CHUCK AUGELLO is the author of the novel The Revolving Heart (Black Rose Writing)
and the story collection The Inexplicable Grey Space We Call Love (Duck Lake Books.)
His work has appeared in One Story, Literary Hub, The Coachella Review, and other fine
journals. He is a contributing editor for Cease, Cows and publishes The Daily Vonnegut, a
website exploring the life and art of Kurt Vonnegut.

When offered the chance to submit a companion piece to “A Lesson in Fire,” my mind
turned cold. Inevitably the fire subsides, and I imagined an older Donald and Lisa confronting
the worries of middle age, a spiraling culture awash in morbid symptoms and an
ecosystem in decay. Who doesn’t seek protection, even if the cost is high? And so, the Ice
Hotel was born.

NANCY A. BARTA-SMITH is currently Emeritus Professor of English at Slippery
Rock University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and her M.A. from
Iowa State. “Dimensions of the Flesh in the Case of Twins with which I Am Familiar:
Actualizing the Potential for Shared Intentional Space” was published in Merleau-Ponty:
Space, Place, Architecture (Ohio UP 2015). Her essay “On the Edge Between Hope
and Despair: Lear as Guide and Consolation in the Life and Work of Wendell Berry,”
appeared in Inhabited by Stories: Critical Essays on Tales Retold, co-edited with Danette
DiMarco (Cambridge Scholars 2012). “Nurturing the Earth: Mixing Metaphors in Wendell
Berry’s Jayber Crow and Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy” was published in Literature,
Writing, and the Natural World (Cambridge Scholars 2009). She co-authored In Search
of Eloquence: Cross Disciplinary Conversations on the Role of Writing in Undergraduate
Education with Cornelius Cosgrove (Hampton 2004). She taught undergraduate English
majors and liberal arts students at SRU for 24 years. As well, she taught SRU graduate
students for the M.A. in English and M.S. in Sustainable Systems Programs at SRU.
MORGAN BAZILIAN is a short story writer and poet based in Dublin, Ireland, and
Telluride, Colorado. His poetry has appeared in: Exercise Bowler, Pacific Poetry, Angle
Poetry, Dead Flowers, Poetry Quarterly, and Innisfree. His stories have been published in
Eclectica, South Loop Review, Embodied Effigies, Shadowbox, Slab, and Glasschord.

DOMINIC CIVITELLA is a writer from Pennsylvania where he lives with his family
and dogs. In his free time, he works a full-time job.

JIM DANIELS’ most recent books include his sixth book of fiction, The Perp Walk, and
the anthology he edited with M.L. Liebler, RESPECT: The Poetry of Detroit Music.
both published by Michigan State University Press in 2019.
My hackles sometimes get raised by the American-dream myths that perpetuate the
status quo when it comes to money, guns, healthcare, etc. Both of these poems are inspired
by raised hackles. My typical poem is a straightforward narrative, but the narrative
becomes fragmentary and breaks down when the dogs start howling.

ALLEN GEE is currently the D.L. Jordan Endowed Professor of Creative Writing at
Columbus State University. He is the former Editor of Gulf Coast, and now serves as the
Editor for DLJ Books, and the multicultural imprint, 2040 Books. Gee is the author of
the essay collection, My Chinese-America and recently completed a novel, The Laborers. He
is the late James Alan McPherson’s designated biographer; his essay about McPherson’s
mentorship, Old School, appears in the 2020 Pushcart Prize volume.
“For Whom?” is all about embodying stereotypes to disrupt or expose them. The story is
intentionally playful, commenting about: how some view Chinese fast food or “junk food”
as Chinese cuisine; the contents of Bruce Lee’s image; Asian bad driving; how there were
limited male Asian acting roles (which has fortunately changed); and how Asian women
are often the subjects of fetishes. The companion piece I’ve sent is an essay, “Asians in the
Library,” that originally appeared in THIS Literary Magazine. The essay discusses Alexandra
Wallace’s and Jimmy Wong’s Youtube videos, that now have over two and five million
views respectively. Much like in “For Whom?,” Jimmy Wong uses humorous elements, in
this instance to protest the bigotry of Alexandra Wallace. I write that Wong’s song has
“the feeling of laughing and crying at the same time. . .” This is the same feeling I was attempting
to create in “For Whom?” via the narrator who is obsessed with Connie Chung.

GEORGE HIGGINS is the author of a book of poems, There, There; his work has
appeared or will in Best American Poetry, Catamaran, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, and other
journals. He earned an MFA in poetry at Warren Wilson College, where he was a Holden
fellow. Currently, he’s at work on a Young Adult verse novel and has an office at the
Writer’s Grotto in San Francisco.
The poem “What Nationality Are You” records the jolt of being identified as other. . .by
my school teacher. This new poem, “Slue,” explores that weird combination of events I
experienced at the same school in the Sixties. In retrospect those days were filled with
electrifying discovery, possibilities and danger. It was a world where felt experience still
had a charge, was still in technicolor.

KRISTEN JACKSON lives in east Texas with her husband, son, and four cats and teach
writing courses at the University of North Texas and UT-Tyler. If I could bring any literary
character to life it would be Cathy Earnshaw (because she is badass). If I could haunt
any place as a ghost, I would haunt Zeniba’s cottage at Swamp Bottom from Spirited
Away. I would be a contortionist in a circus, and I believe cats ought to have their own
week (or month, or year). If I could eliminate one thing from my daily routine it would be
brushing teeth (so tedious). My husband tells me if I came with a warning label it would
read: very frustrating. If I were a crayon color, I’d be pine tree green, and the best thing I
ever bought for just 1$ was an excellent Vietnamese spring roll.
My first impression of my teen years now is a hazy, nostalgia-tinged highlight reel that
I think many of us automatically default to, and in “Fifteen” I’m celebrating but also
challenging this feeling. My teen years, as I’m sure others have experienced, were actually
at times quite dark when considered truthfully. There were moments I may have not
survived, when I “turned off ” my higher reasoning skills, and yet many times as well
when I felt in touch with something powerful and incomprehensible, in ways I probably
won’t again. I think adolescence represents such a fertile period because during this time
we are constantly moving between these extremes, through a veil that only later in life
solidifies into a thick wall. And it seems impossible, when you are a teenager, to imagine
not being this, to imagine a day when the world around you makes sense and you have
a place within it. The companion poem, “Lisa’s Baby” was previously published in The
Broken Plate, 2015 Spring issue. I feel these poems resonate in that “Lisa’s Baby” delves
into that experience of waking up from the teenage period to adulthood, with all the hard
responsibilities and choices that come with that transition.

ALLISON JOSEPH lives, writes, and teaches in Carbondale, Illinois, where she directs
the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University. She serves as
poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review, the publisher of No Chair Press, and the director
of Writers In Common, a writing conference for all ages and experience levels. She was
awarded a Doctor of Letters honorary degree in 2014 from her undergraduate alma
mater, Kenyon College. She has published sixteen books and chapbooks, with Confessions
of a Barefaced Woman chosen for the Gold/First Place Winner in the poetry category of
the 2019 Feathered Quill Book Awards. This piece is also a 2019 nominee in the poetry
category of the NAACP Image Awards, and is a 2019 finalist for both the Montaigne
Medal and the Da Vinci Eye Book Award.

KEVIN KANTOR (They/Them) is a New York based non-binary poet and theatre artist
working to challenge and deconstruct traditional semiotics of gender onstage and in performance.
As a poet, their work has garnered more than 17 million collective views online
and is available in their collection Endowing Vegetables With Too Much Meaning.

So competitive air guitar is very much a real thing. If you haven’t experienced it firsthand,
I highly encourage you to seek out an event. Part drag show, part theatre performance, all
rock show – it truly is a spectacle to behold. I remember at the first one I attended, I was
immediately taken with the performers’ seamless ability to access and plumb a childlike
sense of play; grown adults transmogrifying with reckless abandon into imagined rock
stars. It reminded me of how self-conscious I was as a kid, nervous to make noise, let
alone music.

