Blue Mesa Review Issue 41

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Issue 41

Blue Mesa Review Albuquerque, NM Founded in 1989 Issue 41 Spring 2020

Blue Mesa Review is the literary magazine of the University of New Mexico MFA Program in Creative Writing. We seek to publish outstanding and innovative fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, along with compelling interviews.

Poems by Joy Harjo, from the book In Mad Love and War, Š 1990 by Joy Harjo, published by Wesleyan University press, Middletown CT and used by permission.

Blue Mesa Review Logo by Mario Montoya

BLUE MESA REVIEW Spring 2020 โ ข Issue 41


Tori Cรกrdenas

Managing Editor

Ari McGuirk

Associate Editor

Mitch Marty

Nonfiction Editor

Michelle Gurule

Fiction Editor

Mario Montoya

Poetry Editors

Darren Donate Seth Garcia

Faculty Advisor

Mark Sundeen

Graduate Readers Undergraduate Readers

Layout and Design

Mikaela Osler Rhea Ramakrishnan Hyler Kathleen Bowman Jessica Coonrod Kristin Crocker Dominic D. Dix Isaiah Guerra Andrew Gunn Eric T. Knowlson Daniel Landman Isabella Montoya Cody West Jesse Williams Mitch Marty

Table of Contents Letter From the Guest Editor


Selection of Poems from Joy Harjo For Anna Mae Aquash, Whose Spirit Is Present Here and in the Dappled Stars (for we remember the story and must tell it again so we may all live)


City of Fire


Santa Fe


The Book of Myths


Transformations 15

Letter From the Editor


Nonfiction Pony Legs Ashley Hand 19 Fragile Donkey Molly McCloy 39

Poetry Of Love (not in) Shoshana Tehila Surek


Emergency C-Section with Partial Hindsight Ashley Kunsa


Aricept Rachel Mindell


Fiction Huitzitzilin ire’ne lara silva


Art Unity Julianna Bolanos, Tessa Anderson, and Franklin De La Cruz

6, 16, 18

Stargazer Erika Glass


Nomenclature Michael Thompson


Sunflower 9 Ryan Seo


Ray Guns Tara Barr


Author Profiles 47 Artist Profiles 49

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Julianna Bolanos, Tessa Anderson, and Franklin De La Cruz

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Letter from the Guest Editor Dear Readers, This issue of Blue Mesa Review opens with a selection of work by 2019-2020 U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. Mr. Anaya founded BMR in 1989, and in 2010 he donated seed money to UNM’s English Department to establish the annual Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture on the Literature of the Southwest. The first issue of BMR debuted 30 years ago and featured the Southwest, and this year we will host our tenth annual lecture featuring Joy Harjo as our distinguished speaker. In collaboration with the editorial board, I present Harjo’s poetry as a reminder of Mr. Anaya’s legacy and the enduring work of our region’s literary luminaries. Joy Harjo will deliver the tenth annual Anaya lecture on October 1, 2020, an award-winning writer, performer, and saxophone player of the Mvskoke/ Creek Nation. Harjo is an alumnae of UNM’s English Department and once served as the Joseph Russo Endowed Professor. As the first Native American to be named the nation’s Poet Laureate, Harjo will bring critical regional attention to the landscape, soundscape, and myth-scape of the Indigenous Southwest, a concept that crosses borders and conventions of sound, scape, and sky. Harjo describes her work best in How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton 2002): “There is no separation between poetry, the stories and events that link them, or the music that holds all together, just as there is no separation between human, animal, plant, sky, and earth” (xxvi). With a local connection to New Mexico and a national reputation as a world-renowned poet, the inclusion of Harjo’s poetry is meant to inspire present and future generations of students with a passion and desire to write. The five poems included in this issue appeared in the 1990 collection, In Mad Love and War, and we would like to thank Suzanna Tamminen with Wesleyan Press for granting us permission to republish. I would also like to thank the BMR editorial board, especially Tori Cárdenas and Mario Montoya, for their collaboration and enthusiasm. I leave you with Harjo’s own words, to inspire the creative endeavor of this and all artistic works, “A story leads to a dream leads to a poem leads to a song and so on” (xxvii). Sincerely, Dr. Melina Vizcaíno-Alemán Associate Professor, UNM English Dept.

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UNM English Department Presents the Tenth Annual

Photo by Matika Wilbur

Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture on the Literature of the Southwest featuring the distinguished speaker

Joy Harjo, U.S. Poet Laureate Author of What Moon Drove Me to This?, In Mad Love and War, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, She Had Some Horses, and Crazy Brave: A Memoir In Collaboration with the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Journal Theater, 1701 4th Street SW Thursday, October 1, 2020 – 7:00 pm Blue Mesa Review | 8

For Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, Whose Spirit Is Present Here and in the Dappled Stars (for we remember the story and must tell it again so we may all live) Joy Harjo

For Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, Whose Spirit is Present Here and in the Dappled Stars (for we remember the story and must tell it again so we may all live) Beneath a sky blurred with mist and wind, I am amazed as I watch the violet beads of crocuses erupt from the still earth after dying for a season, as I have watched my own dark head appear each morning after entering the next world to come back to this one, amazed. It is the way in the natural world to understand the place the ghost dancers named after the heart/breaking destruction. Anna Mae, everything and nothing changes. You are the shimmering young woman who found her voice, when you were warned to be silent, or have your body cut away from you like an elegant weed. You are the one whose spirit is present in the dappled stars. (They prance and lope like colored horses who stay with us through the streets of these steely cities. And I have seen them nuzzling the frozen bodies of tattered drunks on the corner.) This morning when the last star is dimming and the buses grind toward the middle of the city, I know it is ten years since they buried you the second time in Lakota, a language that could free you. I heard about it in Oklahoma, or New Mexico, how the wind howled and pulled everything down in a41righteous anger. 9 | Issue (It was the women who told me) and we understood wordlessly the ripe meaning of your murder.

the second time in Lakota, a language that could free you. I heard about it in Oklahoma, or New Mexico, how the wind howled and pulled everything down in a righteous anger. (It was the women who told me) and we understood wordlessly the ripe meaning of your murder. As I understand ten years later after the slow changing of the seasons that we have just begun to touch the dazzling whirlwind of our anger, we have just begun to perceive the amazed world the ghost dancers entered crazily, beautifully. In February 1976, an unidentified body of a young woman was found on the pine ridge reservation in South Dakota. The official autopsy attributed death to exposure. The FBI agent present at the autopsy ordered her hands severed and sent to Washington for fingerprinting. John Trudell rightly called this mutilation an act of war. Her unnamed body was buried. When Anna Mae Aquash, a young Micmac woman who was an active American Indian movement member, was discovered missing by her friends and relatives, a second autopsy was demanded. It was then discovered she had been killed by a bullet fired at close range to the back of her head. Her killer or killers have yet to be identified.

In February 1976, an unidentified body of a young woman was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The official autopsy attributed death to exposure. The FBI agent present at the autopsy ordered her hands severed and sent to Washington for fingerprinting. John Trudell rightly called this mutilation an act of war. Her unnamed body was buried. When Anna Mae Aquash, a young Micmac woman who was an active American Indian movement member, was discovered missing by her friends and relatives, a second autopsy was demanded. It was then discovered she had been killed by a bullet fired at close range to the back of her head. Her killer or killers have yet to be identified.

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City of Fire Joy Harjo

City of Fire

Here is a city built of passion where live many houses with never falling night in many rooms. Through this entrance cold is no longer a thief and in this place your heart will never be a murderer. Come, sweet, I am a house with many rooms. There is no end. Each room is a street to the next world. Where live other cities beneath incendiary skies. And you have made a fire in every room. Come. Lie with me before the flame. I will dream, you a wolf and suckle you newborn. I will dream you a hawk and circle this city in your racing heart. I will dream you on the wind, taste salt air on my lips until I take you apart raw. Come here. We will make a river, flood this city built of passion with fire with a revolutionary fire.

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Santa Fe

Joy Harjo

The wind blows lilacs out of the east. And it isn’t lilac season. And I am walking the street in front of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe. Oh, and it’s a few years earlier and more. That’s how you tell real time. It is here, it is there. The lilacs have taken over everything: the sky, the narrow streets, my shoulders, my lips. I talk lilac. And there is nothing else until a woman the size of a fox breaks through the bushes, breaks the purple web. She is tall and black and gorgeous. She is the size of a fox on the arm of a white man who looks and tastes like cocaine. She lies for cocaine, dangles on the arm of cocaine. And lies to me now from a room in the DeVargas Hotel, where she has eaten her lover, white powder on her lips. That is true now; it is not true anymore. Eventually space curves, walks over and taps me on the shoulder. On the sidewalk I stand near St. Francis; he has been bronzed, a perpetual tan with birds on his hand, his shoulder, deer at his feet. I am Indian and in this town I will never be a saint. I am seventeen and shy and wild. I have been up until three at a party, but there is no woman in the DeVargas Hotel, for that story hasn’t yet been invented. A man whose face I will never remember, and never did, drives up on a Harley-Davidson. There are lilacs on his arm; they spill out from the spokes of his wheels. He wants me on his arm, on the back of his lilac bike touring the flower kingdom of San Francisco. And for a piece of time the size of a nickel, I think, maybe. But maybe is vapor, has no anchor here in the sun beneath St. Francis Cathedral. And space is as solid as the bronze statue of St. Francis, the fox breaking through the lilacs, my invention of this story, the wind blowing.

