Gin-gle Bells under a Neon Star: My New Holiday Mini-Collection

IMG_5684As Christmas lights blossomed around the city and classic holiday songs conquered satellites and airwaves much too soon, it occurred to me that many of my poems include references to Christmas imagery and ideas. That revelation birthed an idea: a small holiday collection of my poems. At first, the plan was to just gather a few pieces on my blog. Then I thought, “Maybe audio versions.” That lead to experimenting with accompanying sound and music. After a few days of recording and editing on my phone and netbook, I had this:

Gin-gle Bells under a Neon Star

I had a lot of fun putting this together. I hope you enjoy.

Happy Holidays!


Support for Jamie Givens

Jamie_FundraiserAs my dear friend and fellow poet, Jamie Givens, continues her journey with breast cancer, several supportive efforts have been initiated by the many people whose lives her spirit has touched. Some of you may be aware, but Jamie owns a licensed massage therapy practice and, while she continues to work, maintaining such a business will only become more challenging through the months ahead with surgery and continuing treatment. With that in mind, anything you can do to help out is greatly appreciated.

I’ve included an email below from another of Jamie’s friends, Anke Nowicki, outlining several options for providing assistance during this time. Also, a benefit concert has been organized by Kent Blazy. The show is from 6 to 8 PM on December 6th at Douglas Corner. Please see the flyer at the right. Do you have an idea not listed here? Please let us know.

Thank you in advance for anything you’re able to do to help our friend through this challenging time and much appreciation to those who have already provided support. Thank you to Anke for all of her efforts and for organizing and sending this email.


Dear Friends,

We are so often profoundly touched by the unexpected challenges life brings us and those we care about. Many of us have been blessed to have Jamie Givens, a vibrant, talented, and compassionate woman in our lives, who now faces such an experience. Many of you have also expressed a desire to be supportive during this very challenging time for Jamie. There are many ways to contribute to the web of care and love that is weaving itself together.

A bank account has been set up, and donations for Jamie can be deposited at any Sun Trust branch. Simply ask the teller to look up the account. They can also be mailed to the following bank address, in care of:

Rhonda Rutherford
Sun Trust Bank
4604 Charlotte Pike
Nashville, TN 37209

In the event that you encounter a problem, you could contact Rhonda Rutherford, the bank officer that set the account up, at 615-279-4033. You could also contact Holly Waldrop, who helped Jamie with this project, by e-mailing her at:

What is most needed at this time is a core group of friends that would be willing to pledge a monthly amount for the next 6 months to cover the most critical expenses, and allow Jamie a deeper ability to relax and focus on her healing. If you are interested in pledging, please let me know as soon as possible by responding to this e-mail:

Some friends have put their heads together and come up with some other suggestions below:

A. Jamie gets a weekly food delivery from an amazing organization called The Heimerdinger Foundation. Food is donated from local farms, farmers markets, and grocery stores. Under the guidance of adult mentor chefs, teens volunteer in the kitchen and prepare beautiful, delicious, and nourishing meals for people dealing with serious illness. You could call this organization and talk to them about taking on some of her weekly food delivery fees.

Contact for Meals 2 Heal Program: 615-241-0246

B. Jamie is doing a lot of juicing these days. You might consider Gift Certificates for grocery stores (Publics, Whole Foods, Kroger, The Turnip Truck). You can call in a gift card at The Turnip Truck and Jamie can pick it up:

615- 650-3600 for 970 Woodland Street location… or…  615-248-2000 for 321 12th Avenue location.

C. Gift cards for gas. Gift Cards could be sent to Jamie directly:

Jamie Givens
521 Belle Pointe Court
Nashville, TN 37221

Jamie’s friends include a very creative community. The poetry community is already selling T-Shirts and the proceeds will be donated to her.

Contact Chance Chambers at or MAP (Michael Alan Pierce) at 615-593-3355.

If anyone else has any suggestions about fund raising, perhaps through a benefit performance, please let me know. Those of us in the therapeutic community could consider asking a client to make their check out to Jamie instead, as a way for us to contribute.
All your ideas and efforts are deeply appreciated. Thank you all for every act of compassionate giving.

Love and Blessings,

Anke Nowicki and Light Partners

Minnie Riperton


Autumn hits like a shower
of jagged stained glass
leaves on my yesterday
skin as I worship
in the temple of cocktails
that should all be named Sunday,
because that’s how they taste.

