word scientist

Writing Prompt: Whisper

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.


Most of what I write is an experiment where I allow words to cascade from my fingertips and walk about in the world, naked and unashamed. I let them roam free so they may discover themselves.

You could call me a word scientist. Forever exploring the strengths and weakness of words, even the history of words, where they were born, how they lived, and how those who use them have been transformed.

I am in a writing lab, surrounded by flasks filled with potentially volatile words. It is quiet there, so that I can meditate on my next experiment. I whisper to the words, and ask them to show me what happens when I mix them together. I add drops of words into an empty flask, then pour a cup of words atop what may or may not explode. The words combine and foam into sentences, then paragraphs rise to the top of the flask and spill over onto the table. I whisper to them, ask them what it was like. Sometimes they answer, in whispers barely audible. Other times, they wait to be rediscovered in new ways.

Dozens of flasks litter the table, each now with varied mixtures of words, reacting in expected and unexpected ways. Some good, some bad. Some inert, others poison to the touch. I continue to delve into the science, to see what it unearths. Words bubble, freeze, catch fire, and sometimes turn to fog. Always, they are there, coming together to teach us that which we didn’t know yesterday.

Sometimes they come in whispers. Sometimes they come without care. But always they come.

the lonely road

The poem below by Frost is the life I’ve always lived, the road less traveled. It keeps me sane, even as it sometimes leaves me lonely in this world. Most times, lonely in a room filled with people.


The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

the potential for loneliness


Someone called me today, a loved one. She said she was lonely. But I am too far away to just show up on her doorstep and take her out so we can run the streets like school girls. I could hear it in her voice, the loneliness she tried to conceal behind laughter as she told me how she felt.

I will be where she is soon. I promised her we would go out dancing when I see her. Maybe a nice old school step joint, something sophisticated yet fun.

We continued to chat for a while about various things. I wanted to stay on with her, to let her know that I understand loneliness and I was in no rush to get her off the phone. I wanted to be present with her and allow her to laugh (allow myself to laugh) and tell her stories with the excitement of a child.

In a way, she saved me today. She reminded me that I too may one day be lonely again. Even more, if I live, I will one day be an elder. It was humbling and sobering. What will that look like for me, as my children go off to live their lives? Will they call me daily? Weekly? Will they take me out? Will they even want to spend time with me around a dinner table? Or will they be too busy to remember I exist until, like many children, they need something, even if it’s just moral support. I would give it, no doubt. But would always wonder if when the time comes and gray hairs are no longer peppered with remnants of black, but pure snow, would I still be relevant in the life of those whom I love?

Knowing the potential for the future leaves me wondering if loneliness could one day become my best friend, because all my flesh and blood friends have come and gone. And family has come and gone.

I can’t wait to see her. She’s sacrificed so much over the years. The last thing she deserves is to be lonely.

the skies above us

Photograph by zaji

This was the sky over my house yesterday. Such a beautiful sight.

The sky is a constant reminder of my mortality. When I am gone, the sky will go on, into millions of years that I will never live to see. Nothing from this moment in time will be recognizable. No one’s name will be known or remembered. In a million years, even the dust from our bones will be like smoke dissipated into the air. Someone in the distant future will find themselves digging up a femur, discovering it was from a woman, then calling it some strange futuristic name that will itself become meaningless a million years from their find.

We are but shadows and dust. More shadow than dust. A shadow dissipating with the setting of the sun.

the beauty of a teacher, and her students

Every now and then a bit of beauty falls onto my lap and reminds me that there just might be a pinhole of hope for humanity. Very few of us are as lucky as these ex-students to have found a teacher who truly loves them and wants for their success. Sadly, there are far too many teachers who have fallen into the trap of teaching for a paycheck, rather than teaching to save our future. Not all, of course, but many.

I honor teachers who love their students and do whatever it takes to ensure they are properly educated in the subject they teach.

my first and last

Photographer Unknown

It was the mid 80s. I was 18 years old. I was working at a local video store renting out videos for a Prince height Italian man whose accent betrayed his birthplace, which was clearly not Italy. He was a Bronx born Italian, who mixed Americanized Italian with yiddish insults. When I didn’t move to his liking, he would look at me and let slip, fongool, from his lips. Back then I didn’t know what it meant, but it was clearly an insult and an expression of his disgust with my perceived inability to return the videos back to the shelves in a timely manner. At other times, I would get a well timed, mashugana.

At the time, Blockbuster didn’t exist in New York. It would be several years after I worked at that Mom and Pop video store before Blockbuster would open in the very same plaza where I worked. They took the corner lot, several stores away from the old video store.

It was at my local video store that I would meet many amazing people. One woman, who was a Prince fanatic and often told me that her and her boyfriend had an understanding that if she ever met Prince, she would no doubt have sex with him. She told me that her boyfriend understood and accepted his fate if she were to meet Prince in a private space. She was deadly serious and made no bones about it.

One day she came to me and said she acquired tickets to a Prince concert and wanted me to go with her. She was excited about attending and wildly flipped her dusty blonde hair with childlike enthusiasm.

