Nancy Chen Long

Nancy Chen Long is a 2017 National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing fellow. Her first book Light into Bodies won the 2016 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry. You’ll find her recent work in Ninth Letter, Crab Orchard Review, Zone 3, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Not Like the Rest of Us: An Anthology of Contemporary Indiana Writers, and elsewhere. She has a degree in engineering and an MBA, worked as an electrical engineer, software consultant, and project manager, and more recently earned an MFA. She works in Research Technologies at Indiana University.


He Takes Up Carving

after Susanna Childress

He’s been rummaging in the woods all week, scavenging
for the straightest pieces—rods of red oak, ironwood,
sassafras saplings—peels back the bark, sanding for hours,
then inlays intricate patterns of blue lapis, honey-striped

tiger’s eye, turquoise. Sometimes a compass recessed
into the top. Using his father’s engraver, he outlines pines
and cabins, the occasional deer, and always his initials
into each stick. They’re the reason why he’s hauled those boxes

up out of the basement—to clear a small work space.
Basketball cards catalogued by team and year, scores of plastic
cowpokes with no cows, a Hawaiian silk shirt, some army fatigues—
all transferred to the garage to make room for these walking sticks

sculpted and reshaped by his hands. Over sixty canes now,
arranged by size. Her head on his shoulder while he reads
another book on wood-carving, she daydreams of the last time
they parasailed, holding hands as they soared above Lake Huron,

before he was laid off, before he had his long blonde curls
shorn like sheep’s wool, before he renamed himself
Gottlieb. Curled up at their feet asleep, their Australian shepherd
lets out a whimper, paws twitching as if running. Yesterday,

the dog ran circles around her, nipped at her heels, darted back
and forth, barking as if to say “Go this way! No—go that way!”
herding her along the path from the backwoods. Such an urgency to it—
that need to be of use.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *