Ink 2018

  Sabrina Vourvoulias’ Ink is about a nation in which “passing” means being able to hide the code tattooed inside the wrist of every person foreign- born or of foreign ancestry. It is a complicated system of blues and blacks and greens meant to be permanent, but that can be obscured or even removed by…

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Sin Embargo 2019

  Today there is a creature riding la Marijoe’s shoulders. It is a man-bird, ungainly despite the strong, wide wings it extends. Its long toenails puncture the skin just above la Marijoe’s clavicles and sink straight through muscle to bone. The creature’s ugly pin head turns to meet my gaze. “Vamos, pues,” la Marijoe says…

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The Devil in the Details

Deborah was a well-formed woman of twenty-six. Tall, long of leg, and wide of hip. Under the white muslin cap and black bonnet, her hair was arranged in thick, springy coils. Her dark eyes were kind but canny. Like many of the women of the Pinelands, she had some wortcunning that she plied in an…

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A Fish Tale

The woman slipped gold into the pond. Her children watched. They were small and solemn children, not given to splashing or ruckus. Their eyes followed movement in the water. The pond’s edge was roughly laid concrete with little teeth that caught the woman’s clothing when she stood up again. She dusted her hands to indicate…

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Time’s Up, Cerotes

When did I first notice she’d gone global? I have to answer that question with a phrase I now understand is the lament of the middle-aged: I don’t remember. After my first book was published, certainly. Chapinlandia Meets Gringolandia in the Disneylandia of the 21st-century Newsroom never made me famous outside of certain journalism school…

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Flying with the Dead 2018

When I turn around I see revulsion and wonder in her eyes. There are butterflies crawling in her hair, on her face and down her arms. I feel them on my skin too – light and raspy insectoid legs – and catch the flutter of wings close enough to make me blink. They cling to…

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Sin Embargo

Nevertheless. That is the word that starts nearly every statement I make to my clients as I’m detailing what they can expect during treatment, or during a forensic evaluation should they ever be permitted to witness in court. I say it in Spanish because though many of them have been here for decades and no…

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El Cantar of Rising Sun

Count the houses of worship: From Tyson Street to Tabor in Olney, you can walk a straight avenue of redemption, rising with the sun. Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Episcopal, and Evangelical—every people to their house. Only I visit them all, as part of this mester de juglaría, this cycle of irregular meter and spotty rhyme with…

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Paper Trail

Silvia was asleep when the plane hit the first tower, only rousing at the impact of the second plane because the low din of the television she always slept to had become a roar. By the time the towers began to disintegrate, she was on her third cup of coffee, and the televisions were on…

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The Ways of Walls and Words

“If it were not for Thee, what would become of me?” She’s not speaking to me when she says this. Her poetry nests behind a prison’s walls. I am an unknown noise on the other side of her door—the only spot where sound enters or exits her world—a sweep of bristle against wood, some transitory…

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Skin in the Game

I am at B Street and Somerset, headed for Zombie City. Or La Boca del Diablo—the Devil’s Mouth—as the Latinos in the surrounding barrio call it. Neither name shows up on GPS, of course, because maps are pure fantasy. What is real doesn’t fit on a grid. And Zombie City/La Boca del Diablo is real.…

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The Dance of the White Demons

I dream in shades of green. The dusty hue of swallow herb; the new growth of little hand flower; the deep forest shade of cat’s claw. Plants are my calling and, as in waking life, they sprawl across boundaries. The old woman dreams of deaths to come. I wake to the sound of little explosions…

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The Bar at the End of the World

For a moment Anthony Cardno can’t remember what country he’s in. It isn’t his fault. Most of the countries in the Human Rights Watch unit he reports on are in upheaval, and nations in upheaval look alike. More, they feel alike. The paper flags strung across the bar’s ceiling rustle in a stray gust of…

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Collateral Memory

Child’s play. Tag. Hide and seek. Duck, duck, goose. A group of people thrown together for an afternoon, or an hour, or a lifetime. Someone chasing. Someone running. Someone hiding or praying to be overlooked. No one has to tell us it’s preparation for life, we just learn. Like we learn the multiplication tables and…

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Ember

There is no planet more lush with trees than Broce and so it is constantly in need of the castes’ keeping. Singers coax Broce’s trees to produce oxygen, to grow straight-grained for use, to set fruit and seed. Traders sell the bounty on planets made poor by chance or lack of vigilance. They return with…

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Ink

The source texts me. All my sources text me these days. Or send me pictures and videos they’ve taken with their cell phones. The rich ones have smartphones; those with just a little money use pay-as-you-go phones. Doesn’t matter to me, as long as the message gets through and the image is clear. Most journalists have…

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La Gorda and the City of Silver

I was born on a Wednesday, in middle of a chapuzón. The sudden squall of sky water bears little resemblance to a thunderstorm – it’s more like a vertical flood, though very brief. I considered Chapuzón for my luchador name – I had poured out of my mother with the same fulminating relentlessness and washed…

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Flying with the Dead 2010

A Guatemalan girl I like tells me in her country my nickname means mutt. Much as I hate to admit it, that suits me. I’m rangy and a little bit scruffy. Plus, I’m smart and resilient enough to get through the toughest times. Ingrid and I meet November 1, which is officially All Souls Day…

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Flying with the Dead

My mother is the first to tell me about the butterflies. She has seen them – hundreds of thousands arriving in Mexico in time for the Days of the Dead. The butterflies come, and the sky turns black and orange. Those must be the colors of the dead the world over, my mother says after…

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