CNF

In Memoria

That August, stomping deep through the forest, my friend Jason and I found an abandoned farmhouse. Like a corpse given up by the earth, all bones and sinew and wide, hollow sockets. Two stories tall, learning hard to the left, as if the trees on that side were...

The Howl of a Cat

A rush of warm liquid puddles between my legsthen another gushes outsaturates the hospital bedpush the red button with the white outline of a nurse“let’s see here, honey...yep, you broke your water”it was too early, but the baby had almost come out way too early:late...

The Way I Remember It

It was Easter Sunday, or maybe it wasn’t, but it was a family dinner. A full ham seasoned with brown sugar. Round pineapple slices from a can piercing its sides with toothpicks. And you, Nana, were sitting across from me. My mom sat to your right, my stepfather at the...

Kidnapped

An egg was tossed high in the air, where it floated. The incredible, edible egg! the TV-voice sang. My mom stepped out of the kitchen for a minute. I threw an egg that sat on our counter; it splattered on the dog-chewed carpet.In my brothers’ bedroom, my stepsiblings...

Alive

Put me on the edge of annihilation, and I will love you forever. I will supplicate myself before you, dear world, for a taste of it. It does not matter what kind of death: of the body or of the ego. One is not more painful than the other: I am a connoisseur of the...

Choices

No one tells you about rolling your balls of yarn. Like, there you are, in the craft store, admiring these beautiful skeins, only to be told you can’t use them until you fully unwind them and roll them into round balls that unspool cleanly, no knots or snarls or...

On Vomiting

It’s 2005 and I’m in New York City at Circle in the Square Theatre about to see my first Broadway show. Past the spacious lounge with modern recessed lights and expensive coats slipping off shoulders like water, mom’s hand draws me to her hip to find our assigned...

Bones

I can still hear your knee cracking on the boulder jutting out from the dry Arizona dirt after the branch broke and you freefell 10-plus feet from the tree we were climbing in my backyard. From a few limbs above, I was bone-chilled by your howls and relieved you were...

Musings on Health

I wanted to write a skit about the abundance of protein shake stores in Wilmington, North Carolina, but I’m not funny enough to pull off the jokes. I’ll try to explain it to you, though: the jacked, cartoonish men that work the counter, their shoulder muscles bulging...

Doors

I stepped out of an American Airlines plane with a brown leather duffel bag. Its contents: a dozen perfume bottles that had shattered when the satchel fell out of the overhead compartment mid-flight. The bottles held a precious collection of scents from my favorite...

You Poor Thing

Miriam means bitter. My mother is as unknowable in this as she is in everything. And it was my mother, no doubt, who did the choosing, just as she did the everything: the dinner and the plunger and the vacuum and the pets and the children, my mother who surely rolled...

My Body As

My Body as Dublin, OH You hate the deer that gather quietly in fields before they run into the street, so I try to hate them too. And I try to care about the grass growing greener, but all I can bring myself to notice is the roots of the pine trees lining our bike...

Planning for the Procedure

Ensure you have somebody to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medication make it unsafe for you to get home on your own. The Serbian brothers at Luka’s place offer me mushrooms. Invite me to watch them fuck the groupie pressed between them. I giggle when Luka says...

Is it too late?

I'm afraid I wasted all my young years alone and now I’ll have all my old years alone I refused to love, until I loved the unobtainable, the years went by and you forgot, I ache every day and ask for it to stop, old sweats at two am, wide awake at four, sometimes I...

After You Break the Ceiling

After You Break the Ceiling for Elizabeth For a while, you fall upward. Gravity is weird and different, unpredictable without the constant weight of competition and comparison holding you in check. Your body feels light then heavy then light again. You wonder if you...

The Ethics of Keeping Your Ex’s Vibrator

I’ve been thinking about the things I lose and the things I’ve lost and the difference between the two. Things I lose can be regained. I lose my chapstick several times a day. Within a few hours, I come upon it folded into the fabric of my jacket pocket or behind the...

A Perfect Day in Köln

As we greet him—Guten Tag—in the lobby’s intercom, we don’t know yet that Artur barely speaks German himself. Our couch-surfing host is a foreign PhD student—a theoretical physicist—and he gives powerful hugs. He obviously works out. He shows us around. He does not...

The Residue of Womanhood

Watching the smoke rise from the cup, the rim gives my lips something to hold. An Earl Gray tea bag hangs its arm over the edge, keeping itself steady in the milky water.  I cannot help but see the specks in this tea as little floating bodies moving their way to...

Choosing Wisely

Most death choice is absence of forethought, or a not knowing, passive, not a choice at all. Living is an active choice we make every day. Get up. Eat food. The gray zone is vast and fuzzy between death choice and life choice. Drinking wine is a death choice some...

Four Pregnancies

Why is this happening again?             Words escape us. They rise in my chest, fluttering, flailing, and they falter. Leaving only the thick silence of what we cannot name....

