NOT EVEN A GLASS OF WATER by Judy Bolton-Fasman

NOT EVEN A GLASS OF WATER
by Judy Bolton-Fasman

Think of this as an old movie. Black and white and crackling.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 1959, while the businesses along Chapel Street in downtown New Haven were emptying out for the glittering holiday, the staid New Haven accounting firm of Rosen & Rosen was receiving an unexpected visitor. The receptionist was gone for the holidays and one of the partners, my father’s cousin David Rosen, got the door for a young woman in a state of great agitation. An old woman, the girl’s aunt, trailed nervously behind fanning herself with a train schedule. The pair had traveled from Grand Central Station.

The older woman was there for the younger one, her niece Matilde. And Matilde was there for Harold Bolton. Three weeks earlier Harold had left her at the altar in Havana.

Matilde screamed in a thick Cuban accent, “Where is he?” She was carrying a B. Altman shopping bag that ripped as she extracted a crumpled white silk gown. The gleaming silver that followed registered as a butcher’s knife.

“Hijo de mala madre,” Matilde said over and over until she had no more breath. “Dio de la Zedakades—God of righteousness,” the aunt, la Tía Ester, muttered in Ladino.

Harold emerged from his office at the sound of the commotion. There was Matilde smoothing the handmade wedding dress against her body. This was just the kind of erratic behavior that was among the reasons he had backed out of their wedding at the last minute—that, and his appalled parents’ reaction to his intention to marry a Cuban girl almost half his age. A girl who didn’t know a salad fork from a dinner fork. I imagine her Latina volatility was part of her allure for Harold—a sturdy only son of Jewish immigrants born in Ukraine who insistently cultivated an American identity. But that afternoon in the offices of Rosen & Rosen, Harold had no doubt that Matilde was capable of cutting herself or even of stabbing him to death.

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VASELINE SANDWICHES by Mark Schoenknecht

VASELINE SANDWICHES
by Mark Schoenknecht

During pregnancy, she said,
Her most intense cravings
Were for vaseline sandwiches:
Soft white bread slathered with petroleum jelly.

In a dream, I attend a dinner party
At a lavish mansion.
I’m having a wonderful time
Until the unveiling of the roast,
Which turns out to be an animal
With the body of a hog
And my own scalded head
Clenching an apple in its teeth.

Each day, I arrive at the feast of myself,
Unsure of which fork to use,
Of what sauce to slather overtop.

What is it that drives a woman to eat vaseline?
And if I threaten to run my car into an overpass
When she says she doesn’t love me,
What design has prompted that?

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HEIRLOOM by Paul Tran

HEIRLOOM
by Paul Tran

We know how the story goes.
A pirate leads her off the boat, onto the shore.
He rapes the other women first, shoots them in the head,
feeds their bodies to the ocean’s aching blue mouth.

A pirate leads my mother from the boat to the shore.
He strips her down to her soiled cotton underwear,
feeds her aching body to the ocean’s blue mouth.
She swears he did not rape her.

When he strips me down to my cotton underwear,
my father sets me on his lap like a Barbie doll.
My mother swears he did not rape me.
She tells me to stop making things up.

My father sets me on his lap. Like a Barbie doll,
I obey when he commands me to open, to keep it a secret.
He warns me not to make things up.
His touch leaves a stain I cannot scrub clean.

I obey. Every time he commands me to open, I keep it a secret.
Even now, years later, long after he disappeared like a ghost,
his touch remains a stain I cannot scrub clean.
I am not asking for you to believe me.

Even now, years later, long after he disappeared like a ghost,
my mother still sees the pirate in her dreams, the ocean’s infinite hunger.
She is not asking, but I believe her.
Truth finds a way to exact its obscene measures.

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MOUETTES by Kristen Herbert

MOUETTES
by Kristen Herbert

Them you can ever hear, the mouettes. When walking by the sandy concrete of empty storefronts, the apartments next to the sea, with their windows closed tightly.

Them you hear from your windows open as you write at the desk. Them you hear in the breeze, as you walk the overpass beside the colossal, four-story clouds. The clouds that swell up from the ground are pure. They are floating across the rails and they are making that you stop. They come from elsewhere and they are not staying.

The mouettes you hear when the streets are quiet, when the air is thick, when everyone else is gone, boarded up, closed behind windows with only the low murmuring, the clinking of forks.

It is raining and the walking people are shining in the puddles. The wind ruffles the ash trees speckled and furrows the silver leaves. The light is skittering between the shadows of figures who shuffle back and forth in the street. The university sits quietly behind the boulevard, the ugly, pushed-in windows covered behind the courtyard unruly.

The tram is gliding slowly through the water, it is saying in voice robotic: Université. Then it is swallowed by the bridge. It ends simply. Beneath clear, speckling rain.

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MISS DARLENE’S DANCING SCHOOL by Lynne Sharon Schwartz

MISS DARLENE’S DANCING SCHOOL
by Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Miss Darlene, dark, slender, acne-scarred,
married next-door Marvin and came to share
his basement flat. Upstairs, his mother
claimed Miss Darlene had danced with the Rockettes.
She opened a dancing school a block away.
We girls on the block were conscripted to take lessons,
to help support the newly-married couple.

We got shiny black patent leather shoes
with black ribbons and taps on heels and toes.
We danced to East Side, West Side,
all around the town. I can still perform
the opening bars today, but my lessons ended
at a step called the Buffalo, which I never mastered
because Miss Darlene’s closed, she got pregnant.

That was postwar Brooklyn, known for dullness,
before the West Indians came with their bouncy speech
and the Jews in drear black coats and uglifying
wigs. Pre-chic Brooklyn, before the new
colonizers parked their double strollers
outside the bookstores and the restaurants
serving foods Miss Darlene had never heard of.

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THE BABY TRAIN by Bryanna Licciardi

THE BABY TRAIN
by Bryanna Licciardi

The question is anything but casual. In this society, it more or less translates to I’m judging you! It’s always asked shouldering the answer, because everyone wants children, even if only “someday.” As a woman who has never enjoyed the company of children—who in fact has been known to hide when she hears one coming—I’ve found it easier to just evade questions like this with humor. Because the question is anything but casual. In this society, it more or less translates to “I’m judging you!” And it’s always asked shouldering the answer, because everyone wants children, right? Even if only “someday.” However, this was a serious decision I was about to make, so I answered truthfully. “I’m not much of a kid person.”

“Do you mean infants? Toddlers? Young children?” the therapist asked.

“All of the above?”

“I see,” she said, writing something down in her yellow notepad. “And I’m assuming you’re not married?”

Assuming? “Yes, I’m single.”

“Why do you think you’re single?”

What kind of question was that? Because men suck at dating me? Because I suck at dating them? Because I’ve become an expert at not dating?

Instead, I said, “I’m a virgin. And guys tend not to know what to do with that.”

Her face was priceless—mouth open, eyes crooked and bugging. She looked stunned, like she’d just discovered the missing link. “Virgin…” she mumbled. “And you’re 24?”

I nodded.

She leaned forward, pen pressed hard onto her notepad, and spewed out textbook clichés trying to unlock the secret: was there a history of trauma; was I controlled by the church; had I any daddy issues? But alas, as hard as it was to believe, I was a virgin simply because I’d never had sex.

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HOW COME BOYS GET TO KEEP THEIR NOSES?: A Conversation with Tahneer Oksman

Ranen: I love all the epigraphs you begin your new book with but especially the one by Grace Paley, which is such a great way to think about the art of her narrative: “Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” Perhaps it is also a kind of prophecy of the radical forms of becoming that so many female Jewish artists seem to be so passionately exploring in our time in visual art, from Jill Solloway’s Transparent all the way through the seven wonderful figures you explore in How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses. In discovering the complicated ways these women explore the relation between self and ethnicity or collective identity, have you learned something about yourself? Does invention figure in your own life as an academic or otherwise?

Tahneer: Oh, absolutely! I was a creative writing major in college, and for a long time I thought that the only way to pursue my dream of becoming a writer was to write novels. It took some time for me to realize that there’s creativity involved in all different kinds of writing and also that you don’t need to write novels to be a “real” writer.

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THE GAS STATION by Edward Hopper by Michael Kern

THE GAS STATION by Edward Hopper
by Michael Kern

The difference is light –
the natural settling of shade
upon the road
and the artificial illumination
of the store, lines cast
in degrees of transparency.
The attendant, caught in the middle,
counts the number of cars
that pass. Occasionally
he prays for headlights,
but he mainly passes time
outside waiting for Apollo
to come and turn his Mobil Gas lights
into mosquito traps.
The symbol of Pegasus
is backlit and blazing, a steady
beam that is reduced
to nothing more than a glint
in the eye of a passing driver
too focused on earth-bound deer
to worry about the speck of light
that is now getting further
and further in the rearview mirror.

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GETHSEMANE by Aaron Graham

GETHSEMANE
by Aaron Graham

I’m learning to sweat—learning to swear.
When I speak of God, edges of broken-
glass words: the father who art elsewhere,
thou cannot stitch together jawbones with breath
breathing life in pierced tongues and barbed
sentences. I don’t want mankind to work anymore at
establishing communications or commandments
thou shalt stop ignoring that I cry with and at your creation.
In a no story neighborhood

I read all the time,
letters glyphed on a page like I am If I
would ease into taking notes I’d find
something to do when there was really
nothing I could do.

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SUGAR by Meggie Royer

SUGAR
by Meggie Royer

When my mother takes us to the sea
my father does another line.
At night when someone comes downstairs
for a drink of water
the kitchen table stretches itself into shadow
like a paper tiger.
Once, at the bottom of the steps,
wavering before the stove,
I saw him take so much
his eyes rolled back in his head.
On some mountains, the bodies
are never recovered.
Just salvaged.
A string of beads, a broken glass,
bloodwork losing itself to memory.
The things we do to ourselves
trail like tire marks into snow.

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THE LIVING MUSEUM by Jen Knox

THE LIVING MUSEUM
by Jen Knox

I am on the bus with a cloth grocery bag and my notebook, trying to depersonalize my urge to speak to the man next to me. He is over six feet with no ring, and he already looked my way a few times. Now, mouth open and eyes fixed, he watches the reddening sky with everyone else, while I watch him. I long to be a part of the sky.

The little girl across the aisle points to the window when I look her way, but I just nod and write. My urges are part of a condition, not a part of me. They will pass. Meanwhile, the impending storm is bathing everyone in soft, flattering light.

My goal is to avoid triggers until I become stronger, but this requires meticulous planning—more planning than I thought given the bus schedules and a rather inconvenient mistake I made some months back. The problem is numbers. Well, that and proximity.

I slept with Jack, who is my neighbor, who has sticky eyes and lifts his eyebrows often when he speaks to me, as though always genuinely interested in everything. Jack is a waiter with odd shifts. I knew he would be a problem when he moved in, but I successfully resisted his extended company until he invited me to an open mic night on a particularly lonely Tuesday evening.

