What Ever For

I wasn’t ready for you – wasn’t ready
to feel need leeching marrow,
seeping pores. Wasn’t ready to mis-
take someone else’s heartbeat
for my own.

I wasn’t ready …
but you were. You said
“You and me together. Now
and forever.”

I thought I wasn’t ready, I thought
I was scared. I shouldn’t
have been – turns out
forever didn’t last as long
as I’d assumed it would.

© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

he wrote me poetry, once.
lines with honeyed metaphor, dripped
soft to illuminate slumbering souls
seeking solace unencumbered and sweet as silence

i folded myself, calm and compact
into the spaces between
his words. within them i found
strength - braced my spine, curled my toes, and dreamed.

when i awoke, he was writing, still -
but not for me.
his words held the same warmth,
yet felt so cold - so not for me, not for me, not for me.

i wondered, then, who else
he loved -
who else had he
mistaken for the sun?


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Sweet Nothings

Writers enjoy capturing readers with literate and studied depictions of love; they labor over poetry and philosophy, classic novels and films, all in an attempt to paint the perfect picture of the perfect love – of how it becomes and how it is. All they ever draw are eager eyes of expectation seeking to make something from the reflections of a curator’s piecemeal ideal. It may be pretty, but it isn’t real.

Those shining moments may happen, but love endures long after those moments become dusty photographs in a forgotten shoebox in the back of a closet. Those moments make stories happen, but they don’t make love happen. Love isn’t made of grand gestures; it’s made of quiet support that no one else would notice. Nor is love made of desperate longing; it doesn’t push or shove to jump ahead of the queue.


Love waits patiently, knowing its time will come. Love isn’t some dramatic movement meant to demonstrate what it would do. Love simply does, without expectation. Love knows that any sentence that begins with the word if is telling, not showing, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Love doesn’t tell you what would happen if it existed, it simply exists. It’s present in a smile and a shoulder squeeze when you’re frustrated and under deadline, a warm towel and a cold beer as you’re emerging from a shower, a stupid joke whispered in your ear that makes you laugh when you were about to cry. Love is there when nothing else is, and love is always on your side – even when you fuck shit up – and love won’t even ask for anything in return, because love knows it is its own reward. There’s no quid pro quo with love; it just wants you to succeed and to be happy.

I want that too.

© 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Men Who Write Are Sexy

Men who write are sexy.

There, I said it. Saying it gives it power; gives them power. Men who write are sexy in the same way musicians are sexy. In the same way you see him playing that guitar and know that’s the same face he makes when he comes. In the same way falling in love with his music means you fall in love with him, even if he’s not conventionally attractive – he can’t be separated from this overwhelming thing he creates.

Musicians have groupies and perhaps it’s true that authors also do, but they’re quieter and more unassuming. Less obtrusive and more shadowed; less spotlight and more wall. The musician’s groupie might be in the front row, drunkenly throwing her bra onstage. The author’s groupie is in the back, sucking the wall through her shoulder blades and a cappuccino through full lips once bitten in pursuit of lesser things.

Men who write are sexy.

I’m not talking about the man who drops a few lines in as many minutes and hits “post” without a second thought – he may be sexy too, but he’s not the subject of this missive and he’ll have to sulk in the corner and deal with that.

I’m talking about the man who would labor on a 22-page short story. I’m talking about the man who would dare to write a full-length novel. The man who would dare to dream. Dreaming is sexy and dreaming is putting yourself out there, knowing you could fail, and not giving a fuck. Dreaming is real.

Men who write are sexy.

Men who write take no prisoners. They take life by the balls and squeeze every ounce of passion out of it, then toss the deflated husk to the ground and scream “Is that all you’ve got?”  And you imagine they write how they fuck. Just like you imagine that musician plays how he fucks. Your mind knows he treats the words the same way he’d treat you, and you lose yourself there.

It doesn’t matter how he looks; it only matters what he does.

And you want him to be doing you.

© 2012 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller


We writers are narcissistic, almost by definition. We live in our own little worlds, and we expect others to accept them without question. We think we’re fascinating, and that other people should be fascinated by us and the things that we do. We’ve romanticized this notion to such a gross extent that we believe others will be interested in our ramblings about typing words into a computer at 3:00 a.m., and will read these mewlings with bated breath as though we’re saving babies from burning buildings.

Because in our minds, we are.

Every time you write, you’re creating something that never existed before, and in so doing, you’re altering the very fabric of existence, adding a little thread to the fabric of space-time that never existed before. That’s no small feat, and you’re entitled to at least a modicum of arrogance as a result – at least that’s what I tell myself every day.

