TOUGH by Geoff Peck You picture it: fourteenth floor of Walker dormitory. A former wrestler dangles from a window. The one they call Bisonhead has him by one ankle and another ex-teammate, a freshman, by the other. It’s late April in Oklahoma, athletic tape scaling his shins to combat the humidity, but it’s only so long before he’ll start to slip through sweaty palms. He’s the only one crazy enough to try this and that means something. Pride is all that’s left. This is your father. He lost his scholarship this term. In two more weeks he’ll lose his dorm and crawl back to Sand Springs to work in the box factory, scars on his palms from fresh cardboard for the rest of his life. He hasn’t been home since high school. The state champion. One hundred fifty-five pounds. A week after he bends Tulsa Webster’s Randy Sutcliffe into origami … chop! chop! read more!
A BINTEL BRIEF: LOVE AND LONGING IN OLD NEW YORK
by Liana Finck
Ecco Press, 128 pages
reviewed by Ana Schwartz
There’s a new sort of fiction circulating, stories of young people, by young people, for young people. This isn’t YA lit. These stories range across genres, even mediums, but they all describe the ambivalence of maturing in post-post-modernity. These narratives share a sense of lostness and reflective self-estrangement. The authors are smart and the narratives are smartly-dressed. They usually take place in New York. Think Frances Ha or Tai Pei or Girls. And if, as one well-respected author of such fictions has recently described them, they at times seem “cold, lazy, [and] artificial,” they also exhibit “extreme honesty and thoroughness of […] self scrutiny.”
Liana Finck’s new graphic novel, A Bintel Brief features one such young me-person; but, although the story mines her development as an artist, it does so by digging into the past. With the distance afforded by history, and supported by the graphic novel’s relatively diffuse gaze, Finck offers a warmer, and more engaged account of a remarkably persistent theme: how one comes to feel that they belong to a community.chop! chop! read more!
ZOONOSIS by Kelly Boyker Hyacinth Girl Press, 39 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos Kelly Boyker’s chapbook, Zoonosis, is loaded from cover-to-cover with fantastical creatures, folktale monsters, and twentieth-century “freaks” drawn from the pages of Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not.” The Ripley’s characters are of particular interest because they are often postmodern updates of the original chthonic creatures of Greek myth. There is a child Cyclops, for example, a tribe of crab people, and Orthus—the less-famous, two-headed brother of Cerberus. The modern-day Orthus is the result of a macabre experiment by Russian scientist, Vladimir Demikhov, who “successfully grafted the head of a puppy onto the body of a full grown Mastiff” (“Orthus”). Time and again, as this example makes clear, the true monsters of Boyker’s world turn out not to be the wolves or the so-called freaks, whom she often treats with compassion and understanding, but the “ordinary” people. Even … chop! chop! read more!
OUTSIDE THE BOX: INTERVIEWS WITH CONTEMPORARY CARTOONISTS By Hillary L. Chute University of Chicago Press, 272 Pages reviewed by Seamus O’Malley Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists by Hillary Chute contains interviews with Scott McCloud, Charles Burns, Lynda Barry, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Daniel Clowes, Phoebe Gloeckner, Joe Sacco, Alison Bechdel, Françoise Mouly, Adrian Tomine, Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware. If you know comics you’ll recognize this as the auteur scene, and if you don’t you’ve just been given your starter syllabus. Many of these interviews appeared before, especially in Believer magazine, but those have been expanded, and several others are appearing for the first time in print. It is a valuable record of some of the industry’s greatest talents contemplating their work, their influences, and comics culture at large. There is some precedent for such a collection, such as Todd Hignite’s In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists (2007), which … chop! chop! read more!
THE GALAXY CLUB by Brendan Connell Chômu Press, 189 pages reviewed by Ashlee Paxton-Turner In his novel, The Galaxy Club, Brendan Connell, who was born and raised in New Mexico, reinterprets the landscape of a small New Mexico town, insisting that the comfortable and familiar all of a sudden feel slightly foreign. Connell has published both short fiction and several novels, notably Metrophilias (Better Non Sequitur, 2010) and Lives of Notorious Cooks (Chomu Press, 2012), and in The Galaxy Club, he experiments with making the conventional unconventional. From the first page of The Galaxy Club, Connell plunges his reader into a world that feels like it should be familiar but is riddled with the mythical and supernatural. I kept thinking that I should know this small, dusty town Connell describes—after all, I currently live in a small, dusty town. But Connell’s small town isn’t conventional. In a sense, it can’t be: … chop! chop! read more!
MANTIC by Maureen Alsop Augury Books, 68 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami This is a book of annotations, a bibliography of divination. Like any bibliography, Maureen Alsop’s Mantic is carefully researched and curated. The collection’s title, Mantic, and periodic poems within the collection, are defined by the art of divining and the many ways to do so—“Gyromancy,” “Ouranomancy,” and “Ornithomancy” to name a few—but this is not an instruction manual: Alsop lays these terms bare and explicates them through human moments in verse. As the “-mancy” titles suggest, Mantic is as a much a lexical read (or listen—read aloud) as it is an exploration of reaction; Mantic is beautiful for its teaching verse and for its honesty: with poem after poem inspired by divining, Alsop points to the many ways humanity has attempted to shape the world in its favor, whether that favor comes from desire or fear. As a … chop! chop! read more!
