February 22, 2010
Welcome Readers. This site chronicles the process of my writing as well as showcasing some of it. I write novels, songs, and poems. I’ve written six novels: Joe Island, Blues Pizza, Borderdance, Tesora, Tardy Son, and Stringless. Tardy Son and Stringless were semi-finalists for the Faulkner Novel-in-Progress Prize. Please leave me a comment.
August 30, 2014
Cursed by Tom Jones
I own freedom as a captive of the lost
so to laugh I touch what is forbidden.
Slavers of tradition don’t own me—
I connect to spirits who rise untamed
from a Celtic soul born of backbones
made for dance. I don’t sit cane-rigid
in latin lessons or sit still for sermons
made from threats against my soul,
but I do hear threats to my soul.
If prisons of tradition tie my feet, yet
I never stop dancing with white girls.
Curses from pagan gods save my life.
Your rules for good writing hold me
back less than chains around angels.
I danced with spring nymphs before
I ever crossed a cross with Pastor Joe.
I sang before I learned to say prayers,
so I inherit the red shirt and dance
on his grave as a proud bastard child.
August 24, 2014
Sister of Jesus, Gospel of Mine
Pounding chords lift our handclaps overhead
as the melody rises from our feet into our fingers.
Deliverance from pharaoh flows from Gramma’s lips
as she belts out a first verse and throws me the chorus.
From deep in her memory I hear the story of hounds
ripping skin from her only sister in a Carolina swamp.
Stories like these cannot be buried by a mound of soil
and the back of a family shovel to pat it smooth—
they need a cry-in-the-voice song with rolling hips.
When soldiers came for him, Jesus looked in their eyes
and forgave them. Our song doesn’t do that. Those men
knew what they did: Esmee was a sister to Jesus so
justice demands greater penance than shame.
I carry the name of Gram’s sister and her will to sing.
She will overcome, as I overcome. We sail together.
Jordan is alive across this river in Boston. We come.
Memories of whips cannot stop us now. We stand
with a cry-in-the-voice song and rolling hips.
August 19, 2014
Bats of Blues
I’m birthed down a runway of blues
from the black end of a cave, but
solitude is the bat I ride at night.
I don’t sleep in black—I hunt ghosts
with wings open and eyeteeth bared.
There’s no serenity like ink serenity
to grant me the silent attack I need
to quell my evil parts: close my claws,
fold lips over teeth to blunt the point,
and shed all that monotone clothing.
I love black letters that hug fingers.
I sling trickster melodies onto the words a
presidents use to increase body counts:
We few, happy band of brothers—no. Not
like children who sing of bombs bursting
without the irony our anthem craves.
Failing a save for all that, I pray to
sew wind hatched from polyrhythms
onto light from a sun too weak to blind.
May she carry one wing of hope to heal
not-so-amber waves of grain with beans
and the vitamins of syncopated melodies.
August 4, 2014
Sonnet for Pigs
The more I see human hands grovel—
the more I know pigs stand for humility.
They don’t bank, trade losses, or gamble—
they don’t gossip or call us liabilities.
Pigs read messages in webs of wise spiders,
don’t type gossip on Twittle or FaceLook.
They dream stories of Charlotte, the writer,
and put tongues in the trees and the brooks.
Many pigs die each year for our bacon—
but not pigs—only humans kill humans.
How long will it be before we awaken—
shoot no missiles at schools full of children?
The history of man is in archeological digs—
but the more I dig humans, the more I like pigs.
(Painting by Anne Abrams)
July 25, 2014
Poem With Three Long Headlines
FBI Lose Three Detectives In Failed Rescue
Attempt Of Infamous Draft Dodger Boat.
Keystone Cops To Attempt Second Effort
Draft Dodger Boat Lost, FBI Men Found
On U.S./Canadian Border Island, 1969
The Three FBI Detectives From First Rescue
Found Alive And Extremely Happy On Island
“That hashish shipment no longer exists,” says one. “Ha-ha! Smuggling‘s a gift to all men—God’s song to each and every one of us and to our puppies, too. Would you like a peach? A fishing boat gave us a box and now we have salmon steaks with chives. Chives! All the boats give us stuff. We just show our badges and bingo! Cool stuff—and nobody‘s arrested, that’s so passé! Some boaters even speak French here—who knew?
“Hey, whatever happened to that poet guy with the hair? Wouldn’t mind seeing him again. He was so happy—had a catboat that could really fly. I mean fly, man!”
July 22, 2014
This poem is a character study for my new novel,
Borderdance. The main character has inadvertently
betrayed her boyfriend to the authorities.
