Category

Interviews

Works

Anonymous

Jana Prikryl

Anonymous

Her hair is parted in the center and this side
wall of the house ends just above her part.
The seam between the house and not-house
seems to rise out of the part in her hair.
Dandelions on the lawn are playing
sundials, their globes give out the time
of year. She’s not smiling so much
as grimacing against the pull of the brush
and squinting against the sun. Nowhere are
her feet more than tacit. She is the tallest one.

Anonymous

The whitecaps blink like second thoughts
or action captured through a fledgling medium,
made sweet and anterior, already posthumous,
trinkets. A building of pale stone stretching out behind.
Stately, in other words.
Modillions between windows even at ground level and awnings pulled in.
Shadows short as a breath caught short,
midday.
To the right of these two, a third girl is centered in the center of the picture.
She seems to sway, making a window between her waist and that of the tallest girl.
We see through this window to a window behind.
But she leans toward the tall girl, cocks her head, and looks at you.
It’s the look of a friend who knows you well.

Anonymous

Above these three pairs of dark patent boots
on the highest of three steps, where three
of the six toes jut out past the nosing
making three little cups of shadow
hanging from the top of the riser,
each little cup falling over to the right
at exactly the same angle, three columns
of girls in long coats rise
between two dark pillars on a porch, three bright
numbers running down the right-hand pillar:
1
7
6.
All three wear hats,
each hat forms a porch
around each face, each face
smiles from its porches into the aperture.

Anonymous

Just in front of the porch steps, on a flat stone
that appears partially tucked under the porch,
a ficus in a clay planter. It produces
strange sounds. The silence that comes dressed
in not the past but conditional tense
may be quietest, it’s endured the most.

Anonymous

Their dated shoes are hidden in a cloud of grasses
of the kind she’s holding in her hand.
The sound of a strand of wild grass ripping
has something human about it, you feel
the earth’s scalp object, and that’s where you assert
your difference from the earth, an unexpected
homonym, in your own perception
quickly forgotten of how a patch of soil
resists you and then ceases to resist
and then the grass is yours. This
great piece of turf, this photo-realism.
He looks into the device
with a face almost expressionless,
a subject very knowing. She smiles.
I’ll be honest with you, it’s difficult
to like the men in these photographs.
My contempt might be capable
of reanimating them, the men alone, so deep
does power lodge in them, no
that can’t be right
when it’s the soil
and they the famished little roots.

Continue reading
Interviews, New Interviews, Uncategorized

Tom Whalen

Tom Whalen

Interviewed by Mitchell Galloway


Walser’s short fictions are often difficult to classify. You submitted “Rain” as a poetry translation, but we decided to accept it as fiction. What about this piece lends itself to be more a piece of poetry than prose?

“Rain” is prose, yes, but perhaps it’s more poem than story, more essay than fiction? I like how Walser’s work often makes classification irrelevant. I submitted it to Ange Mlinko, Subtropics’ poetry editor, because I know she’s not averse to the short prose piece or prose poem. I was very pleased that she and David Leavitt and the staff appreciated it.

Many of the short pieces you have translated originally appeared in the feuilleton section of newspapers. How did Walser’s work compare to other feuilleton pieces of the time (circa 1918)? What was the typical reader expecting? In these pieces did Walser parody the conventions of the feuilleton in any way?

Walser’s short prose pieces published in newspapers were different enough for Kafka to flip to the feuilleton section in search of them and for Eduard Korrodi, the feuilleton editor of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, to write that when he published a Walser piece (specifically those in the 1920s when parody would play a larger role in Walser’s prose), he “would receive letters from disgruntled readers threatening to cancel their subscriptions if the nonsense didn’t stop.” But for the most part, I’d say it’s not so much parody as it is his turning the conventional subject matter of the feuilleton to his own idiosyncratic ends, as can be seen in “Rain.”

Michael Hofmann writes in his introduction to Metamorphosis and Other Stories that Kafka “offers very little to the translator; there is no ‘voice’, no diction, no ‘style’.” Perhaps in contrast, what does Walser offer to the translator?

