Essays

The Louvre at Twelve Miles an Hour

In fall 1985, I was sitting on a bench at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam staring at his View of Auvers, 1890. There were tears in my eyes, causing a young woman seated next to me to whisper to me, “It’s wonderful to see a man so moved by art that he weeps.” I sighed. Did not respond. I was crying not because I admired it, but because I did not experience what other people apparently experienced. I was unmoved by what was in front of me. I did not think it was beautiful. I felt like an atheist in a chapel watching the faithful pray to a God who seems to speak just to them.

Michael Coolen is a pianist, composer, actor, performance artist, and writer living in Oregon. He has received three Fulbright Fellowships, four National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, and his writings have been published widely. He’s a published composer, with works performed around the world, including at Carnegie Hall, New England Conservatory of Music, Museum of Modern Art, and the Christie Gallery. He also has several glowing reviews as an actor and can send them along, too, in case you know anyone looking for an actor.

Enya 4-Ever

Everyone has embarrassing dating stories. Some of us just have more than others. I have enough for an entire book.

Among the highlights: following a break-up with my high school girlfriend, the first girl I asked out in college was a lesbian. In fact, my entire college dating resume involved one gaffe and foible after another—like having a crush on someone who invited me out with her friends, which included a boyfriend that she had never mentioned. And finally asking out a barista that I had a crush on by writing her a note asking her to go out with me—complete with checkboxes! She was married. And though not certain, I presumably became a laughingstock at my favorite coffee shop.

Yet I have never lost hope.

 

R.J. Fox is the award-winning writer of several short stories, plays, poems, a memoir, and 15 feature length screenplays. His first book – a memoir entitled Love & Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine was published by Fish Out of Water Books, who also published his fiction debut: Awaiting Identification. Both books are in development as feature films. His third book is a collection of essays entitled Tales From the Dork Side.

His work has been published in over 30 literary magazines and journals.

Fox graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and a minor in Communications and received a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. Fox teaches film and literature in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, where he uses his own dream to inspire his students to follow their own.

2020 Discards: A Miscarriage Story

“I’m thinking about making a sourdough starter.”

I said this in front of my mom in hopes that she would make the sourdough starter and then share some with me. Just like millions of other people spending the majority of my time at home since the pandemic started, I thought baking would be a therapeutic way to ease the stress of 2020. Plus, bread is awesome.

On April 19, my mother came through with the sourdough starter, and lots of homemade bread. I took it home in a mason jar and was given a Post-it with feeding instructions.

On April 6, 13 days prior, I had taken a pregnancy test that turned out to be positive.  I’m 35 years old, so I’m considered to be at an “advanced age” for someone to have a child. Even though I’d been off birth control for 6 months and we were actively “trying” as they say, I didn’t expect to be pregnant.

Heather Wyatt is an English instructor at Jefferson State Community College by day and a food TV junkie by night. She’s obsessed with her two dogs and likes orange flavored drinks. Her first book, My Life Without Ranch, a non-fiction combo of self-help and memoir, is out now from 50/50 Press. Her poetry chapbook Call My Name is available now from The Poetry Box but prior to that her poetry has been featured in numerous journals since 2006. Most recently, her poems have appeared in places like: Jokes Review, Number One: A Literary Journal, and A Walk with Nature: Poetic Encounters that Nourish the Soul. Her short story “A Penny Saved” was published in Perspectives Magazine in 2018. Also in 2018, her essay “Self-Defense” appeared in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review and her essay, “Hot AF” was in the magazine Robot Butt. In 2019, Her essay, “Her?!” was in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. Most recently, her essay “I didn’t kill my boyfriend last night” was published in The Syndrome Mag and her essay, “A Gross, Happy Proposal” appeared in High Noon in 2020. She received her Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from the University of Alabama and her MFA in Poetry from Spalding University in Louisville, KY.

Water

If you’re ever on the campus of the University of Minnesota, peek over the Washington Avenue Bridge. It’s about 70 feet down to the Mississippi. When I studied American poetry there, it would occasionally come up that the great John Berryman had ended his life by jumping off that bridge.

I remember a visiting poet—one I admired—giving a reading at the Weisman Museum. Celebrated architect Frank Gehry designed the Weisman, with its abstract, cascading turrets, to look like the famous river. From that building, only steps from where Berryman died, the visiting poet made a joke about jumping off the bridge. I remember finding it not funny.