What Matters

Your mother dies at 4am on a Wednesday. Does it matter that you have not talked to her in years?  That when you walked into her room yesterday, confusion confiscated her face. “Who is that?” she said, her lips pulled down into a well of deep disappointment. Your...

Open Mic

Rain staggers down the café windows like soot-stained tears over a cheek. I hiss air through milk. Lament the croissants suffocating under glass, the buck seventy-five in my tip jar. You take the stage. Belly-button ring glinting, a target for magpies and the boys in...

You Ask For Much (EndSARS)

It is October in Nigeria and you think of grief as a secret, sealed letter in the hands of a youth: "Give it to the Army, they'll know what to do with it." An invitation to death. You don't wail out here. This is ours, not yours. Like not yours but ours when ours is...

To Do: Put Brain Together

I don’t know what to write so day after day, month after month, I make to-do lists. Errands for my wife, soups I’d like to eat, credit card companies to call.      With a small X checking off accomplished tasks, my lists remain upbeat and optimistic.  ...

Family tree

My daughter decided to make a family tree the other night and asked me to fill in the names. She just turned nine, the same age my grandfather was when his mother and father and four sisters were killed as part of a plan to rid the land of us. I could have told her...

Solitary

The fireflies dance magnificently in the shadow of the Big House. Electric disco lights reflected joyfully in the razor wire; pulsating music I can feel but not hear.  It’s been eleven days. I can tell them apart. They’re unique; I’ve named them. Oddly, I can’t...

30-Day Notice to Vacate

Date: May 25, 2021 Tenant: Lucy Wilde Address: Non-permanent mobile Vessel currently located at Tsawwassen B.C., Canada Vessel identifying features: Female Height: 5’ 7” (and diminishing. Tenant claims it is due to excessive servitude and a condition known as...

Goodbye

I was stoned the night he arrived at my apartment to take me to a performance at the local theatre, forgot about our plan. He could tell and I could tell my not-remembering crushed him. It was shortly after mum left and he was holding tight to what he could—his kids,...

1957: The Scientific Method

In July, its leash twisted by an hour of pacing, the boy’s beagle leaps off the porch and hangs itself. In August, a sixth-grade neighborhood-school classmate, swimming alone, slips under the murky surface of a strip mine pool. In September, the boy begins junior high...

I Love Being Gay

I love being gay. I love spending twenty minutes moisturizing. I love carrying my phone in my hand like a little coin purse. I love poppers. I love incense. I love drama. I love starting phone calls with GIRL and biiiiiiiitch. I love songs that are just one command,...

Spun Glass

When we were little, Mom took us to Corning, NY to see glass blowers. Glass—hot, liquid—then, solid, clear. Mysterious. She would go anywhere, my mom, set off with real maps, unfolded, her sense of direction not one I inherited.  Once, when my father drove miles...

I Have a Question

Where were you when I prayed on the way to school? That day. Every day after that day. Were you making copies for our first fifth grade lesson that morning? Were you feeding the machine, your manicured nails tapping at the buttons? Double-sided. Black ink. Fifteen...

Shipping & Handling Costs

I’m shipping something overseas and today’s the postmark deadline. We also need tennis balls and a green t-shirt for a school play, so I take my youngest three boys and head to the post office at the mall instead of the one downtown. When we arrive, the line is out...

March 3rd, 2005

My dad was arrested for abusing my little brother in the bathroom of our elementary school. I’ve never told anyone this story. Everyone knows this story. - I remember this day clearly. I remember it for the wrong reasons. It was a special day at school. We got to wear...

We Carry Our Father’s Ashes

We gather our father’s ashes from the crematorium, two days after the cremation because by then the ashes and bones have cooled down. We sift through them, find the stent that allowed him to eat for ten days before he passed away. We gather our father’s ashes in our...

Magic House

I almost ate a live jellyfish once. I was crouching beside my dirty blond cousin on the wet sand. Dustin: Dustin who told me what virgin was. The entire family was getting away from our lives in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Tennessee; we met at a scrubby campground...

Bird Poem

xThis morning I chased the chickens through the neighbor’s yard and into the apartment complex wearing only my underwear and a hot pink t-shirt. I tucked them beneath my arms, calling them dear heart, sweetling, birdie. xI have called my son Bird since he was born....

Breathing the Ghost

Rebecca Mathias died in second grade. We called her Becky. She had a brain tumor. Our teacher asked if it was ok if Becky sat next to me on the bus on a field trip. Becky laughed too hard—too loud—and she had a runny nose, and she wore leg braces, and she had a rubber...

For Molly Young

Listen, when it becomes harder to tell a man that you snore than where to put his dick, when you scroll past the dick pic to scrutinize the baseboards for dirty laundry and dust buffalos, to confirm if there is artwork or photography on the walls, to see if there are...

He Was a C Scale Descending

He was a C scale descending. An early Beatles song: sunbeams and summer rain and handholding. I was all minor cords straying from middle C. He was glacier blue, electric blue, sapphire, peacock, indigo too. I was Blue Nun blue, that sticky sweet teen wine, tipped back...

