New Ohio Review 28 (originally published, November 2020)

Newohioreview.org is archiving previous editions as they originally appeared. We are pairing the pieces with curated art work, as well as select audio recordings. In collaboration with our past contributors, we are happy to (re)-present this outstanding work. 

Issue 28 compiled by Brandon Bowers, Sarah Hecker, Maeve Hurley, and Ellery Pollard.

The Time Traveller Chooses an Arrival Point

By Emily Blair

Featured Art: Yliaster (Paracelsus) by Marsden Hartley

Before it all goes wrong. Before the bell is rung. Before the ship has sailed.
Before the perfect storm begins to brew. Before the term perfect storm goes
viral. Before anything goes viral. Before the fall. Before the crash. After
effective sanitation, before Ronald Reagan. Before that sixth grade school
photo is taken. Before one friend’s accident, another’s illness. Before the first
massacre or environmental disaster. Before the first loss of liberty. Before
the prequels. Before the sequels. Before the remakes. Before guns. Definitely
before Columbus. After your son learns to say he loves you. After the
invention of childhood. Before the police state. Before the nation state. Before
the interstate. After modern medicine. After modern art. After animated GIFs.
After the discovery of fire, of penicillin, of Spandex. After you meet the love
of your life, but before you meet your first miserable boyfriend. After the
Internet, but before we become information. Before your cousin dies, before
your classmate dies, before anyone anywhere dies. It’s important to avoid your
grandfather, and also the Middle Ages. Remember the Nineties sucked, and
so did the Eighties. Maybe that moment when the dog stole pancakes off your
plate. Your parents laughing as the card table shook. Just after the Big Bang.

Read More

Broken

By John Glowney

Featured Art: Niagara Falls by John Henry Twachtman

Break it, you own it. Honestly,
though, it was always broken,
which is the whole point, that is to say,
when this world first whirled
and popped into existence
out of nothing’s sticky grasp,

the ur-broken thing, when it had wings
that glinted wildly in the suffused
and charged plasma, when it cascaded off
the cliff of itself
a mountain waterfall in native sunlight;
when the newly minted
honeybees, still smoking a little from
the tiny forges that made their immaculate
and fragile bodies, shook the pollen dust
of a violet, left a telltale film
on the velvety atoms of air,

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The Other Big Bang

By Mason Wray

Featured Art: Peach Bloom by Alice Pike Barney

An equal and opposite burst expanding
from the same particle but in reverse.
Where peaches unripen in the family orchard.
A mom-and-pop deli replaces the condos on Second Ave.
OutKast never breaks up. They only get back together.

My sister is getting smaller by the day
her outfits like pastel pythons swallowing a doe.
In the other big bang, we start
with all the knowledge we’ll ever know
then forget it piece by piece.

So even after my grandmother’s brain
stitches itself whole, vanquishes the plaque
that shows up like coffee stains in scans,
still she becomes more unknowing by the day.

But we all become naïve with her. Everyone
communes over fears of growing young:
how we’ll tie our shoes, cross the road alone.
I am planning an expedition. One day I hope
to have never known you yet.

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Gone

By Jennifer Burd

Featured Art: Zinnias by H. Lyman Saÿen

While I was away the world
went on without me—
a spider completed its web
under my plant stand,
dust from an unseen wind
settled in all the hard-to-reach places,
light drifted across the walls.
The ceiling fan dipped its oars
in stillness. Zinnias in the vase
went from Technicolor
to hand-painted antique postcard hues.
The world’s bad news got worse,
the good news, better than expected.
Letters and bills fought for room
in the mailbox. Mold helped itself
to the food I hadn’t eaten,
and a late rose bloomed in the garden.
I watched myself considering each thing,
thinking, this is how it will be.

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Ruthless

Winner, New Ohio Review Poetry Contest: selected by Ada Limón

By Emily Lee Luan

Featured Art: The Dance by George Grey Barnard

My friend lowers his foot into the stony
runoff from the mountain, lets out a burst
of frantic laughter. This, I think, is a happiness.

When I don’t feel pain, is it joy that pours
in? A hollow vessel glows to be filled.
無 , my father taught me, is tangible—

an emptiness held. It means nothing, or to not have,
which implies there was something to be had
in the first place. It negates other characters:

無心 , “without heart”;
無情 , “without feeling”;
heartless, ruthless, pitiless.

Is the vacant heart so ruthless?

