NEA Literature Fellowships

Carolina Ebeid

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(2015 - Poetry)

"Lead"

...the ashes of who knows how many other elements full of life,
which thousands upon thousands of years ago were burned in their own fire.
––Primo Levi, The Periodic Table

because the window is open to the noises of the street
because the bell is made of seeds for birds
because they will take apart the bell
because this is what living things do
because lead rhymes with dread
because from another window the names of boys are called in
because the birds with tin-whistle throats pattern back to the clefts in buildings
because the shadows of the mountain
because that mountain stretches up & up forever into the skies
because I cannot write about lead & how my son was poisoned
because windows are only holes fitted with sheets of glass
because of the starless, the unnegotiable above
because of the beryl & the coal in its veins
because it is measured in micrograms of lead per deciliters of blood
because the weather-flung thing leaves an aneurysm in the glass
because the Gray Horse strayed from his kin & died at the base of the mountain in prehistory
because an epoch of its sleeping
because we have the tools to unearth what has been buried & put it on display
because my son's first word was circle at the Museum of Modern Art
because we were unborn in prehistory
because we will be buried for epochs
because everything made tells its story, the window, the circle on the canvas
because the toy horse is pulled by a string
because we call it a living room
because a woman is talking on a screen
because a journalist has been hanged
because last words want to be hymns
because the flock crowning the tree makes an oily colossal of wings
because final words inflate with the possibility of ________
because those words become artifacts
because zythum continues to be used for its status as the last word in many dictionaries
because Zyclon B canisters found by the allies are arranged into a pyramid of artifacts
because this is what living things do
because you took an object that was whole & you smashed it
because zythum was a kind of malt beer for thousands of years in Egypt
because there is a seat here & you could join me for a while & drink with me 

(First appeared in Anti—)

Carolina Ebeid was the 2012-2014 Fellow at the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University, and presently serves as a poetry editor for the online journal Better: Culture & Lit.

Her work appears widely in journals such as The Kenyon Review, Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, and Poetry, among others. She holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers, and has won awards and fellowships from CantoMundo, The Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the Academy of American Poets.

Carolina grew up in West New York, NJ, and lives in Colorado where she is pursuing a PhD in the University of Denver's creative writing program. Her first book will be published by Noemi Press in 2016 as part of their Akrilica series.

Photo by Jeffrey Pethybridge

Author's Statement

The NEA Fellowship comes at an important time—I suspect that statement is always true for any writer. This is a time of changes and transition for my writing: my first manuscript, You Ask Me To Talk About the Interior has recently been accepted for publication, and I have started work on a second manuscript. I am also in the first year of a PhD program at the University of Denver. To my mind, the NEA will help in very concrete ways by supplying me with material means for clearing the summer months from the need to find a job. But there is something immaterial here, too, that is harder to quantify. The fellowship boosts my courage in the kindest ways: by quieting the self doubts and economic concerns, which erode my concentration and my imagination. For my poetry work, I don't require travel for research; the most valuable gift one can give me is a writing desk with a stack of books upon it, and uninterrupted hours.