Travel notesIssue 16 | October 2012

Cures for Insomnia

by Mary Beth O’Connor

True it was snowy and there were small boulders in the stream, but the landscape did not appear dangerous to me, and this older woman chafed, telling me where I shouldn’t cross. I was applying for a job, and she was to check my resume. She took it out of my hands like a nun. She scowled and fixed it for me. I realized right away that leaving in all the things I had done in my life made it seem that I was claiming to be doing all those things now, which was clearly ridiculous. I was not currently a lifeguard and a beetle inspector and a playground supervisor and a tight rope walker and a milk seller and a college professor. In fact, the college professor got lost in all that—I could see that. But in my depression it didn’t matter to me to impress. If I lost the teaching job I’d be back to tossing newspapers—the identity would not transfer, so I’d best not be attached to it. Still this attitude was making me disheveled, and I knew I had to snap out of it. So when she took my resume, shaking her head and clucking over it, crossing things out, and with little diacritical marks ensuring clarification, I was grateful to her through my numbness. In my felt coat I stood with my hand still outstretched as if expecting her to take it and lead me across the rocks and the snow that covered the river running there underneath, or, more poignantly, turn the hand over and plunk a coin in my palm for the privilege of reading the furrows there etched like rivers on a map. That’s how I was feeling, after all, like someone in need of having her fortune told, and instead given circus tea with hallucinogens in it and left lying on a velvet chaise, waking to find the tents gone and only a stench of elephant left behind. This ex-marine, ex-nun, ex-secretary slaps the resume back in my hand and pushes me forward to the job interview as if toward the guillotine. And I go. As I rest my neck on the smooth worn wood I miss things—acrobats, lion tamers appearing and disappearing through heavy fabric curtains, the sound of the calliope, the swish of fortune tellers’ long skirts, the feel of the glass sphere, smoke and stars.

About the author

Mary Beth has recently taken some road trips around New England and walking tours in Scotland and England. She visited Crete about eight years ago and discovered a whole new dimension of the color blue that she still can’t adequately describe. She hopes to spend time in Alaska next summer, but equally appreciates imaginary journeys. You can find her work in Asinine Poetry, Mad Hatter’s Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prick of the Spindle, and other literary magazines.

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