Sketch

I notice the guy sketching even before I sit down, but it’s not a strategic decision at all. When I have a choice I try to sit facing the eye candy, and this guy’s not even close to handsome. But it’s the only available chair in the coffee shop, so I end up facing the...

Driving William Stafford

The only thing we talked about was bread. How to keep the crust from splitting in the oven’s heat. How to keep the rise from falling. What the kneading did for the hands. It was 3:00 a.m., as dark as early morning gets, and 26º below. I looked it up. At least once per mile,...

Kathy

When I took Kathy to my meet my parents, Dad got out his boarding-school yearbooks. He’d never done such a thing, shown anyone the elegant 1930s volumes—certainly never to one of my girlfriends. I suppose her work as an educator made his sharing of that lost world relevant, but he also was showing a pretty...

Tonight

Tonight when I walked home, everything around me seemed to pulse with life. The headlights of cars going by zoned in on me like searchlights. I squinted. When I rounded the corner, it was snowing—just a little, not enough to stick. A car idled in front of the house with the fresh tree stumps, and...

Death of a Citizen Abroad

When a citizen dies abroad, their body is sent home in the cargo-hold of a commercial jetliner along with suitcases stuffed with beachwear, woodcarvings from the tourist stalls, and souvenir bottle-openers shaped like elephants. A coffin is just another piece of baggage. At the airport, a Consular Affairs Officer, Mr. R—, fills out the customs...

“Icky Papa Died”

I was relieved when my great-grandfather died. I learned of the event more than a year after the fact, simultaneously ingesting the information that he’d passed in Idaho, that he’d been buried in Montana, and that his grave—while next to my great-grandmother’s—was unmarked and expected to remain that way. No one in Idaho wanted him...

A Bear in Tel Aviv

I saw the bear on a spring night in 2004 while walking with some students in Tel Aviv. We were on our way to a restaurant to meet the group that had accompanied the American writer who that afternoon had talked endlessly about basketball to the seminar. I didn’t know this part of the city...

Studies for a Drawing in Red

I. A six year old helps his mother hang a hummingbird feeder in the front yard. “Why is it red?” he asks. “Hummingbirds like red,” his mother says. Hours later she finds him on the front porch, sitting as still as a six year old can. He has put on an old sweatshirt—red—pulled the hood...

Instrumental

30088. I’ve had that number memorized for 38 years. The serial number of a flute manufactured by The Haynes Flute Company.  When I put the headjoint into the body, sliding the perfectly tuned and turned tube of silver into the perfectly tuned and turned tube of silver—may it be every one of our good fortunes...

Cairo Tunnel

I nudge through the turnstile, putting the stiff yellow ticket in my pocket and crossing a footbridge to the other side of the tracks, where I head toward the cluster of women on the platform. It’s rush hour. Morning salutations compete with beehive intensity. I scoot forward and back. Soon, the Metro barrels up, and...

Summer is Over

When you step outside you will notice summer is gone. The chill of the air will frisk you through your cotton t-shirt and jeans. Your exposed toes will be sort of cold and you will know then that summer has turned its porch light off. And it will feel like a North Carolina autumn evening,...

Duck, North Carolina

Once, walking, I found on the sand not a butterflied clam but a small tooth. We have been coming here so long that we can point out where the road used to end, though we differ: some say the fish hut, others the rental shack. Pretty soon there will be a baby, eating great fistfuls...

Ten (or Twenty) Points on Publishing, Plus a Few Playful Tidbits

When to begin the process of submitting one’s work and weathering the storms of submission depend on any given writer’s sensibility – and vulnerability. Publication is the natural desire of any writer (even Emily Dickinson, who claimed she wanted all her poems burned, wrote in riddles – and have you ever told a riddle to...

Rejection: Give Up or Show Up?

It’s never fun being rejected. Unlike the acceptance that can make you scream the Sally Field Oscar speech, You like me, you really like me!, being rejected can reduce us to feelings we thought we left behind in junior high when we sat alone at the long lunchroom table. This is how it feels sometimes:...

Balancing Music and Meaning: An Interview with Kim Barnes on Short Nonfiction

In the following Q&A, contributor Gretchen Clark and author Kim Barnes delve into short nonfiction, from its definition and essential elements to the role of intuition and the moment of surprise. Kim Barnes’ novel A Country Called Home was published by Knopf in 2008. She also is the author of the novel Finding Caruso and...

Review of Patricia Klindienst’s The Earth Knows My Name

Beacon Press, 2006 For two months last summer, my husband and I lived in a cabin in Oregon, where I shared my friend Nell’s garden. Every day at first light, I would go out to see if the beans had sprouted, the squash blossoms opened, the tomatoes reddened overnight. After hours of weeding, I’d return...