The songs of birds are call and response. Woodpecker rhythmically answers a hummingbird’s song. Kindness is dropping a leaf onto an earthworm’s back to shield it from sunlight. Quiet is as loud as a bird’s call. Adrienne Rich was haunted by a line in an Elizabeth Bishop poem: “Love should be put into action!” Tonight […]
–an excerpt from her memoir, Little Boats Six years after my name was gifted to me, my parents moved us to the Swinomish Reservation. There was tribal land in the family and my parents saw an opportunity for an easier life. I saw a dark forest and a lack of ocean. I thought I’d be […]
1. My husband and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day. If we remember the date, we might splurge on chocolates or a nice meal at a restaurant (usually, breakfast or lunch because dinner reservations for that night must be made five months in advance, which neither of us remembers to do, plus it costs as […]
There’s a Korean word, Han. I looked it up. There is no literal English translation; it’s a state of mind; of soul, really. A sadness. A sadness so deep no tears will come. And yet still, there’s hope. — Josiah Bartlet, “The West Wing” Profile: DOB 1974/USA/Female/Korean Developed Disorders: Generalized Anxiety, Bipolar, Panic, […]
The Crazy Lady groaned up against the bad side of I-35. It wasn’t much from the outside—a squatty, stucco lump of a strip club, perched perilously close to the interstate edge, its façade ground smooth by relentless traffic grit. This was where Austin girls went when they’d been fired from the clubs with valet parking […]
As a child in confirmation class, I am instructed in the holy math. “Seven is the number of completion,” our pastor says. “It took seven days for God to make the world, so seven days became the length of our earthly week.” He speaks to us as a single mass, the cloud and not the snowflakes, separate and unique.
The ores of divine providence are everywhere infused, and everywhere to be found. St. Augustine, De Doctrina Cristiana The margins of the world surrounded me—at least in the physical sense—for hundreds of miles in every direction: a no-man’s land of semi-arid deserts; middles of nowhere; and solitary mountain ranges. I lived in this no-man’s land, […]
The dark-haired photographer lifts his eyelids in slow motion, first taking in the brown leather buckles crisscrossing my dangling feet, then the breathable khakis, loosely bunched at the knees and pouched over my stomach. He takes in my white layering tank, thick, opaque, cut between crew and scoop neck, simple and modest per Peace Corps recommendations.
My name is Isabella Tangherlini, I am twenty years old, and I used to be an internet troll. It sounds like something you’d hear at a group therapy session with a twelve-step program, or maybe an episode of Dr. Phil. Either way, it’s not a very good way to introduce a person, or an essay.
He’s been sober now for decades, but in the early days of his teaching career, when I was his student, he was deep into the destructive work of booze. It was a time when the ampersand was intentional & historical, Beat shorthand for every slow, tired “and” anchored to old times.
Whatever time it is—morning, noon, or long into the night—our neighbor lady is always three sheets to the wind. Maybe four. We’re out in the front yard trying to dig a hole in the rock-hard ground to plant our first rose bush. A week ago my wife and I moved from our over-priced, cramped—enough already […]
I catch up with her a few minutes later. She is shaded under a vine-covered trellis, standing precariously several feet up on the edge of a fountain. It appears she’s trying to capture a close-up of a cherub pouring water. She’s resting her left hand on the wet stone behind the cherub, and I imagine several scenarios that have in common a disastrous ending.
I meet Tracy because she has a fuckable brother, according to Kristen. Tracy and her brother Trent go to Bishop Lynch. Kristen and I go to Liberty. They wear uniforms and study Theology. We wear whatever we want and don’t know what Theology is. At least I don’t, and I’m embarrassed for not knowing so I don’t ask.
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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.
“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.”
James Baldwin, “Faulkner and Desegregation”
I don’t know why I continue buying my groceries at Price Chopper. Of course it makes me feel bad: those flat harsh neon lights, the long aisles of cheap overabundance, the bland preprogrammed music, the complete absence of beauty. Even the name itself—Price Chopper—hurts me with its crude brutality…
I wasn’t crazy about the height. There we were, one paleontologist who might have been a mountain goat, his two assistants, and me, scrabbling up a mountainside of tilted and crumbling rock strata—or what my companions called “bedding planes.” Loose gravel and rock dislodged by our feet bounced all the way to the glint of streambed in the canyon’s crease below.
Gather ‘round, children, and I will tell you a story.
It is a familiar scene. The storyteller is a village elder, or a grandmother, or a wandering minstrel. The passel of eager-eyed children, and perhaps some adults, sit close. It is the still evening, under the fluttering mosquito-net; or perhaps mid-day, in the shade of an old acacia tree; or a darkening and cold afternoon, by the light of a roaring fire.
When I was four years old, my father lost his job. We were living in Trenton, New Jersey at the time, where he had lived most of his life. With no college education, he had worked his way up to the position of controller at a Transamerica-owned manufacturing company called Delavalve. The company restructured itself and dismissed him. My parents decided to use his sudden unemployment as an opportunity to take a vacation, to drive whatever Buick convertible we had at the time from New Jersey to California.
Writing teachers often tell their students to “write what you know” because writers must learn to write clearly and authentically, and the best way to do that is to write about what they know. It’s a place to begin. It’s a place to grow from. It’s a place where we start to hone our facility with craft and voice.
Recently, I spoke at a benefit event I’d put together for my local animal rescue organization. I’d brought together five authors (including myself) who all wrote about and were inspired by their love for dogs. I told the audience how the idea burst into my mind two months before my book, A Dog’s Way Home, was due to be released.
You are in training, learning how to help people with the sorrows, fears, and angers they want to banish, the pains they wish to exorcise or learn to carry more lightly. You are introduced to a man with cancer. He is exactly your age. Forty-eight. The first time you meet is the second week of your internship as a clinical mental health counselor.
It is autumn and the leaves of October have begun to fall, but still Jennifer’s summer romance blossoms with a freshness that even the first cherry trees of April might envy. Her boyfriend David, who is trapped in his body like a mummy in its sarcophagus, calls her almost every day.
Each tread of the staircase in our rented apartment measures roughly nine inches. The risers are eight inches high. Builders use various formulae (e.g. height plus depth equals seventeen) to fix the tread/riser ratio. I use a formula—the word “recipe” seems overgenerous—to prepare the protein shake I carry upstairs, five times a day, to my twelve-year old son.