Nonfiction | June 01, 2002
Not from Here
A person with a bad name is already half-hanged. -Proverb
CALL IT A FAMILY trait. My aunt Barbara, christened Imogene, changed her name when she was seventeen. Her sister Inez began with a different name too, but she changed it so early that no one can recall the first one. Their brother, my father, struggled under the weight of Clarence Thomas, then got tired of his friends’ teasing and went by Tom.
Terrence Thomas, my brother, briefly tried to follow my father’s example, going through most of high school as Tom before reverting to Terry. At about the same time, in another stab at personal re-creation, he tried to train himself to be ambidextrous. He would take ten minutes to comb his hair or brush his teeth with his left hand, and his attempts to eat sent the butter dish skittering across the dinner table. I don’t suppose he stayed with the experiment for more than a month or so, but in my memory he kept it up for years.
I admired his attempts, understanding even as a ten-year-old why a person would want to resculpt the clay of his identity. The whole business of personality preoccupied and troubled me. Everything I did, it seemed, served as a clue to other people that I was a certain sort of girl – tenderhearted because I liked animals, snooty because I liked ballet, rebellious because I liked John better than Paul or George. Choices apparently added up and told the world something about me. But I wanted to tell the world nothing.
I resented how freely relatives and neighbors claimed to know some “me” who always struck my private self as brassy and unsubtle. No sooner would an aunt predict that I would grow up to be a baker (since I had made cookies the last time she came to visit) than I would deliberately botch whatever was in the oven. To the neighbor who bought me a one-piece bathing suit, remembering how I’d criticized certain showy girls (we lived near the beach in southern California, and swimwear was a constant topic of conversation), I coldly said that I only wore bikinis. I’m embarrassed now at having been so surly with these kind women. But their assumptions made me feel trapped in a tiny box, and I couldn’t stop myself from scrabbling back out.
The way I knew myself best was by negation: I was not who other people thought I was. And so I cheered my brother on as he spent hour after hour teaching himself to write with his left hand just so he’d be able to startle his friends the day he casually took out his pen and signed his name with a back slant. Ha! his action would say. You thought you knew me so well. You don’t know the first thing about me.
I lacked his obsessiveness but not his impulse, and like my Aunt Barbara I waited until I was seventeen to make my move. Seventeen is an age for urgently trying out new identities, the last year to make changes before college, that portal of adulthood. Many kids I knew, people who had walked home by the exact same routes for eight years, were rearranging their friends, their habits, their look. Over thirty of the girls in my high school class of six hundred had rhinoplasty the summer before our senior year. They presented their pert new profiles at the beach a safe month after the surgery, when the bruising wasn’t too noticeable.
Polite people have told me that my nose lends character to my face; I could have used rhinoplasty myself. And for a solid six months before my senior year, as my mother reminds me, I pestered my parents for the surgery. Just as they started to waver, I backed off. A change in appearance, especially one that would require general anesthetic, wasn’t what I wanted. Surgery would only trade one concrete source of identity for another. I was secretly proud of my profile, which recalled Ethel Barrymore’s. But still I felt the itch to step outside myself, whatever myself was. And so, like my father and brother and my aunts before me, I changed my name.
The procedure was surprisingly simple. I wrote to the Los Angeles county registrar for an affidavit to amend my birth certificate, adding a middle name where before none had existed. I went to my parents’ bank and got the form notarized, unsure what “notarized” meant but proud of knowing the word, which I worked into conversations for weeks. Then I sent the paperwork and ten dollars back to the registrar and left plain Susan McGraw, that contrary girl, stranded in 1974, little remembered and not much missed. Instead, I became a new thing, though no less contrary. S. E. McGraw. Erin.
If I had been able to read the poll of sexiest female names published a few years later in Playboy I would probably have chosen differently or not changed my name at all. Susan was ranked number three on the Playboy list, behind only Cheryl and Sandra – sibilant, insinuating names. Beside them Erin sounds ungainly. But in 1975 the poll wasn’t out, and I didn’t know anyone named Erin, and that was the point.
I knew a lot of girls named Susan. I’d gone through grade school with three of them, all, like me, diligent but not brilliant students, lousy at sports, nice girls who weren’t invited to the best parties. Anything but centerfold material, no matter what Playboy said. So far I had seen nothing to recommend being a Susan.
