Saturday, June 30, 2018

June 30: Marcia Aldrich • Mandy Len Catron • Jasmina Kuenzli • Ryan Van Meter • Lynne Grist • Nora-Lyn Veevers • Chelsea Biondolillo • Melissa Faliveno • Natalie Lima • Boyer Rickel

Today we present ten more dispatches from June 21, 2018 to you. More details on the project here, but, in brief, we asked you to write about what happened on one day in June, and are publishing the results, largely unedited, for the next month and change, roughly ten a day. If you wrote something (it's not too late!), send us your work by the end of June (at the latest: earlier is better!) via this submission form (it's okay if you didn't RSVP before: the more the merrier).

—The Editors

June 30: Marcia Aldrich • Mandy Len Catron • Jasmina Kuenzli • Ryan Van Meter • Lynne Grist • Nora-Lyn Veevers • Chelsea Biondolillo • Melissa Faliveno • Natalie Lima • Boyer Rickel



The construction workers arrive. Bainbridge Landing, the euphemistic name for a huge, unsightly blight upon the landscape, is being built right behind where I live on the destroyed ground of what once was a five-acre field of wildness. Last year in a matter of days they knocked down every tree, tore every shrub, every scotch broom, holly, and blackberry cane out of the ground and shook them in the jaws of death until they fell apart and then scooped them up and dumped them on enormous funeral pyres. Every snake, bird, rat, and deer got out and didn’t come back. Now the men start hammering around 6:55, sawing pipes with machines that break your will to live, and running a machine that flattens the earth.
     Up I get, stumble really, to shut the blinds against the longest day of the year.


I do unremarkable things. I try to figure out the title for an essay I am working on and land on either Someone Called Mother or The Enigma Variations, which gives me an excuse to listen to Elgar’s orchestral original.
     I learn the gorilla Koko, who knew American sign language, died in her sleep.
     I learn that a century ago, shepherds castrated lambs with their teeth.
     I learn that Benny, the state’s first wildlife detection dog, is really good at sniffing out illegal elephant ivory but that unfortunately he can’t be everywhere at once.
     I learn that from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2016 there were at least 12 incidents of a large white car driven by a woman over the age of sixty-six striking a storefront on Bainbridge Island, where I live. In the past two weeks, two such incidents occurred, the taking out of the window of a shoe store, Soul Mates. The driver said without irony The car has a mind of its own.
     I am asked in the space of an hour to stand with Jeff Merkley, Patty Murray, Jay Inslee, Derek Kilmer, the ACLU, Oceana, Sierra Club, Women’s March, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Earth Justice.
     To donate today.
     I watch segment No. 45 of Carpool Karaoke with host James Corden and his guest, Paul McCartney, singing “Let It Be” as they drive around Liverpool. I sing along. Tears form.

Late Middle

Richard and I and Omar, our dog, walk along the harbor to the Congregational Church’s community garden, where I share a plot that had been neglected for years. I am revitalizing it. Omar isn’t allowed into the garden and so Richard sits on the bench by the front gate and Omar lies down at his feet. They are surrounded by climbing roses, tall delphiniums, lilies, bachelor buttons, all profuse and unchecked. So unchecked is the growth that tall stalks with bold yellow flowers are growing up through the slots of the rickety bench and through the gate. The evening sun falls on them, lights them up as if they were the subjects of a painting called Late Sun. I open the gate and follow the winding overgrown paths back to my little plot bordered by ever-rising raspberry canes. My plants are starting to sprout and spread, the greens of the parsley and basil as intense as can be against the dark soil. Even the compost pile has red poppies blooming in it, a field of them. I water. I talk to Ed, the guardian of the garden. He tells me it makes him happy to see me tend my garden after so many years when it was just weeds.


I watch The Americans. Episode 3 from Season 6, “Urban Transport Planning.” It is the endgame for The Americans and so much more. While Elizabeth strangles a security guard and Philip meets Oleg at the park, Leonard Cohen sings a love song inspired by the Holocaust:
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love.
Dance me to the end of love.
—Marcia Aldrich

Marcia Aldrich's latest book is Waveform: Twenty-First-Century Essays by Women, University of Georgia Press. Her latest essay is "The Short Book on Grief," in the May issue of Brevity.


This morning I missed a FedEx delivery for the third time in three days. I’m not sure how much of this missing is my fault and how much is theirs. But I am underslept and I have a job interview tomorrow so I am choosing to blame them entirely.
     When I text my partner Mark, “Guess who fucking came by and didn’t buzz us??” he writes back kindly: “Delivery rage is normal.” I tell him my anger feels out of proportion—it’s just patio furniture—and he assures me that missed deliveries are a condition of modern life; everyone’s angry about them.
     On the bus to work I put in my earphones and turn on my meditation app in hopes of softening the rage. But instead fat tears leak down my face. I am thirty seven, too old to cry on the bus and yet here we are.
     The last time I cried on the bus was when Dumbledore died. It was eight years ago and I had just ended a ten year relationship and the Harry Potter audiobooks saved me from grief for a half an hour every day. That day Dumbledore’s death seemed symbolic of all the losses we must bear, even those that are intentional and necessary. It was a good bus cry, if there is such a thing.
     I guess this morning’s cry is probably symbolic, too, as I truly do not care this much about an aluminum table and six plastic chairs. Maybe I am crying because I’m bitter that modern capitalism can shrink my entire week to three failed deliveries. Or maybe it has nothing to do with FedEx and everything to do with this job interview and the precariousness of adjunct faculty work and the shimmering prospect of a full-time position. Maybe it’s to do with next month’s trip to the fertility clinic. Or maybe the tears are just the inevitable response to watching your government put kids in cages.
     I guess we are all reckoning with our powerlessness every day. Isn’t this why I bought the meditation app? For the sake of maintaining a sliver of bus dignity, I decide not to think about the interdependence of meditation apps and modern capitalism.
     I have lunch with two friends who are kind enough to curse FedEx on my behalf. Then they toss me a few practice interview questions and I am buoyed with gratitude for their good companionship.
     In my office, I grade thirty portfolios, write a final exam, and send what feels like fifty emails but is probably closer to ten. I cross things off my to-do list with firm strokes. I log on to Twitter and, about five seconds later, feel the rage lurking again. I close the website.
     In the classroom the breeze rustles the trees outside and comes in through the windows and raises goosebumps along my arms as I write the words “EXAM FORMAT” on the marker board. The students are restless. It’s the last class and the longest day of the year and all of us want to be somewhere else.
      “I want you guys to succeed on this exam,” I say, feeling the breeze rush in again. “So we have to go over the stuff, but then we can leave early.” They snap to attention at the words “leave early.” I imaging sitting on my unfurnished patio with the dog and a beer as the day fades. I want to bear witness to every last hint of daylight.
     When I thank them for making my Tuesday and Thursday nights so pleasant, my students clap and I turn a little bit red. I tell them I’ll see them at next week’s final. As I say this, I remember the littlest bit of strawberry coconut ice cream in the freezer and life feels totally manageable for the first time all day. I hoist a big stack of research papers into my arms and we all head out into the still-bright evening.
—Mandy Len Catron

Mandy Len Catron is the author of How to Fall in Love with Anyone, a memoir in essays. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Rumpus, and The Walrus, as well as literary journals and anthologies. She lives in Vancouver, BC.


Torn Contact (June 21, 2018)

I’m stuck in traffic on Mopac, and I can’t fucking see. My left eye is a constant stream of weepy tears and discharge, trying to expel the foreign, corrosive object. 
     Which, of course, also happens to be the object that makes me see.
     It’s hard to drive home with a torn contact.
     This is the type of life I’ve been living lately. I’m struggling through Hard Mode on what looks to everyone else like Easy. 
     The thing that is supposed to make me see is making me blind.
     Like now, the car in front of me slams on its brakes, and I almost don’t make it in time. Distracted, the instinct to shift from first to second to neutral and back again, gliding the car forward and stopping, is a beat behind. The music starts, but I’m waiting for the right cue. 
     Hesitating on the tips of my toes, until I miss the beat entirely. Until all my rhythm gets lost in anxiety. 
     “We should have a girl’s night!” The others were sprawled around me in their various states of exhaustion, and it was the least lonely I’ve felt in weeks. 
     “Sounds awesome,” I said.
     But then that twinge went off in my chest. A proximity alarm. 
     Why are you freaking out? I’m standing on a hill, screaming at the black hole that is my anxiety, bracing myself against its sucking force. It’s just a game night. You’re good at games. 
     My eye burns, and my vision blurs.
     Oh right, I think. We put my Life settings on Hard. 

At about the Capital of Texas Highway Exit, I decide I’ve had enough. I rub hard enough for the small, flexible object to leave my eye. 
     This does not help. 
     All I can see are blurred shapes and the grey stretch of road.
     It’s going to be a long way home. 

They’re new here, so they don’t know.
     They don’t know about me. 
     What do you think they’ll do when they find out about you?
     My eye hurts, and there are permanent tear tracks down my cheek. 

The ones who know parade across my vision. The guy who made me sprint to my car and look over my shoulder, who shows up on their Snapchats, who they’d never suspect….
     The friend who already took his side.
     The words I wrote about the friend I fell in love with so absolutely, he still hates me.
     The guy I tried to hook up with in January, even though I broke every tier of girl code to do it.
     I bite my lip and the tears trickle down my cheeks. 
     Why do you think they’d believe you? No one else did.
     The road is filled with blurriness where there should be sharp edges. Where things should be clear-cut. 
     And my workplace is a minefield with triggers set only for me. 

But the music continues to play.
     The road to take its shape.
     I remember the ones who stayed. 
     The words, “I believe you.”
     The soft, “You didn’t deserve this.”
     The fierce, “Since when did you let them take any space that belonged to you?”
     And I’m still driving.
     The blurriness an easy adjustment, my fingers tapping on beat.

—Jasmina Kuenzli

Jasmina Kuenzli is a second-year master's student studying Creative Writing, Science Fiction & Fantasy, and YA Literature.  She can usually be found holding impromptu dance parties in her car, developing her superhero alter-ego, and making unnecessary Harry Potter references. Jasmina would like to thank Brenna and Sarah, who heard these stories first; and Harry Styles, who is sunshine distilled in a human being.  


I woke up eight minutes before my alarm was set to ring, in the room of my adolescence. I had arrived to my parents’ house in Missouri the afternoon before. I made coffee. In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, among the letters to the editor, a reader suggested to those criticizing the president’s current policy of prosecuting and detaining migrants illegally crossing the country’s border to drive down, pick some up and host them in their own home. I read my horoscope and ate cereal with Lactaid.
     My father and I drove to a military cemetery to see my aunt’s grave. She was buried there only two weeks earlier so her grave was marked with a paper label under plastic on a metal stem stuck in the dirt. A man with a truck was just then installing the engraved white stones of the people who had died in May. Flowers were draped over the some of the plastic markers.
     After, we went to the Missouri Civil War Museum on the same campus. I saw a taxidermy horse and an amputation set, a silk dress and many guns. In an exhibit of The Civil War as depicted in movies, I learned that Margaret Mitchell, novelist of Gone With the Wind, was killed by a drunk driver while crossing the street on her way to the movies. I decided to read “The Red Badge of Courage.” On one of the display cases, there was a sign asking visitors to please pardon the darkness.
     On our way home, my father slowed the car to wait for a squirrel to cross the road. He pointed to clouds that looked like rain.
     Shortly after we got back to their house, my mother returned from shopping. She had bought me a set of blending markers. When we tested them out, the markers wouldn’t blend. She also brought home a bunch of scratch-off lottery tickets. I won three dollars on one and six dollars on another.
     We ate leftovers for lunch. I napped for 12 minutes.
     I looked through old stuff in my closet, including a collection of movie ticket stubs I’d saved from my teenaged years. Movies I forgot had ever been made. Raising Cain. Shining Through. The carved face of a hand puppet I made of Napoleon for a book report in sixth grade resembled my father’s. In a panoramic picture of my eighth grade class, I was sitting in the front row all the way to right wearing two watches in a T-shirt with horses on it.
     My husband called from California to say our puppy had chewed up a birthday card I received in the mail from my other aunt.
     My father and I watched Jeopardy! “Who is Margaret Mitchell?” was a correct response in the first round.
     We ate dinner at my parents’ country club. My mother led us on a tour. Their old club burned down a year before and since it had reopened, it was the first time I had been there. My brother, his wife, and two children met us. I held my baby niece until our food came. Her pacifier fell and it rolled the farthest it’s ever rolled, my sister-in-law said.
     At home, we watched several reruns of Family Feud. My father said it seemed that Steve Harvey was always on television. My mother said that some of the answers to the questions were too risqué for the hour the show was generally broadcast. I noticed their dog only lets me pet her when I’m sitting on the sofa in the living room. Later on, I noticed that I especially liked listening to the sound of rain when I am in a bed.
     It took great concentration, I realized, to notice what has been the same for a long time.
     Lying there, waiting to sleep, I remembered a jacket at the museum in the Hollywood Civil War display. It was a costume that had appeared in several movies. It had stripes along the sleeves that indicated the Confederacy, but letters embroidered on its collar that indicated Union. The little printed card pointed out that the typical movie-goer would not have been able to notice this discrepancy while the jacket was in motion.

—Ryan Van Meter

Ryan Van Meter is the author of an essay collection, If You Knew Then What I Know Now. His work has also been selected for anthologies including The Best American Essays. He lives in California where he is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of San Francisco.


