Monday, October 26, 2009

Norma White Dead

Sad news. Thanks to Kevin Stewart off Facebook for the link. Her husband of course, was The Dancing Outlaw, Jesco White

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a West Virginia-produced film about them, Jesco "The Dancing Outlaw" White and his wife Norma J. White gave the world a glimpse into their unusual lives. Norma White, 70, died in Charleston Thursday after suffering from a terminal illness.

Filmmaker Jacob Young helped bring Jesco to the attention of a national audience when Young created his "Different Drummer" series for Public Television.

In the film, the couple compared themselves to Elvis and Priscilla Presley. They said their relationship had its rough patches, but Norma White was always in love with the man who became a cult phenomenon.

Some videos, in case you don't know of Jesco and Norma White.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Still: Literature of the Mountain South

Here's a magazine and a notion that's sure to become a favorite. Celebrate the inaugural issue of Still, edited by Silas House (fiction) Marianne Worthington (poetry) and Jason Howard (nonfiction). From their 'about the name' page:

About our name . . .

To be a writer is to learn how to be still.

The moonshine still is one of the stereotypical images of Appalachia.

As a culture, Appalachia has been told for decades that it is disappearing.  We are still here, proud and strong as ever.

James Still, author of River of Earth, The Wolfpen Poems, and many other great works, is the grandfather of modern Appalachian literature and has inspired us all.

Just at a glance, this one's going to require your attention with every new issue.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rosanne Griffeth's Errid and Delilah, fiction

Some nights, running his rig down Highway 25 through Hot Springs, Errid would go past the brown brick building. He'd glance to see if any lights glowed in the three trailers out back, like maybe she still worked there. Maybe she worked there right now, her black nylon slip sticking to her belly and her bra digging a rash into her flesh in the summer heat. Maybe she turned her back to some stranger, tucked a strand of limp blond hair behind her ear and said over her shoulder, "Hey Mister, can you give me a hand and unzip me?"

She'd done that the night he met her, stepping out of the pool of her dress and kicking it away from the tangle of their feet. She stroked his sideburns, mussed his hair and when she touched the hump on his back, he'd flinched. He could still hear her crooning, "Shhhh, shhhh," low and smiling, like she comforted a hurt child. Sometimes he'd think of that and have to pull over.

She'd told him they called her Delilah, a biblical name, when she sidled up to him that night. His truck had blown a gasket and he pulled over at the little juke joint. Back in the fifties, it had been a beauty spot, one of those one-level riverside motels. The strip of rooms burnt down long ago and they'd replaced them with trailers.

Errid placed a hundred-dollar bill down on the bar and asked the bartender, "Can you break this for me?"

She knocked her drink back, slapped the lipstick-jeweled glass down and said, "Honey, he can't, but I probably got change back in my room if you want to follow me."

He trailed after the sway of her hips, the soft groove in the small of her back. He left that hundred-dollar bill behind in the beat up trailer and something else, something he couldn't lay a finger on it was so sweet and heartachey.

That's why he went back. He thought maybe he'd find that thing he left there. The thing that kept him up at night thinking about her and how she smelled like cigarettes and Jean Nate. He took another hundred-dollar bill, crumpled in his big hand.

Errid blinked into the fluorescent light. Change had come to the little brown house. Folding chairs now lined up facing the bar where a flame-eyed preacher man stood, screaming the word of God. She sat in the second row. He could tell it was her by round slope of her shoulders and the line of her spine.

 "Welcome, Brother, welcome!" The preacher man's gaze cut through Errid and people turned to stare. She looked at him, cutting her eyes over her shoulder. He imagined she whispered, "Hey Mister. . ."

The hundred-dollar bill was hot, wet and small in his fist. He took a seat and when the service went on and everyone's eyes faced forward, she continued to look at him. "I've come back for you," he thought to her, like she could pick the notion from the dust in his eyes.

Her lips pursed and she gave a little shake of her head, settling back in her seat. Errid reached to touch her, but pulled back, figuring he had her answer.

The preacher passed a chipped dinner plate around and Errid dropped the soggy bill onto it. He slipped out of the place, unseen, unheard and drove off into the night where the road still murmured her name.

Rosanne Griffeth lives on the verge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and spends her time writing, documenting Appalachian culture and raising goats. Her work has been published by Mslexia, Plain Spoke, Now and Then, Pank, Night Train, Keyhole Magazine and Smokelong Quarterly among other places. She is the blogger behind The Smokey Mountain Breakdown.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Karl Koweski's Holly Go Darkly, fiction

When I cup my palm against my mouth I can smell her on me.  A not unpleasant odor that instills a desire for more.  I stand in the bathroom of an almost expensive hotel.  There’s enough light bulbs above the mirror to illuminate a Hollywood movie.  I can feel my self-esteem puddling at my toes, seeing the bathroom spotlights emblazon my scalp through the sparsity of mousy brown hair.

