Mouthfeels by Kaleigh Spollen

hold me softly
like the figs i stole in south berkeley-
all pudgy parabolas
dripping from branches in the low light.
milky sap slips white on my cuticles,
sentences stay asleep on my tongue
in this city,

in which
i am trying to be good
when they tell me to make roots,

in which
all day we watch the barge of memory
roped loosely above a red tide
and ask what have we done,
and ask, how do we grow,

in which
my mind is shingled in scales and filmy water
to be sloughed off by someone else who
finds bones now
in sloped links down an axis
so small.

in which
i could have heard a hymnal once,
above the barge,
while men welded near trees swollen,
the figs, the grapes,
the gentle wealth of the gold coast, their
naked limbs laid pale and humble -
you are not spineless
for feeling,
you are not spineless
for crying,
i tell you, you are soft but not




Kaleigh Spollen found her way to the west coast, where she lives, works, and sometimes writes. She likes running around the lake. Talk to her about Baltimore, she likes that too.

DAY FIVE: Cruel Summer/Normal Skin Flora by Jessie Janeshek

Jessie Janeshek's second full-length book of poems is The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press). Her chapbooks are Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia, (dancing girl press, 2016), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Supernoir (Grey Book Press, forthcoming). Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010) is her first full-length collection. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. You can read more of her poetry at

DAY FOUR: Afterglow/Virgo Noir by Jessie Janeshek

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Jessie Janeshek's second full-length book of poems is The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press). Her chapbooks are Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia, (dancing girl press, 2016), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Supernoir (Grey Book Press, forthcoming). Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010) is her first full-length collection. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. You can read more of her poetry at

DAY ONE: Sweat Bee Noir Suite by Jessie Janeshek

Jessie Janeshek's second full-length book of poems is The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press). Her chapbooks are Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia, (dancing girl press, 2016), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Supernoir (Grey Book Press, forthcoming). Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010) is her first full-length collection. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. You can read more of her poetry at

Gentleman Farmer from Illinois by Dan Haifley

I was 26, she was 38. 

It was off and on, but we had fun.

Her son was 12.


One Christmas we went to Marco Island, Gulf Coast of Florida. 

It was the three of us, her parents, her sister and her boyfriend.

They had two houses side by side near a marina where their boat was.

The second house had just the two of us.

In the morning the dolphins sang from beyond the sand...


Nearby were islands, shaped by mangrove trees in salty water.

Their roots capture sand and mud. 

They anchor in the soggy sandy soil, until moving water pries it loose.

Or the roots get weak.

New trees take hold while others age.

That’s how the islands shift and shape.

Some catch so much sand they have treeless edges with seashell carpets.


The parents were an Illinois couple, he was an older gentleman farmer.

She was a graceful seventy-something who held their lives together.

We hunted seashells.

As we fingered them like glass shards in the sand, Mom told me she’d once dated a young radio broadcaster named Ronald Reagan.

He was President by the time we picked over that beach in the bright December sun.


Early one morning the father, the young boy and I hopped into the boat.

Three rods, tackle and bait, out to the Gulf.

Looking for Grouper.

An hour later we lowered the lines.

Rolling seas, gentle breeze.

The boy was catching beautiful grouper. One, two, three.

My rod jumped. 

I reeled. Spinning, spinning.

Bait gone. Nothing there.

Helping the boy bring in fish, the old man didn’t notice that his rod jumped. 

Up it jerked, bounced off the hull. Into the sea it went…the handle and reel plunged down, into the white caps.

His lips pursed, his neck grew red, his eyes a fury.


“I loved that pole.”

I turned my side to him to gird against the profanity I knew was coming.

He aimed his mouth…

He spit it out.

“What – a – shame.”

That was it.


That night, we ate grouper, all caught by the boy.

None by me, what a nice discussion topic.

In that beautiful house near the mangrove islands.

On Christmas morning there was a brand new fishing rod,

Under the tree,

For the gentleman farmer from Illinois.




Dan Haifley has been Executive Director of O’Neill Sea Odyssey since 1999. He raises funds for its core and special programs and he is a leading advocate for hands-on environmental education, presenting papers at numerous conferences. Dan served as District Chief of Staff for the late California Senator Henry J. Mello from 1993 until 1996; Executive Director of Save Our Shores from 1986 to 1993; and Community Affairs Officer for PG&E in the Monterey Bayfrom 1997 to 1999. Dan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is past Chair and member of the Santa Cruz County Commission on the Environment, co-chairs the Dominican Hospital Community Advisors Committee, and previously served on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council from 2001 to 2007 and currently serves there now.  In collaboration with UCSC Institute of Marine Sciences Director Gary Griggs he publishes a weekly column in the Santa Cruz Sentinel and received the 2011 Ocean Hero Award from Save Our Shores for his work to fight offshore oil and establish the Monterey Bay Sanctuary.  He is married to Rebecca Haifley and has two grown children, Aaron and Julia.

Fishing by Michael A. Ferro

No one knew the peculiar-looking man that placed the winning bid to take home the most expensive fish in the world. The familiar faces around the Tsukiji fish market watched one another in disbelief, shouting blasphemies as they were continually outbid by this foreign, white- skinned stranger. Once the bidding had reached 80 million yen they fell silent, one by one, and rested their hands in their laps, careful now only to peek over at the unusual man through furtive glances.

The foreigner was immense in both height and girth. As he stood to claim his prize, he straightened the lapels of his gray pinstripe suit and buttoned it closed over his enormous stomach. He lumbered toward the stage as the news media and cameras surrounded him, bright flashes ricocheting off his greasy face, though he did not blink. Onlookers studied his movements with a suspicious eye. Who was this man? Why had he come across the ocean to ruin this time-honored festivity? And, most interestingly, why was he now approaching the auctioneer’s microphone stand?

The man stepped onto the stage and stood next to the great 496-pound bluefin resting motionless on its side on a large wooden table. The fish had been cleaned to a spotless shine and glimmered tantalizingly under the show lights. He walked the length of the table and ran his plump fingers across the tuna’s loins. He returned to the head of the fish and slapped it across the face. The crowd gasped and the room fell silent. The man grinned and posed for a photo.

A local journalist approached the man. “Why have you bought the fish?” he asked.

“I wanted to,” the man replied.
“Is it for a sushi restaurant in America?”
“Why did you buy such a large fish from our country?”
“Because I wanted to.”
“What will you do with the fish?”
The man beamed at the reporter, exposing a row of tiny teeth coated in urine-colored

film, and clicked his tongue. The crowd gathered around the bluefin and gawked at its sheer size. The man spread his arms out over the fish and the crowd leaned back in astonishment, as if he were brandishing a blade.

“Get away from my fish,” the man said to the horde.


Back at his estate across the sea, the obese man sat in his tanned leather chair at the corner of a large den with high oak walls and vaulted ceiling. The room was lit in the center by a large circular fireplace that sat underneath an enormous limestone chimney. On a small, elegant table next to the man was a china plate littered with the stripped T-bones of two porterhouses. There was no silverware in sight. The man unbuttoned his trousers, slipped off his loafers, and belched, listening with glee as the sound carried around the room much like the boom from a stadium’s sound system.

On the wall above him was the massive bluefin, stuffed and frozen in wild ecstasy. The man fell asleep.




Born and bred in Detroit, Michael A. Ferro was awarded the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award for Fiction. His debut novel, TITLE 13, will be published by Harvard Square Editions in early 2018. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications. Additional publications can be found at: and @MichaelFerro. After traveling, working, and writing throughout the Midwest, Michael currently resides in rural Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Never Rob A Bank by Daniel Nguyen

You think someone you love would never rob a bank, but then they rob a bank.

“Steven would never rob a bank… That’s the most absurd thing I ever heard,” Mom said when the detectives delivered the bad news.

“The fingerprints were identical!” one of the detectives retorted. 

“We used computers,” the other one chimed in.

Genie screamed, but we ignored her. I wanted to scream too, but I was too grown up. I was so responsible, Mom put me in charge while she went to the police station.

I asked her, “But what happened to Dad?”

“No questions,” she said. “You’re a big boy now.”

Genie wasn’t as grown up as me so she kept asking, “Where’s Dad? Where’s Dad?”

“Don’t be a baby,” I told her.

“Will Dad be okay?”

“Shut up,” I said. “By law, they are obligated to give him a fair trial or else.”


Dad was found guilty on one-hundred-eighty counts of burglary. They put him in the Guinness World Book of Records.

After Mom told her Dad wouldn’t be coming home, Genie cried so hard, we had to go to Pinkberry to make her stop. Then we had to sell the house.

We moved out of the town where everyone knew Dad’s name, and our names by association. I changed my name to Winston, Mom changed her name to Cynthia, and Genie changed her name to Salamander.

“But I want to be Genie!” Salamander screamed in Cynthia’s face.

Cynthia sat her down on her lap. “Why are you screaming?” she asked Salamander. “Do you hear anyone else screaming?”

“But Mom!” Salamander said.

“Cynthia,” she corrected her.


In our new home, in our new beds, in the same dark, Salamander asked me how Dad was supposed to find us when we were so far away.

“He won’t. That’s the point.”

“If Dad is bad, does that mean he’ll go downstairs?”

I shushed her. “You’re being crazy. Don’t worry about Dad.”

“If Dad is bad, he won’t get into Heaven… How will we see him again?”

“Heaven isn’t real,” I said. “There’s no evidence to suggest that it is.”

“It is!” she insisted. “I remember. I remember being in Heaven before I was born… I was swimming around in the clouds with God and Jesus and all the angels.”

I shook my head. “Prove it. You’re not a credible academic source.”


In the following years, I chose the path of a scholar and Salamander was well on her way to becoming a philistine.