I awaken from the best sleep I have had since arriving in Manchester, UK a week ago. I’m visiting my mother’s family who I’ve not seen for 18 years. It’s been a quiet holiday so far as I get to know my lovely cousins who are quickly becoming the sisters I never had. They leave me to myself most of the time, only making occasional suggestions of what I might, perhaps, like to do before my three weeks in England run out. I’m still grieving the loss of my husband a year ago, and I’m not myself yet. Though I’m not exactly sure what my “self” is anymore. They understand, and give me lots of hugs.
     We are going downtown today to visit the George and Dragon, the pub where my parents met at the end of the war. It was April 1945, and my  father was a soldier stationed in England at the time. But the war ended before they could marry and he was sent back to Canada. They wrote one another for over a year until my mom was able to join him and become a Canadian war bride.
     I am excited to see the pub, though I understand it has changed a great deal in 70 years. The house where my mother lived is gone, as is the factory where she inspected Lancashire Bomber parts during the war. The row of shops with a fishmonger, greengrocer, and bakery, have been turned into flats. But I have high hopes for the pub, for at least the building still stands. We shall see.
Cradling my French press coffee with English “double cream”, I step outside into the coolest day so far. Bits of sun poke out from the ever-present clouds, which are threatening  rain as usual. I hope they refrain today, though I’m becoming as phlegmatic about the weather as the Brits and don’t care too much. How different the summer solstice is here compared to home. I swear I can feel the North Atlantic seeping through the ground. My cousins wear shorts and sandals while I huddle in my jeans and fleece. I wish I had brought warmer socks.
     I tour the small garden and admire the lush flowering bushes, which appear to love the cool, damp weather. I worry about my cousin’s tomato plants whose foliage is exploding from their plastic tent. I wonder how they will ever produce fruit with such a meagre ration of daily sunshine. At least the peas and lettuce are happy.
     Large, beautiful, black and white birds called magpies squawk from the rooftops and fences. They are ignored by my cousins, who still talk about the magnificent blue jays they saw in Canada years ago. Familiarity does breed indifference.

As I eat my breakfast of Greek yogurt, berries and granola – identical to my breakfast at home – my cousin reports Trump’s latest: Canadians are buying American shoes, scuffing them up, and smuggling them across the border. I find this hilarious. Canadians have always smuggled American goods over the border—it’s one of our favourite pastimes. Trump often intrudes into conversation here, just as he does in Canada, and my relatives are as appalled by him as I am.
     I go back to reading my Guardian newspaper. An article on the front page says Italy’s interior minister has declared that all non-Italian Roma must be expelled from the country. “Unfortunately we will have to keep the Italian Roma,” he says, “because we can’t expel them.” He has often expressed his admiration for Benito Mussolini.
      Fascism on the rise, again.

In the afternoon my cousins and I walk to the tram which is only five minutes away, and in ten minutes we are in downtown Manchester. Since they are retired and over 60, my cousins travel for free. How civilized. I compare all this with Toronto, where transit is expensive, inconvenient, time-consuming, and totally insufficient.
     We alight from the tram and walk to Swan St., where the George and Dragon pub once stood at the centre of a thriving manufacturing district- one of the world’s first and largest. The red sandstone pub was built in 1862, but is now painted black and silver and renamed the Band on the Wall. This had been its nickname since the 1930’s, when the owner built shelves for the musicians high on the wall to leave more floor space for the customers.
     It is 1:00 pm and the pub doesn’t open until 5:00, but we have arranged an early tour with the manager. We knock on the red door, and John takes us inside. He shows us the old woodwork and windows covered by black paint and points out the decorated plaster ceilings and original columns with shelves attached where patrons still rest their drinks. Then he takes us to another room which once housed the oldest cinema in Manchester. Filling one wall is a huge blown-up photograph possibly taken on VE Day. It shows the George and Dragon filled with Allied servicemen from around the world. Above their heads are the shelves, with a dummer and accordionist on one and a piano bolted to the other. I search for my parents in the crowd, but they are not there.
     While John is telling us how the Band on the Wall is an award-winning music venue featuring world music, a West African band knocks on the door. John lets them in, and as they begin setting up, we thank the manager and leave. I have what I came for. This iconic pub still holds the faint echoes of wartime revelry, and I am deeply gratified to have found the place where the first sparks were ignited between my father and mother.
     We walk down the street and stop to eat a 21st century lunch of lentil salad and goat cheese quiche. A chilly wind gusts through the patio and I put up the hood on my down jacket. My cousins remove their coats and bask in the sunshine of the British summer solstice.

—Lynne Grist

Lynne Grist is a retired teacher living and writing in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada



A cup of tea is waiting for me when I opened my eyes. My husband brings my tea every morning (Insert happy faces. And hearts). Dad spoils you, Mom says my daughter. When she visits she brings my tea early in the morning (Insert more hearts than my heart can hold).  A bit of mindful meditation, a bit of hip and leg exercises prescribed by the physiotherapist, a first, soothing, hot swallow of the best a cup of tea will taste all day.


I ran into my friend at the boutique-y bakery in town where I picked up day-old pain au chocolat. We stopped for a cup of coffee together on the sunny deck and shared our outrage over a local celebrity wine-maker who made the front page of the national newspaper for the sexual harassment of many female staff over several years. Some of our friends questioned whether it should have been front-page news. My adult daughters said hash-tag about time.


Our oldest daughter is staying with us this summer while she writes up her doctoral dissertation. She spends most of her time burrowed deep in her subject matter. Today she made the best turkey BLTs ever. We put everything on a tray and took it out to the back deck. The sun warmed our arms, legs, faces. Not a cloud in the sky. None of us wanted to give up our lunch-place in the soothing, warm glow of the first day of summer.


I make potato salad from the French Cooking cook book. The dressing includes white wine and lots of grainy Dijon mustard. I marinate the chopped up green onions in the vinaigrette for about an hour before pouring it over the salted, cooked potatoes.
     On our walk we discover that something, probably the muskrat living in the little creek in the swampy meadow, has dug up all the turtle eggs we watch the mother turtle lay the day before in the gravel on the side of the road. She expelled each egg with laborious determination and furiously paddled it with her hind flipper-leg deep into a tunnel she excavated at the same time.  She seemed oblivious of our hovering, so focused she was on bringing another generation to life.
     The barn swallow babies flew their nest this afternoon. After days of watching seven little, open beaks peek over the edge of the nest in the rafters of the barn in anticipation of food to be dropped in by the vigilant mother, they now got to practice finding their own nourishment. They have survived all attempts at sabotage by the barn cat and the neighbourhood Tom cat that invades our barn at night. We will miss them. They are the promise of summer each spring when they arrive back in our barn.


We join a community of friends at a local farm for a Summer Solstice shared-dinner. The potato salad disappears fast. All the food is delicious and the farmer-couple have barbequed organically raised chickens from their farm. Long tables, some in the sun and some in the shade, are set for us. The aroma from the row of peonies behind our chairs graces our meal. The sun stretches its long limbs gently across our table. The conversation turns inevitably to the celebrity wine-maker. The women at our table—all twenty years younger than me—echo my daughter’s sentiment: hash-tag about f*ing time.

Art Opening. 

We slip out of the dinner and drive into town. My husband had a painting accepted in a juried art show and our daughter meets us there so we can see Dad’s painting on display for the opening reception. I take a photo of Dad beside his self-portrait and text it to our younger daughter who lives on the other side of the country. We join some of our friends for the Art Crawl that a few of the young artists have organized in our little town.
     By the time we find our car, Main Street has closed down and the masses of stars begin their nighttime vigil in the cloudless sky.

—Nora-Lyn Veevers

Nora-Lyn Veevers is a writer and retired school administrator living in beautiful Prince Edward County, Ontario Canada


I wake up to a loud fan and cool air. This is immeasurably better than how I’d gone to sleep, which was to a loud fan and hot, thick air. I do not want to get out of bed, which has become a routine feeling I feel, and so I stay twisted in the sheets as long as possible. M makes us both poached eggs, and that drags me up and out. 
     I make coffee and then savor the seeming decadence of soft egg and cool avocado against the rugged terrain of an English muffin. I am late “to work” which just means that it is after 9 when I wander back down the hall and at the end, instead of taking a left turn to crawl back in bed, I take a right turn into my office. I log on to the PC first, as that is where the work happens, but then I also swivel my chair around to fire up the Mac, as that is where all the distractions happen. 
     There are fourteen steps between the kitchen and my office and I only turn my chair to work or to not-work. For most of the workday I navigate this very small space and try not to feel trapped. Today I have three calls with coworkers, which is the most of any day for the past several weeks and so my voice is almost hoarse by three. Usually, I only see my coworkers in my inbox. But today, I talk with the HR manager for a while about a training initiative. I try, during it, not to exhibit the slavering excitement of an underemployed teacher. I am not a teacher for my day job. I am a regulatory analyst—and though most of my coworkers know I teach on the side, when I can, I am not sure if the HR manager knows. She has no sense of humor and does not empathize with employees as a matter of principle. She takes her job very seriously and I (often) do not. I also talk to the technical writer who took over my writing tasks when I became an analyst. I didn’t want to become an analyst, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to write, and so we commiserate with the limitations of our roles after we discuss an issue that I must figure out and she must document. Finally, I talk with a manager with whom I have an uneasy relationship. Her predecessor was my boss, but our director did not think she had the people skills or technical knowledge to manage me. As a result, she considers me an adversary who knows something she needs to know and who she must learn to dominate. We also both have a lot of tattoos and have dated a lot of shitty men—something we discussed a bit more freely when we were equals.  
     In between work tasks, I spend my time at the other computer scrolling and hustling. The university I’d had a contract with canceled me last semester, which meant a loss of twenty percent of the income I’d projected for the rest of the year. My days are consumed with worry about this. I secured a couple of workshop gigs over the summer (which had been scheduled to be my time to write, but will now be my time to try and dig out of a financial hole), but the rosters aren’t filling, which means I don’t get paid, which means I might not get offered the gig again. So, in between liking and reposting and rabbit-holing, I post about my workshops on my various social media platforms, which are deep in great friends but not broad because I don’t know how to manage such things. I try, despite the worry, despite the doubt in my abilities that empty rosters inspire, to effuse excitement about my workshops. I am a good teacher; my students often stay in touch and take my classes over, but… the longer I go without time to write, I worry, the further and further I get from being the kind of writer that people think has something to tell them. I spend a lot of the day thinkingthinkingthinking about that, too. 
     Just at the point in the day when I normally begin to cry, I instead exchange text messages with a very good friend about our flowers. She sends me pictures of her new shade garden and they are beautiful. I send her pictures of the pots I’ve made up of flowers and vining plants for my new patio, which she commends. We are comforting one another this way. This means that I make no entries today in my journal of reasons-I’m-crying-2018. 
     Around 2:30, I finally get out of my pajamas. I realize for the millionth time today (the millionth time over the past several months), that I am deeply, deeply depressed. But there is nothing to do for it today, so I get dressed and finally brush my teeth and continue reading work emails and looking out my window and walking the 14 steps to the kitchen for coffee or to make a lunch salad and the 14 steps back to type something into a screen. I worry and hope in equally unhelpful measure until the work emails drop off and I’ve inundated my few friends with solicitations.
     In the afternoon, I pick up a sweater finished knitting the other day, and I curl up on the couch and begin the slow, mindful process of weaving in the ends of yarn left from the knitting process. Part of the sweater is made of yarn that I’ve had for many years, and I am comforted by the sense of meaningful process a finished sweater represents. I think about the softness of the wool and the complexity of the colors, about the work that went into dying and spinning the yarn and the work that I put in to the sweater. I push the thoughts that follow, that wonder why I can't put that kind of effort into other, important things, away. It’s a cool day, and so even though it is summer, I wear my new sweater while I run some after-work errands, which is good, because my other preferred choice of outerwear has been a long army-green duster type coat, with a hood and drawstring waist—which bears an uncanny resemblance to the jacket that Melania Trump wore to visit the children’s detention center. Mine doesn’t have any text on the back, but I can’t stand even the possibility of someone thinking it is the same brand. 
     For dinner, M and I decide to go to the food carts a couple of small towns away, and we both pick Lebanese. He gets chicken shawarma and I get a lamb gyro and we share a Greek salad. The flat pitas are warm and soft and the sauces and meat are generously spiced. It is too much food, but the lamb tastes good and being full of anything feels good and so I eat every bite of my wrap.

—Chelsea Biondolillo

Chelsea Biondolillo is the author of the prose chapbooks Ologies and #Lovesong. She has an MFA in nonfiction and environmental studies and currently lives about 30 miles outside of Portland, OR, in the shadow of a mountain, near a river. 


