CNF

A Meditation on Bitterness

I am five and I go to a co-ed school. It is the summer after I’ve passed 1st standard, first in my class. I am seated in between two nuns who are about to start interviewing me, and my parents are made to sit across from us on a separate sofa. We are here seeking to...

There is Something I Need to Tell You

I do my best to avoid images of violence or death. When a slow-motion car crash is recreated on a tv show or a hockey replay presents a gruesome injury, I cover my eyes. If I’m with company I look at my phone, where violence has become unavoidable. I have seen the...

Tree Dreams of Becoming a Mast

Pieces of that day, together with phrases or words from a novel or a poem I remember, still snag within me, meshing, blending, trying to turn what we did in that last hour into something greater than it was. As if the work somehow made small legends of us in some way...

A Brief History of the Soft Drink

Behind the convenience store, beyond the dumpster, a path begins so narrow it explains how it has been walked only single-file by the brain-damaged who travel daily to the store from the state-sponsored school for the impaired. Those residents have etched a permanent...

Halcyon Digest

“Nothing is as good as you remember it being. We digest, compile, and collate our memories to be more agreeable to us. We leave out the bad parts.”—Bradford Cox 1. Earthquake Julien and I spent the summer huddled over my kitchen table emailing bookers, calculating...

Distancing

My husband lost his job at the airport, in this Colorado mountain town of 6,500, because the last flight he worked for United had a single passenger. All the stores and restaurants are closed, all nonessential businesses, so he applied for a job at the hospital as a...

Cannibals

Every hour we shed 30,000 skin cells. Some we’ll swallow back down, like an auto-cannibalism. Some won’t be ours, but they’ll settle in and stay. It’ll look like a place called home among the bronchi and the bronchioles, the ligaments and the tendons, the red and the...

Casino People

The Angle of the Winds and another killer appear on a highway going nowhere. And there, a fallen farmhouse as though the sky pushed down from above and the ground from below, timbers slowly snapping, swallows like souls bursting through the doors… I know these people,...

Signal Road

Here in the future a satellite floating silently in space is beaming music directly into my moving car. No matter where I am I'm one of the chosen, sanctified by signal shot straight from the heavens. Even late at night out on a lone strip of old cracked two-lane...

In the Process of Forgiving My Mother

“There was a taut blue quality in the January light, a hardness and confidence.” - White Noise, DeLillo I had just stepped out of the house and into the front yard after having had my mother throw vino at my feet, the jar shattering with a pop much like the requiem of...

Mugshot

That mug shot from DVI, the penitentiary the gladiator school for hardened young cons—just one eerie frame your hard-as-steel face eyes glaring no flinch no emotion just those angry eyes staring back at me like dull black stones—that mug shot from the place where you...

Everything Here Is Beautiful

“Everything here is beautiful. You are beautiful. The shower is beautiful. The coffee. How did you know I was awake? How was the beautiful coffee suddenly ready?” -from Leaving the Atocha Station, by Ben Lerner  After her father fell through his ceiling, Kashew...

This Boy Can Never Do Anything Right

This boy sends paper airplanes skyward, hoping to touch the moon. They’re fast-devoured by air, dirt, momentum carrying them to crumple. This boy says he’s sorry to people in Walmart before he’s had a chance to brush against them. This boy knocks everything down—full...

To Make A Mountain

She’s planted grass again, your mother. Now she’s lying out there, making angels in bright, green springiness. So you go out too since she’s laughing, since maybe this time she won’t narrow her eyes. It’s warm. Ground under your back, sun behind a cloud so you can...

Still Life with PTSD and Geese

A nurse shoves some papers onto my lap. “These give your permission —” The gurney is surrounded by doctors and nurses wearing pale blue scrubs and masks. I try to sit up. “If…cancer…lymph nodes…permission to remove…” The words brand my brain. The first time I...

Monarch

Let me tell you about loose women, girls on high, groupie runaways and the immaculate mother. In a city of old convents they walk silent in white dresses, the crowd parts, no one asks questions or takes photos but evil tourists like me write poetry. A park with orange...

Some Things Lost

My grandfather gave me a set of monogrammed handkerchiefs for Christmas—I didn’t know what to make of the present, but I loved it. I was six, seven, eight years old. One of those ages from when my memories themselves are clear but unanchored to time. I never used...

