HALF THE KINGDOM by Lore Segal Melville House, 176 pages Reviewed by Michelle Fost Late in life, after health issues led my grandparents to move to a retirement community called Stonegates, my grandfather referred to their neighbors as his fellow inmates. I am still puzzling over Lore Segal’s new novel, Half the Kingdom, but I think she beautifully casts some theatrical lighting on the full inner lives and personal histories of the inmates. It’s as though Segal lifts a lid on what she might call, here, the Crazy Box of stories inside her aging characters. The lives of Joe Bernstine, Lucy Friedgold, Samson Gorewitz, Ida Farkasz, and a few others intersect in the emergency room and on the seventh floor of the Senior Center of the Cedars of Lebanon hospital. The open lid won’t reveal enough: part of the story here is that though Joe, Lucy, Samson, Ida, and their … chop! chop! read more!
THE FARAWAY NEARBY by Rebecca Solnit Viking, 272 Pages Reviewed by Colleen Davis Once a month my Saturday morning yoga class swaps our beloved Iyengar teacher for a visiting Power yoga trainer from Manhattan. Captain Kate is not her real name, but that’s what I call the woman who drives us through 85 minutes of fast, challenging postures which are not all that different from our normal fare. What Kate changes is the pace of our effort and the time we spend holding each pose. Under her direction, my country classmates and I move at the speed she expects from students in her 105-degree New York studio. Our local practice site has no amped up heating system, but a class with Kate still leaves us drenched. This is her rigorous lead up to the final moment when we gratefully follow Kate’s instruction to “lower our head and bow our mind … chop! chop! read more!
RELISH: MY LIFE IN THE KITCHEN by Lucy Knisley First Second Books, 173 pages Reviewed by Stephanie Trott Never crowd the mushrooms. It’s a mantra recited time and time again in cookbooks, culinary shows, and even some Hollywood films. But without understanding what this actually means, as one’s interpretation will invariably differ from another’s, the only result is a disappointingly inconsistent sauté. In the absence of visual representation, one may interpret crowding as tight as a tin of sardines or as light as a bag of fluffy marshmallows. Enter Lucy Knisley and her graphic memoir Relish: My Life In the Kitchen, a bright collection of stories and memories centered on food, her family, and her upbringing. Following Knisley from the countertops of her childhood apartment in downtown Manhattan to early mornings at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, her homemade meals and grocery lists guide the reader through … chop! chop! read more!
THE STORY OF A NEW NAME by Elena Ferrante, trans. Ann Goldstein Europa Editions, 471 pages ELI, ELY by Ezekiel Tyrus Hardhead Press, 283 pages Reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin Two Cities, Two Outsiders, Two Novels My thirteen-year-old daughter Lena got a hold of my review copy of Elena Ferrante’s new novel The Story of a New Name and the pencil stuck inside it for jotting notes in the margins. “Your journey starts now! Ready….go!” she wrote at the beginning of chapter 59 (of 125). On page 251, and then every so often to the end of the book, she wrote, “Pit Stop,” and drew icons for a bed, a cup of coffee, and the bathroom. At the start of chapter 75, she sketched stick figures of people lined up, as if along the edge of a marathon route. “Yay! You can do it! Come on!” she wrote, in a speech balloon … chop! chop! read more!
ON GHOSTS by Elizabeth Robinson Solid Objects, 64 pages reviewed by Vanessa Martini Elizabeth Robinson’s On Ghosts is, in her own words, “an essay” that seeks to understand the idea of haunting. As many teachers—perhaps just many of my teachers—like to say, to “essay” means to try, and what Robinson tries to do is to create a haunting so slowly and carefully that at first a reader does not notice. The structure of the text is simple: many small sections compound upon one another in an attempt to understand “the phenomenon of ghosts and haunting.” What seems at first to be an Explanatory Note quickly proves itself rather similar to many sections that follow; we readers are suddenly sucked in, like hikers who swear the day was clear until fog rose all around. Though it’s hard to say whether this is Robinson’s fault or my own, the first few sections seem … chop! chop! read more!
IN THE COURTYARD OF THE KABBALIST by Ruchama King Feuerman NYRBLit (e-book only), 203 pages Reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin As I was crossing the street just outside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem one evening this summer, I noticed a Palestinian boy, about 15 years old, flying a kite on the corner. It was about seven and the sun had disappeared already. The light was pink. The sky in the distance was a cloudless blue, but it seemed, at dusk, to have the texture of felt. An orthodox Jewish mother, wearing a headscarf and long skirt, came across to the traffic island, where the boy in capris and a t-shirt stood watching his kite fly over the honeycomb colored wall of the old city. The woman pushed a stroller, inside of which sat a nicely dressed boy of two. He was interested in the kite. The older … chop! chop! read more!
THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE POEMS by Dave Newman White Gorilla Press, 166 pages Reviewed by William Boyle Dave Newman’s The Slaughterhouse Poems is a book about work and failure and desperation, about the ways we escape and survive and the things we do when we’re lost in the vastness of youth and sore afraid of the vastness of age. The speaker of these poems—which are all set in Western Pennsylvania between 1986 and 1989—is looking back on his days as a high school fuck-up who has just taken a part-time job at a slaughterhouse. A wide cast of characters surrounds him: slaughterhouse employees (one who is famous for juggling cow balls and ultimately gets fired for fucking a three hundred pound pig), buddies, girls he’s after, dive bar regulars, a 91-year-old bowling alley owner, too-young strippers, old men who sit on their porches with cans of Schaefer beer, and drug dealers. The book has … chop! chop! read more!
THE INTERESTINGS by Meg Wolitzer Riverhead Hardcover, 480 pages Reviewed by Chris Ludovici Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings is a beast of a book. At four hundred eighty pages, and covering forty years of half a dozen lives, its ambition is both broad and admirable. It is compelling when it offers a sustained, ground-level view through one of her character’s eyes, which comprises the bulk of the book. But its ambitions also exceed Wolitzer’s strengths; the book suffers from odd pacing, random shifts in perspective, and haphazard leaps in time. When considered as a whole, the pieces don’t fit together in an organic, satisfying way. The Interestings has an ensemble cast, but its lead is Jules Jacobson, who in the summer of 1974 finds herself inducted into the cool kid inner circle at Spirit in the Woods, a New England summer camp for privileged children. Jules, a plain middle class girl … chop! chop! read more!
INDIVIDUATION, IDENTITY, AND THE PARENTHETICAL by Toisha Tucker My conceptual works provide a foundation for introspection of the self and the other. They are distillations of ideas transformed into controlled environments or objects. Through text, sound, photographs, paintings, and immersive installation, I ruminate on literary modernism, magical realism, and the notion of benign indifference. Or I offer thought propositions to the viewer—some declarative, some open-ended—that are platforms for questioning or thinking more broadly about the social constructions we have come to accept as truths. Ultimately, my works are traces of thoughts and the interplay between the accepted realities and constructions of the spaces we inhabit and my own abstracted perceptions of them. Each work manifests my exploration of memory, time, and place while seeking to universalize the personal. Through my conceptual work, I continue to explore the landscape of my memory and my preoccupations with the malleability of language, history, literature, … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Jerrold Yam Picasso in 10 Lines Tell them the orange ocean. Make fear a nude woman. Two characters are more likely competitors than companions. Or the cautionary tale with shadows? Nothing is uglier than an angle struggling under the weight of mismatched colours. Lanterns are exaggerated faces. Be quick to judge but slow in remonstrance. See the fruit bowl stepping into a trompe l’oeil? Follow its lead. Stub your pencil out. Snow Leave us. There is no generosity in unwelcome surprise. Already the neighbour’s yard clenches its earthen jaw in anticipation; kids sprint to windows upon waking. If you have to cheat in the middle of the night, vanish by morning. Tell me how kindness works in taming an undependable being. Born in 1991, Jerrold Yam is a law undergraduate at University College London and the author of two poetry collections, Scattered Vertebrae (Math Papre Press, 2013) and Chasing … chop! chop! read more!
NEW WORLDS ARE OLD NEWS by Matthew Harrison The pilgrim in Stop & Shop: broad hat, cloak. In the cantaloupes, the pilgrim. No fruit coaxes. Nothing ripe on sale looks new. When I shout “extra safe!” my wife cries for Saint Benedict, learner confirmer. Who will not lie nude? The sunburn in Stop & Shop: flip-flops, bikini. Seagulls flock each unsunburned spot. Cabinets of milk. The crotch is an animal knot. I bitch out the loud window AC unit while asleep, sleep-bitching evil dream starfish with teeth. They bite. Who knows the oceans of our blood? In Stop & Shop the kid calls a split kiwi a cooter. White Keds, Atlanta Braves cap backwards. The man-kid. But fruit is edible sex. Parked in the Stop & Shop lot post gym, I’m sopping sweat, I’m hard up, craving chicken. In a bind: a coop. Any cooked muscle is chicken. The pilgrim … chop! chop! read more!
STRING THEORIES by Jason Gordon 1. It’s still December still July a blue cloud walks a dog across the lake my hands fall off I glue them back on my head falls off I warm it in the oven I no longer exist I will exist again tomorrow I can’t remember my name can you remember my name? it’s cold in the microwave 2. Even dogs have feelings even fleas but fleas are not important the Stanley Cup is important energy drinks are important lighter fluid is important it makes fire for smoking pot and pot is important God is important he has feeling he has blue fleas in his beard this isn’t the 60s or it is he can’t tell time his bones dance on the sea 3. You steal my hubcaps I buy them back you eat a peach with a fork made of blood it’s an old … chop! chop! read more!