I woke today like I wake most days: at 6:45 to chimes in my phone and traffic on the Pulaski Bridge, to men yelling over power saws and concrete walls going up on all sides. Lately I’ve been waking up tired, like I got less sleep than I did. I haven’t been drinking, or drinking that much anyway, and it still feels strange sometimes to wake without the weight of the previous night on my brain, or thick on my teeth, a sick fruit pit in my stomach. It also means the weariness I feel is just there inside me, that it wasn’t self-inflicted. This is its own kind of misery. 
     I crawl out of bed. My partner makes coffee. The dog and cat cry and pace until they’re fed. I take a shower—never hot enough, never enough pressure—and stand in front of the mirror. My hair is getting too long. I look out the bathroom window at the pigeons on the fire escape. It’s a Thursday, and the weekend will be here soon. I’ll sit on the fire escape and read in the sun. For now, I sit on the edge of my bed in the dark, wearing nothing but underwear, and stare at my closet, coffee cup in hand. The dog and cat circle my feet, rub against my legs. I lean down to scratch them. The dog whines and twists around to get more touch. The cat purrs, then jumps up on the bed. She sits next to me, butts her face against my arm. She looks at me. I scratch her neck and think, Am I giving you everything you need? 
     I check the weather, see that the heat will break today. I stare at my closet some more. I do ten pushups. I pull on some jeans, iron a shirt, brush my teeth, pack my bag and leave. I walk ten blocks to the ferry, through scaffolding and closed streets and construction sites. But the sun’s out and there’s a breeze, and I take the boat to work. It trundles along the East River, from my neighborhood in north Brooklyn down to the seaport. The river is dark and muddy and stinks, but most days I still think it’s beautiful. The hazy Manhattan skyline to the west, the developing Brooklyn waterfront to the east. What was once the Domino Sugar factory now a row of condos. I sit outside on the top deck with a book (Hanif Abdurraqib’s They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us) and pass beneath three bridges. They’re the same bridges I pass every day—the Williamsburg, the Manhattan, the Brooklyn. I always look up. They’re a marvel of mechanics, of human invention, exhilarating if you take a second to consider what went into their construction: an amount of vision and labor and exactness of engineering that I can’t even being to imagine. The suspension cables, the towering stone arcs. The dark blue steel of the Manhattan, with just a hint of green. I would like to paint every room in my apartment this color. 
     Lately I’ve been thinking less about construction and more about jumping. I’m not suicidal, at least I don’t think so. I was for a while, a long time ago. But it’s been in the air lately, for me especially since the death of Scott Hutchison, the front man of one of my favorite bands, Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit. Scott jumped, or at least we think so, a little over a month ago now, his body discovered on the banks near the Forth Road Bridge. It’s something he predicted might happen a decade ago in “Floating in the Forth,” a song from the 2008 record The Midnight Organ Fight. It’s a hopeful song, despite its dark forecast. In it he asks if he might find peace below the roar of the bridge. And he imagines jumping. And fully clothed, I’ll float away / down the Forth into the sea. But by the end of the song, he’s steering himself through choppy waves. I think I’ll save suicide for another day, he sings. And the key is major, and there’s a chorus rising up behind him, and you can see him swimming. 
     And so I imagine him alone on the bridge the night he died. Scott suffered from depression, something he sang about often. And it’s no exaggeration to say that on some of my darker days, even recent ones during this very commute, his words have kept me afloat. Every day since his death I think about him as I pass beneath these bridges, and I imagine him jumping. And I wonder if he could feel the wind against his body as he fell. I wonder if he felt weightless. I wonder if he felt anything at all. I wonder if he’d had anything to drink (something else he struggled with and sang about), and how it might have influenced his decision. And Jesus, I think, haven’t I been there. 
Today I think that bridges are a wonder, but they’re also these historic sites of death. They wear death—past death, and the possibility of it—on their beams and in their cables. And isn’t it funny, how they can hold up so much and at the same time allow for such a letting go. And it scares me, the way I’ve been thinking about the bridges. Not just because I think of what it would feel like to fall, but because I’m reminded of how fragile and fleeting life is, how vulnerable we all are.  
     We dock. I walk along the harbor, look out toward the sea. At the office I drink another cup of coffee. I catch up on email. Scroll through Twitter, read the news. I read about children separated from their families and locked in cages at the border. I think about sending more money, about what else I might do. I feel helpless. I log out of Twitter. 
     I edit our daily news roundup. I proof the weekly newsletter. I edit a section of the magazine on writing conferences and retreats. I want to go to all of them, and know that I won’t. I edit an interview with an author whose first book just came out, who says she struggles to keep a consistent writing practice. I feel relieved at this, like I’m not a total failure as a writer. I finish the edit. 
     I don’t drink enough water. I drink too much water. I go to the bathroom. I go back to my desk. I sit too long, and my ass starts to hurt. I get up, stretch, do ten pushups. I eat a banana, some yogurt with strawberries. I take a vitamin. I drink more coffee. I have a meeting. I go outside for five minutes and sit in the sun. I plan a feature on nonfiction writers whose first books are out this year. I’m invigorated by their work, and feel an urgency to finish my own book. I’m getting close, I think. Maybe I will do a retreat somewhere. Maybe I’ll leave the city and move to the woods, where I can breathe and hike and be surrounded by silence and there are no people and there is no Twitter and there is nothing but me and the trees. 
     I write more emails. I edit a PDF guide for writers looking to promote their books. I wait too long to eat, heat up some leftover beans and rice. I write more emails. I look out my office window. A new high-rise is going up. I tell myself that I need to water my plants. I decide to take tomorrow off. I forget to water my plants.
     I walk to the harbor, take the boat back home. I pass beneath the bridges again. I think about Scott again. I’m not listening to his music now, not every day anymore like I was for a while, which is probably a smart move. I listen to the people around me instead. To the sound of their voices, to the sound of the boat’s engine, to the sound of the water beneath me, of the traffic and the trains rushing along the bridges overhead.
     I stop by the store and pick up some cider. My friend comes over to workshop some essays. I pour her a whiskey, crack open a cider for myself. I bought two, but I tell myself I’ll only drink one. We talk for hours about our work—we’re both writing about our bodies, about gender and sexuality and power—and it’s good to talk about these things. I pour her a second whiskey. The glass sweats in the heat. I take the second can of cider out of the fridge. I hold it in my hand for a few minutes while we talk, feel the cool weight of the metal, think of how nice it might feel to float away a little tonight. I put the can back in the fridge. I think about how lately I’ve felt disconnected from my body, like I’m living outside it rather than inhabiting it. I tell my friend this. She hugs me. She finishes her whiskey and leaves. I close the door behind her. 
     My partner comes home with tacos. We eat and watch Portlandia. It feels good to laugh. I realize I don’t laugh much these days. We talk about our friends who have left the city. We make plans to go see them in the fall. We talk about the weekend: we have a show on Saturday, and it will be good to play music. It’s Pride in New York, and we’ll raise some money for the LGBT Center, which is one small good thing we can do. While I’m alive, Scott Hutchison sang, I’ll make tiny changes to earth. And I hope that I can too. Maybe I’ll march again this year. I’ll be surrounded by my queer friends and we’ll put our bodies in the streets, and that’s something, I think. That’s some small something. 
It’s late, nearing midnight, but I’m not ready to go to bed just yet. The light of the day has finally dissolved, and it’s dark outside. 
     “It’s the solstice,” my partner says. 
     “The longest day of the year,” I say.
     I think about how it will get a little darker now, a little earlier every day. But the heat has broken, and it’s cooled down even more. I can hear the wind in the ash tree outside the window. The dog looks at me. The cat looks at me. 

Melissa Faliveno

Melissa Faliveno is an essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, DIAGRAM, Midwestern Gothic, and others, and received a notable citation in Best American Essays 2016. Originally from Wisconsin, she lives in New York, where she is the senior editor of Poets & Writers Magazine, plays in the band Self Help, and is at work on a collection of essays. 


I'm at the mall today because I need to buy some clothes, because I've reached a sloppy place in my life where I wear the same black dress over and over again, each day with a different shrug on top—sometimes a gray one, other times pink—pretending it’s not the same outfit. But I'm surely not fooling anyone. The dress has two small-but-obvious tears that sit between my breasts and navel, a result of latching onto a saguaro after a night of chasing my dog last winter.
     A lot of people talk crap about malls but I mostly like them. They remind me of my pre-teen years at Hot Topic, scoring band t-shirts and spiked faux-leather bracelets on clearance. My favorite acquisition was a Deftones shirt I bought the summer I turned 14, the same summer my dad knocked up the neighbor. I wore the hell out of that shirt, wore it until the black had faded into a chalky gray. Once, I wore it to a Heimlich concert—my first and only heavy metal concert—and I jumped around in a mosh pit until I had bruises the size of coasters on my arms. I used to be embarrassed of those days, of how foolish I was, but now I miss them a little. 
     I walk into Torrid—a clothing store for plus-size women—and ask the sales associate about any deals going on (that's how they get you). She confirms that everything on clearance is Buy One Get Two Free. This titilates me, as fashionable clothing for big women is often expensive as hell. A few hours ago, I received some good news—a result of some recent hard work on a creative project—so I’m treating myself to some new threads in celebration.
     If you’ve ever been big boned fat, you know that shopping can be a demoralizing experience. And currently I'm the heaviest I've been in years—I only fit into the larger sizes sold in the store—so finding decent pieces on clearance seems improbable. But today there is a lot of stuff in my size, and because my confidence is higher than most days, I grab items in colors and patterns I don't usually wear. Is a zebra print poncho too much? I ask myself. Of course it’s not!
     In the dressing room I realize the zebra print is too much, but everything else fits my body nicely. I slip on a long, floral dress and model it in front of the water-stained mirror. I pose. Then I pull my phone out from my purse and snap a photo of myself. I almost text it to my mom, my way of saying Hi Mami, I’m thinking about you, but I quickly remember that she’s on a trip right now, visiting some family in New York City. She rarely gets to travel, so I leave her be. Instead, I snap photo after photo, really feeling myself in every outfit, at every angle. 
     As I undress, I wonder how many days it has been since I quit drinking. From outside the fitting rooms, the sales associate calls out to me, Natalie, are you still doing okay? 
     Yes, I say. I’m great, I’m just about done.
     I grab my phone and open the nifty app that sends me daily words of encouragement and calculates my time on the wagon: 111 days. 
     After I get dressed and gather the clothes I plan to buy, I snap one last photo of myself, wearing the dress I wear everyday, with the tears on the belly. I can barely see them now.

Natalie Lima

Natalie Lima is a 2016 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow and a VONA/Voices alum. She is an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at the University of Arizona and can be found on Twitter @NatalieLima09.


I Awoke from Violent Dreams

I awoke from violent dreams. Heads smashed with clubs in an alley. A shooter with assault rifle spraying bullets in a department store. Or was it a food court? And yet I’d felt oddly safe. What triggered such dreams on my 67th birthday? I thought of what Gary and I had watched after dinner the night before: Alex Strangelove streaming on Netflix, a sweet, impossibly happy high school coming out story. No clue there.
     A block from the house on the morning walk with Cloe I experienced that queasy lightness when I leave the iPhone by accident at home. On 5th Ave. her leash tanged as usual with Mina’s. Pam and I stood back as our poodles, a red and a black, leaped in circles like puppies. The walks never disappoint. One of the guaranteed pleasures of any day. At the park when I released her, Cloe headed for the homeless man with ponytail who calls me Brother. Then she broke from his petting to attack my ankles, initiating the game of chase she often insists on when we walk on grass.   
     The chain of sonar texting pings began at the Rec Center. First Dann, who cleans my house, urged me to have a second martini before dinner, “given the circumstances,” followed by Jack, a college friend outside Santa Fe who wrote, “Longest day of the year. Most precious too . . .” while I huffed on the stationary bike. Home, when I began a frustrating Feuillard cello bowing exercise, Joan in NY sent a colorful Bitmoji avatar (like something by Alison Bechtel, I thought): a cartoon of herself in her trademark black glasses frames and leopard pants lofted among the clouds by balloons spelling  HAPPY BIRTHDAYAnd so on, ping! . . . ping! at irregular intervals throughout the day. 
     After lunch and a nap with Cloe, I finished reading Soul, a novella by the early 20th-century Russian writer Andre Platonov. Having endured over a hundred pages of the half-dead characters’ relentless suffering—“. . . when you must force your heart to work, when you must keep remembering your heart for it to go on beating . . .”—I choked up at the hero’s epiphany near the end: “Chagataev sensed with surprise it was possible to exist with only animals and voiceless plants as your neighbors, with desert on the horizon, so long as you have a human being in a dwelling nearby.” My surprise was how much I felt for him. He seemed at first, as did all the characters, impossibly strange.
     Nancy, just returned from Ireland, emailed inviting us to dinner to celebrate my birthday. I replied that an early drink would be good—to hear about her trip. Sitting on her couch, I realized how much I enjoyed the intimate conversation we were having, as compared to the noisy parties we often attend with friends. 
     Dinner at my house was a large green salad with leftover chicken Gary had coated in pesto, and potato salad. Something cold for a day that reached 106. As Gary walked to his house through the garden we share, I wondered if what we’d watched after dinner, the disturbing fifth episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, would trouble my dreams that night. 

Boyer Rickel

Boyer Rickel is the author of two poetry collections, a memoir-in-essays, and three poetry chapbooks, two of which, Tempo Rubato (Green Linden Press) and Musick’s Hand-maid (Seven Kitchens Press), were published this spring. Recipient of poetry fellowships from the NEA and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, he taught in the Arizona Creative Writing Program for twenty years. 

Check back for more dispatches from June 21, 2018 tomorrow. —Editors

Friday, June 29, 2018

June 29: Anna Kate Blair • Dinty W. Moore • Jared Buchholz • Bronson Lemer • Alizabeth Worley • Leslie Stainton • Amy Roper • Charish Badzinski • Jane Piirto • Zoë Bossiere

Today we present ten more dispatches from June 21, 2018 to you. More details on the project here, but, in brief, we asked you to write about what happened on one day in June, and are publishing the results, largely unedited, for the next month and change, roughly ten a day. If you wrote something (it's not too late!), send us your work by the end of June (at the latest: earlier is better!) via this submission form (it's okay if you didn't RSVP before: the more the merrier).

