Thursday, March 26, 2009

I am fragile. But fragile like my grandmother’s hands with their veins crossing like purple highways. My mother sat at her bedside holding those hands, she’d trace the veins and watch the blood fill them back up. There was a delay, like the blood was a sluggish river. My grandmother, she was too proud to come back after the stroke, refusing to speak rather than learn again. But I am fragile like her hands with their parchment skin, easily torn and see-through.

I’m standing in the Walmart where I am because I need some big sponges. I broke down in tears during my therapy appointment before coming here and my eyes are still red. I pluck myself up wondering how many of the people here have stood atop Glastonbury Tor and felt the wind try to carry them away…or been chased by gypsies outside the cathedral at Chatres…or made love in a seedy hotel in Versaille…or been torn a new one by a real British dame? It’s not like I don’t know the answer. These were my dangerous choices. The choices I made instead of staying home and living a quiet life. So now I am alone and worried I have nothing new, exciting or different to look forward to. And no one to share it with—whatever ‘it’ turns out to be. I get my sponges and carrot juice and check out, feeling spectacularly alone.

This all hit because the realtor comes by tomorrow to look at the farm. It’s too much for me to take care of by myself. And I can’t get the sort of medical care I need by myself because the doctors take advantage. And I can’t afford to take care of both the place and myself. So I must leave. The “by myself” phrase keeps coming up and I think, now, that I made terrible choices since being me means I am now this fragile, alone thing. The people around me don’t look different from me. I fit in here, externally. But I know what fills me is very different than what fills them.

So I am fragile and papery and vulnerable. Just like my grandmother’s hands.

And I got a very nice personal rejection, which didn’t help matters terribly.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My invisible sheep.

I've been a bit sheepish about writing about Bonnie, the new Jacob Sheep, because after these pictures were taken she disappeared--I presumed into the gullet of some wily coyote. I always feel a deep sense of shame when my livestock fails to thrive. Or just keels over dead which is more common. Actually, I was able to clean her up after this and shear most of the bad wool from her. I had to cut a lamb collar out of her neck that had grown into her throat. And then, that night, her butt got chewed up. I blamed Max but ended up having to shoot the neighbor's pit bulls off the ridge. (Didn't hit them though I totally wouldn't be sorry if I had.) Whosoever chewed up the sheep butt--it was pretty badly chewed, but I was able to doctor her up. But after so much trauma, it's not surprising Bonnie Sheep decided to become invisible.

I'd despaired of her returning, but she showed up again yesterday and today. I was hopeful she could incorporate herself into the small herd here, but it seems Jacob Sheep have little to no herding instinct. Which is too bad, since my two Shetland boys are badass eunuch warriors worthy of guarding any sheep seraglio. They would protect her if she'd let them and if they weren't just "not that into her." Actually, Mutton tried to beat the crap out of her. I really feel sorry for the poor baby. My place is much more Wild Kingdom than Mr. Greenjeans. And Bonnie is very much a pet.

Anyway, cross your fingers she is able to blend into the herd. It's the best thing for her. Mutton is the thinking sheep and she wouldn't have to do any thinking at all. Sheep are happiest when they don't have to think. Poor Mutton is mad as a hatter from all the thoughts he's had to endure.

Good thing she came with a name. Or I would have prolly named her "Shank". To go with Mutton and Chops.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Popcorn Sutton was found dead in his home today from apparent suicide. He was 61. There will be an autopsy tomorrow at UT to confirm the cause of death. He was scheduled to turn himself in this Friday to begin his 18 month sentence in federal prison for felony possession of a firearm and illegal distilling of liquor.

There have been some accidental deaths in Cocke County recently due to one of the newer prescription pain killers--one that evidently isn't as forgiving as oxycontin to being crushed, snorted or taken with liquor. If they do find drugs in his system--and Lord knows Popcorn had legitimate reasons to take them--there's no telling unless Popcorn left a note. They say he was very afraid of dying in prison. So he may indeed have decided to check out early.

Thus passes a true Cocke County original.

J. J. Stambaugh's Coverage on KnoxNews

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hold onto your hats, knickers, pants or anything you deem worth holding onto, my Sloe-eyed darlin's. I'm working the blogroll tonight--finally.

Blogrolling, while it shows up, has never gone back online and I'm declaring it officially dead. I can't add new or get into my files to edit existing entries.

So here's the deal. If you haven't posted to your blog in six weeks, I'm dumping you. Not to fear, though--if you need the link, just email me and I'll get you back up. I can't promise I won't lose people I didn't intend to lose--but same dealy-bob. Email and I shall put you back up.

I may be reorganizing a bit now that I have all my new lit-rary buddies.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I hung around in town last night to watch Watchmen, which was playing at the local cinema because they probably thought it was a regular type of superhero movie and not a 3 hour steampunked dark vision dripping with irony and all sorts of other smart stuff no one will probably get because they will be too busy being scandalized by Dr. Manhattan's junk.

