Class of ’97

•June 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment

“Who knows anything  I don’t know  There are so many things  I must leave alone  Some strange person is calling you their home  Can you be where you want to be?” (“When You Wake Up Feeling Old” ~Wilco)

As serendipity would have it, I listened to this song while working on some assignments for my online class, and it occurred to me how perfect this song could be for someone contemplating a high school reunion. (If I have completely missed what this song is about, I request the forgiveness from Wilco and their fans)

Anyway, the 15 year high school reunion is coming up. Someone from the class has kindly taken it upon himself to organize a low-key get-together in a few weeks. I’ve talked to a couple of friends who are considering attending the reunion.

As usual, this reunion has gotten me thinking.

Do we still need reunions with high school classmates? Have Facebook and other social networking outlets replaced the highly-anticpated or greatly-dreaded every-five-years-or-so party?

And so then it goes deeper: what do you say to people whom you truly have not seen in fifteen years? Someone said to me, “Do I have to pretend to care about them again? Do I have to pretend to be interested in their homeschooling experience or their law practice or their home in Vale?”

It’s a quandry or at least something to blog about. We were a graduating class of about 30; most of us had been in school together since kindergarten…in the same building all those years. We were like a family with all the family “stuff”; in essence, a reunion with my graduating class is like a family reunion. We are forever bound to one another because of our unique circumstances; we went to a union school. We didn’t have all the programs and equipment and issues that must have been part of a larger high school. Then it’s like a family because we were bound by our circumstance, and sometimes that was all that we had in common.

I don’t know if I’ll decide to attend the reunion or not. I think my classmate who has put it together is awesome for doing so. What would I say to anyone? “Remember that time in math class…?”. “So what did you end up doing with your life?” “Did you see pictures of my homeschooling room in my new house in Vale?”

“If memories are all I sang, I’d rather drive a truck”

(“Garden Party” ~Rick Nelson)


a semantic side trip, if you will

•May 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

“Be smart”.
I hear this a lot where I live. When parents or grandparents drop their children off at school or at a social function, they regularly charge their young with this phrase.
“Be smart”.
I had never heard this phrase before living in the piedmont region of North Carolina. Hearing the phrase always gives me pause.
“Be smart”.
“Be sweet” is what my mama always told me. When she dropped me off at a club meeting or at school or a friend’s house, she ended her good-bye speech with the phrase.
“Be sweet”. I remember a column by the late, great Lewis Grizzard in which he talked about those same words from him mother.

I’ve been wondering, then, about these charges that we give our children. Are they exclusive to certain regions? Is “smart” a North Carolina idea? I grew up in a North Carolina so close to Georgia that some of my classmates actually lived in both states; my roots go pretty deep in Georgia soil. So, is my mom’s “Be sweet” telling of our ties to a southern identity different from what I find here in the middle of NC?
What do parents tell their children in other parts of the country?
Is there a difference in being “smart” and being “sweet”? Is it telling of a family’s values when smarts or sweetness are Mama’s words (or grandma’s or papaw’s or whomever)?
At any rate, be sweet; be smart; be excellent to each other.

Of simpler things

•August 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Returning to the blog with a submission from a summer art festival:

Intimations on Biscuits


Heritage is more likely known through simple things:

flour, buttermilk, and shortening


The implements employed here are the family’s treasures:

grandmother’s pan,

great-grandmother’s sifter,

great-great-grandmother’s technique.

The patience to get them just right, however, has to come

from some place deep inside the maker.


A dowry of sorts, as the man says with a smile,

“I married her because I loved her and she made the best biscuits.”


When she sinks her hands into the mixture –

cool liquid meets with the fine dry flour –

she is aware of a thread tightening around her and binding her.

This is what we have always done.


It is a way to reckon with failure.

They won’t be perfect the first few times…

brown on the bottoms,

lumpy inside,

failure to rise.

But there will be plenty of strawberry jam and Sourwood honey

on the table to ease the process.

c. 2011 hcs

But I’m not wearing one of those Warm-Up Suits

•October 27, 2010 • 1 Comment

I’ve decided to leave the world of the adjunct instructor and seek career satisfaction in the sports world as the “Official Team Grammarian”.

