Archive for the ‘Project: Stamps’ Category


Stamps | Kites by Stefany Anne Golberg


They’re Flying Kites

By Stefany Anne Golberg

They’re flying kites on Galle Face Green. The air is alive, twisting and fluttering against the blue in swatches of yellow and red and blue and flags. All along the mile of Green, children grasp their kite strings like umbilical cords to the sky, only just barely keeping hold of the ground beneath them. Families and lovers walk patiently through the tangle. A boy who has only been alive for a few years has gotten his kite into the clouds. The women are wearing gold-and-peach saris and t-shirts and white headscarves and sundresses and sandals and sneakers. The men wear pants with jerseys and sarongs with business shirts, heads covered and not. There are clusters of women in long black abayas and niqabs, which also flutter in the breeze, and clusters of bright balloons with feet underneath, that walk through the crowd, peddling themselves to passersby. Every outfit worn by the children is the perfect outfit for a game of cricket. Girls hold their fathers’ hands and boys roll around in patches of dirt where the grass has worn bald with play. The Galle Face Green is reported to be the most expansive place in the city, and though the Green itself is as bustling as the street, you can catch your breath there. It is, as was once written, Colombo City’s lung.

You can look all your want for a ‘face’ on Galle Face but you will be disappointed when you learn that ‘face’ is another way of saying ‘faas’ which means ‘front’, as in, in front of the fortification that once faced toward Galle. The fort was the great legacy of the Dutch in Colombo (aside from kokis cake and a Dutch-inspired legal system), who finagled colonial control of the island from the Portuguese in 1638, and rebuilt the Portuguese fort to look more like a Dutch fort. This was before the island was finagled from the Dutch by the British in 1802, and the ramparts were demolished entirely.

It is Sunday and the citizens of Colombo are picnicking on the grounds once used by the British army for martial parades and the occasional execution, and where bustled and bow-tied families would race horses and stroll politely and golf. If you’ve read Ceylon: An Account Of The Island, Physical, Historical, And Topographical With Notices Of Its Natural History, Antiquities And Productions published by Sir James Emerson Tennent K.C.S., LL.D. &c. in 1860, you will have learned that small crabs once employed themselves by digging holes in the Green, holes that proved most injurious to horsemen employed in trotting up and down the promenade. Crabs are these days rounded up and stuffed behind the plastic windows of food carts, soft middles exposed and legs outstretched, making a tiny red light district. A stone plaque on the seaward edge at the end of Galle Road reads


 Commenced by

Sir Henry Ward


completed 1859 

and recommended to his successors in the interest

of the Ladies and Children of Colombo

It’s notable that this former British Governor of Colombo—at a time when there was such a position—was intent on bringing PROGRESS to Ceylon. He assured the Queen that the construction of new railroads and telegraphs and green spaces, not to mention the abolishment of polyandry and introduction of penny postage, were not simply matters of ease and convenience but life, and would, moreover, encourage the ‘unexceptional conduct of the entire population’. On another Sunday—an Easter Sunday morning in 1942—as Colombo citizens idly made their way to church, a Hurricane aircraft piloted by one Flight Lieutenant McDonald crashed onto the Green, hit by a Japanese Zero. As the story goes, the good Lieutenant, unharmed, emerged from the plane, and before the eyes of stunned churchgoers, walked across the street to the Colombo Club and ordered a double Scotch. Not long after, people began to wonder whether colonialism and PROGRESS were very well suited to one another in the first place. I’m told the United Kingdom still operates a lovely cultural center here.

Facing north, the towering tin can of the Bank of Ceylon and the silver sticks of the World Trade Center are garlanded in kite tails and string. In the 1950s and 1960s, Radio Ceylon—which in its mid-century heyday was the most important such institution in all South Asia and maybe the world—would broadcast Mignonne and the Jetliners singing ‘My Boy Lollipop’ from the Galle Face Hotel. And out there, beyond the promenade with its food vendors hawking fried lentils and prawn crackers and mangoes and pineapples and avocadoes and guava, everything dusted with chili pepper and salt, the wide Indian Ocean. A young mother in a red-and-white sari stands on the promenade, shading the last bits of falling sun with an umbrella, her son and husband close by, waiting. I watch her watching the sea, watching the sky turn scarlet, watching the teenagers of Colombo wading mostly clothed into the waves, watching a colossal tanker lumber directly under the fat fireball of the sun. The sun is drifting orange into the ocean and I am walking with my love, the sea air drying the sweat on our neck and shoulders. The day is done now and three young men are taking the flag of the nation down for the night, a small camera crew loom over them on a crane. They move with pageantry and purpose, the young men, their red hats are tall and smart. They are like a little parade. Was it just a few years ago that they called this the ghost park, that there were more soldiers here than kites?


