Fiction Blog, Writing Samples

National Poetry Month: Revenge, Regret, Remorse

Poetry isn’t a medium that comes naturally to me, and I would never dare call myself a poet. However, I do find it a refreshing way to let off some steam when I am feeling especially emotional, and I did write my fair share during my time in university.

Therefore, in honor of National Poetry Month, I’d like to share a short set of poems from said college days and encourage you all to leave your own (or links to your favorite poems) in the comments. Let’s fill the world with art today!

The following is a set of abstraction poems written in my Poetry Writing I class and refined in my Advanced Poetry Workshop. As readers of my fiction will know, I do love a revenge theme.


sneaks behind the bar,
dressed in fishnets and stilettos,
and sprinkles cyanide in his shot glass.



is the brown bottle, blue bottle,
clear bottle, spirit bottle, long-necked
bottle, bottle neck spiraling
down your throat.



ferments in the brain, drips down
the spinal cord, commands the hand
to put down the bottle

and pick up the gun.

Fiction Blog, Writing Samples

Stockton Lake (A Creative Nonfiction Essay)

I wrote the following essay in spring 2012 in my university creative nonfiction workshop. Every year, my family and I go to Stockton Lake to celebrate Independence Day and watch the fireworks over the water. This year is especially important to me, as I am not sure when I will be able to participate in this tradition again — one of the bittersweet components of moving. I wrote this piece from a similar perspective — how I felt upon moving to college. I hope you enjoy it.


Stockton Lake

All of my childhood summers can be combined into one scene: a Friday night sunset over Stockton Lake. To me, sunsets always looked prettier from the bow of a Crownline speed boat. I would sit on my knees, crouched down so my dad could still see to drive, and grip the metal hand railings until my knuckles turned white. I would gaze at the shoreline, where tan rocks gave way to leafy, green trees. Over the trees hung the sun, looking to me like a giant orange, framed in pink and blue and yellow sky. Its light created a golden trail along the glassy water, from the rocky shore to the bow of the boat.

As the boat turned, I would let go with one hand and reach for the spray of water along its side, relishing in the cool mist soaking my hand. I always hoped there would be enough sunlight left to paint a rainbow streak across the spray, but there never was.  When I straightened and looked across our cove, I saw before me a sleeping playground. Darkness was coming, and as the sun dipped below the trees, they turned from green bodies to a solid black mass. But I knew that when I woke up on Saturday morning, the cove would be alive again.

I was right, every time. On Saturday mornings, after devouring a double chocolate chip Otis Spunkmeyer muffin and a taking quick detour to feed stale bread slices to the two-foot long carp at Mutton Creek Marina, I always found the cove alive. Jet-skis zoomed along at the entrance, jumping the wake of passing speed boats. Pontoon boats blasted Aerosmith and Motley Crue from an inlet on the left side of the cove. Where the cove forked in the back, anyone who knew anything about Stockton turned left for a place to splash and drink — or right for a place to fish and teach cousins how to ski.

My parents and I settled in one of these inlets, leaving the body of the cove for boats pulling inner-tubers or wake-boarders. Once my dad secured the anchor in the cove’s muddy bottom, we began our routine. My mom took over the front of the boat, stretching out along the white leather seats to tan; my dad hung off the ladder at the back of the boat, easing his way into the cool water. I jumped straight in, splashing him, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.

My dad and I spent hours in the water. We played tag, chasing each other in circles around the boat and hiding by the propeller. We cleaned the boat with our feet, scrubbing with our toes until the dust and grime from the gravel roads were completely washed away. Sometimes Daddy pinched my calves with his toes and pretended that I had been bitten by a fish. I believed him, until I realized that the water was so clear that I could see his monkey feet reaching towards me under the green glow of the surface.

Eventually, my parents traded places, Dad soaking up the sun in the boat and Mom swimming in the water with me. If she just wanted to relax in the waves, Mom wore her lifejacket upside-down, like a diaper instead of a vest. But if she wanted to stretch out and swim, she grabbed a lime green, foam noodle from the boat’s storage compartment.

Instead of playing, my mom and I always talked while we swam, drifting further away from the boat as the conversations grew deeper. We counted the little, cerulean dragonflies that landed on our wet arms. We talked about the next competitive trail ride, and how my beloved mare refused to side-pass over logs. As I grew older, we began to discuss my transition to middle school and then high school and then college. The summer after my junior year of high school, I listed the majors I was considering: English, psychology, journalism. I named the colleges at which I might pursue these degrees: Pittsburg State, Emporia State, Baker University.

Eventually, every summer weekend came to an end. When I was little, these ends consisted of shaky muscles that desired stable land and sun-burnt skin that thirsted for Ocean Potion Aloe Vera Gel. I watched anxiously as Mutton Creek Marina grew closer, wanting nothing more than to scramble onto the dock and climb the hill back to our motor home. I was tired. I was burnt. And I was ready to go home.

Every time my dad steered our motor home across the Y Highway Bridge, which stretched over our section of Stockton Lake, and we took one last look at our playground, with its smooth, blue waters glittering in the sunlight, my mom began to cry. As a child, I never understood her sadness; I was always ready to move on to the next adventure. However, the summer before my freshman year of college, with nothing to look forward to but four more years of school, a stack of textbooks, and a cinderblock dorm room, I finally understood her grief.

