Posts tagged "Memoir"

Things are Meted Out to People and Then They Leave

At fourteen I got my first real job from a woman named Cia.  When she spoke she lisped a little and gutted her words with curses; on breaks she sat outside the kitchen on a milk crate, long legs planted far apart, bright mouth pulling on a cigarette like it was keeping her alive.  Cia...

Please Do Not Shoot the Pianist

The U-Haul guy asked my brother for a “destination address.” My brother, confused, arched an eyebrow and cocked his head. “You know,” the U-Haul guy said. “Where you’re moving to.” “Oh, I’m not moving anywhere,” my brother said, finally understanding the question. “My ex-wife is.” The U-Haul guy chuckled and nodded like he’d heard that...

All the Forces at Work Here

First thing in the morning Willie Murnion turns his welding rig onto our road and comes raising a rooster tail of dust fast down the gravel and bangs on the screen door with his ham of a fist and announces to my mother that he’ll go ahead and fix the basketball hoop. My mother, in...

Dead Babies Photo

Puffy white satin folds and clumps like clouds around the two babies. Lying side-by-side in an open casket, ghost-gowns drape down their tiny bodies. Their heads appear to float. One baby is darker than the other. Both have blackened and hollow eyes like sunken shiners that won’t fade into the purplegreenyellow of the living. Time...

First Apartment—Brooklyn, 2002

Loaves rise, engorged as dangerous moons, all through the night. I ring the bakery’s back-door bell, buy Pumpernickel for a dollar. No matter the after-bar hour; the late-night bakers always take our neighborly buck. The dark street’s swollen with the smell of bread—intimate, in-folded—like the small humidity behind an ear, between the toes. I carry...

Mortal Grammar

Lia got sick and then died. She was young. She got liver cancer. She’s gone. So is her black hair and her violin and the car she’d just bought. So are we. We left not long after. Before she knew she came up to the city. She wanted to have supper with us. It was...
Sobering

Sobering

In the early ’80s, I would make drug runs to New York City in my dented blue Nova. I drove from a small town in Pennsylvania at my friend’s request. I felt superior to my friends in a way that can only come from being the single person in a crowd of like-minded people to...

Go

We’re sitting on our bikes and staring down the small alleyway made by fenced-in yards backed up to one another, and one of the kids in our groups says, “Go,” and like a pack of dogs we charge the space, pedaling hard and gnashing our teeth. Ahead the path narrows, and what started out as...

Letting the Dog Out

Under the pretense that a dog needed to pee, I accompanied a new guy to his duplex in the woods. We had just met at a literary festival afterparty, me swirling beer around in a plastic cup as I stood with him beside a keg in someone’s backyard. It was November, I was a senior...

Paducah, Kentucky

It’s one of those places weathermen love saying, like Kalamazoo or Tuscaloosa. The name comes from Chief Paduke, a Chickasaw who welcomed the whites when they began arriving in the early nineteenth century. My hometown is situated near the end of the Ohio River’s thousand-mile drift into the Mississippi, and during the steamboat age this...

What Grace There Is

Sooner than you think, everyone will be drunk. You won’t know it, but Kenny will be upstairs banging out a punk rock rhythm on your drum set. The sticks will explode from his sweaty grip. The next day, you’ll find a neat hole punched in the surface of your wardrobe door. The boy you all...

Teeth

Everything belonged to Russell now. My mother was his wife, I was his son, we lived in his house—an isolated farm we didn’t need and couldn’t afford. Russell had started cutting trees off the property and selling the timber to make the mortgage payments. He was sharpening the teeth of a chainsaw on the front...

Call Me Fritz

This is 1986, and I am seven in Seattle, and Miss Erika is French from Canada with a black leotard and a tight bun twisted like a seashell.  Miss Erika is French, and Edgars Kleppers is the only boy in ballet class, but I am still required to play Fritz, the only boy in the...

Transubstantiate

They kept them on their dressers, hidden beneath the edge of a doily or in a trinket box.  Aunt Leona’s was the first I saw, before bed one weekend when I was spending the night.  We were listening to old hymns on AM radio, what a friend we have in Jesus and the torments of...

The Blind Prophets of Easter Island

Jacques Cousteau and his son, Philippe, circle the thirty-foot stone Moai heads of Easter Island. I sit on the matted carpet of my Oakland apartment. He squints and purses his lips and nods towards each elongated face in some ritual of recognition he usually reserves for communing with aquatic life. I bounce somebody else’s baby...

Wall Painting in Chicago Bar: “Richard J. Daley, Mayor”

It’s three blocks from where my Cantonese in-laws live since they moved out of Chinatown.  Bridgeport, so-called: no bridge, no port, but working class.  I’d thought the neighborhood tough—afraid to go out, lock your door at night.  But one couple on the corner stools, who could be Torres or Rodriguez, toasts me with pints of...

There Was a Moment to Turn Back

I wait before I enter. Pausing briefly at the door, I am suspended in this space, between the coming and the going. The yellowed linoleum is tacky against the bottom of my feet, and the fluorescent bulb in the ceiling illuminates the white of the bare walls so they tint blue. I stand in the...

Waiting on Cancer

I sit in a wheelchair alone in a dim hallway. I am waiting and it seems an eternity, parked against a wall, awkwardly abandoned in an anonymous dark corridor while the technician busies himself until one of the giant machines opens up. For once I have nothing to read and no one to talk to,...