MY BITTER LOVE by John Oliver Hodges Miko seduced our mom with a gruesome story about Jews. When he was a boy, he told her, he followed the American soldiers into Bergen-Belsen. He saw the dead bodies and the bodies that were not yet dead. This he shared with her during singles night at the Unitarian Church three years after the divorce. Miko said his purpose there was to profit off the rich Nazis who’d come to bad ends. Thing is, the bodies moved him to compassion. He just helped the Red Cross workers, that’s all he could do. Miko told our mom this after she told him her granddad was liquidated by Hitler. I got two brothers. We love our mom. We boys have turned out well, so it was good to see her happy. Miko was of high intellect, a sensitive man of the world. Name a country … chop! chop! read more!
NAVIGATION BY SPOONLIGHT by David Poplar Six hundred thousand children in the Horn of Africa are dying from ribcages bloated with hunger. They wait for helicopters filled with peanut butter. –from “To the father at the restaurant” by Julie Krystyna Cheng Helicopters of peanut butter stick To the marshmallow clouds. Like raisins In pristine white dough—the type of bone-ground Dough that will someday become fine china. No, you see, the sky is not the limit; The sky is just a small round bowl. We bounce around the edges, Never finding the corners. But in the serrated light of the spoon, I hear a voice. It sounds like someone old And very, very tall. I’m not sure If he is the one with the spoon, or if I am. He tells me I have high cholesterol. I don’t eat enough fiber, almost no fruit. David Poplar is a graduate student at … chop! chop! read more!
CATHEDRAL by Kieran Duddy Ling turns up for class every other week and falls asleep halfway through the lesson. I watch her from the other side of the room as her head drops. Her round cheeks redden and her hair falls over her face. At the start of term I talked to her just before class. She told me that she once saw Saint Patrick march down O’Connell Street in Dublin. She says she likes the Irish and enjoys a good Guinness. I don’t take offence when she mimics my accent. I find her hilarious. Today she has arrived late again. She sits at the end of the row of tables with a brown notebook and a pen. At first she seems attentive, nodding her head while the teacher talks about Notre Dame Cathedral. Ten minutes later I watch her droop. She fights to keep her eyes open. Eventually her … chop! chop! read more!
THE WASPS AND THE QUEEN by Sarah Van Name In the back of the house Sherry and Miranda were playing in the plastic swimming pool. It was blue on the inside. The plastic made the water seem blue. Sherry stepped out of the pool, shards of grass and flecks of black dirt clinging to her feet. Her knees were brown and red with unhealed scrapes, and her hair hung wet from her head. Over the course of the summer, it had faded from white-blonde to green, a color like the sky when a tornado is approaching. The heat of the sun had warmed her shoulders to fever pitch and now set about drying the damp parts of her body: a hip here, a hand there, the bread dough curves of her calves. It was a warm August day and the third straight month of mornings spent playing with her sister. … chop! chop! read more!
ADVENTURES IN GYM CLASS by Hannah White Put your feet in my old sneakers for a minute. They’re nine years old and smell like a pubescent locker room, so hold your nose and just do it. Now, let me take you back to my middle-school gym class. Every day in “physical education,” as the euphemism goes, you are allotted five minutes to do the following: change into your uniform, lock up your stuff, tie up your hair, and sit down criss-cross applesauce in your assigned seat on the gym floor. This is all easier said than done. First, see, you have to remember to shove your gym uniform and your Asics into the bottom of your backpack that morning. (Your backpack is purple, and monogrammed, and you’ve had it since the fourth grade. It’s embarrassing.) Then you have to remember your combination lock and—crucially—your combination. Then you have to navigate … chop! chop! read more!
HONEY by Carlo Matos You could tell they weren’t from around here by the way they spread their honey, with a finger instead of a spoon—all thin, pilling at the rug of bread. It was like the day she finally admitted she had Hitler mannerisms: those arms, the contortions, the albedo—even the way the sweat flew off her cheeks—the fact that she always seemed to be yelling: her spit, an electron planning its next escape. Already there were so many things she couldn’t do—just to be on the safe side. She would never grow a mustache, for example, but, of course, now she really wanted one. She would never ride bikes under a blood sun elbowing down the horizon: a siphonophore with its chain of red bellies trawling the deepest sea. Luckily, although she had not always felt this way, adventure was no longer something you had to go out … chop! chop! read more!
CANDYLAND by DC Lambert Every day, as I drive down Main Street and then turn in to the high school where I’m a long-term substitute teacher ($65/day), I pass rows and rows of $2 million houses. It’s a fairy tale I can see but can’t join. The houses are sort of like Candy Mountain and Gumdrop Hill. A few years ago, in fact, Money Magazine voted the town a Best Town To Live In, a watershed achievement that was trumpeted in a banner across its Main Street and plastered on its idyllic, quaint storefront windows: the Starbucks (needless to say), the adorable toy store, The Happy Hippo, the obligatory “Oriental rug” shop with $10,000 area rugs “on sale” in the front display, the upscale consignment shop, Jamaican Me Crazy, where a used shirt costs more than three brand new outfits at Target. Did you know the town’s schools are “top … chop! chop! read more!
A NICE PLACE TO VISIT by Lindsay Miller My sister told me she was so hungry the night before that she had licked the inside of an empty sugar packet. “I found it in the couch cushion and tore it open and ran my tongue along the inside of it,” she said. “Pathetic.” She said this over the phone from Los Angeles, or from a place close enough to Los Angeles that she could get away with calling it Los Angeles. She had arrived two months before with the intention of getting a job in a tanning salon or coffee shop for a while before catapulting to international superstardom. I told her I was sorry but I did not tell her I felt a little responsible, which is what she wanted me to say, I think. When we went to LA together on spring break my sophomore year in college, … chop! chop! read more!
WHAT THE STARS ARE SAYING by Olivia 子琁 Tun When I hear about the death of a friend’s baby, it usually takes my heart two or three days to catch up to the news, to feel what a heart ought to feel, something like sorrow, or anger, or befuddlement, not necessarily in that order, and generally all at once. When Daniel’s baby girl died at just eleven months old, I downloaded all of her pictures on facebook, stared at them for hours, days, until I resembled less of a mourner and more of an addict, having no intention of giving up her addiction. “Emma will be forever missed,” someone posted on Daniel’s wall. Emma is (was?) short for Emmanuel: God with us. When Corey’s baby boy died yesterday, at nine months old, I went to the coffee shop two blocks from my apartment in Long Island City, found my usual spot by … chop! chop! read more!
DO NOT USE QUOTATION MARKS TO INDICATE IRONY by Anthony Wallace David Sarnovski taught only one creative writing course at Boston University, so he didn’t have an office. Sometimes he conferenced students in the Espresso Royale at BU Central, sometimes in a filthy Chinese restaurant at Kenmore called the Jade Inn. Sometimes he would just pull into an empty classroom, have a seat at one of the desks, and start talking about whatever he thought the issue was. Madison had met with him twice before and had tried to follow through on at least some of his suggestions, but the grades only seemed to be getting worse. He’d given her a B on the video store story, then a B minus on the Dog Chapel story. One of his comments was “do not use quotation marks to indicate irony.” Sure, she’d done that a few times, but it was hard … chop! chop! read more!
Click to view the update in higher resolution. Jim O’Loughlin teaches in the Department of Languages & Literatures at the University of Northern Iowa. He is the coordinator of the Final Thursday Reading Series and publisher of Final Thursday Press. Read more here. … chop! chop! read more!
IT’S NOT A CONTEST by William Winfield Wright But if we wanted to, we could paint speeding cars, sneak into business class, eat oysters in months with a W, turn back clocks with just our fingers, and mend the wind-up toy versions of both our broken hearts. “How,” says the movie Indian inside your tired and frantic brain. “Weight,” says the bathroom scale we both got on together. “Clear,” says the busy maitre d. “Stile,” says your backyard fence full of flowers. The noisy kitchen’s full of “bathe, warm, coddle, grate, zest.” “Here, here,” says the old British guy on TV. “Join,” say the corners of all your sturdy furniture. “Wing,” say the birds in your small tree. William Winfield Wright is a Fulbright Scholar and a Fishtrap Fellow. He was born in California and lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he teaches at Colorado Mesa University. He has … chop! chop! read more!
CONVERSATIONS OVERHEARD IN A BOWLING ALLEY WHEN THERE IS A CITY WIDE POWER OUTAGE by Jennifer Faylor My childhood sweetheart left me because I am an ancient jar of honey, forgotten about but still sweetening in a cool dark place, a thousand furious bees having loved me into existence. My mama let strangers hide under my bed, then fed them in the morning; cold coconut soup, her specialty. Well, the day of my birth my pop was no where to be found, and legend has it he was hunting down a local villain, it’s that or he was on a park bench with a handful of breadcrumbs, conducting interviews with a sampling of the pigeon population. I’d like to learn the language of god, so I can chat at night when everyone else has gone to sleep. The hardest part is that I don’t think god uses an alphabet. I … chop! chop! read more!
ON THE MIRACLE MILE by Andrea Jarrell It was lunchtime on the Miracle Mile—a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles that’s not quite downtown and not quite the West Side. My mother, who always hated the hot, walked beside me in her crisp linen dress. Beneath the linen, her stockings and slip made a fft fft shifting sound, keeping time to the click of her slingback pumps. Heat waves bent the air. The streets were empty—streets that had civilized what was once ice, then tar pits, then desert. All had made way for the city of angels. Beside my mother, I was office appropriate in a banana yellow cotton skirt and top combo. I was eleven and it was 1973, when all the clothes were Laffy Taffy colors. From elementary school through high school, I spent my summers working with my mother, who was a secretary in a lawyer’s … chop! chop! read more!
THE BIOLOGICAL NEED TO ADAPT by Lily Brent If I miss one thing it’s the butterfly mobile I bought in Mexico, now hanging on a nail and gathering dust. One of the painted cardboard butterflies has already been crushed and smoothed out and you can still see the seams. I don’t remember exactly where I bought it, only that it was at the green side of a gravel road. I want to say it was at the bottom of that pyramid of stairs, but maybe I’m only trying to glorify the place in my mind. If I’ll miss one thing it’s the market. The teenage boys grinning and joking and slapping me on the back. The women calling out my name and touching my arms and pinching my waist to tell me I’ve grown fat or thin, when really it’s neither. Making me feel I belong when we all know … chop! chop! read more!
HIDE-AND-SEEK by Alex Schmidt He hides under hot lamps and sandpaper eyes. Lay your wrist on the sidewalk. I can draw chalk in your veins, father. Whatever we are turns the corner, frozen despite his friction, friction despite my icy eyes thanks to mother. A pressure that’s bonded my mind to hers like the bolts of this bridge but over his void. Father, wait no longer and wander further with me to the felled park. All lands must wait their wait for a green of crops. A mystery exacted only until its black blanket smother of wall a distance between father and son. And now its time one of us admits we’ve already arrived. You burgeon into peony as air unfurls its density, warmth, puff balls. Rather, father, let them around your pedals. Duck back away into the trees, close your eyes, we can hide differently this time. Alex Schmidt holds … chop! chop! read more!
THE RUNNER by Jane Sussman She has begun to go to the gym twice a day, once in the morning, once in the evening. She will run fast, moving up the speed every five minutes, until it is going at nine and she can barely breathe. Roxy’s body has transformed in the last year; no more arm fat or slack ass, she is all sinew. Her shoulders have ridges, indents. The weight room is emptier in the morning and she can stand in front of the mirror watching her triceps, her deltoids. Roxy gets lost on the way to her aunt’s, and by the time she finds the right street she knows she will have to turn around pretty soon. Her father had warned her, so Roxy is not wholly surprised at the mess of the house, the smell. “Lenore,” she hugs her, “You need to get a cleaning service … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Paul Siegell *WE’VE COME FOR YOUR BLOOD TEST RESULTS* On the bridge, the birdgirl waits with a weight in her ribcage. Symbolically, a sailor and his sweetheart. A sparrow pecking at a cigarette. A sparrow pecking at salt for snow. Next to the pizza place, she keys up a door with a horseshoe over it, then goes to sleep with hair clips in—Like the firepower rainwater has on Fort Torch Falls, the level rises in a surge—Exhausted, she whispers into her pillow: “Bring me things with wings.” *WE’VE COME FOR YOUR YUENGLING YAMMERING* Frank O’Hara has a few nosey people coming over: “It’s a party!” he announces, then into the parking garage he disappears like the Boston Bruins blowing a three-games-to-none lead in the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Philadelphia Flyers. To my knowledge, Frank Zappa isn’t being played in any of the elevators in … chop! chop! read more!
THIS by Chavisa Woods Last night you wrote me a letter a smile big as a swollen peach gushing on your face while your mother intently told you everything about the people she hates Last week you phone fucked me on my childhood bed while my Southern Baptists slept resounded in the next room (Everything Southern Baptists do is resounding; not like my pitiful whispering.) In the morning I woke to a crow on a tree the imagination of you shaking in my belly and the news that my mother’s brother had swallowed the entire morphine clinic to the point of absolute death it made me feel like I was being eaten by the mouth of a grey sun, of a sun in an overcast sky but hotter than I’ve ever thought to beg for Later, sitting next to a strummed guitar on a rotting porch watching my brother toss … chop! chop! read more!
THE IMMACULATE SADNESS OF PETER J. BEECH by Dan Micklethwaite He misses it immediately, the soft glass of that screen. The sinking, only slightly, of his finger against it. There is a pining at work within him for that formed plastic mass. The minor desert of his palm looks back at him falsely without it; even more arid, now that the mirage is gone. The ways in which the sunlight, the tube-light, the streetlight had slipped across it, fussing with the things he was wanting to know—they’d nagged him as bad as the pleas of a lover, but he’d still opt for that above the warmth of that light on his bare open skin. So used to it. So accustomed. So comfortable, knowing it was with him, on him. In his pocket, his jacket, his hand. So used to bringing it home and charging it before he went to sleep each … chop! chop! read more!
SOMEWHERE, A HONEYBEE by Andrew Browers I kind of really love bees. While most kids were taught, through hilarious example by terrified adults, the various dance-like moves that help one evade these fuzzy little stingers, I learned to watch them buzz on by as they made their eponymous line toward a flower or fellow worker. I liked to watch them nestle into our rosebush to get at nectar and pollen. I liked it when they’d land on my shoe as I sprawled on my back to cloud gaze or read or while away my summertime days. I felt, I don’t know, like it was a little blessing. Bees be with you. And also with you. It might be an invention of mine, but I seem to remember there being way more bees around in those days. You could hardly walk from your door to the door of your best friend … chop! chop! read more!
LEAP YEAR BABY by Desiree Wilkins 1976: I spend my days on the couch with grandma while mom’s at work at the diner. Grandma eats chocolate bon-bons and watches soap operas. We play outside and she smokes a cigarette while I commence my plan to rid the world of bees. It’s quite simple: all I have to do is uproot every flower in the ground and the bees will not survive. There are many flowers and I have been unsuccessful in recruiting other revolutionaries. 1980: Mom is gone to California, leaving me with Grandma. She sends a postcard with no return address. There is a picture of the Hollywood sign. Grandma yells at her a lot over the phone. Mom hangs up. Grandma says mom flipped her lid. I put the postcard on the fridge. I want to visit but Grandma says there’s nothing out there for us. I have … chop! chop! read more!
THE LONG GREEN STRETCH, THE TALL TREES, THE CLOUDS SHAPED LIKE STARS by Benjamin Woodard I’m not supposed to get calls after nine, but when the phone rang, my old man didn’t stop me from answering. He’d already removed his leg for the night—it stood upright on the cushion next to him—so he just stayed there and stared me down with these death eyes, these ass-kicker eyes, as if I’d planned the whole thing to interrupt his lame TV show, and he grunted while I walked over to the cordless and slunk into the kitchen. It was Maura. She said, “God, I don’t even want to talk to you. I can smell your stink through the phone.” And, yes, I’m kind of dumb enough that I did a pit check. She heard me sniffing and made one of those disappointed tsk sounds on her end, like she was picking up … chop! chop! read more!
ALL THIS by Stephanie Papa I am on my knees. Fur collects In the room with the damp dog bed Peco the black cat Figure eights around me Ants crawl in the wooden kitchen below The smell of pesto and pine I am a long way up He planted the cherry tree in my garden Intensifying this place To again and again begin He built this house of light. Stephanie Papa is a writer and teacher living in Paris, France. She is originally from Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in the Prose Poetry Project and 5×5 magazine, Rumpus, and Cerise Press. She is a Poetry Editor for Her Royal Majesty magazine. She also organizes the Writers on Writing program, a series of readings with international writers in Paris. Image credit: Sonja Guina on Unsplash … chop! chop! read more!
LINEY’S SENSE OF IT by Ashlee Paxton-Turner It was the not-so-early morning, coming on about nine o’clock, in the early spring or end of winter, whichever one prefers, and Dr. Naismith’s game the Saturday prior had just made the town feel alive and made its boys feel like they could be men going somewhere, elsewhere. Dismissing the papers on the desk, it was decided that today Sherwood Anderson was more important. There is no sense in trying to explain just what that means, but it is something one can’t help feeling, something one might try to explain nevertheless. That Saturday, like all of the other Saturdays of the season, had brought the town out of its kitchens, living rooms, and Main Street offices. Of course, that Saturday’s game required a drive to a dusty gymnasium in a slightly bigger town. The hour’s drive to watch the boys play Dr. Naismith’s … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Nicole Greaves Sack of Scarabs The museum’s glass box was hidden from light in between the hopeful columns, the scarabs swarming in a pool of cloth. Somehow they made the presence of my mother’s body more familiar, in the way her shadow made it more foreign. It takes a distraction to move us further from ourselves, at the same time, closer; it’s the sickness of the mirror, how it moves from reflection to the well to reflection again. My mother and I held hands as we walked, lest one of us be lost to the museum—and part of us is still there —the thin wrap of my wrist against hers like plagiarism, the rooms cool around us like wet paint. When she said my name it rose like a balloon in a circus tent. Those scarabs pressing against glass like my children’s faces to animal stunts, … chop! chop! read more!
