homecoming

By Caro Claire Burke

Featured Image: Shadows II by Sam Warren

It had been the loneliest summer of my life, which is maybe why I was so looking forward to seeing Beth.

I’d been living in the city for about four months by then. I still wasn’t quite used to the foul-smelling puddles, the fire escapes that blotted out the sky, the way the subway would be whispering along then suddenly scream to a stop, forever lurching me into the lap of some nameless and scowling person. And Beth was nice, I remembered: she’d been the type of girl in college who was always the first to laugh, the first to dance; the type of girl who never complained when we ran out of cold beer and had to switch to room temperature. She was a good sport, I remember a buddy saying once, and I’d agreed.

It was a clear Friday afternoon. I was headed to my mother’s house for the weekend, and the idea of leaving the city for a full two days had left me feeling light. I decided to throw my weekend bag over my shoulder and walk the fifteen blocks to the coffee shop Beth had suggested.

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Pill

By Louise Robertson

                 Sometimes I,   
                            I mean you,
                I mean I,
are
           like an advil stuck
in a pocket of my/your throat

           and I/you wonder if I,
                       I mean you,
           I mean I,

                       am dissolving there—
                                   easing the ligaments,
                       except the body

isn’t eased, nor ligaments
             hushed and I can still feel you,
I mean me,

                                    I mean you
                       there in the neck
                                   waiting, in fact,

hard as a choke.


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On the Inadvisability of Good Decisions

By Louise Robertson

Featured Image: Knowledge 2 by Sam Warren

I regret my good decisions while
staring at digital timestamps within
the carpeted walls
of my assigned cubicle as November
darkens to evening right after lunch.
I regret them as I climb
into the hybrid and track its mileage.
On an after-work walk,
plastic bags, candy wrappers, and
beer cans sprawl.
I decide to corral
strips of wild sheeting
massed into a wig of see-through hair.
A slippery ooze
crawls onto my hands.
I should have fucked that guy.
I should have broken my heart
over him and kept breaking those gears
—a clockwork that spends almost
all of its time junked
just for those
two moments everyday,
when it is exactly right.


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Jetson Whirr

By Louise Robertson

The Prius should make a noise
as it creeps behind school children
scattering across the road,
sunlight and leaf shadows waving
around them.
It should be, as one petition
suggested to Toyota,
the sound of the Jetson car,
a whirr and a dapple of a sound.
But Toyota has done nothing — nothing.
The cars glide out each year,
shark silent.

When I was 11, at the school trip to Kings Dominion,
standing next to a plastic statue of George,
Maria Framingham declared she
had lost a $10 bill and so of course I checked my back pocket
and of course my $10 bill slipped out. Maria
picked it up and said she found her
$10 and I made no sound
and slunk away, my inner petitioner
demanding, “Hey, make a noise!”
And my inner Toyota doing nothing — nothing.

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Seven Ways to Get Blindsided in a Restaurant

By Melissa Bowers

5.
I am in a restaurant when I learn Rob has a wife. It shouldn’t matter, since I’m already a wife, too—Timothy sits across from me, cutting a chicken strip into toddler-sized bites between swigs of his craft beer—but something catches in my chest at the sound of Rob’s name. Maybe it’s because Timothy and I are hardly speaking at the moment, or maybe it’s because of the person delivering the news.

Amaya is supposed to be a ghost from the past. She is not meant to materialize inside the life I have now, this many years after college, as she exits Timothy’s favorite burger place. I don’t notice her until she sidles over and leans against the edge of our table, runs an invasive finger around its glossy tiles, slowly, as if she’s trying to seduce them one by one. We exchange pleasantries: Nice to see you. Yes, it’s been forever. What are you up to these days?

“By the way, Rob got married,” Amaya tells me. “She looks a lot like you, actually—brown hair, kind of wavy. They have a daughter.”

She winces a little when she says it, in sympathy or solidarity, as though we both have the right to feel jealous. Then she tsk-tsks and sets her lips in a thin, apologetic line, flutters her fingers over her shoulder: “‘Bye, honey.” The finality of her hips swaying toward the door.

“That was the Amaya?” Timothy asks through a mouthful of ground meat.

I raise my eyebrows.

“Oh yeah,” he says. “We’re fighting.”

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Ghosting

By Emily Kingery

Featured Image: Ghost Crossing by Ellery Pollard

The Ghost buys me a cocktail
the color of Barbie’s dream house,
the taste of the well. He shrieks

and stakes a tiara in my hair.
I am laden in plastic and ask
where he came from. He says

Barbie’s dream house. It’s time
for karaoke. Do you remember
high school, the back of the car

and your aching lips, rewinding
the tapes? He tucks my loose hair
and his laugh is my favorite

from the dead. Ghost, I tell him,
let’s smoke. He slides two cigarettes
from his sleeve. I laugh like a rabbit

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I Said Maybe

By Allie Hoback

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

I can’t stop listening to your dumb wonderwall cover
that I asked for as a joke. I don’t know what you did
to make it sound all distant and a little haunted
but I want to projectile vomit when you giggle through the reverb
miss a chord and sing alltheroadsanananasomething.
Why do people hate this song and why do people only
ever play it on acoustic, it’s so good on electric or maybe
I just like you—oh fuck, do I like you? During sex I asked
how long you had wanted to do this for and you said
within the first ten minutes of meeting you and I said same
if not even longer, maybe before I met you, does that make sense?
Am I making sense? Should I seek professional help
if a fucking joke cover of wonderwall makes me want to grin
at every blank-faced stranger in a gas station, makes me want to stitch
your name into my underwear, makes me want to backflip
into the Atlantic Ocean where you are treading water—
and I don’t think that anybody feels the way I do about you now.


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A Shark Story

By Erika Warmbrunn

A dark shadow lifted off the sand and floated forward.

“Sting-ray!” she thought, and reached up to pull her goggles down over her eyes. They had seen several rays during their dives that week. She hoped this would be a spotted eagle ray. Velvety black beneath an ebullience of crisp white dots, the spotted eagle rays had been her favorites. She ducked below the surface.

And saw that it was not a spotted eagle ray.

It was not a ray of any kind.

It was a shark.

She had never seen a shark before. Of course she’d seen a shark before: in a movie, in an aquarium. But that was the sensation: I’ve never seen a shark before, but I know one when I see one, and that shape swaying through the not quite crystal-clear water, that is a shark. It felt primal: ancient, encoded, instinctive recognition of predator.

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Reading the Ancients

By Matthew Tuckner

What Sappho calls 
the desiremind or the couragesoul  
I call the swirling Chesapeake Bay 
of my brain and sure
you could call the tugboat 
trawling through the brackish waters 
desire and yes 
you could call the striped bass 
sourcing speed from the tugboat’s wake 
courage and sure 
you could call the crushed beer can 
scything the surf the mind and yes
the soul looks like a blue crab
when I close my eyes to picture it 
aquamarine claw    olive-green shell
I can’t quite place 
the bird tipping its beak into the bay
to capture an absent worm 
absent because fields 
of eelgrass are emptied daily 
by giant pesticidal blooms 
heaps of dead fish 
falling upwards
towards the surface 
but in placing the bird
a red knot    a piping plover
one could easily mistake it for 
the faculties of the soul 
particularly the appetites
so many Plato doesn’t even bother
to tally them though he does
warn of their penchant for battle
the appetites who are hard to see 
when they stand still 
like the piping plover for whom 
they are often mistaken 
yes I’ve been out combing
the waters for a new bird 
one whose bright rusty throat 
and striped back better represent
those flightier emotions
not even Sappho 
has the words for 
is it the tundra swan 
with ass upended and neck submerged
searching for the eelgrass
that isn’t there 
the tundra swan that birdwatchers 
who don’t know better
call suicidal ideation 
maybe the tawny-throated dotterel
is the one for me 
if I cover my left eye 
and squint my right the bird looks like 
the dysmorphia that keeps me 
out of the view of most mirrors
just look at this dotterel
can’t you see the pointed beak
that just screams 
I want to be your worst best friend
a voice that sings
come breach that little bay
of yours come tie the sky together with
us birds a pointed beak that’s just dying 
to be the Orpheus
to your Eurydice the kind of bird
that wants to kickstart
your katabasis a word
that if I’m reading the Greek correctly
can be widely defined as a descent 
of any kind such as moving downhill 
the sinking of the sun
a military retreat 
clinical depression
a trip to the underworld
or a journey to the coast


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Virginity

By Zuzanna Ginczanka
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak Huss

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

We…
A frenzy of hazel trees, disheveled by rain,
a scented nutty buttery crush.
Cows give birth in the humid air
in barns, blazing like stars.
O, ripe currants and lush grains
Sapid to overbrimming.
O, she-wolves feeding their young,
their eyes sweet like lilies.
Sap drips like apiary honey.
Goat udders sag like pumpkins.
The white milk flows like eternity
in the temples of maternal bosoms.

And we…
…in cubes of peach wallpaper
like steel thermoses
hermetic beyond contemplation
entangled up to our necks in dresses
conduct
proper
conversations.


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Zuzanna Ginczanka Biographical Note

By Joanna Trzeciak Huss

Any biography of Zuzanna Ginczanka (1917-1944), however short, should attempt to speak to her desire to define herself and her refusal to be defined by others. For her, social and artistic identity was something to be chosen and cultivated, but in the times in which she lived, identity ascribed by others was a matter of life and death.  Born Zuzanna Polina Gincburg in Kiev in 1917, she fled shortly after the Russian Revolution with her family to the border town of Równe in Volhynia (present day Rivne, Ukraine), which was at one point part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and was about to become Polish again in 1920.  The destination was not accidental: it was the town where her Russian-speaking maternal grandparents were well-ensconced.  Yet this provincial capital proved too confining for her parents, who abandoned her to the care of her grandmother: her father leaving for Berlin when Ginczanka was three and her mother for Pamplona, Spain after she remarried.  Równe, a multi-ethnic city, was Ginczanka’s childhood home and it was there she attended a French pre-school and Polish elementary school and high school.  She adopted the name Ginczanka, and though Russian was her native tongue,  chose Polish as her language of poetic expression. Yet she was never able to obtain Polish citizenship and remained stateless throughout her life.

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Process

By Zuzanna Ginczanka
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak Huss

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

1
In the beginning was heaven and earth:
black tallow and blue oxygen—
and fawns
beside nimble stags
and God, soft, white as linen.

2
Cretaceous
Jurassic
Triassic
The earth layers in strata—
The Miocene advances by tank — a majestic conquest.
There is a separation between water
and the land of ferns and birches
—and God sees that it is good when Genesis dawns.
Nitrogen brews in magma,
magma congeals into rock
mountain
thrusts
upon mountain
in a thunderous, cosmic mounting
The Carboniferous enriches the earth with bituminous pulp.
—and He sees that it is good
for moist amphibians and stars.
Iron pulses like blood
Phosphorus hardens into tibia——
— and with singing air, God whistles into pipes of crater.

3
In the beginning was heaven and earth:
and fawn
and tawny stags
but then things took a different course:
and
flesh
was made
word.

4
Back then, a lone rhododendron trembled before a fragrant angel,
horsetails tall as New York creaked and clattered.
Now daisies wilt
in town squares
in Konin, Brest, and Równe
and at night
policemen
and their spouses
make love.


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Cocooned

By Maud Welch

Featured Image: Before I Leave by Tanner Pearson

There’s a split down the center
            of your upper lip, like the crack
of a window on that first warm-
            blooded day of spring, when 

cherry blossoms sprinkle back
            broken pavement and we feel
able bodied to birth sticky children
            of our own on training wheels –

so they too lick summers slick
            with sunscreen and tooth fairy gaps,
wide enough to trap watermelon seeds,
            sunflower seeds and corn off the cob –

so they too tackle dappled heaps
            of blood orange leaves and sour
patch wrappers, crunching flat
            under onion moons and rubber soles –  

so they too season in corkscrew kitchens
            simmering with nutmeg, ginger-
haired relatives and caramel frosting,
            as frost settles deep in their bones –

so they too heed the call of the wild
            at midnight on each thirty-first,
finding cracks in this earth in which to
            nest until fertile showers melt away

the space between growing up
            and growing old. Kiss me again
under this home-spun wool, the hour
            is ripe to crack us open –

I want you to.

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Prayer for Reconciliation

By Kelly Rowe

In the study that a child playing hide and seek
once called the messy room,
in a drawer, in a manila envelope, still sealed,
I’ve filed the police report on how you died.
It will stay put: it will age, though you don’t.
I’ll open it today.
I’ll never open it.

Here, photographs spill out of boxes, and you
return, a small boy perched on a stoop
in tiger pajamas. You grin, flashing
little white cub teeth; you claw at the blue sky
beyond a black and white world.
You are about to climb a tree, to grow
feathers, to rise, to become cloud.

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What Will Kill Them

By Christina Simon

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

We were staring at a snake eating a rat.

At my son Kyle’s 12th birthday party, about fifteen boys in the pool stopped swimming long enough to look up. Ten feet away, up on the hill, a brown snake’s mouth was wide open, and a large rat looked like it had been stuffed head-first down the snake’s throat. Its pale pink legs and tail hung out of the snake’s jaw, which was clamped firmly on the rat’s plump midsection. The rat was not moving.

“Get my phone, I need a photo,” shouted Kyle, scrambling out of the pool. The rest of the boys followed him. Within seconds, they were watching the snake, snapping photos, mesmerized by the surreal scene. My husband joined them, along with a few of the boys’ parents.

“Can anybody save the rat?” I yelled frantically. I stood by the pool, looking up at the snake but I wouldn’t get closer. The snake was perfectly still, its mouth stretched wide open to hold onto the rat which dangled out of its mouth, limp. The snake looked about 5 feet long, with a thick body, teeth bared and eyes deadly.

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The World

By Hannah Marshall

Featured Image: Randy Gals by Ellery Pollard

The world is a broken thing, a paper doll from my grandmother’s childhood. On the farm in Wisconsin, she cut  

the world carefully from a magazine. On the back of

the world was a recipe for drop biscuits. Men in New York City streets planned

the world for this girl to cut into shape,

this world which she dressed up in a red dress, in a white apron and little blue pumps,

this world which is brittle now to crumbling, and torn.

The world was designed to be temporary.

The world was made of dead trees and smeary ink. My daughter sets

the world and its old clothes in a line across whitish carpet. She props

the world against bent tin furniture the size of my thumb.

The world is a broken thing, and so she handles it carefully.

The world opens from its paper breast. We try to become what

this world has made us to be. We carry

the world with us in the bottom of a purse, scribble notes about

the world and carry them tucked up our sleeves, like used tissues.


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Watching a House Renovation Show

By Hannah Marshall

The lives of the briefly famous, the fortunes
sunk into places rich people call home.
What they might tear down,
what they deem worth standing.

Perhaps it is their need for comfort
which makes these calls.
The dumpster departs,
and they are clean.

For me on Tuesday night,
it’s all hypothetical; I owned a house once
for a year, fixed it up, decided to sell.
I rent now, happy

to call the landlord when the shower handle breaks
or a tree falls on the telephone line.
Through all the places I’ve lived as an adult—four rentals
and that one home I briefly owned—

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What is Mine

By Claire Robbins

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

The first package contained a light blue pair of Nike Huaraches, size 8. I took this as a sign that I should keep stealing packages: my son laced them up, and they fit perfect. He started jumping around, walking on air. We both laughed until our sides hurt, and then I cooked a box of macaroni for dinner, made with water and oil instead of milk and butter, But who cares, my son said, lifting up his feet to admire his shoes. 

I only took packages from the porches of nice houses, but not nice houses with fancy doorbells. Some of the doorbells had cameras and attached to smartphones. I could see the older style cameras, so I avoided those packages as well. Everything had to line up perfectly for me to steal a package. 

I drove a Ford transit van delivering flowers for a flower shop, which is how I came to realize that there were neighborhoods in my town that I never even knew about, full of nice houses with packages on porches. Some of these neighborhoods were gated, to keep people out unless they belonged. 

I also delivered flowers to neighborhoods like my own with old houses falling into disrepair or bought up and cheaply brought to code by slum lords. There were widening gaps between the houses where condemned houses had been demolished by the city. Every once in a while, Habitat for Humanity would slap a cute little bungalow in one of the empty lots. But I never took a package from neighborhoods like my own. It didn’t seem right.

In the mornings, I clocked in to work and looked at the flower arrangements that were going out for delivery that morning. They stood in the cooler in the flower shop, and I read each tag before deciding on my route. Then I loaded the vases into the back of the van and drove off. Sometimes I had to gas up the van or air the tires or stop at the grocery store to pick up fruit for a fruit basket. Then after my deliveries, I helped process the flowers in the shop, while the designers put together bouquets for the next day. That was it, the entire job. Sneaking the packages from the van to my car was easy. I never took anything larger than a shoebox, and I slipped it into the backpack I kept on the passenger seat. 

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Nights of Noise

By Rachel A. Hicks

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

“I don’t want to be cured of beautiful sounds,” insisted Milo.

            —The Phantom Tollbooth

Must I implore you for more of what I want?
A clanging of fine china, symphonies of wet
spoons, clattering of forks falling from the violent
sky, a click-clack-click of yellow teeth
saying not much of worth in the night.

If trash can be treasure then I can be sound.
I can be the scream rising like steam
from the red kettle sitting on your mother’s stove.

I am the thumping & cheering & crying
of every bum, junkie, bride & boy in town.


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Ms. Appalachia

By Rachel A. Hicks

I’m an Appalachian beauty queen,
a capable kitten with smooth birthing hips.
Applaud the cinema kitty cat caught in the smoke ring.

