IVORY PEARL, a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

Ivory Pearl is Jean-Patrick Manchette’s final and unfinished novel, now available in an English translation by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Manchette was known during his lifetime for his 1970s crime novels, noir that gained popular movie adaptations and made him a standard among French crime writers. This translation features endnotes on how Manchette envisioned the novel ending, and an introduction written by Manchette’s son, Doug Headline, which is as affectionate as it is informative.

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TART HONEY, poems by Deborah Burnham, reviewed by Claire Oleson

Divided into four sections, Deborah Burnham’s poetry collection Tart Honey seems cut into citrus slices— edible, organic, and aware of some lost and bodily whole it re-composes in the formation of its parts. The poems feature modern relationships with too much absence, a dissolving picture of Apollo 13 soon taken over by a persona attempting to collect her body into experiencing her partner, and paintings with colors that spill into cells, among other simultaneously harmonizing and divisive images.

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A Conversation with Janet Benton, author of LILLI DE JONG, interviewed by Colleen Davis

Janet Benton’s debut novel, Lilli de Jong, has received praise from critics and readers alike. Kirkus Reviews called the book a “monumental accomplishment.” Both National Public Radio (NPR) and Library Journal recognized it as a Best Book of 2017. Lilli de Jong was also a 2017 Goodreads semifinalist for Best Historical Fiction, sharing space on the list with works by Pulitzer Prize winners Michael Chabon and Jennifer Egan.

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THE JUNIPER TREE, a novel by Barbara Comyns, reviewed by Allegra Armstrong

The Juniper Tree is a mid-twentieth-century retelling of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the same name, though Barbara Comyns has made the story all her own. Originally published in 1985, The Juniper Tree tells the story of Bella Winter, the unwed mother of a biracial daughter, through her quest to live life on her own terms in a world where she is patently disapproved of for being who she is.

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THE KREMLIN BALL, a novel by Curzio Malaparte, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

In his introductory comments for The Kremlin Ball, Curzio Malaparte claims that his novel is “a faithful portrait of the USSR’s Marxist nobility.” Such a thing should be anachronistic: a Marxist nobility? A communist high society?

But that is exactly what Malaparte, as the novel’s narrator, is describing.

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A MONTANA MOM IN MANHATTAN A Travel Essay by Lea Page

I left the chicken simmering on the stove and stepped out onto the balcony. I wasn’t sure if I had heard the front door buzzer or not, but there was a tall young man—my daughter’s apartment-mate was tall, she had said—standing outside the building, fiddling with his keys. Maybe he had gotten locked out. I propped open the apartment door with a mop and ran barefoot down the three flights of stairs. So many things to adjust to in New York City: locks, shoes.

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A Conversation with Ayelet Waldman, author of A REALLY GOOD DAY. Interview by Chaya Bhuvaneswar

“The only thing that matters is the work you do. It’s nice to have a narrative of beshert. It’s useful to have as a model in a long marriage. That kind of can float you through difficult times. Times when you could give in. It is irrelevant to the strengths of your marriage. The only thing that matters is how much you’re willing to prioritize your partner. That is what marriage—all the wonderful ties. Even when you don’t feel like it. The only thing that matters is the work.” —Ayelet Waldman

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Two Poetry Chapbooks from Doublecross Press reviewed by Rachael Guynn Wilson

Headlands Quadrats and It’s No Good Everything’s Bad speak to anyone who appreciates poetry, and lovingly handcrafted poetry chapbooks. Both works strike a delicate balance between lyric and narrative modes—the former leaning further into lyric and the latter into prose narrative. Headlands Quadrats will be especially notable to those with an abiding interest in ecopoetics, and It’s No Good Everything’s Bad to those drawn to feminist poetics, Marxism, and humor.

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ASK JUNE: The Wedding-Wrecking Sister and the Loose-Lipped Teacher

Dear June,

Zeb, a guy who works at my office, just gave notice because he got a job teaching art at a private school. Today when we were all sitting around after our monthly all -staff meeting—which is one of the only times I’ve ever seen him, since he’s in another department and building—somebody asked him about the school. After telling people where it is, how many kids go there, and so forth, he summed it up as “a fancy school for spoiled fucked-up rich kids.”  

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TRICK by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri, reviewed by Jeanne Bonner

The work of literary translators can be viewed as vital, especially given the forces of nationalism today, so it is no small matter that someone of Lahiri’s caliber has joined the ranks. For Starnone and his readers, it means his novel Trick arrives in English in mesmerizing form.

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PLAYING CATCH WITH STRANGERS, essays by Bob Brody, reviewed by Colleen Davis

Playing Catch with Strangers consists of a long series of short essays. Most were written for print or online publications and not originally intended as book chapters. They are clean, straightforward, and easy to read. They are also salutary—in the sense of promoting better mental health and positive emotions. Brody reminds us of the many gifts that life offers to those who pay it close attention.

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THE RADICAL ELEMENT: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, and Other Dauntless Girls, edited by Jessica Spotswood, reviewed by Maureen Sullivan

The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, and Other Dauntless Girls is an anthology of feminist fiction, celebrating what editor Jessica Spotswood calls in her introduction the “quiet badassery” of young heroines taking charge of their own identities. This collection is a follow-up to A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers, and other Badass Girls, also edited by Jessica Spotswood. Similar to the first volume, the pieces in The Radical Element span a wide range of historical time periods and geographic locations, from 1838 Georgia to 20th century Boston. A brief author’s note follows each story, with additional information on the historical context or the inspiration behind the work.

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ADUA, a novel by Igiaba Scego, reviewed by Jodi Monster

The title character of Igiaba Scego’s novel Adua is a Somali woman caught in history’s crosshairs. Born to an ambitious, mercurial man, a translator who sold his skills to the Italians during Mussolini’s pre-WWII push to expand his African empire, Adua’s life is shaped by choices she didn’t make and subject to forces she can’t control.

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BAD JOBS AND POOR DECISIONS Dispatches from the Working Class, a memoir by J.R. Helton, reviewed by Robert Sorrell

The jacket of J.R. Helton’s memoir, Bad Jobs and Poor Decisions: Dispatches from the Working Class, shows an assortment of loose black-and-white sketches: a marijuana leaf, a packet of cigarettes, a typewriter, crumpled beer cans, lines of (presumably) cocaine, a gun, a cockroach. Among them, figures emerge: A man’s face covered in huge beads of sweat, a woman with long dark hair shown from the shoulders up, a pole dancer. These images appear regularly in each of the seven long anecdotes that make up Bad Jobs, working as signifiers of a place, time, and social class. The place is Austin, Texas and the time is when the tail end of the 1970s met the Reagan 1980s.

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A Conversation with Kim Magowan, author of UNDOING from Moon City Press, Interview by Yasmina Din Madden

If you’re a fan of short fiction, it’s likely you’ve come across Kim Magowan’s witty and layered stories in one of the many venues her work has appeared in. I met Kim a few years ago, and since then she’s become a go-to writer for feedback on my own work. Additionally, Kim’s innovative flash stories, particularly those that experiment with form and structure, have been an invaluable resource in the flash workshops that I teach. Last month, Kim’s collection, Undoing, winner of the Moon City Short Fiction Award, was published by Moon City Press, and next spring her novel, The Light Source, will be published by 7:13 Books. Magowan’s female characters, who often engage in what many might consider taboo behavior, are complex, intelligent, difficult, and compelling women.

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THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT, a young adult novel by Leslye Walton, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck

For a novel about witches, magic, and family curses, Leslye Walton’s The Price Guide to the Occult has a lot to say about humanity. More than a century ago, a witch named Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island, where she was met with fear and vexation from the island’s founding families. Determined to rid their island of her “as the tide erases footprints in the sand,” they burned her home down. So she, naturally, cursed their entire bloodlines

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PLAYING WITH DYNAMITE, a memoir by Sharon Harrigan, reviewed by Brian Burmeister

Who we are is a complicated thing. Interactions influence perceptions, and perceptions influence memories. Having lost her father in a tragic accident when she was only seven, author Sharon Harrigan attempts to unravel the mystery of the man her father was in the powerful new memoir Playing with Dynamite. “I was relieved when he died,” her brother wrote her in an email. “It’s terrible to say, but it’s true.”