Stamps Project Archive


The Owls site asked some writers: What place do you write about or think about, and why? Is there a location – in space or time, real or imaginary, past, present, or future – that draws you back again and again? What happened there?

30 Responses were posted, once per week on Sundays, from June, 2009, to December, 2009. Many, many thanks to the writers involved. The project will be left open for any further contributions. -JMT.

Jill McDonough:  “Accident, Mass. Ave.”

Amy Groshek: “Fort Healthcare”

Morgan Meis: “Fragments on Paterson”

Jim Gavin: “Gogarty”

Elizabeth Bradfield: “Multi-Use Area”

Sean Hill: “Jail Yard”

Kirsten Andersen: “Rhode Island”

Frederick Schroeder: “Untitled, 2009″

Alan Koenig: “A Deuce and a Half”

Maria Hummel: “The Curtain”

Justin St. Germain: “Parker, AZ”

Stacey Swann: “Olympus, TX”

Dan O’Brien: “From Larchmont”

Peter Kline: “Rainbow Beach”

Joshua Rivkin: “Nocturne, Phnom Penh”

Elatia Harris: “Ensor in Ostend”

Jonathan Railey: “Terra Firma”

Cari Luna: “Adverse Possession”

Niall Griffiths: “Pendam”

William Lychack: “Less than a Dime”

L. S. McKee: “Pow’r”

Stacie Cassarino: “Postcard from Vancouver”

Timothy Don: “Found Installations”

Scott Hutchins: “$30,000″

Emily Mitchell: “Secret Nuclear Bunker”

Gabrielle Calvocoressi: “Village of Ghosts”

Andrew Altschul: “Lady Lazarus”

Nellie Bridge: “They Eat the Dead Ones

David Ker Thomson: “New Mud”

Skip Horack: “The Gulf Sturgeon Project”


Stamps: Skip Horack


from The Gulf Sturgeon Project

By Skip Horack

A map of the panhandle coastline was spread out across the table, and Landon confirmed that four of his tags had surfaced in the Apalachicola – two just beneath the big dam near the Florida-Georgia line, another two within a few miles of where he was now sitting.

But the fifth tag confounded him. That fifth tag contradicted everything he knew about predicting the tendencies of Gulf sturgeon. Those last coordinates fell far off the chart. Landon consulted another map and realized that Bertha had strayed three hundred miles west of her home stream. In fact, as of midnight, she was just north of New Orleans and traveling up the Mississippi River.


A week later, on the last day of spring, Landon took his john-boat north of Tallahassee and fished a far, empty corner of Lake Jackson. Push-poling through the water hyacinth at dusk, he bumped a pair of wood ducks that flew off squealing to roost in a distant cypress swamp. They were local birds – ducks somehow born without the instinct to migrate north – but in a few months the teal would return to join them in the lake, and soon the widgeon and other big ducks would follow.

A ridge of hardwoods ran along the north shore of the lake, solid save for a wide fairway of lawn that plunged like a scar from the foot of an eggshell mansion on the hilltop. Black men in white jackets floated through a linen crowd scattered across the great lawn. A slight shift in the evening breeze carried piano music across the water, and to Landon it sounded like glass breaking gently.

He worked his boat closer to the party as he cast his spinner bait. Tucked among the cypress knees was a boathouse where he and Cassie had once trespassed and made love. She was a fool for that kind of thing. He supposed they both were.


Skip Horack’s story collection, The Southern Cross, won the 2009 Bakeless Prize in Fiction from the Bread Loaf Writers’ conference. A native of Louisiana, he works as a Jones Lecturer in Fiction at Stanford University.


This excerpt from “The Gulf Sturgeon Project” is part of the Stamps projects, click here to read more >>


Stamps: C. E. Perry


Why Lovers in Trouble End Up at the Rodeo

By C. E. Perry

We have driven eighty-seven miles and paid
four dollars each to see that cowboy’s wrist
snap like fresh chalk. My love, the meadows
are pressed flat by the young Montana backs
of young Montana men. It stuns us to witness
such torque and to crave it. It stuns us to recall
bookshelves fainting to the floor and rats
swimming away from us in bed. We are still
alive and the beer is cold. We each swoon
when our hero takes flight – his hat a swank
hurrah, his head lost, loose over those horns.


