IN VERY LITTLE TIME ON THE NILE by Christopher X. Shade In the distance where the sky met the great desert hills, or mountains, or whatever the Egyptians called them—Howard had no map to reveal what those great masses of land might be—where the sky met the land, it was nothing like Howard had seen in Colorado where he’d grown up among the Rockies, and he was sure it was nothing like he’d ever seen in film, in paintings, in any art anywhere. What he saw where the sky met the land was the shutter mechanism of a great camera, snapped closed in this instant. All this was a mere instant. It was an instant that spanned his existence and all existence he’d ever known and all he could imagine, all of which amounted to little more than nothing in a greater immeasurable passage of time. Where the sky met … chop! chop! read more!
ON BEIGE by Prairie Markussen She is a palomino in the Nordic countries, her hair scorched to a glow. She is the Northern ice floe, the delicate drip, the dusted broccoli top that slips downward into the sensual sliver. She is the slick of that sliver. She is waylaid at the switching station, the drear, the mold, the scaffolding at the church’s steeple, all within sight and none too dear. She hunches into her polar collar. Boys scoff and scratch at their wrists and blaze into their cigarettes, and push the cold clear of their faces with a match. They are blinded by her flaxen; beautiful, she is imagined into their arms, she is positioned for their deserts—they have deserved this for centuries. There are headstones she will not see, flecked with the writ of farmers, and theirs is a hatred that holds; theirs is a right to destroy themselves … chop! chop! read more!
THE PAIN by Caleb True I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen. At the moment it was pain but sometimes it was just a sensation. I sat down at the edge of the sidewalk and leaned over to puke. Didn’t. I stood, continued to walk. The twinge came back. I pressed two fingers into my abdomen. Pressed and pressed until I felt bone. I googled appendicitis. Scrolled through symptoms. No excruciating pain. No vomiting. The pain wasn’t getting worse, and sometimes it wasn’t even pain. I wondered if I should stop weightlifting with my neighbor. I knew he had an anger problem. Weightlifting is no anger management strategy, but he also had a gym membership, so. Did I work too much, masturbate too much? Too hard? I thought constructively about masturbating. Zoning out, I cupped my hand near my dick, deep in thought. Like this? I thought. Like this? … chop! chop! read more!
THE MODERNIST CABIN by Emily Steinberg I began creating graphic novels or illustrated stories in 2005. I realized that I not only wanted to make visual imagery, as I do in my paintings, but I wanted to tell stories as well. I found that the combination of words and images created a visceral way of storytelling. Most of my material is autobiographical. Stories that have happened to me along the way that have shaped my being. The Modernist Cabin is a story about my family set against the pristine lines of a modernist cabin on Cape Cod. The architecture and the story serve as companions to each other. They are independent of each other but dependent nonetheless. –Emily Steinberg, June 2013 Photography by Paul Rider Emily Steinberg is a painter and graphic novelist who earned her MFA and BFA from the University of Pennsylvania. She has shown at … chop! chop! read more!
THE LAW OF CONSTANT ANGLES by Jason Newport Illustrations by Sarah Andrew I prop one boot on the Mustang’s running board. The car creaks as I lean staring across its soiled white roof at the honey. Freezing November winds off Lake Michigan blast our faces, fluttering her yellow hair like a pennant. She hasn’t looked at me since I paid for her shoes. She isn’t reaching for the passenger door again. Hands buried in my jacket pockets, I try not to let too much hope crimp my asking, “What about after?” “Can’t,” she repeats, already turning away. “I have to work.” “No, after,” I urge, inviting, not desperate. “Can we?” “May we?” she murmurs, walking off. Or else, “Maybe,” and me too chickenshit to holler after her, hear it the wrong way again. She takes careful, even steps because her shoes are new—brown patent leather that’s stiff, unblemished, her … chop! chop! read more!
THE STRAIGHT WARP OF NECESSITY by Mark Mondalek Seated on the examiners table, I hold a mouse pad-sized monitor in place over my left breast with assorted electrodes leeched upon my arms and chest and my pacemaker’s memory bank is successfully tapped dry. All my secrets electronically spill onto a sleek computer screen for only my cardiologist to read and the zigzagged data codes become lost in translation to me. I’m soon told of what my nurse described as a tiny short circuit in my electrical system; an intermittent junctional rhythm, to be exact. “Something new,” my doctor keeps repeating rather intriguingly as he continues tapping away at the results. It seems my heart has never done this sort of thing before. He deliberates with his two assistants and begins to adjust my settings with a series of quick taps on the screen. “You might feel a little light-headed for … chop! chop! read more!
