There is always a cruel sister. There is always one more beloved than the other. There is always a stronger who kills the weaker, in life as in the murder ballad “The Two Sisters,” versions of which have circulated for centuries across continents. The older sister cannot help being the uglier, making her the murderer.chop! chop! read more!
I forget to butter the skillet, so my egg spreads
like pond scum, and it’s filmy and stuck, and the smoke alarm
goes off, and it rings in my head the way gunshots do,
and I’m parched and sorry, so I pull the sun from my hair
in penance, and I slap my face with my largest ring turned inward, and I touch
the skillet with the tip of my thumb, and I wait
for the blister, and that’s the place the black widow bit me
in preschool, so I had to go in the ambulance, so I had to get the shots
that scared me, so my father kissed it better, but even now
my hand catches fire when I think about spiders,
and I toss my breakfast in the sink, and my kitchen fills
with steam, and it’s those muggy days in Houston, so I worry
someone might peek in the window, see me dancing barefoot
on the linoleum, shrieking for help but not wanting any.
The dining room windows of Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers beam light onto the last cars in the lot—a pale-blue Pinto, a red Camaro, and a gray Buick Riviera, floorboard littered with Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and Earth, Wind and Fire eight tracks. The Buick’s mine. I’m the manager. In two weeks I’ll quit to go back to college.
I squirt hospital-sweet cleanser over gluey catsup congealed onto the salad bar Formica, scraping with my finger through a rag. Then I head to the kitchen, snack on the last batch of fries and try to balance cash against receipts. Eighteen-year-old Fat Danny washes dishes and sixteen-year-old Nina mops.chop! chop! read more!
on a cramped ship
headed toward Ellis Island.
Fog, fog horns for a
lullaby. The black
pines, a frozen pear.
Straw roofs on fire.
If there were postcards
from the sea there might
have been a Dear
Hannah or Mama, hand
colored with salt.
I will come and get you.
If the branches are
green, pick the apples.
When I write next, I will
have a pack on my
back, string and tin.
I dream about the snow
in the mountains. I never
liked it but I dream of
you tying a scarf
around my hair, your
words that white dust
What should I remember, what release? My mother’s hot hand in mine as she was dying.
My dog’s heart stopping. I felt it.
My arm under her belly, my cheek on her spine—two quick beats
and that was all. But certainly not. I fell on her dark fur.
My mother’s breathing was harsh; she seemed like someone else.
I sat by her and listened. I knew she was dying. I knew
she was not theres—my head hurting, my hand
losing feeling. Don’t die now, I thought.
was triangle &
the sayings of an
of iodine. what
was told before the
kiss. has a toad
of divorce? elegy
no cry again
for the coming
coming nights, no
no, no, quickly
quickly as a rain
—the second coming
of judas—how are
you, mr. xylophone? have
you got some
for this old
I wanted to at least shift my purpose and practice. Since I was living in Japan and studying Asian art, I started by painting images of kimonos, of figures wearing kimonos; I took photos of models in kimonos, wearing geisha or kabuki makeup. These exercises soon seemed appropriated and hollow and I realized I needed to be making objects themselves, that I was no longer interested in the pictorial representations of things. At the same time, I wanted to create things that were abstractions, that is, non-objective. Does that make sense? I wanted to be creating things where the process and materials were more important and evident than their subjective objectness or narratives. I wanted, ultimately, to create something not representing something, but actually being something, as physically as possible.chop! chop! read more!
everyone in the cathedral
is a song
living as voices in the corridor
it takes too much
to see their countenance
saunter into history books
In love, we are passengers—his take. We had been talking about how people change us. He is standing by the white boards, and I’m sitting in the chair I always read in before students show up for the last class of the night. Out the window, the sunset makes the sky into a ripe plum, but I do not point it out this time. He has jumped to explaining that our understanding of the physical world is not intuitive. We react to forces that we ourselves imagine. Here is the scenario: I’m on a merry-go-round. The friction draws you in. He draws in red on the white board. Then why do I lean out? I stand and move to his side to face the board. Look, he says. All the new vocabulary I’m learning could be its own prose poem: fictitious force, centrifugal motion, normal force. Whenever he gets to talking like this, I see a country sweeping out before me, and I have never traveled there, but it could very well be a place to make a home. Once, he said that I should have been a scientist. Tonight he says, Everything wants to go straight.chop! chop! read more!
It began in August. By December it was done. All he remembered, afterwards, was the freckling of light on the living room couch where she drew him down on the few occasions he went to her house. The home was on the outskirts of town, few other houses surrounding it, and she didn’t seem to care where he parked, didn’t care whether he walked in plain sight to the front door, didn’t care that her husband wouldn’t be home from work until after dark. All he remembered, afterwards, was how one afternoon she told him there were ants in her kitchen sink, asked him to spray them with a bug spray, which he did. The next day, then, by coincidence, his wife informed him there were ants in the basement of their own house.chop! chop! read more!
When the sun sags into the damp puddle
At your paws and
The wind in unison sings a last song
A misty mountain in the sky
Unpacks its jaws
Opens its scarlet mouth
And exhales the last foggy breath
Before the sunset ruptures,
For you to emerge round
And windy from a dandelion stub
Something of you is deposited already
In the salt of the evening
Every room is safe and dangerous. Ghosts squirm into action and wander, reenacting what made them ghosts. Words spoken in an empty room reverberate, returning to the speaker. In Medieval times people had only one space for everything. I, the bedroom, am nestled within a house that is nestled within Seattle, a subtle city. No sun comes through my two windows, only a frozen gray sky, a giant’s sigh or a sad exhalation.chop! chop! read more!
I wore my grey dress to the funeral, the one with the scratchy sleeves. My tights had a hole under the knee that got bigger when I poked my finger into it. The coffin was closed and I wondered if Nancy looked like she was sleeping in there. There was a single white rose lying on top. I didn’t even know they made roses in white. A skinny lady with a stern face and a hat played the organ while everyone stood up and sang. I didn’t know the words.chop! chop! read more!
For years beyond counting, she lived far under water among the green things, their shine like that light before the storm comes above ground, as if seen through the veins of a new leaf, held close to the eye in a time so distant that its tale must have been whispered in her ear by a voice she no longer recalled how to speak back to. She’d look, in daylight, at the angles of the rocks that jut up from the sand below, whose bottom she was afraid to find. She’d float over the sunken ferns, the stems many-leaved and waving, watch the fish nestling there whom she called her scaly sisters, their shared kin as much a mystery to her as her own name. She thought that the moon, when it came, rose from and hovered a little above the surface of the water. That surface was the sky she knew. She’d see her hair drift ahead of her, the color of a tongue after it’s licked an apple for too long, though apples were things that she forgot, every day, except one.chop! chop! read more!
Suicide was his breakfast cereal, his tuna sandwich, his pasta primavera, his aperitif. Thinking of it got him through the day, and it came punctually.
He regularly tried to kill himself, and I encouraged him. My agenda was not so malignant, or so callous as it may seem only at first glance. I had a larger purpose, though in fairness the sacrifice was his alone.
Attempting suicide was an avocation. In this sense, my encouragement was only salutary. If he ever succeeded, the project itself would terminally suffer. It was his ineptness that made him so invaluable, recommended him so very highly. Not to mention his doggedness despite the failures.chop! chop! read more!
by Matthew Gellman
Nearly 37 million people are living with HIV around the world. The bird has a wet, satiny throat and thrusts his red song into boys. Some are under the age of fifteen. 2.6 million,
they say. Feathers in their bloodstream. Not enough branches, nor living trees, nor roots.
In 2014 alone, an estimated 2 million people were newly infected. 220,000 under fifteen. Charts say they saw red. They titled the bird’s song “Antiretroviral.” Only a few are lucky
to hear it. The bird keeps singing. The bird will be singing in 230 rooms this hour.chop! chop! read more!
In the beginning it’s just him and the silence. In the old college library, the wind pushes fraying leaves through the crevice under a door towards the center of a labyrinth of stacks, finds him crouched watching her read over a bottom row of books, her skin the pink of magnolias, her hair a mess. When she looks up he pretends to scan the shelf in front of him and she goes back to reading, enabling him to stare again, and this repeats several times until she straightens, circles the row to where he kneels searching for her face between National Security and Immigration and Man, The State, and War, and when she says something he startles, momentarily distracted by the book she’s holding, but then recovers and asks her: Want to grab a beer?chop! chop! read more!
Because we swim small in a twinkling expanse, we should cling to the icy crystals of fact: The screech and gouge might last for decades, but hardly forever. The smash won’t topple individuals so much as dance through generations. The Earth itself has weathered metaphors far more titanic. And it’s unlikely the lower animals will sense climate change at all!chop! chop! read more!
he best way to remember is to be born again
completely, slick with red and heat,
til the cord is cut and the body stilled into awe.
