Lag Time

It doesn’t thunderstorm in California. Not like those from my memory of home. I listen for them at night when the sky half-promises, but it rarely delivers the noise I need. This I know: If you count the time it takes between the flash of a Kansas lightning bolt and the crack before the roll...

The Back Stroke

I started upright, feet planted in the lake’s silt, bending my knees and inclining forward, but never losing touch with where I stood. Gradually I let go of the bottom and put my head in the water, face down, eyes closed, legs splayed out behind me like a flesh-colored overcoat—like a drowned person whose body...

White Lies

Arpi, a Lebanese girl who pronounced ask as ax no matter how many times the teacher corrected her, must have been delighted by the arrival of Connie, the new girl in our fifth grade class. Connie was albino, exceptionally white even by the ultra-Caucasian standards of our southern suburb. Only her eyelids had color: mouse-nose...

The Soils I Have Eaten

The state soil of New York is named for the place where a man lost his finger to a rattlesnake. The finger lays quiet in the ground. The snake’s great-great-grandsnakes still chitter through this soil. Sometimes one snake gets the idea he can blink his eye. He concentrates on this single violet thought. A slick frog crunches...

Duplex

The person on my voicemail was a man. His voice was high, higher than most men’s voices I’d heard before, and he spoke slowly, as if reading off of cue cards. I didn’t know when the call came in. My cell phone never rang. Rather, in that late morning, the phone vibrated, informing me of...

The Moment

No sound from the kids, not for fifteen minutes. I trust they’re asleep. I get my tiger-striped chenille robe off the back of the bathroom door and put it on over my jeans and flannel shirt. I am that cold. Lately I stand sometimes for a whole half-hour over the floor furnace. Other times I...

Homeroom

We were the leftovers, assigned to Home Room in the Home Ec room, tucked away in an upper corner of the aging Horace Mann Junior High School. Inexplicably, our Home Room teacher, Mr. Roan, taught Shop. Every morning he climbed the flights of stairs from the noisy, oily machines of the basement, clutching his coffee...

The Watch

It dangled like a bracelet from my aunt’s wrist. Shiny gold links clinked softly as she arranged her hair in the mornings, curls teased and then tamed. The watch clanked against an aerosol can of hairspray, dinged against a crystal bottle of perfume that she raised momentarily to her neck. I must have been the...

I can’t stop thinking of that New York skirt, turquoise sequins glued onto sea-colored cotton

I bought it on E. 7th St. in a shop that was only open for one day. Kerouac used to live in that building, but he was dead by then. No zippers or buttons, just strips of fabric to tie on either side of the waist. If I had been one to twirl … but...

Spoiled Love

My hands clenching my abdomen, I emerge from the bathroom and drop to my knees at the crossroads. To the right is my husband; to the left, my mother. Some instinct I thought had left me when I married kicks in and I crawl toward my mother, asleep on the spare twin in my son’s...

Devotion

Where I grew up in Queens, New York City, there was a boy living in the house across the street. His name was Sherman. Somewhere, there is a photo of the two of us from the day I turned seven: I am in a yellow dress and a yellow birthday hat, running down the driveway...

On My Birthday, A Wish for My Mother

Over these still-unlit Colorado foothills, I watch a single cloud build like breath, an enormous pink wing buoyed by a sun that has not yet touched the valley floor to coax ravens into air, or turn creek water to fire, or hammer gold bars from the dull blades of my backyard windmill. The cloud glows...