Does Thou’s t Die A Nugget or a Chicken

Adobe Stock under license

“Was that chicken aspiring to be a nugget?”

I said to myself,

While driving to a prison in Delaware;

“Or was Purdue not good enough?”

There it lay on its side,

On the side of the divide

Just from the Blue Mountain highway.

“Did it commit suicide?

And jump from that chicken-ridden semi?”

“Can a dead chicken have dignity?

If its Snow-White feathers still shone

Though its innocence gone?”

If I had a choice while being stuffed

Among likened others smothered

In feathers to break through,

Yes, break though the chicken wire fence

And jump to my death I would say,

“Adieu” to your human fondness of

Chicken-meat access and die a chicken,

A white virgin on the side of the road because

It’s better to be a dead chicken and free

than to be nothing more,  

at best, than a good eat,

With only bones left,

Your dog’s favorite treats.

I think I better break through to level-five prison

because we don’t make men nuggets yet.

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved

Revisiting Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, A Contemplative Review

I had a dream, in my twenties, that I was in a white room, a very bright one, and it felt okay, even curious. Then suddenly, a shadow began to slowly envelop the room. As the darkness increased, I became more and more terrified. The darkness, almost at its very darkest, gave me more terror than I ever experienced in my life, even up to this moment, and then, as everything grew pitch black, a feeling of immense relief and happiness, of total bliss, flooded through me. I awoke crying. Now, nearly 25 years later, this dream has clearer meaning to me.

I came upon Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death after listening to Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uk, on my long drives home. Manson often refers to Becker as a way to accept the inevitable in order to be happy. I realized that the terror of death has always haunted me. It did when my father killed the family dog. It did when I turned up the music to drown out the final gasps of my other childhood dog. I ran from it when my brother had a tractor-trailer tire explode in his face and almost died, when my childhood friend was killed in a school bus accident, and when I was a no-show at my mother’s and father’s funeral. Yet as a lead Alter Boy for the Catholic Church, I served 8 funerals while an adolescent, two of them would be for little girls. I avoided death, the death terror. I knew now as a social work student that I needed to engage my own terror more directly.

After finishing Becker’s book, I thought about that dream again, Becker’s concept of faith, and even of Becker’s subtle but persistent dislike for some “perversions” and came to this understanding. In order to absorb one’s own symbolic and literal self in death and to absorb death itself, one must trust in the dark, the unknown completely, as if the universe, its black holes, is the mother by which we were born.  If birth was traumatic, then ideally death should be bliss. This act of dying and total release into the unknown is not only the acceptance of death but an acceptance and grounding in faith. We are not separate from what is great an infinite, even if we are small and finite in life because the grand is made of small detail, while smallness is what Becker would write, what’s just in front of our noses.

This act of letting go is not only mandatory, it is something we all will and must do. Sometimes it is imposed on us from others, or such dying is an impulsive happenstance of nature, and often it takes us by surprise, with no time to reflect or act. Whether willingly or forcefully, we will be released from ourselves.

What may be troubling, even for Becker, is that my fuller understanding of this connection of trusting the terror came from Chapter 10 while he addresses “Perversions.” As one that has my fuller share of neurotic tendencies and trauma, I wondered. It is here that more sound development is needed. Becker notes that there is a sadomasochistic quality to life and to sex, and this is true not only in sex but also in the food chain. Fish eat smaller fish, and the mother Cheetah gives a baby Gisselle to her babies for practice. As Becker and Freud note, “perversions” or what I would call sexual differences are very common, but I think such is a rather hasty assumption on Becker’s part, and he should have stuck more closely to Otto Rank’s understanding of perversions: that such can be strengths within a proper context.

Becker accurately deconstructs the problems with psychology and psychoanalysis and notes Freud’s own obsession with sex and his reluctance, even fear, of Rome or what really seems to be the father and of death. Becker also accurately underscores psychology’s flaw: It is too specific. It may help to give a current example. Do to my own life circumstances, I became very interested in sexual fetishes and paraphilia. I wanted to understand why so many men have fetishes, the common forms of paraphilia, such as pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, and even frotteurism. I became very interested in pedophilia because the concept of it is rather new and it is often misused in media. I began working with sex offenders and worked voluntarily with a group of “minor-attracted” people, helping them develop a conference for clinicians and researchers.

