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Crack the Spine

Literary magazine Issue 172

Issue 172 November 18, 2015 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2015 by Crack the Spine

CONTENTS Joseph Eastburn

Jet Lag

Mark Mitchell

Nostalgia For the Sacred

Ananya Kumar-Banerjee

Everyone Should Cough Into Their Elbows

Levi Andrew Noe Nursing

Monique Zamir

Villanelle for Fini’s Composition with Figures on a Terrace

Xavier Vega

The Flower King

Laurin DeChae


S. Frederic Liss I’m Home

Joseph Eastburn Jet Lag

Our flight to Paris took thirteen hours. The sleep cycles of my wife, Jean, and my daughter, Rebecca, were thrown off our entire stay—and I fell into what I can only describe as a waking nightmare. For me, it started on our Air France flight. When I got up to use the bathroom in coach, it flashed occupée on the door in red letters. I walked up to first class beyond a heavy gray curtain to find a bathroom that was vacant. As I stood near a small kitchen area, I saw the back of a girl’s head in the first row on the other side of the cabin. Her hair color could only be described as ash; blond but soft, almost dull, as if most of the color had been exhausted by some natural occurrence. She was reaching behind and twisting her hair into a small knot, fingernails a dark almond color, a tortoiseshell clip snapped into place. The hands expertly pulled strands of hair up out of the clip the way I imagined they always had. I couldn’t see her face. As I stepped forward to look, an Air France stewardess blocked my way and sternly directed me to return to coach. I didn’t see the girl get off the plane. Our small hotel, The Dauphin, was at 54 rue Mouffetard just off the place de la Contrescarpe, a square near where Hemingway lived when he first came to Paris in the twenties. Our room had been advertised as a “triple with a terrace.” When I pried myself out of the tiny elevator on the fifth floor and walked to the end of the hallway and peered into the room, I was shocked by how small it was. You had to fold up the end of the single bed to get outside, and the terrace was more of a ledge. The bathroom was miniscule; it had an ancient hair dryer

attached to the wall that looked like a vacuum cleaner, and yet I used it every day with utter delight. After all, we were high above the Left Bank in the City of Light for Christmas week. As we walked the winding streets off the rue Mouffetard, every cobblestone, every shop window, every café exuded romance and mystery. Not so for our nine-year-old. Rebecca was cold and the entire experience was, as she put it, rather silly—two adults keening over every smelly, cramped room with low light that had a table by the window. So, on our first night we walked down the hill and ended up on the #86 bus (Rebecca loved buses) traveling along boulevard Henri IV, promising her we’d jump off as soon as she saw a store where she could go in and buy something. On this, she was decisive. We found ourselves leaping off just east of the place de la Bastille and followed her into an Apache, a novelty store that was part of a chain. I ended up standing alone behind a toy display on the second floor staring down on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine. In the streetlights, tall first-floor display windows were swiped by muffled pedestrians rushing by in the cold. I must have seen thirty people hurry through the night air, until I focused on one girl in a red overcoat who had a scarf pulled over her head like an Eastern European peasant. There was something about her posture, however, that kept me watching her—the white fingers tucking flaps of dull red material around the nape of her neck. Were those almond fingernails? As she walked past the Apache storefront, I saw—peeking from under the scarf—a knot of ash-blond hair and the same tortoiseshell clip. But I couldn’t tell. Was it the girl from the flight? My wife called my name from the foot of the stairs, saying that they were ready to leave the store. I stood watching the girl’s red scarf until it blinked out near the place de la Bastille.

On our second day, I saw her only once. We had appeared in our cramped but cozy hotel dining room promptly at 7 a.m. for breakfast, and once we’d showered, we headed for the place Monge Metro stop. We shoved our weekly Carte d’Orange passes into small slits in the turnstiles only to have them pop up on the other side with gusts of air—the aluminum doors swinging open with a touch. We were headed for l’Opera Metro stop and rue Aubert, where we could purchase tickets for a bus tour to all the major monuments. Almost immediately, it started to snow. We tried to sit up top on the open roof of the bus, but we were too cold. Downstairs, the headphones were hard to hear through unless you pressed them into your eardrums. Rebecca gave up completely. As we bumped along through the snow, the meek wall heaters at our feet did little to stop us from shivering. It wasn’t until the bus had circled the Eiffel Tower and stopped in front of the Hotel des Invalides that the narrator described the nearby Egyptian Obelisk—how it had been floated down the Nile on a barge before being transported overland to Paris. The snow was falling lighter now, so my daughter asked me if I wanted to go back up top. Her hand was warm and the stainless-steel railing cold to the touch as we circled up the tiny stairway to the roof, swaying as the bus turned. She had snowflakes dusting her cheeks when she pointed to the Luxor Obelisk, capped with its amber point. It seemed smaller than we’d expected. As the bus passed it, I saw ash-blond hair. The girl was standing in profile at the base of the obelisk, her hand extended, reading the inscription as if by touch. I stared at her, hoping she would turn, when my daughter asked me what was wrong. “Nothing,” I said. At that instant, the girl’s face turned toward us, her line of sight rotating in slow motion. My daughter was grabbing my sleeve.

“Daddy? Daddy?” “Wait a second.” “What are you looking at?” “Wait.” The girl with the ash-blond hair was staring at our bus, but her angle of vision was low as if squinting at our license plate. “What’s the matter?” Rebecca said. “Nothing,” I said. “I was trying to read the inscription, but that girl is in the way.” “What girl?” I shook my head and looked down at the wet rubber mat under my shoes. That evening my daughter fell asleep at 7 p.m. and woke at 2 a.m. We played poker on the double bed until five, when she finally fell asleep still holding two pair, ace high. Adults can get through jet lag, but kids have to follow their body’s rhythm. The third day, the temperature rose, but it rained. We opted for the Louvre, much to Rebecca’s annoyance. We chose the Denon Wing and climbed a magnificent staircase toward the statue of Winged Victory, and turned toward the Italian paintings, all the time following arrows under the miniature likeness of the Mona Lisa. We entered the Grande Galleria. After what seemed like a mile of crucifixions, my daughter conked out and refused to look at another mournfully apocalyptic painting. She wanted to sleep, and my wife decided to sit with her while I soldiered on to the see the lady. Then we would switch and I would come back and sit with Rebecca. I shuffled along in a crowded line toward the room that housed the Mona Lisa.

