Showing posts from 2018

Feeling 32

Today was my birthday. It was a good one. I don't teach on Tuesdays, which means I stay home and mainly do press work. That's mostly what I did today, though my stints at the computer were punctuated with cake. I also had a chance to write, run, and spend time with B. 31 was a good year both personally and professionally. The older I get, the more I realize how charmed my life has been and how fortunate I am to be able to live this writing life. I have time and space to work on something I'm passionate about. I get to share that passion with young people. I have a steady job, a decent income, and the support and love of an amazing man. No, my life isn't glamorous. I'm not off on some adventure. I'm not filthy rich. I'm not famous. But I am wholly blessed, content, and joyous. In short, life's been good these past 32 years. So, how's the writing life been since I left off? Ok I suppose. I'm giving the whole writing a memoir thing another sh

Summer Winding Down

Ok, so I didn't blog this summer. I'm sorry. It's been a crazy season. But isn't it always? Blogging just wasn't a part of my routine these past few months, and when life gets a little crazy, well, it's easy to skip out on the blogging for more seemingly important things. But now, so many months have passed, and I think it's time for a little update. What's happened in my life? Was my summer a successful one? I think it was, for the most part. My goals for this season were to finish revising my NAPO poems, find the shape of my next manuscript, write a new short story, keep up with my column, and submit Iliad to at least two new publishers. I also wanted to teach a summer class and survive my ear surgery. So, here's how my summer went: Right before surgery In May, I did have my ear surgery. It sucked, but not as much as it could have. I was in and out within the same day and sent home with lots of pain medication and antibiotics. I f

Kicking Off Summer

I can think of no better way to begin my summer than with a poetry reading. Last night, I attended FIX, a poetry reading series at FIX Coffee Bar. I was one of two featured poets and shared the stage with the talented Ayokunle Falomo, a Nigerian poet and author of kin.DREAD. I had a marvelously unique Lavender Latte and read from both Goddess and Sue. B attended, too, which always makes a reading that much more special to me. So, now my routine changes. With grades posted, graduation complete, and a long expanse of warm months before me, I need to figure out what to do with the time before me. During our last meeting at Writing Group, I articulated the following goals for my summer. This is a good place for me to begin: 1. Revise my NAPOWRIMO poems 2. Find the shape of my next poetry manuscript, tentatively titled The Wrath of Mother Nature's Child 3. Write one new short story 4. Keep up with my column, The Beaumont Book Beat 5. Submit Illiad to two additional publisher

Year One Done.

Here I am, decked out in all my academic gear on the evening of my first graduation ceremony as a faculty member at Lamar. It was a great way to finish off an amazing year--perhaps one of the most eventful of my life so far with a new job, a move across the state, a hurricane, a new book, induction into TIL, and my ear problems. It's had its ups and downs, though in the end, I really wouldn't have had it any other way (except maybe the ear thing. That's really sucked). Looking back, I think I'm at the point where I'm out of the "honeymoon" phase with Lamar and I'm starting to settle into a certain comfort and understanding for the department, the institution, and the community. That's a good thing. A healthy thing. I love my university, my students, my department and my colleagues. I love my job to pieces. But I also know that none of this is perfect, though it does feel like a perfect FIT for me. This time last year, I was a wide-eyed, big-


I did it! I'm done! What a month this has been! Of course, most significantly, it's been a month of making time for my poetry even when the going got tough. Heck, I wrote a poem on the day of my induction into the Texas Institute of Letters. I wrote poems in the car, in hotel rooms, doctor's offices, and even a few at work with my students. All in all, it's been pretty charmed. I had some days of "writer's block" and some poems feel utterly stiff, but I also have some gems that I'll come back to over the summer and rework into something wonderful. Today's poem, the last poem, was to write about a time I didn't feel safe. The moment that comes to mind most immediately for me is just before Hurricane Harvey hit Beaumont. I felt powerless, terrified, and very small. Of course, if you follow this blog, you know B and I left before the storm hit, and what a privilege it was for us to have the means to do so. We had somewhere to go that would


A Recipe for Time If only time were something You could brew in a French press. Every morning. If only days Were beans you could grind up, Sip and savor at your convenience Or desire, warm and bitter, Quickening the heart. If only moments were made While standing at the stove, Learning how to use the molcajete Just right, the pumice in your hand As you grind an avocado As you listen to another story Of all the moments made within this basalt bowl— Chipotle, that unnamable green sauce, Ajo paste that makes the kitchen Smell like home for days. If only hours could be flipped On the iron skillet like a pancake With a syrupy I love you. If only days could be created In that stock pot full of beans, Softening like hearts As they soak in the spice of life. If only minutes mixed like your recipe For the perfect martini, Four parts patience, One part dreams, a couple cubes of ice to keep it fresh, an olive, its branch. A

