Throwing Rocks

By Wendy Taylor

After my husband died, my dad drove my
2 1⁄2-year-old son to the lake at Tri-City
Park to feed the ducks and throw rocks. Voices
of carefree children on swings and slides nearby
didn’t interest my pensive boy. And though
he feared the wild geese at the lake’s edge,
my dad said, He just needs something to throw
across the dark waters. So, my dad bought big
buckets of rocks from Home Depot, sat
patient for hours while my son reached
into the orange container, indiscriminate
about which rocks would take the journey
across the surface of the black rippled
liquid. They each had their lonely airborne
moment, as he frowned, flung his arm back
and released, and released, and released.

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At Sixty-Two

By Dion O’Reilly
Feature image: Old Woman Seated by Honoré Daumier 

Looking at my X-ray, the doctor
says my hips resemble
those of an eighty-year-old woman.

Weeks later, when I huff into a tube
to blow out virtual birthday candles,
my allergist mentions
with what seems smug satisfaction
that my lungs whistle
like an eighty-year-old woman’s.

O hypothetical eighty-year-old woman—
you skeletal model
walking the hospital runway
in this year’s open-assed robe,
blue dots on cotton—
how do you like being the It Girl of Mortality,

archetype of: You are nearly nothing?

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Liberal Father

By Dion O’Reilly
Feature image: Mahna no Varua Ino (The Devil Speaks), 1894/1895, Paul Gauguin

He sits in thinned Hanes, reading
The New Republic, one leg crossed over the other—
picking at a flaked green toenail,
some rot caught in the steaming air
during amphibious assault on Guadalcanal.

And on weekends under wraiths of blue smoke,
he visits with his buddies—
men in striped bell-bottoms and afros,
women with long noses and gypsy earrings,
French professors from the university—
organizing for the first farmworker for Congress,
the first black man for president, the next Kennedy.

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By Dion O’Reilly
Feature image: Hope, 1886 by George Frederic Watts and assistants

means whistle. A Spanish word
that sounds like silver
in the air, a little bird’s song
Oh My Dear. Oh My Dear.
Every year, the first time I hear
that smooth silbato,
it’s the first day of fall, a sparrow
with a small stripe lining its eye,
passing through
with the dying days
when the golden apple’s skin
feels softer than in summer,
a little more honey.
Oh My Dear. Little girl,
this is how it begins—
school, getting up early, not knowing
what you’re in for,
what your friends will do to you,
what you’ll do to them,
what being one year older
will mean in the world
of a girl. What to fear
and what to hope for.

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By Amelie Meltzer
Feature image: Landscape, Sunset, 1886/1887 by George Inness

The sun sets red through clouds of ash
made of normal stuff, like trees and brush, but
also bedroom walls, Persian rugs, winter clothes, LEGOs,
maybe the family dog.

At a safe distance from the actual disaster,
we cough and small-talk about wind patterns, particulate counts.
It’s everyone’s opening line on Tinder, something like,
“I’ve got an extra N95 mask waiting for that special someone ;-)”

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Meg Francis

By Kate Sweeney
Feature image: Madonna, 1895 by Edvard Munch

threw a dead groundhog on my porch
the night after I stole her boyfriend.

My mother called the cops and the officer
knocked at its gut with his boot and blood drooled

from a bullet hole. That’s some good aim,
he said. Tell your daughter to watch out.

Years later, I tell this to a former student of mine
as we lay in bed, a Czech twenty-something

with a secret girlfriend in Prague.
Hanna, moje milovat—which he whispered

into his phone—was not hard to Google Translate.
I imagined how she could die. A slip down the stairs,

a misstep in front of the city bus. Rat poison is sweet,
the bottle under the sink whispered. Do not ingest.

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Love as Invasive Species

By Ellen Kombiyil
Feature image: Spider Art by Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix)

“And beyond the empty cage, a bedroom; and beyond a bedroom, the wood boards,
beams, and floors holding the shape of the house; and beyond the house, a yard.”
—from Jorge Luis Borges’ mislaid manuscript, Labyrinthian Architectures,
a book that has been wished into existence

The day the tarantula escaped, my uncle
joked, “The cage is empty.” He said it over cornflakes—
the rock fallen off, the mesh lid mysteriously askew.

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Twilite Motel and Lounge

By Mark Kraushaar
Feature image: Still Live with Bottles, 1892 by Roderic O’Conor

Donny Banya does the room repairs or
when he isn’t buzzed he does.
I’m the night clerk.
Alma runs the bar—plus she’s an artist.
Big John, the owner, does the books
and walks around and plans big changes
to the parking lot and ground-floor Men’s.
There’s other staff but tonight
it’s just the three of us, or four including John
who is dozing on the sofa by the magazines,

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A Letter to My Former Employer One Week After My Untimely Death

By Nancy Miller Gomez
Feature image: I Am the Abyss and I Am Light, 1928 by Charles Sims

My house cleaner passed away last week . . .
need to find someone new . . . Prefer someone
who charges by the hour . . . Bob 831-435-648
posted on social networking site Nextdoor

Dear Bob, Perhaps you’ve noticed the smell
of cinnamon and sweet rice drifting through
your kitchen at night. So when the ice melting
in your second glass of gin begins
to sound like a woman singing “El Cantante,”
you’ll know. It’s me.

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By Claire Bateman
Feature image: Devil’s Bridge on the St Gotthard Road, 1781 by Christian Georg Schütz the Elder

After you’ve braved the glass bridge, the ice bridge,
the gauze bridge, the cobweb bridge, the steam bridge, and
the bridge of molted breath,

you’ll experience the opaque bridge as nothing
but vertigo, collapse, desolation,

and will have to be coaxed, dragged, carried
to the opposite side.

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The Virgin Mirror

By Claire Bateman

After the handmaidens, blindfolded and proceeding by touch alone, have
twined the masses of string across its enormous silvered surface, then the
mirror-keeper, also blindfolded, sets a lit match to the central knot.

When they sense that the whole skein is ablaze, they bear the burning glass
to the lake’s edge, and lower it into the icy shallows where the mirror-keeper
strikes a single blow, shattering it along every line at once.

Then they lift it in its frame from the water to tap and test its face with their
tongs, plucking out the fragments, swaddling them individually in silk to be
dispersed throughout the land.

Now instead of making pilgrimage in order to not look into the virgin mirror,
each family can cherish a shard to not look into without leaving home.

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By Claire Bateman
Feature image: The Breeze at Morn, 1930 by Thomas Lowinsky

And here we see where the pages of the ocean
were torn from their logbook as if in meticulous rage,
though there’s no debris adhering to the binding,
as might so easily have been the case.
What to do with this stiff and empty cover?
Pack it with snow and staple it all around,
so it can retain its shape until the committee
rends it open and shakes it out face-down,
inviting the ragged pages to return
in just the right sequence
from every place they’ve flown.

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The Strategic Plan

By Carrie Shipers
Feature image: Voyages of the Moon, 1934-7 by Paul Nash

No one knows its origins. Like carpools
and happy hour, the Plan has simply always been.
Its awkward page breaks and stilted phrasing,
preservation of failed projects, employees

long departed, are evidence of its ambition,
how it defies the limits of language, software,
human thought. No one has ever read the Plan
in its entirety. Attempts to download it

result in system crashes, sunspots, and recession.
A single hard copy is rumored to exist,
its pristine pages collated and punched,
then stored in binders ordered on a shelf—

but no one knows exactly where. A hundred years
from now, when the company has ceased to be
and its headquarters crumble, the Strategic Plan
will rest among the rubble waiting to be found.

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Questions for the Office of Public Relations

By Carrie Shipers
Feature image: The Purchaser, 1915 by Eric Gill

Do you pride yourself on your preparedness? For example,
have you already drafted a statement expressing shock

and sadness at the actions of Employee X? Did you
write it with a particular person and scenario in mind,

and if so will you say which ones? Given your choice
of disaster, would you prefer a product recall months

after concerns were first reported, high-level infidelity
involving interns and/or prostitutes, a flagrant

disregard for federal law, or embezzlement based on
shareholder fraud? Did you choose the challenge

you’re best poised to meet, or the one that sounded
the most fun? Speaking of fun, is it true most members

of your field make very poor decisions regarding alcohol,
sex and property damage, and therefore any conference

lasting longer than a day devolves into a bacchanal?
How often, in your personal life, do you attempt

to reframe information and influence someone’s view?
Is this a breach of ethics on your part, or would you insist

it’s simply human nature to want your own way?
Have you ever waged a secret, negative (i.e., “dark”)

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How to Be Better by Being Worse

By Justin Jannise
Feature image: The Kiss, 1895 by Edvard Munch

Ban soap. Banish suds.
Sweep the dormitory clean
of polish. Let dust do
what dust does with no opinion

from feathers.
Invite musk. Be clothed
in scandal. Smear
and smudge and slander yourself

courageous. Fuck
courage. Stick your finger
in its wet mouth and kiss
its salty neck. Slip in

as many chickenshit deeds
as any deadbeat dad
ever did. Forget
birthdays. Ruin Christmas.

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By Michael Pontacoloni
Feature image: Fire at Full Moon by Paul Klee

Dad has three different chainsaws
and Kevlar shin pads,
the same glossy material
protecting a spacecraft
as it drifts into the Kuiper Belt
where little flecks of undead planet
fling around like buckshot
and light from the sun
takes a while to arrive.

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Moving the Piano

By Kathryn Petruccelli
Feature image: The Keynote, 1915 by William Arthur Chase

It takes almost nothing
to step into each other’s lives: a favor
for a neighbor, a huge, upright Steinway
there’s no one left to play.

All morning they labored together,
the men. Everything they could think of
to get it out of the van
                                          and over the curb—
metal ramp, wooden boards, a jack,
the old bed frame from behind the garage.

Dave had never asked my husband
for anything before. The house
he’d grown up in was already packed,
mementos sold, his mother’s mind

skipping liberally among the decades,
her fingers running through chords in the air
or waltzing grandly
through measures of Chopin.

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One Step

By Betsy Sholl
Feature image: Towards the Forest I, 1897 by Edvard Munch

Who am I to say to the man: You can’t
sleep in corduroys and a dress shirt,

or: Don’t stick your fork in the potatoes,
spoon them onto your plate,

as I must have said more than once
to our children.

To the man I would have said: What does it
mean to be saved, and from what?

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By Ruth Bardon
Feature image: L’Armoire à Glace, 1924 by Walter Richard Sickert

She is ignorant and admits to being
easily confused.

She tells her jokes with a cheerfulness
that shows how lost she is.

I want to help her and teach her how
the world works,

and I love this feeling of knowing
so much more,

but it also makes me hate her
a little more each time,

each time she admits she’s having trouble,
is helpless to assist,

like a mother of grown children,
who see her now

as someone who offers only facts
from the news,

a weather report or a small repertoire
of songs and stories,

like the mother I may become,
sitting and nodding

as if I understood the talk,
chiming in

and coming to attention
when my name is spoken.

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The Oldies, at Island Pond, Vermont

By Allen Stein
Feature image: Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing, 1786 by William Blake

Rockin’ in jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers
at the tiny bandstand by the pond,
the ponytailed girl belts them out, the goldies
of three or four decades ago.
She’s hittin’ ’em with her best shot,
makin’ it all hurt so good,
but a closer look shows she’s no younger
than the songs she sings,
though not as old as most dancing
on the worn-out patch between
their lawn chairs and the stage
this final Friday Night Live of a brief
summer that in these parts is rarely
without a hint of the fall.

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Morning Rig

By Angela Sorby
Feature image: Ophelia, 1851-2 by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt

The moon knows the laws—
the factors, the forces,
and is at peace. Look,

it’s unconscious up there!
Meanwhile, my brother quits
being a bankruptcy attorney

to get his Class B Trucking license.
Why? Let’s wake the moon
to ask why other people make

their weird other-people-decisions.
This is the origin of all religions.
An important part of the story:

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The Dog in the Library

By Catherine Stearns
Feature image: Sleeping Bloodhound, 1835 by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer

“We may be in the universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries,
seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no
inkling of the meaning of it all.” —William James

On sunny, cerulean days I go all the way
to eleven when I stretch and sniff among the leaves,
whereas you stay inside, hunched over
your moral universe. Old girl, if you
stopped trying to decipher those fossil bird tracks,
you might see the thermal-gliding hawk above
or that zaftig possum gnawing on fallen
persimmons under the window. I’m just saying
your preference betrays a certain fear
of your own nature. Remember
last summer when you left me in the car
to pick up a book they were holding for you,
and a page or two in you recognized
your own penciled and may I say
obsessive marginalia, although you had
no memory of the text itself?
Whatever made you think your mind
could be disenthralled with words?

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By Catherine Stearns
Feature image: Girl in a Blue Dress, c. 1891 by Philip Wilson Steer

In one photo, she’s wearing a sapphire blue dress,
a black cloche posed rakishly over one eye,
a corsage of pink rosebuds around her wrist.
On the back it says JB & RPS, the man
in shadow next to her. This was before the war,
before they reinstated the marriage bar
and she lost her job when she married my father.

One hot summer night, maybe five years after he died—
we’d stripped down to our underwear to play Scrabble—
I asked her about grad school and her fifth-floor walk-up
with Mary Maud, about eating oysters at the Grand Central
Oyster House every Sunday, and the gold lighter engraved
in the Tiffany font at the back of her jewelry box, and I asked her
if she’d ever slept with anyone besides my dad.

She took an extra long sip of her G&T and told me to
mind my own business. Then reached over
to put her X on a Triple Word.

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Exile Queen

By Bethany Schultz Hurst

the trees
                  flaunting their flowers                      after a while
their blooms will die and then
swell into a fruit             and I submit to you                 dear viewer
               this process is not monstrous

we’ve spent too much time

at night watching these shows where the queens
               keep making bad choices
like torching the city with their pet dragons
               or with sickly green fire
                              lit in tunnels underneath                  because they are mothers

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by Jiordan Castle
Featured Art: Dry Brook by Jervis McEntee

Read by the author.

 A week to go &

still no word

on where they’re

sending him

this time. If you

search my father’s

first name, last

name, sex, &

race in a

federal inmate

database, you’ll see Read More

“Uber” and “Alexa”

by Ruth Bardon
Featured Art: Street Cart by Egon Schiele


The silent dot on the screen

moves and stops and starts again,

an ant sniffing out my scent,


determined to find me,

ambassador of an omniscient eye

that never looks away,

Read More