Sarah Wrote That

A good October for maples—it must have been. I did not think: next October will be faded.I thought: this is October in this town.Kitchen staff skateboarded the two a.m. parking spotsof the restaurant that would be sued out of the next year.My friend had so much furniture (she admitted)that she had not vacuumed since moving in.Only happy sounds rang up the pipesfrom the apartment she would vacate by springI was already planning poorly for,in a red chair on a Friday with no parties,taking a mood for an era.

A good October for maples—it must have been.
I did not think: next October will be faded.
I thought: this is October in this town.
Kitchen staff skateboarded the two a.m. parking spots
of the restaurant that would be sued out of the next year.
My friend had so much furniture (she admitted)
that she had not vacuumed since moving in.
Only happy sounds rang up the pipes
from the apartment she would vacate by spring
I was already planning poorly for,
in a red chair on a Friday with no parties,
taking a mood for an era.

Wires dip along the road home from summers in which I traveled more. (Syntax—the code to the soul, or a code to a soul in a September mood. The paragraph ends with the time machine diagrammed, good for a few uses before it seems a formula: noun + verb + adverbial phrase(s) + adverbial phrase with temporally slipped modifier.)

I have been letting revision take all the attention I can shift to it. The command line program top (run, where else, in the Mac terminal setting named ‘novel’) would show one process spawning multiple threads, other processes stuck or sleeping, network down, little time idle.

This past weekend I moved the last of the chapters drawn from my MFA thesis out of my ‘current’ folder. Not done. But settled for now. I’m happy with them, happy to think mostly about chapters with fewer drafts behind them. Along with relief and the unfamiliar pleasure of reading them without wanting to noodle (much), I have a strangely solid, entirely erroneous sense of the ‘finished’ sections as finally approaching what I wanted all along. Maybe they do, in the roughest outline of an arc. The first draft was a mess, the second tidier about its false starts and thin relationships and leaden scenes, the third a muddle of logistics. How I believed in those mistakes.

I have become much more patient with, interested in events not only as engines or catalysts for fictional motion but as solids texturing the pages they’re on, and reverberating, no day only itself.

In Burger’s Daughter Nadine Gordimer signals the novel’s final direction not with Rosa Burger’s decision (that comes later, reasoned in retrospect), but by, in four words, shifting the time from which the narration comes. Rosa has a late night phone argument with her adopted brother:

Because Rosa Burger had once cried for joy she came out of the bathroom and stalked about the flat, turning on all the lights as she went, sobbing and clenching her jaw, ugly, soiled, stuffing her fist in her mouth. She slept until the middle of the next day: it was another perfect noon. This spell of weather continued for some short time yet. So for Rosa Burger England will always be like that; tiers of shade all down the sunny street…

“Some short time yet”—what a heart breaker. Because we know, from previous events, what the rest of the time will be.

I have an essay about Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in BW/DR Magazine’s July “Americana” issue:

Senator Jefferson Smith—the surname of American ubiquity spliced onto that of America’s founding rhetorician.
Senator Idealist Everyman goes to take up his position in a capital populated by flacks, bosses, hacks—cynics who went there for personal advancement, financial gain and the security of acceptance into the great fraternity-sorority of those who understand the rules and play by them. Of the machine-made men, only Senator Paine—the senior senator from Smith’s state, and one of Smith’s boyhood heroes—seems troubled by a divergence between actions and professed beliefs. Paine participates in the machine to stay in the Senate. He doesn’t like thinking he is in the Senate for the machine.


Illustration: Brianna Ashby

I have an essay about Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in BW/DR Magazine’s July “Americana” issue:

Senator Jefferson Smith—the surname of American ubiquity spliced onto that of America’s founding rhetorician.

Senator Idealist Everyman goes to take up his position in a capital populated by flacks, bosses, hacks—cynics who went there for personal advancement, financial gain and the security of acceptance into the great fraternity-sorority of those who understand the rules and play by them. Of the machine-made men, only Senator Paine—the senior senator from Smith’s state, and one of Smith’s boyhood heroes—seems troubled by a divergence between actions and professed beliefs. Paine participates in the machine to stay in the Senate. He doesn’t like thinking he is in the Senate for the machine.

Illustration: Brianna Ashby

"To Catch a Thief" appeared in Jellyfish 7.0 (issue currently offline).

"To Catch a Thief" appeared in Jellyfish 7.0 (issue currently offline).


François was working on a baseball campaign, the design and effects for it, two thirty second spots and a sixty, and fifteens cut down from the thirties. The director and his producer, on the couch at the back of François’s room, were on the phone most of the afternoon arranging the director’s next shoot. By six o’clock they had dinner reservations. The receptionist phoned—their car was downstairs. Behind François, the bag-rustling end of the workday—their workday—quickened and zipped shut.
He swiveled from the effects console. “Before you go.”

