Generosity by Holly Karapetkova
Editorial intern Zoe Maki on today's bonus story: In “Generosity,” Holly Karapetkova gives us a poet-tyrant stuck between blurred lines of selfhood with a splash of humor and irony.
The late dictator was a generous man, given to torture only on Sundays and only after offering his subjects a choice among several artistically choreographed positions. He had once been a poet of questionable talent, and while no one dared to recall the quality of his verses, his pen name had taken up most of the cover space on his books and was difficult to forget.
Like the worst Roman Emperors, the dictator was extremely popular during his early years in office; all of the children born in the first decade of the regime were given one of his names in tribute. Later, it was said he derived great pleasure from calling his victims by their names, his own names, during the torture process. It seemed at moments when the pain set in that he was both giver and receiver, victim and tormentor, until he could no longer tell the other’s body from his own, his life from another’s death. Then the pain expanded out before him like an open sea. He would dive down so deep no name could call him out.
Holly Karapetkova's poetry, prose, and translations from the Bulgarian have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, and many other places. Her second book, Towline, won the Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize and was recently published by Cloudbank Books.