For eighteen years Eddie’s bullet was like some forgotten organ—the spleen, maybe. His cousin Denny had his spleen removed a few years ago, and the same thing: it was all right until it wasn’t, until one doctor felt a distended lump beneath cool fingers and then a flurry of signatures and warnings about lungs that might or might not collapse. Eddie is thankful that his bullet stayed under the skin, innocuous and clandestine, like a roll of undeveloped film. He never even told his ex-girlfriend; he just said he had a shoulder injury. She was still careful with it, though, as if it were something sacred, and he found himself doing the same. Over the years, the bullet’s importance swelled until it was no longer a foreign object lodged in him, but a tangible memory all its own.chop! chop! read more!
The day a little gloomy, sky
not exactly low but grackles
higher than they ought to be,
their oily, boat-wake tails
dragging worn-out clouds.
And that finch song, isn’t it garbled,
The mood of the river is to glitter
which also is a way to deflect,
if I had to name its surface,
I’d say it was the color of a sweaty disco tank.
Color is how we comprehend the length of light
and what constitutes darkness is not without controversy;
I’ve seen the future and it will be
puffy-eyed. We’ll rise like an army
of teeth, you and me seeded in sick earth
to grow into what might be: strange,
beautiful shunned in this apartment
third from the sun.
Ghosts ruined our party. We were a mess
when the lampshade began to shake.
I was so drunk on whiskey and salt and
the fluids of your body. A faux-Greek
vase on the table. Dead yellow roses.
A staple of our culture is to intuit
words before they are spoken. I raise
my body from the crouching position and
look through a small telescope to see
your deepest space. From a distance
My bag disappeared
with my passport, my keys
a little vial containing
a sliver of bone.
I was stalked by an ordinary man.chop! chop! read more!
We let our socks sear on hot concrete. Twelve laps around the pool then we jump in. We splash dead frogs onto each other and croak with towels around our bony shoulders, shaking like biology class skeletons. We put our pruned palms together, trying to align the ridges against one another. Connected by skin, we smile.chop! chop! read more!
I walked alone at night inside the throbbing dome of men
who thought I was a man
and did not assault me
I found you bloated and glowing on the bed
you unscrewed my nipples to a Janet Jackson track until
a pile of warm jewels poured into your cupped palm
you thought I was a girl
I didn’t know what to thinkchop! chop! read more!
I made it to the moon and nothing changed.
If I had something urgent to say nothing changed.
If I made it beyond the moon, lost in so much distance,
Space out of space out space, nothing changed.
Perhaps a fiercer loneliness.
When I lift the lid of the compost bin
heat swells toward me, the first layer:
clippings from grass mown as soon
as the rain dries. Farley said, If you cut hay
still green it’ll set the barn on fire. When it
breaks down it’ll heat up and combust.
At the bottom, red worm slivers weave
intricacies in watermelon rind, husk
Inside the Piggly-Wiggly, picking out beans, P-Nut suppressed the headache brought on by the bruise on the back of his neck. He’d gotten the bruise from the can of beans that his wife chucked at him, before it bounced off him and clattered into the sewer. So he walked away to fetch them the dinner of the can of beans. Was it the same can of beans that she would then chuck at him? He was losing track. But he knew this: Van Camp’s was the right kind. Hormel was not the right kind. The red stamp and the dent said so. The register blinked .79. So, .79 cents was the cost of magic beans.chop! chop! read more!
All the fruits bursting
with prophecies without
an easy way through the
branches of apricot tree.
Outside, the snow crowded
to drown the lives. My hands
a wet door that could never
hope for the faith of miracles.
The orange sticky-note is hard to miss—the corner peels off, pricks me as I pluck it from the headboard of my bed. Your handwriting is large and round. ‘I hope your interview goes well tomorrow. Remember to be yourself!’ I toss it into the garbage and get ready for bed. The next morning, I pause in front of the mirror and I dig the note out of the bin before shoving it into the pocket of my dress pants.chop! chop! read more!
a sky reproduced in pixels. or oil acrylic. to match what then is believed seen. how our seeing displaces the thing itself. how our need to document interrupts the flutter of a heart suddenly awakened to a new love. that this kiss takes on more than what it is or might have promised. the same way your front teeth overlap. or your cheeks turn red when laughing bright loudly. that a white canvas opens immediately to comparisons. of a snow covered plain. or the smooth opening of your pale stomach.
