Tag Archives: The Wardrobe

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Alicia Rebecca Myers’ My Seaborgium

My-Seaborgium-500x750

 

Linnet

Birth: radial. Becoming a starfish
growing a spine. Center of a mirror,
tarantella, this line of fire, this
tambourine tearing through. My insides: pain
like a double-handled saw bisecting
my lower back, bringing me back into
rocking. Then rhombic crystallization
of garnet. Gravity. Pressure, torch, or
arroyo (rain-filled promise). Whirligig.
Yaw. Ship carrying pearl ash purified
by kiln, this sea change, this delighting in
red skies, in freight. Glacial channel. Maw of
sliced open nacelle, loved layabout. This
calm, this room, this ohm, this not like being
held together by anything other
than gravity: fatigue song. Percussive.
Train headed into watercourse. Double-
sided psalm. Familiar mastery. Sway.
Turn. My breath fogging the glass
as a distant linnet gathers knotgrass
by the sea, to weave, to build a nest of
salt, of thistledown, to house the hunger
that will feed on flax, tiny seed from which
linen is made, starred cloth we wrap you in.

________________________________

This selection comes from Alicia Rebecca Myers’ chapbook My Seaborgium available now from Brain Mill Press. Purchase your copy here!

Alicia Rebecca Myers is a poet and essayist whose work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, The American Literary Review, Gulf Coast, jubilat, The Carolina Quarterly, The Fairy Tale Review, and Day One. In February of 2014, she was awarded a residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center in Nebraska City. A graduate of NYU’s MFA Program, she currently teaches at Wells College. You can find her online at aliciarebeccamyers.com.

Ben McClendon is a PhD student in creative writing at the University of Tennessee. He previously studied poetry at Northern Arizona University after teaching high school English for several years. His poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Yemassee, Cæsura, Chariton Review, Redivider, Rattle, and elsewhere. He is currently Assistant Poetry Editor for Grist: The Journal for Writers and a poetry editor for Four Ties Lit Review. Ben lives with his husband in Knoxville.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jana Putrle Srdić’s “Anything Could Happen”

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Dilemmas of Poets and Sculptors 

Translated by Barbara Jursa

Where poets seek a way into space
behind the visible world, sculptors enter
with hands, legs, hooks in the ceiling,

they bring their van loaded with bags of plaster
distracting passers-by with questions about the metal,
seducing them with the communal spirit of their work.

In the uncertainty of dissolving flesh we crave
substance, which is why sculptors are always
appreciated. They rummage through
immortality
giving solidity to spiritual places
like libraries where they lay their big
warm hands on the largest spines of monographs
thick with illustrations.

With religious patience they carry
their shining metal tools
into ever smaller spaces.

Poets still have much to say on the matter.
They love the sculptor’s tactile achievement,
glad to elude problems
of such concrete nature.

From afar they watch the group at work.

Sculptors don’t think about poets.
Every so often they look at canaries,
afraid their sculptor’s breath might press them
to the wall. Proud of being
so close to such exotic feathers.

This selection comes from Jana Putrle Srdić’s book Anything Could Happen, translated by Barbara Jursa and available from A Midsummer Night’s Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jana Putrle Srdić (1975, Ljubljana) is a poet, art film reviewer, and translator of poetry who lives in Ljubljana, where she works as a visual art producer. She has published three collections of poems to date, and also translates poetry from English, Russian, and Serbian, including collections by Robert Hass, Sapphire, Ana Ristović, and other authors.

Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jana Putrle Srdić’s “Anything Could Happen”

Srdic_cover-212x300

The Other Side of Skin

Translated by Barbara Jursa

Wishing for a poem is like a humidity
in the air, 80% and rising.

At night I walk through this city in the shape
of a wet puddle, lights blur in its waving

and dry islands of life are named:
a pump, Nobel Burek, Hot-Horse,
Day and Night. “Good morning,” grins
an aged motorcyclist in leather
with his helmet and motorbike
and a rock-n-roll youth,
enters the shop.

Everything moving repels off
my body, a longhaired cat swiftly
puffs beside me, this hour is torn out,

time collapses
into itself in spirals, we are waiting in queues,

everyone with their tattered auras,
with marbles of lust scattered across the ground.

The city gives us an infusion of glittering
rhythms and saves us from a sweaty
apartment, flowers in pots that are quietly dying away,

the city is a recourse of cellophane
and we wait patiently—rabid dogs.

This selection comes from Jana Putrle Srdić’s book Anything Could Happen, translated by Barbara Jursa and available from A Midsummer Night’s Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jana Putrle Srdić (1975, Ljubljana) is a poet, art film reviewer, and translator of poetry who lives in Ljubljana, where she works as a visual art producer. She has published three collections of poems to date, and also translates poetry from English, Russian, and Serbian, including collections by Robert Hass, Sapphire, Ana Ristović, and other authors.

Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jana Putrle Srdić’s “Anything Could Happen”

jana1

Vanishings

Translated by Barbara Jursa

Half a year after your death
I called home,
no one answered the phone and
suddenly I was surprised by your voice
on the answering machine.

As if the cactuses from the window shelf
had circled my bed in the morning.

As you spoke from that cube
of pink jelly

your voice
was both familiar and strange,
unusually determined like the voice
of a thirty-year-old who is never
at home and needs an answering machine

because he just came back from playing handball,
and is hurrying to go target shooting.
Just like all shooters on their way
to the range, he knows that he must stare
through the window of the bus
at the same spot, continuously,
the moon in the afternoon sky,

so in front of the target
his heart begins to beat with the black circles
until he joins them with his pulse on a dot
and pulls the trigger.

The familiar voice
of a thirty-year-old who is now on
a honeymoon to Venice with the Glen Miller casette
in the car. A women’s hat with a wide brim.
His light summer trousers (Gatsby style)
slip over his knees when he jumps up
two stairs at a time.
Stinky canals, damp walls,
pigeons, he says to her, everywhere pigeons,
at the same time as his cigarette, he leisurely
lights the smiles on negatives.

I pass by this tall slender man
in a light summer shirt who does not recognize me,
I do not exist.

I am thinking — when we erase the tape
and your voice in my head
becomes a blur I will be
a bit more porous,
my vanishing
will begin.

This selection comes from Jana Putrle Srdić’s book Anything Could Happen, translated by Barbara Jursa and available from A Midsummer Night’s Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jana Putrle Srdić (1975, Ljubljana) is a poet, art film reviewer, and translator of poetry who lives in Ljubljana, where she works as a visual art producer. She has published three collections of poems to date, and also translates poetry from English, Russian, and Serbian, including collections by Robert Hass, Sapphire, Ana Ristović, and other authors.

Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jana Putrle Srdić’s “Anything Could Happen”

Srdic_cover-212x300

Air Cage

Translated by Barbara Jursa

All children on wheels have gotten helmets,
and trenches have been dug around the tracks
so we can’t cross them, which destroyed our
collective memory of walking on rails.

There’s a program, scribbled with yellow
chalk on a blackboard: activities in nature.
Young sparrows don’t kill themselves
when they fall out of a nest, sometimes
they just get eaten. Short but sweet.

This country isn’t right for us, we’re shaking our heads,
it rains too many days per year. All the bad
poems I read are like always having sex with the same
person, thoughts unwillingly wandering elsewhere
and yearning for something to nail them

to this moment.

The words are cut grass, calming, if you lay down,
even ants will politely avoid you.

And what are the chances that a swaying jogger
stops right above your head, eclipsing the sun
with her smoothly shaved legs?

No, this isn’t the right geographical latitude,
we’re shaking our heads, we need to stand on our
heads, stroll on the streets of Kampala, Nagpur,
Kuala Lumpur, where parrots fall from nests.

We need to shift from activities to nature.
Change our desires. The world is ripening into
a golden ball, all times are apocalyptic
and every moment now our cages will shatter.

This selection comes from Jana Putrle Srdić’s book Anything Could Happen, translated by Barbara Jursa and available from A Midsummer Night’s Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jana Putrle Srdić (1975, Ljubljana) is a poet, art film reviewer, and translator of poetry who lives in Ljubljana, where she works as a visual art producer. She has published three collections of poems to date, and also translates poetry from English, Russian, and Serbian, including collections by Robert Hass, Sapphire, Ana Ristović, and other authors.

Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jana Putrle Srdić’s “Anything Could Happen”

jana

The Dark Green Poem

Translated by Barbara Jursa

This is a poem about us two,
I have avoided it for a long time.

We push what deprives us of light out
          of our focus, heaping wobbly chairs,
unused tables, empty frames
into our guestroom. Some spaces we never
use, at least not with
                                       each other.

This is a poem about us two, green,
smooth and strange it lies
on the kitchen
                           linoleum.
In our long breakfast silence it sheds
its skin
             into words until only a dry
empty husk remains.

Although I am not numb, this night I dreamed
          of a woman with one leg,
she was perfect, I have to reach the bottom
of entanglement,
                         I dreamed that we share one leg,
is that perfect? It would be hard to
reach
          the town square with it, amongst
the pedestrians and cars, you know,
the square is the heart of every city,
a small perfection.
                                         We can still crawl.

This is a poem about us two.
I always thought it would be
                              a love poem.
At the bottom of the city, at the bottom
of the apartment,
                                        our one leg

This selection comes from Jana Putrle Srdić’s book Anything Could Happen, translated by Barbara Jursa and available from A Midsummer Night’s Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jana Putrle Srdić (1975, Ljubljana) is a poet, art film reviewer, and translator of poetry who lives in Ljubljana, where she works as a visual art producer. She has published three collections of poems to date, and also translates poetry from English, Russian, and Serbian, including collections by Robert Hass, Sapphire, Ana Ristović, and other authors.

Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Marian Palaia’s “The Given World”

PalaiaMarian_Credit_ Kelly Rae

Two Days, Then a Bus to Cambodia

I hear that now you can fire Kalashnikov rounds for a
dollar a shot out at Củ Chi, and they have widened and
deepened the tunnels to accommodate Western bodies.
Mick had the perfect build for tunneling, and he liked dark,
enclosed places. I still can’t imagine, though, after the sto-
ries I’ve heard, how he went into those things. I have tried
for years to tell myself it was lucky, in some alternative con-
figuration, that he didn’t have to come home damaged and
try somehow to fit in. I’ve known some of his compatriots,
here and back in the States, and not a one of them is right
in the head. They’re light-shy and twitchy, still startling at
certain sounds, still having the bad dreams after so much
time. The suicide rate for the tunnel rats is even higher
than it is for the guys who got to shoot at other people,
and get shot at, out in the open. Sometimes they take other
folks with them when they go. Innocent bystanders, as if
any of us is truly that.
      Meantime, I drink and shoot pool and pretend that I
am helping somehow, with the kids and with my students,
though it really did not take me long to figure out it is not
the Vietnamese who need help here.
      When I feel myself approaching critical mass, I burrow
in at the Rex with the Aussie, who works with the Vietnam
Airlines guys out at Tân Sơn Nhất, training pilots and me-
chanics about airplanes in peacetime. These guys, he’s told
me, know plenty about planes in wartime: their water buf-
falo drink from bomb craters turned lotus-choked ponds;
their kids are born missing limbs, or with their limbs put
on lopsided. By God. Every couple of months he gets a
ten-day leave and goes off to Norway—to hike, to “veg
out,” he says, unwind before he goes berko. When he leaves
this time, one of his pals finally tells me, in as kind a way
as possible, that the Aussie is in Norway because his drop-
dead Norwegian model girlfriend has just had his child
there, a boy, and he is pulling together the paperwork to get
them permanent visas and bring them back to Saigon.
      “So,” this pal tells me, “maybe you should forget about
him now.”
      “Done,” I say, though of course we both know that is
a big, fat lie. I have not had time to forget. Give me some
time.
      “He should have told you.”
      “Should have. Maybe he was going to when he got
back.”
      “Pigs fly,” he says.
      I spend twenty precious dollars on a four-minute phone
call to San Francisco, to my keeper, my tender, my friend—
the one whose heart I took such lousy care of because I still
had no business trying to operate mine, and because there
was nothing dangerous or particularly fucked up about
him. It has been over a year, so clearly he is surprised to
hear from me, and he waits for me to tell him why I am
calling. I listen to his breathing, watch the seconds go away
on the pay phone at the post office. I am standing under
a larger-than-life-size portrait of a smiling, radiant Ho
Chi Minh, in what is officially, at least in name, his city. I
say into the phone, “Do you miss me?” but I have not left
enough time for an answer at the pace we are going. I want
to be missed. MIA like my brother, but with the prospect of
being found. Flags flown and torches carried. APBs out for
my arrest. I don’t care how.
       Finally, I hear, “I don’t know what—” The line goes
bleep, then dead. I do not call back, though I should, to say
I am sorry for what I did, for who I am, for calling, for re-
minding him, for asking for something I don’t deserve: for
someone to want me. For a reason to one day, perhaps, in
this lifetime even, recross the ocean. Selfish as that reason
might be. Crazy as it might be to believe, even for a little
while, that it would do.
       I think about calling home. My real home. I think about
calling.

