the next writer in the series: may 1, 2017

I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.

On the first of each month,
a guest writer
shares
how he or she spends the day.

May 1, 2017: Jericho Parms

Surprise and delight. These have to be the first words in this review of Jericho Parms’ debut collection of essays–Lost Wax. I was continually surprised and delighted. Such a rare thing. Take a look at this sentence.

A German surrealist I met years ago in a Spanish village once sent me a matchbox filled with feathers.

Reading the essays made me want to crawl inside Jericho’s head, to go along for the ride of seeing the world through her eyes.

What I want more than anything is to find words to describe the scent of Sundays: wood polish, lemon juice, sunlight. The smell of Murphy’s Oil Soap after my mother wiped down the furnishings—crouching along the baseboards, kneeling before the cedar chest with the moth-riddled linens of dead ancestors who dined on scotch and soda, hosted a weekly bridge night, and retired each day with thin mints and a nightcap after the evening news.

She takes such care with language and rhythm.

My arm flowed back and forth, wrist loose, the bow weightless between my fingers. The closest I have come to such weightlessness was when I first saw Greek and Roman statues as a girl. The museum, the one place I can stare without feeling bashful, where, during a middle-school field trip I first felt aroused by the smooth perfection of form imperfectly preserved. And then again, years later, I would fall in love in those same galleries with a sweet-talking museum security guard, a painter, whom I would eventually take home, introduce to my mother, share a bed with—the one with whom I left the city and moved to the country and bought an old house.

These essays are unpindownable. Just when you think you have it, the next paragraph takes you somewhere else. I imagine the subject matter chart of a particular essay on a graph would resemble a windy path through a woods.

If only I could write in this space forever. If only I could return to the glass coffin where p resembles q, where b becomes d, where U and I remain intact. Except maybe it’s not the secrecy or order that is saving me anymore, not so much the letters or the words but the uncharted margins, the outdated virtues of common things such as fountain pens and telegrams, fine stationery and wax seals, which are not in the least necessary but feel elegant and classy—comforts amid chaos. Like ordering cocktails in the sky from tiny bottles, sipping a macchiato in a quaint café, tossing pennies at Trevi Fountain, posting a letter from the Vatican. Maybe that is what this really is: a letter that holds a mirror to a message I want to write, seal with a kiss, and send to the strange little girl who loves subtraction, the one I know only through the voice behind my seat, and I would write How brave you are! and ask what she knows about the future, if subtraction is a long road toward solitude, if minus equals loss. The way backward feels synonymous with the most intimate of codes, the way all of life is an enchanted spell we may never come out from under. Is this—the fairest truth of all?

Other reviews describe Lost Wax as coming-of-age essays, but I say that’s too limiting, that it’s better described as coming-into-the-world essays. Objects and experiences and memories are tied to art and music and words… Nothing is of itself. It is all connected, just another curve around another bend. Jericho and I graduated in the same class from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she is now the the Assistant Director of the MFA in Writing program. I was shocked to discover she’s a year younger than my daughter. I never thought of her as young. And I feel vindicated after reading these essays. These are the words of an old soul.

When I was young I thought that everything was just practice, a rehearsal for life, which at some point would simply begin. Some days I still want to believe this. There is no rehearsal for living, of course, but sometimes it does take practice: loving the fact that you were born, loving all the winters, the inevitable seduction of elsewhere or other that builds like a scale or refrain and can trail on and on like a sentence.

These eighteen essays, which appear in loose chronological order, make use of many different elements–lists, subtitles, repetition, other languages… One essay is divided into three parts and interspersed with other essays. Words are used not only as a means to an end but also as the end itself.

amenazar, amar, alzar—to threaten, to love, to rise above

Adding to the element of surprise, Jericho also made the contour drawing that became the cover, as well as the other drawings for the section breaks. The sketches were part of her process of completing the manuscript and helped her discover the book’s structure, the titles of the sections from sculpture–Degas, Bernini, and two of Rodin’s–the title of the book from a casting method used to produce metal sculptures. “I’m most drawn to the idea that something is lost in order for something else to emerge.”

That afternoon, glancing at our bows moving in sync, listening to our strings piercing through Suzuki variations, with only the occasional squeak out of tune, I realized that I can move inconspicuously between worlds: black and white, urban and rural, between privilege and lack thereof. I would spend many of the next formative years feeling out of place yet managing to belong.

Lost Wax was published in September of 2016 by the University of Georgia Press, as a part of Crux, their series in literary nonfiction established in 2015. It received the silver medal in the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the category of Essay/Creative Non-fiction and was also a 2016 Foreward INDIES finalist for Book of the Year in the Essay category. Jericho grew up in the Bronx, studied journalism, political science, and history in college, later worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she is always traveling–whether she is moving or still.

Come back on MAY 1st to read how JERICHO PARMS spends her days.

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