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The photographs are of the light and water in the Browne Auitorium fountain at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

In this volume: Latifa Ayad Jasmine V. Bailey Kate Barrett Brendan Bense Pritha Bhattacharyya Sonya Bilocerkowycz Alan James Blair Kristi Carter Emily Rose Cole Brian Czyzyk JD Debris Ángel García Arielle Hebert Tennessee Hill Allison Hraban Natalie Kawam

CR AB ORCH AR D •

REVIEW

published by the Department of English

in print 1995–2018 online 2017 forward

ISSN 1083-5571

Volume 23,1 Student Writing Issue

CO R

Katelyn Keating Michal Leibowitz Jennifer Manthey Kathryn Merwin Alaina Pepin Annie Persons Clinton Crockett Peters Rebecca Renner Angela Siew Anastasia Stelse Avia Tadmor Susan Triemert Zebbie Watson Casey Whitworth Connor Yeck

Crab Orchard Review

Cover: Six photographs by Jon Tribble © 2017

Crab Orchard Review Volume 23,1 Student Writing Issue


A B ORCH AR R C D •

REVIEW


CR AB ORCH AR D •

REVIEW

A Journal of Creative Works

Vols. 23 No. 1

“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 Mandi Jourdan Nibedita Sen

Assistant Editors Isiah Fish Ira Kelson Hatfield Anna Knowles Meghann Plunkett

SIU Press Intern Chelsey Harris Board of Advisors Ellen Gilchrist Charles Johnson Rodney Jones Thomas Kinsella Richard Russo

December 2017 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 are currently publishing as an online-only free publication. This transition will take place in Fall 2017. Crab Orchard Review is moving 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 © 2017 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. Visit Crab Orchard Review’s website:

http://craborchardreview.siu.edu/

For general information, calls for submissions, and the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry.

https://issuu.com/craborchardreview For reading new issues and the archives for Crab Orchard Review 1995 – 2018 for free!


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, Cathrine Hoekstra, Chelsey Harris, Linda Buhman, Wayne Larsen, and Kristine Priddy of Southern Illinois University Press Bev Bates, Heidi Estel, David Lingle, Patty Norris, Joyce Schemonia, and Bernadette Summerville Dr. David Anthony, Pinckney Benedict, Judy Jordan, Scott Blackwood, 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


CR AB ORCH AR D •

REVIEW

Student Writing Issue

Volume 23, Number 1

Fiction Latifa Ayad Kate Barrett

The Collector

1

Lost & Found

7

Alan James Blair

Parts of a Whole

28

Rebecca Renner

The Bottomless Hole on Crooked Palm Boulevard

38

Susan Triemert

Shiny New Things

58

Casey Whitworth

The Unknown People

63

Nonfiction Prose Sonya Bilocerkowycz

Duck and Cover

77

Katelyn Keating

Hitting the Bear

83

Clinton Crockett Peters

The Divine Coming of the Light

98


Poetry Jasmine V. Bailey

An Agnostic’s Primer on Genesis

18

Brendan Bense

Growing Old

23

Pritha Bhattacharyya Kristi Carter Emily Rose Cole

When a Brown Girl Makes Love to the Color White Anatomy as a Father as Leopard

24

To my Ex-Girl, Welcome to New Mcarthyism

26

Guinevere, Burning

27

Brian Czyzyk

Pop Star Post-Breakdown Before the Blue Hour Equation for the Next J.B Fletcher Bestseller

47 49 51

JD Debris

A.G.—A Secret Histor of Pimping in 3 Deleted Audio Files

53

Ángel García

Hotel Moreno

55

Arielle Hebert

Cher

56

Tennessee Hill

Other Metallics

70

Allison Hraban

Brother, Disappeared

71

Natalie Kawam Michal Leibowitz

I never meant to be mean,

72

Poem for Your Birthday

73

Jennifer Manthey Kathryn Merwin Alaina Pepin

Family Tree Assignment

75

Elegy for Darkness, Interrupted

89

Radio Silence Bad Catholic

90 91

Annie Persons

Ars Poetica Peridontal Graft

92 94

25


96

Angela Siew Anastasia Stelse

On Disbelief and the Wishes Not Included in Prayers Odocoileus Virginianus Clavium

105

Avia Tadmor

Girl from Damascus Fire Dirge with Burning City

107 108

Zebbie Watson

Sow Belly Trail

110

Connor Yeck

The Isle Winter Service on the Thousand-Year Rose Dawn Shot Party at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, 1953

111 112

Contributors’ Notes

114

116

A Note on Our Cover This cover features six photographs by Jon Tribble. The photographs are of the light and water in the Browne Auitorium fountain at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.


The 2017 COR Student Writing Awards in Poetry, Fiction, and Literary Nonfiction

The COR Student Writing Awards in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry honor the exceptional creative work of undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled at least part-time in a U.S. college or university. Each winner receives $500.00 and publication in Crab Orchard Review online. Connor Yeck (Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan) is the winner of the 2017 Allison Joseph Poetry Award for his poem “Dawn Shot Party at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, 1953.” Kate Barrett (University of Montana, Missoula, Montana) is the winner of the 2017 Charles Johnson Fiction Award for her story “Lost & Found.” Clinton Crockett Peters (University of North Texas, Denton, Texas) is the winner of the 2017 Rafael Torch Literary Nonfiction Award for his piece “The Divine Coming of the Light.” Because we are now offering publication to outstanding entries in our free online issue of Student Writing, we are no longer naming finalists. All the pieces we publish in the issue are considered truly outstanding.


The 2017 COR Student Writing Award Winners 2017 Allison Joseph Poetry Award Winner “Dawn Shot Party at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, 1953” by Connor Yeck Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, Michigan) 2017 Charles Johnson Fiction Award Winner “Lost & Found” by Kate Barrett University of Montana (Missoula, Montana) 2017 Rafael Torch Literary Nonfiction Award Winner “The Divine Coming of the Light” by Clinton Crockett Peters University of North Texas (Denton, Texas)


Latifa Ayad The Collector It started with Lisa’s bracelet, though Margot won’t tell you this. She was wearing Lisa’s bracelet still, two and a half months later. I had just started at the community college, and our mascot was a manatee, the least threatening aquatic mammal they could pick to represent a bunch of underprivileged kids struggling to get their AAs. I told this to Margot, and used the dry voice I use when I’m trying to say something funny, but she didn’t laugh, like always. Usually she would grimace or roll her eyes, but that night she just looked up at the sky, which was spattered with stars, before bringing down her axe again, dangerously close to my face. I was holding the two ends of her bedpost steady on the pool deck behind her parent’s house, and I wasn’t asking any questions. Lisa would have, if she were there, but she was always tactless, she could never tell if someone was upset, not even her best friends. Margot would defend her, “Well, she had her own shit to deal with, didn’t she?” which is why I try never to say things about Lisa to Margot anymore, not since right after it happened. I don’t tell her that I started dyeing my hair rainbow colors because it reminds me of her, or that I sleep with a picture of us all when we were thirteen beneath my pillow. Margot had dropped out of an out-of-state university. She had only lasted a summer semester and a week of fall. “Come over now,” she’d texted me (this was before she gave up electronics to write letters on thick, manila stationary) and I met her on the corner of our street, wearing an old T-shirt and a pair of jeans. She was wearing a beige overcoat and Lisa’s bracelet. She smiled without looking at me and held the lapels of her coat in her hands, rolling back her shoulders to show it off. “It was Mr. Crawley’s,” she said, as if she had known him, though he died before we were born. “Mrs. Crawley was clearing out the closets. She’s moving at the end of the month. The garage sale blew, probably I’m the only one who bought anything. Mrs. Crawley should have put up signs, but she just sat there with a bunch of junk in her front yard. Stupid. But I liked the buttons, with the gold anchors.” She fingered them without looking, her nails bitten down so there was nothing but the soft pads of her fingertips to run over the pattern like she was reading braille. Margot would say, if you asked her, that it all started with the overcoat, but it wasn’t that. I’m not sure what I even mean by “it,” her mad obsession with the dead, or with dying, or if I just mean her eerie new

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Latifa Ayad fashion sense. But I am certain that what started “it” was Lisa’s bracelet. Margot pretended like she couldn’t remember. I asked her, once, if maybe she shouldn’t wear the bracelet, or that dead man’s coat, what did she think she was doing, honoring Lisa or something? But Margot licked her lip and said she didn’t know what I was talking about. This is how I knew Margot was lying, because that’s her only tell, that flick of the tongue. She first did it at Christmas when we were eight, which she spent with us that year because her parents were in Germany. She stole the twenties from all the hollow ornaments Nana hung on the tree for us kids. When Nana couldn’t find the money anywhere, Margot said, “It must be the old age,” and licked her bottom lip, and Nana looked sad for a second and said, “It must be.” After that she did it for small things, like when she lied about finishing her homework so we could go out to play. And when we were eleven, the night when we army-crawled across the grass on our bellies. Lisa and I were helping Margot run away from home. She’d had a fight with her mom, probably over makeup. That was the year Lisa taught us to line our eyes in black. We used the same stick of kohl to draw thick black lines across our cheekbones, confusing the military with the NFL. “I don’t give a crap about that bitch anyway,” Margot spat, and licked her lip, and Lisa rolled on the ground with glee. Lisa was new to us then, and had never heard Margot swear. I was too used to it to care, but I smiled anyway, delighted that I was the only one who knew about Margot’s tell. I kept it to myself, convinced that someday I would use it to my advantage, my own secret weapon. Then for years it all stopped. Margot stopped lying. She could be like that, when she was around Lisa: brutally honest. But then it started again this past summer, when Margot said there was no way to change her June 16th flight for her first Summer Semester—this is where she licked her lip—and how could I accuse her of such a thing, of course she wished she could stay for Lisa’s funeral. When Margot broke down her bedframe for a backyard bonfire, I made a few attempts at conversation. She wouldn’t respond, so I asked her if she would rather I didn’t talk for a while, and Margot said, “No, I like it when you talk,” and flicked her tongue against her lower lip. So I resigned myself to my job, the muscles in my arms tight, my palms callousing where the lacquered bedpost rubbed against them. Margot’s soft, wispy hair stuck to the back of her neck, and before we had chopped even halfway through the first post, Margot gave up. Instead she stacked up the pieces of her bedframe whole, doused them in lighter fluid, and sprinkled them with dry needles from the slash pine behind her house before throwing in a few matches and sitting down in the grass. I sat down next to her, our legs just barely touching, and I asked her how come she dropped out, and, well, at least we could go to MCC together now.

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Latifa Ayad But Margot just stared at the fire, the whites of her eyes sparkling orange. After a few moments she said, “I couldn’t have a space under my bed anymore, I just couldn’t,” as if I’d asked her why she was doing this. I tried to tell her by shifting my weight so my thigh pressed into hers a little more that I thought I understood. She didn’t move, but said, “I just needed to watch something burn.” Maybe it was Lisa that Margot needed, someone to ask the tactless questions, but all she had was me. I sat there for a while longer, and then asked if Margot wanted me to get the vegan marshmallows out of the pantry so we could have s’mores, but she didn’t answer, and when I asked if she wanted me to leave she said, “No,” and licked her lower lip, so I stood up and took my bag and left. The bracelet was a relic of the second-to-last hospital visit, the one that ruined Thanksgiving for Margot and for me, not just that year but forever. Lisa’s mom didn’t call me, but she called Margot, and Margot told me before pie, which in those days our families still did together, and we cried a little into each other’s shoulders before reapplying our mascara and grabbing slices of pumpkin from my grandmother. When Lisa was released she came with a box full of things her mom thought she shouldn’t have around anymore, though Lisa didn’t say this. She acted like they were presents, and Margot seemed to accept this. The box was filled mostly with books, some drawings Lisa had done in crayon, and the bracelet. In the ER they had cut all her bracelets away from her arm, and the hospital had saved them for her in a big plastic bag that she was allowed to take home once they deemed her stable enough to handle more than the pencil she described to us, with the graphite point guarded by a plastic tube and with a rounded end instead of an eraser so she couldn’t cut herself with it. The bracelet Lisa gave Margot was made of thin black cords, with a blunted razor blade set in the middle. At first it was the only change in Margot, when Lisa finally did it for good right after graduation. Margot wouldn’t see me, not for a week, but when she finally did she was wearing Lisa’s bracelet, and she was pale but smiling. When I cried into her shoulder she just rested her chin on mine, and when I tried to hold her hand like I did when we were kids, I brushed the bracelet on her wrist, and she jerked her arm away from mine, as if I were going to try to take it from her. It had been weeks since I’d last seen Margot, when she came over to donate all her electronics to me. Though she’d promised to write me, she hadn’t. The stationary was piled neatly on her desk, and looked untouched. When I let myself into her room she curtsied to me, pulling out the edges of a gray pleated skirt. “Estate sale. The woman was in a car crash, single mother of three kids, poor dears. It’s Armani,” she said as she twirled before the mirror.

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Latifa Ayad The pleated skirt lifted from Margot’s knees as she spun. She whirled faster and faster, and I knew she was imagining she was a ballerina as the skirt rose and revealed her red lace panties. It was a game we used to play when we were Best Friends Forever, “young and naïve,” Margot might say now. Her parents were concerned, that’s why I was there. “She’s not eating,” they said. Really, she just hadn’t been eating in their presence, probably to seem tragic. Margot had always wanted to starve herself, not just to be thin but so she could be classified as anorexic (“There’s something so romantic about it, isn’t there?” she said, and she scrolled through blogs that featured women and men in their underwear with skin that clung to their bones, and I told Margot maybe she should look at pictures of the refugees in Syria, instead, but she pretended not to hear me). “Broken but beautiful,” Margot sighed. In practice she didn’t have the self-control. At the foot of her mattress there were stacks of Valentine’s chocolates she had bought herself half-off on February 15th, and foil wrappers littered the floor. When my grandmother passed and my family ransacked the house, fighting over who had been promised the china (it was me, on my eighteenth birthday, but I didn’t stand a chance against my aunts, so I settled for the everyday silverware, with the little roses on the butter knives) Margot arrived dressed all in black. She had left her overcoat behind for once, and was balancing a pumpkin pie on her open palm. “In memory of Nana,” she said with a lick of her bottom lip, and my mother started crying, and Aunt Gwen said “How thoughtful!” before resuming battle, and I asked her where the hell she had been, and, I thought you were going to write me. She ignored my questions and kissed both my cheeks with spoken “mwah” sounds, still balancing the pie so she had to lean in from a distance, then disappeared into the house. I found the pie later at the top of the stairs, though Margot, it seemed, had left. When I saw her again it was at the request of her parents once more. She was flat on her back on her mattress, staring at the ceiling with her feet crossed at the ankle, and her arms spread out in a T. As I shut the door behind me she inhaled deeply through her nose with a soft rasping sound at the back of her throat. She was wearing the overcoat unbuttoned with no shirt underneath. Her breasts sloped slightly to either side, but otherwise were like pale Hershey’s Kisses, full and round at the base, smoothing to a perfect point. As she sighed and stood to face me their perfection distorted, and they hung more sad-looking, more like my own, and I wondered if I looked that beautiful when I lay down, if my breasts looked just as edible, or if there would always be this difference between Margot and me, if somehow she would always be just a little more. Margot seemed to recognize this in my gaze, and her face changed as she looked at me, her eyes like steel. She

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Latifa Ayad lifted her chin and looked down her nose at me, then raised her arms above her head, lifting her ribcage and exposing her chest further, which was moving so little now that she seemed not to be breathing. She pointed her toe to show off the knee-high stockings she wore, at least two shades darker than her own skin, then she began to spin, the mother of three’s pleated skirt first fluttering around her knees, then rising as she turned faster and faster, as she pirouetted violently before the mirror, until finally the skirt flared out around her waist to reveal a pair of baggy silk underwear, slightly graying and held up by an old shoelace tied around her waist. I didn’t need to ask, so I said, “Nana’s,” and Margot stopped spinning and let herself collapse onto the mattress with her arms spread wide, chest heaving as she said, “Yes.” I should have said something to her, something about respecting the dead, or, “You’re an evil bitch, Margot,” or maybe I should have sat next to her and stroked her hair, for she was doing that laugh that I’ve never heard anyone but Margot do, slow yet hysterical: it meant she was about to start crying. Maybe I should have told her what I was thinking just then, like that I saved the doodles Lisa did in my history notebook, because Lisa gave Margot all her real artwork, and that sometimes I wake up in the night crying, but can’t remember my dreams. Margot’s laughter was building, and I thought of saying, “I love you,” but after the underwear and the stockings, after the skirt and the overcoat and Lisa’s bracelet, I couldn’t. So instead I left, and shut her bedroom door softly behind me, and hurried out of the house so I wouldn’t have to see her parents, and so I wouldn’t have to hear Margot’s laughter dissolve into tears. When they found her they called me first, well, after all the important people, her mother said. Margot left a note, she said. “On the same stationary I bought her for her birthday!” her mother’s voice cracked as she said this, and I couldn’t help but think that at least Margot got some use out of it. “She left specific instructions on how to dress her, for the—for the—,” her mother said, not quite able to get out the words. Yes, you better do that, I told her, and her mother said Margot wanted me to have that awful bracelet. I didn’t say anything, and after a while Margot’s mom said, “You know, this all goes back to that Lisa, doesn’t it? It all goes back to her.” Yes. It does, I said, and I hung up the phone. I didn’t go to the funeral. The bracelet showed up on my front door a few weeks later, folded up in a piece of manila stationary. I cringed when I saw that her mother had tried to fake her handwriting, and signed it “Margot,” but Margot always added an extra loop to her M, and she never would have signed with a little heart. I slipped the paper under my pillow anyway, with the picture of the three of us when we were thirteen.

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Latifa Ayad That night I broke my bedframe down for firewood. My bedframe was cheap and partially made of cardboard, and it broke up easily. When the blaze was going good I threw the bracelet on it. The cords caught immediately. They glowed orange and curled away from the razor blade like earthworms on the sidewalk, writhing as they try to find soil. I extracted the blade from the ashes with tongs, and when it had cooled I slipped it into the plastic sheet in my wallet meant for photos. I imagined Margot asking, “Why’d you do that?” (like Lisa, she really lacked tact) and for a second I even pretended she was there with me, stretched out on the grass and gazing up at the sky, though she wouldn’t have liked it, she never liked it when you couldn’t see the stars. “The cloud cover makes me feel like I’m suffocating,” she might have said, and then she would have pointed again at the fire and said, “Why’d you do that?” “Oh, I just needed to watch something burn,” I tried to say aloud, but the words caught in my throat and stayed there, so I sat with nothing but the crackle of my bedframe to fill the silence.

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Kate Barrett Lost & Found We didn’t have any trouble until after the show, after we’d loaded up the drum kit and amps, after Matthew decided to snort enough coke to kill a small animal. No trouble really until Olivia showed up—Olivia with her sweet bluegrass voice, her breathy harmonies. It was a good one—the show I mean. We crashed the van on the way there and it woke Matthew up, the way terrible things do. He stood outside while we waited for a tow truck to haul our sorry asses from a ditch, fat snowflakes whipping up against his hair, gathering on his pea-coat. When I told him to get back in the car he said, “No way, Danny, it’s like the Milky Way out here. It’s too perfect.” Which is something he would say, something he would do on the side of I-90 in a snowstorm, where you can’t see anything except patches of road every couple of miles beneath the highway lamps. We were two hours late for load-in, but people ate it up. Maybe making a crowd stand around packed like sardines at a grimy club in Madison is the key to being loved. Or maybe it was hiring Josh the Twitter guy. Either way, finally it seemed someone had noticed us, or noticed Matthew at least. Taking the mic, he apologized for the delay and thanked everyone for showing up. Matthew could speak to a roomful of people the way he’d look a best friend in the eye—which is to say: 100% present, no bullshit. On stage in his too-tight jeans, soft around the middle like he’d always been, sweating already—his method of performance landed somewhere between manic and earnest, like every time he took the stage lives were at stake. “I want you all to know,” Matthew said, his voice buzzy over the amplifier, “being here tonight means something because we’re here together. Life is short and there’s enough hate—we don’t need that. Man, any second your van could run off the road, and that could be it. What we need is to love each other!” The audience cheered, flashed phone lights, raised their beers. Our drummer Kevin counted off and we tore into our single, a song Matthew wrote about getting bullied. Or at least that’s what I know it’s about. You wouldn’t be able to tell unless you knew him as a fat kid in high school with no chin, crying quiet in the gym locker room. He used to get pushed around all the time. Back then I tried to be his savior, but only in private. I don’t think I ever stood up for him publicly; then again, he never asked me to. A blogger back home in Chicago wrote a review of our first LP, on Crab Orchard Review

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Kate Barrett which the single appeared. Lovers of revelatory lyrics take note, the guy wrote. On their debut effort, indie rock band Lost & Found turns in a twelvesong set steeped in heady introspection, built on open air guitar and harddriving melodies. The band’s most popular track, “History Down Below,” unleashes waves of measured ferocity over the turbine strumming of bassist Daniel Blackman. This album’s true triumph, however, is capturing the spirit of front man Matt Mackay’s live performances, an experience endowed with all the heft and power of a backroom confession. That review probably played more of a role than we liked to admit in filling the once empty bars we started out playing. But whatever—the point is, we had a song that moved. It felt and sounded like a boulder rolling downhill. It got people pumped (at least, when there were more than a few of them in the room), and this night was no exception. In the half light of the oblong room beyond the stage, all those bodies moved like a single animal. All except for the girl, Olivia. I’d say it was hard not to notice her since she stood front row, but honestly I never look at people on the floor. It’s something I know Matthew can do—he’s always everywhere and nowhere at once, with everyone and with himself—but I’m only ever one place. I didn’t even see her until the end. She stood still with her arms crossed, hair as long as mine (but cleaner— everything about her cleaner than me) and made eye contact. I guess after that I just couldn’t stop looking. Matthew couldn’t either—he took her backstage after the encore, after almost everyone else had emptied out and he found her in the alley with wooly gloves on, smoking a cigarette. I stopped getting in his way a long time ago when it came to girls—I figured I owed him at least that much. All he ever wanted was to be one of the cool kids. But then an hour or so later Olivia ran to get me and showed me Matthew, pale and convulsing on the floor of the dressing room. His heart rate was probably triple what a normal human being could reasonably take. I saw the remains of a few more lines he must have been in the middle of parsing out. “Jesus,” I said, too panicked to think straight. “What do we do?” “I already called 911—I don’t know what else there is,” Olivia lamented, burying her hand in her hair and clutching it there. “Why didn’t you stop him?” What I really meant to say was why didn’t I stop him. “I assumed he knew what he was doing,” she said. “Fuck. Fuck, fuck.” We held him down for something to do with our hands. He shook, fish or messiah-like. I half expected him to open his eyes, start speaking in tongues (this, that, or the other thing about prophesying eternal forgiveness), and then say, “Gotcha, assholes!” It’s something he would do, but he didn’t. Instead his T-shirt got damp where I pressed down—his sweat

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Kate Barrett or mine—and the room smelled like those laser tag mazes from when we were kids, that musty fog-machine smell. It was just the leftover air of the concert spreading out, dissipating, but it reminded me of winning against Matthew. Stupid laser tag might have been the last thing I was better at than him. It made me want him to live, but also not. Olivia came with us to the hospital—us being me, Kevin, and Kim, our keyboardist and sometimes violin player. I met Kim in school, before dropping out to join Matthew, who never bothered with college at all. She could wail on the keys and what’s more, seemed impervious to Matthew’s lost-dog-charm and my advances, which I admit I made early on. Once we got that out of the way, though, we became good friends. She kept us, Matthew and I both, honest. She pushed the music. Now she stood tapping her foot absently, facing the hollow red glow of a Coca-Cola vending machine and leaning her head on its front periodically. Kevin on the other hand looked like someone waiting for a late bus in soggy weather. He was a jobber, and his paycheck didn’t cover hospital waiting rooms. I gave him 6 months, a year tops, before he split. Olivia sat next to me. Compared to the winter dark outside, the fluorescent lighting in that room could probably have x-rayed our insides. It felt offensive, invasive. People came and went, some of them bleeding, but nothing much seemed to change. I could have sworn the same guy sat across from us all night, except when we first got there he was a black dude wearing white Adidas and by morning I realized he was a white guy wearing black Reeboks. I felt drunk. At some point we decided to get hotel rooms, so Kim and Kevin left to go searching. I told Olivia she could leave too if she wanted. “No, I’ll stay,” she said. “That’s sweet of you, but really you should go,” I told her. “This might seem noble right now, but if he wakes up and you’re still around he’s going to love you. And I don’t mean like he’ll appreciate you for doing him a favor. He falls hard. I don’t think you want that—trust me.” “Maybe that’s not what I’m staying for,” she said. We didn’t talk much more about it, but I kept looking at her. I kept seeing her oval face, wide flat lips, the way she tugged absently at an eyelid when she didn’t have anything else to do. I’m not sure what she saw of me, but I guess that’s the deal you strike. Love is blind, and I don’t mean in the sense that anyone can love anyone. I mean each person only has their own head. I mean it’s one sided no matter how transcendent. A nurse came out sometime around 5:00 and told us Matthew was stable, sleeping, they would call when he woke up if we wanted to go get some sleep. Kim had sent me the hotel address so I called a cab and Olivia led the way to the car’s back seat. The ice-dawn air clung to our hair for a few minutes after getting in—I could feel it coming off Olivia like a thin

