What Catches the Light | poem

What Catches the Light

I press the handle of a knife into his hand
and he scrapes the shimmer of salmon,
the red flesh face down against his palm,
where the scales collect like sooted snow.

He speaks with a voice low like dusk,
wipes the blade clean with his fingers
tells a story of the Red Sea, thick with fish.
When he mentions his father, his heart

thickens in his throat, and when we get to his own blood
count how many years we’ll have together.
A sea of blood, his blood, antibodies
swimming in his veins.

I can’t remember the names of the fish,
only how he scrapes with a surgeon’s precision,
feeling for what he cannot see but knows is there

preparing this meal for us
while the sky silvers outside the window
and he talks about death
but I think he is talking about love.

[With gratitude to the editors at Red Paint Hill Journal, who originally published this poem.]

before the rain | Owl’s Roost Trail

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” — Aristotle

I set out to check out the Owl’s Roost Trail north of town at Bur-Mil Park. It was grey and chilly, perfect match to my mood and I had a new lens to try. Owl’s Roost is a hiking trail but also allows mountain bikes (I found someone’s fun bike-cam video here that follows the trail.). A couple of times I had to pause and wait for the bikes to pass in fairly large numbers. Pretty cool.

Mid-November and by now the trees have shed half of their leaves. The lake was the color of the sky, a shade of flint or gunmetal, still and sheet-like. (I already miss the lush, warm summer hikes and will until next season. “The green in my eyes.”)

After a little while, a mist began to fall through the thinning tree canopies, down onto the well-worn path. I’d stopped so often to look that I hadn’t gone as far as I thought. With what felt like imminent downpour, and me in just a sweater and jeans and without rain gear, I picked my way back to the car.

Sharing some of the photos here.

Found elsewhere, but related: the Buddha belly tree at Bur-Mil

 

sunflowers at arapahoe | photography

The sunflower is mine, in a way.

— Vincent Van Gogh

I was a little early that morning, picking up the girls from camp, so I found my way driving along the Neuse River and happened upon a field of sunflowers.  It was alternately sunny and raining, which was a really lovely layer to the mood and hues and brightness to the day.

Fun to spend time with these sunny faces.

 

“Valentine”

The mail has come, as I was thinking of you

I was wondering about the man that delivered your letter

 

when the dogs barked, I didn’t think anything of it

was his day suddenly made inexplicably better

 

but I meant to say earlier that I didn’t miss it

when your letter fell into his bag 

 

when you said I should watch for the mail,

perhaps his shoulders suddenly happy and relaxed 

 

only I didn’t know quite what you meant

and the dog down the street didn’t jump the fence 

 

I just held onto it, slipped it into my pocket carefully.  Now

I bet his wife suddenly called and said something kind

 

I have a sweet mouth that is a little on fire –

the rain held off and he could even turn off the heat 

 

it must be all the way up into my eyes as I write this.

because it warmed up more than predicted.

 

Chocolate, chilies, cherries.  I can hardly write.

Now his feet don’t hurt and he’s even humming a tune

 

But if I could get to you right now, if I could get to you,

he hasn’t thought of in years- probably jazz– 

 

I would surely kiss you all the way to next week,

and he hums and smiles and maybe whistles, too

 

until your lips were raw, ‘til you begged me to stop

even when he turns the corner

 

to let you breathe, to let you eat, or speak

he keeps smiling, his heart light

 

and you will taste like chocolate and chilies and cherries, too

all the way, all the way, all the way home.  

 

***

First published in Pine Song. Winner of first place for the 2016 Thomas H. McDill Award, judged by James McKean, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

***

 

 

 

Congratulations to Iman Dancy, 2017 North Carolina Poetry Out Loud Champion

I’ve just gotten back from the 2017 National Finals for Poetry Out Loud, held on April 25-26, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at the Renaissance Dupont Circle and Lisner Auditorium on the GWU campus. What an incredible event.

With Sharon Hill, Arts in Eduction Director at the NC Arts Council, Iman Dancy, Juliet Shepard.

