The Blog

"Our Christmas Carol" from the archives

TIR staff

Our Christmas Carol
by Michael C. Smith
[The Iowa Review, Fall 1978]

We know the story:
How ghosts cluttered his night,
Then later,
Scrooge Community College.

You resent giving
As much as I,
But we aren't the Macbeths yet.
After all, we appreciate
The humanity
Of accidentally shopping
For ourselves.

So he sells his iron lung
To buy her a Mazda;
So she foregoes her mastectomy
To buy him a place
By her heart.
What is that to us?

What is the meaning of normal?
A man running down 
Hospital halls,
Clutching yellow feathers,
Yelling Ramona, Ramona?

Grief Dolls and God Dolls: Allison Benis White's SMALL PORCELAIN HEAD

Claudia Cortese

A child gives her doll a spirit, a personality, a story. She constructs a narrative for her doll, filling an inanimate object with life. This imaginative process is one we often associate with girlhood. A constellation of images orbits the word “doll”: wooden dollhouses and porcelain girls in lace dresses and dolls that pee and dolls that cry and dolls that girls push in strollers. However, dolls—which are believed to be the first toys—have not always been so narrowly gendered, so limited to childhood play. Haitian Voodoo dolls are said to embody the spirit of a living person, and ancient Egyptians buried their dead with dolls, believing they would assist the deceased in the afterlife.

From CAY-roh to MAD-rid

Rachel Arndt

I drove home to Chicago from Iowa City last weekend. Along the way I passed a bunch of cows, some flat raccoons, many semi trucks, and more French-named towns and doubles of foreign cities (Cairo, Rome) than you can shake a map at.

Here's how we say them in the middle of the country:

Athens: AY-thens
Berlin: BER-lin
Bourbonnais: burh-BOHN-nis
Buena Vista: BOON-a-vista
Cairo: CAY-roh
Delhi: DEL-high
Des Plaines: des-PLAYnz
Hidalgo: heye-DAL-goh
La Moille: luh-MOYL
Madrid: MAD-rid
Marseilles: mar-SAYLZ
Milan: MY-lan
Monticello: mon-ti-SEL-oh
Peru: PEE-roo
Renault: REE-nawlt
Tripoli: tri-PO-la
Versailles: ver-SAYLZ


Caitlin Keefe Moran

In “Shifting Shadows,” one of the many standout essays in Julian Hoffman’s slim The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World, Hoffman explains the subtitle of his collection succinctly: “To be at home means finding a way of sustaining a keen and watchful engagement as both the place and I change, altering and shifting with the seasons, the light, and passing time.” Hoffman, an Englishman by way of Canada who now lives in Greece, carries this watchful engagement up mountains, through reed beds, and across continents, and what results is a series of thoughtful meditations on the powers of place, of migration and stillness, tradition and adaptation, viewed through the lens of the natural world but never divorced from the human one.


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