We were scattered to the winds, but focused on Erin Adair-Hodges’ “In Barstow” and “The Last Judgment.” Kathy called in from her office at her home in New Jersey, a different shade of blue than her office at Drexel; Marion called in from her home office at NYU Abu Dhabi (where she could still keep an eye on a student-run dance party); Jason used his phone to call from his office in Tribeca; and Joseph called from his office at Drexel, right under a giant poster of the Slush Pile Icon and a poster by The Oatmeal, “How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you.” Jason strongly believes that your cat, should you have one, is always trying to kill you, which led, as these things do, to debate and discussion about cats and dogs, and talks of Tampa, plans to visit Disney World, doin’ shrooms, and the universe!
But now, more about the poet: Erin Adair-Hodges grew up in a small town in New Mexico where there were no trees for treehouses so instead kids dug holes and sat in them for fun. She quit writing poetry for a long time after some people said her stuff was not so good. Since sending out her work for the first time in 2014, she's been awarded The Georgia Review's Loraine Williams prize and a Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe scholarship; her first book, Let's All Die Happy, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett prize and will be published in October 2017 as part of the Pitt Poetry Series. The moral of the story is some people don't know what they're talking about.
“In Barstow” was a great read with brazen imagery, and we loved discussing it. Next, Kathleen read “The Last Judgment” for us, and really enjoyed the delicious words of the poem. Listen in to hear our discussions about Erin’s poetry.
Jason revealed to us that while he was reading up on Erin, he found out that she won his favorite poetry prize, the Agnes Lynch Starrett prize for her first poetry book, published by University of Pittsburgh Press.
After discussing Erin’s work, we talked about Marion’s experience in the Dead Sea, and the pros and cons of technology in the modern day when it comes to meaningful experiences (naturally!). Kathleen asked Marion if she felt different after floating in the Dead Sea, and she was excited to tell us that yes, she was! Then she was disconnected before she could tell us why and we could only hope it wasn’t Divine Intervention. Listen in to catch the start of the story, and tune in next time to see if Marion was raptured or if the evil of technology got her instead.
Important question: Are cats capable of being just as loving as dogs can be, or are they killing machines? Tweet us @PaintedBrideQ with the #PBQSlushPile and give us your thoughts!
Present at the Editorial Table:
Kathleen Volk Miller
I was in-between emotions,
the night a tube sock
of doom! Well probably just
boredom! Also that heat!
It was the hinge of my life
maybe, how do I know
until the end what the middle was
and why not that night in Barstow
the butt crack of California
in a Super 8 alone reading a book
of Jing Si Aphorisms found suffocating
the Bible—Even the tiniest bolt
must be screwed on tightly
in order to perform its best
it said and I needed comfort but all
I got was stuck on screwed
which is what I wanted but also how
I felt that summer I did not move
to Portland again, the summer
of almosts, crab grass choking
the hyssop and sage with its homely
greed and who can blame crab grass
for seeing something beautiful
then stepping on its throat.
There are so many tiny murders.
It’s why handjobs were invented
and I am a scientist inventing
new ways to be lonely.
I get bonuses every year.
That year, July was pressing
its mean heat to the door, listening
for a heartbeat inside and I thought
how wonderful to be wanted
through all the meat straight
to the marrow and July said yes
July said whatever it is you are thinking
I am thinking too so I tore off my clothes
to get closer, the book of aphorisms yelling
If we can reduce our desires there is nothing
really worth getting upset about but I don’t like
being told what to do and out of spite
started wanting everything I saw—
popcorn ceilings! Unremovable
hangers! Stains of strangers’ failures!
The room shrugged. The shag carpet
yawned and swallowed my name.
The Last Judgment
I come to you in all seriousness, reverent
as a turtleneck—I am graceless but I am not depraved.
I went to synagogues for a year because I had lost God
and was trying to find Him, following clues
with my comically oversized magnifying glass held up
to my giant eye, lashes collapsing like jaws, grilling congregants
under the naked lightbulb of my longing. I kept just
missing him. He went thataway. Maybe I wanted to be Jewish
to be done with Jesus but not yet break up
with God, as if moving into the guest room but leaving
my clothes in the other closet, that version of myself
a hallway away. I am the ghost of the house I live in—
old me-phantoms surround, fuck around with the furniture,
make all the mirrors tell the truth. One night I have a dream
my husband leaves and the nightmare part is that I’m
relieved and so I finally see who I am. It’s not
that I got used to loneliness, only that it was too late
to learn anything else. The first time a man touched me
it was to lower me into the water and raise me out,
new fish, the sin picked clean. I was saved, as if I could be
spent—saved, I saved myself for God, or if not God
then a man God sent, posing us toward each other
in a desert diorama, His Holy Homework,
but the first two boys I loved are dead, so at night
I give myself to them, unzip the hollows, usher them into
the pitch. The books inside me are blank. I birth the boys
as my son, whom I love and whom I try to forgive.