Electric Friends

The Jesus picture hangs above the TV cabinet, lit up with a tiny bulb tucked inside the frame. There’s a faux marble fountain right there in Grandma’s front parlor, and a naked cherub squirts a trickle of water into a giant bowl that looks like a baptismal font....

The Reborn

I bleed a heart-shaped stain on my mattress then sell it for $100 on Wichita, Get It Cheap. The woman texts me, Is it heavy? I won’t lie to her, I say it is, and that she’ll need a rope.I stay inside as the woman and her daughter stomp up the front steps and bicker...

When The World Moves On

There’s this song by The Cranberries called Linger.  It’s a relic from the 90’s, a familiar tune that I never offered a second glance until recently.  Someone uploaded a video on Youtube playing that song but as if you were listening to it from another...

Bubbles

“The bubbleis what you make itlevying an emotional tax …as magical as a typicalDisney trip.”(Excerpted from “The True Cost of Life in the NBA Bubble” NY Times 9/2/20) * Curly haired Rachel Landau blew a bright pink Bazooka bubble bigger than a basketball. Just as she...

A Ritual of Belief

I find myself again in the cemetery where a man cuts tree stumps into animals – a bird, a bear, a woodpecker with its long beak pulled back ready to strike at the smallest head in remembrance of someone I’ve never met. I wonder if the woman buried next to my car would...

Yellowstone

I lumber into the kitchen at 8:36 and begin my life. Everyone is already awake.  I am a small black bear among humans: wild and askew. “Fiiirst daaay of woooork!!” Naomi says to me. She’s unpacking her groceries: cold brew, chickpeas, organic shampoo. “How do you...

Transitions

A student, once, wrote a story for introductory fiction workshop that ended as a young woman danced slowly with a girl described as beautiful in a shimmering dress that revealed a body that “seemed to be budding as they embraced at the song’s last note.” The student,...

Zucchini Blossoms at the End of the World

The world had ended, even though she has done what was requested of her: stayed home, washed hands, worn a mask. The virus became a pandemic, and the Sickness spread. It spread because that’s what contagions do, but also because some were not allowed to stay home,...

Nicknames

The first thing you need to do when you meet a man is take away his name. Without a name, he only exists in your story. It started with Clammy Hands, in his late twenties, too eager to talk to your not quite legal (but almost) neckline as you shelved books at the...

New Orleans

The dead don't stay buried in New Orleans, so I took you on the ghost tour with me. I saw you skewered on a spike, choking blood onto the sidewalk. You were trying to jump from the balcony of a girl you saw in secret. She watched you die. It made me smile....

where i was when i realized you are me

i had obsessed over logistics, maps, inroads, geography: coast, sea, shell, flight, waystation, layover, customs and immigration that i forgot i could access you, just one of the 65,000 children adopted between 1980 and 1989—city of exiles, generation of sparrows...

Hazard Ahead

On the way to the hospital for my husband’s hip replacement, I rode shotgun as he worked the clutch and gas. A move first rehearsed on his ‘62 blue Chevy, then Ford Escort, Subaru wagon, red Honda Civic, silver Civic and black Civic. A skill so natural he never...

An Ode to Brie Cheese

Like velvet, like the surface of the moon. A field of cream, a bolt of pale silk. Not wax or plastic, but mold. A white mold sprayed across the surface to protect something so soft and delicate. To give it backbone, give it flavor. It suggests a decaying whale. Dead...

Sediment

‘I couldn’t do that,’ you said, when I deleted my social media. ‘I’d feel as though I was missing out on everything.’ You always disappoint me like that. I admired you so much at university; your intellect, your lust for learning. I can’t believe I still have a friend...

Teeth Fragments

A father and son were once in my mouth at the same time with a hammer and chisel. My mouth is too small for my teeth, and their task was to make space. There was no pain, but the hits scolded my eardrums. I caught a glimpse of the shattered tooth when it was over,...

Domesticated Violence

I, a once broken girl, once broke a man. He was, himself, without a father and uncertain in the ways of a man. Handsome, but without respect or the tools to garner it-always half in work, half in schemes, and never in sentences drawn from literate sources. Yet he was...

The Gift Economy

1. Recently I’ve written my last will and testament. Well, truth be told, I just filled in some blanks on a boilerplate. My partner, Megan, and I took it to her bank to get it notarized along with a medical form our doctor gave us entitled “5 Wishes” about end-of-life...

Instructions for Grieving

1. Try to get back to a routine as soon as possible. 7:00 A.M.  7:15 A.M.  7:30 A.M. 8:00 A.M.   8:15 A.M. 9:00 A.M.        10:15 A.M.   Fuck it. Cloudy with a chance of torrential downpour. Remove makeup....

The Dance

1.  The slice is a rectangle. I can feel the part of my stomach where the mesh has been sewn in. It’s a patch. I’ve been put back together like a toy; a bundle of haphazard stitches, murdered to stay alive.   Back from the other side, it’s me: a zombie...

