In Goldie Goldbloom’s new novel, On Division, a middle-aged Chassidic woman grapples with her faith when a new pregnancy keeps reminding her of the way her gay son was mistreated by the community.
The novel starts at a crucial point in Surie’s life: already an outsider in the community for having a gay son, she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. It isn’t acceptable for a woman of her age to have marital relations, and she knows that news of the pregnancy will bring shame on her family. For a number of reasons, she chooses not to tell anyone, not even her husband. The bulk of the novel deals with the moral quandary behind her choice.
Goldbloom has a knack for description. The novel offers a glimpse into one of the tightly closed Chassidic communities in Williamsburg. It is so richly detailed in its description of Williamsburg, I was surprised to learn the author was Australian; from reading the book, I thought she could have grown up in Brooklyn. The book takes us through almost a year, covering the way each holiday is prepared for. “In mid-March, the young men began to return home from their faraway yeshivos and mesivtas and kollels for Passover. School was let out from the beginning of Nissan and the streets filled with children pushing other children in strollers or carrying home dripping paper packages of fish for their mothers. Older girls who would soon be engaged walked hand in hand, their heads close together, their thick braids down their backs, swaying. The smells of bleach and polish wafted from the open windows.” Continue reading
“Stay with us, stay with us,” the swarm of ghouls yelled at me just after dawn on Halloween morning.
Witches had snatched my three-hour-old baby, taking her so I could not see her. Her cries from being torn away from my breast tore through me, but the ghouls told my husband, who now held our newborn child, to get the hell out of the room.
The doctor who’d cut me open just a few hours before to birth our baby, now pressed with the heels of both hands on my newly stapled belly, which was bleeding out. A gush of blood, blood pressure dropping to thirty over forty. When the numbers match up, the body is dead.
The rest of the goblins, I remember, discussed a machine, some machine they wanted to arrive to help me survive. The nurse was a minute away, they said. The drug she would give me would cause bloating, and they had to give me someone else’s blood. “I’m just tired,” I complained. I did not know I was dying. When she arrived, she wore a Nurse Ratchet costume, with a tight white tunic, bright white leggings and a small blue-and-white striped paper hat bobby-pinned in her coiffed blond hair.
Elegy and Praise Hymn
If ever I dream
of the crooked trees
with green around the trunks,
dripping water from their twigs,
I’ve found the spot
for my burial.
It’s quiet in October
on the narrow street
in the suburbs
with leaves resting under
I go running at four,
and travel through dusk air
down these empty streets
lined with swollen branches
of arthritic trees –
dry as they wait for the moon.
Dry and there is water in my breath only.
Dry so the leaves crunch
as my feet hit pavement
until I reach the dead
end by the woods
where the sun is dimmed, and
the trees hold water.
October Holy –
darkness surrounding orange – lit
windows of houses
and thickets of woods with secrets
absurd and beautiful.
Christina McDermott is a writer and linguist who enjoys exploring the connection between speech sounds and the rhythm of poetry. Her work has appeared in Levee Magazine and October Hill Press. She also runs a poetry blog: https://pocketmappoetryblog.wordpress.com/
Gordo, Alabama, USA.
October 31st, 1933.
Charlie Wannemaker and Eddie Brackett spent the afternoon making the exemplary scarecrow. First they’d dragged the ragged old scarecrow off its stake down on ol’ Henderson’s corn field. They folded its straw-filled limbs up nice and tight and toted him in a red wagon all the way to Charlie’s barn. Henderson’s scarecrow was okay, but it wouldn’t do for the great stunt they had in mind for the night. Not without a touch of restoration.
“If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it right,” Charlie instructed. Continue reading
up to no good.
how long? how long
will you put up
gold nugget eyes
Before this field blossomed
it was already scented
from fingers side by side
darkening the lines in your palm
the way glowing coals
once filled it with breasts
Everything happens a little more each day.
I’ve had a good time; even my fear has been a twinkling light.
The best place to be is right in the way.
I am sewing my flesh into the costume.
There, in your bed, a warm body bends.
We all like each other in a surprisingly realistic fashion.
A little bit further along to the mass grave and the Tilt-a-Whirl.
Outside, metal bangs against claw.
What a dull needle!
Reach for meaning, step on the sleeping.
Nauseous, a practical girl lay down beside the memorial fountain.
Your date with fate reveals a mutual attraction.
As Stephen Van Dyck was coming of age, the internet came of age around him.
For a gay teen in a small town, the internet meant the freedom to find other gay boys and men for dating, casual hookups, and friendship. In his new book, People I’ve Met from the Internet, Van Dyck has published a meticulously kept list of these encounters annotated with stories.
The list itself, published in non-annotated form at the start of the book, is entertaining to read, with snippets like “cuddled, asked me to call him Dad” that hint at a larger story. Van Dyck began maintaining a list of people he met on the internet over ten years ago as an art project. Though some encounters on the list are innocent (a few female friends, and some purchases of furniture through Craigslist) the meetings are overwhelmingly hookups.
The list grows more self-referential as we move through time to the point where Dyck began maintaining the list (at some points, he notes that people may be acting differently around him, either being more guarded or acting strangely on purpose, because they’re aware that he might write about them). This tracks on Dyck’s own evolution from the young teen he was at the start of the book to the performance artist he’s grown into by the end. Continue reading
Did I get your attention?
As a writer whose fiction sometimes includes (gasp!) sex, I have a problem with the male genitalia. It’s not that I don’t like the penis – I’m a big fan. It’s because there is just no good way to say its name. Every word, whether scientific or euphemistic, either changes the mood, or kills it altogether. So I tend to write around the problem, by describing the act without naming all the players.