I did a bunch of demerol when I was 13 years old. I was in a hospital in Plano, Texas, and I had both feet. 

 

I still have both feet, but at the time, it came as a shock to me. 

 

I got hurt playing football. 

 

I played strong guard for the Wilson Rams, and my running back, Jessie, was a dipshit. He tripped and speared my lower leg with the crown of his helmet during a trick play.  

 

Essentially, our coach sent in every running back we had—loaded the backfield, if you know the lingo—so that the Renner Raider’s defense thought we’d be running. 

 

The center hiked the ball to the quarterback. He handed the ball off to the halfback, who faked a handoff to the fullback before pitching the ball to the tailback, who then passed to the quarterback who had made his way downfield and assumed a receiver’s role. 

 

Trickeration, some people call it. Gimmickry, others say. 

 

The whole point is deception. 

 

But Jesse, my dipshit fullback, tripped on his own feet, ended up head first in my lower extremities, and  I came to on my back with my right leg in the air, and my foot wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and wherever it was, I couldn’t see it. 

 

Boom.

 

My mind went wild—the broad October sky shined black above me. 

 

Under the Friday lights of a Texas autumn night, I screamed, “My foot. My foot.” The crowd fell still and some of my teammates were puking. “Where’s my foot?” 

 

My hands searched the ground for my torn-away part. My heart beat my brain with blood and my breath felt frantic.

 

One of my coaches—I can’t remember their names—screamed into my helmet, “Shut the fuck up,” and I went still, and my body thrummed in the tangy, grass-scented air because maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I could hear the crowd holding their breath.

 

“Think it’s just dislocated?” someone said. 

 

“Hopefully,” was the answer. 

 

My foot was still on me, just hanging the wrong way. 

 

“What’s your name?” they asked, I guess wanting to see if I was addled beyond comprehending myself.

 

“Brian Carr,” I told them. “Did we get the first down?”

 

Everyone—but who were they?— laughed and things felt easier, and then I was in an ambulance, and then I was on a bed, and then I was listening to directions, and then the true pain came. 

 

The night cut in and out. My whole body quivered like the ribs of a kicked dog. 

 

“We can’t put you completely under,” a doctor said. I was bathed in light, but maybe my eyes were closed. “We have to turn your foot back around, and you ARE going to feel it.” 

 

The twisting began. 

 

Even now, I can hear the gnash of the process. The same kind of noise any accident makes. Drop a glass on the tile floor. Rear end another driver on the highway. Bang and crunch and fuck and shit. 

 

I yelped curses at God, bleated like a dying goat, lowed anguish unintelligible. 

 

A great darkness pulled across me. The world rattled closed in heaves. 

 

When I woke up, they gave me a button. 

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Sarah Kendzior. Her new book, Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America, is available from Flatiron Books.

 
This is Sarah’s second time on the podcast. She first appeared in Episode 516 on April 25, 2018.

She is best known for her reporting on St. Louis and the 2016 election, her academic research on authoritarian states, and her New York Times bestselling debut The View from Flyover Country. She is a co-host of the podcast Gaslit Nation and was named one of Foreign Policy’s “100 people you should be following on Twitter to make sense of global events.” Her reporting has been featured in PoliticoThe Atlantic, Fast Company, The New York Times, Globe and Mail, and more. She lives in St. Louis.

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Pola said she needed space and time, then gave me the hat she had finished crocheting, which, I noticed, after she left, smelled exactly like comfort and security and happiness and her bedroom, so I stuck it in my bureau, so cigarette smoke or fresh air couldn’t take that away from me. One of the trucks from my job swerved and flopped onto its side, and there was footage of it on the internet which I watched over and over while intermittently looking at the truck itself standing upright in the garage with a gouge instead of a windshield. Whoever sequenced the stoplights and walklights at this intersection, did it with the intent of killing people. A part of me wishes I believed so deeply in astrology that I could explain this all away with mercury retrograde. When I listen to music in the shower in the morning, it’s often interrupted by alarms I neglected to turn off, and I get frustrated, but then I feel a little guilty because they were only trying to do what I instructed them to do, so then I think, “I’m sorry for getting upset with you. You were just trying to wake me up.”

