Glassworks Fall 2019

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Fall 2019


a publication of Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing

featuring Memory & Rumination Conflicted Relationships Liminal Spaces

Cover art: “Sonder Seclusion 2” by Faizan Adil


The staff of Glassworks magazine would like to thank Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Program and Rowan University’s Writing Arts Department


Cover Design & Layout: Katie Budris

Glassworks is available both digitally and in print. See our website for details:

Glassworks accepts literary poetry, fiction, nonfiction, craft essays, art, photography, short video/film & audio. See submission guidelines:

Glassworks is a publication of Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Graduate Program Correspondence can be sent to: Glassworks c/o Katie Budris Rowan University 260 Victoria Glassboro, NJ 08028 E-mail: Copyright © 2019 Glassworks Glassworks maintains First North American Serial Rights for publication in our journal and First Electronic Rights for reproduction of works in Glassworks and/or Glassworks-affiliated materials. All other rights remain with the artist.

SENIOR EDITORS Tim Donaldson Anthony Palma Steve Royek Myriah Stubee ASSOCIATE EDITORS Rachel Barton Jenna Burke Kaitlyn Gaffney Laura Kincaid POETRY EDITORS Dylann Cohn-Emery Julie Darpino Leo Kirschner FICTION EDITORS Justina Addice Mark Krupinski Matthew Vesely NONFICTION EDITORS Ann Caputo Joe Gramigna Isha Strasser MEDIA EDITORS Alex Geffard Elizabeth Mecca COPY EDITORS Editing the Literary Journal Fall 2019 students

glassworks Fall 2019

Issue Nineteen


Issue 19 | Table of Contents Poetry

Melissa Bernal Austin, All My Love from the Other Side | 9

Where Did I, I Did Live | 8

Sara Baker, Mother-Tongue | 68

White Bird, Dark Water | 69

Jenn Blair, Portrait (circa no) | 72

Souvenir | 70

Jessica de Koninck, Good Humor | 39

Tonya Eberhard, Vigil | 74 Laura R. Fiorentino, In the Garden | 40 Robin Gow, If I Could, I Would Have... | 4 D.R. James, Mid-Life | 38 Kimberly Lambright, Cantaloupe in Your Kitchen | 3 Susanna Lang, Inheritance | 16 Richard Levine, The Speed of Dark | 49 Alison Lubar, To the Bone | 27

Jessica Mehta, Dear Sylvia (You’re Such a Gas) | 53

Economics of the Heart | 52

Nancy Murphy, Anniversary | 67

Jared Schwartz, Awaiting Ascent | 32

Courtney Tala, All the Texts I Could Not Send... | 15

Jenny Wong, The Abacus of Dreamscapes | 31

The Sunday Ruins of La Chiesa | 30

Fiction Olga Breydo, Cherry Preserves | 55

Pernille Ægidius Dake, Preservation | 17

Quinn Zeljak, The Body Problem | 33


Brian Malone, Annie | 42

Alyce Miller, Death of a Cat | 10


Faizan Adil, Sonder Seclusion 1 | 50

Sonder Seclusion 2 | cover Sonder Seclusion 5 | 28

J.E. Crum, Act II of the Unruly Hair Portraits | 54

Dream Sequences Phase II | 6 Erik Leraz, Handful of Heartbreak | 14 Undecided | 37

Morgan Stephenson, Back to the Corner | 41

The Last Time | 73

The History of Glassworks

The tradition of glassworking and the history of Rowan University are deeply intertwined. South Jersey was a natural location for glass production—the sandy soil provided the perfect medium, while plentiful oak trees fueled the fires. Glassboro, home of Rowan University, was founded as “Glass Works in the Woods” in 1779. The primacy of artistry, a deep pride in individual craftsmanship, and the willingness to explore and test conventional boundaries to create exciting new work is part of the continuing spirit inspiring Glassworks magazine.

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Cantaloupe in Your Kitchen Kimberly Lambright

Reader, are you bittersweet? Are your coral pants dragging the floor? I got here first but I’m cool with sharing. Reader, you’re my favorite. But you’re incoherent. If I’ve tried to do anything, it’s to rid context and reveal isolation for the invention it is. Still I wouldn’t suggest anything. Leave the world to languish in its baby tangerine stillness. Uncouple the bruise at work in your knuckle, its glossy rebuke, ease the cabinet of softwood. I am here for you as I’ve always been.

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If I Could, I Would Have Named Myself Honeysuckle Robin Gow

after the bush a block away, and how Mom and I pinched the necks of the white flowers precise thumb finger sweet water full mouths. I was hungry for a name like that, like something to suck down quickly, like yellow word, like bugs humming, like a tick ambling behind my ear and planting its obsidian head, a jewel dunked in blood. Back at home, we pulled the tick out with tweezers and I told Mom I was afraid of the honeysuckle bush. She said next time we’ll check for ticks before leaving.

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Lying awake, in bed, I thought of that plant mess live green entangled in the waists of trees by the side of the road choruses of stems dripping damp tongues and I decided that if people called me honeysuckle instead of Sarah I would have a kind of inherent wildness, an absence of fear a sopping fire, I’d be sugar teeth, a grit girl, a head to be plucked from scarlet creek.

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Dream Sequences Phase II J.E. Crum

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Where Did I, I Did Live Melissa Bernal Austin

A place is not a home that does not want you. Whatever life was lived there, whatever pillowcases bloodied, whatever teeth, or burial mounds. At the moment, the garden is untended. This is where we’ve planted our shame. This is where— This is where everything else is choked out. What cannot be used that should be used will always die hard. And where will I be? The truth is that I can only dream the future in still life. I dream in pieces all empty rooms and unembarrassing floors. Here is a cabin in a photo I cut from a magazine I never read. Where is the home for that which died but is not dead?

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All My Love From the Other Side Melissa Bernal Austin

I know what I saw in the closet in the old house, and I’m almost dizzy with the knowing of it. Like how I could see the faces swimming under their faces, and knew. How I knew not to open that door. Heard knocking from inside an empty room, and saw a little girl run and re-run the same path until she remembered what came next. I still think of her, and her yellow dress and love her in it. I always loved the ones that didn’t seem to notice me. The ball bouncing alone, the crying woman. A thing can’t haunt you if it doesn’t know you’re there. The entire French Quarter sighed around and through me, and I loved her for it. I watched a silent hulking monster near the road. Watched as we halved the distance. I loved that great beast in the desert dark, until it raised a heavy arm in greeting. Loved it until it looked back. Until it reached out for me.

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Death of a Cat Alyce Miller

When something dies, it refers to all other deaths. A number of years ago in San Francisco, I watched my eighteen-year-old cat Blossom trying to die—it took her a week. She had lived with me for all my adult life, and the only noticeable signs of aging were the whitening of the dark fur around her nose and mouth, and increasing frailness of her frame. I had rescued her, when she was two months old, from a cruel fouryear-old girl who liked to choke her and swing her by the neck. All her life she remained extra-cautious around people, reserving her affections for only a select few, a group that did not always include me. The week she died she began to refuse food, and shunned the soft warm beds I’d made, first with towels, then fleece, instead choosing the cold, hard kitchen floor. During the day she slipped out the cat door seeking out patches of sun, measuring her hours from morning to afternoon. She hunkered down on the thyme-covered cobblestones out back, closed her eyes, and sniffed the wind. Back in my single days, when I’d come home to a darkened apartment across the Bay, both my cats waited for me on the steps. We shared rituals and routines, as cats and their human companions do.

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But now all that had changed. I’d go outside to check on her and find her lying still on one side, body flat and matted as if in preparation for framing. Her eyes stared beyond me. She resisted all offers of water. She had decided, as her labored breathing and lethargy implied, that her surroundings, including me, were now just incidental. I finally submitted to her preference for solitude and went upstairs to bed. Grief, when put into words, deteriorates. Suffice to say that disbelief made me almost as mute as my cat herself was that final week. Her voice, which in her increasing senility had become a raucous wail that could startle you out of a deep sleep, had been inexplicably suppressed. For days, she moved soundlessly from one dark, uncomfortable spot to another, slowly starving herself. When I lifted her up and pressed her against me, she hung limp. I read it as defeat, but somehow, I think I’m wrong about that. She was asking me, in the only way she could, not to touch her anymore. To let her go. When I found her early Sunday morning, dead on the drafty bathroom floor, where she’d crawled in the night, her body was already cold and stiff. She had probably been dead for several hours. Her front and hind legs were outstretched as


was asking me, in

the only way she could, not to touch her anymore.

To let her go.

She took up almost the whole space, her dark, blurred form vaguely visible through the plastic bag. I might have been looking at her just below the surface of a frozen lake. Several times a day those first couple of days I opened the freezer door and looked in. She was a frozen shadow, with an embryonic vagueness. It was a few days before I was able to drive up the coast to bury

her, in a redwood forest where she had spent the last summer crouching in the long grass and pouncing on insects and skinks. She was the second cat I had lost in four months. Her arch enemy and boon companion was sixteen-year-old Theophilus, as colorful as his name, the unabashed apple of my eye who had tormented me and everyone who knew him his entire life. Fights and vet bills were only part of the picture. He had been both a full-blown monster, and a humorous, exasperating buffoon who alternately menaced Blossom and coexisted adoringly with me. When he wasn’t sprawled in a filthy gray mass of fur in the middle of the floor where he was frequently stepped on, he spied on Blossom, hid behind doors for sneak attacks, blocked her way to the food dish, cuffed her on her ears. He lived only for his own pleasure, attaching himself to me and bitterly resenting anyone else who required my attention. It was completely fitting that he did not die gracefully, nor go gentle into that good night. He bucked and snarled and fought; when it finally came down to putting him to sleep, he pretended to go along with it, the car ride, the final examination by the vet. Up until the moment they pierced the skin of

Alyce Miller | Death of a Cat

if she were running. Her eyes were open and glassy like a stuffed owl’s. Her death, as far as I know, was not violent, but her open mouth, teeth prominent, suggested otherwise; she looked as if she had tried to scream. When I carefully lifted her up, she felt stiff like papier-mâché. Because it would be several days before I’d head back north to bury her, I gently placed her headfirst into a clear plastic bag, tied it, then wrapped a second bag around her. The only place you can store a dead animal until burial is in the freezer. That is just where I placed her, after dutifully removing the frozen peas and a pot pie, the absurdity of which only made me cry harder.

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his left thigh with the needle, he led us to believe our consciences were clear, that we were offering relief to one collapsing under organ failure. But when the drug entered his veins, his head shot up as if he were selfreviving, and his eyes blazed briefly into mine. He reached out to claw us. His last sound was a snarl that died to a hiss, appropriate I thought, for a cat who had caused me so much trouble and broken my heart. Sobbing all the way, I drove his body that day, still warm and flexible, up north and buried him under a patch of huckleberry bushes. Now when I peeked into the freezer at Blossom, it was an act of confirmation, of making certain that I had made no mistake. I touched the plastic bag to be sure it was growing cold. Then I sat and thought about it awhile. I began to understand why people photograph the dead, hold wakes, keep the bodies around. There is nothing morbid about this, about facing dead things. Upon contemplation, the very ordinariness of death comes as a relief. Seeing a dead creature suspends, for the moment, all mystery. What we don’t know is always a mystery, like the children I have lost over time, whose lives were suggested only briefly by my swelling body before they vanished. Or the deaths that would later follow, first my father, then my sister, then my mother, and in between all that,

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several friends, each loss so different in their anguishing. Deaths often provoke a rethinking of one’s life. There is a shifting of purpose, even if temporarily, a rearrangement of the way things will be done, promises to oneself to live better and more fiercely. Death is the imperative that has baffled philosophers. It is someone’s answer to something, and yet refers to nothing. All we are left with is endless speculation, the solace of a religious view that sends us to a better place, or the possibility to return some day. The day Blossom died, I couldn’t bear the silence of the house, and felt compelled to drive from the Mission down to the garden store off Army Street, where I loaded up a cart with trays of plants and flowers, soil, some pots, and a drip system. Though I’d never gardened, I spent the day back home, outside in the sunshine, with my hands deep in bags of potting soil, arranging the pots along the steps and in the tiny space next to the railing. By midafternoon I had filled in all the spaces with a variety of plants that included purple violets with yellow centers and purple pansies with black faces, and trailing lavender lantana, fuchsia-colored geraniums, and a crimson passion flower with a red spikey face that would eventually entwine its way up the balusters. I watered them all once, and then again, just to be sure. I breathed in the rich fragrance of the soil I

Alyce Miller | Death of a Cat

patted more firmly around their roots; I adjusted their pots so they would face the sun squarely. I had also bought a bird feeder for the tiny backyard where Blossom had lain so quietly, because of a pair of robins who appeared in search of worms. I packed the feeder full of seed and hung it from a branch on the sycamore tree, encouraging life. Then I sat down on the front porch steps among a profusion of color and inhaled the sweet scent of stock. I had no idea that in the coming week someone would come along at night and rip out the drip system and cart off all the plants, or that I would be determined enough to rebuild the little potted garden twice more, with the same result. But in that moment, before I would lose again and again, I had the chance to consider what it is that drives us toward such fierce beauty. Perhaps it’s the way we avenge our own mortality. It seems that by waiting and doing nothing, we risk losing that chance.

