Tomás Q. Morín Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio

Tomas MorinTomás Q. Morín read his poems “Heretic That I Am,” “The Food Critic,” and “Laika,” at the 2013 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Morín’s poetry collection, A Larger Country, was the winner of the APR/Honickman Prize and runner-up for the PEN Joyce/Osterweil Award. He is co-editor with Mari L’Esperance of the anthology, Coming Close: 40 Essays on Philip Levine. His poems have appeared in Slate, Threepenny Review, Boulevard, Poetry, and Narrative. He has been featured in NER multiple times, first in NER 32.2 with “Royal Silence” and “Red Herring,” and again in NER 33.2 with “Gold Record.”

“Heretic That I Am” was published in Threepenny Review.

 

“The Food Critic” was published in American Poetry Review.

 

“Laika” was published in Boulevard.

 

All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available on iTunesU. To hear more, please visit the Bread Loaf website.

NER DIGITAL | A VIsion and a Voice | John Poch

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

 

Poch-photo1

Todd Murphy: Untitled (1994)

When I changed my studies from nuclear engineering to poetry writing (Georgia Tech to Georgia State), my new adviser told me I had to choose a minor. If I were going to be a poet, she said, it was either philosophy or art history. I didn’t know there were more options, so I chose art history. I loved the image and mistrusted the abstract.

About that same time, a friend of mine and I used to go around to the art galleries on weekends wherever we knew there would be an opening. Free wine. The Lowe Gallery was a place where we often ended up because Bill Lowe represented the best work in the South and the wine was drinkable. It was there I became familiar with the work of Todd Murphy. Through a number of coincidences, I was introduced to Todd at one of his openings, and he gave me a great deal of respect as a poet. He ignored a lot of rich people right then and there to talk to me. I was going to the Writers’ Workshop in Iowa in a few months. He had recently been to Iowa to photograph the floods! I had hardly read or written anything, but he said he wanted to stay in touch, and he struck up a small correspondence with me.

When I had dropped out after only a year in Iowa, I came back to Atlanta. I got in touch with Todd, and he invited me to his gigantic studio down near the old Mattress Factory so we could talk about art and poetry. I must have visited him there only three or four times over a few years.

One winter morning, I paid him a visit. I remember he showed me around to see his latest work. I followed him up to the loft that overlooked the warehouse. We drank coffee, and we talked about Pound. Todd brought out some of the Cantos and he read to me. I believe I recited a few poems that I had committed to memory. After I had sufficiently taken up the time of an actual artist, I felt I should go. Somehow it came out during our conversation that it was my birthday. We were headed down the stairs on the way out, and he pulled a big framed artwork off the wall. He pushed it toward me and said, “Happy birthday.”

I said, “I can’t take this from you.” His smaller work even then was worth many thousands of dollars.

He said, “Okay,” and started to put it back on the wall. Then he smiled and said, “Please, take it. I don’t have anything else to give you.”

I said, “But I don’t have anything to give you, either.”

“You give me your poems,” he said. This was true. I had been pushing my dreadful poems too full of feeling on him whenever I visited.

I said, “But your paintings are worth a lot. My poems are worth nothing.”

“They’re worth a lot to me,” he said, and he held the painting out to me. I didn’t actually believe him, but I took it, and walked out into the December morning. I put it in the back seat of my little car where the 36 x 39 frame barely fit. I drove off thinking that no stranger had ever done me such a kindness in my life. I hardly knew him! He believed in my poems, my art, when even I wasn’t sure what in the world I was doing.

The artwork is a huge piece of thick white cotton bond with a small figure at the center. The image appears to be made of broken beer-bottle glass and there are drops of the polyurethane all around it.

Todd told me this: at work one morning, he had peeled away the skin from the surface of an open can of polyurethane to use for the surface of another work, and when he cast these pieces aside, he saw they resembled a butterfly. And he had been working on a series in which butterfly images figured in various ways. So he rearranged the pieces on the paper and signed it with his trademark MURPHY.

The artwork hangs on a wall behind my chair in our dining room. I like that it hovers over me, a kind of encouragement, a reminder that an artist saw art in me. Over the years, I have followed his work. The larger body of it continues to amaze and challenge me as a poet. He seems to be relentlessly pursuing a vision that reminds me I might do the same with a voice.

John Poch’s poems have appeared frequently in NER, most recently in 34.3–4 with “Pomegranate Queen.”

You can see more of Todd Murphy’s artwork on his website: http://www.toddmurphy.com.

