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Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine Issue 5 Winter 2015/2016


Issue 5 Winter 2015/2016

Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine Sioux City, Iowa www.atlasandalice.com atlasandalice@gmail.com

Š Atlas and Alice, All Rights Reserved.


Editorial Board Brendan Todt – Founder Benjamin Woodard – Editor in Chief Liz Young – Poetry Editor Summar West – Poetry Editor Whitney Groves – Fiction Editor Donald Quist – Fiction Editor Emily Arnason Casey – Creative Nonfiction Editor Readers: Sarah Braud, Sarah Kilch Gaffney, Ian Wallace, & Destiny Vaughn.


Letter from the Editor

On the first day of spring, I’m writing the letter that kicks off our winter issue. This may seem odd, but regular readers will notice that all of the pieces contained between these virtual covers appeared on our website between December 2015 and March 2016. Some, like “Pumpkin Friday,” hint at the early days of the season, while others, like “Even in the Rain,” welcome the end of winter and the return of wet weather and warmer climates. But not everything is about seasons, and this issue travels across oceans and bends reality. Pop culture simmers throughout, from Harry Potter to superheroes, and yet every piece ponders the incredible mystery that is humanity. As always, this issue wouldn’t exist without the incredible work on the part of our editors and readers. They keep this slow train chugging, and I’m so appreciative of their efforts. For those of you attending this year’s AWP in Los Angeles, look for our editors (and myself) roaming the book fair floor. We’ll have some A+A goodies to hand out. See you soon, Benjamin Woodard Editor In Chief


Table of Contents Diana Whitney

Resurrection Stone

9

Ashlie Allen

Pumpkin Friday

13

Mariela Acosta

The Smuggler

15

Tim Kahl

Survivors’ Ashes

19

Lori Sambol Brody

The Girl Who Waits for the Superhero

21

Melissa Wiley

Playing Astronaut

23

Christopher Santantasio

Afterlove

31

Gabrielle Campagnano

Reporting

33

Chanel Dubofsky

The Bullet

37

Carrie Naughton

Crux

43

Caitlyn Renee Miller

Even in the Rain

45

Kate Garklavs

Lies Hairdressers Tell

49

Call for Submissions

52

Contributor Notes

53


DIANA WHITNEY

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Resurrection Stone The gods were taking summer back again. Fear blew in through the screen doors at the end of July, that first morning I woke and felt the shudder of a lasting chill, the season turning, mist on the teeming phlox, a new clarity in the air that heralded change. We were finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book. After more than a year reading Harry, I was dragging it out night after night, a half-chapter at a time, trying to postpone the bitter end, though the girls wanted to race through to the last line in one marathon session. “Do you guys know that when we finish this book, that’s it, we’re done with Harry?” I asked when they begged me to keep going. “So?” said Ava. “Then we can watch all the movies!” said Carmen with glee. “Yeah, Mommy, why do you always get so sad? We can just start over with Book One if we want to.” Ava offered a seven-year-old’s worldview, practical and unafraid of loss. I surrendered. We nestled into a pillow pile on the king bed and read and read until the end. I wept as I knew I would when Harry walked alone into the Forbidden Forest, invisible beneath his magical cloak, to give himself up to Lord Voldemort for the last time. “I am about to die,” Harry whispered to the shadows, aware of his loud, strong heart beating in his chest. “Here, Mommy, you have Ducky.” Carmen pressed her grayish rag of a stuffed lovey into my face. “So you can stop crying now.” “Thanks, Buddy,” I sniffed. I knew the girls didn’t want a quavering, weepy reader recounting the final battle for Hogwarts. They wanted all the British accents done right, as I’d done them all along. They wanted the pacing tight, the thrill of the story resolving, not their mother hijacking the plot with her raw emotions. I steeled myself, took a deep breath, and charged on. Was this what it was like when Thorin Oakenshield died and my mother finished reading us The Hobbit on the island in Maine? Did she also fight a sense of bereavement at the end of the book, her four children nestled around her? Or did she know we could continue with The Lord of the Rings, that there were other sagas and legends to read after she let this one go? The day after Harry ended we drove up to the lake, and I rode the current of sleepless elation that often follows composition, a live current that some call mania. Mania, from the moon, from the Latin root “manos,” meaning ecstatic revelation. Something to be cherished when it floods the veins, not disparaged, suppressed, or medicated. “Mommy, I know which one you’d want,” Carmen called from the back seat, 9


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interrupting my reverie. “Which what, honey?” “Which Hallow. You’d want the Resurrection Stone. So you could bring your Daddy back.” My younger daughter is not usually perceptive about matters of grief. But Harry Potter has opened a new channel in her almost-six-year-old brain, because she’s made the connection between my crying and my father. She knew that Harry used the Stone in the forest to bring back his parents, vague memory-figures he can’t touch but who talk to him, then accompany him to face his death at the hands of the Dark Lord. “You’re right, Carmen, I’d want the Stone,” I told her. “And then I’d get to meet your Daddy,” said Carmen. “Because I never knew him.” “But he’d be all shadowy and see-through!” protested Ava. “He wouldn’t really be back.” “He could talk to you, though,” I said. “He’d probably play a trick on you.” “I bet he’d hang Ducky out the window on a piece of string!” Carmen laughed, remembering stories about my dad’s penchant for practical jokes. “I’d want the Cloak,” said Ava gravely. “So I could be invisible.” “What would you want, Carmen?” I asked. “The Elder Wand?” “Yeah, the Wand. Then I could defeat anyone in the world!” My girl uttered a precocious chuckle, warning me again to worry about her adolescence, approaching us like a distant asteroid seven light-years away, its trajectory fixed on our happy naked summer of swimming and ice cream and Harry Potter.

