In Ostia, 1975 by Margaret MacInnis

In Ostia, 1975,

you were not yet the explosive teen who became my explosive husband. You were thirteen in tight jeans and a turtleneck sweater. You filled the tank of your second-hand Vespa a few lire at a time, while singing “E la vita, la vita” by Cochi and Renato. In the Park of Castelfusano you played soccer with the other Russian boys on their way to New York, though you were bound for Canada. Your Jewish step-father, who secured his family’s freedom, insisted you wear a belt. Your father didn’t get to say goodbye. You tried not to imagine him waiting for you on a park bench, fishing gear in hand. You had one suitcase, two turtlenecks. Wore one, washed the other. Your mother bought potatoes and chicken gizzards at the market. You ate without complaint. But the rage was blooming, a yearning you could not name.

It’s life, It’s life. You could hear the waves roaring. Relishing your freedom, despite the loss, you imagined an azure future as expansive as the Tyrrhenian Sea. You smiled into the wind as you sped along the boardwalk, weaving in and out, leaning one way, then the other.


Micro Life Interview

Tell us what sparked this piece.

Ten years ago I wrote a short essay about visiting Ostia with my former husband and filed it away, occasionally revisiting it, but not doing much with it. Since I’ve begun working in the flash and micro forms, I’ve revisited abandoned drafts of longer work, compressing them in an attempt to find the heart of the piece. After reading “Times Square, 1989” by Meg Pokrass, I felt inspired to revisit my earlier essay. “In Ostia, 1975” is the result. 

What do you like about the flash form?

Motherhood has taught me to appreciate the flash form, its energy and intensity. I spend a good part of each day relishing moments with my eleven-year-daughter, isolated moments in which the meaning of life and the intersection of generations of lives and their stories are revealed. I think we experience our lives in flash.

What’s something great you’ve read (or learned) lately?

I’ve recently read NIGHTBITCH, a debut novel by Rachel Yoder. I highly recommend it!


Margaret MacInnis lives and writes in Iowa City. Her recent work appears in Brevity, Diagram, Fifty-Word Stories, Ghost Parachute, The Rye Whiskey Review, and Tiny Molecules. Other work appears in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast Review, Mid-American Review, River Teeth, Tampa Review and elsewhere. Her work has received notable distinction in Best American Essays and Best American Non-Required Reading. Since 2010, MacInnis has worked as assistant to Marilynne Robinson.

Photography by James Eades

November 2021