Posted by on Jul 5, 2015 in Poems | 0 comments

Emerging from a world which had consumed me, you—nameless but familiar—showed up with your own offspring. They tugged at your arms as you set them up for entertainment in front of their monitors. You were frustrated by their capricious desires.

And yet you still treated them as if they were tiny adults—asking them what they would like to do—as if they were aware of the value of each option and were capable of discerning the differences in them, as if they were simply miniature versions of yourself, fully formed—just shorter. Then you devised an outline for them in which to create, as if that was enough direction to buy you five minutes of peace. It was your handiwork. Just as they were part of your handiwork. And despite your plan to sate them, it didn’t happen. They sucked up your time and kept derailing your train of thought so that your frustration mounted in a horrific crescendo.

So I left.

I walked outside into the summer and turned my face toward the sun, closed my eyes, and let the heat dry them beneath their lids.

I would have give anything to have my kids waste my time, to have them say Dad repeatedly for no reason, to have them hang on me and weigh me down, to feel those tiny hands wrapped around the back of neck, to roll down the hill with them in the tall grass, to walk barefooted with them in the running water.

But there was nothing I could give to make that happen.

So instead, I wrote this down so that I would remember.

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Providing the Mortar

Posted by on Jan 8, 2015 in stuff & things | 0 comments

A few months ago I had the opportunity to talk to Rick Bragg about his latest book, Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story. You can that read that interview in the Winter 2014 edition of Creative Nonfiction or you can read a PDF of it here.

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Your son

Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Poems | 0 comments

When your son
reached across
my hot plate
and speared his
fork into
my hash browns,

I fought the
primal urge
to stab my
fork into
his grubby
little paw.

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Summer Girl

Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Poems | 0 comments

I never knew her name
But I loved her
Because when she ascended from the water
Her long brown hair clung
To the back of her neck
And her one-piece swimsuit.

She lived behind freckles
And her brown eyes
Never met mine.

The giant concrete pond teemed
With kids – mostly white, some black –
While our parents worked.

My brother drove
My father’s black Z28 Camaro
With a red pinstripe and T-tops.
From the street
With a telescopic lens
Through a chain link fence
He stole a picture of her.

He took the picture
To embarrass me.
I took the picture
And placed it behind
A thick layer of film
In a photo album.

She is faceless
Frozen in midair, graceful,
Launched from the diving board
A 90-degree angle
Aiming at the water’s surface.

The heads float above the water
The arms are outstretched
Open hands, an invitation
Come on in
The water’s fine
Let the sun beat down
On your sunburnt shoulders
Smell the chlorine
Riding on the air
Listen to the kids
Screaming with glee
And remember the one
With no name and no face
Whom you loved.


(I wrote this in June 2011 for a class I was taking. Maybe it’s because summer’s right around the corner that I’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of days.)

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The Word was God

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Prose | 0 comments

“It’s just like Charlie Brown!”

I knew my stepmother’s words came from a place of affection, but it didn’t feel like it. I had worked diligently on this short story about a young boy and his debilitating crush on a girl. Her words had reduced my work to a story that could be slapped into the Sunday funny pages. I knew it was meant to be a compliment, but I took it as an insult.

But that wasn’t enough to deter me from writing, and a brand new electric Smith-Corona typewriter for my 12th birthday only encouraged the habit. A few years ago, I ran across a piece I wrote on that typewriter. It was an insipid short story about a guy who was imprisoned for his beliefs about banning nuclear weapons (for some reason, this was the giant shocker at the end of the piece) and how he had scratched out the number of days he had lived in a dank prison cell. I didn’t remember writing the piece, but I was struck by my own ability, despite all of the typos and grammar issues, to write with such heart.

What I do recall is one evening of writing, seated in a marred wooden swivel chair and a matching desk. It was late, and I had been writing awhile. I wasn’t writing for a teacher. I was writing for me. I had lost track of time. I could tell you it was a few minutes, but in reality it might have only been a few seconds. I don’t know. What I do know is that I felt as if I had a direct connection with God. I felt as if everything I was doing – whether it was right or wrong – was divine. My words weren’t golden, but the experience of pecking out words with my index fingers was.

I’ve read of writers who talk about losing their own identities while they write. Some even talk about the Muses whispering in their ears. Others suggest that they aren’t the ones even writing, that they’re simply the conduit for something greater.

Maybe that’s why we write, to prove that we are made in God’s image. Or maybe we do it just to see – by the simple act of putting words to paper – if we can reconnect with our maker. Who knows?

What I do know is that ever since that late-night moment, every time I sit down to write, I hope for that kind of experience again. A few times I’ve come close. Most of the time I haven’t. But I show up anyway, praying that this time is it.

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