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ANDREW  BURTON/THE  NEW  YORK  TIMES/REDUX

The Will of the Water

The bayous fill, and the water runs into the streets; the streets fill, and the water fills the highways and the underpasses. The water swallows cars and trucks and entire families of people. It swallows fathers and mothers and babies. The water turns the highway into an ocean; the white peaks of waves crest and crash against the sides of buildings. People wade out of their houses, through the water, toward one another and dry land. They climb to the second floor, and then the third; they scramble to their roofs and wave white T-shirts or towels toward the rescue they believe will come. Cages like open coffins descend from helicopters, and people climb into them, one at a time or as an inseparable group. A mother clings to her children as they ascend from the water toward safety. She never lets them go.

My husband and I watch the rescues on the news. There aren’t enough helicopters for everyone who needs saving, aren’t enough high-water vehicles, or boats, or flashlights, or meals, or warm beds. We watch the water rising in our own neighborhood, filling the streets up to our ankles, our knees, up to our waists. We are trapped here, on the little island of our address. We occupy ourselves and the children in the ways we can: we eat, we drink, we play board games and curl together in the bed. My husband and I take turns going outside to check the water, watch it rise. When we wake on the fourth day of rain, it is still rising.

Old Ideas [private]


The first poem in Leonard Cohen’s posthumous book The Flame made me laugh. Not because the lyrics are especially funny (although there are touches of Cohen’s characteristic wry humor), and not because the poem is foolish (it’s quite good), but because it is practically a medley of every single theme and obsession Cohen took up over his sixty-year career. Holiness and pussies are just a start. One almost senses him (knowingly, always knowingly) ticking off boxes. Angels and devils: check. Art, sartorial elegance, and slaves: check, check, check. Messianism: check:


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Photo by Gary Honis

Night Moves

July 5, 2016

In "Night Moves," Amanda Petrusich visits Cherry Springs State Park, a Pennsylvania swath of night sky, where light pollution and fracking threaten the existence of one of the darkest places in America.

If Everything Is So Amazing, Why’s Nobody Happy?

October 5, 2015

When I talk to my students about living for compassion, they tend to be quite interested. But few of them have ever contemplated this sort of life before. Like the life of courage and the life of thought, the life of compassion seems to be receding in our culture. People don’t talk much about ideals any more. We don’t usually offer them as viable options to the young.

The Southwesternization of the American Palate

June 17, 2015

Barrow, Alaska, is about as far from anywhere in North America as it’s possible to get: hard by the Beaufort Sea, 720 miles from Anchorage, 3,500 miles from Washington, DC, 1,100 miles from the North Pole. Yet, until very recently, it was possible to stumble across taiga and tundra and find, there in the heart of the town, a Mexican restaurant.