Tethering to Reality: An Interview with Rebecca Lee

After a year’s worth of planning, soliciting, binge-eating chocolate, meeting, editing, binge-eating chocolate, writing, budgeting, and binge-eating chocolate, Issue 53 of Columbia: A Journal of Literature & Art is finally done and ready for public consumption.  This issue includes work by Rachel Louise Snyder, David James Poissant, Denise Duhamel, and interviews with Mary Jo Bang and Rebecca Lee.  You can purchase copies at (and, while you’re at it, check out some of the great work being published online!)

In the meantime, here is a preview of the interview I conducted with Rebecca Lee:

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Tonight, The N Train

should i have raised my hand
when the man on the train searched for sinners
to save like shells on a beach
shoved in deep pockets
to recover as souvenirs when he can’t remember
how to save himself

never mind the ocean
or how it can be blue
yet gray
we prefer to think in simple terms

jesus, yes
but even the bible ends

even he walked past
when my lungs dragged air
like a tidal pull
and i wanted to know love


The Fourth Dimension

i am waiting for them to bring
my neighbor out on a stretcher, in a body bag,
maybe. my mother says i’d like to see him
one last time, too.  i don’t know
how to tell her i just want to know if it’s like it is on tv.

i’ve already thought ahead to the autopsy,
where they search for things that can’t
be found in the body.

like that stomach drop, remembering what it is
to feel fear when skin touches skin. touches
memory. i hope they remember that i was
a little girl who is no longer a little girl who is
dissecting sexuality for all that it can give her.

sexuality—like the way my neighbor would ask
my mother how i was doing, and i would saunter to the mailbox
as he walked around his yard like a seagull lost on the beach.
his speech, the same.  he shrieked words, too much valium,

forgotten coherence. i don’t think
he knew my name, but he didn’t think i knew his,
thought all i knew was the man, the middle-aged man looking lost
in his own front yard. the man who will lie with formaldehyde veins
and when the son he didn’t know touches him, the flesh
will bend under the pads of his fingers.

i am thinking about the fourth dimension, manifolds pushed
into imaginary surfaces, smoothed curves, my hips,
the skin cells that die and i lose.  i wish i was young again.
i’m still young, pressing arms through legs,
but i wish it was different. in the fourth dimension,
the derivative of my hopes would be curves, infinity.

i would tell you his name, if it mattered.
this is sexuality.  this is a man lowered into the ground.
this is the world, math, me figuring out nothing.