Kindness Woman has been working here barely seven months and already we hate her. This hate is of a different flavor than the antagonism we feel for Faye, who takes so many damn smoke breaks over the course of a day that even her emails reek of cigarettes—emails that often include full sentences in all-caps, sentences that bend and break with her scorn like the cigarette stubs she twists and grinds into a tin coffee can behind the building.chop! chop! read more!
When you don’t know what to expect you’re almost always expecting something, even if you’re mistaken, as when you expect somebody to come and somebody else shows up—it’s not mutually expected. Or you expect to hear from your friends and they don’t even text. It’s true, your friends have a lot of things that are happening in their lives that you’re not even aware of, it’s kind of like takeout you never ordered.chop! chop! read more!
I could be more perceptive. Beneath me, 750 ft., my wife is thinking. I fool no one. My sweater is nice, and it keeps me warm, but at the end of the day it folds into a flowered bag and I am naked with the thoughts lonely in my mind.chop! chop! read more!
The white car that lives in the white of the eye
comes out of the sun
behind the line of parked cars,
the potted plant on the corner.
An animal, let’s say
my dog, has issues
with the end of the world.
She’s lined the back porch
in plastic bottles
to collect moon water
STILL AND YET Photographs by Richard Kagan Born in Philadelphia, Richard Kagan is a photographer and former furniture maker whose artistic career took a curiously circuitous path. He began as a self-taught street photographer while a student at Temple University. However, after leaving college to practice Buddhism under a visiting Japanese Zen Master in New York, Kagan became impassioned with the silent eloquence of handmade objects and pawned his camera to buy woodworking tools. Following several years of apprenticeships, Kagan opened his own furniture workshop and founded the Richard Kagan Gallery—the first nationally recognized gallery for contemporary furniture artists. He taught at the Philadelphia College of Art (University of the Arts) for 10 years and exhibited furniture in museums and art institutions throughout the U.S. A back injury put an unexpected end to his woodworking career and opened the possibility to return to photography, thus bringing him back to where … chop! chop! read more!
As of lately you said you have been strangely strange—a bit besides yourself, which you noticed when you take walk someone constantly in your shadow, a palpable presence almost shoulder to shoulder-not disturbing, even companionable.chop! chop! read more!
No round, less square,
don’t forget orange grapes.
Stem-plant that table, soldier!
Christ, where’s a pinstripe umbrella
to kite a ripple in the glade of this sleep tide?
- I caught you staring at that great Midwestern sunset sewn together with photons from the last six months
- in the hibernation of the moment, beneath blue water towers or stunted trees, the metaphors dried so you sealed them onto flat circlets of pine
– for preservation, you saidchop! chop! read more!
My grandson is five months old, and smiles as he orients to the burble of voices above him, the sounds we adults emit when we are making baby-talk. We coo when we are cuzzling infants and raise our voices when addressing foreigners, as if the sound and tone of our speech will cue them to what we mean. Someone should give us a talking-to, or, perhaps, a spanking.chop! chop! read more!
Maite and her daughter Pala arrived home only minutes ago, and already Pala’s settled in. She’s plopped in front of the TV, watching an inane show on the cartoon channel, all done telling Maite how she ate a cupcake at snack, that Lucy wasn’t playing nicely during recess. Maite hasn’t yet had a chance to change her shoes or chug a glass of water. Her feet ache like hell.
Natalie Gerich Brabson is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College’s MFA program, and holds a BA in Hispanic Studies from Vassar College. Her fiction has been published in New World Writing and Eunoia Review. In 2017, she received the Go On Girl Book Club Unpublished Writer Award. She lives in Philadelphia, and is at work on her first novel.chop! chop! read more!
The way she squints worries me, my mother tells the optometrist. In the dim room, sitting before the gentle doctor, being whispered to, One or Two? Three or Four? I learn a secret. My ability to see tiny things up close is superhuman. The doctor tells me so, not like she’s telling a child a complimentary fib, but like she’s embarrassed since it was the only word to use and it sounds silly.
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After the house fire, the neighborhood boys searched the rubble. A chimney teetered. Cinders smoked. Parents said it wasn’t safe. Stay away. The boys didn’t listen. Treasures might be found. A young couple had lived there. Maybe a bra had survived the fire? Maybe a blackened spoon?
Only metal eyelets were found, shoes erased by flames, metal tarnished by heat so the eyelets looked like tiny ancient coins.
The boys hid them in a hole by a tree. Later, they remembered where. Later, they didn’t.chop! chop! read more!
