by Gage Banks
Decades of growth led to a beautiful forest blossoming along the clouds. Shrubbery, so vibrant yet calm. Footsteps among the wood are not heard but felt under the ground through thousands of sap-filled veins.
Elder trees speaking through the roots, telling tales of fallen friends. Some speak of men with spinning maws. Maws biting and ripping the flesh and bone of wooded kin, leaving a spray of arboreal viscera. Limbs split in twain, burnt to ash like old garbage
Minutes of pain, thrown to the ever-hungry flame. No stories to tell, only crackles of charred limbs torn from elder trees.
Sleek, cold bar under her right hand. Legs bent at an odd angle. The tips of her toes pointed to the floor. One breath of air, then two. The mirror reflected her face. Her tired smile. Thin, rosy cheeks. Hair in a tight bun, her fly-aways slicked back.
One breath, two. Her tutu felt soft on her hand. Her arm lifted over her head, her legs went down in a plie position. Her ankles cracked. She fell down the rabbit hole. Dust, that’s the only thing left of her now.
by Yash Seyedbagheri
I carry the eggs home.
When I open, rows of white ovals stare up at me. Except for two cracked open.
So much for a dozen.
There are ten eggs. I have to make them last a week. Along with the remnants of an onion, some sardines.
I pick up the fragments of shell as if I can put it all together again. Sweep away the temper, the reduced salaries, the subtraction. Fridges rife with expensive booze.
Now, the yolks glimmer, naked, unabashed.
I get a spoon. Take my first bite.
It’s a little cold. Raw. A beginning.
by Tim Boiteau
After he doused her with the pot of boiling water, he fled from the screams, drove for hours, mind a white haze. Pulled over at a grocery store several states over and wandered the aisles. Filled up his cart with Vienna sausage tins. The sound of them clattering together soothed his nerves.
“I didn’t really.”
He paid, loaded all those cans into his car. Headed back home, picturing the broth sloshing over those pink tubes of boiled meat.
His wife was gone.
Must’ve imagined it.
Except for the cold puddle on the floor.
The Owls Go Round
by LM Zaerr
Antibiotic ointment glistens on his bald head, but the gash won’t heal. “Mary? Did you feed the chickens?”
“I’m not Mary.”
He scritches a fingernail on the kitchen table and chips off another piece of varnish. The patch of raw wood grows. He rotates his coffee mug, gritting the remaining varnish. Ceramic owls glide round and round, winging me back, from granddaughter to sister. “Neighbor’s windmill squeals like a stuck pig. He won’t fix it. I’ll climb up in the night with a bucket of oil.”
The crack in his mind sends his past flooding over me, an unexpected blessing.
Waking to the nothingness, there is void outside the viewport and a deep space emptiness within us.
“Take me away from it all,” you said, desperate, and so here we are, on a one-way trip to the research station on Titan. Now you’re bored already, blame me for losing the social life you didn’t want, and dread the routine of the work to come.
We’re both carefully avoiding saying that we can’t see an endless future together, even as we head relentlessly towards it.
Desolate, I’m trying to decide which of us, if either, will survive the trip.
by Emily Clemente
Your mom used to bake pies in the dark. The light of day burned too much, but the moon was cold, just like her. That’s why she left at night, when the sun was gone from the sky. Now all I have of hers are the two things she loved most: The pie she baked that night. And you.
You don’t want to eat the pie. You say it looks too sad, like her eyes are in the crust. But I think you should. You might cry now, but one day you’ll see that our tears all taste the same.
by Susi Lovell
She stood on the quay in the moonlight looking like an angel, screaming like a fishwife. I rowed like the devil was after me. And wasn’t he? Not the blue boar — oh the teeth on him — it was her the devil, eyes all a-glitter.
At a safe distance, I rested my oars, looked back. She stretched up her neck, long and skinny, lips touching the moon. She swallowed it whole, the blue boar leaning against her knee, her hand cradling its head.
