Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Guitar Worth $50



I have a guitar worth $50 I can sell

I have a guitar that can afford to go to hell.

From my cancer-colored gutter
These are my possessions.

 If there was a market for my skin
 I'd cut her.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New Facecrap Destination

Hi folks,

A quick note to let those interested, if any, that the place to find me on Facecrap is now this link:



http://www.facebook.com/SheldonLeeCompton

Thanks, and I appreciate it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shot in the Dark

Write.  The moment you stop doing this and start thinking, it's over.  Don't believe?  Doesn't make it any less true.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lightseeker


Often it is the most deserving people who cannot help loving those who destroy them.

                                                                                                     
               – Herman Hesse


           

Most of what you know about werewolves is true, but not everything.  That’s the way it is with anything.  You can only know something so much, really know it, understand it.  It’s the things you know that scare you.  What you don’t know would open your heart, maybe even feel like something close to sympathy.
But it still would never be enough.  The name given to me after a time was Bea.  But having a name didn’t change anything about what I am.  I kill.  People, animals, anything I can.  I have no choice as far as that goes.  I wish I did, and that’s one more thing you know about werewolves now. 
Here’s another – more than blood or meat, more than the flat face of the moon warming are bodies, or even surviving, Lightseekers, those like me, want to love again.  And sometimes we can, sometimes we’re able.  I am able.  And that pain is the truest torture of all.  Like anything else, you can only understand so much.  The rest you have to learn as you go, through experience and by pushing away fear at the moment when your mortal body and soul can feel nothing but fear.  It’s that strength that moves me to cry when I change.  Not the pain.  Physical pain leaves the body and is gone.
We’re not made, but born.  That’s one of the things you think is true but just isn’t.  I’ve never been bitten by anything larger than a mosquito.  I don’t remember my parents, have no idea if they were or were not Lightseekers.  I was left in a field, as far as I can remember, during a full moon.  Full moons are part of what you know that is true, but let’s stop poking around at your misconceptions.  It’s just mean and hurtful.  You think what you think, and that’s just fine.
I wasn’t raised by wolves.  Nearly laughed when saying that.  I hope you found humor there.  Laughter, love, peace, contentment.  These are the jewels of life.  No, I went my own way.  I grew, I fed, I managed.  I became, to most at certain times, an attractive young woman, though a bit lacking in general hygiene, maybe.  That is until I found Shirley. 
Shirley caught me tossing through her garbage one morning, naked and bare to the bone, soul and heart exposed, tired, lonely.  She was sixty-seven when she told me to come in and have a bite to eat.  I remember first, before anything else, closing my gaze on her jugular vein.  I could hear blood moving through parts of her body, a gushing and wonderful thing, warm and fine.  But she came to the edge of her tiny porch and held the railing with a hand made of flower petals.  I caught the scent of lotion off her skin from across the yard, and some kind of perfume.  She was a flower, and she was smiling at me.
I know now it was at first pity and that Shirley did not understand, moved by the sight of what she thought to be a homeless young lady who had maybe even been molested or raped or worse.  When she moved off the porch, I tensed my muscles in place and kept from bolting away.  It was the way she looked at me.  There was pity there, but something else, too.  Affection, concern.  When she was standing in front of me, she didn’t reach for my arm or place a hand on my shoulder.  She asked only if I was hungry and offered again to give me something to eat.  She looked through the garbage can and saw the possum I had been feeding on.  It had not been dead long enough to stiffen and the blood and meat, though slightly cool, was filling.  When she looked back to me, I wiped at my mouth where I was sure blood and flecks of dead flesh were mashed and smeared over my lips and likely my chin, too.
Shirley reached for me, she didn’t touch me.  She only reached out her flower petal hand and opened the gate to her yard.  I accepted her hand and she led me to the porch and into the house where I would live for another three years. 
The first thing I noticed was a kitchen warm and brown, just as you’d expect.  Comfortable furniture in the living room – a large couch and a soft love seat, a worn recliner positioned off to the side of the room, but lined up with a small television.  A dinner tray was moved aside scattered with plates of breakfast food, eggs, pork chops.  Shirley walked me to the recliner and moved the tray in front of my knees.  She then left to the kitchen with the plate, pulled a clean one out and scooped eggs and two thick pork chops onto it, placed a fork across the top, and brought it to me.  She pulled the dinner tray close and wrapped a blanket around my naked body, tucking it around my shoulders.  She said it was a ring quilt, which I’d never heard of before, but liked the way she said it with her smile and kind face. 
I quickly ate the breakfast.  It wasn’t the food I preferred then and still don’t prefer now, but we can eat the same food as others, it’s just bland and tasteless, but not something we reject as you’ve seen or heard before.  The food, though mostly having the same qualities as cardboard or notebook paper, is filling and we can sustain for a time in this way.  I made it those three years eating mostly Shirley’s fine meals made with love and care, but I needed to get into the moonlight on some nights and find real food.  I did this on nights when I could smell her lotion stronger than usual, could hear the rushing of her blood.  When I found myself watching the muscles in her arms tighten when washing dishes or cutting carrots and thought of how sweet those muscles would taste being torn from the bone, I would sneak out the window of the back bedroom and into the nearby trees along the riverbank and catch squirrels and fish and any other living things at hand.  I always wore the clothes Shirley gave me to help her in the garden so that dirt and branches and whatever else wouldn’t stand out so much if she came across them.
What I didn’t realize was that she already knew everything.  She knew it and it didn’t matter.  It was over supper one evening – soup beans and cornbread, all cardboard and paper, but I was thankful for it.  Shirley saw me struggling, though, I believe.  She went to the refrigerator and took out a pack of bacon from the freezer, thawed it in hot water for bit and then ripped it open, placing the meat on the plate.  Confessing she’d seen me leaving the house a few weeks back when the night was lit up like dusk, said she saw me change, and knew what I was doing.  She said this and pushed the plate closer on my dinner tray.
I pushed my face into the meat, let my tongue lead the way and then sunk my teeth through the fat and nice meaty parts, even the bits that were still hard and a little frozen from a quick thaw.  It’s wasn’t fresh kill, but there was taste.  Occasionally I glanced up, embarrassed, confused, but too hungry for taste and meat to care.  Shirley only smiled from her place on the sofa, her dinner tray angled toward the television where Sanford and Son played, it seemed, in a loop.  From that time on, Shirley made sure I had raw meat of some kind once a week and I stopped crawling out the bedroom window.  It worked for awhile.
Here’s what you need to understand – I loved Shirley.  That’s how I first realized things like me, animals, could feel love.  I want you to know this before I tell you that after three years I killed and ate her in her sleep.  I cried the entire time, even in my animal form, howls so loud it alerted neighbors, and I fled, belly full and heart heavy.  I had killed the only person who had ever accepted me and loved me.  I took her in her sleep.  Not brutally, the way you might expect.  I took her slowly, bled her out and then, when she stopped breathing, I fed. 
I had killed love, but still felt it in my changed heart even as I ran through the valley and into the woods.  When the light left and morning came, I cried the way you would cry, hard and endless and in a devastated way I don’t have to explain.  I am able to love.  And I kill.  These are things you must know.  Not that it is going to change your mind in any way at all.  But that’s fine. 
I can still love, and I’ve learned to love and not give in.  I love a man named James.  He gives me raw meat and watches the phases of the moon like clockwork and, on easy nights, we watch Sanford and Son.  On easy nights, I use earplugs when he sleeps so his blood isn’t so loud.  I love his blood the most.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Royal Flush: Five Stories for August