At trial, the mind re-buries itself,
memories stacked like silver fish.
One last drink for every hurt to carry.
One for his hands, one for the knife,
one for the hot pulse inside you
as body met body against the wall.
A lawyer would never argue his real fear
is of being done in prison by men
the way he did you.
Instead, the mind tries to forget.
Safens itself inside morning drives,
fog burning across a lake,
of smaller things.
Someone came up with this image.
It was during the me-too chinwag after Mass
And it was a mother’s voice.
Later, I thought alone
In my hull:
What sort of submersibles
Are we at home then, in Ohio?
By the day after the storm, the owner of the bar where I worked had fled the city, leaving me in charge by default. I kept the place open, mostly to serve those volunteers clearing the muddy streets of wreckage; I refused to take their money, because I’d always hated the owner.
This far downtown, there was still no electricity, so I improvised my own mood lighting. By one-thirty on the morning in question, the candles along the bar had burnt down, hissing and sputtering, to pools of molten wax in their dishes. The last drinkers had left; I was spending an idle moment at the liquor shelves behind the bar, rotating the bottles so the labels faced outwards, when I heard the front door open again. “How goes it?” I said, eyeing the pale blur of the visitor’s reflection in the nearest fifth of whiskey.chop! chop! read more!
The man paused on the doorstep, huffed into his palm to check his breath, and then shook his jacket straight. Ignoring the bell to the side, he gave a stout knock.
A girl opened the door. “Hello?” She had a wide, serious face and the kind of long straight hair that fell like a shower curtain
“Hi,” he said brightly. “You’re Angel, right?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I have heard so much about you. I’m Chris. I’m picking up your mother.”
“I know. She’s been getting ready for hours.”
“May I come in?”chop! chop! read more!
Peering out the window of the small, high-ceilinged room where schoolchildren once hung their coats, I see nothing but corn running a mile to Grandpa’s woods, the new ranch house of the city people and, across the road from that, Uncle’s Clarence’s farm, which my wife still wishes he had left us. The barn is falling in. We saw the first little breach in the roof appear. “Uh-oh,” my wife said as we drove by.chop! chop! read more!
Somewhere in the suburban-rural divide of New York, a family of four moved into a small house offset from the rest of town next to a set of train tracks. When a freight train came by in the first night, the entire house rattled and woke the father, who took his shotgun that he hid in the garage that morning and went with it outside. He fired a round at the train, and the bullets sparked against the dull, thick side of one of its cars. He loaded another shell, fired it in the same manner, and then watched the freight move on for another twenty or so minutes until it was out of view, passing over the horizon of enervated, dry grass.chop! chop! read more!
I thought we’d go with the other recruits to Ping Pong, Mahjong, or Sing-Along, but we get Mail Room. Stay here until you work things out, He says, then leaves with the Key. Mother’s not intimidated. Sits down and smooths her skirt. What have we here? Form letters for every person on earth, explaining what happens—not why. Sign on the wall says a few will get their letters while most, poor fools, do not, but even if yours slips behind the mailbox or falls into a flower bed, its contents hold true: You’ll marry that man in the blue suit. Your brother survives the crash, but his right arm doesn’t. Baby for you, you and—yes, I’m serious—you.chop! chop! read more!
The Illuminati holds its annual recruitment dance
In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in that bar with the antique signs,
And the program includes waltz, disc jockeying, and finger paints,
Because color choice will always weed out the likely rejects.
You know how these things work.chop! chop! read more!
I could feel his eyes on me, even though he was watching the road. “That’s private,” my father said quietly. “I don’t tell anyone who I voted for.”
He was fifty and I was on the edge of nineteen, and he was spending his night driving me back to my dorm room three hours from home. I had shown up at his door six hours prior, with almost no notice.
Earlier that day, I had paid $45 for a one-way Amtrak ticket to my tiny Philadelphia suburb. I had walked to my voting center from the train station. I had walked to my father’s house after I voted.chop! chop! read more!
In spite of living far away, I feel always connected to Chile, a place I refer to as “my ancient land.” Several years ago, the nostalgia for my homeland made me recall the work of two Czech composers, Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, whose music conveys their own love for their country. Dvořák’s New World Symphony and Smetana’s My Fatherland became the inspiration for a new series of paintings I began, “My Ancient Land.” The sense of belonging to a place is personal and universal, and this is the reason I could and can very much identify with these musical pieces.chop! chop! read more!