It is never the good poetry that gets me. Good poetry is a brief release from body and mind, but good poetry is rare. Besides, there’s something about bad poetry—I think it’s the intensity in which the material is delivered, the naïve beauty translated, the human desire to be heard, to be seen, even if a voice is swathed in cliché and melancholy.

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MOUSE MEAT by Rebecca Lee

MOUSE MEAT
by Rebecca Lee

“Let’s go downtown.” It’s the chant I hear every weekend. Downtown is where the lights are. It’s where the girls go. The makeup, the short skirts, the pot smokers and the boomboxes. They’re all there.

“Let’s go downtown.” The teenage guy I have a crush on, Matt, is asking his friends if they’re going. His voice is slow, low, and slick like rain. They sit at the back of the bus and blast Sublime on a battery-powered radio. I’m twelve. He’s seventeen. It could happen if I wear the right clothes.

“Let’s go downtown,” I say to my neighbor, Laura, later that night. Laura’s four years older and has a license. She can borrow her stepdad’s car. She smokes cigarettes and listens to En Vogue. It’s hot out and it’s close to summer. We’re getting older. I can feel it.

I grab the black pleather halter-top with red lace stitching. Short skorts in spring tease the boys, but make me comfortable. I lace up my boots. Knee high and red leather. Just like the kind I see on Mtv.

We go downtown several hours later. I sneak out of my house and she sneaks out of hers. The suburbs are unnaturally dark with no streetlights or store fronts. The field of tall grass by our houses shivers from a dull wind. It must be coming from downtown. That’s where everything happens.

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AUBADE: A Parallel Poem by Yuan Changming

AUBADE: A Parallel Poem
by Yuan Changming

You might have stayed up
All night, clicking at every link
To your daydream, searching
For a soulmate in the cyberspace

You might have enjoyed an early dose
Of original sin between sleep and wake
Before packing up all your seasonal greetings
With your luggage to catch the first plane

Or sitting up in meditation
With every sensory cell
Widely open to receive
Blue dews from nirvana

But you did not. Rather, you have just
Had another long fit of insomnia and
Now in this antlike moment, you are
Imagining a lucky morning glow

That is darting along the horizon

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LAST WORDS by Willie Davis

LAST WORDS
by Willie

a long time, I kept myself awake by writing personalized suicide notes for each of my friends. I’d found a website that compiled every recorded suicide note of the last ten years, and, not to sound conceited, I could do better. To be fair, a lot of the note-writers were teenagers, and some of the older ones had already taken enough sleeping pills to write like teenagers, but these were pretty pedestrian. They tried to fit the whole world into one paragraph, so all the sorrows clanged together. Also, seriously, every third letter used the phrase “ocean of sadness.”

Go small, I whispered into my computer, after reading an open-veiner yammer about “piles of endless infinity.” Talk about the disappointment gathering at the pit of your stomach every Sunday evening, so slight and predictable you can mistake it for hunger. Talk about waking up five minutes before the alarm clock rings. Talk about your cousin who loves telling people he loves jazz. I know pain, and I know escape, but I don’t know one infinity, let alone piles.

The hardest part of writing a bang-up suicide note for the living is guessing each person’s method of self-destruction. They each had their separate styles. Pill-poppers talked of betrayal, of friends who walked out, the beating of their own broken hearts. Shooters were brief—they didn’t care if anyone read it. The people who hanged themselves were the best because they had a sense of humor. They understood they were leaving a body behind, swinging like the world’s fattest wind-chime.

The only time I ever told any of my friends I was setting them up for posterity, I was on half-a-suicide mission myself. Meander Maddox and I had been tasked with wandering through Irishtown and finding Ollie Nunez’s runaway black mastiff. Somebody had purposefully taken the dog off the leash while Nunez was inside a party in Prospect Hill, the shanty-town peak overlooking the rest of the neighborhood. Nunez assumed Meander had done it, and he sent the two of us into the cold to try to retrieve the animal.

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SPRING FLIGHT by Larry Eby

SPRING FLIGHT
by Larry Eby

We ran through several fields together, the dandelions grasping at the soil as our speed caught them, a hundred crows flapping behind us, trying to keep up. Between each field we would leap: a street. a river. a parking garage. During the dark hours, we climbed into convenience store windows, your dress catching and tearing on the broken glass, and rummaged around before the light broke through and people—everywhere—spoke of us like we were crazy children, which is what we were and what we wanted to be and what the world was asking of us.

Summer, our feet were bare and blistering in the shallow waters as we rested on the bank of a pond, and you told me this was what you wanted of me: a man in line at the grocery store, awake but day dreaming out the filmy storefront, passed the painted 50% off sign, imagining what we were doing now—swimming together, holding each other, waiting for someone to catch us. The noon sun made your teeth glisten, your neck bright, and I couldn’t grasp what you meant when you told me you had to leave.

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NIGHT OWL by Carmella de los Angeles Guiol

NIGHT OWL
by Carmella de los Angeles Guiol

Nuit Blanche

I once loved a man who was a creature of the night. Like me, but more so. He slept through most of the daylight hours, his wily hair a halo on his satin pillowcase. Sometimes I stopped by his room between classes to curl up next to him and feel his dreaming body register mine.