INSEL by Mina Loy Melville House, 176 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin You, dear reader, consummate seeker of literature in all forms, of voices in all languages, of song and fragment, of tome and flash, of ancient and modern: writers, books, are slipping through your fingers. It isn’t your fault. There’s too much to read. Every other minute, they say, a new genre is born. You can’t, certainly, keep up. The idea of it is absurd. Worse yet, there are other things to do besides reading. After all, it’s nice out, cherry blossoms are swirling in the wind, a vortex of pink feathers alighting the street corner. Maybe the best thing to do is simplify, streamline the library. Return to the classics after all these years. Read all of Dickens. Run through the American pantheon. Default to Shakespeare, or Edgar Allan Poe. No? No, of course not. Don’t be silly. … chop! chop! read more!
ELSA by Tsipi Keller Spuyten Duyvil, 187 pages reviewed by Lynn Levin As I began reading this short novel by Tsipi Keller, I found myself enjoying what I thought was going to be a leisurely experience with chick lit. Nothing too demanding, nothing to worrisome. Elsa, at the start, is as much about the jealousies of girl friendships as it is about the protagonist’s desire for some overdue sex and true romance. About a third of the way into the book, however, the narrative becomes increasingly disturbing as Keller skillfully pitches the fascinating but dislikable protagonist, thirty-nine-year-old Elsa, into a gradually darkening labyrinth of seduction and danger. I so wanted to reach into the story and shake Elsa. “Get out of there while you can!” In the meantime Gary, Elsa’s wealthy middle-aged date, whispers in her ear in a velvet voice, “You’re a fool…So trusting.” Elsa is the third in Tsipi … chop! chop! read more!
FOXES ON THE TRAMPOLINE by Charlotte Boulay Ecco Press, 64 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami You are in a field, a forest, or on a shore; you may have never been here before, but it brings forth some immense longing. Until last summer I had never been to the prairie, but it is strange how I miss it now—I miss its monolithic emptiness, and how it made me feel like a tiny monolith myself. We miss something or someone because we feel we belong there or with them. The speakers of Charlotte Boulay’s debut poetry collection, Foxes on the Trampoline, feel their selves or their emotions belong in or to other, natural beings. Boulay articulates this longing through natural imagery—though not as descriptions, as per the nature poem’s tradition, but as part and parcel of the human experience, juxtaposed to want, love, and loss. Take “Senza,” (Italian for “without”) from … chop! chop! read more!
TwERK by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs Belladonna, 110 pages reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat The challenge in reading sound poetry is to try to grasp the full depth of the work’s significance without having the performance as a guide. The challenge for the poet, then, is to craft work of equal aural, intellectual and emotional stimulation. In her first full-length collection, TwERK, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs creates seemingly infinite layers of meaning that meld to produce critical social statements on both a global and region-specific scale. Certainly, experiencing her interactive performance adds nuanced shades of perspective, but the poems themselves are wealth worth reading. Diggs’s lingual acrobatics often focus on syncretized cultural elements that speak to a new societal fabric. Opening the collection with a verse from “Genesis” that refers to a monolingual world, Diggs then plunges us into Babylonian chaos. She entitles the first section “anime”—those of Generation X and beyond will … chop! chop! read more!
FLYOVER LIVES: A MEMOIR by Diane Johnson Viking, 265 pages reviewed by Colleen Davis It takes guts to become a writer. Not because it’s a dangerous profession, but a person drawn to serious writing often discovers that there’s no clear employment path. Some people pursue newspaper or magazine jobs, and these positions can offer training and guidance to novice writers. But for those like me, who feel no calling for hard journalism, becoming a writer has meant making a series of strange, often irrational, choices. The careers of beloved authors provided me with my only roadmap. Unfortunately, most of the writers I admired were men who never faced the same social dilemmas (marry/don’t marry; kids/no kids, etc.) that stymied me, a resolute female from birth. Despite the gender issues, Fitzgerald and Hemingway inspired me to pursue the expatriate tradition. I traveled in France, Brazil, and Japan. I moved to Mexico, … chop! chop! read more!
