cooking, poetry, and unapologetic intense moments in a life

Tami Sawyer said

memphis-statues-come-downTami Sawyer said

So we start again.
Nathan and Jefferson came down.
The newspaper said,
“Mayor Strickland, City Council and city attorneys deserve much credit for their years of patient persistence.”

(A pause to let it sink in who was credited for the win)

Tami Sawyer said,
“–they felt they were superior to black people and their treatment of black people was odious at best, no matter what Nathan Bedford Forrest did when he got dementia. Don’t Give A fuck, and you can print that. ”

(A pause to let it sink in who was responsible for this win)

And before they came down, she said,
“I don’t care what happens to them. If you pull them down and they turn to dust, I’m sorry. People want me to be politically correct about it, but I do not care as long as they no longer stand in the city of Memphis.”

(A pause for you to consider who was responsible for the longevity of these statues casting shadows on children)

It turns out we don’t need a Delorean for time travel
just a flight delay, a scent on midday breeze.
A plush pillow with a thread bare
a freckled kid with an AR-15
a random Memphis flurry on a cold morning
looking into the shooter’s den at the Lorraine
staring at the beautiful barista who looks like Erykah Badu
dancing with family at a night club, then praying for your life

Let’s get back to wildness in this year.
Talking back, taking back, taking the opportunity cry out against
a hooded man who calls hismself supreme, forgetting his pseudoscience
when he unknowingly sings that Marvin Gaye song
to his silenced manicured fearful Stepford wife
before performing the fornication that he believes will spawn
the dominant race.

Let’s wear defiance like a wound that when opened strikes the bigots blind
paint Memphis like Kehinde Wiley would
Languorous, wealthy in fabrics, grace
Melanin in swirls, libidinous in words, grace
Let our lens be warped for hope
we are the new world.

You, poets, write a man, gynic, maverick, fertile and bursting
You, poets, echo a woman, jock, gallant, resolute, full with new life
You, workers, create a tactile masterpiece of rage,
then keep it from those who want it, need it.
You, Queers and Queens, parade your music of the spheres,
teach us your bloom, your elegance
You Spartans, sharpen your swords, and your pens. It’s time.
You, students, walk out and let them know you are done
being fucking afraid to learn

We mix our bloods in our babies making rainbows,
both antidote, chemical warfare
We, two-fisted, pound our history into the backs of those
who, head-hidden, die off like chanting raptors
ripe for the welcoming rebirth of earth that will only remember them
as fertilizer for hydrangeas.

The cynics say there is an art to stocking the cache.
Reaping repose and required wealth with a click.
Substituting stuff for status, serving rapacity before the homeless
Serving rapacity before those who are differing shades
of brown, black, cocoa, tawny, fawn, ginger, amber
Before those who love differently, learn differently, worship differently
Forgetting mouths, hands, bodies, that serve,
forgetting that they are strong,
forgetting the danger of
thier inherent and righteous brilliance.

You fill your mouths, coffers; the artists in avarice.
You have no idea what is coming.

The bridge still stands, majestic.
The statues are coming down, Delta town.
The poets still go to the theatre, the welfare, the doctor, and the judge
and we sing a song of
judicious enchantment.
A song of glory now,
and surely glory to come.



twenty and six

Zooming through some hill-town we were invincible
dirty Berkshire kids loving company who could talk Shakespeare,
love, loss, and the best dance music.

Zooming in that emergency room we knew it was coming
the inevitable snip rendering an absence
it created space, though. We all knew it would.

A righteous anger blanketed us in some Maine town.
You had sealed that deal with a tequila shot
a kiss, a flower, and a promise.

We played football in the snow.
We built fires.
On time went, and distance crowded into some car and went.

Winter’s tale-like years passed.
A call, a drive, a union, warriors, changing everything
and we were Southern, perfect and thick in cats.

Delicious pines dotted days of wars,
paintings of memories, and ice storms
that tree divided your house, brought love in three to my flat.

