Green Hills Literary Lantern

 

 

 

Seaweed Wasn't the Right Color

  

 

Not until his last days, after we’d thrown out three hundred and twenty unopened paint cans from his Carroll Gardens apartment, and explained to his landlord that we knew hoarding was pathological, but that it hadn’t quite reached that point, did my father explain to us why he became a painter. For most of his life, painting remained a thing he did but never discussed, the way some men play poker: silently, without any of the usual commentary. The same was true, for the most part, of my father’s drinking, which started as a two-glass habit and became three, then entered a phase where he claimed that, against all appearances, such as his nightly mid-sentence pass-out on the couch, he’d downed only cranberry juice. As a teenager, I’d pressed him—even showed him the empty bottles—and although he eventually admitted to excess, he offered no justification, only explained that the act of drinking stilled a motor that ran too quickly in his mind. Once, when I was too young to know any different, he pointed to the crown of his head and made a whirring sound. You hear that, son? Give it some pinot grigio, he said, and it’ll be fine.

But then, when I was grown and long out of the house, while he was sick with the tumor that would kill him, he talked. Talked the way he used to back in those childhood years, back when my mother was living, when the two of them argued about whether there should have been a Vietnam War, and whether my father should have accepted the draft, rather than dropping a brick on his foot, to break the bones, then claiming disability, then objecting to serving even a day, sending weekly angry letters to Uncle Sam until the government gave up on him. It took me long enough to become a citizen, he said, unlike so many who felt a tie of goodwill, or at least guilt, to the country who’d taken him in. I’m not going to go and die now. Tossing her head, her black eyes even blacker than usual, my mother boasted, If not for the kids, I’d have gone to war myself. Black Irish, she called herself: that black-haired, blue-eyed breed known for their spunk, their inner fire. The two of them shot barbs so fast I couldn’t tell who was winning—or if there was a contest to be won—and then they laughed, rubbing each other’s shoulders as if the argument had excited and exhausted them, my mother’s lilting and my father’s gritty voice blending like rustling leaves.

My father’s illness had made me return to see him, after two years of not speaking. When he called and said he’d been admitted, one night, to emergency surgery, I’d felt obligated, and arrived, after a ten-hour drive, to Brooklyn, the next day. If he’d stayed well, I doubt I’d have ever seen him again. No one argument had come between us, but I’d had a feeling of being battered when he spoke, a sense that nothing would convince him my life was worth the time it took to live it, or that the hassles he’d felt, raising my sister and me, had been balanced by pleasures, even if momentary ones. If I’d become a surgeon, he said, the tens of thousands of dollars of loans he’d taken out would have been meaningful. But as a mere psychiatrist, I had no claim to healing, to staunching wounds: no claim to anything, he argued, other than fixing imaginary pains. 

For years, I fought against him, arguing that a person must be what a person must be, and that I wasn’t suited to fixing physical frailty. I explained about bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, how counseling patients with such illnesses felt like surgery. You had to be so careful, so willing to look beyond the site of the pain to where the pain radiated. He simply laughed and said I’d understand when I was older, as if age were a contest I was doomed to lose.

When, as a poor med student, I moved in with him, I soon came to regret the decision. You and your sister have only burdened me, he’d complained one morning, when I asked for an extra serving of cantaloupe. That night at dinner, when he’d insisted that my existence had been a sheer waste of funds, I ran to my room, buried myself in neuroanatomy texts, and only there allowed myself to sob.

In those days, I tiptoed through the house on my way out, so he wouldn’t ask if I could help with his taxes, or hammer a nail straight. He seemed to hear everything—even my shadow, lurking behind me—and called out for me before I even hit the last stair. His needs were constant, a result (I suspected) of never having followed through on his own goals. I hated him for never setting foot in a university, and for not having become a surgeon, as he said he’d always hoped to. Don’t think I wanted this existence, he squalled after a beer or two, before drunkenness had fully set in. My hatred carried over into adulthood, but instead of directing it at him, I did what he did, and directed that hatred at myself.

Are, he used to call me, or Not, my two pet names, both halves of my real name. As a child mocked on the playground, I’d hated both. My father was from Belgium, the French-speaking part, where my name must have been somewhat more common. But still, I couldn’t help wondering what kind of name was Arnaud—not one for an American boy from Brooklyn. Throughout my childhood, my parents’ choice had made me wonder if they’d wanted to have me, if they’d truly thought the decision through.

In his hospital room, I sat for hours in a black plastic chair, studying my father and inspecting the clock, trying to force the hands to stop. My mother was already dead, from a brain bleed after falling down the stairs. It’ll be fine, she’d said on her last evening, tumbling into bed. After all, it was only five steps. He’d agreed, reluctantly, seeing as there was hardly any blood. But the next morning, he’d been unable to wake her up.

Now, skin bleached, mouth blanched dry from drugs that were supposed to save him, my father sipped milk through a straw and shifted spit around his mouth. When he called my name—my full name—I felt comforted, known, perhaps, finally. His very vowels forgave me for whatever wrongs I’d committed or would. When I touched my hands to my face, I felt the cheeks of a very small child.

Given his labored speech, and his face’s cartoon-like distortions, interruptions were the last thing he needed. I never stopped him, pretending to be obedient—penitent, even—acting like the good son I’d never been. Of course, my attempts at hearing him were selfish: I thought I could drown in his stories and, worse, that I wanted to.

His stories raised more questions than they answered, but I paid attention, since there were so many left untold. For years, he’d refused to tell me what his own childhood had been like, or his adulthood. Now, in his last months, he couldn’t stop telling me. He spoke of the Second World War and of loss, of keeping every tool he’d ever used, long after his retirement, in case someone called and wanted a touchup of Palladian Blue, or a full repaint of Tranquility.

The last story he told was the one I remembered best, though it was, by far, the most ridiculous. He spoke craned back in his hospital bed, covered in blankets, only the collar of his hospital gown peeking out. His own clothes had grown too large for him, or rather he’d shrunk to be too small for them. Like a praying mantis, he lay motionless, thinner than ever. At his neck, his collar blossomed, a light patch of green.

One summer afternoon, he said, after I’d moved away—the hottest Saturday of the entire year—he began thinking about my mother, the way he often did in the years since she died. 

In detail, he considered the now horrible specifics of her routine: about the way she banged plates together to dry them, chipping the ceramic in her urgency, refusing to make use of the towel, and the way she’d left her nightgowns, every morning, sprawled out on the bathroom floor, dropped so precisely he could reconstruct the exact shape of her undressing: fabric shrugged over one arm, then the next.

Recalling my mother this way pained him. Soon, he began to think his memories—the act of his remembering, rather—pained my mother too. In the house, every shadow seemed to take on her shape and follow him, accusingly, from room to room. He started feeling claustrophobic, convinced he had to collect her memories, to contain them, and yet that he couldn’t—that those memories were crushing him, making it impossible to breathe.

On one particularly agonizing morning, he decided to leave his apartment for the day, perhaps longer, carrying an overnight bag. As long as those shadows lurked, and my mother’s perfume still suffused the house, sinking into the beaded couch cushions, rising into the flower-free vases, he couldn’t bear to stay inside. The place felt like a cemetery of smells, a carton packed with persistent images. The shadows would find him, and he’d have no place to hide.

For an hour, then two, he strolled from one neighbor’s stoop to the next, comforted by the fact that, after sixteen years, the neighbors knew him. They wouldn’t allow him to sink too far down, having celebrated with him and my mother in happier times. Now, he sat down with each neighbor outside, sharing a glass of something sparkling, or two glasses, or a bottle of wine. The neighbors knew what he liked, or might, and brought out sangria or whisky, anything that could make the nose tickle and the head, after more than a few sips, blur.

He began at West 9th Street in Brooklyn: No. 33, No. 35, 37, then, starting at the Gowanus Expressway, crossed Henry, Hicks, Columbia, staying on the streets’ sunny sides. For good luck, he said, let the sun warm you. As he strolled the streets, he carried his own wine glass with him—one that the first neighbor had given him, not expecting him to take it away—and spoke slowly, meditating on the shadows he’d seen in his living room.

Mind if I move on? he asked after several minutes, and the neighbor smiled and said sure.

After the first few houses, my father became a bit tipsy. Then he got drunker, swerving in the middle of the streets, wine glass in hand, crying out in a voice that grew grainy and thoughtless, and weighted down by hope, or its absence. And yet, in the mid-summer heat, amid the cicadas hustling and the boys playing catch, nobody seemed to notice, or mind.

