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Essays

Essays

Joanne Barker

May 24, 2017

Things I Didn’t Know

I didn’t know so many people disappear in Alaska.

I didn’t know the state is large enough to swallow most of the Midwest and part of the South.

I didn’t know how many men live alone in the woods there or that isolation could settle into a person so deep that conversation could become a form of torture.

Or that by the time my friend and I flew to Anchorage, hitchhiked over Thompson Pass, and took a ferry to Cordova, the rejections I carried with me would feel small and remote.

I didn’t know the rain would come in torrents, in drizzles, in sideways. That even though we built a platform several feet off the ground and stretched a tarp over our tent, my socks, pants, and underwear would remain damp all summer. Continue Reading

Essays

Jason Reblando

April 25, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

  


Jason Reblando received his MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, and a BA in Sociology from Boston College. He is a former Fulbright scholar and Artist Fellow. His work has been exhibited at the DePaul Art Museum, the Oriental Institute, the Richard J. Daley Center and elsewhere. Publications and interviews include the New York Times, the Los Angeles TimesF-Stop Magazine, the University of Chicago Magazine, and Chicago magazine. His photography can also be seen in the The New Deal Utopias coming October 2017.

Essays

Eileen Favorite

April 25, 2017

Laundry Chute

I can’t sleep. The el rumbles across the street, and the neighbor’s porch light burns all night. Did they forget to turn it off, or are they like me, leaving it on in case

somebody comes knocking? That makes me think of the Grim Reaper, who hasn’t
come knocking yet. My dad’s still here, and a few hours later I visit him in the hospital,

where he’s getting a blood transfusion, which gives him a jolt and his spirits are lively. He’s telling me about buying the blueprints for our split-level house outta a magazine

back in ’61. Only cost fifteen bucks! He borrowed five grand from a lawyer client to buy the lot. Talk about a shoestring. Then his moment of genius, standing on the second floor,

the rooms framed out, the closets too, but no walls yet, no plaster. He looked through the opening and saw straight from the second floor down to the basement and thought,

laundry chute! He got a sheet metal guy from Dolton to hammer out the lining and built an opening high enough that a toddler couldn’t climb into it. When my cousins came over

we’d throw pool balls down the chute. It made a racket so bombastic, the grown-ups shouted for mercy. All my life clothes fell down that chute, into a closet that was never

empty, bursting with sheets and school blouses, baseball uniforms, damp towels, tube socks and toe socks, pedal pushers and pantyhose. The mountain never went down, just

spilled out of the closet, onto the basement floor. At ten I started to fish out my
blouses and socks and throw on a load all my own. I was in a fastidious stage, ironing

pleats in my plaid uniform skirt, my blue jeans, and the arms of my white school blouses.
That’s a phase from my childhood my father never knew about, and now’s not

the time to talk about a young girl’s grave chores. I’m here for his stories, but then
my cell rings, time to pick up the baby. My dad starts to cry, his thin face

waxy and pale. He says, you’ve heard these stories a million times, and I say no,
I never heard the one about the laundry chute. He says, yes, it was incredible. I looked

right down there and saw it! Something to make your mother’s life easier.

Another Moon Poem

I waited all winter for the windows to arrive,
xxxxxxfor the trees to leaf,
xxxxxxxxxxxxfor my father to die,

 

and now it’s May and they’re in
xxxxxxxand they have
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxand he has.

 

I take Lulu upstairs to show
xxxxxxxxher the full moon, bolder
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthan we’ve ever seen, framed

 

by the new picture window,
xxxxxxtangled in the locust tree.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxEven when it ducks behind a cloud,

 

the light’s a wonder, but Lulu
xxxxxxxleans her head into my shoulder,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxand says, I’m too tired for the moon.

 

OK, I think, but someday
xxxxxxyou’ll see. The moon is your
xxxxxxxxxxxxlong-lost birth mother,

 

who gave you up
xxxxxxxfor your own good.
xxxxxxxxxxBut who’s been watching all along.

 

She’s here for me tonight.
xxxxxxIt’s her solitary roving I crave, linked
xxxxxxxxxxxx to the sea, the stars

 

the whole messy
xxxxxxxuniverse, but
xxxxxxxxxxxfrom a cool, perfect distance.

 


Eileen Favorite’s first novel The Heroines(Scribner, 2008) was named a Best Debut by The Rocky Mountain News. She’s twice received Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowships. Her work has appeared in Triquarterly, Folio, The Toast, The Rumpus, Chicago Reader, Poetry East, Diagram,and others. She’s been nominated for Pushcart Prize for fiction and nonfiction. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

 

 

Essays

Hilary Collins

April 17, 2017

Psychic

I go to see the psychic for many reasons: first, because I’ve been lying about going to see psychics and mediums in my essays for a while. Second, because I’m genuinely curious. Third, because I want to write about it.