The water continues to gush and swirl down the drain.  The toiletries loosely gathered around the sink belong solely to Holly.  A bottle of eyeliner represents her make-up.  There’s a lone white tooth brush, bristles like an unmown lawn.  I scrub my face with her bar of pink soap, it’s brand name worn away with use.

I have to go home soon.  Never have I been more aware of time than during the last month.  The warm taffy expansion of days leading to last night.  The quick rubberband snap of our night together.

I have to go soon.  And I can’t kiss my wife smelling like Holly.  Returning home freshly showered won’t alleviate suspicion, either.  Sera likely already suspects.  I probably gave myself away the moment I took the collection of Leonard Cohen poetry off my book shelf.

Holly enters, except that’s not quite the right way to describe what she does or how she does it.  Holly doesn’t enter a room; she expands into it, fills the room from wall to wall like a burst of light irradiating the corners and making one uncomfortably aware of one’s flaws.

I could have written this paragraph before I met her in the flesh, though, so badly did I want to believe she was more than just a woman, no less clueless than I.  Don’t make me out to be more than I am, she warned early on, when the extent of our affair was the exchange of instant messages.  I can never be what you want.

She trails her finger across my sweat damp back as she passes; her unpainted fingernails softly carves along the curvature of my spine.  I watch her through the mirror.  Her nudity such a novelty to me.  I want it always to be this way.  I want to memorize every inch of her pale skin.  I want to map her every anatomical angle, every landmark blemish.  I want to still know surprise every time I unwrap her.

I want the ability to express these thoughts without coming across like an utter fool.

Holly sits down and begins pissing.

“You don’t mind, do you?”

“Of course not.”  Eight years of marriage, I’ve always managed to avoid seeing Sera on the toilet.

“In Japan the women are very self conscious about pissing within earshot of anyone else.  A lot of restrooms have speaker boxes where you push the button and it makes a flushing sound so you can piss, covertly.  I never used it.  I think it’s kinda erotic, the sound of urine hitting water.  Especially if it makes someone else uncomfortable.”

“It doesn’t make me uncomfortable.”

She wipes and flushes.  “I was talking people in general, Vic.”  She kisses me on the corner of my mouth as she leaves.  Her exit contracts the room.  Her absence threatens an implosion.

“You still smell like me,” she calls from the bed.

Though Tennessee born of German/Irish ancestry, six years of living in Fukuoka, Japan has given her English an odd, slightly slurred accent that makes me want to embrace her every time she speaks.

I dry off my face with the anonymous white towel.  I lift the toilet seat, flush, and begin pissing.

Holly lies on the bed, arms stretched out, breasts lolling, legs slightly open, left leg bent at the knee.  She said she’s gained weight since she arrived Stateside, but I don’t see it.  If I had a canvas and oils and even a modicum of talent and training I could paint a masterpiece of her.  As it is, the last thing I painted, a wolf in water colors, garnered a C+ from my eighth grade art teacher.

My clothes are draped over the unassuming chair.  She catches my glance.

“You have to go already?”  Her voice is alarmingly devoid of emotion.

I don’t look at the clock.  “No.  I have time.”

“Lay down with me.”

I slide into bed beside her.  The sheets, moist from our recent love-making clings to my skin as we reposition ourselves.  I lay on my back, Holly’s head resting on my shoulder, my hand dipping right into her black, shoulder-length hair, brushing the thick strands back from her temple.  I’m aware of her pubic hair stubble sandpapering my hip, her erect nipples brushing my skin with every slight movement.

Her heart beats against my ribcage.  When was the last time I felt Sera’s heart beat?  When was the last time I did anything other than monitor the regularity of her breathing, ensuring her sleep was deep enough for me to escape our bed into the false life provided by my computer?

Holly, my melancholy angel, her life underscored with disillusionment and advanced disappointment.  In my eyes, she wears this sadness, beautifully.  I’ve always believed a tight smile and downcast eyes held more radiance than the bleached smiles and sparkling eyes of run-of-the-mill glamour queens.

The guttering candle light provided by the Home Interior candles Holly brought casts miniature St. Elmo's fires across the ceiling and walls.  Maybe she’s wondering what I’m thinking.  And if she asks I’ll say I’m not thinking of anything at all, just basking in the moment.  But she’s never shown an interest in my thoughts.

"How much longer can you stay?”  She asks.

 "Until the hour and minute hand meet.”

 Her lips draw into a smile against my chest.  It’s an inside joke involving Edgar Allan Poe’s story “A Predicament”.  We discovered early on in our get-to-know-you phase a mutual love of literature and a mutual admiration for Poe’s canon.   We’d occasionally read each other passages on voice chat.

