ADULT SWIMS by Christine Muller Someone must have peed in the pool. From the vigor of the lifeguards’ arms waving us out, I figured that someone must have peed a lot. I tried to keep my head above water as I made my way to the end of the lane, thinking about all of the sweat, saliva, and mucus that’s already a part of the liquid-based exercise experience. At any given time, someone is spitting into the gutter, and at all times, lap swimmers exert themselves enough to be soaking wet on dry land. Swimming is funny that way; it can look clean, even though it’s probably the workout that most fully immerses you in other people’s excretions. I tried to look at it philosophically: Nietzsche says whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And The Joker says whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stranger. I wondered which way this … chop! chop! read more!
YET SOMETHING DEEPLY FAMILIAR Photographs by Natalie Christensen Photographer Natalie Christensen has an inimitable, and enchanting, focus on the exploration of the more banal peripheral landscapes that often go unnoticed by the casual observer. “I quickly became aware that these isolated moments in the suburban landscape were rich with metaphor. Closed and open doors, empty parking lots and forgotten swimming pools draw me to a scene; yet it was my reactions to these objects and spaces that elicited interpretation and projection.” Christensen had worked as a psychotherapist for over twenty-five years and was particularly influenced by the theories of depth psychologist Carl Jung. This influence is evident in her photographs, as shadows and psychological metaphors are favored subjects. “The symbols and spaces in my images are an invitation to explore a rich world that is concealed from consciousness, and an enticement to contemplate narratives that have no remarkable life yet … chop! chop! read more!
I AM LOSING MY HANDS. by Kelley White The right hand middle finger middle joint swollen. I can almost see it. And hurt. Three times I try to open a bottle and hurt. Struggle. Will I need to ask for help? And who? There is the caretaker and I do so little. Last night the bulk the sheer bulk of him in bed. I move and it is a truck. A seismic dinosaur. The bedclothes shifting. Bedclothes. How many he saved. And all the tolls. He took tools he saved from his raggedly van. Sad. How sad. We did sleep in it and once I shivered shivered shivered big me. On skyline drive where there were deer and I saw them in the misty morning. And that boy hitchhiking with his dog. I don’t remember their names, the boy or the dog. Might have been Australian. He drew us both. … chop! chop! read more!
THE UNDERSIDE by Eric Scot Tryon It was an exceptionally hot Saturday in April when my sister and I zombied our way through the tedious chore of packing Mom’s house. A twisted, cruel part of the grieving process, but we refused to give in. No tears were shed as Wendy carefully bubble-wrapped the brown-stained coffee mugs we gave her as children. And I didn’t break down as I folded and packed her clothes even though her smell was dizzying. Wendy and I hadn’t spoken in hours—each sweating in a separate part of the house to avoid nostalgia and the “remember when’s”—when I heard my name. “Everything okay?” I was in the middle of tossing out towers of junk mail catalogs. “Just come here.” When I arrived in the doorway of the den, Wendy was holding a framed photograph. The one from Yosemite. Dad, Wendy, and I sitting around a campfire … chop! chop! read more!
HOOPS by Maggie Hill We’re going to jail for Christmas. Sing Sing. Ossining, New York. My brother Bobby and I ride in the back seat, the both of us held captive by images of branch, stone, sky going in the other direction. Our mother and father—the both of them, together—ride up front, not talking. It’s supposed to snow. “Kate, crack your window a little to get the smoke out,” my father says. She does. It is immediately freezing. Bobby, whose seat is behind the front passenger, my mother, looks at me as if it is my fault. I got sick once in a car a million years ago and nobody ever forgets it. He wouldn’t dare complain to them—not today. Not after getting thrown out of Bishops High School for the latest infraction. Smoking cigarettes. That’s what they told me. I know it was smoking, but it wasn’t cigarettes. I … chop! chop! read more!
SHELTER by Bree Smith First, the wound has to clot. In the hemostasis phase, blood vessels constrict to stop blood flow. Platelets fuse together to form a seal. Coagulation binds the wound on a molecular level. If a wound doesn’t clot, it bleeds out. After thirteen years as the director of a women’s shelter, I know: the ones who don’t clot are the no-chance girls. These are the girls with loose teeth and rib bones poking through their tank tops. These are the ones who don’t make it past their stepfathers. The ones who are always found a few minutes too late. Krysta’s wounds were raw. At 15, her mother started pushing her to get pregnant. Babies mean child support checks. 24-year-old Krysta had two elementary school-aged children and a baby by her last landlord. When I did my nightly checks at the shelter, she stuck two spoons in a … chop! chop! read more!
A PLACE OF COMFORT by Eliot Li Dustin, whose adolescent spine curved gently to the right. He hardly ever wore his corrective brace to school because it was so obvious under his polo shirt. Whose bedroom equaled comfort, Phoebe Cates on the wall and Steve Perry looking vaguely Asian with his long black rock star hair. He searched for his face in the poster. Dustin, who rode his bike downtown and asked the barber to curl a wave in his straight Asian hair, because he thought it might make him more like the white kids. Who washed his Levi’s five times on Saturday afternoon so they would fade. Whose father grabbed him by the shoulders and slammed him against the mudroom wall because he was wasting water, and the utility bill was already so goddamn out of control. Dustin, who liked his mother’s slow-roasted curry, the soft carrots and the … chop! chop! read more!
ENOUGH by Margaret MacInnis When my infant daughter turns her face from my nipple and stiffens in my arms, I panic, imagining my lungs filling with water. I’m drowning on my living room floor, where I sit topless, still in my pajama bottoms. As the afternoon sunlight slants across the room, I need help, but no one is coming, not yet. It’s too early in the day to expect my husband, who isn’t my husband at all, but a man I barely knew before we made our daughter, made a home; but we’re trying, so I try to nudge my daughter back to my breast, then try a little harder, while she grows stiffer, more resolute, but she has to eat, and I have to feed her, and no one told me how hard this would be, so I pump and pump some more, then feed her with a bottle. … chop! chop! read more!
MAKING A CAKE by Grace Kennedy Today is my father’s birthday and I am making a chocolate Guinness cake. I am making this cake by hand because I do not have a stand mixer and do not want to spend two-hundred and seventy-nine dollars on a twenty-pound gadget I will only use once a year. I am making a cake even though I do not really like cake and do not have a stand mixer because my dad is turning seventy which I know is not so old but feels very old when I watch his hands shake as he pours his beer into a tall glass. Three years ago on his sixty-seventh birthday when we found out why his hands were shaking I got so drunk off wine and port that I do not remember if there was any cake at all. I am making a cake but I … chop! chop! read more!
LITTLE FEET by Gabriella Souza Her mother used a foot mask. The package promised that in five days, the skin on her mother’s feet would molt, bubble white, and peel off in shreds, ziiiiiip. The daughter swore her mother’s eventual demise began there. You never knew what was in those foot booties with their stinking chemical aroma and lack of safety information. “Did you feel something different, Ma?” she asked. “Tingling,” was all her mother said. By then her mother’s eyes were wide like moons, pupils dilated. She appeared the opposite of dying, instead very, very awake, but her daughter knew better. The skin all over her mother’s body was shedding, as if those booties had covered her entirely and she was transforming. The end was near; the daughter called relatives, made preparations for last rites. The priest in black, pearl collar pressing against his Adam’s apple, kissed the purple … chop! chop! read more!
TEENAGE ASTRONOMY by Karin Wraley Barbee Men watch her from her ceiling, Cepheus and Hercules, pressed there by a girl on the top bunk. Their luminous hands connect the dots of her now teenage body. The screen glows like the Northern Lights beneath her bedspread. Night to night, unmoved, she appears. We measure the parallax. She is further from us now. Month to month, she brightens and fades. Even in morning her skin is a white light through torn shorts. The sun has been reduced to a clementine. She gathers rainbows in her room, presses them back into the prism. We bag it all up, the old moons, smiling, their violet songs. She is a projection now, an image on paper. She is a spot in our closed eyes, a red flare that seems fading but rages bright enough, shrinking into her radiance, her core pure power. She is nuclear. … chop! chop! read more!
PAS DE DEUX by Lori Sambol Brody Alexander calls me to the front of the beginning pas de deux class to demonstrate positions. A tour de promenade: he coaches me to grip his hand and lift my leg in an arabesque, then orbits around me as I turn. His tights ride low on his hips and his palm radiates heat. I feel like I am flying, except for the blister on my big toe. During the break, as I retie my shoes, he leans down, says, Rain, you can be full of light. Be the moon to my sun. I glow. If I could read auras, his would be sticky hot, like summers at the beach, smelling of sweat and coconut lotion, tingling of the terrifying ecstasy of a rogue wave. Instead of taking the bus home from the studio, I slip into his car and we drive hairpin curves … chop! chop! read more!
BEND AND TOUCH THE GRASS by Peter Grandbois Though the house is quiet another day nearly ………….snuffed out Shadows slipping through a bear’s skull, ………….half-buried Deer prints breaking the blossoming mud ………….at the water’s edge The cricket’s chirp limping through ………….the undecided night You still understand nothing ………….of silence Time thickens to an inky paste ………….deep in the hollow of your hands The moon a blind eye opening ………….inside you A leaf falls becomes the wind ………….before it rests becomes a stray dog a prophet sucking the tit ………….of sky The house lives inside you ………….not you inside the house Peter Grandbois is the author of thirteen books. His work has appeared in over one hundred journals. His plays have been performed in St. Louis, Columbus, Los Angeles, and New York. He is poetry editor at Boulevard and teaches at Denison University in Ohio. You can find him at www.petergrandbois.com. … chop! chop! read more!
THE TRUTH by Cassie Burkhardt When I was in eighth grade, I had a terrible eating disorder and was hospitalized for most of it. When that didn’t work, I was admitted to a treatment center in Utah called The Center for Change, three thousand miles from home and everything I’d ever known. Eventually, I got out, but I still looked like a scarecrow with braces. My parents, bless them, decided to give me a fresh start, sent me to a private school, an artsy, alternative one where I could hopefully be myself, whoever that was. Ms. Johnson was my English teacher, and she introduced me to poetry, to form and meter, a structure for my feelings. She encouraged us to keep a journal, a marbled composition notebook—you know the one—and write in it every day. “Fold any page you don’t want me to read,” she said. At first, the book … chop! chop! read more!
SPONTANEOUS BUNGEE JUMP IN SWITZERLAND by Cassie Burkhardt Twenty-six years old. Pink cutoffs. Barefoot. Day trip to Lugano with friends when we see a sign with an arrow: James Bond Golden Eye Cliff Jump. No one else wants to do it, but I do, so we hop in the VW Golf, make our way up to the tiptop. My husband can’t even look out the window. Rocks, some jagged, others smooth as elephant backs, peek from glacial water, turquoise but stop-your-heart cold. Twenty minutes later, I’m poised, arms to a T, toes on the very edge, ready to dive headfirst off a pirate’s plank on the lip of a dam so thin it’s like a giant grin in free-floating space above the world and 720 feet of sheer vertical concrete down. Someone counts. One. Two. Three. I let out a primal scream and dive off the face of it. It’s … chop! chop! read more!
WHY DON’T YOU SHUT UP, WHY DON’T YOU SPEAK UP? by Amy Savage “What do you call the men? Ballerinos?” Sophie’s mother asked at intermission, frowning. “Some of them need another layer down there. You can see all their parts.” She ran her fingers through her bushy gray bob and sighed. “I’m just so lusty for men,” she said. “I’m never satisfied. And I’m dog-tired of being teased.” It was Sophie’s turn to sigh. She’d saved up as a receptionist at the women’s clinic downtown to take her mom to Swan Lake for Christmas, and this was the first thing her mother thought to say? That the bulges had unfairly aroused her? In the recent years since her parents had divorced, Sophie often felt her mother shared too much, treating Sophie as a friend, or worse, a therapist. “Why don’t you try online dating?” Sophie now asked. They’d had this … chop! chop! read more!
MASQUERADE by Dhaea Kang We’ve just arrived at prom and already I want to leave. Should we take a photo? Chris asks. I clock the long line, my classmates barely recognizable without their signature Hollister t-shirts and hoodies, skin-tight low rise jeans. We just took a bunch of photos in my backyard, me in my coral floor-length gown from the thrift store, he in a borrowed tux and bowtie. Around my wrist the corsage his mom made. Nah. I don’t feel like waiting in line. I find my friends seated at a round banquet table, introduce them to my date. An acquaintance, not in attendance, is throwing a party we’re planning to catch afterward. I wonder what’s the minimum amount of time we’re expected to stick around. One song? Maybe two? ◊ We’ve been hanging out most days since prom. Chris has the entire basement to himself, a penthouse by … chop! chop! read more!
CONCERNING RITA HAYWORTH by Kim Magowan “So what do you do?” George says, then winces. “Sorry! Reductive question.” “At least you waited until we each had a glass of wine.” Cora examines her hands, the body part she used to be most vain about, though now even the candlelight picks out age spots. “Since that question always involves paying jobs, I’ll start with what I did.” She tells him about the newspaper, the many years when she felt like one of the lucky elite who actually enjoyed her job. Then, more recently, the grim years, the waves of layoffs, the newspaper itself thinner every year, more cheaply made, the newsprint smearing onto one’s fingers: a smudgy, emaciated thing that embodied the withered job. After escaping three rounds of layoffs, Cora quit. George grimaces. “You should never quit! What about severance? What about receiving unemployment?” “But I maintained my dignity!” Cora … chop! chop! read more!