Erin, on the other hand, had immediate attractions, not the least being its Hibernian lilt. Although McGraw – probably from the more forbiddingly Gaelic McGraugh – sounds Irish enough, my branch of the McGraws are a little shaky on their identity. My father’s father’s family emigrated from Donegal, in the north of Ireland- or possibly from Cork, in the south; the stories vary – in the mid-nineteenth century. They settled in Michigan, then immediately fanned across the continent, resisting the preference of some immigrants to cluster and cling to the traditions of the old country. The McGraws had gone to considerable trouble to relocate. The last thing any of them wanted to do was reestablish the impoverished, clannish selves they had left behind.
The other side of my father’s family tree looks, at first glance, as if it might have been a little more attached to its Celtic roots. Dad’s mother’s mother was actually named “Ireland.” But her family, despite that name, had lived for generations in Lyons, a town located in Indian Territory at the time of my grandmother’s birth. Now it’s in Kansas. If her forebears had come from Ireland, none of the family knew when or cared. So my claim to Irish ancestry, all the leprechauns and toora-loora-looras that Erin suggests, was attenuated, though not quite inaccurate.
If I had wanted a cultural identity, I should have looked on the distaff side. My mother’s parents emigrated from Croatia to Rock Springs, Wyoming, in the 1920s. From the house where I grew up, in southern California, my mother spoke in Slav to her parents every week on the phone;I remember reading the comics while she talked to them and feeling not the slightest bit of curiosity about what she might be saying, even when I heard her say my name (“Ja, ja, Susie”) and then the pretty, incomprehensible jabber. I assumed she was telling them that I was fine; I was always fine. I didn’t wonder about my mother’s story or ponder what might have pushed her to quit the immigrant, coal-mining town that she knew and come to share a split-level house with a husband who couldn’t pronounce his mother-in-law’s maiden name.
Her parents were real immigrants, making their own wine and curing their own garlicky sausages, re-creating their Croatian lives in a community so saturated with other émigrés that when I visited for a resentful week every summer, I could walk four blocks without hearing English spoken. I didn’t think about the fact that my mother hadn’t taught me to speak Croatian – she called it Slav – although it had been her first language.
Taking her subtle cue, I held that potent, real heritage at arm’s length. The foreignness was too raw for me. Besides, what child in the 1960s had ever heard of Yugoslavia? The Balkans had no cachet then. Posing on the narrow stage of my last name, I pronounced myself Irish.
It wasn’t hard. I’m scarcely the first person to notice that a broad, sentimental sympathy for Ireland exists in this country, anchored on one end by St. Patrick’s Day pub crawls and on the other by Riverdance. I attached myself to that sympathy like a barnacle. My family knew virtually nothing of Irish history, but I somehow knew about the legendary leader Brian Boru. Although for years I pronounced Yeats to rhyme with Keats, I could recite all of “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” And if we had no Irish record albums, my family still knew “Danny Boy,” that cliché of Irish clichés that makes my throat tighten, even though the tune is hackneyed and probably inauthentic. If “Danny Boy” happened to come on the radio or TV, we all, even my mother, stopped to listen. I didn’t have to look to know that my father’s eyes shone with a film of tears. “Danny Boy” was our secular hymn, a filament tying us to a past that had no measurable claim on our lives.
In precisely this spirit did I embrace shamrocky “Erin McGraw ” I liked its hint of the brogue, its suggestion of fey humor and a certain wildness at the core. I encouraged in myself behavior I thought of as Yeatsian – including, I am embarrassed to admit, a fling with automatic writing. I was big on republicanism. Never having set foot in the country, I didn’t think about Ireland’s chronic unemployment, nationalist defeatism or alcohol dependence. I imagined an Ireland to suit myself. Why not? I had already made a name to suit myself, and that seemed to be going all right.
A true man never frets about his place in the world, but just slides into it by the gravitation of his nature, and swings there as easily as a star. -E. H. Chapin
At seventeen I didn’t realize that by fiddling with my identity I was clinging more firmly than ever to my roots, following the custom not only of my family but of my native place. Like my father, I was born and raised in Redondo Beach, California, a suburb southwest of Los Angeles. This fact is a point of pride for me, since proportionately few inhabitants of southern California were born in the same town where they grew up, and far fewer can boast a family residency that stretches all the way back to 1920.
