Most recently, the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history has been seeping into headlines and into our shared culture. The permanent damage this event will leave economically and environmentally is yet to be seen, but what is known is that 206 million gallons of oil spilled into our oceans. It began on April 20th and was officially declared over on September 19th.
Historical “spills” like this, or even personal upsets in our individual lives, serve as a wake-up call to the fact that the world is never as it seems.
As a noun, “spills” typically refer to negative occurrences. But, flipped on its side as a verb, to spill is not necessarily a “bad” thing. For instance, writers, whether they be of fiction, nonfiction or poetry, are regularly encouraged to spill—their guts, their emotions, their heart, their soul—onto the page.
Why? Because spills are what make our lives interesting and sharing them connects us to others. They generate a mutual understanding between people who would otherwise be more different than alike.
This issue of Sunday Salon takes spillage face on, in its various shapes, forms and interpretations, and peeps through the surface. So read on to find out what’s underneath. We promise you’ll re-emerge in tact, entertained and connected.
We dedicate this issue to you dear Reader.
- Barbara Sueko McGuire & Nita Noveno, Editors
By Roof Alexander
The first time I met Luke was in the St. Michaels emergency room. He was trying to convince his girlfriend that he didn’t need any treatment.
“They won’t be able to do anything away,” he said. She went to fill out the paperwork at the desk and he sat down beside me. I looked down at his hands to see that one of them seemed tangled, broken all over.
“Does that not hurt?” I asked him.
“You ought to see the other rhino,” he said and smiled. We could hear his gal arguing with the front desk nurse.
“She okay?” I asked. He shrugged.
“The only reason we’re here is because I thought we were coming for her.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
He gestured his eyes up to her and smiled again. He had to be one of the best looking men that I’d ever seen. That smile was self-destructive, sarcastic, and humble all at the same time.
“Well at least she’s pretty,” I said.
“Pretty? Who cares about pretty? Pretty girls ain’t got no soul. They’re about as interesting as a pretty painting.”
“Well at least pretty gets you to the hospital when you need it.”
By William Cass
Tim got up early. It was Saturday. The trailer was still. He lifted the corner of the curtain with his finger and looked outside: it was snowing again, hard. Only the week after Christmas, and already the heaviest winter snowfall on record. He dressed, then walked down the short hallway, plugged in the Christmas tree lights, and started breakfast.
Austin woke up next. He came in carrying the new stuffed elephant that had been poking out of his stocking, holding it by the ear. He sat on the edge of the couch and looked at the tree. His eyes were full of sleep. Tim poured pancake batter into small circles in the greased skillet.
“Hey, bub,” he said.
The little boy rubbed his nose. He asked, “When do we have to take it down?”
“No special time.We usually wait until the first of the year and make a bonfire out back. You remember last year?”
The little boy shook his head and looked for the first time at his father. His brown hair was disheveled and his mouth drooped like his mother’s.
“That’s all right,” Tim said. “You weren’t even three …
By Ilana Garon
Her name was Felicia, and she was my student during my second year teaching public high school in the Bronx, when I was 23. Her parents were having a reverse custody battle over who didn’t have to take care of her. The odds of her being totally screwed up by this were astronomical. But she smiled. She played. She said funny, witty things. She teased me for things I had never told the students (hell, things I was wary of even thinking)—“Miss, you blush whenever Chris walks into the room. He’s cute, isn’t he?”—and she would be right on the money, because I did have a totally mortifying crush on Chris, the security guard, with all his chains and crazy tattoos and dreams of being a rap superstar. Then she would link arms with me confidentially and smile.
At 14, she was 4’10” at the most, with curly light-brown ringlets, pale skin, and grey eyes, a tiny, explosive little firebrand with a sharp tongue and a quick smile. When I could get her to stand still I’d try to ask her about her life—mainly …
By Alisa Slaughter
It’s late; I’m listening for the marauding bear. Maybe it’s because the summer is so cold this year in Oregon and things aren’t ripening, but my mother says he’s unusually active, more persistent than the average bear in his raids on gardens and bird feeders. After she was robbed by a neighborhood meth addict, my mother put a motion detector on her garage light and a lock on the inside of her wood bin, where the tweaker got in. The police caught him, but he’d already sold the pearls my late father gave her, on eBay. I’m sleeping on the floor in the living room; periodically I wake halfway when the light clicks on and illuminates the fir and hemlock surrounding the cabin. Tomorrow, maybe, if we’re feeling up to it, we’ll try to take our annual walk up the road, past another neighbor’s house, and face down his paranoid insistence that the road into the national forest belongs to him. He’s planted grass seed in the gravel, posted the gate, and taken to videotaping his confrontations with “trespassers,” but the county assures us it’s a public …
By Jessica Machado
In the seventh grade, I asked my father to take me to see Winger, a glam rock band whose greatest hit, “She’s Only Seventeen,” included the lyrics, “Daddy says she’s too young, but she’s old enough for me.” My father said yes, even though the concert was on a school night and he had no idea what Winger was.
