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A Public Space

No. 08

On the battlefield with Li Ling; Petina Gappah in Zimbabwe with the Mupandawana dancing champion; Tracey Hill in transit; Samantha Hunt gets noticed; Naomi J. Williams goes to sea; Yiyun Li gossips; John Wray and Matt Dojny take a sightseeing tour of New York; Denis Donoghue revisits history; poems by Suzanne Buffam, Mahmoud Darwish, Jennifer Moxley, Adrienne Rich, and others; and introducing Sara Majka.

Table of Contents


If You See Something

Little Ears, Little Eyes

I love to hear that another memoir has been exposed as a big phony.

Samantha Hunt


If You See Something

In Transit

You are never happier than when you’re in transit.

Tracey Hill


If You See Something

Did You Hear?

The neighborhood where I grew up and where my parents still live is one of the apartment compounds built in the 1950s in Beijing.

Yiyun Li



The Mupandawana Dancing Champion

When the prices of everything went up ninety-seven times in one year, M’dhara Vitalis Mukaro came out of retirement to make the coffins in which we buried our dead.

Petina Gappah



The Atmospheric Railway

The train carrying Neville back to Hampshire was formed of ten coaches and was scheduled to divide at Eastleigh, where the front five carriages would proceed to Poole, while the rear five branched off toward the New Forest.

Shena Mackay



Impossible Sightseeing, Part One: New York City

In the early 1980s, faced with rapidly dwindling shelf space in their seven tiers of stacks, the New York Public Library at Forty-Second Street—the one with the lions—prevailed upon the city to fund the construction of a gargantuan book storage annex thirty feet under the grass and London plane trees of Bryant Park.

John Wray



Powers of Recuperation

A woman of the citizen party—what’s that— / is writing history backward / her body the chair she sits in / to be abandoned repossessed

Adrienne Rich



This Handwriting

I do not acknowledge it, though it is mine.

Matthew Zapruder



The Dead of Winter

I had not felt so / tired so early in the day / since last winter

Fred Schmalz



Trans-Neptunian Object

The time and place and manner of my death are three facts that / don’t exist yet.

​Suzanne Buffam



The Blackberries

On the typographic bushes of the poem down a road leading neither out of things nor to the mind, certain fruits are composed of an agglomeration of spheres plumped with a drop of ink.

Francis Ponge



Doppler Elegy

The bird is a little machine for forgetting / The freight trains that pass my house

Ben Lerner



The Museum of Nature

The earth’s humus is made fertile / through the worm’s anus.

Jennifer Kronovet



Through an Opening

It was as if they’d stepped into the head / of a wind god, / and gotten trapped there and, / within captivity, made a space they could / sometimes recognize.

Carl Phillips



Be Careful: The Poet’s Skin is like that of a Frog

There is a way in which / I can be distracted / from what matters.

Jennifer Moxley



Two Poems

Blackbirds, then other voices.

Jürgen Becker



Lines of Refusal

Nothing here, just the sound of the heat, the sound of the cars, / nothing, nothing

Julie Carr



And, Not Content with Circumscription, Spreads.

though I may not recognize the places I have / seen it, it is still an ornament, an ornament / known well; I know its name, I traced / those lines, and feel easy now about it.

Thomas Hummel



Two Poems

The other side of the mountain / collects / and even cultivates / its mystery

Rebecca Wolff



Public Access

On the Last Evening on this Earth

On the last evening on this earth, we sever our days / from our trees, and count the ribs we will carry along / and the ribs we will leave behind

Mahmoud Darwish



Saint Andrews Hotel

In 1963, an eleven-year-old boy named Peter Harville was committed to a state mental hospital in the western part of Massachusetts, far from the island where he grew up.

Sara Majka



Lamanon at Sea

It is the afternoon of August 26, 1785, and Jean-Honoré-Robert de Paul, chevalier de Lamanon, has just returned to the Boussole, exhilarated and exhausted after a successful ascent of the Peak of Tenerife.

Naomi J. Williams



A Word on “Li Ling”

On Atsushi Nakajima's masterpiece.

Paul McCarthy



Public Access

Li Ling

In the ninth lunar month of Tianhan 2 (99 B.C.E.), during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, Commander of the Cavalry Li Ling led a force of five thousand foot soldiers north from the border fort of Zheluzhang.

Atsushi Nakajima



A Novel Including History

Denis Donoghue discusses the law of dreams

​Denis Donoghue

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