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As if No One Were Watching
by Zinta Aistars

A travel essay about a trip in time – from Kalamazoo to Atlanta, Cincinnati, and back

I awake in another man’s arms. No, wait. This isn’t another man. This is… I reach over to touch, eyes still closed against the day. My hand falls against the familiar jaw line, the morning rough of this cheek. Curve of ear lobe, along the cheekbone, tickle of eyelash, ridge of brow… my hand knows this face. As well as my own. Better. Without opening my eyes, I lean over this face, press lips to lips, and know the soft, know the warm. I snuggle against this tall body alongside my own, curve into the bend of this man’s arm, my shape to this shape. This is good. This is home.
    It is the morning I do not know. It feels as if it might belong to someone else, someone outside of myself. Yet there is an odd familiarity to it. The slant of the light, the chirp of the bird just beyond, the speed of the traffic outside, slower than what I have known. This was what I knew… when? A long time ago. In a previous lifetime.
     “Are you awake?” Joe whispers.
     “Hush,” I whisper back, placing two fingertips to his lips. “No. Neither are you.”
    So he sleeps, still, letting the dawn gather its glow around it, until it is so full that it must seep its spilling light around the edges of the window curtains, nowhere else to go. But instead of sleeping, I lie listening to the waking of this day, and wonder, wonder, how I have come to it, or it to me.
    We are on our way to Atlanta, Georgia for a duo authors’ reading to a bookclub that has extended a kind invitation to us to read our work. No need to ask twice. Have books to sell, will travel.
    Between Atlanta and our starting point of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Florence, Kentucky, 15 minutes south of Cincinnati, is a convenient midpoint. After nearly seven hours of rolling miles into car tires, we pulled off I-75 on the exit marked Florence, US-42. As soon as we turned onto US-42, the odd humming inside my skull had begun. It hadn’t stopped yet.
    Atlanta would be easily reached by midafternoon of this day, we thought. No problem. We would have time for a leisurely breakfast, even an hour or two to explore. Did one explore a world that was once one’s own? Or was it simply a return to old haunts, a resuming of steps where they once left off? More than a decade ago, when I was last here, this was not the man beside me. Nor this the bed. That, just outside of this motel window and a little to the left, however, was the building we—that other man and I—had built, brick by brick, dream by dream, and then watched it die. Better Bedding and Furniture, Inc. bankrupted due to neglect soon after the marriage bankrupted – due to neglect.
     “Am I awake now?” Joe whispers. The light seeps from curtain slit to knife across his bare chest.
    I draw a line to follow the line of light with one warm fingertip. “Almost,” I say, “almost.” And then I wake him.