This Boy Can Never Do Anything Right

This boy sends paper airplanes skyward, hoping to touch the moon. They’re fast-devoured by air, dirt, momentum carrying them to crumple. This boy says he’s sorry to people in Walmart before he’s had a chance to brush against them. This boy knocks everything down—full...

Where Stories Come From

I am trying to think of a story. I do this in a sitting room off our kitchen where a Macbook is on my lap and moving boxes of various sizes lean against the wall. Through the window, I see what my wife calls a fond, a made up word from fake pond, one of those...

Eddie

I don’t remember how Eddie came to live with us. I know he came into our lives by way of three hundred dollars cash pressed between the yellowing pages of a women’s devotional that he gave to our mom. I know he was cousins with some of my friends from the Pentecostal...

Fifty- Five

There is a mountain you come upon that no one tells you about, sudden watershed, and once you crest it, the dead people you read about in the paper are no longer some people but your people, actors from your production, not your parents’, so the wakes and the funerals...

Beast File No. 22

The night lights up like lightning. Not a single cloud in the sky. Only fireworks: red, white, and blue as far as the eye can see. Pop. Fizzle. Sizzle. Boom. There are lights on the tombs. Graves in the middle of nowhere. An old cemetery still in use. The lights on...

Normal Objects

When my daughter and I came to visit you, the razor in the bathroom was just a razor to you. A reminder of last weekend when your son came home from college. Maybe you wished he’d put it away because it cluttered the sink. Maybe you were glad he’d left it out, like an...

Tornado Dreams

I’ve never been in a tornado. But the landscapes of my childhood dreams were ravaged by them. Brought on by the trauma in my waking hours, my tornado dreams were prolific, and proved to be, prophetic. The first, an EF-1, to spin its massive cone into my dreams, did so...

The Truth or Something Like It

I met Joe Nuxhall a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday. His hands were gnarled, and he spoke as though his mouth was half full of marbles, but he was sharp and funny as hell. I was only a few months younger than he was when he made his Major League debut....

Lithosphere

My phone screen reads: Magnitude 3.7. The shaking lasts only a few seconds. I’m an amateur seismologist as well as real estate expert, like any good Californian. Californians both old and new are preoccupied with the security of the ground and the space on that...

Round and Round We Go

Round One In the beginning, I knew my mom wouldn’t last forever because she longed to be reunited with her mother.  If there were a fair equilibrium, a true exchange, her mother would have wanted her to stay with me, not her.  She was dead.  I was...

The Need for Neighbors

When I was ten years old, my divorced father fantasized about fleeing the prying eyes of neighbors. He talked about the Amazon rain forest or a beach in Mexico, but the only place my mother let him take me and my brothers was the Uintah Mountains in Utah where our...

I Listen For A Sound

Long past the windmill turning night and the empty teeth of harrows I listen for a sound out beyond the fields and country roads almost adrift in late summer heat, a sound like sighing or the wind’s first stirring so central hushed and eyelash still no feather falling...

Of Bedheaded Boys and Lavender Shampoo

Shampoo. The word is vaguely obscene. Sham + poo :these hardly sound like substances that, combined, could render one clean. Sonically, shampoo does not present as a hygienic herbal solution bottled in a shower stall. Instead, its syllables tell of a darker substance...

The House

It is times like this—at night when I should be sleeping—that I miss England the most. The window in my third-floor bedroom that was always half-open, even on those freezing February nights. If the window was closed, I felt trapped—like I was in some sadistic snow...

Skin

I’ve recently begun to think of my skin, the largest of organs, as a container filled up with all kinds of interesting stuff. Malleable, simultaneously strong and fragile—a proper tear in a vulnerable place and the breath goes out of my body, escapes my container, in...

Countering Semantic Poison

“… nothing in the world … has as much power as a word.” Emily Dickinson Once upon turbid waters, the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland, Ohio, and moms—mine and many others—believed Lake Erie into which the river oozed during the 1950s was a source of polio....

Dear Montana

Dear Montana, It’s over.  I should have written this letter years ago, but things happen, and I’ve held on to that memory of your summer nights even as we’ve done nothing but grow apart.  Life gets hectic, right?  Oil changes, recycling, job interviews,...

