Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue 17

Page 1

Contents Art


Aris Katsilakis Mutation II, p.19 | Mutation I, p.27

Cara Chamberlain Closet World, p.24 | Québec, p.26

Cesar Valtierra smoker, p.7 | lady in red, p.11 | dominatrix, p.29 | dog, p.45

Carolyn Martin Circuit Breaker, p.3 A Sonnet For Plotting Amateurs, p.5 In Memory Of The Taxi Driver Who Delivered Me To Denver International On Time, p.36

Diana Whiley Opening Night, p.6 | Still Life, p.21 | Lazy Afternoon, p.40 Ege Al’Bege The Egg of Egebeach, p32. Jessica Gawinski Cityscape, p.8 | Hoarding, p.25 | Spacing Out, p.39 Samantha Fortenberry Across the Lake, p.16 | The Scent of Peaches, p.37 Steve Frosch Setting Sun Victory Son, p.15 The Passing Reminder, p.18 Leavings, p.30 Song So Delicate, p.46

Charlie Baylis Dining With The Stars, p.9 | Morning Sun, p.26 James Croal Jackson Recede Into Harmony, p.4 You Can Almost Hear Her Breathing, p.10 Lipwarmth / Socks, p.44 Jenny Qi Weight, p.5 Jessica Van de Kemp New Moon, p.9 | Anniversary Of Falling In Love, p.10

Prose Anna Marie Laforest First Taste, p.28 Chip Skelton Scabs, p.12 Christina Dalcher Prick, Sting, Wait, p.30 Christopher J. Driscoll A Night to Celebrate, p.6 Gustavo Perez Firmat, pp.22–23 Dirty Old Man Asks for Five Minutes More Dirty Old Man, Glaucoma Suspect Dirty Old Man Undergoes Idioma-therapy Dirty Old Man Teaches a Lesson in Life Dirty Old Man on an Island Dirty Old Man Confirms That He Was Once a Child Holly Lyn Walrath The Thirteenth Ride, p.34 Jade T. Woodridge The Knife, p.42 Jennifer Todhunter It Took You Eight Months To Leave Me, p.43 Judy T. Oldfield Meditation Dream #5, p.33 Kerry Graham All She Misses, p.17 Len Kuntz Mother May I?, p.3 | The Split, p.4 | Fortress, p.21 Lily Wang Emerald, p.35 Liz Kellebrew Mount Rainier, p.40 Margie K. P. Fudge Reinvent, p.18 Mollie Yang Feeding You Lies, p.6 Roy Dorman A Bedtime Story For One, p.14 Always A Bridesmaid, p.36 Some Shelter, p.37 Staying Together While Growing

Charles O’Hay The City Of Glass People, p.9 Enlightenment, p.14 The Unseen World Of Atoms, p.24

Kari Gunter-Seymour Splintered, p.17 Lakshmi Mitra White Dwarf, Black Dwarf, p.38 Lisa J. Roberts I-5, p.16 | Becoming, p.46 Lorraine Carey Barrow House, p.10 Marc Swan Earshot, p.7 Natasha Mijares Epistaxis, p.15 5,482 Drawings Of Anni Albers, “Untitled,” 1932, p.41 Patrick Venturella Breakfast, p.3 Robert Lee Kendrick Waste Management, p.19 | Trespass With A Backbeat, p.45 S.E. Street Mid-Air, p.9 Sarina Bosco Love Letter From A Parallel Universe, p.38 Saxby Pridmore The Awá People, p.7 Scott Sherman Books About Eyes, p.24 Tyler Wettig Lover’s Graffiti, p.10 | Roll The Bones, p.44

Blooming Vine Leaves Apart, p.37

Ronald Jackson Town Planner, p.14 Tara Bradford Consent, p.47 Tara Isabel Zambrano beautiful beyond understanding, p.20

Anala A Renewal, p.48 Anya Simons Hypnic Jerk, p.49 Audrey Spensley Notes in a train station, p.49 Gianna Baez Amazon Woman, p.49 Meghana Mysore Dinner, p.48 Tae Oliver Daisy Chain, p.49 Author and Artist Biographies p. 50

Breakfast by Patrick Venturella the bone-white morning crowns into the living room and steps woozy across the carpet the scrape of fork tines across your plate reminds me of zoology class and the pregnant perch I dissected how the unborn eggs spread over the sterile lab table like Marigolds blooming into a silver winter morning tell me again what you told me in bed tell me again and again

Circuit Breaker by Carolyn Martin

Previously published in The Timberline Review Say the words, her voice raises pitch. I misplace four syllables and she’s convinced it’s early onset loss. My blank face makes things worse. Later, I would laugh and call it stress. Our cook top shoots out flames and I can’t name the metal box that turns the power off. Where’s the harm? I ask her afterwards. I’ve lost words before—during drives downtown or on the phone or conference stage. I’d finesse the gap without excuse for where or why they hid. Then. Tonight. Something’s wrong. Say the words, her brown eyes scan my green for signs my mind is faltering. No reply. No searching for. No way to track how I found and flipped the switch. Devoid of images and sounds, my mind dissolves to dark like credits at a movie’s end. No words. No spark.

Mother May I? by Len Kuntz

We played Mother, May I? even though you hated asking for permission. Dad said he didn’t play favourites, yet you’re the one he calls. I have a wife now. She counts my breaths. She measures their depth before stepping out of bed, tiptoeing off to use the phone.


The Split by Len Kuntz

Summer sings, song of seagulls cawing as they pluck French fries from plates. Children squeal. Poolside speakers blare, “I like to move it, move it.” In the reflection of your mirrored sunglass panels I see how frightened I am, a small, thin spider. When I look again, your answer is as clear as murder.

Recede Into Harmony by James Croal Jackson the violin’s larynx the night’s wind the notes’ closed throats fingers taut on string

Opening Night

by Diana Whiley

Weight by Jenny Qi

A fat animal sits on my chest sometimes, and all I feel are rolls of heavy flesh, damp and smelling of dried deodorant on old clothes. I crane my neck as far as it will go, searching for a lever to pry it off, half hoping someone will see me and help and the other half hoping no one does because how embarrassing to have this fat animal melding into me like an ugly tumour. No one comes. It just sits in the way, and that tiny effort of searching knocks me breathless, asthmatic. I just lie there, straining to be still and small, not breathing except to smell the obesity of flesh becoming my flesh.

A Sonnet For Plotting Amateurs by Carolyn Martin

Previously published in Antiphon Deep Pink, the package claimed and photographed our dream of gladiola sprays. We mapped three dozen bulbs around our pastel plots as complements, we thought, to bright-eyed phlox, petunias, asters, salvia and mums and contrasts to the brooding firs we’d come to love. But amateurs miss facts: bees are un-enamored of this color scheme and weak-kneed hummingbirds whir by thumbing wings at pinks and blues and whites. We’d only half a natural world until some mischief rescued our design. It filled our yard with orange glads in mid-July, then shrugged with birds and bees, So labels lie.

A Night to Celebrate

by Christopher J. Driscoll

I don’t know where the time has gone. Election results were in, 64% majority Wilson, 14% Sanders, 8% Jackson. We didn’t even make the charts. I sit at that old window table where we once sat, bubbling champagne in glass cheering to better results next November. “One more year honey, and you’ll kick Beckman right off the charts.” But it’s another year, and although the names have changed, and Beckman has long since fallen six feet under on the numbers, I still don’t grace them. Rodger never made well at the polls. After, hands would rub shoulders; footsie under the table; always one bottle too many, then back home to find love and regain hope between the sheets. Now I sit alone, as the smoke washes over my tongue and exhales in tumbling clouds towards an empty chair at my side. I’ve aged. My friends wouldn’t pick out my face in a crowd. Too many wrinkles creased in their absence. I know you’d recognize me. You always would, no matter how many years pass. The spaghetti is cold, and so is the air; the streets don’t smell the same. The kids call these places dives, but I still wear my old suit from ‘85. The one with the hole in the right coat pocket, where I lost the keys on our anniversary. How could I ever throw it out? It’s what I wore to your funeral.

Feeding You Lies

by Mollie Yang

The turmoil began with a young girl spitting. She spat her thoughts onto pages and chopping boards, and they landed in thick pools, centimetres in front. Spitting out her suggestions for cinnamon sticks and polygraph tests, she knew that the lies she told would never be uncovered, for they were her secret ingredient. So she added a nip of vanilla, some cloves and too much nutmeg, and separated her life into flour, lies and reality. She cooked meters of spaghetti, much longer than her hair. She baked gooey brownies darker than the mud she dragged her hem through. She chopped and whisked and grated all her anger into a hearty lentil stew. She spat her lies into the saucepan to get the perfect balance of flavour. And it was always perfect. So you eat and eat and eat until bursting, tasting the cinnamon, smacking your lips with its lust. Turmeric stains your teeth as you inhale, yellow craters crushing peanuts and cardamom pods in their wake. “How does it taste?” she asks. You ignore the burning sensation in your mouth. Close your eyes and sigh. “Perfect.” 6


First published in Echo Room #2 (UK) December 2012

by Marc Swan

In a lucid moment between vodka straight up with a splash of tonic, squeeze of lime, he tells me about a hip hop group he thinks are just about the finest thing since sliced bread. I listen and then he tells me about his trip to Mexico with his girlfriend, how his wife doesn’t have an inkling and he feels kind of guilty, but after all it’s only a weekend and then I tell him about a band I think is the best thing since sliced wheat bread and he sort of listens, glancing at me, at the two young women in shiny halter tops behind me. I say something nonsensical like bubbly water on ice with a dash of bitters and he says yea I know that band, I’m a fan. It goes on like this for another five or ten minutes and then I tell him my mother is calling and he says yea I know that band. I go back to my 6th row seat as he careens off the wall and drops with a dull thud.