A number of American Indians punished serious crimes by making the guilty person live near but not interact with the tribe. They were allowed to work and contribute to society, but everyone was to act like they weren’t even there. I have felt this way before, when I was deeply depressed.

Gregg Murray writes poetry and creative non-fiction. His work has appeared in Carolina Quarterly Review, DIAGRAM, Birmingham Poetry Review, Pleiades, Huffington Post, and elsewhere. He had a notable essay in Best American Essays 2019.

What is College For?

A few days ago, I received a group email sent to the surviving members of my undergraduate college class announcing—boasting—that the class gift from our sixtieth reunion had been the primary contribution for a golf training facility at Rutgers University. A photograph of the plaque honoring our support accompanied the message.

According to a press release celebrating the Class of 1957 Training Center:

The state-of-the-art, two-room facility features indoor putting space with Envyscapes turf and a hitting bay with Swing Catalyst technology, allowing student-athletes from both teams to train year-round. “This is a game changer for our student-athletes to be able to train right where they live,” said men’s head coach Rob Shutte . . . “On behalf of the entire men’s golf team, we can’t thank the supporters enough who made this facility a reality.”

The nature of that class gift and the pride with which it was offered fed into my ongoing ponderings about the purpose of college, a subject much debated at a time of Covid-19, when many campuses have turned to remote teaching, when many colleges worry about survival, when many current students resent and even sue over the high tuition for online learning, and when many graduates and dropouts complain about the lifetime burden of college debt and low-paying jobs.

Walter Cummins has published seven short story collections and three essay collections, as well as a number of co-written books.

Sfumato

Last year I sat in a room darkened by automatic shades where collections of pixels were cast over my head to the wall-swallowing screen in front of me. I think there were nine of us in total, not counting John, charting the spectrum of sleep deprivation when we took our seats in the same room every other morning. John gave us time to set our bags down and take the plastic lids off of our cups, steam casting shadows on the screen. Then the lecture would begin.

My favorite one happened toward the end of the year, after we left Yamini on the bus to the art museum and before the solstice. John assigned us an article on the effect of daylight over the course of a year in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, one of the dusty, orange-scented temples of Renaissance art. A west coast professor with a name like “Justin” or “Jason” had created a digital simulation, one that projected light through the windows of the refectory and onto its most famous inhabitant: The Last Supper. The article was accompanied by a video of the simulation, the graceful and harried arc of the rectangles of light—reverse shadows, as I thought of them—thrumming through the room towards and away from Jesus. Their edges were stark, then soft, glancing off when you thought they would slow to a stop. I watched it over and over, thinking of the years Leonardo must have spent drafting the composition. I imagined his mythical hand reaching to trace the corner of the reverse shadow, how he must have accounted for every celestial position, every season, in the cartoon. Puffs of pigment embedded in the wrinkles of his hands as he worked. The careful precision in adapting a sketch—unbend Jesus’s finger, inflate Paul’s robes—to brush up against the light in a perfect suggestion. Different meanings for different days, different morsels on the table illuminated. A Christian’s Stonehenge.

Bess Amelia Yeager is a multi-genre writer based in Indianapolis, IN, and a recent graduate of Kenyon College. By day, she works in corporate marketing, and by night, she attempts to translate the mundane into the sublime, with a specific focus on nature and family. Her poetry can be found in Adelaide Literary Magazine.

Election 2020: A Lyric Essay

A black reverend represents Georgia and for white fucks, this is yet another loss for the Confederacy. After all, the senator’s surname features the root word “war.” The whitelash was as predictable as Brady’s MAGA cap. In the wake of the Grand Antebellum Party’s collapse, a young white man harvested Asian blood and old white men shackled a black woman during a democracy eradication ritual.

 

After the Asian Spa Massacre, the topic of gun control was resurrected in time for Easter. I think we need to look at this issue anew since America already stores half of the planet’s firearms. It’s high time for crow hunting. For every voter suppression legislation you support, expect a tattoo with an American bullet wound beneath your white abdomen. I will then swallow medication which produces blue urine to complete human bomb pops. Luckily, Republicans don’t consider white coxcombs inciting a riot to be an impeachable offense.