She exercised nonstop—crunches in bed, pull-ups in the shower. She raced alongside the bus to school. 

People asked me, “Isn’t that your sister?” but I ignored them. I was too busy reading about fossils or cumulus clouds or the executive branch of government—real things—to pay her any mind.

In her trapper keeper, Salamander kept a picture of a bodybuilder punching her fist clean through a man’s chest, squeezing his slimy red heart on the other side. “For inspiration,” Salamander said.

She was brutish and overzealous, but I was happy she was happy. Salamander smiled when she flexed, all the endorphins. She was so proud of the way her biceps bulged.


Salamander’s abdomen was always tingling. She threw up (“from exhaustion,” she said) at least twice a day. They took an x-ray at the hospital and there were all these worms inside her. We found out she had been bulking up by only eating raw meat.

Cynthia and I did all we could to regulate her diet with more savory options. We grilled specially-imported Kobe beef for dinner. We served her only the most tender, most abused shanks of veal.

Salamander was ungrateful. She enjoyed the company the worms gave her. 

I had to slap an uncooked kebab out of her hand. It slid across the room, but she got to it before I could stop her. I had to pry her lips open, reach through her teeth, and yank out the pink meat before it slid down her throat. Cynthia was still at work when I took Salamander to the hospital for her fractured jaw.


The news reported that Dad had snapped a guard’s neck and tunneled out of prison. We assumed he was smart enough to stay away from us, but that was probably silly. History had already proven how little we knew about him. 

It felt sincere when I told people I had no idea who he was.

Salamander bragged about him though. “My dad is the bandit of bandits,” she told her classmates. Luckily, they didn’t believe her.

She karate chopped a desk in half. “My name is Genie!” she screamed as the security officers forcibly escorted her off campus. “My name is Genie!”


Dad’s unlawful genes must’ve run deep in her blood, because then Salamander tried sneaking into Heaven like the criminal she was born to be. But the paramedics brought her back. 

She coughed up a handful of pills and a family of curling parasites. The doctor had to tie Salamander down and tell her that Heaven wasn’t real. 

“Of course you—a doctor—would say that,” she said. “You’ve never believed in anything that wasn’t a number.”

“I can tell you the exact neurons that are making you think these crazy thoughts. I can do that with science,” the doctor shot back.

“Oh, so neurons are real, but Heaven isn’t?” Salamander said.

“They are necessarily mutually exclusive!”

Salamander wouldn’t admit she was wrong, so she had to live at the hospital. She wasn’t allowed to use a knife or fork. She had to eat spaghetti with two spoons. 

To pay off the hospital bills, Cynthia had to work both the day and night shift at the accounting firm.

I delivered pizzas for one-dollar tips. I had to pay for my courses at the community college with wrinkled and sweaty singles. Things would be easier once I became an environmental engineer, I thought. I would become an environmental engineer and make a better world.

Cynthia and I were too busy or embarrassed to visit Salamander very often. After we admitted this to each other, we only saw her on Christmas and her birthday.

On her birthday, we weren’t allowed to light the candles on her cake. We just pretended. We dimmed the lights and stood in the dark as Salamander blew out the imaginary flames.


Dad had last been spotted in Puerto Rico. He was back to his old tricks—robbing banks even though it was illegal.

When we saw her at Christmas, Salamander didn’t seem to be getting any better.

“The doctor said you won’t stop being suicidal,” Cynthia accused.

“No, I’m not. The doctors are liars.” Salamander tried to throw a Styrofoam tray at the wall, but it just spun around in the air before floating to the ground. 

“Doctors can’t lie,” I said. “Doctors have to be objectively unbiased or else they wouldn’t be doctors.”

“Heaven isn’t real. If you die, you’ll be dead. That’s it,” Cynthia said.

“I’m not suicidal!” Salamander shouted. “That’s not how it works!” She looked at me for help, but I didn’t understand her either. 

“The way Heaven works,” Salamander explained, “is you have to be good. You can’t kill yourself, because that would be bad. You have to be good to get into Heaven.”

“Stop it,” Cynthia said. “You are not allowed to go to Heaven. I don’t want you there. It’s not good for your mental health.” She threatened to move Salamander to a permanent facility if she didn’t shape up.

Salamander shrugged. “Do it. I know that’s what you want. You don’t want me in the family anymore.” She was just as stubborn as Cynthia.

“Please,” I whispered to Salamander. “You don’t want to be locked up too.”

That made Salamander think.

“This isn’t how our family is supposed to be,” I said, squeezing Cynthia’s hand.

“Fine,” Cynthia conceded. “Salamander can come home. But only if she promises not to go to Heaven.”

I really thought Salamander would refuse. So many facts had come between her and her Heaven, and she had hurdled over them with unsubstantiated faith. But that same day, we bundled her up in real clothes that didn’t tie in the back and marched triumphantly through the automatic sliding doors, arm in arm in arm.


Technically, she had kept her promise.

We didn’t know which name to have engraved on her tombstone, so we decided to throw Salamander’s ashes into the ocean. 

I was at the pier to wish bon voyage to Cynthia when she said, “Remember when I was Mom?”

I did.

“I had to fly a helicopter from the U.S. embassy to an aircraft carrier,” she said. “I lived in refugee camps for years—in a tent. When my family came to America, we didn’t know how hard our lives would still be… I wanted to be a teacher—no, a psychologist. But my parents said the people closest to the numbers were the richest, so I became an accountant.”

I didn’t know.

“I hate being an accountant,” Cynthia said to me. “My parents and your dad’s parents had come from the same village and were so happy to find each other halfway around the world. Your grandpa told me what a nice, decent boy you dad was. Our parents wanted us to be one big family together.”

I reached out to touch the urn Cynthia held in her arms like a baby.

“Take her somewhere nice,” I said, and hugged her goodbye. “Goodbye, Mom.”

So many awful things had happened to us all in a row, it wasn’t statistically possible. When I read that her cruise ship had been swept up in a twister, I stomped my graphing calculator into bits.


With Dad finally extradited safely back to the States, the government was free to fry him up.

My graduation ceremony was the same day he was scheduled to die. I sold off the tickets I’d reserved for my family, and put the money in the bank. I was ready to trust again.

“Where’s everyone?” Dad asked, strapped down in the chair.

“Just me,” I said.

While the prison guard adjusted the dial to the highest setting, Dad and I made small talk.

“Genie killed herself,” I told him. “She figured the only way we’d be together was if she went to Hell with the rest of us.”

“Amen,” Dad said.

“Was she right?” I asked. 

Before he could answer, I watched a thousand wild volts course through his body. And that was it.

I imagined Dad floating down on glittery electric angel wings to be with Mom and Genie.



Daniel Nguyen's work has previously been published in Chronogram, Midwest Literary Magazine, and FORTH Magazine.

Flash Fiction by T.A. Stanley by T.A. Stanley


I ate ribs today for lunch. I am made of a rib, yours. Did I tell you that I was eating your ribs? I hated staring at myself in them, their dainty shape poking through your skin.

Was I meant to be molded the same as these sisters? Only made to be part of you—delicate, petite, holding you together. I had to get rid of them somehow.

I pulled the small bones from your body as you slept and then swallowed the meat on them, whole.

It was delicious.

I was left with the small bones, which had structured your very center. I grabbed the mortar and pestle next to me and ground them into a fine dust. I sprinkled them on the dust and molded this bone and dust into my image and likeness.

I gently placed small sticks in the cavity I had made in you in order to replace the ribs I had stolen. Then I sewed you up and hid behind a tree in the distance.

When you awoke, you fell in love with my own creation and propagated a nation while I was free to roam the earth and dive deep into the sea.


Bits and Pieces

She keeps herself in jars. Cuts out bits and pieces as she sees fit and places them into the jars for analysis and research. She has seen these bits of tissue double themselves under the right circumstances. She thinks this might give her a chance to rebuild, become a categorically new and different person. She knows this is necessary.

There is no way to continue on as who she has been. Her body is infected by a plethora of the wrong kinds of experiences. She wants to live on newly—in a body people would recognize, but she would know had no connection to the pressures, violences, and violations that live in her. If she can erase the pressure of hands holding her hips down or the sound of heavy breathing, grunting in her ears, life might feel less hopeless, she thinks.

She became fascinated with this possibility on a whim when she first decided to place a flap of skin from a fresh wound in a jar. She only thought to observe her body in a different, deconstructed way—to see if it were possible to even associate this tiny bit of herself as ever having been part of her. But instead she noticed it had replicated itself by the next morning. She began cutting off bits of herself to see what factors aided in this replication.

At first, she only cut off other pieces of skin—some from her upper arm, her stomach, her thigh—but as she took notes and narrowed in on the environmental requirements of these small clonings (the body had to be cut and preserved at night, left to sit at least five hours without ever looking at it, it couldn’t be raining, etc., etc.) she became more bold. Her pinky toe, her left ear, her right breast. She becomes more and more lopsided, but her replicated parts glisten perfectly in the jars she places on the windowsill, reflecting the moonlight.

Once she collects enough, she will start to sew them all back together, using her new hands. New hands that had never touched another human being will first delicately bring her fragments together into a person worth considering as a whole. She cuts out her tongue, places it lovingly in a new jar and seals it shut. She is nearing the end. Each part of her is labeled on the jar, meticulously typed and printed using the label-maker she bought when she started the whole process. She removes the old pieces each morning and throws them away in a dumpster down the street, in hopes of avoiding suspicion. She wouldn’t want to mistake the old for the new. She knows it is a delicate process, and it hinges on a minuscule probability that everything will work as she anticipates. There is little besides the torso, arms, hands, and head left on her old body. This is the difficult part, she knows. This will take faith.

