Poetry for a moody Monday

antique_family_portrait_by_objekt_stockI haven’t posted much poetry here, but I’m collecting pieces for a future chapbook and so it seems like a good time. This particular piece, dealing with the darker aspects of love, will also be part of a project I’m carrying out on my personal Facebook page, called 28 Days of Love. If you’d like to read more musings about love in its various forms, visit me/friend me here.


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You were supposed to decode the message behind
my stupid jokes and over-bright laugh. The brash word
“like,” ricocheting around us. I like you. Like you, like you.
Some younger version of myself tap dancing for attention
while this me winces at the acrid need. Why do we want
what we can’t have? Why want for anything
when there is already too much? To cool the crush

I wandered aimlessly through an antique mall, fingers
grazing the remnants of lives already played out. Death
is not the enemy. It leaves a kind of order, a story
that makes sense in retrospect. Cream-colored cameos strung
on velvet cord, 20s-era ukulele banjo, camping guide
to the Badlands rendered in watercolor shades of sunset,
acorn-shaped cookie jar with the faintest whiff of home.

You and your wife and baby daughter are a photograph.
I don’t belong there. I’m an accidental interloper,
the burn of desire racing in ahead of me, carrying my flag.
But no one wants to be the invasive species, creeping
on scales and tendrils, its path marred by destruction.
I don’t picture us in a gilt frame or a time-yellowed album,
our memories twined into a single narrative.

There’s a comfort in cast-off things, occupying the purgatory
of shelves and cabinets, waiting to be found again. Waiting
to be given new meaning. But who would we be, found
by each other, our stories told new? Or just dusted off
and cradled briefly in a palm. Even inanimate objects
know the touch of a sympathetic hand. Requited love
is a ray of light flooding a long-shuttered window.

October (flash fiction)

Written while listening to Ourobouros Boys, live.

img_20131016_095151The first thing you think when the leaves begin to fall is that it’s not really autumn yet. There are so many leaves that the few lost will never be missed. The shoulder season is not a season at all, but the new now, and it will never end. That’s actually four thoughts, but it feels like a single, continuous idea, and you’d stay there, drifting on the updraft of that idea, were it not for the immediacy of the next thought — the fraternal twin directives of gold and crimson: proceed with caution and full stop — the world you know is dying, and you will never love again.

Of course that’s a lie because everything in October is the bristle and thrum of love. Gold and crimson mums flourish on porches. (Later they will wither, but in the first chilly flush you want to press your face into their bosomy softness.) There’s a proliferation of pumpkins, the piecing together of costumes, the promise of velvet-dark corners in which to steal embraces from masked strangers. The piles of quilts and the cold nights that lull you into dreams. What are dreams if not love, the ultimate abandonment of the senses?

img_20141127_121141And the light itself — how it grows richer as it wanes, the slant of sun through gold ginkos and crimson maples. But something about its dying makes you more alive, more shot through with — what? The liquid courage of day-drinking, that perhaps should have been left to summer? There’s less time to waste now, but fires crackle through endless evenings, sending gold and crimson sparks into the sky.

Some future version you will think, in such a starlit moment, when nearly all of the leaves have dropped their crisp brown skeletons on the grass, that there is still time. Time to ride out of town beside a stranger who is not a stranger because, when you’re near him, you feel a gold-threaded needle stitching your raw crimson seams back into a flawed whole. The scar will ache when the snow begins to fall. But all the way through autumn, up until the nostalgia-twinged nerve of Thanksgiving, you will be at peace with your stitches and your jagged, wounded soul.

And you’ll think about how the world you know is dying, its last gold and crimson flare fired into the encroaching dark. But all love is a swoon; every season is a moonlit drive, a gasp, a shudder, a desperate kiss.

Open letter to the universe (or one musician who shall remain nameless)


Album art from the 1980 album Waves by singer-songwriter Mike Batt

I started writing this a couple of weeks ago, not necessarily intending to send it (because fan mail is inherently creepy, isn’t it?), but just to get the thoughts on paper. It was literal paper, too. I started with a ballpoint pen and a notebook.

But in the last few days I’ve found myself saying similar words to other people in different contexts — most recently while talking to students at a career mixer at my alma mater. (Sorry, kids, but adulting is strange business.)

I’ll add that it has long been my belief that all love songs are ultimately written to god (I say this as an agnostic who likes the concision of the word “god”); that romantic longings are the pathways to our highest selves.

It might be trite or cliche to tell a musician that their songs meant something to you. I probably should feel at least bit silly about how deeply I’ve gone into your songs lately. How I’ve lived in [insert album title]. But the whole point of creative work is to make connections. Songs, poems, stories, books — they’re all missives loosed into the world in hopes of finding kindred spirits.

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Big news!

I’m astonished, honored, and so excited to announce that my novel, How to Talk to Rockstars is among the 10 semifinalists for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. The winner will be announced in November, but I feel like I’m taking home a giant prize just to be included on a list with two of my literary heroes — Ron Rash and Robert Morgan — as well as talented musician and dance caller (and college math professor) Phil Jamison, and fellow Asheville journalist Rob Neufeld.



The bad girl book club: My favorite inappropriate YA reads from my own misspent youth

When I was a kid, young adult literature wasn’t called YA. It was called Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret. Thank god for Judy Blume — I’m pretty sure I read everything she wrote (and, thanks to Deenie, lived in fear of failing the scoliosis test and spending high school in a back brace).
YABut since YA wasn’t a thing, with all the marketing and shiny, neon-colored covers that go along with it, I also read a lot of stuff that might or might not have been written with teens in mind — and certainly hadn’t been vetted (unless you count the town librarian’s withering glare at the check-out desk).

So here are four inappropriate books that I read, and maybe shouldn’t have read, and loved even though they really confused me.

1) Go Ask Alice: The first awesome thing about this novel was that it was supposedly anonymously written. And supposedly “a real diary,” as the book’s cover boasted. This was before Oprah old off James Frey for his fake memoir. Continue reading