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A Reading from AWP

Ed. Note: Fiction Editor Caitlin Horrocks wrote the following story for the “New Voices at the Kenyon Review” panel presented at AWP last month. The story is composed entirely of lines from published or soon-to-be-published KR pieces.

Even before she said anything, I knew she wasn’t my actual mother.[1] She had her bags out the door by morning, monumental in the sun.[2] I was more dead than alive, she explained. They had no choice but to send me home.[3] Her mouth fit like a clasp, and was as small as the rest of her.[4] Her fake blue contacts held and twisted light like gemstones.[5] Who is to say we must see all of a woman to acknowledge her as whole? Who is to say we should look away?[6]

She departed after dark and returned in the morning. When the cicadas started shrieking, and the streetlamps turned off one by one, [she] turned the corner and came home. It became a soothing routine for me to watch her with my cold leftover chicken on the balcony.[7] She didn’t belong at home. Not after what she’d done. Not after who she’d become.[8] Practicing daughterhood is like being handed a blueprint for disorder.[9]

I decide[d] to stay another week, maybe even two. Father need[ed] me.[10] Grief worked like a set of gears in his chest,[11] a washer and a dryer in the unfocused background. Domestic, a birthday, not really joyful. She sat on his lap, kind of smiled, and they looked forward.[12] He was sick with something he could not place, but it was not nostalgia. He was sick with a desire to run…, screaming all the way: This is who we were, this is what we did, this is what we could have been. This, too, you’ve taken from me.[13] He didn’t mean it as a curse, he was praying.[14]

My brothers flew out at dawn and came back when the sun plunged again behind the broken skyline of the city.[15] City of oil drums, city of cathedrals, where were your Mother Theresas? Your winged messengers?[16]

The circus came to town and put its tents up on railroad land to one side of the train station. They began by drawing an enormous circle on the ground and smoothing out the earth. In the afternoon, they raised the poles. A group of men gripped at a thick cord and tugged, yelling in rhythm. An old man in a T-shirt directed them.[17] He spotted me right away. Come here, girl, he said, what’s your name, girl, tell us your name.[18] I’d probably never been asked my name in my whole life—everyone in the neighborhood knew who I was, and I’d never left the neighborhood.[19] Everyone had begun to look familiar, harmless.[20] Senka, I said. Means shadow, he said. You smell good for a shadow.[21] The touch of strangers still startles me.[22] Maybe I was just too young to understand how your life can be ruined without you knowing.[23]

Home was a locked room.[24] We have to take care of each other, she said. She reached out her hand, but before I could react, she let it fall on her lap. She folded the hem of her dress over and over again. We absolutely must take care of each other. That’s what we’re here for.[25]

“I just thought—”

“Don’t think. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking here.”[26]

What I was thinking was that I feared what sort of mother I would become.[27] If we can see through something, that means we can also see the inside of it.[28] That’s the story I told, over and over, until the memory fit and I could live with it.[29]


[1] Dominic Ross-Combs, “The Grant Pill,” Mar/Apr 2015 (Print)
[2] Noy Holland, “Monocot,” Jan/Feb 2015 (Print)
[3] Rachel Cantor, “Dead Dresses,” Jan/Feb 2015 (Print)
[4] Kate Petersen, “Mezzo,” Summer 2014 (Print)
[5] Che Yeun, “The Quiet Thing,” Spring 2015 (KROnline)
[6] Ayşe Papatya Bucak, “An Ottoman’s Arabesque,” Spring 2014 (Print)
[7] Che Yeun, “The Quiet Thing,” Spring 2015 (KROnline)
[8] Megan Mayhew Bergman, “The Siege at Whale Cay,” Fall 2014 (Print)
[9] Lindsay Drager, “The History of Risk and Restlessness,” Winter 2014 (KROnline)
[10] Vojislav Pejovic, “Night Swim,” Spring 2014 (Print)
[11] Paula Closson Buck, “The Dalai Lama’s Smile,” Forthcoming Jan/Feb 2016 (Print)
[12] T. Clutch Fleischmann, “A Volume of Loss,” Spring 2014 (KROnline)
[13] Roohi Choudhry, “This is What We Could Have Been,” Forthcoming Nov/Dec 2015 (Print)
[14] Shauna Seliy “Kingdom,” Summer 2014 (Print)
[15] Natalia Theodoridou, “The Ravens’ Sister,” Winter 2015 (KROnline)
[16] Leslie Blanco, “Mi Amor, Mi China, Mi Delirio,” Forthcoming Nov/Dec 2015 (Print)
[17] Federico Falco, trans. Sarah Viren, “Elephants,” Spring 2014 (KROnline)
[18] Natalia Theodoridou, “The Ravens’ Sister,” Winter 2015 (KROnline)
[19] Shauna Seliy, “Kingdom,” Summer 2014 (Print)
[20] Amy Gustine, “All the Sons of Cain,” May/June 2015 (Print)
[21] Natalia Theodoridou, “The Ravens’ Sister,” Winter 2015 (KROnline)
[22] Melissa Febos, “All of Me,” Fall 2014 (Print)
[23] Adam Peterson, “Knock, Knock,” Summer 2014 (Print)
[24] Michael McGuire, “Three Sisters,” Spring 2014 (Print)
[25] Che Yeun, “The Quiet Thing,” Spring 2015 (KROnline)
[26] Megan Mayhew Bergman, “The Siege at Whale Cay,” Fall 2014 (Print)
[27] Mara Naselli, “On Being a Mother,” Summer 2014 (Print)
[28] Matthew Gavin Frank, “The Clouding of the Clear Clam Chowder,” Mar/Apr 2015 (Print)
[29] T. Clutch Fleischmann, “A Volume of Loss,” Spring 2014 (KROnline)