Friday, February 4, 2011


On display in a poorly arranged glass case
alongside musket muzzles
and the collapsing tannin cursive
of soldiers’ letters home
hang two old masks of fragile cotton,
unexpected and strange,
surprising me like a story I never really thought was true:
ghostheads meant to hide all but eyes,
a wedge of mouth
and the blunt stub buttons
of drunk men’s piggy noses.
Pale and holding the light fiercely,
they glare through glass:
screens, thinning.
My grandma used to tell us stories
of men her daddy called the serenaders,
of how they’d come to shout and act the fool
outside her outsized Southern family’s shanty windows
on Christmas Eve,
of how they plugged up
the ragged rocky chimney
after what they sang was gone,
filling up the cold with smoke
and the poverty of winter mischief.
Still, some kind of distributive miracle
came into how she talked:
an ascetic glory rising up out of that
single shared sack of oranges,
the crescents split and nibbled down
to every last string and crumb
of acidic white rind,
a sacrament of juice on chins
and tongues on knuckles,
savoring the way a single traveling seed
held taste,
despite a trick,
despite invasion.


  1. Wonderful poem. Love the details and the quiet survival of hope and joy at the end. I looked up doughfaces. I love it when I learn stuff from poems. Thank you.

  2. Thank you both, and I'm sorry for the belatedness of my response. Me too, Kathleen; I'm so glad you liked this. I was on a field trip with seventh graders to the Atlanta History Center several years ago when I saw the mask, and it was kind of disconcerting to see something with such a personal narrative connection at a time when I couldn't just hang out and stare. I need to go back and see it again.

  3. that holding....
    that doughface coyote.....


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About Me

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Georgia, United States
I live at the edge of the forest in a little town in the north Georgia mountains. I teach sixth grade Language Arts and am writing a memoir of sorts about family, spirituality, and narrative. I am also exploring a possible writing project having to do with contemporary lay contemplative experience and how it might be informed by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity. I am a relatively recent convert to Roman Catholicism and an admirer of Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. I'm a Lay Associate of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I am interested in indigenous cultures, narratives, and spirituality, especially how these can inform my spirituality as a lay contemplative. I write, read, take pictures, play around with creating ephemera from paper and cloth and other organic things. I cook, hike, watch wildlife, and collect random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. I am a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae. If you want, e-mail me at or