Here I am, nearly 30 years later, remembering my excitement and feeling it all over again. It was the first concert I had ever been to. And from that day to this one, I have never been to another concert. Prince’s concert was one of the richest and most rewarding experiences of my life.

Seeing him on stage reminded me of how beautiful, creative and talented humanity could be when not focused on the negative aspects of our psyche. He was the consummate entertainer, working his instruments like a champ. He almost floated across the stage and exuded a fluidity that was captivating, mesmerizing and hypnotizing. He was simply amazing.

I left the concert feeling satisfied and truthfully never imagined that I would never attend another concert in my life. It genuinely just happened, and I have no idea why.

Prince was my first and last. Now he’s gone. I weep purple tears.


my first and last was originally published on zaji

dinnertime fruit tree

Photo Prompt: Dinnertime

…This week, share an image inspired by dinnertime — whether you take a photo of food or simply shoot during the evening hours is up to you!

Photography by zaji, April 22, 2016 @ 11:45 am CST

Our little peach tree is coming along nicely. The peaches are growing rapidly and getting larger each day. I estimate that by the end of May they’ll be ready for eating. This is my idea of dinner. When they’ve matured, I’ll spend many days outside enjoying dinnertime by the peach tree.

iniquities of gods


I walk the dusty road of false time, seeking angels with broken wings. Only they know my sorrow and how unforgiving the gods can be. I don’t need their lives vicariously, my window is the same, yet I have no wings. I see through the dirt and grime that only rain can wash away, sometimes.

When the after-time comes, my sorrow will be complete. The gods will walk among us telling tall tales of how they were created. Yes, they too must answer to their gods. Their iniquities will be brought to judgement’s feet, then they will be asked, how did you nurture your creations? how did you help them to become gods?

© zaji, 2016

park benches

Photograph by zaji, April 19, 2016

the park benches wait for children.
lonely and longing for the weekend fraught with giggles and bruised knees,
they wait for light and dark to revolution less than six times.
that is all it will take to bring the children.
sneakered and bare feet trampling the sand.

the benches wait.
somewhere behind night the laughter awaits.
the children fold into innocence.
they brith a new future,
where race and identity merge.

the playground becomes the neutral zone.
colors are for the external world.

© zaji, 2016

contemplating life

I sat in the park today, thinking. I didn’t focus on anything in particular. I listened to woodpeckers feverishly pecking away at trees and red pyramids at the top of a swing set. One I saw atop the swing had a vibrant red head, black upper body, white lower body and black tale. It appeared regal. I wondered why it wanted to peck through toxic paint to get to whatever was hiding inside the pyramid.

People drove in and out, some parked for five to ten minutes, others got out to get their morning exercise. I thought about these people and wondered how they saw their lives. What does it mean to them to walk in the park? Why do they want to exercise? For health? To wear a bikini for the summer? Are they walking merely to contemplate life? Or did they leave home to get away from a horrible fight?

I thought about existence and the unanswered question of why we are here. What does it mean to even be here? In 1,000 years, what will sit on the spot where the swing currently sits? I can only speculate.

A dozen more thoughts came and went. They were all theoretical and filled with inquisitiveness.

Photography by zaji, April 19, 2016

the passionate journal

Brick red journal. Pleather string wrapped three times, tight, to seal the words inside. Gem stone glued to the middle, circled by a carved and braided sunshine design, a mandala. Spine pleather crossed holding together the many sentences that spill across pages unnumbered.

the journal laughs and weeps all at once. i am merely a vessel, here to give to the journal the sustenance it needs to birth worlds through words.

Photograph by zaji, April 19, 2016

oh snap!

Writing Prompt: Snap

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

Oh snap, how cool is this!? It’s a writing prompt that takes me back to my junior high and high school days when saying, “Oh snap!” was the thing. It was equivalent to saying, “For real!” or “Damn!” or even “Oh wow!” I’ve even used it to express how cool something was. Like, “Oh snap, that dress is the bomb!” Oh snap could be used as a response to several strange, crazy, wild, unreal, cool experiences or observations. Many times it would be accompanied by a balled fist touching the mouth, with a slight lean backwards and to one side, eyebrows raised with an expression of surprise or amazement.


Ah, the long ago school years. The 70s and 80s were a hell of a time. Teenagers during the 70s and 80s were on the cusp of change. For example, while I didn’t much see exclusively black and white television that I could recall, there were still shows that ran black and white interspersed with full color television shows before I had reached high school age. The country was advancing toward an increase in computer use as the average American began to discover home personal computers at an accelerated rate. We were the transitional children, seeing the world continually transition from the old to the new technologically.

“Oh snap! They got a video game called Space Invaders?”


I remember watching many reruns of The Honeymooners, which aired in black & white and ran its final episode in the fall of 1956. Thirty minutes later I would find myself watching the Odd Couple which ran in full color. Nowadays, reruns of old black and white television programs are reserved for certain cable channels. But during those days when black & white and color programs were interspersed, the Oh snap factor was still present and profound. “Oh snap, Thriller is coming on! Grab the blankets and turn out the lights!” Everything was new and exciting and color television was grounds alone to say, Oh snap!


