Rogue Homilies by Deidre Price

a study of life that smacks of the divine

Tag: writer

Call for Submissions

rogue homilieslife that smacks of the divine

Rogue Homilies originally started as a blog featuring vignettes about life and love and God–you know, pulpit things I’d say if I were a preacher. I’m not, hence the ‘rogue’ part of it.

It turns out, there are many of me among you: would-be Pulpit People with Christ in your life and art in your bones. This publication creates a space for you: authentic voices telling stories (in whatever genre or medium) about life that smacks of the divine.

Submissions are currently open for poetry, songs, stories, creative nonfiction, personal essays, art, and multimedia. I invite you to submit your work for the premier fall issue.

The theme of the 2016 fall issue is RESTORATION.

HOW TO SUBMIT

Writers, artists, and filmmakers can submit their work for consideration by July 31 to roguehomilies@gmail.com.  

Acceptances and rejections will be sent within 6-8 weeks. If you do not hear back within two months of sending your work, kindly follow up with us to ensure we’ve received it.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

Writers, please include your work as a Microsoft Word attachment (.doc or .docx) or as a Rich Text Format (.rtf) file. Please use Times New Roman 12 pt font and single space your submission. Include only the title of the piece within the document, not your name. Type the genre in your subject line (Poem Submission, Story Submission, Creative Nonfiction Submission, Personal Essay Submission, etc.), and include a cover letter and 50-word biographical note within the body of your email. Submit your work to roguehomilies@gmail.com by July 31.

Artists, musicians, and filmmakers, please attach or link to your work. Type either Art Submission, Music Submission, or Film Submission in your subject line. Include cover letter and 50-word biographical note within the body of your email. Closed-captioning will be required to supplement film and lyric submissions. Please include a transcript for any lyrics or audio submitted as a Microsoft Word attachment or a Rich Text Format (.rtf) file. Both the title of the piece and your name should appear within the file. Submit your work to roguehomilies@gmail.com by July 31 for consideration.

Multiple and simultaneous submissions in all categories are accepted. Please let us know as soon as your work is accepted elsewhere. There is not currently a limit on lengths of pieces or numbers of submissions. In the poetry category in particular, writers are encouraged to submit between 3-5 pieces for consideration.

Writing should be previously unpublished, including being circulated online in public forums, but art, music, and film will be considered even if previously published or circulated.

Rights revert to the authors and creators of the work.

 

Have happy lives–and write/create/sing/breathe/love in the meantime!

DP signature

 

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Do I Bother You Like Plexus? – #NPM15

I try not to talk about my weight
in the same way I try not to talk
about my children at work.

But I’ve become the elephant in the room,
conspicuous as a Cheerio stuck to my sleeve,
the constant yogurt on my shoulder.

Weight is easier to carry than pictures of my children.
I lose one and keep the other.
I bore easily at “my, they’ve grown.”
“My, you’ve grown” lives only in texts and whispers.

But online…

Online the potion peddlers find me,
give themselves away in Drink Pink! hashtaggery
hidden in sentences that wind
like country roads.

Online they tell me to Think!
But would you believe I work better with a little clutter?
And I’ve been thin before, so it’s nothing novel.

Online they meme away,
testify revival-tent-style,
selling something that will save us all.

But we all preach a little Plexus
with our causes and elbows we serve at the dinner table,
from Namaste to Obama,
War Eagle to Who Dat?
All cheers and jeers form alphabet soup
that stoops lower than the Tide sometimes.

I post poems like written saviors.
I say, “You can start today!
Everyone starts somewhere!
Ask me how!”

I share stories that aren’t mine
so you can see yourself in them,
at first before, then one day after
and you, the literary paper doll,
a living Mad Lib.

Take this sole solace:
At least there’s only one of me.

This poem was written as part of a poem-a-day challenge for National Poetry Month! Write your own and tag #npm15. And leave comments in response! I’d love to hear from you.

Remember that the poems that appear as part of this challenge are dirty drafts; they may change with each visit to the site.

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Words from the Wastebasket: Outtakes from a Work in Progress

At the goading of many friends, I have written the beginnings of a book manuscript and am in the process of making deep editorial cuts to recenter the work. The book is called Status: Finding Grace and Meaning in a Life Online, and it delves into the subject of how we struggle to find self-worth and purpose in digital spaces, offering up online artifacts from my own Facebook page as cases in point and talking, ultimately, about what an authentic, messy, attempt at Christian life looks like when lived out online.
I am a fast, unrepentant writer and an editor who relies on the kindness of strangers for input and direction. I must borrow phrases from dear friends to explain what this post is. My friend Jill calls struggling works in progress “drafty drafts.” If I had her red stamp to note the fledgling status of this interlude, I’d use it here. 


I love the truth of the following passage, but the idea of “killing the darlings,” those which you love but must be sacrificed for the betterment of the work as a whole, a phrase I borrowed from Amy and Vickie, both dear colleges and dearer friends, had to apply here.
So here is a bit about me, straight from the wastebasket. 

Introductions are in order. In the spirit of all things alive online, let me begin with me.
I am a thirty-two-year-old wife and mother of three children with a Ph.D. in literature and new media studies, a homeowner, pet owner, literary magazine editor, and professor. I am a Christ-follower. I am a white American who stands five six and carries the accumulated and neglected baby weight from three pregnancies, as well as the aftermath scar tissue from three, count ‘em, threecesarean sections and more stretch marks than stars in the sky. I have twin penchants for writing and coffee, especially free verse poetry and equally especially grande Americanos with cream. I live very much online, partly because of my job as a professor who teaches hybrid and distance learning courses but also, maybe even more honestly, because I like living online. It suits me painfully well.
Let me explain, as I have several confessions. We’ll start with bad habits. I have a shoe pile—just my shoes—that forms in the foyer of our house throughout the week. This isn’t to preserve carpeting or prevent germs or dirt from being tracked in, like a cultural or germaphobe practice that I’m copying. The shoes go there simply because it was all I could manage to wear them out and about, and once I’m in, I’m in.

The tame father-son shoe section. My pile (not pictured).

Actual sign my daughter posted after we broke glass in the kitchen.


Jewelry is the same. It all comes off in various phases, starting with the key hook by the front door, which will double as a necklace holder, the rack holding my husband’s guitar pedals, which houses bracelets nicely, and my wedding rings that I leave in a tiny porcelain bowl beside my sink. I simply cannot keep any of it on. I have babies to hold, dishes to wash, clothes to fold, all of which require flexibility in my fingers—and apparently my wrists and neck, too.
Pants and the ponytail are last. My husband has begun laughing at me because he has, in recent years, picked up on the pattern of my saying, more regularly than I realized, “I’m going to go change my pants first.” And what this means is that I’m switching over from whatever is not yoga pants to whatever is yoga pants.
I’ve nearly stopped announcing it because it garners such negative attention for my affinity for pants with stretch and a fortunate, blessed wide waistband, but occasionally it slips out, and I become the subject of a Someecard where a twentysomething is sitting on her bed being lazy while talking on a corded phone, supposedly to another female friend. Hello, Someecards, no one talks on a corded phone anymore. Also, we don’t all look like the seventies’ version of Suzanne Somers although athletic knee-high socks coming back into fashion would cut my shaving time in half in those hygiene-heavy summer months.
Speaking of hair, when the pants are on, the ponytail goes up. It’s really non-negotiable.
I have three of these four ‘undoing’ rituals at work and friends’ homes. The exception of the four is that I wear the same pants once I’m in the door. Every other ritual remains the same; wherever I am, it’s home.
As a mother, my car is my home, too. Much like the shoes by the door, objects accumulate in my car from week to week. Multiple sizes of diapers, swim diapers, spare sets of clothes for one who is potty training and the other who still spits up sometimes. Before I know it, straw wrappers are littering the floorboards with sippy cups and bottles, papers from work, stray books and folders, and Goldfish crackers who either swam away from my son or whom he, benevolently, threw back.


It’s not all their fault. People have necessary accoutrements. Again, not their fault. But we drive through drive-thrus more than I’d like to admit, and the “evidence,” I’ve begun calling it, routinely gets stuffed under car seats and into backseat floorboards to temporarily hide these shameful outings when an unexpected person enters the car. This is something I have not yet grown out of, this ‘trash in the car’ thing. I’ve tried the trash bag system—yes, I count it as a system because it didn’t work for me, and I need to justify that by chalking it up to a complexity in the mechanism, so system. Also, I’ve practically pushed the children to blood-brothers’ style swearing that we’ll never let it get this bad again. Nothing has worked, so I file it under confessions you need to know before we begin.

