for we are many

my childhood demons

far outnumber my remaining years

i could waste a lifetime

mitigating them

i shan’t

i’ll do a few shots of holy water instead

these motherfuckers

don’t get

free rent in my head

Americana geneology Kentucky poetry

Mabel Spaw Bates

Mabel Spaw Bates


I have dreamed about you

every night this week.

I would like to think you are visiting me

from the great beyond.

We’re in your house and

I can hear your voice,

I can smell your skin,

I can hear you laugh,

I can hear you sigh.

I can watch you smooth the table cloth

down with your hands

and wash the kitchen counter.

We watch Gone With the Wind together,

then have tea.

We look through an old Sears catalog,

we sort your quilt pieces,

we string buttons.

After we visit the Halls Gap Overlook,

we end the night at The Dairy Freeze.

I love you immeasurably.

The older I get,

the more I miss you.

Your absence is enough

to fill the world,

Mabel Spaw Bates.


Rest In Peace

literature mourning poetry Uncategorized

under catalpa trees

no death

represents a single loss

it is a lifetime of little ones

i didn’t just lose my father

i lost his voice

his cologne

him beaming as i accepted my diploma

the father daughter dance at my wedding

him teaching my sons to fish

family reunions under catalpa trees

but i remember the way he laughed

it was left behind in his grandsons eyes

and in

their gleeful bellies

his joy rising from the deep

it is simply

my favorite mercy


Spring Play

I thought

I understood what



and beauty


until I saw the smile

beam from the face

of my son


his leading role bows

before the applauding theatre

as he realized

he had just achieved


he never thought possible

art books childhood cinema comedy ecology education happiness history Jazz Music nature poetry publishing religion rituals Short Stories sociology the arts traditions Urban Legends war

a key mineral lacking

it began to notice it midsummer

when i initiated the ritual

of my daily

life affirming

early evening

bicycle rides

my perfect aerial

machine so blue

cutting through

a synthetic mist

of suburban dryer vent exhaust

lavender lilac and vanilla scented chemicals

emitted from the latest

maytag gag-o-matic

into one bastard cloud

i decided

all of suburban cincinnati is covered in a

gently revolting incidental smog

of old lady perfume

in this gloaming time

the cul-de-sac wives

huddle into two groups

those who drink wine and smoke

while waiting for the pills to kick in

and those who just drink wine

while waiting for the pills to kick in

bitching about their husbands on cue

as they stand indignant

in various shades of pink velour yoga pants

at the end of their driveways

just far enough away

so the enemy

won’t hear

the hot-boxed group

of matching husbands


“i pay the mortgage and the only place

i have any privacy from that bitch and these kids

is the fucking garage”


whist drinking middling domestic imports

in a town whose pricey micro brews they can’t afford

all to protect the delicate sensibilities

of the lord of the flies children

playing between them

on tonka battery powered humvees

bedecked with

nerf machine gun turrets


duct taped half-chewed barbies

with their eyes gouged out

to tiny-tot thailand

i get the sense

there is death in the water

a key mineral lacking

in our national diet

the country is filled

with these fleeting nightmares

communities of sheep

vying for space at a diseased trough


american wastelands

where the coffee tastes of bad choices

and everyone is waiting

for the kids to be old enough

to get a divorce

childhood ecology education Jazz Music nature poetry Short Stories sociology Uncategorized Urban Legends writing

the spider slayer

there was little indication
i was not a part of the sunlit green
moss covered bridge

summer creeping
along the gorge

perfectly still
save the rise and fall
of grateful lungs
taking deep lustful breaths
of rushing creek below

my eyes set upon the soaring
white sycamore trees
where the indigenous people
of this carved miami valley
sought refuge
after glaciers melted

musing that
200 million years
isn’t so long
in the grand scheme

when my sacred peace was disturbed
by the sounds of new things

tremors caused by seven year old feet
across creaking boards

three little boys

too varied in appearance to be brothers
accompanied by an aloof
iPhone addicted mother
walking along oblivious behind them

i turned my head slowly
to observe the play
wait for the poem to come

the tallest of the prepubescent trio
crouched down
scooping up a daddy long legs spider
off the trail
before running onto the bridge

he set to taunting the other two boys
with the harmless creature
then dangled it toward his still absent
phone call mother
on whom
the gesture barely registered
a turn of her head

darkness came into his eyes

his gapped teeth gave way to a wicked laugh

as he cast the spider to its end
over the side of the bridge

the other two boys were distraught
over his brutality toward the arachnid

the youngest of them looked around
for an adult to whom he could run
for solace
for sense in the matter

