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NER Classics | Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red | Khaled Mattawa

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry

Khaled Mattawa‘s poem, “Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red,” appeared in NER 16.4 (1994). 

Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red

smudgy-chalk-stripes

I was crossing a street
when a bus driver
gave me the finger.
I wasn’t driving
just crossing a street
with trees, leaves bright
yellow & ketch red,
when a low ranking employee
of a small town bureaucracy
in an insignificant state
gave me the finger.
Did my face foretell
seven years of drought?
Was I scheming to bring ack
the Monkees and the Cold War?
As usual I was lost
between the stuffed tomatoes
of my youth and a future
that says tick tick tock
boom boom. … 

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NER CLASSICS | Chocolate Mice | Debra Spark

Categories: NER Classics

A_Paris_Street,_7_August_2013The second shock was lunch. She stopped to buy a sausage at a cart by the park. She bit into it and instantly thought, “This is it. I am going to die.” —NER 20.4.

When she was young, mothers—or her mother, at least—would speak of those bad girls, presumably pregnant, who left home at the first opportunity, but Monica wasn’t waiting that long. She left before her first opportunity, using school breaks to escape. To run away: if you could call it that, since she had her mother’s acquiescence, if not her permission, in the matter. Her father was irrelevant. A farming accident had paralyzed him, days after Monica’s youngest brother—her mother’s second boy and seventh child—was born. There were no more children after that, which made clear, in a public sort of way, the full nature of the damage her father had suffered. Monica let her mother know that she would “just die” if she couldn’t get away from the farm, and the fervency of her conviction must have convinced her mother as well. “Just don’t get pregnant” she said, as if that were the source of all evils, and it made Monica ashamed to be alive, to be one of the seven reasons for her mother’s unhappiness. But then her shame quickly turned to anger. Her parents. They were so stupid. Switzerland was supposed to be the world’s richest country, and even here, they couldn’t make a living. Why had they had so many children when they couldn’t afford them?

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NER Classics | Big Bang | George Bilgere

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry

George Bilgere’s poem, Big Bang, was published in NER 16.2:

Madison Boulder - Aaron Draper Shattuck
We slept naked on a wide bed

under the sighing swamp cooler.
We strawberried in Michigan woods
with our fat nanny, and in spring
we gathered sand dollars on Daytona ,
passed smiling into Kodachrome.
On the path to the grammar school
she bumped along behind me, burdened
with my black, funeral trombone case,
my books and sack lunch. I pushed her
into thorn bushes, eyed her coldly
as she played jacks at recess
with colored girls. When wine
put our mother in her all-day coma
she made our dinner, and when
I felt like it I smacked her.
I walked at night in exile
far from that fatherless house
of sobbing women while she
did dishes at the steaming sink.

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NER Classics | Friedrich Torberg: An Introduction | Scott Denham

Categories: NER Classics

Scott Denham’s essay, Friedrich Torberg: An Introduction appeared in NER 20.4:

Friedrich Torberg (1908—1979) was very much a part of the Prague and Viennese literary café scenes in the 1920s and 1930s. He wrote a wicked schoolboy novel, Der Schüler Gerber hat absolviert (Berlin, 1930) [The Examination (London, 1932)]—the only one of his works which appears to have been translated in English-which catapulted him into the limelight of the café Herrenhof scene of Max Brod, Ernst Polak, and Alfred Polgar; in Vienna he associated with Karl Kraus, Franz Werfel, Robert Musil, Hermann Broch, and others. Three more novels published before the war were all well-enough received, but did not succeed in getting the critics past their notion of him as a bad boy cynic and lampooner. 

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NER Classics | The Marburg Sisters | Andrea Barrett

Categories: NER Classics

 

grapevineThe girls’ mother told them stories: how their grandfather Leo had grafted French vines onto North American roots with his German-Russian hands, finding the western New York winters easy to manage after Ukraine. At the head of the lake the Couperins, who ran a rival winery, had laughed at Leo’s cultivation practices, but in 1957, when Bianca was born, Leo had his revenge. That winter’s violent cold spell left the Marburgs’ earth-shrouded vines untouched when everyone else’s were killed, and Walter Couperin lost all his hybrid vines and switched back to Concords in a fury. 

Leo smiled and kept his secrets and established acres of gewurztraminer, which Couperin couldn’t grow, and rkaziteli, a Russian grape temperamental for everyone but him. The girls grew up hearing words like these: foxy, oaky, tannic, thin. Like all children, they knew more than they knew that they knew. 