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The Book of Myths Joy Harjo

The Book of Myths When I entered the book of myths in your sandalwood room on the granite island, I did not ask for a way out. This is not the century for false pregnancy in these times when myths have taken to the streets. There is no more imagination; we are in it now, girl. We traveled the stolen island of Manhattan in a tongue of wind off the Atlantic shaking our shells, in our mad skins. I did not tell you when I saw Rabbit sobbing and laughing as he shook his dangerous bag of tricks into the mutiny world on that street outside Hunter. Out came you and I blinking our eyes once more, entwined in our loves and hates as we set off to recognize the sweet and bitter gods who walk beside us, whisper madness in our invisible ears any ordinary day. I have fallen in love a thousand times over; every day is a common miracles of salt roses, of fire in the prophecy wind, and now and then I taste the newborn blood in my daughter’s silk hair, as if she were not nearly a woman brown and electric in her nearly womanly self. There is a Helen in every language; in American her name is Marilyn but in my subversive country, she is dark earth and round and full of names dressed in bodies of women who enter and leave the knife wounds of this terrifyingly beautiful land; we call ourselves ripe, and pine tree, and woman. In the book of myths that fell open in your room of unicorns I did not imagine the fiery goddess in the middle of the island. She is a sweet trick of flame,

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had everyone dangling, laughing and telling the stories that unglue the talking spirit from the pages. When the dawn light came on through the windows, I understood how my bones would one day stand up, brush off the lovely skin like a satin blouse and dance with foolish grace to heaven.

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Transformations Joy Harjo

Transformations This poem is a letter to tell you that I have smelled the hatred you have tried to find me with; you would like to destroy me. Bone splintered in the eye of one you choose to name your enemy won’t make it better for you to see. It could take a thousand years if you name it that way, but then, to see after all that time, never could anything be so clear. Memory has many forms. When I think of early winter I think of a blackbird laughing in the frozen air; guards a piece of light. (I saw the whole world caught in that sound, the sun stopped for a moment because of tough belief.) I don’t know what that has to do with what I am trying to tell you except that I know you can turn a poem into something else. This poem could be a bear treading the far northern tundra, smelling the air for sweet alive meat. Or a piece of seaweed stumbling in the sea. Or a blackbird, laughing. What I mean is that hatred can be turned into something else, if you have the right words, the right meanings, buried in that tender place in your heart where most precious animals live. Down the street an ambulance has come to rescue an old man who is slowly losing his life. Not many can see that he is already becoming the backyard tree that he has tended for years, before he moves on. He is not sad, but compassionate for the fears moving around him. That’s what I mean to tell you. On the other side of the place you live stands a dark woman. She has been trying to talk to you for years. You have called the same name in the middle of a nightmare, from the center of miracles. She is beautiful. This is your hatred back. She loves you.

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Julianna Bolanos, Tessa Anderson, and Franklin De La Cruz

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Letter from the Editor Dear Reader, Do you feel Very Far Away from the people in your life? I do. My students and classmates and professors, my friends and family, my favorite cute bartender and the other people working in the coffee shop or the library, the people on the bus and in the crosswalks—I miss everyone. I’m sure you miss your people, too. To cope, I’ve been sleeping a lot, ‘trying’ to focus on work, and reading. I never have time to read normally but the more I do (and I’ve done a lot between writing a dissertation, taking and teaching classes, and selecting work for this issue, let alone reading for fun), the less I feel alone. My favorite moment as an editor is whenever we get a piece locked in or when the BMR class gets excited about a piece. When I wonder just how many other people will read it and feel the same way, or need it, or decide to start writing or reading or living more because of it, I feel more connected to them somehow. More human. I got to feel that a lot this semester, as our editorial and reading teams sifted through over 2,000 submissions and assembled Issue 41 with humbling grace and diligence and caffeine management. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the creative labor our authors put in before they knew we would be the ones to publish it or that you would read it, when the piece was an exercise in grief or love or heartbreak or maybe just boredom (we’ve all been there). And a piece is nothing without someone to read it—we made this for you, and we’re proud to share it with you now, social distance or no social distance.* Salud, Tori Cárdenas Editor in Chief *(No—SOCIAL DISTANCE!)

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Julianna Bolanos, Tessa Anderson, and Franklin De La Cruz Blue Mesa Review | 18

Pony Legs

Ashley Hand

I knew what sex was from 90210. I was in the fourth grade, at a sleepover after the Sadie Hawkins dance. We spread a quilt on the living room floor and when the adults were asleep we flipped to the late-night networks. The good channels were always up high, past Discovery and Nickelodeon and A&E. We watched one of the Beverly Hills girls french kissing a boy and then there were bodies grinding and jeans unsnapping and the girl had her neck tossed back, moaning. We fell asleep in our felt poodle skirts, shoulder to shoulder, our pink lipstick smeared across our cheeks and pillowcases. I knew they had sex between them, my father and Clarissa. My father’s chest hair seemed significant, the way Clarissa smoothed her palm up his sternum and under his shirt lapel, caressing his shoulder. We were at the public swimming pool. He palmed tanning lotion up her legs and into the cavern of her inner thighs, massaged his fingertips right up to the seam of her bikini. He said, mmm these pony legs. I knew I shouldn’t be seeing this. I sat on the edge by the three-foot marker where the water slopped into the drains. I kicked my feet out over the surface and watched it ripple out in circles. We were supposed to be on a date, just him and I. My brothers and sisters got their turn, too. We rotated, one kid per week. Our father would pull up to our house on Tuesdays in a boxy white limousine that he drove for work. He’d gotten a big loan from the bank to buy a fleet of limos. He drove rich businessmen around Los Angeles and once in a while a movie star or someone in the NBA. The company was about to go under because he’d been doing laundry with it, as I’d heard my mother say on the phone, and this confounded me. My mother had planned the outing. I’d gotten out of school early for it. She sent me with a striped beach towel and two foldover sandwich baggies with pink frosted animal cookies, one for me and one for my father. They were my favorite. I liked the way the sprinkles crunched when I chewed. The way I imagined it going was my father kicking the water like a crawdad and pushing me along on a blow-up flamingo in an aquamarine lagoon lined with palm trees, something out of a magazine. We would drink our Capri-Suns and he’d scoop me up onto his shoulders, wade through the water like King Kong while I shrieked with laughter. But the pool was a neighborhood pool, and Clarissa was waiting for us at the turnstile. It was fifty cents per kid to get in. A woman ahead of us counted out change that looked like it had gotten sticky from sitting in a cupholder with spilled Pepsi. I watched my father kiss the rind of Clarissa’s shoulder. Then he pinched the skin that rode over the top of her bathing suit bottoms. She giggled and swatted at him. I got up and went to the bathroom. The sun was too bright and the chlorine was bothering my eyes and giving me small pink bumps on my skin. The toilets were metal. I didn’t know if the puddles on the floor were cloudy from some kind of bleach cleaner or from pee. I walked down the concrete perimeter to the deep end. I had inflatable rings snapped around my arms for safety. I wore a hand-me-down swimsuit from one of my sisters, pink with red polka dots. The bottoms were tied on the sides. I’d laced them up as tight as they went but they still gaped along my groin. 19 | Issue 41

I wondered if people were watching me. I wondered if they saw the peach fuzz on my legs and I wondered if anyone saw the way my bathing suit pinched my sides, the way the strings smooched into the squish of my skin. I thought we were going to have underwater tea parties, my father and I. The way you had an underwater tea party was you sucked in your breath until your lungs felt like balloons. You held your nose and you sank down into the water. You sat crisscross on the floor of the pool and let your breath out in slow bubbles. You used one hand to hold your imaginary tea cup and the other hand to hold the little china plate. You sat across from the other person, pinky up, drinking your tea. Whoever held their breath the longest won. My father was still with Clarissa on the plastic lounge chairs. I unsnapped my arm floaties and left them by the metal ladder mounted to the side of the pool. I didn’t need them. I inhaled in gulps and plunged below the surface and wondered how high I could count before I needed to come up for air.

My father used to play water polo. I’d seen photos of him from high school. Shiny waxed muscles, long hair tucked into a swim cap, a speedo. He looked like a sea god. I knew I looked like my father—the blue eyes and thick nose. My mother had brown eyes and darker features. I didn’t like blue eyes. Blue eyes felt like they belonged to snakes and other reptiles, scaly things that had bellies close to the ground. My father kept a thirty-pound iguana in a glass tank in his apartment. Once a month, all five of us kids spent a weekend with him. The first time, he took us to the fifth floor of a building in Santa Monica, a studio with a black leather couch and shag rugs. It was lit by lava lamps. A mirror hung on the ceiling over the waterbed. The first weekend he had us, we snapped stakes off of the leggy aloe plant by the door and wielded the sticky spikes against each other like swords. He had to take us back to our mother the second night because a woman in hair rollers and a silk bathrobe came up and banged on the door and screamed that she was going to call the police and have us thrown out. Our father drove us back home. There was a sign in the driveway by then. We weren’t sure where we were going to move next. My brother had an asthma attack while our parents fought. My mother picked up the wall phone to call an ambulance, but my father told her there wasn’t money for it and pressed the receiver to kill the dial tone. She threw the phone at him but the curly cord didn’t reach. It snapped back and hit my brother where he was standing by her leg. She stuck a hard-plastic straw down his throat so his chest wouldn’t completely close up. She yelled at my father to stay with us until she got back and then she hoisted my brother up and ran from the house. When she came home from the hospital in the morning, she discovered our father had invited a woman to stay. Her name was Patty. She was sitting on the counter drinking coffee. You could see a mound of dark hair through the fabric of her shorts. The first man that really broke my heart had muddy green eyes. Once he told me, you look so much like your father. I was showing him pictures of my family. I was in my late twenties. By then I’d already gotten plastic surgery, changed my nose, my teeth. I shouldn’t have looked like my father. The first time on my nose was at a clinic in Texas. I said, I want something dramatic. I said, I want you to take off as much of this nose as you can. I showed the surgeon a picture of Adele. I said, this is a good

