I Am Santo

Fiction, poetry, music and mindscape pictures by creative artist Jason Santo


Office boardroom, Portsmouth, NH
iPhone 5 shot
My days rob the air of beauty. My nights steal passion from practice. Sleep comes as mercy to angry stirrings of escape. Distress darkens every corner of mundane rooms. To fail here pronounces common sentence; neither thief nor liar nor cheat, but jailed just the same. The sun insults as the moon dishonors, truths shown light always reminding that this is what a lack of courage earned.

Thin Skin

The venom wasn’t fatal. Breath would be drawn after the countless strikes at a fragile ego, but whatever course had been originally settled upon shifted suddenly and irrevocably. Nothing fit afterward, as if the world was composed of incongruous shapes that bore no relation to each other and floated in unfixed points throughout each day creating a sense of constant unfamiliarity.

Time passed regardless, breaths often saddled with the additional labor of sighs laced with exhaustion and frustration. To navigate in this world was to be pulled from the comforts of a hometown and dropped into into an unknown geography filled with obtuse motives and ceaseless duty, smiles defying purpose, guards posted at every turn to enforce incarceration. It became a colorless existence, not the world itself which still seemed to radiate constant, unforgiving brilliance that stabbed while suggesting times before, but the internal spectrum, desaturated and left a lean gray ensuring every emotion bled pale; apparitions hinting at feeling.

The poison had effectively robbed joy from laughter, replacing each distinct comedy with edgeless banality drawing equally characterless, reflexive chuckles as insincere as they sounded. Tears similarly would well, but never spill. The heart had lost its capacity to beat and claim its center, and blood thrust through veins on the steady rhythm of a soulless song caught in an unending loop.

This was a permanent sentence handed down because earnestness lost to savvy, honesty suffered attack with derision and crafty fingers moved to dethrone a mogul of an artificial kingdom, seen as a tyrant when intention spoke of assistance.  Yet hanging was forfeit for a prolonged torture, robbing a disciplined monarch of the ability to transform, to take to air and paint with motion and color. Regression burned wings, melting promised talent and cell walls locked even as guillotines fell on the necks of conspirators, silencing the hiss of their resentment. Yet the order cast cripples, a hush falling over the restless ferocity of constant creation leaving behind bleary eyes fixed, unblinking on the designs of accomplished peers.

Blessed with skin thick enough to crack fangs, and equally gifted with greater thirst for the waters lying  at the arduous journey’s close, their orchestrations trace familiar strains and over time their melodies remind and awaken the quiet convict. Asleep with vulnerable eyes, a drop of pigment stains the sea of monochrome and a fresh storm threatens to crumble shackles made strong not by the judgments passed by others, but by the solemn deposed.


Even the evil love their children. Exhibiting tenderness in quiet moments when their decisions for selfish gain at the expense of others plays as underscore to the smiles and warmth traded with young eyes filled with love and trust. Is there worry in their hearts, these callous shepherds of greed, that their innocence will someday dilute, hearts blackened with desire only to guard the accumulated spoils of lives spent denying kindness? Or perhaps that’s the grand design for their pedigreed brood; secret away love and respect within shared walls of kin and disavow such benevolence elsewhere. Protect only what’s yours. Hold dear shared blood exclusively. Steal and kill to maintain ownership.

And yet I’ve committed no true evil, days spent largely walking in the clear lines drawn, respecting roles playing out all around while attempting to find the spotlight – the joy – promised by this charmed life; an illegible map my guide and fleeting light to provide the way forever sinking over a horizon I’ve chased since steps were new. Love is hidden in that dusk, and I won’t cheat at discovering the glow but for a traded affection that chance rolls at me like two dice desperately flung over felt charged with forcing admonition; a gamble surely intended to punish and in which hedged bets have protected this mundane status quo.

