New Ohio Review Issue 21 (Originally Published Spring 2017)

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 21 compiled by Averie Hicks

Push

By George Bilgere
Featured art by Clay Banks

I’m trying to look as if I’m suffering.
I have this anguished expression on my face
but it’s wasted since I’m wearing a surgical mask
and anyway the focus here is really on my wife
and the doctor is right there between her legs
and he’s shouting Push, and my wife
is doing this astounding thing, she’s pushing
yet another human being into the world, a world
that so far seems to be pushing back,

and the baby’s heartbeat is down to 90
so the doc says, I think maybe one more try,
then we do the Caesarean, so things in the room
really are a bit tense, it’s definitely a moment
that demands a lot of attention, and my wife
is gathering whatever shreds of strength
remain in the shaking exhausted sleeve of flesh
her body has become, the blood and sweat and fluids
everywhere, and this is It!—when I hear
the attending nurse standing just behind me
saying to this guy in scrubs standing next to her,
I think he’s the anesthesiologist’s assistant,

Read More

Void Unfilled

By George Bilgere
Featured art: Long Exposure Couple by Jr Korpa

I walk past Erin’s house at dusk
and there she is at her kitchen table,
working on her book about the Reformation.

She needs to finish it if she wants to get tenure,
but it’s slow going because being a single mom
is very difficult what with child care and cooking dinner
and going in to teach her courses on the Reformation,
which I can see her writing about right now,
her face attractive yet harried in the glow
of her laptop as she searches for le mot juste.

Read More

Horseplay

By George Bilgere

Featured art: Abstraction, 1906 by Abraham Walkowitz

I am floating in the public pool, an older guy
who has achieved much, including a mortgage,
a child, and health insurance including dental.

I have a Premier Rewards Gold Card
from American Express, and my car
is quite large. I have traveled to Finland.
In addition, I once met Toni Morrison
at an awards banquet and made some remarks
she found “extremely interesting.” And last month
I was the subject of a local news story
called “Recyclers: Neighbors Who Care.” In short,
I am not someone you would take lightly.

But when I begin to playfully splash my wife,
the teenaged lifeguard raises her megaphone
and calls down from her throne, “No horseplay in the pool,”
and suddenly I am twelve again, a pale worm
at the feet of a blonde and suntanned goddess,
and I just wish my mom would come pick me up.


Read More

I Tie My Shoes

By George Bilgere

Featured art: ‘Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity’s Gate)’ by Vincent Van Gogh

I’m walking home late after work
along Meadowbrook Road when I realize
the guy half a block ahead of me
is Bill, from Religious Studies.
I recognize his bald spot, like a pale moon
in the dusk, and his kind of shuffling,
inward-gazing gait. Bill walks
like a pilgrim, measuring his stride
for the long journey, for the next step
in the hard progression of steps.

Read More

Facebook Sonnet

By Tanya Grae

Featured art by Prateek Katyal

Someone thinks I’m beautiful again
                & likes posts of my day, comments.
I stifle smiles & feel uncontainable—
                bungeed off ether & the interplay.
Punch-drunk in this blue-sky space,
                a rush of the past, the in-between,
whole chapters, I open annuals
                & albums from storage. His change
in status: single. Papers in hand,
                this backlit man heaves toward
the kite’s trailing end: What if?—
                that butterfly. My youngest lights
onto my lap. Who’s that?—
                as a key turns the lock, I log off.