Your daddy took one look and said, “She’s beautiful—she looks just like me!” Funny, but no joke. He’d experienced mirrors, and mirror neurons, even if he’d never heard of the latter. It helps to have a handsome father because evolution makes babies look like their daddies so their daddies will know they belong to them and take care of their genes.chop! chop! read more!
Danielle hated her feet. She hated that the knuckle at the base of each big toe bulged out like a Ping-Pong ball. She hated that if she pressed the pad of her finger against, say, her right foot, it would leave a little oblong mark for full seconds before blood seeped back in. They were always cold, too, but sweated continuously. This was the worst part. It was the reason she wore socks in her own home. Otherwise she’d leave moist negatives of her feet on every hard surface in the house.chop! chop! read more!
Joe joined my gym when he started third grade so I pick him up after work and we bike over to Gifu Yokozeki Boxing Gym, companionable, Joe chatterboxing the whole way and throughout each session, Dada, Dada, his lungs propelling his eight-year-old voice, small, high, curious, into the ambient soundscape that includes whirring jumprope thwacks, heavy bag thuds, the quick rattling smack of the speed bag, the start and stop of the three minute timer, general shufflings and cracks and grunts, somebody yelling with every punch, somebody’s ragged panting breathing, my own. And because Yokozeki-san puts it on when Joe and I arrive there’s also the Beatles radio channel: Getting Better, I’m So Tired, Joe singing along to Strawberry Fields Forever.chop! chop! read more!
When your father tells you he secured a flight for you and your husband and children, you don’t ask questions. You race home and fill up a suitcase with photos and heirlooms. You tell your three-year-old to grab a spoon and thank god that the baby is still fed by your breast. Your husband tells you to slow down so he can remember where he put the passports and you regret ever loving him. You wish you had more time to hug your mother and father. You wish your children would stop crying. Fraught but calm, you try to memorize the shadows on the wall cast by the afternoon sun, bougainvillea tapping lightly at the windows, a tender scent woven into the furniture and the textiles and all that you will leave behind.chop! chop! read more!
A mother leaves her daughter in a highchair by the window, baking in direct sun. Eventually the child shrivels up into an old, brown decrepit woman. She expires quietly, motionless, in similar fashion.
“Rats,” sighs the mother.
Her child is unrecognizable. A dried-up peach pit in her hands.chop! chop! read more!
“I’m too shy,” I said.
Back then he said he could make anyone’s confidence bloom, especially mine, and I said that if he ever could really pull this off, this would be his best gag yet. I chalked the failure up to his lack of creativity, but then I remembered that I was part of the act.chop! chop! read more!
Organized as a series of handwriting exercises, Empty Words offers a look inside a novelist’s mind as he attempts to improve himself by improving his handwriting. Originally published in 1996 in Spanish, it is Levrero’s first novel translated into English. Annie McDermott, who introduces English language readers to Levrero, has translated other works from Spanish and Portuguese, and her translations have appeared in many places, including Granta, the White Review, Asymptote, Two Lines, and World Literature Today.chop! chop! read more!
I bought Long Litt Woon’s The Way Through the Woods: On Mushrooms and Mourning for the promise embedded in the premise. How would Woon make her way back into the world after the shocking, sudden death of the fifty-four-year-old husband with whom she had spent all her adult years? What do mushrooms have to do with recovering from such a loss? Does anybody ever actually recover?chop! chop! read more!
“[I]f you begin with an idea you’re usually beat before you start,” writes Robert Adams in Art Can Help, as he tries to imagine Edward Ranney photographing the Canyon del Muerto, and, so, here I begin, having been holding this slender silver volume in my hand all afternoon, interrupted only by the sound of a neighbor’s lawn mower and the smell of some ambient spray paint.
(A long sentence, a beginning.)chop! chop! read more!
To Rocky, the city of Seoul is truly something to behold. Sprawling skyscrapers dare to kiss the sky, thousands of lights rival the sun at night, and millions of people bustle through at any given moment, while the Han River remains a calm force through it all. And it will soon be his to rule, just like his father, the leader of the city’s most notorious gang, Three Star Pa. However, despite Rocky being the sole heir and next in line to become the big boss, his father refuses to turn the gang over to him.
Max Havelaar is likely an unfamiliar title to most American readers, and the Netherlands in general is an often overlooked source of literature. But make no mistake: the world over holds Max Havelaar in high regard. I recently had the chance to talk to a born-and-raised Dutchman, and I asked him if the title rang any bells. “Of course,” he told me. “It’s a classic, everyone reads it.” Think along the lines of Pride and Prejudice. In his short but poignant introduction to this edition of the novel, Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer makes the bold claim that Max Havelaar is one of the most important novels of all time. There’s a reason this novel caught the attention of writers like Karl Marx and Thomas Mann, and there’s a reason that when Freud drew up a list of ten great authors, Multatuli stood on top.chop! chop! read more!
Liana Finck wants to be seen. In creating Passing for Human, a graphic memoir and her second full-length work, she constructs her life story as Leola, and in doing so fantastically reimagines her youth and early adulthood in a quest to be seen and heard—by peers, by readers, and by herself.chop! chop! read more!
Many of the characters in J. David Stevens’s four-story collection I and You are Chinese immigrants; the author himself is not. In the book’s introduction, Stevens confides that he might never have written about these characters if not for the relationship with his wife Janet, whose ancestors left China in 1899 and later settled in Richmond, Virginia. Reflecting on the source material for his multi-generational narratives, Stevens, whose Mexico is Missing and Other Stories won the 2006 Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction, admits an apprehension of the age: “[A] part of me still wonders if such stories cross a line, if appropriating segments of our shared history—or Janet’s history alone—is more rightly suited to intimate dialogue. I worry the art is too opportunistic.” This concern is real, and the author is right to acknowledge it. But his outsider’s rendition of the Chinese immigrant experience is respectfully nuanced, and while he does not share the same cultural background as his protagonists, he deeply values their stake in the larger human dilemma that fiction is taxed to solve.chop! chop! read more!
I first encountered Chloe N. Clark through her prose, but even then, it was clear to me that she was a poet. Her work often feels multimodal in form, something that shines as a written text but that also seems eager to be performed aloud. Her debut collection Your Strange Fortune is no different, full of rich and devastating moments, each poem stretching with fresh life on the page or on the air. Some of these poems also function as works of visual art, such as “Flora and Fauna of the Outer Rings,” embodying their meaning in shape as well as word.chop! chop! read more!
“I was born a knot like my mother and her mother before her,” Sarah Rose Etter’s debut novel begins, drawing readers into Cassie’s life story, The Book of X. “Picture three women with their torsos twisted like thick pieces of rope with a single hitch in the center.”chop! chop! read more!
In her latest work, Green Target, Tina Barr prods at the simultaneously tumultuous and cooperative relationship between humanity and nature, writing from her cabin in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Barr blends the intimate details of personal existence with the macrocosmic scope of collective human experience, cleverly balancing comfort and misery. Barr’s poetry harmonizes the intersecting lives she details, whether they be animal, botanical, or human. All is seen and accounted for through her kaleidoscopic vision in which events, objects and people are constantly shape-shifting, bleeding into each other, losing their original form, becoming targets for Barr’s eye-opening observations.chop! chop! read more!
99 Names of Exile begins in landscape. In the absence of the body of a deceased loved one, the book’s first poem “Invention of Country” searches for a buried “uniform/ in a chest camouflaged as a scarab, its wings latched.” The poem goes on to ruminate on memories and details the speaker wishes they could conjure in the face of death, but cannot. Perhaps inspired by this loss of detail and still searching for a path to grief and intimacy, the speaker explains “I don’t trust flat surfaces” and “I know the earth is round, and if we continue falling,/ the afternoon’s revolution never grows cold.”chop! chop! read more!
If memoir is sculpture, where writers must strip away the unnecessary to find the shape of the story, then it is my memory that wields the knife. Memory chooses certain scenes and impressions. Memory snips and stores fragments and shadows. Memory does not follow the rules of chronology or of rational cause and effect. Memory puts any old thing next to another for its own reasons and may preserve for example, the dance of a courageous vole in perfect detail, while jettisoning a crucial conversation with a friend who is now gone. Try as I might to recall that moment with my friend, memory carved it away, leaving only shavings on the floor, which I crushed into ever smaller pieces as I paced back and forth, studying what I had left to work with.chop! chop! read more!
One of my closest friends—I’ll call her Leah—keeps referring to me as Catholic, even though I have repeatedly told her that I am no such thing. My parents and three of my grandparents are Catholic and I was raised Catholic, even went to parochial school until I was eleven. But I haven’t gone to church since the first Sunday after I left for college, which was over fifteen years ago. I consider myself an agnostic and don’t belong to any religious institution.chop! chop! read more!
It took a good two weeks to adjust to returning to Boston from Hawaii. Not because of the time change—that only took a few days. It was the shift in the color spectrum that threw me. In Hawaii, it was the vivid blue sky and the turquoise ocean, the yellow pineapples and the pink hotel, the white ginger leis and the red hula skirts. Here in New England, we’re eternally evergreen with gray blue skies and dark blue seas, we live in white houses and wear dark suits. New England is beautiful, yes, but in a much more somber, subdued way.chop! chop! read more!