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Handful of Heartbreak Erik Leraz

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All the Texts I Could Not Send After Your Third Miscarriage Courtney Tala

1. dilate? or evacuate? is there a word that means losing that which you’ve tried so hard to create? 2. that grainy black and white picture now just looks like static 3. the word apology—synonymous with red. with blood, fresh and harsh against the white porcelain bowl 4. your body, swollen but fruitless. beautiful, even when empty 5. and you, a hollowed pear, insides cut up by each slash of the minus sign 6. when i called after the first time and the second, i just couldn’t speak her back into your body 7. this is the way we always love each other— with tight lips, and empty hands

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Inheritance Susanna Lang

Our son phones from a furniture store where he cannot afford to buy a chair for his empty apartment, but that’s not why he called. He can live with the echoes that greet him as he opens his door each evening. At the store he’s found the double of my father’s chair—black leather on a dark wood frame, with a reclining back and a footstool, almost a daybed where my father read in the afternoon until he could no longer lift himself out of any chair. Some things, my son says, there should only be one of. Our children inherit our griefs as they inherit a taste for mushrooms sautéed with shallots, Monet’s water lilies, the Allman Brothers, Rilke’s late poems, the Marvel Universe. These things belong to him now, although he may have tucked them into the back of the cheap chest of drawers he bought for the last apartment. From time to time he’ll open the drawer, find what’s buried there.

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Pernille Ægidius Dake

Anna hates me. She may not have said, but she doesn’t respect my work as a taxidermist either. But here she stands, furtively, in my workshop, just inside the door, wearing one of her Eileen Fisher dresses. This one is taupe. Anna is tall and can pull off the loose designs. Her left hand, cradling a bundle of keys she, obviously, has avoided jingling, rests on my assembly table. While leaning back on her heels, she observes me through halfclosed eyelids. I pick up disdain. In her right hand she holds a green, soft-lined cooler bag. Like she’s just been on a picnic. We used to do that, in Pinchot State Forest. After eating our salads and oatmeal-cranberry cookies, we’d shoot pictures of the park’s waterfalls with our phone cameras—back then, still a newfangled invention— till our batteries died. Anna has slipped in without ringing the doorbell. Although a sign directly on top of the bell and right next to the door handle requests: “RING DOORBELL. PLEASE.” The notice is painted with twoand-a-half-inch tall, dark sky-blue letters and framed with stenciled, blue morning glories. Since the bell lights up cobalt, matching the letters and flowers, some might

consider the arrow pointing to the bell overkill. If so, Anna can, at best, be called inattentive. I’ve been expecting her. Just not for another fifteen minutes. In that time, I’d meant to hurry up and pickle the doe cape I’d just finished rinsing for the fourth and last time. The pickling solution was ready, mixed and cooled in the bigger of my two tubs. But even though I was pressed for time, I still started singing and dancing. I do a ritual whenever I complete a step in the preservation of an animal. It’s my way of honoring the departed and I’ve done it since I was five. I’ve always been comfortable with dead animals. Growing up on a county road, in a part of Pennsylvania more rural than Coberland, with no kids my age nearby, I’d make playmates out of lesser-marred road-kill, or carcasses I’d discover in the woods. Once I found a still-limber crow. I was able to keep it for nearly a week, on a perch I built in a pine tree away from the house. Until my dad found out and threw it in the trash, along with four days’ worth of kitchen refuse. After high school, to pay for taxidermy classes I worked several odd jobs. To get work and seminar schedules to fit was tough,

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but I finally got my license. I’ve had my own workshop for five years, which is another reason to do a ritual. Today, as I’d dashed around my work tables, pumping my arms out in front of me and flexing my fingers—my hands and forearms cramp up when I have to rinse salting agent out of big hides and massage them supple, and the water invariably ends up feeling much colder than room temperature—I trilled the few lines I recalled of “It’s the Final Countdown.” I thought a bit of Swedish Hair Metal sounded refreshing after having had Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture stuck in my head almost a month. Ever since the Fourth of July, when I last went out with Jimmy Lawsonn.

sour-salty notes of potassium nitrate and slight snaps of sulfur. Anyway, here I was, rounding the corner of my prep table while happily belting, “—couuuntdooowwwn,” and banging whatever I passed to release the last numbness from my fingers. Tabletops, chairs, the Ford 150-bumper attached to Jimmy’s 3-point stag (contrary to his claim, the last tine is under an inch), storage drawers, Butch Henhausen’s 376 lb. black bear boar, the shelves with birds and fowl, supply bins and buckets and drawer fronts, anything. Whenever I tap a stuffed animal, I slap my chest with the other hand. Past Jimmy’s deer and on to pat a snow leopard (duly registered with the Department of Agriculture) mounted in leapfrog pose, that’s when I felt Anna’s presence.

“My hands and forearms cramp up when I have to rinse

salting agent out of big hides and massage them supple, and the water invariably ends up feeling much colder

than the room temperature. Jimmy had brought veal sausages and I a Sauvignon Blanc, homemade vinegar potato salad and lemon squares to Milford Menington’s Park. We ate sitting on a brown camouflage tarp near the bandstand and stayed on, long after the fireworks had died out. The air still hinting

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My right hand freezes on the big cat’s shoulder, my left hand on my sternum. I lock eyes with her squint. Anna adjusts her grip on the green cooler. Our silence firms up. Embarrassment weighs in my torso like Henhausen’s unwieldy bear pelt did when I’d dropped it in a too potent

tints the borders pale-blue or pale-pink. My mounts, on the other hand, bring out the soul of what roamed wild and lost. I not only define, but refine the untamed. Something Anna, in my atelier for the first time, ought to recognize. I want to say as much, point out the snow leopard that died of natural causes, in a zoo, in the Midwest. He’s almost perfect; nothing truly sags. After two years, however, I’m still awaiting payment. By now, I’ve named him Leopold. I suppose a bit like hunters nickname their kill, as if including it into the family. “Huh,” I cough, and straighten up. My hand drops from my sternum down over my work shirt and apron, in what should appear like I’m wiping off dust. I wish I could rub off the feel of Anna’s narrowed eyes on me. Her website also asserts she’s the official photographer for most of the region’s functions. At the Shelter’s fundraiser, three days ago, she’d waltzed into the upstairs rooms’ reception area with two cameras (a wide-angle, and a telephoto lens), one on each hip. She wore a charcoal, shapeless dress full of seams. Ted trailed right behind, toting her tripod and suitcase-size camera bag. Anna immediately set about firing off both cameras, flipping them like

Pernille Ægidius Dake | Preservation

tanning solution and quickly had to pull it and fold it to fit the smaller rinsing tub, where I pounded out as much infusion I possibly could; my chest counter-beating with dread. “You’re early,” I say. “Yes,” Anna says and lifts the cooler into her arms. Last time we talked was over a year ago. Last time I saw her was three days ago, at the Coberland Regional Homeless Shelter’s fundraiser. Like I said, ‘saw.’ Anna and her husband Ted, and most of her coterie had poured in almost punctually and, as always, joined at the hip. Anna met Ted eleven years ago, at King’s College. He was the quarterback. Now he owns a lumberyard. Anna took classes in photography. Her website designates her as a portrait artist, and states that she loves dogs, and to travel. That she wants a big family. That her favorite spirit to invoke is the jubilation her Barn Baby Pictures validate. Reading ‘spirit,’ and ‘invoke,’ and ‘jubilation,’ and ‘validate,’ makes me twinge every time—not that I check often. Mothers flock to Anna’s studio. They have to have their tots reproduced in Anna’s barn setting, besieged by plastic toys, sheep statues frizzy with polyester floccus, wooden flowers, rocking horses, occasionally a live cow, and plaques saying stuff like, ‘Live. Love. Laughter.’ Anna strives for an antique look and her assistant

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dumbbells, poking them everywhere, except my way. Or, that’s what I surmised. From the get-go of her charge as events photographer, the bulk of Anna’s published photos has been of her clique. Back when we still talked, I’d tried to explain the ramification of this prejudice. I always felt she cut me off. So, the upshot of her heedlessness is that the world must think affairs in Coberland, as well as Wilkes-Barre and environs, on the whole, attract the same nine bleached-blonde social climbers, and their puffy husbands. Whether football games or lawn bowling, a Red Cross charity or hunting lodge inauguration, the semi-annual garage cleanup day or strawberry festival, church bazaars or homeless shelters’ functions, I usually attend. So does Anna, photographing everybody but me. Until the Coberland Regional Homeless Shelter bash, that is. And, until this morning, I’ve been absent from every page of every tri-county publication. Now, faced with Anna, it strikes me she must be here to gloat over my picture in today’s paper. When I discovered my likeness this morning, I’d convinced myself her intentions with the past three days’ emails were to come and ask forgiveness. Her first email came after the shelter event, at 1:13 a.m. She had a mount order, she wrote. I banked on her having realized we should

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be friends again and so, in none of my ensuing responses did I probe. I carried on with ‘Dear Anna,’ and ‘Looking forward to seeing you,’ and discussed only her commission. I was completely taken in by how her half-grown Savannah and the Broad-winged Hawk, she claimed she’d captured as an eyas hen and trained for falconry, had expired. Anna described how ferociously Vanna, the cat and Henna, the birdof-prey had fought. It was impossible to distinguish where one killer started and the other ended. Her description came across so upsetting, I considered taking a course in grief counseling. Because, until just now, I trusted my business was about to take off. Her mount order was supposed to have been my entrance into the pet taxidermy market—hunters don’t want counseling; grief, guilt or otherwise, however tactfully offered. I’d planned to take extremely good care of Anna’s darlings. Instead, I’m beginning to doubt she’s even brought any animals. The silence in my workshop is turning oppressive. I worry that she’s found out it was I who, about a year and a half ago, mentioned to the local papers how bad they looked when they, as a rule, only showed Anna’s hangers-on. “Yeah, so I—” Anna squawks, as when taking someone’s picture, pausing on an up lilt, like a


was impossible to




killer started and the

other ended.

Carrying the cooler to my prep table, I note its weight—between 12 to 15 lb.— fits the purported kitten and grown hawk. I wrack my brain for what I will find as I unzip the zipper one tooth at a time. Anna starts wandering. I let her. Like a regular customer, she too has to rummage my bins containing wire, gauze, paddings,

teeth, tongues, jawsets, then get to the eyes and recoil. “Why do you have so many?” she says. “Many what?” “All these many parts.” Back at pilfering through my drawer of tongues, Anna picks up a deer’s mid-size, extended version and studies it up close. From my angle, it aligns with her nose. “I buy variety packs, in bulk, to get a discount.” I rebuke myself for responding as if relapsing to the time we were close. We used to pore over our shots of the Pinchot waterfalls, but I could never stop remarking how my Nokia 7650’s pictures were cruder than her N90’s; we spent hours analyzing who I dated, or not, and how to build a relationship; we read her Cosmopolitans and Vanity Fairs and, over pots of tea, deliberated on how fashion was a matter of personal preference. At which point I’d, carefully, proffer suggestions as to how she could embellish her look, even volunteer my expertise in designing her ensembles, and accessories. In turn, she’d mumble something about timeless styles. I suppose we both tired of that discussion. I dress up for every occasion. My outfits are assembled from highlights like re-stitched Target clearance clothes and rewired

Pernille Ægidius Dake | Preservation

question that still sounds commanding. “—I brought Vanna and Henna.” She swings the green cooler into the room. “Well,” I say, and slowly walk toward her. “Let’s take a gander.” I relieve my one-time friend of the bag. She plucks a cloth handkerchief from her pocket and covers her mouth and nose, presumably to ward off the stench of pickling agent. When I first trained to be a taxidermist, the chemicals— especially benzidine’s mix of skunk, petroleum and decades’ past Chanel No 5—used to get to me. Now I don’t notice much. Though I’d enjoyed sitting in the park with Jimmy and picking up faint whiffs of firework and even vinegar.