Read More

Your Mother Wouldn’t Approve

By Krystal Sanders

Of the way you spend Saturday morning in your room, instead of helping Papaw with the lawn work. You watch him on the riding mower, in customary slacks and suspenders, coasting back and forth beneath your window as if the ragged scream of the machine will summon you like a siren to your manly duty. You raise the binoculars Papaw used when he was stationed in West Africa during WWII, long before his shoulders bowed and his skin darkened with liver spots. They are clunky, large in your hands even though you’ve had a growth spurt and you’re well on your way to catching up to Peter, who’s a whole six feet and had college basketball scouts watching him at every game last season. It was Peter’s senior year of high school, your freshman year. The fall had been glorious, riding the cloud of popularity as Peter Thompson’s younger brother. The other kids, the teachers and coaches, cafeteria ladies, librarians, all looking at you with an expectation that was not yet a burden. You joined the Fellowship of Christian Students, which Peter was president of, and took the Advanced Placement classes he’d taken. You had more friends than you’d ever had before. Through the lens, Papaw’s face jumps up at you. You’re intimately aware of every wrinkle, every nose hair. He guides the mower in long, straight lines, first in front of your window at the corner of the house, on the second floor, and then away toward the county road. The motor’s howl falls to a low growl, builds back up as he returns exactly two feet to the left, is eventually reduced to a low grumble at the back of the house.

Read More

The Worn-Out West

By Pamela Davis

Featured art by Jannes Glas

I drive past motel signs advertising
free cable for bikers, truckers numbed
by cracked asphalt. A looseness,
as if everything is slipping
away, and the sky shaved thin as mica.

Stretch of dusty storefronts hung
with local art—warriors astride
painted horses, mesas. The Rio Grande
cuts in and out, shape-shifting
between cottonwoods. In the café,
regulars remove their hats, sit alone.

Read More

What My Massage Therapist Girlfriend Discovers When I’m On Her Table For the First Time

By Robert Wilder

Featured art: ‘Avocado’ (1916) by Amada Almira Newton

Your right leg is shorter than your left.
There’s something funny happening in your left shoulder.
You should change your detergent and go fragrance-free.
Is this too much pressure?

You once had a girlfriend who threw bottles at your head.
You haven’t slept well in decades.
You store all the grief for your dead mother in your solar plexus.
Breathe.

Read More

Stuff

By Claudia Monpere

Featured art: [Villa d’un Chiffonier (Ragpicker’s Shack)], 1920 by Eugène Atget

I saw you, daughter, sneaking
a garbage bag of my treasures
into your car. Those heaps of eyeglasses are art.

Never mind the cracked lenses
and broken hinges, the bent frames.
Some day I’ll make a sculpture or hanging lamp.
I’ll make a mobile.

The broken picture frames and dried-out
pens. Even the bottle caps beg
to be known. And how patient
those stacks of hotel soap.
Waiting. Just in case.

Yes newspapers haystack the walls.
But it’s all there: knowledge at my
fingertips. The postman will bring more.

There is an ocean liner inside my heart
that waits to set sail. The crowds wave
at the dock. My shades are drawn.
Bring me, daughter.
Don’t take. Bring me a basket 
brimming with words.

Read More

A Race Car Made of Sand

By Margot Wizansky

Featured art: “Beach of Bass Rocks, Gloucester, Massachusetts” by Frank Knox Morton Rehn

Everything made my mother nervous:
the baby crying, sand on the floor, the flies.
So we went out to the beach.
I took my bucket and shovel.
My mother sat my little brother up on her shoulders
and carried the towels and a canvas chair for my father,
who was too weak to carry anything.
He wore his cabaña suit, light green with white palm trees,
his legs, pale like the sheets in the hotel room.
He hadn’t shaved.

Read More

Some Things Rosa Can’t Tell Little Esmeralda

By Barbara de la Cuesta

Featured art by Farrukh Beg

A late afternoon after work, Rosa puts the flame down under the rice and beans and sits with her feet up in Laureano’s recliner. The knock on the front door Rosa thinks must be Mondo’s social worker, the only person she knows who doesn’t just walk in the back door. Mondo is in detention again for defacing a wall, or an overpass, something.

But it isn’t the social worker, it’s little Esmeralda, daughter of the Mexican grocer on Moody Street, who comes in politely, sits opposite her with a notebook, and asks Rosa can she ask her some questions. Hah, like the social worker, Rosa thinks, then corrects herself. This is a child she used to see sitting on the floor of her father’s abasto sorting red beans. The girl tells Rosa she needs to write a biography of an older person for her fifth grade class.

