the fourth of july. | a short story by j. ryan.

A brief note: I wrote the short story “The Fourth of July” in February 2018 as a response to a writing contest conducted by Dark Regions Press held in April 2018. The story was submitted but ultimately not selected for inclusion in their anthology of flash fiction (1,000 words or less) horror stories centered on the lone survivor of a deserted island.

This is a work of horror fiction, and contains disturbing content and descriptions, and probably made my search history questionable. While coming in at a mere 848 words, it packs a punch and is extremely graphic in its depictions of violence and cannibalism. Reader discretion is advised.

Continue reading “the fourth of july. | a short story by j. ryan.”

cleanse. | a journal entry by j. ryan

I’m writing this on the eleventh day of a 21-day cleanse. No, it’s not that kind of cleanse. You know the type. The ones where all you ingest is something in liquid form and hope it doesn’t result in homicide. This 21-day sitch isn’t torture, and that’s coming from someone who loves food. I really love food. And by that, I mean I really like highly processed, sugary, salty, cheesy, buttery, fried, carbohydrated, genetically modified, corn syrupy food. You guys. I have put shredded cheese into a bowl and I have put that bowl of shredded cheese into a microwave and I have taken that bowl of now-melted cheese out of the microwave and eaten it with a goddam spoon. I have done this more than once. I have also done it with just some chocolate chips. More. Than. ONCE. I really like food that isn’t on any kind of wellness plan.

Continue reading “cleanse. | a journal entry by j. ryan”

2020. | a journal entry by j. ryan.

The 15th amendment, which prohibits anyone from denying a citizen’s right to vote based on “race, color, or previous servitude,” was ratified 150 years ago this year. And yet people of color still have to remind us that their lives matter and are disproportionality and systemically oppressed by white supremacy / nationalism, institutional racism, and voter suppression (to name a few). Although the time spent in the relatively non-representative states of Iowa and New Hampshire unfortunately narrowed the Democratic field down to all-white and except-for-Pete-almost-all-about-the-same-age-of-50-70ish candidates, the debate stage in Iowa was, for a time, the most diverse it’s ever been.

The 19th amendment, which prohibits denying a citizen’s right to vote on the basis of sex, was ratified 100 years ago this year. And yet women still have to fight for equal pay, to be believed when they say “Me, too,” and make arguments that they’re “likeable (or electable) enough” to run for President of the United States (something male candidates clearly do not have to address), because of our deeply ingrained and insane patriarchal norms that tell many of us the lie that women are inferior to men. Fortunately, we still have two female candidates who made it out of Iowa and New Hampshire.

I’ve been married for five years. This is the longest amount of time a same-sex couple would be recognized as a legal married couple at the federal level because the Supreme Court didn’t strike down bans on same-sex marriage in all 50 states until 2015. A married gay man is one of the frontrunners on the ballot after Iowa and New Hampshire.

When we or they look back on us five years from now, a hundred years from now, a hundred and fifty years from now… what do you want them to remember?

Early voting for the primary has already started in Illinois. You can choose to vote in the primary by mail. You can show up in person on March 17, 2020. You get to help decide the future of your country. The burden is on all of us. Your vote matters. But first, you gotta register.

if I could be a food. | creative nonfiction by j. ryan.

If I could be a food, I’d probably be a potato. I mean, honestly, what is better, more positive, and least controversial as a potato? You can get ’em mashed, smashed, scalloped, baked, twice-baked, fried, as a pasta (gnocchi), as a gosh darn french fry just being as-salted and drenched in malt vinegar and dunked elbow-deep into some ketchup or just, like, a bucket of Red Robin’s campfire sauce. MY GOD, I love a goddam potato.

Although, I have to say that if I couldn’t be a potato, I’d be cheese. Any kind of cheese. Imagine the self-esteem that would come with being stinky and moldy, but people still love you! Can you even fathom being so versatile that you can be eaten just as yourself (there’s an inappropriate joke there somewhere) or on a cracker or melted or melted and on a cracker or crumbled onto a salad or sprinkled onto soup or mixing yourself with sugar and becoming a pie that for some reason people call cake? or paired with a nice wine or topped with a dollop of (not Daisy® but) jam or blanketed over some apple pie or gushed inside a cannoli or (in cream form) literally the first ingredient of any Midwestern casserole or slow cooker dip. My God! Cheese! And just think of existing and someone being intolerant of you, but wishing they could indulge in you. Maybe they even do indulge in you, but they get sick after and they blame you for it. They blame you for it even though you didn’t jump in their mouth out of the blue. That’d be absurd, because you’d be inanimate if you were cheese. No, if they ate you then they ate you knowing fully well that they were intolerant, but yet afterwards they pointed at you or something like you and said it was your fault they felt sick.

But you can’t help it you have lactose.

