This bed is a ship | Sid Branca's online journal of writing scraps

This bed is a ship is a sporadically updated internet journal, 
a home for odd scraps of writing.


I imagine myself a small animal, nestled in a little hole. I have been making a nest out of discard, out of whatever is left around. A few seasons go by and I move country, I head south or west or into the forest. I make a new nest. I do not spend a great deal of time wondering about what kind of animal I might be; I am too busy surviving. In the winter, I spend much of my short day asleep, or in the haze of near dreaming. 

I consider what I know of animals, and note that I think of their relationships as all or nothing, prairie dog or lone wolf. I am sure this is not actually the case, on the level of a species, on the level of an animal. I consider the possibility that I am projecting. I consider getting a pet. 

I have a tendency to be all or nothing, on the level of a person, on the level of people. Spending so much time alone feels like trying to catch up on sleep after years of being under-rested: a groggy feeling tinged with vague guilt, but all blended in with great relief, and with a certain curiosity about who it is that I might possibly be, occupying space simply by myself. 

Crouched in the field, I listen to the wind in the trees. 

Sid BrancaComment

as my heart splays and threads itself across town
I wonder why gravity pulls me hard to broken men -- 
perhaps they remind me of my father,
or the broken man inside myself
or because the tools I sharpened to repair myself
ache for use I will not give them

I ask the moon, a shining bowl tipped and full and it says:
       because you are empty
       because you are too full
and it ducks behind a building
leaving me quiet
I imagine an altar covered in needles and ash

the moon adds a parting shot:
maybe you should try dating a Taurus
or maybe truly well and good no one at all
to pour yourself out in different ways
to find that verdant field within yourself
that you are forever seeking out in others

build yourself a rough-hewn house of good strong wood
so you have somewhere to turn to when winds blow rough off course
build your home up safe from flood, protect yourself from fire
though you are made of all most flammable parts
learn what you look like in the mirror
and you finally won't need one
you will see clearly through the steam

you like the broken because you yearn to enter in
but remember, not all points of entry
must be made of shattered glass
sometimes you can simply walk in through the door

Sid BrancaComment

Let the death of Charles Manson be an opportunity to discuss the ways in which many men prey on younger women, use sex and love and drugs and religion and fear as weapons of gaslighting, as the carrot and the stick they use to control them.

Charles Manson's favorite book was "How to Win Friends and Influence People"--a book read and obsessed over by many businessmen, politicians, and other people in positions of power. One of the most notorious murderers of America's history used the same prescribed tactics as many of its CEOs.

We think of Charles Manson as exceptional, but he was on a certain level a perfectly ordinary result of the cultural systems that produced him. He simply took what was given to him by toxic masculinity, systemic racism and misogyny, a broken prison system, his religious upbringing and damaged family, and the sad spiraling out of the end of the 1960s, and he mixed it altogether into poison. Manipulating vulnerable people, mostly women, some barely more than children, into enacting your violence for you is, unfortunately, nothing new.

The more I learn about cults and serial killers, the less I think of them as outliers, freak accidents of society, and more as the terrifyingly logical extension of omnipresent and insidious cultural tendencies that we need to push back against in all their forms.

Let this news also be an excuse to listen to the solo work of Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boy who thought he could get love by giving people gifts at a never-ending party, and instead found himself with Charles Manson and his Family living in his house, meeting his well-connected friends, borrowing his cars to commit robberies, until Wilson finally cut ties. It wasn't too long after that when things got very, very dark, and it seems like Dennis never quite got over his past enabling of a man he eventually discovered to be such a monster.

The Beach Boys drummer drowned to death in 1983, diving off the pier in Marina del Rey over and over again, supposedly trying to recover a photograph of his ex-wife that he'd thrown off his boat long before. In the 1970s, however, Dennis Wilson recorded some really incredible solo music that has gone fairly under-appreciated. "Pacific Ocean Blue" and the unfinished "Bambu" are really worth a listen.


The horrific realization that one thing that has made me the way I am is the fact that I have forever been accustomed to instability, and that this in turn has made me accustomed to all decisions being reversible. When all is chaos, when the people around you forever turn their emotions on a dime, scream and kick walls and then ten minutes later profess love, beg forgiveness, this has the strange effect of making everything fleeting. The meaning sucked out of all action beyond the present.

Your parents tell you they are getting divorced, and then they don't. Ten years later, they do. Years and years ago, your lover leaves you, and the next day acts like it never happened. This happens at least five more times in four years. You are threatened with death, clinging to metal screaming on the street, you are threatened with money being shoved at you and with money being taken away, you are threatened with sex being shoved at you and with sex being taken away, everyone is too fucked up on something and in this and you are taught that these are romantic gestures. That the turmoil is a sign of care. 

And so, now, a thousand lives away, you learn you still carry those lessons in your heart. That breaking up with someone is a way to show someone that their behavior is unacceptable, that you will not stand for this, but also it's a tool you use because it isn't capital punishment, not the nuclear option. That's the slow, mature, and measured voice you use when severing the limb in surgery, not the heated cries of battle. And now, you are devastated because someone kinder, softer, more genuine than you finally took you at your word. And you don't know what your words even mean, let alone what desires lay beneath them. Ash falls quietly from the sky. 