Half an hour later, after I’d seen the painting, I exchanged places with my wife and sat down on a round couch in the Galleria not far from a gigantic Raphael painting. With my daughter asleep on my lap, I saw her. I told myself I couldn’t move. The girl was again turned away from me. She walked by on my right at about ten paces, back to me, studying the paintings. Her hair was down on her shoulders this time, but I knew it was her. She was studying three small DaVincis on the south wall. After all the brooding religious violence, his simple, soulful figures were a rest to the mind. Working her way toward the last one— the naked figure of a kneeling man—she turned around and looked right at me. She had known I was there all along. Her eyes were watery brown, nostrils flaring slightly like an animal after a scent, mouth pouty, her features classically formed, worthy of an artist’s brush. She wasn’t wearing makeup, but her skin was perfectly white—too white perhaps. I could feel my daughter’s even breaths on my abdomen, the sound pronounced as if I was cradling a giant lung. The girl kept looking at me, her face utterly beautiful and sad. She seemed to be beckoning me, asking a question. I didn’t know the answer. I tried to speak to her, but my voice wouldn’t work, the way you find yourself trying to run in a dream, but your legs have turned to gelatin. She broke eye contact and began to flow back into the crowd, leaving the Galleria, but turned several times to look back at me, her eyes steady, mouth no longer pouting, but trying to communicate. Or, so I thought. That afternoon we all fell asleep early and woke up in enough time to catch a 10 p.m. movie in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, putting us in bed around 1:30 a.m., up again at five. Our fourth day it stopped raining but was colder. We descended into the Métro, walking through a warm tunnel to the number 10 brown line, got off at Sevres, and changed to the number 12 green line to the North of Paris and the

neighborhood of Montmartre. A tour book advised us to get off at the place des Abbesses, where 311 versions of the phrase “I love you” in 250 languages are handwritten across blue tiles on a wall in the garden behind the square. Only we couldn’t find the English version. It was weird. While my wife and daughter searched, I noticed something odd was happening to me. I began to believe that the girl had left a message for me in the script painted on the tiles. I knew this wasn’t possible, but how could I know if one of the non-English phrases didn’t contain some code that would bloom under my eyes and—while I pretended to be a tourist—tell me what it was she needed to say? We finally located the English version; in fact, I was the one who found it and pointed it out to Jean and Rebecca so we could move away from the wall. Was I afraid that there would be a message from the girl, or that there wouldn’t? We ate omelets and salad at the Au Baroudeur, a café right off the square. Rebecca ordered the closest thing she could find to a grilled cheese, a croque monsieur, but without the ham. The waiter smacked his lips disapprovingly. “No jambon?” “No,” my daughter said gravely. He shook his head and grabbed the menus. I was somber through the main course until I thought that perhaps it was up to me. If I chose to see the girl, I would; if I chose not to, I wouldn’t. By the time dessert came, my mood had improved, and my wife and daughter had stopped stealing worried glances at me. They looked relieved by the time we paid the check. We walked along the Rue Yvonne le Tac toward the funiculaire, the elevator car to the top of the butte, where the bleached white domes of the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur overlooked the city.

The car door to the funiculaire closed with an airtight seal. We began to rise slowly up the grassy terraces of the mount, the whole of Paris rising beyond the glass walls. We all got excited and started pointing to landmarks we recognized. On a clear day the tour book said you could see thirty miles. Below us were steep cement steps up the center of the butte. I looked up and saw the other funiculaire car descending. The ceiling lights inside the approaching car gave the passengers a top-lit ghostly appearance. I knew she would be there. The car came closer. Late afternoon sun lit up a whole panel of glass so all the faces disappeared behind a sheet of light, then reappeared. There she was, looking at me—not afraid to look now—her hands hanging limply at her sides, red overcoat open, ash hair down, scarf draped off one shoulder. The expression on her face was something I will never forget. As she stared at me, the shadows under her eyes seemed to say that it was my fault, that somehow, I was responsible. And, of course, I was. Encased in her glass tomb, moving away from me—always moving away—her eyes were saying that I had doomed her to wander endlessly in a foreign city, haunted, alone, not understanding the language, not connecting with anyone, but knowing all too well why she was here. Inside the basilica, I sat frozen inside the dark expanse of the nave, sitting under a painting of Jesus curving above my head, high up under the central dome like the sky itself. I was not praying but felt safe and didn’t want to leave. My wife and daughter were anxious to walk to the place du Tertre, where an artist might sketch Rebecca’s likeness. I couldn’t seem to move. I told Jean and Rebecca I would meet them at the artist’s square in half an hour. My wife lit a candle on her way out. Rebecca got scared when she lit hers and burned her fingers on a match. She began crying and ran through the pews and found me in

the dark to tell me about it. We had always kissed her scrapes and burns, and now I lifted her fingers to my lips in the dark light of Sacré-Coeur and told her everything was going to be all right. She kissed my fingers too. When Rebecca left, I was relieved that I probably would not see the girl again because she had left as I was arriving, and unless she rode the funiculaire back up the hill again, we wouldn’t cross paths again today. Within minutes of walking through the door of our hotel room, Rebecca crashed in our bed. I folded the bottom of her single bed up, opened the glass door, and disappeared out into the inky blackness on the terrace. I could see the spire of Notre Dame. I wanted to climb the old stairs and visit the demon gargoyles atop the cathedral that had spouted rainwater for six hundred years. Jean came out, stood behind me, and wrapped her arms lightly around my chest, laying her cheek between my shoulder blades. I locked my arms around the small of her back. We stood there without speaking for a long time. “I feel you slipping away from me,” she said. “Yes.” Another silence. The two-toned whine of a police car echoed as it drove somewhere lower in the Quarter, near the river. “Where are you?” “In jet lag, I think.” I felt her listening, waiting, standing very still behind me in the damp air. She didn’t seem to be breathing. “Would you come back?” “I can’t.” She held me tighter, and I moved my hands from around her to clasp her fingers, which were now very still, across on my chest. “Would you try?” “I don’t know if I can.”

