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Spotlight is a regular series published every other Monday throughout the year, showcasing an individual writer or artist. Writers Read is an occasional series showcasing craft-based reviews of published works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and translation. À La Carte is a curated occasional series featuring short pieces by writers from underrepresented or historically misrepresented communities and/or writing that engages with issues of social, economic, and environmental justice. Litdish is an occasional series of interviews with writers and artists in conversation with our staff about literature, art, social justice, and community activism.
I have in mind a kind of time
That can’t be measured by clock
Or monitored by calendar;
Time that isn’t tucked away
In packages of seconds, days or centuries,
on the evening, later,
at the second we realize the sun still falls.
At the mercy of the name
we will give it when language
turns brittle to touch. Later,
Don’t let go.
Let go of what?[. . .]
Thalassa was born at sea, on the waves of a storm. Because of this, she loved the ocean. Sometimes, it felt as though her veins were full of seawater instead of blood. […]
Gonzalo de la Peña, a forty-year-old schoolteacher from our village, kept crickets in little bamboo cages that he purchased from a roving vendor while visiting the Capitol. He kept the crickets as a hobby, though he had little time for anything but teaching (he was very conscientious) and running an orange juice stand at the market, a tiring job he performed day after day to earn extra money for his family and tedious in-laws [. . .]
I walk the cradle to the grave.
The bassinet soaks my hair like hot foam
Like a drowning dance, my toes are pointed in my shoes. [. . .]
You are digging a hole. You’re not sure why, but it suits you. It makes it easier that you like the people you do it with. Not that there’s ever more than one person to a hole—a hole is a completely solitary thing—but the ones digging nearby, you think they make good conversation. […]
Do not go to a birthday party the night your grandmother dies. Do not pick up a six-pack of White Claws (black cherry) on the way and then drink four of them while you look into your partner’s eyes defiantly, a challenge. Do not ask him if he will stop you, if he will nudge you toward considering the line between grief and excess [. . .]
We call him Hugo Apollo
a science fictional name
perfect for the first space
he inhabits after birth, [. . .]
The earth has washed its lovely hands of us. Enough!
so sayeth the world. Knock it off. Sit still and think
hard about all that you have done. […]
“The year when grandma turned one hundred, we
could not see her. Our pandemic eyes not
I wake up in the middle of the night. A single star winks at me. Photons fired out thousands, maybe millions of years ago, skimming space, slipping solar systems, sneaking past planets—one true beam sometimes bent by the gulp of gravity,mbut always adhering to its lucky destination.
I made a new email to be professional—obviously I couldn’t go around applying for jobs as , and my cousin wasn’t going to keep paying for that domain name anyway. So I picked something regular. I tried my first initial + last name as my username, but bholman was taken. So then I put my first two initials, and presto, I became blholman, employable person. […]
The plunging water, the plunging light: replenished, stupefied and serene. It is so wide-open that what looks and feels like endless light shines through, then a glinting truth that looks like madness, the bald white hemorrhage of a gravity moving through the moon. . .
The salon burned down just before they moved in, and Shimmery would always associate the stench of burning plastic with the summer they lived on that hill. Her mom said it was arson, but Shimmery didn’t know who Arson was or what he had against manicures and perms.
After her husband dies, and the children have helped reshuffle the house, moved out his worn cardigans, his weathered golf bag, his collection of bird skulls, she feels acutely alone. Mornings now, she reads thrillers in the shade of an elm as light dapples the grass. Sometimes his ghost putters around the yard, bending slowly, tracing the ground for signs of tulips. The ghost is a marginal gardener, perhaps something in the afterlife impairs your spatial reasoning.
The rain sets its liquid feet down on the pavement ahead of me as I waver my way down the block
with one crutch tucked into me like a loved one.[…]
I’m imagining a celebration of love of course, but also of the return to being able to love with our arms, our lips, our bodies close and unmasked.
Pastor says we’re all dead inside. That death is akin to riding a seatless bike. That death is the sound of rain and falling. It is the peculiar way mobile Jesus smiles at me from his particle-board cross. It is how my father died drunk and alone
in Hank’s used car lot.
Once I told my doctor if only I was not estranged from my mother, I’d know what to expect from menopause. “That’s ridiculous,” the doctor said. “Your mother had children. You’ve never even been pregnant. Her experience would have no bearing on yours. Feel badly about the estrangement if you like, but not because of this.”
Before me, I see dandelions displayed like jewelry. Each atop a hand carved wooden stand. I blow into each in turn. Some make declarations, some scream or roar, some converse and others lecture, others say nothings in the ear.
This year the number I call the most now is the pharmacy. I have to wonder who you were when I was born because I feel you in both root and stem but I’ll never be sorry to have eaten the sky.
The whistle had filled Yara’s dreams for a long time now—ever since she first heard it in the form of an incoming bullet that lodged itself in her best friend’s ribcage. More than anything she saw or heard that day, it was the whistle that most haunted her. It was the first time she understood that the promise of imminent chaos was always somehow worse than the actual chaos itself.[…]
Posed beside her husband, is this what my great-grandmother feared, bleached hand pressed gently against cherry oak skin?
People need to be seen and heard. There needs to be space where survivors can decide what healing looks and feels like for them. Awakenings is one of those places. That solidarity component is vital. Even if their experiences look different, we must get to the core of what it means to be human.
I split the pockets of stillness left hovering on a naked afternoon. Halves drop like discarded agreements—one half in the floundering arms of the sea, another in the blanks of this book I’ve beenmpretending to read, if at all.
In fiction, we take things from our own lives and things we hear, and we fictionalize them, and we make them up, and we appropriate them for our own, but somehow I think there’s this feeling with poets sometimes that that’s dishonest when done in a poem, and I don’t think it is.
The snake rears its head, its thick green body gleaming in the light. A stripe of yellow runs along its stomach. We are transfixed, frozen, burning feet forgotten. I want to touch the snake, feel the cool curve of its muscle wrap across my legs and pull me to the ground.
I see you’ve renounced your birthplace, which is of course your right. You will dream of male sunbirds feeding on nectar mid-air. When they come for you, they will ask about your love’s name, her contours, her address.
Writing a book is no more of a craft challenge than writing an article—they both involve skills that come with practice. In approaching different mediums, novel writing requires more personal reflection.