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Essays

Essays

Sarah Cedeño

November 29, 2018

On the Road’s Shoulder

I’m sorry for the table scraps I give the dog when you’re not looking, how I scrape the meat sludge from your sauce plate into the dog bowl, how she laps it up because she knows it is deserved, the last of her ten years on this earth. I’m sorry for dimming the ceiling light you’ve just blazed on, for preferring the lamps my mother gave me that I nestle in the corners. I’m sorry for having turned my back to you so many nights, for having blamed the oppressive heat and tied the curtains back when you’d rather them closed.  I’m sorry for having enjoyed all the breeze that came in through the windows while you snored into the hallway. I’m sorry, too, and I’ll say again and again, that I’m sorry for the glass of wine that turns into four and into five until I’ve sunken into someone who is not me. That I will make the “just jelly” sandwich for Sammy, who’s sweaty with afternoon sun and working toward hockey practice, instead of slathering peanut butter on one side. I’m sorry not all the meals I make contain a protein. And I’m sorry for the heels of my foot, scratchy against your calf at night. I’m sorry for so often saying yes to others that I have to say no to you. I’m sorry for forgiving myself for saying what I mean even though I’m not right, for dragging what you mean out of you like the entrails of a buck on the road’s shoulder.


Sarah Cedeño’s work is forthcoming or has appeared in The Journal2 BridgesThe PinchThe Baltimore Review, New World WritingThe Rumpus, Hippocampus Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Sarah holds an MFA from Goddard College in Vermont. She lives in Brockport, NY, with her husband and two sons, and she teaches writing at the College at Brockport.

Essays

Caitlin McGill

November 29, 2018

Morning Glory

Emerald vines strangle my Boston porch and crawl up the deck where I stand, alone, clinging to wood. At the neck of the tendrils: a single morning glory, a blushing base. And where the flower widens, opening like an unfurling fist: a rich, deep purple—a glazed, twilight sky. Early morning, no other humans in sight. No other eyes studying my tapering limbs, my protruding collarbone, the water pills hiding inside my pocket.

My phone rings—Mom again. The sun sears my legs, intensifying with the nearing birds’ caws. I clutch the rail tighter. My hands shake. I ignore her call.

A text message: Just checking on my girl.

Is she studying photos of me again and remembering her own thin limbs? Examining my shrinking, twenty-four-year-old body and wishing I would open up? I still have not told her of the holes in my ex-boyfriend’s walls. His bloody knuckles. The hazy memory of his hands around my neck, mine around his wrists. My dented fenders, our cocaine. The way my body began to vanish after I left him last year.

I consider calling her back and then don’t. My stomach grumbles.

I peer down at my violet glories and wonder if they’ve opened more since I’ve been standing here, wonder when they will begin to shrink. By tonight—when I’m hiding in bed and opening another book—they’ll disappear. They’ll close and wilt and split from their stems, exhale petals onto dirt.

Tomorrow, new blooms will replace the old, and though I know this I still watch the eggplant petals all morning and think, Maybe today will be different, maybe they won’t disappear, maybe, maybe, maybe, we’ll change our ways.


Caitlin McGill’s work has been supported by the Bread Loaf Writers’ conference, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, The Chattahoochee Review, Consequence, Iron Horse Literary Review, Vox, War, Literature, & the Arts, and several other magazines. She is a 2016 St. Botolph Emerging Artist Award winner and the 2014 winner of Crab Orchard Review’s Rafael Torch Nonfiction Literary Award. She recently completed a memoir about intergenerational trauma, inherited survival mechanisms, immigration, race, class, addiction, mental illness, war, and the cost of ignoring our histories. One essay from her book was named a Notable in The Best American Essays 2016.

 

 

Essays

Priscilla Long

November 29, 2018

Why Read?

Photo Credit: Jerry Jaz

Because we are all on an Odyssey.

Because reading a book while waiting for a bus causes the bus to arrive sooner.

Because books open doors to worlds.

Because holding a well-designed book, feeling its weight, turning its pages is one of the good things in life.

Because, says my friend, my father was so mean that I needed another reality to live in.

Because reading leads to the library, and the library, with its books, reading tables, and kindly librarians, is a great socialist institution.

Because if you love sentences, you want to read them.

Because a long novel is a long vacation.

Because in reading a book you join the community of all the people who have read that book.

