This month’s artwork is by Fabio Sassi
by Jack Caulfield
As the water rose and overwhelmed us, we found that more living things were left in it than we had anticipated. We had poisoned the seas first inadvertently and then deliberately, fearing retribution for our initial error and seeking in place of clemency the annihilation of the atrocity’s would-be avengers. Yet here they were, the writhing masses.
by Terry Cree
He is at the stage when girls his own age have changed shape and turned into something untouchable a long, long way away. They all have laughs that can wound or even kill. He and the friends he doesn’t like very much kick holes in fences, wrestle each other into headlocks, smell like cured meat. The future that people talk about is like the weather forecast; it might not happen but it probably will. In the bathroom mirror, he tries by small adjustments over many days and months to sort out the mess.
by Renee Reeves
Emmaline was still doing her calculus homework when the moon rose. She could hear them in the darkness, crying in the woods that ran, vein-like, through the suburban neighborhood. The popular girls, cavorting in their wolf forms, sang harmonies to the harvest moon. She longed to hear paws scratching against the door, feel dank wolf breath against her skin, but she was too tame to run for them. Perhaps, on a night she was feeling brave, she’d walk into the woods and call it an audition. Tonight, Emmaline closed the window and reached for her headphones.
by Abigail Skinner
She was a flower once. The hurricane came, ripped her up, tossed her around, and displaced her for miles and miles. She began to follow the wind, here, there, everywhere, and back again. She would pass the other flowers – their feet in the dirt, roots holding firm – and laugh with feral glee to leave them behind. Free, she saw wonders, met strangers, and wearied her bones, until an odd wind brought her here. Now the wind calls to her again – teases, pushes, pulls, and blusters. She stands in the yard, buries her feet, and prays for growth.
by Danielle Burnette
While strolling past a jewelry store, you wonder aloud about the job opportunity in Copenhagen. About bicycling every day to work and learning to love rye bread. I need a change, you say. You deserve a gift, he says and steers you into the store. He guesses which bracelet you like before you pick it. He knows you love turtles, especially golden ones with zirconia-crusted shells. They conga a ceaseless line around your wrist—one bedazzling dancer for each year he hasn’t proposed. A sign, perhaps, of how much he loves you.
Amazing Bike Ride
by Charles Gray
I’m pedaling through the park, watching ducks, and enjoying the smell of grilled steak, when four cyclists whiz by me. Pissed off by their rude behavior, my rental transforms into an Arabian horse. I kick her into an all out sprint, grab the reins, stand on her back, and feel the wind. She gallops through their slipstream and tramples them. Bikes flip, riders tumble, tires mangle. I cross the finish line, the winner. The crowd applauds. I take my bows. Then I open my eyes and see them in the distance, their muscular calves pumping, like pistons, a perpetual machine.
New Year’s Resolution
by Rich Gravelin
My resolution was decluttering, but it was disingenuous; I’d carried an unofficial obsessiveness diagnosis for years. Christmas was hardest; unlit pine candles and dusty tomtes flanked an artificial tree that lost needles anyway. I rarely read cards upon receipt; too busy whisking them from envelope to bookshelf. Cleanup was easier — sweeping into squared piles more efficient — but the photo of mom and me dancing at the wedding re-emerged. Two Christmases have passed since I phoned goodbye from an airport terminal. “We all die alone, anyway,” she said when I asked to come earlier, but I never believed she meant it.
This week’s artwork is “Fading Identities” by Fabio Sassi
A Single Man Visiting Seattle
by Gregory Ramirez
Not bad, you utter as the man onstage sings Elvis. Your sister’s friend stands up, her hand out to you. Go ahead. Take it. It’s just a dance. What starts as a waltz changes once she draws closer to you, her hands wrapped behind your neck, her head pressed to your chest. Your sister’s graduation happened earlier today, and the dinner finished a few hours ago. You fly back tomorrow to California, returning to its drought, leaving the drizzle outside. Deprived of affection, committed to avoiding a one-night stand, you think to yourself, Please keep singing, please keep singing.
by Erika Price
I would curl up with grief whenever I thought he was leaving. I would hold my hands against my chest or strike my head against the wall, my face contorted as the cries came out, knowing it was wrong and manipulative, unable to stop. I am sure that I tormented him. It was only after I left that he began to torment me. He would sit in the parking lot outside my window, curled up like a hurt child, mewling and begging for cars to strike him. His pain made me feel strong, but not at all safe.
by Jason VanFossen
I stabbed my finger with his gold embroidery needle. Instead of testing the iron in my blood, I tested the gold in his needle. Now every time my right thumb touches anything, I feel the prick where my blood fell out. Michael took everything except his embroidery kit and that pillow he made for our one-year anniversary that read “Forever.” In the sunlight of morning, the steam from my coffee dances into nothing. I feel a slight pain when, after another sip, I swipe right. Forever is a short time.
by Lisa Rehfuss
It’s 5:55pm, and he’s where he has stood every night since I started taking the subway. His job is to check subway passes. The purpose is to move people through the turnstiles quickly. I smile and say hello, as I have every night for a year. He never responds. He can’t seem to find it in himself to talk to anyone who is not beautiful. I constantly remind myself there is nothing being gained or lost with a simple ‘hello’. He can treat me like the invisible woman, but I will not, and do not, step quietly through his world.
by Mercedes Lawry
She gave that flinty smile before she drove away. The boy felt his stomach drop and a chilled hand curved around his heart and squeezed. She was gone again, mother or not.
He was staying here, without her and anything that smelled of comfort. I am less than that pile of dirt by the steps, he thought, I’m just an outline, nothing she needs to keep close. The dark was coming now, pushing into the blue-gold sky and he stood watching with the flimsy hope that he too would be swallowed up.
by Michael Kulp
The laborer blinked away sweat and pulled another handful of the Rich Man’s crop. His unfettered mind dulled the grinding sameness with vivid fantasies of a soft future. Calloused hands did the work, and he counted his dreams and regrets. Weeks metastasized into years. He saw his children, then grandchildren, grow and leave. They had no callouses on their hands, and he was worried. Would they amount to anything? At last, as he sighed away his dying breaths, his fading mind felt the gentle caresses from those many soft hands. He had made them soft. And he finished without regrets.