Monday, November 27, 2006


May heathens roast in hell like chickens on a slow cooker,

prays my Sunday School teacher. I see Homer
Lee Masters, splayed on a grill, fingers dangling
over coals. Hear him crying like a shot dog.

Sweet Jesus, cleanse Homer of whiskey and loose women,

she asks at Easter, warning us about the sin
of slow dancing like that hussy Salome.
I see Mama lean on a gentle wind, swaying
in the kitchen to Sinatra’s croon

I’ve got you under my skin, deep in the heart of me.

Nobody’s going to shame my mama
so I beg Sweet Jesus for an angel
to swoop down and carry that teacher away
drop her in a fire with slow-cooking chickens.

Chella Courington
From _Oregon East Magazine_ (vol. 37, 2006)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

When Monkeys Fly

Below me lives an actor. The director spots her long nose and skinny ass.
Casts her in a huge role, Richard III. She screams My life for a horse's ass.

The super accuses me of jamming the toilet and flooding the apartment.
Two hours you cost me, he yells and threatens to shove a firecracker up my ass.

A guy doing shots at the bar declares a butt like mine deserves headlights.
I reply excuse you big boy and knee him in the crotch. Life is full of ass.

At rehab they say apologize for behavior under the influence.
Apologize? Whatever I do drunk I'd do sober. They can kiss my ass.

Mr. Johnson pokes me with his chalky finger, and I rise out of my desk.
Moon Pythagorus and his disciples, dropping my Levis over ass.

Me? I love glutes au natural. No fancy tattoo, no lacy French thong.
Swinging my backside in open air, just denim rubbing against my ass.

Ghazal by Chella Courington first appeared in _Poemeleon_ (vol. 1, issue 1, summer 2006)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Iris Online: Jane Eyre

Here's a poem featured in iris online in 2005.


Tired of midnight screams in drafty rooms
she imagines a jaunt down lover’s lane
like a walk on the moors
to distract her dampened spirits

if she can make it on
through questions
more questions than any governess agency
dares to ask.

She wants to speak the truth
though truth often brings her trouble.
So this time she’ll slip
into white lies.

Plain? Not Very
Exciting? Somewhat

Lying is fun.
She can turn herself into a babe
by clicking keys.

Who cares if Rochester waits for her
the other side of a burning house.

She’s sick of gloom
of being the model for every wallflower
in every century.

Longs to be a hot young star
even Barbie would emulate.

To shine in cyberspace.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


the father
the boy
who twirled a baton
tipped in red
while the father
long rods of fire
snuffed out somewhere
past lips
and over tongue
hidden behind teeth
yellowed from nights
tasting sulfur
as giants and dwarfs
with floppy orange shoes
into dollhouse windows
dangling toes
between me and the boy

and i was nine again
over hot coals
from the grill by dad
who bet ten bucks
i couldn’t do it
and i said i would
if he would
and i did
and he laughed
wiping his hand across his mouth
me standing there in burnt feet

with time came a vision
branding his back
as skin sizzled

his fingers
tapers in a church
that i lit
one by one
snuffing each flame
so he’d smolder
before me

Chella Courington
From _Oregon East Magazine_ (vol. 37, 2006)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Creative Writing Community Online

Dear Poets,

Following is a notice of an online Creative Writing Workshop at Cerro Coso Community College and facilitated by Professor Gary Enns. During the next couple of weeks, guest poet, Sterling Warner, who teaches at Evergreen CC & has just come out with a new book, will comment on posted work. This CWC is a productive, supportive community of writers and critics. Please
check it out.

The Online Creative Writing Workshop
with Poet Sterling Warner
October 29-November 11

All are invited to participate online, contribute creative writing,
discuss craft, and/or ask the poet questions, so encourage your
students to join, and log in yourself! Feel free to forward this
message. Here are some directions:

1. Click the CWC Moodle site link on the following

2. Follow the directions on the right of the screen to
CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT and become a participant.

3. Email me here to let me know that you've joined. I
will add you to the workshop group so you can participate.

From: Gary Enns

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What is Poetry? Video including me

Here's a video of three poets in the Santa Barbara area made by Jonathan Cline.

