TURNING RIGHT ON CASSADY by Miriam Libicki

TURNING RIGHT ON CASSADY A Visual Narrative by Miriam Libicki Introduction by Tahneer Oksman The cover image of Miriam Libicki’s five-page comics essay, “Turning Right on Cassady,” shows an oversized and emptied pair of sandals superimposed on a street map of Columbus, Ohio. Sandals, and feet more generally, feature prominently in this short but evocative piece, which recalls a teenager’s fitful and defiant walk across town to get to the north end of a street that touches home. Those familiar with Libicki’s work will recognize in this short essay the themes of alienation, rebellion, and rootlessness that wind their way through her semi-autobiographical serial comic, jobnik! As in “Turning Right on Cassady,” the protagonist of jobnik! is often in search of a tangible connection to place, a place whose absence expresses itself through an intangible sense of longing and disconnection. Here, in short bursts of colorful images, the narrator’s observations of … chop! chop! read more!

HOLIDAY by Kim Steele

HOLIDAY
by Kim Steele

I do not feel the Jet Ski as it crashes into my head. Or I do—it is a Jet Ski and it is crashing into my head after all—but it does not register as pain. I feel it only in the way I feel a fly that lands on my thigh or a strand of wet hair on my cheek. I lift my hand to push the Jet Ski away but of course by then I am already spinning down into the lake. The water is cool. I forget for a moment what I am doing down there among the seaweed and the muck and go still. I think I might have forgotten I am even in water. Or maybe forgotten what water is. I am just beginning to remember things like the way the sun rose that morning over the fog on the lake and that my brother’s name is Liam when suddenly something pulls underneath my arms and I am back up in the sun looking at the hysterical face of my uncle.

“Are you ok?” he shouts, treading water, his arms still holding me up. My lips taste like gasoline.

“Yes,” I yell but it comes out a whisper.

The Jet Ski spins back around us and a tan girl in a white life vest screams.

“Turn it off,” my uncle yells and she does.

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FRAGILE BODIES by Danielle Harms

FRAGILE BODIES
by Danielle Harms

I.

Rosa stands in the coop’s doorway holding a baby chicken in each of her hands. One of the birds is dying. The other is dead. We might have overlooked the body in the bed of wood shavings covering the ground if it hadn’t been encircled by a dozen other chicks, their feathers warm under the amber light of heat Yesterday it was an alive, palm-sized animal, toddling around on legs like twigs. Now, the body is badly decomposed, everything but the beak flattened, the eye sockets pecked clean.

It’s June in Florida. The sun is just rising over the panhandle farm. In this heat, it doesn’t take long for a body to break down. Everything seems to droop and sag.

“Anoche pasado,” Rosa says with a resolved tone, holding up the deflated body. “Problamente,” I agree. As if I know .

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THE LIGHTFOOTED THIEVES by Lucy Ribchester

THE LIGHTFOOTED THIEVES
by Lucy Ribchester

Midnight, and I can tell it’s urgent because the mistress never knocks me this late. I struggle with the bed-jacket that belonged to Harry’s mother. Moths have eaten close to the armpits and it’s in danger of splitting, but I don’t wear it often enough to warrant mending. The candle in my hand blows a thin ribbon of soot backwards as I hurry to the front door. No sooner than it’s open, air skates in, and with it the howls of the dogs she’s woken up on her way.

I feel myself clench; the instinct to soothe the pups. Mistress’s brown eyes are aflame. She’s hissing, ‘It’s happened again. I won’t tolerate it.’ Her voice dissolves on the last word and I widen the door, bring her inside with the cold fizzing off her pinned hair. I know she must be pained to be in such a state in front of me. She prides herself on her fierceness, mistress does; has made a name for herself in the county as ‘the independent one’ after master died and everyone said she should give up ‘that bloody country pile’ for a townhouse.

She sits down at the table by the range, perching away from the flaking paint on the chair like it might poison her back. Across the tablecloth my books are strewn, volumes she’s teaching me to read; Equality for All; In Favour of the Working Woman; Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Pencils rolling around, for when I underline the hard words.

I’m glad though, that she can see I’m working, and she notices and it flashes on her face that she’s glad too. She takes pride in me; loves to show me off. Last week at the women’s club in Chancery Lane I gave a small speech about how education is helping me manage since Harry passed away. My hands were shaking as I told them how much I was enjoying Jane Eyre. Mistress says all workers must be educated, so that our children will have choices. I never bother to point out that I don’t have children.

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TONIGHT THE STARS ARE STRUNG UP LIKE ELEGIES by Sally J. Johnson

Tonight the Stars Are Strung Up Like Elegies

I want them for myself,
but you’re right.

It’s easier to take a picture
of this heat,

to pick bread crumbs
from a crocodile’s teeth.

Tell me you can follow me to wherever is home.

Find me by the pollen-
yellow paint punctuating
these highway hips.

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CERTIFICATE by Suzanne Cope

CERTIFICATE
by Suzanne Cope

The name was the easy part, as was age and date and place of birth. The address provided, it was decided, would be his mother’s, despite that he hadn’t spent more than a night there in the past decade, save for a few nights in the previous few months when he had shown up on her doorstep, unannounced, with no place else to go. Before that he had been in Larchmont or Yonkers, we had heard. Maybe he had moved around, maybe he had stayed in one apartment for years, books on history or pulp spy novels or porn cluttering the closets, stacked at his bedside.

The first time I met him, he ate a third helping of the lasagna I had brought for his mother’s birthday, his eagerness was thanks enough. He stayed quiet otherwise, ignoring the questions about his job, his home, his friends. But his brothers had stopped asking anyway, afraid that he would disappear again if they prodded too much. That night I lay in the guest bed where I could see the blue television flickering, illuminating his profile through the crack between the door and its frame. He watched a news show intently. Later laughed at a late night comic. That was the first moment he had been truly unguarded all day.

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THE DUCK LADY by Jeremy Freedman

THE DUCK LADY
by Jeremy Freedman

In my dreams I see the duck lady,
her profile’s sharp tang,
quack-quacking on Chestnut Street.
Pterodactyls are tame
compared to the rampaging avians
flying past her head, pecking at her,
causing her wracking sternutations.

Remember not to write me duck lady,
you don’t owe me anything.
In my complacency, I betrayed you,
betrayed your otherness.
I did not believe in the modern polyphonic style
of your extruded aria on Chestnut Street.
You owe all to yourself and the Blessed Mother
and your home, husband and family.
Your needs are important to you;
they converge in the area
in front of you,
in the two feet of sidewalk
in front of your two feet.

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HORSES IN THE WRINKLE by Cheryl Smart

HORSES IN THE WRINKLE by Cheryl Smart On an island bigger than Manhattan rests the burned-out remains of the Carnegie mansion, Dungeness. The Gilded Age gilded the Carnegie family, so much so they could buy up pieces of the world to gold-plate. Cumberland Island is one of those pieces. The Carnegies may have bought the island but they filched the name of their fifty-nine–room, turreted Scottish castle from James Oglethorpe, first to build there in 1736. The word feels good in my mouth, Dungeness; even though the first part of the word is dungeon, the ness at the end somehow beautifies it. Beyond the Carnegie castle, forty other buildings were scattered over the island to house a two-hundred-person staff. But alas, the sequestered estate may not have been all it was imagined to be, because the Carnegies abandoned Dungeness in 1925. The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1959; most of it, that … chop! chop! read more!

DOUBLE FEATURE by Ariella Carmell

DOUBLE FEATURE
by Ariella Carmell

The letters on the marquee jammed against each other: Ingmar Bergman Retrospective, the billing read, words cohered into a smear of black.

Greta’s breath clouded as she waited by the box office. She paced on the balls of her feet, toes pointed upward, arms outstretched. The theatergoers, trickling in like the drops of a leaky faucet, lifted their brows at her. She had seen them all here before, but they had never seen her.

A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Her fingers grazed the two tickets, snug within the fleece of her jacket pocket.

Encroached within a glass box, the cashier slid another ticket across the counter. Lara had to work the box to keep her spot in the school’s film society. Today she forgot the issue of Rolling Stone she always had spread about before her, occupying her time during those long lulls. Now she lifted her focus to Greta with raised eyebrows; the girl’s constant strolling back and forth was giving her a headache.

Lara pressed her face to orifice in the glass and yelled out, “Are you going in or what?”

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YOUR MOTHER SINGS WHEN SHE’S ALONE by Cathy Ulrich

YOUR MOTHER SINGS WHEN SHE’S ALONE
by Cathy Ulrich

Your mother loves to sing. She only does it when no one else is around. She says I’ve got a terrible voice, and you believe it. Your mother never says anything she doesn’t think is true.

When you asked your mother why is the sky blue, she didn’t know the answer. She thought she might have asked her own parents when she was a child. She thought maybe every child did it. She said she didn’t know, science maybe, and said a more pressing question was what if my blue isn’t your blue? What if my blue is your purple? How would you know?

Your mother doesn’t know the answers to lots of things. She didn’t realize how stupid she was, she says, until she became a mother. I used to think I knew it all.

She knows lots of things, actually, but they’re all useless, like there’s a kind of bug that can eat toads, or that silent filmmaker D.W. Griffith died in a hotel lobby.

Nobody cares about all that, she says, except for her.

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HUSH, PUPPIES by Catherine Nichols

HUSH, PUPPIES
by Catherine Nichols

The vet returned my call as I was rolling the last wineglass in bubble wrap. In counterpoint to my curt hello, he sounded upbeat, even jovial. He explained that when Mags had been spayed last month, the operation had sent her hormones haywire. “That’s why she’s behaving like she’s pregnant,” he summed up. “It’s a textbook case.”

The “textbook case” was curled beside the stove in a cardboard box she had commandeered during my week of packing. She’d stuffed it with laundry from the overflowing hamper. Each time I approach, she whined.

“It’s all in your head,” I told her, shoving the phone into my pocket. “Snap out of it.”

Her eyebrows twitched. Then she sighed, wriggling deeper into the mound of dirty tees, her silky muzzle resting on her paws.

Alex returned with the U-Haul around one. After much hemming and hawing on both sides, I was making the move to his place. I updated him on Mags’ condition. In the several hours since the vet’s call, she had whelped. At her swollen teats were Alex’s favorite Nikes that she’d dragged from under the bed.

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POEM FOR TRENDING TRAGEDY by Kathryn Smith

by Kathryn Smith

I am trying to think about the circus collapse.
I am trying to think about the kidnapped
schoolgirls, the extremist who says
they’re his for the selling. I am trying, but celebrity
overrides: Look, the young country star
held at gunpoint. Look, the Instagram
argument, the lip-sync fiasco. Someone else
is talking. Someone other than who
we thought. Not who ought. I am trying
to speak about the convict whose execution
went wrong, to parse the name of the chemical
cocktail, the name of the dead man or the man
he killed. I know what I know
changes nothing. It augurs

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FINDING BABEL by David Novack and Dylan Hansen-Fliedner

FINDING BABEL
A Video Documentary
by David Novack and Andrei Malaev-Babel (Odessa Films)
Introduction by David Novack and Dylan Hansen-Fliedner
Isaac Babel is considered one of the most significant literary figures of the early Soviet Union. A writer, translator, and journalist, he began publishing shortly after the revolution of 1917 with the help of his mentor Maxim Gorky. The older author advised the young writer to go and see the world, incorporating what he saw into his fiction. Babel signed up with the Red Army in the Soviet-Polish Civil War as a war correspondent and began keeping what would become his 1920 Diary. Only 26 years old, Isaac Babel developed a unique literary practice rooted in the act of witnessing.

As a documentarian, Babel captured reality, filtering and distilling it into memorable impressions in his diary. These observations and reports would later be transformed into a collection of short stories, Red Cavalry, which blend fact and fiction into powerful narratives. Red Cavalry thrust Babel upon the international stage. In these stories, Babel wrote under the alter-ego Kyril Lyutov who, like Babel, hides the fact that he is Jewish from his fellow Cossacks, widely known for their anti-Semitism. The intertwining of fact and fiction and the semi-autobiographical meditation on identity became fertile ground for developing a formal and stylistic approach for our film, Finding Babel. With this in mind, we looked even more deeply at Babel’s approach to literature.

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TELL-TALE by Nancy Hightower

TELL-TALE
by Nancy Hightower

I remember hearing the beating of God’s heart. Th-thump, th-thump th-thump. I swore it to be a holy thing. My father held me tight and said let that rhythm guide you, son. Cha-cha-cha. Th-thump, th-thump th-thump. The living room spun into hallejulahs as he swiveled and swayed his hips, hand on stomach, eyes closed. Lips easing into a smile. Lawrence Welk crooned from the television to keep those toes tapping. My father listened, sashayed though life hips, pressed against my mother, my friends, my daughter. It’s a holy holy thing, son. Cha-cha-cha. I shut my eyes, prayed for the beating of God’s heart to drown out all other sounds.

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QUERENCIA by Leticia Urieta

QUERENCIA
by Leticia Urieta

The first time my sister Mari lost her baby, only twenty weeks, the doctor assured her that she could try again. “The body is miraculous, it can bounce back from anything,” as though her womb just needed to be cleared of the cluttered, grasping mess inside.
I was recruiting a student for my college, flipping through brochures in her living room. They sent me all over the South west as their official bilingual recruiter. The girl sat next to me and ran her hands over the glossy pictures of the campus. She would be the first in her family to go to college. Her mother, who sat on my other side, peered at the pictures of the dormitories. She paused over the listings of scholarship information and fees accrued over the first academic year and wanted me to assure her that they could afford it, that her baby wouldn’t be so far away. “Unas horas,” I reminded her, showing her the route from I-20 across Louisiana and into Texas. When the visit was over, the mother sent me off to my hotel with arepas wrapped in tin foil. I relished being among these hopeful families, taking on some of their glow.