ELLARAINE LOCKIE is widely published and awarded as a poet, nonfiction book
author and essayist. Her fourteenth chapbook, Sex and Other Slapsticks, was recently
released from Presa Press. Earlier collections have won Poetry Forum’s Chapbook Contest
Prize, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival Chapbook Competition, Encircle Publications
Chapbook Contest, Best Individual Poetry Collection Award from Purple Patch magazine
in England, and The Aurorean’s Chapbook Choice Award. She also teaches writing workshops
and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, LILIPOH
It wasn’t until after I wrote “Godot Goes to Montana,” that I realized its similarity in
theme to Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot: the dire circumstances and coping
mechanism of early Montana farmers’ hardscrabble lives that address hopelessness,
suicide, dead voices and the companionship of other like men as buffers. Thus, the poem’s
Since “Godot Goes to Montana” was inspired by my father and grandfather, I chose as
the companion poem, “Abandoned Garden,” about my grandmother who experienced the
same bleak life but found strength in nurturing her garden.
“Abandoned Garden” won the Women’s National Book Association’s Poetry Contest and
was published in their Bookwoman.

ANNE MARIE MACARI is the author of four books of poetry, including Red Deer
(Persea Books, 2015) and She Heads Into the Wilderness (Autumn House, 2008). In 2000,
Macari won the APR/Honickman first book prize for Ivory Cradle, which was followed
by Gloryland (Alice James, 2005). She has also coedited with Carey Salerno, Lit From
Inside: 40 Years of Poetry From Alice James Books. She is the winner of Five Points’ James
Dickey Prize for Poetry, and has been published widely in journals, including The American
Poetry Review, GulfCoast, Bloomsbury Review, and Shenendoah. Macari is on the core
faculty at New England College Low-Residency MFA Program and the Prague Summer

DAWN MORROW is a poet, and a recently-minted MFA from Seattle Pacific University.
Although she holds a BS in Engineering from the University of Iowa and an MBA
from UNC—Chapel Hill, she’s a Jersey Girl at heart. Her poetry recently appeared in The
Molehill, vol. 5, published by Rabbit Room Press, and SLAB Literary Magazine, Vol. 14.
Any city, but particularly Chicago, is a study in contrasts. “Hindsight” and “Smoke” were
both born out of moments where city living crashed into an otherwise peaceful day. Poetry
is one of the ways I wrestle with this jarring juxtaposition, and both of these poems try
to give some kind of meaning to otherwise violent happenings.

A SWPA native & Vassar College alum, MAGGIE LYNN NEGRETE is a multidisciplinary
artist and designer specializing in illustration, zines, and hand-lettering.
An important part of her practice is as an educator, focusing on elevating youth voices
and promoting civic engagement through zines, storytelling, and typography. Negrete is
proud to be affiliated with the Pittsburgh Zine Fair, the Notwhite Collective and former
workplaces, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, the Brashear Association and MGR
Youth Empowerment.

ERIC PANKEY is the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University and the
author of twelve collections of poems, most recently Augury: Poems (Milkweed Editions
2017). His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in such journals as The Iowa
Review, The Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The
New Yorker, and The Yale Review. His work has been supported by fellowships from John
Simon Guggenheim Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram
Merrill Foundation, and the Brown Foundation.

PETER PATAPIS is a poet from New York.
In Fourth Person Singular, the poet and psychoanalyst Nuar Alsadir contemplates the roles
of the speaker and addressee in the tradition of lyric poetry. She writes
“By the time our perception of ourselves registers, we have already moved on (however
slightly) from that particular self and are looking back from a distance (however miniscule),
so that the perceived I has become a not-I. This outside perspective on oneself can
provide a basis for shame, which involves looking back at the self through the eyes of another.
It also makes of the surrounding selves, in the past and future light cones, neighbor
selves, who should indeed be loved, but as whom?(Lacan points out that most people hate
themselves.)” (43)

As I read over “I ash my body” for the first time since its publication, I hold Alsadir in
mind. Which among my selves inhabited this poem? Is such a self the same self I inhabit
presently? When, along the way, did the “perceived I” of my poem’s speaker become the
not-I of my own perceived I? These are the questions I ask with indifference for their
answers. Alsadir postulates a “fourth-person singular” as an “attempt to make sense of this
voice that speaks as one but out of the many,” as an “utterance. . .of the four-dimensional
space-time surrounding a moment” (42-46). The answers to my questions are inessential
so long as my poems unveil an opening into this fourth-dimension.