We turned to face each other. The air on the terrace was soft. Jean’s gray cropped hair riffled slightly, face flushed from all the walking. She wrapped both arms around me, and we listened to the soft wind rattle a metal sign in front of a shop five stories down. The next morning my wife was getting out of the shower, water drops clinging to her thighs. I studied her nakedness as if it was an ancient text I used to interpret my world. I couldn’t help scouring her body for imperfection. She kept drying off, looking frankly back at me, blushed, and covered herself. I had to get away. I said I wanted to walk down the hill through the place Maubert toward the river. We decided to meet at Shakespeare and Company, the bookstore made famous by so many expatriate American writers. It was situated across the Seine from the cathedral of Notre Dame. The store had a run-down Elizabethan flavor, a stucco and Tudor exterior, and when I got there, two young men were positioning a glass display case packed with used books. As soon as the doors opened, people began appearing out of nowhere, and within fifteen minutes, the store was bustling. I walked around the first floor and found a rickety metal stairway to the second level. Upstairs, the old ceilinghigh wooden bookcases were punctuated with the occasional small bed; seven beds in all. Then I remembered reading how the owner had taken in starving writers and had let them sleep in the bookstore at night. Now people were sitting or lying down to read. By the front windows on the second floor was a lending library. In the center of the room was a low table covered with books under two large casement windows that framed a view of the cathedral. I walked back down the hall toward the back of the building, turned left, and found a small room with two beds placed among the bookshelves. A small black kitten was curled up beside a

pillow on one of the beds. I lay down on the other bed. I closed my eyes and must have fallen asleep. My wife and daughter entered the room breathlessly, my daughter blurting out, “This place is cool!” I startled awake and sat up, looking at my wife. I said, “Do you think we’ll be jet-lagged our entire lives?” She smiled and took my hand; not knowing what to do with it, she placed it on her hip. I could feel the slope of her femur and, somewhere underneath, a throbbing sensation, a rivulet of blood moving through under the skin toward her heart. I looked at my daughter and smiled. “The kids’ section is around the corner.” “You want me to leave, right?” She shot me a chastising look as she walked around the corner out of sight. Jean didn’t say anything but waited tensely until I wrapped my arms around her waist. I guessed it would take time for our jet lag to wear off. On one hand I longed for the sight of the girl’s frightened, listless eyes, red scarf, and ghostly skin; on the other, I felt trapped because I would always keep hurting her. My wife leaned down and kissed me, looking curious, and said, “We’re going to Notre Dame. Come find us when you’re ready.” “Okay.” With a teal blue scarf flung around her neck, my wife’s face looked young as she disappeared around a bookcase. I glanced at the black kitten in the corner and lay back down on the bed and closed my eyes again. The sounds of the bookstore wafted in and out like calm breaths off the river. Downstairs a girl giggled. Somewhere a man’s low, smoke-cured voice rubbed the walls like sandpaper. Around the corner I heard the crisp turning of a page, the murmur of distracted words read aloud in awe. People climbed up and down the

precarious circular stairway; once, a palm shrieked on the steel banister under a person’s weight. Someone walked into the room. I didn’t have to open my eyes. I heard the light scrape of her shoe on the floor beside the bed and knew it was her. I thought I smelled the fabric of her red coat. Her scarf seemed to brush my forehead as she sat down beside me on the bed. I opened my eyes, and she was leaning down, studying my face. I couldn’t stop looking into her eyes, but my hands grasped the sleeves of her coat as if I was on a precipice. Her lips parted. I imagined I could smell her breath. She said, “Do you want me to stay?” I was running across the bridge of the Pont au Double toward the south towers of Notre Dame. I looked up and saw the gargoyles lurching out from the top of the building to defend the cathedral against evil spirits. Beyond the tower, the black needle of the central spire was piercing what had become a blue sky.

Mark Mitchell

Nostalgia For the Sacred

Fantasias on Themes from an Unproduced Screenplay by Pasolini

1. The voice of the Devil pretending to be God. —Saint Paul, 14 I dreamed an old man—not me—some other— in my white mirror. He spoke. His cold words— transparent—shattered like glass rain—there were echoes—dark notes only his lone face heard. In that creased nightmare my antique pen fell. He left the frame—squeezed it like a sad bird— and that’s how I lost my solo gospel.

2. There is no other metaphor for the desert than everyday life. —Saint Paul, 21 The second empty fragment I picked up To use for my morning shave didn’t work— I dragged it crosswise down my cheeks—long cuts dropped blood onto the white sink. My hand jerked back. I rubbed my cool eyes. Red became white— again. My face was rubbed smooth—nothing hurt until the long dream climbed out of last night. 3. …they cross through the sad door between guards… —Saint Paul, 46 A door—a dream—a door swings wide as light— blank—a crucifix—a conjurer’s trick— suspended in the air. I let my eyes settle on the body nailed to a stick. I’m small—a toy—praying on sunburned knees, shaking Latin bells. A broken clock ticks— it has no hands—blind as me. It will not see.

4. A cold, macabre beating detached from human feeling. —Saint Paul, 56 A tilted desk—an empty pen—I wish gravity repealed. Falling words—dull—graze my open wounds. I pretend a slow flinch, exhale two long vowels. Bruise displayed for fictional effect—they never show— just a loose ghost dreamed into daylight by a hungrier ghost whose nouns land like blows. 5. Here they are, the trickster brothers. —Saint Paul, 64 The first cough came from behind me, the next snapped sharp from my blind right. They are not sick— their coded throats are small traps. My free left hand reaches for nothing—my oldest trick fails me in this chalk dream. I pick a card— I know all the cards are blank in this deck— They scoop my coins and I swear like a jar.

6. …muddy, mean, and cute and funny as angels. —Saint Paul, 65 This dream’s in black and white: Hand-drawn and flat. Dull pencil sketches of small boys—I’m one of them—that long kid with the bent face that I’d dirty before walking under the sun. The games we’d play sported long, sad names and I’d never learn the rules. We would run from there to here. Stop. And explode into flames. 7. …we do not have redemption, but a promise of redemption. —Saint Paul, 71 A bell buoy. A dull slap. The hollow clank of metal on water. The dream is sound. Liquid verbs scream sharp as gulls. A phalanx of seaweed scrapes sand. Fog drapes all around. I’m a mountain god without a storm, lost in my own gospel and no path winds down this slope. In the gray dream, I eat the ghost.

8. His voice broken and kneaded by wine. —Saint Paul, 79 Fragmented sleep: mispronounced French poems break into hard music. My aunt’s pen describes perfect circles. Bells ring seconds too late. I wake up reading fractured names inscribed on suspect parchment that moves with my breath. A dream tries to escape—almost alive— My body is heavy, singing its death. 9. Angels of corruption as protest. —Saint Paul, 91 As if for a journey, I drop matchsticks in pockets, erase stamps off my passport carelessly. In my bag, dead poets mix up socks. It’s time for my written report to those powers that stripped off my halo (it will not be returned). They need two more facts. Then their ignorant words will explode.

