a notice to my homeowners association

i’m not sure if the two chairs in the front yard of

my home on liverpool lane are against

the hedingham covenant and bylaws

of what is or is not acceptable

you see i moved them to the front yard

from my back porch a few wednesdays ago

because my memaw was going to come over

and we were going to sit together in the shade

but due to an unfortunate circumstance

i don’t think my memaw will be coming over

again, ever

so i’m reluctant to move the chairs back

because i’m sentimental and

it’s kind of nice seeing the two chairs together

the hope of two and togetherness

and a reminder to my memaw

that she is welcome here, always.

because my memaw is feeling better

Hope cracked the closet door
the hinge squeaks this time of year due to the humidity
and eased it open
she stood facing dress after dress
eyes washing over fabric and color and style
she slid out of the somber black number
she’d worn over the weekend
stepped free from pooled polyester at her ankles
pulled a bright jumper
patterned orange and blue
from the rack and onto her frame
adjusted the straps in her full-length mirror
on the closet door
it was here when she moved in
and smiled at her reflection.


to my pepaw

memaw’s having a hard time.

i went to visit her tonight in the rehab center,

and i took three things with me.

1)  a picture of you and her that usually sits on my piano (once your piano, once my mother’s piano)

2)  a copy of the bible – a king james version also translated into yoruba.

3)  one of your handkerchiefs.

i still miss you.

i miss you all the time,

every day, i miss you.

and i get sad,

because if i miss you so much that

i cannot speak of you without ending up a sobbing man,

i cannot imagine how memaw must miss you,


i showed her the picture of you two, and she said

‘that was so long ago.’

and she’s right, it was.

i read to her some psalms.

i cried a lot, but it was dark and i’m not sure she could tell.

i was wearing a superman shirt because i do that kind of thing, and i still cried.

i gave her your handkerchief,

and she held it tightly as i read to her.

and, i admit, i’m not quite sure she understood it was yours,

that when i would hold that handkerchief, it was like i was holding you,

and i hope she feels the same way,


i hope you are with her, now.

i hope she feels your presence.

i hate that i wasn’t nearby when you had your stroke, and i’m so sorry.

i’m also sorry for almost burning down your house, if we’re just getting things in the open.

i really miss you, lloyd houston.

my, what a name, lloyd houston.

you would have loved scarlett.  she’s definitely a neil.  she’s beautiful and has your name which means you have hers, too.

anyway, i’m rambling in a semi-public setting, because i’m gonna post this on the internet (don’t worry – it’s a generational thing.  you had baseball and a world war, i get websites and pop-up ads trying to get me to lose weight when i actually fill out this superman shirt so well that the nurses had me pose for pictures with them before i went to see memaw).

i love you, please take care of memaw tonight and forever, goodnight,

i miss you,

joel houston neil orr

ps:  i have a fox tattooed on my right arm, to symbolize scarlett, and i’ve convinced myself you would have pretended not to be sold on the idea while secretly loving it.  and now that i think about it, you remind me of a fox, too, clever, so quiet and confident.

pps:  you were my first best friend and my first true Love.  you taught me how to Love, first.

ppps:  i still miss you.


every once in a while, an idea batted around in a smoke-filled room or sun-soaked basketball court,

a big idea,

the kind that we’re sometimes scared to even allow ourselves to have, because it so often does not come to fruition


it turns out it – this big idea – was too ambitious.  good cause, good foundation, but too much to hope for

actually happens.

* * *

i have been lucky enough to be a part of the beginning of one of these ideas, to then float away for nearly a year while (kind of) finishing a master’s degree and raising a newborn baby girl, and also be able to take part in the fulfillment of said idea.

what?  oh, i’m being wildly vague, yes?

Raleigh&Co was and is the idea, talked over (more or less, though we didn’t have a name or certain format or much of anything) by jordan rogers and myself while shooting baskets at brooks elementary school near north hills (in raleigh, for those of you who are still reading this post and don’t live in north carolina).*

after that point, i had practically nothing to do with the formation, creation, and unveiling of the site.  jordan worked on this for months, pouring copious amounts of hours and coffee and himself into the project.

i’m writing this post because i am a contributing writer, and my material there will be more ‘standard’ than what i post here.  i want to promote the site, because i believe in it, and i want to offer it to my blog followers, because i believe the site is the kind of thing that matters.

i believe in finding voices alike and excitingly dissimilar and giving them the freedom to be themselves.

i am also honored to play any part in this process – i am one of the least experienced (professionally, in any case) writers/contributors to the site.

* * *

i also wanna give jordan the credit he deserves, in a public place that doesn’t threaten brown-nosing, since i posted it here instead of on Raleigh&Co – the man worked hard.  he’s still working hard.  he made something that this region (is it silly to say ‘region’ while discussing something on the internet?) doesn’t have.  it’s almost impossible to make something that didn’t before exist, and i think he did.

i enjoy writing for jordan because he’s supportive and doesn’t bullshit.  if he likes an idea, he says so, and he helps make it better.  he does what he says he’ll do, which is all i can ask from an editor.

so, there ya goes – i hope you, the reader(s?), will support Raleigh&Co.  i hope you bookmark it, give it a gazillion hits, comment on the articles, and mostly,

i hope you love it.

i hope you love that a community of story-tellers still gathers together to share ideas.  i hope you love the ambition of bringing together voices who say things that matter to their own hearts (the speakers – the authors), not just what assignments they’ve been given to write.

i’ll stop and get back to writing whimsical poetry here and wicked clever essays over there (‘there’ being the site i’ve been talking about the last three minutes, for those of you who scrolled all the way down here).

hugs and fist bumps,



*for the record, i don’t know how many other people jordan batted the early form of this idea around with.  i also didn’t ask him, because i didn’t want him to know i was writing this piece until it was already posted. i don’t wanna take credit for being a co-founder or anything like that; alls i’m saying is it was a big idea we talked about, a big idea i wasn’t sure i could hope in, and it happened, and i’m thrilled about it.