We’re Hiring!

Tin House Staff

Marketing Assistant / Part-Time Position
20 Hours Per Week; $17.00 Per Hour; Weekly Schedule to be Determined

Tin House is seeking a part-time Marketing Assistant to provide extensive administrative support and assist with the creation and implementation of promotional campaigns.

Responsibilities for the position include:

  • Maintain marketing promotional grids, schedules, meetings, and expense tracking forms
  • Update and maintain sales platforms used by sales team and book retailers
  • Coordinate content and delivery of retail and consumer e-mail newsletters and promotional e-blasts
  • Assist with producing promotional items, advertising, and other marketing assets
  • Coordinate and produce sales conference supportive materials
  • Manage details and logistics pertaining to trade shows and conferences
  • Assist with the creation and implementation of online retail sales assets
  • Assist with research and outreach to organizations for cross-promotional and book adoption opportunities
  • Oversee Tin House’s Bookshop.org store

Qualifications:

  • Prior office experience
  • Exceptional writing, communication, and organizational skills
  • Ability to prioritize and juggle tasks, from multiple points of contact
  • Expert knowledge of Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel
  • Knowledge and experience working with e-newsletter programs like MailChimp
  • Knowledge of InDesign and Photoshop
  • Enthusiasm for participating in and contributing to a small, creative, and supportive office
  • Demonstrated ability to work well with others on a team, while also being self-directed and quick to take initiative
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the multifaceted work of book marketing through an equity lens

To Apply:
Please send a resume and cover letter with the subject line “Marketing Assistant Job Posting” to careers@tinhouse.com.

The deadline to apply is February 5, 2021.

Please note, due to COVID-19, this position will work from home for the foreseeable future. When our offices reopen, the position will be based at our headquarters in Portland, OR.

No phone calls, please.

Publisher of award-winning books of literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; home to a
renowned workshop and seminar series; and partner of a critically acclaimed podcast, Tin
House champions writing that is artful, dynamic, and original. Tin House authors have
garnered acclaim everywhere from The New York Times and NPR to The Wall Street
Journal and People magazine. We are proud to publish and promote writers who speak to a wide range of experiences, lending context and nuance to their examination of our world.

Tin House is an Equal Opportunity Employer and will not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, physical ability, neurodiversity, age, family status, or economic background/status. Tin House welcomes applicants from diverse and underrepresented communities and values a wide array of talents and perspectives. People of color and veteran, immigrant, refugee, disabled, and LGBTQI+ candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.

Tin House Online

Staff

Dear Readers,

After much consideration, we have decided that Tin House Online will no longer be publishing original work. This is a difficult decision as we have been proud of the writers featured on our site over the past year as we made the transition from our print magazine to digital-only.

In closing Tin House Magazine, we cited a desire to shift resources to our other two divisions: Tin House Books and the Tin House Workshop. That same reasoning applies to this decision, and we could not be more excited about starting the decade with a new Workshop Residential Program and a 2020 list that will see us publishing a record number of titles.

We want to thank online editors Alana Csaposs and Camille T Dungy for their passion for championing new voices and for bringing some of our dearest friends back to Tin House.

And to all those who submitted, read, and helped amplify the work, thank you! We hope to share space with you again as we continue to strive to find new ways to engage and support our community.

Onward,
Tin House

Galley Club: The Magical Language of Others

Tin House Staff

Before the holidays, we invited a gaggle of early readers behind-the-scenes for a sneak peek at poet E. J. Koh’s debut memoir, The Magical Language of Others. Every single bookseller who read an early copy used the word “beautiful” to describe it; Nicole Chung calls it “a testament to how the most complicated, often elusive truths and inheritances can shape us and reverberate across generations” and the San Francisco Chronicle agreed, saying that “Koh’s book is a tremendous gift. … We’re so fortunate to have this literary reckoning from a tremendously talented writer. The Magical Language of Others is a wonder.”

Alongside graphics of readers’ favorite lines from the book, we offered Galley Club members the chance to contribute questions for an exclusive Q&A with E. J. Here is what they had to say:

GC: What is your favorite video game to play with your brother?