10. Reality is a quality, not a quantity. —Saint Paul, 93 Three coins arrayed on a table—tails—heads— tails. Glass beads reflect my cool face. I choose the second tail, the third bead. I once read the story of my life looking for news— no secrets lived there. I pocket the coins and leave my pen beside a face card. In slow blue milklight, I drop words like rosary beads. 11. A kind of dust has settled over him. —Saint Paul, 108 The scrim is naked—white. My broken eyes project fading movie stars and storm clouds onto purity. Lightning paints this sky with hands from a lost clock—that’s not allowed— not here—in this sloping dream time must be misplaced, then ignored. Tonight’s left the now. I wake to the lost song of rain in trees.

12. Perhaps all of the above should be excluded. —Saint Paul, 109 One black car pulls up, then the next. My late friend steps out, looking no worse for death. I stall myself awake. It’s time—these dreams must end— my nights weigh like empty pockets—dust falls through them. I rise to shuffle lost letters. My eyes won’t focus. My hands try to recall Trick truth: The word of God is not fettered.

Ananya Kumar-Banerjee

Everyone Should Cough Into Their Elbows

“Why won’t you just cough into your elbows?” Dad’s coughs are echoing off the walls again. It’s been two weeks and both of my parents are still sick. I sometimes hear them in the bathroom at two a.m., phlegm tossing around their throats, while they emit a high pitched screeching; two gargoyles departed from the grottos of Notre Dame. “It doesn’t make a difference.” His voice is exasperated, dry. I think maybe I should offer him a glass of water, but we’re already walking down the street and the lock on our front door takes about ten minutes to open. But it’s not our front door. It’s their front door. We’ve been away from New York City for two weeks now. We found the apartment on one of those websites online where rich investors offer their properties for short periods of time to middle class families who are sick of hotels with sugarcube mini-fridges. That would be us. Mom likes to cook, especially here, where the cucumbers are more cucumbery and the watermelons are less water and more melon. Apparently, they don’t put pesticides in any of their vegetables. I wonder if she would move here if she could speak French. I bet she would. I would too. I know that if someone gave me the option, I would move schools, homes and cities. I would get as far away from New York as I possibly can. The air in France smells like vanilla and lavender, nothing like the gushes of gasoline air at home. A plume of purplish light falls from the window, and I

check her blog again. My ex-best friend’s written some post about how I abandoned her. The sweet air swirls around me and I want to yell, because she’s lying. Maybe she’s seeing things from a twisted perspective, but as far as I can tell, she abandoned me. My father is coughing again, coughing into his palm. He’s spreading germs, I think. Soon I’ll be sick too. Why won’t he just listen to me? But I know it’s not worth saying anything. He just has to figure it out on his own. But I guess I’m like that too. I’m thinking back to 8th grade, when I had that eating disorder. I’m remembering how usually even-tempered uncle was screaming at me in the Vietnamese restaurant in upper Vermont because I hadn’t finished my curry. “You’re gonna die!” “I’m just being healthy.” I told myself that I was doing it for my health, that I only ate until I was satisfied, that my body would thank me. But an 89-pound body doesn’t thank a mind that’s supposed to make sure it weighs 104. I didn’t realize that my healthy weight was twenty pounds above my head. People kept trying to tell me. My father would get frustrated, force food down my throat with a slotted spoon. But I’d just skip lunch when he wasn’t there. My mother would offer to buy me ice cream, bags of my favorite ginger butterscotch Oreos, but I’d just tell her that I only ate yogurt now. My aunt tried to take me aside, tell me about how when she was sick--like me--her hair started falling out in little tufts like a shedding bunny rabbit. But my hair isn’t falling out, I thought, So I can’t be sick. But when I got to camp my friend Pear offered me some peanut m&ms, and by the end of the week my body was a silver smiling weight of 102. Only after I

was better did I realize how sick I had been. Only after I was better did I hear everything people were trying to tell me. It’s like that with my dad too. Maybe once the virus has passed he’ll think maybe I shouldn’t have been coughing into my hands. I want to think it’s like that with my ex-best friend, with Abby. Maybe after all her pain is gone and the storm has passed she’ll see what happened. Maybe then she’ll listen to me, maybe then she’ll make like my father and cough into her elbows. I really hope she does. I’m reading her blog post, a little personal bit written in scrawled hashtags below empty space (because that’s always how she likes to address things online). She’s complaining about how she doesn’t understand, how it doesn’t make sense to her how I “burned everything down”. She asking why she can’t make sense of everything that happened. Smart me with a magnifying glass knows that she never will, because she doesn’t want to. Smart me knows that she didn’t love me, because if you love someone and they’re in pain, you feel their pain. Smart me knows that if she did love me she wouldn’t have left. But she did leave. So she couldn’t have loved me. We’re walking across the marble courtyard to leave the apartment and my dad has finally stopped coughing. His two-dollar t-shirt is inside out and has little square white tag sticking out, but I don’t say anything because it’s Monday morning and there’s no one outside except for the two of us. “How do you feel about going home?” “I don’t know.” We don’t go back to New York for another two weeks, so I don’t know why he’s asking. It’s so far away. I also want to ask why he’s calling it home, because

my apartment on 108th street feels as close to home as the apartment we’re renting in Paris. Right now, it’s not my front door. It’s not my coffee shop, my bagel bakery, my nail parlour. Right now, New York is not my city. Every street I walk down feels like it belongs to her, like I’m trespassing on her property. I feel her gaze from across midtown and as I walk into my favorite doughnut shop. I feel her in the grey-blue sky and in the smell of petroleum leaking from the subway doors. Right now, New York is not my city. Right now, it’s hers. My dad and I are crossing the cobblestones to get to the nearest boulangerie and I’m thinking about some distant Bukowski quote about how home is where you feel safe, and I feel like laughing. I don’t feel safe in New York. So it can’t be home. I feel like I’m a boat on the Drake Passage, tossing among the ferocious waters of my emotional self. I’ve got to hold it together. I won’t cry because everything inside me is dry. I won’t scream because I haven’t got any screams left. I won’t get angry because it’s not worth it. I’ve just got to make it to the counter of the bakery and live. My father is ordering two baguettes and one almond croissant in this broken half-hearted French. I think I’ve been writing this way, doing everything this way. I think I’d been walking my school's hallways in this broken and halfhearted way like part of me is still at home in Abby’s arms. My boat is crossing placid water and I’m so full that I’m empty. I have felt so much that I don’t feel much of anything anymore. I’m weaving in and out of understanding and drowning, out of sinking and breathing. I’m no better than my father, coughing into my palms. I’m not learning. I’m stuck in this pattern of forgetting and remembering and hurting

