A Literary Feast

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Animal Cruelty

Posted on January 1st, 2017

The feeling inside was powder and flame in the gun of my throat.   I didn’t know how to shape my fingers ‘round your wrists so that you’d understand.   When I said ribbons yellow and turn, what I meant was the village burned. Here,   below our feet. In the smoke, the sound was a fast hand erasing.   That winter, the sky was so very white and nothing changed until you— you became this other in a flash of rapid oxidation: too   like the whole world: where nothing could be counted   or meant.   * * *   When I broke the jar, it was because I threw it at the floor.   Or it was because a dark creature…

The Unquiet American

Posted on January 1st, 2017

I spent my twenties living in two of the biggest countries in the world—China and Indonesia. One, China, remains firmly under the thumb of authoritarian leadership. The other, Indonesia, had recently crawled out from under that same thumb and held, to great contention and excitement, its first direct presidential election ever in 2004.   Twelve years later, Indonesia remains one of the biggest democratic flowers yet to bloom in Asia, while China, now under Xi Jinping or “Xi Dada”—Father Xi—experiences some of its harshest crackdowns on basic freedoms in decades. But I walked through both countries like these facts were foregone conclusions. Like my own country, America, could never backtrack.   I have no great insight on any of these three countries, despite spending…

Spilled Milk

Posted on January 1st, 2017

Twice this week I have cleaned large amounts of milk off the floor of my classroom. Once, white milk after a student accidentally dropped it; the second time chocolate milk, after a student had thrown it to the floor in anger. This is not typically in the brochures or posters that advertise teaching programs, but it is, after all, part of my job. Over the last several years I have learned to see tasks like this as less degrading and more meaningful. There is the academic side of my job, but on some level I also care for children and this involves both physical and emotional labor. As I cleaned the milk I imagine I felt something like an office worker feels when they…

Move Forward, Look Within

Posted on January 1st, 2017

The other night I lay in my son’s room as he fell asleep. His love of cuddling surpasses still our need for him to fall asleep on his own, and for now that’s okay. On this evening, a day or two before Christmas, the light in his room radiated in a low glow from the Christmas lights on the tiny tree we set up on a side table by his window. His breath had slowed and deepened and I watched his chest rise and fall, his mouth slightly open, his eyes gently shut, one arm up towards my head with his fingers tangled in my hair, the other on his chest. My heart constricted, my breath caught for a moment. I love watching him…

The Conscience of the King

Posted on January 1st, 2017

It was never plausible and it was never smart. We did it anyway. We had to, I guess—we had run out of choices. It’s hard to remember how life felt before. I can only recall a sort of seething numbness. When everything goes that grey, you need to light something on fire. When it had finally begun and we couldn’t turn back, when the first real shots started flying and the air turned yellow with gas that stank like a mockery of the grave, all I could feel was an angry heaving that stretched from the pit of my stomach to the roof of my brain. I wanted to throw my head back and laugh, ecstatic, perverse. I wanted to yelp to all the…

Kyoto Protocol

Posted on January 1st, 2017

“…and now your insides are raising  an ineffable racket…”   –Carlos Drummond de Andrade (Elizabeth Bishop trans.)   I finally turned to you and said, I’m scared of what is happening to my body. Oh, person! The week before,   I’d held you inside that fear. It was a kind of heat, a realness. The wish to transmit   kindness without pain is a form of pain. We had just started to be good   at teaching each other words for things: persimmon, catkin, mosaicism, friend.   I’d already decided I didn’t want you living in me like that: all that longing, unthrottled cry   in the dark. But then, walking back in the pre-dusk, I watched you tremble once with a smallness,  …