The duplicitous can look their children in the eyes and hold them in affectionate embrace, yet this connection, as with all others, dangles before me; a leaky canteen on a hook as I cross this desert of years on shaky legs, hands bound by generations of self serving lineage, thirst tearing at this parched soul. I know no truth, pretend at happiness and crease my cheeks at the ends of attractive grins because there’s no room for the hollow at life’s table. Words are just that, empty of any depth to allow this heart buoyancy, and so this dry muscle sinks into dust and protects itself with the easily constructed stories of men in love, fathers proud of their heritage, sons surmounting the turned back of absence. Thin whispers flooded with false conviction simply expressed, an act in three stories each time and the rest sway and trip, believing each syllable as if no truth has earned such sincerity.That would be honest and clever, but then there are actions that feel fueled by synthetic passion, yet impact as if physical gospel.

The only certainty is that I’ve deserved none of what’s missing.

Never intended, brought into breathing hopefulness through desperation, and assessed as burdensome by the only savior any know for certain in this life, I lie now to prove it all wrong even as I look into youthful eyes and they stare back into me knowing of the sham that all either pretend or are afflicted with. There is no evil here, and yet love still eludes every desperate attempt at knowing an authentic center, leaving only the emptiness of spent deceptions.

Perhaps it is better to be cruel than barren.


Justin Tiberius Santo, age 2
iPhone 5 shot

In this morning light, you were older than those years scrawled on calendar pages turned and forgotten. You looked at me with hair strewn about your head, straw spun by sleep and dreams, and your eyes said, “I will get older. My skin will stretch and my muscles will grow, my shoulders expanding and my height surprising you. I will think for myself and, more importantly, I will do for myself. I will love and fail, fly and trip, be restless and spend lazy afternoons with thoughts that slide around my mind like melting ice cubes in warm sun. Yet more than anything else, I will be your son. No matter how much changes, this will always be the case.” And so I nodded and my thumb pressed and then moved from the button to capture this moment. But I revisit here often, thinking of all of what’s to come and always keeping in mind that which has already arrived.

Sand Grains

Our love had transformed to cancer long before the night I said goodbye to you, turned away and still. It had grown feeble and weak, a shell of anything that once resembled passion with only the thinnest lining of care a tenuous bond between us as you stood across the short distance of our kitchen at the stove and I, knee-locked, in the doorway. These were well worn stations during our dying days from which we traded barbs, but now there was no volume or verbal discord.

It was a simple phrase uttered quietly, resigned, a series of innocent words that when strung together ripped off the shroud we’d hidden our misery under and revealed two broken hearts that feared release to mend, but needed freedom more than the next course of sanguine air.
We were dying in that small space, a second-floor corner caught at the center of two train stations, our love and failure set to the tumult of rollicking progress and purpose as our own disappeared. But to let air out of the last of us, to allow the sum of our years of compromise and work spill into emptiness, no longer held or contained by either of us in foolish hope that somehow life would spring anew from our spent seed; it was a pain that sliced into the deepest flesh of my experience. Bottomed out, I plummeted, a spider caught in an unforgiving tide where webs find no purchase or meaning.
Yet when did these massive constructions amount to anything before I drove the knife into the spine of our shared days, our practice at a life of shoulds and woulds? Everything had turned to ash long before we were revealed in naked light, and the time for hopeless herding of brittle plans and slight ambitions – hands desperate to guide a dream despite the spill between our fingers – it had expired. Escape was the cure to our nursing a malignant sorrow that threatened to consume us and shatter our bones as it had your belief in me.
Did you ever bend the looking glass convex enough to include our whole loss after the easy turn to bitterness waged assault on every aspect of what was left of me? To swim in an ocean of blame was never lone toil, we deserved to hold hands in darkness as we had when the light of our affection dispelled what haunted days before our first excited flush of breathlessness. Yet I alone sunk to the seabed, the grains of our promise turned to a swallowing threat that you urged to consume me. In approaching headlights I saw release, but stepped back in time before being dragged across the rough crags of tidal tarmac, limbs torn and flesh burned by friction. And your single raised hand that silenced my explanation that night in our kitchen, that last moment we would share in a marriage home built on a lack of courage to be honest, a fear to live life completely, and the assumption this was the proper course of days.
Perhaps it was proper, the mortar of our four walls, but death too is proper and I remain unwavering in doing not what’s right, but what’s right for me before I succumb to final rest.


