Posts for June 14, 2016


What 12 Years Gets You

A nine year old boy
signs his name
agreeing to 12 years
of indentured servitude 
his daddy died 
and his mama
couldn’t afford 
to keep him
his 12 years
earned him
a Bible
2 new suits 
and $150
– Jessica Swafford 



June humidity 
combines with
break heart events
a real dismal month
– Jessica Swafford 


Night Driving

Shreds of fog litter the highway through the forest beneath a slice of moon and a lifetime of stars that brave the glow of the city twenty miles away. Spring mornings north of Oceanside with the sudden fog so thick you’re lucky to see the front of your car and getting off the road is the only option as you hope no one else picked the same spot. Adolescent moonlit fumblings fondly remembered versus getting rear ended by a letter you couldn’t see coming. 

Bronson O'Quinn


treat your body
like canvas

treat mine
like bubblewrap


A Story, Still, to Tell

A Story, Still, to Tell

Everyone thinks they have a story
                                                   to tell, you told

me, so young and believing my novel
would be the next great bestseller.  It still isn’t
fully written, but your words
reverberate off the years, the years since
that moment, my arms leaning against the sill
of your car window— the day’s blue fading
to the night’s blue, that ice blue of your eyes
I always envied, that blue I see in my son’s—
the years since you drove off into whatever
adventure follows this one.

At the time, hearing your words,
I was annoyed.  Maybe everyone
does, but mine would be different,
I argued with you, in my head.
Some part of me was angry, stayed
angry, for a while.  You were supposed
to build me up, tell me how amazing,
how perfect, how ridiculously talented
I was.  That was your job, as my father—
to throw open the skies above
my perception.  Make me believe
in myself.

Before you left, you read The Notebook,
read the story about Nicholas Sparks
and his teenage project, how it exploded
like stacked Russian Dolls, erupting, eventually,
into the movie half the world’s women profess
to love most.  You told me write your story.
Start now!  Maybe
I was wrong.  You seldom were
the man to admit your faults, but you told me
it couldn’t hurt to try.  But I wouldn’t
be writing any Sparks-like, hopeless romantic
, I told you.

I didn’t start early enough.  I couldn’t
use those rolling dollar signs I expected
to help you, through the surgeries, through
the month when you lay in a coma, but
I read his newest book to you (because
you loved him, and I loved you) as you slept.
I didn’t write that story when you woke, either,
when I joined the Navy.  You sent letters
with clippings from the TV Guide, pictures
of Natalie Portman dressed in white,
her midrift bare and begging my eyes,
begging for my return, so we could go
see the film together.

I didn’t write that story when I visited
after boot camp, and we didn’t go
see her movie, either, after
the diminishing weight of your body
became too great, pinning you
to a faded blue armchair.  We tried
to watch O Brother (your favorite
at the end), a story retelling a story
told centuries before, and I told you
that was a rip-off.  You couldn’t stay
awake, so I paused the movie
and waited for you
to see the end.

I couldn’t write that story, or any
other, for a long time after
you left me, for good, two days after
I’d left you in Kentucky.

Fourteen years have drifted by
and I still haven’t told that story,
though I’ve tried.  I wrote
the first fifty-thousand words, but stopped;
the right person was not telling their story.
It was full of too much light.  It needed the darkness
to begin to understand what it means
to see the light.  Everyone thinks they do
have a story to tell, so I’m listening
for his voice.  But I only hear yours,
now, again, telling me
to tell my story.  And for the record,
it is a Sparks-like, hopeless romantic
story, telling a story that was written
centuries ago.

All I want is to know
wherever you are, you’re listening
to the sound of keys clacking—
that your ice eyes, long since closed,
can still see me, sitting in that hospital
room, voice hushed, whispering
to the sky that has opened with you
gone— and that there’s still enough
light, left, so I can read it to you.


A found blue sticky note

  –Furniture pads

  –OCT label
  –inject mice


recycle cardboard


Dump plant


Latching the Door

                                       Latching the Door

Even though guests are expected, 
they have to be allowed in by the host,
who comes to the door,
and lets them in.
It’s clear whose territory this is–
who’s the owner and who’s the guest.

We know he must be in pain–
needing to wound
those around him–
dishing out criticism,
though unable to accept it for himself.

He orders his wife to move a chair
back into the circle where he had placed it.
He’s not interested in her reasons.
She quietly complies.

We don’t have to wonder 
who’s in charge,
we tip-toe around him.

Amanda Corbin


Generations of illiterate farmers and housewives—my family’s people, stretching back two hundred years at least—seem to pull me toward them saying, “Look how well your fingers fit a clothespin, how well you hold a dishrag. Look how that baby fits your hip, how he smiles for you.”

But I think, no, no; I’m a writer, too. An artist. And it’s a part of me that comes from some vein running long and deep, so surely one of them had it, too, and I keep looking; going back, back. But on each census, in each generation, in the columns marked can read and write? and attended school? there it is again: NO, NO.

I keep looking, but on those days when I can’t make it to my desk or the words won’t come, my family’s people say to me, “See, you are one of us. Now stop this foolishness and get to work,” and I think maybe I should just go plant some tomatoes, put on a pot of beans and wash the windows.


What a Man Says

A man can say a stupid thing sometimes
A stupid man can say a lot of stupid things sometimes
Slanted media will multiply the stupidity always
All they need is a kernel of truth
To taint everything that follows.

Well I do believe the taint is real
It’s sometimes stronger than I would like
But there is no denying when a man is right
Even when he is a stupid man
In that case, I want to hear what a man says
Not what everybody else thinks he says.


mellifluous tones

fragrant honeysuckle catches
on Olivet Church Road, my feet
like a mortar and pestle, churns
these mellifluous tones.