6 Opening Paragraphs

by Bryan Edenfield


She shook a little when cars drove by. Like the plates and glasses that rattle when a train goes by, she shook, involuntarily, swaying in tiny circles with the gusts of hot wind. Molly Diegh, rhymes with jolly day, waved at her from three long blocks down the street, standing under the shade of a billboard advertising a gun show two months past. Brittle, sighing, Anne-Marie Charter dug out a cigarette, waved back, and blinked at the sunlight. A van drove by. Her bones quivered.

– Anna Selevny, Automatic Perversions, 2000


She decided her name was Alice. From now on, whenever she met anyone, she would introduce herself as Alice. She had thumbed through not more than 4 pages of the little blue book for expecting mothers when she came to the name. Alice was truth. Alice was noble. She made sure to forget her old name as quickly as possible. She pretended she had amnesia; her entire past became a blur and she woke up knowing only that her name was Alice. She smiled. This would be a bright new day.

-Aden Bell, City Maps, 2004


Herman Delacroix’s painting Lovely Pathologies hangs on a white wall at the Silver Cliffs Museum of Art and History (SCMAH) in California. Created in 1997 when Delacroix was only 17, the work speaks of an adolescent idealism, a cheery, primary colored utopianism marred and blurred by the angst of transition. The painting is that tragic realization of adulthood: the world is not of our making, but we must take full responsibility for it. You can see the dampness, the dust, the years of neglect in the thick swirls of orange and brown, colors not normally associated with beauty but here they glisten like a shimmering mirage of light.

-Jenn Wavery, On Lovely Pathologies, 2010


I don’t find it pleasant when people smile. Why should it please us, animals bearing their teeth? I don’t know anything about evolution or instincts, but I don’t think the smile was designed to make people comfortable. Sure, maybe when someone is in a small group, a person sitting with his friends for example, in that small group the smile might be somewhat positive. Everyone in the little pack huddles together and bears their teeth and howls in laughter, grunts and snorts and stretches their face wide, a show of solidarity perhaps. But the outsider, I think, walking by this pack of snarling wolves, is intimidated by the smiles. I’m intimidated. They have their own secret world to growl at and I am not invited. And maybe they laugh at me. Maybe they smile when they pass me in the hallway or in the parking lot. The smile isn’t comforting. It doesn’t make me happy and it doesn’t make me think that they are happy. I think they want to attack me. I think they grin and guffaw because they want to kill me. I’m afraid of them, I admit it. I’m afraid of everyone.

-Jacob Walter, Smoke School, 1998


They feel eyes more than we do. They feel us on their skin and in their stomachs, watching and staring. They almost never look back; they don’t need to. Our entire pitiful existence is etched into their goose-freckled skin. There is, thus, nothing to see. When they do look back, it might be because they want us to know that they know. It might be because they approve or because they avidly disapprove. They rarely approve of my gaze. It makes them uncomfortable, I can tell. Sometimes, they look back at me and glare or flash me a quick blink of their white eyes and I look away, afraid to be turned into stone. But usually, they do nothing because perverts like me scamper all over this gross globe.

– S.W. Green, Allusions Allusive, 2008


I won’t sleep tonight. Bus number 3 runs all night and travels in circles around the city. It won’t be very crowded. I rode it from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. sometime last week, I think it was Tuesday. I remember, there was an old lady sitting at the front of the bus with long long hair all the way down to her waist. It takes years to grow hair that long. The end of that hair belonged to a different, younger woman.

-Israel Farmer, City of Mutes, 1978