Go to and search for topophilia.

The first video that shows will be "What is poetry?"

Watch it & vote.

Thanks, Chella

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

my poetry for a change: Immaculate

heavens, i haven't posted for more than six weeks! "what happened?" you ask, dearly faithful reader. well, august turned into september: students, essays, committee meetings knocked & i answered. but now i've returned to gravity & light with my own poems, newly published & ready for blog exposure.

disclaimer:btw, these are long lines arranged in couplets. if the format breaks the lines into long/short, know that the short lines belong with what's above it.


Mama warned me if I slept with a boy before marriage the Virgin Mary would snatch
me away. Where to I was never sure. Maybe New York or Los Angeles. To a bedroom

of satin--sheets so smooth I’d slide into Heaven. Tony was my first. Tall with a dimple in his
chin, he liked to pinch my butt up the stairs to civics. Twenty-four steps with him right behind.

In March he gave me a broken heart on a silver chain. Kept the other half in his front pocket.
A good luck charm he said. Never thought about being swooped up by Mary when I kissed

Tony. Felt him grow in my hand like giving birth to something I wanted to know.
Mama believed virgins hung the moon, though not a soul in our family ever stayed that way.

Cousin Raylene was living proof. Did whatever she wanted. The Virgin never messed with her.

_Soundings East_ vol. 28, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006).

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Vespers by Lousie Gluck

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.

From The Wild Iris, published by The Ecco Press, 1992. Copyright © 1992 by Louise Glück. All Rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Marie Howe

How Many Times

No matter how many times I try I can't stop my father
from walking into my sister's room

and I can't see any better, leaning from here to look
in his eyes. It's dark in the hall

and everyone's sleeping. This is the past
where everything is perfect already and nothing changes,

where the water glass falls to the bathroom floor
and bounces once before breaking.

Nothing. Not the small sound my sister makes, turning
over, not the thump of the dog's tail

when he opens one eye to see him stumbling back to bed
still drunk, a little bewildered.

This is exactly as I knew it would be.
And if I whisper her name, hissing a warning,

I've been doing that for years now, and still the dog
startles and growls until he sees

it's our father, and still the door opens, and she
makes that small oh turning over.

From THE GOOD THIEF (Persea Books, 1988)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tin House Dorm

At Reed College, the dorm where Ted & I stayed reminded me of the school in _Harry Potter_ as well as Flowers Hall at Huntingdon College, my teaching post previous to SBCC. Gothic architecture with big redwood rooms. Mike Land, dear friend & also a participant at Tin House, took this photo with me & poet Susie Dunn in the foreground.

Friday, July 21, 2006

D.A. Powell

I just spent a week studying with the imminent poet, D.A. Powell, at the Tin House Workshop in Portland, Or. He is a wonderful teacher as well as poet. In appreciation of the week in his workshop, I post the following poem from his most recent collection, _Cocktails_:

[the cocktail hour finally arrives: whether ending a day at the office]

the cocktail hour finally arrives: whether ending a day at the office
or opening the orifice at 6am [legal again to pour in californica]: the time is always right

we need a little glamour and glamour arrives: plenty of chipped ice
a green jurassic palm tree planted. a yellow spastic monkey swinging

a pink classic flamingo impaled upon the exuberant red of cherries
dash of bitters. vermouth sweet. enough rye whiskey to kill

this longing: I take my drinks still and stuffed with plastic. like my lovers
my billfold full of rubbers. OPENs my mouth: its tiny neon lounge

From Cocktails by D. A. Powell. Copyright © 2004 by D. A. Powell. Reprinted from Poets. org.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Like Marilyn in her glory
an upward draft
catches Mama’s hem
at forty-first and twelfth
raising it in waves
around her knees and over her thighs
a pink-striped dress
dances like the awning
at Lida’s Cantina
when a man at the corner
clutching a boy’s hand
sees Mama naked
under her flying skirt
and I see he sees
wondering why
she doesn’t hold it down
and he sees me see him
before the light turns green.

"Second Memory" by Chella Courington appears in _Permafrost_ (vol. 28, summer 2006), published by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Anna Akhmatova

Russian (Ukranian) poet, Anna Akhmatova, was born June 23, 1888. According to Joseph Brodsky, who introduced _Poems_, selected & translated by Lyn Coffin, Akhmatova's father forced her to write under an assumed name: "When her father learned that his daughter was about to publish a selection of her poems in a St. Petersburg magazine, he called her in and told her that although he had nothing against her writing poetry, he'd urge her 'not to befoul the good respected name' and to use a pseudonym. The daughter agreed, and this is how 'Anna Akmatova' entered Russian literature instead of Anna Gorenko" (xiii).

"Lot's Wife"
by Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Max Hayward and Stanley Kunitz

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.

From Poems of Akhmatova, by Anna Akhmatova and translated by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Published by Little, Brown & Co. © 1973 by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Granted by permission of Darhansoff & Verrill Literary Agency. All rights reserved (, linked above).

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"Blackbirds" for My Father

This is a recent picture of my father and me taken during my visit in Alabama. Below is a poem written in his honor and published in the inaugural issue of _Poemeleon_, an online journal of poetry edited by Cati Porter. Click on the above title "Blackbirds" to visit _Poemeleon_.


Like a canopy of darkness
they shadow the ground for miles
on currents that lift them
back to their roosts.

Years later I ask my father
if he gathered us
to watch thousands
swoop down on trees
sit wing to wing
until morning branches cracked
under their weight.

At daybreak did they leave the oaks

He says we never saw them abandon the hollow
catch a new wind to an unharvested south

but often would pile into the car to see their return
black streaks on the upward drift
of a September afternoon.

Chella Courington
June 2006

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Visiting my dad in Rural Alabama

We spent three weeks with my dad in Albertville in North Alabama at the tip end of the Appalachians. The locals like to eat lunch at the Albertville Candy Store, a kind of general food/trinket store on Main Street. In the back the older ladies play bridge three times a week.

Here's a typical daily menu. BTW, the Candy Store serves lunch Monday through Friday. Come as you are.

Friday, June 09, 2006

wishes for sons

lucille clifton is one of my favorite poets. she speaks so honestly about being female.

wishes for sons
by Lucille Clifton

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
I wish them no 7-11.

i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn't believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.

let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.

Copyright ©1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted from Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., 260 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14604. Poets.Org

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Stephen Colbert Addresses Graduates at Knox College

It’s that wonderful time of year when students graduate from college & wonder: what now? Stephen Colbert, one of my faves, gave the commencement speech at Knox College, June 3. While the text can be accessed by clicking on the above hot link title, here’s an excerpt:

There are so many challenges facing this next generation, and as they said earlier, you are up for these challenges. And I agree, except that I don’t think you are. I don’t know if you’re tough enough to handle this. You are the most cuddled generation in history. I belong to the last generation that did not have to be in a car seat. You had to be in car seats. I did not have to wear a helmet when I rode my bike. You do. You have to wear helmets when you go swimming, right? In case you bump your head against the side of the pool. Oh, by the way, I should have said, my speech today may contain some peanut products.

My mother had 11 children: Jimmy, Eddie, Mary, Billy, Morgan, Tommy, Jay, Lou, Paul, Peter, Stephen. You may applaud my mother’s womb. Thank you, I’ll let her know. She could never protect us the way you all have been protected. She couldn’t fit 11 car seats. She would just open the back of her Town & Country—stack us like cord wood: four this way, four that way. And she put crushed glass in the empty spaces to keep it steady. Then she would roll up all the windows in the winter time and light up a cigarette. When I die I will not need to be embalmed, because as a child my mother hickory-smoked me.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Return after Hiatus

I'm pleased to announce that Jim Bennett has added my blog to Poetry Kit, a central place for locating blogs on & about poetry. Since the first annual poetry contest, activity has been low with the end of school and my dad's fall. I'm glad to report that I am writing a fair amount, looking forward to more creative time when Ted & I return to Caifornia.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Winners of the Gravity & Light Poetry Contest

I want to thank the numerous poets who submitted poems for the first annual Gravity & Light Poetry Contest. All submissions demonstrated excellence. The judges, however, selected two poems as their favorites: “Administering My Dog’s Cancer Therapy, I Think About My Sons,” first place, by Cati Porter & “ Bermuda Grass in Lincoln Park,” second place, by Brandon K. Wallace. Both are published below.

Administering My Dog’s Cancer Therapy, I Think About My Sons
Cati Porter

My thumb and forefinger pinch a pill as I thrust my fist
back into his throat. His teeth, a bracelet of blunt
tines, rake gently over my wrist.
I pull out my hand sticky with his saliva
and hold his mouth closed
and stroke his neck
until I am certain he has swallowed.

At seven years old he is two years older than
my oldest son. He is my oldest son,
I tell myself, but of course, he is not.
He is just the dog, I remind myself daily,
because, if he were my son,
I would okay the endoscopy, biopsy
the lining of his stomach. I would make the drive
into the next county for intravenous chemotherapy.

Once he ate reluctantly from my hand chicken breasts
boiled for him on my stove. If he were
my son, I would not hand-feed him
the breasts of dead chickens. I would slice
off my own, boil them
pink to white in my very best pot.
I would shred them, feed them to him
warm, if only to keep him through the night.

The 1980s
Bermuda Grass in Lincoln Park
Brandon K. Wallace

The sound of black musicians on guitar- Earth, Wind, and Fire combining the
elements in a gravitational groove, pulled into the dizzy of a neutron dance.
A lipstick, cherry bright as the light of a smile, red Thunderbird, the
blackenized Barbie turned inside out, pulled up into the alley, against the
crosspatch, metal fence behind the house with shaved top and delicate cement,
only the slightest bit of grass growing through the cracks where we played Red
Light/ Green Light Red Green Red and Green Lights flashing, blending together
in backgrounds of black and sunshine yellow, the red appears in pores and
freckles in the brightness of the sun with the distant green tops of trees, the
green of the electric carpet against which I used to rub to feel the current.
Rows of houses, claustrophobically close, creating closeness and warmth, Coca
Cola and Pepsi, in red bottles with white lines, sprite in green and lemon
yellow, juicy fruit and Ronald Reagan, Jesse Jackson in wool overcoats holding
signs, campaigns for change. Change.
Harold Washington, change, the color of his suits. Kinetic movement, promise
and vision.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Thought the readers would like a view of me, Chella Courington, and my favorite fiction writer, husband Ted Chiles.

(Photo taken in January 2006)

TIKI by Andre Breton


Je t'aime a la face des mers
Rouge comme l'oeuf quand il est vert
Tu me transportes dans une clairiere
Douce aux mains comme une caille
Tu m’appuies sur le ventre de la femme
Comme contre un olivier de nacre
Tu me donnes l”equilibre
Tu me couches
Par rapport au fait d’avoir vecu
Avant et après
Sous mes paupieres de caoutchouc.

Andre Breton


I love you across the seas
Red as the egg when it is green
You move me into a clearing
Gentle with hands like a quail
You rest me against the woman’s belly
As against the mother-of-pearl olive tree
You give me balance
You put me to bed
By the fact of having lived
Before and after
Under my rubber eyelids.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Devil’s Beatin’ His Wife by Chella Courington

“If you could choose, would you want it to rain all the time or shine all the time?”

I draw hopscotch squares on the concrete sidewalk in front of grandma’s house. Since my sister’s two years older, she always talks to me in questions, trying to trip me up and make her seem smarter. So I just throw questions back to let Julia know I’m smart too.

“Can I turn off the rain when I want to?”

“Nope, you gotta carry an umbrella. “

“Can I play in the rain on summer days when it’s so hot my hair’s all sweaty?”

“Yep, but only in the backyard and you gotta wear your swimsuit. No running naked like we do under the hose. “

“Can I tell the sun to go behind the clouds?”

“Nope, you can’t tell the sun to do anything. He’s bigger and stronger than anybody except God.”