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bijouterie, Pay-For-Less heels I cover in rhinestones and my mother’s furs. (When I was seven, she left them, my dad, and me behind and went to Hollywood. Which may sound trite, were it not for the fact she landed steady appearances in the soap opera Port Charles.) I peel back the last four zipper teeth, as I preface my divulgence, “I deal with animals of all sorts of breeds and manners and shapes and sizes. Not babies in onesies.” A clank rings out when Anna drops the deer tongue back in its tray. Lifting the lid ever so gingerly, I brace for a jack-in-the-box contraption that’ll allude to my censorship complaints. But there, on the bottom, lies the mauled hawk, loosely triple-bagged in transparent plastic. The same goes for the cat. Its head wrapped with additional layers. Anna’s keys rattle as she switches them over from the hand that also crams her handkerchief. She moves towards Butch Henhausen’s boar which I finished just last week. The silver-plated Hornaday 50 BMG hovering over the front of the neck, where the Sternocephalicus almost meet, may not demonstrate a kill shot but adds the intended drama. I busy myself inspecting the bodies. “Did you freeze the animals right away?” From next to Henhausen’s bear, comes a kerchief-muffled, “Yes.”

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I observe Anna’s incredulous look, as she examines the suspended silver bullet. The ammunition is my freebee supplement that makes up for the fact I fitted the carnivore with gorilla dentures. They’re fastened with two-component glue and aren’t budging. I’ve tried, for months. When, in effect, the double fangs make Henhausen’s bruin appear perfectly viscous-looking. I’d meant for Anna’s job to be another masterpiece. Keeping both heads, the two bodies would be integrated. Vanna’s tail fanning out into rectrices. Fur braiding in between the remiges in one fully extended wing, the other slumping, all tattered. Joined at the hip, there’d be one furry and one feathered loin. They’d end in Henna’s wrinkled feet, talons extended. The right foot’s claws would sink into a downy, speckled beige abdomen from a leg fused with the cat’s right hind leg. The project would have a new designation; Escher-taxidermy, an extraction of rogue-taxidermy. I’ll be the inventor and have already tinkered with my layout for a blog. Despite the wrapping, the cat’s ears are thawing. That denotes more than six hours in the bag without cooling blocks. “How long have Vanna and Henna been out of the freezer?” I ask. “I’m not sure. I’ve been so busy lately,” Anna says and, as she starts circling Jimmy Lawsonn’s

reception, I might be mistaken for a shelter regular. Moreover, in the online version, the pixilation makes me look twenty years older, and dirty, not tanned. Preceding my entrapment, now blaring black-and-white at every reader in the county, Anna’s Ted and Butch Henhausen, Coberland’s postmaster and former mayor, were passing me, again, on their way from the shelter fundraiser’s open bar, back to their group that had crowded together within reach of me. Henhausen paused by my side. I recall thinking it served him right to admire the outfit I, despite my rush, had put together: Shimmering navy-blue cocktail dress, Prussian-green elastic belt, rust-orange peep-toe slingback heels and matching necklace and earrings. With merely a scarf, a headband, bangles and my chipmunk vest missing for me to have been fully put together, I felt confident enough to beam genuinely at Butch Henhausen. Not steal away to mingle in the gathering, as I’ve had to do for the seven months it took before I figured out to add the bullet to his gorilla grinning bear. As he slid up next to me Henhausen raised his halfempty tumbler. I flicked my hair out of my eyes and smiled. We stood caught in the sound waves

Pernille Ægidius Dake | Preservation

bumper-mounted stag, suppresses a grunt with her kerchief. I perceive outright scorn. I affixed the bumper last week, to cover up a drooping that rendered the mount too analogous to an oversized, pregnant goat. And, more to the point, to give a nod to Jimmy’s ‘hunting skills,’ seeing we weren’t dating—or whatever to call it— anymore. Certain I’m never getting paid, I’m keeping his buck. I’m still considering a nickname. “You’re always busy,” I say. “But, your pets have been dead for months. Why didn’t you come sooner?” “Oh, you know,” Anna breathes into the handkerchief. I hear how she’s suppressing laughter, that she’s gloating over my public humiliation. Because there I am, in today’s Coberland Herald, on page five, Wednesday’s ‘Hodge-Podge’ page, between the Tooth Fairy Report and the extended In Memoriam Classifieds, captured at the homeless shelter’s fundraiser. On the only day of the year I had to work so late there was no time to freshen up—barely to change clothes—Anna took my picture. Now I hover below Tracy Olsson, who’s just turned six and lost both front teeth on her birthday, and above Curt Marlburg, who passed on quietly seventeen years ago, but is still deeply missed by wife Anitha, daughter Sabina and son-in-law Bill. Laid bare in the center picture of the three documenting the homeless

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from the large turnout’s chatter and stomping feet from the dancefloor as they clashed with the folk music’s crescendo. “So? It’s done? Yes?” he shouted. His lisp spraying a bourbon-pungent spittle, which, for once, couldn’t ruin my makeup, seeing I hadn’t had time to put any on. “True art takes time,” I hollered louder than what was comfortable in order to be heard over Anna who, as she snapped patrons nearby, was screeching louder than the party’s noise. “But yes. It’s done.” I nodded. Then, suddenly, although I’d already fretted plenty over his bear—my first—I worried he wouldn’t like the bullet. I thought of undoing the Hornaday and just present the mount with the erroneous teeth; Henhausen mightn’t notice. I considered creating something more rogue. Except what? Besides, as with the ape teeth, the bullet’s wiring was done with epoxy. “Make the moment count.” Anna’s squawks slashed the air like a buck zipper knife to a deer’s gut, as she aimed at Jimmy and Ted. Cupping the bottoms of their tumblers draped with pulping napkins, the men tilted closer together. She took her time and shot single frames, not her usual burst-mode, which would’ve triggered the flash like blasts from a digital machine gun. Butch leaned towards me and spattered, “I’ll swing by sometime tomorrow, I think.”

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I remember how, as I bent over and dramatically uttered, “What?” as if I hadn’t heard, and Butch moved his hand to scratch his head, the way one does when frustrated, Anna’s flash detonated and shocked me and I jolted and shook, then quickly swirled the dregs in my glass, and yelled, “We can arrange your pickup, when I return,” and headed for the bar. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Anna move on to take pictures of some of her gang. Five women glowing a sun-kissed look. That picture flanks my left, on the ‘Hodge-Podge’ page. Anna lookalikes presented like caramel-glazed confectioner cakes lined up in a display case. I loathe how they have a cup size competition going, which Anna must’ve won. Bordering my right side is Jimmy, then Ted, both grinning wide and white; a stark contrast to my gaping mouth at its most contorted part of my, “What?” Butch’s hand hangs midair in the snapshot, giving the impression of


style will be new;

uber-extreme taxidermy. I’ll dye her skeleton gray and set it in a bulky resin


on her nape. Her arm rests on her chest in a way that emphasizes her inadequate bra. Granted, it might be difficult to find a fit in her size, but the way her arm is propped squishes her uneven rack so very particularly. I’d never stuff anything that lopsided. Although, perhaps, in Anna’s case I’d make an exception and, in all ways, hone her soul. The style will be new; uber-extreme taxidermy. I’ll dye her skeleton gray and set it in a bulky, resin mold. The cast will be extra-large, with padded biceps simulating how they bulge when she waves her cameras around. I’ll insert an MP3 player to loop a screeching. Stitch her mouth shut. Squeeze her eyes to slits. Shrink her heart. Maybe, on a humorous note, wire it to her sleeve. At the head of the open casket, wherefrom her boobs will jut, bumpily, like The Endless Mountains’ peaks seen from Pinchot State Forest, a flash will go off, non-stop. Drowning Anna in the pickling agent may reduce the bruises resulting from our scuffle, which I’m sure will be fierce. That way I can apply less makeup. Anna lets her arms drop to her sides as she slips out from behind Jimmy’s deer. “I’ll leave Vanna and Henna with you to be mounted like I explained in my last email, individually.”

Pernille Ægidius Dake | Preservation

moving toward the back of my head. Combined with my stoop, my eyes mid-blink and rolled back into my head, it looks, for all intents and purposes, as if I’m about to go down on Butch Henhausen. “Well, here you are,” I tell Anna and get how hunters feel when first locking their scope’s reticle onto their kill. Tossing the Herald, opened to the ‘Hodge-Podge’ page, Anna’s way, I say, “And, you had to go and submit that.” “I’ve been trying to photograph you for almost a year,” Anna groans. “Because you asked for it.” “That sounds like a threat,” I say. “The shelter event was the first time I’ve seen you without globs of makeup and layers of clothes. Especially those furs—” she pauses. “Ted and Jimmy agreed with me how nice you looked. You just wiggled around so much that shot was all I got. Then I forgot to erase it from the file I had to forward to United Events Services. They own all rights to my takes. I thought I’d be able to talk to you about the picture, in person, before it appeared.” Anna rubs her throat. “I’ve been so busy ever since I signed on with United Events. I didn’t even have time to consider how to deal with Vanna and Henna’s bodies. Then I realized they were my excuse to come—” “Excuse,” I say. “See, now we’re getting somewhere.” Our stares lock again. I repay her earlier, evil eyes. She keeps her hand

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I hate being told how to do my work but I’m too shocked to speak. She heads for the door. I pad silently around my work table and, with extended tiptoes, head straight her way. My fingers itch to grip her neck. I’m six steps behind. Then the lyrics to TLC’S “Waterfalls” pops into my head. “Will you call when they’re done?” Anna says and her keys jingle as she reaches for the door handle. “Oh, by the way. I bet you already know, but—” She turns to face me. I stop dead in my tracks, mid-leap. Back hunched. Thighs cramped. Arms raised. Fingers curled back. Grinning wide. Mortified. Peering more incredulously than before, she finishes her sentence, “—your doorbell doesn’t work.” I moisten my chapped, lower lip by running my front teeth over it. Bits of dry skin dislodge and end up on the tip of my tongue. I wish time could freeze. That this moment could just be a picture, of the two of us, taken with my Nokia 7650, where no one can see what’s what, or know what happens next.

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To the Bone Alison Lubar

[I peel to the skeleton for you. See this:] what makes the elbow is three bones, meeting of three roads where it’s custom for demons or figments, witches with beards to appear. They join to a point; you dislocate the joint and coax a summer of syllables to resemble a scream, muffled in the twist of radius (or is it ulna?) behind my back, disjointed, the prefix asunder. Before we fix this marriage I need you to squeeze these three bones together again so I know to slip it into itself again, the socket rejoined, rejointed, repaired, again a pair, pare the steps of repair down to a singular swinging door: open, closed, broken bones.

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Sonder Seclusion 5 Faizan Adil

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The Sunday Ruins of La Chiesa Jenny Wong

Cupped in a twist of street, the stones of four walls lie abandoned. Trees sculpt their branches through broken windows, gaze at frescos of lichen and moss. This is where the ghosts come to linger and sit in the memories of old pews. In the naves, among pedestals of dirt and collapsed spaces, a housewife sneaks in and hangs bedsheets to billow and dry, an unintentional offering to the dead, a place to curl their bodies and whisper a prayer as they pass by.

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The Abacus of Dreamscapes Jenny Wong

Behind my eyelids, those damp curtains of salt water and crimson glaze, I see my gospel father holding his Elvis guitar with more reverence than he ever held me, his musical throne secured by the seedy branches of a tall birch tree named Merl who inspects me with a round-notched eye, his reedy mouth asking if I would like to help him strip the bark from his crooked old trunk. Overhead, my mother’s eyes a pair of withered limes always open, but even she is unable to peer under our skulls, those cracked domes of dark and silent sky. My parachute no longer glides over curdled valleys of unnamed colors or clouds of dream-soft folds. I am tangled in memories, pinned down at a crossroads where stop signs are mud-splattered strawberries, ripe for the picking by determined fingers and hungry disobedient tongues.

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Awaiting Ascent Jared Schwartz

i don’t think there was snow on the ground but it must have been cold outside because i wore a jacket, i remember. the gnawing and biting and clawing was easy enough to suppress, though it became harder and harder with each passing second—until the words were squeezed out; words that i could have mistaken as being directed towards some object in front of the car where her eyes were focused. the words briefly hung, then soon deflated like cheap, poorly tied party balloons, leaving only the breath that once gave them shape. the snow came after. not little by little, but in one violent motion, ambushing the unsuspecting ground with a cold and sterile burden. the silence only lasts until spring when reluctant seedlings find themselves timidly working their way up to the surface, pushing aside the soil sunroof, unsure of their fates in the open air above. little do they know that they emerge at a telling time: just when the dead world around them begins to roar to life.

