I want to write about my mother’s life as if she is alive again, as if she never died. But I have not seen her in over twenty years. I have forgotten the way she used to hold her lips, the way she bent to retrieve small items from the floor, the way she looked at me when I had done something wrong. She’s been dead a long time.
A little bell is called tintinnabulum; a small shrill bell, squilla; a big one in the shape of a wide-brimmed hat, petasius; codon for a hand bell; nola for a bell that swings on the necks of dogs and the feet of birds and the houses of horses; nolula and dupla for a bell in […]
Herve was snoring—a little whir-whir on the rollaway—when Walt turned off the TV and the light. I can hear myself think, Walt thought. Or not think. I can lie here and hear myself not think. The snow outside caught his attention: it fanned out, reconvened, made circles around the neon WELCOME sign.
1 roomful of antique white wicker furniture. 3 crystal vases, Waterford. 1 hollow-base chrome sailing cleat, never used. 1 Afghan rifle, circa 1900. 1 unopened condom, packaged to look like a matchbook, circa 1947. “We have to stop,” Margaret says. “Why?” “Because I haven’t gotten anything I’ve wanted.” It’s the autumn after our father’s death, […]
The overcast skies split to allow a few pale rays of sunlight to bleed through the seemingly solid clouds. Below, an Assistant Professor of English sits on the platform bench. She is alternately grading the stack of papers in her lap and contemplating the advent of her thirty-fourth birthday tomorrow—the end of her “Jesus Year,” as her friends in the Department of Theology call it. She is not certain she ought to be evaluating her students’ work along with her life, but she sallies forth nonetheless.
A new moon and a clear, cold Michigan night, the sky dead black and loaded with stars, so clear you could see the tendrils in the Milky Way dust—things were aligning, and Arthur Reel was prepared. He called the two neighbors across the road, who were kind enough to turn off their automatic lights whenever Arthur said he would be skywatching. Three a.m. found him perched in his rooftop observatory, sitting in his padded folding chair next to a telescope that was almost as big around as a basketball, waiting.
Daisuke would find them in varying levels of decomposition, bleeding out into the snow or scattered over hiking trails, half eaten. Most would be hanging from the trees, the trunks so close and tight that in the perpetual twilight of Mount Fuji’s shadow their limbs looked like strange branches sprouting from the shaggy moss. They were businessmen or star-crossed lovers, victims of incest and criminals. They came from all over.
Editor’s Note: Matt Monk’s design work is the featured art for the Prizewinner Issue–December 2014. “In my collage and mixed-media work, I explore systems, typography, and narrative through experimental methods involving an expansive range of accretive and erosive processes including painting, gluing, scraping, sanding, tearing, erasing, patching, correcting. The images shown here in Hunger Mountain […]
I was nine years old when my mother came to me,
told me of her
designs for the modern black woman.
“No more pain,” she said.
It’s 4:15 am
and I have woken (again)
to read a chapter
of Lolita and the Metamorphosis, two books
that were never meant
to be read together
Ninjaboy is not Japanese. Ninjaboy is not even Korean. Ninjaboy is white. His mother is white. His father is white. Perhaps somewhere far up the line, as his mother claims, there is noble Cherokee blood, but it doesn’t show in Ninjaboy. Ninjaboy is pasty white, the color of Wonderbread, which is one of the few things he allows himself to eat. You can never be too careful when you have enemies like Ninjaboy’s.
Dear Susannah like a bird
I am going to drive out today
to the desert, you know the place
I live in a town called Winthrop in Suffolk, Massachusetts. Population: 18,303.
I attend Winthrop Senior High School along with every teenager in my block, aside from Ashleigh Brown, whose dad took her out of school after she got her front tooth knocked out in Gym in the sixth grade.
Name me America
Because I am discovered
I am here. I am this body.
This breath a gust. This pulse a drum.
I am poised and fist-ready…
It was Gaga, my grandpa, who told me about Vesak lanterns.
Vesak is a holiday. People celebrate it in Sri Lanka, Gaga said, but not here in the United States. Vesak is for remembering Lord Buddha, a teacher who lived a long time ago. Lord Buddha was very wise, and he understood the truth about everything.
When Theresa Miller told her mother that she’d almost been kidnapped, the neighborhood went nuts. She told her mom who told the police who told all the moms on our street that a scary man with a spiky purple mohawk, yellow eyes, tattooed arms, piercings, and a gold medallion around his neck had tried to get her into his convertible by offering her candy.
A young girl has a dream about a monster. The monster is gray. It enters her window at night, just pulls it open and slides through, facing her, sagging and infinitely wrinkled, with rotting teeth. It reaches its long shadow-arms into her parted lips and down her throat to grab her life, to take it from her. She wakes up screaming.
And so the four of them stole through the dark grounds, Mack and Ty holding hands like absconding lovers leading the way—Mack a little ahead of Ty, tugging on his hand in excitement—and Jonas behind them, with Caleb on his back. It was exhausting, and he never would have imagined he’d have the strength to do it, except that Caleb weighed about eighty-five pounds, and Jonas was high from rule-breaking and night air.
Anyone walking down Feltwhip Road early that morning would have noticed the light in the shop window. The clouds were heavy with water scooped up from the sea, and they threatened to dump it all at once onto the dark streets of Graves. Even so, the golden flicker of that lone candle in the window might make someone stop and linger for a moment.
Batshit crazy. That’s what Mikey would call anyone who predicted he would run for senior class president, in an election that would nearly kill him. But aside from his best friend Smiles, Mikey doesn’t talk to many other students, let alone anyone clairvoyant enough to see one batshit crazy week into the future.