THE GROUND BENEATH MY FEET by Morgan Gilbreath My artwork is a product of the ground beneath my feet. I do not own a car, so my experience of a place is created entirely through biking, walking, and the occasional use of public transportation. Because of this, I have a very intimate relationship with sidewalks, as well as the buildings and streets with which they are connected. I am endlessly curious about the things that people discard onto the streets, a no-man’s-land of both public and private space in which no one is held accountable, allowing for a strange sort of freedom. This concrete space between roads and homes has proven to be one of the greatest influences in my work. In the morning I go to buy milk from the bodega across the street, where the shopkeeper’s knowledge of English is limited to “hello” and “thank you.” I like … chop! chop! read more!
AMERICA by Michael Nagel The world was churning itself clean. The poisons in the rivers were becoming poisons in the seas. The poisons in the seas were basically harmless, diluted. Rain was moving in cycles, making laps between the ground and the sky. Runoff was still an issue, would always be an issue, sure, but the world was mostly one big compost pile, turning heaps of garbage into highly oxygenated soil. Nothing was unnatural. Beavers make dams and humans make cities. Everyone was close by. In America, minimum wage was $7.25 and a gallon of gas cost $3.34. There was something wrong with our soup but we were taking care of it. Molly threw a party and invited everyone she knew. Seventeen people came. She smashed up ice in the kitchen sink and asked her husband if everyone was having a nice time. Then she cried and wiped her eyes with … chop! chop! read more!
QUITTER TAKES ALL by Maggie Light A review? In the Times? Impossible. It’s an Off-Off-Broadway. Two offs. And Beth is only sixteen. Yet Cedric Plum’s judgment, the judgment, is seven paragraphs and in her sunburned hands. But why now? Weeks after her opening? While she’s trapped in South Carolina? So she should read this, right? This would be good, or why bother. Right? But what does Mr. Plum mean by cute? By not unfolding? Oh. No. The thunderbolt from reading the words—an anathema on the stage—only shocks Beth for a split second. That’s because she faints. Fades into darkness atop the bright beach rental’s kitchen floor. Beth has never fainted before, and it’s a gradual ordeal. The Arts & Leisure section sails to the sandy lime vinyl faster than she does. “Beth? We’re back,” her mother calls from somewhere. “Stop playing around, sweetie.” Michael, her ensuing stepdad, who has an … chop! chop! read more!
GHOST STORY by Lydia Pudzianowski “Were you looking for ghosts?” The police officer inspected the three of us—twenty-one, twenty-two, and twenty-three years old. There was no way we could tell him the truth. Earlier that afternoon we’d passed my hardcover copy of Weird Pennsylvania back and forth over takeout Thai food on the floor of our apartment, which was getting emptier as each newly graduated roommate moved her belongings out. Between forkfuls of pad see-ew, I pointed out that we weren’t far from one of the book’s allegedly haunted places. Under the right conditions, Irwin Road, in Pittsburgh’s North Park neighborhood, was said to be permeated by a blue mist and any combination of witches, evil dwarves, hanging ghosts, deer-human hybrids, and lonely dogs. Up until then, we’d had no post-lunch plans. We didn’t have post-college plans either, but this would at least occupy us for an evening. Twelve hours … chop! chop! read more!
AMERICAN ARCADIA by Filip Noterdaeme Spicing up realist landscapes with fantastic nudes and infiltrating austere family tableaux with whimsical eroticism, American Arcadia is a mixed distillation of artful irreverence and subtle mischief. Here is the story of its making. In 2005, my partner Daniel Isengart and I took a trip to Madrid, where we spent many hours at the Prado and the Reina Sofia. On the day of our return to the States, we found ourselves aimlessly browsing through the souvenir shop at the Madrid-Barajas airport, where a pocket-format deck of cards depicting famous nudes by (mostly) European masters—some of which we had seen at the Prado—caught my attention. On a whim, I bought it. Back in Brooklyn, I happened to walk past a stoop sale one late morning and, among the usual junk and knick-knacks, made out an extra-large deck of playing cards with prints depicting “American Life, Manners and History” … chop! chop! read more!
REMNANTS by Julia Hogan The day my father’s friend, Wade, tried to build us a screened-in porch on the front of our house was the day my mother decided to move out. Wade made his living by selling muscadine grapes and handmade cowboy hats. He lived in a trailer off of I-85, on a piece of land that used to be large but had been whittled away as he sold acres to pay for his liquor without having to get a regular job. Wade enlarged his trailer with plywood and sheet metal and duct tape. My mother called him a redneck, a bum, a white trash ignoramus, but my father saw it as ingenuity. “My friend Mary Ann has a screened-in porch,” I said. I was about ten, and to me, that was about as close to luxury as you could get in a town like Kite, South Carolina. “She’s … chop! chop! read more!
