Writers in Real Life: Kerry Graham


We are happy to welcome Kerry as our first Writer-in-Residence. You can find Kerry at the Highlandtown First Friday Art Walk in April, May, and June and hear her read her work at Yellow Arrow's August 2nd reading.

Kerry spent the first few years of her life in Baltimore, but was raised in Baltimore County. After going to college in Southern Maryland, attending grad school in England, and being a full-time volunteer in Nigeria, she moved to Baltimore in 2009. She lived in Pigtown for two years, but has been in the Patterson Park area since then. Almost three years ago, she bought a house in Highlandtown/Patterson Park, and couldn't be happier about being part of this neighborhood. 

About her experience in Baltimore, she writes, "Sometimes, I describe myself as being hopefully devoted to Baltimore. My entire professional career, I’ve served some of Baltimore’s most marginalized populations: the HIV+, homeless, and its youth. While I have the fortune of being able to enjoy much of Baltimore’s charm, I care about hundreds of people who have been traumatized by Baltimore. I recognize that to be in this position–someone who gets to experience some of the best of Baltimore, but also understands the depths of its worst–is relatively uncommon, which is why I am committed to writing, and story sharing, and using language as a way to unite those who might otherwise never have found one another. I believe I would have been a writer regardless of where I live, but Baltimore has made my writing meaningful."

Kerry’s vignettes have appeared, or are forthcoming, in borrowed solaceThe Citron ReviewCrack the Spine, and Gravel. She is a regular contributor to Role Reboot, and runs a collaborative weekly newsletter called In This Together.  

from gravelmag.com

Promise Him Pencils

Kerry Graham

I cannot tell which day I mark him absent, again, is the one I know he will not be back. He stops coming to class—mine, and apparently algebra, and biology—but still comes to school. In the halls, he holds his back straighter than he ever did in my room; his eyes shine brighter. Here, it does not matter that he never has paper. Pencils. Whenever we pass each other by the stairwell, he stops laughing long enough to vow, “Ima be there tomorrow!” The next day, I tell myself: he meant it at the time.

Soon, he stops coming to school, but I still see him sometimes. Now, instead of by the stairs, I pass him on the street, wondering how far he is from home. The sun shines on him here.

In my car, even with just glimpses of him, I am reminded of how he would look in the hallway. ­­­Every time I see him, it is at the same corner, too far—and too late—for me to promise him pencils. Driving past, I know all the reasons he will not realize I am there. I shout anyway.

This morning, the streets only trickle with traffic, and I can tell that today is the one he will see me. Again, I shout his name. Watching him grin at me as he lifts his hand above his head to wave, I want to press the brakes on my car. On time.