Photo by narubono on Unsplash

I see the crow and quickly look away.

I hear the incessant “caw, caw, caw” and I want to place my hands over my ears and hum the words to a happy song. But nothing comes to my lips.

The crow is black. The crow is foreboding.

Is the crow death?

In the river bottoms, the crows come in packs, swooping low over the harvested fields, the broken stalks of corn like the limbs of war dead, half-in, half-out of the grey, boot-sucking muck.

A murder of crows is what they call that pack of black that fills the fading…

Henry Darby is the principal at North Charleston (SC) High School. Photo by Mic Smith.

How one South Carolina educator is changing the lives of his students

Students at North Charleston High School in the Lowcountry of South Carolina often gaze at the wall of awards principal Henry Darby has amassed over the past 40 years. He’ll ask them what they believe is the greatest honor among the stack of plaques. They never pick the starched white shirt hanging in a box.

“It reminds me of my humble beginnings,” said the North Charleston native. “It’s not the height that you reach, it’s the depth that you come from.”

The shirt came from cloth his mother gathered from an area dump. Florence Darby took the fabric home, boiled…

Walk with nature, 17 syllables can awaken writer’s senses

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

As the sun’s rays penetrate the chilly fog of late winter and begin to warm the earth, now may be the time to reinvigorate your creative zest and resume your writing.

Now 13 months into the first draft of my first novel, I’d recently found myself at an impasse. The dreaded writer’s block mirrored the gray sky from which cold rains fell in mid-February here in the Carolinas. Gloom. No color in my prose. The white blank page a carbon copy of the snow that lingered in the Appalachian highlands.

On the final Tuesday of the month, the sun finally…

Flash memoir

What could possibly become of a cold winter’s day, one impossibly large hill, and a frozen box of chocolates?

Photo from Unsplash by photographer Alisa Anton

When you’re 13 years old and you stare down Dyer hill, the snow still falling, your gloved hands wrapped around the sharp metal blades of your wooden sled, your heart is going to race.

Five slippery steps on the thin white powder, the ice-covered blacktop lurking below, then throwing the Western Auto Flexible Flyer out before you, the thump of your chest landing on the wood and then speeding head-first into a cold wall of winter.

Before you leap, you sneak a peek.

The girl with the freckles, the one who can throw a football farther than any boy and…


Finding God and Skynyrd traveling backwards in a Pinto

Photo by Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash

The Barren River runs fast here, slicing through the forested green gorge, its metallic blue waters dotted with white outcroppings of rock, like a lost field of mushrooms dropped down among the foothills of western Kentucky.

College students come here where the river plunges twenty feet over the falls, the mist from where the waters splash off the limestone below creating cool wet clouds that rise and hover, leaving tiny wet droplets on your tanned skin.

Seeking space from exams and empty wallets, eighteen-, nineteen- and twenty-year-olds come to the Locks to sip cherry hooch mixed with pure grain alcohol…

Personal Essay

Fat Tuesday has me hungry for some fine fescue

The lawn at Woodbend on a late April afternoon. Photo by Michael Banks.

Most just shake their head and walk away. “No, no, no.”In fact, they are so adverse they’ll suddenly stop and turn, telling me their disdain is so great “I pay $50 every two weeks just so I don’t have to do it.”

They cannot comprehend my love of mowing my grass.

There’s something about sitting astride the bright green John Deere and hearing the motor catch when you turn the ignition. The slight shudder as the sharpened steel blade engages, in its wake the spring smell of fresh-cut fescue.

Maybe it’s about being in control. I follow the same path…

Flash Fiction

Finding love in an empty parking lot

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

The car door creaked and groaned as a 15-year-old Buick tends to do when he opened and closed the door. From the yellow plastic bag, he pulled forth a dented cup of Beanee Weanies. He smiled as if he was handing her a handful of sapphires.

Sure, she likes the taste of hot dog chunks and gravy and beans. Her mistake was in telling him. Since that first time they agreed to meet in the back corner of the vacant Food Lion parking lot, it’s always been Beanee Weenees. For 30 minutes, they’ll sit in the Buick and hold hands…

Greg Iles, whose had 15 books appear on NY Times’ best-sellers list, tells of his writing process

Author Greg Iles, left, speaks with fans during a book signing event held in the spring of 2019 at the Cutrer Mansion in Clarksdale, MS. (Photo by Michael Banks)

(This article first appeared in the March 6, 2019, issue of The Clarksdale (MS) Press Register newspaper.)

Greg Iles has had 15 books appear on the New York Times best-sellers list, including one that reached number one. The Mississippi-raised author has had one of his novels made into a film and his work’s been published in more than 35 countries.

Yet, he readily admits, he’s still to write that “one great book.”

And Iles is perfectly fine with that.

“I’ve tried to walk the line between entertaining people and really saying some things that really help people. Maybe the day…

Michael Banks

Writer I Editor I Bourbon Sipper I At work on debut novel I Visit me at

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