Get away, I told myself and set my oars in motion. But I drew closer and closer.
by Allison Douglas-Tourner
No band to welcome the heroes home. No cheers. No flags. He turned away from a church that was shocked to hear about smoking in the trenches. Took on a school in the flats where he spent his money on skates and books for the children. He taught fair play, and self-reliance, once mending his own bleeding hand at assembly with a needle and thread. Rely on yourselves he said. Don’t trust authority. He never had time for school inspectors. Too busy playing marbles with the kids. And, in memory of the fallen boys, he planted trees. Many trees.
by Doug Jacquier
The rain came in sideways, driven by the same scouring winds that had delivered the dust from farms hundreds of miles away for so many summers now and sent our own on a similar journey. As long as there was enough to drown our despair at fly-blown carcasses in the paddocks, 100-year-old trees falling like matchsticks and harvesters rusting in sagging sheds, because these days real seeds only produced phantom crops. We whispered prayers that the rain would trigger flash flooding and wash out the roads and cut off the power; that was pain we could gladly endure.
by Swapan K Banerjee
The vehement impulse to have nothing to do with this meaningless existence sent him packing to the seppuku forest. Following the trail he eyed a sign: Don’t venture further. He took the forbidden path, his unsteady feet struggling to detangle the gnarled roots. Amidst gathering darkness, as he felt the weapon in his pocket that would let him through this ordeal called life, finally, he got startled by the sound of a branch snapping. In a small clearing ahead he found his girlfriend, noose and a crucifix of Jesus on a chain around her neck, lying on the ground, alive.
by Carlton Clayton
On a Saturday afternoon, I was at the back of the elementary school facing the windows of my fifth-grade classroom. I could see the snakes floating in formaldehyde in large glass jars on the shelf behind the teacher’s desk. The paddle, a glazed candy-striped cricket bat with a strip of rawhide looped through a small hole in its handle, was propped up against the desk. Mr. Whitlock told us he’d made it himself. I hated him. The windows were in rectangular panes, a great wall of them, seven across and five down. Spectacular! I threw rocks and busted them all.
by Louise McStravick
Her hands would move quickly, without thought as she watched television. The hook pulling the wool through. I would watch it grow, widening.
I wrap myself in the colours of it. Fall asleep to a programme I’m not watching.
I dream I am wearing the blanket, in the woods. Somewhere we’d visited before. I cannot find her, so I walk deeper, unspooling until it is nothing. I am naked, cold, alone. I am running, following the thread back home to where she is sitting. Hands gathering wool.
I wake up. Alone. Held by the blanket.
Larry attended a knitting circle with his cellmate. He learned to hand-knit scarves and blankets, weave supple yarn with stocky hands. He looped soft thread around calloused fingers, was lulled into daydreams. Knitters smiling and chattering about neighbors or children. Knitters boasting of spouses and jobs, houses and cars. Knitters not shoveling gravel or swinging sledgehammers, not scrounging to survive. Knitters not getting blackout drunk and burning things, not beating a man and getting scared of who they’d become. Knitters not swearing they would change or be better, not breaking promises and knuckles as warm wool comforted their unstained hands.
She was down to a single Rome Beauty. The last apple for her last day. Later, she’d run naked through the frigid forest to finish what she came to the cabin to do. Go out as she came in. Bare ass moonlit naked. She counted down her time an apple a day for thirty days. Time to live. To think. Laugh. To remember. Or not. To howl with wolves. Dance the hot potato. Burn camp chairs in the fireplace. Hang pots and pans from blue trees. Sugar rush deer hardcore. Practice run to the cliff where winter skies wait.
by Yash Seyedbagheri
They bid me howdy in their white trucks with their easy smiles, scents of Camels and tar. The Eagles play from radios. They welcome me. Ask if there’s anything I need.
I smile. Wave. I even tip that cheap cowboy hat I bought.
It’s been months since I’ve heard that word. Fuck off has been my constant companion.
Every time I try to reciprocate, my words seem flat, like months-old Diet Pepsi. They nod in understanding. They must think me shy. Or weird.
But when they say goodbye, I reciprocate with desperate ease, word echoing like a hundred goodbyes before.
by Jeremy Nathan Marks
I bought a broom that lets me sweep up spiders without breaking their legs. I can deposit them gently into my garden. My garden is like a coliseum of displaced insects. Some have all of their limbs, while others are missing one or more for mysterious reasons. How is it that insects are threatened with extinction? I find them wobbling around, waiting to grow new limbs. They prove the point that life is more than fight versus flight: it is autosarcophagy. A fox will chew off its leg to escape a trap. There is a future for the maimed.
by G.J. Williams
The man who gave you a helping hand has had his fingers broken, and the woman who gave you shelter is homeless. Is how it stands at the moment.
