You kneel beside her, breathing the familiar smell of Sasha’s sleep, whispering into her ear some mix of I’m sorry and I believe in you and I’ll always be near you, protecting you, and I will never leave you, I’ll be curled around your heart for the rest of your life, until the water pressing my shoulders and chest crushes me awake and I hear Sasha screaming into my face: fight, fight, fight.
—Jennifer Egan, “Out of Body,” from A Visit from the Goon Squad
Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
Soft -s and -h sounds mimic whispering: “beside her,” “smell,” “sleep,” “sorry,” “heart,” “chest.” In “Sasha” “shoulders,” and “crushes,” the letters combined create a refrain of shh, shh, shh. An escalating pattern of -ing verb constructs, “breathing,” “whispering,” “protecting,” “pressing,” “screaming,” build tension, while the slant rhymes of “life”/“fight” and “awake” /“face” propel the sentence forward. Then this 73-word sentence screeches to a halt with the perfect rhyme and hard -t of “fight,” “fight,” “fight.” In addition to the shift in sound, from the drawn out soft -s and -h to the hard -ing and –t, with “my” and “me” the point of view suddenly switches, from second person to first. “You” becomes “I” as the narrative lens zooms in on the action and places the reader directly in the narrator’s body ensuring full emotional impact.
–— Baylea Jones essays have appeared on Autostraddle and Buzzfeed, and her fiction was a finalist for the 2017 New Letters Prize and received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train.