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A B ORCH AR R C D •

REVIEW


CR AB ORCH AR D •

REVIEW

A Journal of Creative Works

Vol. 24 No. 2

“Hidden everywhere, a myriad leather seed-cases lie in wait…” —“Crab Orchard Sanctuary: Late October” Thomas Kinsella Editor & Poetry Editor Allison Joseph

Founding Editor Richard Peterson

Prose Editor Carolyn Alessio

Managing Editor Jon Tribble

Editorial Interns Britny Cordera Lizabeth Engelmeier Lauren McDaniel

Assistant Editors Dylan Davis Ash Durrance Ian Moeckel James Nash Beaumont Rand Sarah Schore Kyle Stolcenberg

Board of Advisors Ellen Gilchrist Charles Johnson Rodney Jones Thomas Kinsella Richard Russo

2019 ISSN 1083-5571

Web Developer Meghann Plunkett

The Department of English Southern Illinois University Carbondale


Address all correspondence to:

Crab Orchard Review

Department of English Faner Hall 2380 - Mail Code 4503 Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1000 Faner Drive Carbondale, Illinois 62901 Crab Orchard Review (ISSN 1083-5571) is published three times a year by the Department of English, Southern Illinois University Carbondale. We have transitioned from a print subscriptionbased publication to a online-only free publication. Single issues of our last two print editions, both double issues, are $20 (please include an additional $10 for international orders). Crab Orchard Review moved to an online-only publication in the Fall of 2017. Crab Orchard Review accepts no responsibility for unsolicited submissions and will not enter into correspondence about their loss or delay. Copyright © 2019 Crab Orchard Review Permission to reprint materials from this journal remains the decision of the authors. We request Crab Orchard Review be credited with initial publication. The publication of Crab Orchard Review is made possible with support from the Chancellor, the College of Liberal Arts, and the Department of English of Southern Illinois University Carbondale; and through generous private and corporate donations. Lines from Thomas Kinsella’s poem “Crab Orchard Sanctuary: Late October” are reprinted from Thomas Kinsella: Poems 1956-1973 (North Carolina: Wake Forest University Press, 1979) and appear by permission of the author. Crab Orchard Review is indexed in Humanities International Complete. Visit Crab Orchard Review’s website:

CrabOrchardReview.siu.edu


Crab Orchard Review and its staff wish to thank these supporters for their generous contributions, aid, expertise, and encouragement: Amy J. Etcheson, Angela Moore-Swafford, Linda Buhman, Kristine Priddy, and Wayne Larsen of Southern Illinois University Press Bev Bates, Heidi Estel, and Joyce Schemonia Matthew Gordon, Bryan Bishop, David Grandt, Austin Phelps, and Zachary Seibert Dr. David Anthony, Pinckney Benedict, Rebekah Frumkin, Judy Jordan, and the rest of the faculty in the SIUC Department of English Division of Continuing Education SIU Alumni Association The Graduate School The College of Liberal Arts The OfďŹ ce of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost The Southern Illinois Writers Guild


Crab Orchard Review wishes to express its special thanks to our generous Charter Members/Benefactors, Patrons, Donors, and Supporting Subscribers listed on the following page whose contributions make the publication of this journal possible. Address all contributions to:

Crab Orchard Review Department of English Faner Hall 2380 - Mail Code 4503 Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1000 Faner Drive Carbondale, Illinois 62901


CHARTER MEMBERS*/BENEFACTORS Dan Albergotti Carolyn Alessio & Jeremy Manier Anonymous Pinckney & Laura Benedict Edward Brunner & Jane Cogie* Linda L. Casebeer Noel Crook Dwayne Dickerson* Jack Dyer* Joan Ferrell* John Guyon*

John M. Howell* Rodney Jones Richard Jurek Joseph A. Like Greg & Peggy Legan* Beth L. Mohlenbrock* Jane I. Montgomery* Ruth E. Oleson* Richard “Pete” Peterson Peggy Shumaker

PATRONS Robert E. Hayes Chris Kelsey Jesse Lee Kercheval Lisa J. McClure Anita Peterson

Eugenie & Roger Robinson Nat Sobel Betty Tribble David & Laura Tribble Clarisse Zimra

DONORS Lorna Blake Chris Bullard Heidi Czerwiec Charles Fanning Jewell A. Friend John & Nancy Jackson Reamy Jansen Rob & Melissa Jensen Jon Luther

Charlotte and Gabriel Manier Lee Newton William Notter Lisa Ortiz Ricardo Pau-Llosa Angela Rubin Hans H. Rudnick William E. Simeone

SUPPORTING SUBSCRIBERS Joan Alessio Joanna Christopher K.K. Collins Corrine Frisch John & Robin Haller Zdena Heller Karen Hunsaker Lee Lever

Charlotte McLeod Peggy & Albert Melone Nadia Reimer Lee Robinson Catherine Rudnick Peter Rutkoff Victoria Weisfeld


CR AB ORCH AR D •

REVIEW

Special issue: Taste the World

Volume 24, Number 2

Fiction Diana Clarke Matthew Hurley

The Photographer

15

Slipping Away

26

Oindrila Mukherjee

The Violin House

53

Nonfiction Prose Andrew Bertaina

Eating Animals

82

Moira Egan

Formaggio & Flashbacks

89

Wendy Fontaine

Goodness

119

Cory Ginsberg

The Alchemy of Food

125

Susan Heeger

Sunshine Chicken

153

Doris Iarovici

The Missing

159

Sarah K. Lenz

Making Headcheese

186

Andrew Pineda

Hunger Pains

217

Melanie Ritzenthaler

To Wish It Better Than It Actually Was

224


Poetry Ernesto L. Abeytia Allison Adair

Everyday Basics for Spanish Cooking, Two

1

Deliver Me from My EpiPen

2

Liz Ahl Julia C. Alter

When to Eat the Peach

4

Ode to My Spaghetti Squash (22 Weeks)

5

JD Amick

Cherry Tomatoes

6

Kimberly Quiogue Andrews

Mango Mouth

7

Darius Atefat-Peckham

The Eyes of Men and God

8

Deborah Bacharach Sue Hyon Bae John Belk

Salt 9

Mise en place

13

Joe Betz Katie Bickham

A Dream of Fish

14

Elizabeth Boquet

The Clean Plate Strawberry Jam

35 36

Andrea Carter Brown

The Crock

37

Kayleb Rae Candrilli

On the ways our mouths betray us

39

Dorothy Chan

Triple Sonnet for the Girl with Ten Stomachs Triple Sonnet for Asian Girls Eating Gelato

B. Joanna Chen

Dinner Conversations with Năinai

44

Nick Compton

Green Giant Sweetcorn; Original

46

SPAM 10

Salt 34

40 42


Carrie Conners

Her Resolution: Geophagia VIII

47

Rob Cook

Kale Conspiracy

48

Joshua Corson Barbara Crooker Zoe Dickinson

Mrs. Corson’s Classroom - Room 205 Tutti-Frutti

50

Gooseberry Jam

65

Jennifer Dracos-Tice Carlina Duan Stevie Edwards

Enduring Chick-Fil-A 67 Rainbow Chard in Brooklyn 68

Greg Emilio Angelica Esquivel

Consider the Oyster 70 To Loving Well & Eating Good Food 71

Patricia Fargnoli

Olives

72

Jessica Siobhan Frank

The Last King Cake

74

D. Dina Friedman

The Dirt

75

Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Meatloaf and Hamburger Helper

76

Lisa Grunberger

Chef Richard as Jesus The Evidence of Doors

78 80

Sara Henning

French Fries Mom’s Eggs

97 99

Mary Beth Hines

Destroying Angels

100

Karen Holmberg

Wintergreen in Summer

101

Luisa A. Igloria

What the mouth remembers Ghazal of Wild Things

103 104

Danielle Jones

Crayfish, Crawdads, Backwater Lobsters

105

Easy as Pie

52

69


Judy Kaber

Making Scrapple

107

Donna Kaz

Bread

109

Cindy King

Mama Garde Manger

110

Aviya Kushner

Orchids 111 History 113 History of Eating 114

Devi S. Laskar

Black Forest Cakes

115

Ae Hee Lee

Memory Series of Umma Making Kimchi in Trujillo

117

Emily Lerner

Cooking Lessons with My Mother- In-Law

131

An Li fish head soup 135 yolk 136 Angie Macri Nothing could eat all the berries 137 between the lakes, Shahé Mankerian

Shakshouka

138

Peter Marcus

No Other Shell

139

Allie Marini

Root Vegetables in November Streuselküchen, Prasselküchen, Butterküchen

140 142

Joshua Martin

Remembering Oysters

144

Chloe Martinez

The Newlyweds Feast in Winter

145

Joan Mazza

Good Cooks

147

Brian McKenna

The Lemon Monk

149

Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton Church Food: Brister’s Biscuits

151

Rick Mulkey

168

Velveeta


Adela Najarro

The History of Food The History of Food II The History of Food III

169 171 172

Joshua Nguyen

Thịt Kho

173

James Norcliffe

duck mousse for breakfast

175

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell Flannery’s Gluttony

176

Tom Phan

Summer Rolls

177

Tanner Pruitt

Victual

179

Liz Purvis

Biryani

180

Laurel Radzieski

Levitating Acorn Squash

182

Jenny Sadre-Orafai

Saffron

183

Nicholas Samaras

Generations of Utility

185

Sophie Segura

Month of Honey

195

Anya Silver

Poppy Seeds Eating Watermelon Kindness

196 198 199

Erin Elizabeth Smith

All I Am Sometimes is the Next Meal When we can’t sleep, we make bread,

200 202

Brian Spears

Praise Song for Peppers

203

Maxine Susman

Breton Cake, November

204

Brian Spears

Praise Song for Peppers

203

Wally Swist

Frittata 205 The Toast 207

Hsien Min Toh

Hairy Crab

208


Jen Town

The Allegory of a River Made of Burning Damn Queen

210

Memye Curtis Tucker

Lagniappe

213

Angela Voras-Hills

Ode to Food Stamps

214

Marne Wilson

On Learning to Cook Meat

216

Contributors’ Notes

212

231


A Note on Our Cover This cover features six photographs by Jon Tribble of Mercy by the Sea in Madison, Connecticut, during Poetry by the Sea: A Global Conference.


Ernesto L. Abeytia Everyday Basics for Spanish Cooking, Two With over two hundred varieties, Spanish olives, And their oils, complement everything. Picual olives have the strongest personality, Will railroad their way into your kitchen. The Cornicabra offspring take their time growing up— Late to mature, late to everything. Unstable and capricious, Lechín needs to be coaxed, softly By hand from its home in the branches. Hojiblancas are broody, sensitive loners, Prefer to play in the dark of a cupboard. Heavy, thick-skinned Verdial is a footballer, A rowdy fixture common in bars. Arbequina and Aragonesa are the sweetest of sisters, Any rivalry seen is strictly for show.

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Allison Adair Deliver Me from My EpiPen Lord, grant me a new gut, unruly & full of tiny wars. String it with beetred bugs so juiced they’ll see shrimp as a pullup bar. Nah, guy, ’rah! Let them bro in half-syllable, keen with boiling tiger blood. Upon each funky tangle of lacto & spiro let these warriors orgy, shuddering to milky stupor. I miss apples, clams, the velvet meat of a pecan. Science is willing to transplant what should never be transplanted but if you could bloom, Lord, my one & only microbiome, turn it back into the seedy unwiped carnival it once was, I’d buy

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Allison Adair ten rounds of amaretto sours & pork rinds for the team. We’d feast, feast hard.

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Liz Ahl When to Eat the Peach Between unripe and too ripe, a surprisingly thin sliver— between taut flesh biting back and formless surrender, the slenderest moment, a blink. Tonight, the full strawberry moon hauls its solstice glow so slowly up through the lattice of branches. . . yet if you look away, the sky might swallow it whole before you had a chance to taste it for the first time in decades. Between too soon and too late: the narrowest aperture. And yet a whole world in there churns borderless centuries of sweetness for those who can find a way inside.

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Julia C. Alter Ode to My Spaghetti Squash (22 Weeks) Everyone insists you’re a substitute for something, a vehicle for marinara or pesto. But you are nothing close to the noodle whose name you bear. Brace yourself. Someone will always want you to be other than you are. And so begins the work of the girl, the tangled yellow strands of it. Be prepared. They will try to sell you on a lifetime of low-carb diets: rice from cauliflower, flour from almonds. Dairy-free ice cream, grain-free bread, sugar-free candy, everything liberated of its essence, a stand-in for what it stood for. Magazines owned by men will tell you bliss is on the other side of losing ten pounds, like deprivation is the rainbow to a pot of gold. Hold on to what’s real, not the thing they said to swap it out for. Don’t pretend you’re satisfied by less than what you craved.

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JD Amick Cherry Tomatoes

for Tony

For the life of me, I cannot remember a single meal you made. In my head, I see only two large, sun-baked hands, thick, dry clay, cracked and wrinkled fingers. Between them a tiny gem, gleaming red and rubbery. For the life of me, all I see now is your mouth. A stop-motion movie in seconds, your toothy grin, chuckling gape of your opened jaw the rush of expiration, hints of a good red as your lips furl back down, small, and envelop the fleshy gem. Pop. It is gone. For the life of me, I cannot hear your voice, just the theme from the show I took a walk through this and the rush of blood in my ears        beautiful world as I saw what writing, and a good bullshit detector felt the cool rain on my shoulder can do. How close you got to the truth of people. For the life of me, all I feel is the unpleasant gush, the juicy spurt of acid dribbling down a chin. I hate tomatoes. I cannot stand the liminal inside, the firm flesh and the gooey semi-water within. You loved it all, together, the outer fleshy artifice, the hidden squish, the gleam, and slick seeds inside. You held us all, fragile beads of red in your calloused hands. You tasted all we had to give. For the life of me, the unripe, the wrinkled, the sour, the bruised too, and you smiled, and said we were even better this way. Acidic, sweet, slimy, gleaming, good. You loved cherry tomatoes.

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Kimberly Quiogue Andrews Mango Mouth When soft appears, and I mistake the purple rot of the hydrangeas on the counter for their sweetness— O yellow ear, o fortitude, o urushiol. Toxicodendron radicans sounds like a superhero name, Mangifera indica more like what it is, the manhandled feral, and something on the skin of my face cannot tell the difference and the magic works and its inverse and I break out into the tiniest hives. What speaks like the skin of its own geography? The organ that we leave everywhere, that hunches and furrows dries and slicks makes us human, or less so— the calculus of touch, the causality of reaction. That burns and prickles, that renders invisible In the story where my hands push the fruit from its peel, where there’s no water at the tap and the stickiness sings like the blown-down reeds of the authentic, contact dermatitis serves as a book about indulgence, about the taking and taking until you’re a swollen mass of the sun that is not yours of the leaf that is not yours of the sap that you insist, I, that I insist I can avoid by opening wider around the spoon— I count them on the bones beneath my limbs: things I love that cannot touch my lips.

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Darius Atefat-Peckham The Eyes of Men and God This isn’t our language, quite, but is of our world: my mother, sharpened knives, the floes of Persian cucumber in yogurt, and the estival sound of birds on the windowsill. Bibi’s body upturned in the lake water, legs kicking into panic. Her husband’s laughter. Do you know the one about the man and his donkey? All the weight that fell upon his back? There are many who tell it straight-faced, those who stared when Bibi emerged Iranian in short sleeve T-shirt and jeans—naked to the wind that formed around her hips like clouds. To the redness that welled like spring water against the grain. We worry the coast, the water reaching for golden toes, carriage wheels, cracked hooves ridden into the ground. The harness bites into the beast’s chest. Then, the grandson, who swims far past the buoy, moved deeply by the current. His arms open, the waves lap him like tongues, take him his skin darkened (finally) towards shore.

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Deborah Bacharach Salt It’s not bad to be compelled, held in place like quivering ions at the precise vertices of a regular octahedron. Eat this. Wear that. Pray to this God, not the burning sun. In a facecentered cubic lattice you know where you are when the towers fall.

* * * You could weep in the shadow of the well. You could scrawl your name in neon on the night clouds. You could walk toward or away from a party, a prayer service. Under sodium lights, nothing moves.

* * * Sing so hard salt whirs off your body in pulses.

* * * The men of the cities found an unmarried girl had helped the wandering stranger. She gave him bread and water. They lathered her with honey. Then they sent bees, like salt poured from a shaker.

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Sue Hyon Bae SPAM My family’s been putting SPAM in everything since the Korean War. We love it more than Coke, popcorn, and cheeseburgers put together, and I love it more than the rest of my family do put together, maybe because I’ve drunk Western water, as they say. We eat it sliced and fried, in thin strips in sushi rolls, hidden gems in sesame rice balls, diced in fried rice. My favorite is troop stew. You throw in American military surplus food—SPAM, hot dogs, macaroni, baked beans, maybe a slice of processed cheese—with stray vegetables, ramen, tofu, enough kimchi to make it spicy, and cook it on a camp stove at the dinner table. We share a ladle to pour hot stew over our rice bowls, and when everyone’s full, I fish with chopsticks to find the strays at the bottom of the pot. SPAM is salty, fatty, overpowers everything, and we love it even though its mother nation doesn’t anymore. — My archetype for Western language is English. My archetype for Western clothing is blue jeans. My archetype for Western food is an unblemished block of SPAM, freshly thumped out of the can, coated in a thin layer of gelatinous slime, greasing the cutting board while it waits for you to carve it up into any shape you like. — My family aren’t the only Koreans under the spell of SPAM. It’s a national craze. An English academy I worked at gave out SPAM hampers to employees at Christmas. The American teachers gave theirs away to the Korean staff. — Did you know that SPAM can be eaten raw? It tastes just like SPAM in any other context.

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Sue Hyon Bae — Maybe I should explain what Western water means. It’s an oldfashioned phrase used to describe westernized Koreans. They used to be novelties back in the day when foreign travel was tightly regulated. Western water, yangmul, sounds similar to chemicals, yakmul, so when this term was first applied to me, I thought they were saying I was on drugs. When my parents explained, I said, Oh, I’m pickled in that stuff. — There are restaurants that specialize in troop stew. A certain district in Seoul calls it Johnson soup, so named because American soldiers used to be universally called Johnson. If you go to an inferior troop stew restaurant, they serve it with SPAM knockoffs, like Richam, Rospam, or Luncheon Meat. It’s not traditional, but not bad. — I was a picky eater, or, as Koreans say, short-mouthed. For several years in early childhood, I weighed exactly nineteen kilograms, or, as my grandmother said, nineteen goddamn kilograms. When I wouldn’t eat anything else, she fed me lumps of plain white rice wrapped in roasted seaweed. Sometimes I would eat an entire bowl of rice with nothing but a single slice of SPAM, less than a centimeter thick. — My mother and I enjoy chimaek, a new Korean tradition which involves getting fried chicken and beer delivery at midnight. I don’t like beer, though, so we drink Korean rice wine. For half a tipsy hour, I feel authentic. — Some people think SPAM stands for spiced ham, or shoulders of pork and ham. However, for those of us who love SPAM, its etymology is immaterial. We simply memorize the name in transliteration, just as we learn the rest of English.

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Sue Hyon Bae — When Westerners first came to Korea, we said they smelled bad because they carried the miasma of meat-eaters. We don’t notice anymore because we’ve grown rich enough to be meat-eaters too. We can afford grilled pork belly and marinated beef short ribs on the dinner table, but the best school lunches are topped with fried SPAM. — SPAM has only six ingredients: pork with ham (this counts as one), salt, water, potato starch, sugar, sodium nitrite. SPAM.com suggests in its recipe section: SPAM Fries, SPAM Fried Nice!, SPAMLT, SPAM Mmmmusubi, and SPAM Cheesecake. — The tastes acquired in famine are passed down from generation to generation. We still eat bitter spring herbs as though we had never stopped being peasants whose harvests didn’t last long enough. My parents treated my illnesses with red meat as though I were wasting away with anemia. I was born after the famine years, but I still can’t throw away a single grain of rice. My archetype for Western civilization is Bernini’s David, taut Herculean thighs and twisted torso topped by marble grimace, ready to fling — some goddamn culture into your face.

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John Belk Mise en place Grind the chuck, the round— whatever won’t sell whole. Boil the bones for stock. Give gristle to the dog. Render the good fat into a pan for glaze, au jus, a basting sauce— a delicate confit. Pride: to not wring excess from the knuckles— to throw out marrow and sinew, uncourteous, like a regrettable guest or moldered coffeegrounds.

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Joe Betz A Dream of Fish Vestige of moon glow, lily pads on the Fisher’s pond in a town of fishermen and fisherwomen. I’ve known nothing but the Ohio River and corn leaf cuts thick as jam, nothing of villages rimmed with salt, silt. Still, one dreams of nets both filled with fish and also swish for I was born of the trailer park’s dirt basketball court rimmed by blue grass, the smell of cheap catfish fillets helping to lift an under-pumped rubber ball. Tonight, not far from that place, I gut my family’s meal with chagrin, a bottom-feeding hoss tricked by dough balls and pig’s blood, smell rich with the nostalgic arch of inevitability, swimming the ceiling.

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Diana Clarke The Photographer The photographer takes the bowl of steaming tampons out of

the microwave and sets it on the counter. They have expanded into obese versions of themselves, melded together, their cotton a hot wet skin, each fused with another. They look like storm clouds crowding the sky, shoving and bustling for space. The photographer plucks two by their strings between his thumbs and forefingers and lets them dangle like caught mice; their sway is hypnotic. He has had a single one night stand in his life, although he didn’t intend for it to happen. He had been photographing a woman for a housekeeping magazine. She was wearing a yellow dress and a neon green apron that seemed, in combination, to illuminate her skin citrus. The photographer had created a blueberry pie from pastry-colored clay and then filled the crust with tampons drowned in an indigo dye. He had browned the upper crust by spraying it with bug repellent and lighting it on fire with a match, just for a second, before extinguishing the flame with his breath. The dessert shone from the spray, the gloss of a pie well done. The model had held the pie tin in one hand and a fork in the other. She smiled at the pie, falling in love with the toxic crust, while the photographer sprayed her body all over with a specific solution of oil and water that made her skin glisten with health. After he had taken her photograph, the woman smiled at the shot. Said only, “I look beautiful,” and pressed her oily face against the photographer’s. He tasted makeup and frypans but he did not know how to halt the cover star’s roaming greasy hands, which slipped down his pressed polo, leaving skid marks of extra virgin that wouldn’t wash out. After they made love, the photographer directed the model to his studio bathroom. She relieved herself with the door open, as if their recent mutual nudity, or perhaps their sharing of fluids, meant that all nakedness and all fluid production from there on out should also be a shared experience. She shouted to the eyes-averted photographer, “It’s so nice you keep tampons in here! What a gentleman!” She had not cut into the blueberry pie. She had not seen the layer of bloated cotton keeping the pie full as a gut and steaming with promise. He drops the tampons back into the bowl and returns to the stove to stir the mashed potatoes. They are done. He turns the stove off and the radio on. He listens to classical music as he works. The unpredictability of

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Diana Clarke the piano excites him. He knows to expect the runs and trills but he never knows when they are coming and when the melody hits a note he hasn’t been expecting, he often stops in his work to yelp in delight. The photographer takes a heavy china bowl, filled halfway with gelatin, uncolored, a state in which the material is rarely seen. He loves to work with gelatin. It is like seeing a beautiful woman in the nude, face wiped clean of makeup, organic in a way only a lover would usually see her. But the photographer gets to see this naked gelatin, white and sticky and virginal, untainted by the usual gummy colors of candy and dessert. The way the photographer uses gelatin requires its natural state, white and opaque, the boiled animal tendons almost visible in the cloudy goo. The photographer takes the bowl of jelly to his workstation and sets it down. Its surface tremors like cellulite and the photographer swallows the hot bile that rises in him. The photographer has had one true romance. He had been young and inexperienced and a fashion photographer’s assistant, even though he was never interested in taking pictures of clothes, whose appearance depended so much on the skill of the designer and the manufacturer, and whose sleeves could not be plumped with tampons for effect. Nearing the end of his apprenticeship, the photographer had spent a day holding light reflectors off to the side of an important photoshoot for a famous designer. His mentor, a well-known photographer in the fashion industry, took hundreds of shots. The model, beautiful, sharp, wearing a long beige blazer and tan heels and nothing else, placated him by posing, shifting, posing, shifting, for hours and hours on end. The shoot started in the morning and went into the night. The model, under a buttery spotlight, kept her composure all the while. By the end of the day, the photographer was so taken by her beauty and poise. Her face always clouded and mysterious and brooding. Her fingers curled like shy sunrise roses and her legs stretched at jarring, cutting angles, muscles wound up her calves like ivy. The photographer was so taken by the model that he felt aroused by her presence. It was the first time the photographer ever felt attracted to a person. The first time the excitement that grew from his crotch was directed at a female or even just a human being. He felt lust, even, a hungering need for this model to be his. The photographer had never felt so much like a man. He had approached the model, when his mentor finally called the day done, and he had said, “You were great today.” She turned to face him. “Thanks!” she said, smiling. The photographer recoiled. His stomach seized and acid began to singe his throat. Up close, out of the flattering yellow of the UFO beam, this girl’s face was pockmarked with acne scars like a well-used dartboard. Her teeth were yellowed and her gums were too red and obvious, the inside of her mouth an artist’s garish palette. Her hair was scarce, bald patches of scalp shone through her reedy

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Diana Clarke frizz, and her eyebrows were leaking down her face as if she were melting. The photographer turned and walked away. Thankful for having felt lust; nauseated by the model’s ugliness. Now, the photographer takes four tampons from the steaming orgy of swollen bodies and adds them atop the trembling gelatinous surface. The piano trills and the photographer’s flesh prickles at the beauty of it. Then he takes the saucepan of potatoes and scoops them with a spoon, so carefully, over the jelly. He takes a handful of scallions he sliced earlier and places them, one by one, over the meal. He shifts the bowl into place, on a podium dazzled in a yellow spotlight. Grinning, the photographer skips to his camera. He peers into the lens and sees the photo before he captures it. The tampons make the dish steam irresistibly. The scallions complement the buttered clouds of potato. The gelatin beneath makes the bowl look overweight with carbohydrates. And the photographer clicks the shutter. He need only take one shot; he is very good at his job. As he is taking the meal to his deconstruction station, there is a knock on the studio door. He sets the bowl down and turns to greet his 11am appointment. “Hi!” A happy woman waves and then holds her palms over her ears with a barking laugh. “That’s loud!” she shouts. The photographer turns the volume dial on his radio and says, “Hello.” Emma is small. “Hello,” says Emma. “Those potatoes look good!” “Yes,” says the photographer. “I’ve never seen potatoes steam like that. How’d you cook them?” “Tampons,” says the photographer. Emma frowns. “There are tampons in your potatoes?” “Yes.” He points to the still steaming bowl containing the rest of the tampons, and Emma walks over to his preparation station to peer at the engorged creatures. “So this is your studio?” she asks. “This is where you’ll be shooting my book?” She is probing the tampons with her fingertip. “Yes.” “I’d like to stay and watch you work,” she says. “Would that be okay? I know we don’t start shooting my stuff until tomorrow but I’d like to watch how you work. I don’t mean to be an inconvenience. I’m just nervous, is all. This is my first book, you know?” “Okay.” “Can I taste this?” asks Emma, making her way back to the potatoes. “They look so good.” The photographer does not taste his art. He does not want this girlwoman in his studio. He does not like people to watch him work. His ears

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Diana Clarke are ringing in their mourning for the deafening piano and the photographer is already fatigued from the conversation. “Blink once if yes, twice if no,” says Emma. She is laughing. Her laugh is too deep for her small body and the photographer wonders where it is coming from—whether she borrowed it from a larger person. “It is not edible,” he tells her, taking the bowl and tossing its contents into the trash. The gelatin at the bottom helps the pile slip out of the container easily, and there is a thud when its contents hit the plastic floor of the bin. The photographer returns to his preparation station, a small kitchen, takes a tiny pan about the size of his palm from a cupboard, and sets it on the stovetop. He opens his fridge and retrieves a pat of butter and slips it into the pan. He ignites the element and waits until the butter bubbles in anticipation, and then he pours a mixture of pancake batter he mixed earlier into the small pan. The batter fills the space, forms its perfect circle, and cooks quickly. He flips the batter with a fish slice and smiles at the tanned surface. When it is done, the photographer sets the pancake, golden and hot, on a polished plate and then places a circle of cardboard on top of it. He makes six more pancakes this way and stacks them atop the first, always with a slice of cardboard between. This helps the pile look full. The photographer smiles at his work. “Great trick!” says Emma. The photographer jumps, having forgotten that she is watching him, and she says, “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” The photographer shakes his aerosol can of Scotchgard and revels in the ball bearing’s rattle. He wishes Emma would leave his studio. He sprays the stack of pancakes with a thin layer of the translucent fabric protector and then takes a container of motor oil and drizzles the liquid over the pile. “That smells awful!” says Emma. The photographer has noticed that the woman-girl speaks only in question marks and exclamation points, and he wonders how she can be so certain of the intent of her words that she can punctuate them so definitely. He takes another pat of butter, a perfect yellow square, and sets it on the top pancake. Then he peers through the lens of his camera, smiles, and Emma says, “Looks good!” as he clicks the shutter and he jumps at the exclamation and the image is undefined. The edges are blurry, hazy, colors run into one another like watercolor paint. The photographer frowns. He does not like to take the photos more than once. He turns to scowl at Emma before looking through the lens again. He clicks the shutter. The image is sharp and perfect. “Why did you use Scotchguard?” she taps him on the shoulder as she asks and the photographer is sure to be subtle as he wipes her touch from his polo shirt. “It keeps the syrup from sinking in.”

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Diana Clarke “You mean the motor oil!” says Emma. “Why did you use motor oil?” “It’s a better syrup color.” “Than syrup?” “Yes.” Emma stays all day long, while the photographer shoots cheeseboards constructed with glue and varnish, ice cream that is just colored lard rolled into orbs and a glass of cola whose effervescence is born by an antacid tablet and its glass is made dewy with spray deodorant. She says, “That was a fun day, thank you!” as the photographer locks his studio door behind him. She waves goodbye and says, “I’ll see you tomorrow to start on my book!” “I don’t need you to be present,” says the photographer. “I can make the recipes myself. I already bought all of the ingredients. I can do it on my own.” “I’m a very hands-on person,” explains Emma, waving her hands as if to clarify. “So I’ll see you tomorrow!” The photographer’s home is a studio apartment with a mattress and a chair and a desk. He checks his mailbox and finds his weekly issue of Insects and his monthly issue of Weather. He holds one in each hand and feels victorious. He takes them to his single chair and sits down, setting the magazines side by side on his desk. This week’s issue of Insects has a close-up of an ant on the front. The photographer lifts the magazine and brings its cover to his face, his nose touches the gloss of the paper and he smiles at the detail on the ant’s abdomen. He sets the magazine down and selects the issue of Weather instead. The cover is a shiny plastic woman smiling up at a blue sky. He is not interested in this cover, but he opens the book and sees a weather map and lets his eyes blur so the blots of color, blues and reds and oranges, seem to move about. The photographer feels as if he is controlling the weather by focusing and unfocusing his eyes. He feels powerful. He sets the magazine back on the table and goes into his kitchen. The photographer takes a packet of ramen from a bulk bag of fifty and tears the cheap plastic. He drops the noodles, dry and pressed into a square that reminds him of matted hair, into a cheap plastic bowl. He holds the bowl under the faucet and runs water, lukewarm, over the cake of plastic pasta. Then he sets the bowl in the microwave and watches it twirl like a bad ballerina. When the microwave rings its final bell, the photographer removes the bowl. The noodles have evaporated the water and they are turgid and wound around one another, post coital and guilty with copulation. He pours the small sachet of flavoring on the pile of white worms and stirs the bowl carelessly. Noodles slosh over the plate’s edge and tarnish the counter with greasy snail trails. The photographer ignores the mess and stands over the

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Diana Clarke sink as he ladles forkful after forkful of the pasta into his mouth, forgetting to chew, swallowing to fill the void that aches. Then he drops the plate into the sink and ignores the mess. He cannot sleep even though it is fifteen minutes past his bedtime and he has been waiting in bed, pajama-clad and yawning performatively, since the sun was still up. He watches the clock and dreads each tick. His clock is violent in its determination to pass time. The second hand moves with such force that it clicks forward and rocks back, like it has run, full speed, into a wall. It recoils from the obstruction and shudders, recuperating, until it runs forward again only to hit the same wall. The photographer watches the clock and the second hand who wants to run forever only to keep being blocked by the constraints of time. He stands from his bed and takes the machine off the wall and pulls the batteries from its rear and then hangs the clock again. He climbs back into bed and holds the batteries in his clenched fist, feeling authoritative. He smiles at the still clock. He tucks the batteries into his pillowcase. Shadows dance together intimately on his walls. The trees outside cast spidery limbs whose silhouettes entangle and intertwine and make love on his walls in a way that reminds the photographer that he is alone. He thinks of Emma and he wishes her name were Emme. That would make him more comfortable around her, he thinks. Mame, he thinks. Emam, Amme. Amem. Mena. He thinks about her hair that is smooth and floppy like she is wearing a satin handkerchief over her head. He wishes she were taller so he could stop thinking about her as if she is a thing to be thought about. Tall people are always more human and this is why he prefers to photograph tall models. This is why all good photographers recruit tall models. He looks at the still clock. He wishes he knew the time. He feels the batteries in the fabric of his pillowcase and he whispers to them, “What is the time,” because they are the brains of the clock anyway, the face itself only the empty body. But even the batteries do not know. The photographer peers through the blinds of his window behind him and he sees the moon, three quarters full, maybe. Adolescent and unimpressive. He lies flat on his back and closes his eyes and remembers all of the punctuation marks— they come to him like constellations—that Emma had insisted upon using alongside every word she spoke. His body feels strange. His muscles tense in anticipation, his hands fidgety in wanting, and an unsettling warmth grows from the floor of his gut. The photographer looks down to see his comforter shift at his hips and he greets the arousal like a distant relative. A pat and a polite smile. He feels nostalgic for the ugly model who once aroused him so. The excitement that builds within him is listening to a forgotten song or seeing one’s childhood home or the first glimpse of the twinkle blink of Christmas lights each year.

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Diana Clarke The photographer reaches for himself, strangles his excitement, thumb and forefinger, like measuring the circumference. He is out of practice but, suddenly, he knows it is necessary. He has never much enjoyed the cession of corporeal control that comes with an orgasm. For the photographer, the feeling is akin to being drunk, high. He prefers to puppeteer his body with tight strings, sure movements. But this time the photographer lets himself conjure the image of Emma’s childlike face that smiles out, all dimples, from the depths of his mind. The reward is gluey and immediate. He feels dirty and washes his hands. He washes them with a bar of soap. He scratches his skin with manicured fingernails. He starts with his palms but the grime will not clean, so he washes his wrists, his forearms, his elbows. He flicks the light switch in attempt to see the dirt that will not be scoured, but it is invisible, or, thinks the photographer, perhaps it has sunk beneath his skin. The only solution is one that makes the photographer grimace. His teeth ache at the thought, like considering sucking on a lime wedge or biting through a sheet of foil. He raises the bar of soap to his mouth. Its skin is sudsy and lathered in its own slimy self. He presses the oval to his lips and forces it through the slit until it fills his crevice. He closes his lips around the bar and begins to chew. Like masticating a crayon or a lump of clay, the soap crumbles easily but the bubbles that tangle with his saliva fill his mouth until overflow, a bad science experiment, and when he finally concedes his table manners and opens his lips, the froth that spills looks rabid. The photographer’s eyes are washed with tears and when he manages to swallow he tastes fresh laundry. He uses his forefinger to carve soap from his molars and gulps down the excess like pills. Then the photographer lies on his bed and he sleeps. When the photographer arrives at the studio, Emma is waiting at the door, a cup of coffee in each hand, her smile intact and infinite. “Morning!” she says as the photographer locks his car with the key. He doesn’t trust the electronic lock. “I got you coffee. I just got black because you seem like you drink it black, but I got some creamer to go if you want to add creamer?” “Good morning,” he says, unlocking the door to his studio and pressing the light switch. “Thank you.” He takes the cardboard cup, careful to keep his fingers far from hers during the interaction. In their close proximity, the photographer smells something tropical, like she has bathed in the juices of island fruits. He takes a sip of the drink and his still soapy saliva fizzes in his mouth like a soda. He sets the cup aside and says, “Have you got a copy of the book? I’ll need to shoot the cover.” Emma reaches for her purse and knocks it off the counter. Its contents spill across the floor and the photographer watches with clenched teeth. A

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Diana Clarke wallet, a cell phone, car keys, a single tampon, these things are all fine and expected. But also a sachet of sugar, a spool of thread, a screed of receipts, an unwrapped lollipop hairy with dust, a single earring, a tangle of crescents that appear to be acrylic fingernails. In her purse and now on his floor is a halfeaten muffin and a brown apple core, a beige G-string knotted in a ball and a single pink sock, its sole dirty with wear. The photographer gags and looks away to keep himself from stocktaking further and Emma says, “Whoops!” The photographer feels the sip of coffee curdle within him, bubbling like mud, he is dirty inside. “Here you go!” She collects the book from the floor, a stapled manuscript of recipes typed in various fonts, pages askew, cover grimy with fingerprints and brown smears. “This is the book. Can you believe it?” He takes it and opens to the back page. It is a turkey recipe. He prefers to shoot the most elaborate recipes first because he works best in the mornings. The photographer has shot many turkeys in the past. Thanksgiving and Christmas articles are always asking for the perfect turkey shot. He has the recipe down to a science. He needs only a raw turkey, paper towels, a blow torch, and shoe polish. “Now,” Emma is saying, “I have a special secret when it comes to my turkey. The key to a perfect turkey is to brush it with pineapple juice halfway through cooking. It adds a sweetness that really complements the meat. You’ll love it! I can’t wait for you to taste it!” The photographer waits for Emma to finish speaking and then he says, “We will not be cooking the turkey.” Emma, who is already removing a box of pineapple juice from her purse pile on the floor, stops. “What do you mean?” “A turkey photographs best when it is raw on the inside and blowtorched.” He retrieves his blowtorch from a cupboard and Emma shakes her head. “That’s dishonest,” she says. “I want my images to be my actual recipes. I don’t want fake food in my book.” “It will look better,” says the photographer. “Let me show you.” “No!” says Emma. Her cheeks are rosy and her brow furrowed. She is flustered. “Let me show you!” The photographer feels assaulted by exclamation. He says, “You cook one and I’ll cook one and then you can decide which you’d like to have alongside the recipe in your book.” Emma looks skeptical. She eyes the blowtorch in the photographer’s hands as if he might start to scald her in the studio. He waits. “Okay,” she says, “I guess. But it is really important to me that the photos are honest representations of my recipes!” The photographer smiles to appear understanding and sympathetic and he takes two turkeys from his refrigerator. He passes one to Emma,

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Diana Clarke who rolls the sleeves of her shirt to her elbows. Her arms are thick with dark hair and the photographer winces. He sets his own turkey on a board at his preparation station and says, “You’ll find everything you need in those cupboards,” he gestures, “and the fridge,” he points. Emma smiles. “Got it! Thanks! Can I turn the radio on?” But she is already fiddling with the tuning dial. She stops on a station that is playing some sort of electronic buzz. A woman is shouting cuss words between beeps and blips. “This okay?” Emma asks. “I love this song!” The photographer says nothing. He tears the plastic that dresses his turkey and peels it like stripping a wetsuit. Without wasting any time, he plunges a hand into the viscid pink and it feels like wearing a wet latex glove. He drags the bird’s innards out, tosses its organs, once vital, into the trash, and when they hit the plastic they make a slapping sound that reminds the photographer of fishing. Once the turkey is hollow, the photographer takes a handful of paper towels and balls them in his fist and shoves them into the orifice, a tissue stuffing. He fills the bird until it is engorged and balloon-like. He smiles at the plump corpse and takes his blowtorch, fires two warning shots into the sink, and then scalds the turkey’s skin with flames. It takes five minutes before the bird is tanned and crisp to the touch. It does not matter that its insides still drip blood from raw flesh. The photographer takes a tin of shoe polish and uses a paintbrush to coat the turkey in a shiny brown. He varnishes the bird’s tanned skin until it shines a healthy pregnant glow. He lifts the bird and sets it on a platter. Then he carries it to the podium that stands before his camera. Under the careful orange glow of overhead lamps, the turkey is perfect. Emma, elbow deep in her bird, says, “Wow.” The photographer squints through the lens. “I don’t want to use it,” says Emma. “It’s a fake. It’s a fraud! I can’t use that tissue-filled shoe-polished turkey!” The photographer says, “You can decide once your turkey is done.” “No!” Emma’s top lip is moist with perspiration and her hair is growing upwards. The photographer keeps his studio warm. “I don’t know about your other clients but I am not lying to my readers. The photo they see in the book will be the turkey made by my recipe!” The photographer feels Emma’s punctuation pelt his skin, sharp bullets falling to the floor at his feet. Her T-shirt clings to her infantile body, the white made transparent with sweat. “God, it is so hot in here,” she says, preheating the oven. Her appearance is grotesque to the photographer, who is considering throwing up to be relieved of the nausea even if for just a moment. The bathroom is too close to the oven. Emma would hear his retching. He says, “I’m just going to step outside for a moment,” and before Emma responds he is out the door. The fresh air topples his nausea and the photographer folds

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Diana Clarke in two and empties his insides onto the pavement. His barf is old bathwater, murky and soapy. He watches it seep through the bars of the gutter and stands, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. The photographer peers through his studio window and sees Emma, sweltering, preparing stuffing and muttering to the music she likes. Her hair is flat against her face as if drawn on and her eye makeup is running dirty tears down her cheeks. The photographer’s nausea returns as he unzips his fly. He feels practiced and experienced after last night, and his breath quickens, his arm pumps, the orgasm happens quickly and he paints the side of his building a proud white. “How’s it going?” he asks when he returns, a number of shudders later. Emma smiles. Her face is speckled with freckles that had been hidden beneath makeup which has long since dripped from her face. “It’s cooking,” she says. “It’ll be a while. Maybe we should move on to something else and then we can come back to the turkey in a few hours.” The photographer nods and turns to the next page, a recipe for lamb shanks. “Actually,” says Emma. “Can we do the baking chapter? I baked most of the cakes last night and we could photograph them before they wilt.” The photographer nods but Emma is already buried in the refrigerator. Her underwear is visible through the thin cotton of her shorts and the fat around her rear bulges over the elastic. The photographer does not look away. “This one,” says Emma, “is my decadent chocolate cake.” She walks the cake proudly to the podium and sets it before the camera. The photographer peers through the lens. The cake is a noncommittal browny mahogany and it appears painted matte beneath the studio lights. It looks unimpressive and undecorated and plain. He clicks the shutter and says, “Now we will try it my way.” He takes a can of spray paint titled DARK CHOCOLATE and coats the cake in three layers as Emma watches, wide eyes and open mouth. Then he paints the cake with house varnish. Adds rings of shaving cream to the top. He sharpens a pencil down to nothing and uses more spray paint to make the shavings chocolate. He sprinkles them over the cream and dusts them with talcum powder. Then he smiles and takes the shot. “Which do you prefer?” the photographer asks, showing Emma the two photographs side-by-side on his computer screen. She stares. She looks between her cake, which looks like a bad first draft, and his—glossy, lush, the perfect gateau. She spends a long time looking and then she sighs. “I want the book to be honest,” she says. “I need to use the photograph of my cake without the whipped cream, I mean shaving cream, and spray paint. I won’t deceive my readers.”

