Atoms of Life: Grady Harp on Meg Pokrass’s Damn Sure Right


Damn Sure Right, Meg Pokrass, Press 53, 2011

Damn Sure Right is a collection of quickies that are better designed moments of fiction than most writers spend pages and pages developing. Each of this at times single page stories, at times 2-3 page stories find a fascinating little detail to explore, a snatch of a story told with carved sentences that create atmosphere not unlike those little snow scenes you shake and watch your own story develop until the mechanical snow settles at the bottom.

A lot of the themes (if that is what label we can use to dot the i and cross the t as fast as Pokrass can) involve little encounters – ‘Brain Chemistry’ floats a scene between two girls whose attractions can be quickly altered by Jim Beam before the truths come out; ‘Freaky Forty’ tersely defines a man who bakes, stands naked on his head for yoga exercises, and uses Botox; ‘Foreign Accent Syndrome’ revisits two girls after a year’s absence; ‘Scraps’ gives in a few words an indescribably touching mother/daughter relationship. ‘Thirty-Nine’ throws at us the thoughts of a woman who seems to be taking up with an old flame – one who hasn’t lived up to expectations. ‘Irina’s Hair Shop’ is the crux for a newlywed couple, the wife obsessed with health foods, the husband gets a haircut and complains his hair is falling out due to his wife’s tofu lasagna: the strange little Russian stylist gets that last word.

Or Pokrass can make a story out of a ‘To Do List’:

1. Wake adolescent daughter with softest mom voice, tell her it’s time to get up and ready for school. She hates to be late, even 10 seconds, because she hates to be noticed.

2. Cereal and orange juice are ready, you say.

3. Cut puzzle pieces of parboiled meat for sick cat, microwave low, re-animate, sprinkle cat vitamins, serve on cat tree,

4. Measure out dog food, mix with pumpkin and green beans or dog diet.

5. Use kitty voice. Isolate other cat in bathroom with stars of kibble.

6. Prepare for drive to school by finding keys and sunglasses in purse despite the stain remover stick, planet stickers, half-eaten food bar, lavender hand sanitizer. Hiding like thieves, keys often play this game forever.

7. Talk to dog about losing things all the time.  He is the most well-adjusted creature in the house. Offer volume discount for this service itemized as “dog love” (note to self – always talk to dog).

8. Calm the surly adolescent who used to be your adoring child.

9. Put on function face, lip color, deflate hair with water – forgive it.

It just goes on and on. Pokrass is not only a genius for finding little atoms of life to poke but she does it with such dexterity that every now and then the reader has to look up form this terrific little book and simply say ‘Wow!’ More please.

2 responses to “Atoms of Life: Grady Harp on Meg Pokrass’s Damn Sure Right

  1. Mr. Harp, I think you’ve nailed it with this writer. I’m in awe of her writing talents, too. Her poetry also sings… and sometimes shouts. She has my vote for the Queen of Flash Fction.