WIP: Magnolias

[Process notes below.]

There’s something inherently decadent about magnolia season, the way each flower falls open, heavy and impossibly large. Blooming in waves, watching earlier buds drop and brown in the damp shade below. Each one greedy and defiant in their leisure as we bustle uncomfortably in the sweltering wetness in the early weeks of honest-to-goodness-heat.

When I was in second grade, I climbed an untrimmed magnolia after a rainy night away from home. My tiny body slid off the moss of a thin upper branch and my leg got caught between branches stronger than my bones, the world an overturned mess. When I finally hit the ground, the damp shade rushed to fill my lungs and mingled there with the cool morning air. I have been breathless ever since.

I wish magnolias smelled like gardenias, but imagine the city flooded for a month or more with that sticky, velvet scent. No one would be able to get anything done, we’d just linger in the shade, talking in whispers about what we one day hope to name our babies.

I grew up with every intention of being a good girl. Holy and beloved and kind and modest. It sounded like a challenge worth tackling. It sounded like no one else thought that would be a challenge for me. It sounded like heaven. Surely, I was strong enough, lovable enough, faithful enough to be all of those things.

You can cut a magnolia, but you cannot keep it. It is best in the elements, in the heat, steam rising off of them after an afternoon thunderstorm. Hot and slick like bodies after sex, going rotten with pleasure.

Southern Christian womanhood has always been an aspirational dichotomy of strength and reverence. My nature bends towards irreverent and easily tempted. We are raised as heirlooms by whole centuries of history, molded into the architecture of our hometown. Here to provide shade and beauty, delicately cut back when we grow too unwieldy.

Sin such as mine is like bad manners to an Old Testament God. I’ve called the Four Corners, gotten black out drunk, kissed boys whose names I don’t remember. I’m a great liar and a coward. He knows I know better, but I stopped apologizing long ago because there didn’t seem to be much gained from grace.

But now there’s this Midwestern man that loves Jesus more than he could ever love me, who reminds me of how far from my childhood dreams I’ve run. I tell him I’ll never be a Proverbs 31 woman and he chooses me anyways. His skin smells like wet earth and summer nights. He tastes like hope and unbroken promises.

I come from muddy, broken beginnings and my petals are all but worn off. I unfold into more than any man can keep in his house, divinity surging through my roots.


This piece was originally handwritten in July 2018 as two separate pieces, titled Magnolias, Pt 1 and Magnolias, Pt 2. I’ve combined them here to get closer to the main theme I think I was struggling with at the time I wrote it, as well add some clarity that’s come with 11 months distance from the original pieces.
I also tried to carry the “eating flowers” theme through this piece and it was a GHASTLY attempt, really. 

WIP: Growth (1)

[Process Notes below the piece if you’re into that kind of thing.]

I crave sustainability, the type of mindful care that goes into gardening. A slow but purposeful turning of the soil, observation of the light throughout the day, diligent watering and weeding. I want the seasons and the phases of the moon to be respected for the cycles that they power. I want to bear fruit. I want to flower. I want to grow into a need for pruning. I want to ripen, with fingers pressed lovingly to my fleshy parts, checking for juice. I want to be harvested, so that the soil can be introduced to new things. I want to be counted among the bounty. I want to nourish, delight and satisfy.

Can I be the same way in my work that I am in my life? Can I be in life and work at the same time? How do I carve away the diseased growth and let new parts of myself sprout from the oozing seams of self-inflicted strife?

My mind and body have been neglected. The earth I was given has turned hard and barren. Water rolls off, pools into stagnant puddles. I have hidden my potential, covered it with rocks and discarded bits of the lives of others. There are empty beer cans and cigarette butts where there could be fragrant herbs or tumbling vines of squash or wild flashes of berries.
I have not had a reason to plant for a long time. My needs were few and I ignored even those for the lie of unworthiness and the siren song of cynicism. I could only imagine how different my late-blooming life would be, compared to the well-tended lives of those around me. I felt like on blight on the landscape.
But now I dream of a table, set for a family–my family, our family, the global family. I want to pile dishes high with steaming treats and let the wine flow and give everyone a second helping. I want to eat my fill and know that not a belly hungered for more. I dream of feasting. Of serving. Of celebrating.
To get to that, to raise a glass over the heavily laden table, to smile and give thanks and devour, I have work to do. Lots of work.