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Diana Clarke The photographer says, “Then you will need to find a new photographer.” He takes the cake to the deconstruction station and starts to disassemble it. “What?” says Emma. “Really?” The photographer says nothing. “You’re really telling me you won’t be my photographer? Wow. Wow! Okay. Wow. Fine.” She is on her knees, ushering the contents of her purse back inside. “I really can’t believe… Wow!” She stands. The photographer tosses the cake into the trash and smiles at the thud when it hits the bin’s floor. “Bye then, I guess,” Emma says, already out the door. “Ugh what the fuck is—” the door slams shut. The photographer takes Emma’s turkey from the oven and paints it with pineapple juice. It smells just like her hair.

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Matthew Hurley Slipping Away Kevin locks himself in a stall and leans over the toilet. The locker

room reeks of vomit, stale sweat, and bleach and it makes his head spin. He puts two fingers into his mouth, but can’t make himself go through with it. He hasn’t eaten since lunch yesterday, so there’s nothing left to bring up. He should have gotten up early to jump rope, run, or spit into a cup for an hour. But he slept through his alarm and almost missed the bus. He flushes the toilet and takes his place in line for weigh-ins wearing only a pair of gray boxer briefs, ribs showing through his pale skin. When it’s his turn, he steps onto the scale, waits for the inevitable. “115 pounds, 7 ounces,” the official reads off the scale and makes a note in his book. “You have until four this afternoon to make weight.” “Goddammit, DeMille,” Coach Burns says. His teammates all shake their heads in disgust, except for Ben Schwarz. Ben will move up from JV if Kevin can’t lose the half-pound in time, and he has trouble hiding a smile at this fortunate turn. Kevin returns to his locker, stares into a grocery bag full of food he can’t eat. There’s an assortment of fruit and the foot-long Italian sub Clay made him. He pulls on his clothes as his teammates shuffle past, taking turns smacking the back of his head. He says nothing, takes the punishment. It was Clay’s idea for him to wrestle in the lower weight class. When Kevin protested, said he was happy at a weight he could manage, Clay leveled him with a fist to the gut. Then picked him up and hit him five more times in the same spot. “One for each of your losses,” he said, spitting as he talked. When he slumped over, Clay lifted him up and hugged him close. “I’m sorry, Little Bro. But you gotta trust me. You’ll be state champ at 115. I know it.” There was a time when he trusted his big brother. Clay was the reason he started wrestling in the first place. He made varsity as a freshman and Kevin went to every one of his meets. He remembers walking into the gym the first time: A single light hung over the mat, illuminating the two combatants like stars on a stage reenacting some ancient gladiatorial battle. The other wrestlers lined the edge, a boisterous ensemble, pounding the floor and cheering on their teammate while coaches shouted instructions. He can still feel the punches as he carries his grocery bag into the cafeteria. Homeroom is still 20 minutes away and most of the team is gathered together,

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Matthew Hurley eating bowls of cereal, munching on toast, or peeling oranges and bananas. No one wants him here, but Kevin has nowhere else to go. Chris Stapleton sits before half a dozen hard-boiled eggs on a plate, removing the shells one by one. Kevin sits down next to him, places his bag on the table. “DeMille, what are you doing here?” Chris asks. Kevin shrugs and reaches for his food. Chris snatches the bag, peers inside. “There’s a sub here, who wants it?” The others ignore him and scowl at Kevin. They’ve got a three pound allowance and don’t want to overeat. Chris has nothing to worry about. He’s the heavyweight; he could put on 25 pounds and it wouldn’t matter. He closes up the bag and sets it on the table in front of him. “Not until you’ve made weight,” he says. “Then you can eat like me.” He grabs two of the eggs and shoves them into his mouth, puffing his cheeks out like a squirrel preparing for winter. He laughs and yellow bits of yolk squeeze through his teeth. Kevin snatches his bag before Chris can react and slides further down the table. He looks around, silently pleading for support he knows he won’t get. “Fuck you,” Ryan Hamlin says, as though reading his thoughts. “Why didn’t you just stick a finger down your throat like the rest of us?” Kevin ignores him and heads for the hallway. Clay stands on the loading dock and lets the cold wind slap at his face. He’s on edge, can’t keep still. Beneath a heavy Nittany Lions sweatshirt and worn Carhartt jacket, he has the body of a wrestler three years retired: soft around the middle but still capable of lifting full kegs and tossing cases of beer like they’re pillows. The parking lot is barren. Phil, the distributor, should have been here by now. Clay checks the time on his phone—7:55am—and calls Kevin. “Hey, Little Bro!” he says. “How did the weigh-in go?” “No sweat,” Kevin says. He sounds tired and Clay remembers how little sleep he’d get the night before a match. Especially when he was trying to make weight. “Just take it easy and make sure you get enough to eat.” “Yeah, I can get a salad.” “What about the sub I made you?” he asks, before thinking better of it. “No, you’re right. Better play it safe.” “I’ll be fine.” Kevin’s voice is strained, distant. “Remember, that recruiter from Cornell will be there.” The phone goes dead. Clay stares at it for a long time, knows something’s not right. He thinks about how moody he used to get on matchday, but this is different. He’s about to call back when the roaring engine of a truck breaks the silence as it turns into the lot.

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Matthew Hurley Phil backs up to the loading dock and jumps out shouting apologies. “Traffic was brutal,” he says. “Accident on 17.” “I don’t want excuses,” Clay says. “Just get here on time.” He opens the back of the truck, loads cases onto a dolly, and wheels them into the storeroom. Phil offers to help but he waves him off. The quicker he can finish, the sooner he can call Kevin back. He loads the second batch more hastily and when he turns, the dolly tips, sending boxes sprawling and bottles of booze tumbling onto the cold cement. “Goddammit!” Clay screams. He surveys the mess then picks up one of the unbroken bottles and hurls it toward the empty lot. Phil ducks, as though it’s going to hit him, but it arcs high into the air and lands by the dumpster, smashing and sending tiny glass fragments in every direction and leaving a dark brown puddle on the ground. “Whoa,” Phil says, shaken. “Uh, don’t worry about it. We’ll chalk it up to spillage. Happens all the time.” Clay takes three deep breaths and loads the boxes with more care. He takes his time filling the rest of the order, tries to stay calm. When he’s finished, he goes into the store to find a broom. The heat indoors is suffocating. He peels off his knit brown hat, revealing two small, round scars above his eyebrows. They’re the only evidence of the halo he wore for six months after suffering a broken neck in his last match, the injury that cost him his scholarship and final two years at Penn State. He steps behind the counter, where Marty is struggling with a crossword puzzle. Three clues are filled in and he’s not sure any of them are right. Clay shakes his head, wonders how this guy runs three liquor stores. “Six down,” Clay says. “Author of The Divine Comedy. That’s Dante. D-A-N-T-E.” “How the fuck do you know that?” Marty says. “And what was that noise?” “Just a little accident,” he says, reaching for the broom and dustpan. “I’ll take care of it.” Marty brushes sweat off his forehead and uses the backside of a blue ballpoint to scratch a spot beneath his tattered Coors hat. “I need to jet early,” Clay says. “We’re wrestling Columbia this afternoon.” “Who’s we? You haven’t wrestled in years.” “Kevin needs me there.” He doesn’t want to have this discussion again. “Get the Jameson display arranged,” Marty says. “After that, I don’t care what you do. But I’m only paying you for the hours you work.” Clay steps back outside so he won’t be tempted to toss Marty off the loading dock. He calls Kevin again, but there’s no answer. By lunchtime, Kevin has three missed calls from Clay. His insides are rebelling; the emptiness runs from head to toe and begs to be filled with

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Matthew Hurley something, anything. He’s tired, there’s a throbbing pain behind his eyes, and he’s having trouble focusing. He makes his way to the library where he finds an empty carrel to sleep through the next period. He dreams he’s at Sunday brunch. There are rows of breakfast meats and pastries. A sneeze guard extends to the floor and Kevin can’t get to any of it. In one corner, a chef in a white hat cooks an omelette stuffed with peppers, onions, and cheese. He flips it high into the air, but when Kevin steps closer, it all disperses like confetti in a parade. He wakes with a puddle of drool by his head and an unceasing growl in his stomach. He knocks his chair over getting up and leaves it on its side. Outside the library, he wanders the deserted hallway. His legs are unsteady. Stumbling along the corridor, he’s reminded of the time, before all this, that Clay gave him a six pack and laughed while he struggled to stand up straight. When he reaches his locker, it takes him three tries to get the combination right. Opening it, he finds the grocery bag that’s been tormenting him all day. When Clay got it in his head that Kevin would be state champ at 115, nothing else mattered. Kevin spent his Christmas break working out six hours a day and having his meals portioned out for him. He couldn’t leave the house without notifying his big brother. He missed Sarah Pembroke’s New Year’s party after Sarah told him she wanted him by her side at midnight. He doesn’t understand Clay’s obsession: starving yourself for no other reason than to take on a weaker opponent. All he wants is for things to be the way they were, even if that means not winning every match. He takes the footlong Clay made him, then slides to the cold laminate floor, and rests his back against the lockers. He unwraps the sandwich and takes in the aroma, closing his eyes. Clay will kill him, but he doesn’t care. He draws the sandwich to his mouth, takes a small bite. A panoply of flavors erupts, nothing has ever tasted so good: the salty meats, spicy banana peppers, oil and vinegar. He’s five bites in when his phone rings. A rush of heat pours through his body. “Clay?” he answers. “Kev, I’ve been trying to reach you all morning. Are you keeping your strength up? Did you get enough to eat?” Kevin looks at the sub, and then at the drooping, fading paper sign that adorns the opposite wall. It’s for a holiday food drive to help homeless veterans in the area. “Yeah,” he says with little confidence. “Yeah, I’m fine.” “Kevin, what’s wrong?” Clay always could tell when he was lying. He hesitates, searching for a way out that isn’t there. But what more can Clay do that he hasn’t already done? He can’t follow him around school all day, knocking food out of his hands every time he grabs something to eat.

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Matthew Hurley “I missed weight,” he says finally. It feels good to say it, and he doesn’t care about the consequences. He’s going to miss weight and Coach will have to shift the lineup or bench him. There’s nothing Clay can do about it now. “You told me this morning everything was fine.” Clay’s voice is highpitched and Kevin can hear his breath quickening. “What happened?” “A half-pound over is what happened. I did all I could.” “Okay,” Clay says, working through a solution. “It’s going to be okay. You haven’t eaten anything, right?” “The sub,” Kevin says. “It’s the best you’ve ever made.” He hangs up and finishes it off, relishing each delicious bite. Mrs. Kendall is posing questions to the class, so Clay waits in the hallway outside. He spots Kevin in the back by the window with the hood up on his sweatshirt. He might be asleep. “Who can tell me, according to Dante, who resides in the third circle of hell? Mr. DeMille?” For a moment, Clay thinks she’s talking to him and it fills him with dread, returning him to the days he spent in these classrooms, struggling through every subject. It all comes so much easier for Kevin—he barely has to study. He should be more focused on wrestling, should be at the top of his game. As if hearing Clay’s thoughts, Kevin looks up. “The gluttons?” he says. “Very good.” Clay knocks before she has a chance to continue. The whole class turns toward the door, grateful for the interruption. Mrs. Kendall motions him in. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Mrs. Kendall,” he says. “I need to excuse Kevin from class. Family matter.” What little is visible of Kevin’s face under the hood has gone pale. He picks up his backpack and shuffles to the door. Mrs. Kendall smiles with sympathy as he slides by her and steps into the hallway. They stand out of sight of the class and Clay puts a thick finger into his chest. “What do you think you’re doing?” “I missed weight,” Kevin says, staring at the floor. “And you thought eating would help?” He seizes Kevin by the back of the neck and shoves him down the hallway. “I was so hungry. I could barely lift my backpack. How was I going to beat anybody in that condition?” Clay applies pressure, fingers pinching nerves, so Kevin can’t pull away. He guides him through the gym past the mat and all the chairs set up for tonight’s match. All he ever wanted was to stand on that mat, to go toe-

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Matthew Hurley to-toe with an opponent worthy of facing him. Somehow Kevin lost that desire, and he’s got to help him find it. The metal scale stands upright against the far wall of the locker room. Kevin peels off his clothing without needing to be told—Timberlands, jeans, sweatshirt, T-shirt, and finally socks—until he’s back in only his boxer-briefs. He steps up and Clay moves the poises back and forth until they settle at equilibrium. He squints at the numbers, hoping there’s some mistake. “You’re almost at 116!” “I told you—” “I don’t want to hear it.” He clutches a handful of Kevin’s hair and drags him off the scale and onto his knees in the bathroom stall. “Bring it up,” he says. “I can’t,” Kevin whispers, shaking, tears streaming down his face. “Bring it up, or I will.” Kevin doesn’t move, hands resting on either side of the toilet. He should just leave him here, let him miss weight and hope Coach Burns kicks him off the team. But that’s not good enough. He’s got to learn to discipline himself. Clay reaches around and forces a finger into Kevin’s mouth, eases it back, feeling the saliva build up. Kevin fights back but he hits the gag reflex. He withdraws his finger and holds Kevin’s head steady above the bowl. A violent rush of vomit spews out and lands in the water, on the seat, on the tile floor. The scent of his half-digested lunch fills the room. There’s another smell, like someone didn’t flush in the next stall. But when Clay spots the stain on Kevin’s underwear, the liquid snaking down his leg, he heaves and has to back away. He turns toward the sink listening to the retching, coughing, and spitting behind him. He’s covered in sweat and takes several deep breaths, frightened by the mania in the eyes staring back. The day he learned he would never wrestle again, Clay locked himself in his room and refused to come out until he could talk to Kevin. There was promise in his little brother back then, a desire that matched his own. It was the only thing that kept him going. When did it all become too much? How long had he been pushing too hard? He turns to say something, to apologize maybe, but Kevin has slipped away, found some place to collect himself before the match. The stands are at capacity as Kevin enters the gym with the rest of the team. They circle the mat in sweatpants and jackets and begin stretching. He made weight—by a fraction—but hasn’t been able to eat anything since. His throat is raw and his head throbs. He can taste Clay’s anger in every swallow he takes.

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Matthew Hurley There was a time when everything—the crowd, the lighting, the smell of sweat and fear—would fill Kevin with an excitement he could barely control. He always liked being one of the first to wrestle, to work the crowd into a frenzy. Now he just wants it over with. He doesn’t care about the crowd or the score or his team. He still wants to win, but he wants to do it for himself. Not for Clay or anyone else. The team is already up 10-0 when his match is announced. He sprints onto the mat, clips his headgear, and bounces on the green starting line. He swivels his head around, flexes his neck and shakes his arms and legs. He’s surprised he has any energy left and knows it will be short-lived. He needs to finish this quickly. His opponent is someone he’s faced before. A year ago Kevin pinned him in less than a minute. He thinks he can do it again. But the kid smiles back at him. He remembers, too. And maybe he senses what Kevin went through to get here. When the ref blows his whistle, the kid comes at him, gangly arms reaching out for something to grab on to. He’s too slow and in one motion Kevin turns his body, locks the kid’s arm and head, and tosses him over his hip. He’s still got it! They’re on the ground now, Kevin on top and the kid fighting from his back. But he can’t hold him; the kid is slippery and Kevin’s too weak to hold his grip. When they’re back on their feet and facing each other, Kevin stumbles. He struggles to stay upright. He searches the stands and finds Clay in the last row, leaning forward, hands together like he’s praying. Two state championship banners loom above him. They’re the last the school has won, both while Clay was on the team. They’re favorites to win another this year, but Kevin won’t be a part of it. He’ll be lucky to make it through sectionals, if he wrestles again. His opponent dives at his legs. It’s a sloppy move and Kevin should brush it aside, but the burst of energy is gone. He’s on his back in a matter of seconds, staring into the light overhead. It’s been a long time since he’s seen the gym from this perspective. He hasn’t been pinned since the eighth grade. After it happened, he ran a punishing five miles through the cold and snow. He remembers slipping on ice coming up the last hill and rolling 30 or 40 feet. When he returned home, he was wet and shivering, his running shoes soaked through. Stripping down to a pair of shorts, he did pushups until he couldn’t lift himself off the floor and collapsed, falling asleep on his bedroom rug. He was barely aware of Clay lifting him into bed and covering him with blankets. He struggles to keep one shoulder, then the other, off the mat. There’s a place inside him where he can summon the strength he needs, get up, and give this kid a fight. Part of him wants to find it. But his throat is burning, and he can still feel the fingers on the back of his neck, the hands tugging on

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Matthew Hurley his hair. Every word screamed at him, every piece of food denied him comes flooding back and he wants to throw up again. He tunes out the crowd noise, ignores the screams from his coach and teammates. Somehow he can hear Clay yelling to him. “Come on, Little Bro! You can do this.” Maybe he can, but he doesn’t want to. He lets his body go limp. There’s a whistle, a slap of the mat, and it’s all over. The gym is dark when Kevin reappears from the locker room in a pair of jeans and his wrestling hoodie. He’s munching on an apple, juice dribbling down his chin. Clay sits mat-side in the sixth chair over, the one he occupied all senior year. He misses the rush, the cheering crowd, the pain on his opponents’ faces. Kevin stops in the middle of the empty mat and looks up at the rafters. He’s done, Clay can tell, and it’s his fault. It shouldn’t have happened like this. “I fucked up,” he says, unable to meet Kevin’s eyes. Kevin says nothing, just walks past him, off the mat and toward the doors. Clay remembers the time, in fifth grade, when Kevin brought home his first trophy. It was for third place, but he was so proud of his little brother. He put it up on the shelf, right in the middle, between all of his own. He jogs to catch up. Without a word, they walk out of the gym together, the doors closing behind them with a thud of finality. Their footsteps echo in the deserted hallway before they step out into the cold, wintery night. The parking lot is vacant except for Clay’s car, a light dusting of snow covering the bright red paint. They sit shivering, waiting for the car to warm up. Kevin has no coat. He rubs his hands across his arms. Clay peels his Carhartt off and drapes it over Kevin’s shoulders. He wants to say something, but he doesn’t know where to begin. Things are going to change, have already changed. He’s put all of his energy the last few years into pushing Kevin to be the best. Now Kevin will move on, leaving Clay behind. He’s not sure what he’ll do. He pulls the car out of the lot and onto the main road, headlights dancing across a snowy hill and barren trees. They wind their way into town, past warm, inviting homes and offices shuttered for the evening. Streetlights and store signs turn the night into day and reflect off the wet roads, creating a second world of possibilities. There’s a diner up the road that serves breakfast all day. Clay puts on his blinker and slows. He doesn’t need to ask.

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Katie Bickham Salt I could never get enough to eat in summer— the crawfish scalded and stuck salted to the newsprint and we sucked the heads for the sweetest meat, then rubbed cream onto our burning mouths. When I met him he had never really tasted anything. Grew up in a house with white bread and white gravy and the ritual Sunday lunches and the lord and his father prayed the flavor out of all the food. I took him to other countries and heated in my womb as I placed the curling squid, cold conch, handfuls of things I couldn’t name onto his tongue. I watched him exit Eden into a world of secret-telling fruit, our love like a childhood and a childhood ending, winding into a cooler, sweeter thing. “How many years I wasted,” he said inside me, the spice of our supper still on his lips. A great chef said once that salt makes food taste the way it’s meant to taste, the thing itself, alone, unable to quite speak its own name.

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Elizabeth Boquet The Clean Plate You just grew up. Just like that. Just now, sitting at the table while I had my back turned to stir the stew. Just gobbled down all your crusts as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I cannot believe you ate all the crusts, already. If I’d seen this moment coming yesterday, at breakfast, when they were still inedible and evil, I’d have saved those last crusts with your little teeth marks, shellacked them and glued a picture of you, right then, in the middle.

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Elizabeth Boquet

Strawberry Jam What if your sister told you that the strawberry jam you were about to spread on your toast was from the last jar your mother ever made? Would you swipe the knife across your slice and take a big bite, or tongue-tickle a little lick? Maybe you’d stare at the jar for a bit; lift it to your face, breathe in broken memories of all that picking before you closed the lid scooted back your chair stepped outside into dry autumn air held that jar, two hands to your chest made your way, step by step to your mother’s strawberry patch and tried to bury it with your bare hands.

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Andrea Carter Brown The Crock Dig a hole in a sunny corner of the backyard. Shred the homegrown heads with the guillotine now hanging in a granddaughter’s kitchen, rusty angled blades still sharp. Layer the pale green ribbons of cabbage with fine salt, a pint for each bushel, pressing down to pack. Tie a clean dish towel tightly over the top, weigh down, ask the men to lower it into the hole. In two weeks, depending on weather, when the towel is stiff and crusty with mold, hoist it onto the back porch. Scoop out as needed, an excellent source of Vitamin C through winter, as Captain Cook discovered from the Germans only after of several boatloads of his sailors succumbed to scurvy. His crews hated this sour-kraut but ate it until limes were found. If something inanimate can be said to look lonely, the crock does. It sits under a fig tree across a continent from the house where it last was used, a single rose with four petals stenciled in cobalt blue against its ivory glaze, the number 12 at the center. Twelve gallons were enough to keep a family of four healthy when fresh fruits and vegetables were dear. Winter rains find their way under the lid; spiders like the dark cool damp. I dump out the water: don’t want to give mosquitoes a place to breed with Zika on the way. No

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Andrea Carter Brown one in the family will take it; I hate the idea of throwing it away. Where will it go after me? Perhaps someone shopping on Ebay dreams of making sauerkraut the old-fashioned way.

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Kayleb Rae Candrilli On the ways our mouths betray us In Pennsylvania there is a puddle of quicksand that only swallows slowly. This is how I once enjoyed being eaten: whole, deliberate, a thrashing woodland  spectacle. When I was young, I tied cherry stems  with my tongue because I wanted my mouth practiced  before knots could be demanded of it. I ate all the birds  the sky made available. Consumption is often  a demonstration of respect, earned or not. We’ve all  chewed through something tough and lived.      ::: Years ago when my mother asked if I was trans, I said no.  We were in the car, in a parking lot,  outside a Barnes and Noble, eating Panera, and I said no when I really meant  yes, yes of course. 

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Dorothy Chan Triple Sonnet for the Girl with Ten Stomachs I want a large bao stuffed with leftovers available at an old school Hong Kong dim sum restaurant with birdcages hanging, an homage to yesteryear, the 1950s Hong Kong my mother tells me about as our sesame gelatin and sesame rolls arrive, a slice of that divine Chinese sponge cake, ha gao, and sticky rice in lotus leaf— carts towed around with treasures of mango pudding and egg tarts, and I’m still hung up on those birdcages and oh, those birds who once upon a time sang songs while patrons sipped on tea, reading newspapers all day in this musical of birds and musical of food, and in this musical of food in the middle of this restaurant in Central I’ll be playing the girl with ten stomachs, because I swear every time I fly to Asia, I grow nine extras, each one compartmentalized for a different food group, and you know I’ll need at least three stomachs for desserts: the dango and gelatin in ice cream glasses in Japan, the mango ice and mochi and green tea crème brûlée and I want to eat and eat and eat and eat, and we all build our own fantasies— foie gras at a French restaurant in DC, extra fat and some mussels and clams and damn, we forgot to order steak and fries, and when it’s time for dessert: the poached peaches and pears, I ask my friend Misha if she’s got room, and she tells me, Of course. It goes in a different compartment, and I think she’s brilliant, making me

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Dorothy Chan think of Japanese animation when monsters hide their second stomachs under black cloaks, and cutting a piece of the moistest sponge cake in the world, I feel that fluffiness devoured in the creature’s second stomach, teeth and tongue staring through the cloak, and oh, cut that cake again—Why does food look so good in anime— the bacon you could chew on forever, the eggs in a basket, the ramen—butterflies in my stomach unleashed—Oh, cut that cake again.

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Dorothy Chan

Triple Sonnet for Asian Girls Eating Gelato My parents want me to marry a nice Chinese boy, and I just want to be pushed against the wall outside the gallery of a five-star hotel, and oh, what a compromising position in black-winged liner and red glossed up lips, and who doesn’t think kissing is the greatest thing in the world other than eating, or maybe it’s the other way around, and sure, I’ll settle for the lobster wellington and rosemary potatoes after the sex, and really, whatever happened to raw appeal and romance-novel passion, and put me on the cover now, breasts exposed, a hand reaching down my blouse, the stuff of dreams, of middle-of-the-night cravings, like when I look at plates of gelato, those beautiful messes of biscotti thrown into marzipan Italian ice cream, and those beautiful messes of strawberry drizzled on strawberry cream, and yes, yes, a little messy is a whole lot of good, like getting lipstick all over a guy’s face, the way chocolates are named after public displays of affection, and my parents want me to marry a nice Chinese boy, but what’s the fun in arrangement, and sometimes, I do wonder if there’s a hidden guy for me somewhere in Hong Kong my parents are waiting to debut at family dinner, and that thought’s a little scary—where’s the passion, where’s the pirate-wench book cover, where’s the middle-of-the-night fridge raids of ice cubes on his chest and honey on your knees, feeding each other Luxardo cherries, and it’s sexy when things are a surprise,

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Dorothy Chan a present—a lavender macaron wrapped up in a tiny box, or the way a lover smiles oh so tenderly after the act as you wonder, and it’s sexy when things are a surprise, like learning each other’s’ favorite foods, or fantasizing in bed about what you’ll both eat next: the spicy ramen and rare burgers and oh, those messy piles of gelato mixed with soft kisses—never stop feeding me, baby, I’m hungry already, already, already.

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B. Joanna Chen Dinner Conversations with Năinai At the buzzer’s beckoning, my father and I descend cement steps, ring the downstairs doorbell; the maid who does not cook leads us past Buddha and his fruit-laden altar, the satin-cushioned seats for visitors, the new dining room refrigerator. Yéyé hăo, Năinai hăo, I say, and am acknowledged by their nods and the AC’s easy breathing. Năinai’s delicate palette crowds the Lazy Susan: bitter melon soft in chicken broth, dark green steamed yam leaves, tea eggs, sticky rice in banana-leaf wrapping, soy-marinated beef, a whole fish which eyes me as Năinai eases her steel chopsticks into its underbelly. She deposits white, bone-free flakes onto my plate. Bù hăo yìsì, I say, Thank you, I’m embarrassed—and it’s true to script. Our script around the revolving Lazy Susan which does not make room for me

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B. Joanna Chen to ask about Năinai’s past, before Yéyé and his Kuomintang wealth. Does she ever think about her more favored siblings—the sister who was their hometown’s beauty, the brother sent to Shanghai for an elite education? How she is the only one left now? I ease my chopsticks on either side of the turned-up fish eye and deposit its cloudy gaze on top of Năinai’s rice: I don’t know how to separate the flesh from bone, but I would like to learn.

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Nick Compton Green Giant Sweetcorn; Original Marigold sweets, the corn sings itself into existence, each bead bursting like lemon or shouting its presence like mustard on a roast. Obstinate vegetable, you refuse defeat, every time and more than a match for lesser fruit; a tomato, a pumpkin or pea. Pull back the corrugated layer and there you are—your bulbous irregularities my childhood favourite—my dad used to give me a spoon, a tin, a whole 198g of obnoxious yellow, a perfect snack. Was it you who looked out for us? Your green giant a green man, our celtic protector of my mother’s choosing, natural impetuous and wild, perfect for two young brothers growing, as my father attempted adultery and my mum picked up the pieces.

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Carrie Conners Her Resolution: Geophagia VIII to stick to a strict diet of icicles is beginning to wear her down. She won’t permit herself to slide pine tree needles between her teeth, scraping off the wax, like normal people do with artichoke leaves. No more crunching through the brittle lattice of pinecones while watching tv or forcing down the granola that her doctor recommends. Now she will only snap icicles off of her apartment building’s low-hanging roof and carry them upstairs with her bare hands, the throbbing cold staining her palms red like stigmata. No leisurely popsicle licking, she cracks the daggers between her teeth, chews and grinds until the pain pierces her skull. There will be no pleasure here.

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Rob Cook Kale Conspiracy Kale wants to occupy all that is not kale, all that never aspires to be admired by kale. Intergalactic mantises deep as a thousand shades of spinach thrive among the snide urban greenery. My money, even the fresh nickels and dimes and pennies, suggests kale ascending into spoilage. My thinning head shines, a field of eyebrows, but, for now at least, nothing like kale. The street, though, the street smells hard to eat as kale. And each war goes on at the speed of the verdant stench of kale. Kale tries to sell more kale. This morning, in a random visual wakeup twitch, the sky looked green and deep and profound as kale. The pan-charred kale wafts into the woods and forces all the tree limbs and the overcrowded brambles back to the hard kale, the predator kale. Its upper Michelin caste travels the digestive tract to the kale entertainment hospital and corrects the camera angles back to the first kale garden. Failing that party-parched garden box, the kale goes to the soil-wrecking colleges and takes over the young, the promising, the doomed. My house: a kale compound. My bed: a kale compound. My job: to outsmart kale, run from kale, sell kale to the gullible radishes and cabbages, the mixed soup cans of the salt-rigged grocery stores.

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Rob Cook I love kale the way I love the togetherness of exhaust fumes and outdoor dining along the Second Avenue Riviera. I crave kale less than I crave an empty plate. No one agrees if kale is awake or asleep. Kale—that cruciferous mildew and gourmet mold— conceives more kale wherever it goes.

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Joshua Corson Mrs. Corson’s Classroom - Room 205 Momma, those sweet potatoes I ate last night made me think of you and your momma—Thanksgiving’s green beans boiled with ham hock, stuffing steamed in the bird’s belly—the recipes written in blue ink on an index card you keep in your nightstand—and even though I complimented Chef Betty on her pork-chops-apple-sauceasparagus-and-cheesecake, her eyes like little black eyed peas swallowed in her smiling cheeks, in my head, I was thinking they weren’t as good as yours or your momma’s sweet potatoes—the way y’all coaxed vegetables into my mouth with brown sugar and butter—but if they were as good or better, what you don’t know won’t hurt—remember 5th grade? you were just trying to teach our class how to grow crystals on popsicle sticks but I didn’t quite understand how it worked. I just wanted to write love poems to Marissa with language thick as the corn syrup you used in the candied yams—so I goofed off with Jimmy and Michael and broke beakers until you made me stand out in the hallway—the smell of the boys bathroom so soaked in shit and lemon disinfectant I thought I’d pass out— I guess you thought if you sent me to the principal’s office it was partly your responsibility if I was written up, cause what you don’t know won’t hurt—then I turned 19—flunked out of college cause I don’t know nothing about science or crystals or caves or sitting still in class—all I knew was that I hated Alabama, and Georgia and Florida and North Carolina—so instead of studying index cards like we practiced on the couches in the dining room, the ones I wasn’t allowed to play or sit or stand on—only dust every Sunday with lemon pledge— I snorted Xanax-Oxycontin-Percocet-and-Vicodin, pretending I was the pharmacist your momma wanted you to be—she had it all laid out—and when I’d call, begging every couple of weeks, I’d tell you the money was for groceries, and could you tell me how to make a southern meal for my girlfriend? I knew you’d never confront me, suddenly responsible for my problem—but mommas don’t go to those lengths to turn

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Joshua Corson a blind eye if they don’t have someone worth being hurt by— and even though I still hate the south, I love you, momma—am I a bad person for wishing those sweet potatoes were as good as yours?

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Barbara Crooker Tutti-Frutti All fruits: what my mouth never knew it desired. I can hear Little Richard scream Tutti Frutti! Oh Rudy! A whop bop-a-lu a whop bam boo and I am back on the hardwood gym floor with my girlfriends, clustered in knots, boys on one side, girls on the other, no man’s land in between. Both sides ache for someone to ask them to dance, but no one wants to take the first step, afraid of enemy fire. And here is this bread, tutti-frutti, found at a farm stand in Valence d’Agens: clusters of dried fruit— apricots, golden raisins, figs, craisins, chunks of hazelnuts— the perfect partnership, when toasted, for a slab of foie gras, its richness melting in the heat, a dance of unctuousness and crunch. Oh, Rudy. So many years of heartache and yearning. But now, my mouth full of pleasure and decadence, finally, I am in love.

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Oindrila Mukherjee The Violin House The train to Calcutta rumbles through the night, screeching to

a halt now and then. From the upper bunk I hear voices as porters climb on and off. Even in the dead of night, someone walks through the corridor, shouting, “Chai, hot chai.� The train hurtles through the night, cutting across the belly of the country. In my mind I picture the map of India with different colors for each state. We are travelling away from the familiar west coast and the shimmer of the ocean towards the east where my parents grew up and where I go only for holidays and feasts and long, languorous summer days. For a second, I wonder if it will be the same this year. Just before we left Bombay, my father crouched down on the station platform and told me with a solemn face that I was to be a really good girl this summer, more so than any other time. He then leaned closer and whispered in my ear that I was to take care of my mother. She hugged my father in a rare public display of intimacy before boarding the train. The last two months I have seen her burst into tears in the middle of her chores. In the darkness of the compartment, I listen to her snores and fight to stay awake in case she needs me, but soon my eyes close and the steady rattle of the train rocks me to sleep under the thin pale blue Indian Railways blanket. I wake up to morning light and a flurry of activity. Waiters bring tea and a breakfast of bread and butter and omelettes with ketchup. But I refuse to touch it, and instead wait hungrily for the snack that signals entry into the state of West Bengal. Sure enough, the jhaal muri wallah appears with his cans of spices and chutneys. He deftly mixes the light-asair puffed rice with peanuts, a few drops of pungent mustard oil, slivers of onion and green chili peppers, and sprinklings of roasted cumin, red chili powder, and black salt. He hands me a cone made from old newspapers. I grab fistfuls of muri from it and shove them in my mouth, licking my salt-covered fingers. My eyes and nose water from the heat of the chili. But when I glance out of the thick foggy windows, the landscape has changed from the dry heat of the north and looks almost cool in comparison. Rice fields and small ponds drift by. Huts stand in the distance with banana trees keeping watch. The land looks lush and green and ripe with the possibility of life. My mother and I are going to visit my grandparents for the summer holidays after an interval of two years. I have unclear memories of the past

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Oindrila Mukherjee trips. I remember the sweet, sticky taste of sandesh, my grandmother’s touch, and bumpy rides on rickshaws. I remember the trams rolling along crowded streets. And I remember my mother’s transformation from serious, cautious Ma to chattering, laughing, daughter and sister. But this time, my mother has hardly said a word. The salty aftertaste of jhaal muri fades from my mouth as I stare at her, willing her to make eye contact and smile, but she looks resolutely out of the window. I know she is thinking of her brother, my mama, who will not be there, but she told me it was a blessing from God, so I wish she would stop looking so sad. It casts a shadow over the coming summer, a time that until now I have associated with only joy. As we near Calcutta, the fields and ponds fade away, leaving behind buildings and people. The train slows down, as dozens of train lines cross each other and porters in red uniforms and turbans run alongside, trying to climb aboard. I can barely contain myself as the train finally rolls into Howrah Station. I press my nose to the window to spot my grandfather and when I finally see him, I yell out, “Dadu, Dadu,” even though he cannot hear me through the glass. When he enters our compartment, I put my arms around his waist. “Shona muni,” he says, patting my head and making kissing noises. Everyone around us is speaking Bengali now, and his term of endearment sounds magical after so long. I glance up at my dadu, but he has already turned to my mother whose eyes are glistening. My dadu’s hair and mustache are all white and he looks even thinner than I remember him. My mother clings to him as we walk towards the taxi stand. I cannot tell if she is trying to give him support or seeking it. My grandparents moved to a new house a year ago with my uncle. Even though I know he won’t be there, I am curious to see the new house. The cab ride lasts a long time. We drive past the central parts of Calcutta where the government buildings and commercial offices stand, past the ornate Grand Hotel and the covered New Market and past the leafy and elegant Alipore with its old colonial houses. Here and there we see a few apartment complexes like the one we live in with my father. My grandfather and Ma talk about how old homes are being pulled down to construct high rise buildings where flats are sold to Marwari businessmen. “They are slowly taking over the city,” Dadu sighs. “Soon we Bengalis will disappear with our old genteel ways.” Finally, around three in the afternoon, when the sun is beating fiercely over our heads, we arrive in Behala. It looks like the countryside, with vast stretches of green fields and unplowed land. Behala. It sounds musical to my ears, and so it should, for I am told that it means violin in Bengali. Dadu points out the house to us from half a mile away. It is a twostoried yellow house with grey windows. It is one of the biggest houses on the quiet street. We pass fields and a lake with stone steps on which some local women are washing clothes with loud slapping noises.

