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Lunar

By Molly Dickinson

Poem

Some tunnels are dark even though they are known. Like: how to choose my lunchtime apple. Like: which direction to run. And time is contracting in a way you didn’t warn me of. I’d be upset, but my body pieces are communing in ways you also didn’t warn of. I commune my eyes with my tongue, ears with my fingers. Flexing paths I did not know filled this body. One morning I find that my toes are conversing with my knees. They take me running in another direction and I find these things: goats that bleat, a worm filled fig, lupine-lady on her bicycle. Tonight, you told me to watch the red clay moon. So I’ve arranged my legs under my body and watch with my eyes closed. So under the wind my skin is shifting wisteria petals. So I soften against the ground, under your red clay moon. So I’m bare pieces: a gathering on my lawn, spread before this house. And I understand that I’m becoming reckless with my body in ways you’d scold me for. But I have changed the frequency of my ears and I can only hear the red clay moon.

EscapeFromBaghdad-CoverPromo2[1]A bell at the door then, the Ghazaliya bell, they called it, the knock of rifle butts against splintered wood, the three second grace time before boots and flashlights, lasers and automatic rifle barrels. Better than the Mahdi Army, who didn’t bother to knock, and who had never heard of the three-second rule. Dagr surged towards the front of the house, already sweating, thrusting Kinza back. It was his job to face the American door to doors, because he still looked like a professor, soft jawed, harmless, by some chance the exact composite of the innocent Iraqi these farm boys from Minnesota had come to liberate. And Kinza…with his hollow eyed stare, Kinza would never survive these conversations.

LM Bod pic

For the first week after my brother died, I drank a bottle of wine a day. Typically I’d have a coffee at 7:00 a.m., followed by a glass of wine and peanut butter on toast. I’d go back to bed and continue the marathon of TV crime drama from last night. The second I finished the first glass of wine, I’d have a second. Followed by another coffee, and a hit off a joint. 

Elizabeth Evans by Steve ReitzYou struck the supposedly galvanizing “Wonder Woman Pose” for at least the requisite two minutes. You’re writing with your favorite fountain pen. Also, you’re making up the questions, here. What’s with the racing heart?

I’m so much more comfortable with writing fiction than writing about my fiction.

 

Maybe you’ll calm down a bit if you focus on how you came to write this story of addiction and female friendships and lovers and betrayal and the human negotiations that endlessly fascinate you.

I’d written before about intense female relationships. I knew I’d be driven to dive into the topic’s sublime pools and scary quicksand again, and, eventually, that particular obsession attached itself to the germ of a story that had haunted me for years.

AsGoodasDead_HC_catThe fateful morning—no exaggeration, fateful—that my long- lost friend, Esmé Cole, showed up on our front steps, I was sitting at the desk in the room that I used for a home office. My chair, I remember, made an uneasy perch, all slippery and lopsided because I hadn’t bothered to remove the items that I’d dumped on the seat the night before: a manila folder crammed with information about a job applicant being considered by the English Department; a puke-green envelope holding an entry for a book prize I’d reluctantly agreed to judge; and, then, a three- ring binder of my own writing that creaked whenever I shifted in the chair.

The sky in the window over my desk was a clear blue that morning. The temperature outside would climb into the high eighties as the day progressed, but the room faced north and its exterior wall still held the cold that settled in on desert nights—this was October in Tucson, Arizona—which meant that the ancient space heater at the level of my feet pinged away, giving off a metallic odor that might have been unpleasant to somebody else (I connected it with writing and comfort, and so I liked it).

Esmé Cole Fletcher, I should call my long-lost friend. Esmé Cole—betrayed by me twenty years before—did take the name of the man she married. Once upon a time, she and I had vowed to keep our own names forever, but this is a tale about nothing if not about changes of heart.

claire fullerOur Endless Numbered Days – isn’t that the name of an Iron & Wine album?

Yes! Are you a fan too? Shall we skip the books and the writing and just talk about music? No? OK. It’s also the title of my debut novel. I wrote the book while listening to all of Sam Beam’s (also known as Iron & Wine) music on a loop and now when I put it on I’m ready to write. But it’s not just that I love his music, the title is also very appropriate to the story.

BOYFRENZ

Is everything okay?

KS: Not really, but also yes. The entire state of Arizona (population seven million) survives only by diverting water from the Colorado River, though the views from the mountains there are unquestionably spiritual. Portland, Oregon (my home) is now the fastest-gentrifying city in the United States, & while myself & many others are actively being priced out of our neighborhoods, there are more job opportunities in the city now than there have been in years. What I’m saying is, many things on this beautiful earth are completely fucked & vice-versa. Our own personal tragedies are (ugh) so tragic, but from them we learn & grow exponentially into bigger, smarter people. I have to believe we are improving, & that we will continue to improve, because otherwise I’d have to believe that everything just kinda sucks. I’m not sure I could make art in a world that just kinda sucks.

