I will be a judge for the Poetry Out Loud District Competition, and will give a short reading. The program will be held at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, January 26, at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, and is open to the public.

From My Mother's Inventions

The Teachings

While I was still inside her,
my mother read me books from her faith,
drew this world as a heap of trash,
said if we could only rise high enough above it,
we’d see it was just a garbage can,
a pile of the discarded and rotting.
She’d tell me stories of our limitations,
our lives small as anthills,
mistaking those lives for greatness.

Later, when I wanted to know about Hell -
if I would end up there -
she’d nod her chin for me to lie back down,
lift the tail of the sheet and lower it
so the air rolled in waves beneath it
and the cotton landed
cool on my knees, then pull
the quilt over me, place the end of it
in my fingers balled up beneath my chin,
and say We’re there already.


My mother said when she meditates, her soul abandons
the physical world. It’s like practicing
death every day. I wanted to go, too.

I was always looking for outlets. I wrenched
cords from sockets to feed.

She felt for me
between the bed and the wall.
I slid easily out. She held me up
by an arm and leg, birthed me from dust.

I believed in the hundreds of lives.


God was a beautiful man
who was deeply in love with me.

He said I know you’re only 7,
but you have an old soul.
He knew everything about me. He knew
what the backs of my knees smelled like.

I imagined all my past bodies cut out
and standing up in a row behind me
as he’d tug my T-shirt over my head.

I was never alone.


My mother and I stood in grocery aisles
examining the ingredients of everything with a label.

We had to keep animals out of our mouths.


She told me the soul chooses
the parents it will have in its next life.

It’s no accident then. She held my wrists above my head
to keep my nails from scratching me out
of my skin. It gave her something to do with her hands.


At night, I was allowed one story.
I opened Words Divine
and read This body is like a dream.