The Awá People by Saxby Pridmore

Three members of the pre-contact Awá tribe Walked out of the Amazon jungle and when Told about pollution, global warming and ISIS They wanted to go back, but it was too late. They’d Already been gifted a Coca-Cola and a bucket of KFC.


by Cesar Valtierra


Cy iJ t es ys s ic ca aG p aw ei n s k i

New Moon

by Jessica Van de Kemp The moon fits inside the teacup like a coin. I pay my dues with it. That lighthouse I set before a lover— soul and sinew. I let the world be strange to itself. The moon takes no issue with the water inside.

Dining With The Stars by Charlie Baylis

I eat the moon with a dash of lemon juice, dripping over the palm of my hand there are green balloons that sit on the air in arcs I lick the light from my lips

Mid-Air by S.E. Street

gentle thunder rolls the waves away a whole row of Romans fall from red brick walls

A lie is like an egg mid-air and this one of yours I will not try to catch.

Dante takes the subway after dining on shrimp under the starlight all the corner shops are sleeping sometimes summer tastes of golden clouds peaches combing the wind’s fringe lovers untying rainbows

The City Of Glass People by Charles O’Hay

In the city of glass people everyone was polite but aloof. On the street they passed without touching and avoided situations that might draw crowds. Concerts and baseball had been outlawed years earlier. Still, there were accidents. Like the time Lucy chipped her lip on the ice. Or when Alice was shattered by a hailstone. Or when Duke stood too close to the fireplace and exploded. At the funeral everyone stood up and told a story about Duke. How smooth he was. How well he held his liquor. And how at dawn he liked to stand on his porch and catch the sun in the pontils of his eyes. His wife is still picking up the pieces.


Anniversary Of Falling In Love by Jessica Van de Kemp She calls me every year from a payphone. I know the town she’s in by the background noise: gravel road, corn rustle, North Ontario.

You Can Almost Hear Her Breathing by James Croal Jackson The empty canvas was a tiny fingerprint– a constellation.

“I can’t run anymore. I’m too old.” There’s a sense of danger like the smell of smoke.

Barrow House by Lorraine Carey

The cacophony skewered the morning as screeching gulls joined in with cawing crows as they circled the strand. The sand pitted from busy choughs with their tangerine beaks and matching feet in dizzying swirls, seeking rag worms. Safely distant from the man in waders bent over, a robotic bonsai picking October winkles. The twisty road coiled ahead, taking a footpath, whose edges crumbled like stale cake with gravelled icing.. A soothing wind folded bulrushes softly, the waltzing travelled with this breeze. Botanic ballerinas with loosened buns of green, swaying, haunting tugging on the quiet grief dormant in my marrow

Lover’s Graffiti by Tyler Wettig

It starts in the Salvation Army— a gangly man, chin dragging on the dirty floor, soft-shoes past ladies’ shoes and half-goose-steps past coats. John Fogerty’s Centerfield plays over the loudspeaker— Put me in, coach, I’m ready to play! At the end of a vapour trail of womanly essence, he happens upon a white shirt draped over a dressing-room door— batting an eye like he just pop-flied into the stratosphere, he bulls his way through the door toward a hopeful second base. He slides into shortstop, clad just one layer beyond his satisfaction. A glib apology masks his stymied libido as his saliva rewinds back into his mouth like the VHS tapes hanging from the ceiling near the hair curlers.

and I retraced my steps. 10

Ien rra

dsayr Valti a L Ce by

d e R

Scabs by Chip Skelton Bernie reached for the glass of water with his left hand, his right tucked in his lap, covered by a cloth napkin. He ignored the translucent flecks as he brought the beverage to his lips. A waitress floated outside, her movements mosquitoesque. She came to rest across the table. After scrunching up her face, she whipped out her order pad. “Cat?” she asked between gum smacks. Bernie didn’t look away from the bookstore across the street. “Pardon me?” The waitress waved her pencil about, indicating his face. “Tell her to fuck off.” The parts of his face unbound by BandAids flushed red, but he kept his eyes on the bookstore.

Bernie locked eyes with her. “What?” “I…” The girl stared at him, tilting her head to the side, her brow furrowed. She looked around, but Bernie was the only person seated beneath the awning. “What a retarded cow.” Tears flooded her eyes. The corners of her mouth quivered and sagged. A customer entered the bookstore, the door swinging shut behind him. Bernie saw hints of movement but no discernible shapes. The waitress sobbed. “Could I have more—?” Glancing to his left, Bernie realized the insect had departed. “Damn, Bernie. She’s dumb as your—”

People walked by it. Most were headed for the tiny bagel shop on the right. The brownstone on the left of the bookstore didn’t have a sign. Maybe it was a residence. The broken glass and security bars, along with the trash littering its grey steps made it look more like a crack house.

“Don’t say it!” he snapped. “Shut your damned hole.”

Her voice screeched. “What’d you say?”

He leaned forward, straining his neck to look up and down the street. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me?”

Bernie looked up at her. “Did you see my mouth move?” “No, but—” “Then why the hell are you askin’ me what I said?” She looked about nervously. “Stupid bitch.” The waitress jumped. She leaned in, studying his lips. Leaning back, she stole a glimpse under the table. 12

He took another sip of his water. When he looked across the street again the bookstore was gone.

Now the tiny bagel shop and the crack house were immediate neighbours. “Son of a bitch!” he said. Someone cleared their throat. Bernie frowned. Another lost opportunity. Another moment closer to death. He slammed the glass down on the table, water splashing everywhere. “Fuck!” Ah hem!

Looking to his left, he saw a well-dressed twenty-something with a man bun staring down at him.

Mal stepped back. “I’m gonna have to ask you—” Bernie stood abruptly, his chair scooting back loudly. Mal retreated two more steps hand raised over his hand. Beads of sweat popped up along his brow and upper lip.

“Pardon me, sir?” the young man began. He looked back at the door to the restaurant where the mosquito cowered. She pleaded him, nodding frantically toward Bernie. “Thing is, sir, I’m the manager, and—”

Reaching into his jacket pocket, Bernie produced his wallet. Unfolding it, he snapped out a hundred dollar bill.

“What’s the date?” The manager, at a loss for words, looked back at the waitress, who pointed at Bernie.

The manager’s face contorted in disgust as he caught sight of the massive, ugly scab on the back of Bernie’s hand.

Raising his left hand and both eyebrows, Bernie pursed his lips. “Well?”

The hundo fell from Bernie’s right hand, and fluttered in the wind before dropping to the table. He was already walking away.

The manager massaged his right earlobe. Leaning his head forward, Bernie spoke slowly. “What. Is. The. Date?” “Mal!” the waitress buzzed from the door frame. Poor Mal was trapped. They were probably knocking boots. She apparently wore the pants. Mal Man Bun shrugged ineffectively, and waived her to silence. She folded her arms across her chest, glowering in response. “What’s the damn date, you pussy?” Bernie smiled up at Mal, who reacted as though slapped. Angry and confused, the kid stole a glance under the table, then looked around searching for the source of the offending voice. Bernie smiled. He could see the manager trying to make sense of the mystery voice that sounded nothing like his. “There a problem?” “Uh…” Mal played with his earlobe with greater urgency. “It’s the seventeenth. Thursday.” “Damn,” Bernie hissed. Looking down at his lap, he said, “You set me up!”


Town Planner by Ronald Jackson

She reclines in the white tub, mute as a corpse at the bottom of a lake. He lies even more silent across the black tiles next to the tub. The Belladonna rests quiet in the blueberry bowl inside the humming fridge. Her body quivers and a single drop of bathwater splashes onto his opened bronze zipper as she removes her hand from between her thighs. The cat purrs almost inaudibly on the sill of the high window overlooking Lake Michigan, shaded purple in the creeping night. The first ninety-nine dwell soundless among the tea-red reeds in the relentless currents at the bottom of the deep inland sea. The little town of men she founded and fed. Population 100. Not a soul more.

Enlightenment by Charles O’Hay

Roy’s lamp never shut up. Even unplugged, it kept talking. One of its favourite topics was what it would do if it were God. Tests of loyalty, plagues of locusts, rivers of blood. It went on and on. One day Roy went to a store and brought home a new lamp. The old lamp became furious. “Thou shalt have no other lamps before me!” it shouted. But Roy set it out on the curb with the week’s trash. All night it cursed and ranted. When the garbage men hoisted it into the truck at dawn, Roy could hear it shouting. “I am the light of the world!”

A Bedtime Story For One by Roy Dorman

You fell asleep during my reading of the rough draft of the first chapter and unwittingly gave my novel its title.


Epistaxis by Natasha Mijares

This stream, never accident. Television flashes warm images, our eyes practice swimming. Into the engine, into the plane between us, into the timed deliveries, into the scheme of sighs. This stream, I cup with my hand because all my body knows is bottle. This stream, cannot explain. I always thought it was veins speaking out from under knitted skin. This stream a rolling die. Started to calculate which words would puncture a clot. Mortgage, mother, buckle, baby. This stream, staining my ashed caps. Your mouth tasted smoky afterwards, as if blood forgot oxygen. This stream, an opportunity for baptism. You lay your head on my thighs and I speak in water and gauze. This stream, a litany of labour. Each bead a blanket of god.

Setting Sun Victory Son by Steve Frosch

Across the Lake


by Lisa J. Roberts The Aqueduct, pregnant with water for a million flushed toilets, flirts with the freeway, turning near like the thigh of a lover, snaking back with coy laughter, dancing in the Valley fog. The Highway pushes forth, vibrating with the steady hum of rubber wheels, past cows velcroed to the sides of hills. Proud pecan trees stand stiff at attention in parallel beside the cold shoulder of the road. 16

by Samantha Fortenberry

All She Misses by Kerry Graham

The clouds convinced her to come. Ordinarily, he didn’t deserve her at sunrise. She keeps for herself on this most perfect time of day, this celebration of the sky: ripe slices of clementines, peaches, raspberries, even papaya, dripping along the horizon. Colours, always, that astonish, nourish her. But today, because grey cloaks this ceremony, she goes to him now. To get it over with.


by Kari Gunter-Seymour I could not manage the gloves, chunk after chunk, fresh-split firewood, that sliver sliding in unnoticed, but for a tiny tingle, in the struggle to keep up. It was not to be needled or tweezed besting me from all sides, my face sphinctered in concentration, sweat, setting myself down on the wedge planked floor. I day-dream the beach, your tiny boy legs brown, sand stamped, face striped with sun. I choke on clouds, thrown forward, your assault rifle cocked, cradled in the crook of your arm. Shrapnel, pinpricks grey and blue dot your cheek and brow, hollow pain that that cannot save. The numb sodality of death festers, fills your head with cruel grace, your memories impossibly wide.

“I PRed in my last half,” she tells him—not aloud, but in precise handwriting. As black letters glide across blue ribbon, she sees again the time that felt like triumph. After 13.1 miles, 1:42:16 pranced, red and straight-lined, above the finish line, and almost made her forget: before, running was never about enjoyment. It was exclusively for escape. “I got a promotion,” the black letters say next. Her manager told her what propelled her to this new position. Attention to detail. Mastery of Photoshop. Adherence to deadlines. But what about those childhood afternoons of ripped-out magazine advertisements, plastered to window panes? Her back on the floor. Eyes on the window. Heart on the lives lived in those advertisements. She recalls those years of yearning for a life not her own, and wonders at their power. “I bought a home.” She makes sure not to say house: assembled walls, floors and roof, sheltering people and memories unfit for, unwelcome in, a home. She wishes the words “home,” what she has given all to herself, and “house,” all he ever gave her, looked and sounded as far apart as they felt. She ties the ribbons around the stems, knowing now, after so many times, how to make sure the sentences show. Just like before, she leans the bouquet, accomplishments adorning wilting flowers, next to the second date. She turns away from the slab of slate and wonders if he knows: all she misses this morning is the sunrise. 17


by Margie K. P. Fudge As a feeling you’d so often attempted to stomp out, I make my entrance through a neglected scratch on the bottom of your foot. I’m sharp and small enough that you won’t notice my sinking into the callused flesh that holds your weight. In time, your skin closes over me. I dance with your blood cells, enhance my swimming abilities with your plasma, and lie to rest atop certain muscles when needed. Your narrow veins carry me through your legs and up to your hips, and as your heart beats, I grow. I make my way up through your legs and slither along the curve of your hips. The speed in which I’m slinking my way through your viscera is certainly high enough for you to notice that something is making you ill. In every quiver that your hands are quick to grab, I thrive. by the time I’m able to finally touch the bony enclosure that keeps your vitality oh so dear, I’m amusing myself by flighting in and out of the contraption. My hair tangles, coiling around each bone like a viscid, raven ribbon as I make my way upwards. I do have to say, your heartbeat, now only a millimetre away from my ears, is a sound I’ve much craved. To grasp it, to squeeze it, to taste it, is an urge I’ve dutifully spent time quieting. After all, to live in you is an astonishment because now I, too, am finally and fully alive. My fingernail finds its way inside your oesophagus, and I know I am on the home stretch. Your voice is at its peak with this movement, and as the decibels in your voice increase, so does my growth. I am caught still by my hair entangled in those captivating ribs, and my nails tear down your throat. I have no way to unwrap my hair though, so it is no surprise that as I continue to climb, I hear echoes of cracking below. Your screams are so loud, but as I continue to scale up your throat, a few fingers mistakenly pierce the soft, pink membrane from where your voice reverberated. Your sudden silence is almost more deafening. Finally, I see the light of the earth through the back of your mouth. I use one hand to reach outside of your lips and onto your face, and the other to hold onto your tongue for leverage to pull myself out. A smile crosses my face and I become smothered in my own giddiness at the closeness of it all. My joy is startled, though, when I begin to hear a thundering noise of what sounds like the earth splitting in two. Very quickly, as the air hits my blood-soaked face, I realize that this rumble was your skull making way for me. My head still heavy with rib fragments, I look down at the three pieces of your skeletal crown lying upon the sun-lit grass atop your entrails and clothes. “It looks like we’ve made it,” I say to your deflated lung. “I’ve made it.” You requested change and let me in. But the weight of your fear was heavier than your desire for light and the monster that is me began to manifest. You’ve let me become you, and I must say—it surely is a beautiful day for reinvention.

The Passing Reminder by Steve Frosch

Mutation II by Aris Katsilakis

Waste Management by Robert Lee Kendrick

to steal ten minutes away from the price gun & box cutter & Mr. Manigault’s managing eye & no talking unless a customer asks where’s my organic baby food/my free range duck / my biodynamic red kidney beans/my gourmet macrobiotic frozen burrito bites (boy)? I lift myself into the recycling dumpster & drive my boots into broken down boxes that once held dozens of cartons & cans identical disposable replaceable after stomp crush & kick in humid june sun I pause under a drizzle of crape myrtle petals then get out of the dumpster & into the dining patio trash take meat & carrots & kale & fresh whole grain bread & hide a feast by the fence for the brindle mutt that dens by the vacant mill down the block & slips through the chain link at night Manigault hates that freeloading son of a bitch 19

beautiful beyond understanding by Tara Isabel Zambrano

It is early when he stands at the intersection of 56th and K Ave, and squints into the soapy edge of the sky, his apartment keys dangling from a length of twine around his neck. The day transparent like silicone presses on him, squishy and fake. He bends in the awkward light, his shadow short and dim, waiting for the signal to change. A Ford sedan stops a few inches short of him, gunning its engine, pressing on its horn. Long ago, he liked the commotion and the sweat. The alleys drowning in brick-dust, the streetlights and the complicated sidewalks. Heaven turned upside down. Now it feels as though he is cheated out of heaven and can’t find anything to take its place. Maybe that is what garbage is. Garbage turned into grandeur. He closes his eyes, apologizes to himself as the shrill sound rushes past his ears. Then he looks at the dismantled sky, redirecting his gaze to the far end of the street. The angels dressed in white walk in the margins of his vision, calling his name. The wind reflected from their wings makes its way to him—reminding him of the broken furnace, the discharged cordless phone, and the empty prescription bottles lying on the sill, collecting dust. He recalls the white arctic of his bed, stuffed with insomniac dreams and the delirium of mental illness. Nothing is working, he murmurs, the why of life itching at him as the signal flashes and he starts walking, unconcerned with the car that revs in the background. He knows he has to make it to the other side, move from one cold box to another. Maybe there is a space where he can open his palms and collect the warmth that heals his scars and leaves no trace. Maybe there is a smile so bright and light that it fills his drug-shrivelled body so he can float again. Maybe he can disappear in a landscape far away, where there is a differentiation between love and despair. Where he can experience the procession of ordinary delights again, make sense of his ineffable existence, and realize that it is always short of grace, but beautiful beyond understanding. 20

Fortress by Len Kuntz

You are a window that I open to find another; somebody’s idea of a joke, a tease, a torture. I climb the chain-link and slice my legs on the razor wire, flop down on my solar plexus. Ollie Ollie, All in free! The wind is streaming, the motor’s revved. You couldn’t hear me if you wanted.

Still Life

by Diana Whiley


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erapy h t a m o i d I ergoes d n U n a M d l long Dirty O mouths. For as r ei th is s ur bo e. His view hern neigh

s distant Sout s other languag . envies about hi from mouth sores, aftas in hi h it has been forced to .M .O D g in th The one of Englis ’s suffered re, this country he ge for all of those mouthfuls W cafeteria whe e & K e th at ch as he’s lived in n n ve th is taking re gs and a refillabl , D.O.M. has lu is that his mou elief, for a taste of homespun ateful of chicken and dumplin e Roses across -r pl en from th swallow. For afta of a subway ride, he can get a iforms and wom the precise fit between un e ed ic n pr ai e st th t in for abou ouths, at by men a. Surrounded form in their m t in the southern-fried-butterglass of sweet te vels at how effortlessly words af r w ar at home in thei and y’alls that the street, he m e. As he listens, the drawls e people like them, he reasons, t ar ngu daydreams abou tongues and to r are music to his ears. If there Picking at the dumplings, he ai le. beaned-scented e them, such a thing is possib tremble. id , lips that never ts rt ou hu d t n’ an es do at mouths th e outh, a tongu a comfortable m 22

Dirty Old M an Teaches a Lesson in After weeks of an Life guish, D.O.M. replaces th with a slic

e thirty k batter imagines he’s ho y-powered one that fits insi -year-old brick-shaped electric de pe ld himself a baby ch ing a blue baby chick like th the palm of his hand. When ncil sharpener e ones his mothe he holds it, he ick. Today he n eeded to sharpe r story: Never repl n his pencils. Th used to buy him when he w ace anything un as e ba til it dies, no m atter how old an tteries have died. Moral of th e d ugly and unw ieldy he may be .

