Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Have you ever seen kudzu? It is one of those things, like fried chicken gizzards sold at gas stations, that are uniquely southern.  It’s a plant, a HORRIBLY invasive one.  It grows everywhere.  Covers everything.  On the outside, it looks like a thick green blanket laid over the land.  But if you’re a little girl tromping barefoot and waist-deep through that blanket, you cannot help but see the truth- it’s not a blanket laid gently on top of anything.  It is a living organism with deep roots, not one, not two, but millions of these deep roots and vines and legs and arms, tangled and wrapped, strangling and eating the life out of everything beneath it.  It cannot be killed unless everything it touches is killed, too.  It cannot be removed or redirected, and you certainly cannot reason with it.  

I have lots of memories.  I’d stare out the car window on the way to church, trying to guess what lay beneath the kudzu based on the shape it took.  Sometimes, you could see rusting farm equipment or rotting wood peeking out from the blanket, other times there were only shapes, big squares for old houses, tall columns for trees.  I would plod through the woods with myself and my shadow, thinking I'd march fearlessly into the kudzu and find a treasure.  There must be treasures under all of that, right?  I was certain that if I looked long enough, I would find a treasure.   Once, I found a stack of old porn mags.  That was my first introduction to “pregnancy porn.”  Yeah, there is such a thing.  I thought it was hilarious.  Sad thing is, some of those chicks were actually pretty hot.  I never showed anyone my porn stash.  For all I know, it’s still there.  The goddamned kudzu is so thick, I really wonder how much rain gets to the ground. 

If someone died there, and the kudzu ate the body, no one would ever find it.  And no one would ever look.   

I wrote a story once.  Or started it.  When I was a kid.  I don’t really remember what it was ultimately supposed to be about, but it began with two people cutting a path through kudzu.  My feeling memory- you know, when you remember feelings but not visions or sounds- tells me that it was probably the typical “knight on a quest” and “lost maiden in the forest” story, the two people.  Again, I was just a kid, and my imagination only stretched as far as my own stunted experiences.  I don’t know where they came from or where they were going, or whether one of them was damaged in some way, or if one of them had unfounded fears or terrifying dreams or inexcusable failings, or whether one of them was a savior or muse or love or dream of another.  All I know is that the two were cutting a path.  The man would pull ahead alone, and the girl would catch up. He’d ask her to wait, but she never would.  He’s tell her to stay put, but she would not.  Other times, she would walk ahead of him, searching for a path that branched off the one they were beating.  On either side she would look, dragging her hand along the branches and leaves and vines of kudzu, feeling for a passage wide enough.   I never finished it because my English teacher told me it was boring.  And she was probably right.   Sometimes I wonder if I should finish that story.  Would I still search obstinately for a path through the impassable?  Would there still remain in me that sense of immediacy in the face of the inevitable?  Perhaps there is a story to be told about those who never find what they are looking for.  A story found in the journey alone, with no tightly woven ending or comfortable ever after.   I’m pretty sure it’s that immediacy that drives my motivations.  So many times, I believe (incorrectly so) that the story is not in the journey, but in the ending.  And if I already know the ending, why waste so much time on the journey?  When the ending does not happen, or does not happen in the way I think it should, that is when the panic rises.  The kudzu wraps around my ankles and legs and knees and thighs.  And no matter how much I rip it away, there remains no path for me to find, nor treasures, not even my porn stash.  

It is a storyteller's obstacle.  My son blames it on our inherent cynicism.  "We are realists," he says to me.  "And for realists, the story is already written." There is only one logical path, one logical conclusion.  Life is predictable; therefore, stories of life are predictable.  

But I could have never predicted that I would find a bunch of porn mags full of pregnant chicks in the middle of a kudzu-infested field in Alabama.  

Nor could I have predicted that I would have found any of those women attractive, considering my teeny tiny age and their enormous, buck-nekkid bellies.  

Nor could I have ever predicted that one day I would write about it while searching for a metaphor to explain the mind-numbing difficulty of picking my way through- crawling on hands and knees through- some kind of original plot... circumstance... story... novel... thing... 


It really is time.  To decide if I am actually a writer or just someone whose mouth and imagination are constantly in overdrive.  Or to decide if there is even a difference.  I'd love nothing more than to quit my job to.... ahem... "pursue my writing career."  Isn't that what people say?  

But the truth is, I know that quitting my job would make absolutely no difference in the sad inefficiency of my written words.  

I know I am not a writer.  I never have been.  I am a storyteller.  And I can't figure out how to take my stories out of my head and make it so other people can see them.  Because the minute I sit with my fingers on my keyboard, the story runs away.  Gone.  In the blink of madness.  It's just gone.   

Maybe the kudzu is eating my stories.  Maybe the kudzu is.... is..... ummm.... SOCIETY!! 

Yeah, that's it.  It's keepin' me down, man.  Makin' me conform.  Ya know, the rat race and all that jazz.  Yeah.  

Or maybe I'm just a right shitty writer. 



  1. The last line is dumb. You're a great writer. Kudzu is gorgeous, from a distance.

  2. I like this one... Writer vs. storyteller.

    I like that. It's something I've tried to work through myself.

    People have asked me to write a piece on topic X or topic Y before, and I can't. That's not how my process thing works.

    I find it hard to write on a particular topic on cue, and when i try, it veers off into something else.

    And it's always more about the texture of the words rather than getting information out.

    So I write what I gotta write and move on to the next thing.

  3. For the first half of my life, I thought Kudzu was a comic strip.

    Now, it seems the stuff of nightmares. Writers' nightmares. Well, that's just super.