I rule over Kentucky junkyards, zoom in as I sit on refrigerator thrones,
play pianos by the highway, cigarette-thin fingers give a tinkle tankle of a tune
perking ears that belong to someone twenty years ago.
The honeysuckle sweetness of my fingertips, syrupy sweet on the dirt keys,
greasing up the notes, F, E, B & so on.

Underneath the toasters & the books from all those rummage sales
sits some hot ghost of a memory. Smitten kitten, the smell of trash
makes me think of our place & the breeze outside is the same one
I feel at night when trains go by.

Stack the broken binds of hymnals for a stage, wrap, rip, some leaves, some dirt,
pack, perch, pack it all in, real tight, until the only clumps to fall
from my deciduous crown are intentional. A tap dance for you, a finale
with hula-hooping hubcaps & juggling light bulbs. I sing in a rusty tune,
decaying notes in the keys of D, C, G & so on.


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To Love Love the Beloved

By Rachel A. Hicks

Featured Image: Pride by Ellery Pollard

When I die, no fly will buzz,
no bird will crow, no man
will cry. Or maybe when I die,
every man will cry

and say, “There goes the love
of my life—a beauty—if only
she had known.” Women
will hate me stealing

their men’s hearts even in death,
for taking over their dinner conversations
after they’ve carefully prepared
the pink-orange ham loaf.

Forks & spoons—the men will swear
to see my eyes—my teeth will show
up in all the fine china. My legs prance
through the women’s heads

as they look at the octopus waving
its arms, wrapping its tentacles
around another. Dirty salt water
will turn red with their fury

as their husbands say, “She was such a beauty.
If only she had had eight arms.” A constellation
will form in the shape of my face & planets with
my thumbprints will be discovered.

When I die, don’t send me roses
because I am now the dirt, I am the plant,
I am the seed that sits in the crook of your skull, always
reminding you what it’s like to call a place home.


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Stomach Pains

By Danie Shokoohi

When the doctor found the tumor in his brain, when the surgery was first scheduled but not yet scalpeled, before the poorly fitted tracheostomy tube which introduced the sepsis, your father forbade you from coming to Connecticut. He didn’t want you to see him like that, he said. That when your grandfather died, your father could only picture him ill and threadbare in a hospital bed. He did not want that for you, if he didn’t make it. 

“No.” You lifted your laptop from the coffee table and clicked your internet browser. “Absolutely not. I’m pulling up Delta.” The ticket would be expensive from Iowa City, but you would pay anything to be there.

He told you that you could visit when he was well again, for Thanksgiving, maybe. “Look, Kimmy,” he said. “I got some bad apples, but we can still make applesauce out of them. It’ll be okay. The surgeon’s good. I’ll have to do some PT, but I won’t lose any cognitive function. That’s pretty good applesauce.”

You wanted to tell him there was nothing applesauce about a brain tumor. That you didn’t care how small, or how easy the recovery, or how experienced the doctor. You wanted to tell him that twenty-two was too young to be fatherless. If it was your Iranian mother, you would have had permission to scream and rip hair from your scalp and weep. But he wasn’t one for big sentiments, your father. He was American. So you laughed because you knew he wanted you to laugh.

After the phone call, you drove to the grocery store and picked out a jar of applesauce. It sat in your cupboard through his entire sickness, and you ate a spoonful a day as if it could keep him safe.

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Compassion Fatigue

By: Mary Ardery

Driving the group back after a wet July week in the woods,
a week with a bulimia watch for a woman who’d trained herself

to purge so quickly, so quietly, she did it between numbers
when she counted aloud as she peed, we came across

a raccoon in the center of our lane. Run over, still alive.
I stopped the van. I knew the worst injuries are internal.

The raccoon’s eyes were moving toward glassy. Slow blinks.
Someone said, Mary, you have to put it out of its misery.

I considered the tires, my hands, the knife in my backpack,
then I gripped the wheel and guided us, slowly,

onto the shoulder instead. A wide, weak berth.
No one said a word. I glanced at the fading raccoon

in the rearview mirror. My worn-out body—
its overripe smell seemed suddenly sharper.

That night I dreamt a flood. A torrent of water, the street
a river. A child’s empty car seat rushed by on its side

while I stood at my window just watching. Countless times,
women asked me simple enough questions, but I was winding

through mountain roads. I was treading water. I was barely
afloat. I told them not now and I turned up the music,

spinning the volume knob like a planet about to break orbit.


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Crayola

By James Lineberger

Featured Image: Sun by Sam Warren

On the hayride night
our senior year in high school
we lay side by side
holding hands under the stars
trying to figure out how we could remain together
because back then
to a couple of cotton mill kids in the 50’s
what else did our first-time kisses and hugs mean
except true love
but after graduation she made a sudden decision to attend
the Richmond Professional Institute in Virginia
and learn commercial art
to get prepared to paint advertising pictures
for newspapers and magazines she said maybe even like
a cover for The Saturday Evening Post
and how was I to manage
a long distance relationship across the state line
when I didn’t even have a car which
I tried to tell myself was the problem but the real difficulty
was Jenny seemed like
some kind of pioneer woman to me
and already out of reach
a person who knew exactly what she wanted and wouldn’t
let anything or anyone stand in her way
while all I could come up with was maybe I would join
the army and get to see
the world myself someday – Hollywood or Africa maybe even what we did
to Hiroshima – some place
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Kiddos

By Leila Mohr

We are walking along the dunes at Corn Hill Beach with my grandfather, Baba. The sun is broiling our backs, and there aren’t any clouds. We smell like suntan lotion and laundered clothes. Baba breathes heavily as he walks. He wears clean sneakers with white socks pulled halfway up his calves. I have a new pair of flip-flops in one hand, my toes seeping into the sand. My brother runs ahead, an inflatable red lobster tucked under his arm.

We were supposed to leave the Cape a week ago to go back home to our mother, but we are still here. At night, after we’ve been bathed and fed, my grandparents fight about what to do with us. The day camp with the dreadlocked artist has ended; neither of us did well with tennis.                        

Wyatt is eight, and I am ten. We sleep in bunk beds in my grandparents’ renovated wing. When I close my eyes, I hear large ice cubes fill my grandmother’s glass, the freezer open and close. We have a whole dresser of new clothes they’ve bought us, some colorful toys in a wicker basket. If they yell at each other loudly enough, Wyatt sniffles and cries. “Be quiet,” I try to tell him, but he doesn’t understand. On my back, I lie as still as I can be in the top bunk, pretending I’m frozen in glass. If my grandmother hears my brother cry and peeks into the room, she’ll think that I’m asleep.

“Over here,” Baba says, and we move toward the water. He’s packed a cooler with Goldfish and Milano cookies, juice boxes, and cans of Coke. His white hair sneaks out the back of his baseball cap. Wyatt throws his shirt off and runs into the water, thrashing wildly in the waves. Baba takes off his shoes and socks carefully. He looks far out into the ocean, his soft skin glistening in the sun. The waves crash onto the sand, and the wind twirls through my hair.

Last week, when I asked my grandmother why we weren’t going back home to our mother, she wouldn’t give me a straight answer. “Your mother is busy,” she said. She was staring at herself in the mirror of her bathroom, fluffing her hair. “She’s writing a paper for her Statistics class.” My grandmother sprayed perfume on her wrists and then rubbed them together. Her gold bracelets slid down her arm. “She needs more time.”      

“Don’t you want to go in the water?” Baba says.

The truth is I am afraid of swimming, but I get up and walk slowly through the thick sand, sitting down at the water’s edge. Wyatt is pretending to be a shark, flapping his hands like fins and growling. We are two different islands; we almost can’t see each other.

*             *             *

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My Mother Meets the Cast of Hair

By Adam Grabowski

Featured Image: Rush by Sam Warren

                                              -Ludlow, Ma.  May 1970

                                             Let the sunshine
                                             Let the sunshine in…

Smoking against the façade of a moon-
bleached gas station she listens
with a waitress’s patience to the local boy’s prattle
—her senior year of high school

& already the air stinks of coveralls.
Her hair is black. Brushed out long. Flyaways.
The occasional breeze & his good blue eyes.
A mile from here the highway shakes.

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If the manufacturer’s promise holds true, the new roof will outlast my father

By Jessica Pierce

And he admires that probability. It’s far more likely
than the chance of us being here as who we are; someone calculated that
as about 400 trillion to one. He admires this, too, and how the sun

sits on our shoulders right now. Under the eaves of that sturdy-as-hell roof,
the common ariel hornet tucked her nest for the summer.
I was about to describe the season as brief,

but that is only how my stuttering synapses
process time. So, I assure myself that my father will live damn close
to forever, with a quick sidestep to knock on the closest tree and shush

any wisp of a god still hovering nearby. The bit of sun moves,
so we move. Dolichovespula arenaria probably notes
where our ungainly grounded bodies take up space

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How to Choose a Mattress

By Leslie Morris

Featured Image: Forget the Flowers by Tanner Pearson

Twenty-six years have passed since you tried
out mattresses at Macy’s, hands folded over
your chests as if laid out for a viewing. No,
that was not how you lay on a mattress at home.
You had read in the paper that couples who rated
their marriages “satisfying,” slept spooning
and those who rated their marriages “highly satisfying”
slept spooning with their hands cupping their spouse’s
breast or penis, so nightly you wrapped your hand around
his sturdy cock believing that you secured a happy marriage
in your grasp. But after googling “how to” diagrams
of spooning on the web, you’ve learned that as the smaller spoon
you should have been the spoonee all those years.
So now you are shopping for mattresses by yourself
and the sleep expert at Slumberland wants to upsell you
a queen even though you are still weepy and lost
in your own trough within a double, a sinkhole
of busted continuous coils. He asks how you sleep.
Badly. You need something supportive, he says,
but with plenty of give. Yes, absolutely!
Memory foam, he says. Oh God, no. Knock me out
on horsehair or kapok, sheep fleece or pea shucks.
Give me a nightcap of nepenthe. Certainly not memory.


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Love, Dungeons, Magic, Dragons or Some Combination Thereof Will Save This Marriage

By Marvin Shackelford

Featured Image: Power Shots by Sam Warren

My finest moment, the occasion that defines me as a person. Okay. You have to imagine the cliffs. Sheer and bleached in the light of a moon or two and rising from the foam of a screaming ocean. The sky is bleeding down in a magical haze, and a horde of monstrous creatures roars nearer. That happens all the time. This isn’t metaphor. They’re armed and armored and charging from the landward side, and the petulant face of a dead god breaks open out over the waters. His teeth drip with death and his eyes are storms, literal lightning and thunder and hailstones, bearing down on where I stand at the edge of the world. He’s starting to take physical form. He’s getting real. I’m the focal point of the material plane for once in my miserable life, and I thrust the crystal, that plain-looking clear-color gemstone pulled unwittingly from a dragon’s trove, I drive it straight into my heart. Breastplate undone and hair flinging in the wind and my lover wailing as I drop into his arms. Our enemy screams and begins to fade. I’ve saved the world.

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Clue Junior

By Luciana Arbus-Scandiffio

I cut the crowd loose, I stack the deck twice
I feed you shrimp cocktail
I sort through the loose mail
When it rains, it worms and we blow the house down
Wishing on the wick
I am the boss of this clique!

My uniform is a pebble, my mouth
Hums trouble. All I do is stay inside
One-legged, I hide
In the clutter of my mothers
Turning red with permanent marker
Wasting hours with Colonel Mustard

Eating ring-dings for dinner
Singing happy birthday forever
On Facebook, searching father
Then deleting my browser
Faceless, I cower and wave to the mirror
Eating the angel hair of the dog


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Sonnet (I Have Two Moms)

By Luciana Arbus-Scandiffio

In the seventh grade we debated gay marriage. I was con.
I stayed home. Kept my hair in a braid and kept my braid
to myself. Tucked my name like a secret up my sleeve.
Wore hideous loafers. Ate full-sized boxes of Twizzlers.
Became rigid, a painting. Still Life with Social Studies.
My skullcap, full of doves. My face, a hot button.
Press it! Pierce my timid ears. In the bathroom eating
a turkey sandwich and Jenny dragging my zipper down
to see what was there. Con: my whole life riding
on a hyphen. Con: my hands blue with luck. An eyelash
on my finger. Two of anything can build a bridge.
The love makes me lonely. The love makes my family.
A slogan of roses. A crown of sugar ants
eating through the gymnasium floor.


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Mr. Cosmos

By Jill Christman

Featured Image: Shadows by Sam Warren

It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love.

~ John Lennon 

This morning I made a single-cup drip coffee and poured too much water through the small yellow cone. When I lifted the cone to peek, strong, black coffee filled my white mug to the brim. 

Nay, not the brim, I thought. Past the brim. I hung onto the edge of the counter and brought my eyes down level with the top of the mug, marveling at the way in which the coffee arched up out of the mug, a bitter mountain, the strength of the surface tension pulling the coffee molecules beyond what seems possible. I would like to die on a coffee mountain, I thought, straightening my legs. I hadn’t yet had even a sip. Maybe it was time. The house was so quiet I could hear the muted ticking of the wall clock in the kitchen, thumping her plastic hands around inside her plastic face, bearing witness to the wonder of the coffee rising up and out of the mug, ticking off the seconds of our lives. 

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Poem for Paul Who Never Forgets My Birthday Even Though I Never Remember His

By Alyssandra Tobin

paul says                                careful with the benzos  
& I’m like                                                  I think of you
whenever                 my therapist brings em up      &
he’s like aww                     dunno if sweet’s the word                     
but it’s nice                                        to be thought of   

okay    sure     let everyone see  my cute belly     let
everyone know                    I covet some people I’m
supposed to hate                       paul’s stupid meth’d
out calls unbearable       his empty bottles his days
& months       wild-eyed                  & away

once                                we wore each others jeans  
his tiny gold waist                   in my teen girl pants 
now    on the phone                      he says what’s up
ya fuckin guinea!           he teaches me to play iron
man      he gives me that   ninth step apology  that
making                                  of meandering amends   

me     so  scared  of  dying                &  him  always                                     
chest deep in it                          I sit so quietly       a
very good dog                        in her dim little room      
but he            gives me cocky courage                  he
gives me  warm love        that boston street salt
kinda love              that let’s never brawl kinda love    
that I’ll kiss your dirt love          that I’ll help you lie
to chicks love       that mall parking lot love      that
if I’m a blight                     you’re a blight kinda love    
that noogie     that cackle      that snakebite     that
augur        that    yeah                          I’ll call you on
your bullshit pastures               if you call me when
my dumb pig jumps her sty         off to somewhere
cleaner than both                    our loud green yards


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I Love You Too, Bro

By Alex Howe

Featured Image: Mun by Sam Warren

for Catya McMullen

Beauty rears its ugly head – Assassins

You can be non-suicidal and less than jazzed about being here, two
Juuls at once like a pacifist dragon or the mild Dionysus of bad

ideas. Skip the Trix rabbit’s abjection: gift yourself the gift of
desperation, the terrible utility of popcorn for breakfast. “Whatever

you find uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium becomes its
signature, cherished and emulated as soon as it can be avoided”

explains Brian Eno bombing by on rollerblades into the flip phone
flipping shut into his fanny pack. The hotel’s Mahogany Hall

blooms two hundred vape plumes the moment the emcee mentions
prohibition on same. These teen alcoholics don’t drink, they bong

Monster, fuck senseless, talk about drinking. Pray to doorknobs.
Play Mafia. Splash the ping-pong ball into the cup of Red Bull.

Drop the sick beat. Crack your glow stick.


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Turn To Kristen Bell

By Alex Howe

for Darcie Wilder

Turn to Kristen Bell and ask if you should do something a little
reckless. “You know the world is ending, right?” She’s not the
person you go to when you want to be talked out of something.
That’s what probation officers are for. Kristen Bell doesn’t think
people take yolo seriously enough. It’s tough to argue with her. She
says, “What’s a little reckless?” You tell her you’ve always loved
her. Love-loved. She laughs. “That makes sense. No offense.”
You’re starting to have second thoughts about flying this plane into
Exxon headquarters. You’re starting to panic. Name three objects in
the cockpit. Name an animal that cloud resembles. Estimate the
plunging angle of descent. As if sensing your turbulence, Kristen
Bell says, “Have you ever seen First Reformed? With Ethan
Hawke?” “Daddy,” you respond. “Exactly,” she whispers. “Daddy.”


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Domestic Chess

By Andrea Bianchi

Featured Image: Pink Rat by Ellery Pollard

1. His first move is checkmate.

2. A punch that expels the laughter from my stomach as I stand before him at the end of our chess game.

3. “Wipe that smirk off your face,” he hisses beneath the Saturday morning chatter and jazz of the coffeeshop. “You’ve been gloating. Taunting,” he says. And yes, after our first sips, I did tease him to try for a victory, challenge him to a game of chess. Wanting to imitate another couple, heads bent intimate over their own little world of 64 checkered squares, at a tiny table just a bishop’s diagonal from the sofa where we sat.

4. He waits there afterward, tense on the cushion’s edge, when I return from the restroom, from a respite after his loss of the competition, his loss of composure. But his eyes pierce my smile as I pause in front of him. My stomach at the same plane as his arm. And then his fist connects level with the center of our lives.

5. It breaks the rules of play—and of the law, and of our love. Our months of happy Saturdays at the beach. Dinners beneath twinkling lights. Fights, arguments, yes. But afterward, mornings under the sunlight-checkered bedcovers, where we fed each other breakfast and curled together with our cats, as we mapped out plans for our shared weekends, then our first shared apartment. Our relationship’s next moves.

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My Daughters Sometimes Dress as Ladybugs

By Brian Simoneau

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

and I hope they won’t
outgrow it—little heroes
flitting leaf to leaf
in their polka-dotted suits
of armor, their vicious
pursuit of the feasting
pest that destroys what
beauty these days still lives.


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