C. E. Perry’s first book of poems is Night Work (Sarabande), from which this poem is reprinted.


This poem is part of the Stamps projects at The Owls site, read more >>


Stamps: David Ker Thomson


New Mud

By David Ker Thomson

My wife says I travel like a suitcase. As I apply a nail file to my left big toe, it occurs to me that I’m releasing Guatemalan mud into the Toronto sewer system. In the long run it’s all just plain old stardust, I suppose, but that particular configuration, of Mayan microbes wrangling with some local Toronto toughs through sunless caverns down to our inland sea of precious fossil water, well, that was enough to give me pause.


David Ker Thomson writes for CounterPunch.


This post is part of the Stamps project, read more about it here >>


Stamps: Nellie Bridge


They Eat the Dead Ones

By Nellie Bridge

Once, when I lived in Makawao, Maui, I drove to visit a friend in Haiku down a narrow road through the rainforest where the huge leaves are always dripping wet. My friend told me about the local frogs that hop out onto the road and get squished and the smell of squish makes more frogs come; they eat the dead ones, then they too get squished. Cars have to weave around the growing piles as frogs keep coming to eat each other until driving becomes impossible and someone has to come clear off the road. I never saw it. I saw just one frog, which I mentioned, which brought on the story.


Nellie Bridge grew up in Sequim, Washington.  She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. “They Eat the Dead Ones” was originally published with five other sonnets as part of a press release for Dave Miko’s painting exhibition Quiet Enough.


This post is part of the Stamps project, read more about it here >>


Stamps: Andrew Foster Altschul



from Lady Lazarus

By Andrew Foster Altschul

He was living in Morocco, sharing a mansion with William S. Burroughs, who’d once made a guest appearance at a Terrible Children concert (ostensibly to play the harmonica solo during “Shave Me, Shrieve Me,” though in the event he only stood in his three-piece suit and bowler, facing the microphone zombielike, before climbing down to the crowd and walking back to the stadium exit).

He was selling guns in Rwanda, as Rimbaud had done a hundred years earlier. Or heroin, my father buying vast quantities from smugglers in Eritrea, transporting them by camel caravan to Tangiers, from whence he and Burroughs supplied much of Spain and Italy.

He was a Bedouin, leading a slow parade of believers across the Sahara, founding a religion based on rock music and intravenous ecstasy.

He was in Bolivia, fomenting a civil war, leading general strikes against the government.

He was in a VA hospital in Brownsville, Texas, where the FBI kept watch over his vegetable form.

Or Paris, a mime in the Jardin des Tuileries, or Punta del Este, remarried to Colombian pop star Shakira, whom he’d met at the South by Southwest music conference years earlier, when she was only fifteen.

I knew these stories couldn’t be true (But what if they are…?, a voice said) – but somehow that wasn’t enough. With each outlandish sighting, it seemed there was more to my father than I’d known before; his story was larger than anyone had told me. Like the house on Azalea, there were unknown hallways, strange garrets, locked rooms – I was still a tiny, wandering child, lost within the walls of my own home.

The death certificate was always a point of contention – Exhibit A for the hungry prosecution. No agency ever identified it as having issued from their office; the San Diego coroner, the AMA, the IRC: all mystified, the document under none of their auspices.


Andrew Foster Altschul is the author of the novel Lady Lazarus. His short fiction and essays have appeared in publications including Esquire, Ploughshares, McSweeney’s, Fence, One Story, StoryQuarterly, and anthologies such as Best New American Voices 2006 and O. Henry Prize Stories 2007. He is the Books Editor of The and the director of the Center for Literary Arts at San Jose State University. His second novel, Deus Ex Machina, will be published in 2010.


