Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Note on My Last Post

I want to take a moment to clarify a few things in light of my post “Dear Brockport, an Open Letter:”

I am not a journalist, I am a creative writer, and my post was not meant to break a news story, rather to call into question the recent issues in our community by filtering it through my own concern as a mother, a lecturer and alumna of SUNY Brockport, a lifetime resident, and a concerned community member. I turn to my blog in order to make sense of things that frighten, frustrate and confound me. These posts fall entirely in the genre of creative essay. It’s not an outlet I use to cast judgements on people, and hardly ever do I present journalistic hard facts. My concern was that a violent crime went unreported for whatever reason, by a slew of media outlets, and not just one in particular. As a creative writer, I respect and rely on the truth that reporters bring to our community, and perhaps my frustration grew because I had no report to turn to in order to discover the truth.

I am happy to belong to a community with many voices.

I appreciate those of you who did read this post, and hope you appreciate my genuine concern for our community.


“A Moon Story,” in Hippocampus Magazine

“A Moon Story,” in Hippocampus Magazine

Hippocampus Magazine has published my nonfiction piece, “A Moon Story,” a piece about losing life, giving birth, and surviving in nature.

 
3.11.11 There is an earthquake in Japan, and I hold my hands on my belly that…
 
Click HERE to read more
 
HIPPOCAMPUSMAGAZINE.COM

 


Matters of Space

English: State University of New York at Brock...

English: State University of New York at Brockport’s Hartwell Hall, east side (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In class last Wednesday, the heavy doors of 219 Hartwell Hall opened and closed without reason.   The windows were shut.   No students were passing.

Each time the door opened and closed forcefully, I looked to a different student to corroborate.  I knew what people would think, and I wasn’t crazy.  Hartwell has its own haunted history.  I’m not the first person to abandon skepticism.

This week I will move to a new house–an 1860s Victorian on a village street in the college town I grew up in.  As I write my novella amidst the packed boxes in my house,  I consider the matter of space.  It took me so long to get going on this piece.  It was so much larger in scope than anything I’ve written before.  The short stories I’ve written nearly all my life seem like mudrooms in size compared to the grand, living room-sized novella I write now.

The house we will move to is twice the size of the home I sit in as I type this.

On Friday, in class, I discussed with my students the Hartwell Takeover of 1970–a Vietnam protest that occurred in the very same building we sat in that minute.

The Hartwell Takeover: Brockport students smoking pot in the hallways, skinny-dipping in the (then) swimming pool (now, Strasser Dance Studio), a student on LSD climbing the bell tower, and a cultural center just around the corner from the building set afire in protest.

I asked what had changed in all this time?  I urged them to consider how everything around us had changed.  How can we not explore the space we live in?  Even its past?

It’s probably the reason I love old houses.  And thrift stores.  And museums.  It’s probably the reason I’ve never left my hometown.  I take the word “roots” literally.

I have always tried to imagine myself in a time-warp.  Who was standing in this same spot–in the quaint farmhouse where I now type this–40 years ago?  I happen to know that the house we’re about to move from was a college house in the 1970s.  Perhaps the students who had protested in the Hartwell Takeover were strumming guitars or drinking Gennys in this same space?

My parents’ house was built in the 1880s.  As soon as we got our hands on a copy of the deed, in the 1990s, my father and I scanned its history, and I placed each family in context, imagined them in the kitchen and on the front porch.  I longed to hug them, to hear their arguments, to rustle through their closets.

It’s part of what we do when we write, and probably part of the reason I had such a tough time with the novella at first.  I fought with the setting of a home for unwed mothers, when I’d never been there.  How could I go to where I’d never been?   I had to relocate my mind to some place foreign–something I’d never done.  I write the stories of the place I grew up as I imagine them, but more importantly, as they could have been experienced in human terms.

When that door in Hartwell opened and closed, who was there?  Was it the force of another door down the hall sucking the air from our space?  I don’t know.  Maybe I don’t want to believe that.  I like to believe it was some part of history, some student from another time taking a peek.

The house I will move to has its own history, and most of the facts have been researched and recorded by a village trustee, but I have a lot of wondering to do, still, a lot of supposing to do in that space.

 

 

 


To Brockport, From Goddard, With Love

Goddard College Clockhouse

Goddard College Clockhouse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t traveled much in my lifetime.  I can count the times I’ve been out of the country on one hand, and most of those trips were hour-long drives to Niagara Falls, when I’d squeeze my eyes shut and hold my breath over the Rainbow Bridge.

I love Vermont.  During this residency at Goddard College, my MacBook is on its last leg, and I had too much Sauvignon Blanc last night.  I’ve never been to France, and I can’t do that accent, so I practiced “Sauvignon Blanc” over and over, meaning to order it without sounding idiotic or pretentious.  Practice doesn’t make everything perfect.  I can hardly get the keys on my Mac to type words I’ve spelled since first grade.

Yesterday, I tried to get to the RocRoots page from my aging Mac to see a story I’d written for the Democrat & Chronicle about Edgar Coapman and his dog.  It took me an hour.  I managed, and the piece looked like it had when I sent it out, familiar in many ways–not just in the way that it was my work, but in the way that it was my place, as though I can peer into the depths of this village I call home, all the way from Goddard, the place I call home for this week.