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BEFORE BEFORE BEFORE by Kallie Falandays

BEFORE BEFORE BEFORE
by Kallie Falandays

If you were at a dance party and my name rhymed with overalls, would you court me? And then, after we kissed, would you go to your friends to get high fives? If I only wore orange, would you peel me under the blankets like chewed paper falling from the structure of a paper mache elephant? Here, pretend like you’re an air conditioner. Pretend to pull your dick out at a party. Pretend to get reprimanded. This is what your face looks like when it is hurt. This is what your hands look like when they’re bound. This is what it looks like after your house turned into a building. This is what you look like when you’ve discovered yourself the next morning in a city that smells like wet trash. There are two things I’d like to say to you, but I can’t find the correct anatomy. It is like searching for ghosts in November. It is like breaking all the wood in the house because it won’t light on fire. If you were a carnival, you’d be the medicine show.

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WILLIE: PREMONITION by Heather Jones

WILLIE: PREMONITION
by Heather Jones

When Lucy and me go down by the river the moonlight in her long blonde curls. You can’t trust no one near no shining hair like that I tell her no one should touch them long blonde curls. She laughs at me I’d be mad but for the sound of her laugh at night like when the sun and the moon sit in the sky at the same time. She laughs she holds her hair between her lily white fingers she says I can touch it. I want to.

Go ahead go ahead go ahead. Touch it touch it touch it she won’t quit sayin it, I got to look down at the ground No one. No one should touch. If I don’t look she can’t make me touch. My fingers twitch. She says she wishes I. would do. Something. She says it like that stops between her words I hear the air.

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PEACH JUICE COATED THE LIPS SO THAT EACH SONG by Jerrod E. Bohn

[PEACH JUICE COATED THE LIPS SO THAT EACH SONG]
by Jerrod E. Bohn

Peach juice coated the lips so that each song
became removals of pit. Her name was Valerie
(age 10) & her mother always packed an extra
we pretended was my gift
like her tracing the length of my hand she called
my fruit line. My first crush
promised me a sticker as if to suture
if I stopped professing loving her
like reopening a wound. I picked

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BROTHER’S KEEPER by K.C. Wolfe

BROTHER’S KEEPER
by K.C. Wolfe

I broke my brother’s collarbone when he was three and I was seven. We were playing on a playground set in our backyard at the end of a fall day. The set was made of plastic: a short plastic platform set atop a short plastic slide, fit more for his age than mine. What I remember is this: the long shadows of an early fall evening, mild boredom, my brother’s strange self-indulgence; an upwelling of impatience, the boiling up of frustration—then the idea to pick up and raise the slide while he stood on the very top of it. Which I did. I didn’t give it much thought. He fell over like those fainting sheep, shoulder-first, stiffened by shock, and screamed and writhed in the cold grass as I stood over him. I turned him over, saw his face a jumble of red and tears, his glasses broken. I told him to stop pretending. He went to the ER and came home with a sling.

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ABC FOR THE CHILD WHO LIVED TWENTY-SIX DAYS by Deborah Burnham

ABC FOR THE CHILD WHO LIVED TWENTY-SIX DAYS
by Deborah Burnham

Air your only appetite, your first food.
Your bones fit, peg in cup.
Creases on your arms.
Down, derry derry derry down your mother sang.
Except for the first cry, you were silent.
Fist-sized head. Fists the size of cherries.
Don’t go. Don’t go. The single prayer.
Half your life, you were too small to hold.
You never said I.

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A LETTER by Talila Baron

A LETTER
by Talila Baron

She found the letter in the attic. It was undated but possibly written before World War II. She showed it to him in bed. It was signed “Ashley.” There was no greeting. She was moved by it and asked if he felt the same. He said he did, but wanted to read it again, preferably alone. She rolled away from him and closed her eyes. The summer heat made her dizzy.

“I’ll take it home to read,” he said.

She nodded, eyes shut. “Okay. But I want it back.”

He didn’t know much about her beyond her liking red wine and sex. But she was a romantic and a patriot. She could quote Byron at length and she dismissed claims he was cold and ruthless. Warm and ruthless, she joked to herself. She owned an antique American flag sewn in Alabama. She’d been a competitive figure skater until a few years ago. She hated her mother. She loved him with a kind of wild allegiance, though he was known as a player in certain circles.