And those kindly fruitsellers at the park? Picking stones, somewhere north. As for your ornithologist friend, she’s finding the dusty basements hard going, old dental records not being her bag. And your neighbours? They keep to themselves, and are happy enough to do so, aware as they are of the various alternatives.
Is how things stand at the moment.
by Iain Rowan
Even though he doesn’t get letters anymore, because who does these days, he still looks forward to the post arriving.
He picks each envelope up from the doormat and holds them tight in his hands for a few moments before putting them into the recycle bin. Even though it’s only ever junk mail, to reach him it has passed from one human hand to another, and in that there is something.
by Tim Frank
It’s just that Gina’s pregnant, her mum’s just flown in from Nigeria with giant snails packed in Tupperware and they don’t fit in the fridge, they’ll rot, they’ll rot, shrieks my mother-in-law then Gina says it’s coming, and as she sobs in the toilet her mum says, I told you so, he’s no good, and the truth is we have a flat the size of a ping pong table, I work in a fucking bar and cigarettes cost twenty a box. I guess I’m not ready for this, I don’t even feel like an adult.
It’s not OK.
Alex and the Face
by James Burt
We were in 6th form when Alex found the face. He was happy to share it and we all took turns wearing it. At first, the new features made my skin ache, with its tighter cheekbones and small nose. I soon grew to love the feeling of being someone else – there’s a thrill to playing with your identity when you’re a teenager. Sometimes we’d go to the pub and swap it between rounds. I still sometimes see the face in town, and long to say hello, but I don’t know for sure if it’s one of the old gang.
by Nancy Welch
On the downward slope of your forties, you marry, acquire a stepdaughter, and learn to ski.
“So brave,” friends say. “At your age.”
But gentle groomers forgive your wedge. For the occasional yard sale—skis and poles strewn—your newly-wed husband skis clean-up.
From the lift, you watch the toddlers, tethered to one parent while the other slow-carves a protective perimeter. On this hill, your husband has explained, he and his ex taught their daughter. You picture them each time the unforgivable fact of you spins the girl into a yard sale, her father, on clean-up, hopeless to retrieve what she’s lost.
The New Measuring Device
by Divya George
“What size should we buy?” she asked him, sipping tea. Her phone opened on Amazon with ‘skewers for kitchen’ in the Search bar.
He jumped into action.
Her attention shifted to skewer composition, wood vs steel.
He walked in circles, murmuring, “can’t find it.”
She didn’t notice him pick something from near her and head into the kitchen.
He reappeared all smiles. “How big is our new clock?”, he asked.
‘Totally unrelated’, she thought. “Let me see”, she replied, her eyes now on Order History. “14 inches.”
“We need smaller”, he said, holding out the clock. “This doesn’t fit.”
Absentee Friend Found
by James Mahone
In three weeks Fernie went from burley to that sinewy/striated look of a feral tweaker found hanging around Kum and Go parking lots at odd hours. Every vein conspicuous like electrical wiring in a stripped house, every dehydrated muscle furrowed and popping like his skin had been removed and the muscles underneath painted beige. Looking at him gave M the fantods. He thought about those exhibits with the corpses in various poses of activity and leisure, where they lacked skin but had popping eyeballs and whitened teeth; everyone always looked up into the assholes of the anatomical displays.
by Edward Ahern
The man wore his clothes well and wasn’t ugly. Valerie, bored by arty conversations, weaved through the museum exhibits and stood in front of him.
“Tell me something I won’t believe.”
He smiled. “I’m boring. I don’t drink, smoke, gamble, or do drugs.”
“No, that’s sad but believable.”
His smile turned wistful.
“The model for this statue and I were lovers.”
“The plaque says the statue is two millennia old. It’s impossible.”
“There you go.”
“Tell me more.”
“She left me because of my profession.”
“I weigh souls using a feather.”
“What about mine?”
“Don’t die for a while.”
by Charlotte M. Porter
No question, she stood out like an exclamation point among the literary crowd. Kissing was her idea, and here they are making out. Frankly, he doesn’t find her attractive. Why? She has children. He doesn’t like kids. He has two of his own. End of story.
