On the day of the inquiry, my grandmother stayed home in her apartment, drank red wine on her couch, and watched back-to-back episodes of The Passionate Eye on CBC and growled, ‘All those goddamn people are crooked anyhow,’ and then she ordered in Chinese food and fell asleep for centuries. At the inquiry the man running the show walked to the front of the room and said that he had lost our book of names. My grandmother kept the list of names in the guest room, bottom-left corner of the bookcase. She opened the book and said, ‘This is my last birthday,’ and fell asleep again, while her apartment building rotated on the bird spine of a sundial. I went to the inquiry but never told her. She wouldn’t have liked it. The man at the front said without memories there is no past and furthermore everything you need to know is on The Passionate Eye on CBC. I went back home, hands empty. There was no inquiry in the place where her mother was from because they burned the Jewish men on the beaches and the Jewish women were the smoke. ‘Do you know how to name children?’ my grandmother said to me. ‘You take the initials of their dead relative and use them again and again so that the letters are never lost.’ This is written in a secret language. I often slept in her guest room except when I slept on the couch in the living room. I realized that the upholstery was patterned with her initials when I woke up to find her initials tattooed into my cheek. Alphabet welts, they faded but stayed.
Top Reads of 2019
Her Left Hand, The Darkness
Alison Smith on the week she spent with Ursula K. Le Guin.
Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova
This surreal tale from Haruki Murakami circles a Charlie Parker album that never existed. Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel.
A monastic community persists after a ‘great chaos and collapse’ in this story by the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate, Olga Tokarczuk. Translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft
Two poems from Rebecca Tamás’ collection WITCH.
On High Heels and Lotus Feet
Summer Brennan on high heels, foot-binding, and our ongoing performances of gender.