It’s Apping Season, Y’all

Pavement Poet (Flickr, Daz Smith)
[Photo Credit: Flickr / Daz Smith]

Hey Folks/Readers/Writers/Supporters/Mom,

Just a quick note here to let you all know that I’m standing on the edge of the grad school pool once again, preparing myself to dive headfirst into the application process a second time.

(So if I have a posting hiatus, please do forgive and understand. I’ll try to share new word things again with the world once all my digital app pigeons have departed on their separate journeys. And if I’m kind of out of it, gone from the world, or wrapped up in my own for the next 2 weeks, know that it’s me, not you, and that I like food and beer and would love to grab either/both with you after the app season has passed.)

But, know that I’ve been training these damn pigeons all year for this. I’ve put in a shit ton of hard work this past year — like writing 120+ new poems, taking a handful of writing classes (poetry and otherwise), reading a bunch of books (poetry and otherwise), performing around Atlanta and elsewhere, and even having things published in real-life journals — to better my odds of beating the odds. Like the literal 5-7% acceptance rate odds. Like “as hard as getting into med school” kind of odds. Like “damn son, you crazy” kind of odds. Here’s to hoping that maybe the crazy will be enough this time around.

And know that I’m extremely grateful for all my friends, family, and mentors who’ve helped me along in this process, each in their own ways. Despite our preferred love of alone time, us writerly folk do like the companionship, too, and you’re good people.

Catch y’all on the flipside.

— Justin / LWM

(P.S. – If you’ve got any good resources about MFA Creative Writing apping to share, please send them my way!)

Gap Teeth (for Uzo Aduba)

#105 - Gap Teeth (
[Photo Credit:]

Growing tired of my persistence,
my mother sat me down.
Uzo, I will not close your gap.
These American braces are not for you.

You have my family’s teeth, the wide signature
of our village, our Nigerian home.
People know us by our gap.
No, they revere us for it –
our sacred sign of beauty,
of royalty and intelligence.

Others pine for it,
pray so desperately to have it,
but they weren’t blessed to be born
with our family’s perfection.

Our pride, our history
is in our mouth,
and this new country’s standards
will never leave teeth marks in you.

Something Like a Love Letter for the Geography Bee State Champion

[Photo Credit: Flickr / Sherri Lynn Wood]

If sole has never touched soil,
then these shifting grounds might as well
be ocean waves lost at sea.

In high school, I dated the geography bee state champion –
a girl who’d earned her accolades by studying
the topographies and histories of countries she’d never seen.

If I have not climbed your mountains, have not swum your depths,
have not tasted of your bazaar, then how can I be trusted
to trust myself to love you from afar?

She could recite a random nation’s capital, square mileage, and population,
but ask her how the pineapples taste in Belize, and when she would say “the same
as they do in America,” she would be wrong, and state champions are rarely wrong.

If I have not known you, then it’s hard to love you,
to find your face on the map, finger tracing your ridges,
to stumble over your rigid limits, remembering your imaginary lines –
as made up and irrational as nationalism.

But I, too, have been wrong like a champion – too content to sit
on stone walls and point fingers at foreigners, eyes wide and watching
as my small existence meant nothing to her,
another lost grain of sand on the seafloor.

If there is a gap in my love, and my knowledge of it,
then remind me how to walk again, show me
what broken steps to place where so I may behold you
like you were always meant to be held.

I thought I’d love her, like them, for being other,
but I’ve always been stoic and silent as they crumbled –
never able to point out where in the world,
and how far, they had fallen.

Night Ships Docking

[Photo Credit: Flickr / Ryan Lowry]
[Photo Credit: Flickr / Ryan Lowry]

When she leaves me again this morning,
this I in me will be more forgotten,
and her absence shall harbor frozen rings
around the worn port of prima noctem.

So many ships have passed me in the night,
the light in my eyes ushering them all
to safe shelter for their hearts, and then plight
dashed like promise upon sheer-faced rock wall.

How many sailors has she been with now?
How many tavern wenches have I?
When we dock here this evening, will her brow
raise like her tattered sails as day is nigh?

The sun shines, I remind myself not to care –
our sea was always meant to be shared.

“The Reunion” – That Short Play I Co-Wrote in 24 Hours, Now With Video

Actors Parris Sarter as Heather and Matt Mercurio as Javier in our play.
Actors Parris Sarter as Heather and Matt Mercurio as Javier in our play, “The Reunion.”

Hey folks, remember that time I dipped my toe (for 24 hours) into the wonderful waters of playwriting for the Atlanta 24 Hour Play Fest? Welp, glorious video has surfaced at last!

And now, all of you who were unable to make it can laugh at the heartfelt absurdity that Curt Shannon and I wrote; Dre Camacho directed; and Parris Sarter, Matt Mercurio, and Mark Owen starred in. And for those of you who were able to make it night of, thank you for your support, and I hope you enjoy watching it here once again.

(While our play runs from 1:04:28 to 1:14:40 in the video below, feel free to watch the rest of the plays that the 24-hour crew concocted this year. They’re good stuff, y’all.)

The Circus Politic

[Photo Credit: Flicker / m!ngus photografer]
[Photo Credit: Flicker / m!ngus photografer]

Bend back the tent flap and slide into your assigned seat.
The elephants and donkeys and puppets are all here.
They’re waiting for you
with readied entertainment dressed in sharp suits,
shooting half-baked facts from musty mouths
surrounded by white-hot lights and caked-on makeup.

They want you.
They want you to be enraptured
by their selective outrage and flapping arms,
by the heat still steaming from their animal snouts.
They want you to be comfortable,
only, ever, and always comfortable
inside their delicate echo chamber.
But you’ve come here on your own,
so it’s safe to assume
that you’ve already bought into this,
and that you want it too.

When you leave in an hour,
you will take the circus home with you –
another parrot of a bird-brained flock
designed to be ruffled and to squawk
louder on the leader’s behalf –
ignoring and hiding the fact
that a simple change of the wind
will blow the whole show sky high.

Straw Man

[Photo Credit: Flickr / Matt Jones]
[Photo Credit: Flickr / Matt Jones]

Stuff me with your fallacies.
Dress me in the costume of the other.
Paint on me a face in caricature
of your enemies. I am easiest to destroy
when my humanity is post-impressionism.

Send me out into the world, a world,
some world that has never been mine –
some structure that I have never claimed
to long for, to change, or even inhabit.
Make me representative
of your hates. Allow me
to take fire for you. Hold me
as your shield against ignorance.

When the time proves convenient,
flick a match at my chest
and disappear in silence
as I slowly smoke away.

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." — Henry David Thoreau


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