Smoking (NF, draft 1)

Well, I suppose I’ve liked the way smoke smelled ever since I met Ian for dinner at Dos Amigos and he was standing outside, casual, with his hands in the pockets of the black hooded jacket I had given him for his twenty-first birthday. I’d seen him smoke before – I’d often stood on the porch with him, talking about nothing or the girl that he was fucking – but I think that night outside of Dos was the first time I realized that I liked the way it smelled. Continue reading

Car Crash Youth – draft 2

Car Crash Youth
for Boe

The kids in my town lived their youths out like car crashes.
We were teenagers and I was too innocent to understand
the grittiness of growing up. Back then,
I didn’t realize I was friends with three coke dealers.
They all hid it from me. Finding out, the weight
of it all nearly smothered me. My favorite
mechanic, the boy with unruly black curls;
I’d known Zachary Lachlan
since we were children. I dated another –
that one hardly counts. Then there was Greg Maddock,
who made me promise not to tell anyone
as we huddled in couches at my favorite coffeehouse.
He was the last to spill his illegal secret.
I was glad for the honesty but I cried
for days, mad at the people I loved
because I saw them hurting others, scared
their indiscretions might lead them into jail cells.

I wish I could say that everyone worked
the partying out of their systems, but you know
as well as I do that that’s not how it works.
Some people managed it, toned the craziness down
and started to play it a little safer
with their cars and their livers and everything else
that makes having a good time just a little bit
dangerous. But some people grow up and some don’t.

Some die at nineteen, at 2:13 in the morning on Old Shelby Road
when they’re driving a girl who isn’t their girlfriend home
and they don’t make the turn and instead wrap their truck
around a tree. A half-empty bottle of Jack shatters
on the floorboard. Whiskey puddles on worn floor mats as the sirens start to

This is all so cliché: rebellion, car crashes, teenagers playing
Russian roulette with their lives
because they’re young and invincible.
But it’s cliché because it happens. Teenagers die
being stupid, and the people who love them are left
picking their broken lives up off the bloody pavement.
It’s cliché because it’s real.
We ought to deal with that.

Remaking a Neglected Orchard – Nathaniel Perry

It was a good idea, cutting away
the vines and ivy, trimming back
the chest-high thicket lazy years
had let grow here. Though it wasn’t for lack


of love for the trees, I’d like to point out.
Years love trees in a way we can’t
imagine. They just don’t use the fruit
like us; they want instead the slant


of sun through narrow branches, the buckshot
of rain on these old cherries. And we,
now that I think on it, want those
things too, we just always and desperately


want the sugar of the fruit, the best
we’ll get from this irascible land:
sweetness we can gather for years,
new stains staining the stains on our hands.
If you haven’t read anything this man has written, you need to! He’s wonderful.

The Football Player

Tomorrow, I pull up my big-girl shoes and haul myself, my largish-GMC envoy, and a carload full of clothes and knic-knacs back up to college. This will be the first time I did it on my own (a.k.a. without a caravan-ing parent in a minivan somewhere behind me). I’ve been dragging my feet about the whole ordeal – not because I dislike college or my friends there, because they’re wonderful – but because I just hate packing and unpacking and organizing and sorting…I hate everything about moving. It’s silly and childish and no doubt stems from the many uprootings we had as a family during my childhood, following Dad from job to retail job. As much as I love how I’ve grown up, I hate the boxes, the moving vans, and unpacking in new houses (or apartments) like none other.

Anyway, at just-turned-twenty I am an adult…kind of…an adult still dependent on parents for things like rent, car insurance, and the car itself, but something of an adult nonetheless. I am moving into my first real apartment, with only one roommate, and friends from high school who promise to visit and crash on our futon (a college staple, but not terribly comfortable). Which brings me to The Football Player, with whom I got off the phone right before I started writing this (see post title).

When I was in high school, I never would have guessed that one of my absolute dearest, closest friends would turn out to be the football player who bummed chewing gum from me every day in World History. It never would have occurred to me that this simple, slightly-annoying-albeit-funny daily exchange would lead to such a meaningful friendship.

Jacob – or Georgia, as all the football players and most of the school knew him – and I have indeed been friends since those days in history class. By fall of the next year, he was stopping by the band practice field to give me sweaty hugs when the team took breaks, which later led to incredibly smelly hugs after each football game. I helped him pass Pre-Calculus; he helped me with my pool game. We hung out at the softball fields while our little sisters played ball, and I’m sure that he had some significant impact on how that tier of high school’s little social hierarchy treated me, bookwormy band kid that I was (am).