He started conversations by asking about the weather, the same lines every time: You think the heat’s going to break? Think it’s hotter than the time of the Plagues?

Mostly, the neighbors laughed, which he took as acceptance, and said it’ll break soon.

Slugging the last of his wine, he started speaking, in a more mournful voice (one he imitated later, in the hospital room) of the terrifying chapters of his past: his escape from Buchenwald as a child, his parents’ murders, the eleven cousins and aunts he never saw again. Sharing drinks, his mouth filled with stories: shipping himself off to New York in a luggage container, arriving at Ellis Island at twenty-four, where he gladly changed his name, to avoid any association with death, with disease. He spoke of marrying my mother, a real Jersey girl, who’d heard of Belgium only in passing, and seen it only as a speck on her grade school maps, with borders she could hardly recall. He spoke of the painting company he started, Top New York Painters, although he was the only one who worked there (more names inspire more confidence, he said). Painting, he claimed, became his new-found home. Filling rollers, he felt more like himself than he ever had. He woke up at seven in the morning, gritted his teeth on his commute, and stayed up at night counting his cash.

He counted to make a name for himself, he explained, and money was the only way he knew. He counted because there was nothing else to do, because his own father had wanted him to become a rabbi, but now there was no time, and no incentive, since what should he pray for? What should he become? A Priest of Prisons? A Rabbi of Nothingness? 

No. He’d roll baseboards and headboards, bay windowsills and Gothic ceilings, in Aurora Borealis and Richmond Green. He’d lay down a coat of Douglas Fern followed by another of Lady Liberty, and finish with Warren Acres or Calming Aloe.

As he spoke with his customers, he spun his color wheel, as if he were running through future options, through years. Greens spiraled to blues to pinks to purples, to a rush of beige and brown, which he skipped over as fast as he could, gripping the wheel’s gold brad center so as to make those colors invisible. Dull colors he had no use for, not in a world where dullness grew all around him, where sorrows sprang up in his hands like weeds.

Before he began any project, he assured his customers that he wasn’t simply painting their rooms, but rather designing an environment in which they could pass their best years. His time with his wife, my mother, had taught him about change, as they went from twenty-six-year-old lovers to sparring partners to (at least in her case) suddenly dead. Over decades, he predicted to his customers, their houses would evolve in ways both simple and complex, the same way gardens did, as seeds turned into sprouts and blossomed, some growing as tall as backyard trees, and others withering from poor placement overwatering, and still others remaining fresh, as if untouched, for years.

Of course, the house’s growth and destruction would make its colors change, or seem to. Time, or its consequences, would shift the very tint of the paint. Inevitable, human changes would mar the walls: the fits of rage, where the wife dragged a chandelier from the ceiling, or where the husband tossed a China plate at the ground. In the kids’ bathrooms, paint would start peeling. Popping cooking oil would stain the kitchen tiles. Visitors who came for parties would dance to exhaustion, kicking their heels into walls, creating chips and bare spots below eye level. Visitors who entered the house to make love (friends of friends, the apartment left empty for the weekend) would ruin the baseboards, as would visitors who (having no hospice, no funds) arrived as a final option, to pass away.

Succeeding as a painter meant surrendering to those changes, my father said. It meant having no surface that couldn’t be covered, no lie that couldn’t be concealed. It meant opening up each gap and laying paint right over; plugging every darkness, every hole.

On the stoop of one neighbor’s apartment, half-drunk, he laughed and nodded, with what he hoped was a kind of insouciance, longing to have made his point. The neighbor laughed back, but sounded unconvinced. His laugh would have annoyed my mother, with its high wheeziness, its suggestion that the laugher didn’t care. But by that time, my father was hardly at a hundred percent. His glass had grown cloudy and sour from washes of wine and beer. As afternoon sunk around him, he moved on, increasingly muddled, clutching his glass, imagining that the glass was my mother’s hand. While he knew he should return home—the neighbors were getting tired of him, he sensed—he feared that the shadows, when he arrived, would still be there. 

New stoops, new drinks. Along the way, he chatted with kids, yanked up some weeds outside one neighbor’s apartment, ogled a girl in a string bikini at the next.

She’s trying to be a model, the girl’s father told him. She’s tall enough, right? 

And my father drank and ran along, not wanting to implicate himself.