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nose. I would rather have this nose. The doctor said, I could collapse your nasal passage altogether if I chiseled off that much bone. You could sue me. You could lose your ability to breathe and then have a hole cut in your neck, use a throat tube for air. I said please try. I cried when he removed my nose brace a week after the surgery. It still looked like my father’s nose. The doctor said, you’re beautiful. Don’t cry, you’re beautiful. The second time I went to a doctor in Mexico. He was willing to do what I asked. He put a photo of my face on a computer and used fancy software to manipulate the image. He used his cursor to take in the bridge, lift up the tip. The nose he drew was delicate, elfish, a woman’s nose. He said my face would be fragile after the surgery. He said he was shaving off so much bone I would have to pretend it was thin as the nail on my thumb. He said no contact sports, no impact activities. This was a beautiful nose, but it was a nose that could shatter, and I didn’t want shards floating around in my head. They could affect my vision. They could wind up in my brain.

My father spent a number of years with a woman who’d had multiple abortions and then had to get her uterus removed because one of the abortions had messed something up inside of her. She’d become very religious. She liked my father because he was handsome and had all these kids who could then become her kids, in place of the ones she didn’t get to have. She thought it was a good idea for us all to get sex talks from our father. He took me to a nice dinner at a fondue place. He gave me a ring with a black diamond in it, a symbol of purity. We checked in at the Ritz Carlton and listened to cassette tapes about the female genitalia and about copulation. At one point, the tapes instructed me to lay down on the bed with a hand mirror between my legs and examine myself, become familiar with my body. My father told me that I had some extra folds of skin, but that it was okay. That it was called bacon and some girls had it and they were all beautiful however they looked. I thought okay this is fine. I was only ten. He was my dad. He used to change my diapers. So it was fine. I didn’t want him to smell my discomfort. I didn’t want him to think I was making this weird. It made sense that this was happening. It was fine.

It’s a similar thought I’d have later, when I was much older, and a man I met online took me out on a date. He was very nice. We went to an outdoor beer garden. There was live music, a man playing the guitar and the harmonica at the same time, another playing the tambourine. My date bounced his knee and drank his beer. He had clean fingernails and good strong teeth, a scrim of beard along his jaw. I could see the lines in his hair from his comb. The beer garden had picnic tables, Bavarian checkered blue and white tablecloths, cornflowers in beer bottles, bottle cap windchimes, wheelbarrows filled with ice and packed with booze. He made polite conversation and paid for our meal. Afterwards, we decided we would go for a walk. He took me back to my house to collect my dog. She was a tiny mutt I’d found in the streets and I loved her for this, the story behind her, the serendipity that she would wind up in my yard. I’d been living in New Mexico in a run-down town, out on the fringe, before the subdivisions turned into nothingness. My back fence butted up to a big open plain. A pack

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of coyotes had chased her onto my property. She’d scrabbled her way under the fence, a wiry-haired terrier, just a few pounds. She felt like a tiny baby rabbit in my hands when I scooped her up. I could feel her frantic heartbeat against my fingertips. She had hundreds of ticks embedded in her. I was up half the night with tweezers, plucking the ticks out under the light of the kitchen table, massaging her belly when she needed a break. She came with me everywhere after that, my little fix-up urchin. We had an understanding between us, her and I. I could feel it when I looked into her brown eyes, warm and soft as putty. We drove to the waterfalls a few minutes from my house. I was living in upstate New York. The town had hundreds of shale gorges with roaring falls. A network of hiking trails had been built after the Great Depression when FDR started putting people to work under the New Deal. I felt boozy from our lunch. I’d ordered only a pretzel with my beers because it was summertime and hot and I didn’t have much of an appetite. He led us off the path, up to the farmland flats that surrounded the rim of the gorge. I knelt down to let my dog off leash so she could run free through the fields. He said, you can stay down there if you want. His cock was out of his pants and he was nosing it towards me. I think I laughed. I think I laughed when I saw his cock because I couldn’t believe it. Then it was being stuffed in my mouth and he was pumping his hips against my face. I could feel the tiny bits of gravel in my knees, the softness of my own flesh. I was thinking where is my dog. Is my dog okay. She was already off leash. I was holding the leash in my hand. I felt around for her. She was pawing at my thighs, making small whimpering noises. My date was cradling the back of my head, just one hand firmly around the base of my skull. He pumped and pumped. I held the leash in one hand and the other hand was buried in the scruff of my dog’s neck. I thought, she shouldn’t be seeing this. I thought, I need to make sure she doesn’t think anything is wrong. This was okay. There was no violence here, no menace. It’s okay.

When I got back from the pool date with my father, my mother was sporting a fresh manicure with red nail polish. She did this for herself once a week. The other kids were bathed and asleep. When it was our date night, we got to stay up late. My mother was sitting in front of the TV doing pelvic exercises, watching the evening news. I wanted my mother to scrub my hands and clip my cuticles until they bled. I was already developing a cluster of cold sores on my lips. I’d gotten them since before I could remember. At first it was just canker sores and then cold sores started blooming across my mouth when I’d get a sunburn or when I was sick. I chewed at the little buds of cauliflower on my lower lip. She asked me how my date was and I thought of my father rubbing aloe on Clarissa’s back and I told her it was fine.

In my early thirties, another man asked me what he could do to help me. He was so kind. He wore paintsplattered work boots and a Carhartt jacket and he held my dog like she was a sleek, breakable little violin. I stopped his hand whenever he’d guide it inside the rim of my jeans. I’d kiss his jaw and wriggle away. I didn’t know how to tell him that maybe if he didn’t have the blue eyes. I was beautiful after my plastic surgery. I knew I was beautiful. He looked at me and I saw him witnessing my beauty. I knew he loved me and that it was real, but I felt like a mannequin inside a glass

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display. Please don’t touch. How can I help, he would say. I pulled these stories out for him one-by-one, like individual gems in tiny jewelry boxes. It started with the pony legs. That was my garnet. I presented it on a silk pillow, puffed and white, inside a velvet flip-up case. I said do you see this jewel. Do you see this garnet. See how it sparkles like a drop of blood.

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Erika Glass


Michael Thompson

Of Love (not in)

Shoshana Tehila Surek

Prescribed fire for laden butterfly. Monarch landslides engulfing tongues. I also long for thee. Knotted perennial for perfect mooring. Vessel held by eyelid, here. Here, she says. Moor.

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ire’ne lara silva

Don’t speak to me, I say to them, my lips against their ears. It’s more than I can bear, to speak when I am naked and you are here, your words falling forever inside me. Kiss me, touch me, hold me, I say, bite me, taste me, pinch me, fuck me, but don’t talk to me. I am most myself in the dark, naked and not alone. What I loved was the loss of gravity. And the hands that held me. Spun me. Caught me. The hands at my waist that pulled me, pushed me. Their bodies emanating heat. The brush of chest, breast, thigh. Hard arms holding me so close, so tight I thought my spine would leave an imprint on their chests. I loved the lights spinning dizzily, the rhythmic throbbing beat driving my body across the floor, the music bursting under my skin. No more. The open space in my living room measures ten feet by twelve. I dance in silence, reconstructing forgotten songs, straining against myself. No spinning. No dangerous spill of intricate footwork. No sudden sharp turns of my hips. I’m constrained to slow circles, half-steps and lowered arms, dancing on my heels so as not to risk my balance. I can’t afford to lose myself. When I am alone, I am always a little lost. Inside, I am spinning, spinning. Unable to find North. They came to sip at my eyes—a cacophonous cloud of iridescence. Bright bodies hurtling with stillness. Searing reds. Flashing blues. Black so black it reflected the light of dawn. So beautiful I wanted to touch them. Wanted to stand in the midst of all that humming, that spinning. Wanted to embrace their invisible limbs, the invisible air they made viscous, visible. Waves of tiny shimmering bodies flung me to the ground. Covered me. I cried out and raised my arms. Too many. I beat them away but more came. The sound of all their vibrating bodies so loud against my skin. My bones shivered against my own flesh, blood trembling inside my veins. My heart seized. They held my eyes open. Their almost translucent tongues unfurled, laying grooved edges across the whites of my eyes. Piercing pain. Hot and jagged. But their wings were soft beating against my face. Flickering colors and guttural sounds drinking deep, drawing the nectar from my eyes, my body. Drinking my memories. My caresses. My soft dreams, my lost tears. Trickling moments of tenderness brought up from the soles of my feet, from the tips of my fingers. They drank deep. Drank the honeyed darkness coiled in the center of my heart. Everything sweet devoured. I lay bleeding on the ground, watched the bright-winged creatures flicker away through a descending darkness. It was morning. I’d gone to the park to watch the sun rise. I never saw it set. I can’t describe how the night is different. The absence of the weight of daylight on my skin. In the night, we shed our clothing, our daylight selves. Shedding blindness, shedding helplessness. I shed the woman

