All posts by Susan Shafarzek

What the Land Holds by Kelly McGannon

Photo of a ram with large horns
 

  We met the ram yesterday. The one we were warned about but had forgotten was loose in the world. After the biblical rains, the world felt charged as if pages in time had fallen open. With gaps just wide enough to slip through, we stepped sideways into the crackle to spook around for a bit. There’s a quality to this land that I’ve noted over time. It’s a thin place where spirits on walkabout wag their tongues, the river carries old hymns, and reality bends. On days like yesterday, when forgotten doors to hidden worlds … Continue reading What the Land Holds by Kelly McGannon

The Swordfish by Leslie Middleton

photo of boats on water at dawn
 

It is well into night, and she moves slowly. Her sword pierces the water that slides away like sheets of ice. Bubbles spin into small vortices that carry her forward. She pushes the water, and the water pushes back. The long barrel of her body arcs from side to side as she swims, propelled by her tail fin, scalloped and black, sharp as a sickle. Water, eye, and brain, are all one. Her looking links intention to muscle. Specks of life—the tiny jellies, the embryonic fish and crabs and eyeless shrimp—crowd together into the layer … Continue reading The Swordfish by Leslie Middleton

The Hotline by Miles Fowler

Photo of old rotary phone
 

During the 1970s, I volunteered to answer phones at two different telephone crisis centers, in two different states, one in Ohio and the other in Massachusetts. When we picked up the phones at these centers, my colleagues and I never knew what sort of question or problem our anonymous callers were going to have for us. It might be anything from, “My spouse (parent, teacher, friend, etc.) doesn’t understand me,” to “I just took an oval-shaped, white pill with the number 333 stamped on it, and I wonder what effects I can expect,” to “I … Continue reading The Hotline by Miles Fowler

Hudy’s Secret Recipe by Betty J. Wilkins

Bowl with blue and white pattern
 

Timing is key. I was thirteen when I told my dad that I wanted to learn how to make his special potato salad. He grinned and handed me a knife and a five-pound bag of russet potatoes. “Peel these, and then chop ‘em into small pieces.” He filled a large pot with water and set it on the table. “As you chop the taters, put them in the pot. You don’t want them to turn brown.” It seemed like it took forever to peel the potatoes, my hands shriveling from the juice. I wore a … Continue reading Hudy’s Secret Recipe by Betty J. Wilkins

Valium Dream by J. Thomas Brown

Photo with bright, squiggly lights
 

Our house, built in 1738, stood in the middle of twenty acres of corn field. The hand-fitted Pennsylvania blue-gray fieldstone walls were two feet thick. George Washington used it as an infirmary for his troops during the Revolutionary War and their blood stains remain in the wide plank floors today. The walls were not thick enough to keep out the world’s contumely. The airwaves carried in news of the assassination of Dr. King, American war crimes in Vietnam, and the violent 1968 Democratic National Convention protests, and no mention of the Valium (diazepam) epidemic. Yet … Continue reading Valium Dream by J. Thomas Brown

Doubts About the Enterprise by Angela J. Latham

Photo of pen writing on paper
 

I can’t tell if it’s a naturally recurring feature of my post-mastectomy slog, or just another variation of my chronic struggle to feel relevant. Four weeks out from surgery I stare at my screen and write sentences, only to delete them seconds later. “I decided that if I let a boy get me pregnant, I would kill myself before I’d ever tell my parents. I would have too.” Hyperbole. Delete. “Later I learned that there were problems in the Evangelical Women’s Caucus. By 1987 it had split up into two groups, each better reflecting the … Continue reading Doubts About the Enterprise by Angela J. Latham

From One March to Another: My NICU Baby and the Pandemic Turned One by Jamie Farnsworth Finn

Photo of cake with rainbow colored layers
 

I stared at the thick frosting of the cake, dotted with rainbow sprinkles, wondering if this would be what made him sick. I’d messed up the recipe, not realizing that “pasteurized egg whites” were different from just regular eggs that you took the yolks out of. So, the buttercream frosting included a decent amount of raw eggs. I’d already spent every day since his birth worried he would get sick. Today, on his first birthday, I worried the cake would be the reason. When you’re born in a pandemic, death seems as likely as life. … Continue reading From One March to Another: My NICU Baby and the Pandemic Turned One by Jamie Farnsworth Finn

The Piano Lesson by Carole Duff

Photo of open piano with music sheets
 

Carole Duff has earned an Honorable Mention in Streetlight’s 2021 Essay/Memoir Contest   “I love a piano, I love a piano, I love to hear somebody play . . .” From Irving Berlin’s Stop! Look! Listen! Soon after moving into our first house, my husband and I purchased a piano. It was a Belarus reproduction of a Yamaha upright with a shiny, red-brown acrylic finish. One of my husband’s university colleagues knew a Russian musician and piano tuner who knew an immigrant couple who wanted to sell their piano. In the late 70s, they were … Continue reading The Piano Lesson by Carole Duff

The Hidden Curriculum by Naomi Raquel Enright

Photo of chairs in classroom
 

Naomi Raquel Enright has earned an Honorable Mention in Streetlight’s 2021 Essay/Memoir Contest I am the brown-skinned, biological mother of a son presumed to be white. My mother is Ecuadorian and my father was Jewish American. I was raised to name and understand racism and was taught that the racism I experience is because of an ideology of racial difference that systematically privileges and protects whiteness while simultaneously disenfranchising and criminalizing blackness and brownness. Even before I had the language to describe this understanding, I knew it was an ideology and a system that I … Continue reading The Hidden Curriculum by Naomi Raquel Enright

Celebration (Part II) by Susan Shafarzek

Photo of wine glass on colorful tablecloth
 

I’m amazed and delighted every time we hold Streetlight’s Essay/Memoir contest to see how many wonderful submissions we get. The only sorrow is that we can’t give out more than three cash awards. But, we can offer honorable mentions and this year, I’m happy to say, six very excellent writers have agreed to let us publish their work under that aegis. We’ll be starting to roll out those wonderful essays this coming Friday, with Naomi Enright’s insightful and useful criticism of the usual way our troubled American history gets presented in school. The Hidden Curriculum, … Continue reading Celebration (Part II) by Susan Shafarzek