This is not

what was meant to be sprouted from scarlet, this: your exhortation to stop picking at scabs, the crusted-over crimson of searching fingers. I meant it to be about the blood of history, all sticky rust and slave-set-free-catharsis, set outside train station where truth is buried under a clouded highway overpass and redemption pulls away with a groaning of unoiled engines. But time taps out what it will, and I have a talent for scars. Sigh, and sigh. Let’s, then, try to keep our own story from becoming pock-marked & pot-holed: the burial-ground-turned-parking-lot of that old hospital where I first learned to stitch (with catgut in formalin-fumed skins of forever), will wait.

Written after a stroll through what is called “Hell’s half-acre,” which encompasses archaeological sites for Lumpkin’s slave jail, burial grounds and city gallows. The I-95 overpass, Main Street Station, and parking lots for students and employees of the Medical College of Virginia (where I did first learn to suture) all overlap/border the sites. Linked in for Five-Sentence Fiction with the prompt “scarlet.” Could we call this my first attempt at flash, do you think?

exercise in Southern Gothic

train comes, its wrack
the undisguisably pickled

dregs of hope de-
composing, dreaming acidly

in blue glass, mason. so
much for bloated beginnings,

point-of-departure daggered
summer afternoons in the market

where souls are at auction as
they were lifetimes ago

and charlatans lien awned
forevers under skies that

darken and gradually un-
remember. she presses

thin dress over pale thigh, fights
wind-made wrack in torn fabric,

holds her voice white-knuckled:
what price would you pay

to drain the vinegar,
slough history, begin again?




close-legged in the James Center Starbucks i

channel my inner alchemist writing

molecules into dreams

and posing painfully

as another drip in the puddle

of humankind, my best sad delusions

melting into visible air breathed

over a single blade of grass

crowned with a frozen halo,


yearning or a universe trapped

there in the mud beside a stream

that flows where herons stalk

lost summer and only the

indigent and the inspired

tread the river-paths. The truth is i

love this place not two skips

from hell’s half-acre but

sometimes, lost in the ebb and curve

between railroad tracks and

monogrammed yesterdays i

wonder if the whisper

of the Devil can still be heard

above the hum of the wi-fi;

if those who sojourn in the

Burnt District of this

numbed century still

feel its scars and its sunderings


some things it seems haven’t

changed at all: men

are still shaped

by the subjects they should have learned

in grammar school and poets

still prefer windows and the

real truth of it is, i guess,

that here where the trains slow

and the James flows on uncomplaining,

herons have always stalked

lost summers, and ice,

like mankind’s worst

delusions, will always


one sad drop

at a time.