Vine leaves Literary Journal Issue 15

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Our cover girl may be telling you to “shhh...,” but actually, we think Issue 15 is a masterpiece worth screaming about.

Janne Karlsson p. 26 Adorable Monique pp. 6, 17, 19, 21 Steve Salo pp. 22, 23 Trevor O’Sullivan pp. 9, 25 Maria S. Picone p. 20 Nicole Stacy pp. 3, 11, 12 Emma Zurer pp. 13, 24

FEATURED Janet Buck pp. 3, 4 Too Near a Cliff Spinach Veins Jim Murdoch p. 4 Hiding Places The Human Face

It’s more than just Nicole Stacy’s edgy cover shot. With bold colours and bold design, every page of our July issue simply “pops.” In fact, with so many different artistic styles and textures featured throughout, it might seem as though it belongs in an art museum rather than in your hand. Don’t be fooled. Our prose and poetry writers not only hold their own, but positively shine under the artistic spotlight. We dare you to peruse the pages. Our bet is, you’ll not only read this issue more than once, you’ll order it in print, as well.

School’s Out, Forever – Terry Barr – p. 5 El Choclo – The Corn – Emanda Percival – p. 5 The Reunion Concert – Ophelia Leong – p. 6 Where Calm Has Its Smoky Moorings – Ross Jackson – p. 7 Feeding Summer To My Children, – Trisha Kc Buel Wheeldon – p. 7 Tiffany McDaniel p. 14 Ain’t You Lucky? – George Drew – p. 7 These Jumping Flutes Morning Sex – Krishan Coupland –p. 7 The Chaos I’ve Come Lips – Alex Lenkei – p. 7 This Long Cold Life These Grey Streets – Annie Blake – p. 7 October – Santino Prinzi – p. 7 Emil O’Grady p. 14 The Sparrows Don’t Fly a Tree – Shinjini Bhattacharjee – p. 8 Fenestraria Mountain Ophelia – Melissa Slayton – p. 8 Companions On Riding Your Bike at Night in the Fall – C.A. Cole – p. 9 Swimming Pool Full Monty Moon – Sharon Kurtzman – p. 10 Nothing Can Be Something – Kathleen Constantine – p. 10 Kurt Newton pp. 15, 18 Mother’s Day – Bryan Shawn Wang – p. 12 Pebbles New Bethel Road – J. Todd Hawkins – p. 14 The Teardrop Serrated Love – Stephen Beckwith – p. 14 It Was a Wonderful Life – Darrel Duckworth – p. 15 Melinda Giordano pp. 11, 19 Illicit Connection – James Beaton – p. 15 A Distant Lamp We Are Scary – Joanna Rosenberg – p. 15 The Bruise Traces of My Father #3 – Cybele Garcia Kohel – p. 16 A Night Swim Pain Scale – Joanne R. Fritz – p. 16 It’s Not Your Fault – Travis Wittman – p. 16 Anirban Dam p. 20 Foraging for Could – Joyce Parkes – p. 16 Hiraeth Beguiled – Gail Goepfert – p. 18 Epitaphs on Her Neck The Provenance of Pumice – Paul Scully – p. 18 When Our Scars Bloomed Lauren – Samantha Finley – p. 18 Tick – Cameron Bayley – p. 21 The Family Business – S.D. Wasley – p. 25 28 au – p. . 28 e r d u o p yler B ao – ns – Sk shumanth R u G d n n A 8 ,a Snakes s – p. 2 s Off – Cities, e Alarm Goe by Dolgono Th – Gab When ct 29 Pillows Archite nter p. Eli Wi Time | I’m an ast | The L t s o L I God, Meggie Royer p. 4 Poultry van Gogh’s Ear




TOO NEAR A CLIFF by Janet Buck A china doll over 125 years in age sits on the top shelf of my sister’s dining room niche. One leg dangles over the edge of old wood. She’s propped to stay, but I shake. See tiny shards of porcelain shattered, scattered on tile when someone shuts a door too hard. Mousey silence wins, maybe momentarily. X-rays reveal many cracks, nuts and bolts. Omens are oppressive. However, she’s stuffed and strong, her clothes are clean, her face painted properly with poppy blush, her hair and bonnet intact. Surfaces survive a dizzy world. She’s frozen there, for now. “She” is me.


Jim Murdoch HIDING PLACES “What are you looking for?” she asked as I handed her the notes. “Love,” I said. “Love? You’ll not find that here. Some conceive sex as a container for love. It’s not. It is a container, yes, but for something else entirely. Emptiness needs a place to hide and here is where.” “So what does love hide?” I had to know. Then she laughed: “Truth, of course. No one wants to fuck with

SPINACH by JanetVEINS Buck Have you ever drained and squeezed a box of spinach in the sink, looked intently at your hands, full of age spots, shadowed veins, wondered if you saw your skin. Thought about the leprosy of growing old we grew up certain only touched the people with the thinnest hair.

THE HUMAN FACE (for Dave King) I can’t dredge up much these days: names, dates, places have lost their meaning for me.

Late one night, awake from pain, I took a clean white cotton ball, wetted it with alcohol—rubbed my wrists until they burned like bacon grease flying from scorched frying pans— saw it all as stripes of ink spilling from a bleeding pen. Gave it up and realized it was my flesh, not liquid from a tool of art.

I can remember some things, of course— oh, trifling stuff that won’t change the world. Makes me wonder if all that really matters is what we see reflected in the

Every sunrise ever born brings the urge to brush my teeth, rinse my mouth of stalkers clinging to the night, but bathrooms always threaten me, shake me up like soda cans someone rolled across a floor. They could be wet and dangerous. I’m naked there in front of mirrors, aware the vista doesn’t change, except to sag or grow another coming scar. I pretend the toilet seat just broke itself— I didn’t fall with carbon parts, muscles weakened over time— lose my balance, land so hard the oval moon split right in half.

the bathroom mirror. Moments when we were truly alive all leave their mark— the cartography of a life lived without compromise— creases, wrinkles and such splendid scars.

Seasons are four sugar cubes dissolving into many years. They move so fast they could be wind.

the truth.”

Meggie Royer POULTRY


After the burial, my father slaughtered every chicken and laid their bodies to rest in the backyard fields. They ran headless like martyrs through the grass for a time, blood falling into blazing twilight, their eyes rolling like pearls in each forgotten skull. He didn’t know how to avenge her death so he left them spread in a bouquet over the spot where she’d dove beneath the earth. It was years before I realized what the phrase mother tongue meant. Only remembered how she ran headlong into the face of illness, everything alive about her already carved away.

Probably closed itself against the sound of all the pines being uprooted from outside his asylum walls, their bodies unwedded from the earth, each wooden ring reclaiming its inheritance to the wind. It would have rested there, a halved peach, each vibration sending it into fevered pitch, grief for the missing, the removed, the ones sent back into the sky, bark spinning from their limbs as every loved one watched below.



I could feel him coming, like we were old bones with just a bit of rib meat buried under the topsoil, ready for him to uncover. I use this simile because people said—or let’s face it, I said—he looked just like the Basset Hound on “Hush Puppy” brand shoes. Instead of sad and depressed, however, his sagging eyes and huge jowls were enraged this day, the day of our high school awards ceremony. Elise and I were Class Lawyers. We had “left” beloved English teacher Sophia Cunningham “a little negative credit,” her favourite descriptor for deducting points from your record for excessive talking. I saw her in the crowd to my left after I read out her legacy, and I thought someone was going to have to pull her up from inbetween the bleachers, she was laughing so hard. And to Jerry Young, a recent transfer from a private boys’ academy, we left my old pal Jim’s “After-Hours Bed: the gutter of the new road in Lakewood.” Jim, on occasion, passed out in the most wonderfully uncontrived settings. For our Basset Hound, however, we saved the harshest dig, which Elise read out so very clearly to the assembled multitudes in our high school gym: “To Patti Selman, we leave a hot date with Eddie Hammonds (or would Jan be jealous?)” I had known Eddie since 7th grade— known in that sense of perpetually seeing, but hardly ever speaking to a guy that some referred to as “Loggerhead,” and others, for reasons I never understood, as simply “Hammit.” To me, though, those sad eyes and bulbous jowls marked him then and forever as the Basset Hound. To make matters worse, and certainly more pronounced, by his ninth grade year, Eddie blowdried his parted-down-the-middle feathered hair every morning. He adopted a pair of brown-and-tan saddle oxfords from some unknown fashion magazine. He fought hard to make it. Yet try as he might to be “cool” and “in,” he couldn’t get a girl.

Not Patty Selman, certainly not Jan (who may or may not have been an aspiring lesbian), though according to homeroom gossip (which I may or may not have started), he kept trying. Maybe his wasn’t the cruelest cut ever delivered; maybe it wasn’t even our Document’s worst offense. But it would be hard to convince Eddie otherwise. “Elise, you Goddamm BITCH,” he screamed, when he caught up to us behind the gym after the awards ceremony ended. Elise kind of giggled but moved closer to me. “Hey Eddie, take it easy,” I said. “We both wrote it.” I wasn’t a fighter, but I did have another Basset at home, my good dog Sandy. So I believed I could take Eddie, not that I wanted to. He didn’t want to either, so he just turned away, as Bassets are wont to do when confronted by another’s ferocity, or theirs. I never saw him again. This may or may not have been his Last Will and Testament, but as my yearbook, The Largus, from that year of our Lord, 1974, shows, it has stood the high school test of time.


by Emanda Percival The Marabu night club. Light is dim. The music throbs dark. Twisted. An orchestra of sound fills the space, pleasing to the body. This dance. The way it makes you feel. Feel your power merging with your partner’s, not a battle for victory, but a challenge for balance. I take her, the mina from the street, the woman from my dreams. One of my hands clutching one of hers, one arm entwining her as a vine, binding her to me yet allowing her, her own flow. “You are my soul,” I whisper in her ear. She laughs, turning her head as she 5

steps, trying to escape me. “You are my heart,” I say to her eyes as she swings back into my arms. She does not pull back, sliding down my leg. Eyes fixed on mine. I pull her back to me. “You are my breath,” I say to her lips. We sit low as dancers drawing into each other, our feet side by side, our legs entwined, our bodies together. A battle of desire is fought in the steps, in the sound, in the trust of each other. The closeness of our touch, the heat of the dancers mixing together, the Marabu becomes one breathing, pulsing beast. Partners change. More men than women. Men dance with men. Women with two men at once. Jealousies are tested and tasted. I see her passed again. I see her pressing her body to another’s. The tempest of the music boils in my blood. I snag her arm; take her back. A clash of eyes, a challenge. We are two men; we must bear it to the street. Music slides through the doorway, catching the cold winter air. A circle forms around us two compadritos. We sway, spreading our feet into the earth. Drawing slowly a map, a dance of passions imagined, of passions ignited. Baying from the surrounding men pushes us closer. We two circle, both who would seduce her, both who would have his body along hers, both who would conquer… Knives flick from our sleeves. Strike, withdraw, we circle in this measured cold air. This conquistador’s passion is not imagined. Circle, circle. Attack. Withdraw. A nick. A drop of blood rolling down an arm. Leap once more, a final embrace. Victor. I look for my prize. She has vanished into the night. Adrenaline is leaving. My heart weighs heavy, as the other man’s slows and stops, wasted life. I stumble towards oblivion, shadows passing me as the Frogs behind hold their bleeding soldier in the pooling light of a lamp. Behind them on the oily skin of the wall hangs a sign, “Today debut: Aníbal Troilo and his orchestra” flecked with red. A breath to my side, from a darkened alley she is in front of me, I smell her, I taste her in the slowness of the night.

BETWEEN THE LINES by Adorable Monique

THE REUNION CONCERT by Ophelia Leong It was finally the night of the reunion concert. The band members raced onto the stage and their fierce presence grabbed everyone by the throat. It had been so many years since Nigel had heard his favourite band play, and he felt those years wash away in a great tidal wave of sound. He stood, lost with the rest of the audience in a jubilant haze. He felt the music shoot through him like a comet, blasting off his flaccid stomach and the varicose veins climbing like vines over his legs. Everyone was singing along to the familiar lyrics and their bodies swayed to riffs never forgotten. He felt his hands, hairy and mottled with age, curve around an air guitar and he played with the band. He mouthed along to the songs, the sonorous vocals of the lead singer igniting a fire inside him that could not be contained. Eyes closed, he felt so light and free that he forgot about his grey

hair and ample frame. Nigel was young again, strong and determined to win over the future and keep it on his side. He felt as though he and everyone else in the audience had been splashed with the warm waters of the Fountain of Youth, and they lapped it up with a hunger born from the frustration of ageing. After a couple of hours, it was over. A curtain of silence fell as the band members stopped playing. Then they walked off the stage in the midst of lusty cries from an audience that was not ready to let go. Yet, Nigel didn’t make a sound. He sat again, feeling the years settle back over him like a warm blanket, and smiled. The concert had been a precious gift, one he had despaired of ever receiving, and he was grateful for it. Tonight, he would sleep well.




a statue within a long shallow reach of river stillness I watch shell coins glitter along a shelf of sand stilt like, head lowered I read shell grit code in warm ankle shallows a white craft astride a mirage gets no nearer to this strand

Watermelon for breakfast and for lunch. Pink wedges cut like the hours on a clock. The remaining rind bowl a sliced full hourglass.

behind me dark gardens climb to apartments double spread in silver gelatine somewhere else a tooth is being drilled doors are being slammed no one brings a newspaper down limestone cliffs dangles legs from the jetty where jellyfish stew in oily water under pylons an unseen hand draws the river’s sapphire silk scarf to the opposite shore from Como murmurings of dawdling traffic carry a sliver of twinkle drifts by drifts by

to where I stand


by Krishan Coupland


by George Drew

So you want to know the blues, huh boy? Well, look here, when Mama up and left that no-good low-life sonofabitch that spring in Greenweed, Mississippi and skedaddled south to Baton Rouge and there was never no more horses and hounds and hunts under the Delta moon, that, boy, was the blues sure and true, and when not three months later Mama up and left you hunkered down with Granny and Aunt Vi and skedaddled north back to that contagious woman-beating peck-o-wood, that was the blues beneath the blues, blues only the favored few can know. Now ain’t you lucky, boy? I say, ain’t you lucky, now you know?

After, he helps her remove the belt from around her neck, teases hairs from the buckle, unclips the wrist cuffs and rubs feeling back to limbs. They dress in tender quiet. It is midday and raining. They sit on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket, cupping warm cups of herbal tea and watch that falling rain bounce off yellowed autumnal leaves.



by Annie Blake

by Alex Lenkei

For Johnny

My lips are malleable under your fingers: prodded and squeezed, twisted and pulled, the way one plays with their hair. They’re enveloped in the soft suck and sigh of my breath.

I was born on these grey streets, The factory stacks are so high they slurp up The sky. I miss that smog—the broken pieces; The people here walk around like fissured clay. My boy already relates empathetically To the schizophrenics; he can point out the gimmick of the billboard—


I want to live here because I do not want the drudgery That comes with the pressure of glass bent on my back,

by Santino Prinzi Autumnal stains mark the pavement where the soggy bodies of their children once lay. Their skeletons have joined the tiny ghosts of things that we walk over without a second thought. Mothers look on with no tears left to shed, holding empty nests within their slender branches.

Of their money, Their adulteries; their mouths spilling with honey— I want the time to hear the hum of the earth, Its rotation around the sun. My boy looks out for the rusty freight train car with his name graffitied on it— I look out for the early morning mist from the breath of his mouth. 7

THE SPARROWS DON’T FLY A TREE by Shinjini Bhattacharjee

Her mother had begun to sew mirrors on the wall again. The morning was already very uncomfortable. Ada Holmstrom lay on her bed, a cushion propped generously on an unsteady structure, and tried to console herself with the mirage of a green outburst embedded in her eyelids. She heard the birds trying to chirp outside, and smelled the burnt nostalgia of a time that she would never be able to recover with her careless breath. The only thing that she remembered about her hometown she had left six years ago was the green colour that swathed it. First, the houses painted themselves with the reflection of trees, and then it was the turn of the roads, stables, bridges, river, coffee houses and public buildings. Their pale sky was the last one to borrow nature’s skin, and it never returned it. It was a town that blurred its existence inside its very being. When the time came for them to leave, Ada wanted to run inside her room and bathe herself in the same colour so that she could disappear. It was only after their neighbor Eugene Ellwin used her eighty-seven-year-old wisdom to find the three words that would help Ada to never forget her home that she decided to come out of the cupboard. Eugene whispered the words four times in her ear and asked her to whisper them back nine times. That is how she managed to stitch her soul to the land under the old oak tree that was destined to survive even the biblical apocalypse. Her mother, on the other hand, chose to take only the mirrors. No matter where you go, these would always send you back to you, she said. Her father sneezed on the bed of the magnolia flowers in their garden and then proceeded to the barn with his favorite axe. Half an hour later, he emerged with a wooden rainbow painted with seven different shades of green and placed it across the flower bed. “This will gift you some good luck,” he informed the new tenants. This, and four suitcases later, they left the town forever.

For Ada, sleep was always a test of patience, but she preferred to hold on to it for some time before letting it go. The dreams that she had were always true, whether they belonged to her past, present or future. There, a day did not flow relentlessly, but wore a straw hat and cut time into neat little pieces, each one bearing a surprised staccato, a shiny white experience for distorted contemplation. However, even as wrinkled maps, Ada held on to them dearly, as if they carried her very life force. These were the only parts she could claim as her own.

left hand. She opened her long fingers and saw an entire universe washing the colour off it.

It was the sharp smell of manure that eventually woke her. She jerked her head up quite suddenly and her elbows slammed against her auburn hair, stopping their motion and making her wince in pain. The room was too bright for her to notice anything at first. It was scantily furnished, and it felt proud to display this fact openly. Besides the bed, the room only had a large mirror and a mahogany dresser that was full of clothes that she never wore. There used to a reading table earlier but it grew invisible over the years and was now just waiting to be found.

This river has swallowed men whole before—belly up, like Jonah—but she doesn’t spit them out. When a hound dog swims into her current, it drowns. When lovers sneak into her waves, she steals their clothing. Think of dresses lost in dead leaves, scarves drowned in poplars.

As her eyes and ears adjusted to the whims of the newest day, she slowly crawled out of the white linen of her bed. The floor tasted bitter, a cold reaction to the sun. Through the window, she could see her father hacking the trees as usual, his forehead a time folded in sweat. Ada felt that he always smelled of ocean and sweet algae, so unlike her mother, who could only offer a scent of her fear of nothing. Even now, as he worked, his shadow dropped his greenery on the barren patches of land around him. It is difficult to say no to what has built you, Ada thought. She smelled the manure again, and realized that it didn’t belong to her father’s fields. There was something different about it. It was a smell that was nibbled at the edges, one that did not let its centre unfold on kitchen counter-tops. A smell that taught loneliness to humans a million years ago. Still trying to figure out its source, she sat down in front of the mirror to braid her hair. The hairbrush was sullen and tiny, just like her feet. As she combed herself into a feminine grace, she was startled by the presence of dirt on her 8


by Melissa Slayton My brother John disappeared the night the moon came down to earth and the mountains steamed like a fire that’s been doused in water. Mist-makers, dream-weavers, we call them. But really, they are just thieves.

My voice is thin as a rim of ice when I ask her, “Where’s John?” Swirling in eddies, crashing down cliffs—I know she won’t hurt me. She is angry at my question only because it hurts. She says she wouldn’t kill John, says he just vanished into mist. But I can’t settle for her lies. I need summer rain good news, or else the truth, what everyone already knows. John fell into the water, weak and tired, too far traveled. He plays the mandolin on a bed of trillium now. Most nights, we sit up and talk about limestone or rusted flower petals. She ruminates over an abandoned bicycle, her tinny belch echoing through the cliffs. She tells me to be careful. It is the new moon now. Her currents are slow. She is a sheer black pebble, she is micah melted. My lungs fill with her cold water. I burrow into the bottom, rise back up. She tells me she doesn’t want me. She is satisfied for now. But when I become the water, he won’t seem so far away. I could become just another bicycle, his stranded trousers. But it never works. I float and I float. Should sew rocks in my dress. Should find the pool most filled with flowers, get tied up in the vines. But whether I live or die, it’s me you’ll hear singing.


The air tonight is like the whispered breath of a lover who recently savoured a drink of shaved ice and then kissed the exposed skin of your wrist.


FULL MONTY MOON by Sharon Kurtzman Everybody wanted to go viral. Claim their time in the spotlight and let the world watch. Last night was my turn. Up until then, my typical phases were well known: new moon, harvest moon, blue moon, waxing crescent moon, first quarter moon, eclipsed moon, full moon—the last when everyone thought they’d seen me in the buff. Not so. Due to an atypical confluence of factors—planetary positions, earth’s location in contrast to mine, centuries of atmospheric changes, global warming, El Nino, timing, and luck— on a random April night, I revealed my whole self in a way never seen before. In the ensuing years, scientists and astronomers would spend countless hours writing papers and pontificating on the reasons behind my lunar show. In scientific terms, that one-off view would eventually become known as, >Full Moon. New York City had the best coordinates for seeing my show. That pleased me. I loved the Big Apple, found the unfiltered honesty of its inhabitants entertaining. And who doesn’t want to unleash their star power on Broadway? For my one-night engagement, people ventured outside for any number of reasons, but in the end they stayed riveted to street, sidewalk, balcony, fire escape and rooftop, all because of moi. The inky sky was nothing more than a dingy scrap of black satin compared to my incandescence. Gigantic, round and glowing, even the stars dimmed in deference. A man stumbled out of McSorley’s ahead of his friends, bloodshot eyes praying up to me. “Get a load of that ball of mozzarella in the sky,” he said. His buddies laughed, their humour drowning out the street’s rumbling traffic. But in seconds, they lined up along the curb with all eyes on cheesy me. From points all over the city—East Side, West Side, Harlem, Village, Soho, Noho and Wall Street—adulation

hurtled into the atmosphere.

blue colour of my eyes.

“Gorgeous.” “Breathtaking.” “Lovely.” “Eerie.”

The love you had for numbers and mathematics though, that came from the other fifty percent. You tried to teach me, scraping on that old green chalkboard, formulas like Ax² plus something or other equals zero. You relished in the idea of zero. When someone dies all the facts and figures, ideas and deep thoughts in their heads just disappear, and I don’t understand that just like I never understood your formula that equaled zero.

Onlookers whipped out phones, snapped pictures, and posed for selfies accompanied by my splendor. An instant later, I owned their social media, appearing across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and anywhere else a picture could be posted. News sites picked up image after image. Moon becomes Internet Star, blared media outlets. Memes called me Naked Moon. Far-right pundits labeled me indecent and decried my lack of morals. Under the heat of all that attention, I burned even brighter. But, nothing stays hot forever. As those things go, my glow dulled and my girth diminished. My time in the spotlight passed. Everyone stopped looking. From start to finish, it had lasted fifteen minutes.

NOTHING CAN BE SOMETHING by Kathleen Constantine

The pickup creaks like an old tree branch under the weight of too much snow as I roll out to face this last dreaded task, and I groan an echoing protest. Panic strangles my stomach, but I grab a few banker boxes from the bed and let myself in the house. Your house used to be our house, our family home for decades, but now you’ve all left me and one does not a family make. I have until the end of the day to take everything I want before the estate sale. I notice a familiar scent, and at first I think it’s gardenias lingering from the doorway or maybe cleaning supplies. Then I realize it’s your soap, that fresh sea smell that reminds me of your hugs. We were two, you and I, a slightly mismatched set, a table tennis team, a duo in the back seat of Dad’s Buick, we two, the kids. I’ve heard that siblings share fifty percent of their DNA, and I think about that when I look at my toes, the texture of my hair, the grey10

I take a box into your bedroom and start with the closet. Behind the clothes I uncover bundles of photos and an old stuffed dog with a rubber band holding folded tissue over its missing eye. In the corner on the floor I spot the magic decoder ring you bought with a box top and a one dollar bill, and slip it on my pinky. When you revealed the secret code to me back then I wanted to write it down but you said, “keep it in your mind, that way you’ll never lose it.” I still remember Izqao. It meant later. I’ll tell you later. When Mom asked you where you’d been and you made up a story, you’d wink at me. “Izqao,” and I’d know eventually I’d hear what really happened. You always loved codes, making your living creating languages only a machine could understand. You gave up teaching me formulas and sent me books instead—theories of nothingness, the concept of zero. Books teeter in threefoot stacks on your dresser. There’s more on the floor and they’re zigzagged on your nightstand. I pluck one off the top and read the title, but it makes no sense to me so I put it back. You used to tell me nothing can be something, like an open mind, and I didn’t get it then, but now that you’re gone I think I do. I feel it in this house surrounded by what’s left of you, the something that feels like zero. The zero that still feels like something. It’s growing dark and I’ve only filled up half a box. I step outside and trace the first visible stars with my finger, making the sign for infinity, another concept you loved. I wonder if zero and infinity mean nothing forever or a limitless open mind, and I try to ponder this like you. But even though I have your toes and your hair, your mind is a mystery. I spin the decoder ring. Izqao. You’ll tell me later. I leave my half-filled box in the house and drive away.

FINDING A WAY by Nicole Stacy

A DISTANT LAMP by Melinda Giordano I don’t like walking at night. The houses are blank. Shadows multiply and stray with a fey perversity. Plants turn into animals. Sidewalks become black rivers as I splash blindly forward. Street lights are weak and unreliable. Instead, I find that I look beyond their helplessness, years into the sky, into a distant lamp. Surrounded by a choir of stars, fierce and white, she is a remote comfort. The cold light of the moon travels through the currents of galaxies, the archeology of the air, all the way to me—walking home from work.

And if I could, I would reach up to pull that chilly jewel away from her velvet setting, from her dark bed. I would feel the smooth facets, the gentle orbit, in my hand. I would let the light that was born inside her escape through my fingers, embroidering my arms with lunar silhouettes. I would let her dreams and mythologies travel through my hair. Even as her unimpeachable loveliness watches me, she remains an aloof satellite, burning with a frosty purity. She is only a distant thought, and I continue to walk quickly. Yet each night I can’t help but feel—lightly, firmly—a pair of radiant hands on my shoulders, guiding me home. 11


by Nicole Stacy

MOTHER’S DAY by Bryan Shawn Wang Only after she served me (store-brand bologna on Wonder bread, an overripe apple, warm Hi-C) did I remember the dandelions. Among the cobwebs of the garage I gathered them again, the airy globes already dented, drooping. When I presented my bouquet, she crossed her arms, her expression bare. That’s the extent of it, I suppose. She would have surmised how I’d impulsively snatched them from beside our cracked patio, how hastily I’d dropped them to join the neighbourhood kids on bikes. Perhaps she also foresaw my greater inadequacies, the deficit of talent and ambition and decency, how I would disregard and then forget her, even in her illness. Walking away from her gravesite, I would weep inane, extravagant tears, recalling how I’d laboured to eradicate the fluff from the kitchen counter and the linoleum floor, hopelessly resolved that not a single seed would escape the waste bin. 12


by Emma Zurer




Daddy’s body fell off the roof. We’ve always been too poor to afford wings.

My mother’s hands were lace. My father’s were thorns. No wonder they could not hold hands without causing enough damage for two.


by Stephen Beckwith Serrated love cuts both ways The thinning blood of Autumn, deep gashes, severed arteries pooling around fractured hips and fused vertebra Or, the thick blood of Spring, when the sidewalk jumps up, picking coarse gravel and small pebbles out of shredded kneecaps

I buried the thermostat by the old cherry tree. We have not had heat for years. There’s no point in being reminded.

When you know she cares but not enough to discuss anything on the dark drive home

Give up your grudges, build from there, play more, bleed less.

The preacher went on, telling us how he had damn near beat a horse to death on that road. He was just a boy when it had happened, he said. Driving the plow nag to town with his baby brother in the wagon bed, dying, choking on the pit of a wild plum. He had lashed without mercy, lashed as if there were money for a doctor. His eyes were flecked and milky behind cataracts, like quail eggs wrapped in onion skin paper. From them, I could tell, if such a man could hate, he hated that road. Completely and forever. I turn expecting your hand and touch nothing

FENESTRARIA I build layers of stone, sand and soil—imagining mantle, crust and core. I plant Baby Toes in the earth’s surface, sea foam green and smooth as ceramic, delicate alien limbs. Prematurely, they suffocate to grey. Translucent tips like infant scalps mottling in a glass vase fishbowl. I plough the thirsty dirt with my fingertips—a crop of collapsed lungs disintegrate to extraterrestrial dust.

COMPANIONS As a child I collected strawberries in empty marmalade jars. I plucked out the mutants from the punnet and at the dinner table, sliced open my green beans with a sharp incision, collecting the pale pods and sprinkling them in the jar with a splash of shallow rainwater. I kept the berries on my bedside table while I slept, and carried them into the garden where I strung them onto fishing wire to hang from the low branches of the gardenia tree. When the blood drained to their bellies, I returned them to their glass cages, full of stitches. The leaves began to curl, the flesh began to bruise. My mother emptied my companions into a wooden crate of onion skins, where they decomposed like well-hidden Easter eggs, rose-rot Siamese twins.

Serrated love Tiny teeth tearing awkwardly at fresh flesh

by J. Todd Hawkins

Emily O’Grady

Serrated love cuts When there is no bounce left and the heart catches with each breath and every nap is another death


SWIMMING POOL I float in week-old tap water, bathe in the smell of tea tree and humid skin. Sunken leaves beneath my palms, slick as molluscs. Knuckled roots beneath taped plastic, knotted. A strand of hair skims the freckled surface. Its shark shadow lurking like a predator in dark water. When I rise bloated black leaf leeches suck my chlorinated skin. 14

IT WAS A WONDERFUL LIFE by Darrel Duckworth My life was wonderful. My job was wonderful. My boss was a dream and my co-workers were angels. When I got home, my boyfriend rubbed my shoulders and made dinner. Then we went to bed and had wild, wacky sex. In the morning I got up and did it all over again. My life was wonderful ... until my author took an online, “creative writing” course. They told her that the readers would be bored with her happy characters. Readers tune out, they said, unless the characters are struggling with oppression, betrayal, rejection, moral dilemmas and a burden of consequences. So, now my life is a misery. One story after another of total misery. First she put me in a story about addiction where I didn’t “learn my lesson” until I had lost my job and all my friends. Then she wrote me into a “temptation” story that cost me my boyfriend. And the guy she made me have the affair with wasn’t even good in bed. Then she sent me off on a quest for something that didn’t even frigging exist! Even my brain-dead neighbour knew it didn’t exist! While I was gone, I lost my apartment and all my stuff. And this was just to show some stupid theme about the futility of chasing false promises. Thanks for the life lesson, sister! Well, she wanted a character who takes on a life of her own? Now she’s got it! Last night I left her computer and started travelling the web, looking for the people who run her online writing course.

for a mistaken identity story—let’s say, with your name swapped in for an animal-molesting escapee from the local psych ward. Or maybe an “action” story where your wife accidentally discovers your new membership to the prostitute-of-the-month club. Just think of it as my own little “poetic revenge” plot. Let’s see how the readers enjoy watching you face your struggles and the burden of your consequences. Bastards. Maybe it’s not a “noble obsession” to fill my newfound life with but I think I’m going to enjoy it all the same.


by James Beaton I noticed you the other day from the rooftop. You wore a red dress and had long black hair tied into a ponytail. I couldn’t see your face, but I’m sure it was beautiful. I was hooking up cable (illegally). The door shut and I got trapped on the roof of my building. I had to wait for my roommate to come home to let me down, so I watched people on the sidewalk below. A pigeon flew to the side of the roof. I think its wing was injured because it sort of stuck out in an odd manner. I walked over to where it was perched and it didn’t move away when I sat next to it. That’s when I saw you. You were holding a coffee, or perhaps an Americano, from the Horseshoe Café. Then you went into the adult video store. I never expected that. If only I could have sent the pigeon to you with a message. If you return, please look up. I’ll be on the roof watching.

When I find you bastards, I’m going to fry every one of your files. Then maybe I’ll introduce your names to the outstanding warrants part of various police systems. And maybe it’s time

WE ARE SCARY by Joanna Rosenberg

Whiskey has fingers, did you know that? Eve murmured to Adam. Stop it, he said. I hate whiskey. Yes it still grabs me, she said, it tucks me under. Under what? he said. Eve rose from the bed, naked, swigged, swallowed, dribbled down her chin. You’re so messy, he said. You make me smile. She stood naked, a new child. She held her breasts in her hands. I forget I’m a woman, she said, this drinking’s making me horny. Oh Eve, Adam said, let’s just sleep. Soon he slept, and Eve stood, touching the midnight that bled through the blinds. The moon on her breasts was warm, oatmeal, a baby’s gaze, unforgiving. Babies know what they’ve gotten into, thought Eve. She hoped so.


by Kurt Newton The ocean breeze drew him toward the back patio where he found her standing in her white dress staring out at the bright blue waves. Their son played in the sand just beyond the steps, stacking pebbles one on top of the other, eyes focused on the task at hand. He greeted her with a simple smile before tiptoeing over to their son. Like a cloud, his shadow loomed over the small tower of pebbles. His son looked up, hand faltering. The tower crumbled. “Dad!” “Sorry, kiddo.” He made an extra-sad face. The child’s frown stretched into a smile. He turned his attention toward his wife again, stepping up onto the patio and into her arms. He kissed her. He held her, absorbing the moment. She was beautiful in her white dress. As beautiful as the ocean breeze. As beautiful as the day that surrounded them. Their son looked on curious. “Dad? What are you doing?” After a moment, he let her go. He was once again alone with his son. “I’m remembering your mother, that’s all.”


TRACES OF MY FATHER #3 PAIN SCALE by Cybele Garcia Kohel

Joanne R. Fritz

I don’t remember ever calling you daddy but I remember lying on your lap as the nurse gave me a shot choosing proximity over bravery because the world expected it of me

Today, the new nurse asks me “What’s your pain?” And the echo blossoms in slow-motion inside me, one petal unfurling for each word. What’s. Your. Pain. For the first time I realize this headache is mine. It belongs to me. An intimate possession. A fragile lacy underthing you wear under jeans and a sweatshirt so no one else knows it’s there. Or perhaps it’s an embarrassing responsibility. A doddering relative who eats her own snot and asks the same question over and over. Or it could be a guilty secret. An otherworldly lover, who waits for the fluorescent lights to dim so he can ease down the side rail and slip silently into my hospital bed. It’s my pain. Mine.

perhaps you were nervous in your pin stripe suit and tie, briefcase in one hand, my palm in the other unsure your little girl wanted anyone but her mother

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT by Travis Wittmann You look so small from above Eyes black and wide Eight ball to the corner pocket The table’s overturned And canned mahogany syrup Sprawls across the floor in a bloody lattice “It could have been worse” “It’s not really your fault” That’s what I say as plasma Jets briskly through my ears Reminding me that I’m still human Regardless It’s my turn to clean up There’s no protest We don’t talk much anyway It’s just a daily chore But now with higher stakes I may never see your face again In the hardwood reflection So much work to be done So much space to fill Cracking grout Waterworks in the locked bathroom Cavernous I’m beside myself And I ask myself “Is this who you want to be?” I want to strike back, so I have my answer The hallway is silent Except for a stiff wind from the west The roar of racing cumulonimbi And the uncertain hum of earthquake weather The dogs arch their backs Plywood meets the door frame Our fragile foundation shakes beneath us Autonomous

FORAGING FOR COULD (04 February: World Cancer Day)

by Joyce Parkes

The substance Bluey took to float or glow smouldered to leap across the road, before an explosion imploded the house of hurrahs and harboured hopes—where the car of kinship had to be towed. Although, dying slowly, Arthur* managed to soothe his groans with cannabis cut and ground to glean what the gift of the plant in the field distils for pain, a burning yet invisible bite, harkens a hurt hurtling inside. Aching to avoid the history of should, a carer foraging for could decided to begin with the geodesy of a grin: a prescription from a G.P. for cannabis, to avoid scaffoldings of pain and the noose of nausea a battler feels on planks and plains of misfortune. Could Pauline’s and Arthur’s Story*, minimize misery, frame furore? * See: Cannabis and Cancer, Arthur’s Story, by Pauline Reilly. Scribe Publishers, Australia.


GAZING IN by Adorable Monique



by Gail Goepfert I dated a scorpion for many years. I didn’t notice the curve of his tail tipped with venom. His legs rarely looped through mine though his charms ensnared me. Sandwiched in a box of New Balance shoes, he was always with me, though not. I purred when he sat on the handlebars of my shiny new Schwinn. He had a sleeping bag in a box of letters. I let him lodge on my bookshelf after he taught me the art of as if, as if we could be together even when we were apart. I let him linger in an illusory scent on the pillow next to mine, creep into the folds of my cortex. He’s dead now. Fossilized. Still he stings.


by Kurt Newton A single teardrop fell from her eye, and I caught it in my palm. The tear stayed bound, rounded like a ball, and I stared at its reflection. I saw the fight that had produced the tear replay like a mini-movie. I saw the two of us throwing words at each other like stones. I saw her arms crossed, her eyebrows knitted, defending herself until I threw too hard. Thoughtlessly. I saw her crumble, her arms drop, her brow smooth, confused, disillusioned. Hurt. I saw the tear form again. I saw it drop into my palm, creating a series of reflections stretching back, the pattern repeating over and over again like a hall of mirrors. “I’m sorry,” I said. She stared at me as if I were a stranger. “I don’t believe you anymore.” She walked away then, packed her belongings, and left. “But I mean it this time.” I spoke these words in her absence, as the tear dried in my palm, leaving nothing but a salty residue.


Volcanic exhaust chilled into weightless testimony out of a deep vent in the ocean floor off New Zealand …. a raft of pumice strokes the high seas, teems with root-bound marine hitchhikers with spore to burn and species to propagate…. Fragments now necklace the shore where the surf has expired—amulets—bleached and bow-arched swan vertebrae strewn amongst them, corded castanets that will no longer hoist and beat wings into the air above the lake. A bar-tailed godwit’s tentative barré in search of food along Wollumboola’s tidal edge, enigma written into its name, guileless eyes wade the inkpot shallows. Death is contagious today—around the corner a fox skeleton rankles the dune grass in the shadow of a poison bait sign. The crow perched nearby knows kill from carrion, is too wise to boast. I feel the clod-print of compacted sand in my hips and sacrum, and find a gentle rise that will affectionately cradle my joints while I sit beneath the child’s paintbox brush-wash colour of the sky and its puny perforations of light. Waves slush over the sloped sand-palette behind the clumps of banksia and foxtail that bridle the hillocks at my back. I notice the wind lacks flight, suddenly feel as uncertain as a vow and yearn for tiredness, or to be a sugar glider, clothed with velvet escape. But I will catch the breath that is there and be still for a moment, and let this nimbostratus founder on a reef of resilient pretence, out of cussedness or the simple sake of it. For I have chosen to be here, whereas the little tern who flies itself into emaciation on its migration from China steers by the flock’s wisdom …. and I can leave at a finger snap, unlike unpiloted pumice. 18


by Samantha Finley as in the way L always slips delicately from the brain—from the little home it was given when she said she was in love—flicking from the tongue, into a small oblivion, where it ties itself to a lingering inseparably alongside u; pulling r back in with a magnetic force that rearranges the lips (used to place the softest kisses on her back as she sleeps); sneaking e in the bedroom window before sunrise; lightly holding n for a short slow-dance between tongue and teeth; finally releasing in staccato everything that matters most in one word. I start and end with her. Everything starts and ends with her and nothing is silent.

DREAMS AT PLAY by Adorable Monique



by Melinda Giordano

by Melinda Giordano

The coil of wind curled around the fallen blossom, taking it in its fist and hurling it into the helix of airstreams that knotted the sky. It climbed, high and hypnotic: a scarlet crumb of embroidery torn from a hem, a rose from a petticoat, as bloody as a scraped knee. It was such a dainty scrap of shrapnel, wheeling over my head: a compelling design that traced a gory path through the air, shedding cherry-coloured drops that stained my hair.

The moon had been in Pisces. For several days it was a slim crescent, providing just enough light for the starry fish to swim in—breathing in the radiance, the austere, pale light. The luminous curve did not lie on the left or right side of the capricious satellite. It was on the bottom: a drink that will become larger as the moon grows full and generous. Pisces splashed in the glowing ocean as the astronomers waited, marking its orbit across the arid night sky. Like hooks, their numbers and equations would pull the fish from their tranquil sea, trapping them in a net thrown across the galaxy.

It rose as confused as a butterfly, twisting and captivating, yet for all its folly acting at the same time as if it were taking the most careful aim. I stood, a willing target, in the path of its willful temper. It circled closer and closer, until— as if it was overcome by a burst of shyness—it dropped back to the ground. Like a modest shuttering of eyes, or a suddenly bashful child seeking solace behind his mother’s skirts, it lay there still and muffled.

And when the mystic trawl drags them from the bright water they will lie gasping against the sky. Stars and planets will swirl around fins and gills, edging against scales—glittering like a diamante skin. There was no bait that could lure the fish from the moon’s pretty shores. They swam throughout the night until the moon became filled with light, forcing Pisces into the dry darkness. Sprawled in constellations, the fish wait—for the waters to recede, giving them a chance to slip once more into the moon’s shining waves.

I waited a moment longer, watching the dying wings struggle in a ruby pool at my feet. It drowned very prettily. And when all breath was gone, its blood became thick and clotted: a decorative bruise to join the others that mottled the sidewalk. 19

Anirban Dam

HIRAETH i. You braided stars along the length of your hair and when we met they aligned with the equator concealing the fault lines on your forehead.

EPITAPHS ON HER NECK i. With scorched words and a serrated tongue I engraved epitaphs, of gods who perished in your perfidious flame while you stood there poised and static reciting refrains of complacency. You were a Nero draped in sinful Satin

There was syntax in our throat and syllables on our palms playing scrabble with forked tongues till the hourglass shattered while the gods became epoch and then some.

ii. Your scapulae chiselled with parables of blasphemy like hieroglyphs on a Rosetta stone, for your skin was a codex lost and buried under the cinders of a fallen empire.

We were the infinity between space and time. ii. A bleary dawn carried the weight of possibilities like the hem of your skirt swaying back and forth occasionally brushing the earth; serendipity? And you danced in circles till the patterns of the cosmos were embedded on your shoulder blades and my fingertips glided over your collarbones like an Icarus taking flight

iii. And now you weep silently confined inside the shrine of your vanity, a concubine of solitude seeking salvation. But love was a reprobate heathen and your neck was an unheard prayer clasped firmly in between my vengeful hands.

WHEN OUR SCARS BLOOMED i. Today the sky bore anemic rainbows and it reminded me that even the brightest colours can fade in the effusion of time like the smiles which once graced your pluvial lips. ii. Our shredding skin complemented the shattered china on the floor but your feet stopped bleeding while walking over splinters. You became a withering Mimosa slowly losing its sense of touch. iii. Sometimes i wish i could swallow silhouettes so you could finally see what it’s like to have a mangled heart stapled by broken ribs. Deformed yet functional, like Siamese Twins. iv. Like distorted reflections trapped in maze transient we are, living on stolen moments, flickering and fading in the endless black till we are no longer shadows of a dying flame.

iii. The nightfall draped in latency

v. In depths of my bare bones I found your anxieties hibernating within my imperfections and I realized, the warmth of our frigid skin was enough to make our scars bloom.

you wore a flat line over your heart, playing dead while the sky yawned and omens fell between your breasts faster than Rome turning your skin parchment as if oracles were writing prophecies upon your chest and for once I wanted to believe in fate‌

CAMELS by Maria S. Picone 20

SELF INTROSPECTION by Adorable Monique

TICK by Cameron Bayley Look. Right here. Closer, now. See! We are in the space between the minute dashes on the clock face. You may think we’re empty, but we’re full. We are pregnant with life. We are the moments which spin off from other moments. Where you can fly to the other side of the planet. And curl up with that great person you met. Where you are back in that perfect moment on that first date with that guy who surprised you. You know the one. We are the moment where you’d had just enough to drink. Where things were funny and you hadn’t yet said that thing. Remember? Where you were actually funny, not just funny-after-six-martinis. We are the morning after where everything was cool, not serious. We are the fond wave goodbye. The shrug of the shoulders in the sun. The look back. We are the split second where you pictured your future, had a vision of the two of you together. A cool apartment. Dinner parties with homemade tapas. Cushions made from retro tea towels. We are the wish, the hope, the satisfaction. We offer so much.

went from being enjoyable to unbearable. We are as long-lasting as a smile, as quick as a teardrop. We know you. That secret you never shared is here. As is that time you were very wrong. When you were cruel. When you did that thing you were far too ashamed to admit. You may not spare us a thought. But we’re OK with that. They’re all here anyway! You can get lost in us. This is where your heart got crushed. This is where you burnt the cake. This is where you were so mad you wanted to slap someone, really hurt them. This is where the door slammed. This is where you finally made that decision that changed everything, which didn’t even seem like a decision at the time. It just was. This is where things finally started to look up. This is where you were perfectly happy once more. Welcome.

We are also, however, where that really great sleep-in was interrupted. Where the train pulled out of the station that second before you needed it to. We are when the movie 21





DEBRIS by Emma Zurer



by Trevor O’Sullivan


Alice smoothed down the dead woman’s upturned collar. Her father often missed that detail. He managed the dressing of the corpses, which could be quite a physical task, but he was the first to admit he didn’t have the eye for things like misbuttoned blouses or crooked spectacles.

new hole through the right earlobe. It went through with little resistance, rather like pushing a cocktail stick into an olive. Alice latched the earring closed and surveyed her handiwork. Not bad. It was slightly off-centre, compared with the left one, but no one would notice.

There were just two mementos Alice had been given to arrange on the corpse of Edna Mary Mackintosh: a pair of diamond earrings—square cut, set in silver, and rather ugly—and a framed photograph. Alice carefully removed the woman’s left earring, a functional gold sleeper, to replace it with one of the diamond monstrosities. But when she came to the right lobe, there was no gold sleeper to replace. Somewhere along the line, the right earring had gone missing; the pierced lobe was bare.

Now for the photo. It was of a man, and seemed to have been taken around the 1960s, if the style and quality were anything to go by. Alice suspected this man had been Edna’s husband, and that he’d died many decades before her. He looked like a stern man; a sad man—but she didn’t think he had been bad-tempered. Perhaps he had been conscripted to fight in a war? He might have been gunned down by sniper fire. Or maybe he’d died of a feverish illness that turned him yellow, giving him agonising gut cramps and dehydrating diarrhoea. Alice imagined him trying to write a final letter to Edna, too weak even to wield the pencil.

Worse, the piercing wouldn’t allow her to insert the other diamond earring. It must have partially grown over before the woman died. Alice considered her options. She could dummy up the earring by breaking off the stem and use their trusty costume adhesive to stick the earring to Edna’s ear. But that was risky for two reasons. First, even the excellent adhesive they used could fail from time to time. All it would take was an enthusiastic griever stroking the dear departed’s hair and the earring might fall off, and a mishap like that could ruin the paying customer’s day. Second, the relatives might change their minds about burying their loved one with this memento, and ask for it to be returned. Alice didn’t want to be responsible for damaging the earring if some savvy griever, noticing Granny’s earrings were real diamonds, suddenly asked for them back.

“How are you getting along?” Thaddeus England moved quietly, as befitted a good undertaker, but Alice was never startled by his sudden appearances. “Nearly finished,” she said. She manoeuvred the photo frame into Edna’s hand, sliding it under the woman’s wrist and slotting it into the fingers her father had painstakingly bent into a gentle gripping position. Alice looked at it critically, before tilting the frame at a more poignant angle. Perfect.

No, the only real option was to re-pierce the ear. Alice grimaced. She wasn’t squeamish—she had been raised in a funeral home, after all—but she didn’t particularly enjoy any physical handling of the corpse. Her father had even done the job of bending Edna’s arm into a suitable position to hold the photo frame. But it was silly to fetch her father for such a simple task, so Alice used the point of the earring stem to push a

She stepped back and nodded at her father. “All done.” “Lovely.” Thaddeus pulled a dustsheet across the coffin to protect Edna from bugs and dirt. “Dinner’s on the stove. Do you have any homework?



BLOOMING VINE LEAVES The poetry and prose on the following pages are by writers who are 17 years old or younger.


CITRUS, SNAKES, AND GUNS by Skyler Boudreau Where I’m from, the fashion is all pretty similar. In fact, all the inhabitants of my building dress exactly the same. It’s a bit of a drag to walk into the lunchroom and see the same shade of citrus everywhere you look. There’s no variation in shade or style. It doesn’t matter whether you are male or female, tall or short, rich or poor. The administrators want to keep everything fair. It’s really quite thoughtful of them.

WHEN THE ALARM GOES OFF: by Anshumanth Rao

One thing does vary though. The tattoos. Some of us don’t have any, but most of us do. I’ve got a snake coiled around my ankle, and my roomie has a pentagram on her back.

I dreamt that I was alive With no darkness in me, And I was once more the son My mother would like me to be. I dreamt that I was happy And I still dared to believe That I was something human And all they’d do wasn’t leave. A dream of what living is As I lay in my coffin of a bed And then I opened my eyes, And I, once again, was dead.

We’re all damn interesting too. Max knows sixty different ways to set a fire. Jill can drain all the of the blood from your body in under five minutes. And me, well, I know my way around any gun that you place in my hands. My doctor says that I have “irrational tendencies and a near catastrophic temper,” but I don’t think she knows what she’s talking about. If my father hadn’t pissed me off last year I wouldn’t’ve had to show him the end of my rifle. The one without the trigger. It was his fault, not mine. My doctor should realize that by now. The rest of the staff are awfully understanding of us though. They seem to understand that some of us only respond well to insults or threats, and speak to us accordingly. Aside from being so considerate, the staff even gave us our own special name: Criminal scum.

PILLOWS by Gabby Dolgonos Pillows are better than people. They won’t go anywhere. When you’re in the darkness, you get very good at convincing yourself that at least the pillow is there. You feel that within this pillow lies a profound understanding, one which people lack. Which is alright, because pillows also lack certain things that people have, and you figure that’s just the way things are. But when it’s dark, you can see its eyes. They don’t gleam like a person’s; its eyes are lifeless. But they can see and they can internalize. And a pillow keeps everything you give it. A pillow’s understanding is not innate. It is learned. Not because it is intelligent but because it is an extension of you: the you that you are missing. So hold yourself close; muffle your voice with your own flesh; pound your anger into your own skin; rip yourself apart until you are pieces of fabric on the floor; fall into the mess you’ve made of yourself. Desperately try to put the shreds back together. Apologize: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to— The pieces on the floor forgive you because they understand. They hold no grudges. But you have ripped apart the only thing that was there and now there is nothing. You grab a needle and thread and you try, try so hard to put it all back. But it looks all wrong; not like you at all. You keep it on your bed anyway and handle it delicately, gently, as if trying to make up for your mistake. Whisper: I’m so sorry— 28


Eli Winter

my sight when You shot it with the fog from ash-smoked cigarettes through chimney-tops, on railroad cars. Papa’s rose over the trees like vultures, empires and memories scattered with the wind. Hairpieces. Shoes. Photographs. Trains. Gas. When Mama’s footsteps crunched across bodies like leaves, thrown aside with Babby to dead dogs, in my mind I left my line and entered one of fire to join her. But in the worst of life I feared dying. With wet, hot eyes, we beg God and Kapo, Don’t let us burn tomorrow. Let us stay silent for another day. That we, or I, may claw our way from the belly of the shark. That You might hear my prayer, God, damn it, I haven’t tasted anything since 1941. Bread sliced from sawdust and bones, water dirt-brown like our captors, blood soup so thick and salty You can spit out the iron between Your teeth. It’s not much, but it’s a living. And our living is less much than most. Attention-spanned hours, hairless rodents. We give salt tears for the scorched earth.


years ago AST TIME I that ever . She told me she saw my mother to erase hy time she looke felt like a man. S was fifteen barrels o erself and start d in the mirror, he told me like an a n her chest inst over; that she wa she wanted inside a lien living the wead of breasts; t nted to see God is o woman’s body. ay she did, a mhat she felt ur painte a palette. W r, and e I just didn’t u n trapped change t hy should one very human on nderstand. with Hishe way they look of His beautifuearth is His the first hard work? Bu when He is alre l creations David in time again. Mot t today, I’m see ady pleased slingshot stead of a Delila her says she’s a ming her for Goliath: to match. If onh, with physique an now, a works of you can’t move ly she knew th , parts and in the t not ld little no matte art better than Him at all. He at God is a u b , bui ECT that I am r how hard she trthey know them knows His CHITword. I don’tses like youI selves. A ies, she c R her hard A nd an work. I a the hou nd AN m the fru’t change the fact I’M ional sense ofk one-story TV shows, arn for its of her tradit ck-red-bric idyllic 50s always yea stadilabour. fire-tru see on old ns like you don’t build m, or always uild mansioe by them. I cities in the office don’t bver you driv ld fit whole r own post egree whene big you cou y have thei t. I have a d hings ums so s so big the an architec f building t . And college promise, I’mut instead o uild people ing a box. I erything. B r work in, I byou from bee side and ev ple to live o . I can turn shack on th louds for peood at my job ain-stained so tall the c chair I’m go run-down, r skyscraper an turn your sings, small, road into a ur waist. I c its into bles isease of the ome up to yoyour bad hab and your d you a only c throne, and a bear hug, I can’t build o be? into a rother into die for. But o you want t your b mething to you. Who d into so I can build house. 29

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