JOHN PEÑA is a multidisciplinary artist who makes art as a way of exploring the natural
world and his daily interactions. A few of John’s projects include: racing with clouds,
making a drawing about his life every day for the last ten years, and creating life-sized
plaster word balloons that are precariously balance on two-by-fours. He lives and works
in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, dog, and two cats. You can see more of his work at www. and follow him @johnpenastudio.

Every day for the last ten years, I have made a drawing about my day. I often draw about
fleeting and ordinary moments that resonate with me. Through my art making, I’m
attempting to mimic geological processes like drift and erosion. In this way, each drawing
carries no specific weight, but over time the collection of drawings begins to shape a much
larger story that emerges through the passage of time.

ED PISKOR lives and draws out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a former student
of the Kubert School, has collaborated with Harvey Pekar, and put out the graphic novel
Wizzywig. His New York Times Best-Selling series Hip Hop Family Tree, which was
originally serialized on Boing Boing, has gone back to print numerous times, and won the
2015 Eisner Award for “Best Reality-Based Work.” His series for Marvel, X-Men Grand
Design, was released in 2017 to wide acclaim.

SEAN PRENTISS is the author of Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His
Hidden Desert Grave, which won the National Outdoor Book Award, and Crosscut: Poems.
He is also the co-editor of The Science of Story: The Brain Behind Creative Nonfiction and
the co-writer of Environmental and Nature Writing: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology. He
lives in northern Vermont with his wife and daughter and teaches at Norwich University.
I wrote “Why I Won’t Lay . . .” about falling in love. This essay was written during
my time living in a city that felt like anything but home. Since I didn’t feel at home, I
searched for anything to help change that, including love. The second essay, “A Working
Theory of Love,” covers similar ground (a search for love/home), uses numbers to break

the essay into sections, and uses [ ] to highlight thoughts/asides. But these essays at
loneliness from different perspectives (the present and the future). Finally, now all these
years later, I live in Vermont (home), married (home), with a daughter (home). Loneliness
feels so far away.

DONNA PUCCIANI, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry on four continents
in such diverse journals as Poetry Salzburg, Istanbul Literary Review, Shi Chao Poetry,
Journal of Italian Translation, Acumen, and Feile-Festa. Her work has been translated into
Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and German. In addition to five Pushcart nominations, she
has won awards from the Illinois Arts Council and The National Federation of State
Poetry Societies, among others. Her seventh and most recent collection of poems is Edges
(Purple Flag Press, Virtual Artists Collective, Chicago, 2016).
Both poems, though written a couple of years apart, draw their inspiration from nature as
a metaphor for the human condition. The pieces, like much of my work, explore the passage
of time and the transience of all things—our youth, our labors, a snowfall, a spider’s
web, the minutes of our lives.
“Incremental” was first published in The Homestead, and subsequently appeared in my
seventh and latest book of poetry, EDGES (virtual artists collective, purple flag imprint,
Chicago, 2016).

JASON SCHNEIDERMAN is the author of four books of poems: Hold Me Tight
(2020), Primary Source (Red Hen Press 2016); Striking Surface (Ashland Poetry Press
2010); and Sublimation Point (Four Way Books 2004). He edited the anthology Queer: A
Reader for Writers (Oxford University Press 2016). His poetry and essays have appeared in
numerous journals and anthologies, including American Poetry Review, The Best American
Poetry, Poetry London, Grand Street, and The Penguin Book of the Sonnet. An Associate
Professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, he lives
in Brooklyn with his husband Michael Broder. His next book of poems, Hold Me Tight,
will be out from Red Hen in 2020.

I’ve been reading Forster’s Howard’s End, and I came across this passage: “The remark
would be untrue, but the kind which, if stated often enough, may become true; just as the
remark, ‘England and Germany are bound to fight,’ renders war a little more likely each
time that it is made. . .” Howard’s End was first published in 1910, just four years before
World War I broke out.