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ASK JUNE: The Snarky Scale-Salesman and the Rowdy Gym Rats

Dear June,  So my boyfriend and I go to the home-improvement store to buy a scale and I go to the nearest help kiosk or whatever you call it and ask one of the sales associates for advice. Specifically, I am wondering how reliable the various digital scales are because mine totally lost its accuracy after a year, even when I changed the battery. The associate, a guy maybe 18 or 19, says “Are you sure the problem’s with the scale?” Then—my boyfriend denies this, but I saw it—the guy looks over at my boyfriend and sort of rolls his eyes at him, man to man. I say, “Thanks, that’s helpful,” and march out of the store, my boyfriend hurrying after me. My boyfriend tells me that it was stupid of me to storm out like that. He says that the kid was just trying to make a joke, and … chop! chop! read more!

SHOWING AND TELLING: Seven Ways to Help Your Writing Breathe, A Craft Essay by Billy Dean

“Show-don’t-tell” is fine advice—unless you apply it absolutely, as if you should always show and never tell. Here are seven ways your prose and poetry can breathe with both showing and telling.

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TEETH by Claire Stamler-Goody

He started with her teeth because he was sick of the expensive foods she’d eat: crusty breads, chewy steaks, stubborn fruits bitten off their pits and stems. When he first told her, she was outraged and not at all compliant. But he knew her better even than she knew herself. She would come around, and she did. She was in pain for weeks but never complained. They ate soup three times a day and saved about fifty dollars a month.

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VACATIONING AFTER THE DIVORCE by Jessica Lampard

The floor of my Honda is maps stretched wide, the radio all static as I pass rusted mailboxes, farmland, orchards. Leaves are flushing orange—soon much of this scenery will break and fall. The plummet of fruits from boughs, the thick perfume of ripeness.

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BLUE BOY by Joseph Bathanti

Gloria Mastroantonio’s hair, like long coils of blood sausage, clung netted to the back of her head. Tucci, she said, was a bastard for opening that dive next door. Go-go girls in cages dangling from rafters. Streetwalkers with skirts up to their asses. The projects puking tizzones into the avenue. Drinking, doping, carousing all night. In the morning, sidewalks treacherous with smashed quarts of Colt 45. She’d give them Black Power. Time to stick the For Sale sign in the yard and poor-mouth out to the suburbs like the rest of the greenhorns.

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SUNSPOTS by Julia Leverone

The hair the doctors cut to clear
from underneath the stitches,
long and light,
marbled my black shirt.
As with solar flares
storming, I was learning and losing
hot shapes rapidly,
cultivating the worry
sparking my scalp, my nape, my spine,
and on around

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THE DAY AFTER BRAHMA OPENED ONE EYE by Nicole Burney

We knew without speaking
your left eye open just a crack
caught between moans and a gasp.

I toss in your arms
an aggrieved hiccup cradled
beneath goose down and duvet
we are left with simple devastations
and I teeter from lush investment.

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PATCHES from Variable Cycles by Robert Lietz

What would a God expect, anticipate. And what,
besides endurance or equation, what, besides sentence,
metaphor, should God, wearing a first name
and welcoming cheered brothers, make of an occasion

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BEFORE ROSES MEANT FIRE by Kathryn Nuernberger

A rose means many things and only some of it is love. Desdemona means innocence. Sir Galahad, humility. Give Dainty Bess to show appreciation. Silver Shadow for admiration. You Only Live Once for gratitude. Eleanor is the lavender of love at first sight. So too is the plum of Night Owls. The Middlebrough Football Club is the cultivar for desire and enthusiastic passion. Its particular shade of orange is as ridiculous as a riot. Red as Satchmo, red as Happy Christmas, red as City of Leeds. Red means enduring passion. From the beginning a rose meant there was an old poet who thought himself unreasonably clever and was obsessed with the virginity of much younger women. From the same, but less quoted beginning, roses meant fire.

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THE NURSES by Verónica Jordán-Sardi

They were the only friends I had. All of them had palms that changed colors when they stroked my hair, picked up an iron pot or peeled yucca. I remember one of them with more love than the rest—her palms turned purple when she showed me her lifelines. She was never able to show me her life, though. She would turn her hands up and the bright point of an amethyst’s reflection would lacquer her palms. At one point, I think there were five.

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REFLECTING  by Youssef Helmi

It was one of those days, those clear May days, where the clouds are short brush strokes of white, the sky is that one shade of blue, and the water is so clear the world above and below becomes one on the surface. We were walking by the river and we saw ourselves in the water, laughing and living. We saw ourselves, and we stopped and waved and yearned. We wished to be them–what made them better than us?

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SENESCENCE by Jonathan Cardew

It was midnight or a little after when the octopuses emerged from the ocean. They were doing it all along the beachfront. Suction-cupping their way away from water. Their bodies like a curtain’s hem—fluttering in the foreign air.

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THE CHILDREN by John Sibley Williams

THE CHILDREN by John Sibley Williams Back when play carried less grief, our darkness ruined only a half-acre or so of the light. The rest was all tire swings & spring-bound horses. Leaping over cracks in concrete to save your mother’s spine. Weapon- ized branches shaken loose by past storms. Cowboys & Indians. Soldier & Other. Then the world. × Do you remember when we cut eyes into paper & wore yesterday’s news over our faces? How it took hours to wash all that ink from our eyes. How you would play one animal & I would not-so-much-pretend to be another. Mask, you called it. Then I would ask which one? × There was a time we found stars in our bodies. As I chased you across the sky’s absences. Rising: cresting: falling, like any semi-permanent, lit thing. Grass stain. Sprained heaven. & me saying night contains so many eternities … chop! chop! read more!

TRAIN FOR GLORY by Roy Bentley

After the Washing of the Feet, an old woman gets up.
She reaches into a basket. Takes out a couple of snakes.
The sound of rattlesnakes? Pennies nickels dimes poured
from a Mason jar, if loose change was as unpredictable as
an Old Testament God or a job in a mine where generations
exhaust hope. She drapes a snake over each palm and thumb,
welcomes a show of fangs. The pleats of her skirt are starched
and each reptile, in turn, starts to rub against the crenellations.

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FIFTY-FIFTY by Avery Bufkin

Her doctor said he’d sign us up, you know, for the trial. That either she’d get the real drug or the fake one, and we wouldn’t know which, of course. But fifty-fifty, you got to think that’s a pretty good shot and all. I said that to her in the car afterwards. “Pretty good shot,” I said. “I think we’ve got it.”

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MORALITY PLAY by Nandini Dhar

Propriety

A weapon—an assemblage
that knifes through this lattice
of unspoken tales;
this assurance that no one
would force open
the book shut-close
long ago.

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DRIVING LESSONS by Charlotte Bausch

In rural upstate New York, kids start driving young. Fourteen and fifteen-year-olds are driving tractors between fields before they start high school. A few years later, their trucks are flying into parking lots with friends piled in their truck beds, searing black streaks of tire rubber onto the asphalt.  

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SUDDENLY by Mary Crow

at park’s edge a storm appeared returning from its tour of Vienna, and the car sped away

in dust devils, leaving me behind with existing treaties to dream some heroic stand while

rumors of air raids rose like smoke above the city and buildings burst into flame for the

greater good, pianos power-diving our forgotten empire-ah, but then you were

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SHAFT by A.E. Weisgerber

The Torn Hat operates as a lunch counter from 10 am to 2 pm. The wood is petrified and glossy, like the Legion Hall’s. Walter arrives. The special is a ham sandwich, a pickle, a glass of beer with a refill for two dollars and fifty cents. The butter is in an open dish. Walter is a man’s man. He will talk about the Yankees, the traffic, Gordon Parks’s film. He delivers bread. Walter’s got a route. He saved five men in Korea. They are not close but they are best friends. His wife—he loves her—tried to throw away his fighting knife once, was tired of seeing it at the dinner table. He made her dig it out at the curb. He threw away his Purple Hearts. Those he let go. He likes to smear a little butter on the rim of his glass and keep his head down.

