Fiction

Watermelon Boy

You asked me what would happen if you ate a watermelon seed, and when I said it would grow a plant in your belly, you didn’t hesitate, just popped the seed right into your mouth and swallowed it whole, laughing as it slipped down into warm and wet caverns.

Counting in Three’s

Your mother was fond of saying things don’t always happen, but when they do, they always happen in three’s. So you learned very young to count events, not apples or sticks or stones, on your fingers. When you got to three, you’d start all over again.

Docking the Boat

Pops begged for a cigarette in hospice. So Beth bummed two smokes off a tattooed nurse, lighting one in Pops’ mouth with hers—two cigarettes kissing. They smoked, Pops coughing and rattling. The nurse glared. Pops died.

Phobia

The complex phobias knew they were superior. They conquered adults, not mere children. They were difficult to treat. They fucked up big chunks of people’s lives. Someone with arachnophobia or aerophobia could pretty easily avoid spiders or planes. But try making a decent life with agoraphobia.

Road Trip, 1958

The father doesn’t know where he’s going. He tells the mother to pull the map out of the glove compartment. Two little girls in the back seat. I want ice cream, the smaller one says. She is only three, but already a princess. This is how she will be the rest of her life.

Christmas is Cancelled

My son says Santa isn’t real, but I’m dying tonight. Snarling at sleigh bells, I sink beneath bloody bubbles into a whirl of bathwater. The Jacuzzi swallows me like a sperm whale and spits me out when it realizes what a terrible mother I am.

Melting

The thing about having a child is that you’re always sick. And after a while this perpetual sickness starts to bleed into your actual health, so what started out as daycare residuum (a clogged nose and cough that feel, even without squinting too much, like an...

Among Many Things

I didn’t want to go to the thing but he wanted me to go to the thing. He always wanted me to go to the thing and I never wanted to go. All year long, he thought about the thing and so did I. He thought about liking it and I thought about not liking it. But sometimes he thought about me not liking it and I thought about him liking it.

Roadside

The doe was definitely dead. Of that, Sean could be quite certain in his diagnosis. Her eyes rolled in their sockets, glassy and cold, her neck skewed backward at a disjointed angle, and her tongue hung out her open mouth, resting on the tarmac.

Vestiges

Tara’s superpower was seeing the vestigial parts of her lovers. It started with the virgin sporting shadow wings. After they made love, the wings detached and fluttered about them like moths. The instructor from the spin studio with thighs like Tina Turner wagged his vestigial tail like an eager Golden retriever puppy.

In a Jar by the Door

After the burial, we’re taking what we want from your house. I pause to look around the living room, which smells of perfume and cat urine. The room appears even smaller now, but it’s still the interesting assortment of clutter I recall as a kid.

Fury

Inside a bar off Ditmars, John flirts with a twink who has a nosering. “I didn’t always believe either,” John says, as he lifts his martini. “But after my ex-girlfriend died, I would wake up with scratches all over me…”

Diablo

A situation like this, a loss like this, would be hard on anybody. She finishes her burrito and throws two quarters and a nickel at the toll basket. Anyone would be a mess.

Where Daughters Lost End Up Sometimes

It’s the parking lot straddling Addison Mall on 3rd, and here’s your standard-issue bag lady with shopping cart in tow who she haunts the lot where she lives off by the entrance where it says stop stenciled on the asphalt and there’s a signpost welcoming customers to the mall

Oilskin

So, he’s finally found a job, and he comes home to me and the baby the first Friday he gets paid wearing this huge shiny hat that he’s tied under his chin in a leather knot that looks tangled and permanent.

Mulch

Mummy likes specific things. Specific things with specific names with the specific intention of making them unique and referable. Not vague, loose.

Songstress

At the bottom of a starless alley, in the mellow light of a bar lounge perched atop a mahogany stool, there is a songstress sporting a room-temperature smile. Outwardly, there is little evidence of the dark clouds that have been preening themselves for weeks in the...

Dear One

Dear One, My mouth waters at your obsolescence.  As soon as I find you, you’re gone again, these days, like food, or egrets. Thinking of you on this many splendored sieve of the salt flats, as it were. The salt flats being simply flats. Okay flat. One, weathered...