Our North Carolina state champion, Iman Dancy, did an excellent job performing her poems. (“Learning to Love America” and “On Virtue.”) In the regional semi-finals, she made the first cut and had the chance to recite her third poem, “I am Offering This Poem.”

I was inspired to select “Learning to Love America” because it really allowed me to step into the shoes of someone vastly different than me. As an African-American sixteen year old living in twenty-first century North Carolina, it can be difficult to imagine or relate to the experiences of an immigrant mother living in California during the latter twentieth century. But getting to recite Lim’s poem gives me a look into her life that I would not be granted otherwise. I selected “On Virtue” and “I Am Offering this Poem” because the light, positive writing styles (and beautiful simplicity of the second poem, especially) really drew me in. — Iman Dancy

She did not advance to the finals but did an outstanding job in the regional semifinals. For a first appearance at nationals, she held her own with her tremendous talent and poise.  We look forward to many great things from this amazing young person, and also congratulate Samara Huggins, the national winner from Georgia.

Watch Iman recite “I am Offering This Poem, by Jimmy Santiago Baca.

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. There are many, many partners who work together to support this transformative program, and the kids who get involved often say that the experience touches so many places in their lives, helps build their confidence and gives them opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

We are already thinking toward next year’s state championship. If you are a North Carolina high school English or theater teacher, consider this worthy program for your students. Read praise for this incredible program, and here’s a handy FAQ to see how Poetry Out Loud can fit in your classroom and lesson plan.  Feel free to contact me with your questions.

 

 

Reading GNOMON, by Cynthia Huntington

In the car rider line with a book of poetry, I find the world shifts into a slightly better frame for me. The beautiful Gnomon today, by Cynthia Huntington (Jacar Press, 2017).
A gnomon is “the projecting piece on a sundial that shows the time by the position of its shadow.”
From the title poem: “The apples are sour and hard./ The trees are dreaming/ the shape the teeth tore from the flesh./ Gnomon. The part taken away,/ shape of absence — mirror/ to the missing piece. You would know your beloved/ even turned away.”

 

The themes of love and longing appear over and again within the book; and this kind of love is next to the holy, and “there is no joy beyond this.”

 

“– we go on under stars, under the darkest/ clouds, we climb and descend, our feet heavy;/ we are tired — but everything is so astonishing,/ each moment so new. We go on; stepping forward,/ we ask: Are you here? The grass says yes./ We step into God every moment, stunned, dumb-/ founded, we meet him however we go, so how/ can we bear to rest, to cease discovering him/ over and over, in the next moment, opening …”

 

This whole chapbook works like this. “… climb and descend, climb and descend” … seeking and finding God at each unexpected turn, from a green star to a horse alone in a pasture. Love and sorrow, the sweetest loves, the sweetest joys — and every poem in this chapbook is a door.

Honestly, this is poetry I wish I’d written.

And just like the hike through the woods that you wish would last longer, this is a short read — only 20 pages — but what a lovely journey. And the poems, like trees, clear our heads, somehow remind us who we are.

The blurb on the back by David Rivard: “After experience is done teaching us just about everything it thinks it needs to teach us, we come back to desire, the one thing worth knowing. This time around desire shows up as a wild calm, dead center of whatever picture in which we find ourselves. These marvelous, subtle poems go deep, deep, deep into that wild calm. So subtle, so moving! I don’t believe anyone but Cynthia Huntington could have written them.” 

If you pick up this chapbook, let me know what you think.

Purchase information here.

Pleased to be included in North Dakota Quarterly 83.1

I’m thrilled and honored to have a poem included in the latest issue of the North Dakota Quarterly. NDQ is a fine journal with a sterling reputation — please subscribe to them here.

This issue’s cover features starkly beautiful photography, and the content within is equally gorgeous yet harrowing.

North Dakota Quarterly is pleased to announce the release of our newest issue, Volume 83.1. Chuck Kimmerle’s lovely black and white photographs point to the chilly and sometimes chilling themes found in this Winter issue. On the cover, lines of leafless trees stand against the bleak backdrop of snow covered fields near Grand Forks, North Dakota. Stories and poems often echo that motif. [More.]