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who risks her life crossing the street, the woman who counts her steps, the woman who is always afraid. I know the night. Light and shadow entwined. What it hides. What it reveals. The yearning that lives that burns that builds just underneath the skin. That drives us toward each other, collapsing the infinite spaces between strangers. I know the language of flesh, the first words spoken over skin, the sigh as mouth meets mouth as limbs entwine as flesh sinks into flesh. The gasps of arching backs. Touch translating need. This is when I think the hummingbirds have nested inside me, their quick breaths my harsh panting. The tintinnabulation of their tiny hearts thundering deep inside me. Their heat flashing through me. I sip the shadows from their necks. Musk on the tip of my tongue. Their scent and mine rolling over my skin. The slapping and pounding of flesh against flesh. Even in the dark there is the pulsing of tiny flickering flares. Curls of heat licking at my spine. Sweetness in them all. I drink and drink. Left breathless and spent. —I love you, Xochitl, let me take care of you. Come live with me, or I can live here with you. —Not this again, Jorge. You take care of me enough. —All I do is put money in your account. I want to be here to cook for you and drive you and be with you. Just you and me. —Ay, Jorge, I would drive you crazy in a week. You need someone who needs you all the time. I like being alone most of the time. I like doing things for myself. —But I want to do those things for you— —Which is why we’d never work. Whatever happened with that daughter of your mother’s cousin’s coworker’s friend? —My mother’s neighbor’s daughter? That’s why I haven’t gone to go see my mother. I think they’re trying to ambush me. —Ay, don’t be like that. Go meet the girl. You’re the kind of man that needs a home and a wife and some little babies. I’m not that woman, so get that out of your head. What I’m good at is this— —Xochitl! —Shut up already. Come here. I live alone. A small apartment. They tell me its walls are white and its ceilings vaulted. Six hundred and twenty square feet. My bed is in the exact center of my bedroom. I dislike stretching my legs or my arms and hitting a wall. One small nightstand to my left. One chair by the window. I like to sit there and feel the breeze. Six steps exactly to the door from the foot of the bed. Bathroom to my left. Washer and dryer in a closet to my right. Eight steps to an L-shaped combination dining and living room. Clockwise- a stone mosaic table for two. Two director’s chairs, one on either side. A sofa large enough to stretch out in. A ceramic statue of a woman bearing a water jug on her back. The ceramic feels porous and cool but alive under my fingers. Two blooming jasmines by the windows. The door. A narrow mahogany table. A plush rocker recliner. An expanse of wall. Kitchen to my left. There are no knickknacks anywhere. No heap of old newspapers. No coffee table and no cozy lamplit corners. No books and no television. The walls would be bare, but I couldn’t bear the thought of such

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a pale, pale living space. My sister brought paintings. Abstract whirlwinds of vivid colors, she said. I often feel the raised slaps, whirls, and dashes of paint with my fingers. When everything is still and quiet, it seems to me the walls grow warm. That the paint begins to move. Kaleidoscoping colors escape the canvases, streaming from one wall to the next, one room to another. Not the sound of water running. A thicker, deeper sound. Such heat in his lips, such tenderness in his touch. I imagine his eyes are often shot through with light. Under my fingers, his hair feels golden. I trace his features over and over as if by dint of sheer repetition his face will come alive in my mind. As if I could make myself remember what I have never seen. Jorge loves to be straddled. Loves to hold my breasts in his hands as I move. Loves to lie on his stomach and have me massage him while straddling his thighs. I measure myself against him. He is only slightly taller. I stretch myself against his back. His fingers barely reach further than mine. Powerful shoulders and arms and a rippling back. How I love to smooth my fingers against the small of his back, the firmness of his buttocks, down to powerful thighs and calves, his small broad feet. Everywhere a light dusting of curls for my fingers, for my lips. He makes sounds like a tamed wild cat, purring and growling, hissing. He loves to lay his head on my lap, loves to have me brush my fingers through his golden curls. Ramon is nothing like Jorge. Long and lean, his limbs are an eternity to my hands. Wiry muscles taut over his bones. Elegant narrow feet and hands. His face seems sad to my hands. Deep eyes. They have to be dark. Have to be shadowed. He loves to hold me beneath him. Loves to stretch my limbs until the muscles protest. Loves sex against walls and on tables. Loves to wrap himself in my long hair. Loves that I don’t love him, don’t need him beyond this darkness. Loves knowing that if he never returned I’d never pine after him. That if he said goodbye, I’d never set my body against his like an anchor, crying out his name as he walked away. And yet he loves that I never turn him away. One is day. One is night. One is earth and one is sky. I taste one and sip the other. Drink one and devour the other. And then there is Mercedes. Only Mercedes is allowed to spend the night, to bathe with me, to cook in my kitchen. I don’t know what she tells her husband or her children when she is with me. I don’t ask. I long to bite at her throat, to leave purple marks on her soft thighs, but I restrain myself. She trusts me, and she isn’t mine. She holds her fingers to my lips when her cell phone rings. Her body goes from hot and pliable to cold and rigid as she turns away from me. A voice I don’t recognize emerges from her. After she hangs up the phone, I take her feet in my hands, warm them, running my fingers along the instep. Press my palms hard against the arch of her feet. Slowly, she melts, returns to me. I neither drink nor devour her. I breathe her. I inhale and exhale Mercedes. I can’t forget their wings. How did they mistake my eyes for blossoms? Violet sabrewings. Lucifer hummingbirds. Broad billed hummingbirds. I saw them once, long ago, visiting a friend who lived just south of Tucson. What were they doing here, a thousand miles away from their path of migration? Sometimes, lying in the dark, I think I can hear them. Even inside my bedroom with its closed windows. I make myself take deep breaths. Make myself sit up slowly. Move my head slowly from side to side, trying to pin down the tiny sound of humming wings. I reach out in slow arcs, methodically tracing

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the air around me. Something swoops by my ear, hits my left hand. I recoil. Where is it? I rise to my feet, wildly flailing my arms around. The sound grows louder. Louder in every direction. I feel wings brush against my cheek and cover my eyes with my hands. Stumble around the corner of the bed. Fall to my knees and bury my face against the mattress. Buzzing sounds against my back. They fly into my hair looking for my eyes. You cannot have them, I say, you cannot have anything else of mine. No medical reason. On other days, I would have beat my head against the wall until the light pierced my eyes. Five years since that morning and the specialists still can’t tell me why I’m blind. Everything is as it should be, they said. They sent me to a psychologist. What was there to say? I could never tell anyone about the hummingbirds. They would think I was crazy. I only told my sister. Even she said it made no sense. Hummingbirds are the spirits of warriors who fell in battle, the spirits of women who died in childbirth. Servants of Huitzopochtli, the god of war. I don’t know why they would seek me out. I am no warrior. The only thing I have ever fought is this darkness. And solitude.

—Ramon, wake up. You’re having a nightmare. Ramon. —Lorena? Lorena? —No, Ramon, it’s Xochitl. You fell asleep. Ramon, you’re hurting my arm. —Ay, I’m sorry, Xochitl. I thought you were—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you— —It’s okay. I’m okay. You were shouting in your sleep. Here, drink some water. —What was I saying? —You kept saying the same thing, over and over, but you were getting louder. —What was I saying? —No, Lorena, no. Over and over again. —I’m so sorry I woke you, Xochitl. —Don’t be. I wasn’t sleeping. I was waiting for you to wake up for round two.

After the hummingbirds, I cut my long hair. Tossed my lipsticks and nail polishes and makeup, my heels and my purses and most of my clothes. Abandoned my books, my photo albums, the hundred mementos of my life. Refused to see old friends after the first few awkward visits. I gave up my apartment and went to live with my sister for two years. Months spent lying sleeplessly in bed. Spent cursing my life, my eyes. She bought me simple clothing. Drawstring black pants to wear and solid colored tee shirts she embroidered so that I could tell them apart. It hardly mattered. Like a wooden doll, I sat for hours. Remembering and refusing to remember. None of my memories belonged to who I had become. Even my name was no longer mine. I forgot how the world was tied together. How things in the world stood apart from each other. I was afraid I’d forget what colors meant. I made a map for myself: my mother’s casket—white. My hair—black. The fringed leaves of the mesquite—green. The dress my mother made for me when I was seven—yellow. The color of the sky the day I slept by the lake’s edge—blue. The night sky at the southern horizon—purple. Blood—red. I found memories for fifty other colors. I clenched my fists, holding the memory of colors so close, they seeped through my fingers. Reduced to flashes, reduced to whirs,