NER Digital is New England Review’s online project dedicated to original creative writing for the web. “Confluences” presents writers’ encounters with works of art such as books, plays, poems, films, paintings, sculptures, or buildings. 

 

 

NER Vermont Reading Series | Thursday, April 17, 2014

Categories: NER VT Reading Series

 

Please join us in Middlebury on Thursday, April 17, 2014,
7 p.m., at Carol’s Hungry Mind Cafe
for the 
spring reading in our quarterly series,
with Emily Casey, Don Mitchell,
April Ossmann, and Ross Thurber.

NOTE: We regret that Emily Casey will not be able to make it to the event, due to a family emergency, but we leave her bio here for those interested in knowing more about her work.

 Emily Casey’s writing (Burlington) has appeared in Mid-American Review, South Loop Review, upstreet, Sonora Review, and The Salon. She is a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA in writing program, where she was nominated for an AWP Intro Award in Fiction. She teaches writing at the Community College of Vermont and is currently at work on a collection essays about loss and longing.

DonMitchell_CreditEthanMitchell_LR-1Don Mitchell (New Haven) is a novelist, essayist, and screenwriter whose most recent book is Flying Blind: One Man’s Adventures Battling Buckthorn, Making Peace with Authority, and Creating a Home for Endangered Bats (Chelsea Green, 2013). He’s also the architect and builder of more than a dozen low-cost, energy-efficient structures on Treleven Farm, and a shepherd with thirty-five years’ experience managing a flock of sheep there. He taught creative writing at Middlebury College from 1984 to 2009.

 

April Ossmann Author PhotoApril Ossmann (West Windsor) is the author of Anxious Music (Four Way Books, 2007) and the recipient of a 2013 Vermont Arts Council creation grant. Her poems have appeared widely in such journals as the Colorado Review and the Harvard Review, and in anthologies. The executive director of Alice James Books from 2000 to 2008, she is Editor-in-Residence for the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and an editing and publishing consultant (www.aprilossmann.com).

 

RossThurberRoss Thurber (Brattleboro) is a farmer and poet. He manages Lilac Ridge Farm, an organic dairy, vegetable, and maple sugar operation in Brattleboro. His poetry has been published in the Chrysalis Reader, Root Stock, and in a new poetry anthology So Little Time published by Vermont’s Green Writers Press.

NER CLASSICS | Not Renata | Dwight Allen

Categories: Fiction, NER Classics

. . . he’d come into my head, unbidden, unconjured,
the way long-ago boyfriends will do . . .

Silhouette_&_Chess

Dwight Allen’s story, “Not Renata,” appeared in NER 21.2.

Now and then, he’d come into my head, unbidden, unconjured, the way long-ago boyfriends will do, if you aren’t careful. I’d be chewing on my pencil or a fingernail, say, or looking at the blue California sky while pumping gas into my car, and there he’d be, lying on a three-legged, rummage-sale couch in our graduate school apartment of twenty years before. (The fourth leg was a cookbook my mother had given me. ”Hope this will inspire you,” she said.) In this picture he’s as still as a painter’s model, cigarette smoke veiling him like stage fog. I peer at him, this secretive, cowardly boy I once loved, and then the picture dissolves and I’m inhaling gasoline fumes or listening to Mrs. Ramirez or Mr. Kuhn or someone else at the senior center tell me a story. I work with the elderly. With the crabby and unpopular Mr. Kuhn, I sometimes play checkers, waiting for the moment he says “King me!” and stirs me from my daydreams. The last time my former boyfriend appeared before me, I was in the dentist’s chair.

[read more]

 

 

NER DIGITAL | A Sense in the World | Maria Hummel

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

 

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Die Aschenblume Anselm Kiefer
Oil, emulsion, acrylic paint, clay, ash, earth, and dried sunflower on canvas
149 5/8 x 299 1/4 inches
Image courtesy of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

The day I first encountered Anselm Kiefer’s paintings, I was seven months pregnant with my first son. Because I am no longer that not-yet-mother, I can see her in my mind’s eye, wearing her mint green jacket, blond head tilted back, hand on her belly as she enters a gallery filled with massive, brooding landscapes. At first she doesn’t know where to look—all the canvasses are so arresting—and then one catches her eye and she drifts slowly over.

Anselm Kiefer was born in Germany in 1945, the year the Third Reich ended. He is nine years younger than my German father, who raced down to the basement shelter when his hometown was bombed by the Americans and emerged the next day to smashed streets and imminent surrender.

