CategoryCulture

American Obsessive

A

At the Christmas tree farm up the street, workers shove pine branches into a burnbarrel for both heat and the smoky scent that entices commuters in minivans topull over and ask the price and how much extra for delivery. I set up my six-footartificial pop-up tree in less than five minutes, ornaments and lights included.This brings me joy. My best friend owns very little. He has no paper, all his...

Growing Wings

G

Pink wet robin, a baby perchedon the end of a shoe,plucked right back into the nest,to be rejected if the oils on my hand aren’t too human. The alchemy of milk into caramel,a shifting of weight on linoleum. When the power finally cuts offthere’s a triangle of steak, a folded slice of bread, and beer. Wings sit in the back of geometry class.Mother of pearl at this angle, bending at the knee,she...

Small Talk

S

We are projections on a sheet in the yard,suspicious spools of film liberated from metal cans.When there is nothing left to play, the children retreatto flashlight tag, and the women refresh their wine. The men huddle in the darkness.Someone is talking about the circus,and a boy on stilts who used to shout insults at the crowd.Your mama’s so short, she needs a ladder to pick up a dime. The...

Big Score on a Little Porch

B

A couple of women in hospital scrubssteal packages on porches. Whenthe homeowner checks the footagehe finds the culprit is unfindable,essentially anyone—essential or not.They parked far enough away so noteven sure of the car or whether theywalked a few houses down where theymight live. They are everyone andno one. The video is uploaded and sharedonline with neighbors. Very few seemto care. The...

Rome

R

All of the streets and courtyards are empty. The mayor asks citizens to report those who break quarantine. A boy wanders outside the Colosseum while his mother sleeps off last night’s heavy pour of table wine. On the news, Italians serenade each other on balconies, but they do not sing in Rome because the epidemic has not yet taken hold. There is little to celebrate when death is coming for...

New Year’s Eve 2020

N

Since the pandemic, no parties, no people on the street waiting for the ball to drop, just my husband and a couple of friends. We drive to our cottage near the beach to celebrate new beginnings someplace new, at least to get away from the sameness that has begun to suffocate: the same four walls, same floor and ceiling, even the Amazon boxes that collect weekly in the recycling. Here the walls...

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