We are so in love with ourselves, and our craft, we’ve convinced ourselves our ability to imagine, think, and write the way we do comes from some supernatural force. We call this force “inspiration,” embodied since ancient times in the muses. When we find work difficult, we blame them. And we wonder why people find us flaky and difficult. If a surgeon removed your mother’s liver instead of her appendix, causing her death, and his defense was “I’m sorry, Asclepius was not speaking to me today and ignored my offerings,” would you pat him on the shoulder, offer your condolences, and feel bad for him? No. No, you wouldn’t.

And yet we, as writers, fully expect others to do exactly that; and to understand and empathize with us. We’re special in that way. We’re not like doctors, with someone’s life in our hands. We just think we are.

If you knew nothing about electric energy or electrostatic discharges, but you did know that lightning had destroyed your neighbor’s home, perhaps you’d be inclined to conclude that your neighbor had disfavored Zeus in some way, causing the god to lash out in retaliation and destroy something of his. Inspiration, and the muses, work in the same way – as placeholders for something we can’t explain empirically.

What is this motivational flash we call inspiration, then? Athletes call it being in the zone – when everything’s flowing perfectly, every pass is perfect, and every shot connects with its target. It’s as though time is flowing in slow motion; you can see and calculate every detail with precision. They call it that because they don’t know what prompts it or how to call it up on demand – because we provide placeholders for the unknown. We credit them for our victories; we blame them for our falls. The former, because we’re shy or modest; the latter, because we’re cowards.

I know, because I’ve been in the zone, and let me tell you, it’s an amazing feeling. But when I’m not in the zone, I don’t blame the zone for its absence – I play on. You do something that you love because you love it, but you realize that just because you love it, doesn’t mean it will always come easy. With this realization comes an understanding that if something never presents hardship, if it never challenges you, you’re not pushing as hard as you can. And if you don’t push as hard as you can, you’ll never go as far as you can go.

As much as we’d perhaps like it to, inspiration doesn’t come from some fickle, jealous supernatural entity that bestows blessings on a whim. Inspiration comes from open things – open hearts, open eyes, open minds. Lethargy and apathy alike close doors without us even realizing, because we’re too wrapped up in our own mythos and grandiose self-pity.

The English word “inspire” has Latin and French roots; it means, literally, “to breathe.”

If you’re not inspired, you’re not alive. 

© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Pylons of the Pier

Sunset is no metaphor for beginning, but that island, that summer, was all they ever were. When she refused to wash her hair for fear of disturbing the smell of the sea locked in its burgeoning dreadlocked strands; when her skin was browned by sun and softened by sand. He traced love with his toe and they shared smiles both bittersweet and laced with secrets.

“I’m afraid I don’t love you,” she said.

“Give it time,” he said.

And so she did. They did. They leaned against the pylons of the pier and drifted off and away. They loved as the tide came in and the ocean hissed beneath them. They were young and they were trouble and they knew nothing – but nothing exists outside the eyes of lovers locked in the latent lumination of souls glowing for each other. They knew it would end, as everything this perfect must.

Beauty only exists on the fringes, where the fabric of focus is frayed and colors are grayed – where you’re licked back to life by the metallic taste of fear-tipped tongues. 

Perfection doesn’t lie in lack of balance or failure of patience; but then, love is never perfect. Sometimes, love tastes like salt water. Sometimes, love feels like the split ends of sun-dried sandy hair. But usually, it feels like jumping head first. Usually, it lives in moments that run away and become memories, gaping and gawping into the night. It may live on in songs and starshine, but it was never really there.

She knew all of that when she said “Don’t fall in love with me.”

“Too late,” he said, although he knew all of that too.

In my mind, there will never be a miscarriage of this moment. I have wrapped words around it and I will never let it go. I only lived it once, but I’ve read it a thousand times.

And I read it still.

© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

I Forced It

I once read a major author’s comments on writer’s block and the work of writing. This author advised that you should just write anyway: Write three pages on a “good” day when the words are flowing and everything’s perfect; write three pages on a “bad” day when you can’t put two words together to save life or limb. Look back at the bulk of it a couple weeks later, you won’t be able to tell which bits were written on the “good” day and which on the “bad” day. I don’t remember now where I read it, or who wrote it, but it stuck with me, and I suppose that’s the first important thing about it. The second important thing about it is that I learned and feel I finally understood the true meaning of it this week.