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I Was Startled It Was Death

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Figure with Guitar II by Henry Fitch Taylor

I was startled it was death
I’d been singing all morning
under my breath, scrambling
the eggs, steeping Earl Grey
for breakfast with my wife, death
I’d been carrying like a jingle
or Top 40 chorus, its melody
infinitely catchy, insistent,
vaguely parasitic, its lyrics
surfing rhythm, slotted into
rhyme, over and over, a half
hour or more, all Saturday
ahead of us, the morning sun
shining when Julie protested
with a quick laugh, though
wincing too—no, please,
I just got that out of my head
.

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Love Song

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Morning Haze by Leonard Ochtman

Oh, that’s right—because I’m going to die.
Sometimes I forget. More often than not.
And then, that’s right! I’m going to,
sometime. Because . . . I’m going to. Forgetting,
but only sometimes, that’s how this works
more than not. And then we wake to snow,

*

quite unexpected, the whole neighborhood quite,
you know. And you say to me, yes, that’s right,
cream, two sugars. Sometimes I forget. Or
these days, more often, because, you know,
that’s how this works. And now I remember
we’re going to. Both of us. And there’s the car

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We’re Thinking of the Black Hole at the Center of the Galaxy

By David O’Connell

Featured Art: Children at Play by Jean-Francis Auburtin

leaning back in our lawn chairs, the August constellations
crowded by a crush of stars, the Milky Way in soft focus
like a glamour shot. A couple and a couple at the end of the day
watching our kids zip sparklers back and forth across the lawn
like satellites or meteors. It’d been a story in the paper,
evidence of a supermassive black hole, and so we throw it back
like tequila shots and wade past our depth—me, deflecting
to Kubrick’s Star Gate sequence, those long light smears
on Bowman’s helmet, Julie, pulling both cords of her sweatshirt
taut, saying our bodies would be stretched to angel hair
if we were yanked into that hole. Then Janet’s telling us
how she imagines this supermassive black hole is like the hole
at the end of a vacuum cleaner. And right now—Saturday evening,
our kids growing restless, minutes from boredom, then, maybe,
those nudging arguments of who found who, who was safe,
and for us, at least, the hour’s drive home, I-95 congested
by the night-shift roadwork just beginning, Julie and I
talking quietly in front, reviewing the evening, overwhelmed
by the obvious, how we’ve all changed, how we won’t ever
be as young as we were, our daughter, grass-stained,
her hair wild with static, slouching down in the backseat
pretending to sleep as she listens in just as I did at seven,
those long drives to Maine, picking up things half-understood
in the language of grownups—this black hole, says Janet,
is Hoovering up stars and planets like so many pretzel crumbs
ground into the shag. We’re full. Everything off the grill
is hitting the spot. And Mark, back to Kubrick’s Star Child,
is leaning in to share his fanboy theories of what it all means,
though I’m not listening, not really, because it seems right,
that vacuum, because I, too, have plucked stray fuzz clinging
half in, half out of the attachment’s rim—and yes, this is how
it feels, year-by-year, to be drawn to the irresistible thing.

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The Names You Choose

Winner, New Ohio Review Fiction Contest: selected by Lauren Groff

By Nicole VanderLinden

Featured Art: Beach Scene by James Hamilton

Vanessa had wanted the luau, something extravagant—never mind that we were a moon away from our original budget. But that was Vanessa, always doubling down. She swam in mountain lakes; she was the only person I knew who’d been arrested for playing chicken. “We’re in Maui,” she said, letting geography make its case. “It’d be fun for the kids.”

This wasn’t all true, because our youngest, Chloe, dreamed of puréed bananas. She was barely a toddler. She’d never tasted salt, and bubble baths made her shriek. It was the other kid my wife had been alluding to, the child of our concern, our Anna.

Vanessa bought tickets to the luau. I was suggestible—there were so many things I was trying to save then, money the least precious among them. We returned to the cool of our room by three so we could shower and put calamine lotion on our burns, our sun-chapped faces. Vanessa took Chloe with her and got dressed in the bathroom, where she’d laid out various makeup cases and where the tub had jets, and I waited for Anna, who was twelve and who, when she was ready, spun for me in a white sundress lined in eyelet lace.

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Force of Habit

By Kathleen Winter

Featured Art: Girl Arranging Her Hair by Abbott Handerson Thayer

The woman in the Oldsmobile was awfully young
to have a kid, her kid would have said, if she’d had
a voice not just a body jittery inside her precious cotton
dress with ducks stitched in the smocked bodice
flat across her washboard chest. A woman’s hand
was every bit as flat when she had to slap somebody’s
face, so it wasn’t best sometimes to have a voice in case
you asked the woman one too many times how Seguin
was different from Saigon or where the dad had
gone or who was gonna fix the swing or when can we
get a collie or what’s the matter with twirling a lock
of hair around your index finger all day long it felt
so smooth & cool spooled round your finger &
released & caught & wound again, secured.
What’s wrong with messing with this living little
bit of you, a darling little thing. You couldn’t stop it
even if you wanted to.

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It Was As If We Were on Vacation

By Jen Ashburn

Featured Art: Sunset, Oxford by George Elbert Burr

I was driving. The sky was pink with sunrise or sunset.
The road banked left. We drove straight—through the guardrail
and over a valley with gray houses stacked on a hillside.

You were so calm. I didn’t understand at first that we would die.
This was much worse than forgetting to pay the phone bill.

Then you were driving. The car soared. We looked out the windows.
Around the houses, people trimmed hedges and hung laundry.

You changed gears. I don’t remember the landing. I think
there was music. We held hands. I’ve never understood
forgiveness, but this is what it must feel like.

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Self-Imposed Exile

By Lucas Cardona

Featured Art: Tongue amulet in the form of a cicada (hanchan) by Unknown

My limp body lulls through the hot, humid days
like a lukewarm dog’s tongue hanging off the edge
of time, begging for disaster, for that rotten stench
of nostalgia to drift away & be buried in the brain’s
contemporary fiascoes. Night after night,
caught gaping out the window in the same chilled,
sterile room. Only the shadows of bats flitter into
view, and the dark, lush limbs of American elm trees
groping toward evidence of further tangibility
with a desperation akin to worship. Something in me
must cherish the sound of cicadas feeding off each other
in their suburban, summertime mania, like the soulless,
asinine chorus of a fraternity chant. The girl at the
7-Eleven in the purple hijab restocks the Cheetos
and the world goes on devouring itself for no other reason
than something must be devoured if we are to continue
loving one another in this crudely selective fashion.
It’s terrible but it’s true, all heartache inevitably
resolves in that surreptitious method pain can only
accomplish with the brain’s private blessing.
I know now what I did, I did to destroy you.
I know, too, that I’m the one who’s destroyed.
But somehow that still feels like forgiveness.

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Invisible Bodies

By Aza Pace

Featured Art: (Children Swimming) by Unknown

Meanwhile, plastic particles
burrow in the Arctic snow

and in the sea’s deep trenches,
its legion bellies.

Meanwhile, a galaxy bursts
across my cervix—bad cells

someone will slice off
with electric wire as I sleep.

There is nothing untouched
in the whole furious world.

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Daughter Poem

By Lisa Dordal

Featured Art: The Artist’s Daughter by H. Lyman Saÿen

Sometimes I see her pressing her palms
against a windowpane in a house that is real

the way a house in a dream is real
until you start to describe it and all you can say is:

it was this house, only it wasn’t. It’s winter
and she likes to feel the cold entering her body.

Or it’s summer and it’s heat she’s after.
She wasn’t born, so she can’t die.

Sometimes there is a window but no girl,
and I am the one walking toward it.

Sometimes I see her peering in—
forehead against the screen of our back door—

or running ahead of me on a path that is real
the way a path in a dream is real, saying:

this way, this way.

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A Coyote Runs Down Michigan Avenue

By Sara Ryan

Featured Art: “The Bridge: Nocturne (Nocturne: Queensboro Bridge)” by Julien Alden Weir

and she is a phantom. gray blur on
gray pavement. green lights flicker

their rhythmic patterns. in the right building,
at the right angle, she becomes one

thousand coyotes shimmering in glass.
she screams and Chicago screams

back. how’s. scavenges the oily corners
of the train stations. the river gulps

through its channels and feeds the lake.
she is a wild thing. she crosses high bridges.

she becomes the color blue. she becomes
the color blood. the city is haunted

now. by the tress. by women, their mouths 
full–bulging, really–with fur. she is one

of the lucky ones. she runs unjailed without 
worry for traffic, turn signals, speed limits.

ghosts wearing masks yell from 
their windows. they’re warning her.

they’re warning her.


Sara Ryan is the author of I Thought There Would Be More Wolves, which came out in February from University of Alaska Press, as well as the chapbooks Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned (Porkbelly Press), and Excellent Evidence of Human Activity (The Cupboard Pamphlet). In 2018, she won Grist‘s Pro Forma Contest and Cutbank‘s Big Sky, Small Prose Contest. Her work has been published in Brevity, The Kenyon Review, Pleiades, DIAGRAM, and Prairie Schooner. She is pursuing her Ph.D. at Texas Tech. https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/I/bo87615984.html @SaraReneeRyan