Dropped out together. Professor said: sure? Professor said: beware. Professor said: jealous. Bought a van. Okay, mini-van. Gutted the bowels. Velcro daisy curtains. Fuck off Nebraska. Trajectory=find life. Be a writer. Be in love. Go west: Colorado. Go west: Utah. Go west: Nevada.

Broke by Callie. San Jose–shivering. Sold the Dylan. Sold the Beatles. Sold clear plasma. Topless bars…again. Different rules: Callie. Traded: LSD=mechanic.

(Wait—wrong boyfriend…)

Callie to Texas. New Orleans dreams. Show yer tits. Broke by Alabama. Sold the Nirvana. Sold the hardbacks. Kenny Rogers Roasters. Plasma + beans=barely. Looking for America. Kodak commercial dreams. Electric Kool-Aid dreams. Delivering phone books. Racing endless highways. Lonely, together. Kurt Cobain dies. On lunch break. Telemarketing in Dallas. Quit: Day #1. Velcro won’t stick. Cat runs away. Cat comes back. Topless bars: Texas. Different rules…again. If they knew. Living in van. Parking lots: Walmart. Parking lots: casino. Parking lots: Marriot. Free breakfast buffet. Shoplift lunch meat. Shoplift American cheese.

Different boyfriend now. Different van, too. Renaissance Faire gypsies. Living in buses. Living in tents. Tripping in woods. Writing bad poetry. Boyfriend drove away. With the van. With the cat. Snorted some cocaine; off Jim Morrison’s face. First time: Arrested. Probation. Piss tests. Lonely, lonely, lonely. You called once. On Christmas Day. Didn’t say it. I didn’t, either.

New boyfriend; girlfriend. Flowers on bed. Called me orchid. Called me daisy. Swirled like orbits. Fuck Babylon. Pewter in Texas. Toys in Georgia. Flowers in Maryland. Leather in Minnesota. Jewelry in Colorado. Deluxe van, now. Tricked out interior. Boyfriend is husband. Naked moon bonfire. Shaved long hair. Cold, November humidity. Soft virgin scalp. Head against pillow. Van dies: finale. We abandon it. A ruined landscape. A gravestone carcass. A final farewell. I am pregnant. Call her Van. It’s time, he said. Hitch ride home. Back, back, back. Back to Babylon. Back to before. But you can’t really return. You can never really return.


  1. Nancy Stohlman

    This was challenging and out of my comfort zone! Not sure if I love it yet but I wanted to post by noon…thanks for the challenge!

  2. Constance Malloy

    Nancy, good for you for going outside of your comfort zone. I was all in. I feel like I went on this journey with you, and have a good sense of what this decade was about. I like the way you changed up your sentences by using different punctuations, and putting the two 5 word sentences at the end was a deft touch. All that play with the rhythm keeps the piece feeling fresh.

  3. sara lippmann

    Oh wow, Nancy, you NAILED this. From the title to the last line (and i love how you “broke 3 word rule” at the end) this is stunning and honest and feverishly paced. I am a huge fan of equations, how you get the grit and scraping by (plasma + beans = barely)

    the parenthetical (wait — wrong boyfriend) kills me.

    I’ve read this three times and could keep re-reading. Each time it offers something new. The voice is so clear, spirited and alive. The repetition through album history alone, how that evolves.

    Countless lines: Shoplift lunch meat is brilliant. (is there anything more american?!)

    Toys in Georgia.

    I’m excited for you to publish this one, so

    I love the sudden, single drop to direct address: “you called once” both devastating and tender, a different vocal note.

    “New boyfriend; girlfriend” is a novel right there.

    The breadth of this, a whole life: the unvarnished truth — you can never get back.

    YES. Thank you for this.

  4. April Bradley

    Nancy, there’s so much to love here. The voice. I hear it so clearly—the yearning. That “Lonely, lonely, lonely.” is wonderfully effective. It does so much in terms of pacing, characterization, and tone. Thank you for sharing it. It’s so exciting to be in a workshop *with* you.

  5. Todd Clay Stuart

    Nancy, I loved this entire odyssey. I was there in the van with your character. Both vans. Called her Orchid. Called her Daisy. Skipped the Renaissance Faires though. haha Really nice work, Nancy!

  6. Al Kratz

    I love this so much and am so glad this got you to try something out of a comfort zone if that’s what happened here. Holy shit. This is such a good testimony to power of these exercises. There’s so much you can do with this now. I’d be in for it all!

  7. Laurie Marshall

    Your comment about comfort zone resonates with me and the reading today about being afraid to start things when we are feeling unsure of our voice. But in the end, our gut usually gets it right, don’t you think?

    I love the small bites of language. Like a bullet-pointed list, almost, and if you keep working on this I think it could even be an interesting piece to play with as a list of some kind if you’re interested in hermit crab exercises. But that’s not to say it doesn’t work as is – just a way to play around. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing!

  8. Suzanne van de Velde

    Nancy, this was a great ride. I could feel the beat of the wheels against my shoulder blades, the times you thought, shit, this again. The exhaustion of grifting, just surviving. Thank you!

  9. Trent

    Nancy –
    quite a whirlwind of three style free style!
    Packed with sensory sparks.
    Something new with every read of it.

  10. Meg Tuite

    LOVE! This moved like a decade of album covers and music! SO LOVE THIS! Exceptional! xoxo

  11. Patricia Bidar

    Now that was a long strange trip. Breakneck and studded by places, albums, jobs, happenings. I think it’s a great move having the last van die and the new life inside as closer. So complete.

    Begins: Professor said: jealous. Bought a van. Okay, mini-van. Gutted the bowels. Velcro daisy curtains.

    Turns (this part seems elegiac) : Naked moon bonfire. Shaved long hair. Cold, November humidity. Soft virgin scalp. Head against pillow.

    Then: Hitch ride home. Back, back, back. Back to Babylon. Back to before.

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