In most areas, to have a family history and lineage tied to a specific place connotes something about personality or values or habits. Regional stereotypes still have currency – the laconic Vermont farmer, the chatty Mississippi hairdresser, the hearty Texan. But the traditional Californian is harder to figure, since the traditional Californian tends to be someone who started out as a laconic Vermonter or hearty Texan, somebody who left the home place in order to start again. Since 1960, when the immense wave of ex-GI’s coming to California for aerospace jobs petered out, most of the state’s newcomers have hailed from Mexico or Central America or Asia, but the pattern holds: the regional trait that identifies Californians is the sense of possibility, the belief that the past can be shed as if it were a coat.
My paternal grandfather, the first Clarence McGraw, was the sort of ambitious, restless man who populated the state. A high school dropout from Michigan, Clarence wound up in Los Angeles building cracking plants for Western Oil and Refinery, one of the dozens of startup oil companies that was making overnight millionaires in the 1910s and ’20s, though my grandfather wasn’t one of them. Still, it was not Clarence but his wife, my grandmother Bess, who set the bar for creating a new identity.
Bess outlived Clarence by twenty years, and I remember her clearly – an impatient woman of needle-sharp intelligence who did not pretend any interest in topics that bored her. Medicine, my father’s profession, bored her. Neighborhood gossip bored her. Children bored her profoundly, and she would pay attention to me only if I conversed at an adult level. For her clear belief that I could be a grownup if I would just try, I adored her.
On summer mornings when she visited, we watched TV game shows together. I tried to impress her, watching Jeopardy! without complaint, calling out answers on the rare occasions I knew one, usually the name of a U.S. president. She accepted these contributions without comment. From her end of the couch she burned through the other categories – politics, fashion, even great books, although my father claimed he’d never seen her with a book in her hand. She kept track of her winnings in her head and smoked ten cigarettes in half an hour, looking with scorn at the TV contestants whom she outscored. At the end of the program she told me how much she would have earned. Usually she came in close to the winning contestant. I think her scores were honest. “People come on the show without knowing anything. To play this game you have to know something,” she said.
It’s easy to imagine how such a restless mind must have been frustrated by the long, blank horizons of her Indian Territory home place, where there was no library and no schooling past age twelve. Lyons was pure prairie – sidelined, barely inhabited, as peripheral to both the coast and the heartland as some ancillary artery. Easy country to forget, if a person didn’t happen to live there.
Like a lot of impulsive girls of her time, Bess married when she was fifteen, to get away from a father who slapped her around when he was in his cups. She married the first man who asked, a Mr. King. Too late she discovered that he also would slap her around when he was in his cups. By the time she was seventeen, that fraught age, she found herself the mother of two daughters, more thoroughly chained in place than ever.
But apparently nobody told Bess Cates, now Bess King, that she was supposed to stay trapped. One day she dressed the girls and took them over to her mother’s house, asking her mother to look after the girls for a little while. Then she went into town, bought a train ticket to Portland, Oregon, and headed west on the Union Pacific. Who knows where she got the money? The porter needed to help her up onto the train, she told me – the hobble skirts that were fashionable then didn’t allow a stride wide enough to manage the steep steps.
Onto the train was handed Bess King, wife and mother of two. Off the train came Bess King, single gal. I like to imagine that she debarked looking new, though I know that long train journeys around 1900 didn’t leave passengers rejuvenated. But she was new now, fresh, having thrown off the weight of her short lifetime’s bad decisions. Maybe she cut her hair on that train or smoked her first cigarette. I’m free to invent, since at this point the narrative becomes fuzzy. Maybe Bess had relatives in Portland, maybe she didn’t. Maybe she stayed in a genteel boarding house, or a not-so-genteel one. We know for sure that she didn’t contact her family or tell her little girls where their mother was. She meant to cut her ties for good.
My mother is always appalled by this part of the story; she can’t bring herself even to imagine a mother who would leave her children, especially with a father who drank himself into violence. And of course my mother is right. Still, I see my grandmother’s ruthlessness as a kind of courage. Having decided to start afresh, she did the job right. No one knows if she was ever overcome with homesickness or dread or the hunger to smell her young daughters’ hair. She knew that if a decision is going to mean anything, you have to abide by it. A large part of whatever made up my grandmother was steel.
We assume she supported herself in Portland as a seamstress because by the time she made it down to Los Angeles – following what man or hunch? – her skill as a needlewoman gained her a job in the alterations department of the tony I. Magnin department store. Her skill at quick conversation gained her a new husband, Clarence, the up-and-comer with Western Oil & Refinery. With him she made a fine new family: a daughter, Katherine (who actually remained Katherine her whole life, a McGraw record), and a son, Clarence Thomas junior, called Tommy.