But the cats fought.
The neighbors complained.
And again, snip snip went my brain.

In the midst, some cousin made love to me
laughing, blatantly, unapologetic-ally rife
with mischief, then roses.

Again, space was made, we filled it with birthdays
walks and talks and locks on doors
that only we held keys to.

We all went to school
We sat in cafes, singing loud
We wept, fumed, sighed and lived wide.

I fell off the world awhile
There was too much escaping and I couldn’t find my feet
I lost play, I lost love, I lost mirrors and beauty

When the heartbeat ceased a moment
I saw the three of us in that amphitheatre
40 kids battling at agincort

I wasn’t done, I guess.
We all weren’t.
There are still records to listen to.

Zooming to Memphis
we came to the compound
we played, talked a little

I saw more cats, more fire
the creations, sublime, you two molded
in observation and questions- your best art.

We had a meal again.
Again, it was all shifting for me.
My feet were hazy, nearly gone, but the shadow was all.

The sunset reminded me we were young.
And so it was.
It was all right.

At least it was for me.
There’s an equal elegance to sadness, joy.
I’ve always known. I had to admit it, though.

It’s raining in Memphis,
so don’t zoom.
Take the road easy and make sure to breathe.

You all know I’m here, same as it ever was.
Still short, still unsure, still the worker bee.
Still pushing, shoving, defiant and scared, but

My feet are in full view.


Flurry, Memphis 2018

So we start again.
It turns out we don’t need a Delorean for time travel
Just a flight delay, or a scent on a midday breeze.
A plush pillow with a thread bare
or a random Memphis flurry on a cold morning
(Brings me back to laughing in the Berkshires
in some house in some hill town
recovering from some deviant switchback
and becoming pure again.)

Let’s get back to wildness in this year.
Talking back, taking back,
and wearing defiance like a leopard-print thong.
We are like the women in Mucha,
Languorous, wealthy in fabrics, grace
Sex in swirls, libidinous in our words
Our lens is warped for hope
we are the new world.

We write a man, gynic, fertile and bursting
We write a woman, jock, gallant, resolute
We mix our bloods in our babies making rainbows
We, two-fisted, pound our history into the backs of those
who, head-hidden, die off like white-hooded raptors
ripe for the welcoming rebirth of earth that will only remember them
as fertilizer for hydrangeas.

We close our eyes and let go.

The cynics say there is an art to stocking the cache.
Reaping repose and required wealth with a click.
Substituting stuff for status, serving rapacity before the homeless
Filling mouths, coffers; the artists in avarice.

The bridge still stands, majestic.
The statues are coming down, Delta town.
The rock stars still go to the theatre, and we sing a song of
judicious enchantment.

A search for soul, worship and welcomed weakness in the new year.


12:06 AM, Irma, Fire and Verona.

It’s 12:06 Am and there are quiet hours at Gatito Vito’s salon except
there is no quiet to be had, but vague ethnicity and troubled
dreamers wondering where supper is next week and where the
next handshake will emerge in this orange drowned town north of Mississip-

And fire burns and ash churns and so many foxes and hawks find silence
in cubbyholes and sand traps made for scorpions but now they house
refugees of fur and far and hope and wet and the new world in spades
and Trump(s) and storms, cataclysms, conundrums, holes of comfort.

There are not enough water bottles to sell, enough aid, not enough
purifiers, too many diapers to hold feces, piss of fleeing babes,
not enough gas to fuel the flying multitudes. It is dangerous, you know.
The storm will come, you know. It is here. IT IS PRESENT. It’s now the

bedfellow you needed to look in the eye, only the electric is gone and
the water is red with cruiser escapes filmed for the pleasure of
so many internet wanderers, and they know their time is limited, so
precious this time they have to bear witness to it all, bone and marrow,

and we write each others’ books, we do. Like some kind of Victorian
journalist, bearded and boheme. Finding the chinks, the holes. and
calling it all for scandal. It’s a business, these days, the scandal.
it’s all we can do to keep up, to sleep and strum, to remain upright and

here we are, at the cusp of eternity wondering who we can be in the wake of it
all, is all, is some, and we love each other don’t we? Don’t we? Or rather yet,
Do we hope for the moment we understand melody again? Do we pine to wake
and know that we have become enough, and the screen is safe to close?