Beast File No. 124

I’ve been thinking about loss lately. What usually comes to mind is my grandmother, who passed away one Christmas Eve almost thirty years ago. Whenever I think about her and her passing I feel happy. I never had the displeasure of seeing her on her deathbed, so my...

On the Run, Returning

A few months back, I caught your goateed grin while thumbing through the “People You May Know” list on Facebook, a reality decades distant from our fragile, long-haired skulls in that time when we knew each other best. I’d searched for you before, in those moments...

Rainbow

Let's say you're wandering along a tree-lined road in South Kensington, feeling the warm, afternoon sun on your face and thinking about your date with whats-his-name that evening. Say your mum calls and you say, 'what, what, I can't hear you?,' move away from the...

Phoenix’s Orangutan

She was putting together a poetry manuscript about putting together a manuscript. She needed a break from line breaks. She needed to know how one decided capitalization. Poetry had its own rules. She used to be someone who followed the rules and then she broke a rule...

Then You’re in Kansas

Your therapist says Myhusbandcheatsonmeandyoushouldtakealover, and it takes you a second to break down the words as you stare past her newly highlighted hair to the family portrait displayed on her desk. Her cheating husband looks smug, and her admission isn’t really...

Polly

My first GF and I ran away when we were 14. 8th grade, Unionville-Chadds Ford, PA, November 1993. We jogged in our Doc Martens and distressed HOT TOPIC flannels through the parking lot, over the football and track fields, and entered the woods. There were crackling...

Does It Have Eyes?

From a distance, they looked like rocks. Large, sea-beaten and sandy rocks.  A foggy day at Drake’s Beach. The sea was quiet and the world still. You could ride a bus to the lighthouse but the lines were long and we were only there for the day and who wants to...

This Is Me, Being Brave

There are things about my childhood that I’ve never told anyone.  Not even a therapist.  I’m not proud of this. When I was young, you did what you had to do in order to survive.  Mostly that meant staying silent, keeping your thoughts to yourself. ...

Review of Walker Pass

I grew up on the western side of Walker Pass, and I crossed it thousands of times throughout my childhood, from home, to the desert, and back again. Five days a week, every week, beginning when I was five and ending when I was 18. And after that, I crossed this pass...

Rambles with Nature

I am given to long peripatetic walks through outlying districts.  Past rust-encrusted fences and cement-block lots, along fetid, long-stilled waterways next to crumbling skeletons of once-thriving commerce abandoned bathtubs half-filled with dirt over a once-upon-a...

In a Mood

“Don’t go down there,” my grandmother says, as soon as we walk through the door.  “He’s in a mood.”  But we had driven for an hour, which, to a child, feels like a day.  And so I go barreling down the steps into the rec room my grandfather built to sit near him. When...

Sole Cleaning

With Clorox wet wipes, I cleanse Paris from the soles of my boots. I scrape off discarded gum and candy, dog waste from careless owners, urine from the homeless who are too ill or forsaken to seek shelter, or too obstinately insistent to remain under the deceptive...

Overdue Elegy

For Manon You wouldn’t know how often I think of you. We didn’t see each other during the last years of your life. Not because of differences or hard feelings: Our lives had simply forked like two roads and somewhere among us flowed a river. We wrote to each other...

Dwyer

Dwyer is tall and lean, with a mop of white hair, blue eyes, brown skin from a life outside, and hollow cheeks. He follows a vegan diet. He is near seventy, a retired carpenter who reads the Bible every day, the King James Version. Met by chance on the street, we...

Untitled

Strands of light blue twisted, crossed over, then sank into the expanse of knitted wool only to emerge at the next stitch and repeat the pattern again. They ran in parallel symmetry, converging up to the pompom at the top of the cap. Around the circumference of the...

Particularization of Sand and Masks

They bought the masks while on various vacations, my grandfather and his wife. The masks hung on the walls, an installation that started, I think, in my grandfather’s office and which had grown like cancer to spread throughout their sprawling, pretty pastel, Floridian...

Just Because

I want to tell you about my son because he is coming to visit, and I’m picking him up from the airport at 5:36 Saturday morning, because he’s taking the red-eye, because that flight is the cheapest and he doesn’t have a lot of money, because I no longer support him...

