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Essays in Anthologies

“Pilgrimages to the Edge” appears in this collection.

“Stitches in Nine” appears in this collection.

“The Sound of a Flinch” appears in this collection.

“The Breathless Char” appears in this collection.

Selected Essays

“Forsooth and Forsythia”, Funny Pearls – I still have one official practice book, my name inscribed in a loopy 11-year-old hand, with occasional accent marks over syllables or penciled notes to help me remember tricky words. The edition is from 1970 for the 43rd National Bee, nearly a quarter-century before ESPN first broadcast this ‘educational competition’. I was a spelling-bee-wannabe(e), 36 years before Akeelah came along and made spelling bees seem almost cool for a minute.

“When the World Was a Grocery Store”, The RavensPerch  – Today, grocery stores know more than we wish they did about our lives, our preferences, our purchasing patterns, even our bank accounts. But before scanners, credit and debit cards, and data analysis were invented, grocers like my grandfather knew even more about their customers. They knew them by name and, as neighbors, they knew a great deal about their personal lives.

“Suburban Soundscape”, The RavensPerch – Rain fell, and wind blew—familiar sounds, but this April was an especially cruel one for storms. I felt bad weather keenly, since the only escape I got from solitude most days (not counting online and telephonic encounters) was to take a brisk walk (or two, or three). When storms came, they were doozies; the wind shuddered and rasped, sometimes for days at a time. Windows shook. Birds fluttered in and out of the gutters; I could almost hear them sipping stale rainwater. April 2020.

“Everything I Need to Know I Am Still Learning from Mary Richards,” a podcast available on PenDust Radio – I kept watching those reruns until Mary and the gang came full circle, back to their now-famous group hug. With Monday-through-Friday episodes, they sped through the 1970s in a time-warping way, even as they stayed stuck in the past.

“Bogside Tutorial” in Global City Review – We were greeted by a ruddy-faced, middle-aged man with a thick, well-worn binder tucked under one arm. He introduced himself as Michael. We introduced ourselves, too. And, as if to establish our credentials—or at least our willingness to slog through Derry in the rain, Angie and I explained our familial connections to his corner of the world. Michael smiled at our enthusiasm, then led us into the Guildhall and upstairs to a large room, where our second history lesson of the day began.

“Honor Among Commuters” in Emrys Journal Online/Medium – It’s amazing how many bad memories the mind can conjure in an emergency–which to me, this had just become.

“Shall We Dance?” in The RavensPerch  – We drifted toward the dance floor in ones and twos. We found each other—brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, in-laws and cousins—in the midst of all the other happy people gathered for the wedding of Erin and James.

“The Granny, the Grocer and the Cobbler” in Bio Stories – Mom’s voice wavered on the word “granny,” and even from 3,000 miles away I could tell there was an urgency to this call. I knew something about her discovery didn’t quite add up. My grandfather left Ireland after his mother died—that much I knew, and little more about his early life. How could my mother have a grandmother who was still alive, a grandmother none of the Irish relatives had mentioned before?

“Not Too Much to Ask” in The Voices Project – Regardless of the occasion, we all know what’s coming. At some point, over the chatter and the laughter; over the clatter of cutlery and plates being passed around; over the scraping of chairs and the running of water as the teakettle is filled, Mom will lift her voice above it all and issue a singular, regal command, sometimes with one arm raised above her head for emphasis:“Bring me the sun, the moon, and the stars.

“Spring Feast” in Hedge Apple, the literary magazine of Hagerstown Community College – So on the first warm spring day of this year, as happy as I am just sipping a cup of tea and solving a crossword puzzle on my newly re-opened porch, I know what must be done. I’ve been saving a recipe I discovered over the winter for just this occasion. As quickly as I can slip into sneakers, I am off, on foot, to the local produce shop. Two words form a mantra in my head as I walk: Asparagus, arugula. Asparagus, arugula. Asparagus, arugula. Blessedly, the produce shop has both—the bright thin stalks and the dark green leaves. The woman at the register nods her approval at the canvas tote I brought along for my vegetables. Ten minutes later, I’m home, happily cluttering up the kitchen counter with everything I need for my impromptu spring feast.

“When Someone Knows” in TheRavensPerch – A flurry of arrivals, une carafe de vin rouge, and the play begins.

“Leaving Inishmurray” in The RavensPerch – The ruins of the ancient monastery had made quite an impression. The blessing altar, the cursing altar, the beehive cells, the cemetery, the holy well, the two small churches. But as we left Inishmurray, I found myself more taken with the recent ruins—the roofless, crumbling stone and concrete walls from fifteen small homes dating to the 19th century, but lived in as recently as 1948.

“Jake’s Sweet Blue Ride” in SNReview – Jake was not in the mood for his morning ritual.  And who could blame him for balking at having his bladder emptied through a catheter, being strapped into leg braces then helped into his clothes, being served a breakfast that most likely would not stay down, having to swallow the pink and blue medicines and then puff three times on an inhaler?  Along the way his short blond hair was styled into “spikes” and many smears were wiped from his eyeglasses.  And all before 7:30, so Jake could pull himself into the bright blue wheelchair with a Power Ranger backpack draped over the handles, then roll through the kitchen door and down a ramp to the compact yellow school bus with a hydraulic lift.