Tag: Sara Cox

half-burned cigarette

why did you 

         always say

“a bird will use it 

         to make a nest”

when you stomped embers

         of half-burned cigarettes 

into the crevices 

         of concrete paths – 

as if any sensible 

         creature

would want to taste 

         your nicotine

               or smell the remnants 

                         or your whiskey-soaked breath?

Rock Castle

“Polly… certainly believed that [Samuel] would make a fine companion. Unfortunately for fifteen-year-old Polly, her father thought otherwise… His plans came to naught, however, when the two young lovers eloped in 1796… Andrew and Rachel Jackson had been happy to assist Samuel and Polly in eloping…” – Old Hickory’s Nephew: The Political and Private Struggles of Andrew Jackson Donelson by Mark R. Cheathem 


The grass sank between

the soles of my sandals  

while we passed under the fences 

like playing a game of limbo 

trespassing into history 


Daniel Smith’s castle

crafted from limestone 

glistened in the moonlight  

and the shore of Old Hickory Lake 

sang to us, despite being outlaws.


We cited lines 

from Tennessee storytelling  


recalling the time 

that Sam Donelson

and Andrew Jackson crossed 

the river— 

the summer humidity shallowing the waters

enough for horses 

to trot across them. 


The cool Tennessee air kissing the backs of their necks

while slivers of moonlight

illuminated their trail. 


We wondered aloud 

how the ladder must have sounded 

as it brushed up against Polly Smith’s windowpane


how she grasped on to tree branches,  

splinters piercing the palms of her hands

while climbing down

to the grass we stood on.  


How the trio galloped to Hunter’s Hill,

against the light of the morning sun,  

a priest waiting earnestly 

to affirm their elopement. 


We walked to the family cemetery,

protected by stone walls

eroded by time and tourists’ touch.


Behind the unlocked wrought-iron gate,

tombstones like chess pieces 

sit stoically, 

marking each white body 

encased in the slave-tilled earth.

Wherever the Cherubim Stay

Only the comfort of a plastic-cord labyrinth connects you to me. Electrons move back and forth on a landing strip, assisting a machine which forces your lungs to fill and deflate. Filling and deflating with sterile oxygen from flimsy tubes, only the pale skin around your lips, nose, and eyes are exposed as wrappings hide the rest of your frame.  Hours trench on and my gaze can’t be lifted from the monitor, listing an entanglement of numbers. Numbers that are the only evidence of any part of you left in there. The smell of charred flesh still spins in the room, curling up into the air, imitating the smoke from that morning. I tried to run in. I tried to be that parent that lifts cars and moves heaven over earth to save their babies. Men dressed in garments I had only ever seen on television ripped me away before I could get to you. The whole world was caving in on me at the thought of leaving you in there. They pulled you out and words raced by me in a whirlwind… “alive’… “third-degree” … “miracle…”

Ominous beeps from the machines bring me back to reality. Machines, engineered to keep people alive, operated by nurses and doctors with the qualifications to keep people alive. Even when nature clearly ushered you to kiss the face of death… machines keep beeping in equidistant pulses.  

Where did you go? Are you trapped in some sort of life-and-death purgatory? Religion was always a fictitious facade to me until now, as the sheer thought of you being thrown into oblivion with one arbitrary stroke of lightning brings me to my knees. Nurses shuffle back and forth to different rooms, each adorned with scrubs ironically decorated with puppies, kittens, and the occasional rainbow. Eleanor, your precious nurse who is somewhere between the I-have-adult-children and I-have-multiple-grandkids age, fashions scrubs with an assortment of cherubim, riding on clouds and wearing golden halos. I shake off my wondering thoughts with a quick jolt. There’s no way that you’ve already left me and gone wherever the cherubim stay. You’re still my little girl. You’re still in there. Somewhere.

Lightning War

The storm clouds marched toward us
bursting at their cotton-candy seams
armed with their weapons
made of water droplets and electricity.

They made their way over my hometown —
the roads that my bicycle knew all too well–
and chose my childhood home
to wage their war.

They did not rent out our sky,
provide a notice,
or even ask permission–
they just were.

Lightning struck the roof I dreamt of climbing atop,
and our town seized from the sheer noise —
the final blow
the fatal shot —
setting fire ablaze as the clouds reached the end of their battle.
And while I’m sure that science can explain the chemistry of it all
I cannot.

Rain cascaded down walls that held a lifetime of secrets
as the city’s water, shot from a powerful hose,
gracefully destroyed what remained–
shoving antique furniture and a personal library
into oblivion.

The same series of hydrogen and oxygen that I drink to stay alive
washed away fingerprints
and crayon masterpieces

The same substance that my savior converted into wine
could not save us in that moment
or restore my home
to normalcy

The same series of ions that is essential to human life
stole mine –
proving that destruction can come
from even the most beautiful things.

NOVUS Literary and Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN