Poe Ballantine | The Sun Magazine #3

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
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

They Dream By The River

It’s one in the afternoon, and I wake up in a brick apartment building in Niagara Falls, New York, birds cheeping into the straw and broken springs of my hangover. Claire, the pint-sized, frizzy-haired woman with the short leg who will run away with a truck driver in two weeks, is lying next to me, snoring softly.

November 2009
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

The Fine Art Of Quitting

I live beachside in San Diego, California, in a small ground-floor studio with a fold-out couch, a burned-out RCA color television, an eight-by-four kitchen stocked with miniature appliances, and my Toulouse-Lautrec lithos tacked to the walls.

April 2009
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories


About ten years ago Cristina was studying to become a dentist when she got flattened by a drunk driver while crossing a busy street in Zacatecas, Mexico. Her head hit the pavement, and she was knocked unconscious. She spent a month in bed with a fractured pelvis and much longer learning to walk again, but eventually she resumed her studies.

November 2008
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

These Dark Woods

When my son Tom was born, I was surprised that there was nothing physically wrong with him. I suppose this is the reaction of many first-time older parents. Proud and relieved to have a “normal” child, I had no aspirations for my son to become an artist or to graduate from Harvard or to conquer India. All I wanted for him was good health, sanity, and a shot at being whatever he desired to be.

June 2008
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Confessions Of A B-Movie Zombie

One night I read a short, autobiographical story about how difficult it was being a B-movie zombie. Afterward a few people I didn’t know came over to my table, the most interesting of whom was an attractive teenager who appeared to be part Asian. Though it was winter, she wore a short skirt and sat with her knees together, hands in her lap, and gazed at me.

March 2008
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

The Thousand-Peso Suit

Still, I love that line by poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “A good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude.” But my wife is not familiar with Rilke, and solving our difficulties is not a matter of my explaining things to her. I’ve been doing that for three years, in two languages, and neither of us has changed.

February 2008
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Methamphetamine For Dummies

Whiffing something straight up your nose into your brain seems a violation of human dignity, and crank looks nasty, like ant poison and pulverized glass all chopped up on that mirror. It tastes even worse. I try not to cry, the burning pain is so terrible. I am certain I will sneeze blood all over the curtains, that I’ve done permanent damage. But then comes the drip, drip, drip, that bitter, alkaloid savor the meth user learns to associate with pleasure, and I wander around grinding my teeth and feeling like Bruce Lee grafted onto Aldous Huxley for about twelve hours.

July 2007
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Wide-Eyed In The Gaudy Shop

At a backyard barbecue under the tangled mesquite trees around his run-down but peaceable home, Victor, one of my fellow English-as-a-second-language teachers at the Instituto de Inglés, insists that there is nothing in the States for me, no reason for me to return.

March 2007
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Blessed Meadows For Minor Poets

At two o’clock in the afternoon on March 18, 1998, while typing up a story on a snowy gray day in Room 8 of the Sunset Motel in Hays, Kansas, I heard the crackle of tires in fresh snow out front. I had recently quit the radio-antenna factory, having saved enough to write for three months before I would have to go back.

October 2006
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

God’s Day

Still, there is one day in the year when I go plumb God-happy. It’s a made-up holiday pulled randomly from the calendar, as far away from the retail conspirators and their chocolate bunnies and sawed-off pine trees as I can get; a twenty-four-hour period of gratitude, humility, and atonement I call “God’s Day.”

September 2006
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

World of Trouble

The place in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I went to give plasma looked like it had recently been a small grocery store. I had never given plasma or blood before and had no appreciation for the difference. All I knew was that you got eight bucks, which was the going rate for a full day’s labor through Manpower back then, in 1974.

February 2006


I was seven years old and had just started summer vacation when I learned that my brand-new grandmother from New York City was coming to stay with us for a week or two, “to meet her new family.” Brasalina, a half-black, half-Indian Brazilian woman of twenty-one, had just married my grandfather, my father’s father, who was eighty-three and too ill to come with her on this visit.

January 2006
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