Donde Crece La Palma

My love for the island of Cuba must have begun in the early 60’s. My grandparents had just moved to Miami Beach.  I befriended a little girl, maybe a first-grader like me, who I met in front of their apartment.  Both of us were new to the area and aware that we didn’t...

1943

My father folds himself into a Plexiglas bubble twenty thousand miles above the sea. In his pocket two photographs, one of my mother, one of me, talismans against the wump-wump of explosions, the rattle of shrapnel hitting his plane. He locks his thumbs on the...

Miserere

Miserere mei, have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving kindness. In your great compassion, in your great compassion, in your great compass, in your great...grandfather. Your great-grandfather came to bring us avocados yesterday. The day the avocados came he...

Warehouse

I could hear them calling my name from the truck bay. Orders were piling up, the customers, pissed. I often hid out in the loft to write poetry; other times to avoid work. This time was different: I had a rash all over my face and neck. Not just any rash, mind you. It...

Remember the Magic

1. Remember the crimson smoulder of my rage? When the crude tedium of life lacking lustre was too much—or too little—to bear. The echo of my fury knocked against the riverbank—This isn’t how it was supposed to be!...to be!...to be! Your warm mittened hand melted anger...

Being a Woman

You’re from Denver—you like the cold? You a skier? Oh, I’m sorry, I’m interrupting you. What are you writing there? Oh, you’re a writer. What are you writing about? I mean, what do you really want to discover? Oh, by the way, my name is: So Nancy—can I call you...

Heroes

When I was a child, I had a great-uncle, who I barely remember. The same is true of one of our dogs. I can say that the uncle’s name was Paul, and that the dog’s name was Rinty. The uncle was an alcoholic who no one liked to kiss. The dog was a German Shepherd who I...

LAND OF THE LION

My wife, daughter and I arrive in Singapore after midnight. Heat hits us as we walk out of the airport. We wait on a sidewalk and in a short time are met by a car and driver. We ride into the city in the dark. Before the sun rises, I go out to look for a convenience...

[[attitude]]

  I. I call my mother to ask again why she didn’t sign me up to learn sign language when I was born and the doctor said I had a fifty percent hearing loss in my right ear, or when I was seven and the doctor said, Did we say just the right ear? We meant both. Yes,...

Understand

The knee is an evolutionary masterpiece that permits near flawless ambulation, the seemingly simple, yet preposterously complex act of kneeling. Without knees, we would never have been able to crouch in stillness behind flowering bushes, hide from predators who could...

Square knot, surgeons knot, bind or bight?

Square knot, surgeons knot, bind or bight? We fought for you to go with your aunt to Europe. [Unspoken caveat: your high school grades must be perfect.] I know I’m failing Chemistry. They don’t. I am failing because I am in an advanced class that expects me to induce...

The Women

It’s my night at the women's homeless shelter. I mix shredded lettuce, apple slices and ranch dressing into a bowl the size of the moon. Chicken bakes inside the oven and potatoes wait to be buttered. The women have chosen their beds. An older native woman shakes her...

Expecting

I. When she was pregnant with our son, my wife, Rebecca, and I watched a lot of documentaries. About babies. Learned how far we’ve come, medically speaking. More so how far we haven’t. Unnecessary inductions, impatient doctors pressuring women into C-sections because...

Twisting Allys

Spencer doesn’t know it yet, but Ally is about to spring a fake pregnancy on him. She’ll tell him in the morning, in their bedroom with the door wide open. She’ll lie about her symptoms and the doctors appointment that never happened at the clinic down the road. After...

Words for Snow

Nobody tells the truth about childhood. Not even me, though I will try. As a child I recall writing a story about First Nations, about a caribou hunt and a girl who pretended to be a boy so that she could hunt. These days that would be considered cultural...

Stories We Tell

February in San Francisco is cold and windy and gloomy. When you drive across the Bay Bridge and your heater is turned on high, your window fogs up and all the lights around you turn into a ball of haze. When that happens, instead of trying to clear the view with the...

A Meditation on Bitterness

I am five and I go to a co-ed school. It is the summer after I’ve passed 1st standard, first in my class. I am seated in between two nuns who are about to start interviewing me, and my parents are made to sit across from us on a separate sofa. We are here seeking to...