by Geoffrey Gatza
BlazeVOX , 168 pages
reviewed by Carlo Matos
Geoffrey Gatza’s Apollo is an all-out assault on the reader, like facing an opponent who senses you’re about to wilt and so presses the action. Every time we think we know what he’s doing, another surprise comes our way. And this is how good conceptual poetry should be—not just the simple execution of a clever conceit but a text that threatens at every turn to burst from the inside out and take the reader with it but never does. Taking the shape of a souvenir program for a one-night performance of Stravinsky’s ballet of the same name, the book contains a myriad of Dada-like exercises: poems generated by a John Cage-like method of assigning words to each square on a chess board and to each piece and then playing out the game between Marcel Duchamp and then US chess champion, Frank Marshall, at the Chess Olympiad in Hamburg in 1930 (accompanied by pictures of each position and a cat), an Arthurian legend based on the Lady of Shallot, a three-act play where Duchamp somehow manages to play himself as Rrose Sélavey (his female alter-ego), and a business letter to the director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, who kicked the author out one day for the mysterious offence of carrying an umbrella—a moment so Duchampian it is the perfect coda to this ready-made text. In “Fifteen Hundred Hours,” Rrose Sélavey says, “The consciousness that bound these obscurities. . . together/ was overgrowth.” It is a perfect metaphor for the entire collection, for this paean to Gatza’s modernist heroes who perform his ballet: Duchamp, Sélavey, Max Ernst, Gertrude Abercrombie, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, and Dizzy Gillespie.chop! chop! read more!
THE NO VARIATIONS: THE DIARY OF AN UNFINISHED NOVEL by Luis Chitarroni translated by Darren Koolman Dalkey Archive Press, 256 pages reviewed by Ana Schwartz Because we were late in arriving, because we were late in departing, because we didn’t care that we’d be late, and, above all, because those from whom we waited turned out to be ourselves, which is to say, the others, the ones we called, ‘the slow ones.’ – The No Variations Readers can only hope to be included in that community, that “we,” for the community described so affectionately here makes this one of the most memorable passages from The No Variations, Luis Chitarroni’s dense and often disorienting new non-novel. The passage appears early in the text, while expectations of narrative continuity still hold purchase. Lateness, in fact, extends hope for a plot, and with its charisma buys patience against the frustrations of plots subsequent absence. … chop! chop! read more!
AMERICAN SONGBOOK by Michael Ruby Ugly Duckling Presse, 144 pages reviewed by Ana Schwartz Imagine a road trip across America, probably in the summer, “in the good old plastic gasoline / Pell-mell summertime.” Of course, music will be an essential part of the journey, probably radio hits. Headed East, perhaps, the lyrics of each song traverse both geography and time: a path paved in words. The lyrics to these songs linger in memory, but they’re also so ephemeral—though the words remain, their thrill often fades along with the little experiential details that make any such trip unique. Between the transient intensity of experience and the permanence of a material archive, exists poetry, transcription of verbal and nonverbal song on a page, lending it a more lasting presence. Each poem in Ruby’s latest collection, American Songbook, riffs on or responds to a canonical piece of American pop music, and appears chronologically, … chop! chop! read more!
MAURICE SENDAK: A CELEBRATION OF THE ARTIST AND HIS WORK Curated by Justin G. Schiller and Dennis M.V. David Edited by Leonard S. Marcus Harry N. Abrams Press, 224 pages reviewed by Tahneer Oksman In a collaborative comic strip published in The New Yorker in 1993, cartoon versions of Art Spiegelman and Maurice Sendak amble through a forest littered with their own creations peeking out at them from the background. Sendak’s character wisely pontificates, “Childhood is deep and rich. It’s vital, mysterious, and profound. I remember my own childhood vividly…” In the final panel, he adds, “I knew terrible things. But I knew I musn’t let adults know I knew.” Those of us who grew up reading Sendak’s beloved children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are—which is to say, very many of us—undoubtedly recognize in those words the strange and titillating worldview that belonged to the wolf-suit wearing Max. In … chop! chop! read more!
THE UNDERSTORY by Pamela Erens Tin House Books 169 pages (originally published by Ironweed Press in 2007) reviewed by Ashlee Paxton-Turner I began Pamela Erens’ The Understory to find the main character, Jack Ronan Gorse, peering inside his coffee cup to reassure himself that he is indeed drinking black coffee. As someone who also only drinks black coffee, I identified with Gorse’s need to ensure the absence of cream and sugar. Of course, Gorse’s habit has an interesting origination; it developed after once finding sour milk in his coffee. This first introduction to Gorse is a telling characterization of him; he is a man in love with his habits and his routines, yet at the same time, restricted by them, using them to repress his desires for love and companionship. Gorse even goes so far as to insist that he cannot tolerate the company of other people, yet he is … chop! chop! read more!
ON LOVING WOMEN by Diane Obomsawin Drawn & Quarterly, 94 pages reviewed by Amy Victoria Blakemore “On Loving Women”: it sounds like a treatise. But Diane Obomsawin does not deliver the usual tome with this intimately illustrated collection of coming out stories, nor does she intend to. In contrast to similarly named philosophical texts such as Aristotle’s On the Soul or Arthur Schopenhaur’s infamous On Women, On Loving Women presents ten vignettes of first love without explanation or elaboration: they are whole ideas, answers unto themselves. And they are utterly delightful to read. Obomsawin begins each short narrative in On Loving Women with the speaker’s name and a single- or double-panel snapshot of her in her natural habitat: in a chair with a drink or dressed as Zorro, sword and all. For one speaker, Catherine, Obomsawin forgoes props to highlight her big, awkward eyes. These introductions could have easily verged … chop! chop! read more!
