Black Work

She stood at the window and watched me.

How long she had waited for me to wake up

I dared not ask, nor could she have answered, 

her jaws woven shut by the undertaker’s twine,

a trade she knew well, having taught herself 

black work by night in the attic, . . .

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Two Characters in Search of an Essay

1. JK

He was always the smallest, in any room, “an Atom of a man” somebody said (the word existed then, although not in our later sense); but spunky, quick to rise to a righteous indignation and to support it with a whirligig of fists.

“Terrier courage,” one of his schoolfellows called it. . . .

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Finding Emily & Elizabeth

My garrulous neighbor, Walter—a red-nosed U.S. Army Major (retired)—gives me books, volumes that he snatches up at the occasional library inventory purges at the University of Idaho, where I teach. Some are good, others not as good. Some I park on my bookshelves, others I recycle or use as doorstops. . . .

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White Peaches

The white peaches announce themselves on the kitchen counter, 

quick scent flinting alight the worm-eaten dawn, 

the clean-edged note almost mineral, so unlike 

the vague, pulpy yellow of girlhood:


the backyard peach tree bowed down with too much 

sun-bruised fruit, . . .

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Secret Information

The other day, for no particular reason I can think of, I mentioned to my middle-aged daughter in conversation that I had been cleared for “secret” when I was in the army. Surprised, she commented, “I never knew you had any secrets.” But it is true, sixty plus years ago I was authorized by the government for “Secret Information.” 

Why had this happened? . . .

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Winter’s Glory

Faking an interest in the snow, a man

Draws, with heavy black ink from a fountain pen, a drift

Against the house across the street. Snow sensitively shaded

Covers the garage, the front door, every window

That would have taken in the morning’s sunlight. . . .

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Chew on This

When we asked Christopher Merrill—a portion of whose prose collaboration with Marvin Bell appears in our Winter 2013 issue—to tell us what he had been reading as of late, he gladly agreed, and then surprised us over the holidays when he sent along this single photograph from his cell phone, . . .

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Goodness in Mississippi

—After Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool,”
    with thanks to Terrance Hayes


My friend said I wasn’t fat but she was, and we

would go on that way, back and forth. She was my first real 

  . . .

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