A Novelist’s Gift

“It’s not right for me,”

said the big New York agent

about my story.

 He wanted an exclusive.

I waited two months while

he looked,

two months after two

years of waiting

on the one with enthusiasm.

“I can sell it!”

she said.

She didn’t.

So I write again,

not query letters,

just poetry, just stories

and I give them

to hearts that need

to hear, like Holy Spirit

gifts and God-love,

not for sale.

Too priceless for tags,

but if someone offers,

maybe…I’ll consider.


Four jobs in my life

that shape self:

a daycare for elderly, where I

played checkers with Buel

as he fought World War II

for the thousandth time.


A marina dockhand

where I pulled condoms

from air-conditioner vents

and scrubbed toilets for snotty

rich women who were

so much better than I.


A farmhand in endless sun

which made college colleagues ask

“Are you from India?”


A teacher, a teacher, a teacher

always a teacher. It is my heart.


Four places I lived,

that grew inside me 

never letting go:


where I rode my first bike,

purple with hard tires,


Sparksville where I learned

we were poor,


Milltown, where I learned

we were richly blessed,


Garlin, where I learned
I was grown.


Four places I’d rather

be right now if my heart

were not content in this


Hiking along the Cumberland

where moss covers gray boulders

and water crashes with thunder,


walking along the Floridian beach

after afternoon thunderstorms,


eating lunch with Rachel

anywhere on earth or beyond


sleeping in my hammock

beneath shade trees.


Four of my favorite foods

that are not poetic 

just good:




fish, fish, fish.



Passion flowers smell chocolate
in white dust
along tobacco patch edges
while Caribbean skies
lie over Appalachia,
like a lover,

speaking sweetness
to her in valley cane
and swamp marshes
where dragonflies
glint blue above
brackish dog day water.

This world belongs
to mountain children
where the South rises
with every oak, every pine,
every hundred year old pear,
rises from death
rich earth

to testify.

I Want to Know

Should I feel guilty for porch
afternoons beneath mimosa fragrance
and magnolia blooms

for hummingbird whizzing
and wind chime songs?

Should I have shame for my beneath-
the-bush lazy cat and red geranium
pot swan, for shady side streets
swept by westerly breezes?

When Iran and Iraq are bombing,
when a hundred other places fight
and California is hot? When England
is flooded and bees die?

Should I dig a hole, hide
and wait for trumpets,
or just teach a child to read,
then give thanks for my corner
while it still exists?