One night, before our bodies had ever laid beside each other, before I’d ever run my fingers through his curls, before I saw that pair of women’s shoes outside his bedroom door, before I tried to push the door open and found it locked, we shared an email exchange that ended with this message: “Meet me at the memorial in fifteen minutes.” It was four in the morning when we stumbled down the hill and across the football fields, into the dark forest where even the crickets slept.

The crisp fall air kept us close. Half-bare trees guided our path, until thicket gave way to moon-soaked pasture. He dug a joint out of his pocket and we found a log where we sat, huddled close to the heat, watching stars streak across the silty sky, silent bursts of light in the still dawn. The grass glowed white with frozen dew; in a few hours, the ice crystals would seep down their spines, leaving the meadow withered with frostbite.

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MAY PROCESSION PRACTICE by Timothy Wenzell

MAY PROCESSION PRACTICE
by Tim Wenzell

Little I stand by William
at the crest of the asphalt hill
looking into the incinerator,
watching the chocolate milk cartons burn while
shaking away my need to piss.

Mother Phoebe has just told the tall boys
at the bottom of the asphalt hill
how to turn like soldiers and
she looks across the ballyard
to the white church
with open doors leading
all the way to Jesus
hanging with His thorny crown over

candles dripping wax hot wax
running down the sides as
my piss leaks
down my trousers like
wax hot wax.

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THE EMPATHY MACHINE, Part Two by Kelly McQuain

THE EMPATHY MACHINE, Part Two
Text Version
written and illustrated by Kelly McQuain

1.
Tweet No Evil

Tweet-No-EvilIn an effort to get my head around what I consider the purpose of art-making, I attended three writing conferences during summer 2015. The first was at U.C. Berkeley and was supposed to commemorate the influential 1965 Berkeley Poetry Conference fifty years prior, inspired by a student Free Speech Movement earlier that year. But poet Vanessa Place’s inclusion on the bill caused the commemoration to implode.

Place, whose current project uses Twitter to disseminate instances of the “n-word” from Gone With the Wind, has been the subject of controversy before.[1] Place’s name on the Berkeley schedule caused many invitees to drop out in protest. The organizers canceled the conference and replaced it at the last minute with Crosstalk, Color, Composition: A Berkeley Poetry Conference.

I made it from Philadelphia in time to attend the last day. There was a lot of talk about colonization theory, and at the end of the day people sat in circles discussing race and their feelings in ways that were careful not to offend. I learned that the organizers kept notice about “conference 2.0” largely on the down-low out of fear of protests. Ironic, I thought: How do you create a platform for change when safety concerns the conversation to members of the Berkeley phone tree?

What I know of Place comes from her controversies and the strange fact on the Internet she likes to pose for pictures in Salvador Dali drag with pineapples. Like Goldsmith, Place has become another poster child in the debate over who is allowed to say what.

Cathy Young, writing for The Washington Post about the dangers of appropriation, recently observed, “When we attack people for stepping outside their own cultural experiences, we hinder our ability to develop empathy and cross-cultural understanding.” I agree in principle, but I don’t think it applies to Vanessa Place or Kenneth Goldsmith.

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NOBODY PLAYED THE GUITAR IN THE CORNER OF THE LIVING ROOM by Christopher David Rosales

NOBODY PLAYED THE GUITAR IN THE CORNER OF THE LIVING ROOM
by Christopher David Rosales

Not the husband heating the milk for the baby in the crib. Not the baby in the crib. And not the wife coming in the door from work. The cat didn’t play it. The dog couldn’t play it. The parrot on its perch cawed “I won’t play the guitar”. The French diplomat didn’t play it. Instead he smoked an e-cigarette beside the fireplace listening to the Spanish ambassador remark, “Nunca tocaré la guitarra”. The stunt man in white rode his motorbike off the balcony before he got his chance to play it. The prostitute and her fiancé leaving out the back window never even asked to play it. The serial killer chose instead to swipe his bloody knife across a painting in the hall, his calling card. Meanwhile the cat-burglar returned to the drawers the jewels he felt guilty about stealing, nestled them among panties. No, neither the maid, the butler, nor the flower arranger played the guitar, and not even the gardener blowing leaves off the walk. And yet if you touched the guitar in the corner of the living room, you would have felt it hum.

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WHEN THINGS WEAR AWAY OTHER THINGS by Michael Melgaard

WHEN THINGS WEAR AWAY OTHER THINGS
by Michael Melgaard

Moira played with the ocean, chasing the waves as they pulled back into themselves. Her pink rain boots splashing through the water were the only colour on the wet, rocky shore. She turned to her dad and laughed while a wave came in behind her. It covered her feet and was over the top of her boots before she noticed. She watched the water pulling away and then at her dad. She started to cry.

David walked over and picked her up. He told her it was okay and just water, then turned her away from the ocean and asked, “Do you see how they built a wall there?” He held her on his hip in the crook of one arm and pulled her boots off with the free hand. She was trying to tell him about her feet being wet between exaggerated sobs. He said, “Over there. Look. Do you know why they would build a wall on the beach?”

She didn’t say anything, but did look where he was pointing her. David went on, “A long time ago, before they built the wall, there was a graveyard here, where we’re walking.” He dumped the water out of one boot, then the other. “Back then where we’re standing was underground.” He moved her onto his other hip and tugged off her socks. “But the waves eroded the ground away.”

She asked, “What’s ‘eroded’?”

He turned back to the water. “See how every time a wave comes up it pulls some rocks back with it? That’s eroding. It’s when things wear away other things. Eventually, the waves will wear through the wall and wash away the city.”

