Story of a House

A Wink From the Universe

For shop owner Kam Culler, it’s all about family and home

By Cassie Bustamante 
Photographs by Amy Freeman


Growth charts on door frames and bright orange permanent marker doodles on the wall might not be popular Pinterest decor, but for Kam Culler, home is all about the memories she creates there with her family.

Pointing to a shimmering gold-and-aqua tassel garland hanging in a door, she says, “Those are from our housewarming party five years ago.” Culler pivots and shows off a colorful string of pom-poms. “Those are from Charlee’s 4th birthday. We did Kidchella.”

Culler, who was just 23 when she began fixing up her midcentury 1959 split-level ranch in Old Starmount Forest, is an independent go-getter. In the last few action-packed years, she’s married the love of her life, given birth to a second child and started her own business — all while rehabbing her home. “I’ve had a lot of help from my friends and family, and my late sister-in-law,” she says. “But I want people to see a woman can do it all.”

When she first looked at homes as a single mom to then toddler Charlee in 2017, something about this house spoke to her. While Culler loves homes of that era for the charm and character they offer, this ranch style specifically symbolized to her “America’s frontier spirit and a new age and new growth of a new culture.”


Feeding not only her cosmic spirit, the house offered a little wink from the universe, a nod to let her know this was the one. The previous owners had created a poker room off of the garage that most people would want to change immediately. But the space held special meaning to her. Holding up her forearm, she cheerfully points out, “My grandfather and I play poker. My tattoo that says ‘lucky’ is for him.”

In the kitchen, the previous owners had repurposed some old plates their children had broken into a mosaic backsplash. While it wasn’t Culler’s style, she thought, “Alright, this is definitely a house for a kid.”

After seeing a multitude of houses, Culler, just 23-years-old at the time, trusted her instincts and made the decision to purchase the ranch, envisioning a future for herself and Charlee. Knowing that the house needed some work and updating, she was ready to commit because “it just felt homey.”

Shortly after moving in, an old magnolia on the property fell on the back of the house, setting a series of renovations into motion. The room that would become the playroom, for instance, flooded and required a complete overhaul, as did the upstairs bathroom off of her main bedroom.


While she hadn’t planned to update so soon, Culler hired Savas Construction to create a whimsical and feminine play space for daughter Charlee (and Wrennlee, who just joined the family in July). The room now features walls that are white on top and a soft pink on the bottom, paired with Kam’s signature colorful and cozy textiles found throughout her home. In the corner, Charlee can safely write on the wall on a wood-framed, house-shaped chalkboard.

In her own bathroom, Culler repurposed a vintage dresser, its aqua paint adding a vibrant splash of color against the black-and-white ceramic floor tile and modern white shiplap walls. Photos of a smiling Culler and Charlee taken throughout the years at Anthropologie’s mother-daughter fashion shows and dance recitals adorn the walls.

But the pièce de resistance, according to her, is the large, white basin-style bathtub. “That was the one thing,” quips Culler, who’s 6-feet tall. “I was like, ‘If we’re going to redo this, I want a bathtub that can fit my boobs and knees in’ — achieved!”

Construction was already underway on the playroom and bathroom when Culler decided to have her kitchen countertops replaced. But, “funny story again,” it turned out not to be as simple as that. Shelving and cabinetry were removed from the walls for measuring, revealing that the walls beneath were not lined with drywall.

While she hadn’t planned to update so soon, Culler hired Savas Construction to create a whimsical and feminine play space for daughter Charlee (and Wrennlee, who just joined the family in July). The room now features walls that are white on top and a soft pink on the bottom, paired with Kam’s signature colorful and cozy textiles found throughout her home. In the corner, Charlee can safely write on the wall on a wood-framed, house-shaped chalkboard.

In her own bathroom, Culler repurposed a vintage dresser, its aqua paint adding a vibrant splash of color against the black-and-white ceramic floor tile and modern white shiplap walls. Photos of a smiling Culler and Charlee taken throughout the years at Anthropologie’s mother-daughter fashion shows and dance recitals adorn the walls.

But the pièce de resistance, according to her, is the large, white basin-style bathtub. “That was the one thing,” quips Culler, who’s 6-feet tall. “I was like, ‘If we’re going to redo this, I want a bathtub that can fit my boobs and knees in’ — achieved!”

Construction was already underway on the playroom and bathroom when Culler decided to have her kitchen countertops replaced. But, “funny story again,” it turned out not to be as simple as that. Shelving and cabinetry were removed from the walls for measuring, revealing that the walls beneath were not lined with drywall.


“It was brick, wood, and the cabinets were literally superglued, so there was no saving them.”

Today, the galley kitchen features modern dark green-gray cabinets with black cup pulls, a charcoal-grouted white subway tile backsplash, smooth white quartz countertops, white Café appliances with copper accents and open shelving consisting of 2-inch walnut slabs. It is as striking as it is functional.

Of course, it’s not shelves that make the kitchen for Culler, but what’s on them. Over the years, Charlee has spent many birthdays at Mad Splatter, creating something new to commemorate each family milestone. While plants and everyday dishes occupy much of the shelves’ real estate, Charlee’s works of art hold the esteemed position on the top shelf.

Recently, Culler rearranged the open shelving to accommodate the color-blindness of her newest family member, her husband Kyle. He came into her life in the middle of 2020 when he pulled into her driveway, “delivering plants — imagine that!” Looking around Culler’s lush house, it’s not hard to imagine at all.

When the COVID pandemic struck in March of 2020, Culler was a 26-year-old single mom. Now she’s a married mother of two girls, Charlee and newborn Wrennlee.


The couple married at Cadillac Service Garage in a bohemian-inspired setting designed by Culler in October 2021. Two weeks later, she signed the lease on what would become The Borough Market & Bar. Just one month later, she discovered she was pregnant again.

Kyle didn’t bring much baggage, just several journals from years of service as a missionary. “He’s lived in a thousand places,” Culler points out, adding that all of those years of living minimally have served him well in his transition into this house. He has one wardrobe in the bedroom to himself and a small collection of what Culler calls “tiny little man hats,” as compared to her own wide-brimmed assortment.

She wasn’t about to let the busy-ness of life alter her dreams to have a shop of her own. “Yes, I’m a mom and then I do this,” she adds, referring to owning her business. As a mother to two girls, Culler wants to illustrate that anything is possible when a woman leans into her dreams and leans on her people.

The Borough Market & Bar was created to cultivate a stronger sense of community and would not be possible without her own supportive community. “I would not be where I am without my family,” muses Culler.

Sadly, her 23-year-old sister-in-law, Caroline, passed away in May. She was also pregnant with a girl and due shortly after Culler, who had made the decision to hire her because “we knew, or thought, she was here to stay.” Caroline had been at The Borough from the beginning, opening boxes and putting out merchandise. “I had a lot of help from her,” Culler sighs, tears forming in her eyes.

A dresser in Culler’s living room, the space where she spends most of her time, holds a treasured illustration of the two young women that a friend gave her for her birthday shortly after Caroline’s passing.

Culler’s grandfather, Jerry Hardy, has also played an integral part in the creation of The Borough Market & Bar. “He’s my person,” declares Culler. “Pop is who really helped the vision come to life after COVID.”

That vision is centered on a sense of home and community. Culler was inspired by a visit to London’s Borough Market as an Elon undergrad, studying abroad, appreciating its communal vibes. Armed with over 10 years of working in retail for Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Lululemon, she was able to make the dream a reality.

Her own Battleground Avenue establishment is divided into two spaces: a lounge and bar area that invites customers to relax over a cup of coffee or signature cocktail, and a boutique filled with eclectic goods from female-owned small businesses.

After a long period of many people using their kitchens as home offices, Culler wanted to offer a relaxed alternative. “They get to have their sacred space of home back, but go somewhere pretty and inspiring to work.”


The bar specializes in bourbon beverages, which is no accident since it’s Culler’s preferred spirit, a true reflection of who she is — a woman who honors her family’s past.

“Bourbon is like the story of my life. The longer it’s aged, the more craftsmanship goes into it,” she says. “It tastes better. It can open up your senses.”

This fall, she will partner with several neighborhood businesses to offer “Whiskey Around the World” pairing dinners at The Borough Market & Bar.

Her boutique is a commercial tribute to Greensboro creatives, featuring murals from local artists, Marley Soden and Jenna Rice, plus large paintings from Angie the Rose. The boutique also includes smaller pieces of art from Thea DeLoreto and Amber Taylor Creative, plus plants from Tiny Plant Market.

Looking for a sense of quality and heritage, Culler curates products for the shop just as she would for her home. She loves pieces she knows can be passed down through generations, much like the sideboard that once belonged to her grandparents.

“Smell and light sensory is a big thing with me,” Culler explains, pointing out why her home sanctuary is a space filled with twinkling lights, earthy hues of rust and pink, luscious green plants, family mementos, stray toys and nubby pillows, sofa and rugs. It’s here that she decompresses with a hot cup of coffee and her prayer journal after a long day down on Battleground Avenue.


Glancing around her transformed living room, she muses, “I really wanted to be that hippie, herb mom, but I’m probably more like Amazon, Target and Starbucks.”

However one chooses to describe her, like her home and business, Culler is an American original — an independent woman with a style all her own.

Pausing to reflect on the full life she and Kyle have embarked on, Culler sees their Starmount Forest ranch filled with “princesses and fairies, dance recitals and gymnastics, leotards and make up and sparkles and hair.” Even Kyle, who’s bald, gets in on the action, studying YouTube videos on braiding so that he can be “the ultimate girl dad.”

As if on cue, Charlee materializes in the hallway, dressed head-to-toe in her latest dance recital costume, a lavender top with sequins and tulle ruffles paired with shiny teal lamé tights that emulate the look of Disney’s Little Mermaid. In this sparkling and magical moment, it’s easy to see that in this house, dreams are not only created, but brought to life.  OH

Cassie Bustamante is the managing editor of O.Henry magazine and a frequent shopper of Greensboro establishments — especially when there’s a coffee bar inside.

A Slip of the Chisel.

And a Whole New Life

How former auto mechanic Paul Nixon became an artist

By Maria Johnson  .  Photographs by Lynn Donovan 

Paul Nixon, an Irishman by way of McLeansville, could be a character from a Celtic fairy tale.

He’s spry and compact with a workingman’s handshake, playful eyes, a flourish of salt and pepper hair, and sloping eyebrows that mimic the tilt of his mustache.

A brogue twines around his words, which he knits into long stories. His laugh tumbles out often because he’s fond of telling jokes, like this one:

Back when he was a car mechanic, he was used to seeing people cry — when he handed them a bill for repairs.



Then he adds a kicker: When he became an artist, at age 45, his clients’ tears were real, flowing from the heart.

“It changed my life in a profound way, he says. “I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I think I have something that’s worth exploring.’”

In a month when Greensboro focuses on folk art — much of it on display downtown at the North Carolina Folk Festival — it’s worth hearing the story of a local guy who, for decades, was more folk than artist, a grease-under-the-fingernails sort who harbored a sensitivity to beauty and a yearning to express his feelings in a way that others could recognize and appreciate — the essence of an artist.

“If this happened to me, it could happen to other people, but it does take patience,” says the 67-year-old Nixon, who traded carburetors and transmissions for a creative portfolio that includes sculpture, carving, painting, stained glass and digitally-composed photography, along with art and antiques repair.

He’s best known for his bronze works in this area:

The figures of a firefighter and two children in front the Greensboro Fire Department headquarters on Church Street; a sculpture, installed at the local hospice, honoring Patrick, a therapy dog who attended many people in their final hours; a bust of a World War II soldier — whose multi-ethnic facial features represent the vast fabric of American fighters  — at a VFW post in Summerfield; and a pair of winged lions at the entrance of the Grandover Resort.

He just finished another commission for Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, a series of ornate wood-and-glass boxes for the congregation’s Mary of Fatima statues, portable shrines that parishioners can take home as focal points of prayer.

Churches are good customers, and Nixon has shipped many pieces to out-of-town flocks.

He has carved elaborate croziers — a fancy word for wooden staffs — for an assortment of clergy. He also made an intricate staff — a tribute to St. Patrick — that’s on permanent display at the Sligo County Museum in Ireland, his childhood stomping ground.

He spent summers there with his maternal grandmother in a 300-year-old thatched roof cottage at the foot of Tievebaun Mountain, aka White Mountain, believed to be the home of a faerie door in Irish folklore.

Fellow Dubliner William Butler Yeats, an early 20th century star of Irish poetry and drama, spent boyhood holidays there, too, and was inspired by the place’s supernatural aura. Some of Yeats’ writing and personal effects are preserved in the same museum that houses Nixon’s staff.