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Kate Barrett second skin. I’ve never been so aware of my body’s proximity to another. Her shoulder six inches from mine, her foot just the other side of that rise in the car floor. She told me about being a grad student in anthropology, her dissertation still a long agonizing year away, something on Morocco and borderlands, gendered politics maybe. Forgive me if I can’t remember, but she said herself it didn’t matter. “When I started I thought it was for passion, you know? To fulfill my life’s purpose. But really I just thought I’d be good at it. Turns out there are a lot of people who are better.” At the hotel we wasted no time. I took her shirt off. She put her hands in my hair so her fingers met at the back of my head, tangled in the hair tie and bun. She kissed my mouth and neck, along the edge of my beard. She tasted earthy like black tea and cigarettes. Into my ear she breathed, “At least people listen to your stuff.” “Do they?” I asked. She laughed, but I was serious. I was hungry in a way I think she recognized. Hungry and selfish. “Well, I do,” she said. My stomach did something—bottomed out or flipped or disappeared. I don’t know. It could have been the last of my performance high kicking back up, or ghost vibrations of bass thrumming through my finger pads. Maybe it came from tasting the salt of my own dry sweat on her lips, or having seen Matthew on a gurney. Wherever it came from, the feeling was real and immediate. I thought for a long time love had to grow, that it came at the expense of naiveté, a hard-won realization unfolded over the course of many years. Never in a night, never in a low-grade hotel room with plastic lamps and a comforter sporting 1980’s pop designs. Everything smelled a little like crayons. I didn’t care at all. The hospital called a few hours later to say Matthew woke up and could go home. I left Olivia in the bed smoking a cigarette, naked except for a wool hat. She had the window open to blow smoke out, but the sub-zero breeze kept pushing it back in. It churned circles above the radiator. “So this is goodbye,” she said, taking a drag. I should have left it there—an easy out—but god I just couldn’t. “Why don’t you come to Chicago sometime?” I suggested. Back in the city, we unloaded equipment from the van curbside to haul it up Kim’s apartment stairwell. Why the person with a third floor walk-up had to be the only one with enough room to store our heaviest shit is a cruelty of the universe I still can’t get over. Cars idled through the street slush and the Chicago iron curtain, that opaque layer of formless clouds present from October through March, was in top form. It gave the afternoon a quality of trapped light, like an incandescent bulb dimmed

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Kate Barrett down. Matthew stood to the side, still looking a little bloodless. Snow, too small to really call flakes, fell and stuck to his eyelashes. “So, Dan,” he said as I returned to the van for another load. “Kim said that girl stuck around last night.” I shot Kim a look as we both reached for an amp. The way she layered mascara and eyeliner, the way she made the line between skin and matte black look natural, gave her an air of authority. She remained unapologetic. “Yeah, she did,” I said, aware of my gaze, avoiding Matthew. “So?” he asked. “So what? Nothing happened, dude—” I slapped him on the shoulder going by, which his body absorbed like an inanimate object. In the stairwell, dripping snot from our noses, Kim told me not to be a dick. As kids, Matthew and I started out lip syncing to Collective Soul in my mom’s basement. We planned sleepovers to coincide with new top ten lists on VH1. I remember waiting outside Vic’s Music Store overnight in sleeping bags and lawn chairs, our cheeks going numb, for a meet-and-greet with Billy Corgan. When we got to high school, I joined the track team whereas Matthew got a guitar. He carried it around everywhere, wore it on his back through the halls, brought it to class where the teachers told him to put it in the corner. He’d ignore them and lean it against the back of his chair. I alone heard him play licks over and over, over and over, to perfection—he’d choke if anyone else came around. But just the two of us, on weekends after my meets, could play for hours—him on a brand new Yamaha he picked up with money from a summer stocking job at Vic’s; me on my dad’s old Fender acoustic. I used to back him with harmonies, although when Matthew finally got over his stage fright and we started playing publicly, he suggested maybe it wasn’t our sound. Maybe Lost & Found would be cleaner with just one man on vocals. He generally had a better sense than I did, musically at least. Socially I had him beat, at least for a little while. “Why don’t people like me?” he asked once. I’d seen some older guys in his face earlier that day, keeping him from getting to class. I remember he had books clutched to his chest, head down, the guitar banging hollow against his locker door. “Come on, Mattie, people like you,” I assured him. He kept tuning his guitar, twanging it in upward increments. “I mean, just be a little more confident.” I invited him to a party with guys I knew on the track team. This was summer in southern Illinois, where the heat felt as heavy as our restlessness, our belief in its inherent value. We spoke loudly and piled into cars with the windows down, stole cases of watery beer. The competition to act like you had already left home was silent but ever-present.

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Kate Barrett Of course as soon as we got to the party no one wanted to be there— some of the guys suggested going for a drive and I agreed, stupid already with a buzz and warmth spreading from that point between my shoulder blades. Matthew hesitated but came along, guitar in tow. There were five of them and two of us and Matthew half sat on top of me to make room for everyone else, curling his soft body around the guitar case. Everyone kept their arms squeezed, trying not to touch, and it smelled like skin and the vapor of cheap vodka. We drove out from the neighborhood into the dark outskirts, onto county roads running razor straight between lightless cornfields. We passed over a covered one-lane bridge, the damp wood of its decades old housing sliding past our elbows hooked out the windows. We came out the other side and I remember the car lurching, or maybe it was my head, but suddenly hands had the guitar and they were tugging it away from Matthew. “Get it fucking out of here,” everyone seemed to be shouting, drunk and angry at him for being weak. It tumbled out the window and he struggled to follow, reaching frantically for the door handle, but there were so many arms and heads and shoulders. The car came to an abrupt stop. I don’t remember anyone saying anything but the whole group seemed to have the same idea, like fish who change direction all at once. They tugged Matthew out, his shirt coming up over his head to reveal his white belly, his curved back. They went after him, and so did I. I mean, at first I meant to just fight, throw some elbows like in a good mosh pit, but then I don’t know what happened. The night was muggy and dark enough to make us feel far away. There was gravel from the road’s shoulder in my palms and knees and I remember looking away for a second to see dust floating through the headlights of the idling car. I looked back and saw Matthew’s face swim up between two guys and I took a swing, and I connected. Until that point no one had really thrown any punches. It had been all shoving and wrestling, grabbing, pulling; then suddenly Matthew recoiled into a ball on the ground. Everyone backed off. The sound of the cicadas came back up and below that, Matthew’s soft sobs. That was the first time he made me feel like an animal, like I could be better. Someone walked back to get his guitar, but it was only a gesture—the neck had snapped, the body cracked. Olivia called me a couple weeks after the Madison show—winter break she said. Although it didn’t mean much for a PhD’s workload, she had a free weekend coming up and saw Lost & Found on the bill for a show Friday. My head felt full of lo-fi static. “Sure,” I said. “Come to Chicago,” I said. We had a standing gig Thursday nights at a bar on the south side. Kim’s family friend owned it and stocked the décor with strange Americana memorabilia—photos of John Wayne, American flags painted in distressed relief on panels of wood. It seemed like a dirty enough place to tell Matthew.

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Kate Barrett Elbowed up at the bar with him waiting for our set, I broached the subject. “Remember that girl from a few weeks ago?” I started out. Matthew’s face fell at the initial telling, but he covered with bluster. “Nice work, brother! Of course she can stay with us.” He ordered another whiskey on the rocks for both of us. It was still early, the bar empty except for the usual regulars, patron saints of lonely dives. I guess no one wanted to foot the 75 cents for a jukebox song so the atmosphere was all pint glass clinks and low conversation. It seemed to me Matthew took his whiskey a little fast. “Hey,” I asked him. “Do you remember that time in high school we went to Todd Miller’s party? We ended up out at that bridge?” For some reason right then I needed to know if he realized it was me who hit him that night. He’d never said anything about it, we’d never talked about it. Now he tipped the last of his drink back, ice and all, crunching on the cubes. He thought. “Listen, Danny, do I want God to exist? Yes. Do I know he does? No. We might just die and that’s it, you know? The earth will be consumed by the sun and everything—I mean the Bible, Qur’an, Torah, Dylan, the Stones, Hemingway, all our memories—everything will disappear. Everything we’re making here. I do what I can to live a life with what might be, but it doesn’t mean I stop hoping. I still want God to exist. I like to think somewhere, maybe in another dimension, there’s a place with infinite mercy.” What are you supposed to say to a thing like that? Nothing, that’s what. Matthew could do this, go full philosophical, abstract the shit out of a situation and make it seem noble. To a certain degree it’s the trick he turned on stage, and people fell into his orbit like they finally had gravity, trajectory. He’d figured out how to look like he had everything figured out. But I’d known him for too long. “It’s me,” I sometimes wanted to say. “You don’t have to put on the act.” The next day I went out for groceries—frozen pizza, cans of baked beans, pasta, the usual bachelor garbage Matthew and I ate—but I procrastinated too long and got stuck in the grey holiday season gridlock on Western. Olivia texted she had arrived and Matthew let her in. When I finally made it back, I entered to the familiar sound of Matthew strumming out a Bob Dylan song, but then another voice, Olivia’s, joined him. I paused in the entryway, one shoe on, one shoe off. The two of them sounded unsure at first, tugging each other into different registers, but then Olivia locked in. The sound filled out. She brought something silver and longing, a bluegrass sweetness, to Matthew’s straightforward timbre. “Bravo!” I said coming into our small living room. “I didn’t know you could sing.” My chest caught at seeing her again. She had her hair pulled into a loose knot, two layers of sweaters, one leg crossed beneath the other on our ratty couch. She looked just as striking, but smaller, less resolute, among our unwashed dishes and empty cans of Miller High Life on the coffee table.

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Kate Barrett “Did you hear that?” Matthew asked. He was genuinely excited. “This is what we’re missing, man! This is the missing link.” I tried to extinguish my twinge of hurt—one man vocals my ass. “Yeah, it’s really something,” I said, summoning some charm, smiling. “Take it easy though—don’t scare her off.” I winked at Olivia, but it felt like a put on, skeezier than I meant for it to come off. She humored me anyway and smiled back. “Who wants a beer?” I asked. The show that night should have been just as packed as Madison, but when we got there the place had a distinct small-time feel, and not because of the venue itself. No, compared to what we’d been playing this place looked like the United Center, with its designated green room and rig of lighting hanging from the ceiling. But the bartender had no one to serve; the pre-show music played to a largely empty room, pods of two and three people scattered across the black sticky floor. I swear I heard the sound guy play “I Want Pizza,” from that internet video with the Olsen twins. I wandered out front and the ticket guys stood huddled around a phone, scrolling through something they both laughed at, the screen glow lending clouds of their breath a spectral illumination. Assholes, I wanted to say, but they had nothing to do with it. Our name in lights on the marquee above had been spelled without the ampersand—Lost and Found. In the green room, Matthew looked rattled. “These fuckers said they’d advertise—what the fuck happened?” “It’s still early, don’t worry,” Kim tried to reassure us, herself included. “This isn’t a big deal. It’ll start filling up once we go on.” “Wilco’s at the Vic tonight—maybe they stole our crowd,” Kevin said. He sat hunched over a practice pad sticking out warm up exercises. LRRLR RLLRL. He wore sunglasses—I moved up my estimation for his departure to a month and got tired just thinking about it. I couldn’t stand auditioning new people—that first date feel, the coy investigations on both sides. Who’s more serious here? Could we make each other famous? “I don’t get it—Dog Zero sold out at the Empty Bottle tonight,” Matthew lamented. We knew the Dog Zero guys from a year or so ago, when we opened with them on equal footing. Now they had a record deal and a hundred thousand views on YouTube. They had an interview coming up on Sound Opinions. “We’re better than them,” Matthew asserted. The show was a mess. More people filtered in slowly, but the headcount hit its limit with our opener and paranoia convinced me a few people even left during the set change. The illusion of success leftover from Madison quickly folded and vanished. Looking out, there could have been continents between each person on the floor and somewhere in the middle of those continents stood Olivia. When I found her outline, stage left sipping a beer, I started a song off in the wrong key. Later, Matthew botched the melody

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Kate Barrett line of “Too Much, Too Late.” We finally settled down three quarters of the way through and by the time we hit “History” as our closer, we seemed to have some of the magic back, although Matthew’s voice kept falling forward, rushing, a millisecond jump beyond Kevin’s time. I’ll just say it was a relief to skip the encore. Olivia found me backstage and said emphatically she thought it went great. I couldn’t tell if she was humoring me or not. In any case, she suggested going to an after party of sorts. She’d chatted up one of the lighting technicians during the show, a mid-forties former rocker with sideburns and comfortable potbelly, and he invited us back to his place. Matthew took two shots in quick succession and said he didn’t want to go, but I pushed until he relented. “Come on, walk it off,” I told him. The tech’s apartment was unexpectedly spacious, with exposed brick walls and two different dartboards. A floor-to-ceiling shelf of vinyl occupied one corner of the open layout. The Chicago underground appeared alive and well here—lots of black pants, leather jackets, beanies, sizing each other up. I got cornered almost immediately in the kitchen by an overeager blonde kid who described his band as “shoegazey.” He kept sweeping his bangs to the side and then shaking them back in place. “You’re the bass player from Lost & Found, aren’t you?” he said. “Your front man is really something—I dig his positivity. Matt Mackenzie, right? Is he here?” “Mackay,” I corrected. “He’s around somewhere.” I looked and spotted him across the breakfast bar counter, settling in on the living room couch with someone’s borrowed guitar and, who else, Olivia. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but still my gut kicked. He started playing the Dylan song from earlier, and when Olivia joined in the room became perceptibly quieter. I wondered why the hell she ever went into anthropology. They played for quite a while, looking up lyrics for other songs on their phones, while I kept drinking with Shoegaze and a rotating cast of others. Finally I made an extra vodka tonic and walked it over to Olivia. I tried to make the interruption natural, then turned my attention to Matthew. “Can I talk to you for a second?” We exited to the fire escape, leaving Olivia full-faced and lovely on the couch. Neither of us had coats and the night’s freeze hit my liquor numb head with snappy force. I tripped on the metal platform. The sudden jolt and hollow reverberation of iron steps made me inexplicably angry and I used it as an excuse, though I felt I didn’t need one, to pick a fight. “The fuck are you doing?” “What do you mean what am I doing? She has a good voice,” he said. He’d stripped down to a white short sleeved undershirt and clutched his arms around his chest. He wore a flat brimmed baseball cap, which didn’t make any sense for December. It had started to snow again, but wetly,

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Kate Barrett halfway to sleet. The orangish window light from apartment buildings up and down the block looked fractured and dull. “You think you’re better than me,” I said. “You really do.” “Oh okay, look who’s pointing fingers. I’ve always been a friend to you, Danny. Can you really say the same?” “Bullshit—I’ve been taking care of you since fucking sixth grade. You needed me and I was there.” “Oh, thank God! Everyone, Danny is here to save the day! Because poor sad Matthew can’t take care of himself.” “I let you get the girl all the time,” I said. “What if I really like this one, what then?” “Let me? Let me? Fuck you, Danny. I can’t believe this—I’m tired of you treating me like a little brother. We’re not in some competition. I don’t need your pity win.” A hot sensation bloomed across the back of my neck. “Matt, Matthew, I didn’t mean—” “No,” he said, “You know what? You can take your charity and shove it up your ass.” Just then the door to the fire escape opened and Olivia’s face poked through. She looked buoyant at first, but quickly recomposed, becoming cautious. “Do you guys—does anyone need a drink?” she asked. Matthew and I stood damp and shivering, dark patches of wet expanding on our shirts from our shoulders down. I became suddenly aware of how searing cold my hands felt, and how quickly, icily, the snow hit my skin and melted. We were just a couple of freezing, sodden pathetics. Matthew took the chance to shoulder past Olivia and disappear. By the time I gathered the nerve to go back in, a matter of 10 or 15 minutes later, Olivia had gone. She sent me a cryptic message an hour or so later: “Had to bail—thanks for the show.” Matthew didn’t talk to me. I spent the rest of the night downing whiskey, and when whiskey ran out I took gin. I didn’t see when Matthew or the others left, so around four in the morning I started walking home, trying weakly to hail each passing cab. By then a solid coat of ice encased everything—sidewalk, streets, building walls—in a glassy shell. The naked branches of trees clacked together in the wind. I slip-walked probably half a mile before a cab finally stopped. On the ride home, I watched a car ahead of us pirouette slowly through an intersection. There seemed to be hazard lights flashing everywhere, filling up the cab interior with translucent yellow, then not, then yellow, then not. “Oh jeez,” the driver said, his windshield wipers working mechanically against the freeze. Koosh koosh they went. My ears felt stuffed with cotton balls. Suffice it to say I blew it with Olivia. She never sang with us— with Matthew—again, and I still don’t know where she went that night.

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Kate Barrett What I do know is that Matthew came into my room the next morning with coffee, some kind of hot drink he called super tea, and two guitars. He turned the heat way up and opened the blinds so we could see Chicago still frozen. I started to sweat. “You need to get the toxins out,” Matthew said, and handed me a guitar as he sat down on the edge of the bed. He acted like nothing had happened, bless him. I thought about saying something, but my head throbbed and my body felt alien. All I wanted was for him to stay, for his weight, his familiar presence, to depress the corner of my mattress. He started picking the intro to a song we wrote in high school, something I assumed he’d lost track of if only because I’d forgotten it myself. “Let’s play some music,” he said, and coaxed me into it, nodding out the down beats.

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Jasmine V. Bailey An Agnostic’s Primer on Genesis 1. There are two beginnings. The first week, long as the first week of a new job, and like a person who knows what want is, God makes the best of it. Even humankind he calls good, the equivalent of telling your husband over dinner you really think you’re going to get along with Debby. Male and female he created them. The first and simpler.

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2. In chapter two plants disappear, to say nothing of humankind. Not that they were ever there, it just said so. I imagine the ancient Rabbis like a gaggle of Senate Republicans refusing to sign the one without the other, the Eve story their holdout, the earmark for some pork barrel in Kansas, still lonely without monoculture. A woman can always be written to distract with an infuriation well-curated for the moment. She was ever a supple monster when no other would be summoned.

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Jasmine V. Bailey

3. We don’t need the ancient rabbis to shape the history of cells, to remind us nation is the structure of all dust. But they do it well. Love the strange, sad God they made like a cassoulet, with a little of everything and a whole lot of water. Love Rachel’s burial alone in the desert, the destined fragility of Benjamin, orphaned by his birth, the gift of Joseph to illumine dungeons, all this as if to say love produces rare, terrible things that defy understanding, and can die and make survival seem not like triumph but withering.

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4. What a mysterious place the world was to hear the rabbis tell it in their cacophony of genealogies and expired science. God couldn’t keep ahold of it, which happened to me once when I was making bread. Too much water, then more flour, salt, until it felt like the kitchen would be overrun with yeast and lactobacillic acid. At times like this, God, like a moon with a grievance, calls forth water, but He has promised fire. I think of Noah on the beach drinking, swearing, swinging his dick at his family. He who God picked to put in charge of doves. Then added, well-pleased, that he might also eat them.

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Jasmine V. Bailey

5. No one would say Genesis is built for rational scrutiny, but I long for the beautiful braid of its words to cohere. I am Isaac and Abraham at the altar, I am sure I call each to the other and answer back Here I am. Surely it is poetry to find something to say that is at once so true and so not true in a story about wrists. I tie myself to the stone, to Pharoah, to the physical mutilation of my kind. I sin to flatter Adam or to trick Judah into honoring my inheritance after two wicked husbands’ smiting. I touch the hand of my son covered in goat skin and believe whatever cock and bull he tells me, my wife scheming in the kitchen with her murderous, irrational love, the only thing the Bible renders faithfully, the only mystery it recounts I never doubt for a minute.

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Brendan Bense Growing Old It is recognizing the sweetness of leaked gasoline, or gravitating toward strangers walking towards you on the sidewalk; it’s arriving early to empty rooms and leaving late in the night when they empty again— rainwater overflowing plastic buckets left on the front porch empty by sunrise. You realize it is evaporation, not a magic disappearing act. The world is easier and harder to understand. When a crosswalk flashes, you don’t run to catch it; instead, waiting on the corner becomes a whisper in the day’s shouting-match. The shadows of leaves become delicate things, climbing taller by day the way children seem to. We don’t notice these similarities. Still the sun folds away into the tired fabric of night. Rain and snow look the same under a streetlight, soak the same ways, deep in denim, in the pores of asphalt, filling the spaces between sand grains. These things make no difference in the world, but fade in time and extinguish like the last lights of a shop in the beautiful, loving dark.

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Pritha Bhattacharyya

When A Brown Girl Makes Love To The Color White it’s in secret, in frenzied panic, at your house, always, for what self-respecting beta, plump-cheeked ladki, would be found naked in a bed, drawing script letters on your back with her pinky finger, pointing at glow-in-the-dark constellations on your ceiling, laughing at moleskin notebooks you’ve filled with half-assed drabbles, angst-y slivers of colorless hardships. I’ll show you poetry, she says tracing out her lines: recalling allergies to incense, an aversion to Fair & Lovely, being mistaken for Latina in her looks and for the daughter of doctors at Financial Aid offices. For love being a plate full of puris, her protruding stomach (that you still can’t get over), a testament to surviving, to making life viable. She has made a home within you. Once she finishes reciting, she’ll love you under the covers— only in the darkness so you cannot blind her.

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Pritha Bhattacharyya

Anatomy of a Father as Leopard that is, he is not a lion. not a drifting leaf. soles of his feet skinned from climbing the coconut tree. shoulders stamped with the end of a fire poker. If a leopard escapes the zoo, do his spots change too? somewhere, my father ate turmeric-rice & shat in a hole. somewhere, he blessed himself. in an umbrella land, there is no room to stretch your wings. in the umbrella ground lie the remnants of umbrellas broken, stamped on, mauled. almost as though rain is made of daggers. rain that seeped under his skin. stabbed the parts of him that were soft. long ago, a house once grafted itself again the umbrella floor & erected holes into its walls. Thus began the window people, thus began my father’s father’s father’s father who was a leopard. daddy, the zoo from which you escaped was never a zoo. & where you arrived, there was no place to rest your feet. your tongue branded yellow from the turmeric. your shoulders achingly red. somewhere, didn’t the ground swallow another umbrella? somewhere, between eating your daal and drowning in it, didn’t you forget what it was to be human?

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Kristi Carter To my Ex-Girl, Welcome to the New McCarthyism Remember the smooth cool of your arms, like seal-hide, belonging to the ocean and the frozen land. I don’t dream of you anymore but I’m sure you heard, we elected a pumpkin king who would shove us and any children we owned back into obscurity. If you and I had spent our nights developing time travel instead of teenage mass, we could have set the dial to now for assassination. This will sound extreme to anyone who has never felt the gut-pull of the first one to whom you say all the stupid shit that echoes in your stiff mouth like myth and spell before you both collide. Remember how they would follow us chanting that word the Dutch use to dam up water— which is apt: fluid power. All the alchemy your solid body taught me, brought me to surpass you and leave you to be burned at a lone stake. The boy branded my tit with a ring of teeth, and I was remitted into the common chattel. You cast your invocations for my return all autumn but I had stowed my soul deep in the snow, smooth and cold. And then this, I was not like them, but I was not like you. My path was split, and I would walk my bifurcated fate— that invisible path lined with barbed wire— back and forth, the only way I could manage to travel through my own time.

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Emily Rose Cole Guinevere, Burning I take him in my hand and imagine myself a sculptor—wheel, clay, distant rustle of fire. An act of will, this shaping. My will more than his. I know he loves me everywhere but here, bedshades half-drawn, a scythe of moonlight carving up his thigh. Three years we’ve been without consummation—my skin: iron, his: rust. No tincture or spell. No ritual but practice and defeat. No heir until I’m queen enough to warrant conquering. Lips, breath. My tongue a lathe. At court, women murmur of ruin— breached stockings, wrecked petticoats, a militia of bruises moiling beneath their slips. What must it be like to be desired to the point of violence? Under me, Arthur gives up, rolls over. No kiss. Sheets tight, my hands fashion their own pleasure, a vase with a crumpled mouth, turning, turning. His is not the name I shape my lips around as I come and come and come.