For my mom, and now for me, Stockton Lake is not just a summer vacation spot. When we are nestled away in our cove at Stockton, protected by a wall of trees and a 25,000 acre mote, work and school and all of life’s stresses melt away under that big orange in the sky. Stockton Lake is our safe haven, where life means being serenaded by a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Greatest Hits cassette tape and rocked to sleep by a Crownline speed boat. But more than that, Stockton is the place where my mom spent her childhood, the place where we shared mine, and the one place where we will always regain the peacefulness of those years.

The last time I left Stockton Lake, I didn’t watch anxiously for Mutton Creek Marina. Instead, I looked over my shoulder and gazed at our cove, watching as the tree line grew smaller behind me. The sun was setting, turning the sky pink and creating that streak of shimmering gold up to the stern of our boat. As we took our final turn out of the cove, I leaned over the side of the boat and let the mist fly through my fingers. And on that last Sunday afternoon, I found there was just enough sunlight left to hit the silver spray and create a rainbow.

Fiction Blog, Writing Samples

War (An Abstraction Poem)

In honor of Memorial Day (a U.S. holiday honoring military servicemen and women), I wanted to share this poem from my university days.




is the dog(tag) catcher,

the cannon fodder rain,

the sloppy mud trenches

that caused the insatiable itch


in your missing arm.


“War” was part of my collection, “Olive Branch,” which I presented at the 2013 Sigma Tau Delta Convention. It was also featured in Watershed, Baker University’s literary magazine.

Fiction Blog, Writing Samples

For the Love of Coffee (A Mostly-Fictional Short)

Recently, I received an ominous Facebook message from Jonas Lee, a friend and fellow author. It read: Describe that first cup of coffee in blind man’s detail. This is your daily challenge 🙂 Okay, the smiley face ruins some of the menace. Now, I’m not normally one to take on writing challenges. A) I generally stumble upon them at times that are not conducive to writing and then promptly forget about them. B) I am incredibly insecure about putting “unedited” or “free-” (as in free-thought, not $0) writing out there in the world, because I do not want people judging me based on something I just slapped together in a creative frenzy. But coffee? Surely a writer must jump at the chance to muse on coffee! Ha! I hate coffee. In fact, that silky whore and I have a score to settle… The following is a slightly fictionalized, mostly exaggerated account of my daily interactions with coffee.

My husband crawls out of bed at six-thirty a.m. He knows the shifting weight will probably wake me. Even if it does not, he knows his heavy footsteps, shaking the floor like thunder rattles windows, definitely will. But he doesn’t care. He needs her. Now.

As I leave the warmth of our bed and get ready for the day, I hear her begin to stir. A soft gurgle, a steady babble, a short beep. Her mating call. When I tiptoe to the stairs, her scent greets me at the top. It is the only thing I like about her –natural, nutty, a hint of spice. The aroma grows stronger with every step I take, until finally, at the bottom of the stairs, I can feel it tingle my lungs.

My husband is sitting on a stool, having his way with her on the kitchen counter. His lips press around the edge of his mug, letting her slither over his tongue and slide into his gut. At first, the sight repulses me, reminding me of my few tastes of coffee. Water, flat milk, ground plant –mixed together to create something that, contrary to the barista’s smirking insistence, tasted nothing like chocolate.

Upon a second look, I wonder what my husband tastes. The steam has fogged the bottom half of his glasses, but I can see that his eyes are closed, his hands cradling the mug. A moan escapes his lips, guttural, animal. We don’t call coffee his “mistress” for nothing.

Opening his eyes, he notices my presence in the kitchen and smiles, motioning for me to come closer. I obey, holding in air to avoid his sour breath. He kisses me, and when he pulls away, instinct makes me lick my lips. Her taste lingers in his kiss. Bitter.

We say our goodbyes, me rattling off a honey-do list — Call the leasing agent, Make your doctor’s appointment, Write your grandmother — and him reassuring me — I’ve got this, Have a good day, I’ll have dinner waiting for you.

When he wanders back upstairs, refilled mug in hand, I grab a pen and sticky note. I know that I can never replace her. Caffeine is a drug, and I am merely a woman. But I also know that, while she may warm his stomach and awaken his brain, only I can touch his heart. Today, my touch will begin with a smile, sparked by a poem, stuck to the coffee pot.

I want to be your sugar

crystals melted on your tongue

sprinkled in your coffee


Fiction Blog, Writing Samples

Who Saw Doves

In honor of National Poetry Month, here is a poem from my university creative writing days. This poem’s style imitates that of the Swampy Cree First Nation from Canada. Their poetry often described a person by his/her attributes and was written in community voice.

Who Saw Doves

She came to us from the shore,

pale-skinned with stringy yellow hair.

Vultures smelled sea salt

on her flesh, swooped near her ears

and crowed, We love you.

We told her not to believe them –

that they wanted to taste

the ocean fish in her belly –

but she could not hear us

over the beating of feathers.

Laughing, she climbed high into the oak

and crawled into the nest. Surrounded by vultures,

she whispered, How lovely to be a friend

of the doves.

“Who Saw Doves” was part of my collection, “Olive Branch,” which I presented at the 2013 Sigma Tau Delta Convention. It was also featured in Watershed, Baker University’s literary magazine.