Bad Air

Bad Airis an exploration of the historical accounts + folklore of the 14th century outbreak of the bubonic plague in Europe.

Initial research uncovered some unthinkable practices implemented during that time period. From a poetic standpoint, it's really quite fascinating how in a time of fear from the threat of death, we can do such horrible things to one another. This series is an attempt to use language to reflect on the negative behavior that came in tow with the disease.

Huge thank you to Amy Miller for collaborating on this project with me. She followed me through back alleys, burned down buildings, and sketchy underpasses to get the shots included in this series. Don't let her modesty fool you, she is incredibly talented and truly made this project come alive. It would not have turned out the way it did without her.


Hair Back

photo by Amy Miller

tunneling through straw
at the curbside, ridden
I can see it in your sooty eyes
it has befallen this city

it will come for me too
this sickness entangled
in the disengaged air
windrose, the root at peak
soon they will be crying over me

for who can remember
when the rope knotted
like a noose swung slow
around our necks
begging the silence to begin

ring the kindred spirits
let them loose from the den
of sin and keep a finger pointed
at the mirror within

kill me on this mattress
I'm alone with the rest
decrepit and bleeding
waiting for death

the streets know more about this
than we could ever imagine
in the sorrow of the hands
that sweep around the public dial

a recycled flat deficiency
with many ways to burn
and leave, pandering to
the exhibition of life with no reprieve

we slip small tokens of God
unprepared into our pocket chasms
and suck down floral residue
full of indecision

it's the reign of darkness
the siege of disease
its compounding swill of ignorance,
the rest of me

I lie still in the wake of repetition
and turn the other cheek to
episodic lessons
left in time to be touched
by the never and enough

The Flagellant

photo by Amy Miller

the self-repentant suffers
slog along in spellbound
crowds to escape their health
and quell the dreadful distress of

three-prong leather whips
a demonstration in the despoliation
of fear, to liquidate the evil shell of
sin bubbling within lymph nodes
beneath the skin

mortification of the flesh,
a scourge in every hand,
tormented by the wrath of
the fallen angel’s swift descent

they travel far from chapels
collapsing on the ground
flailing in the thorns of crucifixion
and bones of the damned

a public display of atonement
voyeurism unchecked
sweeping through every city
their tri-tails dragging in the wind

so violently they shake
plucking people from a mood
of horrific apprehension
feasting on apocalyptic food

mystery of the final moment
what the welted lacerations
bring, savoring fidelity
from under cover of
the second coming

the trumpets sound delirium
of psychotic, panicked grief
stricken down by the awful
scent of boil-ridden disease

a statement with four corners
fixed by broken belts of wood,
fooled by strength that pulled the weight
of a crude remembrance misconstrued

in the calculated dirt lines drawn
to delineate the final sketch
of a predetermined afterlife
beyond the shadow of death

City of Dis

photo by Amy Miller

at the quiet end of a corner
where many people pass,
a man sips his coffee with
his eyes trained on the glass
a stout reflection stiffened at the neck
the daily paper unfolded in his lap
the obituary section steals
his glance and he smirks in bitter
ruthlessness at those left dead
before him, slipping in
and out of different states
of consciousness

there’s a wailing of troubled
voices vibrating like insanity
a tenebrous shadow manifests
to ignite an internal attack
and though he cleans his plate
reaching for the check
he knows somewhere
in a fathomless depth
that there is no end
to endlessness

for some time now he’s
spun a dance like delusion
of darkness living in him
and when the call of night
comes to suffocate the sleeper
it torments the intersection
of bodies before the light
that creep along the edges
to kill the righteous

hidden in the swallow
of sorrow, the reality
of nonsense brings him shame

over the rainbow, out
the café and down the street
he peers through
small-framed windows
on a search for warning signs
that tingle when pulsation races
through his fingers
like the membrane of
a moment that defines
how it hurts to be human

moving through the city
in a casted role to be the viewer
inside the bedroom, the
prisoner considered
an ever-present sleeper in
the wake of a terrifying dream

he once heard someone speak
in tongues, pulling power
with a fall from grace
fighting against the circles
of fate with carefully
constructed phrasing
calling out His name

but there is no end
to endlessness
the dials connect
and spin
there is no end
to endlessness
infection comes again

Inside the Walls of Kaffa

photo by Amy Miller

corpses flung from the trebuchet
lie in waiting beyond the stone
when the people of the city came
to dump the masses in the ocean

death the equalizer
democratic, we shall see
that when we’re even, heaven
opens up to let the workers
of iniquity deliver their decree

anything they’d understand
to cry out Lord, please hear our plea
of subjugations unto nature
from the coil of slight bodies

the toil of mass induction
panicked sellers taken leave
spreading out along the sea ports
from Crimea to Capri

they don’t have to choose
between death + no destruction
for when fear grabs hold of principal
there’s a loss of a skilled
thought process

shameless shaking below the deck
sailing across the channel
to an unknown end
away from sorrow toward
desire of the free,
unlimited breadth of spiritual
ecstasy to exist as is