Butts Heads with Borders
Eddie’s not dead—I’ll fetch him.
I’ll pay Emilio Zapata to abolish
the Mexican handcuff, free him.
I’ll throw myself at his feet, pull
his heel onto my throat, and beg.
I told his tale, sold his name, so
no god but he can forgive me.
I’m sorry enough to cut myself, so
I wait, but his words won’t scold.
He hates the me who’d lie for him.
He hates the me who dies too easy.
His post card shouts at me: painted
roses in shades of honey. I smear its
ink with tears distilled from my lie.
I steal his first-person point of view
because I need to live inside him.
In my bag I’ve got his poems, and
a photo: naked poet in a waterfall.
His heart lives in this journal and
unfinished chapters await his edit.
I wait for a rough kiss on the teeth,
his inner bandito awaits a prayer.
January 10, 2013
Painting by N. C. Wyeth
The fire lit in me when I first read the novel as a boy, was
extinguished when I finished my own novel, Tesora.
Reading it now, however, allows me to sail again,
back to my own boyhood days—to find the treasures
of adventure and good writing.
From Treasure Island, by Robert Lewis Stephenson:
“Livesey,” said the squire, “you will give up this wretched practice at once. Tomorrow I start for Bristol. In three weeks’ time—three weeks!—two weeks—ten days—we’ll have the best ship, sir, and the choicest crew in England. Hawkins shall come as cabin-boy. You’ll make a famous cabin-boy, Hawkins. You, Livesey, are ship’s doctor; I am admiral. We’ll take Redruth, Joyce, and Hunter. We’ll have favourable winds, a quick passage, and not the least difficulty in finding the spot, and money to eat, to roll in, to play duck and drake with ever after.”
November 25, 2012
Anaïs Nin on Embracing the Unfamiliar
It’s the personal insecurities of leadership which lead to paranoia, the need to control the freedom of individual and social personalities, and finally to mass violence. It’s been true throughout history from Atilla The Hun to Obama. It’s the responsibility of each artist to sieze his or her own piece of space, whether it’s geographic or psychic, and to produce art within his or her own chaos of freedom. “A room of one’s own,” yes?
The men who built America were the genuine physical adventurers in a physical world. This world once built, we need adventurers in the realm of art and science. If we suppress the adventure of the spirit, we will have the anarchist and the rebel, who will burst out from too narrow confines in the form of violence and crime.
September 11, 2012
The first novel I ever read on an e-reader (the Nook with a Glo-light) is Canada by Richard Ford. Here’s my review of the novel, not the e-reader.
A Short Review of Canada, a novel by Richard Ford
New York : Ecco Press, 2012
Ford forces a personality onto his main character that is as contemplative as a sixty year old. I’m not saying he’s trying to fool us with that fact, because he intentionally has the older man telling the story of his own young life as a fifteen-year-old. Ford’s prose is indeed excellent, but all through the book I craved the experience and voice of the fifteen year. So much of the story seems untold. I wanted the younger main character to have emotions and actions not explained away by his mature self of forty years later.
If an author has so pushed his own psyche so far from inner reality, how can we believe his story is true? It’s as if Ford has delivered a good idea about a story, but not the story itself. It’s a steak dinner without the meat or the sizzle, leaving us only a plate, a fork, and a knife laid out in perfect order. It is certainly an order that does not offend, but it also does not tell us the whole truth.
Are we expected to believe that his parents robbed a bank, split him from his twin sister, and sent him to Canada, and he had no anger about that? He could have become a short-fused boy like The Unibomber—or he could have become an enraged genius like Kurt Cobain—or channeled his anger like Van Gogh, perhaps. He only seems to passively accept his exile and one extremely violent act as if he was stunned silent by it. This is not the kind of character I hoped to read—it’s as if the character was there at the scene, but somehow missed the story. Readers are left with the face of the opacity of the surface of it, so we are left to admire the dinnerware and suck on an empty fork.
September 5, 2012
I’m pleased to announce that my friend, Kimberly Elkins’ story: “The Awful Wondering” is now published in the Iowa Review. It’s not available online—you have to subscribe. But you can read some things in the issue here:
Here’s her bio:
KIMBERLY ELKINS’s work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Best New American Voices, and the Chicago Tribune, among others. A finalist for the National Magazine Award, she received a fellowship from the Houghton Library at Harvard for research on her novel, What Is Visible, forthcoming from Grand Central. A visiting lecturer for the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Hong Kong, she has an MFA from BU and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.