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reduced to whimpers. I have memories of photographs. I trace and retrace my features trying to remember what I look like. Am I different now? Time runs, runs through itself, runs through me. The minutes would last an eternity if there wasn’t breathing to tend to, heartbeats to count, my eyes that still require blinking. Outside, I am too occupied negotiating through a large unknown. Inside the unknown unfolds. Extends. Deepens. When I’m alone, the unknown closes in around me, presses down on me, steals my breath. I forget where the doors are and stumble against furniture legs, misjudge the width of doors, have to force myself to stop, breathe, begin again. Do they know? Sometimes in the night, when one of them lies beside me, I want to cling to them, want to press my lips against their shoulders, want to weep and say, don’t go. Want to say, don’t leave me alone. Hold me, I want to say. Keep me from falling apart. Give the darkness shape. Texture. Make a path for me through the days. But I stay silent. That is not what I am for. Not what they are for. There are others. Sweet Xian with her exquisite mouth, who gasps tiny gasps when she comes. Roel, who says I remind him of his wife. She is a thousand miles away. He comes to me when he misses her past bearing. I let him call me by her name. Jeremy who is the only one who cannot pronounce my name. Soshee, he says. I do not hold it against him. He is so young I still smell the milk of his skin. I don’t want to need anyone. So I stay silent. I press myself against Jorge’s side, grab the curls above his neck and nip his earlobes. I rake my nails down Ramon’s back and offer him my neck when he lunges after me. I reach with my hungry hands, my hungry limbs for Mercedes. Taste and taste and taste Xian and Roel and Jeremy. I will make heat of it all. My loneliness made into lust. My not knowing. My fear. My long hours. With them and in the dark I am still beautiful. Their hands make me real. Their mouths make me solid. And so we begin again and again until it is ended and I can close my eyes and the darkness is absolute and I can sleep. —You won’t ever ask me to leave them—to leave him—will you? —No, Mercedes, no. I’m here whenever you need me. And when you don’t, you don’t even have to think about me. —But I’m always thinking about you. I’m always counting down the days and the hours. I pick up and put down the phone half a dozen times every day because I want to hear your voice, because I want to make you laugh. Do you know where I tell him I go? —Where? —I tell him I need time to write. That I’m working on a novel. That I need time away from him and the boys to concentrate. I used to write a long time ago, when we met in college. —What do you do when he asks to see what you’re writing? —I tell him no, that I’ll show him when I’m done. But just in case, I meet up with this young woman in her twenties, a single mother working two jobs and writing a novel. I pay her for her drafts and then I take them home and file them carefully away. In case I ever need them. —Smart. A paper trail.

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—It’s how I get this time with you. Though every other weekend isn’t enough. But I can’t do this more often. —Well, then, we better make this time count. No more talking. That night, I dreamt them all. Ramon, Jorge, Mercedes, Xian, Roel, Jeremy. I could see them, in a circle around me, and I was spinning and spinning, facing one and then another. Their faces were brightly lit, as if they were looking at a sun whose brightness I couldn’t see, whose warmth I couldn’t feel. And there was a humming everywhere around us that made my bones vibrate inside my flesh. I wanted to get away from it. And then I realized it was coming from inside me. I was spinning and spinning, all of their faces blurring. But even in the dream, I knew it wasn’t about stopping and choosing one of them. I was the needle of the compass, spinning and spinning, because I couldn’t feel North. Without North, there was no East, no West, no South. They were waiting for me to give them direction. My sister believed it was a matter of finding the right doctor, taking the right test. But the months went by. I had to learn how to walk, how to count my steps, how to eat, how to listen, how to read, how to use a cane, how to negotiate my way through the darkness. But finally, I had to leave and make a life to replace the one that was gone. My sister couldn’t understand. I was dissolving. The contours of my body fading into the shadows. Hardly hungry. Hardly feeling. A lost thing that was not a woman. I lost weight until all of my bones protruded. Calluses on my feet. My dry skin peeling and cracking. My eyes swollen from tears. No job. No friends. Unable to dance and no longer beautiful. I left to save what was left of myself. I chose this city because I’d never lived here. Because though I’d never see it, this city had a wide river and trees everywhere. Because it was a real city with buses and sidewalks where I didn’t have to be driven everywhere. I learned this city with the end of my cane. I threw away my tee shirts and drawstring pants. Grew my hair long again, black and water straight. Brushing it is only a matter of time and attention, taking it in sections. I can’t wear very much makeup, but I can wear some, using my fingers as my guide. Light colors on my lips, dark shadows on my eyelids. Moisturizers. No way to know if there are circles under my eyes. I bought my clothes by feel. How my body felt moving inside them. Trusted salesgirls to choose the colors. Chose which salesgirls to listen to by feeling out the timbre of their voices. I didn’t know what I was looking for. But I found it in this city. I learned my little neighborhood how many steps, street crossings, and curbs there were from my apartment to the grocery store, the bank, the post office, the coffee shop. Ramon and I met soon after I arrived. Jorge a few months later. Mercedes a year ago. The others in the last six months. I haven’t lost any. They’ve stayed. They give my days shape. Dinner. Light conversation. Massages. Sex. We pass the time enjoyably, I tell my sister. She doesn’t understand and calls me a whore. I tell her I don’t charge them. Some of them choose to put money in my account. Ramon sends his housekeeper to me twice a week to clean my apartment and stock my kitchen. Jorge pays the rent, brings me lingerie. Mercedes pays for the manicures and pedicures and my visits to her day spa. Jeremy always brings wine and flowers. Xian and Roel surprise me with unexpected gifts. They all know about each other. They all

know to call before any surprise visits. Mostly, they all have their regular days, their regular nights. Another dream. A field of flowers, blooms of every shape and hue. Such vivid colors, I felt as if I could taste them on the tip of my tongue. Trees with more blossoms than leaves, vines that twisted in ecstasies of color, the green earth swathed with streaks of red and yellow and white. I dreamt the sun was shining warmly on my body, my body naked and feathered and afloat on the breeze. Sweetness. The perfume-drenched air made me dizzy. Morning glories. I couldn’t resist the morning glories tumbling across the white fence. Summer sky blue with butter yellow centers. So sweet. My tongue unfurled, and I sipped. It spilled into me, light refracting inside me, tumbling and tumbling. They won’t stop talking now. They talk late into the night, talking and talking unless their mouths are otherwise occupied. Ramon: Lorena was so beautiful. She loved to travel. We lost count of how many trips we made before she got sick. The last trip was to Paris. She wanted to visit all her favorite places again, but she grew too weak and we came back to the U.S. in a panic. Jorge: My mom keeps asking me if I’ve kissed her neighbor’s daughter yet. I keep telling her it’s none of her business. Yesterday, she bought a four foot teddy bear and told me that she and my dad will pitch in with the down payment for a house if I make them grandparents in the next two years. I told them making grandchildren was no problem—it was finding a wife that was going to take a little more work. Mercedes: These are my two babies at Little League. Here’s Brian 6th birthday party. Michael when he was born. These are from last summer when we went camping. Yes, that’s my husband. Yes, the boys look just like him. Xian: My parents won’t have anything to do with me since I came out to them. My brother’s trying to talk to them, but they’re not having it. The last time I saw my mother she was weeping and saying this never would have happened if we’d stayed in China. Roel: A veces temo que ella se va encontrar a otro. Hace dos años que no nos vemos. Muy peligroso regresar. Ojala y tendre lo suficiente pa’ traerla el siguiente año. Jeremy: I was eight years old the first time I kissed a girl. Her name was Melissa—all freckles and red hair. We were on the playground by the swings. She burst out crying and ran away right after. They make me laugh, and they make me cry. I try to quiet them. But their words are always spilling out, even when they’re not there. The more I listen, the more a space inside me opens up. I woke tasting sweetness in my mouth, and Jorge was there, beside me. In sleep, he’d flung his leg over me. I wanted to reach for his arm and shake him awake. But I didn’t. They had been here. In this room. I’d heard them in my sleep. Heard them under the bed. I raised myself up on one elbow. In the night dark, I waited, perfectly still and perfectly silent. They would betray themselves. I strained for the sound of their humming wings. Nothing. Only my own breath, too loud in the ringing silence. And the sounds Jorge made. Not snoring, only a heavy inhale, exhale, inhale. I settled back into bed. He murmured my name and nuzzled my shoulder. Warm breath over my skin. I couldn’t help it, I turned towards him and wrapped my arm around him. He stirred awake. Through the long night, we moved together. I sipped at him, filling myself with his scent, the realness of him, his weight on me. The scent of him, sweet, not sweet, the scent stirred my memory, pink and purple blossoms. My lips sought out the center of him.

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Ryan Seo

Sunflower 9 The next night I lay in my bed alone, waiting for a knock at the door. Instead, I heard humming sounds that grew louder and louder, felt wings brush against my hair. I burrowed into my bed and covered my head with the blanket. I couldn’t breathe. All their tiny bodies with their wings beating against me. I dragged myself out of bed and ran to the living room. The swarm enfolded me. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t breathe. I felt their tongues unfurling. The sensation of tiny feathery knives against the underside of my skin, a sharpness so thin my flesh didn’t realize it should have begun to bleed. And I felt them drawing something from me, sweet and dark and swirling. Humming. Everywhere, humming. Tiny wings fluttering against my legs, my arms, my hair. Grooved tongues on my thighs, my back, my neck. Sipping at me. My body wasn’t mine anymore. It shuddered. It convulsed, their vibrations like an electric current.