From birth, his brood were zeros, and he gladly pays child support for the privilege of absence and bad behavior, his, theirs. And hers. At some point, he’ll tell the woman on the hotel couch he has tongue cancer. Maybe next week, to shock her, to shame her, after she’s back home.
I Keep Doing This
by TQ Sims
I have always had this secret power. I draw out the poison, the sticky, dense, tar that blinds him. I remind him. I’m your brother. Nothing changes that.
He forgets. His tone shifts. He slips, says something about some misinterpreted or contradictory verse. He speaks with someone else’s voice before he realizes. I’m the one listening.
He sees me, remembers, maybe subconsciously feels me working to strip away the odious gloom, uncovering his heart again and again. He sighs with relief but looks away from me.
The poison keeps coming, and again, I uncover his heart. I keep doing this.
by Wendy Cobourne
I sneak onto the dock, wishing I could dive in. The airborne arc of me, the piercing of the water’s smooth skin with my fingertips hands arms head shoulders torso thighs shins ankles toes, Oh my god, I’m in. Bulleting through the cold liquid underground. I am swallowed whole into a deep wet kiss, engulfed, sealed in the cool redeeming silence of submersion. Decompressing, reaching languorously for handful after handful of the ungraspable, pulling my weightless self forward. Into the unknown. I was not born to be earthbound, I will tell them at home.
I found my sketches, cleaning the house. Blueprints of all the buildings I had planned to design someday, back when my dreams flowed without end like leaves down an autumn creek.
*I wasn’t wrong*, I told myself immediately, at the pang in my heart. I looked out at my partner, playing with the kids on the lawn. I looked out at my choices.
And then I folded those designs carefully. I didn’t recycle them, didn’t use them. I just put them back, forced the memories silent, and moved on and away.
The Time Machine
I wake up—
Nope. Same day. The sun has moved, though, to get a better look inside my apartment: without her things, it’s a magazine page with pictures cut out.
And he’s here. I admit it (finally).
“Admit?” Ihhh. Confess? Maybe?
Recognize. I recognize him. Who. Uh. Is me.
Well not…me-me. But a me that I recognize I don’t want to be. Anymore. Who still treats relationships like I’m 20. Like he’s 20.
Oh fuck it.
I adjust the blanket, set the pillow, and go off in search of a future where I can handle that guy.
by Blue Silver
Two thin fuses lie buried in my face, and one day my skin will flicker and burn. I unearthed them in the mirror, and they creep towards my nose from upturned corners. You told me I had ignited yours, but levity and gravity always left you traceless.
These days, I watch stars from my porch and sometimes old newsreels of your launch, and your descent towards the red dirt. Tonight, I hit play on the last tape, the fireball upon landing, and wonder why your fuse burned quicker than mine. You might have loved the view from this porch too.
by Bernardo Villela
Beset by the world’s woes Bill Lee went to live at sea. Landlocked existence churned his stomach; acrid wildfires stung his eyes; the summer sun scorched his skin.
With fish and fresh air, he could live anywhere. Beneath the water line, in the brine, barnacles started growing upon his hide. Surfacing for warmth didn’t shake them or kill them off. He loved them as they multiplied, felt a symbiosis with them—they were Neptune’s gift.
They were his armor against mankind. When people approached he’d say “Woe betide to all who come this way.”
Off they ran, and stayed away.
Get Back to Work
by Nicholas T. Schafer
The framing nail stuck out of my chest. Everything stopped. I stared at the nail. Jesse, who was holding the other board, stared at the nail. Sam, our foreman, who had fired the high velocity shiner out of the nail-gun through the two by four into my chest, stared at the nail.
Only the nail moved. Up and down. I realized, with relief, that I was still breathing, and that breathing didn’t hurt.
Sam reached over, pulled the front of my shirt. The nail pinged to the floor.
“No blood, no foul. Get back to work.”