PESANTE CON MOTO/ALLEGRO BARBARO by S. I. Adams Street signs reflect neon blinks on and off and on and back from the turn signal click-resting-pause between inhales drawn shallow between chapped lips and flaky nostrils. “East” – off – “East” – off – “Ease” – off – “ ‘e’s off” – “’e’s off” as the traffic light changes from mid-October to early spring and the policemen waves pedestrians to their apartments, chins tucked to their chest like sleeping pigeons, making church balconies their homes when all the trees have been uprooted and turned into desks and dressers pedestrians pile their lives into and I clamp my crooked teeth onto the steering wheel and let love and all its offerings change lanes without signaling – I’m too old to chase after them, clenched fist waving in the air. S.I. Adams was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and raised in southern Ohio. … chop! chop! read more!
BOBBY FEAR by Bonnie Altucher When Bridget was sixteen, she met a sardonically mumbling School of Visual Arts dropout named Robert Fein while they were both browsing for cheap shoes on Eighth Street. Robert was too bug-eyed and slight to be handsome, with dim pitted skin and a puffy, disconsolate pout, but something in his manner convinced her that he would be a safe and desirable person to know. He had his own place at the edge of the devastated East Village neighborhood not yet blandly rechristened as Alphabet City, and within weeks of their first meeting Bridget moved in with him. Bridget assumed that her father would be happy to get rid of her. By now, he barely reacted to the steady stream of failing grades on her report cards, his stock objection—“This isn’t very acceptable”—being vague enough to pass for a comment on the deplorable New York City … chop! chop! read more!
ON (AND OFF) CONSISTENCY by John Michael Mumme Objective Statement: For the last two years, I worked as a Staff Assistant for the Career Services office at Cedarville University. My job was to review résumés. A student comes in for a peer review, feeling little confidence in her ability to write a résumé and none in the merit of her past job experiences of baby-sitting, lawn-mowing, and cafeteria work. When she leaves, though, together we have crafted a pristine portrait of her, dressed her in words and white space perfectly suited to win her the job of her choice. She simply needed reassurance, and who could not be reassured by watching all the best things about oneself slowly fill a single piece of paper? In “Strangers,” a song by the British rock band White Lies, lead singer Harry McVeigh recalls a lonely one-night stand. “I pressed my ear to your … chop! chop! read more!
QUINTESSENCE by Lauren Guza Brown In the desert, the day after Thanksgiving, a physicist friend told me I would find what we were seeing, sandstone walls mottled and cragged like giant seahorse forests, in a Hamlet soliloquy. Quintessence, he said, that’s what this is. Fire, air, water, earth, and this—spirit. Spirit is soul to an atheist who shoots lasers through things we cannot see and who goes to the desert to be quiet as the bighorns, invisible against pale rock. We ate leftover turkey sandwiches on a rock in a grove that might have been called an oasis if we’d been escaping from anything. He said things that were scientifically false to see if I would believe him. He tricked me approximately twenty-seven percent of the time, he said, which was about what he’d expected of an intelligent history major. That evening, we got a small motel room but only … chop! chop! read more!
TWO FLASH PIECES by Mercedes Lawry Puzzling The baby ate one of the puzzle pieces, a little bitty piece. He never choked or even coughed. The piece was cardboard and mostly blue sky with just a smidgen of white cloud. Its shape was similar to a chalice and did not vaguely resemble food. It certainly looked tasty to the baby, although in the baby’s mind, interest in the puzzle piece was not limited to a gustatory experience or oral fixation. Just as easily, tasty might refer to something requiring further exploration. The baby might have been trying to understand the puzzle piece. The baby did not, however, learn much from eating the piece aside from the fact that he could get away with it. So many puzzles were missing pieces. You got used to it and then, you threw them away. Breathing Room She was reading. She was reading everything … chop! chop! read more!
THE AVERSIVE CLAUSE by B.C. Edwards Black Lawrence Press, 180 Pages reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat B.C. Edwards’s short story collection, The Aversive Clause, alternates between gentle poignancy and visceral revelation, often within the same story. To read his work is to ride a manic roller coaster through a gritty Wonderland reboot. Like Alice, readers will shrink and grow, and know things they cannot un-know. Without being heavy-handed or didactic, Edwards explores and explodes the socio-political fabric of contemporary society and in so doing, pulls readers into the conversation. Edwards’s style and thematic resonance are evocative of Ray Bradbury. In particular, “The Providence of Angels” echoes several stories from The Illustrated Man. The desperate masses begging for healing outside Ty and Mac’s door calls back to the emotional hunger of the men in “The Visitor.” The random man at the rails, searching for the Angels to give him an external … chop! chop! read more!