Southern Homes and Living

Mariachi music periodically drowned cutting tile
water dripping off a saw blade. Men moving
red orange playdough with square shovels
praying for rain so they can stop.

Two million dollar houses disowned
builders scratching claws
kneading biscuits
in soggy tree choked countryside
northeast of Charlotte.

Charity house.
Southern Home Magazine.
Rotten egg smell by the front porch from walkway lights
real popular right now with real flame lapping sparkling glass.

Moving truck creeps into clogged cul-de-sac
everyone freezes
if you have a shovel
lean on it
stare
see if this newcomer
knows how to handle
all that truck.

Little Empty Houses

Birdhouses and mailboxes and bedframes and double doors. Heavy wooden portal stoppers leaned up against racks of plywood. Medium density fiberboard with a watch-face sized hole drilled in front, a short cylindrical nose pegged under that gaping cycloptic opening. Sixteen slats glued together, screwed to two belts of black metal bent in gentle bows. Hypothetically, everything in a workshop is hypothetical. Growing dust. Doors off hinges. Overflown housing. Mailboxes with no fixed address. Potential piles up. Scullery doors in the corner. Solid oak end tables crushing castor wheels.

Space. Who builds space. Not the carpenter. Not the writer. The politician. The doctor. Not the builder. Emptiness. Pure, layered, reinforced racking potential. Who prints blank books. Fills pens instead of emptying them. Who makes the makings. Doesn’t care whether or not birds ever come. Who builds little boxes that resemble houses. Who makes doors who isn’t trapped by door frames. Leaned in aisleways, stacked in back of showrooms with cardboard sandwiched between. Custom doors stacked, piled, pre-divorced from their future portals.

There are so many ways to pray, but none come close to creating space. Full pens. Empty books. Empty frames. Doors with no deadbolts drilled in them. Miniature houses, no birds. The rigid rectangles that clutch the soft shapes we sleep on. We don’t know.

We don’t know where birds will nest.
We don’t know what we’re building.
We don’t need to. It’s better that way.

Let the birds decide.
Until then, build little empty boxes.

Between Seasons

Gentle wind rocks the front porch swing. Metal clinks.
Ghosts chained to the roof grow restless in powder-coated bonds.
Water in three forms squat between here and the moon.
Stars laugh at how close we are to too far away.

Sounds like summer. Not yet spring. Disappointed toads.
Crawled out of the muck too soon. Can relate.
Darker than a dry dark. A sopping wet and soggy dark.
Deeply stained. Saturated. Saturday. Night.

The Same Thing

I write a word. You think two or three that define it for you. I’ve written another word by that time. You’ve got at least six in mind to make those two mean anything. It’s a really simply chemical equation: language. Just tedious. Time consuming, yet always under the scrutinizing expectation of punctuality. Let’s work through this. What language is. What it does. 

Have you ever crossed your ears, and let someone’s words blur, and listened to the sound of language. Not translating in a hurry. Not hearing. Like baby’s babbling, or dog’s yapping, or cliche cicadas winging sonnets in doomed early spring. We’ve all worked and been worked so hard to never do the thing I’m asking if you’ve done. We want to understand. We’re bark-moaning when we speak. Manipulating our vocal cords and using our tongues like corks to close what one day we plan to open. That’s the first point I need to make. Language is only as flimsy as the vessel it travels in, and at the end of the day, these are sounds. Even what I’m currently typing down, of course I am saying it to myself, trying to imagine how you will hear it. Every message is coded, by nature. It’s just when we really get to know the code, we stop hearing it the way it sounds when we didn’t comprehend. Which can be of equal importance. Neverending excuses exist for sound distortions. So first off, language is dependent on performance, even more so than syntax or the speaker’s intentions. You can, and will, and have, communicated ideas to others you yourself have never known. Mishearing. Misspeaking. Misunderstanding. You could go on forever with these misshaped words. Mistake. Mistook. 

Now here’s the rub. 

If you cash out early on the free chips you were given and you never buy in, not to the awards, the costumes, the trophies and decorations society is chomping at the bit to place against you, essentially, if you don’t mind from time to time sounding stupid, you can manipulate language, words, sounds turned stringed cheese cylinders of high sodium meaning, basically, if you give up on being right, you can be a poet. And a poet, to the academic, is a willing participant in a doomed to be endless experiment. An idiot, to not mince words. 

But more than what you say, people will hear you pause, your questions will reverberate their memories like you held a microphone up to your mouth for those. They’ll feel validated, graduated, because you asked. You showed interest. Your mistakes, your misgivings, will grace their chemical laden insides like compliments, they’ll be delighted you’re not one of those pretentious, know it all, get it rights. I’m describing language as a form of heavy, dentable but unbreakable armor. Clunky. Burdensome. But next to flesh, there’s no comparison. 

