Sunday, July 31, 2016

…I’m back from the writer’s conference here in Seattle.  Felt like I was gone forever.
I’m not sure how valuable it was.  Best part, of course, was pitching to agents.  What a scary endeavor that is.
They herd a couple hundred of us into a waiting room.  Then at the appropriate time, there’s a mad rush to another room and it’s a bit like waiting outside Walmart on Black Friday.
Next you find an agent, stand in line behind a string of blue tape that’s stuck on the floor. 
You get four minutes to pitch your book.  If they like it, they say send 10 or 50 or all pages.  You hop up when the alarm goes off and get into another line.
I got seven “Sends” so it wasn’t a total waste.  In years past, I’ve had a lot more “Sends” than seven and nothing ever came of it.
So we’ll see.  Fingers crossed.

...While I was gone a copy of Common Ground Review came in the mail with my poem in it:

Men on New Year’s Eve

On our rural lake in the woods,
houses are huddled close
the way men are cramped
around a dim fire next door,
out on the lawn shore-side,
tarry smoke lifting off damp planks of winter wood,
hardly enough heat for anyone on a sub-freezing night.
Yet they are drunk and laughing,
launching fireworks from a homemade tripod,
explosives that sound more like overseas warfare,
making the ground convulse, the waves tremble,
our windowpanes shudder.
After each rocket soars, the group titters and swears,
gazing up at the after-smears of charcoal,
catcalling so that their voices echo around the western cove,
birdless and barren now.
These are men my father would take to quickly,
hunters, fishers, mechanics,
roughhewn fellows who can fix things,
rip an engine apart and put it back together blindfolded,
men with calloused hands and dirty fingernails
the same as him.
I think about the patients I have,
the one who committed suicide under my watch,
the one who dreams of strangling his mother,
the one who scratches secret code into her wrist,
and I wonder what it is I can fix, wonder if my father was correct
when he called me soft and useless,
labeled me a hippie, a Flower Child.
Under the bed
our dog mewls and claws as
another rocket goes scheeeeerrzz outside the window,
exploding in a limp bouquet of scarlet and plum.
On the mattress my wife
rolls over for the fifth or sixth time.
“Those idiots,” she says, chuckling.
Then, taking my hand and pulling:
“Come here and spoon me. 
Closer. Scoot closer.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


…Tomorrow I go into the city for the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference.  To be honest, it’s my least favorite conference.  There’ll be nearly 8,000 writers there and I won’t know anyone.  The conference specializes in niche fiction—Romance, Historical Romance, Memoir, Young Adult, Sci Fi, Cookbooks, Children’s books, etc. 

They don’t even mention the word poetry and short stories get a breeze by.

But what’s good about it is the speed pitching which is like speed dating whereby you get three minutes to pitch your project to a string of 25 agents all lined up, nearly shoulder to shoulder in a room.

I’m going to pitch The Hailstorm, the novel I wrote last year.

Fingers crossed.


…I’ll be back here Sunday or most likely Monday.  Until then, here are some things I like midweek:


To be alive, to be able to see, to walk,'s all a miracle." Arthur Rubinstein

"I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do." Helen Keller

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you." Dale Carnegie

"Anyone can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend's success." Oscar Wilde

"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." Thomas Jefferson

"The way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit for doing them."  Benjamin Jowett

"Judgement comes from experience, and great judgement comes from bad experience."  Robert Packwood

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."  Thomas Jefferson

"We are fallible. We certainly haven't attained perfection. But we can strive for it, and the virtue is in the striving." Carlos P. Romulo

"The best portion of a good man's life is the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love." William Wordsworth

"You can have anything you want -- if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose." Abraham Lincoln

"Most true happiness comes from one's inner life, from the disposition of the mind and soul. Admittedly, a good inner life is hard to achieve, especially in these trying times. It takes reflection and contemplation and self-discipline." William L. Shirer

"Never neglect an extraordinary appearance or happening. It may be -- usually is, in fact -- a false alarm that leads to nothing, but it may on the other hand be the clue provided by fate to lead you to some important advance."  Sir Alexander Fleming

"I don't think anything is unrealistic if you believe you can do it. I think if you are determined enough and willing to pay the price, you can get it done."  Mike Ditka

"Adversity is the trial of principle. Without it, a man hardly knows whether he is honest or not." Henry Fielding

"As long as a person doesn't admit he is defeated, he is not defeated -- he's just a little behind and isn't through fighting."  Darrell Royal

"In the final analysis there is no solution to man's progress but the day's honest work, the day's honest decisions, the day's generous utterances and the day's good deed."   Clare Booth Luce


Monday, July 25, 2016


…Hey hi, happy Monday.
Lots of horrible news of late.  It makes you go numb to it, which is really sad and disgusting in and of itself.
Yesterday alone a suicide bomber in a Germany killed 10.  It was the number four story online in Google news.
Three stories down from that was an article about a Syrian refugee who used a machete, in Germany also (Munich) to kill a pregnant woman and wound two others.
Ten stories down from that was a brief article about a suicide bombing at a security checkpoint in Baghdad that killed 20.
That was all in one day, on top of everything else that has happened.