Ah, Rosa, with her aching feet, feels old.

Not old, old; just older than me, says the child. She used to be in Rosa’s catechism class at St. Justin’s and was notably better behaved and brighter than any of the others.

Hokay, says Rosa, not yet realizing what will happen to her.

Read More

Miles

By Craig van Rooyen

Featured art by Mike Lewinski

It was dark, sure, but the city’s halo
whitewashed the stars.
We drank good bourbon from Dixie cups
to mock our sophistication.
Two black men and a white one
who needed a brother.
We drank to Ghana advancing,
not so naïve to believe
they had a chance against England.
We toasted our wives of many colors
and our barefoot children chasing fireflies
like the first night in Eden.
But it was Oakland.
So when the boy climbed the porch steps
cupping a winged and glowing offering,
I called him by the wrong name, as if
I did not know him, as if his father
was not my friend.
The brothers exchanged their look,
too polite to call me out
on a summer night in paradise.
And we all pretended not to notice
the bats that let go their roosts
to flap old patterns in our chests.

Read More

Mitigation

By Craig van Rooyen

Featured art by Romina Farías

Somehow it’s good to know
the wildfires have not touched the face
of our local TV anchor
delivering her lines
with a touch of sadness that never approaches
despair, even as her bangs cascade
onto her forehead like evening clouds
descending the Coast Range.
I think of her in her dressing room
before she offers her face to us
the one that will help us fall asleep
while a line of flames somewhere far away
descends the ridge and licks into a kitchen,
melting the refrigerator magnets,
popping cans of spray oil, and setting
the dog out back to howling, jerking
against its chain.
I see her in front of the mirror,
surrendering to the ministrations of tiny brushes— 
a makeup artist leaning in like a lover.
Foundation first, an A-side attack
on brow furrows and laugh lines.

Read More

Parrots Over Suburbia

By Craig van Rooyen

Featured art by McGill Library

There are two,
as if some ark came to rest
on the high school football field
and Noah flung them through an open window
to test whether this cement-skinned town
can sustain life.
See them there, trimming
lava-dipped wings in the sky above Costco,
bills curved like question marks.
And what do they ask, out of earshot
of the man with sunflower seeds?
Do you know what it means
to circle, to draw and redraw the tightening
circumference of your life
above the grid of 50-year roofs,
in steak smoke risen from backyard barbecues?
The parrots’ owner is no prophet.
Summer evenings, he wrenches
on a ’67 Mustang that drips its innards
onto his Avenue L driveway.
And at dusk, he makes his arm a perch,
takes the two from their cage,
feeds them from his lips, knowing
if they love him he need not maim their wings.

Read More

Steno

By Mark Kraushaar

“Hypergraphia is a behavioral condition
characterized by the intense desire to write . . . ”
“It is a symptom associated with temporal lobe epilepsy.”

It’s as if . . . , he says, It’s like . . . , or, It’s ABOUT
things being simply THERE, molecular,
blue, strewn, flattened, aflame.
He pulls up the shade and looks out.
There’s this kind of accounting he does:
sidewalk, hedgerow, phone pole.
He lists the round and the ready-made.
He notes the hand-carved and the curved.
He sorts by color and shape.
He lists by size and by brightness.
He notes the nautical, normal and nameless.
It’s Wednesday and he’s moved from columns
to rows: alphabetic, magnetic, majestic . . .

Read More

Fable

By Sally Bliumis-Dunn

Featured art: Formerly attributed to Zhao Boju (ca. 1120s-ca.1162)

People often spoke
about her mousy behavior,

her gray squeaky voice,
but no one made the connection

that the words they used,
which she devoured like giant crumbs,

commenced her change,
so that when she drew the curtains

to darken the air
it was not a sign of depression

Read More

Safehouse

By Sandy Gingras

Featured art by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti

Pull up any rug, there’s a hole.
An easy chair sits on a trap door, which leads to
a slide. I am still surprised, after all these years,
how many tunnels are in my house.

In the basement, which is under the place
you would consider the basement, is
what I call “the secret room.” But all my rooms
are really secret rooms. It has a large
colored map on the wall, a folding table under
a fluorescent light, a red couch.

Read More

Other People’s Ranch Dressing

By Kate Maclam

Featured art by Au Lido Plate no.14 (1920)

I wanted to smell less like
a restaurant and more like
a woman.
I tried my best.
All the women I know could
have sex with famous men
like J Hamm or Leo D or BJ.
All the women I know smell like
French Vanilla perfume
and fresh cigarettes.
They smell like thin people.
When I describe them I say,
she is thin like a rich person.
I say, she eats paper
and melts diamonds,
to stay thin—
she huffs paint thinner.
I say, she has never touched
another person’s ranch dressing
or brushed it onto her thigh
where it looked like
the seed of a famous man
or anyone really.

Read More

Nightmare on Elm Street

By T. J. Sandella

Featured art by Vrouw aan kaptafel

Though they’re meant to be our protagonists,
we detest these teenagers
who fall for the same tricks and traps
in every film
and because they keep coming back
dumber and hotter
decade after decade
with their perky breasts and discernible abs
and the way they throw themselves mercilessly
against one another
in backseats and on twin beds
and because they smoke cigarettes
and slug soda and beer
and because dialysis and diabetes
will never creep like Freddy
into their dreams.
Because they’re always in love
and loneliness is as unimaginable
as feigning sleep
so the person next to you
will stop kissing your neck
though you still care for her
and he’s still beautiful
or maybe you don’t
and maybe he’s not
or maybe the workday has emptied you
of desire for anything
but seven hours of silence
and maybe these are the words you say
that can’t be forgiven. Curse the children

Read More

Loving by Numbers

By Frances Orrok

Featured art by Nick Fewings

10
my dog, climbing trees, apples, my sister
On two separate car journeys, one with my mother, one with my father, I ask each of them to choose the last thing they’d give up. At ten, my questions take this form with some regularity: exaggerated parameters, carefully explained rules. “It can be food or water or something solid, but it doesn’t have to be. You only have twenty-four hours to live.” Both ask if they can think about it. Both remember to answer by the end of the journey (a hastily added rule).

My father: “the capacity to love.”
My mother: “to know I am loved.”

11
anywhere outside the classroom; mud, cold, leaves, not sports, lists
I start smoking in ditches. I ask my father if he’d still love me if I went to prison. “Of course.” He doesn’t hesitate or ask what crime I will have committed. I think about this and watch the back of him digging. I don’t doubt his words but I am curious. “What if I joined the IRA?” There is a long pause and he straightens out for it. The Irish Republican Army is in the news a lot. They drive fear into every school child, make public transport and Saturdays anxious. There are no longer bins on the streets, litter blows frightened of b-o-m-b-s. “There will always be things you could do to make loving you harder. That’s not the same as not loving you. Difficult doesn’t mean no.”

Read More

Advice

By Emily Sernaker

Featured art by Fran Hogan

Don’t ever make him a take-me-back
mix CD. But if you do, open with Sam Cooke’s
“Bring It On Home To Me.”
If Kim from high school wants to wait
in the really long line for the panda
at the zoo, don’t complain.
That panda is going to be so cuddly cupping
its paw around the bamboo, your heart
will do a somersault. Besides,
you’ll miss Kim when you’re away
trying to tell her updates
before the metro goes underground.
“I’m going on a date and wearing eyeliner.”
“You’re going on a date with a minor? 

Read More

Mawwage

By Catherine Stearns

Featured art Rising Dove, 1934 by Harold Edgerton

Mawwage is what bwings us together.
—The Princess Bride

At five, a clamorous bird
proposed outside our window: 
Will-ya will-ya will-ya, then? 
when a high-pitched vireo
like a shotgun bride
interposed fuck-you fuck-you 
before his liquid goddess
could reply, with a flirty little 
who-me who-me? followed by
something like my mother’s 
tch-tch-tch-ing at my father’s
stories she’d heard a million
times before, nattering
away as if strapped on
currents of confused desire,
but finally speeding up
to an ascendant trill—I do
I do, I do / aspire to—

Read More

Marriage at 17 Years

By Gary Dop

“Come here—quick!” You know it, her serious, nearly
               whispered call. She says, “I think it’s a squirrel.”
Brown bulb of fur, it’s tucked behind an old chair.
               The kids sleep upstairs; you have both abandoned
your evening’s screens. You are here,
               a step away from a baby flying squirrel. You grab
the wicker hamper. She says, “Don’t scare it.”
               Hamper in one hand, towel in the other, you wonder
how to catch it without scaring it. The big-eyed squirrel
               knows you’re there. “Be careful,” you hear as you swipe
at the squirrel who scampers, fast as life,
               into the wicker trap you lift and close.
Then she says, “It’s in there,” a statement of fact
               that feels like a question. You say, “It’s in there,”
your voice an octave too high. She peeks through
               the wicker gaps to snap a picture. You relax
your grip on the lid, and the wild thing wriggles free.

Read More

The Double

By Gary Dop

Featured art by Tim Mossholder

When I order fast food, I feel superior
to the place I am in, the people
who serve me, and the grease
about to grip my gut, but
the cashier asks “Is that poetry?”
pointing at the distressed volume I hold.
I say, “Yes,” and she says, “Yes,
I thought so,” her eyes bloom,
no longer machines. Her hand rests
on the input screen as she quotes Frost
or Dickinson: something about “long sleep,
a famous sleep,” and she adds, “Was ever idleness
like this?” Flustered, I reply: “I’ll take
the double with mustard and pickles.” She sees
into me, a mass-produced poetry patty
stamped for the look of flavor. She sees
my surprise and knows that beneath our exchange,
burger for cash, is deeper change:
The life I’ve slept inside, she takes, discards,
and watches me wake.

Read More

Red Beans and Rice

By James Sprouse

Featured art: ‘Modes et Manières de Torquat

The medium said you were not coming back.
So I ate my red beans and rice
same as on our wedding day
down in Algiers, Louisiana.

The next day you rode
off with the Russian, Porshenokov,
in a little MG, your long straw hair
whipping in the streets

in the wind of the French Quarter
and down on the bayous, where it’s
too hot to sleep. The cemetery on Ramparts
was a forest of stone, the dead

Read More

Year of the Rat

By Lucas Church

Featured art: Chinese Zodiac Animals in Harmony by Kerima Swain

On my birthday, the twenty-fifth anniversary of a space shuttle disaster, I move in with Uncle, who lives next to a trash heap. The heap is privately owned, not the county dump, not open to just anybody, and it’s haloed with crows. I squirrel myself upstairs while Uncle watches the video of the spaceship disintegrating into smoke, repeating. I mention in passing an ex-boyfriend with fists like cans of beans, that he’s looking for me, probably. Outside the crows bicker while I hide under the covers, the house full of Uncle’s sobs back to the television.

The shuttle exploded hours before I was born. A question of timing, my mother said.

Read More

My Mother’s Dogs

By Sandy Gingras

Featured art: Three Dogs Fighting by Antonio Tempesta

They are big and smelly and mean,
and they’re living in her basement.
I think they are dogs, but they might be wolves.
Eight or eighteen of them, something like that.
They all would bite me if I gave them
the chance, so I’m really careful
when I herd them out into the yard.
What is it with my mother?
Most families just have pets—usually one dog
and a cat, nothing like this. How
did she let this happen to her?

Read More

Serenity Room

By Linda Hillringhouse

Featured art: Buste van een oude vrouw by Anonymous

There are five recliners in a circle,
each with a spongy blanket.
The lights have been dimmed,
but an aide has left behind her walkie-talkie
and it sounds like it’s ready to lift off.
My mother is in one recliner, I’m in another,
an easy way to spend time now that she’s afraid
of the color red and distrusts windows
as if the glass weren’t there and the fingers
of the dwarf palmetto would reach in
and pull her down into its dark center
to cut out the last cluster of syllables
huddled beneath her tongue.

I look over to see if she’s sleeping
and her eyes are open as though
she’s forgotten to close them. Maybe
she’s on some dusky street where half-drawn
figures drift and sounds almost blossom
into meaning. Maybe she opens a door
and her aunts from Brooklyn are there
and clutch her to their mountainous breasts
where she could stay forever.

Read More

Catpants

By Richard Allen

Featured art: The cat at play, c.1860-1878 by Henriëtte Ronner

dead cat on the shoulder
my heart aches for a moment
until I realize it is only
a balled-up pair of sweatpants

why would I feel compassion
were it a cat lying dead there
and not a balled-up
pair of sweatpants

I think it is because
cats are defenseless
and innocent then
I re-evaluate

Read More

The Meat of It

By Michael Bazzett

To make a good book you need what William
Faulkner called “the raw meat on the floor.”
So before I started in I got some ground beef
and dropped it on the hardwood with a Spat! 
It felt wrong. Like dropping a baby. But I did it
for art. When my son came home from school
he said, Why is there meat on the floor? I said,
Art. He nodded like maybe that made sense
and said, It’s kind of freaking me out. I know,
I said, me too. We all have to make sacrifices.
Is that blood leaking out or juice? he asked.
I’m not sure I’m one to make that distinction,
I said, mostly to avoid answering the question.
I didn’t tell him how strange it was to unwrap
the meat so carefully, the plastic peeling away
like a onesie on a warm day, and then just sort
of hurl it down at the hardwood with a Spat! 
Are we still going to eat it? he asked after a bit.
I’m not sure, I said. I think it depends upon
a lot of different factors, a lot of ins and outs.
Is this a writing thing? he asked, because you
have that weird look in your eye. I’m your
father, I said. I held you as a baby. I’d never
use a moment like this just to make a poem.

Read More

Dune Cat

By Winnie Anderson

Featured Art by Oliver Goldsmith

Eons ago, during the Pleistocene Epoch, the jaguar left his home and traveled across the cold arid grassland: his resolve set. The floods were coming again. If he stayed, the land would either be covered with water or be broken into land pockets, from which there’d be no escape. The time was now. He had to go.

In him the jaguar carried echoes of history, tens of millions of years’ worth of heat spikes, ice ages, tectonic upheavals, and mega-explosions. Time swirled uniquely around him. He felt two trajectories at once—like a stone cast into the deep lake of time, sinking down to the bottom where all life may have begun, as well as the outward rippling cat’s paw upon its surface. History. Present. Future. All there, his for the grappling.

Alone he headed south: crossing over what one day would be named the Ber- ing land bridge. Well-suited to the task, weighing close to 400 pounds, the norm then, he ran through a dense mantle of cold and silence. In the morning light his rust-colored coat appeared red, broken only by dotted circular cave-black rosettes. The travel was hard, but the jaguar came into it, growing stronger as he went—proof he’d done the right thing by giving his instinct its due.

Read More

Now the Truth Can Be Told

By David Gullette

Featured art by Francis Augustus Lathrop

While I was assailed by a gaggle of captious sighs
you were somewhere else groping for lost teeth
or something or otherwise empty of solace, of course.

Or the time my edges all fell away taking
gritty treads and guy wires with them, where were you?
Breathing ethereal! Moonstruck!

