City of Sound

I looked for a sound to rise up from these streets

And quench the fire in my head,

Turned corners filled with rhythms

Notes like bees swarming the sky

Ev’ry direction echoing between

My ears, filling the anxious space

With their sweet buzz

Bring me back to here, now

Sun shinin’ through concrete and steel

On the glass tube letters,

On my hair and in my skin.

The fire falls into my bones,

My cadence gets in line and I

Swing through this city

Two three four.

No pain strain rain in my brain

Just mixed up mellifluity

My pulse paced with a bass on

The facing corner

Two steps to the left of drum sticks

On a five-gallon bucket

Ka-thunk, thunk-it

Meowing steel guitar pierces through

Honky-tonk windows to the sidewalk

Crowds sing along to secondhand classics,

And for the space of of five city blocks

My heart too



30 Days to 30, Days 11 and 12

So, I missed an entry yesterday.  Here’s a twofer…

Day 11 – I Will Improve the Home I Have (and not pine after ones I don’t).

When we bought our house, we thought we would pay it off as quickly as we could (or at least way down) and sell it for our real forever home in five to ten years.  Since then, the housing market fell, God led me to stay home as a full-time mother, and we have used much of our nest egg to bankroll four mission trips and the remaining two years of a bachelor’s degree.  So, here I sit in our starter home in a subdivision in the middle of nowhere.

My husband and I are Nashville natives and never envisioned staying in this college town after I graduated in 2006, much less at this point in our lives.  We are city folk, and we often find ourselves looking around, daydreaming about moving back.  Plus, our house is at space capacity with two children buzzing about, and the bargain-basement carpet, paint, cabinets, and the like are all showing their, ehem, quality.

On Friday, though, as I rolled fresh paint onto the wall behind our dining room table, I felt a sense of pride.  Everything needs updating, and doing the work of updating is especially difficult when it is on an after-the-kids-go-to-bed schedule and performed by a couple of amateurs.  But, we will improve, little by little, until the cycle begins again.  We will love our place in the world until God releases us to go elsewhere.  We will be grateful to have a place to call our own, no matter what lies over the fence.  We have more than many.


Day 12 – I Will be Slow to Speak, Slow to Get Angry.

Not going to lie – this is the one I failed today, and that’s why I am writing about it now.  No long stories or details here, just the humble realization that I need to grow up a little, act in love a little better, and not allow environment or circumstances to create frustration in me.  

My Story

Every generation has that moment – the one you tell your grandkids, the one which you can recall exactly where you were and what you were doing.  For my mother, it was President Kennedy’ assassination.  She was thirteen at the time and remembers it like yesterday.  I grew up listening to that story, fascinated by the tragedy that struck an entire nation all at once, and that changed the course of history.  I now know the story I will tell my grandchildren.  I know it like it was yesterday.

September is beautiful in Tennessee, and the eleventh was the epitome of all that was young and free.  The morning air felt like walking into the ocean, and the sky was perfect blue.  Tuesdays were my favorite days of that early school year: double-periods of gym, humanities, and art.  It was everything a senior could want in a schedule.  My morning gym class took the school’s activity bus to a nearby driving range to practice our golf swings.  Some of my best friends were in that class.  We donned our gym shorts and shades, and we joked about our pathetic attempts at hitting golf balls for an hour.  I remember being joyous, loving my life and the promise of the present.

The forty or so seniors in that class piled back into school just as classes changed.  I was on autopilot, beaming from the fresh air and sunshine as I climbed the stories of our ancient high school which sits in the heart of downtown Nashville.  I didn’t notice the strange, somber faces in the hall; it is the nature of a seventeen year old to be self-centered.  As I left my friends and entered my homeroom, I encountered a foreign sight.  Small groups of students huddled, talking low and staring at nothing.  My teacher stood on a chair trying to make a mounted television work.  We had never watched TV in homeroom before.  I do not recall whom I first asked, but I asked someone.  “Hey, what’s going on?” 