OF SNAKES AND STONES by Jennifer Pullen I Medusa still dreams of being beautiful. At night on her sheep skin-padded but still cold stone bed she remembers combing her hair, its dark sheen, the heavy still weight of it. She used to rub her hair with olive oil to keep it shiny. Once she had a lover who liked her to wrap her hair around his neck until he almost couldn’t breathe. He said he liked his women dangerous. She thought he was silly, but she indulged his desires so that afterwards she could lay her head on his knee and he would sing to her of meadows and myths. For some reason, whenever he sang she could taste honey on her tongue. Sometimes when she wakes up and feels her hair hissing and whispering along her neck she runs to the corner of her cave and vomits, as though … chop! chop! read more!
BEYOND THE BLUE RIDGE by Grace Maselli In spite of the anxiety that flares in my stomach, I get ready to move 300 miles away. The upcoming relocation fills my gut with disturbances—tiny cyclones whirring counterclockwise through the commonly known organ. These feel like hundreds of small cyclones the size of my grandmother’s Lucite earrings, humming and moving excitedly through this interior terrain. It’s a state of abnormality, a place with no homeostasis. I know inherently that my stomach is an environment that prefers the company of dinner rolls, it’s the part of my physical “instrumentation” that would rather be soothed by my fat Nona’s hands smelling of yeast, her body reliably covered in a clean-smelling cotton dress, not the bitter pill I call change. Instead I’m forced to brave a major adjustment (a commotion) that comes at me like a wind-and-pressure system, when what I really want is this: … chop! chop! read more!
AFTER DINNER by Katherine Heiny After dinner, Maya steered the minivan through the icy streets to their own house, Rhodes silent next to her in the passenger seat, Nash fussing in a low-level but constant way. When they got inside, Rhodes suddenly became drunkenly exuberant. “Merry Christmas, wife, child!” he said, hugging Maya and Nash at the same time. Maya had been peeling Nash’s snowsuit off and now the baby and the snowsuit were caught between them. Nash made a startled noise of protest and Maya propped her free arm against the wall so they wouldn’t all topple over. Rhodes kissed her, and then Nash. “This is the best Christmas ever,” he said. Maya couldn’t decide whether she agreed or disagreed, so she just kissed him back. “Go to bed, honey,” she said. “I’ll be there in a little while.” Rhodes staggered away toward the bedroom. Maya tugged Nash’s snowsuit off … chop! chop! read more!
RITHIKA MERCHANT Works on Paper: Comparative Mythology I began working on a series of paintings dealing with Comparative Mythology about two years ago. My work explores the common thread that runs through different cultures and religions. Similar versions of many myths, stories and ideas are shared by cultures all around the world. I use creatures and symbolism that are part of my personal visual vocabulary to explore these narratives. I am currently continuing in the same vein but focusing now on a branch of Comparative Mythology that deals with Joseph Campbell’s theory of the Hero/Monomyth. The Monomyth refers to the journey of the Hero. There is a pattern that involves seventeen steps that the hero passes through during his journey. The seventeen step journey is spilt up into three phases– the departure, the initiation and the return. This pattern is found in many narratives from different cultures and religions and … chop! chop! read more!
THIS FILM OF MY LIFE IF I’D PAID MORE ATTENTION TO FRENCH CINEMA by Brian Baumgart Scene I: In the foreground she leans in, plucks her front teeth with her thumb, music like a finger piano, only echoed tones. A man with large fingers and furred knuckles hangs the boom just overhead, listening for any little click that doesn’t fit the narrative. Scene II: Mise en scene, cluttered like a pair of overlapping jungle gyms: the spider web of youth. Reviewers want to use the word entwined, as if the sex between us tied us. The director’s assistant smokes nondescript cigarettes from a white box, blowing tendrils across each camera’s lens for texture with little nuance. Scene III: Waiting at an airport, except there is no airport anymore. No, I’m waiting at the clinic for bloodwork. No, I’m done waiting. Brian Baumgart directs the creative writing AFA program and teaches English … chop! chop! read more!
THE TAO OF WORDS by Timothy Kercher To my daughter Buddha is a baby. Most everyone is a baby unless you are ma-ma or da-da or dog. Cows she knows, as they stand in high-mountain meadows in the Cimarron, laughter follows our vehicle. Which is bee-eep, these words and parts of words that come and go with the waves of vocal folds—her larynx learning to move, to harness the power of a puff of air, to launch thought into the buffer zone between beings. At two years old, she is a blacksmith forging words that will help her on the journey she doesn’t know she’s on yet— the more she empties herself, the more the words will come to fill in those spaces. Timothy Kercher lived overseas for the last six years—four years in Georgia and two in Ukraine—and has now moved back to his home in Dolores, Colorado. He continues … chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by M. A. Schaffner WE HAVE TO TALK Returning to this planet from the road I find the plate tectonics have become disturbingly unfamiliar. But you know how Teddy Bears come home to roost, and how it just becomes awkward for everyone. I used to know a girl, I used to know, I used to, oh well. Dust covers my hands and blood just thickens it. I find my words turning into little time bombs that sit unobtrusively among other souls before their lethal petals unfold, and the solar wind sweeps over the surface carrying me to a rest stop on Ninety-Five where we all look friendly for one day only. Some era, sagas will sing of our exploits on the quiet wards, ones without laptops. I won’t be there, but driving, still en route. WITH AN ‘OON IN IT The name our wind doesn’t have must … chop! chop! read more!
