My talented singer-songwriter friend Heather Taylor recently invited me to collaborate with her on one of her songs. Jesse Hamm of Acoustic Asheville filmed this video of her performing “Up on a Mountain” with my poem “Collar of Wasps” in the middle.
This neighborhood had a name before it was colonized by Trader Joe’s and an endless stream of SUV traffic. Just because no one who lives here now can remember what it was called doesn’t mean you get to rename it.
You build your house on a graveyard and act surprised when the ghosts move into your hot tub, your gourmet kitchen, your wood-fired pizza oven. There’s a reason why houses from a hundred years ago had such small closets: no space for the dearly departed.
The ancestors are not impressed with your two-car garage, your home yoga studio, your posh amnesia. If you don’t call a place by its true name, you’ll dream of its former inhabitants. You’ll wake to them rattling like mice in your walls.
Pete was not a good friend, in that he was neither very good nor very much of a friend. He was the kind of kid who came over to your house and drank your cough syrup. He was the kind of kid whose parents never knew where he was and weren’t too worried about it.
We met at All County Band, where I was third-chair flute and he was not in band at all, but was riding a contraband skateboard through the hallway. I was bored with John Phillips Sousa and the (marginally cooler alternative) Beverly Hills Cop theme song. I was over the competition of All County Band and the nervous knowing that I was only third-chair flute by some fluke. Not because I was good. I wasn’t good because I didn’t practice. Continue reading
Maybe it’s because he’s new to town but already on the rise, already with a convertible and plans for a salon of his own. That kind of fast fame is intoxicating.
Maybe it’s because he’s pretty. Soft-faced. Feminine. Maybe it’s for that reason that his mother gave him a girl’s name and not just any girl’s name but that of a virgin saint. He is no virgin saint but his name implies trustworthiness.
You order Perrier in Paris because you can. Because everything else is wrong, but you can manage that one thing. An impossibly old man grips your wrist like he’s drowning. He tells you he once had an American lover. The day takes on carnival proportions.
You went to Paris to drink Sancerre (even though the French are bored with wine) while sitting in a wicker café chair on the sidewalk. You went to Paris to fall in love, to be seen in that particular light. What was supposed to be a moment suspended, a Mendelssohn overture, is instead an impossibly old man clawing at your arm and leaving marks. Continue reading
My experience as an artist so far has been that I am led down various life paths, often related to the BIG LIFE ISSUES (marriage, career, friendships, family, health scares for myself or those close to me, minor and major tragedies, national and world events) and make art in response to those experiences. The art isn’t really planned beyond “I think I’m OK at writing, so I’ll study that, and since I’ve studied it a bit, I guess that’s my main media” or “I’m sick of words and need to try to express myself through some other art form so maybe I’ll play the ukulele because it only has four strings so how hard can it be?”
In short: Art Reflects Life.
But now, in my mid-40s, I find myself wondering if the more meaningful creative path might be Life Reflects Art. Wherein the artist would choose an art form and follow that Continue reading
After deleting 139 photos of my ex, my photo gallery looks like I’ve only ever vacationed by myself. I suppose that’s sort of true: Me leaning casually against Hadrian’s Wall; me at Edith Piaf’s grave; me, in an optical illusion, touching the top of the Temple of Kukulkan as if it’s miniature and I’m a giant.
I can barely remember feeling hot that day, in Chichen Itza, or motion sick from the bus ride. I recall those details like an itinerary, like a packing list, like a fact that could also be a lie. Like a movie I once saw while sick with the flu that I later, inadvertently, adopted as a series of scenes from my own life. Memory is like that: Fallible, slippery. Continue reading
I found a folder of 68 photos, from a 2015 trip to Ireland, on a forgotten SD card. Like finding an old role of film, it turned up some treasures and lots of questions. What is this shot even of? What was I feeling on this day? Who was I, three years ago? So this week’s post is a flash fiction on that theme.
It’s not this town. And you’re glad, though this town is scenic, sprawling along a mineral-gray lake. The banks are mossy and the sky is pale blue and the hill beyond the village is artfully terraced by ancient people who carved civilization from the land with Iron Age tools. Maybe it was Bronze Age. You should know from all the museums but you don’t know. Continue reading
It’s the time of year when kids go back to school and people on the precipice of adulthood go off the college — some for the first time. This year it seems like everyone I know is the parent of a 17- or 18-year-old who is starting college, so my social media feeds are full of photos of Move In Day(s).
It’s a rite of passage — one of many that I, a person without children, have not been through.
Two things: 1) I barely recall being dropped off at college for the first time. I know my mom took me. I remember she had a perm at the time. There’s a photo of us somewhere and I’m wearing cargo pants. She might have been sad to leave me, but that’s not how I remember it.
So the going-off-to-college initiation is likely more impactful for parents, because the teenager’s life up to that point has been nothing but change, nothing but new experiences. It’s been school and life lessons and body morphing. College is of all of that (on steroids) with different scenery and less adult supervision. Continue reading
A performance from this year’s Asheville Percussion Festival. Soundscape by Bonnie Whiting, movement by Brandi Mizilca, words by me. It’s a poem about creative work and women’s work and the intersection of the two: the point at which an artist steps through fear to meet a challenge. (At least that’s what I think it’s about — but it’s totally open to interpretation.)
Video and audio by Joshua Messick, live soundboard audio mix by Steve Beatty and Edward Link at Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, video editing by Asheville Rhythm.