—The Editors

June 29: Anna Kate Blair • Dinty W. Moore • Jared Buchholz • Bronson Lemer • Alizabeth Worley • Leslie Stainton • Amy Roper • Charish Badzinski • Jane Piirto • Zoë Bossiere


I wake up at 9.45 and make coffee quickly, my phone in hand. I am supposed to receive a phone call from the doctor, to verify that I really do need blood tests, at 9.56. I take the coffee and return to my bed, waiting for the call and checking the surgery’s website, which tells me that the doctor will try to telephone within fifteen minutes of the scheduled time. I watch the battery draining on my cell phone, which does not deal well with daily life. At 11.15, I decide to call the doctor’s surgery to check if I should keep waiting indefinitely.
     “Yes,” says the receptionist. “He will call you at some point today.”
     She informs me that I should have my phone with me at all times. I do need to have a shower, though, and so I do, washing my hair with coconut shampoo and noticing that the water runs clear; I tried to dye my hair earlier in the week and failed, using beetroot instead of chemicals, but the water’s been pink until now. I keep the phone on the shelf beside the shower; it doesn’t ring.
     I borrow my flatmate’s hairdryer and spend five minutes waving it at my head and looking, upside down, at my bed. I open my closet and scan my clothing in an attempt to decide what to wear to therapy. I go to therapy, in part, because I am anxious and overthink things, because I need to undo my obsessive attention to minutiae, and yet these issues play out in the way that I approach it. I try to balance the mess of my emotions by dressing very neatly for every appointment, calculating interpretations for every garment. It is hard to dress neatly in summer, when layers have to be discarded, and it is unequivocally summer today. I decide to wear a cream shirt, collared and buttoned, with a black lace t-shirt over it, a cotton pencil skirt and black tights, black patent leather shoes with laces. I decide not to tie my hair with a black ribbon, worrying about the line between professional attire and that of a Victorian goth. I put on concealer but not mascara, because Thursdays are typically days on which I regret mascara.
     I am anxious as I walk to the station, leaving three hours before my appointment in case the train breaks down or is seriously delayed, and the neighbourhood is a blur that includes men holding babies outside the convenience store, a couple sitting down for lunch in a restaurant, the sudden darkness of the sidewalk under the overpass and a pale blue van that’s always parked outside a particular house with a palm tree in the front yard. I stand and gaze vacantly at the sign reading Hackney Central as I wait for the train to arrive. When it does, I choose an orange seat and open the pink book that I’m reading to a paragraph on Kierkegaard’s belief that maturity consisted in committing to either yes or no and never wavering in that commitment. I’m an indecisive person and I’m on my way to therapy, so I wonder if all my problems lie in my unwillingness to embrace Kierkegaard’s binary, but the next sentence in the book tells me that his conviction doesn’t stand up to scrutiny; I decide not to scrutinise it and stare out the window instead. London is a rush of green and brown and when the train slows toward each station all the layers of the city, framed by the window of the train, seem to flatten into a collage rather than expand into a space through which I could walk. I alight in Hampstead, where a middle-aged woman with an aura of organisation is clutching the hand of an older woman, perhaps her mother, who seems about to float away and up the hill like a balloon.
     I catch the bus north and am early, of course, and I also haven’t eaten, so I go to a café. I look carefully at all the foods on offer and notice a fly sitting on a sausage roll, almost camouflaged against the black sesame seeds, and decide not to eat anything at all. I buy a bottle of iced tea and open my laptop. I spend an hour editing a word document whilst quietly listening to the woman at the table beside me, who is dissatisfied with the temperature of her scone and repeatedly asks the boy at the counter to reheat it.
     “You left it sitting in the microwave for too long afterwards,” she tells him. “It’s cold again.”
     I walk south through Golder’s Green. It reminds me of the wealthiest parts of Melbourne, in Australia, where I went to high school. I wonder if this is the reason that I feel uneasy in this suburb; I feel that it is the kind of place in which nobody cares about anything, which is, I suppose, a teenage feeling. I didn’t fit in as a teenager; I cared too much about everything. I still do, I think, but it’s easier to avoid the apathetic as an adult. I never see teenagers in Golder’s Green, though. I see mansions and green lawns on the left side of the road and an enormous graveyard, behind a wire fence, on the right. There are wooden benches on the corner of most streets in this area and I wonder, now, if these are places at which one might pause while on the way to death.
     I want to go to the bathroom, but the closest one is at the crematorium, with a sign reading LADIES that’s large enough to see from the street. I imagine hands being sadly washed in sinks, there, and this ritual, conceding as it does to the fact that living bodies have needs even in the midst of grief, seems more intimate than anything happening at the cemetery across the road. I don’t go to the crematorium bathroom, though I wouldn’t look out of place, dressed as I am for therapy. I wonder how deeply psychotherapists think about their location and if the decision to work in a neighbourhood centred around a crematorium is coincidence or calculation. If I suggested it were intentional, I suspect my therapist would appear as perplexed as when I tried to interrogate hidden meaning in the placement of his bookshelves.
     I have made memorising the specifics of my therapist’s office into an anxious practice. I see, today, the way the summer light is stretching and falling, filtered through the leaves of trees and the stripes of the blinds, onto the rug at the centre of the room. It blurs, sometimes, when I am gazing through tears. I am surrounded by ticking clocks; I feel, sometimes, in this room, as if I am actually inside a clock. I suspect that I am the last patient for the day because my sessions sometimes run over by four minutes. At the end of the hour, my eyes hurt.
     On the train home, I hear a man complain that he must pay a babysitter ten pounds per hour to care for his children. I don’t know where the day has gone, expanding and contracting into something blurred and indefinite. It’s after closing time at the doctor’s surgery and the doctor never called. My flatmate asks if I want to come to watch her friend’s band play at the Victoria.
     “They have the best name ever,” she says. “They’re called Brunch.”
     On the way to the pub, we are asked if we have any spare change by a man who is in possession of the largest, clearest cube of ice I have ever seen, which he has placed on the sidewalk beneath a fuse box. It is summer and I’m not wearing a sweater and I don’t know how this perfect piece of frozen water arrived here without melting. I don’t know how it is that this square of ice, uncracked and unclouded, exists on this unremarkable street in Hackney; it should be in Monaco or Monte Carlo, on a plinth in a casino, celebrated for its glamour. I notice, as we walk, a poster for a cocktail bar to be opened at our local cake shop for one night only, hydrangeas growing through the fence of a school that’s been converted into an apartment complex, and an actual fox, mangy and colourless as an old stuffed animal, ducking under a car, though it’s not yet twilight.
     I haven’t seen a band play in a long time and I feel I’ve forgotten how to watch, how to listen. We stand outside, afterwards, with my flatmate’s friend, having laughing conversations at the edge of the pub’s lit patio. As we walk home, we see a black cat which, like the day itself, fades into the darkness. It is around eleven when I unlock the door. I fall asleep almost immediately.

—Anna Kate Blair

Anna Kate Blair is a writer in London.


My Name is Mr. Dinty W. Moore,

I am touched by God to hand you over this brief account of my day on June 21, 2018, and you should also know that my contact to you is by special grace of God, please understand that you are not helping me rather you are working for God the creator of heaven and earth.

i am a serial essayist suffering from long time self-doubt about the worthiness of my vague thoughts and errant sentences, and I have on this day decided to end my writing. I have however some words I inherited from Mr. Larsson Wisdom, 5,500,000 words to be exact, and I am seeking a God fearing Person that can use these words for God’s work.

Please if you would be able to use these words for the Lord’s work kindly reply me ( Also, yes, don’t forget to always pray for me because words are stubborn.

I will be happy to hear you soon.

Mr. Dinty W. Moore

—Dinty W. Moore

Dinty W. Moore is very afraid of polar bears.


A cup of coffee. Nothing fancy. Bought the bag of beans on sale for three dollars. Two scrambled eggs mixed into spinach, onions, and mushrooms. The sizzle, something out of a commercial. There are two fruit flies buzzing around. Breakfast lasts at most four minutes, and then I pick out a collared shirt, blue, a little wrinkled. “We recommend solid colors. Patterns distract the student,” said the teaching manual. I don’t change out of my running shorts. There’s no need to.
     His name is President. I know this isn’t his real name, but the English one, which most likely his parents chose. Maybe they aspire for their son to become the next Chinese president. Maybe he doesn’t want this. Maybe he wants to be a dentist. He’s tall. Much taller than the other students I’ve had. Maybe he wants to play basketball. Maybe he does want to be the next Chinese president. Maybe he chose the name President.
     I say sentences slowly. He repeats them.
“The monkey eats the banana.”
“The monkey ate the banana.”
“The deer lives in the woods.”
“A deer and bear live in the woods.” 
     His image turns into jagged pixels.
“President,” I say, “Can you still hear me?”
“Yes teacher, but I can’t see you,” he replies.
“Is that okay with you President?”
“Yes teacher.”
     We continue.

     “There was a deer in the woods.”
     “There were deer in the woods.”
     “Good job President. Here’s a star.”
     “Thank you teacher.”

     We finish. I believe the class went well. I report the problem immediately, receive a message at 8:09. “Due to the absence of a video feed, the class has been ruled an IT technical issue on the teacher.” I search through the teaching manual and find, “Any class with the absence of a video feed for over three minutes will be declared an IT issue, resulting in non payment to the teacher, if the technical issue is determined as being the teacher’s fault.” I’m out ten dollars. Woke up early for nothing it seems.


A group of five children run around in the pristinely maintained grass of the university’s science building. I see their little belts, the little strips of attached plastic, streamer like, the kind you find at birthday parties. I ask myself if they are playing flag football, but I don’t see the pigskin anywhere. I think, They’re too young to be playing football.
     The supervising adult must have seen me looking.
     “You want to play tag with us?” she asks.
     I smile.
     “I so would if I could,” I reply.
     I notice a tall girl—taller than any of the other children, though she still doesn’t look older—reach out and grab one of the flags of a boy who barely reaches her waist. I think he’s about to cry, but he doesn’t. Instead, he sprints after the tall girl, even though it’s obvious how much faster she is. His shirt is the color of blood. The girl’s. Blue eggshell.


The air conditioning is oppressive. Unnatural. I can hear my footsteps echoing in the massive hall. Jimmy, my boss, told me the building cost 56 million dollars. Architectural bliss. Glass everywhere. Three stories tall in some places. Staircases hanging midair. The charcoal black stone floor. The cherry wood red doors. You can see into the research labs. Microscopes, computers, test tubes, charts, circuit filled boxes, and books with titles like Encounters with the Archdruid and Sibley Field Guide to Birds: Western North America—a week prior I asked a student about the small green boxes, what they were used for. She replied, “For recording bird noise,” and I thought the word “noise” as strange. Do birds make noise or song?
     Signs hang from the ceiling, stick to the walls.
“Reproductive Biology of Alptasia Anemones”
“Earth and Sky: Adventures in New Mexico”
“I am interested in biomedicine: I am a biology major.”
 “At Risk: Human Health—Air and Water Quality, Vector-Borne Diseases”
“Got Gonads?”
“Identifying Areas of Coral Bleaching Using Remote Sensing”
“Severe Weather Policy: When day classes cancel, the Science Library…”
     Slide my ID card. Beep. Unlock the doors. Turn on the lights, but not the reading room’s. Check for returned books. None. Open Innovative Millennium Circulation software. Check printers for paper. Filled. In three hours, around twelve thirty, four girls will walk in and ask for the physics instructor’s manual. At two, the courier will drop off books and magazines. Clockwork. The same thing every day, for three weeks now.
     I sit at the circulation desk and begin to edit. Olivia told me I’m using too many that’s. And while fixing the that’s I realize I have a point of view dilemma in the third section of chapter seven, which of course takes precedence, and besides, revision is more enjoyable than editing. I think, Do I want her or his perspective? From her point of view, I’ll be able to use more description, but from his there’s more emotion. Which do I choose? I write both, still can’t choose, the first more clear, the latter more beautiful. I’ll ask Olivia, I think, before returning to the that’s.
     A man walks in. First person I’ve seen yet. He’s balding. Paunchy around the stomach. Burnt red skin. Baggy khaki pants. A tucked in checkered red and blue long sleeve dress shirt. A professor for sure.  He approaches me. His eyebrows remind me of the horns of an owl.
     “Can you tell me if this is the movie I checked out in 2013?” he asks.
     He hands the DVD to me. The Ascent of Man: Hosted by Dr. Jacob Bronowski.
     “Sure,” I say, though I’m not sure.
     I punch at the computer, somehow find the check out records.
     “I don’t see a 2013 date. But there’s one from 2015,” I say.
     “Oh. You know what, I think it was 2015,” he replies.
     His head turns every which way, but he won’t look at me, and when, for a moment, his eyes do glance into mine, they quickly shift direction, staring over my shoulder, as if another person, another me, is standing behind my back.
     “I want to check it out. Do you need my ID?”
     “Yes sir,” I reply.
     He hands me the card. I scan it, but it doesn’t work. I scan it again. Same result. I look it over. Faded. Thicker too. More so than the current cards. But it’s him. Younger. Wearing glasses. The card expired back in 2009. When I look up, he looks away.
     “I’m sorry sir,” I say, “The card expired.”
     “I’m faculty.”
     “I don’t doubt that sir. What’s your last name?”
     After I process the checkout manually, I hand him the DVD.
     “Never bothered to get a new card,” he explains.
     “As long as I have a picture ID and a last name, I can work it out.”
     “Well if you have an ID, you don’t need a last name,” he says.
     “Yeah, I guess so,” I reply.
     He says, “Thanks,” already walking towards the door.
     I go back to the that’s.


The Frances H. Townes reading room is circular, with walls of windowed glass, about ten feet tall. There’s a dome, with a hole in the top, for more glass, for sky. No need for electric light with all the sunshine. But when the lights turn on automatically at night, they look like stars. Two bicycles— each with a platform for a book or notes, so the student can exercise while studying—face the university’s mall, the two rows of oak trees, the yard of grass, where the children played tag earlier. I stand in the middle of the room, watching the joggers, thinking Do I look that funny when I run?
     I’m still standing in the middle of the room. But now I’m thinking of the word toward in comparison to the word towards. Olivia explained either could be used, but towards tended to be more common in British fiction. I use towards, not toward. I don’t know why. I’ve read enough British fiction I suppose, but not enough for me to pick up this characteristic, from my own estimation at least. What British writers do I like?
     I fail to recognize the presence of a student, and only hear her when she sits down in one of the many cushioned chairs. I am disappointed. The reading room is best experienced alone. And so I wander back to my desk. 12:35. Hand out the physics instructor’s manual. Get rid of some more that’s. 1:15. Turn on the Red Sox game. Not because of the Red Sox, as much as Mookie Betts. Markus Lynn Betts. MLB. His mother gave him the initials purposefully, as if prophesying over her newborn. A modern day Hannah. And I think again about President. Did Mookie choose his name?
The courier is late. When she does arrive, she hands me the books and magazines, which I set on the counter top. Mookie’s on deck. She returns with a stack of five books, piled in her arms, up to her chin.  Mookie steps into the batter’s box. The courier walks out the door. The alarm goes off. A failure to desensitize. I tell her it’s fine. “Go right ahead,” I say, “I know you’re not stealing anything.” Looking back at my computer screen, I missed it. I watch the replay. Mookie’s tower of a homerun, opposite field, over right center. The outfielder stands there dumbly, hands on his hips, still watching where the ball landed, bouncing off a plastic stadium chair. The game quickly deteriorates into a blowout. I turn it off and think about reading The Cat’s Table, which three times now I’ve mistakenly called The Cat’s Cradle, as if Ondaatje had written a Vonnegut spoof. Instead, I shelve the books and magazines the courier brought.
Better Than Human: The promise and perils of enhancing ourselves
American Mineralogist: Vol 103. No. 5 May 2018
New Scientist: Beyond Quantum: There’s an even weirder theory out there
The Tree of Life: A phylogenetic classification
Issues in Science & Technology: Preparing for the next flood
     I think of things like Noah, Terrence Malick, and how my buddy made an EP called Schrödinger's Cat. In New Scientist I read about the Baobab tree, how they’re grown, the many uses of the seed, how they’re dying. And I think of the oak trees, just outside the reading room. Last week, a professor told me the university decided to cut them down. “They planted the wrong ones back in the fifties,” he said, “Can’t have branches falling on the students.” I do not open American Mineralogist—the cover an ugly bright yellow—and where would I start anyways? I imagine the science of mineralogy as something not for the faint of heart. But I only imagine this. After I return to the desk, I apply for SNAP and later find another unnecessary that. Olivia would be proud, comes to mind.
     At 4:30 I tell the girl in the reading room we’re closed. She’s wearing bright red shoes. I marvel at the color. Such an odd color. Is there anything naturally as red as those shoes? Cardinal feathers? No. Red Azalea Blooms? No. And for a moment I stand there dumbly, just like the outfielder, staring at them. When she apologizes for holding me up, I fail to answer, distracted as I am. “Not a problem,” I eventually say. I think, She must think I’m nuts. Then the reading room is all mine. I sit in a chair—made of fake leather, the color of sun bleached brick—with my leg propped up on the window ledge and feel the warmth slipping through the glass. Yes. I am content in the quietude of the Saunders Science Library.


Routine. Drive home. Drink a cup of coffee. Eat a peanut butter sandwich. Go for a run around the lake. I see a toddler on a tricycle. A young couple holding hands. Seven empty benches. Four ducks. I think, I don’t know the names of any of these trees. I think, Olivia bought the tree classification guide for this very reason. I think, I’m a failure of a writer. I think, No, I’m only thirty. I think, I’m still having damn POV problems. I think, at least I’m seeing them now. My shoelace threatens to untie, but doesn’t. My lungs still feel like death. Almost three months now without a cigarette. My legs feel fine. My bum ankle feels fine. There’s an ach in my right shoulder though. When the endorphins kick in I find myself praying out loud for President, for him to become president, but only if it’s his desire. 2.18 miles. 18:58.
     Dinner consists of a spinach, tomato, and chicken salad, the chicken which I cooked three days ago. Reece stops by. We talk outside on the steps about his fiancé.
     “Yeah, so when I proposed to her, you know it’s like kinda a big deal and all, but that night, she went back home to tell her mom, and her mom was passed out, wrecked on the floor, just messed up, drugged up, you know and like didn’t understand anything she was saying. A real mess. She wanted to include her you know, she’s her mom, and so took her with her the other day to go dress shopping, but her mom was falling asleep the whole time and just kept like complaining about stupid stuff. It’s just sad man. Just sad. She’s moved in with her grandma. It’s good. Real good. But I can’t wait to live with her. She’s gonna be my wife man.”
     I listen, staring at the tattoo on his leg, at the skinny boy, clutching onto a skateboard, holding it to his chest, like a child squeezes a puppy. Underneath the image, written in cursive, “Skateboarding saved my life.”
     Later on, Reece and I, along with my roommates, are all on the porch, watching a drunken neighbor swim around in the apartment complex pool. Corey yells at him, “Do a belly flop!” I start to feel anxious, thinking the comment might instigate a fight. The man says back, his voice barely reaching us on the third floor, “Ain’t gonna do no belly flop.”  We hear his wife—not visible, but somewhere beneath us—“Hell no you’re not belly floppin’.” We watch the man—gray hair, his stomach sticking over his red shorts—as he climbs up the ladder, slips, catches himself, and then walks over to a beer can. He peers into it, shakes the thing, and then takes a swig. Jayme goes, “That’s been there since yesterday.” Reece can’t stop laughing. The man raises the beer to us. Corey yells out again, “Do a belly flop!” And I feel bad. Mockery. I say so. Corey replies, “Yeah, I get that.”
Before I go to bed, I write another two hundred and fifty words in a story about a twelve year old southern boy who meets a preta or maybe a mad man. I can’t figure out which it is. Might be both. I think about watching the Angles game—not for the Angles, for Mike Trout—but I don’t. I think about reading The Cat’s Table, but I don’t. I call Olivia. “I watched Pride and Prejudice again today. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just want to be home,” she says. “You know I’d like that too,” I say.

Jared Buchholz

Jared Buchholz is a writer. He lives in Greenville, SC. 


The Longest Snaps

From the first floor of our house, I hear my mother tapping on the door to our only bathroom, up on the second level. My father is inside showering.
     “Honey, open up. I really have to go.”
     I look over at my husband and laugh. We’re sitting on the front porch, waiting for my parents to come downstairs.
     When they do, we move to the back patio, where we drink coffee and talk about the weather. My mother holds up her phone and asks Siri for directions to Springfield, Illinois, their next stop on their three-week road trip down to Nashville and Stone Mountain (“Before it gets torn down,” my father said the day before.).
     “Call Siri a dumbass again,” I say and my mother does.
     She’s the only person I know who actually uses Siri.
     “That isn’t very nice,” Siri replies.
     We walk to a nearby Mexican restaurant for lunch. Along the way, my mother points out plants she likes and houses she does not. Lilies spill over into the sidewalk, to which my mother says, “This is too overgrown.”
     We all order the buffet, and when I get back to our table with a loaded plate, the first thing I eat is the rice pudding.
     “Did you feed us rice pudding when we were kids?” I ask my mother. “Is that why I have such fond memories of it?”
     After lunch, we walk down the street to look at the rock slide. A few weeks back, something shifted and sent rocks sliding down the bluff, taking out a bunch of trees and shrubs and closing the street below. We stand on the sidewalk behind the fenced off street and talk about the rock shelf below someone’s garage that may need to be removed. My husband mentions the drone that captured footage from above.
     On the steps back up the bluff, my husband points to beer cans and cigarette packs littering the woods along the trail. At the top of the bluff is a house with an overgrown yard and a sign about native plants. The yard is full of native grasses and wildflowers and young saplings taking root. My mother says if she lived near the house she’d call the police every day. My husband, my mother, and I cross the street, but my father lingers. He stares at the yard. He can’t look away.
     A few blocks north, my mother buys everyone ice cream. We sit in the shade under a pergola and share stories. My mother tells us about her grandparents buying her ice cream bars for 10 cents when she’d accompany them into town to sell eggs. My husband shares a story about a friend buying several ice cream bars and later realizing that one was a paper cup covered in chocolate instead of an ice cream bar.
     I watch a woman sitting at a nearby picnic table. She is licking a large vanilla ice cream cone and staring at her phone.
     Back home, we return to the patio. We listen to the garbage trucks go down the alleyway and talk about the city’s new plan for coordinated garbage collection and how I don’t like that the city doesn’t maintain our alley. My father brings up taxes.
     “The only taxes I don’t like are income taxes. Why tax someone for getting ahead?”
     I ignore his comment because my husband and I agreed we wouldn’t talk about anything remotely political during my parents’ visit. Instead, I watch the birds.
     “Hummingbird,” I say, pointing at my neighbors’ feeder.
     “There’s a red-headed woodpecker,” my father says.
     Around dinner-time we climb into my husband’s car to drive to a brewery. Across the street from our house, our neighbor has planted a sign in her yard.
     “Something about staying off the retaining wall and keeping off the grass and picking up your dog’s shit” I say.
     We take the bridge over the Mississippi, where the city has placed rainbow flags on the poles for Pride. I glance back at my parents to see if they notice.
     The brewery is doing drag queen bingo out in the beer garden, but we sit inside, near the open garage doors, where my husband watches the crowds and I help my mother select a beer. She chooses something with “zesty” in its name. My father orders a sour beer, aged in wine and whiskey barrels. When it arrives, he takes a sip, puckers his lips, and shakes his head. He doesn’t like it.
     “Tastes too much like wine,” he says.
     He’s going to drink it as fast as he can so he can get something else.
     After dinner, while leaving the parking lot, my husband sees a few men walking towards the drag queen bingo and jokes, “All the gays dressed up in their nicest flip-flops.”
     We head back across the river.
     When we get to our neighborhood, we drive slowly past our neighbor’s sign, squinting to read the tiny print.
     “The sign is laminated!” my mother says.
     My husband and I look at each other. We aren’t surprised.
     In our living room, my mother takes out her phone and opens Snapchat. She calls my father over and they watch videos of their grandchildren riding carnival rides at the county fair. I lean over their shoulders and see my niece riding a pink elephant and my nephews cruising along in tiny boats. They watch each video twice.
     We play a tabletop game involving train routes across the United States and I get angry when my father claims a route to Denver before I can. We switch to a card game about sushi. My mother likes to play the miso soup cards. My father goes for the temaki.
     We have dessert—a mocha peanut butter pie I made from a recipe online—and my mother points to a knob hanging off a cupboard door.
     “What’s going on here?”
     She calls my father over and he tells us to get a fender washer to hold the screw in place. They move on to the cupboard above the stove, the one that refuses to stay closed. They have advice for how to fix this cupboard too. My husband and I nod at their handed-down domestic knowledge.
     An hour after my parents retire to our guest room, I sit down on the bed and my pug rolls right up against my thigh. He is belly-up, paws up in the air, his big brown eyes looking up at me. He wants me to scratch his belly. My husband is next to us, scrolling through Twitter on his iPad. Our black cat, who’s been hiding for the better part of two days because she doesn’t like strangers in the house, jumps up on the other side of my husband. She looks over at me and meows.

—Bronson Lemer

Bronson Lemer is the author of The Last Deployment: How a Gay, Hammer-Swinging Twentysomething Survived a Year in Iraq (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2011). He lives in St. Paul.


Today was a recovery day for me—classes over, house in disarray, husband busy with work. Husband worked from home and his legs were sore, so I massaged them with Babyrub (couldn't find any lotion or Icy Hot). After our toddler came home from daycare, husband had a few hours off, so we invited some friends and my sister over (good motivation to clean up). Played "Apples to Apples." Toddler enjoyed passing out cards.
     Earlier, in the morning, toddler and I waited outside for my sister to come pick him up for daycare. We sat on the front steps and watched birds—robins and seagulls—flying over the covered parking of our complex. Then we walked on a strip of grass. My son saw the red, peeling paint on the edge of the sidewalk, and said, "Yook!"—pointing and looking up at me for signs of wonder. 

—Alizabeth Worley

Alizabeth Worley is an MFA student at BYU. Her work has appeared in Hobart, Sweet: A Literary Confection, Juked, and elsewhere. 


