As soon as I read about the albatrosses in the Times, I thought of my big sister. Natasha.
“Natasha—albatross ty nasha,” Aunt Lyuba would sing in the communal kitchen, slinging blobs of wheat porridge into my bowl with the cornflower border. Each time she’d shuffle the bowl from the stove over to Natasha-and-my table, her felt slippers would catch on the peeling linoleum floor, and I’d worry about my breakfast. But Aunt Lyuba never slipped.
Things are finally warming up here in Western Mass: old snow banks are melting and fuzzy buds are popping up on the trees. Our spring issue—which features a portfolio of stunning fiction from Kuwait, apocalyptic poetry, a Ramadan romance, and a story about a dog in a Texas barrio—launches in just a few short weeks. If you’re wondering where these writers get their inspiration, look no further than this round of Friday Reads.
In the early morning, when pink Oklahoma dawn crept over the sturdy single-family bungalows and strip malls, Abu Khaled al Shimeri wrapped his left arm around the taut belly of his pregnant wife, Fatima, and had a troubled dream.
A dimly lit maze of unpaved streets ended in front of a tall limestone wall. The sky above the wall was luminescent blue, but no sunshine reached the crepuscular base where he was standing barefoot. Behind the wall were the sacred streets of al Quds. Abu Khaled knew that the gilded dome of al Aqsa Mosque was only a few hundred paces away. He could hear a busy market on the other side, peddlers hawking live chickens and honey, women bargaining over the price of lamb. But no matter how hard he looked, he could not see a gate, not even a crack in the wall through which he could squeeze his wilting, middle-aged body.
“God!” he pleaded. “Please let me into the blessed city!”
November’s Friday Reads features selections from three Issue 12 contributors: poet Max Freeman, translator Ostap Kin, and essayist Anna Badkhen. All three are reading and recommending poetry this month, verses of otherness, foreigness, complexity, and intelligence. In this month, in this year — when the easy, the soundbitey, and the distorted seem to dominate us — we’re happy to endorse these thoughtful recommendations.
Chord by Rick Barot, Orchard Lamps by Ivan Drach, Garden Time by W.S. Merwin, and Dark Archives by Andre Bradley.