Because a house full of books is a cozy home.

Because poetry is music, and we need music.

Because Jean Rhys wrote stories, because Walter Mosley wrote novels, because Virginia Woolf wrote novels, because James Baldwin wrote essays, because Shakespeare wrote plays, because C. D. Wright wrote poems. . . . Continue Reading

Essays

Natalie King  

November 29, 2018

 

My First Acting Class

“Hi, my name is Natalie King. I am interested in taking some acting classes.”

I was looking in the mirror, rehearsing what I was going to say when the acting teacher answered the phone. I am a mirror-gazing veteran. That’s where I talk to myself and live out all my fantasized situations, where I say just the right thing, at the just the right time. It’s where I leave people in awe of my intelligence, my uncanny ability to be charming and disarming. I picked up the phone and dialed the number for the Actors Studio in San Francisco.

I have anxiety—the kind that makes it hard for me to order coffee in a coffee shop. The kind that makes me hyper-aware of my body, and how I’m standing or walking. I avoid situations where I have to introduce myself to more than one person. I am lonely, because I don’t know how to have relationships. I am so scared to push people away. I am scared to mess up.

I rented an apartment in San Francisco, away from everyone I know, just so that I could stumble, fall, get up. I am going to give myself a year to learn how to be fully human. I figure that actors get on stage and do everything that scares me right into a catatonic state. If I can learn to be an actor, I will learn to live. I want to be a person who laughs spontaneously, whose hands don’t start dripping sweat at the thought of being watched, seen, heard. I want to be free to be outside my fantastical life in the mirror.

“Hi, this is Shelley Mitchell,” came the soft, clear voice.

“Hi, my name is Natalie King. I’m calling about acting classes.” Continue Reading

Essays

Chip Livingston

September 18, 2018

I Remember Joe Brainard’s Cock Pics

I remember the first time I saw Joe Brainard’s cock pics. His lover Kenward kept a box and I was Kenward’s curious assistant. The cock was lovely, the photos keepers, the sentiment a reminder things don’t change much. I’ve traded such with loves and lovers and strangers. We seek revelations, and seeing Joe’s cock was such a revelation, a more intimate look into his erotic art, or at least his erotic life, a look at his life with Kenward through printed black and white pics, snapshots kept in a box on a shelf not shared with strangers—though they’re likely public now, sent and stored with Kenward’s papers at the University of California, San Diego Library, so much for cocksure anonymity in any age, at any age, dead or alive, and no secrets kept in a world penned, painted, and photographed by New York School poets who kept and keep sharing each other’s art and private lives for others to look at and into through language and visuals.

Not much is hidden of Joe—tan crisp, cock long and thick, balls heavy—in these pics, although he sports a skin-tight, tie-dyed tank top. It’s the cool kind of strange to realize these are all 1960s originals, down to the tie-dye, photographed in Kenward’s Vermont bedroom. Joe’s arms are crossed in front of and behind him. Kenward’s not the best photographer and crops off the top of Joe’s forehead, keeping his focus below the thick eyebrows, on his young god’s goods. Joe’s look is put-on bored and curious, a soft pout proud and pensive, strangely both pornographic and poetic. Kenward’s shots are amateur, without so much consideration as to clean up the background. In one picture there is laundry on the rocking chair. Another pic Joe’s sitting on the rocking chair, his underwear thrown on Kenward’s bedroom floor, next to the coiled rug, where never very much has been swept under.

Of course I looked at Joe’s cock—it was Joe Brainard’s cock!—but I kept seeing the whitest thing in the black and white photograph. I kept looking at the briefs crumbled on the floor, knowing with the strange sensation that I’d seen the same white shape before, although myself no stranger to underwear quickly tossed disrobing for a lover or to send a potential lover a hasty unconsidered composition. I carried the picture along Kenward’s storied stairwell, among Joe’s art, looking for the image I knew I’d seen before, framed among Kenward’s collection walls.

I found it: Joe’s lightly penciled pair of crumbled paper briefs. I kept comparing the pic with the white collage, confirming a photo-to-art match. I admit to admiring Kenward’s collection of Joe’s cock pics, kept undisclosed for more than fifty years, stored now I suppose with so much boxed material sent to UCSD. It’s strange to consider what you can find when you know where to look.


