By Caro Claire Burke

Featured Image: Shadows II by Sam Warren

It had been the loneliest summer of my life, which is maybe why I was so looking forward to seeing Beth.

I’d been living in the city for about four months by then. I still wasn’t quite used to the foul-smelling puddles, the fire escapes that blotted out the sky, the way the subway would be whispering along then suddenly scream to a stop, forever lurching me into the lap of some nameless and scowling person. And Beth was nice, I remembered: she’d been the type of girl in college who was always the first to laugh, the first to dance; the type of girl who never complained when we ran out of cold beer and had to switch to room temperature. She was a good sport, I remember a buddy saying once, and I’d agreed.

It was a clear Friday afternoon. I was headed to my mother’s house for the weekend, and the idea of leaving the city for a full two days had left me feeling light. I decided to throw my weekend bag over my shoulder and walk the fifteen blocks to the coffee shop Beth had suggested.

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By Louise Robertson

                 Sometimes I,   
                            I mean you,
                I mean I,
           like an advil stuck
in a pocket of my/your throat

           and I/you wonder if I,
                       I mean you,
           I mean I,

                       am dissolving there—
                                   easing the ligaments,
                       except the body

isn’t eased, nor ligaments
             hushed and I can still feel you,
I mean me,

                                    I mean you
                       there in the neck
                                   waiting, in fact,

hard as a choke.

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On the Inadvisability of Good Decisions

By Louise Robertson

Featured Image: Knowledge 2 by Sam Warren

I regret my good decisions while
staring at digital timestamps within
the carpeted walls
of my assigned cubicle as November
darkens to evening right after lunch.
I regret them as I climb
into the hybrid and track its mileage.
On an after-work walk,
plastic bags, candy wrappers, and
beer cans sprawl.
I decide to corral
strips of wild sheeting
massed into a wig of see-through hair.
A slippery ooze
crawls onto my hands.
I should have fucked that guy.
I should have broken my heart
over him and kept breaking those gears
—a clockwork that spends almost
all of its time junked
just for those
two moments everyday,
when it is exactly right.

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Jetson Whirr

By Louise Robertson

The Prius should make a noise
as it creeps behind school children
scattering across the road,
sunlight and leaf shadows waving
around them.
It should be, as one petition
suggested to Toyota,
the sound of the Jetson car,
a whirr and a dapple of a sound.
But Toyota has done nothing — nothing.
The cars glide out each year,
shark silent.

When I was 11, at the school trip to Kings Dominion,
standing next to a plastic statue of George,
Maria Framingham declared she
had lost a $10 bill and so of course I checked my back pocket
and of course my $10 bill slipped out. Maria
picked it up and said she found her
$10 and I made no sound
and slunk away, my inner petitioner
demanding, “Hey, make a noise!”
And my inner Toyota doing nothing — nothing.

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Seven Ways to Get Blindsided in a Restaurant

By Melissa Bowers

I am in a restaurant when I learn Rob has a wife. It shouldn’t matter, since I’m already a wife, too—Timothy sits across from me, cutting a chicken strip into toddler-sized bites between swigs of his craft beer—but something catches in my chest at the sound of Rob’s name. Maybe it’s because Timothy and I are hardly speaking at the moment, or maybe it’s because of the person delivering the news.

Amaya is supposed to be a ghost from the past. She is not meant to materialize inside the life I have now, this many years after college, as she exits Timothy’s favorite burger place. I don’t notice her until she sidles over and leans against the edge of our table, runs an invasive finger around its glossy tiles, slowly, as if she’s trying to seduce them one by one. We exchange pleasantries: Nice to see you. Yes, it’s been forever. What are you up to these days?

“By the way, Rob got married,” Amaya tells me. “She looks a lot like you, actually—brown hair, kind of wavy. They have a daughter.”

She winces a little when she says it, in sympathy or solidarity, as though we both have the right to feel jealous. Then she tsk-tsks and sets her lips in a thin, apologetic line, flutters her fingers over her shoulder: “‘Bye, honey.” The finality of her hips swaying toward the door.

“That was the Amaya?” Timothy asks through a mouthful of ground meat.

I raise my eyebrows.

“Oh yeah,” he says. “We’re fighting.”

