We are both in Cambridge, getting ready to load all her possessions into a truck I have hired. I am very excited, because she is coming back to where I live & because this is the first time we have ever done physical work together. We stand on a gray, weather worn porch, looking at the backyard. Taking up almost the entire yard is a round, fiberglass swimming pool, the blue paint chipping, very rickety, but filled with water. The pump is not operating so the surface of the pool is covered with a crust of green scum. It is my job, she tells me, to take apart this swimming pool & get it into the truck. The rest of the moving she’ll do by herself. She turns, swings the screen door wide, & disappears into the house. The screen door slams. Bewildered, I step into the yard & circle the pool. I push against the side, perhaps to test how difficult the task actually will be. The push sets the water rocking, gently at first, but soon it becomes choppy, great waves roll & break over the sides, foul smelling water sloshing onto the ground. My sneakers soak through, mired in the swampy patches of thin, stubbly grass. It is late afternoon, the sun a cold white disk in the overcast sky. I feel chilled. Inside the house I can hear the scraping of furniture over the floor, the soft slipping of cardboard flaps over one another, a clash of silverware dumped into a box, the tiny grunts of her effort.
Aisha Sabatini Sloan
Episode 22: “Form and Formlessness”
In an essay specially commissioned for the podcast, Aisha Sabatini Sloan describes rambling around Paris with her father, Lester Sloan, a longtime staff photographer for Newsweek, and a glamorous woman who befriends them. In an excerpt from The Art of Fiction no. 246, Rachel Cusk and Sheila Heti discuss how writing her first novel helped Cusk discover her “shape or identity or essence.” Next, Allan Gurganus’s reading of his story “It Had Wings,” about an arthritic woman who finds a fallen angel in her backyard, is interspersed with a version of the story rendered as a one-woman opera by the composer Bruce Saylor. The episode closes with “Dear Someone,” a poem by Deborah Landau.
Rachel Cusk photo courtesy the author.
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