THE WORLD’S SMALLEST BIBLE by Dennis Must Red Hen Press, 232 pages DURING THE REIGN OF THE QUEEN OF PERSIA by Joan Chase NYRB Classics (new edition), 215 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin GROWING UP, MID-CENTURY Childhood is a kind of endlessly swelling pregnancy; the womb stretches and through the amniotic fluid of rooms and voices, odors and faces, the adult world becomes slowly traceable yet still distant, incomprehensible. Once in a while it ruptures and the child is forced to “grow up fast.” Otherwise, it’s the child who must give birth to her adult self. But perhaps I’m oversimplifying: for every child, eventually, will have to negotiate the various thresholds to the adult world and will do so not in a linear progression, but rather in some sort of prolonged iterative process of seeking and receiving, receiving and seeking, a rain shower that comes and goes, once in … chop! chop! read more!
DEAR GRAVITY by Gregory Djanikian Carnegie Mellon University Press, 104 pages reviewed by Anna Strong At the beginning of the fourth section of Gregory Djanikian’s Dear Gravity, in a poem titled “Beginnings,” the speaker, one of two “giddy / amnesiacs of the present” under the ‘disapproving glance of history’ gestures outwards: Here’s a new window to turn to, here’s a cloth to clean the mists (“Beginnings”) Though the poem comes at the beginning of the penultimate section, it is in many ways a suggestion for how to read the entire collection: as one enormous room of infinite windows to turn to, an insistence on presence in each individual poem, and an acknowledgement that history, however disapproving, is unavoidable, in both poetry and in memory. So many of those windows look out on landscapes and cityscapes, from Alexandria to Arizona to Philadelphia. Language preserves the memory and the feeling of those … chop! chop! read more!
MORE THAN YOU KNOW by Melissa Malouf Dalkey Archive Press, 240 pages Reviewed by Elizabeth Mosier Melissa Malouf’s More Than You Know intrigued and perplexed me right from its disorienting start. I’d barely landed on the first page when I fell down a rabbit role with narrator Alice Clark, chasing characters I hadn’t yet met: Hannah Jensen and her husband Bradley, always called Mr. Jensen; Barbara Delaney from Las Vegas; the “three dead young men,” Eric Langland, Richard Stone and Darrell Farnsworth, grad students in English and American Literature at UC Riverside. Unmoored (by early retirement) from teaching at a California community college, Alice doesn’t decide so much as she is compelled to travel cross country to Vermont to confront the Jensens and her role in her friends’ deaths. Through Las Vegas, Cheyenne, Omaha, and Peoria to the Jensens’ home in Chittenden, Vermont, Alice pursues a psychological mystery for which … chop! chop! read more!
THE OLD MAN AND THE POOL by Anastasiya Shekhtman Regardless of which creative field you look at, there is always talk about process. This postmodern world has rendered form and content inextricable in many ways, so when I look at work, it is always the same question that comes to mind: how does the form inform the content? Are there traces of the process in the work the artist presents? Much of the writing that I love does not humor such inquisition. Even lines related through a colloquial voice are likely to have been subjected to meticulous editing, were crafted in the grand scheme of the piece. Without access to the revision process of admired work, I often find my own attempts to write plagued—paralyzed, even—by self doubt. This project began very much like every other attempt, which is to say, by an overwhelming of imagery and inspiration from the … chop! chop! read more!
THE BIRTH OF NO by Patricia Colleen Murphy I remember everything but in an order I cannot control. It was suicide season. I was 14 and I couldn’t believe my mother’s thrift, like she had missed a few zeros. It was in a room where everyone was known for something. The doctor was wearing a goddamn double-breasted suit. Later, I walked far away while pondering What do I have to do to live to 15? I passed that neighbor who was always doing something ugly with his land. He asked me a question and when I quoted Proust he asked, Who is that? A family friend? Now the neighbor’s fighting the hose. I keep counting his trucks, thinking I am missing one. What if, for today, I touch everyone I see? I’m not afraid to hit someone if they need it. Patricia Colleen Murphy teaches at Arizona State … chop! chop! read more!
THE LAST ONE IN by Mary van Ogtrop A bridge cuts a straight line across the sky, connecting one wooded area of Richmond, Virginia, to another. Imagine a bridge and you’ll see a parabola, the structure’s midsection arching high in the air as though the water below were molten lava. The imaginary people traveling from one side to another are lofted as high as possible, lest they be burned alive or, more realistically, drowned dead. The bridge in Richmond isn’t like that. It has the distinct and exclusive purpose of transporting trains, whose multiple cars and shifting cargo call for complete flatness, a slope of zero. The Richmond bridge, classified as a railway bridge, has no rise in the spot equidistant from the shores of the James River below, as the six kids currently huddled at its center could tell you. There are exactly three reasons for someone to walk … chop! chop! read more!
by Rachel Estrada Ryan
It has been seven days since we’ve run out of meat and vegetables in the freezer and most of the cans and boxes and jars in the pantry. My husband reminds me that we have not run out of money. He says this as he leans against our stainless steel refrigerator that matches the stainless steel stove and the stainless steel dishwasher and the stainless steel built-in microwave. Of course I know he’s right; I also know we probably never will. No, we will always have too much, and the people on the charity websites will never have enough, and frankly if I have to spend another afternoon hauling reluctant children and unforgiving paper-or-plastic bags I might just lose it once and for all. I’m not sure I can ever go to the supermarket again.chop! chop! read more!