I had a few hours to kill between my therapy appointment and the movie, so I went to Walmart to get a book and some carrot juice. Then parked behind the theater to read and listen to All Things Considered while I waited for the 7 o'clock showing.

It's funny, because I had been talking with my therapist about how no one looks like what I thought we'd all look like as we aged. I had written a story after looking at pictures of Robert Smith and Morrissey, both of whom are cemented firmly in my brain forever 25 or so--and it was shocking to see current photos of Smith not pulling off the eyeliner and hair (and bless his heart still trying to at 49) and Morrissey looking like a stodgy publican despite his lifelong veganinity. I mean, I always figured I was headed to Hell in a handbasket due to the lupus, poor healthcare, hard living and poor diet. But those beautiful boys and girls from the pages of Spin Magazine wrapped in their moodiness, I sort of would like them enshrined--wrapped in acid free tissue in their original box. None of us have aged like we thought we would, though I'm quite certain we feel the same in our heads.

There's no line in the theater since it's a week night and the show the movie only once during weekdays. The teen-something at the counter's eyes pop when I ask for one ticket to Watchmen. "Ouuu..." she says, "you know it's rated 'R'? It's got lots of blood, gore, nudity and sex."

"Hit me."

Actually what I said--and it sort of came out of my mouth like the ghost of my Aunt Emmy-Jo--was, "That's fine, dear. I'm not from around here."

I loved the film, which is full of balletic violence and Jackson Pollock blood splatter--and, thank you very much--finally--full frontal male nudity, albeit of the CGI variety for much of the film. The sex was okay--Torchwood has hotter sex scenes and that's for late night Brit TV. It's a very grownup film with stunning art direction. I'm talking Blade Runner gorgeous. The source material is masterful and they don't screw that up. If you are a history buff, there's delightful plays in that direction and wonderful period pop culture references. Costume design was uneven, but where it popped it popped big. Like Ozymandias' purple 80's business suit and the 1940's stuff. Wow. Hard to go wrong, but not appropriate for anyone under 17. Really.

But it was disquieting to see the 80's steampunked on film. I mean, I was twenty-something when Watchmen came out--then, it was an alternate reality. This felt like the first time I heard The Talking Heads rendered into Muzak.

I may go back and watch the movie again--it's that beautiful. Not for everyone, but I love artful blood splatter and realistic violence rendered lovingly. And there's really more subtext than can be absorbed in one viewing. And maybe I just want to get another gander at Dr. Manhattan's package.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


minutes after eating the apple, moments before kissing the snake
davka's gorgeous cover art

This new magazine based out of Pittsburgh, Weave, announced the list of contributors for the upcoming issue on the 5th of this month. I knew my piece was going to be included in this April's issue, but they also emailed me and asked if they could use my story on the website. Of course, I'm thrilled and delighted to have it both online and in print.

It's funny--Pittsburgh is somewhere I always thought I should be. But have only spent extended periods of time in their excellent airport.

In addition to Davka's cover art, they also showcased poet, Karen J. Weyant's "The Girl Who Could Catch Echoes." My piece is "The Cancer Woman's Beautiful Daughters." But you've got to actually buy the issue, if only to read Damien Dressick's "What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Your Cousin Who's in Prison." Best story title evah!

What is Weave?

Weave is a literary print publication and organization based out of Pittsburgh, PA. We seek to create a space for a cross-section of writers and artists of all walks of life to meet on the page, on the stage, and in workshop. We celebrate diversity in both the creator and their works and strive to showcase both novice and established writers and artists. Weave will host a series of workshops that focus on the writing and submissions processes as well as on bringing poetry to the stage as a viable performance art. Weave will also collaborate with writers from our publication, Weave Magazine, to present readings that will showcase Pittsburgh's young literary talent.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I have a story up on Southern Fried Weirdness for you. Unfortunately, it's the last issue of this zine that fills a niche unlike any other. Southern speculative fiction. Here's wishing T. J. McIntyre, the editor, the best of luck in his future endeavors and I'm hopeful he'll bring the zine back in some form or another, perhaps an anthology.

"Chestnut and Mountain Magnolia" is a "smashed" (multiple source elements smashed together) Appalachian fairy tale. Southern fiction, particularly the Appalachian inspired pieces, lends itself rather well to speculative and magically realistic stories. One of the source prompts for the story was the song, "The Wind and Rain," a haunting and very old murder ballad. You may know it from the Grateful Dead cover of it. Add animism, stir and voila. I hope you enjoy it.

After the blazing leaves fell to the forest floor and toads burrowed deep in cold mud and birds fell mute, he entered the mountain woods to set his traps and snares. In the lean-to shack, pushed against the side of a cliff where Creek tripped beneath Mountain, Joban the Trapper slept.