He didn’t ask her about herself. They had known each other three months, but had just begun to make love. “Let’s go to bed,” he’d said to her in his casual way.

He didn’t consider himself a romantic, but the letter was romantic, even heart-breaking. Like an ice cube in the bottom of a glass: it made him feel like that.

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SCALDING by Jessica Hudgins

SCALDING
by Jessica Hudgins

She has killed hundreds
of chickens like this.
Their last sight is the pleated
corner-skin of her mouth.
She comes empty-handed,
armed to the teeth.

Later, when she pours
hot water from the cast-iron kettle,
her wedding ring sweats
in the steam.

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GEOLOGY by Patrick Ball

GEOLOGY
by Patrick Ball

How fast are we moving do you think.

She’d been lying back with her eyes closed and with her sunglasses off and above her head on the ice, nothing between her and the cold bright rays but as I spoke she reached to the glasses and crunched forward at the waist. Her legs pivoted upward a little in reaction then back down and she pushed the sunglasses onto her face. Not far to her left the ice was clinging to rock and in places it was cracked and fissured with slow pressures but to the right the side of the valley wasn’t visible beyond the hump of the glacier and down further at the valley floor, sunk in green and surrounded by trees and heat the house did its fairytale thing. Stacking upward turreted from the land. She brought her knees toward her and hooked across them and peered down the slope.

I don’t know. A half metre a day maybe.

When I touched the ice my fingertips came back dry. It was pitted and uneven and it had had specks of dirt and grit ground into it by footsteps or deeper down by the building layers of snow and looking across it was a mottle of black and pale blue running deep. My hands were pale and I moved them into the crooks of my knees and I squeezed. I listened to the scrape of rocks and the creak of ice and the occasional startling crackle or crash that echoed up to the snowpack. Once there was a crack and a scatter of ice chunks and rocks a little ahead of us down the valley and the crack was loud and extended and the detritus rolled and bounced down into some newly-torn crevasse and above it all the silent flow of the glacier itself.

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SELF-PORTRAIT WITH BROKEN NOSE by Marc Labriola

SELF-PORTRAIT WITH BROKEN NOSE
by Marc Labriola

No one takes you seriously until you start shitting blood. Everyone who knew him was bored of his sickness. Edith was bored of his anger. Bored of his trick bowel. His celestial rages. Bored of his misery. Bored to death of the innumerable symptoms of his enlarged heart. Life had been a waste of breath. It wasn’t until after he started hemorrhaging that his wife took him to Sacred Heart emergency.

End of the day, first day back up on the roof laying brick after he’d gone under the knife. Slit wide open at the umbilicus. Gut inflated with air. To excavate the stones that had been steadily growing for decades inside of the man. Now he was constipated. He wanted to get the hell out of here, get back to Pietrasanta, get back to his life’s work. Arrivederci and vaffanculo, Todd the foreman. And a vaffanculo to you Doctor Schultz. And to you Lady, who smirked at me last night from behind the pharmaceutical counter because you thought I had a girl’s name. No, the Lubiprostone is for my wife. But at this moment in time, all Andrea Bozzetto really wanted was to get the hell off that roof to go to the bathroom.

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KISS by Paul Kavanagh

KISS
by Paul Kavanagh

She called me into the front room and told me to sit down in the comfy chair and then she leaned over and kissed me and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she kissed me again and then she straightened up, took a step back, rubbed her sore lips and then she said: “Now your story has more kisses than all the kisses in the books by Jane Austen.”

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AT THE BEACH by Debra S. Levy

AT THE BEACH
by Debra S. Levy

When they pull in, the lot is crowded. In the distance, the sun begins descending behind a curtain of wispy clouds.

Water roils onto the sand and seagulls and plovers retreat to dry land. But the water recedes they jay-walk back onto the glistening surface, picking off lake flies and dead minnows.

The sun is a pink iris closing on a dappled blue-black sky.

Rest assured the world will come to an apocryphal end. You should never count your chickens before they fly the coop.

“I want a good tan,” the girl with the parrot tattoo on her shoulder says, spreading her blanket just so.

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ZUMBA FEVER by Nadia Laher

ZUMBA FEVER
by Nadia Laher

Saturday at Zumba there was a new song, one with a thumping electronic beat. Marie hated when there were new songs. She still had difficulty learning the routines they did every week, mastering such simple moves as simultaneously throwing her right arm in the air and kicking her left foot up. The instructor, Sierra, bopped around at the front of the room, clapping her hands together.

