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“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares


“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant


“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus


“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction


“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper

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Forever Good

I keep hearing "Reptile" by the Church a lot, on the radio and my iPod. I don't really believe in any deeper meaning, except to remind me that Starfish is one of my top ten favorite albums of all time (and there are lot of albums vying for those spots, but in case you're wondering, House Tornado by the Throwing Muses, Sister by Sonic Youth, After the Gold Rush by Neil Young, American Beauty by the Grateful Dead, Microcastle by Deerhunter, and The Smiths self-titled are all in there somewhere).

What Starfish reminds me of is being fourteen or fifteen, an avid tennis fan (but wondering what Andre Agassi's hair was all about), not having any friends, hiding out in my bedroom writing bad novels patterned after the literary brat pack authors of eighties (Bret Easton Ellis, Jay McInerey, Tama Janowitz) and listening to Starfish. Also wanting to go to Australia, to see what inspired Steve Kilbey and company to write such beautifully quiet but savage songs, such bete noir. (Ironically, Starfish was recorded in LA with Waddy Wacthell, the quintessential 70s session guitarist.)

There was a really beautiful poem written by Steve Kilbey in the liner notes of Starfish, which I've included here. I've never wanted to write a poem that revisits the soft night memory of youth because Kilbey's says everything I've ever felt about that which has been lost:

Starfish

"Good, now and forever, music reach and awakens,
Swimming in the shallow end, down, down, remember
A need, a gnawing longing for what ?
Shapes and faces come slowly into mind
Glissando Australian insects out there signalling
The sound of Dad's car in the drive
Lying in the grass, watching the sky
The piano washes over thoughts, the smell of crushed mint
The ants which come out as it begins to get dark
Helplessness, planes miles up turn on their lights,
Child, oh child, the tastes in our kitchen,
Not knowing the right words but wishing long and hard
Golden clouded moon, enveloped by the family
Melting further the cracks in the pavement become chasms
Shrubs whisper, walls conceal adult pleasures
A mere hint and we're gone too
Forever, beautiful things, the shop that sold shadows
A walk down the path towards our old home
Mercurial touch of past summers
The sheer wait of nostalgia
Maria, now long dead, glide through this tonight
Shimmer, disappear and return
Emerging random memory in flux
Falling felled the flowering kingdom
Finding buried tin soldier years later
The sounds of a carnival way off in the valley
An abandoned nest, the sprinklers splash on in darkness
Windows glimmer dim waiting for her at the edge of dusk
Distance, our hesitant conversation, someone calling
A bucket full of starfish, warm rain, the long sleep
Deep dream, dream of now, now and forever good"