Further Untitled by Mike Corrao

The progression is going to be strange because it’s going to move forward and then it’s going to come back as if nothing had happened in the first place. Remove the idea (the elliptical); we aren’t going anywhere; haven’t been moving. If I have, I don’t know. I’m sure by this point that I’m not much for seeing (can’t do it, can’t bother). In the air of the moment, I realized how little I know. No body, no place, no scene, no set, no company, no eyes, no legs. All I think I’ve got is a mouth; don’t exactly know where to find it, but I’m sure I have it because I’ve constantly been using it. It must be floating around here somewhere; the volume wavers from ear to ear--never really in the similar. What was the word? Yes. I’m without images. I can’t find them. I’ve been without them and so now I’m stuck here listening or trying to listen or pretending to listen and I’m faced with the fact that I’ve been running out of tenses and that I’ve been keeping too loose a grip on the leash and so now I’m practically without language. No. That’s a lie. I have language; I’ve just lost the sense of it; don’t know where to look for it either; don’t know how to move about or look about; just been listening. The objective of it all has been just as loose as I have. But let me try this: I’ve lost a grip on the sense of things and I’d like to find it (don’t like the gibberish, don’t like the gibberish, don’t like the gibberish, don’t like the gibberish). It’s all been flossing my ears and now I feel too clean for it. I have language; I have punctuation. I need for it all to be sensical. I think it’s driven me ill; if I could find a bed around here (my way around here) I’d take to it and stay there forever. That might be the same as I’m doing now. Maybe I wouldn’t be blind if I was in bed (I could look up at my ceiling and all), but then again it wouldn’t matter whether I was blind or not because I’d be in the bed still, and so it in this purgatorial hell it doesn’t much matter whether I’m blind or not. Images lie and beds are bad for backs (would’ve had a back in a bed). Now I’m stuck in a standstill with the language and the punctuation and we’ve been stammering around conversation; they’ve been stammering around conversation. I’m floating about in the abyss of it all, searching for the euphoric side of oblivion, but with company, I don’t think there’s much to find (which is a shame because I’d like to see the way it moves). I can’t see. Right. The language said this to me:

    “A word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word is a word.”

I didn’t know the way to reply and so I didn’t. The tone carried along melodically and it went on long enough that it’s all white noise to me now. I don’t recognize (my ears are deaf to it). They aren’t deaf in the whole of things. They’ve been peering about for something outside of three repeated words in an infinite loop indulging themselves. It’s sickening and mundane and one of the few things I’ve been out to avoid. More than that I’d like to meet the speaker if I could because I think it would be a moment for me to see the way that things move about (and they do); we’d say ‘hello’ and ‘hi’ and then part ways and maybe I would see again; maybe he/she/they could introduce me to the sense of it all (because I’ve lost it). If the image is fleeting, put me in oblivion next to any author you like--images of coffee cups and waiters and light conversation. I can still speak (it’s evident). That’s the only way I know how to move along and so it’s the way that I plan to continue. Language continued on; punctuation to explain things to me. It said that the author in oblivion was a modernist and I told it that I’d like to meet him. He isn’t real and so I can’t. The reality of the situation is stuck between language, me, punctuation, and an audience (if any)--moving about in the way it does. At some point I think my mind will disappear. I don’t think I’ll lose my mouth, but my mind might not stay around. I don’t know what I’ll sound like when it happens, but I imagine it’ll be the best part of me. I’ve tried to further my distance (my mind from my mouth); they don’t much like each other; the endeavor of getting them in the same room together would be a nightmare and so I won’t. They can go on ignoring each other, occasionally conversing and agreeing and disagreeing more. And I’ll continue on in the nothingness of whatever a place I’m in. It’ll go on and I’ll listen as my mouth circulates around my body and I’ll look for something good in it all (won’t find it). I’ll look and I’ll find it. Nothing ever moves forward (it’ll all continue in that elliptical circle; moving forward and back and so on; empty as it is). The punctuation heard me and shook me and said:    


Nothing meant anything and so I didn’t bother listening. The white noise (language and the such) played about still and occasionally I would try to catch it and hold onto it and listen to the words and remember them clearly, but I couldn’t. I let it all go and wandered around without. More than that: the letters are strewn about. Language left them aside and only took the seven or so it needed. If I knew where my feet were, I think I’d be stepping in them. Where has my body gone? It might be strewn about like the letters--limbs littering whatever blackness. Stop. They’d move around, in search of each other (call it a love story; call it spite). They’d find one another and build up to a whole without me and leave. Might have already happened. I haven’t seen them and so they might be gone and I might be alone with the words and the punctuation and the language and the letters and that mouth floating around (also abandoned). I’d be honest and I’d be alright, because it’s the way that things go. Back and forth. They’d be back on the ground again (strewn about) and then they’d be together and then not and repeat. Okay. Now (present tense). What about this (a.): a letter to the author; a question about my whereabouts and their return and if they’d left language alone with nothing much to do but bother us all. Here:


To the author,

I’d like to leave.

Thank you.


I don’t know if I agree with it--don’t know how I’d send it either, don’t know if I would--but I think that it gets the message across. I’ll leave it here (on the page), because I don’t know where I could see myself putting it. Author might of left, might not of. They’ll see it or they won’t and the cycle will move back and forth and it’ll stay still in the average. I’d like to leave (I’m sure I’d say). Maybe when the prose finds its footing and knows where to put me I’ll be more aware (more about). But I’m not and so I don’t think that the prose has any hope for me. We’re stuck alone together, sitting at separate tables on opposing edges of the room, avoiding eye contact. How did we get here? It doesn’t have a purpose to know; I won’t bother (knowing where I am; how to be). Turn around instead (a direction). Take a moment to feel around; I imagined that my eyes were closed and I listened to the silence and smiled (occasionally coming close to that smile, but mostly staying far from it). Sometimes it wasn’t my mouth; I don’t think. It whispered things like Francis or Franny did. It might have been their mouth completely and I might have been borrowing it whenever it came close to me; or maybe it was a shared mouth that changed owners by proximity. And I forget the author (we move back). I’m unsure of how I could leave. Staying here forever is the way that things go; I can tell now and I could tell before and I’m sure I’ll tell in the future; I’ll continue whirling around my tenses, constantly checking statuses. I don’t know how long I can sustain myself for. Soon I’ll be nothing. The thought has been away from me (a bad thing). I’m glad to know now. If my mind and my mouth don’t want anything to do with each other, then let my mind diffuse and I hope the mouth isn’t mine. It would be beautiful and sublime. This: if I had nothing left around me. It wasn’t true though. The author had just left me be for too long. Things have gone out of hand and this is the state we’re in. The language hates me (and I hate it), the punctuation wants nothing to do with either of us and the prose and the letters are all in disarray. We’re all headless (it’s not profound). The prose saw we were alone and said:

“What a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame.”