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I felt them on my face. Heat spilled from my eyes. Deep crimson swelled along the line of my throat. A bright lime green spilled down my shoulders, silver arcs pooling in my palms. Glossy black in swaths over my breasts, my ribs, across my hips, brightening into sapphire and violet down my thighs and calves. Black feet. Black hands. Wings both delicate and merciless unmaking me. The light flooded in stronger and faster until all I could see was my luminescent flesh. Not fading. Not lost. Not dissolving. Tiny feathers like scales made of light burst from my skin. Spinning. Spinning. Liquid colors. Spinning. Spinning. Where is North? Is this what the god wants with me? He gave them direction. Told them to find the island in the middle of the lake. The island where they would see an eagle holding a snake, perched on a flowering nopal. Did we forget that he was also the god of direction? I breathed. Where is North? Breathed. The wings went silent. I listened to an eternity between a beat of my heart and the next. Breathed. This way. I felt North in my blood, in my marrow, in my flesh. He needed new servants. Not warriors but compasses for the lost. And if I was a compass, I would never be alone in the dark. I would always have North. I would always have the hummingbirds. I would always have the lost. And the sweet. Knocking at the door. Mercedes calling my name. I rose from the floor, fumbled at the locks, opened it. Fell into her arms. What’s wrong, she asked, are you okay, are you hurt? I couldn’t speak yet. She led me to the couch, wrapped her arms and legs around me. I rested. She held me, rocked me to sleep, singing a lilting melody, her lips against my neck. I slept deeply. Woke in the darkest part of the night. She was spooning me. I twisted out of her arms. Slipped my hands under her shoulders. Shook her just enough to wake her. Merced—I interrupted her, my lips hard against hers. I felt her heart pounding suddenly against me. She didn’t hesitate, letting me into her mouth, drawing her knees up around me. Red flowers, I saw red flowers in my mind when I kissed her, long and slender crimson petals. So much sweetness. Her hands in my hair, pulling it back when she moved her lips across my jaw, when she bit my earlobe. No words, only the sounds of mouths and flesh and grunting. We collapsed together, sweat-slick and gasping for air. Sleep. And then dawn. More light than I’d seen in five years. I could almost see her. I leaned in close, trying to see the curve of her cheek, the brightness of her eyes, the line of her brow. I didn’t want to blink, wanted to let all the light inside me. All the colors swirled into each other. No depth perception. I had to close my eyes to follow her into the shower, to get dressed, to sit at the table and have juice and toast with her, to walk her to the door and kiss her again and again. She didn’t want to leave. It’s all right, I told her, I will always be here. I had to close my eyes so I could breathe in the warm scent of her. Sunlight and wild grass. I climbed my furniture and lay my face against the paintings. The colors ran under and over each other. Red. Purple. Yellow. I opened the windows and leaned out. Blue sky. Leafy trees. Green. I ran to the bathroom, fumbled for the light switch. Leaned in close to the mirror. Olive skin. Dark shadows where my eyes should be. Darkness around my face. My hair. Black. I dove into my bed, almost dizzy. Stretched from the tips of my toes to the tips of my fingers, closed my eyes and watched colors move behind my eyelids. Dizzy and happy. I could feel North. I moved my

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arms and felt the humming around me respond. I wasn’t alone. When night came, I went to stand by the window and watch the stars go in and out of focus. The light advance and recede. I was at the window when I saw Ramon on the sidewalk, headed towards my door. It was Ramon, there was no mistaking his long limbs or the hunching of his narrow shoulders. He’d brought wine. We sipped it in front of the fire he built, stretched out on the carpet. I’d thought the flames would have kept my attention but I couldn’t keep my eyes from his face. Such deep grooves around his mouth. Lines on his forehead and arcing from his eyes. His hair was too long. He kept brushing it away from his forehead. I reached up to hold his hair back. I wanted to see the flames reflected in his eyes, but it was as if purple clouds were floating in mine. A glimpse of gold, a glimpse of darkness and then the purple would obscure my vision. I lifted my head to lay tiny kisses along his jawline. He flinched away from me. What are you doing? I had never done it before. Never held him with tenderness and softness. Never laid my hands against his face or smoothed his hair away. I’d never leaned in close towards him and laid tiny kisses along his jaw. He closed his eyes and stayed still, terribly still, against me. I unbuttoned his shirt, moved my hands gently across his chest, then my lips. It is all right, I whispered over his heart, it’s all right for us to be gentle with each other. It doesn’t change your love for her. His touch was like smoke. The scent of cenizo within his skin. The bloom and the leaves and even its scent after it’s dried. Smoke and sage in his mouth. And though he left before dawn, the night was soft and long. I kept waking up afterwards, feeling the softness unfurl inside me. Humming all around me. How different it sounded now. Soft, like water. I held out my arms and they looped and swirled around them. They followed me everywhere I went. I held up my black hands, my olive-skinned hands, where I could see them. The same and not. But I recognized them both. These doubled hands were the hands I’d used to make my lovers writhe. This doubled body the one I’d made into a shadow flitting above them, sipping at them, filling myself with their sweetness. Ramon. Mercedes. Jorge. I speak their names and they are sweet on the tongue. Xian. Jeremy. Roel. I don’t feel desperation for them anymore. When I move, I can’t feel shards of glass grinding against each other—only humming and the sounds flowers make when their blossoms open. The light comes and goes. The darkness comes and goes. When it is night and I am alone, I reach for no one. That is not what I am for. I am here until Jorge admits he has fallen in love with his mother’s neighbor’s daughter. Until Ramon lets himself love someone again. For as long as Mercedes needs me. Until Roel is reunited with his wife. Until Xian finds a love she can make a family with. For Jeremy for as long as he wants me. And there will be others whose scent will draw me. I am not refuge. I am not a crossroads. I am not North but I know where it lies. That is what I am for.

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Emergency C-Section with Partial Hindsight Ashley Kunsa

Listen: the body will only carry you so far. Light is one thing, goodness quite another. And pain makes interventions on its own behalf. Once, this city was a stranger to me. I don’t mean miraculous, or even promising—I mean I was sixteen months in this place before I recognized the call of a chuch bell ten blocks away. How long does it take to arrive? Last night I pressed your hand to my throat. What I wanted to feel was more alive than I had in the moment they sliced through seven layers of flesh to fish out a human who didn’t want this world. Who could blame him? You both carried fear in your eyes. An hour before, in the arms of the anesthesiologist, I wept for the life I was desperate not to lose. His or mine? Impossible to say from this distance. Listen: you are no more to blame than the sheen scumming the pond, and gravity is the only thing that promises your starstruck feet to the ground. That humming inside, it could come from anywhere. Don’t discount sources unknown.

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Blue Mesa Review 2020 Summer Contest June 1, 2020 – August 31, 2020 $500 prize per genre Denise Chávez is a Fronteriza writer, teacher and community activist from Las Cruces, New Mexico. She is the author of novels The King and Queen of Comezón, Loving Pedro Infante, Face of an Angel, The Last of the Menu Girls, and other works including A Taco Testimony: Meditations on Family, Food and Culture, Descanos: An Interrupted Journey, and a children’s book, La Mujer Que Sabía el Idioma de Los Animales/The Woman Who Knew the Language of the Animals.

Eduardo C. Corral’s second book, Guillotine, will be published by Graywolf Press next August. Slow Lightning, his first book, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 2011. He’s the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. He teaches in the MFA program at North Carolina State University.

Amy Irvine’s memoir, Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land, received the Orion Book Award, the Ellen Meloy Desert Writer’s Award and the Colorado Book Award. Her most recent work, Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness (Torrey House Press, 2018), was a response to Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness on the 50th anniversary of its publication. An excerpt was counted in Orion Magazine’s “25 Most-Read Stories of the Decade,” and the book was named on Stanford University’s climate scientists’ 2019 Summer Reading List, Outside Magazine’s “Adventure Canon,” and Backpacker’s “New Wilderness Classics.”

For more full judge biographies and information on how to submit check out our website:

Fragile Donkey Molly McCloy

Jake and Tom tiptoe into my room at two a.m., blurry boys gliding like liquid through the shadows. I can make out Tom’s face, his glasses, his eyes wide and somber, one finger across his lips. He nods at me. I pull my covers back and slide out of bed, fully clothed, shoes on. At bedtime, Mom and Dad failed to notice that I didn’t change into pajamas or brush my teeth. Now I’m ready to break some more rules. “Let your eyes get used to the dark,” Tom whispers. Jake pinches my shirttail, and I can feel his breath on my neck as we follow our older brother. We step over my record player and brush past my Winnie the Pooh stuffed into my doll cradle. Tom stops suddenly—Jake’s chest bumps into my back, and I bump into Tom. Thud, rustle, shoe squeak. Was the scuffle loud enough to wake up Mom and Dad? We three stand absolutely still by the back door and listen for any sounds coming from our parents’ room. I’m terrified because even our breathing seems loud enough to be heard from across the house. I grip Tom’s shoulder. Jake twists my shirt. My heart beats wildly. No bedroom door cracks open. No parental voice rings out. Tom puts his finger to his lips again and nods at us. He reaches for the deadbolt. If you did not grow up with a violent parent, you might not grasp how thrilling this moment is. The commonly used language, “abused children,” always paints us as weak and passive. Yet, here we are, well-armed and ready for adventure. I’ve got the mini-baseball bat, and Jake has the switchblade. Our leader, Tom, is the worldly one at age ten, and he’s got a pair of nunchucks he made himself. I guess you could call us “bad kids,” but that’s not quite right either. How about “hooligans”? I like it. We are hooligans. As Tom reaches for the lock, time stops. My older brother must do this right, or he’ll wake my dad. When Dad caught us getting into the Easter Candy early, he dumped the candy in the trash and squelched the holiday. If our father catches us now, he might shove Tom around, like he’s done before. Or worse. We can’t really predict it. So, Jake and I hold our breath and watch Tom closely. Tom squints as if he’s in pain and he twists the lock with a movement that’s impossibly slow. The deadbolt slides open with a muffled click. So that’s how careful you have to be, I think. Painfully careful. We wait again, standing there, listening for any sound coming from our parents’ bedroom. Instead, it’s just our breath, choppy like we’ve been running. As we step into our backyard, Tom glides the door into place behind us. We’re free. We move quickly through the backyard and then the alley, and when we get out to the street, it’s my first time seeing my Central Phoenix neighborhood in the middle of the night. The ranch houses are dark blobs with single-bulb porch lights, sleepy and boneless, their usual daytime action stripped away. No