Death Fog

photo by Amy Miller

it came by way of a
foamy miasma, a mix
of gas across the sea
tuned to kill with equality
churning like a wheel
with twisted spokes
bowed into winged-beings

the lesions drained of
absolution, the fool’s
maker on the rise
apprehensive waiting
for when time meets
no time

waxing figures melted
by the bedside,
an hourglass wound down
one breathless moment
to lift a dying refrain
which drives these weathered
carcasses slinking back
into the lifeless womb

the interloper sheds
some skin beneath the
dusky light of homespun
tales, peeling back
with retribution to lay on
shades of slow decay

ley lines reeling
sitting by the edge of the sea
uncovering the wistful
blips of meaning
in a fog intent on billowing
like some sick siege machine

to tell them you misunderstood
things aren’t what they seem
and maybe in two hundred years
someone will rewrite history

Love + Desertion

photo by Amy Miller

solitude by candles snap
the air in subtle moods
discoloring the bending motion
between two lovers in a room

when it happened she knew
not what to say nor do
so instead she stood in silence
manipulating attitudes

an elusive breeze brought
the death of waiting in the air
as she covered up to ward
off waves of violent bouts
of anxiety silenced in her throat

a glance cast back at her lover
lying there, his skin fading into
pale and ghastly shades
contrasted by the black
intensified protrusions
emerging from the creases
of his weakening body

he fell quickly into darkness
far from the flame
her love losing its luster
in the grim reality of death
she already knew what would
become of him

fear is like a bullet from the barrel
so quick you can’t escape
in the hours of the early morning
he called out her name

“I’m going for the doctor”
was all that she could say
then she walked
out of the house,
and kept walking away

Glass Eyes

photo by Amy Miller

breathing was heavy
in the days of due infection
through aromatic discretion
the beaks came through the city
rebalancing humor

he made the injection to drain
their blood on demand
solid eyes reflective of
disintegrating flesh
dispelling the smell
with a cover and a catch
stuffed full of flowers,
herbs, straws, and spices

withering away in the days
that lie ahead
to play the only role left
until they were all missing
and the rise became the fall
across street

translated health kept
tucked under slow reform
when they lifted their beaks
to the unknown and placed
their rubber hands upon
each patient melting on
their rotting beds

bitter, brave misleading
masks which came in peace
and left in death

Memento Mori

photo by Amy Miller

he awoke in deep reflection
on the transience of life
tearing apart the mirror
of vanity to learn the proper
art of dying

through detachment he sought rest,
bending over backward
to peel back all his skin
a classical invention to
turn off and fall apart
the ritualistic expression
just the way he had been taught

if you love enough
you must give up everything,
remember that you have to die

the thought returned from taking leave,
and in the wind doubt came
to pass like a suffocating
hand closed firm
around his neck

nobody wanted this
he didn’t ask for restitution
twisted into dilapidated
compounds of flesh and disease
the bell rings
when you’re too close
to the sound of trouble

it spills over when you’re not careful
to touch a bit of the taste to
your tongue, then rip the
label off of everything
you’ve ever known
proves more powerful
than the strongest of elixirs

don’t act like this is
something you’ve never seen before
don’t act like this is foreign

we all know where the
sallow, somber fear of
nonexistence comes from


photo by Amy Miller

three to five
a waking life
fit for fools and dying needs

a piecemeal wish of
shaking stimulation
wading through carefully
placed reeds

when what you want is to desire
and getting what you want
is to regret what did transpire
you hide inside
a prepared meeting
while fighting time contented

siphon off the energy
leave you there to waste
slaughter you,
grind you down to residue
like broken, dusty frame

an unchained seasoned victim
roosts inside, dormant kept
tranquil in desperation
sucking down each last breath

creaking at the summit
of a distilled expectation
tomorrow is the last day
and no one has the answer

respect kept still for the chosen few
who up and left the country
who took their time
to make plans for the future

ripe and keeping faithful chains
taut for all to see
membership depleting
for the fools down on their knees

The Cradle

photo by Amy Miller

inside a shell
the pit emerges
gasping for resuscitation
some mothers assume
this counts for something

a barrage, a purge
down countless numbers
the call kept calling
while their fathers fled
for solid ground

it’s easy to assume
that the cure is buried
beneath unfound knowledge
when supple breeding leads
to overproduction without
ample supply

and you know you’ve met sufficiency
when the hell hounds come crying

scooped up into her arms
a sleeping child is cradled
in the external womb
of elongated flesh made
to work like utensils
fit for petting zoos

she sung a whispered lullaby
down the canal of unremembered hope
if the children could speak
they’d know when to say enough

it’s abundancy, abundancy!
the dark cloud announced
as it came crawling over the cities
of the western seaboard
like a trail of diffused tragedy
meant to even the proportions

if negligence and disregard
are human to the touch
the world turns over in its grave
to make more room for us