"The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing."
Parris EnflamesDaniel Eastman
You are here. Darkness surrounds you now, both literal and figurative. You sit hunched over against the wall of the crowded bus, pantomiming meditation in a defecatory posture, eyes wide-open stealing glimpses of your crusted New Balance sneakers with the occasional passing of city lights. Maybe somehow there’ll be a reflection, a final glimpse of your thick brown hair. Instead, green edge of a road sign that passes too quickly. You know that you are somewhere in South Carolina. That’s where the plane landed.
Looking back, she was my first love. She had the strength of character and the courage of her convictions to endure any hardship life could throw her way. On my second day as a firefighter, my captain ordered me to accompany him across the street to the local gas station on a call about “a cat stuck in a tree.” I did as I was told, donned my gear, and walked to the tree to ponder how I could climb it without scaring the small feline to higher elevations or encouraging it to confront my face with its claws. These are the decisions for officers, not rookie firefighters.
How to Be a WallHannah Rials
No. 1 – Already Be a Wall Become a wall before it is necessary. I can’t instruct you on this because I was naïve. I thought, Let pain come; it’s a part of life. I thought being a wall was cold-hearted, and that I am not. But please learn from my mistakes. Being a wall isn’t being heartless. It’s just the smart thing to do. No. 2 – Remember the Pain This is the worst step—I’m sorry. But I have a feeling that if you’re reading this, you’re like me; you absorb words.
“Yo-yo”, “Ephemera” and “Bowels of Nursery”Gerard Sarnat
Yo-Yo Epic refereed over-the-moon contests were sponsored by Duncan Toys Inc outside the best local movie theater where we saw twenty-five cartoons for a quarter. Plus the raffle winner with the luckiest ticket got to bring a box of chocolates home to mother.
“Thoughts My Morning Coffee Stirs”, “Hangnails and Other Bad Habits” and “Stay in the Lines”Chloe McMurray
Thoughts My Morning Coffee Stirs I believe in the strength of the first sip of coffee and the rickety leg on the chair at the table. I believe her tattooed shoulder, against my tattooed thigh never altered the planet’s arch, nor the speed cancer grows on a kidney, nor how many children will be cold tonight as they sleep.
“The Luminous Mysteries”, “Retain this Copy for Your Records” and “It’s Later Than You Think”Michelle Brooks
The Luminous Mysteries For the better part of an hour, I sit in an examination room, my nose dripping onto the butcher paper, having feigned interest in the fake breast handed to me by a doctor at this urgent care.
“Sea Memories”, “Mesmerizing Munia’ and “Memories to a Saturday Customer”Eric Peter
Sea Memories The red fish dangles Among a set of pictures Stuck to a wall with tape Which won’t stick for too long The photos depict sea nomads In a generation’s past When fish was abundant And boats were still scarce
“Reflection Under Yellow Sky”, “Appeal to a Photo Album” and “Shrieking”Steve Gerson
Reflection Under Yellow Sky Sitting at a counter in the stoplight diner, I stared out the window, you staring back at me. The traffic had travelled down FM 202, Leaving the road dusty, chaff-filled After the thresher had fed. Only you kept me company.
“May I Be Excused”, “Staring Daggers and Donuts” and “Hearing I”J.J. Gramlich
Hearing I You sit in a dimly lit courtroom facing Maat. Her veiled face tilts downward at an oak board with etchings that you can’t make out. Shadows slither in the room, shuffling into position but you can’t see them; the spotlight is only on her and you.
“In the Fourteenth Year the Man with the Roses Came to Me and Said”, “Performer” and “Examination of a Morning Three Days After an Autumn Wedding”Edwin Wentworth
Performer He stood adjusting on the small white pedestal Waiting for the lamb eyed crowd to bend their knees and soften Their breath. Looking out he weighed the gold that was still heavy in his heart, Felt its warmth in his palm as he prepared to cast it into the shining sea.
“Hidden Nature”, “It Could Happen To You” and “Of One Mind?”Nicole Braden-Johnson
Hidden Nature Heraclitus said, “Nature likes to hide itself.” At the heavy sound of human feet, Chipmunks scurry for leafy cover, While snails recoil and pretend not to be home, And moles find refuge beneath the sod.
“A Broken-Hearted Orange”, “Between Raindrops” and “Delaware”Elizabeth Rodriguez
A Broken Hearted Orange The orange on the counter is no longer an orange, It can no longer be used for its nutritious value, For all I see is a sunset peeling atop the skyscrapers in the city. It can no longer smell like fresh citrus, For the sound of sweet jazz music fills the room. The orange can no longer be just an orange, Because of you—
The MarschallinRachel Browning
Even dressed as a man, Elena was radiant. Kate dabbed her eyes with her one remaining tissue. As the music from the final act of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier swelled to its rousing pinnacle, Elena’s voice soared through the opera house, merging and blending with those of the other singers. Together they joined the interweaving melodies and chromatic harmonies of the orchestra, the entire ensemble climbing to such unsustainable heights that, to Kate, their ultimate convergence personified longing. The crowd rose and erupted into cheers seconds after the orchestra released its last chord, but Kate remained seated, thunderstruck. Finally, she stood when Elena strolled to the front of the stage to take her last bow amid the roar of applause, while flowers and programs stripped to confetti rained over the cast.