Moira looked at the wall and then the ocean and then at her dad. She asked, “Really?”

“Yup.” He said, “Hold these,” and handed her the boots. He rang out her socks as best he could. “Eroding takes a long time, though. Hundreds of years. But anyways, back before the wall was built the waves were eroding the ground, wearing away the graveyard’s dirt, and you know what’s under the dirt in a graveyard?”

“Coffins?”

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BLUE: SMOKE: COTTON: TEETH: CAT: JELLY: BLOW by Anne Panning

BLUE: SMOKE: COTTON: TEETH: CAT: JELLY: BLOW
by Anne Panning

I rarely wear blue, but today there’s a striped dress the color of rain in my closet. It’s a pullover. I can hardly stand how good it feels against my bare knees, walking.

When I lived in The Philippines, I became a party smoker. The cigarettes were menthol, loosely packed. The brand was called Hope. I quit.

My sister works at a fireworks factory. She has to wear all cotton clothing, right down to the underwear. When I ask her what she does all day, she says, “the usual.”

One of my teeth, one of my front teeth, is porcelain. A clay animation artist made it. The dentist said to me, “Be careful. It’s like china. It can break.”

I got a dog instead of a cat because I know a cat could eat me. My dog is part poodle and not very smart. When the groomer ties holiday ribbons around her neck and sends her home smelling like oatmeal, our whole family applauds.

Last night I dreamed my dead father was lying in bed, drunk, his hands covered in bright red raspberry jelly.

Every night I sleep with two fans blowing madly through my bedroom: a box and an oscillating. The air is chilled and hard and loud. When I turn them off in the morning, it’s a terrible silence.

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GRANNY AND THE BONEHEAD SQUAD by Maria Pinto

GRANNY AND THE BONEHEAD SQUAD
by Maria Pinto

My grandboy, Ricky, actually comes over nowadays, ever since that stupid show. He’s been here every day this week, drinking all the juice in my fridge straight from the carton. He’s so proud of me, or at least as proud as a pre-teen can be of his grandmother. I mean I wasn’t on the show, but Alexia the reborn was. Ricky couldn’t be bothered with old Mema before, but then Mema got herself tangled up with the Music Television. I’ll take it, I suppose. Beggars and choosers and that.

After he accepted my hugs and kisses with minimal protest, I let him have the run of the house while I holed up in my studio, adding dimples to Ruthie’s knees. I can hear him in the kitchen now. He’s chugging my cran-apple like a diabetic, cussing and fussing with Roland Nielson’s kid. Yes, the same Roland Nielson’s kid who shaved Marylou Crain’s mini-poodle and wrote a filthy word that rhymes with “Bundt” on the poor thing’s side in permanent marker, two summers gone. The same kid who has done worse besides—his worst, as we know it, involving firecrackers and the deaths of a whole heap of lizards this past Fourth of July. I remember a smell like chicken over that particular field as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played nearby. Made me hungry even as it made me sick. The boy won’t stop till he’s tried as an adult, I swear.

Ricky’s mother has already tried and failed to keep Ricky away from The Devil, Jr., so I know there’s no use in my making an attempt.

Best I can do is keep an eye, right? My eyes and ears may have seen and heard the events of umpteen Sundays, but they still work as good as they did when I was a seedling. The ears in particular perk up when they hear, from the kitchen:

“Holy shit, that thing’s creepy! Like, that’s the most insane thing I’ve ever seen.”

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BOUNTY HUNTING by Karen Levy

BOUNTY HUNTING
by Karen Levy

They pulled up behind the others who’d just arrived and were piling out of their car, laughing.

That was a long drive.

Together, they walked toward the house. They all laughed except for her; she was very angry at her brother-in-law.

There was a fishing boat out front. A sign led them away from the front door, to a backyard office, where a sunburnt man waved them in.

Joe, he said.

Nice tan, Joe, someone said and the others laughed.

From fishin’, he said. He was a big man but he said it light and breezy.

She thought he looked like a cop. She’d heard that her brother-in-law had been caught by undercover cops.

Everyone laughed.

They barely fit into the office; there were eight of them, all related through blood or marriage.

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EMU ON THE LOOSE by Thaddeus Rutkowski

EMU ON THE LOOSE
by Thaddeus Rutkowski

Not much was happening at the artists’ retreat (people were hiding in their studios; maybe they were working; maybe they were drinking) until the emu arrived. We didn’t know where it came from; no one came with it. Wherever it had been, it hadn’t been missed. It was a tall bird, between five and six feet from toe to head, and it was in no hurry. It ambled past the barn complex and stood on the dirt road. Those who saw it from their studios left their writing (or their drinking) and came out for a closer look. The bird wasn’t afraid. It stood and stared at whoever approached. It didn’t need to use its legs to kick—no one came close enough to threaten it.

Someone had the idea of corralling it in a pasture. There was a way to herd the bird; you flapped your arms and blocked its path. It had to walk away from you. The emu was led through a gate into a fenced field. It didn’t try to escape. It stood there in the tall grass and stared. Its eyes were intense in its triangular head. If it wanted to, it could jump the fence, or tear the wire mesh apart with its claws.

Someone brought it food and set the dish on the ground near the gate, but the bird wasn’t interested. What did emus eat? Probably something more natural, something more alive than what was in the dish. Something that wriggled or flew.

We left the creature in the pasture and gathered for our own dinner.

