Category Archives: Essay/Memoir

Gangsters, Bigots, and Tough Guys: Growing Up Chicago by Alejandro Diaz

Chicago spelled in lights
 

Chicago is in my blood, even though today I consider myself a Californian. My parents immigrated to the Windy City in the late 1950’s; my younger brother, my three older sisters and I were all born on the Westside. Chicago has always been a tough, blue-collar town, made up of different ethnic neighborhoods that can be downright hostile to outsiders. But when my parents moved there, it was also a city where housing was very affordable, where working class wages were strong, and a place where you could get a good education at a fair … Continue reading Gangsters, Bigots, and Tough Guys: Growing Up Chicago by Alejandro Diaz

Toy Piano by Sharon Harrigan

toy piano
 

I’m seven years old, and streams of people lean on the walls of the viewing room, standing in line for their turn to see my father in his coffin. I’m so close that the slippery gloss of the lacquered wood slides against my scratchy dress. The smell of lilies mixes with Mr. Clean, making the flowers seem artificial even though they’re not. The velvet lining, the shiny veneer, the bouquets, and his fancy clothes—a black suit I can’t remember ever seeing him wear—makes me wonder if the man inside is really my father. He should … Continue reading Toy Piano by Sharon Harrigan

On Being a Body by Catherine MacDonald

Vibrant blue flower
 

I am floating in near total silence in the women’s bathhouse at the Jefferson Pools, a natural mineral springs in Bath County, Virginia. Surrounded by six other women, some nude, others in bathing suits, there’s only the swish of a raised arm or a sigh when we reposition ourselves on the bright and squeaky Styrofoam noodles provided to keep us afloat in the warm, clear water. Enclosed by an aging wooden roundhouse, its whitewashed walls speckled with green mold, the pool is deep with a stony bottom and bounded by sparse curtained dressing rooms. It’s … Continue reading On Being a Body by Catherine MacDonald

Two Emmas by Nancy Taylor

statue
 

I didn’t know exactly where we were going as my brother took me for a ride in the countryside of my home county on a late February Saturday. He drove down a narrow paved road and stopped near an overgrowth of trees and bushes. “Do you know where we are?” Not until I heard, “This road used to be dirt” did it hit me—Emma’s. We made our way through tangles of vines and wintery twigs, only to find the four-room house completely collapsed with just an old chimney of “Pee Dee” imprinted bricks left standing. … Continue reading Two Emmas by Nancy Taylor

Holding Onto Silver by Rich H. Kenney

Streaks of color on black
 

In the summer of 1960, my father got high and I held the ladder. “All you have to do,” he told me, “is to hold it steady and turn the radio dial when I tell you. Whatever you do…” he said, sternly, “don’t move the ladder. That means no talking to friends, no kicking pebbles, and no daydreaming. Got it?” With that, he scooted up the side of our house to the second story, fresh paint from his bucket splattering and sticking to Silver, his aluminum ladder. He ascended rungs like a seasoned fire-fighter but, … Continue reading Holding Onto Silver by Rich H. Kenney

Sliding by Anne Carle Carson

snowy neigborhood road
 

It had just snowed a heavy snow, and my mother picked us up early from school. The roads were not that scary or impassable, but she drove with great care that day anyway—this was Richmond, Virginia and no one was accustomed to snow there. We sat bundled in the grey Chevrolet station wagon, all four kids in our colorful, puff polyester coats. I remember liking that name, Chevrolet, saying it over and over to myself. The radio broadcasted the AM station, the one that always shared the school closings or delays, and how much snow … Continue reading Sliding by Anne Carle Carson

Spirit Duplicator by Alex Joyner


 

Robert E. flippin’ Lee’s church pew. Is there any more compromised bench in all of Christendom? It occupies some middle ground of sacrality at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Orange, Virginia. I scowled as I walked past it, despite the attraction it held for me as youth. What white, Virginia boy of a certain age didn’t thrill to know that here sat (God, did we call him?…yes, we did) ‘Marse’ Lee, snowy head bowed in prayer with Traveller tied to the locust tree outside snorting mighty fog into the cold, all through the long winter … Continue reading Spirit Duplicator by Alex Joyner

Miss Madden by Rich H. Kenney, Jr.

Boy reading on bench
 

She was a bully, a backer, a stinker, a treasure. She was a finder of fault and forte, folly and facility. She was the picture of rigor and push and impeccability, her visage stern and stately and a dead-ringer for the man on the one-dollar bill. The first time I saw her standing on stage in her blue satin suit and snow-white hair delivering a rule-laced welcome to school, I felt wings of butterflies and tips of prayers brushing my soul in a nervous wish for her retirement to sync with my grade six arrival. … Continue reading Miss Madden by Rich H. Kenney, Jr.

Leaving Promise Road by Amelia Zahm

Sunset over snow-capped Rocky Mountains
 

I understood the world around me on Promise Road. I felt at home on the edge of the rolling valley, looking out at the distant mountain range. I learned to fight creeping Charlie, pigweed and cheat grass with soil enhancement, rotational grazing and early weeding. I recognized the arrival of summer as the swallows began daubing their mud nests above my windows, swooping through the evening sky to clear the air of mosquitos. I named the bats that flew in my open doors on warm summer evenings, searching corners and hallways for moths. Over time, … Continue reading Leaving Promise Road by Amelia Zahm

Late-August Mass Transit Railway (MTR) by James Ellis

MTR station hallway
 

  The city’s Central district is different in the early morning, just after sunlight usually appears: near empty streets, no black skirt suits, few voices. Today, damp bundles just delivered to the newspaper vendors cover the sidewalk and tobacco smoke hovers heavily in a steady monsoon drizzle. My old dimming eyesight smooths out the vendors’ features—softer noses, subtler chins. Flaws fade into blurs. Down two flights of stairs, I descend into an almost empty Central Station, bathing in one of Mozart’s perky piano melodies. A human din will soon drown out the pleasant music. Hong … Continue reading Late-August Mass Transit Railway (MTR) by James Ellis