I’ve been out of town for a few days, and since, life has gone on in startling ways–my brother gave birth to kidney stones, my sons have become still more articulate (and are getting along), my uncle has come to visit from Florida, bringing with him a larger sense of home than can fit between the boundaries of our village, our house has glimpsed, perhaps, its new owners, and I am here, on the outside, gathering reports like I do during research– only reporting from decades later–preparing to write some story, some thing that can hold tight to pulp of human life.


Boys at Home

Superman (comic book)

Superman (comic book) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I tell my four-year-old on the way home, “Johnny, you have to calm down at Grandma’s: you can’t jump on her sleep-number bed or track mud on the floor, or look at the pork roast and then comment that the gravy smells like poop, or sit on the windshield of her car, and when we have to leave, you can’t cry behind the standing antique mirror you always almost break in your fervor, because she will stop inviting us over.”

I know she won’t.  She smiles baring all teeth, shaking her head, she says, “They’re boys.”  I smile, bearing anything at all.  How does my mother not mind?

Who doesn’t like gravy?

Sammy is two and threw my mother’s butter potatoes to the floor, swept them clear off her table before he began jamming out with his spoon on her new slate-tiled kitchen set.

Last week, a little girl ahead of us in line at Wegmans said, “My name’s Angelina.”

Johnny said, “My little brother’s name is Sam, and he’s not an angel.”  We all laughed, but he didn’t understand what was so funny.

My sons are not devils.  They are ragamuffins.  They are toughies, my mom says.  My mother-in-law says God only gives you what you need.  He forgot to give me muscles.  And many days, patience.

I did imagine that Angelina went home and combed her Monster High doll’s hair calmly and smoothly with attention to snarls and then smelled her doll’s hair and then cuddled her like a good Monster High doll’s mother would.  I imagine Angelina potty trained in two days.  She ate everything her parents put on her plate, with gravy.  She took ballet classes and tiptoed down the stairs after waking, never before 8 a.m.  I imagined.

I have to exert all my power to hold two boys down with force enough to put their shoes on while they spin like tornadoes, but not enough force to hurt them.  It is a hard practice, like yoga, this strict control of muscles.

And yet I see the same restraint in Johnny when he wants to wallop Sammy in return for the bite on his forearm.

They love as hard as they live.

We get home, and Johnny says, “I don’t like to come home.”

So I tell him that makes me sad, that I want him to love our home, to want to be here.  He starts crying and tells me he doesn’t want to leave this house, to move, that he wants to take the “for sale” sign down.

When I am almost in tears, Sammy says, “It’s okay, Mommy.”

At night, we are finally settled, the three of us on the couch, watching Chicken Little, and I’ve finally stopped holding my breath long enough to remind them how much I love them.  We share popsicles.  And if they fight by pushing hard and leaning against each other, growling, it’s over the space on my lap–which is my space, and I don’t mind if they each take it all.

 


“Sibling Revelry,” essay in Animal

a new essay, “Sibling Revelry,” up at animal: a beast of a literary magazine!

Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine

Sibling Revelry

by Sarah Cedeño

“It’s a dead bird!” I call to my sister, Micheil.

Its bones and feathers are flattened here, exactly how a bird looks, but like it’s been hidden between the pages of a dictionary for a week.

Micheil brings a neon, size-12 kid’s shoebox, mine.

My brothers, in aftershave, mullets, and pimples, come down the hill in our yard, one carrying a shovel.

I am six, and the youngest, kneeling by the bird—the first dead thing larger than a potato bug I’ve seen up close.  It’s the closest I’ve been to any bird.  Usually, seeing a bird’s wings flap hard against the air made it seem as though I was chasing them.

A dashed line of one-hundred-year old maples border the chain-link fence around us.

My brother Darrin digs the hole.  Our dog, Coty, drags her chain through the chalky dirt after a squirrel, but leashed to her doghouse, she…

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On Sipping the Whiskey

MFA Adventures

I have one workable day before I have to send my third packet off to my MFA Adviser.  This day is a heavy research day.

Here’s the to-do list:

Image1. String a clothesline in my backyard, among the non-stop cricket chirps of early fall.

2. Hang a bin-ful of wet laundry from the line.

3. Repeat step 2, thinking about a loss I’ve suffered.  This part, I know, will bend my mind in places it hasn’t bent before.  Also, the crickets will haunt me long after I’ve come inside.

4.  Sip whiskey from a bottle I wouldn’t normally touch.  Blech.  I will take note of the burn that I can anticipate, but most importantly, make note of the what I don’t anticipate.

5.  Smoke a cigarette, alone, that I’ve bummed off my mother.  I will struggle to light it with a match, cupping it the way I’ve always seen people do, but I bet it will be harder than it looks.  It will take more than one try.  I will feel uncool, but I will probably feel many other things I wasn’t expecting.

I’m excited to see how these projects impact the piece I’m writing.  It’s not a thing I’ve thought to do before, but I think it will improve the “physicality,” the presence of my writing.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

My next field trip: to the abandoned cemetery in Brockport.  Just in time for Halloween.