Issue Thirty-Five

Oct 10, 2023

Holy Mother

Looking back, I could’ve stopped it. When my uncles, my mother’s brothers, the five-headed mass of them, cornered me at her funeral and said, “Irene was a saint,” I could’ve said no, she wasn’t. Could’ve said, you didn’t know her like I did. 

The Ice Sculptor Regrets

One day, the ice sculptor began to melt. As it happened, he came to realize he had a few regrets. He regretted having become an ice sculptor for one thing—there was no stability in it, it had never quite felt like a solid career. His parents had hoped for a more conventional sort of success.

The Bridge

The bridge hung over dark waters there was a place to get on if you wanted to go somewhere there were painted parts where the graffiti had been covered there were torn down posters and fagins the city you could see from the river was the heights the only place I ever sat was by one end looking out over my home and scorning the people and the changing lights but still for all it hung there was one place the bridge could not take you.

Airing Laundry

Polly was supposed to be an expert, but she couldn’t do it anymore. How does one stay balanced and regulated when the world is overflowing with stupid and greedy and your mom is dying and your child just got called mop-boy at school even though she’s a girl and beautiful to you and you promised yourself you would lose weight but you ate three cookies waiting for the water to heat for your first coffee and your phone therapy clients have problems that make your life sound like a dream?

Tool Box

When the hammer comes down, the constituent parts of a cell phone will go their separate ways. It is just a beautiful dream left unrealized, but when annoyed by the texting driver or oblivious teenager holding up the line, rerunning it can never fail to brighten the day.

Go, Girl

To get to her riding lessons, Malin had to peddle her banana-seat bike up a dirt road. One steep hill usually forced her off the bike.

The Dog and the Sea

They were there, every other day, at the beach. I used to come every day. To see the wind, hear the air pop like bubble-wrap on the shore. I’d come at night: the wind was wet, free from the tongues of visitors, save me. But I’m more of a resident.

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.

Two Imaginings of a Conversation We Will Never Have

You were my first real crush: a “late for Algebra 2 so we could walk into the classroom together, save my art project that you complimented during critique, make my friend look at the bus list for the field trip because I was too nervous to see if we were on the same one, butterflies in my throat” crush.

In the last 24 hours

I got to the high school national basketball championship game where we lost with one second left on the clock when the small forward for the other team, who would go on to be drafted by Duke University, did a tip-dunk that put them within one point, and was fouled,...

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.

Two Poems

half a percent of baby seahorses survive to adulthood male seahorses carry the children & lay them on the church steps at the feet of God my brother & me we were the children we had a holy light within us & everyone told my father you carried such good boys

Spoiler

Today, the ambulance bulked yellow through the trees for you, and this is the kind of poem I will only show people in the event things turn out fine. In your absence, dusk and summer twinned and twined so I thought of different hills to these, sky losing its blaze...

Boys: A Backlog

1) Tommy, the tiniest boy on the 1st-grade playground, becomes the object of your desire as you chase him, screaming Daddy, please, Daddy, momentarily forsaking your very own doting daddy at home.

Flamingoes

It starts with a sound coming from the room you don’t go into anymore. The first time you hear it, you convince yourself it came from the kitchen.

Pilgrim

I wanted you to be delivered, hoisted up and kept safe. The sharp shells beckoned. The night was supposed to blanket, warm, safe, instead of rocks.

Theft

These are the facts of my father’s death from the New Orleans Times Picayune a few days after June 9, 1974: The death of Godfrey Kirkpatrick, 39, 1740 Jackson Ave., who was found hanged at his residence Sunday night, was still under investigation and unclassified by the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office Monday

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.

If Van Gogh Had Lived to Be Eighty

He squeezed the trigger. Click. He squeezed again, twice. Click. Click. Impatient, he tossed the pistol into the field of ripe wheat, flushing out a murder of crows, then turned back to his canvas, a changed man.

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.

Dislocated

If you ask me why I left Michigan,
I would tell that you that it wasn’t because
Of the weather which left me with a bloated album of waiting
for the blackouts

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.

Woe, Wrong, Wound

Grief, n. Seven brush fires raged in my little county on Labor Day. On sidewalks, paint spells Careful, but you have to be looking down already to read that. A town on the eastern side of the state is gone now. It took only three days. You know what else happens in...

Maybe If

Maybe if I dress better, in swank pant suits. Maybe if I style my hair differently. Maybe if I cut it shorter, so it looks tamed. Maybe if I wear it longer, so it looks feminine. Maybe if I wear makeup. Maybe if I get Botox. Maybe if I wear high heels. Maybe if I wear...

Boots That Help Me Find a Rhythm

On a short section of the Appalachian Trail, north of Hiawassee, Georgia, I discarded the grief of my divorce like one long apple peel flung on top of the poison ivy growing next to the narrow, clay path.  The wildflowers and the canopies stretched tall enough to touch the sky.

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