Childhood fears take a global stage.

“a sudden calamitous void …”

An HH-53 Huskie, a specialized helicopter designed for search and rescue, of the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron as seen from the gunner’s position, in Vietnam, October 1972. U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Hackman.

Minor Calamity

even then so far back i cannot remember it per se but rather remember the photograph it was a blue dress. two blue dresses actually, one for me and one for her. nixon had resigned. a short nap, blue velvet (blue not being my best color) i had chopped off my hair. vietnam was a sudden calamitous void. years later of course it occurs to you that vietnam is a place not an event per se

and i had insisted upon the pairing of a red turtleneck with the blue velvet dress, lace collar no less yes the disastrous pairing of a tender blue with also screaming red patent leather shoes my mother threw up her hands in disgust laughed with her head back at dinner (the wine) was always dressed for the occasion i studied the shiver of her earrings which brushed her bare shoulders when she turned

this was before the shah of iran was under my bed before james (‘jimmy’) carter sinned in his mind on tv, before the ‘shocking revelations’ there were always ‘people’ we were always having ‘people,’ hundreds of ‘people’ who laughed it seemed to me a bit too much and loudly with their heads back and the pewter goblets of wine, i wore the blue dress

and in the memory of the photograph I am not ‘sulking’ per se rather standing uneasily my face twisted away one would imagine from the noise and my hands knotted tightly behind my back in the photograph i am not looking at the ‘darling girl’ in the same dress only baby-sized with the black pot on her head, in the photograph

‘everyone’ is laughing in that flat mute way people always laugh in photographs as if they really did


Marya Hornbacheris an essayist, journalist, novelist, poet, and New York Times bestselling author of five books. Her writing appears regularly in publications such as the New York Times, Boston Globe, Smithsonian Magazine, Crazyhorse, AGNI, Gulf Coast, The Normal School, Fourth Genre, and DIAGRAM. She is the recipient of the Annie Dillard Award for Nonfiction, the Fountain House Humanitarian Award, and a Logan Nonfiction Fellowship.