“Can I ask the sun not to melt the snow?”

“Nope, you can’t ask the sun any questions. He has too much to do to fool with a dumb girl.”

“Well, smartie pants, I’d rather have rain and sun together to heat me up and cool me off at the same time.”

“Yeah, well that means the devil’s beatin’ his wife!”

“That means what? “ I yell, scratching a one and zero in the top square.

“You heard me. The devil’s beatin’ his wife.”

“I don’t believe you. The devil’s not married to begin with.”

“Yeah he is. They just never tell us about it in Sunday school. His wife looks just like my first-grade teacher. A long pointed nose with glasses and she smells like chicken poop. They say she fries bad girls in hot grease and then stuffs them in a barrel.”

“If he has a wife, why does he beat her?”

“Because the devil ‘s the meanest man in the world and beats up anybody he wants to just like the baddest boy in school. “

Ever since Halloween, Julia tries to scare me with stories of mean people who like to kidnap and torture kids. “You’re telling a fib,” I scream at her.

“If you don’t believe me, go ask grandma. “

So we leave the sidewalk and run into the house. Grandma’s in the kitchen, snapping beans at the sink and looking out the window at butterflies around the crepe myrtles. She knows things we don’t. She says flowers are named after girls who smell sweet and act sweet. That butterflies are the spirits of loved ones in heaven. “Grandma, does the devil have a wife?” I blurt out before Julia can open her mouth. Just because she’s older doesn’t make her smarter and she can’t scare me now with grandma near.

“Well, hon, I don’t know about that though I kinda doubt it. He’s way too mean and ornery for any woman to put up with, no matter how irritating she is.”

“What about Mr. Wells? You said he was mean as a snake. He has a wife.”

“Yeah, but he wasn’t always mean. Plus he was good-looking. A wife will forgive a heap of sins from a good-looking husband.”

“Do you think the devil ever looked good?”

“Absolutely never. I know it for a fact. But I’ve always heard tell that, if you see sunshine through rain, the devil’s beatin’ his wife. And who can argue with what my own grandmamma told me when I was your age. She always said ‘rain flickers like Christmas lights when it falls through God’s sunshine.’ Girls, go look out the back door! “

Raindrops sparkle in the sun. Behind them a yellow and red rainbow reaches from the sidewalk to the other side of the backyard, and I know my grandma is the smartest and sweetest person on earth and my sister will never be a flower!

Note: This children's story, based on a folk expression, first sppeared online in _Penwomanship_, linked in the header.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

KGB Bar in NYC

Ted & I are in NYC, celebrating my March birthday belatedly and visiting one of my dearest friends, Lisa Williams, author of _Letters to Virginia Woolf_. Monday night we went to the KGB Bar in the Village to hear Kay Ryan read. She, of course, was wonderful with witty & intellectual work! The bar itself is an old workers bar: marble steps lead upstairs to a small room. A perfect way to enjoy National Poetry Month! BTW, remember to send in your poems for Gravity and Light's First Annual Poetry Contest. See previous posts for guidelines. Be well & keep writing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I'm pleased to report that entries have started to roll in for the first Gravity & Light April Poetry Contest. Eminent local writers have agreed to read all poems in early May and announce the winner May 12.

Keep those poems coming! Good night and good luck.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Okay, here goes. Out of respect to April as National Poetry Month, this blog, known as Gravity and Light, will sponsor a month-long poetry contest. The expectations are few: no rhyming, no poem over 50 lines, fresh and surprising, concentrated and imagistic. Deadline: April 30. So, there we are. Please send entries in the text of an email to: Good luck and good writing! May the Muse bless our Olympics of Poetry! Best, C Courington


Here's a piece written as a freewrite several years ago.