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The Body Problem Quinn Zeljak

i. I am eight years old and I think I have a superpower. I haven’t told anyone, but I can teleport. The first time it happened I was in my room and upset. Dad was mad at me because I didn’t finish dinner. I left the table without his permission and he called me rude. When my parents are mad at me it makes me feel like I’m going to throw up, so I went to hide in my room. I sat on my bed with the blankets pulled high and then I was in the kitchen. There was no warning, only a dizzy feeling in my head as I stared at the fridge. My mom noticed and asked what was wrong. Nothing, I told her. It has happened quite a few times already. My heart picks up speed and then I’m somewhere else. I need to figure out where I am but it takes time to adjust the focus of my camera-eyes. I try to act normal. It happened when I had to pass the group of older boys in the hallway to get to class. It happened when my friend told me about the Yellowstone volcano which is going to explode soon and then we’re all going to die. The clouds of ash will reach the sun and then it will be winter forever. I teleported to the bathroom then. When I asked my friend about it later, she told me she

hadn’t noticed anything strange. She must have been distracted. I haven’t told her either. It’s only been a few weeks, so I haven’t figured out how to control it. I’ll sit on my bed with my eyes closed and focus on the other side of the room. Nothing too complicated. Just the few feet between my bed and my closet, but it never works that way. It always happens out of nowhere. Yesterday my mom was upset with me because my room was a mess, even after I promised to clean it. She lectured me and left me afraid she was never going to be not-angry again. And then I was in the park. I had teleported again. It was the middle of winter and I wasn’t wearing a jacket. The white trees melted into the sky. I don’t know how long I stood there, watching. The park was about ten minutes from my house, so it took a while to get home. I need to learn to control the power so things like that won’t happen again. The distances are getting longer and it’s happening more often. I don’t know if next time I’ll be able to find my way back home. I wish I could ask my mom for help, but parents don’t believe in superpowers. ~

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ii. I am fourteen and my philosophy teacher introduces us to our next topic. The mind-body problem, he says with cadence and a pause. I already have my books and notes out on the table. I got the highest grade of the class on our first test and I liked that little rush. Some people think the mind and body are two separate things, the teacher says, the philosopher Descartes was the first. Other people believe that mind and body are the same. He writes all this down on the chalkboard for us to copy.

the corner and the pens on my desk. They are all the same to me, but this body gets me where I need to go so, in return, I follow it around. Sometimes I am not even on the ceiling. My mind drifts in outer space. It is dark there as I ponder the mind-body problem. The emptiness stretches out infinitely. I tell my teacher all of this. The philosophers are lying. They are making up problems so they can sound smart when they find the solution. I look around the classroom for the other students to agree with me. I meet their faces and their frowns. None of them stand

“There is no connection. There is a body and I watch

it all day long. I float above it, up against the classroom


I can’t help but get upset. How could someone possibly feel they are same? I ask my teacher this and he tries a different angle. He says, if the mind and the body are different things, then explain to me how they are connected. Now I’m furious and I tell him as much. There is no connection. There is a body and I watch it all day long. I float above it, up against the classroom ceiling. From this vantage point, I see the teacher, I see my classmates and the chalkboard at the front of the class. I see the ficus in

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up for me. They’re also trying to look smart and I’m disrupting their performance. The teacher repeats everything one last time. I pretend to understand and stay quiet for the rest of the period. My mind flees the scene and finds my body hours later during maths. I failed my test that semester. ~ iii. I am seventeen and when I try to run my body will not move. My mind is yelling at my legs, but they do not feel like mine.

the only two factors to him. He never asked himself how the mind reaches the world or how the body affects its surroundings. Maybe the world didn’t feel real to him either. I think therefore I am, Descartes said. You can only prove yourself. You can only prove your mind. No sane person could have come up with that. I hope he was okay. I hope he wasn’t scared. ~ v. I am nineteen and in the backseat of my parents’ car. My mom is on the phone telling my doctor about the medication and how my body has been shaking for days. Just this afternoon, she says, I called her and she was stuttering. She says I scare her. There’s rain on the windows like a TV screen. My winter coat is too warm and the zipper’s high up against my chin. Take it off, my mind says all the way from the trunk of the car. It is dark in there, but not infinite. My mind tries to stretch for the right words, but there is nothing outside this car. The heat is on too high and my dad is driving past the speed limit. There’s so little space, my mind can’t even form a full thought. Then I teleport. I take the whole car with me and then

Quinn Zeljak | The Body Problem

I told you there was no connection between the mind and the body, but you wouldn’t listen. My mind on the ceiling, there’s someone on the floor—I lose my body. ~ iv. I am nineteen and tell my mother I’ve gone crazy. I’m dreaming and I ask her to wake me up. I ask her to please call the doctor. She needs to warn someone that I’ve gone insane. My body has been missing for a few years, I’ve learned to work around that, but now the world has disappeared as well. My bedroom is a movie set where the lights are too bright. I run fingers that aren’t mine over sheets that aren’t real. I think of the time I went to the grocery store while I was stoned. Wandering the aisles, convinced that everyone could tell I was a robot. I bought the spicy Doritos to see if they would burn. The images don’t feel like mine. I shake my movie theater memory. I think about Descartes. Maybe this is how he felt as well. He never quite managed to explain the connection between the mind and the body. People sent him letters to disagree. He wrote books in return. I wonder if it drove him insane. I wonder if he spent as much time in the dark as I do. Frantically reaching out for other minds. He only ever wrote about the mind and the body. Those were

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the car is gone. We are in the waiting room at the hospital but we don’t do any waiting. The doctor knows we’re coming and a nurse leads me to a room made of buttons and switches. My mom takes my coat off. How much of the Lithium are you prescribed? the nurse asks the body as he takes its blood. One. Two. Four. Six. Seven. I get to lie down on the stretcher. As my head hits the plastic I become the main attraction of this theater. I watch along. They attach my chest to wires and monitors so my body can do all the talking for me. It will take two hours for them to run all the tests. The nurse tells me my heart rate is normal. He checks it again and frowns. When the doctor arrives she asks me all sorts of questions. She moves over me like a solar eclipse and the room turns red. I recognize every word she says, but not the sentence. Her stethoscope sways. If she leans in any closer it will touch my cheek. My neck stretches out for the cool metal. I want so badly to sleep. My mom tells her I get like this sometimes. That I don’t know where I am and that everything gets fuzzy like television static. That’s how I explained it to her. I’m still looking for words to convince my dad. The doctor speaks in slow words and asks if it’s because of the medicine. She doesn’t understand. The medicine’s only been around for a few months, but my mind has been

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scared much longer. I think it’s still in the back of the trunk. I don’t recall ever getting out of the car. The doctor turns away from me and tells the nurse to test for all other drugs. I see my mother grab my hand. When the blood tests return, they tell us that I’m not poisoned. I was almost poisoned. Too much of the medicine in my blood, almost enough to hurt me. You should quit those immediately, they say. Try something else.

“I run fingers that aren’t mine over the sheets that

aren’t real.

They tell me to get up. I put my coat back on and make room for the next patient. My mom talks to the nurse and the receptionist and then my dad. Her voice is honey and knives. I’ve had enough. I flick the switch and turn off my mind. I know how to control it now. My body lets go all the way and my mind caves in. I teleport all the way back home.

Undecided Erik Leraz

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Mid-Life D.R. James

after an untitled mixed-media sculpture by Italo Scanga (1932-2001) That dusk was too deft: it wicked sad nostalgia out of treetops, scrawled and flicked far-flung secrets across a chimerical sphere, treaded afresh its upheld ceiling of concrete gauze. Ah, those were the leaps of an unwilled mind wild atop its uncoiled spine of interlocking coins. Its ruminations flocked unherded, entwined like tendrils knitting their perpetual thicket. It shuttered the windows that faced drained runnels of under-foot dreams, shattered the mirrors that echoed scant overhead sheen. It verged on a strain of extinguishment! But the lean body endured, limbs akimbo, torso torqued to support a pent-up stare—Or was it surprise? Like emerging under unclouded sun from a feudal cell, some clue like a smell aiming a mangy dog, nails clicking, to a feasible feast.

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Good Humor Jessica de Koninck

I hear the tune before I see the white truck. Mom, I holler, the Ice Cream Man, and my mother wraps a quarter in a paper napkin, tosses it out the kitchen window of our apartment three floors above so I can buy two cones, one for me and one for Benjy. I still know all the words to that jingle. Now, on good days, when my mother agrees to take off her nightgown, put on some clothes, I take her to lunch at the local diner. Her order the same each time—soup, a fish sandwich, and a dish of vanilla ice cream. Then she offers to pay, though she’s stopped carrying a handbag and cannot do arithmetic. How much is it? she asks. Five dollars, I tell her. She says, I’ll give it to you when we get home. Don’t let me forget.

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In the Garden Laura R. Fiorentino

Love is a Firethorn bush— lush in spring time; supple and unfolding, tipped in fertile white and verdant hues, sweetly anticipating the heat of summer’s fire storm. Later, bathed in conflagration and thorns, turning speed-red with imprecision, it blazes and pricks and consumes and razes, fiercely anxious about nature’s next turn— Sometimes, it blazes too fiercely and too soon— sputtering to a close, berries falling fast to winter. Sometimes, its flame outlasts the seasons. in splendor. Still, do not be so eager, so hungry for that eye-feast, that bloody prick, for that red-ripe heartthrob— though rousing at first inception; too often, Love’s predatory barbs obstruct the pathway to Eden’s delights, demanding a longer blooming season. Lovers must not be Bleeding-Hearts but Tiger Lily bulbs, who brave the wintery seasons.

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Back to the Corner Morgan Stephenson

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Brian Malone

The only one who gives me recurring nightmares, out of everyone who has died, is the hamster I owned in elementary school. Her name was Annie. I got Annie the summer before third grade. I thought maybe it was because my grandfather had died and my parents wanted to comfort me. Then I wondered if it was because we were moving and my parents wanted to ease the transition. I called my mom to check my hypotheses. Turns out my grandfather died two years before I got Annie. Turns out we moved two years after I got her. Turns out I wanted my own pet, and someone bought me one for my birthday. Anyway, I got a hamster. I wish there was more of a story. When I was a kid, I told anyone who would listen that the hamster named herself. The truth is I offered the rodent a choice: Holly or Annabelle. I have no idea how Holly became an option, but Annabelle was the name of a cow in a Christmas movie my mother liked to watch with us. The truth is, I knelt on my bedroom floor and placed the rodent on the crux of my outstretched arm. Before I let her decide, I told her, “Straight for Holly. Toward me for Annabelle.” I lifted the hand I was using to steady

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her. She dug her claws into my forearm and blinked before scampering up my shoulder. The truth is, hamsters are prey animals. To run out to my open palm, which hovered an unsteady three feet above the carpet and offered her to any one of the hawks that could have been circling my ceiling, perhaps went against her nature. But I caught her again with my free hand and hugged her to my chest. “You’re Annabelle,” I said. “Annie.” I wish my other memories were as gentle. Typical of dwarf hamsters, Annie nipped, and I was too young not to scare her. Her teeth slipped underneath the dermis easy, a sharp pinch, and she didn’t like to let go. She clung to me, dangled from my index finger when I pulled my hand away. Pawed the air like a dog on a chew toy. The pet store sold me a transparent exercise ball with holes to breathe. We let Annie run around the kitchen at the old house with us, the only large, uncarpeted room. Annie had an easier time maneuvering on the linoleum. She was not always safe when the entire family gathered there. Once, she scurried underneath my father as he stepped backward, my father the former college soccer player, and she spun clear across the kitchen. Her plastic


truth is, even if I

loved her, I could not be close to her, to the first living creature ever put in

my charge.

She exercised in quick sprints. The food like a maraca in her wake. Her tiny frame stretched out. Her paws

blurred. When she stopped, her food showered her. She spun around, huffed, started again. In the wild, hamsters go for miles every night in their intricate underground tunnels. When I was in fourth grade, my grandmother moved in with us because she needed to begin dialysis treatments and could no longer live alone. In the summer before I started fifth grade, my parents sold the house and bought a new one in a different part of the same small Connecticut town, a house with an apartment off the garage where my grandmother could live with us and still have her own space. Annie was two. In the new house, my father moved Annie’s cage to the spare bedroom. She kept me awake, all that running. Here is what I have to answer, a question posed in the blurry frame of a fractured memory. Once, maybe sometime in high school, as I sat beside my grandmother in her apartment at the new house, watching her recline on her big red chair, she said something about how nobody really impacted a person except their parents. I did not understand what she meant. I recognized plenty of people, I told her, teachers, friends, other family, etc., who had changed me. “I mean, you have had a huge

Brian Malone | Annie

ball smashed against the door frame. We shrieked, all of us. “Tom, make sure she’s okay,” my mother insisted. She might have cautioned me against running over. She might have held me back, worried that I would see my pet unmoving, unbreathing. Resilient Annabelle, though, splayed across her ball like an animal-skin rug, caught her breath, pulled herself up, and went on her way. My father mostly took care of Annie. I helped him with the cage sometimes. Scrubbing, drying. But he did most of the work. The truth is, even if I loved her, I could not be close to her, to the first living creature ever put in my charge. She nipped. She slept all day, cuddled below a layer of shavings in the corner of her cage. She dropped her food into the red wheel at the edge of the cage and at night the pellets rattled as she ran.

