Stormcloudsdropwisdomonearthsday’s Childe

The sound. A bubbling over, as if millions of child-blown bubbles are popping all at once, small ones running here and there to explode them. Triptaptriptrap. The loneliest time of night is 3am and the lit moon slanting in the dusted-over window. Dog shifts; a snort, a rumble of dissatisfaction.

Across the world my mother wakes from unremembered dreams. Everything she does these days is without memory.

“Thank you” and “Thank you,” the chorus of voices. Scoliosis. Backs bearing weight today will be irredeemably arched like the bow of a harp some thirty years from now. Then it will be me unable to bear witness to the unfolding day and the small events that make up life in a small place.

There are times I keep good company in my writing life. Between the pages of a journal. Sandwiched between stories of apocalypse and flight. These days the words are petulant; not wanting to emerge from the dark. Meditation might open roadways to progress. Not enough hours in the day.






Death on the never never. Bass baritone spine tingling chill of the Irish Sea. Walls sheathed in snow like frosted cake on the dining room table at Christmas. The decorations of childhood are now no more. The sled. I remember the sled, and Santa urging the reindeer onwards, the back packed with parcels and bows.

A glass bead sits on the desk. The future reflected in its glow can’t quite make me understand. A list of sorts. Payment for services rendered. Boxes without packing slips. Meetings to discuss trivial things. Worry too much about checking off standards and measures, and not enough about impassioning the young students who want to be thralled.





A slow falling rain. The gauge ticks steadily to three. The downcast eyes of a stained glass Jesus. Before my time. Giant clips constrain the pages of disappointed manuscripts. Energy and effort are lacking. The writing must wait. There’s not enough time in the given day for all to be addressed.

Meat dried on a prairie. The lone coyote at the far end of the box canyon waits for the dim light of night. Men on horseback click tongues and move through the grey slush. Acres. Thousands. Widgets create wealth. A line item on an agenda goes unseen. The pastel painted card askew on the desk is a reminder of what’s left to accomplish.

Every falling drop is hungrily absorbed by the dried earth as it flexes its girth and welcomes renewal.

Sometimes I wake in the night and stare at the beams and their painted weight. Dreams remain forgotten. A hint here of what makes one anxious, a taste there of what engenders fear. A grave holds five coffins. There’s plenty of room for more beneath the frost-rimed surface. Don’t fool yourself to the ache of impermanence.


What I Did Instead of the Breadloaf Conference (I didn’t apply to)…

  • Picked 400 avocados
  • Wrote a micro fiction piece
  • Read Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond
  • Met with fellow-teachers in academy on campus
  • Ate 35 gummi candies
  • Walked dog in the darkness
  • Drank Third Window Brewery’s “James Blond” Belgian blond beer
  • Cooked pork chops on the barbeque
  • Wrote daily pages
  • Took recycling to trash can
  • Made peach tea for wife
  • Watched 4-yr-old’s dance camp performance
  • Almost got run over by a careless motorist
  • Received recent issue of Thrice Magazine in the mail
  • Received check for $500 in mail
  • Drank 5 cups of coffee


Sundaysadsday’s Childe

(things to do when you are feeling the Sunday Blues)

  • Write prose poems
  • Count the coyotes in the distance
  • Draw the anchor from the seabed
  • Take photos of plants in evening light
  • Arrange the books on the shelf by color
  • Practice writing with a fountain pen
  • Make deep footprints in the sand
  • Rewrite the often repeated words in earlier drafts
  • Count the change in your pocket and buy coffee or chai
  • Plant seeds in a hanging planter
  • Look up at the night sky
  • Make a small mound of owl bones in the clearing

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Andnowtheendhascomesday’s Childe

Days left in school year: 4

Manuscripts to work on: 3

Live submissions: 11

Rejections this week: 3

In-progress subs: 4

Books to review: 2

Copies of Blood a Cold Blue on hand: 8

Messy desks: 2

Headphones on desk: 1

Broken sand dollars: 1

IEP meetings this week: 4

Cash in pocket: $0

(Stringing racquets for Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton, some years ago)




The Bird in Flight

Delighted to arrive home from a fraught day at work to find in the mail, a copy of my twelve story cycle about my character, the Bird Mahony, from Pure Slush’s A Year in Stories, 2014. Matt Potter, the editor of Pure Slush went to great trouble and expense to give each writer a copy of their set of stories from this marvelous series. The twelve-volume set of all monthly stories can be found at the website.

James thumbnail


Is that my Nobel Prize you’ve got in your backpack?

My desk is a battlefield of papers, left-over cascarones from Fiesta, paperweights, lighthouse statuettes, and assorted photographs of my kids and I. There are no prizes, nor are there any spaces for such things. A backpack my wife gifted me several years ago is on the floor, next to my chessboard (dusty from lack of use). My tennis rackets have been moved to the closet due to lack of use. Perhaps, in the depths of the backpack is a Nobel Prize in Disorganized Chaos from those tidy, dapper Swedes? Enough that the actual messenger bag I use is filled with graded work for my students. Enough that the week has brought three rejections from editors of some distinction. Enough that somewhere in a large, bright room in a large, bright nursing home on the other side of the Atlantic, my mother is wondering what she had for breakfast, and why they’ve taken her cigarettes away from her (she’s been the naughty schoolgirl, smoking in the bedroom). Enough that phones don’t work and anger management classes for students are a challenge to assign. Enough. Enough. Enough.

Sometimes, times like these, times when the dread overwhelms and the immediate future appears too hard a field to plow, I take the narrow glass jar on the altar in the bedroom and remove a pinch of red earth from it, place it under my tongue, and wait for a miracle. The earth is from the Sanctuario de Chimayo in New Mexico. Years ago now, I removed the earth from the ground beneath the chapel. Sacred. Holy. Blessed. Gritty, bitter, stained earth. A salve. Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done… Priests in soutanes, swish of imperiousness, the ceirt for cleaning the chalk board launched at a dropped head. In my beginning is my end of the innocence. Does the earth spin through my body, into corpuscles, through networks of veins and arteries, searching for the dark seed of guilt and suffering? Does it ever.


Manifesto Redux

Leaven the pizza dough on Wednesday nights.

Read more books than last year.

Write in journal every day as the sun clears the MacArthur tree.

Drink more black coffee in the mornings.

Submit only to places that will enhance my writing.

Savor the lines written, but don’t be afraid to abandon them to the winds.

Don’t be afraid to reconstitute the parts of the novel that don’t work.

Write through the grief, for it’s in the agony that the truth resides.

Bring my grandparents back to life in the pages of the manuscript.

Kneel at the writer’s shrine in my office before each writing session.

Foster strong relationships with supportive friends and colleagues.

Don’t treat my readers like fools.

Find the joy in nature’s destructive patterns.

Turn off the editor in your head and let the writing sing clear.

Accept rejection with grace. Each one is a cobblestone on the road to success.

Sanctify the writing with strong verbs and language.

Set deadlines and meet them as best I can.

Take long walks on the beach to remind myself of how good life can be.

Examine the underside of rocks and fallen branches to discover the unearthly.

Read a passage to my son and daughter every day, even though they may not understand the words.

Have a soundtrack for the writing, but above all let the words themselves be the music.

Never take no for an answer. Always rebound and submit the work one more time. Writing is a relentless endeavor.

Invite success and failure into my home, but open the fine wine for success.

Sharpen the nib with an arrowhead and dip the tip in the inkwell of my grief. The true material is buried in the deepest reaches of the heart.

Create a sanctuary in my home where creativity flourishes.


Time Past, Time Present.

Mismatched socks, the striped and the spotted, holed shoes, no chance of repair. Scissors and Sharpie, tools for the downtrodden. A red ribbon hangs from a nail, frayed ends and forgotten rewards from a grateful employer. Standing in line at the dole office, smell of cigarettes and stale beer, the overcoats damp from the falling rain. We were comrades, cast-offs in search of drinking money. They tied the pencil stubs to the counter with baling twine, little scuts would steal them and rest them behind dirty ears, only to later mark the Racing Form before making bets on sure-shots to nowhere. Pints of plain and bags of cheese ‘n onion crisps, the color televisions playing the 3.20 from Chepstow. Wing. Prayer. Disappointed confetti. Cheap flat on the South Circular Road, bottom flat three nurses from Tuam, nice girls, shiny shoes and starched collars. Nights spent in the National Ballroom, eyeing the talent, fingering the coppers and the silver in the pocket to see if there was enough for one more drink. One last chance before the lights came up and the National Anthem played for the lost and the languished.


2014-03-29 14.21.37-1 (534mu5's conflicted copy 2014-03-31)