None of Us Is All Here
by G.J. Williams
This is where cigarettes are called christnumbers and the go-to place after death is referred to as The Shangles. What happens there is unclear but is generally thought to be agreeable. In the meantime there’s a white wall of silence; palpable; procedural. And there’s always someone who’ll pipe-up, ‘Hey, where isn’t Jesus?’ A more valid question can scarcely be imagined, given what’s at stake, which is to say: everything. Immortelles are in their vases, corridors cry. All is not well with the world. It comes on strong, adopts a joshing tone as it clatters in, the cutlery plastic.
by Xanthe Miller
I got fed up. That has made me wicked. By wicked I mean effective. Unapologetic. I’m not sorry, just hungry from years of genteel starving. Ravenous with a mouth full of my unspoken self, footsore with undanced dances. I am finally getting comfortable in this skin, just as it begins to shift and fade. I’ve opened the book of spells and have my favorites. So tonight at sunset I will put on the voluminous skirt that belonged to my mother and my grandmother and whirl and whirl while I can. And take what I take.
by Liz Betz
Jenny knows she could have parked straighter, but she’s running late. First the car needed gas and then she caught a string of red lights. Her toddler begins to cry at the door of the daycare. Jenny has to be strong and kiss her goodbye saying, Mommy has to hurry. Mommy loves you.
Her little girl would be okay in a few minutes, but will she? Back at the car, she sees the flapping paper. A ticket? No. A note. You SUCK at parking. SERIOUSLY. She can’t argue. She needs to do better.
Enough of a Triumph
by Ken Poyner
Playing croquet on a hillside complicates the game. Grass thickness comes even more into play. Strategy requires elevated thinking. You do not recover as well from a blunder. And yet, it adds thrill to sending an opponent’s ball thundering off. Differences in elevation drives subtlety in approach. Consider how long it will be, from all the leaning back or aside, before your hamstrings give out. I’m off to lay out my wickets in the cruelest of spots. I cannot wait to see the confusion on your face.
by David Henson
His words hang above the kitchen table even after he leaves for work.
She stands on a chair, grips one of the letters, pulls it loose.
She finds a toolbox. His odor spews from the letter as she files it to a point.
That evening when her husband walks in, she plunges the makeshift weapon into his chest, then calls the police.
One officer examines the husband’s body while the other takes her statement in the kitchen. He notices the hanging words—STUP D COW—and asks about the missing letter. The I couldn’t take it anymore, she says.
by Jeannette Connors
Iris routinely sought out seemingly happy people for advice on fixing her mental health disorder. Remedies ranged from a simple ice cream cone to an extravagant African safari. Iris thought those were clearly lactose tolerant people with no fears of a spontaneous wildebeest attack. She always went back to what worked for her though in seeking the comfort of her pet iguana, who neither offered advice nor any inkling he cared about such things.
by Liz Betz
In the past she’s listened to her friends, a group of women who are always in crisis mode. From their viewpoint they label my behavior as overbearing and narcissistic and place her unhappiness on my doorstep.
Now my wife has discovered she’s an empath that needs special care. She says she has a tendency to put others ahead of herself and that she’s wearing out because of it. It’s draining her energy. From now on she’ll state her needs and there will be accountability for those who ignore them.
Thank you. State your boundaries. I’ve been flying blind.
When Grandpa Stopped Babysitting
It wasn’t when he taught the boy to piss upright and straight-backed in the front yard, staring down disapproving neighbors as they crossed the street. It wasn’t when he wrapped up an airsoft rifle for shooting birds, and gave it to the boy on his eight birthday. It wasn’t even when he taught him how to drive the station wagon, though the boy could only reach the pedals standing up. It was later, when his own name escaped him, when he saw the boy and could only ask, “who are you?” and “why are you here?”
by G.J. Williams
Rue is a strong-scented Mediterranean plant with yellowy-green flowers and pinnately divided leaves. A bouquet of rue, rightly held, will signify sorrows endured, depths of loss untold. Marigolds and fennel won’t do. Violets daisies carnations ditto. And forget roses. But scatter petals of rue as you go and the world smiles wanly with you. True, there’ll be a curtain-twitching aspect to contend with but, all in all, your going hence will be accorded the flourish of a dance. Strew those petals, mutter those barbs, give what lives the finger. Rue the day, the very sunlight’s touch.
Hands of Time
by James Dupree
She holds his hand in hers and wonders how something so extraordinary can be so small. Growth is slow, but time is slippery. Years feel like moments to her, and his hand begins to fill her palm, threatening to break their bond.
Fingers continue to extend, and muscles grow stronger, and before she can ready herself for this inevitable change, his hand matches hers in size. She watches her own hand shrink till the skin sags around the bones. His hand begins to overtake. He holds her hand in his and wonders how someone so extraordinary can become so small.
by Kim Mannix
As he boarded the train, she drew a tissue from her pocket, thinking the tears would come any second. They didn’t.
