THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
I am holding a copy of the seminar program for the recent NCCAT program, NC IS MY HOME: Celebrating NC's Literary Heritage. I invite all writers, teachers and students to respond to the question of what home and heritage mean, how our educational system can teach our literary heritage to a new generation, and how we as citizens and readers can support our teachers in passing on the love of literature.
I'm happy to feature my friend Jaki Shelton Green as my NC Laureate's Poet of the Week.
As the first Piedmont Laureate, she offers the following poem, “who will be the messenger of this land,” as her February “poem of the month.”
The Piedmont Laureate program is dedicated to building a literary bridge for residents to come together and celebrate the art of writing. Co-sponsored by the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission, and United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County, the program’s key goal is to: “promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont region.”
Jaki's publications include “Dead on Arrival,” “Masks,” “Conjure Blues,” and “breath of the song,” which was cited as one of two Best Poetry Books of the Year by the Independent Weekly. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Ms. Magazine, Essence, The Crucible, and Obsidian and she has performed her poetry and taught writing workshops throughout the United States, Caribbean, Europe, Central and South America. Her poetry has also been choreographed by groups such as African American Dance Ensemble, Two Near the Edge, and the ChoreoCollective, and awards include the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2003, 2006 Artist in Residence at the Taller Portobelo Artist Colony, and the 2007 recipient of the Sam Ragan Award.
Poems from her most recent book, breath of the song (Carolina Wren Press), follow her February poem. ****************************************
who will be the messenger of this land
by Jaki Shelton Green
who will be the messenger of this land count its veins speak through the veins translate the language of water navigate the heels of lineage who will carry this land in parcels paper, linen, burlap who will weep when it bleeds and hardens forgets to birth itself
who will be the messenger of this land wrapping its stories carefully in patois of creole, irish, gullah, twe, tuscarora stripping its trees for tea and pleasure who will help this land to remember its birthdays, baptisms weddings, funerals, its rituals denials, disappointments, and sacrifices
who will be the messengers of this land harvesting its truths bearing unleavened bread burying mutilated crops beneath its breasts
who will remember to unbury the unborn seeds that arrived in captivity shackled, folded, bent, layered in its bowels
we are their messengers with singing hoes and dancing plows with fingers that snap beans, arms that raise corn, feet that cover the dew falling from okra, beans, tomatoes
we are these messengers whose ears alone choose which spices whose eyes alone name basil, nutmeg, fennel, ginger, cardamom, sassafras whose tongues alone carry hemlock, blood root, valerian, damiana, st. john's wort these roots that contain its pleasures its languages its secrets
we are the messengers new messengers arriving as mutations of ourselves we are these messengers blue breath red hands singing a tree into dance
razor blades did not slash rainbows hands did not steal light from the dawn prayers spoken in tongues did not dissolve into silk pocket linings air could be bartered for fire war could reinvent itself as a prayer of silence
for darnell arnoult
perhaps it is the joy of tomato sandwiches the smell of jergens and jean nate at thirteen or our love still for grandmothers aunts who enter rooms largely sideways hips broad enough to use as sideboards maybe it is the value we place on duke's mayonnaise the sandwich spread for queens . . .
whatever wherever and for ever more we are little girls revisiting space rebuilding houses renaming mothers . . .
perhaps it is the secret knotted inside the pleats of skirt hems sewn along scarf edges fringed secret whispers that whisper a familiar smell . . .
whatever we become sisters stealing a moment to cast word spells undress our mothers repaint their lips with anything red anything italian drench their heads with ancient clairol wisdom anoint their hands with herstorical bronze queen of the nile henna . . .
we reembrace lace full petticoats white linen skirts sailor dresses patent leather
for the pretty pirates swans ballerinas we will become . . ..
perfumed necks wrists adorned in vintage memory cut carefully along the edges of this madness this magic . . .
we lie down and wait for the moon to trace us.
i know the grandmother one had hands
i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always in bowls folding, pinching, rolling the dough making the bread i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always under water sifting rice blueing clothes starching lives i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always in the earth planting seeds removing weeds growing knives burying sons i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always under the cloth pushing it along helping it birth into skirt dress curtains to lock out night i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always inside the hair parting plaiting twisting it into rainbows i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always inside pockets holding the knots counting the twisted veins holding onto herself lest her hands disappear into sky i know the grandmother one had hands but they were always inside the clouds poking holes for the rain to fall.
in the season of rising up in the morning granddaughters give new meaning to great day in the sky sky with small fists, pinching clouds reshaping stars into skirts wearing moon shadows like capes we turn raindrops into buttons stitch hair balls along the hems of dresses fire dresses new granddaughters wear new earth clothes spell their name sistuh prepare new warriors to prepare new earths check skirts for hems lined with hail dust never admitting to treason
North Carolina must surely be one of the nation's leaders in supporting the literary arts and education. One of the facilities that gather the two together in seminars that inspire and instruct is the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching here in Cullowhee. You may find out more about the history and mission of NCCAT by visiting its website, www.nccat.org.