choosing me and my quiet
over his uninvolved chaperone

he ran desperately toward my calm
to ask
if what his companion
had so cruelly
done to the spider
had killed it

could the spider survive
that fall?
he pleaded to me
hurriedly pointing to the water
tears streaming down his face
as if i were
the one
who made such choices

in that moment
i felt the age of my bones
older than pious pebbles
praying silently
in the stream
beneath us

i knelt down
so that i could look directly into his eyes
and said

no, son
i’m sorry
it’s likely
the spider did not survive the fall

but this moment
has more to teach us
about the nature of humans
than the nature of the spider
doesn’t it?

his brown eyes grew amber and wide
with new understanding
as he turned to look at his friend

the spider slayer

in a low voice
…yes, m’am
…it does

Jazz Music poetry Short Stories Uncategorized Urban Legends writing

hanging in that tree

it was a sunny summer afternoon
i don’t remember exactly when
but i must have been around 3
because we still lived in the little farmhouse
on ellison ridge
where uncle louis hung himself

the day felt the same way i feel
when i hear the cowboy junkies sing
sweet jane
lush and southern

dad was sitting with me
at the white picnic table
he built with his hands

i climbed on top of the table
to be closer to the large overhanging tree limbs
telling him i wanted to hang from them like a monkey

he hopped to his feet and i remember the jangle of keys and change coming from his pocket

his watch flashed in the sunlight when he picked me up and put me on his shoulders
then we walked to the lowest sturdy branch
within my reach and he said

“Grab on a-hold…”

i remember giggling with glee
as i latched on
he slowly crouched down and turned
to face me
freeing my swinging legs to dangle

he never took his hand off my shoe

“Daddy, let me swing!”

“I’m not lettin’ go-ah you, little girl…”

i held on for as long as i could but
my hands began to lose their grip
i clutched at him with my chubby legs
as he caught me in his arms

all i saw were his smiling dark eyes and glimmering green leaves

he was dead within three years
from kentucky fried booze and pills

and i’ve spent everyday thereafter reaching for him in various ways

uncle louis’ ghost isn’t the only one still hanging in that tree

Jazz Music poetry Short Stories Uncategorized Urban Legends writing


i don’t want to know
what happened to her

because i’m certain the knowledge
would only confirm my fears

my smart little girlfriend
from elementary school
whose family were mormons
and made their herd of children rise at
4:30 in the morning to be at the temple by 6 am
for their mental conditioning
before arriving at school at 7

of all my friends mothers
hers was the most unhappy

i noticed during sleep overs
her red faced mom
was perpetually emerging from a room
looking as though she had been weeping
barring that she was always cooking
a statue of a latter day saint
stirring macaroni n’ cheese
in a five bedroom split-level

my friend gave me a mormon bible in the 7th grade
i told her i had no use for my king james bible
why would i be interested in a sequel
but she saw my dissatisfaction with being a baptist
as an opportunity for recruitment

we grew apart as the years passed
her eyes never smiled even when her mouth was insisting otherwise
and by high school she had developed a marked disdain for my free manner of speech and behavior

my thoughts on the mormon religion
had evolved by my sophomore year

i saw it as a misogynist hierarchy
where every man got to pretend to be a god
and fuck as many women and little girls
into subservient wives
as he was physically able

all the while
convincing them their only role on earth
was to produce more little boys who would become masters of their own heavenly domains
and more little girls
who would grow to be human incubators

she moved away junior year
to a more rural area of ohio
the year i graduated early

i heard she got a scholarship to brigham young
ah, utah
the mormon holy land

she probably met a nice mormon boy in college who allowed her to keep teaching
in a mormon primary school
until she became pregnant with the fourth baby

i’ll bet her eyes still don’t match her lips when she smiles

and now she’s the one
emerging from empty rooms
having looked as though she cried

i still have that mormon bible
and my free manner of thinking

Jazz Music poetry Short Stories Uncategorized Urban Legends writing

i know the very moment

i know the very moment
he fell in love with me
it was when i walked up
to face his head fallen sadness
and asked
if he needed to borrow my puppy

Jazz Music poetry Short Stories Uncategorized Urban Legends

where magic sleeps

at maybe three
new to the world
already punk rockin’
in Sesame Street pajamas
and Grover slippers on my feet
liked to curl up
under the christmas tree
staring up through lit branches
sure i had found
where magic sleeps