This excerpt from the novel Lady Lazarus is part of the Stamps project at The Owls site. Click here to learn more >>


Stamps: Gabrielle Calvocoressi


Village of Ghosts: A Journey in Seven Chapters

By Gabrielle Calvocoressi

1. Yesterday we did drive to the town my mother lived in. After a night full of dreams about ghosts where I kept saying, “I don’t want any more.” 10:57 AM Sep 17th from web

2. When we drove past the red building near the liquor store my stomach turned like when you go over a hill or the first day of a new school. 2:42 PM Sep 17th from web

3. Maurice is the name of the nice, elderly gas station attendant who stood with me and looked across the street and said, “Oh, yeah. Oh, yes.” 4:42 PM Sep 17th from web

4. I said, “She lived in a brown shingle house across from a dump.” Maurice said, “You take a left up there and go down a bit. You’ll find it.” 5:57 PM Sep 17th from web

5. So we drove there. At first I thought “No” but then the road turned to dirt and I saw the junked cars and I knew it was the place she lived. 4:53 AM Sep 18th from web

6. It wasn’t as run down as I remembered. It wasn’t as far from the liquor store as I remembered. There was no real yard. I felt a little sick. 11:29 AM Sep 18th from web

7. Left a village of ghosts for the city of angels. Got in as the sunset lit the ocean and hills orange and then fire from the east sent to me. 10:04 PM Sep 18th from web


Gabrielle Calvocoressi has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including a Stegner fellowship in Poetry, a Jones Lectureship in Poetry at Stanford University and a Rona Jaffe Woman Writers’ Award. Her poem “Circus Fire, 1944″ received The Paris Reviews’ Bernard F. Conners Prize. Her first collection, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, was published by Persea Books in 2005 and won the Connecticut Book Award. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the MFA program at California College of Arts in San Francisco and in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Warren Wilson College. Her second collection, Apocalyptic Swing, was recently published by Persea Books.


“Village of Ghosts” is part of the Stamps project >>


Stamps: Emily Mitchell



Secret Nuclear Bunker

By Emily Mitchell

The place where they work is in the middle of field in Essex, near a village called Kelvedon Hatch. A bunker sunk into a slight rise in the ground, something the locals call a hill. It is insulated with layers of gravel and three-foot thick concrete walls. To enter it, you have to go through a small brick building with a poured concrete veranda – the government’s best imitation of a country cottage. This is camouflage. It’s intended to make the facility inconspicuous, to help it to blend in with the nearby farm houses and towns. Of course, it does also have two gigantic radar antennae sticking up from behind it. These are painted red with white stripes.

Inside the cottage you enter a long sloping hallway, and then go through a pair of gigantic blast doors, which, when Mitchell first arrives, he finds both terrifying and fascinating. They are so solid and heavy; they are built for forces that operate on a scale where the human body is negligible as a dead leaf, a puff of wind. He cannot imagine this world, but he feels its supernatural presence haunting reality, hovering just beyond the quotidian, signaled by the fact of these doors. Each day when he passes through them he shivers, his veins flash-flooded with something cold and electric. One day as they are coming in to work together, Newton sees him shake the chills from his limbs and says, What’s wrong with you? I don’t know, Mitchell says. It’s a feeling I always get coming in here, seeing those things. You know the old saying about someone walking over your grave… Newton nods: Yeah, them things are pretty impressive he says. Pretty hard to ignore.


Emily Mitchell lived for many years in Islington.


“Secret Bunker” is part of the Stamps project. Click here to learn more >>
It’s an excerpt from “Fighter Plotter,” a short story originally published in Indiana Review. The bungalow depicted above formed the original entrance to the bunker in Essex.


Stamps: Scott Hutchins



from $30,000

By Scott Hutchins

It seems a Catholic nun — like the ladies in the movies with the black and white and the thing on their heads — her name was Sister Maria Concepcion. She borrowed this boat from the old man, called the Jeckle. And the boat just showed up on the beach, South Padre Island, in two pieces, all thoroughly chewed up. They say it’s the work of one big shark, due to teethmarks.

Here’s the kicker for me: A $30,000 reward to the man who can catch that shark.

That’s all in Corpus Christi, Texas, and I stand here in Arkansas, sizzling my fingers on all these stupid bills. I’m thinking: I’m a semi-professional freshwater fisherman. I’ve never seen the ocean, but fish are fish. You want to catch a bigger fish, you use a bigger hook. It ain’t brain surgery.

And I’m thinking: There’s few things as outright fun as reeling in a nine-pound bass. And that bass hasn’t killed a soul. There’s no revenge involved. Imagine the fun of catching a big nun-eating shark.

And I’m thinking: Thirty thousand dollars.


Scott Hutchins is a fiction and nonfiction writer who lives in San Francisco. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Budget Travel, Seventeen,, Five Chapters, StoryQuarterly, and The Believer. He teaches fiction at Stanford University, where he also directs the Online Writer’s Studio.


“$30,000” originally appeared on FiveChapters. This excerpt is part of the Stamps project at The Owls site. Click here to learn more >>