…So I thought I’d find a few good news stories to make us realize the world isn’t entirely horrible, that lots of good things happen all the time but sometimes we don’t see them, or get to hear about them.
Here are a few I like:

Mystery Man Hides Tons Of $100 Bills In Diapers And Toilet Paper

One mystery man is giving a whole new meaning to the term “giving back” — and it’s all about the Benjamins.
For the past three years, an anonymous person called “Benny” has been hiding hundreds of crisp $100 bills around Salem, Oregon. Each “Benny bill” is marked with the mystery man’s signature, scrawled on the side.
Since the bills started turning up all over the city, The Statesman Journal, a Salem-based newspaper, has been keeping track of self-reported Benny bill finds. On July 12, the newspaper announced that the number of bills reported totaled an incredible $50,000.
The $100 bills are commonly found in grocery stores, markets and superstores, tucked away into products such as baby supplies, food boxes and children’s toys. More Benny bills have been found in diaper packages than any other store item, with toilet paper following close behind, the Journal reported. 

The Unexpected Effect ‘Pokémon Go’ Had On A Boy With Autism
“Something is suddenly happening, and whatever it is, it is MAGIC.”

One boy with autism is catching ‘em all ― and discovering a new side of himself in the process. 
For Ralphie Koppelman, a 6-year-old who was diagnosed with autism, socializing can be uncomfortable. He has difficulty making eye contact and engaging in conversation. But the day he started playing Pokémon Go, the boy began opening up to other kids, making new connections, and finding common ground with his peers as a result of the game. 
His mother, Lenore Koppelman, who was overjoyed by the unexpected consequence from playing the game, shared her son’s experience on Facebook.
“MY AUTISTIC CHILD IS SOCIALIZING,” she wrote in the emotional post. “[He’s] looking up at them. Sometimes even in the eye. Laughing with them. Sharing something in common.”
The mom explained to the Huffington Post in an e-mail that her son has trouble with pragmatic speech. He also struggles with communicating his thoughts. 
“If a kid walks up to him and says ‘Hey! Want to play a game with me?’ he might squeal and flap his hands and shriek, and then want to run around in circles around them, laughing with excitement,” Koppelman said. 
Additionally, Koppelman said Ralphie has autism-related OCD and because of that, he has difficulty breaking routines. 
The day he started playing Pokemon Go, however, Koppelman immediately noticed some differences in her son. After catching some Pokéman at a bakery, the boy ran outside where another boy saw what he was doing and a connection was made. The two even high-fived over the game. 
Later on that night, Ralphie even chatted with his neighbor Jenny Lando about the game. When she informed him that there were more Pokemon for the taking at the playground, he begged his mother to go visit ― unusual for the boy since his routine doesn’t include going to the playground at night. While there, he further surprised his parents by hunting Pokemon with other kids and interacting with adults, who offered him some advice on the game. 
When she noticed the changes, the mom and her husband, Steve, had a myriad of thoughts going through their heads. 
“We were looking at each other with shocked and delighted expressions, sharing the same thought: something is suddenly happening, and whatever it is, it is magic,” she said.
It’s been a bit over a week and the proud mom says her son has continued to be more social and more comfortable 
“He seems far more relaxed about breaking his usual routines. He seems happier. He’s laughing more. He seems more confident. He struts around proudly when he catches a Pokemon, and brags about it to people in the cutest way,” she said. “His father and I are both proud of him and how far he has come in only a week’s time!”

Elderly Stranger Pays For Man’s Groceries In Beautiful Moment Of Solidarity
“Love does exist in the world.”