I was fortunate enough to be involved in NCCAT during its first years when it was housed in Madison Dormitory on the Western Carolina University campus. That was 24 years ago! There I met such memorable seminar leaders as Carolyn Tobin and Jon Rinnander and came to know numerous teachers as colleagues and friends. Several years ago NCCAT moved to a beautiful new facility across the road (HWY 107) where it continues to offer our teachers a place to relax, re-energize, and form communities with each other during the various seminars offered by the staff. Our teachers have had many burdens laid upon them over the past few years by legislatures that have little understanding of the art and practice of teaching our children. Too many tests, too much paperwork, too many restrictions on precious time and resources--this is just the beginning of a list that makes teachers' work more demanding, more stressful. We should all be alarmed by the number of teachers in North Carolina and nationwide who leave the profession each year. We should be asking ourselves and our legislators and school administrators WHY?
(The library and large parlor downstairs at NCCAT)
(Original artwork by NC artists is displayed around the Center.)
The questions being asked in the seminar North Carolina Is My Home:Celebrating Our State's Literary Heritage are ones central to the teaching of NC literature and writing. Alton Ballance, Seminar Director, and his assistant NCCAT Program Associate Linda Kinnear put together a program that enabled everyone to consider such questions as how does one give voice to "home"? How have our writers presented their time and place? What challenges have they faced as writers and what instruction can they offer to teachers struggling to teach a love of reading and writing to their students. How can we encourage students to learn more about their communities, their families, and themselves through writing? As one of the seminar presenters, I had a front-row seat in helping to discuss these issues.
(Watercolor by Bryson City artist Elizabeth Ellison outside our meeting room.)
(Alton Ballance, NCCAT Center Fellow)
Georgann Eubanks, author of Literary Trails of North Carolina, led off the seminar with a place-based discussion of where our authors have lived and brought alive in their writing. She also guided the teachers through a writing exercise based on the work of poet Robert Morgan.
Acclaimed novelists Pamela Duncan, who now teaches at Western Carolina University, and Charles F. Price of Burnsville, whose novels deal with North Carolina History, brought their humor and mutual admiration to their readings from their work. Ron Rash read from his new novel Serena, again emphasizing the importance of place in his development as a writer. Michael Parker, fiction-writer and professor at UNC-G, spoke about the ambiguities and tensions that we face in our local communities, tensions that he has brought into his novels and stories.
(Novelist Charles Price and his wife Ruth share a humorous moment after his presentation.)
(Ron Rash signs books after his reading Monday night.)
(Novelist Michael Parker chats with teachers after his presentation....)
(....and signs books for eager participants, including Constance Ramey, former President of the NC English Teachers Association.)
Fred Chappell, our state's most renowned writer, brought the authors' portion of the seminar to a close with a short story and poem that captivated the circle of teachers. Again, a sense of humor, community, and sheer enjoyment in each others' company marked his presentation.
(Fred Chappell signing his book Look Back All the Green Valley.)
The stars of this seminar? The teachers, of course. A young woman like Rebekah Haithcock, for example, who represents the future of NC public school teaching. Or former NC English Teacher Association president, Constance Ramey, who personifies the life-long commitment to passing on a love of language and literature. Herlinda Bryan who teaches Spanish at Frank P. Graham Elementary in Apex. And all the other lively participants who made this seminar one I will remember for a long time.
(Posing with Rebekah Haithcock, a Spanish teacher at West Caldwell High School.)
(In the seminar room moments before Fred Chappell's presentation.
(Mealtimes give teachers and presenters time to get to know each other.)
(In downtown Sylva, outside Lulu's Cafe, Susan Chappell and Ruth Price give each other a farewell hug before going their separate ways. Fred looks on, while Charles stays in the background!)
Josh James and Becky Hallman sat at the end of the table in the poetry workshop I led during my Rivers-Coffey Residency at Appalachian State in the fall of '06. Neither said much during the first weeks, but that didn't mean they were not paying attention. As you can see from the two poems below, they've been paying attention all of their lives. Josh turned in playful, ironic poems that I sometimes couldn't figure out, and Becky offered us intense, allusive, sometimes erotic poems that gave a glimpse of the creativity underneath her reserved exterior. I came to know them better when they stopped by my cottage in Blowing Rock several times during the term. We talked about all sorts of things, including poetry. Those were among my favorite times while at ASU. In the winter of '07, they got married, and after their graduation, I lost touch with them. I knew Becky was planning on working toward an MFA in writing from Queens University in Charlotte while Josh joined the military, but I had no idea what had been happening until a letter from them arrived before Christmas. The biography gives a brief summation of their professional lives to date. I'm proud of Josh for blazing new trails at Anson High, as well as in his own poetry. Becky likes living in their old farmhouse surrounded by fields. I think you can see the influence of this in her poem. Two special people. North Carolina is lucky to have them! ___________________ Joshua and Rebecca James met in the creative writing program at Appalachian State University and are celebrating their second wedding anniversary. Joshua teaches English composition and is yearbook advisor at Anson High School in Wadesboro, North Carolina. There, he has co-founded the school's first literary club and organized an annual talent show and poetry slam hosted by a popular Charlotte DJ. Rebecca is currently completing her MFA in creative writing at Queens University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Iodine Poetry Journal, Blue Collar Review, Sounds of the Night, Hurricane Review and Main Street Rag. Joshua and Rebecca live in Morven, NC with their two cats.
there is no snow –
you do not see
the ice-white lichen
lattices of purée
in mesh-wet pores or
tongues and one would
think of the delicacies
these could land on
the small of a woman,
her back glittered
with filaments of
eyelashes of newborns
or the breath mint left
last summer in the yard
that stews in the heat
and sniggers in winter,
the breath of burrows
tantamount to a wasp
with frozen wings
I have lived in the mountains, the metropolis piedmont, and now the sandhills. All with you.
Last year we brought with us
the spoils of big box bookstores and a frosting of Appalachian snow.
Today, the wild onions
and daffodils in our yard do indeed grow through sand.
Perhaps we will make it to the coastal plain on our slow crawl toward the sunrise,
toward the sea—the hinged clamshell of you and me teeming with life.
Bruce Lader is the founding director of Bridges Tutoring, an organization educating multicultural students. A teacher of disadvantaged teenagers for many years, he holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education, is a former Writer-in-Residence at the Helene Wurlitzer Colony, and has received an honorarium from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara. His first full-length collection, Discovering Mortality (March Street Press, 2005), was a finalist for the Brockman- Campbell Award. He was also a finalist for the 2008 Greensboro Award for Poetry. A featured reader in many venues, he has worked as a Poet-in-the-Schools of North Carolina, New York, and California. His poems have appeared in over 75 journals and including Poetry, The New York Quarterly, Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Roanoke Review, New Millennium Writings, Asheville Poetry Review, International Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, Iodine Poetry Journal, Harpur Palate, and the anthology, Against Agamemnon: War Poems.
Our Own Blood
The generals deliberate on the climate of war, insulted that some harebrained foreigners might beat them at seizing the capital.
The generals read barometers of insiders, tally missiles and unmanned drones. Their temperatures escalate as the budget deficit dives and the foreigners move forward.
The Supreme Commanders would like nothing better than to turn the tide, reduce the expense of casualties to zero, risk only what’s necessary, leave nothing to accident.
Fingers like rolls of million-dollar bills toying with the buttons of boom, the generals reckon lives, plot exact targets via satellite surveillance.
The security of our native land hovers like Apache helicopters on a do-or-die sortie.
The generals know it has always been us or the enemy, the battle between alien blood and our own.
Blips of stealth on reconnaissance radar alert the PFC; he determines position, zeroes in with unflinching telescopic power. The face and build look familiar though he isn’t certain he recognizes the helmeted youth training a rifle on him, resolved now, as he is, to execute orders, complete school, bury debts. In the desperate moment they have to decipher each other’s encoded shibboleth, identify themselves in the purgatory where they’ve been conditioned to kill; or remain lost, detached forever, blown to a furlough of sand in the schizoid scrimmage over a fast killing at any cost.
A few weeks back I suggested that readers could use the renga form to write their own individual poems, even though the renga was begun as a collaborative verse form in Japan. I had several memorable responses to that blogpost and I'm featuring them today.
Mist rises from the lake like a mystery in front of me.
mountains disappear mystically.
in fog or clouds, not sure which … now the sun shines them from obscurity.
Karen brings 26 years experience in marketing and corporate communications, most recently in the corporate world as Vice President of Communications at ING. In 2000, she began her own writing and consulting business, WriteSource, which she renamed "Simply Communicated" in 2007. She now serves on the board of Netwest in WNC and helps to enliven and enrich our NC literary community. You can see from the above the poetic voice she brings to her own work. ------------------------------------
Deep clouds hover Over mountaintops. Full moon, lost.
I miss your anxious lips, Your eyes.
Dim lit world, A cool darkness Settles in my bones.
My first taste of poetry came from an ancient, crumbling hymnal. I learned quickly the beauty of words and their power to invoke emotion.. I wrote my first poem at the age of sixteen and when I was in love. Luckily, the object of my affection wasn¢t permanent but my love for poetry grew. I attended UNC-Charlotte and majored in English. I was fortunate enough to take poetry writing classes from Dr. Robert Grey and Lucinda Grey, both equally wonderful teachers and poets. I am currently employed at my local library where I moderate two book discussion groups amongst many other responsibilities. A North Carolina native, I reside in Marion, NC.
My poems are inspired by nature and the complexities of being human. I am deeply inspired by the work of many poets. And, if all else fails, I find inspiration from a walk along a light streaked sidewalk. My work has been published in Western North Carolina Woman Magazine out of Asheville, NC. ---------------------------------
The boy at the altar received blessings from the church.
He leaves tomorrow for war.
Tomorrow he rides open waves, blown by God's breath
============= It's junior high, it's going off to war, but here is another image I've been getting from biblical inspiration. Yesterday's homily focused on how the original Hebrew of Genesis could be reinterpreted into today's language, and the line that struck me most was how the wind over the ocean was God's breath, how God breathed life into the waters.
That image took me to an old country church I'd once been to, where the only 18 year old boy in the congregation was being prayed over by the church elders as he prepared to leave for Iraq. It was breathtaking in so many ways.
So, still in the pew, I started fusing those images, and thank goodness you had a little poetry assignment for me this morning. I needed to start letting that out. I'm hoping there's still room to work more...
James Hogan is a 2003 graduate of The Honors College at Western Carolina University, where he majored in English Education. While at Western, he was a member of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band and the Creative Writers Guild, and he worked in the University Writing Center. James taught high school English in North and South Carolina for five years before joining the Annual Fund staff at Davidson College in February 2008. As the Gifts Officer, James is responsible for working with reunion year giving as well as visiting alumni from all graduating classes. He and his wife, Kelly, reside in Statesville.
Mother of the bride waits alone in her front seat, tissue in her sleeve.
She sits all alone, stands at her cue to look back, and catches her breath:
The two she loves most walk arm-in-arm down the aisle, their smiles glazed by tears.
Nancy Posey (discriminatingreader.blogspot.com) is a former English teacher, a great friend to writers in this state, and a fabulous reader of their work. Visit her blog!
(Cover Art: David R. Winston: Let's Just Be Friends)
CAVE WALL is a new poetry magazine in our state, and it's been garnering great reviews from readers and in the media. Its Editor Rhett Iseman Trull and Assistant Editor Jeff Trull describe their magazine this way on their website, www.cavewallpress.com.
Cave Wall, published twice a year, is a national literary magazine dedicated to publishing the best in contemporary poetry. We are interested in poems of any length and style from both established and emerging poets. Each issue includes black & white art, as well.
--------------- Among the North Carolina poets who have been published in Cave Wall are Bill Blackley and Diana Pinckney. Anyone who keeps up with NC poetry knows who Bill is and what he has contributed to NC letters through his involvement in the NC Poetry Society, among others. Bill is also a a ferocious harmonica player. And an M.D., besides that. Oh yes, don't let me forget, he's a poet. Maybe being a medical doctor has led him to some secret discovery for harnessing human energy. Some special formula he has tucked away?