The “glacial purity” of Kafka’s prose, Christopher Middleton noted in “The Picture of Nobody: Some Remarks on Robert Walser” (1958), isn’t found in Walser, who was “anything but glacial.” Tracking and “miming” the shifting registers of Walser’s voice is one of the many difficulties and delights, if captured, in translating him.

In “Eine Art Erzählung” Walser writes, “If I am well disposed, that’s to say, feeling good, I tailor, cobble, weld, plane, knock, hammer, or nail together lines.” Besides writing in microscript later in life, do you know anything about his composition or revision process?

Caught in the swirl of Walser’s prose, it’s easy to think of him only as a free-wheeling master of improvisation. “I sit down somewhat reluctantly at my desk to play my piano, that is to say, to begin to discourse on the potato famine which long ago …” (“A Village Tale,” tr. Christopher Middleton, Selected Stories). But I think the narrator of “The Walk” offers us a more accurate take on his writing process: “Although I may cut a most carefree figure, I am highly serious and conscientious, and though I seem to be no more than delicate and dreamy, I am a solid technician!” (tr. CM, SS). My assumption, as well as that of Bernhard Echte and Werner Morlang, the transcribers of the microscripts, is that he composed slowly. I credit his productivity and the rapid flight of his thought in prose to his steadfastness.

Can you talk about the forthcoming collection in which this piece will appear? Are there other pieces translated for the first time?

Little Snow Landscape and Other Stories contains seventy stories. That’s eighteen fewer texts than in Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories, but the new collection is twenty percent longer. As far as I know, all but three of these short pieces are previously untranslated. It opens in 1905 with an encomium by the twenty-six-year-old Walser to his homeland and concludes in 1933 with a meditation on his childhood in Biel, the town of his birth, published in the last of his four years in the cantonal mental hospital in Waldau outside Bern. Between these two poles, the book maps Walser’s outer and inner wanderings in various narrative modes, including essaylets, fables, idylls, tales of comedy and horror, monologues, travelogues, and prose pieces with “the stamp of calculated naïveté and artificial inartificiality” (“The Pipsqueak,” Girlfriends, Ghosts …). Besides presenting a representative sample of his short prose arranged chronologically by date of publication or composition, my selection process involved keeping in mind certain novelistic elements to bring the reader closer to this “most camouflaged of writers” (Elias Canetti).

I’m grateful that Walser’s work, for the English reader, continues to be a slow excavation. I would hate for every short piece to be translated and crammed into an exhaustive “collected works.” Do you think all of Walser at once would be, as “Rain” says, “too grand and difficult”? Can we agree a volume of Walser should always fit in the side pocket of a rucksack?

That seems the perfect place to me. “Beiseit”—apart, aside—is where Walser and his work thrive.

Continue reading
Uncategorized, Works

Rain

Robert Walser (translated by Tom Whalen)

Rain

There’s gentle but also unruly rain. We prefer the former but take it as it comes. To accept what comes and yet never lose one’s cheerfulness isn’t easy, but beautiful because of that. What tastes the sweetest? Natural honey? No, something else: peaceful, everyday work without calamity. Speaking of rain, you could say it makes the earth black and soddens the streets. I deeply hope more will occur to me. Dark rain clouds have something cozy, poetic about them. Is that it? Oh no, Mr. Author! I request a smidgen of patience so I may collect myself. Sentences, words don’t just fly to me, they want to be caught unawares, captured, attained, discovered, enticed. Sometimes the mind thinks more about zwieback than about language and the like. In general, we have spring rain, autumn rain, etc. Rain is wet. That has been the case and we assume will remain so. No one should ever succumb to the opinion that he is unique. We’re all like one another, at least I firmly believe this, and furthermore I believe everything has already happened and existed once before and that’s why all pride seems exceedingly superfluous and inexpedient.