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A PRESENCE IN WOOD Wood Sculpture by Miriam Carpenter

A PRESENCE IN WOOD
Wood Sculpture
by Miriam Carpenter

Throughout my life I have sought the companionship of trees and have developed an ever deepening reverence for them. Trees are intelligent, resilient, majestic and adaptable. When a tree has reached the end of its life, the shadow of what once was presents another gift in the form of a satiny, warm, sensual material. Each piece of wood has its own story—reflections of moments specific to place and time within the inherent architecture of a species. Each tree has its own experience and characteristics uniquely formed by its geographical location, the effects of the seasons, wind, rain and what grew beside it. The history of each year is physically recorded in each ring slowly reacting to external and internal stresses after it has died and been cut into lumber. Reading the story in the grain is just as exciting to me as transforming it into an artifact. The more time I spend with each piece of wood, the deeper my understanding grows of its unique characteristics. With respect for its capacity and understanding of its potential, I can be more thoughtful in how I bring the piece to completion.

Everything that I create is an experiment. Whether the approach is multi-axis split turning, bending or carving by hand, it is always an exploration of unique material potential.

My current passion is fueled by an evolving series of delicately carved wooden feathers. Species with the most porous earlywood, tight growth rings and strong medullary rays provide the type of structure I have found to be most resilient. The dense medullary rays project radially through the rings, offering an ability to shape incredibly think undulating forms that expose the delicate pores. The tight rings expose a dramatic visual texture and a challenge to create sweeping lines through varying densities. There are specific qualities in certain species that will allow me to create something that is fragile yet resilient. My process is of making, of staying present in the moment, of focus and flexibility and is a lesson in non-attachment.

As I work, I allow myself to pour out love with such intensity that what I create might become embodied with a life that is viscerally connected to me. I do not believe that hand-made artifacts are simply objects or things; I believe they are imbued with heart and soul. Our energy passes through us and into what we are making. Bliss, anxieties, these things are reflected in what we produce. We exchange matter. When we create a baby, far along in its gestation, its DNA floods the mother’s body. When a baby is born, some of its DNA remains in the mother’s body forever. There is a constant exchange in whatever we create, and being mindful and deliberate about how we do what we do is of utmost importance to how we share our gifts and our lives with everyone and everything around us.

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PROPHET by Odelia Fried

PROPHET
[prof-et]

Definition:

It’s bloody knuckles and skinned knees, it’s heaven’s fever slicing through the black with open jaws. It’s finding a swarm of locusts dead on your back porch, stuck to the screen door and crushed into the wood slats. It’s curling into bed, into not-sleep, because in sleep comes the Dreams, and with the Dreams comes the People, and with the People comes the End. It’s red-rimmed eyes and violently fluttering fingers. It’s painting the rocks with your blood, Hashem hu ha’Elokim, Hashem hu ha’Elokim, Hashem hu ha’Elokim.
When you were a child, you dreamed of meeting angel, all soft white halo and fluttering wings. The angels God sends to you in your dreams are nothing like this. They do not emanate a gentle glow and they do not have kindly blue eyes. They are knife-like wings and sharp directions, they lightning-strike fear into your heart, prophecy into your veins.
You are named God’s vessel. God’s words are impaled in your ribs like a sword. His holiness rattles your bones.

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POT OF GOLD by Tina Barr

POT OF GOLD
by Tina Barr

Stings stitching under the skin, bristles,
like thoughts that roil, like brambles’
thorns that catch at my pants, scrape
bar pins of blood on my forearms.
Lindy says not to touch the nettles;
when they hit hot water, they’ll lose
their sting, but not before, so I shake
them into the boiling. When I go
to taste them though, two small yellow
worms curl in the spoon’s harbor.
Lindy and Ed didn’t tell us they didn’t
have clear title, hadn’t paid their taxes,
so the land we bought is delinquent,
up for grabs. Late, the trees thrash.
I want to set fire to their trailer, want to
bait their place with honey, so bears will
tear their cars open like sardine tins.
I line up people like toy soldiers, whose
carelessness is never personal, the way
poison ivy grows, twines, glossy, reefs
the woods. Foxglove multiplies, its high
combs flowering into apartments for bees,
but in a tea, a poison to serve to Lindy.
Brown recluse scare me the most;
the bites go necrotic. Late in the day
a double rainbow melts its colors away.

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COCKCROW by Tyler Kline

COCKCROW
by Tyler Kline

Moment: a father inks the scythe
above his daughter’s breast, a tail
of bonfire licking a skein of braid.
Moment: tractors rake light from crows
and a goat blinks to count a storm.
Moment knives are slid into boots
like lures crossing a tiger-eye lake,
moment hands covered in bees
are pulled into light shaking honey.
Moment: scapes are tied to a gourd,
moment the gourd is hollowed
until thirsty like a drum. Moment
the boy asks which is his mother,
the banjo or storm. Moment the boy
eclipses whatever tower he can find.
Moment: nothing has its name except
straw-paper sun, moment the boy
looks to the sky and begs for another.

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THE SCORPION by Erika Dane Kielsgard

THE SCORPION
by Erika Dane Kielsgard

We tear her limbs to divide our fear.
Her mangled segments reflect
hell mouths in mortal eyes.
She does not inspire the sacred.
Adorned with a swarm of insects,
her myth is a mask for history.
Her claws do not grasp
haphazard or hapless.
Do not let her slip
through your fingers
while your iris clings
to the muse invoked:
a stagnant self-portrait
in a shallow pool,
a shower of pearls
she likens to foam.
The scorpion is an ocean,
the context of a wave.
She sheds her skin seven times
before devouring the dawn,
carrying within her abdomen
small heavens, the eternal call.

