On the Elliptical Machine, You Ask Your Mom How Her Week Went

On the Elliptical Machine, You Ask Your Mom How Her Week Went

She’ll consider it a good week if it ends without any of you getting influenza. It’s so bad, she says to you on the phone, all the schools have closed. Besides the flu, news has spread on the farm that one of your dad’s best employees, Brad (Traci’s husband, Brad—remember Traci? Traci who cleans the...
A Murder of Crows

A Murder of Crows

Once upon a time in a summer camp as far north and left as you might go from here, there was not just one crow, but many. There always had been crows in that place. There was also a hired groundskeeper who watched after the summer camp cabins, repaired sheds and steps, cleared trails in...
Simple

Simple

When I was seventeen, I spent a lot of time in another family’s home. We slept on futon mattresses back then, covered in flannel, with thick dark fabric over the windows. The beige carpet was scorched and melted dark where the frying pan of cigarette butts had tipped over to smolder. That summer, I lived...
Katy Perry Is Crooning and Won’t Stop Just Because I Did

Katy Perry Is Crooning and Won’t Stop Just Because I Did

Because this is a small village and people tell other people’s news, I already know when I walk past your mother’s house, and the garage door is flung open wide as if it got stopped mid-scream, and you are lining up the contents on the lawn (an artificial Christmas tree, boards that once belonged to shelves)...
Our Bodies and Blood

Our Bodies and Blood

There is blood on the pool deck. Coach points and we stare: blood, in the small grooves between tiles; blood, barreling towards the nearest drain like it’s being chased. “Oh no. No, no no. Did someone start—” his voice trails off. “Is someone on their—” We lift our butts and examine the tiles around our...
Sardina and the Dream

Sardina and the Dream

My brother was in a motorcycle accident. I learned about it in a dream. I tried to change it to a car because he’d just learned to drive, and it would have made more sense, but the dream wouldn’t budge. It was so intense that I woke up and went to the kitchen to tell...
Blood and Whiskey

Blood and Whiskey

There’s an old photograph of me and my dad, taken one day during hunting season. Daddy stands tall in the picture, his legs apart, the butt of his shotgun braced between them. The barrel points toward the wintry gray sky. He’s wearing his red-and-black plaid hunting jacket and a hat with furry flaps. His eyes...
Twofold

Twofold

“The world is twofold for man in accordance with his twofold attitude.” — Martin Buber, from I and Thou One thing my grandfather did when he was alive: he wrote commentaries on the Bible. Another thing he did was fall asleep sitting up in a chair. Sometimes these two activities would blur and blend, and,...
Ha Ling

Ha Ling

I live away from him, in Canmore, Alberta, a small town at the base of the towering Canadian Rockies and along the shores of the Bow River. My job is to take tourists on vacation in national parks like Banff and Jasper. I cater to the whims of the wealthy. We bike along the Icefields...
Solving for X

Solving for X

She’s never been good at word problems. She remembers hours of agony at the kitchen table, her father trying to help her wrench the variables of time, speed, and distance into manageable equations. “A freight train left San Diego and traveled east at an average speed of 28 mph. A diesel train left one hour...
Aphorisms for a Lonely Planet

Aphorisms for a Lonely Planet

1 When at home I long to travel, on trips I pine for home. Thank you Lord for these twin dissatisfactions, and this vagabond moon blessing my feet. 2 The couple in the Lima Airport entwined under an orange blanket at 2:00 a.m. She plucks rogue hairs from his eyebrows then snuggles closer, all satisfaction,...
Logophobia

Logophobia

One morning I watched—through our ground-level bedroom window—the steps of his work boots, back not thirty minutes after he had left for a new job in town. Fired. I never knew why, and he claimed not to know. He lumbered around unsettled, rewiring our bedroom or checking mystery switches, wrapped in his tool belt, eyebrows...
The Invention of Familiars

The Invention of Familiars

Some things we don’t care to talk about by name. It’s an old problem and one of its consequences has been fiction. Another popular solution is to fill in the gap with an animal. The monks of the middle ages, denying themselves everything a body wants, or lying about it, were the great theologians of...
Bee Man

Bee Man

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.”—May Sarton Mid-April, brutal hot, spring in the Blue Ridge. I’d pedaled twenty miles already, absorbing the pastel colors of emerging redbuds, dogwoods, and tulip poplars. The formidable hill was scorching my quads when the man—white-haired, overalls, rounded belly—called out, “Hey, buddy, want a...
Women These Days

Women These Days

[Compiled and arranged by searching “woman + [verb]” (walking) in national news outlets over the past twelve months] An Ohio woman was shot dead while cooking Thanksgiving dinner; witnesses report that at the time of the shooting, she was standing at a kitchen table, preparing macaroni and cheese. The body of a North Carolina woman...
Louder, Louder

Louder, Louder

Days after my doctor finds a lump on my thyroid, the size of an M&M (peanut he specifies, not plain) a student asks me what the nineties were like. For the nation?   For you, says my student. She is thirteen. Louder, louder, we say to her when she reads her poems because she barely...
Fluency

Fluency

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open – Muriel Rukeyser We learned English faster than our parents, their tongues too old to take a new shape. Our tongues still coated in milk, this meant we didn’t pray like they did, and God didn’t answer when we...
The Last Phone Call

The Last Phone Call

A month after my brother died, I scrolled through the contact list on his phone and memorized his voice-activated-dialing commands. His cellular plan would lapse soon, the cell provider couldn’t transfer the audio, and I didn’t have equipment to re-record them. So instead, I wept on my screened-in porch and listened to him say each...