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  • Grandmother of Southern Arkansas
    February 7, 2012

    Dear grandmother of southern Arkansas
    I cannot remember you when you
    were not bent. I cannot remember you
    without those grey orthopaedic shoes
    and without that navy-blue, short-sleeved
    sun dress (I think it was) that showed
    how the skin on your arms hung.

    Dear grandmother of southern Arkansas,
    I cannot remember a time when
    your face was smooth enough for me to
    read the expression on it. I cannot
    remember you without aunt Lois Ann, you
    were mother, husband, and child to her, you,
    snapping beans, sitting in the kitchen.

    I can remember the checkerboard you
    gave me for Christmas. I can remember
    hearing you wish to my father that you
    could have bought me something nicer.
    You thought I was listening to my walkman.
    I wish I had played checkers all day,
    to you let you know I understood. I didn’t.

    I can remember the day you died,
    I was the only one with you. Your spirit
    just slipped past your lips as you exhaled
    the last time, lungs too weary to snatch it back.
    I remember walking out to the lobby,
    finding your children, telling them.
    Watching them cry.

    I remember my father after that. How he
    watched too much television at strange hours
    of the night. Once or twice when I asked him a
    question, he did not even hear me. I remember
    you present in every familiar movement that he
    could not stir himself to make. And maybe that
    was the first time that I really knew you,
    grandmother of southern Arkansas.

    In September, When Jacqueline Goes A-walkin
    September 5, 2011

    In September, when Jacqueline goes a-walkin,
    on the last day of summer drought,
    while the chicory ladies wave and dip
    their blue fingertips into the breeze
    that dances across the back of her neck,

    in the turning month, while Jackie’s a-turnin along the path
    and the sunshine is a murmur in the crowdy clouds
    that’ll surely bring the water splashing soon,
    and she’s a lady in her white dress
    while the breeze ruffles the hem against her shins,

    in Ordinary time, with the red wasps a-swarmin
    inside the old hollow hickory, where she walks
    along the bluff of Kilgore mountain
    and the cardinal chants his rain song a-sky,
    mountains bowing hopeful in baptismal repentance,

    in Jackie’s time, as the summer’s a-clingin
    and the thirsty breeze licks up the iris-dew
    under a curling-leaf canopy of sallow greens
    that tumble soundless valley-down
    with the hushed anticipation of rainfall,

    in September, when Jacqueline goes a-walkin
    and the summer clouds carry on like a silent Father
    over the mountains prostrating rainless
    and the wood-breeze stirs the chatter-leaves
    in thanksgiving for the summer’s end.

    Lenten Reflections and Psalm 22
    March 12, 2011

    My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? My hands, arms, back, and legs are sore from a day of heavy manual labor, and their protests at overuse today might as well be protests at under-use every other day. Their fiery synaptic signals travel up to that beautiful chemical-electrical opera house, my human brain, and on the mind’s stage they form a chorus with all else there that aches, but is less physical. That is to say, not only all my bones are out of joint, but also my heart is like wax. May I be poured out like water.

    Good Friday’s cross eclipses the glorious light of Easter’s Resurrection, and in that light, the cross casts a shadow which stretches out over all of history preceding and which also hangs over us now in this season of the Christian calendar when we cross the wilderness on our way to the hill outside the city gates. What a difference it makes that the path to Resurrection leads through death. It is not simply a glorious transformation; it is also a painful one, do not be far from me.

    In every ache of every sort, we are given the chance to join in the transformation of suffering itself, that it may no longer be the death-dealing judgment of Adam, but the life-giving suffering of the Son of God. O Lord, do not be far away. The purpose of Lent is to image the suffering of the Messiah. The purpose of that imaging, in turn, must extend beyond a desire for personal piety, as if perhaps my own transcendence were the goal rather than a larger transformation. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

    if you’re listenin’, whaaoooooo.
    May 20, 2008

    there was a time, when most of the things that i built my life around were still largely unexamined.

    [ i’m thinking about writing a series of posts that begin like that. ]

    so, this is about music. and exactly about a playlist that i put together last night. and what it means. “pre-enlightenment bliss” was its name, the playlist. because it’s from a very different time.

    do you remember napster? well, they shut it down before this story really takes off. but then kazaa came, and that was when i really hit my stride in illegally downloading music. kazaa let me download all my favorite songs, free of charge. it would be quite a few years – 5 or 6 – until i began to value complete albums. at this time, though, all my 8th grade self cared about was this song. this one song that was going to take hours to download at 3 kb/sec. ( “dad, can we please get a cable modem?” )

    but it was a good time. it was a time when i still relied on the radio for my musical education [ which is still the most american way to discover your musical tastes ]. it was a time when the best songs were the ones that could be sung over and over again on all those hot, humid summer days in arkansas that seemed to come over and over and over again. or else they could be learned by beginning guitar players in one sitting.

    we sang them on the long cross-country runs. we sang them on the short walks from 8th street to the Big Red burger joint. we played them to impress girls. we burned them onto cd’s in nearly infinite combinations and permutations. we wrote their lyrics in emails. we tried to perform them exactly the way they sounded on the recordings. and we turned the radio up when they came on. at some point later, music would acquire for me something like a holiness. but, that was after these songs came – most of them, at least. perhaps that is why i spend so much time now, canonizing these old friends.

    it’s amazing how i remember so many of these songs in exact places, exact times – memories which are approaching the 10-year old mark with disquieting speed. stay together for the kids is in the galbo’s basement and we’re making a music video with brooms instead of guitars, pots and pans instead of drums… and a special effects department that includes a box fan, confetti, and camera-shaking. and a lot of sincerity, in spite of all the irony we could muster. black balloon is in a dark bedroom in mayflower arkansas, watching a dear friend write a heartfelt letter – there it is again, the sincerity. sweetness is sitting in a trailer next to a fireworks tent, trying to understand what it will mean to graduate; to go to college. grey sky morning is the drive from my house to tucker coliseum, wearing my cap and gown and sitting in the parking lot so that it will have time to finish.

    there’s more i could say, but i think i’ve indulged myself enough. here’s the playlist:

    All the Small Things – Blink 182
    Stay Together for the Kids – Blink 182
    First Date – Blink 182
    Yellow – Coldplay
    Trouble – Coldplay
    The Way – Fastball
    Everlong – Foo Fighters
    Hemorrhage (In My Hands) – Fuel
    Broadway – Goo Goo Dolls
    Slide – Goo Goo Dolls
    Black Balloon – Goo Goo Dolls
    Basket Case – Green Day
    Time of Your Life – Green Day
    Sweetness – Jimmy Eat World
    3am – Matchbox Twenty
    Wonderwall – Oasis
    Champagne Supernova – Oasis
    Don’t Go Away – Oasis
    Sadie Hawkins Dance – Relient K
    Closing Time – Semisonic
    Good Souls – Starsailor
    Last Nite – The Strokes
    Fat Lip – Sum 41
    Still Waiting – Sum 41
    Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning) – Vertical Horizon


    April 2007
    July 10, 2007

    i nearly hit a doe as i rounded a curve
    at 4 a.m.
    only the very fringes of my low beams caught the slope of its back
    before it leapt into
    full illumination.

    to know is to remember? (all things pass, few are known.)

    we are flooded with
    angles, lines, curves,
    we pass through them, and they through us
    like bottomless cups submerged in a stream.

    but to know a moment.