This is one moment that we all need to check out.
Comedian Sampson McCormick took to Facebook on Wednesday to share a story about an elderly man he met in a grocery store. The two became acquainted in the checkout line when the older man, whom McCormick calls Mr. Samuel, struck up a conversation about race relations in America and even offered to pay for McCormick’s groceries.
The comedian, who is black, was so touched by the experience that he snapped a photo of himself with Mr. Samuel, who is white, and shared it on the social network.
“[It was] just a random moment of solidarity and love that made my day,” the comedian wrote.
"I was at the grocery store today and this old, white man (Mr. Samuel) walked up to me in line, apologized for racism & police brutality in this country and paid for my groceries.. I was standing there like 👀 .. He handed me the receipt, gave me a fist bump and said "Black Lives Do Matter."
Just a random moment of solidarity and love that made my day.. Some white folks out here are "woke" too. 💜
“He handed me the receipt, gave me a fist bump and said ‘black lives do matter,’” McCormick, who lives in Oakland, California, also wrote.

The photo went viral this week, and McCormick said that he hopes it’ll compel others to stand united, especially following the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge
“Love does exist in the world,” he said. “It’s really important for us to come together and, however we can, extend acts of love toward one another because we really do need more love in the world.” 
Describing their conversation, McCormick addressed the importance of unity, which led to the generous act.
“He was like, ‘If we all came together I think we would live in a better world and ... I realize that I’m white and I realize I don’t have to deal with things that people of color have to deal with,’” McCormick recalled. “He put his hand on mine and said, ‘Let me do you a favor, just an act of love, and let me pay for your groceries.’” 
While the simple interaction made McCormick feel more positive, the comedian said that we all should make an effort to understand racial issues in our communities. 
“Sometimes it’s as simple as showing up at town hall meetings and really having concern for equality and love and justice,” he said. “Being present as human beings and holding each other accountable for love, I think, is most important.”
Later he jokingly added, “And if you want to buy somebody groceries and pay off their student loans ― whatever you want to do ― you can.” 



Friday, July 22, 2016


…Friday, they said you were going to be a sunny one, but all you’re doing is crying rain.  Maybe you’ll feel differently tomorrow.  I hope so.

…Here are some things I like for the weekend:

“I really think everything is achievable in life.” Novak Djokovic

"There is no such thing as happiness. Life bends joy and pain, beauty and ugliness, in such a way that no one may isolate them. No one should want to." Jean Toomer

“Somebody once said to me if you want to be understood, don’t write fiction.”
–Mary Gaitskill

“Allow yourself to go and do it wrong.  Don’t always expect to do it right.  It will prevent you from doing anything.” Darren Hardy

"Sometimes when I look at you, I feel I'm gazing at a distant star. It's dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago. Maybe the star doesn't even exist anymore. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything." Haruki Murakami

“If we think we see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s the light of an oncoming train.” Robert Lowell

…And here’s one of my favorite stories of the 1,400 I’ve written up at Jellyfish Review today:

July 22, 2016July 22, 2016

The Resiliency of Epidermis by Len Kuntz

The Resiliency of Epidermis

We don’t touch, we never do anymore.

The mattress might as well be an island, a continent, a sea where it’s only safe to float, because the air — spiced and hot — is what holds us in place, what condenses us.

After the accident and so many surgeries, we can still breathe, but the fire left our skin too tender. Even the slightest breeze against our flesh can feel threatening. Doctors said, “The epidermis is only so resilient.” They said, “The healing process will take some time.”

And now, look — your eyes flutter open, pupils the color of hot coffee — and it’s as if each of our irises is threaded together with invisible yarn, unable to look away, to disengage.

“Good morning, Peach Pie,” I say.


Your face is the color of raw hamburger, yet you’ve never looked more beautiful, and so I tell you this.

“I feel like a bag of wax,” you say.

“Not even close. You’re stunning.”

Your lips try twisting into a smile. “Stop with your lies. I look hideous.”

“We look the same.”

“You weren’t burnt as badly.”

“Ah, but you were, and so I was doubly.”

When you swallow air, I can see how difficult such a simple act is for you, how the air burns going down.

“I can’t even touch you,” you say.

“Sure you can.”

“The doctors said —“


Our eyes are what matters. I tell you this without speaking and so we set aside words.

Our eyes become hands, fingertips, lips, and curious tongues. It’s a clumsy, blind man’s game, a search party in utter darkness, yet we work past what reality tells us.

When I enter you, there’s a gasp of foul morning air.

“Oh my god.”

“You can feel me?”

You nod. You say my name. You tell me not to stop. You say, “It’s been such a very long time.”


Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State, an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans, and the author of I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE AND NEITHER ARE YOU out now from Unknown Press. You can also find him at


Wednesday, July 20, 2016


     My Life in Black and White         

            Momma says she likes her coffee the same way she likes her men:  black, strong and steamy.  She says this with a cup of bourbon in her hand, when it’s just the two of us and the morning’s bleak and blue-streaked from all this Seattle rain.  Momma says things like that to be funny, because she doesn’t know how to make an eight year old laugh.

Before she leaves, Momma smokes two more cigarettes and does her lipstick and dumps her cup in the sink with the rest of the dishes.  She grabs her purse and says, “I gotta work late tonight,” even though I already know this.  Next she says, “Find something to do.”  She means go outside and play.  I tell her I’m fine and she says, “Ta hell,” and hikes up her boobs and bra so the lacy pink rises over her blouse.  Her skirt pulls around her thighs, her shoes are towers, and as she steps down the hall her heels clatter like a goat.

I listen and wait.  Then I step up on the kitchen counter, open a cupboard, go through the shoebox of old letters and yellowed bill statements until I find it.  After I do, I step off carefully because there’s egg yolk on one side of the Formica and a spilled ash tray on the other.

I kneel down on the gold shag rug, a little spur of something blooming inside of me, and open the envelope.

            Here’s a picture of Douglas.  That thing he’s holding is actually a strip of hose.  He puts it against this curvy carafe and lights the thing on fire and sucks the flame through the hose until it makes smoke and then Momma will often sidle off the love seat and lightly punch his puffed-out cheeks and—Whoosh! —I’ll get smoldered and smothered and Momma will cackle and say, “But damn, don’t he look just like Puff the Magic Dragon when he do that?”

            This one’s Daddy.   The photograph has rippled edges and the face of the paper stock is cracked.  On the back it says Lou 12/25/196?  This was before he and Mother met up, probably before either Kennedy brother got shot.   I know it’s just a bus driver uniform that Daddy’s wearing but I used to pretend different, that he was an army officer.  I pictured him like that drill sergeant in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” barking orders, a person with power, in charge of others.  One thing I’ve learned is that a little bit of anger isn’t so bad.  It’s better than what I see, which is a lot of nothing going on, all Momma’s friends stoned to the wind, laying around like a pile of jacked-up mummies, stiff as store window mannequins.

            Great Grandma Faith came from the North Country where it was always frozen.  You can see that much here, in the way she’s pinching her lips all walnuty crinkled, her eyes black as jet.  Some say I got my imagination from Grandma Faith and since she died a century or so ago, I’ll have to take their word for it.  If you ask me, she looks mighty mean.

            This is my dog Doogan.  Some boys in our old neighborhood took up with the rock—that’s what Momma calls crack—and they made a firecracker necklace to tie around Doogan’s head.  He didn’t die from that but Doogan did go deaf and then that’s why he didn’t hear the cab that ran over him.  I miss him fierce but the place we’re in now don’t allow pets, so Momma says it’s just as well.

            I don’t get all these pictures of the same convertible and no people in it.  Must have been something special about it.  What I notice is how clean the streets around it are, how the stoops are clear of sleeping bodies and how, in one, a girl about my age is drawing a chalk flower.  Sometimes I’ll pretend she’s my best friend and I’ll give her beautiful names like Bethany or Alexandra.

            Here’s me, the only film picture in existence as far as I know.  What’s strange is I’ve never seen myself look like this before--pretty.  Not in mirrors or reflected glass.  Hey, but I realize a camera can be a darn good liar most of the time without even meaning to.  I’m an ugly runt.  I know what I am.  Still, something about the graininess of the photo makes me appear mysterious, or better yet, lucky.  Whoever took this Polaroid had the shakes because I’m a blur more than a living person.

            The last one in the envelope is Little Louis.  Double L, Momma always says when she refers to my brother.  He could have been the first President from the projects.  He would have been a famous poet or a singer or surgeon, Momma was sure of it.  As a sort of insurance policy, she read his palm when he took sick so young.  My Momma can be cruel but she’s a smart woman.  I ask her about Little Lou all the time.  Sometimes she’ll tell me stories, some repeats, once in a grand while a fresh one.  But even a future president doesn’t accumulate a lot of stories before the age of five so mostly she’ll say for me to keep my mind on my own self.

            Tomorrow will begin year nine of my life.  The way I look at it, anything can happen.  It’s going to be Christmas in a week.  This time, same as the others, I asked for a camera.  I know how crazy that is and if I didn’t Momma is always there to remind me.  Her boyfriend, Lester, got me a plastic one that clicks when you punch the taking button.  He thought buying me that toy would get him special access into my underwear, but Lester’s a dumb ass.  If he tries anything, I’ll slice him frontwards and backwards.

