Negative Space

First you notice the writing students in front of you slowing down, then pausing, and moving into the street. Yellow tape is stretched across the sidewalk tied to a tree and a lamppost. You can’t read the black printing. The now visible police cars and years of TV say crime scene. The red lights flashing […]

Some Lines of Feeling 

“Autumn―that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness―that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.” ― Jane Austen, Persuasion   The oppressive, heavy, humid heat of another climate change Ohio Valley River summer makes way for […]

A Map of Jerusalem

For years my face and name were a message I didn’t know I was sending. In kindergarten, our teacher gave my classmate Daniel and me blue and white construction paper to make cards for our family when everyone else got red and green. I knew this was because we were both Jewish, but my mother […]

The Persistence of Wolves

I Stillness in the mountains, in the way the mist clings, eternal, like suspended cobwebs on the prickly pine needles and limbs of green guavas, in the way the mountains curve like the rolling hips of the women hiking red dirt clearings far away. They’re balancing bread in baskets atop their tightly turbaned hair. Time, […]

Dispatch from Liberty Ave.  

Pittsburgh, PA— It’s another day: not a sale, not a bite, not a solid, single look-e-loo. So I stand alone at the window and watch the old men walk in a stiff and stony parade up and down the avenue past my post at the East End Book Exchange. I count the ways to be an old man: to rein […]


I’m particular about my gym wear. To illustrate, my socks must be white or a shade approximating my skin tone. I call the shade “nude.” Crayola misguidedly called it “flesh.” After a torturous day’s work, I reached the Y desperately in need of a stress-defusing workout. Too bad I’d forgotten to bring allowably-colored socks. I hadn’t time to run home […]

Weird Gelatinous Things

Baby, let’s not go to the place where you and your other lover go. That place is ugly. Let me take you to the reservoir instead. We’ll go in the middle of the week, in the middle of a drought, the worst one in decades. When we get there we will be alone. The water […]

The Water Understands

My eyes adjusted to the Monday morning light peeking through our bedroom curtains and I looked at Jen, my wife, who stood by the side of the bed, the goddess of patience. My checklist started as I prepared to meet my son, our firstborn. Pre-packed bags of baby supplies: already in the car. Car seat: […]


Pittsburgh Center for Complementary Health and Healing, one Sunday morning in late spring. My feet, immersed in a mineral bath of mint and lavender. Candlelight reflects off the vanilla walls; Native American flute music floats to my ears. Rebekah, the therapist, sits across from me, her chestnut hair pulled back in a loose ponytail. This […]

Wander, Lost

Step The physical therapist, who comes to evaluate my son, is thrilled with our upstate New York property. A short, steep hill moves from our front porch into a brief, undulating yard and from there to a former cornfield now thick with swamp grass and milkweed. The yard itself is overrun with crabgrass, dandelions, broad-leaf […]

Wet Glass Plates

Living alone in the city had done something to me. Until occupying a one-bedroom apartment on 18th Street with no one to keep me company except Sydney, a cuddly cat with the loudest meow, I never would have walked down the city’s busy streets without a companion. Now that I think about it, it seems […]

All Hallow’s Evening

A few days before Halloween, we drove home from a friend’s church where parishioners had decked out the trunks of their cars with lights, plastic skulls, and spiders, even fog machines, then backed them up into rows in the parking lot so the kids could Trunk or Treat. “Mom!” Blaine hollered, pointing out the window. […]

First Season, Shotgun

A mild winter meant a busy first shotgun season for hunters in the rolling hills of southern Iowa. My father and I had made the hour drive from Des Moines south on I-35 to my grandfather’s land midday Friday for the hunt that night. When we arrived, the evening air was cool, but not cold, […]

Nuclear Fallout

While the one divides into two: the heart and its shadow, The world and its threat, the crow back of the sparrow. -“Of Ancient Origins and War” Brigit Pegeen Kelly   “Doesn’t look like much,” Mom said, as we pulled into the parking lot of the Titan Missile Museum. The main building was low to the […]

Me and Jerry

“Do you like Jerry Lewis?” I ask the stranger next to me in a movie theater. We’ve been making small talk, waiting for the movie to begin, about films and directors, young and old. The conversation has just turned to comedians, and I thought, there’s my cue. She tilts her blonde head. “He’s not my […]

