1. broken hoses


    big rig exhaust hangs like grey ghosts in the slant light of morning. the roadside shrubs are all thirsty, reaching upward for rain that never quite makes it to the tough earth: dirt and thistle are the only contenders in these drought days. the stink of just laid, hot asphalt reminds me of fathers and husbands; of good men, and not so good men; of men and women working for a few dollars that meant something more a couple decades ago:

    for some, it becomes easier, and somehow more rational, to buy whiskey or beer than to pay bills, and sometimes the bottle just isn’t big enough. they find that drowning the patterned, day-to-day tragedies starts to contain simple meanings that are easier to swallow than working for very little, for very long, for something that feels unholy and unnecessary.

    knowing more, in some fashion, is a hindrance, as it’s never enough to solve the problems that are too close to us; that we helped create.

    yet, those who have the big enough bottles want to crucify these individuals while they themselves piss and moan of tiny troubles. of dilemmas that aren’t at all: of dust and heat; sweat and spoil; broken AC’s and garden hoses; loose doorknobs; crooked trashcans; rust on the concrete; thin coyotes scavenging their old hunting grounds that are now half-vacant business parks, or housing developments with almost identical names for every street, court, and nondescript circle, lined by tan, brown, and beige houses. the complacent ones sit in armchairs, flapping gold wings with great fervor, while their asses never rise except to tyrannize those citizens who are not equipped to deal with a realization that doing what’s right to get ahead is much harder of a sacrifice in a society that not only elevates, but champions, bad men, doing bad things, for unfounded dumb glories and petty war devices: war not only on a global scale, but a local scale; a human scale, where we cheat the cheated to give more to those who already have too much.

    the unluckiest at life, those who fail at participating in an existence they cannot, and will not understand, will end up in programs, institutions, and hospitals that are underfunded; run by the underpaid. they will be treated for all manner of harmful chemical addictions, with more harmful chemicals (which eventually, they will also become dependent on) that are pimped by more complacent people who are more interested in far away vacations than sound health and honest solidarity with the human spirit. it would be wise to bet all the unfulfilling college degrees of all the unfulfilled professionals that the bigger lot of substance abusers became so because they were first addicted to love and decency; the idea of all things fine in life; the idea of possessing the same amenities that most people desire.  but when these seemingly uncomplicated wants wane further from the common grace of human dignity, drugs, alcohol, and other vices work well for small periods to fill the dark gaps in heart and head, until finally the nights turn blue, glued to even darker days. it’s a hell that can only be understood from the inside. it’s a hell with unseen flames; without rules, or reason. it is the worst kind of war.

    perhaps the long and the short of it is this: hope is an illusion. mankind’s biggest curse is that we are men. to avoid the gutters, jails, and hospitals, we must learn to become capable of anything we need to be capable of. we need to draw a good laugh whenever, and wherever, we can. we must tune in to the fact that life can bare its fangs at any unforeseen moment, at any one of us. we simply are not very kind to one another. our bravery is weak. we would rather knock our neighbors down just to elate our own pitiful egos, when it would be much easier just to be good.

    the evil is not in our illness. the evil is the illness.

    words and photos by Jay Halsey

  2. she walks a white wolf. i have confronted many wolves in drunk dreams, so i am sure.

    i cling to the hunted spirits, as i dodge vultures of turmoil.

    i run with the pack through willful lapses.

    i crash the wind.

    words and photos by Jay Halsey

  3. the last beer is sometimes the worst, when midnight vultures swoop low overhead;

    there is no place left to go.

    the week’s fight has been fought, and you reach for something useful during the lull between rounds.

    tribes of fools roll westward on the boulevard, also reaching for something:

    the shit flows steadily through the swollen sewers beneath, and the world spins in slobber and ash, while you play and poke at a madness that is uninterested in games.

    strange shadows on the walls and the overwhelming immensity of everything are the only company at this hour.

