All summer long, they rest, spiny and crested
with brittle tussocks, support hammocks stretched
among braided trunks while insects prick their way
between the knots. Or my cat, muscles writhing
under her fur when she conquers them, emerging
from deep shade with her pelt steeped in loam and spiders,
then plunging to drenched hemlock-earth on
corded haunches. Organisms seek the gentle frost
of hemlock-shade, the dense blackness blooming under
swamps of bronze bones. In the mornings I sometimes
hear the blazing calls of birds converging on the needled forks,
edging away from the taut membranes of sunlight. Beneath
the hemlocks the air is damp and pulpy, misty and not sticky,
while an ecosystem loosens and
crowds, sleeps in summer heat.
I think I ordered rootbeer at the restaurant by the river.
The water green and glossy, conifers, bites in burgers,
wire glasses, a pair of bright eyes staring over a soda can.
The day cold and lively. Smaller fingers and smaller toes.
At the ice cream shop there were flavors that tasted like cereal,
and big cone cutouts with holes for heads, and slides,
sun, blue ice cream from dripping cups, teal-stained
teeth in smirking photographs.
The tiny school where grades were taught two-at-a-time,
first/second grade rooms in the bungalow across the playground.
An eight-step routine for dressing for the snow, pants to
coats to boots to mittens turned soaked and freezing.
In 2018 we drove from Ithaca to Troy in a rainstorm.
Crouched under the awning of the old university,
ate burritos from blue tins at the market. My sister tied
my hair into two ponytails. The brick house and the blue porch.
I miss the winding basement and...
“Writing is hard.”
I wish, sometimes, that Isabel were more discreet. It is more interesting to know people who are mysterious––those who talk only at the full moon, perhaps––in deep, throaty whispers, with the night etched onto their faces.
I sit on the floor picking apart my fingernails. “I know,” I say, and then I call her “babe,” because it’s a habit I’ve been picking up. A bad habit, judging by the look on adults’ faces when I address them by it. But they’ve called me “babe” so often I’ve simply learned to return the favor.
“Don’t call me babe. I’m better than that,” Isa says. She probably is, but my linguistic habits have a nasty way of settling in for everyone, no matter who they are. Including my mom, who has yelled herself into a medically-prescribed vocal rest.
Isabel picks up her pencil and touches the eraser tip to her lips as though it’s a cigar. ...
1. My college-age sister gave me a college-level book.
2. Great, I thought. I can handle it. I've been practicing for this. I'm the best at reading boring books. It's what English class is all about.
3. I don't get it.
4. I mean, it's watching people die of AIDS. And that's sad. And I don't get it.
Penelope only ever loved her son and her spindle, and both were being twisted, slowly, out of her control.
It was not new to her––her life had been twisted from when she was a young girl, barely adolescent, and her father arranged her to marry a wealthy, ambitious man ten or twenty years her senior. The man towered over her, huge and muscular and often violent. Every occurence or milestone seemed to involve his fists. He beat her when he was mad at rulers or councilmen, or after his own political promotions. When she was pregnant with his son, his paternal glee converted into baffling, drunken rages. She wondered on several occasions if the baby had died inside her after his father’s pummeling, but a boy was delivered healthy. Penelope liked him as soon as she saw him; he seemed like the only thing that truly belonged to her.
Her husband left soon after to fight the Trojans. She hoped...
1. Seemingly one those critically acclaimed works about the feminine experience.
2. Revolving around missing children. There have been weirder things?
3. A conclusion––yawn.
4. The children never come home. (A final-ten-pages sort of revelation).
5. Why did you take me through over 240 pages of the feminine experience to get to 10 pages of missing children never coming home? I want to sob at this sad book. Please let me sob. I fear I may fall asleep first.
As it turned out, Ruth hated most things.
The first seven years of her life had revolved around food. She wanted to cook, she wanted to be a master. She wanted to make gourmet soups on desert islands out of muck and scorpion juice on like on TV. In her earliest memories she crouched over a plastic pot trying to boil tufts of brownish grass and mayonnaise into potions to cure diabetes. She would freeze gobs of ketchup in the popsicle maker, taste-test them later, give up, and leave the popsicles to melt back into reddish goo. Her parents were humored by the experimentalism. They let her cook anything she wanted, though she had to relate her recipe back in detail if she wanted to taste-test any of her creations. Yes, it looked to all the world like Ruthie would live to be the greatest cook of her generation, to win reality TV competitions and live in palaces...