Island n a n o n a M gnitive Dirty Old is happening, co ot on grasp of what n

up, oses a use anger supp on. He pushes himself to book w comity ca be y gr an ts ger ge going ses him—ho D.O.M. no lon he usually has no idea what is hing that confu puts the book down et m so t ou d ab an s , es. He read rstand. He competence he doesn’t unde t but on its caus watches the sea his bewildermen rmism, for example—but still one where he was born. He ce against total nfo the st line of defen la devolves into co self on an island much like e th , ts si he m here and imagines hi es, the water laps closer to w do it s A level rising. ing chair. confusion, a read

Dirty Old Man Confirms That He Was

Once a Child

A few days ago D teacher, the on .O.M. received a Feliz Navid ly living person ad email from Herm who a child himself. According to H can talk about his childhood ano Andrés, his third grade enough. Picturi , and who at th er m an o Andrés ng himself thro ugh el Herman , D.O.M. was well-mannered e time was not childhood actu o , ally happened, that it is not so Andrés’s memories confirms to quiet, studious another countr me old man’s fa y, another langu D .O.M. that his nta age. El Herman What will happ o Andrés is his sy. When he was a child, he ha en when Herm wit d ano Andrés is n To protect him self against the o longer aroun ness. d lo Andrés’s message ss of his childho to send him C hr od , tapes another in all the words written in capita , D.O.M. prints copy after co istmas wishes? l letters. He tape to his journal, an py of Hermano s on the counter d in the kitchen to puts a third in his corresponde a copy to the wall of his stud y, nce folder. The read to his child last copy he puts ren.


Closet World by Cara Chamberlain

I hid in a dark box with only gold ribbons at the seams. Sealed in, I was beyond trouble, beyond capricious laws, edicts, and wars. I leaned back on the wall in the unmistakable closeness of shoes. I don’t know how much time passed—five minutes or an hour? Voices came from far away—as they do when you have a fever—and in a language I didn’t know.

Books About Eyes by Scott Sherman

I’m on top of you, my forearms are ash trays & coffee books about how to grind my bones into your back enough so that something interesting happens. I told you, made it abundantly clear that I can read into flinches, like an encyclopedia with one entry. You promised you’d been hit before your hand was soft & gentle, apologized for scars, cold finger tips. No. You haven’t. You’re on top of me & you ask me to tell you what I like. I twist your hair & pull you close, through clenched teeth tell you not to ask me that. You flinch, pull back against your irises coiling into green fangs & I feel at home.

The Unseen World Of Atoms by Charles O’Hay

“The conviction that motion pervaded all things, which was first realised with respect to the stellar universe, has now extended to the unseen world of atoms.” DIMITRI MENDELEEV (1889) They’d been sitting at the cafe all afternoon, he in his orange scarf and she in her blue mood. He tried magic tricks. First he pulled a lengthy apology from his throat, and used it to make the previous morning disappear. Then he spooned several doves from the sugar bowl. But her eyes remained rained-on birthday cakes. Finally, he said, “Watch, I’ll make my atoms move faster.” She watched as he picked up the creamer and set it down. “Nothing happened,” she said. “Sure it did, “ he said, “feel the cream.” She dipped a finger in and it burned. “Ow!” she said, “whaddya do that for?” Now he would have to apologize all over again. 24


by Jessica Gawinski


by Cara Chamberlain With a steady wind it’s 30 below. The St. Lawrence hefts house-sized chunks of ice. A gull skims channels, grooved black. The cathedral of Trois Pistoles gleams ironic, Zolaesque. As the Huron died of fever, did a great black-backed gull circle, like this one, scavenging? But the girls at the monastery embroidered the most beautiful flowers. Scarlet, teal, and gold. Frills, cups, and bells. Grasping stems, emerald sepals on a background of nightmare bordered in haemorrhage.

Morning Sun by Charlie Baylis

Like when you open the first page of a dream and find that it is empty nothing but black skies and solar rain the basket of night rocking the day away here are your fallen stars (brothers, sisters) hold my head still as I cry here you can claim what you came for (do not ask for it) a newborn child asleep on a ray of light morning sun painting her silver on the lonely sea I have a green leaf and a grain of salt (do not ask for it, it will come to you).


Mutation I 27

by Aris Katsilakis

First Taste by Anna Marie Laforest

Bending on knees as creaky as the lid of her satin-lined trunk, an old, old woman holds, in a last calm moment, her mother’s lavish bridal dress and long kid-leather gloves. Rows and rows of hand-sewn pearls—not, she thinks, unlike those I will see at the gates. She pulls the dress onto her knees and imagines the translucent gown she will wear as she dances toward the gates, tomorrow, perhaps. A gossamer of cobwebs over an autumn lawn, the gauzy stuff of a Shakespeare line, the fine tatting of faded Flanders lace. Or perhaps she will wear nothing, her soul naked as the old body they opened last week and closed a moment later in white defeat. Maybe the angels are the ones who wear the gowns. Her spotty hands are stiff and shaky as she presses the dress to her chest. In a second it feels too warm, but she lets her mother embrace her heart. “Vergheenee,” she hears, “Vergheenee, come in now, from play. It is time for the bath.” Always the bath before the story. “Splish-splash, splish-to-you,” her mother sings, busying herself at the sink, pinning her hair in circles while four-year-old Virginie sits in the tub up to her chest in water and steam and bubbles. “I need my little soaps!” the girl cries. Her mother gathers tiny travel soaps in boxes or paper wrappings from the cupboard and lines them along the edge of the tub. Now her mother’s hands wrap her in a towel and dry her off with tickles. “Dry, dry,” she sings, and pulls a clean nightgown, button pearls, from the drawer. That’s the thing, she thinks, picking up a glove and rubbing each pearl along the arm. If I can touch just one pearl on the gates, I’ll be allowed to go through. Some people have come up the steps. She waves them away, clutching at the whiteness, and she holds and holds. Such a gift, this holding. And here she thought she had nothing left to lose.


Dominatrix by Cesar Valtierra

Prick, Sting, Wait by Christina Dalcher

Some words are pinpricks the first time you hear them, the minutest of stings, nothing really. Like stepping on a bee when you ran through clover at Gran’s old house—running, running, running until the creature lurking in the grass penetrates the tender spot between your toes. You stop and register what happened, you think, oh, crap, I stepped on a bee and it’s going to hurt like hell in a minute. But it doesn’t hurt, not yet. The venom hasn’t had time to soak in. You stepped on a bee and it pricked you. You wait five seconds, ten. Wait for the poison to work its way through your tender flesh. Wait for your skin to swell and tighten in concentric circles radiating out from the locus of the intrusion.


by Steve Frosch

Wait with watering eyes as it seeps into you, sharpness giving way to a dull, persistent throb. Wait while Gran fetches ice from the kitchen to erase the pain. Wait, thinking the pressure inside you might build and build and build and have nowhere to go. Wait for the explosion. You’ve been there. You’ve felt the pinpricks that bloomed into searing, biting pain. When he said he wanted a divorce. When your doctor told you there was no heartbeat. When the phone interrupted dinner and Dad sobbed words almost unintelligible, except for “Mom” and “gone.” When you first heard the words “stage four.” These are the words that prick and sting and nip, the ones that make you blink like that bee you stepped on at Gran’s house, the ones that whisper, “you know it’s coming, wait for it.” The ones that ice can’t heal.


by Steve Frosch

The Egg of Egebeach by Ege Al’Bege 32

Meditation Dream #5 I am dressed in white, and so are the walls. They are high, twice as tall as me, and smooth, without seams, doors, or windows. I am in a maze, of the traditional sense. I don’t know how long I’ve been here. Maybe it’s forever. Maybe it’s sudden.

by Judy T. Oldfield

I go left again, and then right, and left and right so many times, I would have thought I would have gone in circles, but that is not the way of mazes. I am stopped at a pool. It is too long across to leap, and I must descend into it. I can see the steps leading down and again out the other side. I can see every small tile on its floor. It is clear like water, it is tasteless like water, but it is thick as mud. I try to wade across, and then to swim, and I can move only inches, when for the effort I’ve put forth, I should be at the other side by now. I sweat, and my muscles ache. My head slips under, and I inhale the substance. I thrash, pulling myself up, breathing air in gasps. I keep kicking, keep swimming, and I make it, hours later, to the other side. I look back, amazed that from here, it looks like just a clean, clear pool.