“VULNERARY” AND AN ART WITCH by Laura Mecklenburger When I try to describe my artwork to others, I often say that I make ritual objects and installation art. But I didn’t set out to make installation art from the beginning, and I certainly didn’t expect, when I decided to make art my career, that it was going to explicitly include magic and ritual. I still blush when I tell people I am an initiated witch. I am faintly surprised at myself that I have made such an intimate part of my life so public. But the path I took to reach this work has felt inevitable and rewarding. As my favorite author, Neil Gaiman, told the graduating class at the University of the Arts here in Philadelphia, “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and … chop! chop! read more!
THE GREAT WAVE CARRIES YOU FORWARD by Nick Kolakowski Marie’s husband Zachary passed away in early March, followed two weeks later by the dog. Marie would never confess this to anyone, but she missed the dog a little more than Zack. At least the mutt could stick to one bed. Marie would never confess this, either, but a deserted house can be pretty enjoyable. She took down Zack’s framed Bullitt poster from its prime spot in the living room and, with the help of an online art class, painted a giant wave crashing onto a skiff of Japanese fishermen. None of her friends knew it was a copy of “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa,” the famous Hokusai woodcut from the Edo era—they just assumed the pummeling whitewater was a metaphor for depression, a cry for help, and reacted accordingly. Her life filled with dinner parties; bone-crushing hugs arrived at random … chop! chop! read more!
BRANDED by Zachary Lundgren He was drunk and I’m sure it helped when I took the iron from the stove: a loud red, a cruel star. I held the iron like a relic of some religion we’ve all long forgot but is still always burning always holy, always the shackle and the wrist. I didn’t ask if he was ready because that’s how it goes. The iron bit into his calf, greedy to share. After, he laughed he displayed his leg like a king, like a city limit sign. Not like the night, last of last summer, when I collected photographs, old shirts and notebook paper into a bantam fire and made goodbye Zachary Lundgren received his MFA in poetry from the University of South Florida and his BA in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder and grew up in northern Virginia. He has had poetry … chop! chop! read more!
AN EVEN, PERFECT BURN by Royee Zvi Atadgy Come here, he said. No, you can just watch me and then afterwards we’ll go to sleep and that’ll be the end of it, she said. You mean that we’ll go to sleep like it never happened. It never did, she said. In the glow of the single desklamp, yellow glow, onionskin, he watched her shed her black cardigan like a snake in the darkness, revealing first the shadowy bones of her shoulder blades—very thin and on the verge of falling out of her back like two ice shelves. Then it was the middle of the back, almost all spine and the shadows played on her disks as if they were small mountain ridges in a diorama. There were two moles he had never seen before and a scar, pink-shaded, about three inches long that lay diagonally across the bottom of her left … chop! chop! read more!
BUNGALESE CONSTRICTOR by Jason Kapcala No one told me that Carlos’s gallery exhibition was that night until after I’d wrangled the Burmese python from under the porch and I was drenched through with rain and covered with dead leaves and muck. Storm clouds hung low in the sky as I slammed shut the sliding door on the back of my truck and nodded to the woman on the porch. Her husband had been the proud owner of the exotic snake and a ten-month-old Pit Bull; now he was just the proud owner of an exotic snake. Former owner, at least. The snake was tan with brown hexagons—its body thick like one long muscle, the head a small diamond with tiny black eyes. It had taken me forty-five minutes to drag and tug and wrestle it from the hole in the latticework where it had crawled with a full belly to … chop! chop! read more!
IN SEARCH OF DEATH by Olive Mullet Because I could not stop for Death He kindly stopped for me. —Emily Dickinson —So why are you working at Hospice? Death is my thing. I’ve read all the books on it, most of them disappointing. Julian Barnes’ Nothing to be Frightened Of, for example. All he talks about is his fear of death, and he quotes philosophers on death. —You are not here just to give massages. No. I want to find out what it’s like to die. —So you ask the dying what they are feeling? Yep. (long pause) —And—what have you discovered? If the person was nervous in life, he’s nervous about death. If he was calm and accepting, he goes “gentle into that good night.” The fighters for life were fighters in life. Of course, they eventually lose. And maybe they did in life too. —And some may just … chop! chop! read more!
ALL EARS by Rick Bailey A few weeks ago my father woke up almost totally deaf. He already had a significant deficit. For years he has worn hearing aids. One for each ear, they are a microphone, amplifier, and loudspeaker all in one small plastic device the color of ear wax. He pokes at them with his index finger to dial the volume up and down. He changes their batteries with the same ethic of care that he rotates the tires on his car. More often than not, through most of a conversation, they feedback and squeal like a miniature PA system. A sound anyone in the room can hear. He does not. This deafness, I suspect, is in his genes. His mother was similarly deaf. But while my father has always been open about hearing loss, my grandmother was more of a covert deaf person. When you spoke to … chop! chop! read more!
