Hunger was secret—hump
on the back, the something else,
the body insisting that it was present.
Child head and child arm. Teeth
like rows of letters written
on colored cards. An assemblage
of girl—put together like a first
Hunger was secret—hump
No kissing, though we both know that we want to.
You show up at my house wearing the exact same
thing as on your Grindr profile. Pink hat,
cheap diamond earrings, and then, too, a familiar look
that steadily steams underneath my grandmother’s eyes.
It’s the multiplicity of place as body — or how when you
close your eyes you can convince yourself that you’re
lying in a star-streaked field—that convinces me I love you.
THE ANT LIEUTENANT TELLS ME OF HIS RETURN by David Callan Black soil collapsing onto rock. Beetles with shining blue backs humming over the water chilled with rain. Pike angling in the chambers of the dank, waiting for the naked in the rainfall, stripped clean, gutted, redrawn from memory by a blind boy against the stiff legs of the herons. Mothers huddled in stone kitchens, dropping fish, egging the molecules of the water into frenzy from the pot’s hot walls. Skin, scratched through, dangling into a snowflake of dolomite sinking slowly in the mossy brink. My fingerprints are flying toward my eyes, too quick for me to blink. My hand arcing over colorless glass, finger wet against the rim: the cylinder caught in the motion of the fingertip, hum— glass shifting into another pitch. Had been petals in a cut glass bowl, what’s beautiful is dirt. I want oil, hands … chop! chop! read more!
PASSAGES: An Installation in Progress by Cheryl Harper I am one of those artists who thinks my work has to say something. I have nothing against paintings that bring together a disparate room décor or just make one feel good, but that’s not what I want to do. If you happen to like my work for any of those reasons, that’s fine, but if you are intrigued and compelled to think about bigger issues, that is my goal. Since 2006 I’ve been making small statues of politicians, particularly of women in the national spotlight, in addition to works that address issues like anti-Semitism, terrorism, and gun violence. But in the last few years, I’ve been thinking about how I came to where I am now, a Jewish woman who lost extended family in the Holocaust and who married a direct descendant of a Southern plantation family that owned other … chop! chop! read more!
SUNDAY by Suzanne Farrell Smith The small space for god in me aches, so I turn from the one-way mirror through which I’ve been watching my twin seventeen-month-old boys bawl. Golden Graham pulp has stiffened their fine hair into sticky strings. I’m even messier, in stained yoga pants and a blue sweater marred by snags. I would have dressed in a clean shirt, something slipped from a hanger rather than scooped from the floor, but I didn’t plan to be here. It was only decided that I should leave the apartment when my husband started to spoon-feed yogurt to our three-year-old, who has a genetic syndrome that makes self-feeding a trial. “How’s he ever going to learn?” I said. He just pointed to the floor. The splat mat that usually protects the beige carpet was missing, and we don’t own the place. My husband and I faced each other as … chop! chop! read more!
I wait for a train that circles the city like bats. At night in Berlin you can imagine anything you want. Can a train circle a city like bats? Carriages here are full of inviting people I never talk to and bicycles that require a ticket to get on board. Everyone wears black so hard you don’t notice after a while that there are differing shades. Sometimes, I see a chair being carried on board by a passenger and I wonder where the chairs go, whether they rest at tables. I think about the people invited to sit, what kind of meals they eat together or whether their furniture is flee-market vintage or discarded by the side of a road. Inside pinch close buildings smeared in graffiti are people, and they are talking to one another in languages; I don’t know.chop! chop! read more!
Sam and Viet stand in his small blue kitchen. Viet has stopped stirring his chard lentil soup while Sam tries to figure out what to do: Three nights a week on the mountain, leading small groups up Whitney, or sleeping out in Alabama Hills, climbing.
I’m doing ok, she says. It’s just I think I should find a room or something, short term.
Viet says, I see what you mean.
Renewing my one-year lease, don’t you agree it’s financially a waste?
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Clear, cool morning. The two of you are the first ones at the park. Your year-old daughter craved the red swings. You craved quiet. This morning had so much potential quiet.
The reality is the racket of a power washer. Groundskeepers from Parks and Rec are cleaning the patio by the bathrooms. The air compressor hammers, staccato, like the sound of a strobe light if a strobe light made a sound. The blade of pressurized water hisses a loud tssssssssss, sustained as only a machine can sustain a thing.chop! chop! read more!
Hot, back in the corner of the coat closet you find it, right where you knew it would be. Pull it out with both hands, it’s a lot heavier than you expected. Dad said never to touch it, but who knows when he’s coming back this time and what else are you supposed to do on a day like this? Show it to your sister, how it gleams in the light let in through the screen door. Stand it up, it comes up to her chin.
“Dad’s giant wrench. Can I hold it?”
Laugh at her. “It’s bigger than you are.”
“So are you, but I could still toss you.”chop! chop! read more!
I’ve decided to kill my son. This is not a new thought. It did not come to me overnight. I’ve nursed it for a long time like an actual thing, a child that was a seedling first and then a sprout, but the idea has taken hold.chop! chop! read more!
TWELVE by Tory Lord O’Neill There he was, as always, on the eve of her birthday. She never expected him. Never dreamt of him, but there he was. As always, he was standing on the corner waiting for something—her perhaps—but she didn’t see him until she tripped, snagged her heel, rolled her ankle and fell slightly into him. “Whoa! You okay!” What’s the rush, buttercup? Cuidado, señorita. Each time, his hands felt slightly different. Firm like a contractor. Gentle like a surgeon. Scarred from a fire. But with that first touch, all of their lives came flooding back to her. She remembered how he smelled of cinnamon on that morning in South Bend and how his nose crinkled when he laughed. She remembered the feeling of his fingers running through her wet hair on the shores of San Juan and the feeling of her knees buckling when the military police … chop! chop! read more!
We sat three abreast in hard white pews. At our backs, an open door laid rectangles of sun on the salt-smoothed pine floor. It was an old Puritan church—Built in 1772, read a small plaque by the door. You could tell: the ceiling was crossed with bare beams, the floor was hard and cold. As a boy, I’d been brought to the church from time to time for a service, usually the wedding or funeral of a summer neighbor. I recalled the starkness of it, the chilly severity. Across the street, at the base of a hill that sloped down to the ocean, my mother’s ashes lay beneath a weathered stone.chop! chop! read more!
Forty millennia, and more, originating worlds,
occasioning wines, wedges, plunder, and
( let’s guess, ) recovered and glassed, eyes around
taking in the cases, the cases seem too much,
the notes a reader takes, setting down the catalog,
seeing the slivers, flakes, flecks of stone,
imagining the sounds of stone already used to the inventing,
crying through the tools its need for preservation,
through the same rude calendars, imagine it, earlier,
ahead, as the snow begins another election cycle,
and a second round of it the wizard had not called for,
that delights to start, as an obscenity might, before
you notice where it’s going. But how, the first time
at the Diner, could we know, or say which desserts
would bring us back because they’d mattered, which
day-old paragraph or stanza might inspire, snow
The patient is nervous. He should be. His renal allograft is new, he has an infection and his immune system is compromised. It’s a bad combination. But I’m going to be positive. I’ll emphasize that he is getting better, his white blood cell count is in decline, he seems to be eating and he isn’t coughing. I intend to be reassuring, cautiously optimistic. He’ll be looking for optimism.chop! chop! read more!
Wild blackberry bramble all along the edge. Himalaya? Or Cutleaf? Or Pacific? Thimbleberry?
Let me try again, what net?
We keep eating the fruit because the poison sweetens with age.
Another fuckin suicide.
Let me try again, I want a jar of fireflies stowed away in my chest
But the light resists secrecy, insists on the opposite of the private property
Sign on the gate we trespass on our walk to water. The light draws from out there
How time-tentacled arms tugged us towards tangled bramble. Slashed denim.
Blue t-shirt, ripped. Skin, torn. We ignore requests,
“What am I?” and “Do you not understand?” and “I have brought you here.” and “I offer my fruit so consider me in full…”
I’ve decided it’s pigeons, not squirrels or worse,
responsible for the ruckus—
pigeons and some kind of metal fencing,
chain link, jangling under what must be
a half dozen of them every morning doing
who knows what. Rabid copulation?
slathered on eyes damned eyes,
to sit across from this man
praised for handling his bossy woman so well−
my she-ro, my sister. I see Tammy Wynette.
We’re slamming wine. We’re laughing.
I’m globbing it on thick. Blurring memory: his hands
robotic extensions groping me awake shudder
his stupid face his stupid easy chair−
When I woke to it that night, all I said was,
You need to go to bed.
I may have rubbed forgiveness on too soon.
Because of the D.C. sniper, I get my first cell phone. A Nokia with impossibly small buttons. When I look up, my parents’ smiles are even faker than the ones in family photos. I’m twelve. Old enough to know they want me to be able to call for help. Last year was 9/11. We live sixteen miles from the Pentagon, and the CIA is around the corner. Since 9/11 we hold our breaths when we drive past Langley. Everyone’s afraid that’s next. But we’re wrong. This year some guy is shooting kids for sport.chop! chop! read more!
DEAR ZUCK, I THINK WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THIS by Graham Oliver death of a pet coping with death of pet where to take pet body where to take pet corpse pet burial can i bury my pet in a public park pet cremation affordable pet cremation what to do with pet ashes amazon urns what to do with pet ashes planting a tree at a public park rivers near me big lebowski ashes scene what to do with pet ashes bread recipes are cremation ashes edible are pet ashes edible whole wheat bread recipes Graham Oliver lives and teaches near Austin, Texas. His book reviews, interviews, and essays have previously appeared in The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Ploughshares‘ blog, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in Fiction and an MA in Rhetoric and Composition from Texas State University. You can find him on Twitter @grahammoliver. … chop! chop! read more!
A barn owl croons across these drunken hills and every song inebriates. The world stumbles, sinks in sleep at a magic spell, strewn, until the sun-god again snaps its burnished tendrils and wakes the earth with shine. Just as literature is language charged with meaning (Ezra Pound), rural is expanse charged with life.
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Leaning like a chiaroscuro,
a man outside a bodega says,
You only get one mother.
I want my skin to be better.
Eileen Myles says:
That’s so gay, and I fantasize
about plant tattoos,
consider the best body
for a dandelion. Nothing
compares to pain.
Every night, we listen
to his favorite songs.
The kind of music you
want to hear when your country
is at peace, but you’re told to dig
a grave in the desert sand
anyway. The kind of music
that might come from a parked
car whose window you are told
to shatter with the butt
of a black flashlight.chop! chop! read more!
MAGIC CICADAS by Kat Saunders In the summer of 2016, the cicadas returned. More accurately, a new brood of seventeen-year cicadas, conceived and hatched in 1999, during the previous cicada summer, emerged. Underground, they’d slept undisturbed through the new millennium, the September 11th terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and our first Black president’s inauguration. The cicadas were suspended in time as if cryogenically frozen, but I grew—eight years old when the cicadas had last cried, and almost twenty-six when they reemerged. The cicadas had been unchanged by time, but I’d menstruated at thirteen, fell in love three or four times (I could never decide), graduated from college and graduate school, moved to West Virginia, and settled into what probably appeared to be a stable relationship with Jeremy, a kind, home-owning man who bored me to death. That summer—like the cicadas—I, too, longed to burst from the earth. In late May, my … chop! chop! read more!
Children always follow the mother. That’s what my mother always used to say. And it was true for my sister Kelly and me. Every time our worlds fell apart, we would end up in our mother’s kitchen, washing the dishes and sitting at her pockmarked table until light returned to the world, sometimes just at its edges. Even after so many years, what my mother said was still true. How else could you explain why I visited my mother every day once she moved into a nursing home? How else could I explain why my oldest daughter, April, followed me there too, coming every day after her twelve-hour shift ended and refilling my mother’s cup with water and thickener so she wouldn’t choke? We took turns, the two of us, stirring the pureed food the underpaid dining staff delivered on pockmarked plates, adjusting my mother’s legs on the pillow we propped under them, and righting her head that, lately, seemed too heavy for her neck.chop! chop! read more!
Shhhk. The knife blade flicked up. Shhhk. The knife blade flicked down. I can’t remember who gave me the knife but I’m pretty sure it was my brother. He certainly had a knack for knowing what I liked, having later picked my favorite husband of three. I kept both sides of the blade razor sharp. For a time, I loved it, unduly.chop! chop! read more!
Dip and paddle, bloom.
A dragonfly barrels and darts.
Hot afternoon balm rolls
across the pond.
The pending night
wicks off the sweat
drawn out from the shoulders’ beat.
Brownish water folds into itself,
turtles bubble to the spread,
snap toward the dragonfly,
see me, and dive.
I break the pond
with a short stroke
kind of code.
Daisy has this boy that none of us like. She says they aren’t boyfriend girlfriend but he sure acts like it’s more than a hookup when he texts her things like, where are you? and i miss you much right now baby.
Daisy tells me she likes the way he takes control. Like on their first date, he put his hand on her chest and she pushed it away cause she’s “not that kind of girl,” but then after a few more minutes he tried again and she let him.
“I wouldn’t like that,” I tell Daisy.
Morning with Cane Corsos
Two black dogs are playing on a hill / in front
of my grandmother’s church.
Majestic bulls / thick and statuesque / tongues
lolling beside the opaque miasma / of summertime.
Isn’t that sad / she says / styrofoam cup in hand /
I know who they belong to / that man up the street
needs to patch up that fence / They’re gonna hurt
somebody one of these days.
Human skulls leered from a shelf in my father’s basement den. Sets of false teeth lay on his desk like paper weights. Before the age of ten, I’d bring my younger brother into the den with me, more than a little uneasy to go it alone. I’d occasionally take a skull from the shelf, surprised it was light as an apple, and cradle its smooth dome in my hands, poking my fingers in the nostrils and running my finger along the teeth, which remained sturdy in spite of yellowing enamel. Teeth endure.chop! chop! read more!
We saw two barefoot boys walking down the double yellow lines, both holding their crotches in a two-hand grip, playing chicken with the Cape Canaveral traffic. I wanted badly to kiss her, in the way that romantic men are always saying they will do to me. It was too nice a day to offend her or face the consequence of yes. She asked why I dressed so conservatively for someone who knew so much about music. The barefoot boys were in her poem the next day but not the men we also saw on the beach, the naked men riding bicycles and walking near us with bellies and cocks exposed. We swam away from them.
Rose was always in trouble, sort of. Uh-oh. She slept a lot and didn’t like to be liked. Her nerves were perfectly authentic. We drove north a few weeks later in her car, the upholstery scattered with ashes of sage. I woke on the first northern morning, naked and thirsty. From the doorway, holding coffee, I saw her waking. She pulled the comforter to her neck; the soles of her feet were black.chop! chop! read more!