Here is his poem from Issue #3/ --Winter/Spring 2008
A TIME PIECE
Two-finger blow a kiss goodbye to dad’s graduation watch left for easy pickings on a beach blanket. So long, to the self-winding Seiko rolled in gray sweat pants outside the handball court where a thief slips my treasured piece into his pocket and beats it while his lookout grins. Bon voyage, to the green-rimmed Swatch a kid sticky fingers from a pool locker while I struggle to hold my water-polo position. C’est la guerre to the radium-dotted Bulova I peel off a National Guard soldier not in Vietnam long before I bag and airmail his scorched effects to Altoona. Adios, to a fourteen dollar Timex I toss to a co-worker when presented a Rolex at my retirement gala. Gods chuckle at us mortals caching batteries, winding stems and punching in our measly hours.
Diana Pinckney has been featured earlier on our ncarts.org site and I encourage you to go to our archives and seek her out. She is a member of what I call "the Charlotte group," including Dannye Romine Powell, Dede Wilson, Lou Green, to name only three of this remarkable gathering of poets who are also friends.
Diana has published poetry and prose in such journals and magazines as Cream City Review, Tar River Poetry, The Deep South Writers Chapbook, Gulf Stream, The Comstock Review and others. Her chapbook, Fishing With Tall Women, won North Carolina’s Persephone Press Book Award and South Carolina’s Kinloch Rivers Memorial Chapbook Contest. Nightshade Press published her second collection, White Linen. Two of her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Pinckney was selected for North Carolina Writers Network’s Blumenthal Writers and Readers series in 1994 and 1999. Her writing has won awards from numerous journals and from the North Carolina Poetry Society, the Poetry Council of North Carolina and the Charlotte Writers Club.
Here are two poems selected from the four in Cave Wall # 4, part of her new Mermaid series.
THE MERMAID WONDERS WHERE HER DAUGHTER GOES
Tall on this rock, she gives me a See ya and dives
for longer and longer swims, leaving me to wonder whose sails
spread before or under her on those hard slick boats she loves.
Whose sand oozes between her toes, sticks to her legs
after a throw-down with beach bums.
Total party hounds, she sneers
when I ask. Gives me an O.K. sure or worse, a None’ ya biz when I warn.
Besides me, who waits for those white arms rolling in the foam of midnight,
those bright streamers of hair tangled with moonlight, lifted by a tide
that measures my days, that returns each night, refusing to give up my daughter.
THE MERMAID’S DAUGHTER WONDERS WHO HER MOTHER IS
I floated by in a basket? Like wood storks bring babies out of the marsh. Oh, please. So she sang and played her flute, combed my hair with coral and, whoa, gave me manatee’s milk meant for those fat pups under mangrove roots, wrapped me in greasy sealskins, yuck, fed me fish roe – no way this was caviar – tern eggs. Whatever.
Like how did I end up with her? Maybe some beach beauty does a total meltdown at two a.m., can’t take the crying. Who knows. Hello? No one drops her baby in a grass basket – wouldn’t that leak -- then shoves it out to sea. Mothers don’t do that. Do they?
BEGINNING TOMORROW, I WILL BE FEATURING , EVERY FEW WEEKS, NC LITERARY MAGAZINES, BOTH TEXT AND ONLINE, THAT KEEP OUR STATE'S LITERARY LIFE ALIVE. I WILL BEGIN WITH "CAVE WALL," A NEW POETRY JOURNAL THAT IS FULL OF FIRST-RATE WORK, PUBLISHED OUT OF GREENSBORO. TWO NC AUTHORS, BILL BLACKLEY AND DIANA PINCKNEY, WHOSE WORK HAS RECENTLY APPEARED IN THE MAGAZINE, WILL SERVE AS RESPRESENTATIVES OF WHAT THIS SMALL MAGAZINE HAS TO OFFER.
I met Rebecca Pierre several years ago when I was invited to read at North Carolina State University and judge their annual poetry competition for NC residents. Her poem was clearly at the top of my judge's list, and I awarded it first place, a tie with another poem that I had found worthy. As it turned out, this poem had only a few days before been accepted for publication by a journal, thus eliminating it from consideration. Rebecca came to my reading, though, and we have been in contact, off and on, for quite a few years. I admire her poetry for its visual and musical effects. Her book, A MYSTERY OF MOON, was published in 2006 by Main Street Rag Press and was selected to reside in the NC Historical Archives at UNC Chapel Hill.
