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.
The night before he left for basic training, Ebo had one last pigeon to kill—a cream barred homer from the old line of Stichelbaut. The bird was from a long strain of impressive racers, a gift from his mother when he was nine years old. Ebo had put off killing this bird, his favorite, by killing all the others first: one, sometimes two, a day. It had to be done. The birds would not stay away from their coop and his leaving home meant there would be no one to care for them.
The Twerp’s new record has been playing for hours, but it seems like days. It seems like it’s been playing his whole life. His ears have turned red from excitement. It has that sound, the one he has been describing his whole life.
Kyle Waller was retired from his job at InvoTech for exactly twenty business days when he found himself crouched at the helm of an old fishing boat, sputtering across the jade skin of the Mopan River in Belize. The boy Oscar was at the stern, manning the rudder while the woman from Florida and her teenaged son sat athwart, withering in the heat, heads shrouded in sunglasses and safari hats, noses white with zinc.
The first time I saw Kemi she was causing a scene. Everyone stopped to watch—the boarding house staff, the students they were checking in, and the parents carrying luggage into the hostels. In front of the hostels, in the open space where cars were parked, a woman stood by the back door of a shiny Land Cruiser with dark tinted windows, struggling to wrench herself free from Kemi, whose hands were locked around her middle. Kemi was holding on from behind, her body bent at the waist.
We read fine things but never feel them to the full until we have gone the same steps as the Author.
—John Keats, letter to John Reynolds, May 3, 1818
“I purpose…to make a sort of Prologue to the Life I intend to pursue.…I will clamber through the Clouds and exist.”
—Keats, letter to Benjamin Haydon, April 8, 1818
(novel excerpt from Peace at Last)
“M. Nobel, the reputed inventor of nitroglycerine, has been visiting this and the other copper mines for the purpose of introducing this powerful explosive agent. M. Nobel assured Captain Stevens that by this compound the great masses of copper, upon which gunpowder has no effect, can be sundered.”
—Travel article in The New York Times, August 16, 1866
Sun Ra claimed to hail from Saturn, but he and his Intergalactic Arkestra still had to suffer the trials of earthly travel. When his agent phoned us to say they’d be driving up early, a day before their hotel was expecting them, we had to scramble to find beds.
A sudden gust of wind blew strands of Polly Stillman’s brown hair across her face, obscuring her view of the late afternoon sun on Hatch’s Bay. No matter, she didn’t see a composition anyway. In past summers, this scene usually inspired a painting—of beach grass shadows slashing the bright dunes; of a large rock, encrusted with a treasure of seaweed, snails, and mussels; or of waves breaking on an abandoned jetty that ended the beach.
Begin with the priest, that towering old man, narrow as a cornstalk and motionless in the vacancy between lectern and pulpit. His attachment to the tick-tock undertaking of time is acting up. He gets stuck in certain moments or skips ahead like those oft-scratched forty-fives of his youth. Stationary on the elevated platform, he poses a question that contradicts itself: how long have I been lodged between then and now?