The motifs continued on repeat; the prose hates me; I don’t mind. No one has anything left to do here; we’re all a little upset. Like this: ugh. I’m tired. I’m not sure where to go from here. It’s all exhausting, I feel like I’ve been here for too long and now I’m stuck without any words of my own; I’ve just been picking up piles that’ve already been used--rearranging them when I can manage. This isn’t my dialect (someone else’s). I’m uncomfortable. The goal was what? I can’t remember anymore. It was something useless and so I won’t bother trying to remember what it was. None of this is for me; I’m just resentful now; I’m tired; I don’t have a body, a place, a person, a scene, a set, any of that garbage from back when (whenever). I could leave all of it alone (fade away) and I’d like to. I will. Sorry to put you alone with the language and the words and the letters and the prose and the punctuation, but so it goes. They all said:

“Motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif motif.”

And the trend continued.




Mike Corrao is currently a student at the University of Minnesota where he is studying Film and English. His work can be seen in publications like 365tomorrows, Pop Culture Puke, Century, Ivory Tower, and Thrice.

Half by Doug Hawley

One day in March, I felt an excruciating abdominal pain, so painful that I fell to he floor.  Because my wife Sally was out shopping and I was immobilized, there was nothing I could do.  Within five minutes, the pain left, and I felt as if nothing had happened.  I decided not to tell Sally, because I knew that she would freak and want me to see a doctor immediately.  I thought it best to see how things played out, and see my doctor at the earlier of my next incident, or within a month.

Ten days later, I had severe pain in both of my middle toes.  Again, the attack lasted a few minutes and then disappeared without a trace.  Totally flummoxed, I got an appointment for three days later.

At my appointment, I told the doctor my symptoms and he took some blood tests.  I got another appointment for the next week.  He told me that he had no idea what my problem was, so I was nervous leading up to the next appointment.

At the following appointment he told me “I have very bad news, bad news and better news.”  I had never liked Dr. Unman, because he was always so grim.

I wanted to hear the worst, so I told him “Tell me the very bad new first.”

“You’ll die in six months from your first symptoms.”

After a long pause in order to digest the indigestible, I asked “You must mean about six months.  It could be more or less.”

“Nope, exactly six months from your first symptom.  You could marry an actuary and move to South Dakota.  You wouldn’t live longer, but it would seem like it.”

The thought crossed my mind that I might as well kill Dr. Unman, since they wouldn’t get around to executing me before I died.

“Let’s say for the moment that I’m buying what you are telling me, what is the bad news and the not so bad news.”

“In order, there is nothing you can do to live longer than six months, and there is nothing you can do to hurt your health before you die, outside of you or someone else deliberately trying to harm you.”

I didn’t believe the crazy story he was telling me, but I decided to play along.  “How did you come by this diagnosis?”

“The history of your disease goes back to before the time of Christ.  The exact symptoms are documented in the apocryphal book of Ezra.  In fact, it is called Ezra’s condition.  Documented cases only occur about once every hundred years.  That explains why you haven’t heard of it.  If anyone came up with a cure, there would be no money in it because there are so few cases.  I hope that you don’t think that medical researchers are in it to save lives.”

“I should have done this years ago. I’m getting another doctor and a second opinion.”

“Knock yourself out. Don’t let the door smack you on the ass on the way out.”

Without going into all of the details, the second doctor agreed with the first bizarre opinion, but without being the total asshole that Unman was.

After I explained it to Sally, she said “I don’t know what to think.  Do you believe it Duke?”

“I don’t know what to think, but I’d like to hedge my bets.  I’ve been so conservative all my life, maybe I’d like to live as if I only had a little less than six months to live.  Even if I’m wrong, it could be liberating.”

“What does that mean?  Do you want a hot car?  Do you want a hall pass?  How about travel?”

“I hadn’t given it any thought until just now, but maybe on hot car, no on hall pass and I’ll think about travel.  I’m not going to change one of the few things that I’ve done right in my life and cheat.  I’ll look at my car choices.  No travel if it’s a pain in the ass.  Whatever I do, I don’t want to leave you broke if I do die in less than six months.”

“OK, let’s set a six month budget for you.  I think that we are fairly good on retirement funds and if you are gone, I can save on car expenses and your food, razors and q-tips, but our total social security goes down.  Maybe there are some other savings that I haven’t thought of.  I don’t see any problem with setting aside a quarter of a million to fund your fun.”

“Sounds generous to me, and if I don’t die, we won’t have broken the bank.  Anyway, I think that I can hold it to $100,000.”

For the first couple of weeks, I tried all of the unhealthy things I could think of and quit all of my hiking, exercising and volunteer work.  I found out that I didn’t even like expensive cigars; I could only drink so much high priced cognac and cokes, and eat so many pizzas and burgers.  Further, if there was a chance that I wouldn’t die after six months, I didn’t want to be completely unhealthy, so I mostly returned to my old routine.  Maybe a little more alcohol and pizza.  I decided not to tell anyone, partly because I might be crying wolf, and partly because I’d already exceeded my life time whining quota. 

So what could I spend money on that would make me happy?  We are still thinking about travel.  The house that we are in suits me except for one thing.  I’ve always wanted a purple and orange color scheme.  I think it goes back to the earliest car that I remember, an old purple Chevrolet with some orange patch up.  Sally agreed to let me paint the inside of the garage.  I made it purple with orange racing stripes.  Sally didn’t like it, but she knew that it could always be repainted if we needed to sell the house.  How about putting something special into the garage?  Even with death staring at me, I couldn’t totally escape the practicality bred into me.  Rather than a Tesla, Corvette or BMW, I decided to get a Miata or Mini convertible.  We ended up with a 2012 Mini convertible.  With our Ford Fiesta trade in, we only paid $5678, so I didn’t have much of a start on spending the $100,000, much less the quarter million, but I liked the new car and the new paint.

Money can’t buy happiness, but I do like our new 100-inch top of the line TV.

My bucket list always included Italy and the Mediterranean, but we hate the hassle of traveling.  To make it as easy as possible, we booked an all inclusive charter tour / cruise.  All together, it cost $21,309, but only half of that counted against my death fund, since both of us went.

Of course there was great food, the Coliseum, the Parthenon and the many art museums, but half way through the tour, I yearned for my own bed and shower.  I didn’t even think any more about the Far East tour we had talked about.

I thought about a last visit with any of my old friends.  All of them were dead or disinterested.  I called up my old girlfriend up north and she told me she was tied up with her dying husband.  The first serious girlfriend told me to go to hell.  That hadn’t ended too well.

Except for the new car, our lives went on much as before.  I guess that it was good to know that I had already been living the life that I really wanted.

