Scoundrel Time

Pushing Back: An Interview with College Student Grace Smith on Identity and Activism

I first met Grace Smith when she was six. I was an adult student in a renowned memoir class taught by Grace’s mother, Marion Roach. Grace was the little girl who sat at our table writing or coloring until her...

My Mother’s Pilgrimage

  In September 2015—the year a crane collapse in Mecca killed 111 people, followed by the deaths of another 2000 in a stampede—my mother returned from the Hajj with flu and was immediately quarantined in...

Street Smarts: On Confronting Poetry and Language in a Mississippi Classroom

  After living in Washington, DC for more than thirty years, I like to think that I’ve acquired some street smarts. When in unfamiliar territory, I keep my guard up and sublimate the trusting Mississippi...

Exclusive Service

Tom had built up some sort of callus so the leg shackle didn’t bother him as much as it used to. Also, the Team had been very accommodating when he asked for the chain to be lengthened. Those few inches meant...

“In the increasingly convincing darkness / The words become palpable…" —John Ashbery

“Let us go forth with fear and courage and rage to save the world.” —Grace Paley

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Dura Mater

I carried death inside me for several days, waiting That man had no ticket to the concert; he pressed his ear to the wall, but no song found him Bees were swarming; they made sleeves and a hood around me when I stood still All winter a deep booming...

Words Fail Me

And it’s not one of these old-age lapses caused by blinking brain synapses. And it’s not a matter of speechless awe at something I just saw on YouTube—a toilet-flushing cat, or commensurately gifted brat. Sometimes, it’s true, I lose a noun or two...

Vanishing Point

For as far as we can see, they trudge across swirling sand toward us At the gate, one child’s blinks, such a uniform degree of metronomic motion with inky lashes—they seem to make an audible click, the second hand of memory, calligraphic Tropics of...

Porcelain and Glass

Summer halfway trundled up, the July rain rasps down our nighttime roof and window glass, the road out front rivering to ruts of pebbled sand, where soil bleeds veins between clumps of grass. At dawn the cat stands stunned at doorway’s edge, tail...

The Trumpbox

  The Trumpbox is 12 3/16 tall and 15 7/8 wide. It can hold quite a lot; according to the label, its “capacity gallon” is 14. It is made of Polyethylene, which I cannot say I really know much about, but I can promise you this, it’s strong. If...

“Appropriate and Just”

 

Diplomacy? A bother and a bore.
In fact, who needs a diplomatic corps?
Who needs cables and epistles?
When you launch a bunch of missiles,
you can lift your polling numbers from the floor.

Greens

The city built a retaining wall at the edge of the cemetery to prevent old bodies from sliding out onto the street. Take the civic hand and walk in the sun. Whether or not you have lost everything, there is nothing to lose in finding yourself on the...

Selections from The Trumpiad

  SMART “‘He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,’ said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the most senior GOP senator. Asked about Carson’s lack of experience in the agency’s areas of expertise, Hatch replied: ‘No, but he has medical experience ...

The Blanket Room

—After Italo Calvino and Dorianne Laux When I’m inconsolable, I like to go to The Blanket Room™. A new one just opened at the Maple Heights Mall. They wrap you in a blanket and turn out the lights. Then someone comes in, brushes the hair from your...

Incident at the Western Border

She vanished before they could shoot her: left only an atmosphere of mist, brume of body which blew inland in a myriad of droplets, a haze of nard and cinnamon touched softly with myrrh and cassia, floating like pamphlets scribbled in a foreign...

Colony

A splash of gasoline, a match, my brother poking it with a shovel. I was too young to have an opinion yet knew it was wrong. Even if the haystack pile of it grew each day more troubling beside the swingset, beside the prim lines of carrots in the...

Requiem

  I woke up one morning and my country was gone. It was strange. It had been there the night before, sparking and hissing, but now it was gone. I could feel its absence in the air, which is a feeling like no other. The garden was still there...

Because They Could: How We Are Not Russia

  On February 27, 2015, a stone’s throw away from the ominous fishbone of the Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower, they killed the charismatic and universally beloved leader of the Russian political opposition, the former Russian First Deputy Prime...

Election

Schoolchildren wait in seven, six, five, four straight lines that sway and shimmer as they’re led away until a winged V arrows south, and they see the pointed shape of flight from home, an escape— though they read liberty in motion, not need for...

Flamboyan (Royal Poinciana)

  I always wanted to be that woman That brazen hussy clothed in red The color of a torch singer’s lips or a rooster’s wattle Fecund, inflamed, unashamed My trembling limbs spread wide In rampant, ecstatic bloom Defying you and your mortal fears...