Where Angels Can’t Follow: The Blog Tour

Y’all. Where Angels Can’t Follow will be released tomorrow! This has been a long journey for me. And every time I look over the lines, I am excited to share them with you. I can’t wait for you to meet these hilarious characters who walked into my mind and wouldn’t quit telling their stories.

We’re on our second week of the blog tour, and the lineup was arranged with YA Bound Book Tours. I’m really excited about the new content released in some of today’s posts. Here are today’s stops:

  • Daily Waffle is also featuring Where Angels Can’t Follow today. You can find a teaser scene between Nate and Kiah here, showing her unique ideas on revenge.
    https://www.dailywaffle.co.uk/2020/09/book-tour-where-angels-cant-follow-by-jessi-kallison/

    And at all of these stops you can register for a giveaway of my complete works–Iron Shards, Hell and High Water, and Where Angels Can’t Follow. (The copies of Where Angels Can’t Follow are ARCs as it hasn’t been released yet.)

Poetry: Un-Days

I know that some of my readers are here because of our mutual love of poetry. And the Where Angels Can’t Follow blog tour is not going to speak to that. So, here’s a new poem I wrote yesterday, which was a hard day for me. I didn’t fall into the hole in my calendar, but I did keep busy with random chores, freezing meals to a ridiculous degree (who needs that much spinach lasagna?!), and finishing the day out with a drink. Odin, the German Shepherd who seems to know when my days are difficult, did not leave my side.

Un-Days

The days we used to celebrate

become holes in the calendar.

Stay-away-from-the-edge,

you-might-fall-in days.


Anniversaries that got crossed out–

absent champagne, flowers, and cards.

Birthdays that aren’t

for people that aren’t.

Days when the world stopped

and our lives fell

into a pit disguised as an ordinary day.


It’s a dubious privilege of aging–

learning how to span the shaky debris over those holes.

I’ll tell you my secret:

don’t look down.

Hell and High Water: Publication Day

IT’S HERE! Hell and High Water is now available as an ebook and in paperback! I am excited to share my lines with those who need them.

Ebook coverOne of my favorite quotes about art is from Cesar A. Cruz, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” And that’s what I’ve set out to do. Many of my lines will resonate with the abused and the disillusioned. And they might not be comfortable for anyone who hasn’t been through the hell of post traumatic stress disorder or its many symptoms. I published the volume anyway. Soothing those still navigating hell is more important than going along with unwritten social rules regarding mental health and trauma. I’m grinding taboos and mental health stigmas to dust, while utterly failing to hide the past plaguing me. Rather, I’ve opened my doors and invited the rest of the broken inside.

I’ve got the balm for abuse, heartbreak, recovering, and backsliding in verses, served with a pinch of what my Southern ancestors would’ve said. Thank you for joining me on the journey.

You can purchase your copy here.

Poetry: 1 in 8

1 in 8 girls who witness domestic violence grow up to experience it.

I saw the tsunami coming for my daughter when I read that.

And I was desperate.

Those are not her stars!

I threw the tea leaves back.

Braced against the shore, I wrapped myself around her.

I drew a circle,

summoning generations of women who endured

punches, burns, neglect, and misplaced blame.

Men made us invisible shields for their egos,

and now we hold the line.

We inscribed “Never Again” on her soul

and shared our grimoire.

Darling, here’s what we bled to learn.

Here’s when to run.

 

**Author’s Note: I read the statistic in my first line in a book that changed the way I fought PTSD, The Body Keeps the Score. And that statistic made me desperate to change my life, to heal, and to be stronger than anything else that came for us. Now, I like to think about the strong phoenix women who are raising even stronger women as we show them that we come back more formidable than before.

Hell and High Water: Deleted Scene

I was ruthless with my lines when I edited Hell and High Water.  If I thought a poem wasn’t ready yet or wasn’t good enough, it didn’t make the cut.  These poems have become the deleted scenes of my book. “What I Miss” didn’t make the cut because it was new and not really edited into something I was proud of yet. I’ve done some more editing since.

In most relationships I’ve had, I’ve missed things unique to the person who was no longer there after a breakup, and I don’t know how to hold grudges. So, this poem was born.

What I Miss

Arms wrapped around me at 2AM.

Soft whispers of “It’s okay”.

My trembles subsiding like a child’s after a nightmare.

Your body fitting mine in a perfect nest of spoons.

A hand held out to me–

for a walk, on a car ride, at dinner–just because.

Inappropriate jokes told no matter who listened,

as long as a smile was dragged to my lips.

The quest for French fry perfection.

How you didn’t let go of me first.

Poetry: Hyperacusis

I used to watch all of Marvel’s movies. They were a shut-up-and-take-my-money situation. And you could bet that I would read or watch most things involving super powers, mutations, or human evolution. I found it fascinating. I remember one show that depicted super hearing as part-super power, part-curse.

And I can confirm the part-curse bit. Since the break-in and attack last year, I can’t turn the world down. My therapists say it’s a PTSD symptom: hypervigilance, hyperacusis. And sometimes it’s hell. I don’t watch those movies anymore without my kids pleading to watch together, noise cancelling headphones, a drink in my hand, and subtitles. My kids pre-open their candy so that the plastic doesn’t crinkle next to me. We’ve all changed our lives in little ways to co-exist. I wear the headphones and run four miles a day, sometimes sequestering myself when the day has been a bit too loud. They tone it down when I cringe at something like cabinets closing in the kitchen. Today’s poem details living with this super-curse.

Hyperacusis

I think someone is hitting our counter.