SOLECISM by Rosebud Ben-Oni Virtual Artists Collective, 80 pages reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke It is not difficult to lose patience with the poems of Rosebud Ben-Oni’s Solecism: studded with cultural and personal reference, streets names, and regionalisms – not to mention the grammatical experimentation implicit in a book of poetry – Ben-Oni’s work disorients. The reader clings to disparate stanzas, following ambiguously symbolic sparrows, in a fruitless attempt to add everything up, but the author evades a single style. Ben-Oni traverses her mixed Jewish-Hispanic heritage in sudden turns; just as the reader grows accustomed to colonias and sal si puedes they find themselves in Israel (with side trips back to the States), the parts of the poet divided into cavalier sections. A fragmented poem about Ramadan lives alongside unexpectedly sentimental lines like “and so they fly away / breaking my heart on this cold, cold day” or a sugary ode … chop! chop! read more!
YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK by Tom Gauld Drawn & Quarterly, 180 pages reviewed by Rebecca Dubow Tom Gauld’s latest graphic novel, You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, is a hundred and eighty pages of cartoons about classic literature in the digital age. Many of these graphics have already appeared in The Guardian, but reading each of them back to back is especially satisfying. Experienced this way, his cartoons argue for a seamless intersection of literary fiction and popular culture. A graphic novel is the ideal medium to accomplish this marriage because it has historically been associated with popular culture. In the past ten years or so, however, great works like Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis have demonstrated the considerable potential of the graphic novel as a literary work. Gauld’s graphics are cartoonish and simple, indicating at first that the work would be equally cartoonish … chop! chop! read more!
by Kevin Varrone
Digital Earthenware, available from iTunes
Reviewed by Anna Strong
Kevin Varrone’s Box Score: An Autobiography spans across form — from autobiography to history to visual art to the baseball rulebook to the prose poem — content, and reading experience. Presented as a highly interactive free iPad and (by early June 2013) iPhone app, Varrone’s text, which he calls an autobiography, does almost everything in its power to thwart that somewhat restrictive classification. “Box Score” is made of a series of prose poems, each of which invokes Philadelphia history, baseball history (e.g. the first night game ever played between the Phillies and the Reds) Philadelphia baseball, a speaker’s personal recollections (“police your area my dad would say as he smoothed dirt around the first base bag w/ his foot after a bad hop ate me up”), baseball terminology (page 78 is simply a line of a batter’s statistics: g: 1 ab: 0 r: 0 h: 0 2b: 0 3b: 0 hr: 0 avg: .000), found language (Harry Kalas’ famous “outta here” long ball call appears on page 73), and lyrical, evocative images that seem disembodied from — and beautifully juxtapose — the rest of the language (“I’d pick dandelions & snap their heads before they turned to wishes,” page 19).
MISS PLASTIQUE by Lynn Levin Ragged Sky Press, 68 pages reviewed by Michelle Reale I should have know from the cover of Lynn Levin’s book that I would be able to connect with the poems inside on a very visceral level: that blond doll, with the thick cat eye eyeliner, all blonde and coiffed, with head tipped—yeah, I get it. When I played with my Barbie dolls, they broke rules, they were well-dressed rebels, and they smiled in your face, but plotted their escape behind your back. Lynn Levin writes of a generation here—my generation, her generation, our generation, but her themes are universal, though some of the particulars, some details give a throb to the heart because, well, recognition in any form is a powerful thing. She slips in details you think you may have forgotten about your young life long past, but realize they’ve only been coiled tight … chop! chop! read more!
MOODS Rachel B. Glaser Factory Hollow Press, 80 pages Reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke MOODS seems innocent enough at first glance: thin and neatly printed, the poems average about two short pages in length, while the cover art – bare-breasted women combing colors from a campfire with hairbrushes – advertises little more than a squishy meditation on divine femininity or the joys of stereotypical womanhood. In a certain sense, Glaser delivers on this front; her poetry is comprised of mystical generalizations about female sexuality, menstruation, and emotion, but the author’s manipulation of these societal tropes is expertly done — they become threatening, subversive. Glaser throws foolish stigma in our faces: and I’m about to get my period maybe I’ll get it now or now Her female subjects are (as they should be) difficult to pin down, at once susceptible to higher powers (God, psychology) and ruthlessly assertive, dominating their male counterparts, … chop! chop! read more!
