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“Notes on Starvation”

Issue 22 by Mary Sun

I always thought this poem would be about an ex,
or the child I still wish for sometimes.
Then I realized it was about you
and my bones stopped.

When I told you I had learned not to trust the village,
you cried with me. Held my tears in soft hands
and mixed honey into my tea.
Honey that outlasted us.

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“Primetime Jabberwock, Harry Didn’t Clown Around,” “Septuagenarian’s Stroller Soundtrack,” and “Clownpourri”

Issue 22 by Gerard Sarnat

Let’s not get mathy Cathy or walk
away Resnais but Colonel Tibbets’
Enola Gay thunderous mushroom
fireburst above Hiroshima mon amour
41 days before I’m born instantly
zapped 79,831, perhaps somewhat
more than a third of that once
gorgeous city’s population —
it was filmed for our viewing
pleasure by a companion B-29
ironically named Necessary Evil

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“Be Mine,” “Premium Assortment,” and “The Past and Her Muse: a Blazon”

Issue 22 by Christy Sheffield Sanford

I linger over plump, plush, push-up-bra valentines,
those with glitter and bling, iridescent textured papers,
laser-cut-love in plastic, wood, flammable, frameable
rice paper, limited-edition fabrications to rival-any third
world butterfly. Cards as big as a menu in a decadent
Antoine’s or Galatoire’s of 1960s New Orleans. Will
this memento salve an indiscretion

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“Severe Weather Warning,” “Alive,” and “Mundane”

Issue 22 by Samantha Rafalowski

Droughts are just as dangerous as floods
I’m not an artist I just like holes in my
body
And daydreaming of ink in my veins
Circling in charcoal patterns my father once drew
With strong hands. We shared the old studio.
I’m not emotional I just like the electric color of red eyes
And showering in the dark with someone else’s
Voice echoing my thoughts in the background

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The Nocturnal Florist

Issue 22 by James Swansbrough

The bicycle is his harbinger. Sammy flies the American flag from a three-foot stick duct-taped to his rear basket. We see that flag and know he’s coming. Both the rear and front baskets are interlaced with red, silver, and blue tinsel. By day the baskets may hold lawn-care tools or groceries. At night, they’re filled with flowers.

Sammy is unimposing: few inches shy of six feet, not an ounce of spare flesh on him. He has the sinewy muscle common to laborers, endurance athletes, or users. Leathery dark skin taut over his sharp cheekbones and jaw, teeth set in a slight underbite. Weatherworn fingers, and bony, like they could lick fire from a harmonica.

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Tenderfoot

Issue 22 by Jim Fields

There were ten of us—three older boys and the rest of us younger ones. We were walking single file up the mountain on a hot summer day in July. The trail was getting steeper as we slowly worked our way up to the top, but still we pressed on. Grant Miller was our leader. He was a sixteen-year-old, six foot two, muscular high school quarterback with eyes that became narrow when he was mean, which was quite often. With his deep tan and athletic frame, Miller cast an imposing figure and everybody knew not to mess with him. He rarely talked, but when he did, Miller made it clear he was in charge and we were to do things his way.

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Mrs. Rowe

Issue 22 by Lissa Staples

The actual taking of the pills was a soggy event because Mrs. Rowe had thrown up, necessitating a second round, and also because she had been crying. The liter bottle of vodka was later found under the bed. Such a waste of good spirits her brother, Theodore, was heard to say at the funeral. There was no suicide note, or any other clue to explain Mrs. Rowe’s actions save the fact that she had been under the care of a psychiatrist, Zoloft and Lunesta for over six years

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Kattadiya

Issue 22 by Mesh Tennakoon

Francis thought her bladder would burst; walking the extra one hundred yards to the outdoor lavatory was out of the question. The zinnia patch, adjacent to the patio would have to suffice. It was nearly 9 P.M. and pitch-black outside; no one would see.

Grabbing the battered silver torch, left near the back door, she stepped out on to the patio. The sweet perfume of jasmine wafted through the warm evening air. Breathing in the calming fragrance, Francis moved the dim flashlight up and down to orientate herself in the dark. Almost immediately, various insects, drawn by the faint light, swarmed the rim of the torch as she held it out in front.