And I ask you to check downstairs.

And I’m so sure I’m right.

I argue until you show me…

that the sound only happens when the dog breathes out.

 

YouTubers blaring that we should “smash that button”

make me want to smash my eardrums.

I can’t think around it.

 

I flinch when you hammer a stud into place.

And I’m back against a door with it splintering around me,

buying my family more time.

 

So, you find me now before you hammer, drill, nail, sew,

decibel warnings far below the prescribed level litter our days.

You hand me noise cancelling headphones

like a life ring for the drowning.

 

And I hold on.

 

I ask you each time, “Will it ever get better?”

And you always say yes.

I don’t care if it’s truth or a lie

or only what you believe.

It’s enough.

Poetry: Worth It

Sometimes I think about how all of the circumstances align for us to meet someone at the right time. I’m grateful for my current set of unlikely occurrences. I live with PTSD, so I’ve been deeply skeptical that happy endings are possible and yet stubborn enough to look for them anyway.

Worth It

Did I have to feel the chasm spreading in my bed?

Did I need to struggle raising three oh-so-close-together nerdlings alone?

Did I have to learn not to flinch when a fist went through the wall inches from my face?

Did I need to watch retreating backs

as I hyperventilated my way through panic attacks?

Did I have to go on so many blah, how-do-I-leave first dates?

Was that really the shortest path to you?

If so,

it was worth it.

Hell and High Water: Proofs Are In!

It’s been quite a week here with two sets of proofs arriving within three days! I feel spoiled getting to hold the results of years of writing all at once. And this little book is a rollercoaster of love, failure, PTSD, violence, and the South surrounding me.

Hell and High Water will be available on August 25th. You can pre-order ebooks before then, but the print version goes live on publication day.

Continue reading

Hell and High Water: Round Three

I wrote the poems featured in this book over the course of years. The love, failed relationships, and Southern life parts of my book might feel comfortable, but the PTSD part won’t. “Honey Whiskey” is old, but the wounds are still fresh.

When you’re in an abusive relationship, the violence often escalates over time, and this poem is about one instance in a series of many before I was beaten badly enough to need doctors, police officers, surgeons, and contractors for my house. I know that so many people wonder why a person doesn’t walk away at the first sign of violence, at the first hint of insanity. And there are many reasons, unique to every trauma victim. And it’s usually not a lack of intellect.

There are a few reasons I am so open now about what I endured. One is that I still live with the PTSD symptoms and need my friends and community to be kind when I show up wearing my noise cancelling headphones and don’t remove them for anything. (Honestly, I did consider bedazzling a pair for a formal event last winter.) Our villages can’t help us if we decide to suffer in silence. So, I gave mine the chance to be amazing, and they didn’t disappoint.

Another reason that I didn’t let my outspoken posts about domestic violence and trauma dwindle is that every time I post something real, something raw on social media, a friend of mine will message me privately and confide all of the terrible things she’s living with. So. Many. Brutalized. Women. And we’re all just quietly holding each other up and showing up when we’re needed, the outraged sisterhood activated at every new assault. But I’ve been done with quiet, silent, and comfortable. I’m fine with being a voice that lets women around me know their situation isn’t unique, it’s not insurmountable, and no one has to hide–that we’re not alone in this aggrieved sisterhood. So, here’s a poem from a day that I should have run away and never looked back…and didn’t.

Honey Whiskey

I shiver—loneliness, fear, desire—all war within me.

You shiver, but on an angry frequency.

There’s not much time.

I fumble my shoe and freeze.

Were my ancestors rabbits?

You still see me.

I race to get away.

But you’re a one-man melee.

You snatch a honey whiskey bottle.

Like you, it held sweet fire.

Like me, it shatters.

A florence flask next.

Stout glass, weak throw, dumb luck?

It mars the floor, whole.

I’m gonna be glass like that—unbreakable.

The divots are in my soul.

 

Poetry Process

I really admire the poets who can sit down and type exactly what they feel into Word, do some editing there, and then hit publish. My process is not that. Usually, my poems hit me in the early morning or when I am grappling with an issue. I write them all in my journals in ink or pencil first (hell, color pencil or crayon if it’s all I’ve got). Something about actually writing words on a physical page inspires me to look for the exact word that fits how I feel. Of course, the space is also limited, and it’s a pain to change words in ink. So, it’s better to be close to right the first time.

Here’s an example from one I wrote this morning because I decided to spend less time delving into my personal social media. It’s amazing how quickly we can be drawn into tapping “unfriend” and “block” when people get unnecessarily unkind over issues, how quickly our connections to other people dissolve. I decided to spend less time connecting to people who would sever connections at the slightest affront and more time with people who would never let me go.

The one on the left is the first draft, just writing what’s in my head. The one on the right is the second round, being more selective with words and how they are arranged on the lines. I also came up with a working title. You can see that in the second draft, I combined the first lines, spaced things differently, and dealt with one of my persistent errors–tense shifts. Eventually, I’ll come back to this in a few months and see if I still like my word choices and still think it’s good.

Here’s the print version below, just in case you find my handwriting a bit impossible. 😉

Love Cables

I’m shrinking my world down to these four walls.

I had tendrils trailing to the UK,

to Japan, to nearly every united state.

Misty connections that evaporate

if you show a light too brightly on them.

But in these walls…

I can’t chop the tethers.

I can’t burn them.

I can’t dissolve them in my bitterness.

So, I’ll pour myself into what I can’t lose.

This small slice of the world.

These walls. This bed.