The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Lee Ann Roripaugh’s “Dandarians”




So cold, the car’s rear window disintegrates in a smooth evaporating
whoosh. One moment it’s there, the next ringing down onto the snow
in a spangled jangle of shards like a spilled sheet of ice. This crash.
This unlikely breakage. Is this brokenness a broken thing or a thing
breaking open to let something else in?


In an e-mail, you write: You were the first boy I ever kissed. For at
least a week after, quietly stifling in my parents’ house of unrealizable
expectations, I’d sometimes close my eyes and think about that kiss . . .
and there’d be a soft little flip-flop. Like an egg—flipped over easy—in
the skillet of my stomach.


Outside, below zero. Only snow, and stars, and dark. Thin white rind
of ice glazing the windows. Inside the heat of the car, they tumble
like socks in a dryer.


You forgot the hot dark burn of it, like a fragrant scald of coffee
poured over frozen cubes, combustion of hot and cold shattering
glass, sepia pooling on the counter around softening lumps of ice,
slight hiss of steam misting up. You want to avoid the shattering—
the mess and danger of it—but you love the burning, even though it
seems too much to hold inside.


You crack open an egg filled with pale flame into someone’s open
palms. Because they are there. Because their hands are held out to
you. So did all the rawness, the gold fire, always belong to them all


A night of too much wine, your nervous system all diamond-flinted
sparks and burning neon tracers—scalded stars sliding down the
sky’s frozen cheek.


Sometimes you accidentally break things because you can’t believe
they were meant for you in the first place—too fragile, too unex-
pected, too much like something you knew you wanted too much.
It must be for someone else, you convince yourself. This is just a story
I’ve made up to tell myself inside my head. You’re too shy to hold out
your hand, something slips and spills into the in between and breaks,
something you wanted to ask for, but you still don’t know if it was
ever yours to break in the first place.

This selection comes from Lee Ann Roripaugh’s book Dandarians, available from Milkweed Editions. Purchase your copy here!

Lee Ann Roripaugh is the author of four volumes of poetry, the most recent of which, Dandarians, was released by Milkweed Editions in September 2014.  Her second volume, Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press), was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004, and her first book, Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin Books), was a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series.  The recipient of a 2003 Archibald Bush Foundation Individual Artist Fellowship, she was also named the 2004 winner of the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award, the 2001 winner of the Frederick Manfred Award for Best Creative Writing awarded by the Western Literature Association, and the 1995 winner of the Randall Jarrell International Poetry Prize.

Her short stories have been shortlisted as stories of note in the Pushcart Prize anthologies, and two of her essays have been shortlisted as essays of note for the Best American Essays anthology.  Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.  Roripaugh is currently a Professor of English at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as Director of Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review.  She is also a faculty mentor for the University of Nebraska low-residency M.F.A. in Writing, and served as a 2012 Kundiman faculty mentor alongside Li-Young Lee and Srikanth Reddy.

Jennifer Jackson Berry is the author of the chapbooks When I Was a Girl (Sundress Publications) and Nothing But Candy (Liquid Paper Press). Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Booth, The Emerson Review, Harpur Palate, Moon City Review, Stirring, and Whiskey Island, among others. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


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