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Jenn Shapland. Her debut, My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, is a genre-bending work of nonfiction. It is available from Tin House Books.

 

Shapland’s nonfiction has been published in O, the Oprah Magazine, The Paris Review DailyTin HouseOutside ​onlineLit Huband elsewhere. Her essay “Finders, Keepers” won a 2017 Pushcart Prize, and she was awarded the 2019 Rabkin Foundation Award for art journalism. She has a PhD in English from the University of Texas at Austin and lives in New Mexico.

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People ask me where I live,
I say, “where the wind sings
a quarter-moon howl.”
They pretend to know –
nod in silent agreement

People ask me where I work,
I say, “where the sun sleeps
behind a silver-skinned blur.”
They are reassured –
carry on with their day

People ask me where I love,
I say, “where the earth breathes
sweet within steady lungs.”
They act surprised –
bury the other questions

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Deb Olin Unferth. Her new novel Barn 8 is available from Graywolf Press. It is the official March pick of the TNB Book Club.

 

This is Deb’s second time on the program. She first appeared in Episode 178 on May 29, 2013.

Unferth is the author of six books, including Wait Till You See Me Dance and Revolution. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and three Pushcart Prizes, and was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Her work has appeared in Granta, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, and The Paris Review. She lives in Austin, Texas.

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Know the Ledge

By TNB Poetry

Poem

One of the social functions of art is to document and respond to the human condition. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, The Nervous Breakdown presents three poems by three contemporary American poets.  This poem by Adam Tedesco is the third of three daily installments.


Know the Ledge

The clay here is afraid
of our shovels
our hard heels
of bread and ends of meat

The wind didn’t get here
by trying, says the neighbor
of laughter, the sting
of too much data

I am afraid
of my nostalgia
for all of their faces
spread across the sun

I work against my pettiness
so I can call it not myself
these strings
of too much knowledge
that blind materiality
of what fits in my pocket

They had to show me
the wounds for me
to remember
your human breathing
the elastic ring
of heartedness

There was too much want
to carry, where I was
what they flew away from
a clear plastic echo, blued
ether through which they moved


You might’ve noticed life’s a bit bleak right now. Most people I know, myself included, are glued to their phones looking at  doomsday algorithm after doomsday algorithm, Trump fuck up after Trump fuck up.  I check the confirmed cases and death count every morning, while I drink my coffee, after I go on my jog and before I teach my classes on Zoom.

My point is that these are not normal times. And during these not normal times, I want to celebrate the people who are writing on their blogs and on Medium because this is where I’m finding stories that feel the most human, vulnerable, transformative and emotionally impactful. So I am going to be, as often as I can, sharing links to these blogs as part of this COVID-19 Diaries series.

One of the social functions of art is to document and respond to the human condition. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, The Nervous Breakdown presents three poems by three contemporary American poets.  This poem by Aimee Clow is the second of three daily installments.


Chapel Hill Meets at Nightlight

Trudge the swampy divot of your city yard
to conjure the possibility of fruit.
Or vegetables. Roots.

No one is to talk these weeks but touch
only ground and locked air.

Cats will be contented
by constant companionship.

A network of signal threads
pretends political deviation,
what amounts to baskets of food
gifted on door steps.
We really wanted
better communication.
We get what we get,
signal around it.

Who does not hoard becomes a list
of empty shelves and bargains.

Dumpsters dry up as demand stays home.
We become wishes for the rotting.

Pretend four walls are open sky.
Press your tongue in the acid-washed mud.

I’ll believe what I believe.
We will take what we take.

Economics of a virus, the radio whispers,
deviate because of fear, the locked in here,
this indefinite.