BLACK RAINCOAT, BLUE STOCKINGS by Anthony Wallace Nobody took Rhiannon there, and nobody took her home. She managed the whole thing by herself. When she woke up, it was dark outside. A light was on in the living room, and she could see it through the open doorway. She lay in bed with her eyes closed, trying to decide if it had really happened or if she had dreamed some version of it and it hadn’t happened yet. She hoped it had happened and that it was finally over, and at the same time she hoped it hadn’t yet happened, something that was still out there, a possibility among other possibilities. She lay quietly in the place between happening and not happening, between what had been and what might yet be. In the doctor’s office she’d waited longer than she’d expected to. She read a couple of magazine articles. One … chop! chop! read more!
IN MY TIME by Shannon Viola I have a love-hate relationship with Hemingway. Sometimes when I’m writing, he’s over my shoulder. He seizes my hand and slashes the Latinate adjectives on my page while I wince and moan. He tugs at one of my curls every time I craft optimistic characters. When I really anger him, his hot fist squeezes my shoulder. Then he prods my side. “What are you doing? Get at this.” All I have to do is flutter my eyelashes at him, and he releases his grip. He always did have an Achilles heel for women. My youthful face, however, is useless when he sees that I have concocted an eighteen-word sentence. He grabs the entire mass of my hair so hard that my neck bends at an unholy angle. He holds my head below his. “Would you like to omit some words there?” Hating, hating, hating … chop! chop! read more!
WINGS TO GO by Jane Carroll There’s a chicken place on Ridge Avenue called “Wings to Go.” I occasionally wait for a bus across the street, and that sign always seemed to me a little too poetic for a wing place. It makes me think of my mother. Not because of anything having to do with chicken or food, but because I often wished I could give her wings. I wanted to see her fly away from the stuffy room in the nursing home where she lived for seven years until her death at 92—fly through the plastic window blinds and away from the hospital bed and the carpeted hallway that inexorably became her whole world. She needed to take flight, but her heart was like a tap root—long and strong, growing straight down into the earth. Her body hung on to be fed and bathed and laid down again, … chop! chop! read more!
IN THE MEWS by Nicole Callihan Two feuding gardens are thought to be responsible for the most recent blooming. According to the rain, in late summer, a band of tiger lilies recruited a pack of peonies, and those peonies, comely as they seem, have been holding stamens against the backs of wandering clouds. I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t really notice when things blossom on the other side of town. In my tidy neighborhood, I tend to my little potted plants and sing them well, hardly ever forgetting to water them. Nights, I wipe their leaves with a soft, clean towel. It’s true what they say about talking to them: my baby gets bigger and bigger, flush and blush; the window crowds with her brush. I had thought my street so safe, my safe street, I might have called it, even though it is a city street and … chop! chop! read more!
PLACES TO WALK OUT TO by Gabriel Ojeda Sague I read the note scribbled wildly on torn paper: “Language is not the signifier nor the signified. It is the significance.” The only constant is the height of buildings. I hate the way you find things like that and I’ve just now realized it’s the smoke that’s making that taste of oranges in my mouth. A yellow cat bolts through a black street. I am drunk and swinging through concrete paths, my legs twisting and stumbling, pivoting and sliding. Billboards sneak into my field of vision. “For tough cleaning, toughen up with Husky brand paper towels.” “No more pests with Nomopest bug spray.” “Feel the fragrance. Be the woman. Rise. Rise, by Vaudlin.” The night is long and I hate the names of streets. “Washington St. Mulligan St. Perricone St. Franklin St. Jefferson St. East St. Hawke St. Levi St. 15019 … chop! chop! read more!
MARCH 5, 1953 by Robert Wexelblatt The funeral was flowerless. Every early spring bloom had been expropriated by the KGB for their boss. Scarcely forty people dared show up. Charged with counter-revolutionary bourgeois tendencies, tormented and shunned by the Composers Union, his wife and sons held hostage in Siberia, he composed wretched anthems to power plants and worse, Zdravitsa. It was a case of write our der’mo or die. Nevertheless, masterworks of “anti-democratic formalism” continued to pour forth. His meager stipend was cut; he very nearly starved. Given another decade and he might have sluiced out all that filth with a flood of new symphonies, freshets of ballets; but the tyrant outlived him. A stroke felled him and then, only fifty minutes later, with surpassing irony, the other. I like to imagine all those grief-stricken Muscovites in the grainy newsreels, ten deep on the ugly sidewalks, shedding their Russian tears … chop! chop! read more!