POEMS FOR THE WRITING Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin Texture Press, 154 pages reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS In the poetry workshop, we encourage writers to explore their individual potentials, to experiment, and to eschew valuations of “good” in exchange for measures of success as achieving authorial vision. The instructor must speak to a wide spectrum of skill. Valerie Fox’s and Lynn Levin’s new book, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, supplies a toolbox for doing just that. The range of prompts makes the creation of art a more accessible act to a wider audience. Ultimately, this works as a text for how to teach poetry. The book intermixes the prompts with respect to levels of difficulty and formal elements of the resulting poems. The first prompt, the paraclausithyron, may appeal to an old world sense of “The Poet,” but introductory workshop students might … chop! chop! read more!
MY BEAUTIFUL BUS by Jacques Jouet, translated by Eric Lamb Dalkey Archive Press, 130 pages. reviewed by Michelle Fost Jacques Jouet’s My Beautiful Bus reminded me of an observation by a former teacher of mine, playwright Romulus Linney. In 2011, a good friend, whom I’d first met many years ago in Linney’s class at the University of Pennsylvania, e-mailed me with the sad news of his death. In his obituary, the New York Times quoted Linney, “My writing will add up to the sum total of me. The choices I make with my writing have a lot to do with myself as an unfolding personality, so that in the end your writing is really your destiny.” Linney was an influential teacher for us young aspiring writers, always telling us to “go deeper” with our writing. Even after death, his words stopped me in my tracks. span style=”font-family: ‘times new roman’, … chop! chop! read more!
THE OLDEST MOM IN THE ROOM by Sarah Buttenwieser The other day, I took my antsy four-year-old, Saskia, to the Y for Tumble and Play. The gym, outfitted with toddler-friendly stations—a gently sloping soft ramp here, another odd-shaped cushion-slash-mat there, a low, wide balance beam, and some hula hoops on the floor offered cute smalls the chance to toddle or crawl or run about. Their adults hovered or chased or basically ignored, depending. Saskia is on the cusp of outgrowing Tumble and Play. And at 48, maybe I have outgrown Tumble and Play, too. These weren’t my peeps. In the noisy room, I felt very quiet. I stood there and remembered when I’d been one of them, a thirtysomething parent to smalls. I lived in that tot-centric world with playground—and the other parent chaperones—as primary destination. Like them, I routinely over-packed a diaper bag (before I got to the third … chop! chop! read more!
BETWEEN THE FRAMES by Kristen Martin My parents never owned their own video camera—in the 1990s, it was the sort of luxury item (like a snow blower) that could be borrowed from a relative or neighbor when needed. With my Uncle Joe’s bulky camcorder hoisted on his shoulder, my dad would record birthdays, vacations, and Christmases. The camera was a heavy machine, much too big for John and me to ever play with; it was obsolete even by 1990, when handheld camcorders became the tool of choice for doting parents. Nevertheless, my dad ignored his bad back on those special occasions and accumulated hours of footage of us running through the sprinklers in our backyard and ripping wrapping paper off presents. The impulse to document stopped around 1997—by that time, I was 8 years old and John was 11. Maybe we weren’t cute enough to immortalize on moving film anymore. … chop! chop! read more!
OUT OF THE BLUE by Renée K. Nicholson Shorthand we just called it “Bluebird,” but technically the role was Princess Florina. Hers is the tale of a maiden who wanted to learn to fly, and about the prince, disguised as the blue bird who taught her. For the celebration of Aurora’s wedding in the third act of Sleeping Beauty, the Bluebird story, compressed, became entertainment for both onstage wedding guests and audience members. Bluebird was a common choice to teach young dancers advanced enough learn some repertoire. Reminded of many famous dancers who made their soloist debuts as Princess Florina, when given the role in a showcase, I thought of it as a sign of things to come. My costume, royal blue with feathers on the platter tutu as well as a feathered headpiece, did make me feel a bit like a delicate bird. Wanting to stroke the feathers … chop! chop! read more!
GONE by Miriam Sagan After photographs by Nell Dickerson This needs narrative– Who left, and why, And who came back– The photograph The house completely covered in vines, Or vines in the shape of a house. I once lived Where creeper pried apart floorboard Where I sat with my baby in the bath And a flying squirrel Burst out from a hole in the wall Covered by a travel poster Of–of all things–the Alps, Leaping like a circus performer Through a ring of paper. Don’t sleep here, or you’ll dream Of abandoning the human in habitation, Like that night hitchhiking When I wouldn’t camp in the decrepit house And you agreed, Afraid of the fair-haired tinkers Or the unseen Tenants. Miriam Sagan is the author of twenty-five books, including the poetry collections Map of the Lost(University of New Mexico Press) and Seven Places in American (Sherman Asher, 2012). She founded and … chop! chop! read more!