Kristen escaped Knoxville for the first time in her life when she was thirteen.
The mountains had hovered on the Eastern side of her peripheral vision for as long as she could remember, marked in faded stretches of blue and brown, veined with white powder in the wintertime. How had she never known them before?
Her father drove her to the mountains on a summer weekend in their old beat-up truck. They spoke to one another in monosyllables. Kristen had never driven so far. She fidgeted in her seat until her father told her not to, played pop in her earbuds while he blasted the radio. The windows were down, the air hot, mosquitoes dancing on the windshield. The reeling of the road nearly made her sick; her stomach jumped with every harsh twist. They seemed to be driving in circles. Kristen stared at her hands, nauseous, and asked nothing.
They jolted to a stop...
1. I panicked and read it at the speed of sound because I wanted to!
2. I may have over-Vonnegutted!
1. A terrible read for anyone who's not a big Salinger fan. The Catcher in the Rye is okay but Franny and Zooey is so overly... everything. Mr. Salinger (or, as Holden would have me call him, old Salinger) might be a godly bard who can read thoughts and feelings. Or he might be a tryhard.
2. A terrible read for anyone who's looking for a career in writing. Did you know we'll all someday be working in hot dimly lit musty archaic agencies under tragic bosses answering the fanmail of somebody else by ploinking on typewriters one key at a time?
3. An all-around good book.
Poetry About How I Saw A Baby Bird's Corpse On My Way Home From School And How It Affected My Perception Of God, The Universe, And The Meaning Of Death.
As I now spend every waking moment in the presence of at least one member of my nuclear family, I am more than able to provide an honest report. Counting the cats, there are six of us, and each creature has responded differently to the pandemic. My mother has surrounded herself in New York Times articles and letters from my school’s faculty. She has taken the idea of a “constructive quarantine” very seriously, and at several occasions I have been asked to sit with her and brainstorm for the head of school’s recommended “gratitude goal,” “resilience goal,” and “empathy goal.” I tried to defend myself against this onslaught as best I could, which resulted in my mother’s pity for my situation––according to her, at least, I am stuck alone in a summer of meaninglessness and emptiness. She felt terrible when she was able to return to work, leaving my sister and me bored at home. I personally think that, considering...
The human Pimple is found in two Varieties––in wet, reddish Colonies clustered visibly around the Nose, Eyes, Lips, and Hairline; and grown imperceptibly and most uncomfortably beneath any unfortunate Expanse of Skin.
Among all Songs there are those that are weird, those that are not, those that find the Singer in the Attic with a Piano up his nasal Cavity.
Do not bother to tack Posters onto your Walls, because they will pronounce Hell upon you––sometimes they will keel backwards and crash obnoxiously to the Floor; sometimes they will drop silently behind your Bed, and you will find them Years later; often the Things whisk off immediately and find enjoyment in sucking off Clumps of Plaster as they go.
One day a fencer huffed down the hallway, banged his sword loudly against the wall and chewed his lips bloody. He had lost a game. He dropped the dulled metal sword he was carrying clangingly onto the floor. The instrument collided with some other athlete’s hockey stick, and the two poles lay crossed like an ex. The fencer stormed off then, never knowing what sort of an impact he had just made.
Now another man entered the scene, with a name worth mentioning––Lemuel Macduff. It was an odd sort of name, and he was an odd sort of man––not dull or unoriginal but shrewd and smart. His acquaintances dared call him “intellectual”––a word that was the key, it seemed, to his success. Macduff entered the corridor where the fencer had huffed, and he noticed the cross of the hockey stick and the fencing sword. His eyes traveled quickly on, at first, until he did a dramatic double...
One day a fencer huffed down the hallway, banged his sword loudly against the wall and chewed his lips bloody. He had lost his game. He dropped the dulled metal sword he was carrying clangingly onto the floor, and it collided with some other athlete’s hockey stick, and the two rods lay crossed like an ex. The fencer stormed off then, never knowing what sort of an impact he had just made.