“It’s a new song, ladies! Time to jive!”

Marie could feel sweat sticking to her back underneath the big white t-shirt and loose black capris she wore. She’d found them on sale at Marshall’s, next to the racks of bright athletic clothing and spandex. Lenny had bought her a gym membership, insisting she stay active. She’d protested, but he used his trump card, said, “I want my kids to know their grandma for a long time, Ma” and she gave in. Now she watched the young girls dancing in their sleek running shorts and wished it were possible for her to feel less unappealing. She imagined them whispering about her, the fossil in the back row wearing all the clothing. Three rows of girls in front of her, and no one wore capris. But they were tan and toned, and she’d surrendered her legs to cellulite years ago. She eyed Sierra’s pink spandex tank top with envy.

“Get into it, ladies!” called Sierra, pushing her butt from side to side. “Let’s see those booties pump!”

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JEEP, RED by Donald Collins

JEEP, RED
by Donald Collins

She was the Mail Lady, an aging bleach-blond in jeans and bright fleece. All around campus there are poorly cropped images of her smiling face like “missing” flyers. I pass by one fast, and realize I am running.

My run finds me on the precise, mile-long road that surrounds our high school campus. The sun is rising, and everything is so beautiful and shines so brightly that I have to keep blinking. I don’t remember starting the run, but it’s easy to forget things you’ve done many times. There is something else I’m forgetting…

I’m late!

I cut my loop short, sprinting through our common up to the front of my dorm. I tug on the resistant handle, locked out, and recall the picture of my ID sitting on my desk.

There’s no one around so I break in, scaling the familiar lattice up to the second floor balcony. I pop the summer screen, and shiver through a thirty-second shower.

At 8:30 A.M. there is a memorial assembly for Jackie, our Mail Lady, who is dead.

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JUST READ by Rebecca Lambright

JUST READ
by Rebecca Lambright

When the power goes out, empty the refrigerator and put the perishables in a cooler full of ice. Assume that the bills weren’t paid and don’t ask questions. Light candles and do not speak. Time your showers, keep them short, ignore that they’re cold. When there isn’t enough food for everyone some nights, drink water to silence the hunger. Do your homework, go to bed. Take the foreclosure letters from the mail, put them in Dad’s briefcase, pretend you didn’t see them. When Mom is sad, hide the books. When Mom looks tired, hide the books. When Mom gets angry, hide the books, every time. You hide them because you know that she’ll look for them. Because you know that there is no money, Dad got them anyways. For you, he says. And once everything is calm again, read.

I grew up with these as my principal rules. I followed every one except for the rule about words. I wasn’t supposed to have them, read them, want them, or write them. Mom said words took you away from school, took you away from work, too you away from what you were supposed to be doing. But words were the one thing that there were always more of. Even if I had to pay for them, they could feed me over and over again. Words made me forget I was hungry and words made me forget that no one was smiling. Reading was my first rebellion.

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ALLIGATOR TEETH by Taylor Rickett

ALLIGATOR TEETH by Taylor Rickett Bite marks cut across your forearm, marking a half-circle below the elbow. The wound peeks at each end—a yellowed crescent, swollen arc of flesh— it has taken the shape of the alligator’s smile. Down to the water, he sang. Come down to the water in your white v-neck shirt and khaki shorts. And you listened, and maybe you needed to clean the garden dirt from your hands in the water. Maybe you meant to fall in, bathe, the gator’s long snout replacing your too-old loofah hanging in the bathtub. I glance at your arm, think about his rough slide over the bank separating lake from drainage ditch, how he lives there alone now, waiting to taste your skin, see if you are somehow the same. You say, He was just checking me out. Just wanted to compare the texture of our skin. Gloat about his … chop! chop! read more!

BANGLE by Gabriel Thibodeau

BANGLE
by Gabriel Thibodeau

When she wears the bangle she feels so fucking good. Just look how it hoops her wrist like one of Saturn’s rings, how it knocks back and forth as she waves her hand, points at things. She’s hot shit when she wears the bangle.

She was wearing the bangle when she met the boy and hooked the boy and used him and used him and dropped him. He looked so small when she dropped him, like she’d shrunk him in half, like she was Saturn and he was some little moon. She’d been the moon a million times before, but now she has the bangle. She likes the way it slides to her elbow when she raises her hand and likes the way it hurts when it knocks back down. There are little marks around her wrist, little tiny bruises, little puckers of color. She pushes them with her thumb when she’s bored or anxious or when Dad gets loud downstairs.