    you struggle to make sense of matters absent of sense, sucking away at the bottle, straining to hear the delicate music of moonlight, as many more lives, more or less important than yours, also hang threadbare on worn nooses through the streets

    and living rooms everywhere…

    and outside, car tires screech, a horn honks, someone yells

    and a bored moth flutters into the murky blackness.

    words and photos by jay halsey

  4. we are crammed on roadways like cockroaches moving toward the nuclear tit.

    the light is dim, and a fair return for hard labor has gone extinct. you can no longer tell a jobless person from a working person. we are weighted down with obligations of narrow-sighted success, of performing petty acts to realize a bunch of cheaply-sought somethings, which drive us further into muddy voids of routine confusion. popular belief tells us that not wanting to be anything, not wanting to do anything, dreaming without purpose, are all bad things. bullshit. the big push through life is an exaggeration. we support silver-tongued pigs on sagging backs, delivering to them the bottom line. the aim of profit. it’s an unending cycle of the ugliest, the least talented, and those most absent of soul being elevated to great levels of unbelievable fortune and praise. we must ignore their natural tendencies to forecast lies like snow upon Death Valley. 

    focus to the good ones doing the good things. they are standing like tiny flowers in piles of excrement, waiting to shoot forth like bottle rockets on acid. when one cracks the air, more will soar like vultures of grace searching for colors beneath the black eye of humanity. they will crush the night into forward light.

    follow the worm. take the apple.

    words and photos by Jay Halsey


    It is easier to deal with the piling up of daily confrontations by having regular mental breakdowns—small ones; to help avoid the one big dive that some never come up from. So it’s no coincidence that it’s less painful to buy beer & alcohol than it is to buy milk, or food. The numbers are there, baby; just look around. Convenience and everyday atrocity are married for life: one exists for the other, and the order does not matter. ‘Chicken or egg?’ is not the point. I, for one, have never seen a drive-thru grocery. It is human nature at its most primitive: make me feel better now. (A stubborn fly that lands nearest the murderous hand is always the first to go, and always the most attainable. And then there’s always another poor fucker buzzing right on by to replace the first one, and he, too, will be murdered by the big hand. The killing is quite easy you see. And so is the relief. Ask any blue collar; for what they lack in material is compensated by substance.)

    The ones who have less are also the ones who have much, much more, because the curtains have been stripped, and there is little left to hide. There is no need for religion or philosophy or government to understand this. There is no need for constant reinforcement that achievement is something to be gained publicly, to be shown off like a trophy whore, instead of something to be lived by undoing the ideas that have tipped us onto our dull asses to begin with. But undoing is much harder than simple disregard.  There is only the need for a little cushion, a tiny slice of something that isn’t questioned, confronted, owned or judged. All the energy invested into the shallow confirmations of misguided conquests is the same energy that is taken away from us.

    This is why I cannot trust a person who is not tarnished by some form of vice. And I certainly cannot trust a person who hides the debasements he or she claims to so sternly stand against. Vice is weakness that draws a person in a most natural way toward honesty, humanity and humility—almost without choice—because the need to feel something different and good far outweighs feelings of shame in a world that seems to have nothing to do with integrity, anyway. It’s the way of things. And those who choose to hide their weaknesses are cowards of the lowest form, doing so in large packs, sniffing each others’ asses, as they lack the confidence that results from being honest within themselves. They lack the power of true independence and personal freedom while preaching a freedom that they have completely forgotten about, that they have destroyed through fear, and dense trivialities created to distract people from living the lives they want to live. They have forgotten how to choose for themselves, how to not care for the things they are being told to care for. History has been mutilated to the point that distortion becomes dumb, unchallenged certainty. True community has been replaced by organized bonds—catastrophic bonds of investment towards the gain of popularity and control: benefiting a select few on grand scale and taking away from many more. So much action wasted on telling people how not to live life, when it would be so much easier just to live life. The teachings are confused. The lessons are false. Life is not long enough to tiptoe through the shit in hopes to come away clean and pretty. If it doesn’t get in your hair and beneath the fingernails, you’re not doing it right.

