Southern Eclair

With Photos by E. Clair and Kristen L. Smith

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Claudia Rankine was the first person to teach me to write poetry, and the first to teach me about Toni Morrison. She never gave me an A for my academic writing, but she did for my poetry. My insecurity told me that meant I needed to focus more on my academic writing. It’s funny what we do with the feedback we’re given.

She’s in The New Yorker today, Claudia, having been drawn to Ferguson, Missouri. And I’m here in Arkansas—an English professor—far away from the time and place where I knew her, having spent decades on my academic writing, working and working on it until I didn’t care what anyone thought of it anymore and could finally say what I wanted to.

Filed under Claudia Rankine poets poetry being a professor

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When I finally arrived home from my long day, a note was on my chair, which David had written and left there for me to discover:

"For You,
who writes, thinks, and lives like a dervish.

From ‘Sappho in Levkas’ by W.A. Percy

'To think nobility like mine could be
Flawed—shattered utterly—and by
This, this the shame, O Zeus, that Thou must hear—
A slim, brown shepherd boy with windy eyes
And spring upon his mouth!
Mine Thou hast made the courage to face truth,
Tho’ truth were death; but face alone!
Before Thine eyes to strip my passion till
Naked its evil gleams—here—now—oh, all
The harsh and iron of my soul must forth
Ere shame’s rebellion in my blood be quelled,
And Thou familiar made with my reproach!…
Courage and truth, these two are not of earth!

Hearken, Thou, Zeus, and judge if, at the last,
In spite of all, I am not half divine,
Loving these two.’”

Filed under poetry marriage love

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I’ve just finished the syllabus for my course on the history of sexuality in literature that I’m teaching this semester.  From Aristophanes to Jeffrey Eugenides, from the orgasmic Eucharist to sex with goats—it’s gonna be awesome.  Be wary, people of the Bible Belt, because I know about all y’all’s personal neverminds and am not afraid to analyze the heck out of them.


Filed under sexuality sexuality studies being a professor college

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I’m the last one still skating at practice—again—trying to get in just one more, just one more lap. A deeper crossover. A harder push back. Faster. Lower. A blur.

And the clouds are drifting overhead like curtains, and this song is running through my head in the mid-August night, skating like I’m trying to sail against the wind:

And when the fog horn blows,
I wanna hear it.
I don’t have to fear it.
And I wanna rock your gypsy soul
just like way back in the days of old.
And magnificently we will float
into the mystic.

Filed under Van Morrison's Into the Mystic roller derby

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In advance of such milestone events, I usually think, “Eh, I’ll be totally cool when that happens.” But then it happens and I am like, “I AM TOTALLY NOT COOL WITH THIS. I AM A MESS.”

My little boy—my baby—started kindergarten today.

Filed under motherhood kindergarten

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Do you know what August in Arkansas feels like? Outside? In the sun? At four in the afternoon? In a black helmet?

It feels like Satan is peeing hate on your head.

Filed under roller derby

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"I don’t have much," I thought as I walked with my daughter. My son was drinking a draught root beer, staring absentmindedly at the magnolias. My husband followed behind, looking like my son. The summer has been mild, and Monday begins the fall regardless of the weather. I pushed my daughter’s hair behind her ear. "I don’t have much," I thought, "just everything."

Filed under Horse-drawn carriage the end of summer time

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She’s not what you think she is. Yes, she was in the Navy: her guns will tell you that and her mouth will confirm it. But she falls in love quick and hard, again, all poetry and music and birds fluttering and what-the-hell-has-gotten-into-her? She’s got her two tween daughters on the sidelines every practice, always with one eye on them. And as she’s thinking about love and watching her kids, she hits a skater so hard without even blinking that she near kills her. Then she comes over and compliments my form and tells me how much she’s missed me.

You’d think she’d be a mean, hard-hearted type, hitting folks like that. No, she’s not that. She’s just brave.

Filed under roller derby derby girls