A lover explains the definition of kerning, I listen to how
the spaces between letters are adjusted for the viewer.
So you can see me, I adjust myself repeatedly in the bathroom mirror.
To sit Shiva one must cover all the mirrors in the house with black cloth.
What if you were to cover me with black cloth, redact me for the day,
would my image remain, giggling like a naughty schoolgirl in the mirror.
If she begged her mom, Heather got to spend weekends at her grandma Maxine’s house. Maxine would be sitting in the living room, looking out the front window when she was dropped off. Her mother never came inside. They’d wave at each other through the windows. This was during the oil crisis; her mother told her that shutting off her car and going inside would just waste gas.chop! chop! read more!
No, you are not my shining demon—
You’re the god Rimbaud wrote of, right? While lambasting the men of his time,
they set us at your feet or you at ours when we were at school, when we thought ourselves gods, in the cold halls, lost, unknown, longing ourselves into flight. I had been to the city of the powers, the city of Père Goriot, and “Our Lady”, but that was no longer in my mind, none of it. I would run off soon; a place was made for me, he was young, his fingers, they hesitated, they curved upwards, I rushed to the street. When I got home I knew I was with child. How could I sleep. My mind was water, the sea.
Youth felt crooked then and feels crooked now. Not in the way that New York City (once home) is, was, and will remain crooked. In various ways and perhaps none, all depending on our expectations, asinine and understandable all at once. I sought to intensify my views on life as early as I could, as soon as I grew dimly aware of what that meant, jogging into the grey fuzz flying off the newly baseless conceptualizations, concentrating on a decaying tree here, a coarse cluster of beliefs there. Some of my strengths wane, some wax and those are some facts, I guess. These are patient reflections, awaiting sufficient ice to form on the semi-frozen pond of non-narrative, waiting for the body to give way to a story or two. I have encountered/endured many approaches to treating the great textbook themes: innocence and experience, conformity and rebellion, culture and identity, love and hate, life and death, given my line of “work” as a writer and a teacher of literature. “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do,” said Voltaire, who used the word sturgeon at least once in his writing to my knowledge and likely stood at a window one morning watching the rain, thinking, I mean who hasn’t?chop! chop! read more!
Some days in May, a sunrise of redbuds will apron the clouds
and light pour across development lawns gold with dandelions.
My father told me living with others was a matter of knowing
when to weed and when to mow. I don’t know how he woke
without fail at six-ten, Monday through Friday, year after year.
How he got ready for work—showered, shaved—and collected
a prepared-ahead-of-time sack lunch and a Thermos of coffee.
Sleeping in was a poor excuse for working to retire in Florida
where the shirts-on-the-clothesline May air just isn’t the same.
Mother said the light there was numbing, in the Sunshine State,
but she respected my pops whose idea it’d been to move there.
Love was working like he did. Love was keeping his clothes
laundered. Setting that brown-bag lunch where he expected it.
In the Florida town where they lived he said he missed autumn.
The settling-to-earth of leaves. Seeing oaks and maples scrawl
reds and yellows like signatures across the fall sky above lawns,
by the stop sign on Lucky Avenue and State Route 79. He hated
poetry. Called it “useless,” though his world stank of moments
that overfill houses like the scent of coffee brewing the hour
before light clothes you and you set off to weed and mow.
¡THAN CALL BRAD FOR HELP!
by John Manuel Arias
to ease the tension
Ammit picks her teeth
with a quetzal feather from your
mother’s hair and politely
asks your name there’s
a pause because no
one’s told you yet but
even if someone had
even if your lovers had
learned how to pronounce
or its delicious
crevices that swallowed
whole whatever was
left for them to swallow
they’d never have
had the balls
to utter it
I imagine what brought him to the lot that day was the barrage of ads—the ’58 Chevy Camaro had just been released, and even then they could smell it. Classic the scent whispered, heavy with the sour-sweet of rubbed leather and oiled hinges, the soon-to-be-backseat-conception-point of thousands of late baby boomers. Or I imagine it could have been his new job, sorting envelopes by size, weight, and zip-code, the pressed khaki fabric on his elbows rubbing against his father’s own—the life-sucking monotony that brings life security also brings a decent credit rating. Or I imagine it was his son’s first birthday, family life as a teenage father became instant reality and he was hit with an urgent need to provide—or to escape. Whatever it was, it was something special (I imagine), something that brought him and his wife to that car lot during a breezy Utah summer in ’58—switching the lanes of fate from “what could have been” to what had to be.chop! chop! read more!