like a dull pitchfork in my side. I want to snap out of it, I want to get better. I want to be me again. I tell myself that I need to let go, need to be free. I told my father to cough into his elbows, my aunt told me to eat more, and my school dean told me to let go. Everyone is telling me that it’s over now, that I should move on. Everyone is telling me I am better for it. A little of piece of me is preaching in the corner of my mind, and she is telling me that this is part of growing. She is telling me that this is another weave in a thousand foot carpet, another pulp in a glass of fresh lemonade. But just like my father’s coughing, I’m not hearing her. He coughs into his hands, and I read her blog and maybe cry a little. Neither of us is getting any better. I text John, message Harrison. I read two books in two weeks and promise not to think too hard. My skin darkens to a deep mahogany and nails lengthen like Elle Woods. The waters still more. I realize that Abby and I had something pretty but not perfect. I realize that this past year was a painful but necessary pastime. I realize I have grown and changed. I open her blog, read a post about how she’s starting her own enterprise where she helps protect little girls from bullying. Normally a small sinkhole of guilt pools in my belly, and my mind starts swarming with everything that happened. Normally I feel sick to my stomach, like someone has pulled all the blood out of my body and I’m drowning. Normally, I get angry. But this time, I don’t. This time, I listen to the advice. This time, I cough into my elbows.

Levi Andrew Noe Nursing

Draining the drowsiness from you like the sun coming for the ice on the eaves. Drip, drip, dripping to collect in puddles on patches of grass that drink deep and stay green even in late December just outside your kitchen window. I wipe the fog from the glass and you wince at the light that finds your winterized eyes but you don't move. You hold your coffee like a crucifix and pray over the cream spiraling white and gold through the black-brown. I don't want to disturb you, I know what you've been going through so I place an oil pan under your chair and leave you alone at the table to let the puddles of weariness collect. I'll come to empty the pan in an hour or two and make some more coffee. And just so you know, there's nothing I wouldn't do for you if you asked.

Monique Zamir

Villanelle for Fini’s Composition with Figures on a Terrace

By the 80th step, trees appear, bare boned and sultry. Up here lie the wind-reared goddesses of this solemn galaxy: Every morning we climb out and every evening we fall. Crowned with hair, they bend the flurry of brackish mouths apart. Here, a diminishing man mimes a thicket of sonorous thimbles. The trees grow more alluring by the step, birds watching the fall. The goddesses’ release: an unhearing world clouded by bats and arrows. The whistle and the bone. Fingers climbing through the dust. Every morning we climb out and every evening we fall. The salamander quips, down here, water is thicker than yogurt. They never let the embers into the sky, their striped bodies safe. The trees, drowning in sunbeams, frame the salamander’s struggle.

Here, the waves never crest to unseen peaks. The word is desolation and the world is stagnant. Every morning we climb out and every evening we fall. Crows break the fall, measuring the tongues of the blind. Here, his smile is always cloven, and ours fractured by feathered vandals. What goes down the tree branch never comes back up. Every morning we climb out and every evening we fall.

Xavier Vega

The Flower King

I took up origami, hoping to give my hands a hobby to keep busy. My nights are spent bending, flattening and creasing. It relaxes me, and now I have a shoebox full of birds and flowers. After much hesitation, I presented Sarah with blue tulips, black roses, orange cranes, white swans, and blue herons. Her hands linger on the box, and she touches each piece with fascination. Her lips move but her smile fades. I no longer listen, and so I smile and gently pull back the box. She refuses to let go. Not wanting to make a scene in front of the entire office, I let her keep my creations. That night, I spent several hours making yellow daisies, purple lilies, orange butterflies, red ladybugs, and little green dinosaurs. I give them out to everyone at the office except Sarah. “It’s nothing special,” I say, “I can’t stop making them, and if I don’t give them away I’ll be buried in paper. That, or I’ll have the nicest garbage in the neighborhood.” I don’t look at Sarah. I listen to everyone’s praise as they play with their pieces. Carl will give his dinosaur to his children, Doug will give a few flowers to his wife, and Susan and Carol admire their birds, asking if I will join the party planning committee. “Halloween is coming up,” says Carol, “Can you make anything spooky to help us with decoration?”

“Let me look into that. Who else is on the committee?” “Me, Susan and Sarah.” “All the women? I’d hate to intrude on you ladies.” “Don’t be silly, we’d love to have you.” That night, I run to the art supply store for more origami paper, and I see large rolls of tissue paper on sale. Halloween is approaching, and so I buy a few yards of black. I consider making giant bats to hang around the office, but I then recall that Sarah has an aversion to spiders. Looking up the instructions for a black widow online, I warm my fingers over the stove as my tea kettle heats up; when my fingers feel good and loose, I start off with a regular origami sheet, studying the bends and reverse folds necessary for creation. Consulting the online instructions again and again, I clear off my desk for a solid, flat surface. Something plays on NPR, and I pretend that I care. My mind is too focused. Origami requires elegance, care, and great attention to detail. However, assuming one can follow basic instructions, it becomes incredibly easy. The only thing it requires is paper and patience; it is the good type of preoccupation that curbs homicidal tendencies and road rage. My first black widow is childish with several extra folds and uneven lines, but it somewhat resembles a spider. My second attempt, done with minimal glances at the instructions, comes out better, and by the third attempt I am doing it by memory. Only then do I take the tissue paper to make a much larger version. After several rips, revisions, and failed attempts, I set out to practice gentleness, meditating with each fold, inhaling and exhaling like a yogi, and finally I create a rather large and admirable black widow. It is not as late as I thought it would be, so I shine my shoes and lay out my clothes for tomorrow; I

made sure to wear something baggier than usual as to look clumsy. I played a game of Tetris and went to bed. “That is so cool,” says Susan, “I can’t wait to make more of these. Where should we put it?” “How about the break room so everyone can see it? We could put it in the fridge to scare people.” “Oh, that is so bad!” “You’re right, we shouldn’t do it.” “Let’s do it.” “No, no, just on the counter. There’s no need to frighten anyone.” “Fine. You’re no fun.” I see the glimmer in Susan’s eyes as I walk away, placing the creation in her hands. Later, my toes are firmly pressed against the ground and my arms brace my chair. Sarah gets her yogurt every day at noon approximately, and when I hear the inevitable shriek I dash across the catacomb of cubicles, arriving first to the scene. “What’s wrong?” “That is not funny,” says Sarah, shaking the spider in her hand “Why did you put this in the fridge? You know I’m afraid of spiders.” “I didn’t know-” “I told you last week.” “I’m sorry, I don’t remember. I swear, I didn’t put it there.” “Who else makes these stupid things?” By now, several coworkers have gathered, including Susan. “He didn’t put it there,” says Susan, “I did. God, relax. I thought it’d be funny.”