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Oindrila Mukherjee My grandmother waits at the top of the stairs as we walk up. My mother lets out a wail the instance she sees her mother. They hold each other and weep. Behind them, the maid, Kamala, weeps too. The sound makes me want to giggle, but I try to look serious. When Dida stops crying she holds me tightly to her chest and says, “At least you are here.” The first evening a retinue of distant relatives, neighbors and family friends pay us a visit. They speak very loudly, sometimes all at once, filling the house with sound. My dida yells at Kamala to serve food or take dishes away or pour someone a glass of water. Everyone brings white cardboard boxes filled with sandesh and other sweets. I wander between the rooms, but when the grown-ups see me they start to talk in whispers. I feel terribly unwanted. If Mama were here, he would have swung me up on his slender shoulders and launched into one of the many Hindi movie songs he knew so well. I can almost hear his voice, slightly high pitched but melodious. He hummed all the time, from dawn to nightfall, when I was around him. I slip into the swing room and sit on the swing that Dadu has made for me. It is a plank of wood suspended from the ceiling by two iron chains. I sit on it and swing to and fro and hum the songs we have learned in music class at school in the hope that one of the grown-ups will hear and call out to me. Instead, what I hear, all of a sudden amidst the chatter, is my mother sobbing. I hear Dida trying to comfort her. “No, no,” she says, “Be strong. We have to all be strong.” I burst into the dining room without pausing to think and cry out. “Ma, you said God would take Mama away if he was in too much pain and look after him. Is that where he’s gone?” The grown-ups start to laugh. Even Ma, whose face is streaked with tears, manages a small smile as she pulls me closer. “Poor little girl,” one of her cousins says, and everyone looks at me with great sorrow. My ears burn with shame. The idea of my uncle’s absence will not crystallize for years, but this will remain, this moment when I burst into a room full of Bengali relatives staring at me as if I were a foreign little creature, incapable of understanding and deserving of great pity. I run into one of the bedrooms and lie on the bed with my face in the pillow. Right then, I hate Calcutta. I miss Bombay with its pizza and hamburger shops, its glitzy department stores along the street where we live, the pony rides on the beach, my friends at school, strawberries in the summer, and my father who would have defended me tonight even though I am not sure what there is to defend me from. But the stream of relatives dwindles after the first couple of days, and I slip into a summer routine. Up at the crack of dawn, I open my eyes to the blinding sunshine that flows in from the windows. Dadu insisted on buying a house that faced east so it might bring some luck. The morning is cheerful and loud. The maids clang pots and pans in the kitchen. The hiss

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Oindrila Mukherjee and splatter of cooking drift towards the bedrooms. All morning, sunlight streams in through the many windows around the house. We eat hearty breakfasts of hot luchis and vegetables, followed by syrupy sweets. But every morning, just before we eat, Dida hands me a glass of hot milk and says in her sternest voice, “Drink.” And of course, I cannot. I take a tiny sip of the milk, gagging instantly from the smell. It is fresh milk, delivered in pails by the milkman, straight from the buffalos that wander in the meadow behind the house. Dadu is summoned to exert additional pressure. We sit in the dining room for what seems like hours, but the milk refuses to go down. My mother sighs. “It is always the same,” she says. “Big drama before going to school. She simply will not drink it.” One morning, by some miracle, I manage to gulp down nearly threequarters of the glass. There is much praise. Dida calls out to Kamala to announce the feat. But even as she is gloating to her, I feel a wave of nausea from the aftertaste. Seconds later, I vomit, and a stream of milk pours out onto the table and the floor, drawing cries of anguish from everyone. We try Horlicks and Bournvita, both sticky and sweet malted drink mixes that I love to eat straight from the jars. But when dissolved in the hot milk they fail to eliminate its odors. Finally, one day, my mother snatches the glass from my hand. “Forget it, no use. She cannot drink milk.” The only good thing about this traumatic morning ritual is that its excitement seems to make everyone forget briefly about my uncle. After breakfast I do homework on the davenport. The house is full of antique furniture from Burma. My favorite is the davenport, the smooth, dark drawer that opens out into a desk. I love to pull it open and lay it flat and pretend I am opening a door into a secret world. An inkpot is built into the top right corner of the desk. I have never been allowed to write with pens. My holiday homework must all be completed by pencil. But, as a special treat, I am allowed to write by fountain pen when I am done. My grandfather takes out his collection of gold-nibbed Sheaffer fountain pens and fills them gently with royal blue ink. I write a letter to my best friend in Bombay. “Dear Jessica,” I write. “I am having a very nice time in Calcutta with my grandparents and their dog who is very furry. We play games and my grandma tells me stories and I have a friend here, Dalia, like the flower. I eat sandesh and mishti doi every day. I’ll bring some back for you like you asked. I don’t miss Bombay at all. Everyone is always laughing and in a great mood here. I love Calcutta.” After lunch, it’s time for a family siesta. My mother forces me to get into bed next to her and Dida, but as soon as I hear their snores, I slip out of bed, barefoot so as to not wake anyone. The afternoon is my favorite time and always will be. It is when the air is most still and quiet. The wooden shutters

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Oindrila Mukherjee are drawn on all the windows to keep out the sun, plunging the house in semi darkness. The red tile floor is cool beneath my feet. I wander around the house feeling like I am the only person alive. In the living room, inside the glass cabinet, is where my grandparents keep the ivory. I have a really hard time figuring out whether my grandparents are rich or not. They do not have a car, but they have a large house with tenants. Once, I was at a gathering with my parents in Bombay, watching a Hindi movie set in Calcutta. In the movie, an actor in a black suit asked the shabbily dressed hero what neighborhood he lived in. “Behala,” he replied with downcast eyes, and the man in the suit chuckled. I glanced at my mother’s face, and it was flushed as if she was running a fever. This part of Calcutta where I am spending my summer feels rural with its fields and ponds. And yet, when I peer into the cabinet, spreading my palms on the glass door, there they are. Miniature chairs and tables. An entire zoo of animals. All smooth and cream and delicately carved. I heard the relatives who came to visit talk about the ivory. They too peered at it like me and one of them asked another if it was legal to have these. I hope it is because these are the most beautiful things I have ever seen. When I tire of staring at the curios in the cabinet, I head over to the swing room. The house is asleep. Occasionally, a bird chirps or a crow calls outside. As I swing back and forth it occurs to me that I did not see my mama the last couple of years. I never saw him in this house. There was another house that I remember in bits and pieces. It was in a much more crowded neighborhood where the sounds of cars honking and people shouting on the streets floated up almost constantly. That house also had red tile floors and a long, dark hallway and the taste of sweet Horlicks that stuck to the spoon. Then a memory springs up from nowhere. My mama sat on a bed with my parents, shuffling a pack of cards, when suddenly he began to tremble and a trickle of saliva gushed down his shirt, while my parents simply stared at him, doing and saying nothing. That is all I remember but now the house has grown even more silent. This house is too big, unlike our tiny, cramped flat in Bombay. Fear suddenly seizes me now. I wish everyone would wake up and come to life. I wish my father were here with his scent of Old Spice aftershave and cigarettes and his deep, reassuring voice. But no one comes, and I swing harder and harder and harder until my feet no longer touch the floor. The nights in Behala are eerie. After dinner, we sit in the living room and watch the news and Hindi soaps on the black and white Crown TV. When it’s time to go to bed, all the windows at the front of the house are shuttered, but the ones in the bedrooms are left open to let whatever slow breeze might be around to relieve the night’s humidity. My grandmother uncurls the mosquito net from where it’s piled on top of the bed’s four

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Oindrila Mukherjee posters and tucks it underneath the mattress. We climb inside the netting, which hangs all around us through the night like a canopy. Some nights I feel trapped in there and long to fling the netting off and sleep under the fan where I can breathe normally again. But on other nights, the ceaseless hum of the crickets is interrupted by sounds from the animals that roam the fields and distant woods. Occasionally, a fox barks into the night. There is no traffic here, nor any human noise. As my eyes grow used to the dark, the glow of the moon outside drifts in. This silence, broken only by the sounds of insects and animals, is like nothing I’ve experienced in Bombay where cars roar by all night and all day, and the elevator screeches up and down, and laughter and music float up from late night parties. This silence and this darkness are for people who relish living outside society. It is for foxes and also for ghosts. I am eight, and I understand how these might be lurking just outside this house, this room, this bed. I am grateful for the mosquito net that surrounds us as I listen to my mother and grandmother snoring next to me. I stay awake as long as I can, staring out at the moonlit night sky, wishing I could sleep on the terrace, under the stars, without fear of anything. One day after lunch, with a week left before we are to return to Bombay, my grandmother and mother decide to forego their siesta and instead visit a cousin who lives in the heart of the city. We take a cycle rickshaw to the tram depot. The rickshaw wallah pulls the roof over our heads to keep out the afternoon sun and pedals away. Where our neighborhood officially ends, a few young men stand around a carom board and play carom. One of them smokes a cigarette, the cheap, unfiltered kind whose scent carries in the hot breeze. Shifting on Dida’s lap in the rickshaw, I turn around and crane my neck to catch a glimpse of my grandparents’ house in the distance. Its yellow walls glint in the sunlight. Its blue-grey wooden shutters are pulled down to keep the inside cool. On the second-floor balcony, I can see my grandfather’s form, a tiny speck now. It is time for his siesta and he can barely see us now, but he continues inexplicably to stand there. I feel sorry for him for being alone in that house full of stale summer air, and I wonder how he will amuse himself this evening. I wonder if he is afraid. At the tram depot we transfer to the tram. The bell rings out loud and sharp, and we are off. I crouch up on the seat to stare out as we wind our way ponderously along the streets. This is why I came to Calcutta: to ride in a tram through the center of the city. This and the hard varieties of sandesh with jaggery inside, and the chicken rolls and hand-pulled rickshaw, all of which await us when we near our destination. The tram glides slowly, stopping for passengers. It is a lot slower than the buses that hurtle past, or even the black and yellow Ambassador taxis and honking two-wheelers. But the tram’s gentleness fits in easily with this city where my mother grew up and where nearly all our relatives live. This summer, everything has slowed down. Sometimes it feels like we will always

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Oindrila Mukherjee be like this, suspended in time, waiting for something or someone that will never come. When we reach our stop, I see a row of hand-pulled rickshaws, with long handles instead of bicycles attached to the seats, standing by the side of the road. Several rickshaw wallahs walk up to us, looking hopeful. Ma and Dida debate whether to reject them in favor of a cab. “Why?” I cry out in alarm. Riding a hand-pulled rickshaw is almost like riding a pony, and I have waited for this all summer. “It is so cruel,” Ma says. “Look how old he is.” She nods towards the white-haired, scrawny man who stands before us. “Please,” I beg. “Just once.” We pile into the rickshaw. I sit on Ma’s lap and the old man hoists the handles above his shoulders. Our human horse sets off on a trot. In his right hand he holds a tiny silver bell, which rings from time to time to alert pedestrians and other traffic. It makes a tinny, plaintive sound. The old man is shirtless and his bones stick out clearly through his dark brown skin gleaming with sweat. He trots barefoot. I stare at his feet as he nimbly runs across the street, wondering how he manages to evade shards of glass and other litter. We canter on to Gariahat, the pulse of Calcutta. The sidewalks are full of people who make their way from shop to shop. The shops sell everything from saris to electronics to used books. People stand in a row in front of Nizam’s, munching on their egg mutton rolls. The scent of greasy parathas wrapped around moist spicy goat kebabs drifts out in the summer air. I feel saliva in my mouth at the thought of biting into a hot roll. But we are on our way to someone’s house and cannot stop for snacks. We pull off the main road and turn into a quieter side lane off Golpark, named because of its perfectly circular shape. When we arrive at my cousin’s house and ring the doorbell, a peculiar thing happens. Someone on the third floor sends down a coir basket hung from a rope. Dida leans in and fishes out a key, which opens the front door. As we make our way inside, the basket is slowly pulled up until it disappears inside the third-floor window. The house is home to three different families, each of whom lives on a separate floor. We climb past the first two and make our way to the third floor where there is much kissing and hugging. I feel my familiar shyness pull me backwards, trying to delay the second when I will be sighted then grabbed forward and hugged and kissed. “How tall she is now.” “How old since we last saw her.” “A proper little lady.” “Looks just like her grandma.” I ignore them all, trying to spot him. My distant cousin whom I have never met. On the way here, Dida and Ma spoke of him in hushed tones, making sympathetic clucking sounds. In our small flat in south Bombay, across from the ocean, my parents sometimes gossip about the relatives in Calcutta. For me they form a medley

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Oindrila Mukherjee of names and titles by which they ought to be addressed, even in their absence. Mashi, pishi, kaku, jethu, dada, didi, dadu, dida. Older, younger, and middle uncles, father’s cousins and mother’s cousins, aunts by marriage and aunts by blood. When I visit Calcutta, I run into these names and am engulfed by their affection and feasts. Later, for years, I will remember them by their homes. Today we are visiting wealthy relatives. The black and white tile floor shines fiercely as if someone spent hours scrubbing it. From the living room we can see the terrace. French windows, a sure sign of prosperity, separate it from us. The terrace looks almost like a garden from the sheer number of plants. Inside, a money plant climbs the wall next to me. I stare at it, fascinated. The house seems to be crammed with things. Oil paintings hang on the walls. A grand piano stands in the corner of the living room. My grandmother’s cousin, my Shobha dida, is a large woman with a loud voice. She wears her white cotton sari with a slim blue border the oldfashioned Bengali way, with the anchal flung over one shoulder and around the other. At the end jangles a bunch of keys. When she walks, they ring out like bells, signaling her arrival. Shobha Dida sits down heavily in the large arm chair, groaning about her arthritic knees. As they exchange pleasantries, asking about what seems to me like every single person they know in common, she opens the shining brass box on the table in front of her. It contains a stack of betel leaves and has small compartments filled with the things that will go inside the paan— crumbled pieces of areca nut, vials of sharp jarda. I hope she also has a little bit of the sweet paste that paanwallahs in Bombay always keep for children. When Shobha Dida opens her mouth to pop the rolled up paan into her mouth, I catch a glimpse of her teeth. They are stained a dull reddish brown. On the lengthy rickshaw ride on our way here, my grandmother had predicted, “All that jarda will give her cancer one day.” But to me she looks a lot healthier than Dida, who looks particularly frail today. The grown-ups talk loudly. I gather from the conversation that the three floors are occupied by different siblings who do not speak to one another. There is some mention of courts and lawyers. My grandmother comments on how lawyers now are out to fleece everyone, unlike the old days. Ma asks who plays the piano. “No one plays these days,” Shobha Dida complains. Her daughter used to before she got married and went away. Now, it only gets tuned when the man comes from Braganza Musical Instruments once every six months. They talk about Braganza and other old shops they have known all their lives. An elderly servant comes in with a tray full of teacups and biscuits. “Does she want milk now?” asks Shobha Dida.

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Oindrila Mukherjee I look down at the tiled floor that resembles a chess board, resentful that she did not speak to me directly. Dida and Ma are only too delighted to launch into a rant about my lactose intolerance. “Children must drink milk,” Shobha Dida’s daughter-in-law, my softspoken, timid looking Arati mashi speaks up, looking at me. She seems shocked that someone my age does not drink substantial quantities of milk every day. “Have you tried Bournvita? Horlicks? Maltova?” she says. Ma and Dida nod with sighs of resignation. Luckily the discussion is cut short by the emergence of a thin boy from the shadows of one of the bedrooms. “Rontu,” my grandmother exclaims. “He is looking so well,” she says eagerly to his mother, who smiles a sad smile. Rontu stares at us without smiling. I rarely meet any relatives who are close to my age. All afternoon I have tried not to show it, but the fact is I am intensely curious about Rontu, this mysterious boy with a strange disease. No one asks him to touch anyone’s feet, which makes me a little envious. “You two go and play inside. Rontu, show her your games,” his grandmother commands. Unlike my dida, she simply tells people what to do, and is promptly obeyed. “No need to linger around us old people.” Without a word, Rontu turns and heads to his room. I am not sure he wants me to follow him, but my mother nudges me gently. “Go,” she says, nodding towards his room. I feel sorry for myself as if no one wants me around, and head to his room too, a little intimidated by his sullenness. Rontu’s room is so large it looks like a hall. At the far end stands a fourposter bed but there is no mosquito net here. From the ceiling in the middle of the room hangs a chandelier. I stare at the hundreds of crystal tear drops that shimmer with golden light. It resembles the chandelier in the lobby of the Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay, only this one is a lot smaller. I have seen these in the grand houses in Hindi movies, beneath which the hero and heroine always stand and sing at parties. Here, in this large room, under the unlit chandelier, Rontu sits on an armchair in the corner, upholstered in red velvet, looking like a shriveled up little prince. Rontu signals towards the other, smaller chair. I lower myself in it and tug at the hem of the frilly lavender dress I have been forced into by my mother. It has silk ruffled sleeves and lace in the front and is from Amarsons, one of the big department stores in Bombay. I hate it and worry constantly that the breeze will lift it up and reveal my panties. The elderly servant who greeted Dida with a beaming toothless smile walks in with a tray. On it is a glass of milk and two plates of shrimp cutlets. He hands the milk to Rontu and places the tray on a round table with curved legs. “Where is her milk?” Rontu demands.

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Oindrila Mukherjee “Babu, she does not drink milk,” says the old man apologetically. Rontu stares at me, his mouth a little open. “You don’t drink milk?” he says slowly. I shake my head. “It makes me vomit.” “But children must drink milk,” he says. His brows are furrowed. “I drink milk several times a day.” I look down at the floor. My bare feet are cool on the spotless tiles. Above us the fan rotates as fast as it can, humming placidly. Ramu kaka stares at me, but whether in awe or disapproval I can’t quite tell. “You will never grow up or be strong or be able to do math,” Rontu says decisively. “Can you do math? Sums?” he clarifies. “Not well,” I say. “I am better at reading and composition.” He looks triumphant. “It’s because you don’t drink milk.” He lifts his glass and takes a deep gulp, then pauses for effect. He swallows some more, until his upper lip is covered in a thin milk mustache. The glass in his hand is beaded with drops of water. I squint to see it more clearly. “Is that?” I point. “Is that cold milk?” “Of course.” “You drink cold milk?” I ask. “I have only had warm milk.” “Warm milk?” Rontu says, scornfully. He laughs and Ramu kaka joins him, his laughter coming in spurts with no sound. But his mouth opens wide and I see it, red and toothless and paan-stained just like Rontu’s grandmother. “Try this,” Rontu extends his glass towards me. I hesitate, but then curiosity gets the better of me. The glass is chilled and moist, and when I sniff its contents it does not overpower me with the usual stench. I peer at the surface. There is no revolting skein of rubbery cream forming slowly on top. I take a tiny sip. The milk is sweet and creamy, almost like a sherbet, and goes down my throat easily. I take another sip. And another. Then I suddenly remember that it is Rontu’s milk and he is unwell. I hand the glass back to him, feeling shy. His eyes have a strange light in them as if he has a fever. A look of triumph or ecstasy, a look I will discover in many men’s eyes when I am older, but this is the very first time I see that look. “Ramu kaka,” he whispers. “Bring her a glass of milk.” The old man obeys. Rontu waits for me so we can drink together. I raise my glass and drink until all the milk disappears, cooling my throat and chest as it goes down. When it is all gone, I lick my lips. Rontu asks me if I am sad. “What do you mean?” I say. “You must be very sad about your mama.” I shake my head vehemently. “He is with God, who took him away when he was hurt so he wouldn’t feel any more pain. He is fine now and watching over us. He is always around,” I say.

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Oindrila Mukherjee As I speak, the shadows of our bodies lengthen across the gleaming tiles. Somewhere outside a bird’s song pierces the evening air. It is a sharp sound, a little shrill, like a whistle. My mama could whistle entire songs with his mouth open in an O and his lips quivering. I wonder if he is the bird, perched on some unseen tree in the midst of the Calcutta crowd, watching his city flicker with life, watching us in this room, under the unlit chandelier, sending us his tunes to reassure us that he is indeed here, here, right here. I have not even missed him a little bit, I want to tell Rontu with a shrug. But I say nothing more, and take a bite out of the shrimp cutlets coated with bread crumbs and fried. Then I pick up a slice of raw onion and put it in my mouth. Rontu is staring at me with a look of utter pity. “You poor thing,” he finally says. “You are such a baby and no one tells you anything.” “He fell down,” I say defiantly. “My mama was coming to Bombay to visit us for Bhai Phota. My mother had bought all his presents and had prepared for all the rituals. We bought flowers and fruit and the red stuff for the phota.” I point at the middle of my forehead where the spot would have gone, crimson and round, placed delicately by my mother’s middle finger to tighten the bond between brother and sister. “But he fell down and hurt himself and God came and took him away,” I finish. Rontu leans forward, frowning. He looks as if he is exerting himself. “Your mama had a disease. Here,” he points to his temple, then spins his forefinger around. “He was on his way to Howrah Station, but he had stopped taking the medications that kept him sane. He had an attack.” Rontu sticks out his tongue like a lizard and pushes his eyeballs upwards towards the ceiling. He looks frightening in the half light of dusk, like all the lunatics I have seen in the movies. “My mama did not look like that,” I say. “He was so beautiful. Tall and slim and fair.” I can sense the tears are beginning to come. “But he fell down with foam coming out of his mouth, muttering gibberish that no one could understand.” Rontu is leaning closer now, nearly out of his chair. “He fell and hit his head, boom, on a tram line. And everything spilled out. His brain and all that was making him crazy.” “No,” I shout, clutching on to my plate tightly. “Nothing like that. He was not crazy and his brain was fine and did not fall out. He got hurt and had to go away and he will come back soon.” I sit primly in the chair but I can’t stop talking. So I keep going. “You are the one who is going to die,” I say. “I know that. My dida and ma were talking about it on the rickshaw.” I want to take it back as soon I’ve said it. Rontu leans back into his cushion until his face almost disappears. It is so thin and pale and his eyes are large and black. I brace myself for his yells, his anger, his denial. But

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Oindrila Mukherjee none of that comes. Instead, he looks at me with a sad smile. The sorrow, when he speaks, seems to be for me. “You really are a baby. They don’t tell you anything. But I am a big boy and they talk to me. I know everything. I know your mama died in the middle of the road, with hundreds of strange people surrounding him but no one he knew, no friends or family. The trams stopped for him. I also know I have a disease. My muscles are shrinking and that is why I cannot go outside and play with the other boys. There is no cure and I will die by the time I am twenty. That is ten more years.” A glassy look comes into his eyes. “To me it seems like a very long time. Don’t you think so?” He gazes at me inquiringly. I nod in agreement, not just to satisfy him but because it is true. Ten years. That is longer than I have lived. I cannot imagine being twenty. Twenty-year-old women are like my mother. They talk only to her and pinch my cheeks and speak to me in cooing voices as if I were a little bird. Twenty is a ripe age, much older than either Rontu or myself. “Are you scared?” I ask. “Not at all. I only wish sometimes that I could play cricket. I would like to bat.” He holds up his arms and flicks an imaginary bat in the air. “I would score a lot of runs, fours and sixes, like Kapil Dev.” He closes his eyes and stops talking. As if on cue, Ramu kaka walks in and turns on the lamps. The golden light dispels the darkness and the blue light of the window turns to black. Overhead, the chandelier shimmers in its unlit glory. My mother walks in with Rontu’s mother. “Poor boy, she has tired him out,” Ma says. “Come on Mishti, time to head home.” As I get up, she gestures towards Rontu who is lying still with his eyes shut. “Give him a kiss,” she says in a conspiratorial tone. “Who knows when they will meet again. Life is so uncertain,” she explains to Arati mashi, who lays a hand on Ma’s arm and strokes it gently. They are cocooned in their shared sympathies. I lean over the arm of the chair and touch my lips to Rontu’s cheek, hoping my breath doesn’t reek too strongly of onions. His eyes fly open. “Remember,” he whispers. “Cold milk. Only cold milk.” Then he closes his eyes and drifts away. An hour later we are headed home on the tram. It rumbles through the dark streets and every time it approaches a stop, the conductor tugs the bell with a clang. The tram is more crowded now, with people standing and holding on to the metal rods. Behind me buildings and streets and shops glide by. But I cannot turn to look. I cannot even glance towards the windows, in the direction of the tram lines. I only see them in my head, glinting tracks of steel, sharp and cold and hungry to devour a man’s brains. The tram is a monstrous snake, slithering across my mother’s city.

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Zoe Dickinson Gooseberry Jam In the jar: Bushes shrouded in snow, humping up in a thorny shrug. The first incredulous haze of green, tiny pointed leaves rising like sparks along gray boughs when snow still hides in the shadows. The velvet drone of bees navigating a labyrinth of thorns marking off summer in 7.8 quadrillion delicious nanoseconds. The pucker on a child’s lips who picked a berry too green, packed with pectin. The slow gulp of an earthworm sifting air through the roots. Your patience, as you sit on the back porch picking berries from a pile of severed boughs, disembodied

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Zoe Dickinson but still deadly: twigs twisting in perfect finger-traps drawing blood from the unwary. The evening kitchen, pot on the stove spitting flavour in incandescent magenta drops— the radio playing— out the window, aspens flatten into black against the sunset.

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Jennifer Dracos-Tice Enduring Chick-Fil-A Biscuits we made at dawn, lemons we squeezed ‘til 10, chicken breasts we fileted with thumbs like dull knives splaying pink fists into flattened hearts. Lunchtime, we dropped baskets into golden peanut oil, though the grease trap still stank like old beef chili. Women my mother’s age earned minimum wage, while manager men highlighted bibles in the back office, hauled teenage heads in neck-locks by the ovens, hissed don’t you ever question your check. Works stops when I say, not with the clock. If you can lean, you can clean. The white girl goes on the front line. So, soft sell, weigh that cone, watch the warmer, never hum, for God’s sake.

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Carlina Duan Rainbow Chard in Brooklyn green onions on a stalk that we chop for the bread. little lanky greens set on top of dough. he cuts chard with the tall knife: his hands lean, they know what they’re doing. I watch him from the sofa, where the Chi-Lites play on the record player and I remember what it felt like to once hold a harmonica. music class, rain sticks, the sound of rice grains going feral in the pot: pop, pop. pop, pop! I fall in love every day—extending my wrist, kitchen flick, the chard falling in thick, even slices on the board. he takes a lemon into the squeezer and presses down, glossing the leaves with liquid. when I lived in Malaysia, I tell him what I ate: nasi kerabu, satay, squares of chicken in sweet sauce. fish cooked, then mashed & wrapped inside fragrant leaves. he cooks in a soft apron. I sit on the couch and make words tumble out my mouth: broth, balm, bray, remembering the banana trees in my Malaysian backyard, the spiders that would leap out of them. sitting in the Brooklyn apartment, the smell of chard simmering on the stove, I watch his back as he tends to his leaves. a new world with a new table. a new love who cooks. I bray my neck. I prepare myself to go at it. I eat, I chew, I swallow. I do not forget.

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Stevie Edwards Easy as Pie My mother taught me to feel the dough in my hands & sense its readiness with my fingertips, to know when to say yes, this will do. The dough in my hands must sense I am a fruitless woman: Don’t you know when to say yes? Just follow the steps in order, you futureless woman. It’s a simple task. I’ve been raised to follow her steps in order, first the ring & then the stroller. It’s a simple task. I’ve been raised to peel thin skins of peaches off in small rings, to roll out the delicate Crisco dough & peel back parchment paper like a Band-Aid off a small girl. But my delicate Crisco dough is too weak for the juice of peaches, like a soaked Band-Aid on a small girl. With readiness, her fingertips covered in the juice of peaches, my mother taught me to feel.

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Greg Emilio

Consider the Oyster after M.F.K. Fisher Their jagged moon-faces gaze up at you from a bed of ice pellets, lemon slices waiting alien beside shallot-laced mignonette. Consider the jaded lips, calcified shell, this sea-breathing fungus. Born of bracken, born of osteon, Greek for bone, the ancients grew them on sunken pottery shards, shucked and slurped over tales of all-consuming Aphrodite, who rose from sea foam, from a womb of silver nacre, a pearl to make the world burn, god who gifts us these aphrodisiacs, god who says it’s never about the oyster but the person eating across from you.

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Angelica Esquivel To Loving Well & Eating Good Food Two servings of basmati rice, mine in a bowl, yours on the spotted blue plastic plate you brought from home. A plate that has seen more of the world than me. Has known you, been held by you, longer than me. We open two jars of pickle kept on the dining room table. You spoon the spiced preserved fish, I the mini mango. Appam sits. Appam, one of many words you have given me, allowed me to share with you, like this home. Before we begin you ask me if you can eat with your hands. Of course, I say. I don’t ask why you ask. I know. Shame. So much shame over nothing. Beloved, we’ll eat piles of paratha, tortillas. We’ll tear them into beveled edges with our fingers and salsa them across moles, curries, continents because ours is a love made inevitable by history. And history, ours is a love that undoes.

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Patricia Fargnoli Olives Camp Teela Wooket, my twelfth summer, I learned how to dive off the high board into the man-made lake surrounded by a white pine forest, learned how to shoot an arrow straighter than anyone into the straw-backed target, sang the camp songs like Peace I Ask of Thee Oh River or Hail to the Royses, those rotund directors who presided over every Sunday dinner, the long picnic tables in the dining room spread with linen cloths. Only for Sundays— and only then a fancy meal of roast chicken, and in the center of each table a glass dish of olives. At first taste, I hated them. Once, midlife, traveling from Rome to Naples, I saw out the bus window the gnarled trees spreading across hillsides just the way Van Gogh painted them, and marveled at their beauty. I saw pickers, picking baskets slung over their shoulders, shaking the trees to avoid bruising the fruit. It was the only time I’ve seen them. Teela Wooket, what I didn’t have to teach myself to like: black raspberry ice cream cones in the afternoon, or No-No, the dappled gray I begged to ride for every lesson, us trotting around the ring, or my cheek against her neck, the slippery touch and smell of horse sweat. I didn’t have to be taught to love the zillion stars overhead or how under them in a sleeping bag all night, deep dreams come. And I didn’t have to teach myself to love that man-made lake,

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Patricia Fargnoli three acres of forest clear-cut, the lake steam shoveled out of the pine needle littered earth, spring fed, the water clear, cold, water-bugs skimming the surface. But olives: green, red, brown, black. little thimbles, little eyes, marbles, fairy door knob, tip of a finger, nose of a mole, hundreds of cultivars for fruit, for oils: Amfissa, Arbosana, Bosana, Cerignola, Domat, Dritta, Kalamata, Kothreiki. And haven’t I sometimes used them in recipes: roasted olives, fried olives, olive loaf, cream cheese & olive, olive cheese balls, olive bruschetta, muffaletta with olive tapenade, crispy olives stuffed with sausage, gemelli with kale pesto and olives. I knew none of that at twelve when, every Sunday I’d make myself taste one. My mouth puckering, I’d spit it out into my palm, hide it in my napkin. From who knows what adolescent compulsion I’d decided to see if I could train myself to love olives. For the rest of the summer, each Sunday I’d pluck just one, chew the tart saltiness of it, hurrying to swallow it down—this small Spanish olive stuffed with a strip of cherry pepper to sweeten the bite. That’s how I came to know early what I later learned about coffee, about cigarettes, sex, rye and ginger, about the man I married at nineteen and thick with child. It is possible to teach yourself how to love something.

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Jessica Siobhan Frank The Last King Cake Pecan or blueberry? I asked your preference for your first King Cake. I brought it with me on the plane adorned with a Mardi Gras mask, beads as well, drudged in drying white icing, a miniature baby hidden in folded rolls of cinnamon dough never knowing when he’ll arrive in your slice. If the baby is in your piece, you have to buy the next one. Well I hope I don’t have the baby, you said. It’s hard to follow through with that responsibility from Chicago. A kiss at security on Ash Wednesday and I was back just in time to watch city crews clean up a state-wide party. You said next Mardi Gras you’d come to me, eat crawfish and boudin, see what a Krewe was, exercise your rusty French as floats of Cajuns roll by, throwing purple beads and yelling Laissez les bons temps rouler! Fat Tuesday was more indulgent than dessert, we learned during Lent. There was something hidden in a slice, discovered weeks before Easter, and it wasn’t cake, but my ticket back to O’Hare you bought, no folds of dough or royal icing, and you never did make it to Louisiana.

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D. Dina Friedman The Dirt Fight your war with olive trees. Plant, bulldoze, repeat, uproot. Tally the remains. Record the tumbling fruit: green, black, briny, oil-cured—Market the saved. Invite tasters. Splay the scene with testimonials. Give certificates to any tourist willing to shell out for new saplings, or make movies starring fallen trees. Press your fruit between ancient stones. Discard the pulp. Count the corpses. Slick the roadways with olive oil. Invite your enemy on a skid. Add poison to the mix. Sell it to your neighbor with the hummus. Or (dare I say it) slash a long branch. Reach. Insert into the narrow mouth of that dove, who hovers above you threatening to feed the clouds.

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Maria Mazziotti Gillan Meatloaf and Hamburger Helper Growing up, my mother cooked macaroni and gravy, meatballs and braciola, spinach and potatoes, lentil soup, roasted chicken and potatoes, made zeppoli, big salads fresh from the garden, zucchini with rosemary, meals so delicious I can still taste them though my mother has been dead for more than 20 years. When my children were growing up, my mother-in-law taught me to make American food that my husband liked because he grew up on it—so I learned how to make pot roast, and leg of lamb and stew, and roast beef, pork chops and steak and baked potatoes. She taught me how to make meat loaf which was cheap and could be used for one meal plus sandwiches. She taught me to make meals with Hamburger Helper which my mother called junk. Years later, my stomach turns at the thought of Hamburger Helper, the greasy feel of it, the fake chemical taste of sauce and spices, flavor created in a lab, but when I served those meals, so different from anything my mother ever cooked, I felt I had arrived in middle-class America, that I now belonged in the land that almost guaranteed you’d die of a heart attack before you could reach old age and not the land of my father, too poor to buy all this meat

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Maria Mazziotti Gillan even if he had wanted it, my father who died at 92, sitting in the sun in his garden, the aroma of tomatoes and peppers and zucchini perfuming the air around him.

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Lisa Grunberger Chef Richard as Jesus A friend sends me news. Someone we both knew has died. An old cranky cook with yellow teeth and shriveled balls he once tried to show me in the walk-in cooler where he aged the meat and kept the lobster tails frozen stiff. He is survived by two daughters and a wife who tried to ex him out but he resisted each time and was proud of that too he told me once on a winter afternoon. I was laying out the silverware and he sitting at an unkempt table seemed to be speaking casually, polishing knives himself but he was hawk-like with huge hands and their proud liver spots, the scent on him of fish, veal stock and blood. He said in a low, almost sexy bedroom voice, the voice of a train about to go off its tracks, he said I was a kid when I got married the first time and she had big tits I loved to rub myself inside them. My daughter from that union is pushing forty now and more like me than her mother, she has the gift to cook and stand for hours and the gift to lead like you. For this I was supposed to swoon in the empty shady room? I was to go and sit down with him, bring him a thick shot of espresso the way he liked it (and he made sure we all knew from Maria the salad lady, a short stout woman who chopped the salads tight and small, to Carlos the broiler man) we all knew Richard liked his coffee short and sweet, three sugars and with a shot of whiskey, but I didn’t bring him coffee or sit with him that day I stood at his feet and we looked at the dining room, the white tablecloths delivered minutes before in plastic bags from the dry cleaners, the shiny silverware, the water goblets, the salt and pepper shakers and the bright sun coming through the curtains white and yellow reflecting the snow that had fallen the day before. We could hear the sound of Jimmy, the owner, shoveling snow. He liked to do things himself, Jimmy, liked to be outdoors taking care of things.

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Lisa Grunberger Chef looked at me and said, low and clear, You don’t really belong here, do you? Where do you think you belong? Your father died last year, right? What was his name? I want to know his name. Do you look like him. My little one, unfortunately, she looks like me and her mother. Not a beauty, the second spouse of the aging chef. She knows how to spend money like it’s going out of style. I’ll probably die in that kitchen. How did your ‘ol Dad die, do you want to tell me anything about yourself? It’s February   and I’m tired and old and I like to watch you move across the room. You move like a gazelle, a tall Jewish gazelle. I usually don’t like Jewish women but you, you’re different, you listen to what I’m saying, don’t you? And then he beckoned me with a thick index finger to come over and showed me a postcard he made into business cards: Da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper with himself as Jesus in the center. He threw a knife at me once and called me a cunt and tried to reach under my skirt while I was digging for some cheesecake in the freezer.  He said heaven would be filled with Swedish bombshells and he said he fucked an amputee and he said concentrate, make sure the plates are clean, and he said Hitler didn’t kill the Jews, I’ll kill them with the lobster pie, it’s got a stick of butter and a cup of cream, and he said wanna see my new car, I have a vanity plate that says Alterkocker and for years he said I’ll die here behind the stove stirring this fucking pot, but he didn’t. He died in a room he never lived in and he was eighty and grumpy and still hungry for more cutting more garlic more tomatoes more stock more cheese more wine more words and women, more story and more whiskey, yes more whiskey, swimming invisible in the black coffee.

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The Evidence of Doors begs for a footnote. Hitler walked through doors kissed no mezuzahs the record shows, ate vegetables and fruit outdoors on a long picnic table that could have ended up a door but was fated to be a long table around which SS soldiers ate wiener schnitzel chugged Gewürztraminer, bit into crisp apples. The table could have been the door the door could have been the tree from where Hitler’s apple fell. He liked his apples tart. Devoured sweets late into the night. Other men smoked pipes. When Eva Braun walked through the door heads like trees to spring turned. Leni Riefenstahl put down her camera to stare at Eva’s body the way a new prisoner stares at his cell door, the way a watchmaker stares into the gears of a watch. Maybe doors serve no evidence at all. Maybe doors shoot blanks. Hitler never entered Eva. Eva entered Hitler a thousand times. Stars flickered. Fruit fell off trees. Polish sausage ate the sunlight.

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Lisa Grunberger Hitler loved how Leni could shoot naked bodies. Did Hitler come yet? Smoke spirals up steeple-like into your open mouth, a door. It’s raining Hitler. He’s fetching his paintbrush.

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Andrew Bertaina Eating Animals As I’ve aged, I find I’ve changed in certain ways that extend beyond

the physical manifestations of ear hair and crow’s feet, which are attendant parts of my thirties. One of these changes is a newfound attentiveness to food. I grew up in a single parent home where a weekend delicacy was getting tuna fish sandwiches with Kraft singles melted on them. Thus, discovering gustatory pleasure as one of life’s pleasures has been a surprise. When I travel now, I scour the internet for days in advance, opening menus and mapping out the location of the best new eats in a city—hot chicken, slow-smoked brisket, foie gras, creperies with grape arbors, vines casting lattices of shade over tables of wrought iron. I scroll through lists of best ofs—an action a previous iteration of myself would have sneered at—best beer garden, best rooftop bar, best farm-to-table restaurant, best happy hour, best cheese dipped in other artisanal cheese. This love of food doesn’t make me a unique specimen of the human race. After all, human beings have been harvesting crops and hunting animals since we climbed down from trees in the Great Rift Valley. My desire for good food has lead me into the literature about food at a time when it lies at the center of our cultural zeitgeist. Though what I mean by cultural zeitgeist is middle-class interest. Food has become a catch-all for our insatiable desire to be entertained: cooking shows, shows about baking cupcakes, shows about baking cakes, shows about the running of kitchens, the running of restaurants, Instagram as the site of food porn; writing about food, about chefs, about farmer’s markets, about farm-totable, food as the locus of meaning in neighborhoods and cultures. I’m not, let me just be honest here, incisive enough to tackle the exclusionary class politics behind Omnivore’s Dilemma or the problematic socioeconomic demographics that no doubt influenced the arterial line of Whole Foods opening along a stretch of Wisconsin Avenue in upscale Washington DC, eliding the poorer neighborhoods that branch off across Rock Creek Park. Rather, I’m going to focus on the narrow sub-genre of the food essay. This is where, as a sometimes writer, and voracious reader, I make my way in the world and find my locus of meaning.

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Andrew Bertaina The food essay is, mind you, unlike my newfound love of food which includes numerous dipping sauces for French fries—garlic mayo, chipotle mayo, mayo mayo—not about food. The literary food essay is invariably about family. As Tolstoy said, every happy family eats food, but every unhappy family eats food in a way that can reveal fractured associations related to childhood drama. It’s pithier in the original Russian. As such, every food essay veers quickly from the proper way to brown butter just so into a piece of writing that reveals a complicated relationship with the essayist’s mother, or a connection to a grandmother’s Scandinavian heritage via an old cookie recipe on an index card. Recipe cards and recipes, in general, are gold for an essayist, giving structure to an essay and therefore a form to our memories and lives, which have no definite shape but float on like water, like yeast in dough, subterranean, dark. What I’m really whinging about is that I feel excluded from crafting a good food essay. My single-parent home, full of fish sticks, hot cheese sandwiches and trips to McDonald’s, has no resolution around braised pork shoulder, no moment where flour settled on the rolling pin as light filtered in a warped glass window. I cannot see my grandmother’s weathered hands lovingly shaping the dough as her wind chimes swing leisurely together on a sun-filled northern California afternoon. Or perhaps I can see exactly that, but I’m resistant, like every good contrarian to spinning that same yarn, the smell of salami and apple juice as I walked into my grandmother’s house, reminding me of her Italian heritage. I don’t want to read those treacly stories and have food illuminate family. I want to read something that cuts closer, where the marbles of fat and ridges of bone are clean and clear. Though it’s just as likely that I don’t like food essays because my love of food has arrived later in life and everyone else has already discovered and written about food in ways that I can’t even approach.        Although, if I left off all of life’s activities because someone else had already gotten there and done it better, I wouldn’t drive a car, I never would have ridden a horse, crafted a sentence, and I’d be a virgin.  But I digress, as I often do, though often it’s merely to tell a pun and then point out to the already bored audience the intricacies of why calling them a turkey while they prepared turkey was such a verbal coup. In another version of this essay, rather than complaining about the exclusionary politics of the food essay, I’d write something full of puns on the words trifle and filling until the reader was stuffed, but I haven’t written it yet. At the end of an argument, it’s best to demonstrate your proof. Thus, I’ll employ an old axiom I picked up in graduate school creative writing workshops: show, don’t tell.

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How to Roast a Dog Do not befriend the dog. This will complicate your relationship. If he looks at you with longing in his deep brown eyes, it is best to turn away. Do not name the dog. Do not let your children name the dog. Do not let anyone play a game of fetch or tug of war with the dog. Do not let anyone pet the dog, or express to you in any sort of way that they feel a kinship with the creature. If you must give him a name, call him dog. Dogs are crafty. He may whine in the backyard, or attempt to bring you a tennis ball. Do not, under any circumstances, take the tennis ball from his mouth or mime a throwing motion. If you feel tempted, remind yourself that if you do not eat this dog, you will spend the rest of your life cleaning up his shit and taking him on walks. Consider how few of the things in your life have turned out as you wanted—jobs, wives, mothers, sons, certain family trips—and ask yourself if you want to add cleaning shit and 5am walks to that list.    Tether him to something sturdy in the yard. If he runs around and barks, remind yourself that that is just the sort of annoying thing that gets you eaten. Do not direct your conversation at the dog. He will take this as encouragement and wag his tail. A wagging tail is precisely the sort of thing that you want to avoid.   People are going to judge you for eating your dog. Be prepared. Do not allow these neighbors and friends to gain the upper hand. Explain to them that in a variety of cultures it is considered silly to tame dogs, to not periodically roast them over an open spit. If they point out that you are not living in that culture, say that we are living in a unified world of personhood. Use personhood. Say it meaningfully. Imply that they would have said something sexist like the brotherhood of man. If your know-it-all neighbor, the one who is always out jogging early in the morning with the dog at his side, making everyone else feel bad for wanting to sleep in one goddamn day, tells you that a dog is man’s best friend, correct him. Let him know that the status of dog as man’s best friend is indicative of the denuded state of human relationships. Tell him that man’s best friend is God if the neighbor is religious.   If he’s been seeing a psychoanalyst, remind him that his best friend is himself, the only person he can count on, mention self-care or the virtue of hard work. Remind your other liberal neighbor who is not seeing a psychoanalyst that the rise of canines as a surrogate family member is really a sign of the degradation of the modern familial unit, and worse, absolution of the civic responsibility to his fellow man.

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Andrew Bertaina If the dog persists in fetching tennis balls from the children, bringing your slippers and being willing to go for walks after 8am, name him “Old Yeller.” Explain to the neighbors that he is rabid and that you’ve seen him eyeing their children meaningfully, and if they say that all they’ve seen is tail wagging say that it’s a sign of aggression in that particular breed of dog. Imply that you practically invented the breed. The dog should be cooked for no more than an hour on an open spit. Remove the skin first. If you’ve a gas grill, it’s best to cut him up into steaks. It turns out that dog is meat like any other. Before you take a bite of him, pray to God, or the Gaia spirit, or Allah, and thank them for bringing food into the world. You have not done a terrible thing. You have just done a thing amongst many other things.  

How to Fry a Squirrel You’ll need to buy a weapon that shoots small bullets. You don’t want to fill a squirrel with too much lead or you’ll ruin the flavor. This is not the Wild West, and you are not the Lone Ranger or John Wayne. You are a sad and strange person who is hunting squirrels in her suburban neighborhood. If you’ve got a choice between grey and black squirrels, start with the grey ones as they have more meat on them. The trick to getting a squirrel is that you need to keep very still. At first, get them accustomed to having the window open. Stand near the window, whistle to pass the time, waving to this or that squirrel as if they are uncles and cousins standing across the room at a family reunion. Eventually, you can open the door and move onto a bench in the middle of the yard. Imagine that you are the Saint Francis of Assisi. Feel the flow of the world, the goodness of everything around you, the particular tenor of dappled light coming through the oak tree, the sweet smell of the honeysuckle and the black-eyed Susans taking over everything in the yard. Do not actually become Saint Francis of Assisi or you will never eat a squirrel.  If you become Saint Francis of Assisi, you will feel a oneness with the world, with the crickets chirping in the grass, the violets swaying in the breeze, and you will forget the cold world that runs just beneath this one where once someone pushed you in line and yelled into your face, shouting that you were a piece of shit, which, deep down, you felt to be true. Remain areligious for this activity. Squirrels are best eaten alone. Eating a squirrel, like many things in life, is another opportunity for honoring the self. Gently salt and pepper

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Andrew Bertaina the squirrel, adding a touch of lime. Pour yourself a glass or three of table wine. The squirrel is unlikely to taste particularly good or bad. Ignore the taste, focus on the world around you, which you have been so disconnected from in this last unhappy stretch of things with your seasonal depression kicking in, your boss reminding you of small mistakes, being alone this fall again, thinking of your mother’s death, and all the goddamn inequality and silliness of this country. Think instead of the things that make you feel whole—friendship, laughter, adventure, the look of a fat bee buzzing around the garden come spring, his legs gently alighting on the bloom of a flower. As you set down your utensils, clattering on the plate, think of nothing other than what is happening, the play of light on the slats of the fence, the wind rustling the leaves of the oak, the day passing into the blue of an early evening.

On Eating Your Spouse This is not the sort of thing that one plans for. To have and to hold, to watch summer rainstorms swimming down from the sky, or babies, fat babies, poking their delighted little fingers into the air. “Look, she’s smiling.” But sometimes things go sideways. You may find yourself eating a pasta dish on a yellow plate that you’ve had for fifteen years, and you may ask yourself if the meaning of your life is to eat pasta dishes and watch Jeopardy! on DVR to see if you could ever be a contestant on the show, but not really ever trying to get on the show, not filling out the paperwork or finding out what you’d have to do, like show up in Newark on a Saturday, not even knowing the smallest thing about how you might make your dream of being on Jeopardy! come true, which, come to think of it, really isn’t a dream but just something you’ve been telling yourself for a while, so that what had once seemed like a dream turned out to have been just a thing repeated enough times to take on the quality of the dream, when really, you just liked to DVR things. Is this all that life is about? And you realize, as you think about the variety of things you haven’t done or places you haven’t been, that something needs to change, and so, after helping your wife to wash the dishes, careful to make sure all debris is removed to achieve the maximum amount of life and time from your dishwasher, without even asking what the point is of a dishwasher that requires you to pre-wash the dishes until they are immaculate because that’s not the sort of rabbit hole that you want to climb down. On this particular evening, you crack open a bottle of red wine, and suggest that you could rub your spouse’s feet, and as you tenderly knead your fingers together on the heels of her foot you might tell her about a dream you had when you were younger, that came to you after reading books about explorers.  

