Writer, editor, teacher, other.

Before I became an editor of Peripheral Surveys, they accepted one of my essays. It’s live now (click the link above). It’s about dragons & grief & the way we understand other creatures and ourselves. 

It’s Thanksgiving week, and we’ve been in my Alabama hometown since the weekend. I wasn’t sure how this one would go—first birthday & Thanksgiving since my brother’s death—but I knew I wanted to be here for them. It hasn’t been without tears—-(I boo-hooed my way through the bama game last week, not realizing when I went that my first trip back to Bryant Denny without my brother would bring up a whole slew of emotions.) But mostly, it’s been lovely. I’ve eaten ridiculously, and been with people I love. I’ve hung out with my niece and my friends. I’ve slept really well. Bama is, miraculously, back in the BCS hunt, and somewhat impulsively a few nights ago, while I was on the phone with my BFF, I booked a hotel room in New Orleans for the championship. I don’t know if I’ll go. But it’s fun to think about being there with my husband & sister & brother-in-law. 

Today, I’ve been making the components of buttered popcorn ice cream sundaes, which we’ll eat soon to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Last night we ate gingerbread and caramel sauce. And before that, we ate carrot cake (my most favorite cake of all time). I think that’s what I’ve needed—-maybe what we’ve all needed this year: to be together, to feed each other delicious things, just to be grateful we’re all here, all together. This has, unequivocally, been the worst year of my life. But it’s also held some of the best moments of my life, and I’m grateful for that, for the people who’ve walked this road with me. The world can be brutal sometimes, but it’s pretty delicious, too.

So love big, y’all. Hold each other close. Share something sweet. 

(xo)

I have two short nonfiction pieces up in Sweet 4.1. (Click the link above to read them.) They are about my brother, who I’ve been missing a lot this week. I think it has to do with the changing seasons and the start of football—something we’d always enjoy together. 

Last night my husband and I watched wrestling. One character, Sin Cara, has been somewhat sensational this year. He’s from the Mexican luchadores tradition, and he’s quite flashy. The name means, apparently, “Without face,” and, as is common with luchadores, Sin Cara wrestles in a mask. 

What’s interesting, and what I suspect only the most attentive wrestling fans realize, is that the Sin Cara we’re watching now isn’t actually the same person as the Sin Cara we watched initially. The first guy violated wrestling’s “wellness policy” and got suspended. But, for whatever reason—the figure’s popularity with fans, I imagine—organizers kept the character going, just putting a new person behind the mask. So last night we watched Sin Cara who was not the original Sin Cara and yet who is, by all other definitions, Sin Cara. 

Maybe that’s how my fall has started off—the trappings are the same: teaching, football, weather cues. But below the surface, I know that someone who should have been here is missing. 

*****

Yesterday my students started reading Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, Warren St. John’s exploration of fanaticism. I showed them a clip of the Rammer Jammer—the cheer Bama fans do after a victory, and the source of the book’s title. I chose the best example of it I know, from the ‘09 Bama-Tennessee game, when Terrence Cody blocked two field goals in the final seconds to save the Bama victory.

I told my students I’d been at the game, but I didn’t tell them that it was the last game I attended with my brother. I didn’t say that despite how desperate things were as he crept towards what we didn’t yet know would be the final year of his life, in the final moments of that game, we felt—or I did, at least—that somehow things would be okay, that the miraculous was possible. 

*****

In the support group we’ve attended periodically after Austin’s death, people talk a lot about wishing they could hear their loved one’s voice again, just once. So I don’t say this there, but I have Austin’s voice. I have a video I took at that football game, of the Rammer Jammer, and in it, Austin and I are talking before the cheer starts. He asks, Who was it? meaning, which player blocked the field goal? And I tell him, It was Cody! Cody got it! and I believe we can make it this way, with me seeing for him, leading his way.

We couldn’t, of course, and the other clips I have of his voice reveal that. When he died, I had a few voicemails from him that I hadn’t erased, and I quickly (or, full disclosure, my brother-in-law quickly) transferred them to mp3 files so I’d have them. I listen to them sometime, and mostly they make me happy. But they aren’t all lovely, and signs of his deterioration are there. In one, he forgets my name and thinks for a bit that he’s talking to our grandmother. 

And maybe that’s one reason I listen to those messages every so often. They connect me to the brother I loved, certainly. But they don’t sugar coat things, and they remind me of the way things really were. He was desperate and broken. But I loved him still. 

And still, still.

(xo)

(Disclaimer: I wrote this a few days ago, but it’s just now getting posted.)

I have a piece from the prose poem sequence up today at Housefire. (Click on the link above to read it.) In the sequence (and, I think, on the page), it’s part of the bigger narrative. And I know that and intended that when I wrote it. But the beauty of fictionalized work (regardless of genre) is that it can be about many things. So on the page, it’s about a character, the “you.” But as I wrote it, I also knew that it was an elegy for someone other than that character.

So this piece is weighty for me. I’m happy to see it up at Housefire. And that bio! Jesus! The bios are one of my favorite parts of the Housefire experience—they’re written for you, generally by people you’ve never met. So they aren’t about the author in any way. And yet….reading them, they seem somehow to fit a little more than you might expect. This intrigues me. Are we just reading what we know into things? I’m not sure. I don’t think so, though…and I know other Housefire authors who’ve pointed out the fitting nature of their own bios. So there might be something to this.

***

So my morning started in memory and elegy. But then I went and taught, and so far, this batch of students is making me happy. They’re engaged and energetic, and I’m excited about what’s ahead this semester. It seems full of possibility. And that’s how we work, right? One foot in what’s passed, another in what’s promised. I think that’s a good thing.

***

Yesterday I spent most of my afternoon at the zoo, where I saw the snakes get fed. I’d never seen this happen before. So I watched the various approaches—the venomous snakes inject their prey, then sit back and wait for venom to take effect. The constrictors do just what their names imply: they constrict, suffocating their prey by wrapping tightly around it. And the thing that’s fascinating to me is that even though the zoo I was at feeds prey that’s already dead, the snakes do the same thing they would do in the wild, where they’d capture live prey. So they don’t just start eating, though they could. Instead, they follow the process they’d always follow: they bite the dead rat, or they wind themselves around it. They understand that there’s a way to do things, and they do them in that manner. It was kind of beautiful.

***

I’ve spent a lot of this year thinking about & looking for forms. Decemeber felt, more than anything, formless. Finishing the prose poem sequence (which, I should add, I sent off as a chapbook submission this week!) helped me regain sense of the shape of things again. And so, like those snakes, in this formless & tumultuous year, I’ve fallen back on the thing I know best. I keep writing.

Thanks for reading.

(xo)