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Eighty-Seven

Issue 22 by Shanelle Galloway Calvert

Dust hangs in the sunlight, floating white in the golden beam. Too much dust, Hugh thinks as he watches the particles meander through the light. It should be falling down, he thinks, with gravity. But the dust floats, moves diagonally, rising and falling and lifting again. Cora never would have stood for it.

The TV flickers. Flat, grainy bluish faces turn camera and smile, flip their shining hair over their shoulders. Hugh can’t quite hear what they are saying. He hates having to change the volume up and down between programs and advertisements. They make the ads so loud these days, and the shows so quiet. He’s losing his hearing and he knows it.

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Grace

Issue 22 by Tahseen Béa

Once upon a time a young woman named Grace dreamed an impossible dream. She dreamed of a big love that would enter her life and transform her. She never spoke of it to anyone but nurtured it and waited until someone worthy of her love would enter her life. She was certain she had a gift of loving that nobody else had. Sure everyone loves, she thought, but not like her. When it was her turn to love, she would love with the tenderness of a girl and a fierceness of a woman. She would offer love as passion and as patience, as an ideal and as a living embodiment of that ideal.

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The Chaos Drawer

Issue 22 by Elizabeth Genovise

At first it was simply Paul’s absence that left her shattered and aimless, every moment of the day like the sudden drop to hardwood when one descends a staircase and expects there to be one more step at the bottom than there actually is. There were scores of these tiny freefalls, so that two months after her husband’s funeral, Annalee was persistently dizzy, reaching into the bathroom cabinet for the motion sickness pills she used to keep on the ready for their vacations. She was sixty-five years old and had married Paul when she was twenty.

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Where the Light Exists

Issue 22 by Jesus Raul Torres

A man known only as The Client enlists the help of a woman named Blackberry to find someone very special to him. As their journey progresses across a desert filled with enemies, The Client’s past is revealed in flashbacks. A boy awakens on a bridge with no memory of his past. He falls in love with the first person he sees, a beautiful young woman whose name he does not know. She runs off, and the boy follows her. This causes a chain reaction of people to try and stop him at every turn.

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Spur Up Your Pegasus

Issue 22 by David Kennedy

Kate had yet to arrive at a satisfactory arrangement with her husband. Sprague had insisted that Kate spend the summer of ’seventy-nine at the estate in Canonchet, near Narragansett, so that he might have some opportunity to see his children, but Kate knew that Sprague was more likely to spend his time playing billiards in a tavern and would merely pat Willie and the three girls on their heads en route to some drunken dissipation. It was not long before Sprague vanished upon some hunting trip to Maine with his cousin.

Fortuitously, Senator Roscoe Conkling had some legal business in Newport, and it would have been impolite to fail to visit Kate, Rhode Island being such a small state.

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Fathers

Issue 22 by Jim Cavan

As I rocked with Rett the morning he was born, hoping to spark his first earthly dreams with whispered oaths to give him all I have and know, his fatal cancer still an unseen demon in his cells, I thought now and again on what I’d say to my own dad and damn near cried every time. It stemmed partly from the pride of new fatherhood, of the blue eyes and late-April birthdays our trio would share and the laughs and campfires and straight-up Manhattans to come. And then this inflective twinge that I’d never feel further from life’s nascency, from unremembered youth, as I did just then, not even at my deathbed goodbye.

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Formations

Issue 22 by Oksana Marafioti

Love. Vulnerability. One is a ghost without the other.

As children, we’re masters of affection. We overflow with it. Love comes naturally, like the seasonal flu. You hurt us, we love you still. More and fiercely. Like you’re worth saving even if the world gives up on you. Having no idea this gift is precious, we squander it on those who don’t always deserve it, but it matters little, because our hearts are in bloom.

Until the onset of adulthood.

By then, our scars prevent us from blooming too much.

Adulting and vulnerability are well-known oxymorons, not the norm. Once we’ve grown, emotional dignity becomes a commodity.

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