Kepler made a decision. He looked up from the sidewalk and stepped directly on a crack. He was twenty-three years old and it was time to grow up. It felt good, a load off, until he got a call from the emergency room saying his mother had stepped on a slug on the back porch, fallen and broken her back. A banana slug, fat and yellow and flattened to the consistency of discarded gum. He wondered if it was poisonous—wasn’t that what bright colors signified in the wild? Danger, toxicity, fangs and stingers? Inside the house his mother was laid out on the couch, her glowing, flowered muumuu signifying something else, though he didn’t know what.
I spent seconds sharing the stage with him in my minor role, hours in the darkened wings watching him perform in the light. He came from Switzerland. He spoke at least three languages. He was a worldly college senior. I remember his curly hair, his long body, his loping stride, but not his name.
Dear Cousin ,
I miss you very much. My life now has purpose, but your absence continues to be so very hard to accept. I know things are just like the song says “you’ve got go to prison for your cousin / you’ve got to / you’ve got to / you’ve got to” but this truth does not delete my beating heart for you.
from a novel in progress
The Harris Suites crumbled slowly on the back strip of Virginia Beach. Alex paused and looked up at the bleached yellow paint of the façade. In each room, save one, the window blinds were drawn. Even in the bright sun of midday he could sense the darkness inside those rooms.
My Anger Tours the State Capitol
There were once a girl and a boy who lay on a hill of gravel kissing until their lips were raw. Kissing was the best thing that had ever happened to the boy and the girl, and so they rode their bicycles to the gravel pit every Sunday in pursuit of that sweet, singular pastime.
The Dahlberg Repercussions
The woman on the subway looked like my mother so I sat down next to her and said you look like my mother.
Home is Where the Heart Is
Strictly speaking, as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), it is not my job to manage the table décor, but I do it because I’m good at it. Each resident gets a rose they are welcome to pass on to their valentine-du-jour. Though that’s kind of a sick joke, when you think about it.
You have never known love until your introduction to structuralism. You have never laughed as loudly as you laugh at Freud. You study for your literary theory class like you chew delicious morsels of food. You read about Hegel’s dialectic and Marxist ideology. Your migraines return from remission and you start having to give yourself triptan injections, missing classes. You write a cultural criticism paper using Jakobson’s paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes. You study postcolonialism. You begin having seizures. Your psychiatrist tells you they are psychosomatic. He asks you what you’re studying that could be causing existential dread. He gives you a seizure preventative that is also a mood stabilizer and triples as a migraine preventative. The thrill of studying becomes a little less intense; the blackness of your depression becomes a little less dark. Your neurologist approves, and adds a beta-blocker to lower your blood pressure and prevent headaches. You get dizzy when you rise from sitting. You don’t have a primary care physician, only specialists. The doctor at the campus clinic prescribes you opiates for your migraine pain. Foucault’s archeological method leaps from the pages in bright neons; you see certain words in certain colors.
Your boyfriend’s sister is studying psychology. She says anyone in the room who doesn’t yawn when someone else yawns is a sociopath, so you fake your yawns when you notice others yawning. You sneak into the bedroom while she’s over and swallow
What It Said
I texted my mother the night before that I’d be at the house not too late and not too early. Cut from the dark sky bled a pastel pink that seeped up and over the mountain around 6am, which was better than before we set the clocks back.
There was a space station on the news that summer and some mention of the moons of Jupiter and the asteroid belt.
The Space Between: A Meditation
My brain works in spurts: There are two hemispheres and a space between. The space between is filled with synapses, junctions that jump from nerve impulse to an unknown landing space. The space between is the vulnerable sweet spot of juicy possibility. The space between is a chasm, and beautiful, but how we land is entirely up to us.
My Father, The Fish, and The Rocking Chairs
No one had time to send greeting cards to William, my father, flowers meant for men, maybe an assortment of succulents in a ceramic dish for his coffee table. In his room, the plastic pitcher of hospital water sits beside an empty Styrofoam cup. A paper-wrapped straw lies abandoned on the swing-around tray to hold orange Jell‑O snack packs, never served.