For most of my life, I’ve felt that I’m on the better end of history, the one that took place
after the big wars, after the fall of the authoritarian states, after the reconstruction of our
own country to be fairer and kinder, after the treatment for HIV/AIDS was developed,
after, after, after. I read Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, when it
first came out, and even though I knew the thesis was silly—of course we are not finished
with atrocity—it was still a comforting thought that we really had entered some better
new chapter in the human story. When I wrote “Easy to Say,” I was on the other side of
Forster’s remark—worried about how language can remember and distill—what it means
to remember atrocity and to use language despite the ways that language is slippery and
often refers us back to ourselves, rather than to the things we are trying to describe. The
first half of the poem is about a rabbi I knew in Germany who had been left for dead on a
heap of bodies. The soldiers liberating the concentration camp where he had been interred
saw movement in his body, and pulled him off the pile and he was brought back to health.
The second half of the poem is my own story from college. I was on rounds as a resident
assistant and discovered that one of my residents had been severely beaten. I cleaned him
up, contacted the police, activated the various services, and ultimately prevented one of
the attackers from returning to the scene of the crime. I was never harmed physically, and
yet it altered the way I moved through the world. In both poems, I try to capture what it
means to be at a remove from violence and cruelty, but to obey some directive to remember
and honor that violence. Language is a curious tool. Wielding language is a kind of
inadequate sorcery that can neither be mastered nor abandoned. We end up with a charge
that we fulfill partially. To quote Hillel, “It is not upon you to complete the task; neither
may you tarry from it.”

Now I feel myself on the close side of Forster’s remark. What is it we are saying that we
are calling into being? What is language creating? How do we fight back, and how do
we call into existence the world we want to live in. In the last year, anti-semetic violence
has shifted my sense of being Jewish in America. What am I to say now? What is it that
needs to be said?

GERALD STERN was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1925 and was educated at
the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia University. His recent books of poetry include
Galaxy Love (W. W. Norton, 2017); Divine Nothingness (W. W. Norton, 2014); In Beauty
Bright (W. W. Norton, 2012); Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (W. W. Norton, 2010),
Save the Last Dance (2008); Everything Is Burning (2005); American Sonnets (2002); Last
Blue: Poems (2000); This Time: New and Selected Poems (1998), which won the National
Book Award; Odd Mercy (1995); and Bread Without Sugar (1992), winner of the Paterson
Poetry Prize. Stern was awarded the 2005 Wallace Stevens Award by the Academy of
American Poets, and was the 2010 recipient of the Medal of Honor in Poetry by the
American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was inducted into the 2012 class of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was the 2012 recipient of the Rebekah
Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress. He is the 2014
winner of the Frost Medal and his work was widely recognized after the 1977 publication
of Lucky Life and a series of essays on writing poetry in American Poetry Review. He has
been given many prestigious awards for his writing, including a National Book Award
for poetry in 1998, and for many years has taught poetry writing at the Iowa Writers’

CHRISTOPHER CHOU SLOMIAK, raised in Brookline, MA, is a hotelier, real
estate broker, cat-enthusiast, and author. After graduating from Boston University with
an English Education degree, he became a hotelier by day and writer by night. His
first short story, “Untouchable,” won Heart and Mind Zine’s Judge’s Choice Award. His
second, “Naked Barbie,” was selected as the opening piece to Sound & Literary Art Book’s
12th annual edition. Both stories went on to be quarter finalists in Screencraft’s Cinematic
Short Story Contest. For Chris, stories are an attempt to feel and understand the experience
of others—the art of empathy.

“Naked Barbie” is about a raw kind of survival. Vicious acts out of horrible circumstances.
We often label people as evil without an understanding of where they come from or
what they’ve endured. It’s never as simple as good or evil, and I wanted readers to feel the
complexity in that—to both adore and detest Lila.

BILL U’REN has published forty short stories in magazines such as Chicago Review,
Michigan Quarterly, and The Minnesota Review. His fiction has won Barthelme and
Cambor Awards and has been anthologized in Killing Spirit (Viking Press). He also has
worked in film adaptation since graduating from UCLA, where he wrote Box 100 for
Colombia Pictures. He currently teaches writing at Goucher College and serves as the
Director of Operations for its Kratz Center of Creative Writing.

The character Ajay is one of the elements directly linking both of these stories, which
grew out of my experiences working as a retail cashier and as a caterer. Like a lot of people,
I’ve toiled through a number of difficult, mind-numbing jobs, and many of the inane
conditions inherent to such gigs can truly test your patience, your humanity, and your
faith in yourself. The two protagonists of each piece, Ajay and Grant, have experiences
drawn from my time operating in such worlds, but they also include some composite
traits of very close friends and classmates I’ve worked alongside. In fact, everyone in both
stories—from Ajay’s parents to the school kids in Grant’s class—bears traits borne from
personal experience.