There is Something I Need to Tell You

I do my best to avoid images of violence or death. When a slow-motion car crash is recreated on a tv show or a hockey replay presents a gruesome injury, I cover my eyes. If I’m with company I look at my phone, where violence has become unavoidable. I have seen the...

Tree Dreams of Becoming a Mast

Pieces of that day, together with phrases or words from a novel or a poem I remember, still snag within me, meshing, blending, trying to turn what we did in that last hour into something greater than it was. As if the work somehow made small legends of us in some way...

A Brief History of the Soft Drink

Behind the convenience store, beyond the dumpster, a path begins so narrow it explains how it has been walked only single-file by the brain-damaged who travel daily to the store from the state-sponsored school for the impaired. Those residents have etched a permanent...

Halcyon Digest

“Nothing is as good as you remember it being. We digest, compile, and collate our memories to be more agreeable to us. We leave out the bad parts.”—Bradford Cox 1. Earthquake Julien and I spent the summer huddled over my kitchen table emailing bookers, calculating...

Distancing

My husband lost his job at the airport, in this Colorado mountain town of 6,500, because the last flight he worked for United had a single passenger. All the stores and restaurants are closed, all nonessential businesses, so he applied for a job at the hospital as a...

Cannibals

Every hour we shed 30,000 skin cells. Some we’ll swallow back down, like an auto-cannibalism. Some won’t be ours, but they’ll settle in and stay. It’ll look like a place called home among the bronchi and the bronchioles, the ligaments and the tendons, the red and the...

Casino People

The Angle of the Winds and another killer appear on a highway going nowhere. And there, a fallen farmhouse as though the sky pushed down from above and the ground from below, timbers slowly snapping, swallows like souls bursting through the doors… I know these people,...

Signal Road

Here in the future a satellite floating silently in space is beaming music directly into my moving car. No matter where I am I'm one of the chosen, sanctified by signal shot straight from the heavens. Even late at night out on a lone strip of old cracked two-lane...

In the Process of Forgiving My Mother

“There was a taut blue quality in the January light, a hardness and confidence.” - White Noise, DeLillo I had just stepped out of the house and into the front yard after having had my mother throw vino at my feet, the jar shattering with a pop much like the requiem of...

Mugshot

That mug shot from DVI, the penitentiary the gladiator school for hardened young cons—just one eerie frame your hard-as-steel face eyes glaring no flinch no emotion just those angry eyes staring back at me like dull black stones—that mug shot from the place where you...

Everything Here Is Beautiful

“Everything here is beautiful. You are beautiful. The shower is beautiful. The coffee. How did you know I was awake? How was the beautiful coffee suddenly ready?” -from Leaving the Atocha Station, by Ben Lerner  After her father fell through his ceiling, Kashew...

This Boy Can Never Do Anything Right

This boy sends paper airplanes skyward, hoping to touch the moon. They’re fast-devoured by air, dirt, momentum carrying them to crumple. This boy says he’s sorry to people in Walmart before he’s had a chance to brush against them. This boy knocks everything down—full...

To Make A Mountain

She’s planted grass again, your mother. Now she’s lying out there, making angels in bright, green springiness. So you go out too since she’s laughing, since maybe this time she won’t narrow her eyes. It’s warm. Ground under your back, sun behind a cloud so you can...

Still Life with PTSD and Geese

A nurse shoves some papers onto my lap. “These give your permission —” The gurney is surrounded by doctors and nurses wearing pale blue scrubs and masks. I try to sit up. “If…cancer…lymph nodes…permission to remove…” The words brand my brain. The first time I...

Monarch

Let me tell you about loose women, girls on high, groupie runaways and the immaculate mother. In a city of old convents they walk silent in white dresses, the crowd parts, no one asks questions or takes photos but evil tourists like me write poetry. A park with orange...

Some Things Lost

My grandfather gave me a set of monogrammed handkerchiefs for Christmas—I didn’t know what to make of the present, but I loved it. I was six, seven, eight years old. One of those ages from when my memories themselves are clear but unanchored to time. I never used...