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Alan James Blair Parts of a Whole Dallas zips his beige Carhartt coveralls up to his Adam’s apple

before turning the key to his shotgun house. He is not yet through the door when Tamara calls from one of the back rooms. “If it isn’t the boatman! Just a sec.” There’s a heavy scent of pork in the house. Dallas hears the bathroom sink running. He sidesteps into the kitchen. Gritty cast-iron skillets and Teflon coated saucepans fill the sink and spill onto the counter. Their dark, oily surfaces dully reflect the hospital green of the kitchen walls. He unzips his coveralls, reaches into the inside pocket, and places the hipflask flat against the cupboard over the stove’s hood, out of Tamara’s eyesight. The water stops running. He reaches into the fridge and swigs a mouthful of grapefruit juice. He sheds the rest of the coveralls and his wolverines in the living room. He walks into the bedroom and lies on his side of the bed, on top of a pile of Tamara’s clothes. The door clicks open. Dallas turns his head. Tamara’s long blond hair drips water on the hotel towel wrapped snug around her chest. “Damn it, Dallas! Get off the bed. You’re filthy. Into the shower.” The steam in the bathroom makes Dallas thirsty for cold water. The surface of the sink is choked by cosmetic containers of one sort or another. He runs the faucet and cups water to his lips a few times. He calls out to Tamara, “Forty-eight on is going to kill me.” No response. He steps into the shower. The water is lukewarm. Dallas is a very lucky man. A little over a year ago the shaft of the mine he was working in collapsed. Eight miners, including him, were trapped in one of the deepest veins. The radio signal showed where they were. The problem the outside world had, the problem that the rescuers radioed down, was getting to them. The wall that collapsed needed to be stabilized—reinforced. The eight men were stuck in a pocket of shay, sandstone, and loose coal with two hours of oxygen on hand. The wall collapsed because of poor engineering. Dallas and the others knew when the blast blew out the wall that it was because the engineers had called for charges too close to the main wall. There was no question that the company was into an anthracite-rich vein, which was rare in the bituminous-rich mines of Breken County, Kentucky. The vein was too wily for longwall. The engineers were excited by the potential boon, and the

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Alan James Blair chance to put one up over Rumpke. Their super, Kevin, the one they liked because he was Breken-born, had told them all this—had complained about it. And in the mine, trapped, the miners discussed it, chewed it. One by one, the men shifted from gruff-voiced bitching to shiftless meandering conversations to silence. Their stale bologna bag-lunch breath filled the pocket. After ten hours, the only voices were those on the radio, chattering. Not chattering like Tamara’s DAR group, but intermittently, like the flashes of fireflies that Dallas and Shawn used to catch during sleepovers. The rescuers sounded like panicked men trying to sound calm. Dallas sat beside Shawn’s mucker and called out one more time for him to see if he’d found his way to the group. The flashlights faded to darkness. His next memory was the beeping of the IV regulator punctuating the hiss of the oxygen mask. Life, after that, moved pretty fast. Tamara told him that he was the only one of the eight to survive. Shawn’s mother, Peggy, was there too. She said they had found everyone but Shawn, and that maybe, if he knew where Shawn might be, he could be an angel and help put Shawn’s body to a proper burial. There was this look to her eyes—a contrast between cloudy white and wide inky pupils—that reminded him of cookies and cream mixed with water. Reporters interviewed him, dubbed him Magical Mister Dallas. The governor came to shake his hand. They renamed the road he and Tamara lived on Magical Drive. Not only was he the only one of the eight to survive, but that was something his body shouldn’t have been able to do. The human body needs so much oxygen in its system to work, and when they found him, fetal position by the mucker they said, he had half that, if even. Most of his dead coworkers had more in their system when their brains shut off. Impossible. Miracle. Shouldn’t have happened. Physicians were shocked when he lived, when he came to, when he was able to put two and two into four, and when he was able, so far as Dallas could determine, to be every bit as much himself as he ever was. The casualty insurance took up the hospital and physical therapy tab. The company paid to have him learn a new skill so he could find work in oxygen rich environments by doctors’ orders. And the union found him jobs. He’d been through three so far. The latest—deckhand on a tug that runs the Ohio from Pennsylvania to the Mississippi and back—was looking like another tough sell. He’d docked in Covington for a half-run, forty-eight straight hours of work he didn’t understand, under a captain who seemed more interested in charting the course of dirty mags than in giving Dallas the kind of training he’d need to climb into a mate, or even able-bodied seaman post anytime soon. After toweling off, Dallas lies naked on Tamara’s empty side of the bed. His own side is still cluttered with her day clothes. “Perfect,” Tamara

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Alan James Blair says, from somewhere in the room. “I don’t see you for two days and now you’re just going to sleep.” “I’m tired.” “Whatever.” She hits the lights. Dallas wakes and checks the clock. 6:37 a.m. He sits up. Tamara is naked beside him on his side of the bed, curled away from him. The cover is tucked tightly around her neck. It lifts to meet her rounded, soft shoulder. She shifts to keep the cover tucked against the strain his body is putting on it. He remembers he’s been dreaming of food and eating. He thinks he even woke up chewing dream-food. He walks around the bed and checks Tamara’s phone for the date. He has a day and a half before he needs to drive up to Covington again to check in for another forty-eight. The refrigerator is empty except for some leftover mac and cheese he’d boiled before leaving, and the molding remnants of a magic-man cake one of the DAR women had put together for when the governor had visited. He feels strange sitting in the cold car. The first job they had tried on him was mechanic. Brian, the ANSI-certified technician who owned the garage had requested Dallas. He was one of the miner’s brothers. He let him go after the first week. He said Dallas was doing a fine job but that he couldn’t look at him without thinking about his brother. It was just too hard. Dallas was fine with that. He couldn’t look at Brian without thinking about Brian’s brother either. And his morbid thoughts about Brian’s brother were a lot more concrete. He remembered what his brother had said, how he’d acted, before he went silent. His brother had tried to scratch at the walls, all the time cursing the stupid God that would have them all die this stupid kind of death. No one would talk with him after his breakdown. The last Dallas could remember, the man was scratching at the collapsed wall chanting, “Satan, worm of man, dig for us,” in a monotone. It wasn’t something Dallas wanted to dredge up. He starts the car. He wants to drive to Tulsa to visit his aunt, or to Waco to work his cousin’s ranch. He squeezes the steering wheel and drives toward the Hardee’s. Tamara meets him at the door. She has the cordless to her ear. “It’s okay, he’s back,” she says to the other end. “And where have you been, Dallas?” She used to purr at him when he returned from random errands. She’d call him her little errant housecat and tell him to come make love to her if it was a weekend morning, or to come eat what she’d made in the kitchen if it was of an evening. She used to hand him a beer and tell him he was her hero. He lifts the Hardee’s bag. “Well, come in.” They eat in silence. The TV chimes in videogame quest music, something Tamara is playing, something that takes more patience than

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Alan James Blair Dallas can muster. Dallas crumples his sandwich’s wrapper. “I wish you’d told me you were going out.” She squeezes another ketchup packet onto her wrapper. “You know,” Tamara says, dipping hash browns into the pool of Hunt’s, “Rita got a Mustang GT with Billy’s settlement. And she’s building onto the house.” Dallas shuts his eyes and rests his forearm on his right palm. “I’m thinking of seeing Peggy—telling her what I know about Shawn.” “Speaking of settlements, Maxine has most of Shawn’s money in CDs. In twenty years she’ll have a million. Says she’ll live on the interest. Isn’t that something! Just sit around sipping wine to opera and getting fat. Well, fatter in her case.” “Will you be around come suppertime?” he asks. “It’s Wednesday, Dallas. DARs?” Dallas looks around the kitchen and living room. He tries to find something of his, anything that says, this is Dallas’s place. Dallas lives here. He stands, steps over to his coveralls. He grabs his civi-coat from the rack by the door and hangs the Carhartt where it had been. “I’ll be back before you,” he says, more to himself. From the road, Dallas can see that Shawn’s place is still dark. Dallas wishes he had called ahead. He wonders if Shawn’s mother, Peggy, still lives with Shawn’s wife, Maxine, now that Shawn is missing and presumed dead. Dallas drives up the gravel path to the doublewide. Peggy’s dinged up F250 is in the port next to a new, clean, white Explorer. Dallas remembers moving Shawn and Peggy out here before Shawn married Maxine. Dallas had banged his legs against the gate of that 250 so often his shins bruised bright green. Maxine had arrived parcel post, it seemed to Dallas. Every week or so on poker nights, Shawn would have a new dresser or trunk. Or some art flick poster would appear over Shawn’s desk. Maxine didn’t move in as much as she phased in. Dallas walks up to the door. He looks around the plot. He doesn’t see either of Shawn’s horses, or the great big hog they’d bought at a Frankfurt auction. He looks back at the door. The door is already open—he and Peggy separated by a screen. “Hold on, Dallas, I’ll come out.” Shawn and Peggy walk around the electric fence where Shawn’s goats used to meet whoever walked by. The goats are gone. The water trough is gone. Dallas wishes he’d come around more often after. “What happened to all of Shawn’s stuff?” he asks. “Hell, Dallas. It’s gone to hell. Like’n you look. What’s in you?” “Nothing. The river’s hard work.” “My Harry worked the river, you know. I’m sorry to hear that’s what you’re up to.” Her coat is the same cast-off denim he’d seen her wear last year. Black-eyed Susans weave themselves around the fence’s fabric.

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Alan James Blair “Didn’t they give you some money from the settlement? You look scrawny.” “Ain’t seen none of it myself. The harlot’s got barrels-full. Don’t matter. Dallas. You and Shawn been thick as thieves since day one. I been biding my time to see you and now you come to see me. I’m glad you came. I need you to tell me, Dallas. I need you to tell me straight.” She sinks to a squat on a patch of ragweed. Her head wobbles from side to side. “Lord, Christ, Mrs. B! You need help?” She puts her fingers to her lips. Her head is cast downward. She pats the ground beside her. Dallas kneels in the hard-packed earth. “I was waiting ’til I got the strength. Lord, I need it. You know, you’ve got the power to kill him. To kill him in my mind. We buried a box while you were out cold. They had a ceremony and everything before they could even get all the way into that mine. Ain’t they supposed to give them missing people seven years?” She looks over to him—those cookies and cream eyes, watery, melting onto her creviced cheeks. “I can’t tell you, Mrs. B. I would if I could. You know that. What I can tell you is that—” “I’m not ready, Dallas. Run along, will you? Give my best to whoever.” She stands. Dallas tries to steady her, but she spins, faster than drunk teens down at Toby’s when the DJ plays city music on a loop. She spins away from him and marches back into Shawn’s trailer. The curtain to Shawn’s old bedroom window drops into place. When the mine first collapsed, Dallas struck a flare. It was stupid. The tunnel lights were battery-powered and he had another ten hours on his helmet light. He ran through the pocket, plastering the walls with the flare’s red hue. He called for Shawn. Shawn was the kind of guy who spent Christmas mornings helping out at the shelter, giving dime-store dolls and plastic tanks to the poor kids and canned food and winter clothes to families. He would dance with the girls all the other guys shunned. Most important, Shawn was Dallas’s friend. But he was also reckless in his way. The mucker could take off a man’s head if he wasn’t careful, and Shawn had more than one close call on record. Also Shawn mucked too close to the slips. This meant that he finished a quota faster than most muckers, which made the supers happy. But it also meant if a charge was too close to a wall he was mucking, he could get buried in shay and coal. The only mining death Dallas had seen before the accident was a video recording he watched during training. The Betamax video showed the recovered body of a raker who slipped into a flow on a six foot seam. The flow had taken the miner into the vein like the surf on an ocean the video said. In seconds, the man was crushed by six feet of loose rock, weighing more than an elephant.

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Alan James Blair This sort of death wasn’t the kind that happened very often, but Dallas was sure Shawn had worked through the blast warning and was buried near the mucker the same way that the miner on the video was. Flare in hand, Dallas found the mucker and called the others over. He started digging, alone, and continued, alone, until he was too tired to remember why he was digging. Dallas’s bed sags at one a.m. “Dallas.” Tamara whispers. “Dallas. It shur girl.” “Tamara, I’m tired.” “Dallas. Be tired later. Your girl’s home.” She shakes his shoulders. “I’m just really—” “Come on, Magic Man!” Tamara presses her breasts against Dallas’s back. “Sleep it off, Tamara.” The tug casts off as soon as Dallas hits deck. The captain grumbles at him as he checks off his name. He tells Dallas to haul rope. Dallas doesn’t even have gloves on yet, but he runs toward the one unmanned rope and hauls line. The union job-trainer told him that he’d have to put up with a lot of flack to advance, but that a positive attitude was the best recommendation. Dallas spits off the side of the deck. The water of the Ohio is as brown as its muddy banks. The tug yaws to the middle of the river. The slack aft chains snap taut. The freighter behind them pitches to. There’s a music to the motion and sounds that reminds him of the blast mines, a language and a culture to the work like mining that’s all its own. The mate runs the three deckhands through the tasks of launching. Dallas puts his mind into the labor. He thinks that the tug might work after all. Second day, break-time, Dallas sits next to the captain. Dallas says, “I’d like to figure out something with the charts at lunch. Do you think you might run me through a few things?” “Step off, hand. You don’t know shit about protocol yet and you’re looking for stripes. Stick by a few years and I might think of letting you look into things. Maybe. But I’m not looking to retire.” Dallas smells the whiskey on the captain’s breath. The trainer had told him that Captains can lose their jobs in a snap for drinking in addition to having to pay heavy fines, and possible jail-time. Dallas senses his chance. He leans in close to the captain. “Protocol says captains drink off shift. How about we look at charts at lunch. Won’t take a minute.” The captain stands. He flings the spiked coffee onto Dallas’s coveralls. “Benny, take this piss-ant below. He smells like a damn bottle of Jack.” The captain shrugs. Leans in. Gives Dallas a good taste of his breath. “They can make me take you on, but I don’t have to keep you.” It takes the mate half a

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Alan James Blair pat-down to find Dallas’s flask. Dallas spends the time until the next dock in one of the tug’s four cots. A rental car later and he’s back in Breken half a day early. Breken Township, Breken County, Kentucky, hosts one of America’s finest collections of covered bridges. In fall, the leaves of the red, and sugar maples, oaks, poplars, elms and birch paint the Appalachian foothills in red to yellow hues. In spring, the clover seeps through the air and diffuses on the tongue as palpable as herbal tea. Now, winter, the golden wheat and emerald winter-wheat butt upon one another coating Breken in a patchwork quilt. It is a good place to live, Dallas knows. He leans against the brick front of Erma’s and swigs from the bottle he’s bought. He wasn’t surprised by the strange car in his parking lot. He wasn’t bothered by the man down at the union hall who tells him there is nothing that can be done—that he did all he could just to keep Dallas out of jail—that another job lead is not a possibility. Dallas doesn’t mind these things. He has Breken. He slips into the diner and orders a coffee at the bar. One of the other miner’s friends spots him and grabs the stool beside him. “Dallas? Dallas Housman? How’s our Mr. Magic?” Dallas sniffs the coffee. It’s been on the burner for hours. The beans are singed. Just the way he needs it right now. “It’s you isn’t it? Remember me? We talked after you got out of that shaft. Miller’s friend. Are you all right, Housman?” “Yeah. I’m not having a good day.” Miller’s friend orders a slice of some kind of pie. For a minute, there is a silence that burrows between Dallas’s temples, behind his eyes. He feels electrified to the point of numbness and wants more than anything to find a bed. “You know,” Miller’s friend says. He grabs Dallas’s cheek, looks him in the eyes. Miller’s friend crosses his own eyes like Red Skelton. He touches the tip of his tongue to his nose. “Ben Miller’s having a pretty rotten day too, friend. You’re drunk, Housman. You’re drunk and it’s not noon. And you smell like piss and hell. Now tell me this—how come you get to be here, walking around drunk and out wasting your miracle life while Ben’s in the graveyard? You’ve got no respect for the dead?” It’s usually the parents that give him the stink-eye. This is just odd. Dallas breaks the man’s grip on his cheek. His cheek stings. He walks out of Erma’s. Miller’s friend is calling after him. The milky sky reminds him of Mrs. B’s eyes. His stomach churns. He stumbles through a few streets and cuts through a lawn—the path he walked to work for twelve years of his life. His place, Erma’s, this lawn, the covered bridge, the mine road. He walks by the smooth, white trunks of birches, walks over the covered bridge, walks up the mine road.

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Alan James Blair The fence is as old as Dallas, at least. But the barbed-wire is new. There is an opening wide enough for a man between the fencepost and the gate. He slips through. He rounds the bend with all the ferns. There is a Laredo parked beside the shaft entrance. The entrance is boarded up. He grabs a board and puts his back into prying. He has nearly loosened one side of one of the planks when he hears footsteps. “Ain’t you a bit old for a double-dog dare, Buddy?” Dallas turns. It is Kevin, the super from Breken, the one who always held straight with the men. He is holding a shotgun—slowly lowers it. “Dallas? That you? You don’t want to climb back in there.” Kevin digs his heel into the ground. He keeps his grip on the gun. “I’m going to find him, Kevin. I’m going to go find Shawn.” “You and half the county. They need to fix the fence.” Kevin turns and leans against the boards. He holds out his hand. Dallas doesn’t know if Kevin wants to shake hands or what. Kevin pulls his hand to his mouth and makes a tipping motion. Dallas reaches into his pocket and hands Kevin the bottle. Kevin pulls two or three fingers from the bottle. “It’s dangerous. Unstable.” “So’s life,” Dallas says. Kevin laughs and sits, his back to the boards. Dallas starts prying. Dallas hears a few more swishes from the bottle. “Okay,” he says. “I’m tired of running security. Ain’t my job.” Kevin leaves and returns a few moments later with a crowbar. “Go wild. Just be back up by the end of my shift.” He hands Dallas a helmet. The boards pry off easily. After four boards, Dallas is able to slip in. Kevin hands him a radio and the bottle through the slit. The shaft feels like an old home. Dallas turns off the helmet light and saunters through the shaft. When it was operational, the mine would change. They’d blast open a shaft, set up columns down to the end of a vein, and rake coal to the beginning in a retreat. Then they’d collapse the thing and start again at a new vein. But they’d worked this vein for three months. He knew its twists and curves. Even while drunk, he didn’t stumble. The shaft was clean, in a manner of speaking. There was no rubble hanging about. That’s one thing he missed about the mines. The whole point was to clean out the clutter. Find the dirt and take it out. Most people said his job was dirty. Really, there’s no denying that. Tamara put up with the dirt because of how strong the work made Dallas, how confident he was after an eight hour shift. But she would balk at the crud from time to time. To Dallas, it was the cleanest job there was. He worked for hours on end inside the earth to clean it. He was on a detailed mission to unclog and unclutter the world from inside out. Dallas hits a wall and slips to the ground. He bangs his knee against something. He turns the light back on. The shaft is choked now where the

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Alan James Blair rescuers built the stints. This is the site of the collapse. Dallas laughs from the deep of his belly. He crawls through the escape tunnel the rescuers forged into the collapsed rock. The stint is some twenty feet long. It occurs to him now how long the rescuers must have worked to free seven bodies from the hill just to put six of those bodies into a different hill. One of the reporters had asked him how it felt to be magical. Didn’t he love his second chance at life? Dallas was still working on meeting his thoughts with his words then, and had said, “Yes, it’s good. But it’s bad. I have to think of the other miners.” The reporter, who must have taken him for a yokel, continued his article, “But surely the Magical Mister Dallas is nothing but happy to be alive, to shake hands with the governor, and to have another chance to love his friends, family and wife.” Later, Dallas had wanted to correct the reporter, tell him that his life is not magical. He didn’t know exactly how he’d rewrite the article, exactly what words to choose to show how complicated things were, how it’s not so easy to feel lucky when your friends die, the town is ripped apart, and everyone wonders why you are the lucky one. He still struggles to put words to the floating ideas. Even if he could rewrite the article, all the parents, family, friends of the other miners—well, they deserve Dallas’s silence. If Dallas isn’t dead, the best he can do is be quiet about it. The mucker is where he left it. The charred remains of the flare sit like a fat snake nearby. The pile of shay and coal rubs up against the back of the machine. This is the grave Mrs. B needs to visit. Somewhere down there, his childhood friend had an elephant’s weight and more of rock on him, and it would be a while before anyone would do anything about it. Dallas swigs as much as he can stand to swig from the bottle. Not one stone is disturbed. The rescuers didn’t even try to find Shawn’s body. Dallas tries to throttle the mucker. Nothing. He pushes aside as much of the shay as he can with his hands. Why should it be him, and not Shawn who lived? Shawn gave to the community. Shawn kept the peace between his mother and wife. Dallas couldn’t keep up with just his wife. He couldn’t hold a job, didn’t care to hold one that wasn’t right here with the ghosts and the body of his friend. Tamara would be happy with him here, an insurance check in the mail and all the DAR meetings with whatever guy she was pretending that meant that she could handle. Mrs. B and the town would be happy not to have to look at him. The union, the mine, even the boat captain would be just fine if he had stayed here. What was magic for? His hands were bleeding as he swiped at the rock, shoving the sharp stones from the body of his friend. He crouched down on the pile, tried to reach through the stone. The layers upon layers of rock wouldn’t give. He sniffed for the smell of decay. He would need more effort, more effort than he could ever give—the kind of effort Shane showed daily. He wishes it was Shawn digging for him.

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Alan James Blair He lay back on the rubble. He wonders what Shawn would do. He pours some whiskey on the pile. “Shawn,” Dallas says. “I baptize thee, or final rites thee, to whatever deity may or may not—” He curls up on the pile. Soon, they’d have to come back and look for him again.