Over the course of several weeks she cuts away small bits from her stomach, labeling them exactly, drawing diagrams. She cuts off her nose, her mouth. She manages to pop out her eyes. The morning after, her new eyes open and she sees the remaining arms, upper chest, neck, and head propped up against a chair by the window, through the glass of the jar. Everything is elongated, smudged, distorted—but she is unfazed by the state of herself. This is how she has felt for years anyway. Now is the time when she will finally become whole. Her right arm saws her left off.

She ordered three comically large-sized jars off the Internet for this day and the next. The kind of jar that a company would fill with jellybeans and have its employees guess the number to win some vacation days or a gift card to a local chain restaurant. Her new eyes watch as the left arm is placed in one of these jars and sealed shut. The remaining arm saws off the head. She expects blackness, but her new body is indeed entirely separate, merely waiting to be put together, so she witnesses the remaining arm and upper chest place the head and neck in the second large jar, sealed shut. Her new mouth smiles in its respective jar. Tomorrow, it will all come together.


T. A. Stanley lives in Brooklyn and is doing her best to get by while she writes short stories surrounding the experience of trauma and her relationship to womanhood. She has been published in The Atlas Review, Crack the Spine Literary Journal, The Bookends Review, Belleville Park Pages, and Anamesa: An Interdiscplinary Journal among others. Her work is forthcoming in Paper Darts. You can follow her on twitter and instagram @ladytstanz or at her website

Clown R&R by Kevin Sterne

I’m in the middle of my tuna melt when Wendy tells me she’s got a woman on the line with a clown stuck in her window well. Great.   

“Can I call her after my break?” I say with a mouth full of moist tuna.

To which Wendy says, “I’m really sorry but she sounds like hysterics.”

Wendy’s big for her age, her age being about 55—or 20 years my senior—and big being residual body mass from her college rugby days.

I put the rest of my lunch in foil.

“You still have a little on your” Wendy says while rubbing at my chin with a Kleenex. Wendy’s husband passed away suddenly last Christmas time, but she’s abbreviated the five stages of grief, more or less.

“Thanks,” I say with a feeling of loneliness.


We have a script we’re supposed to follow here beginning with: “Thank you for calling Clown Removal and Rehabilitation, this is Dennis speaking.”

The voice on the end says: “My head aches like heck, dear.”

“I would be more than happy to assist you with this issue,” I say while sticking to my prompt sheet.

This woman, Susan or Linda—it’s been a while since the first call—claims the sound of my voice has intense therapeutic and relaxation benefits for her. She’s been calling since the spring when Rob pulled a dead clown from one of those big glue traps—which, as is company policy, we do not endorse nor recommend.

This weekly exchange has become a cute little routine for us. Placating Susan/Linda also beats doing the Observational Data Reports or working on the email server—two things Mr. Larsen—director of operations for the southwest region—once said I have a high aptitude for.

“Can you read the FAQs again?” Susan/Linda says. These are her favorite.

“I’d be happy to.”

I start somewhere in the middle: “The majority of clown bites result in minor swelling and redness around the bite area and typically subside within 48 hours.”

“Perfect,” she says, “don’t stop.” So I read to her for the next approx. 30 minutes and she listens, silently but for a few moans and sighs and unintelligible rustles. Midway through the Clown Myths, Rumors and Urban Legends section Rob walks in still donning his SC-R&R Gas Pack.

Rob’s got these “Rob’s 10 Rules of Life While Living Life at Work” with Rule #1 being ‘Always speak your mind especially in a professional setting.’

He starts going on about how this jackwagon—his words—confused him for a clown and shot him with a hunting bow. This is classic Rob.

I shoo my hand at him while pointing to the phone in my ear, but he seems to misinterpret this as a directive to talk louder and faster, which is not helping Susan/Linda’s headache. Then he shows me his left quad, which definitely has an arrow lodged in it.

“Jesus,” I say.

“It’s pretty much numb by now, but listen, you got to yank it out for me,” Rob pleads and props his leg up on my keyboard, “I’m going to look away. Don’t tell me when you’re going to do it.”

On the phone Susan/Linda asks if I’m still there. I tell her to give me a minute.

“I’m losing blood fast here.”

“Okay, alright.” I set the phone down and grab the end of the arrow.

“Wait,” Rob says, “Are your hands clean?”

But I’ve seemed to have already pulled it out.

We both kind of stare at the arrow in my hand for a while.

Finally Rob says, “This. Cannot be talked about,” and hops off my desk. “They’d axe me for sure. First thing I need to do is destroy this.” He snaps the arrow in two. “Now I shall have a snack.” He starts digging through my candy/cookie drawer.

I’ve all but forgotten about Susan/Linda and find the phone on the floor, the line dead. I consider pressing redial but ultimately slam the phone in the cradle, with a bit more force than I intended.

Rob kind of stares at me. “Did Wide Back eat all the Chewy Chips Ahoy?”

Wide Back is Wendy.



At 4:58pm I clock out, buckle the buckle on my helmet and head out the door hoping to avoid Wendy, who unfortunately is already waiting by air conditioning unit where I lock my bike.

“Hi there,” she says. I’m just close enough to where I can’t turn around and pretend I don’t see her.

“Wendy,” I say and act like I’m in some sort of hurry.

She tells me it’s Thirsty Thursday, though I’ve told her upteenmillion times I don’t drink since my DUI.

“I got fifty dollars in singles.” This is the voice of quiet desperation.

I try to avoid eye contact.

“We could go to Great Alaskan Bush Company.”

“Sorry,” I say as I saddle my Huffy, “Mom gets antsy if I don’t come home right away.” And I peddle off as fast as I can.


‘Antsy’ for my mom is her pretending for the last two months that dad is dead. Doctor said it’s early onset Dementia. Doctor also said to hide all weapon-like objects, so ixnay the steak knives, scissors, etc.

Tonight I walk into the kitchen and mom is having one of her episodes, this time about the plastic sporks.

“Money’s tight,” I tell her as we sit down to eat, “and people will pay good money for cutlery.”

“I wish your father would have left us something worth selling. Instead of just a body.”

Dad is seated to the right of mom at the table. He looks over at me and says, “Whatever makes her happy,” then sporks a piece of porkchop into his mouth.

“Denny.” My mom looks at me. “I never got to tell you, but I think you taking this job to stop these clowns was a good thing of you.”

In this moment I almost think she’s snapped out of it—that this women is much more my mom and much less the thing eating her brain.

            “God knows your damn father couldn’t stop them.”

I read somewhere that we are hurt most by the ones we love. I don’t want this to be the lasting memory of my mom: that she thought dad was killed by a gang of clowns.

In bed I block out my mom and Wendy and think about Susan/Linda. I only have a voice to go off of and my imagination isn’t great, so I end up with a hazy mental image of my ex-girlfriend from community college, a redhead who was a tattoo artist and renaissance fairs enthusiast. I imagine reading Susan/Linda/my ex-girlfriend something with slightly more literary merit than the Clown R&R webpages and blog. Maybe Beowolf and/or Lolita. I’ve never read either but figure they must be more romantic than “10 Fail Safe Tips for De-Clowning Your Car, Boat or RV.” In an ideal world they’d actual pay me extra for writing those click-bait lists instead of folding them under the umbrella of ‘corporate property produced during employee’s term of employment.’ I would use this money to take Susan/Linda out for surf n turf followed by a nightcap at her place.

          I get close to climaxing there in my bed when Rob’s stupid arrow pops into my head. I can hear him yelling out in pain. And Susan/Linda inside the phone saying hello? Are you there? That puts the kibosh on that. I let a Sleepy Time tablet dissolve on my tongue and I’m out in a few minutes.



I spend majority Friday playing Angry Oxcart Driver hoping Susan/Linda will call. I make it all the way to the Cambodia map where you have to carry .5 metric tons of shafted and milled rice grain on several poorly maintained bridges and unpaved paths around Angkor Wat. You have to do this under the allotted time or else the barter, Phanith, will refuse to pay the previously negotiated price. If you fail the mission you return to your village without enough rice to feed your malnourished family. I only get three carts, because it’s the beta version, and one of my children dies of starvation. I clock out at five without a call from Susan/Linda.

It’s against company policy to bring a work laptop home so without Angry Oxcart Driver I decide there’s no better time than this weekend to test out an idea I have: convincing mom that dad is a ghost. I hope it will trigger some repressed memories i.e., their wedding day, my birth, or that one vacation to the Keys.

Dad says it’s worth a shot, and we start with him walking in front of mom while she watches Antique Roadshow.

“Wait,” I say next to her on the couch, “did you see that?”

“The vase?” she says, “Your piece of shit uncle broke a vase like that when we were kids.”

Dad sits down next to me and asks if I have any other bright ideas.

Then mom turns off the TV and says, “Denny. I want to go to the cemetery.”

So we go to the cemetery, which is about a quarter mile on the bike path cutting through our backyard. There’s like this hill half way there and when we get to the top we find a clown squatting in the middle of the path. It’s young, maybe a few months old, and holding its one arm awkwardly.

“He’s hurt,” I say.

Before you can bat an eye mom kicks the baby clown square in the jaw.

“You son of a bitch” she yells. The clown goes down right away, out cold.

Dad and I just look at each other, completely shocked.

But that’s not the end.

Mom continues to kick the knocked-out/possibly dead clown yelling: “Give. Me. Back. My. Husband.”

Then a pair of joggers come by—this like Swedish Olympian couple. They stop and take in the situation: a family of three—that is, us—blocking the cemetery bike path, and the mom kicking an unconscious clown and shouting for it to resurrect her dead husband.

So that’s my weekend in a nutshell.


Monday morning rolls around and Rob has exercised one of his two allotted sick days, which means I’m doing field calls.

I’m barely on my second cup of coffee when Wendy sends me out to West End to retrieve a clown from a tree. “Apparently this Rottweiler chased it up an old Elm,” she says, and then adds a “Be careful hun.” I ignore this as I grab Rob’s C-R&R Gas Pack.

The company field van is this white Chevy cargo with no windows. The inside smells like Rob, which is to say greasy fries and spearmint—the smell of the C-R&R Gas, which, as our proprietary research indicates, clowns have an irresistible affinity for.

I drive really slow to kill time and when I arrive at the address, this dumpy two-step ranch with blue windows, there’s neither an old Elm nor a Rottweiler to be found. I try calling Wendy but she doesn’t answer; I figure she’s on another call or eating or both, so I leave the pack in the van and mosey to the front door.

This women in a long t-shirt with wet hair answers. On field calls we have a script that goes: “Happy day sir/ma’am, I’m here to safely eradicate this premise of clowns, could you please direct me to the infestation,” which I say word-for-word.

“Hey stranger,” the woman says, and I realize I’m face-to-face with the real Susan/Lisa.

“Wow,” I say, “It’s you.”

“Me.” She flips her hair gently and as she does, her shirt lifts up to reveal more of her legs.

She props open her screen door and invites me inside.

            I follow her into the kitchen where she was drinking of the bottle of a beer. “You want one?” she asked while already popping the top. What would you do in this situation?

For the next twenty-five or so minutes we have sex on her living room futon. She doesn’t take off her t-shirt, which I’m okay with. She even provides a condom, and I make a point of stopping in the middle of it all to thank her for that. I also make a point of kissing her thighs a lot. I get a lot of saliva on them, and she tells me I don’t have to go any higher. I listen. When we’re finished she offers me a cigarette and excuses her self to go pee.

I feel like this must be love. I don’t know what else you could possibly call it. She was a beautiful woman and I admire her stack of magazines next to the futon while she’s away. The name on the addresses is neither Susan nor Linda, but Todman. One name.

“I could read one of these to you,” I say when she gets back. There could be nothing more romantic than me reading to her while she rests her head in my lap, even with wet hair, and we smoke her cigarette.

But then she says, “Oh I’m through with that. Now I have this compulsion to have sex all the time. It helps a lot.”

I’m still sitting on the futon while she stands, telling me this.

“And, like, if you hadn’t come, I would have called the pizza guy.”

I hold myself together long enough to make it to the van, but not inside the van. Because waiting for me outside the van is a group of clowns. Seven clowns. All fourteen eyes looking at me, and what do you know, I’ve left the gas pack in the van.

Gone from my mind is everything I’ve read on our website re: this scenario. I can think only of my dear mom kicking that one baby clown. And the color of her rage. Pink with misplaced hatred, a confusion. I go in fists clenched.

I pow one right in the kisser and my mind dislodges itself from my corporal body. It goes to the memory of me and mom and dad sharing pink cotton candy at the fair. The blue sky, our joy. Clear as day. My fists hit another clown and I’m back in our old mini van, the three of us singing the Bee Gees after my baseball game. I can hear my dad out of tune. I can feel my seat belt.

I plunk and plunk and plunk them all in their faces until it’s just me standing in the middle of the street with all these zonked-out clowns. And it’s over. I’m breathing heavy and I can taste blood on the inside of my bit lip. And there’s no image in my mind.  



Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago. He writes about beer and music for Substream Magazine. He is also the editor of LeFawn Magazine. His work has appeared or will appear in Drunk Monkeys, Mash Tun Journal, Praxis Magazine, Down in the Dirt Magazine, Word Eater, and The Tangential among many others. Kevinattended Joliet Junior College. Find him on the dark web at, on Twitter @kevinsterne or down a pseudoscience rabbit hole. 

New Video + Single From Elbows! by Elbows

From Indiecurrent

“‘Oatmeal’ is the intro song to the EP. A lot of my favorite albums have intros that are essentially sound collages, pasting together samples pulled from various sources. I thought that would be a fitting introduction to an introductory EP, with the samples on here setting up themes for the rest of project. The video was shot by filmmaker, and close-collaborator, Nnamdi Simon. The idea was to capture the daily process of making a song, starting with breakfast, catching an idea, and eventually making your way to the studio.”



Max Schieble, or Elbows, is a Brooklyn-based psych jazz/hip hop songwriter, vocalist, and producer. Get the pretzels. Now living in New York, he is currently eating between one and thirteen waffles. He's also Potluck's Art Guy.

Drifting by Joey Glocke


Due to an unfortunate accident I’ve been drifting through space for hundreds of years. Space is an openness, an unknowable gap. In a moment, this all will end.


I was a young man, perhaps in my early thirties, when the company assigned me to a system of telescopes orbiting Earth called the ASTRO-2. It monitored classified information which was never revealed to me. Its observatory required mission and payload specialists to control operations. I was paired with astronaut Mark Pine to upgrade its Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope which gathered imagery in the spectral range 1200 to 3100 Å. This was my first assignment in space.


On March 2, 2195, I held my wife and hugged my parents for the last time. A crew composed of Mark, myself, and four others launched into space and remained in Earth’s orbit for eighteen days.


Due to the classified nature of our work, we faced an intense and continuous pressure to focus. Space greeted us with a welcoming embrace to reflect, but we had neither the time or the energy to do so. The six of us were kept in the confines of an observable pod that felt like a coffin. The claustrophobic conditions made me ill. Since escape was impossible, I often curled up in the corner of the pod like a child, desperately hiding from the environment around me. The program stressed the decapitation of emotional offspring. Focus was perfection, perfection was necessary for success, success was necessary for further funding, and further funding was necessary for the continuation of the space program. The space program needed to continue, and that’s that.  


We approached the ASTRO-2 on March 20th, 2195. The others began the secondary mission goal to observe unique and classified astronomical targets over the next 60 days. Mark and I set off to begin the upgrade work on a Spacelab pallet in the payload bay of the shuttle where the telescope was mounted.


As we walked along the catwalk toward the pallet, a massive object cannoned into our shuttle. Mark moved with impeccable speed and confidence to strap himself to a steel beam in the payload bay. I followed suit, connecting to the same piece of support. His focus in those critical seconds saved our lives. I braced myself on the platform and called into the deck to check on the rest of the crew. Before they could reply, another object collided with the opposite end of the shuttle, tearing the station in two. Our platform pirouetted, flipped, and ejected the two of us into space. The whole sequence blurred together in an unformed shape in my mind. I have a hard time remembering how any of it occurred, only that it did.


Mark and I gathered ourselves along the beam of the payload bay. We were isolated. I grabbed ahold of him, fortunate for his company. We surveyed the increasingly distant accident, searching for signs of the rest of the crew. They weren’t prepared for ejection and were unlikely to be wearing their suits. Our hope for finding them slowly dissolved into the disappearing debris of the wreckage.


Despite our isolation, the first few days were exhausting. We stayed sensitive for signs of rescue, taking turns keeping an attentive watch across our perimeter.


Our suits were built to protect us from the relentless chill, collecting micrometeorites and using temperature change to generate life-sustaining energy in perpetuity. The suits are similar to the life-cycle sustainment chambers on Earth that elderly people enter in the last days of their lives. They were tanks, armorized with radiation generated by subatomic particles. They were capable of keeping us alive for thousands of years.


The suits, however, did not protect me from the bare exposure of openness. Without boundaries, I quickly lost the tangible realities of my psychological universe. Shapes, colors, and movements were abstract and limitless in space. The cleanest definitions left were lines drawn by the blindingly sharp plastics, glass, and fabric of our suits. Mark proved to be the last stable platform under my crumbling consciousness.


Three months after the accident, we lost hope for rescue and disconnected ourselves from the broken portion of the shuttle we had attached to. We connected together and remained that way for two hundred and twenty-six solar years.


We used to wonder if anyone at home was working on retrieving us -- the two lost astronauts. Generations of people had came into and blinked back out of existence since the accident. Had we been written into the chronicles of history as lost heroes? Were we the subject of explorers not yet born when the accident had happened? Did anyone even notice?


I have long lost track of our approximate location, and Mark and I decided to disable the date and time from our systems HUDs. We stopped thinking about the baby explorers. We just drifted out there, silently encompassed in ethereal blackness. There was only us.


In the absence of the comms system hub of the shuttle, we were not able to talk to each other. Neither of us knew sign language, so over the course of a few decades, we developed our own methods of communication. We first read lips and created signs. Our fingers deliberately formed our emotions, sensations, and conscious thoughts. I’d watch my signs form in front of me while Mark did the same, conveying and processing simultaneously. Our brains slowed to adapt to this way of communicating, thinking and conveying in lock-step. The signs consolidated and dropped off over time. We eventually expressed ourselves through eye contact, unbounded by the constraints of physical movement. Our emotions were ephemeral and delicate, conveyed in their most elemental and honest form. I became intimate with what made him afraid, excited, interested, and depressed. We used what was left of our decayed physical energy to cling together. We understood one another deeper than two people could on Earth.


I lost memory of others close to me at home. The faces of my wife, parents, and friends became distorted, suffocated by the vacuum of time and space.


Long exposure to isolation took my sense of self as well. I was a floating piece of consciousness. Mark was the last vital element, the only occupant that remained. He consumed each emotion, sensation, and thought that passed through me. His breath was my breath. Loss of the self gave birth to the boundless existence and potential of each other. There was no longer a prevailing frontier to separate us.