CONFESSIONS OF A FACEBOOK MOM by Melissa Duclos I’m with Teddy and Elliot, sitting on the floor amidst a pile of Legos and a stack of books, and I find my eyes wandering up to the shelf. My fingers get a little twitchy. I find a reason to stand up. “Hold on, honey. Mommy just needs to check something.” I slide my finger across my touchscreen, unlocking the phone. The familiar blue banner appears, and I swipe my finger upward, my eyes scanning the Newsfeed. Pictures of other people’s kids, other people’s dinners, other people’s yards covered with snow. Justin Bieber got arrested; Derek Jeter is retiring; there’s an interesting article on parenting in The Atlantic; a good op-ed on writing in the Times. The kids play happily together—they’ve just entered this magic phase of chasing each other giggling in circles with rarely any fighting—while I stand leaning against the … chop! chop! read more!
HOW TO MASTER SOCIAL MEDIA by Brennan Cusack Take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror because it’s got a frame like a photograph and you need the practice. Move around and play with angles until you find the most flattering position. Now practice snapping into picture position. Repeat until it’s automatic. Practice makes perfect. Smile perfectly. The next day you sign up for a photo class with Abby. Pick up your rented cameras and practice your photo smile as Abby points the lens towards you. Click. You look pretty, she says. Make it your profile picture. You’re on the right track. As the professor drones on about camera settings, begin laying groundwork for network popularity by scrolling through your newsfeed and liking pictures and statuses accordingly. Watch as your name appears across the newsfeed as you click, think of footsteps in the sand, think of I came, … chop! chop! read more!
Philadelphia from Belmont, hand-tinted engraving, 1873 ON THE ROMANCE OF PARKLAND by J.C. Todd for Erica Upstream, a shadow crosses the oxbow of a river whose flood plains are silted by paternal names of grant-holders. Their slaves tilled the alluvial bottom land, turning up flints and the bones of Lenape. So much loss in the torrents of plunder and order thought to be gain. No wonder the broad plateau that sweeps in folds to the river has gone fallow— such sorrow breaks plow shaft and blade. Better to carpet over the turmoils that clear cut one people’s woodlands to plant another’s prison farm, another’s estate. Better to leave it a meadow of clovers and broadleaves obscuring the blood-rusted soil. To proclaim it parkland, to name it Fairmount as if the elevation were destined to display your picnic aspic, as if the rhizome undernet were meant to cushion your lavender cakes. … chop! chop! read more!
JACKSON LISTENS TO THE BIRDS for Jackson born 2/5/07 by Kathy Lou Schultz Memphis is a huff of spring grandiose pink blossoms about to pop a rainstorm lurking in the palpable air It’s you and me rounding the corners of Midtown lush and nowhere to go, a soliloquy of hands It’s the season of no conclusions of orioles, blue jays, and doves fighting sleep his eyelids close and open close and open, sheltered in the trilling air Jackson listens to the birds Kathy Lou Schultz is the author of four collections of poems, most recently Biting Midge: Works in Prose (Belladona) and Some Vague Wife (Atelos). Her monograph, The Afro-Modernist Epic and Literary History: Tolson, Hughes, Baraka, is part of the Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics Series from Palgrave. Schultz’s articles have appeared in a wide variety of scholarly journals including Contemporary Literature, Journal of Modern Literature, … chop! chop! read more!
A SAD, LOGICAL CAPITULATION (after D. H. Lawrence) by Justin Nicholes The day a welding rod shimmied down Zou’s collar and combusted his shirt into singed tendrils, the same day my stomach caught traction in the scoop of his lower back and I knew I was in love, also the same day the building gave way, all of us died. It’s how these things happen, I guess. During our lives our bodies ricochet along until all we stumble into, all that’s rolled our ways, amasses into these blurred mirrors (I’m getting at corporeality here; I’m getting at ghosts). The building’s integrity flagged, and we all lurched ground-ward in common cataclysm. It sure did surprise us. I mean, we built this place. Just that morning we’d been gawking at Zou’s computer at an image he’d found. It was what the building would finally look like. Twilight purpled on the Dell’s loose-hinged … chop! chop! read more!
ALL GOOD THINGS by B.A. Varghese The milk was white and it squirted out from under his hands. He pulled and pulled the cow’s udders one at a time to a rhythmic beat and I watched it fall down in spurts after each pull. I didn’t know that. I just didn’t know that. I was mesmerized by Appachan’s hands as he pulled and pulled and out it dropped and when it hit it made a metallic clink until the bottom started filling then it sounded like liquid hitting liquid. I didn’t want to come here. I didn’t want to leave home without my father. I told him I didn’t want to go but he told me I had to. He told me we didn’t have family here and that we had no one to help my mother once the baby came so we had to go. He told me I’d get … chop! chop! read more!
DEGENERATIVE DISEASES OF THE BRAIN by Juniper Green When I walk into her room Mrs. Goldberg does not recognize me. Every morning I help her out of bed, clean her up, and dress her. Every morning we meet for the first time. Some days she is thankful for my help. She calls me love, sweetheart, darling. Some days she curses me under her breath, scratches my arm when I try to steady her and cries out for a husband long deceased to come and chase the stranger out of their house. “Did she give you any grief today,” Sam says as we meet by the bin in the hall. “Nope,” I throw away a dirty nappy. “Sweet as a kitten.” “That kitten has claws,” he lifts his forearm. Three thin scars protrude from the skin. They’re smooth and translucent, catching the light as Sam flexes his arm. I want to … chop! chop! read more!
