The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Lisa Birman’s “How To Walk Away”



     Because it’s not the shape we’re meant to take:
     We approximate the known. Mirror the difference. Smooth out the particulars of who we are. We learn how to sit quietly in school. How to answer the basic questions. How to make a pleasantry. All the social norms of sharing space. We learn how to dress like other people. How to wait our turn. We learn the concepts of fair and not fair. How to disagree without violence. How to stand our ground.
     Some of this happens in conversation. Some of it is mimicry. A role that isn’t made for us but that we learn to play.
     A broken mirror means seven years. There are consequences of splintering. Even if we say we don’t believe.
     Czechoslovakia was a land-locked country and still it dissolved. There was one country on December 31, 1992. Then everyone forked their tongues, sang a song. Everyone kissed and there were fireworks. And then it was a new year and two new countries and all the maps were wrong again.
     Some people fear ladders. Black cats. The color green. Some people fear an open umbrella. A Shakespearian tragedy. A crack in the sidewalk. An itchy palm. An itchy ear. All of these chains. All of these triggers.
     So we throw the rice. Search for the fourth leaf. Do or do not step on shadows. We tell ourselves we’re taking care. Listen for the owls. Try to blow out the candles in a single breath. All of these silent agreements. All of this time.

This selection comes from Lisa Birman’s novel How To Walk Away, available now from Spuyten Duyvil Press. Purchase your copy here!

Lisa Birman is a poet and novelist. She has just published her first novel, How To Walk Away (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2015).

Lisa is the author of the poetry collection For That Return Passage – a Valentine for the United States of America (Hollowdeck Press), and co-editor of the anthology Civil Disobediences: Poetics and Politics in Action (Coffee House Press). Her work has appeared in a wide range of well-respected poetry journals and she has published several chapbooks of poetry, including deportation poems and a trilogy of chapbooks in collaboration with Berlin-based singer/songwriter Josepha Conrad.

Lisa has been teaching writing in the United States, Australia, and the Czech Republic for the past fifteen years. She served as the Director of the prestigious Summer Writing Program at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics for twelve years and continues to teach for the MFA in Creative Writing.

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Lisa moved to New York via Seattle in 1995. She moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1997 to pursue her MFA in Writing and Poetics. Now a dual citizen, she’s still Australian at heart and often trades the Colorado winter for a few months of Melbourne summer to spend time with her family.

Lisa resides in Boulder, Colorado, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the editor of a forthcoming collection of letters from Frances LeFevre Waldman to poet Anne Waldman, Dearest Annie, You wanted a report on Berkson’s class (Hanging Loose Press), and is currently completing her second novel.



Beth Couture‘s work can be found in a number of journals and anthologies, including Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, The Southeast Review, Ragazine, and Thirty Under Thirty from Starcherone Books. She is currently working on her MSS at Bryn Mawr in Philadelphia.


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