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Andrew Bertaina The phrase is until death do us part. Well, what better way to do the parting? Your spouse may not want to be eaten, and, truth be told, you may not want to eat your spouse. However, spouses are best with a bit of turmeric. Regardless of the outcome, this is an important fact to remember.

Hunting Cows I’ve always found it’s best to rise early when hunting cows. Surely, it’s easy to object to such a practice, cows are not notoriously difficult animals to corner. However, when you go out hunting for cows it is an entirely different thing than watching them through the shrouds of morning haze; what you are experiencing instead is an encounter, a joining of spirits. Besides which, it’s a nice opportunity to try out that new recipe for Bloody Marys that you’ve had tucked away. It’s best to have company on these expeditions, preferably a person with a sense of humor. The sort of person who could laugh Death in the face or at least get him to chuckle. The reason that this sort of humor is indispensable is that you’re involved in an ugly business. Most of life is comprised of ugly things as you’ve no doubt gathered from your taxes, traffic jams, computer failures, and indignities too numerous to count.   It’s inevitably cold on these mornings, and it’s best to spend the first few minutes talking about just that to get it out of the way. Nothing ruins a good hunting trip like endless talk about the weather. The best part about hunting for cows is the conversation that takes place around the kitchen table after the talk of weather has subsided and before you leave. You might say, “What is the nature of reality or our place in it that we are able to contemplate the very cosmos that we are a part of?”   And your hunting partner might answer, “Have you considered the fact that every cosmos ever created, which might just be this one, you’d have to admit, is comprised of beings that contemplate their own existence. In essence, why do we assume that this is abnormal?”   Or you might tell your hunting partner that you are leaving your wife, “It’s nothing in particular. Not a specific thing, per se. Rather, it’s a whole collection of things: dishes, trash, sex (or lack thereof), kids, diapers, the trail of a comet across the sky that is now burned out, the way the bare trees look against an early setting sun.”  

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Andrew Bertaina And your partner might say, “Have you considered that your plight is not specific? That your unhappiness is not actually about you, but more a general statement about the poverty of relationships in the world.” Your hunting partner might be this vaguely contemplative and argumentative type. You’d have to admit that this is precisely the sort of person you’d get stuck with. All afternoon, the two of you watch the cows munching in the grass through slats in the fence. For some reason, you’ve left your guns inside and all you can do is stare at their broad backs, at the black and white splotches on their skin. In the silence, you hear house wrens and sparrows calling from the trees. The cows have all gone back to the barn now. The moon is a hangnail now in some piece of the visible sky. The opportunity of a lifetime has been missed. But lifetime, at least it seems to you, is mostly about the opportunities that you don’t take, the trips you weren’t on, the random collection of atoms that is you that has seen but a small portion of this infinitely large universe, but a fraction even of the people who inhabit the Earth at the moment you do. And so you do not lie down to sleep as sad as you did the night before, cold, alone, dreaming of the women you used to know. Tonight you are happy, or something like it, having spent the day talking with an old friend about what it means to be human. Perhaps that’s all there is or ever will be.

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Moira Egan Formaggio & Flashbacks Clearly, our pensione got a five-star rating in The Sophisticated

American Travelers’ Guide to Tuscany. I’m admiring their outfits, crisp linen and cotton in white and navy; the tasteful yet slightly funky eyeglasses; the quiet, discreet voices discussing which basilica to visit today. No studyabroad kids in short-shorts, cropped tops, and flip-flops with their sneering “What do you mean I can’t get into the church dressed like this?” faces. It’s good to be out of Rome. We are here in Tuscany for a poetry conference. But we have some time before that begins, and we have come down to the beautifully manicured garden for breakfast. The gradations of green are enough to give Ireland a run for her money. The tables are placed under oak trees for shade. The hedges are trimmed and the walkways meander artfully through. A small fountain burbles in the center. The breakfast is extravagant. Creamy white yogurt; six types of honey; jars of local jam, from blackest of blackberry to strawberry, peach to orange marmalade. Loaves of fresh-baked bread, some braided, some with seeds, some the saltless pane sciocco typical of Tuscany. Sliced green melon and bright oranges, plums and cherries. Several varieties of sausage. Cheese. Damiano’s favorite meal is hotel breakfast. He usually makes two courses out of it; sometimes even three. The American coffee smells a little burnt (the only flaw of this morning), so we avail ourselves of the Nespresso machine. I make a double cappuccino for myself, and a caffè lungo for him. “George Clooney would like it here,” I say. “This place is straight out of A Room with a View, isn’t it?” he answers. It really is. I’m not much of a breakfast person, so I’ve taken a handful of cherries, a couple slices of salame, and some cheese. The cherries are perfect, ripe and juicy. Damiano goes back in for his second course, the “cereals,” as he calls it, because in Italian this breakfast food comes in the plural. I watch him loading his bowl with a granola-like concoction, topping it off with an ample handful of dried fruits and nuts. Meantime, I’ve taken a bite of the cheese. I am startled. I am overwhelmed. The only way to say this is to use the diction of that romance novelist in A Room with a View: tears leap unbidden to my eyes.

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Moira Egan Close to overflowing their precarious menisci, the tears begin to mingle with my make-up, and to sting. My face is hot and red, I feel it. Poor Damiano returns to see me in this state. “What’s happening? Are you ok?!” he asks. As much as I can muster language at this moment, I choke out: “Flashback. Big flashback.” I wipe my eyes on the linen napkin. He rubs my shoulder. “You must be having a kind of tetanus of memory, being here in Tuscany,” he says. My father was a poet, not a conventional career choice in 1968. Many of his equally unconventional friends happened to be painters. They had studied with Jacques Maroger, a French émigré who was said to have reinvented the oil-based medium used by The Old Masters. Who better than a group of hungry young artists schooled in Renaissance techniques to head over to Florence and help to restore the artwork that had been so badly damaged in the flood of 1966? Several of my father’s friends did just that, working in the churches by day, drinking wine and eating bread and risotto by night. They were having the time of their lives. “Come on over, Mike,” they wrote. “Florence is beautiful, it will be great for your poetry, it will be great for your family.” So what did my never-very-practical, wide-eyed poet of a father do? “We’re moving to Italy,” he decided. In the space of very little time, my mother and father managed to pack up our most important worldly goods into two enormous black steamer trunks, one white leather hatbox, and many small pink and blue kiddie suitcases. My mother was afraid to fly, so we boarded the SS Raffaello, one of the classic, 1950s-vintage, luxurious ocean-liners, and set sail for Italy. All five of us squished together in a tiny cabin. The first evening at sea, Mom got us all scrubbed and shiny, dressed in our finest little outfits. We headed for the dining room, which was vast (especially in the eyes of three little kids under the age of five). The room was full of grown-ups, glamorous, chatting, all seeming to hold on gracefully to their glasses of wine even as they chose from the huge tables of exotic food things spread out before us. What were those grayish-greenish knobs of vegetables shaped like the end of a king’s scepter in a fairy tale? And those yellow, red, and green strips of something else, bright and glistening with oil? How many variations on what we must have called the “lunchmeats,” baloney and salame and unfamiliar things, carefully spread like decks of cards, laid out, type by type, in alternating stripes? Some were dark and flecked with peppercorns and tiny circles of fat; others were paler, sliced very thin, with bigger circles of fat and green slivers that looked like—pistachios? And the slices and chunks and crescents of cheese, in varying hues of white and yellow.

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Moira Egan From a strongly working-class family (my father was the first to go to college), what did we kids know of mortadella and salame da Genoa and prosciutto crudo? We understood Oscar Mayer baloney and Kraft American Cheese (individually wrapped singles); what American kid of that era didn’t? But this was another order of magnitude altogether. And I loved it. I piled my little plate high with salame and pecorino, black and green olives, artichokes and roasted peppers. I loved the spicy salame, the crunch and surprise of biting into a peppercorn or a fennel seed. I loved the different cheeses, creamy and salty at the same time, with a taste I’d never experienced before. I loved the bread, very crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, made with very little salt. And that first night, I didn’t realize that this was just the antipasto. At this point, I have to be honest and say that I don’t actually remember a single specific meal that we sat down to on that ship. There was always a pasta course, and we already knew about spaghetti and lasagna. But this pasta came in all different shapes and sizes, and sometimes the sauce was green. Then we would have a smaller course of meat and some vegetables. It was a very different way of eating than what we were used to. But I do remember our desserts. Because we loved it so much, the waiters brought us gelato every night. The creamy green pistacchio. The one like chocolate chip called stracciatella. The one with little candied fruits in it—cassata. The one that looked like butter pecan, but had a completely different taste: nocciola. The waiters on the boat were very kind to us three little blond Americans. Over the course of our voyage, they taught us how to say all the magical names of these new, exotic flavors. They emphasized the proper pronunciation: strah-cha-tayllll-a. Hold on to that double L for a second. Fifty years later, I’m still working on that double L. I can roll my r’s fine, I can de-Americanize my vowels with the best of them, but properly pronouncing the Italian double consonants is still the toughest thing for me. After ten years here, double consonants or not, I get by fine; I make myself understood, and I understand what people are saying to me. Except when I have to go to the butcher shop. Our butcher, Raffaele, is not only the honorary mayor of our neighborhood, but he is also famous all across Rome. His father, Sandro, has retired from the family business, but you see him there, every day, in the shop, anyway. They are a very Roman family, and they speak in the Roman dialect, Romanesco. Which is to say, as quickly as possible, all the while dropping many syllables from the ends of words. Unfortunately for me (and even more so in my early days here), I need those syllables to understand what’s being said. Even after all these years, it’s tough but not impossible to follow his hyperactive yet rhythmic patter. The only consolation is that Damiano doesn’t always get it, either. And he’s Italian.

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Moira Egan In Italian, my name has three syllables: MO-ee-ra. In the Romanesco, even that short name is shortened further, to MO’. Rhymes with the urban American version of YO! But I have to say that it’s an honor to have my very own Roman name, one that even hearkens back to my father’s nickname for me: Little Mo. Raffaele is a master of his trade. His shop has been listed numerous times in the Gambero Rosso and the other, Italian, Zagat-like guides. People come from far and wide to buy meat from him. But not just meat. At Raffaele’s shop, you can find wine, no surprise, but also bread, marmalades and honey, sauces, pasta, organic eggs (tiny quail eggs, too), and all types of cheese. Whatever he purveys, it’s only the best. One night, on the late side, Damiano and I are walking home from a poetry reading. We see that Raffaele’s light is still on and the shop is open. He sees us and invites us in. He’s having an impromptu degustazione. Among the friends gathered are a wine distributor and a man selling “artisanal” cheeses. Raffaele pours us each a glass of white wine, and asks us to try the three different types of pecorino cheese that the man hopes to sell to Raffaele for his shop. Raffaele says he already has an idea of which one he prefers, but he wants our opinion. Damiano tells the guys that I’m the one to try the cheese, that I have unerring tastebuds when it comes to pecorino in particular. He explains that I lived in Italy when I was a child, and that I was schooled early on, in the best of simple food, of peasant food. He translates for them a comic strip that we’ve recently seen, a young couple driving off to Whole Foods or some other purveyor of expensive produce. “Let’s go get some organic food,” the one says to the other, who replies, “Or, as our grandparents used to call it, Food.” The guys laugh. And the cheese-tasting falls to me. No. 1 is very good, just the right balance of salt and cream. No. 2 maybe even better, a bit more aged, a bit more personality. No. 3. I get that look. Damiano sees it. “It’s No. 3,” he says. “It’s a flashback cheese.” Raffaele nods, takes a swig of wine, and nods: Yes. That’s the one he had already decided that he would carry. In 1968, when we arrived in Florence, we stayed for a week or so in a condemned building near Santa Maria Novella. My mother was justifiably terrified about the dangerously broken floor boards. My brother, a sleepwalker, kept accidentally locking himself in the scary bluegray airshaft as he wandered the apartment at night. My sister cried out of confusion and homesickness. When I eat very simple rice with tomato sauce, it takes me back to this apartment. That’s the only positive memory I have of that part of our journey.

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Moira Egan I don’t know how it came about, but we managed to find a place to rent outside the city, near Pontassieve, just up the hill from the Arno. The house that we lived in wasn’t really a house; it was a 13th or 14th century watchtower, built during those years when the Pope needed protection everywhere he went (even more than he does now). It was a round stone tower with a very primitive kitchen, and a bedroom in the back. There were pots and pieces of broken china and old statues up in the attic. Bright green, tiny lizards lived in the bedroom, and would sometimes fall from the ceiling right onto the bed, and sometimes onto us. There was a bidet in the bathroom. We called it “the foot bathtub.” To go to market, we descended the hill to the Arno. We’d stand on the bank and yell, “Barca, barca,” to call the ancient lady who guided the boat. There was a rope stretched across the river, from bank to bank; hand over hand, she guided the boat back and forth, from one bank to the other, from the market town back to the hill with houses and flowers and one watchtower. My mother used a black net bag for the groceries: purple and yellow plums, deep red tomatoes, loaves of bread, sticks of salame, rounds of cheese. We were living on the cheap, of course, which was possible in the late 1960s outside of Florence. And the fruit was ripe and juicy and the bread was crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Most days we ate bread and cheese for lunch, sometimes out in the back garden, the stump of an ancient olive tree for our table. Our landlady at the watchtower was “The Signora.” She seemed very, very old to me. But she was kind and generous and had the dignified kind of posture that people now seem to acquire only through years of yoga or modern dance. On her land, they produced their own wine and olive oil, and we were invited to use it. Her Chianti came in huge, green-glass jugs. For breakfast, we sprinkled a little bit of wine on bread and then some sugar. We didn’t have butter. My best girlfriend was named Alessandra. She was tiny and dark-eyed, and though I don’t remember, I have been told that I spoke very good Italian with her as we played our complicated, five year-old games. Her father, Alessandro, acted as the “foreman” for The Signora; every day he came up the hill, tended to the grapes, took care of the olives, and swung my little brother around and around until both of them yelled “basta! basta!” One day, sitting in my studio in Rome, my own little Room of My Own (one of the conditions of my relatively-late-in-life marriage to Damiano, who generously agreed), I found an email from the poet, Geoffrey Brock. He was engaged in the heroic task of editing The FSG Book of Twentieth Century Italian Poetry, and had dug up some my father’s translations of Salvatore Quasimodo. Geoffrey and I had many poet friends in common,

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Moira Egan though we had never met. Having ascertained that I was the daughter of Michael Egan, he asked permission to use the work, and wondered, since I lived in Italy, if I mightn’t have some translations of my own as well. I did, and I think Geoffrey and I were both delighted to think that he and I were the representative examples of father-progeny translators in the anthology. Here at my desk, in my little Room of My Own, I have my father’s copy of Hugo’s Simplified System: Italian (self-tuition) in Three Months. “An easy and rapid self-instructor with the pronunciation exactly imitated,” no less. When I first moved here, I had the good intention of using that book every day, the way I used to go home from junior high school and work for 45 minutes on the Berlitz French tapes that my father had given me for my fourteenth birthday. Instead, I got a teaching job, then another; then I began to translate alongside Damiano, working mostly from English into Italian. I wonder, sometimes, when I am in a reverie of missing him, what my father would think of the life I lead now. I like to think that he would be proud of me. He died in 1992, of the kind of esophageal cancer that was certainly his body’s karmic response to the abuses he had subjected it to, for far too long. It didn’t matter that he’d been sober and non-smoking for ten years; the bad stuff caught up with him. Damiano is really kind when I get sad about my father. He tells me that he too is very sad that they never met. My father never approved of any of my boyfriends, but I’m pretty sure that he would have loved Damiano. All of my father’s painter friends had found work easily, restoring the great patrimony of Florence that had been caught up in the cruddy, muddy, oily water of the Arno. But it wasn’t so easy for an American poet to find work in Italy in 1968. My brother and sister got homesick. We all missed peanut butter and soft toilet paper. My mother was engaged in heroic acts, meantime, just to keep the household going. Laundry involved a trip halfway down the steep hill to the waist-high natural basin in the stream where the local women did their wash. She would dunk the dirty clothes in the pool, soap them up, and then rinse and rinse them in the running stream. Then she had to carry the wet, heavy clothes back up the hill. But for me (and I think for my father, too) these were halcyon days. American college students would zip up the hill on their rented motorbikes to find us, spend a night or two. There were parties and poetry readings, Chianti and olives and cheese. We kids got to stay up late, when the air was cool and the buttery-sweet scent of chamomile drifted on the breeze. We went back to the States. School. Nuns. To test me, they asked if I could count to ten, and I’d start: uno, due, tre, quattro. I wasn’t showing off. I was just counting.

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Moira Egan My father wanted to be a serious poet. He saw that being a husband, father, was a hindrance to that. In the spring of 1970, he left. No one knows how this happened, but all of our family photo albums were left behind in Florence. We have very few pictures from that time. Here in my Room of My Own, I have one of them. It’s a picture of me and my friend Alessandra. We’re standing on the stone terrace between The Signora’s house and our watchtower, in front of pots of herbs and geraniums, and the two barred windows. I’m sporting some big white earrings and little blue jean-jacket. Alessandra looks wistful, distracted. I remember that, when we left Italy, I was particularly sad to say goodbye to The Signora. I loved going into her dark parlor, hung with ancient curtains, always cool. Years later, I think I was in college by then, I was talking with my father about our time in Italy. “Do you know what ever happened to The Signora?” I asked him. He shook his head. And he in turn asked me, “Do you know what she went through during the war?” I shook my head. I didn’t. The Signora’s husband was a Partisan. He and some other Partisans were using the watchtower that we had lived in as a radio tower. Somehow the Fascists found out about what they were doing. The Fascists came up the hill. They dragged the men down from the tower onto the terrace where we used to play. They shot them all dead on the terrace. They shot her husband dead in front of The Signora. For the first few years after he left, my father tried to be a good Dad. Never the type of guy to throw around a Frisbee or a baseball with his kids, instead he came over on Saturdays to give us cooking lessons. Our primary text was the huge, white bible with the scene of a delicious seaside picnic on its cover: Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni. Around noon, Dad would arrive at what had until recently been the family home, with a jug of Chianti for cooking (and drinking while cooking), laden with oil-spotted brown paper bags from Trinacria or Mastellone’s, containing whatever supplies were necessary for that week’s culinary project. “It’s going to be a gourmet sensation,” he would say, which drove my brother and sister crazy. They hated the word “gourmet,” which is still a joke among us. I wonder if they didn’t simply hate the idea that our father had been able to up and leave us to pursue other paths, his experiments in various exoticisms and being a “full-time poet,” and somehow, for them, the word “gourmet” had become a metonymy for our loss. After the official cooking lesson, my brother and sister ran outside to play. I sat inside and talked with our father, or tried to talk with him, whom I missed so much but couldn’t find the words to say so. There was one night, not long after he’d left, when he was invited to read some poems on a radio show. We three were allowed to stay up late to listen to that long-gone AM

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Moira Egan upright. We sat and stared at its black and gold, roughly woven fabric-screen so that we could hear, slightly muffled and scratchy, but still quite clearly, the voice of our absent father. He knew to bring the salted water to a roiling boil, add the pasta, and keep a careful watch on the proceedings. He would test a piece a minute or two before the prescribed cooking time was up, making sure it (god forbid) didn’t overcook. Then, when it was just al dente, he poured it into the colander to drain. The myriad exotic pasta shapes weren’t yet readily available in the States, so we used good old spaghetti. He brought real cheese to grate onto the pasta: none of that Kraft stuff from the green cylindrical container for him. It wasn’t that long since we’d come back from Italy, and I still loved the pungent tang of the Parmesan and pecorino. He would slice me off a little chunk to gnaw on as he put the finishing touches on our meal. After our early supper, our father left and went back to his apartment downtown, where he was living with another woman and his poetry. Damiano is amazed and amused when I tell him the things we used to make during our Saturday cooking lessons. Bolognese meat sauce. Pesto alla genovese. Cacio e pepe. And not just Italian things: we also made coq au vin, arroz con pollo, and even Chinese stir-fries. But it’s the Italian things I remember best; these are the things I still know how to cook, without even consulting Ada Boni. And sometimes, on a Saturday, we would just “picnic,” as Dad called it: good bread, good cheese, salame, olives. The origin of my father’s love for “gourmet sensations” of the Italian persuasion is easy to trace. And I remember that time, our own little “Italian Journey,” as the last period when my parents were still happy with each other, when their marriage was still placid and tranquil. Damiano is a doctor, and many of his metaphors are medical. When he said I was having a “tetanus of memory” because of being back in Tuscany, he was referring to the physiological definition of the word, “the prolonged contraction of a muscle caused by rapidly repeated stimuli.” Rapidly repeated, constant stimuli. The bright Tuscan green of the trees. The smell of chamomile wafting on the breeze. The geraniums. The Chianti. The cheese.

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Sara Henning French Fries 1992 Dear Queens of Sheen

still lingering in my cousin’s

Happy Meal box— Dear Amazons from the Isle of Salt whose skin could split the air like flints slicked

in hot kerosene:

I will sing your mercy if you let me.

I will throat you clean.

My cousin, stretched like a cat on the grass,

is unmoved by you,

her glister-blue veins

threading her legs like sprinkler water.

I watch her temples thrum like a just-hatched

bird and wonder how your golden

spires of luscious do not

entrance her. Her burger

wrapper glamming its bun in an origami dress is no

match for your blind heat

between her fingers. When tumors

spread to her lungs, even

my mother super-sized her order, revved her Tacoma

down cul-de-sacs all night.

She chased each rind

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Sara Henning

gone luminous with a swig

of Coke. Which is to say: she savored it

all. When pleasure comes

at the end, is it still

pleasure? Just days into

hospice, she clenched her jaw when we offered her

water. It would be easy

to say: even pleasure can’t save us.

But I’m thinking

of my cousin, the way the sun once kissed her

hallowed spaces, and I

remember: pleasure is not

consolation, it is light. Our animal

hunger is what keeps us holy. For years, my mother

and I would cruise after school

with a grease-drenched

bag between us, drive

until nothing but shine gripped us through the blur

of magnolias. When I think

of my mother, car exhaust

still sweetens my throat.

There’s a lust for oil, a heat between my teeth.

There will always be miles

soaked in the heat-bleach

of bird bones, but it’s this grit

hymn I’ll always remember. This illicit salt will

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Sara Henning

Mom’s Eggs It’s the glistening I can’t unsee now—her yolks slipped fast into margarine. It’s like they’re naked. Something indecent miring the interior of Teflon. My mother, thirty, palms a plastic spatula as white rind radiates the sheen of metal. My first memory—two martyrs cracked open, a lilt of silk scarred clean. Years later, and I’m still fork-deep in awakening. She’s dead, and no one can teach me to pierce the flood, to catch its trigger of salt. It’s a trick I can’t master—that sweet spot pulsing hard, then raw. I learn to tilt the trigger of yellow threading my dreams—it glosses. It studs. It sizzles. Smoke’s mute as rapture. So, I learn to savor what I can scrape—I eat my failing. I kill the heat.

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Mary Beth Hines Destroying Angels Our fruiting bodies glisten under leaves, growing around the roots of an old oak tree, catching glints of moon and blossoming. We scatter spores like gifts from ruffled gills to consecrate and seed the forest floor. We cast our veiled spells in the dead of night, soothed by wind and rain, darkness and cool, silver sisters rising from the soil, a pixie circle—tempting and malign. And when day breaks we lay low and listen for hunter’s heavy boots, the hungry ones, the gangs with hanging baskets rumbling through. We’ve prepared our pith and poison for the taking, now mouth our winsome songs, and shimmer in waiting.

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Karen Holmberg Wintergreen in Summer They beg me tell of berries that ripen in winter, transmuting snow to sugar. How your fingers go dumb, plucking a palmful. Of nipping the crimson skin to taste the slush inside, drenched in the wild mint of the North. * I row them past Duck Island, tip of their known world, where stunted firs arc laden rods over the water. Where a prostrate cedar, sun-soaked, soft as driftwood to the palm, sprouts a few pliant fringes each year, and the red dragonfly sets its caplet of blood upon the greenbriar. We run aground on a point of land so steep we hand ourselves up birch sapling rungs to stagger on our knees though the matted colony. As if the leaves are found money scattered on the ground my girls cry out, hoarse with jubilation, and pluck the leaves into paper sacks gone limp and blandly sweet in the steam of August. They chew leaves to moist splinters, extracting the pungent oils so the place roots deep in them. All day they press leaves to our palms like queens dispensing gold. *

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Karen Holmberg When August is done and distant as a dream, we find the sacks flattened between layers of stale shirts. Mystified, amnesiac, we unscroll the necks and a wing pushes past us, cools the wet of our eyes with its volatile innocence, leaving us nothing but shades of themselves in our palms, as if the mask-maker of the world used their pattern for our eyes, then cast aside the scraps of dull leather.

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Luisa A. Igloria What the mouth remembers I’ve never understood the expression soup to nuts—I know it means from start to finish, but never in my life have I had a meal that resolved with nuts. On father’s insistence, we always had broth to begin, and some kind of modest dessert at the end: bananas (the small, sweet variety), a saucerful of thin, store-bought wafers with an insinuation of cream: a “digestive” biscuit. In better times, a slice of cake and scoop of ice cream doled out in small footed crystal glasses. In between, the everyday parade of dishes learned by heart: rice, some slimy vegetable swimming in more broth; or chicken in pepper leaves, fish soured with guava or tamarind. I learned the many forms of bean—flat, winged, thick as paste, laced with brine. Ridged circles of bitter melon, the smoky undertone of long peppers curling in blood stew. Away from home, the tongue remembers what it was taught of old riches, rituals. Rowing through the growing cold in autumn then in winter, it comes out on the other side of spring, stretches over the dusty summer. The mouth closes over neat squares of white bread, the unctuousness of butter. It chews and swallows, wanting more, seeking the missing note: what flesh knew of itself before it was cut and thrown to the world.

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Luisa A. Igloria

Ghazal of Wild Things Fried locust wings in peppery vinegar, savory more than sweet: think of the possibilities. That documentary on donkeys as the new food craze in China—who knew of this possibility? Once I ate a spoonful of cold ants’ eggs from Abra, tart honeyed bites: an appetizer possibility? The mouth is paved with taste buds: a Union Station of innumerable possibilities. Sometimes the simplest broth works as nostalgic elixir—stirred up returns, no longer impossibilities. Three stalks of wild garlic in the yard, surviving winter, seasoning the snow. Tell the girl in the underworld of that possibility.

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Danielle Jones Crayfish, Crawdads, Backwater Lobsters We called them mudbugs, and in the warm months, after baseball, we’d pit stop at the old airport—single hangar, hardly used. They scuttled across the road, scrambling over each other, so we had to swerve to keep from squishing them. When we couldn’t help it, they crunched like cockroaches under our wheels. We’d start at one end of the ditch, work our way to the drainage pipe where they trickled out, slow and dumb. We’d fill our metal trashcans, shake them into the back of our truck. The kids wore work gloves, but the men didn’t have to—hands too calloused to be pinched. I was the smallest, so they made me scoot into the pipe, scoop the shy ones out, and sometimes, lying on my stomach in that concrete circle, the heat pressing in on me, I’d think I was one of them, breathing out of water, like them. Later that night, Daddy threw them in his big, aluminum pot, tarnished from all the years of squatting over open flames. He’d stir and stir, only stopping to mop the sweat from his forehead. When the cayenne pepper, paprika, and thyme got to smelling good, the neighbors wandered over, carrying cornbread and slaw, pole beans, sweet tea and sour mash. The music would start up, the mudbugs dancing

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Danielle Jones in the pot, and all us kids in the pool, crawling over each other, mass of bodies, more bodies than water, and the water the same temperature as the August air.

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Judy Kaber Making Scrapple That day I put the split pig’s head in the metal pot, fed wood to the stove, lifted the lid, stared at porcine grist through drifting steam and fat. The rest of the body wrapped in white paper, already stacked in the freezer. As the clotted smell filled the kitchen, the sharp jaw bone, teeth still attached boiled. This the pig who escaped to the creek, who I lured back with apples. The one I named Peggy Sue who gave birth to squealing piglets as I squatted beside her in mud, her grunts like fat white rivers running through me. Butchered, brought back divided, unknowable except for face, ear, eye. I stood at the table in soot-stained shirt picked meat from bone, ground it fine, mixed in cornmeal, spices, and later sliced it to fry in a pan. I find nothing so wonderful now

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Judy Kaber as that pig, except maybe the hawk that glides above the stream, the bulk of a rusting engine in grass, wild turkeys that waddle from the woods.

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Donna Kaz Bread In my former life I would hit a mood, devour three loaves in my negligee. Carbohydrates are no longer my food. Surely just one slice is not too much you’d venture to say. Care to guess what I weigh? In my former life I would hit a mood. I now race by bake shops as if pursued by brioche, baguettes and biscuit soufflé. Carbohydrates are no longer my food. Chefs have been known to describe me as rude after an all-out Panera foray. In my former life I would hit a mood. Perhaps one day I won’t have to exclude, when yeast is extinct and wheat is passé. Carbohydrates are no longer my food. Still, there shall always be parts that protrude even with gluten-free, low-cal gourmet. In my former life I would hit a mood. Carbohydrates are no longer my food.

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Cindy King Mama Garde Manger Was for the manager as much as it was for me, for my father, for our acre of mud? For the withered rows of cornstalks blanching in the rain? For the platters and oyster knives, for the threat of their blades. For the poaching, the pickling, for the brine? For her knuckles, split, and the blood rising from the sting. For her neck, bowed as if worshipping the work of the hands. For the back, bent, the shoulders, for her body, curved, committed to murderous disassembly. For her feet, raw, and the boots’ failings. Was it for third-shift sunlight, beautiful if it weren’t so ugly. For eyes and entrails, soft shells, scales, for peach sangria in the drain? Or was it for stoop and the Styrofoam cooler, hosting its own frozen season. Or for the breath she held, the smoke expelled in delinquent streams— thick, forgetful, distracted by wind, vanishing before it knew where it was going.

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Aviya Kushner Orchids Sachlav, white-hot drink of the gods, of the Ottomans, the Turks, the conquerors of the Middle East, is made with flower-parts. Orchid tubers, which like so many of Earth’s fruits are harder to obtain than they were, and more expensive. I can taste the cheap corn-starch in the chi-chi sachlav a waitress serves me in Tel Aviv, masked by coconut, peanuts, cinnamon, the works. Like the world, I think: hiding its true nature beneath toppings. Days later I trek to the desert and without bidding am presented, in the cold desert night, with a cup laden with orchid-parts: flower of the earth, taste of the conqueror, scent and thickness of the past and all I thought was past. Deep in my gut I fear we are entering a new age of conquest, of ravaging earth down to the tubers, the roots, of condemning people to rulers and to being ruled. I tried to cover my fear with sweetness, with white-hot drinks: coconut, peanuts, cinnamon— even out here in the desert, almonds and rosewater too, but empire comes to the sands and the dunes and the ruins, and no one,

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Aviya Kushner not even the sachlav-seller, will be safe. Once I drank to the future, fearless. Now I sip, hungry to absorb some secret from the white-hot lip of the past, that survivor, that drink.

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Aviya Kushner

History Dusty-green palm tree, blue sky, stone wall of the Ottomans. Hard not to think of the trinity of sky and earth and human labor, here in a four-thousand-year-old city and perhaps, everywhere air and earth and humanity meet for coffee, olive-and-cheese pastry, conversation. Somehow it is more evident, our faults, our weaknesses, our impermanence, looking at the bones and stones of the past. Somewhere not far from here a criminal has become President— but that’s not new. Once, rulers were the ruthless, the liars, the thieves, the damners of the damned.

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Aviya Kushner

History of Eating Taste of conquest in my mouth— food borrowed and stolen from the neighbors, from the gone, the dead. What is cooking but memory and theft? Thinking this way is dangerous and beautiful. My grandmother’s stuffed cabbage lives on in my hands, and maybe she borrowed the boiling water and raisins from the Cossacks who marauded her parents’ little shack in the old country. My tall red-headed grandfather never looked like part of the family: some said a Cossack raped an ancestor en route to greater theft. But what we have are not just the babies but the recipes, I think as I walk, long-legged, my grandfather’s granddaughter, trying to forget the story of rape, and dreaming of borrowed meals.

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Devi Laskar Black Forest Cakes after Stanley Kunitz She lived in the layers like the cakes she loved, each forkful a ménage à trois between the liqueur-soaked cherries, the stiffly whipped cream, the bittersweet chocolate sponge. She was allergic, but she stole the palm-sized miniatures right off the bakery trucks and gorged anyway. She lived in the layers of her white-flour lies, how she pretended online to be an expert pastry chef or European cookbook author, with names not far from the Barefoot Contessa’s or the author of Tender Buttons—adding in a classmate’s surname or street address from when she was eight and had to hike up the steep concrete staircases in Freiburg. She was always on her way home to the tiny apartment that Mrs. Kirkmeyer rented to her family; Frau Kirkmeyer’s teenage daughter Petra gave Deutsch lessons every Monday and Wednesday afternoon. No, she borrowed her friends’ names, like Dieter or Katja, like Altstadt or Martin Tor, to criticize American cooks and authors who published recipes and articles on how to prepare an easy Black Forest. There was never anything easy about that part of Bavaria—every act always held heavywinged angels of history in its intentions, in its folds. A single raisin in a vat of muesli, her father proudly proclaimed after taking her to school the first day. Hers was the only brown face at the public German school thirty years after the last World War. The children were nice enough, unable to understand her American English, trying to equate her kurti tops and her long-braided and hibiscus-oiled hair with color pictures of the Taj Mahal they found in the pages of their history books. She always regretted spitting out that savory slice of bratwurst onto the pumpkin-colored cloth napkin in the cafeteria the first time twins Bettina and Mechthild juxtaposed that wonder of the world with a picture of a cartoon castle where princesses lived ever after, happily. She didn’t know the Deutsch words for grave or tomb but counted herself lucky the next Thursday after lunch when she stumbled on

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Devi Laskar a bleak graveyard near the clapboard church, a place where visitors and those who resided there had the opportunity to wear the same expression. She was lost and looking for any of the concrete steps leading up the mountain to her rented home when the twins came up behind her, Bettina carrying a large wedge of Black Forest Cake nestled in a pink cardboard box, like the ones she’d seen as a tourist in India, used to transport sweets from the shop to the home. They said hello and she asked Mechthild if she could borrow her copy of the history book. She turned to the page where the white marble minarets always gleamed in the noonday Indian sun; she pointed to the gravestones and then to the Taj Mahal. Bettina cried, then sat down. The twins popped open the top of the box, one produced a plastic fork, and they took turns eating. They shared with her and all was well in the world, for once three girls spoke the same language. After a moment or two, Bettina mumbled something about their mother and father but Mechthild waved it off. Chocolate, cherries, and cream sweetening the bitter knowledge that even death can be a thing of beauty.

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Ae Hee Lee Memory Series of Umma Making Kimchi in Trujillo I. Umma and her wooden cooking spoon. A pot filled with water and an ambiguous amount of all-purpose flour instead of rice flour. She stirs. The water turns milky. It turns thicker, stickier, like glue—the smell of starch dissipates into the air. It occurs to you that Umma’s arm is an orbiting moon, unable to escape the gravity of a planet much larger than itself.

II. Umma with salt on the palm of her hand, her arm extending towards a soft ray of sunlight. She compares the Peruvian salt to another that resides in her memories. This unfamiliar salt in front of her eyes is a thinner crystal. She licks her fingers. It is slightly sour. She asks you to come and have a taste, but you have nothing to compare it with.

III. Umma slicing onions, spring onions, radishes— into whatever size she thinks would be “a pleasure to eat.” Umma’s measuring tool: her intuition, her philosophy that a fixation with perfection deters one from pouring jeong into the food. Jeong, she teaches you, is love that comes with time, similar to the process of fermentation, similar to the slow dyeing of brined leaves.

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IV. Umma’s concave back as she squats over the blue rim of a plastic tub in the laundry room. The Napa cabbages inside are as wide as your childish hips—rare in Trujillo, rare like the Korean pepper flakes Umma has been saving by mixing them with ají panca. The translucent plastic gloves covering her hands are smeared with bright candy red and the green of spring onions. She tells you to go sleep first. You dream of her hands carefully running between the cabbage leaves, again and again, even now, making sure no white spot is left untouched.

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Wendy Fontaine Goodness Growing up, my brother and I always knew where we’d be come

Sunday. It was a given, as certain as the psalms, as assured as the afterlife. At the insistence of our mother, who wanted her children to become good people, he and I would find ourselves at the Methodist church in the center of town, first for an hour of worship service in the sanctuary, then for an hour of fellowship in the building’s basement. We didn’t particularly enjoy church, but it wasn’t the worst thing either. The sanctuary was ornate and serene, unlike any other place we’d ever been. Our corner of western Maine was paper mill country, where fathers woke early for shift work and the air smelled like rotten eggs, thanks to bleaching agents used to whiten the paper. Situated at the falls of a mighty but polluted river, the town offered only one elementary school but several places of worship. There were churches for Methodist, Baptist and Pentecostal residents, but most of the local mill families attended the Catholic church on Main Street, which was bigger and fancier and, from what I’d heard, had more rules. Our sanctuary, with its arched doorways and cathedral ceilings, was a haven from the rigors of school and work, from blustery New England winters and humid summers. Each Sunday morning, hazy sunshine beamed through stained glass windows, casting the congregation in dreamy light. Golden organ pipes spread out like a giant fan behind the altar. At the pulpit stood Rev. Rothrock, our pastor, wearing an ivory robe and embroidered sashes, with rounded bifocals resting on the bridge of his bulbous nose. Usually, I had enough patience to endure the first few hymns and the opening scriptures of the sermon. By then, my stomach rumbled. My pre-adolescent body grew weary of the hard pew and my mother’s behave-or-else stare. If it were a day for communion—which we Methodists celebrated only once a month, as opposed to the Catholics, who did it every week—I’d be stuck there, waiting for my turn to partake. But if it weren’t, the usual excuses would suffice: the need for a cup of water or a trip to the restroom. Because I was ten years old and mostly trustworthy, my mother would occasionally release me to the nursery to help care for the babies and toddlers, but our congregation was dwindling. Manufacturing jobs were moving out of state or overseas, and families were relocating. High school graduates who went away to

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Wendy Fontaine college often didn’t come back. Some days, in the nursery, there were no little ones to care for at all. I have to pee, I mouthed to my mom. She nodded and whispered make it quick. With all the discretion I could muster, I slid to the edge of the pew, then stood and sidled up the aisle, leaving my younger brother behind to fend for himself. He was five years younger than me, born on my birthday—a pest, for sure, but also sometimes my only playmate. On warm days after school, we chased each other through our backyard with cap guns and rode our bicycles up and down our dead-end street. When it snowed or rained, we stayed inside and played with his collection of Star Wars figurines. He was always Luke. I was always Leia. Row by row, I retreated from the sanctuary, passing old ladies in brown polyester skirts and wrinkled men in dusty tweed sport coats, doing my best to avoid their collective gaze. If they could see my eyes, they might also see my thoughts. Then they’d know what I was about to do, what I did almost every Sunday during church. As Rev. Rothrock orated from the pulpit, I slipped out the back of the sanctuary and shuffled down a long, dark hallway, past the book-filled office where our pastor wrote his sermons. My mother cleaned the office, along with the rest of the church, one evening a week for extra money, and I would often tag along to help. While she vacuumed, I dusted the shelves and snooped around. The reverend liked to tell jokes, but his private room presented a more pensive image. His books, lined evenly according to height, had leather binding and gold lettering. A framed diploma from seminary school hung on the wall. His desk was tidy and organized, a large fountain pen lying idle in the center. From the pastor’s office, I moved to the staircase leading to the basement, halting briefly to make sure no one, especially my little brother, had followed me. Sometimes he snuck off too, leaving me no choice but to abandon my plan. Other times, our mother gave him Matchbox cars to play with in the pew. Anything with wheels could grab his attention. I knew what awaited us downstairs. After each service, members of the church gathered in the basement kitchen for Sunday fellowship. There’d be coffee, tea and goodies galore, including special treats we didn’t get anyplace else. My mother brought the Bundt cake, a vanilla edifice with cinnamon swirls and brown sugar crumble. Each Saturday evening, I watched her bake it in our kitchen at home, saw her flip the bumpy pan and ease golden cake from its Teflon berth, perfectly formed, perfectly steamy and sweet. With the stealth and poise of a prowling house cat, I descended the staircase and saw our bounty. Baked goods and casseroles lined the kitchen sideboards. Each potluck contribution was concealed within Tupperware or hidden beneath layers of aluminum foil, but I knew exactly what I’d find inside. Methodists are a predictable and orderly bunch. Methodical.

