A curated literary guide

Week #49 / 4th – 10th December, 2017

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Five Things with Ashley C. Ford

1. The last thing that made you smile.

Watching my fiancé get ready for work. He’s so deliberate, and his hair whips around him the entire time because his movements are so quick. In those moments, when his mind is focused on the location of his keys/headphones/cellphone, I feel like I’m looking at him through a sheet of glass. As if we aren’t in the same room. As if I’m watching a stranger go about his morning, calmly or frantically, and in all of it, he is beautiful. I smile because in those moments I feel less like a fiancé, girlfriend, or partner. In those moments, I feel like a witness. And a lucky one at that.

2. A secret.

As a small child I found out that I was a very good liar, and how hard lies are to keep track of. As an adult, I am still a very good liar, but I can’t bring myself to do it unless I am being cat-called. I have lied to every man who has ever approached me on the street.

3. The last thing you wrote.

An essay for my job. I wish I’d had more time to work on it. But that’s how I feel about everything I’ve ever written.

4. Favourite city.

I’m still not sure I’ve been to enough cities enough times to know which is my favorite. As much as I love to travel, I’ve only recently acquired the resources and confidence it takes to travel in such a way that one might have a city that cuts above the rest. But I’m just getting started. So far, I’ve loved every city I’ve visited except Rome, which I still liked. However, if there’s a city where I can most rest easy (and happily) it would be Indianapolis, Indiana.

5. What you’d place in a time capsule.

The entire Golden Girls series on DVD.

Ashley C. Ford lives in Brooklyn by way of Indiana. She is (mostly) a writer, editor, and public speaker. She is currently working on a memoir, and hosting Brooklyn-based news & culture TV show and podcast, 112BK.

A Brief History of Violence

a poem from Preeti Vangani

look up ‘how to kill’ >> refuse to look up >> at the ceiling fan

We live in a world of violence, or it certainly feels like it as I scroll through my multiple social media feeds: another shooting, sexual predators, and abusers. As ever, it’s important to read work that recognizes the harm in our society, and that’s what struck me about Preeti Vangani’s poem. Written like an outline and with a title reminiscent of Stephen Hawking’s famous book, Vangani lists several acts of violence from many types of people—the father’s “fingers / caressing a scotch glass”, the “refusals of sex”, or the self-destructive things we do to ourselves.

The varying lines and poetic structures reveal a speaker teetering in various areas of infliction and hurt; a family where “[a]ll letters are odes to spaces / mother left behind” and the opposing force that “must only be served, never induced”. “A Brief History of Violence” is a window we’ve all looked through, a window we’re looking through in this moment.

Visit Boston Accent Lit to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Hannah Cohen

The World’s More Full of Weeping Than You Can Understand

a short story from Lori Sambol-Brody​

When I was a kid, it was my dream to escape into a magical world—stolen away by the faerie, pass through a wardrobe, disappear down a hole—to escape the mundanity of life. (I suspect that is the wishing-well dream of many kids who immersed themselves in books and folklore.) I didn’t consider, even once, as a young person, what it would mean to return from a far-away-land. Lori Sambol-Brody’s flash fiction skips the enchantment of fairy-land, detailing instead, with a fairy tale-like imagery, a girl returning, and even more poignantly, the sadness of the girl who stayed. It could be that Oona, the stolen girl, is lying about her misadventures, constructing sugary crenellations of magic over something more mundane. Does it matter? In controlling the narrative of her disappearance Oona claims disproportionate power, overshadowing her sister to become the favorite—and there, the narrative loops back to my childhood, where the heartache of the left-sister echoes exactly the sense of longing that drove my desire to be chosen, stolen, and transformed.

Visit Lost Balloon to read the story.

Contributing Editor / Reneé Bibby

in which the goatfish moon does not feel sorry for me

a poem from Jess Rizkallah

and i pretended not to have that first thought
because i wanted to be a Chill Girl. i am not chill, i am afraid

Today, we have a poem by Jess Rizkallah in Hobart that encompasses tentative adulthood, a sense of the unyielding in the face of things we don't expect, or don’t want. How to grapple with the things we feel despite ourselves.

how confessional am i allowed to be. masculinity tells me this is horseshit.
but masculinity aches deeply to be its own condensation this thing i drip too.

This poem is one part want, one part snapshot. The “now” moment, the trembling, ever-restless present. The ever-restless self. How to be and become, how to mediate your honesty. How much honesty is too much, and how much will spoil the recipe. How do we define the things that we yearn for? What’s not concrete, what’s un-spooling before us, untouchable. Rizkallah’s poem skirts at the edge of all these things without really talking about them; it only leaves you with a sense of something more to come, anticipation for the future, the tenuous, reckless unknown.

how do i say something without saying something. i just want to wake up one day
and stare into a bowl of oatmeal my cheeks already warm

Visit Hobart to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Joyce Chong


prose from Valerie Mejer Caso​

For me, the magic in a prose poem is its authority. By presenting itself in the same form as fiction and nonfiction, the prose poem appears to claim more space (on the page, in your mind) than it might have otherwise. Show me a prose poem with a narrative of sorts and I am simply ready to believe everything I am reading is true. Truer than true. I’m not sure why I feel this way.

‘Echo,’ by Valerie Mejer Caso (translated from the Spanish by Michelle Gil-Montero), is such a poem. It is a dream made flesh, and vice versa. It imagines a world with no ocean, it remembers the dead, it names the trees as witnesses. All displayed as observation. As recording. The childlike imagination—childlike in the sense that a child’s imagination is unburdened, not undeveloped—is expansive, so expansive that the poem ends without finding the edge of the memory or the future.

Visit Asymptote Journal to read the piece.

Contributing Editor / Andrew Sargus Klein

Flower Figures N°02

visual art from Jean-Michel Bihorel

Often when there’s a “growth” inside our bodies, the set internal rhythms and organization are detrimentally thrown off. But in ‘Flower Figures N°02’, the smooth, symmetrical body is juxtaposed against, and I daresay, eclipsed by the interlocked garden beneath. This bloom still needs rupture. In the video, consider how the stone completely snaps off to reveal the rush of small flowers underneath, almost equal in size but overlapping and almost overtaking each other in turns. Each set of tiny shoots at the center feels of its own mind; they don’t choose one particular way to point. When placed in the shadows, we feel just how fragile they are: the darkness soaks into the petals ‘till we can barely recall them as whole and separate. Instead, each blends into the next to obstruct the light, in turn making the places light shoots through both special and piercing. The wildness feels most controlled when light is allowed to sit just inside. In these moments, there’s just enough room between these blossoms to note the stalks/roots they’re held together by, to hold the rose gold light that feels at once soft and lush. I love how this body holds this garden with both pride (as implied by the pointed hand over the chest/towards the heart) and a touch of anxiety/pain (the hand curling into itself on the thigh). These gestures add a sense of balance that feels indicative of a journey towards flourishing.

View the sculpture & video on Behance.

Contributing Editor / Nix Thérèse