Sid Branca

maybe I love all those stories of dead things and elder gods and long thin knives in overcoats and the snarl of fangs and portals opening up into some dreadful other realm because it helps me to avoid the truth of fear, the ultimate horror that love is not enough. 

I have loved, deeply and truly, and been loved in return, but the hard work of living, the many betrayals of time and of the body, these little cuts the world makes, the thorns we grow from within, the many ways we self-destruct and the ways we fail to disarm or to heal or to understand ourselves or anyone else, on some harsh scale all this stacking meets love's weight.

We are, each one of us, small and sloppy collections of mistakes and scar tissue and our attempts at happiness, our attempts at kindness. 
I'm a cracked shell. I'm a dead bird dried flat in a tupperware.
I am an idiot. But not the way I was five, six, seven years ago. Things change. We learn. We find new ways to tear ourselves apart. New ways to find ourselves reflected as monsters in a lover's wet lips. New ways to fail each other despite love. 

Sid Branca

crying at wavy leaves trembling, catching an eye like a frozen Nordic pond
I consider drowning: emerging from the deep heat of a birch wood sauna
bare sinews stretched and slicked with sweat
plunging into cold blue waters
simply sinking there
numb toes in silt
a ghost

committed to loving a stranger
who ever remains resident
in some foreign country I cannot access
where his body sways two feet from mine

my stare grows small limbs to clamber over the back of his neck
my heart streaking wet thuds across a pockmarked table
straining to nestle between head and shoulder
a sloppy gargoyle of devotion, all full of dark blood

until he notices and moves away
replaced by little bits of leaves, cigarette butts
sticking like straw to open ended wounds
watching from behind as he walks off
I look at his face and suddenly realize--
we are older than we were when this began. 

Sid BrancaComment

(heads up: contains stuff about health and bodies and dysphoria and stuff)

This week I was told I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), and because I am the type of person I am, I have spent much of the last two days doing research. Trying to understand what is going on in my body, and trying to figure out which of my multiple chronic health issues might be tied in with pcos. For those unfamiliar and now worried: it’s not something life-threatening, and it’s actually extremely common. There is no cure but it’s manageable, although my odds of developing some other, more dangerous things, like diabetes, are now higher than normal.

This is scary, but also a relief; a known problem can be addressed in ways that a nebulous feeling of something being wrong cannot. Maybe dealing with this health issue will clear up some others. I feel sort of hopeful and excited in addition to worried and overwhelmed. 

The thing about this diagnosis that is somewhat taking me by surprise is the dysphoria of it. So much of the information about PCOS is focused on concerns about fertility, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, passing on genes. The issue itself is often framed as “too much testosterone”, “excessive body hair”, “masculinization of the body”. (From what I understand, this could *also* be framed as “too much estrogen”, because if I’m not mistaken PCOS causes high levels of both testosterone and estrogen and low progestin, but also I’m not a scientist.)

As a genderqueer person with ovaries in my body, I am not loving spending this much time thinking vividly about those ovaries, and–the bigger problem–the expectations and attitudes put upon my body. 

So here are just a few things I want to think through in type, mostly for myself. 

Not everyone with a uterus wants to bear children. (Many do, and I absolutely wish them health and happiness in that endeavor! But this shouldn’t be your default assumption about strangers.)

Not everyone with ovaries is a woman, and some women do not have ovaries. Gender is not determined by genitals, or hormones, or secondary sex characteristics, or even by deliberate decisions you may make about genitals and hormones and secondary sex characteristics. 

A hormonal imbalance is something to be addressed due to the stresses it puts on the body and the potential hazards of underlying problems with the body’s systems that may be causing that imbalance–not because it’s inherently “bad” for a female body to be “masculinized”. 

I am still myself regardless of how much hair I do or do not have on my legs, or how I feel about my body, or how my moods may fluctuate. I am still myself regardless of whether symptoms I have been dealing with for a long time get better, or worse, or stay the same, or change. I am always myself, regardless of how I feel about my gender. I am always myself, regardless of any and all diagnoses I have received or will receive. I hope to heal my body, and to learn that body’s needs and serve them as best I can, with love and without judgement. 


back in my mother’s house, shifting through long-abandoned stacks of paper from my foolish youth:

I regard my intellect with a rotten eye. Blood on your hands like a bedroom stain. A new hyphenated love of comparative emotion. A new unbinding of a tangled rope. An immense detachment convulsed and split to give you entrance. Give hope to your butterflies and let them consume me. I am amazed at my kindness and at my cruelty. I am chipped, I am scratched, I am unbalanced. I have remarkable potential for failure. You have a remarkable capacity for pain. We’re no two of a kind; I’d have slit your throat by now. I don’t know the space between tolerance and cowardice. Indecisive, I tear myself to bits. I don’t need to make a choice but I need to know what I want. Disjointed, yes. A plane flies overhead. Fidelity is nothing in the face of desire. We will see where my desires lie. You will contain all my irrelevant secrets. Sending desperate messages over temperate climes. Encompassing a world in a few cluttered lines.