I’m delighted to have a story adapted from a bit of my novel up on Hobart.
Image from a 2004 Brooklyn Cyclones game.

François was working on a baseball campaign, the design and effects for it, two thirty second spots and a sixty, and fifteens cut down from the thirties. The director and his producer, on the couch at the back of François’s room, were on the phone most of the afternoon arranging the director’s next shoot. By six o’clock they had dinner reservations. The receptionist phoned—their car was downstairs. Behind François, the bag-rustling end of the workday—their workday—quickened and zipped shut.

He swiveled from the effects console. “Before you go.”

I’m delighted to have a story adapted from a bit of my novel up on Hobart.

Image from a 2004 Brooklyn Cyclones game.

Apples Horses Brides

route9litmag:

[first appeared in Parcel]

by Sarah Malone

By August I could only sleep at steep angles, midday, when the town dozed off for blocks. The window fan helicoptered me to a grass hut, and reporters in flak jackets filed the evening news from the high school lab where Dennis and I had met. Our teacher bent over me, horn-rimmed, tortoise-shelled, and I didn’t know what I had done.

In the morning when Dennis woke beside me I had been knotted awake for hours. Buses creaked toward Schenectady and the triplicate perfume of invoices he’d said I never had to fingernail apart again. None of the names we liked—Lisa, Peter, Jennifer, Michael, Paul, Christine—belonged to anyone.

“How about Chet?” Dennis called from the kitchen. I heard him: verse, refrain, bridge, proud Mary keep on boiling—boiling. He peered around the doorframe, his moustache a drooped grin.

“You goose,” I said.

“I’m singing you the perfect egg.”

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I’m so pleased to have this story in Route 9's Alumni Omnibus issue alongside Christy, Brian, Hilary, Anne, and so many others.

[a bit of this story’s evolution]

Last Snow

All day we’d made sure to be ready. Those who believed in umbrellas in snow leaned tightly fastened umbrellas against their desks, and those already irked by the hat hair the forecast gave them an eighty percent chance of having by dinner time tripped over the umbrellas and handed them to their owners, saying, “You do know it’s snow, not rain?” In hallway conversations we were “much winter” and “not very March” to those we regularly volleyed references with, and though we would be the first to call our jokes lame and done, so done if questioned, so was winter, lame, and done, so done, except it wasn’t.

“So glad this is the last snow of the season,” Mindy said, and her supervisor said, “Right?” That was in the ten AM editorial meeting in the eighth floor conference room, which Mindy had to excuse herself from for a meeting with the Ad Sales director who was on fourteen and wouldn’t have heard Mindy’s line yet, and never would hear it from Editorial, who he’d only communicated with by email since Editorial had gotten the retina displays they claimed they needed. As though the Ad Sales director’s CPMs were easy on the eye! “The nice thing is, after today we’ll have no more storms,” Mindy said, mixing it up a little. The Ad Sales director Could. Not. Wait.

Downstairs, smokers shivered, and when Mindy went out to bring back lunch she thought soup because the next week, when the air would be sweet with earth that things were growing in, she would not want soup in the way she wanted to sip warmth and think of snow faltering past the window of some office with a window.

At three o’clock there was still the pre-snow damp and featureless overcast, and it was March and the light didn’t tip toward dusk until we were snapping our parkas, pushing useless umbrellas into bags they fit no better than they ever had, forgetting hats, somewhere dropping one glove, and God knows not going back into the building to not find the glove and get caught when the snow began after all. “At least after this storm, you won’t need gloves,” Mindy said, and, “I can never get a pair of gloves through the winter.” She couldn’t have said how exaggerated that might have been. But better to be someone who lost gloves, so the stranger in the elevator could go into the bright evening with the thought of having lost only the one.

Hunters strode the woods behind my house

I found their shells
plastic empty red
and a right of way warning
rusted waist-high in vines
I could not pronounce PETROLEUM
I was scared not of the pipeline
but of the sign

I found an atlas in brick cities
nothing had been replaced
nothing was intact
I trusted my father’s moustache
and my mother with everything else
until the cold fled and the geese stayed
and places came from movies just like this one
and a dog named Molson ran away with the bird
and took our windy cries for cheering

I have my own way of standing half astride today
you must not think it’s a thing to get over
if so then so is everything
some other time
some other game
we would bring enough
for everyone again

Now it’s meanwhile
tall ships crowd the inbound tide
indoor fireworks are due
we have been in our fumes two centuries
I am certain
I was present
and absent when spars collided
and I am waiting for the sails
I caught this afternoon

This afternoon, a Cooper’s hawk landed in the grass below my kitchen window; eyed my direction, and then the rocks where chipmunks scamper, flew to a pine branch, and off through the lower branches—two minutes, by my Exif data, from landing to takeoff, everything abrupt, and done with incredible ease and precision, and no interest in anything that wasn’t lunch.