I don't remember which Lee it was that first drew my attention to Ohio State University's creative writing department--K. Abbott, or Martin--but between the two of them, and then reading Michelle Herman's trio of novellas, and learning about Erin McGraw via a reading where I originally went to see Nancy Zafris, which led to Andrew Hudgins' poetry. Then student Kyle Minor led me to read Holly Goddard Jones and well, it has led me to keep an eye out for that OSU when it comes to reading author bios. It also has me making sure I'm paying attention to Lee Martin's FB posts as he's sure to mention any time a current, or recent grad, student publishes anywhere. Earlier he posted about Cade Leebron's poetry reply over at Rattle. I read that and visited her website and clicked through anything that was published online, including her essay, "Instructions on Your Decay." It begins:
Right now: look up. Someday you will feel anger or sadness or envy or something but right now just look up, and think about how big this building is. And how it is a maze of little rooms filled with people like you and their unfortunate families and they are all getting life-altering news and reacting and questioning and then wandering back down here to the lobby to get their parking validated.
And to be honest, I really didn't want to stop my cut/paste here but if I continued on until I wanted to stop, I feel the folks at Midway Journal would have complained heavily. I usually find that non-fiction needs to be one of three things for me to enjoy it--a well done book about something I know I enjoy (some recent sport-related books fit this bill), a single topic book done so well it doesn't matter that it's nothing I would have thought I was interested in before starting (Mark Kurlansky's Cod is still my best example of this--read in one long sitting), or memoir that gives me a reason to be interested--be it the writing, the topic, or best yet (as in this case), a combination of the two.
Cade Leebron's non-fiction currently available online hits that last scenario. Her writing slides more into memoir and while "interesting" seems the wrong word choice when reading about rape and Multiple Sclerosis, but as opposed to some memoirish writing out there where I find myself wondering why is this person writing about their life, there's never a doubt that Leebron is writing about something important--something I might learn something from. And she's a damn good writer. The style of "Instructions on Your Decay"--the second person point-of-view, fits it perfectly.
Pay attention, okay, because this is going to go faster than it should. The home nurse brandishes the syringe and a stress ball, injects the saline into the blue foam, and now it is your turn. Pinch the skin of the ball like it’s your skin and pierce it with the tip of the sharp sharp needle like it’s your skin and push the plunger in and try not to think about how this is not like anything else you have ever done to your skin. And then the home nurse will leave, somehow satisfied she has taught you enough, and you will be alone with your stack of brand-new syringes filled with something clear that is not just saline. Put them in your dorm room mini-fridge.
The whole opening here of this paragraph, the warning of how quick this seems, the instructions, the idea that the nurse could possibly be satisfied that she's taught enough, and then the little drop of "dorm room" to give the reader a sense of the age of the narrator all work perfectly. It's an extremely well constructed essay from beginning to end and having spent the last hour or so reading her work, I'm really happy Cade Leebron published a poem online today so that Lee Martin could point it out.