When my father died the first time, I’d just turned eighteen. It was June 21st, the Solstice and my mother’s birthday, an unusually humid afternoon. Dad collapsed on the squash court during a brutal game against his colleague and rival, Professor Bernstein; someone thought it was heat exhaustion and called the paramedics. Lucky he was in the hospital when his heart gave way, in the ICU hooked up to the beeping machines, my mother at his side. When he flat-lined the doctors and nurses descended like a rush of moths, insistent but calm. My mother was ushered out. Rob shocked him once, twice on the chest with the defibrillator and eventually he came back, after a minute, two minutes, three minutes down the starred throat of the universe, three minutes dissolved in white light. He said he was a drop wanting to join a great waterfall, merge with the source of all love. He’d had a choice, like Harry at the end. He told me about it afterwards while I sat by his bed in the blue-aquarium light, his body fed with lines and wires, his face glazed with a strange glow. He’d had a choice. He came back.

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I felt angry then in my shock and fear— a child’s anger that he could have even considered leaving us in those lost minutes. The Tibetans believe we make a passage through eight levels of mind in the process of dying: mirage, smoke, fireflies, a candle flame, vivid white-sky mind, vivid red-sky mind, vivid black-sky mind … then clear light. Did my father travel all the way to clear light that June day, or did he pause, stunned at the changing colors of sky? When he left us for good, fourteen years later, Ava kicked in my belly nearly ready to come out and I resisted, denied, went numb at the news. But then I remembered what Dad had said about the waterfall and knew he was safe now even if we weren’t.

The summer Harry ended, we took slow, after-dinner garden tours, freed from the house chores, grazing the red raspberry lanes for dessert. The sweet contentment of family life, always tinged with an edge of agitation. Insects buzzed the leafy paths between the silver queen corn and the rock star pumpkins, and we popped warm sungolds into our mouths like globes of summer candy. Strange how I could hunger for solitude—my desk, my notebook, my creative privacy—even while I was full of gratitude, for the teeming garden and the loved ones within it. That particular summer was longer and shorter than other seasons. Time warped around us like warm air over lake-water and for a week in late June when the moon was waxing, I lived in a trance of boundlessness, writing lyrics at dawn to an imaginary lover. By July I knew the purple foxglove would not come back and I mourned its fingertip bells, the cure they promised—digitalis, medicine to heal a failing heart. But the dawn rose climbed its new trellis, and three rows of mammoth sunflowers turned their faces to the light. When I cut a thick stem and slid a sunflower into a vase, it rained yellow pollen all over my hands, staining the skin ochre for some unknown ceremony.

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ASHLIE ALLEN

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Pumpkin Friday I make sure to buy a pumpkin every Friday during the Fall. It is a table for my wrists and company for my wine glasses. I am unhappy most of the year, but October brings an eerie feeling I am sentimental about. If I had friends, I’d invite them over to paint my face like demon or like a geisha. I come from Japanese heritage. Maybe I should celebrate something about myself every once in awhile. When the pumpkins start to rot, I mourn. I stammer through the house, my arms flailing, my chest pulsing. “But you were mine!” I screech. “I kissed your wrinkles and scrubbed your dirty scabs!” There were times I was so intoxicated I believed the pumpkins talked to me. One night the biggest one said, “You exhaust me with your misery.” I ran up the stairs sobbing. There were only two left at the store when I went last Friday. I could only afford one. It was oval shaped and caked in dirt. My water was cut off, so I could not clean it. “You need to shine.” I whined. I staggered into the kitchen, bringing my elbows down heavy on the counter as I felt the pressure of grief. There was a pitchfork sticking out of the drawer. I stared at myself in the thin slice of metal for a moment before shoving the sharp edges into my shoulder. Blood was gushing from the wound as I hurried to the pumpkin. I sat it in my lap and let the gash leak over it. I was crying as I washed the soil from its body, not because I was in pain but because my blood stained its lovely orange color. “I have taken away your natural beauty.” I moaned. “Go ahead, chide me. I want the romance of contrition and the thrill of anger.” We sat together, both of us changing shades as the hours passed. I was laughing when the pumpkin said, “You will be gray soon. I know you don’t care.”

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MARIELA ACOSTA

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The Smuggler If a man should cross from Brazil into Argentina with a sword swinging by his side and a whistle on his lips, and in Argentina, meet Rosario, customs officer, he will need, if he is smuggling contraband, to have his wits about him, for Rosario loves nothing better than to search swordsmen who whistle. —Anything to declare? she will ask of the traveller and her eyes will penetrate any sign of lies. The man, a smuggler perhaps, will sneer and show a blackened tooth. —I have nothing but my sword, he will say. She will suspect his sword and have the point cut off to check if it is gold, plated with steel, and if it is, he will be thrown in a dungeon and left to rot. But if it is good Spanish steel through and through he will be set free and will immediately complain about the way he was treated to the local magistrate, who will reply, —Ah, Rosario, yes, she’s very fond of cutting points off swords. But there’s nothing I can do, I’m afraid. And the suspected smuggler who had smuggled nothing will go on his weary way till he comes to a boliche where he will stop to eat, and an aristocrat, a friend of the landlord, will say, —That’s a Toledan sword; is it not? —It is indeed, sire. —Would you be willing to part with it? I have long wanted a Toledan sword. I will give you 100 reales for such a sword. And the traveller will take the sword from its scabbard and the aristocrat will say, —But it has no point. What good is a sword like that? I will pay nothing for such a sword. So the traveller will return to the border town where Rosario earns a living. And there he will find Rosario who treasures the sword point close to her heart and hopes one day the swordsmen will return to fall in love with her and ask for her hand in marriage. And when the traveller finds her she will say, —You have come back to me. And he will say, —Your foolishness cost me 100 reales. Mend my sword so that I may sell it and be a man of fortune, and Rosario will take the sword tip from her bosom and say, —I have the magic Superglue left by a time-traveller who came to our village long ago, and she will stick the point to the sword and rub it with her brazen hair till the sword is smooth and shows no sign of repair, and the sword owner says, — Thank you, and kisses her, and falls under her spell, for Rosario has many spells, and they marry and travel to the town with the boliche and he meets again with the swordloving aristocrat, who looks at the sword and says, —Can this be the sword that was broken? For if it is, then most certainly it has the duende of a true Toledan espada. 15


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—It is the same sword, says the married traveller, —a magic sword from the wizard, Superglue. —Ah, Superglue, says the smiling aristocrat, —I have heard of his exploits. And he buys the sword for 100 reales and the newly-weds buy a cottage where the swordless swordsman grows beans and other vegetables and Rosario cooks for travellers, and they live happily for a very long time. Of course, if you’re not crossing the border between Brazil and Argentina this is unlikely to happen to you.