EJK: We played Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo—a Tetris-meets-Street-Fighter, gem-matching video game released in the nineties for the Japanese arcade scene. There were strategies that become clear over time—you recognized each character’s unique gems, or watched your opponent’s screen, or planned for the gems that would drop in the next turn. Over a decade later, I walked into my living room in West Seattle to see my brother playing the video game with his wife and my husband. The sounds, the colors were the same. He was sharing the game with the new partners in our lives, who were laughing and shouting as ecstatically as we did then. It used to be that something like a video game, something so small, could bring me to my knees, but it seems I am learning to enjoy the little things again.

GC: Why did you structure the narrative framework this way? Removing clear distinctions between primary source, translation and memory?

EJK: Trauma has no clear distinctions between primary source, translation, language, and memory. My mother’s original letters, records of mothering from a distance, lay bare my translations and bridge the events of my youth. However, with histories rife with violence and war, primary documents and records, alongside the reading of histories (written in separate languages, in different countries) against revisionist histories, and worse, the death of our family’s living witnesses—and their deaths survived only by our bedtime stories—there is no longer a matter of clear distinctions. I was left with an attempt at holding these things as equal to one another, alongside each other, and simultaneously—with what magnanimity I could muster. The greater the aim (one that takes up space), the greater I had to become (to be somebody who takes up space), so I was no longer simply a researcher or storyteller, but I had to understand how to be a daughter of the history, the language, and the memory. And though the narrative appears to have a non-chronological structure, I followed a certain logic to create its own chronology: “The present is the revenge of the past.” The chapters were written in the order you would read them in the book, guided—not by an outline or other means—but by this internal rhythm to know myself through my mother, to understand my mother as a daughter, and so on, for four generations.

GC: Has your idea of a/your own mother changed over time?

EJK: My mother is her own woman—an adventurer—who just left me a text message that she is going on a trip, and she doesn’t know where or when exactly she will be back, but she’s inspired to go and excited to also return to me. Instead of my idea of her changing, it might be that who she is and who she shows me to be, continues to grow into greater, immeasurable, uncontainable, unnameable, unresolvable depths. While I am learning how to untether myself, my mother sets herself free.

GC: As the book progressed and Eun Ji came to understand herself more fully, I felt that the tone and writing style became more poetic. Was this intentional and if so, was this intended to lead us to the ultimate conclusion of you becoming a poet?

EJK: Writing as a fifteen-year-old made me fifteen again. There was this feeling in my chest, described by the Korean phrase, dap dap hae—spoken aloud while pounding one’s heart. This phrase points to a painful frustration, and the accompanying gesture is the desire to open the blocked feeling in one’s heart. The phrase is also used for a sense of suffocation and constriction. I felt stifled from not being able to articulate or communicate what was happening to me. Words like bulimia or depression or suicide can be limiting to express an experience, and yet these are the words one uses to ask for help, words whose existence would have allowed me to understand the universality, the humanness, and the possibility of a way out.

GC: Who do you think you will be reincarnated as? Who would you like to be reincarnated as? 

EJK: This life would be my last reincarnation—if the learning is complete, if the life has experienced its consciousness in me, if what remains is love after having let go of all things, and if all things are ready to let go of me. Otherwise, I may come back as a little blue bird.

And here are our Galley Club members’ recommendations for what to read next:

  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • Chemistry by Weike Wang
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
  • What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About, ed. Michele Filgate
  • Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
  • Sing to It by Amy Hempel
  • Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg
  • The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
  • Creature by Amina Cain
  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang
  • All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Monsoon Mansion by Cinelle Barnes
  • Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
  • Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
  • Ayiti by Roxane Gay
  • Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
  • Good Woman by Lucille Clifton
  • Joy Enough by Sarah McColl

Thanks to our wonderful Galley Club members for joining us in conversation about The Magical Language of Others. Interested in being part of Galley Club? We’ll announce the next Galley Club for The Last Summer of Ada Bloom on social media soon, with instructions on how to apply!

Graphics by Jakob Vala and Jeremy Cruz, Q&A by Masie Cochran.

Lazy Love Song

Patricia Smith

For my husband and granddaughter

The other night, I gazed at what I’d won–
you, tethered to the couch and growling deep
with dinner, treating all within your realm
to symphonies of snorts and poots and winds
and afterward, you’d smile, as if you were
a child, with innocence your one excuse.
And did I say I love you? Yes, I do.
I love the you who loves the you in me,
I love the one we are, the two we were,
the stains that bloom on every shirt you own,
the waddle in your walk, your stubborn stance,
your belly pushing out from under T’s
and body music I first thought was crass.
I love that we’re so comfortable with us,
our crevices, and dips and droops and scars,
our sprouting hairs and balding spots and nights
of churned tequila failing to stay down.
I love that you have seen me so collapsed
that all I was was air, and that right now
I’m naked, menopausal, sweating stink
and close to tears, and still you hold me tight
as if somebody else would want the me
you have. I love the blatant man in you–
your shining armor, and the certain way
you make a circle safe around our lives,
our sloppy lives, our wild blues lyric lives,
our sunken chairs and all our mismatched cups
our million books in pieced-together rooms
our nights of belch and burp and whiskey shots
and pie and bags of Twizzlers gobbled down
while TV slaps us numb and dulls our brains
with thrilling lives so far outside of ours.
I love that you’re a singer, sans a key,
who warbles, screeches, hums and drives me mad
with painfully dumb lyrics you create
to songs I thought I knew. And sometimes we
just stop and stare and wonder, How did this
work out? I had a husband, you a wife,
and then, all gone. We shoved aside whole lives
for days of nothing but ourselves, and yes
our girl, the one who came to us a child
of separate parts. Not ours but all of ours,
she charmed us with her sweet disarming smile
and days of raven hair. You opened wide your arms
and pulled her in, our orphan girl, our light,
our sudden daughter brandishing her wounds
and trusting us to heal. And now, of course,
she’s you, an entertainer, droll and wise,
laughing loud at things that no one else
can see. I’m more than blessed to have you both,
although the blessing’s hard for most to see.
I wander through these messy rooms of love,
astounded by my one. The he. We three.

Patricia Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize;Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson.  Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, Life According to Motown; the children’s book Janna and the Kings and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. She co-edited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir. She is a Guggenheim fellow, a Civitellian, a National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient, a finalist for the Neustadt Prize, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, a former fellow at both Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history. Patricia is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, as well as an instructor at the annual VONA residency and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program.

Perhaps the Greatest Error

Cornelius Eady

This guy makes is Getting in Buzz Alden’s
Face, or perhaps it’s that he wants Buzz
To admit, to cry, to repent that it’s all been
A joke, a hoax, that Moon stuff, just something
Home made with lights and mirrors; remember
Playing “Space-boy”, your cardboard box lifting off
The living room carpet, and there you go,
The ceiling, the roof, the diminishment of the streets
Through your scissor-cut window, away, away,
Then the corrugated darkness, and stars.

But it’s a cardboard box, and the gravity
Of your parent’s house, where a kid, as we know
Has to snap out of it, sooner or later, or they
Begin to worry about where you’ll land.

So down from the beautiful, silent orbit,
That slow brake called reason, the weight
Of the real world dragging your arms. Come on,

The man insists, like your father’s hand ruffling
Your pillow with a quarter, caught, when all
He wanted was for you to believe, just for a bit
Longer, that that baby tooth of yours called
Beings invisible to your bed, stop lying
And tell us the truth. O, intangible worlds,
An astronaut ignites his fingers, and his fist
Is launched to the chin of the idiot moon.

