11 April 2023

new poem: on the backs of horses

This week, a set of four poems appears in The Loch Raven Review (Vol 19 No 1): "On the Backs of Horses," "The Hunted," "Figure Eights," and "Suicide Stories." Their stories come mostly out of a few short, furious years that, in a lot of ways, beat me. During the worst of it, I landed in a space with horses, and in proximity, found some fragment of grace. It was enough. 

Moving to a small town where everyone knew everyone since forever created a different set of problems, but for the first time, I made a few friends there who weren't my siblings. More importantly, I made friends with all the horses. Ours. The neighbors'. The sheepherder's from down the road. The rich doctor's. My Sunday School teacher's chariot racers. Random strangers' horses. 

The horse-people may or may not have helped, but the animals grounded me in ways I didn't even know I needed. I also needed to be part of the process that develops between horse and rider, which never came easy. Some of those horses were as beaten down as I was when we met. Others were born into my care, which is a different kind of responsibility. Either way, it requires a vulnerability that I couldn't give to another human at that time. A horse asked it of me, and in giving it up, my life was saved.

Twenty years later, I was far from that place, and my life had changed and changed again. I sought out the horses for a life that wasn't my own and witnessed a similar transformation from a different perspective. 

In 2022, writing out of the pandemic and a surgery that double-isolated me, I was surprised to find the stories of those horses landing on the page. More surprising was that they showed up as poetry. Initially, I tried to hammer them into the short-story form that is my trade, but they refused, like a stubborn mare. I had to give up. . . again. And all the horses came back to me. 

Disclaimer: as always, I remain a fiction writer, and while every horse is inspired by a living, breathing animal out of my own experience, none of it is exactly biographical. (I get that question a lot.) It's the Emily Dickinson Rule: all of it true; all of it told slant.  

One of the first poems to show up, "Out Stealing Horses," is also forthcoming in Red Rock Literary Review. The dedications are deeply personal for different reasons, and I am grateful for each of these horse poems to have found their own space in the world. To read my new poems, visit The Loch Raven Review .

Would that I may always be in proximity to horses. 


by Carl Sandburg

After the last red sunset glimmer,

Black on the line of a low hill rise,

Formed into moving shadows, I saw

A plowboy and two horses lined against the gray,

Plowing in the dusk the last furrow.

The turf had a gleam of brown,

And smell of soil was in the air,

And, cool and moist, a haze of April.

I shall remember you long,

Plowboy and horses against the sky in shadow.

I shall remember you and the picture

You made for me,

Turning the turf in the dusk

And haze of an April gloaming.

15 July 2022

new fiction: Big Boat

My newest fiction is a short-short, "Big Boat," coming out in Cirque Journal, #24 Vol. 12 No 2. It is currently posted online at the journal's website: cirquejournal.com The print issue will be available in August, 2022. 

This story is a tribute piece I wrote in honor of Ernest Hemingway, specifically in response to Old Man and the Sea. It is not directly comparable, especially since my piece is 1000 words to Hemingway's 127-ish pages. But it was born alongside the novella.

Often when I am blocked from creativity, I return to my oldest influences. I re-read and re-write their work. What that looks like is me reading into the obscenely early hours of the morning after long days of teaching, and then transcribing by hand pages and pages of their work into regular lined-paper composition books, as if I am a displaced monk on a mission to transcribe the last copy in the universe. Writing this way gives me a feel for the rhythm of the author's words in a visceral, body-memory way by that physical capture of words up through the pencil and into my fingers. It's been some years now, but I discovered this practice worked to break me out of dead calm, so to speak.

It has also been interesting to discover (over time and two graduate degrees) how controversial it is to acknowledge Hemingway as an influence. For context, the full list of influences is radically diverse and multi-gendered. However, in review, my writing is often described as "masculine" or "Hemingway-esque," which I'll take as a compliment and also attribute more to my own masculinity rather than to the man himself. 

But it's more than a gender issue. I own my experience, and as such, it is irrefutable, and it is this: I connect to Hemingway's use of words and language of story that continues to inspire me to be a writer. I savor the sharp, specific details of place and time: deer-foot gun racks; ash piles of lye where the women once made soap; a trout flinging itself out of a river; a marlin out of the ocean; the expanse of an African savannah as wide as the sea; and the skies over Mt Kilimanjaro. 

Truth: a year ago, when I was stuck in a non-writing space, I returned to Hemingway. Read a ton of my favorite shorts and Old Man and the Sea. Then, starting from the beginning, I hand-wrote about half of the novella. Wrote enough pages to shake loose my own. A few weeks later, I had a new chapter for my novel and a new short story, "Big Boat." 

For that influence, I remain grateful. 

This month marks 61 years since Hemingway took his own life. I hope it's rest he's found. RIP.

"The clouds were building up now for the trade wind and he looked ahead and saw a flight of wild ducks etching themselves against the sky over the water, then blurring, then etching again and he knew no man was ever alone on the sea."

~ Ernest Hemingway, from Old Man and the Sea

31 May 2022

film release: Bad Bones

Watch this! Bad Bones is a new film by Scott Eggleston, now available on YouTube for full viewing. And it's free! I'm super excited for this film project and hope you enjoy it. 

Bad Bones is a scifi-horror-mystery written and directed by Scott Eggleston and features Chris Levine and Maddison Bullock.

Official website: badbonesmovie.com

A man and his dying wife move into a strange house with the hopes of healing her, but what does the house want in return?