Jesu! Did you think I couldn’t see you
slithering down the pike on your twenty axles,
the wind in your snoot, the coontail aflap flopping

in as crisp a tornado as any whip since
the blow that beveled Dubuque? Eh?
God knows you have failed me in need,

Read More

Nobody Can Pronounce the Name of This Volcano

By Mike Wright

Featured art by Paweł Czerwiński

I was choosing a bag of almonds at the grocery
when a volcano erupted. These almonds
were an impulse buy, and now they commemorate
catastrophe. The volcano is elsewhere,
so I won’t experience cinders bruising the sky.
On another continent ash settles on buildings
and my snack is dusted in cocoa powder,
the packaging says semi-sweet. I’m realizing
this is the wrong flavor for a natural disaster.
Nobody can pronounce the name of this volcano.
I can’t speak its name and I want to know it,
to know destruction, the reality of molten
rock. Instead I’m standing around the store,
befuddled by almonds, by how to choose.
If enough pressure built under the surface,
I could be relieved of every decision.

Read More

A Friend Encourages Me to Travel to South America

By Mike Wright

Featured art by Bertha E. Jaques

I can’t handle cherries. When I see
them at the store, full of tart surprise,
I pass them up; it’s the breaking of tight
skin and release of flesh. I want
the thing ten steps down from the ecstatic.
Instead of cherries, cherry soda.
So how could I handle South America?
What would I do with a sea, with salt
air winding through me like a shell?
I live the nub of life, the thumbnail
sketch, fish sticks and cigarettes.
I would never survive the cherries
of South America. What’s a cherry
soda after a cherry? What do I dream of
after Brazil?

Read More

Nomenomancy

divination by names

By Mark Wagenaar

Featured art by Ryan De Hamer

Like each of us, it could only guess at its own begetting. A careless cigarette, electrical spark, Molotov cocktail hurled by an angry senior who had his letter to the editor rejected, we never found out how the fire started. Only smoke suddenly billowing above the town. Shreds of ten thousand newspapers upon the air, in slow drift through open windows, coming to rest on the eyelids & lips of men sleeping off the night shift at the furnace. Embers floated for hours through the streets, through back alleys, & ended up in the black fur of cats, gray hair of old men playing checkers, on the tongues of children who didn’t know better. A shroud upon the impatiens & petunias in tire & barrel gardens, on the feathers of pigeons in rooftop cages. In the silos the tatters found space amid the grains, & our news made it across the oceans: liquidation sales, stories on the alderman’s affair, the mayor’s new dog. And one death—one obituary. Larry, the boy who jumped his dirt bike into the canal. His name now upon the air, with our questions for him. We looked up at a sky that whirled with clouds of his name, & saw on that air once more the arc of his bike between the bridge and the rest of his life. His name rained down upon us, confetti for a parade of his absence. For years we found his name—in our underwear drawers, in our cereal boxes, in the big hair of our pageant contestants. In the open bags of sugar in the Home Ec classroom, the ones that girls would name and care for, & come to remember when their own babies were held up, his half-burned name against the brilliance of the sugar crystals, these sugar babies, each one named Larry.

Read More

Bodies That Drift in the River Flow

By Scott Gould

Featured art by Oscar Bluemner

Sometimes you know things before you know things. Mrs. Tisdale comes to the door, and I know something is wrong. I know. From the top bunk of my bed, I watch her coming up the sidewalk, walking fast but walking like a woman who is already lost, her skirt moving quickly around her, like a wave to anyone who spies through the window.

I know the doorbell won’t ring. She is not a bell person. She is too good a friend of my mother’s to announce herself that way. She knocks once and opens the door. What she doesn’t know is the bell doesn’t work anyway. It is shorted out somewhere along its line and my father has never pulled the wires and traced down them to find the problem. I hear Mrs. Tisdale’s voice flow up the staircase, so faint I can barely make it out, strained and pitched higher than normal. Her voice sounds like an animal she is trying to keep on a leash, trying to make it heel. Because her voice wants to run away from her. I hear my mother fall back on her nurse’s voice, that healing tone. I climb off the top bunk and move closer to the doorway.

“Now, Roberta, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions,” my mother says. “Let’s not worry until we have something to worry about.”

“Something’s gone wrong,” Mrs. Tisdale says. “I feel it.”

Read More