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joggers, no dog walkers, no cars cruising by. The asphalt looks so black and shiny that I expect it to be molten and sticky when I step down. “Stay in the shadows,” Tom says as we duck into the next alley, and though he’s whispering, his voice rings out clear and crisp. There’s no whooshing traffic or buzzing lawnmowers, so even the most subtle night sounds are magnified, as if I’m bionic, as if I’m Jaime Sommers. Our crunchy footfalls add a rhythm to the crickets’ cadence. A bird chirps once. A dog follows us from inside his fence, and I can hear him snuffling along the wooden pickets. Tom is right, I think. This is fantastic. Tom started sneaking out of our house after his five a.m. paper route made him fall in love with eerie silence and deserted streets. He’s taking us with him this time to cheer up Jake, whose allowance is being docked after a recent incident at the J.C. Penney garden department. I figure it must be working. Jake must be feeling pretty good now too, because I certainly am cranked up sky-high on dopamine and adrenaline. Voices grumble from the shadowy apartment complex patios where cherries of cigarettes bob in the dark. The yellow glare of the 7-11 fluorescent lights makes the store look like some kind of supernatural oasis against the dark sky. The pineapple taste of the Slurpees we buy from the scruffy clerk matches the yellow lighting of the store, pure chemical sunshine. The Slurpee sugar blasts me even higher, up and up, until I am at one hundred percent nitro joy. It’s all so sweet and simple. I’m allowed to be a little girl in love with life. The peak? The three of us spike our empty cups to the ground and run as fast as we can toward home, charging into the black night like a pack of wild dogs. The high doesn’t last long for Jake, though, and the next day he falls into a funk about the J.C Penney garden store incident again. The moment seemed so unfair, even to Tom and me. Jake eventually forges a life-long grudge from it. He’ll complain about it throughout our adulthood. He’ll mutter, “That fucking J.C. Penney donkey,” during his heroin intervention in 2000. Dad was discussing fertilizer with a clerk while all three of us waited, bored out of our minds. “Hey, look!” Jake called suddenly, to show us the only thing amongst the hoses and lawnmowers that actually looked like a toy, a foot-tall plaster donkey, molded to look like it was wearing a bright red Mexican blanket. Jake was fascinated by the light weight of the hollow plaster. “Look!” he said again, gripping the donkey by head and tail and lifting. “No!” Tom and I both yelped at the same time, reaching toward our little brother, trying to stop his hands. Jake lifted the donkey up a mere foot off the ground, just enough to show us that it was hollow underneath. Then he put it back down. If the world were a fair place, nothing more would have happened. Instead, there was a cracking sound. The donkey’s lower half split off and fell to the ground where it lay upside down. Its underside of plain white plaster made the piece look like an eggshell. Soon the garden store salesman and my dad were hovering over us. “You break it, you buy it,” both of them said at the same time. On the first Saturday payday after the incident, Tom and I feel sorry for Jake and we chip in to get him a Slurpee. He doesn’t thank us, though, and the next week he bellies up to the counter, just expecting to be treated.

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This lack of gratitude is especially annoying since it comes from coddled little Jake who so often evades the harsher punishments inflicted on us older siblings. By the third week, Tom and I stop giving Jake money and revert to our usual mercenary ways. We convince our little brother to sell us his toy, and we take his Hot Wheels cars as collateral for high-interest loans. It’s the sibling black market. I complete these transactions with no guilt. I’m not being mean. I’m just looking out for myself. It’s the way the world works. Years later, as an adult, I’ll wish I was more generous with my brother. As a kid, I just don’t know how. I’m always worried about losing what little capital I have myself. At home, a reminder hangs above our couch, the word “Share” in the wooden letters Dad carved himself. Before I learned to read and had to ask my parents to pronounce the artwork for me, I thought it was a tribute to one of my favorite TV personalities, Cher. It made more sense to me that way. Now each week, my dad walks right by this posted mantra of generosity, hands me my eighty cents, gives Tom his dollar, and leaves Jake empty-handed. Other than one gift each for Christmas and birthdays, we kids have to buy everything ourselves. With my allowance it takes two months for the tiniest set of Legos. Since Jake is making seventy cents a week, it’s going to be almost a year to pay off that donkey. Even if Jake hadn’t pissed us off, there’s no way Tom and I would be willing to financially support our brother for that torturously long period of time. We are too busy counting out our own meager dimes. As the weeks drag on, I forget Jake owes the money. Every Saturday when he reminds me, I think, Oh yeah, I guess that’s still going on. I never consider asking my father to forgive Jake’s debt. Instead, I try to make things better for both of us by coming up with some money-making schemes. I figure if Tom Sawyer, the Our Gang kids, and that kid from the Great Brain books can do it, so can Jake and I. First, we start with a perfectly legitimate lemonade stand on the curb in front of our house. We call out, “Lemonade for sale!” but the only person who responds is this guy on a ten-speed who yells back, “Your Momma’s for sale.” We ask our mom what this meant. She refuses to answer. And then there is the guy who hires us to move the little pebbles from one side of his front yard to the other and back again like we’re a grade school chain gang. And Mrs. Harrison, who tries to teach me how to be a lady by paying me to sort her spools of thread, which just makes me think that if being a lady is that fucking boring, I am never going to do it. After we determine that honest work totally sucks, Jake and I start imitating all the ways we’ve seen adults make easy money. We try to extort some cash from the garbage truck driver by setting up a roadblock “toll booth” in the alley. Then we “collect” money door to door for the Jerry Lewis telethon with the previous year’s can labels and badges. All our potential donors phone my mom. She sits us down and explains that we are not allowed to shake down the neighbors. And then one day, when Jake and I have grown tired of playing on the junked cars in our friend Chris’s yard, we go into his house for the first time, and notice: 1) Chris has way more Legos than we do, lots and lots of Legos. 2) His mom has left a stack of signed checks on her desk. Jake and I start flipping through Chris’s mom’s checks and there’s about two-hundred-and-fifty

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dollars there. Jake and I nod at each other, our heads filled with dollar signs, Legos, and check fraud. Right when we start stuffing the checks into our pockets, Chris says, “I don’t want to get in trouble.” And now Chris is not my friend anymore, just an obstacle standing in the way of my maniacal mission for money. And he is starting to cry. I have to think fast. We can’t have this crybaby telling on us. I flip through my mental archive of all the cop shows I’ve ever watched. Starsky and Hutch. Baretta. Kojak. How did the criminals deal with a snitch in those shows? I can’t remember. Finally, I say, “Look, man, we’ll give you half of the money.” It’s my chance to “Share,” just like that artwork in my living room. Chris perks up. “Good luck. Come back fast,” he says as we leave. Cue the Mission: Impossible theme. The two criminals: 1. Me with my bowl haircut and floral striped corduroys, pockets stuffed with Chris’s mom’s checks, jumping on my banana seat bike 2. Skinny Jake, who hops on his BMX bike with the fat motorcycle seat and the plastic number “8” hanging from the handlebars. We book it past the lunging three-legged dog, his teeth gnashing at our ankles—his chain snaps him back. Then, like a cuckoo clock, that same creepy old lady wheels out to her porch in her wheelchair, points a bony finger, and chants, “One boy die,” like she does every single time a kid passes by. We blow past her. Finally, we weave through four lanes of traffic on Osborn and skid to a stop at the bank drivethru. I don’t know much about banking, so I ask Jake. “Are the checks signed?” “Yep,” he says. “Twice.” He flashes me the checks, showing that they are signed once on the front and once on the back, across the top. Jake and I cross our fingers and stuff all the checks into the glass tube that gets sucked away. A woman with long dark hair waves at us from behind the window, looking, at first, happy to have cute grade-school customers for once, mistaking us for kids with a savings account like our dad is always telling us to get. I am fantasizing about the two-hundred-and-fifty dollars. I figure I’m going to have to carry all the cash in a big sack like Santa Claus. We’ll have so many Legos we will live in a Lego fort. But now the teller is frowning at us. She’s not sending back the money. Now that I’m older, I can see this whole thing from her point of view. She’s looking out at two grubby kids who are trying to cash some random woman’s canceled checks. She calls over her manager and they both frown at us. And she leans into her little microphone and her voice booms over the loudspeakers as she says, “Who are you?” I am supposed to be “Barbara,” who’d had a thirty-dollar check made out to her. But I panic and forget the name and say nothing. Jake desperately tries the best tactic known to the kid world—he leans into the mic and says, “It’s my birthday?” The adult frowns droop even lower, and the heads start shaking, and the manager picks up a phone, so Jake and I launch our bikes into four lanes of traffic, the adult drivers honking and screeching to a halt. To us they are just adults, these annoying older people who are always trying to get us to work for money in their world when we just want them to come play in ours.

