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Mark Kyungsoo Bias speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his poem “Adoption Day,” which appears in The Common’s new spring issue. Mark talks about the inspiration and process behind the poem, which looks at issues like memory, immigration, and racism in post-9/11 America, all through the lens of a family experience. Mark also discusses his approach to language, sound, line breaks, and more, and the methods and techniques he’s found helpful in revising poetry. He reads two additional poems published in The Common: “Meeting My Mother” and “Visitor.”
Abeer Khshiboon’s short story, “The Stranger” is featured in Issue 23’s portfolio of stories from Palestine. Here, Abeer and translator Nashwa Gowanlock discuss the story’s inspiration and the context in which its events unfold.
Words We Use to Talk About Home: An Interview with Abeer Khshiboon, author of “The Stranger”
She remembers a road that she walked along. Something about joy, maybe, something about light. It was her own lightness, or maybe it was the road’s. She walked it more than once, that week in September, a year past. There were rock walls fringed with pale asters. Tiny white butterflies hovered in sunlight, and the hills were green. That’s all that remained. A year ago, and it has faded.
For nearly two years of my life, I lived with a ghost. It was when my father, a civil servant, was posted in Sambalpur, a now forgotten town in northern Odisha, a state in India’s east. Newspapers then, and even now, always added the descriptor “India’s poorest state” whenever Odisha made the headlines. This happened in the late 1980s, when several hunger-related deaths were reported in a tribal-dominated district in the state’s west, and a decade later, after an Australian missionary was burnt to death, along with his two sons, by a group led by a Hindu fanatic.
The youngest deconstructionists among us
are proud at first to spend their days breaking up
great slabs of fired tile every shade of wine
while the masters climb the scaffolds
with their gold pride, their gilt, reaching for
a sandal buckle or the heights of a halo.
Ottaviano held the staff high and steady as Scipio tugged at the bunches of leaves fixed to its top.
“He remains content?” Ottaviano asked the giraffe’s keeper.
“He does,” the keeper said. “Twice since sunrise he’s moved his bowels.”
Ottaviano watched Scipio chew. With his knobbly horns, his puzzled hide, and his great neck, he had clearly been made for a far different existence in his home beyond the Nile, a home for which even the library’s grandest atlas possessed only the most rudimentary of maps. And yet, snatched from that home, confined to his pen, the animal betrayed neither alarm nor sorrow.
The pores of life are clogged in this room. Making it difficult to breathe. There’s a hanging smell of death that’s impossible to miss. Visitors are unnerved by it. Except those visitors whose nerves have been hardened by the tedium of their dutiful weekly visits to the woman at the far end of the room: boredom and emptiness compressed into no more than half an hour.