Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile

Episode 62: Six Degrees of Separation

February 13, 2019

Welcome back to another Painted Bride Quarterly Slush Pile. Today we have an excellent episode with a bit of something different. After a set of introductions in which Marion gets out her glue gun the gang dives right into a piece of non-fiction by Andrew Bertania labeled “The Offering”.  

Andrew Bertaina's work has appeared or is forthcoming in many publications including: The Best American Poetry 2018, The ThreePenny Review, Tin House online, Redivider, Crab Orchard Review and Green Mountains Review. More of his work is available at www.andrewbertaina.com 

After an excellent reading by Kathleen, Tim describes how churches offer less of a sense of community these days; being more concerned with hellfire and crucifixion. Next, Marion describes how the piece offers a sense of timelessness while lamenting on her own exhaustion from various teaching duties. Marion contends that the piece allowed her to compose herself and gave her a sense of fulfillment. Samantha speaks a bit on curation, and how that differs from what is displayed on social media. Before voting Tim mentions how historically specific the piece is, and the idea of somebody that you used to know. Will this piece make the cut? Or will it fade into obscurity?

The Offering

At church this morning, I passed around a collection plate to gather up the scraps of all the people I have known. The bowl was silver and its size was like that of space. Inside, I found: a hike through a hailstorm in Colorado where blue jays where eating other bird’s babies; I found an evening spent from midnight till morning talking about the way that I dreamed of divinity; I found a piece of a tetherball string, still wound tightly around a silver pole; I found a pocket of gummi worms, unopened, thrown in the trash can at recess; I found a small side yard where I dug for dinosaur bones; I found a picture with the words I love you written across the top; I found tears and tears, until I was swimming through all the tears, trying to remember why we are all such bizarre puzzles; I found a slip of paper with someone’s e-mail on it that I threw in the trash; I found a cabin in the woods with a couch and a blanket; I found a picture of you standing with me in the same shirt I wore only two weeks ago, but it was more than a decade ago; I found that the years start to run together like water that you can’t separate out the moments that you used to; I found pictures of people in wedding dresses and tuxedos, people that I used to know, and I smiled at their happy faces, because they made me happy when I knew them; I found a picture of San Francisco, stiff breezes off the bay, always so damn cold, and inside the picture was another picture of a hospital, and inside that hospital a memory of people who are now dust; I found an evening in the mountains of Santa Barbara, and a sunrise too; I found a picture of five of us sitting in a room talking about the ways in which we had failed, the ways in which we’d like to succeed; I found a picture of a piano and green couches; I found a picture of a mountain trail, pine trees and old bear scat; I found a picture of the ocean, of your hand in mine, before we glided together. I found a picture of a tower in Italy, a winding staircase leading to a view of some ancient city.

I spent the evening afterward, sorting all these pictures into specific piles.

Afternoons that could have lasted forever.

Times I went to the ocean.

Women that I have loved.

Women that I did not have the time to get around to loving.

People that I once knew.

People that I used to know and wish I still knew.

Avenues that I have walked down.

Avenues that I wish I had walked down.

Pictures of places that I am not remembering properly.

After I was done organizing these moments, I wrote them all down on the computer screen, which flickered, in and out just like memory does. I know that thousands, millions, far more numerous than the stars, are still missing. I want you to know that I’m trying to remember all of you, despite the futility of it. I’m reaching out to the people I have known and the people I will know. I miss all of you already, so the next time you see me, let’s meet, not was if we were strangers, but as people who have, for longer than they can remember, been very much in love.

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