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Rebecca Renner

The Bottomless Hole on Crooked Palm Boulevard A persistent honking dug Muffy Blankenship from sleep. She sprawled in the king-sized bed she no longer shared, face puffy, hair a mop, and contemplated why, at 6:27 in the morning, her street might have morphed into a roiling artery of profanity. So, clueless and barefoot, she wandered out her front door. Traffic clogged the street in both directions. Tire tracks ran through the lawn, and at the bottom of the driveway, a gargantuan hole consumed the entire width of the road. Muffy approached the hole to a chorus of shouts from the drivers— they couldn’t drive through her lawn any more at the risk of mowing her down—and she bent over the edge. The hole descended through striations of concrete, soil, and darkness. What the hell is this? Muffy thought. Then: How am I supposed to get to work? Muffy wrote up wills for The Law Offices of Digby & Sutton in downtown Naples. That required driving. How she’d get the car out of here was anybody’s guess. “Blankenship!” Elderly and robe-clad Mr. Rosenbaum shouted across the hole from his side of the street. “This is your fault!” “Me?” Muffy shouted back. “It’s at the end of your driveway, Blankenship. It’s because of your goddamned divorce.” “Then there’d be holes all over the place,” Muffy said, not loud enough for him to hear. Then again, she thought, if it sucks in my house, the insurance company’ll call that an act of God. Muffy gazed down through the rooty dark, feeling vaguely moronic. Sure isn’t a sinkhole. The air that wafted from below carried the tang of the ocean. I wonder. Muffy grabbed a gnome from the hedges and tossed him into the hole. He locked her with his porcelain, apple-cheeked grin as he plummeted, until he vanished into the abyss. Muffy waited for a splash. A clap echoed up, followed by a crumbling of rocks, and then the din of engine and horns reigned. The little guy just kept on falling, seems like, Muffy thought. “You call Whit and get right with him,” Mr. Rosenbaum shouted. “We’re not even divorced yet,” said Muffy. Mr. R kept on, but Muffy turned to direct traffic. She pointed. “Go back down Mangosteen. Take a left 38

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Rebecca Renner on Dune Poppy—” A horn blared. “Fine then!” Muffy threw up her hands. “Be late for work! See if I care.” She marched inside and drew the deadbolt. May as well telecommute today. Midway through answering an email about a client’s funeral arrangements, Muffy’s cellphone vibrated. The words, CHEATING BASTARD calling…, were superimposed over her estranged husband Whit’s picture. His real-estate salesman smile, green polo, and coif of parted brown hair—all of this dredged up a silt cloud of loneliness, like dragging feet on the bottom of the river. Muffy pressed ignore, but his picture popped right up again. Muffy removed her noise-cancelling headphones to an odd silence. Birds bickered in the oak tree over the study. No car horns. She picked up the phone. “You’ve really stepped in it now, Amanda,” said Whit. Muffy sighed. “What did I do this time?” “What did you do? You can’t seriously be—” “This is about the hole.” Muffy glanced at the seashell clock across the patio. About 10:50. Is it too early to eat? “Yes, Amanda, of course it’s about the hole. Do you have any idea what it’s doing to our property value? I do. The Dawsons’ sale just fell through.” “I don’t understand why everyone thinks I did this,” said Muffy. It was the same as in their marriage. Couldn’t be Whit’s fault he cheated: Muffy had gotten fat. Whit groaned. “It’s at the end of our driveway.” “Mr. Rosenbaum thinks it’s because of our divorce.” And part of Muffy wished Whit would give her a second chance; the other part deeply regretted not stabbing him between the eyes with her fish fork the night he’d announced their un-nuptials. “That’s ridiculous,” said Whit. “You didn’t buy an ancient totem at the flea market or something? No, never mind. Don’t tell me. The HOA just called. Linda Thornbush said there’s an emergency meeting at noon to discuss our sudden catastrophic abyss, and of course, we’re the guests of honor.” “That’s great, but my car’s stuck in the garage because of our—what did you call it? Sudden catastrophic—” “Then walk.” A silence followed. Call ended. Muffy donned her best black pants suit, the one she wore to wakes, and with her serious, I’m-a-businesswoman pumps in hand and flip-flops on her feet, she locked the front door and edged around the hole to reach the sidewalk. Barricades with detour signs blocked off the enormous chasm’s jutting sides. The image of its dissolving blackness lingered in Muffy’s head as she hiked. Maybe it was a portal into another dimension. Maybe they’d

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Rebecca Renner popped up all over the state like love bugs, another University of Florida experiment gone wrong. By the time Muffy reached the awnings of the Bosque Hermoso Country Club, an inglorious flop sweat hovered around her being like an aura. She basked in the lobby’s AC. She tried to collect her thoughts, but her heat-addled brain kept saying roadside attraction, like The World’s Largest Bowling Pin in Tampa. They couldn’t exactly fill the hole in. So that’s what they should do: capitalize. Down the hall, the door to the convention room opened, and a man in a pink suit stepped out to look at his phone. It was Whit. He set a hand on his hip, displaying his growing paunch. Muffy’s phone chirped with a message from him, and Whit looked up to see her. “Where have you been? I told you they were starting at noon.” He waved for her to hurry, and when they entered, he announced, “She’s here, finally,” two dozen community members turned in their seats to stare. Muffy strode up the aisle to the HOA board’s table on the raised platform. “Couldn’t this have been an email?” she said to the five. “The people of this community would like an explanation.” Linda Thornbush, HOA director, announced over Muffy’s head. Linda’s skirt suit was the color of cotton candy, her face the color of inefficient death. “Witchcraft isn’t welcome here,” a community member said in a raised voice. “This is a gated community!” added another. Muffy turned on them and wrenched the podium’s microphone toward her mouth. “Look, I get that you all need somebody to blame, but this is ludicrous. It’s not my fault.” Ha ha, geology pun, Muffy thought. “I don’t even know what the thing is. I woke up to it just like the rest of you, but since it’s kinda sorta on my property, I guess I’ll look into doing something about it. As of right now, I think we should make the best of it. I, personally, have never seen anything like it before. It’s like once in a lifetime. The kind of thing people would pay to see.” “What are you getting at?” Whit stood off to the side, hands in his pockets. The community members turned to murmur to their neighbors. Hot embarrassment rose in Muffy’s cheeks. “I mean like make a roadside attraction out of it,” said Muffy. “Make people pay to see it.” “For a little extra they could throw things in,” Linda said from her perch at the board table behind Muffy. “Of course, you’re not really zoned for this. But if the HOA got a sizeable slice—” Facebook Page for The Bottomless Hole on Crooked Palm Boulevard. About: Welcome to the one and only Bottomless Hole of South Florida. 28.6 feet in diameter and of an unknown depth, The

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Rebecca Renner Bottomless Hole was discovered and is run by the Bosque Hermoso Home Owners Association, and part of every purchase goes toward Keeping Our Community Hermoso (Handsome)! Pricing: $12 Adults / $9 children $20 – Throw one item into the hole. $50 – Unlimited hole throwing. FAQ: Q: Where did the hole come from? A: Nobody knows! Several geologists have been consulted, and they tell us it’s no ordinary sinkhole! Q: How deep is the hole? A: Nobody knows! We like to say it’s bottomless, but it has to stop someplace, right? Right? Q: Is your hole a portal into the Mouth of Hell? A: We wish people would stop saying this. Don’t you think worse things would be happening if a hole to the mouth of hell opened up in South Florida? Really. Let’s use some common sense people. (Click to read 17 more questions.) Two weekends later, Muffy swirled her mojito around its glass at the country club bar. “Waiting for someone?” Muffy turned to see Whit, groomed but sunburned, with his hand on the back of the stool beside her. “No, I’m just thinking.” He took the seat and ordered a whisky on the rocks. “About what?” he said. “Sorry?” “What are you thinking about?” “I’ve been watching people throw things into the hole. It’s disconcerting what people throw away. Like pictures, lots of pictures. I guess they really want to forget people, you know? But also weird stuff. I saw a lady throw two taxidermy cats into the hole. Like one would have been off, but two?” “Maybe she had more,” said Whit. “What if she has seven or eight, and she’s like, man, this is really getting out of hand. I should get rid of a couple.” Muffy snorted. “Hey, don’t judge, Muffy. You don’t know what that lady’s going through. It could have been really hard to choose which cat to send to purgatory.” “You think that’s where it goes? Purgatory?” Whit shrugged. “I actually read in the Herald that people think it may be an honest-to-God Einstein-Rosen Bridge.” “And that is what exactly?” “A wormhole, like a tunnel through space that connects two places.”

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Rebecca Renner “I’ve seen a bunch of people testing it,” said Muffy. “A van will come, and guys send probes like roto-rooters down it, but they never get anything. It’s just darkness that goes on forever.” “Maybe.” Drink set in front of him, Whit took a sip. “Have you thrown anything in it?” Muffy stalled with a gulp of mojito. “Ah, nope. I mean, yeah, of course I have. It’s right there. Hard not to. But just like silly stuff, you know? Like that gnome that was under the rhododendron.” “I keep hearing of people throwing in things they want to forget. Like Tom from the Honda place chucked all his ex-wife’s wedding china, and Cindy Carlton got rid of Ron’s Xbox, and when I heard that, I had a feeling you’d start tossing all our stuff.” “It’s still in the storage unit,” said Muffy. Most of it. “That means you don’t want to forget us, Amanda.” He took her hand. “We could give us another try.” Muffy slid her hand out of his. “I’m not sure.” “That’s not a no.” He grinned. An incomplete list of things dumped into the hole: a rusty generator, an old HP desktop, a cactus, a pallet of cinderblocks, a harpsichord, five couches, a very small palm tree, an iguana skeleton, a vhs player, 362 lbs of oak bark, 797 clothes hangers, 41 dock pilings, 2 disc brake rotors, 1,445.3 lbs of trash, a phlebotomist’s chair, 28 sectional couches, 8 twin beds, 7 double beds, 13 queen beds, 2 kind beds, 1 water bed, a cat condo, 17 tires, a refrigerator, 4 laptop computers, 14 shelving units, a Jacuzzi, 3 TV stands, 11 plastic Christmas trees, 190 empty glass bottles, a canoe, 2 elliptical machines, a treadmill, a pedestal sink, a bird bath, 3 swing sets, a torn trampoline, 12 trophies, an empty aquarium, 901 paperback books, a bee hive, an A-frame chicken coop, three ficuses, an oxygen tank, 4 sleeping bags, an armoire, two toilets, 620 lbs of scrap metal, a Memorex typewriter, 1,419 t-shirts, 847 pairs of pants, 324 skirts, 156 brassieres, 693 pairs of underwear, a set of handcuffs, Rock’em Sock’em Robots, five microwaves, 9 baby dolls, 57 Barbies, 4,692 plastic army men, 5 washers, 7 dryers, a wooden lamp carved into the shape of a mermaid… By the light of her cellphone, Muffy ducked under the turnstile, crept past the unlit signs and barricades to reach the lip of the hole. It was 3 a.m., and the clouds blocked out the moon. The only light came from Mr. Rosenbaum’s rippled bathroom window. Muffy lay down, her belly on the cracked asphalt that ringed the hole.

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Rebecca Renner She gripped the edge and looked down. A whole lot of nothing, she thought. She’d come there to make a decision. If she could figure out a way to get stuff back—namely the lamp Whit had given her for their wooden anniversary, the one carved into the shape of a siren and brushed with gold—she’d take it as a sign. She and Whit could get back together then. If not, they’d go through with the divorce. On the page of a legal pad from her tote, Muffy wrote: If there is someone at the other side of this wormhole, please respond in kind. ~ Amanda Blankenship, Esq. She then folded the page into a paper airplane and sent it sailing into the hole. She waited for a response with her chin on her arms. She gave it fifteen minutes. Then she wrote the same message on a fresh page, rolled it up, stuffed it into an empty Coke bottle, screwed on the top, and threw that into the hole. Nothing happened. After a few hours, she gave up her sentry and went to bed. Her lonely bed. She lay awake, half-naked and thinking. There was no going back for her and Whit. She wanted to, but she also didn’t. He had sex with a woman whose name she still didn’t know. He had called her stiff. He said she’d gotten fat. That she’d lost her feeling for life. But the worst thing he said was that she was boring, that he couldn’t stand to hear her talk anymore. How the fuck dare you tell me what I can and cannot say. Except that’s not what she said. She said she was sorry. Muffy had become the kind of woman who said sorry all the time. Sorry for getting fat. Sorry for having an opinion. Sorry for not being the person you want me to be. Whit wanted Sorry Woman back, not Muffy, who was a size 16, who looked herself in the mirror and winked, who confronted Linda Thornbush about her BS mailbox policies, who submitted snide questions to The Bottomless Hole on Crooked Palm FAQ. Whit didn’t want that Muffy back, and maybe—maybe that was better. Muffy would rather be strong on her own. That morning, Muffy woke to her doorbell’s repeated abuse over a growing commotion of voices outside. Muffy tied on a kimono, and when she threw open the door, the boy jumped back. He was the zit-speckled cashier from the bottomless hole’s ticket booth, decked out in his striped pants, advertisers’ buttons all over his vest. “What already?” said Muffy. A drone swooped down behind him. Muffy yelped and slammed the door, and the drone crashed into it. “What the hell?” she shouted. “The drone’s here to see you,” said the cashier. “It came out of the hole.” Muffy clutched her kimono closed and opened the door a sliver. “What did you say?” “It came out of the hole this morning with a note.” He shoved his hand in with it. Amanda Blankenship, I would like to talk to you.—Christina Xi.

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Rebecca Renner A phone number followed. “Hold on,” said Muffy. “At least let me put on some pants.” Muffy returned 15 minutes later, dressed and ready to face the small crowd gathered on her lawn. The drone bobbed and hovered, filming her house. When it saw her, it zoomed closer. She showed it her phone. Then she dialed the number from the note and put it on speaker. A woman with a sharp voice answered. “Muffy Blankenship?” “Yes.” “This is Christina Xi. Are you the one throwing all this garbage on our beach?” “Are you on the other side of the hole?” “Certainly seems that way.” “Honestly,” said Muffy, “we didn’t know there was another side. We thought it was just a hole to nowhere.” “I get it, but that doesn’t clean up our beach. It probably doesn’t seem like much from your end, a few tchotchkes here and there, but it’s really piled up. It’s awful. This place is a wreck.” “Are you like in another dimension?” “We’re in Escondido Beach, California,” said Christina Xi. “No, I mean, are we on the same Earth? Who’s the president where you are?” “Hillary Clinton. Where are you?” “Wait, what?” said Muffy. “Who else would it be?” said Christina. “I don’t want to talk about it,” said Muffy. “But it does mean that we’re not—” Muffy couldn’t believe she was saying this. “in the same reality. Still, the drone got through. And we’re talking. I’ll figure out a way to come get our stuff.” “That’s kind of not what I expected you to say.” “What did you expect?” said Muffy. “You know how people are. Nothing is ever their fault. Nothing is ever their problem.” “Right? But this was totally my fault,” said Muffy. “It was my idea to chuck things into the hole in the first place. I promise I’ll help.” “How though? The drone is the first thing that’s made it through, and you can’t exactly hop on a plane and fly here. Not that I can tell, anyway.” “Has anyone tried to jump in on your side?” Christina gave her a shaky “No?” Then she steadied herself. “The drone made it through the wormhole just fine. There’s a camera on it. So I saw everything. It’s like going through a cloud or behind a waterfall. It’ll be fine. I swear. We’ll stretch one of those big parachutes out to catch you.” “But the drone’s made of plastic, and I’m made of, well, me.” Muffy could almost hear Christina shrug. “Or we could like interdimensionally sue you. I could probably figure it out.”

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Rebecca Renner With the phone to her ear, Muffy trudged down to the edge of the hole. Like a cloud, a waterfall she says. Then there was the possibility of never coming back. Except I’m the one who fucked everything up. Sorry is one thing. Sorry doesn’t clean up their beach. “You promise you’ll catch me?” said Muffy. When Christina texted, “Ready,” Muffy stood with her toes over the edge and looked down. She weighed her prospects. She could miss the parachute and splatter. She could be cast adrift in an interdimensional void. She could wind up someplace else, another dimension, another Earth. Who knows: Ted Cruz might be president. At a certain point, Muffy knew she had to do this. She sprang out, away from the rocky walls, and plummeted. Darkness rocked around her until the light of the hole’s opening was only a pinprick, a star. Mist exhaled all around her. The scent of the ocean, and for a moment, Muffy was weightless. Her shirt floated away from her belly and she yanked it down. Then a force pulled her upward. She rocketed out of the hole and into the air. For a second, she took in the rocky coastline, the monumental driftwood, the beach riddled with trash. Twenty feet below her, a wave spilled into the perfect circle of the hole. She gasped. Her stomach jumped as she started falling. Then the multicolored parachute unfurled. It caught her with a whiff, billowed all around her, blue, yellow, and red. The people who had caught her helped her roll off the side into the sand. All around rose the mounds of broken glass, picture frames, misshapen pottery, a sofa, a high chair, layers of old clothes, anything that called up a memory that someone in Naples wanted to forget. Muffy stood, taken aback by the scope of it all, the height. Christina Xi, a wiry Asian woman whose shirt said Surfrider Foundation, shook Muffy’s hand and gave her a tour of the trash heaps. “Do you know where the wormhole came from?” Muffy said. They’d paused in front of a 70s-green stove. “I get the feeling that it’s a natural phenomenon,” said Christina. “Like a waterspout or the aurora borealis.” “I’m sorry about all this, but I don’t know how I can fix it by myself. But I think maybe the other people who did this might help. Maybe some of them.” While they stood there, the rush of the surf whispering in Muffy’s ears, Muffy called Whit and asked him to round up a group to come through the wormhole and help clean up the beach. “I don’t know, Muffy,” he said, “I’m showing a house right now and—” “Are you going to help or aren’t you?” said Muffy. “I didn’t throw anything in that hole,” Whit said. “It’s not my problem.” “Of course not. Nothing ever is.” Muffy called Linda Thornbush next, and within the hour, the

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Rebecca Renner Californians stretched out the parachute to catch Linda’s clean up crew. Christina called in a dumpster. Wheelbarrows, shovels, and gloved hands got to work chipping away at the refuse. By sundown, Muffy had broken a sweat. She borrowed a bandana to keep the hair off her forehead and set back to work. Others were calling to stop for the night, people volunteered their couches and guest bedrooms for the Floridians to sleep, while others jumped through the hole to sleep in their own beds. With the sight of them leaping through the sea spray into the hole in the corner of her eye, Muffy kept working. She started to consider that maybe after weeks of this work, she wouldn’t want to go back. The firm would fire her. Her bills would go unpaid. Staying here, she thought, might free her of all the accumulated expectations of who she was supposed to be. Muffy lifted up an old vacuum cleaner, and underneath, the gilded curves of Whit’s wooden anniversary mermaid caught the light of the waning sun. “You almost ready to call it a night?” Christina said, jogging over. “Almost,” Muffy answered, prying the mermaid from the pile. Christina pointed to the lamp in Muffy’s arms. “That’s really beautiful.” “It has potential,” Muffy said. “But really, it’s just garbage like the rest of it.” Muffy strode to the closest dumpster and lobbed the mermaid over the rim.

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Brian Czyzyk Pop Star Post-Breakdown The song she writes and rewrites is a song about bones, is about the hum of her ribcage, the chickadee there that she scratches at. It pecks her capillaries, mistakes them for worms, mistakes the branches of her lungs for pine boughs. Or the song is about love and how it fevers her dreams with knuckles, and chins like blades. How she wants her fingertips pricked by the dimples of men in their mid-twenties. How they pass her pills in little envelopes, how those melt her into lazy macarenas and bleached hair. Once, she wanted the scald of cameras and the hands of those men who lent her amphetamines. Wanted the friction of palm on wrist and waist

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Brian Czyzyk to compress her into a real star—a ball of orange flame. How she’d stun and blind the public, and thrum in the vacuum of space. Or the song is about her father. How he clenched paint brushes between his teeth, and on every canvas the rind of a tangerine scorched amid palms or bowls of pomegranates. She knows he still waits with oranges and chicken sandwiches crammed in brown paper bags, knows he sweeps dust off the piano with his brushes. She’s written these lines fifteen times, and crossed every one of them out.

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Brian Czyzyk

Before the Blue Hour There are days his casual traipse betrays him. Days the sun is rolled down to a nub—a red cigar butt that foists its last haze into July, and the sky mists the colors of rainbow sherbet before the blue hour, before something seems to give way and the stars jab through the atmosphere, adding depth and distance to the firmament. He used to haul his eyes upward, marvel at the moon and how it silvered his fists, used to stand outside St. Michael’s and listen to the parish lift their voices to the heavens. Hallelujahs hooked the Dippers by their bowls and seemed to drag them closer. That was before he was caught with the conductor’s son, before he calculated every day in dollars and cents that glint on the sidewalk, or every sweaty bill shoved into his palm after detours to back alleys with men he knew he’d never see again. He has the bruises to prove how easy it is to forget God’s love. How Bible study can turn to brutality—some lessons yanked from the Old Testament. He knows love is not this. Not fathers in pressed shirts storming to his door with snarls and Leviticus ready on their lips. Not the ordinary tithe of pennies dropped from purses, or green Lincolns

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Brian Czyzyk crumpled against the temple of his body. He needs the organ, the chorus, those lips again—so wet and full of want their union would be a sacrament of its own.

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Brian Czyzyk

Equation for the Next J.B. Fletcher Bestseller Start with a New England storm: the edges of bluffs dripping with delta salt, the perpetual threat of lightning from gunmetal clouds. Add a smiling widow, her daily jog uninterrupted by overcast. After dinner she sits at her typewriter. Taps out the next chapter, a new suspect, their motivation: envy, as always. She’s lived long enough to know how the pangs of the heart echo blasts from a revolver. Thunder stifles her clack of keys. The crashes muffle footsteps on the deck of Mr. Johnson’s cruiser. In the morning, his body sweeps ashore. The sheriff rings the widow up. She doesn’t wince at the corpse. Wrings clues from his closed eyes, the red loop around his neck. Add a crack in the transom, the halyard cut. Add a buried inheritance, a chance meeting in Johnson’s house with the local broker, then a late supper at the widow’s cottage. She talks about her late husband, the life insurance check she’s locked away. Add a twitch of the broker’s gloved hands, a close-up of sweat oozing its way down his cheek. Subtract tension from the widow’s jaw. Substitute her back turned to tend to a roast. As her guest rises to his feet, right hand reaching for her throat, add the sheriff stepping out from the basement, pistol raised. The widow knows it’s not her fault that murder follows her. She’s lived through enough elections to know

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Brian Czyzyk a thing or two about spite. It all totals to stories logged in police records, noveled with altered names.

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JD Debris

A.G.­—A Secret History of Pimping in 3 Deleted Audio Files I met him on the corner of Pearl St. & Lopez, given inexact directions & a vague itinerary: something about Spicing up his once-fresh funk licks with my freaky computer shit (funk, he said, not being the notes but the empty space between them) Something about word up, youngblood, let’s make this money, let’s make it crawl to us. In his powder blue 2-piece & cocked fedora, A.G., among the grime, looked like a rip in the photo; His guitar case matched mine, down to (I assume) the knife sheathed in the side pocket. I followed him round the corner, down an alley, then another, past Mark Sandman Square where cliques of smokers Spilled off the sidewalk & into the street. Then on through Central, A.G. exchanging fist bumps with the junkies & drunks, performing his best Slick-strut despite an obvious limp, tipping his fedora at anything vaguely female, like an uncle with one too many compliments for his niece’s new sundress. His studio was spartan, down in a college radio basement—you could hear some hernia-inducing doom metal Muffled through the walls—vibrating the framed Curtis Mayfield who hung where Jesus might have been. I set my electronics—laptop, M-track, MPC—on a sea-legged card table while he tuned his pearl-white Stratocaster, still in his wraparounds. Tapping his wingtip on the 1, he started to hum, then strum some Superfly soundalikes, opened his mouth, exposing knocked-out teeth & started to sing, throat all blown—I’m as happy as a man can be / I feel like I just won the lottery. One of his strings—as if it recognized irony—chose this moment to snap. After several sumnuvas he handed me a photo album off the top of an amp, saying check this shit out, my man, & re-strung. Why the photos? To prove he existed? Had history? That he didn’t just materialize middle-aged in a puff of petty crime & minor seventh chords? That he didn’t just stitch together some deteriorating strips of Blaxploitation celluloid, grow legs, & start to walk?

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JD Debris The book was full of pharmacy-developed artifacts, all sun-faded & timestamped, most almost as old as me. Here’s A.G., same suit, same Stratocaster, back-to-back with a white, goateed bass player, under the bright lights of some nonextant blues bar. Him again, Hawaiian-shirted on a cruise ship’s sundeck, a short-haired white woman snug in one of his arms. The bassist & a woman beside them, holding drinks, laughing. Him & that same short-haired woman—wife?—in front of a 2 story house. Fishing boats in the background, floating. The house was striking for how little it resembled a brothel, or an hourly-rate motel, or, for that matter, any of Central’s grafittied brick monoliths; The woman for how little she resembled a whore—not coke-skinny, nor street-skeptical. Not gaudy, or even unordinary, in any discernible way. She could have been the mother of a boyhood friend, some Irish-Italian fisherman’s wife named Barbara, or maybe Cindy; She might have invited me to stay for dinner, even when her sons & I came back from the football field covered in mud. That was up in Gloucester, he said. Don’t have that house no more. He took off his shades, letting one glass eye show, & laughed at something in the distance, something only his glass eye could see, Laughing not at the thing, but at the empty space between. Here was the overlap of pimp’s & fisherman’s dreams: their music. Our music. Coming home from work, from street corner or trawler, still smelling like pussy or salt, Sharing a stage at some neon-lit blues bar, sending out salvation bids on a string-bend like doves who fly straight into the ceiling, Hearing holy frequencies in a long-dead genre, seeing Aphrodite in their ordinary white wives. Then packing up their instruments to head home to little salt-sprayed Taj Mahals on some working class stretch of waterfront—where their dreams blossom, die, & are buried. They take photos of their houses. They put the photos into albums. They put the albums on top of amplifiers & let vibrations take them. That money A.G. smelled on me? Nothing but city grime, cologne spray, & saltwater (he should have known better) So we parted ways. Just delete the shit I recorded, he said, & we’ll be straight A.G., haven’t you learned by now that things don’t disappear that easy?

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Ángel García Hotel Moreno Mexicali, Baja California 1959 Room 16, she says, is where it was stolen. Two-hundred and twenty-seven miles from where she worked as an eleven year old girl, my mother folds towels into soft geometries, spreads over the bed starched sheets, turning them with the back of her hand into crisp folds beneath the pillows, so one would know that what’s expected had been done and done well, beyond suspicion. Eventually, everyone gets accused of stealing, she says— the few pesos missing from the night stand, the gold virgen lifted from a cabinet drawer— when you have nothing, you think everyone is out to take what you have. I watch her fold linens from a still warm basket as she recounts how she sped down the hotel corridor the first time it happened, the filigree of the carpet passing beneath her too-small shoes as she ran first away from then back to the room, now empty, to pick up what had been taken from her: the yellow underwear crumpled in the corner, the elastic ripped. Broken.