This

I can’t do this anymore, I say, and say, and say. I say it to my soon-to-be ex. I say it to my soon-to-wed son. I say it to the moon. This? the moon says. This, I say. It’s the presumption of something, that there is something, somewhere, anywhere....

Medusa has a Drinking Problem

The room spins. The ceiling falls. The floor criticises my dress sense. I did this to myself, I know that, but it doesn’t undo that last whisky sour. A gentle mist lingers in a city peppered with skyscrapers and too many people, and I stumble into the nearest parked...

Dare

Half past nine at night and I dared to answer the phone. “Hello,” I said. “I’m surprised you picked up,” she said. “You never do.” I didn’t recognize her voice. “Ever wonder what you’re afraid of?” she asked. “I thought I’d call and tell you how I’m doing. You want to...

The Baker

I will measure and swiftly sift. I will do so carefully. While I think of my ricrac past like a hem on a faltering dress. That is still too pretty to let go of. There is no buttery butter so buttery you could melt. Or rabbit sugar flour. No spiked vanilla soliciting a...

Brief Death

After I dropped my kid at school, I made the fifteen-minute drive back to our house. I realized, as I often did, that I couldn’t remember driving any of that stretch. I must have appeared unwell, because my wife suggested we look at the EKG on my watch. “You had no...

Brown

The first time you kissed a boy, you were eight. It was in a dream; a crazy dream. The act: however insignificant and nonsensical, brewed logical questions spilling at the pool of your mind. The questions, what kind of dream is this? What am I slowly turning into? In...

Bullets

Dad fed broken glass to the neighbor’s pet Rottweiler—I think his name was Spot. When I was a kid the dog kept coming over into our yard and tearing up the garden and pissing on the siding and one night eating hamburger meat that my dad had left out by the grill as he...

Maternal

I never felt the urge. Mel said it would hit like a wave. She knew, with three under five, but when it came for me it was quiet. A low thrum, like a weight curled up on my chest. I knew you’d come round. The café was a dingy place. I sat opposite Mel, sipped coffee...

Undying

In a way he lived on—in the chaos, in our groans as we wakened that black night in our dorm. Operatic anguish: clanging cymbals, wailing voice, brassy blats that brought us staggering heavy-limbed up to our feet. Just noise to us: something to kill with a switch. So...

Toothbrush

1. Early summer morning. Last look at Bass Lake before Bette and Dena hit the Willow Creek trail. Cerulean, azure, turquoise. Each had her favorite word. How is it possible Nicki is not here? The trail gentles up hill, the creek a quiet liquid shimmer. The trail...

Vorarephobia

Fear of being eaten is an evolutionary relic, but sometimes I do feel the twinge when I see a cement mixer, or a jet engine, or a customer service representative from Verizon. “I want to talk about something which is interesting only to me,” I said. The chimpanzees on...

Close to You

1. The sun bleeds through his white hair—bleached. Each strand of hair the wire frame of an umbrella. Shirtless, he’s stretched out on the floor. The air—the fuzz of a peach—warm and quiet. His hands cover his face and he doesn’t see you leave the shower, but you see...

Crow Joe

Gentle and silent, living in his caravan, out in the trees, in the edge land, nestling in the selvedge of the town. Beyond the high tide mark of broken bikes, empty bottles, cans, old mattresses washed up against the tree line. In wordless, instinctive agreement, we...

Fruit Salad

Z ate the orange before the orange could eat him. That’s just the way the earth spins. Give a bushel a leaf’s length and those fruit will ripen into you. Swell and soften their skin against your cheek. Zest your eyelids, clutch your teeth with pulp, make your mouth...

My Exploding Uterus

Now that the politicians have taken away abortion, birth control is probably next, Mom says. So, she sets up an appointment with the gynecologist for me to get an IUD, an intrauterine device.  “I don’t see how I can get pregnant when I don’t even know any boys,”...

Men Who Write Women

Even though Suburbia, experiencing her brand-new S-CarGo, had called Valery to say she was stuck in slow traffic, she arrived at Burger Place right on her heels. The place to have lunch in Chicago, Michigan, they used the Downsize Me option to buy a cheeseburger to...

Of Course

My father taught me how to surf fish on a conventional. “Fuck a spinner. That’s for bait and for pansy ass amateurs,” father said. Spot heads. Bait for red drum. Every October, Father would camp out at the Virginia state line on the beach in his ’95 Dodge Dakota. I...

A Difference in Temperature

It’s a hot day. The heat fires down and sweats the sunblock right out. Tourists fight for seats in the cabin, but politely, so they can claim they’re not fighting. I’m stuck on deck in a polo and a prison-logo cap. Last summer, my ex-wife visited one weekend. A...

The Woman in the Chest

*Some of the imagery deals with violent subject matter* The head came disembodied, wrapped in a few of my grandmother’s wool scarves and buried in the crook of a cedar chest good for keeping moths out but more of a relic than anything—an attestation to the abundance...

Ernst’s House

Ernst sees, shaking the blind hands of sleep, the son who will never be Jesus Christ again. And this has been going on every night for six months now. Sometimes, in addition to a boyish smile, he dreams of shovels without holes and flowers without...

I Don’t Even Know Who You Are

When I booted up my computer and opened the web browser, the last thing I expected to see was a Facebook friend request from my estranged father. It’s been 13 years since I rubbed my eyes and witnessed him dash out of my life, his silhouette sneaking across the...

Game Over

Volunteering at the nursing home was the boy’s mother’s idea. She said over dinner one night that spending his afternoons in the arcade did not an impressive, productive young man make. Also, that all he ever did was take, take, take. Then she added that he’d look...

Fountains of a Birthday

He discovered // what Ponce pondered // it scared him the scars // without use-of blade // he had whittled to core // found some time // this modern-day's discoverer looked within // now sat unafraid // pain slowing hard his hands no younger, smaller, but those hands...

He’s Not Bothering Anyone

Father was the first to spot the crumpled black mass in the corner of the living room. “Up there,” he told Mother, pointing to the ceiling. The blue light from the television illuminated their pinched faces as they searched through the shadows, the whites of their...

Wet Grass

I rake leaves into a black garbage bag under moonlight. I hear Jean tell me about the benefits of leaving a few leaves in the yard. “It’s good for the soil. Don’t you care about the soil?” I don’t know what’s come over me, but I need the leaves gone. I need the grass...

The Magic of Witch Hazel

I’m Hazel, and I have known you forever. Maybe you think you can harness my power? For years, your hands have held my forks, waiting for magic, for me to twitch. Dowsing, divining, or water witching. I’ll dance, ‘wyche’, or bend in a ‘wicke’  if I feel the life...

Invasive Species

I tucked diet plans away in the back of my mind in case my hair started to thin out. I didn't think I could handle being fat and bald, not with my accent. I was hell-bent on being one or the other but didn't have the dedication to be neither. When I talked, it always...

Quicksand

Lorri dares walk out on the estuary to where the red-shanks strut on long legs. She dares climb the tall twisted oak where she says she can see her apartment block three hundred miles away in the city. She crosses the fast-flowing stream on a slick and mossy log. She...

Play Pretend

Fiona has a pretend family no one can snatch out of her hands. She has an older brother, Kojo who once drove them all the way to Aburi for a picnic in the botanical gardens; and this other time Fiona made believe he gave her a piggy back ride up Mount Afadjato. Her...

Mourning Dove

As she drifts into sleep a sound escapes her. A gentle sigh, like the cooing of a dove. Like she was releasing all that was the day before. Like letting go of something.   •   Early morning light falls soft through the window. It casts a cool hue over...

Executive Assistants

The markets are bullish, Bloomberg reports at the crack of dawn. We’re the only ones awake at this time, and we know. We made the markets bullish. Our apartments are tiny. We tiptoe around, getting ready for work, so we don’t wake our fast asleep partners and fast...

Postcard to X

Just Alice and Willy and Ben now. Dragging our bones across the city, hitting every red light but nothing slows us down. We streel over to Old Calton Burial Ground and dance, weave joy in and out of the gravestones, crackle and spark and sing our throats to ash. Our...