Now another man entered the scene, with a name worth mentioning––Lemuel Macduff. It was an odd sort of name, and he was an odd sort of man––not dull or unoriginal but shrewd and smart. His acquaintances dared call him “intellectual.” And that word was the key, it seemed, to his success. Macduff entered the corridor where the fencer had huffed, and he noticed the cross of the hockey stick and the fencing sword. His eyes traveled quickly on, at first, until he did a dramatic...
There was a boy who lived at some point––I don’t remember his name. This boy was born in a medium-sized white house, and he had a medium-sized bedroom, and for the first four years of his life his bed was shaped like a car. This figure learned to speak and walk and read and write and say “healthy” instead of “healfy.” And he kissed a girl when he turned thirteen. And he went to school and got all B’s and even an A in science and art, and his parents told them how proud they were of him. And he went to college in Oregon––so far from home!––and he learned alright. And he wore a ludicrous big hat and got some official-looking papers when he graduated. There are a lot of specific schools in Oregon, lined one against the other and all looking boring and brick from the outside and polished and stressful on the inside. This young man studied...
Overhead, the sunset - red frothed into amber-yellow-
-blue skies. I stand and the slat writhes and tips beneath my toes,
and I jump,
the water warm and foamy. Light on weak arms.
Shielding eyes against a violent strap of sun, kicking infinitely at gray-green murks,
we bob against the dock, wet arms outstretched into fading air. The world so still
and mild. Shivering when these slimy limbs clamber back onto their blue plastic ‘boards.
I lie above the lake and watch the stars go by.
My mom is afraid of going to the carwash. Our old van sat around for over a year collecting dust and pollen and bird poop and rainwater gunk. If you opened the passenger side door your hand would turn toffee-brown. The windshield sagged under a vignette of old who-knew-what.
She asked me to scrub down the car with a hose and a sponge on hands and knees. I was indignant until she offered payment.
“How about you make an offer and I’ll tell you whether or not I accept it?”
I thought for a while. My lips worked uncertainly around heavy numbers. “Ten dollars?”
“You can go as high as you want, you know.”
“… Fifteen dollars?” That felt unfair. “Thirteen dollars? Twelve dollars? I don't know. Ten is fine.”
The job sat around not being done. Two weeks later Mom approached me again.
“Fifty dollars if you do it on Thursday.”
I did it on Thursday.
My pessimistic quarantine-driven take on the annoyances of a smart society has been that humans were much better as simpler creatures, where they weren’t jammed with societal overload and they lived in happiness. There was suffering that accompanied living naturally, of course, but suffering is an unavoidable element of God’s world. Even if you live in the world we do today, where everything has a vaccine or can be cured in a hospital, misery worms its way in - depression, anxiety, the never-ending quest to have things you don’t have. It’s Homo sapiens, the same as in its primitive form but now everything is smarter, so instead of living blindly, simply, and happily, we live in an exhausting field plagued with never-ending ideology battles and questions with unsolvable answers.
This is take that is neither healthy nor is it useful. It may not be correct either. In a recent journal entry I scrawled some note about how I...
After quitting piano at age eleven, I was determined never to return to it. My experience of playing had consisted of tears, procrastination, brief pleasures, stormings-off, unnecessarily long stretches of time where I thought I was professionally excellent, more tears, and Mom telling me "That's great!" after an unspectacular performance so over-earnestly that I continued with my dreaded lessons. I was always a bit cocky with my teacher, who had no strict upper-hand, and I found different ways to use up the mandatory forty-five minutes that dogged me every week - joking, poking the keys while she was talking, continued conversations about the portraits of fruit on the walls of her house, etc. It's a miracle I ever managed to play anything at all, but I was at just the sort of age where I could pull something off even if I hadn't practiced it at all, and my parents continued to praise me. At one point Mom was...
- I do not eat three meals a day - to “food” is to “ice cream,” which asks to be dipped in Hershey’s syrup and then taken to the front porch to watch the rain go down. I eat with crossed legs as shards of rain scratch my face, and when I stand much later pieces of paint stick to my thighs. I find remnants of “old house” in the shower later.
- In summer heat congregates in the upstairs. I become insane after five minutes of being crowded by the touchy carpet and burning walls, and I flee. My sister is depressed and so she stays in bed all day and lets the heat clog her brain. She will have dementia when she’s old.
- I am lethargic and require a sitting-down whenever it is possible. When the sitting-down is completed I stand up and my brain spins in my head. I am told to lie down and to...