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By Emily Kingery

Featured Image: Ghost Crossing by Ellery Pollard

The Ghost buys me a cocktail
the color of Barbie’s dream house,
the taste of the well. He shrieks

and stakes a tiara in my hair.
I am laden in plastic and ask
where he came from. He says

Barbie’s dream house. It’s time
for karaoke. Do you remember
high school, the back of the car

and your aching lips, rewinding
the tapes? He tucks my loose hair
and his laugh is my favorite

from the dead. Ghost, I tell him,
let’s smoke. He slides two cigarettes
from his sleeve. I laugh like a rabbit

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I Said Maybe

By Allie Hoback

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

I can’t stop listening to your dumb wonderwall cover
that I asked for as a joke. I don’t know what you did
to make it sound all distant and a little haunted
but I want to projectile vomit when you giggle through the reverb
miss a chord and sing alltheroadsanananasomething.
Why do people hate this song and why do people only
ever play it on acoustic, it’s so good on electric or maybe
I just like you—oh fuck, do I like you? During sex I asked
how long you had wanted to do this for and you said
within the first ten minutes of meeting you and I said same
if not even longer, maybe before I met you, does that make sense?
Am I making sense? Should I seek professional help
if a fucking joke cover of wonderwall makes me want to grin
at every blank-faced stranger in a gas station, makes me want to stitch
your name into my underwear, makes me want to backflip
into the Atlantic Ocean where you are treading water—
and I don’t think that anybody feels the way I do about you now.

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A Shark Story

By Erika Warmbrunn

A dark shadow lifted off the sand and floated forward.

“Sting-ray!” she thought, and reached up to pull her goggles down over her eyes. They had seen several rays during their dives that week. She hoped this would be a spotted eagle ray. Velvety black beneath an ebullience of crisp white dots, the spotted eagle rays had been her favorites. She ducked below the surface.

And saw that it was not a spotted eagle ray.

It was not a ray of any kind.

It was a shark.

She had never seen a shark before. Of course she’d seen a shark before: in a movie, in an aquarium. But that was the sensation: I’ve never seen a shark before, but I know one when I see one, and that shape swaying through the not quite crystal-clear water, that is a shark. It felt primal: ancient, encoded, instinctive recognition of predator.

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Reading the Ancients

By Matthew Tuckner

What Sappho calls 
the desiremind or the couragesoul  
I call the swirling Chesapeake Bay 
of my brain and sure
you could call the tugboat 
trawling through the brackish waters 
desire and yes 
you could call the striped bass 
sourcing speed from the tugboat’s wake 
courage and sure 
you could call the crushed beer can 
scything the surf the mind and yes
the soul looks like a blue crab
when I close my eyes to picture it 
aquamarine claw    olive-green shell
I can’t quite place 
the bird tipping its beak into the bay
to capture an absent worm 
absent because fields 
of eelgrass are emptied daily 
by giant pesticidal blooms 
heaps of dead fish 
falling upwards
towards the surface 
but in placing the bird
a red knot    a piping plover
one could easily mistake it for 
the faculties of the soul 
particularly the appetites
so many Plato doesn’t even bother
to tally them though he does
warn of their penchant for battle
the appetites who are hard to see 
when they stand still 
like the piping plover for whom 
they are often mistaken 
yes I’ve been out combing
the waters for a new bird 
one whose bright rusty throat 
and striped back better represent
those flightier emotions
not even Sappho 
has the words for 
is it the tundra swan 
with ass upended and neck submerged
searching for the eelgrass
that isn’t there 
the tundra swan that birdwatchers 
who don’t know better
call suicidal ideation 
maybe the tawny-throated dotterel
is the one for me 
if I cover my left eye 
and squint my right the bird looks like 
the dysmorphia that keeps me 
out of the view of most mirrors
just look at this dotterel
can’t you see the pointed beak
that just screams 
I want to be your worst best friend
a voice that sings
come breach that little bay
of yours come tie the sky together with
us birds a pointed beak that’s just dying 
to be the Orpheus
to your Eurydice the kind of bird
that wants to kickstart
your katabasis a word
that if I’m reading the Greek correctly
can be widely defined as a descent 
of any kind such as moving downhill 
the sinking of the sun
a military retreat 
clinical depression
a trip to the underworld
or a journey to the coast

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By Zuzanna Ginczanka
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak Huss

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

A frenzy of hazel trees, disheveled by rain,
a scented nutty buttery crush.
Cows give birth in the humid air
in barns, blazing like stars.
O, ripe currants and lush grains
Sapid to overbrimming.
O, she-wolves feeding their young,
their eyes sweet like lilies.
Sap drips like apiary honey.
Goat udders sag like pumpkins.
The white milk flows like eternity
in the temples of maternal bosoms.

And we…
…in cubes of peach wallpaper
like steel thermoses
hermetic beyond contemplation
entangled up to our necks in dresses

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Zuzanna Ginczanka Biographical Note

By Joanna Trzeciak Huss

Any biography of Zuzanna Ginczanka (1917-1944), however short, should attempt to speak to her desire to define herself and her refusal to be defined by others. For her, social and artistic identity was something to be chosen and cultivated, but in the times in which she lived, identity ascribed by others was a matter of life and death.  Born Zuzanna Polina Gincburg in Kiev in 1917, she fled shortly after the Russian Revolution with her family to the border town of Równe in Volhynia (present day Rivne, Ukraine), which was at one point part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and was about to become Polish again in 1920.  The destination was not accidental: it was the town where her Russian-speaking maternal grandparents were well-ensconced.  Yet this provincial capital proved too confining for her parents, who abandoned her to the care of her grandmother: her father leaving for Berlin when Ginczanka was three and her mother for Pamplona, Spain after she remarried.  Równe, a multi-ethnic city, was Ginczanka’s childhood home and it was there she attended a French pre-school and Polish elementary school and high school.  She adopted the name Ginczanka, and though Russian was her native tongue,  chose Polish as her language of poetic expression. Yet she was never able to obtain Polish citizenship and remained stateless throughout her life.

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By Zuzanna Ginczanka
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak Huss

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

In the beginning was heaven and earth:
black tallow and blue oxygen—
and fawns
beside nimble stags
and God, soft, white as linen.

The earth layers in strata—
The Miocene advances by tank — a majestic conquest.
There is a separation between water
and the land of ferns and birches
—and God sees that it is good when Genesis dawns.
Nitrogen brews in magma,
magma congeals into rock
upon mountain
in a thunderous, cosmic mounting
The Carboniferous enriches the earth with bituminous pulp.
—and He sees that it is good
for moist amphibians and stars.
Iron pulses like blood
Phosphorus hardens into tibia——
— and with singing air, God whistles into pipes of crater.

In the beginning was heaven and earth:
and fawn
and tawny stags
but then things took a different course:
was made

Back then, a lone rhododendron trembled before a fragrant angel,
horsetails tall as New York creaked and clattered.
Now daisies wilt
in town squares
in Konin, Brest, and Równe
and at night
and their spouses
make love.

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By Maud Welch

Featured Image: Before I Leave by Tanner Pearson

There’s a split down the center
            of your upper lip, like the crack
of a window on that first warm-
            blooded day of spring, when 

cherry blossoms sprinkle back
            broken pavement and we feel
able bodied to birth sticky children
            of our own on training wheels –

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Prayer for Reconciliation

By Kelly Rowe

In the study that a child playing hide and seek
once called the messy room,
in a drawer, in a manila envelope, still sealed,
I’ve filed the police report on how you died.
It will stay put: it will age, though you don’t.
I’ll open it today.
I’ll never open it.

Here, photographs spill out of boxes, and you
return, a small boy perched on a stoop
in tiger pajamas. You grin, flashing
little white cub teeth; you claw at the blue sky
beyond a black and white world.
You are about to climb a tree, to grow
feathers, to rise, to become cloud.

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What Will Kill Them

By Christina Simon

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

We were staring at a snake eating a rat.

At my son Kyle’s 12th birthday party, about fifteen boys in the pool stopped swimming long enough to look up. Ten feet away, up on the hill, a brown snake’s mouth was wide open, and a large rat looked like it had been stuffed head-first down the snake’s throat. Its pale pink legs and tail hung out of the snake’s jaw, which was clamped firmly on the rat’s plump midsection. The rat was not moving.

“Get my phone, I need a photo,” shouted Kyle, scrambling out of the pool. The rest of the boys followed him. Within seconds, they were watching the snake, snapping photos, mesmerized by the surreal scene. My husband joined them, along with a few of the boys’ parents.

“Can anybody save the rat?” I yelled frantically. I stood by the pool, looking up at the snake but I wouldn’t get closer. The snake was perfectly still, its mouth stretched wide open to hold onto the rat which dangled out of its mouth, limp. The snake looked about 5 feet long, with a thick body, teeth bared and eyes deadly.

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The World

By Hannah Marshall

Featured Image: Randy Gals by Ellery Pollard

The world is a broken thing, a paper doll from my grandmother’s childhood. On the farm in Wisconsin, she cut  

the world carefully from a magazine. On the back of

the world was a recipe for drop biscuits. Men in New York City streets planned

the world for this girl to cut into shape,

this world which she dressed up in a red dress, in a white apron and little blue pumps,

this world which is brittle now to crumbling, and torn.

The world was designed to be temporary.

The world was made of dead trees and smeary ink. My daughter sets

the world and its old clothes in a line across whitish carpet. She props

the world against bent tin furniture the size of my thumb.

The world is a broken thing, and so she handles it carefully.

The world opens from its paper breast. We try to become what

this world has made us to be. We carry

the world with us in the bottom of a purse, scribble notes about

the world and carry them tucked up our sleeves, like used tissues.

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Watching a House Renovation Show

By Hannah Marshall

The lives of the briefly famous, the fortunes
sunk into places rich people call home.
What they might tear down,
what they deem worth standing.

Perhaps it is their need for comfort
which makes these calls.
The dumpster departs,
and they are clean.

For me on Tuesday night,
it’s all hypothetical; I owned a house once
for a year, fixed it up, decided to sell.
I rent now, happy

to call the landlord when the shower handle breaks
or a tree falls on the telephone line.
Through all the places I’ve lived as an adult—four rentals
and that one home I briefly owned—

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What is Mine

By Claire Robbins

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

The first package contained a light blue pair of Nike Huaraches, size 8. I took this as a sign that I should keep stealing packages: my son laced them up, and they fit perfect. He started jumping around, walking on air. We both laughed until our sides hurt, and then I cooked a box of macaroni for dinner, made with water and oil instead of milk and butter, But who cares, my son said, lifting up his feet to admire his shoes. 

I only took packages from the porches of nice houses, but not nice houses with fancy doorbells. Some of the doorbells had cameras and attached to smartphones. I could see the older style cameras, so I avoided those packages as well. Everything had to line up perfectly for me to steal a package. 

I drove a Ford transit van delivering flowers for a flower shop, which is how I came to realize that there were neighborhoods in my town that I never even knew about, full of nice houses with packages on porches. Some of these neighborhoods were gated, to keep people out unless they belonged. 

I also delivered flowers to neighborhoods like my own with old houses falling into disrepair or bought up and cheaply brought to code by slum lords. There were widening gaps between the houses where condemned houses had been demolished by the city. Every once in a while, Habitat for Humanity would slap a cute little bungalow in one of the empty lots. But I never took a package from neighborhoods like my own. It didn’t seem right.

In the mornings, I clocked in to work and looked at the flower arrangements that were going out for delivery that morning. They stood in the cooler in the flower shop, and I read each tag before deciding on my route. Then I loaded the vases into the back of the van and drove off. Sometimes I had to gas up the van or air the tires or stop at the grocery store to pick up fruit for a fruit basket. Then after my deliveries, I helped process the flowers in the shop, while the designers put together bouquets for the next day. That was it, the entire job. Sneaking the packages from the van to my car was easy. I never took anything larger than a shoebox, and I slipped it into the backpack I kept on the passenger seat. 

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Nights of Noise

By Rachel A. Hicks

Featured Image: Untitled by Tanner Pearson

“I don’t want to be cured of beautiful sounds,” insisted Milo.

            —The Phantom Tollbooth

Must I implore you for more of what I want?
A clanging of fine china, symphonies of wet
spoons, clattering of forks falling from the violent
sky, a click-clack-click of yellow teeth
saying not much of worth in the night.

If trash can be treasure then I can be sound.
I can be the scream rising like steam
from the red kettle sitting on your mother’s stove.

I am the thumping & cheering & crying
of every bum, junkie, bride & boy in town.

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Ms. Appalachia

By Rachel A. Hicks

I’m an Appalachian beauty queen,
a capable kitten with smooth birthing hips.
Applaud the cinema kitty cat caught in the smoke ring.

I rule over Kentucky junkyards, zoom in as I sit on refrigerator thrones,
play pianos by the highway, cigarette-thin fingers give a tinkle tankle of a tune
perking ears that belong to someone twenty years ago.
The honeysuckle sweetness of my fingertips, syrupy sweet on the dirt keys,
greasing up the notes, F, E, B & so on.

Underneath the toasters & the books from all those rummage sales
sits some hot ghost of a memory. Smitten kitten, the smell of trash
makes me think of our place & the breeze outside is the same one
I feel at night when trains go by.

Stack the broken binds of hymnals for a stage, wrap, rip, some leaves, some dirt,
pack, perch, pack it all in, real tight, until the only clumps to fall
from my deciduous crown are intentional. A tap dance for you, a finale
with hula-hooping hubcaps & juggling light bulbs. I sing in a rusty tune,
decaying notes in the keys of D, C, G & so on.