This selection comes from Marian Palaia’s novella The Given World, available from Simon & Schuster. Purchase your copy here!

Marian Palaia was born in Riverside, California, and grew up there and in Washington, DC. She lives in San Francisco and has also lived in Montana, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, and Nepal, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer. Marian has also been a truck driver, a bartender, and a logger. The Given World is her first novel.

Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Marian Palaia’s “The Given World”

the-given-world-9781476777931_hr

Take You Back Broken

“I feel like someone’s put a torch to me,” Lu sighs, from
the floor, as if there’s something appealing about that
notion. I lie down on the cool, scarred hardwood next
to her but don’t touch, my toes an inch from her ankle,
stretching into her and away at the same time. I suspect she
really would like to be on fire, that she would be pissed if
I put her out. We are a pair, not a couple, mostly because
I am still (stubbornly, she says) straight, still like boys de-
spite the improbability of surviving them, and she may be
too wild anyway, even for me. We are in Oakland, during
a string of rare ninety-degree days, because we are out on
a pass of sorts and because it is necessary for us to be here,
as opposed to the city across the bay, where in our world
people and their lives simply come apart, and we can’t seem
to do a thing to stop them.
      It’s August and too hot to touch, skin to skin, too hot to
even think about outside. Outside is where you go when
you are being punished, at least until dark; then inside is
punishment, jungly and fierce. Equatorial, like Papua New
Guinea.
      She pronounces it Pa-POO-Ah. Irian Jaya, she tells me,
is its other half. She starts meandering around peninsulas
and archipelagoes—Indonesia, Malaysia—comes creeping
up on Burma and the Irrawaddy.
      I say, “Stay out of Vietnam.” Sixteen degrees north of the
equator but still scorching, from what Mick’s letters said.
      She says, “I know.”
      When she sits up, it will be to smoke a cigarette and
work on a drawing of a forest, in deep green, brown, and
black, with a few white smudges standing in as rabbits. She
will say this forest is in the kingdom of Bengal, though it
no longer exists as a kingdom. When I tell her that, she will
show me one of her maps, of which she has many, some of
them very old. She collects dog-eared . . . things.
      “Oh yes it does, Cookie. It’s right there.” She’ll flick that
map with her index finger, a sharp, snapping sound. “See?”
It is hard to argue when it is in black and white like that.
Black and white, red and blue. She claims, when she is not
drawing or painting, to be a geographer. When she is not
drawing or painting, dope sick or high, or trying to figure
out how to get high. She’s never actually been anywhere, ex-
cept here and southern Indiana, the long black-tar highway
in between. She left when she got old enough to fight off
the inbred uncles, steal a car. I came later, from the north,
and at first she was jealous of my wholesome, perfect fam-
ily. Of how I led my personal Lewis and Clark expedition
to the edge of the continent, obliviously determined to beat
the crappy odds and discover the Pacific on my own.
      There was an intersection of sorts. A convergence. Or
maybe an eclipse. And now it is nighttime. We fall asleep
on the floor under the creaky ceiling fan. Even sheets weigh