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Wendy Fontaine It’s right there in the name. Someone would bring the cheddar cheese and Ritz crackers. Someone else would bring the deviled eggs. There would be baked beans in a crockpot and macaroni and cheese with diced ham in Corningware. Mrs. Jones, whose husband, Bob, worked at the paper mill, would make her famous whoopie pies, little dessert sandwiches made of chocolate cake and frosting so sweet it made our teeth hurt. But the jewel in the crown, what drove me out of the pew and into the basement, was the promise of crème horns, those tubular puff pastries loaded with whipped cream—sort of like Italian cannoli but less exotic. Rather than homemade, these treats were store-bought, sold in packages of five or six, and full of soybean oil and diglycerides—the stuff dreams were made of in the 1980s. To make them look fancier and stretch further, the crème horns were sliced into disks, each disk set flat on a platter and topped with one half of a shiny crimson maraschino cherry. Using an entire cherry was out of the question. Those tiny glass jars of chemically reddened fruit weren’t exactly cheap, my mother often reminded me. In New England, frugality is its own religion. Making food stretch is practically sacrament. The sight of those little disks, all glossy and white against the porcelain platter, made my mouth water. I scanned the basement to make certain no one was around, then grabbed two crème circles and shoved them both into my mouth. The burst of flavor was pure ambrosia, soft and sweet, a frenzy of simple carbohydrates. At home, my brother and I got treats with some regularity, usually in the form of powdered doughnuts or Little Debbie snack cakes, but nothing so special as crème horns. Crème horns were pretty. Crème horns were delicate. And because they were explicitly for fellowship, crème horns were forbidden fruit. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t care—not that much, anyway. With one eye on the door, I grabbed two more disks, chewing with haste and rearranging what remained on the platter so no one would notice anything missing. Whatever remorse I felt was eclipsed by the carnal pleasure of indulgence. A luscious film of shortening coated my teeth. Granules of sugar danced on my tongue. I was giddy and lightheaded by the physical manifestation of my sneakiness and rapid calorie consumption. But I also felt relieved—relieved to put some distance between Rev. Rothrock and myself. While he was a kind and funny man, I found his sermons dull and confusing. The scriptures he quoted seemed vague and contradictory, sometimes even nonsensical. How could Noah build an ark large enough for all the animals in the world? How could a man be swallowed by a whale and live to tell about it? During the sermon, we couldn’t ask questions, and I had a lot of questions. Most of the stories in the Bible seemed to indicate one thing: we should all be good because being good pleased God. That was hard to do

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Wendy Fontaine sometimes. At school, I listened to my teacher, Miss Grace, who was young and attractive but merciless with rules and punishments. She revoked my recess privileges almost daily for talking out of turn. Did that make me bad? Did God see me there at my desk, second row from the left, with my head down while the other children played hopscotch and kickball? Did it make him angry? I felt envy too, for the girls in class with nicer clothes and prettier hair, with mothers waiting at home to make them snacks after school. My own mother was at work, along with my dad, not at the paper mill but at the shoe factory. In small towns like ours, there was a hierarchy for factory work, and each of us knew our place. Making paper was better than making shoes—more dignified, somehow, and certainly more profitable. Mill workers made twice as much as shoe shop workers. They lived in houses with front porches, sometimes even garages. For years to come, I would equate houses with porches to wealth and security. My family lived in a trailer on a street behind the elementary school. At night, if we left our bedroom windows open, we could hear the whistles of the trains moving through town, bringing paper to the southern part of the state. After the mill and shoe workers came those who worked at the sawmill on the edge of town, where the scent of cedar chips replaced bleaching agents. Below them were the people who didn’t have jobs at all, who collected welfare or unemployment checks. The pecking order was clear, in the clothes we wore, the cars parked in our driveways, even in the foods we toted to school in our lunch sacks—if we toted lunch sacks at all. I was no saint, to be sure, but I wasn’t as bad as some of the kids at church. One boy was sent to the pastor’s office for scribbling “fuck” in the hymnal. Another got caught smoking cigarettes in the bell tower. I thought smoking was gross, and I restricted my use of curse words to the playground and the occasional Girl Scout troop meeting. The older girls in my troop sat in a circle and gossiped about sex and pubic hair. I sat outside the circle and mostly listened, hoping God wouldn’t find me guilty by association. At home, I obeyed my parents but fought with my brother, usually over toys and chores. Then, to keep myself out of trouble, I told lies—just little ones but lies nonetheless. And sometimes at night, after all the trains had gone by, I’d dare God to do something to prove His existence. Make a dog bark. Flicker the lights. Send me a sign. But no sign came, and I wondered, did that mean He didn’t exist, or was He paying attention to someone more deserving? My mother had to split her time between two children. Maybe God had to split His time too. After school, while my parents were still at work, I snooped on them as well, browsing through my mother’s jewelry box, her closet and her dresser drawers. My mother wore jeans and t-shirts most days, but her necklaces and bracelets, her summer dresses and suede handbags all suggested a life beyond being our mother, beyond working and making dinner and folding

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Wendy Fontaine laundry. A velvet choker with sparkling gemstones. Strappy sandals with cork heels. These things in her closet rarely saw the light of day, and I wondered why she kept them. Were they memories or dreams? Poring over her hidden treasures, I glimpsed a world wider than my narrow scope, a world of terrific secrets and surprises, where people reconciled the truth of who they were with the notion of who they’d rather be. From my mother’s closet, I went to the kitchen to explore the cabinets, finding comfort in the more practical provisions my parents had squirreled away—boxes of thin spaghetti and elbow macaroni, jars of olives and tomato sauce, and five-pound bags of flour and rice. One Christmas, during a particularly rough year at the shoe factory, a man from church delivered a holiday food basket to my family. Inside was a frozen turkey, canned vegetables and gravy, and a pack of Stove Top stuffing, my favorite. My mother accepted the donation with a mix of relief and embarrassment. For years, she repaid the favor by dropping folded dollar bills into the weekly donation plate any time she could spare them. I needed something to wash down the sugary aftermath of crème horns but decided against the tap water, which, I already knew, tasted like rocks. The church building was old, with old plumbing. The refrigerator yielded two options: a carton of half-and-half for the fellowship coffee and an opened bottle of Welch’s grape juice. For communion, Methodists use grape juice instead of wine to avoid any consumption of alcohol—ironic, since my father, who did not accompany us to church, spent his Sundays drinking Bud Lights and watching fishing shows. Once, when he wasn’t looking, I snuck a sip from his amber bottle. The taste was bitter and yeasty, instantly revolting. Welch’s was the best grape juice money could buy—tart and syrupy, not watery like that no-name stuff from our discount grocery store. I poured myself a Dixie cup’s worth and drank it slowly, savoring its acidity, its balance of sour and sweet. I dropped my cup into the garbage can and, just for the heck of it, opened each of the kitchen cabinets. There were plates and saucers, mugs for coffee, salt and pepper shakers, and dozens of tiny packets of oyster crackers, likely left over from our last potluck supper. For a moment, I considered taking a few of the packets for later, maybe even giving one to my brother. He and I loved those powdery, pillow-like crackers, loved sucking on them until they dissolved on our tongues. Then I remembered: God was watching. And while Rev. Rothrock had never explicitly said so, it seemed to me there was also a hierarchy for sins. Snacking on fellowship treats was akin to sharing, since technically they were for everyone. But taking crackers home in my pockets was closer to stealing, and I didn’t want to give God any more reasons to ignore me. Then suddenly, like an elephant on the Serengeti, the church’s organ trumpeted through the sanctuary and down to the basement, signaling the

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Wendy Fontaine end of Sunday service. The blast was my cue to return to my mother, who never seemed to suspect anything improper about my absences during the sermons. She simply slid over and made room for me on the pew. If I wasn’t a good girl in God’s eyes, at least I still was in hers. The conclusion of service was always the same. Rev. Rothrock would raise one hand and bless the congregation. Then Mrs. Emery, the choir director, would lead everyone through the last hymn. I knew most of the songs by heart. Methodism, after all, involved lots of memorization. One year at Lent, I made it my mission to master the Apostles’ Creed. While the Catholics gave up meat and other things for the holy period before Easter, we Methodists did good deeds to express our dedication to God. I practiced every day, reciting the creed over and over in my bedroom, on the walk to school, and at recess while my head was down. If I could get the wording right, then maybe I could redeem myself. I could still be good. But in the end, my efforts were fruitless. The text had too many clauses and too many names. Who was Pontius Pilate, anyway? I preferred the Lord’s Prayer, which was simpler and more poetic. The words lingered, like a promise. As I ascended the stairs to the sanctuary, pipe organ blasting, I mouthed the familiar words, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, with the taste of crème horns and grape juice still clinging to my lips.

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Corey Ginsberg The Alchemy of Food It’s possible I’m the only vegetarian in the country at this moment

elbow deep in a turkey carcass, slathering a homemade dry rub-butter concoction under the skin so it will make a crispy coating—preparing a ten-course Thanksgiving feast along with a fourteen-pound bird—for a twelve-pound dog. Today is a special occasion. Not only is it my first Thanksgiving away from my family in Pittsburgh, but it’s also the second-to-last day of my dog Gus’s life. I grew up understanding that cooking is more than just a means to nourishment. I learned when I was young from watching my mom and grandma prepare endless meals that a sure way to show love for someone is to cook for them. Not just a sandwich or mere casserole—an elaborate meal with many courses, too much for any person to eat in one sitting. If food is love, then what better way to convey an abundance of love than to make an abundance of food? The act of cooking combines process with payoff; it’s an iteration of creativity with an edible result. A good meal can be its own occasion, though it’s often an accompanying act. It’s a way to bring family and friends together, to provide comfort and commonality, to transform sustenance into community. Preparing food for a loved one, at its most basic level, is an exercise in empathy. As I simmer turkey giblets in a saucer, I look across my kitchen to the dog bed in the corner. The other six beds are scattered throughout the house and porch so Gus will have a comfortable place to sit no matter where he is. But of course he’s been right here with me for most of the afternoon, his arthritic back legs resting on the cotton-stuffed rim. The only times he’s stood are to drink copious amounts of water, pee next to the bowl, or beg for more treats. I reach down and give him a chunk of stuffing from the edge of the pan—a crispy, butter-rich spoonful with browned edges and soft inside—which he gently takes from my hand and swallows whole. As someone with a passion for cooking, finding a dog like Gus who loved food more than I do was serendipitous. Back in 2012 Gus’s photo came up on the Florida Dachshund Rescue’s adoption page: a caramelcolored, senior, with his ribs and spine protruding through his fur. The blurb said that Gus had been abandoned in a cage in the woods in South Florida, and after several days of barking, was discovered in a near-death

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Corey Ginsberg state by someone on a neighboring farm. Gus was surrendered to the local pound, and the dachshund rescue claimed him before he could be put down. Among his many physical ailments, Gus had lost most of his fur and the elasticity in his skin from starvation. He had a whole-body infection that compromised his hearing and breathing, and required strong medicine. He needed a loving home where he could spend his remaining days. The afternoon progresses as food simmers and bakes. The piquant aroma of slow-roasted meat wafts through the house and infuses the normally mildew-tinged Miami air. My friends will be arriving soon with drinks and side dishes. They’re coming early to have Bloody Marys and keep me company while I cook. Freesia, Jade and Kathy know Gus well—all my friends do. Gus has become famous in my friend circle as the Harry Potter of dogs—he who lived despite it all. The little hound with the huge bark, sideways shuffle, and insatiable appetite. I’ve already let my guests know about my decision, and told them the only rule for today is that I’m not allowed to cry. If I allow the tears to start, I fear I won’t be able to stop them. Shortly after I adopted Gus, the vet confirmed that he was much older than the ten years his papers listed. She placed his age at fifteen, and added that she’d never seen a dog with such a bad infection. His chest was covered in a tar-like coating, which often flaked off at night onto the pillow next to me. Early on Gus threw up several times a day from chewing his irritated skin. When he got sick, I’d toss the sheets onto the floor and curl up with him in a blanket. The next morning, as I rounded up the bedding to put in the laundry, Gus galloped ahead of me, knowing it was time for the day’s first meal. Within the first hour of moving in Gus learned that the bin of food was located in the garage, through the door in the kitchen. He also figured out that if he kicked the door enough times, tossed his empty bowl across the floor and barked, food would appear. Anytime someone ventured into the kitchen meant the possibility of a morsel of something savory, maybe even a coveted slice of cheese. Four-and-a-half years later, not much has changed. Except instead of kibble Gus now gets ham, fish, or kielbasa for dinner, with roasted vegetables and grains. In the mornings it’s sausage links, fried eggs, sometimes pancakes. And, then there are the bi-weekly trips to Burger King for bacon cheeseburgers or McDonald’s for McGriddles. I take the turkey out to baste and lift the dog so he can see what I’m cooking. Pick-ups to counter level have always been one of Gus’s favorite activities. The world three feet higher than his normal vantage point holds delectable surprises and secrets that aren’t normally accessible to those with tiny legs. Gus’s black eyes bulge as he stares at two kinds of gravy simmering next to a pot of cubed potatoes and a skillet of shredded Brussels sprouts. I place a dab of butter onto the turkey and drag it with a fork over the

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Corey Ginsberg browning skin. He follows my hand as I spoon meat drippings into a saucer, which I let cool then place on the floor. I hold Gus’s back legs up as he laps the rich liquid. When I adopted Gus it was with the understanding that the neglect he experienced in his prior life had caused lingering health problems. While the surface symptoms could be treated, the damage done internally was beyond repair. Gus was on borrowed time, so we would need to make the most of it. Which is why in the months after he arrived I was glad for each improvement in his health, however small. His infected skin flared less often, and the worst open sores on his body began to drain and heal. His hair slowly grew back into a smooth brown and gray coat. There were still bad days, when Gus struggled to breathe and his skin seeped and bled, but overall he grew stronger and seemingly happier. We seized those good spells; sometimes we stole away to get chicken nuggets at the alwaysexciting drive-thru, then headed to the beach or the nearby park to look at ducks. Those afternoons Gus climbed up the door toward the passenger-side window so his ears could flap in the warm breeze. This became a routine. As weeks turned into months and months turned into years Gus grew more affectionate, more accustomed to being loved, more a part of my family. When my mind drifts to the sad place hanging dangerously close to the surface, I do my best to focus on what’s in front of me on the counter: six onions that have to be diced; a bunch of carrots waiting to be peeled; and an orange needing to be zested into stewing cranberries. Chopping becomes a mantra, a constant, a pulse line. But trying not to think about a loved one’s impending death is like trying to ignore a hurricane that’s rapidly approaching. You peek out the windows with worry, watching the sky darken into a fake shade of night. When the air pressure changes, you sense, in a fundamental, inexplicable way, that something sublime is about to happen. Soon the storm will be here. You wonder how you will you protect yourself from the inevitable destruction, how you will handle the aftermath. Freesia and Jade arrive first, with craft beers, wine, and salad. Gus gets out of bed to greet them at the door, his tail a curved antenna, then immediately wanders back to the kitchen where the action is. In moments like this, when he’s so animated and jubilant, I can’t help but launch into a silent questioning spiral. What if we could have another week? Another month? What right do I have to pick a day, especially when there are still good moments? I purposefully divert my attention to assembling Bloody Marys, adorned with skewers of smoked mozzarella, limes, olives, gherkins, and miniature grilled cheese sandwiches. As he begs for the quarter of my sandwich he knows he’ll get, Gus’s highpitched food moans transform into wheezes. At first it’s a few punctuated gasps, but the fit quickly progresses into wet coughs and choking. Pin

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Corey Ginsberg prickles gather on my neck and forearms. The vet and I have discussed these episodes, and I’m aware of the red flag to look out for: If the coughing goes on and he can’t get air, his gums will turn whitish-blue and we’ll need to rush to the emergency clinic. I put down my half-assembled skewer and sit on the floor. Gus struggles to breathe while I smooth his fur. I tell him over and over that it’s okay. This is a lie, one I want so much to be true it keeps spilling out before I can filter it. After several minutes the coughs finally slow. Gus clears his throat, indicating he’s getting air. I check his gums, which thankfully are pink. When I reach down to kiss him on the muzzle I notice that Gus’s focus isn’t on me or anyone else; he’s never taken his eyes off of the promised sandwich square I didn’t realize I’ve been holding in my left hand. Moments like these make me think back to 2016, the morning I let Gus out into the backyard before I went to work. He wandered to his favorite spot under a palm tree, then collapsed in the lawn and couldn’t get up. I called off and rushed him to the vet. The films revealed that his kidneys and liver were significantly larger than the last time he’d been X-rayed, and were more than double the size of those in healthy dogs. We could do further tests to determine if what we were seeing were tumors, or if the organs themselves were failing. But the vet and I concurred. Why put him through unnecessary upset and discomfort when the outcome would be the same? It was only a matter of time, she said, and told me to keep spoiling him until then. That day we got Arby’s on the drive home. I tried not to let Gus see me cry as I fed him slices of warm beef from the sliders. But once again this little dog surprised us all: He kept going. For over a year he’s hung on, with the help of long afternoon naps on the couch, supplemented with the occasional pan-fried shrimp, six-inch cold cut combo, soft serve ice cream cone, and slice of meat lover’s pizza. Earlier this week, though, things took a turn for the worse. When I returned to town from my sister’s wedding, the change in Gus was pronounced. His already compromised back legs nearly gave out each time he tried to walk, and when he had accidents he stood oblivious in the expanding puddle of clear urine. The coughing fits had grown more frequent and severe, and no matter how many ham-coated breathing medications, painkillers and nerve pills he swallowed, Gus was suffering. Having already lost two other geriatric dachshunds in the prior months, the thought of saying goodbye to a third was becoming a dire likelihood. Because I knew how much of Gus’s life before he came to me had been a struggle, I wanted him leave this world on a good note—with dignity, love and home-cooked food. The sun begins to set outside the kitchen window. I switch on the lights so I can better assess what parts of the meal still need to be assembled.

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Corey Ginsberg The warm wave of vodka has calmed me into the semblance of an efficient cook, the kind who tries to maintain faith that all the dishes she’s preparing will be properly executed, and none burnt. Timing is everything. Timing, though, is the hardest part. The potatoes are nearly to a boil when Kathy knocks. Gus is too immersed in licking chicken stock from the bottom of a saucepan to acknowledge she’s here. After we greet one another, Kathy asks how I am. I pause, trying to find words for my mishmash of thoughts. How to convey the gamut of emotions? Before I can answer, Kathy sets the bowl of spinach dip she brought on the living room table. She wraps her arms around me and hugs me tight, allowing me to articulate the totality of my feelings without the need for a single word. Kathy follows me into the kitchen. She sits on the floor with Gus as I mash the potatoes and thicken the gravy with a cornstarch slurry. Freesia and Jade fill the water glasses on the table and carry platters of steaming food to the dining area. In a way everything seems normal, at least when I turn half my brain off. It feels like any other holiday if I ignore the fact that at this time on Saturday the kitchen will be quiet. The dog bed Gus is sitting in will be empty, and the pink fleece blanket he likes to burrow in will be folded into a neat square and placed in a corner. Things feel okay if I don’t think about the fact that this dog, who survived years of neglect and abuse, who went on to outlive the age chart on the Iam’s dog food bag, will no longer be here to offer his near-euphoric expectation of each home-cooked meal. And it will be me, the one he trusts unconditionally, who will hold him and tell him it’s okay as the vet administers the round of shots and his body goes limp. Me, the one who has done all she can these past years to keep him alive—I will be the one deciding to end his life. After nearly two days of chopping, dicing, emulsifying, blending, baking, simmering and stirring, it’s time to eat. Gus watches me carve the turkey and put biscuits into a basket. I drag the most comfortable armchair out of my living room and slide it across the house to the dining room table. On its soft cushion I place a mound of blankets and pillows—enough padding so he’ll be able to reach his plate. Gus is the guest of honor tonight, so naturally he gets to sit at the head of the table. I light candles and place them on the tablecloth. Then, the four of us take our seats. From his perch Gus watches attentively as we pass bowls of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables, and stuffing. When Freesia hands me the turkey platter, I load Gus’s plate with chunks of dark meat and a piece of skin bigger than his head—much more exciting than the Tofurky and mushroom gravy I’ll be having. I break off a corner of my biscuit for him, and cover his dinner with turkey gravy. Gus drools as I cut his food into tiny, Gus-size pieces.

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Corey Ginsberg Before we dig in, Jade uncorks the wine, and the four of us raise our glasses in a toast. Tonight I know what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful to have a vet I can call on Thanksgiving and let her know we’ve reached that point with Gus—the one we’ve known for years has been near but have been so lucky to postpone for this long. I’m thankful for having friends who are willing to indulge this strange last supper request, who are here with me tonight smiling and helping me keep myself together as we share this feast. Most, though, I’m thankful for knowing that once Gus leaves this painful, failing body, his Gus-ness will live on as it expands into every delicious bite of everything that is. There’s a lot of food on the table, even by my excessive standards. And it all tastes fine, but for once I’m not concerned with the nuances of what I’m eating or how well executed the dishes are. Tomorrow I doubt I’ll remember if the potatoes were properly riced before mashing, or if the cranberry compote was too tart. I look at Gus, who is quivering with pleasure as he takes in the full spread. What I’ll remember from tonight is so much more important than the food: it’s what the food has made possible. I pause between forkfuls to give Gus bites from his plate. One mouthful for me, two for him, and pretty soon Gus has beaten us all to the clean plate club. I wipe gravy off his gray whiskers, then refill his plate with seconds of everything. Eventually the point in the meal comes when the votive candles are reduced to more wax than flame. Chewing has slowed and the tryptophanfueled waves of tiredness take hold. Kathy picks at her biscuit as I sip the last of my wine. This is the moment I’ve been dreading: Dinner is coming to an end. There’s a distinct feeling to the conclusion of a good meal, especially one that’s required days of preparation. It’s not quite sadness, but has a similar quality of closure or finality. It’s almost like reaching the last page of a book you’ve been immersed in for so long you can’t imagine it ending. I glance at Gus’s plate. He hasn’t finished the last few bites of turkey, or the remaining dollop of mashed potatoes and smear of gravy. His eyes are half shut, and his little belly hangs over the folds of the blanket. I hold the plate closer to him. He sniffs it, perhaps contemplating if he has room for one more bite. But for the first time ever, Gus is full.

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Emily Lerner Cooking Lessons with My Mother-In-Law I. Frijoles Charros Her curls tighten with steam, tumble over her shoulders the way cloves of garlic fall from her fingers into the pot. When she ties them back, away from her face, I see gold. Rings from her children, hoops and charms looped along her ear, the scar curving around her right temple, carved by windshield shards and asphalt. She doesn’t drive anymore, doesn’t speak much English. I don’t speak enough Spanish, but she cups her palm for salt, minces half a pepper, and, into the boiling water, lets the whole bag of pinto beans splash. II. Tamales It’s different when my husband’s little sister translates: “Mom says she taught herself how much masa to mash, how to boil the husks since Mama Luz never let her help in Mexico. This cooking belongs to those who earn it.” III. Salsa “Are there too many chilis? These aren’t from the grocery store, piled high under lightbulbs,

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Emily Lerner fat with industrial fertilizer. These climbed from the ashes, absorbed only the Mexican sun. Do you ask for water to douse the sun when you choose to bask too long? What you need is to pay attention, learn to taste the burn as you go. My son is a bushel of chilis, and you must handle with care. Not for fear of dropping the heavy basket. He will not bruise. But because we all know that water will not save your aching tongue.” IV. Chilindrinas She called them cueritos, and I knew the dish was more than just ghostly strips of pickled flesh, but my father’s nose always wrinkled at “pig skin.” I fought the muscles on either side of mine as she drained the whole slimy jar. They could’ve been white onions or raw curly fries, translucent like moon worms ready to invade. But when she chopped them, placed some in my hand, they didn’t scream. “Cometelos.” I ate them. Squished them between molars, kept them away from my tongue. Then I thought of my dad’s

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Emily Lerner nose, his faded smile. The night I overheard him growl “that Mexican kid.” I closed my eyes, clenched my fists beneath the counter, and let the chewed mush onto my taste buds. It was delicious—tangy with vinegar—and I grabbed another piece. She grinned, dumped the rest into the bowl of familiar shredded cabbage, bits of tomato, and I stirred. V. Duritos “Hot oil is like a drunken man, so be sure your pot is deep—he will spit, try to burn your skin in splashes, nearly melt your eyes. It takes only once, mija, so arm yourself with lid and distance, keep slotted spoon in hand. Watch the pieces grow and hiss in heat. Reach quick with your strainer, let his words drop from the canastita back into him. It is the only way for silence. Salve the shiny blisters on your cheeks. Once cooled, serve them with salt and fresh lime. Crunch them loudly between your teeth.” VI. Atole When I told her I failed making it on my own, she smiled. “Listen when I say everyone scrapes blackened milk from the bottom of a too-thin pot the first time. Try again, and when you do, use a thicker pot. Don’t stop stirring

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Emily Lerner with your strong arm. Taste after every scoop of sugar. When you think it’s sweet enough, heavy like molten gold, ladle it thick into tiny bowls. If the cinnamon splinters, pick, with clean fingers, the tiny shards.�

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An Li fish head soup use your tongue, she says. excavate the head. meat white as bone which cradles it. lick out its cheeks and use its eyes to replace your own. but mine is a bastardized tongue unable to understand that which is still whole. mother, how do i speak a language of sustenance mouthless.

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An Li

yolk after Itami Jūzō’s Tanpopo (1985) when you kiss me, my eyes stay open even with the moon between our mouths. I resist the urge to swallow your dew on its surface, a rolling, trembling membrane which suddenly gasps and pours forth, down my chin. I’ll drip hunger into your waiting mouth.

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Angie Macri Nothing could eat all the berries between the lakes, not even the bears that could no longer sleep through winters, not even the birds although they were trying. The oriole and bunting had time to sing only first thing in the morning. The cubs and fledglings grew fat, and still fruit on the canes went from red to black, then fell suddenly. If only, said the people, one eye on the thorns, the other out for snakes, their cotton and water. The adults assumed the snakes ate the berries. The children knew better. Each summer more fell, and the next year more canes held more fruit just out of reach where the birds sang I have all I ever wanted while the bears hid in forests along the lakes and the parents said we can’t. You know we can’t. Why are you asking? And the snakes never had to speak.

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Shahé Mankerian Shakshouka Father chopped three soft tomatoes and balanced a dangling cigarette in his mouth. He gave his back to the bedroom and Mother’s glaring eyes before he splattered a lump of butter into the hot pan. He peeled two cloves of garlic and crushed them on the cutting board with the heel of his palm. “We haven’t paid the mortgage,” she taunted. He wished the radio played Beethoven and drowned Mother’s voice like the dishes in the sink full of dirty water. When he felt that tightness in his chest, he paused, leaned against the counter to suppress the pain. He removed his glasses because the yolks looked blurry in the pan like jaundiced eyeballs. Mother didn’t get to him on time. The sizzling butter turned the edges of the egg whites black. A moth trapped in the cumin container fluttered. Father hit the linoleum tile with the salt dish, scallions, and the spatula.

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Peter Marcus No Other Shell A woman of refinement, I’d have thought she’d be revolted severing their sautéed limbs. But Mother savored soft-shell crabs in season and I took pleasure in watching her squeeze a firm half-lemon over them in singular glistening drops, her selfsatisfied stabs at the broccoli florets, her effort to ignore the velvety polenta until she surrendered, gulping down a few warm dollops. Everyone we love will soon be torn apart. The wishes in her will—specific: cremation only. “Immolate me as if we lived beside the Ganges,” she once blurted out after downing two carafes of Chenin Blanc. Amidst Stage IV as soft-shell season ended, she lost her palate for crustaceans: Shrimp fra diavolo, Linguine in White Clam Sauce. She’d sit like a weary child through the slow familial meal, twisting noodles around her fork, while glancing at us queasily as we devoured eggplant and lasagna. Paler by the day, paler by the hour and not for one moment near the end was her body briefly golden.

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Allie Marini Root Vegetables in November after Günter Grass November skies, gray as dishwater, one last swirl of color down the drain as leaves turn. Just in time for Thanksgiving, plucking the feathers from the holiday goose, lost in a daydream of my past life—Agnes again, always handy in the kitchen, forever waiting for my man to come home from war. He never stopped leaving me: always with another baby in my belly & the promise this time the war will be over, & he’d stay. He never did. I learned not to waste anything— the stomach, the heart, the giblets & both wings: into the kettle with beet roots & winter squash. Cooked long & slow as every campaign that takes more pieces of him away, portioned up like November dinners that feed no one. An old wives’ tale: a pinch of henbane in the pot keeps us safe from the plague. To get to be an old wife, they must’ve had at least a few tricks worth learning. By November, there’s only a small handful of barley left to stir into the soup; the marjoram was long gone when the leaves turned. But my sorrow can stretch the whole meal out for days, until the whole of the pot has been swallowed down. Other men take my soldier’s place; I can’t wait endlessly. Möeller paints while gnawing the meat from the wings; Opitz sucks every vertebra of the neckbone clean, scribbling poems over bowl after bowl of November beets & hard squash, flavored with the last of the goose. They leave only the broth for my supper.

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Allie Marini But before I served them, ladling their supper dishes in the kitchen, I took the heart for myself. I compared it to my own, swimming alone in the soup spoon, then swallowed it whole before they could bite it in half.

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Allie Marini

Streuselküchen, Prasselküchen, Butterküchen Some say, lying is done with words and silence, but it is also done with küchen, streusel— something scattered or sprinkled: flour, cinnamon, butter, sugar, crème, nut meats, cherries, fat— all the makings of happy marriages or happier funerals. Simple cakes, these—though the baker knows better. Yeast and milk, the freud und leid, mixed together to form dough, which though silky to the touch, takes heft and might to make smooth. In the kitchen, the baker kneads by hand, flipping and punching until every knot turns soft and velvet. Leave it still, heart-warmed, until it doubles. Zuckerküchen assumes nothing. Flat cakes for oblong unions, lopsided loves and slivered luck. Most of the time, it’s more crumb than cake; though sometimes—a puff pastry or short crust foundation, a dough formed from shortening, more pie than küchen— it’s up to the baker to decide: Sweet is sweet. Years ago, a Silesian baker tied her apron strings, pulling rolled pastries and butter-sugar tartlets, veined and studded with pockets of cinnamon, out of the warmth of her oven—to get to a husband’s heart, travel a path from his tongue, and when he wrongs you, invent Käseküchen; soft cheese will mask the salt. Emboss it with cherries. Show him how sweet it is to sit at your table. When he strays and comes back to you, celebrate the ripe fruit of reconciliation, a bit sharp, sour-sweet as the reddest of strawberries in your famous Erdbeerküchen. Lace it with an edge of whipped cream— forget the way the crust crumbles under the tines of your dessert fork. Later, use a flat pan for a simple confection: Baumküchen, whose layers are the rings of a tree,

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Allie Marini gone from acorn to oak in the oven— mature and ripe, its filling pinwheels vanilla, nutmeg-glazed apple slices, the pinch of occasional jealousies and the remaining scars of old fights, strident as an unexpected spike of ginger or cinnamon— softened by a flutter of cardamom and a skillful piping of sweet white icing on the top. What’s left, in the kitchen, after the husbands have been wedded, forgiven and buried, after the kids have moved out and the guests have come and gone: just crumbs, and the memory of desserts not always sweet. Beerdigungsküchen; the baker grieves.

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Joshua Martin Remembering Oysters For Anthony Bourdain Because there is no way to speak eloquently about the eating of bull testicles (the rubbery spheres lodging in your throat, the taste of just-off chicken-fried steak hitting your tongue like a mallet), let us speak of community, of how a blue plate of “cowboy caviar” drenched in demi-glace brings together a family of ranchers in Canada, of how in Ecuador a handful of “huevos de toro” is downed with gulps of dust and beer while cousins laugh at the child forcing his first “crilliadia” into a mouth the size of a spigot. Food is power and politics, you said, and dined on fetal duck eggs with the Filipino poor on the clogged streets of Manila, each cracked “balut” opened to reveal a yoke sprinkled with a rain of salt, chili, and vinegar, each yoke yellow as the sun rising on the Filipino flag. And I’ll always remember what you said about your first oyster, how young you were to experience something so sexual: the oyster opened with the rust-covered fisherman’s knife, the shell propped wide to reveal flesh wrinkled and married to seawater, and how you flung your head back and let the silt-encrusted joy slide down your throat on that skiff in Lac Cazaux, the brine buoying your brain as you stood as a boy years away from bleeding in the dim kitchens of New York, a boy peering into the shallow black water, smiling mischievously as you reached in the darkness for another and another.

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Chloe Martinez The Newlyweds Feast in Winter (Peach Farm Restaurant, Boston) A man came with a net, and from one of the humming fishtanks by the register, pulled an eel, long as your arm. It thrashed (I felt the spray) then lay sleek in the net all shining and tangled when he carried it past us and disappeared into the kitchen, and was gone. That night we ate razorback clams with their shells half-open in death, and the greens called dom-yau, of which, the waitress informed us, the cook used only the youngest shoots, the tender ones; dumplings in the shape of half-moons, half and half and half, many moons piled up on the plate. We ate until we were stuffed, sluggish, and the tea steeped too long and grew bitter in the pot, and around us at each table dishes came: quivering jellyfish on a bed of rice, hot pot filling the room with the smell of ginger, squid tentacles curled and purple in the pan, and every sea-delicacy, served up long after we had made the cold walk to the train, shoulders hunched up around our bare necks—you had lost your gloves somewhere, so we each wore one of mine, and went to bed early, pulling the comforter close

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Chloe Martinez in our drafty room, already half-asleep, I guess, when back at Peach Farm the king crab emerged from the hot kitchen, dappled pink, steaming. A small boy broke it with a nutcracker, his fingers finding the meat inside. Soft in his mouth, still in the shape of a claw.

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Joan Mazza Good Cooks take their time to chop onions and celery fine, keep knives sharp in protected sleeves, know how to wield a trussing needle, pastry blender, cleaver, steaming tureen. They read recipes for fun, love the wafting scents of sourdough and yeast breads rising, knead and shape on a wooden board. At yard sales, they’re on the hunt for cast iron frying pans, corn-shaped molds for cornbread. They’ve memorized the recipes for cheesecake, brownies, madeleines, know to bring ingredients to room temperature. In dreams, Julia Child offers tips and tricks to good cooks who won’t tell you a dish is too much trouble or takes too long. They plan ahead, swear peeling carrots, onions, and potatoes is meditative, a way to show their love to those they love. They say, Taste! On back burners, beans or barley simmers. They let herbs and spices smooch and marry, happy when the windows fog and the house fills up with ethers of soups and sauces. Good cooks purchase every size of spatula and mixing bowl, and use them, undaunted by the cleanup. They shun waste, chemicals, plastics, the packaging of ready-made-just-heatand-serve. Ask them, Do you have a lemon reamer, eggcup, meat grinder, cheese slicer, Mouli grater? They shout, Yes! Good food takes time, patience, a willingness to learn the steps and the chemistry behind them. Good cooks take that time, enjoy the careful

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Joan Mazza serving from big blue bowls onto heavy plates that match each other and hold the heat and love. My pleasure, they say, and mean it.

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Brian McKenna The Lemon Monk The Netherlands, (1632–) The apprentice stayed on, long after he’d intended, painting lemons for the master’s tables, stayed on though he often questioned what it meant to be, of all things, best at lemons. But he was, by all accounts, the best. Even the master said. Able to keep the perishing harvest arrested. Able to pull pores of Italian shade from rinds of torpid, lemon paint, spending hours on pulp’s sour, staring until his eyes blinked. It was some truant insight he awaited, even as the confines of a steady good pressed in. He wanted more, but still a certain pleasure came to him each time he sank a lemon into place, deep pleasure as the dim trace of his hand dimmed further, like a mask of long concern returning to a relaxed face. Heaven when his hand was finally gone, the lemon out of him, resting on the table, nested in the master’s dearest porcelain, the white and blue bowl with gilt and his rind’s spiral dangling from its lip, down five turns until the damask fabric. A smile. A doubtless moment. The look so fly-found real even he was convinced— the segments’ bright white wagon wheel, his wet-eyed fruit’s translucence. Another lemon: posed, open to the air, slippery in light’s flavor, glare of rind’s few platinum threads his single bristle picked ragged. A smile. But still the hours it took to hold impression’s instant strained his taste for paradox, those juggling thoughts

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Brian McKenna that to be held at all must be caught and caught and caught. What he needed was a place to rest, some humble title. What he didn’t want, he knew, was to be like those he knew who took to calling their routine ritual. So, bemusedly now, though he took no vow, he took to calling himself The Monk of Lemons. And on those days when he felt his wagon wheel pulling in the rut, he’d lift the goblet up from the master’s table, and filled with impish thought he’d wryly sermon, intoning the same dreary bit of Matthew to begin: And my own future is a cup that may not pass away from me except I drink it.

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Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton Church Food: Brister’s Biscuits In the upper room above the sanctuary above the sins exorcised from the green industrial carpet by Sister Jackson’s heels where the ushers encamped and the potluck reeked the sovereignty of mismatched meats to be broken in his name the amen’s were prolonged by Pastor Cain’s soliloquy on thanks till our hands became sweat our angsty bellies began a B selection over cooling foil and hungry tupperware fourth Sunday at Brister Baptist Church would birth the most ungodly things from people bread meant to soak up all the holy conversation kneaded to cool the burning at the roofs of our mouths became Medusa’s victim a stone skipped across each plate by the forced hand of a church mother this the kind of biscuits made to break your teeth/ your pride/ your window

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Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton once my cousin Glenn pitched one over the rod iron balcony just to see it thud it cracked the concrete to hell and the flames gave it back said some things were too tough for even Satan to swallow

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Susan Heeger Sunshine Chicken When my mother moved to her first retirement home, I inherited

her recipe box, a small, stuffed vault that’s like a tour of my parents’ marriage: the Swiss steak and pot roast of their early years, the meatloaf of the discouraged middle, the no-bake pies and Chinese chicken salad of the end. Older recipes are inked in Mom’s looping back-hand; the newest (forty years old at least) ripped from magazines or scratched in bridge-party pencil. Just opening the box, which sat on kitchen counters throughout my childhood, releases simmering, tomato-scented afternoons when, coming in from outside, my brother, sister, and I would find her hard at it—in one of our dad’s shirts and Capri pants, some bloody hunk of something on the cutting board, chopped onions heaped alongside, with Campbell’s Cream of Something soup, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic salt, and mustard powder. “Ick,” one of us usually said, foraging for snacks. Also wafting from the box are seventeen seasons of Thanksgivings and anniversaries: molasses-and-cornmeal Indian pudding, sour-cream cheesecake, scalloped potatoes, and ham. We ate these around the walnut table they bought at Macy’s, then around an ebony-and-cherry splurge from Gump’s, their last purchase as a couple. One of their first, dating from the Technicolor 1960s, was our house in San Jose, in a development carved from a former walnut grove. Every front yard had a great, old, knobby orchard tree in a new lawn staked with string. Each low-slung house, a Necco-wafer pink, peach or mint-green, held children, stay-at-home moms, dads who worked at IBM or Hawaiian Pineapple or the Langendorf Bakery. They loved this house, its three bedrooms, double garage, and allelectric kitchen with boomerang-shaped counters, pale pink. Here, they were still a team, optimistically filling the rooms with “early-American” furniture we bought together on what Dad called “expeditions.” Mom braided rugs for the hardwood floors. Dad seeded grass and in the backyard planted roses and pyracantha and built a playhouse for us modeled on the real house. Mom made friends with neighbor ladies and they drank coffee in each other’s kitchens, swapping recipes for noodle bake and Sunshine Chicken.

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Susan Heeger Every night Dad came home from Hawaiian Pineapple (later renamed Dole Foods) ready for his Chronicle and martini. “I feel like I’ve been run over by a train,” he’d say with a comic slump, handing Mom his coat and hat. She frowned and put the hat on to make him smile. All she had then came from him. All we had. Privately, she reminded us, he hadn’t had an easy life. He’d grown up poor, his salesman father always on the road, his mother sick. When he was twelve, she developed Parkinson’s, and he learned to cook, Mom said, because he had to. She, raised in a house with a cook, hadn’t. Of course we were curious. But quizzing him about his past only got us lectures. Once, for a prank, he’d dyed a bottle of milk blue. He’d put salt in the sugar bowl and ruined a pie—at the peak of the Depression. “A real jokester,” he called himself. The worst consequences came from cutting up at school. By age nine, he still couldn’t read—“A shame I had to hide—from my friends, teachers, everyone.” How did he get from there to here? I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. To spare us that, whatever it was, he gave us math problems, spelling words. He made Johnny count his pocket change, again and again, which might delay dinner and end with Johnny in his room. At the table he had us debate current events, Sputnik, campus protests, God. After dinner, he read us the Bible because, he said, it was great literature with a moral compass. And God smote Pharaoh and his people with very great and sore plagues… Mom ran a looser ship. When he left for work, she put on Raven Red lipstick and vacuumed to Harry Belafonte’s Jump Up Calypso or Love Is a Gentle Thing. “Do you love him?” we asked, studying Harry’s picture on the album. She laughed and showed us the inside of her wedding ring. Always. “The wheel stops where it stops,” Dad once said cryptically when I asked about their hasty marriage and blink-of-an-eye courtship. They hardly touched. Occasionally, on weekend mornings, hearing thumps and shrieks from their room, we rushed in to find them pummeling each other in bed, laughing but grim, red-faced, Dad letting her land a few punches before pinning her with one hand. We jumped in excitedly, our involvement proving, we thought, that it was a game. Once in awhile they played rummy in bed, so Dad, who considered cards a waste, could show he could compromise. Mom usually won, which, he said, was fine with him.

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Susan Heeger “We never go to sleep mad. That’s one of our rules.” Others were, A man’s home is his castle. And What I say goes. When they married, she hadn’t known how to boil an egg. He’d taught her, patiently, moving on from eggs to artichokes, asparagus to salad, expecting her to take the ball and run with it. When she didn’t, he had a fit. Why? She didn’t get it. Food to her, raised on plain WASP fare, was to be endured, wrestled with—boiled, broiled, and baked to death. For Dad, who came from solid German stock—people who stewed their beef in wine and rejoiced in root crops—eating was pleasure. It was love. “This doesn’t taste like my mother’s,” he’d grumble, dipping spoons in pots. He couldn’t make her, or any of us, taste what he did in a plop of parsnips. He could, though, make us eat it. Aside from the smelly vegetables, I shared his passion for eating. I could never get enough bread, enough potatoes, enough cereal and nuts. Alone, I drank honey from the jar. To please Dad, I’d try things my brother and sister wouldn’t—tiger meat, smoked whale, exotica you could buy then in import stores, before people worried about contamination, species extinction, or the planet. Johnny and Lolly called me “Blimp.” At school, I was the secondplumpest in my grade. When I showed Dad my class picture, he said, “Hm... What do you think?” I was so like him. Bossy. Self-critical. “I look fat.” “Sturdy,” he corrected. “Like me.” What we needed, he said, was to help each other with willpower, the “single greatest human tool.” Enough of that, he said, a person could do anything. For a few months, I had soup for lunch instead of sandwiches and an apple instead of crackers for a snack. At dinner, he and I skipped dessert and had a thimble of coffee with a spoon of ice cream. During his cocktail hour, I drank tomato juice, and we reviewed the day’s temptations: doughnuts someone brought to work; cupcakes in our cafeteria. We couldn’t disappoint each other—or ourselves, my father emphasized. Experience taught me the difference. At a friend’s house, if I sneaked a stack of Oreos, I might or might not tell Dad. But I knew. Gradually, without really feeling it, I began to slim down. When fourth grade ended, “Blimp” was gone, along with 15 pounds—a lot for someone four feet tall. Dad, who had himself lost two notches on his belt, took me out for orange sherbet. We discussed the campaign. Swore to hold the line. Forever. Seventeen years. Seventeen Christmas hams and Easter lambs, borne out from different kitchens on platters decorated with roosters, Dad

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Susan Heeger in charge. Napkins on lapkins. Broccoli: Down the hatch. You’ll eat it and you’ll like it. After San Jose, we moved to Tacoma, Washington; suburban Chicago; and back to the San Francisco Peninsula while he went through more jobs, searching for something different, better, bearable. Eventually, Mom decided the problem was him. One day we came home to find the kitchen empty and Mom on the couch as Harry Belafonte played. The next day, she was in bed with a pillow on her face. Slowly, the details trickled out—the impossibility of making him happy, all the ways she’d tried, the misery of standing by while he was mean to you children. My sister nodded, as if she’d heard all this before. I was speechless. The following Sunday, when she called us to their room (Johnny, too young to be involved, pitching tennis balls at the garage), Dad sat up in bed wrapped in a sheet. “Your mother thinks I shouldn’t live here anymore.” My sister stepped up. “You’re not happy, Dad; we’re not happy…” In his sheet, Dad looked like a fallen Roman. I cried. Mom was furious with me. He got a brief reprieve and made us peanut butter toast. A month later, he was gone. When I got the recipes that my sister, having moved to Europe, declined, Mom had already done some editing. Leaving in the Swiss steak and meatloaf—in her mind, the fundamentals—she’d axed the parsnips, stroganoff and sauerbraten. Still well-represented were the Jello Pie and Chinese chicken of her later, single years—the comradely women’s lunches that followed liberation rules: Keep it simple! Open a can! Squirt on the Cool Whip! During my visits from college, when we were still circling each other warily, I was put off by what I found in the fridge and her attempts to be my friend. Even worse were Dad’s late-night phonecalls, ranting, slurring. Dad in his cups. Did I beat you? Did I starve you? Where was his pride? By then she had a job. Friends who’d helped each other through divorces, bouts of cancer, and depression. She wasn’t going back. I wonder if he’d somehow known what was coming. As I flip through the recipes (ambrosia salad, ice-box pie), I remember the late-night rumble of their arguments, his after-dinner port progressing from a cordial glass to a tumbler. Late in the game, before anyone mentioned divorce, Dad reversed his longtime policy and allowed us to get a dog. Mom had grown up with dogs.