 Do you ever have the experience of listening to someone but not absorbing what that person says?  Her words bounced off me rubber bullets, creating unexplained pain.  Plane crashes.  World Trade Center.  Pentagon.  “Wait.  What?”  We pulled a third into our conversation to re-explain.  My mind began turning.  I couldn’t even remember what the World Trade Center actually was.  My eyes lifted to a static-y television scene to see a replay of the second plane hitting one of the towers, the other tower like a smokestack behind it. 

The teacher asked us all to move to the room next door where there was a working TV.  I sat on a cold tile floor staring at footage that is forbidden now.  We watched the first tower sway, news anchors attempting to comment on what seemed to be an inevitable collapse.  After it fell, we saw people from the second building leap to their deaths, preferring to die in the air than the rubble of a building.  I had to keep reminding myself that it was real, it was live, and it might only be the beginning.

Eventually, we were sent to our next class, which happened to be a humanities class.  We spent the entire time talking about the whys and hows and what ifs and what nows.  Our building was put on lockdown because it was surrounded by governmental buildings.  I looked out the windows from the third story classroom.  No cars on the busiest street in the city.  Planes had been grounded, leaving an eerie silence overhead.  An armed officer patrolled the block around the federal courthouse across the street.  It felt like a nation was holding its breath.

As the day wore on, the lockdown was lifted.  People slowly made their ways home.  We, as a nation, began to get clarity on what happened and why, we, as a generation, began to see the implications.  We knew there would be a war, and, more than that, we knew it was probable that much of our lives from that point would be defined by that day.  I remember crying one night at work because an older co-worker began excitedly talking about war and how there would probably be a draft.  All I could think about were my brother, my boyfriend, my friends.  It was not his generation that would pay the price.

Looking back on it now, I refuse to be cliche, saying that I grew up that day, or that things were miserable after that.  There was never a draft and, while I have friends and relatives who served in the wars, they did so voluntarily.  I didn’t lose a loved one that day, and I was not tangibly effected by it.  I will say, though, that a cloud settled over us that day.  No one of an age of understanding was unchanged.  And in my tiny little sphere, our perspectives changed.  The feeling of  invincibility that comes with being seventeen was gone, and in its place was a deep respect for frailty and resilience, as well as an understanding of the big picture. 

I wish that generationally-defining moment was a beautiful one which I could share with children and make them smile.  But, if we are honest, it is not the beautiful moments that change us.  They are good, but they don’t grow us.  It is through trials that we develop hope, perseverance, and maturity.  We are a nation that is more mature now than it was on September 10, 2001.  Let us pray,  fervently and sincerely, that we do not forget.


I live next to the east fork of the Stones River.  It is not very big, so we call it a creek.  Everyday, I drive this amazingly curvy, tree-lined road next to the river before getting on the interstate to go to work.  I watch the scenery progress through the seasons; the river progresses, too. 

Usually this time of year, the river is at its ugliest.  It lies low and stagnant, growing pale brown organic material on its surface like old pudding.  The deer seek water elsewhere.  No one fishes on the limestone shore.  It sits alone, waiting for someone to stir the waters.

Something unusual has been happening this week, however.  The normally dry late summer has broken its hold over the rain clouds.  Three days of rain culminated in a deluge over my fair vicinity yesterday morning.  The little river could not contain it, and neither could the surrounding fields and farms.  Homes and lives were threatened by the rising water.

After work yesterday, oblivious to the amount of rainfall that had actually occurred, I came around my beloved road to find it closed.  I could not enter my neighborhood.  Fields had become lakes.  My street looked like an overrun dam.  After much pacing and questioning, I was able to face the current and make it safely to my undisturbed home.  By the time my husband arrived later, the water was almost totally off the road.

The next morning, in an attempt to view the damages and drive my normal path, I drove to the slab bridge that had been closed.  One would have thought a hurricane had struck: ancient trees lay prostrate across the steel girders of the bridge, limbs and branches stuffed the gaps, warning signs barely clung to their posts with exhaustion.  My car, along with others, crept across the bridge at a funeral pace, as if honoring the wounded and fallen.  The swollen, brown river moved quickly beneath, like an embarrassed guilty party sneaking out of the room, hoping no one notices.