I’m going to put together a resume and cover letter; I’ll send it to team owners across the country. Since the NBA season is about to kick off,  I’ll start my career with a team in that league.

This all came about last night as I listened to interview clips from several prominent NBA players. I was relaxing after teaching college English classes for over eight hours, and I think I was extremely sensitive to the players’ verbal mistakes.

So I thought, I should be the Team Grammarian. We’ll start out with intensive sessions at the beginning of the season to prepare players for early season interviews. It will go something like this:

Coach: “Okay, Johnny, after strength training, you’re doing a one-on-one subject verb agreement with the Grammar Coach.”


Me (conducting a mock interview): “Tell me what you hope for this season, Ben.”

Ben: “I hope to win a championship for my team and myself, oh I mean my team and me.”

Me: “High five and a gold star! You’re making improvements!”

As the season progresses, we’ll work on grammar issues that may occur in the locker room or on the court. We’ll cover sophisticated ways to deal with disappointment or disgust with another player or referee.

Once the team reaches the play-offs, we’ll talk about concise speech and using more exact words to convey the team’s goals for the games. We’ll eliminate phrases like “I’m playing within myself” and “at the end of the day” and work towards showing excitement and passion for the game with stronger verbs and phrases.

The team I work for will become grammar champions. They will be respected on and off the court; they will be ambassadors for correct speech all over the world.

I’d better get to work on that cover letter…

Of Ghosts. Of Desire.

•August 21, 2010 • 1 Comment

This summer, I spent four days in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. That is a little tiny piece of time, I realize: a little piece of my life and a little piece compared to those who live and work there.

But I will never forget the 9th Ward. When I see the anniversary footage on CNN, I think, “I have been there”. And it’s not that same “I have been there” that I say when I see a picture of Niagara Falls or the Biltmore Estate. When you actually see those houses with spray paint on the door, it is chilling. It’s not a movie set or a tourist attraction; it is the daily being of this neighborhood. I saw houses with spray paint from inspectors and then a reply from the owners, a kind of conversation on the front of a building. “Do not demolition. We are coming back.” In some ways, it is a haunted place…not the kind of French Quarter spirit, though. Even for an outsider like me, the memories, the longings, the desire are apparent. I tried not to force my expectations on my experience; instead, I stood still in the Place several times while I was there and let the Place explain itself.

I confess that when Katrina hit five years ago, I didn’t give it as much attention as I should. I had a four month old baby and a few challenges of my own. But being there this year, I felt a need to know and understand as best as I can.

There are and will continue to be enough news reports and opinion pieces on the situation in New Orleans. The situation is used as a political blame game, and I don’t want to get into that. There are stories of hope; there are children like the ones I met who are being taught to desire for and bring about change. But just to know the place, to see it beyond photos online makes this day, for me, one of remembrance.

Can’t Quit You

•August 11, 2010 • 1 Comment

Want to write something other than poetry. Want to write something that will be honest and compelling. And when I sit down with a piece of paper and a pen, poetry happens. Want to blog or journal or review. Want to rant and rave. Want to confess. And when I sit down to collect the confessional, poetry happens.

Like a filter. Like a safety net. Like an addiction. Like a good thing that won’t leave me alone. Like listening to “Recollections” from Davis’s Big Fun during a thunderstorm.

back in the proverbial saddle

•July 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So it seems like this blog has been in a holding pattern. It’s time to write again.

This blog won’t be a public space for poetry, for now. That was an interesting experiment. I learned that sometimes I wrote just to get response…any kind of response. I put poems together in hopes of comments, of traffic on the blog. That is not a good reason to write poetry, or anything else that matters. There are already lots of folks out there writing just to be popular; I’ll let them do that. So if you want to read my newer poetry, you’ll have to wait for the journals, or the chapbook.

There’s definitely a lot to write about. I still have lots of ideas buzzing in my brain. I’m still hoping to show more Love to the world. I am still mad about a lot of stuff I see and hear. So there is more writing that needs to be done.

More to come. But not just so you’ll look at me, I hope.