Kiefer’s paintings made windows of the museum walls, with dramatic views of a black, gold, battered-but-still-fertile earth. I remember the paintings as a collective, except for one giant gray canvas depicting a ceremonial hall. A sunflower hung upside down at its center, its blossom husk nearly touching the floor. The label read: Die AschenblumeThe Ash Flower. The hall was the Grand Mosaic Room in the former Third Reich Chancellery, painted and then smudged with ash.

As I stared into the gritty, cracked canvas, I felt a thrum of recognition. My father was a good man, raised by Mitläufer, Germans who went along with Naziism, reaping its benefits and later its consequences. My father witnessed his own father, a doctor, deployed to an army hospital in Weimar, then after the war, get stripped of his license to practice public medicine and sent to work on a logging crew. My father experienced his mother dying in the childbirth of his youngest brother in 1942, and lost all the fingers on his right hand in an accident in 1944. By the time Anselm Kiefer was born, my father was orphaned, permanently injured, and starving under the strict international aid laws of the reconstruction.

All my life I had weighed these facts against the Holocaust and come up empty.

I stared into Kiefer’s Ash Flower. The ruined interior, the dried flower-stalk hanging upside down—it was an arid scene, but it contained the residue of life and renewal.

“There is no history,” the artist said in a video outside the exhibition. He sat loosely before the camera, a shaved-headed, intense man with a quirk of humor about his mouth. His English was broken but emphatic. “[But] each human being tries to create a bigger context.” To create that context, you created an illusion that you stayed on the earth for a century and saw what unfolded. “This reassures you to find a sense in the world because there is no sense.”

Kiefer had borrowed his image from a Paul Celan poem, and now I would borrow it from him. I would seek my way by writing toward the Ash Flower and my own sense of it, my own meaning. The ash flower: the blossom of fire and dust over bombed Germany. The springtime end of the war, the Holocaust exposed, renewal and guilt and suffering spun together. The blighted innocence of children like Kiefer and my father.

My own son was born. I began writing a book. At first it was about my grandfather’s experiences at the Weimar hospital and his flight across war-torn Germany to reunite with his family. A year into the draft, my son fell acutely ill, and I realized the heart of the novel was elsewhere, mostly in the home, where the children were. It was watching a new mother try and fail to keep three boys safe and well as the Reich crumbled. Retreating armies and liberated concentration camps drifted offstage, and in their place rose intimate scenes of neighbors betraying neighbors, a baby struggling to walk in a cellar shelter.

The novel’s original title was The Ash Flower. I knew the title would change: I had entered my book through a doorway that Kiefer had made, but I would exit through my own. The travels of a novelist are always one way, and once-great vistas become postcards in a long, idiosyncratic journey. Yet Kiefer’s work will always possess, for me, a humbling and magnetic power. When I think back to the young woman I was, gazing at the upside-down sunflower, I realize how tall that bloom must have been, when it first grew upward from the earth. It would have towered over me.

Maria Hummel’s most recent contributions to NER include her poem, “The First Turn Might Be the Right One Home” in NER 34.1, and her story, “No Others Before Me” in NER 31.2. She is the author of Motherland (Counterpoint, 2014) and House and Fire, winner of the 2013 APR/Honickman Prize.

NER Digital is New England Review’s online project dedicated to original creative writing for the web. “Confluences” is a bi-weekly series in which we present a writer’s encounter with a work of art such as a book, play, poem, film, painting, sculpture, or building.

 

New Books for April From NER Authors

Categories: NER Authors' Books

Poetry, Literary Criticism, and
a Reconsideration of Europe’s Darkest Modern Days

41hGZqVGNKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“This book’s a little crazy . . . it’s also packed with truth.”

Mark Bibbins‘ new book of poetry, They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full, is out this month from Copper Canyon Press. His work has appeared in several issues of NER (“Arriving in Your New Country / Dilemma” in 29.4, and “Grief!” in 34.2).

Publisher’s Weekly: “Bibbin’s newest displays his caustic wit and probing insight admit an exhilarating range of cultural references.”

From NPR: ”The book’s a little crazy, packed with air quotes and brackets, jokes and condemnations, forms that explode across the page. Crazily enough, it’s also packed with truth.”

Mark Bibbins  teaches in the graduate writing programs at The New School and Columbia University. His most recent poetry collections are The Anxiety of Coincidence (Floating Wolf Quarterly Chapbooks, 2012), and The Dance of No Hard Feelings (Copper Canyon, 2009). His poems have appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Best American Poetry, and more.

