logo

Newest Brief Essays

"Women's Hour, YMCA" featured in Kenyon Review Online

"I Second That Emotion" (craft essay) featured in New Ohio Review

Essays

Other Brief Essays

"Advanced Directive to My Future Roommate…"

"Things Gone the Way of Time," recently reprinted in Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (Norton)

Essays

Study with Rebecca this summer

Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, June 18-25
APPLY NOW

Kenyon

Kenyon Review PODCAST with Rebecca

(on memoir, genre-crossing, writing practice, and more)

Podcast

Word Painting Revised Edition: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

New edition includes over 100 writing exercises for all genres.

Word Painting

The Tribal Knot

Rebecca'a newest nonfiction book, The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change is now available from Indiana University Press and Amazon.

Tribal Knot

Open Swim at the Y


Capped and goggled, I begin my crawl
with the other turtles at the shallow end.
Sometimes a winner crowns the waves,
like the muscled lifeguard who churns air to water,
water to air, in the perfect butterfly.  But mostly
we are learners.  Beside me, a hairless old man
recovers.  A stroke,  his wife whispers
as she dog-paddles to his pace.  And at the edge
two retarded girls who call themselves Dumbo and Jumbo
are diving for pennies as if they were pearls.
Though shallow, it is a long way down for them,
with bodies like overgrown toddlers
dragging the baggage of buttocks and breasts.
Through goggles I watch them underwater
the way I watched baby whales through the scratched
exhibit glass at Sea World when I was small
and believed all mongoloids were related, the same eyes, 
slanted yet unbearably round.  The same puffy face,
the same flesh collecting at the elbows and knees.
Now I am told not to call them mongoloids,
the world has renamed them, yet still the tribal name
floats to me and with it, a thirty-year memory--
how each morning as I waited alone at the stop,
their special bus would pass.   Against the glass
they would press identical faces and smile,
waving their swollen hands as if to include me.
And I would turn from the love they gave so easily.
Now Jumbo taps my goggles,  sticks a thumb in her ear,
wiggles her fingers.  Catch me !  she calls as she pulls
her sodden weight from the water, then, flat-footed,
slaps her way past the lifeguard.  A woman dives in,
her false breast escapes and sails toward me
and I remember my aunt's mastectomy, the form
she tried so hard to fill.  I rescue the breast and hand it back,
but she shrugs, tosses it onto her towel and kicks from me,
making her way.  Rocked in her wake,  Jumbo and Dumbo
bob past, twin buoys marking a safe passage.  Dumbo turns
and waves, as if to seal some old contract, and I lift my hand,
turn my face to the water and begin my slow crawl back.


From Deep Light: New and Selected poems

Open Swim at the Y
Rebecca introduces and reads this poem on WNYE

More Poems on Other Voices, Other Worlds

Also...