The Wild Gold Things

Can we stop evil better? Turn slag to days? With each fresh beginning, purpose falls flat against the wall of discovery. If only we knew how easily a life can go wrong or how far to push the love. If only we could fix it all. These back roads are endless. Below a...

Strawberry Jackknife

Our car gasps, slows, oozes to a stop.  Twenty years ago, at least. My mom was driving me to school when we saw an 18-wheeler sprawled across the highway. We were either on the 210 or the 134. It looked like everyone in the state had emptied their veins onto the...

Influence

I am watching a re-tweeted video of a writer I don’t know or follow opening a Fed-Ex package, a conscious glance at the camera, nervous side-smile. She sits on her made bed’s white comforter in a red dress, hair straight from the stylist, red lipstick. She removes the...

35 Variations

1. Alphabetically: AA B C D EEEEE F H J NN OOO RR SS T U W Y 2. Anagram: O, we seafarers enjoy techno dub. 3. Lipogram in d, g, i, k, l, m, p, q, v, x, z: We can bed heroes, just for one day. 4. Lipogram in a: We might be heroes, just for one sunrise. 5. Lipogram in...

Lucky Little Girl

Is six a confusing time for everyone? I look at my children and think not. They may no longer like trains or construction vehicles but they go to sleep around the same time every night. Their friends range in age from 5-7. Not a single friend in their twenties or...

On Not Drinking for Dorothy Parker

Most people remember Dorothy Parker for “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”     One of the lines that I remember her by is “All those writers who write about their childhood…if I wrote about mine you wouldn't sit in the same room...

Stupid Girls

ONE. To collect our lost things, Forest drove us along the railway—the rain slowed, the lake calmed—and while Forest drove, he flirted, and teased us for not being stupid girls, and still that’s what I remember most, not the portages that hadn’t been cleared of...

Sister Copper Hair

I. My sister tells me that if I stare too long at the clothes whirling around in the washer I will get cancer.A. It takes a while for me to figure out this is a lie. For years, I will glance at the washer’s soapy porthole and quickly look away.B. As we grow older, I...

Tree Dreams of Becoming a Mast

Pieces of that day, together with phrases or words from a novel or a poem I remember, still snag within me, meshing, blending, trying to turn what we did in that last hour into something greater than it was. As if the work somehow made small legends of us in some way...

One Away From Enough

When the cotton candy colored sky spins out shadows that land in the hungry crevices of old brick that line these cobblestone streets, I begin to wonder what my brother had eaten that day. Perhaps beef stroganoff, his favorite? Probably not. A paper cup of chocolate...

Aspects of Poetry

My friend’s mother talked on the phone for hours, pacing the kitchen, smoking cigarette after cigarette, pausing and frowning in dramatic caesuras, then replying in a burst of diatribe or praise. She’d hush us—vamoose, I’m talking—and then, after a brief apology,...

A Meditation on Bitterness

I am five and I go to a co-ed school. It is the summer after I’ve passed 1st standard, first in my class. I am seated in between two nuns who are about to start interviewing me, and my parents are made to sit across from us on a separate sofa. We are here seeking to...

There is Something I Need to Tell You

I do my best to avoid images of violence or death. When a slow-motion car crash is recreated on a tv show or a hockey replay presents a gruesome injury, I cover my eyes. If I’m with company I look at my phone, where violence has become unavoidable. I have seen the...

A Brief History of the Soft Drink

Behind the convenience store, beyond the dumpster, a path begins so narrow it explains how it has been walked only single-file by the brain-damaged who travel daily to the store from the state-sponsored school for the impaired. Those residents have etched a permanent...

Halcyon Digest

“Nothing is as good as you remember it being. We digest, compile, and collate our memories to be more agreeable to us. We leave out the bad parts.”—Bradford Cox 1. Earthquake Julien and I spent the summer huddled over my kitchen table emailing bookers, calculating...

Distancing

My husband lost his job at the airport, in this Colorado mountain town of 6,500, because the last flight he worked for United had a single passenger. All the stores and restaurants are closed, all nonessential businesses, so he applied for a job at the hospital as a...

Cannibals

Every hour we shed 30,000 skin cells. Some we’ll swallow back down, like an auto-cannibalism. Some won’t be ours, but they’ll settle in and stay. It’ll look like a place called home among the bronchi and the bronchioles, the ligaments and the tendons, the red and the...

In Memoria

That August, stomping deep through the forest, my friend Jason and I found an abandoned farmhouse. Like a corpse given up by the earth, all bones and sinew and wide, hollow sockets. Two stories tall, learning hard to the left, as if the trees on that side were...

The Howl of a Cat

A rush of warm liquid puddles between my legsthen another gushes outsaturates the hospital bedpush the red button with the white outline of a nurse“let’s see here, honey...yep, you broke your water”it was too early, but the baby had almost come out way too early:late...