THE DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW by Maddie Baxter My left leg is an eroded coastline. Squeeze my thigh to feel the plateau of un-muscle. Shaving my legs for the first time at 13 was pressing a blade to rubber. If my pain was a keyboard it’d be the lowest note, uncaring, deep, monotone, a whale’s cry many leagues under the eroded coastline. The doctor touches my toes with chilled prongs A cold fish in one of those pedicure shops where the fish devours the dead skin off your toes. When I was born the fish gnawed away at nerve endings in my left leg. My leg is snapped telephone pole no current pulses through it and my brain convinces me I am covered in tumors. I am covered in cafe au lait birthmarks Stained in coffee that indicates disease. Now that I have been touched in fear by a … chop! chop! read more!
WANTED: TWO WRITERS MUSE ON THE ART OF SAYING NO by Beth Kephart and Stephanie Weaver They want you. They want you for free. Because you are wise, they say. Because you know things. Because they want their people to know your person, to learn from you, with pleasure. They will, of course, be keeping all the cash, but you should focus on the pleasure. Just an hour of your time, they say. Then (a few days later): Two? You say yes because you are conditioned for yes, because isn’t this what you, playing the writer, do—yield what you know and who you hope to be? You wish to be part of the conversation. You wish to be helpful, hopeful, a strike of winter sun or a jar of daisies, a puff of buoyancy. Amenable, in other words. At the very least, not nasty. Yes, you say, and then (a … chop! chop! read more!
Blended format: Asynchronous elements with four Zoom meetings
SOLD OUTchop! chop! read more!
AUTOPSY OF A FALL by Eric Morales-Franceschini Newfound Press, 48 pages reviewed by Juniper Jordan Cruz Autopsy of a Fall by Eric Morales-Franceschini is many things at once: nostalgic and bitter, analytical and volatile, epic and intimate. It is a masterful reckoning of Puerto Rico’s present, both as, “this little isla and its debts,” the magical, eden-like place that Morales-Franceshini mythologies in his early recollections of his home island, and the utopian island that it could be should it gain independence. The form this book takes is that of a personal history that is intertwined with the legacy of western (specifically American) colonization of Puerto Rico and, inversely, the legacy of resistance and decolonization movements of Puerto Rico. Because this book is entrenched in the relationship between nostalgia and colonialism, it is filled with cultural iconographies of Puerto Rican life, often dissecting them and showing how the nuances of their … chop! chop! read more!
intermediate & advanced nonfiction | Synchronous
For poets of all levels | Mostly asynchronouschop! chop! read more!
Dear June, Since the start of this pandemic, I have eaten more and exercised less, and have gone from a comfortable size 10 to a tight size 16. In July and early August, when the world seemed to be opening up again, I did get out and move around more, but my destinations often included bars and ice cream shops, and things only got worse. I live in a small apartment with almost no closet space. I know part of this is in my mind, but it often seems that my place is bursting at the seams with “thin clothes.” I feel as if there is little, if any, chance I will ever be a 10 again, at least not before the 10s in my closet fade and/or go out of style. Should I just throw out all my pre-pandemic clothes? —Growing in Greenville Dear GiG, I wish I knew … chop! chop! read more!
Five and a Half Questions for Michelle Ross on SHAPESHIFTING from Stillhouse Press Interview by Kathryn Kulpa Michelle Ross has published short fiction in Cleaver (“Lessons,” Issue 13; “My Husband is Always Losing Things,” Issue 23; “Night Vision,” with Kim Magowan, Issue 34). She spoke to us recently about her new short story collection Shapeshifting. Kathryn Kulpa: This is such a strong collection! One thing I really like about Shapeshifting is the diversity of points of view, style, and even genre. There are short, flash-like pieces, longer stories, realistic and often funny pieces like “After Pangaea,” with the parents sleeping in cars to keep their place in line to sign their kids up for kindergarten, and darker, more disturbing stories like “Keeper Four” and “A Mouth is a House for Teeth.” Did you worry that the stories might be too divergent, or that publishers might want a more uniform voice? … chop! chop! read more!
REAL ROT: My Newfound Impatience with Antiheroes A Craft Essay by Tom Gammarino Something is wrong with me. Last week, when I tried to re-watch one of my favorite TV series of all time, Breaking Bad, I made it through just two episodes before calling it quits. The writing still struck me as masterful, but I just wasn’t in the mood to follow an essentially good man into hell. This was quite a shift. I’ve always felt bored by conventionally likable characters, preferring the knottier psychodramas of antiheroes who do good things for bad reasons or bad things for (what they take to be) good reasons. In books too, the darker things got, and the more twisted and confused a story’s moral calculus, the more I felt invested in the stakes. Not for me was the wholesome do-gooder; I wanted Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, Bigger Thomas in Native Son, Bird in A Personal … chop! chop! read more!
HARNESSING WILDNESS: THE PRACTICE OF POETIC LEAPS A Craft Essay by Kari Ann Ebert To avoid stagnation and cliché, one of the tools in a poet’s arsenal is to conjure associations that bring energy to the poem and add complex layers. These associations can show themselves as metaphors, changes of perspective, or wild unfettered leaps. Carl Phillips identifies associative poetry as, “poetry that works almost entirely by means of association— no connecting narrative pieces, often no syntactical connection, poetry that is characterized by leaps not just from stanza to stanza, but from one image to the next in ways that do not immediately make sense…” Robert Frost’s adage, “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader” is so familiar that we often lose its urgency, but without something fresh and new, why even read poetry? If we’re regurgitating the same form, the same imagery, the same metaphors, why … chop! chop! read more!
PHOTOTAXIS by Olivia Tapiero translated by Kit Schluter Nightboat Books, 128 pages reviewed by Dylan Cook There’s something refreshingly laid-back about Olivia Tapiero’s take on apocalyptic fiction. Most novels in the genre come off a bit preachy, warning us page after page that X, Y, and Z will be our downfall. Perhaps even more grating, they go through the trouble of explaining exactly how it will end, as if we can be certain of that from our pre-apocalyptic world. Tapiero looks at these conventions and casually walks past them. In Phototaxis, the end of the world makes very little sense. The streets are drowned in rotten meat, suicides spread like they’re contagious, and the only thing that might hold everyone together is a one-man piano performance. She embraces the one idea about the apocalypse we can reasonably be sure of: when it happens, we won’t have any idea how to … chop! chop! read more!
SHE Theadora Siranian Seven Kitchen Press, 35 pages reviewed by Juniper Jordan Cruz Theadora’s Siranian’s chapbook, She, is violently intoxicating and sobering at the same time. In investigating loss and trauma, she chooses to present the messy over the meditative. Siranian invites her readers into proximity and distance simultaneously: showcasing the immediate and visceral in the body of her poems, but nesting them under titles that take a step back. She begins with pseudo-abstract poem titles such as “Origin Myth,” “Her,” and “Erytheia,” and when the poem nears its end, she twists our necks to a visceral image: a man’s forearm sliced open by a trapped rabbit, a family attempting to watch tv after their child burned alive, her mother’s skin peeling off her body. The book is separated into three sections, each beginning with a poem titled, “Origin Myth.” It is important to note that this isn’t the only … chop! chop! read more!
Capitalized “Scrabble” on second reference (themed Scrabble).
There was an extra space between the July and August paragraphs, inconsistent with how other changes in date were treated, so I deleted the extra space.
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Weird, Weird West Collages by Chris Vaughan All of these works are part of an ongoing series of paper collages, collectively called Weird, Weird West. The Weird West series of collages began with a ménage à trois that I found immediately menacing and whimsical: Cowboys, Seashore and Life Patterns and a King Penguin 1947 history of the greeting card called “Compliments of the Season.” The host book on cowboys was hungry for a more disparate diet: WW2 pilot manuals, Albers, Düsseldorf skylines and British executions. It was this menace and whimsy of out-of-season dolls in the desert, crustaceous-faced hangmen, Hyde Park pigeon feeders launching Spitfires over wagon trails, runaway girls remembering cities from an East German future and Folkstone’s seaside disturbing frozen Wyoming that kept me cutting and discovering new, skewed tales of the Weird West. It’s important to me that materials are, as near as possible, found images, uninfluenced … chop! chop! read more!
STINGRAY by John Cullen My sister and I recall that old Stingray while we sit a vigil in the critical care unit. She melts into the vinyl cushions and I lean sideways, balanced like a circus acrobat one moment before falling. My bike rolled sweet, balanced on training wheels I begged my father to remove. He wouldn’t lift a wrench without my mother’s consent. Even Steve Reeves could not have popped a wheelie! Then, one day he disengaged the pair, and I rode to the park, where on a dare from Nancy Haver I jackknifed a set of concrete steps, snapped off my front tooth and broke my right arm. My sister dragged me home while I cried over my broken bike. She laughs at the memory, which reminds her, she says, of another story. Just then our mother shakes the bedside railing, angry at being jailed, and calls again … chop! chop! read more!
OUR FATHERS by Sarah Freligh Our fathers rise at five and whistle out the door carrying thermoses of black coffee and lunches our mothers have packed for them—bags of corn chips that fat up the blood and sandwiches made of meat and cheese. Our mothers tuck notes into the wrap of waxed paper promising what they’ll do to our fathers later in the dark. ◊ Weekends our fathers box-step us around the living room or somersault us from their shoulders into the deep end of a swimming pool. Sometimes our fathers will lock themselves away and listen to the Tigers on the radio or slide under cars until they’re called to wash up for dinner. ◊ Our fathers are men. What our mothers say when we ask why our fathers never cook or change diapers. Restless men, they say. Later they’ll say it with rolled eyes, but only in the … chop! chop! read more!
LEFTOVERS by Regan Puckett I almost had a husband once, but we never made it to the wedding. Now, he’s someone else’s husband, with a baby announcement on Facebook and a house two towns over. Our last date, we went to an Italian restaurant that served brown bread in gold baskets and didn’t list prices on the menu. A couple’s restaurant. You can always tell who the married ones are. The quiet ones who sit like crumpled napkins and don’t share dessert, eyeing everyone but their own lovers with unreserved curiosity. Visualizing each new body, craving them the way my almost-husband would’ve craved someone else if we’d ever married, even if I let him swallow me whole. I lost my appetite and packed the rest of my carbonara to go. ◊ My father has always been a sloppy cheater. He’d come home smelling like cherries and smile too obviously at … chop! chop! read more!
MONOCULAR by Tingyu Liu Remembering, still: Sunday egg scrambles, green …………..peppers and sharp cheddar adorning …………..our fingers, coffee pot chuckling. Tilt and: our slip of a room …………..in Havana, stumbling on the party downstairs, sweet …………..cake kiss, warm cola in colored cups. Tilt: our orange kayak flush …………..with the Atlantic, two Coronas propped …………..between us, shared spots of cool. Now: winter and …………..walking into a corner bar …………..in Little Italy, bare …………..golden bulbs and stained counters and I turn 360, lost in this palindrome, …………..wanting not wanting. A bird’s eye view: …………..stranger, stranger, stranger. But, had her beak hovered …………..on you—I think …………..even, I think that, I think even— …………..we’d still be a winter …………..each, a hemisphere apart. Trees can’t be green everywhere. …………..A bird changes direction …………..…………..by beating her left and right wing at different speeds. Tingyu Liu was born in Huaian, China, grew up in Miami, and currently … chop! chop! read more!
SEVEN STARTS TO THE WOMAN WHO WENT OVER THE FALLS IN A BARREL Annie Edson Taylor, 1901 by Frankie McMillan 1 Picture the cold dark inside of the barrel. Annie feeling her way over the padded mattress to a harness hanging from the side. The barrel sways in the water. Picture her fastening herself upright into the harness, pulling the leather strap tight across her chest. Picture Annie flailing about, she can’t find her lucky heart-shaped pillow. Now picture the barrel picking up speed, with the current, heading straight towards the falls. 2 It’s not as if falling was something new. Early on, I fell from my crib, I fell through haystacks, I fell from grace, I fell behind the church to kiss the bridesmaids, I fell between heaven and hell then into marriage and when my good husband was taken off to war I fell into despair. When cholera … chop! chop! read more!
SILVER FALLS by Melody Wilson We have driven east this bright afternoon, the two of us, young parents on a break from entropy. I am drowning in something I can’t define and the day reels out like un-spliced frames of someone else’s life. We park the car and skirt past other people’s happiness, past picnic tables and barbecues. You take my hand and we climb to the falls. The noise of life filters up: laughter, singing. I am relieved when the roar of water engulfs the din. I taste the mist on my anesthetized skin, inhale the green power of the fall, but do not jump. Something slippery creeps up by spine, maybe vertigo, maybe hope. Melody Wilson writes and teaches in Portland, Oregon. Recent work appears in Quartet, Briar Cliff Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, The Shore, and Timerline Review. Upcoming work will be in Tar River Poetry, Whale Road Review, … chop! chop! read more!
THE OREGON TRAIL by Mike Itaya 1884 Today I am eleven years born! We McClelland Family, Pa, Ma, Sis, and me (plus Joseph, our Mormon frontier scout), strike out from Independence, Missouri. The Oregon Trail is bright before us, our ox-pulled Conestoga laden with sundries (except for the calico dress Ma wanted). Ma grumbles that she should have married the Banker from Boston, while Pa pretends not to hear, but it is an otherwise perfect day. 1888 At Fort Laramie, Ma runs off with a cowpoke. Sis, who is laid low beneath a blankie (she caught dysentery from a vegan hot dog in Columbus), says “I think we’ve been here before.” And Joseph, forever gloomy, mumbles, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Ma appears again (with her hair mussed), so Pa stalks off to hunt, and I no longer feel in charge of my life. 1902 Pa, who has something … chop! chop! read more!
BIOLUMINESCENCE by Sara Mae The pregnancy scare skulks through bay grasses. It tips us over like cows & drains our peach liqueur. Flashlights under the bleachers illuminating grope & teen & tooth & wick, a stick rattling the jellyfish to yield shine. I was 15, sneaking out to the 7-11 where I had perfected straddling someone on a skateboard, coming home a root system of bug bites. My first pregnancy test all because a boy had fingered me. I think I knew that I wasn’t pregnant, that I was just practicing, reverent for the monsters we only face in daylight. Years later, today & beast bright & the cashier asks if I want a bag for that & I nod, afraid for others to see what I carry. She says, I’ve got you, the lighthouse, the moorless vessel, premonition in high waters, voice for miles over a body of water … chop! chop! read more!
SURVIVOR GUILT by Melody Wilson My sister slept in the laundry room, the door fastened by a cinch strap and a nail. She painted the cinderblock walls purple. Some nights tires would slide into the gravel drive and it was my job to cover. I feigned sleep, confusion, while our parents banged on the impenetrable door. She taught me to hitchhike, shoplifted my first bra, considered me a coward. Freeze, she said, if the cops come. Cry when you’re cornered by a man. She was the artist, the ringleader, my wildest thing, my alternate universe, a phone call and some chemistry away. Always trying to be something you’re not, she said, when I told her I was clean. I should have chugged malt liquor with her that November day. We could have smoked grass as she put me in my place, all afternoon. Melody Wilson writes and teaches in Portland, … chop! chop! read more!
A FEW NECESSARY HOUSEHOLD RULES FOR SYBIL by Gay Degani Don’t talk. Don’t say a word. Keep your mouth shut. Unless he talks first. And if he talks first, listen carefully. Listen for his tone of voice, look up to see if he is looking down at you. Don’t smile if he isn’t smiling, and bow your head. Wait to hear what he has to say. Depending on what he says, adjust your face accordingly before you catch his eye. When you catch his eye, you have to instantly assess what’s on his mind and respond accordingly. If you misread this man and answer him with something he doesn’t want to hear, look down immediately and apologize in a gentle tone. If your softest, sweetest voice doesn’t work, don’t grovel because that’s what he wants to see: you, with that frightened look on your face and the quiver in your … chop! chop! read more!
JUMPING OFF THE END OF THE WORLD by Kimm Brockett Stammen Five years ago my niece and I stood at The End of the World, an infamous diving cliff near Kualanui Point just outside Kona, Hawaii. Far below us the ravenous Pacific roiled and crashed against jutting tumbles of boulder. Charcoal clouds cast shadows over the sky. Salt wind whipped hair in our faces. “Auntie, I want to jump!” Kaley yelled. Of course she did. When she was small, my sister’s youngest girl was the one whose pink tennies inched closest to balcony edges, who leaned farthest over the aardvark enclosure at the zoo, who skipped with the most outrageous obliviousness over the slick stones of a mountain stream. Throughout her childhood she was continually recovering from some accident or another; she could and had gone, without thought or warning, in any direction whatsoever. When our two families went on … chop! chop! read more!
FLOUNDER by Tom Laichas i The fingertips know things. Their ridged whorls …. confess… the … whole.. body’s whereabouts. The fingernails know things too, and knew them even before the teeth. ii The left hand arrives like a visitant, held one arm’s length from the body. The left is a myth of repudiated power. The left hand’s five fingers sense a world different from the right’s. The left hand is grafted from another gender, another species, from that one who knapped the cleverest edges from flint. The left hand’s arts are other. iii We are not born to symmetry. The mouth turns up one way or another. One eye is wayward. The other is clouded. The heart bleeds left. The liver slumps right. Joints ache one at a time, sometimes in pain on the right, sometimes on the left. We dodder into age and our toes skew. They’re like a child’s … chop! chop! read more!
TELL ME HOW TO BUILD AN AUDIENCE WHILE YOU MOVE YOUR ARMS AND LEGS LIKE SERPENTS & SCARVES IN THE DARK OF A CATTLE RANCH by Kelly Gray When I was a kid, I wanted to be famous. I don’t know what I thought that meant other than I wanted to be seen, remembered. In thinking of being famous, I would often imagine my tombstone. I could see it with lichen blossoming across the slate. In my child mind this meant I was deserving of afterlife visitation because I had accomplished my way into worthiness and had a name carved in rock. I can be self-conscious if someone forgets my name. I can be self-conscious if someone remembers it, too. I know I am sensitive. I won’t ever be famous. Once, at a party, a girl I went to high school with called me by a name that wasn’t mine. … chop! chop! read more!
flats by Danny Cooper hot sand and grainy glass yours is packed like clay me i grab some seashells and scrape to the bone doe deer’s ribs on hard cement honey fur still clean and pristine same wet pink thread of mine in coiled cervine braid rigid skull, a cratered moon flakes like chocolate croissant under silver steak knife gray matter oozes out grimy fingers prod the grooves looking for the right shape a celtic knot or bunny-eared loops force the image clear mold and wet blur my grassy eyes can’t glare i send your vision in the mail watch me bend in the grid bug bites on my legs lunulas swelling their bed overgrown green marrow or a neck i think you’ll bite grind me into ash amaranth slivers of meat sieve through the desert skin in the wind Danny Cooper is a recent graduate from the University of … chop! chop! read more!
PACKING FOR AN OVERNIGHT AT THE STATE CAPITOL by E. A. Farro Minnesota State Capitol May 2018 the last weekend of the legislative session No one likes conflict, but with the smack of a fist I am a million particles of brilliant light. However, tonight, I’m taking the punches. The letter is a direct threat, a blunt whack to the nose. I haven’t been home for dinner in days, and I can’t remember what it feels like to help my boys into their pajamas. I’m tired and mad and for a moment frozen in place. It’s Friday, well past the mid-May sunset. As the Governor’s advisor, my life has been reduced to a countdown to the end of the legislative session Sunday at midnight. I jump up and look into the hallway of quarter-sawn oak doors. Realizing I’m barefoot, I grab heels from my bottom desk drawer. The door cracks … chop! chop! read more!
MODERNA by Nikolaj Volgushev My shoulder hurt a lot after the second dose and the following morning I found a thorny vine had sprouted from beneath the Band-Aid. It clambered down my upper arm in an emerald coil. I drove back to the CVS in a hurry but the pharmacist insisted that this was less a medical issue and more a botanical one, so I stopped by the flower store across the street. “Water once daily and give it plenty of sun,” I was advised and indeed the vine flourished under this regimen. A few weeks later it blossomed into a hundred tiny flowers, each one a pale and haunted red just like the year had been. Nikolaj Volgushev’s fiction has appeared in journals such as the Cafe Irreal, Cleaver Magazine, and Cease, Cows. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany where he writes, programs, and does other things along those … chop! chop! read more!
NIGHTS WHEN I’M TIRED by Peter Amos Mom fell asleep around Labor Day that year and the slumber was deep. Dad bagged the recycling, drove to school on weekdays, spread his papers across the living room floor in the afternoons, and asked me often if I needed anything. I always told him no, but each Sunday when I’d finished my chores, I’d wait at the kitchen table for the chunk-chunk-putputput-whirrrrrr of the lawnmower in the backyard, then venture upstairs to see if Mom had stirred. One Sunday evening in October, Dad was changing the mower blade out by the shed and I figured he’d be occupied until the stars came out. “Mom?” I called gently from the foyer. “Mom?” She didn’t answer and I quietly mounted the stairs. “Mom, are you awake?” The bedroom door was open and I crossed the threshold. Twilight sounds stirred in the yard, beyond the … chop! chop! read more!
Men O Pause by Emily Steinberg For over a thousand years, menopause has been treated as an illness, something to be feared and fixed. Emily Steinberg’s Men O Pause visualizes the grim history of the treatment and attitudes towards menopausal women throughout history, from the Salem Witch Trials to 19th-century institutionalization for hysteria, to menopause medicalization in the early 20th century. The story ends with her own positive experience of empowerment and self-actualization. In 2021, not only do we no longer need to be ‘fixed,’ but we are quite happy to be living outside the realm of women’s historical natural function. —Caroline Harris, from M-Boldened: Menopause Conversations We All Need to Have, Flint Books, UK “Men O Pause” was previously published in M-Boldened: Menopause Conversations We All Need to Have, Ed. Caroline Harris, Flint Books, UK 2020 Emily Steinberg is a multi-disciplinary artist with a focus on painting and visual narrative. … chop! chop! read more!