Jen Michalski is author of the novels The Tide King, winner of the 2012 Big Moose Prize, and The Summer She Was Under Water. She is the author of two collections of fiction, From Here and Close Encounters, and a collection of novellas, Could You Be With Her Now. In 2013 she was named one of "50 Women to Watch" by The Baltimore Sun and won a "Best of Baltimore" for Best Writer from Baltimore Magazine. She is the founding editor of the literary quarterly jmww and host of The Starts Here! Reading Series and the biannual Lit Show. She lives in Baltimore, MD



Could You Be With Her Now (Dzanc Books, January 2013)

The Tide King (Black Lawrence Press, June 2013)

From Here (Aqueous Books, September 2014)

Gone in an Instant

Mom, I dreamed you came back and were standing on Grandma’s bed (now mine), where Michele (your sister) and I were lying together. You were wearing your old clothes and said it hurt to be in your human body because you had been in so much pain when you were alive, but you just wanted to chat and say hello, let us know you were fine. I was so happy you had come, so relieved. I stood up and held onto you and felt the realness of you, in dreaming and in life.

When we met up with the rest of the family (for how could I keep such a wonderful visit hidden from those of you who loved you so much?), I had the great idea to take pictures of you all together with my Polaroid camera. The photos slid out of the chamber, one by one, and you were in them! I was deliriously happy to have something with which to remember your visit. But when a family member asked to see them later, after you’d gone, and I went to retrieve them, I knew, with growing trepidation, that you would not be in them. It was not surprising, when I looked at them again, that you weren’t. We all know and accept the impermanence of being alive as the risk we take for fully loving and enjoying the souls who live alongside us in our journey. But the disappointment wasn’t any less. It is a terrible paradox of life to know our greatest joys will also be our greatest sorrows. But it confuses me that we believe the afterlife to be eternal joy and peace. How could it be, how could we know it so, if we cannot understand it in the context of all we had to risk, to lose? I wonder if you mourn our absence from your new soul as much as we do yours in our old, mortal ones?