future
or maybe the past
come to remind you
that nothing can last

fires burn down
shanties and mansions
one and the same
but compassion is our common ancestor
and name)