birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


Grandma Josephine put Crisco on her face at night to keep the wrinkles away. She lost most fights, but right up until the day she died, hers was the most luminous, lipid rich complexion. She detailed her husband’s brutality in a stream of handwritten letters, a kind of running journal that she’d walk to the post office to mail herself, even in the wretched winter months when the elevator was broken (she wrote about the elevator being broken and the terrible weather in those letters a lot, too). In her younger years she had worked at the post office, her first job in this new country. New York, NY; America. Said husband caught one glimpse of her—strong chin, green eyes, diffident smile—shift behind the post office counter and went on to court her relentlessly, letting people pass him in line until he could approach Josephine’s free window. Her parents arrived through Ellis Island from southern Italy. Their names are on the register: “Maria and Pasquale Tufano.” She grew up poor and died poor. She grew up happy and died unhappy. Of all the things she said, I remember this most often, “Life is good; life is sad. What can you do?” Unlike the rest of us, Grandma Josephine found peace in her powerlessness.

The Third Grandmother

Grandmother Kimmel