It is here that Becker’s criticism of psychology and academics, more generally, became clearer to me. It may help to refer to one of the co-founders of positive psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman. During an admissions seminar a few years back, Dr. Seligman noted that the very foundation of psychology is fundamentally wrong. Much of psychology was built after World War II, so the result was that all the funding for psychology research went into negative behavior. It occurred to me then that we look for what is wrong with people, but as Seligman notes, we don’t look at how others overcome their own struggles or “fetishes” or mental illnesses to become successful in life. I realized that when we look a sexual outlier, we do so because we think it falls outside of human nature. Here lies a confusion.

Fetishes or paraphilia have been around as long as humans. It is no secret that the very concept of Adam and Eve, the modesty demanded in religion, comes from our fear of the body, of our own creatureliness. Is not psychology’s own historical disgust with homosexuality (as seen with Becker’s limited and hateful view of it and all “perversions”), and later paraphilia, a means by which to separate humans from their creatureliness? Is not western psychology founded on Puritan and Calvinistic ideas, a simplified black and white reality? Do we not cover our bad smells with artificial good smells?

In my work with pedophilia or more accurately with minor attraction (no this is NOT justifying abuse of children), I realized that such attraction is persistent throughout human time, and such is very common now with social media, so are foot fetishes (or actual bare feet, to Becker’s horror), and incest fantasy alone ranks, according to my own therapist, as one of the top fantasies for men. Maybe some sexual perversion is not weak at all, just like some neuroses and sadomasochistic behavior is necessary, just like some immortal projects are? Is not that very darkest of spaces a blending and balance between what eats and devours us but what also makes us one with the universe?

In my understanding of Becker when he is most brilliant is that we must accept our true selves, and if we accept our creatureliness, we submit to death when it comes to us, but what makes man unique is how much pain were are willing to take in pursuit of our immortality project, something Mark Manson suggests in his work, when such a project is done more out of the greater good than of harm to others.

We cannot escape death, nor can we remove ourselves from craziness or even our sexual secrets and perversions, but for most, we can learn to navigate them. As one therapist told a combat veteran that asked her if his PTSD would ever go away, she said, “Just because you have a shadow doesn’t mean you always have to look at it.” 

Written and published by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved

Grief, Peanut Butter, and a Border Collie


I cannot even find my picture of you, sitting in your favorite chair, the place you would go to eat your peanut butter sandwich after your walk.

Damn you for getting old, for stinking, for dying, you old mop, slopped about the house, black and white, tail curled, licking peanut butter off the roof of your mouth.

You loved to walk, scratching the wall, the leash hanging above, still like death but standing in heartbreaking anticipation. The restraint that so often muted your collie instincts marks your grave, hanging on a green stake above. A small but stunted tree struggles right next to it, above you. Was it the noose that held you back, or have you finally broken free of stinking, aging, and dying?

You were more than an old mop to me; you were my childhood, my youth. You were my companion and friend. You were a sweet animal among the cruel human and the psychopathic nature of Nature. The sound of your nails tapping the floor, the sound of you scratching, and, yes, licking peanut butter off the roof of your mouth. You, it, had a rhythm that gave predictability to the unpredictability of life.  

Your eyes, that of a Border Collie, big and brown, full of feeling, teared up once, when I yelled at you.

You died alone; I remember patting you on the head, your labored but soft puffing. You tried to hang on to the beauty of life, an oft-stealth flicker in this vast and timeless universe. 

I remember the day I got you. You cried for mom, and my fleeting child parenting skills went awash when you peed in my bed. My mom put you next to hers, in a box we got from the dollar store, and you became her fourth son and my third brother.

And I let you die alone; I couldn’t handle death, the death of my friend, brother, and of my childhood. I turned up the radio to block out the sound of the approaching reckoning for you and for all of us. Being denied leave for a dying son, my mother went to work while I went numb and blocked out life.

As silence engulfed my room, I no longer heard breathing from you. There you lay, a fragment of the brother you were, but I summed up courage and mummified you with the discount plastic garbage bags from the dollar store. One over your bottom, and a plastic bag over your head—a head I often kissed and pet; I taped the middle shut and carried you, like a sixty-pound baby into the freezer we call Buffalo, New York. I moved on the autopilot that abuse and harshness perfects.

We would put you in the ground, when life was awakening. 

Written March 1, 2008; revised May 2016

Earl Yarington

The Death of Density

Clickity, click, click

On the simple myth

Click bait, click bait

Why wait?

It’s a click or no?

A yes or a know?