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from THE BEAUTY OF ADMISSION by Joe Nicholas

from THE BEAUTY OF ADMISSION
by Joe Nicholas

It’s seven in the morning & the shower is asking me questions

Did mermaids ever mistake us for wood cows?

For breakfast I ate a banana & blueberry

yoghurt/I’m never sure if I should drop

the “h”/Why

does it hurt

so much?

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THE LOVE NOTE by Svetlana Beggs

THE LOVE NOTE
by Svetlana Beggs

In 1988, when our city was still called Leningrad and kids wore red (always wrinkled) Young Pioneer’s scarves, my friend Natasha developed a crush on Yura, the tallest boy in 6th grade. She blushed whenever he walked near her, causing us to start feeding Natasha’s backpack tiny love notes bearing Yura’s forged cursive. I was the designated forger, Lida was the writer, and Polina the spy, but we jokingly called her “the assassin.” In two months we published seven short notes and made five crank calls to Natasha’s flat releasing Lida’s “deeply meaningful silence.” Around this time Natasha began to apply her sister’s eyeliner in the school’s bathroom and we told her honestly that her new look was “amazingly alluring,” even though Yura’s friends now called her “The Vampire.” She would walk into the classroom holding the backpack over her breasts, the boys would say, “Hide from the Vampire!” and Yura would chuckle because he wanted to continue being friends with these boys.

One day, Elena Nikolaevna, our fear-and-trembling inducing algebra teacher we all called “The Guillotine,” pried a draft of our love note from Lida’s fist and mercilessly unfolded the crumpled piece of paper. Everyone grew quiet from the effort of suppressing curiosity while showing overt dislike of The Guillotine. And then she started reading the note (omitting Yura’s name, thank God), her voice rich with enjoyment because she was delivering the pleasure a lot of students craved while simultaneously showing everyone her whip. The Guillotine had a way of making things sour and unappetizing, saying, for example, “comradeship” instead of “friendship,” or “it is in your interest,” when she clearly had her own interest in mind. In her voice, our note no longer felt like a clumsy first draft—it sounded sinister, as if written by a creepy stalker: “…When you walk home tonight, turn around five times and you might see me…”

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Notes on POEM FOR MY BROTHER by Eric E. Hyett

Notes on POEM FOR MY BROTHER
by Eric E. Hyett

I have to be careful—
what I mean is
it’s the absence of him that matters,

though the light’s the same.
I wear green a lot these days
like I’m a tree in bloom.

I attract insects and leaves.
Even my socks are stitched with leaves.
If I were a tree,

I could renounce memory
and survive for centuries
on sunlight and water.

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EVERYONE MEANS SO WELL by Lisa Piazza

EVERYONE MEANS SO WELL
by Lisa Piazza

By fourth period
we can barely breathe. Each stir of the stifled air whispers glitter into sound. The struggle at the board is all mine: a virtue of verbs, the urgency of action. Who can tell the compound from the complex? Every phrase dependent on the next.

Sophia whines from the second seat: keep it simple. One subject, one verb. It’s a plea. I pull a name from the book on their desks: Scout discovers. Jem grows. Keep going: Boo scares, Dill hides until Robert’s screech from the seat in the back corner un-silences the cycle. Today he’s a cheetah, all energy and thrust. Some days he is nothing but quiet. Across the room, Zaid knows better than to laugh but he does it anyway, then Regina, who hates her teeth, dares to smile and Leann pulls out her phone and Parker puts on his sunglasses and Devin the Quarterback sticks his fist out for a bump: Knuck it up, Ms P.

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YESTERDAY and TODAY by Addison Oliver

“Today”

Today I put a bottle’s worth of anti-depressants in my mouth, thinking I might swallow them. I let them sit there for several seconds, cold on my tongue, and then I spit them into my palm. I did it again—put them in, let them sit, spit them out—and then a third time. They stuck together from saliva. I was afraid; I was gearing myself up; even this, I couldn’t accomplish. I imagined swallowing them, quite suddenly—do it!—the little slide over my tongue and the momentary bulge in my throat. But each time I imagined swallowing them, I became more afraid and dismally hoped I would fail.

I was alone in a room I didn’t like. A small, crowded room in which the bed filled up the interior. I sat on the edge of that bed. There was a mirror in front of me, and I saw my reflection: fragile, pitiful, my hair in tangles but my eyes made up in crimson and black. My best feature I’ve been told—my eyes, the speckled gold green of the irises. My reflection was tarnished by a dark, blotted mirror, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t there to look at myself.

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THE AFFAIR by Lyn Lifshin

THE AFFAIR
by Lyn Lifshin

The Margaritas were blue with paper roses.
Later I thought how they were the only salt of those nights.
His e mail letters like skin,
very taut. What he didn’t say drugged me.
Language was wild, intense.
I could feel him, his screen name a tongue.
Verbs taut, what he didn’t say a drug.
It was a dangerous tango.
I wanted his body glued to mine.
Distance kept the electricity vivid.
It was a dangerous tango.
How could I know his mother leaped into Niagara Falls.
I fell for his words, what he left out.
How could I know he was ice.
How could I know his mother leaped into the falls.
Even in the heat, he was icy.
His name was Snow. Our last night
we drove thru fog until 3.
He told me things he said he’d never told anyone.
My thigh burned where it touched him.
On our last night we drove thru Austin
mist talking. I was burning.
He photographed me, exhausted, at 3 AM. Everything he
told me was a scar. My hair curled in a way
I hated. After that night I wasn’t sure
I would be pretty again.
Everything he told me was a
scar. Under the ice the anger in him was lava.
I wanted him, always longing for men
with something missing.
The Margaritas were the only salt I’d taste.
The anger in him was lava under the ice.
I wanted more, my longing a scar.
When he didn’t write, I printed his old e mail.
When I no longer looked for it
his e mail was there, like a mugger.
The Margaritas were strong with black paper roses

