May 2012 / Issue 39

May 2012 / Issue 39

We are pleased to present sixteen sharp new essays.
Hair Like Sadness

Hair Like Sadness

1. My brothers got curly hair, though Mark, my younger brother keeps it cropped close. My older brother, Anthony, has big bushy hair. He’s been mistaken for Cuban, Puerto Rican, Native American, Samoan…once in a while they say he looks Filipino.   2. I once heard that Jesus would have looked like this. That if...
Letter to a Future Lover

Letter to a Future Lover

You were my birthday present; you came to the door—no one else was home; you said “let’s celebrate.” We dropped acid and went to the friend with the nocturnal monkey-like animal and made love for hours. I fell totally, naively in love, so when you took me home in the morning I cried. I thought—but...
The Fourth

The Fourth

Choosing a booth, I usher my two boys into their seats. They bounce and squawk like tiny grackles, unable to settle. Happy Meals in Utah no longer come in the brightly colored cardboard boxes of my childhood with golden-arched handles and smiling Grimaces. I pull their meatless cheeseburgers from a non-descript sack, split the dry...
A Letter to Updike

A Letter to Updike

Updike was in Ohio to give a reading at my university. I found him outside the bookstore signing books. There was a small line. We talked for a few minutes. That night I would attend his reading, which was held—where else?—in the gymnasium, with seats set up on the basketball court and bleachers rolled out....
To the National Endowment for the Arts

To the National Endowment for the Arts

We need money. Sorry for the frankness, but I’m told obfuscation has no place in contemporary literature. I’ve also been dishonest pretty much my entire life, and I’m turning over a new leaf. My wife and I haven’t been able to quit smoking, but we’re trying. I don’t know about her, but it’s one of...
Tonight (the Big Dipper, You Leaving)

Tonight (the Big Dipper, You Leaving)

Tonight, the steps that lead from the porch to the gravel road groan one at a time. One at a time, these eleven cabin steps make such mournful sounds. The bottom step sings the saddest—then quiet footsteps on a gravel path. Tonight, the river runs slow (and black), and a rowboat sighs against the shore....
Crush

Crush

At thirteen, I fell in love on Shasta Lake. If not love, then something that I couldn’t yet name, a dizzy weak-kneed rush that knocked me broadside the day I saw her leap Levi-clad from the shore and arise dripping, and I didn’t know what else to do but leap myself and surface to the...
In Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania

Chris broke his back in Pennsylvania. It happened before I met him, before he showed me with pride the SS uniform his grandfather had worn during WWII, before he tipped our Waffle House waitress a fifty-dollar bill. Before we ran out of crack cocaine. Before I came along for the ride. He made a sloppy...
Introducing Mother Nature

Introducing Mother Nature

This is what my mother’s midlife crisis looks like: She’s on a stage at the Cross County Mall in West Palm, black wig nesting her head, black leotard hidden beneath a black-and-white checkered faux fur. I’ve drawn a tattoo on her left arm with a ballpoint pen while she’s thickened her lips with a red...
Mom, Fading in Character

Mom, Fading in Character

LEGACY Appearances matter. Dress properly. Observe the social proprieties. Send thank you notes promptly. Be gracious and kind to all. Impeccable hygiene, please. Smile. It makes all the difference.   THE FALL My mom, at ninety-two, fell down a flight of marble stairs at an art exhibition and broke her femur at the hip. She...
Dropping Babies

Dropping Babies

Newborns can only see as far as the distance between their mother’s nipples and her face. For weeks, touch is how they understand this bright new world. They feel the warm and the cold. They feel the suck of air scouring their flesh. Until the 1980s it was believed that babies didn’t feel pain. When...
A Brief Natural History of an Eighth Grade Girl

A Brief Natural History of an Eighth Grade Girl

The males [of many animal species]. . . continue to vie for the prize of siring offspring via the one-celled messengers of themselves they leave as a consequence of mating: their sperm. [1] Fuck is everywhere, scrawled in black felt pen on the stall walls of the third floor girls’ room or chalked across the...
Clean Dirt

Clean Dirt

I’m sitting in the bathtub of 905 Kings Highway. We rent this tiny, yellow house. It’s a rancher with a rock garden my mom built. One of the neighbors has a tire swing. The boy who lives there is a few years older than me. He wears shiny Umbros. Scotty. I imagine what his shorts...
That’s All I Have, Your Honor

That’s All I Have, Your Honor

You don’t write about me, he once complained. Or maybe twice, maybe he was always asking why he never landed on my page. You give me no trouble, I told him. You’re simply here whenever I check. Perhaps one day I’ll surprise you. That will be the day, I said, and then that day, it...
One Good Thing

One Good Thing

I am hiding behind the front seat of my mother’s Rambler with my cousin Nancy, because my father has come out of the house. He is standing on the porch by the kitchen door in his underwear, looking around. It is the middle of the afternoon. The last thing I want is to be seen...
The Catch

The Catch

By the time they slid out of the cooler and onto our front porch, the ice surrounding their slippery bodies was nearly melted. “Six silver Steelhead. Fresh out of the Klamath River,” announced my mother. They were sterling, pewter, and black. Yellow-eyed and long as my legs. My mother pulled out a buck horn knife...