KEYS by Kim Magowan

After I call Barney, I take a bath. I have my hair in a topknot, so it won’t get wet. But it’s been cold all day, and the hot water feels so good that screw it, I pull out the ponytail holder and submerge. It’s not like he hasn’t seen my hair wet 500 times before. It’s not like a date where you need to look your best.

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COOP by David Nolan

Martha screams and runs to the bank of the cow pond when she sees her four-year-old boy walk into the murky water. His head is submerged by the time she arrives and her husband, running from the horses, peels off his shirt and dives in. She screams her son’s name for what feels like hours to the sky doming endless Oklahoma plains.

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THE BONE PLATE by Jacqueline Gabbitas

She took the partial denture from her mouth and passed it to the boy. He’d lost two teeth in the scrum to leave the boat and even though the gum had healed it was hard for him to eat. He stared at it like it was a thing alien. She nudged his hand and, smiling, gestured with her own what to do. She was not an old woman, and so he wondered how she’d lost the teeth herself. He saw in her eyes tenderness and the knowledge of being hungry.

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DESTIN by Ron Riekki

It was a cold afternoon in Florida.  December is often occupied by a pain-in-the-ass wind, but today the air was relatively humbled.  This was after I’d just finished EMT school and was nearly fifty-years-old, the alcoholism under control again.  My partner was a child, a teen who wouldn’t let me listen to the radio, insisting that he play some sort of robot music on his telephone.  He was hyperactive with sleep deprivation.  We were on a twelve-hour shift.  The cows off to our left weren’t eating grass, weren’t walking, weren’t sleeping, were just standing there with a sort of monstrous close-to-suicidal depression.  My partner looked at them and penetrated the sky with a horrific fake moo. 

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NUMBERS by Joshua Wetjen

“What is the lowest number?” my daughter asked.

“There is no lowest number,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “It’s zero.”

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CHORUS by Mary Lou Buschi

Bloody Mary was neither skull nor naked bone.
………….Sister of blood and flesh
they said your name 3 times,
………….walked backward up the stairs,
followed you to the weed choked creek

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THE AUGUST TEMPLES by Jennifer Solheim

In the photo half my face is showing but the focal point is a streak of silver white. I dye my hair dark but last year when I began growing out my pixie haircut, I let my temples keep their natural color. I had cut my hair short when my daughter was a toddler and I couldn’t stand a thick knot at my nape. But time was passing. My hair was growing. I was about to go for a run and when I tied my hair back I liked the look of it, the distinguished white and gray streaks.

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APOCALYPSE THEN by Sahalie Angell Martin

On July 20th, an article appeared in the New Yorker detailing the specific ways in which my hometown will be wiped off the face of the earth.

The article, entitled “The Really Big One”, described an earthquake that is due to devastate the Pacific Northwest within the next fifty years. Everything west of Interstate 5 will disappear, including my own city of Eugene as well as most of the major population hubs in Oregon. The piece was well-researched, visceral, and packed the hard-facts punch of any other apocalyptic warning: Billions will die. Cities will burn. Don’t bother with the hazmat suits.

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BEING THE MURDERED ACTRESS by Cathy Ulrich

The thing about being the murdered actress is you set the plot in motion.

Your picture will be in the tabloids, your parted mouth, your half-closed eyes. She was so beautiful, people will say. So young. You’ll be loved, desperately. Photos of you cut out of magazines, pasted on bedroom walls; your name tattooed onto forearms, upper thighs. I’ll never forget her.

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BARREN by Lynn Oseguera

I walked in my grandfather’s garden while my sisters took their turns saying goodbye. The peony bushes, now barren, were my grandmother’s favorite and, for her, he had always tended them. She had long forgotten who we were, but just that morning had told my sisters and I how much she missed peonies in the springtime. I walked past her still staring at the empty bushes through the window when I came inside to take my turn.

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THE FALL ZONE by Laura Moretz

First thing that morning, a woman told Henry his crew must not cut her tree’s branches. She looked as though she wouldn’t survive if he cut the thinnest twig from the huge willow oaks in front of her house. Fully dressed and made up before eight a.m., she clutched the notice that his crew had hung on her door knob a few days before. She argued for the integrity of the tree as though he had suggested cutting the arms off her grandchildren. A branch as large as a trunk had shot over the power lines. He gave her his supervisor’s phone number. Her hands shook as she dialed the number on her flip phone, murmuring, “murder, murder, murder.” They moved their trucks to the next house—on this road, almost all the properties had tree limbs extending over the wires.