In the fall the cold air slipping down from the hills hung white and even below the trellises. Leo’s winery thrived, and his oldest son—Theo, the girls’ father—threw himself into the business with a great and happy passion. Peter Couperin, Walter’s heir, field-grafted Seyvals onto half his Concord stock, and still Theo outdid him. 

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 Andrea Barrett‘s story, “the Marburg Sisters,” appeared in NER 16.4 (1994).

NER CLASSICS | First Encounters with the Elgin Marbles | Benjamin Robert Haydon

Categories: NER Classics

Parthenon_pediment_statuesI shall never forget the horses’ heads—the feet in the metopes! I felt as if a divine truth had blazed inwardly upon my mind and I knew that they would at last rouse the art of Europe from its slumber in the darkness.

These passages from Benjamin Robert Haydon’s 1853 Autobiography were published as a rediscovery in NER 19.3:

The first thing I fixed my eyes on was the wrist of a figure in one of the female groups, in which were visible, though in a feminine form, the radius and ulna. I was astonished, for I had never seen them hinted at in any female wrist in the antique. I darted my eye to the elbow, and saw the outer condyle visibly affecting the shape as in nature. I saw that the arm was in repose and the soft parts in relaxation. That combination of nature and idea which I had felt was so much wanting for high art was here displayed to mid-day conviction. My heart beat! If I had seen nothing else I had beheld sufficient to keep me to nature for the rest of my life. 

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NER Classics | Northern Insomnia | Mark Jarman

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry

Mark Jarman’s poem “Northern Insomnia” appeared in NER 13.3-4:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loch_Leven_%28Highlands%29#mediaviewer/File:Loch_Leven.jpg

Passing out of the rain into dull cloudlight,
Through
heather, a field of sleep, and rock,
Into the discovery of water
And with it the recognition of wind.

Dark water, water showing,
In a basin cut lengthwise below a hill,
Nothing of the sky, a sheepish gray,
Nothing of the eye’s desire for rest…

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Carrying the Torch | Brock Clarke

Categories: Fiction, NER Classics

 

Brock Clarke’s story “Carrying the Torch” appeared in NER 21.1:

450px-Gersdorff_p21vI decided last night that someday soon I am going to rip my husband’s penis off with my bare hands. I plan to do it while he’s sleeping. I will make sure that I am wearing my running shorts and sneakers, and after I have done the deed, I will jog at a good clip around my neighborhood, holding the bloody thing above my head and a little in front of me like a torch. The summer Olympics started yesterday, and I was in the crowd as Rafer Johnson ran through Atlanta with the real torch, which is how I got my idea.

“Who exactly is Rafer Johnson?” I asked my husband, Till, yesterday. Till is an executive with Microsoft’s Atlanta division, and he’s also on the Olympic organizing committee, which is how we managed to stand right up front while this large, fit black man ran down Peachtree with Nike written all over his mesh tank top and nylon jogging shorts.

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NER CLASSICS | A French Love Affair | Gwen Strauss

Categories: Fiction, NER Classics

Gwen Strauss’s essay, “A French Love Affair,” appeared in NER 21.2.

We live on a converted barge, a houseboat, on a canal,
on the eastern edge of Burgundy almost in the Jura mountains . . . 800px-Paul_Klee,_Swiss_-_Glance_of_a_Landscape_-_Google_Art_Project

We live on a converted barge, a houseboat, on a canal, on the eastern edge of Burgundy almost in the Jura mountains, next to Switzerland. Driving to the closest town in our new, very old 1952 Peugeot 203 takes about fifteen minutes. Of course, in a newer car you’d get there faster—and I wonder, would the town seem more modern? Because when I’m in our car, I notice again that our village is full of old people, that the French countryside has been abandoned by the younger generations. When I pull into the gas station, or into the market place, inevitably an old French man will come running out of the nearby café. With pastis on his breath he’ll exclaim, “C’est ma jeunesse!” Then he will moon over the dashboard. It’s the same, the very same as the one he had as a young man! There will follow some discussion, mixed with patriotic disbelief, about how I, as a youngish American woman, got possession of this car. How could that be? they ask. I want to answer: by sheer pathological stupidité. But I just smile and shrug my shoulders and sigh a lot, “C’est comme ça.”

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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.

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