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influence on me!” I insisted. Something overcame her then. She looked both pensive and delighted. She asked me how so. The question felt huge, as if I had claimed there were lots of different plants in the world, and someone answered by asking me to name them. I stammered, said we should have that conversation another time. We never came back to it. The garage at the new house had two doors in the far-right corner, one on each wall. The door on the back wall led to my grandmother’s apartment. The other door led to the main house. To move between the units, my grandmother had to take two steps up to our door. The steps were made of old wooden pallets. We did our best to make sure someone was always with her, but she often visited unannounced. She often stumbled or fell while stepping into her house or walking up to ours. Once, I must have heard a thud and a cry, or otherwise sensed something was wrong. I was young, maybe in middle school. I do not remember how I got there, but I opened the door from our house to the garage and I saw my father kneeling beside my grandmother on the cement, asking her to stay still as her legs searched for the floor. “My head,” she whispered. My dad put his hands on the back of her curled, dark hair and only then did we notice the drops of blood. I watched as the paramedics came and asked

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her questions she was too dazed to answer. Yellow bars unfolded and supported a pad. Stretchers are so much bigger in person. I watched how the paramedics strapped her limbs down, how red and blue spun through the garage. When they lifted her into the ambulance, how she looked so limp, drooping over the braces and Velcro. Her eyes darted, tried to register. We stared at each other. She did not see me. During the summers, I spent the weekends at a small lakeside cottage my parents owned. My sister and I shared a bunk bed. I had the top by the window fan. Through its plastic grating, the lights from the campground in the next lot danced. The crickets and frogs sang me through the night. Tadpoles splashed in the creek. Usually one of my parents was home to take care of Annie before coming up to join us, depending on their work schedules. One night, three summers after she scampered up my shoulder and named herself, I woke up at the cottage. I stared at the thick white bar of the bed frame, looked out the window, and knew Annie had just died. I knew as surely as I knew I was by the lake, in the top bunk. As surely as I knew the moon painted silver the tips of gravel and grass between our house and the campground. I fell back asleep. The next morning, my mother called to say she had found Annie and my throat tightened. Then I

keep the smell of wet, decomposing grass from lingering on our property. In the years following Annie’s death, I often visited her grave during little breaks between emptying the bag and restarting the mower. I reminded myself of her coloring. I imagined her fragile paws gripping my forearm. I ceased grieving for her almost immediately, but nearly fifteen years later, I never stopped visiting. And during most of these visits, I realized I was apologizing. Dwarf hamsters, I eventually learned, prefer to live in pairs. While they can adjust to careful, patient human handling, they prefer the company of their own kind. I could not have known in third grade that I was preventing a social creature from having a companion. Nor could I have known that despite my intentions, I was poking my clumsy fingers at a creature who likely perceived the gesture not as an invitation to play, but as a threat. I do not blame myself. This is not about that. Even so, into my late teenage years and early twenties, I apologized to Annabelle for ignoring her, for holding her nipping against her. I was living with my parents in the fall of 2015, a year before I started graduate school, when they announced they would be going on a cruise. My entire

Brian Malone | Annie

was back at the main house cradling a recycled gift box. My father must have driven us, my sister and me, but I don’t remember. My mother had placed Annie’s body on a white dishcloth and dropped some red petals in beside her. She gave me the box when we got home. I carried Annie up to my room. I stroked the little black line across her back, scratched behind her ears. Her nose was nestled into the folds of the cloth as if she were tunneling. I sobbed for three hours. One hour for each year of her life. My mother tapped on my door after that and came in to sit by me. A stone wall divided the backyard into halves. My mother had mulched and planted along it. We buried Annie in the mulch bed on the bottom half in the back corner, close to the wood line, tucked underneath thick green leaves. I found a heavy, rounded sandstone to mark her grave. Later, my father nailed a splintered cross from two spare wooden blocks and propped it over the rock. Now, a couple feet underground, the cardboard is damp and folding inward. Annie is only bones with flecks of stubborn fur; her skeleton a home to worms, weevils, and earwigs. The petals wilted long ago. The dishcloth will last the longest. It was my job to mow the lawn throughout middle and high school. We had a push mower with a bag that I emptied onto a wheelbarrow and brought deep into the woods to

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extended family went. My mom, her two sisters, my dad, my uncles. My cousins and my sister were away at school or working. I would be the only one around to take care of my grandmother for the week. Pills twice a day, drives to the dialysis clinic three days a week. She had been falling more frequently then, but without any severe injury. The week passed smoothly, but I spent every day afraid to hear her trying to walk over to the main house, every day afraid she might not make it into bed, might trip while making herself breakfast. I did not want to be alone that week. I did not know how to be the only one around for a bad fall or a major seizure. How has that week affected me, that juxtaposition of knowing both that I cared so much, and that I was so unprepared? It is probably selfish to resurrect a rodent. More to lay down my own burden than anything else. I had expected you to laugh at me, some man in his mid-twenties lamenting his long-dead pet. Say you were just a kid maybe and wave your hand. My family laughs. They remember the ball kicked clear across the kitchen. They confuse Annie with Sunny, my second hamster, who was not a dwarf and who escaped for days at a time, but who always came home. The truth is I was serious when I told my girlfriend that someday I had to own a hamster again. She laughed and I laughed and we talked about redemption and

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guilt and what we carry from when we were children. I admit that if I ever own another hamster, I may choose a different breed, although that feels like I am betraying Annie. If dwarf hamsters don’t want human contact, then owning one seems cruel. I think of Sunny, a Syrian hamster. Hers was a solitary breed, one known to enjoy handling. So all of this about Annie is just some halfarticulated conviction that I can’t let go of.


did that week




juxtaposition of knowing both that I cared so much, and that I was so


A month and a half after starting graduate school, in late September 2016, I stepped out of the shower in my apartment in Idaho and saw a missed call from my mother. It was 9:30 p.m. for me, after midnight for her. What overcame me then was not the same kind of knowing as it had been with Annie. I had by then become accustomed to phone calls about falling, illness, surgeries, had known for almost six years that any

for them now. I flew back to Connecticut from my apartment in Idaho in the summer of 2017 to be there for the closing. We packed my old bedroom early and I spent the summer in my grandmother’s apartment. I felt her there in the red chair. I never sat in it, and whenever someone else did, their presence seemed like a violation of her space. The last time I imagined digging up Annie’s grave was also the last time I ever stood in the yard of the second home I grew up in, just before the new owners were supposed to move in. I have imagined her so often; what she looks like underground, what life I might find in her if I pulled her up and let her breathe. That day, I stood by the sandstone that marked her grave beside the stone wall, protected by the long leaves of the Hosta. The cross built of secondhand wood had collapsed long ago. In the upper yard, parallel, there was a bed of stones around the brick steps up to the back entrance of my grandmother’s apartment. I took a picture of the lilies outside her door on my last day there. Kiss of Fire, they are called, named for their bright red leaves, their yellow center. I took a picture of the lilies and I drove away. My grandmother asked me about influence. Perhaps

Brian Malone | Annie

call could be the one. I returned my mother’s call. Two weeks earlier, my mom had passed the phone to my grandmother, who after an extensive kidney surgery and multiple trips to rehab centers, sounded cheerier and more lucid than ever. She felt so good, she told me. The doctors took her off her diet and after a decade and a half without potatoes or chocolate, she knew exactly what she wanted. “Thing is, my stomach gets so upset it’s not worth it.” She thought this was funny. Otherwise, she said, she finally felt well enough to eat again. She wanted to know that I was eating well. My mom tried to take the phone back so she could keep doing laundry at the main house. “No!” My grandmother said. “I don’t get to speak to my Brian much and I have a lot to tell him.” Mom left the phone with her. She told me to eat well again before we hung up. I always think there was more to the conversation. My mom answered on the first ring. “Hi,” she said, “I was calling to let you know that grandma died earlier tonight.” She passed the phone to my cousin, unable to say more, the words catching in her throat. My grandmother had died lying in the red recliner she spent most of her last fourteen years in. A year later, my parents put the house up for sale. My sister and I had moved away. The place was too empty

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she did not believe she had one. How does a person explain how another person mattered to them when that other person was so constantly present, so interwoven with every part of their every day for so long? I feel my grandmother permeating these lines. How could I have talked to her about influence without being reductive? Every few months I have the nightmare. I own hamsters or rats or other rodents. They all live in one cage together. Sometimes they have babies and sometimes they fight each other to the death. I need to clean the cage. As I disassemble the tunnels and the wheel, I notice Annie is there under her shavings, sleeping in her urine. I should have fed her years ago, and I’m sure she is dead, but then she is stirring. Her coat is gray and her eyes are clouded with cataracts. It’s too late, I think. I’m not sure she has the strength to lift her head toward the dish of food I offer.

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The Speed of Dark Richard Levine

Tucked in my grandparents’ summer bungalow, I read late into the sound of the surrounding forest dark. I read until I couldn’t distinguish my thoughts from the steady, silent sparks of fireflies under stars. Reading how and why they glow and crickets click, was enough to strip folktales of the cuddly lie of love. Once, while reading about the speed of light, I reached for the lamp’s pull chain, to yank photons in and out of the room. They were faster than day-birds darting between trees and the porch feeder, faster even than the fear that raced my heart and held my breath, when a shadow glided low enough to part the sea of long meadow grass outside my window. And when it swept its silhouette and a small wildly twitching creature suddenly up in its moonlit clutch, soft, yet desperately insistent squeals entered the world asleep and perhaps its dreams. Beneath the slow, broad paddle of those wings, the night resigned to the speed at which light travels being also a measure of its passing.

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Sonder Seclusion Faizan Adil

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Economics of the Heart Jessica Mehta

You had to die for me to know the layers wormed within your bones—children are born narcissists, open mouths and puckered fists. We command with animal mewls, gifted dripping nipples appear like offerings, a sacrifice that wrings you clean empty. For years I sliced away (a martyr must have scars). I want, I want, I want and still … you with nothing left, I ask for more. The knowing that you’d saw yourself to pieces, give away the last dregs of your endocardium was sweeter than any colostrum and cost more riches than I’ll ever know.

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Dear Sylvia (You’re Such a Gas) Jessica Mehta

I’d have killed myself, too, in 1963, the only way I stayed was ovens—gas is mostly gone. And men, they’re cowed by what folds between our legs now. Give us Nobel Prizes and everything. Reading your words, I saw myself. Me at Smith, burnished pageboy, pearl strands without innuendo. Yeah, I’d have killed myself then, too, when you could say committed—who wants a “death by suicide?” It takes commitment, a doing. It’s not easy, reflecting on last Thanksgiving’s turkey drippings and Christmas roast explosions smacking down oven walls. Woulda taken everything in me to not put it all on hold, grab steel wool from the cupboard. Because if I was gonna do it, that oven would be clean-clean, sparkle right. My hair be smelling like Borax and Vapor Brite when face splatters cakepan like batter— it’d be something I did. Committed. Turn that knob all the way, go on and take that to the critics: broiled-burned cheek roasted raw, charred black bits peeled and all.

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Act II of the Unruly Hair Portraits J.E. Crum

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Cherry Preserves Olga Breydo

Nika called to say that her cherry tree was dying. The following morning I was naked to my waist at her country cottage, thirty kilometers outside of Moscow. Alongside me were two other guys who would do more than chop trees for her that summer. My jeans were sweat-sealed to my thighs as we pushed at the top of the trunk with a pole, straining the cut we’d previously axed closer to the ground. “Push it down, Jecka,” she urged me, and then to the other guys, “C’mon Sashok, Vetalya, I can hear it cracking!” “Never been a healthy tree, but this is a sure end,” Nika’s father said, pointing at the fungus that had taken over everything except the miraculous harvest of pale cherry bunches on each branch. He sat, one leg over the other, on their sun-filled veranda. His cigarette smoldered in an ashtray next to an opened newspaper. “Don’t be fooled by the generous fruits,” he said. “What’s important is that the roots are rotten.” Nika rolled her eyes the way I’d seen her do it at their city apartment over supper. “Sick of his political metaphors,” she’d whisper, and shift closer to me on the sofa they pulled up to the table when they had company.