She tasted like Saturday
between midnight
and three, but that’s a summer
as gone as the droning
tube amp riffs of E-minor
drives between life
flight chopper kisses
and curbside indecision.

This season both kills
and lifts me with its betta
fish pageants, Rat Patrol
League of Hipster Justice,
and echoes of the eight minute
thirty-seven second version
of “Susie Q” escaping a tap
room as a harvest moon
reflects the sepia
of all my bad

Save me, Minnie Riperton. I’ll kiss
your petals. I’ll pretend it’s 1970
when the horns raise the chorus
to a weary midtown night. Save
me as if I can be saved and baptize
me in a tall pour of Japanese whisky,
because that tastes like tomorrow.

Coco Teaches Me Korean and Chinese



At midnight, we walk
the happy, drunken ether
where “don’t you want to go
down like some junkie cosmonaut”
is the most beautiful poetry
and the blue strobe lights
of a parking lot cabbie
arrest make a perverse

Thank God for 3:30
AM pizza joints.

Thank Buddha
for friends who talk
over the alcohol din
of cowboy boots
and hot pants.

Thank Ganesh
for milkshakes
with rum
and Kahlua.

Thank Coco
for teaching me
Korean and Chinese
as she digs an oiled knee
into my back.

Mannaseo bangap
samnida. Xie xie.
Would you like
some water?


No Misery Left for the Gin


No misery left for the gin, only
the memory of a girl and her
hair with maraschino ambitions
that make me think of you,
the months you had the blond
highlights. That was my favorite
look: Eurasian features, mostly dark
and straight and a hint of sunlight
framing your face.

Plenty of gin left for the complacency.
My forehead no longer goes numb
when I drink. Maybe this should worry
me, but it doesn’t; it just makes drinking
less fun. Gone is the opportunity
to tap my brow and exclaim, “My
forehead is numb!”

Instead, I dream of snow in Vietnam,
Christmas lights along Le Loi Street,
and decorated hotel lobbies. It’s not
Christmas and there’s no chill,
but District 1 is dressed for a holiday
and the sugar cookies are sprinkled
with Saigon cinnamon.

This is the place I return, with its
wrong weather and rogue seasons,
between gin nights and vertigo

During my mother’s MRI, after the spot
was spotted on her lung, she returned
to Florida vacations, thirty years past.
As the machine clicked, she waded
white sand surf and watched me float
in alien salt water to a white noise
breaker soundtrack.

Maybe I’ll remember dinner music
on the Perfume River, or a Choco cone
melting in my hand as I stood on a corner,
staring at the back of the Saigon Opera House
across a muffler and handlebar carousel
of headlights and sidesaddle
evening dresses.

Maybe I’ll breathe the incense breaths
of Marble Mountain pagodas and hum
the melody of a Carpenters song
heard on a Vietnam Summer Sour rooftop.

Maybe I’ll think of this beer and guitar
dusk in a trailer pub with its own off-season
Christmas lights and no misery
in the singer’s voice. Dee says he’s happier
than us, judging from his songs
and the ones we write.

I know it’s true.
Still I smile and wish
this place served gin, misery
or neat.

Katie, Who Finishes her Name with a Tumbled Heart


flat seven,

The progression always draws me in,
even if it’s a neo-country number
that’ll leave me empty with lyrics
I’ll forget as soon as Katie, who
finishes her name with a tumbled
heart, serves me my last beer
and orange slice.

Happy birthday; it’s Reunification Day,
it’s the eve of the anniversary of my father
getting one boot shined in a village
called Phu Hoa Dong, where 45 years
later I smelled rain between incense breaths.

So, yo, chai yo, kanpai and na zdravi
with my orange slice to the night behind
the wall of televisions over my head
on the way to the “Stand 2 Pee.”

“The wings are good.” That’s what
they always say about places with
midriff and hot pants wait staff.
Actually, the wings are good
and Katie with the sideways heart
is nice, even when I order
the girl-sized beer.

I wonder if she
notices the movements
of the songs she hears every shift.

One, five, four, one—that’s a change
that floats me over river scenes
and lands me in firefly fields.
“Come on Down to my Boat” was
one from Every Mother’s Son, the same
year I became a mother’s son.

Let’s make a movie with a soundtrack
of nothing but songs that move the same.
We’ll watch the faces of the leaving audience
after the last scene, a lingering shot of a sad,
drunken orange slice who always falls
for flat sevens and tumbled hearts.