Language. Language is the arrow we launched at the target.
But the target. The target was communication.

And I’ll leave you with a question, a key to help unlock the universe of what people really mean. How often are language and communication the same thing?

That love…

Love sets your responsibilities. I find the phrase ‘falling in love’ intriguing. In a ‘saying the quiet part out loud’ way. When there’s nothing under you, we call it falling, but once you’re grounded, we just call it gravity. That constant nagging attraction our species has been trying to escape ever since we lost our first forest. We are the orphans of titans. Longing, and loss, are textures of our love. Strands within our braids. Should we leave one out when we weave our happiness, that stitch will fail. We fall in love, I know I did, and then we live with falling everyday, so that it becomes a peculiar particular gravity conjured up in the cosmic draw between all bodies. Stars are born out of the oscillating pressures and biochemical dynamics between us. Love has set schedules, and early morning alarms in neat fifteen minute increments, love forces you to obey at least one of them, love abolishes laurels, and hiding places, and high grounds. We climb in almost all external endeavors, be it power, be it corporate ladders, be it chakras within yourself, be it up on crosses or pulpits or podiums or high towers. But. But, we fall in love. I don’t know. I don’t know if I buy that. There’s got to be some middle-ground between always either climbing or falling, and if there is, it’s that incessant gravity. Climbing, falling, resolution. Sounds like a story. Perhaps that’s a more fitting phrase about the nature of love.

That love sets your story.

Bear Stories

Almost more frightening than seeing a bear is someone telling you they saw a bear. An older guy, older than my dad, who, if you saw on the street, you’d call homeless, but out here in the woods wearing a backpack with a red bandanna decorated black paisley tied around his head, just a hiker. Supposedly, who came around the corner and surprised two bear cubs up a tree. Never saw their mother. He says. But had a sense she was nearby. He tells us this as he is headed in the opposite direction, toward the almost can’t be called a town a few miles behind. Where we ate cheeseburgers and charged our phones and filled two collapsible water-bottles with cheap fizzy gas station wine. Dad and I. This guy is filling our heads with thoughts of bear and I swear I can smell every ounce of that half pound burger I ate called the hiker, ironically, likely pieces of it beneath my fingernails, grease left off in my scant facial hair. Old man hikes on but we really don’t, we’d walked all day and by design were camping close-by, maybe a few dozen yards from the place he treed the cubs.

There used to be a shelter here, but it burned down and all that is left is a giant set of concrete steps and the half buried slab it leaned on. The site isn’t popular. I can tell because of how little walking it takes to gather up a waist high pile of firewood so I can light up these woods right until the buttcrack of bedtime. Dad teases me about it. Less than an hour and a young man comes bee-bopping down the trail buried between two earbuds. He sits on our orphaned steps and talks to us about joining the army at the end of summer. And this trip is one half vacation, one half training. He can’t be in his mid twenties. One of those ultra lightweight backpacks stitched with the word Osprey. He hikes light. Carries very little water. Trusts his legs to get him more. He started further back than we did, and he isn’t done for the night. By his projections, another six miles before dark. His stories are scary-exciting like inheriting land or landing that new job. Red tee. Spiky black hair. Sweat sheened tan skin and built skinny strong. He did not stop to get a burger.

I have to drink most of my wine because my wine bag busted from the carbonation. Dad goes to tent an hour before my firewood is spent and I dirty up a couple pages and watch the flickering darkness for the twinkling of bear eyes or old men who smell like damp tobacco and liberal patchouli. The trees catch hot breath off my tall fire and juggle it between branches, busking for my attention, and I give it to them, two ever-open quarters I flick out from my pocket, like boomerangs, always seem to fly back to me whenever whatever I gave them to is finished.

I’d rather see a bear than hear a story about seeing one.

If I knew it was there in the dark staring back at me licking its lips.
Even that would be easier than waiting.

YCDB

I can imagine thunder.
Batting my eyes makes lightning.
Yawning earthquakes into existence.
Clearing clouds from my throat.

Raining germs. Puddled teeth.
I don’t read. The fossils that I found.
The washout from the ground.
Where it all got given away.

But I can imagine gravity.
I can still feel kisses on my scars.
Storming out. Desert Inn.
There it is. The wilderness.

Anything I have done.
You can do better.

