cover photo by Nel Sogoloff
“In addition to skillfully sustaining…philosophical tension, Wright has a knack for rendering desolate landscapes and depicting an impressive variety of…spirited characters, which makes for poignant juxtapositions, and he also shows a natural ear for cadence. An often provocative compilation that shows remarkable range [with] a strong, unifying thread throughout.”
– Kirkus Reviews on THE SKY IS FAR AWAY
Excerpt - from the title story THE SKY IS FAR AWAY
I carry water from the river. It is hard work and I have to stop and rest. My feet hurt from the many stones in the road. Sometimes I go twice in one day. It is a long way to go from our village and the yellow plastic jugs are heavy when they are full. When it spills I am glad because it will be less to carry, but if there isn’t enough water I will have to come back and get more. Then I am sorry and wish I had not been so careless. My name is M.
The woman I live with is not my mother. She feeds me because no one else will. I have been with her a long time. We eat cassava roots and leaves and drink tea made from plants she finds in the bush. I don’t like the taste of her tea, but I drink it anyway. In the morning before the sun is too strong the women go to collect wood for the fire and that is when she finds the leaves for making tea. Her name is B. The women in our village go in groups to gather firewood and keep quiet in the bush because it is dangerous. If the soldiers come we have to hide. I am dark and like a shadow under the leaves but my pounding heart is too loud. I am afraid to breathe, which makes my heart beat faster and I become more afraid and I breathe harder. The road to the river is more open and dangerous but it is closer to the village. If I hurry I spill more water so I try to go slow but then I am afraid I am taking too long. You cannot be a shadow hiding under leaves on the road carrying yellow jugs of water. My breasts are growing and starting to show under my shirt. I want to hide but I cannot hide when I am carrying water from the river.
Sometimes in the bush we see snakes hanging from the trees. They are venomous and I worry about the snakes when we hide from the soldiers. A man at the river was bitten by a green snake and fell sick and died after only two days. I am careful to look down when I walk on the road and everywhere around me when I am in the bush.
The other women don’t talk to me. They hug their children and fuss over them. Their children look at me and call me names. Z does not. Z plays with me and holds my hand. No one plays with her either. B calls back to the other women but pays them no mind. Bah! She says and spits on the ground. I don’t know how long I’ve been here. B says a long time. I am going to leave someday. B is sick. When she dies I will go.
Excerpt - from the short story BITS & PIECES
I don't know what made me think of it. Sometimes all you need is the sound of a car horn or a whiff of nicotine, floating across the sand and the bare backs of sunbathers, and you have an uncanny experience, a total transfer of time. This happens more and more, now, and I don't know whether it's my age or my failing nerve, but I like the mystery of it, the tantalizing memory, the hypnotic allure of the ephemeral. And how amazing. It's all still right there; I could have it return to me instantly and hold it in the palm of my hand.
I hold Pattaya, now.
It is a hot, two hour drive from Bangkok, where the main office is, so we leave early every Friday afternoon and stay until Sunday night. They have beach houses we rent for the weekend and sailboat races right off the beach just beyond the surf. Boat boys will rig your boat for you and carry it, from the racks behind the clubhouse where we keep them, right down to the water's edge. After racing all day we drink beer in the shade of the long porch at the Yacht Club before showering and dressing for dinner. Then we have cocktails on the veranda with the Prince and his wife. Sometimes his father is there, the King of Thailand.
And so it was. Five years of idyllic memories, with only one exception. We had been driving down to Pattaya on the weekends for almost three years when we had the accident. It was too bad because until then it had been great. We loved it there. The water, the boats, the narrow sandy beach. The place gave us a much needed feeling of escape from all that was going on. It was heaven the way the clouds rose higher in the sky all afternoon, only to slide calmly back down by evening, and then sleep or grumble in the distance while we sat leisurely and drank in the gin, and the laughter, and the warm night air.
THE SOUND OF GLASS
appeared in THE LARCOME REVIEW
THE QUEEN OF HEARTS
appeared in THE SEWANEE REVIEW
The real subject in these stories is the human conscience. Brooks Wright can make you taste the missing coffee in the cup of boiled water a grieving Polish widow offers a Russian soldier, but such power of imagination is not what sets him apart. Rather it is where he chooses to focus his imagination; he has developed an uncanny ability to hear the voice of human conscience, and he knows how inarticulate and irrational that voice can be. Wright offers his readers a rare and necessary kind of insight. He’s holding up a mirror. It’s terribly important that we look at the reflection there.
- Alfred Nicol, award winning poet and recipient of the 2014 Richard Wilbur Award.
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