Dear June, When I was in my late twenties, I quit my job as a C.P.A. to write fiction. The plan was to spend a year or so banging out a brilliant literary novel, and then see what happened. In the four years that followed I learned that writing a brilliant literary novel was harder than I had anticipated. I also got married to my longtime companion and had a kid. I never did go back to my Big Four firm; nowadays I spend most mornings either working on the damn novel or doing a smattering of freelance accounting work from my home office, and most afternoons and evenings with my daughter. Although I am still hoping to be a successful writer some day, I am basically satisfied with my life, and so is my husband. But I have a problem with many of my friends and family, who keep telling … chop! chop! read more!
Dear June, Lately my mother keeps biting off more than she can chew, so I find that she is constantly inviting me to things, or accepting my invitations, and then begging off at the last minute. I have to say that, as far as I know, she never cancels because a better opportunity has come up….chop! chop! read more!
Writers seek truth—truth that makes a reader’s hair stand up and speeds our hearts with recognition. But that kind of truth is elusive, both from the perspective of craft and brain science. I spent two decades unable to write an essential truth of my own life, one rooted in my childhood, during which I experienced several years of sexual abuse by my stepfather, beginning when I was four. Not surprisingly, this experience shaped the person I am—and, as a writer, I sensed the importance of weaving this early trauma into some kind of narrative. But my attempts to do so were consistently ineffective and inartistic. Dreadful, really.
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Hunger was secret—hump
on the back, the something else,
the body insisting that it was present.
Child head and child arm. Teeth
like rows of letters written
on colored cards. An assemblage
of girl—put together like a first
PASSAGES: An Installation in Progress by Cheryl Harper I am one of those artists who thinks my work has to say something. I have nothing against paintings that bring together a disparate room décor or just make one feel good, but that’s not what I want to do. If you happen to like my work for any of those reasons, that’s fine, but if you are intrigued and compelled to think about bigger issues, that is my goal. Since 2006 I’ve been making small statues of politicians, particularly of women in the national spotlight, in addition to works that address issues like anti-Semitism, terrorism, and gun violence. But in the last few years, I’ve been thinking about how I came to where I am now, a Jewish woman who lost extended family in the Holocaust and who married a direct descendant of a Southern plantation family that owned other … chop! chop! read more!
No kissing, though we both know that we want to.
You show up at my house wearing the exact same
thing as on your Grindr profile. Pink hat,
cheap diamond earrings, and then, too, a familiar look
that steadily steams underneath my grandmother’s eyes.
It’s the multiplicity of place as body — or how when you
close your eyes you can convince yourself that you’re
lying in a star-streaked field—that convinces me I love you.
THE ANT LIEUTENANT TELLS ME OF HIS RETURN by David Callan Black soil collapsing onto rock. Beetles with shining blue backs humming over the water chilled with rain. Pike angling in the chambers of the dank, waiting for the naked in the rainfall, stripped clean, gutted, redrawn from memory by a blind boy against the stiff legs of the herons. Mothers huddled in stone kitchens, dropping fish, egging the molecules of the water into frenzy from the pot’s hot walls. Skin, scratched through, dangling into a snowflake of dolomite sinking slowly in the mossy brink. My fingerprints are flying toward my eyes, too quick for me to blink. My hand arcing over colorless glass, finger wet against the rim: the cylinder caught in the motion of the fingertip, hum— glass shifting into another pitch. Had been petals in a cut glass bowl, what’s beautiful is dirt. I want oil, hands … chop! chop! read more!
SUNDAY by Suzanne Farrell Smith The small space for god in me aches, so I turn from the one-way mirror through which I’ve been watching my twin seventeen-month-old boys bawl. Golden Graham pulp has stiffened their fine hair into sticky strings. I’m even messier, in stained yoga pants and a blue sweater marred by snags. I would have dressed in a clean shirt, something slipped from a hanger rather than scooped from the floor, but I didn’t plan to be here. It was only decided that I should leave the apartment when my husband started to spoon-feed yogurt to our three-year-old, who has a genetic syndrome that makes self-feeding a trial. “How’s he ever going to learn?” I said. He just pointed to the floor. The splat mat that usually protects the beige carpet was missing, and we don’t own the place. My husband and I faced each other as … chop! chop! read more!