~ We’d been classmates for years but then found each other in a whole new way four months earlier, mid-March, on Nika’s seventeenth birthday. It was 1988 and everything was changing. Suddenly, Russia had real rock bands, drugs, and sex. Lots of other things began to appear too, like housing cooperatives and some semblance of freedom and information, but given the state of my hormones those things interested me less. Also, those were Russian transformations and I was a Jew with one foot out the door—my family’s exit visas were ready. Soon, we’d be America-bound. Nika didn’t know any of this about me and was busy adjusting to the new tides. She ditched her school uniform and showed up, instead, in a blue miniskirt and a white sweater which, given the size of her chest, never made it all the way down to her waist. She pulled her hair up in a loose ponytail and let her feather-like bangs cut across her forehead. She started to smoke, added extra piercings for droopy earrings that didn’t always match, and held her neck up in a way that made her entire face a backdrop for the neat line of her nose. When she talked to me there was an experienced, powerful woman in

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her eyes and I wet-dreamed of attending to her every need, no matter how inappropriate. We’d met up at Dom Kino, the main movie theater, to watch the premier of Little Vera. The film was a coming-of-age story about a rebellious teenager trying to survive the harsh realities of a provincial Soviet town. Nika’s father, a professor and a liberal intellectual, was the one who’d gotten us in. Then he stumbled out mid-way, just when the portrayal of sex became too explicit. He later smirked that the movie was muddy, vulgar, and overacted. But Nika and I sat holding our breath all the way to the end. Everything about the Russian life as portrayed in the movie was ugly, yet beautiful at the same time. And every scene was loud, even the quietest one.


about the

Russian life as portrayed in the movie was ugly, yet beautiful at the same


Hours later we wandered around Gorky Street, looking for the apartment of Nika’s friend’s boyfriend who’d promised to play us something brand new on vinyl. She held on to my forearm as if she were

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drunk and talked about the picnic scene where the main character, Vera, was belligerent, refusing to lie about her father to the police. Meanwhile, I hoped we were heading to one of those center-of-city flats with decorative ceiling moldings, dusty crystal chandeliers, and long corridors with countless rooms. Some tsarist-era private-mansionturned-communal-living-rat-nest now rendered semi-vacant by the massive exodus of Jews. I imagined pinning Nika to the wall in one of the deserted rooms, with the sound of our favorite rock band, Nautilus, in the background. The place was as I’d imagined it, only not deserted in the least. It was packed with university students, hippies, punks, and other factions of the perestroika underground. Nika flirted without mercy and sat so close to me on the floor that I couldn’t keep from getting hard. But contrary to my wild imagination all I got from her were a few kisses so brief I could hardly taste her. And I heard Nautilus, of course, we all did. Their hit new album, Prince of Silence, played until the record player broke and then there were endless acoustic renditions from the guests, with small audience groups gathering around each guitar. Come morning I had the words of their song, “I Want to be with You,” and the map of veins on Nika’s neck committed to memory. ~

eyes narrowed at the force of the sunlight. She placed her hand over her forehead and stood very still. Suddenly, I realized she might have looked at that tree all her life and now had to accept its defeat. Nika tucked her hair behind her ear and took a few steps back. Sashok and Vetalya wiped their hands on their clothes and Nika’s father got up, folded his newspaper, and looked at his feet. The moment now felt like a kind of awkward, unplanned funeral. A quiet formation of people around something that was already in the past. I thought of my parents back home, busy with sorting and arranging our stuff, stressing over what to give away and what to pack into the large suitcases lining our hallway. It would be a matter of a few weeks before I would sit with them on our luggage and observe a similarly mute goodbye. “I’ll get a bucket,” Polina said, cutting through the silence. There was a little wind and the tree was brought to life for a moment. We heard a rustle—small bit of inaudible gossip passed from one fruit to another. She turned back inside the house and Nika’s father followed, muttering that he’ll help, though I expected him to come back empty-handed.

Olga Breydo | Cherry Preserves

She played me like this through the summer and now I pushed at the tree with every frustrated muscle in my body, thinking that this was fitting: topple her tree, give up on her country, take her out back behind this crumpling house and into the depth of the tall grass they don’t bother mowing, get this thing finally over with and then tell her that I’m gone in a week. I wanted to see the regret on her face for having wasted the precious time. Generations of Jewish underdogs within me wanted to feel this brief moment of triumph. We’d previously chosen the felling direction to be the veranda, just to the left of their oval dining table. That area was raised five steps off the ground and had a tall, woodcarved railing. We stopped pushing and ran around to catch the heavy trunk. The tree moaned, cried, swayed in the air, and landed into our arms—a figure skater into her partner’s embrace. “Vot tak, a bit to the left,” Nika’s father was directing, still in his chair, his newspaper pushed aside. He wanted us to lean the tree on the railing first, so that the fruit could be easily gathered. “Polina, come out of the house, will you?” he called his wife. “I can already taste the cherry preserve you’ll make out of all this.” He pushed his chair back so that it balanced on its hind legs. Nika’s mother came outside, her

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I’d never seen him lift anything but his hand to prop his chin in thought. Sometimes, he would look at his wife in the kitchen leaning over the cutting board, or behind the sofa with the vacuum, or balancing on the thin windowsill of their Moscow apartment with a mop in her hand. He would wink at me and say, “Now that’s a real woman.” And I understood that to mean ‘a real Russian woman.’ Because my mother, who was Jewish, always said that she was no workhorse, and manual labor at home was divvied up democratically. We stayed outside, three guys to one girl, and what was left to do but to have a quick smoke? Vetalya fished a crumpled pack of BT out of the back pocket of his jeans. He tapped out four cigarettes but passed around only three when Nika stole a glance back at the house and shook her head, “No.” We sat on the ground, Vetalya sinewy and tanned, Sashok with a chin dimple and long, rocker hair, and Nika with her skirt on the grass and her eyes on me. “Do I get a jar of that preserve your mama will make?” Sashok asked. “We’ll see about that,” Nika said, her eyes narrowed and flirty. “But you earned your lunch today. That’s for sure.” She reached to scratch a mosquito bite on her ankle and her turquoise tank top stretched around her shoulder to reveal a thin, white bra strap. I felt such tightness in my throat

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that I couldn’t exhale, and a cloud of smoke came out of my nostrils. But then we heard loud clanking as Polina returned with two tin buckets and a large ceramic washbowl. Nika’s father followed, hands in his pockets. “Cherry-pickin’ time, boys,” he called us. “Coming,” I said, my voice cracking, and finally let out a cough. We buried our smokes in the ground, forced our tired legs up the steps of the veranda, and then huddled around the tree on small chairs or step stools. Cherries that were the first to fall into our buckets made noises against the tin, like large summer raindrops beating at the warm pavement. We labored, filling up the containers and walking them to the house to empty into a large washbasin. Sashok whistled a melody between his teeth and every time I tried catching the tune he switched to another. Vetalya found two cherry pairs whose stems were joined and hung them over his ears. They dangled against his cheeks every time he bent over his bucket, which sent Sashok and me into fits of stifled laugher. Meanwhile, the outdoor burner got cranking. Nika stood at a small prep table with her mother. All I could see were their backs and sometimes a profile of one or the other as they turned to talk. I heard the rhythmic scrape of the metal peeler against raw potato, and then the

“Spasibo,” he replied, and I noticed his gaze slide from her face down the line of her neck. I dug my fingernails into my fists, clenched under the table. We struggled to make conversation. Nika’s father wanted to discuss ‘Three Comrades,’ a novel I vaguely knew to have been written by Enrich Maria Remarque. A grey-bound collection of his works lined my parents’ bookshelf, otherwise bare. I stayed on topic as much as I could and hated myself for only ever leafing through it. But Vetalya, assuming the title was Nika’s father’s reference to the state of our friendship, kept saying that the three of us weren’t that close. If he were more honest, he’d admit that we were rivals, competing for the same girl. Nika sat holding her arms over her chest; her cheeks were flushed. She kept taking big breaths, as though she was about to speak, but then she would cut herself short. “It’s a love story, this book,” she finally said. “Sure, but that’s not everything,” her father began his reply, and it was clear that a monologue on literary criticism would follow. But Nika didn’t let him finish his thought. “Love is

Olga Breydo | Cherry Preserves

slicing and dicing as the women leaned over their cutting boards. Polina went into the house with a couple of large pots and out came the rattle of water against the metal. They boiled potatoes and then sausages, and cut up fresh cucumber slices, their knives tapping at the wood. When the meal was ready, they transferred the food into porcelain serving dishes with blue romantic landscapes glazed on the rims, the kind I’ve only seen in my grandmother’s cupboard under a thick pane of dusty glass. We found our places around the table, eyeing the feast. A pyramid of small potatoes, golden, with green dashes of dill. A plate of sausages oozing water, topped with a large, silver fork. A heap of green onions, their tails tangled. A pattern of cut cucumber, salami, and Swiss cheese. A saucer with butter. A basket with thick slices of rye bread. A bottle of vodka and a set of small crystal glasses. Polina sat closest to the small kitchenette tucked inside the house. She seemed light on her chair, often disappearing inside to bring out a forgotten utensil, a napkin, or a glass of water. And I watched Nika as she manned the dishes, her torso leaning over the table, a smile softening the corners of her mouth. She spooned the potatoes onto Sashok’s plate: “A little more?” she asked.

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everything,” she said and I buried my eyes in my plate, both scared and hopeful that she was speaking to me. A moment passed. Sashok shifted in his chair. Leaves brushed against each other in the wind. I wished someone would kill the gap in the conversation. “You’re young and romantic,” Polina said with a hint of cynicism in her voice. Nika’s father crushed a slice of cucumber in his mouth and nodded, a sideways smile tucked into his cheek. ~ By the third round Polina worried about us getting too drunk and pulled her husband’s forearm when he reached for the bottle. “They’re barely old enough,” she said, under her breath, though we all heard it. Sashok and Vetalya were happy—I could tell they drank often. And I wanted to allow myself to enjoy it too. I wanted to lean back in my chair, cross my legs the way Nika’s father did, and fan myself with the newspaper. But the alcohol sharpened what I was already feeling. I could sit at their table, drink their liquor, eat their food, and even dream about being with their daughter. Yet I knew that as a Jew in Russia, I would always remain different. Whatever their birthright offered might not be available to me. Years later, I would continue to feel

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this isolation as a Soviet immigrant in America. But at least it would be justified. ~ It must have been late afternoon when Nika made this gesture— small, yet impossible to miss. A little half yawn, the back of her hand to her mouth, a sideways shift of her body toward the veranda steps, a faraway look beyond the cherry tree and over the sagging gates of their property. I remembered my mother then, also an expert in these little hints. Like Nika, she possessed the magic wand that ushered away unsuspecting visitors who’d overstayed their welcome. The three of us got up and though Nika’s father fussed that it was too early yet to leave, Polina began to clear the dishes off the table. We started down the path away from their cottage, Nika tagging along for a bit: “I’ll turn back at the corner,” she said to Vetalya, who didn’t think she should be walking three tough guys to the train station. When I glanced back at the house, her father stood leaning on the fence, barefoot, the cuffs of his pants rolled up to just below his knees. He gave me a look. At least I thought he did. It might have been just drunken stupor, or a longing to also be walking away towards something. But for a moment I worried that he could see through me, that he knew my true intentions.


for a moment I

worried he could see through me, that he knew my true intentions.

which way a pit would fly and then giggled if it went in the other direction. I expected them to acknowledge us, somehow. But they paid us no attention, the distance between us widening. Once, I noticed Sashok give me a quick glance. Maybe he was annoyed. If you’re going to do it, get to it already, he was probably thinking. I slowed down my pace and Nika turned back, her expression questioning. The wind blew at her clothes and whipped her hair back. A shadow passed across her face as the sun gave way to clouds. Just then we both smelled something— the gentle scent of raw mushrooms, of damp soil and potato sprouts, of campfire and pine bark. That smell

of rain that is uniquely Russian, that I would never find again under the tropical downpours of the American Midwest. “Catch up to them,” Nika said, motioning to Sashok and Vetalya. “If you hurry to the station you won’t get soaked.” Around us were oak trees, birches, and evergreens. Thick gooseberry bushes and green picket fences. Triangular house roofs with ornate woodwork at the crowns. Low rectangles of windows with white curtains behind dust-covered glass panes. I looked everywhere and avoided Nika’s eyes. I was scared. I wouldn’t understand this until later, until I was far enough removed in time and space to see that day as something that happened when I was just a boy, in a place that I would never return to. Yet in the moment, I was scared of how firm Nika stood on her ground, how her figure seemed almost taller than mine, how her eyes looked down on me, how her chest was calm while my heart pounded. This was going to happen, I could feel it, but on her terms, in her country, on her soil. It had been a delusion to think that being there with her was my doing. It had been a delusion, also, to think that my family’s future journey was what we actually wanted. Nonsense. We weren’t

