Photo by the Author

Millions of us now recognize that the physical spaces we inhabit are not passive or ignorable, but intensely active, negotiable, changeable, and fraught with consequences every time we traverse them.

The last eighteen months have forced us to re-set our relationships with every kind of space.

A room that once functioned as an occasional way station becomes a crucible of confined boredom. The metaphor of ‘walls closing in’ springs to life like a scene from a horror movie. …


Robert Gottlieb, one of the most celebrated English-language book editors of the 20th century, once told the Paris Review that “the editor’s relationship to a book should be an invisible one.”

Gottlieb was referring to readers when he said that, not to writers. With all his writers, from Joseph Heller to Toni Morrison, Gottlieb was decidedly, and sensitively, hands-on.

“Somehow, to be helpful,” he said in that same interview, “an editor has to embody authority yet not become possessive or controlling.”

And therein lies the inherent friction between writer and editor. The editor has a definite say in the words…


When preparing for the worst is the very best you can do.

Photo by Syed Ahmad on Unsplash

I’m conducting a thought experiment in real time. The parameters are as follows: People I don’t know will shortly pass judgment about something that matters to me a great deal. The verdict will either be “yes” or “no.”

The topic of their judgment isn’t important. What is important — and the basis for my thought experiment — is how I prepare to receive the judgment itself. Preparation is everything because that’s what will determine my mindset when the news arrives.

If the news is good (a clear “yes”), then preparing for the worst (a clear “no”) will be a no-harm…


Photo by Jason McCann on Unsplash

I was working in a Baltimore newsroom the morning the Twin Towers fell. Memories from that day are distilled into a series of short tableaux — sorted and stacked like a pile of photographs.

First, a buzz of rumors, coalescing into first impressions. Something was happening in New York. Big. Awful. Literally unimaginable. We reporters dashed into our editor’s office to look at television. I clapped a hand over my mouth and began shaking. The body registers truth before the rest of the brain.

I had lived in Manhattan in my twenties, in the Village and on the Upper West…


Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

Paleo-flakes of ground-down mountaintop sharpened by wisdom’s folds leap into her shoe as if seizing the opportunity to hitchhike —

to board another timeline, change up the view, supplant anger with laughter.

Why not ride the rails of the unexpected to a land beyond the first land, to the Aboriginal maker-space where lightning spikes hoard the secrets of language’s origins and thunder robs somebody’s heart of a beat or two —

never mind who —

where the ziggy-ridged footprints of her shoe forever resist appearing, as she is allocated to a space-time yardstick that appears curved from sorrow’s angles,

yet…


Photo by Saad Alfozan on Unsplash

You are naked but for the spangle-flecked blanket, all tiddlywinks, stars and sparkles, enfolding you like a seashell’s whorl,

a superhero’s cape,

an all-purpose excuse for avoiding entanglements that might pierce your flesh or leave even the slightest, faintest trace of purpose or pity or something uncomfortably in between —

a bruise of some kind.

Blanketed, you stride down the avenue like Lady Godiva without her horse, the streaky fabric streaming behind you like a flowing river of golden locks.

Clever how your tender flesh, all hidden and be-layered, denies the witnesses beholding your passage the satisfaction their gnawing hunger…


Photo by USGS on Unsplash

the half-life of uranium
two three five

is seven hundred million years

and to you

this means less than
less than

less than
Emily’s snake parting the grass
like a comb.


Photo by anunay rai on Unsplash

The worst failure of my adult life dwells deep inside my gut forever. I had spent weeks putting together a free event on behalf of an organization I volunteered for. I brought together a music director, singers, actors, and a local celebrity who donated his time. I advertised aggressively.

Finally, the big night arrived. It poured rain. The parking lot was gated and locked. The entrance to the building was unmarked.

Nobody came. Well, two people came, and I knew one of them.

But the show had to go on. I remember exactly how I felt the moment I realized…


Ed Herrera | Freeform | Copyright 2018 Disney Enterprises Inc.

When twenty-something Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens) was fired from her new job as a writer on “Incite,” a sizzling digital news platform invented for the TV drama The Bold Type, I found myself reaching back decades to release a deep sigh of recognition. I could relate. A boss who once fired me from a writing job told me he’d been instructed to hire slow but fire fast.

After getting fired in her first week, Jane wishes she could return to her old job at Scarlet, the self-aware glamour mag she left feeling under-appreciated, ready to stretch her wings, and where…


Photo by Andrey Zvyagintsev on Unsplash

The Danish cookies sit up in their little white paper cups inside the blue tin, waiting for any of the gathered mourners craving a rush of pebbled sugar. The only one who does is the widow herself. Everyone else is too busy showing off their grief.

But the widow knows she had dispensation to do whatever the hell she wants, and she wants a cookie to stave off a sudden touch of lightheadedness resulting not from grief but from feeling as though hydrogen balloons are billowing beneath her black dress.

She came to me.

Biting down on something hard, chewing…

Amy L. Bernstein

I write to learn — how to think, how to live, how to be — in a world that has never made much sense to me. Novels, essays, poems. Whatever the moment demands.

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