The soil has to be coaxed back to willingness from the stubborn, packed dirt it’s become. The dust must be convinced to settle, introduced to shy seeds and forlorn tools. My hands will break into blistering, strangers to the work, but they will harden and callous to do what is asked of them. I will sweat and curse and cry and rest and ask for help when I need it. But this field will be my new life, it will be my morning and evening. My waking cry and my waning lullaby.
My body will have to get stronger. My mind will have to expand. All of me will protest the toiling, the relentless striving. I will have to learn what blooms where I choose to plant, how to pollinate and propagate. Tending, tilling, tenderly telling those who ask about me that I am a gardener now, a grower and a guardian.
I will tell them about my dream. I will invite them to the feast.


This is the type of piece that came out of nowhere and isn’t maybe the most earth-shattering piece I’ve written, but it’s a good reminder of why writing is important to everything I do. It shakes loose these revelations that, before they were written, were just blocks. Obstacles. Frustrations.

I wrote this in the cowork space that I work from each week day. It was not inspired by a mood or a setting or a negative experience with a lover. The lack of pageantry in the way I wrote it is about as important as the things the piece told me about myself.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Camellias (Version 1)

NOTA BENE: I’ve resisted the urge to post this. I’ve resisted the urge to share any of my work lately because I don’t know how to give it context, I’m not sure what the point is or if anyone cares. But for now, I care. I care about doing the work. I care about documenting the process and about the progress. So I’ll post the versions of pieces as they evolve and let you guys in on how I work through them. PROCESS NOTES AT THE END OF THE PIECE.



I want to talk about the red camellias. I want to talk about how, when they are soaked with rain, they look like fruit and I want to bite them. I imagine the juice is bitter and cold. The yellow pollen is gritty and gets stuck between my teeth. Someone calls the cops on me because I am in their yard in the rain, eating camellias from the bush that was planted in soil mixed with the ashes of their grandmother.

I feel like I have never been given the same freedom to fuck up that other people have. My mistakes are always just the right size to only negatively impact myself and only for a few weeks at a time. I was raised too well. I am too aware of others. I am not the type of woman that can be loved unconditionally. I have to be good.

Camellias should be edible. I thought all flowers were when I was young, because honeysuckle was sweet and sticky on the end. I remember eating jasmine and the crumbling innards of a stick that looked like cinnamon and gnawing the tart stem of a weed, shaped like a Y and fuzzy on the ends. Weeds don’t grow around here like they used to and you are not supposed to bother other people’s camellias.

When I was a girl, my mind was vast and quick and it stayed busy with love stories that I thought were plans for the future. I was so exquisitely bored that I tried to make my life into multiple lives at once and I think about the way my chest would burst into bloom when a boy would respond to my fairytales, as if their participation meant I had somehow succeeded in splitting my life into multiples.

A mouthful of other people’s camellias would taste better if my toes were sunk into the mud. I could never eat a dry camellia or a pink camellia and I could never eat a red camellia on a sunny day, even if it was cold.

I think about how I want to live with you and how you could push me up against the kitchen counter and fuck me whenever we felt like it and how no matter bad the bad days get for us, I always want you to fuck me. I wonder if that is because I can’t think of a way to get closer to you or to accept you more. Bringing you inside my body is all I can do.

If I accept writing as my life and stay home to do it, will you let me plant a camellia bush to eat from and will you leave a muddy patch in the yard for my toes and if you come home one day to find me with yellow pollen in my teeth, will you still love me?

I’ve never had a reason to fuck up big time. I have only done it bit by bit, so no one else will notice unless I tell them about it. When things get really bad, my mind gets vast and quick again, I wonder who could love me enough to plant things with me or make plans with me or fuck me in the kitchen, even on bad days, like this one.

I know bad days will pass and I know, in the end, it will be you.


I wrote this piece a couple of days before the person I thought the piece was about broke up with me via text message. I guess you could call it a swan song. When I reread it now, tinker with edits and play with word choices, I can see where that original person fades and this becomes some kind of open letter to the person that will still love me with pollen in my teeth. 

This first version has one round of printed, analog edits and one round of reread, on-screen edits. I mostly tweaked where my word choice diverged from my vision of the piece. The tone fluctuates  from internal dialogue to external conversation and in some places I faltered, had to clean it up. I’d like to eventually expand this piece and make the visions more cohesive/robust.