Tuesday was a “bad” day. I couldn’t figure out how words formed sentences at all. Someone snuck into my house while I was asleep and replaced my brain with that of a crackhead. It took me like 7 hours to write a 700-word piece that I even felt comfortable submitting. And by “felt comfortable submitting” I mean “made any sort of sense and was remotely intelligible.” Because at that point I was ready to commit arson, or murder, or both. It wasn’t writer’s block. Writer’s block is a pretty myth we writers haul out because it sounds better than saying we’re bored and unmotivated. This was something far more fundamental. I was making basic grammar and syntax errors I haven’t made in two decades.

I submitted the piece, not knowing really what else to do, assuming it would come back for a rewrite – hopefully on a day when I wasn’t struck with acute-onset illiteracy. But last night the editor sent it straight through to publication, with the note “great work” attached to it.

In the end, it didn’t matter how hard it was to get those words out. They came out, and that’s all that matters, and in the end, you couldn’t tell the difference.

I see this odd fixation with things being “forced.” People telling other people not to “force” writing, not to push it. But if you want your writing to go anywhere, pushing it and forcing it is exactly what you need to do.

If you write as a hobby, and you never intend to go anywhere with it, then you should absolutely only do it when it’s fun and easy for you. That’s what hobbies are all about, and that’s why the only reason you’ll ever catch me bowling is if there are people I like and plenty of free beer. But if you’re serious about writing – whether as a side pursuit or a potential career – you can’t just write when it’s fun and easy. You have to force yourself to write even when the words are water-boarding you.

We force writing because we are passionate about it, because we strive to bend language to our will. We push writing – even when it doesn’t come with ease – because we want to move further in pursuit of the craft.

And this is the truth behind writing even when you’re not feeling it. The undercurrent of your passion still pulls your words even when the surface is full of chop, and your readers won’t know if you spent 3 hours writing 2,000 words or trying to write ten (mixed metaphors involving water to the side).

Too often we say something feels forced when in fact the opposite was true: No writer forced those words; they gave up and settled for them. As writers, we settle for something “good enough” when we’ve lost interest and given up on it. This is the third important thing about that bit I mentioned at the start. When I set out to write this essay, I wanted to find the author’s words so I could quote directly. When I hadn’t found anything after about ten minutes, I gave up and wrote around it (parentheticals are a good indication I’ve given up on something, as well).

Writing is work. Sometimes the words come easy; other times they refuse to cooperate and you have to exhaust yourself wrangling them into submission. But in the end, the outcome’s the same and no one knows the difference. If a piece of writing is lackluster, it’s not because it was forced, it’s because the writer gave up on it.

Never give up.

© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller


If ever, here, the sun decides
to take the day off and go dancing –
or if the moon mistakes itself
for meteor and obliterates
every oak and urchin –
I want to see you.

Whether overlook or underground,
as the world comes to
a sure and steady end –
as nothing paints pictures
of itself and light dissolves
into void –
I want to touch you.

If even, here, edges crumble
and pillars fall – if every
moment collapses and dark
defies stumbling feet
their purchase –
I want to love you.

And more.

© 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller


I see you, not as words –
not a single quote
or chapter – but as
an unfolding story.

And I love reading the story
that you are – but even more,
I relish being part of it.
And in the end, even if I

am but a bit player
in your epic drama, I hope
I made a difference.
If I scar your soul

with my existence, it’s proof
I’m alive, and you’re alive,
and we feel, and we love,
and we dream – Do we ever

dream. Please dream. Dream
grandiose and microscopic. Cast
your net wide – yesterday
can’t know what tomorrow might bring.

© 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller


But we’re not part of breathing,
I suppose – no need for fingers
tangled in tresses, for silences stilted
by gap-toothed gasps. No need
for mercy, after all. We know

the rhythms of wavelengths
beat by begging tongues, belabored
by the bitter branching between
because and resolve. The brow,
ever furrowed; the mind,
ever bent.

Toward neon-lit doorways, perhaps,
we tread, skulking
among the tremorous reaches
of dawn’s quick and early
grasp. Dark we find feeds
and fills imagination’s trenches –
we make our own way.

We cannot be lost,
where once we had each other.

© 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

In a Way

In the time you were away, I drew
arrows like breath to lungs, 17 strokes
ran rivers through sordid caesurae,
and I was not alone. I drew
daring like tongue to lips, 32 scars
forged short-cuts through fault lines,
and we were not apart.

My strength does not rest
in remembrance, in refrains lost
meaning through repetition. Why
would I look back on yesterdays static
and finite, when so many tomorrows
are yet to be? In the time you were a
way, I realized – we
have all the time in the world.

© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Contingency Plans

I may not know exactly what love is, but I think I have a good idea.

Like, a few months ago we were talking about the Zombie Apocalypse. I can’t remember why we were talking about it or how it came up – it doesn’t matter. We talk about a lot of different things. So we were talking about the Zombie Apocalypse, and he said if (or should we say “when”) such a thing ever occurred, I would be the first person he would pick to be on his survival team. He also said that was probably the most romantic thing he’d ever said.

Now, there is some logic to that choice. For example, I’ve watched a lot of survival shows on television, as well as a number of films about the Zombie Apocalypse (some more realistic than others). In a real-life survival situation, I’d probably remember something from one of those shows or films that might prove useful. Additionally, I’m well-versed in the many uses of duct tape. But ultimately, if I’m being realistic I have to admit that in such a situation I’d probably be more of a liability than I would be an asset – and that, I suppose, is why he characterized it as romantic.

Since then, we’ve talked about a lot of different things, but for whatever reason we’ve not really talked about the Zombie Apocalypse again. Perhaps we quietly consider the matter settled. All I know is, in all this time, he’s never recanted that statement.

© 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

No Place Like Us

I warned you I was quite a handful,
you said you had big hands. I didn’t try
to quantify the length of time
I spent in love with you
before I ever knew your name.

I said in love with you because I
have shitty vocabulary. What I meant
to say was that you wear my imagined
ideal like a custom-tailored jacket, like
a second skin, like whispers hold
secrets, like hands


© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Someday, Maybe

Someday, maybe I’ll stop
checking every five minutes
to see if you’ve called.

Someday, maybe I’ll stop
searching for secret messages
to me in everything you write.

Someday, maybe I’ll stop
thinking about you, wondering
where we went wrong.

Someday, maybe I’ll stop
feeling guilty for not seeing
until it was too late.

Someday, maybe I’ll stop
wishing you’d give me
a second chance.

Someday, maybe I’ll stop
reaching for arms
that were never really there.

Someday, maybe I’ll stop
hoping I’m really asleep, and
this is all just a nightmare.

Someday, maybe I’ll stop
remembering the way
you always made me smile.

Someday, maybe …
but not today.

© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Just Makin' Do

You said “I don’t deserve you,”
and I find I must agree, because:

You deserve constellations,
but the nearest star lies far
too far away, and
there’s nothing I can do
to bring them to you;

you deserve happiness,
the kind would warm
the coldest of fears, but
smiles lose meaning absent
tears, and there’s nothing
I can do to keep those
away from you;

you deserve the moon,
but so many others
have already laid claim
to pieces of it, and
there’s nothing I can do
to make it whole for you;

you deserve love
infinite in quantity
and duration, but I am
far too brief, and
there’s nothing I can do
to give that to you.

So you said “I don’t deserve you,”
and I must agree that’s true –
darling, you deserve so much
more than that. I’m glad
you make do
with me.

© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Q & A

“You don’t love me anymore.”

She thought on his words, the phrasing. He was never one to use them except to express his exact intent. He could’ve asked “don’t you love me anymore?” but he didn’t. He could’ve left the “anymore” bit off, implying that she’d never loved him at all, but they both knew that implication was false and would only have started a long semantic battle of attrition. It was a statement, but one he needed confirmed. A hypothesis.

“Did you even hear me?”

Even. “I did.” Curious someone had long ago decided time was something to commoditize. It all comes from believing our supply is limited and we’ll never have enough of it. Reasons for living are implied. The best years are finite. “You know I’d do anything for you. I do.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“You didn’t ask one.” Being close to someone, claustrophobia sets in. With walls closing in, pushing back is a natural response. “I’ve never loved you any less –”


“I can’t love you any more.”

© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller


She wanted to hold time,
hold distance; to feel each pulsing
in the palm of her hand
a fallen fledgling – a throbbing,
striving force for flight
before its time.

She wanted pause
to nurture dawn’s brute force
down to pastel washes
and perjured truths,
but morning
comes so fast, so hard.

She wanted room
to compensate, less for words
than for
the spaces
in between – but silence
is quickening, and

She wanted release.

© 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Why, a You Unprompted

Here, a smile unravels not
unlike a thread seaming pieces
of warm only together utile,
consumed by the twice-divorced
decadent worthwhile.

There, a story unfolds not
unlike sprouts budding flowers
unvased and unafraid
of dying somewhere inbetween
beautiful and forgiven-for.

Where, yesterday’s refrain becomes
tomorrow’s prayer without melody
for solace corrupted by solitude.

Every, heavy lies knot not
unlike truths shared under
dares rebuking reveries for
laughter as breaking, and uncertain
as dawn’s cold comfort.

Being, hope shifts erratic not
unlike the erosion of consciousness
recreates shorelines drawn
by callous and selfish dreams.

© 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller