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Oakland Arts Review (OAR) is an annual journal published through Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan. OAR is dedicated to the publication and advancement of literature written by undergraduate students from across the United States and around the world. We publish fiction, poetry, essays, comics, hybrid and experimental work, and art. Because we believe that undergraduate students have much to contribute to the literary world, it is our mission to provide a platform for this generation’s emerging writers and, in so doing, create a journal that is of both high artistic quality and great literary significance to readers from all backgrounds.

VOLUME 5 WINTER 2020


Oakland Arts Review Volume 5 Winter 2020 Logo Design Natalie Williams Oakland Arts Review (OAR) is an annual international undergraduate literary journal published by Oakland University OAR Department of English 586 Pioneer Drive O’Dowd Hall 320 Rochester, MI 48309 Submit to: www.oaklandartsreview.com OAR is published by Cushing–Malloy, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan Cover Design Alison Powell Christina Reso Front Cover Art “A Very Normal Parrot” Michael Thompson Ontario College of Art and Design University Back Cover Art “Brewing the Storm” Jade Younghyeon Ryu Oakland University Interior Layout Design Kevin T. Ferguson

OAKLANDARTSREVIEW.COM


OAKLAND A

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VOLUME 5 WINTER 2020

STAFF Nichole Gould Managing Editor Kayti Murray Fiction Editor Lauren Ramer Nonfiction / Fiction Editor Kaitlyn Neal Poetry Editor Makenzie Jones Poetry Editor Cassidy Swope Copy Editor April Sonnenberg Copy Editor Christina Reso Layout Coordinator FACULTY ADVISERS Dr. Alison Powell Dr. Jeffrey Chapman

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Nichole Gould Managing Editor

Readers, Being an undergraduate is a transitory time-- many students are transitioning from high school to college, while others are getting ready to enter the working world. But this doesn’t even begin to address the other unique situations that many undergrads go through. Some enter an undergraduate program after years away from school, while others are the first in the family to graduate from college. This is why it’s so important to read undergraduate work. Throughout our lives we are exposed to a wide range of authors and bodies of work; adding undergraduate literature into that mix is a way to broaden our horizons. As an undergraduate myself, it’s been an enlightening experience to read the work of other students from across the U.S. and across the world. That is the importance of an undergraduate literary magazine-- not only are the readers able to see what issues and topics these authors are concerned with, but students themselves can feel connections towards other writers and learn from them. In this way, I think literary journals serve the purpose of connecting us through art and literature. I’ve seen firsthand how many other writers are honing their craft as writers and creating beautiful and meaningful pieces. There is a certain camaraderie that comes with the reading of undergraduate work. These writers, like me, are getting their education. They are not professors or well-known writers (yet). There is something inspiring, in that these people in such a similar spot as me are writing and getting published. But they are also very different-- from different states, countries, and are writing about topics that I wouldn’t have-- and that’s inspiring too. As readers, I hope you feel connected to the work we’ve published-connected to the topics and issues that face us today, as well as to the writers and to your own writing. And I hope you learn a lot. When reading these submissions, even the ones that didn’t make it into the journal, I learned so much about what other writers find important, and the unique structures and forms these topics can be addressed in. I want to thank the Creative Writing Program and English Department for all the work they put into the making of the Oakland Arts Review and for making it possible for students like myself to get first-hand experience in publishing. Thank you for providing us with such an incredible and useful opportunity. I also want to thank the College of Arts and Sciences at Oakland University for supporting the journal, as well as my fellow editors for working hard to create the amazing outcome


that is Volume 5 of the Oakland Arts Review. I want to thank the undergraduates who decided to submit, for writing and bravely putting your work out there. Lastly, I’d like to say thank you to our readers for listening to the voices of undergrads across the world. On behalf of the OAR editorial staff, we hope you enjoy reading Volume 5. Sincerely,

Nichole Gould


CONTENTS

FICTION CHERRY PICKER Olivia Lipkin

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DINER Ren Brandon

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GREEN ORANGES Elizabeth Goldberg

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DEATH OF DIVORCE Faith Rush

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THE SAME THING, AND NOT Nancy Canevari

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ME, I HAVE NIGHTMARES Stephen Williams-Or tega

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REAL ENOUGH NOW? Tessa Markham

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OILTREE Thomas White

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NONFICTION HERITAGE Sam Bender

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VISIT TO SINAI Mary McClung

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THE SEASON BEFORE James Braun

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THE UNAVOIDABLE CONTAINER Mae McDermott

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YOUNG MAN Meg Marzella

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MY FATHER TAUGHT ME Christopher Bernard

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AUNT JENNY Liam Fleming

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3 SCENES / LOVESICKNESS Joel Lee

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SAFETY DATA SHEET Melissa Sorensen

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BAGELHEADS Clara Bonnlander

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POETRY HOW THE WORKING CLASS FILL THEIR GAS TANKS Katie Har traft

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CONFESSIONAL Em Palughi CAPTAIN’S LOG Darnell Carson

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I TELL MYSELF TO WRITE ABOUT SISTERHOOD Sarah Stephen

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URSA MINOR Marie Watkins

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I INHERIT MY WEARINESS Kia Addison

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RHYTHMIC SNORES Sauharda Bikram Sedhain

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LITTLE SÀIGÒN SAILOR Jessica Pham

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SHED SKIN William Carpenter

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CHICKEN POT PIE Marie Watkins

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ENTANGLED Marie Watkins

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LOVE, PERFECT EGGS, AND OTHER THINGS I’LL NEVER FIND IN TALLAHASSEE Rachel Weinberg

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MAKING LOVE WITH MARLBORO LIGHT Sauharda Bikram Sedhain

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ALMOST EQUALS I Rachel Kellner

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HENRIETTA MARA AND THE SOCKS HER FATHER BOUGHT HER Madeline Peck

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4:00 P.M. ON A WEDNESDAY, 1974 Hannah Mullins

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WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, 1974 Hannah Mullins

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FRUIT BASKET APOLOGY Emily Baker

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MI LENGUA Helena Beatriz Silva-Nichols

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ODE T. Mesnick

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OBSERVING AROUND LUNCH TABLES Theodore Dryce

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TO BE BORN WHOLE Hannah Lewis

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SELF PORTRAIT AS VACCUMING Stephen Energia

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SELF PORTRAIT AS A TRUCK Hannah Barnard

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TO MY YOUNGER SELF IN PORTLAND, AGE 16 Kevin Pataroque

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ADVICE FOR THE DIGITAL ARTIST Wyatt Sheppard

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CONCLUDING THE ROSARY Em Palughi

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REM KINK Elizabeth O’Donnell

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YOU RUINED NARNIA FOR ME Rachel Weinberg

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BACKSTROKE Ellis Gibson

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CANDY BOYS Margo Parker

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FISTFIGHTS Bella Moses

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PROGRESS Noah Gore

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FROM MALES ATTEMPTING TO AVERT THEIR GAZE William Carpenter

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WHITE LIBERAL THANKSGIVING Johanna Bear

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NEW YEAR’S EVE Bella Moses

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PRE-DIAGNOSIS Michael A. Beard

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SMALL TOWN Kaitlyn Von Behren

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DOLPHINS IN AN ELEVATOR Emily Wills

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STAPLER Hannah Barnard

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PUT THIS ON, SYLVIA PLATH Thalia Otero

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TALLAHASSEE DOO-BOP Caleb Dros

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THE MOTHER SOUP Kate Bonanni

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LULLABY FOR PSEUDOGYMNOASCUS DESTRUCTANS Elizabeth O’Donnell

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A STUDY IN LOSS Angeline Truong

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STEALING SUMMER STARS Alannah Stone

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AT THE CODY RODEO Tamar Bordwin

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ANONYMOUS UNITY Maeghan Mary Suzik

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STEPHANIE CLIFFORD Shelby Weisburg

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CHILDHOOD AS CAROUSEL Alex Benedict

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ARTWORK FIGURING OUT (IM)MORTALITY Sophie Willard Van Sistine

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OUT OF REACH Jade Younghyeon Ryu

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A RELAXING SOAK Noah Chavkin

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SEAWEED Tomas Beranek

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A VERY NORMAL PARROT Michael Thompson BREWING THE STORM Jade Younghyeon Ryu

FRONT COVER BACK COVER

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HOW THE WORKING CLASS FILL THEIR GAS TANKS Katie Hartraft University of Mary Washington

I call the family minivan The Beast so I can say those who ride inside are riding in the belly of The Beast. Mom bought it used; it smells like smoke and Slurpees. The seats are well worn, just like us, with layered stains and fraying holes. If we can’t afford take-out, or something just as trivial, my little sister kicks the back of my seat, chanting rhythmically No, No, NoNoNo! She gives The Beast stomach aches. Mom complained my sister doesn’t eat her fruit so I bet five bucks I could get her to eat a whole bowl. The next afternoon my sister was sitting at the table, recounting a dream she had, and I interrupted to ask if she’d like a blueberry. She took it with her small fingers, popped it into her mouth, chewed, and continued her story. I slid blueberries across the table and she would pop munch speak. The Beast turned up in the dream, with mom and me asleep in the back seat. My seven-year-old sister was stuck driving herself, pop munch speak. Crashing into pedestrians and other cars on the road, The Beast was out of control, but my sister thought it was hilarious pop munch speak. By the end of the road, the blueberries were gone. I told Mom that as soon as she has five dollars in her wallet, she should fork it over. She said that could be a while. On my own, I can drive The Beast easily enough. Its power channels through the steering wheel and gearshift and up into my arms. But when my sister is in the backseat, her vulnerability draws attention like a thorn in The Beast’s side. She asks to sit in the front seat but I tell her, not for the first time, that it is too risky and she is too young. She may be riding in the belly of The Beast, but I am not going to let her be devoured.

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C ONFESSIO NAL Em Palughi Goucher College

My father called me a few days ago and I haven’t called him back. Often when I do answer, he’s hauling a load of raw chicken or peanut butter or scotch tape to a Walmart in one of those landlocked states with a lot of corn and very little else. When I was little, he took me camping on a sandbar near Dog River, and as I dug up mud-sand for hermit crabs he sat by the boat, sipping a rum and Coke, playing Patsy Cline from a tinny speaker. Before he drove trucks, he lived in a mobile home with a fat coonhound, did heroin, and didn’t call me. Sometimes it’s easier to think about hermit crabs and tell the man on the phone I’ll call him back.

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CAPTAIN’S LOG Darnell Carson Stanford University

Captain’s Log, Day 54 White girl half-jogs through the crosswalk And asks my friend if she can touch her hair Walks away saying how much she Loves the hair of Black women White girls love the hair of Black women So much They will try and wear it as their own But they will never tell you where they got it from We laugh when she leaves Say that tomorrow she will probably Go home with cornrows and call them Boxer Braids And there will be no one to correct her Captain’s Log, Day 65 White neighbors send each other Passive aggressive meatloaf casseroles And argue about who gets To be the head of the Neighborhood Watch Meanwhile My friend walks home in the middle of the day And I hope he is not mistaken for a stranger Nothing stranger than a Black boy walking through A white man’s hood without fear of bullets Captain’s Log, Day 76 White girl calls her mom by her first name And I think about how

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Until the age of 10 I didn’t know “Mommy” wasn’t my mother’s birth name A White boy calls his mom a bitch And I feel my momma’s hand on the back of my neck Know there would be zero time between the words Ejecting from my lips and her fists Crash landing on my face My Momma Hands strong as an Oakland summer Dares you to call her out of her name In return, she will call you out of this life Invoke the name of Jesus As she beats yo ass And don’t worry about the cost My momma’s ass whoopings are need-blind Will give out them out for free To the first person who steps out of line And still, There stands Becky In a shouting match with her son about Sex and drugs In a Target parking lot And again, we laugh Captain’s Log, Day 87 This time, there is no laughter This time it is a school And the week before that it was a Wal-Mart Or a movie theater Or a nightclub Or a Garlic Festival My anxiety nails me to the bed because I am afraid of being in the right place at the wrong time I can never say enough prayers to stop the bullets I can only Lazarus the dead in my poetry And I fear my next eulogy will be for a friend

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Wonder if it is now a good time to tell Forever 21 to look into making Kevlar button-ups Because we fear when they will be at it again And guns still have more rights than I do Plead innocent at the sight of a second amendment Say the gun didn’t know better The bullets didn’t come with a trigger warning Mental health is to blame And I have to laugh Because my mental health has been shit for years And never once have I thought about murdering a child Captain’s Log, Day 101 Hello? Hello? I think we are being drowned out in all the White noise Can anyone hear us? Will anyone save us? Will anyone listen? Or will we all be lost In the static?

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CHERRY PICKER Olivia Lipkin Skidmore College

We had always been a quiet neighborhood. We went to work in the morning, sent the children off to school, watered our lawns and waved hello to each other in passing. The streets were lined with sturdy homes that boasted spacious yards with neat gardens. Each front door had a mezuzah affixed to the frame. Then, one day, a tow truck drifted silently down the street. Its yellow and red lights blinked off the glass of our windows, the beams invading our living rooms. We all gathered by the windows to see what the hullabaloo was about. It was a white truck with a crawler crane loaded on the tow bed. The Bernsteins swore they had seen the truck driving around town before. The Kopelmans said the truck had saved them in October when their car groaned to a halt on the state freeway. The truck parked itself in the middle of the street. Our eyes were dry and open, meeting each other occasionally before snapping back to the scene in our front yards. We did not think to blink. The door of the cab swung open, revealing a fairskinned man in a pristine pinstripe suit, his blond hair slicked back. His shoes clicked against the pavement as he stepped down to the road. The man walked around the crane, carefully slipping sleek gloves over his hands before gently detaching the metal chains from the wheels, folding them into a bundle in his grip. He delicately pressed down on the flatbed’s levers, and the bed lowered slowly. The metal groaned and squeaked in the silence. The end of the bed smacked the pavement, and the grinding sound of metal against asphalt echoed down the road. The man pressed down on the levers once more. Guided by a taut cable, the crane moved to the ground. The man unclipped the cable. He hit the levers one last time, and the flatbed rose. The man tossed the chains inside the cab and began pinching the fingertips of his gloves, loosening the fit before peeling them off. He strode back to the cab, pausing before stepping up. He turned slowly, considering our faces with his light blue eyes. He watched us peering at him through the contorted glass. He nodded— we weren’t sure if it was to us or to himself— then slid into the driver’s seat and drove away. The crawler crane remained, a parked monument in our small neighborhood. We decided to wait a few days before approaching it. Only Mr. Levy’s car could squeeze past the thing, so the rest of us kept our cars parked in our garages. We walked to work. The children were first to investigate. They climbed up the metal neck, taped their drawings to the chrome, and spun their matchbox cars around the thick wheels of the machine. We let them. The Mollers didn’t see any harm in it. The Rosenthals were just glad to have the children playing outside at all. But that was 20

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before we knew what it was for. It must’ve been the Moller kid who found the first symbol. Dark, violent swaths of paint dripped down the vinyl paneling of the Kopelmans’ house. We knew what it was. After a week or two, practically every house was adorned with those angular black lines. We got to work washing the paint off, but the symbols would reappear soon enough. We grew accustomed to the stains on our houses. The paint became too difficult to wash off. And then, one day, a van of men came. There was no man in a pinstripe suit, only blond men in orange construction vests and hard hats. We gathered again at our windows and doors. They approached the crane and, with gloved hands, cleared off the matchbox cars and drawings. The men maneuvered the crane, swinging it to the left side of the street. We had stopped going to work at that point, so we stepped out onto our front stoops and watched the men work. It happened quite swiftly. The crane attached its hook to the chimney of the Johnson’s Tudor and pulled, popping the roof clean off. We could hear oven timers beep and landlines ring, but no one attended to them. Those of us who weren’t outside rushed to the windows — poor Mr. Johnson only had to tilt his head up to see the action, his yarmulke threatening to topple off. Together we watched the crane, roof swinging precariously in its hook, drive to the center of the street and simply let the roof fall. The sound was enormous— shingles collapsing and wooden beams splintering as the structure dissolved into a pile of broken parts. The Levy’s house was next. Then the Rosenthal’s. And soon every house on the block had nothing above it but the open air. The leaves were the most bothersome part. They’d fall into the bedrooms or mix in with the laundry loads. Most settled in heaps on top of the carpeted hallways. We all pulled out the rakes from our garages. We spent most of our days raking. The children stopped going to school. They would play in the leaf piles instead. We had nothing else to do. It was only a month or two later when he returned. The man in the pinstripe suit, this time with a cherry picker. He went through the motions: putting on his gloves, lowering the flatbed, detaching the cable, nodding, driving away. The cherry picker sat next to the roof debris piled in the street. The children flocked to the machine. We let them. Next they came for the walls. The men in their van came back, mounted the cherry picker and plucked the walls from our second floors. We adjusted accordingly, placing our tchotchkes and heirlooms in boxes and marching them downstairs. Carrying picture frames and kiddush cups, we pushed our feet through the snow that had filled the halls. We couldn’t complain much. Our electricity bills went down immediately. We didn’t need to use the telephones anymore; a simple shout across the yard would do. Light fixtures were redundant with all the natural light. A week or two later they took the first-floor walls, so we gathered our Shabbat candles and moved to the basements. Spring came soon enough. The Ackermanns had started to hold classes for

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the children, since their basement was the most spacious. It wasn’t as hard as you might imagine, watching our homes be disassembled piece by piece. The workers were quite kind, really, and with our new spaces so close to the ground, it was easy enough to collect the rainwater. We would often wake in the night to the sound of rain. Half-awake, we would step out of our tents and sleeping bags and gather the buckets and barrels — only to find that it was just the sprinklers watering the pavement. We really had a fine view. We watched the yellow hues of grass surrender to green. We were the first to know when the flowers started blooming again. The man in the pinstripe suit didn’t come back until the end. He walked up and down the neighborhood streets, his shoes clacking as he nodded to himself. We watched, our eyes level with the earth. Then the men in hard hats came and took the cherry picker and the crawler crane and towed them away as if they had never come at all. We mostly just wished we could go back to the time when the crawler crane and the cherry picker were frozen in place. It was easier then. The children weren’t afraid. We weren’t as cold at night. But it had to be done, we suppose. It was for our own good.

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I TELL MYSELF TO WRITE ABOUT SISTERHOOD Sarah Stephen University of Mary Washington

The lines of my mother’s face run in tributaries over her skin, soft from age and erosion. Names of those rivers are etched between freckles: worry, patience, more laughter than salt in oceans, pride, whatever word there could be for sitting straight-backed as breaths stitch her together, the seam haphazard over her spine. She keeps hydrangeas in the backyard, their color what I always wish for the sky, and tends to them in the depths of a brewing June in jeans to protect herself from poison. The possibility of evolving into her mother is mine’s most insistent fear—or at least that is what she tells me. She doesn’t want to live in a house of tension and toil. She knows that is not all my grandmother built. Her garden was full with soft blush roses, lilies hung like earrings, tulips cupping rain so she was never thirsty. My mother dabs those petals on her wrists every morning—or at least STEPHEN

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nights she most needs strength. Their bottled pungency follows her like a bridal train, my grandmother still holding the ends so she does not trip.

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URSA MINOR Marie Watkins Sierra Nevada College

I play

connect the dots on my skin, linking one freckle with a mole to a pin prick scar. I am only a series of dots filling my sky like stars. The mole in the center of my left hand filled as a constant reminder of my imperfections, my flaws. I would dig out my skin and hope death on the mole. It burst through like lava in an ocean, a force of nature, that prints itself not only on me, but on my mother’s left hand – Ursa Major.

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I INHERIT MY WEARINESS Kia Addison Pacific University

I remember watching exhaustion curl on mama’s shoulders. Echoes of wet spittle dampened my cheek from where she panted beneath its suffocating weight. Mama fought exhaustion every day. Both feet twitch in instinctive scurry as I recall the times it sank teeth into her nerves and made fire spew from between quivering lips. I grew slowly to understand it another lesson tunneled, like high pain tolerance, from Eden to woman. I remember. Breathe. In. Out. Release Tension. Through blurred vision I see demons. They will not allow me sleep. They push me past the sweltering Hell into more marathons. I remember watching Mama battle these things, saw the hardness in her eyes every morning. Mama has what some diagnose as ‘da anger.’ She is a pillaged Timbuktu, torn apart and bleeding flame. Its lanterns snuffle inside my chest too but I have what some title ‘da tendaness.’ I am a blackened and trampled Pompeii, awaiting excavation. Toni Morrison once wrote that parents inflict the same pain unto their children as had been inflicted unto them. I remember too, breathe in. I wonder if Mama has felt this all along, I wonder if babies are fed this weary in the womb, if it sludges through the umbilical cord. The questions make me want to scour uterus from my body. Is that the hysteria in me? I do not want children with the da anger or da tendaness or a chest so heavy my hands shake for want of a knife to carve out skin, pluck my own bones to examine their density. I wonder if Mama felt this all along. She taught me that our grandmothers were not burned amidst hastily erected twigs; they were not witches, they were slaves. Our grandmamas died in work camps of cotton, amidst sharp thorns of exhaustion. This is how they murder us, daughter. They work us to death 26

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teaching them, loving them in the kitchen, in the home, in the hearth, in the womb, in the heart. We taught them; this is how they kill us. I remember and I am breathing out the need to understand the complexities of my weary. It is an inheritance, another mere thing I must carry. I will learn how to live with a knife to my belly as Mama taught me and hope that our work will someday be done.

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RHYTHMIC SNORES Sauharda Bikram Sedhain John Carroll University

My grandparents should start a band. Every time I go to their home, They feed me with luxurious milk straight from a nearby farm And enjoy cashews and almonds While filling our bellies with laughter and cholesterol. As I get jubilant when the milk reaches my skinny bones, My grandparents have to take a nap. Lazy and old, they lay out a dusty hay carpet Under the warm hovering sun. And as I dance with the two dogs My grandpa snores a traditional hymn Hailing from the age of horses and cattle And the sweet nectar of rhododendrons, While my grandma compliments a rhythmic hum Like a perpetual bass guitarist.

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HERITAGE Sam Bender Allegheny College

Any time my father leaves the house to go anywhere, post office or overseas, he closes every window in case of rain. He turns off every light and empties the dehumidifier. He checks the dryer for laundry and folds anything he finds. He locks every door, and then checks them all again just to make sure they didn’t somehow unlock. Then he unlocks a door, disables the alarm and double checks that the oven isn’t on. Repeat. My mother copes with this problem by telling him we need to leave half an hour ahead of time. Of course, this only works if she can convince him to leave the house at all. If he sees any chance of rain in the forecast, he has trouble going anywhere. After all, what would happen if the rain seeped in through the closed windows and rotted out the floor? A few years before I graduated from elementary school, I developed a fear of wind chimes. I can’t recall when it started, only that when I was very young, it did not exist, and then when I was around eight years old, it did. I don’t remember any traumatic event; there was no wind-chime horror movie that I glimpsed, peering around the edge of the living room door after my bedtime. It would be much easier to explain, and to justify, if there had been. I could have politely asked someone to take them down around me. Instead I’d go to parties and stare anxiously at wind chimes and bells, wincing everytime they made a sound. How could I possibly explain how much they bothered me when I couldn’t even articulate it to myself? My father treats our house with a kind of worry often reserved for accidentprone children or clumsy pets. Whenever one of us drops anything, he appears, kneeling to touch the floor and make sure we haven’t caused it irreparable harm. If I slam a door or stomp around, I can expect his worried voice floating up to me to make sure everything’s all right. With the house, of course. Once I tripped and fell up the stairs. He came running, and asked me if the stairs were alright. It makes sense, in a way. My grandfather built the house when my dad was fifteen. The day before my grandfather died, my dad came in from mowing the lawn and found him sitting in his rocking chair in the living room. My grandfather grabbed his hand and said “They’ll be taking me out of here feet first tomorrow. Take care of your mother and the house, okay?” The next day, my grandmother found him in the same rocking chair. He’d been drinking a milkshake, but it had fallen out of his hand and spilled all over the floor. She’d been making dinner in the next room and talking at him for half an hour BENDER

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before she realized he hadn’t said anything back. My grandmother died a few years ago. She spent the last ten years of her life in a nursing home, mistaking my father for her husband. The house remains. It is my dad’s last concrete memory of his father, his living memorial for him. We may live in it, but it belongs to my grandfather’s ghost, which still roams the halls, reprimanding his son for every creaky stair, every chip in the paint. Every summer my family gathers at my maternal grandparents’ house in Maine. One year, halfway through the twelve-hour drive, I remembered the iron harbor bell hanging from the apple tree and broke out in a sweat. You could hear it from every room in the house when it rang. My mom knew about my fear, and while she didn’t understand it, she humored me. But the rest of my family? I imagined my aunt, who kept up a steady stream of complaints about anything that caught her attention. She would shame me, I knew it. I made it through dinner and most of the night. Around midnight, lying awake and listening to the sound of the bell, I finally snapped. I tiptoed to my mom’s room in tears, and asked her to take it down. My mom, the most saintlike person I have ever met, went outside in her pajamas and took it off the tree. I slept soundly the rest of the night, which was fortunate, because the next day I had to endure everyone in the house asking where the bell had gone. Had it rusted through? Had it blown down? My fear of wind chimes came second only to my fear of inconveniencing other people, and so I slunk away, mortified, as my mother explained it to everyone. As expected, my aunt made comments about it all day. But eventually, like all things, it blew over, and I could continue in my quiet, bell-less existence. One summer, I walked past my aunt and uncle’s room on the way to the bathroom. Several years had gone by since I had asked my mom to take the bell down. The house now belonged to my mother and uncle. As I walked past I could hear through the thin walls my aunt’s nasally voice say, “Honey, remember when Samantha was afraid of the bell?” I hate the news, but my dad watches it all the time. Specifically, Fox News. Watching him watch it is its own form of entertainment. He talks to the TV, holding a constant one-sided conversation, complete with shouts of agreement or protest. Every time he says something, he’ll turn to my mom and say, “Right, honey?” She’ll inevitably look up from her book or her knitting and say, “What? Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.” When I was a little kid, I would lie awake in bed after my parents tucked me in and imagine monsters hiding in my closet or under my bed. My father is a police officer, and his stories of serial killers and car accident victims fascinated me during the day, but haunted my nightmares. I stared up at the ceiling until my imagined horrors compelled me to get out of bed, pad to the closet, open it, and bat around the clothes inside to flush out anything hiding there. Then I repeated the process

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with the dark cave under my bed. Sometimes a groan or creak from the house would send me into a panic— what if a monster had managed to creep back in while I wasn’t looking?— and I would have to check again. One night my father, coming upstairs after the nightly news, caught me looking under my bed. He made fun of me for going through this routine every night and I crawled back into bed, embarrassed. When I was home for Thanksgiving this year our basement flooded, and my dad’s obsession with the rain took a turn for the worse. Now, if he sees that it is supposed to rain any time in the future, he grows deeply depressed. He’ll stay up all night, checking the windows for leaks and making sure that the sump pump is wheezing its way to life. If it’s not actively raining he sleeps through the day. He doesn’t watch the news anymore. Instead, he keeps the weather channel on all the time. I don’t miss Sean Hannity’s grating voice spilling out of the TV, but the incessant, repetitive jazz of the weather channel begins to wear on me in the same way. I have grown up. Now I have more adult anxieties. No more windchimes, although the sound still bothers me if I’m already stressed out. Now I am afraid of climate change. I honestly cannot understand why everyone isn’t terrified of it. Maybe everyone is. But my terror extends beyond the realm of the rational. I fixate on the sound cars make when they drive over asphalt. I moved out of my dorm room to get away from that sound. I imagine the pollution pouring out of their exhaust pipes and my friends breathing it in. I imagine it bubbling up and blocking out the sunlight, or trapping it like a magnifying glass and sending it in a burning arc down on the Earth. I can’t stop thinking about it. I would give anything to stop thinking about it. When anxious thoughts keep me awake, I stay downstairs and play video games late into the night. And when it rains my dad keeps me company. The blue light of the weather channel washes over both of us, turning our faces pale and emphasizing the dark circles under our eyes. We just listen to the rain pounding on the roof and running down the windows. Sometimes, at the dinner table or on a long road trip, he’ll make a joke about buying a gas-guzzling pick-up truck, as a way of letting me know he wants to talk. I’ll say something clipped in response, making sure to curse because I kno it will bother him and, more importantly, make him shut up. I often think about how increased precipitation in our area is the direct result of climate change, but I don’t tell him that. The two of us deal in snide remarks and circular arguments, not in the vulnerable truth. Anger is always easier than fear. But on these long, rainy nights, we don’t say anything. The night time is a liminal space where we’re held in stasis, never fearless but never perilously afraid. Just resigned.

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LITTLE SÀIGÒN SAILOR Jessica Pham Univesrity of California, Los Angeles

five the nhãn tree in the backyard grazes every inch of sky it swallows the sun whole so on humid afternoons you can spread out beneath its saccharine canopy. fifteen you’re face down fresh dirt pressed to your cheek your back is an inkpad the underside of a boot stamps down. you kiss blood then watch it leave you, inside baby sister wails past soldier-speak in the back of your mind you’re there with her, rocking her in a crescent moon cradle. sixteen all you know is saltwater, it wakes you and bathes you and you clutch the hand of a brother who eventually sinks, weighed down by a hollow stomach. when you look up to pray, even the sun seems ragged and lonesome. eighteen i’m sorry, i don’t understand you. can’t you speak a little louder? 32

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can’t you try a little harder? i’m sorry, this college isn’t for you. this job isn’t for you. maybe this country just isn’t for you. thirty-nine at the dinner table your kids speak a foreign tongue, when you ask why they’re laughing, the joke isn’t funny anymore. forty-five you buy nhãn from the exotic fruits section in sprout’s, 4 dollars a pound but they just don’t taste as sweet over here.

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SHED SKIN William Carpenter Pennsylvania State University

Grandma’s voice, cordial, carves an exploratory incision in the lazy air: “Why the long sleeves? It’s gotta be ‘round ninety degrees in here.” She slices celery stalks down their centers with thoughtless precision. The stitches sewing my mother’s eyes to the July edition of Good Housekeeping snap, attach themselves to me like tentacles from across a Formica countertop, and through a potted fern. Her head shifts only slightly, like that of a snake with a hand in its terrarium. My palms leak sweat, tropical now; my body, my forearms have dripped there for hours. I reply that I must be cold-blooded, like a lizard. Lizards are grateful for this, for it allows them to hide 34

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from vipers in the dark. Grandma hisses a sputtering hiss between laughing lips, and replies that lizards die if kept from the sun for very long. Lizards must always ache for sun the way scar tissue aches for blood. This is their burden. Sweat stings the scars beneath my sleeves; again, grandma slits celery stems, and then my mother goes back to her light reading.