On the stoop of the last apartment, after six beers, three glasses of wine, and two whisky shots, he met a woman with fire-engine hair and black-frame glasses who looked like my mother.

Good evening, she said. Jack Daniels?

Drunk enough to be sick, he shook his head.

She’d moved in two weeks ago, she said. Judith. From Fayetteville, North Carolina. Home of Fort Bragg. The County Seat of Cumberland County. Her nose was as perky as a baby deer’s, and her breasts filled her shirt like excitable balloons. Divorced three times—most recently last week—she said she’d come for a fresh start, or as fresh as was possible in a city that reeked of cigarettes and horse shit and grime. I might suffer, she told him, surely will, but at least I’ll suffer differently. My mother, when she died, had been ten years older at least, and yet there was something—the half-curly, half-wavy hair, the gestures of mixed shyness and solicitation—that tied together the two of them.

Sure you’re not a ghost come back to life? he asked her.

A cigarette in her mouth, a glass in her hand, she patted his chest, his arms, his thighs, not intimately, but with a sense of distrust. 

Checking for weapons? he asked her.

No, she said, but kept patting. Her last husband, she said, had startled her. Straight out of a Western he was. Had a shotgun concealed in his trousers. On their honeymoon, the trigger went off as he was undressing and nearly killed them both.

Don’t worry, my father said. I’m not that man 

Who are you then? she asked.

A painter.

A wall painter, or a painter painter?

A wall painter.

Oh.

It’s more exciting than you might think. 

Is it, she said.

Somehow, even after that awkward start, they ended up in her bed together (I don’t need to tell you how, he told me now, and indeed, I didn’t want to know). He wrapped his arms—paint-spattered, muscular from ten-hour working days—around her, and kissed the coiled roots of her fire-engine hair. As their mouths met, as their tongues twirled like snakes, she whispered a painter painter, huh? He didn’t answer, only kissed her harder, trying to suck out all of my mother that might be inside, or all that might have been.

Her three-room apartment was modern, the walls coated in impeccable beige. That lifeless color was what he first noticed, but he tried to flush off his irritation and focus on his hips meeting hers. She’d made a living as a teacher and couldn’t afford to repaint the space in a bright shade of pink. Against his naked body, the cold was fantastic. My mother returned to him in spurts, in brief jolts: for a second, her hand on his shoulder felt like my mother’s hand, a living, moving hand, not even a ghost’s. He stayed motionless as she touched him, trying not to let the sensation disappear. Afterwards—after she poked him with her index between the eyes—he curled his body again around hers. They made love long into the night.

“Lest you think it’s a fairy story,” my father said when he finished, chortling, “let me tell you what happened afterwards.”

The next night, Judith came to his apartment and undressed as soon as she walked in, while he locked the door behind her.

Paint me, she said, gesturing to his stacked cans. Paint my whole body.

Why?

I’ve always wanted to know what it would be like, to have my whole body covered.

“I don’t know,” he said. To be honest, that’s a weird request.

You’re up for the challenge or no? she asked, spread-eagled, with a cryptic smile 

You could suffocate, he said. Paint could get into your pores, and your pores wouldn’t breathe.Your own skin could send you to your death.

I’d take the paint off after you were finished, right away.

Promise? he asked, and she nodded, saying, Why wouldn’t I?

He laughed and said, I’ve never painted a woman before.

There’s no better time than now, she said.

He stared at her—at the tangled mop on her head, the flatter tufts on the narrow strip below her waist—and let a terrific tingle sizzle up his toes. If he could, he’d let that tingle find him, become him. In the feverish pace of their lovemaking, the sex that felt like planing, in a fast car, through driving rain, he’d lose the pounding loneliness of his post-Ellis Island years, the English that ran over his ears like straw, and the many empty apartments he’d painted, to prove himself, working alone for hours before the house’s owner would come and proclaim himself satisfied, the project finally, with only a few floor-spatters, complete.

After a breath of hesitation, he took out a can of Romantica and a can of Precocious, both pinkish, from his closet and enrobed her collarbone first, then her left breast, using a two-inch horsehair brush. She squealed and writhed so hard the two hues blended. Then she sat up, twisting to face the curtainless window, which on any other day would have embarrassed him, but that did nothing but excite him now. When he drew paint down her backbone, she whimpered—a sweet, almost simpering moan—as if no texture had ever nurtured her before. Afterwards, she thanked him, saying she’d felt peace rising up in her, soothing every hollow, every scar.

