Welcome to WWPH WRITES 57! This issue concerns beginnings—beginnings of journeys or life. In the poem Greening by Christina Daub, the narrator meditates on life, life yet to be born—an “island erupting/ into existence from the bottom.” In the short fiction Last Night I Did Something So Funny by Eliza Falk, the day after might be funny…or not. Plus, we have an offer of a free Advanced Readers Copy of one of our new award-winning books for six subscribers…read on for more!
co-president and poetry editor, WWPH Writes
WWPH WRITES: POETRY
Christina Daub is a Maryland poet whose work has been included in several journals and anthologies. She also translates from Spanish and German, teaches creative writing and has forthcoming poems in The Potomac Review.
So much begins inside
a clamped shell, a hard
seed, the cold black earth,
a darkroom waiting
for the image to unfurl,
the back of a jazz club,
space between notes,
silent pauses, the unknown,
unspoken, island erupting
into existence from the bottom
of an ink-black sea. And you,
in the womb, a light I feel
almost ready to unroot.
©Christina Daub 2023
WWPH WRITES: FICTION
Eliza Falk is a fiction writer based in DC. She is a recent UVA graduate and loves District Taco and short works that strike an emotional core.
Last Night I Did Something So Funny
When I left in the morning, it was too early to catch a metro, so I walked through the city, from Dupont to Capitol Hill, watching the day get started. Rowhomes interspersed with the occasional embassy offered an attractive view as I responded to texts from the night before, informing my roommate that I was alive, telling my best friend, Nicole, that I had a good story that I absolutely needed to tell her, and asking the group chat from the night before if anyone wanted to get brunch with me when they woke up—I was worried about spending too much time by myself, in my head.
I got to the Starbucks right on the circle as it was opening, feeling like a stranger to this hour. It smelled familiar, as all Starbucks do. My college friend worked in a Starbucks, and her fridge was had always been chock full of stolen oat milk. It bothered me to now have to pay extra for a lack of lactose. Hadn’t I been through enough, braving the sunlit world donning clothes I had barely felt confident in under the cloudiness of several drinks the night before? My dumb, jangly necklace was peeking out of the pocket of my fraying jeans, asking to make a scene.
An iced chai dripping condensation onto my jittering right hand, I returned to the street, where the sunlight pierced my eyes. I could’ve brought sunglasses to the bar. That would’ve been awfully presumptuous, but I wanted this idea of myself as a ridiculously confident person. To recover my memory, I replayed how the night before went as I made my way to the Mall, trying to keep my self-disgust off of my face. For one, I told too many of my shitty jokes and gave away too much of myself. I wanted to be cool about things; I never was. Why, the glaring morning light asked me, did I mention my IBS three times? Why did I need to bring up Nicole’s perfectly-fine boyfriend to this stranger?
During this reflection period, Nicole alerted me that she was awake and wanted to hear about what happened. She lived in Virginia, a million miles away, so I gave her a call, and we ran through the plays. She gasped and laughed, appropriately, at equal intervals. I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue without care for the innocence of tourist children, going into explicit detail between sips of chai, feeling like some kind of somebody—aiming for a Samantha if my inner Charlotte would allow it.
“I’m surprised,” she said, after a beat.
“About what?” I asked.
“I just thought you didn’t do one-night stands. Anymore.”
“I thought I didn’t, either.”
“So, what changed? Why last night.”
The need to explain myself bothered me. Couldn’t she just be happy that I finally did something eventful? I thought about the Adam’s Morgan bar we had been at, how the men had been looking at me. Attention felt suddenly refreshing. How Nicole didn’t seem that interested in my antics anymore, and I didn’t think that she could find my boring life as dull as I did, but it was seeming more and more the case by the day. I had gotten used to watching our friendship slip through my fingers, knowing I’d fall flat on my face if I put too much effort into trying to catch it. My day used to always contain at least a snippet of her voice, and I missed going about my life accompanied by her reactions.
Of course, I wasn’t going to tell her that, so I babbled on about not being in a dating mood. She made an effort to pretend to believe me, which I appreciated. The last thing she wanted was some in-depth examination of our friendship over a phone call that was supposed to be a giddy, unremorseful rehashing of a wild night out. She knew I had some problems with wanting her attention, and maybe she thought I was working through that, or maybe she didn’t, and, either way, it only mattered to her if she cared enough to try to help me with it.
Breaking through the conversation’s drop in tone, I retraced my steps in the story to tell her about how I made a joke about my IBS to my one-night-stand partner, who I referred my lover, saying lover with as much emphasis on the absurdity of the word as I could muster. It was all just to hear her laugh, which was as piercing as ever. If I could make her laugh, then I had done something right.
I made it home, by which time she had already hung up on me to meet her boyfriend for the farmer’s market. As I chirped my goodbye, it occurred to me that the farmer’s market was the reason she had been up at this hour, anyway.
The group chat from the night before agreed to brunch plans, so I met a group of acquaintances from an adult recreational softball league at a spot on 14th Street that peddled unlimited mimosas to a devout audience. With heavy intrigue, the catcher asked where I had gone off to when I had ditched them outside Madam’s Organ. I tried to again spin a thrilling story out of mediocre sex, but I fell short and the words spilled out of my mouth without conviction. Taking a sip of laced orange juice, I retreated into my seat and let the conversation move past me. That was alright; I really didn’t have anything to say.
©Eliza Falk 2023
WWPH Community News
Our 2024 Manuscript contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction are OPEN through November 1. Read our recent award-winning books to learn more about our literary sensibility and submit to us. Our 2023 award-winning books are now available for pre-order everywhere you buy books.
SPECIAL OFFER! We have a few extra Advanced Reader’s Copies for TRANSPLANT: A MEMOIR by Bernardine Watson, about being Black, female, and facing a deadly kidney disease in America today, and finding the love and hope to persevere. Are you an avid reader of memoirs? Do you review books on Goodreads or in other venues? We are looking for honest reviews and will send the first 6 interested readers a FREE Advanced Reader’s Copy of TRANSPLANT. EMAIL us your name/snail mail address by September 11 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark your calendar! On SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17 from 11-3 p, the Washington Writers’ Publishing House will be at the Literary HIll Book Fest in Eastern Market in Washington DC. Visit our table and meet our co-editors, Caroline Bock and Jona Colson, and some of your favorite WWPH writers. Come visit with us…and buy a few books.
Shout out to WWPH contributor, Ofelia Montelongo, and her efforts with the free symposium LATINE HERITAGE THROUGH A LITERARY LENS at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda on Sautrday, September 16th from 1:30-5 pm. As the Writer’s Center notes…”an informative and inspiring symposium addressing the subject of Latine heritage in literature and popular culture, offering free creative writing workshops followed by a panel discussion. Featured writers include Lupita Aquino, Patricia Coral, and Samuel “Sami” Miranda, moderated by Ofelia Montelongo.” The symposium concludes with a reception for all attendees. RSVP required. More information here Our friends at the Writer’s Center are doing so many exciting events and classes (many online), please check them out.
JOIN US ON SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14 at 3 pm at POLITICS & PROSE (main store on Connecticut Avenue) for our 2023 award-winning books launch. Free and open to all.