-To Tracy K. Smith

Cornelius Eady is the author of eight books of poetry, including Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (Putnam, April 2008). His second book, Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, won the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 1985; in 2001 Brutal Imagination was a finalist for the National Book Award. His work in theater includes the libretto for an opera, “Running Man,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1999. His play, “Brutal Imagination,” won Newsday’s Oppenheimer award in 2002. In 1996 Eady co-founded, with writer Toi Derricotte, the Cave Canem summer workshop/retreat for African American poets. More than a decade later, Cave Canem is a thriving national network of black poets, as well as an institution offering regional workshops, readings, a first book prize, and the summer retreat. Eady has been a teacher for more than twenty years, and is now a professor at Notre Dame University.

Practical Joke

Brian Barker

The crows worked all night disassembling, then reassembling, a man’s car. By dawn it
perched on the roof of his house in perfect working condition. The man knew not to get
angry. He walked whistling to the curb, climbed into an imaginary car, made some
engine noises, and drove off to work. As he slept that night, the crows countered. A man
was messier than a car, and they squabbled about what went where. The next morning,
the neighbors thought it the damnedest thing. A car on a roof, radio blaring. A man
propped behind the wheel, an arm ending in a foot dangling carefree from the window.
An ass in place of a face, sporting sunglasses, staring into endless blue sky.

Above the Tunnels

Sandy Fontana

This college campus extension,
one building only, formerly part

of the asylum on these asylum grounds.
The classrooms, converted patients’

quarters and beneath us the tunnels.
Such horror and history. We’re like

the city atop the buried city, the students
could pickax and shovel into quieted

collected voices of the mad, and madhouse
keepers, instead of drudging through MLA

documentation. We’re like a parallel universe
of institutions, like Roethke’s sad pencils.

Sandy Fontana teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Shawnee Community College. She received her MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale along with the 2002, 2003, and 2004 Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poetry has been published in Atlanta Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Nimrod, Slippery Elm, and The Labletter.

Pipe Dream

Joni Renee Whitworth

I woke up most Saturdays of 1999 in faded flannel sheets. The alarm went off at 5:15 a.m., but I usually snoozed it a few times due to the cold: a pervasive, wet Oregon chill that breezed through our 1880s farmhouse and left a dewy sheen on the wallpaper. My dad would drive us over backcountry roads dusted with frost, past filbert orchards and nurseries that grew starter trees for Home Depot. Saturday mornings he took me to the local community center for a sliding scale ballet class.

The promise of dance is a channeling. I think he knew I had that rage, that if I didn’t find an outlet, I’d start to turn it on myself. Ballet class was warm, full of sunrises and two-name girls: Susie Mae, Sarah Jo, Lee Ann, and our teacher, Maggie Jane.

Maggie Jane wasn’t a renowned dancer. I wouldn’t say, for example, that she ever competed outside county lines or performed at a wider venue than the hanger at the state fair. I still remember Rachmaninoff bouncing diagonally off panels of rusted steel siding, all the way down to the blue ribbon steer yard, diagonal like the lines she’d draw in the air with her sinewy calves. Maggie Jane was an unpredictable performer making work steeped in erratic movement. You couldn’t call her choreography nuanced, but I loved her for her jutting rhythms, sharp lyricism, and stringent economy of movement. She was a good teacher, blasting Tchaikovsky loud enough to drown out the insecurities racking our preteen bodies. Maggie Jane didn’t mind my chubby knees, how I stomped across her maple floorboards and mashed powdered rosin on my toes to keep from slipping, how I started class red and got redder.

After class she’d bang out the door and smoke half a pack on the sidewalk, waiting for some date or another to come pick her up, and we’d wait for parents. Our county was mostly about waiting. Once before we drove away, she motioned for my dad to roll down the window of our Ford and slapped her hand on the frame. “You got a young gun here, buddy,” she said, one hand on her hip, “a live one, a real handful.” Handful. My wife calls me that when I’m bad at parties. “Too candid,” she’ll chide on the drive home, “you have to learn. Let them have their social graces.” Aw, but people should say how it really is, not, “Hand me that tin of butter cookies,” pounding spiked nog like, “those sequins bring out your eyes.” Not fake like they aren’t still angry you didn’t lay down your fair share of the bill at Gino’s. I’m learning to move through it. Channeling. Maggie Jane taught me that, and other things: brisk steps, the confidence to make moves on a stage, to coordinate my own and foreign bodies.