I want you to see me nice and authentic, not just a dusting of cake flour on my nose while I’m in the kitchen of a chapter, lips perfectly lined and pouty, while I whirl around on 1950s’ laminate flooring in an apron that might as well double as a tutu. Cake flour on a girl’s nose? Child’s play.


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Education and the Cost of Being Weird

             So the word on the street is that the Prices are a little weird. Perhaps folks have always thought that about us—certainly, they’ve always thought it about me, and they should; I am a little weird. But when they started saying it about my family, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel.

            I field a lot of questions from people about how I get my daughter to read as much as she does. She can inhale novels like my mother can inhale a box of hot Krispy Kreme donuts; both occur as if by magic, my Daina nearly wiping sloughed words like dry glaze from her lips when each jacketed cover closes.
            I answer the questions that come although I’m not sure I should be credited as the reason. She was born reading the same way that my elementary school friend Octavia was born to run. I would invariably get a side cramp ten yards in, so sure I must be dying; meanwhile, she ran with a gait as wide as her height, nearly flying through the air and would lap everyone again just because she enjoyed the wind on her arms. This is Daina.
Once she got over the phonics hump of letter blends in kindergarten, she began lapping all of us, finishing her “required thirty minutes of reading” for all five days of the week by bedtime on Monday—and why they do this mandatory scheduled reading still baffles me. This is not how you teach someone to love. This is not how you get them to negotiate with the librarian to let them take “just one more” home. You’ll never catch them smuggling flashlights in their pillowcases by treating books this way. I digress, as I tend to do on this subject.
I answer the questions about her reading because I know how much joy, empathy, and character she gets from books, and if there is something to teach to this regard, I want them to have it. I want them desperately to have it like she has it.
But the conversation doesn’t always go well. You see, we have a mild book-hoarding situation in our house. Her closet is filled with paper-ream boxes packed with hand-me-down books for Atticus and Evangeline who will grow up in her good-enough library. Her rooms have utility shelves that are lined and piled with paperbacks, adorned with towering stacks of treasured hardcovers and box sets. She never leaves the house without at least three books, a book light, and a set of backup batteries, which she says are “in case of an emergency.” She reads in the car, under restaurant tables, in waiting rooms, and anytime her mind and her hands aren’t occupied otherwise.

Yet even from those who shove their children into books hoping that they fall in love despite the arranged marriage, I’ve been told “That’s not normal” when it comes to my daughter’s reading habits as though she’s gone off some deep end, expressing more concern for her being lost in Emma than the others who text their brains out from the earbud-wearing people they sit across from because, and I quote, “It’s just easier.”
Yes, we are the sort of family who runs out for books like others go for milk and bread. We’re also the sort of family who volleys jokes to one another in ordinary situations as though in lit culture code. Sometimes my jokes are just for me, and that’s okay. I’ve said “War Eagle,” “Roll Tide,” “Go Noles,” and “Go Gators” to end plenty of awkward football conversations I couldn’t follow. It may be okay if I, too, talk freely about the games I care about.
Some of these fans tear their clothes off and paint their bodies. I have never done either at the public library.* And you’re welcome for that.
I show my enthusiasm in other ways, ways like Daina does, noting book releases as though they were big game days and being loyal to a favorite writer and believing they’ll pull through this slump because you saw what they did last season and you know what they’re made of.
But someone recently called Jonathan and me the “educated ones,” and I’m not sure it was meant to be a compliment at the time. I might have even heard it as “freaks,” or worse than that, “you freaks.”
I understand more than I want to the cost and distance that accompany the decision to pursue higher education and lots of it. Degrees come prepackaged with assumptions other people will make about you because they believe those degrees come with assumptions you will make about them.
I know stories and have some of my own about family who encouraged college until they realized what it cost. And this cost has nothing to do with money. What the family wanted was the paper on the wall. They didn’t want the discomfort of awareness and the burden that comes with it, the responsibility to act on what you now know, to say uncomfortable things at the dinner table. It’s when they say “educated” but mean “uppity” and substitute generic “college boy” in place of your name that you know you can’t go back. College isn’t the only place this happens, but it’s the closest comparison I have to convey the cost of being bookish, the cost of being weird.
A short while after I finished my doctorate and noticed that some people started treating me differently, and not in good ways, I had dreams where I would try to give it back. At the risk of sounding like a complete Princeton princess**, I’ll admit the moment is most aptly compared to Eddie Murphy’s scene in Coming to America when he says to the girl who does not want to marry a rich prince, “I renounce my throne!” because he wants to be with her more than he wants to be king. And it’s just not that simple. It’s nothing you should wish away, and it’s nothing you can wish away.
The trouble is that we cannot unknow a thing, and a degree is supposed to be an outward sign that you know some things. But once we hear those things and they stick, they are ours. The whole thing has to fade and wear off, fleck by fleck, like a cheap and temporary tattoo, and some just won’t wear.
So, too, is the love of books. This love becomes an imprint, an identity. It’s the mark of the weird. And books didn’t make us this way. We were weird before they got here.
And maybe that identity is the cost of it all, the necessary othering from those who don’t buy into the hype that books make you better.
And they don’t make you better than anyone, but they do make you feel better—I know they make us Prices feel better—especially when it comes to being weird.
*I would tailgate at a library if invited. Friends, make a note.