The Way I Remember It

It was Easter Sunday, or maybe it wasn’t, but it was a family dinner. A full ham seasoned with brown sugar. Round pineapple slices from a can piercing its sides with toothpicks. And you, Nana, were sitting across from me. My mom sat to your right, my stepfather at the...

Kidnapped

An egg was tossed high in the air, where it floated. The incredible, edible egg! the TV-voice sang. My mom stepped out of the kitchen for a minute. I threw an egg that sat on our counter; it splattered on the dog-chewed carpet.In my brothers’ bedroom, my stepsiblings...

Alive

Put me on the edge of annihilation, and I will love you forever. I will supplicate myself before you, dear world, for a taste of it. It does not matter what kind of death: of the body or of the ego. One is not more painful than the other: I am a connoisseur of the...

Choices

No one tells you about rolling your balls of yarn. Like, there you are, in the craft store, admiring these beautiful skeins, only to be told you can’t use them until you fully unwind them and roll them into round balls that unspool cleanly, no knots or snarls or...

On Vomiting

It’s 2005 and I’m in New York City at Circle in the Square Theatre about to see my first Broadway show. Past the spacious lounge with modern recessed lights and expensive coats slipping off shoulders like water, mom’s hand draws me to her hip to find our assigned...

Bones

I can still hear your knee cracking on the boulder jutting out from the dry Arizona dirt after the branch broke and you freefell 10-plus feet from the tree we were climbing in my backyard. From a few limbs above, I was bone-chilled by your howls and relieved you were...

Musings on Health

I wanted to write a skit about the abundance of protein shake stores in Wilmington, North Carolina, but I’m not funny enough to pull off the jokes. I’ll try to explain it to you, though: the jacked, cartoonish men that work the counter, their shoulder muscles bulging...

Things I Have Lost, 1975- Present (Selected)

● 1982 - Plastic Star Wars action figure. It was Greedo. He was all green, lost in a green shag carpet. “I was just holding him,” I said. “He disappeared.” “Green on green,” my mother said. “Yeah, that’s tricky.” ● 1983 - The Derose family next door. One afternoon I...

Doors

I stepped out of an American Airlines plane with a brown leather duffel bag. Its contents: a dozen perfume bottles that had shattered when the satchel fell out of the overhead compartment mid-flight. The bottles held a precious collection of scents from my favorite...

You Poor Thing

Miriam means bitter. My mother is as unknowable in this as she is in everything. And it was my mother, no doubt, who did the choosing, just as she did the everything: the dinner and the plunger and the vacuum and the pets and the children, my mother who surely rolled...

My Body As

My Body as Dublin, OH You hate the deer that gather quietly in fields before they run into the street, so I try to hate them too. And I try to care about the grass growing greener, but all I can bring myself to notice is the roots of the pine trees lining our bike...

At the memorial, I think of monarchs

Years ago, a friend and I walked along the beach in the shadow of the bluffs jutting up from Lake Michigan. The air was bustling with the first hints of fall. Mist rose from the still-warm water and the whole stretch of shore was shrouded in a fog as far as I could...

Planning for the Procedure

Ensure you have somebody to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medication make it unsafe for you to get home on your own. The Serbian brothers at Luka’s place offer me mushrooms. Invite me to watch them fuck the groupie pressed between them. I giggle when Luka says...

Is it too late?

I'm afraid I wasted all my young years alone and now I’ll have all my old years alone I refused to love, until I loved the unobtainable, the years went by and you forgot, I ache every day and ask for it to stop, old sweats at two am, wide awake at four, sometimes I...

Backpack Alaska (abridged ed.)

Intro:             Above the valley floor, Mt. Doonerak’s rotting glacier calves, shrugs wet slabs away—not exactly what the Backpack Alaska! brochure advertised.  Below the treeline, black spruce and willow...

After You Break the Ceiling

After You Break the Ceiling for Elizabeth For a while, you fall upward. Gravity is weird and different, unpredictable without the constant weight of competition and comparison holding you in check. Your body feels light then heavy then light again. You wonder if you...

The Ethics of Keeping Your Ex’s Vibrator

I’ve been thinking about the things I lose and the things I’ve lost and the difference between the two. Things I lose can be regained. I lose my chapstick several times a day. Within a few hours, I come upon it folded into the fabric of my jacket pocket or behind the...

A Perfect Day in Köln

As we greet him—Guten Tag—in the lobby’s intercom, we don’t know yet that Artur barely speaks German himself. Our couch-surfing host is a foreign PhD student—a theoretical physicist—and he gives powerful hugs. He obviously works out. He shows us around. He does not...

The Residue of Womanhood

Watching the smoke rise from the cup, the rim gives my lips something to hold. An Earl Gray tea bag hangs its arm over the edge, keeping itself steady in the milky water.  I cannot help but see the specks in this tea as little floating bodies moving their way to...

Choosing Wisely

Most death choice is absence of forethought, or a not knowing, passive, not a choice at all. Living is an active choice we make every day. Get up. Eat food. The gray zone is vast and fuzzy between death choice and life choice. Drinking wine is a death choice some...

