Snapshots from the Road: Photos, Poems & Vignettes

"This Side the Miss" Northeast US 2016 Tour 


Friday, August 12, 2016 - Gastonia, NC


"No King"

No king, only a horse, a quarter 
a walk, a dance, 
an entrance through the back 
for a show up front. Up front, 
inaugural, the show that begins 
the roll, the motions of rolling, 
in and out, early to late. 
Better late than never, no king 
or every king said, giving tips 
and taking little and giving every 
thing to give, the sweat and pride, 
especially. The smile ostensibly. 
No king, only a horse, a quarter 
of an hour that is the beginning. 
The entrance. The roll. 
The drumroll, we roll. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016 - Charleston, SC

"weight of the water" 

the water here  
for cooling and crashing  
the water there  
growing and flowing  
with a weight that pulls  
and pushes, holding   
things beneath:  
cars, couches, the junk  
from drawers, the fish,  
and fence posts and fertilizer  
and all the while, holding atop  
the tools for rescue,  
the newly rescued,  
the buoyant few  
 the water here  
blossoming like flower petals  
pounding the pavement,   
the playful, and the patient  
inviting its abuse, the rush  
of the rushing  
the ferocity of summer

Sunday, August 14, 2016 - Raleigh, NC

"Splitting the Mountains" 

Mountains by moonlight, 
a blur of lines, of fog, of miles 
spent remembering and anticipating. 
We mapped the highways 
in our minds, from Charleston to Raleigh, 
from Raleigh to Knoxville, 
from bacchanalia to work, 
from work to nostalgia, 
nostalgia to sleep. 
We mapped roads taken 
with songs from decades  
too long ago to miss 
but recent enough to inflate 
with meaning and lumps in the throat. 
The road will do that.  
 A forced meditation, a lesson 
in patience and not seeing with eyes, 
eyes that only follow curves 
 and lights and signs. 
The eyes blink. The mind holds steady, 
remembering cold nights and hot nights, 
cold hands and warm hearts, 
warm hands and cold hearts, 
the slow finish, the fast start. 


Monday, August 15, 2016 - Knoxville, TN

"Knox Rox" 

It was all I could do to sit in silence, 
with the clock, a cat, and couch cover 
after a day so full of noise: 
the bright, the warm, the fuzzy, 
the gritty, the harsh and dark, 
the wanted and unwanted. 

The day moved like a sound wave, 
rising quickly, plateauing quite loud, 
dying to quiet depths before 
rising to new heights of noise, 
the audible, the visual, the sensory 
overload, then the end, 
where the wave drops off, 
stops in an instant, 
and leaves you sitting, staring 
steadfast at the wall 
which does not move, does not talk, 
does not ask 
anything from you. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2016 - Johnson City, TN

"The Getaway" 

I remember most the men's bellies, 
bare and glistening, entering first 
as though at the beach 
or on the sofa, and at rest 
over waistbands after a long day 
doing something  
hot. It was hot, 
in the room, but a welcoming heat, 
steam rising after the rain 
and coffee brewing 
and cheese melting 
and beer enticing from mason jars 
in the hands of men with  
great confidence and slurred speech. 
The songs were warm, too, 
like fresh dried laundry I imagine 
in the laundromat next door. 
The getaway cooled us 
with lumbering shadows of tall mountains, 
bluffs we could see and not. 
The getaway cooled us 
with its wind on our backs, 
its night on our day, 
and the promise of friends 
beyond the turn.


Wednesday & Thursday, August 17-18, 2016 - Asheville, NC

"Back Stage" 

Red was the room with black curtains  
we exited to find the moon  
we'd been following for days. 

Asheville was the perfect place to be  
back stage with its wealth of sights,  
sides and skies. The skies, 
marvelous by night 
and day, too. The water falling 
from rocks and clouds 
and eyes at the end. The hills 
such gracious hosts. The hosts 
making warm days warmer. 
Breezes brought laughs 
like magic dust that colored us 
rosy and tickled pink. The color 
washing us over and from within, 
beckoning a return before we'd left.


Friday, August 19, 2016 - Staunton, VA


An eery yellow sheen quieted the drive 
and the streets as we arrived after close 
but before darkness, its draw. The hum 
of the moon was heavy overhead, oozing 
over carpets and through rooms with open doors.  
Endless stairs led up all varieties of persons 
whose moods waxed and waned 
and shifted and pushed conversations  
palpable in presence. Presence 
is the key--rooms full of people and ghosts 
and smoke slithering and laughs booming 
and love pouring and anger mounting like it does 
on a Friday in a 5th floor bar half-lit by full moon  
and empty lamps. The music fought 
to define its space. It was present, too.  
It toyed with the chaos with waves of calm 
and a few slight dips into madness.


Saturday, August 20, 2016 - Baltimore, MD

"The Corner Bar" 

No rules, no rights 
or wrongs or questions 
to answer. No one to 
answer to. Regulars,  
ravens, bright lights 
that kept the room dark. 
Long breaks, sore fingers 
breaking strings, 
familiar faces— 
every night familiar 
yet a first 
and yet forgettable 
in the way familiar details 
get fuzzy faster 
than foreign. 
No sights, little taste, 
just in  
and out 
like a Friday 
but on Saturday 
with drier breeze, 
different beer, 
the same bartender, 
a different man. 


Sunday, August 21, 2016 - Washington, D.C.

"DIY with Crickets" 

crickets stole the show  
swelling in and taking solos  
we didn’t even notice  
until the end when the audience  
applauded and all remarked  
on their execution, their complement  
to our rain- and sweat-soaked songs  
they let the air out  
so to speak and welcomed us  
to Washington where everything  
poured, even the rain  
that did not wash us away  
that did not cleanse us  
that did not live  
up to any metaphors  
or stop the show  
where mosquitos danced and  
crickets orchestrated  
and I sang, unable to see,  
home among the leaves,  
wet beneath the trees,  
perfectly satisfied  
somewhat relieved


Monday, August 22, 2016 - Long Branch, NJ


lived up to its expectation by 
taking me back to the days  
of the youngest ones  
and the beginning of the end  
of one chapter, a crucial couple  
of years that began with ice cream  
and a board walk and a trip  
up the Turn Pike to the big city  
greeting us without greeting anyone  
in the sun-lit breeze, in the blackest black,  
in the shower of neon,  
under the blood moon, where the water  
boiled and lapped at ankles,  
salty, aggressive, and glowing  
inching everyone towards the brink  
as a Monday night will 
with its martinis and whiskeys 
and cheap beer, scowls, 
and apathy and songs  
that spread the dark over us  
like butter on toast, soaking in  
greasy and rich


Tuesday, August 23, 2016 - Philadelphia, PA

"considering all angles" 

angling towards sunny skies and lighter breezes and the release of pressure with walks about and laughs finally after a night of unheralded ick and now taking in the old with new eyes and spirit everything a bit calmer and carefree when at the rocky steps we pushed on and did a dance and watched the people moving in every direction like us but not like us and hot in our clothes getting ready for a restart and a variety show a family reunion of sorts long lost cousins we didn't know and may not know again but for a day and a night enjoyed the camaraderie and oddness of it all playing our hearts out and feeling the shift the turn the bend the angles aligning the walls softening and leaves rustling the way you want them to because fall may very well fall in time for you to catch it


Wednesday & Thursday, August 24-25, 2016 - New York, NY

"New York Minute" 

you've made it 
to the bathroom wall 
there you are  
staring back at you  
as in a mirror, where a mirror 
should be, by the soap 
and you laugh, all lacquered 
not taped, implying permanence 
in Brooklyn of all places, 
a borough of New York 
City the big city 
in the United States 
that every one loves 
all the "I"s love NY 
and if you don't you don't say 
just like you don't say 
to the owner of the bagel shop 
in his greatest city on earth 
that he forgot some ingredients 
on your bagel 
because it is great any way 
because this is the big city 
where a pregnant woman 
sings with two mics and loops 
and a MIDI controller 
and you say YES 
you go girl and she does go 
bigger and better 
and busier and YES 
you say again  
and again because that is 
what you do here 
you love and yes 
yes and love 
even when choking 
on thick black air 
that you can't escape 
even in the shadows  
of buildings you crane your 
neck to see the tops of 
because this is the top 
right above the sink 
next to soap and fuck 
and frank and a can of beer 
you set there  
while you relished  
this moment  
while you washed 
your hands


Friday, August 26, 2016 - Burlington, VT

"Burlington Blues" 

you open your eyes to a flash  
of blue light sweeping over everything  
the blades of grass by your face  
the trees and the girl's back   
just a few feet away, and the water  
and sky broken by a line of boats  
just across the boardwalk  
from where you tried to sleep  
in a park with your head on a bag  
like you see people do from time to time  
when you are not tired and you wonder  
if it is a leisurely afternoon nap in a park  
or out of necessity because they  
are so exhausted they can't imagine  
doing anything but closing their eyes  
before saying something ludicrous  
or crashing a car or forgetting their words  
or even falling asleep singing them  
to people who have no idea  
what kind of 48 hours they’ve had  
prior to this attempt to sleep in a park  
with their head on a bag   
and wishful thinking about dreaming of boats  
on a breezy day gliding over water  
with a sun-kissed face and another face  
they want to kiss but are not so lucky  
because they instead dream of falling  
for an instant and shudder in the grass  
startling awake after a fruitless two minutes  
awash with blue 


Saturday, August 27, 2016 - West Dover, VT

"The Lift" 

Living below sea level makes it easy for height to steal your breath,  
and living in a bowl makes it easy for an inversion to propel you  
and your mood to new heights and sights and sets your sights  
a little more firmly on what you know you want out of this world.  
More days on mountains, for instance. More solitude. Maybe even  
more cider or syrup even though you don't much care for sweets.   
A day can fill itself with people and still offer time up and time down,  
and the transport is not just physical, you learn. The road, the lift,  
has changed you. "Was it worth it?" they will ask. Worth what,  
​you will want to ask them. What is this inversion worth?


Sunday, August 28, 2016 - Winooski, VT

"The Crossing" 

I did not want to leave Putney, the journey  
through the woods, the winding roads,  
the barn party that appeared in the night.  
Winooski could wait, I thought   
for the woods and meadows of wildflowers  
for the sticks that smelled like home  
for the quiet I had found in the air  
that filled my lungs with joy. A bridge  
of trees over a brook, over rocks  
and leaves and us leaving--no  
I did not want to go. My grandmother  
everywhere here, pulling at my shirt  
saying let's just rest here awhile   
in the vegetable garden, under the vines,  
amidst the trees and trails someone  
like us lovingly cut and bridged   
with taut trunks when the snow melted  
and the brook babbled and green grew  
up from the ground and the tops of rocks,  
sprouting from limbs we ached to climb.  
Winooski waited until it couldn’t  
and I took in everything I could  
one more deep breath and a photo  
and wished the road to carry me quickly.

Monday, August 29, 2016 - Chocorua, NH

"At the Farmstand" 

Some days are unreasonably perfect 
and you know around the corner  
is likely one unreasonably imperfect 

so you soak up everything you can 
like a blueberry buttermilk pancake does 
a pad of butter and a conservative pour 
of pure maple syrup, everything pure, 
both clean and innocent, abundant, too, 

as it was for Adam and Eve 
before a snake slithered up 
and curled itself comfortably and confidently 
by the door of the perfect, pastoral Farmstand  
in New Hampshire


Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - Cambridge, MA


The day buzzed in gradually, 
heat licking and weighing me down 
as though gravity was pulling 
a little harder than usual, pulling me 
southward and eastward to the water 
I could not see. Nervous energy 
fluttered about in the car, in the air, 
in the basement where I left my wallet 
and a beer can before taking on 
evening and hoping for a release 
from whatever pressure was building 
or pushing or stifling the pleasantness 
that these students exhibited: 
reading books in the parks, 
drinking wine on the sidewalks, 
flirting with guitars under tree limbs. 

Arriving felt miraculous, like an impossible 
run through water to find land. 
So dark, cool and welcoming, 
the folds of this tiny place, 
the smiles and handshakes, 
which shook from me the heat 
and revealed the skin of my arms 
as mine again, and such gratitude 
I held for the day's surprise ending 
and the total enchantment of a toad's hollow 
amidst a maze of winding streets, 
a tiny window into some future.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - New Haven, CT

"Striking the Balance" 

Do it for your heroes, they said, 
and so now I think about my heroes 
and wonder how much it is I do 
for them and what that even means 
and what my heroes might want from me 
if I were to offer something. Offerings 
are easy to come by--and favors--the world 
always bargaining in trade. I wonder 
how often they strike a balance and if 
balances are most common or 
if imbalances are the norm, 
if I am throwing away money 
or pulling it in because money is 
what we are always balancing, 
and when the days tilt upside down, 
rolling head over feet, sun over moon, 
it is hard to argue whether 
the dollars float upward from my hands 
or flitter down into them, 
whether it is giving or taking I do.  
After the show, me and the bar 
each negotiate to our own benefit, 
and I'm left wondering for whom I do this. 
Is this all for me? Am I my own champion, 
hero, villain, or just an accidental victim? 
After the tour, what will hang in the balance? 
What will it be that I offer? 

Thursday, September 1, 2016 - Pittsburgh, PA

"Blue Moon" 

Blue lights loud night out on the town, 
out off the schedule, but on time 
into the random blue moon full of boys 
enjoying the night and each other 
and dancing in drag while plucking dollars 
from the doting eyes of does fawning and falling 
over themselves in joy and laughter. 

I felt at home among my brothers and thought 
of family lost in Orlando, thought to smile in their honor 
at the love still propagating in bars across America 
and this one in Pittsburgh. In the mirror, in the glass, 
I watched and laughed and spun to face the music 
with a front row seat, for once on this trip, and took it 
all in with a breath of stale smoke, a sip of cold beer, 
and a lingering chill on my dry and lonesome arms.  

Friday, September 2, 2016 - Cincinnati, OH

"Saying Grace" 

The light reminded me of Minden, Louisiana,  
and the man, too, jolly and white-haired,  
with his grandson playing and the table set. 
Home and family, abundance and food, 
thank God and kind people for these 
invaluable moments at sunset by the river.

Saturday, September 3, 2016 - Louisville, KY

"give and take" 

the entrance unlike the exit 
though the same 
hurry up and wait 
the name of the game 
grit your teeth 
and smile babe 
you're lucky, it's loose 
bizarre, insane, 
absurd, worthwhile 
a night inane


Sunday & Monday, September 4-5, 2016 - Nashville, TN

"The Gilded Stage" 

The great American dive bar, 
a gem, buried still, or is it 
a coin by the gutter waiting to 
be found by some unfortunate soul 
looking for thirty-five more cents 
which will make enough for a cold one? 
I take it all in stride, never knowing 
which it is, which lucky or unlucky 
soul am I because so much is about luck 
or, rather, being prepared at any moment 
for any encounter. A woman emerges 

from the shadows and purchases a CD.  
Where did she even come from? 
The night feels sticky, and I don't mean 
the heat, I mean sticky like gum 
on your shoe and old beer 
on the table where you've set  
your elbow and the smell of dried ketchup 
in a teenage boy's car. The night 

stuck on me like bonfire smoke, 
which you let be because  
you have no control over 
which way the wind blows. 
Familiar music from a familiar face 
brings a welcomed warmth 
to the cold room, making 
the red redder. In Nashville,  
you take it all in stride, 
the rise and the dive. 
It's a laughable journey, 
the plunge to the top. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - Oxford, MS

"Ladies Night" 

They usually use barricades 
to keep the fans at bay, but 
a cage can also form a stage 
as I learned in Mississippi 
where long t-shirts over short 
shorts made me feel like 
I was at some dream-like 
pajama party in a dingy, 
neon-lit garage full of smiling 
faces, so kind and green, 
growing and engaged 
and excited to be at a 
pajama party in some 
singer's dream. The songs 
escaped the cage   
with suprising skill, garnering  
praise for the welcome 
contrast to something... 
something I was never  
aware of but totally aware of 
as happens in dreams— 
the thing around the corner 
or on its way from somewhere 
or behind you and you can't 
turn around. The night 
was all spectacle, including 
myself. I don't remember it  
ending--don't think I ever 
did wake up.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - Clarksdale, MS

"The Finish, A Fraction" 

There is always a need, when the journey ends, to sum it up, average it out, qualify and divide, and come to some great conclusion. It was great, the conclusion. The journey was also. And also the opposite. If I am the sum of my experiences, I am occasionally great. And also the opposite. By Clarksdale, I was done. But the mind always knows how long it has to practice patience, how long to sustain energy, and how near is comfort and rest. The Inn provided a perfect end, with its quirks and gifts, a surprise by loved ones, flavors of home and a foreign audience. We found ourselves surrounded by cotton and mosquitos, everything lovable and yet left with longing. The feeling of finality sweeps over, the sum of all the other feelings you can't describe—like a bottle full of rocks you tilt to pour, but nothing falls out because a few have wedged in the neck, preventing one another from escaping, all bottled up without choosing to be. So you turn it again right side up and shake the bottle to loosen them. You try again to pour them out, but they continue to collide and wedge, and over and over you do this until occasionally one or two pop out, but it's always insufficient and each one is hardly the sum of the bottle. Metaphors aside, here is a sum. The song was the fuel for the journey, and now the journey fuels the song. Therein lies the worth, whenever someone asks.