 

51qexzrdGML._SY344_BO1204203200_-200x300NER congratulates Marianne Boruch on the publication of her newest sequence of poems, Cadaver, Speak (Copper Canyon Press). Marianne’s work was first published in NER in 1994 (16.4) and her literary criticism “The End Inside It,” selected as a prose feature by Poetry Daily, appears in NER 33.2.

Marianne Boruch speaks to the Georgia Review about the project from which the poems emerged: “This thirty-page sequence of poems—“Cadaver, Speak”—grew out of a profoundly odd privilege given me in the fall of 2008 by Purdue University, where I’ve taught for twenty-three years. I was awarded the provost office’s “Faculty Fellowship in the Study of a Second Discipline” but, in fact, I had double luck. James Walker of the IU School of Medicine on Purdue’s campus allowed me to participate in his gross human anatomy course (the so-called “cadaver lab”), and Grace O’Brien—artist, and teacher of life drawing at Purdue—said yes, I could join her class, too.”

Marianne Boruch currently teaches in the M.F.A. program at Purdue University and in the Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program for Writers. Her most recent poetry collections are The Book of Hours (Copper Canyon, 2011) and Grace, Fallen from (Wesleyan, 2008).

 

Frederick Brown Cover Photo“A brilliant reconsideration.”

Frederick Brown‘s biographical narrative, The Embrace of Unreason: France, 1914–1940 (Knopf), traces writers such as Maurice Barres and Charles Murras through France’s descent into instability after the first World War.

From the publisher: The Embrace of Unreason is “a brilliant reconsideration of the events and the political, social, and religious movements that led to France’s embrace of Fascism
and anti-Semitism . . . Brown masterfully brings to life Europe’s—and France’s—darkest modern years.”

Frederick Brown has been published in NER multiple times, most recently in NER 30.4 with Alexis de Toqueville’s Impressions of America: Three Letters, a translation from the French.

 

9780674430662_p0_v1_s260x420We congratulate Denis Donoghue, professor of English, Irish, and American Literatures at New York University, and NER contributor, on the publication of Metaphor (Harvard University Press). Reflected on every page of Metaphor are the accumulated wisdom of decades of reading and a sheer love of language and life. His literary criticism, “Yeats, Trying to Be Modern,” appears in NER 31.4.

Publisher’s Weekly: “In this prodigiously learned meditation, Donoghue takes readers through the history of the rhetorical device and its incarnation in poetry, fiction, philosophy, and everyday life.”

Denis Donoghue is a member of the International Association of University Professors of English and the Association of Literary Scholars and Teachers. He has published books on English, Irish, and American literature and the aesthetics and practices of reading. His recent books include Speaking of Beauty (Yale 2004), The American Classics (Yale 2005), and On Eloquence (Yale 2008).

Book can be purchased from Powell’s Books and independent booksellers. 

 

NER CLASSICS | Updike’s Way | William H. Pritchard

Categories: NER Classics

“Wallace took a similar line in more abusive terms, declaring that readers under age forty—particularly female ones—had no time for what he termed the G.M.N.s (Great Male Novelists) and disliked Updike in particular . . .”

William H. Pritchard’s “Updike’s Way,” appeared in NER 21.3:

356px-Study_for_the_Oath_of_the_Horatii_the_elder_HoratiusIn the fall of 1997, at the time John Updike’s novel Toward the End of Time was published, the New York Observer featured a page headlined “Twilight of the Phallocrats, “consisting of pieces by the critic Sven Birkerts and the novelist David Foster Wallace about the current state of American fiction. That state was not good insofar as it concerned what Birkerts called “our giants, our arts-bemedaled senior male novelists.” He was referring to Updike, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, and Saul Bellow, whose recent novels were “manifestly second-rate,”yet who were not “getting called onto the carpet for it.” Birkerts suggested that these eminent writers would be well advised to yield their crowns to a younger generation of “brothers,” novelists such as Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Robert Stone, and John Edgar Wideman, who had their eyes on politics and society, the “larger world” Updike and his contemporaries, in their obsessive preoccupation with the self, were neglecting. Wallace took a similar line in more abusive terms, declaring that readers under age forty—particularly female ones—had no time for what he termed the G.M.N.s (Great Male Novelists) and disliked Updike in particular. Toward the End of Time was a prime example of what these novelists shared—”their radical self-absorption and their uncritical celebration of this self-absorption both in themselves and in their characters.” 

