It was a bright cold day in April of 1984 when I tested positive for the HIV virus. I remember the date and the weather because not only does the devastation of life-altering news make one hyperconscious of his environment and bring the physical world into magnified bold relief, I was that week also reading Orwell’s 1984 for the third time…Read more.
migrants call, no formality of naming, their ox or mule pulled wagons
little more than buckboards with front plank bench
hand-pulled brake no suspension
wood wheels wood spokes rusting iron rims
sun shield metal-ribbed white canvas hoods
ceaseless wind shakes
These days I see my mum less often. But I see her better. Since I moved from the city to work as a country doctor twenty-five years ago, she visits a few times a year. She stays for a week or more. We get to share breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Tonight, I am sitting with her in our lounge room. My kids are in bed. My wife is out. We are watching Fiddler on the Roof.
I want you to know I honor
each of you, how your shadows
fully cross our streets
just after dawn, how you
never bend to ridicule,
or to rain, how you never lower
your standards, or your arms.Read more.
This boy that I loved, my first love, named parts of me
Names full of admiration
Names that never addressed me
Foreign names of white women
I don’t like those names
There is a road that follows three miles along the banks of the Ganges, leading through the village of Chatwapipal and on to Tibet. From 1918 to 1920, a man-eater dubbed the Man-Eater of Garhwal devoured thirty-seven people on that road, plucked from their carts and pilgrimages like coconuts from a tree. The leopard ruled with an iron fist until being killed by the Anglo-Indian hunter Rao Whittaker with the help of his friend Sayyad.Read more.
By the bank of a winding river near the mouth of a mountain canyon lived a woman named Riverine. Which river she lived near, you must imagine for yourself. Any river that comes to mind will do, as long as it flows from a wild place with untamed edges ravining its course. Just picture the river you know best, even if it’s only the river you see when you close your eyes, and there you will find Riverine.
Riverine’s cabin seemed just another element of the rocks, soil, and sand that channeled the water in its banks. Built of logs long ago and surrounded by trees, her home was more of the river than on it. Yet whoever had built the cabin had sited it far enough on the upward slope from the river to protect the house from floods.
Welsh Cemetery, Radnor Ohio, Thursday, May 7, 1970
It was a bad week in Ohio. First, there was the massacre at Kent State. And then another local boy came home dead from ‘Nam. It was too much. It was now very difficult for fifteen-year-old Sheila Lloyd and Julia Watkins to remember their happier grade-school days…when they would get in trouble together for silly pranks along with their buddy Jake Jones—younger brother of the dead soldier.
It happened a long time ago in a small town of Kotovsk, located in Eastern Ukraine, which belonged to the Soviet Union. Mama, Papa, and I sat in the back of the menacing-looking, Khrushchev-Era four-story building in front of our ground floor apartment’s window. The three of us enjoyed the last few days of the good weather. It was pleasantly warm for an October evening.Read more.
The first evil thing that Samuel Stone remembered doing in his life happened when he was nine years old. He burned a martyr at the stake.
Of Gladys’s three sons, Samuel was the one who listened most intently to Gladys’s stories and asked the most questions. He was a practical child who carefully counted his allowance coins, but also a child who appreciated metaphors.
“So glad you could make it, Bill.” Al Church greeted his old friend, Surgeon General Dr. Bill Johnston.
“Well, under the circumstances, I think it’s better that I come to see you than the other way around. Can’t be too careful in D.C.”
“True. We both have enemies there.”
The world is a savage place.
Have you read the news today?
Surveyed rural highways,
An elegy to wildlife speared by cars like arrows from the crossbow?
Felt life fade from the one clutched in your arms?
Seen a man sink to his knees as you whisper
I wake for work at three, dizzy drunk sidestep in the dark to the kitchen. Thank God for stippled walls, good as cool soothing braille. My head spins, trying to recall what led to this state of affairs. Nothing yet ghosts my foggy mind. And nothing makes a sound or moves in the usually creaky Victorian apartment. Not a window rattle or even a mousy stir.Read more.
Ethan’s head was humming. A nest of bees could have taken up residence inside his brain, and he doubted that it would feel less uncomfortable. The constant buzzing, the absence of a peaceful mind, was the hardest part of his job – he had decided that long ago. It wasn’t the ungodly hours or the constant stress of working under strict time limits that could mean life or death.Read more.
I remember being thirteen
And the snow falling so completely
On the windshield.
It was as if I were alone.
So sudden and delicate.
A single open window in which the cold light expands.
Crickets signal the need for sacrifice,
a thanks for good harvest,
appeasement for the war gods of winter.
The frost is overdue.
Near the end of October,
the mosquitoes hum and bite
as I still sit on the front porch.
The kid’s face is good and smashed up, his nose most certainly broken. Eddy has transferred enough prisoners to know these things. On the grand scale, these injuries don’t look too bad and the easy banter between the paramedics speaks to the lack of urgency.
“Nearly there, warden,” the medic closest to Eddy says. “We should get through quick. Mondays are usually quiet. You’ll be back in no time.”
When Victoria summoned the dead, it was an accident.
The power flickered out just as Victoria locked the front door and flipped over the “We’re Open” sign. She heard the AC’s guttural last attempts at blowing cold air as it died out. She sighed, looking up at the ceiling regretfully. She would have to make do with what she had at the store.
With a whistle, and a little too much excitement, Randolph swiveled in his tall leather chair in the control room of the LifeSupply Spruce Grove store. He just turned thirty and was making good money, enough to afford a small house next year. Randolph wanted to move up, save, invest, have a kid, and retire with money—all while taking care of his mom who he had transferred to Spruce Grove to care for.Read more.
Allen White, mayor of Centralia, stared at the ventriloquist dummy that reclined in the box. He had asked his political party for funding, and along with a check, the package had arrived. It sported an orange face with pink circles around the eyes. Yellow hair swooned at the front of a mostly bald head. The packing peanuts were painted gold. Like a sloppy job with a spray can.
These puppets were nothing new. Other candidates were still using them in other states, even after the last election. Allen shook his head. He personally disliked the idea. He worried that the Vaudeville antics made it harder to lead. “Should a king compete with his fool?” he asked. On the other hand, the polls had their own truth to tell.
For fifteen minutes Anna sat on the concrete wall, fingers interlocked, rhythmically rubbing her thumbs, until the curly headed man emerged onto the taverna’s patio. He was as thin as she had remembered, but taller, with that stooped bearing tall men fall into from peering down at the world. After briefly stabbing and stroking his phone, he put it in a back pocket, glanced in her direction, and sauntered down the sidewalk. Sensing he still hadn’t recognized her emboldened Anna to get up and warily trail after him.Read more.