You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ category.

I’m busy preparing for Words Awake!  I’ll be on a poetry panel at 9:00 am, reading poetry at 3:15, and selling copies of Mansion of Memory all day at the Winston-Salem Writers booth.

Please join us.  It’s free.

Words Awake!
A Celebration of Wake Forest Writers and Writing!

March 23-25 on the campus of Wake Forest University

I’ll be part of a panel “Writing Poetry” at 9:00-9:50 am March 24

(Eric Ekstrand ‘07, Helen Losse MALS ’00, Robert West ’91) (409 Benson)

part of a reading Writers Reading IV:  The Poets:  at 3:15 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. March 24

Eric Ekstrand ’07, Helen Losse MALS ’00, John York ’77 (401B Benson)

signing Better With Friends and Seriously Dangerous at the Wake Forest University Book Store table

and selling Mansion of Memory at the table for the Winston-Salem Writers

Join us.  It’s free! See entire schedule.

I have a new poem, In Which Scene and Plot May Vary From the Movie You Actually Think You Saw, in Referential Magazine. 

Thanks to editor Jessie Carty and to good friend Clare Martin who wrote the essay, “The White Crane,” that my poems refers from.

The March issue of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature is now online with poems from thirteen poets:    Gary Carter, Bud Caywood, Robert Klein Engler, Addy  Robinson McColloch, D. S.  Malone, Jenny Billings Beaver, Jessica Kirwan, Herbert Woodward Martin,   Jim Valvis, Susan Nelson Myers, Norvin Dickerson, Alberto Arza , and  J. B. Hogan.

Also online are two new essays.



Everyday—even on sabbatical—I check my in-box for the Dead Mule.  But it isn’t everyday that we get fan mail.  In fact, fan mail comes infrequently enough that it is worth writing about.

I will respect the privacy of the young woman who wrote the note to the Mule, but I will include in full—minus her name—my response to her note in hopes that a part of it might serve as a reminder to all writers and potential writers.   That sentence is in bold type below.

Hi N—,

Thanks for your kind comments about one of our summer chapbooks.  We at the Dead Mule are happy you enjoyed the poems by CL Bledsoe and will pass your comment along to him.  Writers are always glad to know their work has been meaningful to someone, and publishers and editors are glad that work was presented by their magazine.

Why don’t you try writing about your Dad, and maybe your Mom. too?  You never know what you will come up with when you start writing.  Every famous poem or story began with a blank sheet of paper.

Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.

All the Best,
Helen Losse
Valerie Mac Ewan


The Dead Mule has enough stories, essays, and poems (including four chapbooks) to keep most of us busy all summer long.  More stories and essays will be added from time to time, and a full issue of poems will be posted on October 5.

Submissions for short (500word) stories and nonfiction are open.  Poetry submissions will open again after the first of the year.  Until then, enjoy the many poems from out already-full in-box.

Consideration for the Dead Mule submissions for Best of the Net is underway.  We’ll make those announcements in August or September.

I have a poem, “Gondola Ride ,” in the July issue of Pig In a Poke.  Also poems by Scott Owens and Jessie Carty, among others.  There is fiction; there are essays.

Thanks to editors Harry Calhoun and Trina Allen.

We realize very keenly in America today [October, 1968] that the monk is essentially outside all establishments. He [or she] does not belong to an establishment. He [or she] is a marginal person who withdraws deliberately to the margin of society with a view to deepening fundamental human experience.

Are monks and hippies and poets relevant? No, we are deliberately irrelevant. We live with an ingrained irrelevance which is proper to every human being. The marginal [person] accepts the basic irrelevance of the human condition, an irrelevance which is manifested above all by the fact of death. The marginal person, the monk, the displaced person, the prisoner, all these people live in the presence of death, and the office of the monk or the marginal person, the meditative person or the poet is to go beyond death even in this life, to go beyond the dichotomy of life and death and to be, therefore, a witness to life.

Thomas Merton. The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton. Naomi Burton, Brother Patrick Hart and James Laughlin, editors. New York: New Directions Press, 1969: 305-306.

I believe the cross-rock, like any foundling, exudes a certain mystery.  It leans against the red brick on the north side of the house, next to the lillies-of-the-valley in a bed of pine needles running parallel to the drive.  On sunny days, it looks just like I want it to look.  Perhaps, the rock is charmed.


My earliest recollection, concerning the cross-rock, centers around our family’s discussion of how unusual it was to find a rock with a perfectly formed cross on one of its flat surfaces—that’s why we kept it and kept moving it from place to place all these years.  I honestly don’t know whether the cross was intact or not, when Daddy found the flat rock—probably limestone—in Oklahoma, near Spring River, a few years before we built the cabin on our property there.  I was ten, or twelve, the year he found the rock.  We spent our weekends and vacations in the quiet country for a number of years—a father, a mother, and three children—roaming the woods and climbing the hills—free.