“Oh that,” says Doug, chuckling to himself “It freaked me out earlier when I went to get my sandwich. That’s a good one.” “Is that for the party?” says Carol, “Oh, it looks so good, how did you make it so big?” Feigning shame, I scratch my head and look away. “I bought some tissue paper and cut a big square; after that, it was as easy as following the directions.” “Well, if it’s for the party then you should get an expense report,” said Doug, “I don’t care if it was fifty cents, make those bastards pay up. Do you have the receipt?” “It’s no big deal,” I say, “Sarah, I’m sorry that it scared you. I’ll get rid of it.” “No, don’t do that,” says Carl, “That thing looks cool. Can you make me one for my daughter? She loves insects.” “A spider is an arachnid,” says Doug. “Whatever.” “Don’t throw it away,” says Carol, “Sarah, he apologized and it wasn’t even his fault. Can you for once just be a good sport about it?” Sarah relents and everyone disperses after some mild chitchat. I take one last look at Sarah and she stares daggers at me. The next day, I sit with Carol at lunch. Carol is the key. “I don’t know if I want to be in the party planning committee,” I say, “I don’t think Sarah likes me. I don’t want to be all in her space. I don’t want to be any trouble.” “You’re a great guy, if she’s got a problem then let me handle it.” The party planning commission meets that Friday, and we discuss how to throw the Halloween party.

“Can you make anything else besides spiders?” says Carol. “I can make crows. They’re actually very easy to make, and they really do capture the look. I have to say they’re my favorite, and the black color feels very appropriate” “Oh, that sounds lovely.” Crows are omnivores. Known to occasionally use tools, they mainly scavenge on insects or crops. Though they are capable of hunting mice and frogs, their versatility allows them to survive in nearly any environment, and so they aren’t often observed chasing prey. One of the few monogamous birds, the crow is one of the animals of least concern for endangerment or extinction thanks to its ability to adapt to nearly any environment. I prattle on about crows as I show Carol and Susan how to fold a square into bird-base. “Bird base is very easy to fold,” I say, “Not hard to remember, and once you form this base, you can make several different birds and other things. You remember how they say dinosaurs evolve from birds? Well, bird base is what you start off with to make a dinosaur. That’s kind of funny isn’t it?” “You know a lot about birds,” says Carol. “No, not really. Just little tidbits I read when I learned how to make these things.” “Well, I think it’s interesting. Can you show us how to make flowers next?” “Of course. Let me show you the water bomb base, that’s how you start.” Together we make a few lilies. The lily is my favorite flower to make. It takes far more steps than tulips and roses, and you have to delicately fold it tighter than other pieces, but once all the delicate creases are made, you gently grab the base and pull at the petals to roll them down, which opens up the piece as if

the flower were actually blooming; the tiny mess expands, and with some minor touches, it creates a wonderful imitation of nature without having to suffer the tediousness of nature. From a distance, it looks like an actual flower. Whenever I make a lily I drag it under my nose and pretend I am smelling a real flower. I twirl my fingers and spin it into the air, watching it spiral lower and lower until it hits the ground “When is Sarah coming back?” says Susan, “How long does it take to get coffee?” “I’ll get it next time,” says Carol. “No, no, I’ll do it,” I say, “You ladies relax, I’ll do the heavy lifting.” Carol and Susan smile. I see Carol leave her headlight on in the garage one morning and I do not stop her. Instead, I stay later and leave shortly after her, giving her a casual and heroic jumpstart. The party is rather uneventful, and I keep several of the leftover crows, sitting them atop my cubicle like soldiers guarding a grave. “Did you know a group of crows is called a murder?” says Doug, “Pretty weird, right?” “Yeah, I guess so. Personally, I like making flowers. The tulip especially.” “Right…” “It’s funny, when you make the tulip, you actually have to put your lips on it and blow into the little thing. You want to know something else? I like the tulip because it sounds like you’re saying two-lips. A pretty little flower with two soft lips. What I’m trying to say is that it’s a vagina.” Doug bursts with laughter and tells Carl, who joins in. Sarah hears the commotion and asks what is so funny.

“Oh, nothing,” says Doug, smiling as he heads back to his desk. Sarah eyes me over once more. I pick up a crow and point its beak at her. “Caw.” She storms back to her desk and does not come out for the rest of the day. Before leaving, I turn my crows to stare uniformly at her desk. “Did you know that a group of crows is called a murder?” I say to her, leaving for the night. In the morning, I see them all turned around, their backs to Sarah and their beaks pointing down at me. That night, I buy a pair of oversized glasses that make me look like Clark Kent. No one knows that I don’t wear contacts and that I have 20/20 vision, and so it serves to make me look awkward but safe. Soon, it is Bring Your Children to Work Day. I am well prepared, and all over my desk are butterflies, lizards, flowers, horses, panda bears and cranes. Swarms of children rush my way for free gifts, and by the end of the day they collaborate to give me a large Thank You card. Their signatures and sweet little notes are all over it, and so I pin it to the outside of my cubicle for Sarah to see. “Aw,” says Susan, “That’s cute. Ladies like a man that’s good with kids.” I think of an embarrassing moment from sixth grade, recalling my humiliation; through pure willpower I summon a blush. A few days later, I arrive at work to find an origami cactus sitting in my chair. The work is crude, and I look around to see if anyone will claim ownership. I put it in my bottom drawer and continue with my day. The next day, another cactus appears. This goes on for a week, and it is no mystery who I think is placing them there. To my surprise, I find myself more frustrated than I should be. The figure is poorly constructed and insulting; cartoonish and exaggerated. Origami is supposed to be an act of creation that

requires time, attention, and care. These cacti are mockery. They are halfhearted crumples. I get an email regarding a routine inspection by the Fire Marshall. I type out a letter and fold it up, placing it into the anonymous employee suggestion box. As much as I like the creations of our local origami master, the email regarding the Fire Marshall makes me think that these numerous pieces of paper pose a fire hazard. Could you please inquire the Fire Marshall as to whether this is an issue? The next day, HR tells me to either keep everything in a box, or to take them home. “Where’d all the animals go?” says Carl as he approaches my cubicle. “Oh, the Fire Marshall said they’re considered hazardous.” “That’s stupid!” “It’s okay. I just wish they’d have said something sooner. I can’t help but feel a little slighted.” “What do you mean?” “Someone tattled,” I said, embracing a false stutter, “HR told me about an anonymous note they received about the Fire Marshall inspection. Something about lots of loose paper everywhere. HR made a new rule to cover their asses. I don’t feel mad, just disappointed. HR has to invent stupid rules to avoid liability. I get it, but… damn.” “What a jackass,” says Carl, “No wonder they stayed anonymous.” By noon everyone knows, and Carol and Susan suspect Sarah. The rumors spread and for the next few days everyone throws shade on Sarah. I pass Sarah in the break room; she is visibly frazzled and I give her a friendly smirk. I am cultured and I am smarter than you. My gifts of happiness are not yours to steal. You do not deserve it.