I shudder against the first chill of morning air, dressed too lightly for the day. But we are heading south, and I anticipate temperatures will climb. Joe has the suitcases neatly packed into the trunk of the car. No matter how many or how bulging, he always finds a neat fit. We are eyeing the donut shop at the end of Dream Street (and yes, that is the name of this little curve of asphalt into my previous lifetime), but my sudden need for escape whips us further and away. The car snaps a turn just before the shop, quick right, through the amber light, and down into the valley, deeper into Kentucky. I haven’t given it much thought, indeed, no thought at all, but let the car lead, or instinct, or echoes, or ghosts. Joe is patient, silent, and accepting of all my madness. My heart swells at the thought of him, even without looking at him, there beside me, trusting the wheel to me, madwoman of speed. I have no explanation for what I do or where I lead us, nor does he ask for any. The morning is fine and clear.
     “Valley Circle Drive,” I mumble under my breath. We turn right, then left, then there it is. It’s not pain that I feel. Not pain, but something squeezes inside. Maybe it is a fist of determination. The same one I felt back then. I pull the car over, I stare. The house looks… old. Yes, old. It wasn’t then. It was a beautiful house – then. Moss green and reddish beige brick, deck curling around the side, crabapples heavy with pink bloom and leaning their lush perfumed weight across the deck. Marigolds crowded along the house, golden with red edges of velvety fire. I loved marigolds. I planted them, each one, lovingly, pressing the soft rich earth around each delicate stem.
     “Marigolds,” I say, pointing them out to Joe, but he leans forward, peering through the car window, eyes in a tight squint, finally shaking his silvery head.
     “I see no marigolds,” he says.
    He’s right. There are none. The soil along the house, now all gray on gray, is bare. The crabapple has been trimmed back, too far back. Its limbs have an amputated and pained look. The windows of the house look empty, like eyes gone dead. I almost think I see shadows, or sense them, of my babies running across the front lawn. But my babies are grown now. Young man, tall, straight shouldered, with slender long fingers, good hands. Young woman, blonde dandelion, heart so deep, so immense, it nearly drowns her at times.
    The life lived here is now dust.
     “Seed,” Joe says.
    Yes? I turn to look at him, blinking as if in too bright light. Had I voiced my thoughts out loud?
     “Don’t think of it as dust,” Joe says, his voice smooth and soothing. “The past is a seed for the future, and each day you nourish it, give it direction to grow.”
     “Yes,” I nod thoughtfully. “Yes.”
    The fist inside squeezes. I want to race down Kentucky roads, the same ones I once traveled daily, familiar with each bump and curve. I drive too fast, a little too recklessly. Gravel from the shoulder grits and spits from beneath the squeal of heated tires. I take Joe into horse ranch country, white fences bobbing along both sides of the road as we speed by. Houses are rare and far back from the road. A burnished roan stallion raises a proud head to the sky, snorts, leans into a trot, but we are gone, gone too fast, racing ourselves, to see it pound the ground. I only think I can still hear it: pounding hooves, the trampling, heaving breath, snorting, swish of tail, as we drive on.
    Then here, another curve in the road and a turn left. Harmony Hills, and they are – a green harmony of gentle shape and tall line, slopes leading into thickening woods. Only at the very end of this dead-end road do I stop and let the hot engine idle.
     “Ten acres,” I point out our car window. “All ours. We were going to build here. See there? That dip in the land? There’s a little stream down in that dip. I would bring my babies here and let them wander and walk, all they wanted. Float boats of acorns and leaves in the stream. Toss sticks. Listen to birds, watch them fly. Press a leaf into their palms to feel the tickle of tiny hairs, how soft, on its underside. Pick a wildflower, but no more than a few, for a vase back home, to remember this by. The rest must grow.”
     “Then you sold it.”
     “Yes.” The fist inside clamps down, hard. Then releases. “Then we sold it. The land, the dream, the house that would someday be, the view outside my someday window of trees and trees and trees. We sold it and we bought an RV, and we hit the road to Alaska. To Alaska and to the end of this life as we had known it. By the time I saw Kentucky hills again, it was time for me to leave him and this place behind forever.”
     “No regrets?” Joe asks, and his deep voice resonates in the stillness of the car. The engine idles softly.
    I look at him. I look at him a long time. My eyes linger on his face as my hand lingered this morning. I know this face. I know it as well, better, than my own. I reach over and press two fingertips to the soft of his lips.
     “Shush,” I say. “None.”
    I hum as we race back down Kentucky winding roads towards the interstate. The day is spooling up its hours too quickly. We’ve missed breakfast. A chili place draws my eye: Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati favorite. My mouth waters at the flavored memory. 5-way is spaghetti topped with chili, beans, onions, cheese, dotted with oyster crackers. A fine breakfast, I decide, and we stop. Coffee makes it so.
    And on to Atlanta.

All roads lead south, and Joe takes over the wheel to bring us through the rest of Kentucky, into Tennessee, through the misted Smokies and into Georgia. We’ve taken longer to reach Atlanta than midafternoon, but by dinner time we near Marietta, just north of Atlanta, where friends and their hospitable home await us.
    The fist isn’t a squeeze this time as much as an open-handed tease and tickle. Sybil and Ilgar are friends back from those long ago Kentucky days. My home is now in Michigan, theirs here in Georgia. Now I have silvery Joe beside me, now they greet us like the long lost friends that we are… that I am. It’s been years… decades. They greet Joe as if he belongs. He senses it, and instantly relaxes into an adopted bond. Evening passes in laughter and stories, refilled drinks, and a crooning for youthful days gone by. We are rebuilding bridges. We remember things, all sorts of things, oddities, images, sounds of the past with too many echoes attached. My head swims with the remembrances of so many past lives. All of these selves, all of these lives. Watching myself in fast-forward through repeated metamorphoses. I am dazzled.
    Rain begins, a rhythmic pattering on the roof, hypnotic and soothing. Sleep beckons, spirits warmed with companionship and wine. We all turn to our respective corners of the house, curling into our nests, lulled by the rain. Cozying in under cool sheets, I bury my face in Joe’s neck for the comfort of his familiar scent in an unfamiliar room, and listen to the rain from behind closed eyes. The Georgia night rocks us gently, gently. The window is open to the night, droplets scatter along the sill.

