daily life personal essay

The town on top of the hill. (In the flattest party of the country.)

The snow has finally melted.

I hated the snow. I was complaining about it constantly for the last two weeks, moaning and making every possible excuse to stay indoors. But now that it’s melted, I already miss it. I should have gotten a photograph. It was beautiful.

Not that Cambridge isn’t always beautiful.

My close-lipped brother – who speaks half a dozen languages but never uses more than half a dozen words to describe an experience (no matter how marvelous or harrowing), who says “fine” and can mean anything by it from horrendous to incredible, from whom getting a story is like pulling teeth, who has lived in Paris for nearly two years now but can’t be compelled to say anything more than that it’s “very French”, who studies at the Sorbonne itself and who himself is no stranger to some ornate facades carved from stone  – he said that Cambridge was a fairy-tale land.

He said that there I was in Cambridge living a fairy-tale life in a fairy-tale land. Actually, I’m sure he must have said academic. He said academic fairy-tale.

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personal essay

“My” piece of the Berlin Wall

I was there when the Berlin Wall fell. I toured with the Rolling Stones. And I was in a stroller at the time.

I have a piece of the Berlin Wall to prove it.

My parents got it from the source – the wall itself. The wall had been built the year my mother was born; it fell the year I was. By the time we got there, there was still enough of it left that, as my mom tells it, half of Europe was there to party and hack off what they could.

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personal essay travel

Mon frère habitera à Paris. Or, Expatriating with grace.

My brother has a "phobia" of looking like a foreigner. (He told me so himself.)

Now, I can almost understand. I hate looking like a tourist. I get self-conscious with my accent echoing in my own ears and all the wrong currencies falling out of my pockets.  I feel single-handedly responsible for over-turning all the stereotypes about loud Americans. I refuse to patronise international chains and I've been known to duck into a doorway to surreptitiously peer at the directions that I've discretely scrawled on my hand. I don't carry a guide-book in public. (Actually, I don't carry one at all.)

My brother takes "not standing out" to an entirely new level. He takes my simile and turns it into a metaphor. He is dignity and assimilation.

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personal essay poem

Tell me my story

Tell me a
story, they
say (ask plead)
and I am stuck
(trapped stilled
muted) because my
glass (jar urn) is filled
to the brim and should I
open my mouth to sing (cry
laugh lecture babble) I do not know
what else would slip out. It is not hope
that I have locked away and my name is not
Arachne nor am I married but my loom (tongue ink
keyboard) unravels itself faster than I weave, faster
(slower) than I think and I am buying time for conjunctions
or, failing that, waiting for a blade sharp enough to find the edges
I cannot see. I have torn the thread in my teeth, pulled out the seams,
and I have placed a pirate’s patch
over my good eye as I climb in the dark, gripping each step with my toes,
unable to look backwards for fear I’ll never go home again.
I have amalgamated your folklore to my memory.
My metaphors are but dreams, for I write poems in place of dancing,
draft tears to memos, and to the chorus (peanut gallery) only is my rage
exposed. And none of this remains (escapes flees transcends coagulates).
I write that which I do not (remember guess) know and don’t know
what I say nor have said and Sing to me, Muse, sing to me of
the girl I might have been (to be) for I do not know my skin
these days nor even my edges (limits endoskeletal) and I
do not know when my voice and yours diverge
(two roads in a caged bird) and I write about
writing as if conjuring a prophecy and
wonder what happened to the meta
(physical).

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