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Arielle Hebert Cher Cajun French for so cute, little dear, how darling. As in, Cher, that is the cutest puppy. Pronounced like the “sha” in shadow. My Aunt Mary, my grandmother used it as a term of endearment, Come and hug me, cher. Or, Show me your missing tooth, cher. I was a child then, thought everyone’s aunt or grandmother called them cher. When we moved away, I missed the swamp, catching crawfish in the ditch, riding horses through muddy pasture— I didn’t notice I was losing language. No one said cher in Florida. I stopped hearing it, even my dad didn’t say it anymore (it was never my mother’s word, just as the floodwaters and Zydeco blues were never hers). And I forgot cher. Years later, in my early twenties, drunk on hurricanes and hand grenades I saw it spelled out for the first time on a T-shirt in the French Quarter,

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Arielle Hebert overheard another tourist read aloud, Aw, Cher, as in the ageless diva goddess of pop, and I sang loudly “Do you believe in life after love...” until I made sense of the word, said it over and over, cher, cher, cher, my tongue twisting it like a cherry stem, and I could almost feel the mud between my toes, feel my horse’s mane clutched in my hands.

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Susan Triemert Shiny New Things “Hey, on your left!” Her dad slapped the dashboard, rattling

the air vents. “Once you see the sand dunes, kiddo, You. Are. There.” Sally Jo had never been to the ocean. According to her Sunshine Family diary, she’d been looking forward to this moment for five years—since Tuesday, March 4, to be exact—the day she learned about Christopher Columbus. How in fourteen hundred and ninety-two, he sailed the ocean blue. Blue, how blue, she’d wondered. Was it cobalt blue, cornflower, or a shade that matched the sky? Perhaps, it was more of a jade. Moments. Sally Jo was all about creating moments, especially when they involved her father. She worked hard so he’d catch her at her cutest, comment on how adorable she looked the way he had when she was little: “Isn’t she the sweetest little pea to ever live?” The words would flow from his mustachioed mouth, through his tidy white teeth—she felt that if you could see the words they’d glisten, like the tip of an icicle or her cat’s eyes from across a darkened room. Now that Sally Jo was eleven, she realized such moments didn’t happen as frequently. Or naturally. Moments like these must be staged. In her mind, she called them Precious Moments, after the figurines her grandmother gave her on special occasions; her first was a wide-eyed cherub of a child holding a stuffed bunny. It was called Jesus Loves Me. Her grandmother had given her this same figurine twice—once at Christmas and then again two years later at her First Communion—though Sally Jo never did say anything. Now, she planned Precious Moments, which took place when her father stopped noticing her, and seemed more often now that her parents had separated. Two Sundays ago, as they drove home from visiting her grandparents who lived up North, she pretended she’d fallen asleep in the backseat of the car while coloring—as if she’d drifted off mid-motion clutching an upright crayon. On the paper, she’d drawn in half of a heart, though she’d miscalculated how far they were from home and ended up holding the position and the crayon—Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown—for over twenty minutes; her elbow felt stiff the rest of the afternoon and she had to secretly knead the crick out of her neck. On the page she’d scribbled “Dada,” and her father, who always melted when she called him that, picked her up, and much the way he had when she was a toddler, ferried her inside. He taped the half-

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Susan Triemert finished heart to the wall of his den next to her latest report card and the doily hearts and finger paintings she’d made for him over the years. In the car, with the windows open, Sally Jo sensed the ocean loomed near, not because her father had boomed about the sand dunes, or because she’d heard the waves slap against the coast, but because she could feel the the bite of salt in the air and the moist heaviness spread through her long, stringy ponytail. Like a mask, the sticky breeze clung to her nose and lips. From the front seat of their black Firebird, she listened as her father mumbled about the full parking lot. “Geez, some folks get here early. Get a life!” Sally Jo continued to shield her eyes in the backseat. “Front row!” he said. “Looks like this knuckle-head came and went. Sucker.” Patiently she sat as he parked and re-parked three times. After he got out, Sally Jo crawled across the cushiony backseat and stepped out, still refusing to uncover her eyes. “For chrissakes, Sally Jo. Look!” Her palms were still pushed against her eyelids. Her father grabbed her wrists, yanked down her arms. She peeked between the sand dunes. The sparkling water winked at her. The winking switched to flashes on a camera—click, click click, click—she had to rub the brightness from her eyes, had felt slightly dizzy. She wondered if she’d pressed at her eyes too hard. Unaware of her temporary blindness, her father started unpacking the trunk: a styrofoam cooler full of Bologna sandwiches, two cherry drink boxes, and a six-pack of Coors Light. Along with a heap of mustard-colored towels her father said he’d mistakenly taken home from the gym. Sally Jo had remembered to grab suntan lotion, since her dad never wore any, and a plastic pail and shovel—her father had promised to play with her, and she was not about to arrive unprepared. After the piercing light dimmed, she scanned the beach and saw camps of people sunbathing and playing Frisbee; children bobbing up and down close to shore, others scooping moats around sandcastles. The white coast stretched for miles in each direction, and the water glowed a deep sapphire blue. This was the type of precious moment she craved. Her father kicked off his tennis shoes and headed towards the water. Sally Jo peeled off her flip-flops, trailed and trudged her feet through the warm sand after him. He reached the shore moments before and was nodding at a tan surfer girl hugging a surfboard. As Sally Jo approached, a big wave took a grand bow before her, beckoning—she leaned towards the water, skimmed her curled toes across its icy surface. She wanted her father to pay attention, to care about her first touch of saltwater, to comment on how adorable she looked. But because he was busy smile-talking—when every word seeped out of an enormous grin—he didn’t notice her. Not in the least. Seeing the pretty blonde reminded Sally Jo of her most recent Precious Moment. A couple of nights ago she’d timed her bedtime prayers so her

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Susan Triemert father would pass by her room as she said: “Dear Jesus: Please bless the sick. And for my dad, please help him get back to his fighting weight.” Her father had always been attractive—adults often compared him to a young Burt Reynolds—but said, “Those days are long gone, Sally Jo, long gone.” Deep down, she thought her father wasted too much time worrying about the opinions of women, especially the good-looking, already taken ones. Maybe that’s why Mom left, maybe Mom just wanted to be noticed. At the beach, Sally Jo ran up to her father, grabbed onto his hairy arm and tried to monkey-swing off of it. “Hi, Dada.” He acted like his arm was sore, shook her loose. Wearing a cherry red bikini, the surfer turned to Sally Jo.“Hey, how ya doin’?” “I’m Sally Jo. I used to answer to just Sally, but then I told everyone I’d only…” Her father interrupted. “Honey, meet my new friend.” He extended his hand towards the tan blonde. “I’m Don. Don’t think I caught your name.” Isabelle, but told us her friends called her Izzy. Sally Jo heard her father refer to women like her as “really built.” It appeared Izzy was backing up, preparing to walk away. Once again, her father didn’t seem to notice. “Well, Izzy, we’ve brought some drinks. Feel free to stop by for a cold one if you’re thirsty.” Sally Jo doubted Izzy would ever be thirsty, even if the only thing left on the planet to drink was saltwater. Once the woman left, her father said, “Honey, I’ll go find a spot for us. Why don’t you wait here and build a sandcastle?” An order, Sally Jo realized, not a question. She watched her father lug the cooler back up the beach. He stopped to talk to a group of girls kicking around a soccer ball. Sally Jo smoothed the suntan lotion onto her legs and arms, but needed her father to rub it into her shoulders and back. She noticed a woman adjusting a lawn chair, a smiling round woman who resembled her grandmother—same oversized sunhat, same red-rimmed glasses. She hoped her father would sit next to her. After checking to see if there were other kids her age to play with— there weren’t many, none that seemed approachable anyway—she set down her pail and shovel and went to look for her father. Rather than set up camp next to the kind grandmother, he’d placed his cooler and a patchwork of towels next to a tan, petite woman wearing an orange skirted one-piece. Flipping through a magazine, the woman smiled at the young girl lying next to her, most likely her daughter, a freckle-faced child who couldn’t have been much older than four. Sprouting a sweaty load of unruly curls, hair that seemed out of proportion to her tiny size, the girl pushed her Minnie Mouse sunglasses to the top of her head—like her mother had done with her fancy silver ones—and turned the page of her Highlights magazine. “Dad, I thought you wanted to play in the water.” Sally Jo glanced over at the woman, noticed the sparkle on her left hand, could tell the two of

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Susan Triemert them had been talking. Sally Jo suspected her father, like a child, preferred shiny new things to play with. Smile-talking again, he said, “Honey, isn’t this little girl so cute? Just like her mama?” Sally Jo nodded, raised her hand in hello. She knelt down by her dad, softened her voice, “Can you come down? I need you to put lotion on my back.” Her mother would be furious if he dropped Sally Jo off at her place with a sunburn. Typical, she’d say. So typical. Her mother didn’t express emotion well, other than anger—and disappointment in her father. Sally Jo missed her family all being under one roof, but didn’t miss the yelling. “Let me finish this up.” He lifted his can of Coors Light. “Be right over.” Slowly, Sally Jo made her way back down to the water. Two boys with crew cuts, maybe six or seven, had picked up her pail and shovel and were digging tunnels. Kneeling beside them, she said, “You guys wanna play?” The taller one nodded. “Think you could help bury me in the sand later on?” She knew her father would smile if he came down to find her and could only see her face. He’d probably take a photo, maybe even get down on the ground next to her and pose. A perfect Precious Moment. The boys agreed to help. Sally Jo let one of the boys keep the shovel and taught the other one how to dig using his hands, lower arms, even his elbows. The three of them dug a hole, deep enough that the sand felt different, more like sifted flour. The digging took longer than expected, and Sally Jo could feel her neck heating up, knew she didn’t have much time before a rosy pink would spill across her shoulders and back. She crawled into the hole and asked the boys to cover her. Leaning forward, she scooped sand onto her legs and feet. The sand felt warm, like slipping into footed pajamas right out of the dryer. She glanced back at her dad, and though it was hard to see him from her bent over position, she could tell he’d scooted over to the neighboring blanket. Now inches from the little girl, the one with the crazy curls she’d have to grow into, like an infant named Albert or Theodore. In Sally Jo’s direction a faint “Boys, time to go!” rolled in. The two boys stood up, mumbled a quick good-bye and were gone. By now, she was nearly covered with sand, with only her chest, neck and face exposed. She wished she’d told the boys to go get her dad—or at least check to see if he was coming— but how would they ever know what he looked like; most Burt Reynolds movies were for adults. From the angle she was lying, she could see clips of activity: she watched people lazily gather up their belongings, shake loose sand from their towels and blankets, pour out unwanted sips from aluminum cans. The sand no longer felt comforting, but itchy and hard, reminding her of the grainy pink soap in her church’s bathroom, the single-stalled one in the basement. With her arms pressed against her sides, she wondered if this was how it felt to

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Susan Triemert be buried alive. She heard her father’s voice, turned her head, but couldn’t yet see him. Closer and louder he came. When he passed by her limited view, she recognized his green swim trunks. But that couldn’t have been him, she told herself, because that man was holding hands with the little, curly-haired girl. She continued to watch as her father and the girl’s mother each held onto one of the girl’s hands and swung her through the air. “Again,” the girl shrilled, and on her father’s count of three, they lifted her once more, her crazy curls shooting and spiraling through the air. Feeling as if she was sinking lower—Sally Jo’s thoughts spun to the little she knew about quicksand—she started to dig herself out. Her father’s face turned in her direction. Shot off. He must have seen her, she thought. “Dad!” she yelled. His voice was drifting, moving up-beach, along with the breeze and several troops of worn-out sunbathers. Sally Jo dog-dug the rest of herself out, started to wipe the remaining sand from her legs and chest. Before her appeared the grandmother she’d spotted earlier, the one who resembled her own—someone’s grandmother she was sure. “Honey, are you okay?” Sally Jo nodded, shrugged slightly. With the pads of her fingers, she tapped her shoulders; she could tell they’d be shiny and sore by morning. “Are you lost?” The grandmother paused. “Sweetie, did you lose your mommy?” She shook her head. “Your daddy?” Sally Jo stopped, searched the woman’s plump cheeks, her friendly blue eyes. She had finally been spoken to in a way that made sense. The woman assured her she would be okay and offered her a glass of water. A pure Precious Moment. After some time had passed, Sally Jo went to find her father. He was back where he’d been sitting, still with the woman and child, and it appeared he was folding their oversized beach towels. Sally Jo saw that her father’s own space remained a mess of empty beer cans, wrappers, and sand-covered towels. He didn’t seem to notice her until after he had hugged the woman goodbye, high-fived the child, and had finished shoving the rest of his belongings into the now empty cooler. “Hey, kiddo. Ready to go?” he said as he turned to face the water, held his arms out wide, and dramatically inhaled. “Take it in, Sally Jo. Don’t know how soon we’ll be back.” After a long, quiet walk back to the car, her father rested his arm across her shoulders. She’d expected his touch to hurt more. “Your first trip to the beach, Sally Jo. What’d ya think?” He didn’t wait for an answer.

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Casey Whitworth The Unknown People New Year’s Day, the second night of our honeymoon on the island

of Eleuthera, and Amy and I are kerpunkled up, as the locals say. I’m behind the wheel of our rented Jeep as we head south toward the Junkanoo parade in Governor’s Harbour. Amy clicks on a flashlight. She twists toward me with the beam under her chin and tells me what her dead father used to tell her. “If you’re not home by sunset, young lady, the small man will find you. He’ll catch you”—she clutches my arm—“and drag you onto his cart, and you’ll be his prisoner until the end of time.” I shrug her away and watch the dark hill that looms up ahead. “That’s a cruel thing to tell a little girl. You must’ve had nightmares for years.” “But I never stayed out past sunset.” I smile at her, downshift to climb the hill. Halfway to the top, something streaks out in front of us and there’s a hollow thunk on the fender before I stomp the brakes, jerk the wheel, and swerve onto the far shoulder. Dust rises in the headlights’ glow. A few yards away, a teal-and-yellow sign that reads BAHAMAS HERITAGE SITE. Amy sits up, rubbing her temple. “What the hell was that?” “I don’t know,” I say. “I’m gonna look.” I grab her flashlight from the floorboard and spill out of the Jeep. A low keening comes from somewhere in the opposite ditch. I stagger across the road and warily scan the light into the bushes. It’s moaning now, whatever it is, whimpering in a way that sounds human. “Well,” Amy calls out. “Was it a potcake?” I stare over my shoulder at her, thinking about a lot of things: the twostory Victorian we closed on last month; Amy’s new position as a charge nurse at HealthFirst, and all the sacrifices she made working the nightshift for three years; and the diploma with my name on it from the Florida State University College of Law, freshly framed and hung above my desk in our new home office. All of our decisions seemed to have been the right ones until a few minutes ago. “Yeah,” I say on my way to the Jeep. “It’s just a dog. Poor guy didn’t know what hit him.” By the time we pull into Governor’s Harbour, I’ve almost shaken the paranoid thought that it was a person in the road, chalking it up to that

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Casey Whitworth stupid story Amy’s father used to tell her, the legend of the small man. A dog could make that sort of sound. We park in a gravel lot by a pink two-story building with turquoise shutters and trim. The library, Amy tells me, where she read away so many summer days while her father was out catching bonefish. I mix us each a goombay smash from the cooler in the backseat while she tells me of a book about the Lucayans who flourished on Eleuthera until the arrival of the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria. “The way Columbus described them in his journals, you’d think he was aboard the HMS Beagle. ‘Handsome, gentle, almost always naked, with tattoos and bright paint on their tawny skin.’ Like he was cataloguing weird animals. All while he knew exactly how the story would turn out.” I hand her a glass and take a gulp from my own. Outside, the pulsing drumbeat of the Junkanoo parade comes closer, closer. “So in History class that fall, once we were back in the States”—Amy sips her drink and feigns a dry heave—“This is way, way too strong. Anyway. I was in sixth grade, maybe seventh. And the teacher asks us what we know about Columbus, so I raise my hand and talk about how the Bahamas were uninhabited for a hundred years after the Spanish shipped all the Lucayans to the silver mines of Hispaniola. And you know what Mrs. Harvey says to that? Absolutely nothing. She just gives me this awkward, condescending smile and asks if anyone else has something to say. And Peggy Barnett, always the teacher’s little angel, raises her hand and says, ‘In fourteenhundred-ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He had three ships and left from Spain. He sailed through sunlight, wind, and rain.’” “Amy,” I say. “We should maybe go on back. I don’t feel so good.” “It’s that drink,” she says. “Yuck. Just pour it out. It’s not even eleven.” I let her drag me up the street toward the chaos of the Junkanoo parade. All around us, the ebb and flow of dancers in grotesque masks and feather headdresses, black bodies streaked with gold and aquamarine, shimmying to the beat of bugles, cowbells, and goatskin drums. Amy gets swept up and floats along with them, twirling and dancing until she’s out of my reach. And somehow, in this moment, I don’t even think I recognize her, with her blonde hair in fresh corn-rows, her skin so much darker than when we stepped down onto the tarmac in Rock Sound three days ago. I stand there watching her while the crowd jostles past me, and then she notices and calls my name. She maneuvers toward me and yanks me away from the road, down toward the beach and onto the sand. The parade undulates farther and farther away, torches aflicker. Amy gasps. “The water. It’s freezing.” She’s waded up to her knees in the harbor. Her satchel lies at my feet on the sand, and she has uncapped the urn of her father’s ashes. She digs into his cremains and then says something, soft as a prayer, before casting a handful of ash into the water.

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Casey Whitworth Her father died a month before the wedding. The man was in better shape than I am now—no alcohol, tobacco, or red meat. Then wham! Heart attack. And some lady walking her Shih Tzu in Cascades Park finds him facedown on the grass. Dead. Amy’s carried him with us since we got off the plane, leaving little remnants of him around the island: in a brackish sinkhole, for instance, one of many the Lucayans believed to be a portal to the underworld; and in Preacher’s Cave, atop a boulder called Pulpit Rock from which a Puritan reverend delivered sermons in the 1600s; and in the surf of Tay Bay Beach, after we snorkeled out deep and raised our masks to watch the breakers foam over Devil’s Backbone, the reef on which the Puritans’ ship ran aground in 1648, nearly a century after the last proud Lucayan watched the coastline recede from the cargo hold of a Spanish slave ship. Another handful of ash sprinkles the harbor. Amy’s crying again, shoulders hitching. The drums and horns are louder now. I kick off my shoes and walk into the water, drape my arm around her. She curls into me with her cheek against my chest. The parade turns the corner, stomping toward us with all the fury of a mob. I wrap my arms around my wife, hold her close until the dancers pass us by. When we arrive at our cottage in Rainbow Bay, I carry Amy across the yard, up the stairs. She clings to me like a child, half-asleep. Once we lie beside each other in the darkness of our room, I recall the terrible noise in the bushes. What streaked across the highway was a blur, but could the blur have been a man who’s now drawing his last breaths? I sit up carefully. Moonlight through the blinds illuminates the painting on the far wall. The ship seems to be swaying on the waves. This is how I know I am too drunk to drive back. I lie down and watch the ship—a Spanish galleon once commandeered by Blackbeard. Amy told me the story our first night in this room. How Blackbeard’s crew tried to sail the galleon to Nassau, which was known as the Republic of Pirates at the time, but due to the damaged hull they had to scuttle it on Eleuthera. According to legend, the pirates hid the gold in Hatchet Bay Cave, and nearly three centuries later, in the late-nineties, Amy and her father searched for the treasure with flashlights and metal detectors. In the morning, I awake in a feverish sweat. Out the window the island is dark. I reach over to Amy, let my hand hover above her shoulder, ready to shake her, tell her about the man in my dream, the small man standing in the middle of the Queen’s Highway. Instead what I do is brew coffee, what I do is carve a pineapple. Out on the veranda in the first light of dawn, I sip coffee and eat sweet chunks of pineapple while bats swirl overhead through clouds of gnats, and when the sun chases the bats back to their caves, I flip through the Scientific American I bought in the Fort Lauderdale airport.

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Casey Whitworth An article on page thirty-one describes the Many-Interacting Worlds theory: the idea that all alternate pasts and futures are real, each representing a distinct universe of which there is an infinite number, which means that everything that could have happened, but did not happen, in our past has in fact already occurred in some other universe. I’m trying to wrap my brain around that when the whine of an engine on the dirt road startles me. A small black truck pulls into the driveway. A gangly white man gets out. “Happy New Year to you,” he says, and introduces himself as Levi, coowner of the Rainbow Inn. “Don’t mean to be a bother this early, but thought I’d warn you.” He visors a hand over his eyes and points down the coast. “A Haitian sloop ran aground last night about a mile south. The police are looking around, but the Haitians have no doubt scurried off by now.” I clear my throat. “How do you know they’re Haitians?” Levi scoffs at that. “It’s always Haitians,” he says, and tells me that in recent years the infestation has gotten so bad that now one out of every eight residents of the Bahamas is an undocumented immigrant from Haiti. “Yeah,” Levi says, “they steal what they can. Best to lock it all up, and until the dust settles you might think about staying in after dark.” He pats the roof of his truck a few times. “I know,” he says. “Instinct’s to take pity on them. But you don’t feed a stray dog unless you want it hanging around.” He glances around the yard as if someone might be crouched behind a coconut palm. “All right then,” he says, “don’t forget that pizza night’s on Monday at the inn. It’s quite an occasion. You won’t wanna miss it.” As soon as he’s backed out of the driveway and waved and gone on down the road, the sliding glass door behind me scrapes open. It’s Amy in her underwear, clasping the urn. “Who was that?” “Some guy from Rainbow Inn.” I stare down the coastline and tell her about the Haitian sloop, and only then do I realize that the hill where the accident happened is about a mile south of here, too. That’s when I notice what looks like blood smeared on the Jeep’s fender. “We could check out the sloop before we take Dad to the cave.” Amy hooks her arm in mine, leans against my shoulder. “What is it, babe? You’re so tense. What’re you thinking about?” I take a deep breath. Yes, I could tell her now. But would that make me seem more of a monster, the sort of man who’d let another human being suffer on the roadside so he wouldn’t ruin his own honeymoon? I stretch, pretend to yawn. “No, that’s fine. Let’s go see it.” Twenty minutes later, Amy’s driving us along the cliffs. I watch the bush for any sign of movement, any peering eyes. A quarter mile past Hidden Beach, Amy stops the Jeep and points down at the shore. A ship’s toppled over in the surf, waves crashing on its red hull. The sloop must be forty feet

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Casey Whitworth across with a fifty-foot mast. Its size and splendor make my breath hitch in my chest. “Come on,” Amy says. “Let’s go look.” We hike to the edge of the limestone cliffs. Footprints riddle the sand below, leading away from the sloop toward where the cliff opens into a cave. The Haitians seemed to have gathered there. A child’s flip flop lies beside an orange lifejacket, a half-coiled rope, a few plastic bags of chips and cookies and crackers, and an empty plastic jug. “Wait,” Amy says. “Something’s out there. Look.” She points at the ocean where the turquoise water fades out to aquamarine. “That red thing. You see it?” And I do. For a moment, it’s a red shirt floating loosely above a corpse. But then my eyes adjust, and it isn’t a corpse at all. It’s a red gas can struggling to stay afloat. Amy drives us north on the Queen’s Highway, singing along to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They don’t love you like I love you. Wait. I try to commit her image to memory—a giddy twenty-eight-year-old with big sunglasses and windswept hair, sunshine glinting off her diamond ring, on the way to leave her father’s ashes with Blackbeard’s gold in Hatchet Bay Cave. Near huge gray silos that jut up on either side of the highway, Amy turns left onto a red-dirt track. We follow it through dense bush that claws at the side of the Jeep. The track spills out onto a grassy clearing where we park beside a yawning rock that leads down into the earth. “Here we are, Dad,” she says, and grabs her satchel from the backseat. Amy descends first into the cave, leaning on the rickety handrail. I duck to clear the sagging ceiling, then turn on my flashlight. As I pan the beam across the walls, the rock glimmers with a metallic, yellow-orange luster not unlike that of pyrite. Leaving sunshine, Amy and I stay close to each other. The warty walls are damp and warm to the touch, as if we’re in the belly of a prehistoric beast. Gray cockroaches scurry across the pockmarked floor, up stalagmites to hide in crannies in the rock. Twenty feet overhead, stalactites seem to ooze down in imperceptible slow-motion, gleaming and slick. I stop to drink from our canteen. “Isn’t it magical down here?” Amy says, and creeps deeper into the cave. I catch her in my flashlight and she follows her shadow around the bend. By the time I find her, my shirt’s plastered to my back. She stands in the center of what looks like a medieval cathedral, inspecting the strange graffiti on the walls: black, serifed lettering with names and dates from the 1800s. Then it hits me: a rancid stench like rotten potatoes. “What’s that smell?” She pans her light over ochre splotches on the floor. “Used be a guano

