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2018

NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W

FINALIST, 2017 JAMES APPLEWHITE POETRY PRIZE BY MARTY SILVERTHORNE

Love Letters and Wedding Dress Ashes

COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

We walk the path between cotton, peanuts, butterflies dancing at the end of their season. I pull Chloe’s rattling Radio Flyer full of Aunt Jane’s keepsakes, pickaxe and shovel down to the creek bed. We unload our tools to dig a grave for Aunt Jane’s memories so the ashes of her wedding dress and love letters can join the sorrowful voices of crows high up in the tupelos.

Fire I, 2011 (carbon pigment print from cliché-verre, 88x110) by Courtney Johnson

Houston native COURTNEY JOHNSON is an Assistant Professor of Photography in the Department of Art and Art History at UNC Wilmington. She earned her BFA with Honors in Photography and Imaging from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and her MFA in Studio Art from the University of Miami. She is one of the leading scholars on the photographic cliché-verre technique. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions in New York, Miami, San Francisco, and Richmond and is included in numerous permanent collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the University of Central Florida; the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale; Tuanku Fauziah Museum and Gallery, USM, Penang, Malaysia; and FOTOMUSEO, the National Museum of Photography in Bogotá, Columbia, where her work was featured in the 4th International Biennale of Photography, FOTOGRAFICA BOGOTÁ 2011. See more of her work on her website.

Chloe is not comforted by the heron lifting up out of the brown ditch water or the hawk’s circle of calligraphy. She needs answers about Aunt Jane’s wanting her hand-stitched wedding dress and Uncle Billy’s love letters burned and buried at the back of their farm. She wants to know if every ash is a baby phoenix rising to be with Jesus, why Aunt Rebecca is crying as she pours more gas in the grave. Why am I wiping my tears with Uncle Billy’s blue bandana? Why Aunt Rebecca hums a hymn about a New Home Over in Glory? What will happen if the creek rises and downpours drown the ashes, fade the blue ballpoint looping of Uncle Billy’s love letters? How will Chloe explain this October Saturday to her school friends who believe in the black words of the Bible and are afraid of Hell’s Fire?

MARTY SILVERTHORNE earned degrees from St. Andrews Presbyterian College and East Carolina University. He has received the BunnMcClelland Award and a Poet Laureate award from the North Carolina Arts Council. He is the author of seven chapbooks, and his poetry has appeared in several issues of NCLR, as well as Tar River Poetry and Pembroke Magazine, among other venues. Read another one of his poems selected as a finalist for this competition in the 2018 print issue.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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