TB: Honestly, I’m feeling pretty nervous about this false (?) spring we’re having. It’s late February in Portland, Oregon, & so uncharacteristically sunny & warm that everything’s blooming. There are crocuses (notoriously hardy, I know, but still: February) & daffodils all over, & the flowering trees whose names I don’t memorize are flowering. It bothers me that I can’t remember the names of more kinds of trees, & it bothers me that the trees have started the show so early. Can it last? Are all of the birds even back? Shouldn’t we be shitty until, like, late March? But even more horrifying than a cold snap is the thought that the plants actually know best, because it’s likely they really do, & this is what seasons are like here in already irreversibly fucked 2015, it’s going to keep getting hotter & hotter until we’re trying to go the river one day & realize we’re all just a pile of cinders. Also I’ve never, ever been happier to be alive. Everything (& everyone) looks devastatingly touchable, & the smells are even softer.

Those days I walked around the water
with no good way to describe it, but knowing
that nothing majestic simply flows
Native tribes replenished the west coast with media
when the animals left for good
& then everything was a pet
or a pet’s story
I was hungover constantly
Aching & enthusiastic
& I felt that very specific loneliness
of having no good parka
in a city where practical knowledge
flowers toward you like a fruit
& asks you to participate in its gift

I’d never seen that mountain as clear as I saw it today
Picking a house to buy, then buying it
Stacks of linens showing off
Three candles on the bathroom floor

If I lived in Seattle I’d be in love right now

Maybe I need to drop something into the lake

Years of walk made the path go here and here and not there
The mattresses and tents beside it

What kind of a bird—
oh. A human bird

OEND Cover FINAL RGBTwo mornings later, I woke to the scream of the wind, shrieking through the gaps in die Hütte, shaking and rattling the roof shingles and sending invisible icy streams across my face. Outside, the noise from the forest was of crashing and whipping, as if the trees were being uprooted and flying through the air. My father stirred beside me, mumbling something but not waking. I squeezed closer into his side and buried my head under my sleeping bag, trying and failing to ignore the sound of the storm. Finally, I wriggled my way out, scrambled over him, and pulled the door open. It was only a chink, but frenzied snow blasted me in the face through the gap. It took the weight of my body to push the door closed. I shook my father’s shoulder; he groaned, although his eyes remained shut.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the biggest criticisms about your work is that it is gruelingly, at times overwhelmingly, dark. Why so sad?

When I first told people that Call Me Home was slated to be published, friends and acquaintances kept asking me, “Is it funny?”

“No,” I would say. “Not even a little bit. Not even for a second.”

This makes me laugh, but it’s true. I think I can be decently funny in person, on a good day, and I respect (and am fairly jealous of) anyone who can be funny on the page, but I’m not a humorous or light writer, often to a fault.

Cover_CallMeHomeJackson

Silver, Idaho 2010

The belated Easter party was to be held that Saturday night at A-frame A, the most complete of the new houses. Just a few beers, and then the Longhorn, according to the much-circulated plan.  Who had an Easter party? Jackson didn’t care. He was going to see Don. He hadn’t seen him since Honey brought him to the East side on Tuesday; each day that Don’s truck didn’t appear, Jackson tried to pretend he wasn’t disappointed. Now he shaved in the pocket mirror, the one he’d stolen from Lydia, and put on a clean shirt. He did everything slowly, meticulously. He drank the rest of the bottle of wine. What a girl he was. He thought again about the lock of hair he’d given to Chris. In his imagined, more perfect life, he discarded sentimentalities. Into the trash with the birthday cards, faded photographs. A better Jackson would scorn them all.

Radar

By Jessica Popeski

Poem

Pin straight prairie,
branch veins drumming
egg-smooth sky,
frost muscling into the earth.
Here, where pop is on special,
lettuce, diapers, extortionate.
Where little ones run,
barn cat wild,
bare gummed and bare footed,
sparrow legged,
elbow and knee joints jutting
like knots on a tree.
Where hunger balloons bellies,
carnation milk warms porridge,
on lucky days,
in homes where
mildew flowers wallpaper.

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Brad Listi talks with Stewart O’Nan, author of the novel West of Sunset , the official February selection of The TNB Book Club.  Listen to the podcast here.

To have survived a life of gentle skirt-lifting is to never experience overexposure.

To retain a place in this world is to burnish split cherries until the red glosses with spit.

To people who gender the unborn what about the lotus is tagged with murder or crisp bows.

To engineer a clear sky some nations swallow clouds and suffer spiked rain.

To be tongued a floor has to retain its modesty beneath serrated lines.

To unease into a spread always keep the kneecaps ready for a feast at a moment’s notice.

To collect hate colonialize first a chorus of white-bellied weeping.

To colonialize is to imbue tenderness into that which has been extirpated by force.

To force enlargement onto the relation between girlhood & fortune

a whole generation must lose.