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Casey Whitworth mine a hundred and fifty years ago.” She aims her beam at the ceiling where brown bats dangle from the rock, clusters of five and ten. Dozens and dozens are snuggled in bell holes, others beginning to fidget in the light. “The Lucayans considered bats to be sacred.” Amy shrugs off her satchel and takes out the urn. “Spirit guides,” she says. “Which is why they buried their dead in caves like this one, so the bats could usher their souls into the underworld.” She sets the urn in a divot within the cave wall and stacks a few rocks around it. “There you go, Dad,” she says. She backs away and looks at her handiwork. A tear trails down her cheek, so I reach out and take her hand. We stand there together looking at the urn, saying our silent goodbyes. “Ben,” she says. “Can we turn out our lights for a little while?” “Of course we can.” When our flashlights blink out, the darkness swallows us. Amy’s grip tightens on my hand, and I squeeze right back. She takes a deep trembling breath and lets it out slowly. I begin to cry now, too. She has honored me by bringing me here, showing me this sacred place where hundreds of bats hang upside-down overhead; where the names of the dead adorn the walls; where Lucayan bones and pirate gold lie hidden in the rock along with her father’s ashes—all the unknown people, the many-interacting worlds. Slowly I begin to get a sense of the eternal. We hike hand-in-hand toward the mouth of the cave where sunshine slants down on our faces. Amy takes a long drink from the canteen. I ask her what she thinks about parallel universes. “I don’t know,” she says. “Not much?” “For every decision we make,” I say, “there could be an alternate universe where we didn’t make that decision, where everything turned out differently. I was reading about it this morning, in that magazine I got at the airport. And I started thinking about who I might have become in another universe, or who you might have become. And I realized there could be an infinite number of universes where me and you, we don’t even know each other. Where we didn’t go to Marie’s Halloween party, so we never met on the balcony, never fell in love or got married—” “OK,” Amy says. “I get it. Those other versions of us should be jealous.” “But what if one of us made a decision, you know, in this universe, a stupid fucking decision, and the outcome was that we couldn’t have each other anymore?” “What if?” she says. “Right. What if last night. I mean, what if on the way to the parade . . .” “Uh huh.” She shrugs. “What if what?” “I said it was a potcake that we hit. But what if it wasn’t? Because I don’t

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Casey Whitworth think it was. I think it might have been somebody that got off of that sloop. I think we might have killed somebody.” She stares at me long enough for her confusion to darken into anger. She climbs the stairs, storms to the Jeep. The engine’s already running by the time I get in the passenger seat. On the drive south, she won’t even look at me. Hunched over the steering wheel, jaw clenched. After what seems like an hour, we mount the hill where it happened and I tell her to slow down. She stares grimly at the skid marks veering toward the teal-and-yellow sign that reads BAHAMAS HERITAGE SITE. “You got out,” she says finally, “with the flashlight. You crossed the road. And then what?” “I was scared. OK? I heard these awful noises.” “We could’ve called someone. Gotten help. We could’ve done something.” “We would’ve gone to jail. We would’ve lost everything.” “It was a dog. That’s what you said.” She glares at me. “You lied right to my face.” “I’m sorry. I was drunk.” We sit there awhile, silent, staring straight ahead. She sighs, then I sigh. I get out and walk to the roadside and call down into the bushes. “Hello? Is anybody down there?” The bushes rustle. Then I hear a tortured groan, guttural and wet. Alive. I start down the ditch but stop when I glimpse them through the casuarina trees: three mangy dogs gathered around the carcass of one of their own, bloody muzzles bowed to feed on gory entrails. I watch with an ache in my throat, suddenly overcome with relief and sadness and rage. “Git!” I fling a handful of dirt at them. “Go on. Get out of here!” I hurl another clump, and another. The dogs scatter from the carcass, and I stand there with dirt caked under my nails. Over my shoulder, I find Amy watching from the road. She looks at the dead potcake and then at me. We come to some silent understanding: when we recount our honeymoon to friends and family, children and grandchildren, we’ll omit these scenes from the story, never revealing that I drag the dead dog into the woods and, on hands and knees, claw into the earth to dig a grave.

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Tennessee Hill Other Metallics When my grandfather first taught me to shuck corn, I learned to pocket the winking, rotted copper kernels. Instead of throwing them out, I’d twist the tiny slicks between my curls like screws, crowning myself a seedy, slippery princess. I clung to the gaunt winter-turned jade of frozen pines, held bundles of thawing needles as a bridal bouquet and proposed dripping eternity to every bud with the nerve to stick around. One afternoon, I walked a sidewalk pulsing with pollen and considered believing in the great big animal living beneath, fur-hustling our dividing seam. When I found myself alone, I stretched like a tense star on top of the cobbles and tried to vibe back into the earth everything I’d been given. Drained of any cosmic, plasmic fleck that set me apart, I stood, a vinegar-soaked penny, and like a parent watching their child spin on a carousel’s enamel animal, felt a few sacrificial pounds of my flesh whirl down a coin slot, buy one more trip around the axis.

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Allison Hraban Brother, Disappeared for Austin I absolve the woods’ misgivings: ruts, rot-sick trees, slatted sunlight, swathes of fog. I accept their loamy contrition, in your absence: this palmful of truffles, dirt tamped in the crescents of my nails. I forgive the mauve sky above our backwoods, the everyday gloaming that took you: child who soared towards morning. You ceded your things to me, squirrel strung splayed on the laundry cable, your tally: two lead pellets to the belly. Raw venison stripes dried a slick grizzle which you swore would keep you alive. Blood bait tubs stacked in stout towers on your shelves. A dead beaver stuck in our seine, teeth bearing.

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Natalie Kawam I never meant to be mean, Though it happened. When I threw the plant across the kitchen counter, I never meant to crush its unstraight stalk crude with green sureness, cracking pottery chips across the tile floor. I meant to scoop handfuls of dirt, warm damp premise, hold the sweet amaryllis bulb in my hands, the soft promise of a newborn’s fragile skull, mold a knuckled cavern, reopen birth, soften the black from where it came, arc its partial sun, soak the water’s light, and raise shoots peeking out like fingers.

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Michal Leibowitz Poem for Your Birthday for R.F. Tzimtzum. A handshake. The face of the rain. Here is all I want to give. Your cheeks between my palms. Sempiternity between my palms. The lake has been refilled since we once drained it. Water dives in layered sheets. She cannot help herself, the rain. Between the sheets, we drink. I am so full. Moss-grown and green. The lichen spongy on my teeth, dampness tonguing at my gums. It’s been twentyone years. Twenty-one years beneath that inverted bowl of sky. Consider the hollow. You told me how your chest once bowed inwards, deep enough that you ate from it. I imagine you, a young boy with wire glasses in a hospital bed. Your chest a vessel or a cave. Spooning cereal into your mouth, spoon traveling from chest to lips. From lips to chest. I no longer want to drain the things I love, though high water is dangerous It’s been twentyone years. The lake has been refilled by rain. No one gave the say-so. I am beginning to understand the beauty of the hollow. How you emerged perfect, already making space. Day by day, I am learning to make space for you. See this spoon? I use it

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Michal Leibowitz to scoop out the seeds. Then I plant them. Your face between my palms. The universe between my palms. Another spoonful of lake water. God, I am so full.

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Jennifer Manthey Family Tree Assignment There is the waxed and colorful dress she wore in the photograph. The unrealized river, fantasy of jungle, whole economy of rain. There is notable heat, of course, and a man at my hotel who carried my bags to the car and asked me Could you bring my son to America too? How to chart this— how to work blank lines into something. I’m sorry there isn’t more. You could have my French and Irish lists of names, long-journeyed ships, men dying in mines, women staring still for photographers. No. They matter less to you than long lines of parents suddenly serious telling their sons you always have to be respectful. You have to say, “yes sir.” Where is a grandmother for you, holding out a Jet magazine page from 1955? It’s been folded and unfolded. Where are aunts who twist your hair, laugh with teeth as bare as yours? And where is your uncle, with his deep knowledge of injustice,

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Jennifer Manthey telling you to fight or to turn, not worth it, on your bug-crushing heels?

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Sonya Bilocerkowycz Duck and Cover So here’s what has happened: in the civilized Europe of the twentyfirst century, a child appeared from nowhere, and no one knew who this child was. The war that we allowed to happen has deprived this girl of something even orphans have: knowledge of her name, and of when and where she was born. —Anna Politkovskaya (1958-2006), Russian journalist, on meeting an orphan of Chechnya

My grandmother keeps a calendar in her Chicago kitchen, above the garbage can, beside the toaster. It hangs across from the mirror. It is always a free calendar, a calendar that her Ukrainian-owned-and-operated credit union mails to each of its members. The pictures are idyllic folk scenes: a leaf resting on a lake, the entrance to a forest, a sunflower field. In the boxes below the folk scenes she marks significant dates in half-English, half-Ukrainian. A birthday, a death day, a name day. When the Chelyabinsk meteor hit, it was winter and so my grandmother’s calendar probably showed a hearth, or a ski hill, or a village church draped in snow. I can’t remember which. I can’t remember the calendar scene, but I do remember that when the meteor hit, I was in a place where the meteor was not hitting. I. Sasha, student, age 8 The main difference between me and you—besides that I am a teacher and you are a student—is that on the morning of February 15, 2013 I was in a place where the meteor was not hitting and you were in a place where it was. I was learning how to command attention at a chalkboard, and you were tucked under your desk. Though I am a teacher, I am not your teacher and that is good because I wouldn’t have known what she knew. My instincts have not been trained like hers. She came of age alongside the Atom. She was born on high alert. Duck and cover is what your fourth-grade teacher screamed, but what she meant is this is war. Her drill was leftover from one long-gone cold, from when old men cast us as enemies. You did as she said, huddled low and hoped the long-gone drill would work because there was a rush of light 30 times brighter than the sun inside your classroom. Jesus Christ

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Sonya Bilocerkowycz what is happening? The children. The calendar. The windowpanes clanging like incense burners. Woe is me! Lord have mercy! Clang. Deliver me! The calendar. The children. Pilot my wretched soul, do not despise thy servant, count me worthy… Thank God for that teacher because if you had been outside, little Sasha, you would have retinal damage and winter-month sunburns, white banks making a reflection of a reflection of the star in your eye. In the enemy country where the meteor was not hitting, it was cloudy. When the meteor hit, infrasound waves cracked glass all over town, but not in discernible patterns. Your second window on the east side, your fish tank, French doors, the mirror for your father and his morning shave. Like many of the local men, your father is probably a veteran of Chechnya in the ’90s, which would mean he’s seen it all, seen places turned to powder under presidential orders. You are small, Sasha, so all you see is the vodka now, but your father was probably there in uniform, in Grozny, when the UN named it the Most Destroyed City on Earth, which is almost but not quite giving credit where credit is due. (The Army, which had been diminished under Yeltsin, was henceforth to be reborn…, Anna Politkovskaya reported.) Your father,—he’s seen it all—so on the morning commute when the sky exploded above his automobile like the day of fiery reckoning he said, with absolutely no emotion, Damn. We know this from his dash cam. After school you, little Sasha, will wade through Siberian snow to search for black gold, following the drift-holes to dense rock below. You are an expert at digging for the stones because your hands are small and, in your excitement, you easily forget the cold. You’ll search for hours, beg your mother to postpone dinner. Soon, strange men in dark cars come to cruise your village. They will idle in front of your house and offer thousands of rubles for the found fragments your small hands fished out of the yard. There is a black market for natural shrapnel. A few weeks later, in science class, after they have fixed all the windows, your teacher will tell you about meteors. Your teacher’s eyes will lose focus, only for a second, and perhaps no one will notice but you. Her eyes will lose focus, drift idly toward the calendar on the wall, its blue-yellow-red numbers. She searches for some significance, her thoughts like a runaway tank. Meteor, asteroid, comet… Even after the lesson, you are still not sure how to draw them. Maybe they are mountains, balled up, rolled like dough. Maybe they are your mother’s pelmeni, stuffed with gravel. Maybe they are a million gravel-stuffed dumplings all held together with fire, which is difficult to imagine since you haven’t yet learned how to count to a million. You attempt to draw this anyway. Nine months later, scientists will take the biggest stone for themselves, drag it from the bottom of a lake nearby. A 1,442-pound close shave, your

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Sonya Bilocerkowycz father thinks to himself as he admires your pelmeni meteor on the fridge. No one is home. The compressor hums in the background. He rips off a chunk of bread and floats toward the couch, grabs the remote like a gun. Takes aim. People can consider February 15th their second birthday, your television governor says, but what he means is victory can happen to anyone.

II. Yelena, hospital orderly, age 41 We are nothing alike because I am not a mother. I have never had to wave goodbye to a child leaving for school, have never crossed myself thrice for his safety, or prayed he would look both ways at the intersection by the post office. I have never needed to protect anyone, save myself and my own soft belly. I am not a mother, and so all I can say about pain is that I too sometimes cry at the sight of a sunflower field. Officially, there never was a rocket. It never landed anywhere and certainly not in a sunflower field in the faraway country next door. (…the necessary background and scenery for a dirty little war, Anna Politkovskaya wrote years earlier of Chechnya.) I was just leaving the next-door country as your son was arriving. We passed in the night like trains, like lost tanks. I was just leaving Ukraine as your son was arriving, though officially, he was nowhere. A zinc-lined coffin travels better through air and x-ray machines, so they hermetically seal your son like cucumbers and slaw, like the cellar of jars you’ve saved just in case. Sauerkraut. Beans. Beets. He looks up at you through a small window in the coffin top, cheeks sallow. Instant army noodles aren’t enough for a growing boy, you think, angry all over again, wondering why you hadn’t called his commander sooner to tell him that growing boys need meat. The commander has never crossed himself thrice for your son’s sake. The commander has never needed to protect anyone, save himself. You, Mrs. Yelena, will not be able to sleep. Every hour you startle yourself awake by lunging at the calendar. At first you want to kill it, shank it with your kitchen knife, but later you settle for counting and recounting the boxes. August 10, August 11, August 12… You sob and accuse the page of conspiracy. You fold the corners into complicated patterns that only you can remember. (More and more, it seems to me that each of us has our own personal calendar, Anna Politkovskaya said.) You check again tomorrow for evidence of tampering. There was no rocket, but when it landed, your son was somewhere in Ukraine, 500 miles from Chechnya where they told you his Rifle Brigade was permanently stationed, and 900 miles from your Volga Basin home and

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Sonya Bilocerkowycz the couch where he should have been sleeping. You lie awake on that couch all night, asking yourself why you weren’t there, what you could have done differently. Duck and cover you remember from the old days but your son is so young—20, a barely-stubbled baby face—he didn’t know the drill, hadn’t seen it all. If you had been there, you would have covered him with your own chest, with your pale back, with the soft, sagging part of your stomach. If you had been there, beside him, chin-high in a field of sunflower faces. You would have looked at him and seen yourself. Now, you barely feel anything. There is a notarized death certificate (multiple shrapnel wounds to lower limbs, acute massive blood loss, origin not established) and a son who once had legs. There is a secret funeral you’re not allowed to tell the relatives about. Tears freeze to your face. Your son’s coffin is snow covered. You fuss over a bouquet of plastic dahlias because, in the absence of a crowd, you must find another way to make this pile of dirt significant. You fuss over the floral arrangement and then cross yourself three times. No, not three times, but thirty times three. Back on the couch you wait months for your television news anchor to mourn with you, but she never mentions your son’s Brigade or the sunflower field across the border. You cradle the remote like a baby, dumplings growing cold on the plate beside you. The refrigerator hums in the background. Men in uniform float before your eyes, and you reach for them. Russian paratroopers make history today by landing on a drifting Arctic iceberg where they will practice survival training, the anchor reports, which is to say there is no war, but if there were one, we’d be winning. Which is to say, all targets are moving.

III. Anna, journalist, age 48 I want to be as brave as you, but I’m not yet. I stay up all night reading your books about Chechnya, about the horrors you witnessed and the people you tried to protect by screaming truth into the giant vacuum that is your motherland. The authorities hate you for your words against their dirty war. I am a pariah, you say. I am not significant enough to be anyone’s pariah, I think. I sleep with your books under my pillow and pretend we are having conversations: What shoes did you wear in Chechnya? In Chechnya, twin baby girls were killed before they learned to walk. Would you have hung your granddaughter’s artwork on the fridge? Right now I have two photographs on my desk of people who were abducted. What do you dream of? Faint explosions were heard and a silvery-violet, tulip-shaped column of smoke appeared. Do you still cry or have you forgotten how? Mass poisonings at schools in the Shelkovsk region. Are there any pomegranate

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Sonya Bilocerkowycz trees left? The Army continues to rage in Chechnya. What are you most proud of? I am not one of his political opponents or rivals, just a woman living in Russia. I am outside on a street. It is night in Moscow. I have never been to this place in waking life, but I am here now. The building in front of me is made of old stones. There are two tall wooden doors and a blue mailbox to the left of them. The building is at an intersection, and there is a street sign tacked near the corner: 8 Forest Street. A few people pass on the opposite side of the road. They push a stroller with a balloon tied to the handle. They do not notice me and are gone after a minute. There is also a man. He is dressed in black, a black cap on his head. He is beside me, waiting in front of the building. I look into his eyes and see my own reflection. I can’t say where he ends and I begin. This man knows the building code, ####. He gingerly pulls open the tall door and snakes inside. The stairwell is dark and damp, a bag of potato chips and a juice box rotting in the corner, a condom wrapper, a pile of dead, wet leaves. The hallway walls are painted in typical Soviet fashion: a coat of thick blue paint up to your neck. It is hard to leave fingerprints on this paint. It is a good method for keeping the communal hallways clean, for cleansing them of unsightly human oils. All the old kommunalkas have these halls in this color. It is a color that conspires to say, everything is alright. He hangs outside the elevator, tucked behind a pillar of steel. Water drips in the corner. A fuse box hums. The man stands there, haunted as a tree, leaves twitching, fingernail grazing the trigger. He waits. And waits again. Somewhere, a baby is born. When the elevator door finally opens, there is nowhere to duck. The sound cracks like timber. A close range CRACK-CRACK-CRACK, a round of hellfire from a handgun shot by a hit-man as random as the weather. Ms. Anna, what is the definition of a war? When you wrote that the state was targeting enemies who needed to be “cleansed,” is this what you meant? Is a hallway also a battlefield? The elevator door opens to your crumpled body, a bag of groceries wilting on the ground beside you. Your long, limp legs, broken glasses, the gray hair behind your ears whispering, I’ve seen it all. The only explanation is this: four shots, one to the head, and a standard-issue Makarov pistol. Killer unknown. You will be mourned on Forest Street and in the country next door and around the globe. You will be called brave and people will point to your articles, to the time you were abducted by federal troops. Another time you tried to save 1,000 hostages—children, in fact. On a southbound airplane, on your way to negotiate their release, the flight attendant served you a cup of tea. Forest fruits. You woke up in a hospital, a nurse bending over you, whispering about poison. All official blood test records have been destroyed. There is a black market for good reasons to go to war. Your friends and family will grieve the loss of an almost-grandmother

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Sonya Bilocerkowycz because your daughter was pregnant that night of the elevator. Your granddaughter will be born in the spring and they will name her Anya, like you. She will learn to walk, and ride a bike, and draw stick figures for a family and spell her name—АННА—while the authorities pretend to be looking for the murderer. On the day of the elevator, you had been shopping for a tub in which to wash your almost-granddaughter. You promised to stop going to Chechnya, to stop writing such awful things just as soon as she was born. Maybe, when baby Anya is grown enough to know this story, she will get caught in a hailstorm one afternoon, pebbles aimed from on high. She will get caught on the way to work wearing her best dress and shoes. Sopping wet and sore, she will cock her soft face to the sky and wonder about luck. She will wonder where she came from. Three days after the elevator, it is your funeral. You are due to be buried in Troyekurovskoye Cemetery, which means everything happens in threes— life is a troika. Thousands of people walk by your coffin, leave their tears on the inner lining. They present you with flowers. The priest delicately lays a white band across your forehead, according to the Orthodox custom. It is printed with the Trisagion, the thrice holy prayer, Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us. It is not so much a band as a crown. You wear a crown into the ground to signify your victory. This printed paper, your victory. Ten years later, when my own grandmother dies, I will admire her crown of glory and think about where I came from. I will gaze at her sunflower face, which is another thing she used to call me: sonyashnyk, sunflower. Standing there over my grandmother, I am a reflection of a reflection. Thousands attend your funeral, but not the television president. He calls it a disgusting crime, though qualifies his statement, saying that, at the end of the day, Anna Politkovskaya’s impact on Russian political life was extremely insignificant. I wonder what your granddaughter would think of this. Is it really such a silly thing, to feed and wash your daughter’s daughter? A crime of vile brutality should not remain unpunished, the president proclaims after the elevator, but what he means is it’s time to party: today is my birthday, and the car is waiting out back. uuu

You are a saint, and I am not yet brave enough. I don’t know how to give my whole life. I forget to call my grandmother on holidays. I have not raised any children, only this pathetic little troika. Can you forgive me? For that day, I was in the enemy country. For that day—October 7—it was my birthday too.

