All posts tagged: Essays

Her Borders Become Her

By FÁTIMA POLICARPO

 

She had been dead nearly a decade before she sought me out. I was in my late twenties when she first came to me; then, again and again over a period of several years, whenever I came home to visit and always in the middle of the night as I slept in my old room. Before it was mine, it was hers. In the recurring dream or vision, I opened my eyes to darkness and knew I was not alone. She stood in the far corner by the closet, waiting for something. The air between us, a conduit—even from across the room, I felt her body tingling my skin. You don’t always have to see a thing to know it exists.

Her Borders Become Her
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In Search of a Homeplace

By LATOYA FAULK

 

When we identify respect (coming from the root word meaning “to look at”) as one of the dimensions of love, then it becomes clear that looking at ourselves and others means seeing the depths of who we are. Looking into the depths, we often come face-to-face with emotional trauma and woundedness. Throughout our history, African Americans have pounded energy into the struggle to achieve material well-being and status, in part to deny the impact of emotional woundedness. Truthfully, it is easier to acquire material comfort than to acquire love.
—From Salvation: Black People and Love, by bell hooks

 

Home is not just a house; it’s this yearning for a place where you’re safe, [a place where] nobody’s going to hurt you.
—Toni Morrison, in conversation with Claudia Brodsky at Cornell University on March 7, 2013

 

In Search of a Homeplace
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“You Like to Have Some Cup of Tea?” and Other Questions About Complicity and Place

By DEBORAH LINDSAY WILLIAMS

 

“We need to do more, Mom,” my son tells me. He’s fifteen, supports the Kurdish resistance and fancies himself an anarcho-socialist (“It’s not like being an anarchist, Mom, okay?”). The Young Socialist lives in a state of perpetual indignation about the state of the world. He insists that governments can and should do better, and that capitalism is the root of almost all problems—past, present, and future. He hopes for radical social change, but when I call him an idealist, he’s furious: “It’s practical, that’s all. Marx and Öcalan, their ideas would work if people weren’t just so… stupid. And greedy.” I usually tell the Young Socialist that, because I’m a literature professor, my version of “do more” is of the teaching and writing sort, rather than the man-the-barricades sort, which I know disappoints him. He says: “We’re all complicit, Mom. You’re white and a professor, and there’s no way to escape your own privilege, even if you’re only white by accident.”

“You Like to Have Some Cup of Tea?” and Other Questions About Complicity and Place
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It’s Done

By RUI CARDOSO MARTINS
Translated by DEAN THOMAS ELLIS

 

There are two twin girls in the courtroom. They look very much alike, with fine blonde hair, tightly bound, and short, pretty noses. One can see they have not yet reached the point in life where twins become separate. If they were to trade places, it would not be easy to tell the difference. But do not look at them in this way. A year and a half ago, a curtain fell between them.

It’s Done
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All In and Out of Time

By ALLYN GAESTEL 

This is a story about stacked tenses. It is an essay about the present tense: a now that is continually layered with what is coming and what is going, what is half buried, and what may bear fruit.

It is about seeing more than is comprehensible and learning to make sense of it. It’s about the dance between receptivity and agency. It’s about history in the present, clairvoyance, and freedom. It’s about destiny and release; side chicks and the sacred; questions that untangle themselves in their response. And circularity: a facet of both life and its records, of which this is one.

All In and Out of Time
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Notes on Camp: 2020

By VAL WANG

“John jumped.”

I had no idea what the short sentence meant, only that it came from the Bible and when I said it, all the other campers in my Bible study group laughed and I was off the hook for answering any more questions about God, Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, none of which I knew anything about.

Notes on Camp: 2020
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Upright Members in Good Standing

By A. KENDRA GREENE

 

My boyfriend does not come with me to the penis museum. While I pay the eight hundred Icelandic krona to visit 276 specimens of pickled, salted, or mounted manhood, Dustin is at home packing boxes. His home. He is sweating there in the triple-digit heat of a Texas summer, sweating as he arranges his life into banker’s boxes and carries them out in bulky white waves to stack against the blank walls of the new place, the place we picked out together, the first apartment we will ever share. And while all this packing and inventory and heavy lifting has everything to do with me, with us, with bringing an end to the long-distance phase of our relationship and making a life together, it does not yet occur to him that what he’s doing has anything whatsoever to do with an Icelandic penis museum. He has no idea that by the time he picks me up from the airport a few weeks later, I’ll want him to make a donation. Indeed, at first, I do not know it myself.

 

Upright Members in Good Standing
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All Night in the Tuberculosis Room

By RENA J. MOSTEIRIN

Just before daybreak, the sky above NewYork-Presbyterian in Queens stiffens, and the nurse kicks me out of Abuela’s hospital room, because he needs to clean her. I don’t want to leave her room, and I don’t quite remember how to leave the hospital, but when I get out, the December night is a sharp blue and the cold air aches. As I stumble toward the lit deli on the corner I can’t even close my coat, my hands shake so much. I take off the mask. I see the air coming out of my mouth as a cloud of white, frozen mist. So this is God. God is the air going in and the air coming out and the sun coming up blue and the cold.

I am still holding the mask. I feel that I still need it, having worn it all night over my mouth and nose to keep the germs from coming in. Everything is glowing: the mask, my breath, my hands.

The man working the counter comes outside, muttering about it being too cold. He holds opens the door, gestures for me to walk into the light and follows me back inside. He holds a small garbage pail, he gestures for me to drop the mask. Just throw it away.

“How can I help you?” he asks. He repeats himself, because I can’t speak. I can see the yellow glow of sunrise in his face. Yellow omelets, egg sandwiches, golden bagels—these are the foods of heaven. Outside I was black and white, but somehow, in here, I am in color.

*

In the tuberculosis room, you must keep the door closed at all times. Wear a mask when you enter and throw the mask away when you leave. This machine will buzz all night, that’s the sound the laser makes. When air passes through this part here, the purple light that you see will kill the tuberculosis germs. We do this to protect you. Thirteen million people in the United States have latent tuberculosis infection. Are you sure you want to spend the night? Please do not remove the mask. The mask is light blue, for your protection. Press down on either side and the top of the mask will conform to the shape of your nose.

All Night in the Tuberculosis Room
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The Hold Steady Sets the Scene

By ERIC R. DANTON

Thrashing Thru the Passion, the latest album from Brooklyn indie-rock band the Hold Steady, begins with a striking description: “He shaved his head at the airport / In a bar at the end of the concourse.” The song is called “Denver Haircut,” and it’s an intriguing enough opening that you can imagine being there at the far end of Concourse C at Denver International Airport, watching some guy with a cordless Wahl clipper and a sense of purpose.

The Hold Steady Sets the Scene
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Hen Medic: Maude Abbott and the Dawn of Cardiology

By GABRIEL BROWNSTEIN

This piece is an excerpt from The Open Heart Club.

Cover of The Open Heart Club

October, 1931. Imagine that you’re riding a southbound train from Montreal to New York City. The woman across the aisle smells strange, a mix of rose water and formaldehyde. She has packages everywhere, on the seat beside her, in the rack above, bags, boxes, some wrapped in twine, some in brown paper. The paper looks stained, as though what’s inside is leaking. She’s got a portfolio full of prints and drawings. She keeps knocking over a big striped umbrella. 

Hen Medic: Maude Abbott and the Dawn of Cardiology
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