Issue IV, Volume 3 Table of Contents Fiction Pg. 3 - TODAY, THEY TOOK MY CHILDREN; Kristin Diversi Pg. 6 - THINGS TO OCCUPY ONE’S MIND WHILE WORKING A JOB CHECKING IN THE TITLES OF THE DAY’S MAGAZINES RECEIVED, AND LATER SHELVING THEM; Timothy DeLizza Pg. 7 - THE RED CROSS; R.E Hengsterman Pg. 10 - NO LONGER STAY; Tom Loughlin Pg. 12 - FIGURE 8; Ron Gibson Jr. Pg. 14 - EXCHANGING VOWS; Matt Dube Pg. 16 - HOPE; Michael Chin Pg. 17 - VARIETIES OF PAIN; Michael Chin Pg. 18 - NO REMORSE; Kevin Finnerty Epistolary Pg. 21 - ACT FOUR; Tom Loughlin Pg. 25 - YOU OWE ME; Dr. Christina Dalcher Pg. 26 - DEAR HEART; Ingrid Jendrzejewski Non-Fiction Pg. 28 - WHY I WEAR BLACK CLOTHES; Rebecca Porter Pg. 30 - SNOW; Julie Goodale Pg. 32 - SMASHING WALLS AND SHOPPING CARTS; Sara Codair Pg. 34 - ON NOT PAYING ATTENTION; Robert F. Gross Poetry Pg. 36 - THINGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME; Kaitlin Hsu Pg. 37 - THIS LIGHTHOUSE, THIS OCEAN; Nicholas Molbert Pg. 38 - LOVE LETTER TO A FICTIONAL CHARACTER; Logan Murphy Pg. 39 - THE FALLING MAN; Nanette Rayman Pg. 40 - ELEMENTAL; Linda M. Crate Pg. 41 - THE BETRAYAL, AFTER REMEDIES VARO; John Sweet Pg. 42 - THE GROUNDWATER; Tim Kahl Pg. 43 - THE WILL; Leigh Fisher Pg. 44 - FALLING BACK; Ava C. Cipri Pg. 45 - DISCRETION; Ava C. Cipri Pg. 46 - THE SPRING OF WOOLF’S DEATH; Sneha Subramanian Kanta Pg. 47 - FIRST TATTOO; Zach Wood-Doughty Pg. 48 - EDITORIAL STAFF Pg. 49 - CONTRIBUTOR BIOS
Fiction TODAY, THEY TOOK MY CHILDREN Kristin Diversi I remember the day I really realized that it was too late. You know, for America. I was home with my husband. I was working on the computer, and he was applying for jobs on his. We were staying with my dad that summer — and it was on the very cusp of summer: the nights were just starting to turn chilly, the days still humid and muggy. We had moved back across the country in search of better jobs, a better life — it had to be soon, I remember thinking. I remember thinking that we were sitting on a precipice, of some sort — the whole world, teetering. Everyone was unhappy with the way things were going, politically. We had a wolf in one corner and a snake in the other, both trying to sell America Tupperware with faulty lids, trying to convince us that theirs was the best set, the new set, the one that would keep us secure, keep our preciouses safe. I remember thinking I’d take the wolf — wolves had always governed these woods, and I knew who I’d be getting in bed with. We knew who we’d be getting in bed with. That summer, though. That summer, the American people seemed to unravel. All of the old hurts, whisperings of discontentment, feelings of panic as a new, modern ground shifted underneath traditional old feet — it was a million reasons. It was any reason. How do you make sense of a tragedy that could have been prevented? I prefer senseless acts — acts of nature, acts of god, if you will. When nature devastates we can say that it was because of environmental forces, shifts of something greater than us, movements that we couldn’t control. When humans devastate, what do we say? The force of generations of hurts, of smallness, of meanness, of cruelty inflicted upon each other — that is a force which we can control. But we don’t. We don’t have the vision of god, or of the sky. We only see what’s in front of us. We can’t see the storm we are creating, with our small forces. If you want to boil down political science, sociology, economics — hell, basic biology — I’d say the reasons behind that summer were hatred and blame: I hate the way things are becoming, and I want to blame someone. If we can distill these things further, I’d say it was fear: my life/my job/my family/my health/my country/my X isn’t what I want — and that scares me. That rocks the fuck out of my core beliefs, and I can’t fucking deal. But it doesn’t matter how, or why: these things have roots deeper than America itself, and they’ve been growing and rotting and strengthening through family narratives and cultural storytelling since time immemorial. If only prejudice were as recessive a trait as blue eyes, or the ability to curl one’s tongue. Leading up to that summer, the radical right had been becoming more vocal about the wrongs done to them and to their America. Years of Tea Party politics had reached a boiling point: a resurgence in nationalism and xenophobia, dedication to cherry-picked Christian ideals, contempt of intellectualism, fear of other. Contempt and outright hatred of anything that might threaten those concepts.
No room for discussion — discussion was for the weak. Donald Trump had come on the scene as a Presidential candidate, as a joke, it seemed. We all wanted it to be a joke — even the Republican party. Who could possibly elect a man that was blatantly sexist, racist, and xenophobic? Had no experience in politics, let alone enough to hold the highest office in the land? Seemed to want the world to burn, with himself in the middle, dancing madly? The answer, of course, was the radical right: people who felt that their way of life — traditional, conservative, white, Christian — was being threatened. The only answer for them was to stamp out anything that didn’t look like what they knew — and Trump promised to do that. He promised to do that, and more. I remember the day: we were working, and Fox News happened to be on in the background. A man had recently been arrested for planting bombs in New York and New Jersey — an American man. Trump was on television asking why this man should have due process, a fair trial, medical care, a lawyer? Why should this man have rights guaranteed to every American citizen? This man’s actions, if he was determined guilty — and since this was America, he was considered innocent until proven guilty by a fair trial — were, of course, despicable. He should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The law. The law of America. Not the law of vigilantism. Not the law that says, “this law stands until you fuck up, and then we, the angry mob, string you up and lynch you.” That is why America was different. Was different. I remember the day. My husband and I clucked our tongues, as we did a lot, in those days. “I cannot believe he thinks we should suspend due process,” my husband said. “He’s gross,” was my intelligent contribution. The crowd roared in the background, thirsty for blood. In November of 2016, Trump was elected by a narrow margin. A lot of people opted for the protest vote, and many votes went the way of Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. A lot of people, as they do, stayed home. Maybe they thought it had nothing to do with them: after all, decades have passed, with little truly changing from presidency to presidency. I didn’t blame them too much, at the time. We all had problems and worries of our own: homes to pay for, children to feed, families to care for. We would ride out the next four years, I thought, and then we could try again. Since then, there are a few other days I remember. I remember the day that everyone had to register their citizenship status. I remember the day that we had to register our sexual orientations. I remember the day that my children were born: of course, for the joy of it, but also because I had to list their father as foreign born, which made their citizenship suspect — not as strong as my own. I remember the day that we listened, dumbly, to the news that all
foreign born citizens were to be deported, effective immediately, regardless of marital or familial status. I remember the last day I saw my husband, waiting to board a plane back to his home country, after years of living and working legally in the United States, paying taxes and contributing to his adopted country. And today — I’ll always remember today. Today, they took my children.
THINGS TO OCCUPY ONE’S MIND WHILE WORKING A JOB CHECKING IN THE TITLES OF THE DAY’S MAGAZINES RECEIVED, AND LATER SHELVING THEM Timothy DeLizza ❖ Take careful note of how many A-K magazines and how many L-Z magazines come. See how the numbers compare. Keep a mental chart over time. Choose a side and defend why more of these ought to arrive. ❖ Breathe, fully, four times in and out. Ignore all other sounds. ❖ If the sound, tone and spacing of the keys’ noise were mathematically analyzed, patterns would emerge. ❖ After several months of mentally choosing A-K and L-Z, use all your strength NOT to notice how many of each comes in. Become angry and brooding if you don’t succeed. Don’t look at the clock, time doesn’t exist. ❖ Fantasize you are a superhero of your own gender, skin color and social class. Don’t search for purpose except for in the event itself. ❖ Do not expect anyone to remember you once you have left the room. ❖ Note breathing patterns of those sitting next to you. See if they are somehow in tune with the chattering of the keys or hum of the computer. ❖ Ignore all other sounds. ❖ Count the number of smiles on covers in comparison to those with real emotions. Don’t be frightened, you are safe and sound in your chair. ❖ Seat creaks. Go to bathroom to leave seat. Look in mirror for changes. ❖ Be sure they are speaking to you. ❖ Don't look at inside pages. All pages are blank. ❖ Mind tinkering to improve worker productivity. Thinking is a disease. Don’t expect things to change, they won’t. Watch and collect information carefully. Use your mind to make computations as necessary, but don't be there, really. Notice if your legs ever move. ❖ As you are shelving the magazines, notice if your feet make sounds. Listen carefully for rain droplets against the windows when you are aware there is no rain outside, or windows. Indoors the rain is only worse. ❖ Purposely make mistakes; correct them two days later. Learn how to sleep while being awake, a happy corpse that works.
THE RED CROSS R.E Hengsterman I watched the large needle penetrate my pale skin. The sight of metal into my flesh was nauseating. Moments later I tracked the dark red liquid as it snaked down the plastic tubing and into my vein. The doctor hovering nearby said my hemoglobin was dangerously low, and I could have died. I tried to explain that it was the Red Cross, and they wanted my blood. They needed my blood. And this how I ended up in this condition. But every time I tried to tell my story, the medical staff refused to listen. So I made my pleas even louder. "They called me at home," I said, wrestling with the restraints that bound my arms and legs to the stretcher. "They called me at home!" I said again, but even louder into the space that was my medical cubicle. This time, I caught the attention of the drunk in the next room who shouted back, "Ya wanna drink my piss?" Why wouldn't anyone listen to me? I always listened. So I yelled, again and again in competition with the drunk. Apparently, I made enough noise to aggravate the nurses, who arrived in a small pack, jabbed a large needle into my thigh against my protests, and then quickly disappeared from my room cackling something about an antipsychotic Haldol. Before I finally surrender to the drug, I need to clarify something. I am not crazy. I just answered the phone, and nothing has been the same since. I remember it clearly. The day I got the call was not like all the others. I know this because I like routine. And I like order. Some people say I am unique. Others say I'm special. I prefer efficient. On that day I answered on the third ring. Not because I failed to hear the phone, but because I always answer on the third ring. Three seems to be the ideal number. Not too eager. Not to standoffish. So I answer at three. On the line was a pleasant automated female voice with a curiously human quality. "THIS IS THE AMERICAN RED CROSS; YOUR ONE BLOOD DONATION CAN HELP SAVE THE LIVES OF UP TO THREE PEOPLE. MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS. GIVE BLOOD THROUGH THE AMERICAN RED CROSS TO HELP HOSPITAL PATIENTS. VISIT THE RED CROSS TODAY." I listened to the message with diligence, as I do all messages. Then, I copied the message verbatim in my notepad and went about my day. That was Monday. Monday is the first day of my week. On Tuesday the phone rang, and again I answered on the third ring. "THIS IS THE AMERICAN RED CROSS; YOUR ONE BLOOD DONATION CAN HELP SAVE THE LIVES OF UP TO THREE PEOPLE. MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS. GIVE BLOOD THROUGH THE AMERICAN RED CROSS TO HELP HOSPITAL PATIENTS. VISIT THE RED CROSS TODAY." I am not one to shirk my social responsibilities. I attend to all my responsibilities. Blood donations must be critically low; I thought to myself. So during my scheduled one hour and fifteen-minute lunch break, I made my first donation. The process was painless, relatively, and I left feeling rather pleased. I like feeling satisfied.
I finished my day at the usual time and headed home. At six-fifteen that evening I cooked my microwave dinner for exactly three minutes and forty-five seconds. Then I sat and watched the local news. Watching the news is my routine. I like to be informed. At 8 pm the phone rang and I answered on the third ring. "THIS IS THE AMERICAN RED CROSS; YOUR ONE BLOOD DONATION CAN HELP SAVE THE LIVES OF UP TO THREE PEOPLE. MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS. GIVE BLOOD THROUGH THE AMERICAN RED CROSS TO HELP HOSPITAL PATIENTS. VISIT THE RED CROSS TODAY." During my scheduled one hour and fifteen-minute lunch break, I returned to the donation center. I checked in, and they scanned my donor card. I have a donor card because they gave me one. I placed it amongst with my other cards. I keep everything in alphabetical order. I like order. I waited for the women behind the counter to say I was not allowed to donate, but she did not. And that meant everything was okay. I know this because the system doesn't make mistakes. I donated again. The Red Cross accepted my donation. And as before the process was painless, and again I left feeling rather pleased. On my way out the door, I asked how often I could donate. The woman behind the desk responded with a scripted answer, "You must wait for at least eight weeks (56 days) between donations of whole blood and 16 weeks (112 days) between double red cell donations." Then she paused. Of course, "Regulations are different for those giving blood for themselves." I stopped, door propped half open with my left foot. "But I donated yesterday," I said. She immediately scanned my face for sarcasm. Then dropped her hands to the keyboard and tapped a dozen or so keys. "We have no record of your donation yesterday." I ran my finger along the bend in my arm, feeling the small hole. "There must be an error," I said and let the door swing close. Errors are disruptive. I don't like disruptions. I finished my day at the usual time. At six-fifteen that evening I cooked my microwave dinner for exactly three minutes and forty-five seconds. Then I sat and watched the local news. At 8 pm the phone rang and I answered on the third ring. "THIS IS THE AMERICAN RED CROSS; YOUR ONE BLOOD DONATION CAN HELP SAVE THE LIVES OF UP TO THREE PEOPLE. MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS. GIVE BLOOD THROUGH THE AMERICAN RED CROSS TO HELP HOSPITAL PATIENTS. VISIT THE RED CROSS TODAY." During my scheduled one hour and fifteen-minute lunch break, I returned to the donation center. I checked in, and they scanned my donor card. I have a donor card because they gave me one. The women behind the desk barely acknowledged my presence. But I am used to this, as few people do. This routine lasted two weeks. I like routines. Every day during my scheduled one hour and fifteenminute lunch break I donated more and more of myself. I felt needed. And I rarely feel needed. That was until the day I was found pale and unconscious at work. And that was not my routine. And now I find myself drifting. The sedatives are slowly working through my blood stream. I am uncomfortable with the loss of control. And I am uncomfortable with being tied down. I am also uncomfortable with the psychiatrist bedside asking me questions.
Then my phone rings, but I am unable to answer on the first, second, or third ring and at this moment I find myself slightly less uncomfortable. Maybe it's the Haldol.
NO LONGER STAY Tom Loughlin
By the time you read this, I will be south of the Mason-Dixon line and west of the Ohio River. Please excuse my choice of writing this letter. I don’t have time for discussion. There is really nothing to discuss. I choose to go. I do not choose to go because you have driven me away, or because there is someone else. You have been good company, and it has been pleasant to pass the time with you. I have no complaints. I could just as easily stay. I worry that you will not get on by yourself, that you will be overcome with depression, that you will not survive alone. But I also worry that you will not survive with me either. My instinct tells me you have a better chance without me, because only without me will you be forced to see inside yourself. The world has become hollow, and I am lost in its hollowness. I have no compass to point me where I need to go, nor no sense of balance to keep me rooted. Where once I reveled in the full thick beauty of rolling hills and forests, the brown and unforgiving solitude of the desert seems to have a hold on my soul. Rather than run from this hollowness, I find I must delve deeper into it. I need to fill myself with as much emptiness as I can. Something authentic is what I am after. I have my doubts that anything authentic exists anymore, but I have to find that out for myself. I am weary of hip, of cool, of relevant. I am weary of drab, of dull, of fake. I am weary of striving, of ambition, of consequence. I want to strip myself of meaning, of relevance, of destiny. I want a clean break from this existence I created from mere drifting. I am sorry you are collateral damage. We have planted roots here, I know; but mine are rotted out, cracking, straining at the earth to break free. I fear the coming winter, with its dark and its cold and its eternal grey. I fear to become like winter - frozen, ice-numb, blue skin cracking and flaking off like scales. I want the heat and heart of the desert. I want to be able to stand on top of an empty upside-down tuna fish can and see for 20 miles in every direction. I want no people anywhere within that radius. Above all, no people. What a curse they have become. I have been taken for granted by people, and since that has been the case, let them live without me. I will not be missed. I will be eulogized, but not remembered. People will say what a shame and too bad, and then they will move on in their distracted world - so much the better. I want no work that goes beyond what I need to do to breathe in this mysterious without-end universe. I want no more responsibility than that required to hand a hungry man a sandwich. I will tell you that I love you, but I won’t tell you the reasons why. I have lost the skill of intimacy. No cause for alarm; for the most part, intimacy never served me well. I lacked the knack of picking the right people with whom to be intimate. So it goes. There is, I fear, no authentic love today anyway. Love is as much a cultural artifice as Times Square, which was itself at one time the soul of authenticity. Love is puny, contrived, an unnecessary burden to shoulder in a world as busy as ours. Swipe left. I’m taking the leftover spaghetti and meatballs, a few NutriGrain bars, and some grapes. The rest it yours. I hope to make that last to Carrizozo, New Mexico, where I believe they still serve authentic Mexican food. That seems like a good place to start.
Keep the money. Give the kids my share. Sell the house. Get an apartment so you are not burdened by the curse of home ownership. Feed the birds if you’re so inclined. I’m taking the car that’s paid off, and will run it into the ground. I will have no phone. Burn my mail. Burn this letter when you’re done with it. Take care.
FIGURE 8 Ron Gibson Jr. A thousand miles away a hand flips the switch to sad. Smiling fronts begin to frown on weather maps. Rains intensify on the horizon where ghostly red-tailed hawks circle in a mating dance, as gap-toothed spools of a mix tape rewinds time as it plays, and Sharpe sleeps to retrieve the better parts of himself lost in the churn. * When Sharpe was a boy, the perfection of the circle alluded him. His small hand pushed pencil around on paper, drunkenly. No matter how hard or how many times he tried, a lopsided egg unfit for consumption stared back at him. * Sharpe spent years starving. He didn't know it. His clothes fit the same. His body looked the same. Only when the frozen surface of sleep fractured did he notice the dull ache for something more. Sharpe never knew what he was starving for was Katheryn. * Science looks back through time, a voyeur. Further and further it looks, until the virgin night shyly parts its legs, and the excited scientist gasps at the almond of light that soon crowns disarray. * Katheryn was a universe. Sharpe watched her from afar, her light a puzzle on his laptop. He bathed in it, touched her words on his screen, felt her honesty in her art like a lover's skin on lonely nights. And when he logged out, folded darkened screen, she was a secret vacation spot. One he did not allow himself to visit too often for fear of damaging the fragile ecosystem of a dream. * Life comes like rain. Its story cannot be captured like linear notes on bars of sheet music. The piano plays disjointed, out of order, and the well-dressed audience paints a deeper meaning between the movements, applauding their own confusion. * Even in an electronic space, the habits of neighbors are learned by looking out your window. * Sharpe noted a new blog post. Katheryn noted an obscure 90s reference. Sharpe noted a light so soft it transformed Katheryn into an angel in her newest selfie. Katheryn noted the subtle hints of the correct political affiliations. Sharpe admired Katheryn's dedication to family and friends. Katheryn began to see nature as something other than a social media blackout and mosquito bloodletting via Sharpe's landscape photos. * Then, one day, loneliness weighs, greetings are shouted from property lines. Followed by flirting amid a firing squad of exclamation points. Followed by two stars quietly climbing a ladder into a direct message. Timelines roaring outside its walls, Times New Roman relaxes its strict posture, lowers its voice, a small, warm breath near an earlobe. Confessions arrive as tiny music. Pile on one another. Pasts answering pasts -- they meld, become something new, a shared pivot point, a barycenter between binary stars orbiting one another. * Some moments are eternal. A certain magic frames them, protects them. If you were to overanalyze them, they enter the atmosphere of reality and break apart. A firework on night sky. After the bluish hickey of smoke disappears, you wonder if that afterglow still imprinted on your mind when you close your eyes is fact or myth. *
Sharpe received her package like an answer. Handwriting like starlings on telephone wires, inside Katheryn sent him an analog mix tape. * When Sharpe flipped the switch on his old boombox, time rewound as it played, two spools spinning, a barycenter of melancholy issuing from Hope Sandoval's voice, a tiny musical confession, a firework in increased pulse, a silhouette in memory foam mattress awaits Sharpe when he opens his eyes. He watches it refill with air, an afterglow of a dream still imprinted on his mind, then closes his eyes, fading into the sound of humming from the kitchen.
EXCHANGING VOWS Matt Dube When Edward Anthony French married Eliza Lynnette Rodriguez, they exchanged middle names when they exchanged rings. Anthony, the name Teddy chose for his confirmation, was passed to Eliza. And she in turn gave him her maiden aunt’s Lynnette’s name, the same one who’d strangled herself with her pantyhose even though until that moment everyone said Lynnette was the happiest person they knew. Edward, Teddy, chose Anthony as his confirmation name to fit in, a Pole in an Italian neighborhood. His first wife, who had to know the background on everything, asked him which Anthony he meant: there was Anthony of Florence, the scholar and reformer, and Anthony the Great, the Egyptian, and Anthony of Antioch, martyred under Diocletian, and Anthony the Hermit. Or maybe Teddy meant Anthony of Rome, who rode a stone carried by a storm at sea all the way to Russia, where he built a church. Teddy didn’t know any of these saints, chose Antony to recall the kid in his first grade class that everyone liked, who was always the captain of the kickball team. That Anthony had moved away by third grade, and when Teddy took his name, he told himself Antony wasn’t using it anymore. Inside Eliza, the name Anthony worked its influence. People she didn’t know stopped her on the street to talk about the ponies, prize-winning eggplants, stories and personal asides that she had no experience at accepting, so she just did. It made her feel like the world was bigger and smaller at once, like she was some tiny gear in a big something. Teddy wore Lynnette like a prize pinned to his chest. A woman loves me this much, he felt like crowing, and it was like all those years of wanting to belong were finally made up for. Lynette Schuyler had been a gregarious woman, known for the bread ring she made with French onion dip. Teddy asked Eliza’s mother for the recipe, and spent the next weekend trying to get it just right. On Monday he brought the first batch he was happy with to the office of the insurance company where he was a writer (copy, not under, he always joked with people). He wanted everyone to try a piece. He wanted, more than anything, for someone to ask him for the recipe. That morning, Eliza was walking to open the gallery for a group of high school art students, when she was hailed by another stranger’s voice. She was in a hurry, but that never seemed to stop the strangers who wanted some recognition from her, so she turned to the voice. He was a young man, and he’d done something to the side of his head by the way he cut his hair; one side reflected the crisp white winter light and Eliza leaned in to stare at it while she listened to whatever strange story he wanted to share with her. He grabbed her by the sleeve and pulled her into the alley where he was standing and pushed a knife into her midsection. When he pulled it out, Eliza leaned into him with her body. So it was Anthony of Antioch, martyr by Diocletian. At this same moment, Teddy was gossiping with the women in his office when his supervisor, Daniel (never Dan or Danny) stood in the doorway of the conference room, and signaled that he wished to talk with Teddy. This is it, Teddy thought, Daniel’s going to ask for the recipe. He walked confidently into Daniel’s office, the only one of their floor with a door, which Daniel shut before he sat behind his desk. “I recognize marriage is an adjustment,” he said, switching his tie an inch from left-to-right, then returning it to plumb. “But this is a place of business. Camaraderie is an important part of the culture of an office, but your behavior is thoroughly unprofessional.” Teddy was so surprised that he started to cry, just like Lynnette had when her sister Carole, Eliza’s mother, announced her engagement
to the man Lynnette always believed she would one day marry: fat, ugly tears that made anyone who saw them want to draw back into themselves where it was safe. But then, Lynnette had pulled her hose tight against her stomach and took the recipe card from its box beside the range. At the reception, she sat at the head table and watched people take a bite of her dip and then go back for seconds, satisfaction enough for an event where she had no date and no one would think to ask her to dance.
HOPE Michael Chin Chick Magnet was a real asshole, though half the boys were by the time I made it for a cup of coffee in the big time—my first stint in a national wrestling promotion. Chick Magnet lived his gimmick. He was a damn handsome man who kept his beard trimmed to a calculated, manly stubble, who went everywhere with his shirt half-unbuttoned, who winked a women of all ages and broke into a millisecond of cha-cha-cha as he sashayed around foot traffic in a crowded airport terminal. One time at the airport, this teenage girl noticed him. Not just noticed him, but recognized him, because she leaned over and IDed him for her mom who clearly didn’t watch wrestling and didn’t much seem to care Chick Magnet was sitting across the way. The old lady was engrossed with Us Weekly in her one hand and a sixteen-ounce cup of coffee in the other. That girl didn’t just recognize Chick Magnet. She salivated. Chick Magnet salivated, too, or at least he drooled, passed out because it was six in the morning, and he had a few of us boys to make sure he didn’t sleep straight through boarding. And the girl—a good looking redhead with glasses that made her look smart and acne she’d surely grow out of in a couple years—opened her knapsack and took out a spiral notebook and a pen covered in purple and pink glitter. She started writing. I mean feverish writing, like she was writing the great American novel and needed to get out every syllable before she lost the rhythm. At first, I thought maybe she was writing a description of this encounter with Chick Magnet—recording every second so she’d never forget it. But then she ripped the page loose and carried it to us. She hesitated when she got close, the way good girls do around wrestling men when they realize they’re out of their depth. You don’t want to wake him, New York Nick Nettles said. He’s really cranky if you wake him. She looked a little dejected, but undeterred, she folded the piece of wide-ruled paper tight and held it close to her mouth before dropping it in Chick Magnet’s lap, right next to his hand where he’d have to notice it. Then she leaned in closer, in a flash, kissed his cheek, and was off, not so much as asking the rest of us for autographs, back to her mother who as far as I could tell never noticed she was gone. When boarding started, New York elbowed Chick Magnet. We all stood up and Chick Magnet let the letter fall to the floor. I pointed it out to him. Explained what had happened. Told him he ought to pick it up, even if it were just for show because surely the girl was still watching. And Chick Magnet? He didn’t look down at the letter, didn’t so much as steal a look at the girl on his way to the boarding line. And me: I did steal that look, just before I crossed over, out of the terminal, into the entry tunnel. The girl looked crushed. I should have picked up the letter, I knew then. Given her hope, even though Chick Magnet would never read it. Hope’s a funny thing. You only have it so long. Once you lose it, even for a second, life’s never the same.
VARIETIES OF PAIN Michael Chin One time we passed through this Podunk town where this newspaper editor thought we’d be worth interviewing, but the reporter assigned to the story didn’t get the appeal of sweaty musclemen play fighting in spandex and took some liberties with the content. He said he’d heard a lot of pro wrestlers got hooked on pills, and I said he was right, and he asked why we’d hurt ourselves when we didn’t need to, when it was all a show. He had this smug grin and a smug look in his eyes, and a smug way he held his pen over his notepad sideways like he wasn’t really ready to write because he doubted I could string together enough syllables that he wouldn’t remember what I said verbatim. But there were varieties of pain. How to make man like him understand— The acute pain. The way my temple throbbed because the night before New York Nick Nettles threw a punch at me and caught me with the bone of his wrist instead, busted me open the hard way. The bandage fell off while I slept and I bled through the pillow case. My forehead got stuck to the pillow. I had to tear it off and spent twenty minutes pulling out the little cotton fibers from the wound under the bathroom mirror lights. There’s a chronic pain, too. You fall on your back ten-to-fifteen times a night, six nights a week, fifty-two weeks a year. When I was little the playground had a basketball hoop with a crooked rim. I asked my mother if it was crooked because people had been hanging from it after they dunked and she said don’t be silly, it’s just the banging of shot after shot after shot that wears away at something, that destroys it by degrees. I didn’t believe her then. Pain like Chinese water torture. Pain like the way Mom wouldn’t give me her blessing when I left home to be a wrestler and like the way she still won’t come to my matches, even when we pass through town, not ten minutes from the house. Like the way Dad’ll never see me wrestle. Like the likelihood he wouldn’t care anyway. Like watching this reporter’s pen when I can already read the writing on the wall. That mine is not a pain he can feel, can understand, can communicate. That as far as he’s concerned, all I’ll ever amount to is a big fat joke.