The Keffer Oak

I think the letter L in the word world is one of its most essential uses in the history of literature. It distinguishes two things most responsible for the heady, desperate plight of the human. Our kind’s fundamental confusion. Between an indisputable reality and the far more complicated one of our own inventions. Words are magic. Words are misleading. These strings of letters contain histories, feelings, memories, and worst of all, expectation. Language comes by its good-bad, right-wrong, off and on dichotomy honestly. Mostly, a symptom of two dimensionality.

A great light casts a greater shadow. The mere presence of the word hero will inspire hundreds to consider thousands of what if’s and then who am I’s and redefine themselves in the oppressive gravity of that bright, radioactive word. Hero is almost synonymous with conflict, is it not? What would true world peace do to the hero complex? What’s the use in preparing for the worst if we never get to see the parachute in action? It’s fire, not water department. That’s four kinds of weapon on any police officer’s belt. A miniature version of the shield that might serve them better decorating their bulletproof vest. We don’t come equipped for peace. People don’t really seem to seriously believe in it even as possibility. Same with God. More comfortable with words like belief, and faith, than opening our eyes outright and declaring if God desired to be known, it is more than capable, and the world as we know and experience is its only testament. Everything, without exception, written in human language, is a secondary source, at best.

Words are fun. And easy. Manipulated. Like a walking stick, shaped for grip, for control, for thrust and use. But too often we trust them to tell us everything we know about the oak they were cut from. That letter that intercedes on all our words and with an absolute absence of subtlety, shakes us loose from them. Shatters that old bent dried up walking stick we’ve leaned on so heavily we’ve stunted ourselves through the pursuit of support we did not need. We’ve imagined our bones breaking and it has frightened us so we’ve decided to go ahead and precast everything about ourselves in language. And in saving, sanitizing our lives, we forfeited every grimy, heavy, clunky idea that made it worthwhile.

We’re handing over twigs and telling kids it’s a white oak. I’ve seen the second largest white oak tree in America, the Keffer Oak, in Virginia. No part of the massive three hundred year old, sixty foot tall entity was meant to be mine, was made for me. I could cut it up and split it and stack and burn a hundred thousand words from it, piece by piece, as a sort of revenge sentence against all the cold nights that ever nibbled at my ancestors. Bitterly, with sore hands and crooked back, like all conquerors, looking over my neat pile of firewood. But it isn’t Truth. It’s perception. A side effect of an intense, microscopic projection of our sense of self onto the things we create, we so desperately pretend we make up, like words. Like houses. And cars. The most recent gossip you’ve heard.

But that is not the same as the world. Thank God.
There is an insignificant barrier between our reality and our schemes.
That wonderful little letter separating words from worlds.

Wrote a new ‘About Me’, thanks for reading!

I’m currently enrolled in a master’s program in writing at Lenoir-Rhyne’s Center for Graduate Studies in Asheville, North Carolina. My writing has not yet been selected for widespread publication or inclusion in any creative writing journals, but that hasn’t stopped me from submitting. Mostly I put down poetry, but I have also written upwards of five novels, many more short stories, and have recently dabbled in play-writing and screenplays. My ultimate goal for the degree is to better understand the publishing industry, as well as to eventually obtain a position as an adjunct professor or workshop director at a college or university.

I believe writers benefit greatly from diverse employment in fields that are ‘secular’ to the literary craft, and I currently run a small, slow growing farm, perform in local theater and historical reenactments, as well as being a carpenter’s apprentice, mostly creating high-end custom woodcraft and feature installations in the Charlotte area.

My farm is located in Cherryville, nestled in the southwestern region of the North Carolina Piedmont, about twenty minutes from the South Carolina border. We work one hundred and thirty acres, mostly planted in longleaf pine trees, but also with a herd of dairy goats, a large brood of egg layers, and crop farming as much as weather and time permit. On November 9th of this year, my wife and I hosted our own wedding on the property in an attempt to gauge the possibility of creating a modest farm/forest themed event venue on our land. It was (in our humble opinions) a monumental success, and I have posted some pictures from the event below. We are planning to open it up for select events starting in March of next year.

If you have any questions, or interest in what I have going on in my life or on my property, please feel free to reach out. We’re always looking to partner with local or not so local businesses, as well as individuals interested in increasing their farm and vocational work experience. No matter your main interest or occupation, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how positive, proactive interactions with nature and the land increase appreciation for seemingly separate, unrelated endeavors. I can be reached at: writeractorfarmer@gmail.com and we can move forward from there!

I’m also a lifelong hiker and advocate of the Appalachian Trail, and outdoor activities, camping, hiking, homesteading in general. I hiked the eight hundred miles from southwest Virginia to the New York state line two years ago, using the Appalachian Trail, and am always looking for new ways to incorporate the outdoors and the life-altering experiences it engenders into my writing and occupational interests.