Is that so?

What’s the difference really?

Spell check, spell check

Tell me that.

What to

Clickity, click, click?

We don’t want density

But simplicity.

I can click a life.

I just might

Download a woman here,

A man there

A click for a Clit

Or a click for Dick?

What’s the difference really?

One’s inside out, tucked in

Nicely done.

The other hanging out

While keeping it all in

Not a person really but a myth

An artifact that we

Clickity, click, click

To stop the pain.

If I can’t love you,

I will click yet another.

If we don’t agree

Simply delete.

Yes or no

It’s so?

We can find it all in a

Clickity, click, click

Except a smell,

A taste,

A touch,

Or a feel,

Or a feeling.

No, I want to be free

From destiny

Or is it density?

Spell check, spell check,

Which to clickity, click, click?

Malware, was that you?

What’s the difference really?

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved

Writing Brother

In was you and me


That summer

I took $100

And bought a Sears electric typewriter,

A brother in disguise, and

You, a manual one;

 it was a Brother, too.

Oh, who would think that plastic,

And rubber,

And fresh-painted steel

Could be so romantic?

If Hemingway had napkins

We had Brothers;

You and me hugging

The table ,

Our brothers, and

The coffee machine.

We wrote that summer, though we were just boys

I, a novella, of kids running away

From adults,

And you, a boy running away

From life.

Yes, there were four brothers so long ago

In that room there.

Because napkins were too expensive.

Only one still writes.

The Brother(s) embrace no more.

Tribute to my brother; written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved

Black Holes Are Where We Find Them

What if your life was at the bottom of that dude’s cooler?

Your eternity, that bit of liquid there,

You see it, rolling around the Styrofoam seams

Lost, wandering, this way and that way

Until it dries up, or the dog licks it

In hopes of something better.

You, YOUR life and dreams,

What then?

What does 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60

Or 70 matter … a century even?

Some live a week, maybe only a day

Others lose count or don’t count

They simply stop working.

It could be worse, right?

It could be maybe that muddy hole instead?

You know, the one your bare-child foot got stuck in

Back when you had hope and dreams?

No, better than plastic-type white

This one dark, warm and dirty—the primordial soup

–A mommy’s womb–

The other bright, artificial and painfully clean.

What we all seem to want but do not want.

What we want to be but are not.

But critters lie there

Or do they lay?

Often hard on the outside, soft on the inside

We, all wrong, soft on the outside and hard on the inside.

What if we are like bugs, too?

What if God is the squished bug you see, over there,

On that old book that no one reads

But you keep for no reason?

You like its oldness but don’t care about the inside.

Books are not like people with God’s innards smashed on the outside.

Maybe he, no her, yes, her

Those girls don’t need us.

They clone themselves and make a better you-me.

Because they cannot find love anyway.

But did you ever look close enough?

To stare at the dark eyes, all chocolate chip,

And see what 120 million years sees?

What does she see in thee and thee see in she?

What if a bug is more than a bug?

What if they are significant—in years—

And prophesied that they flew around the sun?

That they are the center?

How many have you killed

Like the dog that licked you up

Or the half-eaten chicken wing that you cannot finish?

It died for that.

It’s whole life to be “lick’in” or bitten only once

And tossed aside,

The creator mushed on a book,

Your life a pang of indigestion;

What if you could see you like others see you?

What a legacy in thee?

Are humans that important?

But how many have fallen in coolers, in mud pits

Or down a nose and throat

And swallowed?

No worries, they are healthy, much protein

Even spiders and houseflies.

Even you, with some extra fat and sugar though.

She made us all wrong.

Too big to be eaten

And too small to save the world.

Maybe we are just a mistake—the experiment that won’t go away—only 4 million years

And for all of this?

Maybe that is eternity? Chocolate chip eyes,

Or little black beads of pearl …

Black holes are where we find them.

No, it’s all wrong, the agnostic prophesy, of the once priest-like


That loved to love others that did not love back.

I’ve learned that God harbors in dark spaces:

Crouches, lurks, where no “good” soul wants to go.

We run from nature … from the natural

And drown and die in artificial coolers

All the while, believing that we are more important.

Look up at the sky

When it’s very dark

Drive out to red-neck country

And get a good view of what lurks above.

It looks just like a chocolate chip eye, the sky,

Only so much bigger than you

Staring back at you.

What is better?

When it’s dark?

Or if it’s white?

