Postcard proseIssue 16 | October 2012


by Michelle Valois

In a city lit by a million lights – streetlights, headlights, lights in shop windows; on a red bus that slogs through dirty snow toward the old town; at a time of day, dusk – or twilight or sunset or eventide or nightfall – five nouns for a word that in Swedish is preceded by a verb, kura, which literally means to curl up but in this idiom means something like comfort, kura skymning, comfort the dusk – or soothe or pacify or cheer or all of these things – which is what we are doing, you tell me, in your impeccable English, as the bus stops near the castle and we step onto Stockholm’s damp December streets.

You have lent me a fur coat that once belonged to your dead grandmother. Thick and brown, it falls below my knees. I did not come prepared for this bone chill, nor was I expecting such darkness so early in the day, but you have nothing in your closet for that; no family heirloom will remedy this lack of light, except a promise to comfort the dusk with me, once you have explained what that means.

We cross a bridge. The streets become narrow and cobbled. Crooked buildings lean into each other. Then, dusk’s swift surrender to the dark that frightens students and shoppers, mothers with small children, businessmen and pensioners, even a few misguided tourists back into their caves. Or at least into a café, the Grey Friar Café, with its cellar that dates to the fifteenth century, a cellar that once offered comfort on such afternoons as this to German merchants flush from good trade, or servants with an extra coin for spiced wine, or stallholders or prostitutes, or even a friar dressed in grey robes at a time when to not seek shelter could mean ones life.

But it is not my life at stake now on this late December afternoon, as we sit in a crowded café in a picturesque part of town and you tell me about her, the other woman – mistress, lover, paramour – three beautiful words, really they are; beautiful words that could mean nothing or could mean everything to a heart not soothed or comforted by the stone cellar’s candled warmth, but ripped out jagged and raw and still beating for the wolves that howl at the city gates.

About the author

A native of Massachusetts, Michelle Valois called Sweden home for nearly a decade. Two years ago, she travelled in India, a place that she could grow to love as much as Sweden. Michelle’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in 2River View, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Pank and others. Read her blog. (Photo by her son Ari Daube-Valois.)

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok