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PEN America Blog

July 28, 2016

Featuring award-winning prose and poetry from the 2015 PEN Prison Writing Contest, read by Khalil Cumberbatch, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Siri Hustvedt, Mitchell S. Jackson, Dawn Lundy Martin, Jeffrey Toobin, John Wray, and Sunil Yapa.

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July 27, 2016

Sarajevo was liberated in April of 1945. A month or two later they came for Opapa to take him to a camp, from which he, like all his compatriots, would later be deported to Germany.

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July 27, 2016

My first years were spent behind the shutters, in a room without engravings, in an archaeological silence a thousand years in the making...

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July 27, 2016

Of course, Mother assumed I was a virgin. She insisted I ride the flower sedan, that I was not to miss out on a prerogative so cherished.

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July 27, 2016

do ghosts remember? which ones do? which / ones don’t? and if they do, which organ // might they use?

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July 27, 2016

This might sound odd, but there are times when a last chance can seem less of a boon and more of a burden, because the tension in a situation is immediately diffused once there is no hope left.

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July 27, 2016

Not a trace, then, of the sky of lost civilization, like a fire or volcano, that I remember. Not a trace of the magical-realist sky, nor of the farmers pointing at the cloud of ash, reacting as by habit. Not a trace of the feathers, as if the nonnas of the village have swept them up in anticipation of the street-view team and their futuristic vehicle, and now remain, trapped in a fold of time, waiting for nightfall so they can raise the blinds again.

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July 27, 2016

He had to finish his books, this book he had written and rewritten, destroyed, renounced, destroyed once more, imagined once more, created once more, shortened and stretched out for ten years

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July 27, 2016

The car is heated by the afternoon sun, and I, pervaded through and through by a pain known as love, I don’t know it because I’m twelve, and so I just try to bear it somehow and not die, like when I’m sitting at the dentist’s with my mouth wide open and outside the window of milky glass people are walking by as if nothing were the matter and there’s not a thing you can do about it…

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July 27, 2016

What I need is a mouth. / I need a mouth the enamel of teeth your saliva. / Blood stops flowing to your lips. / I kiss the air, the locks of hair, the Virgin Mary. / I run ropes through the gates of your body. I pull on a rope to open your pupils and let in the light. / She is mad. / They murmur among themselves. / I clean you. Licking muscle joined to bone joined to skin. / I want what I want what everyone calls god for me / a mouth.

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