IRA JOEL HABER Works on Paper I have always made art including drawings and works on paper. This selection is from 1972 to 2013 and is a good sample of the themes, images and mediums that have always interested me for over forty-three years as an artist. My training was in commercial art. I began working in the advertising field in 1966 upon completing a two year course at New York City Community College, as it was then known. This training was outdated. In any event, I had little trouble in finding jobs. However, these jobs depended on skills that I really didn’t have, and my heart was not really in the ad game. I want my art to go through slow constant changes, but at the same time I want vast abrupt changes. Nature does the same. Since 1969, I have been making small scale sculptures and miniature environments that … chop! chop! read more!
CHICKEN DANCE by William Sulit & Beth Kephart Digital 3-D Design A conversation between a writer wife and her artist husband, in a quest to understand Important Subject: A chicken BK: You spend hours in your garage studio (among the ghosts of a skinny car, in the shadow of night visitors, within walls yellowed by old fuels) fiddling with electronic pencils and twinned screens, and you come up with … a chicken? Why a chicken? How did your chicken begin? WS: It began with a sphere about the size of a golf ball. I’m sure electrons are involved but what is really being manipulated are vertices. This chicken was really a way to test 3D printing technology (color and all). No lofty idea—just that as someone who works with 3D “art,” I wasn’t going to leave that stone unturned. BK: And I thought I had married into lofty. Didn’t you … chop! chop! read more!
IN HEAVEN by Rachel B. Glaser they could have lived in clouds but so missed houses that they actually built some they missed roads though in life, roads hadn’t really appealed to them in a nostalgic, industrious phase they assembled a touristy street where stores sold the bright t-shirts of before covered with puns and jokes about being half-alive many people re-found their spouses but many more lived with newly-found strangers in a light-weight honeymoon of sweet boredom no one was religious it was a beach town they easily conjured an ocean but they used all their natural resources partly from building the things they drove instead of cars a group of environmentalists formed but they were no fun to have over at parties and there were so many parties Rachel B. Glaser is the author of the poetry collection Moods (Factory Hollow Press, 2013) and the story collection Pee On … chop! chop! read more!
BIRTHPLACE OF A NATION by Kevin Varrone Joe saw your number at Silk City while going crazy in the men’s room. Joe saw your number on the sin wall and understood the irritating itch on his bearish toes to be his own cross, his own three alarm fire. Joe TIVO-ed Casablanca and became immune to commas. Joe’s been paralyzed by the syntax of youth, by his sumo for frankfurters. Joe is a concave bibliographer, a nor’easter cult diva who uses tabula rasa as an ultimatum and asks “Where you at?” Joe loves women. Joe loves a woman the way two broken machines love each other in a landfill. Kevin Varrone’s most recent publication is Eephus (Little Red Leaves Textile Series, 2012). His current project, box score: an autobiography, is forthcoming as a set of literary baseball cards from Little Red Leaves Textile Series (2013) and as an iPhone/iPad app (2013). His previous … chop! chop! read more!
HEAT by Marybeth Rua-Larsen for the first thirteen days of August. I’m swimming in lemons, squeezed within an inch of their lives, waterlogged, pressed to the bottom by ice. My lips curl around the straw, suck down the pits in waves of cool, the air conditioner dies its slow death: a whine, a rattle, a sputter. I let it rest an hour then make it come again in electric waves, burning my thighs with the laptop, stuffing newspapers underneath, scrolling through emails as word after word drips humidity in the chatter of children who have questions and answers and dissertations on cloud formations. They lie on their backs and watch them run across the sky. They won’t pull their hair into buns. They want it hanging down rather than bound, the window boxes are watered and green but the flowers are withered and frail. There are no new buds in … chop! chop! read more!
IN A DRY MONTH by John Timpane Time says have to, time says go to a green place, a space, a peace beyond the outskirts of earshot and streetlight mind of barnacle-bearded whale rears, geysers shattered water, sounds a mile past the din of fish silence where warmth has never been. Infinitesimal in that crush, that loneliness, those lightless ancient canyons, whale hums a half-hour, utter tone that travels shelf to shelf, reef to isle to continent and every whale, oceans apart, judders a little. Beyond the suburbs, where Orion glistens, all sings and oceans of night reverberate: what is in me, what is heavy, holds its breath, dive when the deep calls. John Timpane is the Media Editor/Writer of the Philadelphia Inquirer. His work has appeared in Sequoia, Vocabula Review, Apiary Mixtape, ONandOnScreen, Painted Bride Quarterly, Per Contra, Wild River Review, and elsewhere. Books include (with … chop! chop! read more!
from FLIGHT OF AUGUST by Larry Eby 6. A desk melts into the tile floor, the windows cracked and browning. A forest of homes caught fire to dry cold, lightning struck Joshua tree, build the fire, son build the fire, son chilled wind is a devil’s claw. No one is clean out here. Among burning pines, ashen snow mixed in the bottle earth is. Crows nest atop streetlamps, cawing at the last frozen hand stuck to the curb’s edge. No is loud out here. Echoing off windows, echoing breaks the icicles from the eaves. A fire in the distance counts victims. 9. Billowing endless clouds smoke. dried up forest burning, … chop! chop! read more!
