Poe Ballantine | The Sun Magazine #2

Poe Ballantine

Poe Ballantine has been unknown for so long he’s decided he likes it that way. His latest book is the novel Rodney Kills at Night. He lives in Nebraska.

— From March 2023

A Kiss For Mrs. Sissle

We did come upon a low cave, ten or so feet to the back, but there was nothing inside except empty beer bottles and a white paper bag shaped like a cat. So we sat like castaways at its entrance, knees touching, and watched the hourglass glitter of the moon on the black surface of the ocean. That was all. It was my first experience of nervous teenage heaven, and I doubted I would ever know anything so fragile and sublime again.

April 2015
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Miracle Cures!

I first became interested in alternative health practices as a teenager, when I began practicing yoga. I was also a drug user. My father thought this was a contradiction, but I said they both were about feeling good. When I took speed, it was easier to get into difficult yoga positions — although I didn’t have the patience to hold them for very long.

December 2014
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Even Music And Gold

I’d come to Las Vegas to dry out, to cook for a casino, to gamble, and to write a novel. The gambling part had turned out well, but the viciousness, shallowness, and vulgarity of the city had worn me down. I was hankering to go someplace peaceful and friendly and slow. And I was secretly, as always, praying for a metamorphosis from unpublished writer to respected author.

November 2014
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Father Junípero Admonishes A Bird

I met Dabber Jansen in 1979 on a trip to Arcata, California, to see my ex-girlfriend, who was his girlfriend at the time. He was at work driving a truck for Eureka Fisheries when I arrived, and my ex warned me before he got home that Dabber was a redneck. To my surprise, the “redneck” turned out to be a self-styled radical intellectual, like me.

April 2014
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Rowboating With Hobos

I have three gifts: I can make an excellent cream soup, I’m a good speller, and most people who don’t think I’m a smart-ass or from Venus think I’m funny. Even my computer programmer ex-brother-in-law, who never laughs and is probably to some extent autistic, admits that I have a “sophisticated sense of humor.”

February 2014
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

The Tyranny Of Paradise

When I was twenty-four years old, it looked to me as if America were coming down. It was 1979, and there was runaway inflation, long lines for gasoline, a nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island. Men were curling their hair and wearing high-heeled shoes, and the Soviets were still poised to bomb us off the map.

June 2013
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories


At the beginning of my senior year in high school, I was sixteen years old, six foot one, and 155 pounds. I had just gotten my braces off, though no one had noticed yet. In the morning at the breakfast table I studied the box scores in the sports section of the San Diego Union. Then I checked the score of the Vietnam War, presented daily as a body count, ours versus theirs.

December 2012
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Free Rent At The Totalitarian Hotel

I lived downtown in an apartment complex that, for its Second Empire facade, transient tenantry, and despotic manager, I had dubbed the “Totalitarian Hotel.” The manager, Mrs. Vollstanger, was a gouty old Prussian and always wore pearls and thick, embroidered white sweaters.

June 2012
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Lily In Darkness

On the day that Hot Springs, Arkansas, became an underwater city, I got up at about ten in the morning and heated some leftover spaghetti for breakfast. I was living in a furnished corner flat that rented for two hundred a month, utilities paid, above Prince Electronics and was pleased to have my own bathroom and also a small kitchen for the first time in a period of extended itinerancy.

August 2011
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Guidelines For Mountain-Lion Safety

I was five years old the first time I saw the total interconnected harmonic clockwork of the cosmos, and it happened again when I was seven or eight, and possibly once more when I was reading the great philosophers and experimenting with hallucinogens in my late teens.

July 2011
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Under The Moonflower Tree

I sit on the curb in the shade of the bay laurel, head and arms piled on my knees, and admire Dolores Wilde in her green bikini across the street. She is a slim girl with gold hair and large, hazy green eyes. Dipping a sponge into a bucket, she slops on figure eights of suds, then rinses and rubs till her stepdaddy’s turquoise Buick gleams like the abdomen of a bluebottle fly.

November 2010
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Troubled Youth

A brief, wet spring gave way to a murderously hot summer. The days were as long as medieval dragons and even harder to kill. It was so hot the squirrels took off their jackets, dredged their slender bodies in cornmeal, and arranged themselves with pearl onions in buttered pans.

June 2010
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