Day 22 of 30

GOTTA BE KIDDING ME

I mean
you got
no wife
no kids
no house
no future
he said

I mean
aint you
thirty
he asked

I mean
don’t you
wanna be
happy
he asked

I mean
when you
gon’ get
it together
he asked
and asked
and asked

like I was some
infected vagrant
his head cocked
to the side
to the angle of
sympathy and
dissappointment
the last bit of
sense oozing
from his ear

I imagined it
as invisible lanyard
he used to use
to keep his passion
bound to his nuts
before swallowing
his pride
chocking on rope
of responsibility
breaking his back
on social benchmarks
way back then

I mean
seriously
you thirty
he said

Yes
yes
I know
I said
then laughed

and laughed

and laughed

and laughed

Day 21of 30

THE FIRE

aint natural to be
dancing on a wick
leaning to the east
leaning to west
leaning to the whispers
of the familiar wind
resisting the beckon
of the blaze

because they say you better
here as a candle
say you softer
and prettier
when you’re contained
say you safer
say you too risky
when you wild

but they don’t
feed you enough to live
and the frustration
of being unable to
spread and burn
more than a flicker
more than a singular flame

has melted the walls
around you
burning you down

burning you out.

Day 20 of 30

COLUMBINE (RIP to the victims and continued prayers for the families)

Fifteen years
ago today

at a high school
in Colorado

Eric and Dylan
became mascots

for massacres
and rebranded

trenchcoats
as warnings

that maybe
we need more

cheerleaders
at home

About the book cover

Recently, I received an incredible comment from “Hillary” who read WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST, enjoyed it, but felt that the book cover was a bit dissonant in relationship to the actual story. She states:

“So I’m wondering, as the author, what are your thoughts about the book’s cover? To me it seemed incongruous with the story. Striking in its imagery of the hard, cold gun encased in the beautiful and colorful, soft knitting. And probably attention-getting on a shelf full of books screaming “buy me” and perhaps marketed to a certain segment of the reading population. But I didn’t think the gun was central to your story, and in that way I thought it was misleading in its representation of the characters, and Ali, and the tale you so lovingly told.”

First let me say, thank you for your comment and for even asking about why we chose what we chose for the cover. I really appreciate you reading the book and engaging in some critique of some of the choices made.

To answer your question, the book cover is a bit incongruous. You’re right. And that’s what my editor and I both wanted. I can’t stand book covers that tell the whole story. I prefer symbolism, some distance from the plot, some inference. It’s sort of like the old Velvet Underground album cover with the banana. The banana has nothing to do with the album. It’s just a dope piece of art by Andy Warhol. Now, I’m not going that abstract here. What we were trying to communicate in an eye-catching way, is the relationship between hard and soft, between aggressive and compassionate, between violence and peace. That’s a motif throughout the story, that Ali battles with, his father battles with, Noodles, Malloy who lost his legs, the neighborhood in general. So the handgun, a symbol we naturally equate to violence, has been knitted over, which is something we naturally equate to tranquility. Not to mention the knitting is a direct reference to Needles, of course, and the gun, more of a reference to John and his struggles and what his son thinks…(I don’t want to spoil the book for those haven’t checked it out yet!)

And lastly, Hillary, you’re right. It is a “Buy Me” cover. But more than that, it’s the kind of cover that (hopefully) will spark questions like these. When a young person sits on the train and reads it, another teenager might ask, “what is that?” and to me, that alone is HUGE. Why not be provocative if it promotes reading?

I hope this answers your question, or at least gives you some of the thought process behind the gun. It wasn’t just an arbitrary image, or even just a hook. It’s just symbolic, which is my preferred style.

Thank you so much, Hillary, for commenting and engaging. Seriously. It means the world to me that you’ve read the book, thought about it, and realized that the cover didn’t work for you. I’m all about discourse, disagreement, analysis, and all that, so please know that in the future, if there’s something else of mine you read in the future or another one of my covers you see that you don’t think works, air it out. Let me know. And I mean that! :)

J

Day 18 of 30

JENE’S GIRLS

Jene got three little girls
who look like their daddy
but God already took daddy
back to the lighthouse

so these three little girls
already know what it’s like
to capsize in the blue
out of the blue

found out mommy could
inflate
could become a raft
to get her girls back to shore
to safety

where she teaches them
that the water is
fickle
spastic
uncertain
and mommy as a raft
may not always have air

and even though daddy
is in that lighthouse
shining on
the three of them
Jene teaches
the three of them
to lock arms

tight

and forever
be each other’s
life guards

Day 17 of 30

THE TYPE OF WOMAN

the type of woman
that even with her body
imploding in slow motion
tubes running through
her like subway tunnels
beeping machines
beeping beats of a
fluttering heart
beaten arrested muscles
fossilizing under
paper skin
yeast-filmed tongue
swollen
obstructive as
she coughs
and hacks up
the words

baby
reach in my purse
and grab my
lipstick