Today, at the Austin Poetry Society’s Online Annual Awards Celebration, my poem “Growing Faces” won first place in The Unexpected Award. I’m excited that this weird, somewhat creepy little poem will appear in the 2019-2020 volume of Best Austin Poetry and can’t wait to see it come out in print later this year.
In the meantime, I want to share my poem that was published in Best Austin Poetry 2017-2018. This poem won the APS November 2017 Monthly Contest in the “light verse” category. It’s about my very fat childhood cat, Muffin, pictured below.
Conquest or Coincidence?
A scratch at the door, a pitiful squeak,
the clumsy stumbling of four furry feet,
some panting, some pawing, and one muffled “mew,”
we all gather around and—can it be true?
The twenty-pound feline bounds through the door
and places his conquest onto the floor.
Proudly he sits in the awe-silenced house,
for Muffin, Great Muffin, has brought in a mouse!
We all praise his bravery, his courage, his gumption,
although, privately, it is our assumption
that the mouse that lay dead in our fat housecat’s claws
probably died of a natural cause.
If there is a book lover out there who can pack a single box of books without opening, smelling, reading, or contemplating at least one, I haven’t met them yet. Then again, there are a lot of book lovers out there I haven’t met because we all spend so much time alone reading books. Did you know that secretly I’ve considered creating a meet-up for readers where we all meet at a comfy coffee shop, spend ten minutes introducing ourselves and telling each other what we’re reading, and then just read– silently– for the next hour? I have actually considered this multiple times. But I haven’t done it because of two very specific fears.
Very Specific Fear #1: Some bored extrovert will read the ad, grab a random book, and come to the meeting, but instead of reading, they will insist on talking to us the whole time. *shudder*
Very Specific Fear #2: That person will be me.
But, as usual, I digress.
I, personally, cannot pack a box of books without opening, smelling, reading, and contemplating several, if not all, of them. That can make packing up my classroom at the end of the year a fun but slow process. This year when I boxed up my large classroom library for summer, I made even more of a mess than usual. I had four piles going: books to be packed, books to be taken home to read over the summer (I will never read all of the books I brought home), books to give away, and books to be used in book title found poems before being placed in one of the other piles.
I made these giant, messy mountains of books (and knocked them over more than once) just before STAAR testing. During STAAR testing, I stared at the books longingly, and did a little rearranging in my head. Then, after STAAR testing, while my exhausted students watched an episode of The Twilight Zone that they’d read earlier in the year as a teleplay, I happily stacked, unstacked, and restacked my books until they were in the right poetic order. Then I packed them up for summer.
Then I came home and made more poems out of the books there.
Here they are:
I have lived a thousand years.
Ask me no questions–
I can’t keep my own secrets.
My thirteenth winter
life, the universe and everything
found things hidden,
knots in my yo-yo string.
When the sea turned to silver,
the girl I used to be
ungifted my own true name–
just my luck.
That was then, this is now.
Come with me
through the woods
where the red fern grows.
I will always write back.
When the outsiders runaway
it looks like this–
all the broken pieces
falling into place.
Trouble don’t last.
Once Upon a River
Seven little Australians,
children of blood and bone,
five feet apart.
Imaginary girls shout,
voices in the air
negotiating with the dead.
Things fall apart,
the madwoman upstairs
falling over sideways,
the girl from the well
mapping the bones
in the lake of the woods.
The Night Diary
Within these walls
the sky is everywhere.
Love is a mix tape;
I was told there’d be cake.
Deep dark fears
sailing alone around the room.
I touch the future.
I know why the caged bird sings.
I’m nobody! Who are you?
Prom Dates From Hell (a poem in two voices)
Dear Evan Hansen,
I am not a serial killer.
………………………………………………. How did you get this number?
Even cowgirls get the blues.
Time you let me in.
………………………………………………. I feel a little jumpy around you.
Let’s pretend this never happened.
………………………………………………. As you wish.
Good night, sleep tight.
There is no long distance now
from you to me.
It’s been a while since I’ve had any publication news to share, but when it rains, it pours. (Or, as we say here in Texas, when it rains… we run outside and spin around in it, because it feels a little like magic.)
If you’re looking for something to read on a rainy day or on a day too hot to go outside, consider choosing something that includes one of my stories or poems.
Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things
Volume 3, Issue 1 of Ember is now available, and inside you’ll find “Teardrops and Watermelon Seeds.” This magical realism story was first published a few years ago in Spark: A Creative Anthology. It’s about a fourteen-year-old girl who goes through a summer of changes and is holding on to her memories in a unique way. I’m thrilled that E&GJ Little Press decided to publish it again because it’s one of my favorite stories. Plus, this time it’s paired with a beautiful illustration the talented Casey Robin and can be read alongside other stories for YA readers, including a few written by teenagers.
You can order a copy of Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things for yourself, your classroom, or a friend here. There are two print versions, one for $20 and one for $30. This journal is a little pricey, but it’s worth it. (Psst! If you plan on buying one, email me and I’ll give you a discount code for 35% off!)
Texas Poetry Calendar
I have been honored to have poems in the Texas Poetry Calendar eight times since 2009. These useful desk calendars, which have a weekly planner on one side of the page and a poem or two on the other, used to be published by Dos Gatos Press, but are now available through Kallisto Gaia Press. The 2019 volume includes my poem “Yellow,” which is about oak pollen. You can purchase one here. (Psst! I also have a poem in the 2018 calendar, and Dos Gatos Press has a few left. Get one here before the year is over!)
If you don’t need a planner or are low on cash, you can still read one of my recent stories for free! “The Mayor” was published a couple of weeks ago in Entropy’s series titled “The Birds.” “The Mayor” is fiction, but is based on a true story. Read it here.
I have one more story coming out soon. My clown horror story “Makeup,” which was a finalist in a Wattpad contest a couple of years ago, will be available for your listening pleasure on the Tales to Terrify podcast sometime in the next few months. I’ll keep you posted with the details when I know more.
I hope you enjoy perusing my work. Now, it’s time for me to get back to it…
(To see a list of all of my published writing, click here.)