My friend BR gives me the manuscript of his novel because he wants to know what I think. I read it and we make plans to meet in a café to talk. The novel is mediocre, like almost everything BR writes. I give him my critique, which essentially rests on one problem: he tries to maintain too much control. As if he were afraid that the story he’s telling wasn’t enough for a novel, he stretches out his descriptions and rambles on.chop! chop! read more!
Moira’s son is snuggling against his grandfather on the couch. That’s all. Just resting on the old man’s shoulder, his forehead against his frayed collar. Michael looks tired, sweaty. There’s color high in his cheeks, as if he’s just come in from play. The sliding glass door is slightly open, and She can hear her father singing to him, something low, soft, painfully familiar. His knee moves up and down in steady cadence with the song. Eyes closed, they seem lost in each other’s comfort. She tries to swallow, but it tastes like acid, so she spits into the grass.chop! chop! read more!
I wear my love for foxgloves
on my digits, nibble on each
to slow the fibrillations.
Oh, it will never happen here, the nurse says. If she is concerned, she is too nice to show it.
Everyone is so nice here. The nurses, the lawyer who helps us with the paperwork, the people from the refugee center who bring us clothes; even the doctor, the surgeon who amputated all of our fingers, except for one of my thumbs, is a really nice man.chop! chop! read more!
I suppose I should tell you that I didn’t buy the apartment. Randi the realtor called (remember her, with the forehead?) and said the owners were still undecided, but I had visited by myself the week before, and it didn’t feel right anymore. I guess it was too big for just me and Pammy. Too many rooms, too many spiderwebby corners. They ended up selling it to that Polish couple, I think. For now, I’m living with my dad, who sayschop! chop! read more!
Dritan wondered whether he made the right decision in telling them to go ahead, so sure that he would catch up. Had he been sure though? He began to feel the numbness set in his hands, in his wrists, in his shoulders and back, though it wasn’t long before he felt his muscles begin to burn and cramp, giving him no choice but to stop kicking. His ears filled with the sounds of the others splashing onwards, though now the splashing came from all around him as the tides and waves had pulled them all apart.chop! chop! read more!
It’s moonlit and muggy out as Peety Alfaro walks to work. Under the yellow streetlights, he pauses to wipe the condensation off his glasses. Once done, he affixes his large and thick lenses back onto his face and takes a deep breath. Exhaling, he tugs rapidly at his white tee to cool off. Then he nods hard and continues walking, shoulders back and head up.chop! chop! read more!
puddle son of a bitch
light the east
In the ground, the real
never of a boy
How a couple recovers
I do not know
Agony of mother, father
Two weeks from his due
We gave ourselves matching haircuts
but only temple rye cures. Temper
your dog but only scaremongering
ignites crows. Shared the phobia collar
but only in shifts. See but only gavels.
An iris’ pillory but only a shaker of gifts.
But only our handsome freckles
divvied among avenue skin.
On the Mason jar she pasted a product label so as not to create any bubbles beneath it. The jar was made of extra-thick brown glass that distorted vision like coke-bottom spectacles. The label thus enabled the public to quickly pick the one they wanted. She was proud of her job. She put back the jar on the conveyor belt.chop! chop! read more!
“But Martin was born in Lancashire,” I said to the man seated across from me the afternoon of the arrest.
The man, whose black hair was slicked neatly back, offered me a cigarette.
I declined. “Martin’s not German, much less a German spy.”
The man placed a cigarette between his lips and lit it with the flick of a silver lighter. He inhaled deeply and then exhaled, the smoke blue-grey in the dimly-lit room.
“Mrs. Ridley,” he said. “We have ample evidence of your husband’s activities in support of the Third Reich.”
“Madam, I assure you, everything is in order.”chop! chop! read more!
