"Writing begets more writing. Meaning grows on the page."
Watching my Parents Sleeping Beside an Open Window Near the Sea
by Rebecca McClanahan
Needing them still, I come
when I can, this time to the sea
where we share a room: their double bed,
my single. Morning fog paints the pale
scene even paler. Lace curtains breathing,
the chenille spread folded back,
my father's feet white sails furled
at the edge of blue pajamas.
Every child's dream, a parent
in each hand, though this child is fifty.
Their bodies fit easily, with room
to spare. When did they grow
so small? Grow
as if it were possible to swell
backwards into an earlier self.
On the bureau, their toys
and trinkets. His shaving brush
and pink heart pills, her gardenia
sachet. The tiny spindle that pricks
the daily bubble of blood, her sweet
chemistry. Above our heads
a smoke alarm pulses, its red eye beating.
One more year
, I ask the silence.
Last night to launch myself
into sleep I counted their breaths, the tidal
rise and fall I now put my ear to,
the coiled shell of their lives.
Garrison Keillor reads this poem...
Current & Upcoming Publications
• ART-I-FACT: The Family Memoir Triumvirate
New post on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog Read
An essay reprinted in a new anthology "Red, White, & True: Stories from Veterans and Families, WWII-Present" Kindle Edition
• "Adopt a Bench" (an essay about New York)
The Sun Magazine Read an excerpt
• "Things Gone the Way of Time"
An essay in Brevity
In a new anthology, You: Essays Devoted to the Second Person
Kenyon Review, Winter 2013
Read the interview
• "Family History Meets Memoir" (a craft essay)
Writer's Digest Magazine, March/April 2013
• The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings (a book of essays) University of Georgia Press, re-released as paperback
"Everywhere at Once, 1903" (adapted from The Tribal Knot)
Read an excerpt and download a free copy.
• "The Soul of Brevity: Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Brief Essay"
Tampa Review, NOW AVAILABLE
Read an excerpt.
Order a copy.
• "Ginkgo Song" (an essay about New York)
Kenyon Review, Summer 2012
• "Hope and Wait: A Chapter from the Family Archives" (1918), adapted from The Tribal Knot
Gettysburg Review, Summer 2012
"Annual Conference, 8000 Writers Expected"
River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative, Winter 2012
Sample more of Rebecca's work
- ge·oph·a·gy noun \jē-ˈä-fə-jē\ : the practice of eating earthy substances (as clay) that in humans is performed especially to augment a scanty or mineral-deficient diet or as part of a cultural tradition
– "Something Calling my Name," a poem about a dirt eater ( on PRI's "Living On Earth")
- Rebecca reads her brief essay "Loving Bald Men"
- "…a narrative and meditation on cancer, it's about shock and surrender, assertion and resistance, survival and revival. I think it's a masterpiece."
– R. T. Smith, editor of Shenandoah, on Rebecca's essay "Back" from The Gettysburg Review
- If external circumstances wage battle against our writing, they are nothing compared to the war that internal circumstances wage, those demon voices that assault even the most confident writer...
– On Fear, Rejection, and Persistance