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Proof Casts a Shadow

A Conversation Led by the Kenyon Review Fellows


In October of last year, a new associate justice was sworn into the Supreme Court of the United States, despite credible allegations of sexual misconduct against him and the promise he made, given those allegations, that “what goes around comes around.” Across the globe, in India, as well as here in America, the related MeToo movement has effected change, and yet enforcing the law continues to be an arduous and sometimes futile process—one that results in destructive victim blaming even when justice is served. Encouraged by the biased political agenda of the current government, in India, Muslim men have been lynched on suspicion of eating beef, for supposedly kidnapping children—one man’s body dragged in the presence of three policemen, one of whom is casually checking his mobile phone—and sometimes, for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The list of injustices in the last two years against marginalized people could, itself, fill this essay, even were it only to focus on America. Click here to read the entire introduction to this special feature.


A Pretty Rough Day

Keith S. Wilson

Years ago, when Obama was still president, I awoke in my Chicago studio with a feather-brained realization: I was a day trip away from Canada. Depending on the lake whose edge you hugged, it was between a five- to nine-hour drive. With a GPS to guide me, I’d make it to some city, spend some hours sightseeing, and drive back home to avoid the expense of a hotel. There is no plot twist—I’ll dispense, here, with the illusions of tension. My girlfriend and I were denied entry. I returned home with nothing lost but gas money. We hadn’t entered Canada, except to turn the car around.

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Two Poems

Grace Shuyi Liew

This morning, the dim skies are halting
the passage of time. An error in the weather.
I am in two places, torn between the clouds
outside and some photos on my screen.
James Baldwin’s former house in the South of France.

Click here to read the full poems.


A Wire Fence

Tsering Yangzom Lama

At age twenty-six, I saw my country for the first time. For fifteen minutes, I stood on its edge.

It was a seven-day trek to the border of Tibet and Nepal. I traveled on foot as my parents and grandparents had done some fifty years earlier, though I walked in the opposite direction, toward the place they could no longer speak of.

For the final ascent, I hired a jeep in case we were pursued at the border. As the tires pushed up the loose, desert road, I felt myself getting closer. I felt alone, uncertain, somehow unprepared.

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Xandria Phillips

Minotaurian by Xandria Phillips


We Don’t Need Your Little History

Misha Rai

The year is 1996. The sun on a friend’s sixteenth birthday, a Sunday, is so bright for late afternoon that shadows from buildings, trees, salt tolerant wheat fields deepen exponentially. My friend and I are saying good-bye to the birthday girl, rushing out of her house, laughing, getting into birthday girl’s father’s car ready to go home, paying no attention to the expression on his face.

If what I am about to write next unfolded on TV or in the movies, the camera would pan quickly over the small town I live in. Stopping to zoom in twice. Once on a rickshaw driver idling near Mughal Canal Market. And for a second time, on what to me is the edge of town, Kunjpura Road, where hidden along the shadows are four boys—men?—sitting in a car, drinking alcohol. Waiting.

There is no music to cue you on what to anticipate or how to feel.

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By the Lamplight

Gabrielle Bellot

Brent, I called him. He was tall, lanky, leanly muscled, skin the brown of a burned gingersnap, hair trimmed, jaw square, yet soft. The day he came up to me, I knew almost nothing of him—except one big, incandescent rumor—but he, clearly, knew all about me. How, I never knew. It was as if he had just seen me and figured it out, just like that, clear as a clownfish above the kelp on a clear day of snorkeling.

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femme entanglement

Xandria Phillips

femme entanglement by Xandria Phillips


Your Body has Thirty-Two Kwan

Nay Saysourinho

My body is made of many souls, not just mine, not just one, but of thirty-two. My body sheds some of these souls, sometimes, as I move through the world. Sometimes, I need to call them back to me.

I call Danny.
Danny is fighting for a last-minute pardon.

I try to count his souls one December morning, while staring at his photo on Mother Jones. He and I are Lao people. We believe that the body contains thirty-two souls, the kwan, and that they come and go at different times of our lives. To achieve happiness and equilibrium, the kwan must be bound together. Without them, our body becomes open to bad luck, to illness, to loss. Without them, our bond to our community is severed.

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In Water Disjointed from Me

Lars Horn

Growing up, mirrors, weighing scales, and family photographs were banned, as were any other means of self-representation “without artistic intent.” Two of the only photographs of me as a child show me in a bath of dead squid, then laid out on concrete, a pair of magpie wings resting on my back. The body was a movement, something to be articulated in space, undone in time. Not looked at. Except when that looking made it strange. When the stilling of a body might, ultimately, undo it. Lend an enduring instability.

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Xandria Phillips

interrupture by Xandria Phillips


Let Me Be Honest

Phuong T. Vuong

While I wait, the barista taking orders asks the family behind me how they are doing. The mother replies, “Good. How are you?” Knowing I was there first, she turns to me and asks, “Have you been helped yet?”

• •

The person behind me in the grocery store checkout line looks disgusted. I turn back to the cashier and continue my conversation, in perfect English, about the weather.

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My Summer of Miranda Lambert

Chaya Bhuvaneswar

“Stop thinking in that f-’d up way, just stop it now,” I order myself. It’s no use, though. My cheeks are still burning, even though it’s cold and clean and sanitized where I’m standing. I’m in line now at a Starbucks that could be any Starbucks, having parked at a careless angle in its parking lot, knowing now I should look out for cops from the window.

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Xandria Phillips

untitled by Xandria Phillips


selección de antes que isla es volcán
selections from before island is volcano

Raquel Salas Rivera

el sueño americano

muere soñando
con vuelos de regreso.

the american dream

dies dreaming
of return flights.

Click here to read the poems.



Keith S. Wilson

Last year I was teaching at Kenyon College, and “Proof Casts a Shadow” was a dream being spun between Misha Rai, the Kenyon Review Fellow in Prose, and me. Now I find myself saying goodbye both to Kenyon as the Poetry Fellow, and giving some closing words on what has been an extraordinary anthology of work. Before those final words, however, I want to quickly thank the remarkable artists and the work they shared with us: Misha Rai (my good friend and co-conspirator), David Lynn and the staff of the Kenyon Review (who did so much work on this. So much!) and to my former students at Kenyon. Thank you all for seeing this, and me, through.

Click here to read the full essay.