Dispatches

Delete/Recover

By AKWE AMOSU

Image of a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC, with someone holding up a sign saying "No Justice, No Peace." 
New York City

After Kenosha, Wisconsin, 26 August 2020

1. Erasure

I went to the         for water, 
although I had no thirst, again 
unable to find           Not sleeping, 
roaming restless, hunting 
at 2am for             on my phone, 
no rabbit hole too deep, however 
dull, aching tired as though 
I had been              
Only three days into this, 
asked how my              was 
going, I launched into a tense             
            that the question even 
deserved              and saw how hard, 
again, I was trying not to            the 
plain fact that right in front of us,
again, the cop had emptied 
his          into a human, 
now                  yet shackled 
to his hospital bed.  That again, a 
young          had taken down a human 
with a military grade             yet 
          away from the scene unhindered. 
And that, again, we were being asked
to choke off              thoughts, stifle 
any            sound, stave and belt 
the chest to                our agitation, 
keep breathing because, again,
we
      

Image of Black Lives Matter written on the ground with dry flowers and a picture of George Floyd. 

2.  Rewrite

You can put your faith 
in a book, pray from it, place it
under a sick child’s pillow, press
flowers between the leaves, 
affirm love for the living, be 
in the swim of things, learn
what is human from its pages
and become that. The book 
will restore you,
reciprocate.

A river of new works springs
constant, fresh from our longing,  
bearers of witness, verdicts,
drafts of history carrying clues 
or solace, sparking courage
to record something important, 
frank truth on a flyleaf, a secret 
scrawled on the dark side 
of the dust jacket – the proof 
our successors will need 
to secure what’s due. A book 
outlasts, speaks for us, 
for you.

Make your own, it will 
take care of your story.
I’ve put all I can bear to share
in a slim volume, memorial 
garden for my dead and those
I need to keep alive, talisman 
for days when I can’t recall 
the task, don’t love my comrades.
A book to stand for me when 
legs buckle under a heavy 
heart, a gathering flag to follow
on the road to being seen, 
heard, read right. A book will
carry you. Carry one. 

 
Akwe Amosu’s poems are a contribution to the
Solidarity Book Project, Amherst, October-December 2021.

 
Akwe Amosu
is a Nigerian/British poet. Her poems have appeared in South African journals
Carapace, New Contrast, and Stanzas, and US journals Illuminations and The Common, as well as African anthologies. Her book, Not Goodbye, was published by Snail Press in South Africa in 2010 and she was a featured poet at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in South Africa in 2014. She is based in New York, working on a project to support human rights leadership around the world. She previously worked at the Open Society Foundations and before that as a journalist and editor with the BBC, the Financial Times and allAfrica.com, and with the UN in Ethiopia.

Delete/Recover
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Plenty

By KATHERINE L. HESTER

Exterior of a fruit and egg store in Madrid 

Madrid, Spain

 

I chose my frutería not by its quality—how could I know that before I’d sampled its three types of peaches (red, yellow, squashed into donut-shapes), its abundance of tomatoes, its fuzzy orange nisperos?—but because of its old-fashioned tiled façade. 

Plenty
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Untitled (Letter to Rügen)

By GUNTHER GELTINGER

Translated from the German by CRISTINA BURACK

Letter appears below in both English and German.

Kreptitz Cliff in Rugen, GermanyRügen, Germany

Translator’s Note: I did not come across this text; rather, it came across me, arriving in my postbox in an orange envelope, complete with wax seal. It was part of a project called LitBrief-19, which was organized last spring by the Literaturhaus Bonn, in Germany, as a way to keep the literary community together despite the pandemic.

Every month, a writer pens an original letter that gets mailed out to subscribers. While I’ve enjoyed every letter, Gunther Geltinger’s text particularly moved me. It was both very specific to his beloved Rügen, a large German island in the Baltic Sea, and yet very universal in its emotions: how it expresses the unique personal relationship people can have with a place that plays an integral role in their identity, how the pandemic has upended our ability to be in such places, and how, despite a rapidly changing world environment, such places as experienced remain formative for life. It is an intimate text, and it’s packed with thoughtfulness, nostalgia, poetry, humor and a reassuring sense of being rooted in a place that is physical, geographical and above all else, emotional.

 

October XX, 2020

How should I start this letter? Using “Dear Sir,” “Dear Madam,” or “My sweet dear” to address you doesn’t do you justice. You’re not dear, and you’re hardly ever sweet. Your grammatical gender is neutral, but “the island,” die Insel, is feminine, and a friend of mine who recently visited me and expected a lighthouse surrounded by dunes, overlooking the sea in four directions, she even called you a continent. The fields of flint rock bordered by the moors struck her as being from another hemisphere; on the Zicker Mountains she felt as if she were in Scotland; and the Kreptitz Cliff, with its windblown hawthorn bushes and allure for amber seekers, reminded her of a secluded coast in New Zealand, where she’s never been. When I told her about an acquaintance who lives on the southern tip of the island and has never been to Gellort, the northernmost point, where my mobile service provider sends me a text message welcoming me to Sweden, she said: Well, it’s not like you would expect a Tunisian to have seen the Cape of Good Hope. My friend would probably understand why I am writing to you and would advise me to post the letter in a bottle. Someone on some other island, somewhere else in the world, would fish it out of the sea and think it was for them.