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To Love Love the Beloved

By Rachel A. Hicks

Featured Image: Pride by Ellery Pollard

When I die, no fly will buzz,
no bird will crow, no man
will cry. Or maybe when I die,
every man will cry

and say, “There goes the love
of my life—a beauty—if only
she had known.” Women
will hate me stealing

their men’s hearts even in death,
for taking over their dinner conversations
after they’ve carefully prepared
the pink-orange ham loaf.

Forks & spoons—the men will swear
to see my eyes—my teeth will show
up in all the fine china. My legs prance
through the women’s heads

as they look at the octopus waving
its arms, wrapping its tentacles
around another. Dirty salt water
will turn red with their fury

as their husbands say, “She was such a beauty.
If only she had had eight arms.” A constellation
will form in the shape of my face & planets with
my thumbprints will be discovered.

When I die, don’t send me roses
because I am now the dirt, I am the plant,
I am the seed that sits in the crook of your skull, always
reminding you what it’s like to call a place home.

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Stomach Pains

By Danie Shokoohi

When the doctor found the tumor in his brain, when the surgery was first scheduled but not yet scalpeled, before the poorly fitted tracheostomy tube which introduced the sepsis, your father forbade you from coming to Connecticut. He didn’t want you to see him like that, he said. That when your grandfather died, your father could only picture him ill and threadbare in a hospital bed. He did not want that for you, if he didn’t make it. 

“No.” You lifted your laptop from the coffee table and clicked your internet browser. “Absolutely not. I’m pulling up Delta.” The ticket would be expensive from Iowa City, but you would pay anything to be there.

He told you that you could visit when he was well again, for Thanksgiving, maybe. “Look, Kimmy,” he said. “I got some bad apples, but we can still make applesauce out of them. It’ll be okay. The surgeon’s good. I’ll have to do some PT, but I won’t lose any cognitive function. That’s pretty good applesauce.”

You wanted to tell him there was nothing applesauce about a brain tumor. That you didn’t care how small, or how easy the recovery, or how experienced the doctor. You wanted to tell him that twenty-two was too young to be fatherless. If it was your Iranian mother, you would have had permission to scream and rip hair from your scalp and weep. But he wasn’t one for big sentiments, your father. He was American. So you laughed because you knew he wanted you to laugh.

After the phone call, you drove to the grocery store and picked out a jar of applesauce. It sat in your cupboard through his entire sickness, and you ate a spoonful a day as if it could keep him safe.

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Compassion Fatigue

By: Mary Ardery

Driving the group back after a wet July week in the woods,
a week with a bulimia watch for a woman who’d trained herself

to purge so quickly, so quietly, she did it between numbers
when she counted aloud as she peed, we came across

a raccoon in the center of our lane. Run over, still alive.
I stopped the van. I knew the worst injuries are internal.

The raccoon’s eyes were moving toward glassy. Slow blinks.
Someone said, Mary, you have to put it out of its misery.

I considered the tires, my hands, the knife in my backpack,
then I gripped the wheel and guided us, slowly,

onto the shoulder instead. A wide, weak berth.
No one said a word. I glanced at the fading raccoon

in the rearview mirror. My worn-out body—
its overripe smell seemed suddenly sharper.

That night I dreamt a flood. A torrent of water, the street
a river. A child’s empty car seat rushed by on its side

while I stood at my window just watching. Countless times,
women asked me simple enough questions, but I was winding

through mountain roads. I was treading water. I was barely
afloat. I told them not now and I turned up the music,

spinning the volume knob like a planet about to break orbit.

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By James Lineberger

Featured Image: Sun by Sam Warren

On the hayride night
our senior year in high school
we lay side by side
holding hands under the stars
trying to figure out how we could remain together
because back then
to a couple of cotton mill kids in the 50’s
what else did our first-time kisses and hugs mean
except true love
but after graduation she made a sudden decision to attend
the Richmond Professional Institute in Virginia
and learn commercial art
to get prepared to paint advertising pictures
for newspapers and magazines she said maybe even like
a cover for The Saturday Evening Post
and how was I to manage
a long distance relationship across the state line
when I didn’t even have a car which
I tried to tell myself was the problem but the real difficulty
was Jenny seemed like
some kind of pioneer woman to me
and already out of reach
a person who knew exactly what she wanted and wouldn’t
let anything or anyone stand in her way
while all I could come up with was maybe I would join
the army and get to see
the world myself someday – Hollywood or Africa maybe even what we did
to Hiroshima – some place
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