The Blue Pitcher

that which may be filled and emptied

Month: September, 2011

Cackalacky Blues

Last weekend I was back in Hickory, the town where I was born, and being under that sky felt so unfamiliar to me, even when I was driving passed the Dairy Queen where I lived on cherry-dipped cones and passed the mall where I saw my first trapeze artist and passed Mama Heaton’s house where I ran around barefoot for the first seven or so years of my life. There was this moment, out at the Snack bar, polishing off our plates of fried food when Eva (who has taken to wetting herself since starting preschool) was yelling and ripping off her diaper (which she insisted on wearing instead of her sweet tiny My Little Pony panties), and her feet were filthy and bare (because she had peed in the one pair of shoes I had brought from Brooklyn), and the other diners were staring, and I was gesturing to the waitress for Banana Cream Pie but I was thinking, ohmygod, this is what I was trying to escape. But then I remembered, it wasn’t me who had tried to escape, it was my mother, and I guess she had. Hadn’t she? I mean, isn’t that why everything felt so foreign to me?

The Groundfall Pear

The Groundfall Pear
by Jane Hirshfield

It is the one he chooses,
Yellow, plump, a little bruised
On one side from falling.
That place he takes first.


Since September’s chill set in, Eva has been asking me if it’s fall yet.  

Is it fall yet, mama?

Not yet, sweetie.

But how will we know?

It seems so silly to tell her that we’ll look at the calender, as if I’m willingly teaching her not to listen to what she already knows.

Sunday Snippet

“When his grandchildren had been little, they had asked if they could hide inside the clock. Now he wanted to gather them and open himself up and hide them among his ribs and faintly ticking heart.”

–from Tinkers by Paul Harding

Make Mine a Double

There’s a new book out and inside that book is an essay I wrote.
Drink up:

Sunday Poem

Photograph from September 11

by Wisława Szymborska
They jumped from the burning floors—
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.

They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

I can do only two things for them—
describe this flight
and not add a last line.
Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak
from Monologue of a Dog. Copyright © 2005 by Wislawa Szymborska.

Henry River: Publication News

“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.”
Joan Didionphoto by Diane Fields

All summer long, I heard stories. I mean, that’s what summer is, right? Stories and mosquito bites and taking the salt shaker to a slice of watermelon? My favorite story was one my dad told me about Grandma Kate and how every winter when it snowed in Henry River she’d make up huge batches of snow cream–snow, evaporated milk, vanilla–and then she’d freeze it. I imagine, come summer, everyone had pretty much forgotten about it, but then Grandma Kate would go into the kitchen and dig it out from the depths of the freezer and–voila!–instant happiness.

As some of you know, I’ve been fiddling with a book about Henry River for several years now. It started as a quest to find out more about my grandmother, Maxine Newton, who died in an automobile-train collision when my dad was just a little boy, but it’s turned into more of a community-driven, historical journey to preserve a town that’s just a few years away from crumbling into dust.

I found out yesterday that Arcadia Publishing is going to publish the book about Henry River! Several folks who grew up in Henry River, including my co-author Ruby Young Keller, are coming together to tell their stories and share their photographs, and I just get to listen, which is really one of my favorite things to do, and then I get to write, which is one of my other favorite things to do.

Grandma Kate, unafraid of snow

The book will be available next spring (when the flowers bloom!). Look for updates here.

Sunday Poem

In honor of the fast-approaching school year:

Did I Miss Anything

by Tom Wayland

Question frequently asked by

students after missing a class

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here

we sat with our hands folded on our desks

in silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth

40 per cent of the grade for this term

and assigned some reading due today

on which I’m about to hand out a quiz

worth 50 per cent

Nothing. None of the content of this course

has value or meaning

Take as many days off as you like:

any activities we undertake as a class

I assure you will not matter either to you or me

and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time

a shaft of light descended and an angel

or other heavenly being appeared

and revealed to us what each woman or man must do

to attain divine wisdom in this life and

the hereafter

This is the last time the class will meet

before we disperse to bring this good news to all people

on earth

Nothing. When you are not present

how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom

is a microcosm of human existence

assembled for you to query and examine and ponder

This is not the only place such an opportunity has been


but it was one place

And you weren’t here