Poem: The Why of the Drive

“There’s lightning in the sky, I’m on the run

As an overwhelming urgency explodes.

All my life been waiting to arrive.

It’s not the destination, it’s the drive.”

—Jason Wade “Paper Cuts”

So goes one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite musicians. I’ve loved this song since I first heard it…well, last week. It took me a whole week to realize how appropriate this song actually was.

You see, I think those words are very true for most humans. We’re not called a “race” for nothing. All my life, I’ve been racing for one thing or another. To get an education, to get a good job, to have a family, to reach a point in my life where I’m totally fulfilled. Waiting to arrive. I’ve been lucky enough to achieve many of my goals. Some have escaped me. One in particular—to create a story that will capture the imagination of more than me—still dances just out of my reach.

But I’ve reached a point in my life where I wonder if maybe that might not be best.

Alan Shepard, the first man in space, emerged from his capsule and said, “Man, what a ride.” He’d achieved his dream. He’d been to space. Guess what he did then? He started trying to get back to space. In 1971, he commanded Apollo 14 on its mission to the moon, where he became one of the few who have walked on that gloriously inhospitable surface.

Man, what a ride.

I will never stop trying to string together words and now pictures to make that story that will suddenly become the story everyone wants to know. It’s my journey. I may never reach the end of it, but I have to believe there’s a reason I’m on it. Maybe when I reach my end, I’ll know for sure what that reason was. In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the ride.

The Why of the Drive

By Michelle Garren Flye

You start out fresh, focused and free

The window rolled down to feel the breeze

But you tire as the miles roll endlessly on

Each one passes but seems ever so long

Exhaustion sets in, dragging you down

You may nod off and miss a whole town

Muscles ache, discomfort draws your sighs

Why did you start this, your heart cries

But then you round a curve and know the why

You see it ahead where mountains meet sky

A creek bed that wanders hither and yon

A prairie or seascape that feels like a song

Oh God, help me enjoy the beauty you send

Even if it means I don’t make it to the end

Don’t take me away before it is gone

Just let me be where I know I belong.

By Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Gen X

I’m not sure where this came from except my frustration and angst boiled over a bit this morning. It’s sort of an apology to my kids. Give it some thought. Do you owe the next generation an apology?

Gen X

By Michelle Garren Flye

Let’s face it, we fucked up.

So long as we had our bite and sup

We didn’t care who had their way—

We just didn’t have that much to say.

The environment crumbles without our care;

Others struggle—we know it’s not fair.

But those others aren’t us, so why fear?

For them we will not shed a tear.

“We’re so laid back” is what we brag.

“We’ll leave it to others to piss and nag.”

The younger generation will have to fix

The mess we made when we were in the mix.

Retirement looms for us all now.

We’re almost ready to take a bow.

Our children shake their heads in wonder

At the world we’ve left torn asunder.

“Good times,” we say with wanton cheer;

“To better days,” we raise our beer.

All that’s left is to watch it burn

As we patiently sip and wait our turn.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Craving Heart

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Sometimes I’m attracted to a particular thing or sound or food/drink for no particular reason that I can name. My craving may attach itself to something I’ve known about and/or liked/loved for years. But all of a sudden, that’s all I want in my life.

What is this? It’s like a pregnancy craving. With my first son, I wanted milk all the time. Great, right? With my second, I wanted sweet tea, which sucked because I was living in Maryland at the time, and the only place to get good sweet tea was Bojangles. Thank God for Bojangles! My daughter was a different matter. I craved protein—in the form of hamburgers and steaks.

While I was pregnant, I figured cravings were trying to tell me something. I figure the same thing about these life cravings. Right now, all I want to listen to is Lifehouse and all I really want to read is manga/comics. I prefer drawing to writing, unless it’s poetry. What is my body trying to tell me?

Maybe it’s my spirit. Maybe it’s a type of spiritual pregnancy craving. I’ve completed my comic book (I’m moving away from calling it a graphic novel on my son’s suggestion), so it’s not that, but I can’t escape the feeling that my cravings relate to what’s happening in my creative life. In some way I can’t honestly name.

Craving Heart

By Michelle Garren Flye

Amorphous at first, like the moon’s touch,

Then filling the mind and life.

What is it you long for, want so much?

Sometimes sharp as a knife

Other times soft…you’d never hurt.

Give it to me, you whisper,

Give, and it’ll quench your thirst.

Resist you? Oh, that, I’d never!

I know how you get, my craving heart,

When I attempt to ignore

The insinuation of your persistent art.

No, I’ll surrender to wanting more

Of whatever you say I require.

I’ll see where this craving leads,

I’ll follow the road of desire—

And allow the nourishment of your needs.

Poem: Atypical Autumn…and a graphic novel update

We’re in the middle of autumn here in Eastern North Carolina. What does that mean? Beautiful trees and fire in the fireplace at night?

Hell no.

Most of our trees are evergreens, I think. We have a very few deciduous trees mixed in. But there are a few. And you catch glimpses of other color here and there. Temps are still averaging around 80 degrees although we’re no longer sitting on the Devil’s front porch (upper 90s). Still, there is beauty, and after living here for sixteen years, I’ve figured out how to find it.