He was a year ahead of me in school and his parents were ecstatic that he passed. They bought him a silver 2010 Mustang, which he very proudly drove to my house to show off. That boy’s smile over his cool new ride; whether it’s over some large, shiny man-toy, winning a football game, or getting a girl, he just makes you want to smile with him. In six years, that hasn’t changed.

Jake’s come to visit me at school several times; we spent a large part of my freshman year on the phone, questioning why he would rather talk to me than his then-girlfriend. I realized, after he left for school this summer and left me with nothing to do, that we’d essentially spent the past three months sitting in my carport smoking blacks (him) and talking (both of us). When you hang out with someone nearly every day for the better part of a season and never run out of things to talk about…well, you know you’ve found one of those grand soul-friends who just sort of resonates with you.

As we talked tonight, all of the past six years of our friendship came to mind. We’re an odd pair, as best friends go.

But we resonate.

Chocolate and the Bible

I think my all-time favorite quote from Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz (besides the lyrical bits in the very beginning, where Don talks about not liking jazz and God because they don’t resolve) is when Penny says, “The Bible is so good with chocolate, Don. I used to think the Bible was a salad thing, but it’s not…” This is all I can remember because I just lent the book to my mother ten minutes ago, so it’s not right beside me to properly quote. Then again, if I were going to properly quote Blue Like Jazz, I’d probably just tell you to buy the darn thing because the whole book is just so excruciatingly wonderful.

Tonight, when my mother came back from her excursion to the Redbox two hundred yards down the street, she informed me that she’d rented Blue Like Jazz: The Movie. I immediately went downstairs to pop popcorn. Sad as it is, I didn’t get to any of the North Carolina screenings; they were a little far away from school and it was the weekend before exams, if that counts as a valid reason. So I was incredibly glad to finally be able to see it, and find out for myself whether the movie was as wonderful as everyone has been saying.

Blue Like Jazz: The Movie seemed very different from the book. I mean, the undercurrent seemed similar, but the storyline was definitely different. The latter part makes sense; I understand that a book of new realism essays doesn’t exactly translate into a good screenplay without a lot of tweaking. Or overhauling. And I liked it, I did. I thought the movie was great and I am so happy that they – Don, Steve Taylor, etc. – were able to eventually produce the movie after all the setbacks they faced. It was just so different. The whole theme, Don running from his faith, or at least hiding it at Reed, seemed a lot more like Searching for God Knows What than it did Blue Like Jazz. I was just expecting a lot more of the “non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality” and a little bit less of Don hiding from his identity.

That being said, I loved Penny’s character. She, and all the other main characters, seemed like very real people, and that’s important to me in a movie. So, while the book is without a doubt better than the movie, it still made my night to finally watch Blue Like Jazz. I hope that it’s been able to reach people who haven’t read Don’s work yet. Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What, more so than any book other than the Bible, have shaped my faith and how I view my God. Kudos to a great author for writing about God and Christianity in such a kind, open, and loving way.


When I was very young, my parents moved us back to my father’s hometown. They were starting their own business, a boutique called Cobblestones that specialized in fancy things and jewelry. Given the quality of the clothing, I am amazed at how much time I and my younger sister spent there, as my sister was apt to put everything in her mouth when she was teething. I was somewhere between the ages of four and six when a woman threatened to sue my parents. I stood eye-level with the jewelry counter, too short to see over it, as I listened to my mother on the phone on the other side. It seemed that this woman’s business, located somewhere far away from Union, South Carolina, also had the name “Cobblestones.” She was adamant that my parents had imitated her. They were trying to avoid a lawsuit, my parents. I don’t know whether there ever was an actual lawsuit, and I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to hear about it the first time. Regardless, Cobblestones never really took off: it didn’t make a profit the way stores ought to do, and we didn’t have much money then because it was all being poured into the store. High end boutiques don’t do very well in dying mill towns of less than twelve thousand people.

The First Day of Kindergarten

My father drove me to the first day of kindergarten in his beaten, brown Toyota. It was the kind of car that looked like paint-eating termites had gone to town on the hood, and I was excited that he let me sit in the front, which wasn’t normally allowed because I was too small.