SHACKLED by Kim Suttell If it’s a fever you want, then I’m frenzied. What are you but an ice ax ear ache, an ice cleat hike down my throat, the churned Weddell Sea in my paunch. Hell, you’re the whole Antarctic. I ahoy you through blown globs of molten glass pincered and pounded with thin sparks bounced off withered in the cold before they can blink. I want you with the knife violent drive of having to piss and the diffuse warm pleasure after. I need you beyond aspirin, beyond rashness. Before I pass out, before I disappear like krill in baleen, before I feed this fever to you, examine me. Tell me it’s hopeless, say hmmm like you mean it and look away. Kim Suttell lives in New York City where she doesn’t make a living writing poems, but who does? She has had work published in Right … chop! chop! read more!
DAFFODILS by Daniel W. Thompson The main reason I drove four hours to be here was to sign a document giving me access to mom and dad’s security deposit box. Mom called it personal housekeeping. She said, you never know, Miles. What if something happens to your father and me? Somebody’s got to care for our affairs, and we all know your sister—. Well, you know what I’m saying, she said. When we got to the bank, they couldn’t find the form we needed. The person who prepared it was on her way, but it would be thirty minutes. Mom suggested we go pick daffodils behind the old elementary school while we waited. I said we should forget the bank and flowers and go home and eat lunch. I told her I wanted to get an early start back to Richmond. But Mom said it was too important I sign … chop! chop! read more!
FLESH AND BLOOD by Jamie Lin He’d done it again. Little puddles of sticky green glop all over the floor, specked with shards from the small glass bottle that’d held the apple purée. His fist clutched the plastic spoon as more pale green glop dribbled off his chin and onto the high chair. Ying had left him for less than a minute to attend to her dinner, which had been threatening to boil over onto the stove. When the bottle shattered on the tiled floor she moved quickly, striding across the small expanse from kitchenette to living room and lifting him clean off the chair and into his cradle, away from the glass. Her movements were smooth, instinctive. He gurgled, his expression untroubled, and using the spoon as a catapult he feebly flicked more purée onto the floor. As she looked over the mess a familiar warmth began to collect … chop! chop! read more!
PSYCHOGENIC FUGUE by George Moore Every time I leave home I begin a new life. I am a boy again, sometimes a girl. My memories are so discrete that they talk to each other, gather in rooms, develop friendships without knowing. My wives and husbands are the victims of love. My children all disappear into the crowded river of years. I like to think I was once an artist, once a musician, a technician, a gambler, a fool. In the end, I can only recover who I am, after the sun warms my many faces, there is nothing left but the moist earth, the call of exotic birds, and then I rise from a dozen graves. George Moore is the author of two new collections, The Hermits of Dingle (FutureCycle Press, 2013), and Children’s Drawings of the Universe (Salmon Poetry, 2014). He splits his time between Colorado, … chop! chop! read more!
BEYOND RIVER, BEYOND CANYON by Michael G. Smith Once a year I backpack my ischemic-stroked brain and body into the Grand Canyon. To test. Observe. See what lost physical move I can do again. Metamorphosize. Twelfth trip: like the Earth, I have the partial wisdom of ongoing trial and error. Experience. First morning. Booted, poised at the rim’s crumbling edge. Plant hiking poles. Step down forward. Start reverse. Vertical fault line: twelve years ago I twisted my neck, dissected the right vertebral artery running through my brainstem. My neurologist: Another millimeter or two and we would not be having this discussion. The artery clotted. Three days later two clots released. Lodged in my cerebellum: center of balance, muscle control, proprioception. Vision stroked into nystagmus. Movement stroked into stillness. Isostasy. Ahead: layers, conglomerate rubble. Layers. Rubble. Primordial Earth. Mighty Colorado River flowing all away. Re-learn to see. Balance. Walk. My path … chop! chop! read more!
MIRABEL RIVER GIRL, CHAMPION SPELLER by Shannon Sweetnam I was twelve when my Daddy got a long iridescent motorcycle, his first to my unemphatic, unpathwayed, what-I-recall. I wandered the shop façade near the cow-bell laden door, while he strode around back to cast a final gaze at his newly purchased ride. I perused the store in white leather sandals, ambulating back and forth among the sharp smells of steel and sawdust, amongst the stink of after-shave, rubber, and gasoline, under the reverberation of bleak fluorescent lights. I yearned for something to read. When Daddy returned, I laid hands upon his new manual and parked myself outside Jim’s Hardware atop a cooler, foraging for spelling bee clinchers: crankshaft, flywheel, cam chain, hydraulic steering damper. I was to be a world champion speller; I was to win the national spelling bee in the great capital of our country that very spring. Daddy predicted … chop! chop! read more!