Four Pregnancies

Why is this happening again?             Words escape us. They rise in my chest, fluttering, flailing, and they falter. Leaving only the thick silence of what we cannot name....

What Matters

Your mother dies at 4am on a Wednesday. Does it matter that you have not talked to her in years?  That when you walked into her room yesterday, confusion confiscated her face. “Who is that?” she said, her lips pulled down into a well of deep disappointment. Your...

Open Mic

Rain staggers down the café windows like soot-stained tears over a cheek. I hiss air through milk. Lament the croissants suffocating under glass, the buck seventy-five in my tip jar. You take the stage. Belly-button ring glinting, a target for magpies and the boys in...

You Ask For Much (EndSARS)

It is October in Nigeria and you think of grief as a secret, sealed letter in the hands of a youth: "Give it to the Army, they'll know what to do with it." An invitation to death. You don't wail out here. This is ours, not yours. Like not yours but ours when ours is...

To Do: Put Brain Together

I don’t know what to write so day after day, month after month, I make to-do lists. Errands for my wife, soups I’d like to eat, credit card companies to call.      With a small X checking off accomplished tasks, my lists remain upbeat and optimistic.  ...

Family tree

My daughter decided to make a family tree the other night and asked me to fill in the names. She just turned nine, the same age my grandfather was when his mother and father and four sisters were killed as part of a plan to rid the land of us. I could have told her...

Solitary

The fireflies dance magnificently in the shadow of the Big House. Electric disco lights reflected joyfully in the razor wire; pulsating music I can feel but not hear.  It’s been eleven days. I can tell them apart. They’re unique; I’ve named them. Oddly, I can’t...

30-Day Notice to Vacate

Date: May 25, 2021 Tenant: Lucy Wilde Address: Non-permanent mobile Vessel currently located at Tsawwassen B.C., Canada Vessel identifying features: Female Height: 5’ 7” (and diminishing. Tenant claims it is due to excessive servitude and a condition known as...

Goodbye

I was stoned the night he arrived at my apartment to take me to a performance at the local theatre, forgot about our plan. He could tell and I could tell my not-remembering crushed him. It was shortly after mum left and he was holding tight to what he could—his kids,...

1957: The Scientific Method

In July, its leash twisted by an hour of pacing, the boy’s beagle leaps off the porch and hangs itself. In August, a sixth-grade neighborhood-school classmate, swimming alone, slips under the murky surface of a strip mine pool. In September, the boy begins junior high...

I Love Being Gay

I love being gay. I love spending twenty minutes moisturizing. I love carrying my phone in my hand like a little coin purse. I love poppers. I love incense. I love drama. I love starting phone calls with GIRL and biiiiiiiitch. I love songs that are just one command,...

Spun Glass

When we were little, Mom took us to Corning, NY to see glass blowers. Glass—hot, liquid—then, solid, clear. Mysterious. She would go anywhere, my mom, set off with real maps, unfolded, her sense of direction not one I inherited.  Once, when my father drove miles...

I Have a Question

Where were you when I prayed on the way to school? That day. Every day after that day. Were you making copies for our first fifth grade lesson that morning? Were you feeding the machine, your manicured nails tapping at the buttons? Double-sided. Black ink. Fifteen...

Shipping & Handling Costs

I’m shipping something overseas and today’s the postmark deadline. We also need tennis balls and a green t-shirt for a school play, so I take my youngest three boys and head to the post office at the mall instead of the one downtown. When we arrive, the line is out...

March 3rd, 2005

My dad was arrested for abusing my little brother in the bathroom of our elementary school. I’ve never told anyone this story. Everyone knows this story. - I remember this day clearly. I remember it for the wrong reasons. It was a special day at school. We got to wear...

We Carry Our Father’s Ashes

We gather our father’s ashes from the crematorium, two days after the cremation because by then the ashes and bones have cooled down. We sift through them, find the stent that allowed him to eat for ten days before he passed away. We gather our father’s ashes in our...

Magic House

I almost ate a live jellyfish once. I was crouching beside my dirty blond cousin on the wet sand. Dustin: Dustin who told me what virgin was. The entire family was getting away from our lives in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Tennessee; we met at a scrubby campground...

Bird Poem

xThis morning I chased the chickens through the neighbor’s yard and into the apartment complex wearing only my underwear and a hot pink t-shirt. I tucked them beneath my arms, calling them dear heart, sweetling, birdie. xI have called my son Bird since he was born....

Breathing the Ghost

Rebecca Mathias died in second grade. We called her Becky. She had a brain tumor. Our teacher asked if it was ok if Becky sat next to me on the bus on a field trip. Becky laughed too hard—too loud—and she had a runny nose, and she wore leg braces, and she had a rubber...

For Molly Young

Listen, when it becomes harder to tell a man that you snore than where to put his dick, when you scroll past the dick pic to scrutinize the baseboards for dirty laundry and dust buffalos, to confirm if there is artwork or photography on the walls, to see if there are...