Perhaps silly Creek, with her gossiping babble told them. Everyone knew she couldn't keep a secret and carried tales both sour and sweet to ears that could hear (Water carrying Sound on her hip as she does). She also carried other things when she fought with Sky and sometimes Rain, howling and screaming, growing grim and foaming in rage--not herself. Perhaps they saw Joban as his boots broke the rime, seeking blood spreading in snow where his traps found their mark. Perhaps Winter Sun cleaved Sky, glanced off Joban's eyes showing the line of his jaw and the set of his brow. (Read the entire story...)

Happy Sunday!

Friday, March 06, 2009

I have a funny story that just went live on Feathertale called "Mrs. Snodderly's Letter to the Editor."

I think I actually wrote about the experience on the blog that prompted the Snodderly story. I was researching markets and there's this one experimental market I was looking into. The editor has a reputation of being either a genius or a complete and utter tool--depending on who you talk to. I swear to God, I couldn't find a single randomly brought up story on the site that didn't feature penises in some significant way. I spent so much time deciding to NOT submit anything to them that I deserved to get something out of it. Not that I don't do perfectly good experimental work that often gets published--I'm just more likely to feature bugs or something. And paragraph breaks.

Feathertale features literary humor. It's smart stuff and not at all boring like The New Yorker. I probably shouldn't badmouth The New Yorker. Don't tell them I said they were boring. But really--I think there are about 10% of people who actually find TNY's humor amusing and the rest of us try to look intelligent and do our art gallery laugh. Ha, ha, ha! Feathertale is much better.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I drove off the mountain into town today to do a few errands. It's funny, I seem to feel the isolation more when the snow and ice keep me from traveling. I can go for quite long periods without seeing anyone or feeling any need to do more than drive to the mailbox, but I do get stir-crazy if, for some reason, I can't actually leave.

Now, in case you think I'm a huge wuss about the driving in snow/ice (and I absolutely will agree that I am), it's not so much the ice and snow as it's the vertical slog up Thrust Road that has me so trapped. The bridges have been out and they routed us over a treacherous one lane gravel road. And we have to keep calling the highway department to have fresh gravel put down. Yes, the same highway department swimming in Maker's Mark, and boy, are they cranky during work hours (I myself, have been cranky following an evening that involved bourbon and sympathize). Anyway, Thrust Road is underlaid with mud, so the gravel just sinks into it. My jeep hasn't been out of 4WD this winter.

But I digress. You may not know this about me but I have a mouth like a sailor. Not sure how I got it--I remember having it from about age 12. Not sure where I picked it up since profanity wasn't spoken around my home. Perhaps it's just my love of all things word, but I like salty language. I like that it's language uttered with emotion. You spit it out sometimes as a challenge, as a curse. It's a vocalization of pain and frustration and passion. It's rarely whispered. There's nothing subtle about it. I have cleaned my act up since coming here. Such language is frowned upon in Cocke County.

So, I'm in Walmart getting some groceries. The problem with Walmart is that for some unknown reason, every single piece of shelving, every shopping cart, every surface in the store produces a severe static shock. I feel my pants clinging to my knees in fear the moment I walk in. I try to keep the F-bombs to a minimum and my voice down, but it's really hard when you are getting the shit shocked out of you every four feet. Also, I start doing this thing where I stab my finger back and forth before touching anything. It's not like it actually helps--I still get jolted--but I feel compelled to engage in this spastic behavior for some reason.

Everyone stares at me like I'm a candidate for demonic possession. And I can't blame them as I jerk, spit, roll and jump through the aisles. Really, they are fortunate I didn't just shuck all my clothes off and go running, screaming through the store. Some crap like this always happens to me in Walmart. Last time, I had one of my legendary nosebleeds in the magazine racks and had to run to automotive for paper towels.

Maybe it's not me. Maybe the store is possessed. I just wish the little children would stop averting their eyes.

I have to see a woman about a sheep tomorrow.

Monday, March 02, 2009



This was the view from my bedroom when I woke up at the crack of noon today. I went to bed early--around 2 a.m. so got up earlier than usual. The snow that fell most of yesterday that then turned to freezing rain and froze overnight made everything sparkle. I doubt I'll even make it to the mailbox to check mail today.

There's a slick little stretch of winding road not far from the house that keeps everyone locked up here when it ices. Not sure why--it may have a wet spring that drains onto it, but when the weather is like this it's a solid sheet of ice. It's our own little luge for 4WD vehicles--'cause even that won't do you no good there. So we are trapped here.

But I love the cleanness of everything when it's frozen. So stark. The switch grass in the pasture, feathering ghosts of this past summer, bend heads to the ground, curving tortuously. The wind has whipped them into that position and the ice has bound them. They wait for me--or someone--to come and free them with blades or fire.

But I didn't want to wake up this morning. I feel better after a shower. The dogs are inside. The sun is shining, melting what it can. 36 degrees.