Before me is a rose bush. Its blossoms are perfect spirals, mathematics found in nature and all as it should be, evolved or intended. Puffs of petals amid hulking stems and thorns. I want to stay and care for it. Touch its petals, and gather them up as they fall, trembling, to the ground. I want to stay because I think I am supposed to want it. Because I like the idea of it. And who will tend to this rose bush if not me? Who will pull the weeds, prune the branches, fertilize the soil? But I feel, deep in my bones, a push. A pull. A deeper need. I inhale, sucking in my stomach, and squeeze past. A thorn snags on my dress, but I get by.

I have dried by the time I come to the patch of sunlight. Still, its rays feel good. The light, the vitamin D, penetrate my body. I close my eyes, and see red, not black, saturating my eyelids. My skin sparkles with warmth. I smile. I could stay here. I could curl up, like a napping housecat. I could do nothing, and relax, and perhaps someone else will come along, and I could ask them to stay with me. And then another and another. But I realize where this idea is headed. If I stay, I will be another fixture in this maze. I wonder if that is how the bear got here.

I walk, my bare feet in the endless, manicured grass until I come to a T, blocked by a brown bear. She snarls and shakes her head. Her wide mouth is bigger than my face, a gaping hole of spiked teeth and unwashed tongue. I try to swallow but my own small mouth is dry. I raise my hand, fingers spread and palm out. I dimly recall that this is not the thing to do to bears. There is a slight flutter to my fingertips and I try to steady myself. I inhale and exhale slowly, and look her in the eye, inviting her to dance. She raises her paw against my palm, and we turn, steps intricate, Regency-style, until I am past her.

And so I walk. More twists, and more turns.

I go left. I come to a bowl of blueberries on a pedestal. They are the biggest, plumpest blueberries I have ever seen. A rich, soulsatisfying bluish purple, they glisten with dew. My stomach leaps with anticipation. I am neither full nor hungry, but I want those blueberries like they are the key to life itself. I pick one up, and realize it is just an illusion. I pick another. I am searching in the basket for one that is real. I shake my head, release a guttural groan, and gnash my teeth. I retract my hand, and I force myself on.

I come to the heart of the maze. I know it is the heart. Or a heart. It is my heart. It is where I end. There is a book and I sign my name. There is a stone door, and I walk through.


The Thirteenth Ride by Holly Lyn Walrath

By the thirteenth time you ride it, the rollercoaster has no name. First you stand at the bottom and look up, up, up, and the sun hits you in the face, and the cold blue steel wavers with heat, and is so tall its unimaginable how something that windy and spirally could stand on its own. Then the ride goes by in a rush, people dangling in it like little puppets, feet lolling and heads rolling, and your stomach dips. There is a long wait. At first, the day is hot and you’ve been on many other roller coasters, but this is the biggest and baddest, so you wait patiently, eagerly watching the line turn. Inside the fake wooden shed it is cooler than the summer day, and the teenager behind the counter waves you lazily along, leaning his long haunches against the metal partitions. In front of you, a fat lady and a fat child scream. Behind you, a sullen teen yells at his brother to get off the rope, and snaps the button. The rope whips back and hits his brother. When you finally reach the ride, you scramble to get a good seat but wind up in the middle, which is the worst. Before you get in, you have to take off your jewellery. This is a serious rollercoaster. The first ride is so shocking you don’t even feel your feet leave the ground. Your stomach sits back at the booth where you got in, gaping at you and wondering why you abandoned it. More than 1,372 feet of pure acceleration. It’s so short you’re not sure it really happened, but you step off that metal carcass and float. Almost. “Let’s do it again,” someone says. You get back in line and wait, and there are little kids in line picking their noses, but that’s okay. The sullen teenager gives you a look that says, “Really?” And once more is never enough. After a few rides, you’ve got this down pat. You slip quickly under the rope in a strange version of the limbo. It’s cold on the platform. And you count. Five. Ten. Thirteen. It isn’t supposed to be the last ride, but when you get to the counter, the teen informs you the park is closing. He lets you in one last time. That ride is unsurpassed. You’re the only one, and you get the front seat. The sun is a burst plum and the wind is so cold your eyes well up. You close your eyes for the first time.


Emerald by Lily Wang

Notes dance up from the creek, gurgling over sunken pebbles. Leaves shiver with pleasure under the soft rain of morning light. Lilac petals swirl together under a flutter of newfound wings, a pool of milky tears, pastel memories. Time does not exist within this emerald realm, this emerald dream. Constellations dangle from branches, feet sparkling, eyes twinkling. Swinging, swinging. Mossy roots cradle the midnight moon in a promise, thawing the broken crescent. Luminescent, neon, shrouded in linen mist, the midnight moon pulses hazily. I’ve given all my love to you. Webs spun with honey, rubies and sapphires in the mud. A handful of garlic cloves, a handful of poetry. No breath, no beat, no pain beneath these sheets. Ghosts do not haunt this emerald realm, this emerald dream. No pockets for my hands, no pockets for my hope. Floating, floating, take with you my weight. Flutes hide behind chocolate bark, waiting for velvet lips. My music is not enough. I’ve given all my love to you. Lightning sleeps beneath rocks, heating the ground, disastrous in its beauty. Calligraphy drifts, thick and creamy, waiting for unspoken words. A trapeze dress made from a thousand dusty moths hangs upside down, nebulous. Humming, humming. Stitches do not hold together this emerald realm, this emerald dream. There is no fodder for emptiness. I’ve given all my love to you. There are no bones, this emerald realm. There is no fire, this emerald dream. There is no you.


In Memory Of The Taxi Driver Who Delivered Me To Denver International On Time by Carolyn Martin

Previously published in the Naugatuck River Review See that herd? she asks and throws a thumb at horses grazing off Route 70. They’re mine, she sighs and never slows. We’re racing toward the terminal and I am stressed from traffic, rain, and sleepless nights. Without a thought, I ask what’s with the knitted hat pulled tight above her bagging eyes. I know what it must mean and yet I’m thrown when she concedes she’s holding on until the colt arrives. In retrospect—after years away from hotel rooms, designer suits, and speeches to the business world— I wish we’d stopped the cab that afternoon. I wish I’d fed her mare a few consoling words.

Always A Bridesmaid by Roy Dorman

As the single rose is moved from the garden to a cut glass bud vase in the living room, the stem resigns itself to its continued supporting role.


Staying Together While Growing by Roy Dorman


There are times at breakfast the impatience growing in your eyes tells me I’ve let an anecdote go on far too long.

Some Shelter by Roy Dorman

Walking into a dive bar on an early Friday afternoon and hearing the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” calling to him from the juke box, he knows he’s destined to be there for “last call.”

The Scent of Peaches 37

by Samantha Fortenberry

Love Letter From A Parallel Universe by Sarina Bosco

Under a foreign set of constellations the freckles on your shoulders will fall another way entirely fracturing there, ricocheting off of each other. There was something about the poetry that felt just slightly off but perhaps this time around I will come fully into the pages or not at all. Possibly I will instead discover your tendons and the arch of your feet. Become a cartographer of stars and flesh. Someday I will write you a love letter and hide it in the brick walls where the mortar is crumbling. Walk me to my car because you want to. If some things must stay the same, let us keep the blood moon and perhaps the way you taste.

White Dwarf, Black Dwarf by Lakshmi Mitra

a star emits white light until the last cinch of universe puts it out—it falls inward, starving into a husk-dream i lived for a year in a roofless house with no casement and on a soulless night the trees caught fire, it was not quite winter, her heart was still too whole, heavy with blood it would be winter soon—the stars told me, in icy sibilants they wore their shrouds with hollow pride, like ancients of a forgotten race, burial lights to guard their own corpses the village had no name, they said a demon had stolen it i did not ask again, but when i came through the trees and looked back i was struck by the unholiness of it all the trees with their carnivorous grins, and the stars in all their dying glory, and i, my bones dry and licked of emotion my heart wrung clean of all lifeblood and tacked onto glass i kept her photograph by my mattress, and a note from her on a post-it, it said ‘i have stars in my eyes but you’re polaris’ the stars changed, i changed, but her eyes would become arid i wondered if the stars spoke to her as well, haunted her lungs chased her shadow into a deadening shell, a secret grave i wondered, but the stars wouldn’t show, wouldn’t tell a star emits no light, becomes indiscernible, none exist in our universe, none—but i. 38

Spacing Out by Jessica Gawinski

Lazy Afternoon

Mount Rainier

by Diana Whiley

by Liz Kellebrew

Granite shoulders like a Picasso portrait, Blue Period. Cloaked with snow, capped with a swoff of cloud, trees at its ankles a golden froth of maple sugar, and that silence—broken! Because groaning glaciers, calving into babbling streams, tumbling into gurgling rivers and crashing into roaring oceans, and this whole shouting planet of grasshoppers chirping and elk lowing and coyotes yip-yip-yowling and the fishermen coaxing their mermaids into rainbow nets of desire, because the starlings singing to children in the city and the oaks in Fremont cracking open those sidewalks with their wide black roots bursting out of every confining concrete wall and spilling over to fill the empty spaces left behind—! 40

5,482 Drawings of Anni Albers, “Untitled,” 1932 after Suzanne Bocanegra

by Natasha Mijares

this is the body of a woman weaved over and under

instruction for how to move how to behave

til it’s only the silhouette

spreading thin

it’s a score to be sung waxed system of parentheses

when there’s only patchwork each square a memory erased

a eulogy

then drawn then erased again

of frayed coils this is the story of shared language like a horizon standing up like an empire


The Knife

I cradled the knife, it’s sharp eye glinting, and dialed my mother.

by Jade T. Woodridge The knife was heavy in my hand, but not at all crude. It was the nice kind of knife; the kind with the leather handle, a bottle opener, scissors and a nail filer that folded neatly up into it. The leather handle was soft against my palm, a striking contrast to the cold silver blade, the knife tapering to a point that caught the light. turned it this way and that, pressing the tip gently with my finger, but it drew blood. Just a little bead of red. The knife was too heavy in my hand, but I could not put it down. I cradled it as gently as a baby, sometimes flipping its other tools out. But they never caught the light quite like the knife did. They never provoked the sense of precariousness. My husband had given me this gift with no words. It was presented in a fine box resting on a soft pillow of pink silk. How did he know that I wanted such an item? How did he know that I would never put it down? I sat in the living room with it now, resting in my hands, the faint sound of an infant’s wail in the back of my mind. It rarely quieted. I sang to it and hushed it but only momentarily did it silence, and the cold sense of dread welled up inside of me. Cold and terrifying like this knife. It always happened that at these moments my heart would ache terribly. My breath would come short and I could not help the crippling pain that assuaged my body. I was going to die. I was splitting in two. The screaming pain and fear I felt— I thrashed and writhed and suddenly, nothing. My husband whispers to me, “It’s a girl” and I hear her cry, then silence. Darkness. I wait for the pain to start all over again, but it gives me a little reprieve. Time to ponder. Time to forget. I should not have forgotten, but I cannot remember. Something should have been different. Something should have filled the silence and the emptiness. Normalcy choked me. From the couch I watched my husband read his newspaper, watch the T.V. The house, I cleaned and cooked and hummed to myself. At these moments of normalcy, I would hear her crying. I would follow the cry— that need-filled cry— arms aching, mind screaming along with her in pain. How did he know to use pink silk? 42

“I had a baby. It’s a girl” I said at the sound of her voice. She was silent. “Where is she?” I asked. “Oh, sweetie…” she said, quietly. Why could I remember nothing but that cry? “Its best that you don’t remember.” I was angry, then. I wanted to yell at her; to demand she tell me what she had done with my baby girl. “Get some rest,” she said, and I felt like a child again. I felt the smallness, the fragility, the helplessness, and I hung up. “It’s a girl” I told my husband. I remember his voice, the excitement in it as he announced this. A dream perhaps. It echoed over and over, bouncing off the pink padded walls of my mind. Why don’t I remember her? My husband does, I know it. Often would I see the illusion fade in his eyes; grey reality dragged his features and sucked his joy, but never knew why. He expected something, waited for something, listening for sounds that he’d never hear. He never looked at me or anyone the way he had in the past. It was as if the moment I opened my eyes and emerged from the darkness, he was gone from me. “It’s a girl” I repeated, and he looked away without a word. Silence was our life. Silence and emptiness. There were so many things that I did not understand. So many things that I should. There were no answers to her wailing in my head, or the ghost of pain from that other life. I was happy once, I remember. My husband lies in an ambient slumber in the bedroom and the knife is heavy in my hand. I hear it cry and I shush it. I hear it screaming louder and my heart aches. I am in pain and my soul aches. I want nothing more than to lift this blade and thrust it deep into my breast.

It Took You Eight Months To Leave Me by Jennifer Todhunter

t-8 I am broken when we meet, shattered by my husband’s sudden suicide. You are wrecked by a car crash you caused late at night in the wrong lane when you fell asleep. We end up riding the rails together by chance, gliding without an endpoint. Together, we self-medicate—pills, joints, booze, whatever. I can’t get over the loss and you can’t get over the guilt. So we live together, fractured.

robin’s eggs, and calf muscles like shelves when she wears three-inch stilettos. I watch her run a flush of fingers over your stomach, look on as she writhes against our burgundy sheets. She curls a hand through my hair, flicks her tongue inside my lips. I let her, just as I let you. I have nobody else. t-3 You get sober, become a man who believes in a being mightier than yourself and holier than me. I get drunk off bourbon one night reading magazines at the library because you won’t go out anymore. When I get home, you stare at me across the kitchen table while I concentrate on the roaches I left overflowing in the ashtray. Wishing they’d burst into flames and smother me with their smoke.

t-7 One night, when we’re wandering around the city we know better than we know each other, we find a hole-in-the-wall karaoke bar selling cheap beer. We watch people sing, listen to them laugh—we talk about the kind of ease they have with envy. Staggering home, we take turns lying in the middle of the road, singing “Loser” to see who lies down the longest. You have an affinity for abandon that I crave.

t-2 You land a job on the coast, tape a note to the bathroom mirror one morning to tell me we’re leaving. But this city houses all the nooks and crannies connecting me to my first husband. His vanilla-laced tobacco smoke, the auction house we frequented, the deli where we bought pork pies every Saturday. The smells and sights trigger memories even as they fade. You tell me you’ll delay leaving. For now.

t-6 I tell you I need you, that I want you to marry me. But it’s not you I want—it’s anyone. And it’s not a marriage I need. It’s an insurance policy forbidding loneliness. We drop acid one morning, and head down to city hall. I wear a polka dot dress that hits at the knee; you wear jeans and tails over an old Ramones shirt. A boy wrapped in a sandwich board takes our picture on your mobile.

t-1 I mainline vodka—in the shower, in my coffee cup covered with daisies, in the middle of the night when you’re snoring on the couch. It becomes my best friend. Watches Intervention with me and lets me think we’re better off.

t-5 The charges against you are dropped because your lawyer knows what he’s doing and the lawyer representing the husband of the young woman you killed does not. The dismissal rips you apart, and you spend days on the phone trying to convince the attorneys they were wrong—that you were wrong. When they won’t listen, you find someone who will. You bring other women into our house—an artist, a realtor, a pianist. I insist I don’t care about them. You’re mine, after all. I have the certificate to prove it.

t-0 I get hammered one night and scream about all the ways my first husband loved me more than you. I label you a killer—a murderer—and tell you what loss is like. How empty, and numb, and fucked up it can make you feel. I tell you loss encourages you to make bad decisions, and does its best to manipulate you. I tell you it’s the only reason I’m with you—the only reason we’re married. You sit there and take it like a coward, your face a wall of nothing.

t-4 You ask me to share our bed with a ballerina you meet at an NA meeting. She has nails the colour of

At dawn, I pass out. When I wake, you’re gone. 43

Roll The Bones by Tyler Wettig

There is implicit irony in traversing the weird world of an Indian restaurant on Thanksgiving— snapping tradition like Joe Theismann’s bird leg. The dust particles of our party’s content displaced as a vagabond enters with a how you doin’? hawk-eyeing the goat curry at the centre of the table, bones sticking out like a pestle and mortar— a symbolic encroachment upon our morality. He rattles his change-cup, and neurons in my brain begin to fire: high alert achieved as he goes to hustle near the buffet. I hide my empathy behind white knuckles as I recall hustling Tic-Tacs from CVS for a meal to be shared in Dad’s Ford Tempo and midnight ruminations on choosing between dish soap and toilet paper before declaring: fuck the band; I’m selling my synthesizer. Even in these days where the clouds seem to stay parted, I still find myself eyeing my own goat curry: that placebic, wanton sustenance— granulating ‘til death do us part.

Lipwarmth / Socks by James Croal Jackson

Teeth, meet the others. You’d think there’d be bones, skeleton mouth. Chapped lips fish-hook, look: chain fence– as long as the parts belong, each piece where it needs to be–

gt i e r r a o D Val

es C by


Trespass With A Backbeat by Robert Lee Kendrick

night drops a shuffle on its one loose string a vamp for the stray dog moon my boots lay a mud suck beat on the creek bank & the black water bottleneck slides over rock moss drops double stops by the shagbark hickory I got a sweet brown bucket of tender bruised fruit t-bones & rib fat & molded bread all shook down on the ground’s damp must some blues for the possum some boogie for the bad cat some creek skunk drag & the dry leaves sing you got no more truck with the mouths in the trees no more in your bucket no reason to be so get gone boy get gone


by Cesar Valtierra

Song So Delicate

by Steve Frosch


by Lisa J. Roberts Jutting budding breasts toward the mute glass, she admires becoming, striking a pose, copying countless idols forbidden by modesty and her mother, who never understands. Quickly deflating when Mother glides in —only primping her hair, nothing to see here— Silent, she slips away, foraging out front for freedom from clinging arms. A teenage boy struts the sullen sidewalk. She merits his measuring gaze, appraising. Mortified, she jellies inside, shrinking within, face flushed with confusion. Shakily she sighs, rushing to refuge, the encircling arms of her mother, who always understands, receiving her breast, proffering arms that uplift her.