 

After I published my lyric essay about the 2016 election, I worried that the anger would not age well. In retrospect, the tone wasn’t fucking angry enough. After Donald Trump lost in humiliating fashion in 2020, his supporters stormed the capitol puppeteering the confederate flag in perceived triumph. While the television news anchors looked on with fresh horror, I saw it as an Omaha Incident Reboot. Nearly a century earlier, a reformist became mayor of that city, threatening to soften white supremacy. White men stormed their city government and nearly lynched him. He never returned to politics. A black man did not survive the incident. Not a single criminal served any prison time. The fact that this happened again after a black man ascended to the senate is not a goddamn coincidence. Political scientist Robert A. Pape said “You see a common pattern in the Capitol Insurrectionists. They are mainly middle-class to upper-middle-class whites who are worried that, as social changes occur around them, they will see a decline in their status in the future.”

Jeffrey H. MacLachlan also has recent work in New Ohio Review, Columbia Journal, the minnesota review, among others. He is a Senior Lecturer literature at Georgia College & State University.

Rejection Letter for My Traumatic Brain Injury

Dear Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.):

Thank you for applying to the position of ‘what happened on Susan’s way home on May 5’ here at The Rest of Susan’s Life, Inc.

We do really appreciate that you considered us, when we know there are a lot of places taking applications. We received and have reviewed a large number of applications, including from ‘256 Broken Bones’, his cousins ‘247 Broken Bones’ and ‘212 Broken Bones’, ‘Fractured Ribs causing pneumothorax’, ‘Liver impaled by gearshift’, ‘Exsanguinated at roadside’, ‘Trapped in exploding car’, and simply ‘Crushed to death’.

Susan Hatters Friedman is a psychiatrist specializing in forensic psychiatry and maternal mental health. She is pursuing a Master’s in Crime Fiction at the University of Cambridge, and has studied satire writing with the Second City. Her recent creative writing can be read (or is forthcoming) in Hobart, Eclectica, and Drunk Monkeys.

Disfigured, 1995

He sits stooped in bed, scowling. “I look like a corpse.”

Robert’s face and neck are disfigured from surgery and radiation. His body is bruised and bone skinny. A tracheostomy tube juts from his neck, a feeding tube from his belly. It is cancer; too many cigarettes for too many years.

“And I smell like shit; I’m rotting from the inside out. I bet you couldn’t eat lunch in my room.” His head pivots to the side; he glares. “Well?”

 

Paul Rousseau—a semi-retired physician and writer, published in medical and literary journals. Marooned in Charleston, SC, longs to return to the West. Lover of dogs.

Phantom Teeth

Using Zoom while living under the Covid-19 quarantine caused me to face something that I don’t face most of the time: my face. There it was, always looking back at me from my laptop screen. Even when I’m brushing my teeth or shaving, I only scan portions of it to make sure I don’t leave toothpaste or stubble on my chin. For the most part, it’s a perfectly fine face, I suppose. Granted, it’s not George Clooney’s, but it’s not poor John Merrick’s, either. So what’s my issue with it? Well, I guess it’s how cheerlessly it tends to rest on my skull, no matter my mood.

 

Kevin Grauke has published work in The Southern Review, Fiction, Cimarron Review, Story Quarterly, and Quarterly West, to name a few. His collection of stories, SHADOWS OF MEN (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2012), won the Texas Institute of Letters’ Steven Turner Award for Best First Work of Fiction. Originally from Texas, he lives in Philadelphia and teaches at La Salle University.

Essay and Other Nonfiction Workshops at Eckleburg

Personal Essay

Lyric Essay

Body Narrative

Modern Memoir

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Submit Your Nonfiction

We accept polished creative nonfiction/essays up to 8,000 words year round, unless announced otherwise. Preferences veer toward shorter works under 1500 words with an arts and culture focus. If you wish to include a bio, keep it short, under 200 words. Submit your nonfiction.

Essay Collections and Memoir Manuscripts

We publish short works at The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. At this time, we do not publish novel, long memoir, essay collections, story collections or poetry collections at The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. We do offer manuscript workshops at The Eckleburg Workshops. If you are looking to place a manuscript, we can suggest several excellent small and large presses whose excellent books are promoted through our Eckleburg Book Club — i.e., Random House, Graywolf Press, Coffeehouse, Tinhouse, St. Martins Press and more.