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Susan Heeger Poodles were her favorite. Yet Dad, having given in, subjected Charlie, a cute little orange toy, to harsh discipline. He was allowed in only one corner of the house, the family room, and when he ventured under the table for scraps, Dad swatted him and chased him back. Cowed but encouraged by the creamed chicken and canned corn we dropped for him, Charlie kept sneaking in and eventually learned to keep quiet enough that Dad forgot him. Then one morning Dad shifted in his chair and felt something. All at once, after an instant’s hesitation, we bolted after them, Charlie racing for the family room, Dad in hot pursuit. Charlie skidded and stopped, trapped between Dad and the TV. There, almost casually, he leaned over and barfed up a perfect egg. My brother, whose egg it was, blushed and stammered. Dad, tie askew, hands on hips, suddenly laughed. That semi-hysterical bark, so unexpected, so not Dad, later struck me as evidence. He understood. The system had collapsed. There was no point in arguing. We ordered pizza from Shakey’s, enchiladas from Pancho’s Mexican Kitchen. We had ice cream for dinner, John heading the table doing Dad imitations. Napkins on lapkins. Down the hatch! Mah-si-a! Where’s my gravy? John’s hair hung down to his shoulders, “like a girlie-girl’s,” Dad said, and Mom, Lolly, and I had gotten our ears pierced: Barbaric. In John’s moody frown, his puffed cheeks, his wagging, imaginary cigar, Dad was eerily among us, annoyed and slightly drunk. At her retirement home, Mom ate in a dining room where rules limited the conversation—no health problems, no politics. She loved the food because she didn’t have to cook it. Once in awhile, before he died, Dad would call her there and they’d talk about the old days. By then, on his third marriage and more miserable than ever, he felt kindly toward Mom again, and she toward him. She was one of the few who remembered when he could drive and smoke cigars and knock back the martinis. For her, it was simpler: He’s the father of my children. My brother was dead, a tragedy they had endured together. Their son. She offered me her recipes almost shyly. I don’t know that there’s anything here you’d want… By then, I had the internet. I could Google ingredients and find recipes, videos, talented cooks to demonstrate techniques—no cards or cookbooks needed. I’d been a vegetarian for years. My husband and I were growing food, our backyard garden dictating what we ate. He cooked too, still does, and

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Susan Heeger so does our son, mostly improvisationally, the three of us crowded into one small kitchen. But I did want the box. Contained in it is so much I’ve forgotten, its splotched cards taking me back—to my place in my family, to the depth of my parents struggle, which became all of ours, the wheel having stopped where it stopped. In the chipped beef, vanilla custard, and tuna casserole with potato chips, I can see us—Mom, Dad, Lolly, John, and me—gathered around the table. I can belong to them again. To the sadness, the sweetness, the how-itwas for us then. Then I can close the box and go on. Sunshine Chicken 6 servings 2-to-3 tsp curry powder 1-1/4 tsp salt ¼ tsp pepper 6 chicken breasts, halved, skinned and boned 1-1/2 C orange juice 1 C rice ¾ C water 1 T brown sugar 1 tsp dry mustard ¼ C chopped parsley Combine curry powder, ½ tsp salt and pepper. Sprinkle over chicken and rub into top and bottom of each piece. In large skillet, combine orange juice, rice, water, brown sugar, mustard, and rest of salt and mix well. Arrange chicken over rice, bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 5 min. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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Doris Iarovici The Missing There’s one empty seat at the table, as there often is these days

when I dine out, but I quickly understand that this seat has nothing to do with me; this seat is intended for the stepson. So I admire the patio and the trellised grape arbor and the perfect weather for outdoor dining. We assemble around the table, my parents, my children and I. My mother’s cousin Relu pours the wine, a Fetească neagră. The better wines used to be exclusively exported abroad, he tells us, but now, in 2007, it’s possible to obtain some here at home, in Bucharest. To no longer have to rely on Hungarian wine. Here. Try this. It’s my first return to Romania since I was nine. Only my second time in the country since emigrating at age five. When I was nine, though I’d tried to match my parents’ enthusiasm for being back in Bucharest, the first few days I seemed capable of noticing only the privations. No TV, no air conditioning, weird ways of flushing the toilet. My uncle tried to woo me with white chocolate studded with raisins and with dulçeată, a rosehips jam my aunt served on miniature silver spoons. They took me to the movies, but I’d already seen The Sound of Music and didn’t need the subtitles. As a nine year old, I turned up my nose at the cramped Romanian theater. Not like Radio City Music Hall, I pronounced. I thought it strange that popcorn was served in the parks, in newspaper cornets rather than proper bags. I grimaced at the overly sweet dulçeata. But I liked to watch the swallows that darted into and out of their nests on my aunt’s sunny terrace; I liked touching the “eyes” of the snails that trailed across her flowerpots. I liked the roasted corn the țigani sold on street corners, though my mother said it was not as sweet as she remembered. At nine, in Brooklyn, I’d finally learned which items constituted an appropriate school lunch (Wonder Bread and Ring Dings and the neon orange cheese curls that left a fine salty dusting on my fingertips). Despite considering them both expensive and disgusting, my mother had acquiesced to packing Cheese Doodles in little plastic bags as a snack. But I couldn’t get her to reliably send only peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches alongside: there were still days that I got feta on baguette and

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Doris Iarovici had to endure questions and smirks. Sometimes it felt as if my parents and I were engaged in an endless tug-of-war over where we really lived: though our bodies had moved to the United States, they thought our souls still needed the nourishment of Bucharest, sometimes in a literal form. That year I’d finally hosted my first birthday party at our apartment. This was long before the days of fêtes at Chuckie Cheese, or elaborate themed laser-tag, or pottery-painting kids’ events. Or perhaps those kinds of parties happened in the more affluent neighborhoods even then—in the suburbs. At my party, when all I wanted to do was play “Patty Hearst” with my friends and devour pizza, my mother embarrassed me by serving diminutive hors d’oerves. I monitored my friends’ faces as she set out trays: first the baguette slices daubed with butter and topped with glossy orange salmon roe, or icre, and then the baguette rounds spread with Bulgarian sheep’s milk Feta. Although this was Brooklyn, and among my guests that day was a biracial half-Turkish girl who’d remain a friend off and on into high school, and a Chinese-born girl, and a Jewish American girl whose father drove a taxi and whose mother I’d never met, only one hand reached for a little sandwich. After a tentative swipe of the tip of her tongue over the gelatinous orange beads, that adventurous soul dropped the offering onto the coffee table and returned to our argument over who would get to be Patty Hearst in our game. We all wanted to play the sexy young woman who’d been kidnapped but then took her fate into her own hands, joining forces with her kidnappers. We’d seen her on TV; we’d seen her in the tabloids, holding a rifle; we’d seen her making demands. I cringe now to think how I bossed those girls into letting me be Patty Hearst. I cringe at the memory of my relief when the pizza finally arrived. There were plenty of leftovers even of that, which, to my grandmother’s consternation, I ate cold from the fridge the next day, as I’d seen people do on TV. These days, I drive my mom to the Russian stores in Forest Hills when I’m visiting my parents, and we sample multiple varieties of icre before we settle on one. I buy jars of tangy taramasalata to snack on later, at home, by myself. In raising my own children, I’ve tried to talk up salmon roe and stuffed cabbage, and if they refuse to eat these it’s usually because of the flavor, not the bitterness of shame. From the security of their American birthright citizenship, my children can enjoy the exoticism of the occasional mămăligă cu brânză. (“It’s like grits!” my daughter exclaims. And, of course, she’s right.) At Relu’s table beneath the trellised grapes, my children sense my excitement; match it with attentiveness. It’s been less than two years

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Doris Iarovici since their father died. Though we were always close, we now do almost everything together. They sit politely, even when they don’t understand what’s being said. They nibble on olives and almonds. Relu’s wife skitters back and forth between the patio and their kitchen, bringing out platters of cheeses. Plates of parchment-thin slices of salam de Sibiu and an assortment of moist pink hams. Bowls of pickled green tomatoes. My children have seen many of these delicacies on their grandparents’ table in New York. But they haven’t seen everything. Beside the French doors that lead into the house, Relu’s private chauffeur, Valentin, is turning mititei on a huge grill. Mititei, or mici, literally, “little ones,” are skinless sausages made of a blend of ground meat—beef, pork, sometimes lamb—and garlic, and a variety of spices, including coriander and paprika. They don’t seem any more difficult to cook than the many other ground-meat Romanian foods my grandmother regularly served us— stuffed cabbage, stuffed grape leaves, eggplant moussaka, kiftele—but we never did have them. Maybe it’s because my grandmother didn’t grill, and my father didn’t cook. My mother, closing her eyes, inhales the scent of spiced, garlicky roasting meat as if in rapture. Here in Romania, her usual confidence, her air of always knowing better than me, soothes me, rather than being an annoyance. In New York, for example, her anxiety that I’ll somehow botch the ritual of tasting the wine at a restaurant drives me nuts. I’m the one who eats out regularly, the one who reads the Times restaurant reviews, who meets friends at tables reserved weeks in advance at hot new places in Chelsea. Yet with every bottle of wine I order when my parents and I dine out, my mother tenses. She insists on reminding me to “try it!” when I’m still sniffing the wine the waiter has just tipped into my glass. Says, “tell him you like it!” when I’m mid-swallow. Here, though, when she rattles off the names of condiments I’ve never seen, I lean toward her. When she pushes the dish of soft white cheese toward me, encouraging me to try the urdă, I obey. The urdă is mild and delicately lumpy and reminds me of ricotta cheese. My father reaches both hands toward the dish, which I pass his way. My father is usually overly solicitous while at the same time a little bit distracted or removed. At this table, his hunched shoulders rise a centimeter or two. On his face, a relaxed, bright expression. It takes me a moment to recognize it as…happiness. Try this…try this. Relu’s stepson is supposed to join us but hasn’t yet arrived. He is back living in Bucharest for some reason after having left Romania years ago for Canada. They’re sure he’ll appear any minute. The Fetească neagră is rich, chocolately, its tannins smooth. We’ve spent the morning visiting the synagogue that Relu is helping

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Doris Iarovici renovate: the Templul Coral, in a Bucharest neighborhood that’s littered with construction cones. The temple was built in the 1850s to copy Vienna’s Leopoldstadt-Tempelgasse Great Synagogue. Before the second World War, before Ceaușescu seized power at the war’s end and mowed down a swath of buildings through the center of the city to make room for a monumental edifice to glorify himself, Bucharest was referred to as Little Paris. It’s been nearly two decades since Ceaușescu and his wife were executed. In the wake of Romania’s 2007 entry into the European Union, on almost every street in central Bucharest old buildings are getting facelifts. Relu’s house too, with its high ceilings and spotless stucco walls, has been remodeled. Before the war, it belonged to my grandfather’s brother Ira— Relu’s uncle. It was “nationalized” after the war. Meaning, the Communist regime took possession of it, displacing its owners and installing tenants who paid rent to the government. My mother’s family owned several houses in Bucharest which were seized during and after the war. Having stayed put, Relu was there to make a claim when, after Ceașescu’s execution, some properties were restituted to former owners. He was able to buy his uncle’s house from his uncle’s widow, who had long been living in California but was again recognized as the rightful owner. Tenants couldn’t be forced out, as the original homeowners had been. Relu had to pay them to persuade them to vacate. Relu, whose skin hangs in dumpling-like sacs under the slightly protuberant blue eyes which give him the look of a friendly frog, was an economist, researcher, and university professor before becoming, in 2005, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania. My mother seems quite proud of this. In New York, my parents and I never attended synagogue. In Bucharest, my mother was one of twenty one first cousins. In New York, for a long time my brother and I had a single cousin. Of my mother’s cousins, I’ve met the New York refugees and a handful of the ones who fled to Israel, Brazil, or California. But I’ve never before met the ones who remained in their home country, our home country. Nor had I heard much about them, or about my mother’s family’s religious life, before this trip to Bucharest. Nearing eighty, Relu moves with the speed, the dexterity, of a thirtyyear-old. He speaks without stammering, without apology or hesitation, even when addressing my children in broken English. He rubs his hands together. His eyes sparkle. “I have so many stories to tell,” he says. I find myself sitting on the edge of my chair.

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Doris Iarovici Maybe all childhoods are fringed in fuzziness, in a haze of incomplete understanding. Mine always felt full of it: so much beyond my grasp. When I was plunged into the confusion of life in America, most of my relatives and all of my parents’ friends existed too far beyond the reach of questions. I am full of questions at Relu’s table, but they slip my attempts at articulation. Mute, I listen with hunger, ravenous to understand, to see a bigger picture emerge at last. Relu tells stories. I listen. I translate for my children. “Have your parents told you how to make urdă? No? So, I decided to make my own urdă,” he says, “because I wanted my plaçintă cu brânză to taste like Tanti Rozica’s.” A wink at my mother; who smiles at the mention of her mother. “Urdă is cheese,” my mother whispers to us, pointing. “Used in a kind of…cheese pie.” To Relu she says, “You made urdă the real way—from caș?” He nods. “Of course,” he says. His wife touches her palm to her cheek and shakes her head. “He thinks he’s a farmer,” she says in a tone of exaggerated forbearance. He ignores her. “I thought, how hard can it be?” To my mother: “Remember how they used to make it at home?” “What’s caș?” I ask. “A very young cheese. You take the sheep’s milk, gently boil it, add the zeru—“ “Whey—” Both my parents apparently know how to make cheese. “What’s whey?” my son asks. They all laugh; Relu tousles his hair. “An inquisitive one, this boy,” he says. “He pays attention. Doesn’t want to miss a thing.” They explain whey. Relu pantomimes; describes how you take the residue that drains from making the caș that first night and reheat it, then add more enzyme. Then you stir continuously with a wooden spoon, stir stir stir over a gentle heat, till bits of coagulated cheese start to rise in the pot, and then you gingerly fish those out and wrap them in a nice clean cloth, hanging the bundle to drain overnight. “It makes a big mess,” his wife says, pushing back her chair to pick up a nearly empty platter. “The odor, the dribbles of curdling milk all over the kitchen…” “And then I had my beautiful ball of urdă,” Relu concludes, joining the tips of his fingers together in the air, as if holding a giant grapefruit. To my mother, says: “Still, it didn’t taste quite like the cheese they used to make at home when we were kids.”

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Doris Iarovici “Ach, and I can’t make plaçintă cu brânză like my mother used to,” my mother says. My daughter points to the cheese in the earthenware dish. “So, he made this?” she asks. Relu understands; smiles. No, he answers in English, “this one from store.” His favorite grocery, he adds, a few neighborhoods away. He’d had to send Valentin to buy it, early in the morning, before they’d run out. Relu’s stepson appears halfway through the meal, a tall, thin man, around my age, who is courteous but not warm. He answers questions in clipped fragments, and has nothing to ask of me or my children. He frequently steps away from the table to answer his cell phone. Finally he just takes calls at the table, turning his body away from his plate. His slightly disinterested, almost dismissive attitude toward us surprises me, though I will encounter this again and again among people I meet in Romania during this trip. It contradicts my family’s narrative of choice: that everyone in Romania would have given anything to immigrate to the West had it been possible. But this man did go West, and here he is, back again. The West did not impress him; nor do those who live there. He, and others I will meet during this trip, seems to suggest that there’s nothing you can do in America that you can’t as easily do here. This man wants it understood that he didn’t entirely have time for, or perhaps even want to be at, this dinner with long-lost relatives from New York. Our visit is not momentous to him, as it is to me. Relu regales us with anecdotes of his and my mother’s childhood. The import-export business his father ran with my grandfather; the uncle who developed liver trouble. The night the cousins snuck out of services just after kol nidre. He recalls how, as a boy, he’d press against the walls when my grandfather visited his father on Shabbat, making himself invisible, so he could eavesdrop on the two brothers. I lean toward him, awaiting tales of heroism or extraordinary loss. Was my grandfather a brilliant man who could not achieve his full potential because of the oppressive anti-Semitic regimes of first the Nazis and then the Legionnaires? How did my grandmother’s sixth sense for danger help save my infant mother when gun-wielding fascists burst into their home? I’ve heard fragments of anecdotes, like the home invasion one, before, but I want to put together the who, what, where. And especially, why. I don’t ask these questions. It will take me years to even think them: they’ll emerge when, yet again, I’m trying to piece together snippets of what I do know, feeling the icy press of time against the nape of my neck, knowing that soon the people who can answer questions will be gone.

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Doris Iarovici That night, Relu delivers stories about business profits and losses. About neighbors and who sat where at Shabbat services. He and my mother braid together reminiscences of the older cousins teaching her to swim one lazy summer afternoon, bellies round with apricots collected from my grandmother’s trees. “We used to smash the pit between two rocks and extract the meat, remember?” Relu says. “Like almonds,” my mother replies. I’ve heard the story about learning to swim. “Who wants coffee? Valentin can make us a nice strong Turkish coffee,” Relu’s wife offers. The stepson takes another call. I tell myself, remember these stories. Years later, I will remember almost nothing. What I do remember is this. As we took our leave that evening, as Relu crushed me to his chest, wishing me well, he repeated to me what I’d already heard him say to my parents at the table: that he hoped I’d rebuild my life. Meaning, leave behind my young widowhood; fill the empty chair. Had he missed all I’d said about my full life, my work, my writing? Had he not noticed my daughter and son’s admirable behavior, which demonstrated how well I’d done as a single parent? Of course I’d have given anything to have had my American-born husband at my side. But this insistence on rebuilding irritated me. And then, when he kissed my fourteen-year-old daughter’s cheek and, touching her hair, said, “I hope to see you at your wedding!” I watched her struggle to mirror his jovial smile. He pumped my twelve-year-old son’s hand, and said, “And I hope to see you when you win the Nobel Prize!” Now both children flushed. My daughter’s lips twitched, smile crumpling. I felt her exasperation in the plunge of my own stomach. When I’m still awake at three that morning, tossing and turning on the double bed beside my slumbering daughter, I’m hit by a revelation. The stories Relu told were utterly banal. Regular, ordinary family anecdotes. And I recognize that I’ve been waiting for revelation—though perhaps not this one—all day. Maybe I had approached this voyage to Romania as a journey to rebuild myself. With my husband’s death, I’d lost a part of myself, too; maybe if I reclaimed some earlier missing threads, it would be like picking up dropped stitches in a row of knitting. I’d meet those people who had once formed my family’s most intimate circle, and hear the stories missing from my childhood. The stories of my first home in the world. The stories that would explain—but more than that, would justify—the utter chaos of our immigrants’ journey. I’d expected where we landed to be better than where we started.

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Doris Iarovici Relu’s stories would reveal that my parents had been special people with the foresight to jump from the sinking ship of a Communist country, the ones smart enough to rescue their family via the lifeboat of the United States. Or maybe the family had banded together and intentionally chosen to save just a few—my grandparents, my parents, my brother and me—from the totalitarianism and privation spreading across Romania in the sixties: that it had been a well-planned, selfless act. That those who escaped would have beautiful, unscarred lives, and would continue to elevate those who remained: sending money, and big boxes of outgrown clothes, and even medicine, as my family had done. Our husbands wouldn’t die of cancer. We wouldn’t want for anything. Upon visits back, we’d bring gifts to help fill their larders and enjoy a bit of celebrity status in the family, living, as we now did, in a land of unparalleled abundance and prosperity. But the stepson made it clear that he had a busy life with little room for visiting American cousins. His lack of interest in us was entirely ordinary: a reminder of the tensions, alliances, or lack thereof, that define any family. And Relu: Relu, at eighty, is extraordinary in his leadership of a movement to revitalize a community that had been murdered or driven away. He is fighting the persistent injustice of anti-Semitism. But he is blind to sexism, to the ways his words stung me, my young daughter—and even my son— with his gendered expectations of us all. Expectations that reflect the country in which he lives. A man of integrity—and limitations. Like men and women everywhere. At Relu’s table, rather than confirming what was extraordinary about my family, what I discovered was an ordinary family who had done everything it could to simply survive extraordinary times: the murderous, racist politics of the second World War; the iron-fisted fascism of the Communists who followed; the persistent winnowing of ethnic minorities who outlasted the war within a country that in 2007 still referred to marriages between Jews and Christians as “mixed marriages.” A country where it was still acceptable to direct unabashed hatred toward certain groups, such as the Roma, still called țigani, a word derived from “slave”; a group still characterized in the 2007 Romanian media as thieves, beggars, or occasionally now, undeserved millionaires. And yet. Under that lovely arbor, the table piled high with Romanian delicacies, more food remaining than eaten by evening’s end, the sky reddening in strips as the sun sank, the flickering candlelight, the fragrance of nicotiana and roses, I’d felt so sated. So glad to hear the entirely ordinary stories. To have ordinary stories, and ordinary family tensions, like everyone else. To learn how my cousins made cheese. How my grandmother’s placintă was the best. How they had this job, that title, then maybe lost it, then worked in this other place for this many years. How

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Doris Iarovici some immigrated, succeeded, immigrated, failed, returned. Some lived, some died. Divorced. Some remarried. Some hung on to excellent jobs even in discriminatory systems and found ways to fight anti-Semitism when it seemed impossible that anything would ever change. If there had been empty pantries, lines around the corner for coffee, a system of baksheesh for better cuts of meat back when my family immigrated, today those absences defined the ones who remained about as much as the empty chair defined me. Losing my husband certainly shaped me, but it wasn’t the only thing that does. Living without for long stretches affected them, but not only in the obvious ways. They hadn’t lost their optimism: look, their cat had died, but there were new kittens in the house. Look, they had a driver now, one who doted on Relu as if Relu were his father. Look, this eighty-year-old man can enumerate the steps in making soft cheese in excruciating detail. This too was part of what my family lost, immigrating: the opportunity to engage in, revel in, bore of, the most ordinary everyday life. How strange that for a lifetime, I’d been trying to regain only the extraordinary.

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Rick Mulkey Velveeta As a child, I thought of you as cheese, something like a cheddar or muenster, or even camembert, all those options we never invited into our house. Served on refried beans, or on a plate with crackers, melted in bowls for dipping, or between grilled toast. Broccoli grew up with you, as did casseroles and tacos. There would have been no burger and fries without you melted over at least one. No Thanksgiving without you in the mac and cheese. No sugar hangover without you sliced tissuethin over apple pie. You’re the most American of all the cheeses; although, your inventor was an immigrant farmer’s son from Switzerland, and you’re not really cheese. You’re a charter member in the cheese product club, a pretender, a fake, which is why you’re so popular in our nation. You rate high in favorability polls. You make promises you only partly keep. If you were a politician you’d be an orange-hued success, until, as is often the case, enough people tasted Manchego or Gorgonzola and finally distilled how much time on your processed luxury they’d wasted.

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Adela Najarro The History of Food Maybe in a past life, I was the dairymaid who after warming her hands on Bessie’s udder dreamed of petticoats, ribbons, and strudel. Maybe I knocked over the can and spilt the milk on purpose, angry that the sloshing pail wasn’t mine. And since   I didn’t get enough milkshakes, I blossomed within a mother obsessed with soothing children by whirring up milk, butter, and sugar into chocolate éclairs with pastry cream centers. My mother fed me cream cheese lattés laced with formula so that my teeth wouldn’t bite her nipples. After drinking my fill, I’d sleep fast under a musical mobile where a cow jumped over a chocolate chip moon. Once to get her attention, I plopped into the bath wearing a new lace dress, then slurped a hazelnut milkshake spiced with a peppermint dollop. When cream rises to the top and becomes cheesecake, little girls fall asleep full and without crying. My mother knew this. Cream in particular, such as in cream cheese, cream puffs, slightly sweet tangy mascarpone whips, soothes the savage little girl beast. That never happened. My mother never found pleasure whisking milk, sugar and cream into pudding. On that finca in Nicaragua, there weren’t enough beans to go around and cream curdled too quickly. She did dream about los Estados Unidos,

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Adela Najarro pearl necklaces, silk stockings, and big bands playing. Instead, she found my father. Then, there she was: in San Francisco with a colicky baby, fog floating past her plain but sturdy wool coat.

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Adela Najarro

The History of Food II When mangoes fall to the ground, ants go on parade. Flies hover. The painted pony down the street gets loose to spend an afternoon with syrupy sweet on its hairy lips, slowly sucking one mango seed dry, then onto another. There are nancites, mamón, jocote, guayaba, aguacate, piña, mandarina y melón. Bananas and mangoes in refrigerated cargo hulls. But what about coffee? El café! ¡Oro del corazón! Y coco y cacao. Australia, India, Polynesia, the Americas. World-wide distribution. It has always been about not rotting on a ship. Transit. Crossing borders. The tomato and potato. So many seeds and eyes sprouting. Seeds dry quickly. Place a seed in soil with a bit of water. There you go: a plant that loves the sun. A plant that grows fragrantly full. A plant that turns out tomatoes within four months of warm and balmy afternoons. A sugary explosion for the mouth. A cultivated gift from the Aztecs and Incas. And now pizza! In a refrigerator freezer. Tear the cardboard box. Slice off the plastic wrap. Pre-heat the oven to 425. Eat the whole thing. Then wonder why you’re still hungry.

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Adela Najarro

The History of Food III Holidays used to be holy days when penitentes would hoist crosses on shoulders to parade around town. They would fall to their knees, then grind rocks into skin. The truly virtuous flayed themselves, one lash for every thought, deed, and all they had failed to do. Up, down, and around endless streets, los penitentes’ eyes swirled with the ecstasy of pain, pupils wide like an owl’s hunting a mouse scampering in a field. Months later, the mouse dead and gone, a dusty pellet of fur and bones. Not so for el penitente, roasting green chili for his pork and potato supper. He knew all had been forgiven, for a while at least.

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Joshua Nguyen Thịt Kho My mother doesn’t write recipes, she just knows. Braised pork and eggs, rice cleaned thoroughly. Miles away, I forget to peel the eggs the night before. Miles away, I forget to buy the special brand of coconut juice. Miles away, my mother is laughing once I swallow my pride and call. It’ll never be quite the same, she says, just try your best, and finish your food. When you buy fish sauce, you must remember to wrap it in newspaper. If the bottle breaks in the car, the stench will haunt you long after the car is compacted. She tells me that it’s okay to cry because the eggs still aren’t hard enough. I am blessed to have a mother who talks about death, who knows her mortality. I imagine my mother passing, I know she won’t have enough grandchildren. I will have added too much pepper, not enough oyster sauce.

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Joshua Nguyen It’s called simmering for a reason, the house smells of coconut. Our recipes will never be quite the same, but we both wear gloves to peel eggs. When I cook for my mother, I know she will lie.

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James Norcliffe duck mousse for breakfast such a morning brilliance from the east shining pink in the window coffee in the pot steam and happiness then bread in the toaster finally to peel a can of force-fed canard all the way from France, to spread its pinkness over buttered crispness to bite to drink to bite while the ducklings in a line follow their mother across the lawn, down to the old mulberry tree where they pick peck at berries staining their little beaks red

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Angela Alaimo O’Donnell Flannery’s Gluttony Today I have proved myself a glutton—for Scotch oatmeal cookies and erotic thought. There is nothing left to say of me. —Flannery O’Connor, Prayer Journal, September 26, 1947 Sweets and sex. They’re forever wedded in my mind and in my candy heart. What I want most is to be bedded by some bright boy, bearing gifts of cake, ice cream, butter fudge, and cherry tarts. I would be easy. Make no mistake. I’m no cold virgin, castle-trapped in some Keats poem, dreaming for release. St. Agnes holds no holy sway with me. I want what is delicious, cellophane wrapped, what sates my tongue and brings my body peace. It’s hard for folks who know me to see how bad I am, how broke by venal sin, how full up with desire I’ve ever been.

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Tom Phan Summer Rolls I’ve been taught how to fold rice paper, taught how to wrap the summer twice. This is gỏi cuốn, you said, wrapping yourself behind my back. The water was a quiet boil in the porcelain bowl and your hands were red from creation. We sat on a weaved bamboo mat and I was already ready to run. You submerged your hands, turning the rice paper over onto itself, over again, while I watched stellate blisters form on the banks of your mooned skin. Out you pulled weakness, the weak membrane, a blueprint for containment. I was scared and wanted to leave. But you wouldn’t let go. You palmed my hand handing me over a rice paper for myself, I heard you talk about strategic ridges and hidden mountains in the burnt jungles, about your village outside Huế and the ocean and how you missed monsoon season and how your brothers smelled. You said in your world there are little boys who live like tigers that never get tired, and then guided my hands towards the hot spring on the forest of our bamboo,

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Tom Phan I flinched and was ashamed. But together we plunged into the swelter, I almost cried from the pain but you kissed the island of my skull and there came the lightning burn, and later the taste of memory, the taste of blood.

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Tanner Pruitt Victual At the Valentine’s Day shrimp sale we ransomed Recipes down the aisle lined with fish with eyes on ice: I’ll make this one for you if you make me that thing I like and the like. Bottles of claret clinked in the bed Of our cart and I froze where the half-priced pounds Began their cascade behind the glass, behind the sign That in a chalky hand signaled us to the freshly dead, Pinking in their mouthparts. We canvassed the mass In the traffic toward the deli meats from the fruits And vegetables, we pulled to the side, and I ran my hand Up and down the curved surface that kept our distance, My finger along the gummy spline that sealed and connected The panels of the pane. There was no help, like help Was the half of the price they’d lopped off, so we stood And looked and likely looked not unlike the small, probably Smooth brained crustaceans in front of us to anyone if Anyone saw, though if they did I’d bet they saw us not Even speaking at the Valentine’s Day shrimp sale, Which we left the way the shrimp arrived, on ice.

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Liz Purvis Biryani He eats with one hand, smokes with the other, says those tastes shouldn’t touch. Even after washing, his left hand smells like tobacco ash, Marlboros, smoke seeped for years in the skin. The right one’s all chilies & cardamom, long fingers tinged umber from sauces & rice on his plate. The first time we ate together, he asked if I wanted a fork & I knew the right answer was no. He showed me how to scoop the bright mixture in my fingers, how the thumb pushes a bite into the mouth. It feels natural, now, though my plate is always the milder dish. Most evenings, he asks me to try his, says I’ll never learn if I don’t, holds a mouthful to my lips until they open. Most evenings, the heat overwhelms me, but some nights my tongue loves what he feeds me.

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Liz Purvis When he brings a scoop up, my eyes catch on his ring, signet of black pearl & gold on the index, a gift from his mother for balance. At night, he’ll twist it off before he turns to me, I’ll trace the lighter band carved into his flesh. Each time, he says this is how it should be. The ring must fit close, the pearl touching his skin.

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Laurel Radzieski Levitating Acorn Squash We tried wire mesh first, but the gourds slammed rhythmically into the metal. Indents became holes. Those that punched free smacked against ceiling tiles, vents, showering strings of seedy flesh. Next, we tried shatterproof glass jars. Kept them in but most mashed themselves to pulp in a day or two. Now we use nets, weighted down, keeping small groups together. A narrow channel releases one or two at a time. It’s a winding tunnel, fully covered with a few black tablecloths dug out of the back room. Guiding each squash through takes a caressing hand, a watchful eye. We give instructions for home transport on a little flyer, but most shoppers come prepared with a bowling ball bag or an outdated purse. Zippers are essential. Snaps or Velcro never hold. Customers like how the chunks of squash don’t sink to the bottom of a soup or sauce, but instead glide and hover, just above the steam.

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Jenny Sadre-Orafai Saffron No one told me gold threads are stamens, that they freshen rice, before I glued them on my eyelashes. The smell, too soft when I stared at you for hours. That my neighbor, a man who invited me in, kept saffron in a jewelry box. No one told me the chest, burrowed in boxers and socks, was for rings before I pushed my finger tips into the brass filigree,

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Jenny Sadre-Orafai my pinchers wearing skin crowns. No one told me this country doesn’t have crowns before someone said my name tastes bad, that this country could never want me. But, I never told you before I was born, I was alive.

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Nicholas Samaras Generations of Utility In an efficiency kitchen where men can be domestic, you cooked for me and we ate scrambled breakfasts together. Later, your loose strands of long silver hair swayed down with the effort of scrubbing a blackened pan, two bone-china plates, the morning life of us where mornings were a pool of shiny coffee, a pool of orange juice. One cup, Father; one cup, Son. You brought them home one Quincy ante meridian, defining who we are by who we are to each other. The fired calligraphy, the strong, blue lettering on white porcelain: one cup, Father; one cup, Son— single parent, only child, the lasting permanence of us. Two silver settings on a thin, card table. I will pass this durability down. I will take these cups from the new shelf, curl my fingers around Father now (yet with a pool of orange light), in a secure, aging home, drink to our lives and prepare breakfast for your grandchild.

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Sarah K. Lenz Making Head Cheese A whole hog’s head soaks in my kitchen sink. It bobs on its side.

Rivulets of blood melt into the cold water. The head is partially skinned. Long, feminine lashes rim its blue-gray eyes. Snout and lips are turned up in a slight sneer, revealing rather human-looking incisors. It’s ten o’clock. Kent, my husband, is already at work for his lunch shift at The Milky Way where he is a server. I waited for him to leave before taking the head—which had been butchered the day before—out of the refrigerator. I’m going to make head cheese with it. Kent had made it clear he thinks the endeavor grotesque. The hog’s glassy eye stares at me and my stomach flutters with nausea. I begin to think this project was a terrible mistake. The idea had bloomed suddenly after I read How to Cook a Wolf, M.F.K. Fisher’s 1942 book about coping with wartime food shortages. She explains how her Aunt Gwen used to make “cold shape.” From what I’d been told, cold shape was identical to my Grandma Krahulik’s head cheese except it called for a calf’s head rather than a pig’s head. Head cheese is made from the boiled scraps of cheeks, ears, snout, and tongue suspended in a gelatin made from the head’s cartilage and served cold, essentially a chunky meat Jell-O. Making head cheese was the most recent in a long string of projects inspired by books. As soon as I learned to read, I spent hours poring over the Childcraft Encyclopedia volume entitled Make & Do. For the mideighties, its pages were nostalgically out of date. Children pictured looked wholesome, earthy, and quaint in Afros and bellbottoms. Projects were homey and resourceful: salt-dough sculpting clay, Popsicle stick houses, finger painting, and macramé. During lonely afternoons on the farm, I entertained myself for hours with that book. Perhaps this urge to plunge into ambitious projects was something inherited. My Grandma Krahulik had always been one to make and do. She upcycled long before the term was coined. She made beautiful, shaggy rugs from bright scraps of polyester fabric. She mounted broken costume jewelry bought at garage sales on black velvet to depict peacocks or Christmas trees. She also was the only person I’d ever known to make head cheese. Loneliness might have also triggered this project. Lately I’d found myself thinking a lot about Grandma K, who’d been dead for ten years. I was in my second year of grad school in Idaho, and all my family, including

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Sarah K. Lenz my parents—who’d just suffered a nasty divorce—were a thousand miles away in Nebraska. I thought maybe making head cheese would somehow connect me to my heritage. My first memory of head cheese was from when I was six years old and had walked into Grandma K’s kitchen to find her facing off with a decapitated pig’s head, as if worshipping the Lord of the Flies himself. It had floppy puppy-like ears. Its marble eyes stared at me above a gaping mouth from which a lolling, insolent tongue waggled off to the side. After that I’d never even ventured a single bite of head cheese. Now at twenty-six, I’d had a few culinary adventures: the thrilling first time I let a raw oyster slide down my throat, or the time I worked up the courage to try fried beef testicles and found them delicious. In the early 2000s, the nose-to-tail food movement was just starting, so I’d dipped cautiously into cooking with organ meats by making liver pâtés. Fischer’s food writing played a part, too. Her description of cold shape captivated me. The head’s eye had a “savory wink” and the “lone ear lopped loose and faintly pink” next to “the odd wrinkles of the forehead.” She believed that those who eat such delicacies have “a God-given and intelligently self-cultivated sense of gastronomical freedom.” Part of me wanted to feel sophisticated and brave. At the time, the irony of making such a homely dish as head cheese to feel worldly and liberated, was lost on me. Head cheese is technically offal. Derived from Germanic roots, the word offal means “garbage” or literally “off-fall.” It’s the unwanted scraps that fall off the butcher’s table. Maybe the only reason Grandma K had made head cheese was because of her thrift. She never threw anything away that still had usefulness. Swarms of rubber bands from the daily newspaper infested her kitchen drawers. She saved up table scraps in paper milk cartons with the tops splayed open for us to take home to our dog. Grandma would be proud that I had procured this head for free, I thought. A few weeks ago when I first had the notion to make head cheese, I told my friend Andrea, who was a chef. She got excited because she used to make it when she worked charcuterie for Wolfgang Puck. “I’ll teach you,” she said while we sat in her cluttered office in downtown Boise. I’d just eaten a dozen Kumamoto oysters on the half-shell in her restaurant, The Milky Way (where Kent worked), and had stopped by her office above the dining room to say hi. She pointed out the logical next step, too: “You’ll have to find a fresh head. Otherwise it’s not worth it.” Because none of the butchers, restaurant wholesalers, or grocery stores in Boise could procure heads, I put an ad on Craigslist: “Wanted Fresh Hog’s Head.” Within twenty-four hours I had two nibbles. The first guy wanted $10, the other, a man named Tony told me I could have it for free since he planned to throw it away. He’d scheduled hog butchering for the following weekend.

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Sarah K. Lenz My urge to make head cheese was driven in part by wistfulness. Over the decade since Grandma K had passed away, I had heard stories about her teaching my mother to make head cheese when she was my age— in her twenties—and newly married. I’d also heard how good it was. I called my mom back in Nebraska for more details. “But what does it taste like?” I asked. “I don’t know how to explain. It’s just pork. It’s very good.” I was hoping she could give me some guidance or at least a recipe, but it turned out she couldn’t remember how they had made it. “Can’t you just find a recipe on the internet?” she asked. In addition to consulting Fischer’s recipe, I had already researched recipes online. They included instructions like “Thoroughly brush the teeth and tongue” and “Use a disposable razor to shave the hog’s facial hair. Singe off any remaining hair with a blow torch.” “I’ve looked at some recipes, but I want to know exactly how you and Grandma used to make it. That’s what I want to recreate.” “You don’t have a pressure canner, do you?” “No. Why?” “Well, that’s how we used to do it.” When she said that I remembered Dad sitting at Grandma’s kitchen table, spooning globs of gelatinous pork broth dappled with meat chunks out of a quart Mason jar. The head cheese made a sucking sound as it released from the glass jar. I decided then that canning it was out. Though my parents rarely agreed on anything after their bitter divorce, they did still share a reverence for head cheese. When I called my dad he expressed his love for the dish too, though he ridiculed Mom’s side of the family because they wouldn’t eat head cheese. “Grandpa B wouldn’t even try head cheese. He used to say, ‘You put them eyeballs in there? Are they delicious?’” “Well, are they?” I asked. “No. You don’t put the eyeballs in. That’s ridiculous.” I realized then that I had no idea what I was doing trying to cook a whole hog’s head. When I’d spoken with Tony from Craigslist, he invited me to come watch the butchering. I accepted with a curious mix of excitement and trepidation. I called my mom back to tell her I was going to see the slaughter. “When we slaughtered hogs on the farm, I was the blood-catcher,” she said, and went on to explain how they mixed pig’s blood with oatmeal to make sausage. This was something else I’d missed out on. The family farm had dwindled to financial ruin and was foreclosed on by the time I reached second grade. I tried to picture my mother kneeling in front of a hog, a bowl between her knees sloshing with ruby-colored blood, but it was hard for me

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Sarah K. Lenz to imagine her overcoming disgust to impress her mother-in-law. Now that my parents were divorced, it was easier to remember how much friction there had been between mom and my paternal grandparents. Mom threw away the Christmas presents Grandma gave me. “They’re dirty old things from yard sales,” she said, dumping a tea set ringed with lipstick stains into the trash pail. Mom had also never liked eating at her in-laws’ house and whenever we were asked to stay for dinner, made excuses: “We had a late lunch,” she’d say, or “I already have dinner in the crockpot.” This infuriated my father, but I sided with Mom. By the time I was old enough to remember meals at Grandma and Grandpa Krahulik’s, Grandpa had taken over the cooking because of the accident. His meals were greasy, grisly, and gray. The leftovers he reheated bore no resemblance to the goulash or pork chop he’d started with. On the rare occasions when we ate there, I spread the food across my worn melamine plate and held my breath to avoid tasting the few forkfuls that entered my mouth. My mother did the same. After the accident, Grandma only cooked for special occasions and had only two dishes in her repertoire: head cheese and kolache—a Czechoslovakian pastry, similar to a Danish, filled with fruit or poppy seeds. The only thing I ever enjoyed eating at Grandma’s were her cherry kolache. But even then, my mom reminded me her pastries weren’t as good as they used to be. “Before the accident, she made the dough from scratch,” Mom explained. “Now she uses frozen bread dough. It’s just not the same.” Nor was Grandma, apparently. “Too bad you didn’t know your grandma before the accident,” I’d often heard my parents say. I was four years old when it happened, too little to remember. According to my father, Grandpa had been driving their green Oldsmobile when he fell asleep. Grandma slept in the passenger’s seat beside him and had taken off her seatbelt to be more comfortable. When their car collided with another head-on, Grandpa walked away from the accident with minor scrapes, but Grandma was thrown head-first into the dashboard. “You should have seen it,” Dad told me. “Her head left a dent twelve inches deep.” Miraculously she survived, but her memory and personality were always just a bit off after the accident. The next Saturday morning I arrived at Tony’s. He didn’t live on a farm as I’d imagined, but in a modern ranch-style house on a two-acre lot just off the interstate. I arrived in time to see Tony, dressed in jeans and a blue flannel shirt (and looking uncannily like Bob Vila), walking across the yard with a shotgun hanging from his fist. I followed him across the dirt yard, past a two-car garage, and toward a livestock pen. Before I saw where he aimed, I heard the shot. Over the side of the fence I saw the pig. It staggered gently to the ground, head wobbling.