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Katelyn Keating Hitting the Bear We drove through the night in a caravan for the last time. On this late-October evening, well after sunset, the roads of Central Vermont were dark and full of sky, and of the shadowed shape of mountains as headlights flickered across the landscape. Isolating and penetrating, the dark was complete. With no rig of my own, I towed a borrowed horse trailer behind a borrowed SUV back to Warren from the University of New Hampshire Fall Horse Trials, our last event of the season. Bugsy rode alone in the trailer, wearing shipping bandages to support his tired legs and a blanket for the cold. He and I were each alone because Janine had two horses in her trailer, with no more space. She’d won her division that day on her little palomino warmblood mare. Petite and tough, she’d been winning for decades, still had the passion. Horse sports are not ageist to the human athletes. Her top student, Samantha, had competed on Janine’s old champion. A lanky Thoroughbred ex-steeplechaser with a ten-year career at the track, and almost as long in his second life with Janine, he neared retirement as did Bugsy, two old campaigners each doing his part for a girl. I think Samantha won her division, too. I placed seventh in mine. Bugsy had been a winner in his youth; I had been a low-placing participant with a dream. My best finish was third place—once. Earlier that day at UNH, something had changed for me. I’d felt fear in the warm-up ring, in the start box, and on the cross-country course; the first time in my life that fear crept into horseback riding. It wasn’t just the fear of taking a fall, but the accompanying absence of excitement to be out on the course. Had I outgrown my passion to compete, a passion from youth I’d been trying to rekindle? Driving alone in the dark, I allowed a thought to sink in: competing horses might be over for me. My mother had come down to UNH from her home in Maine and it was like old times. She came to help, and I snapped at her more than once. The well-worn teenage pattern unearthed: Mom played the hapless assistant, reaching for the breastplate when I asked for the overgirth, and other such discretions. Twenty-seven years old, I’d returned to horses after an eightyear absence and found a bitch still lurking inside me. My attitude was a flashback to fourteen, when I’d thought I was on track to be a professional rider. I did not like myself at all. Crab Orchard Review

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Katelyn Keating Bugsy’s owner also came for the weekend, primarily to judge me. I’d been leasing her gentle bay giant since the spring, slowly developing my riding skills again. Caught in a fight with her own aging, or trapped in her memory of his youth, she was, perhaps, unable to see her old champion felt his sixteen years. Arthritic in the hocks, Bugsy would never be a middle level winner again, though our lower level competition still seemed to please his mind. He was keen, focused. Someone recorded our UNH crosscountry round on VHS. Though I had felt that shiver of fear, when I watched the tape later, it looked like we were barely moving. The October night was dark and cold. Janine drove like she rode, fearless. We exited I-89 in Randolph to make for the pass over Warren Mountain, to settle the horses in for the night back at her farm, Winter’s Tale. I worked as her barn manager. Janine’s F-250 diesel handled the weight and the speed with ease, but my borrowed SUV was taxed. I was unclear about some sort of overdrive setting and how that applied to towing. My own truck, sold when I was eighteen and giving up horses the first time, had been an F-150, and so I pulled the trailer with the SUV as though I was driving a truck with more transmission, more torque. More symbolic horses. When my first trainer had taught me years before about towing horses, she’d told me to imagine the trailer full of crystal, especially when turning or braking. I always towed a trailer picturing stemware in a champagne waterfall. Each depression of the brake had me crashing more glasses to the ground. Like remembering to do a few Kegels at stoplights, I envisioned the crystal each time I slowed to a stop. I drove behind Janine’s rig thinking about what to do next with horses, what to do with this occurrence of fear. Janine increased her pace ahead of me as we turned north on the outskirts of Randolph, where the streetlights and houses thinned out toward rural. Around a slow curve to the right, as I accelerated to fifty miles per hour from thirty-five, movement startled my left peripheral. Something large. I braked. With instinct my right hand found the brakebox and squeezed, but the trailer pulled to skid. I was not yet out of the curve. The loping shape of an adult black bear illuminated in my headlights against the back of Janine’s white trailer. The bear’s awkward three-beat gait, like a slow shuffle, belied her actual speed. She turned her head toward me, fawn snouted, eyes startled in the glare. Time stopped. I swerved, crystal crashing. The trailer pulled, and the weight was balanced on a tongue hitch, not a gooseneck, and I had no control, I could not control this, I had to let it go or I would roll the rig with Bugsy inside and so I smacked that bear broadside. The bear bounced off the front right bumper and I felt the front right wheel run over a soft bump. She had chosen to run across the street between the rigs. She had almost made it. Bugsy whinnied from the trailer. I couldn’t feel if the

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Katelyn Keating trailer had rolled over some part of the bear, too. I switched the hazards on and pulled the rig off the road onto the shoulder a few yards ahead. I was in shock. I remember no feeling until I jumped out into the road, when the tears began. Bugsy kicked twice and shrieked. He could smell the bear, smell fear, smell the otherness of the bear, the omnivorousness. He was afraid. I could smell woodsmoke. I opened the trailer door to check him. His eyes were wide and white. He stamped a foot. I looked back along the road. A car had stopped before the bear, headlights on the sable brown fur, the bulk, the motionless bulk. The motion I had turned to stillness. Bugsy shrieked and kicked, rocking the trailer. I climbed back into the SUV and pulled away. On the road from Randolph to Winter’s Tale, there would be no cell signal for the rest of the drive. Janine had slowed when I pulled over, but not stopped. I drove the bumpy road behind her for ten miles, flashing my high beams. She told me later she thought the lights had bounced because the road was so rough. My sobbing made it difficult to see. A sobbing reserved for death, for the times I’ve witnessed death on the road and been unable to help. A specific sobbing etched into my life, made routine through predictable encounters with rural animal death; a sobbing unique from that of other losses, or of self-pity. I tried to think about Bugsy, how I needed to get him out of there. But I only thought of the bear. On the eve of November, she was in pre-hibernation hyperphagia, eating more than seems possible for a long winter ahead. She was probably foraging trash in this small town, just following the instinct she felt in her body before I collided with it. Janine finally pulled over at the crest of the Warren Mountain pass, where the recently graded gravel smoothed, and she could finally see I was flashing. We met in the road. Samantha slept on in Janine’s truck. “Is everything OK?” Janine asked. “I hit a bear in Randolph,” I cried. “Oh my god! Back in Randolph?” Janine said. “Are you OK?” “I’m OK, but the bear I think is dead,” I said. She went to the front of the SUV and looked. There was no blood, no dent, only a few black hairs. “Maybe it was just stunned,” she said. I’d stood in the road weighing life and death once before with Janine, after I’d passed a still-living cat gravely wounded on the pavement and had not stopped to help. Instead, I’d sobbed and raged and then dragged Janine back to the scene to help me face it. But maybe the bear was just stunned. I said, “I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t see a payphone.” Janine said, “I’m sorry.” She opened the front trailer door and switched on the light. Bugsy blinked. “He looks fine at least,” she said. “He was freaking out. I had to keep driving.” “Let’s get them home.” We carried on to the barn. There, I unloaded Bugsy from the trailer and closed him into his stall. I removed his shipping bandages and changed his

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Katelyn Keating blanket—the ritual of care. From the tackroom phone I called the Vermont State Police. “I hit a bear on route 12A in Randolph about an hour ago,” I said. The tears came. This was Vermont, at night, so I think a trooper answered the phone— there was no dispatch. “Yes ma’am, that was reported,” he said. “A trooper is on route to the scene.” “I’m sorry,” I said. “I wanted to stop and help, but I was towing a trailer and my horse was freaking out.” My voice cracked. “Ma’am, it’s a bear. How could you help?” I thought about that. How could I have helped? Could I have checked her three-hundred pound body for injuries? Could I have called a vet? What could I have done? I did not feel any better. “I don’t know,” I said. “How much damage is there to your vehicle?” he asked. “I could send someone to take a statement in the morning if you need a case opened for your insurance.” “I don’t know. It looks like no damage,” I said. “It’s not even my car.” I paused. “What will happen to the bear?” “The trooper on scene will call Fish and Wildlife if needed,” he said. “To take care of it.” He waited for me to say something. I didn’t. “Call us back when you speak to the owner of the vehicle if you need a case number,” he said. “Can I call back and find out what happened to the bear? Do I need a case number for the bear?” “There won’t be a case number for the bear, only the vehicle if you need it,” he said. Maybe I sighed, or gulped, or choked a sob. He said, “You can just call about the bear tomorrow. I’ll leave a note at the desk here.” I would be saying goodbye to Janine soon enough. That night in Randolph, I had no particular dream for the future, just a notion that I would put an old passion to rest. But Janine and her husband had just achieved their dream. They’d bought their first farm, after saving and making do for many years, living in rented caretaker’s apartments and struggling with rented stall doors and paddock gates. My job at Winter’s Tale would be over. Her new place was too far to commute from my own rented caretaker’s apartment. The adult reality of a life with horses was so different from my young suburban life, with parents to pay the board and chauffer me to lessons and competitions and token weekend jobs cleaning stalls, so that I was participating. The adult reality of living and caretaking on someone else’s farm, with someone else’s etiquette, did not measure up to my old dreams, my young dreams.

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Katelyn Keating I helped Janine move her horses and set up her farm to her design, build fences and turnout sheds on the weekends, a Winter’s Tale in another place. My time with Janine remains the best job of my life. I brought Bugsy home for the winter to the farm where I lived at the end of Long Road, taking great comfort in just caring for him. When he was right downstairs, I could be in the moment, not fret about where horses fit in my life. I spent three months laid up that winter with a separated bicep, injured by an accidental kick. Instead of worrying about horses, I thought about the bear I’d hit. I took her place, hibernated in her stead. After hyperphagia, she would have had a few weeks of fall transition, the slow ease into hibernation. She would have rested for all but two hours each day. Then she would have hibernated, and rested for all those hours of a long, dark winter. I holed up on someone else’s farm and healed. I would soon have to start again, again. With life returning to the Mad River Valley the next spring, a warm day came early. The weather meant that the bear would have finished her walking hibernation, the gradual shift after emergence from her den that would lead to normal activity, the abundance of summer. She would have spent her early spring weeks adjusting to the new rhythm of eating and moving, testing the onset of spring’s providence with a cautious, imbalanced metabolism. I embraced the warm day with a bareback ride on Bugsy. My arm mostly healed, we rode up Reed Road toward Long Road from the trails on the west side of Waitsfield Gap. Judy, who had lent me the SUV and trailer back in October, rode her mare behind us. Judy had also moved her horse from Winter’s Tale to the barn where I lived. Judy’s mare spooked in the road, shied right. Bugsy pricked his ears and snorted. Looking right, I saw two black bear cubs scampering for a tree behind a third already halfway up the trunk of a sugar maple. Slowly turning left, I faced what I knew was there. The cubs’ mother galloped— with speed I’d never seen and didn’t think possible—toward the horses where we paused in the road, directly between her and her cubs. Always coming on my blind side. “Judy,” I whispered. “Run.” I asked Bugsy to canter from a halt, right leg back, urgent twist of the heel, grabbed some mane. He did not shriek or kick. He smelled the bears, and he cantered up the road. Judy’s mare watched him and chose to follow. Neither Judy nor I landed in the dirt to atone on that warm spring day six months after I hit the bear on the outskirts of Randolph. The winter with Bugsy home began the only time I ever had a horse right outside, a small dream realized. For a few seasons on that farm I solved a temporary equation of how to exist with horses, factored care and love greater than riding. I never competed again. That winter was a test for me, one that I ultimately failed: a test of endurance to sustain the rural life.

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Katelyn Keating I would make my way out of that horse life, a dream from long ago, and into another life in an animal hospital. I would leave my rural paradise and move to the city. At the start of the following winter I closed Bugsy into his owner’s trailer for our last goodbye. She needed to sell him and I offered two thousand dollars and a promise to keep him until he died, arthritic and ready for retirement though he already was. It was the best offer I could make. I was poor. I’d leased Bugsy for almost two years, gave him a good life in pastoral Vermont. His owner couldn’t see him as broken, and came to collect him. She took him home and offered him for sale for twenty thousand. We buy and sell our friends. I came to understand, finally, that it was the daily care—the routines of feeding, and turnout, and grooming, and cleaning the barn—that brought me joy and comfort. I understood, too late, that I would forever miss just being with the horses. My long winter of hibernation after hitting the bear was the last spent in the country, on a farm, at the end of a long gravel drive in a valley with a view of Sugarbush Mountain and the horses right outside. When Bugsy left, I lost something immeasurable. We run over—and past and through—life. Though life returned to the valley in spring, complete with new bears, that winter followed me for many seasons. I clung to my walking hibernation until I learned everything I needed to learn about death, that even death is transitory. While I claimed the bear’s biological ritual as my own, hope remained, hope for survival. The morning after I hit the bear, I did not call about her. I returned the rig to Judy. She agreed there was no damage.

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Kathryn Merwin Elegy for Darkness, Interrupted Doctor, can you hear time passing? A small light on the cliffside, lifting twilight, purple smoke on the sea: the pieces break, scatter like beads, the tide falls low, your hands are cold. Once we walked edge to evergreen, your hauntedness beside mine. I knew then time can be stopped, midnight silence can burst with sound, trees will burn even in rain storms. Doctor, can you bottle time? Sift it into bright blue capsules? Somewhere in Alaska, someone turns in the ground, broken body full with winter silence. A sparrow turns his eye to you. A blue-lipped child yearns for even the warmth inside your bones.

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Alaina Pepin Radio Silence is a door knob come loose in my palm, grains of sand that nest in my teeth, a pair of beat up Chucks. I spent weeks finding the right shade of lipstick to tell you I don’t miss your hand on my knee at the bar. That my lake and I are better off without our curves soaked in your smell. I grow comfortable with the static buzz of TV snow, shawl myself in cardigans twice my size. Mud still sticks in the zippers of my September boots. I remember the Minwax that burned from your table top, my fingers tracing the bare wood left behind. I wonder if I’ll ever learn the difference between maple and yellow birch. I’m sorry but the memory of you is rotting the runners of my rocking chair, the trunks of Presque Isle trees. No wire brush can scrub the mold away. I didn’t ask for this. But I’ve taken the shears to a whetstone in this silence. I cut the curls you used to pinch.

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Alaina Pepin

Bad Catholic Teach me to believe in God because I don’t remember how. These days, prayer feels more like my knees stamped and stuck to red vinyl than peace. Instead I kiss the mouths of hunters, drink their spit like communion wine, nail their hair behind my crucifix like palm fronds. Sundays I burn incense, light wicks buried deep in white wax at the foot of my bed. I become transfixed by fire, the way it sparks and glows and swallows. I drink my coffee black and bitter those mornings, eat burned toast. I learn Saint Paul would make me go to men for answers. Forgive me, but I prefer fleece sheets, scratched Cohen vinyl, a book of poems to thumb. I’ll shear my hair like wool, I won’t feel shame. I promise I will never swell a daughter’s mouth with silence. I’d rather bite hallelujahs from a lover’s tongue than hear them in a choir loft. It’s hard to have faith in things I can’t touch. But still I confess my sins to strangers, try to make myself holy. I resolve to visit mass. After all, the candles dance there too.

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Annie Persons Ars Poetica I watch from the living room as he studies the sky, his Bible abandoned by the ashtray, his face lit with wine. I imagine him breathless with the scripture of Saturn’s rings as he assembles the backyard telescope: each nested lens revealed with a soft click, and thin lines of silver making a tripod that holds, somehow, the instrument’s great weight. When night arrives, he has no time for the moon’s bright eye, nearly as obvious as his wife and child inside. Fireflies kindle the cooling dark as cancer will ignite his cells. There is art to astronomy, a profound care

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Annie Persons in the mimicry of some God who stares from the safest distance as the solar system of a life slowly turns. Scattered stars blinking on, then off.

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Annie Persons

Periodontal Graft The needle slides into my jaw like a lie. I’ve been breathing nitrous oxide but the numbing drug is predicated on pain, so I squeeze the nurse’s hand with an infant’s grip until my face freezes, lips stretched wide in silence. So much goes unseen: the doctor’s glasses reflect silver instruments, my throat’s red void as he scrapes tissue from the roof of my mouth, stitches it over an exposed root to protect the tooth I am close to losing. Then he snips a suture, says he aimed for “function over form” and finally it is over, the transplant of one part of me onto another, needier part. Soon,

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Annie Persons my body will perform what it understands of healing, a scar I hide with a smile.

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Angela Siew

On Disbelief and the Wishes Not Included in Prayers On a bleak day, the sun shining on the bamboo palm and her statue of seated Buddha, my therapist leaned in and said, Let me tell you something— and it’s very simple. If you want something, all you have to do is ask. After a moment that felt like a rearranging of stars, I sucked in my breath— turned the thought over, ran through the seconds of the past month, past season, past year and listened to the rushing water pouring into Buddha’s stone pond, how it pushed forward— particle after particle, stream to stream, how I couldn’t possibly explain how that water moved. —

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Angela Siew On a night when a halo encircled the moon and the morning after when a halo wrapped around the sun, I asked myself— what determines the separation of days? Ice crystals, the nightly newscaster said, a pleased smile on her face. They create the appearance of a ring called a 22 degree halo. That day held 60 degree temperatures, three weeks before Thanksgiving— two weeks before the arrival of a lover from abroad, bringing the memory of a couple’s picture on Ponte Vecchio under the half-light in hanging heat. It brought questions about courtship rituals and moon worship during the Mid-Autumn Festival, and if my mother knew she loved my father enough to see the richness of their life thirty years later in another country too large, too brash, too free. Why tonight of all nights did I notice the colors of two trees with touching branches, the thick and thin lines—a rendering of the delicate lines of ships under moonlight?

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Clinton Crockett Peters The Divine Coming of the Light Only a fistful of people begin their hike up Mount Fuji from the

verdant Sangen Shrine at the bottom of the island volcano. Halfway up they encounter an army. These hordes of hikers drive or bus up the highway blasted into the mountain for the 1964 Olympics, and there almost every night in summer 3,000 people,—winter coats in hand, backpacks of snacks of squid jerky and wasabi Kit Kat bars, supplemental oxygen, and trekking poles, summit Japan’s tallest peak. They shine their way up the mountain in the dark, rising through the clouds in hopes of catching the sunrise from the roof of the volcano, which is called Goraiko, the divine coming of the light. Goraiko is said to be good luck for a year, and I was beginning my year as an English teacher in Japan. A year would mushroom into three, but I didn’t know that then. Just as I didn’t know my obsession with mountains that led to a job as an outdoor instructor, blossoming when I lost my Christian faith, would dwindle as my praying once had. They say everyone must hike Fuji once, but only a fool would hike it twice. I would hike the volcano four times while in Japan, a symptom of my obsession with mountains not just for the views or the exhilaration or the macho-codified activity, though there was a little of that. I did it for what I felt the mountains meant to my inexplicable self, which I thought existed though I couldn’t then have articulated why. A visage of religion, a bland hope, a matter of instinct? Why did I feel satiated with a view out of Tokyo Bay and the Chichibu Mountains, with the clouds we rose above, the thunder and lightning reflecting my height then relative to the world? I didn’t know, still don’t really, if it’s a choice to believe, to believe in something ethereal. Mountain lust gripped me, as it sometimes does when I think back on why I would spend 24 hours hiking up and down a rivet of magmic earth, one of the most climbed, one of the most photographed mountains in the world; why I would hike in the dark, through a storm, to sit in the cold and wait for the same light which appears everywhere on earth. When I was nine, I watched a news broadcast from the foot of Mount Fuji, as my family was getting ready for church. We lived in Lubbock, which at the time was the second-most conservative county by votes in America. The town sat perched on the Caprock Escarpment, a tabletop flat of land that spread across the Panhandle, a mile up, overlooking the rest

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Clinton Crockett Peters of Texas. Dust walled off the town, rising from the cotton fields watered from aquifers. The airborne agriculture interfered with our visions, so that most of what we saw was each other. There were more churches than liquor shops if only for the reason that there weren’t any liquor shops. I believed in Christ, as many did, because I grew up with it, just like I knew Columbus sailed the ocean blue. It was penciled into the architecture of my childhood. While I gaped at the volcano, a female reporter, suited in red, relayed that at the moment thousands of people were hiking to the peak. The camera zoomed in, and I could make out a zig-zag route swishing up to the crater. It was morning, but there was a string like Christmas tree lights of headlamps marching up the mountain. I traced the line on the TV glass with my finger, thinking about caterpillars in the children’s book Hope for the Flowers, in which butterfly larva fight their way to a mountain top crawling over each other. Once the larva break through clouds that had shielded the peak, they find their own struggling mass. A mountain of ambition, a warning against the lust of climbing. I later gave the book to a woman I loved before she left for a missionary trip in 2003. We had been Bible-studying together in Lubbock, and we’d made tentative plans to marry after her proselytizing journey and go preaching and teaching in South Africa. But she left, and my stern father suffered a stroke, and I felt my faith weaken without their confident voices. On a lark, I went backpacking with two friends in southern Colorado. Three days of bushwhacking, traversing untrailed scree, tearing our clothes on the density of Douglas firs, we screamed for help in the wilderness with no answer. Eventually, we followed a small creek, which led logically downhill to a river, and then, over a few rises, to a dusty parking lot, where miraculously lay my Oldsmobile just as we’d left it. When we came out, I felt something inside me slip. The chalky imprint of quiet limestone and the cloud haloing a mountain at my eye-level left me uncertain about Christian reality. Adrenaline suffused me when lost hiking, and I thought about my grave, staring up at Cretaceous monoliths. Like the Romantics before, Shelly and Wordsworth, God transferred from the ominous sky to the awesome, but very real bulkhead of landscape both horrifying and gorgeous. This is what the poet Rilke has said are the two faces of reality: horror and beauty. The mountains, I thought, nature’s spear points, were the elemental power of the world. My first Fuji hike began at the 1200-year-old shrine, Sangen, where sixth-century monks trail-blazed their pilgrimage up to the fire goddess Kona-Hana’s mouth. They were some of the world’s first mountain climbers, and they built a place of worship at Fuji’s feet, what is now a postage stamp of giant cedar trees wrapped in bows, set in the middle of the city of Fujiyoshida. Mountain worship was once endemic in Japan. It

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Clinton Crockett Peters makes sense to fear and revere beings who give birth to rivers and hiccup ash and molten lahar. A young monk directed I follow a road, which was quiet and leaf-lined, to find a trail up the mountain. I began at seven o’clock, so there was still light in the trees, casting vibrant shadows on the trail, and I noticed an offrust, tomato color on the trunks, as I gained elevation. From far away, from satellite, the forest resembles an afghan quilt, patched with the vermillion and rustic autumn, something woven onto the mountain from the maples and from the mountain cherry blossoms and ubiquitous cedars. The path sloped gently for a few miles and four hours and began spiking, and took the form of steps, etched into the mountain with log beams and mountain rock, platforms, stacked on top of each other like spiral stairs as I wound up and up. Hiking Fuji, you can traverse three generations of eruptions, several hundred thousand years of fire. Baby Fuji is only 10,000 years old and still active. The mountain is the convergent point of not two, but three tectonic plates. They impact each other, shaking up the world’s tenth most populous country, and construct a mountain from the heat of the Earth’s red heart. When Fuji last erupted in 1707, it sent ash and magma-cut shrapnel into four metropolitan prefectures, the equivalent of an eruption outside Paris or the Tri-states. Metamorphic highways of lava ran down the mountain, paralleling the road later carved by dynamite. But the mountain’s explosions aren’t only geologic. On one side of Fuji are two military bases, and in the night, while ascending, one can hear bombs exploding in the east like distant thunder. Beyond the bombs lies the Aokigahara suicide forest, where every year fire departments sweep up bodies of the despondent. Inside the forest: Aum Shinrikyo, the cult who gassed Tokyo’s subways, and in the forest the location of a Fuji-caused plane crash. A 1966 Boeing 707 with 125 on board that collided with the mountain, assaulted by hurricane-force lee waves fanning off Fuji. I wasn’t thinking about convergence then. About how Fuji is near perfectly conical. About how it once dragged an airplane into its orbit. How Fuji rose to fame when Japan’s most notorious Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, slaughtered hundreds of thousands and relocated the nation’s capital to a tiny fishing village now called Tokyo. He forced his vassals to travel cross country to this swampy hamlet twice a year, road trips in the seventeenth century requiring thousands of retainers, as much as half of the vassals’ budgets earmarked for travel. All beneath the shadow of Fuji, which became subject to the most famous and beautiful wood block prints in the world. I wasn’t thinking about how much art and death converged on this mountain. I wasn’t thinking if I hadn’t been religious, that if my father wouldn’t have gotten sick and my love departed, I might never have obtained my

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Clinton Crockett Peters fervency for mountains. I don’t think I thought about the convergence of vulcanism beneath my feet or spirituality in my heart. Nor did I worry about the storm, typhoon leftovers, above which was likely to block out whatever sunlight I hoped to see. After a few hours of tramping, darkness closed it, and I ascended in the thick woods with my headlamp. The cicadas buzzed through the night, and somewhere east a bomb went off. This part of the hike, once the eeriness past, became peaceful. A thick river of stars sinewed above me following the wide trail cut through the trees. The path was steep but well-defined. Then, without much warning, I broke through the treeline and saw the moon and met up with a line of a thousand people. These were the hikers who had begun from the end of the mountain highway. With them, it was as if hiking on a moon, the landscape covered in gray dust and charcoal rock. Only with a crowd like the Chicago Marathon, or fans leaving the Texas Rangers’ stadium. Streaks of phosphorescent from the newest trends in name-brand hiking gear. Those fools with heavy backpacks. Those envious types who were jogging. One man with a bicycle. Another with skis. I with my backpack and a Japanese-English dictionary in one pocket. The trail zig-zagged, etched into the rock, flanked by winded hikers, some toddlers, some ancient men and women. One man in a wheelchair. People saw me, the foreigner, and wished me well. Cheers. Banzais. There were clangs of bells. The sharing of snacks. I hadn’t expected this, the camaraderie. In America, when I encountered hikers on the same trail, it was begrudgery. Here the people, many bundled up in rain jackets as the storm started to drizzle icicle rain, decorated the mountain in bright flashes of well-meaning and color. I met several hikers who talked with me and shared their emails, though I forgot them all later; they blurred into the bright motion of life upon the volcanic peak that had burned its top half and secreted the bombs and suicides below. Up here everything was bare; everyone was exposed. I braked at a mountain hut, one of a dozen blasted into the mountainside, serving as bunkhouses and convenience stores. It was elbow-to-elbowto-ski. On side of me was a British father prying his toddler, who wasn’t faring well, with the tiny oxygen canisters sold for ten dollars. The skier was on my right. He was traveling alone and had a grim determination about him I’ve come to associate with extreme sports athletes, those free-climbers and backcountry kayakers who sometimes populate outdoor programs like where I had worked. He said his skis were for rock skiing, that yes, you