**I did not go to Princeton. I just liked the alliteration. I went to FSU. Go Noles.
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What You Do When Everything Is Fine

I have wondered more than once whether, if a bank teller drew on my hands with one of those counterfeit bill detector markers and forced them under the light for examination, I’d have tells like those of a fake twenty.

The word fraudcrosses my mind sometimes as I work stage right and stage left in the classroom talking big about reading and how the best way to become a good writer is to read lots and often.

 

It crosses my mind as students will ask, as they often do, whether I’ve read fill in the blank off the bestseller list, and I say something about not preferring contemporary lit or something about having been too busy with student essays. A good mood will get you a “That sounds great! I’ll put it on my list for between semesters,” and that may, now that I think about it, register as the emptiest promise I make, very nearly a borderline lie. I just don’t have the heart to break yours.
I cannot tell you the jaws I’ve dropped because I haven’t read any Stephanie Meyer, have gotten only halfway through the first book in The Hunger Games series, and finished exactly one Nicholas Sparks book before throwing it as hard as I could across the room. It was The Notebook, and I’m still not sorry.
I manage still, believe it or not, to classify myself as a literate person despite this. I have read books before. Yes, complete books, start to finish. I have marked them up. I have passed them along. I have bought multiple copies because I wasn’t sure (multiple times) whether I still had my own. To illustrate, note that I can locate four copies of Eat, Pray, Love by moving my head left to right without even trying hard to spot them, and Liz Gilbert, although she is grand, is not counted among my favorites. Let’s just say I felt convicted while watching Mel Gibson’s character in Conspiracy Theory as he compulsively bought copies of The Catcher in the Rye although he’d never read it.
What gets me is when people ask what I’m reading these days. I want to make something up. I do. I want to say I’ve just read Salman Rushdie’s latest and tell them an anecdote from a Sherman Alexie book. I want to go all gaga about Anne Lamott’s newest one, which I know I’ll love if I ever have a moment to myself. I want more on my tongue and my mind than article snippets about the demise of public schools and higher ed and Julianna Baggott’s brilliant Facebook status updates I peruse while rocking the smallest lovenugget in the house—or maybe her and her brother at the same time if he’s jealous or recovering from a tantrum.

People see me in Barnes and Noble wearing a baby, carrying another nearly upside down under my armpit, juggling a stack of books, and calling the first child to come along with her own tallish stack. They probably think I read. I’m sure the family friend who brings our Amazon Prime packages with super-rushed delivery because I need those unread books now believes I read, too, and read fast because she’ll be back tomorrow as well. My homeschooling friends I bump into at the public library during weekday story hours probably think I read. I’m in all the right places that one should be if one were to read someday.