I was one of those peculiar children who couldn’t wait to start school. The church preschool I had been attending for two years offered a two, three, or four day a week program, and I had begged my mother to let me go more frequently than just twice a week. It hadn’t worked. I was too young to understand how lucky I was to have parents who wanted to spend time with me but, for some reason unknown to my older self, I loved preschool and class and everything that came with it.

I was thrilled to be going to kindergarten at Foster Park Elementary School, which meant I got to go to school Monday through Friday. My dad and I pulled in and, instead of just letting me out under the awning, he pulled into a parking space to walk with me to class. I may have protested; I was a precocious child but, if I did make a fuss, Dad wasn’t deterred. I think secretly I was glad he’d help me find my classroom, and I walked into the school holding his hand.

I may have been only entering kindergarten, but I already knew how to read. I wasn’t quite up to the classics just yet, but I wasn’t stuck in Picture Book Land either. Somehow, I had started reading when I was two years old and, though my vocabulary was still fairly rudimentary, I had a reasonable grasp on the alphabet and monosyllabic words.

As my father and I walked down what seemed to be the longest hallway in the world, I saw a sign on the opposite side of the hall. I tugged on my dad’s hand, pointing. “Daddy,” I said seriously, “Why does that sign say ‘OFF ICE’? Wouldn’t it be easier to say ‘OUT OF ICE’?” My father is a tall, dark man who seems quiet because he’s constantly surrounded by talking women, but on this day he laughed, loudly, and eventually subsided into chuckles as he told me that the sign read ‘OFFICE,’ then explained what that meant to a five year old girl who had little concept of cubicles and desks.

Wild Air

We drank in the wild air
of our youth, the lessened heat
of August twilight. We swam
in a blueblack darkness broken
only by constellations and fireflies
the color of the sun, reaching out
to catch their flickering lights
in our cupped hands.

We gathered in folds
of clover outlined by starlight,
collecting the bright pinpricks
in mason jars to shine beside our beds.
Mothers let the fireflies free
once children drifted off to sleep –
in the summer’s nightfall,
these fireflies seemed
the earthly equivalent of stars.

The sun set from your window

Remember standing in the window

of your bedroom, looking at the sunset?

I do. I always loved the picture the sun made

as we stood in your living room, watching

as it sank below the tree-topped hills

rolling into the distance past your house.


So you pulled me up the stairs

because you said the view was better

there. I pressed my nose against the glass

and wished to slow the rays of color fading

into dusk, wished to lean back and rest

in your warm arms, wished to fall

back in your bed where I belonged.

–Just something I’m working on. Not there yet, but something.

We lived in pubs. (draft 4)

We lived for late nights spent in pubs,
and I for one pub in particular, its red storefront
inviting, the Gaelic lettering white and illegible.
We were American students trying
to pass as locals in Irish pubs,
where Guinness flowed freely and music
was traditional, enchanted by the sounds
of bodhráns and bagpipes
instead of thudding bass and auto-tuned voices.

The boys threw back beer and whiskey,
their unpracticed arms contrasting
those of the hoary, bearded locals who curved
over the bar, cradling their pints. The girls
glued elbows to the polished wood,
batting eyelashes at Irishmen for want
of the sound of their measured voices
and the clink of ice in amber glasses.
But I nestled in the crook between
the musician’s corner and the bar,
or perhaps between the students and the locals,
glass and friends and banter forgotten
in the lilting reel of Ronan’s violin.

We closed the pub down, the few chosen
women who had been befriended by
the bartenders and other musicians,
all of whom protested as we tried to help
clean up, collecting filmy, half-empty glasses
from every surface. I derived some strange pleasure
from staying, watching as the rest
of the patrons drifted into the frosty night.

We were the few, invited to linger,
to make drinks and music and merriment
well past the licit hour. We fell
hand in hand with this company
of silver-tongued artist and drinkers
as effortlessly and if we had always lived
in this world ruled by the piping pennywhistle
and the swift movements of bagpipe bellows,
a world confined by the pub walls
of dark mahogany and as big as all of Tir na nOg.

As the night swelled into morning, I grew
inured to the rusty smell of Guinness
seeping through the walls, through our clothing,
into the songs sung by our fair friends.
And in the grey between one day and the next,
I fell in love with Irishmen who spoke of music
and words and the meeting of both.
Fingers of light brightened the floor
under shuttered windows, and I thought
perhaps the Irishmen were faeries, and I
Yeats’ stolen child.