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OBSIDIAN BLUES # 36 by Herman Beavers

OBSIDIAN BLUES # 36
by Herman Beavers

on the slaveship used to be,
a polemic blast of wind,
the mere hint of an
ache & somewhere a child
sadder than me, long gone
brother suffers through
yet another mention of this light

around me, a bright tumbling;
character, the falsest of alarms—
electricity shirring, doubt
scoffing this pyrophoric embrace

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THE HURRICANE by Gemini Wahhaj

THE HURRICANE
by Gemini Wahhaj THE HURRICANE
by Gemini Wahhaj

At the time of the hurricane, they were both still working. A few days before the hurricane hit, Lila was getting on a plane to New York for an oil and gas conference.

At the time of the hurricane, they were both still working. A few days before the hurricane hit, Lila was getting on a plane to New York for an oil and gas conference. They called it Hurricane Ike on the radio, and people laughed when they heard the warning, since it followed warnings about so many other hurricanes that season that had failed to materialize. But this time it was real.

Lila saw Ike approach Houston on TV in her hotel room in New York. She tried to call Kamal but phone lines were down. Ike finally made landfall at night. Lila watched, minute by minute, as the giant, swirling cloud simulation of a category 4 tropical cyclone hit the speck that was supposed to be Houston. News of a train accident interrupted the hurricane coverage periodically, but mostly, during the days of the conference, all TV cameras stayed focused on Ike and Houston.

Heading home, on a flight to Atlanta (there were no flights available to Houston yet), Lila listened as the pilot made an announcement about the hurricane. Houston had been destroyed, he said. Windows had been knocked out from the high rises downtown. Trees had flattened houses to the ground. Entire neighborhoods had been flooded. This was terrible news to deliver to anyone cut off from family in Houston, trying to get home.

Lila buckled herself in her seat. She flagged down a tall, clean-shaven steward to ask him if he knew anything, but there was no way to glean any specific facts. For the first time in her life, Lila made a phone call from a plane. Although they made good money between them, their frugal, middle class South Asian habits had always precluded any temptation to make a luxury call from an airplane, until this disaster, which warranted a change.

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OUR LADY OF THE MARVELOUS WRISTS by Jennifer Moore

OUR LADY OF THE MARVELOUS WRISTS
by Jennifer Moore
Conchita Cintrón, 1949

I killed my first kill in the slaughterhouse.
Stabbing oxen with a dagger was my drill.
One’s eyes must be open to one’s own horrors.

One’s eyes must be open to one’s own persona:
with training I became the Blue-Eyed Torera,
diosa rubia, the Blonde Goddess of the Arena.

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THE CROWS by Kathryn Hellerstein

THE CROWS
by Kathryn Hellerstein

We hear them before dawn in our dreams
And step through droppings
On the sidewalk in the morning.

Seeing no birds besides the usual sparrows,
We wonder, at first, if geese were
Driven up from the river by the night’s rain.

At dusk, I walk with my daughter.
Through the deepening light, black arrowheads
By the hundreds swarm over the treetops,

Glide, and settle indifferently, caw, grow silent,
Caw, in a circle of branches.
I spin around with my face to the sky.

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ATLANTICA by Ernest Hilbert

ATLANTICA
by Ernest Hilbert

At a touch, the pane of ice jigsaws, cracks
To diamond scatter, hard cold clouds
Clustered against a mountain chain.
One large shard holds its shape, tracks
Its slow starfish way down the windshield, crowds
Out ever smaller nicks of ice. The rain
Will soon steal its contours, but for a while
It is my continent, rhododendron,
Moth wing, milk spill, embryo, no Atlantis
Or Antarctica, but a sunken isle
I’ve named Atlantica, frozen cauldron
Filled with cold storms, a far home, locked atlas,
Fighting to recall a word and reclaim
Myself from a place that has taken my name.

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TALLBOY by Rachel Hochhauser

TALLBOY
by Rachel Hochhauser

Aaron and Irene married in a public park with a large green lawn, though the ceremony was in the shaded woody part, where small acorns covered the ground and caught in guests’ shoes. It was a late marriage for Aaron, and a second for Irene. Her first husband, an architect, wasn’t invited. In the crowd there were familiar faces. Aaron’s college friends, bearded, stood together.

They’d all known each other at Penn and trickled out west, following one by one like senior citizens to early retirement. They met for bagels on Saturdays. At the reception, they sat at one table, alternating with their wives.