Sunlight sealed behind
cirrus behemoths, I am
deep in left field. Suited
up in stripes, I wait for
something to come my
way. One cloud becomes
a prickly pear. I’m grateful
for my hat. Leafless trees
don’t know what was wrong
with the person who did this,
but I met my wife when this
was a drugstore, years before
the chaos you see here. Harney’s
Nissan, going a hundred, slammed
a Mazda; pieces of cars
flew into the windows of Town
Hardware, slid and banged three
BERLIN STORY: Time, Memory, Place by Emily Steinberg with an introduction by Tahneer Oksman Like fresh snow covering over a messy urban landscape, there’s a kind of concealing but also unifying quality to the fourteen central images of Emily Steinberg’s “Berlin Story.” Following a four-panel introduction, in which our narrator introduces herself as having grown up an anxious, fearful depressive, lost in the grip of, among other things, the “images of death, murder and gratuitous Nazi sadism” shown to her in Hebrew school, we are presented with still portrayals of an uninhabited, idyllic setting. Each drawing, contained in an unframed rectangle, presents its viewers with a narrowed angle, or point of view, proximate to or regarding the famous Wannsee Villa, a mansion located in the suburbs of Berlin. The drawings are in black and white, cramped with details composed from demarcated lines, some of them even slightly wobbly marks. From … chop! chop! read more!
On the eve …..of never forgetting…..I still
want to run away…..from you together….. or
not run….. but bite or register….. bionic judgment
always there….. to be crushed by….. unblinking
jacked….. and futuristic….. Some trees are easier
to climb than others….. Ailanthus for example
with a ladder leaned up against it….. or a poplar
Adonis was a painting. Or rather, he was a boy, but his limbs and lips looked as though they were made of artistry and creamy filaments of paint. It is no wonder, then, that Venus loved him. She kept him pillowed in her lap, far from the wars and deaths of heroes, and whispered him stories, her warm breath travelling across his lips. On days she was forced to leave him, Adonis made love to the forest instead, exploring it slowly, deliberately. On one of these days of absences and longing, a wild boar came across Adonis and gutted the canvas of his torso from stomach to collarbone. When Venus returned and found his broken body, she discovered the shape of heartbreak. Distraught, she made the spray of his blood bubble into hard teardrop seeds. And so, nourished by the blood of the most beautiful man to have ever been loved, the pomegranate blossomed into existence.chop! chop! read more!
If I could be anywhere
in the Fall
it would be Korea
walking rubberized pavement
to the top of Namsan Tower
surprised by snow in October
He taught me how to bend their arms
so they stayed. To solder them
solid with lead and resin, perfect
alchemical drops. Each striped
in mathematical candy—purple
for seven, green for five—it took
a simple decoder. But how
to speak to me, his daughter
striped in a thrift-store skirt
We prayed this way until sunset, when finally all of the bodies had been brought up high on the shore. We took the water-seeped wood, as we were used to do, and carried it to Branches’ Farm, where all wet wood went to dry. Then we carried back with them to shore piles and piles of dried wood. This went on right through supper—for no one ever ate until this task was done. There on the sand our men lay the wood from old shipwrecks and piled the bodies to make the pyre. As the flames reached high, our women closed their scarves around their bodies and made their way back to their homes to start the very late supper. Father Joe took this time to look out over us while enjoying his dinner of salt bread and water. We would sometimes look up to see his candle in the window momentarily lighting up his shadowy face and take comfort.chop! chop! read more!
When coarse human events become necessary,
people dissolve, a gloom powers profit, the claws
of paper and paper’s God hold sleuths to be prevalent,
that all men are prequel, and cowed by certain
alien fights. Knife liberty and hirsute happiness
secure fleece rights. Governments are prostituted,
driving their powers and the discontent of the governed.
Any storm of cover meant these end: flight
of the steeple, falter and a polish to parachute
a true glove ornament. Lay its foundation on
such prince piles: organs, eyes—sing its powers.
Such a storm shall seem to effect their safety.
“Women shouldn’t drive,” my chauffeur tells me.chop! chop! read more!
Back in 1962, German was still a popular graduate major at Stanford. The world was different then. That entire summer, Mary Lois and I turned out to be the only two grad students who’d stayed in town. We saw more of each other than I might have wished.chop! chop! read more!