You need to pretend you are really, really, really alone.
Now you need to tell me we are not alone.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Monika Woods. She is a literary agent and founder of Triangle House Literary in New York.

 

Woods’ clients have won the PEN Bingham Award, been listed for the National Book Award, The Kirkus Prize, The Edgar Awards, LAMBDA Awards, and the Believer Book Award, appeared on the New York Timesbestseller list, and been named books of the year by The New York Timesand NPR, among other honors.

She is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo and the Columbia Publishing Course and has worked closely with leading voices in contemporary literature over her decade-long publishing career. Her interests include literary fiction and compelling non-fiction in cultural criticism, food, popular culture, journalism, science, and current affairs.

She is particularly excited about plot-driven literary novels, non-fiction that is creatively critical, unique perspectives, a great cookbook, and above all, original prose.

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One of the social functions of art is to document and respond to the human condition. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, The Nervous Breakdown presents three poems by three contemporary American poets.  This poem by Shira Dentz is the first of three daily installments.


The Singing, Ringing Tree

somersaulting through tunnels,
hollow spools—

threading anonymously,
pins, plows, spikes:
                                     tag
hide & seek, you’re it

mustard seed in my stomach
is a yellow corona

tongue, fire, smoke
like paper, scissors, rock:
                                              shoot

a green specter cauterized
in my mind’s film, blessed

tethered to supernaturals
are we ruined?
we are mined for our lives

 

I find your title quite confusing. Can you explain it?

The toothless house is an image that came to mind when I was working on this book, which is primarily about parenthood. I imagined that the experience of raising children was akin to being a krill swallowed whole by a blue whale. One minute you are just swimming along happily minding your own business, and the next minute you are in the belly of the whale. Blue whales do not technically have teeth, they have baleen, which are similar to the bristles of a brush. Though one’s house isn’t technically a jail and bristles aren’t technically teeth, escaping intact in either case would be quite difficult.

I know that is a ridiculously convoluted (and probably scientifically inaccurate) metaphor, but there you have it.

Parenthood has turned out to be the best experience of my life, but this book is about the first years, which were like knocking up against the bristles, both physically and emotionally.

I saw a long line of cars.
I saw a big white house.
The ground was mottled
and abraded like
the back of a buffalo.
I saw a chicken coop,
a muddy ditch,
the padded cell
of the sky.

 

Tie a Tie

 

Russell cannot tie his tie and cannot accept that he cannot learn it, that this part of his brain is just gone. In the bathroom mirror, I watch his fingers fumble with the tie as the upturned scar on his forehead purples with tamped down rage. 

“Drape, wrap, repeat, push, pull through the loop,” he says. 

I respect Russell’s perseverance, that despite his traumatic brain injury Russell does not acquiesce into helplessness and rely on the assistance available to him, like some other residents tend to. 

But after so many Sundays, I must admit, I am not optimistic. After so many Sundays, I know that this episode only ends one way: with him asking for my help. 

“Russell,” I say, hoping to move things along. His half-sister hates when we’re late. “There’s plenty of stuff I can’t do, either. I can’t do calculus or knit sweaters. I can’t eat dairy products or peanuts or watch Christmas movies without crying. I can’t roller skate.” 

Russell ignores me. “Drape, wrap, repeat, push, pull through the loop.” 

 “I can’t think about the deep ocean without existential dread,” I say. “Or sleep without draping a heating pad over a pillow and pretending it is another human body. I can’t volunteer at the humane society.” 

 “Drape, wrap, repeat, push, pull through the loop.” 

And as Russell’s fingers fumble, I continue listing my shortcomings. I list them and the list grows long and painful. But I do not stop. I keep listing because I want Russell to understand that we are all deficient in some fashion.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Sam Farahmand. His debut novel, Chimero, is available from dr.Doctor Press.

 

Farahmand is originally from Los Angeles. His writing has appeared in Electric Literature, Hobart, and PANK Magazine.

He lives in Nashville.

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