Your body surges with the cancer, looking for a sweet spot, and you, warrior, let it
know the eye is near, and it will have to stay the interest until Tuesday. You
smooth tiny Evan’s hair with promise as you board windows, knowing the wind
cannot rival this year, this trial, this manifest of scars. It is a day, a week of

wheat from chafe, light from stark, wonder from womb, and tender lullabies.


Today there was Tea

Today there was tea.
Some lavender, a few magnolia blooms, a siren and a song of sorrow.
It steeped with fever, waiting for the moment
It slipped into the cup, subtly steaming
with fog of uncertainty, ultramarine
It blinded her as she sipped,
accompanied by the Memphis Sun.

This day curled, doleful in her dressed lap
Purred with necessity, yawned with thirst
Blinked in the same Sunbeam,
Forgetting the smell of Maine Solstice
the taste of  Midsummer madness in the barn.

She drank it down, only wincing a bit
at the scattershot sensation happening inside
her petite mouth.
Brown, red, and smooth,
The dregs spelled

Startled, she bounced slightly, purging her lap of her familiar.
She was left with only the Sunbeam,
this Delphic message,
and the aftertaste of sorrow, tart, like Ohio Blackberries.

Her lap, still warm with need of rain.
Cooled by the Four O’Clock Tennessee breeze.



Painting by Rob Hefferan


Holy, Holy in the Magnolia Tree

I cannot act with prudence, or temperance,
Guileless innocence, forgetting the incidents
the compounding fractures of chapters growing backwards
cheek staining battleground pounds, the whitest noise
The whitest noise,

Illinois was the leap, so steep and such a snowy night
I saw three angels on the roof, they asked in earnest
The snow was such a soft touch when I climbed the roof and flew
Next thing I knew, next thing I knew
There were two in blue, one on each arm,
That collar was stiff and warm
The lights were like crazy Thracian birds,
They whirred in my head, concussed
chattering how snow was too soft for the higher purpose
I failed at this ultimate act, the two in blue an accessory after the fact
I was so sad I couldn’t care less that Chicago was so damn pretty
That night. I thought of, was thinking of, the flashes of laps and
Pabst and old man laughs and currency for
love by commitees, they would come by committee.

by committees they came, in prides and
congregations they came, in murders they came,
in colonies, cultures, clouds,
braces and broods and bevies and beds
convocations, catches, skeins,
shoals, swarms, smacks and salts
feral parliament of manged dogs
into Florida house in the night

light fades, It faded, I was called for,
I floated in, above, and watched the swelling scene unfold
AND THERE I WAS! there I am
Or two. Or five. Stay alive, Stay alive. Just stay alive
Stay alive little one, or grow some teeth.

Sink beneath the flash and pomp.
Feel cool Saint Petersburg breeze,
the smell of the VW bus
the thrill of the sprinkler on July days
Count the pennies, but slowly, slowly.

Holy, holy in the poetry
Holy Holy in the wait
Holy Holy in Magnolia Tree
Holy Holy operate

this machine with caution, it’s a clever
cunning beast, It can float and flee
Weep and growl, squeal with glee, roar with love,
be silent as the grave, never caving, carving life from
tree husks with success, feeling in excess, but less apt
to be trapped than any other little girl.

Handle with care, she said.
Kid gloves and kid fears
are key.
I still see the grass wave in wind like you.
I  can taste the difference
between a peach on Tuesday and a peach on Sunday.
I know what’s up.