Countdown

10… My yearning could have deforested Maine; it continued for days, ever since I saw her, open-faced like the books on display in the museum gift shop. 9… I spent my days at the gift shop mulling over the dictionary. I glared at words I would never use. They sprawled...

Boston

Track 1In high school, we were masters of the one line song. Our greatest hit went like this: Another Saturday night 70’s loser,I myself and me, playing 45s on 33,wishing Ann would go crazy on me. Track 2As lyricists, we were uniquely qualified to recognize Boston's...

On Sunday

Presbyterian vegetarians saddle sea urchins and go for a roe. Wahoo yahoo holy water woo. Sushi sirens singsong seduction, spinach puffs are Jesus’ best wrapped gift. Crab rangoons goon naked crudités enticed by a slice of chanterelle mushroom toast. Devils ride...

The Annual Library Book Sale

The library was flooded with book donations. Mountains of cardboard boxes filled the basement, ferried from hatchback and truck-bed, down the elevator, to gather dust with their kin. Before they could be set on narrow tables at the annual book sale, the books needed...

How to Stop a Cough

See a doctor if your cough persists for more than seven days. Tell him you wake up three, four times a night coughing, though you’re not sure if it’s your cough or the urge to pee that awakens you. Joke about childbirth and urinary stress incontinence. Chuckle with...

Sorry Kid—

“Sorry Kid.” That’s what Carrie on Season 5 Episode 23 of Kids Baking Championship says to Kyle before she steals his cinnamon during a speed challenge. This ten year old has her own cream cheese frosting recipe and I can’t stop praying long enough to get off the...

Ash Darlings

During a commercial break I notice the six boxes in the corner of my room. They contain all the drafts of my third collection of unpublished stories, rose petal words, withered. I look out of the window at the cloudless night sky. So, it's time. I pile the boxes in...

Tagged

By two in the afternoon, we’d stolen four t-shirts, three baseball caps, and twelve packs of Spearmint gum, all while making friends with the cashiers—flirting if they were girls, talking sports if they were guys—and leaving each place with our pockets stuffed and the...

Six Minutes At 4 AM

I have six minutes left before the boy I used to know as a child comes out to skate the performance of his life. I go downstairs to make instant oatmeal and the water takes ages to boil. I compose a list of things you can do in six minutes – it might well not include...

An Evening With

I found Momma’s wig and green formal in her old trunk. She’d worn them to her last birthday party at DiFranco’s. After looking in the bathroom mirror, I imagined myself on a New York stage singing her favorite numbers. I performed “My Man” and voiced every word with...

What Binds

I become things. Today I become a staple stuck in a telephone pole, chewing its corner of paper. Tastes like missing puppy flier, honeyed with a crust of sadness. Not like the bitter root of ads for the neighborhood watch. Or the starchy invitation to a show by The...

Kokoschka’s doll

Sometimes Kokoschka tells me I don’t exist. He whispers, you’re a transitionary object, dear doll, an illusionary surface, an overpriced representation of absence, and he groans into the feathery folds in my thighs and throws me to the floor. I was wrapped in tissue...

Window Dolls

I see other girls like me, breathing their breath, their heads against the back seat windows, greasy imprints on the glass, their gaze on blurring buildings, boys on bikes, other cars. Chevy. Chrysler. Cutlass Supreme. We are behind our parents’ heads. For the moment,...

Archie and I. Alone. Together

Archie's coat smells of old man and cat pee. You like to dip your nose down the sagging collar and inhale the earthy scent in the playground line. Others pinch their sensitive noses and make noises that tighten his fish-hooked jaw and turn his ears pink, but you find...

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

We are heat cranky, though we try not to be.  We sit in this hot room, hot because it’s South Louisiana, hot because it’s summer, hot because the air conditioner broke down. My mother carries a tray of sweet, iced tea into the enclosed side porch, usually...

Watermelon Boy

You asked me what would happen if you ate a watermelon seed, and when I said it would grow a plant in your belly, you didn’t hesitate, just popped the seed right into your mouth and swallowed it whole, laughing as it slipped down into warm and wet caverns.

Counting in Three’s

Your mother was fond of saying things don’t always happen, but when they do, they always happen in three’s. So you learned very young to count events, not apples or sticks or stones, on your fingers. When you got to three, you’d start all over again.