She had these three towhead brats, all of whom refused to take ballet. They’d read Goosebumps in the corner and dump out rosin tins, turn her purse upside down and hunt for gum, orange pill bottles scattered at their feet. If they swept up dust bunnies after class, Maggie Jane’d give them each a quarter. Loose curls all over the hardwood. In any room full of girls you’re bound to get hair on the floor — little whispers, dropped secrets.

One Saturday morning, Sarah Jo, Lee Ann, and Susie Mae were lined up outside the community center, hanging over the railing of the stairwell. 

“Door’s locked,” Lee Ann called down, shivering in her leotard. This was before cell phones. We just hung around. Knocked a few more times. 

“I guess no class today,” Susie Mae shrugged after thirty minutes or so.

We walked down the street to the bikini barista. Candice was tall and pretty and worked in a little A-frame hut with a sign out front that said BABES R US. She slid open the window and leaned out with her big fake tits and a busted lip. “Mornin!” We ordered three cocoas and a muffin top, stretching up to reach the counter and lay out our couple extra bucks because Dad said you gotta tip them well, “It’s not as easy as they make it look.” 

Candice always took her time opening the hot chocolate packets, stirring the powder. God, she was good. Swiss Miss separates into these little round balls. You have to really get in there, whisk it around. The winter sun lit her up like the Madonna as she asked how much water I wanted, and it’s important because if you fill it to the top, it lasts longer, but the flavor’s all muted. Or you can keep it low in the paper cup and get rich, creamy drinking chocolate. I was torn. I was ten.

Maggie Jane overdosed on OxyContin. That’s why she wasn’t there to unlock the door that morning. I don’t know why they did open casket, maybe to put a head on a pike. Always trying to teach us a lesson. Maybe if we tried a little harder. She had these tracks on her forearms, mouth caving in like she was still sucking down a cigarette. Most parents would have sheltered their child from a coffin like that, but my dad had this way about him — wanting me to say how it really was. Maggie Jane’s kids went into the foster system that same day.

I didn’t recognize the social worker with her cropped boots and winged liner; she must have been from Town.

Joni Renee Whitworth is an artist and writer from rural Oregon. They have performed at The Moth, the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts, and the Museum of Contemporary Art alongside Marina Abramovic. They teach poetry at the MacLaren Correctional Facility in Woodburn, Oregon, in partnership with the Morpheus Youth Project. Whitworth was selected as the inaugural Artist in Residence at Portland Parks and Recreation and Poet in Residence for Oregon State University’s Trillium Project. Their work is funded by the Regional Arts and Culture Council. Their writing explores themes of nature, future, family, and the neurodivergent body, and has appeared in Lambda Literary, Oregon Humanities, Proximity Magazine, Seventeen Magazine, Eclectica, Pivot, SWWIM, Smeuse, Superstition Review, xoJane, Inverted Syntax, Unearthed Literary Journal, Sinister Wisdom, Dime Show Review, and The Write Launch.

Protest Chant 2020

Jennifer Michael Hecht

How was the blindfold supposed to help?
Was it one last moment alone with yourself?

Jennifer Michael Hecht is a poet and historian of science and culture. Her poetry books include Who Said (Copper Canyon), Funny (Wisconsin), and The Next Ancient World (Tupelo); and her poetry appears in The American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, and The Kenyon Review. Hecht holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and her prose books include Stay: A History of Suicide (Yale) and Doubt: A History (HarperOne). She’s writing a book on poetry after religion for Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

In her thirties the poet acknowledges she is gay

Amanda Hawkins
In dreams I speak to people
I cannot yet speak to in daily life—
behind me an amorphous black
splash flinging itself in all directions,
or, a prism, top blown off, a hard
stream of light fire-hosing up
from the opening. My priest says
this is not a time to be impulsive,
this is a time to be intentional, slow.
My therapist asks if
it is possible to hold this newness
and not take action. Daily, I choose
to wrap my arms around my own body,
tap ten times the indents
under my wings. The other day
I pierced my nose with moonstone—
good, I read, for opening
the heart. I keep searching
for a minimalist zodiac tattoo—
all circles, triangles, and dots—
explained why to my uncle
with a description of the Eucharist:
outward sign of inward grace, how
in all my visions I am still
slow to speak, but I do speak,
and I take as long as I need.

