Born in another land;
weened and raised in the North.
Conditioned to the cold and
pragmatic temperament of
those who surround.

I am a man between homes;
born in the prairie, but cast
into the woods.
Adapting; never settled.
Skin turned to bleached birch bark;
brittle, but still tougher than the
windswept wisps of the grasslands.

There are no roots
digging downward to
establish something like

Yes, one day that
may come to pass, but
for now,
I remain transient;
between my origins and
my ending,
praying that
this transplant takes.

by Erik Shinker

Picking at Scabs

A fingernail pushes,
wedging beneath a
crunching border with the
inevitability of an

Each millimeter a
pinpoint of agony
made with conscious effort;
at last deciding to do something
about this sickening scab.

As this hardened, clotted shell is
unearthed, apprehension and
second-thoughts spike.
“I thought this was healed;
maybe I should have left
well enough alone.”

But it is too late for
that whimper;
what has begun
must be finished since
momentum has a way of
pushing us past the
point of no return.

So we rip and tear methodically,
before the decision to push through
overpowers and before we know it,
we hold in our fingertips a
grayed fragment of ourselves.

Sure, it might bleed a little, but
it’s reassuring to see the
renewal of fresh,
pink flesh;
maybe that reminder is all
we have to know we’re
still alive.

by Erik Shinker


Who are we,

Each day, when we put on our
masks, we decide who we will show
to the world as “us.”
The colleague;
the coworker.
The son;
the Father.
The Mother;
the daughter.

The Golden Child,
living without effort.
by their siblings and cousins,
loathing their self more than
any other could.

The Broken One,
always making mistakes despite
trying their best.
Brushed off
as a
wasted opportunity;
what a pity.

Circumstances can be
tamped down by confidence;
faking until making
a defense against what they
couldn’t control.
Assumptions based on
clothes, appearance,
accent, and vocabulary.
Though we may strive to
empathize, it doesn’t always come

who are we,
Depends who’s asking.

by Erik Shinker


My dreams are puzzles;
a woeful masochist, watch as
I search endlessly for that final
piece to make the picture whole.

To force this mixture to make some
semblance of sense, I could
impart importance in the nuance;
metaphor and poetic device,
symbols to satiate my
muddled-up mind.

But, sometimes, a
cigar is just a

by Erik Shinker


I am throwing out a
lifeline, though
there is no guarantee.

A whisper against the dark, seeking
something more than myself.
This hope, though grave, and
sought in the wrong way, is
all I have left.

A grasping, gasping exhale;
one last shout before I sink beneath.
Unsure of that which I seek,
but certain of what it’s not,
I stumble through life on
severed limbs,
cauterized nubs.

I am maimed, by
my own hand; by
The deepest of wounds left to
fester and rot beneath
scaled scar tissue.

But in my deformity, I cast
this line once more;
my only faith
in us.

by Erik Shinker

Horror Story

I’ll tell you a story,
about a man and a woman,
whose souls never met despite
their complete surrender to each other.

They spoke every day,
slept entangled in one another;
their bodies pantomiming
what they were told by
their parents,
their culture,
and their society was
the ultimate goal.

Intimacy, forced through expectation.
He bragged to his friends about his
erotic escapades;
she doted over her lover’s ligaments
to lady and lummox alike.

They routinely posted online and
kept to a schedule; spreading their
manicured manure in search
of influence.
Tagging pictures of filtered flirtation,
they checked into hot-spots and date nights;
alert to become
the envy of all their
connections and
followers and

But they knew it was hollow.
They lived in fear of losing the game,
the race to the finish line of perfection.
They continued to feed on the
ugliest of emotions;
vampires leeching from
any unlucky enough to
come into contact.

These magnificent monsters
parade and display their
selfishness in a way  to
Don’t mislabel something
horrible as love.
Fear these creatures;
there is nothing
about them.

by Erik Shinker

A Panic

Sucking tar grips and
sticks, arresting any
forward motion.

Gnarled, creeping fingers
frisk along limbs and compress
with a strength contradicting their
brittle appearance.

The weight of the world bubbling
over; suffocating with an
inhuman cackle.
Exertions all for naught,
attempts at escape denied at
each try;

until one calming
thought reminds:

just breathe.

by Erik Shinker