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Sarah K. Lenz With a butcher knife Tony sliced into the pig’s throat, hitting the main artery to the heart. Blood gushed with each pulse of the pig’s dying heart like waves lapping the edge of a lake. Standing a safe distance from the action, I couldn’t take my eyes off the brilliant gush of blood. The hog didn’t make a sound. Tony and his friend Vern pierced a meat hook through the hog’s rear ankles and hoisted the carcass by pulley to a manageable level where it dangled from a 15-foot tall wooden tripod. They peeled the black and white hide off, inside out, like removing long underwear. The pig hung naked, save for a mohawk-like strip of black wiry hairs along its forehead. Working in tandem Vern and Tony sliced open the chest cavity for gutting. I held my breath, waiting for horror-movie gore, but sighed when I saw the immaculate beauty of the entrails. Sealed in their own membranes, each organ was discreet: purple-veined water balloon of bladder, gray rope coils of intestine, burgundy-jewel slab of liver. The meat smelled clean and fresh. Vern kneeled on the ground in his camouflage fatigues, but he looked more MacGyver than soldier. He started to cut off the head by making an incision through the neck muscles. It wiggled like a bobble-head doll. The tricky part was slicing through the spine. Due to the curvature of each vertebrae, it was impossible to make a straight cut. Vern worked the knife, jiggling it at different angles. With a cracking sound, he severed the spine. Tony caught the head before it hit the ground. He hosed it down and chunks of god-knows-what flew out of the mouth. “We’ll get this packed up for you,” Tony said, as he put the head in a garbage bag. I felt like I should be doing something to help him, but I didn’t know what. He twisted the neck of the garbage bag shut and handed it to me. The weight of it startled it me. Easily twenty pounds of flesh and bone, it felt like I carried a giant bowling ball. I put it in my Geo Metro hatchback and thanked Tony for his generosity. On the drive home, the head seeped blood, which pooled in the bottom of the bag. When I removed it from the car, I dripped a trail of blood up the front sidewalk to my house. I left the head on the stoop and went to get more garbage bags to reinforce the leaky one. At Tony’s I hadn’t touched any pig parts, and I was still too qualmish to take the head out of its bag with my bare hands. With the head re-shrouded in plastic and put in a 9 x 13 baking pan to catch any more leaks, I carried it into the kitchen. Kent saw the hog’s snout poking up from behind its plastic shroud. “What are you doing with that?” he asked, even though he knew about my plans to make head cheese with Andrea the next day. “I’m putting it in the fridge.” “With the rest of our food?” “Where else?” “I don’t know. It’s gross, Hon.” He eyed the deep indentations the hog’s

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Sarah K. Lenz nostrils made in the plastic while I rummaged around in the fridge until I cleared a space on the bottom shelf. “Just don’t look in there if it bothers you that much,” I said. I was annoyed he was acting so squeamish about it because I wanted some sort of reassurance I could handle this. I didn’t like that I was just a repulsed as he was, and I didn’t want to admit it. The next morning after Kent left for work, I worked up the courage to remove the head from the fridge. Tony told me I needed to soak the head in cold water to draw the blood out. My stomach clinched when I caught a whiff of the blood with its dull iron aroma. I rolled the head out of the garbage bag and into the sink without touching it. I took a deep breath— AH—and pressed a finger into the skinned cheek. It felt no different than a rump roast. I remembered what Fischer wrote: “Why is it worse, in the end, to see an animal’s head cooked and prepared for our pleasure than a thigh or a rib?” I’d managed to overcome one hurdle of revulsion. An hour later in Andrea’s kitchen, I unwrapped the soaked head. Even in her home kitchen, she worked with the efficient energy of a professional chef. Without flinching she carved out the eyeballs with a flick of her filet knife around the eye socket. When the eye came out, the eyelashes were still attached. They looked human. Then Andrea scalped the hog’s mohawk with startling swiftness. After another thorough scrubbing of the mouth, teeth, and tongue, we put the head in an industrial-sized pot Andrea had borrowed from The Milky Way’s kitchen. We added carrots, onions, bay leaves, bunches of fresh parsley and sage, peppercorns, cloves, and a bottle of white wine. We covered everything with water and set it to simmer for eight hours. While we were waiting Andrea said, “There’s something I want to show you.” She handed me her mint-condition, first edition of Fisher’s The Art of Eating. I turned to the passage about offal and read: “When you eat a stuffed baked bull’s heart, or a grilled lamb’s brain or a ‘mountain oyster,’ you need not choke them down with nauseated resolve to be braver or wiser or more potent, but with plain delight.” Andrea saw my nervousness and tried to reassure me. “Head cheese isn’t for everyone. It’s okay if you don’t like it.” I had been so caught up with the logistics of the project and repulsed by the decapitated head itself that I hadn’t really thought about how when it was all done, and how even if I had the courage to eat it, I still might find head cheese unpalatable. At first it had felt good to brag to my friends about being so audacious in honoring my grandmother’s memory. I thought I’d make a connection with my parents, too, but as the hog’s head simmered on Andrea’s stove, I felt more alone than ever. I grabbed a kolache from the plate of pastries I had made for Andrea as a thank-you gesture. I took a bite and realized I’d never know if this pastry

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Sarah K. Lenz was like the one Grandma used to make. I’d cobbled it together from several recipes I found online. The dough I’d made with organic lemon zest and grass-fed butter, ingredients I felt certain Grandma would never have used. When the head was fully cooked, I was not prepared for the delicious smell, which reminded me of Mom’s Sunday dinners of pork roast and potatoes. We took the head out of the pot and let it cool slightly. It had cooked down to grayish-brown meat, skin, cartilage, and bone. The hog’s under bite grinned up at me. We picked the meat from the skull by hand, separating it from gristle. The natural gelatin from the cartilage in the head made the meat sticky, like glue. Even though my fingertips felt coated in rubber cement, it was impossible not to pop some morsels of rich, tender meat into my mouth. It was everything pork should be. Andrea sliced the tongue out of the jaw. Before she skinned it, I noticed the taste buds were still intact. The tongue meat was dark, more beef-like than pork. “The tongue makes head cheese authentic,” Andrea said, as she chopped off the sinewy tendons at the base of the tongue with one blow from the cleaver and began to dice the tongue into cubes. We added a dash of vinegar and some salt and pepper to the mixing bowl of meat tidbits. Andrea also cubed some of the carrots that cooked in the stock. “Even though it’s not traditional, I think the carrots will make it more accessible to some people,” she explained as if mixing in the bright orange vegetable would somehow disguise the tongue and facial meat. Maybe she was thinking of Kent’s reluctance to eat offal. It nagged me that I’d strayed from replicating my grandmother’s head cheese. She would never have cooked with wine. Nor would she have thought to add carrots to the dish. The exact way she made head cheese was lost to me. Suddenly this whole project took on the taint of regret. My feeble attempt to recapture the past was flawed. I’d wanted a past different from the one I’d known: a past in which I’d been old enough to remember Grandma before the accident, in which I’d been brave enough to try her head cheese, in which my parents were still happily married. We took the stock we cooked the head in, strained it, and heated it in small saucepan to concentrate the flavor and gelatin content. Andrea lined two terrine molds with Saran wrap, spooned the meat and carrot mixture into the terrines, and poured the reduced stock over it. As soon as the head cheese set up in the refrigerator, it would be done. I didn’t unmold the head cheese until the next day. Kent watched as I overturned the mold on a cookie sheet. It came out a perfect, marbled brick. The pieces of meat nestled together and ranged in color from pale beige outer cheeks and mauve-tinted snout muscles, to dark-liver toned tongue, and were bound by the golden-toned gelatin highlighted with bright orange carrot bits. As soon as our two housecats caught a whiff, they crowded around

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Sarah K. Lenz me. “See, the cats know this is delicious,” I told Kent, but I said it more to reassure myself. From the far edge of the kitchen, Kent was close enough to smell it too. He decided it smelled like canned dog food. I put a slice on a plate and set it on the floor for the cats. Grandma would have cringed at this blatant waste of food. The cats were thrilled by the meaty treat. “I don’t think the cats are the best judge of taste,” Kent said. “They use their tongues for toilet paper.” I ignored his comment, but inside I seethed. Andrea had suggested serving the head cheese with cornichons and Dijon mustard, so I pulled them from the fridge. They were accoutrements my grandmother wouldn’t have employed, but which I felt would help me choke down the dish. I sat down at the kitchen table and took my first tentative bite. It tasted like cold pork roast. Like eating cold fried chicken, the fattiness of the meat coated the roof of my mouth. I took a bite of cornichon, and the vinegary pickle cleansed my palate. I was glad Andrea had suggested it. I felt relief, too. The texture of the jellied bits was strange in my mouth, but it wasn’t disgusting. I’d succeeded. “Here, you should try a bite.” I slid the plate across the table towards Kent. “No! I’m not going to eat it. Why won’t you just accept that?” “Not even a bite?” “No. Just drop it.” His words had a cold meanness. I felt hurt and then anger hit me. Why doesn’t he see how much this has meant to me? The more I thought about it, the more I realized why I cared so much about liking the foods my family loved. It was a way to let them know I love you. A way to say I like what you like too even if we have messy disagreements about lots of things. When I was in high school, my dad and I often sat at the kitchen table with a late night snack of sardines, Plochman’s mustard, and saltines. Because sardines are eaten bones and all, they’re an acquired taste, but I acquired a taste for them for solidarity. My mother wouldn’t share this with him, and maybe part of me felt that Kent not sharing head cheese with me was a bad omen for our marriage. Eating those salty, oily fish was one way I had showed my dad I loved him, but eventually I came to crave the briny dark flavor of the sardines. My freshman year of college, so homesick I could barely get out of bed, I lived off sardines and saltines not just because they were so cheap, but because they reminded me of dad and of home. The next night Kent and I were doing dishes after an ordinary meal of pasta. “I’m sorry that I can’t eat the head cheese,” he said. “I’m sorry I’ve disappointed you.” I was surprised by his apology. Andrea was right, head cheese wasn’t

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Sarah K. Lenz for everyone. My anger had faded—and it hit me that maybe I’d made head cheese out of guilt that built up all those years I’d snubbed Grandma’s head cheese. Yet now seeing Kent take my old childhood stance on this dish, I felt more certain than ever that Grandma hadn’t taken my refusal to eat her head cheese personally. I also knew Kent loved me and didn’t need to prove it by eating head cheese. I wiped the dish suds from my hands and wrapped Kent in a hug. “It’s okay,” I told him, giving him a kiss. “Look how long it finally took me to try it.” Now that I’d started my own family by marrying Kent, I hoped my marriage would be the way I remembered my grandmother’s: happy even if strapped for cash, caring and kind even after the accident. Loving someone when it’s hard, when they disappoint you, or when something bad happens that changes everything, is like acquiring a taste for a food you don’t like at first. You push through the hard parts because there’s the hope that in the end it’s worth it. I turned from Kent to make my lunch for the next day. I pulled the dish of head cheese out of the fridge and cut a thick slice for my sandwich. I knew I’d never make head cheese again. It wasn’t like the sardines I’d grown to love and had fond memories of. For all the work of making it, it turned out to be a truly humbling dish, unassuming and unspectacular in its flavor. The important thing was that I’d had a taste, even if I was decades late to the table.

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Sophie Segura Month of Honey I read how Spartan youths spent whole lunations on Taygetus hungry, preparing their bodies with honey from the black pine and remember breakfasts —akratismos in the ancient language— Kalamata olives, briny liquid a refuelling, kopanisti eased in the cheesemaker’s hands. How, like aphids, we secreted that intimate sap; how our salt dips studded us with shingle like fish eggs; how the sheets smelled resinous and we would work loose the flakes of sand with friction, warm mouths.

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Anya Silver Poppy Seeds i. 1931, Ukraine My father followed his mother, a doctor, to her patient’s home in the village. It was Purim. A bowl of poppy seed paste sat on the table, ready for kneading in bread and pressing in cookies. While my grandmother whispered about babies and women’s problems, my father scaled the chairs and crammed his fists with sweets. My grandmother apologized, pulling my father’s ears. “Greedy boy, she saved all year long to buy those seeds.” But he was full and the poppies stuck in his teeth deliciously. Esther danced triumphantly at the throne, and the war had not yet begun.

ii. 1980, Pennsylvania We drove for hours to get to the little house in central Pennsylvania where the Russian couple lived; he had been a poet, once, had published a pamphlet in the Soviet Union, but never learned English, and stopped writing. His wife worked for both of them, lifted him in and out of his wheelchair, and cooked, too. I hated visiting them. They were on welfare. Natasha always served potato soup with a scoop of sour cream, and then my father and Misha spoke together in Russian about old books

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Anya Silver and history, boring subjects, with no TV. My sister and I sat on the stoop outside, but there was nothing to see there, either. “Your lovely daughters. Would they take a slice of poppy seed cake?” Natasha asked. She was small and quavering. “I don’t like poppy seeds.” I told her. “Do you have anything chocolate?” Oh, my mother’s face! I knew I’d hear about that on the ride home. Already disgraced, I circled the sorrel fields around the decrepit house, making up soap operas and dressing myself in ball gowns, with diamond earrings that hung all the way to my shoulders.

iii.

1992, Maryland

Everyone else in the store was Jewish. The women wore their heads wigged and spoke Yiddish, ordering boxes of kosher cookies for Shabbat, while I envied their neat long dresses and authority. When it was my turn, I picked a roll. The dough was autumnal and flaky, whorls of poppy seeds thick and gooey. Sitting outside, I took a bite—no good, dry and stale, but even so, I ate it all. Those poppy seeds ground with honey mysterious as Russian or Hebrew script, my body’s DNA a double helix of grains. So many Sundays after church, I’d sat in cheap velveteen holding napkins of poppy seed cake on my lap. Eating it again, nostalgia wound through me, secret, sticky, black and unknowing.

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Anya Silver

Eating Watermelon Field of grounded green moons, tethered to the earth with veined vines, some of them waxing and waning, some of them full Thunder moons, their streaks stretch marks. (Did you swallow a watermelon seed? I once asked a pregnant woman.) The watermelon is all head, all belly, perfectly sealed against incursions. It wants to be opened, my husband says. So, with a huge knife, he halves it till the two sides cleave, bloody starred universes, staining white cotton shirts. Easily sliced with dental floss, it unfolds its wholeness into triangles. We eat the entire melon in a day. I cube it in a bowl, my husband gnaws down to the rind, my son is lavishly wasteful, then turns the shell into a mask with which to chase the bored dog. All that’s left on the counter are translucent scraps and corners. My love and I scoop out the bits with wet and sugary fingers.

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Anya Silver

Kindness Last week, a nurse pulled a warm blanket from a magical cave of heated cotton and laid it on my lap, even wrapping my feet. She admired my red sandals. Once, a friend brought me a chicken she’d roasted and packed with whole lemons. I ate it with my fingers while it was still warm. Kindnesses appear, then disappear so quickly that I forget their brief streaks: they vanish, while cruelty pearls its durable shell. Goodness streams like hot water through my hair and down my skin, and I’m able to live again with the ache. It wakens the world. Kindness is my mother, sending me a yellow dress in the mail for no reason other than to watch me twirl.

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Erin Elizabeth Smith All I Am Sometimes Is the Next Meal At first, it was simple. A Pittsburgh steak, truffled oils, the umbilical wet of a poached egg. Then pork hearts and calf brain. The translucent wiggle of tendon in hot noodle. I learned the starry fry of Chinese okra, how bittermelon got its name. I pinched so much saffron my fingers Midased, and still I wanted the cookbook’s next page, the coifed bucatini Oxford-capped in parmesan, endless ramekins white and pink and black with salt. What I couldn’t buy I grew until my garden was angry with peppers and every pot smelled a new season. I learned how to stalk squirrels in crunchy October, the best way to strip their skin—nicked toes, then one clean pull. I buy lambs and watch them clap their heels all spring then six months later, draw their blood from them in a smooth bowl. Most days, all I want is to turn a pot radiation red, to see the stripped teeth of a muskrat skull grinning up. To roast parsnips and leeks in pits of embering black, or wrap

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Erin Elizabeth Smith my mouth around the whole of a tiny songbird, feel the hollow bones snap. They say that when you eat you eat the world, so I want to consume it all, to become this place.

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Erin Elizabeth Smith

When we can’t sleep, we make bread, a thick millet that grits the spread butter, seedy purple jam. We knead what will rise, breathing with hands then pushing away. Outside the wind goes quartz in the February husk. Like Demeter in the cold songless dusk, we listen for what never comes— a snapdragoned limb, the fleecy lullaby of lamb—baking until the kitchen is ours, until the world grows warm with yeast and lift and the slow swelling apart.

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Brian Spears Praise Song for Peppers Praise the banana pepper, pickled and sweet, the pepperoncini and pimiento in salad. Praise the bell pepper for its flexibility, how it never lasts long in my kitchen. Praise the man, a friend of a friend of my parents who, when I was seven, offered me a dollar if I would bite into a red chile. I cried and cried and snuck another bite later. Praise the cayenne. Praise my mother for adopting it when we moved and she couldn’t find jalapeños easily. Praise La Fiesta restaurant with wet burritos overflowing the plate, chips and salsa to begin the meal. Praise Tabasco as a starting place. Praise Crystal sauce for red beans and rice on Mondays, étouffée on Thursdays. Praise whoever invented Buffalo wings and so ended my use of contact lenses. Praise capsaicin in cuts and hangnails, the pain almost delicious, the tongue burn when you suck on the pain. Praise the way it clears sinuses. Praise the Hatch, freshly roasted, sliced onto eggs, wrapped in a tortilla. Praise the Poblano stuffed with cheese, battered and fried crisp. Praise New Mexico’s “red or green?” wherever you eat. Praise the locals roasting them to order in parking lots. Praise the first woman, ages ago, who saw a chili growing, and plucked it.

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Maxine Susman Breton Cake, November There he is—we look out the window, an albino squirrel in the scurry near the feeder— while we drink a second cup of coffee and share a kouign amann, dough interlarded with sweetened butter, roll fold and chill, roll fold and chill, each time crease it over in thirds like a letter, done for hours with easy ingredients until they turn out to be complicated, baked with a crust of caramel glaze like good conversation. Having my fill in your kitchen again, sipping coffee, eating pastry hard to find back home, watching the albino join the fray who wants same as we do to satisfy cravings and eats what you meant for the songbirds. I remember my mother in the nursing home holding hands with a man in a captain’s cap, neither of them any longer able to talk but sharing a crumb bun I’d brought from a deli— such luck, this creature fattening in your yard, who you expect will stay if you feed it.

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Wally Swist Frittata It could be the alluring sun after a full day of rain, bringing out my better nature, or that making brunch is more of a creative solution than usual with a refrigerator scant of leftovers. Choosing the largest extra-large egg makes for pairing it with the remaining scraps of cheese. Selecting a sweet onion, from the French-blue bowl, is an aesthetic pleasure in itself, before I peel and halve it, then cut it thinly into slices, which take no time to brown in butter and olive oil, filling the kitchen with more than just a promise of piquancy. Pouring the beaten egg into the skillet, I find my own center, as the mixture fills its perfect roundness, a circumference which fills with a brightness that could only augur nourishment, even happiness. But it is the goat cheese and cheddar that will inflect various tones in taste, and after distributing these I dust cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes over these esteemed contents in the skillet. Covered, at low heat is best, so it can coalesce, before it can be plated, sliding, whole, onto a platter, affixed with buttered toast points, and accompanied by

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Wally Swist a hearty salad bursting with cucumbers and leafy greens. There it is, awaiting my fork, steaming in the spring air, and when I finish, with the medley of tastes coating my palate, I am filled with the goodness of the contents of this circle. Consuming what was once whole, I am made ready to begin whatever it is that needs to be done.

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Wally Swist

The Toast I have taken a sip of wine, as you suggested, and am savoring it in honor of us both, as if I were tasting your lips, while thinking of you. Before I swallow its bouquet of dark berried fruit and licorice, with tones of wild plum, I imagine you, here, with me—our bodies irresistibly linked in a tangle of each other’s arms.

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Hsien Min Toh Hairy Crab Start by locating the groove behind the crab where the tail links snugly with the underside. Wiggle a thumb under the tail to unlock the carapace at once. The bright orange roe found under the shell is the highlight: scrape it together, add a drop of black vinegar, and savour— that’s the quick and easy bit. Next, remove the inedible gills and break the body into quarters to expose white slivered meat. Snap each leg at the joints, then poke the end into the large section to push out a finger of meat; the thin section is best got at directly crunching into the shell, but the claws are startlingly hard: use scissors to cut through them. Hairy crab takes so long to eat you’re hungry all the way through, and hunger is as sharp a sauce as vinegar. So given how much you like it, it’s good for me that the season comes but once a year, when in October the hairy crabs migrate from Yangcheng Lake to the brackish Yangtse to mate. Exposed yet full of roe, they are easily picked off at their point of utmost desire, which is why if anything I should internalise cold patience, letting you have your way and deferring mine,

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Hsien Min Toh so when it is time for the catch all I savour will be sweeter than any mound of extracted flesh.

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Jen Town The Allegory of a River Made of Burning I. Sometimes rivers burn. We’ve seen it: the Cuyahoga’s unctuous waves catching fire. It was 1969. I was a seed among the stars in a universe that is accelerating, expanding. Suddenly I was a cowboy in a bespangled jacket. The room grew quiet as if on cue, the quiet of a cat sleeping with one ear cocked, each of us alone in our silos of longing, golden like Ohio corn, and beyond this moment, just the space between stars. We take the improbability of our own existence and multiply that by the implausibility of our own immortality and divide by religion in all its glittering and chanting and weeping Madonna manifestations and what’s left is the sum of us in this whirling. You are the whole world, the child said. You are spinning and you cannot reach out to embrace your friends. In each of us a little steel mill churns out a hundred years worth of sorrow and loss—we are the boarded-up windows and broken glass of the mechanized world. Here, we measure the velocity of our own decay.

II. It is morning in the coffee shop and the line is out the door. Inside the glass case, queued up in rows,

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Jen Town slices of pound cake and lemon cake, coffee cake, that were made days, maybe weeks ago, in industrial vats, stirred by giant metal arms, everything sterile and made for mass consumption. And above one slice a fly hovers, suspended. She is in a dream world made of looming sweetness. A million flies ago, this fly’s great grandmothers hovered over the tea cakes of the Revolution and the Civil War and the Great War, laid out on silver on the tables of the well-to-do. They made their way from joy to joy, the world of war for them unbridled decadence, an orgy among the bodies burning. The world is a world of worlds, each infinitely detailed. We must try not to let it overwhelm and break us. Once I was a cowboy in a bespangled jacket. Once I was a fly hovering inches from heaven. Once I was my own great-grandmother scraping together a meal without money, dreaming of being a fly so close to abundance the pain of desire is a sweetness. We are a river of burning, we are floating in a barge of burning and all around us, the sky lights up with what will be our demise and above the glow of our fire, the stars, so many of which are already dead, wink out without notice.

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Jen Town

Damn Queen I will drink to the wine of the future In a golden goblet like a damn queen— Like I’ve been hearing this music all my life, Like the bells on my toes are bells And not iron weights. I get all my news now Online, even my poetry. I get everything Online. I am strung up, the taut string Between two stones. I’m plugged in even in sleep. I float out into ether, a balloon Over a high wire. My soles Are soft like a child’s. I touch down So gently what you hear is The radio scorch from a bee’s wing. See this? That’s the world’s Saddest song hitchhiking from the world’s Smallest highway. How does this warble Fit between these fingers? No matter, It’s metaphor. All the world’s on stage. Search: What’s a meta for? Result: Metaphor. A bee, a child, and a song walk into a bar And the bartender sings out what is this, a joke?

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Memye Curtis Tucker Lagniappe Glory be to bakers for raisin bread, scattered stars in a doughy firmament, spread like pieces of eight on an ocean floor ready to be found. Thanks be for almonds hidden in dates, pimentos tucked in briny olives, for the stuffing in roasted turkeys and oysters in that stuffing like secret pearls. Praise for all surprises slipped in, cached, held en croûte, waiting for our tongues. And let us not forget the sausage in gravy, the bubblegum in all-day lollipops, white seeds in okra, salty roe in fish just off the hook, and who can say enough for cherries—candied, fleshy in crowded fruitcake, softening under piecrusts, coated with glistening syrup in bitter chocolate castles. Glory to all that’s hidden to be revealed, the added gifts—fine marrow in the bone, good fortune in the cookie, sweets in the fist that becomes an open hand, the flashes of joy scattered like raisins through our daily bread.

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Angela Voras-Hills Ode to Food Stamps Your card embarrassing-blue, I’d swipe it through the reader at checkout, my baby’s legs growing through the cart’s seat into toddler-legs, as each woman behind us huffed into a copy of Family Circle. ACCESS card, WIC, without you, I couldn’t have gone to college, maybe my son wouldn’t be in college now. Each birthday, we ate cake and ice cream and could still afford balloons. Each morning, I poured Cheerios into his bowl and topped it with milk. You saw us through chicken-nugget-stage, Hot-Pocket-stage, helped my baby grow into an awkward shape he’d eventually grow out of: feet too large for his body, teeth too big for his face, that sweet squeak in his voice. You forced us into staunch dinner-table protests, put on the table the braided broccoli-cheese strudel he swore made him sick, that I made him eat anyway, that he threw up everywhere. You’re the reason my boy grew to love curry, can cook eggs over-easy, baked a red velvet cake for his girlfriend’s birthday. SNAP, thank you for the luxury of my son’s full belly; our stocked

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Angela Voras-Hills fridge; for teaching me to make falafel, lasagna, and chowder— all the food that lures him home.

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Marne Wilson On Learning to Cook Meat At first you’ll be so afraid of burning that you’ll hover, flipping the patty or chop the moment it starts to sizzle. Not only is this a waste of time, but the meat will end up gray and tasteless. Next you’ll try the opposite approach, turning the gas knob to high and leaving it there. You’ll get a nice brown sear that way, but the inside will still be rare— fine for steak, less so for pork, not at all for chicken. Eventually you’ll learn the rhythm, setting the burner to medium, letting yourself get distracted for a few minutes, then magically coming back just as the surface turns the right shade of brown. You’ll also learn which cuts are too thick to finish on the stovetop. You’ll learn to use the oven sometimes. You’ll learn how to set the timer and walk away.

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Andrew Pineda Hunger Pains When I run my tongue along the roof of my mouth, bits of skin

flake off like dried Elmer’s glue. Chemo wrecks my body in ways I don’t anticipate. I worry about side effects like nausea and fatigue. I’m afraid my mind’s going to rot. As chemicals destroy my body at the cellular level, I fail to realize this means my taste buds are under attack as well. At 9 o’clock, the California sun has set. The plastic chandelier above our dining table has a burnt-out bulb. I’m bored and hungry, tired of staring at the ceiling and feeling stagnant. At the start of chemo, I’m worried about excessive weight loss. I drink Boost protein shakes until my weight stabilizes. I start eating nothing but bananas and yogurt—soft foods that won’t tear my mouth up. My wife, Erin, sometimes brings me a toasted sandwich from the Subway near the infusion center. I almost always leave it cold. Two or three bites perforate the edge and onions peek out from between the bread. Pieces of salami and ham are tasteless meat flaps. I can’t stomach them. Food without flavor is like music without melody. I want the flourishes of a good Hitching Post steak, some chicken tikka masala, maybe chicken parmesan. I want to relish something that lingers longer than the mere act of mastication. But after a couple chews and then a swallow, any sensory delight in food now passes in a second. I want to eat something that will linger in the back of my throat—something that warms my chest and fills my core. I want my nose to run, my pores to open up—to shock my taste buds back to life. I want some motherfucking pho. Before I’m officially diagnosed with cancer, I go in for a PET scan that captures my metabolic activity. I’m instructed to restrict my diet to only proteins for the entire day before the scan: no sugars and no starches. Easy enough, I think. As a meat lover, I willingly eat a large bowl of chicken soup for dinner. On the morning of the PET, I’m not allowed any food. Instead, I choke down two 18-ounce bottles of thick barium sulfate, a white solution used in contrast imagery. It tastes like pennies and children’s vitamins. Thirty minutes before the procedure, I’m given a shot of radioactive sugar to light my body up on the screen during the scan. Oncologists look for active cancer cells that react to glucose. When we review the results, Dr. Erickson clicks through fluorescent images of

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Andrew Pineda my chest and stomach. I don’t recognize myself. I watch the silhouettes of organs morph into different shapes as the chemicals travel through my 23-year-old body. Erin has been experimenting with plant-based recipes ever since she committed herself earlier in the year to veganism. Besides the health benefits, she wants to enact compassion. She argues that if she wouldn’t eat the family dog, she shouldn’t eat a pig either. Most animals are, after all, sentient beings capable of feeling the same emotions we do. One night, she shows me a pixelated video of a factory farm. Pigs fight for space and squeal. They’re so restricted their legs are deformed. In another shot, a man dressed in overall waders and rubber gloves slices one open. It hangs upside down, staring at a deep crimson pool, blood dripping from its snout. For a moment, I imagine being drawn up on a meat hook. I imagine taking a knife and holding it to my throat. When my muscles tense, I close the kitchen door. It’s not a place I want to be. Erin collects vegan cookbooks. They lay around the house, open to ridiculous and hokey-sounding meals like “Korean BBQ mushroom burgers” and “banana-nut nice cream.” Each time I see a glossy picture of something like dressed-up cauliflower wings or lentil tacos, I shake my head and imagine an entire life without meat. Life without bacon. My mouth waters. I can hear it sizzle, smell it in the pan. After my treatment begins, Erin makes it a point to be more conscious about our grocery shopping. She looks at what I grab and objects to some of my staples. I get defensive. I tell her, “If we’re getting unsweetened cashew milk, I get my Reese’s Puffs.” We buy our cereals in twos: some Kashi cardboard for her, the good shit for me. But as we make our way into the parking lot, our cart is always full of more greens than anything else. In the infusion center, I meet a man named Dan who’s also in the Air Force—a staff sergeant. I tell him we’re stationed at the same base, that I’m a lieutenant fresh from the Air Force Academy. I think about my days as a cadet, learning jodys and inspirational mantras. The memories make me laugh. Dan and me: brothers in arms, now brothers in chemo. I ask about his lisp and he answers by opening his mouth and sticking his tongue out. Half of it is missing. He had cancer that grew on the side of his tongue. The doctors had removed the tumor, but most of Dan’s tongue went with it. He’s still in radiation and all of his taste buds have been obliterated. When our conversation stalls, he comments on the sandwich that I refuse to eat and asks if it’s lunch. I nod and he gestures towards a shit-brown protein shake. “I just want to taste what popcorn smells like,” he says to no one in particular. Then, he closes his eyes.

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Andrew Pineda Years after my treatment, I’ll savor popcorn at movie theaters. I’ll recover from chemo. On the other hand, Dan would likely never taste again; radiation’s outcomes are often permanent. Why would I deprive myself of a fatty steak’s flavors when some people can’t taste at all? I think about Dan when I think about why I still eat meat. I think about parties with my Filipino family: lechon, roasted pig on a platter, and dinuguan, a blood stew we call “chocolate meat” because of its appearance. When I was a kid, we’d go camping and Dad would cook us Little Smokies— bite-sized sausages to eat with rice. I tell Erin that this is why I can’t be vegan; there’s history here. There’s no such thing as tofu adobo. When I eat dairy or meat, it’s an act of remembrance. I’m looking to the past. After the PET scan, my family and I gather around a red circular booth in Applebee’s for lunch. I later learn that barium sulfate isn’t actually edible. It’s an imaging contrast, but because of its high density, it’s also used as a plastic filler. It blocks you up before passing through you. It’s useful for the doctors, but useless for the body. I’m hungry and I need something solid, something real to eat. Erin orders some Asian-themed salad, but I see America in the menu— cheeseburgers and french fries. Ordering a large Coke, I wonder when the last time I saw a movie was. It used to be a weekly tradition for us growing up. On Fridays during high school we’d go to the mall, order popcorn and Coke and escape into the darkness, shuttered for a few hours from the outside world. The screen would flash. Smooth kernels would get stuck behind my molars. At home, I’d lay awake in bed and run my tongue over the trapped shells. Junk food and fantasy kept me sane in those winter months when wrestling took over my life. I was a 16-year-old hoping for a growth spurt, dropping 15 pounds to make 103. During practice, I’d lose between three and four pounds and get bent until my bones would nearly break. For dinner, I’d eat six ounces of salad. Mom would sigh, look at me and say, “You can eat more— ” but before she could finish the sentence, my plate was clattering in the sink and I was wearing a full layer of sweats. I could never give in to indulgence. Excess always had its consequences. I’d run on the treadmill until it’d turn off and I’d have to restart it. I’d suck on Jolly Ranchers and spit in a bottle during class to lose a few pounds over the course of a day. In the cafeteria, my friends ate burgers and fries. I’d open a clementine and savor every drop of juice. If I really focused, I could taste orange creamsicle in a small slice and believe it was ice cream. I’d beg friends for a piece of pizza crust and pull it apart like it was the body of Christ. My stomach grumbles as I flip over the laminated Applebee’s menu. Fuck it, I think, ordering the sampler platter for starters: buffalo chicken

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Andrew Pineda wings, mozzarella sticks, and quesadillas. I’ve got nothing to lose. My wrestling days are over and I don’t know the extent of my cancer’s growth. PET scan out of the way, I can’t be any happier devouring a bacon cheeseburger dripping with grease. During chemo sessions, caregivers wander into the infusion center with lunch for patients: fast-food for dying people. I can’t help but think that the Subway next door is profiting from an incurable disease. As long as the sick people in this infusion center are hungry, some high schooler will keep slapping together Italian BMTs. While skeleton-thin patients nibble at these sandwiches, I can’t be doomed to a life of stale bread and wilted lettuce. Not if Erin can help it. She asks me to rate her vegan recipes so she can figure out which ones to keep making and which ones to shelve. I come up with a 9-point scale. “There’s a method here,” I tell her. “Anything 1-3 is just okay; 3-6 is about average and 6-9 means it’s pretty damn good.” After a few weeks, she laughs and says the system’s broken because I never rate anything less than 6 or more than 8. But when I notice patients I recognize stop showing up for chemo, suddenly everything is significant. The numbers weigh a little bit more. A perfect meal—one I’d rate a 9—means everything when it could be my last one. I tell Erin my 9 might be a dish Mom used to make. The ultimate comfort food, it’s a chicken and rice soup with ginger called arroz caldo. It’s the kind of meal to eat in winter to prevent a cold or to cure one. I’d eat it after shoveling the driveway to let my bones unthaw. When Dad started running marathons and built to ultras, he’d put arroz caldo in little plastic bladders so he could eat on the run. There’s really nothing more you need than protein, starches, broth, and ginger to ease your stomach. At 9 o’clock, the night I need pho, the Vietnamese restaurant in town is closed. I ask Erin if she can make arroz caldo to satisfy my hankering for a steaming bowl of soup. My mouth is chalky. I just want to taste something. I beg from the couch, “If we can’t get pho, then I need arroz caldo. Please.” She stands horizontal in my view, biting her lip, looking genuinely concerned. A long sigh, a glance out the window, then she opens a cabinet and retrieves a deep pot. Outside, it’s 50 degrees and the leaves are rotting. Erin starts the stove, begins chopping onions and smashing garlic. But she’s doomed: a white woman, attempting to make a traditional Filipino soup. She’s up against Mom’s arroz caldo—my only frame of reference for what it must taste like. What could a vegan bring to the table? She makes an enormous vat and pushes it back, away from the heat. After it cools off for a bit, I spoon some of the porridge into my numb mouth. I rate it a generous 6. Even though the warm grains of rice are somewhat pleasant, I’m still a bottomless pit. At this point, food is just compounds and chemicals. My tongue feels the way that tofu tastes: like nothing.

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Andrew Pineda An hour after lunch at Applebee’s, I’m having trouble shitting when, amidst the deposits in the bowl, I see white and red swirls in the water: barium sulfate and blood. A cloud with saturated spots of crimson. Flushing the toilet, I head downstairs and pause the Netflix show my family watches. “Mom, I’m bleeding,” I say. We call Dr. Erickson, but we’re told that he isn’t available for another few hours. The next option is to see PA Villalobos, my primary care provider, the only other medical professional who knows my case. We all cram into our tiny Honda and speed to the clinic. During the entire ride, Mom, a nurse, runs through her own speculations. Had the cancer metastasized to other organs? Do I have internal bleeding? The day after my first cycle of chemo ends, my immune system is destroyed. I get a Neulasta shot which generates white blood cells in my bone marrow. The large bony parts of my body kick into overdrive, bolstering my body’s defense against infection. Erin and I run errands, go to Trader Joe’s and pick up groceries for a new recipe. I feel a creeping ache in my joints. My lower back is stiff, as if there are deep bruises near my spine. I think this soreness is typical fatigue. Like it’s something to expect during chemo. Maybe I slept in an odd position or the hours spent slouching on the couch are starting to catch up to me. As I traipse through the grocery store picking out limes and bell peppers, I wonder if a couple pills of Tylenol can assuage the pain. In bed that night, my back starts to spasm. Searing shocks like an electric current radiate from my pelvis. I clench my entire body, bracing for short waves of pain that come and go every few seconds. Minutes drag. Hours are insurmountable. Erin drifts next to me in a deep sleep. I start to recite William Ernest Henley’s Invictus in my head, maybe out of instinct after being forced to memorize it during push-ups and ruck marches as a cadet. I’ve endured physical training to those words before. Now I’m teary-eyed, mumbling them like some kind of prayer. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the horror of the shade I’m curled in the fetal position, clutching the bedsheets to my collarbone. I let out low grunts and anticipate each burst of pain. Eyes closed, I see a clear night and a steep seaside cliff. I hear the waves, maybe 20 feet high, crash against the rocks. I see a white horse grinding its teeth with bloodshot eyes, its fiery mane frazzled. Each paralyzing interval breaks me, little by little. I’m pinned by gravity, my body suddenly the center of all things, being pulverized into cosmic bits. I am eroding in the darkness. My nerves flash white-hot, incinerating my

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Andrew Pineda flesh. I’m reduced to bones, and the bones to gritty heaps, handfuls of dust. I think of going into the kitchen. I think of grabbing a knife. I think of subverting pain with pain. And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid

When I’m in chemo, nurses ask me almost every day, “On a scale from 1-10, what would you say the pain is?” I begin to answer but remember the question’s only a formality. What they want to hear is a number like 3 or 4. A whole number. An easy one. But I’m cleaved, split into fractions: a part of me exists before cancer and another part after. It wouldn’t be cancer, I want to tell them, if I could boil the pain down to a number. PA Villalobos snaps rubber gloves onto his hands. After explaining my symptoms, the emergence of blood and the PET scan earlier, he nods. “I think I know what’s going on,” he says. He asks my family to leave the room and motions in the direction of the hallway. When the door shuts, he eyes me through his glasses and tells me to drop my pants. I bend over slightly at the edge of the examination table. When he’s done inspecting, PA Villalobos removes his gloves and washes his hands. He pulls a pen from his shirt pocket and clicks it. On the waxy exam table paper, he begins to draw a circle with wavy edges and speaks while closing its circumference. “What’s happened here,” he says, clicking the pen shut. I’m silent, fixated on the shaky circle—some bad, 2-dimensional sun or a sloppy Q. Maybe a pizza. “Is a tear in your anus.” A pause. I snap to—“Say that again?” “Did you try really hard to push something out? You’ve got an anal fissure right here.” In one fluid motion, PA Villalobos retrieves the pen and draws a hard zig-zag at 10 o’clock. When my family comes back into the room, he explains what’d happened. A blanket of embarrassment nearly smothers me. But I’m jittery. I stare at the blue and yellow diagonal lines on his tie. The corners of my lips curl into a smirk. My spirit would need to be as equally resilient as my body if I’m to fight against whatever ways that cancer attacks it. Mom thanks him and we exhale in unison. My bloody shit wasn’t anything worse than a case of pushing too hard. No internal bleeding; no ruptured organs. We make our way out of the room—stool softener prescription in hand—and nobody says anything about the childlike drawing of my butthole on the paper.

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Andrew Pineda Another wave of pain. Erin wakes up to the sound of my growls. She places ice packs on my lower back and chest. She feeds me chilled grapes that we bought from Trader Joe’s earlier, a surprisingly effective salve for the burning. She holds me in the darkness while I continue to thrash like a dying dog. If it weren’t for her arms keeping me together, I might disappear and never return. I wonder if my embrace could ever be as wide as hers—or, if the time ever comes, I’d have the strength to carry her through the night. It matters not how strait the gate How charged with punishments the scroll When the sun rises, I emerge from the ash as bones and nothing else. I shuffle into the kitchen and start a cup of coffee. A block of knives borders the stove. One of Erin’s cookbooks, Isa Does It, is propped on a recipe stand like the Bible on an altar. A ray of sunlight comes in through a large glass window and illuminates the cover. The chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, poses in front of mini beet burgers, corn and arugula, smiling in a world where there’s reason to smile. I can hear her telling me about the benefits of a vegan diet. She tells me about the toxic process of tanning leather and the amount of energy we can save by boycotting the meat industry, but I fix my coffee unhealthy, the way I like it: two spoons of sugar and a dose of creamer. Grabbing a box of Reese’s Puffs from the pantry, I pour a large bowl that’s more sugar than anything else. I put the cereal away, open the fridge, and reach for the cashew milk.

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Melanie Ritzenthaler To Wish It Better Than It Actually Was Let me tell you what we tried first. Watermelon and cantaloupe and honeydew. We sliced them in half and spoon-shaved them hollow, heaping wet pulp onto the counter. We skinned away rinds, cut the flesh into wedges into half-moons into hangnails. We filled bowl after bowl with perfect round planets of jewel-red and orange and green. My mother and I, we were salt-sprinkling and sugar-dusting like pastry chefs. We turned out the pantry for cans of tomato soup and chicken broth to be heated lukewarm. In the dusty back corners we found jars of applesauce and canned beans and slick peaches drowned in syrup. We blended milkshakes pumped thick with honey or chocolate sauce. All soft enough to be mouthed over. To be eased down a throat scorched raw. He sat at the table as we covered it over with our offerings. How does it taste? we asked. Like the bottom of a shoe, he said. Like leather. My mother, who had been doing this for weeks, said, Let him be this way. They told me it would get to this. But I knew I had limited time—only the summer, between one year of school and the next, and then I’d be gone again, far enough to be beyond help. Eggs. There were lots of eggs. He said, after this, he might never be able to eat another egg again. Sunny-side-up with a starburst of yolk. Frilled with lacy charred edges. Over-easy layered on toast, bleeding a sluggish yellow. Scrambled eggs picked over for the glass edges of broken shells. Deviled eggs dusted over with paprika and deviled eggs without and deviled eggs with the whites scooped thin and fragile as tissue paper. A month ago, he found the knot in the tender flesh just beneath his jaw. At first he thought it was a spongy knot of tension he could himself soothe away. When it swelled to the size of a small grape, he made an appointment. In the white scrutiny of the doctor’s office, the doctor pressed her finger unerringly into the pulp of it, to the hard cold stone at its center, and said, ah. Now every morning my mother massaged aloe vera into his neck, where the skin was the chapped pink of a sunburn. Now he watched the TV and turned the volume up over the sizzle on the stove and the clatter of pans, ignored my calls for him to come eat as long as he could.