And the house of my childhood was made of glass,
each several window blown sugar,
each strand of sugar spider webs,
each web the finest dew line,
each dew line the stuff of Abbadonian dreams

I want to fly this place, but I can’t.
I’ve got beautiful babies coming to some class somewhere
To talk of witch trials or thundercats,
-which flavor of blow pop is superior
which Roman was right in killing Caesar

I want to fly this place but I can’t
I’ve got shit to do and a flock of friends
We head into battle with thin air for weapons
Doing some other sort of flight fight
And shaving peach fuzz off of Salem
Going into the woods with Tituba
Finding a snake and naming it McCarthy
And filling the theatres with men
Who could’ve sold our skin in gross, but wouldn’t dare.

I want to fly this place but I can’t,
so I’ll keep
donning the shoes and
Running I guess.
laughing when inappropriate.
And being absolute.

Sometimes it’s breath I hold
Sometimes you
Other things include music, pans, mail and soap
A skull in a graveyard
Or the bird that is made of glass
(I have to be very careful, you see)
And I don’t really understand where it ALL comes from- this courage
Some birth I guess – some haircut brainwash toothbrush
Some late night fit of artistic dune painting or
Maybe a ring around the posy, rosy, red, or finger
Maybe it’s the wail of fire trucks
the man I speak Hindi to, the sun through the trees
Perhaps the feel of my Step father’s hand as I rub out the pins and needles-
Those plague him after the surgeries.

Maybe it’s so simple that it won’t be named in any
chump piece of a poem-
Maybe it’s so secretive, we don’t have a file on it
Maybe this bravery is some DNA
floating in some thigh bone
deep in the center of me with all the women who came before-
The ones who fought the war and took back
The kingdom God gave us as a safehouse,
this lockdown, this red hold, inviolable,
this invulnerable fortress we were divinely bestowed
to provide the nectarous beating home
for our tender beloved babies to grow

You know,
Stay alive was the mantra,
stay alive,stay alive,
sweet girls just stay alive.
and count the pennies slow, slow.

Holy, holy in the Magnolia Tree.


“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” ― Aldous Huxley

The Four Agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best

I learned about the Four Agreements one summer while working in the Berkshires from my friend Tom. A Toltec Shaman named Don Miguel Ruiz published them in a book in 1997. Tom would often climb a nearby mountain and play a flute.

This was the same summer my best friend’s stepfather was hit by lightning in his canoe, along with his nephew, both killed, and drug to the bottom of a lake in Ocala by alligators, only to later be identified by dental records.  This was the same Summer I once again gave servitude to a company I worked for, as, starstruck I listened to it’s elders for guidance, hoping that they would give me wisdom on how to grow up. I just wanted someone to tell me things like, “Don’t do drugs.” or ask if I knew where babies came from. No dice. I learned much about being a teacher, figuring things out on my own, and how to allow heroes to step off of the pedestal every once in a while to give them a break. Heroism was as exhausting for them as my need for a hero was for me.
This is the same Summer I slept only hours a night, seeking solace in the people who lived  most extremely. Everything was liberally done. Including damage. Facebook reminded me of this Summer today.

Facebook loves to remind you of things, and also today it reminded me that three years ago today I was in the Giants stadium in San Francisco. I took a job with a theatre company out there, being hired with stars in my eyes by a beautiful, charismatic, brilliant leader.

I will remember a few things about that place:

Mount Tamalpais : I climbed and climbed and climbed. I was searching so desperately for some warmth in this place I had come for work. I mean, there was no way for it to live up to expectations, and the self loathing, reinforced by leaders, was verbose. Mount Tam was a metaphor for the EXTREME sadness I was feeling, the worthlessness I had assigned myself. I was trying to get up and out, trying to see the world more clearly.

The Pacific: Never have I walked so much on a beach. Never have I thrown so many questions to a body of water. And never have I considered pulling a Jeff Buckley more than in these weeks.


Fort Point : The production I worked on took place here, and inside the walls you could find the signatures of all the men who were at the ready in the 1800’s for a war that never came. I learned every curve, every stone, every ghost.

Golden Boy Pizza,  John, and Jamie: I knew already that I loved one of these yahoos, and the Jamie came later, brilliant, with a madman’s eyes, a poet’s heart, and a sailor’s soul. These two gentlemen, the patterns of good men, unknowingly kept me alive these months.


