To the Teacher Who Threw a Desk

My elementary school years are long dark hallways jostling and crowded with pain. One day I will write about it, but just now it’s enough to relegate those years to a big, bound box in my mind’s attic. Let the dust cover it, let the rats gnaw the corners, I’m not going up there anytime soon to open that box up. But. There was one man. Big, loud and unforgiving. And so full of life and love for each and every student that was fortunate to be in his classroom, that if there are hero-songs to be written, teacher movies to make, then they need to be about him. Here’s a man who wrote regularly to those of his kids who did time, to “do time, but don’t waste time” and wrote them through getting the

A Moment of Connection (and a really nice review of my book)

I have not worked out yet what I am, in the writerly sense. A new author? But I have been writing since I dictated stories to my mother and caregivers as a toddler. An emerging author? Are not all of us emerging from idea into development, research into sketching out our story, work into the world? My sister believes that the only thing you retain from one baby to the next is remembering how to change a diaper — the rest is all new, all over again. I can ascertain to this, I feel in a constant state of “emergence” as a mother, with each new birth and each new day of my daughters’ lives. I feel the same about my art! A debut author, then? The grand entrance in an expensive dress, the debutant

A Winter’s Tale

It is still summer (just) and perhaps an odd time to remember an afternoon last winter, when the sky was what I will always remember as metallic North Jersey grey, echoed in the concrete and cheap siding of the houses in a Union City side-street. Nobody does Ugly as well as northern New Jersey. Ugly done in a fascinating, strangely compelling way. Power lines tangle in masses like uncombed hair atop the long necks of telegraph poles, wires string and tumble the streets at bird flight level. Moribund pigeons, as a consequence, gather in nervous strands on the window sills of industrial buildings and roofing. The streets transition unevenly from road, a cracked hump border and then pavement, s

The Magic Horse

Today at Fort Lee, New Jersey, I sat next to my five-year-old on a defunct cannon and we watched the white soft belly of a hawk against the blue afternoon sky. We were cradled up here on the Palisades by new-minted trees, and far below us the Hudson surged thick, wide and a dull brown. My daughter waved happily at the Little Red Lighthouse and I counted 14 identical white trucks moving snail pace across the GW Bridge—but hey, they were moving. The curved tip of the Brooklyn Bridge was the farthest point East that my eyes could make out, but soon we weren’t even in New Jersey anymore. In deference to the sing-song voice of my red-headed daughter, the cannon had become a horse that lived on th

Where Mary Poppins Failed Me

When I was 8 years old, I decided to give flying a really serious go, Mary Poppins style. I found an old black umbrella, and—after I had made certain nobody was watching me through the kitchen window—I raced down our sloping back garden, building up speed, feeling the lift of the fresh Spring wind tug at my skirt and blast the umbrella away from me just enough that I could feel the black flapping plastic drawing me upwards. I was certain that somehow, if I timed it right, I would achieve lift-off. That tantalizing tension was enough to compel me to tramp back up the slope and try again and again—but after over an hour of struggling, I had to acknowledge that a moment of almost-lift-off was a

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© 2018-19 by Niki Tulk. Site photographs by Michael Ensminger unless otherwise noted.