Friday, February 15, 2013



I, too, am profoundly connected
to this person who died
way back when. I want you
to really know it. Feel it.
Later remark that your heart
begged, no more, please.
How you ignored it,
punk hunk of meat holding
in gory glamour
your certain death.
Ha! You could entertain then
thoughts of Brazil
and base jumping
and sweaty assignations
with whoever
lives in the apartment upstairs.
Imagine what it would be
to fall into nothing -
the excitement of another's oblivion.
See, I am bound
to that which erases.
To a brick wall. To the weird heat
of a strange bedroom.
Light which is not light.
Her touch will mark you,
you know it, you know it forever.
I think I mentioned
how often I weep.
And the blindness that comes,
then. I'm sure
I have shared this testimony.
It is terrifying
to unhinge my mouth, but I do.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

My grandfather

My grandfather, Paul Fred Bohanon, died Friday in Georgia. Almost eight hours away, I couldn't make it back for his funeral today, and it's depressing. All my childhood, he was a mythic figure, a WWII veteran, a businessman, an alcoholic, a father, and so forth. When I was maybe ten, he allowed me to drive old trucks around Chickamauga, Georgia. Motorcycles, too. The prologue of my memoir is about him, or at least about the very certain odds of danger's lottery: sooner or later our frailty is revealed, often mercilessly. A year after I broke my neck, Rip, my grandfather as he was just about universally known, was found in the floor of his kitchen, a massive stroke having detonated within his brain. He could no longer speak, except to say Goddammit, and for twenty five years that was his word for the world. Along the way, he lost both legs, amputated due to gangrene, stole his son's truck and drove it to Florida - I was living in Tuscaloosa when that news came in, that he'd disappeared, and what could we do but ruefully laugh - and much that there's no need to recount here. This brief note does him an injustice, conveying no real hint of the wildman he had been all his life. But, in many ways I think I became a writer because of him, at least in part. I owe him this mindfulness, tonight, far away.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012



O bike thief in Las Vegas run to ground on TV
by a one-legged cop, I will tell nobody
of the shame which racked you.
Made your mugshot a study
of failed ambition aplenty.  But,
I should be honest.  Whatever you felt,
however you rawly ached,
it won’t be found here.  Let us be clear:
I’m making you up. Assigning your heart
grand disappointment.  Naming you
Russell, or Leonard, maybe Estus–
not all at once, but as my mood goes
I speak good advice to you with great authority.
In the moment you’re knocked
from the suburban kid’s mountain bike
(and how could you take it)
you’re clobbered by the young veteran,
his lungs about to explode into the clip-on microphone.
I’d like to step in
with my mouth full of the obvious:
you do not want to be this.
When I broke my neck,
fez-capped Shriners came to our house,
looking old and white and sad.
They gave me a TV,
and my brother an orange foam football.
Twenty five years later
that set went dark forever,
and nobody would repair it.
I think of the day I went with my brother
in his horrible Camaro
to buy a new television.
He helped me stand,
bracing my knees against his,
then we turned to the unfolded wheelchair.
Over my brother’s shoulder,
I could see an old man watching,
maybe he was a Shriner, too,
ready to come over, offer his strength–
“Can I help you, son?”
When I said no, his face was grave;
I looked down to see that
my jeans had fallen
and my legs were white in the sun.
Which is a way of saying
that I was half-naked
in a Best Buy parking lot,
once.  Don’t forget 
the pained old man,
the crappy Camaro, 
the Shriners who occasioned it all.
Well, not all:  I, too, was knocked
from a bike, from a life,
once upon a time.  Russell, foolish thief, I think of you
each time I’m caught.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The thought of the catacombs

Is (was?) Reckoning just about the best album R.E.M. ever made?  Maybe so.


I find I'm still lagging behind all possible verb tenses, these days.  This is not a complaint.


Back from less than twenty four hours in New Jersey.  Thank you so much to a truly wonderful host of nice people at Brookdale Community College.  I had a wonderful, if frenetic, time there.  I spent a few moments on the beach, pleased with the ruckus of the lapping waves - I hadn't expected to stay on the beach.  And down the street, old bars where Springsteen came up.  We only drove by them.  Still, I fancied to feel a little of The Boss.

And, then there was Tony Soprano.  The poster in the lobby for a bus tour.  Tempted.  No time.


Amtrak never looked at my i.d.


It is no real secret I love my Kindle.  The new model is pretty fantastic - lighter, slimmer, pared back.  I often do readings with it.  And just read - a lot of that these days.


Charlottesville is wonderful, beautiful in this autumn, a little like a dream.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


The link is for subscribers only, but I'm happy and thrilled to say that my poem "After Damascus" is part of a feature on the King James Bible in the June issue of Harper's.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I'm thrilled and honored to say that this fall I'll be joining the faculty of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia.