Essay: A Turn at Paris,Straight Through Defiance

Courtney McDermott received her MFA in creative writing, with a minor in gender studies, from the University of Notre Dame in 2011. She has been published in the Iowa Source Poetry Anthology, Italy from a Backpack, the Berkeley Fiction Review, Highlights Children’s Magazine, and online at the Raving Dove and the Daily Palette. She is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Lesotho, and currently teaches high school English in St. Louis, MO.

Through the Looking Lens

I met a man who searched for names of odd little towns on the Iowa state map. Jericho, Macedonia, Paris. Rome and Defiance. He looked at the alphabetical lists provided in the indices of atlases so that he wouldn’t know where – exactly – in the state they were. He’d imagine how they got their names and designed the downtowns of each in his brain.

I’d say, “I know where Jericho is!”

And he’d say, “Shh. Don’t tell me.”

Then when it was a spring Saturday, he planned to get in his truck and go to a few counties and see what weird-sounding towns each county had to proffer, a grab bag of funny hamlets and stolen European capitals. He decided he’d photograph the blessings of each, and I’d compile them into a book.

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