You waded in knee deep, toes reading the slimy uneven stones, skin crawling through weeds. Pushed off. Boogie board slapping the stillness. You were tempted to lift your knees and feet and hands and arms out and above the murky unknown, balance on your belly and hold the monsters at bay…
I’m in a stranger’s bed
a college guy from the cigar shop at the mall. He smells like
tobacco, tastes like mints. He pulls my shirt over my head, weaves his fingers
through mine to pull me down. And I get the same thought.
Every time. The same. I shouldn’t be here.
Chapter 1 The moon is a pearl against the black skin of night. Morgiana reaches for it as she lies on her mat beneath the window. She cups her hands around it and sighs. Her little brother sighs too. The snores of the nearby women and children drone in their ears like mosquitoes, but that’s […]
Rosa woke up long before Jose, the old one-eyed rooster, began his morning crows. Today was January 17th, the Feast of St. Anthony the Abbot. For years, she’d watched her brother Daniel take his pet turtle out of its cage, wipe its shell carefully with oil until it shined, and put it into a new […]
He was waiting there as I finished my jog, just standing on the corner, acting like he was out for a walk or whatever, but I knew he was looking for me. “Hello,” he said. Steve Wilkes, my across the street neighbor. He had the arms of a ten-year-old girl and a chest like a […]
One morning Field Mouse woke up in her nest, which was tucked in a hollow between the roots of a big, old maple tree. She had been sleeping for a long time, on and off, through the cold and ice and snow. But something had changed. Something was out there, calling to her. Not in […]
Maybe it was some kind of Christmas spirit that trailed along after me from Vandalia when I joined up as a drummer with an Illinois regiment in ’63. Or maybe I was just following in Pa’s footsteps, when it come to playing Santa Claus. It was surely something other than good sense that prompted me to deliver a Christmas gift to a Reb camp, in the dead of winter. In secret, almost.
I fly. Here in the white air I am not Catherine George, invisible sister of Invincible Ivan, champion skier. I am not Dear Catie, accommodating daughter with yet another weekend alone. And, I am not Klutsy Kate, fifteen-year-old ditz who totally bombed her first real kiss. Up here in the air, I am Cat, Crazy Cat, daredevil dame of the mountain, red hot chillin’ explosion of white air.
An excerpt Chapter 1 It was June, the middle of the day I was supposed to quit being a boy. We were all of us sitting in rows watching Miss Pipe chalk out a problem on the board, a problem I wasn’t going to bother with. Normally I would, but not today, not now. Someone […]
Winter was almost over, but deep in the woods where old Jess lived, the nights still grew cold.
One evening, as the sun slipped through the trees’ fingers, she gathered twigs for her fire. Tying them into a bundle, Jess thought she heard someone sigh, or maybe groan.
We stop at the red light even though we don’t really have to. There’re no cars coming; a few, maybe, if it were Saturday when the little men and ladies sally from their wooden houses, making their way to vigil mass at St. Bridget’s, a semi truck maybe lumbering up the hill from the warehouses […]
I didn’t think white people got jobs the way Latinos did, just by talking to each other. But they do, and that’s how it happens for me. My first big job as a writer. It’s the end of a journalism class at New York University. The room fills with the familiar cacophony of a class […]
Taken from the ancient city of Pompeii (In the basilica): Let everyone one in love come and see. I want to break Venus’ ribs with clubs and cripple the goddess’ loins. If she can strike through my soft chest, then why can’t I smash her head with a club?—Anonymous (On the walls of a tomb): […]
1. Years ago, on an employee retreat for a publishing company I worked for in my twenties, I met a magician who levitated. A group of us stood before him and watched as his body rose a foot off the ground. My first instinct was to suspect conspiracy. Was there a trick camera somewhere? Did […]
A dead bird is impossible. It is impossible to feel my own death before my own death. The dead bird, my own death, is impossible to touch, to pick up, to hold. Yet, as a child, I often found dead birds completely intact, lying at the base of a building or under a tree as […]
Nearly every day, seventy-seven-year-old Yoshida Katsuji drives across the city from his modest home to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Always early, Yoshida moves through the museum corridors and office hallways with ease, greeting each staff member with an energetic “Good morning!” and a slight bow of his head. As the museum lobby and sidewalks […]
We smoked crack, not heroin. Jeter Flint bought crack on 16th and Mission and brought it back to the loft (which was on 19th and Bryant, not 23rd and Shotwell) where we cut the crack with cigarette ash, packed it in a pipe and smoked it, exhaling into someone else’s mouth to make the crack last as long as possible. The film gets Jeter’s basic facts right, though: a painter, from Laredo, Texas via Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Right around the time that Martha’s marriage fell apart, her only child became a runner. A distance runner. A runner of distances so long and arduous that some nights Martha crept into her room to examine her daughter’s sleeping feet. How did they do it? Mile after mile, hill after hill? The slapping and pounding! In the light from the hallway the twin soles glowed slick as sea stones. Martha could remember when they were brand new, and fit into the palm of her hand.
In the beginning, don’t talk to your daughter, because anything you say she will refute. Notice that she no longer eats cheese. Yes, cheese: an entire food category goes missing from her diet. She claims cheese is disgusting and that, hello? she has always hated it. Think to yourself…okay, no Feta, no Gouda—that’s a unique and painless path to individuation; she’s not piercing, tattooing or voting Republican.
I thumb through a pocket-sized pink book, rediscovered amongst multiplication tables and half-finished watercolor still-lifes from art class in fourth grade. I can see that it used to have a lock but doesn’t anymore, this dime-store diary that must have been a party favor. I turn the pages slowly, mesmerized by the loops of my h’s and my cursive b’s, by handwriting that is both mine and not mine simultaneously.
The sound of this country is the cowbell. That same five beat refrain:
ding ding ding DING DING,
The background for beer as well as church, the pulse underneath the red earth. Everything is in the dirt here, the body, the blood and the Holy Ghost.