Monday, April 20, 2015

Half In, Half Out

I think every writer stands in the doorway of their prison. Half in, half out.  - Sherman Alexie

Elegy for the Forgotten Oldsmobile
by Adrian C. Louis

July 4th and all is Hell.
Outside my shuttered breath the streets bubble
with flame-loined kids in designer jeans
looking for people to rape or razor.
A madman covered with running sores
is on the street corner singing:
O beautiful for spacious skies…
This landscape is far too convenient
to be either real or metaphor.
In an alley behind a 7-11
a Black pimp dressed in Harris tweed
preaches fidelity to two pimply whores
whose skin is white though they aren’t quite.
And crosstown in the sane precincts
of Brown University where I added rage
to Cliff Notes and got two degrees
bearded scientists are stringing words
outside the language inside the guts of atoms
and I don’t know why I’ve come back to visit.

O Uncle Adrian! I’m in the reservation of my mind.
Chicken bones in a cardboard casket
meditate upon the linoleum floor.
Outside my flophouse door stewed
and sinister winos snore in a tragic chorus.

The snowstorm t.v. in the lobby’s their mother.
Outside my window on the jumper’s ledge
ice wraiths shiver and coat my last cans of Bud
though this is summer I don’t know why or where
the souls of Indian sinners fly.
Uncle Adrian, you died last week—cirrhosis.
I still have the photo of you in your Lovelock
letterman’s jacket—two white girls on your arms—
first team All-State halfback in ’45, ’46.

But nothing is static. I am in the reservation of
my mind. Embarrassed moths unravel my shorts
thread by thread asserting insectival lust.
I’m a naked locoweed in a city scene.
What are my options? Why am I back in this city?
When I sing of the American night my lungs billow
Camels astride hacking appeals for cessation.
My mother’s zippo inscribed: “Stewart Indian School—1941”
explodes in my hand in elegy to Dresden Antietam
and Wounded Knee and finally I have come to see
this mad fag nation is dying.

Our ancestors’ murderer is finally dying and I guess
I should be happy and dance with the spirit or project
my regret to my long-lost high school honey
but history has carried me to a place
where she has a daughter older than we were
when we first shared flesh.

She is the one who could not marry me
because of the dark-skin ways in my blood.
Love like that needs no elegy but because
of the baked-prick possibility of the flame lakes of Hell
I will give one last supper and sacrament
to the dying beast of need disguised as love
on deathrow inside my ribcage.
I have not forgotten the years of midnight hunger
when I could see how the past had guided me
and I cried and held the pillow, muddled
in the melodrama of the quite immature
but anyway, Uncle Adrian…
Here I am in the reservation of my mind
and silence settles forever
the vacancy of this cheap city room.
In the wine darkness my cigarette coal
tints my face with Geronimo’s rage
and I’m in the dry hills with a Winchester
waiting to shoot the lean, learned fools
who taught me to live-think in English.

Uncle Adrian…
to make a long night story short,
you promised to give me your Oldsmobile in 1962.
How come you didn’t?
I could have had some really good times in high school.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Road From Selma

This powerful poem, written by June Brindel in 1965, was posted on Women Writing Birmingham on March 7, 2015,  the 50th anniversary Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama.

THE ROAD FROM SELMA                                                                        June Brindel
The road from Selma stretches in the rain
white as a shroud, rimmed with stiff troopers.
The marchers stand bowed, hands joined, swaying gently
their soft strong song stilled.
Then up from a Birmingham bed
rises a gentle Boston man, Jim Reeb,
steps softly back to Selma
and moves among the stilled marchers.
The troopers stir, link arms,
close ranks across the road
stretching from Selma in the rain
white as a shroud.
The Boston man, Jim Reeb, walks toward the troopers
and they straighten and stand guard tight as death.
But someone moves behind them, waves his hand.
“That you, Jackson?” Jim Reeb peers ahead.
“That’s right, Reverend. Come on through.”
The troopers tighten guard, straight as death
But Jim Reeb doesn’t stop.
He goes on through,
right through the stiff ranked troopers
white as a shroud
rimming the road from Selma.
And Jimmie Lee Jackson takes him by the arm
and they march down the road to the courthouse.
Over in Mississippi Medgar Evers stands,
three young men rise up from a dam in Neshoba County
and they all go down the road
and walk right through the tight stiff trooper line
and down the road from Selma.
And from all over there’s a stirring sound.
Emmett Till jumps up and runs laughing like any boy
through the stiff white rim.
Four small girls skip out of a church in Birmingham
and the tall old man in Springfield gets up
and goes to Selma.
And down from every lynching tree
and up from every hidden grave
come men, women, children, heads carried high,
passing a moment among the bowed, stilled troopers
and down the white road from Selma.
Until the age long road is packed
black with marchers streaming to the courthouse.
And the bowed stilled group in Selma
raise their heads, hands joined,
swaying gently, in soft strong song
that goes right through the stiff ranked troopers
white as a shroud
barring the road from Selma.
Copyright © 1965 June Brindel.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Morning

This morning my sister, Susan Cleveland, and I went to church at the Leeds Presbyterian Church. 