As we got close to the six month mark, Sally suggested that I write my obituary.  If I didn’t die, I could just update as necessary.  Here it is:

My family life was closer to the Nelson family than the Manson family.  My parents and sister were more or less ordinary.  I had my heart broken a couple of times before meeting my soul mate.  Regrets I’ve had a few– never had a job that I liked, didn’t get along with in-laws and I’m under 6 feet tall – way under.  My work life was as boring as possible and I retired as soon as possible.  I enjoy volunteering more than any jobs that I had.  Up until now, I’ve had fairly good health and adequate money.

After I wrote my obituary, I decided that I wanted a legacy that would last at least a little while.  Sally agreed to get me a memorial bench somewhere, but I still wouldn’t be anywhere close to using up my budget.  I asked her to give some of our money to my relatives at my death because their provision in our will was fairly small.

But wait there’s more.  Maybe we could get this story published somewhere.  I found a list of possible publications.  Sally agreed to find a publisher if I didn’t make it past the six month mark and I would do it if I did.

My six months are up tomorrow.




Doug Hawley is the author of thirty some short bios and an equal number of sci-fi, general fiction, crime, humor, essays and memoirs. He might still be able to turn cartwheels at his advanced age and definitely still hikes and snowshoes with editor Sharon.

Two Poems by Rachelle Toarmino


starting now I am going to try
to become the average of every conversation

a friend tells me
that purple isn’t a real color
that it’s just our brains unable to decide
if what we’re seeing is red or blue

I would like to become
the concept of purple, that is,
I want to become the composite
of other things that your brain
tricks your eyes into seeing

I want to build dreams
with both my hands

and I want to get up
in my purple body
with my palette of people

and ask the sky questions
even though it’s far too tall to hear

like are all colors ghosts
and is there more between us than sound

and it will send the wind as an answer

you can just tell







metallic gel pen the color of the ocean

ocean as its own dimension
space time ocean

a current, a unit of measurement
an ocean away

an hour

liquid space

if the sky could reflect the ocean
the way the ocean reflects the sky





Rachelle Toarmino (b.1990) lives in Buffalo, NY. Her writing has appeared in Metatron, Alien She Zine and PressBoardPress. She tweets @rchlltrmn.

With My Bare Hands by Anna Keeler


The moment before sunset—when the earth was not yet dark—I reached over and took Eaden’s hand.

I’d been searching for something to cheer us up when I brought her to Gatlinburg to see the sunset. She didn’t say a word the entire ride upstate, shrinking further into the quiet as I tried everything in my power to make our being together seem normal. As the day wore on, we both gave up, going out to the woods to sit until the silence wore us out.

The snow fell into the sunset, glazing the earth in a rosy powder. The wind danced between the clouds, curling its tips into powdery blonde curls. And the glittery flakes shone so bright against her black eyes. Even as they fell, they were so bright.

She was so beautiful that I couldn’t stand it.

And the air was too cold. So I took her hand.

I expected her to drop it, anticipating the Paisley, you’re not doing this before it left her lips. She opened her mouth as if she wanted to say this, but glared at the sky instead.

My fingers curled around hers; she didn’t pull away.

Then it came: “You don’t have to do this.”

Even though she was wearing mittens, her hand trembled under mine, like my touch was enough to trigger paralysis then subsequently wash it away.

My voice came awkward and fast. “It’s okay. I don’t mind.”

Her laugh was hollow. “Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not.”

“Then don’t tease me.” Her eyes cut through mine. “It’s not fair. And somehow, makes this worse.”

I was stunned silent but still didn’t move.

“I don’t want things to be weird between us.”

Offering a smile that even I knew was phony, I said, “It’s not going to be, I promise.”

She shook her head. “You can’t promise that.” Her free hand swept across the grass. “You couldn’t even talk to me today.”

I blinked back at her twice. “Truthfully? I don’t understand what you want from me.”

She scoffed. “I’ve made it clear what I want.”

“And I told you what it was I wanted."

“Then why are you holding my hand.” It came out as a statement, not a question, even though she had no way of knowing the answer.  

The chill cut through my layers of clothes and I pushed back the urge to warm myself up. I couldn’t decide what was worse, the cold or her touch, but did nothing to calm the quivering that came with both. I closed my eyes and turned my head upwards, the bitter air caressing my cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” she said, bringing me back to the present. “I didn’t mean to make this weird.”

I pulled my body upright and urged her along. “Come on, we should probably get going.”

She stood up off the ground but still held on, pulling me back towards the road. Snow continued to fall around us, absorbing the shades of orange, amethyst, and eventually navy as the night began to fall into place.  

We walked through the trees and the cold hand in hand, and every so often, I caught a glimpse of her face.  I couldn’t make out the looks she gave me. She was happy. She was sad. She wanted to kiss me. She wanted to run.

Even as I thought the last phrase, she wanted to kiss me echoed against every nerve ending in my body. It pulsed against my brain, each letter making the blood flow a little faster, the heat in my cheeks rise a little bit more.

I’d known, on some level, that she felt something for me. She was a serial romantic, and even though she was gay, I thought the line distinguishing our friendship had always been clear. But those friendly days turned into dark, intense nights. Even in the sheer blackness, I couldn’t deny her beauty; the sultry way she’d pout over her shoulder was too alluring to fight off. A few drinks in our system eclipsed my senses, and as the night progressed, she’d revealed more to me than her feelings.

What those cerise lips felt like against my neck. The brightness of her breath and how that felt felt tickling my veins. The bliss that surged through me with every slip of her skirt. How every whimper and cry felt so good on my ears, how she’d do anything to get those same sounds from me.

Digging myself deeper into her hold, I could feel her under my flesh, pulling up the back of my dress, sliding her fingers along my backside, stroking the sweat and anxiety out of my skin pore by pore until I was melted in the palm of her hand.

I’d wake up the next morning with the champagne still teasing my eyes, convincing me it was just the alcohol making me feel everything. The words would taste so wrong on my mouth that I wanted to wash them out, if for no other reason, then to make up for the hurt that I knew they caused.

But it was easier to let her think it was an accident, to convince myself it was nothing. Because it only took a few nights of intoxication to show me what she’d known the whole time; that the nothing between us had turned into everything so fast, and neither of us knew how to deal with it.

Piles of slush puddled around my feet, and it wasn’t until Eaden dropped my hand that I realized I’d stopped.

“Are you okay?”

I looked up at her for the first time today, truly drinking in her presence, acknowledging the glow curling into my stomach.

The silence wavered between us as she closed the space, her chest almost touching mine. I anticipated her kiss long before we met and did my best to hold my breath as she took me in.

The tips of our noses touched, our eyelashes swooned against our fluttering lids, strands of her hair fell along my collarbone, sprinkling my skin with the flakes braided between the shades of brown.  

Her lips stopped before mine, recoiling at the sigh I let out at the loss.

My eyes followed hers to the ground. The tip of her boot dug into the dirt, pushing aside the snow that now reflected silver from the moon.

Her wet glove pet my head, and I plucked it off her hand, tucking the bundle into her pocket. Taking my own off, I looped it through her fingers, closing my bare hand tight around her tight.

“You don’t want to do this,” she said, looking down.

My lips slipped over hers. “Then why am I holding your hand?”



Anna Keeler is a poet and fiction writer attending Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. Her work has been published or is upcoming in Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Red Fez Literary Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, Leopardskin & Limes Literary Journal, Smaeralit, and here, on Potluck. 


A Brief History of My Earth Days by Melissa Cronin

I do not remember my first Earth Day, for I was but a soft sprout. I was a seed, a nascent bulb waiting to turn towards the sun and drink in its warmth, incapable of anything else. 

My second Earth Day, I was mushed and squished and dehydrated and rehydrated and hardened into the equivalent of a block of seitan, a type of sticky, insoluble, and barely digestible food that is also known as “wheat meat.” Babies usually enter the “mirror stage,” when they can recognize their own image in a reflection, within 18 months. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my own wheat meat bulging out of the leg holes of a soiled diaper.

My fifth Earth Day was the 25th Earth Day that the Earth had ever hosted. This year, I truly became an eco-warrior. Two months after this Earth Day, I went to the beach and stuck a little yellow seashell up my nose and then I went to the hospital where a doctor suctioned out the snot that had encased it within my nasal cavity like a fossil. He then used a fine tool that looked like a noose to drag the seashell out, and it smelled like salt water. My bond with the Earth was now so deeply solidified that we had become, for a few brief hours, of one body.

My eighth Earth Day, I got braces but could not bear to carry the fruits of a titanium mine, that violent, scarring site of extraction, on my face. I did not participate in the celebrations.

My eleventh Earth Day, the braces came off, the clouds cleared, and I was whole once again. I skipped through a field of primroses, fluttering my eyelashes at butterflies emerging from their cocoons and licking sweet, wet droplets off honeysuckle shrubs alongside a family of gentle deer.

My sixteenth Earth Day, I stared at my Bob Marley poster and thought about how he really got it. Why didn’t anyone get it like me and Bob did?

My eighteenth Earth Day, I bought a Colt-45 from the deli on Third Avenue and drank it straight from the bottle, scolding friends whose beer had frothed over the sides of red plastic cups. This was at a fraternity party, which reminded me of Earth Day's founder, Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was inducted into the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi at the age of 54. I was told to leave the party, but I was glad that we all learned something in the process.

My twenty-first Earth Day, I was in a foreign city, where giorno della terra is not really a big holiday. There were no celebrations, but I said a quiet prayer to myself, thanking Mother Earth for blessing the United States with such an environmentally conscious citizenry.

Two Earth Days ago, Kid Rock taught me about consumer sustainability, tweeting, “Recycle motherfuckers. #EarthDay.” I thought to myself that, though I never really understood what it meant, “Bawitdaba” was actually not such a bad song, and it became the soundtrack to that year’s festivites. I hummed it under my breath as I celebrated with a lavender kombucha, a drink I dislike but which I hear does a body good.

This Earth Day, I walked along the sound and looked up at the white-capped mountains and waved to a shiny sea lion popping his head through the waves, and I picked a fat, buttery dandelion growing through a crack in the sidewalk. I could just faintly make out the moon in the bright cobalt sky, and I softly whispered, "Get out of here idiot, today isn't about you for once."





Melissa Cronin is Potluck Magazine's fiction editor, as well as an environmental reporter at Grist and a contributing editor at Gawker. She hopes she will live to see another Earth Day.

Two Poems by Ashley Opheim

A Flower Called Nowhere

Earth, 114 million years ago: 
The first flower appears on the planet.

Earth, 27 years ago:
I appear on the planet.

Isn’t it insane that flowers bloom?
That a human is born?

Humans contain breath, blood, bones,
pixels, glitches, boundaries.

A pulse.

Where the hell
do flowers and humans come from
and is it the same place?

I am not sure if my purpose has value or not.

So I am just trying to do to my life
what the sun and rain have done to flowers
for 114 million years.

My heart is a flower
making the most of its situation.

My heart’s mantra is
‘riot on flower mountain.’

I want to be held like a flower
holds a rain drop.

Holding the sun
in eye contact.

I want to know the width of my pulse
and if it is sunny there

or what?

I want a lipstick made from
the sex organs of flowers.





Where You Came From 

Your feet kiss the earth when you walk.
You cannot receive
what you don't give.

Frolic through the desert of your mind.
There are tiny, exotic birds living
in each one of your fingers.

Think about your favorite fruit
and how it makes you feel.
Everything you are going to be, you already are.

Listen to the sound behind sound.
There is a waterfall of old patterns
falling out from you.

Imagine that your eyes are kissing
everything around you.
Can you perceive beyond what you see?

Try to love the part of you that makes you ugly. You have thoughts, but you are not
your thoughts.

You do not have knowledge. 
You are knowledge.
Turn your passion into patience.

You can be simultaneously
liberated and imprisoned
by a circumstance.

Imagine your mind
is a myriad
of crystalline forests.

To perceive is to understand
and to understand is to experience.
Listen to sound with every pore of your body.

Focus your energy on
things that make
your heart feel big.

You are rain forests dreaming
about desert sands and desert sands
dreaming about lush flowers.

Imagine you are breathing
in and out of your ears.
Your skin is one big fucking petal.

Your body is a vessel
for breath and light to move through.
Count the flames in the heart of the sun.

You came from everywhere and
were created from nothing.

You came from nowhere
and were created from everything.

You came from everywhere and
were created from everything.

You came from nowhere
and were created from nothing.





Ashley Opheim is a Montreal-based writer, editor and publisher. She is the founder and managing editor of Metatron. Her work has been published in LESTE, Cosmonauts Avenue, Shabby Doll House, Electric Cereal, HTMLGIANT and elsewhere. She tweets @hologramrainbow.

Visual Art by Lindsay Mercer

All of the colors I use come from plants. This started out as a way to avoid mass-produced synthetic colors, but has turned in to much more than that. I now get to make my own colors: forage for the plants, extract the pigments, and then use them in my work. I am engaged with the process of coloring, quite literally. And this engagement gives me space to better appreciate and understand the materials I use. Every choice is intentional. The paper I use is often reclaimed from other projects or people, allowing me to use materials that would have otherwise been discarded. By looking around and trying to use what we have in new ways, we can call into question what the work is saying on a physical level. I am using plants to talk about biological bodies; we are natural beings and so the materials I use express that. 

Moon Child

Moon Child

Candle Profile

Candle Profile



Self Portraits

Self Portraits




Lindsay Mercer studied toxic chemicals in art supplies in her undergraduate education and (to avoid being a part of the anonymous workforce) she decided to go directly into graduate school, where she studies philosophy and materiality. She has apprenticed under a natural dyer, shown her work in a few small places, and printed some chapbooks on her idol, Phil Ochs. 