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What about this, I said. Try this. How does it taste? He coughed up a mouthful into a napkin. He patted my hand. Like dog shit, he said.

When he grew too weak to climb stairs, my father stayed in the living room. It had the television and the couch he slept on and the side table where he arranged his get-well cards. Here is what I knew from watching: that first the treatment weaned away his sense of taste, withering away his taste buds at the root. That it burned up his throat and pinched away his voice. That he cocked his head when you talked to him now because sound came tinny through his left ear. That he would cock his head and smile at his doctor, the thin blonde doctor, and my mother hated it. Five times a week, I knew my father went to his treatment, lying shirtless on a cold table slid away into the heart of the machine, like a lump of dough being put to rise. Five times a week, he came back and winced to the couch, thumb to the remote, and scanned the channels. There were specific things he wanted to watch. Those things were close-ups of ribs drenched in dark sauce and corn cobs dripping butter and thick cuts of Texas toast soaking up grease. They were flour tortillas thick enough to swaddle babies and soupy deep dish Chicago pizzas. Chicken spit-hissing in the deep fryer. Perfectly cooked steaks cross-hatched over with grill lines. Even when I went to bed I could still hear the TV through the door. The TV said cinnamon, it said sweet chili sriracha, it said cracked peppercorn and citrus notes and almond butter toffee and in my sleep I went hungry—I slept knowing it was never enough. Let me tell you what we ate. We sat at the kitchen table and ate fast without caring about taste. My mother and I, we swallowed down dry cereal, or freezer dinners microwaved hot, or casserole, probably casserole, because people came over and did not stay but they left us with casserole. Sometimes he woke, even from a dead sleep, and came to stand by us at the table, sniffing the air. Smells good, he would grate out, and by then the skin of his neck had taken on the deep red of a blush that did not fade. He nudged our fingers off forks and sampled our plates for himself. No, he could not taste what he tried but he would try, every time, and grimace and shake his head. He would stand and watch us as our muscles chewed and throats swallowed, chewed and swallowed. Once when he slept in the evening we slipped barefoot out the garage door like thieves, dangling our shoes from our fingertips. We climbed quiet into the car and laced sneakers without a word. Held our breaths when the

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Melanie Ritzenthaler garage door rumbled up, when the engine rattled. We did not talk until we were out of the neighborhood down streets packed with people and noise and we became giddy. We wanted Chinese food we wanted Mexican we wanted sausage-stuffed raviolis and croissants flaking apart in our fingers. We wanted lips stained red from margaritas rimmed in sugar, ice cream dripping cold down our chins. Our time was limited; we couldn’t be gone from him long. Parked in a deserted lot, we gorged ourselves on fast food. In the aftermath there were empty paper bags made translucent with grease and chrome-colored wrappers balled within them. Plastic cups sucked empty. Shriveled packets of ketchup. We kicked trash beneath our seats, buckled our stomachs into seatbelts. We did not leave quite yet. You should see the way he flirts with her, my mother said. The doctor. Do you know what he does? No, I said. Always playing it up around her, she said. Acting like he’s so weak he needs her help to sit down. Talking really soft so she leans in. Like I’m not right there. She still hadn’t started the car. Yeah, I said. You don’t want to talk about it, she said. You’re right. Why would you. It’s the big C word. If that’s not a wakeup call, I don’t know what is. I said nothing. And I’m complaining, she said. It’s awful. It is, isn’t it? I wished I was home then, in my childhood bed. I wished I was away, back at school, where I lived alone and ate quick meals standing over the sink and all of this would take on the same dreamlike quality as a TV playing in another room. Maybe with a thousand miles removed it would be easier. I said, You should be able to say those things if you need to. But not to you, she said. Not to you. She said, I should know better. When we returned to the house and opened the door we heard a noise. A gagging noise. When we found him he was on his knees in the bathroom and he was gasping for breath. He was pounding the floor with his fists. Somehow it was me in the bathroom with him, me standing over him as his breath tried to whistle in. What do I do? I said. Dad, what do I do? What’s wrong? I hit him between the shoulders hard enough to make my palm sting and it did nothing. His face was turning red. I looked at my mother and she was standing in the doorway with her purse still on her shoulder, and she was staring at him. He gagged again and his body twisted and then he coughed up a pill, skittering wet over tile as he wheezed in and out.

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Melanie Ritzenthaler Fuck, he said. His voice was a thread of sound, sandpapered away. You shouldn’t be trying to swallow pills when no one is home, my mother said, her voice high. The doctor said— You two just stood there, he said. Just watched me. Fuck. There wasn’t room enough for the three of us. My mother caught my arm up and pulled me away. She knelt down next to him and after a moment she feathered her hand along his spine. He didn’t move. I watched from the door. His shoulders moved up and down, pushed into her palm. I took a step back and then another, back into the dark of the hallway. Back, back again. When they cut open his abdomen for the feeding tube, he hadn’t wanted me to come. It’s not even a surgery, he told me. It’s a procedure. I’ll be awake the whole time. I was there pre-op anyways, the three of us huddled so tight together that my mother and I could smell the toothpaste on each other’s breath. His tongue was scaled white in his mouth; he hadn’t been allowed even a sip of water, not since the night before. While it was happening, my mom smiled at me. Not so bad, she said. See? Not if he’s awake for it. Afterwards the doctor showed us into his room and pulled the blanket back to reveal the thin plastic stem growing from his stomach. The flesh around it was as puffy and tender as the bruise on a fruit. The doctor told us she would pull it out herself, months from now, if everything went according to plan. She said it was like yanking a weed from the garden, something deep-rooted that must be coaxed, hand over hand, from the body. There would be a scar left behind when it was all over, the doctor said. An indent about the size of a thumb, like the one left behind in the soft flesh of a pear, checked for ripeness by the give of its skin. I want you to know that, when his sandpaper voice was finally worn away, my father kept a pad of paper and a pencil next to the couch. It was there when he watched TV in the morning after treatment and in the afternoon and in the night when he couldn’t sleep. The TV did nothing but parade recipes in front of him. He decided he would try them. He had never cooked a meal for me in my life. Once when I was young he made me a sandwich when my mother was out of town. He said my grandma used to make it; it had peanut butter and mayonnaise and banana slices spread thick over white bread. I would not touch it. In the late summer he sent me to the store with a list of ingredients. His handwriting was cramped and shaky. I wandered the store for over an

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Melanie Ritzenthaler hour, through the chill of freezer aisles and the sweet bready smells of the bakery, trying to decipher what he wanted. I came home with bags swinging off my arms, found him waiting in the kitchen to cut tomatoes into halves into wedges into neat little dices. He made orderly piles of basil and cilantro chopped fine. He cooked onions clear while I fanned the doors wide to chase out the smoke, poured exacting measurements of tomato juice and cooking sherry. When he was done he ladled soup into one of the nice china bowls. He sat it in front of me. Watched as I took my first spoonful. It was not like any tomato soup I had ever had before. Sweeter than the sugar of ice cream. Thin as water. In the dregs of the bowl, visible beneath the broth, the onions and basil leaves collected in an unmoving mush. I nodded to him as my throat worked and swallowed, worked and swallowed. He brought his pad of paper to the table. How is it, he wrote. I love it, I said. Seriously, it’s delicious. Don’t lie, he said. What can I do better? I remembered what the recipe had called for. Salt to taste. Honestly I’m no food critic, I said. But I think it’s great. You’ll have to give me this recipe. People will love this recipe. I waited while his pen scratched out a response. Recipe says 1 onion I use 2. Two onions, not one, I repeated. Got it. When my mother came home from work hours later he pressed her down into a chair and brought the soup to a low simmer, served it to her hot. Wow, delicious, she said, after bringing the spoon to her lips. Didn’t know you could cook like that. When he was gone we shared a look over the remains of our meal. The look said, we will offer our bowls up for seconds, thirds. We will scour them clean, scrape the bottoms empty. The look said, whatever he makes, no matter how he makes it, we will eat it, every bite. He made pulled pork thick with fat and chili-glazed shrimp tucked into bacon limp with grease. And at first we ate them because we should, because he watched us. I do not say this to make it better, to pretend it was something it was not. But each was better than the last. Carrots cooked down in whiskey. Pear tarts thick with cheddar. One day I woke to the sunshine smell of banana bread cooling on the rack, of apples browned with cinnamon, and felt my stomach clench in want of it. So I went downstairs and ate it all. This is how he ate: four times a day my mother or I would pour formula into a baby bottle, heated in a bottle warmer. Four times a day he tucked his shirt beneath his armpits. He unscrewed the nipple of the bottle

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Melanie Ritzenthaler and syringed up thin, milky liquid. Plunged the syringe into the mouth of his feeding tube. It took as long as fifteen minutes to force through a single ounce. Sometimes I sat with him. Sometimes we talked about what he would eat first, when this was over. We planned elaborate meals. Cincinnati-style chili, I said. Fried pickles. A cold can of Miller. And that’s just to start us off. Cheesy potatoes. Fresh strawberries. Three rootbeer floats. We’d drive to Texas for the brisket, we decided. We’d make a road trip out of it. Kansas City for the slow-smoked ribs. North Carolina for ketchupsauced pork shoulder and hushpuppies. Sometimes he wasn’t in the mood for it. Moments like that, I knew what he was thinking. I was thinking them too. This house is like a goddamn crypt. Where is the light. Where are all the people. I’m tired of having you women hanging over me all day. Moments like that, we would sit and watch formula inch through his feeding tube, and his face would turn drawn and anxious. He would sit in a near-complete stillness, like whatever was happening, it could go very wrong. His neck, the dark purple of a birthmark. Your first breakfast, I said. Let me guess, OJ. French toast. Topped with maple syrup, you think, maybe some whipped cream? Anything, he wrote. I’d eat anything. Plain white bread. Chicken broth. Afterwards, I cleared away the syringe, the baby bottle. Rinsed them out with more nothing more than scalding water and a fingertip to flake away the congealed liquid. Left them upside down on a dish towel to dry until they were ready to be used again. Let me tell you about my last night home, when it was late and my mother was sleeping. Summer had finally burned away, and in the morning she would drive me to the airport, wave me off to school. That night, he gestured me over and pointed—to the bottle of aloe vera, to my hands, to his neck. Do you mind? he wrote. I smoothed my hands over with cold gel. I waited while he eased his shirt off over his head. The skin at his throat looked like leather, scarred with use. It felt like leather too. Over the folds of skin sagging on his neck. Up behind his ear where the hair had burned away. Over the sharp point of his Adam’s apple. Over the raw red sores on his shoulder. He winced and leaned away from my touch. I gentled my hands. Started over again. In the morning my mother would drive me to the airport. She would hug me close enough to feel the bones of her hips, and instead of saying be safe she would say, be well. She would wish me off into another school

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Melanie Ritzenthaler year. And once I was gone and my back was turned, it ceased to be real— seemed that way, at least. I would forget the smell of antiseptic and baby food formula and apples browning in the pan. His pale face on the hospital pillow. My mother’s hand smoothing his back. That was what we all wanted, anyways. To wish it better than it actually was. Soft over the purpling scabs puckered over his collarbone. The loose skin pooling beneath his chin. I would forget even this. By the time I politely declined a drink from the flight attendant, licked the salt from the in-flight pretzels from my fingers, by the time my travel bag was bumping over the curb a thousand miles away—it would be different already. By then there might be new skin, skin made anew.

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Contributors’ Notes

Ernesto L. Abeytia is a Spanish-American poet. He holds an MFA from Arizona State University and MAs from Saint Louis University and the Autonomous University of Madrid. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Fugue, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, PBS NewsHour, The Shallow Ends, Zócalo Public Square, and elsewhere. He has been anthologized in The Brillantina Project (poems responding to the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting) and in Of Color: Poets’ Ways of Making (essays on transformative poetics). His poem “The Port City of Cádiz, Andalucía” was the runner-up for Fugue’s 2018 Ron McFarland Prize for Poetry. He teaches at Arizona State University. Allison Adair’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, Iron Horse Literary Review, Kenyon Review, North American Review, Pleiades, Southeast Review, and Subtropics, among other journals, and have received the Pushcart Prize (2019), the Florida Review Editors’ Award, the Orlando Prize, and first place in the Fineline Competition from Mid-American Review. Originally from central Pennsylvania, she now lives in Boston, where she teaches at Boston College and Grub Street. Liz Ahl is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Beating The Bounds (Hobblebush Books). A new chapbook, Song and Scar, is forthcoming in 2019 from No Chair Press. She lives in Holderness, New Hampshire and teaches creative writing at Plymouth State University. Julia C. Alter is an MFA candidate in Poetry at the Vermont College of Fine  Arts. Recent poems can be found in CALYX, The Boiler, Bluestem, Mom Egg Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Burlington, Vermont with her partner and young son. JD Amick is a born and raised Chicagoan, graduate of Northwestern University where he studied Creative Writing and Biology. He competed in the Louder Than a Bomb Slam Poetry Competition in Chicago, where his team won in 2012. He was a recent attendee of the 2017 New York Summer Writers’ Institute at Skidmore College. His work has recently appeared in Typishly and was a finalist for the Red Wheelbarrow Magazine 2018 Prize. Kimberly Quiogue Andrews is a poet and literary critic. She is also the author of  A Brief History of Fruit, winner of the 2018 Akron Prize for Poetry, and  BETWEEN, winner of the 2017 New Women’s Voices Prize from

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Contributors’ Notes Finishing Line Press. She lives in Maryland and teaches at Washington College, and you can find her on Twitter at @kqandrews. Darius Atefat-Peckham is an Iranian-American poet and essayist. His work has appeared in Texas Review, Nimrod, Brevity, Rattle, and elsewhere. In 2018, Atefat-Peckham was selected by the Library of Congress as a National Student Poet, the nation’s highest honor presented to youth poets writing original work. Atefat-Peckham lives in Huntington, West Virginia, and he currently attends Interlochen Arts Academy, where he serves as a head editor of Interlochen Review. He will be attending Harvard College in the fall. Deborah Bacharach is the author of After I Stop Lying  (Cherry Grove Collections) and has published in journals such as Pembroke Magazine, Cimarron Review, The Antigonish Review, The Southampton Review, The Texas Review, Arts & Letters, and Poet Lore, among many others. She is an editor, teacher, and tutor in Seattle. Find out more about her at DeborahBacharach.com. Sue Hyon Bae was raised in South Korea, Malaysia, and Texas. Her first collection of poems,  Truce Country, and her  co-translation of Kim Hyesoon’s A Drink of Red Mirror were both published in 2019. She studies translation at Arizona State University. John Belk is an Assistant Professor of English at Southern Utah University where he directs the Writing Program. His poetry has recently appeared in Crosswinds, Cathexis Northwest, Cheat River Review, and Arkansas Review, among others. His work has been selected as a finalist for the Autumn House Rising Writer Contest, the Cathexis Chapbook Contest, the Autumn House Poetry Prize, the Comstock Writers Group Chapbook Contest, and as a semifinalist for the Vassar Miller Award. Andrew Bertaina’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in many publications including: The Best American Poetry 2018, The ThreePenny Review, Tin House online, Redivider, The Journal, and Green Mountains Review. More of his work is available at www.andrewbertaina.com. Joe Betz is an Associate Professor of English at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington, Indiana, where he lives with his wife, Megan, and their daughter, Madeline. Past work appears in journals such as Ninth Letter,  Hayden’s Ferry Review, and  The Paris-American. He is a Laurence Goldstein Prize winner, awarded by Michigan Quarterly Review. 

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Contributors’ Notes Katie Bickham’s second book of poetry, Mouths Open to Name Her, is forthcoming from LSU Press, and her debut, The Belle Mar, was chosen by Alicia Ostriker as the winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize (Pleiades). Her work has recently appeared in The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Southern Quarterly, and elsewhere. Raised in New England, Elizabeth Boquet studied and taught in several countries before immigrating in 1996 from China to Lausanne, Switzerland, where she remains with her husband—a watchmaker. She teaches English and chairs The Pernessy Poets. Her poetry has appeared in Havik, Snapdragon, Stoneboat, Rock & Sling, Everyday Haiku, Necessary Fiction, Offshoots, and in other literary journals. In 2017, Naomi Shihab Nye awarded her a Geneva Writers’ Group Literary Prize (2nd place). More work can be found at www.elizabethboquet.com. Andrea Carter Brown’s most recent collection is the chapbook Domestic Karma, published in 2018. Previously, she is the author of  The Disheveled Bed  and  Brook & Rainbow. “The Crock” is from her current manuscript, American Fraktur, which won the 2018 Rochelle Ratner Award from Marsh Hawk Press and will be published by CavanKerry Press in 2021. She is the Washington Prize Series Editor at The Word Works and lives in Los Angeles. Kayleb Rae Candrilli is a 2019 Whiting Award Winner in Poetry and the author of  What Runs Over  with YesYes Books, which was a 2017 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender poetry. All the Gay Saints is their second collection and won the 2018 Saturnalia Book Contest. Candrilli is published or forthcoming in  POETRY,  The American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly Review, Academy of American Poets, and Boston Review. Dorothy Chan is the author of  Revenge of the Asian Woman  (Diode Editions),  Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold  (Spork Press), and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in  The American Poetry Review,  Academy of American Poets, The Cincinnati Review, Diode Poetry Journal, The Offing, and elsewhere. She is Editor of The Southeast Review and Poetry Editor of Hobart. Starting in Fall 2019, she will be an  Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Visit her website at dorothypoetry.com. Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan to Taiwainese-Chinese immigrants, B. Joanna Chen holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon and is a VONA/Voices alum. She currently works at a 3D printing company in Somerville, Massachusetts, writing alliterativish support emails to customers.

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Contributors’ Notes Diana Clarke is a New Zealander. Her work has appeared in DIAGRAM, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Nick Compton is a writer, traveller, and poet. From Canada to Hong Kong, he has featured in publications such as ArtAscent, Proverse Poetry, ParisLitUp, Pen2Paper, and Amaryllis. A musketeer at heart, you can normally spot him with a trusty cup of tea by his side. Carrie Conners, originally from West Virginia, lives in Queens, New York and is an Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia CC-CUNY. Her first book, Luscious Struggle, is forthcoming from BrickHouse Books. Her poetry has appeared in  Little Patuxent Review,  Quiddity,  RHINO,  The Hunger, and The Monarch Review. She is also a poetry reader for Epiphany.  Rob Cook is the author of some books, including  The Undermining of the Democratic Club (Spuyten Duyvil), Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade (Bitter Oleander Press), and  The Charnel House On Joyce Kilmer Avenue  (Rain Mountain Press). His writing has appeared or will appear in Antioch Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Laurel Review, Epiphany, Colorado Review, Natural Bridge, Indefinite Space, Hotel Amerika, Notre Dame Review, Interim, Rhino, The Bitter Oleander, and Caliban. Josh Corson is a multi-disciplinary literary artist originally from Tampa, Florida. Currently, Josh is an MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh. He has received residencies from Tin House, Juniper Institue, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Winter Tangerine. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Aquifer: The Florida Review Online, Crab Orchard Review, december, Entropy, The Offing, and others. You can find his work at www.joshcorsonmakes.com. Barbara Crooker is a poetry editor for Italian Americana, and author of nine full-length books of poetry; Some Glad Morning is forthcoming in the Pitt Poetry Series.  Her awards include the WB Yeats Society of New York Award, the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. Her work appears in a variety of anthologies, including Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania and The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Zoe Dickinson is a poet and bookseller from Victoria, British Columbia. Her poems appear in various literary magazines, including Existere Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, and 50 Haikus. In 2015,  her  chapbook  Public Transit  won Leaf Press’ Overleaf competition, and  her  poem  “skipping stones” won the Malahat Review’s 2018 Wordsthaw prize.

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Contributors’ Notes Jennifer Dracos-Tice has published poetry in San Pedro River Review, Rogue Agent,  Still: The Journal  (2016 Judge’s Choice Award),  and elsewhere. Jen teaches and lives in Atlanta with her wife and kids. Jen can be reached at jendracostice@gmail.com.  Carlina Duan is the author of the poetry collection I WORE MY BLACKEST HAIR (Little A). Her poems can be found or are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, Narrative Magazine, The Margins, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Vanderbilt University, where she worked as the CoEditor-in-Chief of Nashville Review. Carlina is currently pursuing her PhD in the joint English and Education program at the University of Michigan. She has a sweet tooth. Stevie Edwards is the founder and editor-in-chief of Muzzle Magazine and senior editor in book development at YesYes Books. She is the author of poetry collections Good Grief (Write Bloody) and Humanly (Small Doggies), as well as poetry chapbook Sadness Workshop (Button Poetry). She holds an MFA from Cornell University and is a PhD candidate at University of North Texas. Her poems have been published in  Crazyhorse,  Gulf Coast, Pleaides, 32 Poems, Redivider, West Branch, and elsewhere.  Moira Egan’s most recent books are  Synæsthesium (The New Criterion Poetry Prize) and  Olfactorium  (Italic Pequod). Her poems and prose have appeared in journals and anthologies on four continents. With her husband, Damiano Abeni, she has published volumes in translation in Italy by authors including Ashbery, Barth, Bender, Ferlinghetti, Hecht, Simic, Strand, and Charles Wright. She lives in Rome and teaches Creative Writing at St. Stephen’s School. Greg Emilio’s poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic, Nashville Review, Permafrost, Pleiades, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Poet’s Billow, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Recently, he was selected for the 2018 Best New Poets and won F(r)iction’s 2018 summer poetry contest. He’s the Nonfiction Editor at New South and a PhD candidate in English at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Angelica Esquivel is an Ohioan writer and artist. She recently graduated from the University of Michigan, where she received three Hopwood Awards as well as the Quinn Prize for Best Creative Thesis. Her hobbies include sewing and eating lemons.  Patricia Fargnoli’s latest book is Hallowed: New & Selected Poems (Tupelo Press). The New Hampshire Poet Laureate from 2006-2009, she has

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Contributors’ Notes published four other award-winning books and three chapbooks. She’s a retired psychotherapist. Wendy Fontaine’s work has appeared in Hippocampus, Full Grown People, Mud Season Review, Readers Digest, River Teeth, and elsewhere. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart, awarded the Tiferet Prize for Creative Nonfiction, and featured as a speaker at literary conferences. A New England native, she currently lives in Los Angeles, where she is at work on a novel and a collection of flash essays. She also recently completed a memoir, Leaves in the Fall. Jessica Siobhan Frank is a 2018 graduate of McNeese State University’s MFA program. Her work has appeared in Ninth Letter (online), Up North Lit, Snapdragon, and several other publications. She was nominated for Best of the Net in 2018 and is a two-time winner of the John Wood Poetry Award.  D. Dina Friedman is the author of a poetry chapbook, Wolf in the Suitcase, (Finishing Line Press), and two YA novels, Escaping Into the Night (Simon & Schuster) and Playing Dad’s Song (Farrar, Straus, Giroux). She received two Pushcart Prize nominations and has published widely in literary journals, including Negative Capability, Kentucky Review, The Sun, ArliJo, Lilith, Steam Ticket, Inkwell, Constellations, Xanadu, Anderbo, Bloodroot, Oyez Review, Cargo, Tsunami, and Rhino. Visit her website www.ddinafriedman.com. Maria Mazziotti Gillan, American Book Award recipient for All That Lies Between Us (Guernica Editions) and author of twenty-three books, founded the Poetry Center in Paterson, New Jersey; is editor of the Paterson Literary Review; and is Professor Emerita of English and creative writing at Binghamton University-SUNY. Recent publications include What Blooms in Winter (NYQ) and the poetry and photography collaboration with Mark Hillringhouse, Paterson Light and Shadow (Serving House Books). Corey Ginsberg is a PhD student in poetry at The University of Southern Mississippi. Her work has most recently appeared in such publications as The Fiddlehead, The Gettysburg Review, and Yemassee. Corey currently lives in Petal, Mississippi with her two dachshunds, Mango and Bandit. Lisa Grunberger, Temple University Professor, is an award-winning poet whose work has appeared in  The New York Times  and in literary publications, such as  Hanging Loose Press and  Krytyka Literacka.  She is the author of three books: Yiddish Yoga: Ruthie’s Adventures in Love, Loss and the Lotus Position; Born Knowing; and I am dirty, which was a finalist in the Tomas Salumun and Two Sylvias Press contests. Lisa’s play Almost

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Contributors’ Notes Pregnant is being developed by Velodrome, an artistic collaborative part of The Squeaky Bicycle Theatre Company. Susan Heeger, a Los Angeles writer, has covered gardens, design, food, and people for numerous magazines and newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Her essays have appeared in O Magazine and Catamaran, and her fiction has been featured recently in Stonecrop Magazine and the Maine Review. Sara Henning is the author of two volumes of poetry, most recently View from True North  (Southern Illinois University Press).  Winner of the Crazyhorse Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s George Bogin Memorial Award, she has published poems in many journals, most notably Quarterly West, Meridian, and The Cincinnati Review. She teaches at Stephen F. Austin State University. Please visit her at her electronic home: www.sarahenningpoet.com. Mary Beth Hines is a project manager, recently turned writer, after a long career in public service. An active participant in Boston-area writing workshops, her work has recently been published, or is forthcoming, in journals including the Aurorean, Sky Island Journal, SPLASH, The Road Not Taken, and Brilliant Flash Fiction, among others. Karen Holmberg’s second book of poems, Axis Mundi, won the John Ciardi Prize and was published in 2013 by BkMk Press. Slate named it one of the ten best poetry books of 2013. Recent poetry and nonfiction has appeared in such magazines as  Southern Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review,  At Length, and  Tupelo Quarterly.  She teaches poetry writing in the MFA program at Oregon State University. Matthew Hurley lives in the Boston area where he works as a marketing writer and enjoys spending time outdoors. His short fiction has appeared in Midwestern Gothic and Five on the Fifth. He is currently at work on his first novel. Doris Iarovici is a writer and psychiatrist whose fiction collection, American Dreaming and Other Stories, won the Novello Literary Award and other honors. She’s been awarded the  Crab Orchard Review’s  Jack Dyer Prize, the Portland Review’s Spring Fiction Prize, and a Pushcart nomination. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, and elsewhere. She’s been a Fellow in writing at VCCA, Hambidge, Vermont Studio Center, Wildacres, and Djerassi Resident Artists Program. She recently completed a novel and is at work on a memoir, from which “The Missing” is excerpted.

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Contributors’ Notes Luisa A. Igloria’s publications include What is Left of Wings, I Ask  (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Poetry Prize), The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis  (Phoenicia Publishing) and  Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (2014 May Swenson Prize). She teaches at Old Dominion University, where from 2009-2015 she directed the MFA Creative Writing Program.   Danielle Jones holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts Boston and is associate director of the Writers House at Merrimack College. Her work has appeared in  Best New Poets,  Memorious,  Southern Poetry Review,  Zone 3, and elsewhere. She’s a recipient of a 2014 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. Judy Kaber is a retired elementary school teacher, having taught for 34 years. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, both print and online, including Atlanta Review, december, Comstock Review, Tar River, and Spillway. Her contest credits include the Maine Postmark Poetry Contest, the Larry Kramer Memorial Chapbook Contest, and second place in the 2016 Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Contest, judged by Marge Piercy. Donna Kaz is a multi-genre writer and the author of UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour and PUSH/PUSHBACK, 9 Steps to Make a Difference with Activism and Art (because the world’s gone bananas). She has received the Venus Theatre Lifetime Achievement Award and the Yoko Ono Courage Award. With her alter ego, Aphra Behn, she creates visual art and performance to attack sexism and prove feminists are funny at the same time. For more information, find her at  donnakaz.com, ggontour. com, and @donnakaz on Twitter. Cindy King’s poetry manuscript, Zoonotic, will be published by Tinderbox Editions in 2020. Her chapbook, Easy Street, was published by Dancing Girl Press. Her poems appear in The Sun, Callaloo, North American Review, and Cincinnati Review. She has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Workshop and the Fine Arts Work Center. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Dixie State University and editor of The Southern Quill. Aviya Kushner is the author of Eve and All the Wrong Men (dancing girl press) and The Grammar of God (Spiegel & Grau / Penguin Random House). She is The Forward’s language columnist and was previously The International Jerusalem Post’s  travel columnist.  An associate professor at Columbia College Chicago and core faculty member at the Randolph College MFA program, she received a Howard Foundation Fellowship in nonfiction and a nomination for a Pushcart Prize in poetry.

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Contributors’ Notes Devi S. Laskar’s debut novel The Atlas of Reds and Blues  (Counterpoint Press) has garnered praise in  The Washington Post, Chicago Review of Books, Booklist, and elsewhere, and has appeared on the most anticipated lists in TIME, Cosmopolitan (UK), and Marie Claire, among others. Laskar holds an MFA from Columbia University and an MA from The University of Illinois. A former newspaper reporter, she is now a poet, photographer, and novelist. She lives in California. Ae Hee Lee was born in South Korea, raised in Peru, and now lives in the United States. She obtained her MFA from the University of Notre Dame and is currently a PhD candidate in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming at  Pleiades,  Michigan Quarterly Review,  Denver Quarterly, and  The Journal, among others. Sarah K. Lenz’s nonfiction has appeared in Crazyhorse, Colorado Review, The Fourth River, Entropy, and elsewhere. Three of her essays have been named Notable in Best American Essays, and she received the New Letters Readers’ award in nonfiction. She holds an MFA from Georgia College and teaches composition and literature at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Emily Lerner attained her MFA in Poetry from the University of Arkansas in 2017. This is her first publication. An Li is a queer Chinese American poet from Virginia. They received BAs in Biophysics and Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University, and an MFA in Poetry from Rutgers University-Newark. They are currently a first-year medical student at the University of Chicago. They were an MFA scholar at the 2018 Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and their work has appeared in Poetry magazine. Angie Macri is the author of Underwater Panther (Southeast Missouri State University), winner of the Cowles Poetry Book Prize, and  Fear Nothing of the Future or the Past (Finishing Line). Her recent work appears in The Common,  Cumberland River Review,  and  Tupelo Quarterly. An Arkansas Arts Council fellow, she lives in Hot Springs. Find her online at angiemacri. wordpress.com. Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Hovsepian School in Pasadena and the co-director of the L.A. Writing Project.  In 2018,  two online publications,  Border Crossing  and  Cahoodaloodaling, nominated Mankerian’s poems for the 2018 Best of the Net. Visible Poetry Project animated Shahé’s poem, “The Last Mosque,” and premiered it at the 2018

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Contributors’ Notes New York City Poetry Festival. Shahé received the 2017 Editors’ Prize from MARY: A Journal of New Writing. Peter Marcus’s new book of poems, Traveling Towards Daylight: New and Selected Poems, was just published by Sheep Meadow Press in June 2019. He has poems upcoming in The Antioch Review, Poetry East, and Norte Dame Review. Allie Marini is a cross-genre Southern writer. In addition to her work on the page, Allie was a 2017 Oakland Poetry Slam team member and writes poetry, fiction, and essays, and performs in the Bay Area, where as a native Floridian, she is always cold. Recent books:  Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild (Hyacinth Girl Press) and Here Comes Hell (dancing girl press). Find her online: www.alliemarini.com or @kiddeternity. A PhD student in creative writing at Georgia State University, Joshua Martin has published or has poems forthcoming in The Carolina Quarterly, Borderlands: The Texas Poetry Review, Salamander, Nashville Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Florida Review Online, Raleigh Review, and elsewhere. He was recently awarded a fellowship to the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and is currently working on his dissertation. Chloe Martinez’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications including  Waxwing, The Normal School, The Collagist, PANK,  and  The Common. She is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a semifinalist for the 2018 Perugia Prize, a book reviewer for RHINO, and a reader for The Adroit. She is the Program Coordinator for the Center for Writing and Public Discourse at Claremont McKenna College, as well as Lecturer in Religious Studies. See more at www.chloeAVmartinez.com.  Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist and psychotherapist and has taught workshops nationally with a focus on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The MacGuffin, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia, where she writes a daily poem and is at work on a memoir. For more information, find her at www.JoanMazza.com. Brian McKenna is a writer, book reviewer, and an assistant editor at  Sport Literate. His poetry, visual art,  and  book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as  The Rumpus,  Newfound Journal, Midwestern Gothic, New Plains Review, and The New Poet. 

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Contributors’ Notes Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton is an internationally known poet, educator, activist, and the current Poet Laureate of Houston, Texas. This seven-time National Poetry Slam Competitor and Head Coach of the Houston VIP Poetry Slam Team has been ranked the #2 Best Female Poet in the World. Her work has appeared in Houston Noir (Akashic Press), Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Books), The Houston Chronicle, and on such platforms as NPR, BBC, ABC, Blavity, Upworthy, and TedX. She has shared stages with Nikki Giovanni, Roxanne Gay, Danez Smith, John Legend, MC Lyte, and more. She collaborated to create an opening poem for the 2017-2018 Houston Rockets Season and is currently crafting a performance with the Houston Ballet for the summer of 2018. Oindrila Mukherjee teaches creative writing at Grand Valley State University. She has a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review,  Salon,  Colorado Review,  South Carolina Review, The Greensboro Review, and elsewhere. She serves as Contributing Editor for the journal Aster(ix) and writes for the Indian magazine Scroll. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of stories. Rick Mulkey is the author of five books and chapbooks including, Ravenous: New & Selected Poems,  Toward Any Darkness,  Bluefield Breakdown, and Before the Age of Reason.  Previous work has appeared or is forthcoming in  The Georgia Review, Poet Lore,  Poetry East, Southeast Review,  South Carolina Review, and Baltimore Review. He currently directs and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Converse College in South Carolina. Adela Najarro is the author of three poetry collections: Split Geography, Twice Told Over,  and  My Childrens. Her extended family’s emigration from Nicaragua to San Francisco began in the 1940s and concluded in the eighties when the last of the family settled in the Los Angeles area. She currently teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at Cabrillo College and is widely published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. More information about Adela can be found at: www.adelanajarro.com.  Joshua Nguyen is a Kundiman Fellow, collegiate national poetry champion (CUPSI), and a native Houstonian. He has been published in The Offing, The Acentos Review, Rambutan Literary, Button Poetry, The Texas Review, Gulf Coast, and Hot Metal Bridge. He is currently an MFA candidate at The University of Mississippi. He is a bubble tea connoisseur and works in a kitchen. NZ poet James Norcliffe has published nine collections of poetry, including Shadow Play and Dark Days at the Oxygen Café (Victoria University

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Contributors’ Notes Press). Recent work has appeared in Landfall, Spillway, The Cincinnati Review, Salamander,  Gargoyle  and Flash Fiction International.  Last year, with Michelle Elvy and Frankie McMillan, he edited Bonsai (Canterbury University Press), New Zealand’s first major collection of flash and short fiction. A new collection,  Deadpan (Otago University Press), will be published this year. Angela Alaimo O’Donnell is a professor and Associate Director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University. Her publications include two chapbooks, five collections of poems, a memoir, and a biography of Flannery O’Connor. O’Donnell’s work has won the NY Encounter Poetry Prize and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web Award. Her collection Andalusian Hours: Poems from the Porch of Flannery O’Connor is forthcoming from Paraclete Press. See more at angelaalaimoodonnell.com. Tom Phan’s work has appeared in Salon, Salamander, and The Margins. He was born in Hong Kong and lives in Dallas, Texas, where he is a resident physician in internal medicine and psychiatry.  Andrew Pineda is a Filipino-American writer currently based in Detroit. After completing his service as an Air Force officer, he spent eight months between homes and lived in a Honda Element with his wife. He earned his MFA from Sierra Nevada College and has work forthcoming in Barrelhouse Magazine. When he isn’t writing, he’s busy opening a bookstore called 27th Letter Books with his wife. Get in touch by following @27thletterbooks on twitter or Instagram. Tanner Pruitt studied creative writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Virginia. After teaching and working as an assistant director of UVA’s Young Writers Workshop, Tanner moved to San Francisco. Tanner’s writings recently appeared in  The Greensboro Review, Permafrost, TIMBER, and Bennington Review.  Liz Purvis is a poet based in Los Angeles, California. She holds an MFA in Poetry from North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared in The Collagist, 3Elements Review, cahoodaloodaling, Crab Fat Magazine, and others. She is currently working on her first manuscript and can be reached via email at liz.purvis.writer@gmail.com. Laurel Radzieski is the author of  Red Mother  (NYQ Books). She earned her MFA from Goddard College, and her poems have appeared in  Really System,  Atlas and Alice,  The Golden Key,  The Slag Review,  and elsewhere,

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Contributors’ Notes including on roadsides in rural Wisconsin. Laurel is a teaching artist for Arts in Education Northeast Pennsylvania, and she has been a Writer-in-Residence at the Wormfarm Institute. Her website is www.laurelradzieski.com.   Melanie Ritzenthaler is currently a PhD candidate in fiction at Ohio University. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Ninth Letter, West Branch, Colorado Review, Salamander, and Nashville Review, among others. She holds an MFA from McNeese State University. Jenny Sadre-Orafai is the author of Malak and Paper, Cotton, Leather. Her poetry collection with Anne Champion, Book of Levitations, is forthcoming from Trembling Pillow Press.  She is co-founding editor of  Josephine Quarterly, Professor of English at Kennesaw State University, and Executive Director of Georgia Writers Association. Nicholas Samaras is one of the leading scholars on the writings of the 15th Century Italian author, inventor, and mystic, Milo Rambaldi. He currently works in the Section Disparu branch of the Credit Dauphine Bank in various locations. Recent poems and essays have appeared in Nimrod; Ruminate; The Yale Series of Younger Poets Anthology, 1919-2019; Puerto Del Sol; Cold Mountain Review; World Literature Today; Image; and elsewhere. Sophie Segura was born in Ireland and lives in Argentina. Her poetry has recently appeared in  About Place Journal,  The Rumpus, American Poetry Journal, and the Glass Poetry Press series Poets Resist. Shortlisted in Ireland’s 2019 Doolin Writers’ Competition, her work has also been featured in an on-street installation, Poetry Jukebox, in the city of Belfast.  Anya Silver, 49, died on August 6, 2018 from metastatic inflammatory breast cancer. She was the author of four books of poetry: The Ninety-Third Name of God, I Watched You Disappear, From Nothing, and Second Bloom. Her work was featured in numerous journals and anthologies, including  Best American Poetry 2016. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2018. Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the Managing Editor of Sundress Publications. Her work has appeared in journals including Guernica, Crab Orchard Review, Ecotone, and Mid-American, and her third full-length collection, Down: The Alice Poems, will be released by Agape Editions in 2019. Smith teaches in the English Department at the University of Tennessee. Brian Spears is the Senior Poetry Editor for The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press). His work has appeared

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Contributors’ Notes recently in Vinegar and Char: Verse for the Southern Foodways Alliance, and his poem “Upon Reading Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum And Come For Us Next” was selected by filmmaker Ged Murray to be part of Season 9 of MotionPoems. He lives and works in Des Moines. Maxine Susman, from Kingston, New Jersey, has written six chapbooks and published poems in Fourth River, Ekphrasis, Blueline, Paterson Literary Review, Slant, and elsewhere. She has won Third Place in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest, Honorable Mention for the New Jersey Poets Prize, and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of Rutgers University. My Mother’s Medicine (2019) is about Florence. C. Levin’s life during the 1930s at the last women’s medical college in the country. Wally Swist’s recent books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press) and Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (The Operating System). His book A Bird Who Seems to Know Me: Poems Regarding Birds & Nature was the winner of the 2018 Ex Ophidia Press Poetry Prize. Forthcoming books include The Bees of the Invisible and Evanescence: Selected and New Poems, from Shanti Arts. Hsien Min Toh is a Singaporean who has published four books of poetry, most recently Dans quel sens tombent les feuilles (Caracteres). His work has also been published in periodicals such as the London Review of Books, PN Review, and Poetry Salzburg Review. Jen Town’s poetry has appeared in Mid-American Review, Cimarron Review, Epoch, Third Coast, Iron Horse Literary Review, Lake Effect, The Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, and others. She earned her MFA in Poetry from The Ohio State University in 2008. Her first book, The Light of What Comes After, won the 2017 May Sarton Poetry Prize from Bauhan Publishing. Memye Curtis Tucker is the author of The Watchers (Hollis Summers Prize, Ohio University Press) and has poems in Poetry Daily, the Georgia, Colorado, Oxford American, Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Denver Quarterly, and abroad. She holds a PhD in English Literature and has received fellowships from MacDowell, VCCA, Georgia Council for the Arts, and numerous awards. Her fourth chapbook, A Net to Hold the Wind, is forthcoming in the Editor’s Choice Series of Main Street Rag Publishing. Angela Voras-Hills is the author of  Louder Birds  (Pleiades Press), chosen by Traci Brimhall for the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize. Other poems have appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Best New Poets, Hayden’s

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Contributors’ Notes Ferry Review, and New Ohio Review, among others. Her work has received support from The Sustainable Arts Foundation, Key West Literary Seminar, and Writers’ Room of Boston.  She lives with her family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Marne Wilson is the author of two chapbooks, most recently  As Lovers Always Do  (Etchings Press). Her poems can be found in  Hobart,  Emrys Journal,  Whale Road Review, and many other journals. Originally from North Dakota, she now lives in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

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A B ORCH AR R C D •

REVIEW

From this point forward, we will be open to receiving submissions for the next three 2020 online issues of Crab Orchard Review. Everything should be sent to us through Submittable (no postal or email submissions), $2.00 per submission. All submitted work will be eligible for $500.00 prizes in each issue for one piece of poetry, fiction, and literary nonfiction selected by our editors. Here is our publication plan: Issue 1. Student Writing Issue publication goal: March 2020 Submissions open August 1, 2019 through September 30, 2019 Issue 2. General issue with COR 2020 Annual Literary Prizes publication goal: June 2020 Submissions open December 1, 2019 through January 31, 2020 Issue 3. Pads, Paws, & Claws ~ Writers on Animals publication goal: October 2020 Submissions open March 1, 2020 through April 31, 2020

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Profile for Crab Orchard Review

Crab Orchard Review: Volume 24, No 2  

A special issue on one of our favorite topics: FOOD!

Crab Orchard Review: Volume 24, No 2  

A special issue on one of our favorite topics: FOOD!

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