This Boy Can Never Do Anything Right

This boy sends paper airplanes skyward, hoping to touch the moon. They’re fast-devoured by air, dirt, momentum carrying them to crumple. This boy says he’s sorry to people in Walmart before he’s had a chance to brush against them. This boy knocks everything down—full...

Where Stories Come From

I am trying to think of a story. I do this in a sitting room off our kitchen where a Macbook is on my lap and moving boxes of various sizes lean against the wall. Through the window, I see what my wife calls a fond, a made up word from fake pond, one of those...

Eddie

I don’t remember how Eddie came to live with us. I know he came into our lives by way of three hundred dollars cash pressed between the yellowing pages of a women’s devotional that he gave to our mom. I know he was cousins with some of my friends from the Pentecostal...

Fifty- Five

There is a mountain you come upon that no one tells you about, sudden watershed, and once you crest it, the dead people you read about in the paper are no longer some people but your people, actors from your production, not your parents’, so the wakes and the funerals...

Beast File No. 22

The night lights up like lightning. Not a single cloud in the sky. Only fireworks: red, white, and blue as far as the eye can see. Pop. Fizzle. Sizzle. Boom. There are lights on the tombs. Graves in the middle of nowhere. An old cemetery still in use. The lights on...

Normal Objects

When my daughter and I came to visit you, the razor in the bathroom was just a razor to you. A reminder of last weekend when your son came home from college. Maybe you wished he’d put it away because it cluttered the sink. Maybe you were glad he’d left it out, like an...

Tornado Dreams

I’ve never been in a tornado. But the landscapes of my childhood dreams were ravaged by them. Brought on by the trauma in my waking hours, my tornado dreams were prolific, and proved to be, prophetic. The first, an EF-1, to spin its massive cone into my dreams, did so...

The Truth or Something Like It

I met Joe Nuxhall a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday. His hands were gnarled, and he spoke as though his mouth was half full of marbles, but he was sharp and funny as hell. I was only a few months younger than he was when he made his Major League debut....

Lithosphere

My phone screen reads: Magnitude 3.7. The shaking lasts only a few seconds. I’m an amateur seismologist as well as real estate expert, like any good Californian. Californians both old and new are preoccupied with the security of the ground and the space on that...

Round and Round We Go

Round One In the beginning, I knew my mom wouldn’t last forever because she longed to be reunited with her mother.  If there were a fair equilibrium, a true exchange, her mother would have wanted her to stay with me, not her.  She was dead.  I was...

The Need for Neighbors

When I was ten years old, my divorced father fantasized about fleeing the prying eyes of neighbors. He talked about the Amazon rain forest or a beach in Mexico, but the only place my mother let him take me and my brothers was the Uintah Mountains in Utah where our...

I Listen For A Sound

Long past the windmill turning night and the empty teeth of harrows I listen for a sound out beyond the fields and country roads almost adrift in late summer heat, a sound like sighing or the wind’s first stirring so central hushed and eyelash still no feather falling...

Of Bedheaded Boys and Lavender Shampoo

Shampoo. The word is vaguely obscene. Sham + poo :these hardly sound like substances that, combined, could render one clean. Sonically, shampoo does not present as a hygienic herbal solution bottled in a shower stall. Instead, its syllables tell of a darker substance...

The House

It is times like this—at night when I should be sleeping—that I miss England the most. The window in my third-floor bedroom that was always half-open, even on those freezing February nights. If the window was closed, I felt trapped—like I was in some sadistic snow...

Skin

I’ve recently begun to think of my skin, the largest of organs, as a container filled up with all kinds of interesting stuff. Malleable, simultaneously strong and fragile—a proper tear in a vulnerable place and the breath goes out of my body, escapes my container, in...

Countering Semantic Poison

“… nothing in the world … has as much power as a word.” Emily Dickinson Once upon turbid waters, the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland, Ohio, and moms—mine and many others—believed Lake Erie into which the river oozed during the 1950s was a source of polio....

Dear Montana

Dear Montana, It’s over.  I should have written this letter years ago, but things happen, and I’ve held on to that memory of your summer nights even as we’ve done nothing but grow apart.  Life gets hectic, right?  Oil changes, recycling, job interviews,...

