Essays

Where Meaning Lives

Disregard the drooling mouths, the incoherent babbles, the lack of fine motor skills: babies are geniuses. At birth, babies can discern every speech sound found in every language. They may not produce much more than dirty diapers, but they absorb the sound profiles of languages like sommeliers sampling pinot grigios. Send a Japanese baby to Britain, and she’ll distinguish red from led. Drop a Brazilian baby in southern Africa with the Ju|’hoansi, and he’ll crack the code of their consonantal clicks. An American baby can decipher that meaning lives in the tones of Thai. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for American men, and when I decided to move to Thailand in 2011, I soon realized that my linguistic genius had been discharged decades ago alongside a spate of soiled diapers.

Dan Brubaker is a science writer and video producer originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but residing along California’s North Coast. He earned his MA in science writing from Johns Hopkins University after studying biological anthropology at Emory University. His creative nonfiction has appeared in Catamaran, Under the Sun, and BlueSci. Currently, he makes a living in communications and as a freelance medical writer, but evolutionary biology, psychology, and behavior remain his fields of interest. Dan produces an animated, science series on YouTube called Studies Show—a passion project that serves up new research findings with a side of laughs.

 

Why I Write

In 11th grade creative writing, my poetry dissolved. The overwhelming crush of criticism and the realization that I had no talent stole my brain. When I tried to compose poetry, I threw up my hands with esoteric senseless gibberish. My first husband-partner-lover Scott was a poet. His poetry collection of Apricot was astonishingly clear. He filled each word with a fragrance. It was published in 1973. When he read in public, I knew I could never compete. He was the writer in the family. I was the accountant money-man. I let it go. I descended into the closet about writing.

I have published work in Issue #22 of Really Systems (2019), Free Verse Revolutions June 2019, Emeritus Chronicles (2019), Senior Stories WEHO (2018, 2019) and My Life is Poetry (2008). I’m a standup comic that has performed at The Ruby, TAO and The Blackbox Theater at the GLBT Village in Hollywood. I’ve performed my short stories at AKBAR and they’ve been recorded on The Queer Slam podcast for iTunes.

Something There Is That Does So Love a Cocklebur

You’d think ‘bur’ would have two r’s, the hooks on the letter resembling those on the prickles. Our dogs do not love the cocklebur’s almond-sized fruit, especially Fern, whose fur is the consistency of bad wig hair. The burs cling to Fern like Velcro, using her beard, her tail, her fuzzy pantaloons to disperse to new locations, determined to survive. A member of the daisy family, the cocklebur grows in waste places, places to which its prickly seeds can be blown or washed in, places like the lakebed trails where my husband Marc and I walk our dogs several times a week. As the Kern River and Lake Isabella’s waters recede with the Sierra’s diminishing snowmelt, bottles and driftwood and sunglass frames deposit themselves on the freshly formed beaches. Cocklebur plants, too.

Ann Beman is Tahoma Literary Review‘s nonfiction editor and also serves as prose reviews editor for the Museum of Americana online journal. Her work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Bombay Gin, Mojave River Review, and some other cool places. But nowhere’s as cool to her as where she lives with two whatchamaterriers, a chihuahua, and her husband in Kernville, on the Kern River, in Kern County. Cue the banjos.

Shark Patrol

Just south of Sarasota, I told the lady sun tanning on the blanket there was a shark out there in the water.  It was true.  Big shark.  Two body lengths, shadow grey, cruising like a tank beneath the surface.  “There can’t be any sharks out there,” the woman said.  Some lady in a swim cap.  One of the timeshare occupants from across the street.  Not my grandmother’s friend – they hate each other, all the timeshare tenants.  They can’t stand each other’s one-piece bathing suits with the fake skirt.  They can’t stand each other’s varicose veins.  Each thinks the other is polluting their landscape.  “A big shark,” I repeated.

 

Tim Fitts lives and works in Philadelphia. He serves on the editorial staff of the Painted Bride Quarterly and teaches in the Liberal Arts Department of the Curtis Institute of Music. Fitts’ fiction has been published by journals such as Granta, The Gettysburg Review, Boulevard, Shenandoah, Fugue, among many others.

The One Dollar

A light tap on the hotel room’s wooden door invites me to investigate. I am away on business in Newport News, Virginia, Room 203. I cross the musty brown carpet that sports faded yellow swirl patterns. Through the fisheye lens, I see a thin Indian man glancing left and right.

As a mechanical engineer for a large public utility in Colorado, I’ve been sent to the Port of Virginia to inspect a new turbine recently purchased for one of our power plants. My mind is preoccupied with the knowledge that my father arrived at this same port in January 1948, when he was merely 17 years old.

 

David B. Such is a left-handed mechanical engineer with four decades of experience with turbines and other machinery. Off the job, he retreats to his home in the foothills of Colorado where, contrasted to his industrial work environment, he appreciates close connections with his natural surroundings and enjoys reading, writing, drawing, and gardening. His essays, poetry, and drawings have appeared in South 85 Literary Journal, Stonecoast Review, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, Red Coyote Journal, EcoTheo Review, Silver Blade Magazine, and others. He also has an essay and drawing forthcoming in Weber — The Contemporary West. Visit David at dbsuch.wordpress.com and dbsuchart.wordpress.com.

