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I imagine it’s the same feeling you’d get sitting in the back seat of a car crash, or watching an asteroid fall to the earth.

“My father kept saying he was going to leave us: at the grocery store, while driving too fast, during the intermission of a Christmas play.  I prayed for him to stay, cried and begged, wrapped my arms around his thighs. And then he left. It was February, a week after my ninth birthday.”

And when he does, time doesn’t so much stop as it begins to get curled, tangled. Not only in the endless drives the unnamed narrator and her mother take into the night, the movies they watch over and over and over again, the memorized lines, the same songs they keep listening to, rewind and repeat. Even the breathing. It’s the manipulation of tense and repetition that really carry the effect through, that make you feel it. Nolan is always fixing the locks, high on LSD. How she repeats the words, as if to convince herself it was real. Her father is gone.

I don’t know anything about Motown, let alone music. I know it sounds happy, that sometimes it makes me want to dance. Occasionally I think it comes across as simple or naive. But after listening to the tracks a few times, reading Michelle’s piece, I realize there’s a very fine line between simplicity and starkness. That sometimes surfaces can be quite deep.

Michelle’s work is not simply a powerful story, pure narrative enjoyment, shorn of all figurative or flowery adornment. It’s a seamless execution of the fictive memoir form itself: the narrator isn’t in her story at one point and then reflecting above it in the next. There’s no difference here between character and narrator, the past and the present. As it lives for her, so she lives in it. Her father is gone. He always will be.

To read Michelle’s piece, click here.

To order Four Chambers 01, click here.



Of course it could be a butterfly. A jesus face. Two eels. I might also have guessed geese. But then, of course, there they are. Twin fetuses.

Personally I’ve always found fetuses existentially threatening. Go find a medical textbook. It’s a little creepy. Mostly how amorphous they are. That whole bit about ontogeny and phylogeny, too. The entire process of creation, actually, kind of freaks me out. Which must say something about me and my relationship to the maternal experience more generally speaking, some kind of psychoanalytic castration no doubt, but who knows. Not me.

Natasha’s poem only compounds the problem. We already have enough trouble dealing with real babies. But what do you do when they’re ink blots?

It’s funny the first couple of times. These darling fat accidents. Chubby half moons. Soft bellies. Perfect kidney beans. It’s fun. Carnivalesque. I’d even call it cute.

Lately though, as I read more into it, I actually find it quite disturbing. All these subtexts. Potential allegories. Why don’t we just recycle them in big blue bins? What is a child but an ink blot, anyway? Clearly we’re too prudish to go into it here, but think of all the ways.

Yet even if one is too hesitant to plumb the depths of one’s own psyche–contented, instead, with its rippling surface–Natasha’s poem delights. Look how strong the narrative is, how grounded, how it carries the piece; notice the softer assonance, the echoes, the subtler qualities of language that exemplify good prose poetry; the imaginative sensitivity that allows her to catch a moment like this and, more importantly, her willingness and determination to see the piece through. It’s one thing to play with a poem, of course, but it’s another to take the poem seriously, to allow oneself to be played with, to become almost hysterical, to be carried away. And that, I think, requires a certain amount of skill and bravery.

(We also thought it was an awesome title.)

Personally we’ll never look at ink blots the same way again.

To read In Poem Class I Learn Ink Blots Really Work Because We Make Them With Our Own Hands, click here.

To order Four Chambers 01, click here.