Docking the Boat

Pops begged for a cigarette in hospice. So Beth bummed two smokes off a tattooed nurse, lighting one in Pops’ mouth with hers—two cigarettes kissing. They smoked, Pops coughing and rattling. The nurse glared. Pops died.

Phobia

The complex phobias knew they were superior. They conquered adults, not mere children. They were difficult to treat. They fucked up big chunks of people’s lives. Someone with arachnophobia or aerophobia could pretty easily avoid spiders or planes. But try making a decent life with agoraphobia.

Road Trip, 1958

The father doesn’t know where he’s going. He tells the mother to pull the map out of the glove compartment. Two little girls in the back seat. I want ice cream, the smaller one says. She is only three, but already a princess. This is how she will be the rest of her life.

Christmas is Cancelled

My son says Santa isn’t real, but I’m dying tonight. Snarling at sleigh bells, I sink beneath bloody bubbles into a whirl of bathwater. The Jacuzzi swallows me like a sperm whale and spits me out when it realizes what a terrible mother I am.

Melting

The thing about having a child is that you’re always sick. And after a while this perpetual sickness starts to bleed into your actual health, so what started out as daycare residuum (a clogged nose and cough that feel, even without squinting too much, like an...

Among Many Things

I didn’t want to go to the thing but he wanted me to go to the thing. He always wanted me to go to the thing and I never wanted to go. All year long, he thought about the thing and so did I. He thought about liking it and I thought about not liking it. But sometimes he thought about me not liking it and I thought about him liking it.

Roadside

The doe was definitely dead. Of that, Sean could be quite certain in his diagnosis. Her eyes rolled in their sockets, glassy and cold, her neck skewed backward at a disjointed angle, and her tongue hung out her open mouth, resting on the tarmac.

Vestiges

Tara’s superpower was seeing the vestigial parts of her lovers. It started with the virgin sporting shadow wings. After they made love, the wings detached and fluttered about them like moths. The instructor from the spin studio with thighs like Tina Turner wagged his vestigial tail like an eager Golden retriever puppy.

In a Jar by the Door

After the burial, we’re taking what we want from your house. I pause to look around the living room, which smells of perfume and cat urine. The room appears even smaller now, but it’s still the interesting assortment of clutter I recall as a kid.

I Met the City Coroner

at a cocktail party. I introduced myself and asked him how he knew the hostess. She’s an old friend from way back. He had reached the bottom of his martini and was now chewing the inebriated ol-ive. How about you?

Fury

Inside a bar off Ditmars, John flirts with a twink who has a nosering. “I didn’t always believe either,” John says, as he lifts his martini. “But after my ex-girlfriend died, I would wake up with scratches all over me…”

Diablo

A situation like this, a loss like this, would be hard on anybody. She finishes her burrito and throws two quarters and a nickel at the toll basket. Anyone would be a mess.

Where Daughters Lost End Up Sometimes

It’s the parking lot straddling Addison Mall on 3rd, and here’s your standard-issue bag lady with shopping cart in tow who she haunts the lot where she lives off by the entrance where it says stop stenciled on the asphalt and there’s a signpost welcoming customers to the mall

Oilskin

So, he’s finally found a job, and he comes home to me and the baby the first Friday he gets paid wearing this huge shiny hat that he’s tied under his chin in a leather knot that looks tangled and permanent.

Mulch

Mummy likes specific things. Specific things with specific names with the specific intention of making them unique and referable. Not vague, loose.

Songstress

At the bottom of a starless alley, in the mellow light of a bar lounge perched atop a mahogany stool, there is a songstress sporting a room-temperature smile. Outwardly, there is little evidence of the dark clouds that have been preening themselves for weeks in the...

Dear One

Dear One, My mouth waters at your obsolescence.  As soon as I find you, you’re gone again, these days, like food, or egrets. Thinking of you on this many splendored sieve of the salt flats, as it were. The salt flats being simply flats. Okay flat. One, weathered...

This

I can’t do this anymore, I say, and say, and say. I say it to my soon-to-be ex. I say it to my soon-to-wed son. I say it to the moon. This? the moon says. This, I say. It’s the presumption of something, that there is something, somewhere, anywhere....