We are alone. As Sarah grabs the coffee pot, I speak. “Now you realize the powers I possess.” Sarah turns my way, but I am already out of the room. The next morning, my original shoe box is in my chair. The birds have had their wings clipped and their beaks bent. The flowers have all been soaked in water as to wilt. During my break, I make a green turtle and pin it to my cubicle with a sticky note that reads: Slow and Steady Wins The Race. By lunch, the turtle has disappeared. “What happened here?” says Doug. “Someone must not be a fan of The Turtle and The Hare.” “Sarah?” “Come on, Doug. Don’t jump to conclusions, you’re better than that.” The whispers circulate all around the office, like little birds chirping, or like a field of flowers swaying in the wind. Like the sound of paper crish-crushing. One day, I am called into HR. “How are you today?” says Deborah. “I’m fine. It’s nice to see you and everything, but did I do something wrong?” “Well, let’s get to the bottom of this. Can you step into my office?” Her office is dim and there are many books on her shelf. Inside is Sarah. Deborah shuts the door, and I notice one of my old flowers sitting on Deborah’s shelf. “Several months ago, did you ask Sarah out on a date?” “I don’t know. It’s a bit complicated.” “Complicated?” says Sarah.

“Some time ago, when I started doing my origami, I realized that these little pieces were taking up lots of space. I gave them out to my friends, and one day I noticed that Sarah looked particularly distraught. Absolutely miserable; it made me feel terrible. I’d heard she’d been very stressed lately, and everyone seems to think there’s some sort of issue going on. I saw the quarterly reports andlook I don’t know what was going, I try to keep out of gossip. Anyway, I felt sorry for her.” I pause to take a breath. Deborah leans inwards with trusting eyes. “It seemed like she could use a pick-me-up. It was entirely platonic, but she seemed to misinterpret my intentions. I suppose I should have thought harder about it; I can understand how a woman could be uncomfortable with a gift from a male colleague. I wanted to take it back as to apologize for any unwanted advances, either real or imagined, but she kept the box and informed me that we were still friends. I assumed that we were still on good terms since she accepted the gift. After all, if a man proposed to a woman and the woman said no, she wouldn’t keep the ring. I was under the impression that there was no issue, but it appears something in particular has caused a problem, and I’m glad that you called me in so we could clear this up.” Sarah fumed in her chair. Deborah carefully shuffled some papers on her desk. “Sarah seems to think otherwise,” she said, “And since then you’ve deliberately given gifts to everyone but Sarah? You’ve excluded her from group events?” “I considered it inappropriate to do anything that could be considered an unwanted romantic advance. I’d hate to violate anyone’s comfort.” “And the spider incident, what can you tell me about that?”

“Spider incident?” “Right around Halloween, when Sarah was frightened by your spider.” “Oh, I feel terrible about that. When I made it I gave it to Susan; I’ll admit, I originally suggested the refrigerator, but I then asked Susan not to. I was under the impression she was going to leave it on the break room counter. I am very sorry, and I don’t want to blame Susan or cause any problems. I suggested it, so I take full responsibility for that incident.” “And Susan can verify this?” “I believe so.” “And you were aware that Sarah has a phobia?” “I was not aware.” “She never told you at any point?” “I honestly couldn’t tell you. With all due respect, she is not the center of my universe. I am very busy, as is she; we both have other things to think about. I personally have projects to get through by the end of the quarter, I’m trying to get into a few new markets for-” “Alright,” says Deborah, “Can you tell me if you made any inappropriate comments to Sarah in the break room?” “I don’t think so. Why?” “At no point did you say ‘Now you realize the powers I possess?’” I turned to Sarah in disbelief. “I’m sorry, can you repeat that? I’m not sure I understood.” “That won’t be necessary,” said Deborah, “You can go now. Sarah and I have to talk.” As I left Deborah’s office, I noticed everyone looking up from their cubicles at me.

“What happened?” said Susan, “What did she say this time?” “Nothing, nothing. Look, can we all just get back to work? I really don’t want to talk about it.” Carol and Susan give a supportive hug; Carl pats my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it,” says Carl. Several moments later, Sarah exits Deborah’s office. Everyone rose from their cubicles to stare at her, like crows perched on a ledge, looming over a dying animal. In my hand I held a single black rose, twisting it back and forth as I pretend not to notice her. As Sarah walked back to her desk, I pinned the flower to my shirt and avoided her stare. I whisper. “Caw.” “Shut up!” she screams. I roll backwards in my chair as a chill shudders down my spine. I put up my hands as if under arrest. Everyone in the office shuffles closer. Sarah sees them and retreats. When the day ends, everyone invites me out to different places. Carl and Doug invite me to drink with them, while Carol and Susan offer to help me find someone. “No thanks,” I say, “It’s been a rough day. I think I’d just like to go home.” For weeks I have been folding more than I could ever give away. I could not bear to throw any of them away, and so I threw them all into my closet, shuffling past them every morning. Tonight, I get the strangest urge, and so I turn out all the lights, crawl into my closet and shut the door. I roll around in a field of paper flowers, listening to the paper crunch like a field of rising whispers.

Laurin DeChae Applause

“And every time you turned on the radio they said something like, ‘4 million are going to die.’” —Andy Warhol cordoned off this the same slice of sky you’ve always seen cut by tired light we don’t believe you there’s got to be something in the water in the age of luminous things connections between the real and the imagined prompted a punch in the water/dive head first there is no such duller-hued escape route [disbelief, that muted magnitude]

primordial soup run amok something in the water puddles crackle with real and imaginary hazards this rapid change. About to go poof like milkweed in bloom. we need to get better at finding answers. we need to get better at the (boring) truth accept that human activity is predictable internet search engine dystopia chirping at us we try to make sense of the world outside the lab

faults slip in human spillover scientists love to be drunk it’s not looking good the animals get fevered digesting random, craving pattern meanwhile the internet makes it easier than ever to penetrate the bubble the water we believe in the universe not because we believe in god but because we believe in ourselves and strings of memory threading, easier to grasp, again and again.