too much. The air trying to come through the windows
smells like wild animals. Random gunfire in the distance
wakes us up. Gang wars. Little boys with Uzis. Lu growls,
but softly.
      “You want to bring the outside in, but you can’t,” I say.
      “Not even you.”
      “We could take out a wall.”
      “What about winter?”
      “What about it?” What she means by that, I know, is
that winter is not certain, if nothing is. Besides which, these
walls, not a one of them belongs to us.
      On the subject of fire, she continues to deny ever having
set one in the bar. The burned spot in the faded linoleum,
burned and melted through to the wood underneath, was
someone else’s handiwork. She doesn’t say whose, but I bet
she was there. That happened a long time ago, maybe ten
years, way before me.
      “I hate that Andy keeps telling that story,” she says. I
have not mentioned the fire, but she has reminded herself,
and I know exactly what she’s talking about. It’s a sore
point with her, being falsely accused. Andy is the swamper
at the bar, queer as Liberace but not quite as glamorous, a
long-haul regular and witness to years of bad behavior in
what he calls the Lesbyterian Church. He tracks all of us,
me included now, and although nelly and sweet and gener-
ous, he is a terrible gossip and not above making things up.
I don’t know why the fire story bugs Lu so much; maybe
because she has never lied about all the stupid things she
actually has done, as she generally doesn’t give a rat’s ass
what people say or think.
      When I first saw her, she was loudly berating a blind
girl from her usual location, leant James Dean–style against
the wall by the jukebox, cigarette perched on her lip, smoke
narrowing her possum-brown eyes. She pointed at me
and demanded to know what year it was. I thought maybe
it was some kind of a test, but I didn’t know if there was
a trick to passing it, so I just said. She did a little math,
turned back to the girl. “I’m thirty-four years old,” she
announced, poking a finger into her own chest. “Look at
me.” To a blind girl. I was behind the bar, still new and not
a little nervous, and everyone else who was in there at the
time was appalled, or acting like it. I thought it was funny.
I knew that girl. She was a pain in the ass. Got drunk every
afternoon and tripped over the dog. Poor animal had a
haunted look, bruised fur. I had to draw the line at rustling
a blind girl’s dog, but, boy, was I tempted. Lu would have
done it, I bet, if she’d thought of it and had someplace to
keep it, but she was on the street more often than she was
off. Or camping in someone else’s living room.
      She came back over and over to flirt with me, but could
never get my name right.
      “Rachel.”
      “Not even close.”
      “Bailey.”
      “Bailey is a dog’s name.”
      She demanded a nickname. I had lots of those.
      “My brother used to call me Cupcake,” I said, and she
promptly forgot that too.
      “Cookie,” she said, five minutes later. In a way, she
invented me. I could not have invented her, as I did not
have the experience or the capacity. When I got to know
her, the bit that she let me, sometimes I called her Loopy,
sometimes Sloopy. Sometimes she answered. She and Mick
would have been close to the same age, and something
about the way she leaned on that wall wanted to remind
me of him, but I didn’t let it. I could already see it would be
complicated enough without that, and probably hurt.