My husband’s heart monitor, to which he’s been electronically strapped for the past 20 days, went off at 5:30 this morning and woke us both. Daylight cracked through the blinds. I was reminded that this was the longest day of the year. “Just as well,” I murmured, “the one day of the year when the sun lands at 5:30.” My husband was too busy struggling with the equipment on his chest to hear me.
     We both tried to get back to sleep, but by 6:30 he’d given up. I stayed fitfully in bed for another hour and dreamt about golf carts and dogs (we have neither), then told myself it was to get out of bed because this sleep thing really wasn’t working.
     A pretty day. Cool but sunny. The reason we put up with Michigan winters. The repairman showed up at 7:30 to replace a broken blade in our air conditioning unit ($306) and gladly took three cupcakes (chocolate with white frosting and sprinkles) we’d been trying to unload ever since Monday, when the man who was then painting our house ($4,000) brought them unannounced. Leftovers from his daughter’s third birthday party.
     By nine, my husband had decided to go back to bed for a nap. I settled into my office with a pot of tea and bowl of granola heaped with strawberries. I’m told the season this year in Michigan will be short—three weeks at most. Too much rain, followed by a sudden blast of heat. The berries erupted. So I’ve been eating them by the fistful. This particular batch struck me as unusually tiny, and I wondered if it had to do with the rain, or with climate change, or somehow with Trump’s hideous immigration policies—cleaving children from parents—which had kept us up late the night before watching MSNBC. Maybe that’s why my husband rolled onto his heart monitor early this morning, and why I dreamt about golf carts. Maybe it’s why, at daybreak on the longest day of the year, I wanted nothing more than to keep sleeping.

—Leslie Stainton

Leslie Stainton lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is the author of Lorca: A Dream of Life and Staging Ground: An American Theater and Its Ghosts.


My alarm clock: my 19-month-old daughter crying to be let from her crib. I surface from a dream of running and hiding and register the time: 6:00, or near enough. I move quickly to Kate’s room to avoid escalation, scoop her up and lie down with her on the futon, hoping she’ll fall back asleep, but in spite of blackout curtains she sits up and babbles. I open the curtains and let the flood of light direct her to a stack of board books, then lie back down and doze on the futon. A few too many times later of being bashed in the face with book corners, I give in and read with her. “Swishing slinky cat tail, twitch twitch twitch!”
     I’m awake enough now and remember I planned to buy groceries before swim lessons at 10:00, since I’ve been out of town and we’ll be stretching to go another day. My husband, Jeremy, showers and otherwise gets ready for work. Will, 5, has been playing in his room. I scrounge up some breakfast (frozen muffins, yogurt dregs, a Larabar), pack the diaper bag, get everyone in swimsuits, and clean up a hairball I notice on the rug—thanks, Luna, you couldn’t have aimed two inches over to miss the rug.
     A memory surfaces: traveling two years ago, a kind airline employee handed fidgety Will the microphone to announce it was time for family boarding. Loud and fuzzy, too close to the microphone, he proclaimed, “Luna puke!”
     Unusually, everyone is ready to go in decent time, despite Kate’s knack for unpacking what I’ve just packed. In the car, “Doe a deer, a female deer” plays from Will’s music class CD for the hundred thousandth time, sine it’s one of the few things that keeps Kate from crying and grumping in transit. Musicals and Disney movies didn’t share a lot of space in my childhood, so they don’t hold much meaning for me aside from their usefulness to calm children, but I often wonder what nostalgia I’m creating for my kids. Will “Doe a Deer” someday trigger warmth and contentment for them?
     At Kroger, Kate periodically shrieks, not happily, and Will rides in the bottom of the cart and slowly rolls it away with his feet, until I turn from comparing bread loaves to find my cart/kids thirty feet away and an old man laughing at our expense. A woman coos over Kate’s adorableness (during a non-shrieky moment) and tells me she looks exactly like me. I feel awkward when this happens. Is that a compliment, or just an acknowledgement—why yes, we do share genetic material, good observation. Instead I say “Oh, thanks,” in a sort of awkward, shy way that I hate I resort to, when I just want to accept compliments confidently, in full agreement. The typical followup comment doesn’t come this time: “Enjoy them! They grow up so fast.” But I think it anyway. I simultaneously know this and know that I can’t know it, but will, in time. $106 will feed us for the next week. There weren’t any good coupons this week.
     Back at home Will helps me put away groceries, but Kate is unhappy so I have to pause to play with her, sticking colorful baby food lids through the slot in a plastic wipes container. I dump it out for her three times before I sneak away. I slather kids with sunscreen and remember with annoyance that I need some on myself, too—all of this is going to make us late. As I put on Kate’s popsicle jelly shoes I notice a second spot of Luna puke on the carpet. I’d like to say I clean it up immediately, but it will probably still be there in a few days.
     And despite all my good morning planning earlier, we’re still late. I holler and haul everyone/thing to the car. Will the backseat driver for once approves of my lane choices, and we manage a good speed but we’re 6 minutes late when we arrive.
     Will has lessons in the big pool but big kids are splashing in the baby pool, so Kate would rather climb around on the tables and chairs. I hover behind her to spot her from the skull-shattering concrete below. She eats dried blueberries and purples her mouth and fingers. I notice I need to trim her nails. I text my friend a happy birthday message. I would have spent today with her if she hadn’t moved away 6 months ago. That was only 6 months ago?
     After Will’s lesson I change writhing and screaming Kate, guiding a kicking leg into some shorts while I argue with Will—who obviously needs to pee—to just go do it, but he won’t because what if there’s a spider in the bathroom? “Titanium” blares over the pool speakers—“You shoot me down, but I won’t fall—I am titanium”—and unfazed comes to mind—my ideal far more often than my reality.
     Lunch needs to be fast; Kate badly needs a nap. I find her a leftover piece of pizza and Will makes a toasted bagel with cream cheese. I make myself an omelet and slice a nectarine in uneven, gashed chunks since the pit refuses to separate from the flesh. I’ve long abandoned my resolution that there would be no “kid food” in this house, that everyone would learn to like and eat the same food. Ha, ha, ha (Kate says that, sometimes, out of nowhere. It’s hilarious). Kate leans back and screams, uneaten strawberry clutched in fist. Does she want more nectarine? Water? Down? “I think she just wants you,” Will observes, bouncing at the edge of his chair, a chair that can’t hold him for more than 8 seconds.
     Today is overcast, which seems a letdown for the anticipated day of light. Over the next 6 months, each day will bleed more darkness.
     I put Kate down for her nap. Will has started his one hour of quiet time—mine as well—blessed quiet time. I shower impatiently, thinking of my draining free time—it’s a hair washing day, and I guess I’ll shave my armpits. After the shower I weigh my options—will I be able to relax enough to make a nap attempt worthwhile, or will it be a waste of 20 minutes? I assess this while wasting 15 minutes scrolling through Facebook, and finally shake myself from the phone stupor and decide that I can probably take a nap, and successfully do so.
     Then it’s back and forth, logging steps if I ever bothered to count my steps, putting away the rest of the groceries, sorting and folding the two-days-ago laundry, picking up/tidying, checking my email for any student crises. Somewhere I’ve lost the ability to focus on single tasks until they’re done, and find myself inefficiently but eventually completing some work. When Kate wakes up I still haven’t begun the raspberry mousse and chocolate cupcakes I’m making for the church picnic tomorrow, and chicken barbecue pizza for dinner tonight.
     Kate is still grumpy despite the sleep and Will is showing signs of his afternoon extra hyperness. I yell at him for repeatedly banging a plastic dump truck on the floor, and for overwhelming his sister’s space and making her screech, then evict him from the kitchen. Then I feel bad and invite him to help me, though I’m a perfectionist when I bake for others, and sort of regret my invitation as I make it. In the end I task him with watching the Kitchenaid while it whips the cream. Last Christmas I made him an apron and bought him his own set of measuring spoons so we could cook together. I use the measuring spoons; he stands at a safe-ish distance watching cream whip. I let Kate eat veggie straws off the floor so she’ll stay quiet and let me concentrate.
     In between mousse setting and dough rising and cupcakes baking, punctuated by multiple timers, I play Final Fantasy IX, the only time both kids will sit next to me on the couch, relatively still. Whenever I get into a random encounter Kate jumps up and dances to the battle music.
     The clouds disperse and the sun shines through the west window just in time to be obnoxious, reflecting painfully off my knife blade as I slice onion for the pizza. I should put curtains or blinds on that window, but in a year and a half I still haven’t. The onion stings my eyes already squinting from the sun. The kids are whirls of noise. I ask Will if he wants to write an entry of his day. He types:
Today I had swimming lessons. i had 1 hour of quietime. i had 20:00 of computer time.

That’s all he remembers, he insists. I ask him if he felt or thought anything during swimming lessons or quiet time or computer time. He doesn’t remember.
     Jeremy gets home just before the pizza is done cooking. Over dinner we exchange spurts of interrupted conversation. We get in maybe 150 words’ worth. The pizza is good and everyone eats it.
     Jeremy gets Kate ready for bed and I wash dishes. Will and I pick up: the dump truck, rainbow plastic rings, 16 cubes of a Boggle game that are miraculously all accounted for, Candy Land cards, a balloon animal reindeer, 6 balls of varying colors and sizes, a dozen baby food lids, a scattering of Mega Blocks, shoes, and more shoes, wadded-up socks, a couple markers with or without lids, 4 partially-crumpled drawings, a stuffed green monkey, 7 or 8 books, a Lego booklet, an explosion of Dominoes, a plastic drill. We play a 10-minute round of the board game “Here Kitty Kitty,” and Will wins by collecting the most cats. I read him a library book called Gobble Gobble Slip Slop where the greedy cat eats a bunch of things and people and the crabs eventually cut a hole in his stomach and let them all escape. Will stops me twice: “I can’t yawn when you’re reading.”
     It’s a little after 9 and the kids are finally in bed, though Kate is a frequent night waker so the relief is always tinged with anticipation. I spent last evening with Jeremy so tonight is a work night—so much grading. At my computer I play two levels of Jelly Collapse, a game Will learned in preschool that is perfect for procrastinating. I brush my teeth to stop drifting to the kitchen to sneak bites of raspberry mousse. I tug on my eyebrows, a habit when I’m sitting, bored, and agitated. I wonder how much thicker my eyebrows would be if I never sat or felt bored or agitated. I work, a little. It’s 11:10 when I give in to tiredness.

—Amy Roper

Amy Roper currently lives in Shreveport, Louisiana.