Beast File No. 124

I’ve been thinking about loss lately. What usually comes to mind is my grandmother, who passed away one Christmas Eve almost thirty years ago. Whenever I think about her and her passing I feel happy. I never had the displeasure of seeing her on her deathbed, so my...

On the Run, Returning

A few months back, I caught your goateed grin while thumbing through the “People You May Know” list on Facebook, a reality decades distant from our fragile, long-haired skulls in that time when we knew each other best. I’d searched for you before, in those moments...

Rainbow

Let's say you're wandering along a tree-lined road in South Kensington, feeling the warm, afternoon sun on your face and thinking about your date with whats-his-name that evening. Say your mum calls and you say, 'what, what, I can't hear you?,' move away from the...

Phoenix’s Orangutan

She was putting together a poetry manuscript about putting together a manuscript. She needed a break from line breaks. She needed to know how one decided capitalization. Poetry had its own rules. She used to be someone who followed the rules and then she broke a rule...

Then You’re in Kansas

Your therapist says Myhusbandcheatsonmeandyoushouldtakealover, and it takes you a second to break down the words as you stare past her newly highlighted hair to the family portrait displayed on her desk. Her cheating husband looks smug, and her admission isn’t really...

Polly

My first GF and I ran away when we were 14. 8th grade, Unionville-Chadds Ford, PA, November 1993. We jogged in our Doc Martens and distressed HOT TOPIC flannels through the parking lot, over the football and track fields, and entered the woods. There were crackling...

Does It Have Eyes?

From a distance, they looked like rocks. Large, sea-beaten and sandy rocks.  A foggy day at Drake’s Beach. The sea was quiet and the world still. You could ride a bus to the lighthouse but the lines were long and we were only there for the day and who wants to...

This Is Me, Being Brave

There are things about my childhood that I’ve never told anyone.  Not even a therapist.  I’m not proud of this. When I was young, you did what you had to do in order to survive.  Mostly that meant staying silent, keeping your thoughts to yourself. ...

Review of Walker Pass

I grew up on the western side of Walker Pass, and I crossed it thousands of times throughout my childhood, from home, to the desert, and back again. Five days a week, every week, beginning when I was five and ending when I was 18. And after that, I crossed this pass...

Rambles with Nature

I am given to long peripatetic walks through outlying districts.  Past rust-encrusted fences and cement-block lots, along fetid, long-stilled waterways next to crumbling skeletons of once-thriving commerce abandoned bathtubs half-filled with dirt over a once-upon-a...

In a Mood

“Don’t go down there,” my grandmother says, as soon as we walk through the door.  “He’s in a mood.”  But we had driven for an hour, which, to a child, feels like a day.  And so I go barreling down the steps into the rec room my grandfather built to sit near him. When...

Sole Cleaning

With Clorox wet wipes, I cleanse Paris from the soles of my boots. I scrape off discarded gum and candy, dog waste from careless owners, urine from the homeless who are too ill or forsaken to seek shelter, or too obstinately insistent to remain under the deceptive...

Overdue Elegy

For Manon You wouldn’t know how often I think of you. We didn’t see each other during the last years of your life. Not because of differences or hard feelings: Our lives had simply forked like two roads and somewhere among us flowed a river. We wrote to each other...

Dwyer

Dwyer is tall and lean, with a mop of white hair, blue eyes, brown skin from a life outside, and hollow cheeks. He follows a vegan diet. He is near seventy, a retired carpenter who reads the Bible every day, the King James Version. Met by chance on the street, we...

Untitled

Strands of light blue twisted, crossed over, then sank into the expanse of knitted wool only to emerge at the next stitch and repeat the pattern again. They ran in parallel symmetry, converging up to the pompom at the top of the cap. Around the circumference of the...

Particularization of Sand and Masks

They bought the masks while on various vacations, my grandfather and his wife. The masks hung on the walls, an installation that started, I think, in my grandfather’s office and which had grown like cancer to spread throughout their sprawling, pretty pastel, Floridian...

Just Because

I want to tell you about my son because he is coming to visit, and I’m picking him up from the airport at 5:36 Saturday morning, because he’s taking the red-eye, because that flight is the cheapest and he doesn’t have a lot of money, because I no longer support him...

