Fives logo – a stylised number five

with Eve L. Ewing

The last thing that made you smile

I am writing this from a plane (what an age of miracles) and I have one of those rotating desktop patterns on my computer. So unexpectedly, when I opened, I saw a photo of my niece wearing a t-shirt I bought for her in Cape Town. It has the outline of the continent of Africa and it says “hello” in several different languages, with a big bright JAMBO!, and in the picture she is smiling this kind of lovely, silly smile and her pigtails are a little askew. I bought the shirt when it was too big for her and this was the first time she had grown into it and could wear it, so my mother took the picture and sent it to me. My family is really important to me and I relish the little moments of growth and change and love and … it just made me smile. Also a nice counterpoint to the child two rows in front of me who is literally the worst-behaved child I have ever seen on a flight. I try not to judge other people’s kids in public because I am superstitious and I feel like it will come back to haunt me, and also because children can have disabilities or issues you don’t know about, or just be tired, but he keeps screaming and hitting his mom and slamming his tablet around and I want to give him a long talking-to. But I digress.

A secret

I keep (very) overpriced bars of “reward chocolate” in my office desk and bring it out when I feel like I have earned a little reward. And a fridge full of La Croix and coconut water. It’s the ultimate bougie fridge. If I could have a microwave in my office, I would. I am very extroverted but have a sort of misanthropic/socially anxious side and I like to have mechanisms that allow me to minimize or eliminate human contact as needed, which would probably surprise people who know me because I’m very social and outgoing. Sometimes I consider building an under-desk napping/hiding space like George Costanza did in Seinfeld but I haven’t gotten there yet.

The last thing you wrote

A first half/rough draft/beginning attempt at a poem about going to the allergy doctor. I have severe allergies and I get shots every week, and it’s a very fascinating and strangely endearing experience.

Your favourite city

My truest and first love, the greatest city in the known universe, my sweet home Chicago. This is the only correct answer. I also consider Boston my adopted second home. I used to hate it but it really grew on me, that scoundrel. I am also fond of New York (in small doses; I can only stand so many talented, beautiful, stressful people at a time), Paris (the first place I ever felt at home outside Chicago), San Francisco/the Bay area (so untenable in so many ways now, but as a food nerd I love going there), and Atlanta is just really dope—the people are really nice and chill and there are lots of cool and kind of weird young black people.

What you’d place in a time capsule

I guess it depends on who the audience would be—like a time capsule for all of society, or for my descendants, or…? I would probably do something really wonky and fake-scientific like decide on a random number and just choose every Nth object so that it would provide an accurate representation of daily life rather than focusing on a few key things. I think an error we make as people is that we underestimate the parts of our quotidian world that would mean something to other people. Recently I visited my father and his best friend was there, and he gave me these slides of paintings my father made of Harold Washington when I was a baby. He said my dad wanted to throw them away and he had saved them all these years. When my dad saw them he kind of made fun of me, like “oh, are you gonna look at those on your slide projector?” and he felt like his friend had saved literal garbage. But they meant a lot to me. We are, as a general rule, poor judges of the history we live.

Eve L. Ewing is an essayist and poet. Her first collection of poetry, essays, and visual art, Electric Arches, is forthcoming from Haymarket Books in fall 2017, and she co-edited the fiction anthology Beyond Ourselves. Her work has appeared in venues such as Poetry, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Nation, The Washington Post, Union Station, the Indiana Review, the anthology The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, and many other outlets. Eve is proud to be one-half of the poetry duo Echo Hotel, alongside Hanif Abdurraqib. She is also the co-director of Crescendo Literary, a partnership that develops resources and events rooted in community-engaged art. She lives in Chicago.