“Morning,” I yawn, reaching for the coffee mug Joe has brought up for me, peering into the mirror. Joe is first up and atem, as usual. His shaver buzzes along his cheek, just to the edge of his silver goatee, then up again. I lean into the wall, sipping, run a hand through the long tangle of my hair.
     “It is.”
     “Too early to be a smart ass.”
     “Could be,” Joe’s green eye flicks to meet mine in the mirror. “Or not.”
    I stick out a pink tip of tongue and begin, however reluctantly, on my morning ablutions. First, this hopeless tangle…
    We are dined like kings on a southern breakfast, lunch seemingly built right into it, plates of food, heaped, hot, delicious. No more time to be blurry with morning, we sputter each our own engines into a hum of activity, gather our wits for the upcoming reading. Joe and I gather our papers. He will read from his new novel, January’s Paradigm, and I a selection of poems in two languages. The bookclub has members of both Latvian and American roots, both of which I share. I arrange my poems, first the ones in English, then Latvian. Joe leans over his excerpts, his lips moving silently to the words, skimming the lines. Ready.
    Is this that famed Southern hospitality? Or is it the greeting of a Latvian community, displaced from its ethnic roots by a long ago war and cruel governments, gathering the healing comfort of extended family? I suspect it is both, but the warmth that envelops us as soon as we enter the hilltop home is like an embrace. We are rushed with greetings, welcomed, bustled about, introduced, waited on. Is there anything we need? Would we like a glass of cold water? Perhaps this chilled wine? White or red? Have we brought our books? Would we prefer to eat now? Later? Perhaps just a nibble? Will the seats be comfortable enough? The lighting sufficient? I stop answering after a while, only smile. Joe’s eyebrows are arched with amusement and wonder. He has fished out his reading glasses, perched them on his nose, peers over them at me from time to time, silvery wisp fallen across his brow. It’s a look that makes me weak in the knees. So it’s been a few years for us, still I blush. He winks.
    Gathered around the room, leaning against the door, seated in chairs, on pillows, everyone gathers to listen. Joe reads first, but before he begins he takes a moment for a brief introduction. He talks about me, thanks me, for all that I have brought to him, for the encouragement, the patience, the love... and flames lick at my cheeks and my heart. I would travel crosscountry for words like these, yes, from north to south, east to west, no matter. Kentucky nights flash into my memory. Those were nights of a passion I could not share. My collected words from so many nights spent bent over a desk, immersed in my mountains of notebooks, hit against a brick wall. But this is a bright southern day, and I find myself no longer alone. This is more than wine in my veins. I catch Joe’s eyes over the rim of his glasses, and they pierce me with blessing.
    A friendly storm of questions assails us. Would Joe explain the character in his novel, this curious conversation he has with the smirking Beast? Could I explain the translation process for my poetry? Was it difficult to switch from language to language, and is the creative process the same? Was the angry and abusive scene in Joe’s excerpts justified? Trading off, we answer, reread portions, connect, debate, discuss, dissect, explain. Pit stop for a writer, this meeting of minds, reader and author, refuels us both for future creative isolation. The pile of books Joe has brought along for sales vanish into thin air, reappear in the hands of new owners.

Spinning dimes. Stopping on one, quick turnabout, and a glorious and satisfying day turns into anger and frustration. I’ve called home to check on my critters: chow dog named Guinnez, and two kitcats, Tommy the tom, and Jiggy, anxious and shy calico. The new critter sitter I have hired is not at the house, but off on some escapade. I call on my parents, as children in crisis always do, regardless of age, and they make the drive across town to check for me. The house is all glowing with lights, I’m told, the bed linens in disarray, the bathroom littered, the critters alone. I am an entire country away, at the bottom where they are at the top, a thousand miles north; I can do nothing, nothing, caught by the gonads. My eyes flush with hot, angry tears. Visions of my abandoned pets gnaw at me. I grit my teeth, I curse, I pace, I promise annihilation, I pound fists on my knees, I cry like a child.
    Joe ushers me into the warm Georgia night for a walk. The neighborhood glows with windows of light. Landscaped and manicured lawns end in borders of flowers and fragrant shrubs along the walk. Hints of music escape from an open window somewhere. Joe takes my hand, holds it tight.
    Returning to our hosts’ house, relaxed by the walk, another call assures me my furry babes are now under (grand)parental care. I sigh. Yes. All right. Now, where was my vacation, where did I leave it? Ilgar pours me a tiny crystal glass of sweet cherry Kijafa, Sybil rubs my shoulders. Here it is.
    In the morning, too soon arrived, I find a vitamin carefully placed beside my toothbrush, while Joe’s deep voice rises from the kitchen below, laughing. Once again, up before I am. I pop the vitamin into my mouth, run a glass of water from the tap. It is the details of life, I think, the most minute details, vitamins beside a toothbrush, that let us know – all is well with the world again, we are loved.

