The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s “What I Learned At The War”


#2 Proper Punctuation

When I was in kindergarten, I fell in love with the period, that
no-nonsense carbony dot of punctuational closure. Ironic, for a
girl—later, I would moan “I hate my period” but of course, I
didn’t mean the sentence-ending kind. My love affair with
Mssr. P was inextricably related to my fling with the sentence—
I could read and write when I arrived in Mrs. Dunlap’s lemon-
polished classroom, but had not yet enticed a pearly string of
words to join together in holy meaning. Before the afternoon I
wrote “Sam ran fast” on my Big Chief tablet, I was innocent of
my need for the period, but it soon became an obsession. It
seemed to me that Sir Period had power to put a full stop to
overwhelming demands, to end entire families of caustic
words, to insist no more and be taken seriously. I lingered with
Period, blunting my pencils and poking holes in paper while
retracing each one to its deepest possible blackness. Every
period gleamed with excess graphite, the fingers on my writing
hand stained, the side of my palm slick from slogging through
lead slag heaps on the way to the next sentence, the next
opportunity to create another singularity of imagined infinite
density, not a black hole but a worm hole into another world
where King Period reigned supreme. A world where chaos was
contained between periods, exclamation points were always
gleeful, and question marks were nothing to fear. When I was
older, I transferred my affections to the semicolon. I could not
abandon the period entirely but desired a more flexible,
functional punctuator, one that could divide and conjoin, end
and begin, simultaneously.

This selection comes from Jeanetta Calhoun Mish’s collection What I Learned At The War, available now from West End Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a scholar, poet, and prose writer; Her most recent books are Oklahomeland: Essays (Lamar University Press, 2015) and a poetry collection,What I Learned at the War (West End Press, March 2016). Mish’s 2009 poetry collection, Work Is Love Made Visible won the Western Heritage Award, the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West, and the Oklahoma Book Award. Mish’s chapbook, Tongue Tied Woman (2002), won the national Edda Poetry Chapbook for Women contest sponsored by Soulspeak Press. Her writings have been recently published or are upcoming in The Fiddleback, About Place Naugatuck River Review, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Halvard-Johnson’s Truck, Concho River Review, Yellow Medicine Review, and Mojave River Review. Jeanetta is editor of award-winning Mongrel Empire Press, and contributing editor for the literary journal Sugar Mule ( and for Oklahoma Today. She is director of and a faculty mentor for the Red Earth Creative Writing MFA Program at Oklahoma City University.

Noh Anothai was a researcher with the Thailand-United States Education Foundation (Fulbright Thailand) between 2011-12, during which he hosted cultural events for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and College of Dramatic Arts. Winner of Lunch Ticket‘s inaugural Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts (2014) and OUTspoken’s poetry prize in 2015, Anothai’s original poems and translations of Thai poetry have appeared both online and in-print, most recently in Ecotone and The Berkeley Poetry Review. A reader for River Styx’s annual poetry contest, Anothai teaches for the online MFA program at Lindenwood University.



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