But why, dear friend, don’t you stick meticulously to your drizzling theme? In fact, often it only drizzles. But more often it pours and rains in real torrents, as if it wanted to inundate every path, park, dear lovely garden, every field and the paraphernalia hanging there. To be drenched by rain now and then isn’t at all funny, rather it can be quite irksome, which without doubt everyone will have experienced in his dull or eventful life. In a proper rain everything becomes wet except water, like rivers, which can’t possibly get wet because they already are. What I am I can’t become, and what I have can’t be given to me. Rain moistens roofs, fills holes and barrels with water, swims and runs down slopes, washes useless stuff away, sees to it that everything all about glitters watery, swallows up and gulps down dust, is a sweeper and wiper who diligently wipes and valiantly sweeps up and makes those who don’t carry an umbrella scurry along. How richly thinged the world is; again and again we sincerely have to adore it. Should it also be permitted to think about excursions, entire cities, wide, verdant landscapes filled with fruitfulness, of Russian, Bavarian, Belgian, Thuringian, North American, Spanish, Tuscan regions moistened and injected with abundant wetness? Or about historical pageants, the dense crowd breaking up, seeking shelter that looks quite pleasant? Wouldn’t a dreamy poet in rainy weather like to sit at a dear old window so as to feel inordinately lonely? If I’m not mistaken, it rained endlessly, as it were, during the Battle of Dresden, and Napoleon got thoroughly soaked.

Many years ago, as it dripped and rained enchantingly, I promenaded and strolled along the local Bahnhofstrasse that had duplicated itself, its facades, trees, gentlemen and ladies, primarily these, boys and girls and kittens and I don’t know what all, magically reflected in the smooth asphalt and in the soft afternoon light in such a way that there was an upper world and a lower world and the unfathomable seemed almost more beautiful than the real. Desist, desist. Relent and break off. Consider whether this article perhaps isn’t already almost too grand and difficult.

(1918)

