Literary Orphans

A Vastness Made of Velvet by Ryan Bloom

Magdalena Roeseler-Girl

No matter how hard Xavier tried, he just couldn’t fall asleep. Clem had been softly snoring beside him for at least an hour and a half, and still his eyes hadn’t once shut, every insect chirp a scream, every gust of wind a howl, the blackness of night beckoning to him, its voice whispering again and again, a cry, a sigh, the enchantment murmuring: Come to me. And finally he did. He got out of bed, his arms and legs slicked in sweat, a trickle tracing his spine, and he walked into the living room and he stood before the window-wall and his heart was beating and he unfolded his arms and said, “Here I am.” But by then the night had gone silent. Unresponsive. And he tried again, this time in a hushed whisper, as if someone’s ear were pressed against his lips: “I’m here,” he said. The silence immaculate. And he was certain, then, that he was being prodded, that an answer awaited him out beyond the house, if only he would go out and get it. If only he would listen. And there was no time to lose—two days, the woman had said, and then the window for a response closes—and he quietly opened the door and stepped onto the porch and down the three steps and off into the night, which swallowed him like a foundering ship in the ocean, as it had swallowed his father and sister before, the thousands of millions of stars calling to him like far-off beacons. The planets singing. Trying to send a message—if only he would listen.

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Ryan Bloom‘s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Guernica, New England Review, PEN America, Black Clock, The American Prospect, and a variety of other publications. His translation of Albert Camus’ Notebooks 1951-1959 was nominated for the 2009 French-American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation Prize for Superior English Translation. For more of Ryan’s work, visit: or follow him @RyEyeBloom .


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–Art by Magdalena Roeseler