My mother and I often speculate about just what kind of scene ensued ten years later, in the mid-1920s, when first Barbara (née Imogene) and then Inez (née something) materialized on the front porch and called Bess “Mother.” When Clarence came home that night, did she sit him down on the couch and say, “Dear, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you”? No one knows or remembers, and Bess and Clarence’s marriage went on, with who knows what kind of resentments or paybacks. There was drinking. We do know that.
The life may not have been perfect, but Bess did not fling herself into the Pacific Ocean when her past came and rang her doorbell. She was changed, and her children got changed right along with her. Leaving behind their prairie roots, Barbara and Inez had careers as starlets in the 1930s. Barbara performed memorably in the immense chorus of “Barbaric Rhythm” at the Paramount Theater, where she wore a few feathers and a pair of shoes. Inez, who could sing, was billed as the “Songbird of the Southland,” a title that suggested, in typical Hollywood fashion, banjos and magnolias but literally meant the freeways, oil derricks and tar pits of Los Angeles.
And Bess? She played the organ at her church, and as president of the Altar Society oversaw the laundering of altar cloths, a task that required two days every week to stretch and iron the long linens across the length of the living room so they would hang without a crease on Sunday mornings. She was a member in good standing of the Redondo Beach Women’s Club. She had become a respectable matron, a role she would never have attained back in Lyons, with Mr. King. And if it was a life that her flapper daughters would look at and mock, if rebellious Bess had come all the way to California in order to create the same repressed, status-conscious life that many people fled the Midwest to escape, so what? We go where we have to in order to find happiness, a truth any Californian could tell you.
To be happy at home is the ultimate aim of all ambition; the end to which every enterprise and labor tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution. – Dr. Johnson
All my life Californians have told me, “You don’t seem like you’re from here.” Even as a girl, I understood the accuracy of this statement. Something Californian – the sheen, the ripeness – eluded me, and that suited me fine: I would rather be elusive than shining. I can get a good tan if I want to, and I have a California notion that public space is by definition informal; I’ll walk down a sidewalk in a bathing suit and flip-flops unless my husband stops me. But still I don’t feel at home in my home state.
I didn’t comprehend my sense of out-of-placeness until I moved away. How could I? If I’d thought about it, I would have assumed that everyone lived in a state of tension with his or her home culture. Then I came to Indiana.
I was twenty-three and had moved to Bloomington with my first husband to attend graduate school. “Just wait till you see how people cluster around you at those California cocktail parties when you tell them where you’re going,” said my Indiana-born friend Jeanne. She herself was moving to Hawaii.
I didn’t expect to stay in the Midwest longer than I would need to get my master’s degree. While I didn’t scorn the flyover zone, I didn’t feel any pull to live there, either. Life in the states from Pennsylvania to Colorado was one more thing I’d never thought about, aside from watching presidential election returns and making the occasional dim remark about America’s breadbasket, which I understood to exist in the Midwest someplace. It was a region that didn’t seem to require thought. Had I been paying attention, I would have understood that to be an attraction.
Although I had lived out of the country for a year as a college exchange student, I’d never lived in a different state before, and at first I found the experience unnerving. Hoosiers didn’t display the casual California familiarity with one another, and they shared their own habits and turns of speech. “Hello, dear,” said salesclerks in the first four stores I entered. When a woman in the office where I got a job broke her leg, all of her coworkers except me dropped by her house the next day with casseroles and coffee cake (I still don’t know how they found out her address). They all seemed to be operating by the same rules, and because I didn’t know what those rules were, I felt nervous and exposed.
I talked to people shyly, trying not to reveal my ignorance of the local customs, but every time I stepped out the door I stumbled on something else I didn’t know: how the movie Breaking Away wasn’t just about the annual bicycle race in Bloomington but about the still fierce town-gown clash in the community; how college professors scheduled exams around the NCAA Final Four but ignored the Oscars; how I could not buy liquor on Sundays. The fourth or fifth Sunday that the same cashier at the grocery store plucked a bottle of wine from between my broccoli and pork chops and set it behind the cash register, she said amiably, “You’re just not right with this, are you? Where you from, dear?”
“California.” My voice was an embarrassed croak, but at least nobody was behind me in line to witness my dunderheadedness.