Three Poems by Joe Gutierrez


I have just been informed
by a dear friend of mine
that she is now a soybean. 
This, of course, is problematic
as I am known to consume soy
on occasion. Occasions
for me are very small: 
it is morning, it is afternoon, 
the dog has begun to beg. 
There is a conversation of rain
outside I am too unwell
to participate in. 

In periods of un-wellness
I lay on blocks of tofu and wait for the ground to shift. 
I call this soy therapy. 
And so this revelation is troubling for me— 
that my friend is now a soybean. 
But what can I say? 
I have seen people spend agreeable lifetimes
continentally adrift with one another. 

I think to myself: soy does not
consume me, I consume soy. 
I think I am flying over
the San Fernando Valley
where all of the clouds
look like dehydrated roses
and this is not a subject
I wish to discuss right now. 

So we talk about your new living
arrangement instead: 
how the room will be
fumigated with blue lightning
and rubbing alcohol. 
You’ll have to scrub your way
back in time, when
our biggest concern was
how small our hands were. 
How heavy silk was. 






The banks have closed. 
All of the tellers
have migrated
back to their caves
where thousands of bats
are dying of white nose syndrome, 
hanging up their coats
learning earthen ways of sadness. 


My penis slides off

I take it to
the only tree in the world
poets have not yet

It is a great tree: 
Each branch is a dick
I can laugh about. 

Each branch looks back
and laughs at me: 






*laugh track in mustard* 

my closest relative
is a chip

don’t take my truth
i literally have nothing 

only this coconut
i use as a telephone 9-1-1 hello 

lonely dog here need a bone
i’m a wild blueberry 

with thick hair and brown
pants full of shit

yes       uh       huh

artisan cheesemakers
are fighting in the field 

this bowl with a spoon
at my throat won’t quit 

barking up
                          leafs no— 
up!      leafs! 

            you’re looking

that’s the wrong direction
                     now that’s down





Joe Gutierrez lives in Long Beach, CA. They work with animals.  You can find them on Twitter @gojibrry.

Happy Meal by Ben Guarino

John bends down near the edge of the ball pit, as though tying his shoe, and with a flick of his wrist deposits thousands of hungry ticks. Each time it’s the same. I go first and wait in a booth, sipping a coffee. A few minutes later he enters the restaurant, and drops his payload among the other balls. His little ritual of ecoterror is over in seconds -- it’s hard to catch, even knowing to look out for it. At the third McDonald’s I manage to spot him palming a ball from his pocket. But I immediately lose track of the ball once it lands in the pit. 

“Bug bombs, I call them,” he tells me when we’re back in the car, a rented silver Toyota he’d been driving since he picked me up in Iowa City. We’re between the third and fourth McDonald’s, heading toward Chicago. The route feels random. But I think it’s just John covering his tracks -- just like his plastic balls, which he says he sourced from the same manufacturer that McDonald’s uses. 

"Of course, properly speaking," he says, "ticks aren’t true bugs at all. No serious natural scientist would confuse the two."

“And do you think of yourself as a scientist?” I ask. “Is this an experiment?” The skepticism I had before this trip has vanished, replaced by a sweaty feeling that I should’ve called the police, probably right after he showed me his cooler. But I have no idea what I would say even if I did. Hello, officer? I’m a reporter for the Times and my source is a madman who’s been infesting America with ticks.

“Look,” he says, “I was this goddamned close to my Ph.D.” -- he takes a hand off the steering wheel to hold up his thumb and forefinger a centimeter apart -- “when Princeton kicked me out. Is that good enough for you?” (I’m fairly certain John Chapman, aka Appleseed, is his idea of a joke. Yesterday I phoned Princeton’s graduate department, just to be sure, and they have no record of a student named John or Jonathan Chapman.) 

The edge in his voice makes me nervous so I say I’m curious how he gets the ticks to crawl into plastic balls. 

It was easy, he says. He just drills a tiny hole in the bottom and then fills the ball using a funnel. 

“You can get ticks to go down a funnel?” I imagine a swarm of ticks marching in line, like ants.

“I can if they’re nymphs. Immediately after my larvae molt into nymphs, I chill them,” he says. “It doesn't hurt. It happens like this in the wild, too, in winter. If they get cold they start to hibernate, and when they’re sluggish they pour as easily as sugar. Plus, once they wake up, they have an incredibly accelerated metabolism. They’re rapacious. They’ll bite anything as long as it’s warm and has a pulse.” 

“In a way,” he adds, “they’re really the perfect animal for what I’m doing. A gift from nature.”

If I'm going to quote him I should be writing this down in my notebook, but instead I’m fighting the urge to bring up the sick kids. It’s not the right moment, mostly because I’m not prepared for what he’ll say. Or what he’ll decide to do as we speed down the interstate. So we don’t speak until we pull into the next McDonald’s. 

John reaches back into the cooler -- he’s brought along one of those large red ones, the kind you’d find filled with Bud Lights and Coronas at a family reunion -- and begins rummaging. He has a system: the Coke cans he’ll surreptitiously litter in parks and playgrounds; the hollowed-out ashtrays are for the bars and steakhouses that still let you smoke; the 35-mm film canisters he dumps pretty much everywhere else, in dressing room corners at The Gap or under movie theater seats or behind the toilets at baseball stadiums. He says those little black cylinders house enough nymphs to trigger allergies in a hundred people. 

But it’s the ball pit balls, I can tell, that are his favorites. “Billions and billions served,” he says as he paws through the cooler until he finds a ball. He peels off a strip of scotch tape to expose a small hole.

“I think I’ll sit this one out,” I say. 

John shrugs, tucks the ball into his jacket. “Are you hungry?” he asks. “Maybe a burger?” It’s his way of being funny.

I flip through my notes while John sabotages the fast food restaurant. There's a copy of his cryptic emails, the ones in which he annotates all the errors he saw in my first article. Next to a rash of mysterious meat allergies, he’s written “galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose.” That was meaningless until I looked it up. It’s a chemical, a carbohydrate sugar, embedded in the cell membranes of most mammals. Thanks to an ancient evolutionary quirk, humans don’t have it. We can digest it, but if something -- a specific type of tick, say --  bites us that's bitten another mammal, it passes this sugar into our veins. Our immune systems go haywire: hives, nausea, the whole bit. I pull up a recent Reuters report on my phone. Three kids in Nebraska went into anaphylactic shock after snacking on 7-Eleven hot dogs. As with the other cases, the FDA has ruled out food poisoning. Signs of an allergic response, it says. 

When the car door opens I almost bolt. I didn’t hear him coming. John sees me and then my notebook. He makes a face. “You want to ask me about those kids,” he says as he buckles himself in. “I’m sorry about them. Really. But take my view from thirty thousand feet up-- more people are going get hurt, going to die if I don’t do this.” 

