The Last Speaker of the Language

by Carol Anshaw

Featured image: Fernand Lungren. In the Café c. 1882-1884. The Art Institute of Chicago.

All right. Here we go.

Darlyn teeters high on a swayback wooden ladder she has dragged in from her mother’s garage. From here she can reach around blindly on top of the kitchen cabinets. She has struck pay dirt—a tidy arrangement of small, flat bottles. She doesn’t have to look to know they will all be pints of 5 O’Clock vodka.

She backs down the ladder, finds a grocery bag, goes back up and tosses in every bottle she can reach. Then she moves the ladder further along the way and clears out the bottles above those cabinets. She pours the liquor down the drain in the sink. 5 O’Clock is not for the amateur drinker. When she has the presence of mind, Darlyn’s mother filters it through a Brita, then mixes it with lime juice and ice and ginger ale, her version of a Suffering Bastard. After a while, though, she drops the lime and the niceties and in the end skips even the glass.

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Layover

by Erica Dawson

Featured image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The Englishman (William Tom Warrener, 1861–1934) at the Moulin Rouge, 1892. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I’ve half a mind to make a move.

I stayed in Archer City where
I made Larry McMurtry proud
by downing one too many shots
of ice-cold vodka, tumbler-sized,
then yelping all alone to “Sweet
Home, Alabama” while the band
reprised “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,”
packed up, and quit the Legion dance.

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Entropy

by Tracey Knapp

Featured image: Félix Vallotton. Five O’Clock, Intimacies VII (Cinq Heures, Intimités VII), 1898. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

All those times I crossed the bridge to see you
and not one lap dance. We haven’t held hands
since that time in the rain forest, chanting Lord
knows what in Sanskrit. I saw my first wild boar there
but even he took off for the brush. Someone always ends
the moment. Another call dropped on your iPhone,
the cosmic forces at work. My dog sighs and stares
at my flip-flop from his pillow. At work, the office
is separated into orderly earth-toned cubes.

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Women’s College

by Kenneth Hart

Feature image: Antoine Watteau. Head of a Man, ca. 1718. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I didn’t think of myself as a sex offender
or as someone whose sex was offensive
until I walked across the campus
of the women’s college. I tried to be
as inconspicuous as possible, looking away
when someone jogged past with a scrunchy holding back her hair
and breasts bouncing just a little beneath a sports bra,
making believe I had some business there
by putting a purposeful stride in my step.
I know I carry the chromosome of hatchet murderers and rapists,
it’s no wonder my hands felt like mallets
at the ends of my arms.
After awhile I sat on a bench
and tried to look at the oval pond,
the trees and manicured shrubbery in front of the study hall,
as passing girls gossiped in the late-January sunlight,
some of them tanned from winter break, or slightly heavier
after a month of their mother’s cooking.
So I got up to leave,
making sure my shoulders looked slumped and unathletic,
a little afraid of myself now,
and massively unaware
that one of them might consider my presence
a welcome relief.


Kenneth Hart teaches writing at New York University, and serves as Poetry Editor for The Florida Review. His poems have recently been published in Gulf Coast, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere. Hart’s book, Uh Oh Time, was selected by Mark Jarman as winner of the 2007 Anhinga Prize for Poetry.

When It’s That Time for Piranhas

by Michael Derrick Hudson

Featured image: Utagawa Hiroshige. Swallow and Wisteria, mid-1840s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Everything has already blossomed: my neighbor’s wisteria
has gone hog-wild across the ragged frontier of
our mutual fence, the soft green tendrils
of it violating international borders

and breaking treaties. Achtung! So let me tell you about

my neighbor’s wife: she’s delicious! And every morning
I hear all the birds in Fort Wayne, Indiana, go

Yippee-yee! Yippee-yee! Which is how spring jibber-jabbers
while her husband blows the leafy detritus

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Sixteen in Vegas

by Anastasia Selby

Featured image: Edvard Munch. The Girl by the Window, 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s Vegas and I’m sixteen years old. I’ve been playing in the arcade for hours; I’m leaning on the console of Mortal Combat, pushing the quarters my stepdad has given me into the slot one after another, wearing the tips of my thumbs down with their ridged edges. I’m bored as hell and my parents have abandoned me in this wasteland, I can practically see the tumbleweeds and hear western music as I walk across the patterned carpet. I pass all the men and women with their heads almost touching the bright lights of the slot machines, their hands like lobster claws around the levers, as if they’re waiting for the secrets of life to come pouring out when they hit the right combination. The secrets must be what they see on billboards, what they see in magazines. The arcade smells like the sweat of children and sounds like broken glass.

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After Rosenkavalier

by Natania Rosenfeld

Featured image: Goya (Francisco de Goya y Lucientes). Lovers Sitting on a Rock; folio 24 (verso) from the Madrid Album ‘B’, 1796–97. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We talked about her,
the Marschallin, only
thirty-two, and her lover,
seventeen, though the singers
were fiftyish, and we ourselves
are approaching there, though our
lives have not reached their
pinnacle. Will we ever
roar with our whole voice
and soul, cry out that way
with all life crying through us,
or will we walk on, obedient
and tired in our traces, as the round
orange sun goes down
across the long, white prairie?

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The Rush of Losing

by Daniel Larkins

Featured image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. At the Moulin Rouge, 1892–1895. The Art Institute of Chicago.

10. The race is over before it ends.

7. Tim leans forward. His blue dress shirt is untucked, unbuttoned, and his stomach shoves the undershirt out of his pants. When he loses it’s like a win, because when he wins he doesn’t want to keep on betting. Losing answers the question, Why continue? When he loses, he likes to think he can parlay that into a victory, persevere to make up for the loss.

All the TVs are muted. In his shoes he can feel the rumble of Holland Tunnel traffic from a couple blocks away. His twin boys are twelve and his fingertips are black. His nails are short and dull. His wife Meg used to have monthly manicures and the designer kitchen she wanted, but no more would she get a stupid room for hanging pots and pans and whatever else she liked to hang from racks and nails.

Tim leans forward. He has a hangnail, and it bleeds and stings, and his left hand balls into a fist on his thigh and his other wraps around a rolled-up Racing Form. It’s a tool, a bat, a weapon.

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Times Pieces

by Susan Morehouse

Feature image: Jean Charles Cazin. October Day 1890-1891. The Art Institute of Chicago.

My husband is walking out the door with an expensive watch, carrying it in the box it came in. “Are you getting it fixed,” I ask.

“I’m going to see what it’s worth at the pawnshop on Main,” he says. “You could just get a Timex,” I say, “if you want to know what time it is.”

“Sure,” he says, “or I have that watch you gave me. It just needs—”

“Batteries,” I say.

“Yeah,” he agrees, “and a band.”

The expensive watch was a gift from a man whose biography he wrote on spec, a book no editor has taken yet, even though Henry, the man behind the success of a major tabloid, implied it was a done deal. That was before the financial collapse. Henry gives these watches to anyone he needs a gift for. He buys them in bulk. Need something for a sheik? Here’s a Millage.

We’re broke.

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On the Strand

by Dave Kim

Feature image: Edgar Degas. Beach at Low Tide (Mouth of the River), 1869. The Art Institute of Chicago.

My mother’s boyfriend was a man named Bang. I never learned his first name. He’d been an officer in the Korean army before coming to the States, and he would yank me out of bed at six-thirty every morning to do jumping jacks. I was a doughy nine-year-old and he was trying to make me leaner and tougher. If I got angry, he would dare me to hit him and stand up for myself, get it out of my system. On Sundays we’d go to his boxing gym to watch the men pound each other to pieces, which terrified me at first and then made me dream of days when I’d be big enough to put on gloves and whomp Bang in the gut. I needed a good ass-kicking, he would tease me in his throaty Korean. Anytime I wanted, I could challenge him. Mom didn’t get involved.

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Home Movie

by Mark Kraushaar

Feature image: Berthe Morisot. Forêt de Compiègne, 1885. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Saxophone, and trombone, trumpet,
trumpet, trumpet. And there’s Roxanne
and Dick, and Betty Mayfield and the Laurie girls.
And there’s George Betts on clarinet.
Of course, it’s so jerky and grainy though,
which is just as it should be,
and here we suddenly actually
are, or, and isn’t that
Malcolm Sproul and Claudia French and isn’t that,
or wouldn’t that be Dick Benck, and there’s
Kit Powell, and Kathy Frey.

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Maritime

by Mark Kraushaar

Feature image: James McNeill Whistler. Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water, 1872. The Art Institute of Chicago.

My wife was nodding, Yes, sure, and, Yes,
and I was thinking of my parents, their sadness
and silence, their every evening’s weeping,
whispery buzz beside the stove.
My wife was nodding, Yes,
and leaning forward when the pastor said, You’re
like two ships passing in the night, and he seemed so
pleased I thought, So one’s a brig-sloop the other a tug?
Or one’s a tanker the other a trawler?
Troop ship and submarine?
Grain barge and gunboat?
I was quiet though.

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Downloading the Meltdown

by Elton Glaser

Feature image: Odilon Redon. And Man Appeared; Questioning the Earth From Which He Emerged and Which Attracted Him, He Made His Way Toward Somber Brightness, plate 8 of 8 from “Les Origines”, 1883. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Rumple of clouds at sunset, low and pink,
Underbelly of heaven in the summer slack, and me

Depressed as a backdoor detective on a case of slow clues.
I’m never lonely as long as I have my own body

To interrogate, my mind with its whips and pincers.
I buckle at the slightest threat; I confess

In the high pure pang of a choirboy singing
At some ceremonious occasion for the faint of heart.

And now the hot night, the moon cool as a bishop
In a boudoir. What you can’t get over,

You must get past. Through a haze of smoke and rum,
What’s left of me squints at the odds and ends.


Elton Glaser, a native of New Orleans, is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Akron. He has published six full-length books of poetry, among them Pelican Tracks (Southern Illinois, 2003) and Here and Hereafter (Arkansas, 2005), winner of the Ohioana Book Award for Poetry.

In the Season of Early Dark

by Elton Glaser

Feature image: Claude Monet. Rocks at Port-Goulphar, Belle-Île, 1886. The Art Institute of Chicago.

1
The wind sassy and half mad,
The clouds knocked up with rain—
Another feral afternoon in the Midwest,
Fall, and the trees like Salome, ready
To ask, when the last leaf drops,
For my unresisting head.

2
I’m going to spring all the little traps
Set by silence
And call it mercy. I’m going to let loose
Every thought caught by its hind legs
And screaming for release.
Out of the jaws and sharp teeth,
The tongue comes, loving
The taste of its own blood, gush of words
Hurt into eloquence.

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A Gift

by Patricia Ann Sanders

Feature image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The Passenger in Cabin 54—The Cruise, 1896. The Art Institute of Chicago.

It’s called the “verbal tip.”

You’re the greatest waitress we’ve ever had. We’re going to ask for you every time we come here. We had such a good time because you were our waitress. Yada yada.

Then they leave, like, three dollars on a thirty-dollar ticket.

Like I was going to call up the electric company and tell them they were the greatest electric company I’d ever had.

When I got divorced, my ex-husband was supposed to give me the Jeep. That’s what we agreed. My plan was to sell it if I couldn’t find a job right away in Phoenix. Instead, he wanted me to have the Acura. He was being generous, because it was a better car, practically new. Except that he never signed the title over to me. So I couldn’t sell it, and I couldn’t drive it, because I couldn’t afford insurance or gas. I was living in a godforsaken studio and buying food for one day at a time, stealing toilet paper from the bathrooms at the mall, with a twenty-three-thousand-dollar car parked under my window.

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