All posts tagged: New York

Still Life 3: The Suburbs


A child in a car seat through the car window
Long Island, NY

Interior of a silver Volvo wagon, back door pockets stuffed with Candy Ring wrappers, pencils, and rocks; I am looking in the rear-view mirror or over my right shoulder into the backseat, my left hand on the wheel, right hand on the seat back next to me. Two small boys, both with eyes the exact color as my own, stare back at me, pleading or explaining or demanding or questioning or laughing or crying or sulking or fighting or trying to hide. The car smells vaguely Cheerio-like. No matter the music, the soundtrack is chatter and the rhythmic kicking of a seat back. They also like punching each other’s seat warmer buttons with their feet to be annoying.

Still Life 3: The Suburbs

Nine Twelve Poem



Dedicated to Reina Yolanda Burdie

I was in Egypt nine months before the towers fell.
The people spoke to me in Arabic  Roh Rohi 
but I spoke back in English   so they called me “American”
             /I never called myself American. 
                 America never called me American – not without a hyphen. 

Nine Twelve Poem



Saturday night I’m at the kitchen window listening to my neighbors fight. Theirs is the only light on, pungent and pouring out onto the fire escape, illuminating a coffee can. I’ve counted five cigarette butts so far.      

“I can’t keep doing this, bro,” the girl shouts. Glass shatters thick against a wall in their apartment. “I can’t keep doing and doing this.”

The kettle screeches and out goes the mug in my hand and the spoiled red wine all over the windowsill and all over me. Who knows why I’ve set water to boil. A jilted habit of steeping tea to sleep when I had patience with myself. A phantom limb.

There’s a sprint of shouts, one voice trampling another, and then a long, feral cry. My cat when I was a kid yowled like that when she pawed at a mouse trap. We freed her and she crawled into my mother’s dresser where she stayed for weeks and weeks, burrowing into her fear. The world became a mouse trap.


Hunters’ Gate


Image of the cover of The Great Mistake by Jonathan Lee.

Excerpted from THE GREAT MISTAKE ©2021 by Jonathan Lee, published by Alfred A. Knopf. (Pre-order here)

One night, out walking, unable to sleep, and more fatigued than usual by his endlessly unfolding apprenticeship, the eighteen-hour days, the bugs that puncture his skin every night, the lack of money for real milk or for visiting his favorite sister, Andrew saw a man in the street who was raising a gun and pointing it at what?

A young mastiff, thin and weary-looking, staggering for a place to sleep.

Hunters’ Gate

Pandemic Diaries


New York City    March 17, 2020

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.

Pandemic Diaries

Poems From The Life Assignment


Join us as we celebrate The Common contributor, Ricardo Maldonado’s, Pub Day with poems in both English and Spanish from his debut book of poetry, The Life Assignment.

book cover.jpg

 I Give You My Heart

I find myself on my feet with fifteen leaves.
Everything carries its own light on the walls.

I woke up to slaughter, my heart opening
to cemeteries of moon—

the parasites, the drizzle. The mud crowning
the undergrowth with immense sadness.

I knew death when I dressed
in my uniform.

I found the index of solitude: my country
in its legal jargon, its piety, its fiction—

Yes. It loves me, really.

I give my blood as the blood of all fish.

Poems From The Life Assignment