S. Frederic Liss I’m Home

The hood of his wife’s car was still warm to the touch when he returned home, hot when he considered the night’s single digit temperatures. Less than half an hour, he guessed. Ten, fifteen, minutes, more likely. “I’m home,” he shouted into the kitchen which was lit only by the red glow of the digital clock embedded in the base of the coffee maker. He opened the door to the basement and shoved his lunch bucket on to one of the shelves he had built into the wall of the stairwell. A can of tuna fish meat rolled off the shelf and bounced down the stairs. “I’m home,” he shouted after it. “I’m home,” he shouted to the dark at the top of the stairs leading to the second floor. He climbed the stairs two at a time, noisy enough to announce himself but not so noisy as to raise the dead. “I’m home,” he said to the pale yellow pool of light on the floor, the reflection off the mirror of the bug light over the neighbor’s garage. “I’m home,” he said to the nightlight his wife insisted on sleeping with. When no one answered, he turned on the bedroom light. “I’m home,” he said to the made up bed. The telephone rang and he answered, “I’m home.” “What else is new?” his wife replied. “Where are you?” When she didn’t say anything, he added, “Without the car.” “God gave me feet.” “Not the fastest.” He tried to make it sound like a funny, not an insult. “Fast enough.” “Thought I’d start the wallpaper tomorrow,” he said. “The paper’s been discontinued.”

“Since last summer?” “Since four summers ago.” “No way.” He stretched out on her side of the bed. The pillow smelled of her hairspray. “Pick another.” “I’m not in a picking mood. You choose.” “Right. And you’ll hate it forever after.” “What goes on comes off.” She paused. “Did you say tomorrow?” “Be done by Friday.” “Taking the week off?” “House’s our biggest investment. How many times did you lecture me on that?” “One too many.” “Want me to come get you?” “I’m fixed for transportation.” “I’ll wait up.” “You can’t wallpaper straight seams without a good night’s sleep.” “I got all week to catch up my sleep,” he said, then added a variation of something his wife’s favorite televangelist repeated several times each sermon. “Tomorrow’s the first day of the rest of our lives.” “Ours?” The phone clicked before he could say anything.

Contributors Laurin DeChae Laurin DeChae is a M.F.A. candidate for poetry at the University of New Orleans, where she acts as the associate editor for Bayou Magazine. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Harpur Palate, Cleaver Magazine, burntdistrict, S/WORD, Rose Red Review, Rust + Moth, Really System and Star*Line. Joseph Eastburn Joseph Eastburn earned a master’s degree in Professional Writing from USC, where he taught for ten years. His writing has appeared in Reed Magazine, Sliver of Stone, Slow Trains, The Tower Journal, Sand Hill Review, The Sun Magazine, and Hobo Pancakes. His first novel “Kiss Them Good-Bye” was published by Morrow in 1993 and will be brought back in paper and eBook by HarperCollins in February, 2016. He is writing a full-length novel on Twitter, The Summer of Love and Death. Ananya Kumar-Banerjee Not your typical teenage tea-drinker, Ananya Kumar-Banerjee is a 17-year-old lover of lyricallity. She currently resides in New York City and attends Horace Mann School. Ananya’s favourite book is “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. She is a devotee of melancholy endings; she has never found happy endings particularly profound. Ananya plans to continue writing in the future.

S. Frederic Liss Liss, a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize sponsored by University of Georgia Press, has published or has forthcoming 38 short stories and has received numerous awards and other forms of recognition for his short fiction including The Florida Review Editor’s Award for Fiction; James Still Prize for Short Fiction sponsored by Wind;Midnight Sun Award for Fiction sponsored by Permafrost; Third prize in the Arthur Edelstein Prize for Short Fiction; Finalist for theRaymond Carver Award for Short Fiction sponsored by Carve Magazine; and Honorable Mention in the New Letters Literary Awardfor Fiction and the Glimmer Train June, 2014 Fiction Open. Liss has also been published in The Saturday Evening Post, The South Dakota Review, The South Carolina Review, Dogwood, The Worcester Review, and Fifth Wednesday Journal. In addition, Liss was a finalist in the Bakeless Prize Competition sponsored by Middlebury College and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Liss earned a MFA from Emerson College, Boston, MA and was the recipient of a Grant-in-Aid in Literature from the St. Botolph Club Foundation, Boston, MA where he leads a workshop in writing fiction. Mark J. Mitchell Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologiesIt has also been nominated for both Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Net. Good Poems, American Places,Hunger Enough, Retail Woes and Line Drives. A fulllength collection, “Lent 1999,” was ,just released by Leaf Garden Press. His chapbook, “Three Visitors” has recently been published by Negative Capability

Press. “Artifacts and Relics,” another chapbook, was just released from Folded Word and his novel, “Knight Prisoner,” was recently published by Vagabondage Press and a another novel, “A Book of Lost Songs” is coming soon from Wild Child Publishing. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster. Levi Andrew Noe Levi Andrew Noe was born and raised in Denver, CO. He is a writer, a yogi, an entrepreneur, and an amateur oneironaut. Levi won first prize in 2011 and 2013 in Spirit First’s international poetry competition. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Harpoon Review, Connotation Press, Litro Magazine, 101 Words, Twisted Vine, Birdy, River Poets Journal, Elephant Journal, and Japan Travel, among others. He is the editor in chief and founder of the podcast Rocky Mountain Revival, Audio Art Journal. Xavier Vega Xavier Vega grew up on a strawberry farm in Plant City, Florida as the child of Mexican immigrants. He moved to Tampa and earned a B.A. in English at University of South Florida where he was published in Thread Literary Inquiry. His work has since been featured Apeiron Review, where he later became a slush reader, The Bangalore Review, Mandala Journal, and Yellow Medicine Review, where he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Xavier’s photography will soon be featured in Raven Chronicles. He currently resides in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

Monique Zamir Monique just completed her MFA in poetry at Oklahoma State University and has received an honorable mention from the Academy of American Poets Scholarship for her poem, “Even the Stone Will Keep” and an honorable mention from the Marye Lynn Cummings Endowed Scholarship for a collection of poems. Her poetry has been published in MOJO/Mikrokosmos, Lunch Ticket – Amuse Bouche, Gravel Magazine, Josephine Quarterly, and The Light Ekphrastic. Born and raised in New York, Monique lives in Austin where she works for a super cool startup.

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Crack the Spine - Issue 172  

Literary Magazine

Crack the Spine - Issue 172  

Literary Magazine