Michigan Basement
by Elizabeth Kerlikowske

In one corner, a square blue furnace. In another,
a wringer washer. The third: waders, fly rods, creels.
And in the fourth, my first office.
No one went down to the basement unless they had to. It was perfect.
I found a desk. I already had a typewriter. I’d spent my life reading.
I could hardly wait to get down there. I had a real place with a bookshelf
even though most days it smelled more like fish than soap suds.
I was out of their hair and vice versa. Out of the kinds of trouble they’d
I spent months writing everything that had been written before:
rhymed in iambic pentameter, ditched capital letters, confessed the
I had not yet done, and dashed my way to the ends of lines.
The basement didn’t care. It was happy to have someone stick around,
light a candle, cry. When my pen was empty I climbed the short stairs
and with both arms opened the storm cellar doors, squinting into th
a big lily opening. I loved going to the basement, and I loved escaping it.

IMAGE: “The Typewriter” by Martin Bergsma. Prints available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a teenager, I was positive I would be a writer, so I tried to prepare myself. My family humored me, my grandmother asking me, “Did you stay up all night writing that crap?” Well, yes, I did. I did it til I got good at it, but I started in this basement.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Kerlikowske‘s work appears in Nothing to Declare: A guide to the Flash Sequence. Her most recent chapbook is Chain of Lakes, a letterpress book from the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center. She is president of Friends of Poetry, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing people and poetry together. (Friends of Poetry on Facebook.)