Poetry Friday: “The Fire Tower”

This summer is marked by smoke, our town covered in an urgent haze from nearby wildfires. I sympathize with the neighboring communities that are directly impacted. Homes burned, life plans changed, suddenly, and without much warning. In Carrie Jerrell’s narrative poem “The Fire Tower” we first meet a willful girl determined to make the steep, revolving climb up a fire tower staircase and we follow her to adulthood where she faces an unexpected, terminal diagnosis. The three stanzas in the… Read more

Life, Death, Bread, Host

Guest Post by Laura Bramon This post originally appeared at “Good Letters” on August 18, 2008. The birds’ wings shake out the smell of the men who sleep in the park: the smell of meat, sweat, and bread. The birds lift up and fly away as I ride my bike through the park’s courtyard, and in the trees a stone Cardinal sits on a throne, staring down at the ground where the men slept. Now it is morning and the… Read more

Entering the Age of Subtraction

I am entering the Age of Subtraction. Almost as if there existed an imperceptible fulcrum I had to get over, and I’m now finding myself sliding on the downside. So much of adult life until now was about Addition—collecting experiences and perspectives—countries been to and books read, bands seen—and then a husband and family and job, and eventually, stuff. Though relatively speaking, not all that much stuff. And certainly not any small, precious, “curated” collection of stuff that “sparks joy”… Read more


Guest Post One of the first official symptoms of pregnancy is an out of character desire to work story problems. If Eve is forty-one when she discovers she is pregnant, how old will she be at the infant’s birth, and when baby starts kindergarten, and when baby leaves for college? If Eve is sixty when youngest child flies the coop, how much time does she have to pursue the career she always thought she might have when kids left home?… Read more

An American Body Politic

A show about Russian spies living in D.C. during the Cold War easily brings to mind our present-day episode of America-Russia relations. Read more

Poetry Friday: “Psalm as Frustration I Can Live With”

Like the biblical psalms, Nicholas Samaras’s “Psalm as Frustration I Can Live With” speaks for the human condition. And, like many of the biblical psalms, Samaras’s psalm finds the human condition one of being thrust between opposite experiences. “I feel [God’s]presence only to lose it, / lose his presence only to feel it return.” And so it goes throughout the poem: presence becomes absence becomes presence; I see, then don’t see, then see again. But there’s a constant throughout all… Read more

Guns N’ Roses in This Lifetime

The first time I encountered Guns N’ Roses, it was a flag hanging on the bedroom wall of a kid I barely knew. You’ve likely seen the image—a cross, adorned with representative skulls for each member of the band. I hadn’t heard Appetite for Destruction at that point, but I knew this was something to avoid. Because that flag was dangerous. At the time, my favorite tape was Placido Domingo’s Perhaps Love, specifically his cover of the Beatle’s song “Yesterday.”… Read more


It refused to rain during the hot, middling July weeks the summer I turned fifteen. The clouds hung low over the Plains. My mother and I fought nearly every day during that dry month, even if our fighting was mostly silent, threats drawn from taut eyes and skin. I pushed always, every day, against an atmosphere full to bursting. She and her doctors tried to find a perfect storm of antipsychotics and antidepressants, but the voices telling her to break… Read more

The Iron Cross, Part 2

This post originally appeared on “Good Letters” on October 14, 2014. Continued from yesterday. The Way of Saint James—El Camino de Santiago—is a pilgrimage that began in the Middle Ages and remains popular today. Each year pilgrims from all around the world walk from points throughout Europe to reach the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Some do it for sport, others for contemplation, others to pray for miracles. (more…) Read more

The Iron Cross, Part 1

This post originally appeared on “Good Letters” on October 13, 2014. I didn’t know Julia well. The first time I saw her, she was sitting at the far end of the table around which our language class met. Although I knew the instructor, Chiara, it was my first day with this group of students who for years had gathered in Chiara’s dining room to discuss classic books in Italian. That day I was the last one to arrive, and when… Read more