Continue reading
Works

Dead Dog

Sarah Edwards

Dead Dog

A Louisiana Thanksgiving, and the seatbelts burn hot ribbons across their shoulders. In the car, seventy miles down the road—bags thrown together, a cellophane-wrapped pumpkin pie sliding around on the floorboards—and they have not yet discussed what will happen to the dog. The wife can’t imagine that they’ll keep it, though she also can’t imagine giving it away. It has become worse than a bad dog: it has become a good dog who is a liability.
The husband’s family has often joked with the wife that she loves the dog more than she loves him. It is a joke about her devotion, just above average, to the animal, though its suggestive undercurrent is that she is a ridiculous person. During this visit, when the husband pulled out a Polaroid from their wedding—a courthouse wedding, a shotgun wedding, held just months before—his mother took it into her hands and squinted.
Interesting, she said. So what exactly is it that you’re wearing here?
And when the wife proudly told her that it was actually a vintage prom dress, a thrift-store find, if she could believe it, the mother-in-law stood up to clear the table. A steal, the wife said to her mother-in-law’s back as she stood before the sink. God, I mean. I swear. It feels like air.
The husband and wife had met at a party, back in May, crowded among yucca; a party that had seemed average to her but new and daring to him, glinting with bayou liquors, freewheeling and dark, an experiment. In June, they drove to the coast at midnight, speeding through conversations about coincidences and the joke/not-joke names of future children. In July, they drifted into cohabitation. By August the weather had turned muggy and biblical. The hairs on the tomato plants stood on alert ends, and impossibly long snakes tumbled out of trees, spooking up the yard’s speedboat tarp. They’d awakened one day and lain in bed with the wife’s phone on their knees, watching the green eye of a hurricane move across the screen, flickering persistently like trick candles on a birthday cake. And when, after a while, the husband walked out into the yard and picked bouquets of iris (Louisiana iris, the rare kind, artery red), one for each of them, she had laughed, nodded. OK, yes. OK—yes!
The flowers wilted before they made it up the courthouse steps, but the hurricane itself never came and swept on suddenly toward the Carolinas.
Later, when they look at the wedding picture, the juvenile shimmer of the wife’s dress is hard for the husband’s parents to swallow; also the age difference. The husband was born in 1990. The wife was born in 1978, the year “YMCA,” by the Village People, came out. Were they to learn of her first two marriages, the husband’s parents would likely find those hard to swallow, too.
The parents, who run a popular magazine about rare bourbon varieties, are famously magnanimous. They have an open-door policy. Everyone knows this. But when it comes to the wife, they cannot help but feel that she is backwoods trash. Whenever she brings up astrology, they grow uncomfortable. Children, as a topic, don’t sit well with them, either. Dogs, as a topic, have been weakly agreed upon. Dogs, so full of neutral habits. Dogs, so full of eyes and ears, noses and tails.
The husband worships his parents—the unflagging, hand-on-back grace of their devotion to each other. He wishes that the wife could see them as he does. They are good people, dog people. Until last night, they had one, too.
The wife has had hers for nine years, and … Oh! This dog! A Tom Hanks among dogs, licking babies, flopping ecstatically on the floor. A dog who sits when you say Sit, who high-fives when you say High-five. Its nose is wet as a bath faucet, its paws large and helpless as oven mitts. The dog has been through everything with her. It has been through the first husband, the second husband, the Clozapine, the tiled kitchen floor, pink like a Mary Kay Cadillac.
She has only had her new husband for a few months, and the dog will not hurt anything again—really. She will make sure of it.
Can you keep an eye out for gas? Something under $2.90? the husband says, breaking the silence, brushing the back of her hand with his. Then he says, You know, let’s make it harder—something under $2.85.
The husband likes to make little challenges like this for himself, although, maddeningly, he is not actually competitive. He is kind. Just below the surface of what he knows about himself there is also this: a belief that the marriage is, itself, a kind of kindness.
In the back of the car, the dog lets out a long, low whine. His feet stutter as the husband eases onto the brake and off an exit. He slings a paste of drool across the headrests.
The wife has heard this particular sound from the dog before. It doesn’t have to do with shame, doesn’t have to do with hazy dog-grief; no, her dog is not thinking about the other animal it killed this morning—the dog belonging to the husband’s mother; boxy, unremarkable, and patient, the dog they found when they came downstairs for breakfast. Upon spotting it limp beneath the table, the mother-in-law let out a little throat cry, high-pitched and compromising. The wife didn’t make a sound, but her thoughts began racing. She thought, Who has come and hurt our dogs? But then she understood. When she found her own dog in the front-hall closet, hiding behind a set of golf clubs—tawny hair still caught between its teeth, confused and frightened by its own strength—she knelt and gathered it into her arms.
Now hot air zips through the open windows, and a Rolodex of billboards—they all seem to be advertising either hell or something large, the world’s largest!—unfurls beside the car. Now the sound her dog is making only has to do with needing to pee. It is a need that has appeared suddenly in its brain like a suggestion, a commercial, a balloon. It is inflating, slowly, outsizing everything else. The dog is not thinking about what will happen next.
Bingo! the husband says, pulling into a station. See? $2.84.
He glances back at the dog and gets out. In the past, he was eager to volunteer for menial dog-care tasks, eager to prove some Boy Scout willingness. He likes the dog, of course, but now when he looks at it there is already a suggestion of goodbye, an appraisal of the facts: here sits a nice dog who sometimes kills things.
It was only a few days ago, the wife thinks, that she lay in bed with the husband, her face pushed peacefully up against the cleft of his shoulder—a warm, piney miracle. She wonders mildly what she would do if she were in his position, but the thought is too impossible to host. The least she can do now is get out and take the dog over to a dry patch of grass and let it do its business. That much is on her. Open the door, she thinks. Get out. OK, do it now. Now.
She doesn’t move. She adjusts her sunglasses, takes her hair and winds it into a new ponytail. The dog whines, nudges her elbow with its nose. Outside, the pavement sizzles like seltzer and smells of bruised citrus, of something sweet and newly rotten—though once, when she described something this way, the husband laughed delightedly at the precision. What a goober, he said, we’re nowhere near fruit trees!
He pumps gas, then cracks the door open and peers in. Want anything? he asks. Peanuts? Ginger ale? Shitty coffee?
What he is getting at is that she probably wants cigarettes to calm her down, to smoke her out of this darkness. He is a good man, but he wants her to ask him for the bad thing so that he does not have to suggest it.
Peanuts, she says in a secret voice, though even as she says it, she’s not sure whether she is saying it to throw him off her trail or because she really wants peanuts.
That all?
Yes, she says.
He finishes pumping the gas. No, she thinks. She cannot part with the dog. It is getting older, and with age come spurts of a dazed, feral energy. But it has never meant to hurt anything. If it comes down to it, she thinks, if the choice is between taking the dog and driving out of this gas station, burning rubber, the husband jogging behind, yelling, Maggie, Jesus freaking Christ, Maggie, come on, Mags, she’ll do what she has to. She loves the husband, loves the uneven upside-downcake viscosity of their union, but he will be fine, will be loved, always, by someone. Of course, he might miss her, but his life is male, muscled by college sports, is blue oxford shirtsleeves rolled quarter up, is still at the very beginning—he’ll move on,maybe become a youth pastor. There is always time left for a man to become a youth pastor.
He walks off in the direction of the gas station. He trots back, peers in. From inside the car, his face looms large, impossibly big, enveloped by a white glare, almost impossible to make sense of.
He drops the keys through the crack in the window. He waits.
What? she says.
Hot out here, he says, and it is as if he is baiting her.
OK, she says. OK, and turns the pleasing flashlight of her smile up toward him.