I surveyed every blemish on his skin. I anticipated each subtle movement he made before he made it. I knew the constellations of the hair follicles on his face. I memorized the patterns of his eyes underneath his eyelids as he slept. I watched them slow, waiting for the opening of his lashes so I could drift into the array of colors underneath. They were the galaxies surrounding me, each a black hole radiating a fiery orange, green, and yellow before drowning in a cold, dark blue. They were no longer pieces of Mark alone, they were pieces of me.


One moment, like countless others before it, I watched Mark wake from sleep. He stretched and yawned. We planned to pick up remembering illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Mark was signing fire when a small object flashed into view. I signaled for him to look, but we hadn’t developed a sign for “urgency.” Like a pickpocket in a train station, it brushed against his hip. His legs shot to the side, turning him perpendicular to myself. The counterforce between the collision and our clip disconnected our suits.


I found the boundaries of my body. Starting at my core, my tendons, muscles, bones, and skin came to life. Hard knots formed in my arms and legs. They burned my torpid muscles, branding me with their density and leaving me with the coordination of an infant.


I turned parallel with Mark and strained to grab ahold of him. My galaxy, consciousness, and humanity. Disconnected. He reached for me and I reached back. Our fingertips brushed.


The two of us began a slow, futile drift apart.


I couldn’t breathe.


As he drifted away I compartmentalized the elements of my world - his face, his skin, his eyes, their colors. I kept them assembled.


My determination to focus on him as he faded from view was all encompassing. I had to hold the observation. I would not miss a moment. I did what I could to distinguish his features and sign to him that everything would be alright. The pain of concentration branded my eyes. Nothing was more important than holding on. Every hour that passed killed another piece of him and another piece of me.


After a few days he was a tiny spec of matter against blackness. My breath slowed to not disrupt my concentration. I feared a lapse would cause him to disappear altogether, a lost child’s balloon touching the clouds. The burning duration of that time was poison.


I watched, and he was gone, and I was alone.


I searched the blackness, waiting for him to reappear. I searched for the object that collided with him, determined for retribution. I screamed in the closed-off shell of my helmet.


Someone had thrown me in a windowless cell and left me to die. For the first time in many lifetimes, I could sense myself as an individual again. All that remained was hollow pain, like a dry socket after a pulled tooth. My aching, decrepit muscles sagged off my bones like laundry on a clothesline. My vision softened, lining the hard blackness with velvet. My mouth was arid, dried of salivation. I was a crater, formed and abandoned.


The openness was agonizing, but I held out hope that with enough discipline and attention, a reflection of love could emerge. As I moved through space over the course of another lifetime, I searched for signs of life and love, for signs of Mark. I drifted through weather patterns on gas giants that pulsed to the same rhythm as his eyes while he slept. I passed through nebulas that matched the colors of those eyes, reaching out and touching the dazzling particles of orange, green, yellow, and blue that surrounded me. He was the omnipresent antimatter outside the scope of my comprehension.


A nova played out our separation from one another. He was a white dwarf, fading from view. I concentrated on him until every piece of light was suffocated by darkness.


I remained in that darkness for a long time.


At some point, everything subtly changed. A small warmth brushed against me. I regained awareness of the space beyond my suit, like a hallway light outside my bedroom door. I felt the tips of my fingers and toes. The soft cotton inside of the suit warmed my skin. I waved my arms and legs through the weightless vacuum of space. It disoriented me. I felt useless and feeble. I didn’t deserve to exist.


I examined the suit for the first time in hundreds of solar years. I studied the harsh definition of the fabric. It pierced through my senses. The tech attached to me was foreign, forged by a species I no longer recognized. The seams connecting the suit felt warn, strained from use beyond their intent. I noticed a tear along my left leg. It may have been there all along.


I fumbled at it with my restored coordination. The frayed strands of neoprene left on the broken seam held strong, dutifully performing their duties. I spent waking days applying pressure at each until they gave up -- popping, fraying, and floating in the vacuum like a sea anemone. One by one, I vanquished my resilient foes. As I got close to the bottom of the tear, my suit bombarded me with an explosion of alarms and orange lights. My senses overloaded. I clutched at the sides of my helmet, screaming in silence at humanity’s last attempt to contact me. I strained to tear at the last few seams, begging for the vacuum to flood in and pull the screeching cells of my body into space.


The alarms cut and the orange lights stopped flashing. The universe was still again. I quivered, unsure if I were dead, but my plaintive muscles responded -- it wasn’t over. My suit had repaired itself at the tear, clotting and scabbing its exterior with glycerol and rubber latex.




My body was a husk carrying an impossible death. I curled up like a child and fell asleep. Searching for hope in the stars was over. The only thing left was loss, growing inside me like a dark patch of mold on a soft lemon. Resigning myself to a deep sleep was the closest thing I was allowed to death. When my body attempted to creak into consciousness, I stubbornly willed it back away from the brink. My determination exhausted it and I slept for a long time.


Something again brushed me in a warm embrace, gently whispering of life. I stirred, half awake, half asleep, and for the first time, I dreamed.


I was wearing a sweater and blue jeans, lying in darkness. I reached around and felt a bottle. Wine? I grabbed a piece of something spongy and smelled it. Rich. I put it in my mouth. Cheese. I touched what I was laying on. Soft. I felt someone next to me. A picnic. They moved close, touched me, and the world exploded with light. Mark. He smiled. We were in the middle of a dark field. We laid on a black velvet blanket next to a basket and a spread of fruits, cheeses, crackers, and wine. The grass around us was made of thin strands of black licorice. Mark broke off a piece and ate it. I did as well. The sweetness filled my senses. I grabbed another. We nibbled on licorice for a few minutes until an alarm went off. Mark straightened up and put his finger to his mouth, urging me to stay silent. He was uncomfortable. I reached out to console him and he swatted my hand away. Something terrified him. His head violently cocked to the side. His mouth and eyes opened wide. He cast his attention toward the picnic basket on the corner of our blanket. He mouthed something awful. I couldn’t hear him. I rushed toward the basket but it snapped shut before I could look inside. I tried to open it, but it didn’t budge. I stood up and strained to pry it. It cracked like a sewer cap. I used the rest of my adrenaline to flip the lid open, tumbling to the ground as it gave way. I sat up and Mark ripped me back down to the blanket, hovering over the top of me. His gaping mouth and eyes filled with smoke. I pushed him aside, peered into the basket, and saw a small piece of space debris. The object that disconnected us. As soon as I realized what it was, it shot into the sky. Mark lost his grip on me and shot into space as well. I tried to watch him, but he was gone too quickly. The light around me extinguished.


I feel awake now, warmer than before. Something outside continues to wrap me in its embrace, pulling me toward it. I peel open my eyes and take in a blurry white light.


As I restore myself, my captor emerges and space feels alive. It is enormous and all encompassing. It is the brightest light I’ve ever seen, and my eyes are seared with its magnificence. It swirls and radiates, buzzing with life. A living, breathing star.


It’s him.


He warms my blood. His flares reach to me, and I reach back. We’re still far apart, but I can feel his pull as I accelerate toward him. I am warm.


I pass through a small asteroid belt, and space debris pelts my suit, tossing me around. Enormous asteroids observe as I flail through their front. I wave. Something hits the glass on my helmet and cracks its outer shell. I lose my bearings, but I’m not drifting anymore. I know the direction I’m headed.


I clear the belt and the star unthinkably doubles in size. The fractured glass on my helmet spreads its light like a chandelier.


The heat is agonizing. The latex repair on my left leg sizzles.


I move faster, and he begins to consume me. I’m no longer alone.


I close my eyes and learn prayer. Lift me from this place. Return me to where I have already visited. I open my eyes and ask the star for benediction.


His pull is uncontrollable and aggressive. As I hurdle toward him, distant stars blur and fade from my vision in a dizzying spiral. Faster. My vision fails. Faster. It’s so hot. Faster.


The moment passes.


Joe Glocke is a writer living in Seattle, WA with his fiancee, dog, and cat. He writes character-driven science fiction. By day, he works as a Program Manager at Microsoft. 

Most of What I Write is Meaningless, But I Write It Just to Reach You by Charlotte Freccia

The August before I turned ten, Ugo ran away and did not come back. He warned me of this leavetaking by disguising it as a simple and temporary relocation.

We were sitting on a bench outside of an ice cream parlor when he told me. “Abelie, honeysuckle” he said. “I have to tell you something. I’m moving. To California. Next week. But only for a little while.”

I knew then that he didn’t plan on returning. He only spoke in such short, dire sentences, dusted off the affectionate “honeysuckle” when he was delivering bad news: “Honeysuckle, please. Listen. We cannot go to the zoo today.” “Honeysuckle, darling. I think it’s about time I told you. There is no Santa Claus.” “Abelie, honeysuckle. I have to talk to you. Lupo was sick. While you were visiting Nonno and Nonna, we drove him away. To a farm. He will be happy there.” “There is no more baby sister. In Mama’s belly. I’m sorry, honeysuckle. I know you wanted her.”

I dropped my hands into my lap. Sweet strawberry ice cream ran down the side of the cone and dr ipped through my fingers, oozing between my thighs. “Next week?” I repeated. “But my birthday’s in a month,” I said, as if he did not know.

“I’m sorry, honeysuckle.”
“So you’re not moving,” I said skeptically, “so much as...going on a little trip.”
Ugo looked uneasy. “Um. Yes. Right. A trip. I’ll be back before you know it.”
“Mmhm,” I said with a note of finality. “Okay, Ugo.”
“Now, who is Ugo? Just because I’m going to California doesn’t mean I’m no longer your Papi.” I wasn’t so sure. Suddenly, my stomach hurt. I dropped my ice cream and it formed a wet, fragrant heap in the grass. I started to cry.

That spring, my mother had calmly and quietly asked Ugo for a divorce. That summer, he’d moved out of the house he’d shared with my mother and me and took a stuffy one-bedroom apartment with dirty wall-to-wall carpeting where I spent Wednesday nights and alternating weekends. In the apartment, Ugo and I said little to each other. This was not to say there was not an intimate bond between us: instead of words, we used music to fill the apartment. Ugo had an old Victrola player and The Beatles’s White Album in very good shape. We used to sit at the garage-sale dining table with the fake wood grain and the fat, milky-white water stains with our hands folded and our eyes down, listening to the record wind and whir. We let the sounds of the songs fill up the rooms, slide through the slats in the venetian blinds, soak up the sunlight that seemed perverse and mocking in such a desperate place.

Once, memorably, Ugo danced to “Back In The USSR.” He kicked his long, thin legs in the air like a marionette controlled by a shaky-handed alcoholic, jumping wildly, landing perilously. When he danced, he was serious. He kept his arms rigid, fisted, at his sides. His eyes and mouth were unsmiling.

“This is how I used to see my Papi dance,” Ugo said. I nodded. I looked away.

Another time, “Rocky Raccoon” came on and Ugo held my hands and picked me just up off the floor, placing my feet on top of his. He took wide steps and waltzed me around the room and I laughed until he suddenly stopped. I was too big to play like that, he said harshly, with a kind of impatient anger in his voice, as if the dance had been my idea. The last of my laughter echoed through the empty house. Ugo stepped away from me and beheld me. There were several feet between us. Our stance was two lovers fighting. He retreated from the room into the kitchen, and I heard the crisp crack of a bottle opening, the tumble of liquor into the bottom of a glass. I turned to the mirror on the mantel and listened to the song play out in a shimmering shower of ragtime piano. I looked into my own eyes with dread, wondering how I had ended up his daughter. Wondering how our family had become so fragmented. Knowing that I was perhaps the only one Ugo had left in the world. Knowing that maybe I was doomed.

For I was young, but still I understood that I was more similar, on a fundamental, almost existential plane, to silent and stoic Ugo than I was to virtually anyone else in my life. That mirror told the truth: when I looked at me, I saw him. We had the same long limbs and high cheekbones, same eyes and fine hair, so black it was almost blue. But beyond this superficial similarity, when I turned away from the mirror I could see the deepening darkness inside of him; the sadness, the departure, the withdrawal. I wanted to point to the darkness, to look at it, to say, Yes. To say, I see. I recognize. I own.

He drove me home to my mother’s house the next day. As he idled in the driveway, I could see my mother waiting for me on the porch. I could see her short blonde hair, in the bob style she’d had since I could remember; the bright pink collar of her linen shirt. She saw me see her and smiled more brightly. I could almost hear the silver bracelets she wore jingle as they fell down her arm when she waved. I unbuckled my seatbelt and put my hand on the door handle. As if reflexively, Ugo locked the doors with a decisive click.

“It’s not three-thirty yet,” he said. “Your mother wanted you back at three thirty.”
I looked dubiously at the flat black numbers on the dashboard. “It’s three twenty-eight,” I said. “A little more time,” said Ugo. “A little more time. Please.”
That night, my mother played the Indigo Girls as she cooked us grilled eggplant and tomatoes.

“Your favorite food,” she said, “to welcome you home.” Every time I returned from Ugo’s house, my mother insisted on making grilled eggplant: I ate the dish at least twice a week. It was hardly “my favorite;” I was ten years old, and no ten-year-old I know loves grilled eggplant. I resented my mother for doing this, for making things up about me that she imagined were true. Still, I loved the colors of the vegetables she grew in our garden, the scent and sound of garlic and oil sizzling in a pan, the sound of her little voice underneath the crashing cacophony of the Indigo Girl’s “Fugitive.” “Now it's coming to you, the lessons I've learned won't do you any good: you've got to get burned” she sang. I stood at the sink next to her and washed the soft tomatoes for her to peel.

During dinner, she told me about the weekend she’d had without me––the vintage picnic blanket she picked up at a garage sale, the movie she’d seen with her girlfriends as I swirled the tough strips of eggplant through the watery sauce.

“What did you and your father get up to?” she asked, restraint and caution balanced but poorly masked in her voice. I didn’t say anything. “Now, Abelie! she exclaimed sharply. “So secretive!” My eyes immediately filled with tears, whether from the acidity of her tone or the exhaustion that typically followed my weekends with my father I don’t recall. At ten, I was desperate for my mother’s approval and hated it when she criticized me––especially when she was right. I was so taciturn when the subject of her ex-husband was brought up because I was afraid of how I felt about him and me, and afraid for him! She thought I was protecting him from her contempt. She didn’t know how much I wanted to be her child! To have her energy, her distinct femininity, her vegetable garden, her collection of vintage linens. How much I wanted not to be irreversibly Ugo’s child: odd, dark, foreign, afraid. When I returned to my mother’s home at the end of my weekends at Ugo’s, it felt like I was arriving at a place, to a person, that would never end, never abandon; while when in Ugo’s apartment, I was weirdly and prematurely aware that this, us, would not last. That it would all be over startlingly soon. That I was haunting my father in the last weeks before he ran away for good; to observe him in the hole he’d dug for himself and to figure out how to avoid falling into a similar one myself.

For Ugo was not an ungenerous man. When he left me, he left me with me almost all I have: my name, my feeling of always apart, the way I look, think, speak, act, feel. When he left me, he left behind his dusty, lonely apartment, his records, his player, his empty bottles. When he left me, he told me he’d return for Christmas, but we both knew that he would never come back to that apartment where I learned how to love men and music in the way that each demands to be loved; where I began to unwrap Ugo song by song, line by line.

As much as I knew how his final departure from me would break my heart, I knew that he was broken worse, that Ugo was something less than fully a man and losing more and more of himself every day, losing to loss itself, this not-wholeness, this vacancy, this wanting. By the time he ran away, I was the only thing he had left. I knew that as much as I dreaded those nights and weekends in the musty, dusky, lonely apartment, he lived almost solely for them. Unlike all the others he’d disappeared from, I was his daughter and so I had to love him, to share with him, to commune. I was the only one left, and as much as I knew that all I had was his, I knew that in a different way, all that Ugo had––his unbearably empty home, his old record player, his aging body, the White Album, me, all of those things that he left behind in Ohio when he ran away forever––I had given him, too.

The White Album is the common name of The Beatles’s formally self-titled ninth studio album, released in November, 1968. The album’s lyrics are largely satirical, alluding not only to the turbulent, uneven political climate of the late 1960s but to the tension that was by that time starting to build within the band less than six months before their breakup. Perhaps in order to subvert this tension, the band and their producers conceived The White Album as a radical departure from the band’s previous releases: the album’s cover is artless, just a vacant white square with the band’s name embossed left of center while previous albums, most notably Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, had whimsical, colorful cover art, and the genres explored in the album include British blues, transcendentalist folk, and ska. Thus, The White Album is wildly idiosyncratic, and it received distinctly mixed reviews from critics upon release, though it is now considered one of the best and most influential albums of all time and has sold more copies than any other Beatles album. The twenty-first century music journalism publication Pitchfork says that the White Album is “sprawling, overflowing with ideas and excess...not only a monument to unbridled creativity but a rock archetype.”

It took Ugo nearly a month to get to California as he slowly made his way through the Midwest, stopping in nowhere towns for days-long binges, passing drunken nights in sodium-light drive-in motels or in the back of the car that carried him away. When he reached the coast, he was taken in by his well-married sister, my aunt, in Santa Cruz. In those years, my aunt was still sending my mother letters with hundred-dollar bills stuffed into the bottom of the envelope and news of Ugo’s rapid unravelling between apologies for how he’d left us. When she got these letters, my mother would fold them, unread, into an old moth-eaten tablecloth which she’d shove into the back of a closet for me to pillage and pour over late at night, when she was at work. He never stayed in one place for long, my aunt said. He always went back to her.

In California, Ugo’s spiral shortened as he finally succumbed to the the prying, needling fingers of disease, of alcoholism and unchecked anhedonia that had been reaching out to him for years. He slipped off of his medication, picked at his skin until it bled, spoke to the voices he and no one else could hear, believed things that shouldn’t be believed. The walrus was Paul. For awhile, I heard from Ugo infrequently. He sent me birthday cards, intermittently, throughout the year, always on days that were not my birthday. On the cheap-paper envelopes he surely stole from some copy shop or postal station, heavy fingerprints showed near the creases, and the seals smelt sour. I would open the letters slowly, running my fingers slowly over the weak strip of adhesive, where he’d sealed the letter closed with his drunken spit. Inside the cards, always pastel-colored, hideously cheesy pieces of little-girl dreamworld nostalgia, in his hasty, spindly script, moving in and out of coherence, he’d frequently change tense, person, even language: Abelie, Honeysuckle. I’m working for a vet. If I saved enough money, I’m going to move in down the street from Venice Beach and out of Auntie Agata’s house, with her six big dogs, woof woof woof woof woof woof, floppy ears, comi i cani della strada, and her husband Drake who looks like a dog. Mi manchi. Ti amo. Mi dispiace.

When I went to college, I hung a photo of Ugo on the cinderblock wall of my dorm room. This was the only photo, of family or otherwise, I hung when I was decorating. In the picture, Ugo sits on the gray concrete bird-shit-stained steps of the fountain outside of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. He wears round, gold-framed glasses and a short-sleeved button-down shirt in a rather dubious plaid pattern that incorporates a few too many shades of pink. He is smiling, and his teeth are square and very white. He is so young it breaks my heart.

