(Editor’s Note: The photos are of the exhibits of students enrolled in art and design classes at Austin Peay State University. Photos by Sean Siple : Nashville Skyline.)

Love was definitely that time when my three closest friends, 
We were all so broke,and we all made our lives together, 
Proceeded to make me feel like shit about smoking.
Funny first memory for a holiday edition.

It took at least 37 minutes of prayer
And meditation to recognize that they were expressing
Their love for me. At 19 years old, 
It was a priceless lesson ---  love might
Make a person doubt themselves.

Listening with my whole self is often
How love takes over my being. Artists and 
Teachers say that the smile on my face reassures them
To keep expressing what is pressing 
Through them, loving me back with their stories.

Castaneda claimed (this notion attracted me for a long time)
That a warrior’s impeccability would allow them to
Deny Great Eagle when it was their time, time to merge
With the whole and release their individuality, their story.

Today, Don Juan’s version of death seems daft. He assumed
We social creatures, upright Bonobos, want an eternity
Absent the immersion with the whole, the comfort of the
Totality of all the weird and strange things that make us, US.

Love is not sex, yet sex can be like love, a small death and a release,
A window of infinite possibilities teasing us to pay attention,
In a continuum of taffy and bubbles and lights that fill our minds
In between where our eyes and our skull are situated.

Love likes our stomach, no matter its condition, size or
Fullness. It messes around there. Twisting, tabulating, teasing.
Our stomach knows love best ---
Emptiness, pangs, grumbles, hungers and satiation.

Love will make a person crazy, clairvoyant and constipated.
It is a miraculous metaphor of vision and blindness, silence
And the cacophony we yearn for as we walk through
This life. 

On Thursday, a day before the memorial of the Massacre that
We oddly expect will expose us to love, that small death and release,
I sat in a 8 x 10 block-built rehearsal room with a window and a piano and
A person. I deeply listened to a story of relationships - a love story.

No small stanzas can do justice to the person’s wisdom, as she
Earnestly explained the complex wrestling matches survived in her
Quest for love. I see that now, as I face this page, with dwindling hopes
That they somehow will. So ...

After 37 seconds of prayer and meditation, I choose to render, like
A good sauce, a taste of how listening to an open soul changed me,
Informed me and opened yet another chapter in this story of mine that
I will happily give to Great Eagle when it is my time.

Gabby said: To forgive, to learn, to fail and be imperfect in a state of joy and 
Curiosity, allows a human to meander through this forest of hungry ghosts, 
Trauma and expositions of beauty. Sitting in it, angry stomach and aching
Heart, raising a proclamation that overrides the meanness, the fear.

I will love before all else. I want to hold myself in that immersive embrace,
Pleased with my knitting and the cello, my body and my voice, my scary past
And my uncertain future. Money and madness will be in the mix, but neither
Of those will determine what it is that I can determine. I can love, am love, want
Love and will deliver love to this world. 

Once I imagined that if a particular boy did not love me, no one would.
I gave him my embrace and he brutalized me, body and soul, so many times. My fear 
Was a cudgel, My mind was a strap, my “lover” was my warden, imprisoning 
Me in my inadequacy. I would do anything to get him to love me, anything.

Years of this, years of sinning in the name of love, in the name of God. They are
Now like dewdrops on the lawn of long, long ago, now that I rest in the embrace
Of myself. So sweet is my real lover, my slow awakening drew him to me. We sit, each
Being ourselves, listening to each other’s stories, vested in our uncertain future.

Gabby said something like that, more than that, from her eyes and her mouth
And her heart and stomach and her root. The yoga teacher which she sometime is 
Would be glad that I remembered that love lights each chakra, like magic.
Gabby, the cellist, would want a punctuating moan caused by string and gut.

I know you are worried. I eventually did quit smoking. I still love those people,
Dawn, Garth and Russ. We were probably tripping when they marvelled at the
Swirl of smoke leaving my lungs up to Great Eagle, the creator that 
Gathers all our stories without criticism, hungry to be filled by the totality
That makes us US, makes us lovable, loving and lovers.

We all hope you will meander through the forest and find us. We can love, 
Are love, want love and will deliver love --- in 37 minutes --- or you get your 
Pizza for free.