I find my psychic on Yelp. Reading several reviews, I find myself drawn to this one in particular. I pick up the phone on a Thursday morning and call. I leave a voicemail. She calls me back and we make an appointment for that evening.

She is a middle-aged woman with clear olive skin and beautiful green eyes. She mentions she is a grandmother, has a brisk and down-to-earth presence, speaks in an attractive cigarette-and-whiskey voice. She compliments my handbag as I sit down.

The place is a small room, dark despite a row of windows facing the street. There are glass cases containing crystals and candles in all shapes and colors. There is a large mural on the wall, a many-colored woman or goddess sitting cross-legged, rainbow dots running from her pelvis to the crown of her head. There is a cabinet in the corner full of books. We sit on either side of a small curved table, which holds a crystal ball, a pack of well-worn tarot cards, several small clear crystals, and a couple small white candles.

I wasn’t specific about the services I wanted, and she doesn’t really ask. She hands me the pack of tarot cards and asks me to shuffle them while channeling my energy and my questions into them. She asks me to be sure of what I want to ask before I hand them back. I hand them back after a minute and she asks me to shuffle again, and this time really concentrate. I do it again. When I hand them back the second time, she explains she did not get enough of my energy the first time. When she deals the cards, she lays ten in a cross pattern on the table. The card in the center of the cross is Death.

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Essays

Tyrell Collins

March 16, 2017

If You Weathered My Storm

August 29th, 2005

There was no storm where I was. Lithonia, Georgia, an oasis of tall evergreen and fruit trees. Home to the gray squirrels, mallards, foxes, and wild turkeys. A good five hundred miles from New Orleans, Louisiana. The day was supposed to be a happy one. Clear skies and an orange yellowed rayed sun. A day at Six Flags amusement park with Batman and Superman roller coaster rides, pictures with Bugs Bunny and Daffy the Duck, and sticky cotton candy that melted on the tip of my tongue. Sadly, only half of this day was a happy one. Holding my vendor sized hot dog, my mother became frantic, pressing the phone against her ear. She called me over and told me my uncle from New Orleans called just for me. I could hear the shakiness in his voice. He told me he loved me, and hopefully, he would see me soon. I was confused. Mom didn’t say anything about him coming to visit. She didn’t like people, even her own brother, just showing up spur of the moment. And what did he mean by hopefully? Mom gave me another few dollars and told me to get her a coke from the vending machine by the public restroom. But before I scurried off I heard her as she became secretive again, pressing the phone against her ear, “We won’t be in contact for days,” she said, “When you can, call me and tell me where you are?” What did she mean? He was in New Orleans. I thought the blazing heat of the sun must have gotten to her. But enough questioning. I needed to get back to my fun. It was my twelfth birthday.

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Essays

Margaret McMullan

March 15, 2017

 

Portrait of Writers as Young Women

For my friend and fellow writer, Julia Gregg, on the occasion of a speaking series 
to celebrate the life of her son, J. Zach Gregg (1983-2016) 

 

We are alike, you and I.

I start out happy because I am born in the South. I run, climb trees, roller skate. I have a cat named Cat, and, even though it’s the sixties in Jackson, MS, I am so dreamy I never consider if I’m black or white; boy or a girl; rich or poor. I exist to smell magnolias and eat boiled shrimp and peanuts.

But then (wait for it) my family moves. North.

In the North, I am surrounded by pale children with strange, nasally accents who say that I am a freak because I have a weird accent. Can they even hear themselves? At recess boys flip my skirt up and say “Shorts?” and then run around screaming that I am not wearing shorts under my skirt. Who wears shorts under skirts? I ask, hiding shame. What kind of freak are you? they answer. I begin to wear shorts under my skirts. I try to sound like them, but then, when I realize I have nothing to say, I just stop talking. I become A Quiet Person. Me! A quiet person!

This is what the North does to us.

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Essays

Lee Bey

March 15, 2017

Life in the Big City

I’m an architectural photographer. But occasion I like to roam the streets and photograph the people of this great city.  You never know what you’ll find: an acrobatic shirtless tattooed skateboarder in Grant Park or a sidewalk produce vendor on Pilsen’s 18th Street. You might find three strangers striking up a warm conversation on a frigid day downtown, or maybe—just maybe—a young Esperanza Spalding, a few years before Grammys and fame, singing her heart before a modest audience at the Chicago Jazz Fest.

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Lee Bey is a respected expert, writer, and photographer of the built environment. He also consults and lectures on urban design, community development, and architectural preservation issues.