Tomorrow, though, and with each passing day, I will see a river progressing.  The level with go back to a comfortable height.  Cranes will visit again, hoping to snatch away the fresh fish brought by the waters.  The limbs and debris will be carried away as driftwood.  The organic film on the river before won’t be seen again until the summer.  The river will once again support life, not destruction.

Someone once said that there are two great metaphors for life: a garden and a river.  I saw the river metaphor flash before me today as I mourned at the bridge.  We progress.  We too become dead, stagnant, and unlovable.  And what we need to renew us might just hurt at first.  We might lose some limbs, but we will realize that those that were lost were dead anyway and just holding us back.  We may end up swollen, overwhelmed, and overflowing, but we will settle just as quickly as we rose.  And all of this purging will leave us better: cleaner, renewed, ready to be of use again.  This is the progress of nature and the process of life.

A Walk Through the Farmer’s Market

South End

Water pools the ground, streaming

from the racks of color, bushels of

shining red, yellow, green.

The sickly sweet smell of peaches turn

children’s faces.  An Amish couple

peddle freshly baked breads, pies,

religious tracts.  Pick, turn,

squeeze every tomato, squash, cucumber.

Experts inspect the wares, bag, weigh,

round the figures.

All is color, chaos, fertile.

North End

Flapping fabric in the breeze of giant fans,

all colors, shapes, patterns,

“Honey, that’ll look good on ya,

got a Coach bag to match it.”

Passing tables of socks sold by

the bag full, boxed jewelry,

Avon overstock.  The rich infuse

of burning oils perforating the heat of June.

Beautifully brown women in turquoise

and pink saris, young black women

pour out of tank tops like fertility goddesses,

an ancient, toothless white man stares into

nothing, everything.

All is color, chaos, fertile.

5-7-5 in the 6-1-5

And now, in addition to yesterday’s poem, here are some haikus about Nashville.

Hot air from a vent,

Morning traffic thunders past

Their only bed.

Sharpies, every shade

Coded tags like wallpaper,

Friday night Obie’s.

“Cash” t-shirt, dreadlocks,

All baristas look the same –

Hipsters of West End.

Ten-second green light,

Orange barrels, concrete walls,

Construction season.

Giggles in summer,

Blinking lights against the night,

Trapped in a glass jar.

Nashville Poetry

I am in love with my city.  Last saunter around downtown reminded me of why: Nashville is Music City because everything is rhythmic; everything is melodic.  Being musically challenged myself, I can only pay homage in what I know – writing.  I am working on some poems about Nashville in the hopes that there will one day be enough for a book.  Here is one I am not finshed with yet, but wanted to post anyway.


Nashville sounds like…

Sparkle and twang,

unmuffled drum backbeats

echoing off shot glasses, whiskey bottles

(but that’s only on Lower Broad, as natives know);


Cold lonesome

off key cries to the amateur strums

of a   street-corner star;


Vinyl sliding from softened cardboard slips

for close examination

at hipster record shops;


Frantic rush of strings crescendoing,

a timpanic flurry consuming

delicately adorned halls;


Cacauphonous honking of geese,

gray shadows circling Radnor,

announcing the morning fog;


Sweet, sullen chiming of

some ancient church, lifting King James hymns

to lofty rafters;


Earth-shaking, bright notes of

an organ, punctuated by shouts and

stretched syllabic, “Je-sus, A-men-ah!”


Slow, rhythmic patting of

wake-induced waves,

broken by the gentle plop of

cast bait lines;


Slap, smack, then the deafening buzzer –

Confetti of ball caps

falling on ice;


Ripping engines behind rubber earplugs,

vibration rattling metal grandstands,

cars zip past like hornets;


Highs and lows, curves and points

that shape a skyline,

mapping the song of the southern sun.