Babywearer Jr.
Even online I look like a reader. Every social media photograph has a mess of books behind a baby. These pictures aren’t strategically taken; it’s just that the books are everywhere, much like the laundry, so it is rather impossible to take a baby picture without White Noise, White Teeth, or White Oleander in the background. I’ve given up trying to be private about what we’re reading (or planning on reading) nearly as much as I’ve given up trying to hide my son’s Toy Story underwear.
I want to tell them that this literature professor is reading. The truth is I’m not—not entire books, not in long sittings, not for pleasure. And what does that even mean to someone in my season of life? Reading for pleasure. As opposed to what? Reading for torture? Reading for edification? Reading, to me, means your eyes are awake enough to be open and your situation is relaxed enough where your eyes aren’t already committed to watching someone jump off a couch arm or scale a stove.
Reading means you must be holding a book, which means you haven’t lost complete feeling in the arm that’s holding the baby you cannot put down because she has a runny nose and can’t breathe while lying horizontally. Reading means there must be clean forks in the drawer and cups in the cabinet. It means the dog isn’t whining to be let out or let in. It means you’re not hungry, you’re not cold, and you don’t have to pee or work or yell at someone to do either of these things.
You cannot read for pleasure when the act itself is pleasure. To correct the redundancy, I would say it’s just reading, but I cannot leave that alone on the page. Nothing is just reading, and if it is, you’re doing it wrong.
After a full day in the kitchen trying to bake, puree, and freeze some semblance of stay-at-home motherhood while I am not Dr. Price for a few more days until the semester starts, I crawled under the covers, ignoring the piles of work on the floor, a veritable obstacle course of envelopes, grade sheets, receipts, binders, and oversized books that don’t fit onto shelves. I broke the spine of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and read fifty pages, my eyes not yet burning from the day, the kitchen cleaned and hallway cleared of Lego traps, tiny plastic horses, and things with wheels, and all the Price babies in bed. And words of comfort I’ve offered to students over the past eleven years circled back around and came to me this time.
This is what we do when everything is fine.
I’ve said that line to students going through divorces, hospitalizations, miscarriages, deaths in the family, job losses and changes—the things that wear us into different people, that make us want to mess with time, to speed it up or slow it down, and make us want to mess with space, to get more of it or less of it—to be at any other pace or place than that which we are.
This is what we do when everything is fine.
I say this to illuminate the comparative lightness of academics when looked at alongside the stuff of life. They hear me preaching, preaching, preaching about syntax and style. They hear plagiarism warnings that conjure eschatological imagery. It matters, but it doesn’t matter. “There is no such thing as an English emergency,” I tell them.
This is what we do when everything is fine.
I spent the better part of thirty years reading what others gave to me, bought for me, or assigned to me. I recall a small window in my late teens where I camped out on bookstore floors and stayed out late in coffee shops reading everything in sight. I recall switching books with my best friend Kim, having marked up key passages we loved with circles and stars everywhere, playing poems on repeat in the car from Fort Walton Beach to Pensacola to memorize tracks on audiobooks. I remember moments of resurgence between semesters in grad school #1 and grad school #2 after my daughter had entered school where reading happened.
Good reading like that doesn’t happen often anymore. I used to have a series of lengthy, monogamous and semi-monogamous relationships with authors. Whitman was mine all of from 1996-1998. I rebounded with Bukowski all of 1999, then Anne Sexton moved in and brought all her friends. They camped out until…hmm. Okay, so maybe they’re still here, hiding in the walls and under the floorboards.
Now my desk, bedside table, and the backseat of my car are overflowing with student work and lit anthologies. I pick up the same toys twelve times a day, probably more, and put them with the Where’s Waldo? and I Spy books we use as a hard surface for coloring and Play-Doh molds. I reach blindly into backseats to toss my son a book from the floorboard because he sees my older daughter reading. Half the time, I don’t know what I’ve thrown him. It’s entirely possible that he’s held David Sedaris, The Vagina Monologues, or a Chuck Palahniuk. I’m not even supposed to text and drive; how on earth can I be responsible for monitoring a miniature book club in the backseat during the ballet carpool?
And a breath here.
As I ended the day with a book in my hands and quiet in the space between me and midnight, the most beautiful thought occurred to hint that I might be emerging from the dark tunnel to at least a sliver of light on the other side.
How am I doing this? How is it possible that I am in a room alone, holding my own book in my hands, with no one sitting on either of my legs? I am reading this sentence, and I can hear myself in my own head. 
 
There is only one way I could be doing this. I know exactly what this means.

Everything is fine.
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Open Mouths and Open Mics

All that business about April being the cruelest month is true. (Eliot was right. Go figure.) I will add, however, that October and November can be incredibly hard on writers, too. Fall brings promises I cannot keep: a poem a day in October and a whole novel in November (visit NaNoWriMo.org for information about other crazies like me). If my day-to-day world didn’t look like it does, I might manage meeting an occasional high bar. Under the year’s circumstances, however, it looks like any influx of writing or reading is cause to celebrate.