 Holly’s favorite paragraph involved the female protagonist from the Poe story, her head caught between the hour and minute hand of a clock tower.  The vise-like pressure increases minutely until, first, on eyeball pops out of its socket.  Its ocular brother in the body politic watches the dislodged orb roll into the gutter before swiftly joining it.

 First hearing Poe’s words from Holly’s lips, I entertained the possibility I could become more emotionally invested in her than we agreed at the outset to allow ourselves.  We even scoffed at the notion of an internet love affair.

 There’s no computers, no distances of DSL cable, separating us, now.  Why should the old rules apply?

 I kiss the top of her head and play with the ends of her hair.  From those dark follicles, my fingers trace along her collarbone up the hollow of her throat.  I draw her chin up until our lips brush.  My eyes adjust to the darkness in her eyes.

 And I know that I’m a liar.  I don’t want her to remain emotionally aloof.  I want her to love me.  I want the victory such emotional attachment entails.  I want to wear her love like a shiny medal on the lapel of my bad ass leather jacket.  I want the entire world (excluding my wife and everyone associated with my wife) to know Holly belongs to me.  Her love for me validating my love for her.

 But she doesn’t love me.  My thoughts turn to her more than her thoughts include me.

“You’re so tense,” she whispers, her hands in motion, fingers roaming my chest and abdomen, searching for weak points in the armor of my flesh.  I’m weak all over.

“Lot on my mind, I guess.”


“I don’t feel guilt.”

“Why not?  It’s an interesting sensation.  Kinda like anticipation without all the giddiness.”

My thumb presses against the divot in her chin that she hates but I love.

“Holly, I love you.”

The words escape.  Immediately, I want to apologize.  My little ineffectual defense mechanism.  She hates those two meaningless bullshit words.  I’m sorry.

When she answers, her voice continues its trend of emotional vacuity.  “We agreed from the beginning this wasn’t going to be a ‘love’ thing.”

“I’m sorry.”  The words hang there.  Holly draws away from me.  “No, wait, Holly.  I’m not sorry.”

“You can’t love me.  I don’t love you.”

“Don’t you feel anything about me?”

She crouches on the edge of the bed, cat-like.  Her eyes.  I stare into her eyes, hoping for a flash of emotion, anything.  Her dark eyes like vortexes suck the light from the room.

I can’t hold her gaze.  My eyes drop down to her lips.  So long I’ve fantasized kissing those lips.  The reality of her lips pressed against mine is worth this.  Her mouth that I’ve claimed is not given to smiles.  I’m such a liar.  She smiles all the time.  She’s quick to laugh.  She’s not my melancholy angel.  Strange I should fictionalize her in such a way.

She’s not smiling at the moment.

“What do you want me to say, Vic?”

“Nothing.  Never mind.”

“No, nothing, never mind.  What do you want me to fucking say?  That you’re my number one man?”

“I don’t categorize people numerically.  Guess again.”

“Oh, listen to you.  How do you categorize people?  By whether I fuck them or not?  You’re the one always asking who I’m talking to.  Always afraid you’re gonna get knocked out of the saddle.”

She’s off the bed and gathering her clothes.  The boring white panties.  The boring white bra.  The jeans she has such a difficult time finding at the stores because her legs are so stubby and her ass is so wide.  The shapeless blouse with the dollar store floral print she claims is of African design.

“I’m not asking you to marry me.  I’m happy.  I’m happy with you.  So I tell you I love you.  So what?  I know you don’t love me.  I know I like you more than you like me.  You remind me this every fucking day.  Or at least every day you’re gracious enough to make time in your busy schedule to speak to me.”

I keep talking as she keeps getting dressed.  If there’s a combination of words that will make her stop, get undressed, lay back in this rented bed and forgive me; I’d spit in my mother’s face for a hint at the sequence of words.

Holly grabs her purse and the hotel key.

“How dare you ask me if I feel anything for you?  I’m here, aren’t I?”

“I’m sorry, Holly.  I didn’t mean...”

“Go home to your wife, Vic.  Tell her you love her.”

She leaves the room the way she entered--furtively, like a thief.

 It’s all I can do to keep myself from stepping, naked, into the hotel corridor and calling her name.  I stare at the phone like an anchor dropped on the table.  I could call her cell phone.  It’d be long distance.  What could I say?

I lay back down on the bed.  Her smells are everywhere.  I close my eyes and inhale.

Karl Koweski
is a displaced Chicagoan now living on top of a mountain in Alabama.  His chapbook of smut, Low Life, will be available within the month from  His poetry chap, Diminishing Returns, is available at  He writes the monthly column, "Observations of a Dumb Polack", at Zygote.