Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby


James E. Cherry is the author of six poetry collections, a novel, and a book of short stories. His 2008 collection, Honoring the Ancestors, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Still A Man and Other Stories was nominated for a Lillian Smith Book Award and was a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Award. Cherry is an M.F.A. candidate in creative writing at the University of Texas at El Paso. He lives in Jackson, Tennessee, with his wife and is preparing a novel for publication.


At the airport, I’m pulled
from a queue of passengers boarding flight 819
from Detroit to Memphis, non-stop.

I’ve been randomly selected
to assume the position,
patted under arms, poked around testicles

by a male TSA security agent,
while his female counterpart
ransacks my book bag. She contemplates

copies of Kunitz and Komunyakaa,
Hemphill and Hemingway, frowns
upon a tattered notebook

of my own poems that pulsate
the right margin of the page. I’m cleared
for boarding, as I check over my shoulder,

pull my ball cap low and don
a cheap pair of sunglasses
to hide my intentions

of storming the cockpit, shouting:
Dostoevsky, Dostoevsky!