The next evening, he wasn’t sure if she’d return, but she knocked as he was finishing his last bite of preserved pears. He started to take his belt off, but she shook his head.

Keep your belt on, she said.  

But I thought—he started, but she only shook her head harder. As she undressed, starting with her blue silk sweater and ending with her underpants, she began—purely, simply—to weep.

He asked what was wrong. For a moment, she sat, naked, on his couch, and didn’t speak. Then, in a high, almost inaudible voice, she said nothing’s wrong really.  

Rather, she said, she wanted to make him a deal. She’d stay his lover if he’d agree to paint her, head to toe, every day, then spend the evening washing the color off. He could use whatever color he pleased. But she needed to be completely covered, from pubis to toes, from crown of the head to crystalline heel. No part of her, fingernails included, should be left bare.    

That’s quite the deal, he said.

What, you’re freaked out or something? she asked, flicking a chip of Romantica off her fingernail.

It’s not that.

Then what? she asked.

It’s complicated, he said.

You did it once already.

So what?

What’s a repeat performance?

Yeah, he said, but you’re talking about a lifetime of them.

Against the fans’ whirr, he stood in silence, imagining his life as a cornucopia of color. In making love to Judith nightly, he’d lay his head on her paint-clogged chest. He’d taste her breath, a sweet mixture of strawberries and pears from her constant snacking on fresh summer fruit. Enraptured, he’d hold himself inside her, bear down even, and shiver as she slicked back his hair. 

And yet the paint, the fact of it, was a problem.

I don’t want to waste so much, he said, watching as she crossed her freckled legs, with an expression that had turned distant, even sour. I wouldn’t do that even for my best customer.

Aren’t I better than your best customer? she asked.

You’re not a customer.

So what do you say?

In her nakedness, she was dazzling, but he couldn't move.

Maybe I’m not lonely enough, he said, confused by his own refusal. 

Maybe you’re not, she said.

And that was how, my father explained to me in the hospital room, the affair ended—or to be more precise, the two-night-stand came to nothing more. Judith left, dragging her clothes on so quickly he was certain he’d never see her again, and shut the door before he could retract a single phrase. Such a grand beginning, sunk by the lure of Veranda View, of Tint of Mint, Minced Onion, and Frosty Lime.  

For months, he lived in a haze, surrounded by blank walls and unopened paint cans, downing whisky, scarfing down nuked macaroni and cheese. Before Judith, he’d never thought to paint a woman, but now, he could think of nothing other than that. Why had no other woman requested such a thing? Would any other woman consent? My mother hadn’t even painted her own nails. Such decadence, she’d said, and smelly too. And I’m fine as I am, aren’t I? 

She had been fine as she was—too fine, with her fresh-washed nightgowns and collection of waterlogged novels by the tub—but now, Judith was only possible substitute. With each new painting job, he bought an extra can of the color he’d need, on the off chance that she’d return.

She never came, though, and he had more time for thinking than he wanted. At first, he was proud of having resisted temptation, kept to his principles. He hadn’t worked so hard to become a painter only to let his savings literally be poured out. And yet, paint would never make love to him, stanch his wounds, tickle his toes. 

After nearly a year—solitary, and faced with piles of half-finished salad dressing bottles and boxes of dried macaroni and cheese—he was struck by his own idiocy. Living alone, he’d thought, would have been an homage to my mother, but the homage was a poor substitute for their lives. No solitude, no matter how profound, would bring her back. Over time, he was even losing his memories of her. He had to review them, every day, to make sure they stayed: she’d cooked pork rinds and pineapple so fresh that the juices steamed. She’d turned all her shirts inside out once she’d worn them normally, so she’d have to wash a little less. The effect was of an orphan, but an artsy one—she laughed as she zipped up her jacket from the inside out and struggled to button her sleeves.

She couldn’t be replaced, but the real problem was, he shouldn’t have expected anyone to. On impulse, sitting in his grime-filled tub, he called Judith. She didn’t pick up, though, and never returned his call. He would have passed her house a dozen times, even tried to enter, but he realized he didn’t know for sure if she lived alone. The mystery that had intrigued him haunted him now. Would her cries have shifted, night after night? Would a coat of Woodland Hills or Kiwi have left her squalling in ecstasy? Would she have clung to him, covered in Sweet Daphne, and laced his chest with color, dripped onto his eyelids, turned him completely green?