In the quiet of this gray dawn, we lied on tossed damp sheets and, window open, allowed the cool humid air to caress our bare skin as we listened to the rain on the leaves. Now and again, the gentle lilt of our boy’s voice would arc, marrying with avian melody over the soft outside rhythm, and we’d laugh a little even though we both felt sorrow for our stolen moment’s approaching end.

I may have loved you more in this moment, not because my heart swelled after time spent finding rare connection, but because we were given the precious gift of stillness to remember who we were. Lovers before we moved, this was an echo of times we’d taken for granted – limbs entwined but spent of desire and at rest. We couldn’t have known how our evenings would stall after long hours hours of worry; concern that spirals out in all directions to protect us all from everything and ensure the sum of us steps safely into each new hour. We were something, but now we’re preserved together, our quiet bath in the chill of silver tones, patting rain and birdsong a fleeting blink of shared history that expires, but lives on in the breathing restlessness that is him.

He is all of the moments of comfort and then so much more; the sweetness of our best nights, the solitude of the darker times, kisses that stayed innocent and a shimmering reflection that bends our love into being and forces permanence to what we committed on that secret rainy morning like this one, where the air hung thick with sea salt and we promised each other that these hands would never unclasp.

Yet his arrival forced us to work apart, hands now busy with the tasks of guiding him as best we can through each circumstance for it’s all new and all requiring the single answer of who we are. Every decision is a statement of our mutual testimony, a new township on the map of our companionship which covers geography more complex, simple, turbulent, and serene than any body discovered by man’s eyes searching outward among lands conquered or plucked from night skies. We are mountains of rage, deserts of desire, oceans of routine, uncertain in all directions yet solid enough to lend each other steady footing despite the constant shifts in circumstance and the denial of every assumption. Our fingers work at the necessary even as our hearts and minds wander in search of old lands formed and visited so long ago that the maps grew torn and tattered under newer routes; paths that forced away oases into the back of dusty, unreliable memory.

We hold out our hands regardless, hoping the other will know fingers yet again and, neither leading, we attempt to find home – if not in the places we once knew, then in the new ones where the rain falls quietly and we lie in calm union.

Getting Off the Bench

Hopefully advances in technology will get me to spend a little more time writing and less time wishing that I write. God, for close to ten years I’ve been in this kind of creative stasis, perpetually wishing I was creating instead of actually creating. Perhaps I’m more happy wishing, or maybe I’m afraid of further exposing myself as the mediocre talent I am. A fear of mediocrity, of being average, terrifies me. It has something to do with never feeling as if I deserved the opportunities this life has afforded me. So instead of seizing these opportunities and making good on the gifts given, I lament them as burdens? So it would seem.

But here I am. Writing about the one subject I am confident writing about: me. And on a new iPad no less, hoping that the change in method will somehow make it easy to access the supposed gifts I have locked inside this insecure mess of a husband, father and occasional creative artist. 
This blog was supposed to be used more than it has been. Thus far, I’ve continued to disappoint on the projects front. But it’s a New Year, and what better time to resolve to do better, and be better, than at a time when the world at large is starting something new? If there is some kind of global consciousness, then is there a better time to start something new than during the first few days of a New Year? You can feel it as sure as you can an approaching rain after a week of dry days.
And yet the first line of an old poem I wrote flies at me, as it hasthe past several days.
Benched at the start of it.
That line seems to always stick with me. I think I need to write something better and more positive to replace its position at the back of everything creative that I start. Just having that phrase, my own words from the past, run across the field of my thoughts like a blinding streak of lighting is enough to give me pause whenever I set to task. 
No. I can’t be afraid of failure, because benching myself is far worse than failing. Not even trying at life is the biggest failure that’s possible. Sadly I am well acquainted with this fact.
So let’s try. And damn the consequences. This is a start. Not of a blog, but of a new mindset.

