Stories, Essays, Poetry

These creative pieces are some of my favorites. Check back frequently to see what I’ve added.

Grandmother’s Hands

This is a poem written for my grandmother, Eula Hughes Byington, after her death in 1997. It has been printed in several local newspapers and national newsletters. Feel free to copy and use as you wish, but don’t forget to acknowledge me as the author.

Grandmother’s Hands

Beautiful hands, hers
Long tapering fingers
Rounded crescent nails
Artist’s hands, those
But she wasn’t an artist.
Just a woman, living her life.
Hands folded delicately
beneath her woman’s breasts
Fingers gently interlaced, showing off
Well-worn silver wedding rings.
Hands never still, before this.
Hands in constant motion –
Rolling a bowling ball
insanely straight toward the head-pin
Completing the NY Times crossword puzzle
every day in ink
Beating me always in Scrabble.
Picking bushels of green beans and
canning them for winter nights
Frying a chicken in nothing flat.
Quilting, always quilting,
Piles of fabulous quilts,
Folded with precision and
Displayed, with love, for visitors.
Hands that held a small child
on her lap
For as long as it wanted to stay.
Hands raised in laughter, in tears
Growing tomatoes
Holding her Bible.
So many wondrous accomplishments
But not an artist.
Just a woman, living her life.
After 94 years the hands are quiet,
Their tapestry complete.
How could a woman not be an artist,
And still
Have hands so beautiful?

Diane Byington

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Armando’s Revenge

Armando’s Revenge” is a short story that came to me in the middle of the night during a trip to Portugal. I was thinking about the seafarers who “discovered” new lands and claimed them for Portugal, and the families left behind. This was published in 2015 in American Fiction Volume 14, by New Rivers Press.

Armando Philippe Alviero Torreira was the brother who stayed home, much to his regret, while his younger brother Marco left to pursue a career at sea. The two brothers decided who was to leave during an all-night conference shortly after burying their father next to their mother. Armando wanted to leave, but how could he ask Marco to care for his wife and two children while he was away for months, even years? The farm barely supported them. For the past two years it had done nothing but rain. Potatoes rotted under the perpetual drizzle and the grapes tasted foul. No, if they were to save the farm and keep the family from starving, one of the brothers would have to go. Armando volunteered to make the sacrifice. Marco was free to leave.

(click here to read the whole story)

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Dave Clark Five Do-Over

This was published in Wild Quarterly (an online journal) in 2014.

“Which do you like best, the Beatles or the Dave Clark Five?” The answer to this question would determine your social group if you were a teenage girl in the mid-1960s. Although I liked the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five were my idols. The high point of my life came when I got to attend their concert in Tampa, Florida, in July 1967. I was sure that, if only I could meet them, the band members would be as smitten with me as I was with them, and life would be beautiful.

(click here to read the whole story)

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Bonfires

“Bonfires” is a short story that was published by Haworth in a book about personal narrative.

Eva arrived at her best friend Sarah’s house an hour before the boys were expected so she could help with the party preparations. Eva and five other girls had been invited to a sleepover for Sarah’s sixteenth birthday, and each of them had been allowed to invite a boy to join them until midnight.

“You did ask John, didn’t you?” Sarah asked Eva as they carried the card table outside.

“Of course I asked John. What kind of a dorky question is that?” Eva sounded irritable, even to herself. This wasn’t how she wanted to start the evening of her best friend’s birthday. She lowered her voice so none of the other girls would hear. “Sorry. It’s just that Betty is coming with Greg.”

“But you dumped Greg for John. What’s the problem?”

“Oh, I know that, but it gets me mad that Betty jumped on Greg so fast. She’s just out to get him because he used to be mine. She’d better John alone.”

(click here to read the whole story)

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A Proud, Poignant Wall for Vietnam Veterans

I was moved by a visit to the Wall in Washington, D.C., over Memorial Day, and wrote this essay. The Raleigh News and Observer printed it.

Fiercely proud, the Vietnam veterans stand under the sun and help others find the names of sons, brothers, friends, fathers who were young once and who will never grow old.

The wall is solid and enduring, unrelenting in its message of seemingly endless death.

The ones who are left, the ones who help the affected to find an important name chiseled in the midst of more than 58,000 other names, these men and women are somber and yet somehow exuberant.

They are seeing old friends, remembering old times that weren’t all bad, and incredibly proud that America is beginning to recognize their heroism. Finally, the battered army jackets, the medals, the camouflage uniforms can be rescued from the backs of closets and resuscitated for a day of remembrance.

(click here to read the entire article)