For months, in his apartment’s frosty silence, he thought of painting himself, to test the sensation, or even of hiring a prostitute to do the same.

He was convinced enough of this idea (as he told me, years later) that he opened a fresh can of Seaweed, one evening after midnight, and coated one arm, then the next. The feeling was pleasant—something like being coated in thick milk—but certainly nothing resembling ecstasy. And yet, as he continued, the bristles started feeling more comfortable, softer even. Paint began to leak into his pores, creating pressure mixed with permeability. His body was the permeable thing, he realized. He was a creature, an animal, a body, and longed for touch the way windows longed to be opened, the way a hunger for paint, for being painted, lay in every blank slab of wood.

Then he covered both legs, beginning at the heel, up to his groin, straining to reach the back of his buttocks. As he painted, sensation built up inside him, until he almost couldn’t bear to feel. If he could paint his entire body, he believed, he’d burst, with the sheer wind of a whirling dervish caught inside. He’d become the man he was supposed to be, a blossoming version of his former self. And yet, as he strained to reach the muscles that separated one shoulder blade from the next, he wept. His arms were too short, or his back was too broad, or the angle was impossibly off. There were two unreachable inches, even three.

Though he spoke to me in the confines of his bent-back hospital bed, his entire body hidden by the sheets, I began to imagine how he must have looked, writhing alone in his apartment, searching for a way to paint himself. Did he try out the edge roller, the paint spout, the brush and roller spinner, the drop cloth? Did he curl himself into a ball and wrap both arms around his torso, as if attempting, impossibly, to hug himself?

By then, he’d lived enough to know what it was to regret. He knew what it meant to have lost his wife for good, and both his children, temporarily at least, as we abandoned his one-bedroom apartment and his complaints, his stacked-up cans of paint and his worries about our futures. He must have known.

Now, I laid a hand over his shoulder, trying to soothe him. His chest hair had a grassy texture, pure white, and beneath it, his skin flaked off in patches, the way white speckles might rise off a branch. In the last year, he’d aged decades, so much that his body—its tenderness, its frailty—was hard to believe. The air around us circled: careful, clean. Grunting with the strain, my father sat up and pushed my hand off. Not now, he muttered, not for me. I left in silence, sensing he was close to the end. The next day, his nurse called to tell me he’d passed away.

In the past years, I’ve worked to come to terms with his last months, and the strange gift of his stories: stories that touched me without meaning anything clear. A year to the day after his death, I quit my job as a psychiatrist. For the first time in my adult life, I had no patients, and not a single responsibility. A blank canvas, but with no paint to fill it, and no skills to consider what was next. On the subway ride back home, to my nearly empty apartment, I shut my eyes. 

That whole ride home, I imagined him lying, alone in his apartment, covered with paint. Tomorrow morning, he’d told himself—sticky and gross in the sheets—he’d take an hour-long shower to wash the paint away. Tomorrow, he’d explain to his clients that he hadn’t meant to open Seaweed, that he’d made a simple error, and what did it matter anyway. One wasted paint can shouldn’t be cause for alarm. In any case, Seaweed wasn’t the right color for their walls, he’d explain. For a truly elegant lobby, they needed something subtler, more contained. 

As he brushed his face and drew his hand away, the liquid quality of the paint surprised him. In the mirror, the color moved him, as beautiful and bountiful as algae, clean and rootless, with no need for anything but water, no hunger for anything but coral. He was green and growing now, growing and green. His wife, my mother, would have laughed to see him. Living, she would have taken his hand in hers. They would have made love, brightly, the way they must have before I was born, before children startled them from themselves. In his passion, he would have splashed her with splotches. Their two bodies, as much as bodies could, would have merged. For all their wounds, their scars, they would have grieved.

  

 

Rebecca Givens Rolland  won the 2011 Dana Award in Short Fiction, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Witness, Kenyon Review, Cincinnati Review, Gettysburg Review, Georgia Review, Many Mountains Moving, Versal, American Letters & Commentary, and Meridian.  The Wreck of Birds won the 2011 May Sarton New Hampshire First Book Prize and was published by Bauhan Publishing.