Here are five stories I enjoyed for August, all for different reasons.  Lately I've been more inclined to seek out stories that offer up a variety of thoughts for me.  I spent last month immersed in Southern Literature, and I love it.  But I need a jolt from time to time.  If you need one, too, check these stories out.




Jack Swenson - "Big"

Chelsie Bryant - "Dead in the Head"

CL Bledsoe - "Spice and Malice"

Jen Knox - "Getting There"

Monday, August 13, 2012

Nice Surprises


In the past couple weeks, I’ve had some nice surprises.  It’s always nice to get a nice surprise.

It began with renowned photographer and friend Shelby Lee Adams, who wrote me after reading my collection, The Same Terrible Storm, and offered the following words in response and support of my work:

“Our mountains and people are going through a squall, a modern tempo without the banjo.  People in this storm regulate and medicate.  Sheldon explores: a country rock band member, turned punk, saved in Jesus, pulling a gun on us.  Painting a house with needy young’ins. Young men stompin’ on their memories of a grandpa they hated in an old photo, cancer in places now it never was before.  In this book we experience hospital bureaucrats regulating a new cash crop, health care.  Coal miners working their shift, oblivious.  Everyone staying close fallin’ apart and coming together.  Sheldon’s words are kind, descriptive, intelligent, eloquent and needed.  He describes a world I know and wish had not come about just yet, yet here we all are.  Read this book.  A new talent has come out of the hollers.”