I’m reminded this month of my brother and how I must have been an absolutely horrible big sister. I don’t recall ever losing a board game to him. It wasn’t because I was better at the games than he was. It was simply because I could read, and that made him believe I was telling the truth when I’d consult the instructions and “read” a new part we’d overlooked the first time, always an addendum to shift the game in my favor. Again, I was a horrible big sister. 
Elements of this sisterdom, no doubt, influence each semester’s syllabus redux, as I find it impossible to believe every grade issued is fair (whether high enough or low enough) and end up trying to rethink my methods so that students get exactly the grades they deserve, nothing more, nothing less. 
More elements of this sisterdom have also translated into my being exceedingly kind with my own deadlines and writing goals. Although NaNoWriMo has been a complete bust for me this year (only 4k so far), I have, in the process of procrastinating on this novel, ended up writing the starts of proposals for several CFPs, a few thank you cards to check off the never-ending list of people who feed and water me daily, a grocery list (which is hugely unlike me), and several buried emails and comments on late papers. Most days I’m lucky if I can get to a Facebook post–and even then, they’re usually the post equivalents of found poems, just words I hear in my house with my quarter-dozen children and Wayne Szalinski husband. Yes, that’s a hula hoop behind him. 
So, I keep moving the mark. Mothers, certainly, and writerly mothers, especially, must move that mark sometimes to keep from giving up entirely. Far more important than perfection is persistence. 
My twelve year old and I have recently parted reading ways. She has fallen in love with Dr. Who, Jericho, Heroes, and Supernatural; her shelves are filled with John Green, Veronica Roth, Rick Riordan, Christopher Paolini, and Suzanne Collins. I can’t keep up and, in some ways, don’t want to. She has reading worlds that are worlds apart from my own, worlds of apocalypses and made-up creatures, worlds of unlikely flirtations I don’t need anymore. 
I still crave the conversation, though. I still look for silent spaces so that I can peek into her world for a little while. Even if my own familiar narratives are not the same as her own, the love of a story translates, and I recognize the glow that happens upon her face when she emerges from the first chapter of a new book and has fallen in love, again. 
Until we meet back up on other aisles, I stay busy fueling her addiction by bringing home extra books, ordering surprise Amazon deliveries on Fridays, and taking the long way home from ballet to make impromptu stops at the bookstore when the babies are at home. When I see articles online, like one a friend posted about the Native American response to the celebration of Thanksgiving, I toss Daina an iPad and ask her opinion. Every day she is alive, she opens her eyes wider than she did the day before. But I want her to open her mouth, too–not only to relate, but to connect, to communicate, to do something with what she sees and what she knows. 
Tonight we went to an open mic night. I served as a judge, and she came to watch. Several of the pieces performed were poems, and so that gave us a chance to talk literature after the event. I asked her about the performance where the poet used two voices, yelling at himself to create tension through the dialogue. She said, “It was good but kind of scary. I told him I liked his hat last time I met him.” She moved right into telling me about an interaction with another writer in the crowd: “She asked me for a tampon one time, which means she must have been desperate. And it made me think she wasn’t afraid of anything.” 
I would have said something, but she kept talking: “That poem about the brother who died? That was a good poem, but I wouldn’t like it as much if it weren’t true. Do you think it was true? I’ll have to ask her sometime.” And then she said she wished another poet had been there, the one who writes about packing up things in her mother’s house. “She’s one of my favorites, and her daughter’s really nice,” she said. 
When I asked who her favorite tonight was, and her answer was “the flute player” who filled the gap when we were tallying up scores during intermission, I laughed and immediately realized that she gets it in ways I don’t. Far too often I worry about what she’s getting or not getting from the world. Is she reading the right things? Is she being challenged? Is she gleaning goodness from the people who surround us? When I told her the flute player wasn’t in the competition, she told me it didn’t matter: “I’ve never seen anyone play a flute that close to me before. It was great.” 
And so art finds her–music, beauty, books, the whole shebang. The conversations about hats and tampons and daughters are all creating the poem that she’s becoming. 
Life is happening whether I’m there during intermission or not. 
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Three Three-sentence Conversations (October 4-6)

My daughter wanted to see three fall subjects this time around: wolves, costumes, and leaves. She actually listed a fourth—pie—but I told her we’d already covered pie. She loves a good pie poem. And, yes, I’ve written others before.