Does death know the difference?

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved (also previously published in book form under pen name yogiortner)


Should I love my IED

That goes off so suddenly

Not hidden underneath,

But for all to openly see?

It’s a love-pain in reverse,

Seldom often under earth,

Hidden horrors underneath,

When strangers plant IEDs.

The victims are living canvases

At the hands of angry “terrorists”

Whose bleeding bleeds through

The paining of others,

But what about their mothers?

The seed that is planted in

Love, lust, joy or hope

Despite life contraries

And love of Jove;

Living succeeds not in killing

With IEDs but from those

That succeed their decaying faiths

And dying fathers.

Legs cut off from the knees

No noses, hands or feet,

Or perfectly intact

Brains forever in

A “new crazy” retreat.

But should I love my IED?

The one that created me

Placed as a seed


In a womb

In hope

Or in lust,

Or wished love;

But when daddy is an IED,

Where the pain is tucked


Where the bomb is loved

From up above

Who then is the terrorist

To love?

Is it daddy, mommy,

Or thee?  

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved


They are scattered

Maybe all but gone now,

But I wish for a hint

Of them

In seeing them shine, then

A beautiful kind of embarrassment

for you, and for me.

That first day I was trembling hard

Away from mommy, the first time, pulled

From her smile and mommy’s tender-warm love

 to the looming pale-green dome

of bus number 46 in ‘76.

Toward the cold, stern and tired eyes of Mrs. Katiner.

I spell it wrong now, and would get Mr. Yustock’s paddle.

Him, too, I misspell, but I don’t misspell you, Renee.

But she put me with the tall and pretty blonde, more like a

mantis than a unicorn,

but so pretty was she,

with long powerful and lovely legs, for a child.

She knew I would not cry or tell,

so she kicked me hard for my sins

I had yet to commit.

Black and blue shins

All up and all down.

Her eyes flashed with a hatred,

I know not why

But I summed up the courage and stood up

No longer peeing in my pants

Too afraid to ask

I said, with big eyes and trembling voice,

“May I sit next to Renee?”

With long red hair and timid-shy face,

Glaring down at her coloring book,

I and she never said a word

For 9 months

we sat together.

You were the first girl … I asked.

You, were beautiful Renee,


Kind and feminine and lived at the

End of my childhood


in ‘76.

Whenever I see a little girl

With red hair and freckles,

I think of you.

She is iridescent, like you,

And, I the hopeful child again,

Just wanting to have a true friend.

Just a moment,

a happy spot of my childhood back,

one lost . . .

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved (previously published under yogiortner)

382 miles away

I drove back

382 miles and

39 years

To what’s no longer a home

Searching for something.

I killed him years ago,

But we have unfinished business.

The shovel is so cold to the touch;

Sad to think that such a thing

Puts one in the ground


Can dig one back up again.

He lay their 39 years just outside my bedroom window

When I was a child, and I killed him.

It is dark now, rural dark, not like you New York City folks,

So dark that only the demon eyes of your childhood stare back at you.

I trace my steps, though much bigger and slower now;

no less scared, maybe more,

to 10 ½ feet just outside the willow tree.

She’s still standing, towering over it, like his anger

That drove him in it.

I hesitate looking around at what was my identity

That no longer belongs to me, and I think that if I get …

Let me just dig a little first, I will fit nicely …

I dig in slow motion unconcerned about waking those sleeping

Unconcerned about waking him.

It is too dark to see, but I feel myself sinking

Sinking deeper into the clay-laden earth of Western New York.

I think, though numb, will some skin still be there?

Will the head I so often touched be unrecognizable to me?

Will there be his coat of tan and black and grey?

I panic, as the soil moans and the shovel screams less discrete;

She’s warm to the touch and is caressing something,

Maybe bones.

There is a flash and a bang from up above.

I recognized it once as my father’s window, right next to mine

Followed by the bathroom.

I felt a pulsating shock roar through my chest and something warm

Ooze all over me; then I heard another

Blowing my leg out from under me, and another

Killing the shovel this time.

I dropped in his grave.

The score is even now.

I was guilty when six, maybe seven,

When I rode over his paw with my Tonka truck.

He wanted to kill me but didn’t.

A week later my dad killed him with three shots

Just out of the window over there.

He attacked my dad, you see, because I made him angry when I rolled my truck

Over his paw.

I am 382 miles from home now.

Can you take me back to my daughter and son?

written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved