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Tilde: A Literary Journal ~ Issue 2

An Imprint of Thirty West Publishing House


Tilde Editorial Staff Editor-in-Chief: Josh Dale Managing Editor: Greg Neidlinger Poetry Editor: Tara Tomaino Non-Fiction Editor: Bob Kaplan Fiction Editor: Nick McMenamin Associate Editors: Carrie Soltner Melissa DiGiovannantonio

Cover image: Tomato Hutch by Sophia Falco

Tilde: A Literary Journal, Issue 2 Copyright Š 2018 Thirty West Publishing House All stories, poems, etc. are Š of their respective creators as indicated herein and are reproduced here with permission ISSN 2576-960x (Print) ISSN 2576-9618 (Online)


Table of Contents POETRY MY FOREARM AS AN ENVELOPE

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Lake Vargas THINGS NOT CAUGHT IN THE FRAME

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Lake Vargas THE HORSEMEN

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Kelli Driver ORCHARD

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Jonathon Egan WARSAW JEWISH CEMETERY, 2017

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D. Larkin Corvin UNGRATEFUL DEAD

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Dom Fonce A RUSSIAN STUDENT PLAYS THE VIOLIN Mark Gordon KUNG-FU OF BEING SILENT Sy Hoahwah SEAL MAN Marie Hoffman

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PENNSYLVANIA PANTOUM

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Matthew James Babcock SUN STEAM

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Alyssa Ripley APARTMENT COMPLEX

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Breia Gore ACCIDENTAL OVERDOSES

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E. Smith Sleigh IN REMEMBRANCE

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Philip St. Clair DO BODIES HAVE ECHOES

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Sarah Summerson A CLEAVING

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Brett Thompson BRAIDING

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Jessica Mehta COFFEE QUATERN: TO MY SPOUSE, WRITING Leigh Holland EQUIVALENTS, 1923

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George Franklin THRIFT STORE SACRAMENTALS Juleigh Howard-Hobson

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TOXIN

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Mark Fisher SONNET FOR THE QUILTER

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Megan Neville THANKSGIVING REUNION

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David M. Alper EROS

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Daisy Bassen SPIT OR SWALLOW

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Mela Blust JOHN CAGE RECONSIDERS HARMONY Rikki Santer IOWA

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Thom Young SHOW & TELL 74 Dr. Jennifer Wolkin MESSENGER

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Luke Johnson END OF SEASON

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Robin Gow [A SMALL THING] Devon Balwit

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VISITING THE BEDROOM OF YOUR CHILD WHO CANNOT HAVE EVERYTHING 86 Emma Karnes

NON-FICTION HOW TO RIDE A ROLLERCOASTER WITHOUT SCREAMING OR TENSING OR MAKING ANY SOUND AT ALL 15 Blake Chernin CABIN

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Bryn Gribben I COULD ONLY HEAR HER SILENCE Juanita Tovar Mutis STILL LIFE Alicia Drier

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FICTION THE BIG THING

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Max Abrams WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND FULL OF WONDER Brian P. Klein STARS

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Ava Wolf BOTH SIDES NOW Ava Wolf TYPICAL Ava Wolf

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Editor’s Note Greetings and Warm Wishes, In reflection, it’s quite astounding how this journal has come to fruition over the past year. Starting as no more than an idea for a handful of eager lovers of literature, Tilde Literary Journal has become something far more reaching and impactful than any of the editorial staff believed it would in such a short period. Or as some of us would remark: “This turtle has made it to the water.” As I prepare to leave the journal, the most poignant lesson I learned was the fruitfulness of collaboration in thought, action, and word. This departure from Tilde marks a significant personal change for myself. I sit here now, writing in upstate New York—isolated from those who I’ve come to call friends and family, with whom I shared countless meals, laughs, and ideas. It’s admittedly been a difficult transition for me, yet what puts me at ease is literature. Within it, there is an innate goodness that seems to be lacking in our media. On either side of the political spectrum, one is presented with a myriad of debates and accusations lobbed pointedly at their opponent, and any who would defy these dogmatic principles are disregarded. Education, however, is transcendental; literature, its proverbial gatekeeper, enabling us to access this most critical skill. To read is to think, and to think is to provide the first line of resistance to those who would dismiss our values, ideals, and way of life.


Tilde’s philosophy directly reflects this, as we aim to provide a means of publication for obscure and provoking literature, but that of a diverse range of voices that reflect critically the world we exist in. Much like the coffeehouses of the enlightenment, we aim to provide a forum for the sharing of ideas, art, and ideological debate. Thirty West Publishing House has since been a beacon for authors since day one, and Tilde further compounds this ideal on a global scale. To put it into perspective, Issue 1 contained work from over 30 authors and 9 artists spanning 3 continents. Nothing satisfies endeavors of proofreading, editing, manufacturing, and distribution than the creative people that populate the pages. Speaking of what we love, both Thirty West and Tilde will be undergoing some major changes these next few months. As part of my new role, I have assisted in the scouting of a team that will carry us into 2019 and all the exciting things that will follow. Notably, allow me to introduce my successor Greg “Needles” Neidlinger. His confidence is infectious and benevolence to the written word is at an all-time high. The Tilde family is excited to see what his plans for the future are. So, in closing, I entreat you to enter this with an open mind, allow your thoughts and ideas to be challenged and perhaps changed by the result of the compilation of literature here within. May you find a home and family here as I did. Cheers, Alex Breth Former Managing Editor of Tilde


Tilde Literary Journal Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nullam tincidunt tortor massa, eleifend egestas nunc posuere a. Phasellus mollis elementum orci, ac bibendum ex commodo non. Aliquam erat volutpat. Donec ornare augue libero, porta pellentesque est aliquet nec. Praesent dictum mollis enim quis faucibus. Suspendisse vel mauris sit amet tortor pharetra mollis. Proin lobortis id magna quis bibendum. Vivamus id lacinia mauris. Praesent eget tortor nibh. Nulla efficitur nec sapien ac sagittis. Aenean tristique maximus scelerisque. Proin interdum ac nibh at imperdiet. Vivamus nulla purus, vestibulum a porta vel, facilisis at leo. Pellentesque volutpat risus vel ante scelerisque tincidunt. Duis blandit odio ac lacus interdum mollis. Nulla libero magna, viverra non tincidunt Sed dignissim in mi nec vehicula. Interdum et malesuada fames ac ante ipsum primis in faucibus. Nam tempor, leo vel iaculis porta, nibh arcu sodales justo, a finibus leo ipsum sit amet diam. Pellentesque quis nunc fringilla tellus commodo accumsan vel quis urna. Proin ultricies nulla quis iaculis dictum. Pellentesque vel pretium lectus. In quis venenatis sem. Phasellus ac commodo magna, feugiat fringilla velit. Pellentesque tincidunt eu ipsum nec iaculis. Proin id semper mi. Praesent vitae ex eget justo maximus vestibulum eget quis ex. Quisque tempus rhoncus mauris ac rhoncus. Quisque faucibus at est ut dignissim. Pellentesque quis imperdiet Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nullam tincidunt tortor massa, eleifend egestas nunc posuere a. Phasellus mollis elementum orci, ac bibendum ex commodo non. Aliquam erat volutpat. Donec ornare augue libero, porta pellentesque est aliquet nec. Praesent dictum mollis enim quis faucibus. Suspendisse vel mauris sit amet tortor pharetra mollis. Proin lobortis id magna quis bibendum. Vivamus id lacinia mauris. Praesent eget tortor nibh. Nulla efficitur nec

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Issue 2

My Forearm as an Envelope* Lake Vargas At first, I glimpse you in the mirror, half-hazed by toothpaste splatters, ghostly by oiled fingerprints. You fold over my shoulders like a blanket dragged from subway tunnels, covered in dust, stamped with the footprints of thousands who have passed you by. Didn’t ponder another cotton wreath chasing its own tail, tugged from sleep by the wind. So you grab me because all lovers do, bring hands to my hips like wading into a water tower after dark. God, you say, parting my legs with one of your own. I am a flag clinging to its pole, a lash of fabric, a collar of color. I scrabble at marble like I can move it, churn it into fingers to twine with my own. God, I love you. No religion, but the Bible whips across the room without the tine of lightning to touch it. When you lay teeth to me, I turn blue for all the wrong reasons.

*Due to an error in the previous issue, this poem has been reprinted.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Things Not Caught in the Frame* Lake Vargas It’s dinnertime, so I pull your name from my mouth like I would film from a reel. Trees trip over grass, roll over my fingertips in a slow trickle. You fled my body without thinking— the weathervane is contorting itself, all golden and gymnastics. You venture into the cellar, sit between stacked cans of syruped peaches. Each slice bobs to the surface, a fish with guts still in. In the house, I slip out my silverware, send metal confetti to dot the table. Home movies crackle on the television, laughter without stoke or match. Then, the sound of my going silent. Your fingers skid across my cheek, down the streak of the bone. I poke my head into the living room to check on her. She’s fine. Smiling.

*Due to an error in the previous issue, this poem has been reprinted.

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Issue 2

The Horsemen Kelli Driver History moves in the slow creeping change of glaciers carving landscapes we take as timeless. We forget the apocalyptic moments that rode in like horsemen on fire. Until we live them. When history streaks across the sky in a ball of flame. The dinosaurs remember. When it grabs at your throat and chokes you with ash. Pompeii remembers. When it falls in cloud, nursing babies on toxic breast milk. Hiroshima remembers. When old men see opportunity in chaos and change the rules. Iran remembers. Germany remembers. Italy remembers. Time so far away they’re stories to us. Places so far away they’re foreign to us. Our fleeting security the only reality to us.

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Tilde Literary Journal Then change streaks across our sky, ash grabs us by the throat, our bodies become wastelands, and the old men pretend to save us with their iron fists. We forget how fast the horsemen ride in. Until they ride for us.

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Issue 2

How To Ride A Rollercoaster Without Screaming or Tensing or Making Any Sound At All Blake Chernin I am first made aware of it in JCC where I went to preschool. My class had marched single file to the bathroom. Finished with my business, I milled in the hallway. Maybe I had my hands clasped behind my back. My teacher is talking to me. She is crouched to my level and smiling. She tells me how proud she is of me because I am so nice to the other children. Probably I nod; I like praise and will repeat her words in my head later that day. I remember that the lights were very fluorescent and the floor tile was very brown. My hair curls tightly around my ears. She tells me I am a special kid. “Like your voice,” she says. The next sentence she speaks is lost in memory; all I can remember is how she says it, imitating a preschooler by pitching her tone down and clenching her throat so her words rub together like sandpaper. In this way, I am marked for the difference. “It’s like this,” I will say whenever I am called upon to explain. I will be called upon to explain often. I will place my palms together, flush from the heels of my hands to my fingertips, thumbs in towards my chest, the little gap between the palms my skeleton makes hidden from view. I will think of these as prayer hands, even though this is not how I pray. “Your vocal chords—most people’s vocal chords—go like this when you talk.” Here, I will pull my hands apart, still connected at the bottom in a V. I will, every time, roll the contact up and through my hands, undulating them against each other smoothly until the V has turned upside down and my fingertips touch, making a little house. I will repeat this once, twice. “Smoothly, smoothly. Like this. This is how your vocal chords make a sound. “But for me,” and I will look down at my prayer hands, “I don’t really know why, but for me, my vocal chords just didn’t really learn right. From when I first learned to speak, my vocal chords did not really learn to go smoothly—” and here every time I will replicate the sinuous wave of hand against hand, lest my audience forget just what it is I am failing to do. “Instead, my vocal chords learned to slam together—” here, always, a dull clap. Dull because I only pulled my prayer hands an inch away from each other before slamming them together again, leaving no space for sound to reverberate—

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Tilde Literary Journal “like this, see? This is what your throat does when you yell, but mine,” and here another slap, “learned to do it nearly all the time.” “You know how you get calluses on your hands?” I will say, holding one of mine out, palm up like a mendicant. I will indicate the rough, yellowed lumps on the edge of my palms, or the ones on my fingers I got from never learning to hold a pencil right. “Well, slamming your vocal chords together all the time makes calluses on your throat. Except when they’re on your throat, they’re called nodules.” My audience members will nod. I will think, every time, that I have given them more than they wanted or needed to know. “And that,” I will finish weakly, “is how come I talk the way I talk. “It’s just fuckin’ eerie,” says my friend Jessica as we emerge. The coaster, of course, lets you out into a purple gift shop. We walk past all the superhero shirts and into the unforgiving August heat. It is the end of camp, and as is tradition, we’re at Six Flags. I smile with no teeth and look down at the meticulously blue concrete. “S’all I’m saying. It’s fuckin’ bizarro, there’s like a million-foot drop, and everybody’s screaming, and I’m sitting next to you and nothing.” I shrug, dragging the worn sole of my Converse against the ground. “I just don’t scream on rollercoasters! I don’t even tense my throat! I don’t know, Anne told me not to so I trained it out.” Jess knows Anne. Her little brother has O.T. with my former speech therapist. “It’s fuckin’ eerie, that’s all I’m saying.” Sweat runs down the back of my neck. After almost a full summer of scream-singing every morning and staying up late whispering every night, my voice is wrecked; even I can hear it crackle. But for some reason, this is what I’ve decided to train into my body: I sit on rollercoasters breathing through my nose, my throat relaxed, a careful smile plastered to my mouth as the train plummets down. Before I am old enough to know what sex is, countless people have told me that my rasping voice is sexy. I do not know what they mean when they say this. I only know that for some reason it makes my little-girl body roll in on itself, as though it were trying to fold away. I also know that, for some reason, I am supposed to thank them. Every couple of years, a special doctor has to force a thin camera down my nose to check my throat, and even though it hurts I do not cry and they tell me I am a brave little girl.

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Issue 2 When I am around ten years old, I begin to write stories with main characters who were always very thinly veiled and idealized versions of myself. In one of these stories, the character who is me-but-not-me invents a way to weave fabric out of water. She makes herself a dress. She puts on the dress and goes to a clearing to sing. (The ten-year-old girl had a clear picture in her head but did not have the words she needed to make it. I will give them to her now. The fabric is diaphanous and fluid; it is the color of a dream of the moon, white tinged with a ghost of blue and glowing. The woman, perfect, stands at the mouth of a wide clearing ringed with pine trees. These are hazy with mist and distance, out of focus. The clearing is wide and snow-covered. The sky is gigantic and blue-black and starless because the full moon is so bright. Its reflected light reflects off the snow. The dress and the woman respond in kind.) The woman begins to sing. Her voice fills the clearing. I will always remember the words I used, at ten, to describe the voice of me-not-me singing: “high and smooth and bell-clear.� At ten, I give myself an inhuman voice. This how I rendered my sound on the page, echoing off dimly described trees: bell-clear. Ringing. Uninterrupted. As it was, I went to speech therapy while my sister went to see her vocal coach. She had not been born with a gift, but neither had she been born with a problem. Every week, she went to her instructor to practice. She worked hard, and her mediocre singing voice became strong and beautiful. Her coach taught her the difference between her head voice and her chest voice until, I imagined, she could choose one at will, adjusting her breathing or changing her stance or set of mouth to select the voice she needed at the moment. Meanwhile, Anne taught me the yawn-sigh, a way of haaaaA-Easing your way haaaAA-On to your words haaaAA-With your breath to keep your throat from chafing against itself. Sometimes, we would just talk. At times, she would raise her eyebrows and cock her head to the left and that was how I knew to stop my sentence, breathe, and haa-start over. Eventually, she ceased indicating, counting on me to self-correct. Anne was training me, she said, to hear my own voice.

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Tilde Literary Journal I learned to talk very early, and from then on, I talk nonstop. When I am four, my older sister, bored, starts teaching me to read. I read aloud to her, The Adventures of Frog and Toad. I like the way the words sound when I put them in the air. When I finish a whole story out loud, my sister and I parade through the hallway, cheering at the tops of our voices. My first speech therapist was an employee of the elementary school. I could not understand her function. I wanted to go back to class. In an attempt to make me understand, she pulled out a tape recorder and had me read into it. When she played it back, I told her that the device was broken. The voice she played back was not mine. My voice was not scratchy like that, I told her. I wanted to go back to class, and her machine was broken so she should take me back. She told me, gently, that the recording was perfect. I cried. This lady was very, very stupid. Anne stood me in front of the mirror in her room (the carpet was purple, and the ceiling was yellow and the very small chairs we sat in were red) and had me repeat vowels. Ah. Ah. Aaaahhh. It is about Using Your Air. It is about Talking Gentle. Eeeeeees are the hardest. An eeeeeeee constricts your throat. On the worst days, I cannot say my long eeeees to the mirror without them skipping like scratched records. Anne teaches me not to scream on roller coasters, or tense my throat, which is as good as screaming. She teaches me not to whisper, because to whisper is to grate your vocal chords against each other. She makes me hold a bent plastic tube to my head, one end to my mouth, the other to my ear, a clownish phone call to myself. The pink plastic conveys the product of my speech to my ear where I cannot avoid it. The dissonance makes my head hurt. I learn to breathe better. I learn not to scream on roller coasters. The voice that you hear in your head is not what others hear while you speak. The body is cavernous. The reverberations of air that shake your insides are too overwhelming for your ears to focus too much on whatever you spit out. Voice lives in the watery space between your brain and your skull, in the pockets of your lungs. When I speak, I do not hear sandpaper. I like my voice, the one I

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Issue 2 knew I had before I’d ever heard it recorded. It’s pretty, light and smooth and lilting. Bell-clear. I imagine that should the callouses somehow fall away from my throat, you might hear it too. But instead, it stays locked inside my chest, pent up in the middle of my forehead. I am often told I sound sexy. I am often told I sound sick. You cannot yawn-sigh in a conversation. Over the years, neglect has built the calluses up further. I haven’t practiced my vowels for the mirror in a while. One weekend my freshman year of college, I am scheduled to perform, to speak to a crowd and try to make them laugh, but when I open my mouth, no sound can come out but the strangled yawn-sigh, haaaaaaaa haaaaaaa haaaaaaaa. Many years ago, they shoved a camera down my little girl's nose to look at my littlegirl throat and I am very brave for not crying. A bell-clear voice lives in the center of my forehead. I will give it to the little girl in the brown hallway. I will teach her how to scream.

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Tilde Literary Journal

orchard Jonathon Egan i see us then shadows like Plato’s shadows shadows of shadows that could never harm and shadows of these eyes closed in partnership amidst the gold and green light filtering through our skin in a braided serenity we were children and we didn’t know we were children in shadows of shadows light filtering through our skin leaving only light a certain kindness a quiet anticipation i still almost remember and i feel like we knew something i know we did i see us then eyes closed in partnership light filtering through our skin a certain kindness a quiet anticipation and i feel like we knew something

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Issue 2

Warsaw Jewish Cemetery, 2017 Untitled D. Larkin Corvin The headstones tilt more each year: advancing hands of a clock in a surreal cluster of overlapping timepieces counting down to earth. Morning whispers until the graves listen long enough to collect the dew on their faces. Snails add commas to what is erased each day, written in water, drunk by the wind. No one asks if the snails make meaning from the angles at which the tombs bend; no one inquires if the Earth is a stone, or what lies under the soil it is buried in.

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Tilde Literary Journal

The Big Thing Max Abrams Tim Rosenthal had this idea. Unbidden and sweeping, it came to him all at once. One day he was just Tim Rosenthal, a regular dude living a regular life. He lived in South Philly. He worked as an Uber driver and sold pot. His life was humble, free. And then he was given a purpose. It was like God spoke to him, that’s what he said. He was like a modern-day Abraham. Tim told everyone this. In the coffee shops. At bars. When he was giving rides. Anyone that asked what he’d been up to these days. Tim said he was working on this Big Thing. When he talked about it he got excited. He spoke fast and got close to whoever was listening. When he was driving and talking about it, he looked in the rearview mirror nearly the whole time. He watched the reactions of the people he was talking to and only glanced at the road. His passengers usually got nervous. Tim took their nervousness as a sort of tenuous curiosity; he knew his idea was radical. Hard to swallow was how he phrased it. He trudged on. He did not throw himself into the Big Thing. He knew he was nowhere skilled enough to make anything near what he envisioned, that it would come out a mere shadow of its full potential. Tim did not even know what he wanted the final form of the Thing to be. He was not and had never tried to be an artist of any kind. Tim started small, diving into multiple art forms, buffing and smoothing his creative output. Searching for the perfect outlet. Always improving, he said. Tim started with music—a mixtape of lo-fi hip-hop. He mostly took beats already generated by websites online, interposed a few vocal samples over them, and picked a random phrase out of The Bible for a title (he called his first song “I Will Give You Rest”), and it garnered him enough attention to play a few shows at the Boot and Saddle, and even one at Union Transfer. Surely, none of the music was his, but the people didn’t know this, and Tim didn’t see anything wrong with it. He came to be loved by critics and fans alike, and he was heralded by one critic who, coming out of one of his shows and writing fervently in his notes, the excitement of the crowd and the atmosphere still buzzing in his mind, deemed him “The second coming of hip-hop.”

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Issue 2 Tim, having no fidelity towards any art form, no bonds formed through time and craft, left music soon after he started to gain a true following. He said that there was nothing to see. He said that he could never realize the Big Thing unless people could really, truly see it with their eyes. Tim took the money he made from his mixtape release and the few small shows he performed and quit his job as an Uber driver. He continued to sell pot. He did this more out of personal enjoyment than for anything else. He considered his buyers his best friends. Tim moved on to film, calling it the perfect combination of visual and auditory art. He said it was divine. Tim bought a small cam recorder and went to bars on weekend nights to record young, intoxicated men, asking them about religion, women, politics, and, somewhat ironically, music. He got drunk with them most of the time and didn’t even remember half of the recordings he came home with. Later, he laid these conversations over time lapses of traffic, and, finally, ended the film with a ten-minute stint of a man washing windows, the sound completely muted. After weeks of looking for a theatre that was willing to play the film, he found a man who knew him from some of his shows at the Boot and Saddle. The man said he was moved by Tim’s music. He agreed to play the film for late night showings, under the conditions that he had exclusive rights to play the film, and all profits made would go to him, the theatre owner. Tim said, out of his charity to a long-term fan and faith in his art, that nothing would please him more. Before long, the film had a cult following. The 3 A.M. showings of the new Rosenthal project attracted a very young, very emphatic crowd. They called themselves Tim-heads. They thought the film critiqued modern society, the current presence of religion in American culture, and the city of Philadelphia itself. The window washer became somewhat of a local celebrity. Tim was hardly even aware of his film’s success. Partly because all checks and profit went straight to the theatre owner, who was busy expanding his small theatre rooms to fit more people in each showing, and partly because Tim had moved on to sculpture, leaving both music and film behind. He called them amorphous. He said that his Big Thing needed a form. Form above all else. Something to hold on to.

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Tilde Literary Journal Tim molded wet newspaper, showing headlines of current events that were strictly concerned with disasters, both natural and human, on the exterior for the viewer to read, into the form of a woman in prayer, and created a mold that was ugly and deformed, a technical disaster by any sculptor’s standards. He showcased his work in a glass box in front of a church. People loved it. They praised Tim as the world’s next multi-hyphenated artist, branding him as an important voice in a distraught generation. One art collector came to see him and was immediately attracted to his “ambience,” and she became his patron. She was an older woman, stooped over in age, skin wrinkled in spider webs, hands heavily veined, and in the last years of her life she clung to Tim as her sort of final purpose, backing him with enough money for him to never work, except to sell pot, which he didn’t consider really working, and so he could really focus on his art. In this manner, years passed. Tim continued to grow in fame and renown. With each new project, each new art form taken on, Tim picked up a new crowd of followers. He became acutely aware of his celebrity. There were people who put their faith in him. Really believed in him. Tim became pathetically, undeniably, manically depressed. He thought he was getting farther away from the Big Thing. He was aware that none of this really mattered to him if he couldn’t ever actualize his true project. Before Tim went off the rails and his depression really took control, and at the height of his career, he shut himself away. Tim’s patron supported him completely. She didn’t entirely understand whatever he meant when he talked about the Big Thing, but she trusted him deeply. He worked alone in his apartment, constantly trying to find ways to combine art forms. Fabrics and film. Sculpture and dance. Music and painting. Tim stopped eating. He became somewhat of a hermit. Slowly, people started to forget about him. They moved on, and Tim continued to work. Under the impression that what he was creating was destined to be the most blissful piece of art ever created. He finished it months later. Tim brought the Big Thing down from the bathroom—he did most of the work in the bathroom because of the mess—and into the living room and turned on all the lamps and let the light hit it at all angles and looked upon it, up and down, walked in circles

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Issue 2 around it. Tim fell to his knees. With the slight and constant force of a machine the Thing pushed Tim away, it unraveled him, he found that he couldn’t even look at the Thing directly, so he glanced at it furtively like it was something he was ashamed to even be around. It was grotesque and deformed, and he knew it. It looked back at him, stared at him constantly, leered at him with a wolfish grin. It said, “I am you.” He hated the Thing, despised it more and more as he sat in his living room, hated it with a kind of helpless desperation he never felt before, as one might hate the passage of time. He knew this was not what he had envisioned through all these years, he told himself that it could not be, that this could not be it—yet here it was, staring back at him, through him, the culmination of everything he had been working towards. Tim thought of his legacy, it reoccurred to him that this was his big work, his Big Thing, this will be what he is remembered for. The room began to spin. Tim got himself up and limped out of the living room and into his bedroom. For a few moments, there was only the noise of drawers being opened and slammed closed. The fast mumbling of a prayer. Silence. The house seemed to beat in silent pulses with the Thing in the center. Like the galaxy around the sun. A loud bang echoed through the apartment and careened against the Thing, which accepted it with avarice. An even louder silence followed. A few days later, a long-time buyer of Tim’s came to the door. After trying Tim on his phone for days and receiving no reply, he decided to just swing by. The man let himself in. After seeing the Thing in its nakedness, being struck by the daylight, a strange smell seeping from upstairs, the man also dropped to his knees. Later he would say that he saw God in the Thing. That he used to be an addict but, after seeing tangible perfection and beauty, he never touched a substance again. The piece was put in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and people came from all over to see it, gaining him posthumous fame unlike anything he achieved in his real life, catalyzing a viral documentary to be made about Tim and his last few months, when he perfected all forms of art and transcended the physical tethers of this life and in his infinite wisdom left our world; his apartment was made into a museum that was so successful people had to buy reserved tickets months before visiting, teens got tattoos of the Big

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Tilde Literary Journal Thing, Doctoral students wrote theses on It, other famous artists created works in direct response to It, one sculptor made a largerthan-life-size statue of Tim, about 15 feet tall, and it was put in the park, where birds shit on it daily.

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Issue 2

Ungrateful Dead Dom Fonce My body I give to my dear friend Doctor Southwood Smith to be disposed of in a manner hereinafter mentioned…The skeleton he will cause to be put together in such a manner as that the whole figure may be seated in a chair usually occupied by me when living, in the attitude in which I am sitting when engaged in thought in the course of time employed in writing. —from Jeremy Bentham’s will I. When I die fasten me up straight, jam a lightbulb in my brain, and crown me with a lampshade. II. “Eugene: Found Dead 1929, Buried 1964” is etched into his stone— he is more famous than Elvis in these hinterland parts of Ohio, a mummified porcelain doll, a beautiful drowned man on a beach of backroad— washed onto gravel in beating-down sun. The townsfolk fashion cattail bracelets for his shrunken wrists like they’ve found God. They put him on shoulders and carry him up a mountain. Danse macabre, necro jubilee. Ghosts from beyond shake and rattle to rhythmic music—some may wish to stay. All things must tarnish. I wonder if concave, vacant eyeholes rolled endlessly in Eugene’s skull as blood-filled hands moved his dehydrated frame from shopfront to porch seat—the greatest Halloween decoration. Or maybe the gawker spotlight curled up his long-crumbled

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Tilde Literary Journal lip; perhaps his grey skin blushed—the ungrateful dead. Now, I let flowers settle on his stone and long to lay them at his undead feet as if he was a cherished king—his face is an ancient, haunted house that scares us as children and that we weep for in adulthood as the city rules its demolition. If death hadn’t snatched him again, into his six-foot void, where no eyes could marvel at his eccentricity, I could hold his bramble hand in mine; I could pretend his spectacle was what he wanted. III. Images of my beloved embalmed, statuesquely posing, a piece of machinery pistoning her arm to wave at the passersby of some Tri-State thrift shop— camera flash to inhale her newfound life— made me partly grimace, partly warm up in the chest.

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Issue 2

A Russian Student Plays the Violin Mark Gordon From a certain angle, it looks like a lost world; if you tilt your head you can smell old aromas of cabbage soup that grandmother cooked the old Russia she came from. You were there in the years when Stravinsky composed the Rite when Dostoyevsky walked in the fog of St. Petersburg, sick of man’s sadism, when ordinary people put on puppet shows for children. Never in body, but in some primeval memory that runs down the ladder of your spine, walks like an ache in your instep, there when your great-grandfather spoke with the priest in the middle of the night about messiahs coming and going. There when the priest sent the townspeople out with staves to wave off Cossacks on their snorting horses, thirsty for the blood of Jews. There with her, when she played the violin in Minsk, as she plays it now, tucked so tenderly under her chin no lover could ever usurp. There with her in another life, another body, walking with her in the sensual air, and all the trees were violins, you a juggler, or a painter, or just a sad, shivering horse that she ran her hands over, there in a lost world you somehow believe in as much as anything you have since found.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Kung-Fu of Being Silent Sy Hoahwah It wasn’t a howl, it was a hole filled with pine needles, baby possum skulls, and homecoming. Pine trees stood in twos like pallbearers. The bark read like scripture. Sunlight tore off into soft serving size. The day’s entry written on the rising smoke of a long procession, driverless hearse and real wolves. Upwind, a tomb of antlers asked my shadow for its hide to lay a needle on its groove to hear it’s my music.

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Issue 2

Seal Man Marie Hoffman I was a little girl when I first saw the seal man in the dry Korean summer heat. He came crawling on his belly, his legs dragging behind him, wrapped in black innertubes crossed ankle over ankle, his fin limp and out of water. He collects spare change in his little basket, not enough for water to soothe his parched throat, to ease the weight of the sun from his sweat-stained back. I watched the street crowd split at the center, walking the edge of a circle around him, avoiding his eyes, sad and distant. I asked my mother why the seal man had to crawl and she responded with pressing her palms against my cheek, shifting my gaze away from him, it’s not polite to stare at the dirty. And yet, I wanted to know where he was going, so I pushed back and watched him fade into the crowd, the gap in the street closing, like the sea collapsing.

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Tilde Literary Journal

When We Were Young and Full of Wonder Brian P. Klein 1. Cycle of Life They stand in pairs, waiting, hands tucked neatly behind their backs. Four rows. Two columns. Brushed denim and canvas shoes show various states of wear. They’re paired randomly in the remains of the last bookstore in town, stripped of bound paper, repurposed in metal and fluorescent lighting. On the way in a few caught a glance around the room. Maybe a classmate before the high school was closed. A neighbor from down the street. Well-heeled guards enter single file, walking the perimeter, tapping their steel-tipped canes on the ceramic floor. They laugh when the tiles beneath the kids’ feet warm from yellow to orange, to red, and the heat steals the rubber from their soles. “Look how still they stand,” the chief says, swinging her cane back and forth, right up to their noses. Never hitting. Must be kept unblemished. That’s how the priests like them. A boy in the back row raises his head and winces. The metal collar, chained to the girl beside him, tugs against his bruised neck. The guard narrows her gaze. “That one,” she says, pointing squarely at his head. The couple walks silently off their square, heads low, melted rubber footprints trailing to the door. *** Inside the domed tent, ancient images of ochre-stained animals stare down from the cloth roof— long legs, arched backs, some baring teeth. Pale yellow sunlight weakened with age, shines through their poked-out eyes. With barely enough room to stretch out their arms, the young pair stand, facing each other.

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Issue 2 “Why did you think that would work, giving up so easily?” The girl asks him. “I know how they think. Resist, but not too much. Isn’t this our chance?” he asks. “Do you think they’re watching now?” “I doubt it. Otherwise, how could they be sure this works.” A bell rings. They drop to their knees and dig at the dirt with their fingers. When they’re done, warm water flows over them from an opening above their heads and pools around the tender sapling between their feet. He catches his first glimpse of the sky through the tent flap: blue, pure. He makes a move to run. She holds him back. “I know how this part ends. You’ll never make it,” she says, tugging at the chain. She digs her shoe into the soft earth, exposing the glint of a blade brighter than anything he’s seen before. “You’ll need to be quick,” she tells him. “Why are you helping me?” “Just give me your coat and shoes before you go.” When the bullhorn sounds, they bow at the waist, according to custom. Her hand sweeps the ground with a rehearsed ease. Two twists of the blade and the collars fall from their shoulders. He grabs for the knife and catches the edge, slicing his palm. “I didn’t do that to you,” she says, throwing it back down to the dirt. Drumming starts outside guttural chants. The tent will come down soon. “You go first,” she says. “Out the back. But remember to leave your clothes behind. They already have your scent.” He holds on her eyes, looking for trust, knowing he has no choice. The boy bolts, bare feet slapping the stone walkway as it curves towards the tree line. He does not look back. After twenty strides his

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Tilde Literary Journal calf muscles cramp. His joints seize. An electric shock singes the ground up to his thighs. They never make it past the first turn, not the simple ones, not the strong ones, but at least she’s warm now. Her shoes wedge tightly inside his. They should protect her for next time. That counts for something. Giving him false hope, too. It’s a certain kind of grace. And a good death. Soil must be fed, and the saplings will grow faster with his sacrifice.

2. A Folder’s Lament I don’t like cramped spaces. I once spent three days wedged between floorboards and caustic insulation. That might not sound like a lot. Hardly a record. Hardly worth mentioning considering the others hip-high in water, skin puckered with rot, or wasting in the cistern where the sewage leaks. I had it easy. Warm, but itchy. There was even some light. The first few hours were the hardest, especially when someone came looking for me. They’d stand on the floor, right above my face, and wait. Sometimes there’d be an argument. I could hear them yelling. “It’s her time, don’t you think we won’t find her. We’ll be back for you, too. Even old blood stains red.” My breath dropped low, deep into the well of my belly. That’s when I knew I could truly fold. The technique is simple. Wedge both forearms behind the back, right under left. Cross the ankles, bend at the waist, and bring your knees up to your chest. Some people like turning their head to the side. I prefer looking straight ahead. It helps to learn while the muscles are limber. I was taught a little earlier than the others. A year or two later and the lessons would have been excruciating. “Joints were made to be broken.” I heard this day after day as the straps were tightened. Sounds almost funny now, if not cruel. Really, it’s the ligaments that stretch and the bones just follow. Nothing really breaks.

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Issue 2 Part of me wanted to escape, of course. But how could I leave what I’d just gotten to know? I learned a lot staring up through that narrow gap of knotty pine. People wear their souls on their shoes. Soft, worn rubber—mostly kind words. Hard, new heels—they had no remorse. A couple of days in, the floorboards cracked open in broad daylight. I thought I had failed. My grandfather’s fingertips were bloody from ripping the wood. He motioned to keep quiet as he untied the straps and carried me in his arms until his face winced with a pain I knew but had overcome. We left, heading towards the edge of town. He kept pointing to the trees and said in heaving, accented words, “avoid the tent and rocka-ways.” He told me we fold, but never bow. First, you learn the skill, then you teach it to your children. Even in better days. After he dropped me off at the edge of the woods the ceremonial bell rang. I folded first between two moss-covered boulders, beyond the ferns. No one caught me there. A boy, barefoot, blood trickling down his arm and nearly naked, ran across the field and almost made it through. He didn’t clear the circle—he didn’t know how to fold. Otherwise, he wouldn’t need to run. It was supposed to be my offering time. They say the soil will grow stronger for his sacrifice. I still hear my grandfather’s voice in the rocks as they crack and splinter on the ledge below. A bird I’ve never seen before rides thermoclines in the valley: peaceful, arcing circles as it eyes its next meal. The wind rushes the crack as it passes. All of us, silent in this cliff face, we will always know how to fold.

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Tilde Literary Journal 3. Sports for Lazy Sundays A plume of smoke rises out of the only chimney in town. Everyone gathers in the street and waits, backs against the midday sun. When the smoke turns from blue to white, a small cheer erupts. They wait again until a gong rings, deep and low. They turn, nearly in unison. Two-by-two they go, down the narrow cobblestone pathway and under the archway to the proving grounds. There’s order, an odd calm. A single, round-walled tent, painted in dried, ochre clay, has gone up in the center of a grassy field. A child chases away a stray cow, hitting its boney hide with a stick. The old, the middle-aged, and the very young press up against the wooden fence entranced with the spectacle. Another cheer erupts from the crowd as two teenagers, shackled at the neck, walk slowly to the tent. They don’t wave or smile at the crowd as phones flash. One woman cries out a name. Then another. Still no recognition. The pair lifts the flap, bow at the waist, and disappear inside. A group of village elders appears at the far side of the field. They carry drums of varying sizes, small round cylinders covered in taut animal skin, carved-out logs, a metal drum kit complete with cymbals. They sit in a circle and begin a rhythmic beating. The crowd doesn’t mind. Those on the fence line with the metal-tipped boots beat their canes against the rough-hewed wood. People, three rows deep, fidget and kick the sterile dirt beneath their feet. The priestess, her black-robe embroidered with the clan’s symbol— a small seedling breaking through the soil, climbs a shaky aluminum ladder set up next to the tent. Most days she’s the baker who runs this town along with the local barista—everyone depends on a warm muffin and coffee first thing in the morning. Her hem gets caught on the first rung as she climbs. An apprentice, hair in a top knot, pants two-inches cuffed, runs over and frees the garment. He waits at the foot of the ladder for the nod, then passes a bucket up to her. She quickly empties the triple-hand-filtered, spring-fed water into a hole in the top.

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Issue 2 Restless uncertainty spreads through the crowd. They wait with cellphones, out and ready to record from high, above their heads. A collective gasp surfaces as a barefoot young man, no jacket or shoes, sprints from the back flap of the tent. They’ve never seen this before. He runs away from the crowd and towards the tree line. It’s a good run, arms pumping, a long gait, eyes fixed. Thighs propel more than lift. He never looks back. About three, four rows into the crowd someone starts to cheer, “Ago, a-go, a-go-go-go.” The chanting rises in a wave of frenzied voices. An older, bearded man, his fingertips raw, throws his hand up in a fist. The metal tips look back and glare. One of them tries to get a good look at his face. The crowd closes in, obscuring her line of sight. Chanting drops off. Several kids turn around and snap selfies with the running boy in full stride. “That’s a good one,” a baby banker says to his friend. “Send me that one, will ya?” Movement from the tree line catches an eye in the crowd. “Look, there, in the forest.” A hand waves from a tight crack between two boulders. The running boy doesn’t notice. He’s stopped, cramped over, gasping for breath. When his legs seize up and the spasm grips his torso the crowd exhales a disappointed sigh. Sparks of electricity from the ground arc to his thighs, downing him in one explosive charge. The drumming ends. “This is getting tiring,” says a middle-aged woman coated in quilted fabric edged in fur. “If no one ever makes it past the first circle, what’s the sport in that.” The old man asks her, “Isn’t your daughter at the giving age? She’s a fighter, too. Just what the recruiters like.” The woman doesn’t respond, except to step aside, raise her hand and point down at him, hoping to get the attention of the guards. They’ve already left. It’s the spectacle they’ve come to enjoy. An hour goes by. A sharp-beaked bird arcs through the air, circling up from the canyon beyond the trees. Black eyes narrow to the body below. A girl emerges alone from the tent and watches the feeding. She sends her thoughts and prayers to his family.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Pennsylvania Pantoum Matthew James Babcock the low firebrand sun a smeared medallion gunmetal vapors that blunt silo domes deer carcass angles death’s brown figurine screech and jeer blue jay cries ancient murder gunmetal vapors that blunt silo domes skunk buggy caravan sheer coal train lisp screech and jeer blue jay cries ancient murder my anger your waiting the spaces between skunk buggy caravan sheer coal train lisp short-circuit yellow marquee that says Andy’s my anger your waiting the spaces between firefly tracers ricochet off windshield short-circuit yellow marquee that says Andy’s ghost cattle torque forces hinges of bone firefly tracers ricochet off windshield stampede of stillness on Kintersburg Bridge ghost cattle torque forces hinges of bone your spacious anger my waiting between stampede of stillness on Kintersburg Bridge sumac tiers tangle clots of cardinal flight your spacious anger my waiting between the clatter of the dead on the Knox & Kane sumac tiers tangle clots of cardinal flight daybreak ignites bronze fusillade of blue the clatter of the dead on the Knox & Kane deer carcass angles death’s brown figurine daybreak ignites bronze fusillade of blue the sun a medallion smeared firebrand low

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Issue 2

sun steam Alyssa Ripley Your arm bruised / mine clawed open / displaced / burning from the light of the open window / I trace the sill around in a square / I trace the sun / the steam rises / traces the hair on my arm / fills gaping holes that don’t hurt / simmers / mixes with the steam / the heat and blue hues / creating pleasant flavors / flicking my tongue / tasting steam / the smoke / what is this cigarette if not our house burned down as we / children / watched

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Tilde Literary Journal

Apartment Complex Breia Gore I begin the day with my head on a stake. Drink water for three hours and pretend to walk around the block. Cut off all my hair and move to Savannah with red wine and borrowed money. Make it big. Forget to shower. Move back to to the apartment complex, where people fold laundry and let the day spill past them like a naked gaze. Stuff my insides with oats and honey. Pretend to fold laundry like everyone else. Cry after calling my parents. Cry hard enough on the hardwood floor that my knees clink together. Push the door in the neighbors face when he knocks and asks me to keep it down. Think how suspicious it is that other people have nothing to think about. Think about the ignorance of that thought. Clean the floor. Clean the bathroom counters. Clean until it becomes suspicious. I cannot smell like kitchen sinks forever. Put on a record. Something light. Something live. Tell my boyfriend he is all I think about. Hate myself for lying to my boyfriend and telling him he is all I think about. Ask myself where my sense of community is. Where is the light? Why can I not find it?

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Issue 2

accidental overdoses E. Smith Sleigh no-media flack cover-ups are good when there’s nothing left to say certainly no good can come of heavy water I hear doomed crickets big man knows no answers oh he said flamethrowers are better I just happen to have some in the back an exchange of spent nuclear particles events happen a few decades apart off islands on islands in islands what the hell its only hell bellicose or accidental change the goddamned fetter the goddamned find something else for the unknown loss body wits unschooled uncooled minds darkened by time and clouds of waste pasted sunsets blossom on paper on the side outside inside stop the pendulum the ticking forgive yourselves fill billboards shift

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Tilde Literary Journal

In Remembrance Philip St. Clair A late-model van pulls into the McDonalds parking lot, and on the rear window five stick figures run left to right: one family’s story on tinted glass. First the man: he’s five white lines and a circle. Then his wife: she’s two white lines, a circle, and a triangle. The two boys look just like their father, and the family cat is a circle with ears, an oval with a tail. There’s a small clutch of short blunt lines between the woman and her boys – it bursts outward from a single unseen point to float in space. At first, I think it’s a symbol of their marriage sacrament or of someone’s road-to-Damascus experience, but then I think it’s the emblem of a dead first child: a deep and abiding grief that keeps parents distant from children born belated and betrayed, and from my vantage at a small table near a window, I am chagrined to see such suffering displayed beneath a row of floodlights and the evening traffic on Route 60. The four of them push open the double doors, walk inside, pause silently before the great backlit plastic menu above their heads. The man, late thirties, wears a blue UK ball cap; his wife, early thirties, wears a silver Steelers bomber jacket. The boys are middle-school tall and might be twins: black team tees, broad yellow numbers. They’ve opted for takeout and go back to their van. The man backs out with one hand on the wheel. His wife rides beside him with two bags on her lap. The boys sit behind them, bent over their screens. The dead child floats on the narrow rearview mirror.

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Issue 2

Stars Ava Wolf Claire gets the call during breakfast. Adam silently scrapes the fragments of her shattered mug into a dustpan, paper towels soaking up the pool of coffee at her feet. Her sister had been sick for months—years, even. Or perhaps she had never been sick at all, and this was all some terrible, terrible joke, and June was going to pop out of the closet holding a bouquet of daylilies and a card that read: Sorry for dying on our birthday, asshole. She drifts through the rest of the day in a stupor. An hour goes by, two, ten, while sunlight filters weakly through the blinds. That night, Adam offers her a cupcake with wilted vanilla frosting and a single lopsided candle. The gesture is so pathetically kind that Claire bursts into laughter. It ricochets off the walls like a gunshot. “I know you like red velvet, but this is all they had,” he says. “Thank you. I love it.” “You love it?” “I do,” she replies. Adam pats her on the head in a way that feels vaguely infantilizing. “Happy birthday. June, too.” “I’ll eat it in a bit,” she says, peeling back the wrapper and placing it bare on the countertop. “Is there—is there anything I can do?” Adam asks. Claire shakes her head. “I don’t...think anything can really make it less, you know?” Adam nods, lips pursed because there is nothing left to say. He gestures for her to blow out the candle. Its flame dies on the first try. Later, when he’s glued to his phone during some heavilysyndicated sitcom, Claire leans against the bathroom sink, shifting her weight until her nose is half an inch from the mirror. The nose she shared with June. She examines every clogged pore, every flake of leftover mascara, every vessel in her bloodshot eyes. She shudders. Sees June in the mirror, raw and round. Forever. Adam’s Klonopin sits, unassuming, on the third shelf of the medicine cabinet. It’s not as though she wants to kill herself, but the idea provides enough release that she can stop at two. Time passes. Later, Adam tucks her into bed. He leaves the light on.

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Tilde Literary Journal In the morning, she finds him fast asleep on the couch, face buried in a throw pillow. June helped her pick them out. She liked the blue, and Claire hated the blue, so they compromised, and now Claire owns two blue pillows. She holds up the pitiful cupcake, which has grown stale and, somehow, even uglier. Adam stirs from his nest. “You okay?” he asks. “I’m thirty. I’ll never be okay again.” “Spoken like a true village elder,” he mumbles, rolling over to face the cushions. Claire sits on the ground in the shower. She used to do this when they were young—sixth or seventh grade—and June would pound on the door, shrieking for Claire to hurry up, she had places to be, come on, and Claire made sure to wait until the whole room was enveloped in a thick, buttery fog, until her bare ass was glued to the shower floor, and when her fingertips were nice and pruned, June would be standing there, red in the face, fists balled, her dark curls porcupining in every direction. “Screw you, Claire,” she spat, slamming the door behind her so hard it rattled in its frame. Claire flinches. The tips of her fingers have puckered beneath the unrelenting heat. She exits the bathroom to find Adam slipping a blazer over his shoulders as her own body migrates toward the wardrobe. She bought the dress when their mother died, and has only worn it twice since—one time for a distant uncle named Hilly and, soon after, his wife. Her name might have been something biblical, like Edna, or Esther, or Eden. They didn’t sit Shiva. Adam hovers in the doorway, eyeing his watch. Arms up. Dress on. Naked feet against the hardwood. He places a tentative hand on the small of Claire’s back, and then she’s in the car, and then she’s out of the car, and someone named Sean McCormick is escorting her to the high-ceilinged room with beige hotel furniture— the same one from Hilly’s funeral, if she recalls—and all Claire can think is that his name doesn’t sound very Jewish. Sean McCormick asks if Claire would like to have a few moments alone with the deceased. She pales, tightening her vice grip on Adam’s forearm. The casket is black. June is inside the casket. “Claire?” Adam prods gently. June was two minutes older and lorded it over Claire every chance she received. Once, years ago, they had a double date with two divorce lawyers. Their mother was thrilled. June spent the whole

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Issue 2 night with a black wringlet wrapped around her index finger, popping a piece of spearmint gum, spouting holier-than-thou nonsense like, “Well, I was born at 12:32 A.M., and Claire was born at 12:34 A.M., so technically I’m the wiser one.” June’s date called her three days later, whereas Claire’s seemed to have fallen off the face of the Earth. Claire is floating across the room, out the window, back to the hot shower with June banging on the door. She turns the knob, fog swirling around them, and June is in front of her. June is here. June is here. June is here. She blinks, her own corpse lying before her. Soft jaw, round nose, inky curls arranged meticulously around June’s head like a halo. “Oh,” is all she can say. Adam squeezes her shoulder. “Need a minute?” “No, no. I’m fine.” Claire fixes her gaze on the inoffensive damask wallpaper. “Could—could someone close it? I can’t, uh, I can’t look at her, anymore.” Adam opens the door to summon Sean McCormick, a lumbering ghost, who shuts the lid with practiced nuance. Claire doesn’t exhale until they reach the parking lot of Sinai Chapels. There must be one hundred people tucked into the pews. She thanks each one for coming with an alien expression plastered across her face. Adam lingers off to the side as she shakes one hundred hands, pats one hundred backs, says one hundred thank you for comings, like the host of a successful dinner party. Sean McCormick knows all the words to the Mourner’s Kaddish. Better than Claire, probably. She mumbles along to the best of her ability: Y’hei sh’mei raba something-something l’alam ul’almei something. “I’m Jewish and Irish,” he says afterward, noting her confusion. “You have a beautiful voice,” she responds. He looks at her pityingly. “Thank you, Miss Saffowitz.” By the time they make it to June’s plot, the crowd has thinned, and there is a Rabbi saying nice things about her dead sister. Claire ignores him. Instead, she watches as a crew of strange, leathery men lower June into a hole in the ground. She fishes around in her bag for a few loose Klonopin. “Would you like to say anything?”

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Tilde Literary Journal He hovers before her, shovel in hand. Claire glances toward him; at the pile of dirt in front of June’s grave; at the sun, which is obscured overhead by a single stratocumulus cloud. She nods. The spade is impossibly heavy. It must weigh more than her sister’s dead body. She can make jokes like that, now, because her sister is dead. This is not what she says out loud. “It’s like someone cut off my limb,” Claire begins. She clears her throat, peering out into the faceless crowd. “And everyone keeps telling me that I don’t need the limb, that I’ll be able to keep living without the limb.” “Claire,” Adam interrupts, brow furrowed. She ignores him. “But I can’t. I need the limb. It’s a phantom itch, and it will never go away.” Claire plunges the shovel into the earth as deep as it will go until she hits bedrock, or bone, or both, and hauls a mound of soil into the grave. It lands on June’s coffin with a hollow thump. Another. Then another. One thousand days go by, and Claire is still burying her sister. “Your nose is bleeding.” She whirls around, shoulders heaving, a pearl of sweat beaded on her forehead. “What?” “Come here.” Adam extracts a handkerchief from his suit jacket and dabs at her face. She lets him, numb to the chorus of sympathetic whispers echoing around her. Poor girl. What a shame. To lose your own twin, my God. Bless her heart. The lovely girl. The poor girl. Her poor, lovely shvester. “There we go,” Adam says like he’s fixing a tire. When they lost their mother, June dropped to her knees and wailed. The world was ending, split open, threatening to swallow them whole. Claire wrapped herself around June’s writhing body while June sobbed and retched and sputtered into Claire’s sweater, gripping the fabric so hard her knuckles turned white. “Don’t leave,” she whimpered. “You have to stay. Please.” Claire shuts her eyes and her palms dig into the sockets hard enough that she sees stars, sees tile, sees June, who blankets her aching body as she crumbles to dust on the cemetery lawn, choking on her sorrow, pounding on the bathroom door, and there is nothing anyone can do to make it less. Shower steam roils around them, billowing out.

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Issue 2

do bodies have echoes Sarah Summerson the earth moves sound is a traveling suitcase one with stickers of the ways in which it’s gone too poor for department stores my parents shopped the auctions for furniture my childhood cot was a hospitable bed with water breaking stains this is no ghost story of delivery room screams but a wondering if my body will leave echoes

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Tilde Literary Journal

A Cleaving Brett Thompson As the car plunged into the river the man inside did not fight and against all instinct, breathed in lungful after lungful of the cold water until his mind clouded over. One summer, a little brown orb spider made her web across his French door window and he watched her weave with wonder, every night she emerged and did her life’s work, until the night that she wasn’t, that where she was, wasn’t. Death is sometimes so simple, a pattern and then a disappearance, an exhale and then a gasp, a cleaving, then silence.

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Issue 2

Cabin Bryn Gribben I dream I have kidnapped my ex-boyfriend after his wedding. He’s not resisting, but that’s probably because he never wanted to get married—in real life or in this dream. Helping me is his ex-girlfriend of eleven years, only prettier and more fun. He never wanted to marry her, either. We are all in a powder blue kind of church—the kind you’d see in a 1970s movie or like my sister’s best friend’s childhood home, also from the ‘70s: all pale blues and crystal chandeliers. Maybe it’s even like the Goblins’ Ball in Labyrinth, where another woman tries to get back what she’s lost. Helping us out the window is maybe the minister. Upon waking, later, I wonder if he is the imago of commitment. “Hope you can do something, girls,” he says, pushing a suitcase over the sill. ** In real life, he is still unmarried, although he started dating six months after your relationship of years. They’ve now been dating as long as you two were together. You know this because one friend group still hangs out with him since he works in the lab with the friend you thought of as a brother. He skis with them, takes trips with them, goes every week to happy hour with them, and, because they think it’s immature of you not to want to see him ever again, is invited to most events hosted by them. Events that used to structure your holiday life—Passover, Cinco de Mayo, Fourth of July, Rosh Hashanah—all have become his. He invites to those parties, you hear, his other friends, all of whom were friends of the ex-girlfriend who held on eleven years, who thought involving him in household projects might convince him to stay. He always liked to be useful. She had to stop seeing those friends. ** The ex-girlfriend squeezes a duffle bag behind the passenger’s seat. We get into a packed car—but nothing is in the trunk. It’s all in the back seat, whatever “it” is, including snacks. So we all sit in the front.

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Tilde Literary Journal I even think he’s driving. Driving his own kidnapping away from his own wedding. We get about thirty minutes out of town when he suggests pizza. “And I was thinking,” he says, “that instead of buying pizza, we should stop, and I should make you pizza.” I realize he’s thinking of stopping at my Aunt Pat’s, who lived in the next town over, thirty minutes over, in fact, from my childhood home, and where we’d always stopped to visit after we had pizza. Dreams aren’t always that creative, I think, even in the dream. But I am worried thirty minutes away isn’t far enough. The new wife might track us down. I was thinking something further away, vaguely, in the mountains. Vaguely, in a cabin. “Keep driving,” I say, as the ex-girlfriend nods along, changes the tape. ** You’re having this dream because you just saw him last weekend. You’ve seen him twice in four years. Once, it was in the grocery store: you’d come up the stairs from the underground parking and locked eyes with him, just as you hit the top step. You both froze. He was wearing his brown “Peace” tee shirt. You wondered briefly, even as you thought you would throw up if he noticed you got bangs. “Should we talk or just . . . walk away?” you stammered. He said nothing, opened his mouth, then closed it, opened it again, closed it again. “Walk away,” you said, making, again, the decision. You walked away, angry, sad, undone. Last weekend, he was at the Christmas party. Three years ago, a year after the break-up, he’d also come, but you had cried so much the Last Link Friends agreed not to invite him anymore. They don’t like it, but, after all, you were the minister at their wedding. You do help cook all day for this party, as you have for several years. You do live two blocks from them, and you are both handy, thus, to feed each other’s cats. Of course, also, they say, they love you. But you really need to get over it. **

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Issue 2 In the car, I reach over, and he puts out his hand. He’s really doing well with being kidnapped. We hold hands over the console. It is far from consoling. It’s better. I feel a peace settling over me, almost biblical, or death-like. I haven’t been this happy in years. The horizon is still pink in the distance, and we both sing along to Other Lives, the last band we ever saw together. How the ex-girlfriend found them on tape, we’ll never know. What a beautiful show that was, a stage set with stands of individual, flickering Edison lightbulbs, the orchestral sweep of such a small band, trumpets, piano, even an ocarina. How like being in love it all was: the flickers of brilliance, the soft and gentle light, the waves of lush sound like the feeling of being pulled under by love, by a water that will never drown you. ** Three years later, he is here, at the Christmas party. Without telling you during the day, as you made one hundred cream puffs, stuffed them with deviled ham, with Roquefort cheese cut with cream cheese, the Last Link Friends must have decided enough was enough. He is, after all, a co-worker, and how awkward it is to leave out a coworker. You see him from the kitchen and sit down in the corner, on the steel-lidded trashcan. You try to drink a martini, try, as you have for years now, to imagine what to do with these feelings: anger, loss, sorrow. ** We pull up to the cabin and get out in the snow. So peaceful, he says and carries my baggage, compliantly, up the stairs. I carry his. ** You have tried to get over it. You have tried hard. You have tried softly. You have tried to give yourself time, you have read books on grief, and you have, at times, tried to embrace that you may be alone forever now. Other friends, not the ones who say move on, remind you that his new girlfriend wants to get married, too, and that he still refuses, that even though he has moved on to another girl, nothing has changed

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Tilde Literary Journal for him. And in some ways, he hasn’t moved at all: he still lives six blocks from you. You try to reframe your own attempts at dating as the five stages of grief: the 24 year-old immediately after (denial), the next real love who smoked and had a child and who wanted to get married and then didn’t (bargaining), the man in the open marriage (anger), the alcoholic (depression/anger, though it was his depression, your anger at it). Anger twice in a row. Anger still for some reason, when if you think about him for too long, you still start to cry. ** The ex-girlfriend opens a bottle of wine. I am glad to see there’s plenty. This may be a rough night. He walks around the cabin and looks out the A-frame window, at the river. It should be frozen, but instead, we see it roiling, churning up dead tree limbs and wet moss. “It’s beautiful,” he says. I put his baggage in my room, with me. ** It is, after all, the season of Epiphany. You look at his handsome face, how easily he talks to his group of lab mates by the Christmas tree, by the electronic Nutcracker music box you both bought for the host at Costco, years ago, and you realized you are still in love with him, so very still in love with him. How angry it makes you, that you are not together. How angry it makes you, that no one told you he was coming. And then you realize you are the one who no longer belongs. ** In the cabin, we make pizza, and it’s really good. But it’s time to get down to business, and as he lifts the second slice up to his mouth, I ask him, “Why did you do this? Why didn’t you want our life?” His mouth is already open, yet still, somehow, he gapes. He gapes like a fish as if he is surprised this is the reason for the kidnapping. He opens his mouth to speak, then closes it. Opens it again, then closes it again. Like a fish gasping for air. This goes on for several

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Issue 2 minutes, just as it did in waking life. I’d watch him try to break into a conversation, lean forward, open his mouth, lose his moment, sit back into the chair or the bar bench or simply rock back on his heels if standing. I’d watch him open and close, open, close, on the couch, when we’d try to talk about the future. The dream hardens to its edge, and I worry that I might wake up before I hear him speak. ** For better or for worse, they say in marriage vows, or, in this case, you say to yourself in a different configuration. For better or for worse, he belongs more at this party than you do. You sit in your glittering cocktail dress on this cold trashcan, which seems, as in dreams, too painfully symbolic, so you stand, move through the room, and towards the door, out of this party. How long have you been going to this party without caring that you don’t know anyone? That every year, you wake up the next day sick, hung over, from trying to have fun, knowing this is the only thing to which those friends, who used to feel like family, invite you? Angry, you pause before the door, before him, and tell him he needs to leave. He looks at you, surprised you’re speaking to him. You want to throw your arms around him, feel his sweater underneath your hands, rest your hip into his, as when you used to walk together to this party. “No,” he says. “I’m not leaving.” ** Open, close. Open, close. In waking life, once, in couples therapy, the therapist took pity on him once and redirected his speaking back to me. “He’s not saying no, Bryn, but he’s not saying yes. So why do you keep hearing maybe?” This part of the dream doesn’t feel even remotely like a dream. I even hurt, in the way you’re not supposed to in a dream. In a dream, things are supposed to be said that can never be said out loud, and you’re supposed to receive it all neutrally, finally, the perfect observer. The one who can accept what’s always been, silently, said all along.

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Tilde Literary Journal The ex-girlfriend, who hasn’t said much this trip, except that she’d like mushrooms on the pizza, now leans forward. She looks at me sympathetically, even though this all was her idea, too. “He’s not going to say anything, Bryn.” It’s the first time she’s ever used my name. It wakes me up. I look around, think again of his face, and wish I was anywhere but six blocks from him, this grief, in another neighborhood, perhaps, or, vaguely, a cabin. Somewhere I could go where no one would tell me to move on.

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Issue 2

Braiding Jessica Mehta The morning of my mother’s death call, I couldn’t plait my hair—a weaving, daily habit I thought branded into cerebellum had left me quick as her. It’s fragile, memory encoding. Ripe for damage. Even consolidation isn’t a given. We imagine: we could eat in the dark, if we had to, the slopes and secrets of our favorite lover. I cried silent in the bathroom, thin strands laced crooked through shaking fingers at the impossibility of it all. It had been decades since I’d sat cross-legged between her knees buried in shag carpet. Patient, quiet while she wound cornrows like crop circles along my scalp. The smell of Pert shampoo, the snap of red rubber bands, everything came whooshing back. But not the braiding, the fast fingers. Makes sense. Remember: the heart is a muscle, too. Its memories vulnerable to paralysis like every other run down part of us. Still, only in stillness, can the dead pass through, clean the kitchen and leave us to mop the floors of drying curls.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Coffee Quatern: To My Spouse, Writing Leigh Holland I should have caught you five coffees ago, before your eyes went deadline red before you cranked up Aerosmith to help you hack the words out faster. Panic: you adore it. Before you started writing is when I should have caught you. Five coffees ago, we could have had a decent conversation, the kind with eye contact, one where you go off on yet another monologue of layered pop culture references you think I should have caught. You (five coffees ago) were still accessible, but now you drink in desperate pulls from that bottomless mug, which tells me what I already know: that manuscript is digesting you, and I should have caught you five coffees ago.

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Issue 2

I Could Only Hear Her Silence Juanita Tovar Mutis She failed me, failed our fate, failed the memories we could have built together. She stopped. Stopped replying, looking for me, meeting me. She paused the flow of emotions that ignited our connection. # I was laying down late at night, watching cars’ lights come and go, filling the room with moving silhouettes. I texted you. I knew from the clues you left on social media, and through one of your articles published online, that you were not well. I told you what I tell almost no-one. ‘I really care about you.’ I meant it. I was ready to be there for you, to hold you if you needed me. I was committed to giving you my all, my time, my thoughts, my affection. I pushed on the blue button, confidently, without anxiety. I did it as I remembered the last time we had been together. How your shoulders descended whenever I spoke. The way your eyes widened and your lips revealed a smile when you told me about your recent trip to Paris. I recall that after I told you I had recently lost someone, you put your hand over mine and opened your arms, so I could meet your embrace. Snapshots of the moments in which I enunciated my sins to you calmly, completely unafraid to reveal truths that could destroy my relationship, my stability, my life, came to mind. They reminded me how unburdening my secrets made me feel closer to you. How it made me think that when you said, typed, rolled your tongue to the sound of the words ‘I L-O-V-E Y-O-U,’ you really meant them. I saw myself falling, peacefully descending to the realm of dreams, feeling the warmth that our memories would elicit in my body, resting reassured of the connection that we shared. # She didn’t answer. Hours, days, and weeks started to hit me, slap me on the face, hard.

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Tilde Literary Journal I kept on looking at my phone. There was nothing. She had vanished. She kept on acting as if we had never happened. As if those quiet afternoons filled with uninhibited laughter needed to be erased. As if the dinners in which we sat raw and emotionally naked in front of each other needed to be wiped from my memory. I could only hear her silence. It was loud, deafening. Pressing. It made my throat tighten, my teeth clench. # I went through the motions. First, there was bewilderment. My hands pressing on my phone, eyebrows rising when I would wake up to find no written trace of you. Eyes not wanting to look, sight avoiding the Instagram page that narrated your everyday life. Feelings being puzzled by the big white smile you revealed in your pictures, the colorful places you visited, and the dark, grotesque humor you expressed on your captions. I did not want to look. I didn’t want to listen to the inner thoughts that pierced and damaged me. They were approaching, pulsing through, slowly filling my mind. Time kept on flowing, hurting me with its passing of seconds, hours, and days. Then sadness rushed through. I first felt it while sitting on the subway. I was going to meet with your boyfriend. He had a professional opportunity I wanted to take, to seize. I kept on seeing the stops passing by. The car full of faces began to close in on me. I looked down, trying to breathe slowly, catching my breath. A pressure in my chest began to build. My nails now were tightly pressing, closing in on my thighs. That didn’t work. Their voices became too loud, too quickly. The pressure of their shoulders against mine intensified, it felt aggressive. Now with my feet tapping on the floor, I closed my eyes, tightening my grip on the subway pole that grounded me. I kept on thinking: you just gotta endure three…two…one more stop. The sun came down after the meeting. I could not hold it in anymore. It needed to be released, to flood and overwhelm my mind. To rush in and empty me.

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Issue 2 I called Karl and told him “I need to not be home, I need to take the night and take it all in, I have to get drunk. I must drown my mind with anything that comes my way. I have to figure out what I’m feeling.” And so, we did. We sat in a dark room. His face lightly touched by the entrance’s fluorescent light. Face to face we drank. Our eyes meeting only when the woman singing in the background stopped. Glances locking on each other in between her breaths and in those moments the saxophone filled in her silence. I kept on talking. Couldn’t seem to stop. Fast, quickly. So as not to catch too much breath. Talking to understand, to grieve, to flush the stream of feelings that had been confined within me. Emotions fell down my cheekbones. Made my throat tighten, my face presses up against the inner space of his shoulders: to hide my flushed cheeks, absorb my tears, and shield me from my own sadness. Now there’s anger. I feel it ebbing, rubbing up against me. It comes, it goes, in cycles, at night, in the morning. I could feel it flaming up my chest after your name lit up on my inbox. I know it will be gone. Eventually, in time. I need to accept it. I must gather the patience, the strength so I can bear to watch it disintegrate slowly, unfold right before my eyes.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Equivalents, 1923 George Franklin The day Stieglitz looked at clouds Summer turned to rust, the wind chafed At invisible rocks, the sky squeezed into A tube of paint, fog broke Into silver pellets. The day Stieglitz looked at clouds There was a ripple across the earth. My grandmother remembered the shiver In her belly, as it passed. The ocean Let out a sigh made of salt, and strands Of seaweed clung to the wings of birds. When Stieglitz looked at clouds, the clouds Were always trying to slip away. You Can’t blame them. They were only clouds and Still young. They folded into themselves, Dissolved at the edges. They did not Want to be examined beneath a black cloth. They did not want to press themselves Against a sheet of paper.

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Issue 2

Thrift Store Sacramentals Juleigh Howard-Hobson We take our spirituality where We can afford to. Worry beads from yard Sales, cheap candles, thrift store icons–we dare God to find some way to say hello. Scarred End tables pushed together make altars In our temple of the second hand. A Holy place that looks the same as other Places here in low rent America: The apartments and motel rooms where Restraining orders and visitation Hearings are the reasons for unsaid prayer And cigarette smoke carries mute hope on To God. Or gods. Or whoever will take The time to listen. We just need a break.

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Tilde Literary Journal

toxin Mark Fisher once the first man tasted privilege pulled down from the tree by someone else’s labor fears grew in tangled orchards where ghosts hang as fruits in a place of poison and fireflies fade like will-o’-de-wisps into unknowable places

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Issue 2

Sonnet for the Quilter Megan Neville Twenty years removed I am still picking your words from my teeth, untangling them from my hair, squeezing them from my pores. I have smudged every corner of myself. You have practiced yoga surrounded by white women and paid brown women to clean your house. Ugly, ugly, ugly, the woven patterns of this labyrinth. I climb the walls but still, a dead woman hijacks my eyes to watch her son, grow; I cannot avert my gaze lest she miss a pivotal moment, the one where she can say “I made that.� Even in my sleep, the biting cool lightning penetrates my lids, beckoning them open. Perhaps the stitch ripper is the most important tool: I will reduce the loft of your batting to flat fabric.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Thanksgiving Reunion David M. Alper I spotted her shocked and ashamed at a Harlem soup kitchen in the early aughts. Held out against her sheepishness, my former student and “adopted-daughter” who survived her biological father’s belt, boots to the breasts, bottles bashed across her skull, showed a different kind of bruising: unconcealed crimson by shame and sorrow that spoiled her youthful face. Her mother and brother seemed baffled by the student-teacher reunion taking place. I came to them now as a server, and when they offered up their bare trays, I filled cups with soup and smiles: reciprocated, showing they knew they were accepted and did not owe any defense. Fist-pumping her little brother, his jacket hung on his skeletal frame that seemed to bear twice the weight. Now my former student was the hanger for all their coats. We reacquainted in the cafeteria, and then this wistful young woman who needed me to know her life was not lost, stood and hugged me too hard and clung on as she became my teacher, instructing me that one’s dignity is the supreme reward for obeying one’s heart.

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Issue 2

Both Sides Now Ava Wolf “How are you feeling?” Francis asks. Beatrice fiddles with the radio as they crawl down the Bronx River Parkway. The sky is overcast, boiling with sepulchral grey clouds. “Fine, I guess.” Francis nods, tapping his fingers on the wheel in quick succession, nails are bitten down to the nub. One-two-three, onetwo-three. Beatrice cracks a window. “I have the air conditioning on,” Francis says, looking at her for the first time since they left the parking lot. His eyes are weary, wreathed by a halo of blue-violet. She shifts in her seat. “Sorry.” “Don’t worry about it.” Her window rolls up slowly, deliberately, like it has something better to be doing. Beatrice’s hands are folded in her lap. She flips them over, studying the palms. Lifeline breaks in the middle. Big talent triangle. The marks seem intentional—she imagines a delivery nurse meticulously carving each line into her shriveled, infant palm with an Exacto knife. The world inches by with increasing hesitation. Joni Mitchell’s tender warble echoes around them, obscured by the muffled cacophony of rush hour. “Are you in pain?” Francis asks. One-two-three, one-twothree, one-two-three. Beatrice examines the curvature of his face. Wide forehead. Full, pink cheeks. She pictures him in the waiting room, pinching the bridge of his nose so hard the freckles come off. “No. They said as long as I can keep it down for twenty minutes, then it should start to work.” A raindrop hits the front window, winding down the glass pane until it disappears onto the hood. Beatrice rests her head on the seatbelt. There’s a dent in the guardrail. “Are you going to tell her?” she asks. The tapping comes to a swift halt. She swallows, kneading the fabric of her skirt. Thinks about the pills. Thinks about the sealed box of pads under her bathroom sink. Thinks about the next forty-

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Tilde Literary Journal eight hours. It begins to carousel, a long-buried memory—the toilet, the blood, the toilet, the blood, the toilet, the blood— Before he has the chance to answer, Beatrice chokes out, “Pull over.” “What?” Francis asks, brows furrowed. “Pull over!” Francis jerks the car onto the shoulder in a series of unwieldy, puppet-like motions, Grecian chorus of frenzied honks sounding behind them. Beatrice throws open the passenger door and stumbles towards the woods. Rain soaks through her skirt and jacket, wind guiding her numb body forward without consent. Suddenly, she folds in half. A terrible, piercing wail erupts from her throat, and Francis remains frozen while the fear rips through her, expanding inside every vessel, every artery. It pummels her in waves. Then, Beatrice is on all fours retching into the grass. Nothing comes up. “Hey,” Francis calls to her, shielding himself from the weather as he lurches in her direction. “Is everything okay?” “Got nervous,” she gasps. “I’m all right.” He wraps a hesitant arm around Beatrice’s torso, hoisting her to her feet. The car is strewn across the shoulder like a children’s toy, both doors ajar, hazards flashing. By the time Francis helps her back into the passenger seat, they’re both drenched. Traffic has deadened to a mocking halt. The pair sits in silence. Neither reaches to turn off the hazards, which beat steadily. Francis says, “You understand the position this puts me in.” “The position this puts you in.” “How am I supposed to tell her?” Francis counters. “If she knew—Beatrice, it would kill her.” The tapping resumes. Beatrice glances down at herself. The skirt clings to her legs, rainwater pooling on the mat below her feet. There are five angry, crescent-shaped nicks on the sinewy flesh of her wrist. “Well, Francis, when I flush it, I’ll be sure to inform you with as much nuance as possible,” she says flatly. Francis stares at her, horrified. Beatrice stares back. “Beatrice. Jesus Christ.” She blinks. Opens her mouth, closes it. Francis’ expression is an amalgam of grief and disgust. She wonders if his lifeline is severed like hers. Outside, the storm picks up with blistering

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Issue 2 urgency, and the hazards continue to sing, oblivious to the air curdling between them: one-two-three, one-two-three, one-twothree.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Eros Daisy Bassen My mother told us both about the evisceration, The vulture black across the sky like a cloud, A tornado, the underside of the overlords’ ship, And the skunk gutted. The rent fur was left On the needles, a negative dropped in the darkroom. My father told us too, who they’d called, About the shovel but not the weight of the corpse, Or how its mate came looking, probably annoyed First before anything else. It was brutal, But it did not stink, the sense of the story only Vision, as if light alone could manage it. It was what they said instead, not speaking Of the cousin who’d died, the service They wouldn’t attend. We talked about it Driving home, before we went to sleep, you and I, The evolution of the desire that had once Studded the track like the flares lit during a January Nor’easter. I had pressed my face against the window Wanting to get back to the single bed, the iron grille Filled with snow, to my lessons. Your body, Built up like a pearl, is familiar now. I’m not worried If the bed is empty when I wake up, I lie thinking About the view of the harbor, the shuddering white of sails.

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Issue 2

spit or swallow Mela Blust my bones are hollow I’ve had to let go of so many pieces of myself to make room for you little crumbs dropped in fauna to find my way home but where is home? my arms are fractured you’ve asked me to carry so much weight and I have said yes and said yes and said yes and now you are angry because I, because we, because she is saying is saying is screaming NO. I am not a rehabilitation program for broken men. the weight is too great and and the anger is a ghost and the fear is a powdery moth choking my words so, I spit it out. I don’t swallow anymore.

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Tilde Literary Journal

John Cage Reconsiders Harmony Rikki Santer His head inside a temple bell tiny temple bells inside his head/he shapeshifts into a zen galaxy of shimmering silence, tiptoes onto a sunlit spider strand swaying with rhymes of dew drops. Listen. Ghost moans and mewing from the belly of deep-sea/primordial fungi in emerald songs from crystal goblets. Sip color frequencies, the sweet persimmon of sacral chakra. As stopwatch ticks and yarrow stalks mix, his footprints scribble scrabble over sands of self and soul. The bark, the bray, the squeak, the thrum. No walls. No vessels. No music. All music. All vowels and consonants seeping from Void.

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Issue 2

Iowa Thom Young how I became an American loser learned to hate women with knives in their eyes and lives lily white with envy. how I became hated before love was a result of glass hearts that took a chance on girls in diners that came and went in rains north of almost happened. now ghosts of them emerge on a bus outside Iowa and I’m not sure why I’m here, but maybe it’s the idea of someone out there lost finding me, and then laughter will say what our hearts kept inside.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Typical Ava Wolf A loaf of bread costs three dollars and eleven cents. The speckled teen scowls from his perch behind the till as she rummages in her bag for loose change, and the man behind her in line produces a dime and a penny—he is narrow and pleasant and moves as though his limbs are too long for his body. She politely declines, removing a quarter and a half-wrapped cherry lozenge from her pocket. The dog chokes on the lozenge, but she’s stuck in traffic, and he can’t be bothered to investigate the retching sound. They bury it in the yard on a balmy July afternoon and she doesn’t speak to him for three days. He buys her bread, despite her protests, and a ring, despite her protests, and a house, despite her protests, with a front porch and a sweetgum tree that sways languidly in the wind, satin leaves stippling the lawn crimson. He lights a candle on the anniversary of their wedding while the bread remains entombed at the bottom of their freezer beneath a bag of spinach. Their freezer, she likes to stress, except the years wear on and theirs becomes mine and yours and sometimes if she’s had three drinks with dinner, that. For instance, that dog has died because her husband is too incompetent to keep anything alive, as the candle on their bedside table burns down to the wick while they bicker in the kitchen, staining the carpet with syrupy wax. No, he tells her, defrosting two slices of bread to make a tuna salad sandwich, her favorite—or is it egg—and stuffing it inside a paper bag alongside apple slices and a cheese stick, your dog has died because you are a neglectful workhorse. He scrawls a smiley face on the front and kisses her cheek on her way out the door to her first day at the new firm. She’s reluctant to take maternity leave after the promotion and gives birth on the anniversary of their dog’s death, so they name the new baby Clover, which he thinks is a stupid name for a baby, and the new puppy Susan, which she thinks is a stupid name for a dog, and at her fifth birthday party they’re fighting in the pantry while Clover and Susan devour the world’s shittiest cake, and he says that they should have named the baby Susan and the dog Clover, and she nods, sadly, batter matted in her hair, knowing that they’ve made a terrible mistake.

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Issue 2 He looks away for a moment, barely blinks, he could swear, and Clover is crossing the street on a red light. He cradles her close in the ambulance, and his cries echo hers because he can’t seem to do anything right, much less look after his daughter, their daughter. Everyone at school signs her cast in block letters, and Bobby Mackey spells his name wrong, so for six weeks, she bears BOOBY MACKEY on her forearm like a bad tattoo. The scar near Clover’s elbow eventually fades and is replaced by new ones: bruises and scrapes from falling off the countertop in an effort to reach leftover Halloween candy, or crashing the bike her father gifts her for Easter, and the one she receives for her thirteenth birthday, and the birthday after that. Mom tells her not to play so rough during tug-of-war with Susan, who’s quite large for a Cocker Spaniel, yet they end up in the hospital twice that year—once for Clover’s dislocated shoulder, and once for the time she drives home from the office holiday party with an empty liter of wine tucked away in her coat, which the doctors pump from her limp body in a white room beneath fluorescent lights. No one talks about it, especially once the insurance adjusters tell them the damage to their sedan won’t be covered. They lease a minivan and Clover begs them to let her drive it to school because she’s a sophomore and all the sophomores linger in the parking lot well past homeroom, and all the juniors and are certainly caught making out with Bobby Mackey in the utility closet between sixth and seventh period, despite what the assistant principal says. Bobby Mackey asks Clover to senior prom and she drives them in the minivan and her mother, sick with worry, the egg salad sandwich she ate for lunch threatening to resurface at the thought of Clover alone in a hotel room with that boy, slips a condom in her purse and cries at their wedding, choking on tears as Clover is pushed from her body, wrinkled and pink with tiny fingers and tiny toes, and together they sigh as she takes her first breath as a married woman, loath to settle for their two-bedroom near the water where they walk the dog on weekend evenings; for her unbearably well-meaning husband who refuses to take down the Christmas lights strung around the front porch until well into midFebruary; for the wilting sweetgum that towers over a shallow grave; for the stranger who offered to buy her bread at the corner store, even if she would rather pay in lozenges.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Show & Tell Dr. Jennifer Wolkin I saw your brain. When I first cut into its gray matter I swore I saw you, too past the formaldehyde infused model sans the infarct in the left frontal lobe your vast life laid out in slices before me once tucked neatly into 1260 cubic centimeters. Was all you ever experienced still embedded indelibly inside these sulci and gyri? I imagined you showing yourself giving me clues hinting at who you were before your stroke brought you to me, like

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this.


Issue 2 I still wonder about you & your alphabetized collection of the Beats— you always had a Ferlinghetti in circulation bookmarked & underlined next to your records— the Abba ones with the least amount of dust: you loved to pretend you were on stage sometimes clutching a gestured microphone fearlessly singing Fernando, like

this.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Messenger Luke Johnson I would not name Him, could not cut the throbbing umbilical, nor listen to him suckle, small calf, then coo a reckoning: contusions like islands or stars. _ He made a mess of my lover’s body. Fault lines formed, where his jaw pinched tight, fracking for tinctures of blood and colostrum, that cloudy drip,

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Issue 2 consumed. _ In the night, a wail in the willows, at the window, bright eyes piercing, peering in, a sign of praise. The boy, die cast by starlight soundless, a tendril of witch hazel, winnow of smoke. A flame ground thicker as the hours turn.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Still Life Alicia Drier It is 9 PM on a Monday night in downtown Chicago, and here in this urban underground, the subway is alive with its commune of sleepless moles. Ones that twitch their whiskers and will loudly burrow deeper into the earth well past the hour of general Midwestern decency. I’ve walked down three flights of steps into the usual scents of stale urine and french-fries at the Jackson Red Line stop, all the while taking in my surroundings with too-wide eyes and shoulders too tight to feel comfortable. Music pours from a drum set and guitar with only two strings, and right next to the solitary bench on the platform, two men with teardrop tattoos are talking animatedly. I take all of this in, choosing eventually to focus on the tips of my shoelaces instead and scurry a little closer to the two Asian tourists just in front of me. I have lived in the city limits of Chicago for eight months now, eight months of lukewarm showers and loud neighbors and long commutes on trains that always feel a little too broken in. I’ve run along the shores of Lake Michigan until I am deep red with sunburn, used chopsticks like a pro while out for sushi with coworkers, sat in a coffee shop and brooded over a computer screen waiting for some sort of inspiration to tap me on the shoulder—but if I’m really honest, I am homesick almost every day. My backpack digs into my left shoulder, and I shift slightly to rearrange the weight. I have defended repeatedly that its contents are minimal, but the bag weighs on my shoulders like a whole world: a few notebooks, a journaling bible, a bag of pens, an empty lunchbox, pepper spray, gum, several tubes of liquid lipstick, emergency tampons, hand sanitizer, some Kleenex, a phone charger, colored pencils and a few stickers in case I get bored. Maybe my struggle with Chicago has something to do with the amount of caffeine I take in now to feel like a fully functioning human—or maybe the number of homeless male genitalia I’ve seen wiggling over the side of train station platforms on cold winter mornings, caught in the act of relief—or maybe the sound of another homeless woman screaming at me for standing on her patch of sidewalk. More likely, I just miss the sound of corn husks

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Issue 2 humming in the wind as I drive too fast with my windows down along a wide country roadway. The northbound train has arrived, the one I will ride twentyone stops to the end of the line. I shuffle onboard with a collection of mismatched vagabonds, and we bump shoulders and kneecaps as everyone settles into their natural clusters. Three men with no teeth and too-long fingernails huddle around a smartphone, gesticulating wildly. A young mother pulls her little boy close, glancing nervously around as she yanks the hood of his coat just below the line of his eyes. Several boys and girls with multicolored hair—and enough piercings to collectively paralyze several metal detectors—smack their gum and laugh loudly enough that I can hear them over my headphones. I’ve chosen the soundtrack of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd for my ride home tonight. Angela Lansbury is singing about piping hot piccolo players, and I can’t yet decide if this musical about eating people in pies is making me more or less concerned about being out when the air outside the train is dark and full of shadows. If I were still living in Indiana, I’d most likely be on my second glass of wine by now. The purple pen in my hand would be jabbing intently at a pile of papers in my lap. There would be an episode of Friends or Gossip Girl or Parks and Recreation on my television. I would be curled up tight into a corner of my peacockblue couch to make room for the sprawling dog, whose head rests somewhere near my lap. Dove chocolate wrappers would populate my side table, along with a half-drunk cup of tea. For dinner, I might have eaten some cheese, salsa, half an avocado. I would NOT be on a train that smelled of lukewarm Chinese takeout with a man who just pissed himself in his sleep. Since moving to Illinois, I don’t do much driving. The combination of gas prices and invisible parking spots and Chicago traffic has led me to leave Galinda the Chevy Cruze locked and alone within a three block radius of my apartment more often than I would like. There is a clear certainty to a steering wheel and gear shift and the feel of the brake pedal beneath my bare toes in the summer—all things that are very much lacking right now as the train jolts and sputters too quickly around another turn. Do I miss driving because I miss the feeling of control? Or does it have something more to do with air fresheners and talk shows and somewhere to put my purse between my feet?

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Tilde Literary Journal I’ve become a bit of an internet addict since moving to Chicago. It’s my main channel of information for former students who still want to keep in touch with me at odd hours of the night. Undergrad friends and old colleagues who are now scattered over Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, the odd cousin who’s reached out in the recent aftershock of a family member’s death. I fold in on myself whenever my phone ends up in my hands, curving somewhere between my hips and my head until every part of me is nestled around my phone screen. This is how I am now, arms made chubby and stiff from the deep violet winter coat I wear to fight the Chicago cold, fingers thick with layered gloves, legs crossed at the ankle as any lady should be. I ran out of contacts three weeks ago, which means I have not felt beautiful for a while. My glasses are thick and intrusive, and I noticed the beginning of another zit on my chin this morning when I looked in the mirror. But right now I am warm, and Courtney from back home just posted another picture of her eighteen-month-old in owl footie pajamas. There is world enough and time for my vanity—right after I scroll through this impromptu toddler photo shoot. That’s when I notice the large sketchpad sprawled over the lap of the person sitting across from me. Close-cropped hair and a loose jacket leave me uncertain if the individual is male or female, and there is dirt smudged across one of the person’s cheeks in the fashion of a Charles Dickens orphan. He or she holds a long pencil in one hand like a conductor’s baton, and a tongue sticks out in concentration as the pencil’s tip wanders back and forth across a page of the sketchpad. I forget the phone in my hands for a while as I watch the intricate dance of the drawing in progress across from me. There is a face on the page now, one with round, thick glasses and a hat with one flower just over the picture’s right eye. Without thinking, I reach up and tug at the purple hat with one white flower over the right side of my face. The person holding the sketchpad looks up at that moment, pauses for a beat, and then pulls the pencil in a new direction to form a puffy shoulder and arm, both encased in a large winter coat. When I was ten years old and asked to write out the map of my future, I had dreamed up a version of myself that lived in a large condo in New York City with a cat, two roommates, and a ticket to a Broadway show every weekend. “I’ll work at a coffee shop,” I’d tell

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Issue 2 my teacher, “for the atmosphere and, you know, to help pay the rent.” As a teenager, I’d tell anyone who would listen that I was going to be a writer. Nothing big, really—just a few bestseller novels and maybe a side gig at the New York Times. Of course, there’d be a husband and children at some point, but first I wanted to have the big city adventure, the opportunity to stand up and out over a sea of urban ambition. Now I am twenty-eight years old and sitting on a train rumbling underneath the streets of Chicago. I moved to the city to pursue my art, to finally find a place for all the words that rumble around at the base of my throat daily. But contrary to my ten-yearold plans, I receive a new rejection letter for my latest writing submission monthly, and most days I’m not sure how I’m going to afford cat litter, let alone groceries or rent or any sort of seat at a Broadway show. Since moving to Chicago, I’ve shifted from high school English teacher to marketing coordinator for a mortgage loan officer. By the end of every workday, my eyes and ears are weighted down with the imprint of computer screens and loud, animated sales calls. My biggest excitement comes on Thursdays when my coworkers and I order Thai food; otherwise, I sit at my desk and pretend to look busy in case someone walks past. But now a complete stranger is drawing a sketch of me, without having asked for my permission or questioning this opportunity. The picture has exaggerated my features, making me round and soft and cartoonish, but there is no mistaking that it is me. Should I be bothered or honored by this person’s observance and recollection of me on a blank page? I realize suddenly that I am trying to sit unusually still so I don’t upset the artist’s process. My phone dings in my hand, and I steal a glance at the screen for a second or two, even though I don’t want to look away from the illustration forming across from me. When I look up again, the genderless artist has set aside the sketchbook and is now working on a half-eaten donut and trashy romance novel pulled from various pockets of his or her coat. There is not even the slightest hint remaining of the purple-coated sketch that is folded somewhere now in the person’s backpack. A smile creeps across his or her face, capturing a serenity I haven’t yet seemed to master in the Chicago landscape.

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Tilde Literary Journal At the next stop, the person who has created a new version of me gets off the train and heads somewhere that I will never know. The city is wild and vast, which means I will probably never see this vagabond again. Part of me wonders, had I asked to keep the drawing of myself, would I have framed it? One passenger lighter, the train moans its indifference and scuttles on into the deep Chicago night. I look back down toward my phone and grin until my fingertips are warmed by my own brief happiness. This new urban, this windy city, just might have room for me after all.

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Issue 2

end of season Robin Gow the strawberries are humming, insect angry as i lift up leaves. green skirts, knees & necks shy from hands rooting through them all day in the pin-pong sun. they’re holy from the mouths of caterpillars. i imagine myself letting the bugs come to take bites out of me, poke my finger through the holes like a mouth chewed sweater—like stocking runs. pluck me apart a little more. i like this idea of coming apart while feeding another creature. i might want to be buried in a strawberry field, just maybe. crouched between rows of tired berry plants i think about Ontelaunee orchards where we went picking as children. strawberries for jam. boiling in our hands. we were too eager. i ate them as i went, one for the bucket & one for the mouth. kneeling, fingers gory, wiped on my thighs. my freckles turn into the little red bugs, start scurrying over my body. today it’s late in the season & i’m finding the mashed red elegies of too-late strawberries. a proper burial will come with the rain. i found a few to eat, bit down on them right there, the juice turning metallic in my mouth, turning salt & blood. turning blister & barefoot. i can hear you telling me to wash them off. i smile smug & chew despite the dirt. the sweetness comes back into focus. i find one to take back with me—it’s shaped like a furious nose, pricking with tiny seeds. i think how brave the strawberry is to wear

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Tilde Literary Journal its freckles like that, unafraid of them turning into clover mites. i gnaw the last one from the driver’s seat of my car. the sun has a lazy eye & the bar doors are open, spilling with bok choy & ruffle-skirt lettuce. it’s late in the season for strawberries.

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Issue 2

[a small thing] Devon Balwit the key dangles from her shut door / a handsspan from downtown strangers // anyone could enter for any reason // I assume a her though I’ve little cause // something about the keyring / a telephone number from abroad / a keepsake perhaps from a gap-year // I almost pass / hungry for lunch / fearful of a hidden gun / then think of my daughter / newlymoved to a coastal city / her basement apartment walled in glass // anyone could enter // I knock and wait / the blinds lift to feet / a dog / puzzlement // I mime / then she mouths O // I leave and don’t look back / feeling the keyring in her palm, the weight of it.

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Tilde Literary Journal

Visiting the Bedroom of Your Child Who Cannot Have Everything Emma Karnes Purple light swallows your little feet like a lake might: big toe cold and quivering, knuckles soaked, and then you, in one plunge, gone beneath the ankle, wiggling and giggling and getting used to it, this going swimming, this early June. Tonight it is the moon jutting like a hipbone through your lace curtains that drown you, swells your skin an indigo flush, freshwater sweet. I take your hand and trace its lines in mine. I want to wash your brow with the cool cloth of lights out, wrap you in its haven the first time you stay out late. I want to spin with you at your wedding, dip you long before you leave with the woman or man you love. Right now— in the marrow of this moment—I want to take you swimming, watch as you splash and slip and shimmer, come back up for air like waking from a dream in which you are both the violet light and its beating source

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Profile for Thirty West Publishing House

Tilde ~ Issue 2  

The sophomore release of Tilde, a contemporary collection of poems, fiction, and nonfiction work from writers across the world. All work is...

Tilde ~ Issue 2  

The sophomore release of Tilde, a contemporary collection of poems, fiction, and nonfiction work from writers across the world. All work is...

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