Nixon donated the walnut staff — and a bust of Celtic warrior Queen Maeve — as a nod to the place that molded him. He confesses that his gifts doubled as a tweak to a high school art teacher whose words he remembers exactly: “Your subject matter is too small, and I don’t think you can make it as an artist.”

Her words pressed a thumb on the scale of Nixon’s already low self-worth, and they added to Nixon’s fear of making mistakes, which was reinforced by teachers who lashed the tops of fingers with bamboo canes when students goofed.

Shy and unsure of himself, young Nixon threw himself into a multitude of physically demanding jobs after school— construction worker, alongside his cabinetmaker father; TV stuntman; and mechanic for a caravan on an African safari.

In 1985, at age 29, he embarked on a personal expedition, leaving Ireland for America.

“I knew I had to lose myself to find myself,” he says.

He unearthed part of himself in White Plains, N.Y., where he bought part ownership of an auto garage and pursued ballroom dancing as a way to meet women.

“It was putting myself in the public lights — and being afraid of it — yet it was an adrenaline rush for me. It became a passion,” he recalls.

He met his wife, Francesca, a physical therapist, when she brought her car to the shop. He took her ballroom dancing on their first date.

“That was it,” he says. “We only dated three months when I proposed.”

They moved to the Piedmont in 1999 to be closer to Francesca’s family, and Nixon continued his work under the hood in a Greensboro garage.

Family provided a new path when Francesca’s Uncle Raley gave Nixon a wood lathe. Francesca suggested that Nixon make a walking stick for Raley’s wife, Mary.

Nixon turned a block of walnut into a plain shaft and handle.

“It didn’t have much luster,” he says. “I wanted it to be special.”

He picked up a knife knowing he could make it better, or worse, by carving a design on the cane. He took a chance. He cut away the wood to reveal one leaf and called his wife, who admired his work.

“What are you going to do now?” she said.


“I think I’m going to do a vine coming around the handle,” he said.

Forty hours later, he threw the stick under his work bench, disgusted.

A slip of the chisel had sliced off the tip of a leaf.

A week later, Francesca noticed that he’d stopped working on the stick. She asked about it.

“I can’t do it,” he said. “I don’t have enough experience.”

Francesca replied that Aunt Mary was expecting something unique, so he’d better resume the project.

“My wife has always seen more in me than I’ve seen in myself,” he notes.

He found the cane and studied his mistake. He thought about leaves he’d seen in nature. What if he made the clipped leaf look like it was folded back on itself?

He picked up a knife and kept going.

Aunt Mary burst into tears when Nixon and his wife presented her with the vine-wrapped cane one Sunday after church.

“I’d never experienced that before,” he says.

This is his cue to tell the joke about the car repair bills.

But you can tell he’s not kidding when he talks about the impact that Aunt Mary’s emotional response had on him. He left the car repair business about five years later, after he finished the Greensboro Fire Department bronze and partnered with a local art gallery.

His income dropped more than he’d anticipated.

“Thankfully, Francesca believed in me and supported me. Eventually, my income improved considerably, to where I have a happy wife and a happy life,” he says.

Twenty years after his chisel skidded through a spot of soft wood, he’s no longer afraid of making mistakes, an inherent part of creating.

“For the most part, taking risks always seems to take me to the next level, in that my confidence and art skills continuously improve,” he says.

His practice also pays off beyond the bottom line.

“It’s given me a sense of purpose to know I’m affecting people in a positive way,” he says. “It’s a rich reward for me.”  OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry. Email her at See some of Paul Nixon’s work at

The Right Vibe

An ambitious plan is taking root to transform Greensboro and the Triad into a capital of live performance music

By Jim Dodson

Photographs Courtesy of Flat Iron; By Josh King and Ryan Bell

(Left to right) Will Easter, Marcedes Carrol, & Brooks Forsyth

Seventeen years ago, Greensboro philanthropist and businessman Bobby Long personally signed a $25 million letter of credit with the PGA Tour that saved one of the most venerable professional golf tournaments from the dustbin of history. At that time, the former Greater Greensboro Open —  known then as the foundering  Chrysler Championship — was losing its title sponsor with no potential successors waiting in the wings.

Within a year, however, in partnership with a creative young tournament dynamo named Mark Brazil, Long broadened the outreach of the formerly Greensboro-focused event to the wider Piedmont Triad region and secured a major tournament sponsorship with then-Chairman Steve Holmes of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. It was a master stroke that transformed the new Wyndham Championship into one of the most innovative and family-friendly events in professional golf.

Since that time, the team of Long and Brazil, along with their colleagues at Piedmont Triad Charitable Foundation, have gone on to serve a host of regional charities and projects aimed at improving the quality of life and economic opportunity across the region.

Last March, the dynamic duo joined 10-time Country Music Association’s Musician of the Year Mac McAnally for a concert at downtown Greensboro’s One Thirteen Brewhouse + Rooftop Bar to quietly kick off an ambitious initiative they call “Live Music Vibe.” It aims to develop the Gate City and surrounding communities into a regional capital for budding songwriters, musicians and live performance music.

“In a nutshell, we’re hoping to do for live performance music in the region what we did for professional golf,” explains Brazil, Piedmont Triad Charitable Foundation CEO, who once again is the enthusiastic tip of the project spear. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, mind you. We are learning as we go from some of the sharpest people in the music industry, aiming to provide a place where up-and-coming songwriters and performers can afford to come and develop their craft before live audiences.”

Just as they revitalized the PGA Tour’s sixth oldest golf tournament — in part by identifying the Tour’s rising stars and building relationships with them — the plan is to do the same with emerging and established musician and songwriters in our region. The hope is that the Triad will become a more affordable and less daunting music venue than Nashville and other big-time music capitals.

As Mac McAnally points out, the traditional capitals of live performance music, are frequently out of reach for many promising singers and songwriters. With a robust musical heritage that includes everything from the opening of the Carolina Theatre in 1927 (hailed as the “Showplace of the Carolinas”) to the legendary Chitlin Circuit of the 1950s and ’60s, Greensboro owns a rich musical heritage. With the city’s timely designation as the permanent home of the North Carolina Folk Festival, Greensboro seems to primed to become a launchpad for rising performers.

“When you are starting out in the business, finding a place to play to an appreciative audience is really what it’s all about,” McAnally, a mainstay of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band, points out. “To make more places accessible for up-and-coming songwriters and musicians to try new music and refine their craft is something that can only expand the music business — and bring new people to it.” He notes that in the music industry of the 1950s, bands and musicians toured largely to promote their records, but the monumental growth of the record business over subsequent decades, plus the introduction of digital sales, basically killed off the touring business.


Left: Billy Don Burns. Right: Carri Smithey.

With record sales flat, the legendary country music performer — a former session musician from Alabama who went on to write major hits for country music royalty — thinks the timing may be ideal for the return of live performance touring and development of local grassroots talent.

The idea of a regional music series that could complement and maybe someday rival the traditional live performance capitals of Nashville and Austin, Texas, in fact, came out of an impromptu conversation McAnally and Bobby Long had with Jimmy Buffett prior to the pandemic about how the music world was changing. The three men mused upon what opportunities might emerge from an unprecedented period of lockdowns.

“Our goal is to simply be additive — to contribute to opportunities for people here to see great music and up-and-coming artists as well as terrific local talent,” explains Mark Brazil, who outlines a three-plinth strategy for developing the Triad Music Vibe.

The first two legs involve partnering with McAnally on a singer-songwriter series that brings emerging musical talent (anywhere from 10 to 15 artists per year) to the area, in addition to providing performance opportunities for local songwriters and musicians. The third aspect is to bring more live performance music to downtown Greensboro, particularly the five or six blocks on lower South Elm Street, creating what Brazil calls “a gathering spot for great live music.”

Back in April, Brazil and Scott Baxter, CEO of Kontoor Brands, put together an evening of live performance at several of Lewis Street’s most popular night spots. “It went over extremely well,” Brazil notes. “It was kind of a glimpse of what Greensboro and other cities in the region could be in the future.” A follow-up event at the Flat Iron and recording studio on Summit Avenue introduced a trio of rising national singer-song writers to a local audience, including a gifted Montana artist named Marcedes Carroll, who may partner with the initiative going forward.   

As the North Carolina Folk Fest returns to town, the timing and the vibe both seem right for a grassroots awakening that already seems afoot. Several of the city’s most popular breweries feature live music several nights of the week. Recently opened Steel Hands Brewing on Gate City Boulevard just completed its own “Nashville Nights” series, a local touring program that got its start at their original Columbia, South Carolina, location several years ago. “Because of its strong music culture and younger population, we identified Greensboro as a great place to expand our operation and the concept of bringing touring artists and live sets for local songwriting talent,” explains Ashley Lambert of Steel Hands, which staged 11 performance evenings from June to August. “It was so well received,” she adds, “we’re planning to expand the series next summer — adding a really great outdoor venue.”

All of this is music to the ears of Brazil and Long. Inspired by the success of Myrtle Beach’s Carolina Country Music Fest and North Wilksboro’s popular MerleFest, Mark Brazil envisions the live performance vibe someday growing strong enough for the Triad to support its very own music fest.

“At this point,” agrees Bobby Long, “we are still in the discovery stage, connecting with key folks who have an eye for emerging talent. We’re blessed to have Mac and others helping us bring this thing about. We think if new up-and-coming artists find a warm welcome here and across the Triad,  they’ll keep coming back. “I come from a small town that’s still inside me,” says McAnally. “And I was blessed to shape my career through live performance in listening rooms and bars across America. Greensboro has a lot to offer the music world. It will be exciting to be part of that.”  OH

Life’s Funny

By Maria Johnson

Eric Trundy is pacing around the stage, doing a bit about the grief he felt after his friend, Rene Luna, another comedian, died of testicular cancer last year.

Trundy confesses that he was sobbing as he was cleaning house, begging God to let him see Luna one more time. In the middle of his mourning, he saw a fly on the wall. He snaps a rag at the wall behind the stage to demonstrate what happened next: The fly dropped.

At that moment, he tells the crowd, it occurred to him: What if reincarnation is real?

What if God heard his prayer and . . .

The crowd laughs. They get it.


Trundy is a funny guy.

Not just because he’s a professional comedian.

And not just because of his hair, sort of bouffant mohawk that rides high on his white-walled head. It’s a very stand-up cut. Cough-cough. And not just because — but honestly, largely because — of port-city mouth, which spits f-bombs and carries an implicit challenge: “You-lookin’-at-me?”

It’s not even because he once worked as a professional wrestler named Rage.


No, Trundy — a fireplug of a guy who grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and looks like he’d just as soon slug you as hug you —  is funny because he describes himself as “a crier.”

Meaning that he cries. Easily. With tears.

“I just love feelings, you know?” he says as he reaches for another tissue. Of course, the tissue box holder looks like a Rubik’s Cube because we’re sitting on the intentionally gaudy set of his YouTube talk show, a place that looks like your grandmother’s house. If your grandmother ran a bordello. In Vegas.

The point is, Trundy loves emotions. All of them. Not just the happy ones.

“It turns out, happy is shit without sad,” he sniffs.

Now feels like a good time to say that you should catch Trundy — and a raft of other comics — at the North Carolina Comedy Festival in downtown Greensboro this month.

Why? Because they hold up a mirror with their stories. If all goes well, you laugh at them — and yourself.

“It’s why people watch comedians,” Trundy says. “There’s more vulnerability.”

Trundy is one of the most vulnerable, and funniest, guys around.

He’s a regular at The Idiot Box Comedy Club, the epicenter of the comedy festival, which will use six stages across the city. Idiot Box owner Jennie Stencel started the festival in 2018. This year’s lineup is the biggest ever, featuring 300 comedians from all over North America.

Trundy has been a crowd favorite every year.

“Eric lights up a stage and a room,” says Stencel. “He draws the audience in and gets them to laugh at life’s difficulties and his own struggles, but sometimes it’s just plain joy and silliness . . . He could be headlining all over the country.”

That’s not hype. Trundy, 45, played coast-to-coast, at some of the nation’s biggest comedy clubs until about six years ago, when he was leveled by depression, a blue note that has been sounding since his childhood, which was marred by many forms of abuse.

As a teen, Trundy soothed himself with alcohol and comedy. He devoured cassette tapes of his favorite comics: George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Rodney Dangerfield.

“I listened to comedy like other people listened to music,” he says.

The habit persisted for years, even as Trundy held down a successful career servicing industrial wastewater treatment systems in Virginia and North Carolina.

When podcasts became popular, he heard comedians talk about getting their starts at open mic nights.

That’s why he stepped on stage at The Idiot Box one Thursday night in 2011.

“I got a few laughs, and I was hooked,” he says. “It’s a small dose of what it feels like when you fall in love …except it’s a whole room full of people understanding you. It’s intimate.”

He quit his job and hit the road, which brought a new round of pressures. When Trundy and his wife divorced, a friend, comedian Anthony Lowe, let him stay at his family’s cabin in the woods.

“I don’t think I would have survived had Anthony not helped me,” Trundy says.

As partial repayment of the kindness, Trundy recently produced and directed A Bee in a Bird Suit, a comedy special for Lowe, now Annie Lowe, a transgender woman.

“I’m very lucky that one of my best friends is who she’s supposed to be, and I know for a fact that someone will watch that special and an opinion will change,” Trundy says. “The more you listen to people, the more empathy you have.”

Trundy’s developing new projects for himself, too.

He hosts a YouTube talk show called NBH, short for the ironically titled Never Been Happier. In a recent episode, he and comic pals Nick Ciaccia and DeJahzh Hedrick make fun of machismo by kicking around the idea of a birth control pill for men.

“It would need a masculine name,” says Ciaccia.

“It’s gotta be tough to swallow,” says Hedrick.

“They’re not like little pills,” Ciaccia imagines. “They’re big pills.”

“Lots of jagged edges,” Hedrick adds.

“They taste bad,” Ciaccia says, lapsing into a deep voice. “But I gotta take it.”

“Take it with a beer,” Trundy chips in. “It’s shaped like a pretzel.”

He’s also shaping new bits for the stage, unafraid to show the, um, cracks in his life.

He tells the story of rock climbing at a waterfall with a friend. On the way out, Trundy bent down to play with a cairn, a stack of rocks that marked a trial.

“This lovely, tender gentleman — I think he was Hispanic — walks up to me and says ‘Excuse me. Your pants is broken.’”

Trundy had split the seat of his pants while rock climbing.

“I had been showing my ass to everybody for a good four or five minutes. This guy was so polite. He was letting me off the hook. He said, ‘Oh, you know, it happened to me one time, too.’” Trundy, who’s planted in a wing chair on the empty set of his talk show, giggles about how a stranger tried to ease his embarrassment by sharing that he’d shown his ass to the world, too. It worked.

Trundy shakes his head. “F****in’ adorable.”  OH

Trundy will headline a show Sept. 9 at The Crown at the Carolina Theatre. To learn more about the festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 2-12, go to

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry.



Like a spot of blood against the blue sky,

a Cardinal perches on the shepherd’s hook

where I hang suet and a cylinder of seed-feeders

I gave Sylvia for her last Mother’s Day.

The birds are a gift to me now. Her beautiful

ashes fill a marble blue urn and rest

near one of her crazy quilts in the foyer to welcome visitors.

Buddha is there on a table and guards her keepsakes,

a cleaned-out bookshelf holds her high school portrait,

a cross-stitch she made for me. Every little corner

has its memory of how short a sweet life can be.

— Marty Silverthorne

From Collected Poems of Marty Silverthorne

Home Grown

Cooking Up Mischief

Stewing over the last laugh

By Cynthia Adams

There was much joking in my childhood home, mostly inspired by our father, a trickster of the first order.

Little — certainly not religion nor politics — was off limits but for an unfunny gray area: Ted Koppel and food. 

Newsman Ted Koppel was my father’s unassailable source. After Koppel reported on sex trafficking, my father was apoplectic when a younger sister and I booked a trip to Cancun. Our refusal to cancel our trip, belittling Koppel’s reportage, outraged Dad.

Another untouchable? To even slightly malign our mother’s cooking, caused Dad to swiftly veer from ha-ha to oh hell no! 

My father also held sacrosanct the Old Hickory House, a dimly-lit Charlotte roadhouse on North Tryon serving cue and, to my sister and I, decent Brunswick stew. 

A Yelp reviewer wrote, “Looks like the kind of place your parents’ doctor/lawyer/accountant met his receptionist for ‘overtime’ work back in the ’60s.’”

It was unwittingly campy, untouched by market research or a decorator’s hand, with an unchanging atmosphere that no one would mistake for a chain. After an hour spent inside one of its cave-like booths, emerging into the light of day was nearly blinding. 

One Saturday, Dad called saying he was coming through Greensboro en route to his farm in Rogersville, Tennessee. My older sister happened to be visiting, and I was warming stew for her, knowing our shared passion for Hickory House’s smoky, perfectly cornmeal-thickened stew.

I quickly thawed another quart for our Dad, telling my sister I was going to have some fun.

On arrival, he strode directly to the stove.

“Mmmmm! Is that what I think it is?”

I grinned.

Dad gave a weak smile. I lacked cooking cred.

He warned, “You know I will have to be honest with you.”

I nodded, handing him a generous bowlful. He raised a small spoonful to his lips, hesitated, then ate heartily.

He shook his dark, full hair, proudly styled into an Elvis Presley tidal wave effect. “Old girl, you’ve done it! It’s as good as Hickory House’s!”

Seriously? I was stunned into silence. My sister earnestly studied the tabletop as if ancient runes lay there.

How did you do it?” he pressed.

“Beginner’s luck, I guess,” muttering a lie that caused me to flush red.

My sister’s eyes were huge as he ate two bowls. My sister and father, sharing our table without our extended, large family, was a first.

Unbeknownst to us that day, it was also a last.

Dad would not survive another year, suffering a fatal heart attack at 61.

My sister cornered me at our father’s casket as I weepily marveled at his shocking gray hair. 

“The funeral home washed out the Grecian Formula,” I whispered. She swatted me, hissing, “Shut up!”   

Her face darkened. “You are unreal!  You never owned up, did you?”

“To what?”

“Lying to Daddy. You let him die thinking you made that damn stew!”

She was always the good cook — not me.

I nodded sheepishly. 

“I thought he would know I can’t cook!” I protested.

My sister was unconvinced. “Face it,” she said. “You loved it. You really and truly got him.”

I leaned in, whispering to his now expressionless face, “Daddy, I’m sorry I lied about the stew.”

My sister’s big heart failed too, and she would follow him to an early grave. Other doors closed to the past. The Old Hickory House ceased operating its open pit after 60 years of roadhouse wonderment.

And somewhere in the Great Hereafter, my father believes his lying daughter learned to cook — unless my sister set him straight.  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry.


The summer ended. Day by day, and taking its time, the summer ended.

— James Baldwin, Just Above My Head

September takes you by surprise again.

She told you she was coming. Tried to, anyway. Back in July, when the butterflies were puddling on the wet earth, she sent her first announcement — a tulip poplar leaf: half orange, half yellow.

“See you soon,” she scribbled across its waxy surface.

Perhaps it slipped through the cracks.

In August, when the hummingbirds were weaving among hibiscus, she scattered a few more notes. The marbled muscadine leaf, swirled with gold, brown and rust. The crimson maple leaf, brilliant as a summer flower. The star-shaped sweetgum leaf, splotched like a palette with autumn’s fiery hues.

Somehow you missed them.

Suddenly, it seems, September is here, playfully tugging at the loose threads of summer.

But she doesn’t just surprise you once.

On cool mornings, she permeates the air, perfume thick with earth and musk. Now and again, she pinches your cheeks; tousles your hair. Her very presence is electric.

The trees shiver and blush.

Chimney swifts and swallows haunt the evening sky with dark, flickering clouds.

A screech owl sings out, voice quavering like a treble violin.

Now that she’s got your attention, she begins to unravel the golden season leaf by marbled, rust-colored leaf. She doesn’t rush, nor does she dawdle. She just sips the light from the summer sky, strips the green from the rustling trees and, sometimes, surprises herself.

Equinox Flower

The apples are falling. Figs, drooping. And among the early fall bloomers — crape myrtle, chrysanthemum and autumn crocus — one has a name truly fit for the season: the equinox flower. Lycoris radiata (also known as the red spider lily, red magic lily and surprise lily) bloom on naked stalks, often after a heavy rainfall. The coral-red blossoms comprise an explosion of curled petals with long stamens that resemble the legs of a you-know-what (see alternate names). Winter foliage follows.

In Japan, the name for the red spider lily — Manjushage — means “flower of the heavens.” While this dazzling flower is often associated with death and the afterlife, don’t let that stop you from planting it in your own garden. The butterflies love them. Japanese rice farmers use them to deter mice. But should they attract the lost soul of some distant ancestor, ancient Buddhist text tells that this eye-catching beauty will help to guide them along.


On This Harvest Moon

The full harvest moon rises on Saturday, Sept. 10 — 12 days before the autumnal equinox, aka, the first day of fall.

And what of the harvest?

Garlic, garlic, garlic. Bushels of apples and sweet, plump figs. Potatoes, tomatoes and greens galore.

Don’t forget the honey.

The days are growing shorter. As the golden season fades, savor what is here, now: the nectar and fruits of a waning summer. OH

Greensboro’s Emerging Artists

Three women cultivate joy, connection and self-discovery through their work

By Cassie Bustamante    Photographs by Bert VanderVeen

Creating art is not for the meek. It’s gritty and emotional, filled with trial and tribulation, plus hours upon hours of grueling, behind-the-scenes labor such as stretching canvases, tediously cutting out tiny images from magazines until the hands start cramping or digging into the deepest parts of one’s soul. But as any artist knows, the hunger to create can’t be ignored.

Yet, an artist’s bravest act is being vulnerable enough to share your work with the world. Our city has cultivated a community that welcomes up-and-coming artists with open arms, and new creatives are arriving on the scene regularly, excited to be a part of the artistic and collaborative energy thrumming throughout Greensboro.

After all, the connection and community the Gate City provides are often what the artist seeks through her work — especially in a post-pandemic world.

We’re introducing three local artists who you may not yet know, but won’t soon forget. Each brings something unique to the art world, ranging from vibrant, music-inspired watercolors, to collage that explores transformation, to acrylic paintings that celebrate the wonder of the female body.

Surrealist Salvador Dalí once said, “A true artist is not one who is inspired but one who inspires others.” These “true artists” have brought their work forth as a way to tell their stories while inspiring others to see and feel their own truths.


Reneesha McCoy | While the childern sleep

Perfect beauty in imperfection — that is what Reneesha McCoy sees in the world around her.

Whether it’s in her own body, the chaos of life or the so-called blemishes on her artwork, McCoy lives her life in a way that honors the raw state of being human, perfectly — or, rather, imperfectly — all of which is reflected in her paintings.

For several years, McCoy felt something tugging at her to create, but it was the 2019 birth of her son, Phoenix, that gave her the push to heed that call, leaving behind a 10-year retail career. After trying her hand at multiple endeavors, her partner, Scott, also an artist, suggested she consider art.

In 2020, with no professional training, McCoy picked up a paintbrush. “I kept thinking, ‘I have this feeling and I need to express it,’” she says. The 33-year-old mother of two trusted her instincts.

“I just kept trying and trying,” she says, “until I was like, ‘Wow — I’m an artist.’”

Inspired by the changes her body has undergone through childbirth and breastfeeding, her own raw emotions, and her desire to be inclusive, McCoy’s paintings feature nude female forms with a mix of skin tones, posed in a manner that often expresses insecurity. She uses acrylics, which are quick drying, allowing her to paint while her children sleep.


Left:  I Knew I Could Fly
Middle: Everybody Danced and I Sat Still
Right: I Cook Berries on the Fire
9 x 12 inches, Charcoal, colored pencil, graphite, ink pen and marker on paper, 2022

Working through her thoughts on her canvases, McCoy notes, “It is not only that I am just releasing everything. It’s also that it means something to someone else.” 

McCoy’s paintings have given her back the one thing she was missing from her retail job — human connection. Posting on social media allows her to engage directly with customers and followers. “I’ve had people tell me,” she says, “‘Hey, that’s how I felt.’”

Relatability is at the heart of every canvas she touches. “We all go through things,” she says, adding that her work is “not just about the body — it’s about life.”

While McCoy now paints to support herself and her family, she still feels the tug that started it all, that urge to create. Even as exhausted parents to 3-year-old Phoenix and 1-year-old Penelope, McCoy and Scott reach for their work every day, painting in their living room while the kids nap. “We should probably nap and sleep,” McCoy laughs, “but we don’t do that because [our work] makes us happy and whole.”

She adds, “I would choose this life right now, this journey, over anything.”

As a woman who has struggled with insecurity throughout her life, painting has given McCoy a confidence she never expected.

“When I worked in retail,” she says, “I was always on the path of ‘Who am I?’”

It seems McCoy has finally found the answer. “If you go back through all my journals, there’s a lot of ‘just be,’ and I didn’t know what that looked like,” says McCoy. “And now I do from my art.” 

Leaning into the essence of her being, she has stepped into her true self, an artist.

Learn more about Reneesha McCoy and see her work at



Right: Band Beats Proud

Deb Frederick | Designed for joy

Petite in stature, Deb Frederick is a force when it comes to radiating high-vibe energy, her joy and lust for life obvious to anyone who meets her. It’s no wonder that her bold watercolor paintings reflect her vivacious spirit and love for music and culture.

As a child, Frederick discovered she had natural talent when she tried her hand at drawing “Winky,” a character on the back of a cereal box, for a contest — and won. “From then on,” she says, “my parents supported me and my art.”

Her sketches evolved into paintings and her paintings evolved into an exploration of lifestyle. In 1981, she earned her B.F.A. degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Marriage and children soon followed. While painting was her passion, Frederick decided to take a lucrative position with a textile company, noting that her “creative skills could be transferred to an industry where creativity is needed.”

Little did she know that her fashion design career would take off, allowing her to travel the world and discover new countries and cultures. Though it meant she wasn’t painting, as she says with a laugh, “I’m not mad about it.”


Left: Saxophone
Right: Super Fruit

When the COVID pandemic struck in 2020, Frederick wasn’t surprised when she was laid off because, she suspects, of her age and salary. Her 35-plus year apparel design career came to an end, but — in typical Frederick fashion — she found joy in her situation. “It didn’t feel like I fell,” she notes. Shortly after, she picked up her paintbrush again.

“Safe,” a painting that she’ll never sell, was her way “back in” to the world of watercolors. Inspired by a moment caught between American Idol contestant Samantha Diaz and her grandmother, it features a beaming Diaz, locked in her grandmother’s tight embrace. Frederick, who was born in Panama but left the country as a small child, never met her own grandmothers. Imagining that their arms would have comforted her similarly, she painted with a heart full of love, noting that two heart shapes can be subtly made out in forms of the two figures.

Upon finishing “Safe,” she stood back in awe, whispering, “Did I do that? I forgot I could do that.”

Since then, Frederick has taken her brush to several sheets of watercolor paper, receiving praise from friends, family and the community, just as she did from her parents years ago. Recognizing that many children aren’t as fortunate, her hope is to mentor young people who “have the drive and desire,” but are lacking the “110 percent support” she had growing up.


Left: Retro Modern Woman
Right: Sundresses and Festivals

Frederick’s being sizzles with palpable enthusiasm when it comes to sharing her art, whether it’s through her own creations or teaching. “There’s so much more to discover,” she says, “and I’m excited about the journey.”

Learn more about Deb Frederick and see her work at



Jessica Dame | The therapy of flight

Nature is full of surprises. Take the wren, for example. A bit of an understated bird. That is, until you hear one sing. The same might be said of Jessica Dame. Shy and unassuming, the longtime librarian expresses herself in bold and surprising ways through her collage work, blending bright floral and avian imagery with the female figure, juxtaposing striking black ink with flirty colors.

In a world that’s dominated by digital collage, Dame, 36, appreciates the nostalgia of an art form that influenced the pop-culture scene throughout her ’90s youth. “Part of what makes [analog collage] therapeutic and great is that you’re getting away from the screen,” she says. “You’re doing something with your hands.”


Left: Head Above Water. Watercolor, acrylic gouache, and paper.  9 in x 12 in. 2018.
Right: Barred Owl. Paper and acrylic gouache. 9 in x 12 in. 2019.

Dame notes with a laugh that from an early age she was collaging, illustrating and publishing her works. “My oldest memories,” she says, “are of making books about whales and unicorns when I was a kid.” Her love of imagery and books led her to earn a B.A. in art history from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., as well as a Master’s in library science and information from the University of South Carolina.

In 2019, Dame uprooted her life, leaving her career behind to move to Greensboro from Columbia, South Carolina, with her partner, who had accepted a position at UNCG. New to the city and out of work when COVID entered the scene, she temporarily lost her mojo, but soon found her footing again. She told herself, “Don’t cover up the desire [to create] with chores,” finding time and space to reconnect to her art.

Like many in 2020, Dame discovered bird-watching, journaling what she saw. She’d always been infatuated by birds because “they’re so free and so elegant, so beautiful.”

Her most recent collages feature birds paired with florals, an underlying theme of blooming, something she seems to be doing herself. While nature has always been prevalent throughout her work, lately she’s been exploring the idea of transformation. “I don’t know why quite yet,” she says. “I’m seeking that through my art.”

A past piece features a female figure clothed in a black slip-dress, whose head is replaced by lotus blooms. “I was reading about the lotus flower and how they grow in mud,” says Dame. “They’re so pristine and beautiful, but can’t grow without that mud. It’s such a Zen metaphor for life.”

Strawberry Shortcake. Paper and string. 8 in x 8 in. 2022.

And, it seems, the sacred water lily is a perfect metaphor for Dame, who is flourishing creatively after a challenging stage of life.

Recently, Greensboro’s Historic Magnolia House hung four Dame pieces in the guest bedroom named for James Baldwin. She decorated her own floral ink illustrations, layering in collage pieces that feature Baldwin’s written works.

What’s next for Dame? “Right now, just keep making stuff.” But it should be no surprise that this librarian-turned-artist’s ultimate dream is to see work on the cover of a book. OH

Learn more about Jessica Dame and see her work at

Cassie Bustamante is managing editor of O.Henry magazine.

O.Henry Ending

Embracing Juno

The tarot reading — and tattoo — that changed my life

By Corrinne Rosquillo

In 2018, I visited New Orleans for the first time. It’s a magical city, full of history and an old energy that cannot be described, only felt. It was where I received my first tarot reading — not from some Creole witch (missed opportunity, I know), but from an elderly white man with a calming presence.

I don’t remember his name now. I wish I did. I’m sure it was something like John or Mark. Ordinary, simple — fitting. He did a standard reading with twelve cards. The first eleven of them are a blur, but the final card — the card meant to represent me — still appears in my mind’s eye with crystal clarity: Juno, Queen of the Gods, a force to be reckoned with. That, and the reader’s parting words: “You are your own worst enemy. You can accomplish anything if you get out of your own way.”

I cried because I knew it was true. His words resonated, touching something deep within me that had been there all along, a continuing theme throughout my life. That’s what tarot does — it doesn’t tell you your future or some hidden secret of the universe. It points out what’s right in front of you that you’ve been too busy, too distracted to notice.

At the time, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I still do; I probably always will. But I got the message loud and clear.

I paid him via Venmo and left.

Fast forward to 2019, when a knee surgery plunged me into the deepest depression of my life, a depression that almost killed me. Key word: almost. I’m still here, winning battles against myself.

Those words, spoken to me years ago, still resonate. I knew in 2019 that I wanted to create a permanent reminder for when my depression would inevitably rear its ugly head again. This year, I finished that reminder with the help of Gene Cash at Seven Sagas Tattoo Studio.

I took a look at the classic Roman Juno and made her mine. I have a woodblock-style crane on my right shoulder that represents my first triumph over depression, so I thought, why not a Japanese Juno? Some of her classic symbols are still there: the peacock feathers, the spear, the moon, the lotus. The words beside her, written in Japanese, are a constant reminder to me: “watashi no kataki wa jibun.” My enemy is me.

But my favorite element of the whole piece? If you look carefully, the top line of the moon isn’t finished. It’s intentional, an aesthetic called “wabi sabi” in Japanese. It’s about appreciating beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete” in nature. Fitting.

Juno is on my right arm to remind me that I am a goddess, capable of overcoming anything. So long as I believe it, I know I will.

To that tarot reader, wherever you are, thank you for awakening the divine in me.  OH

A goddess with a gorgeous tattoo of Juno on her arm, Corrinne Rosquillo is a regular contributor to O.Henry.

The Omnivorous Reader

Little Press Success

Big things can come in small packages

By Stephen E. Smith

Since its founding by professor Ronald Bayes in 1969, St. Andrews Press at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg has earned a reputation as one of the most consistent and persistent small presses in the country — which is no insignificant accomplishment considering that the average small press has a lifespan of five years. Within the last few months, under the editorship of Ted Wojtasik, the press has released two books that deserve a wide audience. The first is Ruth Moose’s The Goings on at Glen Arbor Acres, a collection of interrelated stories about life in an assisted living facility.

Moose has long been a creative force in the North Carolina writing community. She has published two novels as well as numerous collections of short stories and poetry. Her work has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal and Our State magazine, and she taught for 15 years on the Creative Writing faculty at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Moose’s latest collection will not disappoint readers who are seeking to escape the everyday stress of politics and pandemic surges, neither of which is mentioned in these stories. There may be “goings on” aplenty at Glen Arbor Acres, but only of a benign nature. In “The Major’s Gun,” a character observes: “You have to be so careful around this place. One misheard word and the gossip goes rampant” — which is pretty much the source of the collection’s recurring conflicts.

Moreover, readers won’t be troubled by stories about characters who undergo overwhelming misfortunes that culminate in disasters of epic proportions. Glen Arbor is no Keseyesque Cuckoo’s Nest. There’s no Nurse Ratched in the medication room, no physical or verbal combat, no racial utterances to be heard, or even a mildly offensive exclamation that might raise a wary eyebrow. Moose’s slice-of-life stories simply offer readers a window into the everyday dilemmas of Glen Arbor’s elderly residents who eat, drink and sleep in the gossipy microcosm where fate has deposited them. If they are allowed enough freedom to cause a mild degree of mischief, they’re always on the lookout for a new source of intrigue. They’ve identified an antagonist, Miss Anne Blackmore Rae (Miss ABR aka Always Be Right), the director of  Glen Arbor, and a male protagonist, the Major, a resident who functions as an authority figure who might right trifling wrongs, a tired old god the ladies can turn to in times of emotional discomfort.

Moose focuses on her characters’ foibles and eccentricities — there is a nudist yoga teacher, a wig maker, a troll-like man who intrudes himself into the ladies’ daily walks, and the mystery of the director’s runaway dog who may or may not be dead. The most “teachable” story involves a resident who submits a poem to a national poetry contest and is notified by mail that she is a finalist who should attend a dinner meeting to receive her award. Of course, it’s a scam perpetrated on the unsuspecting — in this case, the elderly — but the aspiring poet buys a new dress and attends the ceremony. She doesn’t win (there’s a surprise), but she’s received by her peers at Glen Arbor as a literary luminary, proof that there is success to be had in the waning years, and that good friends value us for who we are, not for what we do.

There’s a good deal of irony and wit in Moose’s stories, even if her characters don’t see themselves as the object of humor, even when the situation and context are obviously comic, and readers will find themselves amused and charmed by her subtly crafted narratives.

Another recent St. Andrews Press publication, Collected Poems of Marty Silverthorne, is justification enough for supporting small presses. Silverthorne died in 2019, and it’s unlikely, regardless of his talents as a poet, that a mainstream or university press would publish a book by an author who isn’t around to promote it at readings and in bookstores.

As a poet, Silverthorne had talent and perseverance to spare. He devoted himself to writing verse while working for 30 years as a counselor for persons suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. Left a quadriplegic after a motorcycle accident in 1976, he faithfully dictated his poems to a caregiver and companion, and until the pandemic, he was a steadfast participant at regular meetings of the North Carolina Poetry Society.

Silverthorne is a “plain language” poet. His poems are straightforward retellings of the events that shaped his life, the loss and redemption, the small pleasures he experiences, the troubles and pain a person in his predicament suffers, as in “Inside of Me,” where the poet muses on what others expect of him after accepting his disability: Inside of me you expected to find/a motorcycle wrapped around a tree,/whiskey bottles beside the road./You did not expect to find daffodils/blooming in a pine thicket,/crape myrtles close enough/to threaten their beauty//Inside of me you expected to find/the soiled pages of Penthouse./You did not expect Yeats and Keats/on a linen table cloth,/one large candle with a wavering flame,/a bottle of chardonnay.

Much of Silverthorne’s later poetry was written while mourning the loss of his wife, as in “Delicate Ashes:” . . . Back at home our neighbor held you in his hands,/his fingers around the beautiful blue bowl/of your body, the delicate ashes of your life . . .

Silverthorne makes rich and various uses of rhetorical devices — humor, anger, wit, irony, and juxtapositions of conflicting and indecorous feelings. In doing so, he has left readers with a rich record of a life lived to the fullest despite almost overwhelming adversity.

We are fortunate that St. Andrews Press and other small presses continue to publish books that might otherwise, for reasons unrelated to literary quality, go unread. The pandemic has hit little presses hard. Readings at bookstores and arts organizations have dropped off, and live audiences are difficult to gather in dangerous times. If you’d like to encourage small press publishing, buy their books. Poets and Writers magazine lists over 370 such literary entities that desperately need our support.  OH

Stephen E. Smith is a retired professor and the author of seven books of poetry and prose. He’s the recipient of the Poetry Northwest Young Poet’s Prize, the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Prize for poetry and four North Carolina Press Awards.