I Once Knit My Own

It wasn’t until sixth grade that I started lying about my mittens. Bright blue and pink, I told my friends that they had been a Christmas gift from my mom. “Nice mittens, man,” they’d say. “I know right,” I’d say laughing, and tuck them into my pocket. The truth was that I’d knit them myself; […]

Beyond the Pale

I’ve worn different races as if they were shades of pantyhose. Many times, they felt just as constricting. They were not always adopted willingly, but sometimes forced on me. I am mixed; my father is white and my mother is an immigrant from El Salvador. But like all children, I started out raceless, like a […]

The Blue Blanket

I keep the brown blur in my peripheral vision and trudge up hill, stinking of sweat and Deep Woods Off. A few yards off the trail, the canine dervish whirls her speckled body, thick neck thrashing in the air. She springs high on muscular legs and drops, scraping her face in the dirt, raging to […]

Three Hots and a Cot

“You can’t wear that,” the guard says. “It shows too much skin.” “Wah? I’m not showing no skin,” the girl says. She raises her arms in protest and flashes her midriff. The guard points at her bare skin with the electronic wand. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he says. “We told you last time, too. […]

Kaleidoscope Mind

I am not your stereotype. People often have a preconceived notion of what Attention Deficit Disorder looks like. They imagine little children running around like wild animals, having temper tantrums, not paying attention, lacking the desire to learn. When I explain that the scene they imagine isn’t anything like my life, they don’t believe me. […]

End of the Line

“A woman like that is not a woman, quite I have been her kind.” Anne Sexton For my first appointment at the fertility specialist’s office I wear all grey except for my boots; these are shiny, cherry red. The four-inch heel makes me look tall and lean, as does the loose grey wrap I’m wearing. […]

The Call

Tonight I lie here, mostly awake, sometimes half-asleep, praying the phone doesn’t ring. It’s the early ’90s. In my second year of college, I’m volunteering with the local women’s shelter. Tonight I’m covering the sexual assault help line. I usually cover domestic violence and have received a few calls on that line, but never on […]

The Viewing

My car speeds north along the nearly deserted two-lane stretch of Highway 101 towards Waldport. My muscles are stiff from my hike up Cape Perpetua, and I’m anxious to get back to the house where I am staying for a hot shower. The sky is grey with pending rain and the ocean crashes against the rocks…


Fact: My hands are too short to reach mom’s cancer. How Cancer Changed Me: My logic is the safest thing I have. I write lists about logic. I make everything neat and ordered. There is a careful, measured safety in lists. I can see how far they stretch. Nothing sneaks up on me. I love […]

The Beetle and the Wind

On the morning of June 26, 2000, I awake with a weird pain in my right side. I stretch, take a deep breath, and assess the situation. No other symptoms. “I must have slept funny,” I think, as I take my dog Lancelot out to pee. It’s a Friday. A glorious Vermont summer day. My […]


You’ve been writing for only six years and you’re almost sixty. You’ve outlived your mother by five years; you’re feeling the press of time. It’s like the last stages of labor, you know you’ve got to push and birth something. Anything. So what if one of your writing teachers says of your stories, “Two or […]

Rebecca, First Semester Freshman Year

There’s a girl in a broad-striped shirt with her hands in the back pockets of her Daisy Dukes, legs crossed, one tan knee over the other. She’s standing in front of a fence in front of an apartment complex whose name you do not yet know. Her right knee, creaseless, is the one you can […]

Conversations I Can’t Talk About

In the spring of 2007, my father and I are discussing something important when the guy in the car behind us at the green light raps his horn. In the passenger seat, my father, a polite man of eighty years does not flinch, just glances in the rearview mirror and says, ‟Hold your horses, buddy. […]


Sticky Skirts Fearful of showing more skin than was appropriate for my grandmother’s funeral, I pulled my black lined skirt downward for the hundredth time. The problem was, no matter how hard I pulled I couldn’t help but feel like the skirt was still riding up. I blamed my obsessive thought patterns on the humidity. […]

The Memoirist

I like to think I have it all figured out. Take the rifle. As long as I can remember, the gun was there, resting next to the exercise bike in our house in New York. My father probably assumed he’d hid it well, draping it under several terry cloth robes…