Smoking With C. Robin Madigan

Read the Story December 15, 2007

Who is the “You” in the title?

The “You” in “The Mess You Made In Us” is Grey: Karen and Liza’s mother.

Why does this story start and end with Jon?

The first line came in an hour’s wait before something stressful. I jotted it down in a stairwell after getting some espresso. The sentence came, “Jon punches like a lawn mower blade lops dandelion puffs in hot summer thirst.” Karen owns those words but they act as her narration of her and Jon’s conversation. Something awful happened for gunshots to calm Liza. When I came to that awful thing, mainly the realization of a child, I raced back to Jon firing rounds off with his sister-in-law, a flinch with each misfire, and the line, which must be Liza’s, relating a snap of the hammer to a child’s head on cement—sounds I remember very well.

This piece is written in a distinct and unique style. What can you tell us about it?

Interruption of silence and family intrigues me. I didn’t think I could pull off quite so many interruptions without distracting. When I got going “pulling it off” came easier the closer I got to failing—odd how that works. With sound so important I compressed and subtracted sentence level obstructions so there’s no forgetting the clapped explosions. I like that aspect of writing, the compression and subtraction. Karen’s voice needs that kind of limiting, as if she’s getting a secret to you before everyone looks over to see her at your ear.

You’re pursuing an MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago. With whom do you study?

I study with Janet Desaulniers, and have worked with Carol Anshaw, and Rosellen Brown.

SLQ completed issue 18 at the close of summer and launched this issue, 19, on the threshold of winter. During the three months in between, the crops were harvested, the leaves fell, the rain returned, temperatures dropped, darkness lengthened. Death in increments. How does the turning of the seasons affect your “muse,” your inspiration?

I get so anxious around this time of year, pre-winter. Mold and dust get a catarrh going because people don’t change their air filters, and leaves get moldy in the street. I think I have a mythology about this time of the year because I get crazy, like I’m hunkering down for an eternal winter. I like it.

About the Author:

C. Robin Madigan graduated from Earlham College with a B.A. in literature and currently pursues an MFA in writing at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago. He's 'happened' in Storyglossia's issue 20 and will be published in forthcoming issues.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.