I rise at 5:53 and hit the little blue toggle on the water kettle. It’s shower day, and I’m glad because I feel oily and a little sour. I wonder momentarily if I should do things out of my usual order, whether it might throw off the day. But I hop in anyway, before making the coffee in the silver French press, and filling a cup. And suddenly everything does seem off, just a little bit. The towel falls off the shower curtain rod. A wet washcloth from my husband’s shower yesterday slips onto the floor. The pumice stone tumbles into the bath, clanking angrily.
     I dry off with the scratchy side and slip my strappy nightie back on, wondering briefly whether I’ve gotten thinner. Not that I’m trying.
     The water has boiled, I grind the beans and pour the hot water over it. And I select my coffee cup and the one for my husband: it’s an important ritual that I think sets the tone for the day. I choose the cup I took from my father’s home, after his death. It bears an insignia from the company he worked for before the stroke, but barely. It’s worn away over the past three years, and is now faded and unreadable. I choose it knowing my brother has a job interview today, imploring my father to be with him.
     Brooklyn, our 70 lb. yellow lab pushes herself up from her curlicue on the couch, and stretches, as she always does, in downward-facing dog pose. She jumps down from the couch, her tags jingling, and gives me that purposeful look that says, “Where’s my breakfast?” I comply, knowing I will have no peace until she has her bowl.
     We feed her ridiculously good food, human grade, dehydrated fruits and veggies that must be rehydrated and mixed with a protein. Today, it’s eggs. So I pour a circle of olive oil in a nonstick pan with an orange handle, turn the knob to light, then turn it down again. And I crack five eggs into the pan. They are conventional eggs, so they come with a side of guilt for the suffering I know goes into them. I simply couldn’t justify buying organic this week when they were four times the price. I pop open the clamshells for cherries and organic strawberries, rinse them in a red bowl and place two on the table, three in the dog dish.
     The husband is up, groggy, hair mussed, wearing a white crewneck t-shirt that has slightly greyed in the wash. He takes some coffee and picks up the paper. And I talk with Joel about something I read yesterday. As I’m planning a trip to Southeast Asia in three weeks, and I’m sensitive to dairy, I found it curious that food allergies are virtually unheard of there, so restaurants don’t know how to manage them. I ask him, “Why are they so common here, but unheard of there? You have to wonder.” He makes a noise of acknowledgement, continues reading the paper.
     I feel angry at the news. Angry at my twitter feed. Defeated. I can’t stand to read the paper. Red state blues.
     We call him “the asshole.” He’s on the cover of Time again.
     Joel says, “If you believe there’s no such thing that there’s bad publicity, Trump is winning the PR race. You see Trump and his ugly picture several times a day. It’s everywhere you go.” He’s on a rant now, which he does more and more. We’ve become dispirited, prickly. “People who go online and say ‘fuck him,’ they’re feeding his publicity machine.”
     He continues, “Sometimes I’m like, maybe stop focusing on him.”
     I pause and feel a lump form in my throat, “How do you cover such atrocities though?”
     I start to cry.
     “He just does shit and keeps his name in the news but he’s in everyone’s head right now. And maybe that will turn against him eventually. I guess I’d rather have that than him doing things behind the scenes.”
     A friend from Minneapolis texts. I’m searching for a junior high classmate who fell off the radar, some 30 years ago. He’s Vietnamese and is at the top of my mind with my upcoming trip. Her text tells me in her research that I posted my birthdate on a class of 90 website. Fuck.
     Is it just me, or is everything crazy?
     “It’s the first day of summer,” I tell Joel, looking at my Twitter feed.
     “Really?” he says. “Thank god.” He’s kidding. It’s supposed to hit 109 tomorrow in Tucson, and it’s our first summer here.
     The air is still cool enough to walk the dog, so I put on my orange flip flops, hook her up and take her outside, knowing the pavement will be searing hot against her tender paws later in the day, and a walk will be impossible. The air smells all at once fresh and sandy, a strange, but welcome combination. Workers are noisily trimming the palm trees in the retirement community we call home, in spite of being in our 40s. The fronds fall from the sky, as they wield a chainsaw from their perch in a cherry picker.
     I turn the corner and stop in my tracks. Every day I learn something new about the desert. Today I can see that the saguaro cacti are blooming again. They bloomed first around my birthday, raising bouquets of white blooms in my honor, or so I liked to think. Today they’re covered in red blooms. Another wonder.
     The dog stops over a storm sewer grate, her favorite place to linger on our walks inside this Retirement Disney, as I call it. Sometimes she seems scared by what she smells, but she is always fascinated. I can’t help but wonder what creatures or funk she is detecting with that damp nose.
     We return home, and Joel has already left for work. My project load is light today: two news releases, some general client support, some social media post writing. I decide to edit and post a blog I wrote yesterday, on travel as an antidote to a post-truth world. Hardly anyone reads what I write, I know. My mother. A few friends. A random traveler or two. But it fills a gap in me. I polish the post, send it out to the world, and share it on social. I’m nervous about this one. I advise readers to do what I cannot do: detox from digital media, meditate, reset your brain to zero. My brain is on fire, and social is the dry wood. But I can travel. And travel usually sets me right.
     I can hardly concentrate, so instead I go to YouTube and watch video after video of twenty-somethings eating noodles in Hanoi. The new travel journalism. I’m disgusted and transfixed.
     Having my fill, I get up and make some cashew milk in the Vitamix, with soaked, raw cashews, vanilla and agave syrup, letting it blend until it is frothy. Then I make some vegan peanut butter cups, separating the cupcake papers and choosing only the silver ones. It feels cohesive, something I can control. I fill them and let them chill and text my brother to see how the job interview went. He botched it, and the day continues to feel slightly off. I’d known it before I had reached out to him.
     I watch more Vietnam travel videos, willingly slipping down the anesthesia of the internet wormhole.
     I eat a peanut butter cup. It is smooth and chunky and crunchy and gritty from the graham crackers. I’m anything but mindful, watching these travelers slurp their Vietnamese soups: bun cha, pho, and others I can’t remember or pronounce, much less spell. A client emails, so I take a break from the videos and do some client work.
     My friend texts again. She believes she may have found our classmate, working as a teacher in Minnesota. I google his name and the school, find an email, and send it off.
     He’d been an important part of my formative years, the lone Vietnamese student in a school full of white kids. He’d sit behind me in class and talk to me, flirt with me. He’d written me sweet notes, letters so honest they’d be too much for any insecure girl in junior high. I still have one of his letters. “Our love is a rose…” he had written. “…but a rose needs water.”
     I check Twitter, and Melania has worn a jacket that has pissed off the masses in my feed. I too, am angry. I feel like I’m angry all the time. I’m a good person, but there are so many reasons to be angry.
     Within an hour I get a response. I feel a jolt go through me. It’s him. Then I wonder how to respond. We hadn’t spoken in 30 years. What could come of an email exchange? What had I hoped for? I didn’t know. I sent him the basics, happy to have found him, but still feeling at loose ends. I apologize for not being mature enough to receive his sweet letters with the appropriate sense of wonder. I don’t feel any better for it.
     I put on Pandora, selecting a chill lounge channel, and started to do dishes and prep dinner. I feed the dog, frying eggs for her for the second time today and rehydrating her mix. The husband pulls into the drive, gives me a kiss, asks if I’m okay. I say yes. I almost always say yes.
     Dinner is quesadillas, but we briefly discuss what we’ll do tomorrow, when it’s too hot to breathe. We decide to stay home, rather than going out. Joel runs to the store to get steaks and herbs for chimichurri sauce, and margarita mix all for tomorrow night, while I cook.
     Over dinner, he asks my advice. About his uncle. The uncle we all have. The one who won’t budge. The one who loves the asshole. The one who assumes you do, too, and sends you email forwards that set your blood in a kettle to boil. He wants to change the way he thinks about his uncle, not be so angry, not make him the face of those who support the asshole.
     “Call him,” I say as we eat peanut butter cups. And I pack up three more, individually, and drop them off. One for Louise. One for Clyde. One for Mary Ellen, who lives on the other end of the resort, so I drive instead of walking. She invites me to sit, and so I do, and we talk of the trip I’m planning with my nephew, who has never seen the world before. And she is so genuinely excited, so happy for us, and so positive, I can’t help but think this is where peace begins. On a tattered couch, surrounded by memories, simply being present to one another.
     Once back, we take the dog outside to do her business, or “big potty,” as we call it. The plastic, slightly-phallic trash bin is near the entrance, full of dog shit. Only it doesn’t smell like dog shit. It smells like warm hotdish, and somehow that makes it so much worse. We add to the hidden pile within and hurry back to the air conditioning.
     Before bed, a friend texts me. He has read my blog post. “By the way, your articles and blog posts are giving me life right now. Just have to say that. I’m sure you hear it all the time, but your words are so refreshing in a world of gray!”
     My heart, for the moment, is light. And as I climb into bed I hide doggy treats in my fists so that my dog will snuggle with me for longer than usual, so I can dig my fingers into the comfort of her thick coat. She paws at my fists; it’s our game. I open them and she crunches on the treats and the moment is tender and raw in the most beautiful of ways. And my husband and I roll ourselves in our individual blanket burritos to gather rest, like wildflower seeds, for the coming day.

—Charish Badzinski

Charish Badzinski is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. She lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband, Joel, and their yellow lab, Brooklyn.


JUHANNUS, 2018, June 21

Ishpeming, Michigan

7:55 a.m. My dog does her morning shake and shudder next to me. I wake from dream, and leave in the fog, the jolly group of young adults I am having coffee with, my former graduate students.  Does this dream say I’m sorry I retired in May 2018? No. I love retirement. I sit up, grab my phone from the bedside table. I am 76 and fell while going to the bathroom in the middle of the night a few weeks ago at my other home in Ohio, and hurt my back, so now I carry my phone everywhere with me in case I fall again.

8:00 a.m. I perform my toilette—including shower. I gently remove the bandage on the unhealed wound on my back, and see the crusty disgusting circle of flesh on the bandage.  This has been going on since November, when I had a couple of biopsies for a skin condition. Since it does not hurt, and since I heard that the local dermatologist is making appointments 8 months away, I have not tried to have it looked it. How does the body grow new skin? I step carefully over the tub rim, mindful.

8:15 a.m. For today’s top, I choose the Finnish Suomi light blue hoodie, as it’s Juhannas, and I’ve promised to write about what happens this holy day of St. John. And I’m an American Finn. I remember being in Finland in 1997, teaching a graduate creativity course to teachers at the University of Tampere in Hameenlinna. My mother, two sisters, a cousin, and I spent 3 weeks there, 5 Finnish American women in a dormitory apartment. We celebrated the day, this day, there.  Even though we come from a Finnish-immigrant area of the UP of Michigan, we had never celebrated this day like they do in Finland. Midsummer. I wrote a long narrative poem about the day and it was published and collected in my book of collected poems, Saunas.

8:30 a.m. I put the coffee on, “Hey Google” for the local NPR station, WNMU-FM, gather the fiber recycling, take the garbage bag out of the bin, go out to the garage. The radio says that the temperature will be from 65 to 70 today. It is 53 here in Ishpeming. It is a bright blue day, no clouds in the sky, a high-pressure day.  I am in our family home here, property of my sisters and me, here in Ishpeming. I pull the plastic can out near the street—no sidewalks here on the hill in Cleveland Location, and put the recycle bin out also. I hear the beep beep beep of machinery backing up far down the hill. They’re putting in a new pump station down there, and it’s a mess of big machines.  The water pressure was weak when I filled the coffee pot.

8:45 I sit at the red 50s table with chrome on it, looking out on the green back yard, drinking my first cup of coffee. I check email. Since I retired, email is not very interesting or imperative, as it’s just Kindle Daily Deals, ads, announcements, and stuff. But it’s a habit. Last week, ResearchGate tells me, there were 62 downloads of my research from all over the world, 24 from the United States, 8 from the UK, including one from a professor at the University of Durham, 6 from the Philippines, 3 from Brazil.  I am always surprised. Most weeks there’s a tag saying I was the most downloaded researcher from my former university, Ashland University, but it’s not there this week, so one of my former colleagues got that distinction this week, I guess. One of my colleagues has died. She was 80. I saw her last at the women’s basketball tournament when our girls won the Division II national championship. She looked very tired. Her husband had collapsed at a similar basketball game a year ago, with a stroke, and died. They were both respected and loved pillars of our small academic community—. I can’t make the funeral, to be held in the University’s chapel. I check my bank account. I just took a withdrawal from TIAA-CREF to redo the electric in this house to bring it up to code, and to redo the kitchen counter, and it hit my account, so I’m flush. I check Facebook, “like” a few posts, say happy birthday to someone.
     The green cage bird feeder of seeds outside my window is empty, and there are dug-in marks below it on the grass. Perhaps a bear or deer came down from the woods up above in the back, and stood on tiptoes and ate it. It’s still clothes-pinned to the clothesline, so it wasn’t pulled off, but it’s completely empty. I think I might get a wildlife camera and set it and buy a new cake of seeds. The thought of a bear so close to the back door is a little scary. I saw bear poop a few years ago up farther in the back, and that was scary as well. A perky nuthatch lands on the suet block, swinging, and pecks at the suet upside down. The chives’ lavender bristles and the deep purple larkspur in the back flower plot have bees on them already. 
     Stock reports say stocks are down and the retaliatory tariffs are affecting them. Rentals and home prices are up with the raise in interest rates by the Fed. 

9:00. I say, “Hey google, stop,” and go into the living room to watch Megyn Kelly. I like her since she had that shocking interview with Trump in 2016. She always begins the hour with pundits and the latest news—this time the executive order about the children separated from their parents at the border.  I also like her because she focuses on women’s issues in a somewhat serious way. I could do without the parenting advice as I’ve done my parenting. WNMU has a book reader at 9:-- , A Chapter A Day, but I don’t like the book she is reading--a woman’s romance. 
     I set the World Cup game to catch up on during commercials. Denmark and Australia. It’s 1 to 1, 56 minutes in. I have been watching parts of the 3 games a day. A large green expanse with white lines on it, and 26 small figures of fit and beautiful men running up and down, kicking and headering. The beautiful game, they call it. I’ve been keeping track of the World Cup since 1990, when I was in Buenos Aires on a Fulbright Fellowship when Argentina won it. The city-wide, nation-wide uproar—boys from all the far-flung neighborhoods ran, by foot, to the obelisk in the center of the city, surrounding it, wrapped in the light blue and white flag, jumping up and down, shouting—the emptiness of the city when the matches were being played—the silence and shouting in cafes where all the televisions were on the matches-- made me realize how small-minded we Americans are about sport—with our smash of football and the slow dance of baseball and the thunder of basketball dominating our sports thoughts. Now, retired, I watch a lot of sports. I can’t watch the Indians much up here in Michigan as MLB follows the Tigers, but I am looking forward to this weekend when the Tigers have a 3-game stand with the Indians.

9:20 a.m.  The Ring doorbell I have in my home 650 miles away, in Reynoldsburg, Ohio is activated. I check it out and see the UPS guy putting 4 boxes on my front porch. They are books, copies of my book Understanding Creativity. My publisher contacted us authors a couple of weeks ago saying that the warehouse in Ann Arbor is going out of business and they have 637 copies of this book there, and they will sell them to me at $1.00 each, with $1.00 shipping, so I bought 150 books. Fifty are being shipped here to Ishpeming, Michigan and 100 to my home in Ohio. My daughter and son-in-law are caretaking my home there, using it while they rent out their home as an Air b&b to make some extra money. I wonder what I will do with 150 books? If I were teaching I would give them to my students, as some scholar said the book is considered a “classic” in the field of creativity studies, but I have no workshops and no classes on my agenda. But I hated to see them go to the landfill.