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VISIT TO SINAI Mary McClung University of North Carolina, Asheville

I don’t hate God. Sometimes I search my heart for a single kernel, a grain of sand, a single malignant cell that might house some bitter resentment. I try to open myself, unafraid and prepared to dissect the twisted insides of something horrid and hedonistic. I don’t find any hatred though; perhaps just mild confusion and a generous portion of disappointment. I have come to identify as an atheist in my adult life, a self-imposed label that followed (and is perhaps due to) my upbringing as a devout Christian. Atheist had too many syllables to be a four-letter word, but in my house, it was treated like one. “To be an atheist is to hate God,” my father had instilled in me, often with angry hands white-knuckling the steering wheel of his car while we barrelled down the cow-pasture-lined road on the way home. Sometimes we would even drive past our neighborhood, just to circle around the block a few times, giving himself enough time to thoroughly hammer out the kinks in his pseudo-sermon. My dad’s car was inseparable from his identity, for me, growing up. Its pristine, shiny outside and immaculately-cleaned inside were a perfect representation of who my father was: orderly, logical, uncluttered. Sometimes, when the topic of religion was introduced, we would rocket down the road in that sterilized vehicle and a single water bottle in the cupholder would rattle, an almost imperceptible tap tap tap. He would cut himself off mid-sentence, ”You can’t—,” stop to rotate the water bottle until the tapping stopped, and then finish, “—You can’t not believe in God.” I don’t mean to imply that I was held captive in these scenarios. In fact, I relished them. From the time that I first breathed air in this world, I was breathing scripture. My grandparents weren’t snake handlers, my aunts and uncles weren’t holy rollers, my father wasn’t a Father with a capital “F.” They were just Christians: often judgmental, sometimes close-minded, always full of hope and love. It wasn’t just that I felt like I had to be like them—though I did—but I wanted to be like them. Everyone else was getting saved; of course I wanted in on the deal. “Atheist,” my father would sneer, slurring the word with such hatred I was almost scared to say it. Perhaps it made his mouth taste sour just to utter it. “I don’t accept that. I mean, look at evolution, the fact that everything, even us, started as single-celled organisms. And those self-righteous assholes who believe in science and not in religion? It’s absurdity. Oh, you don’t believe in heaven but you do believe in wormholes and black matter? The concepts sound pretty similar, if you ask me.” 36

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Dad was a doctor, and quite a good one. He was highly intelligent, particularly in the field of science, which provided a lot of comfort to me. He wasn’t just some blind sheep being led by the manipulation of a toxic institutionalized belief system; he was too good for that. If this man, who knew so much about the mechanics of the world down to the atomic level, believed these sacred things in spite of the supposed contradictions, then God had to be real. It gave me logical permission to believe in God, and I cherished that. It’s hard not to want to believe in God when you’re surrounded by people who love Him so devoutly. I wanted that comfort, that cushion of a cosmic, undying love. The problem was, it never felt real to me. Not praying in church, not praying alone, not calling myself a Christian, not reading my Bible (though that was always my favorite part). It didn’t just feel uncertain, it felt disingenuous. More accurate still: fabricated. It felt like a lie. But neutral disbelief was never an option. To be an atheist was to be an anarchist, a hateful nihilist who wanted to watch the world and all religious people burn in the fire of existential emptiness. “No one doesn’t believe in God. Disbelievers are really just a bunch of people blaming Him for their problems and their hurt, turning their back on Him.” The words came from my father easily but urgently, rushing from him like a river with the intent of sweeping away everything in its path. He would stare stolidly at the road in front of him while talking, gripping that steering wheel like it was the communion banister, but when he finished talking his eyes would flick over to me. He wanted to see what I thought. It was a test, but I wasn’t afraid of it; I belonged to the church of I Really Want to Believe All This, so I was nothing short of gung-ho to back him up. “Maybe if they actually turned to Him and saw all this hate in their hearts, they would be free of it. He is merciful; he wouldn’t abandon them.” So there, I thought to myself, I cannot be an atheist. There was no unhealed hole inside of me. No spite, no fury, no denial. I brought a Bible with me to college my freshman year and used it so little that I forgot about it, to such an extent that, even as I write this, I am not entirely certain that I did actually bring it. One day, near the end of my first semester, I realized suddenly that I hadn’t prayed in months. Or was it years? These things were powerful to me, and stuck out like great, crucifix-shaped splinters in my mind. The true revelation, though, came when a classmate of mine asked me if I believed in God. Without thinking, without even processing my answer, I said “No.” The question wasn’t entirely inappropriate: we were in a Judaism and Christianity class, and I had just gone off on a tangent with the professor, laughing about the patchwork nature of Christianity. No one even wrote about Jesus until nearly two hundred years after his death; Satan is just a poached version of Angra Mainyu from the Persian religion Zoroastrianism; the word “virgin” in the Bible is just a poor translation of the Hebrew word ‫הָמְלַע‬, Almah, which has nothing to do with virginity; and the Hebrew word in the Bible often translated as “Lord” really means “Gods.” That “s” is very crucial but is often, if not always, overlooked.

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The more that I learned about the Bible and the institution of Christianity, the more I realized that I didn’t believe in any of it. But something else strange happened, too. I developed an overbearing and nearly neurotic obsession with studying religious texts, specifically Judaeo-Christian texts: Torah, Tanak, Tumuld, Mishna, New Testament, King James, Red Letter, New International, even noncanonical scriptures. I had never felt so inspired, so moved, so utterly and inexorably enthralled by the words that had shaped my own childhood. I made it through a few weeks of my Judaism and Christianity class before resolving that I had no choice but to learn Hebrew and, eventually, Greek. I will never forget the catastrophe that ensued when I explained my Hebrew studies to my mother. She had always been more dramatic than my father. That difference between them played a key role in their divorce during my early childhood. Her devotion had taken a nearly hyperbolic turn over the years, and in this case, I thought that would work to my advantage. I was certain that she would rejoice, overflow with happiness, celebrate that I wanted to read the first five books of the Bible in their rawest form. I even expected tears, but happy ones, at least. I sat her down on the pale blue couch we’d had for most of my adolescent and teen years, the couch that had replaced the bright green one of my childhood and would itself be replaced by one of charcoal grey. Smiling—foolish, oblivious—I told her my good news: “I’m a religious studies minor with a concentration in JudaeoChristianity. I want to read the Old Testament in its original Hebrew so that I can understand it as it was meant to be understood.” Things went south quickly. Her eyes filled with water like the skies in Genesis. She gripped my hands, the way that she did when we prayed for the terminally ill in church. “You’re turning your back on Jesus Christ.” Her words were like daggers. Were they true? It didn’t feel like it. Jesus and I had never been particularly close, but this wasn’t the kind of thing I felt like He would condemn me for. Since when was in-depth Bible study sacreligious? It was hard to look at her, I remember that well. Much harder than it had been to look at my father when he went off on his driving tangents. Those were never directed at me, just at the ambiguous sea of nonbelievers that began where the limits of his car ended. I looked around the cluttered environment of my mother’s house, searching for answers, for solutions, for anything I could say to fix this. Piled everywhere were layered prayer books, religiously-inclined self-help books, handwritten loose-leaf Bible verses sticking out of notebooks. Let Go and Let God, Mark 3:29, something-or-another by Joel Osteen. “I’m doing this because I want to know the truth,” I tried to explain, dumbfounded. Why did the disappointment on her face cut so deeply? “I want to know what the text really says, not just an interpretation of it.” “It’s almost idolatry,” she fired back, shaking her head. It was then that I realized the expression on her face was fearful rather than disappointed. From her perspective, perched on that sky blue couch, she was watching my soul drift away. “If

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you want to know the truth, you go to church. If you want a closer relationship with God, you get it through praying. Have you been praying?” Oh God, I thought to myself. I wondered if that counted as a prayer. I said “yes,” a favorite word among liars. One of the simplest answers to say and not mean. “And did God tell you to do this?” That “Yes” was a bit too heavy to roll out of my mouth. To be entirely honest, I’m not quite sure how I answered that one, but I remember that it didn’t help. I remember that we talked for a very long time, until the sun set outside and my head hurt from the stress. My mother cried and cried, shaking and rocking at times to calm herself. I had always knows her to throw fits, but this was one of the worst. Looking back, I truly believe that she felt I was being lost forever. I think about that day a lot and I wonder if she does, too. I wonder how often she prays for me. I don’t hate God for any of that. Maybe I should fear that He hates me but frankly, I feel like He has more important things to worry about. Though I would never tell my mother this, my fascination with Torah and the Old Testament did originate from my dismissal of Judaeo-Christian faith. I was fascinated by the mechanics of this brain-washery: what magic must lie in these words, that they have the strength to move men to war, move terrorists to strike, and move my mother to tears at communion each Sunday? I studied as a scholar: always empirical, always laughing a little bit inside at the absurdity of the belief in God & Co. I appreciated other people’s faith, I told myself. It was one thing to admire others for their courage and dedication to the metaphysical, but religion was never going to be for me. Learning Biblical Hebrew felt no different. I was studying the language just as I had studied Spanish in high school, only now the process was more grueling and difficult. Within a week I had to learn the alphabet. I had forty words memorized by the next week, and then came gender and plurals. The class was peculiar, composed of only seven students and an adjunct professor from Pakistan who wore woolen fingerless gloves every day. Three students were raised as devout Jews, while one was a recent, kippah-wearing convert and another practiced Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. I was left with one non-religious companion in the class: a language scholar who was fluent in every Romance language, as well as Arabic and German. For her, Hebrew was just one more to check off the list of global tongues. For me, it was one step closer to understanding who my family was, and why their holy books were so holy. The class wasn’t just strange for its eclectic group of characters; it was bizarre because of the way it made me feel, particularly on one occasion. We were doing our first Torah reading, from the book of Numbers—Bemidbar in Hebre— and something strange happened, something I still haven’t quite figured out. “Vaydahbar yehvah el-mosheh behmayd’bar meynay…” was the first line in our oral reading for the day. In English it means “And the LORD spoke unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai...” We were studying the Torah for the sake of the language, of course, not for the religious teachings. The professor called on me and I did my

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best to read the words fluently to the class. I messed up, though, and I had to do it again. “Vaydahbar yehvah el-mosheh behmayd’bar meynay…” The value was in the shape of the words, not what they meant. I could have been reading out a shopping list, for all that it mattered. The whole class followed along, like I was working out a math problem in an algebra lesson. One more time. “Vaydahbar yehvah el-mosheh behmayd’bar meynay…” The point was to read, comprehend, and pronounce. Easy, empirical, comfortable. I didn’t feel bad about having to perform the reading multiple times. This language was all new to me, after all. So where, all of a sudden, was this great pressure in my chest coming from? And why, as the words rolled off my tongue, were my eyes swelling with tears? I spent the rest of the night with the words from the reading stuck in my head, just as Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty! used to echo in my mind after church on Sundays.

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CHICKEN POT PIE Marie Watkins Sierra Nevada College

Before you attempt to convert me – again – taste my chicken pot pie. Crispy chicken skin carries on spring air and thaws the snow. Vegetables color the sauce pan and dance in oil, their skin speckled with sage for wisdom and salt for flavor. I carve prayers into the crusts and pour the innards over cold pie dough; thin petals of butter shine beneath flour. It bakes until it bubbles, pulling saliva from your tongue. The transformation of crystalized pie settles on your plate and in your life, calming and full, just like a spell.

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ENTANGLED Marie Watkins Sierra Nevada College

Our limbs curled around each other, huddled for warmth. I felt the lighter between my fingers and the cool glass on my lips. I inhaled, turned to him, pressed my lips to his, and blew a train of smoke into his mouth. He exhaled from his nose, billowing like a dragon and we laughed. He took the next hit, then turned to me, smiling. Pressed lips and filled lungs, we repeated. I coughed through my giggles and pulled the blanket closer. Tracing his goosebumps and weaving my nails through his hair, we filled our night with haze and laughter.

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LOVE, PERFECT EGGS, AND OTHER THINGS I’LL NEVER FIND IN TALLAHASSEE Rachel Weinberg Florida State University

My breakfast-for-dinner baby wrote my name on the wrong side of the bed, woke me sunnyside up as she spit in the blender leaving her scrambled eggshells under the sheets so neither of us have to step on them as we walk on each other’s toes all the way across the carpet on the living room floor, wiping spilled milk off the windowsill, the dog, and her favorite pair of heels as we go, choking on sipping straws like sea turtles swallowing six-packs of plastic, carrying our grudges in single-use grocery store bags, hoping they’ll disintegrate in the hands of the children we’ll never have, but this is what we do between morning yoga and midday meditation, like the laundry list left to mold in the washing machine while we have staring contests with the trees no one else will ever see.

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MAKING LOVE WITH MARLBORO LIGHT Sauharda Bikram Sedhain John Carroll University

Here I am again, the same lonely land To breathe the cold Cleveland air. While she sits alone, tempting my hand Asking for the fire that will give her life. I take her out from her lonely box To show her a better time. And as she wanders towards my lips, Under her smell, under her spell, I collapse. And as the cold Cleveland snow Paints the street white I give her my kiss of fire And finally breathe her life. So here I am again, Wandering another foreign land, Observing this cold Cleveland snow, Swinging her in my hands To and fro, to and fro, to and fro.

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DINER Ren Brandon

University of Denver

0:00 In between days, the diner’s clock ticked softly in tune with the Atomic Clock which, in turn, resonated according to the composition laid out by the universe. For a few seconds, no one entered this sanctuary, tucked off the highway. Then the door jingled and the quiet snapped in half. In walked Cas. A leather bookbag slid unevenly off their shoulder and came to rest behind the ceramic countertop typical of 50s-themed diners. They clapped their hands once as if to signal let’s get to work. The clock registered 0:01. The day began. Cas was at once both in their mid-30s and late-70s, evidenced by the two dark rings that had permanently settled underneath their eyes. Their hair was black and cropped short above their ears. Some of the regulars remembered days when their hair fell past their waist in blonde waves. They worked at the diner for years and had been there longer than any of the current managers. Despite their knowledge of the restaurant, Cas was perfectly content to stay away from authoritarian positions. When prompted about this, they smiled and said, “I prefer to keep my days open,” even though they spent long hours tucked behind the diner’s countertop serving coffee and coconut cream pie. And sometimes eating it. The first few hours of the diner saw silence save for the eternal ticking of the clock; it gazed thoughtfully into the restaurant from its spot above the main entrance. A neon “OPEN” sign glimmered into the desert rain. Drops of condensation warped the outside, so that no one could quite tell where the street ended and the black sky began. When the clock hit 3:00 a.m., some old music crackled quietly over the radio, just loud enough to be mistaken for a whisper. Today’s first customers were an exhausted family on a road trip. They came traipsing in at 3:31 a.m. (just shy of the witching minute). The two children in tow were practically asleep, one clutching a blue dog to her chest. The other drooled lazily on the red seats. Pudgy arms draped over the booth. “Coffee, extra strong,” the dad pleaded. His wife seconded the request. They left only fifteen minutes later, with caffeine in their systems and a a long drive ahead. At 4:12, a man entered the diner in search of donuts and strong coffee. He was dressed in heavy-duty clothing black as night and a camo hat. A walkie-talkie adorned one hip, a heavy flashlight on the other. A fancy camera swung low around his neck. BRANDON

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He removed it and set it beside him on the counter, careful to place it away from any potential spills. He eyed Cas warily. “What are you doing?” Cas asked, gesturing with the pitcher as they poured bitter nectar into the mug. “Hunting?” “Looking for Bigfoot,” he said as if that was more than enough. Bits of sugar crusted into his mustache, moving as he spoke. The man wiped his mouth and his mustache with the back of his sleeve. He took another bite and his hard work at displacing any donut crumbs was instantly undone. Cas nodded. A quiet ‘Ah’ escaped their lips. “Tell him I say hello.” Thirty minutes trickled by customerless. Cas loved these moments the most. They entertained themselves with baking donuts and other pastries while the world slumbered on, the long silences broken only by the quiet, comforting murmur of the radio. Watching the dough explode between their fingers as they kneaded it was therapeutic. But Cas especially loved making jelly donuts. Something about injecting red jelly into circular pastries felt cathartic. They supposed it was because it reminded them of the old days. Cas’s coworker Marian showed up at 5:00 on the nose. The headlights of her car disrupted the inky blackness outside, shining menacingly into the diner. The door creaked open. She walked inside, smiled tiredly at Cas, and took her place behind the countertop. Two quiet “good mornings” were exchanged. They soon fell silent. Marian had bright orange hair, brunette strands protesting at her scalp. Her bangs were cut low so they fell against her eyelashes, and she was constantly moving to brush them out of her eyes. The two liked each other even if they did not talk much. There was something comforting about the quiet mornings. Time seemed to freeze inside the diner. Marian was a dedicated worker when it came to eating the leftover pastries. She’d always throw herself behind the countertop and pluck something flaky and messy from its sanctuary in a plastic display case. As she munched, her eyes would light up, flecks of gold tossing and turning in her otherwise inky irises. “These croissants,” she announced in between bites, “are to die for.” “Careful with your words,” Cas commented softly. Marian laughed and finished off the last bite. “Oh, they can’t hurt me anymore,” she said, her eyes blazing. “That’s why I’m here.” Flecks of pastry rained down onto the black and white tile (my omen). The sun peeked from behind a craggy set of plateaus in the distance: sunrise. The sky brushed purple. Then soft orange. Then primrose red. The stars sent out a final SOS, but the sun’s light smothered them anyways. Organic skyscrapers of burnt stone twisted into the sun’s gaze. Pine trees rustled thoughtfully as morning birds began to chirp their songs. Shadows fell long and purple. Silhouetted in rising light, cacti made

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their presence known. Morning was coming, but even as light trickled into the diner’s windows, it remained largely empty. Oftentimes the diner’s employees wondered how it stayed in business. “Catch,” Cas called, and threw a defective donut at Marian. She instinctively reached out for it, but it hit her apron and fell lifelessly to the ground. The donut had not gone without leaving its mark. Powdered sugar formed a nearly-perfect circle on her apron’s skirt. “Come on,” Marian protested, but she grinned anyways. She brushed off the mark, sending sugar flying into the sky, a feather duster of sweetness. The circle, instead of disappearing, smeared. Cas, a laugh on their lips, walked over and scooped up the pastry. They threw it into the trash carelessly, stepped over to Marian, and offered her a damp rag to remove the stain. Marian shook her head and laughed. They poured coffee for the occasional customer and braided Danish pastries in their spare time. Outside, the shadows got shorter. One customer waxed poetic about the hashbrowns. “I was driving by to visit my grandmother a few years ago. Stopped by. It was late, you know. Got the hashbrowns and I think I’ve been dreaming about them ever since. I’m on my way to visit my grandma again and I just knew I had to stop by,” the guy said emphatically. A pair of brown sunglasses were perched on his shaved head. He bobbed as he spoke. Cas couldn’t help but stare at the glasses, which winked in the fluorescent light as he continued his story. “You probably don’t remember,” he continued and pointed at Cas, “but you actually served me last time.” Torn away from the sunglasses, Cas turned to the man and smiled. This time their smile was a small, enigmatic thing that was barely visible - unless you really focused. “Thanks for coming back, Terrence.” When Terrence left, he left a sizable tip and a note about great memory: makes u feel appreciated! 12 minutes later a customer, a man in his mid-20s, walked over to Cas and leaned forward, eyes keen. “Yeah?” Cas asked, looking up from where they were swabbing the coffee counter. The man spent a moment to think about his question. Digesting and reevaluating thoughts. “Terrence,” he finally blurted out. “That was amazing. How’d you remember him?”” “Oh.” Cas smiled, long and slow. “That’s easy. You just ******** ***** *** ******* *** ***** *** ***** ********* ****.” Knowledge transferred, Kyle the customer nodded in understanding. “That makes sense,” he acknowledged thoughtfully. (The more you know). When he turned away, Kyle realized he had forgotten what Cas said. The

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memory had turned into dust and trickled down between his fingertips. Confused, he turned back around to face Cas. Then the bell on the door jingled, and Kyle’s question dissipated into smoke. He left disoriented. For Marian’s lunch break, she sat down in the sunniest booth. The sun wore down the red seats: they faded faster, ruining the crimson, rendering it a dull hue. Marian closed her eyes. The sun was warm on her face. She felt the embrace of home dusting her cheeks and smiled. It’s been a long time. The diner was the closest she could get to her past. It clung to her skin like the memory of heat. When Marian returned to her house all she could think about was returning to the diner--she couldn’t go home, not any time soon. This was safety, her respite, her sanctuary. Marian would go back to her old ways if the diner could ask; if it could whisper words of pyromania into her, enchant her like old lovers did, she would go back to it in a heartbeat. 30 minutes was not enough time for reminiscing. Time to return to work. The lunch time special was country-fried chicken, which the diner was not known for, but no one ever seemed to order it so it didn’t really matter. Most of the time. Marian found herself struggling with a chicken breast in the frying pan. The oil oozed and bubbled, a witch’s brew thick with odds and ends found in the nearby woods. But still she kept at it. Something about this meal’s presentation felt important. It had been ordered by a man in a nice-looking suit with a sharp-looking haircut and especially snazzy-looking Oxford shoes. He had waltzed in like he owned the place, and immediately began a conversation with Cas. Mr. Wormwood it’s been a while how are you I’m doing just peachy coffee please Sure Hey how’s the country-fried chicken It’s ok...Marian hadn’t paid deep attention to the conversation but the two seemed to know each other based off body language alone. Startling her from her thoughts, a trail of smoke erupted from the bottom of the chicken, threatening the alarms. Marian cursed and quickly plated it, hoping the meal would satisfy Wormwood (weird name). Cooking things slowly was never Marian’s specialty. She didn’t want to deal with a complaint. No way was she paid enough for that. Cas left the diner at a little past two, a bag of donuts under their arm. Taking a bunch of pastries was something of a tradition for Cas. “Who are the donuts for today?” Marian always asked. Cas responded differently every day. Sometimes the reply was, “Me,” sometimes it was, “My friends,” or “For the birds,” which Marian didn’t know if it was okay for birds to eat donuts but never confronted Cas about it. Sometimes the answer was, “No one,” but still they left each shift with a bag of pastries. Marian watched them go in their beat-down pick-up truck. The diner’s clock ticked. At 3:30 PM Cas was replaced by Ben. He was an older man, probably about 45

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or 50. While he could be kind of dense sometimes, Ben was incredibly kind and quick to help. He loved the diner more than anyone else did, sweeping crumbs away from any conceivable nook and cranny you could find. And the diner loved him. When he was around the pastries always came out perfectly. The coffee was never too bitter or watered down. The hashbrowns, in all their greasy glory, won more words than they deserved. The customers always smiled and tipped more than they should. In short, everyone liked working with Ben. Two friends came waltzing into the door and seated themselves. They placed themselves at one of the steel tables in the middle of the diner. The one on the left drummed her fingernails on the table’s surface; the one on the right hummed along with the song on the radio. Both of them swayed in sync with each other. Ben deposited some menus in front of them and left them for perusal. A few minutes later, Left flagged down Ben. “We’re going to split the patty melt,” she said delightfully. Right nodded emphatically. “Two plates, please,” Right finished Left’s thought before Ben left the table. Ben nodded and jotted it down on a piece of paper. “It’ll be right up,” he said, then stepped into the back to prepare the meal. Marian made herself her sixth cup of coffee in between customers. Joyfully, she lifted the mug to her lips, took a long sip. (Bliss.) “You sure do like your coffee,” Ben acknowledged. He carried trays of leftover food on his arms, where they perched precariously like cats on an owner’s shoulder. Marian nodded thoughtfully and placed her cup of ambrosia on the countertop. “What else is supposed to give me energy? Auras just aren’t what they used to be,” she complained loudly as Ben disappeared around the corner to deposit the plates into the dishwashing bath. When he re-emerged, he shook out his hands and arms (holding that many plates is a dangerous game). “I’m not as old as you,” he returned and the lines around his eyes deepened. “I wouldn’t know.” Surprisingly enough the diner was met with a dinner-time rush, in a world where the words ‘dinner-time rush’ meant that five different tables wanted a meal. At one table, a middle-aged couple chatted and stared at each other with wide eyes. A honeymoon-like love oozed out of their pores and suffocated the booth seats. Endearing and disgusting. At another table one of the regulars, a little old lady, who was either extremely crotchety or ridiculously sweet depending on the day, contemplated the mood she wanted. The third booth was occupied by two college kids from some university. Both sported t-shirts with the school’s logo embellished on them. They shared jokes and laughed amidst the ticking of the clock. Table four had another single occupant, a man who sipped at his water (with

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no ice, please) and decided he wanted a side order of bacon. Finally, the last table became home for another family like the one the diner hosted earlier in the morning. This time it was a family of three and not four. The child begged for another soda, to which the mom, “you already had one today,” chided. Eventually the children’s complaints became a full-blown tantrum, and both the parents’ moods soured. After these tables came, ate, paid, and went, routine resumed. “You’ve done a good job today,” Ben said to the well-loved coffee machine stained with brown flecks of leftover caffeine. He patted it affectionately, turned to the fountain drink machine, and added, “You did, too.” Trailing into the kitchen, Ben let his hands run over the coils of the stovetops. Fingers traced indescribable patterns on the knobs of the oven, lovingly caressed the handles of pans and pots. “Great work today,” he cooed out (I’m so very proud). Then he stepped over to the skillet Marian had been fighting with at 12:21 pm, and his gaze became slightly more stern. It looked up at him quietly from its resting spot amidst other unwashed plates and dirty water. “I heard you gave Marian a hard time,” he admonished the skillet. Water droplets dripped off its heavy form and into the lukewarm bath below. “You understand how important Wormwood is, no?” After a moment of tense silence, Ben’s expression softened. He smiled at the pan. “I’m glad you understand. Good work. But I expect better tomorrow.” The sun began to say good night, deep blue dipping back into the sky. The horizon streaked with pastel clouds. Rosehip jetstreams marked against an azure ceiling, reminding the diner’s inhabitants that they weren’t the only humans in the world. While other animals left behind any trace of existence of life, coyotes began to sing in the distance. The world returned to darkness. The diner did not fear the night. The neon “OPEN” sign blazed in the glass window as if warding off any evil spirits. Even though the diner seemed to be a promise of sanctuary, Marian stepped outside into the night and drove home, tires streaking fire against cool asphalt. The radio cooed something old by Dolly Parton. Ben, somewhere in the kitchen, sang along. Dishes clattered noisily around him. The bell on the door jingled, so Ben stepped back out into the main area. A group of eight or so women stood around waiting to be seated. They talked amongst themselves. A laugh was shared. Ben smiled and said hello, the corners of his eyes turning up. “Sit whereever you like,” he instructed. They did just that. When he stepped over to fill their water glasses, he noticed that, despite the women wearing all different outfits, they each wore an identical silver arrow necklace. Ben spotted a tattoo on one of the women’s arms. It was in the shape of Orion’s Belt, which was of interest to Ben because no other tattoos were visible on any of the women. His eyes flickered up to the bearer’s. Her eyebrows lifted as if some secret had passed

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between them. She turned her moon-eyes back to the table and reached for a napkin, laying it across her lap. In true fashion, Ben smiled and moved on with his life. The clock marked 10:53 PM. Ben flicked off the “OPEN� sign. It spluttered once, then died quietly. He moved to the kitchen and cleaned up the last of the dirty dishes. They were placed gingerly in the drying rack, droplets of water dripping onto the towel underneath. Once Ben felt things had been adequately cleaned, he counted the money in the register. It was a careful and tedious process. He counted not once, not twice, but three times. Just to be sure. Things went missing around the diner all the time. Silverware, prepped food, plates...the list went on. It was beginning to turn into a real headache. After he was satisfied, he left the diner, taking care to lock the door behind him. The warmth from the building left his skin almost immediately. The cool air of the night gave him goosebumps -- against his will, he shivered. After a few minutes spent fumbling with his keys, Ben got into his car. The ignition jolted to life and he left behind a cloud of dust, anxious to go home. 24:00 In between days, the diner stood quietly. It watched over the road like a mother does her children. Even though the vinyl seats were cracking and the radio failed to work properly and the stovetops sometimes refused to start and the food (except for the hashbrowns) was kind of lackluster, it stood. Long it had been home for many types of people, and long it would remain a place of refuge for those who were willing to give it a try. The clock turned to 24:01. The day began. The door unlocked. The bell jingled. Cas stepped inside. Time marched on.

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THE SEASON BEFORE James Braun

Oakland University

Before it gets light out, we’re driving through the suburbs to pick up my father’s younger brother, Uncle Barry. Loaded in the back of my father’s diesel are our shotguns in their cases, a crate of 7-1/2 shot boxes of birdshot, extra overclothes for warmth against the late-November cold. My father pulls us into the driveway of Uncle Barry’s house and says, Get in the back and let your uncle sit up front. I have not seen my uncle in almost a year. The pavement of his driveway is cracked from past winters and a basketball hoop without a chain hangs above his garage, a backboard made of plywood. From the bay window, my aunt stands watching him as he leaves through the storm door, a gun case in his hand and a duffle over his shoulder, two beagles running through the snow toward us. Uncle Barry slides his bags in the bed of the truck and my father lets the beagles in back with me. They lick my hands, smoothing over the hair that’s grown on the sides, hair where hair is not meant to grow. When Uncle Barry gets in, he reaches over the center console and shakes my hand. Christ, he says. Scott, when’s the last time you fed this kid? In two months, I’ll be in Troy at Children’s Hospital, a week of bedrest in Pediatrics prescribed for the anorexic. Out of the subdivision it’s miles down Ravenswood then back roads from there on. On the way my father points out deer in fields, deer you wouldn’t have seen had you looked for them. They stand at the edge of the woods in the dark and where there’s a break in the dead stalks of corn. There! my father says, his arm aimed across Uncle Barry and out the window, the steering wheel turned without notice, nearly steering us into a snow-filled ditch. We stop at a gas station where my father picks up a Rip-It and Uncle Barry buys some sunflower seeds. You want anything? my father asks, and I shake my head no. We park on the road’s shoulder and unload. My father takes off the lid to the clothes bin and hands me an overcoat and orange hat, fingerless gloves to better pull the trigger. The clothes I wear are three sizes too big. The hems of the pant legs drag in the snow and the shirtsleeves hang over my hands. From the bottom my layers go: thermal socks, long johns, jeans, snow pants. And from the top: longsleeved t-shirt, sweatshirt, coat, overcoat, vest. Even in the summer and without these clothes, my skin is purple, no fat for insulation. Once, a trainer at Viking Fitness clocked me at two percent body fat, six feet tall and one hundred and fifteen pounds without breakfast. 52

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The man whose land we’re hunting on is not home. We stand on his porch with our shotguns. My father knocks on the side of the screenless door and it rattles in its hinges. He presses the doorbell which does not work. The driveway is unplowed, snow overflows from the gutters of the house, shingles scattered on the ground. A log pile covered with a tarp leans against the shed that looks like it hasn’t been taken from in a while. To all this my father says, Fuck it. Let’s run the dogs. My father and Uncle Barry are using 20-gauges, a semi-auto and double-barrel, a Benelli and a Browning. I’m using a 12-gauge pump-action I bought from Walmart, its recoil enough to dislocate a child’s shoulder. We stalk around outside the house and through a field, the overgrowth heavy with snow, long grass and shrubs bent over. Uncle Barry runs the dogs to see what they can scare up. I follow behind my father, stepping in his boot prints where I can, smearing a path as my feet drag from one footfall to the next. The problem is my legs don’t work right. There’s no glycogen in the muscles. Last week in third period Lifetime Sports when we played indoor baseball, I hit a grounder and fell to the laminate floor as I tried to run to first. I tripped! I’d said, though I did not trip. Pick up your goddamn feet, my father says. Quit dragging them. We come to a car that’s rusted throughout, the windshield gone, snow on the dashboard and on the seats. The beagles circle it until a rabbit shoots out from underneath. I raise the stock to my shoulder and aim the bead over its body but the rabbit tumbles over before I fire. I pull the trigger anyway, blowing apart a small snowbank next to where the rabbit lies in a pile of red-spattered snow and hair, tossing up a spray of snow that blows back in the wind. Even through the layers of clothes I feel the recoil, a dullness in the place between my shoulder and chest where I will later have surgery to mend the tear in the muscle brought on by exercising in excess. My father breaks open the double barrel and seats another shell in the breech. I pump my shotgun but don’t bother sliding in another round. Uncle Barry trudges through the snow to retrieve the rabbit but one of the beagles makes it there first, getting it by the neck and running away with it in its jaws. My father and uncle chase her through the snow, Uncle Barry calling the dog’s name that I do not recall, my father saying, I thought they were trained, Bear! They are! Uncle Barry says, making a grab for his dog. I lean against the rusted car and clear snow off the barrel of my gun. When Uncle Barry catches the dog whose name I cannot recall, he slides the rabbit into the pouch of his vest and we walk on in rows. Both us and the beagles do not flush any more rabbits in the corn. We head back to the house to try the backyard and the field on the opposite side. On the way a rabbit hops out in front of us. It just sits there as Uncle Barry takes aim and fires, afterwards putting it in his pouch before the dogs can get to it. Hey, Bear, my father says. Let’s see if we can get my boy here a rabbit. As we walk alongside the house my father complains about how it’s too hot

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in his clothes, he’s sweating through them. He pulls off his outer layers and drapes them over the porch railing. My own body hasn’t produced sweat in months. Uncle Barry runs his beagles around the backyard until they stop and pace the length of the fence line, sniffing with their heads bent low. Keep your gun up, my father says. There’s one coming. The rabbit runs out from an opening in the fence and dodges and weaves towards us. Uncle Barry blows a hole into the ground. Sumbitch! he says. I don’t want to fire again since it hurts like a mother but I do and it hurts like a mother. The rabbit is too far away when I fire, is only a partial hit. It tumbles once and keeps going until my father puts an end to it. He picks the rabbit up by its neck, its fur mangled by buckshot, and slides it into the pouch of my vest. Anyone asks, he says, you got this one. We check the other field but it comes up empty, so we call it a day. Before leaving my father wedges a note in the door of the man’s house, and we load ourselves into the truck after sliding the guns back in their cases. I take off my gloves in the backseat. The ridges in my fingers are purple and red, the wrists worn thin, cracking with every rotation. I breathe into the between spaces of my fingers, warming them, then close each into a fist as if in a single-handed prayer. By the way my father drives home quiet without pointing out field-side turkeys or deer I know he is disappointed. He says one thing on the drive home, what he always says on trips like this: Did you have fun? Yeah, I say. I had fun. There is another moment on the way home. We stop at a diner for a late breakfast. My father and Uncle Barry slide into the red-leathered booth, sitting across from each other. I sit beside my father. Our menus are up, we order coffee. I drink mine black. I shed my layers down to my long-sleeved t-shirt. I order steak and eggs, have sworn off carbs. I will eat the eggs and half the steak. When I get home I will go to the gym alone for four hours. This after-hunt meal is my father’s favorite part of this trip. He is proud to be wearing camouflage in this diner. The patrons sitting at stools and in booths nod at him, knowing here is a hunter with his brother and son, coming back from a morning hunt. How-many-did-ya-get? asks a man behind us. My father smiles small, modest. A few, he says. But even here the diner’s occupants look past him, through to the boy sitting beside his father, stopping their breakfast for a moment to see the boy whose heart beats twenty beats inside every minute.

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ALMOST EQUALS I Rachel Kellner New York University

When I proved i = i, it lived in an airtight safe, the crown of the crown jewels, temperature controlled, inaccessible to outsiders. But then no one could see its beauty. So I took a picture of myself, posted it on Instagram: my nose was flat. The light hit my forehead weirdly. Delete. So I created a statue of marble, but it was colorless. So I wrote a poem with n words, k lines, m2 centimeters of white space. nkm2 ≈ i but not quite, so I keep writing n + 1 words, k + 1 lines, m2 + 2m + 1 centimeters, kilometers, light-years, closer and closer. Not quite a proof— not true, not tight, but you can hold up two of these pages and make a confident, vacuous claim. Observe, as you hold up the poem in your right hand, it’s i. Close enough. Raise your left hand and note! It’s i too. Not quite equal, but at least i’m trying.

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THE UNAVOIDABLE CONTAINER Mae McDermott Ithaca College

I think this body is an outlier, but I’m not conscious of this until I see it in photographs and trace the cliffside drop from other people’s heights to mine. I feel its presence swim into my consciousness in those rare moments when I’ve let us become surrounded by other bodies, by tall, full, polished young adults. Then I see how their ripe bodies shine, and how I curl and hook, and my limbs sprout from me like railings from a stone wall. How staggering it can be to feel strange and small, as though I’ve crawled out of a hole and now steal daylight above ground, unable to gleam because I am covered perpetually in the echoes of filth and dirt. That I do not fully understand my body and the form it takes contributes to our frumpiness. When we hear recordings of ourselves, we recoil at the metallic, nasally truth of our voices. Our surprise is similar with photographs, except that in my case there is less visceral abjection, less of an outcry, and more of a silent, shocked internalization of the truth. That thing is me. I see something that, compared to my own experience of myself, is watered down, thin, and grating, unacceptable, untrue, chafing against my understanding of myself. The truth of these records indicates the pittance I understand of this body, and the heaps of what I have managed to miss even in spite of inhabiting the very body I misunderstand. There is a Sears 15 minutes from my house that soon will close, and when I started watching Project Runway and wearing pseudo-bras I started dragging my mom to the women’s section of Land’s End. I pulled sweaters and blouses from the racks because they were as beautiful as I aimed to be and thought I could be. Kids are usually not as conscious of themselves and the space they take up; I could do as I liked and interact how I wished and being significantly smaller and weaker than everyone else was one of many aspects of my life to which I was indifferent. I didn’t realize, or it didn’t matter to me, that I was always pulled out of long lines of squirming kids and placed in the first row of every photograph and ensemble; if I had been in the second row my mom would not have seen my face, like a moon eclipsed by the clouds of others’ shoulders. But some time years later, probably after observing the gorgeous, sound, sophisticated women in my high school creative writing class and the harmony between their styles and their forms, I gave away the clothes I had enthusiastically asked for because I realized they don’t agree with this body. They are long where I am squat, they want to hug the skin where I am precipitously straight. I began to realize that while my peers and friends continued to grow hefty and thick and their voices continued to grow rich, while they mingled suavely and sprouted toward adult lives, 56

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tasks, and presentations, I remained in my eleven-year-old body, relegated to the presentations and abilities of a child. I realized myself, and I realized no one makes women’s clothing for bodies like this that are 4’11” and 100 pounds and destined for bones to curl and shriek with rheumatism. That is not “women,” not what people think of when they consider “women.” I know some women. My friend Eleanor is a woman. She has ivory skin and light brown hair. She is tall and striking and shapely; broader and more shockingly voluptuous every time I see her. Sometimes she is languid and draped about the space she fills; sometimes she is pensive, her head gracefully and fascinatingly tilted. No matter what shirt she chooses the fabric clings lovingly to her; her clothes ripple up her body and embrace her, and she covers this desperate clinging with slack jean jackets that roll off of her broad shoulders. My friend Nicole is a woman, so round and sensational she looks as though she could nourish and house four villages inside the solid structure of her bones. She is an amalgam of shapes, and every curve collides with its sister so that when she walks everything moves jointly; she is adorned with gold hoop earrings and brown leather boots that crawl up her calves and halt just shy of the knee. She is brown and her eyes are small and dark, and her jaw is set, and out of her jaw come words of certainty and sometimes condemnation. Though I am between them in age I could never do any of the sound, confident, concrete things these women do. They can drive and take the metro all by themselves. Eleanor commutes to D.C. They know how to use their bank accounts and get a job, and they know how to give a job up. I am a first-year college student who is afraid of busses, so I haven’t left campus and I suppose my half-baked plan is to never move from this spot. I bathe in every syllable they utter and wonder at them and the mysterious, foreign, womanly preoccupations that make it so that they have no time for nonsense. I myself am drowning in nonsense, all of it stemming from how ineffectual I am at completing simple tasks, and how ill-prepared I am to face life outside of a classroom. So, while there are not many things I understand about this body, or why I have found myself inside of it, I do understand that together we do not make up a woman. Women are capable. I am 4’11”, and I can’t do anything. My body is just one of the reasons I am not a real woman... there was nothing for me to find at Land’s End among the cotton and swaying stripes because my body, and the almost-woman that I am, was not part of anyone’s design. Nor was my body part of my design. Being small and ineffectual is not a state one chooses. It is remarkable how the physical body, something so concrete, absolute, and confining, is dealt so randomly to people who may suffer under it for the rest of their lives. Completely arbitrarily, it becomes my job to clothe this body, to cover it in something that vaguely “fits.” And I struggle blindly with this impossible task. Gazing into a mirror and watching how little difference my small fingers make, I do what I can with the brittle, reactionary stuff that grows from my head, dimly aware that I am trying to style something that is simultaneously dead and growing, trying to give shape to something that means nothing. With a miniscule plastic comb, I aim

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for symmetry with eyebrows that ultimately do as they please and do not respond to my coaxing. Usually after a few minutes I give up... even if I am momentarily wrapped up in a desire to polish my presentation, nothing so unachievable can pull me back to my mirror. I just part my hair in ways that hide the problems I’ll never solve. Half-heartedly, I tug open my drawers and sift through fabric, pulling out shirts that stretch beyond the crotch, and I tuck them into trousers that must be rolled at the cuffs. Thus, I create the illusion of proportion, the illusion of form. Warm weather is the hardest: during the winter I can swaddle myself in woolen layers, almost so that I am no longer there, and forget myself. Because I can forget, winter is soothing. But in the heat of summer I cannot hide us, the two of us are bare and exposed, for in warmth I have only large graphic t-shirts that are one-sizefits-all and expose my rail-like arms as they spout from prodigious sleeves. I tuck these into light-colored jeans which compete against and wash out my pallor; then I flounder for shoes to match this rag-tag ensemble, usually chunky hiking shoes that once belonged to my brother. But I cannot see myself rightly... am I passing the adult clothing off as belonging on this body, something so small and frail? Or when I must pull up the shoulder or hoist up the waist, am I indeed swimming in fabric as I feel I am, steeped in the mystery of masks that are so foreign, it seems, to us both? The form foisted upon me is dealt with gruffly and then, when it does not yield to my attempts at kindness and patience, dismissed. As much as it can be. The body is insistent on being noticed by virtue of existing. But there have been a few special moments when I have not been aware of my body. These are moments when the form is mine, such as when I write or sing or perform a task that is mine. When I do something so natural as sit at a desk scribbling good thoughts and verses in a spiral notebook, typing wildly in breathless pursuit of the perfect essay, listening to and feeling music while striding along autumnal pathways, or planning a piece with uncharacteristic cunning, I fill this figure with myself and I billow within. There is harmony, or at least a truce; I don’t feel pushed to the margins of myself, but rather like a whole person whose body is an extension of her spirit. During these blissful interludes I move freely, and my figure moves with me. This body, and how I must occupy it, is not on my mind; I simply fill the space afforded to me, and there are no questions. But I remember it when it constrains my freedom. In the shape of a pull in my side when I cannot reach something. In the shape of sharp pains in the temple and burning sensations behind the eyes, the musical accompaniment to migraines and headaches. In the blossoming fog that arises when I see my reflection and how my back curves forward and my neck tucks itself into the body. Or even in the stumbling that interrupts an untroubled walk. In how I can’t learn to drive because I can’t reach the pedals, I can’t leave late because I won’t arrive on my short legs in time, I can’t physically attract anyone because I am not grown, I can’t protect myself because I left my mace at home and my muscles are weak, I can’t walk alone because I look like a child and will one day be abducted as such, I can’t interact with

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someone who is beautiful because when they take a step closer, filling the warm space between us and inviting me, daring me, to somehow close the gap, looking up into their faces is like trying to stare into the sun, and my eyes get pulled to the floor as we speak... their beauty feels dwarfing, and when the gap gets small enough I remember there is a greater, incalculable difference between us, a gap that can never be bridged: a fraction of a person, I can’t ever be a worthwhile match. And nervously I shift my weight away, and the gap grows until they are gone. I am in here somewhere. But I cannot grow beyond this outer layer, cannot ever break through the skin to become mighty. I can’t grow into something until—unless—my body does. This body announces itself in all the ways I feel pain and all the ways I am not a woman, and then I remember with a slow-roasting resentment that it is my inevitable, unavoidable container. And I suppose I am likewise its unchosen companion. These short, curving legs have had to carry me, and this small chest has had to pump its own blood to keep my consciousness alive. There is probably a bitter debt here, as I know I have not cared for it the way it has cared for or at least carried me. What I do, insidiously, subconsciously, is let this body slide slowly and painfully into disarray. I allow “self-care”—though this body is certainly not the same thing as my self—to come second and fourth and dead last. With a glimmer in my eye I push things a little farther than they must go. I work a little longer. 2:30 a.m. instead of 2:00. 3:30. 4:00. I let evening meet morning, every single day. No need for meals today; no need for medication. I put my body through a draught. When I do these things, when I sit still and leave the bones to wither from disuse and neglect, when I feed it only air and then the little sweating fuel it has gets lodged within, when through all this neglect I shatter the life-creating menstrual cycle like a dropped vase, I know that perhaps—likely—certainly—I have done this to myself. Yes, there have been short and brittle women in my family before me. My grandmother had teeth that broke so easily she ate as anxiously as a thief eating stolen food. But when one recognizes the weeping of her own body, there is no way she can deny the responsibility of her own hands in bringing about this pain. Out of resentment I have placed upon this twisting back the burden of neglect, and accordingly it has shrunk and bent and remained small. Because the truth is that I would like to forget this body. I would like for it to be separate from my self. It is the house I never asked to live in. It is the mask that forbids the freedom of complete and utter nudity. Will I ever know myself, the person beneath the pale, fleshy armor that has been put in my way? During dim mornings and fluorescent nights, I keep the bathroom lights off, don’t look up at the mirror perched above the sink because I don’t want to acknowledge the containment, and all the things about the container that make me small in so many ways. I should be grateful for the unending work, the physical labor, the forced devotion. But instead I resent it all. This body is a burden that has taken something deep, wild, and independent away from me, and I want to be free. When I do look in the mirror, I see sagging purple bags and a curved forehead and a nose that ambles

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outward like a beak and then pulls itself inward into a slight overbite and tiny chin, a neck and upper back that are perpetually at odds, holding my head before my body like a strange, strained offering. If who I am is really so limited, limited to this body, then I will destroy it as one destroys oneself. I will punish it. If we must be synonymous then I will ensure that we both shall die. I resent the limiting frame of the physical upon the life I wish was more, more than bunioned feet upon a ground I vaguely fear will get my shoes dirty. I resent having to mind myself in this way, in this clumsily constructed thing that is not me. Instead I wish I to transcend. I want to exhale and see my atoms escape me, watch myself crumble until I no longer have eyes with which to see. I want to spiral into the wind until there is no more wanting to be had because there is no more of the self, no more hair and attire, only being, only wending and pulling through the silent stillness of the velvet sky. I want to be a star, or stardust, bright and distant and glistening just outside of the world I know, a shimmering idea, a blanket whose fibers collect after a long dance from heaven and are sent spinning again with just a wayward gust. I want to shed skin and interior and fabric and inability, to unravel and to exist apart from this self and be a glorious, formless part of everything. Then, I think, I would be truly existing. Only in the forfeiture of the physical I would become meaningful.

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HENRIETTA MARA AND THE SOCKS HER FATHER BOUGHT HER Madeline Peck Southern Utah University

Henrietta Mara walked to the edge of the lake. Henrietta unlaced her shoes and tossed them onto the moon-drunk sand. She peeled away her long wool socks and let her toes sink into the coarse sand, her skin a murky grey underneath the ceiling of stars. Her father had bought her these socks. He had bought them, he’d told her, for hiking in the summertime. He’d take her, he’d said, to the same spot his father used to take him. Where he and his father had laid out in the open air next to a fire they had gathered the wood for, built, and struck a match to set it all aflame. Where her grandfather had told her father about Galaway and the shades of green and grey in Ireland that they didn’t have here. And the way the wind used to move through the grass on the hills, muttering in Gaelic too old to understand. Where her grandfather had told her father Irish tales, some old, some new, some her grandfather had merely seen on television and absorbed into his mythology. This was where her father became a man. Where he learned what fish to eat and which to set free.Where he learned the stories of his family, of his people, of a culture he wasn’t a part of but his blood still yearned for. Where her grandfather had taught him how to swear, how to love a woman and how to hate that same woman after taking her to bed and muttering in her red curls of forever. Henrietta’s father never took her. He never told her about Ireland, or the women he had loved and hated. He only bought her socks. Henrietta Mara scrunched up the socks and threw them in the lake. She wouldn’t need them anymore. She hoped some fish would get tangled in the bundle and pull the socks down to the bottom of the lake, never to resurface. She touched the water with the tip of her big toe. It was much colder than the cool spring night. There must be some winter snow that fed into this lake. A shiver ran through her body. She peeled away her jacket, hesitating before dropping it behind her. She peeled away her dress. She peeled away her underwear and stood naked on the beach. And then she peeled away her skin. She folded it down like taking off gloves. She let the skin dangle from the bones of her fingers before falling to the ground.She peeled off the skin of her stomach, the skin of her legs, and the skin on her face. She peeled it all away until PECK

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she stood, blood and bone, under the moonlight. And then Henrietta Mara walked into the lake. She let the water curl around her, seeping away her blood and chilling her bones. She waded deep below the surface, letting the water swallow her with a mighty gulp. She let the water press against her body with a painful pressure. She closed her eyes to the darkness of the water and let out the last bits of air her lungs had stored. Henrietta Mara submerged herself in the cold water of the lake and wondered to herself which would be found first, her body or the socks her father had bought her.

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GREEN ORANGES Elizabeth Goldberg Skidmore College

My parents are the fucking worst. Mama literally still has her hand-written essays from middle school and Mo parties like she’s 21. The house is disgusting. I can never have friends over. I think our oldest milk bottle expired four years ago. Every time I try to throw it away, Mama flips. The house is full of crap from her whole life. She grew up in that house, her parents offed themselves together in that house, and now we live in this shithole she calls a home. Mo just says it’s how people deal with grief and we should respect that. Meanwhile, Mo is never around. She comes home at like 4am every night with her slutty shirt hanging off her shoulder. It’s embarrassing. She’s like 50. As weird as Mama is, I’m team Mama. Most of the time. I’m really not sure why they’re still together. I think they are both too lazy to leave each other. Or more like they are both in some kind of denial that their marriage is shit. They met like a million years ago at some kind of mental health symposium thing. I think it was in the bathroom and Mo didn’t even know she was gay yet. She said it was the hands that drew her in. Mama has tiny hands with skinny fingers. Mo couldn’t stop staring, then they started talking, then they started drinking, then everything else happened. Mo was the one who carried me, so everyone asks if I see her as my “real” mom. But Mama is always gonna be Mama and Mo is always gonna be Mo. The only person who kind of gets my family is Dave. He moved next door when I was eight. And he’s kinda been like a dad I guess—taught me how to ride a bike and all that. He’s 38 though and kind of a burnout. I stole this breakfast joint from his bedside table the other day. It’s old. And not hitting well at all. Whatever. It’s too early for English. I pull out my pen and draw triangles up my fingers while Lauren, Ali, and Mr. Kraut all discuss Jane Eyre. They are clearly the only losers who did the reading. My mouth is all dry from the weed, and memories of my bed are seducing me. The noise of people talking just kind of drifts and my mind is slow. At lunch I find Leo and we sit outside. It’s October and it’s still pretty warm. “What time?” Leo is the only person who knows anything about my parents. I even let him come over once. “She literally walked in as I was walking out.” He laughs. “It’s not funny, I thought she might have died or something.” “Maybe she got laid.” GOLDBERG

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“Ew, Leo. She’s so old. And married.” He smirks. We walk down the block, and he pulls out his pen. I instantly feel calmer. As I hit, my fingertips start to feel more and more fuzzy. Weed makes everything better. My watch says 4:37, but my phone says 1:28. This watch is the only thing I have from either of my grandparents. Maybe he took it off right before he slit his wrists. Or maybe grandma slit his and he slit hers? The watch was on the sink when Mama found them in the bathtub like days later bloody and still. The water was inches high. Mama found them. Then we moved in. I head to the locker room to change for gym. I fucking hate gym class. I pull on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. Gabi and Eliza’s lockers are across from mine. They look at me, then look at each other and then head to the bathroom together. This happens for every single gym class. I know it’s because they are convinced that I will take naked pictures of them and send them to my gay parents. Gabi told me that in seventh grade and I think they really still believe it. The sentiment has no logic. They should be worried about their own perverse fathers. “Nobody cares about your tinyass tits anyway,” I mumble. I wish I could scream it, but I’m too pussy. The district banned dodgeball a few years ago, so now we play some variation of it. They change the name like every year, I can’t remember what they are calling it today. I pick up a ball and throw it at George. He catches it, and I go sit on the side. Eating the skin on the edge of my fingers and on the inside of my cheek are what I’m best at anyway. After class, I splash my face with cold water. I just need to get through the day. “I don’t know, it’s just when he hugs me I guess.” Gabi’s voice is muffled. “That really sucks, Gab,” Eliza responds. Who could they be talking about? I feel like it’s her dad. Her dad gives out such weird vibes. I remember him from when I went to her house a million years ago. Maybe it’s Mr. Volk, I noticed him looking at my boobs when I ran today. It’s actually one of the reasons I try to move as little as possible in gym, now that I think about it. Ugh, men are gross. That’s the one thing I can agree with my parents about. Leo passes me in the hallway on the way to Physics. His fist bumps me as I walk by. Sometimes I wonder if he sees me that way, but, like, no, never. He’s like everyone else and into the Gabi type. Dr. Pagnotta’s lazy eye kills me. It’s like I’m good at Physics, but I can’t listen to him talk because his right eye keeps moving around the room. Can he see out of it? Does he know its moving? It creeps me the fuck out. I also can’t look at his face for too long, because the corners of his mouth fill up with dried spit that is like white and thick. Just looking at it makes me need to puke. One time I puked at home in the sink just thinking about it for too long. I can feel my throat contract and open right now. Just stop thinking about this. Stop. Stop. Stop. I shut my eyes

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really tight, take a deep breath and re-enter. The rotten smell hits me as I walk into the house. I grew up here, but every time I come home, I have to re-adjust to the smell of rotten milk, eggs and just everything. Mama is on the couch with her laptop. She is still, it looks like she hasn’t blinked in a while. “Blocked up?” I ask. “You know how it is.” Mama wrote a successful novel like fifteen or twenty years ago and hasn’t been able to write anything since. One time I went on her computer and found a bunch of saved blank documents with various names. I walk to the kitchen and grab a handful of granola. This is the first thing I’m eating today. The thick chunks slide down my throat all slow. I feel nauseous. Weed. I look at Mama again as I walk back through the living room. She sits so still. I sit down next to her. “So, are you upset with Mo?” “Why would I be upset with Mo, dear?” She refuses to talk about anything, it’s actually crazy. “Um, because she literally didn’t come home last night.” Mama just looks at me and then back to her computer screen. The cursor blinks rhythmically. I sit and watch her for a moment. She stares at the screen unblinking. After a few seconds, her eyes get that layer of film on them all over again. I get up and go to my room and it feels like she doesn’t even notice. I pack a bowl and get near the window. The one good thing about living in a hoarder house is that the scent of the weed is masked by all the rotten food. I don’t even feel like I’m getting high at this point, since it’s the third time today. I just feel more of the same. Or more of the I don’t know. Mo comes in with dinner. I can hear her walk through the house. She doesn’t speak to Mama. I bet Mama didn’t even look up when Mo entered the room. I come downstairs, grab some sesame chicken and broccoli and bring it to my room. I refuse to look Mo in the eye. The sounds from the bathroom echo as I hear her rustling with her many pills. I can almost see the orange pill bottles nestled in her hands. Mo is a psychiatrist, and she definitely doesn’t need all the meds that she self-prescribes. But it’s nice to be able to grab some Xans now and then. She doesn’t know if only a few are missing. After I eat, I sprawl out on my bed and pass out. I wake up to the noise of the creaky front door opening again. I know that it’s Mo coming home for the second time. She must be smelling the milk right about now. Mo needs to come home from work to bring us dinner, and change into her slut attire. I don’t remember the last time Mama left the house. I wonder if she would smell the disgustingness upon her entry. Mo and I are used to it, but this is the only smell Mama really ever smells. She doesn’t even know it is a smell. I check my phone and it’s 3:37. Great time for a mother to enter her house.

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I can hear her stumbling to take her shoes off. I hear a crashing sound and I race downstairs. She’s on the floor trying to grab something to help her up. I want my legs to run, but they move so slowly. Her writhing helpless on the floor is pathetic. It’s hard not to feel sorry for her. Fifty years old and she can’t hold her liquor. Her job is to help her patients and she can’t even get her own shit together. I wonder how ruined their lives would be if they saw her like this. I wonder if they would even be surprised. I half carry her upstairs, it’s not that hard. She’s like half my size. I get her water and put her to bed. Mama doesn’t wake up which is strange because she is such a light sleeper. “Too hot?” Dave smirks at me. “Won’t be able to taste anything for like a million years,” I say. “Why do you put the Totinos in for so damn long? The sauce is like boiling in here.” “Because frozen would be worse.” Dave’s back cracks as he pulls out a pack of papers from his back pocket. “Besides, if you don’t like the way I make them, well then, you don’t have to keep coming here to eat my food.” Dave’s house isn’t clean, but it’s nothing compared to my house. He’s not an actual crazy person like my parents. I flick off my shoes and sit on my feet. Dave and I smoke spliffs, ‘cause he’s just like that I guess. He moves to sit on the couch next to me so he can pass easier. “‘Underwater’ or ‘Tundra?’” Dave looks at me. Planet Earth is our thing. The colors of coral and fish flash on his TV. I can feel my eyes glaze over when I forget to blink. Mama does that too. I wonder what part of the house she is sitting in “working” today. I wonder if she works on the same blank document for multiple days then switches. How does she decide to switch and when? Does she know how fucked she is? Does she even think about anything? I mean Mo says that finding your dead parents fucks you up. All bloody and still. My knee brushes against Dave’s thigh as I move to put my feet back on the floor. He looks at me. We don’t say anything. I turn back to the TV to do some more learning. We originally started watching Planet Earth together because when I was in like middle school, Dave didn’t wanna “show me junk,” he wanted to be a good influence and all that. Also that was back when we were concerned my parents would think it was weird that we were still hanging out. It’s one thing in the yard when I’m in elementary school, but I guess it’s different once you go through puberty? But Dave and I are not like that at all. He’s the closest thing I have to a dad. They know that. “Remember when you taught me to ride a bike?” I say. “And drive.” Dave smiles and pats my knee. My eyelids get heavy as the same bright colors keep flashing on the screen. “Are therapists allowed to go to therapists?” Leo asks me the next day at

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lunch after I tell him about my pathetic mother. “I actually think they’re supposed to.” “But what if like they talk about their patients and break that code or whatever, then that one goes and does the same thing?” I shrug. “Yo this is a never ending cycle, I’m tripping.” “I don’t know,” I say. “ I don’t think she sees one, but like she definitely has in her life.” “What happens if you bang your therapist?” “Leo, I’m not in the mood.” “Seriously, though.” I just have to get through the day. Sometimes I don’t even know if the weed makes me feel better or worse. It’s like when I’m not high, all I can think about is getting high, but then when I’m high I’m like am I even high and does this even feel good? The first smoke of the day always feels good, I guess. I don’t even know the difference anymore. I do know that right now I am way too high for Dr. Pagnotta’s eye. It’s seriously creeping me out. “Let me give you a ride home,” Leo says after last period. “Ugh, I don’t wanna go home.” I usually never accept rides home from Leo. I’m not sure why. “Same.” We drive around for two full hours. Just smoking and talking. We forget to even put music on. I tell him about the snippet of conversation I heard in the locker room and we speculate who Gabi could have been talking about. We conclude that her dad gets a hard-on every time he hugs her. We spend a lot of time talking about our own parents. He complains about his parents, but they sound pretty normal to me. “Maybe in a past life, we had it so good, that it just wouldn’t be fair for God be nice to us in this one.” Sometimes I hate every word that comes out of my mouth. And everything that enters my brain. “What if we offed ourselves together.” I smile at Leo. “What if,” he says. The smell of home never fails to surprise me. It’s like I forget how bad it smells every day. Maybe I have selective memory. I walk into the weirdest scene of my life. Mama and Mo are sitting on the floor with a million pictures sprawled out on the floor. First of all, since the house is filled to the brim with junk, I didn’t know that it was possible to have a collection of anything in the same place at one time. Second of all, what the fuck, I can’t remember the last time Mama and Mo interacted like this. Mama looks up from the photos with tears in her eyes. “Mo surprised me with a box of things she had saved.” She holds up a baggie of tiny teeth. Ew. But like that’s sweet, I guess. I smile because it actually feels good to see them interact. They are sitting close to each other and Mo has her hand on Mama’s

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back. She’s moving it back and forth. It’s funny that they had this moment totally not prompted by me. I’m stupid for even thinking that, I would never initiate a moment with both of them at the same time. I’m surprised that Mo kept a box away, organized. I didn’t know there was an ounce of order in this house at all. I thought the only things that are kept in the same place are the unused tampons that we keep in the bathroom. Mama refuses to throw away the used ones. We live in a dump. But this is sweet. Them together. I feel warmer in my body. I sit down with them. I have never seen pictures of them when they were young. I guess I assumed they were buried under receipts for gas and orange peels. There is this one picture of them covered in mud. Like covered in brown. “What’s this?” I ask. “Oh,” Mama giggles, “we did this mudslide thing.” “A fundraiser for children with leukemia,” Mo adds. They really had a whole life before me. “How long were you together before you had me again?” “Six years,” Mo says. “Can you believe it, Mags? 24 years we’ve been together.” Mama shakes her head and rests it on Mo’s shoulder for a half a second before springing it up. There’s another picture of them smiling with Mama’s parents. In this house. It must be in this house. The couches and rug and everything is the same. Everything in this room is at least double my age. It’s weird. The two of them are interacting as if they have been doing so for years and years. When, in reality, I have haven’t witnessed them acknowledge each other’s presence in forever. Mo even called Mama “Mags.” I can’t remember the last time anyone ever called her that. Well, I can’t remember the last time anyone but me addressed her. I really like watching them right now. Mama makes Mo laugh. It’s hard for me to follow what they are saying. I’m not sure if it’s because they are talking about people and things I don’t know, or if it’s because of all the weed I smoked in the two-hour drive with Leo. Or if it’s because the two of them seem to exist on a different plane right now. But it’s nice to see Mo smile not for show, but for real. When Mo smiles for real, her lips ride up and her full gums are exposed. Usually she smiles all fake and her upper lip rests right above her teeth, just like it’s supposed to. Everything right now is how it’s supposed to be. It’s okay.

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4:00 P.M. ON A WEDNESDAY, 1974 Hannah Mullins

Missouri Western State University

You troop home early in your Brady Bunch station wagon to promised meatloaf and mashed potatoes. You stomp in with unintentional grouse, in tawny hobnail boots, and the mud you scrape off clings to the welcome mat by the front door. Your sweat-stained button up is tucked into a belt whose suffocating was introduced to you in the post-World War years on a factory floor: your present battlefield. You’re ready to divest it for the day as you trudge up the stairs to your bedroom. And there you find her with her lover who is not you. Four hands scurry to cover evidence with harvest-gold, double-sized sheets. Bodies that should never have touched panic together where you dream each night: her careworn body and his lusty body – much younger; his face hauntingly reminiscent of her beloved Cary Grant, nothing like your own ever was. You don’t hear her voice gasp your name, only the taunting of “Me and Mrs. Jones” playing on the turntable you bought her. A wedding band winks on her stirring left hand while a shotgun moans your name from the downstairs closet. MULLINS

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Twenty-six years, damnit, you think. But you say nothing as your wife explains too much. You do nothing but turn and walk back down the steps that led you there. You sit still in the kitchen’s unsteady wooden chair, while the room around you forever becomes an unbearably blank canvas.

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WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, 1974 Hannah Mullins

Missouri Western Reserve University

He never pays attention to the shade of lipstick you wear unless it’s to tell you not to leave the marks on his cheek before work. Your wonted preference is so close to your own lips’ color, there’s no real purpose to it, yet your vanity would be bare without it. Before he wakes you prepare yourself with Avon, outlining your lips with a delicate mauve and daubing inside with a tube for ornamented gleam. He leaves before he gets near enough to compliment the conspicuous black rim drawn around your cinnamon eyes. He may be home late, like always, you consider: go unswerving from the front door to the Coors in the fridge, turn on the tube for Happy Days, and descend into his threadbare recliner to fall asleep. Maybe today he’ll pronounce his adoration with a peck on your overdrawn lips; more likely, he’ll stomp past you on mudded feet and mutter I don’t want to talk about it when asked about his day. Still you promised that morning to make his favored supper: meatloaf from your mother’s recipe and potatoes you peel and mash by hand. Mother always told you it was every wife’s duty to feed her man with all that he needed, be it with her oven or with her own body. At the grocery you see juvenescence lading heads of lettuce down a row of vegetables while his blueberry eyes peek at you. MULLINS

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The university boy simpers when he helps pick out the cabbage – a look from Benjamin Braddock to Mrs. Robinson. You decline reflexively, flushing, as your mother would have done, but your fingers can’t refrain from offering him seven nefarious digits written in the red pen you keep at the bottom of your purse.

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DEATH OF DIVORCE Faith Rush Winthrop University

It was Easter. They said Grandma was getting sicker by the minute. I wanted to see her for myself. I rolled up to the worn-out driveway. Grass had stopped growing in certain places, revealing the dark flesh of the earth. I called her again. It’s Maggy. I can’t get to the phone right now… The silence of the Southern heat took over. I sat on her tiny porch that was more stairs than anything else. The separated wood pierced my thighs. I sunk down further, letting it distract me. I searched around looking to see if the neighbors I never bothered to meet would know where she was. “Who dat on my porch?” a woman yelled. I stood up to see her. I didn’t bother to pull the splinters out from my thighs. “It’s me, Grandma!” I shouted back. A blue gown covered her body. When the hell did she start wearing gowns? “Who is ‘me’?” She walked closer towards me, her bare feet creeping along. I yelled back in answer. How could she have forgotten what I looked like? Had it really been that long? “Whew,” she breathed. “You look just like your Mama. I thought you was her for a minute.” I never knew how to respond. I just laughed and let her press me into a tight hug. “Get in the house,” she hollered. “You not used to this heat.” “I’m fine.” “Come on in here so you can eat. You getting thin again.” Her fingers pulled at the muscle on my arms. She always said I was nothing but skin and bone, like a string bean. I can’t even remember the last time anybody actually used my real name. The creak of the door filled her house. Her dirty feet made everything shake. The little red bull statue danced on the glass table. She said it was from Madrid, but we all knew she got it at some flea market. The table was filled with so many pictures you wouldn’t even know the table was glass. It had pictures of Dad when he was twenty, before the gray hair and the pain of life took the youth out of his face and hid it in the pile of crossword puzzles stacked in the corner of his room. Pictures of my brother when he was two, maybe three, with Dad’s dark skin. She only had one photo of me from eleven years ago. I was ten. She sat in the dusty rose patterned chairs. She picked up a Pepsi she had RUSH

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probably left there days ago. The doctors told her not to drink it. I said the same thing. “I drink what I want,” she said. “Yes ma’am.” It didn’t take her long to tell me what Grandpa did. I don’t even know how we got to the conversation. Sometimes she just likes to tell me what pops up in her mind. These memories must have swarmed around in her head more than anything else. It wasn’t recent news. It was what he did to her years ago. When he yelled at her and spit in her face. When he looked at her and told her she wouldn’t be shit without him. He held a gun to the skin on her neck that blended in with the night. A thick piece of fatback settled in my stomach. It wasn’t like that normal fatback that you need to suck on before eating. It was a piece so thick it just sizzled in the cast iron skillet of my stomach. One night he called her a bitch when the kids were in the house. Boiling grease filled the pan. That flaming grease spilled out and rushed into my veins until the tips of my fingers were heating up. “The last night we were together I said I would blow his brains out if he ever tried doing that shit again.” Grease popped from the pan, stinging my stomach. She moved on to some other story about Dad almost burning the house down. When I took a deep breath, I could feel bubbles of grease floating in my veins. * I want them pretty white roses sitting on top of my grave. That’s how she wrote it in the will. Everyone had a white rose in hand. In those last few days, they said her brown skin was sagging in places it shouldn’t. Her hair was in thin gray straw-like strands like the cat hair left behind from those trailer cats in her neighborhood. Dad said over the phone she seemed okay. Like going to see her favorite sister in that hospital bed up near the Blue Ridge Mountains didn’t tear out a piece of her heart. Like the fact that we couldn’t visit often didn’t wear down her already calcium-deficient bones. We buried her underneath the one tree that was right next to her Mama. I had never seen the tree until now. It was probably as old as her Mama too, the discolored flaky bark crawling around with cicadas. The buzzing took my mind away from the dramatic cries of my aunt, calling for a Mama that wasn’t coming back any time soon. We stood around her grave in that sticky southern July heat. The grass was tall from months of neglect. It brushed up against us like it was trying to paint the smell of grass on our legs. Sometimes we couldn’t tell if the biting at our calves was the grass, or those damn seasonal mosquitoes you tried to hit but always missed. I gave up trying to slap them and hoped the bug repellent from three hours ago would still work.

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Through my dark lenses, I looked at Grandpa, a rusty smile on his face. I stared at his black eyes with the blue halo around them. It didn’t give me the same comfort as when I looked at Dad. His skinny tie was thinner than Grandma’s legs. He wore that tie at my graduation. He didn’t congratulate me. He smiled and left to go back to work. Grandma left with him. “You’re glad she died, aren’t you?” I spoke. Mom whispered, “Don’t start, Bean. Not at her funeral.” The fatback sizzled again, the grease crackling in my stomach. “No. I’m sure he’s glad she’s not here,” I continued. Grandpa stared at me, that smile still on his face. “He can have a clear conscience for all the shit he did to her.” “Bean!” Dad shouted. The preacher stopped. Everyone turned to see what I would do next. “No, let her talk,” Grandpa finally said. “She don’t know what she talkin’ about anyways.” Breath flew from my nose. “You don’t think she told me that you nearly killed her?” Dad, with those same blue haloed eyes, hovered over me. His small feet were trapped in the grass. He reached out for my hand, something I didn’t hold unless we were praying. I stared at him and saw everything he wouldn’t say. He was sorry that Grandpa could never spell my middle name with an “i” instead of an “e.” He was sorry nobody called me when she was dying. He was sorry for not telling me the truth, but the truth wouldn’t change anything now. I pressed my hand around the thorns. They pushed blood onto the white rose. I placed my blood spotted the white rose on her dark wooden coffin. “You’re not sorry, Dad.” We sat in the church hall with those flickering lights and plastic seats that anyone over ten was too old to sit in. Our plates were filled with food that the aunts had to cook, their pain pouring into the dishes. The smell of the chitlins and Clorox stunk up the air. Roaches lurked in hidden corners. We only stayed for one plate. Mom and Dad needed to get back home. When you’re working people, you don’t get to grieve. You go to the funeral, make sure everybody is alright, and go back to work. “You go and help Grandpa,” Dad ordered. “We have to go.” “What about Deon?” I asked. My brother stood behind him. He was playing some game on his phone. “He’s coming with us.” Deon leaned his new suit against the pollen coated car. “Did you ask him if he wanted to stay?” Deon’s face glowed in the light of his phone. There were small black hairs on his chin climbing towards his bottom lip. Small beads of pollen clung to his eyebrows. There were darker circles around his eyes and peeled skin surrounding his

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cuticles. “He’s too young.” The sound of tires shifting against the rocks bound me to their empty spot in the parking lot. I didn’t bother to hug them before they left. Grandpa and his girlfriend’s shoes disturbed the rocks. She looked at me with empty eyes. She was smart enough not to say anything. Her dress barely hit her black knee caps. This woman couldn’t even tell the difference between black and midnight blue. She stood there clinging to the bottom of Grandpa’s tie like if she let go, he might find his way back to Grandma. “I’ll meet you at the house,” he said. “Don’t bring her with you.” I got into my 1979 Ford F-150. Grandma’s old truck. I had to slam the door to make sure it shut. “Where you go off talking to me like that?” His voice lingered in the air. “The minute you thought you could hit a woman.” Grease trickled through my veins. The engine stirred, and I left them in a trail of dust. * We used to go down when they could tolerate each other. Back when Grandpa would just stop by to watch old Western films with her. He would bring by groceries to make sure she had something to eat. She might have even cooked for him just so he could stay for a bit longer. The last time we were all in the same room Deon was twelve. I was sixteen. Nobody asked him to go down there for his birthday, they told us. “We’re going down tomorrow. Pack your bags.” That’s all Mom said. She placed two empty duffle bags on the bed before walking out. “I don’t even want to go,” he mumbled. I was the only one who heard. Six hours and two stops later, Grandma sat on the floor with me and Deon. Her legs weren’t covered in bumps yet. Grandpa came late. He left her groceries on the dining room table. The living room ceiling fan light directed its attention to him. His salt and pepper mustache still filled the space between his nose and mouth. His small build was the same as Dad’s: worn down and tired from work that never ended. Deon was the first to greet him. With a straight posture, his small hand pressed into Grandpa’s. He stared at me beneath the glasses I saw in pictures from 2001. I was six then. Deon was barely two. I waited for ‘How you doing, Bean?’ All I got was a hug that was so light the air could easily pass between us. He sat in the chair closest to the TV, finding more interest in Walker, Texas Ranger than Deon. The gun clicked. Walker was back in a situation. Grandma lit the candles on the cake. Walker escaped. We sang happy birthday. Grandpa never joined in. Trivette was waiting in the car for Walker. His black skin was always hidden in a button-down. Tonight, it was green. The car doors closed. Trivette started the

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engine. Deon blew out his candles. The shredding of gift-wrapping paper joined in with screeching wheels. Grandpa never looked over once. His eyes focused on Walker and Trivette in their usual argument. We waited for a “Happy Birthday” that would never come. * It’s always the smell of hot metal and fresh country air that greets you. It’s better than in the city. There’s so much dust and concrete you forget what grass feels like. The wooden steps look more torn down than before. You can’t lean too far towards one side because you might fall into the pile of semi-dead flowers she tried to keep alive. I pressed my feet against the black welcome mat. It doesn’t even say “welcome” anymore. Shoes scraped the black beads everywhere. You could probably find some on the pink carpet mixed in with cornbread crumbs. The blue on Grandpa’s Ford truck looked as gray as the trailer metal. He pulled up beside me. The rocks settled beneath his tires. Instead of greeting me, he went to the bed of the truck. He lifted himself onto it, his small feet dangling below. The pop of a beer cap floated into the air. The sun was slowly hiding behind the trailer. The metal was losing its shine. It peeled like scabs you want to pick off, but if you do it only makes the healing worse. I stayed on her wobbling wooden steps. “We’re supposed to be packing, remember?” I watched him loosen the lanky tie from around his neck. “We both need a break from that stunt you pulled earlier.” I needed to go back and apologize. He should too. “Come sit with me, Bean.” I walked across the mixture of dead grass and dirt to him. My arms pushed me up to sit on the bed of the truck. My feet grazed the stitches of grass below. “Here.” He held out another bottle. The smell of beer made the food from the funeral swirl in my stomach. “Thanks,” I said. I didn’t look at him. “So, what she tell you about what happened?” Water on the glass ran between my fingers, washing dirt from my palms. “You know what you did.” “You know how Grandma can tell a story.” The wet stickiness of the Budweiser label was pushed underneath my bare nails. “So, you’re saying she lied?” He took a long slurp. “Remember when we used to go shooting at my house?” he asked. Everything was set up in his backyard. I was barely old enough to hold the gun up by myself when he first taught me. I could never hit those tattered collard green cans.

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“That’s what it was like for a while. I was at the same job not making enough. I had two kids to take care of and your great-granddaddy was waiting for me to mess up.” “I know that,” I said. “What that got to do with anything?” My dialect was coming back. His slurp was louder this time. “I was aiming at a target I could never hit. So, I started drinking. For some time, it gave me something. I could aim right for the target even if it was for a moment.” I took a large gulp hoping to settle the heat rising in my body. “But we were broken long before that. We just never said anything. But once you were born we promised it would never get in the way of family.” I tapped my nails against the wet bottle. “You should have at least told me.” He laughed. I hadn’t heard him laugh since I was six. It was a throaty laugh, like the goats on Uncle Chuck’s farm. “So you could have hated me then the way you hate me now?” He drank from the bottle again. “Naw, Bean. You didn’t deserve that.” I scooted closer to Grandpa, my wet hands slipping against the truck. “I should have done right by her. I know I can’t change it now, but I don’t want you hating me as much.” I placed the bottle beside me. My hands were wet and covered in red sticker. Pieces of the label were rolled up and folded into each other. My response was folded up in there somewhere. I tried separating it, but that only made it worse. “That’s all I’m asking of you, Bean.” The silence took over for a while. I looked into my half-empty bottle. I poured the rest of it out into the dirt. “At least spell my middle name right,” I mumbled. His laugh rang against the metal on the trailers in front of us. “How is it spelled, Bean?” I spelled it out. “Well hell, why didn’t you tell me sooner? I could have been spelled it with an ‘i’.” “You don’t exactly answer the phone for numbers you don’t know,” I replied, gripping the body of the bottle. “I might not get it right the first time, but I’ll try Bean. For your grandma.” The block of ice that kept us as distant strangers had begun to melt. His bony elbow gently nudged my lanky arm. “We pretty fucked up, ain’t we, Bean.” He titled his bottle towards me. I looked into the eyes that resembled mine. “We’re family, Grandpa.” The clink of our bottles rang out into the trailer park and harmonized with the crickets chirping below us.

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FRUIT BASKET APOLOGY Emily Baker Lee University

The plum at the back of the heavy cluster weighing down the lowest branch started life in spring as a flower the color of Gemma’s favorite lipstick. It will go on to over-ripen, fall, and rot into the soft earth, returning its body and the tentative promise of another tree to the ground as it sinks. Its sweet flesh will swarm with drunken wasps in autumn, and surrender to fermentation long before the bite of first frost. The six fruits in front of it will know no such peaceful surrender, snapped from their stems by the warm, scratchy hand of Gemma’s faithless husband and tossed haphazardly into a dollar store basket. They are brought inside, placed on the counter. They witness the fight, the screaming hurt that a basket of plums from the tree she planted herself couldn’t make up for, an apology that he had no hand in growing. Gemma waits until he leaves with two suitcases, then rolls up her sleeves and washes the plums, tenderly cuts them into pretty slices with a knife from the set he bought her last Christmas by handing her a Bed, Bath, and Beyond gift card. Lines them in bleeding purple rows on Pillsbury pastry dough, rolls up the edges and tucks them in like the children he’d refused to give her. She sprinkles the tart with sugar and bakes it, turning the fruit yellow as it heats, like yearning or a bruise fading to an ochre ache that means the blood is draining away and the body is healing.

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YOUNG MAN Meghan Marzella Ithaca College

I see my father, age 19, hair full and curly. He steps out of his red Firebird into the parking lot of Nutley High School. He is a tall young man with broad shoulders—not broad enough to be noteworthy, but broad enough for football. He does not carry a backpack. He drinks beer on his lunch break. He is carefree and lazy in the sun of boyhood. I see him sling his arm across the shoulders of a young woman. She has blonde curls that she unpinned this morning. She is petite at the waist and full at the bosom. She is a nonconservative girl from a conservative family. She has sweet, tired eyes. She is not my mother. I sit in the balcony of a small church. A soft light glistens through the stained glass windows; the muted reds and purples flicker off the baptism bowl in the corner. I see my grandmother and my grandfather in their Sunday best. I see my aunt in a bridesmaid’s dress and my uncle as the man of honor. I see my father, a year older now, standing at the altar. His suit was ironed and tailored by my grandmother. He is no more a child than I am. He looks small here; out of place. His supple face still red in the remission of pubescence. He is clean shaven and his chin has a cleft like Sylvester Stallone’s. They do not see me. I see the blonde woman, this time in a full, extravagant wedding dress; something my grandparents would never pay for. Her cheeks are pinched red and she glows an unmistakable golden light. Her lipstick is a fleshy mauve. The organs of the church bellow, and so do mine. She walks down the aisle accompanied by a man I do not recognize. Half of the filled pews are people I do not recognize. A young child precedes her, sprinkling red rose petals: the least reserved choice of flower petal for a wedding. They hold hands through the ceremony; hers are frail and well-manicured, his coarse and worn. She ignores the callouses. The rings are modest but fair. The minister gives the cue and my father kisses the bride. They hold hands as they prance out of the chapel and wedding bells echo through the small town. She waves her bouquet and people throw rice as they exit. The reception is small but sweet. She does not smear the cake into my father’s face after they cut it. They smile but do not laugh. The reception concludes and she is still not my mother. I see my father a few months later: searching for jobs, going home to the woman. He is content, maybe, but not happy. He won’t be happy for a short while. I see them go through negative pregnancy tests and OB GYN visits to no avail. I see 80

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the woman cry in their bathroom, thinking she is broken. Distance starts as a seed but grows into a fat, warted gourd between them. She never learns how to tame my father’s temper. His voice is assertive; his tone is threatening even when his words aren’t. My father is still stubborn and argumentative in his youth. He is still a child. My father calls his brother, the lawyer. He asks about divorce. He can afford it, he insists; he’s been working since he was 12. They agree to separate, though it takes the woman many years to sign the papers. The blonde woman never becomes my mother. I never inherit her silky blonde hair or her petite frame. I never smell her perfume waft through the house. I never nuzzle at her teat or spend my early years as her doll. I never learn who she is, only that she exists. And that she is out in the world now, somewhere. I think she has a new family now, as my father does. I do not know her name.

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THE SAME THING, AND NOT Nancy Canevari Smith College

If Fran turned on her side so that she faced the kitchen wall, she could pretend she was back home in her bed, and not on a cot in Aunt Patsy and Uncle Bertie’s kitchen. The wall of the kitchen was the same color as the wall of her old bedroom. The sheet drawn around the cot smelled a little like garlic, but her mom smelled like garlic sometimes too, when she worked late and didn’t have time to wash off before getting into bed. Fran closed her eyes, pretending the garlic smell was her mother and the sound of the dishwasher was that of the generator behind their building. She was just about to fall asleep when the door to the apartment slammed open and Uncle Bertie yelled, “Patsy! Not dead yet!” * Patsy’s father had tried to freeze himself to death on a Tuesday morning in January. Her son Noah had been the one to find him. Patsy had put him and Jenna, his twin sister, in charge of the grocery store while she and Bertie oversaw the weekly fruit delivery. When she and her husband, Bertie, finally relieved their children in the early hours of the afternoon, Noah had sprinted up to their apartment above the store, then up to the attic in search of the sledding gear. He’d screamed loud enough that in the store, three floors below, Bertie had heard him and dropped a crate of apples. Her father hadn’t died. When Patsy had gotten the news, she’d felt as though God was flipping her off. A seventy-nine-year-old man dying of cancer strips himself naked in an unheated attic in the middle of January, lies there for six hours, and walks away intact. It sounded like the beginning of a shitty joke. Patsy had been smoking outside the emergency room doors when Bertie came to find her. He’d held out her phone towards her like it was an apple that had gone moldy in the display case. “You’re not gonna fucking believe this.” * Fran brought one backpack to her aunt’s apartment. It held an extra pair of pajamas, Moo Moo the Cow, and the Beatles CD her mom put on when she needed Fran to stay in her room. The backpack was duct-taped at the bottom so nothing 82

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would fall out. Aunt Patsy was drinking coffee, like Fran’s mom did when she needed to not be tired, and wore a flannel shirt big enough to have once belonged to Uncle Bertie. She got a look on her face when she saw the backpack. “When did you pack that?” “When the lady came.” Aunt Patsy drank more of her coffee. Her hair was in a ponytail, but most of it had fallen out of the hair tie. “Can I see what’s inside?” Fran pulled out the pajamas and the CD, but when she took out Moo Moo the Cow, she hugged him instead of holding him up. Aunt Patsy smiled a little bit. “That’s a nice bunny. He got a name?” “Moo Moo the Cow.” Aunt Patsy nodded like that was the most normal thing in the world. “Want me to help you put your other stuff away?” “This is all I have.” She hoped she could go back and get everything else. Halfway to her aunt’s house, she’d realized that she’d forgotten her rain boots with the frogs on them, but the lady wouldn’t let them go back. “The lady said we had to go. Mommy was upset.” Aunt Patsy closed her eyes for a minute. “Come on. We’ll figure something out.” * “Do you think DCF will let her go back?” Patsy slammed a finger to her lips, nodding towards the curtain in the kitchen. Her husband shook his head. “She’s asleep. Poked my head in to check.” The pullout couch squeaked under her weight as she laid down on it. The day had drained her completely, from the early rising to meet the fruit delivery, to the frantic dash to the hospital, to the frantic dash back to the house to greet her niece. Bertie puttered around the living room, straightening pillows, moving shoes to the front door. “I feel bad about the kitchen,” Patsy said, “but there’s no way we can get a mattress onto the floor with the twins, and no one can sleep in the master bedroom the way my dad left it. And she’s small enough to fit on the cot—” “I don’t think she minds.” Bertie cut her off. “We’ll figure out something more permanent later. In the meantime, you wanna go to bed? I’ll take care of the mess in your dad’s room.” Her father’s idea of a suicide note had been to cover his bed in superglue and dump a box of family photos on top of it. “What’s the point? My dad’ll make a mess of it when he comes back anyway.” Bertie was oddly quiet. When Patsy looked up, she saw that he was chewing

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his lip. “You weren’t at the hospital for all the details,” he said slowly. “No, because I had to rush back here to deal with World War Niece. What happened?” Bertie sighed. “He had barely any time as it was. Add the hypothermia on top of the cancer, and they’re only expecting a couple of days, Pats.” “Jesus.” Patsy rubbed her eyes again, harder. “Jesus. The hospital is fucking expensive. Of course he’d do this. Should have picked a cleaner way of doing it and gotten it over with. You all better start praying to whatever you believe in that the courts let my sister go. I’m definitely not raising a kid that belongs to my sister. I’ve done enough.” She reached for the abandoned coffee mug and chugged the dregs. “I’m gonna have to introduce Fran to everyone, and when they ask if Fran is short for Frances or Francesca, I’m gonna have to tell them no, it’s short for fucking Frankincense, because my sister is the worst.” * Fran had talked to her cousin Jenna twice in her life: once when she was three and her mother had dropped her on her aunt and uncle’s doorstep for a weekend, and once at Christmas when she was six, when the twins had told her that Santa wasn’t real. Jenna pitched a fit when Aunt Patsy told her to watch Fran the next day, rolling her eyes from behind the store counter. “I don’t want to watch the store and watch her!” Aunt Patsy paused in the door of the grocery store, her eyebrows raised all the way up to her hairline. “Well, I don’t want to go to the hospital, but your grandfather tried to off himself, so we all have to do things we don’t want to do!” She slammed the door when she left. Jenna slammed her head down on the counter and groaned. Fran thought it might be a good idea for her to hide upstairs, because Jenna looked mad in the way that her mom got mad sometimes, but before she could run away Jenna held up a hand. “If I have to watch you, you’re going to help me. Get over here.” There was a second stool next to Jenna’s. It was too tall for Fran, and her legs dangled a few inches off the ground. Jenna was perfectly tall enough for her stool. “Have you ever helped out in a store before?” Fran shook her head. “You’re going to help me with inventory. There’s a room at the back where we keep all of the extra food that hasn’t been sold yet and doesn’t need to go in the refrigerator. Go back there, get the box labeled turnips, and bring it out here.” The back room felt a little like it belonged in a movie. On each wall of the room were shelves lined with boxes, holding more fruits and vegetables than she

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thought existed. Each of the shelves was as colorful as a rainbow. Fran squinted to read the labels on each box. Rutabaga, daikon, yuca. They sounded like magical names. “Fran!” She made herself open her eyes again, disappointed that she was still in the storeroom and not in a castle. She lifted up the heavy box of turnips, tilting from side to side as she walked back into the store, and dropped it onto the counter with a heavy thud. “You just count how many there are. You can line them up on that table over there, and then put them back in when you’re done. Okay?” The store was quiet. As she counted the turnips, Fran watched as Jenna drew little flowers on her jeans with a black pen, her forehead wrinkled with concentration. She noticed that Jenna had done the same things to the sides of her sneakers. Had Aunt Patsy noticed? Was she mad? Jenna looked a little like Aunt Patsy. They had the same dark, curly hair, which Jenna wore under a purple bandana. She was skinnier than Aunt Patsy, but her face looked the same, like she was always frowning, just a bit. “Do you think I look like my mom?” Fran didn’t know why she had asked the question. She had only counted fifteen turnips, and there were a lot more than fifteen in the box. Her cousin didn’t even look up from her jeans. “I don’t know. I’ve only met her, like, twice.” “Why?” Jenna looked like she wanted to say something but didn’t. “My mom doesn’t talk to her that much. I know you both have green eyes, right? We have a lot of pictures of your mom and mine when they were younger.” Her mom’s eyes were starting to look more red than green when the lady came, but Fran nodded anyway. “Yeah.” She kept counting turnips. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen... if she made it to twenty-five, maybe her mom would come back for her within a week. If she made it to fifty, maybe within the next couple of days. “You have to do exactly as I tell you, Fran.” Her mom had seen the lady’s car coming up the road before it parked in front of their building. She had grabbed Fran from where she was sitting on the couch, crouched down on her knees, and spoken very quietly. “When they ask you questions, you only tell them what we talked about, right? Nothing else.” Her mom smelled like garlic and alcohol when she hugged her. She was still hugging her when the lady knocked on the door. “Did your mom say anything about when my mom is coming back?” Jenna looked up from her jeans with wide eyes. “Honestly... I don’t think she ever is.” The turnip that Fran was holding fell to the ground, even though she didn’t

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remember dropping it. “What?” Jenna said nothing else, but her mouth was pressed together tightly like Fran’s mom got when she was upset. Fran felt like her entire body had turned to Play-Doh. “No. You’re wrong.” But Jenna was fourteen, six whole years older than Fran, and Aunt Patsy trusted her enough to be in charge of the store. She knew more about everything than Fran did. She sprinted up the stairs to the apartment, not even realizing she had started to cry. * “Ms. Finnegan, do you have any idea what might have driven your father to do this?” Patsy gazed at the nurse incredulously. She was a small thing, roughly the size of a stalk of asparagus, and looked barely old enough to order a drink, let alone monitor IV tubes and ventilators. Her red hair was slipping out of its ponytail. “He was nearly eighty and dying,” Patsy said, massaging her temples with one hand. “Probably wanted it over with.” They were standing in the hallway in front of her father’s room. If she leaned forward just slightly, she could see him, half a dozen tubes disappearing into his grey, tissue-paper skin. He seemed smaller when unconscious. He was half the size he’d been when he’d snuck out of the house in the dead of night three decades ago. It was as if he’d been losing weight since he turned his back on Patsy and Maeve and their mother, as if the heaviness of abandoning his family had stripped mass from his body. “Have you discussed treatment options with the oncologist?” “He didn’t want any of it. Said it was useless.” Her father had preferred to disintegrate slowly in the master bedroom of Patsy and Bertie’s apartment. In the last weeks of his life, the father of her childhood had come back in full force, leeching off of her food, money, and patience. “My husband told me he’ll have to stay at the hospital until he dies; he’ll be too sick to go home. Any idea how long that’ll take?” “Could be a week, could be within the next few days. It’s difficult to say. In the meantime, if you and your family need to talk to anyone, perhaps a grief counselor.” The nurse’s voice was two octaves higher than what Patsy needed to hear. She shook her head violently. “He’s been dead to us for decades, Nurse. I’m just housing him until he finally croaks.” The nurse’s expression made her look a bit like a rabbit, frozen in the middle of a lawn after seeing a dog. She cleared her throat. “I’ll let you have some time with him.”

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She started off down the hallway, her orthopedic shoes squeaking across the waxed linoleum. Patsy stole another glance at her father’s paper gown-clad frame and fought the urge to be sick. It had been her idea, not Bertie’s, to house her father when he’d shown up on their doorstep after disappearing from Patsy’s life for twenty-seven years. His emaciation had spoken louder than anything he might have said. Patsy had been momentarily torn between relief that he was finally dying, and disappointment that he wasn’t dead already. She’d let him stay for that reason alone. When he finally died, she wanted to watch it happen, like an exterminator who stayed behind to make sure an infestation was gone completely. Her phone buzzed against her hip. She saw it was Bertie, braced for another blow of bad news, and flipped it open. “Pats? You might want to come home.” * Fran’s grandpa’s room smelled like mothballs and superglue. The space under the bed smelled even worse and was full of dust bunnies as big as golf balls. It was the only vacant room in the apartment with a door that could slam, however, and that was why she’d chosen it as her hiding space after she’d ran upstairs from her cousin. Outside the door, her Aunt Patsy was yelling even louder than she normally yelled. Every so often, Jenna would yell back, but her voice would quickly be crushed by her mom’s. “Unbelievable... what have I said... eight years old, Jesus, Jenna!” Fran liked the space beneath her bed at home more than this one. The bed was smaller, but the room was warm, and sometimes she could curl up on the carpet and fall asleep. There was a knock on the door, but it was quieter than when Aunt Patsy had knocked earlier. Fran thought about it for a second, then dragged herself out from under the bed and went to answer it. Uncle Bertie held out a mug of hot cocoa. He winced as Aunt Patsy continued to yell in the background. “I thought you might want some of this.” Fran reached out hesitantly, then grabbed hold of the mug. “No marshmallows – I remember you liked it that way the last time you were here.” Fran nodded eagerly and took a small sip. Uncle Bertie moved to sit on the bed, remembered the superglue, and chose the desk chair instead. He motioned to the armchair in the corner for Fran to sit in. “How do you feel about chili? It’s either that or pasta and meat sauce for dinner tonight; you can be the deciding vote.” Fran hid her giggle behind the cocoa mug. “Chili?”

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“It’s done.” “Aunt Maeve’s on heroin!” The smile slid from Uncle Bertie’s face. Wordlessly, he stood up and closed the bedroom door. “It’s gonna be okay, kid.” Fran didn’t completely believe him, but the cocoa was good. She drank some more of it. Uncle Bertie pulled a few of the photos out of their superglue nest on the bed. He grinned at one of them. “See this? That’s your mom and Aunt Patsy.” The picture showed two girls standing in front of a kitchen table with their arms around each other. The smaller one – her mother, she figured – wore a Giants baseball cap. They were both laughing. Fran leaned over the bed to pick up another photo. As she did, she felt her shirt ride up in the back, and heard her uncle gasp. She snapped back upright, but it was too late. Uncle Bertie had hurried out the door. Fran ran out after him. There was a cold feeling in her stomach, like she’d swallowed an entire tray of ice. She remembered everything her mom had told her before the lady had knocked on their door, everything she was allowed to tell people and everything she wasn’t. “It’s all right! Uncle Bertie, it’s all right, I fell on the playground at school!” Aunt Patsy had stopped yelling. She touched Jenna’s shoulder and whispered something to her, and for once, her cousin listened without arguing. Her aunt’s face was white. “You’re not in trouble, monkey.” Uncle Bertie crouched down in front of Fran and took her hands. “Aunt Patsy’s going to get the rest of your cocoa, and then we can sit on the couch and talk.” Fran shook her head. “We can’t sit on the couch; you two sleep there.” “We move the blankets during the day. Come on, monkey. You’re not in trouble.” Uncle Bertie held out his hand. After a minute, Fran took it. * Patsy wanted nothing more than a bedroom door she could close. She’d been lying on her back on the couch for the better part of an hour after the kids had gone to bed, not sure what to do. The pullout couch sagged as Bertie sat down on the other side. She rolled over onto her side so she wasn’t facing him. “She’s hitting her, Pats.” Patsy focused on controlling her breathing. The scratchy fabric and metal springs of the couch bed even more uncomfortable tonight. She missed her bed, which was currently covered in superglue and family photos. She missed her peace

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of mind, which was currently occupied by images of her dying father and her sister beating her niece. “Pats?” “I know, Bertie, okay? I fucking know. ‘I fell on the playground?’” “We can’t let her go back. I have a lawyer friend...” The yellow glow from the floor lamp made the battered chairs and the peeling wallpaper of the living room look homey. “I know we can’t let her go back.” “But?” “I don’t want another kid. And that’s what taking her on would mean.” They’d keep sleeping on this couch even after her father was dead and his room finally cleaned. They would finally be able to shred the Medicaid forms, but they would be replaced by forms from Child Protective Services and long days in adoption court. She would never have a moment’s peace again. “So what? She goes into the system?” “I don’t know.” She slept fitfully that night, shaken awake by dreams where her father walked the hallways of the hospital while wearing her sister’s face. * Fran felt like she was sleeping in a shoebox that had been glued shut. She rolled back and forth on the cot in the kitchen for hours, until she finally gave up, retrieved her backpack from its place under the cot, and plodded downstairs to the store. The storeroom was quieter than it was upstairs. She nestled into the space under one of the shelves and drew her blanket over herself, holding Moo Moo the Cow tightly to her chest. When she finally fell asleep, her mom greeted her in her dream and she did it smiling, not looking angry. Fran slept under the shelf of potatoes until the next morning, when her cousin Noah came downstairs to check on the store, found her, and screamed. * Patsy missed three phone calls the following morning. “Noah, it’s fine.” She shoved a bowl of cereal across the table towards her son, who stared at it as though he expected it to blow up at any moment. “She was just sleeping.” “Yeah, that’s what you said about grandpa, and he’s dead,” he mumbled as he shoved Frosted Flakes into his mouth. “Not dead, peach; just comatose.” She glanced at the clock above the stove. “You better get going.” As Noah ran out the door, he paused at the entrance to the kitchen. “Mom? Your phone’s ringing.”

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* Bertie had taken charge of Fran because he was better with children, because he held less anger in his body, because he did not react violently at her bruises because they did not remind him of his own. At the side of her father’s empty hospital bed, Patsy traced the phantom marks with a trembling hand. There was the memory of a purple circle around her wrist, the ghost of a blue fist on her left shoulder, dozens more that she’d pushed out of her head. The room still smelled of him. The body was gone, but the smell of body odor and cigarette smoke clung to the sheets. She gripped the ends of her coat with a shuddering sob. “Fuck. You.” When she’d finished crying, she dragged herself to the awning outside the emergency room entrance, where she smoked two Marlboros. Then she called Bertie. “You still have that lawyer friend?”

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MI LENGUA Helena Beatriz Silva-Nichols Stanford University

i cannot speak without holding my mother’s silky breath words like incantations de su voz cuidando el amor en cada estación de mi—mi lengua — ordered to leave ‘inglish’ for learning on the TV y en la escuelita— con los gringitos i was to learn her tongue as to never forget from where we came “eres mexicana, helena,” she insisted ‘helena’ pronounced ‘elena’ the ‘h’ is silent! lifetimes of me have insisted for the angloworld whose ‘t-o-n-g-u-e’ with its stink-beetle bevy of phony phonics i have re-appropriated, translated, and taught my mother, at her nearly 30 years a circumstance of raciolinguistics my chican@ tongue contested, excised from arizona’s history books impugned and awaiting trial so, fuck racist sheriff joe apaio and fuck trump for pardoning his plum-shriveled, decaying ass i could go on about the lexical intricacies with which my grandmothers sewed together mis lenguas but a conspirator’s destiny written de la evidencia escrita en sangre / crimen que ella sobrevivió una lengua, SILVA-NICHOLS

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perfectly imitating their anglo-enunciations my intelligibility signifying— intelligence, it’s not she’s not—broken, english es que, pues en inglés, Mamá las palabras se complican

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ODE T. Mesnick Miami University

the poem was a garlic was a raptor was a dunce the poem needed cracking like a back the poem: stubborn unfulfilling & fulfilled the poem had started with a wince this the sensitivity of pantoums forced to tombs: my wrist aches with longing the poem was a floor rug was a turnip made a scene the poem loved anything but me

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OBSERVING AROUND LUNCH TABLES Theodore Dryce Florida State University

Great people are listeners: observing around lunch tables, watching man-made lights in the depths of a subway car, sitting in the backseat on a night drive after a huge day in the sun. Friends yelling out open windows, losing themselves. In supermarkets I search for signs and numbers, hoping order will show me the way like my parents did when I was a little boy. The slammed door told me I must say what I mean. No more pleasantries. Less holding back. For so long I’ve listened, but the mind grows antsy in that silence.

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TO BE BORN WHOLE Hannah Lewis Oakland University

it’s said my flesh was made to bear flesh. pink and screaming and wet from every angle, a feat of strength worthy of one of the twelve labors of hercules. I would rather face the hydra than be torn in half like a child’s plaything, or be cut by a blade that promises to be better after all. the silence that falls over my house like a lamplit evening snow is a cold, welcomed guest. my eyes never flutter and my breath never quickens, I live inside quiet little walls. the dahlias outside keep their bright pigment through summer and autumn since there are no fingers to crack their stems or behead their bulbs. when the sun heats my skin I can soak in every ounce of it because there is nothing I need to lend my warmth to. the people around me sing songs of addition, multiplication, division. I’ve never been good at math. to some, my body was born to be cut. my skin covers my bones to bear scars, my hands are nimble for holding and coddling, my voice is for whispers and never for screams. but my hands are not a home.

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the walls that lift up my body are made of stone and stained glass. it may show scratches but it cannot be pierced by a blade. let the rain soak me to my bones— purpose is not in potential, there is no beauty in another’s eyes that I cannot find in my own. there is no silence deafening enough to change my mind.

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SELF PORTRAIT AS VACUUMING Stephen Energia Warren Wilson College

I pare my curiosities down to blinking moments— the discarded fortune the fluorescent crumbs the lost pill I inhale them all through my howling snout trap them in the void of my plastic tapir Of course my life stretches past this humming labor

Yes when I leave I dream up

frozen dimensions where my old barrio is just my barrio where my ghosts (the ones who lost their lives and the ones who left mine) still feel warm against my palm But for now I fold them up dive into the vacuum and tuck my world away to join a line of poltergeists in yours.

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SELF PORTRAIT AS A TRUCK Hannah Barnard Allegheny College

Beige, lifted truck, I see you. I see the way your windows are tinted, your headlights a little brighter than the others. Would you mind if I play I-Spy? I-Spy slender pipes that fold and tuck around the engine, hidden by a hardened, smooth exterior that is washed regularly. Inside: a network of neurons. I-Spy your covered seats. The ones that hide soft, vulnerable flesh and cling to dried tears. Your seat covers get cleaned religiously as if they are the things that sin. I-Spy the shine from your exterior. How the right amount of light is a distraction from the dirt collecting on the floor mats, or the scuff on the glove box. The outside is hardly dirty; the center console is another story.

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TO MY YOUNGER SELF IN PORTLAND, AGE 16 Kevin Pataroque Case Western Reserve University After Pimone Triplett

What space is for, to the boy peddling through gentrified neighborhoods and rain, past food trucks and Right to Dream encampments, is to keep the one dream in place of those who were left behind. Each night his relatives, long gone, appear to him with the same command, saying Get up, go out, take the opportunity now, so each morning he walks alone to the foreign city that was always his. To tend to the little that remains from his origins he comes home with Chinese characters on the tags of mass-produced jeans, this year’s textbooks about the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. He lifts his fingers from a foreign culture mended by organization, antibiotics, and regional sewage districts, him marching in line, trying to remember the streets that lay swollen. It takes all day to remember how to say tired or forgotten in Hokkien, just once, to get it right. There is always in front of him, you see, the one instant, the day he will forget his last name, the moment he’ll stop speaking in tongues and will make his first mistake, thinking now he’ll be welcomed. As he’s promoted he will cover his body with white lotion, an ironed black suit. How the room will have paled then, large bed around an Asian-American body. And if he comes back, recites the recipe for a dobong sitaw in dreams, gauging the peppercorns again and again, his last name will be suddenly too loose, the one borrowed a generation ago PATAROQUE

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by a Chinese couple born in Manila. Everything tests his will to adapt— plunges his body, almost far enough, into the west.

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FIGURING OUT (IM)MORTALITY Sophie Willard Van Sistine Smith College

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OUT OF REACH Jade Younghyeon Ryu Oakland University

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A RELAXING SOAK Noah Chavkin Portland State University

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SEAWEED Tomas Beranek University of Suffolk

There was a castle hidden in the sea, that man’s eye could never see, made from mud, sand, and fish bones, surrounded by nothing but a few stones. This peculiar mansion was home to a quite strange nation of beings wearing shells all over themselves.

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Tony the squid was there too, but he wasn’t in the mood to eat seafood.

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ADVICE FOR THE DIGITAL ARTIST Wyatt Sheppard Webster University

You’re used to Photoshop, to layers, to Paint Tool SAI and it’s changed the way you comprehend things, like a scientist that sees a photo as a series of actions and not a photo. If you see the ocean and register it as being blue, with an Instagram filter on top of it, you’re doing too much work. It’s your brain that tells you it’s blue, not your eyes. It’s sabotage from within; we rely too heavily on the things that we think that we know. The secret to being an artist is to shut your whole brain off. If you flatten the layers and use the eyedropper tool, you’ll see the ocean like a seagull, and the water will be shimmering gold.

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CONCLUDING THE ROSARY Em Palughi Goucher College

My first kiss was sticky because we both used too much cherry Lip-Smackers. It was sleepover sweet, my young eyes full of worship when they met her dull ones, and my raptured hands hovered over indifferent hips. On Fridays was school mass and we’d sit, scrunched into a pew, sweat-slick thighs pressed together through plaid jumper-skirts. Peace be with you, and also that bedroom caught fire when we were fifteen, and even though the blinds wilted towards the carpet, the rosary kept on a hook inches away was intact. “That was God,” she said. I never took first communion but I wanted to take that wafer in my mouth.

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REM KINK Elizabeth O’Donnell Central Michigan University

In my sleep I have sex with the body of you, the face of lovers past attached. They click in like a KitchenAid mixer whisk – spring-loaded lock, Atlas to Axis. I cylinder my hand around your junk watching the wrong mouth O and OOH while the right thighs clench and knot. I’m just a pump-jack for an Erector Set man. I roll over, spit blood into a tissue from my bitten lower lip. I reminisce on the days when sex dreams were with movie stars and cartoon characters. It’s you, from thinning hair down to calloused feet— oval lips with a dribble of syrup-thick drool hovering over the pillow. I run my finger along the line of sweat under your chin. I check for seams around your throat where a different head might insert.

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MY FATHER TAUGHT ME Christopher Bernard York College, CUNY

It’s confusing to try and pinpoint the day I became depressed, but I think that I must try. It might be fair to say that the day my dad passed away was the day my light faltered, and my metaphorical abyss manifested into what it is today. I was twelve when it happened, and I can still feel the emptiness. You see, my dad was my everything. He was the biggest liar I have ever met, a heavy smoker, and a relentless alcoholic. He was promiscuous beyond reason, and he never took care of himself. But he was still an incredible father. He lied to everyone. He lied about when he was going to see me. He lied about being sick all of the time. He would lie and say he didn’t need help. He lied to my mom about the other women. He lied to me, but he never wanted to hurt me. You see, he believed that keeping me innocent, and therefore ignorant, was going to make my childhood better. He never wanted me to see the scary things that make up this world and this life. I was too young for him to teach me that emotions are complicated. The desire for sex and the desire for bliss are complicated. He was trying his best. He was an addict. At the time, I could never have understood how much pain he was in. He would never have been able to explain to his child how depressed he was and how much he worried about giving me a better life. He self-medicated, but he never hurt me. He was always laughing and smiling. He made me laugh until I couldn’t breathe. He tried hiding his vices from me as best he could. He always had his liquor and juice in a cup to keep it hidden, and he always smoked with the fan on. He didn’t take care of himself so that he could take care of his family’s needs. He was addicted to loving me. He taught me how to be sarcastic and hilarious. He taught me that my emotions were never weaknesses. He embraced my femininity because he knew it made me happy. He would buy me Barbies and the latest Britney Spears CD and never judged me for wanting them. I was his son. My single biggest regret in this life is that I never had the chance to come out to him. I know with every fiber of my existence that he would have accepted me and embraced it. He taught me how to be patient and how to process my thoughts. He taught me that I was part of the moon and the water. He taught me to love with every breath of my body and to never give up. When he died, a part of me died. I was so angry that he left me. All he had to do was to stop fucking drinking, or go to a doctor, instead of having a BERNARD

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massive heart attack. It took me a long time, but I had to learn how to forgive him, and I had to forgive myself for hating him. For a long time after he was gone, I had to keep asking myself, “who am I?” I would like to say, “I AM ME” but that sounds fucking lame. So, let’s start there. My name is Christopher Bernard, and I am fucking lame. I am also tired and still totally depressed because I’ve never dealt with my mental health issues in an orthodox way. I’m part unorthodox, part coffee, and part dreamer. But that’s not enough to describe who I am. My life has come to have meaning because of my best friend and my mom. To describe me without the essence of them would be leaving out an essential piece of my heart, body, and mind. I love them furiously and, often, more than I love myself. I am a sensitive wave of emotional fuckery and an absolute colorful mess. This makes me an empath, an interpreter of emotions and body language, and all-around sympathizer. I had to learn how to be myself without my father. I had to take everything my father taught me and become someone I could live with. So I became a hopelessly caring person. Some might say that I am weak, but I would disagree, because loving in this terrible and broken world is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. Others say I am feminine, and I wholeheartedly agree. I wear that adjective proudly. I am feminine and masculine. They both come in varying forms of constant metaphors and incredible realities. I have been raised/shaped/inspired/saved by women my entire life, which makes me an intersectional feminist. I have that women’s intuition, man. I also happen to be relentlessly homosexual, but sometimes people can’t even tell. I am hilarious, ridiculous and completely inappropriate because it makes me happy. I am laid back and quite fat, just like my father. It’s funny to realize how devastatingly heterosexual my father was. Perhaps his promiscuity wasn’t the best way to teach me about morals. My father made me realize that nobody is perfect. All you can do is try your best and love as hard as you can. I am a sexual being. I like expressing myself sexually and often get fetishized because of my large size. Despite that, I tend to be incredibly loyal and understanding. I am my own worst enemy and my biggest critic. I am sad most of the fucking time. But I am what I feel to be. I am multi-racial, gender-fluid, and an overall dork of a human being. It’s part of my culture, and I was cultured the way all dirtbags from Queens are cultured: with coffee and cigarettes and a sense of abandonment. My father’s mistakes became my mistakes. For a long time I couldn’t understand how or why I ended up in the place I am now, and then it dawned on me. My father was my hero. I idolized him and saw past all of the cracked walls he was always trying to repair. I wanted to live his life so that I could understand why he did all of the things that he did. I wanted to create the metaphors that shape perception and I wanted to study the emotions that plague the universe. I wanted to love everything. I wanted to hate hatred. I had to learn all of this on my own, without him. I had to learn that it is

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okay to ask for help. It is okay to make mistakes. I had to learn that you will fail at a lot of things, but I also learned that there are lots of things that you can be absolutely incredible at, like imagination and curiosity. My father gave me a part of him, and for a while I thought that part went missing. It never left. I was just so lost within myself that I lost track of it. When you fall, you wipe those tears and you keep your ass in gear, baby boy. There are people here that need you and even if it doesn’t always feel like it because of the demons scratching at the walls of your mind, they love you just as much as you love them. Imperfection is not weakness; it can be beautiful and unique. My father gave me my language and all the different tiny fragments of glass that create the mosaic of who I am. I am broken, I’m fucked up, and I miss my dad, but please don’t judge me because it is nice to finally meet you.

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AUNT JENNY Liam Fleming Rutgers University

“I heard a hissing and something white flew across the street. I saw two spots of phosphorous— the eyes of the beast. There was a white cloud, like escaping steam from an engine.” - a Woodbury resident recounting his run-in with the Jersey Devil.

At some point in the eighteenth century, Jenny Leeds got fed up. Frustrated. Tired. She clenched whatever sweat-stained fists she had and asked some darkness to make her next child a devil. Which is exactly what happened, because when Jenny sat and shrieked in some cottage tucked away in the pines, she delivered something that made the midwives go white: some infant with the head of a dog and the wings of a bat that fled the room and took to the skies with a shout. My parents met at a party. My dad was fourteen and chubby. He had braces and loved to watch girls close their eyes and sway whenever he played Bryan Adams on the piano. This time he and his friend were standing in a corner of the room when the friend yanked his hand, demanded that he meet Janine. You’ll love her. She’s great, he said and pulled him into a kitchen where she huddled with her friends over the central island and talked. My mom said Hi quickly and looked away. Where my dad was young and troubled, my mom was anything but. People like to argue over what the Jersey Devil looks like, but no matter what the face is almost always unsettling, beyond a-face-only-a-mother-could-love. When Joseph Bonaparte caught it while hunting, he described it as a kind of donkey with wings. And as far as loving mothers go, it’s interesting to think of Jenny hearing tales of “the Leeds Boy” stealing chickens from neighboring farms or lighting on rooftops, or of startled suburban women running out to find the state beast gorging on the sides of their very own dogs. It was never clear who the father was, but that’s how legends go. Some say he was a rugged farmer from up north, while others swear he was a British soldier, painting Jenny as a cursed loyalist during the Revolution— her beastly offspring becoming some kind of punishment from both the heavens and the founding fathers.

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Smaller circles like to describe Jenny as a witch living in the woods, with the father being the Devil himself, which is fun to think about, but not as compelling as what Jenny probably was: a young mother before a task too big for herself. I like to think about my parents in high school: young, dating, for brief points here and there maybe even in love. And it’s easy to picture my mom leaning against a locker with a copy of Wuthering Heights held to her chest, her hair a little bit blonde. My dad is shorter, angrier; he’s wearing a leather jacket and long, black boots as his arm drifts in the empty space inches from hers. They are both vibrant and cool and everything is draped in that old photo-album light that defies reasoning. Neither of them have acne. When I was seven my dad took us to go “devil hunting” in the pine barrens. It was a bit of a drive; my brother and I watched the trees cut and bend the sunlight through the car windows. Conner was five at the time, and when he got tired of the woods he decided to sit and would not, so help him God, get up. My dad decided to play his game and drove the car out of sight for a few minutes to pretend he was leaving. When he came back he found Conner completely unphased, laughing and dipping his sneakers into mud puddles. On the walk back to the car we found hoofprints in the sand. They continued for eight feet and then vanished. And this made complete sense. The week before, my grandfather had come into my third grade class to talk about the pine barrens. He said that the forest drank from rich aquifers hidden under the ground, was filled with cranberry bogs, and could be bigger than the Grand Canyon. The “pines” were kept in check by yearly forest fires, and were home to cranes, turtles, and rattlesnakes. Before he left he got a twinkle in his eye and said that by charting our family history he had discovered a connection between our family and a group of “Leeds” men and women that lived in what should be Galloway nowadays. When he left kids put shards of paper that said “Devil Boy” in my desk like valentines. I think both my mom and dad assumed the worst when she stopped having her periods and started throwing up; every teenager’s nightmare circling somewhere under my mom’s chest. If I had to make it up, my mom took my dad in her old VW bus and parked it in the lot behind the church— the brakes were going by that point so she had to pump her foot on the floor like she was shifting gears on a bike— then she turned to my dad to tell him she didn’t think she was “just nauseous” and that she was really, really scared. My dad, seventeen at the time— never one to understand fear— must have been shaking. I don’t think that’s too far from the truth, because I know he was nervous. He told me they drove to CVS to buy a handful of pregnancy tests that they went through in a friend’s bathroom. They all came out positive.

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So my mom found herself unable to open her mouth when she came home with a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. She sat on the couch in the living room and opened the plastic grocery bag to show it to her mom. Holding the book my grandmother stared, and thought, and breathed slowly before going upstairs to tell my grandfather. The two of them came back waving an old baby-rattle, probably yellow and loud, to show that they were on board. In 1909 schools across southern New Jersey shut down completely for a week in January. The devil was on holiday, racking up nearly a thousand sightings from Collingswood, to Woodbury, to even Bristol, Pennsylvania. My winged foster cousin leaving footprints in the snow on rooftops, growling in alleyways, even attacking stray taxi cabs. The whole state, which would by the 1930s view all this as a supernatural warm-up for Orson Welles convincing everyone over the radio that aliens were attacing, was momentarily in complete and utter terror. No one really knows why this happened. It was out of character for an urban legend to be suddenly so immediately and locally known, and still is. As a kid, hearing my mom’s dad tell me this while jostling his knee at the dinner table, I figured the Leeds’ Devil was just acting out in some way. Maybe he was hungry, angry, in puberty. Maybe he really missed his mom and couldn’t tell you why. My grandfather used to make jokes about inviting the Jersey Devil to family reunions, and I would lie and think about it in bed. I made a plan to somehow convince my dad to take us to the deepest, hairiest part of the pines, where we would find a nice patch of grass and sand and I would leave a hand-written invitation there — maybe even in cursive, which hurt my hand to write but looked pretty. When we went home we would leave space for him at the dinner table so he could climb in from the window and sit right next to me and my brother, and we could all smile and sigh like old, old friends. If there’s a theme here it’s unwanted kids, or maybe unplanned kids. It’s hard to tell the difference, but I can assure you it’s there. My mom was invited to walk at graduation but she had finished her classes over the summer and chose instead to sit in the stands and watch her classmates throw their hats in the air and smile. On the day I was born, the doctor opened the door to let in my dad and all of my mom’s friends who carried party hats and pieces of cake and passed me around gently. There’s a photo tucked away somewhere, of my mom holding me with my dad sitting exhausted on a chair in the corner. Her face is so close to mine and the corners of her mouth are tucked to show straight, white teeth. Our foreheads are touching, and my face is blotchy and pink. Maybe cursing your unborn child and letting it fly across the pines doesn’t give you the best reputation as a mother. Maybe Aunt Jenny courted Hessians and Loyalists on some shore, or shouted incantations in the woods; maybe she really did dance with the Devil, their eyes meeting in that unnatural, breath-hitching way across the witch’s fire. But I’d like to argue that there had to have been at least one

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point where Jenny held her son like my mom did, the tip of her nose pressed against his snout, the midwives gasping while she stroked the matted, bloody hair behind his ears, listening to his cries and responding with coos of There, there now and It’s okay in a voice so low he can barely hear it.

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YOU RUINED NARNIA FOR ME Rachel Weinberg Florida State University

Curled up in the spaces between your littlest toe and the inside of my knee are hotel bedsheets that once lay like tissue paper pulled by a cherry-tongued child in the midst of Christmas morning chaos, like retired ghosts with starchy egg-white seams that sizzle our skin at a quarter past three or maybe four. Before God told me to preserve my body, he said, “Thou shall put plastic on the couches,” and so I did. Then he said, “If girls grow up, should we just kill them all?” And so I pressed my thigh against yours on the plastic covered plush velvet couch, took my pulse with your fingers, and listened to the way you breathed, before ultimately deciding to take you to the closet with the large God cat and Tilda Swinton, to dance with the trees and the goat boy in the snow. You told me that you’ve never been happier so I put your hands around my neck and made you squeeze the jelly out of all the Turkish Delights.

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BACKSTROKE Ellis Gibson The Ohio State University

Airport at night, the first time I travelled alone, I dreamed in the lobby seats, bent to their shape, almost already flying. Travellers filtered out like impurities from water. Down went the shutters, the grates fluting like gills. A figure went by, cleaning the floor. Now there was no one but me. Earlier when I had cried in front of the ticket agents, my flight closed for boarding and I ten minutes late, they felt sorry for me, called me young man despite my breasts, despite the smudging of my eyeliner. They laughed and helped me change the ticket for a four a.m. flight between us, a surreptitious hand-over like ibuprofen during class. I’d panicked, but now there was nothing but tears and sweat. Emptied, I let the women commiserate. One, clutching her stomach, said I’d never understand what that red misery was like, thank God. I did not correct her, though I once left History wincing in the bathroom, struggling not to vomit up vestigial pain like bloody choke-foam.

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Airport at night, I swam to the men’s restroom, a secret fish, and saw a cockroach skitter across the gleaming floor, the same as anywhere.

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THREE SCENES / LOVESICKNESS Joel Lee University of Tampa

The other woman enchants her clothes with French perfume, The other woman keeps fresh-cut flowers in each room, and there are never toys scattered everywhere; And when her man comes to call, he’ll find her waiting like a lonesome queen, because when she’s by his side, it’s such a change from old routine— -Nina Simone, “The Other Woman”

I learned why they call it love-sickness on the road somewhere near Flagstaff, surrounded by Arizona feathergrass and cacti. The car thermometer read 115 degrees and the horizon wobbled before us in the heat. Over breakfast with my cousin, I had just learned of a family friend’s intentions to wed my mother after only six months of mutual predation and seven months of pretending her husband didn’t exist. Fresh off of gladiatorial separations, though still married to their other spouses, they had skipped the grieving and jumped straight to joining new families, as they claimed they weren’t “built to be alone.” (Less than a year before, my mom had been openly considering dating another married man. The wedding band had no longer become sacred to my parents, both devout Christians, but customizable.) Images came to me of addicts scratching at the throat, begging for some kind of fix. The relationship did not progress so much as strike: it moved too quickly to see. It was the mad rush of a moth to the light that would eventually kill it. A short fix to numb the pain, lifelong commitment or not. The man had already started referring to himself as my dad, and calling me foreign pet-names like sport and kiddo, and skating his hand down my lower back in regular conversation—strangely intimate displays of a fatherhood that he had not earned. I was violated in new ways; I could only respond with dark fury and revulsion, staying quiet out of guilt for his loneliness. I would imagine him at future family events, his pale and round face kissing my revered niece’s forehead, and would be overwhelmed by a desire to grip my arms with my fingernails, digging trails down the length of them, tearing away shreds of skin. I did not think I could survive such a sudden and shameless interruption of the home that had raised me. I hated him in the most primal sense of the word. (“You’re not my dad!” a teenager yelled once in an insurance commercial, and everyone in the theater laughed.) I would call both of them, someday, to explain how I felt and to warn them of some cataclysm I could barely imagine on the horizon; in this moment, however, they were Romeo and Juliet, and I would let them be teenagers again at my own emotional expense. LEE

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Foolishly, I thought to call it forgiveness. My cousin must have seen the bags under my eyes darken from the driver’s seat. He looked at me with paternal concern as we passed over the Agua Fria river. I felt safe for the first time in months. “You good?” He asked. I laughed— joylessly, an excuse to let out the ballooning pressure in my chest— and said to no one but myself and the desert, “Love is sure patient, ain’t it.” I learned why they call it love-sickness two years before on the California Cheese Trail with my dad, heading north on a seaside highway. While he occasionally looked down from the road to text the multiple women he was using to cheat on my mother, I was given control of the music, and in a quiet moment I played “The Other Woman” by Nina Simone. Half of me had forgotten the lyrics, which crooned bitterly over the perfection of an “other woman” whose love could never actually satisfy; the other half of me was angry and didn’t care whether it stung. I thought I was punishing him for his irresponsibility. I blamed him for it. Too insecure to acknowledge any kind of issue, we rode along the hills and let the song suffocate us both. Every lyric sat heavy between us, and the sapphire Pacific churned to our left. It isn’t that the women were puzzle pieces that aligned with him, revealing some larger image of himself when the two connected. There was no happily ever after in the online pseudo-Scrabble games they played. The women were legion—they were blonde and brunette, short and tall, from Tulsa and from Europe and from Las Vegas alike. They were not marriage, sometimes not even a honeymoon phase. They were lonely. A man claimed to love them, and he was a preacher, and so they probably assumed at some point that he had some kind of moral that their own faithless husbands didn’t have. Even if only for a week or two, he would show them the light. Someday in the distant future, he would disappear to have his riding-off-into-the-sunset moment with an anti-Semite he’d known for a week. He would evaporate into memory and cut off contact right as I left for college. But for the moment, mournful jazz piano playing between us, we were ready to gorge on artisan cheese. We let our hunger unite us. (He did leave a single voicemail, two weeks after he left, and apologized for fleeing the family he spent 27 years building. Crying tears that I had never heard from him before, he claimed he was helpless to it. He called himself an ‘addict,’ whatever that might have meant.) * “O Lord, give me chastity, but not yet.” - Saint Augustine, The Confessions

I learned why they call it love-sickness one March, when I became enamored with a married man from my church and couldn’t explain what magnetism pushed me closer to him whose heart was not mine to share. I was baptized three months before, and therefore began to consider myself

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“married” to the Holy Spirit. Romance is a kind of worship, I think— if God is love, then my lover becomes my God. Without knowing it, the man moved in my heart like a spiritual awakening; I would have laid down everything for intimacy with him. His eyes would meet mine, sometimes, from across the tables of the church cafe, and I’d realize suddenly how kind they were. He would walk over and speak to me and I’d tell him everything. I wanted him to know me well. Jesus is my boyfriend, I’d say to anyone who asked how it all worked, my being gay and Christian, even knowing this answer could never really mean anything. I don’t need to date anyone else. And yet. I’d dream about the man at night and be haunted by his memory in the morning; I’d shower and struggle to reach my back and I would imagine him there, soapy hands on my naked shoulders; I’d see him sitting behind me during Sunday morning service and suddenly my worship would be more passionate, a false performance that had nothing to do with God. I’d move up to the altar just beneath the stage, and the open expanse of floorspace became my runway. I’d dance harder and sing louder in true Pentecostal fashion, hoping he’d see me and be impressed by my supposed devotion to the Lord. My heart would catch white fire when I thought of him, and the Holy Spirit would grab fistfuls of the inside of my stomach and pull hard. I already had a boyfriend, He’d remind me. I don’t need anyone else. I’d sometimes vomit from the guilt and desire alone. Perhaps it was less like guilt, and more like frustration: I couldn’t help but shower the man in holy affection in all the same ways I would have showered my god. Maybe this was why I was not allowed to fall in love with a man, according to the Bible I trusted for so long—love, for me, was a distraction from the God I really wanted to know. I wished they could coexist in my heart, completely ignoring the fact that the man had already found his romantic deliverance without me. They could not coexist, and my heart broke fresh each time I remembered this. I did not want to choose. It made me desperately hungrier for the man, for touch, for salvation. You want what you can’t have. My desire for him was, in certain ways, an open sacrilege that I could not stop. Sure, he was cute, but he did not make me laugh, and the events of his life did not intrigue me besides their connection to him. What I wanted was to be wholly and monkishly devoted to the God I’d dedicated my life to, whether or not this meant celibacy. I didn’t want to want the man. My heart was merely bored, and whether I liked it or not, it had chosen something to take up its time. I would have to be okay with this and do my best—and fail, miserably—to ignore it. My desire was a horse tied to each of my limbs and each told to run in a different direction. “Are you free sometime this week?” He asked me one Sunday just as I’d almost gotten over him. I instinctively stood up straighter and forgot how to string sentences together. “I was wondering if maybe you’d want to grab lunch or something downtown.” I became like an hourglass turned on its head—all my weight seemed to flip upward against my shoulders. His wife stood next to him, affectionate arm on his shoulder; the Holy Spirit stood next to me and waited, serenely, for my acknowl-

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edgement in return. Heat assaulted my face. “Oh!” I said. “I, um—I mean—well, sure, I’d love to. School is wack right now, though, so—I mean I, I could move my homework around, but like—” He squeezed my shoulder and giggled at this weird kid, the innocent friend of his daughter that called himself a writer but couldn’t speak. His daughter’s friend—only that and nothing more. It came, oddly, as a relief. “Just text me some days you’re free, okay?” I nodded, and he walked away to have lunch with his wife and his children, unbothered; I stood rooted to the spot and began to shake. I trembled violently for the rest of the day, overwhelmed by whatever surge of power had taken over, worried not by my feelings but worried by their strength. I completely forgot to send him my schedule. I thought of my father, trembling in the car somewhere in the Californian wilderness, women at his fingertips, Nina Simone singing about the perils of love. I wanted to beg him for forgiveness. So this is addiction, I thought. * But the other woman will always cry herself to sleep, The other woman will never have his love to keep, And as the years go by, the other woman will spend her life alone.

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C ANDY BOYS Margo Parker Davidson College

He bites his maraschino upper lip and throws a smile that way. A wrapper, shadows of confection sticking lickably dead to the fingers. Like fingers combing a bowl, let the eyes wander through his sugar-glazed hair. They tell me it’s piped on: comes sauntering out of a hollow tube, curls upon arrival. Puffed meringue over a glossy eggshell, dry melting between teeth like sin. He stands, approach: all roundness and powder dust uncontained. The air around him is crushed-beetle red. A little death variations on cellophane.

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FISTFIGHTS Bella Moses Hamilton College

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American Psycho (2000)

Female Trouble (1974)

i am bloodied. i do not care about the beautiful unless i am fucking them. there is something in this caviar in this citron, phone call after phone call that makes me think of my boyhood spent trampling leaves. i pull my slacks up delicately before sitting down to ease the pressure of my manhood. tonight the streets shut down early; the garbage man limps into an alleyway. he does not know who i am-all he knows is my teeth and my shoes that glitter under the moon.

i am a bloodied woman; a man in a dress. beautiful. the world’s most beautiful woman almost. i avenge myself with tall hair, fatty breasts, webbing-i know i am ridiculous, i marvel in myself. that is why my lipstick reaches so far beyond the lines of my lips. an echo of my kiss shut off streetlights. i, a neon bulb holding the gaze of workers, men in glittering suits. i captivate. i hold captive an old woman whining in a bird cage.

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PROGRESS Noah Gore

Ashland University

The scrapyard paparazzo is hungry. Econoline vans piled high are Metal sculptures on the side of the road; A gospel sung to the rust compactors. Econoline vans piled high are Corroding the lyrical soil into A gospel sung to the rust compactors – The gods desire progress. Corroding the lyrical soil into Photos for rubbernecked masses, The gods desire progress; Feasting on greed and malice. Photos for rubbernecked masses – Metal sculptures on the side of the road Feasting on greed and malice; The scrapyard paparazzo is hungry.

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FROM MALES ATTEMPTING TO AVERT THEIR GAZE William Carpenter Pennsylvania State University

After Julie Heffernan, Self-Portrait as Woman Recovering from Effects of Male Gaze (What’s Underneath), 1992

You are the apple of my eye, my dear, we say to fifty-three apples plucked ripe and piled like infertile eggs. And pear shaped ones, too; wouldn’t we just love to take a bite out of you? And the grapes, what a fitting centerpiece they all make for this portrait, though they seem seldom to attract the male gaze at all, those blood-dark pills. And the reflections on the wood table top are dimmed and unalive. Fruits ripen rapturous, risqué. Men invade, terminally wrapped up in all that vicious junk – swords and armor, spears. Heads are split in two, broken by questions of lobotomy, women attached at wide hips to mirrors, almost bodily.

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WHITE LIBERAL THANKSGIVING Johanna Bear Franklin and Marshall College

Grandpa is uncomfortable with the uterus again. The food mounds on our plates inglorious in its colonizer excess excuse us, my cousin and I with our eyes open during grace. My aunt is clutching hysteria vice-like in her grasp as she conjures antiquity to name it gendered. Remember, she says, hysteria was for women – it was thought that their uteruses were traipsing their way through their bodies-- today in their kneecaps, tomorrow their shoulders— this is why they were irrational, the men said, even their anatomy is unreliable. Between bites of turkey I swallow the construction of gender, washing it down with how we name a woman by her most volatile parts, these and other things we’ve learned to stomach over the centuries. Later, we will sit by the fire and someone will make a laugh rise from within my chest,

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but now I force it down like bile lest they mistake my diaphragm for an overeager uterus.

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NEW YEAR’S EVE Bella Moses Hamilton College

We come galaoshing / stomping our bedazzled boots / elephant-like / heaving heavy stomachs and thick skin / we suck up puddles with our royal trunks/ we have an appetite equal to our size / to the size of the bodies outside of our bodies. You/ lazy straps slipping off your shoulders / black breathed/ humming /perch like tiger in a tree coal lined with your braids loose/ deceptively calm and dripping / tell me I want out / of this town / and I love you / bitch. I feel guilty and young / I wander up the driveway to the road with no shoes on / I wander out to a plastic lawn chair and sleep / I wander inside my own head / atop your lap / inside my fingers / I wander glittering / I wander wanted / I wonder. Wearing shining high heels / in the snow / stomping /crushing up cold crystals / reckless / we come / galoshing.

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PRE-DIAGNOSIS Michael A. Beard University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

The Black Dog has come for me. It draws near, and I Have made sure not To whistle. It gnaws my aching bones And laps my hair With its greasy tongue. It lays a stick at my feet. No matter how far I toss it, It returns again, ceaselessly. It has dug a hole in my garden Next to the aging white tulips. Midday, now. I am tired.

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SAFETY DATA SHEET Melissa Sorensen Lebanon Valley College

SECTION 1 - CHEMICAL PRODUCT A COMPANY ADDRESS: Lebanon Valley College Annville, PA 17003 PRODUCT NAME CHEMICAL NAME PRODUCT USE PRODUCT CODE

: : : :

Sorensen Melissa Student Reg. No 121697-164-2497

THE FIRST SUMMER I stepped back toward the school, the hum of frogs, mosquitoes, and crickets greeted me as though I had never cruised away in my mother’s vibrant green Malibu in 2011, my joy at leaving the elementary school for the high school tinged with an inexplicable sense of loss. When she drove along the windy asphalt road, the tall trees failing to shield my eyes from the sun, I knew there would be no more summer science camp, no more cataloging books in the cool library. No more waiting in the shade of the car-port for my mother to finish helping the secretaries in the front office run the laminator and advise them on how to decorate the three bulletin boards that humanized the distant white office and grandiose blue Viking counter. There was something wonderful about the waiting, being in a building devoid of the life that only an hour ago it nearly burst with from 7:44 am till 3:10 pm that I could not explain to others or myself. I suppose I liked to linger in spaces people left trace evidence of themselves in, piecing together and categorizing who they were from distant observations and personal belongings they left in public. I RETURNED several years later for a summer job as a custodian to the pale, burnt orange brick building. Still there were the shedding pine trees nature mixed with smooth-leaved maple trees, sumac poison; I remembered the garter snakes we had shrieked at as kids, and being warned by the teachers about mother bears. I paused before I rapped on the glass doors and my new coworker let me in. A man of imposing stature and build, he was boyish in the face and riotously inappropriate in his humor. While good-hearted and knowledgeable about fishing, he could have paid better attention to the chemical safety training all custodians underwent every year, instead SORENSEN

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of getting the answers from my mother, whose despite her best intentions couldn’t get him to understand why bleach shouldn’t be used to clean an enclosed, steaming hot shower room, nor poured into an open wound to take the itch out of poison. He was the reason our supervisor began to lock the potent chemical away in the storage closet for everyone’s safety, unable to get the school to stop ordering it by concentrated gallons. If I were to label him using the same data safety sheets he never read, the list would be extensive and marked by not only cautions in the text but also with immediate, visual markers. I WONDERED: What would my own material data safety sheet by like? How would my coworkers categorize me? How would I categorize me? SECTION 2 - HAZARDS IDENTIFICATION SUMMARY (As defined by OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200) 5’5, 112lbs Caucasian female Hazel eyes Red hair HEALTH HAZARDS: May be harmful if exposed to for long periods of time. Mildly irritating to the eyes. PHYSICAL HAZARDS: Can decompose in high-stress environments. Self-reactive. ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS: Keep out of parking lots. SECTION 3 - COMPOSITION, INFORMATION OF INGREDIENTS

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COMPONENT

Dosage

CHEM DESC.

Lamotrigine

150 mg.

Approved to stabilize reactive individuals. Necessary additive after the individual almost released the string of a loaded bow at their older brother, convinced they were an intruder coming up the winding staircase during psychotic event. A white triangular tablet that maddenly crumbles when divided as per instructions.

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Methylphenidate HCl

10 mg

Additive to concentrate the individual on more than daydreams. A white and teal capsule that becomes an un-marketed adhesive product when wet.

SECTION 4 - FIRST AID MEASURES IF IN EYES: I know I am no great beauty. I know my face is predisposed to a dour expression: the mouth turns down at the corners, the eyes empty pools of brown and green that drink in light but return none of the brightness. My nose is flattened at the bridge; my mother tells me it is just how the Scandinavian nose is built, but I am more convinced that it is because of the basketball my classmate William accidentally threw into my face in the 7th grade, or the countless reinforced classroom doors teachers flung open and into me in elementary school. The unforgettable sting and involuntary tears I pretended I did not feel, fearing that others would pity me, is hard to forget. My lean frame indisputably came from family genetics, though the girls in the back of the high school classrooms would whisper otherwise; words like “anorexic” or “meth-head” would carry all the way to my seat. If my appearance is too offensive, hold your eyes open and rinse slowly and gently with water for 15-20 minutes—rid yourself of my image like the dirty drugs you think run through my veins. Remove contact lenses, if present, after the first 5 minutes, then continue rinsing your eyes. Then, look elsewhere with your distorted vision to avoid recontamination. SECTION 5 - ECOLOGICAL INFORMATION ENVIRONMENTAL SUMMARY: I am a significant hazard to unsuspecting parked cars. My depth perception is atrocious at best, as many who have seen me on staircases can attest. I have fallen up and down stairs an absurd amount of times; the only trick that remains is to flip over the railing. I only passed a depth perception test when the optometrist’s assistants gave me a speckled book and asked if I saw a butterfly, which I blindly confirmed. This is how I learned the importance of framing questions. When they asked if I saw a butterfly instead of asking her what I saw, they primed ne to agree and say that she saw the butterfly: the answer was given in the question. I learned that if you ask a question a certain way, you’ll get the response you want; later in my life, when I became a teacher, I became mindful of how I framed questions in the classroom. FATE: I will have hundreds of children in my lifetime but bear none. As a teacher, I will impact more young persons than I can now imagine, and I can only hope to impart good memories and lessons onto them. Perhaps some of my poems, short stories, or a novel may be given to friends who may read it or donate it to a consignment shop. I will want

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to live in the city, but also despise the idea. I will settle for nestling into the suburbs. SECTION 6 - ACCIDENTAL RELEASE MEASURES IN CASE OF SPILLS OR LEAKS: Spilling over is not a matter of if so much as when, not unlike the dormant volcanos they taught us about in summer science camp. When my blood pressure rises well above the safe range and I fume, hot tears quickly spill over the protective lash barriers. Clean up spills immediately, observing precautions of bias in Section 4 of this document. Please, refrain from trying to use cat litter to absorb the emotional leakage—three-ply tissues work much better. They are the right comfort level: soft but sturdy. They don’t fall apart in wet layers, or wrap around shaky fingers like makeshift bandages. Isolate hazard area. Keep unnecessary and unprotected personnel from entering. DISCLAIMER: The information presented herein is based on available data from a debatably reliable source and is correct to the best of Sorensen’s knowledge. Sorensen makes no warranty, express or implied, regarding the accuracy of the data or the results obtained from the use of this information. The user is solely responsible for determining the suitability of any material or information for a specific purpose and for adopting any appropriate safety precautions. This Safety Data Sheet (SDS) serves different purposes than you might expect. This SDS provides important health, safety, and environmental information for friends, family, fellow students and others handling this person in ordinary use.

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REVISED DATE:

November 2019

REFERENCE:

Revised for HERMIT CRAB compliance

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SMALL TOWN Kaitlyn Von Behren Ripon College

My best friend carved her initials into the yellow tube slide at Hackberry Park / explicits and poorly drawn dicks veil themselves there / if you slide down slow enough, let yourself get caught in the curve / past the swings where the EMTs found the Johnson’s kid / lays their old mini golf course — the water drained, the putters abandoned / we sit there sometimes, in the place the water used to be / skate and gossip and smoke / we leave no graffiti here / cause the Johnson’s kid was nice / her dad was too / lived in the little house on the corner there, with the weeds, handed out king size candy bars on Halloween, even to half-drunk mothers and teenagers cloaked in black / across the way is the fourth church in town / almost empty as the golf course / we go when we have to, but never close our eyes to pray, not anymore / the pastor barks damnation and puffs out his chest like a fish, trying to look bigger than he is / after church, he’ll drink coffee at Tommy’s and read the paper and complain about those damn youth going around skating and swearing and wearing black on Sundays / and nobody will say a godforsaken thing.

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DOLPHINS IN AN ELEVATOR Emily Wills Florida Southern College

The circus has escaped and animals have infiltrated the mundane. An elephant sold me my coffee this morning, and some camels, in a pair, tried to save my soul— “Have you let Jesus into your heart?” “I’m afraid not,” I replied. However, I have seen God. The zebra I passed in the street smiled when he tripped; we shared a good laugh together. An albatross complimented my skirt while I waited for the bus; I complimented her wings. In fact, I see the absolute truth everyday. I see a big top in the distance, I see dolphins in an elevator. They swim from floor to floor, and press all the buttons as part of a youthful joke. Their trills resemble laughter as they move up and down, their songs reverberate through the halls. On the other side of town a crocodile gave me directions; when I got sick, a sheep in the Korean store paid for my ramen. You won’t believe me (nobody ever does) but the city becomes an ark.

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STAPLER Hannah Barnard Allegheny College

You are a silver, buck-toothed hinge suspended in an open mouth. Your bottom set of teeth removed, indents mimicking a child’s smile. What if you wanted to be a darkened Pac-Man, starved from the lack of paper between budding, ridged gums? Or a horizontal clothespin never touched by a single cloth? Are you a memory of the past, leaving your mark on the page’s corner? Your sleek, spineless back slides infinitely towards the horizon, a paved road, still fresh—never to be lined. Where could you possibly be headed? You are immobile yet are capable of moving from world to world with a single push.

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PUT THIS ON, SYLVIA PLATH Thalia Otero Southwest Minnesota State University

Why can’t I try on different lives like dresses, to see which fits best and is more becoming —Sylvia Plath

Here, Sylvia, try her on. See if she fits. Her breakfast-like eyes, strawberry or crazed Nutella, maybe even caramel macchiato laziness, while she munches on her toast in a paused second and minute and hour and day and her chimney puffs out monthly Nasdaq reports, smoking numbers that billow up into bills. How we need another soul to cling to. Let’s agree to disagree— her single-Pringle life with the neighbors, like roaches loitering in the hallways, tunneling under her blue-speckled carpet, sniffing for tidbits to gossip about. She should go out more, maybe she’ll find herself a fine young man. Love is in the air this morning. She marches out her front door and sprays Lavender Febreze like it’s Pope Alexander’s holy bubble bath. Her silent wildfires, with ravenous tendrils that flicker and waver in a frightening daze. Listen closely to her Sunday morning shower— she vigorously scrubs the “leftover woman” inked into her arms, legs, half-baked muffin top. She won’t stop. Mama & Papa’s haughty-ha-hadisdain pulls on her ears. Naughty child, no man will ever marry a 30-year-old woman. They always bring back from the market pictures of a Mr. Salmon or a Mr. Tuna,

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and in turn, cast her picture into the sea, hoping for a bite. There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure... Her pendulum, bold and deliberate, swinging and swaying and crashing into corners of tables and god forbid those hidden Legos and push pins have a mind of their own. Cradling her hips, her crimson, beat-boxing ghostie jammies sink into the sofa and she dives into words upon pages upon books of conversations. Books understand her. Books are better than people; books don’t drag you to parties or make noise. What? She doesn’t fit? That’s ok, that’s ok.

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BAGELHEADS Clara Bonnlander Emory University

I went home a few weeks ago for spring break and, hoping to remember the person I was a year ago, met my high school best friend Sarah for breakfast at the quintessential destination for hip Pensacola teens and young adults: Bagelheads. I arrived approximately 25 minutes late, unfortunately, and thank god Sarah called me to say she was nearing downtown, because the phone call woke me to the realization that I had slept through my many alarms. So, after rushing out the door and parking in a lot across the street (because the place was so crowded that day) and then walking through the rain, we ordered, ran to grab a seat just as its occupant was leaving, and began our bi-annual four hour (give or take) conversation. We sat in that spot and talked about god-knows-what until the place closed at 2 p.m. and then moved to my car to finish our discussion roughly a half hour later, at which point my mom was angrily texting me asking where I was—(I think we’d had plans that afternoon). Some time after I arrived and we had gotten our food, Sarah mentioned a brief exchange we had had years previously. This conversation was still, for some reason, really bugging her. Like, the itchy / eerie potential existential crisis kind of bugging her. 3 years prior I had, in response to a confused question from Sarah, explained to her that no, we don’t really “see” things in our mind when we imagine. As Sarah reminded me of this conversation over breakfast on our rainy-Florida spring break, I recalled an NPR broadcast my mom had told me about, maybe a year ago, in which a co-creator of Firefox, after reading an article about a man who lost his ability for mental imagery post-operation, brought to the world’s attention that he himself had never had this ability at all, a sentiment which others on the internet echoed. In other words, there are a certain amount of people who are, as it has now been coined, “mind blind” or aphantasic, and, after articulating all of this to my friend Sarah, we discovered that she is among this group of individuals. And it had been bothering her, and rightfully so, that most people use terms like “picture that…” or “the mind’s eye,” etc., and I, having misunderstood the true intentions of her question, had only expressed that I can’t “see” shape or color in my mind in the same way that I could see my poppyseed bagel in front of me at breakfast.

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One aspect of this revelation that’s especially wild is the fact that Sarah is an incredible artist, specifically a painter, and when I brought this up, Sarah explained that when she tries to picture an image like an apple, instead of seeing that apple, she often just imagines herself sketching or painting that apple, focusing on the colors she would use, the shape she would create, etc, since all that she is actually able to see is darkness. We also discussed her experience of dreaming, but never really came to any conclusion about whether or not she dreamed in vivid images or simply remembered a series of events, like recalling a story, when she awoke. I’m not even sure if my own experience with dreaming is story-like, or if it’s more like an excerpt from Bernadette Mayer’s “Midwinter Day,” which is too long to include here. Anyway, as for me, though I have the ability to conjure mental imagery, my mind’s eye/sight is very poor—the image is distant and I am rarely able to actually focus in on it. And maybe this story is pretty pointless except to say how terrifying it is to really realize that none of us will ever be able to understand the minds of those millions of people surrounding us, whom we perhaps pass on our way to hip bagel spots in the morning, and how some of us live with minds that work entirely differently than everyone else’s and maybe go our whole lives never really knowing it, assuming people are merely speaking metaphorically when they use language like “counting sheep.” Come to think of it, I hope Sarah’s doing well, maybe I’ll call her this afternoon—in the meantime, I am reading Eileen Myles in Starbucks— “I wish the birds were souls, invisible. I wish they were what I think they are; pure sound.”

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TALLAHASSEE DOO-BOP Caleb Dros Florida State University

Florida Man Claims to be Christ, Breaks into Home TALLAHASSE, FL- A Florida man has been arrested after breaking into his neighbor’s home to wash their dishes at night. According to TDH, Leon County resident Gavrielle Klein woke on Apr. 16 when her wife startled to the sound of crashing plates. From TDH: “When I went downstairs, I could see the yellow of the streetlights on his bare chest by the sink. Scratches of leaves and dug trenches into his back where he must’ve jumped the fence. It was dark, it was like being jumped by a billboard in the darkness. He was standing perfectly still, holding two kiss stained glasses filled with sea green sink wine of old lo mein and swimming chickpea skins. He sniffed the rim. He licked the lipstick where our lips used to be. And then he slammed them. I said hello. [He] said be still, for I am He. And He smelled like hot metal.” Klein then flipped on the lights and noticed gaping holes down where the dishes had piled over and crashed at his feet. She then told the man to leave, to which he complied kindly. The intruder, later identified as Jared Actaeon Walsh, used the front door, allowing the police to pull a fingerprint off her doorknob. Walsh attempted to return on Apr. 19 and was promptly arrested. Walsh now faces charges of burglary and resisting an officer without violence. The 33-year-old Walsh was arrested for voyeurism and harassment on the grounds that ‘I am He’ in 2001, so his fingerprints were in the police database. Further comments from the police state: “What is sex to a god, anyways? An interesting way to wash the dishes? I think the issue is that God tells the birds how to fly without being able to fly himself. He sees us from the top down. I don’t get paid enough, but what could he possibly know about that?”

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ME, I HAVE NIGHTMARES Stephen Williams Ortega Yale University

“But my roommate: she has, I think, night terrors. She can’t sleep one night without making these noises, like she’s screaming or whatever. Like a zombie noise, like: euaaagh. Like that. And sometimes she wakes up at like eight in the morning and sits up in bed and just says, ‘Oh, fuck…’ and then goes back to bed… I swear it’s impossible sometimes. I’m up in bed reading at night and she just keeps making those noises, like every couple minutes. Woken me up once or twice… But, at least it’s never happened to me.” The third floor is really an attic or a loft—I can’t be sure of the specifics— and it is warm and dark and womblike given the night and the humidity in the air. It smells like our sweat and someone is burning incense downstairs - or has, at least, recently. “Oh, my god,” Pietra murmurs. “Yeah, I’ve definitely had like waking nightmares. Like, hypnagogic—” “Wait,” says Jeanne. “What’s that word mean?” “Like liminal,” she says. “Like between asleep and awake.” “I was like fifteen,” she says after a moment, resuming her cadence. She looks around at the exposed timbers. Our shadows flicker against them; our hosts have scattered electric tea lights on the hardwood between the mattresses on the third floor because—as far as I can tell—there is no electric lighting up here. It is night. The window gives us nothing. “I was in high school, and I woke up one night convinced I was just covered in scorpions,” she says, and she lets it sink in. She runs her open hand over her belly in the air like she’s communicating a pregnancy. “And I threw off the cover and like I saw the scorpions crawling all over me in bed. So obviously I screamed and I fucking fell out of bed.” Pietra shakes her head. She cannot believe what she’s had to endure, and it is a sympathetic time of the night: neither can we. It makes me think of a certain story to tell, because god, if there were ever a time to tell it… Instead this girl who we talked to earlier in the night comes up the stairs behind Jeanne and Pietra, who has her legs in my lap and is leaned against Jeanne’s arm. The girl stands over us for a minute, and she has brought us, we see, red plastic cups with what I assume is wine. “What’s up?” “Hey,” she says. “Go on down,” I say, and it’s kind of nonsense, so I amend: “Take a seat.” ORTEGA

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She sits on the mattress, next to where I am resting my head, but she only perches, tensed, to set down the four cups of wine. She has their quivering plastic casings pinched between the fingers of either hand. I lift my head and she seems to get the message, and moves so that when I set it back down I do so on her crossed legs. “We are talking,” Jeanne announces; someone in a shadowed corner of the third floor shushes her dreamily, asking her to preserve the quiet. We have sunken into a pool of our legs and Merlot. But I take a sip from the cup, and it’s nothing so sophisticated. I know that the thoroughly fine bottle of Sutter Home I brought out got drunk up quickly, and I espied, earlier, the jug wines lined up on our host’s kitchen counter to be uncorked. It is sweet and nothing about it challenges my tongue—so I think it is the perfect wine for this time of night. “What is this?” I murmur to no one in particular. “It’s—good,” is what Pietra replies after a little bit too long. She has an incredibly small frame and in drinking, the toxins bleed right through the walls of her flesh into her bones. When she shifts her legs in my lap—the heel of one foot is perched on my breastbone—I hear the lees slosh from femur to knee. “We are talking about dreams and things,” Jeanne says a little urgently. She leans forward to address this new girl. I debate whether I ought to say anything, but I come to realize that I am obliged. I look up at the girl’s face. She looks down when she feels my head move in her lap. “Nightmares.” The girl seems to understand and she nods her head, and she asks, “Can I touch you?” It’s broad but we’re contextual animals. I close my eyes in satisfaction and nod my head, and I feel her place her fine-boned and very slim fingers sort of on either side of my head. I have long, thick, dark, heavy, beautiful hair. Handfuls of the stuff. She collects some into one hand and strokes my cheek. The thing to understand before progressing is how, individually, in a police line-up, or in file photos—you get the sort of thing that I mean, just something independent of our placement on the third floor of this house—we are all cool, young, and beautiful to look at. Even this girl whose lap I am laying my head in, having gotten to talk to her a little bit earlier with our second drink of the evening, seems to fit in. Glitter is dusted lightly all over her chest and collarbone and in the flicker of the little tealights her skin is iridescent still, but it could be sweat, and it could be shadow. “I don’t really ever remember my dreams,” the girl says, “so I don’t really have nightmares like the kind you wake up in the middle of the night from.” “I don’t know if I’m jealous or not,” Jeanne murmurs. “I feel like you’re missing out on something.” I shrug lazily. “Don’t ascribe meaning to something for no reason.” But no

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one seems to react, so I’m not entirely certain I really said it. “Wait, sorry,” Jeanne says suddenly, turning to the newcomer. “But what’s your name?” “Clio,” the girl says softly. I look up at her, and I was right, she is beautiful to look at. I’m sorry I didn’t catch up with her earlier, because the third floor has become quiet and meditative and I’m sort of obligated into this conversation with Pietra and Jeanne. But, you know, maybe I could get Clio’s number. We are sitting around by the edge of the third-story staircase, and it’s warm from all the body heat and the insulation, and the fact that heat rises - or so I’ve been told. “You were talking about nightmares?” Clio asks us. She runs one fingertip around the ridge of my ear; it feels good. “I used to have nightmares about drive-by shootings,” says Jeanne. Clio sort of blinks. “Wait,” Pietra says, sort of sitting up a little straighter, and looking at Jeanne with a look of peering concern, “why?” “What?” “Like why were you afraid of them?” “Because there was a drive-by at my elementary school and two at my high school back home,” Jeanne says. “Oh,” says Pietra, and settles herself back on Jeanne’s arm. “Did anyone die?” I hear Clio ask. It’s the sort of question that could very easily be gleeful and lascivious, but it sounds genuine, like she’s asking after the ill health of a friend’s relative. “Well, one, the first time,” Jeanne replies. She rearranges herself on the mattress, crossing one leg over the other. Her skin collects the light and spreads it around like liniment. It is dark and in the dark appears soft. She and Pietra have been together for hours now, and I can’t say it hasn’t been a spectacular thing to watch. “But you said,” Pietra adds suddenly, turning to me, “you said you had nightmares.” The stud in her nose catches the light and glitters. Her hair is short, thick, cut at home and choppy and uncaring. There are freckles on her skin, something oxblood in the glare from the tealights. I am confused. I don’t remember having said that. “What?” “You said that you had nightmares, earlier,” she says. “Right? Isn’t that how we got started on this?” She turns her head to my left, to look at Jeanne for confirmation, who shrugs and takes a drink from her wine. “You said that you had a nightmare and you were going to tell us about it,” says Pietra. I cover my eyes with my hand and after a moment squeeze the bridge of my nose in a very grand and operatic way to show everyone that I’m kidding, I’m all right. If you believe it or not. I’d actually just managed to forget for a moment the reality of the situation. This girl showing up made me start thinking about girls,

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about wine, about, you know, other things. Outside, at the window, it is snowing again, and the snow against the sky is white; it is evocative. In another corner of the attic, someone in the dark moans very softly, closer to a sigh. They are pleased and satisfied. “Yeah,” I say after a moment. “It’s fucked, though.” “Well, whatever,” Pietra replies. “What is it?” Clio asks me, it seems like, out of the blue. I look up at this girl. Her face is fine-boned and pale, and she has dark circles under her eyes, but makeup is there too, and they work together to lend her gaze this vast intensity. Because she is small, and she is thin, and you wouldn’t expect this of her, necessarily, no. But she looks down at me and it’s shocking; it’s striking to observe this intensity so close to me, like holding in the palm of your hand barely contained a frenzied dynamo. I take a little breath. “You know like lucid dreaming?” There is a murmur of agreement. “Well sometimes I sort of lucid dream, or like—well, anyways, you’ll see what I mean.” “I had this dream that I was at my house, I was at my house alone, in bed, no one else was around in the middle of the night. And the—the men in the clean white coats—you know what I’m talking about? I got this premonition that they were coming. And sure enough they did, they came, got ahold of me, butterfly net, straitjacket, everything. They put me in a straitjacket and threw me in a padded cell. And before long they come and get me and have got me strapped down to a gurney, they’re carting me along to—an operating theater. And I’m strapped down and this is—I’m taking biology I guess, at the time—so I realize what’s gonna happen. I realize that they’re going to dissect me. They’re going to cut me open and root around and take things out; kill me. “And I’m freaking out, and demanding, begging to be let go, but the doctors or surgeons, they keep insisting: ‘Shh, it won’t hurt a bit. It’s not going to hurt…’ They had this—mask, or helmet sort of thing. With a bunch of straps and a big rubber part that went over my mouth and nose. And they, you know, they put that on me… And I knew I was dreaming, I guess? But at the same time I couldn’t convince myself to wake up, and I knew whether it hurt or not, if I couldn’t convince myself to wake up, it was going to be an experience I’d have to start carrying on with for as long as I’d remember it.” I am quiet for several moments before I notice, suddenly, the total absence of anyone’s movement. Clio is not touching my head any longer, though she has not become so upset as to upend my head from her lap. I have disturbed our gloss, I realize. We are four women sitting together, but just a few moments ago we were a single thing. Tangled legs and hair, four pairs of hips and four pairs of thighs. Several colors come together in the waning glow from the electric tealights. But though our bare skin is cool and dewy in the dark, I realize I’ve become naked, and my nakedness is worse than the penny dreadful horrors, now terribly

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disrobed. I resettle myself slightly, as a form of punctuation. I stir beneath Pietra’s long tan legs, and in Clio’s narrow lap. My hair is heavy and beautiful. “But I guess I must have woken up then,” I add, by way of conclusion. “I don’t remember what happened next.” Then I laugh, to show them everything is all right, me and them, we’re all all right. They laugh a little too, and they seem to settle things down themselves. Clio’s hands resume care of my head. I did not misjudge her—exactly—because the notion of a kindred spirit is so much hollow ‘pataphysics. It’s a dull joke. And I couldn’t have expected from her, as a stranger, anything other than what she’s already given me: her lap, her fingers, the glitter on her breasts, the sublime intensity of her smoky eyes. But I’m allowed to be disappointed, I think. I’m allowed to feel on the pads of my fingers and the grain of my tongue, if and when I can. “Honestly—” says Pietra, stepping down off the trail of her laughter, “if I’m honest, that sounds kind of hot.” There’s a little pregnant moment, but not swollen, just prepared half-full of half-formed contestations, and she adds, qualifying, “I mean, not the dissection part, but like, kind of—everything else?” So I laugh again, to put her at ease, and everyone else, seeing that it’s okay, laughs along with me. We’re all okay. It’s the right context to say a thing like that, and we’re the right people—her feet are on my tits, for god’s sake. These are words of relieved assent; you can’t trace their truthfulness but to do so would be a fruitless and purposeless exercise. We are quiet for a moment but after another Pietra lifts her voice again and she brings something up. It is a question, and it hangs in the air like the scent of incense, the musk of lathered thighs, and the snow in the air at the window, standing up, standing tall, and never falling under our sleepy eyes. And like the snow falling someone answers, and we laugh, and someone says something, it could be me. But I can’t be a part of this with them, not really, because of—not even the fact that in my nakedness I breed nothing but shame—but because of—the—the thing of it—when a dream—or a nightmare—if a dream is not a dream—regardless— They have taken out all my organs. My insides are grain and pulp. Copper wire nested through the stuffing. The stars they put in me, red dwarfs, are insulated so that they don’t burn the sawdust where my stomach once sat. I would burst in flaming effigy, and I—it might be the truthful I, if I am not the chimera I once imagined—would go on living still in their canopic jars, living in my heart and lungs. I am in my incised guts. And my head is in Clio’s lap and she is feeling my hair. The thought arrives— though I cannot be sure it was not a dream and was not imagined—that when I awoke as an outpatient, and the surgeons gave me a brief overview of adjusting to it all, that they promised me: for every story you tell, you will get one organ back. And I wonder if it will be my heart or lungs, but probably something as

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small as the gallbladder—they took everything out, and I am human taxidermy, though their work was flawless and no one will ever be able to tell. And beyond this, I didn’t even finish the story—and I felt no barometric change; I received no postcard notifying me of my upcoming surgical appointment. It must not have even registered; that is, if I didn’t imagine the plea bargain in the first place. I run my thumb across my flesh where there is no seam and feel the real weight of their precise replacement; the pressure of my flesh where no one’s caring hands could divine an empty wrongness. But I’m all fugazi. “What are you doing?” Clio asks curiously. She is holding my chin gently with one hand, and when I smile at her, she smiles back. I am paralyzed, but there’s bootstrap in this husk, and I can talk, I can smile, I can make love indistinguishably. I would say that it is like riding passenger in your own body, but no, the sense of the shell is still all there. Later we all go off into the night and the snow. We are tired—yes, even my skin sags outwardly—and there are places we must go. A cherry bomb airbursts above the snow and the spalling travels in water. We are the exploded fragments of this night’s detonation—because nothing will ever be the same again, and not in an apocalyptic sense, but only to say that in our coming together and going apart, we have collided, glanced, and altered each other irreparably. When we are alone and we suppose that this is it, Clio and I stand facing each other ankle-deep in a snowdrift. We shiver but it is not too cold. The sky only looked dark from the inside, because above us it is all cloud, and the city hammers copper against its snowing surface. She has a scarf wound around her neck; her face is red from the cold and the wine. I see her reach into her jacket pocket and pull something out in one gloved hand. She hands it to me: it is a scrap of paper. “Here,” she says. Her voice is hoarse and tired. She might be drunk. This might not be the decision she wants to make, or, going forward, it may be nothing but a bellyache of regret. “If you want to get coffee or something sometime.” I smile at her. “Sure,” I say. I don’t mean to give the impression I have things figured out myself. “I’ll say good-bye to you here, then.” Going down the road the world has become quiet and still. I know that eventually the hands on the clock will resume their turning, and sooner, rather than later (checking my phone, it is almost 4 a.m.)—but not right here, and not right now. I imagine that the road is a hundred-thousand miles long, snow and sleeping trees, and because I imagine it, it becomes the truth. I am alone and I am walking in the dry falling cold. There is no one and nothing else around, only me, because this is how it is on the inside, underneath the skin. (I’ll take off everything I’m wearing, if you want to see. I’ll peel off my skin and pull out my hair. I don’t know what’s holding it all together underneath, but I’ll show you, if they’re there, the strange bones beneath).

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REAL ENOUGH NOW? Tessa Markham Skidmore College

The Reef You stretch your tentacles, feeling the tropical currents buffet them gently. A ripple runs across the surface of the reef and your nematocysts twitch, every motion in sync with those of your neighbors throughout the reef. Centuries of your work stretch out before you, your velveteen shades of red and purple pulsing gently under each passing shadow. The rhythmic clicking of mantis shrimp pincers vibrates through your skeletal frame. You can hear each beat pulsing across decades of reef. Like white noise, the sound of parrotfish fades into the background. In a smooth gradient, the reef stretches out in shades of green and orange to the east, violet and magenta to the west. You sit between the two, an island painted in ruddy hues of copper and red. The soft lettuce algae growing near you almost tickle as the microcurrents twist and weave their leaves, brushing them against your surface. Building The only thing that has changed across the millennia is the height from which you survey the reef. You’ve slowed, in recent years. But you made this reef. When you drifted here those thousands of cycles ago, you were just a recruit, and more fish than you care to remember knocked you about. The water here is warm, and the sun is kind, so you stayed. The reef you made in the beginning was so much stronger; it stood proud against the shifting sand and changing tides. A lobster scurries across your surface, pulling its legs and spines unceremoniously from your calice and sending small clouds of disintegrated skeleton exploding into the water column with every third or fourth step. He clips your top edge, knocking off almost six months of work with a single careless motion. You watch as the rock you built disintegrates, bouncing across the surface of the reef and off the edge. A century ago, that wouldn’t have bothered you. Pits and divots and sharp edges speckle your calice, the new skeleton that you’ve built pockmarked with porous holes like acne scars. It’s shameful. Silt, disrupted by the lobster’s tail, billows up and your tentacles stir the water to keep the swirling grains from settling on your mouth. You taste your own calcium carbonate mixed in with geometric sand. In doing so, you tease slightly along the edges of your alcove. Then, irritatingly, your thoughts are forced to return to work, to reef-building, for the remainder of the day. There is something wrong MARKHAM

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with your calicoblast and you don’t have time to ponder the greater questions of the universe. Acidification Reef has never been this hard to build. Opening and closing your mouth for a quick burst of properly oxygenated water, taking a moment to calm your frustration at your growing ineffectuality, you almost choke. You would cough and spit if you could. You startle your neighbors instead with a sudden expulsion of half your nematocysts into the emptiness above you. The water shouldn’t sting like that. The reef you’ve created in recent months is nowhere near as strong as what you built years ago. And now even that hard work from months ago, back when you still were proud of the skeleton you grew, is just potting soil. It feels almost like you have to push the calcium carbonate you create through wire mesh before it actually solidifies. But apparently there’s nothing wrong with your calicoblast. The only thing that’s changed is that the water always tingles and smarts now. It never used to do that. You try to tell yourself that it’s just that storm last cycle, that it blew something down from onshore. But it’s been different for far more cycles than just one, and the reef doesn’t hum the way it always has. Like somebody turned down the dial on the oceanic white noise. You were slow today. Everything was slow. And you have to work so much harder to build the reef. It feels almost like the water is resisting, like it’s trying to break it down before it’s even really formed. Zooxanthellae Your tissues bloom as your internal algae swell, drinking in the dawn rays. They pulse, in unison, underneath your skin, trying almost to guide your tentacles skyward with their beat. A grouper passes above you, cooling you and casting your alcove into momentary shadow, and you feel your zooxanthellae deflate slightly. He leaves and you feel them blossom, almost as though they take a deep breath. Without them drinking in the sun each and every day, filling you with waves of energy day after day, you wouldn’t be alive. Despite what little you do for them, they do so much. They have always done so much for you, ever since you were drifting through the ocean, just you and them. In spite of yourself, you pity them. It seems they’re working harder than they used to. You’ve become so tired through the last few hundred cycles. The algae you grew up with, your symbiotic siblings, have begun to wilt and wither. Almost asthmatic, they strain for lessening rays of sunlight. Ocean Rise The sun doesn’t warm your surface as it once did, and the green algae

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making the top of your skeleton their home are now far outmatched by their larger rhodophyte cousins moving in. The increasing strain on your symbiotic siblings weighs equally on you as they are forced to work harder and harder for the paling sunlight poking its way down to you through the water column. It almost feels heavier, like you’ve shifted into deeper waters. But maybe it’s just silt, suspended in the water column. Or maybe the sun is moving. But that’s absurd, you admit. It wouldn’t move, not now, not after so many thousands of cycles. Something could have washed in from shore, you theorize, clutching at straws. The algae growing nearby you are struggling for sunlight just as much as your algal siblings. And still, every day, your zooxanthellae cry out with what little energy they can spare and, every day, there’s a little less sunlight. Feeding You greet the slow, gradual cooling of the water above you and the growing sleepiness of your zooxanthellae. Your tentacles unfurl, their fleshy lengths teasing out and over the rough edges of your now-worn skeleton. You stretch to your furthest length, take a moment to revel in the ribbons of cold that fleck the otherwise warm current. A single plankton brushes against one of your tentacles and your nematocysts fire, triggered automatically by the pressure. You reach for the plankton, stunned by your toxins, and pull it down towards your mouth. It isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing. Diligently, under the waxing and waning moon, you feed. Rising Temperatures You can feel them stressing. You can feel this new heat, this new warmth the current carries with it, making your algal brothers and sisters start to broil and burn. At first it was nice. At first it was just a little bit warmer. It brought with it blooms of phytoplankton and your tentacles and furthest reaches saturated with deep, earthen reds. But now your precious, beloved, vital zooxanthellae blanch and fret and struggle powerfully to feed and photosynthesize. But they can’t work like they could before. You can feel as your loyal algal symbiotes stress and starve. You work twice as hard to make up the difference, but it isn’t enough. Bleaching The sun rises, but your familiar buzzing doesn’t start. You don’t feel your flesh hum as your zooxanthellae go to work, greedily soaking in the sun’s rays. You feel your epidermis start to stretch and tear, resisting as your oncefaithful zooxanthellae denounce you and evict themselves from their only home within your flesh. The water tingles and prickles at the edges of your wounds, and

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your ragged epidermis flaps in the current like a piece of discarded seaweed. No, you plead. Come back, you beg. Don’t…I still need you, you entreat. You reach out after your symbiotic siblings until long after they’re gone, stunned by your empty translucence. It is as if you can’t breathe. Every movement takes an eternity: every action, every minute secretion, each and every one of your dozens of barbs you have to fix and regrow, every single millimeter of reef creation. What used to take you just hours now takes you the best part of a day. Helpless, you watch your borders start to shrink. The russet tones of your furthest reaches pale and fade as though the current rushing over you takes your pigment away with it. You weaken. No, you implore. And still, each night, a few dozen more of your zooxanthellae liberate themselves from your flesh and drift into the night, fewer and fewer pulsing faintly with bioluminescence as they sweep over the edge of the reef and into the eastern abyss. Every night you watch them. Powerless. If you didn’t so desperately need to hunt as soon as the sun drops below the wave-line, you would test to see if, somehow, against all logic, keeping your barbs inside would save your zooxanthellae. If it would keep them from fleeing, from running away from you. But you need to fire your barbs to feed. Your grief at the loss of your zooxanthellae is clouded by prickling frustration at your own lack of forethought to keep enough barbs fullygrown and ready for you to feed in the night. Now you’ll starve even more. To the west, in the dark of night, your neighbor’s nematocysts pull up towards the sky, towards waves that are farther away with each passing cycle. As they pull and stretch as though by wires hung from the stars, you sense his zooxanthellae freeing themselves from his body and arms. Briefly the fleeing algae pulse—in unison—with a beat of bioluminescence before the current carries them across your calcified surface and away into the abyss. God, you marvel. Is that what I look like? Over the next cycles, you watch your neighbor pale and fade. Like a sea fan developing in reverse, his violet tones wash out until he stands in snowy solidarity. After he goes white, his translucent nematocysts stretch forth, weaker each night, for any morsel of food they can grab. They strain, transparent, for a cycle, maybe less, but then you realize he’s fallen very quiet. You avoid looking west. The gradient of translucence now painting your tentacles is white and wrong. The retreating sunlight appears to strip you of your color, shining down as your reds and oranges fade out. You’ve never seen yourself like this before. If you looked closely, if the light hit just right, you can see the speckling of your epidermis from where your individual zooxanthellae used to live. But you’ve become a ghost on the reef. Your skeleton lays increasingly bare as slowly, one by one, your zooxanthellae leave you.

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THE MOTHER SOUP Kate Bonanni Hollins University

the foamy swirl-top of each wave spilling over like glossy hard candy the smooth rounds of undulating current molten glass sheets the bits of dead grass spiraling inward the great gasping suck out toward the open tug of the sand granules coating feet the immaterial existence of primordial things the water whipping past in shades of cold/heat the buoyancy of flesh and easiness of slipping the hold to the earth solidarity in being moved the birth from the waves surged back to shore

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LULLABY FOR PSEUDOGYMNOASCUS DESTRUCTANS Elizabeth O’Donnell Central Michigan University

“White Nose Syndrome is estimated to have killed 6 million bats in the Northeast and Canada. In some sites, 90 to 100 percent of bats have died.” – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2015

Tucked in to a hillside of New Hampshire, Nuzzled chestnut wings are in time suspension – A collective lung of thrumming, hibernating bats, The pod a third as large as last year’s bundle. Below, the cave floor smothered in toothpicks – Femurs and ribs, needles and thimble skulls. Thinning coyotes pulverize thousands Of skeletons with calloused paws, aching For one patch of fat, one rubbery wing. Here comes another weak-eyed insomniac Woken for spring too early by the fungus On his nose, eating away layers of flesh. Exhaustion fumes from haggard flaps, A tired you could taste like brine. Reaching the mouth of the cave, he crashes Into the heap - food for the insects of April. He echolocates mother in his last diastoles As she thumps to the floor, wings crunching on impact. Rain is necrotic here.

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OILTREE Thomas White Stanford University

Marie approached Yutao’s cottage gingerly in the predawn light. It was small – smaller than she remembered. The front door that had towered over her when her parents first brought her over seemed not quite tall enough anymore. She stood at the door for a second, breathed, and then knocked quietly. A disconcertingly short time later Yutao was at the door. “Hi,” said Marie. She took in Yutao, hair held in a practical bun with a chopstick, comfortably disheveled. “Hey, Marie,” said Yutao with an easy smile, as if no time had passed at all, as if nothing had happened. “Come on in.” * Yutao glanced over at Marie from the kitchen while boiling tea and making something resembling small talk. Marie looked uncomfortable, legs in and slightly hunched like she was being interviewed live. Which was odd. Marie never looked uncomfortable. It especially didn’t fit with the way she looked – perfect and beautiful and airbrushed as ever, wearing a bright green sash from the environment ministry and an annoyingly spotless dress. Yutao swallowed hard. Inviting her had maybe been a mistake. She continued with the small talk out of inertia. Marie had another new job apparently, a follow-up from her work on the sunshade. Yutao talked about how she’d gotten into running, following the winding path up down the side of Mount Tam and catching glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog. Marie kept looking away, and Yutao wondered if she was checking the news on her overlay or wondering how soon she could leave. But when she proposed going outside to see the sunrise, Marie perked up. It was cool and only a little windy as they made it out of the cottage and looked down on the little cluster of lights of Marin County. Grasshoppers whistled lightly in the background. Yutao looked up, watching the clusters of lights spread out lazily over the face of the moon. Presently, there was a light in the distance, across the bay. Yutao squinted, but it didn’t matter, because the light was growing fast, becoming something more like a wall, for a single torturous instant seeming physical and liable to crush her, and then with a rush of wind it was gone, and it was daylight, and as her overlay WHITE

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corrected frantically to keep her from going blind she saw the very end of the sunshade – Marie’ sunshade – disappear into the suddenly blue sky. The grasshoppers went quiet all at once. The grass was still cold, but the air felt a little warmer already. Marie grinned. Yutao shivered and wondered what it must feel like to have helped make that thing. “You know,” Yutao said, “I wonder if the grasshoppers would still call the warning.” “You mean if there was an air raid?” “Yeah.” “I think so! I have a friend in the biosciences division, Jasmine, maybe you know her, but anyways they’ve been running sims for years on the exact release patterns to hit to make sure that they reuptake into the wild well, and it’s crazy stuff, you can’t even imagine, they’re running climate sims decades into the future on the effects on the Reintroduction, but anyways they’ve been resequencing wild models and it seems like most of them still have the prewar genetic designs, except the ones in India, but then again –” Yutao, who had been holding it in, broke into a chuckle. Marie stopped and looked abashed. “Am I doing it again?” “Yup, you’re doing it again.” “I’m sorry! I just – it’s exciting stuff, you know?” “It’s exciting stuff.” Yutao smiled as they reached the top of the hill, despite herself. And then she broke out into laughter, because Marie saw the Oiltree. * The Oiltree! It was right there! It was still alive! That thing had no right to be alive, not a chance in the world, not after all the abuse they had subjected it to growing up, climbing all over its craggy branches, carving their names and their crushes and their new band name into it. Not after they had left it for a decade to go off to the real world. It was coming together for Marie, why she was feeling so pensive and nervous. The little cottage was using its nostalgia powers on her, that was for sure, she’d figured that out the moment that she had sat down, because it was just like it had always been, like Yutao had dragged it out of the past especially for her, because the futon she had been putting her feet on had once held the two of them, clinging on in a giggling pile, as they rode it and pretended to be pirates. But the Oiltree! That was something else altogether. She’d felt a little bit of pride like she always did when the sunshade went past – her little bit of the fight – but the Oiltree was something else entirely, it was where all this started. Back during the War, before she understood what was happening to the world, before she learned that the water had once gone under the Golden Gate Bridge, it had started with the oiltrees. They’d come out here in the late night, when

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Yutao’s parents were asleep and the local national guard was off duty, clambering all over them, hanging off the side, and shooting each other with finger guns. And God, she cared about the oiltrees. They were so ridiculous, so slightly awkward, with their craggy trunks and spiraling, thick root systems, but they were amazing, honestly, just so cool when she learned about how they worked. One time an enemy air raid dropped some sort of termite which started eating everything, and by the time that the Marin County Militia was able to pick them off the with town fireflies, they’d chewed a hole in the tree’s oil bladder, and the thick, sticky syrup was flowing out over the field. She’d made a bandage for it, coming home triumphantly covered with the stuff from head to toe, far too entertained to care about the two beratings she got, one from Yutao’s parents for tracking disgusting old world energy sources on the floor and one from her parents, over the overlay, abusing Yutao’s parents’ hospitality while they were off at the front. But then one day, when she’d been pretending to be Sally Ride, sitting on the end of one of the branches, it had shattered under her in a way that she was fairly sure wood was not meant to do. Which was odd. And then she’d done some research and found that they were struggling with a continuous change in the global temperature, which was also odd. She’d asked her parents, once, and they said that the world had bigger problems. But she and Yutao had come up with a plan to deal with it, and now here she was, come full circle, because it turns out her parents were wrong, and guess what, thanks to the sunshade and cloud seeding and artificial volcanos the world was cooling down again, a little, and the Oiltree was right there and was still alive. Marie whooped loudly for the first time all day, probably the first time in weeks, (which was saying something and honestly quite disappointing), and ran as fast as she could down the hill, feeling her dress get messy and not caring, before making a running jump, grabbing a tree branch and hanging slothlike from it. “Yutao, come on!” She was a little out of breath, which was no fun. Time to go back to regular workouts at whatever distant future point she would have time. But in the meanwhile Yutao had broken out into a jog and was bearing down on the tree as well, and Marie let out another whoop. Maybe this wasn’t a mistake, after all. * It was the most Marie thing Yutao had ever seen. She watched Marie charge down the hill, hands raised defiantly above her, and fought a grin. Marie was back to normal, apparently. Which was good. Something about Nervous Marie from before bothered Yutao, now that she thought more about it – like something was wrong with the universe. Marie had always had that power, that weird gravitational field that made problems flow around her. She’d had it that first day, when little Yutao woke up to her parents telling her that Marie would live with them for a little while. Marie had hugged her parents goodbye, but seconds later was imperiously selecting a bed

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in the family room and bustling around helping with dinner. And somehow Yutao couldn’t be frustrated with her either, because Marie shook hands with her, and asked Yutao to show her around, and declared that they were going to be friends. And now she was hanging there in her nice government clothes off the oiltree and Yutao couldn’t help but follow her down the hill in a light jog. And smile. Which, again, was frustrating. Marie could always do that to her. Even that first thing, with the oiltrees. As always, Yutao had been the one with the idea. She’d noticed that the oiltrees were more brittle than before for a long time, but it all came together when Marie plummeted from one while pretending to be a space captain. Marie had gotten a pretty sizeable gash – although, being Marie, she’d found it more cool than anything – and Yutao was left to wonder. The trees weren’t supposed to do that. All those nights that Marie and Yutao spent together, hiding in the basement during air raids and trying to suppress their heat signatures, it was easy to see life as a narrowing tunnel, which might just not have an end. They’d look at the stars at night, watch baby-blue antimissile beams stab down from the heavens, and wonder at what their grandparents could do; and then they’d go play by the oiltrees and look down at the shattered remains of San Francisco and wonder at what their parents had thrown away. But that night Yutao had done something she had never quite thought of before, something that was in retrospect an act of bravery. When they were calling Marie’s parents on the front line, amid all the optimistic talk of victory by Christmas they’d recycled from last year, Yutao had asked them to try and break and oiltree branch. And apparently the oiltrees over in Alaska were brittle, too. So she’d been the one to figure it out. That night, she’d told Marie, who crouched four-legged on the futon in fascination, nodding along. “So the oiltrees are dying,” Yutao concluded. “I know. It’s just not right.” “Yeah,” said Yutao. That feeling of the world slipping away from her was back. “So how do we save them?” Yutao had blinked. But Marie stood up, arms clenched defiantly. “Cause we’re gonna.” she said with utter, unshakeable confidence. And it was as simple as that. So the next day they went out and started collecting data. They got temperature and wind data, made graphs of tree locations. They snapped branches off and measured how easily they broke – breaking Marie’s heart in the process. They started learning about the history of genetic engineering, about the people who made the oiltrees. Next thing Yutao knew, Marie had conscripted the neighborhood into it. It had been Marie. She might not have noticed anything, but once she had a goal she was unstoppable. So they sat there, on the tree branch, watching each other. The breeze blew past. And Yutao realized that this conversation was going to be more difficult than

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she thought. * Yutao was just sitting there on the tree branch with her Pensive Face on, which was no good at all. Marie knew the Pensive Face. There were good versions of it, but this was most definitely not one of them. It didn’t make any sense. Why did Yutao invite her over? From the moment that frantic invitation reached her inbox she’d been wondering at what could possibly be wrong – and here they were, sitting on a tree branch, still going through preliminaries. “What’s up.” she found herself saying. “I’m fine.” “I don’t know. You seem quiet.” “I always seem quiet. I am quiet.” “I don’t know about that. You weren’t always.” She really wasn’t. Not as much as she liked to pretend. Not in creche and middle school, during the war, where Yutao sheparded Marie the New Girl (and the Girl Whose Parents Weren’t Around, at that) around the social scene, always sharing with people the coolest places to explore and trying to sneak over to climb the intact section of the Golden Gate Bridge. She was the one who had all the secrets, who knew who liked who and who had their overlays linked in illegal chat networks during tests. Hell, Yutao had introduced Marie to Jason, partway through high school, the two of them sitting on a fence talking about the oiltrees. “This is Marie. She helps me with that oiltree theory,” Marie remembered Yutao saying, and something about that had felt off, but Jason was cool and it was nice to have a third person in on the plan and Marie just felt thankful to have Yutao as a friend. Always been quiet? What happened? * “Yutao, you’ve never been quiet”, continued Marie, as if she hadn’t been paying attention to the last twenty years since middle school. She’d always been quiet. And it made sense. There was shit to do, hours to put in. Of course she had gotten quieter, because the War had ended and there were better things to do than sit around and hang out with the same clutch of people reenacting the lives of their parents, there was research to be done, data to be gathered, and not a lot of time to do it in. The last generations had called it climate change. They had to dredge that up from the history books, but Yutao always thought it was a stupid phrase. Change sounded normal, gradual. It’s what parents tell you to accept. The oiltrees were a perfect demonstration of the problem: a previous

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generation that was so casual in its power over nature that it assumed that power came with wisdom. But of course they weren’t the real problem. That was the permafrost melting, Africa becoming uninhabitable, life on Earth choking to death while humanity had spent a generation busily taking revenge on itself for one overworked silo operator’s dramatic mistake. So she worked, because there was work to be done. She didn’t go to the victory parties – there had been so many parties, practically a whole year of parties, a decade of parties, like the war ended and no one knew what else to spend that money on. But of course Marie would be there with her friends, always talking excitedly about plans they had for the new world, how it was going to be better. And then, one night once they’d gone on to college and delved into real research, she’d found Marie, drunk out of her mind, coming home to their flat. She’d promised she’d be home two hours before so that they could pull up a VR together. Yutao had made popcorn for the occasion. Marie had Jason’s jacket on. “Oh, so that’s where he’s been,” Yutao had said, discovering that she was calmer than she somehow felt she should be. “That’s why he’s been missing the lab sessions.” “What?” Marie had asked, slurring, sitting down heavily on their futon. Even in her dishevelment her dress was elegant and perfect. All stuff she had bought with the money from her last internship, which as far as Yutao could tell had been mostly doing paperwork and mingling at cocktail dinners. “Jason.” “Oh, Jason. He wasn’t at the party. He was out of town today. Why weren’t you at the party? Why don’t you like us?” “So why do you have his jacket?” asked Yutao, and saw that Marie was just staring at her, as if it was obvious, as if she should have just known. You know what? Maybe she hadn’t gotten quieter. Maybe Marie had just gotten loud. * “Marie, please stop pretending that everyone has to be like you to be happy.” Marie didn’t quite know what to say to that. “I – I’m not. I’m just saying that it wasn’t always –” “I don’t want to argue right now. I didn’t invite you here to argue.” “What did you invite me here for?” “Just to talk.” “To talk. Yeah, of course. We haven’t talked in years, and here we are, to talk. Yutao, what’s up?” “The sunshade,” she said innocently, which was the stupidest joke in the entire world and Marie laughed anyways, and remembered why they had been friends.

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“What if –” began Yutao, who looked like she was tasting her words carefully before saying them – “what if the Second Paris Plan doesn’t work.” “What? How so?” “Well, what if it turns out that we can’t keep the temperature increase above the 5 degree limit?” “We’re getting it back down to zero. That’s the plan. And if the sunshade and the volcanos are not enough, there’s Project Icarus.” “Project Icarus?” “They’re going to try to seed the orbit between Earth and the sun to cool things down.” “What?” “What?” “God, and here we fucking go again. Don’t worry, technology will be the solution. It’s okay that everything’s in trouble, we’re just going to figure it out with our can-do attitude, and screw anything that –” Marie was about to say something, but Yutao stopped herself first. They both sat there, not saying anything, Yutao’s mouth slightly ajar, like she was mortified. Marie found herself peering, trying to piece apart Yutao’s slightly confused expression, trying to understand. She hadn’t always been like this! God, she’d been Marie’s beacon. Which was saying something, back then. That’s all that her parents ever talked about, how much better it was in the days before. How the roads were full of cars and the world had eleven billion – eleven billion! – people and how you could see anything on your overlay, any fact you wanted to know, any person you wanted to talk to, at any time. How you could have anything you want at any time: you just went to your amazon, punched in a few numbers, and got your breakfast. They were going to Mars, they’d always say with pride. It was going to be okay, before the war. But that world was never coming back. Not even her parents believed that. Once, just once, Yutao had asked that question that Marie had been too scared to. She asked them why Marie had to live with Yutao’s family, why exactly they were off in a bunker, and Marie’s mom sat the two of them down and gave a speech, a long one, really pretty, heartwarming honestly, all about the world before, all that they heard before, all until the last line: “They took all of that from us. And now, finally, we’re returning the favor.” That night, after dinner, when they were alone again, Yutao had noticed that she was being quiet and asked what the problem was. Marie said as much. And Yutao – little Yutao, she must have been like nine years old, she didn’t deserve to be that eloquent back then – said what Marie would be looking back on for years. She said that she didn’t think that the old world had been that amazing. She said: look at your history VRs. There were people suffering everywhere, starving in a world with amazons, without an education in a world with overlays, fighting and dying in our old dead patches of dirt while the starships made attempt after attempt

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at colonizing new ones. Maybe they just wished that it had been perfect. Maybe it was easier to remember it that way. That’s what Marie went back to in every dark moment – when she lost jobs, when she thought she would fail out of that college, and most of all, on that one night, the night that everything changed. It’s what she had said on stage the day of her graduation, what she had said over and over again at the Environment Ministry, what she had said getting funding for the sunshade. The world hadn’t been so great, she would say, and it had been easy to believe that it would never be great – easy because that way the world was cyclical, it wasn’t our fault, what was the use in trying? But let’s take the hard route. Let’s break the cycle, because the cycle is just in our minds. Let’s take this terrible world our parents gave us and save it, all of it, even the oiltrees, because we’re different. Let’s do better, this time. Her entire career was built on Yutao. But she’d been missing something. On the day that the war was finally declared over, when they made the announcement on the overlay and everyone ran outside and were just hugging each other, standing the parking lot of the smashed husk of something called Marin Dentistry, and Marie had been bouncing in place, unable to stop moving, talking excitedly with Jason and Jasmine and Adi, her boyfriend at the time,and when Yutao had walked outside Marie had just hugged her fiercely. “We’re going to college,” she remembered yelling over the fireworks, as if that was the most pertinent fact of the moment. And then: “We’re going to wipe it, wipe it all away.” Marie remembered a flash of something – maybe Yutao’s smile fading – but not that much else from what had happened next. She had scattered thoughts of the crowd pressing sweatily into one another, of Jaz getting some music, of Yutao standing next to Jason most of the night, trying to get into conversations with him, of a group of people who’d found the husk of a prewar SUV in the forest pushing it into the ocean. Yutao really had started getting more distant then. Spending way more time with Jason. What if – but no, Jason had never mentioned her during college, when they’d talked about their previous hookups. “Look.” Marie tried to find the words, as Yutao looked away. “I don’t think this is really about any of these plans, is it?” * Yutao didn’t hear her at first, because she was stupid, stupid, outbursts were dumb and going to get her nowhere, but her head was reeling at the idea, that the sunshade wasn’t enough, we need another sun blocker with a dramatic Greek name. It was the kind of stuff Marie had been marketing for years, all triumphant on her podiums, building her movement, shaking hands and recording nice videos for

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people’s news feeds, taking just enough classes to fill her Achievements (God forbid they call it GPA, because that would be reminiscent of the corrupt old world), all drama and no substance. She’d always been like this. Yutao remembered, so many years ago, trying to explain to Marie that the old world hadn’t been so great after all. She’d been stunningly ineloquent at the time, but then again, she’d been like nine. But the point was so obvious. Starry-eyed certainty and faith weren’t going to lead anywhere but back to the war. And here Marie was again, sounding just like her parents did, unshakeable bastions of the faith the lot of them. One time, after Marie finished one of her events and was talking excitedly about her newest boyfriend over dinner, Yutao had snapped. This was late in the game, long after they had stopped going on trips together, and Yutao shouldn’t have said anything, because nothing ever got better when she said anything, but she did anyways. Marie’s speech – she’d watched over the overlay while running her datasets – had been too much. She led, the way she always did, by taking about how she and Yutao had played on the oiltrees, and how the mistakes of her parents had clawed that time away from them, like they had clawed so many other little good things, before launching into the sunshade initiative. Yutao couldn’t believe it then. She’d grown out of her affection for the oiltrees years ago – they were an absurd, disgusting relic of the more arrogant age, and they deserved to go extinct. But Marie just couldn’t put two and two together, and so here they were. “Marie,” she had interrupted midsentence, “You’re going about this all wrong.” “What do you mean? This?” “All of this geoengineering, all of these easy solutions, they’re not going to work.” “Do you have a better idea? This is a crisis, we don’t have time for a thousand years of careful carbon sequestration, not since we lost the Greenland shelf.” Marie spoke in a huff. “Yeah, but who’s looking into the ecological effects of turning off the sun for a few hours a day?” “Well, you and –” “—and guess who has had shit for internships these last few years. Nobody cares, Marie. Nobody is paying attention.” “Well, that’s not just ‘cause –” “Oh. So what is it ‘cause?” And then as soon as it started, the conversation was over, like it always was, because Marie launched it into what was always said – you just need to meet people, why do you always eat here alone, making yourself protein bars from the amazon, you didn’t use to be like this. Yutao wanted to say was yes, yes, I want to be home because maybe I just want to have dinner with you, because you’re my friend, but she didn’t quite believe

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that anymore. So she had stopped talking to Marie. She’d turned off her overlay. She’d negotiated a research grant that gave her the power to work from her parent’s old home. She got tinted windows, so she didn’t have to look at Marie’s sunshade. She was going to stop thinking about what was happening to the world, what Marie was doing, drunk on power, reshaping the entire planet all over again. She was going to find a little thing, something that they had forgotten, a stupid reminder of everything that Marie was missing. She would make a time capsule, a totem to the mistakes humanity kept making. She was going to make sure that the thing she hated most survived. She was going to save the oiltrees. But all of that felt a little distant, now, sitting on the tree in the declining light. She looked at Marie. “What do you mean it’s not about the plan?” she began again. “I wanted you here so that we could talk about the plan.” About the oiltrees. That was the point, Marie needed to – “That’s clearly not true, and you know it. Yutao, what happened?” “What happened? Why does it always have to be about what happened? Why is it always my fault?” Marie’s face looked blank, like she seriously didn’t understand. “What are you talking about?” “You just blame everyone else, always. It’s never your fault. It wasn’t your fault that Jason left, it wasn’t your fault that I left, and goddamn it, if you and your friends fuck up this world just like your parents did it won’t be your fault, either.” * Marie wanted to say something about that, something bigger, but instead she said “Why the fuck are you bringing Jason into this again?” “It’s what happens when you’re selfish and used to winning at everything. You don’t treat a person right and they leave.” “Okay, look, both of Jason and I made mistakes there.” “But you were the one who was off partying when he lost his brother.” “I didn’t know!” “You didn’t check!” “Why do you care so much about–” and then Marie put it all together, all those years of Yutao hanging out with him, standing next to him at parties and trying to involve herself in the conversation, how much she seemed to both want details about Marie’s relationship with him and desperately not want them, and she said “Oh.” “Oh?” “Why didn’t you tell me you liked him?” “You were my best friend, Marie, and he was all I talked about for four years, would it have hurt to ask before you fucked him and then threw him away?”

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Marie felt like too many things were happening too fast. “Would it have hurt to ask? About anything, those last few years?” Maire didn’t know what to say, because Yutao was right, of course she was right. So she said, “Yeah, so I guess it wasn’t about the plan. You’re right, again. I’m sorry.” “Again?” “Yeah. Again. Like always.” “Always? What are you talking about?” A cold rush of air was mixing inside of her, like always when she was around Yutao these days, the same front that had been swirling when she’d been walking up to the cottage door. “Fucking always. You were right about the oiltrees, you were right about the world before, you were right about the sunshade.” “The sunshade?” “Yeah, we hadn’t been doing enough simulations on the side effects at all. You were totally right. That’s why we delayed the project for half a decade, to sort that out.” Yutao sat there gaping for a second. Marie couldn’t believe it. How in the hell couldn’t she have heard? It was in the news, all over the place, they’d redone all the studies. “We created a new high commissioner position to analyze that problem. I sent you the application, Yutao.” “No you didn’t.” But something was different this time, there was something else mixing with the cold, a tiny little heat wave. “Yes,” Marie said slowly, “I did. I think … “ she swallowed hard “I think you didn’t read it.” Yutao didn’t say anything. And then it finally, finally made sense to Marie, all those years that she’d lived with a quiet voice in her head saying that she wasn’t smart enough, wasn’t studious enough, wasn’t doing enough good, and always complimented by that very very real voice next to her. “I think that you haven’t listened to me, or respected me, for a long, long time.” * The fuck did Marie think she was saying? Like all of this was Yutao’s fault, all over again. That just wasn’t fair. Of course she was thoughtless and frustrating and her ideology just wasn’t internally consistent, but how could she not respect Marie, when she was successful and popular and happy and always, always louder, ever since partway through middle school. Ever since the summer of ‘91.

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Ever since that one day, the day everything changed, the day that Marie’s parents got blown away by an unexploded tactical nuke during their third rotation. They had been sitting under the oiltree, and Marie had been screaming, just screaming, blotting out everything, barely pausing for breath, curled up in a ball. Yutao had just held her like that, for hours, as the sun went down over the bay. She remembered clearly wondering if she was supposed to say that things were going to be okay, because that seemed like the appropriate response in this situation, but she couldn’t, because of course things weren’t okay, things weren’t okay and they never would be again. Marie had stopped screaming, and Yutao had let go only for Marie to start punching the nearest oiltree, tearing into it with her fingernails, snapping branches, smashing until her fingers bled, fighting back when Yutao tried to restrain her, wiggling until Yutao finally managed to get her back down on the ground in a firm hug. “Don’t fight the oiltree, please,” she remembered saying. “It didn’t do anything to you.” Those might have been the first words she said to Marie that day, it was hard to remember. “It’s a fucking monstrosity,” Marie had said. “It’s – it’s so lazy, like they didn’t care, they had the power to fix things and they used it to make getting their drug more fucking convenient.” “Yeah,” said Yutao, looking at the sun set through the branches. “But it’s pretty. It’s a great home for birds. And it’s an excellent pirate ship.” The two of them had stayed there the rest of the night, without saying another word, feeling the cold creep down their spines. “We’re going to do better.” said Marie under her breath, “better than they did,” and Yutao stopped, listening to the white-hot rage behind those words, and maybe now that she looked back on it she understood that she was wrong, Marie wasn’t happy, had always been angry, had never stopped. So Yutao looked at Marie and realized that that’s why she had invited Marie, to prove her wrong one more time, as if that would make her change. As if anything Marie had ever done had anything to do with her. “I’m sorry,” said Yutao. “You’re right.” And then she continued, because she had invited Marie over and she might as well. “The oiltrees are going to die,” she said, and then there it was, she said it. Marie blinked. “What?” “The oiltrees are going to die. They’re just not competitive, now that we’re fixing the planet and bringing back something like the old biodiversity.. Not when they’re spending all their energy sucking obsolete natural resources from deep underground.” Marie blinked again, faster, and Yutao felt a sudden rush of sympathy, because that’s how she felt when she figured it out, after running one too many reintroduction simulations, staring at the computer screens late at night, trying to rationalize that it wasn’t true, it couldn’t be true, because here they were, because

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they both hated the oiltrees and neither could stand losing them. * Marie sat there on the branch, reeling, mildly hoping that it would collapse like it had all those years ago, just drop her, because it was true, it had to be true, she’d always known it was true somewhere inside and tried to ignore it. Of course it made sense. Of course the new programs would wipe the oiltrees away. That was the whole point, wasn’t it? To wipe all those stupid mistakes away? She felt the texture of the bark with urgency, pressing into it, trying to suck the sensation out, grab the reality of it and take it with her. She looked at Yutao, who had withdrawn into the folds of her dress, as if she could climb back into the smaller Yutao who had once come up here to watch the sun set. And yet – Yutao didn’t look much like the girl who had held Marie besides this tree that night. Or the woman who had packed up one day and left their flat in a huff to move back to the cottage. She was just there, looking over the horizon at the hills at the new, graceful towers being built on the ruins of San Francisco. Behind the city, the sun was setting, genuinely this time. So Marie put a hand on her shoulder, and Yutao scooted a little closer on the branch. Neither looked at the other; they didn’t have to. Instead they watched the horizon, waiting for a branch to break under them. They listened to the quite calm of the grasshoppers, watching for the sunshade to come and finally sweep the oiltrees away.

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A STUDY IN LOSS Angeline Ai-Nhi Truong Stanford University

As I drift I see her drowning in the sea, choking on sea foam, clutching onto her favorite blue compact-blush. Green grass is at her toes. Wrong place, I protest, grass cannot grow in the sea, Or under a moon, She laughs and tells me: most things do. She says: I have come here all this way, across an ocean and a half, And I claim this sea – this land – for you, my daughters. The grass is at her neck. I watch it consume her. I wake to the sound of my grandmother, pounding at my door, screaming, shrieking, she is being attacked, the pirates are raping her, ripping her golden earrings straight from her ears, her boat is sinking, she is dying, save her. She is manic again, the dementia is back, it is 2:45 AM and I put her gently to bed, slip a little silk coverlet over her frail body and watch her until her breath stills. She is like this a lot now, always shouting and screaming about fantasies and horrors, all lies, all products of aging and neurodegeneration, her doctor tells me. She screams into the cold, dark night; sometimes I think maybe she is screaming for a life-line, for something to reel her mind in. I lean over to kiss her on the cheek when she finally falls back asleep, and I see two jagged scars across her earlobes that I have never noticed before. So the next day, I ask the man who sells my grandmother herbal medicines and ginger-root for her brain disease to give me something else for my dreams, not the Vietnamese dreams, I want the American ones. He gives me a green little bottle that smells like limes and tells me, one drop before bed-time. 192

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That night I dream of a classroom at Stanford: my chemistry professor is teaching an awful lecture, something ridiculous about amines and the Claisen condensation, and how important this all is when it comes to being a doctor. Suddenly she wipes away the white-board and announces a new lecture: the next chapter we are learning, she declares on the board in big, black Expo marker: a study in loss, which is what I study in my dreams: Daddy searching the bathroom for the cracked jade bottle with the last few drops of my mother’s old perfume. My aunt in her shawl, gazing steadily at television static, after his letters stopped coming. Rain in the city. A stranger with your name. My mother, bare-handed in the garden, plucking off tulips that have died. My dog licking my brother’s face as he weeps, only to dream unremembered dreams as he sleeps. And my grandmother, bringing her roses to the river, so they might die again.

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STEALING SUMMER STARS Alannah Stone Marshall University

Along broken Milton pavement our busted Pontiac Aztec dips into potholes, creaking red metal singing into the dark of the mid-June night, humidity everlasting, skin sticky with sweat. Fingertips jitter against bare thighs while giggles laced with nerves and excitement hum alongside the staticky top 40 melodies. Itching, sandwiched together, our bodies jump with each curve of the everlasting road. Keen to throw our sneakers to the sky and live in spite of the parents who raised us we maneuver the brown papered blunt, the smoke nestling around us until it creeps up the glass of the window by my cheek, and I breathe in precariously. Flames kiss my throat like a questioning lover, unsure when to lean away. Reality begins to slip away, drifting down like sand through the parted fingertips that refuse to come together, even for one fleeting second. My finger trails down the window, clearing a path for the cows that graze under the moon and tired wooden barns who tilt to the side. All I want to do is allow the cows’ bellies to meet the grass, and push the barns back to where they stood in 1951 when a man and his wife decided this coven of West Virginia was the place where their dreams became the hourglass of reality, forever drifting.

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AT THE CODY RODEO Tamar Bordwin Skidmore College

The fever of the bulls behind their gates— hot breath on blue iron bars; seething in the mud, splattered and steaming; throbbing red crayon lines personified. Perched on the topmost bars of the bull cages, a row of blue-jeaned cowboy hats sit in wait, twisting now and again to look anywhere but down at the hoof-churned mud into which they spit so indifferently. Later, when the bull riders have washed the mud from their bruised skin and the rodeo clown has gone home to beat his wife, no one will remember the itchiness of this in-between moment. They will remember how the bodies of the bullriders fell, like skeins of wool, headlong into the mud. But I am here now. Look: A cool drizzle descends and the cowboy hats turn upwards, laughing, pressing down hard on the black, hairy nausea that bucks wildly in their flannel-cloaked torsos. They must make it through this moment, the one right before, one-by-one, they lower themselves onto the slick backs of the animals that bulge and flex like taffy and, with the raw Wyoming night on their faces, watch the gates swing dreadfully open.

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ANONYMOUS UNITY Maeghan Mary Suzik NYU Tisch School of the Arts

crying on the A train across from lipstick stained diet coke cans yesterday’s paper at Canal there’s a surfboard underground book nerds and earbud buddies contained in a single metal dinghy Chambers brings baggage sleeps not stirring at doorbells the widespread dick-sit parades over more than a single block makeup is needed at Fulton and gum, white, probably two sticks considering the sound High brings a cold tissues I wish I had before the blow funny how New Yorkers only wear black kids play at Jay eyes red like mine decriminalized joy in stop-n-go air

she now has me with her to pass off when it is her turn

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I get up to catch another letter at Hoyt whacking lipstick lady with tears and the ends of my scarf they say trauma is passed down through bloodlines and here that sadness is pumped through the inner weaving veins beneath The City


STEPHANIE CLIFFORD Shelby Weisburg Williamette University

When she was seven years old (she was once), she used blue raspberry blue and cleansing rain shampoo. The gum stain rubbed into the vinyl of her mom’s 1972 Ford was black as the dog who lived down the street, smooth as her mother’s freshly coated nails. Her nails were picked clean like fine chicken bones. Stephanie, stop biting them. She picked her nose, too, when she thought no one was looking. Her mother dropped her off at school long before the bell rang— Get out, you’re making me late. Sometimes she would forget to say goodbye. Sometimes the weather was stormy. Dragging her boys snow boots in the gravel under the swing, she’d sing Elouise, the Elephant likes hard-boiled eggs and radishes She whispered the same song to her stuffy under her polyester comforter, nights when her mom was too tired to do anything but yell Stephanie! Since she didn’t have the patience to sit for her mother to weave cute braids, she went to school with her hair knotted and loose. But she let the shy girl who sat behind her on the floor for storytime trace the word stormy again and again on her back and comb out her tangles until the pencil-faced teacher snapped Keep your hands to yourself. WEISBURG

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N

O

means stop touching Stephanie.

She walked home alone even when it was stormy, spinning her lanyard around and around on her arm as she tried to whistle but no one ever taught her so she gave up trying and clicked her tongue behind her lost eye-teeth growing in. Every afternoon, she packed a snack for the rottweiler mutt (she named her Stormy) (she loved her) who lived behind the chainlink on the way to Walgreens where she replaced the 25 cent bouncy ball her mom always threw away: Stop bouncing that fucking ball on the garage, Stephanie. Did you hear me? N O. The dog ate the Wonder Bread and butter sandwich from her fingers greedily— flopping black jowls, purple tongue— until she tired of the moist mouth around her knuckles N O means NO, Stormy. until she rattled the fence loudly to scare the dog away, kicking up dust sideways through the weeds until she scraped her own throat with tears— Come back, Stormy Stormy Stormy

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CHILDHOOD AS CAROUSEL Alex Benedict Miami University

in the sunroom, lounging on a dusty couch drained of any color it used to be, she’s reading a pocket-sized edition of Catcher in the Rye with the bottom-half of the cover ripped off just enough to make out the body and tattered mane of a carousel horse. a pole driven through its neck, exiting through its proud chest — each of its legs torn off like the four, dangling stems of wildflowers planted behind her right ear. the carousel will continue to turn. the horses will continue to race. her eyes start stumbling over words to watch green anoles bathing on the mesh screening. she places her bookmark, a flattened mess of wildflowers, between Holden and Horwitz as he leans back and says, “the fish don’t go no place. they stay right where they are, the fish. right in the goddam lake.” she slides the book into her backpocket and leaps off the couch to chase the green anoles BENEDICT

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— 5 to 8 inches of chartreuse scale — off the mesh-screening into the backyard until they scurry up the slim backs of lemon and orange trees, bordering grandmother’s fairy garden, full of little plastic houses and little glass gems. she likes to imagine the anoles climb down from the trees as the sun tucks itself under the horizon, tucking themselves inside the little plastic houses. the citric smell of overripe fruit dominates the backyard. clumps of rotting lemons and oranges dot the overgrown grass. she walks over to a freshly fallen orange, sits down criss-cross-applesauce and peels it all in one go.

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BENEDICT


CONTRIBUTORS

Kia Addison (@ addison_kia) is an essayist, poet and public speaker with a passion for community organizing. After more than three years’ experience co-coordinating or heading various workshops, awards, speaking panels and outreach campaigns. Addison believes in the power of passionate people. As an intern, she has helped to organize the Oregon Book Awards with Literary Arts, and Silk Road Review: A Literary Crossroads as an assistant editor. She is also earning an English Literature degree from the Pacific University of Oregon. Emily Baker is a student and writer from East Tennessee, who is good at baking and less good at keeping plants alive. She specializes in poetry and short fiction, but just loves the art of a good story in any form. She wants to cultivate a lifelong love of learning in herself and others, for all manner of things from history to woodworking to languages. She believes we live in a fascinating world and wants to know and experience it as deeply as possible. Hannah Barnard is currently a junior at Allegheny College, majoring in Global Health Studies and a writing minor with creative emphasis. Her favorite mode of creative writing is poetry. She is working towards becoming a PA and when not in class or at work, she volunteers at the local ED and tries to spend as much time with her friends as she can. Her favorite part of writing poetry is creating a dynamic between form and content to illustrate an emotion, create a world, hint to prior experiences, and share with the community. Johanna Bear is a queer and disabled writer from Carlisle, Pennsylvania who is currently a junior at Franklin and Marshall College where she is a joint Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Theatre major. Her poems have previously been published in Thalia magazine, Zeniada magazine, and Killjoy literary magazine. She is an avid fan of queer theory, musical theatre, chocolate cake, and sea breezes and dreams of a day when she gets to experience all of them at once. When not writing she can be found missing her two cats, trying to keep her small garden of plants alive or knitting hats. Michael A. Beard is a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is


majoring in English: Creative Writing with a minor in Communications. He has published works in Sequoya Review based out of Chattanooga and Glass Mountain Review based out of Houston. He is scheduled to be graduating Spring of 2021 and is hopeful of being accepted into a graduate MFA program upon graduation. Kaitlyn Von Behren is a nineteen-year-old poet currently studying English at Ripon College. Her poetry has appeared in Blue Marble Review, Polyphony Lit, and Canvas, among others. Her poems have also been honored by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and Button Poetry. Sam Bender is a junior at Allegheny College. She is double-majoring in Technical Theater and English, and minoring in Conservation Studies. She is also the senior editor of the Allegheny Review. Alexander Benedict is an English Literature and Creative Writing double-major at Miami University. His poetry has previously appeared in Inklings and Happy Captive. In collaboration with Perh Machine Learning Group, he co-authored Machine Poetry Collection for the 2018 Fringe Festival. Currently, he moderates the online writing community r/OCPoetry. Christopher Bernard is a senior at York College in Jamaica, Queens. He is a multiracial, gender-fluid, homosexual, who was raised like all dirtbags from Queens were raised: with coffee, cigarettes, and a sense of abandonment. He’s an empath, so he tries to help other sad souls. He’s always been that caring type of person and his emotional states are like gravity. Tomas Beranek is an aspiring writer and currently studying at the University of Suffolk with his field of study being English. His all time favorite writers are Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and F.S. Fitzgerald. ‘Seaweed’ is his first novel for both children and adult readers, and combines fantasy with real world issues found in today’s society. Kate Bonanni is a senior English major with a concentration in creative writing at Hollins University. She is also an editor of Cargoes, the university’s oldest literary magazine. Most of the time, she’s thinking about how much she wishes she were petting her three cats. The other 10% of the time, she’s attempting to convey the depths of her existential anxiety via poetry. Clara Bonnlander is a sophomore at Emory University, majoring in English and minoring in Linguistics. Her work pushes the boundaries of genre, often combining poetry, prose, and essay. Major themes in Clara’s writing include memory and identity, and she enjoys experimenting with the ways language works and functions. Her prose poem “Bagelheads” references the restaurant of the same name in


her home town of Pensacola, Florida. Tamar Bordwin is a junior majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing at Skidmore College. In addition to writing poetry, she adores painting, knitting, crocheting, and frolicking in the snow. She has driven across America twice (so far), and the inspiration for her poem “At the Cody Rodeo” came from one of said road trips, when she witnessed her first ever rodeo in Wyoming. She is very excited to be a part of the fifth volume of this wonderful magazine, and hopes you enjoy reading it! Ren Brandon is a student from the University of Denver (2020) where they study Criminology with a minor in Art. They are an English double major in their heart. They would like to thank Vincent Carafano for encouraging them to submit their piece to the Review. James Braun’s work has appeared and is forthcoming in the Minnesota Review, Zone 3, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. His short story “Clay,” forthcoming in The Rectangle, won the Herbert L. Hughes short story award. James works as an editorial intern for Dzanc Books, and is currently at work on a short story collection of childhood stories. He lives in Port Huron, Michigan. Nancy Canevari is a senior at Smith College majoring in English and education, with a concentration in creative writing. She is also pursuing teacher licensure at the secondary level and hopes to teach English and creative writing in middle and high schools after graduation. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember, and loves books and writing in all genres, but her true loves are fantasy and science fiction. Originally from New Jersey, Nancy now lives in Western Massachusetts. William Carpenter is a senior at Penn State majoring in Political Science and Philosophy, with a minor in creative writing. Though he has relocated throughout his life, he calls Calvert County, MD home, and much of his work explores senses of place and displacement engendered by these moves, as well as the weighty question of what it means to be from a given environment. As he finishes up his undergraduate education, William aims to continue honing his poetry, and enjoys living in a loud, messy house with his two best friends. Darnell “DeeSoul” Carson is a queer writer, poet, and Spoken Word Performer from San Diego, CA, and one of the co-directors of Stanford Spoken Word Collective. His work has been featured in the Anderson Collection at Stanford University and on Write About Now Poetry. He is a two-time CUPSI finalist (’18, ’19) and has self-published two poetry collections, which are available for purchase online on Amazon. You can find more about him and his work at deesoulpoetry.com.


Noah Chavkin’s goal is to translate experiences out in the world into beautifully stylized compositions that are accessible to all. The style he works in is based on his relationship with folk art, cubism, minimalism, and modernism. He looks at traditional Mexican, Meso-american, indigenous pacific-northwest, and Vietnamese folk art as well as the work of Keith Haring, Fernand Leger, Tarsila do Amaral, Pablo Picasso, and Edward Hopper to inform and build his unique artistic language. His work often relies heavily on symbolism and cubism, combined with bold colors and playful motifs meant to evoke emotions of happiness, curiosity, and wonder, mirroring his personal emotions about the world around him. Caleb Dros is a senior undergraduate at Florida State University about to pursue an MFA in his field. He was born and raised in Sint Maarten, the Dutch Caribbean, and is a major in Creative Writing about to complete a brief collection of poems as his undergraduate honor’s thesis titled “Tobacco Sand.” Ted Dryce is a Junior at Florida State University currently earning his BA in Creative Writing. Besides poetry, Ted enjoys reading too many books at one time, performing Improv comedy, and writing comic books. He recently made his debut as a published poet in the literary journal 30 North. Born in Ecuador to an Ecuadorian man and and American woman, Stephen Energia was an inaugural (Rad)ical Poetry Consortium fellow. He has work published in No Tender Fences: An Anthology of Immigrant & First-Generation American Poetry and Warren Wilson College’s Peal Literary Journal. His first project, Full Plate, Split Tongue, lingers on his families, disappearing neighborhoods, and the people in both countries who made him, him. And food-- it’s often about food. He loves “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” and his neighborhood ice cream shop. Liam Fleming is a junior at Rutgers University, Camden, and wants to pursue an MFA after graduating. His love for reading and writing comes from being shown The Hobbit before he could speak. Liam grew up in southern New Jersey and is the oldest of four siblings and a cat. He loves mountains, diners, and talking about ghosts. Ellis Gibson is a gay, trans, disabled poet most recently educated as an undergraduate at The Ohio State University. They are interested in linguistics and lyric, allusive, sound-expansive poetry. The current focus of their work is pushing language to express otherwise inexpressible memories, histories, and embodiments. Elizabeth Goldberg grew up in Nyack, New York. She attended Skidmore College and graduated with a BA in English with a concentration in fiction writing in May 2019. Elizabeth is interested in exploring what she calls “abnormal approaches to death” in her writing. Her favorite books are Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir


Nabokov and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Since graduating, Elizabeth works at Scholastic Inc. in New York City where she is pursuing her passions of literature and education. Noah C. Gore is a junior studying English and Creative Writing at Ashland University. He is a fiction editor for his college’s literary journal, Black Fork Review, and a member of Sigma Tau Delta. During the Spring semester of 2019, his poem “Sandstone Eyes” was published in Mount Union’s literary journal, Calliope. The following fall, he interned for the 13th International Arthur Miller Conference. Some of his influences include Charles Baudelaire, Mathias Svalina, Virginia Woolf, J. R. R. Tolkien, Chris Cornell, Curt Kirkwood, Brandon Boyd, and Eddie Vedder. Katie Hartraft is a Creative Writing and Communication & Digital Studies double major at the University of Mary Washington, to graduate May 2020. She splits her time between Fredericksburg and her hometown of Chesapeake, Virginia. When she’s isn’t writing, she is working on websites (such as UMW’s literary journal The Rappahannock Review), vacuuming, working with state parks, and making digital art. She has previously been published in Teen Ink. Rachel Kellner is a sophomore at NYU majoring in math and computer science. She spends her mornings in class writing poetry and her evenings trying to catch up on all the lectures that she didn’t pay enough attention to. Rachel thinks that every part of life is an adventure worthy of being shared. That’s why her poetry covers topics ranging from her family to martial arts, graph theory, or whatever she happens to learn about that day. Joel Lee is a writing student at the University of Tampa. His work is inspired chiefly by God and Florida’s swampland, but is usually redirected by the subject of vice (much like his life). He’s passionate about art, education, and the Holy Spirit; he dreams at night of churches talking openly about sexuality, and seeing the face of Christian literature change. He hopes to help make it happen. Hannah Lewis is a 24 year-old aspiring poet from Michigan. She is a senior at Oakland University majoring in journalism and minoring in creative writing. She is an avid martial artist ranked in Ryukyu Kempo, Small Circle Jujitsu, and Modern Arnis; as well as a lover of insects and talking way too loudly. Her poetry Instagram is @sajenmoon. Olivia Lipkin recently graduated with honors from Skidmore College, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology. As a Jewish-American woman, Olivia seeks to acknowledge—and challenge—the evergrowing antisemitism in the United States. In her writing, she considers intergenerational trauma, defense mechanisms, and how to cope with the absurd.


Tessa Markham is a senior at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. She is an English major, intending to write a series of short, environmentally-focused stories for her senior thesis, with an Environmental Studies minor. She has written for blogs such as The Mighty, for articles on chronic and mental illness, as well as for The Odyssey, with a focus on college life. However, this is her first in-print publication. She has a passion for the environment and has been diving for five years, achieving PADI Diving Instructor with more than 72 logged hours underwater. Meg Marzella is a sophomore writing student at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. She loves to explore her own identity and her relationships to those around her through personal essay and creative nonfiction. Her piece “Young Man” is a speculative piece about her father when he was young that was first realized in her Introduction to the Essay class. Mary McClung is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. An English Literature and Religious Studies double major, Mary’s main topic of interest is the relationship between faith and literature. In addition to her work in essays and creative non-fiction, Mary writes novels and poetry, which she publishes under the pseudonym Else Redling. She intends to pursue graduate school in the future, planning to one day teach at the university level. Mae McDermott is currently a first-year Writing Major and English Minor at Ithaca College. She is a Poetry Editor for the Writing Department’s literary magazine, Stillwater, and a staff writer for on-campus publications Buzzsaw and Odyssey. In the spring she will have the privilege of reviewing her essays with essayist David Lazar, as well as studying poetry with Bruce Weigl and fiction with Leslie Jamison. T. Mesnick is a third year at Miami University majoring in Creative Writing and History. Previous publications include High Noon, Asterism, Happy Captive, and Inklings. They were also the recipient of the Harris S. Abrams Award (via The Academy of American Poets) in 2019. They enjoy writing humorous poetry and poetry that subverts expectations. Bella Moses is a student at Hamilton College, currently studying for a BA in creative writing. She is from Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a finalist for the Santa Fe Youth Poet Laureate. Her work has been published in Red Weather literary magazine, and Circle Mag, the arts and culture publication of Hamilton College. Her current joys and obsessions include Greek myth, nighttime snow, walking up hill, and fresh baked bread. Hannah Mullins is a senior at Missouri Western State University majoring in Tech nical Communication. The daughter of two readers, she grew up around books and


started writing her own stories after seeing her mother do the same. Mullins has a habit of writing in time periods she was never alive in because she can’t resist a setting with vinyl records, no cell phones, and Aquanet-sprayed giant hair. This is her first publication. Elizabeth O’Donnell is 23 and newly married. Their family is already growing to the tune of a cat named Greg. She graduated in May of 2019 and hopes to obtain a teaching job for middle school science students someday soon. She has recently been published in Third Wednesday and Red Flag Poetry. She hopes to someday receive an MFA. Stephen Williams Ortega is a writer and student at Yale University. They have been published in various university publications and through other experimental publications. A selection of their work is available online at blasphemyandgerrymandering.squarespace.com. Thalia Otero is a Mexican-American aspiring poet who grew up in Glencoe, MN. She is a senior Creative Writing major at Southwest Minnesota State University. Her goals include becoming an editor, whether it’s at a poetry or non-fiction journal, travelling to Canada, and finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. She is also currently an intern at Yellow Medicine Review. Em Palughi grew up in coastal Alabama and is currently a junior creative writing major at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. They are a recipient of the Eleanor Denoon ‘36 Poetry Prize through the Kratz Creative Writing Center. Their poems, including “Taking up Serpents” and “Adytum,” have appeared in the Loch Raven Review. Margo Parker is a junior at Davidson College, in Davidson, North Carolina. She has two dogs, a penchant for iced coffee, and a lot of thoughts about queer meme culture as a subversive political discourse. Sometimes, she writes poetry and personal essays. She realized recently that kind words from good friends can keep your head above water, and she wishes you all the best. Kevin Pataroque is a 3rd year Chemical Engineering and English student at Case Western Reserve University. He is originally from Portland, Oregon and frequently draws inspiration from his rainy background. Currently, he serves as the president of the Creative Writing Club at Case Western Reserve, works as an undergraduate researcher to study the interactions of non-equilibrium plasma and aqueous contaminants, and is involved in CRU, a Christian organization that seeks to connect individuals with Christ. In his free time, Kevin enjoys writing, playing piano, and beatboxing. In his writing, he seeks to reconcile various parts of his Chinese/Filipino/American ethnicity, along with his scientific background, in a poetic form.


Madeline Peck is a literature student attending Southern Utah University. She plans on going on working to receive a PhD in Literary Criticism but believes in the importance of poetry. Long live the proletariat, down with the bourgeoisie. Jessica Pham is a student at UCLA majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. She has loved reading and writing since she was a child, but it was only within the past two years that she began actively exploring poetry. Her work often navigates through topics such as self identity, family, and loss. When she is not writing she loves visiting the ocean and listening to music. Faith Rush, a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, left home to attend Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina in hopes to connect with extended family. She is a senior English major with a minor in African American Studies. “Death of Divorce” is inspired by her family’s Southern history. Faith’s writing explores familial conflict, grief, and unheard voices within the African American community. When she is not focused on graduation and submitting various applications for graduate school, she spends her time cooking and wondering when her favorite K-Pop group GOT7 will go back on an international tour. Younghyeon Ryu (Jade) is a 22 year old artist who’s doing her best. She’s an illustrator who’s been pursuing the arts for a very long time. She loves her sweet cat Carrot and hopes it loves her back. It probably does. Sauharda Bikram Sedhain is an English literature major in John Carroll University. He was born in the hills of Kathmandu valley, Nepal. He believes that one day all of us will unite to see the hidden truth of love. Wyatt Sheppard is a Creative Writing major at Webster University where pri spends prins time abusing softcover editions with stickers and pens and harassing prins (absolutely wonderful) advisor. Pri was the sole editor of Works Of Prey in 2017, a literature review published at East Central College. Helena Beatriz Silva-Nichols is a creative who hails from a Southwest-U.S. Mexican diaspora. She is currently a senior at Stanford University where she studies Sociocultural Anthropology and cultivates light through friendship, intentionality, and artful healing. Her piece is animated by interests in queer Chicana theory, familia, linguistic embodiment, spiritual activism, and conocimiento. As a wanderer, she finds inspiration in the dualistic and multiplicitous teachings of unanticipated paths. Melissa Sorensen is a senior at Lebanon Valley College (Class of 2020), majoring in English with a secondary education concentration. She enjoys experimenting with


essay forms and participating in writing workshops. She hopes that if she were to have future works published, she could write a more interesting biography. She lives with her mother, two brothers, and six wonderful cats in Tower City, Pennsylvania. Sarah Stephen is an avid car singer, used book enthusiast, poet, and short fiction writer. She has always been fascinated by the gray space where genres bleed into one another and uses that as inspiration for her writing. Formerly the Editor-in-Chief of The Rappahannock Review, she now works as an editorial assistant in New York. She graduated from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia with a degree in Creative Writing in May 2019. Alannah Stone currently attends Marshall University where she is pursuing a degree in creative writing and literary studies with a minor in digital humanities. She has lived in West Virginia for her entire life and enjoys using her home as inspiration in her writing. When not at school, she spends too much time curating monthly playlists and reorganizing her bookshelf. Maeghan Mary Suzik is a New York City based actor, poet, and arts activist in her senior year at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Her poetry was just displayed at the 2019 NYU Diversity Arts Festival as well as the International Human Rights Arts Festival and some recent publications include the ninth edition of Catfish Creek, volume four of The Rational Creature Magazine, and the 2018 spring issue of October Hill Magazine. Michael Thompson is a third year illustration student at OCADU, downtown Toronto. He works mostly in an analogue/digital mix, usually starting with inks and finishing up in photoshop. His personal work has a lot of collage aspects, and he’s always working on and updating his style with the help of the educators at OCAD University. Angeline Truong is a junior undergraduate majoring in Human Biology at Stanford University. Her concentration is in Neurological Disease and Behavioral Disorders, and she hopes to be a physician-writer someday. She is the daughter of two Vietnamese political refugees. She hopes to use poetry as a means of better understanding patient narratives and to explore the tension between doctor and patient, especially in the face of cultural barriers. She also explores the lives of Vietnamese-American refugees, and the ways in which mental illness intersects with language and cultural displacement. Marie Watkins is a poet living in Lake Tahoe. She is pursuing a BFA in creative writing at Sierra Nevada College. Her poems have been featured in The Kokanee, Communal Collective, and on her website at https://smwm99.wixsite.com/


mariewatkins. She spends her free-time skiing the Sierra Nevada Mountains, reading Harry Potter with her two sons, knitting headbands for family members, or planning her dream house for the zombie apocalypse. Rachel Weinberg is a junior at Florida State University where she’s working towards her double major in creative writing and communications. She is pursuing a creative writing honors thesis with a focus in poetry and short fiction, and is incredibly grateful for this opportunity to share her work. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s flying on the trapeze and working at a summer camp in the Poconos. Shelby Weisburg is currently a third-year student at Willamette University, where she is majoring in English with a focus in Creative Writing and expects to graduate in May 2020. She has been previously published in the Oakland Arts Review, Cornell’s Rainy Day Magazine, FLARE: The Flagler Review, and Blacklist Journal. When she’s not writing, she works in the Oregon Legislature, watches re-runs of SNL, and climbs. She calls Colorado home. Thomas White studies aerospace engineering and creative writing at Stanford University. He was originally a political science major, but got distracted by rockets right around the end of high school. In his spare time, he fences, climbs, plays violin and guitar in an amateur space-themed cover band, reads while walking, and talks about himself in third person on the internet. Sophie Willard Van Sistine is a cartoonist and Studio Art major at Smith College. Her work has been published in The Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton’s local newspaper),The Sophian (Smith College’s newspaper), and on her blog sophiewillardvansistine.com. She sees art as tool for social change and communication across barriers. Her work synthesis historical research and interviews into collaboration-based word-and-image formats. Comics—a visually accessible medium— make it possible to tell stories about inclusion and diverse identities, that promote community action, empathy, and positive change. When Sophie isn’t making comics she can be found doing yoga, attempting to learn contortion, or spending time with family and friends. Emily Wills is currently a Junior at Florida Southern College majoring in Philosophy with minors in English, women’s studies, and film. She is a member of Sigma Tau Delta and president of Mental Health Awareness Club. Born, raised, and still living in Lakeland, Florida, her future plans include moving somewhere cooler. This is her first poem selected for publication.


STAFF

Nichole Gould, Managing Editor, attends Oakland University, with a Major in Creative Writing and a Minor in Advertising. She is employed at Aurora Publicity and works with authors on their advertising campaigns. She hopes one day to work at a publishing house as an editor, to get her MFA in Creative Writing, and to publish many novels of her own. Her interests include hiking, reading, writing, ice cream, and playing with her dog Rambo and cat Kyle. Makenzie Jones, Poetry Editor, is a senior at Oakland University, majoring in Creative Writing. She looks forward to graduating soon and dreams of being a novelist one day but remains undecided in what her career will look like in the meantime. When she’s not indulging her love of stories, whether by reading, writing, or via the silver screen, she enjoys spending quality time with friends, peaceful breaks by the lake, and investing in the lives of foster children through Royal Family Kids Camp and foster youth through Teen Reach Adventure Camp. Kayti Murray, Fiction Editor, is a former social worker who is currently pursuing her passions as a second undergraduate degree student at Oakland University. She is a Creative Writing major whose primary interests focus on speculative fiction and the voices of marginalized writers. She has previously earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Michigan State University and a Master in Social Work from Wayne State University. A self-identified Romantic, hundreds of years out of time, she can usually be found curled up in a cemetery with a favorite book when she is not spending time with friends, family, and her beloved Norwegian Forest Cat, Princess Leia Mewgana. Kaitlyn Neal, Poetry Editor, is a senior at Oakland University, majoring in English and is looking for a future career in technical editing, particularly in scientific fields. Beyond business related interests, she also paints professional pet portraits for clients as well as plays and teaches piano in leisurely time. Being from an extremely musical family, one of her hobbies is going to concerts from local bands with her parents and siblings. She also dotes on her two well-spoiled boxer dogs, Eva and Lemmy. Lauren Ramer, Nonfiction Editor, is a senior at Oakland University, majoring in


English with a minor in Linguistics. She has her sights set on a career in book publication, with a special interest in queer literature and science-fiction/fantasy. Aside from an overall fascination with language, she is also enthusiastic about environmental issues and her three dogs. Christina Reso, Layout Coordinator, is a senior at Oakland University, majoring in Graphic Design and minoring in Creative Writing. Her plan is to graduate this coming spring and move somewhere warm and sunny. In addition to graphic arts, Christina also prides herself on her affinity for illustration and physical art forms. April Sonnenberg, Copy Editor, is a senior at Oakland University, majoring in sociology. She plans on going to graduate school for a masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. April enjoys reading, listening to music, exploring outdoor places she really shouldn’t be in, and spending quality time with her cat, Olivia. Cassidy Swope, Copy Editor, is currently pursuing her degree in Writing and Rhetoric with a minor in Creative Writing. She is interested in having a career related to professional or creative editing and has hopes of writing her own work in her free time. When she isn’t writing or reading she enjoys spending time out on the water or hunting for bargain books.


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Oakland Arts Review Volume 5  

Oakland Arts Review Volume 5  

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