NO REMORSE Kevin Finnerty Thank you, Your Honor. Thank you for hearing me out. It’s hard because Tina is the third child I’ve lost. So for you to understand, I have to start by telling you about Little Billy. My first boy, he never had a life. He was born blind and helpless. Me and Tammy we were just kids ourselves back then. We had no business being parents. Maybe nobody does, but especially not us, not then, not for needy Billy who just cried and cried all day long, every day of his short life. Little Billy didn’t stop crying for four months. When he did, he was dead. Tammy and me we stood over lifeless Billy in his crib and didn’t move. He didn’t move, so we didn’t move. He didn’t cry but now Tammy, she cried instead. And after a while of her crying, I started crying myself. I admit it. Even though I still don’t know exactly why I was crying. All these people came to our house. They put their hands on my back and on my shoulder and they said, “It’s all right, Billy’s not suffering anymore. He’s in heaven with our Father.” I wasn’t too religious before that. I mean, I went to church and all, and I was a Christian just like everybody else round here, but I didn’t really connect this world with the next before Little Billy died. I guess I was more focused on life on earth. Football, beer and girls, that’s what did it for me. I wasn’t mean, not unless someone deserved some meanness. But I didn’t have no understanding of how this life relates to the next. “Be good,” they said. “I know.” “Love Jesus.” “I do.” That was about it. But after my boy died and my neighbors told me he was happy, I looked at everything a little different. Not right away, mind you. These things take some time to sink in. And I still had to go through everything with David. Tammy wanted to have another kid right away. I didn’t get that. Little Billy had been an accident. And we saw what happened. Why go through that again? To be honest, I wasn’t so sure about Tammy either, but you know we’d gotten married and a man needs to live up to his promises. And going through what we did with our Billy, that was a lot. Plus, I was still pretty young then, and maybe Your Honor remembers what it’s like to be a 20 year old man. Tammy knew how to get what she wanted. Offered herself up 24/7 until she got pregnant. Told me to take her any time of the day or night. Promised to let me put it wherever I wanted for every time I came where she wanted. And Tammy’s good about keeping her promises too. Those were fun times before she got pregnant with David. Probably the best in my whole life. My adult life at least. Too bad it didn’t last. If this life was always like that, just eating, sleeping and fooling around, maybe we wouldn’t need nothing after. But then that must be what separates man from beast. Tammy wasn’t just fooling around, she was mating. And things weren’t bad after Tammy got pregnant. They were just different. Life slowed down. Life got bigger. We were happy when the doctor told us David was normal. I don’t know if I believe him now, but that’s what he told us then. He seemed normal enough as a kid. That’s why we later had Tina and Jason.
When he turned 13, that’s when things changed. Around that time he stopped playing football. I think maybe if he’d kept on, he’d have been okay. They had him all wrong. They wanted him to be on offense as a receiver or tight end, but he just didn’t have the hand-eye coordination for that. They should have played him on defense. David would have made for a good linebacker or safety. They should have just lined him up and told him: “Attack the ball!” He would have done that fine. But old Tanner thought he knew better. Sure, he’d played some in college but that don’t make him a good coach. David gave up too easily, that was his problem. Not that I blame him. I’m sure part of it was the way we’d raised him, even if I still don’t know what we did wrong. But after he quit football, he was just an aggressive boy without an outlet. He started hanging out with the wrong crowd. He got into fights. He stole. He started taking drugs. I didn’t know all of it at the time, but I knew enough. I should have intervened more. His Mom and me, we tried. But he didn’t want to hear his parents yammering about God or the law or being good. So Tammy and me turned our attention to Tina and Jason and figured David would grow out of it. But he didn’t. He fell further, hurt people, got arrested, and did more drugs. I guess I should have seen how it would end. There really were only two possible outcomes. OD-ing was one. This time I stood silent and stared at my son’s body on a slab at the morgue until Tammy started crying. Then I cried too. Only this time, no one tapped our shoulders or told us it was okay. Most people didn’t say anything to us directly. They whispered behind our backs. A few came right out and said David was going to hell. “That boy, he was an evil young man who hurt a lot of people and never repented.” I couldn’t deny this but still wondered why my son would have to spend eternity in hell. “He’d been a good kid.” “Doesn’t matter.” “He probably would have turned his life around at some point.” “He didn’t by the time God took him so it’s too late.” Your Honor, I don’t know if what they said is true. I doubt you know for sure either. But it got me to thinking. If the most important thing a parent can do is help his children get to heaven, then shouldn’t he do everything possible to ensure they get there? If you’re a Christ-loving man as I presume you to be, maybe you can now understand why I’ve done what I’ve done. That lawyer you gave me keeps telling me insanity is my only defense, but he doesn’t get I don’t need a defense. I admit what I did. But the reason’s what’s important. You have to realize I did what I did because of how much I loved my little girl. I’d seen David go from being a good kid with a place reserved for him in heaven beside Little Billy to a person my neighbors swore would spend eternity in hell. I wasn’t going to let that happen to Tina. David had been good until he was 13. Maybe Tina wouldn’t wait even that long. 10 seemed safe. Still a little girl. Still pure. Still ensured of a place in heaven. How could I in good conscience wait any longer to see how she’d turn out? To see if she’d choose good or evil? To find out if she’d repent before God took her? The only way I could guarantee my daughter her heavenly reward was to end her life here on earth. How can that be wrong?
My lawyer tells me if I can’t plead insanity I should at least tell you I’m sorry. But to do that I’d have to have done wrong. I’m no saint. I’ll admit that. I’m repentful for lots of things I’ve done in my life. I’ve cheated on Tammy and even hit her once or twice. I’ve failed as a parent with Little Billy and with David. I admit all of that and hope God forgives me for all the other rotten things I’ve done as I’ve grown older. But I have no remorse about Tina. It probably was the greatest thing I’ve ever done because it broke my heart to do it. But I had to for her sake. Now I know she’s in a better place than you and me. I know what you must be thinking. That lawyer told me not to mention this, but I’m not running from the truth. I’d do it again. Unless someone could show me that I’m wrong, I’d take Jason’s earthly life to save his eternal one. In a few years. I love my kids and want what’s best for them. My lawyer says there’s no way I’ll convince you what I did was right. Maybe not. He tells me even Tammy thinks I’m nuts. But think about this: what if Mr. and Mrs. Hitler had killed Adolf when he was 10? I don’t know enough about him, but I presume he was a good boy at some point. I once heard he wanted to be a painter. Instead, they let him live and he became the guy who slaughtered all those Jews. So now he’s got to be in hell, right? But what if his parents had ended his life when he was 10? Adolf could be in heaven and only God knows what would have happened to those millions of people he had killed. I don’t understand why people don’t get it. They say their children are the most important thing in the world, but they risk having them sent to eternal damnation every day they expose them to this world. Maybe the answer is just not to have kids. If there’s no guarantee of heaven, why should anyone risk their fates for eternity? But once you’ve had them, like me, you’ve got to do what’s best for them. I’m sure if Your Honor has children of his own, you’ll agree. And I’m sure Your Honor understands that an eternity in heaven is worth far more than 70 years on earth. I don’t think anyone could deny that. Well, that’s my explanation, Your Honor. I’m not crazy and I’m not sorry. I don’t really care what you do to me, except if you keep me from helping my last child. And maybe I don’t have a right, but I need to ask a favor. If that lawyer is right and you don’t agree with me now, could Your Honor please explain why what I did was so wrong? My conscience is clear.
Epistolary ACT FOUR Tom Loughlin I. My love - I write you a letter in haiku. Moments all I can feel. I am naked and alone. The years have stripped me clean, sucked me desert dry. I am empty. They took my everything so to keep themselves young and then morphed into memory, leaving behind crumbs of cold thank yous forgotten in their New York minutes. I sense gray clouds gathering - night looms large under a winter blood-moon. I feel wraiths of my past weaving A wreath of stale, loveless keepsakes. I don’t know what to keep or throw out.
II. We sit, you and I, as we always have, on love’s razorwire border, you facing East, me West. I love you so. I need to say that aloud.
Give me your mystic mind and mended soul. Tell the wind why you resist.
If you would fill me up, I could go on. Perhaps. A sweet illusion that carries no risk. I will go when you tell me go. No questions asked. III. I have taken to walking. On this fall hike as colors turn, I saw a caterpillar seeking shade from the autumn heat beneath a bright red leaf left to wither on a wanderer’s trail. I thought to ask you: Share with me the butterfly etched in the small of your back; the sweet spit of your curls; the underside of your breasts; the space between thigh and thigh. Nestle deep in my red shade while you metamorph. My life after life has no world-without-end: a stale journey marked only with pricks in time. IV. Yes, I know that quite politely you will say “no” in that many words. I can be alone;
it’s fine. No need to feel sorry for me at all. The nights grow longer: The time is coming to end and descend into A cocoon spun of sad longings. I will spend the time dreaming of you; I hope you don’t mind. When next the days grow bright I will find the long trail and begin to walk always towards you - or whatever it is that you mean to me. That, I feel, is what my next journey holds walking to where Our souls will mate. Should I turn and find your sea-deep eyes walking with me so much the better. If not, I shall conjure up your heart to take wing, hoping its lifeblood will drip sweet-tartly on my tongue and give me strength. V We are not here forever; eternity’s sly wink snuffs out our lives and rots our flesh faster than my fleeting thoughts of your hair or your lips. I promise you we will
leave no history behind us, if we can love in the moments in front of us. Iâ€™m going to be walking with My hand outstretched at my side for you. Grab hold for the ride if youâ€™d like.
YOU OWE ME Dr. Christina Dalcher Dear Stephen King and Mom, Everything is your fault. We’ll start with that evil sonofabitch Silent E on The Electric Company, which you, Mr. King, didn’t create, but may as well have. No, Silent E was Mom all the way. Forget the redeeming pedagogical qualities—did you stop to think whether subjecting your toddler to the mystical machinations of that wand-waving thing was appropriate? You should have known better. My analyst says the lingering fears of my twin sister Rita spontaneously morphing into a ball of twine should resolve themselves any year now. Hmm. Later, you two colluded. Take Carrie. Sweet, bible-thumping Carrie with that pig-blood-stained prom gown. You cooperated here: Mr. King wrote a book no nine-year-old had read, but we all saw the movie trailer and, damn, we related. Mom said we weren’t allowed to see such horrors, so, naturally, we snuck into the cineplex and did just that. When Salem’s Lot first aired on television starring that wife-beating blonde dude, we watched it. With Grandpa. (Nice attempt to seduce me into thinking the movie was child-friendly, Mom.) The real problem here is the basement, and how Mom yelled her head off when I locked little Javier in ours. I swear I only wanted to see what would happen. And Mr. King was the one who said the unrealities of dark basements aren’t as terrible as the realities of Russian satellites. (Speaking of basements, can one of you send someone to fix the sump pump again? I can't go down there by myself. I. Just. Can’t.) I've held something back for a long time, but my analyst thinks I should 'share,’ so here I am sharing: Mom, you were sweet to set up a private screening of The Shining for my fifteenth birthday. It was—how can I put this without hurting your feelings?—less sweet of you to write REDRUM in bloodcolored lipstick on my bedroom mirror later that night. This is not what relating to your teen is all about—Dr. Sanders says so. Dr. Sanders also says she would like her bill paid. Are you getting this? I'm asking because Dr. Sanders says I should be more direct. Here's the lowdown: I'm fifty years old, and I sleep with the lights on. I can't use my own basement (and Javier won't set foot in it—I suppose that's understandable). Rita stopped answering the telephone because her husband is sick of me ringing every day to check on whether she's turned into a ball of twine. I don't mind so much because I've never liked Rita and I wish the little bitch would turn into string. I’m surprised you haven’t already met each other, being of the same ilk. You two are monsters. I still love you both, but meanwhile, I hope one of you will have the good graces to write Dr. Sanders a check. (Note to Mom: King is loaded. Make him pay.)
DEAR HEART Ingrid Jendrzejewski To whom it may concern: I am writing in regard to the recent spate of distracting physiological responses that seem to correlate with proximity to one Mr Robert Wentworth. Please, could anyone with any information as to who is responsible please contact me immediately? With appreciation, Mind * Dear Mind, It is with regret that we must inform you of our unintentional dilation in the presence of the individual to whom you allude. If you will allow us to speculate, it may have been the sensations experienced by the skin that prompted our increase in pupil size. Yours sincerely, Eyes * Dear Skin, I have been informed that you may have prompted the dilation of the eyes on the 22nd of November. Can you please explain your actions and provide an assurance that this will not happen again? Many thanks, Mind * Dear Mind, I admit that I, indeed, tingled at the touch of this Mr Wentworth on six separate occasions. Further, when Robert made a certain proposition earlier today, I admit to breaking out into goose pimples. I am certain, however, you will understand that these are vestigial reflexes, and I am only carrying out orders from the sympathetic nervous system as I am obliged to do when the heart quickens its pace. Cordially,
Skin * Dear Heart, What is your role in this continuing Wentworth debacle? It has come to my attention that you have, on multiple occasions, started to race during encounters with this gentleman. In this latest incident, the lips were compromised and the eyes so shocked that they closed for quite some time. What is your explanation? Regards, Mind * Dear Mind, I concede an increase in activity when in proximity of our dearest Robert. However, as you are surely aware, this is a direct response to the hormones produced by the endocrine system in response to orders from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, both of which, I think you'll find, are directly under your control. Consequently, I regret to inform you that I am no longer able to consider you an absolute authority in this affair. As I am centrally located, I shall take over control of operations although, of course, I will be working closely with your autonomic nervous system to ensure a smooth transition to this new regime. I trust that, in time, you will come to enjoy your new role in the partnership we are establishing with Robert. Please be advised that a merger has been scheduled for this evening, the climax of which will involve the temporary shut-down of your lateral orbitofrontal cortex. I sincerely hope you may find the coming negotiationsâ€Śeuphoric. Very best wishes, Heart
Non-Fiction WHY I WEAR BLACK CLOTHES Rebecca Porter I couldn't cry in public. Not because I wasn't sad of the sudden passing of my aunt but because it would be too stereotypical--too easy to understand the judgmental looks from the eyes of my superior males sitting in a local coffee shop labeling me the silly little emotional girl by the windows. So I wrote. I wrote on napkins before I could wipe the crumbs from the corner of my lips because "girls should chew like they have a secret", spray-painted messages on sidewalks in bright pinks and oranges the color of sunset, where I was neither here nor there, barely heard by my male professors skipping over my desperately raised hand at the chance of participating in an intellectual conversation. I had to remind myself that I was an intellect. I had to remind myself that yes, it is okay to cry, and that I could do so in public, it did not make me any less of an intellect but maybe it made it okay to pour myself a glass of red wine on a workday. Or two. But even after my eye doctor fixed my glasses, the ones I broke because they fell from the place on top of my head after I slapped my high school boyfriend, anticipated but failed love of my life, for calling my a cunt in my own home, where a party with unflavored cheap vodka in used water bottles and neatly rolled thin joints on the back porch somehow meant a good time, which was ruined, not from him demanding all “his” friends to leave, but because I somehow reacted irrationally like a woman typical does, especially when I was confused why I had to apologize. Stupid girl. Behind the cracked glass I am reminded of what I must’ve looked like in middle school, the petite brunette with a push-up bra two sizes too big, straps squeezing my frame upright, the pain I felt in my back because of this. Women have boobs, a sign of femininity, something I needed to have so the immature boys could take advantage of me in dark movie theaters, slipping their cold hands on me and describing the details to their friends whispering in the backseat later, their mothers taking turns waiting patiently in their SUVS by the curb. Years later I am still advised that the things I lacked on my natural body are objects I needed to obtain. Yet nowadays I can hardly find a reason to put on a bra before I leave the house, now realistically honest with myself that my A-cups don’t really call for them, and also that the tiny article of clothing is incredibly expensive for reasons I am still trying to figure out. When I interviewed the shareholder of a law firm, to learn how to become a successful attorney, I dug my pretty little unpolished fingernails into the center of my palms as I had to explain to the man sitting in a crumpled suit with a button missing in the middle, that no, I did not want children and certainly there was nothing wrong with me. Was there? I find myself asking this question repeatedly when other women tell me with their sympathetic looks that I will certainly change my mind. The most amusing comment, “You would be crazy to not have kids. What would you do with yourself, who would take care of you when you got too old?” As songs spill over the radio about girls in undersized shorts dancing specifically for the attention of their male counterparts I simultaneously wonder if I bash my head on my steering wheel, if the paramedics would say to each other how this happened, without bothering to ask, because I am just another statistic of women who, obviously, are shitty drivers. At a red light I am reminded of the mindnumbing meeting I just shadowed, the one where I listened intently on the guy discussing dressing appropriately for a work setting. Nonetheless I found myself grabbing my pocket dictionary, the tiny leather-bound book with different highlighted sections of some of my favorite words from my dashboard compartment for the definition of the word. Surely he couldn’t mean appropriateness is defined by clothes that wouldn’t be distracting to men, that it was my job to be conscious of not only
their coffee orders but the lengths of my skirts and necklines. I would repeat curse words, my high heels digging into the backs of my feet as I consistently wait in line, my headphones attempting to block out the French-sounding names of drink requests where women are required to order adjectives that imply being skinny. I will never understand. So I wrote. On paper cups that I find littered outside a fast food restaurant where boys on bikes throw their remnants directed towards an empty trashcan but miss, not bothering to fetch their cups. The cups too sprinkled in grease I throw out because maybe, just maybe, I gave a damn about the world. But I'm not so sure I do, and on some of my darker days I am unsure if it even matters. When I feel as if my voice cannot be heard and even more so in the muddled world in which I was unwillingly born into, where buying a gun is less criticized then a woman refusing to take off work the days after giving birth, I consistently learn how to build myself back up---in empty bathroom stalls pepping myself up before a presentation, on park benches whispering my thoughts to pigeons starving for food, curled behind books with a green pen in hand, writing my thoughts where I could fit them in the tiny margins. When my voice is gone, I read to you, at your grave, sometimes with defeated breath, and the worst version of myself, vulnerable. Because you wouldn't be the judgments I hear. And so when I tell myself not to cry in public it is not because I am attempting to push back against the stereotypes. I've learned something more than that. It is about you. Your grave with the flowers I bought from a supermarket next to the cheese dips and free samples of jams, the condensation on my jeans, the numbness of my feet from sitting on them. For hours. Reading my words to you. And how I know you'd answer every time: do not cry, you are so much more than what they cannot understand. â€¨ â€¨
SNOW Julie Goodale This storm is far from over. It looks like almost a foot of new snow, on top of the foot of snow from the previous storms. And it’s still going. No need to look at the weather report on TV, no need to watch the current radar, it doesn’t feel like it’s ending. Out here, away from town, storms have personalities, and this one feels like a cranky toddler, sniveling and taking a deep breath, giving the appearance of settling down, just before launching into another impossibly long scream. But we’re prepared for this. Candles are set out, and this morning I filled pots and jugs with water in case we lose power, like we always do. Firewood is stacked beside the wood stove. Soup is cooking. There is nothing to do but wait out this storm. As it approached it felt immense, oppressive, the air was electric. Now, though, we’ll just wait for it to exhaust all of its energy. Everyone waits: the birds, the animals, us. The juncos and nuthatches are tucked away somewhere. This has been a hard winter for them. Snow has come and it has stayed, blanketing the grasses and gardens where they usually find seeds. When the snow stops, they’ll mob the few bushes and weeds remaining unburied. It’s probably good that I never got around to pulling the waist-high weeds and grass which had engulfed my garden this past year; the juncos will surely be visiting my yard tomorrow. Even the cardinal is quiet during this storm. Cardinals are territorial birds, especially during mating season. In the spring, they will often see their reflection in windows and attack what they perceive as their rival. But this cardinal has kept attacking all year long, for two years, every day, all day, from the first light to dusk. He will not be deterred. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. I fear he may be brain-damaged by now. But even he is waiting out this storm. The deer are huddled lumps. The expanse of white is not yet marred by their pointy prints, left as they search for food. They will wait until the winds die, will wait until tomorrow, then they will wander in search of a few bites to nibble. They will eat anything now, they are hungry. They have stripped the holly bushes, the spruce is bare. The deer have eaten every needle, every leaf, even bark, up to six feet high. Their coats are mottled and scraggly, their ribs show. They’re weak, a few will probably die in this storm. Others will die later when they’re too feeble from hunger and hobbled by deep snow to outrun the coyotes. The coyotes are well fed this winter. Whenever I sit in my window and see the hollow deer stumbling through the snow, I wonder why some people consider this preferable to being killed by a hunter. When we first moved to this house on the edge of the woods, I would spend hours looking out the window, afraid to leave and return to my day for fear I would miss some exciting animal sighting. Later, when it was difficult for me to do much else other than look out the window, I became accustomed to the comings and goings of flora and fauna, familiar with the natural flow of seasons. Now, I watch snow pile up. I have the night off. I was supposed to work, but my concert was cancelled. I am relieved that I won’t have to drive in this storm, to inch my car down the steep hill of my road, fingers clenched on the wheel like raptor’s talons, hoping to avoid sliding sideways into my neighbor’s house. Good to not have to venture out in my car, but I am disappointed I won’t be playing the concert. There was a time, when I was sick, when I would stop just before walking out on stage for a concert to adjust the itchy, grating wig on my bald head, which I wore because I sensed that formal dress implied hair, at least for the women. Then, irritant properly in place, I would take my seat on stage, and wade into the river of sound, feel it vibrate through my body, drown in its waters. As the applause rose at the end of the concert, I would whisper a silent thank you to Brahms or Mozart, to a world in which sound could be organized in such a way. And after the concert, I would always say a quiet thank you to the man who hired me, because there were so many then who wouldn’t. People would ask how I was feeling, and what they could do for
me, but they wouldn’t give me work. Some believed what I needed was more rest. Some worried I wouldn’t be up to it. Others perhaps were just uncomfortable with the sight of me, uneasy with their idea of mortality. Earlier, a few years before I was sick, when I had been injured, when part of my spine was crushed by an errant taxi, none of them had the same reservations. It seemed that perhaps injury by taxi, especially in New York City, is more palatable than illness. There, the child has marshaled his energy and let loose a mighty yell. The winds have picked up again, bending trees until they threaten to knock my windows. The constant roar has become white noise in the background, I almost forget it’s there. But the gusts have taken on a new urgency. Standing in my window, I can feel, rather than just hear, the wall of wind coming at me. There’s an inevitability to it, like watching a massive wave driving toward shore. Power’s out. By candlelight, we put on layers of clothes, clothes to keep us warm, clothes to keep us dry. We cover our heads and our faces. All flesh is buried. We blow out the candles, and then we step outside. We will venture out, because we can, not in a car, but on skis, to experience this storm directly, no soft glow of fire, no window pane to protect us. As we clip our boots into our skis, I can just make out our owl in the pine tree. I think of her as ours, although I know I have no right of possession. She is patient. She is stoic. In winter, she struggles to find food. In the spring, she gets chased off her perch by an aggressive Sharp-shinned Hawk. She is mobbed in summer by hoards of jabbering Bluejays. I often feel a twinge of anger at the blue bullies as she sits passively while they scream and dive at her. But she always returns to roost in the pine tree by our door. Through the snow, which feels like liquid fire on my eyes, the only part of my faced exposed, I cannot see her curved yellow beak or eyes drawn down to slits. She sits in the tree like a bowling ball, head and body merged into one great brown-and-buff-streaked mass, her back turned toward the wind. She will not hunt tonight. We bow our heads and push our tracks out into the woods, leaving our darkened house behind. Although we yell as loud as we can, our words are lost. Mute against the tempest, we ski together through the teeth of the blizzard. We take turns leading, breaking the trail in the thick fluff which swallows our feet with every stride. In my head, the music I should have been playing rises with the wind. Music of the North, music of ice and snow, strains of Nielsen and Sibelius flow in my ears as I bend into the wind.
SMASHING WALLS AND SHOPPING CARTS Sara Codair Where does a girl’s violence come from? Is she born with it? Or is it forced upon her by the world? I don’t remember being born, but I imagine myself red, wrinkled and violently screaming: “Why did you make me small and female in this cold and scary place?” So maybe I was born with it. Or maybe, I wasn’t. Perhaps a girl’s violence emerges when she is merely a toddler curling tiny fists around Mom’s bangs. I don’t remember much from my days as a toddler, but I remember how her locks crunched when I pulled, courtesy of too many perms and too much hairspray. Mom’s fingers always felt bony as they peeled my stubby digits away from her artificial curls. I can almost hear her hiss as hair comes loose with my fingers. I would have screamed, a wailing toddler cry of distress, and flailed my arms, knocking Mom’s bulbous glasses to the floor. Mom would’ve scolded me before her frustration melted into hugs, gently taming the tempest of my tears. If toddler angst isn’t the start of a girl’s violence, perhaps it comes later. My dad was diagnosed with Hepatitis C when I was child, and during that time, him and my mom fought more than ever. Looking back, I can guess he was depressed and overwhelmed, wondering how he could provide for his family with his own body betraying him. Mom did her best to support him, but he didn’t make it easy for her. Of course, I didn’t understand this then. I just saw my Daddy being mean to Mommy. I remember being a hyperactive ten-year-old, pacing circles fast enough to heat up my mauve carpet. Mom would’ve teased me, telling me I would one day wear a hole in a floor, if she was in the room to see, but she wasn’t. Mom was downstairs, fighting with Dad, screaming a storm of swears and evoking earthquakes with stomping feet. Mom used to tell me stories, about how Grandpa used to hit Gram, and Mom would hide under the bed. I won’t hide under my bed, I thought as my little hands balled into fists. If Dad ever hits Mom, I’m going to bash him in the head with a cast iron skillet. Later, Mom reminded me Dad was sick and his medicine would make him feel worse before he could recover. Mom assured that he would be less grumpy when he got better. I made myself nod, but inside, I was planning the quickest route from my room to the frying pans. Dad did get better, and he got less grumpy, but my violence only grew. Perhaps it’s not just how a girl is born and what she has to deal with as child, but it’s also the things she is afraid of that make her violent. The television news was a constant presence in my house. It would be on while I ate breakfast, when I got home from school, while I ate dinner and got ready for bed. I’d wake up to burnt homes, murdered families and car wrecks. At dinner, overly made-up reporters would serenade me with songs of late night joggers being sexually assaulted and convenience stores being robbed. Even the rare, good news was tainted by fear: doctors claimed a glass of wine reduces the risk for cancer, a baseball player met a child who was dying of leukemia and a local martial arts studio offered free self-defense courses. Illness and violence had already touched my parents. I was terrified it would burst my happy, barelymiddle-class bubble. At twenty, I was known for the green jeep I pretended was a monster truck whenever I entered a parking lot. I rammed shopping carts and didn’t care if my bumper grazed the guardrail. My friends all named the Jeep, calling it Louise or The Green Monster. I refused to give it a name. It was not a person; it was a weapon. It kept me safe on the road and in dark campus parking lots. Mom worried about me getting mugged or raped. I laughed as I stalked across the pavement in my black lace up boots
and leather jacket. If any guy tried to touch me, I would have smashed his balls with my heels and run him over with The Jeep. No one ever assaulted me, friend or stranger. Mom said it was the grace of God, but I attributed it to the attitude. Predators go for weak prey that won’t put up a fight. Everything about me from my clothing to my posture begged for a fight. The scent of leather masked that of fear and clacking heals obscured the sound of my racing heart. I was like a butterfly whose spots mimicked the eyes of larger predators. But if fear were the cause of violence, then the violence would have faded with the fear. Eventually, I met a nice man and fell in love. I learned I could trust people, and that strangers didn’t leap out of shadows to assault every female who walked alone at night. The violence didn’t fade. By the time I was married, my house, a cottage my husband and I were converting to a year round home, became the outlet for my violence. I grasp the sledgehammer like I’ve been handed gold, beaming as I lift it over my shoulder and smash pale blue ceramic squares. The tiles have been on the wall for over fifty years, but they crumble beneath my hammer like mortals slain by Thor on the battlefield. I’m a cruel god, destroying everything that displeases me. Dust billows around me as I wrench sheetrock from the walls, too caught up in the glory of battle to notice how the nails graze my skin. My breathing mask is slick with sweat. It itches my nose and cheeks, but Dad is in the crawl space, demolishing rotten boards. If he pokes his head up and see’s my mask off, he’ll scold me like I’m a child. It’s because he loves me, I think as I pound the walls, ripping rotted wood and retro tiles out of the camp’s old bathroom. I barely suppress a growl when they ask me to go get them lunch, thinking, Just because I am woman doesn’t mean I should be in charge of the food. I’m working as hard as they are. But my stomach is grumbling and my head is getting light, so I order the subs. I glare at clerk as I pay, then speed home in the new white jeep with the leather seats. I park beside dad’s beat up pickup and share a meal with him, my husband and my father-in-law at the picnic table by the lake. We work until the sun sets the sky ablaze with violent reds and bruised purples. The dads leave. My husband and I walk up to our rental house, just a street away from the one we are renovating. He cooks me dinner: Rib eye Steak and Minion Mac & Cheese. After we eat, I triple check the locks and windows and make sure everything is unplugged. When down stairs is secure, lit only by a handful of LED night-lights, I go upstairs. The bedroom is cold, but I don’t trust the electric baseboards. Sliding under the blankets, I savor the warmth of my husband’s body. I listen to him fall asleep. I listen to the house creaking, cars rumbling by and crickets muted by shut windows. I toss and turn, jumping at every unfamiliar sound, until sleep conquers anxiety, and I dream of smashing walls and shopping carts.
ON NOT PAYING ATTENTION Robert F. Gross Not all people exist in the same Now —Ernst Bloch I don’t know what’s wrong with me but then maybe I do. I stay at a house, not my own, the house of friends, when they go off to the Superbowl at a house of friends (not my own). I don’t know who’s playing and haven’t ever seen a Superbowl. Haven’t seen Grammies, Emmys, Country Music Awards. Haven’t seen the Oscars since 1976. Lost track of the Tonies somewhere in the 90’s. Missed the Pulitzers a decade ago and never caught up. I don’t read poets’ names on the bottom of poems. I don’t read painters’ names on the signs alongside their paintings. I don’t read the toothpaste labels, mouthwash labels, canned good labels. I don’t read the bestseller list or the most-wanted list or the top-grossing list or the highest-paid list or top-scoring list. I don’t know any of list of world records. I woke up last night with a feeling that I was in Philly (which wasn’t true) and a feeling that I was in Kansas City (which wasn’t true) and a feeling that I was in Chicago (which wasn’t true). But I had been in all those cities in the past month, which made them not totally off the mark. I don’t remember the numbers of the highways I drove for decades, or the letters of the county trunks. I don’t remember the numbers of the courses I taught. I don’t remember the names of the medications my dead partners took or the dates of their death. (One’s in June. Another’s in August.) I don’t know the dates of my mom or dad’s death, or my grandma’s and grandpa’s deaths, on either side. Or what all of them died of. I have a box in storage which contains a book by Edward Lear. Plays by Calderon, Valle-Inclan, Strindberg, Gorki, Ugo Betti, Ostrovsky, Horváth, and Gabriel Marcel. A teach-yourself Danish manual (which I’ve never opened). Three DVDs by Fassbinder. And a copy of Camille. I don’t recognize car models or fashion models. I don’t know boy bands or girl bands or marching bands. Don’t know sports stars or porn stars. I don’t know which asteroid is going to hit the earth, and when. I don’t know when I last thought I was in love with a person. I don’t know when or where I last wanted to have sex with a person or who that person was. I just know it was probably more than half-ayear ago and in a different city. And that I thought better of it. I had in my possession, among other possessions: a plaster statuette of St. Dominic (given to me for my First Communion), the complete strong quartets of Shostakovich, a photo of my first partner wielding a machete in an Amazonian rain forest, a silver fountain pen belonging to my father, an audio tape of an astrologer explaining the transits on the night of my second partner’s death, my mother’s copy of Brighton Rock, a leather body harness, a pair of brass cufflinks made by a younger sister as a Christmas present, Faust I and II (auf Deutsch), an empty pack of Marlboros found in a parking lot, and a shamanic drum. I don’t know if any of those objects survive. If they do, they are in someone else’s possession. I don’t know the moments that I began to lose confidence, lose desire, and expectation. I don’t know what prompted me to shave my head the first time. I don’t know what started me biting my nails. I don’t know what first prompted me to consider suicide. I’ve never paid attention to such things. I just
know that they happened.
Poems THINGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME Kaitlin Hsu Morning Blink, one two three, stretch or yawn or cry, then breathe. Just breathe. After you’re ready, eat one bowl of hot porridge. Don’t forget to blow on the spoon. Noon I gave you inky hair and that irresistible gaze, your father’s sinewy legs and honeyed smile. One day, you will meet a man who says he only loves Asian girls. Or someone who just hates women. Don’t forget to make friends. Evening Honey, your mind will race and race and race, and it will feel like the whole world is in the palm of your hand. Behind your eyes, a string of golden stars, unexplored galaxies, and you’ll never ever want to stop, but you will. Don’t forget to take your medication. Midnight You might wake up in a cold sweat, all of a sudden wishing your hair was blond as corn and your eyes blue as sapphires. Scratching and tearing at what you think is this other shell, I beg you to stop and just go back to sleep. This will pass. Just– Don’t forget your pride, your love. Don’t forget yourself.
THIS LIGHTHOUSE, THIS OCEAN Nicholas Molbert There is a lighthouse on a shore and there is a story. Somewhere there is a lighthouse, though I have not seen. This lighthouse wishes to be pieces of, say, fallen bridges or landmarks. There is an ocean whose many appendages tell this lighthouse yes. This ocean and this lighthouse craft the shore. When this ocean is aroused, this lighthouse whispers brimming. When this lighthouse is aroused, its cry cannot leave its stone and the ocean cracks its mortar. A boy of three years begins a statement with I suppose… Of this, again, I cannot be sure, but what else will the ocean do when offered the lighthouse’s siren? This lighthouse, I am sure, works on its implications although it peers at the same landscape day after day, despite what Heraclitus has said – I am able to suppose that this lighthouse is composed solely of tombstones. (Even of Heraclitus’s words, we cannot be sure) This lighthouse forgets the boy just as waves forget each other as they roll over.
There is a lighthouse on a shore, and, even in its hypotheticality, it makes sounds of mourning. There is an ocean and it offers its cipher to the lighthouse and its embedded prisms implicated by its potential to be made of tombstones. I suppose these are inadequate homages. When given imagination, it is hard to tell what is blueprint and what is not. When the mind has both eye and I, there is blatant sadness. Somewhere, the boy supposes and who knows if the ocean and lighthouse converse. Here, a departure – (A) From far enough away, if one could solidly stand on this ocean, this lighthouse almost resembles a limbless tree: something natural, or (B) From close enough, if one could invent the technology, this lighthouse resembles this ocean: something absurd.
LOVE LETTER TO A FICTIONAL CHARACTER Logan Murphy I saw your husband looking up the skirts of stone women. Don’t ask me how I know what kind of sandwich he was eating, but he had the look of a man who was on a mission to see an asshole. I know you must be happily married. I’m not writing to expose your husband’s activities—other than the thing with the statue assholes— and you have to admit that that’s kind of a red flag, I only wanted to ask you him? Really? Come on. Look he’s a nice guy but you sent him out to buy milk about 800 pages ago and all he came back with was a beer-stained jacket and a bullshit story about losing track of time and you took him in again oh it’s okay honey just sit down here and yes you said yes you will Yes.
THE FALLING MAN Nanette Rayman He floated he floated he choreographed his en cloche frame down with faille the ariel-dancer impacting down & he had the retinue of those most in need, who gaped as he drifted over by the angels, their mouths shaped by the prayers they felt would outdo the angels, because angels have chains. They felt they would guide him down from the upside down gutter of his fall. Millions in all, glued to him, skulls propped above wet pillows, G-d prismatoidal on the dying pelts of their stomachs, he drifted to the suffering in defiance, allowing the beads of his sweat to glide along our bodies, our faces, emanating light as sweet & pink as that known in a rainy rose, leaving a rainbow in his place above the bone of all touched, a sound like a hoarse refrain stopped in their lips. In awe of the man falling before them, his hands amplified to majesty, behind him, inexplicably calm sculpting themselves into water magicians done with their paddles, left to one shape— the silence explosive there. Isolated and One, we let him go to the lapidary, rosy battement crossroads, a hunger he took as memory now & we took as tongues, impaled belief wings peeled developed apart from.
ELEMENTAL Linda M. Crate crawl into my most broken bone and my biggest character flaw love me there in this wound that refuses to heal, and maybe i'll believe in the smell of roses once again in the indigo breath of day; sew me back together with the clouds so that i can fly and with the sea so i can swim and with earth so i can always remember when i should be grounded and with flames so i can burn.
THE BETRAYAL, AFTER REMEDIES VARO John Sweet the alchemist arrives in town w/ news of yr death and what can you do to disprove him but peel back the flesh from yr pale chest, reveal yr stuttering heart, proclaim yr undying love for all the junkie mothers crawling through the e-z mart parking lot? what can you do but lie?
THE GROUNDWATER Tim Kahl The groundwater moves to live within the succulents. The recent downpour greets the green beans. Oranges and lemons invite the pumps to transfer gallons until they relinquish control of their engineered genes. The marchers welcome the involuntary dousing. They carry their bottles past the storm drains into cleanup battles, into the church of the cisterns, into the steaming foot baths. They are marching past the maze of dams, pipes, and canals. The satellite data suggests a high stakes goose chase for the urban runoff. Come moisten the homes, my little droplets. Come to the edge of the field with your dampness. Come, come, in the name of the snap peas. Come in the name of the kumquats. Forgive the manners of the grasses who hunker so low to the ground and use up all their consultations, refusing to wash out to the sea. Come and bring with you your medical attention. The marchers' legs are cramping; their flow is hardening. They all are taking Coumadin. Their ears are stopping. They need to hear every drop counts.
THE WILL Leigh Fisher A light to illuminate the dark A tiny beacon of hope, Unveiled to the traveler When the path starts to look grim And the sun has long since set Such a tiny spark It hovers and waits Lingering beyond reach Just too far for certain recognition By day, that movement would be a lark Cutting through the blue sky But instead thereâ€™s this wisp of light Trembling, beckoning Yet on the map, thereâ€™s no mark No confirmation, no certainty But when everything is enveloped in blackness How can anyone turn away from a guiding light? Praying it will be their salvation, their arc The traveled follows the light Unable to resist its tempting dance But the will of this faint glimmer Is simply to end the journey of the traveler Leaving them to disappear like a wisp
FALLING BACK Ava C. Cipri Of course, I may be remembering it all wrong … what’s that shining in the leaves in the cemetery of childhood; in the middle-of-the-road there was a stone, still dark. Yes, this family portrait. The year’s doors open, they all keep looking at each other’s eyes instead of gazing at the sea— here is a coast; here is a harbor the sun is blazing and the sky is blue here, above this celestial seascape with white herons got up as angels. Love is feathered like a bird
This cento is sourced from the index of first lines in Elizabeth Bishop’s The Complete Poems, Farrar, Straus and Giro (1995).
DISCRETION Ava C. Cipri As I sd to my mind’s heart, it’s all about the rhythm, I thought that if I were broken enough, the words will one day come dance a little, for love; a tally of forces, consequent. Look, love, if I can’t hope then to hell with it, what’s still here settles looking to the sea; it is a line. Rock me, boat somewhere waters a shimmer. What’s gone is gone. What’s in the body you’ve forgotten. If I had my way, dear, yesterday I wanted to take off your clothes, love, tender, semi-quiet as it is proper for such places. If it isn’t fun, don’t do it. I know a man, he liked the edge, here.
This cento is a found poem sourced from Robert Creeley’s index of titles and first lines in Selected Poems, University of California Press (1991).
THE SPRING OF WOOLF’S DEATH Sneha Subramanian Kanta “I am rooted, but I flow.” Virginia Woolf Some writing has to be on the verge of embarrassing you, all the time: you haven’t created meaningful work until an amalgamation of such a volume adorns your table. My friend from the Netherlands says I read too much Woolf. The stream-of-consciousness fills a premature sunset with orange-blue skies like in Oberhausen I saw through tainted train windows last October. There are ethical objections to treat a suicide-note as a piece of literature and manifest it into research material. The material world coincides with the non-material world, its skin through shreds of disparateness: and meets it halfway like an awkward Parisian ritual of complaining of small gutters that flow through the city. It is Paris; the city is allowed to portray an extended metaphor of gutters as brisk rivulets that brim. On the banks of river Ouse where Virginia lacked the correct syllables in her aristocratic voice, she used stones instead, to fill her pockets and flow its path. Now, tenth-graders do not think of such questions, though a fifth-grader might. Rosie, a solitary child, asked me why Woolf did not complete her course here on earth, and explains to me her Catholic mother’s thoughts on taking one’s own life. There is nothing like free will, I think within, inside the deep damp that cries in mourning for Woolf’s lost art. This March, being in England, I must visit the elm tree where Leonard buried her remains: her roots must have burgeoned there.
FIRST TATTOO Zach Wood-Doughty The needle is a boy walking farther from home than ever before, his boots breaking through April snow to the black mud below. He pretends he is running away from home, imagines the woods will swallow him whole, knows his Boy Scout training has prepared him to survive the cold. Tonight, he will not come home for dinner. He will close one eye and with his finger trace the stars like distant reckless as he wonders, again, how long this all will last.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Jordan Rizzieri is the 90’s-loving, 5’10” founder of The RPD Society. She was raised on Long Island, NY to love Alice Hoffman & Billy Joel. She was educated in Western NY to eat Garbage Plates & Buffalo Wings. She currently resides in Arlington, VA where she can be found regularly shouting at live wrestling events as pro wrestling’s sassiest critic, The Lady J or working on freelance editing/writing projects with Gizmo the Dog.
POETRY EDITOR Wilson Josephson is a young sapling spreading his roots in Minneapolis. Born & raised in New England, he appreciates the finer things in life: potatoes, strawberry stems, sparsile stars, & ampersands. He is an author of Literary Starbucks, which he hopes will encourage everyone to take neither themselves nor anyone else too seriously.
Contributors Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and is a recent alum of Oregon State's MFA Program. He won Bayou Magazine's Knudsen Prize for fiction and has published or has work forthcoming in journals including Passages North, The Normal School and Bellevue Literary Review. He works as a contributing editor for Moss. Find him at miketchin.com and follow him on Twitter @miketchin. Ava C. Cipri is a poetry editor for The Deaf Poets Society: An Online Journal of Disability Literature & Art. Ava holds an MFA from Syracuse University and currently teaches writing at Duquesne University. Ava’s poetry and nonfiction appears or is forthcoming in Cimarron, decomP magazinE, The Fem, Rust + Moth, and The Yellow Chair Review, among others. She resides at avaccipri.com Sara Codair lives in a world of words: she writes fiction whenever she has a free moment, teaches writing at a community college and is known to binge read fantasy novels. When she manages to pry herself away from the words, she can often be found hiking, swimming, gardening or telling people to save the bees. Find her online at https://saracodair.com/. Linda M. Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh yet raised in the rural town of Conneautville. Her poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. Recently her two chapbooks A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press - June 2013) and Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon - January 2014) were published. Her fantasy novel Blood & Magic was published in March 2015. The second novel of this series Dragons & Magic was published in October 2015. The third of this series Centaurs & Magic is slated for a November release. Her third poetry collection If Tomorrow Never Comes(Scars Publications - August 2016) was recently published. Her poetry collection Sing Your Own Song is forthcoming through Barometric Pressures Series. Christina Dalcher is a linguist, novelist, and flash fiction addict from Somewhere in the American South. Her short work appears or is forthcoming in Bartleby Snopes, McSweeney’s, and New South Journal, among others. She is the sole matriculant in the Read Every Word by Stephen King MFA program (which she invented), and always sleeps with the lights on. Timothy DeLizza was raised in Brooklyn, New York. He currently lives in Washington, DC, where he works as an energy attorney for the government. He most recently appeared in Ricepaper Magazine in July 2016. His publication history may be found here: http://www.timothy-delizza.com/list-of-works/ Kristin Diversi is a star-child. After graduating magna cum laude with a BA in History and an MS in Nutrition, she delighted her parents and the student loan companies by deciding to follow her heart and do absolutely nothing related to any of her degrees. She is a full-time writer and editor and would love to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook, or Medium. She is deeply flawed and terribly whimsical. Matt Dube teaches creative writing and American lit in mid-MIssouri, and is the fiction editor for the online journal H_NGM_N. He is married, but his wife kept her name. It's safer for everyone that way. Kevin Finnerty’s stories have appeared in Blue Lyra Review, The Quotable, VLP Journal and elsewhere. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and a pug named Shakespeare.
Leigh Fisher is from New Jersey and works as a help desk technician by day, but she is a writer around the clock. She is tackling graduate school applications, eager to study literature. She has been published or is forthcoming in Five 2 One Magazine, The Missing Slate, Referential Magazine, Seascape Literary Journal, and Stockpot. Ron Gibson, Jr. has previously appeared in Stockholm Review of Literature, Cheap Pop, New South Journal, Jellyfish Review, Whiskeypaper, Easy Street, Noble / Gas Quarterly, Harpoon Review, The Airgonaut, Spelk Fiction, Cease Cows, etc. & forthcoming at Entropy Magazine, The Nottingham Review, and apt. @sirabsurd Julie Goodale’s essays have appeared in Drunken Boat, The Examined Life Journal, and BioStories. Her essay “Escape” was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. Julie is a professional violist living in the woods north of New York City. When not playing music or writing, she's frequently outdoors hiking, running trails, climbing, or bird-watching. And although Julie's often one of the slower skiers on a mountain, she likes to think she's just searching for the perfect turn. Robert F. Gross is a lost soul and lone wolf, currently in Rochester NY, where he toils in the film and video archives of the Visual Studies Workshop. He's recently published pieces in Sein und Werden, Uppagus Magazine, and Anti-Heroin Chic. He's taught, directed plays, judged cattle, mudwrestled, appeared on WAYO-FM, and is always on the lookout for new adventures. R.E Hengsterman is a writer and film photographer who deconstructs the human experience through photographic images and words. He currently lives and writes in North Carolina. You can see more of his work at REHengsterman.com and find him on Twitter at @rehengsterman. Kaitlin Hsu is a sophomore from California. Kaitlin’s work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, California Energy Commission, and Japanese American Museum of San Jose, among others. Kaitlin is the Editor-in-Chief of her school’s print newsmagazine as well as a reader for it’s literary magazine. Ingrid Jendrzejewski grew up in Vincennes, Indiana, studied creative writing at the University of Evansville, then physics at the University of Cambridge. Her work has found homes in places like Passages North, The Los Angeles Review, The Conium Review, The Liars' League (London and NYC) and The Mainichi. Last year, she won Gigantic Sequins’ Flash Non-fiction Contest and the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Prize for Flash Fiction; more recently, she received the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Links to Ingrid’s work can be found at www.ingridj.com and she occasionally tweets @LunchOnTuesday. When not writing, Ingrid enjoys cryptic crosswords, the python programming language and the game of Go. Tim Kahl [http://www.timkahl.com] is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) and The String of Islands (Dink, 2015). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup (http://greatamericanpinup.wordpress.com/) and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios [http://linebreakstudios.blogspot.com/]. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song [http://www.cladesong.com]. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center.
Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a postgraduate student of literature and culture at the University of Plymouth, United Kingdom and has been awarded the GREAT scholarship. Postcolonial literature and literary theory and criticism are her areas of research interest. Her work has appeared or is to appear in Front Porch Review (IL, USA), Ann Arbor Review (MI, USA), Sahitya Akademi (India), Otoliths (Australia), moongarlic (Stoke-Upon-Trent, UK), Shot Glass Journal (Muse Pie Press), Anti-Heroin Chic (NY, USA), Spillwords (Poland), Epigraph Magazine (Georgia, USA), NEW QUEST journal (India), Kitaab (Singapore), Chitralipi journal (India), anak sastra and in poetry anthologies such as Dance of the Peacock (Hidden Brook Press, Canada), Suvarnarekha (The Poetry Society of India, India) and elsewhere. Tom Loughlin lives along the beautiful but undeveloped shores of Lake Erie in Dunkirk NY. He has a few months left of teaching at Fredonia State University. He acts from time to time in the city of Buffalo NY. Nicholas Molbert is an MFA candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His work can be found in alien mouth and other outlets. Logan Murphy is a graduate of the University of Tennessee's MFA program. His work has appeared in Pithead Chapel, The Masters Review, Five 2 One Magazine, and others. Rebecca Porter has been published in various literary journals such as the Susquehanna Review and The Prairie Margins. Previously avoiding nonfiction, she has found the beauty in honesty and the vulnerable details of the written words other brave people have shared, which she reads in various coffeeshops that have great pumpkin bread. She is currently attempting to figure out how to maneuver in the "real world" but is quickly realizing no one else knows what they're doing either. She rarely tweets but when she does she can be found at @BeckahPorter. Nanette Rayman, author of the poetry book, Shana Linda Pretty Pretty, two-time Pushcart nominee, included in Best of the Net 2007, DZANC Best of the Web 2010, first winner of the Glass Woman Prize for prose. Publications include The Worcester Review, Sugar House Review (poem mentioned at newpages.com), Stirring's Steamiest Six, gargoyle, Berkeley Fiction Review, Editor's Pick for prose at Green Silk Journal, chaparral, Pedestal, ditch, Wilderness House Literary Review, Contemporary American Voices, featured poet at Up the Staircase Quarterly, featured poet at Chantarelleâ€™s Notebook, Rain, Poetry & Disaster Society, Pedestal, DMQ Review, carte blanche, Oranges & Sardines, sundog lit, Melusine. Upcoming: Dying Dahlia Review and WIldnerness House Literary Journal. John Sweet, b. 1968, still numbered among the living. A believer in writing as catharsis. an optimistic pessimist. Opposed to all organized religion and political parties. Avoids zealots and social media whenever possible. His latest collections include A NATION OF ASSHOLES W/ GUNS (2015 Scars Publications) and APPROXIMATE WILDERNESS (2016 Flutter Press). All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing. Zach Wood-Doughty lives in Baltimore, studies natural language processing, and occasionally writes poetry. Heâ€™s still waiting to hear back from NASA about whether he can go to Mars.
The content of this magazine was published under first Internet rights ÂŠ The RPD Society 2016