I wait for a train that circles the city like bats. At night in Berlin you can imagine anything you want. Can a train circle a city like bats? Carriages here are full of inviting people I never talk to and bicycles that require a ticket to get on board. Everyone wears black so hard you don’t notice after a while that there are differing shades. Sometimes, I see a chair being carried on board by a passenger and I wonder where the chairs go, whether they rest at tables. I think about the people invited to sit, what kind of meals they eat together or whether their furniture is flee-market vintage or discarded by the side of a road. Inside pinch close buildings smeared in graffiti are people, and they are talking to one another in languages; I don’t know.chop! chop! read more!
Sam and Viet stand in his small blue kitchen. Viet has stopped stirring his chard lentil soup while Sam tries to figure out what to do: Three nights a week on the mountain, leading small groups up Whitney, or sleeping out in Alabama Hills, climbing.
I’m doing ok, she says. It’s just I think I should find a room or something, short term.
Viet says, I see what you mean.
Renewing my one-year lease, don’t you agree it’s financially a waste?
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Clear, cool morning. The two of you are the first ones at the park. Your year-old daughter craved the red swings. You craved quiet. This morning had so much potential quiet.
The reality is the racket of a power washer. Groundskeepers from Parks and Rec are cleaning the patio by the bathrooms. The air compressor hammers, staccato, like the sound of a strobe light if a strobe light made a sound. The blade of pressurized water hisses a loud tssssssssss, sustained as only a machine can sustain a thing.chop! chop! read more!
I’ve decided to kill my son. This is not a new thought. It did not come to me overnight. I’ve nursed it for a long time like an actual thing, a child that was a seedling first and then a sprout, but the idea has taken hold.chop! chop! read more!
Hot, back in the corner of the coat closet you find it, right where you knew it would be. Pull it out with both hands, it’s a lot heavier than you expected. Dad said never to touch it, but who knows when he’s coming back this time and what else are you supposed to do on a day like this? Show it to your sister, how it gleams in the light let in through the screen door. Stand it up, it comes up to her chin.
“Dad’s giant wrench. Can I hold it?”
Laugh at her. “It’s bigger than you are.”
“So are you, but I could still toss you.”chop! chop! read more!
TWELVE by Tory Lord O’Neill There he was, as always, on the eve of her birthday. She never expected him. Never dreamt of him, but there he was. As always, he was standing on the corner waiting for something—her perhaps—but she didn’t see him until she tripped, snagged her heel, rolled her ankle and fell slightly into him. “Whoa! You okay!” What’s the rush, buttercup? Cuidado, señorita. Each time, his hands felt slightly different. Firm like a contractor. Gentle like a surgeon. Scarred from a fire. But with that first touch, all of their lives came flooding back to her. She remembered how he smelled of cinnamon on that morning in South Bend and how his nose crinkled when he laughed. She remembered the feeling of his fingers running through her wet hair on the shores of San Juan and the feeling of her knees buckling when the military police … chop! chop! read more!
We sat three abreast in hard white pews. At our backs, an open door laid rectangles of sun on the salt-smoothed pine floor. It was an old Puritan church—Built in 1772, read a small plaque by the door. You could tell: the ceiling was crossed with bare beams, the floor was hard and cold. As a boy, I’d been brought to the church from time to time for a service, usually the wedding or funeral of a summer neighbor. I recalled the starkness of it, the chilly severity. Across the street, at the base of a hill that sloped down to the ocean, my mother’s ashes lay beneath a weathered stone.chop! chop! read more!
Forty millennia, and more, originating worlds,
occasioning wines, wedges, plunder, and
( let’s guess, ) recovered and glassed, eyes around
taking in the cases, the cases seem too much,
the notes a reader takes, setting down the catalog,
seeing the slivers, flakes, flecks of stone,
imagining the sounds of stone already used to the inventing,
crying through the tools its need for preservation,
through the same rude calendars, imagine it, earlier,
ahead, as the snow begins another election cycle,
and a second round of it the wizard had not called for,
that delights to start, as an obscenity might, before
you notice where it’s going. But how, the first time
at the Diner, could we know, or say which desserts
would bring us back because they’d mattered, which
day-old paragraph or stanza might inspire, snow
Wild blackberry bramble all along the edge. Himalaya? Or Cutleaf? Or Pacific? Thimbleberry?
Let me try again, what net?
We keep eating the fruit because the poison sweetens with age.
Another fuckin suicide.
Let me try again, I want a jar of fireflies stowed away in my chest
But the light resists secrecy, insists on the opposite of the private property
Sign on the gate we trespass on our walk to water. The light draws from out there
How time-tentacled arms tugged us towards tangled bramble. Slashed denim.
Blue t-shirt, ripped. Skin, torn. We ignore requests,
“What am I?” and “Do you not understand?” and “I have brought you here.” and “I offer my fruit so consider me in full…”