Welcome to Issue 1 of Literature for Life.
Aqua GirlYxta Maya Murray
March 19, 2006
“Poseidon . . . begets . . . a daughter with a secret name.”
–The Oxford Classical Dictionary
After the storm destroyed the boat, shreds of flotsam ornamented the Pacific Ocean like the roses priestesses once threw into the waves to pacify the temperamental water god. A woman’s red shoe and a […]
Blue Like Me: On Race and DepressionErin Aubry Kaplan
The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.
–W.E.B. Du Bois, 1903
The overriding experience of the black American has been grief and sorrow and no man can change that fact. His grief has been realistic and appropriate. What people have so earned a period of mourning?
–From Black Rage, 1968
It had gotten boring, hadn’t it? The touring back and forth of the misguided families who wound their way over to the river by accident, calling up on the callbox, crying and crying. Ole Skelly and me worked for the International Red Cross, and we got sent each time to take the families across […]
Cross-Border Vignettes: A Common NeuroscienceJean Guerrero
Chapter 7: CARLOS, AGE 43
The Marlboro pack trembles in his hands. Carlos sits behind the wheel of his truck parked in front of his ex-wife’s house and he’s trying to pluck a cigarette out of the pack. His fingers are bulky and quivering and the cigarette is slender and elusive and his armor of […]
A BROKEN ENGAGEMENT
A young Korean woman glided into the United States on a bicycle. This woman, Unha, had her hair cut ragged short right before her journey so that where it was once long and shiny, it now hung unevenly over her neck, her bangs slashed crookedly over her forehead. She […]
Dida’s DadLisa Teasley
When Dida arrived at Hilo, a small airport, intimate and open to the warm Big Island Hawaiian breeze, she spotted her mom waiting for her by the single baggage claim area. Her mom hadn’t yet seen Dida. Her arms were folded, a worried look on her face. She was wearing a kelly green tank top, […]
For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never WornSusan Straight
Car doors slamming. Just dawn. Albertine saw the faint shadow of bougainvillea on the wall. She made her bed every morning. Every morning. She pulled the yellow-rose printed sheets tight. If she didn’t make the bed when she was a child, Grammere Marie would chase her back inside the house with a fig-tree branch stripped […]
Foshay in the Bad DaysJervey Tervalon
Lamont, the big kid sitting next to me, saw it first, but that was after he offered me fifty cents. Lamont was this well dressed kid, almost six feet.
“You want it?” he asked. I did want it, I wanted it very much. I’d be able to get a cheese toast, a burrito, or one […]
Gade DeyeKia Penso
In my last year of high school I lived with my family in St. Croix, USVI, in a neighborhood called Estate St. George. It was west of the middle of the island but not all the way west. It had been, like many St. Croix neighborhoods, an old sugar estate, and near the entrance to […]
Haiku IV: PoemsBenin Williams Lemus
Traffic, traffic stop!
A symphony on concrete –
Clang, clang, clang, we go!
HOW TO HOVER RIGHT ABOVE CRASHING
New York City, July 19th, 2001
Gil Scott-Heron at a Crossroads with Drugs
Sometimes you don’t want to pick up the newspaper and read it because you will discover that […]
Just Surviving Another DayDetrice Jones
There was a knock at my door. Then a jingle and he was in. Cheap-ass lock. I looked at the clock and it was 3:36 a.m. He turned on the light and began his search. I watched him, hoping he wouldn’t find it.
“Let me get that money and I’ll pay you back in the […]
Man Bites Prawn: A Koreatown Seafood AdventureJonathan Gold
The first cold night of fall I went to the Living Fish Center, a small, superbly named Koreatown restaurant in whose window a brilliant neon trout burned in permanent mid-leap. Inside, a school of scarlet fish stared dumbly out from their dim tank, and a bubbling glass raceway teeming with prawns ran just below the […]
Miss ChihuahuaMontserrat Fontes
Tex-Mex Border — 1947
Growing up at the Tex-Mex border after WWII was exciting with the world working to reconstruct itself after almost four years of war punctuated by two atomic bombs. Because our town, Nuevo Laredo, was a gateway into Texas, there was little that happened on either side of the border that we […]
Miss Johnson Comes to DinnerPat Alderete
Nobody in my family had ever seen a white person scoop up chile the way Miss Johnson did that evening. Impressed, we grew quiet as we watched her pour it over her pasta.
Noticing, she looked up with eyes the color of blue tortilla chips and asked in an unsure voice, “Have I used too […]
Our BiblesBob Blaisdell
On the subway, during early morning rush hour, I raise my head from my “bible,” where I have underlined in red an unfamiliar word that I need to look up in my pocket dictionary, and notice sitting across from me a man, bent over a fat leather-bound book on his lap, his left index finger […]
Riot BabyDaniel Voll
Ten years ago, in the wake of the Rodney King verdicts, American society ruptured in South Central Los Angeles, resulting in the worst riots in our nation’s modern history. Ten years later, the people are still poor, there’s not enough work, and the gang violence is bad and getting worse. One other thing hasn’t changed […]
Sportin’ MenGary Phillips
“Be careful, Junie, you ain’t old enough to handle that yet.”
“Don’t sell the boy short, Brim, remember how you were at his age.” Mercer Cooke and the other men at the table laughed. The teenaged Glen Murray, called Junie, had been caught gawking by his uncle at one of Miss Zenobia’s party girls.
The ButtErin Aubry Kaplan
Sept. 5-11, 1997
Unlike the face, with its mixture of trickery and pretence, the behind has a genuine
sincerity that comes quite simply from the fact that we cannot control it.
I prefer myself a sistah / Red beans and rice didn’t miss her / Baby got back.
I have a […]
The VoiceKia Penso
Yesterday after work I walked out of the building and crossed the street and entered a strange scene. Ahead of me was a woman walking with a white cane. Instead of sweeping the ground with the cane she was tapping it hard, irregularly, as though she expected it to hit some hazard that she dreaded. […]
Uncle SonnyAndrew Ramirez
We were in the dirt lot throwing the football when Uncle Sonny pulled up in his Chevy truck, nearly killing all three of us—my two older brothers and me—and flooding the front of our house with brown dust. Sonny got out of the truck. He couldn’t get over how big we’d all gotten since he’d […]