The Mythology of Stars



“Let’s just lie here for awhile and look at the stars,” he said.

But that was back when you were still just a girl who believed in the stories of gods and men.

Like how the man in the moon was once just a boy, banished from Earth for cursing the darkness.

How the great hunter Orion was blinded by lust, first for a girl and then by her father.

And poor Cassiopeia, punished for being too pretty. Tied to a chair and left in the sky, spending most of her days hanging upside down.

He was lying then and so were you, on your backs it seemed so real. As if the stories were his to tell and you were the first to hear them.

As if those were really diamonds in the sky and not just boulders burning from far, far away.

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BraveandReckless blog

Go over and check out BraveandReckless writing competition results. I enjoyed participating and reading all the different takes on the writing prompt.

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He carries out the nightly ritual
ordained by his mother
by embracing whoever’s there.
He moves among us through the incense of nicotine like a little priest in a pair of hopeful spiderman pajamas.
He tiptoes over the empty beer bottles and bowls of cigarette butts to lay his damp head on our thighs and wrap his squat arms around our legs.

He blesses us all goodnight
in a voice too deep for a boy of only seven. When it’s my turn, I always sit up straight and sober, hide my beer behind my back—ashamed.

The day before, I found him out back on the rickety deck hurling beer bottles left on the ledge deep into the bamboo below. I never knew my real dad, he tells me.

Neither did I, I hear myself say.
He stops throwing brown bottle stones
and cocks his head at me like a dog
as if my confession was a sound that
went beyond the range of normal
7-year-old boy understanding.

I flounder for words,
some sort of comforting cliche
to spread out between us like a bridge.
It takes all kinds of families
to make up the world.
Something neither of us believe.

Yeah I know, he says, going back to his bottles. He doesn’t mean it. He’s just agreeing with the adult because that’s what is expected of him.
That’s what is always expected of him.

Later that night,
his mother tells us he’s been accepted into the gifted program at school.
She is proud, sloshing her words
around like liquor in a glass, as if her Alabama genes had anything to do with it.

As if on cue he enters in the dark flowing robes of Darth Vader.
He holds up his saber like a staff above us. His newest father laughs and grabs it from him, hitting too hard in his red wine state. But the boy hits back and knocks off his glasses.

We hoot and holler. He runs to his mother. She looks at her red faced man feeling on the floor for his glasses.
Then she looks down at the boy, his arms around her leg–sends him to bed without saying his prayers.

He hugs me as he walks by and says goodnight. I hold on too long, clutching at the corner of his robe. He pulls away and cocks his head at me. I flounder for some comforting cliche.
It will get better. You’ll see. These things take time. Something neither of us believe.

Yeah, I know. He says in a voice too deep for a boy of only seven.
But he doesn’t know and neither do I. But that is a confession we keep to ourselves. Because it’s what’s expected. It’s what’s always expected.

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The Taste of Paper





After seven years of silence
—a soft mumble of an email.
I miss you.
More of a murmur in sleep
than a conscious sentiment.

But we were never friends.
More like refugees huddled together
trying to survive the same war.
Waiting in blown-out rooms for our men
to return from the torn streets
as we search through the rubble for some sort of sustenance.
Our backs bent, heavy with hope.

We did what we had to do to get by.
Swallowed paper to dull the intimacy of hunger.
Leaned into each other’s back to combine our body heat
in order to survive.

Perhaps that’s why you write now,
fat and happy in your rented life.
Because you still wake up cold, sweating out the memory;
you’re back, open and alone in a room
—still craving the taste of paper.


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Moon Ate the Dark Challenge: Heidi Stauff/Celestial Beings

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In Exordium

*****This was a commission piece I wrote for the composer, Eric Whitacre, about the birth of his son. 


In Exordium

I picture you as a deep sea diver,
an ocean astronaut
floating, still formless,
in the darkness of the deep.

anchored by a thread
through which I am divided into simple single cells,
dissolved into blood and fluid
cycled then recycled in a quiet conversation
of breath and pulse, of water and air.

You skim under my fingers,
a movement across the surface of water.
Fill me full to cracking until something shifts.
Tectonic plates.
The soft stirring of silt and sediment.
The subtle warning of quickly receding water.

You slow-dive your
way to the surface.
Pain comes in currents.
I survive in the air pockets,
in the stillness,
in the spaces in between.

My body mutinies,
expands and contracts
to the rhythm of its own ancient muscle memory,
clenching and releasing like a fist,
clamping down around me like a mouth.

Until I am dragged under
into the rushing silence, where there is nothing
but the weight of water
and the absence of air.

I panic in the undertow.
Push against the pull
until I am worn down
like a smooth stone. and I can’t tell where the surface is
or where the water ends and I begin.
So I just let go and breathe in.

My body clings to you like
like a quickly sinking ship.
You hover for a moment.
A spirit over the water.
I push you up until
you emerge wet and glistening,
a deep sea creature rising from the deep.
You are as whole and complete as a full day.
As separate from me as morning from evening.
I give you your name as you gasp—cord cut.
You rest on my stomach, a new shoreline cresting out of the waves.

I watch you fill yourself with air and pulse and life.
My body—formless and empty as the earth before God divided it into land, sky and sea and called it good.


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37 degrees

37 degrees is the temperature a normal body holds.

She woke up cold beside him and already knew.
He stared up blinkless–dust already forming on his pupils.

She filled him again and again,
punching in time to the tinny disconnect of the speakerphone counting with her: one and two and three and four and five.   She pauses, ear to mouth on the five–listening, watching–waiting for the slow rise that never comes.

He stayed wired and tubed three days,
her head on his chest–listening for the synapse of flesh inside machine. 

Now, she sleeps with cadavers 
and stares blinkless, head on chest,
counting, listening inside the intervals--for the slow rise that never comes.

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