Amanda Hawkins holds a MA in theological studies from Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. She is a Bread Loaf and Tin House Scholar, a three time Pushcart nominee, and the winner of the 2018 Editor’s Prize for Poetry at The Florida Review. Her work can be found in Boston ReviewThe Cincinnati ReviewThe Orison AnthologyOrion, and Terrain.

Shear

Christina Stoddard

I want a haircut that can win a bar fight.
aaaaaaaI want a haircut that will
throw my things on the lawn so I can finally
aaaaaaaget out of here. A gale is tearing

aaaaaaaat all the shutters on this house
and I want a haircut that feels like that
howling. I need everyone to know
aaaaaaaI’m coming for them
because I have nothing left to lose.

I’m tossing the glass jars on my vanity
aaaaaaaand the plastic comb I drag
across my scalp. Because we all expect
aaaaaaato grow old and soft
and too many people I love just won’t.
aaaaaaaI want a haircut that can stop time

so I can give myself one more hello
aaaaaaafrom her, one more of everything
before she climbs into the car
aaaaaaathat will not make it back.

There is money in my wallet
aaaaaaaand I want a haircut that will raise
an army. If it worked for that girl
aaaaaaaand her ships, it can work for me.

I want a haircut that can bring down a plague
aaaaaaaand settle a bet.
That can write its own love sonnet
and pitch a script. I’m so tired
aaaaaaaof having this face, boring

aaaaaaaas a faucet. Where’s the pizazz?
I want so much more than what I’m getting,
aaaaaaamy fury bursts like a galaxy.
I want a haircut that will call God’s bluff

Christina Stoddard is the author of Hive, which was selected by Lucia Perillo for the 2015 Brittingham Prize in Poetry (University of Wisconsin Press). Christina’s poems have appeared in various journals including storySouthDIAGRAM, and Spoon River Poetry Review. Originally from Tacoma, WA, Christina received her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was the Fred Chappell Fellow. Christina is an Associate Editor at Tupelo Quarterly and a Contributing Editor at Cave Wall. She currently lives in Nashville, TN where she is the Managing Editor of a scholarly journal in economics and decision theory.

Attention Deficit Pastoral

Kwoya Fagin Maples

Or how, if there is field before me—broad sky,
and too much green—I lose my breath,
forgetting.
Unable to keep up with my body,
now lifted off to wonder.
My children knock
around my knees, yet I can’t hear their pulling.
So much is stunning me at once, the sun
on me at once. Why this?
I go in blind direction
smelling woods or earth or air,
so many roads of grass
under my shoes.

Kwoya Fagin Maples is a writer from Charleston, S.C. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and is a Cave Canem Fellow and a current Alabama State Council on the Arts Literary Fellow.  She is the author of Mend (University Press of Kentucky, 2018), which was named a 2019 Finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. Mend was also finalist for AWP’s Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. In addition to a chapbook publication by Finishing Line Press entitled Something of Yours (2010) her work is published in several journals and anthologies including Blackbird Literary Journal, Obsidian, Berkeley Poetry Review, The African-American Review, Pluck!, Tin House Online and Cave Canem Anthology XIII. Her most recent poetry collection, Mend, was finalist for AWP’s Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. Mend tells the story of the birth of obstetrics and gynecology in America and the role black enslaved women played in that process. This work received a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation.

 

The Geographical Cure

JP Gritton

Only in hindsight would that summer of borrowed things appear full of disaster—at the time, we experienced it as a series of hilarious anecdotes. That night at the end of June, for instance, how the bumper of a borrowed car kissed Mrs. O’Rourke’s mailbox and sent the thing toppling over into the wash. Or that night, end of July, how we tossed the burning nubbin of a cigarette into that very wash to set the prairie grass ablaze. There was bad drought that year, we might’ve set the whole Front Range on fire, but that’s what garden hoses are for (we borrowed the neighbor’s, who never missed it).

There were three of us—MicahDevinMe—and we were about to become college dropouts. Devin had stumbled into some kind of inheritance, and Micah had stumbled into this sweet house-sitting gig, and I had stumbled into unemployment. We borrowed our cigarettes from perfect strangers and our booze and our pills from the cabinets of houses we didn’t live in. As for our accents, we’d flat-out stolen them from such films as Patriot Games and Far and Away. Twisted on secondhand Percs and pillaged wine, we relished the taste of borrowed words in our mouths:

“How much do you reckon it’ll cost us, loik? Replacin’ the toil an’ all?”

That night we cracked the tile—toil, I mean—we were down to our last shreds of self-respect, down on our hands and knees in Mrs. O’Rourke’s kitchen, picking up the anvil-heavy mortar we used to crush the pills, sweeping the Percocet powder into our palms, giggling at our phony Irish accents:

“Tee hee, ho ho! What’d ye drop the mortar for, ye bleemin’ eedjit?”

“Ho ho, tee hee! It were an accident, loik!”

Now I know we’d been begging for something ugly to happen, begging to be set straight. Burn me, we must’ve been pleading, that I might rise up from the ashes. Do you know that thing we’d been hunting? That giddy terror that attends the moment of reckoning?

Googling Your Name

Jeff Whitney

I learn you are also a rheumatologist
in Bethesda, a realtor in Orlando.
In 1902, you were a universalist and rained
pages of the Bhagavad-Gita from a glider.
You were a general and a saint—either way
lifting hands and when you did there was
silence. Baseball coach who died near third base
waving his runner home. It would be easier
if you were dead—skeleton with a gold tooth
in a bay-sunk galleon, field mouse picked at
first by vulture then by cricket then lonely
churn of time. If you were a ventriloquist’s doll.
Then we could say “he knows not what he does,” and then
we too could be forgiven. For Googling your name
instead of trying to do the work of dismantling
the mysterious machine that put you wherever
it is you are, so far from where you began,
in a place that looks for some reason like
home. It has flowers, anyway.

Jeff Whitney is the author of five chapbooks, two of which were co-written with Philip Schaefer. Recent poems can be found in 32 Poems, Adroit, Booth, Muzzle, Prairie Schooner, The Puritan, and Verse Daily. He lives in Portland.

Sink Monkey

Alyssa Proujansky

In the video, the monkey sits in a woman’s bathroom, legs dangling. I don’t actually know that the monkey is a boy, but still I think he. I watch the video on my phone, sound off, curled on my side in my bed. I watch it over and over. Sink Monkey is what I call him—though he is actually sitting on the edge of a bathtub. Sink Monkey has a large head, long, tufty fur. Heavy eyelids. Expressive eyebrows in constant motion. They go up, up when the woman’s hands move into the frame, down as she washes his spindly toes. She cleans the bottom of his feet with a cloth. Pats them dry, places them gently on top of each other. I press my palms to my abdomen. I’ve been bleeding all day, though nothing like before.

Sink Monkey is the only way I’ve been able to imagine going through with the pregnancy. Whenever I pictured a human child, I felt nothing. I’ve been ambivalent for weeks,
going on long walks with Ethan, talking in circles. Neither of us wants a child—in fact, it was one of the first things we agreed on. But as we talked, the question evolved: was it an accident or an “accident”? On a scale of one to ten, how badly don’t we want one?

Mandy texts and I press pause on the video. I’ve been swiping away texts all day—she’s the only one I’ll answer. I feel like I caused it, I write, by not wanting it enough. Every time I go to say miscarriage, I screw up and say abortion. Then I hate myself for using those words. I have no claim on either. I deserve nothing, I think—not grief, not sympathy.

I text Mandy a long paragraph about ambivalence. About two robust cells floating in fluid. How I’m stuck, as always, in the space between them. How this stuckness encroaches on all aspects of my life. But as I type, I buzz with a secret: I can still feel Sink Monkey curled inside me, warm and protected.

While I wait for her reply, I replay the video. I think dear about each of Sink Monkey’s features. Dear tummy, rounding out over his legs. Dear face, turned up toward the woman as she cleans his ears with a Q-tip. Dear legs, hanging gently over the lip of the bathtub. Dear eyes, fluttering closed as she combs the fur on his chest with a wide-toothed comb.

Mandy texts back a flurry of sorrys. She ignores the ambivalence paragraph, which feels like a kindness. She wants to know whether it hurt, and I sit up. I pause the video at my favorite part. The woman is preparing Sink Monkey’s toothbrush. He’s touching his mouth, craning toward her.

The internet, I write, says it’s like bad period cramps. It’s nothing like that. Like, not even remotely. I tell her that now I know what contractions are like. That I can only describe the smell as kind of like honeysuckle. Then I can’t breathe. Gonna try to sleep now, I type.

I go back to Sink Monkey, try to focus. I list words about his eyes: Trusting. Eternal. I write down whatever I want, no matter how stupid. But as the woman moves behind him, I notice her arm. Pale and puffy, like she never goes outside. A scaled rash creeping from wrist to elbow. Who am I to think that Sink Monkey is happy? It’s not like I’m a primatologist, I think, in the hacked-up voice Ethan and I use to mimic our neighbor. I turn off the video and then I turn off my phone. I lie on my back and stare at the ceiling.

I think: drink water, eat toast. Take iron, take B vitamins. I can see myself leaving the bed, walking to the kitchen. I can see myself having, getting. I imagine these good things raining down into the glowing chamber of my body. Repairing Sink Monkey, making him thrive.

Alyssa Proujansky is a writer from Ithaca, New York, currently residing in Brooklyn. Her fiction appears or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast Online, Passages North, Third Coast, Columbia Journal, Hobart, The Rumpus, Moon City Review, Lunch Ticket and SmokeLong Quarterly, among other places. She is a member of the PEN Prison Writing Project’s Poetry Committee. Her website is www.alyssaproujansky.com.

 

 

Dawn Callers

Alberto Ríos

The dawn callers and morning bringers,
I hear them as they intend themselves to be heard,

Quick sonic sparks in the morning dark,
Hard at the first work of building the great fire.

The soloist rooster in the distance,
The cheeping wrens, the stirring, gargling pigeons,

Getting ready for the work of a difficult lifetime,
The first screet of the peahen in the far field,

All of it a great tag-of-sounds game engaging even the owls,
The owls with their turned heads and everything else that is animal.

Then, too, the distant thunder of the garbage truck,
That lumbering urban whale.

Through it all, the mourning doves say
There, there—which is to say, everything is all right.

I believe them. They have said this to me ever since childhood.
I hear them. I hear them and I get up.

Alberto Álvaro Ríos is the author of 10 books and chapbooks of poetry, three collections of short stories, and a memoir. His books of poems include, most recently, “The Dangerous Shirt,” along with “The Theater of Night,” winner of the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award, “The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body,” finalist for the National Book Award, “Teodoro Luna’s Two Kisses,” “The Lime Orchard Woman,” “The Warrington Poems,” “Five Indiscretions,” and “Whispering to Fool the Wind,” which won the Walt Whitman Award. His three collections of short stories are, most recently, “The Curtain of Trees,” along with “Pig Cookies” and The Iguana Killer,” which won the first Western States Book Award for Fiction, judged by Robert Penn Warren. His memoir about growing up on the Mexico-Arizona border, called “Capirotada,” won the Latino Literary Hall of Fame Award and was designated the OneBookArizona choice for 2009. Ríos is a Regents Professor at Arizona State University, where he has taught since 1982 and where he holds the further distinction of the Katharine C. Turner Endowed Chair in English.  In 2013, he was designated the inaugural Arizona Poet Laureate, and in 2014 was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets. He was appointed director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU in 2017.