“That explains it,” she said, while the cashier at the next station looked over and said, “Huh. You don’t seem like you’re from California.”
“Not everybody there looks like a beach bunny,” I said.
“My cousin married a Polish gal. You look kind of like her.”
“A lot of Poles in California,” I said. “A lot of everybody.”
“See, now I wouldn’t like that,” she said. “I don’t like being around too many people.”
“Me neither,” I said.
“Well, you should like it here. Don’t worry about the wine. We’ll look after you.”
I left the grocery store with a light heart. The cashiers had offered me a new identity: a transplant, whose excuse from here on out would be Not from Here. Any expectations about attitudes or behaviors could slide off me like oil. My actions, my opinions, my choices in food and pets, my politics, didn’t have to add up to anything – who could expect consistency from someone Not from Here? I understood that I was, in a sense, being written off, but I didn’t mind that. What I loved was not being written in the first place.
I started paying attention to this place that I was not from. Like California, it had a car culture, but unlike California, which loved sleek German and Italian cars, Indiana was all about Firebirds, Corvettes, Trans Ams. Kids tore around the downtown square on summer nights, and people complained, but the complaints were indulgent. Race Day, the Indianapolis 500, was practically a state holiday.
At the local truck stop, I observed food as if I were an anthropologist, studying the immense pork tenderloin sandwiches with their bubbled, deep-fried meat lolling over the edges of the bread and the Big Red soda pop, advertised on billboards with the slogan It Just Tastes Red. “That about says it all, don’t it?” said my neighbor, nodding at the billboard, with an irony so profound it took me a while to recognize it. Once I did, I parroted him like crazy.
Parroting Hoosiers was harder than it sounds. The Hoosier accent is complex, inflected with the Appalachian sing-song that floats up from Kentucky, to the south, but broadened in the Midwestern fashion-“pie” is neither “pah” nor “pah-ee” but something in between. I practiced, trying to master the distinctions. “Catawpa” for “catalpa.” “Murder” for “murderer.” I got to hear that one in my first year because the local newspaper, the Bloomington Herald-Telephone, was covering the trial of a woman who had killed her abusive husband by dropping a bowling ball on his head several times. Years later, on a trip back to California, I related this story to a journalist friend, thinking she would appreciate the bowling-ball details. “The Herald-Telephone?” she kept saying. “The Herald-Telephone?”
“That’s not the important part,” I said irritably.
I didn’t understand yet what was happening to me. Having little experience with feelings of ease and expansiveness, of fundamental comfort, I didn’t recognize them. What I did recognize was the new sense of spaciousness that surrounded me, and I responded to it by giving over my heart. To anyone who would listen, I defended the breaded tenderloin sandwiches, the strongly Republican politics, the culture – insular, yes, and self-protective, yes, but quick to see and respond to people’s needs. Hoosiers, I said, knew how to demonstrate a personal interest without being intrusive. This was real sophistication, as opposed to the brittleness of fast-paced coastal culture.
People who grew up in the Midwest have often hooted at me when I’ve tried to express these feelings. They don’t find their existence spacious at all. They tell anecdotes about how every gesture they make reminds family members of aunts and grandfathers, sometimes dead for generations. From birth, they claim, they are scrutinized, classified and categorized, and once they’ve been assigned a category, they are expected to stay there. “Why are you acting like your mama?” one friend of mine was asked when she was a child. “That’s your sister. You’re your daddy’s child.” I understood her frustration and sense of enclosure, and understood why she wanted to go to New York, where no one knew her. But those rules don’t apply to me.
At the same time that I was falling in love with Indiana, my first husband, a Minnesotan who had moved to California as a teenager, was not. He was taking courses toward his MBA and came home from his first midterm enraged. The professor, meaning to give the students an easy question, had posed a statistical breakdown involving the likelihood of the incendiary basketball coach Bob Knight losing his temper. But in our first few months in the Midwest, my husband and I had never heard of Bob Knight, a fact that brought gales of laughter from our neighbors – as it would now, from me. Never heard of Coach Knight? Where are you from, anyway?
At the time we thought it said something about us-something to be proud of – that we didn’t know the name of the basketball coach. And it did, of course. It said that we thought it was important for our lives to mean something – whatever that meant. Our tastes and choices and impulses were part of an elaborate fabric of signification. It took us a while to figure out that our new friends and neighbors couldn’t give a rip about our fabric. He, disturbed by the unanchored quality of such a life, went back to California. Feeling as if I had been set free, I stayed.