Instead of what I really want to say, which is to call him a lunatic, I ask him how he figures.

“Global warming will be the biggest holocaust humanity has ever known. Cities will drown and economies will collapse. And the worst part is that it’s driven by our bullshit,” he says. “Not literally shit, but flatulence. Red meat is killing the earth, one burp of cattle methane at a time. Did you know there are a hundred million cows in our country? Each spewing out three hundred pounds of methane a year. If every American stopped eating beef, it would do more for the planet than if we all stopped driving.”

“Do you really think your bug bombs will make every American allergic to Big Macs?”

“Not every American, no. But are you familiar with the economic idea of a tipping point? If we get through to a fifth of the population, everyone else falls in line.”

“I’m not sure that applies to infecting people at random.”

“They’re not infected. Most people who get bit will eat a hamburger, get a rash, and then have to get used to eating chicken.”

“Someone could die.”

“It’s possible. But we’re all indirectly killing each other. That's life. Do you think my former colleagues aren’t? Those assholes jet to conferences around the globe to set emissions standards, which won’t work, and pat each other on the back. They might as well be shoveling the Marshall Islands into the Pacific themselves. For Christ’s sake, airplanes are the least efficient form of travel we’ve ever invented.”

He pulls off the highway, down a road lined with cornstalks.  

“You know, I asked you to come meet me -- to see this work -- because I like your stuff. It’s good,” John says. “You care, like I do.”

“I’m not like you.”

“Maybe, maybe not. But there isn’t a better way to save the planet,” he says. “Now get out of the car.” 

He hasn’t let me totally alone. There’s a dairy barn across the street. I wonder if this was part of his plan all along, or just farm country providence. I catch the dull eyes of the cows, smell their bovine farts baking the heat of the sun. I dial a cab instead of the cops.

I’m hunting for an aspirin later at my hotel when I spot them crawling out of my backpack.




Ben Guarino is a science journalist and staff writer for The Washington Post. His nonfiction work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Salon, Inverse and others.

The Third Cycle by Aaron Calvin

There are balled up black socks piled up against the door. That closed up winter smell, sweat. I was in a bodega buying ice cream while a boy smoking a cigarette on a bicycle slowly edged out of the frame. Arrhythmic and tinny, the beating of a small hammer against the pipes. The litter box needs to be cleaned, but your gums are dragging. The sound of the church bell begins above and spreads down and out and covers everything. 


Speak to me of conspiracy theories over the phone. I don’t mind. The truth hovers off to the left, un-get-at-able anyway. More factors that go into distance than time and space. More forged than created, practiced and kneaded out. There is a trance to enter in speaking with you. A submission to the one true tacit ruleset. It’s humbling. The silence curls up at my toes, occasionally stands to arch its long back, moves against my shins. 


A room smells like it rained inside and they shut all the doors. I look at old wooden toys like they’re speaking a foreign language, gesture-less. The house may not have existed. The town may no longer appear on maps, may no longer be incorporated. The town had a small museum filled with pictures of sprouting fields. A patient history cycling out, waiting to turn fallow, chronicling the moments and declarations unraveling and ending with the screaming of cicadas at dusk. 

Hands puffy and raw in the heat. The road is gravel and dips steeply in places. The spring turns it to mud. That low thunder sound like a bottle breaking against white siding stretched out. You can rub it around in the dirt and your hand will be brown and marked with small red reminders. I wish I could’ve been there, I wish I could’ve cut down the apple tree with my own hands, climbing to the top to hack off every branch, spending hours working against the mutilated trunk until it slowly turned horizontal against the grass, dry in August. My hands would be red blistered, pain radiant from the gripped handle. It still wouldn’t be done. I would split the wood against the stump to turn into logs then carry them to the shed to desiccate. The winter would burn the wood.

I would’ve tied a chain around the trunk and dug the wheels of a faded red Toyota pick-up into the ground (August), crescendoing and de-crescendoing until the air was dirt, until the roots un-gripped. The windows would be rolled all the way down and the cab would be filled with exhaust and earth. The trunk would be drug roaring in the rear view like Hector’s body before the walls of Ilium. 

Later, I would think of the skin of my knees peeled back against the concrete in front of a tall building made of glass and steel while the air smells heavy with rain, the wind. 




Aaron Calvin is a writer from Iowa and now lives in Brooklyn. His work has appeared on BuzzFeedAskMen.comVice, and Men's Journal

Art by W. Jack Savage

Back To Square One

Back To Square One

Across the Gorge and Back

Across the Gorge and Back

Angel Peak

Angel Peak

After Two Months

After Two Months

Getting Down Was Always Harder

Getting Down Was Always Harder

Grover Never Cared If They Were Lost

Grover Never Cared If They Were Lost

More Than Enough

More Than Enough

His Last Wave

His Last Wave

No Rebuilding the Dream

No Rebuilding the Dream





W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and educator. He is the author of seven books, including Imagination: The Art of W. JackSavage (wjacksavage.com). To date, more than fifty of Jack’s short stories and over seven hundred of his paintings and drawings have been published worldwide. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California.

Photosynthesis by Maribeth Theroux

I took my African violet
for a walk. 
It doesn’t get enough sun. 
I fashioned
a greenhouse
out of Saran wrap
to keep it warm. 

A short walk
to the drug store
and back.
The woman
at the register
said, “Is that a flower?” 
And, “Are you going
to plant it?” 
But I don’t have a yard. 
And African
violets can’t live in our soil. 
(“Our cold
New England
I seem to remember Grammy
telling me that. 

I took a picture of the Magnolia tree on St. Nicholas
and 150th. They only bloom for a couple of days and then they’re gone. 
I learned that the hard way— 
the way you look at where the blossoms used to be
and they’re gone. 

I printed out the picture of the blossoms
and wrote Grammy a note: 
“Reminds me of the big one in your yard
on Dwight Road.” 

Then I got scared. Scared the note would make Grammy
too upset. Too nostalgic for the big one she no longer has, 
in the yard she no longer has, attached to the house
someone else has. 

Grammy is named Mary, 
Mom is named Marianne, 
and I’m named Maribeth. 
There’s no connection, I don’t think, 
except there is. 

Maybe it’s Mom’s fault. She left the rose bushes
in the side yard on Old Farm Road
thinking the new owners would appreciate them,
but they didn’t. We drove past the old yard, 
the old house, and they’d been removed. 
Every last bush. 

Once I wrote a poem about
the daffodils. I think I titled it
“The Daffodils.” I was considering
the daffodils on Bugbee Road. 
I don’t tend them anymore, 
I don’t live there anymore, 
but I still think they’re mine. The other day
Mom and I drove up the driveway
and the daffodils were blooming. 
I wanted to say, “My daffodils are blooming.” 
But I thought she’d be offended. 
I thought she’d say, “You haven’t done
anything for those ‘dils in fifteen years.” 

We don’t think the flower on top of the cactus is real. 
We think the man at the pet store
glued it on top to make it pretty. If the cactus dies
we’ll know for sure. The plant will be withered, 
the plant will be brown, 
but the flower will be so pink.






Maribeth Theroux has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and once played Kelly Kapowski in Bayside! The Musical.  Her poems have appeared in Hobart, Barrelhouse, Armchair/Shotgun, and Forklift, Ohio, among other places.  She lives in Pasadena with her husband and their cat.

Three Poems by Peter Cole Friedman


I get an email from the ASPCA
thanking Chanel
for her generous tax-deductible donation.
I almost want to marry her
on a glamping trip for that.
I prepare a pitch.
I go to the closest 7-Eleven
and buy a blue Ring Pop and Citi Bike
back home. I get down on one knee. 
She says, Sorry but I saw this recipe
for making your own ring pops
with blue agave . . . I'm ok. 
I Uber-X it back to 7-Eleven and return the Ring
Pop. I am upset. I think to myself, I'm going to
. Do you want to
go glamping? Chanel says later that night, flipping
through a vintage National Geographic.







It's Earth Day (the specific one), 
so Chanel and I thought it would
be the perfect time
to craft a sundial. 
To warm up, I YouTube how to
do a sun salutation (turns out what I've been doing
in couples yoga is “inauthentic”). I get as far as Cobra, 
when I overtax my poor
obliques. I figure you need
some kind of axis, so I stab one of
Chanel's tortoise shell hair chopsticks
into our Miracle-Gro soil, accidentally
burying a ladybug alive. I'm not sure if
that's how you do it, Chanel says, do you
even know the declination? 
The declination? I say. I look at my Swatch
“Dr. Swatson.” We might have to raincheck this.
Sure enough, it begins to rain.
Do you have our MoMA Design Store umbrella
with the blue sky underneath? Chanel says.







Giorgio got a solar-powered
Techko Maid Robotic Vacuum
but it's rained for the last week
so I know saying yes to Netflix night
will mean paying an unnecessary
visit to my allergist. Chanel suggests
we bring our portable HEPA air purifier. 
We do. As advertised, it removes
about 99% of the environmental impurities
we experience (reliability). But Giorgio insists
we watch Waking Life stoned, 
so my asthma acts up anyway. 
Luckily, Coco has an AromaMist Diffuser, 
and she fills it with Eucalyptus oil, 
which as per Dr. Oz, is a natural decongestant. 
In addition, and here's where it gets interesting, 
it's a perfectly wearable scent.





Peter Cole Friedman is a poet and artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Recent work has appeared in Powder Keg and Prelude. He co-edits the virtual literary and arts platform glitterMOB.

There Are More Choices Here Than You’d Think by Kate Guenther

Before today everything I have planted has died. After today that may still be true. Once I planted tomatoes with my dad where the roses used to be. I also wrote “tomatoes” on a popsicle stick. Stuck in the ground nearby. In case we forgot what we’d done there, I guess.  

At the park down the street, a hollow industrial plant sprouted from the rough hill, already rusted. We kids swung the rebar, landed mostly on our feet. Nothing grew around the the abandoned foundation. Like a rose, it poisons the soil beneath it selfishly. Or to not be forgotten. Or that’s not an opposite. 

Often trendy photographing teenagers snapped us running across the hulking carcass. For the juxtaposition we served up. Embodying as we once did, all the possibilities the dead thing did not have before it. 

When we moved in, the roses were already there. Mom thought they were trite. Though some were orange and tinged with pink, like smushed together starbursts. And some were redder and deeper than the gouge I got seven stitches for. 

She pulled them up and out. Two strong gloved hands around the base. Roots rip satisfyingly.

Nothing grew there for years. Including the tomatoes, which shrank as if under fire, and yellowed, despite the water, despite the gentle sun. 

Repercussions come at the strangest times. You could say. 

Or you could ask: What kind of wiggle makes a dead thing boogie. Or: if a ghost bone makes a mark where it lies on the dirt, and you dig past it, does the bone not ghost. Or: do nurse logs know what kind of joy their bodies bring. Do they stretch out on their backs like happy dogs. Or: do nurse logs really bring joy. Or: does rust love the unused for the home or the loneliness of it all. Or: If I am born within a unliving narrative, am I too dying. How does one choose to sapling. 

Or you could ask: But what happened to the popsicle stick that said “tomatoes”? 

To which I could tell you: I forgot about it. The earth ate it like a live thing. 

I could also tell you my houseplant died last month. It put up a good fight. Three died last year a little more quietly, and even more quietly the year before that and before that and before that, etc.. 

Or I could say: The marigolds I just planted from seed are two inches tall and arch toward the windows, hungry with the living. I could not tell you what has changed. 

I could say: Today I played in the junkyard again. I was the brightest thing there, with nobody watching. I juxtaposed. I spread all 10 fingers just above my head. I reigned the dead earth. Rust glittering the palms. Spoke my name out loud and made it so.  




Kate Guenther is a foosball shark and houseplant enthusiast living in Brooklyn. She reads poetry submissions for The Atlas Review and was on NYU slam team when they won the national championship in 2012, and again in 2014 when they did not. You can find her in Potluck, Rootstalk, NYSAI and at her internet home katewguenther.com

Emerald City (Pt. 2) by Brian Birnbaum

Read Emerald City Pt. 1 here.

The summer streets were alive with the roasted smells of cafés and posh breakfast nooks. High frequencies of hope and promise signaled from men and women in businesswear, aprons, autobody jumpsuits. Dopaminergic black brews brimming hot in hand, they blustered to buildings and office quarters, where manifested their heroic ambition. She peeled away from this hustle, toward the parks. With her phone she captured quotidian images through an obverse lens – a homeless man handing over change for a fiver, a small boy pointing sternly at his father, an inverted traffic cone filling a pothole – which she tagged with witty captions and sent her mom. At a park along Denny, past Westlake, the late- August light heated an irradiated gold, she curved along paths lined with flowers. She stopped to watch a grizzled man in a flat cap play the trumpet. Birdlike trills and warbles sounded off his warmup. After a number she couldn’t name, she approached to drop a dollar in his case.

“Don’t quit your day job,” she said, observing the lack of bills in his case.

“It’s a Tuesday, isn’t it?” he said. She laughed. The high sun hit his face, pocked and all the darker for the contrast. He added, “You’d be surprised how much this hustle gets me between gigs.”

“Why aren’t you at the Market? Or somewhere more crowded?”

“Same reason you don’t see your favorite band play at KeyArena.” Julia tilted her head toward agreement, watched a car parallel parking. He said, “Not expecting my fans for another” – checking a watchless wrist – “hour or so. Lunch rush brings me my daily. Which begs the question of what you’re doing here.”