Sylvia works stain into peeled orangewood counters while the sunset peeks in muted veil through kitchen window milk glass. The month of flowering is nearly finished and this barren women has a wedding to attend. Too stressed by her own state of affairs, she daren’t dream herself into any others—she for(goes/gets) the gift.chop! chop! read more!
The last time I saw my ex-wife, we were sitting next to each other on a faded picnic blanket in a field of daisies and late-spring grass so bright that I could feel my corneas crisping. She looked great, as always. She was wearing a pair of black cutoff shorts that she’d made herself, cuffed high enough to show the mermaid tattoo looping down onto her upper thigh. She was hot, the hot mom. A hot mess.chop! chop! read more!
It is August when her boyfriend, the pornographer, takes her to the beach with her two boys, one pale like her, the other dark. They bring beer and bologna sandwiches in a crinkled grocery bag, lay stolen motel towels out across the sand. The boys dart off into the surf, shrieking, laughing, ignoring the Pacific chill.chop! chop! read more!
A burning witch on midsummer eve smells like campfire, like tobacco, like men standing in a circle as they smile and sing. She is only an effigy, a cartoon with her green skin painted onto her plywood face, her body a sack of coarse black fabric scraps stitched together and overstuffed with hay. She rides a broom and has a long warty nose that was carved by hand. The time it took to give her two warts instead of one.chop! chop! read more!
It started gradually. First, little Michael was wrinkling his nose in a way he never had. Then, four-year-old Jessamyn across the street sprouted whiskers from her cheeks that were long, fine, and nearly transparent. Elisa developed a light coating of tiny hairs which were thicker than body hairs ought to be, and which turned gray within a few days. Paul was the first one to grow a tail. His tail was long, pink, and hairless, and at first he delighted in it, and used it to tap other boys on the shoulder when they weren’t looking. Then, he realized it was not coming off, and he wailed in his mother’s arms. His mother, for her part, tried not to cringe as his tail wrapped around her leg.chop! chop! read more!
I can’t remember how to breathe so the nurse hands me a brown paper bag along with the white jumpsuit and matching cap. Sixty seconds before that they wheeled my wife away, her belly bulging under the white blankets, in her belly, our baby choking. Sixty seconds before that, the room a flurry of nurses and someone saying, “We have to take the baby,” like there’s a place where they take babies and never bring them back. Sixty seconds before that the baby’s heart rate crashing and the pulsing alarm. Sixty seconds before that joking that I hope the baby gets born fast so I don’t miss the golf on TV later. That was four minutes ago. Four minutes ago everything was normal. Four minutes ago I assumed everything would happen as it did when my son was born. But this is different. This time I’m hyperventilating, thinking I may never see my wife again, thinking our baby girl might die, the nurse smiling, patting me on the back, saying how they always seem to forget the dads in these situations. It’s not funny, but she tries to be. Nothing about this is funny. My baby girl is choking. And this is real. And she could die. And we don’t know which way to spell her name. And I can’t remember how to breathe.chop! chop! read more!
she plunged below the line of the ocean and
saw lava exploding into the emptiness she saw
sea become land when we came to this place
there were myths and shadows and people and
we joined them becoming lava exploding
into steps that a man could climb
Most people think electric eels are eels when they’re, in fact, knife fish. They’re solitary, shallow, made with enough electrolytes to kill a man.
“They can kill a man, but not themselves. Sometimes, they wish that they could.”
Cadence was always saying I never listened to her, when the truth was, I heard everything.
I listened while she rambled about the oceanology books she’d brought home from the library, her actual courses festering in her backpack. She’d cook me ramen or sprawl out on the floor with her sketchbooks, drawing herself into more contained circles. Indie music would flow through the apartment while she told me about the nine things I didn’t want to know lurked at the bottom of the ocean. If I spoke back, she snapped at me for breaking her concentration. Then moments later she would turn to me and say, ‘Hey Ezekiel, did you know electric eels can’t feel their own shock?’chop! chop! read more!
Its shadow is helpless here
festering the way your fingers
lean over the watermarks
not yet covered with paper
though left in the open
this wall could heal, the butterflies
We took seats in the back of the planetarium. I glanced over at you, my face warm with anticipation. You leaned back and looked up. When the lights went out, would you cover my knee with your hand as a deep, slow voice described which stars we were seeing? Would I rest my head on your shoulder, at peace with the world and the universe, as Orion moved West, poised to shoot?chop! chop! read more!