ELEANOR LEONNE BENNETT Photographs This series of images were all taken at the Michael Allcroft Antiques shop in Disley, Cheshire. I was born on the Cheshire-Derbyshire border and have lived there all my life. I love to take photographs in museums and in cities, but as I am not often able to travel alone long distances, I have to look for subjects a lot closer to home. The red lion sign is a favourite of mine and makes me think of all the old pubs and of the social life they used to generate in local towns and villages near to me. Only across from the road from Michael Allcroft’s, lies an abandoned pub which will now probably face its future as living accommodation as apposed to a busy hive in the community. Here is a photo of the sign in the Michael Allcroft catalogue. And here is a photo of the rocking horse in the … chop! chop! read more!
ALBINO by Deborah Burnham We slung harsh words like stones: we spat at the white-haired boy and called him freak. We couldn’t see his long hair glowing like an opal in the dark waves of children flowing through the schoolyard. Someone should have led him to a safer place, a shady forest where it’s damp even in July. His forked white body might have rooted there, like the colorless and waxy plants that feed from trees and the rich litter of the forest floor. Perhaps he would have grown tall, sending hooded blooms into the dappled light. His opaque and fragile stalks would glow, would grow back, summer after summer, refusing to take root anywhere that’s bright and hard and noisy. Deborah Burnham has lived in the Powelton area of Philadelphia forever. She walks to work in the English department at Penn where she teaches creative … chop! chop! read more!
JAM by Kelly McQuain At dusk, they come haunting to slake their hunger: doe and fawn threading autumn brush. Down hillside, through hollow, they search for fallen apples—rotten spoils of the abandoned orchard Mom’s lived by since Dad passed on. The deer move like wood smoke through charcoal shadow; I’m penciled in against trees, watching roadside, unsure why a lover once told me he liked me more than raspberry jam and that—while he loved raspberry jam—he didn’t love me. The truth? I didn’t love him either and liked him less at such clumsy carelessness. So I held my tongue about his small cock and left with what grace I could muster. Words are awkward sticky things that sway from sugar to sour once loosened from tongue. Do I forgive him because we were young? Desire reversed doesn’t chase need away. In June, among roadside rock, new blackberries will muster. Wild … chop! chop! read more!
I stayed up ’til 1:00 AM a few weeks ago, and where was the party? At my desk, with everything but the keyboard covered in postage stamps. Polish stamps, Poczta Polska, all issued between 1928 and 1969. Musty old stamps honoring tanks and trade union congresses, marking six-year plans and newspaper tricentennials and the 1000-year anniversary of the country itself. Clumps of stamps memorializing uprisings in Silesia, the recovery of territories, and planes, lots of planes, carrying mail or flying over cities. New steelworks, new electric plants, well-muscled and barefoot coal miners, studious children, Curie and Kopernik and korfball, Chopin and Paderewski, Stalin and Hitler, zoo animals and butterflies. Not one stamp memorialized or honored or even acknowledged Catholicism.chop! chop! read more!
TINY MAGICS by Angel Hogan Sometimes it is an outrage. When Mila considers the chances and possibilities in this world, the fine lines and gaping canyons between what is good or not, the distances between blessed and cursed, she is outraged enough to spit! “I have had a hard life, no doubt,” she mutters inwardly on her way to catch water from the well. “I’ve had a life that makes others wonder how I have managed, still, to have an open heart and love. I am flawed and far from perfect but I BELIEVE!” Mila believed in goodness and love and light, even after the days of Noe and all the hurtful ways and words. She believed she was blessed and graced with rare and tiny magics. “A fact,” she whispers into the darkness, “a fact is that flowers make me happy. A true and honest joy in this world so full … chop! chop! read more!
A SIGHTING by Charles Rafferty My friend was on the subway in New York when he noticed a man get on, walk down the aisle, and take his place two rows forward of where he sat. This new passenger was our old friend. Neither of us had seen him in twenty years, and now there was a sighting — a proof that he existed, that he had climbed out from under whatever the world had heaped upon him. But my friend, the one who was on the train first, said nothing to this other friend. He couldn’t really explain it when I asked him, but said there was nothing of his old flash and bravado as he shambled down the aisle. Was he homeless, I asked? Was he drunk? Was he broken in some dramatic way — a missing arm, a tattoo from radiation therapy visible above the collar? No, … chop! chop! read more!
CLOSING THE CURTAINS by Ann de Forest 1. Daughter A little girl sits alone in her room at night, reading. The lights are on. The curtains are open. She feels safe inside her room, inside her book. She knows what lies outside in the dark. She doesn’t even have to look. Just below her window, a hedgerow of purple-berried bushes. If she eats the berries, she will get sick and probably die, says her mother. The bluejays eat them though. Sometimes the little girl watches them, so greedy they drop most of their harvest on the ground. The sidewalk is stained with splatters of red juice. Beyond the bushes and the sidewalk is the street. Across the street, a street lamp glows. When she looks up from her reading, she does not see the bushes, the spattered sidewalk, the street, the lamp, the neighbors’ houses. She sees herself, her body bright and transparent over the night’s silhouettes. It is time for bed. She undresses in front of the window and stops to stare at her naked reflection. Her … chop! chop! read more!