The Hidden OnesNadia Afifi
I first encountered the hidden world on a muggy summer night in Bahrain, near the still waters of the Arabian Gulf (or Persian Gulf, depending on who you wanted to avoid an argument with). Multiple witnesses denied what they saw after the fact, blaming alcohol, of which there was admittedly plenty, or tricks of light and shadow. The religiously-inclined claimed we saw one of the jinn, a being from the spirit world, which was more plausible than an excess of overpriced beer. No one ever hallucinated from Heineken.
The Girl and the FieldDesiree Roundtree
I walk into his office; the name in brass on the door reads Dr. Adam Reagan. I sit on the small plush chair and pull my feet under me, my warm mug of tea in my hands. He smiles when I slide into the seat and sigh. He thinks he is breaking me but there is no way I can allow that to happen, not after everything I think I have been through. “Where do I begin,” I say, I don’t mean it to sound sarcastic but to my ears the words sound sharp like tiny pieces of glass in my mouth.
Green Was the Colour of My Insecurity, Now It’s PinkElton Johnson
His country is the land of paradox and contradiction; where a frustrating government pleads for more productivity but can’t provide an efficient bus system to get people to work on time. Clifton—or the newly stylized Cliff, as his well-to-do friends call him—knows he should have been out of the apartment at least fifteen minutes ago if he wants to catch an early bus to get to work. He works doubly hard at his job in the ICT sector, which means he gives online technical support to people overseas. In his hurry, he pulls a T-shirt over his thin frame, only to realise it’s on backwards. He fixes it while struggling with his keys to lock the front door, then runs off before noticing that he’s left his phone and has to turn back.
Dizzy Gillespie Feels FineErnest Slyman
You do that quite well. Can you do it again. The repeat has a gold medal for showing up and making a fool out of itself. The comfortable repeat lives in a big house up on a hill. At night, his living room comes out and does a little dance. You can hear Dizzy Gillespie blowing a horn made out of brass that knows every note on the scale needs to be primped. A little lipstick here, eye liner, brush those cheeks like you wanted them to bear the beauty of jazz.
Block BCaroline Okello
My roommate and I were both freshers and had both been assigned temporary accommodation at the college hostel. My mother hadn’t paid the hostel fee and because she knew someone who knew one of the college administrators, I was allowed temporary accommodation for ten days. She promised she would send the money before those days were up. The matron, a portly nun with a serious face, said she didn’t care.
The Ice RoadKevin Mohr
Of all the goddamned places to be stuck when World War III kicks off, I thought. The news on the old TV in the restaurant was Russian – Cyrillic script scrolling by beneath the newscaster reading the headlines – but Zhenya was translating for me, occasionally going silent for long moments, her fingers tapping her front teeth, her eyes fixed on the screen. This can’t be for real, my mind raced, cavitating. I tried texting Jason, the copilot, still back at the Malah, but there was no service showing on my phone. No texts. No email. No service. Jesus Christ. Jason had stayed back at the squalid hovel that passed for an airport hotel. It was isolated, connected to town only by the ice road that crossed the frozen bay between Anadyr and the boneyard of crumbling Soviet Bloc tenements and the abandoned rusting equipment and gutted concrete bunkers that fringed the airport.
Land of the Free: Part TwoPeter Hoppock
A young man, unsure of his Welsh ancestry—confused by his parent's evasiveness, and his grandmother's refusal to share anything personal about her reasons for coming to America—visits Wales and discovers the deceits that formed the foundations of his life. Read Land of the Free: Part 2.
The sun was setting as they rode back up the entrance road to the farmhouse. Douglas breathed in the pungency of the newly turned soil as if it were a harbinger of what was to come. There was now a small sports car parked behind the Toyota; the crate, minus one of its sides, sat empty between the house and the corrugated shed. Emrys greeted them at the front door, holding it open. Squinting against the raw light, and before inviting them in, he gestured with one arm towards the sky behind Gwen and Douglas. The dogs barked, again and again, out of sight.
Ethos ImpactAbby Wasylean
He sat there on the edge of the pond, remembering the days before the edict was passed. He and the neighborhood kids used to sail boats on its still waters. Sometimes they would race their boats, and sometimes they would lazily let them float from shore to shore. Jack kept those moments locked away, trying not to think of the times where happiness thrived. By doing so, he missed it less, almost fooling himself into submission. Though, try as he might, he could never forget those days. With a sigh, he picked up his school bag from off the ground and headed towards his university. After a full day of math and science—the arts forgotten in the aftermath of the edict—Jack began his journey home. Jack meandered down the side streets in no hurry to reach his destination when something caught his eye. There, on a gate he’d passed by at least a couple of times on days like today when he had nowhere to go but still didn’t want to go home, was a rainbow.