1. 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

  3. 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

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


    photos by Jay Halsey


  5. 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

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



    photos by Jay Halsey

  7. 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 

  8. 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


  9. the disease spreads.

    the old theories have fallen down

    upon themselves

    like toothpicks in flame.


    our sorrows become profits from fear,

    when they should wield swords

    or guns

    or at least great notes of triumph,

    but there’s already enough bloviating

    and not enough action or explanation.


    the institutions of forged innocence

    are completely free of charge;

    dripping as dog slobber

    in the heat of August.

    the masses exhale,

    and the smoke hangs long after

    the shot.


    high-paid heads swell

    while the ones with heart shrink.


    this is the way

    and hate is the utility.


    more beer

    more whiskey

    more strong coffee

    more good music

    more children free of suspicion 

    more conversation and bigger porches

    and sunlight beneath the black eye


    less perfection

    less dull

    less clean for the sake of clean

    less me

    less you

    less shoestring lives

    carefully and strategically

    tiptoeing into a

    lukewarm emptiness


    this should be the way.


    when we kill our gods


    and governments

    the world will beat harder and faster,


    and brighter.

    a hard fever is

    the only option.


    this will be the best way.


    so arrive when you like,

    and please,

    do not 

    wipe your feet.


    words and photos by Jay Halsey



    grass grows greener on sides of bland interest

    for the same reasons people live in mansions

    and follow popular radio.

    a heart flourishes on the tough, hard earth

    where squirrels copulate among thistle and stray cat corpse.

    old things cling to other old things;

    they go nowhere.

    and I see the same cars

    driving to the same places

    from my dark porch.


    —the view is fine from here—


    you could get drunk on cheap beer

    while listening to Waylon

    or Cash

    or Motorhead,

    and shit more soul

    than the average man

    in the average department store

    or theatre

    or restaurant.

    we only believe what we want

    to believe,

    and it has been wrong for ages;

    yet it blooms as hemlock

    and poisonous mushrooms.

    the humans look like



    as machine becomes smarter

    the crowd becomes dumber.


    two wilted flowers

    lean against each other

    within the cracks of a

    six lane boulevard.

    and it is beautiful.

    it is the most beautiful thing

    you will ever see.

    the soft sun of too late.


    —the view is fine from here—

    photos and words by Jay Halsey


    it’s good to sit here as another day is drained

    then the glass

    then myself

    choked dry with contemplations and routine abuses

    waiting for something, and roused by nothing

    wondering, what’s next?

    the fat male mosquito moves

    slow and spent

    across the patio

    it’s just him and me and the drooping sun

    the air is cooling, a puddle shrinks to dark resin, and day is leaving both of us

    he knows what’s next, and after that

    it will just be me

    sitting here

    words and photos by Jay Halsey

  12. “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” ― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

    photos by Jay Halsey

  13. "I’ve seen that things find their void when they search for direction." - Federico Garcia Lorca

    photos by Jay Halsey

  14. "I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead." - Charles Bukowski

    photos by Jay Halsey

  15. “We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.” 
    ― Jean BaudrillardSimulacra and Simulation

    photos by Jay Halsey