If you’ve read this far, you can see I keep a lot of irons in the fire simultaneously, which is what makes writing so important. Stories are maybe the only place where a universe of diversity all combines together to form a single cohesive element. It is the unifying, all encompassing invention of humankind: storytelling. Which is why I proudly list it first in my little titular list of occupations: writer, actor, farmer. Literature is the roof under which I house all other interests, it is how I keep them warm through the night, safe and dry even as the sky opens up and baptizes us all beyond anything we would ever decide for ourselves.

But almost nothing is possible without community. An open dialogue, an audience, an ongoing interaction with those around me, is essential, vital. So thank you for reading, for caring, it has made a world of difference, feeling so unalone and included by the earth-wide family that is humanity. Let’s talk. Let’s collaborate. Let’s find out how many hands it takes to make hard work lighter than a feather, so that we can get down to the fun stuff. Celebrating life and death, singing through poetry, dancing in labor.

Learning as lifelong profession no matter how we earn a living.

It didn’t make it onto my list, but in my opinion, it really goes without needing to be said, that the superpower of our species is lifelong enrollment as students of time and memory. The earth has meant many things to many people, but it makes much more sense to think of it as a giant, rotund, rolling school. I’m convinced that is what it is, and learning, not invention or fabrication, is our primary purpose. And in that sense, there will never be a final frontier. We’ll never be finished finding new things in an evolving, ever-altered university such as this.

Existence is a wave, it can be a harsh lesson to stand up and position yourself against it. But it can also carry you faster and further than ever imagined if you move along, let yourself, humbly and lightly, be pushed by its powerful and unapologetic presence.

Learn. Grow. Stop fighting currents. Let yourself go. You’ll find you’re caught and held by a mighty grip every time. I promise. I can, because I know.

Life is not a status. It is a story.

And the only way to get it wrong, is to not write it for yourself.

Dear Lord, Let Me Be Wrong

Mist pours in on a comparatively warm November evening, shows me my cross-eyed headlights and blinds me when I click on the brights. Walmart is full of people. At eight on Thanksgiving eve. Full of stink eye and camouflage and middle aged women in pajamas. Our little country corner of the world. Little girls apologize for their father’s scowls with upturned eyes. A grizzled looking gentlemen sights a slender twenty two caliber rifle up at the twenty foot ceiling. Capitalism is most at work when we aren’t. Swiping hours of our lives away with flimsy magnetized plastic, futuristic looking chips embedded in them. There’s a doglegged line in front of the pharmacy. Gigantic Hershey kisses and hollow shepherd crooks full with M&M’s. Grown men wearing flip flops. Little boys in cowboy boots beg beside the bike rack, tears in the corners of their eyes. 

I can’t settle my heart. It liked living outside too much. For my thirties, my eyes and my feet are best friends. They do everything together. Partners witnessing crime. Flying down Old Post I can not help for the life of me the feeling there is hatred and resentment more so than white knuckles and hidden toes powering the machines passing me. It is an old Jeep, I confess, I don’t dare push past the speed limit, so I damn near see the whites in their eyes as they ride my spare tire bumper. There are young men in the Walmart almost through the door when they spot a single lady walk in all by her lonesome and nod their heads together and turn around.

My deepest prayer to date is that I’m wrong. 

Answered by family, warmed by fire, wrapped in mist in the foggy corner of the county we call home. I want to turn around and grab those boys by the scruffs of their necks like tomcats. I want to buy that kid his bike. I want to take the gun out of those paint stained fingers and kiss that man on the cheek if I have to. Wrap him up in a hug and ask him what’s the last thing he forgave. I want to let her know she’s safe, but I don’t have to, anyone wearing pajamas in public is already far more comfortable in their own skin than I ever have been. I want to buy all the milk almost past its date. Tell the people wearing blue vests and name-tags how proud of them I am, how honored I am to be helped along by them, how I never would have found HDMI converters without them. 

As I drive, I get real afraid the mist is smoke. I imagine deer throwing long tan legs out like Rockettes onto the stage. I wince at the sight of roadkill. I throw the Jeep out of gear and coast downhill, thinking how that engine is idling same as if it was sitting still in the driveway, going fifty-five and bouncing across the flimsy bridge at the bottom. If it doesn’t bend it breaks. 

What are we all doing with our life? This is our one shot at the world. What are we all doing at Walmart at eight o clock on a Wednesday night. Looking so sour. Looking down sights. Staring down strangers. 

Strength. True strength. Is not stubbornness, or rigidity. When the man said love your neighbor same as you would love yourself, he could just as easily have said, if a bridge doesn’t bend, it will break.