Medusa has a Drinking Problem

The room spins. The ceiling falls. The floor criticises my dress sense. I did this to myself, I know that, but it doesn’t undo that last whisky sour. A gentle mist lingers in a city peppered with skyscrapers and too many people, and I stumble into the nearest parked...

Dare

Half past nine at night and I dared to answer the phone. “Hello,” I said. “I’m surprised you picked up,” she said. “You never do.” I didn’t recognize her voice. “Ever wonder what you’re afraid of?” she asked. “I thought I’d call and tell you how I’m doing. You want to...

The Baker

I will measure and swiftly sift. I will do so carefully. While I think of my ricrac past like a hem on a faltering dress. That is still too pretty to let go of. There is no buttery butter so buttery you could melt. Or rabbit sugar flour. No spiked vanilla soliciting a...

Brief Death

After I dropped my kid at school, I made the fifteen-minute drive back to our house. I realized, as I often did, that I couldn’t remember driving any of that stretch. I must have appeared unwell, because my wife suggested we look at the EKG on my watch. “You had no...

Brown

The first time you kissed a boy, you were eight. It was in a dream; a crazy dream. The act: however insignificant and nonsensical, brewed logical questions spilling at the pool of your mind. The questions, what kind of dream is this? What am I slowly turning into? In...

Bullets

Dad fed broken glass to the neighbor’s pet Rottweiler—I think his name was Spot. When I was a kid the dog kept coming over into our yard and tearing up the garden and pissing on the siding and one night eating hamburger meat that my dad had left out by the grill as he...

Maternal

I never felt the urge. Mel said it would hit like a wave. She knew, with three under five, but when it came for me it was quiet. A low thrum, like a weight curled up on my chest. I knew you’d come round. The café was a dingy place. I sat opposite Mel, sipped coffee...

Undying

In a way he lived on—in the chaos, in our groans as we wakened that black night in our dorm. Operatic anguish: clanging cymbals, wailing voice, brassy blats that brought us staggering heavy-limbed up to our feet. Just noise to us: something to kill with a switch. So...

Toothbrush

1. Early summer morning. Last look at Bass Lake before Bette and Dena hit the Willow Creek trail. Cerulean, azure, turquoise. Each had her favorite word. How is it possible Nicki is not here? The trail gentles up hill, the creek a quiet liquid shimmer. The trail...

Vorarephobia

Fear of being eaten is an evolutionary relic, but sometimes I do feel the twinge when I see a cement mixer, or a jet engine, or a customer service representative from Verizon. “I want to talk about something which is interesting only to me,” I said. The chimpanzees on...

Picture the Peacock Eating a Pear

The peacock arches his neck with grace, opens his beak and lunges at the sandy zoo floor. Someone has dropped a whole ripe pear from their lunch. A girl wails and parents shuffle her away, and now the peacock will feast. The juices flow and are so sweet, better than...

Close to You

1. The sun bleeds through his white hair—bleached. Each strand of hair the wire frame of an umbrella. Shirtless, he’s stretched out on the floor. The air—the fuzz of a peach—warm and quiet. His hands cover his face and he doesn’t see you leave the shower, but you see...

Crow Joe

Gentle and silent, living in his caravan, out in the trees, in the edge land, nestling in the selvedge of the town. Beyond the high tide mark of broken bikes, empty bottles, cans, old mattresses washed up against the tree line. In wordless, instinctive agreement, we...

Fruit Salad

Z ate the orange before the orange could eat him. That’s just the way the earth spins. Give a bushel a leaf’s length and those fruit will ripen into you. Swell and soften their skin against your cheek. Zest your eyelids, clutch your teeth with pulp, make your mouth...

My Exploding Uterus

Now that the politicians have taken away abortion, birth control is probably next, Mom says. So, she sets up an appointment with the gynecologist for me to get an IUD, an intrauterine device.  “I don’t see how I can get pregnant when I don’t even know any boys,”...

Getting Even On The Flushing Express

The ladies don’t do lunch. They ride the train during rush hour on Mondays instead. They’re not looking for a gentleman to give up his seat. They’re looking for some muscles to rub against, for asses to grab. This week, there isn’t the usual crush of passengers...

Men Who Write Women

Even though Suburbia, experiencing her brand-new S-CarGo, had called Valery to say she was stuck in slow traffic, she arrived at Burger Place right on her heels. The place to have lunch in Chicago, Michigan, they used the Downsize Me option to buy a cheeseburger to...

Of Course

My father taught me how to surf fish on a conventional. “Fuck a spinner. That’s for bait and for pansy ass amateurs,” father said. Spot heads. Bait for red drum. Every October, Father would camp out at the Virginia state line on the beach in his ’95 Dodge Dakota. I...

A Difference in Temperature

It’s a hot day. The heat fires down and sweats the sunblock right out. Tourists fight for seats in the cabin, but politely, so they can claim they’re not fighting. I’m stuck on deck in a polo and a prison-logo cap. Last summer, my ex-wife visited one weekend. A...

The Woman in the Chest

*Some of the imagery deals with violent subject matter* The head came disembodied, wrapped in a few of my grandmother’s wool scarves and buried in the crook of a cedar chest good for keeping moths out but more of a relic than anything—an attestation to the abundance...

Ernst’s House

Ernst sees, shaking the blind hands of sleep, the son who will never be Jesus Christ again. And this has been going on every night for six months now. Sometimes, in addition to a boyish smile, he dreams of shovels without holes and flowers without...

I Don’t Even Know Who You Are

When I booted up my computer and opened the web browser, the last thing I expected to see was a Facebook friend request from my estranged father. It’s been 13 years since I rubbed my eyes and witnessed him dash out of my life, his silhouette sneaking across the...

Game Over

Volunteering at the nursing home was the boy’s mother’s idea. She said over dinner one night that spending his afternoons in the arcade did not an impressive, productive young man make. Also, that all he ever did was take, take, take. Then she added that he’d look...

Fountains of a Birthday

He discovered // what Ponce pondered // it scared him the scars // without use-of blade // he had whittled to core // found some time // this modern-day's discoverer looked within // now sat unafraid // pain slowing hard his hands no younger, smaller, but those hands...

He’s Not Bothering Anyone

Father was the first to spot the crumpled black mass in the corner of the living room. “Up there,” he told Mother, pointing to the ceiling. The blue light from the television illuminated their pinched faces as they searched through the shadows, the whites of their...

Wet Grass

I rake leaves into a black garbage bag under moonlight. I hear Jean tell me about the benefits of leaving a few leaves in the yard. “It’s good for the soil. Don’t you care about the soil?” I don’t know what’s come over me, but I need the leaves gone. I need the grass...

The Magic of Witch Hazel

I’m Hazel, and I have known you forever. Maybe you think you can harness my power? For years, your hands have held my forks, waiting for magic, for me to twitch. Dowsing, divining, or water witching. I’ll dance, ‘wyche’, or bend in a ‘wicke’  if I feel the life...

Invasive Species

I tucked diet plans away in the back of my mind in case my hair started to thin out. I didn't think I could handle being fat and bald, not with my accent. I was hell-bent on being one or the other but didn't have the dedication to be neither. When I talked, it always...

Quicksand

Lorri dares walk out on the estuary to where the red-shanks strut on long legs. She dares climb the tall twisted oak where she says she can see her apartment block three hundred miles away in the city. She crosses the fast-flowing stream on a slick and mossy log. She...

Play Pretend

Fiona has a pretend family no one can snatch out of her hands. She has an older brother, Kojo who once drove them all the way to Aburi for a picnic in the botanical gardens; and this other time Fiona made believe he gave her a piggy back ride up Mount Afadjato. Her...

Mourning Dove

As she drifts into sleep a sound escapes her. A gentle sigh, like the cooing of a dove. Like she was releasing all that was the day before. Like letting go of something.   •   Early morning light falls soft through the window. It casts a cool hue over...

Executive Assistants

The markets are bullish, Bloomberg reports at the crack of dawn. We’re the only ones awake at this time, and we know. We made the markets bullish. Our apartments are tiny. We tiptoe around, getting ready for work, so we don’t wake our fast asleep partners and fast...