Kobyashi Maru

The no-win situation. A catch-22. My Star Trek love insists that I use the Kobayashi Maru despite the fact that it 1.) proves what an enormous nerd I am and 2.) very few people know what I’m saying when I speak of it.

Have you been in one of these? Where any solution results in some kind of suffering? Jesus Christ, it’s a bucket of suck, just let me tell you. And what’s worse? A no-win situation – a Kobayashi Maru – isn’t always finite. Because you’re stuck in the middle, see? You’re in a run-down between second and third and neither baseman commits to catching you, so you stay in the middle where it’s safe. No decisions, because the solutions either way present you with no real winning answer.

It could go on forever. And while you’re in the middle, there’s suffering and pain too.


For over a year now, I’ve been stuck in the Kobayashi Maru. Hell, I even named one of my mixes for this past summer “Beating the Kobayashi Maru” because I still believed, even after a year, that there was a way to end this test. And that’s what the Kobayashi Maru was. It was a test for Starfleet cadets to see how courageous, intelligent and noble they could be when faced with a no-win scenario. Jump to Wikipedia if you really want to get your nerd on.

So there’s a noble decision, a cowardly decision and then there’s the “Think outside the box” decision that someone like Captain Kirk employed. A way of changing the parameters of the situation so drastically that it negates the thing in question.

In real life, it’s sort of hard to do this, especially when human beings are involved instead of computer simulations. You can’t simply change someone suddenly to no longer feel pain. Regardless of the decision, it’s more than likely someone will be hurt. So you try to do the least amount of damage possible, and the person that ends up hurting the most is you.

I’m no martyr. I put myself willingly into this Kobayashi Maru and sooner or later I’ve got to figure out a way to end it. But not today. Today I stayed squarely in the middle and continued to hope, as I’ve done for so long, that the situation would somehow change all around me.

More and more that feels like the coward’s decision. And that disgusts me.

So We Meet Again for the First Time

The first time I wrote a blog was in 2000. Blogger was in its infancy, well before being swept up under Google’s brand, and I was still fairly convinced my future was in filmmaking. Like this blog, there was a self-taken shot set as the blog’s background: an image of a Canon XL-1 video camera held across my chest like a shield, sketch filtered and made monochrome blue by some now-defunct Adobe photo editing suite for newbies.

Now there’s this image as a background. Weary Metro riders heading home after a long day of work in Washington DC. I am not a photographer – my gift was creating art within a frame where everything was in motion. But this setting caught me and I produced my camera to save it for posterity.

It’s not because it’s a favorite shot that it sits behind these words. Rather, it’s because the shot means transition to me and I am in transition.

Who isn’t, right? We’re all changing, transforming, learning every day, are we not? Yes and no. A lot of folks like to believe that what they believe is a constant. That “flip-flopping” is for losers and a mind set in stone is a force of nature, immune to the erosion of emotion, sympathy or common sense. I’m cut from a different kind of cloth. Yes, I’ve got some pretty firm beliefs about things – a few even worth dying for, God forbid it ever comes to that. But I’m fairly malleable, open to most any viewpoint as long as it isn’t based on hate.

This openness puts me in transition. Each day, week, month I live, I learn. And I want to talk about that. Candidly.

2011. It’s been eleven years since I last maintained a blog of this kind, minus a little MySpacing back in the mid-aughts, but who the Hell counts MySpace? We can all laugh now about it, right?

I suppose the one thing you really need to know before digging in here and getting comfortable is that I’m not going to pull any punches. While I do still record my most candid ruminations in a handwritten journal, being obtuse isn’t my game and never will be. In 2000, I stopped writing my blog because I’d offended a few friends with my candor and I regret that a bit. It made me gun-shy for a lot of years about vocalizing what I really think about certain things, but even more importantly, it made me gun-shy about just being, well, me.

So if you’re reading this, you’ve been invited to do so with the hope that you’ll be comfortable with honesty, frank subject matter, and some pretty descriptive profanity. And even more importantly, you’ll find something entertaining or even useful by reading what I need to say, expressing art in whatever form I must, and documenting a life always in transition.