Continue reading
Interviews

Sarah Edwards

INTERVIEWS

Sarah Edwards

Interviewed by Jackson Armstrong


Your story “Dead Dog” has deliberation and grace (and a lot of humor). To borrow an adjective from it, it is, in some ways, almost biblical. How conscious were you of the tone of the story, and perhaps the balance, during the process of writing it?

That’s nice of you to say! In a rare turn, this story had a specific set of language that seemed to belong to it: language that felt both florid and reticent. Normally, I think, I write more narratively—there’s more dialogue, more backstory, more plot points. This one felt very tied to a moment and to an internal, fluid, distorted state of mind. Because the narrator is spiraling a bit, the burden rests on the sentences to replicate that feeling: I wanted there to be a sense that the wife is experiencing emotions that she can’t contain, that they flow over the boundaries of a sentence (hence the run-ons!). I do feel strongly that lyricism can (and should) be funny—that that pairing is as true a reflection of life as any. I don’t like stories that take themselves too serious.

What, might I ask, was the genesis of this piece?

I don’t know a specific origin point, but when I originally wrote it, two years ago, it was much longer. It began before Thanksgiving and walked all the way through dinner and the dog killing and there were multiple characters and it was awful; it really didn’t work. So as an exercise I deleted everything except the scene after Thanksgiving, and then began to write within those parameters. And that felt right.

Generally speaking, I am interested by messy situations in which blame is unclear—which, with animals, is so often the case. We can feel so close to them, and feel that they understand us, and of course there’s this giant gap between us and the way they experience threat and sometimes simply don’t understand their own bodies and urges. I’m sure this isn’t the last story I’ll write about a dead animal.

I know you’re also a poet. How does that influence your prose writing, or vice versa? Do you prefer one over the other?

At some point this past fall, I taped a note to my mirror that said: “Poetry doesn’t have to be autobiographical and fiction doesn’t have to be nice.” Both forms and their autobiographical sourcing have become more loose for me, recently, and it’s a bit of a relief. I feel less pressure (though obviously that’s a lifelong tussle) to have stories reflect me as a person or the gracious Southern woman I was raised to be, rather than me as a writer. I like both stories and poems that have distance, that bleed into each other. Often a story will begin as a poem (and sometimes even vice-versa) and I think that an attention to emotional compression, to really fleshing a thought out in a single lyrical line, helps sentences to stand on their own. I want a story to do that, to powerlift with syntax. Or ideally that’d be nice, right? Many of my favorite writers write both fiction and poetry, or super short fiction that has the feeling of a poem.  I don’t think I can pick one over the other!

If you had to cast this story with B-List actor  (but the dog is literal human Tom Hanks, on all fours or not; we can discuss this) who would you choose and why?

Hmm. very good question. I can kinda see Leelee Sobieski in a prom dress wedding getup. Aaron Eckhart is way too handsome to be a normal person, but he definitely has youth pastor vibes, don’t you think? As does adult Jonathan Taylor Thomas. In a very different way, but they both kind of have that healthy—so robust as to be sinister—thing going on.