“Oh snap! The Twilight Zone is coming on! Get some Jiffy Pop!” The Twilight Zone was where I learned myriad life lessons given that it was brimming with episode after episode of moral dilemmas either resolved or unresolved. It ran all the way into 1964, all black & white up to that point before they revived it in color with original and rebooted episodes. So as transitional youth, we saw many changes in cinema and television. The changes were amazing and wondrous and transformed our view of the world. Every moment was an Oh Snap moment for us during the 70s and 80s.

I still find myself using Oh Snap from time to time.

the story of leaves

I took this photo more than five years ago. Each time I revisit it I see something I never noticed before. It is not only majestic, but the leaves tell a story I am still trying to decipher. I look at the veins across each leaf and imagine the blood of leaves running through each vein. The water droplets quench their thirst, even as they lay dying on the ground. They have come through a long line of DNA that remembers the long history of Earth, a history we may never understand or realize, no matter how many scientific breakthroughs we achieve.

In many ways, I wish I could have connected with those leaves in some way so that I could hear their stories, what they’d seen, what they’d been through, how they’d felt. Yes, even how they felt, and, while on the ground, how they felt about their process of dying.

The story is in the leaves.

Photograph take by zaji

my books and me

Writing Prompt: Pride and Joy

What’s your most prized possession?


My books are one of my most prized possessions. Reading is my refuge and my many tomes provide me with the escape I need from the mundane. My library is about 5,000 books strong with an eclectic group of authors writing in both fiction and non-fiction.

It’s strange, but when I am surrounded by books I feel at ease, as though surrounded by friends. Authors I’m not fond of get placed in other rooms in the house. Authors I love live right in my bedroom on shelves or on the floor along the walls.

There are times when I want to significantly shrink my library. But then I get the shakes and quickly dismiss such an insane idea.

untamed roads

Writing Prompt: Tricky

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.


Jutting rocks pave rarely trodden roads. Walking into an unknown future is tricky. We are twisted into ideas and forms that take us barefoot across the sharp stones and even sharper destinies. But even destiny is an unformed notion. There is something ahead that may or may not be what should have been. It is tricky, this knowing, or not knowing. Speculative. Mysterious. It is the road forward into lazy villages where busy roads are sometimes made for bare feet but mostly for feet covered in stretched animal skins; tricky roads that have requited love and blind hate standing on their backs. The rocky roads are heavy with the weight of history walking to and fro across their life force. They exist untamed, the roads, charted and uncharted, remembering human souls soaked in memories they can never erase. The feet deliver the words. The road receives them. The stones crumble with the passage of time. They remember distant voices that carve thoughts into them. They are scarred and pained by the stories. But they remember it all, even though memory is tricky. They remember every word.


sitting with existence

Photograph by zaji • April 7, 2016 • circa 1:30pm CST

I’m sitting outside on the grass, writing. The ground beneath me is cool and firm. The sun is almost at the top of the sky, peeking through the trees I’ve chosen to hide under. The air is still and warm. The leaves barely rustle.

Photograph by zaji • April 7, 2016 • circa 1:30pm CST

Tiny bugs crawl onto the cloth I’ve placed on the ground. I spray a mixture of rosemary oil and distilled water into the air to keep some away. Those who don’t mind are persistent and join me as I read a work by James Baldwin.

I am mindful of the fence, the dogs barking and the moving shade. It inches away from me causing me to move further under the trees. Eventually I am overtaken by the sun and I can no longer follow the shade. So I sit with it and allow it to beam down on my skin the many rays carrying the past. Encapsulated stories spread across the lawn. The sun tells every blade about its existence and what it has seen since it was born.

I want to hear the whispers and understand the words. But it is too much, too fast and in a language I cannot translate, much less hear. We are far removed from what was once a natural ability.

Now, I try to hear with tainted ears the stories of Earth told by the sun. The sound is ever so faint. But I keep listening in hopes that great truths will come through. Even more, great answers to sometime small questions.

Photograph by zaji • April 7, 2016 • circa 1:30pm CST

raindrops keep falling on my…

Writing Prompt: Climate Control

The idea that the weather and people’s moods are connected is quite old. Do you agree? If yes, how does the weather affect your mood?


We are all affected in some way by the weather. I have not met a person who doesn’t have something to say about a rainy day that isn’t emotion driven. Very often the emotion is negative.

I’m a rare fish who happens to love the rain. It puts me in a meditative mood. The water droplets falling from the sky are like little capsules filled with stories about Earth. I often want to stand in the rain and let the stories soak into my skin. The words about Earth could comfort me and remind me from where I came.

Rain is also sexy. It’s a great time for passionate love making. The rain beating against the roof and windowpane conjure thoughts of bodies skin to skin and souls touching places long forgotten.

Deep philosophical discussions that give way to new ways of thinking and being are born on rainy days. There is time to unfold ideas and new truths. Rain is the kind of weather that without a doubt changes moods and minds quickly. For me, it is always for the better. For the planet, it is food.