On the back of the picture, I wrote my favorite line from “Fugitive:”
“I said, remember this as how it should be.”
Early that semester, I left a party with Peter, who lived upstairs. We walked through the campus in the rain as it slowly waned to nothing. When we came to the bookstore, its lights off and doors shuttered, so late at night, we sat down on its stoop, which was the same gray as the fountain in front of the Plaza in the picture. We talked for hours, and it was revealed that we had almost everything in common: we both went to Catholic schools, loved James Joyce, smoked American Spirits in spite of ourselves, had no siblings and nurses for mothers. He asked me what I wanted to do.

I didn’t answer for a while. “Music journalism,” I finally said. Peter laughed. “What?” I asked. “Nothing. Just––you want to be a music journalist. I want to be a musician.”
“My father is a musician,” I said, and though this was hardly true, it was one of my favorite ways of endlessly exoticizing Ugo, remembering him as he should be, not as he is. A larger part of me than I cared to acknowledge still childishly wished that if I believe it, it must be true. Truth be told, I’d had no clue what he did or where he did it since the not-birthday cards stopped when I moved to college.

Peter smiled easily. “What does he play?” Records, I thought. “Guitar,” I said. Again, the smile. “I play guitar.”
Of course you do, I thought. Of course.

“Where do you want to go?” he asked, shortly thereafter.
“Home,” I said. “We can go home.”
He laughed. “Okay,” he said. We stood up from the stoop and began walking toward our dorm. “I meant, though, where do you want to go, when this is all done, and we’re out of here?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. This was true. “London, maybe.”
“London,” he said. “A good place for a music journalist, probably. So is California. That’s where I want to go. Maybe you’ll come with me?”

I smiled. “No,” I said simply, and I took his hand as we moved over slick, rain-battered streets toward our new home.

When we reached Peter’s room, I sat on his bed and looked around at his bare walls as he began

to roll a joint. He had hung no photos of his father. He had hung no photos at all. The room quickly filled up with the smell of marijuana which lingered thickly in the humidity of the after-rain in the late summer and after he’d taken a hit he passed the joint to me, turning away to put a record on the tabletop player that sat on the edge of his bare desk. He slid a record out of a sleek square envelope, set it on the turnable, lifted the arm, and dropped the needle onto the disk. I closed my eyes and let the taste of the smoke in the haze rest gently on my tongue, waiting to hear the opening chords of the record, so familiar.

It was The Beatles. The White Album. “Dear Prudence.” Peter noted my instant recognition. “I always play past ‘Back In The USSR,’” he said. “It’s nothing but a stupid novelty song.” I made a small noise that barely acknowledged the depth of my disagreement.
“Airplane noises,” he said.

When he kissed me, that night, he kissed me slowly, heavily, in the smoke-choked room; his hand wet and warm on the top of my thigh. Slowly, each song melted into the next in the way of a truly timeless album until we could hear nothing but the soft, respiratory sounds of the record’s empty, endless, pointless loops.

“Julia” is the final song of the White Album’s A side and the last one to be written for the album.

It’s widely considered one of John Lennon’s best and most haunting compositions. The lyrics are tangled and dense, recalling lines from Kahlil Gibran and Alice in Wonderland, but the song’s most significant inspiration is the eponymous Julia, Lennon’s mother. Julia was an evasive woman, absent for much of her son’s childhood, who encouraged him in his love of music: Lennon’s half-sister recalled fondly mother and son “jiving” around the living room to Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” on Lennon’s infrequent visits. The song was written after Julia was killed in a car accident involving a drunk-driving off-duty policeman. It is said that the night she died, Lennon had a dream that he and his mother were standing on a beach, holding hands; this sweet dream inspires much of the song’s oceanic imagery. Of her death, Lennon said only that he’d lost her twice: once, when she left him, as a child, and again when she died. For this reason, Pitchfork calls “Julia” “a piece of “painful autobiography.” “Julia” was recorded at Trident Studios in London on October 13, 1968, exactly twenty-eight years to the day before I was born.

It happened a week after my twenty-first birthday. It happened in his sleep. He had lost his housing and was again sleeping in the bed she kept warm for him in my now-divorced Auntie Agata’s house. It was one of her then-seven dogs that found Ugo, still and breathless, early the next morning. When Agata woke up at sunrise to walk the dogs along the pier, she found the dog curled up beside him in his deathbed. She called me moments later. On the east coast, it was still early morning, still dark, when my eyes snapped open at the ringing of the phone. Somehow I knew.

“Auntie Agata,” I said when I picked up. “ Cosa sta succedendo.” It had been almost a decade since I’d spoken Italian, and I’d barely been fluent before then, but still, the words rolled off my tongue automatically that night, in the middle of the night.

I listened to her short-winded weeping, clutching a sheet around my bare body. I felt Peter start to stir beside me, and by the time I got my Auntie off the phone he was fully awake, his eyes wide and very white in the moonlit room as he gazed at me with a concern that I knew wasn’t inauthentic. I settled back in next to him, so close that our stomachs touched and our eyes were inches apart and we breathed together, like a machine: I breathed out, he breathed in.

“What happened,” Peter said.
“My father died,” I said. “In his sleep.”
“My God,” he said.
“I know,” I said.
After that, we were silent for a little. On the road behind the house, I heard a car pass. “Can you do something for me?” I asked.
“Anything,” he said.

Peter told me he loved me a month after we met. We were perilously high and lying on our backs on a blanket on the lawn outside our buildings, our legs and fingers and breathing tangled together. “I think it’s easy to feel like that when you’ve smoked this much marijuana in such a short amount of time,” I said, squinting.
“I’m serious,” Peter said indignantly. “I love you. I’m in love with you.”
I could only laugh. He sat up and pulled me with him. I looked into his bulbous pupils. “Stop laughing! Abelie, I’m serious. I know that I both love and am in love with you because I have never met anyone who’s so much like me before.”

I stopped laughing, suddenly acrimonious. “Do you think that’s what love is?” I demanded. “Being the same? Having a few things in common? Liking the same authors, the same music?”

“Yes,” he said. “Isn’t it? Isn’t that what love is?”
“No,” I said. “Love is showing up. Being there.” My anger was wasting my good high.
“Okay,” Peter said seriously. “If that’s what you think love is. Then that is what I will do. Be. For you. I’m not lying to you, Abelie.”

I laid back on the blanket. “Okay,” I said. “Okay.” He laid back beside me. We did not touch, we did not speak, for awhile. Slowly, my anger at what I perceived as Peter’s alarming misunderstanding of the meaning of love waned and was replaced by an encroaching apprehension. When I looked over at him, he was looking at me. All at once, I was terrified.

After a year or so I figured that I did love him back, though not nearly with the force or urgency with which he loved me: Peter always seemed like he was ready to get married. He wanted to move into an off-campus apartment with me for the first semester of our junior year and go abroad together in the following semester. I was able to circumvent both plans: I insisted that we get separate apartments and convinced him to stay at school and finish taking his music classes while I took my semester in London. This was how it worked: he was eager and I was trepidacious, though what I asked for, he always gave me. The night Ugo died, after I asked him to leave, he stayed away for a week while I sat silently in my pristine loneliness in a meditative state. Then, I called him and asked if he would drive me to the airport.

“When we met, you told me you wanted to someday go to California,” I said. “Yes.”
“And I told you I wouldn’t go with you.”
“Yes,” he said again, wearily, as if it made him sad to remember.

“What I wanted to tell you was that I would never go to California because California is the place where people ran when they ran away from me, and I knew too many runaways to ever want to become one myself. But today, I need to go to California. For the last time. And I need to go alone. And I need you to take me.”

“Okay,” he said. Within fifteen minutes, his car was idling outside my apartment, and he was carrying my single suitcase out the front door.

On the ride to the airport, I told Peter that we couldn’t be together anymore. I studied his face for traces of reaction but detected none. I was predictable to him. He had seen this coming.

“It’s not your fault,” I said.
“Sure,” he said, and repositioned his hands on the wheel.
“Listen. It’s not,” I said. “But it’s not my fault either.”
“Tell me how that works, then, if it’s no one’s fault.”
“Well.” I said, and then I was quiet for a while. I had said these words to myself so many times that when they came out they came out sounding stale. “It works like this: since I lost my father the first time I’ve had to stop thinking in terms of what is forgivable and what is not. At the end of most days, I am not certain that anything my father did was truly unforgivable, and even if he did, I’m not sure it matters. After all, the word that’s supposed to precede love is unconditional, right?”

Peter glanced away from the road, raising his eyebrows at me. “Maybe,” he said. I knew he didn’t understand, and perhaps had never understood.

“The only thing I’m certain that he is gone, and that he can’t come back. I’ve been practicing being a girl without a father since I was ten. And now I am one. But I don’t think all that practice will make it any easier. Because I still wonder, who is a girl without a father? Who is afraid that one day the love may stop, may cease to flow both ways, or even flow at all? Who knows that nothing lasts but hopes that nothing ends?”

“What are you saying to me?” he asked.

“Me,” I say. “I am saying that this girl is me. I decided to think of it less like when he died my father no longer loved me, but that he still loved me, urgently, and no longer knew how to tell me just how much.”

“Abelie,” he said, as if my name were a sentence. We drove the rest of the way in silence. When we reached the airport, even inside the car, we could hear the vacuum-like sounds of planes taking off, as in the beginning of “Back in the USSR.” Peter slowed the car and waited for me to get out.

I unbuckled my seatbelt and turned to him so that he could not avoid looking at me any longer.

“Listen,” I said. “In a way, I feel like you and me grew up together. I love you very much. Very, very much. More than I have ever really been able to say. You are unquestionably my best friend.”

“Okay,” he said, and he sounded unconvinced. This was fine. I did not need to convince him.