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TIM KAHL

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Survivors’ Ashes Survivors floated into the range of the goat man’s rifle their black arms stirring leaves and dove songs into headlights their bones choosing what they hate about rice and the sycamore giants who collapse life as we know it in their three-chambered hearts the loose soil around the trees is full of lust and trash championed by an oleander’s mind swollen near a window look within and see how the shadows open in the wilderness how the marble floors of an octagonal house exert their laws but if you survive passing time in the languid waters with your talent for membranes and electrocutions with your curious god-given face pointed at the miracle your body clamoring for the old teams of atoms and red meat then your image will stand like a fact mounted in the sky and hovering in the house of mirth with its dark-eyed rivals we laugh at the continued hazards while numbers are being mean to animals, torturing them A to Z in the vacant lot we entertain the nuns with our amateur grunts and groans on the toilet to satisfy the hunger of our dedicated spirit yes I admit my teeth chatter and erase the Inuit world as I eat the ashes of an only son to simplify the map of the tragic

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LORI SAMBOL BRODY

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The Girl Who Waits for the Superhero The girl who waits for the superhero stands on a rooftop above the City, high above streetlights and cold blue glows from windows. She’s vertiginous with power. She tells herself she’s waiting on that roof at midnight because the superhero is a source for her article on corruption—an investigation that will expose the City to daylight. But, in reality, she waits for the superhero because she likes the chill undulating on her skin as the masked superhero emerges from shadows and her vulnerability with a man who so easily kills with his twin daishō swords. The superhero’s darkness thrills her. The girl who waits for the superhero has an old-fashioned alliterative name and she is from a small town far from the City. She left a tragedy behind—a pyramid of shot glasses, the shiver of breaking glass as her passenger flew through a windshield. And so she empathizes with this superhero in the black mask, who must also have some tragedy in his past to fight in the name of good. The girl who waits for the superhero wears Crimson Danger matte lipstick and has saved for months for Louboutins. Her red soles gleam bright in the wet, murky streets as she runs from the villain; when she’s caught, she drives the spike heels into his flesh. She puts up a good fight but she does not have the skills of the superhero. Not yet. She doesn’t ask what the superhero had to do to save her. That is best to be ignored. The girl who waits for the superhero doesn’t ask questions when the bleeding superhero climbs into her bedroom at night. She silently applies disinfectant and threads needle through rendered flesh. She blanks her mind. Not thinking is important. If she allows herself to think, she’ll wonder if the superhero enjoys the rivulets of blood flowing from deep cuts and the purple bruises blooming like tropical flowers. Or if he is satisfied as his silver blades slash muscle, his knuckles meet bone. Or worse: she’ll wonder if she would enjoy wielding the swords and causing men to bleed. The girl who waits for the superhero doesn’t listen when the superhero tells her not to fall in love. He’s already broken her heart. Before she moved to the City, her father warned her about bad boys and the superhero is the baddest boy of all—one who’s certain he’s the good guy. The girl who waits for the superhero doesn’t believe that, because she wants to believe the best about him—and the best about herself. But when she shivers as the superhero stands this close to her, smells the muskiness of his sweat and his sweet metallic blood, violence and darkness awaken in her heart as if the superhero strummed a string on a guitar and her body reverberated to it. Next time he climbs through her window, she hopes the superhero will hand her a mask— and she will put it on. 21


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MELISSA WILEY

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Playing Astronaut The largest space in the universe is the space inside your head. And inside an astronaut’s helmet the space is quieter, which is more of a reason to wear one than even the fact your head would explode in outer orbits if you didn’t. Only my Barbie astronaut never wore a helmet over hair the color of bread, and I never invited her into the Barbie house to make any friends. So she never lounged on the sofa wedged between the stove and pieless pie cabinet. She didn’t prop her feet on a cold burner, displaying a sealed rubber vagina to the tinfoil mouse who lived inside the broiler. She didn’t sit topless beneath the hair dryer waiting for Ken, still marooned on an iceberg, as I told the others each day he failed to show again. She never traveled to the moon either. She sat on a gable swinging her feet over a polyurethane dormer, wearing her magenta space suit while straining her ears to listen to the gramophone that sat silent upon another Barbie’s dresser. If any Barbie is in danger of committing suicide, it is the one who breathes the least oxygen, the one who feels she must venture to the moon alone, however unlikely that is to happen. Then space travel when you stand eleven inches tall and always on tiptoe is tantamount to suicide as it is. You’re dying either way, only so slowly you have plenty of time to think. And all that space to do it in, between one ear and the other. My mom had no way of knowing it, but she didn’t birth a daughter with eyes and hair so muddy looking no soap could ever clean them. She hatched an astronaut instead, one with her helmet stowed deep inside her closet, one who could hold her breath just long enough to escape to the moon underwater if there was no alternative. The Barbie, she might have seen but didn’t, was only a toy for me to play with before I became a spacewoman, a toy I taught to hold her breath under the bathwater for as long as my mom took to wash my hair clean of what had dirtied it. I taught her to play dead beneath soapsuds collapsing onto my stomach while others clung to the tub’s skeleton. Life was too short to bother with living in the Barbie house, I decided. Yet it was still long enough to sit and swing my feet over its rooftop a moment, to dream of a life misspent sleeping in our freezer shaped like a coffin. Only this was not how the end would come, I knew without knowing it for certain, because the end is hotter than life’s inception. And I wiped perspiration from my face with my shirt’s frayed bottom as my mom shouted to come and help her in the garden. Too much vegetation and a person can almost forget the moon’s barrenness. So many plants spilled pink fruit into my lap’s sulcus, shooting seeds into my mouth when I held it open, I nearly lost awareness. Still, the moon hovered with its same gray blankness as my mom and I stooped in each other’s shadows, filling our buckets with 23


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peas and cabbage. Sometimes I’d look up from peas grown round as green ovaries and watch the pale flaps of my mom’s inner thighs secrete a stale jelly. I saw that the freckles on her arms were growing darker as the sun leered lower later in the morning. I saw that both she and the sun were well on their way to dying just as I reached the end of the row and needed to start another. Just keep working, she told me. I picked all the pods looking swollen to bursting, oblong cysts so pregnant with disease I hardly needed to pull them, only wait for them to rain on top of me. And sliding my fingernail down a moist pod spine, letting each pea plop into a bowl on our back porch swing, I dreamt of coolness while looking toward the freezer sitting a few feet from where we were shelling peas. I let my dog lick salt pooling between my toes like silt along a shoal tapering into nothing. The rabbits, my mom lamented, ate more from our garden each evening. There was less for picking today than yesterday, and this world, I thought, is not for us, Mommy. The rabbits are chewing all the peas, so best we make our exit now before they chew us all into middens. And sweating on this porch swing, we’re as wet as fish already flying into a whale’s rictus. Let me take us to the cooling place before this life turns hot as a furnace. Only the cooler’s not big enough for both of us, so we’ll have to drown ourselves inside a lake cool to freezing. You’ll have to take both your hands from the steering wheel while unfastening one or two stray rollers you leave in your hair each morning. You’ll have to unpin one as we approach a lake large enough to hold both our bodies. You’ll have to do this while driving me to kindergarten as I sit in the backseat loosening my shoelaces. Once drowned, I’ll unroll my window and slip through its lacuna. An eel raging with tangerine electricity will sift past me, and I’ll grasp its tail while its fins fan themselves like silver-skinned geishas. You’ll clasp my ankle, Mommy, and we’ll become knotted, you, the eel, and I connected. With the contraction of a single muscle, the eel will wrench you through the half-open window then pull us both through a subaqueous tornado, until we fall weightless upon sand pulsing like a heart distended, until the eel attenuates into the tail of a kite against a waterborne firmament. Until the darkness encases us beneath a woolen blanket. In the meantime, I tried to stop breathing in the bathtub while Barbie astronaut floated up between my knees. I tried but couldn’t, so I knew we’d have to find a lake when we left for town to buy milk and packets of wild flower seeds. I decided on the end as soon as I knew an end was coming so I would not drown along the way without my mom beside me. Because that would always be the danger, drowning while living. She told me there was no need to escape, honey, that God was infinite, in this life and the one coming after it. She said we could not escape God’s love and we

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shouldn’t want to flee it. But I wanted the moon, where there was no God and no oxygen. I wanted her and not God, who grew no hair upon his pubis. My mom, though, hungered for the plenty she thought God had provided, not knowing God preferred rabbits if you examined the evidence. No matter what I said, she believed in God regardless, and she sucked violently at a thinning fistula of air the moment my dad unplugged the ventilator once her body was eaten with cancer grown ravenous. She bit at a pillow instead of grasping my ankle under water. She extended a blue hand to a receding pocket of vapor. When I was six years old, however, we had nineteen years as yet left together, years when she dressed me in long peach dresses and cloud-covered socks. Years when the moon shone full enough for her to paint her toenails with her chin to her knee outside on summer evenings. Years when there was so much living I kept my astronaut helmet stowed on a shelf too high for me to reach and slept with my bedroom window wide open so I could better hear the sweet strum of cricket legs. Years when I fell asleep chewing grape bubble gum and my mom cut it out in clumps large as small mammals in the morning. Years when the crackle of her knees pulling weeds was so soothing a strain, a percussive melisma as natural as the music of the spheres mistaken for silence, unheard only because we heard it always. Years when I let myself forget about God and the moon both and took baths in a river too shallow to consider drowning an option. Years when I emerged the muddier after walking up the bank naked then dirtied the towel she wrapped me in. There were years too when I appeared to become a woman rather than a space traveler, as ordinary a vision as any mother could wish of her daughter. Years when I needed instruction how to cross my legs at dinner rather than careen weightlessly across a crater. Years when it was enough that I dry dishes without leaving any spots on them, that I not stain the sheets at night once I began bleeding from the blunt arrow between my legs that time only sharpened. Yet when the years reached their end, my husband said it was a waste, this constant swallowing of pills to attempt to disappear inside a lake that itself had vanished. I had missed my opportunity to drown and die beside her when she went before me. I would end by losing my hearing or incurring brain damage, to the point I couldn’t read a stop sign but would just keep walking. My mom had driven into the lake without me, and all I could think was, How long until I follow? I thought this even while knowing there was no new planet for us to meet—there were far too many, in even one small galaxy—once I doffed my helmet and let my body explode then fertilize the pea plants for those still going hungry. Yet there is no life without love, I tried explaining, and all the love had gone with her, as I knew it would from the beginning. I lay in bed saying “love, love, love,” and nothing else for days, because all the words I heard or said ran together, and she couldn’t hear

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me anyway. I couldn’t hear myself either with the tinnitus the aspirin kept inflicting, but I could say “love” and mean it, to the air at my pillow that grew warmer the harder I exhaled into it. I could say “love” all I wanted but couldn’t escape the fact I was the eel raging electric. Because I had been the one to kill her with the contraction of a single muscle, I saw too late. I had coaxed her to an early death all along, away from God and his garden I’d abandoned. I had chosen the moon over her from the time I set my Barbie astronaut’s legs swinging over the dormer. My mom wouldn’t drive into the lake’s center, so I prayed to God that the Barbie house would burn down altogether. I prayed, and my prayer was too soon answered. Her last years of life, I unplugged my rotary phone in my studio apartment whole weekends when I was sure that she would call me, weekends when my neighbors pounded their partners against their bathroom walls, I was pounded a few minutes later, and we all laughed while we opened our mail downstairs together. I poured chocolate syrup woven tightly as a sleeping boa constrictor over ice cream into Styrofoam bowls there was no need of washing and ate bacon with my fingers without blotting the grease off as she had shown me. I dyed my hair red as menstrual blood when she told me the color was unflattering. I thought I was flying to the moon when I was only shutting myself inside another room of the Barbie house all along, resting my legs on a cold burner while displaying my vagina to the tinfoil mouse who lived inside the broiler. Then her cancer burnt down the house along with all the rest of her, and I wandered the city in my space suit, an astronaut with no way of floating any higher. Floating is still something I can do only in water. Friends, co-workers, acquaintances said she looked pretty lying in her casket and I nodded politely. Even I, though, was prettier than my mom’s cadaver, if not enough to count among the living. Not enough to keep breathing just for someone to look at me like a Barbie in a box always smiling and waving. Instead, though, of dying for not being as pretty as I might like to be or because my mom’s no longer here to see the discrepancy, I’ve kept working, at a pet rescue magazine that rescues nothing. The rescue fund only keeps the magazine from going bankrupt. I’ve known now for months yet keep typing quietly. Life is barren enough to no longer take much notice of the moon or the stars twitching behind it. So I sit eight hours a day at my desk beside a succulent plant I bought at the florist’s, petting it when my fingers feel stiff from so cold an office. Every day I write in the voice of animals missing eyes or limbs, asking someone to give them a home and overlook their bladders’ weakness. If no one calls the shelter within a month of publication, the animals are put to a sleep from which no one will wake

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them. They may not be much prettier than corpses, but that they keep living is deemed important. My lunch, kept in the break room, smells of dog food and hamster dung by noon inevitably. There are dogs and hamsters both in this office, and the shit from the hamsters sits around days before anyone dumps it in the garbage. I never volunteer to take the hamsters home on weekends, as others have noticed, because my apartment is surrounded by rats and I need no more rodents. I am waiting only for an eel to swim through this air and shock me breathless. This year, I didn’t celebrate or decorate for Christmas. But I bought a string of plastic stars hung on green rubber wire from the White Elephant. The White Elephant sits beside a Persian restaurant whose proprietor, Sahib, recently died of a heart attack, a waitress has told me. Each time I visited, he gave me free baba ghanoush, though I long stopped ordering it because I never liked eggplant to begin with. I’ve renamed several shelter dogs Sahib since we met, because I like the name as much as the man and his cheek with a mole on it, the same right cheek as mine with a hair growing out of it, a mole I’ll never have removed no matter how large it looks to a dermatologist. It resembles a darkened brain with no skull surrounding it. It has thoughts of its own, and I don’t want to disturb it. And I can untangle stars instead of going to the moon and back while staying warm inside my pajamas, stained with menstrual blood between the legs’ fabric. I’ve worn them several times in front of company and not been embarrassed, because that I live within this woman’s body is no secret. My eggs are bleeding out my uterus, and I am untangling these stars, which came knotted tightly as the nerves of a fish flashing with electrical currents.

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CHRISTOPHER SANTANTASIO

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Afterlove 1. He was my gem, but I did not adore him for his glinting brilliance or any gilded inlay. I treasured him for the rare glow. The singular cut of his crystal. The irreplaceable weight on my life. 2. He had impressed an enduring stamp on my soul that faded only with his death; fading in a way that made it more a part of my internal landscape; in the manner a bald patch of scorched earth slowly fills again with tender green shoots sprung from white ash. 3. I, who had never desired the brand of another to scar the virgin pasture of my spirit. Rather, like seeds cast windward, or spores carried on the bristle of bees, I hoped for my pasture to slowly/imperceptibly blossom and one day burst with the color and mature fruit of a life lived in pursuit of something like knowledge or glory, something beautiful that I could stroll through upon rising at last from my final sickbed; cradle in my hand the delicate blossoms perfectly preserved from my youth; smell and taste the bounty of what I had sown and what had been sown at my behest; run my fingers through the fruit—heavy, perforated color-clots barely clinging to their vines—gaze wistfully at countless fallen petals: remnants of a ravaging love affair or painful loss of a treasured friend. And when I was carried away to the beyond, I could look down in suspiring calm and know I had lived my life as I saw fit, and what I had ended up with was not a Garden of Eden assuredly, but a tranquil, beautiful, testament to my life and will, my joys and sorrows; and its bounty would be thoroughly wild, untamed, free to spread and wander without the constraining slats of a garden fence, or the clear sterility of hothouse walls. 4. What a strange girl I must have been to hope for such things.

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GABRIELLE CAMPAGNANO

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Reporting The corpse was longer than the grand piano …………they found that same year …………………..while dredging for nothing they pulled up: ……………………………..rusting steel enforcement bars, rats still alive though punctured through the brain …………and flailing from a grab spoke, engine …………………..blocks. The skeleton of a giraffe. Being without a face, it was difficult …………to determine the exact point …………………..of impact. A capsized circus vessel ……………………………..is implied in the very nature of seventy inches of vertebrae, still …………clinging to one another and …………………..wrapped in water celery and lying on the bank of the Hudson River …………like some open parenthesis …………………..on the edge of a damp, lifeless ……………………………..line. Tell them the animal may have known. The animal may have fallen gracefully. …………The animal may have already been …………………..on its way out. Oh, Being-Without-A-Face, …………………………………………tell them about racing through water the color of metal. Tell them about the men …………boating that day and laughing as though …………………..they were made entirely of fire. ……………………………..So be our disheveled expressions. We have left you out for nothing but the distraction of light.