And wow, a literal Tom Hanks as the dog! That’s good. I guess I should really read your fiction, Jackson, if this suggestion is any indication of it.

There’s always time for a man to become a youth pastor. This is true. But what does a man need to become a youth pastor? An unusually well-manicured goatee? What are some other qualifications?

Hmm, probably a name like Clay or Harris or any kind of non-name that could also be the name of a neighborhood subdivision, maybe a goatee, a signature handshake, a suspicious overfamiliarity with the word “lust,” probably an internalized hatred toward women. I don’t know, I’ve met a few really kind and genuine youth pastors, but when I paint with a broad stroke (like I am right now) I don’t have a lot of good things to say.

Ultimately, youth pastors need to have a vicious competitive edge that is barely kept at bay, and more than a passing proficiency in table sports.

Lastly (noting that “Dead Dog” is your first prose publication), where can we read some of your poetry?

I do have one fiction piece up, though not in print. You can read it on Joyland. I don’t have a lot of linkable poems! There’s a couple in the upcoming issues of TYPO and The Sycamore Review. And then others in Prelude, Hobart, and The Hampden-Sydney Review.

Continue reading
Uncategorized, Works

Closed Doors

Richard O’Brien

Closed Doors

Every Place that you left is Eden in some way.
—JOHN DARNIELLE

Rooms where for good or for ill—things died.
—CHARLOTTE MEW

Frewin II.10

In this room, at that desk, I must have written
my masterpieces of misogyny
(through this knowledge would only come to me
far on the other side of the illusion).

One window faced onto St. Michael’s Street.
Outside the homeless shelter—now a Bill’s—
star speakers would arrive in Benzes, Rolls.
I Blu-Tacked postcards to a lilac sheet

of sugar paper: was that the same year?
The gourmet vegetarian sausages
we cooked hungover were burnt to a crisp;
dough-soft inside. A rag rug on the floor

I still have now. I threw up in the sink
(a sign below about the “Rodding Eye”)
from dawn till six, the day of the goodbye
meal Ally had planned for me at Brasserie Blanc.

Lycée Jean Perrin

In Charlie’s flat—I barely know the contours
of what was there. I know what happened in it.
On nitrous, once, I passed out for a minute
that nothing in me wishes to restore.

Another night, I hopped the green steel gate
I couldn’t open; walked the tramlines home
to Place Viarme, and back to find the phone
I never did find (God knows in what state).

There was a party when Lindsey kissed Kate;
a night when someone stole two chicken fillets;
pizza, and football games I played, unwilling
to be left out; a neighbor who complained.

The laptop loud on Traktor, matching beats.
A photo of his girlfriend near his bed.
Bastien picked me up the last night; sad
to remember, now we barely even speak.

XIV.10

In what some rower called “the Arab Staircase,”
I tried and failed to turn tea into sex.
Deep green armchairs. The question of “What’s next?”
not just at three. That bathroom was the last place

I’ll ever make filled pasta in a bowl
with kettle, sieve, jarred pesto, grated cheddar.
There must have been a desk. A single bed,
two sets of brown sheets. Posters on the wall

for books I’d read with different cover art.
There was a mantelpiece on which I leant
French biscuit adverts—statements of intent,
sophistication stamped on A4 card.

The last weeks saw it filled with props for filming,
a generator. I brought back a girl
who held me till I broke my shameful spell;
who asked if I’d tried to hide her, that first morning.

1 Rue Sarrazin

In the top-floor flat, Nantes, Rue Sarrazin:
a couch with orange cushions no one chose;
the floor (stone, somehow?) cold against my toes;
a kitchenette I’ll never use again.

There was a cupboard lined with bathroom tiles
our jovial, vague landlord tried to fit
a shower in: the plumbing wouldn’t stretch
that far, he told us once, after a while—

so there they stayed. Jovanna had a map
of Europe, countries marked with playground slurs,
and though I almost never spoke to her,
one day I came back from a weekend trip

to find the condoms missing from my wardrobe.
The wall pitched steep above my bed; a window
looked on the never open church below,
roof ringed with angels. I left without a note.

