In August 1968, a visiting minister from Pakistan gave Chairman Mao a basket of mangoes as a token of the friendship between the two states. The Chairman, who was very particular about what he ate, did not care for the taste of mangoes, so he sent them to the worker-peasant Mao Zedong Thought propaganda team. The workers, flattered and overwhelmed by the Chairman’s love, preserved the mangoes in formaldehyde and revered them as sacred relics. Thousands from around the country made pilgrimages to the mangoes, and the mangoes, accompanied by drums, gongs, and banners, went on tours in various cities where they were placed under glass cases and watched over by security guards.
— FROM The Taste of Mangoes
BY Jie Li
The traveller owns the grateful sense
Of sweetness near, he knows not whence…
— John Greenleaf Whittier, from “Snow-Bound”
You might have said our aim was bad,
for we had spent years chasing it — that
sweetness near, the target that kept moving
with the years, borne away on wings,
or in the open freight cars that rattled
through the night across vast sweeps
of plain, or sealed in envelopes sent
by courier from Vladivostok to Minsk —
we tracked it in the packs of mules
making their slow way up the tortuous
paths of the Himalayas, or glimpsed
on a backroad in Mississippi, then
lost around a bend — despite our expert aim,
like a mirage, it always moved
before us, always just beyond, no one
knew quite where it might be found —
and so we traveled on, read almanacs,
picked up lingua francas, practiced our aim,
visited psychics, mystics; racked our brains,
riffled through racks and racks of
clothes, of magazines, guide books, schedules
for the island ferries, encyclopedias;
pursued it through the chartless ways, the Metro
of D.C., and the sewers of Paris, among
the living and the dead; it led us to frontiers,
to the opening of the Panama Canal,
the discovery of snail warfare in the margins
of monastic manuscripts, the zero
that could hold an empty place, the neutron bomb,
the seedless tangerine.
— EXCERPT FROM Headlong for that Fair Target
BY Eleanor Wilner
Oh Muse of Weeping…
— Marina Tsvetaeva
… So now I have renounced it all —
soil and all the blessings of the ground.
The spirit-guardian of “this place” — its
heart-ghost — is an old tree stump like
All of us in life were only guests: to live
Two voices… but against the eastern wall,
19-20 November 1961, Leningrad,
the hospital in the harbor. In a delirium.
— BY Anna Akhmatova
TRANSLATED BY Tony Brinkley
FROM Four of Us: Akhmatova, Mandelshtam, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva
I inherited this story from my mother who got it from her mother; my grandmother received it from her father, who is the protagonist of the piece. It is set in a small village in the mountainous Spanish province of Extremadura, mere millimetres from the Portuguese border on most maps of Europe. One century is about to displace another in a world that radio, television, and the automobile have yet to colonize. In many places, including this remote town, streetlights, too, are unknown. When night falls, it covers everything. When the moon is absent, you have torchlight and your wits to guide you.
On this particular night, on the lip of a new century, my great-grandfather (let’s call him Antonio, his given name) left the only taberna in the town. The hour was late, the moon weak, and the streets deserted. To keep himself company, he sang what was nothing more than a medley of drinks, things he’d had and things he wished he’d had. In no particular order (then realized it was alphabetical), he recited: absinthe, beer, cider. No matter how much he tried, he couldn’t get past “c” and rummaged for something else to sing. Sirve me otro, something his grandfather used to sing, came to him. Sirve me otro que tengo la garganta seca. As he sang, he let his legs direct him home in the dark: they’d done it before, and he trusted them completely.
He remembered only one verse and repeated it until he realized he wasn’t singing alone. Somewhere up ahead, in the dusty plain that separated the town from Antonio’s house, a voice was singing the second verse of the song. Mañana beberemos otra vez el mismo vino, el mismo vino.
— FROM Inheritance
BY J.M. Villaverde
“…it’s common even in today’s dance writing to speak of a dancer’s innocence, passion, and spirit without acknowledging the dangerous assumption we’re making. I’ll call this longstanding habit of dance the psychological fallacy: everything we see is the dancer’s own soul, usually laid bare by the skill of the choreographer, which allows her to become what she really is.”
— FROM Notes: Towards an Embodied Art
BY Lightsey Darst
— FROM Portraits & Impressions: An Overview
BY Naoyuki Ogino
My mother cried when I was born: an all-out, heaving fit. She arrived home from the hospital hard-breathed and hysterical: “A girl!” she wailed. “We’ve had a girl!”
It was a calamity that no one had expected, or understood. My brothers stood there bald-faced. “What does it mean?” Nathan, the oldest, had been through this drill so many times: one, two, three, four, five siblings. He hadn’t expected any sort of surprise.
“It means,” my mother told them, “that we’re going to have to work harder now. We’ve got to keep an eye out.” Girls were fragile; that was her main objection. The 1960s was still an era of motherly panic…
— FROM Holes in the Sky
BY Susan Meyers
I don’t know why I’m bothering to write to you. You’re dead, for one thing. All we really share is a love for Glenn Gould and long sentences, probably that’s the same love in different forms. Forms of art. I think it’s mostly because I want to borrow your complaining tone. Really, your skill at complaining and making the reader keep reading, even liking, the diet of groans, the antiphonal maledictions of your characters. Such skill, skill indeed. But immer schimpfend, said a woman in Vienna years ago when I said I liked your work, she didn’t like it, you were always bitching. Maybe some other word, meaning to complain and to blame, at once. I have a lot to complain about, and who else can be trusted to listen but a dead man, a man what’s more who in some sense chose to be a dead man at this very time when I need a living man…
— FROM Letter to Thomas Bernhard
BY Robert Kelly
Galia’s parents were the kind who bought the bar of chocolate before she asked for it. Approaching middle age when they had her, they’d had time to anticipate her needs. They bought shoes before she could walk, a dictionary before she could talk, and a battery of pens, pencils, and paintbrushes when her fingers were still doughy and fat. They purchased her grades in batches at the start of the Bulgarian school year: They could get a whole semester of sixes with a side of pork or wool enough to knit two sweaters. They bought her ticket to the University a year in advance. They bought her valedictory remarks from Petya Docheva, the smartest girl in class. For a ten-minute speech printed on note cards, Petya charged the amount she needed to cover the University entrance exam fee.
BY Cynthia Morrison Phoel
REPRINTED FROM The Gettysburg Review (Volume 19, Number 3, Autumn 2006) WITH THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION
|A poet and writing teacher, ANDRENA ZAWINSKI is an avid shutterbug in her spare time. Her photos (some garnering awards) have appeared in various literary magazines. She is the Features Editor at PoetryMagazine.com.|
An unusual autobiographical film that intimately portrays Japan’s Emperor Hirohito during the period of surrender at the end of World War II. Haunting, dense, minimalist, and poised, actor Ogata’s performance reveals Hirohito as a man surviving at the mercy of history.
— Greta Aart
What is life like inside the famed Carthusian monastery? This poetic film embodies the world of silence that monks have chosen in their quest for spirituality. Hidden deep in the French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries since the 11th century. Like photography in motion, this masterpiece visually defines infinity as time and space.
— Greta Aart
A parody of the gloomy rural tale often found in British fiction (Thomas Hardy and the Brontë novels among them), this is a close and arguably perfect adaptation of Stella Gibbons’ humorous 1932 novel. Recent orphan Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale) moves from London to live with relatives at the farm, where quirky, ragged characters and an old, well-tended doom pervade. Flora, or “Robert Poste’s Child,” as she is called by the fairly medieval Starkadders, feels the need “to tidy” the farm and its inhabitants’ lives. The cast, which includes the great Eileen Atkins and Sir Ian McKellen, is superb, as are the script and art direction. Happy scranletin’ at Tickle Penny’s Corner.
— Sally Molini
This metafictional account of lovers defying cultural norms is a welcome departure from the more common exposés of life behind the veil. An intellectual romance, a winding caper through a web of censorship dating back to ancient Iran, and a self-referential, ingenious, high-spirited novel, rendered faithfully in a rich translation by Sara Khalili.
— Karen Rigby