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CHANEL DUBOFSKY

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The Bullet Two days later, I wake up in my father’s apartment in North Tel Aviv. I put on my favorite dress, with the thin rainbow stripes and the full skirt, and walk out into the wavy morning heat to the El Al ticket office on Rothschild Boulevard. “I need to change my ticket,” I say to the only person there, a woman wearing glasses with chunky purple frames and eye shadow that matches. She looks at my passport, wiggles her fingers at me to hand her my credit card. “You know you could have done this online,” she says, handing me a receipt. “It’s important for me to do in person,” I say, as she spins her chair away from me, Israeli for we are done here.

In Los Angeles, the best place for nachos is open 24 hours a day. They come in a Styrofoam carton, tortilla chips coated in your choice of white or orange cheese, sour cream, guacamole, black beans, salsa, onions, meat, lettuce, and jalapeños, unless Matthew is ordering, in which case, there are none of those. We’ve eaten them sitting on the hood of his car, or my car, or inside the car, if the weather is chilly. Sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes at two am, especially if Matthew’s time-tested cure for insomnia has failed. (Go to the kitchen, open the refrigerator, take inventory. Try to remember something extraordinary about the day you bought each thing.) In New York, Grace and I used to make ramen in our apartment, with hardboiled eggs and scallions and peanut butter and ginger and cilantro. We ate it while we watched TV, holding the bowl with two hands so we could get all the salt and fat and sweetness into our faces. Sometimes there would be broth on Grace’s chin or a noodle in her hair. In Jerusalem, the best place for watermelon and feta is a bar tucked into an alley, hidden from the rest of the city, from American college students with sorority letters printed on the asses of their sweatpants and middle-aged synagogue tour groups with fanny packs and baseball caps, who gaze at everything, the veins pronouncing in their necks like stern, strong words. Amina and I met in this bar. Yoav introduced us. It was three months ago, summer, evening, and he’d just gotten out of resistor’s jail. Stav and Gali and I were sitting at our table under the one tree in the courtyard, our legs all crowded together on the same chair. We’d already toasted to my return, to Gali’s new apartment, to summer, to Stav’s haircut, to Yoav, to Yoav and Yoav, three times before he arrived. My father said that jail is kinder to Jewish Israelis than to anyone else, which I believed. He had tried to keep Yoav out, but in the end, of course, there was no case. A 37


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resistor is a resistor. Maybe a traitor, maybe a hero, but still, a resistor. Yoav had been called for reserve duty, and he had refused. What if you just say you won’t go to the schtachim? Stav asked, but no, Yoav said, that wasn’t enough. This whole country is a fuck. The only way to fix it is to break it, and start over. He spent 85 days in jail. In California, I kept track with a marker on a long piece of paper, the dates smashing together, crowded and blurry. Beside the table under the tree, we hugged each other hard, bodies colliding and then withdrawing, as though in disbelief. “You look the same,” I told him. “Oh, Leah. How did you think I’d look? Like I live in Gaza?” “I don’t know,” I said. Amina stood nearby, silent. She had a round face and short, messy black hair and an onion tattoo on her left arm. An onion is a good thing to have with you, in case you’re tear gassed. My father told me this. I learned everything I know about protesting from my father. Cut an onion in half and keep it on you, and if you get tear gassed, sniff it, get it close to your eyes. It will reduce the irritation. You can also use milk or Vaseline, but onions are the easiest to carry. My father spent 1969 in Berkeley, surrounded by onions. The night before every Occupy action, I sliced what seemed like hundreds, put them in Ziploc bags, passed them out to my friends, just in case. We never needed to take them out. Instead, afterward, we cooked with them. Amina used her onions. She told me about it on the way back to Tel Aviv. I drove us in my father’s car, feeling like a teenager, while Yoav slept soundly in the back seat. In Hebron, the IDF had tear gassed her and her friends when they’d tried to shield a Palestinian woman from settlers who were throwing rocks from their apartments above the street. It had been onions for everyone then. I said, “You know, there are people who don’t believe things like that happen here.” “What things?” she asked. “The rock throwing? Or the part where the army tear gasses its own people?” “All of it.” She glanced at Yoav, and then turned back to me. “And you?” I said, “I’ve never had any trouble believing.” I dropped Yoav and Amina at his apartment. He flopped against her as they walked towards the entrance, managing to make the motion look light and heavy at the same time.

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Jews with their own country. Jews with onions in their pockets and on their arms. Tear gas soup. (When people ask you how you can do this, how you can shit on the country where you were born, the country that built you—because they will ask you—do not scream or yell at them. Take a deep breath before you speak. You will want to save up your deep breaths. You will need them. ) We didn’t ask Yoav about jail. We didn’t know what to ask. One Saturday night, after Shabbat had ended, he came to dinner with Stav and Gali. After we’d eaten, my father poured us each a shot of Arak. “I will now do one religious thing,” he said, and my friends and I laughed. “May this be the week you’ve been waiting for.” We smacked our glasses together and the Arak shivered down our throats and when I looked up at my father, I saw his head was bent towards Yoav’s, their hands firmly on each other’s shoulders. (There are other things to keep in mind when protesting. Write important numbers on your body, somewhere they can be easily be read. Write in good pen. Wear layers and comfortable shoes. Bring identification, a small first aid kit, water. Know that there are rules. Know that these rules can change.) On Friday, the day of the weekly demonstration against the Wall, I met Yoav and Amina and Chanan, a blue-haired Tel Aviv University student at the Carmel Shuk. I had tried to convince Stav to come along, but she had refused. “I don’t need to see it,” she told me. “I know it’s real.” We drove out of the city and onto the settler roads, the only way to get to Bil’n, where the Wall separated Palestinian farmers from their land. “Is this your first demonstration?” Chanan asked me, and I said, “No.” (Here is a rule worth knowing: Rubber bullets are supposed to be shot from a distance of about one hundred and thirty feet and aimed at people’s legs. Here is another thing worth knowing: Rubber bullets are designed to injure, not to kill.)

It was already hot, the sky a sharp blue, and the gray cement of the Wall looked almost soft. We left the car at the bottom of a hill and hiked up. At the top, a group of people carried signs. They wore sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, scarves around their necks. Yoav waved, some waved back. “It’s good day for this,” one man said to Amina. “The best,” she said. (Stay close together. If you hear a sound you don’t recognize, because you have never in your life heard a rubber bullet being fired, try not to panic. When you look up and see that it has come from a group of men wearing uniforms of this country’s army,

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a uniform that you yourself might have worn if things have turned out differently, do not make sudden movements. You can’t predict what they will do next. Wait until the shooting has stopped. Eventually, it has to stop. If someone is injured, they will have to be moved. Even if for your entire life you thought you could stand the sight of such things, it will be different when you see this wound up close, when you see the cavern it creates in the flesh of her abdomen. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you thought a rubber bullet was more like a ball than an actual bullet. Hold onto her hand as the others move her, carefully. Say consoling things to her, which are also for you, which you will tell yourself on the flight that you take home one month earlier than you originally planned. Things like, a whole world cannot just be undone.)

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CARRIE NAUGHTON

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Crux A bruised evening cloud clots above ocean cliffs behind greasy glass in a cheap dusty frame on the wall of this bar. My yearning quota is all used up – to paraphrase Roger Waters – but oh, here it comes again: the turning of the tide. I can hear sweet backup angels singing over stormy seas. The corpse of Joe Cocker’s crawling through an open window in the ladies’ lavatory, and Sunday’s sending texts from Friday. I never want to be sober. I want to be a free man, Icarus, falling with you while birds catch fire and swoop the foamy edges of this pocket universe. Let’s be paper cutouts, like your wrinkled Matisse portrait, crucified in the last booth: a cross-shaped god, a man-shape flying in cross-formation through a blue field of blazing stars because even the cocktail waitress knows the loneliest part of today is the twilight, and I want to be left alone but never all alone. Not on the midnight watch when the bartender dims the lights and pours another round and the house band covers “Southern Cross” for the third time and I realize this boat, tossed on a darkling Galilee, isn’t the ship I boarded. 43


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CAITLYN RENEE MILLER

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Even in the Rain for Derek The weather girl gestures to the green screen in a pink dress, and we hunker down in our sweat pants watching her predict our future—it’s looking bleak. We take the shirts off of the line so they won’t dance. She’s right: the clouds are turning from mashed potatoes to dirty snow. The sky sings, but it isn’t a love song. And even in the rain I look at your body and know it as part of mine. Maybe I know you best through the filter of a down pour. When it starts, it doesn’t let up until everything bears water. The rain barrel spits out more than it takes in. Trash bobs in the street’s tides. Every step becomes a waterfall. Every waterfall bigger than the last. We start to get the feeling we are very small— it doesn’t let up. 45


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It’s raining like it will again and again in our lives, but so what? You own the umbrella store.

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KATE GARKLAVS

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Lies Hairdressers Tell I was out on the garden deck—magazine and coffee on the table beside me, waxtranslucent canopy of greenery above—when Old Nancy peeked through the screen door. Seeing me, she shuffled out, shearling slippers barely hanging onto her feet. Old Nancy isn’t objectively old—five or six years beyond myself, maybe—but to the building’s other tenants, a couple in their twenties, everyone is old, beyond. They still feel the heft of entire unlived days and years. “Hey there,” Nancy called. “Beautiful day for a picnic.” “Not much for a picnic,” I said, raising my cup in a one-sided toast. “Just coffee. The New Yorker.” “Food for thought,” Nancy said, and chuckled. I did not laugh, not intending malice but instead discouragement of clichés—this one and those still forming. Usually my tolerance for banal figures of speech was higher. Today, I wanted only the wood slats of the lowbrow chair adding friction to my thigh, the water-fountain burble of unnamed birds. Nancy pulled up the other chair and sat herself beside me, smoothing her eyebrows and palpating her earlobes between her thumbs and forefingers, just generally making such a fuss of her head area that I set my mug down to take a good look at her. Same wrinkles in a wry New England scatter, same proud arch of nose. Her hair, which under normal circumstances fell to her shoulders in a lusty, half-intended wave, was bound in a scarf. She’d knotted it above her forehead: leaf-green paisleys on turquoise ground. “What’s with the headgear?” I asked. “Ach,” Nancy said, letting her hand fall loose from the wrist, “the hairdresser.” She drew a cigarette from the low pocket of her robe, lit it. Behind her, the sun was coming full into the sky: a red intrusion. I siphoned tepid coffee through my lips and let it sit in the hollow of my tongue. Nancy dragged and dragged. “Well,” I said, wanting a cigarette myself, “what happened?” “What happened?” Nancy repeated. “I’ll tell you what happened. I go in to see Joanne, same as always, go in for the same number 3B moss frost glaze I’ve been getting the last fifteen years, and phooey.” She mock-spit on the fraying wood. Phooey isn’t a word I hear often. I almost laughed, but my reptile brain outthought me and caught my tongue. But phooey: What could she have meant? “Surely it can’t be that bad,” I said, bland and easy. Sympathy is the hardest emotion to muster, and its imitation is always a shade flat, recognizably discordant. “Don’t pass judgment until you’ve witnessed the subject to be judged,” Old Nancy said, pausing before a huge final drag. I like to think that she wagged her finger 49


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as she laid out this pronouncement, but in reality her hands were occupied by her cigarette and robe hem. She stubbed her butt into a miniature pot incubating basil seeds, tainting their environment with topical nicotine. Old Nancy leaned further into the chair and made no move to remove her headdress. I sat alongside, magazine rolled in my sweating palm, and funneled my effort into focusing on the scenery. The grass, were it still alive, would benefit from a mowing; as it was, the lawn had fried into a wispy yellow nest that crunched beneath each footfall. The Tree of Heaven, rabid and expanding, masked much of the fence. Was that a biblical quote she used there, or did its heavy-handedness—its almostsymmetry—just make it seem that way? Was Old Nancy a Bible reader? I couldn’t remember. Surely, we’d had the conversation some humid night on the porch, sangrias in hand, moral flags at eager half mast and climbing. Surely, but I remembered none of it. “Well,” I said, “that’s fair. But hair grows back. That’s the beauty of it.” I flipped the magazine open to a random middle page and made a gesture of studied reading. Peripheral, Nancy’s mouth hardened to a frown, cheeks rose a bit in color. To my horror I’d paged to a piece on Swiss neoconservative politics, which I took as penance for my blasé reaction. Nancy said nothing but pulled another cigarette and lit again. Her lighter whispered swift into the warming air. Once, in high school, I’d dyed my hair pink in the confines of my basement. Prior, I’d bleached it to allow the fuschia to hold, and the result was a commercialbaked-goods orange. I’ve never forgotten the sharp-angled fumes that crowded the unventilated bathroom, the tufts I pulled from the underlayer and just behind the ears. In horror, my mother bought a series of hats—short-brimmed straw and caps with my school’s mascot—anything to smother my teenaged lapse in judgment. I would have none of it. I wore my hair out until I grew bored and consented to corrective treatments at my mother’s salon. Low in my gut, I still remember the pleasure of strangers’ unkind glances, their double-takes at my candy-colored abomination of a head. Nancy didn’t look me in the eye as she worked loose the knot, let the scarf ends separate and fall, gentle as wingbeats. Waiting for tears to bead in the dimples of her eyes, I thought of her day-to-day: outbound sales from the barren shed of her kitchen, dead Pekingese earthed in soil and spiderwebs mere feet below us. Former husband now ash in an unadorned can: a trophy on her marble mantle. Unstyled, her light hair hung in cottony wefts that lifted with the mention of breeze. She raised her eyes to meet mine. With conviction—felt conviction—I breathed, “Oh, it’s awful. Truly awful.” Her face shone beatific.

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Call for Submissions ______________________________________________ We’re always looking for writing that spans genres, that demands to be read, that might be considered the black sheep of a family. Art and science thrill us, but so does the simple image of a man standing at a crossroads. Surprise us. Thrill us. Make us laugh and cry and cringe. Tell us your thoughts. We can’t wait to hear from you! For submission guidelines, please visit http://atlasandalice.com/submit/

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Contributor Notes ______________________________________________ Mariela Josefina Acosta Cozar de Coronado has been writing for four years. This is her first publication. She lives in London. Ashlie Allen writes fiction and poetry. Her favorite writer is Anne Rice. She loves the Fall season. Her work has appeared in the Black Heart Magazine, Juked, the Yellow Chair Review, and others. Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, WhiskeyPaper, alice blue review, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and at lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com. Gabrielle Campagnano is an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts and a teacher in New Haven, CT. Her work has appeared in Salamander Magazine, The Cossack, and Tule Review, among others. She is at work on her first full-length collection. Chanel Dubofsky is a fiction writer, journalist and essayist based in Brooklyn, New York. She has published non-fiction in Cosmopolitan, RH Reality Check, The Billfold, and The Toast, and her fiction at MonkeyBicycle, Atticus Review, Matchbook, and Staccato. She has an MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. A native of the Midwest, Kate Garklavs now lives and works in Portland, OR. Her work has previously appeared in Tammy, matchbook, Two Serious Ladies, and Juked, among other places. Tim Kahl [http://www.timkahl.com] is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books, 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) and The String of Islands (Dink, 2015). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Drunken Boat, Mad Hatters’ Review, Indiana Review, Metazen, Ninth Letter, Sein und Werden, Notre Dame Review, The Really System, Konundrum Engine Literary Magazine, The Journal, The Volta, Parthenon West Review, Caliban and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup (http://greatamericanpinup.wordpress.com/) and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios [http://linebreakstudios.blogspot.com/]. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song [http://www.cladesong.com]. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He also has a public installation in Sacramento {In Scarcity We Bare The Teeth}. He currently teaches at California State University, Sacramento and houses his father’s literary estate—one volume: Robert Gerstmann’s book of photos of Chile, 1932. Caitlyn Renee Miller‘s poetry and creative non-fiction have appeared online, in print, and in two anthologies. She is the author of three non-fiction books for young readers. Caitlyn lives in Salisbury, Maryland, where she works as a writer, editor, and part-time school librarian. Carrie Naughton is a freelance bookkeeper who writes speculative fiction, environmental essays, and poetry. Her work can be read at Strange Horizons, WordsDance, Star*Line, and The Tishman Review. Find her at carrienaughton.com – where she blogs about whatever captures her interest.

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Atlas & Alice | Issue 5, Winter 2015/2016 Christopher Santantasio is a native of New York’s Hudson Valley. His writing has appeared in Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Music Educator’s Journal and elsewhere. He lives with his partner in Philadelphia, where he works at a theater and teaches kids who learn differently. He blogs about fiction and LGBTQ+ issues at http://www.crsantantasio.com and tweets @CRSantantasio. Diana Whitney‘s first book, Wanting It, became an indie bestseller and won the Rubery International Book Award in poetry. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, Salon, The Washington Post, and many more. She is the poetry critic for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs about the darker side of motherhood for The Huffington Post. A yoga teacher by trade, Diana runs a small studio attached to her Vermont farmhouse. www.diana-whitney.com Melissa Wiley is a freelance writer living in Chicago. Her creative nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in literary magazines including DIAGRAM, Mud Season Review, PANK, Superstition Review, Prick of the Spindle, Tin House Open Bar, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Poydras Review, Gravel, Pinball, East Bay Review, Eclectica Magazine, Gone Lawn, Split Lip Magazine, Menacing Hedge, Specter, Lowestoft Chronicle, Souvenir Lit Journal, Pithead Chapel, Great Lakes Review, and pioneertown. She also serves as assistant editor for Sundog Lit.

Note: All images within this issue courtesy of morgueFile.

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atlas and alice literary magazine issue 5 | winter 2015/2016

Atlas and Alice - Issue 5  

Winter 2015/2016

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