This selection comes from Marian Palaia’s novella The Given World, available from Simon & Schuster. Purchase your copy here!

Marian Palaia was born in Riverside, California, and grew up there and in Washington, DC. She lives in San Francisco and has also lived in Montana, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, and Nepal, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer. Marian has also been a truck driver, a bartender, and a logger. The Given World is her first novel.

Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Marian Palaia’s “The Given World”

PalaiaMarian_Credit_ Kelly Rae

Slim

A young woman. Okay, maybe not so young. Maybe
forty-two and already a grandmother. Believe me: no
one finds this harder to believe than she does. Her
name is Rose and she is a little ashamed, on this particular
errand, to admit (to herself? to her small passenger?) that
she has only ever skirted this reservation. It lies adjacent
to a road she has driven many times—the shortest cut be-
tween Great Falls and home—but there has never been any
reason to actually go in, to stop, until now. That, or she has
always sensed she would be unwelcome, or guilty of tres-
passing, or simply did not belong.
     In any event, it is late spring now, and wildflowers—
mostly purple lupine, but some red Paintbrush, some
dirty-white Queen Anne’s lace—flourish in yards and in
the many vacant lots, making the otherwise dust-colored
neighborhood a little brighter, almost radiant. She takes
that as a good sign. From whom? God does not have a
place in all this. That would be the kind of wishful thinking
she cannot afford.
      She carries a red and black wool blanket, wrapped
around some small, obviously alive, thing. It is not a puppy
or a newborn calf. It is a baby. Her grandson. She has come
to offer him to someone she has never met. Not the boy’s
father. His father is in Vietnam, if he has not had the good
sense to go AWOL and head for another country; one si-
multaneously very close and very far away.
      She can’t speak for anyone else but imagines they all
thought about that passage when the lottery numbers were
picked, matched to birthdays, fired like flaming fucking
arrows into the hearts of mothers everywhere. But she is
not thinking about that now. This is someone else’s child
(her daughter’s, but still), and she doesn’t even know if the
father—this child’s father, who is possibly already a dust
cloud floating on the breeze over the South China Sea—
even had a mother. Anything, at this point, seems pos-
sible. Maybe because there is this baby, who, created a few
months later, might now have been . . . nothing. A memory.
Carried regret. When the decision came down from the
court, they didn’t talk about it. It was too late. And this
boy’s mother was mostly beyond talking by then anyway.
Rose knows a family name and approximate location
because of letters sent to her daughter when she still lived
with them, and a handful after she left. Early postmarks
said Oklahoma, later ones Texas, but the last one came
from Montana.
      A man answers the door. He is tall and dark and re-
minds her of the young man she has met only the one time.
She says hello, and folds the blanket away from the baby’s
face. “I believe,” she says, holding the boy out awkwardly so
the man can see him better, “this is your grandson.”
      “My grandson,” the man says, as if trying to decide if the
word could have more than one meaning. “And he came to
you by way of—”
      “My daughter.”
      He raises one eyebrow. “I see.”
      Rose nods. The words are not a challenge but an ac-
knowledgment.
      That, at least, is how she hears them. “Yes.”
      “And your daughter?”
      “Is in Missoula, I think. She left him with us. To find a
family for him.”
      “Leonard can not be this baby’s father.”
      “Leonard? I don’t know who that is. The boy I know is
called Darrell.”
      The man nods. He does not look surprised or wary, as
she had thought he might. “Darrell is my nephew.”
      “Oh,” Rose says, knowing she still has to say what she
came for, even if she doesn’t know how to say it, especially
now. The man waits, not impatiently, and she steels herself,
slowly blowing out a bellyful of air before she speaks again.
“Do you think— Can you take him? I mean, would you?
My husband and I, we can’t keep him. I’m afraid—” She
wants to explain, about her missing son, her already lost
daughter, her inability to function some days, to keep track
of days at all, let alone keep track of this tiny person. But
she can’t explain. It would be too much.
      The man laughs softly. To Rose, the laugh sounds sad,
or resigned, or both, but she doesn’t trust herself to judge
what anyone else is feeling. Since she doesn’t even know
what she is feeling, it would hardly be fair.
      “Yes,” the man says. “I can take him. I can take care
of him.”
      Is it the answer she wants? God—him again—knows.
Simple enough, she thinks. Simple as that. Done.
      She looks at the baby, and back at the man. The resem-
blance is more than dark skin and eyes and hair. “I know
this is a terrible thing to ask,” she says. “But do you want
him? Or do you—”
      “Not so terrible,” he says. “I understand why you would
ask.” He looks past her, across the road, up into the seemingly
empty hills. “I would like to have him here with me.
      My boy died two years ago. He was seventeen. And now my
nephew is gone too. This house is pretty damn empty.” He
looks down at the baby in Rose’s arms. “Seems right,” he
says. “I think I know myself well enough by now to trust
that.”
      Rose finds she is jealous but doesn’t say.
      “Don’t worry.” He touches her shoulder. “He’ll be okay.
 Tell your daughter. He’ll be fine here.”
      “I’ll tell her.” It does make sense. As much as anything
else does. She hands him the blanket, the baby. The boy
looks at him, out of pale eyes that don’t really go with the
rest of him. He looks quite serious, like a little old man;
aside from the eyes, almost like a miniature of the man
holding him.
      “His name?”
      Rose says they call him Slim.

This selection comes from Marian Palaia’s novella The Given World, available from Simon & Schuster. Purchase your copy here!

