Don’t believe I was ever happy fiddling with dolls. Or skipping around the yard, tra-la. Adults invented the myth of the carefree childhood. As an only kid, I remember realizing—I must have been five or six—that no one would ever see who I truly was inside. Heartbreaking. Also, I remember hungering. Being so small and powerless, not even knowing what it was I wanted, just wanting, wanting.
Then I heard him.
Mom cranked it up while she painted. Her studio occupied the brightest room in the house. There were gobs of oil paint hardening on the braided rug, rags reeking of turpentine. Music so loud the windows shook. Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain. He moaned and screeched from Mom’s boombox, falsetto riding high over that funk. His hunger bottomless like mine.
Does six years old sound too young to feel lust? I tell you it’s not.
Read the full piece in Barrelhouse Magazine.
Download the free e-book anthology, Dig If You Will The Picture: Remembering Prince.
Essay published in The Threepenny Review, Spring 2016.
We meet a fat diamondback five minutes down the trail. He is stretched across the path, dozing in the shade of a juniper bush. I’m an adult, so I want to act like one, but I’m crying so hard I can’t inhale and snot is dribbling into my mouth. It takes me twenty minutes to inch past the viper, while his tongue whips the air. After that, I search out a long, heavy stick to thump on the ground and jostle the creosote scrub before passing. My husband, Kevin, and our two friends are sympathetic, but my pace is agonizingly slow, and they drift ahead. I hear them chattering, always around the next bend, while blood bangs through my head like a Taiko drum.
Read the complete essay online in The Threepenny Review.
A Strange Object Press — Covered W / Fur — March 31, 2015
“Descarga” – Oil on canvas – Meridy Volz
This cat Fritzel was odd. She wasn’t pretty like Angel or Bon Bon, and she wasn’t smart either. Just one of those weird, piebald cats with personality issues. Maybe I didn’t like this cat so much. But once you have a cat, you keep it until it dies. When Fritzel was a kitten, she charged face-first into my dad’s knobby middle knuckle and half-blinded herself, turning one eye opalescent. That didn’t help her looks.
Fritzel often napped in a spiral beneath my mom’s painting chair. Late one afternoon, turpentine sloshed out of its jar onto her back, and she licked herself dry. She did the strangest of death dances, cruised sideways and backwardsall around the house with her tail stick-straight, frothing at the mouth and gurgling and grunting. Which was the end of Fritzel. So I know what turpentine can do, though I’m still guessing about its flavor.
Turpentine smells like Coca-Cola stripped of sweetness, with a dash of fiery death, and it’s the pervasive scent of my youth.
Read the full microessay on Covered W / Fur.
Narratively – Outsiders Week – December 31, 2014
“MAIL CONTAINS DRUG, YOUNG WOMEN SEIZED” reads an August 22, 1969 headline in the Milwaukee Journal. Below, in grainy black and white, floats Meridy Domnitz’s mug shot. At twenty, my mother looks more pathetic than criminal. Her frizzy hair has gone renegade from a sideways ponytail and she wears what appears to be a paisley kurta.
My mother never disguised the fact that, throughout my childhood, she made her living selling marijuana. I grew up listening to her spin vivid yarns while she rolled joints or counted cash, usually sprawled sideways on her king-sized bed. Customers would climb aboard the bed — nicknamed “the barge” — and linger for hours, enveloped in a miasma of smoke and stories.
I’ve heard my mother tell the story behind this article a hundred times, and I never tire of it. This was her first dalliance with the wrong side of the law; by the time she gave birth to me, nearly a decade later, the dealer persona was center stage.
If my mother were a comic book superhero, this would be her origin story.
Read this essay on Narratively.
I’m thrilled to have an essay in the gorgeous “Winter Reading” issue of Tin House, the sharpest journal in the west. This issue includes new work by the legendary Ursula K. Le Guin, Joy Williams, and Josh Weil, among other fine writers. I could not be more pleased.
I encourage you to pick up Tin House at your local (independent) bookstore, but you can also read my essay, “In Any Light, By Any Name,” online.
Read this essay in Tin House.
My essay about children in immigration court is live this morning, featuring original illustrations by artist Chris Koehler.
The courtroom smells of talcum powder. On this afternoon’s docket, we have thirty-four children. Thirty-four out of 35,000 or 57,000 or 90,000 kids who have crossed our borders without permission since last October, depending on which source you trust to make sense of what doesn’t.
Read this essay on The Rumpus.