[read more]

 

NER CLASSICS | Sadness | Aliki Barnstone

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry

 

Aliki Barnstone’s poem, “Sadness,” appeared in NER 21.2:

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Rilke says sadness is the moment the future enters us
By surprise and pushes us into the unknown
The handsome bartender says,”Your drinks are on me”
—And leans across the counter—”What’ll it be?”
Alcohol is heat in my ears as I catch my reflection
In the mirror, happy flirting without forethought.
But days later alone the question comes back:
What will it be?
                           and I remember moments with you
When time raced quickly around us like a romping young dog
And we were amused. Today time reminds me of the hound
Knowingly guarding the underworld. Sadness slips in,
Doesn’t it? even in the gentle pleasures of the body
Which pass too and remind us of loss. 

[read more]

 

New Books from NER Authors

Categories: NER Authors' Books


“First books don’t usually take on the world at this level of seriousness and skill”

Hardship_Post2Jehanne Dubrow‘s first poetry collection, The Hardship Post, is being re-released by Sundress Publications

From Stanley Plumly, author of Argument & Song: “There’s a tensile strength of line here—predominantly pentameter—
that underscores the ease of the poetic idiom: just as the heartfelt yet disciplined feeling—life of the content underwrites this collection’s larger themes of Judaism and its ancient traditions. The Hardship Post has a good deal on its mind as well as the load in its heart. Polish history and heritage may be one personal focus, but displacement and identity are the greater subjects. First books don’t usually take on the world at this level of seriousness and skill.”

The Hardship Post includes work previously published in NER. Dubrow’s poetry has appeared in NER 26.2 and 30.2. 

 

 

Bangalore“gritty, hard-hitting debut”

NER contributor Kerry James Evans has published his first book of poetry, Bangalore, with Copper Canyon Press. Appearing in Bangalore is “A Good Hunt,” originally published in NER 30.2.

From Publishers Weekly: “Evans’s gritty, hard-hitting debut combines war poems, elegies, and high Southern lyrics to create a new understanding of American identity.”

From Brian Spears of The Rumpus: “Evans spares nothing and no one in his poems, and yet he still finds a way to celebrate what deserves celebrating, and in the end, we’re left with hope.”

 

Every Possible Blue“tender observation[s] not of the clothing but of the wearer”

We are pleased to announce that NER author Matthew Thorburn‘s new book of poetry, Every Possible Blue, has been published by CW Books. Thorburn’s poem “Proof” appeared in NER 30.1.

From Publishers Weekly: ”Saturated with color and light, Thorburn’s second collection celebrates New York with deft, vivacious strokes. Similar to the way a city is always rebuilt, or a painter reworks a canvas, Thorburn’s poems pay special attention to the clothing and adornments that change to fit life’s varied occasions. ‘Oh to be crisply cuffed, / something in fall flannel to flatter / this flaneur,’ he writes in ‘Men Swear.’ An airy poem describing a white blouse—’like a sail’ with ‘two buttons un / done / a peek of pale breast / bone’—becomes a tender observation not of the clothing but of the wearer. But ‘inky / silks, slinky satins’ don’t fool Thorburn. No matter what people wear, whether it is a second-hand tuxedo or a ‘mint green’ sari, he reminds himself, ‘you’re human, / you’re human.’”

 

NER DIGITAL | Carousel | Kathleen Chaplin

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

 

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My father died suddenly a few months before I turned fifteen. Overnight the August heat gave way to the briskness of autumn and going-back-to-school. It was the early 1980s; he had just had cable TV installed, and one station repeatedly showed the 1956 film Carousel. I sat on the living room floor, watching it over and over again.

I can’t recall him ever taking me on a carousel. But when I was little, he won a stuffed red bull for me at a carnival. I called her Red Rose and clutched her as I fell asleep in the back seat on the way home, looking up at the shadowy canopy of leaves lit by streetlights.

I grew up in Hough’s Neck, a working-class neighborhood on a peninsula just south of Boston. Four miles across the water is Nantasket, once one of the grand seaside resorts. The old amusement park there was torn down just a few years after my father’s death, but the Paragon Carousel, built in 1928, was saved.