            Right now I spend most of my afternoons here, climbed up over the back of the couch that’s butted up to the window.  We live in 9D on the sixth floor of this building.  There’s a view of things.  Momma says I’m a strange kid cause where’s all my friends?  The deal is I don’t need any, don’t want any.  There’s stuff that goes on around here I’d rather not have anybody else know.

            Besides, I got plenty to do.  I got this window and that whole world outside it.  Some parts are repulsive, sure.  There’s dumpsters and people digging through them.  Real cat fights where animals rip each other’s eyes out of the socket.  I seen a man beat up a girl.  I seen a lot of things.

            But no one and nothing’s perfect.  God filled the world with all kinds.  That’s what makes being a photographer so interesting.  Even what’s old can be new.  What’s ugly can be beautiful from a certain angle.   What’s dark, what’s absolutely, one hundred percent, hopelessly black can bear light. 





Monday, July 18, 2016



Dear Mother

Dear Mother,
I keep trying to put you away,
Deposit you in a safe deposit box that’ll never be opened again,
Drop you in a dumpster, grind you in the garbage disposal,
But you are a slippery ghost, one slick ghoul
You shimmy in and out of scene and you’re here now
The black in this ink, with whirls of blood stains
The things you taught me ought never be learned
How evil can leach through the simplest of things
A Cream of Wheat breakfast, a whimpering, beaten dog
Forgotten birthdays that were not actually forgotten
There’s more of course, and worse of course
But no one wants to have their day ambushed by that much darkness
I suppose there’s nothing I can do about it
But I wonder what you’re thinking right now
If any of it makes sense to you in hindsight
If there’s even the slightest sliver of guilt or shame
Seeping through the vapors of your wraith skull


Molotov Cocktails

At the riverbank the trout have slipped away to the other side of the shore
Or else they’ve eaten each other
My brothers are lighting Black Cats and tossing the firecrackers inside
Dad’s empty beer bottles, then chucking them into the stream
Molotov Cocktails for poor terrorists
Don’t be a pussy.  Grab one.
In the back pocket of my denim shorts is a Dark Shadows book
Quentin and the Crystal Coffin, a goofy read but a nice escape
When I sit down on a boulder a Black Cat gets flung my way
Exploding an inch from my ear, sound draining out of the world
Everything looking like I’m seeing it from underwater
My brothers apparently cackling, grabbing their sides as they titter
Saying something I can’t hear while all I can think is
I’m so glad that firecracker blew my eardrum out.  I really am so glad



The memories of you might
As well be tattooed across
My corneas
They run like boiling oil
In my bloodstream
Those early years
Of violence against
Children bearing your same
Last name
What am I supposed to
Do with your death
Knowing there was never absolution
Even now awake at
Such a late hour
I am still waiting
For the emancipation proclamation
That never comes


Independence Day

Another thing about fireworks is they can shred you
You get it thrown at your feet while you’re holding a lit one
And it’s BANG
BANG again
But that all makes for a good laugh
Even the size of your swollen fingers, the smear of gray
Gunpowder splattered across your wrist, that’s funny, too
What a hoot!
And then later that night and nights after that night
You think about Independence Day
Waiting for your chance to break free for good


Friday, July 15, 2016



…I’ve had a fair amount of things published in the last week or so.  Here are some of them:


…And here are some things I like for the weekend:

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubt while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” Charles Bukowski

“It’s like you see right through me and make everything easier.” Ray LaMontagne

“Oh honey, just the mention of your name
Turns the flicker to a flame” -Dorothy Moore, "Misty Blue"

"Somebody asked me: "What do you do? How do you write, create?" You don't, I told them. You don't try. That's very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it." - Charles Bukowski

"There is a pain—so utter—
It swallows substance up"
-Emily Dickinson

“Muhammad Ali knows how to be a friend, and that’s one of the hardest things to come by.” Bill Russell

“I really think everything is achievable in life.” Novak Djokovic

"There is no such thing as happiness. Life bends joy and pain, beauty and ugliness, in such a way that no one may isolate them. No one should want to." Jean Toomer

“Somebody once said to me if you want to be understood, don’t write fiction.” Mary Gaitskill

“Allow yourself to go and do it wrong.  Don’t always expect to do it right.  It will prevent you from doing anything.” Darren Hardy