The Power of a Vacant House

Windows

The Power of a Vacant House
by Monica Macansantos

Gene and I hadn’t seen each other in years when I heard about his mother’s passing, and I felt I had to visit him when the news reached me. I took a taxi to his house as soon as he texted me his address, hoping that my presence would bring him the same comfort that I had craved from my friends as I stared in shock at my father’s casket the year before. Perhaps I was merely trying to ease the loneliness I carried with me after losing my father, for the rawness of my own grief gave me a sense of solidarity with those who had just experienced it. 

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On Teaching Again

Desks

On Teaching Again
by John Yohe

At the urging of friends, after moving to Salem, a little south of Portland, I apply for the part-timers teaching pool at the local community college, just to see. If it doesn’t lead to another full-time position, it’s not worth it. It’s a gamble. Which thousands of other adjuncts, young and old, are taking across America. Maybe being back in the ‘system’ will allow me the chance to be hired full-time again. I have doubts, based on what I’ve observed over the years, that no matter the experience, committees prefer younger candidates spouting the latest Comp Theory buzzwords. Though they have to also value experience. Though curious too to see if I still enjoy it, if there is a value beyond the monetary. If I can help, if I can give back, if I can make a difference, all the clichés. But I don’t want my experience to be a cliché. Something real happens. Or, it did. Of which I was a part: Learning. Real learning. My own, but more importantly ‘my’ students’.

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A Natural History of Vulnerability

pages

A Natural History of Vulnerability: Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy and the craft of dialogic projection
by Campbell Copland

Written between the years 2015-18, Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy inverts the contemporary trend of autofiction (à la Knausgaard, Ben Lerner, Sheila Heti) by subsuming the subjectivity of the narrator/main protagonist in objectivity and otherness.  

Structured as a series of conversations, both scheduled and encountered, between the narrator and a spectrum of other people – from former and prospective lovers (as in Outline, the first book of the trilogy), to the workers who’re handling her home renovations (as in Transit, the second book) – the narrator is given shape and outline by the stories of the people she speaks with, amounting to an oral history of sorts, detailing the ambiguity of modern human relationships in their infinite situational variation and complexity.  

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Types of Infinity

Infinity symbols

Types of Infinity
by Audrey Moyce

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the thought of being a totally different me. The me whose mom didn’t make me fertilize the roses with fish emulsion on Saturdays, but also the me who was actually my cousin, or a butterfly, or a potato. I especially liked thinking about being a potato. 

As I grew older, I wanted to try on as many different identities as possible. I hated knowing that any choice I made would take me further away from all the other possibilities. Every yes a thousand no’s. 

In order not to foreclose any opportunities, I made choices that were either impermanent or not all that committal. Choices I thought I could “undo.” 

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Country Medicine

Country Medicine

Country Medicine
by Vanessa Blakeslee

“Go to the farm,” a voice inside me said, quietly but firmly—the voice I had lost touch with for some time. Midmorning, January in Florida, and I was sitting on the Lake Maitland fishing pier, part of the condominium complex where I’d lived for fifteen years. I found myself drawn to the lake, where the snakebirds and cormorants would fish and spread out their oily wings to dry in the sun, while I sipped green tea and waited for the cocktail I’d taken to kick in and calm my brain. The year before I’d spiraled into a dark depression, and, although outside circumstances had improved—I had gotten out of an abusive relationship, started working in a friend’s bookstore, and finished editing my first novel to be published in the fall—lately, alone, I found myself slipping down the rungs again. Terrified of the disturbing side effects that I’d experienced in my brief stint of taking antidepressants the previous year— night sweats, nausea, and most of all, emotional numbness—I was determined to claw my way out by other means this time, no matter what. So each morning, I popped GABA and theanine, eschewed coffee for green tea, and began my day among the sunshine and shore birds.    

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Sitting Shiva for Elizabeth Wurtzel

Elizabeth Wurtzel

The year was 2003. America and Israel were fighting their respective endless wars, and as per the tradition of my Orthodox Jewish community I left home to grow my soul in the holy dirt of an Israeli Yeshiva. The transition trashed my fragile personality. Leaving Brooklyn stripped the meager armor I accumulated and left me confused by violent homosexual thoughts, unprotected from unexplored regions of self-hatred, and sickened by vivid day dreams of suicide. Life was suddenly plague-of-darkness level dark and I had no words but inarticulate howls. I was terrified to tell my parents, scared to let down my rabbi (his counsel would be to find a therapist who would not turn me away from God), and frightened to push away my friends. Each day to cope, I huddled, still clothed, into a spiraled scrawny mass on the dirty bathroom floor, crying into a warm amniotic sac of shower water and my tears. It was bad. 

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Why You Should Write With a Cat

Cat

Why You Should Write With a Cat
by Sean Gandert

While technically it’s still possible to write fiction without cats around, I wouldn’t recommend it. Oh I’m certainly familiar with the old saws about writing, that all we need is a room of our own, or perhaps a computer in a coffee shop, or just a notepad and a little bit of follow-through. I’ve certainly done plenty of writing in hotel rooms and while crashing at friends’ houses, on planes and trains and wherever the hell else I happen to be when inspiration (or, more likely, a deadline) has rapped at my head. But none of these methods can compare to writing with cats, and if anyone asks me what my process is, where I draw inspiration from, or how I maintain the discipline to keep working through miserable drafts and numerous rejections, my answer is simple: write with a cat nearby. 

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A Yellow Thread, or On Obsession

thread

A Yellow Thread, or On Obsession
by Susannah Felts

And so I fell in love with a color… –Maggie Nelson

And so in these dark times at the close of a decade, I find myself enchanted by a color. Like anyone, I’ve had my share of obsessions, but this one is new. The universe baits me; everywhere I look there it is, dark and bright at once. Not a note but a chord. 

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