He Was a C Scale Descending

He was a C scale descending. An early Beatles song: sunbeams and summer rain and handholding. I was all minor cords straying from middle C. He was glacier blue, electric blue, sapphire, peacock, indigo too. I was Blue Nun blue, that sticky sweet teen wine, tipped back...

Electric Friends

The Jesus picture hangs above the TV cabinet, lit up with a tiny bulb tucked inside the frame. There’s a faux marble fountain right there in Grandma’s front parlor, and a naked cherub squirts a trickle of water into a giant bowl that looks like a baptismal font....

The Reborn

I bleed a heart-shaped stain on my mattress then sell it for $100 on Wichita, Get It Cheap. The woman texts me, Is it heavy? I won’t lie to her, I say it is, and that she’ll need a rope.I stay inside as the woman and her daughter stomp up the front steps and bicker...

When The World Moves On

There’s this song by The Cranberries called Linger.  It’s a relic from the 90’s, a familiar tune that I never offered a second glance until recently.  Someone uploaded a video on Youtube playing that song but as if you were listening to it from another...

Bubbles

“The bubbleis what you make itlevying an emotional tax …as magical as a typicalDisney trip.”(Excerpted from “The True Cost of Life in the NBA Bubble” NY Times 9/2/20) * Curly haired Rachel Landau blew a bright pink Bazooka bubble bigger than a basketball. Just as she...

A Ritual of Belief

I find myself again in the cemetery where a man cuts tree stumps into animals – a bird, a bear, a woodpecker with its long beak pulled back ready to strike at the smallest head in remembrance of someone I’ve never met. I wonder if the woman buried next to my car would...

Yellowstone

I lumber into the kitchen at 8:36 and begin my life. Everyone is already awake.  I am a small black bear among humans: wild and askew. “Fiiirst daaay of woooork!!” Naomi says to me. She’s unpacking her groceries: cold brew, chickpeas, organic shampoo. “How do you...

Transitions

A student, once, wrote a story for introductory fiction workshop that ended as a young woman danced slowly with a girl described as beautiful in a shimmering dress that revealed a body that “seemed to be budding as they embraced at the song’s last note.” The student,...

Zucchini Blossoms at the End of the World

The world had ended, even though she has done what was requested of her: stayed home, washed hands, worn a mask. The virus became a pandemic, and the Sickness spread. It spread because that’s what contagions do, but also because some were not allowed to stay home,...

Nicknames

The first thing you need to do when you meet a man is take away his name. Without a name, he only exists in your story. It started with Clammy Hands, in his late twenties, too eager to talk to your not quite legal (but almost) neckline as you shelved books at the...

New Orleans

The dead don't stay buried in New Orleans, so I took you on the ghost tour with me. I saw you skewered on a spike, choking blood onto the sidewalk. You were trying to jump from the balcony of a girl you saw in secret. She watched you die. It made me smile....

where i was when i realized you are me

i had obsessed over logistics, maps, inroads, geography: coast, sea, shell, flight, waystation, layover, customs and immigration that i forgot i could access you, just one of the 65,000 children adopted between 1980 and 1989—city of exiles, generation of sparrows...

Hazard Ahead

On the way to the hospital for my husband’s hip replacement, I rode shotgun as he worked the clutch and gas. A move first rehearsed on his ‘62 blue Chevy, then Ford Escort, Subaru wagon, red Honda Civic, silver Civic and black Civic. A skill so natural he never...

An Ode to Brie Cheese

Like velvet, like the surface of the moon. A field of cream, a bolt of pale silk. Not wax or plastic, but mold. A white mold sprayed across the surface to protect something so soft and delicate. To give it backbone, give it flavor. It suggests a decaying whale. Dead...

Sediment

‘I couldn’t do that,’ you said, when I deleted my social media. ‘I’d feel as though I was missing out on everything.’ You always disappoint me like that. I admired you so much at university; your intellect, your lust for learning. I can’t believe I still have a friend...

Teeth Fragments

A father and son were once in my mouth at the same time with a hammer and chisel. My mouth is too small for my teeth, and their task was to make space. There was no pain, but the hits scolded my eardrums. I caught a glimpse of the shattered tooth when it was over,...

Domesticated Violence

I, a once broken girl, once broke a man. He was, himself, without a father and uncertain in the ways of a man. Handsome, but without respect or the tools to garner it-always half in work, half in schemes, and never in sentences drawn from literate sources. Yet he was...

The Gift Economy

1. Recently I’ve written my last will and testament. Well, truth be told, I just filled in some blanks on a boilerplate. My partner, Megan, and I took it to her bank to get it notarized along with a medical form our doctor gave us entitled “5 Wishes” about end-of-life...

Instructions for Grieving

1. Try to get back to a routine as soon as possible. 7:00 A.M.  7:15 A.M.  7:30 A.M. 8:00 A.M.   8:15 A.M. 9:00 A.M.        10:15 A.M.   Fuck it. Cloudy with a chance of torrential downpour. Remove makeup....