by Tara Bradford He thought she would like it. Ripped at the roots and dangling in his dirt-encrusted hand. The petals still crisp and stained, colour bright like light had caught it shining from behind. He picked two, three, four more, bunched them together with twine, and sang, twisting in time to the gurgling in his throat. She accepted them but their sweet-scented stems stuck like spit in her mouth. Swallowing it down, her glottal opened in thanks, and he felt pleased with himself. Watching as she handled freshly torn twigs and filled a long, thin drinking glass with water. Watching as she squeezed the fleshy green ends so they’d slip into the narrow opening. They sprawled out in colours thrown together. And sat precariously on a shelf in a bedroom where light did not get to them. Even if it had, they would not have lasted long. Colours blended to black, and in shadow the petals swayed in the darkness. White and red and orange and pink, to a moving swarm of uncertainty. To segmented disjointed limbs joined with threads of body, of abdomen, of wing and spine. The fury in the flower. From pistil to petal to leaf. Pulling and tearing. He loves me not. She slept and did not see the flowers turn black. Did not see their mass of bodies crawl out of colour. Seep out of the scented bouquet and crawl over counter and cupboard and floor. They filled open drawers, their tiny mouths open and tasting cotton bleached clean. A river of black gushing forth into her world. They crawled over the carpet, up the skirt of her bed. They turned her sheets into a bou-


quet of tousled movement and did not stop under the eyes of the unbelieving, blinking stars. They found sweet skin sleeping soft and waiting for their hundreds and thousands of arms and legs. They crawled over her in hoards. They found the crevice of her arm pressed close to her body and trickled like sweat along her stomach. She awoke to a mass of crawling ants. They found her face. Her mouth fell open in a large drawn breath, silent but speaking through eyes squeezed tight, pulled wide. They were an unbroken stream of assault finding the holes of her nostrils and her ears. They crawled, filling her with their insect bodies. Stopping her sense of smell, impairing her idea of the world around her. Turning colour into a gushing blur. She did not want the flowers, the insects, the feel of their skin—thick and hard with skeleton— against hers. She wiped at herself until they fell in little black spots into the floor. She ran her fingers through her hair and into the crevices of her body, pulling at the foreign bodies with pinching fingers. When finally she felt free of their tiny insect legs and heads, she crawled between newly-bleached sheets. She could not sleep. She turned her head; saw the flowers, petals shred and stems dried. She saw their death, and that’s when she heard it: a muffling in her head, bodies crawling over bodies. It was the sound of the ants, as they picked through her thoughts and plucked them out, one by one, until she lay thoughtless on the bed—an empty shell of what she once was.

Blooming Vine Leaves The poetry and prose on these pages are by writers who are 17 years old or younger.


by Meghana Mysore I cut my meatloaf with words, lather my bread with commas. Mother’s eyes are bullets setting fire to tablecloth. My cheeks bulge with footnotes too inky to swallow. I hide them under my tongue. You’re growing up, she says, right before my eyes. Soon you’ll be on your own. I nod, smile, get up, scurry to the bathroom, wash my face, dirtied with the secrets of a thousand buried manuscripts. Eyes like typewriters. Mouth a pulsing cavity. I hear sounds: muffled screams, a wail. Mother knocks on door. You okay? What’s that sound? I vomit dusty pages into the sink, eyes cave into themselves, become mouldy fables. Are you okay?

A Renewal by Anala

i. if we were art, baby, we would be marionettes, too wound up in each other’s strings dancing in rhythm, to the f a d i n g tune. ii. coffee stains saltwater droplets on the ink decorated papernow blots instead of words. iii. how easy it is to erase sunsets and long walks on snow covered sidewalks, how easy it is to erase the memories of wet pillows and heartbreaks. all it takes is your arms around me.

I don’t answer. I will throw away what I cannot not hide. I open the lid of the trash can, find a poem curled into itself like a human body. The words are asleep, dormant on the page. I close the lid. Soon I’ll wake them. Not yet. 48

Notes in a train station by Audrey Spensley

These are engines we cobble together like a sculpture of heartbreak. My throat is crammed with sunlight & smoke: the train is sagging

Daisy Chain by Tae Oliver

i. Each kiss was like the creak of the bathroom door slow, careful but somehow still irritating

in the station like a legless animal: a man bends over his honeyed violin & sucks music from its wood. This is the root of a city. A single blossoming weed. This. To stop the suction you have to pop the soap bubble. The entire globe of it. The train punches the tracks like an old boxing reel. A mother pinches her child like a nerve ending. Why do you have to be so argumentative? Everything is similar to magic in that it has no reasoning. I want seat cushions flushing

ii. Each time we held hands I could feel how uncomfortable you were iii. Each time you looked at me your eyes screamed goodbye iv. Each day after your departure my heart once on a pedestal plummeted to the barren ground

through my skin, bloodless & soft.

Hypnic Jerk by Anya Simons

The stillness is humming Like the ringing in my eyes When my nightmares are over.

Amazon Woman by Gianna Baez

Standing, on the edge of the mountain Breasts exposed to the night. nipples, moon bathed in silver. arms extended, waiting for wings, ready to fly. 49

Anala, from India has just successfully finished her high school. She is fond of chocolate cakes, cats, feathers, clouds and pillows, and spends most of her time believing in impossible, unreal, random things; the rest she spends in learning new languages and other equally tedious, but enjoyable things. Anna Marie Laforest is the author of the memoir Breath by Breath: Growing Up during My Mother’s Polio Years, 19541967. She has a collection of short stories entitled Little Comedies About Death forthcoming in June 2016. Anya Simons has been a writer since kindergarten, working on that elusive bestseller. She is currently writing one ninebook series, one novel, and any number of poems. In her spare time, she does schoolwork and battles medical problems. Anya became a writer so that she could move to Tahiti, where she plans to be rich and laugh at her family from afar. Aris Katsilakis: Born in 1974 in Romania from Greek parents. Repatriated to Greece in 1980 and since then he lives and works in Serres. In 1998 he enrolled at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Tinos (marble sculpture). He graduated with a scholarship to continue his studies at the Athens Faculty of Fine Arts. He has presented his work in three solo exhibitions and numerous group exhibitions. From 2007 to 2011 he taught sculpture as a Lecturer in the Department of Sculpture of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Western Macedonia, and since 2011 teaches Plastic and Pottery as a laboratory assistant in TEI Serres. Audrey Spensley is a 17-year-old senior from Avon Lake, Ohio. Her work has previously been published in Magma, Crashtest, and The Best Teen Writing of 2015, among others. She was a YoungArts Foundation Finalist and Foyle Young Poet of the Year and is a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal. Cara Chamberlain is the author of three books of poetry, Hidden Things (2009), The Divine Botany (2015), and Lament of the Antichrist in a Secular World and Other Poems (forthcoming in 2017). Her work has appeared in Boston Review, Crab Orchard Review, Tar River Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Southern Review, and other journals. She has received four Pushcart Prize nominations and has recently been featured in Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. Carolyn Martin: After sixteen years in academia and twenty-four in business, Carolyn Martin is happily retired in Clackamas, Oregon where she gardens, writes, and plays with creative friends. Her poems have appeared in publications across the US and UK, and her second poetry collection, The Way a Woman Knows, was released in 2015 by The Poetry Box, Portland, Oregon ( Since the only poem she wrote in high school was red-pencilled “extremely maudlin,” she is still amazed she has continued to write. Cesar Valtierra is a graphic designer from El Paso, TX, with 10-plus years experience. Charles O’Hay is the author of two collections of poems— Far from Luck (2011) and Smoking in Elevators (2014)—both from Lucky Bat Books. His work has appeared in over 125 literary journals, including New York Quarterly, Cortland Review, and Gargoyle. Charlie Baylis lives in Spain. He has done critical writing for Stride, Neon, and Sabotage Reviews. His creative writing has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, the Forward Prize and for Queen´s Ferry Press´s Best Small Fictions. He was (very briefly) a flash fiction editor for Litro. Elizabeth, his debut pamphlet, is out now on Agave Press. He spends his spare time completely adrift from reality.

Holly Lyn Walrath’s flash fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Grievous Angels, The Vestal Review, and Literary Orphans among others. She lives in Seabrook Texas, just five minutes from NASA. She wrangles writers as a freelance editor and volunteers as the associate director of Writespace, a non-profit literary centre in Houston, Texas. She is into abstractionism, geekery, self-aggrandizing statements, feminism, dystopia, and cats. Jade T. Woodridge graduated from Seton Hill University with a B.A. in English Literature. Her early poetry has been published in youth journals and anthologies such as Celebration of Writing, and Inspirations: Young American Poetry Digest during her adolescence. Most recently, she has been published in the Fall 2015 issue of the Chiron Review and the Spring 2016 issue of WitchWork Magazine. James Croal Jackson is a writer, filmmaker, and occasional rapper. His poetry has recently appeared in Skylark Review, Thin Air Magazine, and Kaaterskill Basin. He enjoys racquetball, vodka, and electronic music. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, USA. Find out more at Jennifer Todhunter is a number nerd by day, word fiddler at night. She enjoys dark salty chocolate and running top speed in the other direction. Find her at or on Twitter @JenTod_. Jenny Qi is a writer and scientist in San Francisco. Her essays and poems have appeared in various news outlets and journals, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, the Intima, and Rattle. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Website: Jessica Gawinski: Originally from Clinton Township, Michigan, Jessica currently resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in Illustration at Kendall College of Art and Design. Her artwork has been displayed in various magazines and exhibitions, including the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Exhibition, been auctioned off at charity events, and can be found in several private collections. Jessica Van de Kemp (BA, B.Ed, MA) is the author of the poetry chapbook Spirit Light (The Steel Chisel, 2015). Her poem, Slant of the Girl, was shortlisted for the 2015 Montreal International Poetry Prize. The recipient of a BlackBerry Graduate Scholarship in English Language and Literature and the winner of a TA Award for Excellence in Teaching, Jessica is currently pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Waterloo. You can find Jessica at, or on Twitter @jess_vdk. Judy T. Oldfield’s work has appeared in JMWW, The Portland Review, Gravel, Dirty Chai, and others. She grew up near Detroit, MI and then attended Western Michigan University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Comparative Religion. Judy now lives in Seattle, WA, where she is engaged in an ongoing battle with the invasive Himalayan blackberries growing in her backyard. Kari Gunter-Seymour is a poet, photographer and graphic designer. Her work appears in several publications including, Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, Chiron Review, and The LA Times. She is the founder/curator of the Women of Appalachia Project, which celebrates Appalachia’s visual, literary and performing women artists ( Kerry Graham lives, teaches, writes, runs, and photographs in Baltimore, MD. Her work has appeared in The Blue Hour, The Three Quarter Review, Spry, elephant journal, and A Quiet Courage, among others. Kerry believes in the power of story-telling, and is grateful for opportunities to share hers. She hopes her severe case of wanderlust never fades.

Chip Skelton woke to his love of writing late in life. An artist by genetics and hard work, he has written two novels and numerous short stories in the last five years, making up for lost time as his family and responsibilities have allowed. He is in the process of self-publishing his first two novels, Tommy Puck and the Prince of Elves, a YA steampunk fantasy, and Dead: Zombie Hitman Blues, an urban horror/fantasy.

Lakshmi Mitra is a 19-year-old college student living in Kolkata who occasionally frustrates herself into a bout of writing. When not doing so, she can be found reading, studying, craving sleep, and complaining. She is mostly polite, a lousy conversationalist, and doesn’t like sudden movements. Therefore, it comes as a great surprise to her that her cats still don’t like her. She blogs at

Christina Dalcher writes novels and flash fiction from her home in the American South. Find her at ChristinaDalcher. com or on Twitter @CVDalcher. Or hiding in a beehive. You can read her short work in Zetetic, Pidgeonholes, and Syntax Salt, among other corners of the literary ether.

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State, an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans, and the author of I’m Not Supposed to be Here and Neither are You out now from Unknown Press. You can also find him at

Christopher J. Driscoll was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Chris is currently a student at the University of Victoria completing his undergraduate degree in psychology. He started writing in high school, writing plays for his drama classes. Since then, Chris has begun to focus on poetry and short fiction as his mediums of choice. He is very excited to be included in this edition of Vine Leaves. Diana Whiley: A digital artist and writer. Diana’s inspiration comes from nature and its symphony of colour, of season and time, and she considers its impact on our body and psyche as it transforms. She likes to bring elements of texture into her art. As a fantasy writer, she looks to our sense of the past and how it impacts on our present; our dreams. She was won online art awards, has book covers published and now experiments in art and design. Ege Al’Bege is a painter from Miami Beach Florida currently living in LA. Gianna Baez is a 16 year old junior in a high school in NYC. Writing, especially poetry, is her greatest passion and escape from a hectic reality. She loves to write about topics that reflect her feminist views and show the beauty of humans so undermined in society. This piece was inspired by a feminist novel. Gustavo Pérez Firmat, a writer and scholar, is the author of several collections of poetry in Spanish and English, among them The Last Exile (2016), Scar Tissue (2005), and Bilingual Blues (1995). His books of literary and cultural criticism include A Cuban in Mayberry (2014), Life on the Hyphen (2012), Tongue Ties (2003), and Next Year in Cuba (2000). He teaches at Columbia University and divides his time between New York City and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Website:

Lily Wang is a first-year student at the University of Toronto. She should be studying for her finals, but all she wants to do is write. Lisa J. Roberts: Having worn many hats in life, Lisa is a published writer and poet, as well as a former computer scientist at a U.S. national laboratory. These days, she homeschools her three children, and sometimes uses them for inspiration in her poems. While her early training in poetry involved rhymed and metered works, today Lisa focuses primarily on alliteration, metaphor, and simile. Beowulf is a perennial favourite at her house, as well as Shakespeare and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Inspired by these traditional influences, Lisa hopes to enkindle a rebirth of appreciation for more time-honoured poetry techniques. Liz Kellebrew’s work has been published in Section 8 Magazine, Elohi Gadugi, Mount Island, and The Pitkin Review. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Lorraine Carey has had poetry published in The Honest Ulsterman, The Derry Journal, Poets and Dreamers (an anthology of poetry) Greenpeace literature and various British independent publications. She was shortlisted in The Originals category at Listowel Writers’ Week 2015 and is presently working on her first poetry collection. She lives with her husband and four children in County Kerry. Marc Swan lives in Portland, Maine; poems recently published in Poet Lore, Big Muddy, Gargoyle, Poetry NZ, Toad Suck Review, Westerly (Aus), among others. Tall-lighthouse Press in London, England published his last two poetry collections: In a Distinct Minor Key (2007) and Simple Distraction (2009).

Margie K. P. Fudge is a 25-year-old woman. She lives in a tiny town in Michigan (USA) that no one likes. When she’s not ripping people apart on paper, she provides mediocre customer service for a chair company. She spends her free time singing songs in the tune of Eddie Vedder to soothe her new baby and furiously wonders where her boyfriend continues to gather so much patience from. Meghana Mysore is a senior at Lake Oswego High School. She is a Scholastic National Medallist for poetry and writing portfolio and her work appears in Alexandria Quarterly, Burningword, Crack the Spine, Third Wednesday and more, and has also been recognized by Hollins University and The Adroit Journal. Mollie Yang is a performer and writer currently based in Melbourne, Australia. You can find more examples of her work at Natasha Mijares is an MFA candidate in Writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She received her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Miami. She has been published in Elysium Literary Magazine, BAOBAB, and Bear Review. She also participated in a fellowship at the New York Summer Writer’s Institute and Everglades Wilderness Writers. Patrick Venturella is a writer and poet living in Cincinnati, OH. His work has previously appeared in Rust+Moth, Fifth Wednesday Journal, The Boiler and other online and print publications. You can find him on Twitter @p_venturella or on Medium @JPV_64. Robert Lee Kendrick lives in Clemson, South Carolina. He has previously published, or has work forthcoming, in Louisiana Literature, South Carolina Review, The James Dickey Review, Chiron Review, and Main Street Rag. His chapbook, Winter Skin, is forthcoming in June 2016 from Main Street Rag Publishing. He grinds bandwidth on Twitter @RobertKendrick_. Ronald Jackson writes stories, poems, and non-fiction. His work has appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, Gateway Review, Kentucky Review, North Carolina Literary Review, Prime Number Magazine, Tar River Poetry, and other venues. He lives in Durham, North Carolina. Recognitions include honourable mention in the 2012 Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition, third prize in Prime Number Magazine’s 2014 flash fiction competition, honourable mention in the 2014 New Millennium Writings short-short fiction competition, and finalist for the 2016 Lamar York Prize in Non-Fiction. Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for over 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had flash fiction and poetry published recently in One Sentence Poems, The Fable Online, Flash Fiction Press, Theme of Absence, Drunk Monkeys, Birds Piled Loosely, Burningword Literary Journal, Black Petals, Mulberry Fork Review, Yellow Mama, and a number of other online journals. S.E. Street’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry has been published in Australia, New Zealand and in the United States. She is recipient of The Dymocks Short Story Prize for fiction, the 2014 Hunter Writers Award and the 2014 SCWC HARP winner for poetry. Samantha Fortenberry is a photographer from a small town in Northern Alabama. She currently studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Ever since high school she’s taken a passion to photography and photographs various subjects from surreal landscapes to fine art nudes and everything in between. Sarina Bosco is a chronic New Englander. When not writing or reading, she spends her time hiking the surrounding trails and trying to perfect tomato bisque. Her work has previously appeared in Corium Magazine, Wildness, Cider Press Review, and others. Saxby Pridmore is an academic psychiatrist at the University of Tasmania. He was born in Hobart and has spent most of his life in that state. He is married to Mary (PhD, Fine Arts) and they have two children, Emma and William, and they are all very understanding. He has a collected works, which is to be published by Lacuna Publishing (Sydney) in July. Scott Sherman is a graduate of Ursinus College, where he earned his BA in English. He has been writing poetry for six years, and his work often focuses on abstract depictions of his youth, dreams, and relationships. He breathes nostalgia, and tries to include his past into the majority of his writing. Steve Frosch has been a photographer for a number of years. He finds the best images while walking forest trails, the rustic countryside, and places far from the glow of a city. For Steve, the ability to receive a moment and understand the message is very important. Sharing those moments is a great joy for him. He has been published in a number of online and print magazines. Steve currently resides in Wisconsin, USA. When not spending time with his family or working with technology for his daily bread, he is wandering the wilds looking for an image to take home. Tara Bradford is an international teacher with itchy feet and busy fingers. Having found inspiration in Japan, England, and Kuwait, she is now venturing to Ukraine to see what new stories the ‘Old Country’ will reveal to her. Because of this insatiable need for travel and exploration, her stories are often tempered with messages of love, acceptance, and the communal human soul. Find Tara on Instagram @tarajeana or her website Tara Isabel Zambrano lives in Texas, USA with her husband and two teenage kids. Her work has been published, or is forthcoming, in Parcel, Moon City Review, Juked and other journals. She is an Electrical Engineer by profession. Tyler Wettig resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he studies English at Eastern Michigan University.