Rebecca lives, writes and plays in the clay on Oak Island, NC where the sea is her muse. She settled there after living many lives mostly in the eastern US. An accomplished Clay Artist, she is addicted to pots, poetry and the poetry of pots. Through the years she has received numerous awards for her poetry as well as a grant for a week-long workshop at Wild Acres in NC and one for a month-long residency at The Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT. Her poetry has been published in such publications as: Asheville Poetry Review, Wellspring, The Cancer Poetry Project, The Peralta Press, Lullwater Review, NCPS Pinesong Awards, Of Frogs and Toads, Illya’s Honey and others. She hopes that her words will touch a place in you that may have remained untouched without them. An ambitious dream, but one that she carries in her heart always.
As a Southeastern NC writer she was interviewed by an MFA student and a DVD of that interview now resides in perpetuity and available to be viewed by any interested party in the William Morrison Randall Library Special Collections Archives at UNC Wilmington.
A piece of her clay art titled 'Licorice Twist' (see below) was chosen for 'The Power of Art: Preserving the History of the Fine Art Community in Southeastern North Carolina' and remains on display in the William Morrison Randall Library at UNC Wilmington.
------------------------------ For for this feature I have interwoven images of Rebecca's pottery with her poetry. Enjoy the poetic and visual treasures in this post.
The first three are from a series Rebecca calls "Beach Walks" that she hopes to publish with paintings. May she find a publisher for it soon!
The beach is empty this morning. Wild waves stir up seafoam like soapsuds that cling to the tideline in clumps. Clouds, gray pillows, smother the sun. Houses are painted derelict by mist. No wonder laughing seagulls share a joke. No wonder millions of tiny pieces of seashells whisper underfoot, This is our eternity. This is the world as it was in the beginning, before I set foot upon the sand. This is the world as it will be in the end, still turning and singing its song.
A leisurely walk. A lone sandpiper skitters constantly, seeking food. To avoid my advance she moves quickly away, Not heading toward the beach but toward incoming waves. My breath catches for an instant before I realize she is smarter than I. She knows she must merely lift her wings and fly. I must remember that I have wings.
(SAGO PALM LEAF VESSEL)
And on the way home, as I pass Heron Lookout, I catch a glimpse through tall marsh grasses of a Great Blue Heron perched atop a birdhouse in the canal. I step gently forward for a closer look but her keen eyes, born to catch the tiniest movement, catch mine. She lets out a cry that sounds like the breaking of a branch, spreads her glorious wings and carries my soul with her, sailing low over the water then swooping up to her nest in a tree.
This hammock, connecting tree to tree, becomes a suspension bridge for ants who travel the rope that borders the edge. Focused, they never lose their way, never deviate into the web of highways, the tempting byways of the green knotted network that forms the bed. While live oak branches bow in an elegant sweep to the ground, pieces of sky hide among the leaves overhead. A blue jay startles herself by landing too close to the hammock. A mockingbird, so enraptured by his own song, lifts straight up from a fence post at intervals in his singing. A grey squirrel sits in a patch of sun, holds a toadstool in her paws, turning it with her delicate fingers as she eats her way around the edge. This is the business of the world. Our business is not to miss it.
John’s Island, SC
Early Sunday morning, walking to the pond, suddenly I stop.
Upwind, a cougar, tawny and sleek, regal head raised searching for a scent on the air.
I think of the leopard lying in the painting that hung above the fireplace in a house I once called home. A place I left like the cougar leaves gliding through long grass as if she had never been there.
( LICORICE TWIST)
WALKING THE WALK
All day it rains as if the sorrow is too much to bear without weeping skies. Finally, they walk out together let the rain wet their hair, their clothes, and still they walk knowing walking is not enough, nor is crying, nor talk of the past, the uncertain future. Knowing that they must each put one foot in front of the other, going apart, coming together, going a bit farther, coming together, until their walking takes them beyond return.
(LARGE TWISTED VESSEL)
THOUGH I KNOW IT ISN’T SO...
I like to imagine the potter at her wheel slamming the clay down onto the wheel-head, bending forward, her elbows locked against her knees, eyes closed to better feel the centering. The clay, dug from the earth, wet with water, spinning in her hands to a burnished ball, the precise size to fit smoothly in the cup of my hip where it glides with each step, with each movement of my leg. A ceramic ball fired expertly to the perfect temperature so that the surgeon cannot help but turn it in his hands, admiring the artistry that combined with his skill, will make me pain-free and whole again.
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.