I like the story better if the cross is still whole when we got it, and the rock glistening in the sunlight as though it were imbedded with metallic flecks, so, naturally, I’m surprised when I look closely at the cross-rock and discover that it’s dark—several shades of gray, almost charcoal and stained with red clay on its bottom edge.  Funny, I thought it was sparkling white.  Small particles of black leaves cling, and then fall.  The angle has been altered:  the rock now lies flat on its back.  I know the clay is new, because dirt is black—back in Oklahoma.  It’s black in Joplin, too, where my family lived, with the rock in the yard for many years, before I brought it to Charlotte in the 1970s. Under careful scrutiny, the cross-rock looks more ordinary than I want to admit—not at all sacred.  But I remember when we were asked to name elements of nature that had spoken to us, that had spiritual significance—just a couple of years ago in a religion class—I mentioned the cross-rock.  Its history gives it great value.


The rock’s flat, the shape of a highly irregular, over-sized dinner plate, approximately twelve or fourteen inches in diameter.  A few tiny holes line the edges. When the rock is lying on its smoother side, the opposing surface has six or seven irregular ridges that stand about three quarters of an inch above the lower sections.  I say six or seven, because I can’t be sure—the number depends on the angle and distance from which I am looking, and whether or not I take the time to squint.  The flat part of the rock is about an inch thick.  The cross, including the section that is missing, occupies a mere third of the rock’s surface.  It’s much larger in my mind.


As I sit with my nose touching the rock, what appeared to be the horizontal part of the cross now forms a mountain range.  The rock’s greenish toward the center in a low lying valley—in a bowl with higher elevation all around.  The grandeur, stark.  Only the ground is green, and one could argue that that green is as good as brown.  Everything’s cold—not winter cold—but the far-away coldness of something gone.


The missing section of the cross—measuring three inches long and three-fourths of an inch in diameter, the part that would be placed into the ground if it were up-righted into the position for a crucifixion—looks like a deep gorge.  Perhaps, a river bed, or a passage in the Holy Land where a cross might be on familiar turf.  Something happened in this gully—that much I know—but I cannot make it out.  A dark shadow falls along the left bank.  I wish I could tell you how a father, a mother, and three children skip small, flat stones on the surface of the green river, but I can’t.  The water’s missing in this scenario.  I smell dampness—algae, dirt, and decomposing leaves.  Only the cross-rock knows the story.


CROSS-ROCK UPDATE:   The Story Continues


The cross-rock  has been moved from the north side of the house to the deck on the back.  It now leans against the rails of the deck behind the statue we bought a couple of weeks ago.  The statue is an angel with a cherub. The angel is playing a harp, and there are pink flowers at her feet.  Behind the statue, off to the side, is a large flower pot of red, pink, and white begonias.


Long live the cross-rock.


Cute Little Kitchen Hand Towels

The story that is now somewhat funny could have been tragic. I had purchased a pretty kitchen hand towel with an knitted top so it could be conveniently attached to an appliance and hung it from the handle of my stove. It looked nice. That’s what I thought then and what I think now. But I will never again hang a towel near a stove, even an electric stove with no open flame.

It was afternoon, and I was home with my infant son, who slept sweetly in his crib, when I decide to make a cup of tea. I put the kettle on the front burner. When its whistle sounded, I lifted it from the burner and poured the hot water into my mug. Then, noticing a neglected spill, I placed the kettle on the cold burner at the back of the stove and wiped the stain from the white enamel with my pretty little hand towel. Only somehow the towel, still attached to the stove-handle, burst into flame.

The fire was small, and no grease was involved, so I reached under the counter for a bowl to fill with water to put out the flame. But, no, I grabbed the colander, instead, and naturally the water went right through it. Hurling the colander across the room, I reached again, but by this time the flames were reaching toward the over-stove cabinet. I was a bit panicked, but found a bowl, filled it with water and was successful in extinguishing the flames without the assistance of the Fire Department, but my house smelled smoky, and there was water all around.

What if grease had been involved? The possibilities left me shaking. Those cute little kitchen hand towels belong on refrigerators, not on stoves.

The Encyclopedia of North Carolina Has Arrived!

Encyclopedia of North Carolina coverPlease join the University of North Carolina Press in celebrating publication of the Encyclopedia of North Carolina, edited by William S. Powell! The first single-volume reference to the events, institutions, and cultural forces that have defined the state, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina boasts more than 2,000 articles by some 550 volunteer contributors. The Encyclopedia of North Carolina is available now through the University of North Carolina Press’ online service and everywhere books are sold. To purchase a copy or for more information about this landmark publication, click here.

And if you click here, you’ll find my name on the list of contributors. I wrote the entries on “Assemblies of God,” “Church of God in Christ,” “Colored Farmers’ Allianace,” and “Winston-Salem Bible College.”

January 2023