At the end of an appropriate period of polite applause, Ryne Blades touched the knot of his tie, adjusted the microphone, and put on his reading glasses. He paused briefly to look out over the assembled freshmen in the campus theater. This was his biggest speech of the year.read more...
1942. A baby girl is born inside a war. From one unfriendly womb to another she goes. It’s like living in a fishbowl: the view is panoramic but the glass won’t give. So it’s she who must. Learning this takes time.
It happens in winter, this birth, this unlikely, uncelebrated event. A winter that so efficiently brands her with its cold, she is never not cold again. So cold that of all the things she might wish to do over, chief among them is to have been born in summer.
It happens in Auschwitz, this birth.
An ice cream parlor with wrought iron chairs and tables had recently opened at Northland, an open-air mall located just across the border from Detroit. Sylvia, a widow in her sixties, had read about the place and told her younger sister Lottie about it. They’d decided to go there after Lottie’s first appointment with Dr. B. Since then, if only for the cheer of the red and white striped walls, the two had stopped in even if Lottie could only swallow a few sips of her float.read more...
I feel forty-six pieces of her
forming inside of me:
Her fingers dig into the underside of my belly
button, and her feet kick ferociously
In this moment, I want to yell for her
to stop searching for a way to escape this haven.
The jetliner, a bone-white Airbus A320 with a fat, blue-brand logo, hobbled over the neighborhood, wings waggling under the lemon sun. There was smoke, a lot of it, coming from the right-wing engine, and the dark contrail was an evil pencil mark crossing the cloudless mountain sky. Neighbors, alerted by a sudden cacophony, ran out onto their front porches and stared at death looming overhead. Children playing on front lawns dropped their balls and bikes and ran for the arms of their parents.
But Nick just stared at the inbound jet. He didn’t move, even as the nose looked to bore directly into his eighty-pound frame.
They say that he hid my skin, but what they
do not know is that I threw it into the sea
at high tide, such that it will not drift back
even if I change my mind. I was always the
stubborn one, they said. I must learn to bend,
They were both shocked when the letter arrived, the stationery matt and generous, unlike the crabbed hand it bore. The pages, when Róisín opened it, gave off the stale reek of cigarette smoke.
‘Who’s it from?’ Sheila asked rubbing her hair with a towel.
‘Only Guillame Le – fecking – Quennec,’ Róisín said with a grin. ‘Says he’d love to come and read at Peninsula next month from his new book.’
tired of waiting he writes
while there’s timeand the white space
to trace the light’s line
from place to place
from all the corners of his mindfind
the dust of all that’s gathered there
Janie was dead. For real this time.
Connie rounded the familiar curve at Hooper Hill Road, pulled over to let an impatient driver pass, and used the moment to once again check her rear-view mirror. They said she’d get used to it but she hadn’t.
I’d like to say that the day I quit God
was like a knuckle-sandwich,
a lightening bolt, or a surprise
seizure that tore through my brain. I’d like
to say that the earth shook, shattered,
and birds screamed their shrill cries. I’d like
to say that hurricanes raised hell,
ice caps melted and died.
HANNA was cold. The fine red hair on her arms stood on end. Goosebumps. The unicorn on her shirt pranced on its tiny patch of grass with every gust of wind. Dark clouds had rolled in above her. Rain was coming, she could smell it. She wanted to be down from this metal arch. When she had finally climbed all the way to the top, each blue rung cold on her hands, except where the paint was chipped – still cold, just not blue, she realized an important part of the climb was unconsidered: getting back down.read more...
My father buys plums and asks me not to ruin them this time.
When he leaves the room, I press my thumbs
into them until the skin gives out, until the whole kitchen is muscle and juice,
dark-purple in desperation.
I can’t remember the word for touch in Spanish, can barely remember it
in my own tongue.
“Well then, Andrew, ought we to start with the basics? Please, take a seat.”
I had never met Bill from Fleet Safety before, but his presence disturbed me. The main office door to our left was closed, the thin light at the bottom barely visible. Bill had spread out his documents on the table before us and now sat with his hands folded, expectant. Steam rose out of the cup beside him. His suit was as black as the coffee he drank.
For three days I was a stranger in your city,
Pressing my palms to a train window
Watching for the blue glint of the bay.
I thought I might find you in the water’s thin skin,
In the creamy foam, speckled and bearded with wrack.
So that was it; her sister was dying. Riza received the call this morning from her niece in D.C. She was expected to go to Manila. Her daughter Melanie was already there, sleeping on a cot in the hospital room. Riza shut her eyes tight and rubbed her forehead with her fingers. She searched her mind for a reason to stay. What could she tell them?read more...
I was not born in these kinds of waters
but I came to believe and to canoe away
on the river of silty glass
bugs skating the surface
sunlight pouring into me
laughter echoing off the empty
voices raised, poles poised, fish fleeing upstream even.
I stare at my cell phone in a sick state of disbelief. I had missed Justin’s one call. He left a message that I play again, hoping it’s not real.
“Mom, how did I get here?”
I hit stop unable to listen to it in its entirety.
“I don’t know,” I whispered.
I’m not sure I can do this anymore, being privy to his suffering and the hell he lives in. It’s too hard. But I am the one he needs; the one he reaches out to, his mother. I know that if I abandon him he won’t survive.
I am going to pay a man
to stand by my car
and protect it
from the nomadic thieves
of the grid deserts,
the car I dreamed about
when I was a child
when I was unemployed
when I was weeping
in small painted rooms
with my hands in a ring.
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