Issue 261 | The Sun Magazine

September 1997

Readers Write

Starting Over

The Ganges river, Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto, Key West

By Our Readers


He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.

Arthur Miller

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Eric, Recovering Wino

The jail, the acid, being alone — it all starts to get to me. I feel ashamed, no good. I shit in the toilet; I fish out the turd; I take my spoon and eat a piece of the turd. I drink a spoonful of urine. I break the windowpanes with my elbows, cutting myself in the process. I try to cut off the fingers of my left hand, but succeed only in producing a deep gash across them. The blood floods out in big bright red drops. The air fills with the smell of my blood. I write my name on the wall with it. Thick gobs cling to my gray cell wall. I’m trying to think of a way to cut myself deeper when the guards come and haul me to the hospital.

By Eric Granskou
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Of Sorcery And Dreams

An Encounter With Carlos Castaneda

Death is the one inexorable fact in our transitory lives. Perhaps I will die a doddering old fool; perhaps I will die before the sun sets tonight. But I will die — that much is certain. In the meantime, what remains within my control is the groove of my life, the track upon which I choose to walk between the exclamation of my coming and the ellipsis of my going. At its purest, this track is trackless, like a path covered by freshly fallen snow. And trodding such virgin paths is the most enduring image of my adolescent dreams. By speaking directly to that memory, Castaneda has reawakened it within my heart. Given the perilously low ebb I have reached in life, I can only describe this feat as a genuine act of sorcery.

By Michael Brennan
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Bread Of Heaven

The secret ingredient in the cathedral’s communion bread is beer: twelve ounces of Miller, Budweiser, Olympia. Today I am using Anchor Steam left over from a fund-raiser. I am not supposed to drink. Some think even one beer can reduce your T -cell levels, and my count is already down to four per cubic millimeter of blood — less than half a percent of normal immune capability.

By Anna Heath

Starting Kevin

The idea of a baby sucking on her breast, the way her boyfriend back in Durant had liked to do, disgusted Vanessa, but she said she would try it. Kevin didn’t seem interested — just mouthed at her soft flesh and fell asleep — although he latched on quickly to the firm bottle nipple the maternity-ward nurses offered.

By Kathleen C. Smith

The Vulgar Soul

As his sessions with the psychiatrist progressed, the stigmata bled less frequently. Hogue was getting more sleep, and though he continued to lose weight, he managed to eat something every day. He felt cautiously hopeful.

By John Biguenet

One True Life

Walking to the neighborhood store, / my small, beautiful dog / straining at his red leash, and I / in my big winter jacket / against an April freeze and this / light battering of rain — / a young man approaches us, can / of beer and a Lotto / ticket in his hand.

By Barbara Hendryson

Mother To Child

Laughing to confound me. / Laughing when I cut my finger, / bang my head. / Laughing when I’m angry. / You are too much like me. / You are too close.

By Priscilla Frake

The Can Of Paint

Kathy opened the front door one Tuesday morning dressed in dirty rags and holding a little aluminum paint can in her arms. “From the moment she stepped inside the shelter, she mystified us,” one woman says. “Whatever she did, wherever she went, the little paint can never left her hands.”

By Lyn Lifshin


Strip off the shoes and pantyhose, / the grown-up drag. Undo / those soft white arms and their blond down, / moss made of light. / Wash away the sour working sweat, / fatigue of heels and fluorescent lights.

By Alison Luterman