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.
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,
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.
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.
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?Read More
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.
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
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.
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.Read More
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Read More
By Marcia LeBeau
I can’t promise you I know how to sit across from a man,
as he lights his campfire heart, without letting it
warm me. And I won’t pour water over it before it glows
down to embers in the lambent hours of the morning.
As shadow flames sashay across my face, I might throw in
the branches I’ve gathered from my forest. Make it blaze.
By Marcia LeBeau
We communicate like animals. I bark, he recoils.
I howl, he waits, howls back. It’s been like this
for over a decade. Sometimes our offspring try
to separate us. Last night the youngest guided me
into the dining room. The three working bulbs
of the chandelier spotlit smashed peas and a jack
under the table. We never learn. No, sometimes
we learn. A moment lying in bed ripples
for a week. We burrow into each other’s eyes, faces
slippery with tears. I have made him proclaim to himself
the scariest of truths: I am perfect. He has made me
do the same. Our perfection hangs in the air.