Numb. I’m just numb now, she thought, dabbing at the corner of her eye anyway. In case he was watching.
“Last trip for the year,” he said on the drive to the station. “Then it’ll be just us together for months.”
“I can’t wait,” she said, grateful he was looking at the road instead of her face.
After his train pulled away, she stepped up to the ticket booth.
“One way for whatever gets me the farthest,” she said.
Every day, Johannes sends Mila presents. Some days, it’s sweetmeats from the market. Occasionally, it’s a rare artifact wrapped in brown paper.
Yesterday, he sent a scarab frozen in amber, all the way from Cairo, wrapped in tight packaging and bound with tape. Unwrapping the multiple layers without the use of a knife inflamed her hands, but she managed it before he came home.
Today, despite Mila’s curbed appetite, Johannes sends candied fruit. Tiny, pink squares like unsunned flesh, dotted with yellow sugar the color of her bruises.
by Brennan Thomas
I’m not doing this charade ‘til the end of the boardwalk. Soon as we pass that frozen fruit stand where the guy dips bananas on a stick in chocolate, I’m done with this. I’m ripping my hand out of his sticky grip. I’m pulling the ring off. I’ll start walking ten feet in front of him and lose him in the crowd. I’ve already checked out of the hotel. I have what’s mine—tote and carry-on—sitting in the trunk of a cab idling at the entrance to the Barclay Tower. He doesn’t know that—why. I do.
The Likeness of Bolsheviks
by Kevin Campbell
Over 1000 square feet to paint, to tug at the threads of the entire fabric. This will be no feckless mural, this will be history, present, and future.
The artist’s patron furrows his brow. He imagines himself a patron for all things. But really all things within reason. For behind his quixotic gloss lies a fragile scion, built on the corpses of striking Colorado coal miners.
The artist barks back “If you remove any of it, then destroy it all!”
Jeff was standing in the middle of the hallway in the empty house. His wife and kids had gone out for a walk in the park, to pretend for an hour life was normal. He picked his nose. He studied the greenish-yellow flake on his finger for a few seconds, then flicked it away. He didn’t see where it landed. He thought “Why does everyone feel so confined so quickly? There’s plenty of freedom to enjoy at home. Especially in small quantities.” Jeff went into the living room and lay naked on the dinner table for a while.
A Plague of Farmers
by Nan Wigington
Springtime, the farmer’s breath thrummed. A cold, he told his daughter.
In May, his breath was sticks breaking.
Next came sunburns, molting.
His daughter called a doctor.
“Farmers do that,” the doctor said.
The daughter didn’t say how the farmer had taken to chewing on the wheat, jaws working side to side, not up and down.
July, breath was like a band saw.
The daughter’s heart broke when she saw it, scapulas piercing his shirt, his flesh, wings emerging, furling, the crack as membranes stretched, hardened, how her father like a locust lifted, joined his people in the sky.
This week’s artwork is “Lotus” by Shadowlance
The Fates Watching Over John Henry
by David Henson
Tonight, John Henry, you’ll come no closer to sleep than watching it raise and lower your Lucy’s breasts. You will not understand why the moon weeps through the window and oils your shoulders for tomorrow. Why, this night, the stars seem heads of silver spikes only you can drive into the sky.
You carefully untangle straw that has leaked from the mattress into Lucy’s hair. We’ll leave after we grant you a snagged curl to awaken her.
But, John Henry, we must return when dawn hammers the horizon.
by Nicole Burton
When they would listen to her no other way, Echo learned to whisper in the ears of the pale-skinned gods who sat around boardroom tables. “You always have the best ideas,” she whispered to Pride when she took his coffee order. “If you invest, the company could never fail.”
Every day, she whispered daffodil words to him, and he unknowingly echoed her praise as if it were his own. “I think we should invest.”
Every day, she ran his errands and watched him turn her words into skyscrapers and gold, knowing they would never be hers.
by Phil Trafican
Once there was a rich man who walked with a limp. His town folk wanted to be rich, too and copied everything about him that they could. So, of course, every man, woman, and child began to walk with a limp. Even the dogs were hobbling around.
