He was standing outside the double doors of the restaurant, sweating underneath his blazer. He was exactly on time. He saw a girl walking towards him, a close approximation of the one whose picture he had on his phone. He waved to her. She didn’t wave back.
She waved back. Amelia. She was wearing a puff-sleeved pink fur coat, cropped at the waist. He could tell by the sheen of it—his ex-wife had been fond of mink—that it was faux. She trotted up to him and kissed his cheeks in quick succession without having to tiptoe.
Every night, after a long day spent creating the universe, God removes his talents from inside His chest, like a handful of featherless baby birds, glossy with blood, and lays them on the bedside nightstand before turning out the light. “He’s a genius,” everyone says. “What He’s done with the universe, it’s just great. Can’t wait to see what His next project will be.”
On a rainy morning in October my son erased me during craft time at the library. We made a wind chime out of old spoons and gray yarn and colored beads in green and purple and orange and a jar lid with pre-drilled holes. The pencils were there to sign up for mommy/baby yoga the following day. A new three-year-old, Milo no longer qualified for mommy/baby yoga, but he still helped himself to a pencil. Ignoring the pointy end, Milo scrubbed the eraser over the ring finger of my left hand until the finger disappeared. Using my other hand to help the mother next to me attach the final string to her and her daughter’s wind chime, I didn’t notice until it was too late.
A girl at a house show expresses surprise and delight that I was from the Philippines. Her academic concentration is in environmental studies. She talks to me about conservation pursuits for American students, on the rivers and shorelines. I say, ha ha, yeah, we could use the help. Too glib: she thinks I mean it, or she just thinks I’m mean. Two years from that moment I write tongue-in-cheek poems about my mother, who waded in those rivers simply to scratch the red welts leeches left on her skin. How when she visits home now the tap water makes her stomach curdle.
Instead of getting on the highway, Jake starts to drive deep into the woods, past the Savage Funeral Home and out 147, past Iona’s Country Bar. I can tell by now that this so-called spontaneous road-trip has been meticulously planned. I think, Iona’s in there, so is Lucky, so is Fran. I give a quick squeeze to my red rubber stress-ball. Jake’s got his box-cutter handy, for just in case we get into an accident and need it to free ourselves from our seatbelts.
This was his third story,
the one after the one about dinosaurs
turning to glue and the ship trapped in a raindrop
sputtering back to life.
The kindergarten teacher did not
understand, but the boy knew
how it had to be. Mouse machines. Ralph.
Like you’re supposed to hate winter, with its cold and mountains of snow and how slip-walking on ice is a bitch and all that shit. Honestly, I love it. Honestly, I’d move to Alaska or the Arctic Circle or the South Pole if anyone would let me. In another life, I’d beg to be a penguin. Or a polar bear, except they’re going extinct.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS by Heather Holmes one month I am in philadelphia reading the Andrew Durbin book that describes this club The Spectrum, and the next month I am at The Spectrum watching women flog one another in an affectless way. that’s sort of how it is in new york, I guess, I say to someone later, ha ha, to read something is to conjure it. this is no safeguard against emptiness I wonder at length whether writing always has to stake out a new and special way of seeing. I just wanted to talk about how bored they looked even as the leather began to break skin . I plant the hyssop. I wait it out. I think about how far we are into this century and still I know three women named Geraldine, which G. #2 described to me as a man’s name suffixed diminutively. all three are …chop! chop! read more!
Over dinner the Brazilian painter says she doesn’t believe in time, or maybe she says she’s skeptical about the measuring of time—I can’t be certain as we meet haltingly between languages. We are painters and photographers and musicians and one writer, me, in a crumbling Catalonian farmhouse at the foot of a mountain that looks like a pile of noses.
THE TOWER IN OUR CITY is always visible, no matter where we are, it doesn’t even matter what we’re looking at. Tapered at the tip, lifting up without lifting off like the gathering before the spurt, smooth on the surface—smooth and clear as an idea you don’t even need to think about because everyone has the same idea. It is never out of position, never in the wrong place, it’s about the most accurate thing there is. Not attached to anything—a tower isn’t a leash or a collar. Not showing off—the tower isn’t an ornament or a loose translation. When something happens we turn to the tower, we point to the tower as if this is the real reason, asking the tower what are we supposed to do? What is going to happen to us? What have you done to us? Rising straight up into the sky the tower doesn’t waver or swing like a pendulum, never moves to one side or the other, as if it has an idea, or bends at the waist as if it has a different idea, or leans toward us in sympathy—it’s the kind of stability we are attached to and depend on and are also tired of at the same time.
Christmas morning two years ago. Cold and snowless. My father hauled a leather instrument case through the front door and set it at my feet. Next to its handle was a little gold plaque, its logo embossed in fine script. Martin & Co., Est. 1833. Up close, the case smelled like his car: a mixture of coffee, Red Bull, and sweat. I unfastened its buckles and pulled the top open. Inside was a new guitar. A particularly beautiful one, smaller than a dreadnought. Black, gourd-shaped mahogany body with ivory binding along its waist and edges. Cream-colored, vintage-style tuning pegs, pearlescent fret inlays.
Since preschool, our girls have been kindred spirits. They are on the brink of young adulthood, buds pressing through tee-shirts, splotches of pink and red in a of constellation across their hairlines, limbs long and gangly.
He’s a grotesque in primary colors, as much David Cronenberg as Clark Kent. The cartoons and the movies and the coloring books—they usually forget that. The idea of Spider-Man is, at its core, revolting. When it is time to suit up, Superman bears his classically handsome mug. Batman, Captain America, and Green Lantern, at the very least, leave their chiseled jaws exposed. With Spider-Man, everything hides beneath his spandex. Should you be saved by him—hung up in his gangly, yet muscular arms as he swings you off to safety—you’d look into the face of your hero, and there’d be no reassuring grin or playful wink, but, instead, two pupil-less eyelets, teardrop-shaped and alien, staring hugely as if frozen in shock. It would take all you could muster not to scream.
It’s twilight on the fifth floor of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and a weak light seeps from the underside of the plastic-lined blackout curtains. It is growing dark against his wishes, yet Jacob Silbergeld no longer has the voice to catch the attention of a passing nurse who could adjust the transitioning of light he has hated for most of his life. Twilight is when slippery things happen, when one can be led by the hand to unwanted places. Twilight is when buildings surge in the skyline and become otherworldly, a time when one loses control. Jacob had fought against its demons for years with distractions of all sorts: films, friends, or when all else failed, a good book and a single malt scotch, but he is no longer in control of his environment, and the coming of night frightens him. He brushes his left hand over the blanket in search of the call button.
SEAN’S ROOM by Blake London Steam from the shower moves in columns to the ceiling. I’m holding Sean’s hand, and his eyes close with the bathroom door—we twine and twist into sheets of flesh. Sean said the comedown is the hardest, but I’m still electric, can hear a crooning in the static of my fingers on his spine. It’s a slow dance with small movements, and the glow in my bloodstream says sway, so we make the steam vibrate in the small space. My fingers smooth water from the divots of his waist. The lazy warmth of him runs down my legs, floods the pale stucco floor. His curves, his hardness, his breath on my neck all feel ancient and half-remembered, and here I am, touching him for the first time again. We let the water run down the drain, dry off with a shared towel, and crawl under the …chop! chop! read more!
The ridiculous dissatisfaction with good fortune
begins in shade, when every bit of luck pops up
like a harlequin jammed in a jack-in-the-box,
and the hue of the lip is wrong wrong wrong—
ignoring for the moment the creepy leer of clowns,
or the gut twist borne of a springed lurch, or
the clatter of the trap click and clack when it opens—
and though the arms of the clown spill forth
Buddy is a good friend but will be an even better Marine. He is open to following directions. He will die face down in Pleiku, far away from his dreams, alone. But today, Buddy is twelve and entitled to his share of dreams. After all, most nightmares are reserved for adults. Buddy’s stepdad had a job for us.
DRAWING A BLANK
A Visual Narrative
by Emily Steinberg
Pipe bombs to 14 in the mail.
11 Slaughtered at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Kroger grocery, 2 dead.
Hounds of hell unleashed
But Beto might win over Cruz!
and Javanka are still in the White House.
Civil War 2.0?
Election on Tuesday.
I can’t look.
Holding my breath.
So we had a Blue Ripple.
100 women elected to congress!
Next day, insane post-election presser.
Acosta banned, press pass pulled.
Sessions forced to resign.
Who the hell is Whitaker?
Then, Thousand Oaks shooting.
Then, California burns.
And then, Florida recount.
Then, more house wins!
Then, in France, no-show at cemetery due to rain?
Veterans Day, no Arlington visit.
And Saudis get a pass?
Have you no decency, sir?
The state of the union is fragile.
My not-yet-stepdaughter sprawled on the couch, laptop open. Annabella was 12, her long hair parted straight down the middle. That evening I stayed with her for the first time while her father went to a work event. It seemed more normal than I’d imagined, just another evening at home. I read a magazine while she did homework.
INSPIRED TO SEE Paintings by Giovanni Casadei I was born and raised in Rome, Italy. Since the age of four I have been exposed to art, thanks to my Uncle Roberto, who religiously picked me up every Sunday morning to bring me to a museum to contemplate art. At the age of fourteen, I bought my first oil painting set with my savings, and I painted on my own for the next eight years. From 1978 to 1980, I studied at the Scuola Libera del Nudo (Free School for Drawing and Painting sponsored by the Academy of Fine Arts of Rome) under the instruction of the Armenian artist, Alfonso Avanessian. From 1980 to 1981, I was enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, then from 1981 to 1983, studied further under Alfonso Avanessian, during which I experimented with drawing, oil pastels, dry pastels, tempera, watercolor, acrylic, and oil …chop! chop! read more!
Guilt, it has always seemed to Roger, is visceral. It takes up residence inside the body, burrowing or maybe perching there, as much a part of you as your bones or blood or lungs. You sense it waiting even when no one else can see it, even when you stop obsessing and the days and nights slip past on their conveyor belts.
LEO RISING by Anna Dorn The first thing I do when I wake up is open Evie’s Twitter. I’ve been doing this every morning since she left about a month ago. If one of my patients did this, I’d roll my eyes. But I can’t help it. Evie won’t answer my texts or calls. This is the only way I can hear her voice. @LeoRising has five new Tweets. (I always thought astrology was nonsense, but Evie treated it with a religious reverence. The rising sign, she told me, is our surface self, our outward appearance. And Leo is the best, she said, and apparently I am one too). I always look at her profile picture first. In it, she’s narrowing her eyes at the camera in a way that never fails to excite me. The look says: I’m smarter than you. It’s the precise face I fell in love …chop! chop! read more!