I love attending the Leeds Presbyterian Church. The first time I can remember going there, I was about five years old, and we went to the wedding of a classmate of my sister, Joanne Cage. The Leeds Presbyterian Church was founded a long, long time ago, (even BEFORE I was born!) in 1821. The church was built in its present location in 1891.

Here's one of the beautiful windows from the church; I think these were added in the 1980s. The interior of the church is beautiful, peaceful, and welcoming.

Susan and I especially enjoyed the hymns this morning, both being blessed with a love of music and remarkable singing voices. I think the people sitting near us were equally pleased, although Susan laughed at the funny words in one of the songs. She does this all the time. I don't know why I keep letting her go to church with me, but I guess I'm used to it.

After church, we had a delicious meal at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and came home happy and full of joy and good food.

Now, back to work. These days I spend most of my time at the computer, typing, typing, and typing some more. That's about it. Hope everyone had a joyful Sunday morning!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Questions, questions, questions

Here in Alabama, the weather is beautiful and perfect for a walk on the mountain. What secrets and mysteries could you discover on Moonlight Ridge?

There's a fun Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge quiz
on Goodreads today. 
Are you a Goodreads fan?
Can you answer these questions? 

Here's the first question:

What fell out of the sky when Lily Claire and Willie T. were playing in the rain?


Monday, April 6, 2015

Lily Claire and Willie T. are Back!

I'm so happy to announce that Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge is out in a great new edition, available now on Amazon and Kindle!

I want to thank all my folks who have been waiting so patiently for this new edition. Hooray!

And for Moonlight Ridge newbies, thrills, laughs, a few tears, and surprises await you! Learn how Lily Claire Nash and her famous cousin, Willie T., find a lost treasure using an amazing map on Moonlight Ridge.

Book Two of the Moonlight Ridge Series is in the works, and we're hoping for an autumn 2015 publication date, just in time for Halloween. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Shadow of the Wind

 The Music Room, on the corner of Parkway Drive and 9th Street in Leeds, Alabama, is a delightful new meeting place to go for a cup of delicious coffee, a chat with friends, or a musical experience.

The Clandestine Book Club met at The Music Room yesterday for a lively discussion of our book o' the month, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is the author of six novels, including the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind. His work has been published in more than forty languages, and honored with numerous international awards.

Translated from the original Spanish, published in 2004, The Shadow of the Wind is a deep, complex, totally engrossing tale, an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

Thanks to the marvelous folks at The Music Room for allowing us to gather, relax, and thoroughly enjoy the afternoon in this delightful new meeting place in downtown Leeds.
 I encourage everyone to drop by for a delicious cup of coffee and a musical experience.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

CBC Bookclub Reads "The Shining, Shining Path"

Today was BOOK CLUB DAY for my reading group which technically has no name. But some of us refer to it as the CBC Book Club. Today our group of enthusiastic readers met at my sister Susan's house for a lively discussion of Carroll Dale Short's fascinating novel, The Shining, Shining Path. The discussion was intense, filled with comments, questions, applause, and exclamations of wonderment. Individual responses went from speechless with awe, to gleeful, to respectful, to horrified, to delighted. Everyone gave this book a thumbs up and five stars.

"I once interviewed an elderly blues musician who told me, "Some people play the blues for love. Some play for money. I play because I can't help myself." Same goes for me and writing." - Carroll Dale Short

Carroll Dale Short is one of our own, an Alabama writer of truly startling talent. And a really nice guy! Take my word for it, and the word of all the CBC book clubbers, you need to read this book!

In Dale Short's amazing book, The Shining, Shining Path, the main character, Turner, a rock promoter and Vietnam vet, is improbably chosen by a sect of Buddhist monks as a spiritual warrior, picked to battle the forces of darkness and evil. In Alabama. Dale's writing is impressive, humorous, spiritual, metaphysical, mathematical, endearing, sad, scary, thought-provoking, and filled with joy.

Dale has written numerous other books, and you can learn more about him at 

Here are a few snapshots of some of our book club ladies, cats, and dogs, today at Susan's house. We drank mimosas, ate chicken salad, pasta salad, and sweet potato pie!