9:51 a.m. Australia 1, Denmark 1. Denmark will not advance yet. All those pretty blond boys with “son” in their names. Shades of my Scandinavian roots. They walk off the pitch, while Australia gathers in a circle and gives a shout. The commentators replay the game. They are disappointed in the game. 
     My second cup of coffee. A hard-boiled egg eaten standing up at the counter. A buttered piece of Trenary toast, dunked. 
     The World Cup commentators are located on Red Square in Moscow. I am reminiscing as I see the Square behind them. I was there in 2005, gibing a paper at an international creativity conference, and I loved it. My two colleagues/friends and I prowled the Square, shopping and sightseeing. I bought nesting dolls and fur hats. St. Basil’s Cathedral with its colorful onion domes is wooden inside, and there is a high sill, chest high, just inside, that must be climbed before entering the whole church. No steps. My two friends, younger than I by ten years, fearlessly hoisted themselves up. I stopped. They went ahead, and I tried and tried to get up over the sill.  People passed me. Finally I did it. I was ashamed at realizing my loss of mobility. I was 64. 
     Seeing these scenes of the World Cup remind me of that time in Moscow—. We attended the Bolshoi and saw Swan Lake. We had very good seats, first row in the mezzanine. The conference was out in the countryside, and we rode with the Russians in rickety buses we loaded at their Institute of Psychology, also rickety and faded. The conference was at an old Soviet era hotel with huge murals of working men and women. We ate meals with a lot of root vegetables—turnips, potatoes, carrots. The conference languages were Russian and English. I could not understand the Russians and the Russians could not understand us.  I rode back in the same seat as a professor at a university near the Volga River. He said he couldn’t afford my book, but wanted it, so I gave it to him.
     Another memory from that time is riding the famous Moscow Underground to the Tretyakov Museum of Russian Art. We lost our way and I leaned against a post saying loudly, “Does anyone speak English?” “Does anyone speak English?” A small boy with his mother came over to me and said he does, and he told us what stop to get off at. We stopped at a hotel for lunch, and I left early, taking a cab back to the Moscow Hotel on the Red Square. The cab had a meter, so I felt safe. The meter ticked away and I was scammed. I paid the guy over $80.00. My friends took a later cab, negotiated the price before even stepping into their cab, and did the same trip for $20.00. I felt ashamed and used and angry at myself for being such a fool. I was the one who had lived in NYC for five years! I am still not over it, as you can see, as I’m still obsessing about this theft 13 years later. 

10:32 a.m.  My recycling here in Michigan is picked up simultaneously with the garbage truck pickup passing my house in Ohio, according to my Ring alert.

10:57 a.m.  La Marseilles is sung enthusiastically by the French team, and the Peru national anthem is sung with gusto as well. They shouted it.  I love the beginning of these games, the marching out onto the field holding hands with small children, and then the singing. I like when the teams sing. Yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s team did not sing at all. They just stood there sullenly. Today this match between France and Peru is held at the farthest east venue in the World Cup. Ekaterinburg Arena. I looked on the map of the stadiums and it is way out there! 

11:47 a.m. Half time at the soccer match way out in Russia. I am desultorily checking my banking account, noting that the Doctors Without Borders donation and the payment to the IRS for last year’s taxes has cleared. France 1, Peru Nil. I am going to have some lunch and practice my music now. 
     “OK, Google, play French folk music.” Two Splendas, a bowl of cheerios, a couple of handfuls of blueberries, 1% milk. Delicious. Plugged in the printer and printed a couple of sonnet drafts for this evening’s poetry workshop. This is a potential mss. for a call from a poetic inquiry anthology about the seven forbidden words for the government: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “transgender,” “diversity,” fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.” Such unpoetic words. A real challenge.
     I go to the piano and run through the 5 songs the Columbus Women’s Chorus will be singing at the Sister Singers conference in Grand Rapids next weekend. Then I run through the 5 songs the Agate Massed Chorus will sing.  Singing first alto is a tonal mix with a range from low A to high D, with many E’s and F’s. For some reason I easily remember music I’ve gone through, and so I played each song and sang my part. Will do that once a day before I leave next Wednesday for the drive down through the Lower Peninsula. I am missing the rehearsals of the chorus back in Columbus, but the director said I could sing anyway since the songs are easy and I’m a decent sight reader. The conference looks to be exciting. I’ve never been to one like this, as mine are mostly academic scholarly conferences, writers’ conferences, and the like. I did do new-age-like conferences years ago, also, and may again. Thirty-eight women’s choruses from around the country and Canada will be there. Workshops. Performances. In four-part harmony, S1, S2, A1, A2. I had hoped my friend would stop over after her Thursday golf game and would put a bandage on the sore on my back. I can’t reach it. It’s open.

12:50 p.m. France 1, Peru nil. I didn’t watch the second half as I was practicing. But I saw the last four minutes. I check my email again: There is a request for a second survey from the group at the University of Auckland researching researchers who research adult giftedness: “An International Multidisciplinary Delphi Study: Researching Gifted Adults: QUICK REMINDER for ROUND TWO.” They say it’ll take only 15 minutes this round—I spent a lot of time on the first round. I’ll do it later. 

3:03 p.m. 2nd half begins. Argentina nil, Croatia nil. Very boring game. Messi, the richest player in the world, is doing nothing. My dog is barking at the postman. I called my daughter to tell her about the boxes of books on the front stoop. The lawn guy there in Ohio texted me he mowed the lawn. I sent him $30.00 electronically. I read from the 800+ books on my Kindle for a while. I’m reading between nonfiction—Michael Wolfe’s Fire and Fury—and literary fiction: The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay. Wolfe’s book makes me ill with the anecdotes and the crashing of coincidence. Seay’s book meanders, and I think of the comments that he and two other interviewees made on Book World on C-Span—he admitted he “mansplains” too much in the manner of Proust, Knausgaard, and other men who deem that we readers are interested in any little thing; I want a through line; help me keep reading, boy! But I’ll soldier on. (This is an ironic statement for me, writing this trivia, to make.) Then I took a nap. 

3:52 p.m. Argentina nil, Croatia 3. Rebic, of Frankfurt; Modric, of Real Madrid; Rakitic, of Barcelona. A shocker. “Thousands of dejected fans.” “Easily one of the worst Argentinian teams.” “Devoid of heart.” “Messi was nowhere to be found.” Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I’m surprised by my interest in the World Cup.  
     My friend Susan jut called and said she’d stop over to put on my bandage. She’s got frozen stuff, so she won’t stay for a chat or coffee. She’s my oldest friend; we’ve known each other since we were 3 in 1944, preschool Sunday School at the Bethel Lutheran Church the Finnish church, here in town. She’s a retired prof from Northern Michigan University, in Social Work.

9:00 p.m. I left at 4:30, ran the dog on a flat road on a hiking trail nearby, and drove to Marquette on the back road, M 480. The Marquette Poetry Society met at the home of one of us, on M-28, across from a drive by on Lake Superior. The weather by the Big Lake was a little cool, about 60, and so we met inside rather than on their front porch. I brought my dog Maija because they said the family could come, but it turned out that the host is allergic, so I put her back into the car. Five local poets workshopped poems in progress. Beverly, a retired professor at NMU and former editor of Poetry North read us a poem she is working on, for a gallery event in New Orleans, an ekphrastic poem. She has to translate it into French, as well. It was a rousing poem about Mardi Gras history in response to a famous local artist. Then Audrey shared a poem about hiking in the desert. We spent a lot of time on the poem, disproportionate to its length. She had some fine images. John shared a poem about punctuation, an exclamation mark. I presented two of the sonnets I am working on. 
Vulnerable, we walk along the road.
The snowplows carved the snow a while ago.
The warming shelter light has not yet glowed.
Our clothes in garbage bags, cold head to toe,
kicked out for rent we could not pay, we borrowed
all we could, still not enough, a shuffled woe.
We gave the dog away, the car we sold.
The job I lost, laid off, the mine they closed.
Bought out by a corporate raider firm
Plunderer was from Washington, D.C.
They didn’t think of us and our long-term
needs. We're left homeless, broke, and up a tree.
The repercussions echo on the berm.
We’re NAFTA-north--the residue. We flee.  

Worked 40 years, 30 for The Company.
Underground when I was young, then above.
I’m on Medicare now, Social Security.
They call it an entitlement, but, love,
I worked, paid into it, it’s tyranny
to begrudge my rights, it’s unworthy of
politicians to steal from consignees
my age. Fixed income folks, take off the gloves.
Claim your money, write AARP, call
your old friends, march with Indivisible,
Picket their offices, shout on, stand tall.
You have your past, they’re not invincible.
Stop watching tv, burst out of mothballs.
Such rash suggestions? Impermissible.
I got helpful feedback. Their house is a wooden cabin structure, and the food was plentiful and delicious. I had a glass of prosecco. Esther, a regular, didn’t have a poem to share, but she was helpful in the interpretation and suggestions. Our hostess, Janeen, did not have a poem to workshop but she was also very helpful. A late arrival was a man of Danish heritage, and he sang the Midsummer song that Danes are singing right now on the shores of the ocean—in Danish. This was a very fun evening. In Columbus I do not have literary fellowship, as I do here in the north. I also brought along my poem, “Juhannus,” and asked if they minded if I read it. They seemed enthusiastic in saying yes and after I read it, they told me they were glad to learn about this northern European tradition. 
“The moon was risen, the sun was out /
the daylight had reached the sky.” Runo 49, Kalevala
JUHANNUSHelsinki, Finland, 1997–Summer Solstice 
It is June 20, the quiet of Juhannus,
summer solstice, day of St. John.
Outside, no cars pass by,
apartment parking lots empty.
No one signed up
for the washing machines.
Then the stores fill up,
and this midsummer day carries
a subdued Finnish feeling
of holiday release. 
Women with plastic bags
on their hands
gather new potatoes—
varhaisperhuna ulko—to cook with dill, parsley, butter.
They crowd the fish counter, push
for their smoked salmon,
salmon, Baltic herring,
the traditional meal, with beer. 
The men line up at the Alko store.
Vodka, too.
Stores close at 2.
In the streets of Helsinki
crowds thin.
The lines of cars heading out
of town to their family cottages
with saunas by the thousands
of lakes, jam,
in a chorus of brake lights. 
In town, the sun shines
on upturned faces
sipping coffee at Café Strindberg
on the Esplanade. 
At 7 p.m. Bus 24 picks up
passengers at all stops.
Crowds head to Seurasaari,
cross the Victorian
gingerbread bridge.
A kokko —bonfire —burns on a raft
near shore.
The smell reminds of sauna. 
. . .   
[more verses describing the ceremonies] 
Thousands of people
tramp through blueberry woods.
Layered twenty deep
they face the water.
Fire is the symbol
of this longest night near
water, woods, shore, nature,
the ritual marriage
of darkness and light,
beliefs concerning fertility,
cleansing, the banishing of evil spirits,
with two kokko on the beach,
five in oil pots stuck in the water,
fire to keep the ghosts at bay. 
[more verses to close it]
10 p.m. Now I am back home. The sun is still very bright. When I drove home straight west from Marquette to Ishpeming, I had to wear my sunglasses. Celebrate the day. The holy day of solstice. I am having some cabernet wine, watching the news I taped. Melania Trump went to see the places where the children of illegal migrants are being held. She wore a controversial green coat that had on its back, written, “I Really Don’t Care, Do You?” I am just so sick about the 2,300 children separated from their parents I can barely write this. My eyes wince. There are even some of these children here in Michigan in hidden shelters, their parents deported or in other shelters. 
     While I was at the workshop, I didn’t check my email or messages. Good news has ensued. We have been trying to sell our camp, two lots on a lake about 25 miles from here. Our realtor said that they have accepted our counteroffer but want one more look at the property. I will go out tomorrow and try plugging the pump in, and check out the shed. So—good news! My two sisters and I put it on the market 2 summers ago in July, after our mother died. It’s been awhile.
     Replaying Rachel Maddow as I type this. I tape her show every night. Also Jeopardy. And sometimes Lawrence O’Donnell. The map Rachel showed from the Washington Post shows the children in Michigan are in the Grand Rapids area, which is Betsy DeVos Country. The convention is at the Amway Hotel. Maybe I can protest or something.

10:23 p.m. The sun has set but the sky is salmon, aqua, and a pale orange, with the pine trees across the street black silhouettes. It is not quite dark yet. I am so heartsick with the children separated from parents’ situation—and Lawrence’s show is as depressing as Rachel’s—I get another wine and turn the TV to the Lifetime Achievement Award for George Clooney. Upbeat, sycophantic, and light fare. Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, and other testimonies from watchable people.

11:15 p.m. I switch to Channel TV WLUC NBC/Fox news. Karl Bohnak, the venerable local weatherman, says that we will overnight temperatures in the 40s. Tomorrow’s high will be 64. High pressure will continue. It’s better than the humidity of my other home, in Columbus, Ohio where it is predicted to be in the 90s. As I at this age need only about 7 hours of sleep, I will now have a 3rd glass of wine and turn on Amazon Prime, to watch that fascinating show I discovered yesterday, from Australia, Banished. I love foreign series, and watch them in their original languages, with English subtitles. Ishpeming Historical Society from 10 to 1, will go out to camp to check the pump, and then in the evening meet friends for dinner at Marq and then we will go to the Pine Mountain Music Festival concert, a selection of songs from Carmen. Right now, my sweet white dog is sleeping next to me, and life is good.

Jane Piirto

Jane Piirto is Trustees’ Distinguished Professor Emerita who worked at Ashland University. She is an award-winning poet, novelist, and scholar, with twenty books, including Kindle books. 


[click the essay to expand or click here to download a pdf instead]

—Zoë Bossiere

Zoë Bossiere is a doctoral candidate at Ohio University and the Managing Editor of Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction. Works and significant life events can be viewed at or @zoebossiere

Check back for more dispatches from June 21, 2018 tomorrow. —Editors