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PULP by Jules Archer

I go grocery shopping for Mom. Her face bandaged, she remains in the car and hands over the list. She has done it to herself and yet, being seen in public is not an option. She tells me to only buy grapefruits if they’re less than a dollar a pound. I buy them anyway. I take the scold.

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GUTSHOT by Thomas Barnes

The lucky streak ran out when the air rifle went off. 

I felt the little ragged hole in my shirt. It didn’t feel like anything at all. Too small to be significant. Johnny let the air rifle swing to his side, the ends of his teeth glittering. Kali fell off the stump she was sitting on. They were all waiting for me to do something. I heard blood in my ears. Maybe they’d thought I’d keel over and die, I’m thinking. 

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THE BROWNIES AT WORK by Nance Van Winckel

THE BROWNIES AT WORK by Nance Van Winckel Welcome to Cleaver’s brand new genre, INTERMEDIA, where word and image intersect to create newly mediated spaces between the literal and the figurative—part word, part image, and deviantly part-way! And what better way to start off than with “Brownies,” those there-but-not-there creations that inhabit the virtual terrains and ordinary realms of our creative lives. —Ed. Nance Van Winckel is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Our Foreigner, winner of the Pacific Coast Poetry Series Prize (Beyond Baroque Press, 2017), Book of No Ledge (Pleiades Press Visual Poetry Series, 2016), and Pacific Walkers (U. of Washington Press, 2014). She’s also published five books of fiction, including Ever Yrs, a novel in the form of a scrapbook (Twisted Road Publications, 2014), and Boneland: Linked Stories (U. of Oklahoma Press, 2013). She teaches in the MFA programs at Eastern Washington University and … chop! chop! read more!

SECOND THOUGHTS by Karen Zey

Schools were opening in less than a week. The five-year-old boy in front of me had autism. He couldn’t speak. His eyes flitted like hummingbirds over the hundreds of colorful toys and books in the classroom. The boy’s father, Mr. Nassar, sat stiffly on a tiny chair next to his son. He had come to register the child for regular kindergarten.  

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THE WALL by Susan Knox

I’ll do it, Love,” my newly retired husband, Weldon, said when I mentioned our book collection needed cleaning. It took him two years to finish the job. I knew the books were getting dirty again, but I held my tongue—I didn’t want to dust them.

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SPLINTER by Susan G. Bouchard

It’s what your arms did when you fell on them, your bones osteoporotic from the decades you haven’t spent taking care of yourself.  You like to say that you get more than enough calcium from all the cheese you eat, but it’s childish logic for a mother to offer.  We both know why this happened.  We knew the inevitability of this catastrophe, we just didn’t know how it would manifest itself.

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AFTER TODAY by Sarah Walker

Jake pulled up in a red Toyota truck. It looked brand new. He rolled down the window and grinned. His teeth looked like they had been bleached, and his dark hair was a little longer at the top, short on the sides.

I walked to the passenger door, climbed inside. He set his hand on my shoulder and squeezed, his smile still huge, but I laughed and shrugged so his hand fell away. I adjusted the seat, sitting as far back as Jake and rolled down the window. The only way to keep things normal was to pretend like nothing had changed, and he caught on, ripping down the dirt road so fast we didn’t have time to think about anything but the speed.

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FILTER FEEDING by Ploi Pirapokin

Hours before the British surrendered, Japanese soldiers entered the school being used as a hospital at the front lines. They bayoneted wounded soldiers incapable of hiding, gang-raped the nurses, and mutilated every single person inside. Carcasses were left out like empty s

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WHAT MATTERS IS OUR HANDS by Olivia Hu

WHAT MATTERS IS OUR HANDS after Charlottesville: anti-racism protesters by Olivia Hu It’s not that your mother was afraid herself, or of your teeth, or of everything you curl your body towards. Your mother is shivering the way mothers do when their daughters become something on the living room floor, the thought of red wine spilt over the heart. She wanted everything you are not: a body clean, mouthless, palms too soft to spiral into a fist. In the streets, you raise the whole of your anatomy. Eyes, wrists, you magnify. These are lines beyond the tapered spill of your voice, which now arch to stone. And what happens to a solid when reacted in gas? The streets and a white film, chemical reaction for violence. Or your body, two reactants colliding within itself. It is difficult to know the universal language for resist, for 3 dead and 34 injured. … chop! chop! read more!

THE RED MOON by Mark A. Nobles

THE RED MOON by Mark A. Nobles My father turned into the driveway a little too fast, just like he always did. The Studebaker’s engine growled and the spring shocks squealed as my mother held her breath and closed her eyes, and my brother and I bounced in the back seat, almost hitting our heads on the roof. It was a Sunday night, March 13, 1946, and we were returning home from church. It was a fine spring evening. I remember the sermon that evening being especially fiery, even for Preacher Bonds. It had been a hell and brimstone, apocalyptic, God fearing sermon, and I had been particularly caught up while mother cried, father slept, and Jim, my younger brother, fidgeted. Preacher Bonds was as charismatic a Southern Baptist preacher as ever lived. Southern Baptists work from the premise that a good Christian is a scared Christian, and they have … chop! chop! read more!

gravy strain by Davy Knittle

thin a little ice for me
but keep the slip

melt slouches melt-ward
and it’s regular bad

is it time yet
I think it’s not yet time to

wear my feelings but also
read them: top them on a pizza

pour them in a sinkhole
drink them from a fountain

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THE MORNING AFTER ANOTHER COMING-OF-AGE FILM by Daryl Sznyter

THE MORNING AFTER ANOTHER COMING-OF-AGE FILM by Daryl Sznyter I dream of a man cutting into my stomach and you’re observing it like a student, mentally drawing the next incision. I try to sit up but then you’re walking away. I reach for you and you tell me I’m probably just hungry. I reach through the hole in my stomach and realize it’s empty. ◊ I remember feeling grateful upon waking. I wake you up to ask you how you lost your virginity, recalling how in the movie, the bad boy character tells the girl he just deflowered she would have a lot of unspecial sex. Yours sounded magical, even from the start. I somehow felt less special upon hearing this. ◊ Like the character in the movie, I can’t remember names. I remember one name and try to look him up. The news says he’s been missing since last … chop! chop! read more!

UNDERSONG by Martha Zweig

UNDERSONG by Martha Zweig Dawn: eight neighborhood bullies congregate spoiling to tweak a perfect day. They stalk tinfoil glints in the gutter & dangle dead moles. Arise & go to Innisfree, wattles & daubs! Poetical lovers there surround one another & bristle like bees busybodying thistles. How, here, come we to sip, from mother’s exquisitest china pattern, our chipped tea? Trivial effronteries scrimping a latest grisly luncheon along? But the day advances pleasantly. Children scatter to hopscotch back & forth & from pebbles to butterscotch. Giddy moment: I myself recompile my list of lost lists as if it dipped to the breeze & whispered all of its nothings & negligence along my collarbones. The bullies rumble & puff. They’ve busted everything to bits. Actually we ran home wailing hours ago. The perfect day stretches itself out, slackens, curls up, doubles over & over the bullies, snuggles & licks their scabby … chop! chop! read more!

COLONIZING THE WORLD by Cliff Saunders

COLONIZING THE WORLD by Cliff Saunders i. The walking stick: an unlikely mast a bit long-in-the-tooth. ii. Good news: red doors beckon from the North Pole. They’re out there, and so very conflicted. iii. Frozen in time: the dark freeway where nature checks its pretty head for gypsy moths. What happens when there is a reckless leap? iv. Go ahead, say it: loyalty is dirt —meantime, tomatoes are rotting. v. It’s official: dementia is brewing in the railing spindles. vi. True story: dreams go to die where mountains mingle with the sky. Bitterly they mourn the cold, hard cliffs they climb. vii. Go figure: ice frustrates the grieving. viii. It bears repeating: cocooning continues in the hands of principals despite bouts of loneliness. It’s happening way too often. ix. Look it up: cages cry during hushed conversations of astronauts. x. Think about it: a dark December day has telltale crumbs … chop! chop! read more!