    So drink your milk and take your vitamins, kiddies. Get plenty of exercise, plenty of sleep. And don’t miss your favorite TV show. I’ll be here, up late, cuddling my demons, thinking of you.

    words and photos by jay halsey

  6. This day is frozen;

    mother be damned.

    Mother is mad.

    It’s cold for May—it always was.

    So choked with routines of self-abuse:

    Boredom being The Only God.

    The instant coffee was always bitter.

    A cherry of a 6 a.m. smoke, like sunrise,

    always glowing

    red brilliance of a new day,

    then not:

    it was simply sustaining on the potential of old massacres

    sitting stale in bellies

    with tired teeth.

    Mom always loved potential.

    And the ice sits

    at the bottom of the glass

    waiting to melt.

    It never had a chance.

    words and photos by jay halsey

  7. “We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.” - Hunter S. Thompson

    photos by jay halsey


  8. A Children’s Story


    There was a heart. And it was small. Wedged between a rusty car wheel and moss-grown log beneath a swaying trestle bridge. It lived on the muddy bed of a river that flowed dark and thick with the waste of man, and beast, and world. The scourge of the town, no one paid any mind to the river except to dump their unwanted things. Even withered possums would not drink from its waters, nor did the toughest thistle grow on its grime-slick banks. The river ran slow and stagnant with a black hate so that the gentle sun was unable to touch the bottom depths. And the heart just sat there in the muck of humanity as it had for years upon years, beating ever so slight within a pale, sick skin.

    A traveling doorbell salesman, defeated and head-heavy, stood upon the old bridge on a low Fall night, looking over the old river, and wept. Not a soul in that town had use for a doorbell, for not a soul wanted to be bothered with visitors, or goodwill of any sort. He uncapped a fifteen dollar bottle of bourbon, cursing to the skies above, “Goddamn this town!” and poured the whiskey down his throat until his own heart pounded, and beat, and beat, and beat so hard it shot from his chest like a great cannon ball of war. It landed far with a hard splash into the sludge below. The salesman followed, sinking like everything else around him. Only hope can float, and the salesman’s briefcase stuffed of doorbells knew this. It, too, threw its own heavy self to heed the same action of the heart and body. And as those parts before, it sank with a dismal run to the bottom, jarring that green-slime log that held the sick heart hostage for so many years. The heart bumped around the murk like a drunk fish, thumping a bit harder as a faint yellow glow formed around it, rising slow but eager to the surface. It came to rest in the foamy shallows on the east bank.

    A pleasant October sun showed bright and orange the next morning. A young girl, fair of skin and hair, with eyes blue and bright as polished sapphires, trekked the gray river edge to rid herself of a shabby teddy bear she had grown tired of, and too wise for, she had felt. She stopped and stood on the east shore just downstream from the trestle, looking to the bear one last time, pretty eyes pregnant with tears. She wound her arm high with the stuffed animal clutched in her short hand, and just before deliverance into the black waters she saw the heart, a little bigger than before, pulsing there in the dull pools showing that slight gold. She bent and touched the heart. It was fever-pitched and soft, as was the nearest water it beat within. The bear was left there on the bank where the heart was found. The little girl tucked it deep within her jacket pocket, near her own thumping chest.

    The town’s people were of the unhappy sort, caring for one another as a late, hard frost on new Spring roses. But on this day they regarded the little girl with kind looks and nods as she walked the streets toward home. Some might have even smiled at her—might have. A good feeling came over her, and she felt she could just walk those streets forever with that good feeling hanging around her.

    After the girl fed her pappa supper that night, she rose from the scarred kitchen table to tend the dishes. Pappa sat there with a curious spirit and grabbed her hand, “Honeybell, just sit back down for a patch. Ain’t no reason to rush to cleanin’ just yet.” Then they chatted like that, alone with peace and each other, until bedtime. Him telling easy stories of youth, and her listening, feeling that good feeling, with the heart buried deep and snug, expanding inside her apron pocket.