Napo 28

Today's prompt was to write about what our revolution would look like. I wasn't really sure. I'm not very good at writing "political" poetry, though it's something I'd like to learn. On the Poetry Foundation website today, Carolyn Forshe was poet of the day, and her poem The Boatman is incredibly powerful. There was also a podcast about her poem, and I read an essay on her work as poetry of witness. I'd like to study this further. I just sometimes feel like I don't have any right to speak about some of the "big issues" going on in our world because I lead a sheltered life. I sometimes think I need to get outside my bubble and experience more so that my poetry can be filled with this kind of urgency, so I can make the "political" poetry more of a socially-conscious poetry. Anyway, that's kind of what this poem is about today. As some of you know, I've gone nearly deaf in one ear fairly recently, which is an inter


Today's prompt was to write about the journey home. Of course, I think of The Odyssey as a lens to think about my own less epic commute. But like Odysseus, I have love waiting for me at the end of a long day. How miraculous is that? Finding Ithaca in Beaumont My commute takes ten minutes, Not ten years. Odysseus would be jealous. No ogres block the highway. The only sirens singing Are the police cars filling the evening With flashing blue and red. No sea monsters guard my driveway. Like him, I keep my mind on home, Not what’s around me: The Exxon refinery browning the azure Of the almost endless Texas sky, Washed-up mobile homes From the last hurricane, Remnants of pine forests, Magnolia groves, who never forget The season, spring, and bloom And green accordingly. Beauty salons, because we try to, too. The scents of fresh donuts Intermix with the chemical stench Of the brown smoke. Gas stations Pop up like dandelio

Napo 26

Today was a bit tough. I have a busy day, and I woke up a little late this morning, so that cut into some of my writing time. The prompt from This City is a Poem didn't really inspire either--what will be missed about me when I'm gone? I don't know, I couldn't write about that because it felt narcissistic. So I checked out my plan B site, Napowrimo, which suggested writing with sensory details. It offered the poetry of Ocean Vyong as an example, so I took the first line of one of his poems and went with it. I'm not happy with the results today, but I am happy I got something down on the page. I want to explore this image further--the mimosa butterfly dying on the shores of Sal del Rey, beauty in a hopeless place. I might contrast it with blooming magnolia beside an oil refinery, a cardinal flying through the streets of east Houston. I dunno. Anyway, here's what I've got today: On the Shore of Sal del Rey Lake Because the butterfly’s yellow wing


I didn't get behind, I promise. B and I decided to visit our old home this past weekend, and, well, I forgot my laptop charger. I've been writing on pen and paper (a weird experience). I'll post up photos of my work as proof before the month's end. For now, though, I wrote a poem today, another one about Sisyphus. Sisyphus in Beaumont He knows there’s always more smokestacks Springing up than trees around these parts. He knows the recycling he neatly collects, Sorts, and drops off at the city, Mostly finds its way to the landfills, The one off the highway in Port Arthur That seagulls patrol for scraps of food. He knows for every beer bottle He picks up along the highway, Another ten get thrown into the grass. He knows for every sparrow egg He places back in the nest, another ten will shatter on the concrete. He knows the concrete jungles Here and all across the world, sprawl More invasive than kudzo, more dangerous


Today's prompt was to write about something I know to be true. I decided to write about a fact that I USED to believe, but now we all know isn't true anymore, that Pluto's a planet. I started thinking about the mythology of Pluto and Proserpina, or Hades and Persephone, how that myth "shadows" the way we feel about the ways men and women interact. I think it's interesting that Pluto's not a planet anymore, kind of in the way that men can't dominate women anymore. For me, Pluto being a planet symbolizes patriarchy. It turns out these "laws" both as they relate to Pluto and gender relations are mere myth. Pluto’s Not a Planet Anymore It hung over your head, as a girl— Pluto, the shadowy planet Orbiting out of sight, but always in your mind Millions of light years away. Imagine that umbra, casting darkness Over everything—world-sized, enormous, Heavy always on the shoulders That someone, somewhere, evil lurks

Napo 18

Today was a little tough. I encountered some mild writer's block at the keyboard today. I just didn't know what to write about. I thought about abandoning these prompts altogether, but even then I hadn't the faintest idea of what to do. So I returned to the prompt (sort of), which, today, was to write about morning rituals. Mine are painfully boring. So instead, I thought about the morning rituals of hummingbirds and how they kind of wake from the dead each morning. That's miraculous! Amazing! I want to think more about the metaphoric significance of this, this idea of a daily rising from the dead, a daily resurrection. And how it happens everyday, and we still call our world a mundane place. Here's what I got down: Miracle, Wednesday Morning They can teach you a lot, those hummingbirds, Spring visitors to my porch with rufous faces, Buzzing wings and ever-beating hearts, A blade for a beak. These tiny bursts of beauty And toughness Know how

Napo 17

Today's prompt asked: Who shines in your city? My mind immediately thought of one person--the cashier, Courtney, at Willy Burger. She's always so amazingly happy, cheerful, and kind, no matter the circumstance, even after Harvey when it felt like the world was ending. It probably also helps that Willy Burgers are, well, miraculously good. And I say that as a vegetarian!   Willy Burger. After Harvey Do you ever wonder How Noah and his wife Felt getting off that ark For the first time after the flood— Looking up at God? You sink into the dark wells of her eyes, Relieved. So many refuges of comfort Here in Beaumont have flooded, Been washed out, destroyed. But Willy Burger stands. A beacon of bacon, A sanctuary made of onion rings, Dripping grease, malts, A shrine to joy and comfort For the weary survivors Of this unholy flood. The cashier’s eyelashes Bat as she anticipates your order And you let it fall from your lips


Today's prompt was to write about a list. I decided to write a to-do list for Demeter trying to get out of bed in the morning, reckoning with a sort of existential crisis. This needs some development, but I like the idea. Demeter's Morning To-Do List, April Get out of bed. That’s harder than it seems, you know. The barren winter Of my mood Pulls me here, keeps me in a kind of stasis. Think of all the millions of reasons I should thrust the covers from my body, Ignite the morning— The hungry bees, The slumbering bears, The sweet, sweet, sweet Smell of pollen filling the breeze. Think of all the million reasons I shouldn’t. Another cycle of loss begins. Another spring to create. Another set of blossoms that must die. Reason with myself. It’s for the greater good. Imagine all of the people out there Depending on my joy— The farmers, sunbathers, Children still stuck in their winter coats. All I have to do is get up. All I ha


Today's prompt was to write about an object from a well-known story and personify it. I, of course, chose Adam's apple. He's trying to blame the apple for enticing him, much like rape culture tries to place some blame on women for the actions of men. I'd like to work on this a bit more. I like this idea very much because it gets to the hahaha core of some of our problems. Adam Blames the Apple When you sprouted from the branch, At first a blossom, did you know How much chaos your flesh could cause? Do you feel guilty? If your skin wasn’t quite so rubescent, Your curves so lovely, The scent of your ripening so sweet, If only you didn’t fit Snugly in the palm of a hand, If only you didn’t hang so low, Enticing more than the bees, Maybe history would have played Out a little different. Were you asking for it— To be plucked from the vine, to be held against the nose pressed against hungry lips, nibbled by teeth, penetrated

Napo 14

Today's prompt was to write about a bargain, an exchange. I don't eat doughnuts because I want to be pretty. Oh what a Faustian bargain I make everyday! :) Ms. Faust If you ask me what the soul is made of, I’d say it’s probably doughnuts. Glazed. Fresh and hot From the oven of some tiny bakery In some East Texas town, The oil still glistening, The dough dissolving on the tongue. The smell wafts down the street, Into my bedroom, my dreams, Beckoning me into some kind of promise Of a paradise of sugar, Full bellies and joy. And every morning, I’m Faust, Turning up my nose the heaven In exchange for this—my own flesh, A Mephistophelean bargain Called a diet, in which the soul Is sold for price of a waist.

