On those nights when our parents fought, we crawled into their closet and closed the door. The muffled sensation of darted-words hammered at our backs as we dug through the remnants of our parents’ past lives. Yearbooks, and melted candles, track batons with sharpied time trials, baby blankets wrinkled with mildew. Love letters and class rings, old football stats. The sheet music for “Somewhere
“Don’t tell your father,” Mom would say, folding a lottery ticket and slipping it into her purse. Poor people’s tax, Dad scoffed every time he spotted the Washington State Lottery’s “Dept. of Imagination” logo. He never bought a ticket, but Mom stopped by the counter under the four-leaf-clover banner when it was just the two of us. Another of our little
Back when, I remember coming across this story all the time (most likely the same year I found The Smiths and quit the entire state of Mississippi [and all I knew there] and moved to Denver to work as a hospital orderly like my hero, Denis Johnson) in fiction anthologies, short story textbooks, etcetera, books bought for fifty cents or one dollar (at most) in cramped and musty bookstores (this was
Shiny things hung from the young man’s beltloops, most noticeably a silver tape measure, which he stretched between my doorways. I love these country homes, he said.
Walter laid the brick himself, I announced. Walter cared for the lawn all those years, too. Paid off the home just three months before he died. I said all of this to excuse the Christmas decorations bleached by the August sun, the
Every year about this time
I thumb through a Rolodex
of names—my names, all
the possible ones, everything
I’ve heard whispered or shouted
my way, in love or in panic,
in anger. There are nicknames,
like the one a kid gave me
in sixth grade: Birdlegs,
and really, yet today I’m shaped
like a ball of cookie dough
Daniel Berrigan tells a story about a conqueror who comes into our city. He is a huge, superhuman figure, and is preceded by rumors of invincibility. He has conquered everywhere and our city is next. We are afraid and there is nothing to be done except make peace with him; he is all prevailing. He comes closer and closer, and we begin to notice that he has no army; he is all alone. Yet we know that
Begin with a thing. Make it a sparrow. A sparrow clinging to the stem of an Easter Lily. Make the sparrow silent. We don’t want too many voices this early on. Let the lily speak for itself.
Now, enter. This is how things get going. You need a dog. This dog is red but the top of its head is blonde, bleached by the sun. The dog swims every day. Get that dog moving! Don’t forget about
Sometimes an urge takes hold of us and pulls us onto the dance floor
even though we only want to sip our drink and observe.
I don’t mean one of those sudden, fleeting urges
like peeing off the back of the boat
or kissing the girl you’ve been stammering before
under a porch light that is being pecked by moths,
but an urge that leads to a life no one saw coming;
like leaving your comfortable
On the day we flee town, we will want the neighborhood to know what happened. We will tell stories about our stepfather to the kind and not-so-kind men on our street, to the cops who size us up to see if we are underage, turning tricks, will turn a trick with them. We will run door-to-door and confess to the rumors circulating in town. We will bypass the churches, the mosque and synagogue, and the
The paratroopers fall and as they fall
They mow the lawn. –Wallace Stevens
Everyone was talking about a philosophy of life. It seemed important and the kind of thing that could stand one in good stead for years to come. Things were falling apart. The ex: money again. No news there. My best friend Flipper was freaking out on me again. Two kids in need of school clothes and new footwear. And I had
We all live poorly here. Use mail-in rebates at the hardwood store, get drunk at Sammy’s on Friday nights, and let our children run around in their underwear in our front yards. They wave flags, swords, and guns, practicing for the coming days when soldier is the only job that comes with benefits.
Late but not quite midnight. Marina Melba stands on the communal balcony of the flats. She pulls a cigarette with elegance from a packet. Lights it without looking, eyes fixed on the balustrade and foggy sky. 31st December is the date.
Tess on her way to meet friends stops by the elevator. Pops out to the balcony for a second,
The hotel key was ours. A rectangular piece of hard plastic with the words PLAY SLEEP REPEAT on the front. New York City. That humid summer day when it rained frogs and people shielded themselves with their umbrellas, only to be pelted anyway. Four concussions. One death. And us? We were snug in our suite. Plush pillows, silk sheets, turndown service. A mini bar we emptied. We filled that hotel
We’re together again, three old buds standing in a dark closet at our thirtieth high school reunion. We can hear the eighties music from the auditorium one floor below us. What are we doing? I’d let Larry tell you, but he’s worried he’s having a heart attack. And Justin, he thinks the police will barge in any second. He’s already preparing a legal defense.
We’re still best friends,
Her hair sometimes sailed on her. She was a point in the distance, as if the entire universe had poured from a convergence. She thought, It’s just as well.
Hardwick understood her, if he were also sometimes spartan in the extreme, bare pots stored in bare unpapered cabinets. Once again, he watched as she was absorbed, turned to vapor in some other sphere. Her hair, taken