When we arrived at the show that evening, the parking lot was a black sea of T-shirts and spandex. It was August of 1989 in Honolulu, and here at the Aloha Tower concert hall, sweat was about to be sacrificed in honor of metal’s dark splendor. A Filipino guy dressed in jeans cuffed to reveal his laced-up boots leaned against the car next to us. Clutching his waist was a woman in a pseudo bra-shirt and studded leather pants. She was armed with a barrage of thick gold bracelets, each etched with her Hawaiian name in black calligraphy. I was wearing a long white T-shirt with a doodle of a spiky-haired character named Fido Dido, whose smile was a confused squiggle against my flat chest. A plastic clip, …
By Mike Stutzman
Yes, yes, yes—
the sandbags I have stacked,
and the sheets of plywood
nailed overlapping my storefront heart.
I have made ready
for your grey eyes to turn me
away once more. The cheerful experts
track your cruel silence.
I press to my ear a radio
jammed to the station
devoted to the crisis you bring:
the ways …
By Bernadette McComish
I am poured out like water,
spilled onto the floor, soaked into wood.
A terrible loneliness forces me
to love a man who says I don’t love you,
too many times.
Removed from me: all things visible,
I will not forget the one who came before.
I shall no longer look
for you in …
By Brie Huling
There was no one here to tell me I was wrong.
In taxidermy, you skin the animal first
like removing the skin of a chicken.
I’m casting my own form here,
but I am an amateur. …
By Brie Huling
I’m hiding inside my vestibule of hearts today—
among the lanceflower and sour purslane.
I am a little millipede with antennas like an old school radio
the weeds are wracked and riddled,
all wrapped around me.
Achy Obejas is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Ruins (Akashic Books, 2009), Days of Awe (Random House, 2001) and two other books of fiction. Her poetry chapbook, This Is What Happened in Our Other Life (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2007), was both a critical favorite and a best-seller. She edited, and translated into English, Havana Noir (Akashic Books, 2007), a collection of crime stories by Cuban writers on and off the island. Her translation into Spanish of Junot Diaz’ The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead, 2009)/La Breve y Maravillos Vida de Oscar Wao (Vintage/Mondadori) was a finalist for Spain’s Esther Benitez Translation Prize from the national translator’s association. A former reporter for the Chicago Tribune, she is a member of the Editorial Board of In These Times, the editorial advisory board of the Great Books Foundation, and a blogger for WBEZ.org. She and her wife, Megan, became first-time parents in November.
Q. I heard you speak once about how you never intended to work for a newspaper, that that was sort of an accident. And you ended up working for the Tribune for years. How did that …
Interviewed by Barbara Sueko McGuire
When Nancy Martini was in the third grade, she remembers being the worst artist in her class. That’s because she’d given up drawing.
“I remember kids making fun of me and feeling very awkward,” she says. It wasn’t until the seventh grade, at the encouragement of her science teacher, that she began sketching again. “He made me believe I could be an artist because I had thought it was this special talent,” she continues. “It’s not. He was right, it’s a matter of repetition and practice, and I didn’t stop from there.”
Fast-forward to today, and you’ll find Nancy, who is originally from Chicago, exercising her well-honed artistic talents in Miami, Florida. There, in addition to creating her own mix-media pieces that employ upcycled and reclaimed materials, Nancy works part time an art director for a small advertising and marketing firm.
Sunday Salon touched base with her this summer, as she put the finishing touches on a sketchbook that will eventually be a part of the Art House Co-op Sketchbook Project 2011.
Barbara Sueko McGuire: When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?
Nancy Martini: I …
Interviewed by Nita Noveno
It has to be said: Ed Pavlic is a cool guy. I met Ed in December 2006 at the Summer Literary Seminars in Kenya. He was a curiously calm, welcoming presence to a just-arrived, disoriented traveler. Eventually, I would discover his finely tuned powers as a poet and the inspired musicality of his writing. His most recent book But Here Are Small Clear Refractions (Achebe Center, Bard College, 2009) is jagged and beautiful and absorbing. Ed shares the back story of his latest publication and a few other observations about music and life.
Nita Noveno: Tell me about this book.
Ed Pavlic: Well: dhows and Swahili coast, roosters and donkeys, bioluminescent algae and special ops, abandoned beaches and Al Qaeda training camps, little girls searching out peppers and Bwana Mataka’s fort, you know, it’s “INGIENI KWA SALÁMA NO AMANI” and “SAY NO TO DRUGS”. It’s a part head-on collision, part dive-with-no-splash.
I never expected to write it, first. I took no notes as one might while traveling in anticipation of writing a piece or a book. But, in response to a request to do an interview about a trip …