You’re just cheese.

about: the nightmare. | a journal entry by j. ryan.

“The Nightmare” is a three-part poem I wrote in 2010, and it is peak angst probably written to a soundtrack that included Snow Patrol, Evanescence, and Taylor Swift, because my musical taste has always been eclectic AF (read: weird; sidebar: I’ll still throw down for Amy Lee, OK?). If you haven’t read them yet and feel the spirit moving you to do so, here are the links: (1), (2), and (3). And if you’re not into poetry, totally cool – this post is primarily journaling about subjects you don’t need to have read the poems beforehand to understand.

Self deprecation aside, this is one of my poems from my twenty-somethings that makes me cringe the least. Revisiting it a decade after I wrote it, I actually found myself sitting with the words for a while, finding a lot more satisfaction in them than I expected. Sure, at my now-very-wise age of 31, I’d make different choices – a little less flowery, pretentious, and thesaurus-y – but lyrically, it has a flow to it. It also comes from a very dark place, which gives a certain heavy atmosphere to it.

Reading it also got me thinking about where I was emotionally when I wrote it, and as I began thinking (read: writing) through it, I realized I was journaling and therapizing (not a word) myself through that period of my life. And so, here’s a narcissistic exercise in analyzing one’s own work.

Continue reading “about: the nightmare. | a journal entry by j. ryan.”

the nightmare (3). | a poem by j. ryan (2011).

In dreamer’s sleep a wayward journey lies,
To paradise unfound on earthly mounds.
On rolling hills of emerald green they dance,
To heaven’s ceiling they sing in sweet relief,
In majestic waters they find themselves to dive,

And in love they find a yearning satisfied.

In lovemaking an ecstasy refined:
Comfort in gentle words they find,
With crime of passion intertwined.
Body to body – beating hearts quake,
Skin to skin – honeysuckle sweat on lips –


Continue reading “the nightmare (3). | a poem by j. ryan (2011).”

the nightmare (2). | a poem by j. ryan. (2011).

Heart retreating, thoughts reversing – penetrating!
Why are you never looming – always parting?
Eyes salivating – a conservatism so old:
A knife plunges deep inside – like you: it’s cold.
Smatterings of slurs they screech: this cannot be.
Tongues lashing about: I know they can’t stop me!
An untimely thought in mind does fortify:

Was I always dead as this crimson does imply?

the nightmare (1). | a poem by j. ryan. (2011).

In vulgar hilarity I fell in lust
With a man in tangled sheets I couldn’t trust.
This room a canvas: frayed padding on its walls,
Where Pandora hid a box where mine darkness lolls:
My heart a catacomb of memories lost,
Hands holding mine like wintry midnight’s fair frost:
Regrettable touches of warmth I once sought,

Memories of an unlikely love besought.

Into foggy wooded hollows I do fade,
Cradled in skeletal devil’s arms unafraid.
Cold, rancid breath tender on my fragile neck,
Meanwhile a child dies in a fiery train-wreck.
Dancing with death, a clearing appears ahead,
There you stand and again you occupy my head.
Your eyes taunt: our connection falsely sublime,

I am petrified to love you one more time.

Continue reading “the nightmare (1). | a poem by j. ryan. (2011).”

you are the one you've been waiting for. | a journal entry by j. ryan.

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”

Virginia Woolf

“What’s the worst thing that will happen if you don’t try to write?” my therapist asks me.

In hindsight, the answer might be, “I’ll never title a blog post with lyrics from Frozen II.” But in real life, I stare at her and she stares right back at me. We’ve been here before. Not with this specific question, but with the staring. Over the last six months, I’ve discovered there’s a lot of staring in therapy. A lot of pregnant silences. It’s an odd way to describe anything, pregnant. Don’t you think? Sure, denotatively, it makes sense according to Merriam-Webster …

*pause for the stream of consciousness of yours truly, brought to you by your friendly neighborhood ANXIETY!*

[Jesus Christ. Are you really going to start off your first blog post in over a two years with a definition from Merriam-effing-Webster? (And now you’re briefly annoyed because you wrote “effing” instead of the actual four-letter word – the one that happens to be your most favorite – because you don’t want your current or future career endeavors to be jeopardized with this blog post, because dream big about (a) people clicking on the link you probably shared on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram even though you absolutely don’t seek validation through social media or (b) someone googling your name and this blog showing right up top). The one thing you told your speech students to never, under any circumstances, do but they did anyway? Start a thing with a definition when the word you’re defining isn’t jargon-y and your audience clearly knows what it means? No. I’ m not effing (UGH) doing that. If you need the non-having-a-baby definition, please see Merriam-Webster and excuse this tirade of an interruption.]

Continue reading “you are the one you've been waiting for. | a journal entry by j. ryan.”

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