BEAUTY IN ELEVEN ENCOUNTERS by Ollie Dupuy i could blame it on the culture of america, korea, science, but i boil it down to being the first korean word i learned, yeppuda yeppuda rolling off the tongues of halmonis and imos and echoing around the room like a bullet: beautiful beautiful. they flap sun-spotted hands to my sister’s and my hair, our flat stomachs, our long legs, and the only word i could understand was yeppuda. i begin to think of it as a science, as a fact, a ledgehold in the vast canyon of earth and universe. sun is yellow. clouds are white. i am beautiful. yeppuda, yeppuda. it takes a little time but i discover tragedy backwards, and suddenly i’m a victim of a crime i didn’t even know existed and i can’t stop thinking about my mother crying into the golden light of a therapist’s office. (no … chop! chop! read more!
Some still see the shadow of the earth’s other moon,
a ghost satellite over a ghost tide
before one light was absorbed into the other.
No silhouette hides in the rushes,
I discovered a near-limitless capacity for patience on my parents’ back porch, hiding out, eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and reading Richie Rich comics. I was skipping school, biding my time until the end of the afternoon when I could pretend to come home. That first morning, I had slunk down behind an old green aluminum chair and sat in an upright fetal position, knees to chest, arms swaddling legs. I counted the boards on the floor, twenty-five. The rails along the side, forty-eight, and 360 holes in between the crisscross side rail, 250 yellow leaves on the porch, 423 reds, five points in this yellow leaf, eight in that red leaf. I counted my fingers and my toes and every letter in the alphabet, and then, when that was done, I made up a new game. I spelled out every letter:, A, AY, B, BEE, C, SEA. I spelled my name: Ay, En, Gee, El, Eye, Cue, You, Eee. I spelled out whole sentences. “Angie is skipping school today.” “School sucks.” It wasn’t long before I was bored.chop! chop! read more!
“Ow! Shit! MOTHER of the dear LORD!”
My teenage daughter flies into the kitchen at this Sunday morning blasphemy and then freezes, as if the knife is meant for her. I freeze too, shocked by a surge of envy. I miss being her. Miss flirting with waves instead of the undertow.chop! chop! read more!
Before the puppet show, Melissa and I split
a stolen Valium. As the children gathered,
a dreamy feeling descended on the eighth
grade me, benevolence for all I saw—the cheap
hand puppets, a mouse and giraffe who
became Jonah and the whale. I put my mouse
into the mouth of Melissa’s giraffe while God
He was a little boy, and the sudden, spectacular storm had frightened him. Kenny had seen storms before but none like this. Lightning forked wickedly outside the trembling window, and thunder boomed inside his head, his chest. Torrents of rain lashed at the house.chop! chop! read more!
Holiday party season is once again upon us—a time of dough-forward cookie trays and ornamental cabbages, of feigned interest and conversational quicksand. This year, why not ride the crest of incivility that has taken our nation by storm? Say what you mean. Say whatever you feel like, then get the hell out of Dodge. Examples follow…chop! chop! read more!
A teaspoon of salt. It is flaky and the flakes overrun the tiny spoon and the recipe calls for kosher but the only thing in my cupboard is the fancy kind from France bought at the organic grocery store. Already I’m doing it wrong.chop! chop! read more!
Geometrically speaking, lines
are illusion because lines have no width.
Yet we know the end from the beginning.
Velocity differs from speed
in that the latter lacks direction. At five
hundred miles per hour, a jet never
reaches the horizon.
Call to me at the bottom of the stairs and wrap me in your breathless summering. Confession: my lips are their own puppetry until they’re not. Marionette me: I slashed my voice in the orchestrated light, beams of birdshadow pinned up for dissection on the wall. You were the window. So it seems the same knobby brown knees are embellished on a stranger’s body, appearing like the twin brother of a great dead lover from a childhood storybook, a wax figure that breathes underwater. So it seems holy repetition requires no funeral. Neither does piercing my own side, like the deer who lies down to be devoured and calls it love. I am not calling you a wolf, but. I am saying that carelessness sneaks up quiet and beastly and has sorry teeth. And leaves no footprints in its path, hidden ashes littering the tall grass.chop! chop! read more!
My favorite thing
Is his belief that I might
Leave the world unseen
I once left
An imaginary toucan
In a little statue alcove
At my grandmother’s
I procured him one summer
At camp where we sat
In this velvet room
Like a puppet theater
Asked a genie for a present
We couldn’t see