There is an undeniable poetry to transportation. The reverie of a train roping across land, the intrepidity of a boat charting depthless waters, the surrealism of an aircraft cutting through cloud—all tracing paths like storylines across terrain, all positioning the passenger as an Odyssean protagonist. In Bilbao-New York-Bilbao, Kirmen Uribe takes the family novel to the skies. Originally written in Basque and published in 2008, this latest edition was published in 2022—translated by American poet Elizabeth Macklin and featuring an incisive new foreword by Lebanese-American writer Youmna Chlala. The first of Uribe’s four novels, Bilbao-New York-Bilbao won the 2009 National Prize for Literature in Spain. True to the timelessly familial tendency of many debut novels, its narrative pulse is Uribe’s desire to excavate his ancestral past, collaging testimonies from disparate historical voices into a cohesive portrait.
NICHOLAS GOODLY’s debut full-length poetry collection, Black Swim was published by Copper Canyon Press in September 2022. JAAMIL OLAWALE KOSOKO and Nicholas recently connected over Zoom and talked about interdisciplinary art and writing, the essential nature of rest, and prioritizing creative expression.
Intentional Offerings: jaamil olawale kosoko interviews Nicholas Goodly
A man swims to the left of Julia, and a woman to the right. They are blurs of misted goggles, the glint of a silver, latex cap. They flip like sleek fish at the pool’s wall.
Julia is sure they are having an affair. The two showed up at the same time, splitting the three-lane pool with Julia, who had gotten used to swimming alone. At first, she resented the wake of their bodies in the water—that reminder of competitive sport. She watched as they left the pool, noticing the nod, a touch as they crossed paths at the changing room doors.
Julia is a night swimmer. She likes the pool’s cool indoor lights and the way the black winter sky beyond the glass windows feels framed and distant. The goggles distort her peripheral vision—creating a blue shadow that she imagines as one of the sea creatures she and James used to visit at the aquarium when they first met.
If James were at home, she would tell him about the swimmers, but he is in New Zealand, studying the impact of climate change on a fur seal colony.
Under water, Julia feels the shudder of the commuter train as it passes.
From my window I see a boy shaking the bougainvillea for flowers. My parents talk of pruning it. They talk of little else. The tree, spilling wildly past our house into the gulley—where boys come to smoke or piss, lanky against betel-dyed walls—acrid ammonia, posters begging for votes, pink crowning above them. The boys linger even when it rains. Each drop caught briefly under the golden streetlight, and me, holding my breath.
Julia Cooke speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “Past and Future on Rapa Nui,” which appears in The Common’s fall issue. In this conversation, Julia talks about her trip to Rapa Nui, commonly known as Easter Island, a place famous for the mysterious moai statues that dot the remote landscape. She also discusses the island’s complicated and unknowable history, her earlier work as a journalist, and her latest book, which chronicles stories from Pan Am stewardesses during the Jet Age.
Podcast: Julia Cooke on “Past and Future on Rapa Nui”
When my marriage ended I moved to an apartment building that was mostly uninhabited. I never saw the other tenants. There were traces of them here and there—a sock left in a dryer, muted weeping down the hall, ambulances flashing out front—but I couldn’t have told you what any of my neighbors looked like.
There was a serious cockroach infestation in my unit. In the kitchen, the roaches chewed through boxes of crackers, fresh fruit, bags of rice. They crawled over the counters, peeked up through the sink drain, and burned in the oven. In the middle of the night, I’d spot them on the ceiling, circling the kitchen light like planets in a model solar system.
For the past few days, I’ve vacillated between panic, helplessness, and feeling like a prophetic, burning witch. I spent the first two months of this year watching the pandemic take hold of China—from the arrest of Dr. Li WenLiang for spreading “false rumors,” to Wuhan and the whole country going into lockdown, to my friends mailing masks back home to their families in China—sitting in my NYC apartment as the virus swept across Korea, Iran, Italy, making its way across the globe towards me.
Hebe Uhart’s “A Trip to La Paz” is delightfully misleading in that we never arrive at our destination; we never see the city that touches the clouds. This essay is concerned with a different kind of beauty—the getting there, the buzzing potential of travel. It encapsulates why we embark on grueling car rides, on flights, on long train journeys, in the first place.
My boy is on the floor again. I’ve just told him he has to get in the shower, before dinner, after homework, after only five minutes of TV.
“What?” he protested in a drawn-out whine that contorted his face into a buskin tragedy mask before collapsing onto the floor. His body, prone and straight, swivels from side to side. He pulls his knees into his chest. Now he thrusts his feet down, then back, and almost behind him, as if doing a hamstring stretch. However he moves, thrashing, flailing, it is not vertical. To move up or around or about—even if stomping, even if screaming, even while crying out—would convey a sense of acceptance. “I don’t want to do what you ask, but I’m willing!” such a movement would say.
Last May, having exhausted all possible local options, my husband and I got into our car and drove one hundred miles west. We left home early that morning in search of two specific things: better medical care and a definitive diagnosis.
During that first drive into Manhattan, we held hands. Almost ten years into our marriage, it’s something we rarely do anymore — and certainly not for prolonged periods of time. Looking back now, I was holding on for dear life.