Donde Crece La Palma

My love for the island of Cuba must have begun in the early 60’s. My grandparents had just moved to Miami Beach.  I befriended a little girl, maybe a first-grader like me, who I met in front of their apartment.  Both of us were new to the area and aware that we didn’t...

1943

My father folds himself into a Plexiglas bubble twenty thousand miles above the sea. In his pocket two photographs, one of my mother, one of me, talismans against the wump-wump of explosions, the rattle of shrapnel hitting his plane. He locks his thumbs on the...

Miserere

Miserere mei, have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving kindness. In your great compassion, in your great compassion, in your great compass, in your great...grandfather. Your great-grandfather came to bring us avocados yesterday. The day the avocados came he...

Warehouse

I could hear them calling my name from the truck bay. Orders were piling up, the customers, pissed. I often hid out in the loft to write poetry; other times to avoid work. This time was different: I had a rash all over my face and neck. Not just any rash, mind you. It...

Remember the Magic

1. Remember the crimson smoulder of my rage? When the crude tedium of life lacking lustre was too much—or too little—to bear. The echo of my fury knocked against the riverbank—This isn’t how it was supposed to be!...to be!...to be! Your warm mittened hand melted anger...

Being a Woman

You’re from Denver—you like the cold? You a skier? Oh, I’m sorry, I’m interrupting you. What are you writing there? Oh, you’re a writer. What are you writing about? I mean, what do you really want to discover? Oh, by the way, my name is: So Nancy—can I call you...

Heroes

When I was a child, I had a great-uncle, who I barely remember. The same is true of one of our dogs. I can say that the uncle’s name was Paul, and that the dog’s name was Rinty. The uncle was an alcoholic who no one liked to kiss. The dog was a German Shepherd who I...

LAND OF THE LION

My wife, daughter and I arrive in Singapore after midnight. Heat hits us as we walk out of the airport. We wait on a sidewalk and in a short time are met by a car and driver. We ride into the city in the dark. Before the sun rises, I go out to look for a convenience...

[[attitude]]

  I. I call my mother to ask again why she didn’t sign me up to learn sign language when I was born and the doctor said I had a fifty percent hearing loss in my right ear, or when I was seven and the doctor said, Did we say just the right ear? We meant both. Yes,...

Understand

The knee is an evolutionary masterpiece that permits near flawless ambulation, the seemingly simple, yet preposterously complex act of kneeling. Without knees, we would never have been able to crouch in stillness behind flowering bushes, hide from predators who could...

Square knot, surgeons knot, bind or bight?

Square knot, surgeons knot, bind or bight? We fought for you to go with your aunt to Europe. [Unspoken caveat: your high school grades must be perfect.] I know I’m failing Chemistry. They don’t. I am failing because I am in an advanced class that expects me to induce...

3000 Year Old Trousers Found in Chinese Grave

So archeologists found the pants?   No bones about it. ~~~~ In his low-hanging crotch pants, her warrior could get her to do anything.  She’d neigh and nuzzle like a heavenly steed, bend and flex in shadow dance along their mud brick courtyard wall. He’d whisper “two...

The Women

It’s my night at the women's homeless shelter. I mix shredded lettuce, apple slices and ranch dressing into a bowl the size of the moon. Chicken bakes inside the oven and potatoes wait to be buttered. The women have chosen their beds. An older native woman shakes her...

Expecting

I. When she was pregnant with our son, my wife, Rebecca, and I watched a lot of documentaries. About babies. Learned how far we’ve come, medically speaking. More so how far we haven’t. Unnecessary inductions, impatient doctors pressuring women into C-sections because...

Twisting Allys

Spencer doesn’t know it yet, but Ally is about to spring a fake pregnancy on him. She’ll tell him in the morning, in their bedroom with the door wide open. She’ll lie about her symptoms and the doctors appointment that never happened at the clinic down the road. After...

Words for Snow

Nobody tells the truth about childhood. Not even me, though I will try. As a child I recall writing a story about First Nations, about a caribou hunt and a girl who pretended to be a boy so that she could hunt. These days that would be considered cultural...

Stories We Tell

February in San Francisco is cold and windy and gloomy. When you drive across the Bay Bridge and your heater is turned on high, your window fogs up and all the lights around you turn into a ball of haze. When that happens, instead of trying to clear the view with the...

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