Kirstin Allio is the author of the short story collection Clothed, Female Figure and the novel Garner, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her latest novel, Buddhism for Western Children, will be the inaugural novel from The Iowa Review Series, a new imprint from University of Iowa Press, coming out in the fall of 2018. In this month’s interview, Kirstin Allio and The Common’s editorial assistant Isabel Meyers discuss motherhood, childhood memories, and society’s fascination with religious cults.
Isabel MeyersOn Noticing: an interview with Kirstin Allio
The best garden in Brooklyn is like Fred Astaire
Charming but inaccessible.
A private creation for public viewing.
I look down into it from my living room,
Its spilling vines and spruce hedge-tops lend cachet to my garden.
Yet a high fence keeps us
As does the rusty chain link gate on the street side,
which is only opened for
Tree-trimming and the like.
An hour from Marrakesh, a car delivers my friend and me to Imlil for a day-hike in the High Atlas Mountains. Judging by the heavy-gauge North Face jacket and ice-climbing boots worn by our guide Abderrahim, it’s clear I’ve miscalculated trekking in Morocco in February. I scan the snowy peaks and wonder how I will fare in my paltry jacket and no hat. And there he is. He sits patiently, about five feet from me, looking timid and cold. His head tilts downward, and although there is no eye contact, I sense he knows I’m there. I’m overtaken by a swell of tenderness and yearning, and I say to my friend, “I think this guy just AirDropped me his heart.”
First morning in Nueva York, in los EEUU, and Néstor in the kitchen was a stone his daughter rushed around like river water. Two years past her quinceañera, one more year of high school left, thirteen years since he last saw her. Néstor had kept running all the numbers in his head the whole way up to la Frontera, but here and now such compulsive calculations fell away, replaced finally by the actual, the reachable young woman those many years had yielded: Sara.
I heard those ripened, muted swoons, although
that was no kiss—a dagger sunk into my chest.
What use authority if it cannot impose
a hidden will? The songbird, let her muse
the painter in his cavern, his mettle at the test,
Sixteen years ago, my mother found my father behind the shed on a Saturday morning in June. “Get up off the ground in your good shirt,” she told him, before she understood he was dead. “He looked like he was sleeping,” she told us. “The gun glinted in the grass.”
Seven years after my father’s suicide, I opened the envelope containing police photographs of the scene. He did not look like he was sleeping. Limbs: a swastika. Angles inhuman. Violence and velocity rendered in two hundred pounds of a six-foot man. The gun glinted in the grass—she was right about that.