Jessica Fisher

When I was a child, I was given a coin, caked in dirt. Tell me, she said, from whence came this coin, and whom did it serve, its mint or its king. Served in a cake, or for a cake, was it traded?

So I was ushered into the corrosive questions, each one hinged, as if there might be some movement, a door shut then opened, and behind the knob, the agent of change. But either the screws came loose, and the door fell askew, the tongue flapping free, or the hinge had rusted shut, and I was dumbfounded. In either case, it was I who had broken what I should have opened, as if a bull in a shop or led to the slaughter. Come along, pretty heifer, said the priest who held me, and when I tried to speak I heard the bellowing.

Who pities the beast, its eyes wide and wild, that braces for death, and hopes to be changed? Three wishes she gave me, and along with them the stories of those who had squandered their wishes by wishing. Scattered to the winds, and the fourth wind left ­hungry; still it sweeps past my door, crying mine, mine.

Jessica Fisher is the author of Frail-Craft, which won the 2006 Yale Younger Poets Prize, and Inmost. Recipient of the 2012 Rome Prize, she is an associate professor at Williams College.
Originally published:
May 19, 2021



Life in the Algorithm

It has reshaped culture—but how? Two new books reckon with our digital predicament.
Anna Shechtman

The Night Watch

I first sought sanctuary during the Troubles. I'm still looking for it.
Darran Anderson

Why I Write

The legendary cultural critic on finding a life’s work
Greil Marcus

You Might Also Like


Elizabeth Metzger


Exile and Memory

Reimagining Iran through 200-year-old portraits
Amak Mahmoodian


New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.