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Clinton Crockett Peters could fall, but you wouldn’t fall much, unlike in winter when the flanks of iced Fuji morph into a glass sheen where hikers glide to death every year. Later, I saw him skiing down. I was bleary, exhausted from hiking Fuji, and the apparition of a man skiing down the same rock and ash face hundreds of us were stomping down felt like an encounter with the liminal, a man on the way to his doom, a man making impossible. A person, who I could tell earlier held fear, was skimming along the edges of near-death, screaming at no one. When my girlfriend left, and my father, the deacon, started dying. I became acquainted with the unjust suffering a community like Lubbock tries to shield itself from. I trusted mountains because they were firm and had no intentions. They just were. They felt solid beneath my feet, omnipresent on a map. They couldn’t change their mind, couldn’t move, couldn’t give up their life’s work. But this is the narrow view. Mountains rise and flatten in the blink of a geologic eye. Fuji is in its fourth incarnation. The ancient Appalachians in American in their third. Great mountains once existed over Lubbock, monoliths resembling giant hands clasped to the sky. On Fuji, I saw hiker after hiker pocket volcanic stones from the edge of the trail. There must have been thousands of stones taken per day, millions in a few years. How do you move a mountain? One wing brush, one hand at a time. We were all moving in that geologic and geographic space, mountain and human. Most of the people were trudging up, but a few were packing in and crawling off. The altitude punishes the human who drives up from sea level Tokyo and embarks on an atmospheric dart. In the winter, the fallen are reported every year. In the summer, the lost, those who wander into the wrong prefecture descending the peak. But most make it to the top after a night’s slog. Many watch the sunrise on the way, inglorious beneath the peak, in its shadow. But the light is still there. Several hundred sleep fitfully in the huts, buried in concrete that burrows into mountain. They lay on stacked bunks like wine bottles racked. At about three a.m., a weariness overtook the hikers I passed, the ones summiting, no plans to stop for a fitful sleep. They appeared less able to bid me well or offer a bite of squid. But three o’clock is the darkest, coldest part of night because it seems the farthest from the day that’s about to begin. It was also the highest up the mountain where turning around was still a possibility, an arduous but doable backtrack. People’s faces appeared glum, gazing inward. They sat on the volcanic boulders that flanked the ashy trail while the storm overhead became fog that we had to swim through, cold, skin-bursting wet. I too had lost vitality, my ardor for the mountain, my love for the hike, the thrill of high exposure. The secret about most hiking is that the mind is

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Clinton Crockett Peters not wandering in taskless places, is not romantically inclined. It burrows in itself, like those concrete huts, hundreds of secreted thoughts like exhausted hikers in their beds turning and turning beneath the surface of things. Was I wasting time? Should I be home with my father? What was my purpose? On the peak after most of the night ascending, I learned from a fellow hiker that the winds were gusting at a hundred miles an hour. With all the waiting hikers, I was amazed, that if one just descended a few meters, from the top height, there was a wall that would protect me from two angles. What I didn’t observe, and wouldn’t until I rose to descend three hours later, were the thin flecks of white paper and an earthy, biting odor, the pale looks from other hikers with the knowledge I had sat downstream from the highest toilet in Japan. That’s why Fuji didn’t get World Heritage status until 2013. For decades, the septic tanks had been left open to drain down the mountain. But the building faced east, shit or not. This I did know, despite the wind strong enough to topple me over and the fog so heavy I couldn’t see beyond 30 meters, nor smell anything. All the other people on the peak were facing the same direction, ready to drink up the sunrise, and I trusted them. Fuji from below, because it rises from an unassuming valley and is jet black from its waist up, appears to be a spaceship set down upon earth. And because we hikers along with the wind and rain were moving Fuji, one keepsake, one speck of dust at a time, the spaceship was moving, just as the three plates below, the convergence of the world’s soup crusts, pushed and ground their way across the world. The most visceral relief from my Lubbock upbringing I lost, was the idea of the eternal. That not my body but my essence would emanate infinitely, that I would be conscious of what was to come to this world and which I cared about. My idea of mountains, in their way, continued this hope. But watching the clouds part to reveal the smoky haze of dawn, I sensed, in some animal way, the connection with not the rock beneath me, but all these other fools who had climbed Fuji to be here for this brief spark of sun. Only the sunlight wouldn’t come. It was dramatic, the light ducking beneath the clouds, then revealed. The storm rolling up and down like an ocean, and the sweet light appearing over the valley and the mountains and Tokyo Bay and the big cities of Kantō. Japan, of course, in mythology was birthed from the celestial fire, and the national flag bares this root. The nation was born in this sunrise that lasts for only a glimpse before it passes overhead and becomes night just as a mountain wears away within an eon. The flicker of sun on the peak would appear. And then disappear. Then reappear. And then I’d doubt. Then believe. And at one point I gave up

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Clinton Crockett Peters choosing which outcome I wanted and instead sat back against the building I didn’t know to be a bathroom. But I’ll be honest and say I don’t know if I stopped believing. I don’t know if I could. I saw the sun every day, and I knew it must come up somewhere. Somewhere there was a sun as there is now when I write this at night in the cold light of winter, ten years later. The sun is on the other side of the earth, warming Japan as it did to me the first time I climbed Fuji and waited on its pinnacle. I stood up for the final curtain with all the other hikers on the peak. The clouds washed away, as the light started to spread over the horizon, meek at first, a tittering dull orange. Then the welder’s torch appeared, and a daggering twilight ray. Then the oval of an egg yolk. The lit nub of a cigarette. The light was water, warming us, washing away the night’s exhaustion. I was bathed in sweat, but the beam cooked that away, made my skin feel alive and new. The Japanese on the rise above me began giving banzai cheers as the sun fully cracked the horizon. Thousands of people had come to watch the same light we had in the different parts of the world. We all bowed, saluted the dawn—the warm sight, unfiltered, clear as a drop of oil in an otherwise still ocean. And trailing down from the crater, in their raincoats and sun hats and hiking boots, was a zig-zag road, all the way, as far as I could see, to the foot of Fuji and beyond, which I had seen as a child, to the water and cities, people, at different stages of their hike, at different huts, some at rest, some already heading back down, foreigners and countryman, all the way up and down the morning mountain of light.

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Anastasia Stelse Odocoileus Virginianus Clavium Found a doe in the yard sputtering, weakness weighting her limbs. Didn’t flinch, crunch of my boots on gravel, hand tentatively forward. Her tiny body bore no great trauma. Limbs uncrushed by car, chest un-bulleted. Chronic wasting? Phoned the DNR. Waited as her chest puffed heavy in and out, fur bristling at my scent. Wished I could comfort her—or put her down. The DNR had voiced caution. Instructed I move any pets inside, avoid approaching with any open wounds. It was early morning, sun striking its height, skies calm and clear, and this deer possibly invaded—their words—by screwworms. Tiny walrus looking maggots. My arms itched. That it should end like this— this—Once I noticed a pinprick on my chest, scratched until I tore out the pronged worm of someone else’s

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Anastasia Stelse quiet demands, swore I’d be more careful. Her bulbous eyes scream knowledge: small flesh wound under her throat, pulsing sore at my wrist.

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Avia Tadmor Girl from Damascus Fire for Fatima Albakour Beauty is everything outside of me. But I lived, Lord. To see, I lived. From the boat, I saw blackbirds dotting the ocean like tar and roosting by the sun-beaten cargo tank, with their straw-bale eyes and slick plumage glinting like wet ink. Or perched on the staff, mourning a life sunk in its ashes they could not say. How else to say, my feathers, my feathers were burning. How could I say in English, I used to have hair, black currant. That I was once beautiful. And I saw the sun suspended mid-winter. Saw it: displaced and dissolving, a drop of petrol poured down my last brother’s throat. But what is faith if not a city asleep beyond all this water, a bird mistaking a buoy for its egg. Who said this wasn’t love.

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Avia Tadmor

Dirge with Burning City In the other version the brother dies & the sister ties her hair into a bunch of black wheat. She returns to the ditch where they found him on the fifth day, where the six rijal carried him out & the earth kept collapsing under the cadence of hailstones. In that version, animal shrieks hurl themselves into the night like blades. The sister bundles his undershirt, knots it by its sleeves to a pine. The buzzards mistake it for a dead squirrel. She says, there comes a day, brother, when black flowers lift from our lips & more muddy water pours into the ditch where you lay for days in a sack down to your hipbones: the water filling, filling the crushed violin of your chest. What is it to find comfort then, in this kind of music? Some nights I’ve wanted to walk into the striped gown of Joseph & enter the desert’s great dark bell. Or the ditch where eleven brother-shadows hover

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Avia Tadmor perpetually by the rim: indistinguishable & making animal sounds. What is it to have a tribe you come from? To have it bound to your story & beating, a stubborn mule’s tail? I wanted to wear the striped gown myself, dipped in lamb’s blood & know what it means for a pack of brothers to come together & make a small place in the earth to home their youngest brother’s death. Because I’ve been trying to know what it means to be given & carry this burning Syrian city for a name. Brother, I don’t know about the earth, about the right place for love. All I know is that somewhere a city with all the faith in the world collapses into itself by no fault of its own & is burning & is consumed & that whatever we are in this one life, we are refutable.

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Zebbie Watson Sow Belly Trail Yellow leaves cover the creek where it grows wide and still under the bridge. It’s that month again, when acorns roll underfoot and the trail is slippery with frost in the mornings. Remember how the cold seeped in our shoes, how our breath came out in huffs that hung in the air between us when we paused, stretched in the sun, how you cupped my cold ears in your cold palms? I am running by that place again today, and I don’t need you. There is breath down deep in me, a cold slice and the sharp scent of leaf-rot slipping under.

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Connor Yeck The Isle Outside Sainte Chappelle, the young man from Aleppo tries to sell us chestnuts, or things which once were, so we stop, never to buy but look, which in their own dim ways are very much the same. We stand still. The snow is in talks with rain, and we at last ask ourselves, the wind-sheared medians, isn’t it just so late in the day? Bags filled with soap, ceramic, the crowds marching tired through this, the oldest week of little-death at New Year’s Eve. We are near enough the chapel to touch the uncooked glasses, an undercroft of stone where for a few euros, a body scan, a pat by the young gendarme, you can see the panes stacked foot-to-vault, fractured caverns of sun, God oceanic, hunched above the reliquary—squat as a golden ape and open for thorns, the blood-capped spears of Venice. I think of buying one, the chestnut, or all of one, and then wonder as I have seen so many butane-grills fashioned from shopping carts, the ruined tarred-carbon of taste, and know they must be familial in some distant way— how the same, rhinestone-crusted Eiffels are sold by thirty hawkers on bath towels who will rush forward, calling any woman Lady Gaga, Miss Jolie. There must be a workshop somewhere, a great bunker of glass, plastic, and surplus pins. But I will never follow through, in that fatal way strangers might be guides, faces seen once and then looked to judgment. Though I suppose it is more for myself. Will he have change, or do either of us know the language— and at the end of the avenue, the eventual, where cobble gives way to slurry and the last evening is torn bright against the year, could I ever bring myself to eat the thing, or would I toss it away?

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Connor Yeck

Winter Service On the Thousand-Year Rose In the cathedral’s shop I bought a pamphlet, & so began to read—yet before even a proper nodding, before my polite concern could catch like a coatsleeve on the year of a vault-stacked column, the priest began his work. There were, at most, a dozen in that room. The blank talk of a winter sun sledging over soda glass, stained glass, onto the small city of the altar, & I tell you I sat, though would never know German, to watch his hands, the hung heads of the fist, the stations of the fingers in sermons unheard but known. There was a hunger to that hall. Nave too perfect for its craft—the viola-scent of the pews in their skin-worn forests, under tan-block arch & marching. I watched an attendant light the wheel chandelier with the wick of a polearm. One-hundred candles each in their hutches. Someone told me this: How, when hunting a white buck, Louis the Pious fell asleep beneath a dog rose. He woke covered in snow,

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Connor Yeck the reliquary shelled in ice, & so built the altar there. In another story , the reliquary is simply hung on a rose branch. It could not be got down. I read the city was skinned, by a war’s wide glossary. They hit the sugar refinery, the marshalling yard, & here, apse & beam-work carved over by the fired-chock of bomblets. In the dust-light of that after, an ancillary wall still preyed over ash, & the Bernward Doors: two-tons & a thousand years on their hinges, doors impressed with gunmetal relief; a garden in bronze—dented, but standing. It was, I hear, the only cathedral in the country that needed to be consecrated again, something washed away. Roses grew in those summers of hunger.

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Connor Yeck

Dawn Shot Party At Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, 1953 On the wraparound balcony there are half a dozen still awake, just sober enough to lean toward some stupendous morning. In the lounge, things have bottomed out. The cut-crystal basin of ginger ale and sorbet is a slurred marina, touched-dumbed with the rogue islets of maraschinos­—and shoes, (that barometer of all gatherings) pumps exchanged for the soft-soled cloth of dollar flats. Our headliner never showed. Strep, it was said, but a crooner, and just a kid, made the drive to sing the same six-hit set in a mongrel style. Jude said she knew him from somewhere, the Desert Inn, or the Pioneer— some last-call act when the dancing floor gave itself to the morning waxers, and the half-moon stage rose so strange and poachable, if only for an empty room. I didn’t mind the voice. Others did. A man in the back with the largest cuff-links I’d ever seen said loudly enough, well, he won’t have to worry about copyright, and everyone who heard this thought it terrible, and it was passed along with appropriate guilt between dancers and drinking circles like a dark shard of beach-glass one found of unloving interest, but for what reason, could make no rationale. The way through, I could see across the slot floor the glossed-up cut-out of Miss Atomic Blast 1953, and beside it, Candyce King herself, though missing the iconic tufts of pseudo-cloud sprung from the pubis into a soft violence about the neck, the nude leotard, the other claims of her image: arms frozen overhead in V to cheer at the heart of reaction. I nearly ask how the crown gets passed, but by then it’s all standing room, taffeta, the dried eye-waters of exhaustion. We’d gotten there late, which was to say early,

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Connor Yeck since dancing began at midnight, and when I found Jude again she’d crafted a group as only she could do— the woman who’d sold us the house, a city-man of stunning unimportance who said the mayor was here, somewhere in the crush, and so we drink, at least three to each of the house mix: champagnesherry over flayed ice, hardly aware of the enormous clock above the bar until groups begin to leave, inevitably pulling others along in that sudden bleedingoff of so-and-sos and fringe connections, and we’re told at last it’s time, and perhaps simply then for the sake of triage. On the balcony there are wicker chairs, stools, but not enough. We are both forced to stand by the door which is left open to some new breed of song, an off-brand bridging part-Martin, part-Hope. I look to the boredom of mountains, the flatlands of cottonwood and scrub. The city-man offers that vegas means meadows, but there is little care. The stun of a pre-dawn ache is tiled to every face, to bodies, an evening run backwards in the mind. I look to my watch, and Jude leans, seeing the church-ghosts of the radium dial, and a second face is asking for the time-exact, when it clearly happens— light in the north and west, so sure, as window slats angled to dawn; as a Kodak in the root cellar. I think it strange, the way, the nonviolence of the thing—bloomed, was the word that came: some at-a-distance prompt, sheet lightning cutting clouds to figure. And it was finished. The country-dark returns, a few guests stand, and both a young man and woman who had not come together, and perhaps did not hear one another, asked if that was it­—the way a child might for the first time persevere to New Year’s, and regard that subtle change of era with disappointment, and only a want of sleep.

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Contributors’ Notes Latifa Ayad was the winner of the 2017 Master’s Review Flash Fiction contest, and the Indiana Review 1/2 K Contest. Her work has been published in The Normal School, Whiskey Island Magazine, and The Stockholm Review. Ayad is a Libyan American born and raised in Sarasota, Florida. She recently completed her MFA at Florida State University. Jasmine V. Bailey’s first poetry collection, Alexandria, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2014 and won the Central New York Book Award. Her second collection, Disappeared, was published October, 2017 from Carnegie Mellon, and her chapbook, Sleep and What Precedes It, won the 2009 Longleaf Press Chapbook Prize. She has been an Olive B. O’Connor Fellow at Colgate University, a Fulbright Fellow in Argentina, and a fellow at the Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared in the Carolina Quarterly, 32 Poems, Crab Orchard Review, Cimarron Review, Midwest Quarterly, the minnesota review and other journals. She is a PhD student at Texas Tech University. Kate Barrett is a graduate of the University of Montana’s MFA program and former editor-in-chief of CutBank Literary Magazine. Her work has appeared in Carve, ThugLit, and elsewhere. Brendan Bense has recent publications in American University’s AmLit Literary Magazine.  Pritha Bhattacharyya is a Bengali-American writer who received her BA from Cornell University. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Nashville Review, Ninth Letter,  Apogee Journal,  RHINO Poetry,  Litro Online,  Bodega,  and elsewhere. She currently serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. To learn more about her work, visit prithabread.wordpress.com. Sonya Bilocerkowycz’s essays and poems have appeared in Guernica, Colorado Review, Partisan, Ninth Letter, The Southampton Review, and elsewhere. Before completing her MFA at Ohio State, Sonya served as a Fulbright Fellow in Belarus and as a visiting instructor at Ukrainian Catholic University in L’viv. She is the 2017–18 Milton Fellow in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University.  Alan James Blair is an emerging writer originally from the Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. He recently earned his PhD from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. He currently lives, works, and writes in Lincoln Nebraska. His recent novel, “The Mermaid’s Brother,” is currently seeking a home. Kristi Carter is the author of Daughter Shaman Sings Blood Anthem (Porkbelly Press) and Cosmovore (Aqueduct Press). Her poems have appeared in publications including So to Speak, poemmemoirstory, CALYX, Hawai‘i Review, and Nimrod. Her work examines of the intersection of gender and intergenerational trauma in 20th century poetics. She holds a PhD from University of Nebraska Lincoln and an MFA from Oklahoma State University.

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Contributors’ Notes Emily Rose Cole is the author of Love and a Loaded Gun, a chapbook of persona poems from Minerva Rising Press. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Nimrod, The Pinch, and Southern Indiana Review, among others. She is pursuing her PhD at the University of Cincinnati. Brian Czyzyk is the winner of Atlanta Review’s 2017 Dan Veach Prize for Younger Poets.  A recent graduate of Northern Michigan University, he currently lives and writes in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and has work published in or forthcoming from  CutBank, Gulf Stream,  Up the Staircase Quarterly, Hobart,  and  Harpur Palate, among others. You can follow him @bczyzykwrites if you like. He wishes you the best. JD Debris is a poet, recording artist, member of neo-soul artist Qwill’s band, and a senior at Salem State University. While at SSU, he was selected as a Presidential Arts Scholar, won the individual slam at the 2013 Mass Poetry Fest, and was a recipient of a Creativity Award in Writing. Recent publications include The Acentos Review and Soundings East. His debut solo album Black Market Organs was released on Simple Truth Records in 2016 Ángel García is currently a PhD student in English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Ángel’s work has been published in the American Poetry Review, Miramar, McSweeney’s, Huizache, and The Good Men Project among others. He has received fellowships from CantoMundo, Community of Writers-Squaw Valley and Vermont Studio Center. Most recently he was the winner of the Wilbur Gaffney Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Arielle Hebert holds an MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Nimrod Journal, Raleigh Review, Bombay Gin, and 3Elements Review. She was nominated for Best New Poets anthology in 2017. She believes in ghosts and magic. Tennessee Hill is a Senior at Stephen F. Austin State University working toward her BFA in Creative Writing. She is an alum of the Sewanee Young Writers Conference, a 2017 AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, and was a finalist for the 2017 Dan Veach Younger Poets Prize. She has work in The Sandy River Review, Jenny Magazine, Kaaterskill Basin, Elke Journal, and forthcoming from Tiny Donkey.  Allison Hraban holds an MFA from Creighton University where she was associate poetry editor for Blue River literary journal. Her poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in Third Coast, The Chattahoochee Review, Ruminate, The Flat Water Stirs: An Anthology of Emerging Nebraska Poets, and elsewhere. One of her poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Allison lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband and daughter.  Natalie Kawam is a poet and writer. In May 2016, she was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize through Bryn Mawr College, and published with the Academy the following September. Her writing explores elements of the human condition, including the nature of one’s personal evolution. She is currently composing her first chapbook.

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Contributors’ Notes Katelyn Keating was editor in chief of Lunch Ticket for issues 11 and 12. In 2017 she earned an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles and was a fellow of the Los Angeles Review of Books/USC Publishing Workshop. Her critical thesis, “A Horizon of Dogs,” was an AULA Library Research Award finalist. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Flyway, Lunch Ticket, and In Season: Stories of Discovery, Loss, Home, and Places in Between (forthcoming 2018). Michal Leibowitz was born and raised in White Plains, New York. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Boxcar Poetry Review, Bone Bouquet, and The Greensboro Review. Michal’s work has been recognized by the Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose, the Lex Ann Literary Festival, and the Norman Mailer Center. She is the recipient of CALYX Journal’s 2016 Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize. Michal is an undergraduate at Stanford University. Jennifer Manthey is an MFA student at Hamline University in St Paul, Minnesota. She has served as Assistant Poetry Editor for Water~Stone Review, and is the current Associate Editor for Runestone Journal. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Rhino, Rise Up Review, and Literary Mama. Kathryn Merwin is a native of Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in journals such as Blackbird, Booth, Sugar House Review, Natural Bridge, and Quiddity. She is currently an MFA candidate at Western Washington University.  Alaina Pepin teaches middle and high school English in Gold Beach, Oregon. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the minnesota review, Dunes Review, and Rust+Moth, among others. Annie Persons is a second-year poet in Virginia Commonwealth University’s MFA in creative writing program. She earned her BA in English with a minor in creative writing from Washington and Lee University. Clinton Crockett Peters has authored Pandora’s Garden: Kudzu, Cockroaches, and Other Misfits of Ecology, forthcoming from University of Georgia Press. He has won literary prizes from Shenandoah, North American Review, Columbia Journal, and the Society for Professional Journalists. He holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and is pursuing a PhD at the University of North Texas. His work appears in Orion, Southern Review, Texas Monthly, Fourth Genre, The Rumpus, Hotel Amerika, and elsewhere. Rebecca Renner is a freelance writer and MFA student at Stetson University where she was the founding editor-in-chief of Obra/Artifact, Stetson’s experimental literary journal. Her work has been published in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, and Electric Literature. Angela Siew is a multilingual poet and teacher who received her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and has work published or forthcoming in Dialogist, The Merrimack Review, and Art New England.

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Contributors’ Notes Anastasia Stelse is a native of southeastern Wisconsin, the former assistant editor for The Intentional, and a graduate from the MFA program at American University. She is currently pursuing her PhD in creative writing at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, Sou’wester, New South, Fairy Tale Review, and Hawai’i Pacific Review, among others. Avia Tadmor is an Israeli writer and translator completing her MFA at Columbia University, where she also teaches undergraduate writing. Her work appears in or is forthcoming from New England Review, The Adroit Journal, Apogee, Fugue, Cider Press Review, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. Avia is the recipient of a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship. In 2016, she was named a finalist for the Indiana Review Poetry Prize. Susan Triemert is a student in the MFA program at Hamline University. Her essays have been published in Cheat River Review, Stepping Stones Magazine, and Colorado Review where she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was a finalist in Crab Orchard Review’s Student Writing Awards last year for her creative nonfiction. This is her first piece of fiction to be published. She lives in St. Paul with her husband and two sons. Zebbie Watson is a writer and translator from Elverson, Pennsylvaia. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and current masters student at the University of Georgia. Her work has appeared in Breakwater Review and Threepenny Review, and she is a recipient of Pushcart  and O. Henry Prizes in short fiction. Casey Whitworth is an MFA candidate in fiction at Florida State University and the programs manager of The Southeast Review. Recently, he won the Blue River Editors’ Award, the Green Briar Review Fiction Prize, and the Sixfold short story contest. He was also a finalist for the Salamander 2016 Fiction Prize and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Other works have appeared in Cleaver Magazine, Front Porch Journal, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @CaseyWhitworth_ Connor Yeck’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets, Southern Poetry Review, and Exceptions. He is currently a graduate student at Western Michigan University.

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Calls for Submissions The 2018 online issues of Crab Orchard Review are set and will follow this order, which is a little different from past years. We look forward to reading your work! Issue 1. General issue with COR Annual Literary Prizes $1,250 prize in fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry all submissions are $12.00 for contest through Submittable submission period January 18, 2018 – March 18, 2018 notification of winners and publication queries: April 30, 2018 Free general submissions: March 18, 2018 – April 30, 2018 notification of all submitters: May 31, 2018 publication goal: September 2018

Issue 2. Special Issue: A World of Flavors ~ Writers on Food and Drink No contest for Special Issue Free submission period: May 1, 2018 – July 30, 2018 notification of all submitters and publication queries: August 30, 2018 publication goal: February 2019

Issue 3. Student Writing issue with Student Writing Awards $500 prize in fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry all submissions are free through Submittable submission period August 1, 2018 – October 15, 2018 notification of winners and publication queries: January 15, 2019 publication goal: April 2019

Crab Orchard Review Vol 23 No 1 December 2017  
Crab Orchard Review Vol 23 No 1 December 2017  

This is our first exclusively online issue of Crab Orchard Review. It is free to read. It is devoted to undergraduate and graduate student w...