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Illustration by Eleni Kalorkoti

Seeing Rose

It’s about a half-hour train ride to Yonkers, much of it along the river. You come out of the city, off the island, and countryside appears—green strips of landscape, woody bluffs, brown water, telephone lines. 

Photo by Jeff Sharlet

Telemetry

For two years I’ve been walking into the tall grass to take snapshots of this field at the top of the “crooked mile,” a winding hill that leads into the shallow valley of swamp and stream in which my house stands, just past the sign that reads pavement ends. I use my phone. I want the rough eye. The note. The diary. The record. The document. This time, this moment, unplanned.

Illustration by Jon Krause

June 25

Then twelve months passed and once again: the company picnic. A day greeted with joy, with dread, with stoic indifference, depending on who you were. 

Factory


We stack wafers the length of our arms
in half-hour rotations, inspect the chocolate coats.
You’ve eaten a Kit Kat before-—at least
you’ve seen them on newsstands next to gum,
but this isn’t about the finished product.
This is about the factory, the chugging machines

Photo by Alex Potter

The New Berliners

On a chilly April morning in 2016, at a newly converted shelter in southern Berlin, Om Belal struggled as she maneuvered her ten-year-old son, Jad, in his wheelchair out the building’s front door.

Map by Jenn Boggs

Paths to Refuge

A special project on Europe's migration crisis, on both the perilous journey and life inside the destination. A story of assimilation, of the bureaucratic limbo, of strangers in a strange land settling into something more awkwardly, unexpectedly permanent.

Elegy on the Far Bank


i.m. Greg Greger (1923–2015)

I. West of Chekhov

A month since Father died. Back in our old house, 
sisters, where were we? Desert of childhood, 
      great preserver, 

for you we opened another closet.
Father the farm boy––what didn’t he save?
      There his Army jacket 

Illustration by Chloe Scheffe

Amsterdam

In Amsterdam I lived with a man who was always sad. His younger brother had died in a car crash when my lover was sixteen. Though it had been thirteen years since the accident, he carried the loss as if it were an heirloom. He had brought the loss from Copenhagen, where he was raised, to London, where we met. And now in Amsterdam, I felt it in our flat, its foggy chill. I watched him while he was sleeping and saw the sadness flutter behind his eyelids. Sometimes when he woke, he was on the brink of tears. His name was Örjan, and I began to think of the umlaut over the O as a mark of sorrow: It hovered like a shadow. 

The first time I invited Örjan into my bed was right after he told me about his brother. I pulled the story out, unraveling him line by line, until he began to shudder and weep and I had to wrap my body around his. I liked his sadness, the way it made his silences seem full. When he tied on his running shoes and set out for a jog, I knew he had demons to outrun. When he stared, unblinking, into his coffee, I was sure he was thinking that if his brother were still alive, he would now be twenty-seven, the same age as me. 

Illustration by Corey Brickley

Dixon

A star-smeared night, the usual briny and humid haze of the brush country in August, and Dixon was hauling twenty cases of stolen toys up from the Rio Grande valley. If the border patrol at the Sarita checkpoint asked, he’d claim a delivery mix-up.

Illustration by Corey Brickley

Keepers

You hate the way the goats look at you, like you’re a stranger. Even when you walk up with buckets of grain for the last meal of the day. With your mother, they would huddle close and gnaw at the grass stains on her boots. But you are an outsider to them. The old ones retreat, their black hair matted with dust. They prefer that you leave the food and go. The pregnant one stays in the shadows of the pen. All you can see are her paranoid eyes, round yellow stones. She’ll stop acting so crazy after birth, but you remind yourself you won’t stick around that long. You won’t be the one bottle-feeding the baby like a little brother, swathed in cotton blankets. Umma can do that. That’s the choice she’s made, this is where she wants to trickle out the rest of her years toward a tasteless end. You won’t stick around for that, either. By then you’ll be in Seoul, with Jun. He’ll teach you the taste of Jamaican coffee; he’ll take you shopping for fur in the middle of July. You’ll come back to visit Umma, of course, every harvest holiday and new year. But when it’s your turn to grow old and die, you’ll be wrapped in Siberian mink.

“How are they?” Umma asks when you come back from feeding. “Did they eat enough? Is everyone there?”

“They’re great,” you tell her, even though you forgot to count.

You hate the breakfast Umma makes, brown rice wrapped in perilla leaves that scratch the inside of your mouth. But you chew and chew, under the sweet spot of the ceiling fan, surrounded by pots and pans turned over on the floor to dry—next to the chili peppers spread out on newspapers to dry, which are next to the thick blades of grass laid out on more newspapers to dry. Remember to stack the pots when they finish drying. Remember to collect the hay and mix it into the feed tomorrow. Remember to count the goats next time, instead of rushing out the gate.

In the morning Umma gathers her prayer beads for her walk to temple. You hate how she spends all her time and money on the goats, on the monks, everyone but herself. More and more, she refuses to bother with the rituals of civilization. Her fingernails grow until they break off. Her toothbrush is always dry. She no longer wears underwear under her house skirt. When she grows old, really old, no one will be able to tell her apart from the goats.

Once in a while the weather forces her to stay home. Every August, the monsoon comes strong enough to knock dragonflies dead out of the air. The two of you will usually sit by the window together, watching the summer flood. Through the closed windows you can hear the goats bleating for dry land. Sometimes the rain crashes so hard it bounces off the cement path, but even then you can still hear them.

 

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