Olga Breydo | Cherry Preserves

We turned the corner and the grass changed to gravel, a cloud of dust forming around our feet. Sashok and Vetalya passed ahead of us. They chatted while reaching into bags full of gathered cherries. It would get quiet when they chewed and then a pit would go flying left and right as they spat. Nika and I made a game of it. We guessed

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leaving because we freed ourselves. We were leaving because we were finally let go. The encounter with Nika was imminent, a matter of finding a tall enough bush, a thick enough tree to hide behind, or someone’s abandoned garage. This was going to happen, but not because she wanted me. This was going to happen because she would finally allow me to be with her. “Nu, che dymaesh?” Nika asked. “What’s on your mind?”

reappearing from behind the wall of falling rain. Nika turned behind a lone car parked on the road, and I did the same. We forced open someone’s gate and the rusted metal made a lazy creak. Everything quickened. I could hear my own breathing echo inside my ears. We entered the yard. A glance at the house: unattended, tall grass, dirt, darkened windows. A car tire, a shovel, a chair balancing on three legs, a willow tree touching

“We weren’t leaving because we freed ourselves. We were leaving because we were finally let go.” The rain fell before I could respond. Thick drops began to murmur, softening the soil under my feet. “C’mon,” I said, and took her by the hand, but she didn’t move. Then I cradled her waist in my forearm. Her clothes were already drenched and her body shivered. “Pobezhali, let’s go,” I insisted, leading her back toward her house, but she was all resistance, pulling me in the opposite direction. I understood and allowed her to lead the way. We began to move in unison, almost running. Nika ducked under tree branches and I followed, my feet sometimes sinking into the dirt, her skirt swatting at my thighs, her face half-turned with a slight smile appearing and

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ground, a dog barking but too far to matter. There was a shed in the distance, and then we came closer. A wall. Rough wood, exposed nailheads, narrow slits into the dark void of the inside, the smell of old tools and pigeons and mice. Nika’s neck, the warmth of her mouth, the tangle of her clothes. Water, everywhere, but also the heat. My hands, suddenly big enough to feel all of her at once. My chest over hers, the taste, the movement, the rhythm. And then a darkness across my eyes and nothing in me but the urge. ~ We came back to the house after the rain, laughing our way through the awkwardness of how it had ended. After I swallowed my pride at the realization that I wasn’t her

chest—she was still a kid. Nika ran her fingers through Asya’s curls, which looked like strands of gold in the darkness. The girl looked up and I could see the resemblance in their profiles, except everything about Asya was light and delicate. She had a tall forehead and seemed, even amid the intensity of that moment, to be deep inside her own thoughts. I waited, wondering if I should quietly slip away and head back to the station. But Polina noticed my hesitation and hurried with the introductions. “Meet Mila, my sister from Ukraine,” she said, still holding on to the woman’s forearm. “And this is Jecka,” she added, motioning in my direction, “Nika’s boyfriend.” She said this with no deliberation or pause, with as much confidence as though this was a known fact. Boyfriend. I hoped the night would conceal the spots of shame that moved across my face. Had they talked about me? Had they discussed my candidacy over tea and biscuits? Had they agreed that I was good enough for now? Nika’s father came out from the house carrying a pack of cigarettes and several folded bills. Only then did I notice another man tucked into the shadows at the corner of the veranda.

Olga Breydo | Cherry Preserves

first. After we wrangled with our damp clothes and Nika wiped away her smudged lipstick and tried to run unsteady fingers through her hair. After she kissed the corner of my mouth and said that she couldn’t imagine me taking the train home that night. After we pretended to be lost for a while, after we walked and walked, unaware of the time passing until we noticed the windows light up and heard the evening rattle of pots and cutlery. Her cottage looked and sounded different as we approached. There was a Lada station wagon, still warm, partially blocking the gate; its wheels left a dark semicircle of mud tracing the path from the road onto the grass. On the veranda we could make out a huddle of figures, perhaps in an embrace, backlit by the house lights. We could hear the high pitch of female voices—one of them Polina’s. As we made our way up the steps, a large suitcase that stood in the middle of the floor toppled from its upright position. The noise startled the group and Polina separated herself from the other woman’s embrace. We noticed a young girl standing between them. Here Nika pushed past me, her arms wide— “Asya!” She scooped up the girl into her arms and spun her around. “Kogda? When? I had no idea you were coming,” she said. They held each other a while, Asya’s head coming up to Nika’s

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The driver accepted his gifts and walked away whistling. Soon, we heard the engine start up and the headlights danced across the yard as he backed up. “Tak, vse, that’s it—we’re setting the table!” Nika said, and took Asya into the house. I could see their heads over the sink in the kitchenette. Polina and Mila began to fuss over supper. They spread a white tablecloth over the table, and set out bread, butter, salami and Swiss cheese, a jar of pickled tomatoes and cabbage, and several cans of sprats. “I didn’t know when you’d arrive,” Polina apologized to Mila. “So all we’ve got are cold cuts.” She looked at me, as though I could be expected to find, kill, and roast a chicken right there and then. In the absence of a better idea, I took an empty bowl from the table and turned to the tree that was still leaning over the veranda fence. I remembered how full of life it seemed just a few hours earlier and now it was a sagging, forgotten shadow, most of its fruits gone. I picked enough to fill the bowl and set it in the middle, right next to the canned fish and salami. “Brilliant.” Nika’s father said, sitting down. “Salami sandwiches and cherries. Not a scant living, ha?” he added, smiling. “Come.” He motioned to the chair next to his. I obeyed, but had no idea what to say. What if he noticed? What if he could see it in the corner of my eyes,

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around the contour of my mouth, at the back of my ears, in the folds of my clothes? If he knew what I had just done with his daughter, would he have me sit next to him like that? Would he pour me his vodka? Once everyone was at the table, the glasses were filled. Even Asya got a taste. A small bit of silence followed. Polina adjusted her hair with a safety pin and wiped her forehead with the back of her arm. Mila shifted her chair closer to her daughter and looked over to check that Asya had everything she needed. I would later think back to that table, to our dark figures sitting in an oval formation, only our eyes and our crystal glasses lighting up from time to time, to the mosquitos buzzing in our ears—an incomprehensible choir. I would later remember how I sat there, feeling everything at once. The satisfaction of having been with Nika and the fear that it may have been our last encounter; the warmth of her family and the certitude that I was still an outsider among them. And I felt, also, a certain foreboding, a strange sense of something that was yet to come. Polina picked up her glass. “Milochka,” she said to her sister. “Life kept us apart most of the time. Still…you were always a train ride away. And now…” She wanted to say something else but hesitated. Polina looked at her husband, then at me, and then back. “There’s only family at this table,”

Jewish. Why aren’t you and Nika leaving?” Silence. I looked at Nika, at the dark features of her face, at her eyes under the shadow of her lids. She wouldn’t dare look back at me. My mind raced through our long history of being classmates. I suppose it was never written across our foreheads, but everyone knew who the Jewish kids were. And she wasn’t one of them. “Think before you speak, Asya, why don’t you?” Mila said to her daughter. She held out her glass for Nika’s father to fill. Asya whispered that she was sorry and folded her hands across her chest. “I wanted to emigrate the moment the gates opened,” Mila continued. “But last summer I made myself a promise that I would do this.” Now she placed several ovals of salami over buttered bread. “I slaved away as a camp counselor in Crimea so that she could get some sun.” She pointed at Asya and took a moment to chew. “Close to the end of the session I was able to find her a fresh peach. Imagine that? And don’t get me started, it was impossible to get.” Polina nodded but Nika’s father didn’t share the sentiment. “No shortage of fruit in Moscow! Just look at these cherries,”

Olga Breydo | Cherry Preserves

Nika’s father said, as if assuring her that she may continue. He patted me on the shoulder. “And now you’re leaving.” Polina continued. “Going farther away than birds could fly.” Her voice cracked. She shook her head, raised her glass, and sat back down. “Nu, s bogom, may God be with you,” Nika’s father said, and nodded for everyone to drink. My insides burned from both the alcohol and the truth. Suddenly everything made sense. The spontaneity of the visit. The large suitcase. The emotions. I wasn’t the only one at this table who was going to America. But if that was the case, then I was also not the only Jew. “Please, no drama,” Mila said to Polina, reaching for the can of sprats. She used her fork to transfer the fish onto her plate, where it lay oozing in a semicircle of oil. “Someone always has to dare to be first. I’m not afraid,” she said, and took a slice of rye bread, dipped it into the oil, and bit into it. “If immigration gets tough, well, I’ve got my daughter to help me, right?” She looked at Asya, who was tracing the rim of her glass with her index finger. Nika elbowed her cousin gently and Asya agreed with a rehearsed sort of nod, the one she probably reserved for when her mother caught her daydreaming. And then suddenly, as though waking up, she perked up and said: “Aunt Polina, you’re also

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he said. His wife shrugged him off and motioned for her sister to continue. “Of course I had to feed this peach to my daughter in the middle of the night,” Mila said. “And in the bathroom, lest someone found out and made me cut it into a hundred little pieces to share with all the campers. That’s when I knew it—I had to take my daughter out of there. Out of here.” Mila set her elbow on the table and waved her index finger. “Asya is not growing up in the gutter if I can help it,” she said. Ah, talk of the gutter, I thought. The topic would often hijack our conversations at home. Soviet buildings crumbled, my parents would say. Roads deteriorated, pipes rotted, the food supply dwindled. And what was worse, we weren’t welcome. As Jews, we were second-rate citizens, routinely subjected to discrimination by the likes of Nika and her family. I chugged the last of my drink. Well, half of Nika’s family, perhaps. I spent the rest of the night waiting for her to look at me. I wanted a furrowed brow, a nod, a deep sigh. Anything that showed her remorse for misleading me, for wearing the Slavic features on her face so bravely, for blending into the privileged class with such ease. But then she came to me after everyone had gone to bed, after her father and I had spread thick blankets on the floor of the veranda, having let the women share the small room

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inside. She came long after the lights had gone out, after her father had given in to sleep, and after my own thoughts had become tired and measured. She came barefoot, wrapped into a long scarf, and sat on her heels by my head. She traced my eyebrows with her index finger and it tickled so much that I almost laughed. Then she lowered her face to my ear, her hair falling over mine. “Don’t be mad,” she whispered. “My family won’t leave, so…you’re stuck with me.” She brushed her nose against my cheek and tiptoed back into the house. I wanted to overcome my shame and tell her that I would be emigrating soon, and that I was sorry. But instead I stayed awake, a burden of regret pressing down on me. Deceit was everywhere. We were a whole nation—a culture—of lying. I thought back to the rain, to the abandoned shed, to Nika’s body in my hands. And all I wanted was that moment back, so that I could be with her for the right reasons.

Anniversary Nancy Murphy

Irish rain chases us around January, climbs into our bodies seeking warmth. Instead of romantic evenings, we split packs of cough drops, turn away in the dark; the space between us thickens with my disappointment, gives me reason to hold back. We push forward on this road trip, Connemara maroon hills bleed into bright green fields, blue-black north Atlantic waves. Wildflowers find footing in forgotten soil. There is resistance in this land, survival, a refusal to surrender. We stop in an ancient village, hold hands, share a pot of tea. He pours the milk in, then the tea. He makes mine first every time. It’s unfair how he does that. The silence between us softens, almost like forgiveness.

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Mother-Tongue Sara Baker

Walking gray sand, the cold Atlantic crashing at our feet, my aunt tells me how my great-grandmother tried to teach her Irish on this very beach, furtively, her own child intent on her “Boarding School” accent, country club, martinis, beaver coats. Can I blame her? Born in Boston in 1901, “No Irish Need Apply” signs in grimy shop windows, my grandmother brooked no looking back. “Say something,” I urge, a hunger for speech that grew from Irish soil gnaws me, bone-deep, as if the mother-tongue might assuage my lack of mothering, as if those sounds were a lost birthright. My mother sang— if you were lucky—tura lura lura. The wind blows hard. We lick salt from our lips. I am nineteen and at sea, unsure of who I am or who I ought to be. My aunt turns to the relentless waves. “The past is better left alone.” Pebbles tumble and grate, black water sucks at our toes. But then she closes her eyes, mutters “Mo náire thú.”* Eager, I repeat each syllable, an incantation. She turns a rueful tender face on me. “It means, ‘Shame on you.’” *Muh Nah-ruh hoo

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White Bird, Dark Water Sara Baker

The snowy egret comes morning and evening, its great white wings appearing in the plate glass window. My eyes follow it as it glides into the marsh grass, flaps its wings with a shudder, then folds them like the robed arms of a Buddhist monk, and becomes still. Our son, our beautiful boy, has been snatched away, and in his place is left a changeling, a ravening manchild I can neither succor nor control, whose cries shatter the air, whose presence cannot be tolerated, whose absence is inconceivable. Sometimes I see the bird wading in the dark stream overhung with oaks and pines, catch the flick of beak and the stretch of S-shaped neck as it swallows a fish. I watch his patient marsh fishing, one twig-leg bent, poised in mid-air. The bird escapes capture, though the camera with its telescopic lens weighs heavy in my hands, though I sit for hours waiting for him, watching gray sky turn lavender. Finch and dove vie for my attention, but my eyes are on grass, creek, branches, hungry for white wings.