Napo 13

Today's prompt was to write about something that's different from what it seems on the surface. I decided to write about Big Thicket's longleaf pine trees. These guys are so tall and sturdy that you'd think they'd last forever. They're a keystone species in the forest, too. So much depends on them. But the reality is that they're vulnerable and endangered. The forestland is being taken over by commercially farmed lumber pines. Only 3% of the longleaf population exists today. I want to talk about the pines, but also, I want this poem to reach beyond into a metaphor for people we admire, who seem invincible, who are the keystones of so many around them. The giants of our lives. I'm thinking of my mentor who loves the thicket and the pine trees. He lives out in the forest, and when I visited him last summer, he told me exactly how many pines had to fall to build his home. He knew and acknowledged their sacrifice. He's my longleaf pine in so many

Napo 12

Today, it was a little tough to write. I had a really busy day at work, and I feel so far behind with everything. I feel like I'm spinning and spinning and getting nothing done. My mind's been a little fuzzy since yesterday. I'm seeing a specialist for my recurring ear infections. I've had one that comes and goes since the beginning of the year, and it's done a ton of damage to my ear, destroying my ear drum and, I learned yesterday, some of the bones in my middle ear, too. My specialist is now referring me to another, more specialized specialist (I had no idea that was a thing) in Houston, to take over my case since it's gotten more complicated. So that sucks. Houston is an hour and a half from Beaumont. And he recommends surgery. So I feel like I'm in a bit of a funk. I hate being sick all the time. But hopefully, this is what I need to finally get on the other side of this. We'll see. The saga continues. But, I found a few moments this evening to

Napo 11: Elegy

Today's prompt was to write an elegy. I decided to write one for Proctor Street, the main drag in Port Arthur. It's a really surreal sort of place. It's essentially abandoned, though it clearly was once a very prosperous place. In doing a bit of historical digging, it looks like it became abandoned due to a multitude of reasons--hurricanes (it's literally on the coast), white flight after segregation ended, and its neighbor, the nation's largest oil refinery. I want to write more about this place. I need to return and take some notes/pictures and such. I also want to incorporate Palmer's quote somehow. We remember and relish and wax nostalgic, but in the middle of it all, we're sick. Sick. Physically because of the pollution. As a nation because of our racial divisions and economic disparity. Spiritually because we've come to see a miracle as commonplace, expected. Anyway, this needs work, but I at least got a start this morning. Elegy for Pr

Napo 10: Magnolia Street

Today's prompt was to write about a place's geography and its names. I decided to write about Magnolia Street, Port Neches, which is close to where I live. It's a really quaint and cute place filled with cute shops, an adorable bookstore, some kickass BBQ and a brewery making the most fantastic local beer. But an oil refinery looms just in the distance, looming like a shadow over the place. It's trying to be beautiful. It really is. That's the impulse of this poem. Magnolia Street, Port Neches If you call something “magnolia” it must be beautiful. This quaint street invites a stroll—a charming bookstore, a funky brewery, a downtown filled with the scent of bbq smoke wafting. Magnolia, the name blooms with beauty and baggage— the scent of flowers following this street like the lovely, troubled past of a belle returned to town after years of being away, her absence inspiring rumors of all kinds. Here, Magnolia bloomed before this str

Napo 9

Today's prompt was to imagine the large and the small coming together. I had a little fun. I want to keep working on this poem yet. I imagine a poem about God baking a cheesecake and being disappointed with the results, the cracks, like the cracks and fractures that exist within our own society. The Cracked Cheesecake of God What the fuck? I tried my best, Followed the steps laid out By centuries of wisdom— Warm everything in your palms With love, crack the eggs With a certain gentleness Into the bowl, mix slowly, Slowly, slowly, let the batter Come together gradually Before pouring it into that spring foam pan Of a nation that will mold it into something Everyone agrees is a masterpiece. But no. I slid it into the oven, Put a low heat, and still— I leave it there for a moment, Step away to fix my tempest In a teacup just to find Those hairline fractures in the surface of its skin, Separating, deepening as it bakes Into faultlines tha

Napo 8

I love this picture so much. That's me and my amazing colleagues, from left, Jerry Craven, Jerry Bradley, and Jim Sanderson. I don't think I need to tell you which one is me. We're at the Texas Institute of Letters Banquet in San Antonio. It was my first banquet as a newly inducted member. I owe these men an enormous debt of gratitude for believing in me, empowering me, and encouraging me. Plus, they're just plain fun to be around! I have to say, though, that I'm a little glad this weekend is over. B and I are driving back to Beaumont now, and I can't wait to sleep in my own bed again and return to my routine. Also, I miss my cats. So, being on the road and not driving, I have some time to write. So, I got this little draft of a poem together. What's infinity? That was today's prompt. I think that most things, when we understand them, we learn they're not really infinite. The ocean has a bottom. We know the sun will eventually putter out. Tex