Who hath not owned, with rapture-smitten frame, the power of grace, the magic of a name. -William Cowper
To live the life I wanted, I came to the Midwest from California. My grandmother did just the opposite, but I like to think that we were responding to the same impulse. As far as I’m concerned, I’m carrying out her legacy.
I was well into my twenties before I assembled the details I’d heard over the years about her young life and my aunts and started to comprehend the story that had never exactly been told to my brother and me. It’s hardly surprising that my parents never sat us down and said, “Children, your grandmother was a bigamist.” But the part of her history that catches my interest isn’t the husband left behind in Kansas, the one who seemed to care as little for her as she for him (since, from the evidence, he never troubled himself to look for her). What I weigh is how thoroughly she walked out on her past and gave herself a new beginning. The move was amoral, to say the least, but it still seems a little bit wonderful.
Like many Californians, I’m more in love with my future than my past. I have a hunger for fresh starts, and when I say “fresh,” I mean “total.” I don’t feel a pleasing connectedness when I think about my history, the little mistakes and triumphs that have taken me to where I now stand. I still squirm about the day when I, age five, caught my brother’s goldfish between my fat fingers and plucked its fins off. Terry wailed when he found his dead pet floating in the fishbowl, and my mother told me, “You won’t get punished so long as you tell the truth.”
“He must have tried to jump out,” I said. The plucked fins, dried now to tiny transparent chips, were scattered around the fishbowl, and it occurred to me that I should have gotten rid of them. “I guess he wanted to get out of where he was.” Five years old, and already the most plausible story I could construct hinged on the desire to start afresh.
Since I came to Indiana, I have relished the contrariness of the move – Frederick Jackson Turner assured us all that populations moved to California from the Midwest – and the neatness of the pattern. Moving, the quintessential California act of reinvention, has taken me away from California.
I relish also the retrograde-fashion factor. By any known scale, it is cooler to live in California than in Columbus, Ohio, where I have finally settled, close to my beloved Indiana. But any Californian can tell you that the coolest thing of all is to embrace that which has heretofore looked nerdy. If you don’t see the point of the Midwest – well, never mind. If you have to ask, you’ll never get it.
The attitude isn’t all an act. To the bemusement of my family, I derive true pleasure from my garden, from talking about the weather with my neighbors, from watching the dismal careers of the Bengals and Browns, Ohio’s disastrous NFL franchises. Not only do these little acts provide pleasure; they give me comfort – the assurance of a reliable context. I can join in on things if I want, but nothing will be expected. Nothing is expected. If this isn’t liberation, what is?
People don’t so often say now, “You don’t seem like you’re from California.” Instead they say, “You seem like you’re from here,” and it’s a measure of how much I have changed that I take this as a compliment. But I’m still a McGraw woman, and sometimes when I make out tax or motor vehicle checks to the State of Ohio I can picture my aunt Barbara’s stout figure, Aunt Inez’s sweet smile, perhaps sniff a whiff of my grandmother’s cigarette.
My brother doesn’t think I need to sever my California ties so completely. “You can have it all,” he is fond of telling me, a sentiment that is Californian to the core. But he tried living in the Midwest-his youngest son was born in Cincinnati. After a few years the family restlessness seeped up in him, the yearning for a life that was different, and like his grandmother he took off for Portland, the place where middle-aged professionals now go when they want to remake their lives. When I mention Cincinnati to him he looks pained.
I go back to California to see my parents, but not once have I returned for a high school or college reunion, not once sent anything but regrets and a present in response to wedding invitations. When my mother asks, in frustration, if I’m not even curious about my old chums, I answer her honestly: No. Those people knew someone named Sue, and Sue has been gone for years.
If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at an institution whose library subscribes to Project Muse, you can read this piece and the full archives of the Missouri Review for free. Check this list to see if your library is a Project Muse subscriber.
Want to read more?Subscribe Today
SEE THE ISSUE
May 17 2022
Facing it Sally Crossley “there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;” —T. S. Eliot The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
May 16 2022
Oranges Robin Reif We called it the Buffet of Dead Food: flaccid bacon, eggs—hard-boiled and cold—and toast so tough it scratched the roofs of our mouths. Still, the meal had
Jan 07 2022
Cover Up I did not begin my time in Jerusalem with the desire to be dangerous. I arrived in that most intoxicating, infuriating, enervating, derelict, and sad of cities with