WHY NOT THROW KISSES? by Michelle Fost My parents thought it hilarious when I sent them giddy kisses from behind the glass at JFK. I saw them standing there, gesturing with their hands lifting off their mouths into the air in my direction. I mistakenly thought they were sending me farewell and bon voyage kisses, and I sailed my kisses back to them. My parents saw it as slapstick. They kissed and laughed and waved their arms. They would tell me later how they were trying to remind me to pick up the carton of cigarettes we’d purchased together at duty free for our Israeli cousin, Marta. On both sides of the glass our gestures grew larger and more rapid fire as they mimed the smoking of cigarettes and I broadcast kisses. We had terrible reception. Last week, I brought my son to the island airport in Toronto for a school trip … chop! chop! read more!
UNDERGROUND & DEATH PANEL by Jim Eigo Underground (Union Square) On the crowded subway platform a space had cleared around the couple. For reasons no passerby could ascertain, the expensively-dressed young man and woman—Wall Street by the cut of the suits, the fabric, the accessories—were slapping each other. Fewer of us were passing by anymore: we had stopped to watch. Clearly the guy was holding something back, like this was all a kind of game—though his clenched jaw told the captive crowd he was having no fun, taking more care to parry his partner’s blows than to land his own. By contrast the woman was swatting hard, dead serious from the first instant I saw her, more furious now that blood was trickling from the man’s lopsidedly big upper lip. Had the ring on her finger caught him there? The gold band sent out a ruby spray as it caught … chop! chop! read more!
“THE 104″; “TIBET”; “LIKE THAT” by Kevin Tosca The 104 Two men were standing in the belly of the bus. The one with a cane—old, but not too old—approached the younger. “Should I take you there?” said the older man. The younger, middle-aged man had a couple of bags at his feet: groceries. He looked at them, and then he looked up, unsurprised by the older man’s question. “Where’s there?” he asked. “Your house,” said the older man. The younger man paused again. He was neither flustered nor annoyed. “But I know the way to my house,” he said. “Is that all that matters to you?” asked the older man. The younger man looked thoughtful, as if he were considering the older man’s question, but he did not respond, and the older man shuffled back to the railing he had been holding onto before he approached the younger man. A … chop! chop! read more!
by Kathryn Kulpa
The streets smell like fried dough and there’s the carnival sound of an outdoor mic, a tinny crackle that makes him think of Little League games and awards day at summer camp. It sounds like the end of summer. The locals are celebrating something, the patron saint of clam cakes. They’re selling raffle tickets, but he’s not buying chances. The sky is dark blue, but he’s not watching the sky. The café door is open, inviting him to a darker world of scratched wooden floors and mismatched tables and hard metal chairs: the world of Latte Girl, whose sweet smile is only for the locals, whose cups she graces with sailboats and dragonflies and long-eared dogs, while his foam never holds more than an indifferent swirl. There’s a line—there’s always a line—but he doesn’t mind. He likes to watch her tamp and pull; he likes that everything is done by hand on one old espresso machine; he likes that they are her hands, small and plump, still childish, with chipped black polish on her short fingernails. As often as he tries to touch those hands, she pulls back. Leaves the change on the counter, slides the coffee card across. But today it’s the end of August, his coffee card is full, and when she punches his last hole Latte Girl will know he’s no tourist; he’s here for the long haul.chop! chop! read more!
WORM DIRT by Rachel R. Taube She found me digging up worms in my backyard. Just plopped down beside me and started wriggling herself when I found one in the freshly turned soil. Later, her mother was angry about the worm dirt on her dress, but she came back the next day. “My name is Mara,” she said this time. What a pretty name on her lips, she smiled just a little on the “ar” and I saw her dimples. Her lips were pink like a worm. “This one’s name is Cara-Beth,” she said, pointing. She named each worm we found: Mariel, Nathaniel, Courtney. She wouldn’t touch them, but demanded I house each in a plastic cup, which we then placed in the shade. Digging them up, they dry up. When one died, she would say, “Poor Cara-Beth” and hand me the emptied cup, ready for the next worm. If … chop! chop! read more!
GARY’S SISTER by Max McKenna The same way we didn’t know, way back when, that mom and dad couldn’t stand their “friends, ” so we didn’t know that Gary’s sister wasn’t interested in either of us, which starts to explain why she kept mixing up our names last Saturday night in the busted stretch limo that cut through the grey-blue soup of Pacific Avenue, with the winding path of a rocket about to be decommissioned, after she pulled us into the back of it where she was already singing along with the radio and pounding the ceiling that snowed bits of dried-out upholstery on our heads and where her skirt kept flying up—though, yes, you were right, there were three other guys in that limo with us; it wasn’t in the cards; and weighing it all out now, we did do the right thing to leave and drive the forty-five … chop! chop! read more!