“But sometimes. No matter how much you love someone. Even if you love someone unconditionally. It just doesn’t work out. It just doesn’t. For no real reason. And it’s sad. But it is. Just so. Remember freshman year, on the lawn? When we talked about what love is. As it turns out, Peter. Love isn’t having so much in common with someone, but maybe it isn’t showing up for them, either”

He turned away and looked out the window to the vast sky, which was streaked with the exhaust trails of departed planes and the color of carsickness. “Then what is, it, then?”

“I don’t know,” I said. I placed one hand on the door handle. I leaned forward so that my mouth was just shavings of a second away from his cheek, but I didn’t kiss him. I just let him hear my breathing, and then I got out of the car. I retrieved my suitcase from the trunk. I walked towards the airport and the automatic doors parted to greet me. I didn’t look back.

On the plane, I opened the book into which I’d tucked the picture of Ugo from my wall. For the longest time, I ignored the smears of shit on the fountain and the clash of the various pinks in Ugo’s shirt. I looked only at his eyes. After all that time it still alarmed me when I looked into them that his eyes were my eyes. Now I know what it’s like, I thought, to leave someone whom you love, who is desperately in love with you. And for no reason at all. I turned the picture over and read the words I’d written:

“I said, remember this as how it should be.”

“I'm harboring a fugitive, a defector of a kind, and she lives in my soul, drinks of my wine, and I'd give my last breath to keep us alive. Are they coming for us, with cameras or guns? We don't know which but we gotta run. And you say, this is not what I bargained for.

So hide yourself for me, all for me.
We swore to ourselves we'd go to the end of the world, but I got caught up in whirl and the twirl of it all. A day in the sun, dancing alone, baby, I'm so sorry. Now it's coming to you, the lessons I've learned won't do you any good: you've got to get burned. The curse and the blessing they're one and the same, baby, it's all such a treacherous gain.

Hide yourself from me. I said, hide yourself from me, all for me.

I stood without clothes, danced in the sand. I was aching with freedom and kissing the damned. I said, remember this as how it should be.

Baby, I said, it's all in our hands got to learn to respect what we don't understand. We are fortunate ones, fortunate ones, I swear.

So hide yourself for me. I will hide myself for you, all for you.

I stood without clothes, danced in the sand. I was aching with freedom, kissing the damned. I said, remember this as how it should be."


Charlotte Freccia is a second-year student of English, Creative Writing, and Women's and Gender Studies at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where she also enjoys an associateship with the Kenyon Review. She is a winner of the Philip Wolcott Timberlake Award and has recently published poetry in Zaum Magazine and creative nonfiction in Newfound. Her short story "Baby Teeth" was published by POTLUCK in June 2016. 

DAY FIVE: Poems by Andrew Brenza by Andrew Brenza


on bollard
to planet  
plant it
face up
little worlds
stranger makes
of it yours
a body
round as

Andrew Brenza is the author of three chapbooks, 21 Skies (Shirt Pocket Press, 2015), And Then (forthcoming from Grey Book Press), and 8 Skies (forthcoming from Beard of Bees Press). His first full-length collection, Gossamer Lid, was recently published by Trembling Pillow Press. 

DAY FOUR: Poems by Andrew Brenza by Andrew Brenza

weed eater/flay

string become bladethresher
bed of mint                 wracked-raw  
burst                 a fragrant      
moment       movement  the air is full
of submission      frightened by 


Andrew Brenza is the author of three chapbooks, 21 Skies (Shirt Pocket Press, 2015), And Then (forthcoming from Grey Book Press), and 8 Skies (forthcoming from Beard of Bees Press). His first full-length collection, Gossamer Lid, was recently published by Trembling Pillow Press. 

DAY THREE: Poems by Andrew Brenza by Andrew Brenza

mind flank/a tree

is a grinding

of violate breath

a geared wetness

toward witness
molars glued

to anywhere
a gas-sagged  

less thought 

Andrew Brenza is the author of three chapbooks, 21 Skies (Shirt Pocket Press, 2015), And Then (forthcoming from Grey Book Press), and 8 Skies (forthcoming from Beard of Bees Press). His first full-length collection, Gossamer Lid, was recently published by Trembling Pillow Press. 

DAY TWO: Poems by Andrew Brenza by Andrew Brenza


a frigate's spiral ascension into...
call it work call it shaken call it please

and oh god who cares all that half-brain asleep between wulst and worsted signals
it's day down here

or radios in the johnsonian sense
to be asleep and flying

sometimes for years
it means that it means

and we on our helixed way...
call it shirk call it waken call it whatever oh god please

Andrew Brenza is the author of three chapbooks, 21 Skies (Shirt Pocket Press, 2015), And Then (forthcoming from Grey Book Press), and 8 Skies (forthcoming from Beard of Bees Press). His first full-length collection, Gossamer Lid, was recently published by Trembling Pillow Press. 

DAY ONE: Poems by Andrew Brenza by Andrew Brenza

blue lobsters/your eyes

I dream of blue lobsters as in  
I am looking in your eyes

Somewhere space is silhouetting
Your body I want it

To be a gentleness
Your breath giving shape

Around you yours your hands
In whatever movement

quiet clouds of jellyfish
Pulse the silence of your proliferations therein



Andrew Brenza is the author of three chapbooks, 21 Skies (Shirt Pocket Press, 2015), And Then (forthcoming from Grey Book Press), and 8 Skies (forthcoming from Beard of Bees Press). His first full-length collection, Gossamer Lid, was recently published by Trembling Pillow Press. 

Three Poems by Effy Fritz

In Which The Monster Has Wings Made of Forest:

In other worlds, an angel looks like this:
eagle wings a shiver of thorns and shoulder blades spring loaded,
dirt orbiting above the head, Jupiter’s lost ring.
              Unfortunately for you, this isn’t that kind of world.
Shirtless and posing, you are the January cover boy for Freaks Catalog.
You know degenerates slobber over these photos in horrible perversion,
your unwanted body with no master and no god.

You tried to pluck them once,
with pliers and your teeth gripping a wet washcloth,
nonmagic wings made of hemlock and thistle and vine,
with every tweeze they bubbled and leaked topsoil, pollen,
sap running off your elbows.
Later, you would know this as a practice of pruning,
of self-punishment, of white-flag to your misery.
When you dream, they’re made of porcelain.
When you dream, you aim the shotgun perfectly,
and they shatter. And you’re alone,
shirtless and a vessel in which nothing limps.




I’m Not Sick When I’m Sleeping:

I greet a dog I think I know and find it newly-mutilated, lean tight stitching across its back, a fresh pink stump where a front leg used to be. My mother says this is the 3rd iteration of the same dog, the one who just won’t stay alive for her. The boy from my 10th grade fling is there, pine tree tall, and we fuck sitting upright on the couch in his stone castle, Victorian, his quiet moans rumbling my body. Afterwards, I waltz into the fridge: smoked salmon, capers, a thin sliver of lemon, into my mouth with the thrill of all things bizarre and deserved.

This is the point I realize I am dreaming:
Not the misplaced castle,
not the dying dogs
or my 15-year-old body heaving with
an ancient unfamiliar joy,
not the fragmented way
time and place fall into my lap,
inconsiderate how only dreams
can be. It’s the food—
delicate, intentional, instinctual.
The untempered thrill of the salt,
the vinegar bite,
the guilt that doesn’t fit in the room,
can’t even find the door,
doesn’t know how to spell the name it gave me.
Imagine that kind of distance from what raised you.
Imagine the ropes that always tether,
a pulp of loose end fibers with all the shackles gone.
In the dream I eat from no plate
and there is no shame. In the dream
taste is its own god and I know how
to pray.
Nothing desperate.
I don’t think about being
thin because I don’t have a body,
just a sense of smell,
a lit firework,
and 10 hands,
ready to grab onto anything
that wants to see me light.




9 Years Old, November 1988, Okenfenokee Swamp with Daddy:

The good body incapable of milk.
Wonders, womb just for kindling?
Just a molten bowl, just a blood offering?
But all the wit in the world won’t bring her a baby. It’s been 9 years.
I was a strange shock, 14 and Daddy Tried Whiskey For The First Time.
Heave Heave Heave and I arrived, white as a cotton bud.
Now the swamp steams. The switchgrass rigid and still.
“After you,” Mama said, “You’d think Georgia never saw wind.”
Harder to be good here then it is to drunk fuck and shoot blind,
but I try. I do.
Counts for nothing when the moon ripens and the peaches fall plump and ready,
all the country men out for their trouble.
Daddy brings in an alligator twice as long as me,
muddy scaled and snowglobe hard eyes
instructs me slice muzzle to tail.
My cut’s a little crooked and the hot blood runs to my elbows.
The skin isn’t as tough as it looks
and he wraps it around his arm in one long strip, a party boa,
pulls like ribbon and There She Is, pink and naked below us, hide-free, a prize to claim:
he killed it, he stripped it naked, and she’s perfect for a purse, for a pair of shoes, for a
sacrifice to some nameless and unfussy God.
Later, in the swamp-tent, Daddy moves over me naked and vast as night and There She
Is, My Baby, My Baby,
a field of new poppies: meaning sleep, meaning peace, meaning death.
I’m praying for all three but they don’t come.
The bright Georgia moon, the cicadas screaming me awake.
Those are lucky bugs. Only singing on the hottest days.
98 degrees and the dirge is strong. We’re talking death-songs.
We’re talking newly dead. Me and the gator. Pretty pink. Leaking milk.




Effy Fritz is a poet and scientist from Brooklyn who believes the most important aspect of poetry is the act of deliberate word choice. Her work has been featured on MTV, Button Poetry, and decomP, among other places. She holds a BSc in Neuroscience and is currently immersed in immunological research at the University of Pennsylvania.