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Articles tagged "Childhood"

From “Photograms”

Our country has no more warriors only timeworn fig trees beaten thoroughly by the thousand winds of our plight. The barefooted angels with pathetic faces at the bottom of our ramparts die with each new light. The scent of childhood is now nowhere to be found no chance of nursery rhymes or sunshowers what happened to the hours of ancient romance our dreamy obsession with Al-Buraq’s powers? Oh that horse-woman with the mane flowing longer than the clouds over our houses crumbling...

Some Other Zoo

It was as though she knew exactly where she had to go, as though it was an agreed appointment. She raised her arm to take my hand, pulled gently—she did almost everything gently—and I followed her. She led me to her mother’s car (her mother was not around), and I helped her up into the child seat. “So, off to the zoo.” “Yes,” she said. “Eagle! Lion!” The zoo seemed to be empty. Alone, in the middle of the main path, a roadsweeper was...

from “With Absolute Passion”

Days drift away slowly and quietly deep inside Guatemala. No inner musings. No pondering or ideas. Just a numbing silence, which reminds me of Buddhists and their thoughts about beginners’ minds that are forever capable of wonder. There’s something here that eludes my grasp . . . But in the snapshot instant when the plunging frigidity of Lake Atitlán pitches me into the arms of another reality, I suddenly understand. Perhaps the Mayas really do suspend this land from a...

Conjunctions

Doves! Doves flying on a horizon of signs and metaphors. I can never hear the word “doves,” nor think of it unexpectedly, without picturing them flying as if they were the horizon's capricious whim, their movements vexing me every time I approached from a distance. Their exact number did not live long in my memory. I used to count the doves hovering in pairs, like married couples, over the playground that I cut across on my way home from school. I only felt the...

From the Archives: Spring Comes to the Mountains

In this endless winter, when spring seems distant as the sun, we turn to Mario Rigoni Stern's luminous "Spring," beautifully translated by Gregory Conti, from our March 2007 issue. Rigoni Stern opens with his childhood memories of winter's end in the Italian mountains—"in the month of March, when the thaw opened up the passes"—and the keen anticipation of spring; with his grandfather he writes a postcard: "To the Head of the Black Swifts | Alexandria, Egypt, Africa:...

The Baghdad Clock

I never feared them nor did they ever do anything to frighten me. They were there, next to the stove, mixed up with the crackling of firewood, the taste of freshly baked bollos, the to-and-fro of the old women’s skirts. I never feared them, perhaps because in my imagination they were pale and beautiful, listening as we did to the stories that took place in nameless hamlets, waiting for the right moment to let themselves be heard, to whisper to us wordlessly: “We’re here,...

The Last Day on Earth

There seemed to be no one left in the barrio now and the windows were bare and the wind stirred through gates and the rats crossed noiseless rooms and the smell of the honeysuckle was fading. At night there were neither the cries of a sleepless child nor the clatter of dishes deep in the kitchens. In the gardens, it was not the sound of fountains but those of a dry, broken-off branch, a well's pulley creaking in the wind, an orphaned cat whispering an astonished meow and the acacias...

The Devil Lives in Lisbon

On Mondays Mother always got up at five o’clock. She would leave half an hour after getting out of bed, once she had gathered up all the breakfast crockery, and then, looking at us again with a smile, she would not be back home till Saturday. When she’d come back down the same path that she had gone up on Monday. Nieves was seven at the time. I was six. Elisa, just three. Mother worked as a schoolteacher. In La Comba, a small village in the mountains. The little bus would come...

I Remember

I remember the summer storms during the rainy season when the wind flung open the windows and lifted the contents of the rooms in a swirling dance. Streaks of lightening lit up the gray sky and the thunder was like the angry scream of the entire universe, unleashed right there, in that very spot. I remember, between the crashing of the thunder and the flashes of lightening, old Haimanot hiding under the ironing table in the living room, alternately shouting, "Wai! Gud reichiben! Oh God,...

The Christmas Tree

Someone had placed a giant tree in the hotel lobby, a pine made of unrecyclable plastics. We’re in a strange land and Christmas is nearing. We see these things with a particular disdain, a particular apathy of islanders steeped in a system that alternates beauty with politics. Christmas, for us, is nothing more than faint nostalgia, our mothers’ childhoods, the tree in the corner of a color photo from cousins in Miami, the wool purse brought by someone from Russia when the...

The Iron Caterpillar

Strange phenomena can strike such dread into human hearts that I ask you to believe in the one that knotted the stomach of the young diver named Paolo, who noticed the haze of the tunnel when he was returning from a day of fishing . . . Shortly after stowing his fishing gear, mask, snorkel, and flippers in a big, army-green sports bag, and proudly hooking the day’s catch of black jacks and red snappers onto the steel tip of his harpoon—which he immediately placed on his...

The Hole in the Garden, Part III

“Hello?” There was no answer. I put the phone back down. I turned to go back to the kitchen and it rang again. I picked it up, wordlessly this time. Again nothing. As soon as I hung up it rang again. After this happened a few more times I just unplugged the phone. Quiet at last. I took the leftovers from the freezer and put them in the microwave. I didnʼt bother trying to figure out who might have been calling or why. Maybe it was a telemarketer, bitter because I had...