LIFEBOAT THEORY by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard I FIRST HEARD ABOUT LIFEBOAT THEORY WHEN TINA TOOK ECONOMICS. She stayed up late arguing with Daddy about it. The way she told it, this guy—Garrett Hardin—used it to explain why rich countries couldn’t bail out the poor ones. He said rich nations was like lifeboats full of rich people, with the poor people in other lifeboats. As the poor fell out of their overcrowded lifeboats, they tried to get into the richer lifeboats. Hardin said that created something called a moral dilemma, which is when the people in the rich lifeboats gotta figure out what to do about the people in the water. Daddy said Hardin’s fulla shit, that he don’t see what Lifeboat Theory has got to do with real life. And I thought it was over then, ‘cause most times when Daddy says something’s fulla shit, it is and that’s that. But … chop! chop! read more!
AND WE SLEPT IN A WIGWAM by Darlene P. Campos Getting kicked out of my house wasn’t a surprise. It happened to my ancestors, my parents, and to me several times. I lost count pretty quick. The landlord left minutes before Javier came back from his latest job search. He saw me standing in the middle of the street with everything I could carry from our former place. “Kicked out again,” I said when he pulled the truck up to me. “But we asked the landlord for two more weeks,” he said. “It’s been two weeks,” I reminded him. Javier helped me into the truck. He gave me a kiss on my cheek and we went to grab some food. We split a Navajo taco from Joe and Aggie’s Café. Our stomachs were still grumbling when we were back in the truck, but we learned to deal with it … chop! chop! read more!
FREE COFFEE FOR ATHEISTS by Michelle E. Crouch When we built the church, my son was fifteen. I knew him then. He was clear-eyed and steady, sawing and sanding the wood for the pews with confidence. He played football up at the high school but he didn’t think it made him god’s gift to teenage girls. He just liked the feeling of his muscles working like a machine and the mathematics of the plays, like chess at high speed. I knew these things because he told me, and I was so pleased he would talk honestly to his father that I didn’t think to ask who taught him chess. I only ever knew checkers. The church was a simple structure, just posts and beams holding up a roof, no walls. The pews were more like benches. Our house was on the side of the road, and on the other side … chop! chop! read more!
ON LUX by Austin Eichelberger Janine stood watching the swing of the burnt-out light bulb that hung in the unfinished laundry room of her empty little house, the pull-chain that released volts into the socket clinking against the bulb’s brittle glass with each sideways motion. In her left hand, she held a new sixty-watt light bulb, one which could replace the one still hanging, and solve all the problems she’d been having lately with her laundry: when she accidentally dropped a single red shirt in with all her whites, which dyed her work blouses, socks and white dress pants a dull pink; or when she folded clothes together because she could not see that she held both a pair of jeans and a t-shirt in the dark warmth just in front of the dryer, and then searched for half an hour before unfolding and refolding everything in her drawers; or, more … chop! chop! read more!
PERFECT COMPANION by Rebecca Entel HOLLIE THOUGHT OF THIS AS A CONTRACT. She and Dana had promised each other they’d be the type of people who remembered things could always be worse. They toasted the tragic. “To James Dean!” “To Princess Di!” “To JFK!” “To RFK!” “To MLK!” “To Elvis!” Still, it was a bummer when their favorite restaurant didn’t have a wheelchair ramp. “Well,” he said. “Let’s go somewhere with a ramp.” “Let’s go somewhere expensive with a ramp,” she said. She was proud of her husband, his tough mouth. If anyone stared at him, Dana glanced up and unholstered his thickest Philly accent: “You shoulda seen the other guy.” It was like the old joke about the grimy Schulkyll River, Hollie told people: if you fall in, don’t bother getting out. The car that hit her husband’s amid the Schulkyll Expressway’s slick March traffic had plummeted into the … chop! chop! read more!
GOING RINGSIDE by Keith Rebec Elmer was in the kitchen fixing himself two eggs over easy when he heard shouting outside. He turned the burner down, went to the window. Out near his mailbox, where the children gathered to board the yellow bus, two girls argued. Elmer waited. He tried to decipher the voices and gauge the threat. It sounded like one of the girls said you bitch. At first the spat seemed normal, natural. But when the girl in the pink dress struck the girl in the blue dress over the head with a tin lunch pal, Elmer’d seen enough. He stepped out onto the cool concrete, barefooted. “You girls end it right now,” he said. “Or I’ll come down there.” The girls had dropped their lunches, and each now clutched a fistful of hair. With locked bodies they jerked, cussed. Then they both fell to the grass and wrestled, … chop! chop! read more!