In a God’s-eye
view all the edges
Tiny but distinct
picnics on a ledge
with his apocryphal lion
on him in particular
does he wonder
if God might prefer him
in stained starving rags
but nowadays your garbled barbles never tasted better. no matter how much your bog moss makes love to the gutter, you still wonder what’s next once you ditch the catfish trap house, with all its iridescent claws a-clash. not everybody can handle a bottom feeder’s garbage trundle, but me? i’m of another puddle. the ones who’d rather eat their demons than leave them to their own diseases. the ones who never lost that most primeval thanatoxic fever.chop! chop! read more!
The girls never kissed the boys. The boys that walked down the hallway in packs, smelling of Cheetos and drugstore cologne. The girls never went to school dances, out to movies or late night pizza. They never wore jewelry. Never a spot of makeup, their skin fresh like new snow. If their mama caught them trying on her church heels they were beaten. They never showered with the other girls in gym class but they snuck glimpses of their breasts. How their nipples were large and not pink like their own. They wore plain dresses in forgettable colors: beige, olive, navy. Their hair pulled back into a bun. Tight. Uncomplicated.chop! chop! read more!
It started out as a joke in the warehouse. You could buy and build anything you needed for your home at IKEA, at least that was the corporate strategy behind all the useless knick-knacks that made it hard to pack the boxes. It was only a matter of time before they started doing people, they said. What good was your dream kitchen without a dream family to sit around on the INGOLF chairs you’d built yourself and praise your cooking? Surely IKEA could produce a model that was more durable, less flammable than your ordinary family, less likely to be annoyed when you let the jam spill over the side of the jar and then stuck it back in the fridge so that globs of fruit smeared all over the shelf.chop! chop! read more!
DEFT PERCEPTION Works of Porcelain and Paper, Plausibility and Pause by Hannah Thompsett [click on images to enlarge] We all accumulate knowledge of our world through experience. Unconsciously, we learn to trust our perceptions as truth. But when this truth is challenged, our trust falters. We’re suddenly aware of the malleability and subjectivity of each of our constructed realities, our beliefs and expectations. To explore and test the boundaries of that trust, I created Deft Perception: Allusions of Reality, a body of work in porcelain, paper, and photographs. When is something easily perceivable or believable? When do we need to take a second look to reassure or reevaluate our expectation of truth? To address these questions, I decided to slow down the process of visual perception by using constructed objects in spatially arranged situations. As an artist, I want us to consider the delicacy and individuality of our assumed truths … chop! chop! read more!
Have you tried Amma’s ghosht tarkari and ghee paranthas? Oh you must. Succulent lamb chops served in earthen ware while Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle croon through an old radio. She runs a dhaba, a roadside food stall not far from Yamuna Expressway. Next time you are on your way to see the Taj Mahal, you should try her food. The cauliflower and carrot sabzi is sold out in an hour after she makes it. Potatoes, carrots, onions and cauliflowers grow in her backyard. She doesn’t bother with tomatoes because they require a moist soil throughout the year and water is a scarcity in and around Delhi.chop! chop! read more!
I left a bouquet of fake flowers tapped to Water Wheel Stand’s door in memory of Sharon and those long fall afternoons when I lugged pumpkins from the refrigerator truck to the trailer for customers, the afternoon when I was hyper and jabbering about the current rewrite of my book and how she turned to me and said, “Sara, you need a boyfriend”, the summer Saturdays of handing boxes of plums, pears, tomatoes, and green beans out of the truck to open for the morning, the fall evenings my brother would pick me up from work and help us close.chop! chop! read more!
He took about a week to consider.
I imagine he woke up Monday, warily shaved his cheeks and chin in his bathroom, then stared at his hair in the mirror. Tuesday, the same. Wednesday, with frustration. By Friday, disgust.chop! chop! read more!
We’ve had these fights before, the ones in which the decision we make means a lot more than the thing we buy, or don’t buy. Take our car, for example. We almost divorced deciding whether to buy a car to fit five or six; in the dealership while our older boys climbed into and out of fresh trunks you drummed your hands on your pregnant belly and stared into backseats that couldn’t handle any more of us. When we took our shiny new five-seater home it spent its days on our corner, where we could watch it from our living room window, minding it through the hum of Philadelphia life as it stood resolutely through all Kensington’s comings and goings.chop! chop! read more!