Deepest thanks to NDQ poetry editor Heidi Czerwiec.

cover-83_1

Poetry Readings, An Interview, and much Gratitude

Deep, deep appreciation and admiration goes to Abigail Browning and Ray Crampton, for the tremendous job you guys are doing over at Tate Street Society, and for inviting me to come by last month and talk about Women Writers of the TriadSable Books, and some of the projects and work I’ve been honored to be a part of.  (You can listen to the podcast here, if you are so inclined.)

What a generous interview and you do such a professional job.  Thank you, thank you.

Also note that along with their literary interviews, In The Margins is also working on Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem project. Watch Sandra Beasley read one of my most favorite poems, Sonnet 43 (How Do I Love Thee), by Elizabeth Barrett Browning here.

Poems and loves forged during distance can be really powerful.
— Sandra Beasley

You can catch Sandra this Friday night at Scuppernong Books here in Greensboro, reading from her own work, Count the Waves, alongside Dan Albergotti and sponsored by Cave Wall. I’m looking forward to this. (NC Poetry Lovers: she’ll also be at Flyleaf this Thursday and at McIntyre’s Fine Books on Sunday.)

And along with being Managing Editor at Tate Street Society as well as an accomplished dancer and dance instructor, you can catch Abigail reading her poetry alongside Janice Fuller at Second Saturday at Tate Street Coffee House this weekend at 7:00pm.  Open mic follows so bring a piece to share.

With a lush thunderstorm as backdrop, the reading July 1st at Scuppernong Books with Richard Krawiec, Debra Kaufman, Kevin Boyle, and Ralph Earle was wonderful —  fun, engaging, relaxed — and we had a terrific crowd. All around, it was a beautiful evening.

Also a quick report that things here on the homefront are as difficult and beautiful as ever, but at the end of the day there is a back porch with a cross-breeze, a glass of wine, music coming from inside the house, and mostly blessings in the form of the amazing people who grace or touch our lives in their myriad ways — whose paths run somewhere near or right alongside mine — I am filled to spilling over with gratitude for you, especially my beloveds, who have my back or my children’s backs — who tell my children they are good people, those who welcome, inspire, and love them, who treat us like family — I thank you with my whole self. You know who you are.

With much love, always.

m.

 

ALL ABOUT BOOK COVER DESIGN with master designer Danny Krawiec

The one job your book cover has — the only job it has — is to sell your book, and in just a few seconds. There are careful considerations to be made in choosing your book’s cover design. Join us this Thursday evening to learn all you can during this FREE and informative workshop and conversation.

Anyone interested in publishing or self-publishing is invited to come and explore the rules of book cover design — and when to break those rules — with master book designer Danny Krawiec, including casual discussion of his designs for Jacar Press and Sable Books, which include three of the four 2014 North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame Inductees.  We’ll have lots of ideas, books, and covers to discuss, and if you have questions or have previously published a book of your own, please bring them!  Feel welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion to talk about design elements, themes, and choices.

Danny’s cover designs include:

Feeding-the-Light-thumb Steal-Away_Shelby-Stephenson widow-poems_betty-adcock  Music-from-small-towns_Al-Maginnes
and-so-she-told-me_barbara-kenyon american-courtesan_ester-amy-fischer how-far-light-will-travel_steve-roberts BDL front cover

JOIN US
This Thursday evening, December 4th,
from 7:00pm-8:30pm 

at the Kathleen Clay Edwards Branch
of the Greensboro Public Library

in the study room

danny_krawiecDaniel Krawiec grew up in Raleigh, NC before attending UNC Asheville for a BA in Interactive Design. Subsequently, he received his Master of Arts in Interactive Media from Elon University. His design work includes logos, identity packages, book covers & interiors, album covers, and websites. He is also a web developer, and has done occasional work in the area of application & interactive systems development. His non-professional creative pursuits include music composition, photography, and illustration.