Tintagel House

In the old Vauxhall Met Police HQ
there were blue, corrugated carpet tiles
and corridors which seemed to stretch for miles
between the toilets and the large, blank rooms

Lydia and her artist friends were renting
at bargain rates: the scheme kept squatters out.
They’d built a long, rough table. No amount
of shelves could make the kitchen feel less empty.

Mattresses on the ground. The windows looked
over the Thames: this was no student skyline.
It had the feel of an abandoned high-rise.
I stopped to buy Portuguese chocolate milk

each morning, walking to an internship:
for what? It led nowhere, since I’ve forgotten.
The owners finally kicked out the guardians.
For all I know, they might be demolishing it.

30 Waterside

In Helen’s house, which we can’t go to now:
rich faded rugs, a large flatscreen TV,
cases of red wine shipped from overseas
to save in bulk, I think—I forget how.

There was a tree once, made from stacking books;
a lime-green kitchen where we never went;
the gate, left open to the elements,
creaked like the stairs. Apparently, it leaked.

Helen took baths and disappeared for hours.
There was a patio where we got high,
where pigeons shat, were shot, and came to die;
a teddy sewn from scraps of other bears.

There was, eventually, a crystal skull
loaded with gin. Stuffed rodents. Hocus-pocus.
Sated with rent, the landlord gave them notice.
It had been months, by then, since I’d seen it full.

51 Ely Street

In Ely Street (pronounced the Fenland way,
not like the prophet, as I would insist),
the floor was red stone flags. Once, as a guest,
having somehow contrived to snap my key

in my own lock, I spent a night half-frozen
on a ratty couch beneath low Tudor beams;
a diagram for cribbing Cymbeline
and Hamlet on the wall. Each time I opened

the shonky bathroom door, the wrought-iron latch
had to be fought against. Dozens would drink
here, leave their mugs and glasses by the sink.
The backyard: weeds, barbecue trays, and ash.

And I was happy there. We praised Sankt Hans,
sang hver by har sin heks and ate charred Quorn,
understood hygge—friendship, keeping warm.
Someone’s rejigged the furniture, like best-laid plans.

Spectacle Works

In our apartment, by the standing lamp,
these are the things I’ll fix while I am able:
that jasmine plant. That marbled coffee table.
Socks slung over that clotheshorse: some still damp.

This flatpack sideboard, with the doors stove in.
This ten-meter TV extension lead.
These shiny cushion covers which you sewed
after about four months of promising.

Those salt-dough ducks, whose rough pearlescent sheen
soared over the eBay identikit.
That recess which you joked could hold a crib,
which doesn’t mean a joke is all you mean.

These stacks and stacks of books we’ll never read.
This open map. Those frames. That uncapped pen.
This rug I found a place for in the end.
This warm night. This unanswered text. This need.

Continue reading
Interviews

Richard O’Brien

Interviews

Richard O’Brien

Interviewed by Hannah Whiteman

One of the things that drew me to “Closed Doors” was the personality that every location in the poem seemed to possess. It seemed (for lack of a better word) real. Does this poem draw heavily on your own experiences? If so, how do you balance that autobiographical strain with staying true to the direction that the poem is taking you?

Continue reading
Interviews

Josh Russell

Interviews

Josh Russell

Interviewed by Earnest Buck

I was hoping to do a shorter interview that focused on some of the themes in “Grownups” that resonated with me. I hope this isn’t too much to share, but I was caretaker to my wife when she was receiving treatment for breast cancer and I found this story mirrored (strangely) some of my experiences. So, if you’ll bear with me, here are a few questions (I may have some follow-ups if that is amenable). 

What was the impetus for this story?

Continue reading
Interviews

Mira Rosenthal

Interviews

Mira Rosenthal

Interviewed by Stephanie Maniaci

In another interview, you discuss the “cooperative” nature of writing. With whom are you cooperating right now? Which old and new writers are in your head?

Continue reading
Interviews

Emily Flouton

Interviews

Emily Flouton

Interviewed by Gardner Mounce

Let’s start off with a hardball question. When did you first start watching The Bachelor?

Continue reading