Monday, May 28, 2012

#35: "My Mother in Tupper Lake" by Joan Potter

~This essay was originally published Stone Canoe (2009)

            My mother moved in with her father when she was fifteen years old.  She traveled alone to his home in the Adirondack village of Tupper Lake on a train from Detroit, where she’d been living with a couple who were strangers to her.
            She and her father shared an apartment over his store; he sold phonographs, musical instruments, and Singer sewing machines. A photograph I found among her papers after she died, a photograph I had never seen, shows her standing next to him on a patch of grass in front of a wooden building. Her glossy black hair is pulled back with a ribbon; she is wearing a loose, light-colored dress with a big floppy collar, dark tights, and high, laced-up boots. Her father, a stocky man with thick dark hair, is dressed in a three-piece suit, white shirt, and tie. His expression is serious but kindly,
I think of this young girl walking home from school one fall afternoon. She sees that her father’s store is closed and a green shade pulled down over the glass on the front door. She climbs the stairs to the apartment, clutching her books to her chest. The rooms are silent.
“Papa, I’m home,” she calls. Not a sound. Her father’s bedroom door is closed. She knocks gently but hears no response. She pounds harder, then rattles the knob. She realizes that the door is fastened from the inside with a metal hook. She runs into the kitchen and grabs a long spoon, then comes back and pushes at the hook until it gives way and the door flies open.
Her father’s body is sprawled on the floor. A torn piece of rope is tied around his neck; the rest dangles from the brass light fixture, its frayed end swaying back and forth in the breeze from an open window.
Fifty years had passed before she told this story to me and my two sisters. It was the first time the three of us had heard it. Even after she married my father, she told us, she couldn’t discuss it with him. “One day he said, ‘Did your father really take his own life?’ and I said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’”

Monday, May 21, 2012

#34: "Hindsight" by Allyson Armistead

~This story was previously published in Coal City Review (2010)

In November we’ll board bus 16Y at eight-thirty in the morning and wonder about the man in gray: who he is, why he’s angry, why his hand is hidden in a brown leather satchel.
He’ll be standing in the back, wearing a wool jacket to his knees: the feather of granite in a cemetery. We’ll notice his spectacles, how they’ll wrap around his ears and perspire on his nose, how his pants will be too short and tapered around his ankles. We’ll see the nape of his black business socks, a thread coming loose, and we’ll think of a string on a kite, in the park, in the wind.
We’ll wonder if he works for a department in the city: of energy, of transportation, of education. We’ll think he’s an intellectual. He’ll be holding four books, two red, one navy, one black—a Bible we’ll think, King James—and we’ll wonder if he’s a religious man. We’ll wonder about our own religion, about god. We’ll question everything, then lose that thought because it will not matter: the man in gray will only be a stranger, passing.
We’ll fold our arms and close our eyes and listen to the wheels driving on asphalt, the sound of acceleration and release. We’ll wish we were flying somewhere tropical, that we could escape the rain, our routine, our staplers and computer screens.
“Black man in the back; I see how the fuck it is,” the man in gray will say, into the silence of our bus. We won’t know why he’s shouting, why he’s sitting in the back; we never told him to. There will be so many seats in the front and we’ll count them with our eyes: four on the right, seven on the left, so many seats. Take one, we’ll say, take a seat.
“There’s one right there,” we’ll say. “By the window.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

#33: Two Poems by Sandra Marchetti

~This poem previously appeared in Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art (2010)

Le Parc des Suicides 

We both chased
the heron, the bridge,
a rafting concrete wave
hard and high.

My jaw dredged across
the watery flood blood—
green water and open
to receive me off

the bastion train track,
bust track—
a human’s perch,
a faction, a fraction—

to be untied,
and given to granite,
carved into a willing water.
A dressage of slipping rocks
braced for the fall.

against the sidewalls
of underwater
blood canyons,

our flexed stomachs carve cold
tidal eaves,
shredding skin,
making shifts of ice.

What’s young
comes lick-swift, dying
hard off the two-tiered bridge.
A loud, dark past
flinches the nuclear edges.

Water lilies and
still-motioning swings:
this is the heron’s


Monday, May 7, 2012

#32: "Use Your Head" by James Magruder

~This piece previously appeared in Bloom (2010)

            Tom Amelio, legs wedged into the chute of space under his bedroom desk, was trying to write his first condolence note. He was seventeen, too young to have devised a cluster of dignified, repeatable sentences with which to express sorrow.
July 14, 1978
            Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hills,
            I am so sorry
            It was shocking to hear
            He scribbled Hitler mustaches over the false starts. The sound of the pen on paper reassured him that work had begun. He flicked his old Tensor lamp on and off.  He wanted to finish a rough draft before his hands began sweating under its heat. He was working with notebook paper first, just as he did for English essays. To his left was a slim box of the special black-bordered paper that Funeral Customs the World Over had mentioned. He had had to go to three card stores in downtown Glen Ellyn to find it.
Jeff Hills had swerved off Wiesbrook Road and into a tree going ninety-five in the middle of the previous day. A group of girls from Glenbard East had parsed the shocking event at Zip’z, the make-your-own sundae franchise where Tom worked. The local paper had yet to cover the accident, but ninety-five miles an hour was their agreed-upon detail. Tom noticed too that the recollection of Jeff’s glossy, shoulder-length hair had brought them close to tears, as if death were especially senseless in the case of blond boys. The girls didn’t know that he had known Jeff too, and long before they did, back when Jeff sported a bowl cut and freckles. He offered them free soft-serve as a distraction from their grief and from his own confused feelings. Jeff Hills was the first person he knew who had died, and the box of stationery didn’t carry instructions for what to say, or how to say it.
Jeff and I were at Monroe Junior High together
You moved away in the summer of 1975
I still live on Kingston Street, where you used to live
“Used to live” was horrible. Tom set down his pen and carried his work through the dark house to the edge of the den. His parents’ faces glowed blue-yellow in the reflected light of The Streets of San Francisco.