Such a Long, Long Time to Be Gone and a Short Time to be There

The waiter was a gangly young man with a shock of brown hair and the exuberant manner of an Airedale puppy. We had only asked for water, but he seemed delighted by our request. The light glinted enthusiastically off his hornrims.

“Bien sur,” he said. “Il n’y a pas de souci!”

There was nothing to worry about—water would be forthcoming. In fact, we could have anything we wanted. Bread, butter, Dad’s request that coffee come at the same time as dessert and not before, everything was “pas de souci.” Emphasis on “pas.” There is no worry.

It was Thanksgiving, and my sister Claudia, my Dad and I were in the market for some good news. That morning, I had gotten off a plane laden with the kinds of provisions Americans miss when they live abroad—two jars of Skippy peanut butter, a tube of Colgate, and a box of Trader Joe’s cornbread mix. But before I even got to the house, Mom fainted on the way to the bathroom and hit her head. She had been sick again for about six months, and the doctors had just decided to suspend treatment, so Claud and I had flown in for Thanksgiving, worried about waiting until Christmas.

Caren Morrison grew up in France and was a music journalist for Melody Maker in London for seven years. After staying up all night in Barcelona with Green Day and touring Scotland in a tiny van with Courtney Love, she decided to become a lawyer. She graduated from Columbia Law School, prosecuted foreign drug cartels at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, and finally ended up as a law professor in Atlanta. She now lives with her federal agent husband, two red-haired children, two sweet but poorly behaved dogs, and a cat. She is currently working on a novel about the corrosive power of remorse in the aftermath of a police shooting. This is her first personal essay publication.

Fast Delivery

At exactly 3 p.m. on March 13, 1957, Carolos Gutierrez Menoyo directed the commando group into two cars and a red panel truck with the words Fast Delivery” painted on its sides. The Palace attack was about to begin.

Long before I visited Havana, Cuba in November 2014 and laid my body against the body of the red Fast Delivery truck pocked with bullet holes, displayed in the National Museum of the Revolution, a red truck had been the means of transport into the untracked wildernesses of my mind; it drove itself into multiple poems and fragments…

 

Drawing inspiration from a range of psychological landscapes, Paula Marafino Bernett’s work reflects a deep curiosity about the mind’s forays into language and association as the drivers for inquiry and the pursuit of a rich and dimensional life. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Clackamas Literary Review, The Louisville Review, Margie, Nimrod International Journal, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, and, Whiskey Island, among others. Her lyric essay “Digression and Memory, The Handmaiden Effect” and a companion essay “Four Hands Improvising on a Piano” appeared in Fourth Genre. Her lyric essay “The Smallest Leaning Begins … has appeared in Eastern Iowa Review.

Shame

It was one of the most shameful moments of my life. It is one that I will never forget and from which I will never recover.

***

For years, my father had been showing the signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The once brilliant mind and sharp wit had dimmed a bit, and it was getting harder and harder for him to keep things straight. Conversations with my father had always been powerful for me. He had the ability to follow my ramblings, ask probing questions with genuine interest, and give feedback or commentary that often made me think further on a certain issue. He was this way with most people, especially my friends, and we had a running joke that my friends had better not start a conversation with my dad unless they had plenty of time on their hands. But his ability to carry on such dialogue had become curtailed, and his short answers, or even silence, stood in great contrast to the talker most people knew. One Christmas, I gave him the gift of an outing each month—just the two of us—to a place of interest for the day. Our car rides, which had previously been packed with storytelling or ponderings about life, instead became filled with wordless spaces and repeated information from previous conversations. His disease was advancing.

 

Home through the Smoke: Recollections of the Butte County Camp Fire

On Thursday, November 8th, 2018, I went to the Good Earth store for lunch. I had just heard about the Butte County Camp Fire, slightly growing anxious as the sky filled with a sandstone haze. I got some coffee, coconut water, and a piece of pizza from the to-go station and went to the express lane. A man, dressed like he just got done with a mountain bike ride, covered in sweat, stood to my right, just out of line. He cut in front of me, and I said nothing, not sure if he was there before I had arrived in line. He then turned back and saw me and apologized. We exchanged niceties as he told he just got in from Sonoma from the train, that he was about to go for a ride.

 

Born and raised just north of San Francisco, Cole Hersey has worked as a staff writer with the Oregon Voice and has worked on the selection committee of the SILO at Bennington College, where he received his undergraduate degree. Currently, he is working as an editor at the West Marin Review. Anne Lamott said of his work, “Cole Hersey is the real thing, a beautiful and observant writer on his way up. His writing is clear and evocative, visual and touching, with just a bit of edge, and a lot of soul.”

The Football Gamble

As our fickle nation turns its attention to another season of weary football, we’re inundated with radio spots, TV commercials, and billboards touting the glitzy appeal of sports-betting. From this onslaught, it would seem that all it takes is a few minutes of research on point spreads, weather conditions, and match-up history for the average fan to swim in the spoils of weekly winnings. Putting down the right bet can turn any casual Sunday into a money monsoon befitting a tech mogul. An activity, which recently was considered unseemly or taboo, has now pulled a firm seat to the crowded poker table of mainstream advertising. So what’s happened?

Tim Cyphers is a writer living in Baltimore, MD. An avid sports-fan, reader, admirer of music, the outdoors, and soon-to-be-(gulp)-dad, he also earns a living in the treasury field.

 

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.