Postcard to X

Just Alice and Willy and Ben now. Dragging our bones across the city, hitting every red light but nothing slows us down. We streel over to Old Calton Burial Ground and dance, weave joy in and out of the gravestones, crackle and spark and sing our throats to ash. Our...

Countdown

10… My yearning could have deforested Maine; it continued for days, ever since I saw her, open-faced like the books on display in the museum gift shop. 9… I spent my days at the gift shop mulling over the dictionary. I glared at words I would never use. They sprawled...

Boston

Track 1In high school, we were masters of the one line song. Our greatest hit went like this: Another Saturday night 70’s loser,I myself and me, playing 45s on 33,wishing Ann would go crazy on me. Track 2As lyricists, we were uniquely qualified to recognize Boston's...

On Sunday

Presbyterian vegetarians saddle sea urchins and go for a roe. Wahoo yahoo holy water woo. Sushi sirens singsong seduction, spinach puffs are Jesus’ best wrapped gift. Crab rangoons goon naked crudités enticed by a slice of chanterelle mushroom toast. Devils ride...

The Annual Library Book Sale

The library was flooded with book donations. Mountains of cardboard boxes filled the basement, ferried from hatchback and truck-bed, down the elevator, to gather dust with their kin. Before they could be set on narrow tables at the annual book sale, the books needed...

How to Stop a Cough

See a doctor if your cough persists for more than seven days. Tell him you wake up three, four times a night coughing, though you’re not sure if it’s your cough or the urge to pee that awakens you. Joke about childbirth and urinary stress incontinence. Chuckle with...

Sorry Kid—

“Sorry Kid.” That’s what Carrie on Season 5 Episode 23 of Kids Baking Championship says to Kyle before she steals his cinnamon during a speed challenge. This ten year old has her own cream cheese frosting recipe and I can’t stop praying long enough to get off the...

Ash Darlings

During a commercial break I notice the six boxes in the corner of my room. They contain all the drafts of my third collection of unpublished stories, rose petal words, withered. I look out of the window at the cloudless night sky. So, it's time. I pile the boxes in...

Tagged

By two in the afternoon, we’d stolen four t-shirts, three baseball caps, and twelve packs of Spearmint gum, all while making friends with the cashiers—flirting if they were girls, talking sports if they were guys—and leaving each place with our pockets stuffed and the...

Six Minutes At 4 AM

I have six minutes left before the boy I used to know as a child comes out to skate the performance of his life. I go downstairs to make instant oatmeal and the water takes ages to boil. I compose a list of things you can do in six minutes – it might well not include...

An Evening With

I found Momma’s wig and green formal in her old trunk. She’d worn them to her last birthday party at DiFranco’s. After looking in the bathroom mirror, I imagined myself on a New York stage singing her favorite numbers. I performed “My Man” and voiced every word with...

What Binds

I become things. Today I become a staple stuck in a telephone pole, chewing its corner of paper. Tastes like missing puppy flier, honeyed with a crust of sadness. Not like the bitter root of ads for the neighborhood watch. Or the starchy invitation to a show by The...

Kokoschka’s doll

Sometimes Kokoschka tells me I don’t exist. He whispers, you’re a transitionary object, dear doll, an illusionary surface, an overpriced representation of absence, and he groans into the feathery folds in my thighs and throws me to the floor. I was wrapped in tissue...

Window Dolls

I see other girls like me, breathing their breath, their heads against the back seat windows, greasy imprints on the glass, their gaze on blurring buildings, boys on bikes, other cars. Chevy. Chrysler. Cutlass Supreme. We are behind our parents’ heads. For the moment,...

Archie and I. Alone. Together

Archie's coat smells of old man and cat pee. You like to dip your nose down the sagging collar and inhale the earthy scent in the playground line. Others pinch their sensitive noses and make noises that tighten his fish-hooked jaw and turn his ears pink, but you find...

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

We are heat cranky, though we try not to be.  We sit in this hot room, hot because it’s South Louisiana, hot because it’s summer, hot because the air conditioner broke down. My mother carries a tray of sweet, iced tea into the enclosed side porch, usually...

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