S H O T G U N + I Have a Jaggedy Scar |The Valley Review Vol 11 Iss 3: Black Forest | September 2017 (Print)

Thank you Editor Elizabeth MacDuffie for accepting not one but two works to Meat for Tea/The Valley Review’s special “Black Forest” Issue.

This is a print-only publication, ISSN 2372-0999, $12.

Included are “I Have a Jaggedy Scar,” for which I thank my weekly writing workshop mates for helping me with early drafts. It has its basis in two real-world events: receiving a mysterious mis-dialed phone call, and hearing weak cries for help in the middle of a cold night.

I replayed the message, I hear Help me, and then a man-gasp two minutes later. Someone realized the phone line was open.

Also included is a suite of prose-poems titled “S H O T G U N.”  These three were originally drafted as poetry (took out the line breaks) and they work very well as a suite of prose poems.  All were written during my residency at The Frost Place in Franconia, NH.  While I was at Frost’s home and spending time in his barn with other teachers and poets, I immersed myself in all things Frost, including his somewhat troubling biography.

Here is the opening sentence to “Stirrup” (with line-breaks, for fun):

Before you lived on this one-man, one-horse

farm and collected eggs, carried water,

scattered grain—before you were a hen-man

with no money to go to church or go

anywhere—before you knew how lovely

a country this can be, before your first

field was mown and baled, before you left out

toys so others might trip on them, before

you slept under thatch with your aching son’s

mother, before I knew all I knew of

you, I hung here waiting to govern your


The great poet was not an especially capable family-man.  In “Graft,” I acclimate to Frost’s heightened formality by beginning and ending the story with lines from a Frost sonnet, “The Master Speed” from A Further Range.  I then move on to “Stirrup,” where I imagine an item in the barn has something to say to Frost, having noticed his troubling neglect of his own family and children for the writing life.  Finally, in “Charivari,” I try chiding Frost for his son Carol’s suicide, but Frost is having none of it.

I think “Charivari” is an audience favorite at readings, because it’s infused with circus lingo.  Charivari is when the clowns tumble into the tent and begin their entertainments and tricks; a Windy Van Hooten is a legendary show where nobody gets hurt, the acts are phenomenal, the crowds are big, and the coffers are overflowing, a blow-down mess is a disaster, a Brody is an unlucky person.

V10I1 Cover OUT V1_1
Vol 11 Issue 3

It was especially great to work with Kerrin McCadden, Dawn Potter, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Matthew Olzman and Matthew Lippman while in Franconia.  Kerrin was especially helpful in the editing of “Stirrup,” and Dawn had some nice suggestions that improved “Charivari.”


Should these works ever become available digitally, I’ll be sure to link to them here.  Otherwise, I’ve got two new stories out there, print exclusive, and you can find copies here.