one: WOLVES and the Dinner Date Cut Short
“I don’t believe in wolves,” he said.
Werewolves, you mean?” she said.
“What’s the difference?” he said.


two: COSTUMES and Sounds of Words
“You have to say it PE-can!” June said. Hand held out to the side her brother wasn’t on, fist clenched, she was done bargaining. “Say it right or starve, Andy. I ain’t messin’ around.”


three: LEAVES and Pages that Fall
            “What is it about fall that makes you get all nerdy about this reading stuff?”
“Something about the connection between leaves and pages, I think. They both turn, you know.”




She says tomorrow’s topic is skeletons. Until then…

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“Pumpkins and Patches” (October 3)

When Daina texted me my autumnal poem topic for the day, I was reminded about how twelve year olds live unimpressed. 


I hope you enjoy this poem. It caught me by surprise on my first reading. It could be a little moving if you’re feeling it. And here I was, thinking you might get a light, rhyming pumpkin poem out of me. It turns out pumpkins are deep. Who knew? 


Pumpkins and Patches 

Each October
middle schools hang in hallways
the false symmetry and even complexions
of orange orbs presented as pumpkins.

Topped with a stump of a stem,
a natural lattice for its pigtail vine,
a 45-degree angled leaf leans toward heaven,
its teleological nod.

Not one knows every pumpkin
has its ugly side

where it sat without sun
so that the rest of it
could grow.

Pumpkins aren’t so far from people.

Some of us sit among the pigs.

We wear patched pants,
our ugly sides to the earth.


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“The Caterpillar and the Horse” (October 2)

My darling Daina has assigned me the subject of pie for today’s autumnal post. Not having much to say about pie, I asked whether she was sure. Her response was, “It’s done, Mom. It’s pie.” So, here is a pie poem.

10.2 The Caterpillar and the Horse

“Are you content now?” said the Caterpillar.
“Well, I should like to be a little larger, sir if you wouldn’t mind,” said Alice: “three inches is such a wretched height to be.”
                                                      –Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

When a woman erects a zebra tent
on the first real day of “Florida fall,”
when the weather plays nicer
than her children often do—
when she showers then sweats,
feels her work heels drive
through soggy grass clippings
into a crack in the concrete
where only weeds live,

she expects

someone

to play

in it.

With one daughter too tall,
the other too small,
she looks for Alice desserts,
a Caterpillar mushroom in the shape of a pie
on dirty countertops and stained tablecloths,
near dusty bookshelves by fingerprint windows

to the sound of the perfect-sized son
screaming

because he cannot ride
the horse.

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“Why I Say Autumn” (October 1)

Each day in October, I will be writing a poem on the subjects related to all-things-autumn. Daina has already given me the list of leaves, Halloween decorations, House of Hades (a fantastic Percy Jackson book that’s coming out in seven days–but who’s counting? My daughter, that’s who!), costumes, and trick-or-treating with friends and family. Daina is a self-replenishing bucket of ideas, so I will consult her each day for my writing “assignment.” 

Speaking of assignments, who doesn’t love a good fall writing prompt–especially those of my writerly friends who are practically freebasing pumpkin spice since it dipped below eighty degrees here in Florida? 


Write with me! Post with me! Let’s get our fall on!


Why I Say Autumn

When I say fall,the word semester followswith white rosters lined with spaces for lettersof names I do not know.

Fall comes to close the summer,marking my days donewith its bright red pen,punctuating my pages with percentage signs,which indicate how likely I amto understand what I did wrongand how likely I am to care.

Where autumn puts pumpkins,
fall fills halls with students
who fill the halls in return with unripe words 
like syllabus and registrar
that stick like tahini to their teeth.



Some cannot remember my name,
despite hard efforts.
Others make none.


Too many fall days smell of cold coffee
forgotten in microwaves.
They sound like book sales reps
and emails from IT experts with big words
I don’t want to learn to say.


Fall is a fluorescent flicker,
a ticket under a wiper for a sundried staff sticker.
Every day in October ends up
its own annual cliché.


Autumn gives me a pass on all of fall.
It is rice-paper leaves dried by air
that hits my ears like an Avett Brothers’ song.


I don’t even want to talk about it.


It’s better than any of my poems
will ever be.

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