    Honeybell hid the heart beneath her pillow before pappa tucked her in for the night. She could recall not another time in her being a sense of such unequaled perfection. When her pappa shut the door to shadows she took the heart from under the pillow, held it close to her body and whispered, “I love you, heart.” And the heart bloomed of fire and heat, welling up to twice its size. The girl giddy with that good feeling hugged the heart close until heavy eyelids shut her into a dreamless sleep.

    Honeybell woke at sunrise, board-stiff on the wood floor. The heart had outgrown the child’s bed through the night. Pappa stood over her with eyes wide and stiff as a barn owl’s following a mouse in pitch black. “Honeybell, darlin’, we musn’t speak of this…of this…heart…this huge, beautiful heart that lies before us.” He knelt low, smiling big, and leaned his face against the flushed heart. Its thump turned loud and shook the bed springs. “Where now did you find this, darlin’? Tell pappa.” Honeybell sat up, relating the previous day’s events from morning ‘til bedtime, and even as they spoke of that good feeling surrounding them, the heart spread and pounded until the bed legs snapped with a crack like a Winter’s bone.

    Pappa excused Honeybell from school on that Monday morning to keep watch of the heart while he worked the lines at the Rancor Town Apathy Factory. She promised not to leave its side no matter what happened. Folks slowed their usual rushed and negligent pace to a passive saunter going by the house of heart. Some greeted pappa a good morning, and all grinned—confused of a sort, but grinning all the same. Pappa knew their source of bewilderment and just nodded back, chest tight with excitement. He followed the path along the dirty river to ponder and beam, away from looks of suspicion.

    Only three hours into the twelve hour work shift, an announcement came over the factory’s P.A. system ordering the lines be stopped for an immediate employee meeting. The speakers squealed, “Uh, good morning, Apathy employees. Recent figures from the past twenty-four hours have shown that production of apathy and general ill-will is down sixty-three percent. The workers laughed, and not a single one of them knew what was funny, or why. The overhead voice continued after a bout of its own laughter, “Yes, yes, I don’t know what to say, except that we have decided to dismiss all production of Apathy products until further notice. Everyone is free to leave with pay until told otherwise.” The floor roared with cheers, and the mass emptied from the fifty-acre facility.

    The crowds thickened on the streets the nearer pappa got to home. From a block away he could see a warm, red light rising above the trees on his end of the street. Where the home stood just hours ago, now lay the massive heart, surrounded by house scraps and concrete shard, pulsing, the reverberation echoing as distant dynamite blasts down roads and through green belts for miles and miles. Thousands of bodies, some from bordering villages, clambered and clawed toward the heart in a mass ecstasy. The streets choked full of eager beings, extending first for a couple miles across Rancor, then across many more miles through the county. Pappa searched for Honeybell amongst all the legs, arms and eyes. She was nowhere to be found around the breathing mound of towering flesh. The girl had kept her promise.

    Doting hoards grew fast like mold in July, as did the heart. The people, like stupefied lambs, would not, and could not, break themselves from its advancing path in all directions. Soon it stretched across the state, then across the country, and then across oceans, wiping out everything and everyone until finally Earth was nothing, and everything, but a full heart circling the hot sun, resonating through the universe.

    Heart won. And things were quite a bit better than they had ever been before.

    words and photos by Jay Halsey


    the west hills squat behind cloudbank

    and grey temptation:

    they speak of gospel by not being seen.

    two-day hangover slips like nails through wood rot

    into three-day habit.

    and yellow daisies

    lean low to the road’s edge,

    less wild as they once grew before:

    their roots spread thin anguish.


    what we see as truth now

    is only how the winds slap our face;

    and they will shift for eternity

    on the immortal bones

    of cracked lands.


    it’s the small indecencies of life

    that can drive an otherwise

    content soul to destitution or madness,

    not loss of love

    or sickness

    or death.

    a numb mist spreads itself

    like a comfortable bath.

