Posts tagged "personal_essay"
Letting It Be

Letting It Be

My Papa loves to watch the news. He has a chair, angled so that he and the television can be in a line. He plugs his computer in beside him, his lamp above him, the cords hanging within a hairy arm’s length. I think he feels safe there, huddled among the pictures of my mother...
Eight Quarters

Eight Quarters

In his maximum-security prison, where I visit him for the first time, Kevin suggests that with our eight remaining quarters, perhaps we should try the photo booth. This is something he wrote about in his letter: how a photo would mean so much. I can’t keep the film copy, he wrote, but you could scan...

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...

Locating an Essay’s DNA

An essayist always writes two essays simultaneously, overlapped as transparencies, one exploring what Vivian Gornick calls the situation, the other what she terms the story. Poet Richard Hugo talks about a piece’s “triggering subject” and its generated, or real, subject. Phillip Lopate describes the “double perspective” that an essayist needs, the ability to both dramatize...

The Admissions Essay vs. the Permission Essay

Most of the students who enroll in the Introduction to Creative Nonfiction course at the university where I teach have little to no knowledge of the genre and even less of the personal essay. So, the first assignment I give is to write an autobiographical essay with the following requirements: 1. You may begin at...

Whispered Wills and Words That Bleed: On Transparency of Thought in the Essay

Let me preface what I’m about to say with this: I’ve never taken my clothes off in public, and I’m not a particularly close talker. If I have boundary issues, no one has ever told me so, and I’ve never asked, a fact that, itself, should exonerate me. Bear this in mind as I tell...

Dogs in the Dark

I lie in bed, breath suspended. In the darkness, something is moving. It’s not that I don’t know the source of the noise–it’s that I do. My border collie mix is just making his watchdog rounds, checking each room, working the graveyard shift. His job for fifteen years. Only for the last year Cal’s rhythm...

So What’s Your Point? Thesis Statements and the Personal Essay

For several years I worked as a columnist for a regional newspaper. I was also a new mom and all that that implies (mostly, being cranky and in possession of few clothes that actually fastened). My column was titled “The View from the Sandbox,” and its subject was my own challenge of going from the...

The Moth

At night my father and I sit outside watching moths fly around the bare front door light. Beyond the porch is the warm summer blackness of the mountains. Lights from the infrequent cars on the highway can’t penetrate this envelope of darkness, as if the entire universe were lit by this one dangling bulb. For...

Tired

I’m tired of the usual—foofy dogs, West End musicals, Edgar Allan Poe.  Also leather jackets and the lost middle-aged men who believe that stretching a carcass across their backs brings Hell’s Angels cool.  Especially tired of not having one myself.  Tired of tragedy ending badly, gullible Hamlet taking the word of a rasping ghost.  Tired...

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...

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...

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...

Becoming a Sanvicenteña: Five Stages

Stage 1: Fear The old highway to San Vicente is nothing more than a dirt road. At the height of the dry season the landscape is leached of color, the road pale as bone. We bump in and out of potholes, my American advisor filling the Peugeot with 400 years of Costa Rican history: the...

Julio At Large

I hadn’t known the girl very well, and rarely gave her much thought before she disappeared the summer between ninth and tenth grade, when my family lived in Buckhannon, West Virginia.  We both had last names that started with the letter “B,” so we frequently had to sit next to each other in classes where...

Tuesday Evening at the Rue de Fleurus

Evening drops into the courtyard like a black cat lowering its back.  A muted clink of dinner spoons spills from open windows into the courtyard, where the concierge’s dog yips en francais at a pair of American tourists who have found their way to 27 rue de Fleurus.  I sit and smoke a cigarette between...