A little bit of magic: Strange Flowers is a Notable for Best American Essays 2015

Tonight I got word that my essay, The Strange Flowers, has been included as a Notable Essay for Best American Essays 2015.

This news comes on the eve of the anticipated completion date for the National Archives gathering my brother’s military records to mail to me — including x-rays, which if you have read Strange Flowers, means everything.

Saturday is also the 7th anniversary of my brother’s death.

I am at work on a performance in which I re-enact his last moments according to the narrative provided by the Medical Examiner, wearing a garment sewn from cotton sateen printed with his police booking photograph. This performance will be brutal.

Fabric going under the foot of a serger machine. The fabric is printed with the black-and-white booking photo from my brother's police report.

Part of this work includes still photographs of me lying in the same position as his body, with our bodies superimposed in Photoshop. I am his Elijah.

1 Kings 17:21, King James Version:

And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again.

In the Mormon faith, Elijah is the prophet who handed over the priesthood keys to Joseph Smith, making it possible for temple sealings and posthumous baptisms. For families to be together forever. Elijah: the man who rode straight to heaven on a chariot of fire, the unofficial patron saint of fast cars.

My body is injected through and through with black carbon, the ink of my tattoos, all those polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, same as in automobile exhaust, the stuff of long-dead things on fire, forming DNA adducts inside my body, containing pigments and heavy metals known to be used in automobile paints. I am turning my body into a fast car, resurrecting my brother’s world. My body will be the vehicle of his resurrection. My body will be his chariot of fire.

I didn’t just get the tattoos for the chemistry, though. One of them, the replica of my brother’s rose tat, I got so I could steal the memory of getting it. I’m on a mission to steal and his absorb my brother’s memories. That’s what forgers do.

These past few months, I have been talking to his old friends, and it’s become addictive. “You laugh like him,” they tell me. “You’re so bubbly and fun to talk to.”

You sound like him. I feel like I am talking to him. 

I can’t get enough of it. It makes me think my magic is working.

And it feels a little magical getting word about Strange Flowers this week of all weeks. It feels, well, like a sign.

2 thoughts on “A little bit of magic: Strange Flowers is a Notable for Best American Essays 2015

  1. Yes, it’s a sign and a good one. Things are opening up and you are being heard — your stones create ripples that go ever outward. I’m happy for you and can’t think of a more deserving writer to be noted!

  2. I just read your essay, I’m absolutely speechless! All I can think of to say is WOW and congratulations!!! Well deserved!

Comments are closed.