In 2012, we established Ploughshares Solos, a digital-first series for longer stories and essays, which is edited by Ploughshares Editor-in-Chief Ladette Randolph. New Solos are published regularly and are available for download on your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or Kobo.
In 1990, the avant-garde jazz musician Sun Ra arrived at Dartmouth to collaborate with the school’s jazz band, where Michael Lowenthal–an anxious, 20-year-old senior–played trumpet. As rehearsals got underway and two musical worlds collided, Lowenthal struggled with the improvisation that Sun Ra’s sparse, yet spiritual, melodies demanded. In this essay, Lowenthal recounts his “otherworldly” experience with the famous jazz star who claimed to be from Saturn.
Polly always finds refuge in painting. But when the beautiful landscapes of the Maine island where she spends her summers leave her uninspired, she questions the life she’s been living for the past thirty years. Will the reappearance of an old, seemingly successful friend be the spark Polly needs to get back on track, or will it derail her even further?
There's a specter floating above the pews at afternoon mass. Father Montgovery has no idea why the ghostly presence has followed him around for years, but, when a longtime parishioner asks for help in getting his drug-addicted daughter clean, Father Montgovery must do his best to ignore the phantom and shift his focus to the physical, and sometimes harrowing, world.
When 11-year-old Tino isn't sitting quietly in school, he's either visiting his dying mother in the hospital or making sure his UFO-obsessed father eats dinner. A loner among his peers, Tino is surprised when Omar, the strongest boy in school, befriends him out of the blue. Will Tino's intrigue outweigh his self-imposed isolation?
Eight-year-old Leeza hates the boys on twenty-fifth street. Worse than anything, she thinks, after they spit on her and tell her she smells. At home, Leeza's stepmother shows her no sympathy, scrubbing her skin raw and ordering her to chew gum. When the teasing from the "beady-eyed" twins on twenty-fifth takes a dangerous turn, so does the tension between Leeza, her stepmother, and her father.
Colin, a newly divorced lecturer of critical theory, wants to spice up his life. He attempts to learn Russian, gives online dating a go, and even entertains the idea of becoming an alcoholic—but nothing sticks. So when two young women he’s never met before ask him to party, he ignores the red flags and climbs into their car.
When asked out by a pastor, the sarcastic narrator of “Confession” lets intrigue get the best of her and agrees to a date. The two meet at a bar and instantly develop feelings for each other. Between drinks, the couple gets into a lively discussion of truth, sin, and, much to the narrator’s surprise, sex. Will the confessions revealed over the night bring them closer together, or stop their growing attraction in its tracks?
Orphaned during the Siege of Sarajevo, Marina—now a teenage figure skating star—returns to Bosnia for the first time since an American family adopted her as a baby. Tag along with Marina as she discovers the true meaning of family, learns about her heritage, and explores the war torn city that could have been her home.
Addie doesn’t know who left the footprints in the snow outside her house, but she’s convinced it’s someone seeking revenge for the horrific crime her son committed a year ago. Follow Addie as she tries to uncover the trespasser's identity and come to terms with the actions of a son she loves but can’t understand.
It's been years since the woman in "Biting the Moon" has seen her former lover Felix, a famous, Oscar-winning composer. But upon hearing the news of his sudden death, she mourns his loss by revisiting moments of their former life. Jumping in time from the pair’s first encounter at an artists’ colony to their rendezvous in cities across the US, the path the narrator takes toward acceptance is much like the jazz the couple loved so much: winding, unexpected, and beautiful.