North again. Back into the Smokies. It is raining, the sky misty and gray, smoky clouds wreathing mountaintops, true to their name. Back at the wheel, my lead foot keeps us pressed against the outside edges of the climbing bends and curves. There is a leafy texture to these mountains, thick vines covering entire trees and shrubs, forming great plump monsters of shingled lush green. Leafy blankets have been thrown over the landscape, creeping along the telephone wires, nibbling up on either side of the road. Fog curls and rises in soft wisps, catching in the valleys, thinning at the rise.
    We stop at a bend to stretch legs, not minding the warm rain, and take photos of grazing goats dotting the mountainside. A few bleat at us, some approach, too curious to resist, snuffling at our sleeves.
    A sign a few miles later calls to me: Dillard House. My favorite essayist and nature writer, Annie Dillard, no association with the sign, still manages to capture my attention. Our grumbling bellies urge us into the unplanned turn, a tiny mountain town named Dillard, and a stone house built by two brothers draws us in with its delicious smells. There is no menu, no choices, only one meal offered, but this a bounty without end. We are seated at a table and soon surrounded by plates, bowls, platters heaped with food. Breaded pork cutlets, fried chicken, smoked chops, barbecued chicken, fried okra, mashed potatoes, creamed white corn, squash, Waldorf salad, green beans, tomato relish, cabbage slaw, gravy, rolls, cornbread muffins, garlic butter, jam. We plow through one dish, another is brought. Our conversation dwindles to a munch, an occasional groan for mercy, a loosened belt, and still there is more. Finally, the waitress places two more plates – strawberry shortcake under a pale yellow curl of real whipping cream. We waddle back to the car, leaning heavily into each other, giggling with gluttony.
    Rain from drip and patter turns into downpour. A few more mountain curves negotiated, we finally stop at Bryson City in North Carolina and take a room at a small motel. The proprietor signs us in. Small talk leads to places of residence, from where and to where. Small world, we find, as the proprietor talks of home in Michigan, but a few bumps in the road from the place we too call home.
     “Vacation in the Smokies,” he recalls, “staying at this here motel, and the For Sale sign in the window… well, who wants to end a vacation?”
    And so lives take turns, plans are turned upside down, stops on a dime spin to make quick change. Travel, whether the occasional sideroad or the life journey itself, seems best navigated when the traveler is flexible, as open to the adventure as to the misadventure, unafraid of inconvenience, and always curious about that which is just around the next bend.
     “No regrets,” he says.
     “No regrets,” I smile.

Then it is Cincinnati again. We have two more days, two more nights to spare before crossing the Michigan border. Once again, we turn into Dream Street. Old habits, some with no need to be broken. I chatter happily to Joe about all the places I want to show him, so many favorite corners, niches and nooks, steps to retrace, and memories to share. I am eager to make him a part of what was, and he is an eager and willing participant.
    Booked again in Florence, we turn towards the city on the Ohio River, seven bridges crossing, a circle of seven hills. Covington on one side, the interstate heaves up on a bridge, and we are in Cinci. The Riverfront stretches to our right beneath a coliseum dome, a new stadium, a sparkling skyline. I flutter about happily, pointing, tripping over my own onrush of words. This was home, and it still holds some piece of my heart. There, I point, Christ Hospital, where my babies were born. Here, I point, a place of work, and here, a trail followed on some summer day, there, another strange night, and along this place, a once upon a time life changing discovery. A piece of my life happened here. It happened. Here. I am astounded at the weight of this. Boundaries of my existence extend to this place.
    On the top of Mount Adams, one of the prettiest Cincinnati hills, we take a moment to stand in the night chill and let our eyes roam over the city, the wide river below. My feet settle easily into the imprint of where they have stood countless times before. This time, with Joe. I hear him catch his breath. It is beautiful. The shining of the river as it flows. The sparkling shimmer and blink of the skyline. The pearl necklace of the distant interstate we recently traveled draws a curving line leading back to the south. A chill wind whips our hair around, but we take little notice.
     “I see,” Joe says, and I sense that he does.
     “There’s a place down there,” I point across the river towards Covington, “an Englishy sort of pub that I am sure you would enjoy. Used to go there, oh, all the time. All the time. Shall I take you?”
     “Sure. Take me.” Joe tugs gently at my wind-slapped hair, and we head back to the car.
    I pour out directions as Joe drives. Cross the bridge and then a sharp left, this way and that, I explain and navigate, point and direct, wave us ahead… and get us irretrievably lost.
    Joe pulls over. I sit hunched on my side, face in hands. I knew this once. I knew this. Back of my hand. In my sleep. I did. Foolish tears seep through my fingers, and I have no idea why. Joe, man enough to ask for directions, manages to find the pub—The Cock & Bull English Pub on Covington’s Main Street—while I sink into the dark humiliation of having become a tourist in my own neighboring hometown.
    I gulp my beer in the smoky interior of the pub. The first few gulps take me down to nearly half of my glass. Joe sits silent across from me, watching me intently. Tears I can’t keep at bay gather in my eyes, giving the room a watery sheen. These people gathering here, they are all so young. Was I, then? I was – unbearably so. Babies at home with a sitter, husband and I came out on the town for dinner and a brew. He liked to do so – often – hooking me onto his arm like a trophy. I was reluctant to leave my two little people behind, never quite trusting anyone with their care, but these were, he said, our nights. His ever-lengthening days kept him at the business we had built on Dream Street, a bedding store that evolved into a furniture business. After a first year of hard struggle, money was coming in, hand over fist, and he had time for little else. Words I strung together, filling notebooks, one after another after another, were a silly game that made no dent in his time. But they were elixir to me. The words were my sustenance. The words were the measure, the inside and the outside, of my identity. You know I love you, he would whisper in my ear, yes, here in this pub too, a beer in my glass, a constant refill of whiskey in his. Do I? I wondered. Do I know? What was it he saw when he looked at me? What was it he loved? The notebooks I brought to him, eager to share, needing to share, anxious for the bond, were too frivolous for his booked schedule. Business was pressing, there was money to be made, deals to be hustled, expansions negotiated, important enterpreneurial opinions to be heard. None of those were mine. My nights spent over notebooks scribbling words inside the golden circle of light on my desk were mine alone.
    Through my watery sheen, I look at the silvery man sitting across the table from me. His eyes have never left me. Another wordsmith mirroring myself. Pipe dreams, perhaps, but he has never failed to drop everything when I have handed him a scrap of paper with few stray phrases that caught my imagination. When he says those same three words to me… I love you… I am nailed to the wall, spotlighted, identified.
     “Have you any idea,” I say quietly, “what a miracle you are to me?”
    His eyes half close. He reaches a hand across the table, and I slip my hand inside it.
     “Mind if we don’t finish these?” I shove my half full beer glass across the table with the back of my other hand. “I want to leave this place. It never was one of my favorites.”
    Joe nods, drops a couple bills on the table, takes my elbow, and follows close behind me as we press between the too young crowd back out onto the street.
     “Ghosts?” he says, when we are standing outside.
     “Yes. One of them my own. She’s still here. But I no longer want to be.”
    I hook my arm through his as we head back to the car. No trophy. No bangle. No eye candy. I am a middle-aged woman, have lived several lives and am living several more, and I have found someone to walk beside me.

“I say let’s make a stop in Indianapolis on our way back,” Joe says as we pack the luggage into the trunk again for the last leg of our journey the following morning.
     “Indy? Sure. Something special?” I hand Joe a tote bag to fit into the back corner of the trunk.
     “My turn to show you something from my past.”
    I laugh, my heart especially light this morning. “Better yours than mine!”
    By lunch, we are there. Stopping at an Irish pub, The Claddagh, we enjoy an exceptional Guinness boxty, a shepard’s stew, and a bread pudding with whiskey sauce for dessert. On all our shared journeys, we have made a quest of finding cozy Irish pubs, enjoying “black and tans” with our Irish meals. While my roots are in Latvian soil and Joe’s a mix of Polish and Lithuanian, we have found common enjoyment in this simple but wholesome food from Ireland. We add The Claddagh to our favorites.
    Fed and content, Joe leads me on a tour of Indianapolis. I’ve known the city well enough from previous trips, but I see it now with his eyes, as he saw Cincinnati with mine. From childhood into adult years, Joe and his father came to Indianapolis to watch the great race: the Indianapolis 500. He spent enough time in the city that several of its landmarks – Union Station, the Omni Severin hotel, the racetrack – found their way into his second novel, the one he is still headaching over back home. We stand in the green marbled lobby of the Omni Severin, and I watch a dreamy expression fall over Joe’s face. His mind is elsewhere. It is, I know, roaming the pages of his novel in the making. His character, the arrogant and debonair Joe January, spent a few nights in this hotel, and I guess that my own Joe is now hearing January’s steps echo on this marble floor. I know the magic. I watch it gleam in the author’s eyes.
    At the racetrack, a flush of rememberance colors Joe’s face. Now his words take on the rush of memory avalanche. He bustles me around the track’s edges, points out favorite old seats in the bleachers, and for this moment his father is alive again, alive in his son’s mind and heart, and the track whistles and whines with the speeding race cars of yesterday. How many races they watched together, who can count. Statistics of wins and losses, various drivers, exceptional racing machines, all flow with ease from Joe, and I listen attentively.

We cross the Michigan border. We are home. And it is Joe’s birthday.
    My chow pup, Guinnez, is delirious with joy when Joe and I walk in the door. The two cats twine around our ankles, and even Joe, notorious for his dislike of the feline species, chuckles and scratches Tom the tomcat behind his velvety ear.
     “Don’t tell him I said this,” Joe murmurs to me, his index finger crooked under Tommy’s upstretched chin, “but for a cat, he’s okay.”
    Guinnez bark-gasps and pounces on Joe, then me. My parents have cleaned up the mess left behind by a negligent critter sitter, long disappeared. Fresh flowers, interspersed with gold and russet fall leaves, grace my dining room table. The house feels like an embrace. A part of the pleasure of traveling, I have felt and felt again, is the sweet return home.
    Luggage unloaded, I bring a brightly wrapped box out of hiding for Joe.
     “Happy birthday, Joseph.”
    He makes a face, then can’t help but grin. Inside the box is another: a humidor for his favored cigars, an inlaid leaf on the top as reminder of the autumn—seasons behind us, but a brighter season ahead. Inside is tucked a magnet for the refrigerator, Irish proverb to be seen each day: “Dance as if no one were watching, sing as if no one were listening, love as if you’ve never been hurt, and live every day as if it were your last.”
    Joe’s arms encircle me. “Es tevi milu,” he says, the Latvian words his tribute to my roots, but the words work magic in any language to my heart.
     “I love you, too. And here’s one more treasure to remind you.” I back away to take his hand in mine and place in his palm a small rose quartz heart. “The true joy of life is in the journey. Thank you for joining me on mine.”
     “No regrets?” he squints at me.

About the author:
Aistars is the published author of three books (a short story collection, a children's book, and poetry). She is an editor for LuxEsto, the Kalamazoo College alumni magazine and contributing writer to Encore magazine. Her work has also appeared in Welcome Home and Parade of Homes magazines. She has published poetry, travel essays, stories, and articles in the United States, Latvia, England, Sweden, Germany, and Australia. Her work also appears on several Web sites - webzines and ezines - including The Surface (upcoming August 2004 issue), River Walk Journal (upcoming Sept/Oct 2004 issue and again in the Nov/Dec 2004 issue) , The Redbridge Review, The Moon, Bobbing Around, Burning Word, Insolent Rudder, coilMagazine, Poems Neiderngasse, The Paper, Poetry Life & Times, QuietPoly Writer's Magazine, and others.

Zinta is the recipient of the J. Jaunsudrabins Latvian Literary Award, the Erik Raisters Young Latvian Writer's Award, the Goppers Fund Latvian Literary Award, and has won two prizes in both the short story and poetry categories in the Kalamazoo Community Literary Awards 2000. She is currently at work on a second collection of poetry as well as a compilation of essays that describe her many travels both as a physical journey and as an exploration of an inner landscape. Also freshly underway--a novel called Beds , in which all scenes take place in and around beds.

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