Childhood trauma and immoral exemplars in teen years pushed me from the Catholicism that meant much to my mother. The above-altar crucifix with blood dripping from the tortured body of Christ at the Church of Saints Philip and James in the Bronx where I often spent Sundays lies vivid in memory.Read more.
To Where We Came From
I realize that Jacqué is probably not the best influence. Troy likely is. Despite being whitebread, Troy is as wholesome as multigrain. However, there is an edge to Jacqué that I enjoy. With him, I am Rick, cool and tough. As my first nonwhite friend, Jacqué innately understands what it is like to grow up amongst those that do not look like me or understand the culture of my parents. True, he and I look nothing alike, and the cultures of our people are vastly different. However, the experience of immigrants’ sons is near universal.Read more.
“It’s never really over between us, is it?”
He looked at me, smoothing the hair back from my forehead. My cheeks flushed as soon as the words left my lips. I hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but that’s what had been running through my head.Read more.
Screened doors slamming and the calls of “Can you play now?” echoed between the houses on Rose Lane during Raleigh summers in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. Sometimes it was hard to tell which child lived in which house.Read more.
When I woke up, I knew it was an emergency room. This was back in 1958, and it looked like scenes in Young Dr. Kildare on Million Dollar Movie.
“Take it easy, Kiddo,” I heard my father say, as I tried to sit up. He was hunched on a stool next to my bed, with an unlit cigarette clenched in the corner of his mouth.
Ritual for a New Chief
Eight men stood in a loose group on the edge of the Nubava atoll swinging wide their arms and slapping their leathery brown torsos in the cool air as they waited for the first glimmer of the sun. Thirty feet out, a horseshoe of small boats bobbed up and down, weighted fishing nets strung down between them to create a barrier against the open sea.Read more.
Debra is at the cemetery again reading to Martin’s dead wife. She reads the kinds of literature Martin says Annika enjoyed before the brain tumor: children’s books, the poetry of Robert Frost and James Dickey, novels of psychological suspense. Her startling enunciation, musical and evocative, lifts the words into the air where they linger like butterflies hovering in mid-flight, her rich, clear soprano a storyteller’s gift.Read more.
The Hay is in the Barn
I’m sixty-two years old. Like most my age, I suppose, there are a number of things I regret. For some reason, one occupies a particular place for me. It’s not the most significant or memorable in my life, or even very notable in and of itself. But, when I think of it, something different falls in me, something irretrievable.Read more.
The Last of the Dinosaurs
Jay Rowland died on May 5, 2020. His name was listed between Olga Masterson and Stefan Stuart in a Herald News story entitled, “Area Nursing Homes Ravaged by Coronavirus.”
Jay’s nickname was “Dog Ears.”Read more.
She heard Ruth lock the front door behind them. In the hall Fiona caught the smell of varnish, a hint of juniper and that human odour of someone else’s home. It felt like warmth was barred from leaving, winter kept outside and the rest of her evening secure in the heat of those rooms. She set her bag down and Ruth helped her out of her coat without offering – her friend never waited for permission to be considerate.
The Brown Man
The Brown Man collapsed. Tan dust rose up in plumes from the desert ground. He sucked at the speckled air with stiff and halting gasps. All the muscles in his body were tired, especially his legs. He struggled to gather himself and get moving again. On this last trip he’d barely been able to get across the river. Years of wandering had left him thin and ragged and weak.Read more.
The Witch Window
“Dad’s dead” are the first words of any substance that my sister has said to me in ten years. The phone call came at 5:34 A.M. It started with “hello” and “that is you, isn’t it Jimmy?” and “don’t hang up.” But we came pretty quickly to “Dad’s dead.” Those are the words that stuck.Read more.
He left her with six children, a few acres of poor farm clay, no money, and a house plain and sturdy. “You’ll have to send them away, Lettie,” the relatives told her. “There’s an orphanage over in Masonville. You can’t keep them.” They told her this when he was barely gone, his body cold but not yet in the ground.Read more.
Iben… I’ve Been Through Some Sh#@!: Unbroken
I looked at myself in the rearview mirror one last time before entering the building. The gym was packed. As I took the podium, one young man, then another, clapped. “Thank you,” I said before beginning. “I’m Iben Okafor and it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to address you today. Before I get started, how many of you have brothers and sisters?”Read more.
I Don’t Swoon: Chapter 1
The Reverend Cletus Jenkins was stretched out in the front yard of Miss Mattie’s whorehouse. Stiff like that wooden Indian that Virgil Parker sets outside his general store every morning, Jenkins looked like somebody had shoved him off the porch with the business side of a heavy boot and he’d landed splat on his back.Read more.
The Serpent Papers: The Serpent of the Apocalypse
The reality of the draft and the resultant paranoia which had descended upon my collegiate brothers precipitated a sense of indecision in me. Forgetting about the library, I grabbed my coat and fled the dorms like a shell from a cannon, my trajectory at random. Questions squirmed in my head, challenging me as to why I, son of a warrior, would be so panicked by talk of the draft or possible rendezvous with war.Read more.
Her Own Devices: Part 2, Chapter 8
For his imminent fifth birthday Ramadi told Anna he would like pizza and cake and an airplane and certain of his preschool pals in attendance. That would be awkward, Anna explained, as Daria, the mother of Yasmin, the girl he wished to exclude, had volunteered her four-room flat for the festivities. Ramadi considered Yasmin a bit of a show-off, he had complained, who went on and on about the clothes she wore and the clothes she wanted next.Read more.
“Heron,” “Liberty” and “Odyssey”
Great blue heron, white in high green,
folds on self, forward falls toward water,
clear space, wingspan wind-catch, rise in flight.
I am semi-trailer truck in someone else’s tender canoe
— steep banks through suburbs, six crows
from one bank to the other frenzy a hawk
“Dinner Prep,” “Mythos” and “Ignorance”
Away from myself, always, the blade angles
to save – dulls itself to keep, the hands wanting
to preserve even as the soul soils. I crave the bone
the meat the only thing hunger simmers under,
simmers for, for loneliness the gnaw (the echo
died, do you even beat) of never being touched.
“Angel Fire, New Mexico, August 2020,” “Passing Down Recipes” and “Tenderness”
we landed here
from Arizona heat
of a house needing
paint and spackle
and a yard drowning in sun
“Reading Octavio Paz”
Mexico City and the highlands
into deep velvet
air so dense I couldn’t understand
how we could pass
“Castle Recursion” and “Castle Omnipresence”
I wake early and fix breakfast
turn over the hourglass on the table
Out the door as chauffeur by 7:30
Personal trainer and nutritionist at 8:30
Errand maid at 9:30
Data Engineer from 10:30 to 3
I want to quit my job
“A Kiss on the Lips,” “The Wolf on the Fold” and “Make Eve the Apple”
A kiss on the lips,
is all I wanted,
when the lights
got low and
time got short;