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ODE TO THE QUIET ROOM by Niyathi Chakrapani

ODE TO THE QUIET ROOM
by Niyathi Chakrapani

There is a room
inside a paradox—the
silence, the calm of
grieving water, of lamenting purples in the sunset,
the flecks they see, admire,
but don’t love enough
to remember.
And yet the silence is there, waiting,
surviving,
dancing alone with
a [temporary] smile.

But—the paradox.
The marooned silence in which I fill my bones
with water, sustaining—yet barely—
for there is an element forgotten in
that moment; the silence, like water,
runs alone, unfriended, falling into seas
with vigor that shakes the nerves as
it breaks apart into molecules, writhing, trying
to come together, and yet, they are

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STUDY by Andrew Taw

STUDY
by Andrew Taw

Almost by accident, they found that the average frequency of a particular synapse firing in all dolphins directly correlated with the average frequency of all starlight. In countless dolphins, they implanted electrodes that gradually accelerated and slowed the frequency at regular intervals.

Within roughly 17 minutes, all things began to shift periodically up and down the visible color spectrum. Sometimes the trees took on the sky. Sometimes, women thought themselves beautiful. The blind were still blind. The elders and the synesthetic became nocturnal. Under the effervescent moon and rain, tragedy seemed unfitting, which leadened the weight of loss.

After nine years, all of Alpha Centauri shifted from color to color, each of its three stars, a different moment from each other and our own. Then Barnard’s. Then Wolf 359. Then Sirius. when transience was all the young knew. By then, the dolphins had long since beached themselves, throwing themselves at the feet of their tormentors and found, to the scientists’ delight, they could not die.

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LESSONS by Michelle Ross

LESSONS
by Michelle Ross

In the shed, the girl’s mother presents a hammer for the girl to examine. “A hammer is a lever, a simple machine. All simple machines reduce the push or pull force needed to move a load by increasing the distance over which that force must be applied,” she says.

The girl slides a finger around the cold metal knob and along the thick claws. She recalls the purple hammer birds in Alice in Wonderland, how their heads seemed backwards. The claw end of a hammer more closely resembles a beak, after all; but in the movie, the knobs are the birds’ beaks, the claws like feathered hair moussed back. Of course, in the movie, the birds wedge nails into wood rather than pry them out as her mother does now.

“See how I lift the handle all the way up like this to remove the nail? I’m willing to work for a longer period of time so that I may apply less effort over the short-term. In the end, conservation of energy always prevails: input equals output. But most people don’t appreciate how wildly different that input can be made to look and feel.”

As is the case with most of her mother’s lessons, the girl understands that this one is at least partly about the girl’s father. Since he left them, he has remarried; fathered two boys, brothers the girl has never met; and published a book of cookie recipes, three of which the girl’s mother claims he stole from her.

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HAMLET THERAPY by Maud Burnett McInerney

HAMLET THERAPY
by Maud Burnett McInerney

The last time I had seen a live production of Hamlet, I was a teenager, and I fell in love with the Melancholy Dane. He was beautiful and blonde and had one of those resonant voices, trained by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. I learned all of Ophelia’s lines—this seems disturbing to me now, but then I played her over and over again in the privacy of my bedroom.

Nearly forty years later, I saw Hamlet again on the very same stage at the Canada’s Stratford Festival. This time, I saw a different play entirely. I was no longer in love with Hamlet, I was Hamlet. Watching the play from the dark shadow of my own depression, I recognized myself on stage. I could taste the flavor of Hamlet’s every mood because his moods were mine.

Just to be clear, the precipitating cause of my depression was not that my uncle killed my father and married my mother. It was more mundane and yet horribly painful: my husband of over 20 years left me for a much younger woman, with whom, I eventually learned, he had been involved for some time. Not tragic, just sad and disappointing and commonplace, and yet, because betrayal is betrayal, I felt what Hamlet felt.

The second Stratford production was both stylized and extremely naturalistic, especially when it came to how the actors spoke. No one declaimed, no one used British-y accents, the words were clearly and rapidly delivered in ordinary Canadian tones. The characters spoke as you and I do but using Shakespeare’s words, and thus those words gained an intimacy they all too often lack in stagier performances.

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NEWS DELIVERY by Smriti Verma

NEWS DELIVERY
by Smriti Verma

Once, my brother set himself on fire, on a cold December morning.

We were sitting on the front porch with a glass of sherry, a skull,

arms, winds. Said: ‘my hands, the fingernails, the hair.’

And then, a pause. That was also the winter my mother, sixty now,

came home from Delhi, limping straighter than usual. I gave her

the news, you gave her a cup of tea. And in the corner, my brother’s hands-

burnt, yet working. Moving in space. His hair, faulty ends,

sticking out like remnant ashes we forgot to throw away.

My eyes slowly dissolving, and your hand- grounded to bone.

And my mouth, opening and closing, sewed with a fabric of glass.

My body lost to me like the last vanishing oranges of sunset.

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