Michelle Cacho-Negrete Reflects on her Silk Road Piece

This year Silk Road nominated four pieces for Pushcart Prizes. This is the second in a series on our nominees.

By Michelle Cacho-Negrete

“On The Fire Escape” is my contribution to the long list of films and books that immortalize fire escapes.  In West Side Story, Tony woos Maria on a fire escape, a scene echoed years later when Richard Gere proposes to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. The opening scene of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, where the young heroine reads on a fire escape harkens to my own experience, as does Arthur Miller’s nostalgic recollection in Before Air Conditioning, of sleeping on the fire escape during a sweltering summer night.  The thrilling mystery story “The Boy Who Cried Murder” by Cornell Woolrich, and the melancholy novel Some Call it Sleep by Henry Roth, all confirm that the fire escape is the hip place to be.   What I regret about living in a house in Maine is not having a fire escape to dream, write and think on.  I hope that my essay imparts the magic of  four seasons, regardless of weather, spent on these city sunrooms.


My life is sprawled across the thirty or so published essays I’ve written about my life: Born in Brooklyn ghetto to a single mother, brother lost in Vietnam, a couple of marriages, two sons and four grandchildren, a career as a clinical social worker with a specialty in violence, social activist, finally, happily, writer. Three of my essays have been selected as 100 of the most notable, including Stones in 2010.  UTNE selected my essay, “In My Backyard,” about George Bush and global climate change, as an example of great writing.  Three  are taught in college classes and one in an alternative elementary school in Vermont.   I’ve published some thirty essays, been included in the anthologies Thoreau’s Legacy, writers speak about global warming, Becoming, about to be published, and The Secret Longing of The Heart.  I’m grateful beyond measure to those magazines who’ve published me, the judges who’ve selected me, but especially to those who read me and sometimes even e-mail to say hello.