When the restoration artist began stripping away the layers of garish paint, he found that the wooden horses, carved in a realistic style, originally had been dapple gray, black, chestnut, piebald. They stretch their necks, rear their heads, and shy, muzzles jerking aside. Some have been restored: painted by brush, glazed, and richly varnished. Like greenery on a marzipan cake, a garland of daisies, roses, and petunias trails across a horse’s white shoulder. An emerald saddle blanket is radiant as silk, its corner blown back gently by a sea breeze. The horses waiting for their turn appear cracked and riven, and have an air of bravery.

The Carousel News and Trader catalogued all the carousels made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company between 1904 and 1941. Only twenty-five of its ninety-three carousels are listed as Operating—at the Santa Monica Pier, Hershey Park, Disney World, Nantasket—while the fates of the rest read like a casualty list, or a dossier of missing persons: Fire, Dispersed, Unknown.

In Carousel, a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical later made into a film, Billy Bigelow is a carousel barker in coastal Maine. Broad-chested, he wears a striped roll-neck sweater, and his slick, wavy black hair falls over his forehead. I have a picture of my father as a teenager with two friends, taken at Castle Island in South Boston in the late 1950s; they all have something of the look of Billy Bigelow.

The carousel owner, a jealous woman, fires Billy for flirting with a young mill-worker, Julie. Julie and Billy marry, but he can’t adjust to respectability; he loafs and sulks, and one night, he hits her. When he learns that she is pregnant, he is thrilled at the idea of becoming a father and vows that, however he has to do it, he will get enough money to make a new start for his family. In a bungled robbery attempt, he falls on his knife and is killed. After that he sits on a ladder polishing and hanging stars in purgatory, until he is given the chance, for one day only, to come back to earth to help the daughter he has never met. She is now fifteen, and unhappy.

The stranger approaches the girl as she sits at a picnic table, head buried in her arms, weeping; he tries to comfort her, telling her that he knew her father. But when he attempts to give her a gift—a real star, he says, from up there—she becomes frightened. Coaxing, pleading, grasping her hand as she tries to pull away, he finally hits her, and she flees.

Thirty years after I first saw the film, I stand at the balustrade that surrounds the Paragon Carousel. Floating out from the Wurlitzer band organ is “Yankee Doodle Dandy” or “In the Good Old Summertime.” It must play “The Carousel Waltz,” sometimes. I used to know the lyrics to almost all of the songs from Carousel—though after “This was a real nice clambake,” I only ever got as far as “and we all had a real good time.”

I would cry at the end, when Billy’s ghost sings “If I Loved You” and, in parting, whispers to Julie what he never told her while he was alive.

The sun starts to set, apricot, pink, and lavender, like colored sand in a jar. Lightbulbs and mirrors seem to be everywhere: they wink and streak as the carousel rotates, faster—then faster than I would have thought a carousel could go.

I spot them in the distance, just as they clear the motor-house, and I see their backs after they have swung past. I try to wave in time, but I just miss them. Interspersed and revolving, it all moves as one: milky polka dots on glossy, blue-gray hindquarters; three teenaged girls, gliding up and down and laughing as they snap each other with camera phones; a Roman chariot whose yellow-haired muse clasps a lyre, her eyes shrunken and skin flayed; fear of a recurrence, followed swiftly by fear of the unforeseeable, of some trick of fate; hocks and shanks, coronets and hooves, frozen in various attitudes of motion, falling and rising; father and daughter.

In a Twilight Zone episode, a man pursues his boyhood self onto a carousel. He wants to tell him to enjoy this time of his life, to urge him to seize his childhood and enjoy it. Terrified of the stranger who is chasing him, the boy falls off the carousel: and in the end the man walks away, limping.

The children rush through the gate onto the platform and scatter to find their horses. He lifts her onto one, a different one each time, and she gives it a name, always the same name. If there are reins, he puts them in her hands: she holds them loosely, unsure of what they do, and looks around in anticipation.

Soon she will be old enough to ride by herself. Every time, my husband offers, “Would you like to go on with her?” Every time, I reply, “No, you go.” When the bell rings and the carousel begins to turn, smoothly and slowly, time stands still. I stand at the railing, as if banished, and watch.

Kathleen Chaplin’s essay “The Death Knock” appeared in NER 34.1. She lives in Milton, Massachusetts. 

Excerpted from “Waiting for Billy Bigelow,” a chapter of The Death Knock, a memoir in progress.

NER Digital is New England Review’s online project dedicated to original creative writing for the web. “Confluences” presents writers’ encounters with works of art such as books, plays, poems, films, paintings, sculptures, or buildings.