Let Darkness Come

The route to darkness meanders down through nightmares that entangle and cloud the light. Buried emotions attack the jugular vein, scream deadly slogans, tackle us when we least expect it. I had a friend who spent the last ten years of living, looking for outs to his clinically depressed existence. He tried suicide almost as many times as I tried new lovers from overdosing to carbon monoxide to slamming his Harley into the side of Compass Bank. I talked him back into life almost every time. He’d grin like a devil sick of sin: “Yeah, I’m crazy. You’re crazy. We all are.” He pulled me down on him. Then he’d walk into a dark room and begin the descent over and over and over again. I look back at those early mornings when he’d take me on his Harley around Monte Sano, a winding mountain road. And I remember the last time he called me at 4 a.m. Sunday. He said he was walking alone into the darkness and asked if I would join him. I was scared, knew he spoke a language I didn’t understand, and immediately drove over to his place—near county highway 9. When I got there, about fifteen minutes from my apartment, everything was dark. The door was cracked; I walked in. The silence was deafening. Nobody was there. I knew in my bones Jimmy was gone forever and drove home to sit by the phone until I heard something. His cousin called at 10—Jimmy shot himself in the head at Lake Guntersville near the state lodge. His body was slumped against a picnic table. I felt cold, my jaw locked, and I slammed down the phone.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


The following are the blurbs on my first chapbook entitled, _Southern Girl Gone Wrong_, published by Foothills Publishing of New York in fall 2004. When I returned to writing poetry in 2003 after almost a 20-year hiatus in the world of academic writing, Perie Longo was my mentor and guide, giving me the needed advice and encouragement to keep writing. My dear friend and colleague, David Starkey, is my model for seeking creative challenges and pushing myself to grow as a poet. His productivity inspires.

"No one writes of sexuality more sweetly or bitterly, when taken by even the most holy, than Chella Courington. Her poems sizzle under southern sun and make you want to go take a cold shower. Her talk is tough, sensual, sparse yet laced with lyricism and love for the family, in the end, and all things southern that come from staring truth in the face. Startling images are there not for effect, but rise out of suffering, and like her, we are 'saved' by memory's exquisite touch."

--Perie Longo
Author of The Privacy of Wind

"In Chella Courington's 'Jesus Loves Me' the speaker fantasizes about making love to Jesus. The experience she describes is both sinful yet oddly innocent, and that atmosphere of naiveté and abandon pervades the poems in_ Southern Girl Gone Wrong_. Courington's world is lush, humid, sensual and inviting: once you enter it, you'll want to stay."

--David Starkey
Author of Open Mike Night at the Cabaret Voltaire
and Fear of Everything

BTW, my chapbook can be purchased online at Foothills Publishing, linked to the right. Thanks for supporting poetry!

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Jake tickles my cheek with his tongue, and I lean against
him. Sliding over my shoulder like the Virgin’s mantle,
he rolls his muscles to the drummer’s beat. A whore
mama calls me and says anybody in a strip joint sleeps
with the Devil. Her Jesus is about covered dish suppers
and long dresses. Mine’s not cooped up in the Boaz
Baptist Church drinking juice and eating saltines. He’s in
the clubs, witnessing to the night people. When the sax
man plays “Amazing Grace,” Jake curls around me. His
head sways from side to side, biting my lip before
the music fades, and everybody’s washed in light.

Chella Courington
Published in _Desert Voices_, (volume 4, issue 1) December 2005

Friday, February 24, 2006

Stories I Want to Tell

Peter all in blue
flies from Mr. McGregor
drops one shoe
in cabbage
in potatoes.

My hero
outwits this farmer
every garden turn.
Forfeits jacket
before slipping
under gate.

In my story
Peter finds me
outside with a pink suitcase.

But don’t mistake us
no Alice and Mad Hatter
no Grace and White Rabbit.

We are Chella and Peter
in a wood at dusk
far from family noise.

He tells me his grandfather
sacrificed his own tail
to save Otter.

I want to confess
my father shoots otter
bruises me
when mother’s not home.

I want to say
some pain is worse
than dying.

Peter holds my hand
under the harvest moon
stars floating downstream.

