Lori Jakiela


Lori Jakiela (b. 1964) is an American writer from Pittsburgh. After studying English and journalism at Gannon University, she held a variety of jobs, such as newspaper reporter and flight attendant. Jakiela is now a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Her work has been published by the New York Times and Washington Post, and in 2010 she won the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association's Golden Quill Award for column writing.

Jakiela debuted in 2006 with the memoir Miss New York has Everything. In her collection of poetry Spot the Terrorist (2012), she writes about the "ordinary-turned-extraordinary". Her most recent book is The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious (2013). Her third memoir, Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe, will be published in 2015. For more information about the author and her sources of inspiration, see her personal blog Stuff I write, stuff I like.


Photo © Heather Mull



Authors' text

Moveable feasts

A Letter to Hemingway

Dear Papa,

I want to tell you about Brussels and loneliness and the Fin de Siecle waitress with the flower tattoos.

I am here on a writing residency, living for one month in an apartment on Rue du Marche aux Grains. I write near a window that looks out on a square. There is a fountain that doubles as a brook, a long gutter of water. Artists are building a sculpture that looks like a cardboard roll unraveling. It looks like something for children to hide in. When it's finished, a sign will call it "Cocon."

I miss my children. I miss my husband. I worry they don't miss me back. I am trying to be graceful about it.

"Don't be ridiculous," my husband says long distance. We say "I love you" over and over, but I have an orphan's fear of being abandoned, even if I was the one to do the abandoning. I think you understand this.

I have a hard time sleeping. I am grateful for solitude, this writer-gift, but some nights I unravel.

"It's awfully easy to be hard-boiled about things in the daytime, but at night it's another matter," you said.

When I can't sleep or write, I read. Books are friends, like you promised.

I don't speak Dutch or French and sometimes, worn down by my own limits, I don't talk to anyone for days.

The books help then, too.

I carry them with me to this restaurant so I don't have to eat alone. The waitress with the flowering arms is kind. She wears black sneakers and speaks some English. She recommends sausage, even though it's a winter food, because I will not be here in the winter.

"You'll have to enjoy it now," she says.

Whenever she comes near, the bartender places chocolate on a saucer like he's giving her his heart. I invent their love story. I line up what I see - the beer, the saucer, small sweetness - and bend it into joy that will hold no matter what.

"Listen," you said, and I do, but there's so much I don't understand.

I am half a century old. I am a child asking the names of everything.

I point to a beer on the menu and the waitress says "good choice." She pats my shoulder like I've lost someone.

The bartender wears black-rimmed glasses and a bowl-cut. He looks like my friend Bob Pajich, who is back home in Pittsburgh writing poems and bartending at The Brillo Box, an Andy Warhol thing.

It's strange to be a stranger among people who look like friends.

It's both more and less lonely.

"I think everybody should like everybody," Andy Warhol said.

A block from Fin de Siecle, there is a bronze pissing dog and a wall of graffiti -- Tijd bestaat niet! Time does not exist; The sky the limit -- labeled with a plaque. Brussels has a lot of plaques. The plaque that marks where Verlaine shot Rimbaud hangs next to a lace shop specializing in doilies and stuffed bears. Nearby, another plaque tells tourists to rub a statue of a dying man for luck.

The cathedral walls smell like piss. The Hotel Amigo was built where a prison used to be. Brussels is home to both the E.U. and the Smurfs. All irony and pity, odd magic, your kind of place.

"How are you?" the waitress asks and gives me a small pitcher of water, a basket of bread.

"Good," I say, without the language to explain what's in between.

"Happy here and happy there, full of tea and tears," Frank O'Hara used to call this feeling.

You know it well, I think.

I will write again. There's more I want to tell you -- about the roads closed to traffic, the asphalt painted over in pastels, children in the middle of what used to be a busy street playing ping-pong and riding scooters, and the old man who looked like you, sitting with a book beside him, watching, not speaking, taking everything in.


Passa Porta
22.06.15 > 20.07.15

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