Marian Palaia was born in Riverside, California, and grew up there and in Washington, DC. She lives in San Francisco and has also lived in Montana, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, and Nepal, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer. Marian has also been a truck driver, a bartender, and a logger. The Given World is her first novel.

Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Marian Palaia’s “The Given World”

the-given-world-9781476777931_hr

Girl, Three Speeds, Pretty Good Brakes

So that was me, going on eighteen. Not too tall, no tits
to speak of, brown hair to my ass, parted in the middle
and brushed intermittently, worn just far enough out
of my eyes so I could see, but my peripheral vision was not
what it could have been. I’d graduated from high school,
and left my family and our home in the rearview mirror
of a Greyhound bus. Moved to the city—or what, in Mon-
tana, passes for one—and stayed awhile. I left a few things
behind, but no one came looking to return them to me or
to fetch me back. I didn’t expect them to. They had enough
to deal with.
      What I did take along was a whole lot of questions
for the world—oh yeah—beginning with “Why why why
why why?” I often said it out loud, I guess because I was
lonely enough to talk to myself. Bewildered too, but I knew
enough to go. When I wasn’t asking why, I was giving my-
self orders: Just keep moving. Hit it, Riley. Get the lead out.
So there was me, keeping myself company, and after I got
my job in Missoula, there was my Mustang—my parachute,
my escape. I took up driving like some people take up
smoking or poker, and set about prowling the roads of a
different part of the state—a different planet, almost—than
the one I’d come from, a hundred miles north and two fifty
east. The one where I’d left my mother and father, their
grandson, and their own mess of memories and regrets.
I didn’t know if they were still reaching, like I was, into
empty space, looking to grab onto something no longer
there, but it was likely enough.
      One of my half-assed dreams, when I was still young,
had been to become a diesel mechanic, work on huge
things—equipment that could move mountains. It was
not something girls normally wanted, but I was not a
normal girl, and I had plans for that equipment. I guessed
that given the right machinery, my little corner of the
world—including all of Montana, parts of western North
Dakota and southern Alberta, maybe just a small corner
of Wyoming—could be arranged a little more to my liking.
I even thought about joining the army. I knew they had
some big machines, and I knew if you joined, they took you
away. Maybe to somewhere warm, maybe near an actual
ocean, where if it was the right time of year, there would
be whales. As it was, I was already imagining them in the
endless wheat fields, their big humped backs rising up out
of all those amber waves of grain. I had a pair of blue-tinted
sunglasses that nearly took care of the color discrepancy.
Hits of mescaline or the occasional tab of acid took care of
the rest.
      Sometimes I’d lie out there on my back, and the world
would turn over on itself, so all that big sky—all that inex-
haustible sky I knew for some people who weren’t me was
full of possibilities—instead became a big milk-glass bowl
containing my life and all the reasons for me even having
one. It would fill slowly with water, and I could feel fish
swimming through me, through all my arteries and veins.
And then I would start to drown in it, because it was all
wrong and it was too big, and I would close my eyes and
grab onto the dirt or the grass or the rocks or whatever was
there and make the world go back the way it had been, and
then sometimes I’d feel myself drowning in that too.
      Despite all that, I was a picture, even if it was only in my
mind, in my uniform. There was, however, the problem of
being too much of a fuckup for even the army to want me.
That, and I had not yet figured out a way to forgive them
for losing my brother and taking my boyfriend. Or either
of them, for letting it happen.
      My parents, I knew, saw me orbiting a little too close
to the sun, but they didn’t try to talk me down, probably
because they knew they couldn’t, or were afraid of
pushing me even further away. I  learned how to drive
at fourteen and spent a lot of time in my dad’s pickup.
On the back roads, on the straight stretches, some voice
in my head would tell me to floor it. I noticed the same
voice never told me to stop if the road ended or turn if it
turned. I wondered a few times about the significance of
that, and it took a special effort on my part to stay out of
the wheat fields.

This selection comes from Marian Palaia’s novella The Given World, available from Simon & Schuster. Purchase your copy here!

Marian Palaia was born in Riverside, California, and grew up there and in Washington, DC. She lives in San Francisco and has also lived in Montana, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, and Nepal, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer. Marian has also been a truck driver, a bartender, and a logger. The Given World is her first novel.

Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.

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