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We escape any punishment. Our parents never find out about this scheme. And for those few weeks I am thinking that Jake is right there with Tom and me, loving the excitement of sneaking out and the scams. As the youngest, he just follows along quietly, so I figure he is processing everything the same way I am. Then one day, Jake makes his big move. He walks into the house with my mom, a stuffed bear under one of his arms and a stuffed Clifford the Big Red Dog under the other. Jake has this cocky grin on his face. “Where did you get those?” I ask, pointing at the stuffed animals. “Mom,” he says. “And we had pizza and ice cream too.” My blood courses with anger and jealousy. Jake has just scored the kind of toys it will take Tom and I months to save our allowances for, not to mention time alone with mom, which we are always fighting my dad for. Neither Tom nor I have ever been treated to a special outing and a purchase of toys like this. What the hell is going on here? “Mom?!” I whine. “Mom?!” Tom whines. “I’ll explain later,” Mom says, plopping her purse down on the dining room table. She looks tired. And scared. At first, I think it’s that fearful look she always gets when she cheats my dad’s austere budget and sneaks us something extra, or worried, like the time Tom split his head open on the concrete and she rushed him to the hospital for stitches. Later when we get her alone, she sits down on the couch with Tom and me on either side of her and whispers, “Jake said he wanted to kill himself. He said he was going to run out into traffic. He even knew the word ‘suicide.’” I look at Tom who tucks his bangs behind his ear. He winces. I figure we are thinking the same thing. Yes, there is part of me that is worried about Jake. My little brother can’t smile in photos. He just scrunches up his face for every shot. He takes special classes for his learning disability. Still, I don’t buy it. I’m ninety-five percent sure Jake is playing my mom. My mom thinks it’s strange for a seven year old to know the word “suicide,” but all three of us know from TV what suicide is. Hell, “suicide” is the name for the drink you order from the 7-11 clerk, when you want him to just spray all the soda fountain flavors into one cup. To my mind, Jake’s ploy seems a lot like a kid threatening to run away from home, only my little brother has elevated the traditional manipulation to new heights with plenty of his dark, merciless genius. For a few weeks afterward, Tom and I are terribly cruel to Jake. We are jealous. We are mad at him for upsetting our mother. We just don’t believe he’s suicidal. “Yeah, right, you’re going to kill yourself,” I taunt him. “Why don’t you go ahead and do that?” It’s a test. A challenge. If Jake breaks down and tells us that he really wanted to get run over by a car, we could . . . I don’t know. Buy him another Slurpee? I just want him to admit he’s lying. I’ve seen Jake lie to my dad’s face, like that time he shoplifted some bubble gum and pinned it on another kid. Another time, Jake told us that he saw the “One-boy-die” lady in the wheelchair choke a trick-or-treater on Halloween. I just refused to believe that ladies in wheelchairs would choke kids, so I decided that Jake was lying. Then there was the time he told Tom and me that a man had come into our house in middle of the night. We didn’t believe him until we saw the man-sized shoe prints in the mud

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and our neighbor came over to apologize for being so drunk that he entered the wrong house. It’s just easier not to believe Jake. It’s a safe default. Especially given Jake’s ability to accept some frightening facts. I want to call Jake’s bluff. Because I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of suicide. I can’t imagine that any kids I know would want to kill themselves. Especially not my own brother. I’d like the world to make sense again. I want to give Jake back this harsh topic he’s introduced and make him own it fully. I want him to take it back. Tom pushes Jake even harder. “Get some more toys first,” he says, “so we can have them when you’re dead.” Jake doesn’t respond to our jabs. He just stares right through us. It’s a look we’ll see a lot later on. I first saw this look on the ride home from the J.C. Penney garden store, when Tom and I tried to comfort Jake with promises that we’d buy him soda and candy, but he waved us off. Jake must have known already that Tom and I would never be able to really help him. He’d already watched us work too hard to extract each temporary moment of childish joy. Jake was shooting this brazen glare everywhere, out the window at other cars and pedestrians, out the windshield at the pale blue sky and palm trees, and finally right at my dad—this unwavering steady anger that was not hot and twitchy like my dad’s temper. Now I realize that perhaps Jake was the only one of us three not afraid of our father. Maybe Jake never had access to a full range of emotions. Maybe he intentionally rejected all sentimentality and hope right there in the truck. Either way, I’ll always give him some dark credit for being so uncompromising that he never lets my dad off the hook. Years later we will learn that our father always treated Jake more gently because he thought there was something wrong with him, that Jake’s day-and-night screaming as a newborn meant he’d come into the world already damaged. Maybe this coddling just made it easier for Jake to hate him. Chicken. Egg. Chicken. It’s anyone’s guess. Still, it’s strange that our youngest pioneered the numbness strategy. He leapfrogged Tom and me while we were still dabbling in idealism. Jake didn’t seem old enough for this response to our father’s violence and withholding. The look he shot everyone in the truck didn’t fit his second-grader body and twiggy arms. With his home-cut blonde bangs and his freckled nose, my brother looked like an off-kilter Opie against the vinyl of the bench seat: a hooligan hard enough to target our mom.

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Ray Guns

Tara Barr

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Rachel Mindell

When the neurologist asks if he hallucinates, my father nods. Yes all the time. This is new. In previous appointments, I have had to gently supply examples, to not shame him but illuminate just so for the sake of proper care. There is no way to balance this. She advises going without the memory medicine for one week to see, then moving it to the morning to see. He nods. He does not see. He does not want to do this because although last night there was a snake in his bed the night before it was my mother.

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Ashley Hand Ashley is a service academy graduate and spent her career as a military officer deploying around the world. She is currently an MFA candidate at Cornell University, where she is at work on her first novel. Her most recent work is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Harpur Palate, and Carve, and has appeared in other magazines.

Shosana Tehila Surek Shoshana Tehila Surek is a first-generation American and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. She received her MA in Creative Writing and her MFA in Fiction and Poetry from Regis University in Denver. Her fiction, poetry, and essays can be read or are forthcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, Burningword Literary Journal, Carve Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, Malahat Review, Vestal Review, Cease, Cows, 3Elements Review, and f(r)iction Magazine. In 2017, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and she was a 2019 Curt Johnson Prose Award finalist. More of her work can be found at

ire’ne lara silva ire’ne lara silva is the author of three poetry collections, furia, Blood Sugar Canto, and CUICACALLI/House of Song, and a short story collection, flesh to bone, which won the Premio Aztlán. She and poet Dan Vera are also the co-editors of Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands, a collection of poetry and essays. ire’ne is the recipient of a 2017 NALAC Fund for the Arts Grant, the final recipient of the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Award, and was the Fiction Finalist for AROHO’s 2013 Gift of Freedom Award. ire’ne is currently working on her first novel, Naci, and a second collection of short stories titled, the light of your body. Visit her website at 47 | Issue 41

Authors Ashley Kunsa Ashley Kunsa’s fiction, poetry, and nonfiction appear in The Writer magazine, Sycamore Review, the Los Angeles Review, and Quarter After Eight, among many other publications. She is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, MT. You can find her online at

Molly McCloy Molly McCloy holds a Nonfiction M.F.A. from The New School, has published work in Slate and Nerve, and is the winner of four Moth StorySLAMs. Currently she lives in Tucson where she teaches writing for Pima Community College and enjoys hiking in the desert with her wife, Rebecca, and their dog, Princess Pinwheels of the Purple Mountains. “Fragile Donkey,” is a narrative from the Grudge #1 section of her manuscript, Nine Grudges, a memoir that explores forgiveness, apologies, and, of course, grudges.

Rachel Mindell Rachel Mindell is a writer and teacher living in Tucson. Her third chapbook was just released by Tammy. Individual poems have appeared (or will) in Black Warrior Review, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Foglifter, Sycamore Review, and elsewhere. She works for Submittable and the University of Arizona Poetry Center.

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Artists Julianna Bolanos Julianna Bolanos is a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, on her way to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art with a focus in glass blowing and sculpture. Originally from Austin, Texas, she hopes to travel to and experience art in every form from all cultures, building connections and creating collaborative masterpieces until the very moment she dies.

Tessa Anderson Tessa Anderson is a student from the University of Minnesota studying human physiology, neuroscience, and public health on an exchange program at the University of Hawaii. While in Hawai’i, she’s tapped into her creative flow, drawing inspiration from the healing powers, beauty, and sacredness of Mother Earth on the island of Oahu. She hopes to use her mind, body, and soul together to create a space of healing one day.

Franklin De La Cruz Franklin De La Cruz is a 21 year old student of the Dominican diaspora living in the US mainland (Occupied Calusa and Seminole land). While studying away at UH last fall he found inspiration in the beauty that surrounded him. More than ever while in Hawai’i, he realized the opportunity for light in a world smothered by darkness, and vowed to relay that in everything he creates, in hopes of creating a radically distant future.

Erika Glass My name is Erika Glass, and I make things. Whether charcoal drawings, splattered watercolors, or free verse poems, I hope these things make you feel something. Happy, relaxed, confused out of your mind– what you feel is up to you. But I hope it’s something. That’s my goal. It always has been. These things I make are perspectives. In my work, I illustrate elements of the human experience in all of its raw, magnificent detail. I try to capture the moments of clarity in life– the silent thoughts of a child who can’t sleep, the reflection of light on a wide-opened eye, the grip of a hand holding another as tightly as it can. I think these are the moments we all share, we all know. They’re the ones that make us human.

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Artists Michael Thompson Michael Thompson is an artist who lives in Chicago and primarily makes decorative kites for a living while also pursuing his interests in mono-printmaking, making kinetic sculpture using old erector set parts and creating faux postage stamps that he designs, prints, perforates, applies to envelopes and mails throughout the world.

Ryan Seo Ryan Seo is a high school student attending Seoul Foreign School in South Korea. He is currently preparing his portfolio. His current interests are in algorithmic art.

Tara Barr Tara Barr is a lifelong art lover and a working mom in Washington, DC. She recently decided to make painting a high priority in her life after setting it aside for over a decade to focus on her family and her career in technology. Tara is inspired by great design, interesting details, and nostalgic memories. You can show your support following on Instagram.

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