The Giants : By God, they might be the most disappointing team in MLB right now, but they were a glorious constant then. There was nothing like sitting against a redwood in a forest with a game being funneled into my ears. There was something to root for. There was a home team. Watching a no-hitter in that stadium was the highlight of my Summer.


Facebook also reminded me:

Nine years ago today Michael Jackson died.

One year ago I was on Peak’s Island saying poetry to a new crowd.


Seven years ago, I was getting ready to perform at the Eno River Festival in North Carolina with Rebecca, still eating fire, still being a Carolinian and a Nickel Shakespeare Girl.  Still loving and being in love with one of the best friends I ever had, and ever will have in this life or any after.


Four years ago I was cooking for a family in the Berkshires for side money alongside one of the dearest, most rock-hard strong women I have ever known.

photo (20)

They became dear to me -to us- this family, and we became family to them. Sadly less than a year later, the patriarch took his own life, just like his father before.


One year ago my friend John was playing Lear in our show Dark Rooms. He knew he was dying, even then. A few weeks later, he was gone, and we were rehearsing a play he financed-literally his dying wish- about the first poet and the first prophetess. We spoke his name every day, and did our very, very best every moment. People came. People fell back in love. People fell in love for the first time. People grieved.


I am grateful for all of this, painful, joyful, wince-worthy, and formative. I hope I’m getting better at the four agreements. Thank God there won’t be a test.

“The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject… And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them… Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced.”
― Seneca, Natural Questions



“past the wit of man to say what dream it was-” or LEAP through that fire for purity.


“In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was a fire-festival of great importance when the burning of balefires ritually strengthened the sun. It was often marked with torchlight processions, by flaming tar barrels or by wheels bound with straw, which were set alight and rolled down steep hillsides. The Norse especially loved lengthy processions and would gather together their animals, families and lighted torches and parade through the countryside to the celebration site.

The use of fires, as well as providing magical aid to the sun, were also used to drive out evil and to bring fertility and prosperity to men, crops and herds. Blazing gorse or furze was carried around cattle to prevent disease and misfortune; while people would dance around the balefires or leap through the flames as a purifying or strengthening rite. The Celts would light balefires all over their lands from sunset the night before Midsummer until sunset the next day. Around these flames the festivities would take place.

In Cornwall up to the mid 18th century the number and appearance of fires seen from any given point was used as a form of divination and used to read the future.”

The significance of fire:
devouring, the heating of what has chilled:
dissecting of what has frozen,
melting away of so many things, once solid, once hard,
the sterilization of what was dirty and impure,
and the birth of the wildest of ideas,
the most rampant, rambunctious, lascivious fertility rites.

On a Midsummer Night, once, there was a dream.
It houses lovers, royalty, fairies, and madmen
who fell fast, and into the night, reveling
chasing, crazed, the thigh, the calf, the mouth of another
heated by some flame inward,

fueled by the most ancient of magics
some lusty ritual, some donkey’s dream,
some truth inspired pageant, pregnant with desire.

We still seem to be here, lost in this sandman riddled land
chasing the summer away as the days shorten
leaping through fires for a quicker way to call our intentions pure
Finding each other in the night,
thick in the forest,
wanting the softer underside of skin,
needing to peel it off and see what lies beneath.

-Amorous rites, bounty in harvest, and a reason to sing,
seeing the Sun high, motionless.


First smelling Memphis, I knew it would changing.
I knew the A game would not nearly suffice.
I knew it would, like all the rest, be a move forward.

Like the rest, I searched, and drilled, and moved the earth to find
a common ground, a breath of familiarity
Instead, like all the rest, seeking in cyber spaces, I found
recycled thin air, false religions, and a reminder

that it takes an extraordinary mountain
to move me.