I spent a good deal of my life in the primary location of each story. Part of it was during
childhood, part of it was college, and part of it was me going back and living there again.
Ajay and Grant themselves also draw a lot from the lives of two of my good friends from
both places. I am grateful to these friends for sharing things with me that I could distill
into a portion of the characters. After “Stereophonic” appeared in SLAB, I received congratulatory
phone calls from these two friends—along with others who’d felt I’d captured
their own experience in very similar contexts. I had thought I was representing a sort
of warped amalgamation of my accumulated list of grievances, but somehow the choice
to conflate additional anecdotes and conflicts seemed to deliver a finished piece which
mirrored more than I realized.

The response heartened me to expand the scope and to place Ajay into a larger narrative,
which is “Twenty-One”—a story with themes that also reflect the varieties of discord
faced by many of my classmates and friends—people that, I humbly note, would never let
on if you met them how often they feel trapped in their lives and circumstances. Always, I
hope to present these scenarios not in the tone of grandiose dirges, but rather as irreverent
responses which bloom as we seek methods to cope with the seemingly insurmountable
absurdity encircling us.

ELLEN VANWOERT is a writer from Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Buffalo,
New York with her partner and her standard poodle.
I remember the title of this piece came from a prompt that I chose from a list, and I wrote
it quickly. The meaning is straightforward, so revisiting this piece makes me reflect on the
joy of writing it: I allowed myself to be goofy and not self-conscious. I wasn’t over-analyzing
every word. I wanted to make the reader happy.

STEVE WESTBROOK is an associate professor at Cal State Fullerton, where he
teaches courses in creative writing, cultural studies, and composition. Beyond Craft, his
critical parody of a creative writing handbook, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Academic.
These poems are the result of too much neurotic introspection on the subject of fatherhood.
I wrote them during the early stages of deciding to have a child with my partner.
When I imagined the future, the baby phase seemed squishy, cute, easy—but adolescence?!
I barely survived puberty, so how on earth would I guide the teenager I forecasted
bringing into the universe through this tumultuous stage—especially if we wound up with
a boy (like me)? Gulp. And what would he say in response to my miraculously flawed
advice? Hence, this dialogue.

MEREDITH SUE WILLIS is a past Distinguished Teaching Artist of the New Jersey
State Council on the Arts and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at
New York University’s School of Professional Studies. She is part of the Appalachian
Renaissance in literature and has published over 22 books of fiction and nonfiction for
adults, young people, and teachers. Her latest novel is Their Houses, published by West
Virginia University Press. Learn more at
“Decorations” is part of a decade-long project called Feral Grandmothers through which
I’ve been exploring grandmothering and aging. The story came from a time we drove
through an affluent development where some doctors my husband knew lived. I saw the
Christmas trees outside waiting to be collected. Then, later, very vividly, I saw the completely
fictional part, the lonely grandmother feeling set aside and taking action.
Around the same time I wrote two more short shorts, one about a protective grandmother
who is also a macaw (, then my own
version of little Red Riding hood (
little-reds/). After I published those stories, I realized what I was doing, and
started writing more grandmother stories.
That was before I had grand-children of my own, and now I have two. I’ve been writing
some longer stories, more realistic, even close to nonfiction like the one about my own
Appalachian grandmother. The stories have names like “Emancipation of a Hard Heart”
and “Baucis and Philemon #4,” and “Grandma Shiksa.”
The companion piece I’m offering here is another short one that is less about grandmothering
and more about some of the multiple unpleasant possibilities of aging. In
“Thought Balloon,” the grandmother has turned deep inside herself after a medical crisis,
struggling for meaning
That struggle and our passion for each other are among the most quintessential human

HUANG XIANG is one of the greatest poets of the 20th century China and a master
calligrapher. He has been described as “a poet on fire, a human torch who burns as laps of
freedom and enlightenment.” Born in 1941, he was imprisoned and tortured for his lyrical,
free-spirited poetry and advocacy of human rights in China. He and his wife, Zhang
Ling, also a writer, now live in the United States. Their story has been featured in the PBS
documentary, “A Well-Founded Fear,” and WQED documentary, “City of Asylum: An
OnQ Special Edition.”