But then the rich man hired doctors who cured him of his limp. He could now walk fine while everyone else still limped for they had forgotten how to walk the right way and could not afford doctors. In the meantime, the rich man got even richer selling the town’s people crutches.
by Jago Furnas
Late in an empty dive bar, a beautiful girl hands your arse to you over the pool table and drives you home on the wrong side of the road with Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ blasting. Any pre-emptive performance anxiety is replaced with survival anxiety, which is kind of liberating. She makes sudden stops to roll cigarettes every few hundred meters. The two of you will laugh about this in ten years on the porch of your weatherboard house in Thornbury, as you make sure your beautiful kids have their helmets on before they ride their bikes around the block.
by DS Levy
Standing at his locker, he hears firecrackers and sees Billy Evans in his black trench coat. He touches his chest; his fingers, smeared in blood. Unlike the movies, he feels nothing—until he does, a searing spasm. The light fades as handfuls of Luna moths flutter out of his chest, wingtip-to-wingtip, and he hears Mr. Lewinski, his biology teacher, saying how they spend two weeks as eggs, six to seven weeks as larvae, and nine months as pupae before emerging as beautiful lime-green bodies, big as small plates with moon spots, and live for one short, but glorious week.
How It Was
by G.J. Williams
It’s so cold the stone weeps. Write that down, comrade; it’s all in the detail. It was so cold the stone wept. Walls. Put walls down too. Walls weep. It was so cold the walls wept. That’ll be us, comrade. It’s the tale they’ll tell. Make a note. How the walls wept, how the stone ran, as winter closed in. And how it was the writing hand turned blue. And wolves, don’t forget how we heard the wolves. We’ll hear them soon enough. Let it be known it was their call we died to. Make the moon full.
A serpent wraps back on itself and starts to swallow its tail having decided it was unhappy with how it got to where it was. It thought, “I’ll start here and eat my way back to the beginning so I can start all over again. The tail disengaged and wrapped itself around the head saying, “I’ve already seen the end and don’t want to sit through the movie again from the beginning.” The belly, sitting quietly in the middle of the conflict, laughed content to eat what was served.
This week’s artwork is by Shadowlance.
Blow Wind Blow
by Kevin Dardis
Tattooed from shoulder to sole, cute and clever, Emily was way out of my league. When the inevitable happened and she left me for someone else, my friends did not speak of my having been dumped, but of my relegation. Our relationship lasted fewer than six exhausting months, but I seriously struggled to find my balance once the whirlwind had twisted away to surround another. I had become used to leaning into the wind and when it suddenly stopped blowing in my direction, I fell face first, cutting my hands as I tried to soften my landing.
I’m still bleeding.
Daniel fell in love with Jacqui because she had an earthy femininity unusual for New York City. She gave birth to their children in an East Village apartment, sitting on the bathtub’s edge, pressing her hands hard into her thighs as she pushed out three babies in three years. A stainless steel mixing bowl had famously caught the placenta of the middle child. Daniel often served his prized Israeli salad in that bowl, recounting to their Friday night dinner guests the miracle of life, as he mixed diced cucumbers and tomatoes with a spoonful of fresh lemon juice.
by G.J. Williams
The moon is a liar. The lake is a liar. The sonata’s a liar. The glass is empty and the fog dull. Mother-tongue’s a liar. The house is a liar. The windows know it. Even the silence lies. Listen to it. You believe that? In THIS moonlight? By THAT lake? After SUCH music? I don’t think so. This house has had it with people. Listen to it. If that’s not empty, what is?
by Milton Swami Parraga
“You are the moon that orbits my planet.” Water droplets glided towards the Earth on her cool cheekbone. When I opened my eyes again, it had already passed. I didn’t stop myself from saying it. “Without you there is only darkness.”
On the train ride home, I put my earbuds away. The rain lulled my eyes shut. They would remain this way until the feeling faded. It was still palpable. The tincture of her lips.
by Alison Lowenstein
Sarah could track the trajectory of her life through lipsticks. Pastels to deep reds, colorfully tracing her passage from girlhood to adulthood. After three decades of makeup applications, she’s an expert at blending concealer over her wrinkles. She only feels confident after the makeup is smoothed into place.
Sarah once thought makeup enhanced her looks, but now she believes it’s the only thing left of her looks. Each morning, when she stares in the mirror Sarah doesn’t recognize the reflection until she blends in the foundation and adds colors to her eyelids. Once completed, she smiles back at the familiar face.