Untitled (Letter to Rügen)
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Bat Season in Austin

BY SARAH GIRAGOSIAN

Bat

Austin, TX

The warm May evening fairly sizzled with bats. Out from under the crannies of Congress Avenue Bridge, Mexican free-tailed bats slipped out in threes, then tens, then hundreds, and flooded the Austin night, sipping from the skies tens of thousands of pounds of insects, as they did every spring and summer night. I felt at once the tickling of wings behind my ears and began shivering uncontrollably. No, fortunately not a bat—just the flick of a stranger’s ponytail at the back of my neck. But the shivery feeling remained; that contact with a stranger was a switch point in my mind. Any kind of creature, wonderful or mundane, slinked in the nooks and crannies of the city celebrated for its weirdness.

Bat Season in Austin
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Open Season

By LAURA LAING

A field under clear skies

 

Wythe County, VA, 1985

 

The rifle is heavy and hard in my arms, the butt jammed up into my right shoulder, just like Lee showed me. Peering down the nose of the gun, I can see the line of targets—coffee cans, plastic milk jugs, and Coke cans—lined up like birds on a fence. The air is cool and wild, and a breeze comes across the hollow carrying the sweet smell of hay and manure. Except for the herd of grazing Holstein cattle, little black-and-white smudges against the browning pastures, Lee and I are the only living creatures visible. Me and him and the gun with real bullets.

Open Season
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Traffic on the FDR

By OLIVE AMDUR

FDR“Places remember what people forget.”
Richard Powers 

Instead of speaking, we eat peanuts in the Holland Tunnel: the unshelled, lightly roasted kind from the bulk section of our grocery store. With one hand on the steering wheel, my father takes handfuls from the top, since all the salt falls to the bottom, and my mother digs for those. Outside, the tunnel tiles blur as our Subaru speeds beneath the river and all the buried foundations of New York. 

Traffic on the FDR
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Histories

By SARAH DUNPHY-LELII

street art of an owl

Austin, Texas

I once dated a bull rider, which is very interesting, I still find. He was at the time no longer a bull rider, he had rather been one in his youth, but this lingered, as you might expect. This was in a part of the country where bull riders are not so rare as they are in the northeast, though still rare enough for people to lean forward when they hear. The only time he visited with my family we played a board game where everyone shouts out words, and would you believe a card came up “Things You Can Ride.” Even this cosmic wink could not keep together two with only the two-step in common. But the two-step itself married me to rambling dancehalls for joyful months after, a sweating Dos Equis in one hand and the other free for the taking.

Histories
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A Salamander

By MORIEL ROTHMAN-ZECHER

Image of a photo of two people in a park.

Southwest Ohio

Cute, I said bending over, a salam
I swallowed the second half of the word

as my face drew nearer to the shiny body
and I saw the white oozing from its mouth, but

it was too late.

My daughter was already rushing over,
What is that little guy?

I stood, tried pivoting,
a bit dizzy from the way the thing

lay there still

moving one of its tiny arms, I looked at Kayla
and said in Hebrew, which we both speak thanks to

A Salamander
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Shinjuku Golden Gai and the Midnight Diner

By KAORI FUJIMOTO

Shinjuku, Japan

Shinjuku Golden Gai came to my attention during the pandemic months in Tokyo. On those quiet stay-at-home evenings, I watched the Japanese TV series “Midnight Diner” on Netflix, and the Diner’s location was set in Golden Gai, a tiny nightlife quarter that was once an illegal prostitution district in Shinjuku, a town in Tokyo, after World War II. Each self-contained half-hour episode of the show revolved around a customer who always ordered the same food at the hole-in-the-wall Diner run by “Master,” a mysterious middle-aged man with a scarred face. The Diner’s regulars, crammed at the U-shaped counter, ranged from corporate employees and detectives to strippers and gangsters. At the end of the day, these customers walked through the alleyways where electric signs of bars and restaurants jutted into the air, opened the Diner’s sliding door and said, “Master, my usual, please.” The show brought these characters a little closer to me through the foods they ordered. Octopus-shaped red weenies, bite-sized fried chicken, ground meat cutlets served with macaroni salad and finely-sliced cabbage—conventional home-style dishes I ate while growing up.

Shinjuku Golden Gai and the Midnight Diner
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64-West & KY State Fair

By D.S. WALDMAN

Kentucky, United States

64-West
After Calvino

When you ride a long time in the private
night of your pickup cab
                                 you enter eventually 
into a desire you cannot name    a greater dark
that wants only what 

64-West & KY State Fair
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