The room is dark; a large queen-sized bed sits in its center. The Old Man who occupies it is propped up on a pile of pillows, the skin on his cheeks sagging like so many yards of curtain valance; his eyelids lowered to half-mast; his mouth yapping up and down like a marionette puppet whose strings have been pulled by too many hands.Read more.
The Monster Mash
Rain drips from the awning, the constant patter, late December up north you get snow, late December down south you get rain. Strings of red and green bulbs hang zig-zagged over the dark and puddled road. Think fog and mist and shadows. Think gaseous orange sky and shrill nameless voices and the strange feeling, because it’s a feeling after all, not a thought nor a string of contemplation, but a feeling of imminence cast out by the damp air and prickling the skin’s hairs; a foreboding,…Read more.
Quietly and swiftly the canoe marked its early morning passing with an undulating seamless wake on the surface of the water. With no breeze the small lake was motionless except for the temporary trail left by the canoe. In the distance belted kingfishers and alder flycatchers darted above, and the cry of a bald eagle from a tree at lakeside occasionally pierced the morning stillness.Read more.
Number 12 rue Sainte-Catherine
The weather is cold and sleety when André Deutsch picks up his briefcase full of cash and heads for the UGIF office. Mondays are always a trial for him. On those days (allotment days) he has to lug up to 30,000 francs through Old Lyon with its medieval streets and narrow soot-stained buildings. André has never been especially brave (he was a yeshiva boy, an easy target for the roughnecks in his town of Borsec), but walking alone through this part of the city has never been safe. There are simply too many traboules.Read more.
Tidy Hair on a Boat
“I’m chock full of cancer,” said Mrs Winston, sat in Patty’s salon.
“I’m sorry to hear that Mrs Winston.”
“Agony it is.”
“Some cancers aren’t so bad though, are they, these days?”
“Who told you that?”
Trey had a friend. People said she was going to die. Trey visited her friend after work and sat on a bean bag, consoling her with optimistic words and cups of tea. The cancer had a name similar to Trey’s maths teacher, Mr Hodgkins. The cancer came and went. Her friend recovered. Trey felt she had been misled.
My mother and her sisters have been waiting for their Aunt Del to pass on for at least ten years now. “It’s no way for someone to live,” Mom would tsk-tsk upon returning from a visit to “the home.” Funny we call it “a home” when it sounds like it’s anything but. I have never met Aunt Del, so when I offered to accompany Mom to the funeral service, she was surprised. She certainly didn’t need my support.Read more.
The ranchers in the Flint Hills called it a controlled burn, insinuating that with sufficient intention they could master the elements. But Rebecca knew better—an unexpected change of the wind, a jumped fireguard, the barest instant of carelessness, and the ravenous pasture fires set in the region each spring could reduce such smugness to nothing but ashes. Her earliest memory was of fire; her earliest loss was to fire; fire had forged her, for better or worse, into the person she was.Read more.
Summary: The titular character is faced with a reversal of fortune in almost every way: he loses a steady job, faces illness and disability, fails in his new marriage, and is betrayed by his closest compadre. He must confront his years of terrible parenting decisions and broken family ties after he is compelled to leave the green valley of San Luis, living as an outcast in the “steel city” of Huerfano, Colorado.Read more.
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.
“Breathing Life into My Daughter”, “Teaching my daughter how to swim” and “About the Woman Recovering from a Broken Heart”
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.
“Selkie”, “Dad,” and “The Lives of Others”
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.’
“sounding 21”, “si-ghting 4” and “What”
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.
“Sorry Epiphany”, “In the Paddy” and “Fear Souffle”
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.
Space Elephants and Giraffes
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.
“Full Moon and Plum Tree”, “Memory from the Week I Unremembered” and “Big Enough”
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.
death, at work
“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.
“Killiney Beach”, “Boomerang ” and “On Your Birthday in a Fearful Year”
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.
“The Carving Tree”, “Evidence of a Struggle” and “Unbearably Gone”
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.
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