Catching Up

February 1, 2020

 

In the desperate hope that I really will keep my blog up-to-date this time, let me give my invisible friends an accounting of the past year or so.

My novel The Falls of the Wyona won Red Hen’s Quill Prize for queer writing, and was published in May, 2019. It is available from Red Hen Press, from Amazon, from your local independent bookseller.

an excerpt from The Falls of the Wyona:

It’s possible to know a river longer than you’ve been alive, if your father knew it before you and his father knew it before him.
The river flows sad sometimes because everything changes and he alone remains the same. The river remembers when the industrial park over on 414 was a grove of trees. The river remember boys shinnying up the waterside sycamores, and who now sleep in the Baptist cemetery with the thrushes hymning them at evening. You could fall in love with the one at the barn dance you passed over your arm, and you would live with her until the day you died. In parlors, on dressing tables and dusty mantels, sit portraits of people whom nobody remembers but the river. They’ve sat there so long and people have dusted around them so long that they’re part of the decor, and will not be moved until the last aunt dies and the house is sold to someone new moving uphill from the crowded cities. Everybody remembers something, and somebody remembers everything, and that’s what knits the fibers of the world together.

*

Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers , my second published novel, was actually written a long time ago, and wound a complicated road toward the light. It is available from Black Mountain Press, from Amazon, and can be ordered from your local independent bookseller. It is the story of Asheville and its budding art scene in the late 80’s and 90’s, taking up eighty years after Thomas Wolfe left off,

an excerpt from Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers:

Friday nights a tribe of drummers gather under the sky in Pritchard Park, dozens of them sometimes, surrounded by locals and tourists, spilling out into the streets around the park, throbbing up into the arched firmament one remembers as an eternally accommodating blue. The drummers are mostly boys with their shirts off. Sometimes they’re girls who want to be boys with their shirts off. On the open pavement before them trance dancers leap and dervish-step. The next layer out are regulars nodding their heads and trance-dancing in subtler ways, feet shuffling or hand clapping, physical adjustments necessitated by age or dope. The old hippies love all this, and gaze at each other’s dimming eyes with the expression that says, “don’t we remember when?” The next emanation from the drum center is children, then cops, then old black guys playing chess oblivious to what else might be going on behind them, then the crowds of everyone else. The throng is sometimes smelly and crude. Sometimes it is holy. Sometimes it is all this at once. The drums can be heard throughout downtown Asheville, hypnotic, throbbing, sort of boring unless you’re one of the dancers, or unless you’re passing by on your way to something else, in which case you bless your little town for being so weird.

*

Moonshine Cove Press has accepted my third novel for publication, possibly in November, 2020. The One with the Beautiful Necklaces is a Magical Realist chronicle of the settling of a Two Mountains Valley in Madison County, NC, by emigrants from Ireland.

an excerpt from The One with the Beautiful Necklaces:

She turned around on her seat, to see if she dared to stand up. If it is a bear, you lie still and hope to go unnoticed. Something was there, and not a bear, hidden behind leafy branches and a weave of shadows which seemed to be unrelated to the landscape. It moved. Dinah stood up and said, “Who are you there?”
A man walked from behind the rhododendron shield. Dinah said “a man” in her mind then, and indeed the thing it looked most like was a man, but it wasn’t a man, exactly. The gleam it gave off–Dinah was one of those who could see the gleam of a soul inside its skin– was not a regular man’s. He didn’t answer her.
It’s impolite to eyeball somebody too closely when you first meet them, and Dinah held that in mind. But she couldn’t help noticing that he was stark naked, with a torso that gleamed like marble you see rain-polished high on the mountain. His hair was a tangle of brown. She had seen a man’s thing on her brothers, but his was stiff and pointed up like a dog that just then caught the scent. Dinah figured she should be embarrassed in a whole passel of ways, but she wasn’t. She said, “You ain’t got a lick of clothes on you.”
Dinah suspected that the man was an idiot or deaf or something, but the change in his expression when she mentioned his nakedness told her that he had, at least, understood that. He grinned. The edges of his lips were up, and white teeth gleamed in the shade of the rhododendrons. His scalp tilted back on his head a little with the hugeness of his grin. It was then that Dinah noticed something else. He was beautiful. Johnny Marrs in her class was what she thought was beautiful to this point, and everybody said her brother Tecumseh took the cake for handsome, but Johnny was a sliver and Tecumseh whelp beside this wild thing in the forest. The muscles of his torso moved with his quiet breathing. He looked like a statue, and then he looked like a boy, and then he looked like a terrible warrior. Sometimes if she looked straight into his eyes he looked like Jesus. Dinah had a revelation.
“Are you Jesus?”
The man collapsed onto the leafy floor, holding his face in his hands. He was laughing. You know how, if something’s really a corker, you can laugh for a second or two before any sound comes out? Well, that’s what the man was doing. His face reddened. Tears streamed from his eyes, ran down the wrinkles at the eyes’ edges into the golden fuzz of his cheeks. Then the sound of the laughter came. It touched Dinah as if it had been an open hand, clear as a bell, warm, almost fragrant, if a sound can be fragrant. It made Dinah laugh too, though before she hadn’t thought there was anything that funny about Jesus.
Finally the man said, in a voice way more normal than Dinah expected, “No, darling, I ain’t Jesus.”

*

A new book of Poetry, Peniel, was brought out by St. Julian Press. The poems in this volume, as the title might suggest, tend to explore mysteries of faith.

The Annunciation

Jan van Eyck

In this Northern Annunciation,
do not anticipate conflict
between conviction and observation.
To be thought of is to be achieved.
The rainbow hilarious archangel
warps the floor with real weight.
The Holy Ghost descends like a
circus dancer on a golden wire,
smaller than doves in life,
as if to affirm the miracle
survives the carnival of externals.
Mary says her lines upside-down
for His convenience.
The agent of a bashful love,
the angel brings her lilies,
smiling sweetly at it all,
ear half cocked to the tramp
of kingdoms in the lily’s throat.
The Testament, an afterthought
cut in an incidental floor,
holds this jewel, this sky-larking up.

*

In Other News:

Sublime Theater staged a wonderful reading of my trilogy Father Abraham under the direction of John Crutchfield.

The Magnetic Theater here in Asheville produced the premiere of my play In the Assassins’ Garden, which deals with the rich energies of anarchism at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century.

My story, “Approaching Dollywood” was featured in Tulip Tree Press’s Genre edition.

My story “Corin and Dorinda” won second place in the Doris Betts competition and was published by the North Carolina Literary Review 

 

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