    the sun cowers.


    the veins of us clog

    out here

    upon highways of picked scabs.

    and where the grass does not grow

    the weeds prosper—

    it is the right

    and only way.

    yet we kill them off,

    deemed as nuisance.


    the rain ruins the dust,

    and the dust is mad.

    very mad.

    photos and words by Jay Halsey

  10. old men with cracked teeth rise early beneath heavy skies for food vouchers and aspirin: on the hunt for one more dawn. they squat in lines and wait for movement with sick mothers and sick babies, and sick lips and eyes and hands.


    the axe trims the heart,

    and the heart drifts

    towards shallow streams

    and the drowning fish on top.


    they still worship at churches, and the bottle, laughing at slow shadows and Death’s dangling tit.


    belief is a pastime

    like throwing rocks

    in a black well.


    they no longer care about the news, or fancy caskets, or what the walls have to say on Friday night, but reflect with a dull chill just the same.


    no tragedy.

    no glory.

    no use.

    no creation.


    they aren’t stopping for Hell, and Heaven isn’t on the map.


    words and photos by Jay Halsey

  11. “Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.”  - William S. Burroughs


    photos by Jay Halsey


  12. a summer evening after work.

    the sun a cruel god moving

    its torment through slow minutes

    and then slow hours.

    the beer is cold and beautiful

    like past loves.

    it fills something.

    thinking of ages and bending

    to self-created complications from a

    neglect of the soul,

    as the uselessness of the breeze

    beneath a wise tree is evident.

    the heat wins

    and losers lose.

    I lose at cool.

    it doesn’t matter.

    because I’ve pissed into front rains

    and bargained with dim stars.

    the heart’s mighty fist has broken

    the walls of stagnation.

    and I know when our teeth


    she is close enough.

    are you afraid of the heat?

    words and photos by jay halsey

  13. “Well you say that it’s gospel, but I know that it’s only church.” - Tom Waits



    photos by Jay Halsey

  14. the spiders all live in my bathroom,

    and the hush strangles the air

    like an old inmate I never wanted.

    the sun spreads itself open

    with the itch of something

    that is crucial and wide,

    but the day-in, day-out

    is grinding and continuous.

    the smoke of the fire

    sits heavy and useless.

    a soul-sick dog is pushed

    into hot morning fade and dandelion.

    ripe, hard vine blankets the empty bottles,

    and the empty bottles shrug

    as wind-beat litter piles like monuments

    and proof of a beset existence.

    a rusty bowl of water

    is hardly enough to sustain.



    there is very little left

    to kill.

    the murder of the fruit tree has been

    with hands that look like mine.

    and yours.


    and somewhere in these

    small, familiar deaths

    there is a magic so wondrous,

    so bright,

    so perfect,

    that it must be


    which makes it all a bit better.

    and worse.

    much worse.

    words and photos by Jay Halsey 

  15. it begins with a knot in the gut.

    like pregnancy,

    or the need to excrete.

    the stars in the sky are drowning beneath

    fluorescent tides as we go about our rat routines.

    we are dying in and out of a life

    mired in small, never-ending futilities

    and sundry hoaxes,

    where we latch onto tragedy

    like suckling calves at the tit.

    we champion common men

    and common women

    to terrible levels of undeserved applause.

    and once they slip from the pedestals

    we erected for them,

    and because of them,

    we shoot them down.

    we finish them off.

    we hate them for being human.

    we hate them for being




    and we move on to the next round of fools.

    it’s a vicious cycle

    where the affairs of our creation

    become the instruments of our destruction.

    we are dying in and out of a life

    where nothing matters

    except how well we deliver

    what we have been taught.

    even if this entails

    more murder in the streets

    more disease

    more hunger

    more dumb

    more dumber

    more money for the ones who have too much

    more of nothing

    or anything at all that will make

    a real difference.

    we dance the rat dance,

    and the mosquitoes are full of us,

    yet we are not.

    words and photos by Jay Halsey