activism addiction Americana childhood deviance family feminism Hell history journalism Kentucky non-fiction Ohio poetry sociopathology Uncategorized

a girl child

two decades ago i took

an overdue trip to Central Ohio

introducing my former mother-in-law to her six month old twin grandsons

we got to talking about Kentucky

as all transplanted Kentuckians do

we bounced gurgling baby innocence on our respective maternal knees having our own little gossip social

curling wispy baby hairs in her worn fingers

her laughter turned to pained breaths

as she shuttered out

a mortifying truth

about a bluegrass upbringing

she was discussing how she had been repeatedly raped as a girl by her father in Hyden, Kentucky

ran away to something worse at 14

how her first marriage ended when she found her alcoholic unemploymed coal miner husband was molesting her two little girls while she was waitressing to support the jerk

fleeing north to Ohio with them

to single motherdom with three kids in the 1960s living in a car until she could afford a place to rent

tears streamed down

her withered cheeks

as she said

“A girl child isn’t safe growing up around a family of men in the South.”

20 years later i think of her words and the women in my biological family

four generations of women who tried to protect their genitalia from one family member

the irony of being expected to smile and pretend

give forgiving hugs

that i’m the one who doesn’t feel comfortable coming to the Thanksgiving table

not the man who couldn’t keep his hands to himself

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after the quake

trudged out of bed
late this morning
not willing to join
this new shaken world
to find my twin sons
seated on the couch
with furrowed brows
tears in their reddened eyes

they’ve endured bullying at school
for being autistic
the whole of their twenty-year-old lives

how horrified they were earlier this year
when they saw a presidential candidate
make fun of a disabled person
during a campaign speech

now that candidate has won the presidency
my sons asked me,

“Mom, we’re scared. How could this happen?”
“How could Americans elect a bully?”
“How will we be safe?”
“Will we be allowed to go to college?”
“Will we be institutionalized?”

answer them, mr. president-elect…

i am a mother
i am a woman
i will unleash hell
before your eyes

art biology literature love poetry psychology punk

cut away

with the exception of the episiotomy

i was given during the birth of my twins

no one has ever taken a scalpel to me before

not one surgery

or major procedure ever needed to be performed

until today


when a small mass

was removed from the muscular calf

of my left leg

after being administered a local anesthetic


a minor thing

i should feel lucky

it isn’t more



possibly cancer

possibly nothing


my payback

for dumbassed teenage tanning bed gore

the pathologist is soon to issue a report


having been a mortician

i thought i was so fucking hardcore

able to stand the sight of anything

but as i undressed tonight

to find the bandage had come off beneath my pant leg


i was unprepared

for the cauterized sight of the hole

for nausea

the room suddenly spinning

cold sweat

and my body crashing to the floor


when i saw a piece of myself cut away

and death standing patiently in the bedroom door


i don’t fear dying

but i am horrified at the thought

of my leaving my sons alone

in this cruel world


Jazz Music poetry Short Stories Uncategorized Urban Legends writing


he trolls alleyways
for pollyannas
who are lost

his hand extended
offering a way home

but when they make the mistake
of trusting his too wide grin

he rapes them
cutting their faces
for screaming fun

and i’ve come to think
some are beyond rehabilitation

the only way
to make a changed man
of him

would be
removing his head
with a shotgun


the rest is silence

“Now cracks a noble heart…”

it’s not my place
to fear for you
and yet i do
i do

Jazz Music poetry Short Stories Uncategorized Urban Legends

the eyes

she drives down ludlow
past buildings with graceful names
into the moment at an intersection
in the gaslight
when someone knocks on the window twice expecting the third knock to be a bullet coming through the glass
aimed at forever changing her mind
before the light turns green
just a man who needed directions
she looks up having survived
only to see the city staring back at her

poetry Short Stories Uncategorized

the day aunt lena jumped in the well

mausoleum chambers

fill my mother’s house


the lavender room

with grandmother luvenia’s bed

and soft pink crystal light fixture from the old house on fishing creek

is where the spaw and bates families are entombed


the bed spread woven from funeral ribbons and loss

cherry framed antique portraiture

hang as illuminated death masks of my ancestors

behind the old convex glass


shoe leather faces

whip stitched lines

and battle scars

their backs curved

from bending to god’s will


their great depression was their existence


i look into the women’s changed eyes

who lost children


they had faded to a barely living shade of gray

known only to battlefields

and beds sickened with scarlet fever


country life is a sort more merciless than most

particularly to the feminine persuasion


mother swears the cicadas were screaming in the june apple trees

that pot steam august day meant for sewing bicentennial dresses

the day aunt lena jumped in the well


i often walked by the sealed haunted thing as a little girl

lungs filling with fear

wondering why that day

she chose to turn potable water into tears


was it the four year old daughter

named venus

born and died in the month of april

buried beside the church


had the clocks her late husband made wound her tightly enough to do it


or was it simply senility

i’ll never know


when had she stopped hearing the piano music

what had she suffered

that an abyss seemed somehow more comforting

than another day lost in the valley of stones


i close the memory of her with a crystal doorknob


cousin leland went into the well after the body

but her soul

never resurfaced

poetry Short Stories Uncategorized

paradise must dwell within us before we may dwell within heaven

i have taken

to walking at night

through the backfields of my life


drawing ink from the well pond

surrounded by a chamber choir of

minstrel toads


tenor and baritone balanced

the bass has a loose string

my smile shapes into nirvana

as i am

a lover of imperfect things


in this place where i wash away the blood

from gruesome playground injuries

i know myself to be a reality

an unfolding lotus blossum


the drones buzz around me

urging me to assume my place as queen

at the risk of being beheaded


fear be damned

i have nothing to lose but regret


when the world has given all of itself

to nocturnal things

i seek the sage counsel

of the elders who placed the pomegranate trees

in eden


they tell me to command the fireflies

to float upward

becoming stars

knowing it is i

who determines my fate


avalon built in one night

to be burned again tomorrow


the planets revolve in the palm of my hand

when i consider the algonquin princess

from whose ancient earth-mother chromosomes

i sprang


greek gods conspire to please me

nectar sent from mount olympus

i am humbled with acceptance


my feet no longer feel the ground below

i float over the river styx


hummingbirds fly with lanterns

hanging from their bills

filled with luciferase glow


all of this majesty

so that i may

find my way to heaven

before the gates are closed