The celebration wasn’t ostentatious — simple. The groom sold magazine ad space and the bride was a painter. Irene used oils to recreate local landscapes and sold canvasses to tourists. She’d done the planning herself. Tables and cloths rented from a party supplier, champagne and a middlebrow merlot. There was no bridal party or best man, but Stuart, who had been Aaron’s college roommate, gave the toast.

He faced the crowd as he spoke, and though he had not planned the speech, the words found themselves. They reflected the convivial warmth their group felt toward one another, and the history and integrity of their happiness. Stuart enjoyed knowing that he could evoke those feelings and that he was viewed as good. As he finished, the lowering sun warmed the audience’s faces and foreheads so that they reflected his goodness back toward him. After the party, his wife, Diane, took one of the homemade centerpieces.

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AFTER VALLEJO (Theme and variations) by Conor Kelly

AFTER VALLEJO
(Theme and variations)
by Conor Kelly

I

I shall die, César Vallejo wrote,
in Paris on a day of heavy showers,
on a day I already remember,
a Thursday, perhaps, and in the autumn.

He died in Paris, true; but in the spring –
Good Friday, April 15 1938.
As to whether or not it rained on those roads
he ceased to feel, alone, I cannot recall.

César Vallejo is dead (of a strange disease).
Everyone kept on hitting him for no good cause.
They hit him hard with a cane and hard,
as well, with a rope; his testament:
the body blows of life, the shoulder pain,
the solitude, incessant rain, the roads…

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FIVE FLASH PIECES by Emily Grelle

FIVE FLASH PIECES
by Emily Grelle

1.
Shell of an Aphrodisiac

Lathered in shampoo, her hair became like sea foam embracing knotted driftwood, limbs exfoliating on the shore. Her flesh was turning pink from such long exposure to the shower head’s hot prick, and the moon’s white hot eye lit up with the glee of a voyeur, peeping through darkness at a celestial body in motion. Razor in hand, she mutilated every hair that dared leave its follicle inside her. She had no room in her life for hairy situations, and she inwardly thanked the shower for demanding that she curtain herself off from the world at least once a day. Sometimes she would pretend she was a pearl, safely clasped in the tub’s hard enamel shell. If she wanted free, she could slither out, never clammy but like an oyster—a moist, labial aphrodisiac to be swallowed up by tongues of towels. And yet she was afraid of water—the taste of it repulsed her. To drink it felt like subjecting her insides to a bath in which there was no soap, no sponge, no scented crystals, only a cesspool of phlegm and bile. She was glad when the gurgle of the drain proclaimed the downfall of moistness. Her feet were the only part of her whose allegiance to water made itself known in shapeless prints upon the floor, but even these did not stay fastened to her nails for long. She would sic her slippers on this part of her that someone had so aptly labeled ‘heel,’ and the sound of their synthetic soles when they slapped the floor for its insubordinate behavior would carry her forward, deliver her to drier ground. The mirror was the final frontier. At the face-off she knew to enlist an army of Q-tips to help her come clean completely—she’d plant their shafts so deep inside her ears, that drums of war would seem to sing and plead. Its head erect and seeing stars, the moon would watch and wax and shoot off comets at the height of heaven.

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STUDY TO BE QUIET by Bruce Alford

STUDY TO BE QUIET by Bruce Alford I live, I say, and language lays itself open through the movement of the earth: green-gold grass upright, virginal flowers, husky insects secretly courting life; shadows, cirrus touching, trailing off ice crystals in cloud, falling in long streamers; traffic going by, the exaltation of finding that field at the edge of town. Bruce Alford is a former journalist turned creative writer. His work is informed by a Southern Missionary Baptist tradition and often explores the tensions between religion, place, and literary history. Alford currently lives in Hammond, Louisiana, and teaches American literature and English composition at Southeastern Louisiana University. His first book of poems, Terminal Switching (Elk River Review Press) was published in 2007. Alford is a reviewer for First Draft, a publication of the Alabama Writers’ Forum, and The Black Scholar, and has published fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry in numerous journals. … chop! chop! read more!

TONY by Elizabeth Alexander

TONY
by Elizabeth Alexander

We were running through the Shepherd’s Woods down by Yalloway Creek and across from the schoolyard. We were running because Tony had said he wanted to and I had said that that sounded fine, and so we ran. When we reached the Gap, that’s the wide space between one side of the Woods and the other where the ground falls away and you can see the Creek squeeze through rocks at the bottom, I jumped over. Tony stopped and wouldn’t do it, so I said “C’mon Ton—! Don’t be a chicken!” And he hated when I called him that, and I suppose that’s what did it. And I suppose that’s why his mum won’t meet my eye when I look at her across the pew.

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