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A HISTORY OF WASHINGTON, D.C. IN NINE SCENES by Nick Kolakowski

A HISTORY OF WASHINGTON, D.C. IN NINE SCENES by Nick Kolakowski June 1792 My Dear Elizabeth, This is beautiful country. The hills are a verdant green & the river Potomack bountiful with fish & amenable to navigation & it seems agreeable that the Capitol of our new nation should find itself erected on this spot. Yet the ferryman conveying me across the muddy waters displayed a surly nature worthy of Charon. When I informed him of my intent to survey the boundaries of the federal district, he snorted & spat & declared the area a fetid swamp unfit for Civilized Man. Losing four fingers to a cannonball in our most recent War—so he informed me—seems to have put him off the idea of Governments in general. Once ashore I found a buzzing legislature of insects awaiting me with each one a hellion anxious to sip my blood. The humid air … chop! chop! read more!

THE BODY THAT ENSURES SURVIVAL by Erin Blue Burke

This is what you do when you are out of diapers: you go to the store.  You go to the store because your husband is out of town and can’t stop by on his way home from work.  You go to the store despite the news warnings, despite the way the air has sunken into a disquieting yellow.  You go to the store because last night the baby cried for two hours, kept you up from one to three, before you finally pulled him into your bed and placed him on your husband’s side, nestled him in a pillow that wouldn’t let him roll over.  You go to the store because maybe someone will talk to you; maybe someone will wonder how you are doing while they hand over your change, and you will be able to smile and laugh and roll your eyes because, Well, you know how newborns are.

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[A BLOCKED VALVE FACILITATES PRAYER. A BLOCKED AIRWAY INSPIRES A] by Levi Andalou

A blocked valve facilitates prayer. A blocked airway inspires a
sudden reinvestment in the communicative powers of miming. A
blocked pathway introduces the stern demands of an omnipotent
being. Palms should be dry, mouth wet, or is it the other way
around? Like the soldier the child imagines himself becoming,

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FROM HERE TO THERE by Gloria Yuen

  ­FROM HERE TO THERE by Gloria Yuen Barrier on, the device declares. “When you initiate the force field,” the Head Agent instructs, “you lock yourself in an impenetrable membrane. It will keep danger out. But it will also keep you in.” Barrier off, the device declares. I engage Search: Force field, noun. Popular Articles. The invention of the force field (neochrome). The invention of the force field (electromagnetic). History of force field usage in Post-Contemporary warfare. [New in TECH] ‘Defense Fields’ for Civilian Homes in Final Stages of Development. The Head Agent claps her hands. I exit Search. “Field practice with the neochrome next week. Dismissed.” We salute in unison. “What happens if you walk through a force field?” M-2 asks at my left. I turn to examine him. Raised eyebrows, slightly open mouth. Inquisitive. He is one of the preliminary cadets to join the M garrison and is … chop! chop! read more!

THOSE STRIKING SHADES I :: THE MAGICIAN. by Cait Weiss Orcutt

those
various yellows, golden-rods, butter-fat, chrysanthemum wax-wings
..sprung from thin etchings of faith, is it just random—
….the rabbit/sleeve disguised: the magician’s headband
white as an Olympic
………..jogger’s, woolen shawl red as the gore in a dog-fighting ring?

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THE HIGH ROAD TO TIFFIN by Jake Montgomery

moves in gravelly time, so that the words I say here
have been said before, and my car
is covered with the dirt and dust of little cabins
where people live on the sun,

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DISCONNECTED by Hedia Anvar 

When the seabird completed its third circle, the only cloud in the sky parted in two just as you said it would, and once the topmost layer of sand, thin like a vapor, blew across the beach and into the sea as an enormous wave collapsed on the shore, there you stood, like you’d been swimming under the wave all along, your trunks glistening black as you stepped forward, above me, your hair dripping cold sea on my sun-warmed skin, the two of us alone on the beach, pretending we’d been there together since morning, you swimming while I bathed in the sun, and our embrace and my tears that followed, were simply acts of impulse between us, then switching to laughter because for the first time that day…

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THE SECOND MOTION by Elaine Cannell

In the first motion, I wrapped everything in newspaper,
emptied glass stones from the bottoms of fishbowls,
recycled the recyclables, bandaged my raw hands,
cut up ancient credit cards and plastic valuables,
braided the sheet rags, the scarves, the silk slips.

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QUARRY by Emily Wick

On the night the hunter shot the moose, they asked me to hold the lantern. Three men struggled to hold the body so the hunter could make the cut, and I cast gold light over them as he sawed along the ribs of the bull. There was no smell but male sweat and the crush of dead leaves under the tarp around us. Death hadn’t been there long enough to diffuse its odor into the night.

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DEATH IN AUGUST by William Hengst

In 1944, at the age of five, I invented the magnifying glass. The end of a Coke bottle, when held up to the sun, could make anything burn and vanish. First, bits of paper—cellophane from my dad’s Chesterfield packs, and my bubble gum wraps—then live things like slugs, worms, the hind end of ants. Once I torched a whole village, many casualties, dead ants smelling like burnt tires. I needed to hurt something that couldn’t hurt me back.

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TO EACH HER OWN by Natalie Kawam

The world, I never thought, was worth its wake
In my image alone, kicking storms about itself
Like me, a bright desert whore in plain, my face

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LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS by Jonathan Louis Duckworth

In the silver heart of everything
there is a constant quivering.

We think the sky is boneless
only because it hides them well.

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THE CAT APOCALYPSE by Mariah Gese

THE CAT APOCALYPSE by Mariah Gese When it happens we are prepared. The way we know it’s a real apocalypse: the portents of headless voles on our pillows. We divine it in the depths of carpet vomit, in the bones of small birds they bring us. The glorious future in the spilled water bowl. If it wasn’t meant to happen, then why the adorable begging eyes, containing within them the tantalizing fullness of our futures, round and perfect, like globes of sweet fruit that grow huge and pop on the vine? Why the delicate rasp of tongue, the ephemeral curl of tail? Their fur, too, that velvet smoothness we are forever petting for the drugged feeling it awakens in us. Cats are better than caffeine and sugar, chemically, they are better than mimosas or wholesome friendship or anything we used to love. They rearrange and better us inside, ideal parasites. … chop! chop! read more!

CHESHIRE CAT by Sarah Bradley

The winter when Lucy was nine and her brother Nick was 12, he taught her to play chess. They bent over the crosshatched board on the living room floor in front of the fireplace, blonde heads nearly touching, all through Christmas break and into the new year. Wool socks and hot cocoa and Bing Crosby late into the night, the Douglas fir in the corner shimmering with tinsel.

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THE ZOO by Matt Whelihan

A week after the classes ended, the community service started.

Seven of us stood in a small lot outside of a small zoo. It was the kind of place single dads with child support payments take their kids because it’s close and cheap.

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ODE TO THE RECORD HOLDER by Z. Shuff

You will score 135 points in your next high school basketball game. January 26, 1960 is the night it will happen. Hello hoops history. Guinness Book of World Records, here you come. Your name is Danny Heater, and your record, 135 points, will last. But, this does not come as straight victory. It does not come without problems. And which problem is worse: that your mother missed the game or that you didn’t even get to enjoy your record? Your world record, the one that congeals and permanently attaches itself to you. It’s basketball. It’s a game. But your record makes you proud and embarrassed. It makes you happy and sad.

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EXECUTION by Hussain Ahmed

There is a ceremonial volley over a grave
I climb on the branch of an olive tree
to peep at the field where unarmed men
faces the firing squad, their prayers clamped
inside their mouth. from over the fence
I chose my favorite prisoners

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RETREAT by T.C. Jones

The church retreat is the last bit of bullshit before we get confirmed. We are at a bunch of crappy cabins on the dumpy shores of Lake Erie. They call it a holy camp, gave it a fancy name too: Camp Gold Field. They got the field part right, but I don’t know where they got the gold. Everything here is barren and gray. Last night there was a thunderstorm, but today the sky is defeated and a blanket of grey snow clouds have replaced the horizon. The seasons are theatrical in these parts—especially during April.

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[IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BANJO –THIS CHAIR] by Simon Perchik

It has nothing to do with the banjo –this chair
aches for wheels that will rust, wobble
the way riverbeds grow into something else

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I AM NOT JEREMY LIN by Christina Sun

I was driving smooth along I-205 in the brand new GS F Lexus because I needed a car, not a bike, according to my parents, and Brad’s asking me, “Jeremy Lin? Like the basketball player?” because maybe Brad was wondering if I was the point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, but he didn’t want to be racist in case I wasn’t and he was also trying to sell me this car and silent rides weren’t good for a sale. I explained that while my name was Jeremy Lin, I was in fact, not the point guard for the Brooklyn Nets who went to Harvard without a scholarship and averaged twenty-six points per game. I didn’t even hit six feet. I knew all this because I knew everything there was to know about him (as I assumed most people would if they shared their name with a celebrity). I’d lived in his shadow for the past six years he rose to fame.

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HEAVY LIFTING by Jennifer Turnquist

A guy comes into the drugstore and goes to the snack aisle. Early twenties, longish hair, patchy beard like he never learned to shave properly. He glances at me so I look away quick, busy myself with straightening the packs of Life Savers on the counter. I’m not watching him because he’s attractive or anything. He isn’t. He’s skinny and stoop-shouldered. I’m watching him because of how his eyes dart around and because he keeps fidgeting with a buckle on his canvas backpack.

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LADIES’ NIGHT by Erin Pienaar

It’s inevitable—they order wine for the table and the topic turns to death. Three drinks in and they’re all tipsy and tender. Ladies’ night out isn’t supposed to be about death. It’s about looking and acting alive—youth and vibrancy signaled by rouge on the cheeks, pink on the mouth.

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