To say I’m pleased would be a huge understatement.  I have admired Shelby’s work for years now and am truly honored to call him a friend.  That he would take time to read my book and then, further, offer his thoughts is something I will never forget.

Then, a short few days later, Jan Bowman, who just interviewed me for the literary journal Trajectory, sent a note saying she had reviewed The Same Terrible Storm.  Please read her thoughts, “Place: Not Just a Location”, and be sure to explore the rest of her website, as well as Trajectory.

The last surprise came from the local college here, a place where I have applied to teach many, many times in the past.  I gave up on getting a foot in the door and sent a final email about a month or so back and then my phone rings and they ask me if I could teach a writing class for them.  Boom.  Surprise.  My first day is tomorrow.

I really couldn’t ask for more, professionally. 

Upcoming posts will include my five story picks for August and no small amount of rambling.  Be well, everybody.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Purpose" from The Same Terrible Storm published at Metazen

On July 31st Metazen published my story "Purpose", one from my current collection The Same Terrible Storm and also the story that has now become the basis for the novel I'm now working on, Brown Bottle.

I'm always grateful when any journal or group of editors or any individual takes the time to read something of mine and then offer to share it with others.  It's something that never wears thin, that generosity.

Strangely enough, I'm just now involved in an interview with Jan Bowman via email for a fine journal called Trajectory started up by author Chris Helvey.  One of the questions Bowman asked was if I'd ever finished a story that was exactly what I hoped it would be when setting out to write it, that hummed in the very way a story should.  My answer is "Purpose", plain and simple.

I hope you'll take time to drop by and read the story and the many others there as often as possible.  And, before I get back to writing words that are not true (weird that writers are just professional liars), I want to add a special thanks to Christopher Allen at Metazen who worked extra hard with me to bring the story to Metazen and hopefully to many others.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Words When I Can't Say Them


Humans can't live in the present, like animals do.  Humans are always thinking about the future or the past.  So it's a veil of tears, man. I don't know anything that's going to benefit me now.

- Townes Van Zandt


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Case Study


Everywhere I’ve ever been has tried to eat me alive.  How is this place any different?  A warm home, working the rails, and now prison.  These places are the same to me.  They are trying to kill me, these places, these people.

I’m not paranoid.  Not capable.  It’s just a simple truth, and it’s because of the tamping rod that went through my head on the job.



I never gave that thing a nickname, but I did have my picture taken with it.  A couple of times. 

But I’m not inclined in anyway whatsoever to go over was is and what was not.  What I can tell you is that the dent in the top of my head, where the tamping iron exited when I was setting the powder that day on the cut through.

I was a foreman.  Foremen were required to do this.  I was admired in this position.  That much I remember.  Then something went wrong.

To me it was nothing extraordinary, but the doctor who first examined me thought differently.  He said the following in his initial report:

“I first noticed the wound upon the head before I alighted from my carriage, the pulsations of the brain being very distinct…Mr. G. got up and vomited; the effort of vomiting pressed out about half a teacupful of the brain, which fell upon the floor.”

This was Dr. Williams.  They took the case over from him soon after that, and it may have been because he was too caught up in the idea of my brain shooting out of my head than he was in helping.  Who knows?  Who cares?

I killed a man working the sideshows with me.  He stole and he smelled bad and just generally bothered most everybody.  I thought my fellow workers would understand.  But, when they didn’t, I was fine with their crying and calling the authorities.

If you’re wondering, I killed him with the tamping iron.  I kept it, until prison, by my side at all times when I could. 

It just so happened I had my tamping iron near by bedside on the night this fellow worker, a pinched face man named Claude, tried to rob me in my trailer.  I hit him in the chest, and when I saw it wasn’t enough, held him to the floor with my bare foot and shoved the iron through his neck.

I’m Hades bound down, they say, and they can say it all they want.  But not a single person in this hellish place is going to send me there.  You don’t take a tamping iron through the eye socket and on up through the top of your head to be taken down in such a simple fashion.  No matter how much everyone in here wants me dead, everyone everywhere.

Truth is, I’m not at all scared.  I’m not at all anything.

Fail Better: Learning To Let Go as a Reader and a Writer

Tonight I begin again on a book I'm writing that may have no ending at all. And no hope for one. It's doesn't even have a tit...