Favorite CNF 1st Quarter 2021

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Summer is blooming here in New Orleans! It’s a hot, sunny Sunday afternoon and I’m relaxing in the A/C while catching up on some reading for pleasure. It seems everyone is beginning to come out of the Covid cocoon and are wondering what that’s going to look and feel like. Will we swing back into life as we knew it or will there be some tentative toe-dipping? Nancy Stohlman talks about culture shock and reverse culture shock from events like the pandemic in her wonderful newsletter (which I get & recommend) and how we, as artists, can initiate a move forward into a better world. Do read it, my artsy friends!

Today I’m posting a few Creative Nonfiction pieces I enjoyed over the past few months. Each one of these stories took me on a journey with the writer that stuck with me for days afterward. To share such personal and, in some cases, traumatic memories takes real guts and an open heart. CNF shares the many ways we are human and that’s why I love it. I hope you enjoy these selections.

Air in the Brain” by jj pena in Waterstone Review

the second time my mother left, she sent postcards from a boat in alaska. she often sent small baggies of fishing hooks she designed, which i kept under my pillow until i poked my eye bloody.

Ghost or Haunted” by Jen Rouse in Schuylkill Valley Journal

I am not sure most days if I am ghost or haunted. I turn a corner in my house and fall inside a small room from my childhood summer home that smells of my grandmother’s Shalimar and talcum powder, staring at her reflection in the antique pink mirror above the soft wave of the chest of drawers beneath. She can’t speak here.

“If He Loved You He Wouldn’t Travel So Much” by Beth Gilstrap in Anti-heroin Chic

In my family, we are told when one of us is close to death, we only tolerate cornbread crumbled and mixed with whole milk. This story goes back to my great-grandma, who birthed seven children and died at ninety-six. But times I’ve sat with the dying, they don’t eat for weeks and all I remember from Meemaw’s death is how my grandma used mint-scented sponge-swabs to wet her gums.

“On the incessant, inescapable, infinite, unraveling, meandering, indifferent and heartless road: A map” by Jamie Etheridge in Bending Genres

Tucked under my arm, faithless Rand McNally and in my Daddy’s hand a cup of coffee in 1980s Styrofoam. Suitcases in the trunk. Momma and six siblings. We are all portable, transportable, lightweight, unstationary. Our life is the road and movement is the only name I know.

“Two Years in a Tent in the Woods” by Sage Tyrtle in Pithead Chapel

At the start of the third week, we run out of gas for the gas stove, but that’s not a big deal because all we have left to eat are thirty cartons of Fantastic Foods Black Bean Salsa Couscous. It’s a dry mix in a cardboard container made of dehydrated beans and salsa powder. We boil water on the wood stove and add water then mix it into a beige slurry and choke it down. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And sometimes we eat it at three in the morning as we glumly stare out of the dark windows, reassuring each other that it can’t snow for the rest of our lives.

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