Atypical Autumn

By Michelle Garren Flye

A fall like no other

With colors streaming

Like wild things at a party

Look there and there

Crimson poison ivy scales

The evergreen’s bark

And the pink magnolia seed

Gathers a fuzzy coat

Before it erupts to scatter

Scarlet hearts to unsuspecting birds

Spring and summer linger

In lemonade lantana

And late roses

If tradition is what you seek

Look to the dogwood

As its leaves brighten and fade

Chrysanthemums will blaze

And you might find a maple or two

But don’t expect too much

Atypical autumns don’t behave

The way you want them to

You have to adjust yourself

To see the beauty that’s there

And not wish for what

This season cannot be.

And with all that said, I should also add that I have recently completed edits on my graphic novel. Yeah, I know, that was fast! It feels weird that it went so fast. I think that’s the way things are when you’re driven to finish. Being completely self-published, I don’t have actual “deadlines”. Once I wrote this story, though, I knew I wanted to share it and my vision of it. Being able to do that in a visual way was very exciting to me. I’ve never been able to do that before except with my poetography. 😉 So, I’ll go ahead and announce that the kindle version of my graphic novel Hourglass is for pre-sale now on Amazon. The print version may take a little longer, and I definitely think it will be worth waiting for. I mean, who wants to read a comic book on their phone, right?

Poem: No Protection

No Protection

By Michelle Garren Flye

You’re right, you know.

Masks won’t protect us.

Science can’t stop the blow

Nor quiet all the fuss.

You can’t hide from despair

And politics won’t save the lost.

Maybe just focus on repair

And not tallying up the cost?

What can help us heal from this?

The neighbor is “other” to the free,

And all that matters is our own bliss.

Is it really too much to hear their plea?

Reach out a hand, fight to converge—

Look behind the mask to the soul.

Only when we find that courage

Can we hope to be made whole.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

What we are witnessing—from a Southern White Woman’s perspective

“We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.” —Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, June 2020

I actually don’t think that’s all we’re witnessing. I think our problems run much deeper. Four hundred years deep, dating back to the day the first slave stepped off the ship onto the soil that would one day be the soil of the United States.

Oh where were our visionaries then?

I suppose we could look to our founding fathers. Well, not all of them. But Benjamin Franklin allowed himself to be educated on the slave situation, though he remained pessimistic about integrating Black people into society. However, a thoughtful, intelligent man could not help but be troubled by what he himself saw as “an atrocious debasement of human nature”.

Yet he owned two slaves himself. And Benjamin Franklin was the best white man we had to offer at the time.

Jump ahead a few centuries. On June 16, 2015, Donald J. Trump announced he was running for president. Less than a year later, it was obvious he had the support to win. To the befuddlement and consternation of thoughtful, intelligent people everywhere, Donald J. Trump went on to become president of what was once the greatest nation in the world.

Life went on, but from that moment, the rights of the marginalized were under attack and in danger. As Mattis says, we haven’t had mature leadership. We have had evil leadership. Ignorant leadership. Leadership with the rights and privileges of the rich and powerful and white (and mainly male) prioritized. And our institutions have suffered because so much of them is controlled by that very demographic. It’s hard to stand up for what’s right when your stock portfolio is soaring. It’s hard to be concerned about “the others” when your race/religion/party is on top.

“The founding fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances. I feel as though that is under assault and is eroding.” —Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, May 2017

Turns out Clapper was right. Our institutions have crumbled. Our checks and balances are nearly gone. And now we have a choice to make. The economy is on the verge of recovering after the blow it was dealt by Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis. We haven’t seen the last of COVID-19, but people are learning how to live with the danger. That’s not even the wrong thing to do. We had to adapt. We are strong that way. Where we are weak is remembering the bad times.

Black Lives Matter has a chance for the first time in our history to make a difference. As a Southern White Woman—which I put in capitals because I worry constantly that it defines me to others, but, worse, to myself—I know this is important. It is important to every marginalized human being in our country including women, but it is most important to the Black community, which may finally throw off four hundred years of oppression.

Can we as a nation find the strength to resist a government which would oppress all of us—all but the powerful, white, and rich? Can the powerful, white, and rich find it in themselves to resist the call of more power and more money? Some have. James Mattis was one of them. There have been others.

“We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent.” —Senator John McCain, October 2017

“Without fear of the consequences and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.” Senator Jeff Flake, October 2017

Can others follow? Can we all come to realize what is wrong is wrong even when it is not in our own interests? I don’t know. In November 2020 I hope I will find out. I pray what has been normalized—whether that has happened over four years or four centuries—will be rejected. Only then will the symbols of freedom we treasure mean anything at all.

Southern White Woman signing off.

Eagle. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Don’t burn the bookstore your ancestors fought for.

Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying, “Reading is a way for me to expand my mind, open my eyes and fill up my heart.” That is indeed what reading is for many today. But it’s also a privilege and a right that human beings of all races had to fight for.

Before the invention of the printing press, only the upper classes had books to read. They were just too expensive for the common folk. Too busy surviving plague and poverty, many of these people never learned to read. Bibles, especially, were kept to the clergy and the church, mainly because they were the only ones who could read it in its original Latin. God forbid that the lower classes read it for themselves and start thinking and interpreting religion for themselves.

But then came the English translation of the Bible—which was banned for that very reason. It was smuggled into English hands by determined bibliophiles, but William Tyndale, the translator who lived in exile in Europe in order to complete his life’s work, was executed.

Of course slaves were not allowed to learn to read. Not only were there no schools for them, it was against the law to teach them in most slave states. But learning finds a way. Some slave owners allowed their slaves to learn to read as part of Christian education, and some educators found interesting ways around the laws, including a floating school on the Mississippi River.

My point here is that all cultures and races have fought at some point for the right to read and write, and in an era such as the one Americans are going through right now, we need to preserve every last bit of that right. Our president threatens social media and the press, bookstores in Minnesota are battered by protestors and looters, and all of this is happening against a backdrop where independent bookstores and small presses are struggling for survival anyway.

So my plea is this: Don’t be part of the forces that would oppress you and take the light of knowledge away. Don’t burn the bookstore your ancestors fought for.

Today’s anti-information, non-factual age is a dangerous one for local bookstores, the media and science. In the end, it is up to us to make certain our heritage and ways of life are preserved. Protect what generations of every culture have fought for. Keep our bookstores open.

Poem: Why He Knelt (for Colin)

Why He Knelt (for Colin)

By Michelle Garren Flye

A man kneels in a green field.

Father, help me find the way

To fight the power they wield,

To make them know what they

Don’t fathom: simply why I kneeled.

Years pass and he is condemned

To life, but not on the stage he sought.

Until the news is overwhelmed

By the injustices he warned about—

And we recall what he did contend.

Kneeling at work seems little enough

When you look at the news today.

His gentle defiance is practically fluff

And a much less destructive way.

(Ignored injustice can get rough.)

What can you do now, you plead.

What service can you provide?

Listen to what they cry and heed—

It may be time to take a side,

And in the black earth, plant the seed.

And if all else fails to satisfy

To your knees you should fall.

The act we can’t expect to justify,

But what we can do is simply all

Kneel and know exactly why.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Happy 25th and 18th: An anniversary, a book and a poem.

Today is, in a very real way, a very big day for me. It’s my 25th wedding anniversary and the day I officially release my 18th book.

Thank you.

It’s hard to celebrate right now, as I have good reason to know. My 50th birthday fell right at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. My son and my daughter also have celebrated birthdays. Today I have no actual plans to celebrate. I once envisioned a busy day full of well wishing friends for both my book and my marriage. I mean, not as many people make it to their silver wedding anniversary as used to, right? And quite a few authors never see 18 books with their name on the front.

But celebrating is hard right now. People are still sick, still dying. I’m working hard to make sure I’m not one of them. I have nightmares that my family is. And life goes on.

And still, I am happy to announce the publication of my 18th book, Magic at Sea, the seventh book of my Sleight of Hand series (and still a standalone, so you can read it even if you haven’t kept up with the series!). And I am happier still to be married to the same wonderful man for twenty-five years. Rain or shine, we’ve had them both.

Rain or Shine

By Michelle Garren Flye

When did it rain?

I never heard thunder

Or wind or raindrops.

When did they fall?

It must have happened

Behind the scenes

While we were busy

Doing something else.

Something important.

Raising kids, living life,

Paying bills…surviving.

I didn’t know it rained.

Just like so many other

Things have happened

In the background.

It’s funny how you start:

Focused on each other,

Certain nothing will change.

But then it does.

Work and family and life

All change you.

And rain falls unnoticed

Until you see the puddles,

And then you notice the wet

And open an umbrella.

Happy anniversary to my patient, supportive, loving husband. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Living in a fantasy world

I do live in a fantasy world a lot of the time, so I know what I’m talking about here. Writers mostly do. You may see us grocery shopping or taking our cars for service or dropping the kids off for school, but that reality doesn’t mean we’re not living in our fantasy world, figuring out plotlines, talking to our characters, considering story arcs…

Until reality impinges on fantasy and we have to face it.

Recently I’ve felt more and more that it’s the opposite in my corner of the world, at least. Fantasy is impinging on reality. Because we don’t want to deal with reality, we create fantasy. Covid-19 doesn’t exist. It was made up. It’s not going to kill anyone we love because so many people survive it, it’s just like the flu. There are only 40 or 60 or 100 or 200 cases in my community, and nobody I know has it, so I won’t get it. Masks don’t protect you. It was 5G that caused it.

Reality is scary right now, yes, but not facing it is scarier because you know what I’ve found from living in a fantasy land a lot of the time? Reality will force you to face it eventually. You do have to come out of the clouds and pay the bills or your power gets turned off. You gotta scoop the cat litter or it gets stinky. Right now I’m wearing scratched glasses because going to the eye doctor is too much reality.

And if we don’t face the frightening reality of covid-19 as a community, we’re going to regret it. All of us.

I hate wearing a mask, but I do it.