Our November flesh bows

to the wind, we are reflected in a darker light.

Soft resilience of bone and temperament, the

ice bears down and the blankets pile high and you

reach for me for warmth and I will give you

what is left.

Checkmate in five

The conversation between the sheets was adequate but hardly seismic. She studied him as he slept. He wore a conquering smirk on his face. His shoulders and hairless chest were gym-perfect, but that ridiculous hipster aesthetic, the facial hair, the man-bun, turned him into a Lost Boy. It was all an act, all of it, from the seduction, to the greedy kisses in the hallway, to the fumble of buttons and zippers. A one-nighter, and this is what was left: a sleeping boy-man, with sunshine pouring over his face like honey, and the critical mass of anxiety. She was the other woman now. And this boy, this boy, he showed her his ring right off, displayed it like a puffed-up boy scout, ready to earn his merit badge for Junior Infidelity. He dared her to snub him. She used that softness of mind and turned it against him, checkmate in five. He’d be faltering at the door before he finished his ristretto, wondering how his life turned to ash.

She ran her hand against her thigh, smooth pink violated by thick scar. Something old, something deep. He didn’t notice.

Simply Extraordinary – Misfortune and Strife in Steven Baird’s Ordinary Handsome

An amazing review for Ordinary Handsome from She’s an extraordinary author and I’ve been privileged to read and enjoy her work for quite some time. I’m humbled and thrilled by this unexpected review.

Ordinary Handsome is available here.

Crumpled Paper Cranes

ordinaryhandsomeiiI first read Ordinary Handsome a little more than a year ago. Admittedly, I felt quite overwhelmed upon finishing the book, giving it a second, third, and fourth read. Not only did the book leave me breathing deeply, scouting for the aroma of old black tea, the imprisoning honesty of spilled liquor, salty dried blood staining dusty fabric, and the freshness of limes that serve disturbingly more than just a culinary purpose. Steven Baird’s novel demanded my full attention, and even though I was absolutely absorbed each time I read it in five hours’ time, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. His writing is exquisite, the subject matter is temporally relevant, and there are characters to both pity and loathe. Ordinary Handsome, in its grit and precision, tells of extraordinary misfortune and strife.

Baird illustrates the backdrop poetically. As we walk through the streets of…

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The only thing to do

From the Paris Review, by Dan Piepenbring

“The creative impulse is such a fragile thing, but we have to create now. We owe it to ourselves to do the work. I want to encourage you. If you aspire to write, put aside all the niceties and sureties about what art should be and write something that makes the scales fall from our eyes. Forget the tired axioms about showing and telling, about sense of place—any possible obstruction—and write to destroy complacency, to rattle people, to help people, first and foremost yourself. Lodge your ideas like glass shards in the minds of everyone who would have you believe there’s no hope. And read, as often and as violently as you can. If you have friends, as I do, who tacitly believe that it’s too much of a chore to read a book, just one fucking book, from start to finish, smash every LCD they own. This is an opportunity. There’s too much at stake now to pretend that everything is okay.”

The hive

The streets were never lush, let’s get that out of the way. But there were wide leafy canopies in the summer. There was the slanginess of pavement, the jangle of noise. There were twilight games of kick-the-can, there were men in khaki shorts who camped in canvas lawn chairs, talking baseball and air conditioners they couldn’t afford. There were delivery trucks belching their way to McLaughlin’s corner store. There were stacks of newspapers tied down with yellow rope on the corners of Briar and Chatham Streets. Here, yes, there was a vivaciousness of people populating their hive, and if you turned your head you might miss something. The ice cream truck came by every Wednesday at two o’clock, chiming the illusion of magic, and kids scrambled for nickels and pennies before it drove away, soon, too soon, hurry! There was the familiarity of time and light, and those well-trod paths between screen door and street, and kids burst from the doors wearing the same homogeneous tennis shoes. Everything about it was home, an insulated place of being and belonging. And then it fades, fades like the heart, fades like that first awkward kiss, fades like the wooden seats of a swing set. It never leaves, but it’s never the same. You come back twenty, twenty-five years later and it’s an old photograph that doesn’t line up with what you know. It’s choking weeds and peeling vinyl siding, and the voices are different, the names are different, the contours of familiarity are different. The bones have shifted from what you remember. It’s lonely, but maybe that’s okay. Still, though, it aches to recognize that it’s all gone and that the only place where it survives is in your head. And remember: the streets were never that lush.

The secret language

Quiet is its own language, said Cam. A secret language of pauses and contradictions. He said it was an arrogant language, codified especially to throw the listener off balance. It took place in the head, and couldn’t be properly translated. “So fucking knock it off.”

I don’t know why it bothers you,” said Lil. “It’s just me.”

Because it’s not a shared language. It’s selfish.”

But it’s just me, she said, but he was still talking.

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