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Souvenir Jenn Blair

Joice Heth: “The Greatest Natural and National Curiosity in the World… Age of 161 years.” -P.T. Barnum, Slave-Owner I. You will pay the money. Grow impatient. Move forward slowly but persist, delight when the large family in front of you grows tired of the wait, falling out to better reprimand their screaming four year old. As they leave, you hurriedly put your body in the space that still holds the faint odor of a father and mother’s exasperation, the open-oh pink and blue cotton candy gummed mouths of disappointed older children. You are closer now than ever, to putting your hand on another hand, each of its arthritic fingers the Ark of the Covenant—very cup Christ lifted to his obedient lips as night fell on an upper room in Jerusalem. When it is finally your turn you press two fingers against her palm straining to see through the years, your life suddenly linked to greatness, the man who fathered your country, man who had other men’s teeth crowding out his mouth when he spoke stirringly of destiny, man who reluctantly took on the nation’s weight while other men and women were back in Virginia working his fields, this withered thing cared for him when he was a child, suckled him, touched him and now you are touching her.

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II. Later, they will cut it open. Splay it out on a table in front of a saloon on a busy New York City street, rifling through organs, people poking at the spleen and lungs loudly nay-saying, but strangely, none of you feels robbed. That indefinable spark you sought? Already leapt over, dwells inside.

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Portrait (circa no) Jenn Blair

A woman sits at the kitchen table, piece of fine Belgian lace in her lap. The way she casts her face down studying it tells us nothing about what will happen next/if this small slip of intricate excess buoys up or rather depresses her much argued about soul. Her careful demeanor won’t reveal if she is, in any way, fond of her own life, if her husband is absent or smothering, if offspring run and play in small rooms just outside the frame (or there are twin stone doves in the churchyard, moss-pool slowly widening across one chiseled eye—cruel green cataract—). But maybe she never wanted children at all, seeing right through their plump dimpled elbows to how they gobbled up the days.

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The Last Time Morgan Stephenson

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Tonya Eberhard

I could wait till sunlight. What shall I do to pass the time? We finished decorating the tree—each light nestles itself in the pines, and glows in the shroud of night. The clock with a stoic face stares back at me, persistent in its measurements. It does not ask for praise. It eats each tick, pushing on to the next number, and the next, and the next. I sit by the window, still as the fallen snow. Its heaps glow a deathly hue of bonfire ash and blue. I envision you trampling through the snow, a figure walking towards me. Your heart is safe with me. But you are far away. I imagine you are on a pilgrimage in the desert, wandering for forty days and forty nights, having visions of miracles and clearing smoke. At the end, you are fulfilled, with purpose. You return to your brothers with prophecies cradled in your arms instead of a gun. I want to believe this is your mission, why they called you away. Upstairs, our son sleeps. How strange he has your face when you’ve only seen him a number of times so small, they can fit into his hand. As I wait, who will put these boxes away? They surround the tree, open, filled with tissue paper each decoration shed. It’s as if Christmas has passed, and the clock has catching up to do. It continues, a monotone lullaby. Perhaps the one I am waiting for will never return. Maybe I await the man that took his place. The ornaments on the tree glisten, and the space between each one is a longing that I cannot place.

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Art Faizan Adil is a Lahore, Pakistan based documentary and conceptual photographer currently pursuing a Master’s degree in photography from Interactive Design Institute. You can follow him on Instagram as: @Faizan_Adil or you can email him at: J.E. Crum, also known as Jennifer E. Crum-Wilson, enjoys working in a fast-paced career as an elementary Visual Arts Educator in state public schools, of which the artist currently teaches nearly 1,000 children a week in a fifty mile radius of a rural locale, from ages four to eleven. Crum holds a M.A. in Art Education and Research from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland; B.S. in Art Education from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and also studied Art at Mississippi University for Women, in Columbus, Mississippi, as well as studied at The Leo Marchutz School of Painting and Drawing in Aix-en-Provence, in the South of France. Erik Leraz has been working under the assumption that true beauty is an honest mistake. This is the driving force for all of his creative work no matter how chaotic it may become. He believes that expression is not about pursuing perfection, it’s about reminding people that we’re all a little bit odd and incomplete no matter how normal we may try to be. Morgan Stephenson is a photographer based out of Bloomington, Indiana. Morgan works photographically to both examine and critique the social, cultural, and communal expectations placed on southern, middle-class women and its legacy within family generations. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.F.A. in photography from the Memphis College of Art and is currently a candidate for a M.F.A. in studio art from the University of Indiana at Bloomington. Her photographs have been exhibited both nationally and internationally.

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Olga Breydo teaches writing at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts in New York. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The New School. Her work appears in Slice Literary, Joyland, Bodega Magazine, Los Angeles Review, and Cagibi Literary Journal. Her short stories “Torre Flavia” and “Prelude” were nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her short story “Not a Star” was a finalist in the 2018 Missouri Review Editors’ Prize.

Contributors | Issue 19


Pernille Ægidius Dake winter bathes in the Baltic Sea and knits afghans without dropped stitches. She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and Saratoga Springs, New York. She is pursuing an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and was a finalist for Glimmer Train Press’ 2014 New Writer Award as well as december’s 2015 Curt Johnson Prose Awards. She has been published in Carolina Arts, Skirt!, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, and elsewhere. Quinn Zeljak is an artist by day and writer by night. She is currently attending the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design and she enjoys blurring the lines between all types of art.

Nonfiction Brian Malone teaches English at the University of Idaho, although he is originally from Connecticut. His nonfiction also appears online in Storyscape Journal. Alyce Miller is the award-winning writer of four books of fiction and one book of nonfiction, as well as more than 250 essays, short stories, poems, articles, and book reviews. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Find her online at:

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Poetry Melissa Bernal Austin is a queer, Chicana, El Paso, Texas native living in West Michigan. She is a writer, educator, herbalist, and maker, and believes in the magic of cats, plants, and the seasons. Her work and performances can be found or are forthcoming in Crab Fat Magazine, The Helix, The Narrow Chimney Reading Series, Fearsome Critters, Funicular Magazine, Pretty Owl Poetry, and more. Melissa can be found online: @softerpath Sara Baker’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Texas Review, Crab Orchard Review, Cleaver, Confrontation, The China Grove Journal, The Examined Life, The New Quarterly, The Healing Muse, Ars Medica, Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems, and elsewhere. Her stories have been short-listed for the Bridport and Fish prizes. Her novel, The Timekeeper’s Son, was published in 2016. She lives in Athens, Georgia with her husband Todd Baker and their four children. Follow her at: and read her blog Word Medicine at: Jenn Blair’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, The Berkley Poetry Review, Rattle, South Carolina Review, Tulane Review, Adirondack Review, Chattahoochee Review, Appalachian Heritage, and New South among others. Her poetry book Malcontent is out from Press Americana. She is from Yakima, Washington. Jessica de Koninck is the author of one full length collection, Cutting Room (Terrapin Books) and one chapbook, Repairs (Finishing Line Press). Her poems appear in journals and anthologies including Poetry Magazine, Diode, and The Valparaiso Poetry Review, and have been featured twice on Verse Daily. She has been a finalist in the Raynes, Dobler, Juniper Press, and Black Lawrence competitions. Jessica leads poetry workshops at the Greenwich House Senior Center and serves on the editorial board of Jewish Currents magazine. A longtime Montclair, New Jersey resident, her M.F.A. is from Stonecoast and her B.A. from Brandeis.

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Laura R. Fiorentino is a seventeen-year teaching veteran, the last thirteen of those employed as an English teacher with Kingsway Regional School District. Writing poetry is something of a personal, and until recently, a rather private pastime for her. What Laura enjoys most is encouraging each of her writing students to find their distinct voice, to develop a personal writing style, and then, to experience the satisfaction of composing work that is powerful, honest, and compelling.

Contributors | Issue 19

Tonya Eberhard’s most recent work has appeared in THAT Literary Review, Thirty West Publishing House, and Third Point Press. She lives in Minnesota.

Robin Gow’s poetry has recently been published in POETRY, The Gateway Review, and Tilde. He is a graduate student at Adelphi University pursing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. He is the Editor at Large for Village of Crickets, Social Media Coordinator for Oyster River Pages and interns for Porkbelly Press. He is an out and proud bisexual transgender man passionate about LGBT issues. He loves poetry that lilts in and out of reality and his queerness is also the central axis of his work. D.R. James has taught college writing, literature, and peace-making for thirty-five years and lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. Poems and prose have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, his latest of eight poetry collections are If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press) and Surreal Expulsion (The Poetry Box), and the microchapbook All Her Jazz is free and downloadable-forfolding at the Origami Poems Project. Find him online at: Kimberly Lambright is the author of Ultra-Cabin (42 Miles Press, 2016). Recent and forthcoming work appears in Phoebe, Columbia Poetry Review, ZYZZYVA, Sink Review, Bone Bouquet, The Boiler, Burningword Literary Journal, Little Patuxent Review, Burnside Review, and OAR. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Susanna Lang’s third collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in 2017 from Terrapin Books. Her chapbook, Self-Portraits, is forthcoming from Blue Lyra Press in June 2020. A twotime Hambidge fellow, her poems have appeared in such publications as Little Star, Prairie Schooner, december, American Life in Poetry and Verse Daily. Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone and The Origin of Language. She lives and teaches in Chicago. More information available at: Richard Levine is the author of Richard Levine: Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2019), Contiguous States (Finishing Line Press, 2018), and five chapbooks: The Cadence of Mercy, A Tide of a Hundred Mountains, That Country’s Soul, A Language Full of Wars and Songs, and Snapshots from a Battle. Also see YouTube: The Talkin’ Frackin’ Blues and Judge ROBerts: One Man, One Woman, One Vote. Alison Lubar teaches high school English by day and yoga by night. She lives in New Jersey, with a bad dog and an overgrown garden. Her work has been published by or appeared in SWWIM Every Day, trampset, The Esthetic Apostle, Lady Blue Literary Arts Journal, Cathexis Northwest Press, High Shelf, and great weather for MEDIA. Follow her on Twitter: @theoriginalison Jessica Mehta is a multi-award-winning artist, author, and poet. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, her work addresses the disparities faced by indigenous communities in post-colonial America. Mehta blends the latest technology and mixed media into her art for a fully experiential effect. Nancy Murphy is a Los Angeles based writer and performer. Previous poetry publications include: Stoneboat Literary Journal, Sheila-NaGig, The Baltimore Review, Eclipse, The South Carolina Review, Altadena Poetry Anthology and others. She studied writing at UCLA Extension Writers Program and Beyond Baroque, and with various private teachers and workshops including the Napa Valley Writers Conference. Originally from the East Coast, Nancy has a B.A. in American Studies from Union College, Schenectady, New York. More at her website:

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Courtney Tala is a writer from Virginia Beach, Virginia. She graduated with her undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Her poems are published in Constellate Literary Journal, Barren Magazine, and are forthcoming in others.

Contributors | Issue 19

Jared Schwartz is a writer from Wantagh, New York currently studying English at Brown University. He can be found on Instagram: @jschwartzpoetry

Jenny Wong is a writer, traveler, and occasional business analyst. She resides in the foothills of Alberta, Canada and is currently attempting to create a poetry collection about locations, learn a few words in Russian, and regularly visit her local boxing studio. Her publications include 3 Elements Literary Review, Grain Magazine, Vallum, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, The Stillwater Review, Atlas & Alice, and elsewhere.

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Contributors Poetry


Melissa Bernal Austin

Olga Breydo

Sara Baker

Pernille Ægidius Dake

Jenn Blair

Quinn Zeljak

Jessica de Koninck Tonya Eberhard


Laura R. Fiorentino

Brian Malone

Robin Gow

Alyce Miller

D.R. James Kimberly Lambright


Susanna Lang

Faizan Adil

Richard Levine

J.E. Crum

Alison Lubar

Erik Leraz

Jessica Mehta

Morgan Stephenson

Nancy Murphy Jared Schwartz Courtney Tala Jenny Wong