Chip Livingston is the author of the novel Owls Don’t Have to Mean Death; a collection of essays and short stories, Naming Ceremony; and two poetry collections, Crow-Blue, Crow-Black and Museum of False Starts. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Mississippi Review, Cincinnati Review, Court Green, The Journal, and on the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Academy websites. Chip teaches in the low-residency MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He lives in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Joe Brainard’s art work used by permission of the Estate of Joe Brainard and courtesy of Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York.

 

 

Essays

Mary Livoni

September 18, 2018

Short Fables Made with Industrial Noir

For several years, I daydreamed my way around an industrial neighborhood and a few scrap yards that were located around and in between my apartment and painting studio in Chicago.

Water Tower and Crescent

Dusk and dawn—when the light defining the buildings, the water towers, the bridges, and the vast scrap yards was most beautiful and the most mysterious, when the streets were still—those were the hours that inspired me and helped me define the look and feel of my drawings.

Inspiration from poetry and literature sustained me then, as it still does.

My most current body of work features collages, video broadsides, and photography. You’ll find it here https://www.marylivoni.com/ as well as  https://www.estheticlens.com/author/mary_livoni/

 

Sentinel

 

Gotham Sphinx

 

The Life You Save May Be Your Own

Mystery and Melancholy on the Streets of Chicago

 

 

Essays

Liz Rose

September 18, 2018

While He Was Stopped by Soldiers

The first hour of the drive to Eilat, the resort town in Israel three hours south of Jerusalem was, in a way that I remember now, like a road trip movie: my feet propped up on the dashboard, my tanned toes sticking out the window as Khalil drove. The wind blew our hair back. We had Diet Coke and potato chips. A week before, when Khalil asked me to drive to Eilat with him, I wondered if we’d hook up. Going to stay in a hotel could only mean one thing. But I didn’t ask.  I said yes, and packed one pink dress, a red skirt, one pair of brown sandals, and my teal bathing suit. I was young and confident. I had recently mastered the mass transit bus system in Jerusalem. I could get anywhere anytime and never had to ask anyone for directions. If, on the rare occasion I didn’t know, I’d use my Hebrew to ask. When strangers on the street asked me for directions, they asked me in Hebrew—a sure sign that I was looking less American and more Israeli.  I was twenty-one, living abroad in Jerusalem as a graduate student, and I sported an attitude of bravado about things I knew nothing about.

Khalil was twenty-one, too, and we had met at a cafe near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem months before we drove to Eilat. The cafe served mostly tourists, but Khalil and I had been in Jerusalem almost a year already, and we began talking by scoffing at those we could tell were visiting for just a week or so. We sat at white plastic tables on red round plastic chairs. The smells of zaatar and sumac wafted around us as we spoke. The first thing I noticed about him was his necklace, a gold state of Palestine. It was the first time I saw what I was taught was the map of Israel, with city names in Arabic. I looked at his necklace against his brown skin, and then clutched my own necklace, a modern gold chai, the Hebrew word for “life,” and the lucky number eighteen, too, the legs bowed at the top and then narrowed. Khalil is a Palestinian-American, the youngest and only child of seven to be born in the U.S. All the others were born in Palestine. After growing up in the United States and graduating college, he had come to Palestine to live in Ramallah with an older brother for a year. For Khalil, hanging out in Jerusalem came to be a Westernized respite from living with his family under occupation in Ramallah. For me, going to cafes and bars in Jerusalem were small breaks from my evening graduate seminars at Hebrew University. At first, we ran into each other at the cafe a few times. After several weeks, we started to hang out more. A month later, he asked me to drive to Eilat for the weekend. I didn’t bother to ask if we’d have separate hotel rooms. We’d just figure it out.

Once we had been on the road for a while, I noticed a siren behind us. I figured—in my naivete—that Khalil must have been speeding. He wasn’t. We were pulled over by a car full of Israeli soldiers. They told Khalil to step out, forcing him to place his arms over his head and pushing him against the car. Using his knee, one of the soldiers spread Khalil’s legs wide. The soldiers were handsome. One winked at me and flirted, while he looked through my US passport as the others accosted Khalil. I smiled and clutched my chai. Khalil’s passport was American, too, but that didn’t help him as they searched his body. From inside the car, I watched them lift Khalil’s shirt and look down his pants. While he was being frisked, I sat in the car wondering if we would have sex that weekend. Continue Reading