Tana

The rain began that morning. Tana was coming home from school. Thursday afternoons they had sewing class, and now on the bus, she realized this was the first day she'd left school in the dark. It would go on like this for months. It was cold out, raining, and the bus, jammed with boys and girls, with students, was steaming hot. The windows were fogged up; someone had managed to pry one open, and Tana, already sweaty, was freezing. She thought: I might get sick, stay home a week. She...

Good Women and Bad Women

We never discovered how they found us out. My brother insisted that Márgara had stumbled across them accidentally while she was putting clean sheets on the bed, and that she had squealed on us. I suspected something different. On a number of occasions I had surprised my mother going through my drawers, or secretly reading my diary—it was more like an exercise book of notes and drawings and doodles—or stealthily lifting the other receiver while I was talking to a friend on...

The Hole in the Garden, Part II

The woman showed up exactly one month to the day after the pigʼs arrival. I had just finished cleaning the house and was thinking about feeding the pig before I started waxing the floors when the doorbell rang. The woman on the intercom video screen looked like she was some kind of salesperson. I decided to pretend I wasnʼt home. Then, however, she leaned forward and brought her lips—caked thick with lipstick—up to the microphone. “Iʼm Hanamura, I work...

January 19th

Hildur is seven. She says when people die they lie motionless in a coffin –she shows me how–forever in heaven. She says she’s preparing herself. She says she will pick a very comfortable position. © Sigurbjorg Þrastardottir. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2011 by T. Zachary Cotler. All rights reserved.

Dolls and Angels

Hannan didn’t realize how late it was or even that it was late. Today was different. It was an extraordinary moment in every respect. Her mother was no longer the woman she knew, and the neighborhood wasn’t the same one that she had always found outside her doorway. At dawn, before foot traffic picked up or the rusty metal barriers of the shops were raised, her mother had quit her bed, which was located to the left of the door. Hannan remembers that this was after the dawn...

Is This How Women Grow Up?

It is all a matter of décor Change your bed change your body What’s the use since it is still Me betraying myself Indolent and scattered And my shadow undresses In the arms of girls, all alike, Where I thought I’d found a country —“Is this how men live” Louis Aragon August 1994. The afternoon seemed endless, the heat relentless. She was stretched out on the bed, hardly dressed, reading, smoking, splashing herself with water, dropping off...

The Night Sucks

Jerry Luján, a boy in a visor, is walking in a ditch alongside Menaul Street today.  It’s Tuesday, five o’clock in the afternoon, and night is already upon him.  In Albuquerque it gets dark like this, out of the blue, as if someone has suddenly yanked the tablecloth from off a table.  Jerry Luján dawdles with his hands in the pockets of his windbreaker.  We are in the land of trocas and truck-gear. Meanwhile, in the center of Burque, the...

Two Faces

Eyes closed, I see again the delicate edens growing in the frost on the windowpanes. Luminous garlands woven into the snow-covered railings during the festive season to celebrate the birth of a child-god. The bloody flame of the burner glowing red through the window of the oil-fired boiler cast onto the walls glimmers of the eternal cremation of souls. Our mother’s wigs made from the hair of Filipinas killed during the war. Our socks which she mended with eelskin. The crickets our...

Making a Scene

When I was little I watched a lot of movies, because my mother was always making shirts, my father was painting his pictures to sell, and so to let them work in peace, my grandmother, my mother’s mother, would take us to the Stadium movie house and keep us there, me and my brothers, for two movies back-to-back, the four o’clock and the six o’clock shows. I really liked watching my mother cut along the line to the paper pattern pinned to the cloth, and I liked it even...

Slow Freight

Are we poor, Dad? Yes, Son, we’re poor. Not very. But poor enough. Why are we poor, Dad? I don’t know. Become somebody took it? Took what? I don’t know. Tibi Kárász said we’re so poor, at our house the mice die of hunger pangs. Tibi Kárász doesn’t know shit. He also said I’m so scrawny, when I blink, the skin slides off my glans. Tell Tibi Kárász I’m gonna kick his ass. And I’m...

The Toad Prince

I am standing in front of the mirror, afraid that I am bad. I am ugly because I am bad. I am a toad because the wicked witch has cast a spell on me. That’s why my head is like a toad. Jewish. Squash it! There are clean people: peasants, Germans, soldiers. They wear boots so they won’t touch a toad. They will squash me with their boots. Even the girls. The little princesses will turn me away in neat succession. I am not a human being. What a malheur. They won’t...

Kornél Esti’s Bicycle Or: The Structure Of The World

As a rule, Esti looked up to his father as he did to God, but when he bought him that certain bicycle, that clinched it. The way an atheist looks up to God. Easily gliding similes never give the fate (or destiny? or is that the same?) of the world a satisfactory design, for there are atheists by the dozen, martial-like, resigned, terrified, curious, just like God, who is martial-like, resigned, terrified, curious. Possibly, God should be written with a small g here, but the truth,...

from “The Revenge of Capablanca”

The match was held in an arena, semicircular in shape, behind the town hall. They set the table and chessboard at the center of the back line. The audience crammed in up front. Most people sat on wood and wrought-iron bleachers. The younger men stood at the back. The children took over the empty patch of ground between the first row of bleachers and the two challengers. But not one child moved or made a sound. This was the same place, two years before, that their fathers took them to...

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