So I became smaller, in the literal sense.
Fifteen pounds exactly today.
I’d like to say it was shame weight, hiding weight, grief weight
the making space for some flavor of personal freedom I have acquired
in some late night epiphany, while in deep meditation
at the top of some retreat in India.

home soil.
dirty lucky bluesy delta town.
it absorbed it, took it in.
turned it into a magnolia, or a guitar lick
or maybe some lovers kissing outside of Blue Monkey.

Maybe it’s just weight. The need for smaller pants.
Something gone, some insulation, some buffer.
some bad date, or some room for hope wrapped around my waist.
Maybe it’s just so I can feel the breeze
and raise my hands high in victory.

Maybe it’s enough space.
Just enough.
For the entrance of a kiss, and some deeper shafts of light.
Somewhere, in the rainy morning.



How many synonyms are there for affection?

On a Saturday morning, effortless
We were 18 year-old forty somethings.
unmistakable giggles
stories of bloodsheds and watersheds
bedheads, retreads, some reds and blues and my God
the unsaid, the apparent, the ready the resonance.
The path of the empath, the love swelling scenes of midnights and
florida forlorn kids, pounding those warrior days with
what it took to keep breathing amidst the certain uncertainties that
left us breathless, those crazy albatross pains
the colic of adolescence, the way we wove
our secrets into each day
and let them set with humid sun, burning in
shades of city and wreck.

Our sides were burning with want, all of us.
All we knew was heat and water, spaceships and tree swings.
We were bred for this. This. This
shade of indigo. some desire of the unmapped, the
Chartless seduction submerged in the
sweetest trust of childhood playfellows
now with the most minute of wrinkle lines.
the new breath of honey
A lexis of kisses, lost loves,
car payments and some self-examination:
really the only true distance, you know?
I can’t explain the pull, I don’t need to.
The propulsion, palpable, makes it easy.
The conversation, easier.
The same eyes, mouth, and laugh
The history of us, the heart journey to Mercury,
Mars, Africa, Eden, Abyss of
trying to figure the fucking thing out.
the solid ground under our feet we can stand on
hearing a familiar voice, (one I adore)
without losing  balance
without trying to qualify why we find it comfortable to stand still.
why it’s enough to understand the shape of your hand
and remember it in mine while singing together
on some stage at 16 feeling our feet under us, even then.
Even then, even now, the ease is all.
The curiosity is filling the cat.
Willing travel, and a feeling of flutters.
A thought of a what-if-butterfly kiss
a hand solidly resting on the low of my back.
a slow dance in some music hall, or a walk in the rain.
or maybe, just a hunt of Memphis Town, and a friendly tour guide.
I really don’t have any idea what this urge is.
I’m not going to question. I’m not going to shove it down.

The clearest expectation for us all now is to stay alive until we don’t, and find each others’ eyes. We find the hand and hold it tight for dear life, because by God, it’s time. We laugh and eat days and nights, and sing songs loud.

All else is time, and all is all.
And it’s short, you know?
how we touch, how we hide, where we can get to, and where we are to go.
the thing is, mostly of most,
to admire someone and wish them with you
is to see the underside of the Gods.
The places they secret away for the most amorous and best mortals
The ones who will carry on the work of
loving like they did, the Gods,
The demigods. The deities, The Titans, the giants, and the poets.
With Athenian chastity,
The patience of Daphnis and Chloe, waiting for the storm, wishing to be whole
Writing us, sans plot
Charting the path with Artemis-like precision,
(Catch and release, catch and release)
We imagine the Aphrodite in us, sweet friend.
Thirty years seem to speak volumes in the silence.

Or perhaps just a day, a breath of what it feels to be home.
laying on that stage.
staring up, looking at our broken lights,
wishing we were more in control of our life, our bodies
wishing for a slower dance, another field trip
another bus ride, another chance to sing songs
in the chorus room at lunch.

Maybe we are just laying on the stage again.
Humming songs in seraphic harmony
Getting those goosebumps we did
When we knew that our sounds,
mine and yours,
made us more immortal than any God
more beautiful than a Magnolia,
bursting in wet bloom.

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