The Dance

1.  The slice is a rectangle. I can feel the part of my stomach where the mesh has been sewn in. It’s a patch. I’ve been put back together like a toy; a bundle of haphazard stitches, murdered to stay alive.   Back from the other side, it’s me: a zombie...

The Wild Gold Things

Can we stop evil better? Turn slag to days? With each fresh beginning, purpose falls flat against the wall of discovery. If only we knew how easily a life can go wrong or how far to push the love. If only we could fix it all. These back roads are endless. Below a...

Strawberry Jackknife

Our car gasps, slows, oozes to a stop.  Twenty years ago, at least. My mom was driving me to school when we saw an 18-wheeler sprawled across the highway. We were either on the 210 or the 134. It looked like everyone in the state had emptied their veins onto the...

Influence

I am watching a re-tweeted video of a writer I don’t know or follow opening a Fed-Ex package, a conscious glance at the camera, nervous side-smile. She sits on her made bed’s white comforter in a red dress, hair straight from the stylist, red lipstick. She removes the...

35 Variations

1. Alphabetically: AA B C D EEEEE F H J NN OOO RR SS T U W Y 2. Anagram: O, we seafarers enjoy techno dub. 3. Lipogram in d, g, i, k, l, m, p, q, v, x, z: We can bed heroes, just for one day. 4. Lipogram in a: We might be heroes, just for one sunrise. 5. Lipogram in...

Vancouver Island (1990s Give & Take)

When I am nineteen, you let me go. Until then, you keep me in your rocky shores. I explore your roads on foot, on hitch-hiked rides with strangers, on bikes found in back alleys. You give me G and G gives me a plate he makes in pottery class with his beach-tanned...

Lucky Little Girl

Is six a confusing time for everyone? I look at my children and think not. They may no longer like trains or construction vehicles but they go to sleep around the same time every night. Their friends range in age from 5-7. Not a single friend in their twenties or...

On Not Drinking for Dorothy Parker

Most people remember Dorothy Parker for “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”     One of the lines that I remember her by is “All those writers who write about their childhood…if I wrote about mine you wouldn't sit in the same room...

Stupid Girls

ONE. To collect our lost things, Forest drove us along the railway—the rain slowed, the lake calmed—and while Forest drove, he flirted, and teased us for not being stupid girls, and still that’s what I remember most, not the portages that hadn’t been cleared of...

Sister Copper Hair

I. My sister tells me that if I stare too long at the clothes whirling around in the washer I will get cancer.A. It takes a while for me to figure out this is a lie. For years, I will glance at the washer’s soapy porthole and quickly look away.B. As we grow older, I...

Tree Dreams of Becoming a Mast

Pieces of that day, together with phrases or words from a novel or a poem I remember, still snag within me, meshing, blending, trying to turn what we did in that last hour into something greater than it was. As if the work somehow made small legends of us in some way...

One Away From Enough

When the cotton candy colored sky spins out shadows that land in the hungry crevices of old brick that line these cobblestone streets, I begin to wonder what my brother had eaten that day. Perhaps beef stroganoff, his favorite? Probably not. A paper cup of chocolate...

Aspects of Poetry

My friend’s mother talked on the phone for hours, pacing the kitchen, smoking cigarette after cigarette, pausing and frowning in dramatic caesuras, then replying in a burst of diatribe or praise. She’d hush us—vamoose, I’m talking—and then, after a brief apology,...

A Meditation on Bitterness

I am five and I go to a co-ed school. It is the summer after I’ve passed 1st standard, first in my class. I am seated in between two nuns who are about to start interviewing me, and my parents are made to sit across from us on a separate sofa. We are here seeking to...

There is Something I Need to Tell You

I do my best to avoid images of violence or death. When a slow-motion car crash is recreated on a tv show or a hockey replay presents a gruesome injury, I cover my eyes. If I’m with company I look at my phone, where violence has become unavoidable. I have seen the...

A Brief History of the Soft Drink

Behind the convenience store, beyond the dumpster, a path begins so narrow it explains how it has been walked only single-file by the brain-damaged who travel daily to the store from the state-sponsored school for the impaired. Those residents have etched a permanent...

Halcyon Digest

“Nothing is as good as you remember it being. We digest, compile, and collate our memories to be more agreeable to us. We leave out the bad parts.”—Bradford Cox 1. Earthquake Julien and I spent the summer huddled over my kitchen table emailing bookers, calculating...

Distancing

My husband lost his job at the airport, in this Colorado mountain town of 6,500, because the last flight he worked for United had a single passenger. All the stores and restaurants are closed, all nonessential businesses, so he applied for a job at the hospital as a...

Cannibals

Every hour we shed 30,000 skin cells. Some we’ll swallow back down, like an auto-cannibalism. Some won’t be ours, but they’ll settle in and stay. It’ll look like a place called home among the bronchi and the bronchioles, the ligaments and the tendons, the red and the...

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