Chella Courington
Published in _Phantasmagoria_(volume 5, number 2)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Bush on Top

Bush is on top, and the grammar cops are out. No health care for the poor, no drug care for the elderly, no choice to the ladies. But sure as hell no comma splices, no run-on sentences. And fragments! Crucify Faulkner. Heaven forbid. Grammar matters. How else can we distinguish rote learners who believe in arbitrary standards from everybody else? Too many funny tongues out there not to detain them in rules. People speak Spanish and Arabic and German and Slavic. Grammar matters. Just look at those Appalachian folk, nestled in woods where banjos still duel. They speak the King’s English. All those double negatives of Shakespeare never went out of fashion. They maintained the standard. They don’t know no different. Hooray for Shakespeare! Give me my own tongue. 2006. Grammar books on The New York Times best-seller list. Check out the authors. Any of these books by persons of color? Who’s clamoring for the maintenance of the old guard? It just rubs me the wrong way when folks start bandying about rules of grammar. Sure (ly). Business letters need to be as clean of grammatical unconvention as possible. They’re directed to one of the most conservative elements in the United States of American: Business. An industry that works in cliché: judges everything by the cover. Not to sound like an anarchist but grammar is not organic: grammar is made by usage. So what if your English grandmother said “Give the cup to John and me” and you say “give it to John and I.” But like much in this predictable life, an emphasis on grammar in 2006 is not surprising. Grammar cops work in cahoots with Homeland Security.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Writing in the Dirt

Daddy still doesn’t know me after forty years.
Thinks I ought to praise Jesus and live five miles away.
He reads a poem I wrote about a penis.

Throws his arm high like Moses with a staff.
Stomps out the back door
mumbling in his wake.

Later I hear him tell mama
"That girl of yours writes in the dirt."

I turn my face to the wall.
Cracks of plaster deepen
every time the house settles.

Red clay shifts to quicksand
swallows me whole.

My poem floats beyond the live oak.

This poem by Chella Courington was published in the recent issue of _In the Grove_.

Monday, January 23, 2006

My Turn to Watch Granddaddy's Body

He’d sit in a cane rocker on his dirt yard
shirt cuffs flapping yell to mama
girl bring me some tea.

Lucky for him she adored her daddy
otherwise that old goat
would’ve died a lot sooner.

A mining doctor he bled the sick
for money they never had called them
stupid animals.

When they couldn’t pay he bartered
for crops coal corn liquor
loved devil’s brew more than himself.

I thought some angry miner might
kill him with a bad batch instead
he died in his sleep at ninety.

I didn’t like him alive don’t care
what happens to him now but in respect
to all the dead I’ll stay my time.

Chella Courington
First appeared in _King Log_ and reprinted in _Southern Girl Gone Wrong_

Monday, January 09, 2006

Like branches of white ash, antlers

lie in spring snow in the foothills.
Close to me every year, he drops them
somewhere along the ravine.

March, I find them in tall grass
honeysuckle braided through tines.
Bees gather. Another season
his rack vibrates in red cedar
mobiles of bone clank till dawn.

I long for him to emerge
yet he never comes
leaving his musk before the fall.

Chella Courington
First Published in _NILAS_ (December 2005)

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Eyes full of moon
she studies me
behind the porch screen.

I smell of tobacco.
She of sage.

I breathe her in
feel my body bend to hers.

Over plains we race

spin through air
on legs lithe and strong
lifting into sky

until my lungs ache and
I fall back into sweet grass.

She covers me till morning.

Chella Courington
First Published in _NILAS_ (December 2005)

Monday, January 02, 2006


I spend long hours in this hot muggy room breaking the necks of chickens. Not with my hands like grandpa who swings the bird round till the neck pops. My machine chops off the head. Drops that blade and splatters blood every five seconds. Fresh blood that tastes salty and sweet at the same time. It bothered me at first. But the pay’s good. What I don’t like is the line chief. During break he tells me he knows when a girl has her period. He can smell her. Says he broke up with his last girlfriend cause she bled so much. He makes me feel dirty like I need to wash with lye. One day he follows me out to the car. Says he dreams about me. Likes to taste me in his sleep. Don’t tell him my dream. The one where he’s hanging with the chickens while I work my machine.

Chella Courington
First Published in the recent issue of _In the Grove_