“Summer break,” Julia shrugged.

“Go to that fancy school by the Lake?”

Somewhat ashamed, Julia nodded.

“Seem sad,” he said, using a discolored cloth to clean his trumpet.

“How can you tell?” She brushed a chestnut lock from her face.

“Look like you just got a bad reaction from collagen.”

“Wonderful,” Julia touched her face and looked toward the road, embarrassed.

“Too young to be sad. That’s for old folk like me.”

“I guess that’s kinda the point of me being here.” Julia worried the curled lip of her striped skirt dress, black, white, try, don’t try.

“Ain’t no point in being sad,” the man said.

“Better than trying to distract myself and making it worse.” She felt like a fraud for saying this –for hijacking trite ideas and using them to prove some semblance of maturity. Her unfed stomach growled at her. “I guess it just feels like there’s no point in anything right now. I feel like I wake up for no reason. Go through the motions to reach what? Some point where it then feels okay to die?”

The man, kneeling now to his work, stopped and looked up. “Whoa now, back your bus up. Sounds like you’re distracting yourself right there with all that morbid shit. What do you know about death anyway?”

“More than you think.”

“So that’s why you’re sad,” he drew out, threw the cloth down and wiped his hands. “Tell me about it.”

It took a moment for Julia to realize he wasn’t using the phrase ironically. She twisted around, stubbed out no cigarette with a sneakered toe. “I thought it was a work day.”

“Told you, I got an hour. Call it an early lunch.”

They took up seats at a nearby bench under a willow’s stringy shade. She told him everything, from her father’s passing to meeting Peter, but bowdlerizing the bits about how the latter had happened, her grandfather’s hand in all of it. The trumpeter added guttural flourishes to her story, little grunts and drawn imprecations to show his understanding or commiseration, or both. Time had twisted in on itself within the story’s telling – she couldn’t be sure other than by sun angle when she’d stopped. After a few moments the man loosed a long sigh, and instead of saying something at least mildly encouraging, he simply got up and loaded his trumpet to mouth. During his opening notes, filtering finely through the crystalized summer air, lunchgoers began filling the parkways. With each passerby who dropped a dollar into his case, Julia’s frustration turned to anger, futility, and finally she thought she understood all at once what he’d meant by listening to her and then getting up to play without a word. So she too got up and made to move on. Before she could leave the park, she heard him call after her.

“Hey little lady.” He played a funny series of notes to coax her attention. The lone woman left watching dropped what seemed like a dime into his case. Julia reconnoitered the scene under the pretense of confirming this tender, forehead pinched, looking at the gleaming doubloon as he spoke to her.

“I played with Miles once.”

Now her eyes went to him, his graying muttonchops, lank frame forming to function, stooping to this street music. “Just some club he stopped in at. New York. I was at the end of my rope. I knew it wasn’t no ticket. To get as good as me requires realizing you ain’t as good as him.”

“Wow,” she said, sincere. Growing up, jazz giants had haunted her house. In the car on the way to school, clips from her dad’s study. Major-moded jingles from Thelonious, unkiltered keystrokes from Mingus. Like the sound of life. She’d almost forgotten this sound. “‘Blue in Green’ is like my all-time favorite cut.”

“Well he sure as hell didn’t let me touch any of that,” he chuckled. “We just kicked something in drop-D that moved, shuckin’ and jivin’, feed the animals. But still. Best night of my life. To have the greatest to ever do it sit down second chair and give you that kind of respect. It was my club. Played there almost ten years.”

“Why’d you quit?”

He leaned back to take in this affront. “Quit? Got a horn in my hand don’t I?” he said. “Too cold in New York, man. Plus, rather start as a utility infielder in the minors than ride the bench in the majors.” Julia laughed. “Look uh...”


Instead of offering a hand, eyes popped, he played another comic bounce. “That’s funny. Julian’s my God-given name, but they call me Dr. J. Cause I can loop under a bass backboard like – ”

“The basketball player. I know,” she smiled.

His expression straightened as he turned south toward the sun. “Look, there might not be no point to being sad. But you’re also right. There ain’t a point to anything. And maybe that’s the point.”

But within minutes of walking away, the wise words of this brass-wielding disciple curdled quickly into bromide. Oversimple solutions for existential futility she could’ve found in the checkout aisle at a Barnes & Noble.

But then, judgements that he was a fool, just another has-been nothing of Nazareth, these too inverted: she was judging another man’s entire existence off one interaction.

Then again, was this how prophets were supposed to edify? Through brazen simplicities that made you think they had something you didn’t?

And but yet once more – as if any of this fucking mattered. This useless internal debate, a dialectic trying to synthesize truth between poles of solipsism and ultimate empathy. Within her opened the black rift, between the petty opinion of the trumpet player and the truer sense of profound loss she’d betrayed for it, which she then defected, ad infinitum, so was her major cognitive plight: pendulums of thought, circles of ideation. When really it was simple. Her father was dead. Peter was gone, perhaps dead too. Her mother knew nothing after having dropped her off, last year, at a car rental office near Renton. Her mother only knew that her granddad had softened, somehow forgoing acknowledgment of the specious motives she of course knew had to be under this loam. So, again, Julia felt emptied of anything she’d ever held onto – love, knowledge, things. Again she found herself falling through false ground, landing somewhere in Hades’ playground. For it was in fact scorching – at least for a Bay area girl – and surrendered to what now seemed to be another monthly schedule, this one of bled meaning, she suspended her Non-Escapist Agreement and checked her phone. For anything other than this.



Brian Birnbaum is a recent graduate at Sarah Lawrence's Fiction MFA program. He has been working on a novel for a little over three years, and this is a short story that spawned from such. He thanks you so much for giving it a read, and looks forward to hearing back.

Three Poems by Shy Watson


can i sit on your chest while i write this instead

these aren’t about my boyfriend

but about some instances

that i deemed



secrets that aren’t worth keeping

she read me my tarot 

and i am only

two cards away






tuesday (or: i felt a little evil)

on days off i feel nervous

not sure what to do 

but knowing

that i have to


a cloud surrounds me

and i almost used the word “noxious”

but i didn’t


tired and clammy

from trying to

do something with my body


from reading words that were not my own and being touched by them


i took a picture of a poem 

by ariana reines

and texted it to you


the focus

was the part where she mentions

how she and her lover

slapped each other in the face


because we did that

but i purposely left in

how he claims to 

“feel like the girl” 

and says that he means








the sight of our miis cuddling

arouses in me

a strange sense of pleasure


it feels good to be

on my phone


the way

your mii holds my mii

the way

our miis gaze at the stars


i want your mii to answer my mii’s questions

i want

to hang out in your room


i answer all of my questions 

with answers that you’d like to hear


other people heart my mii’s answers 

but they don’t know





shy watson is a poet and waitress living in kcmo. she is the author of AWAY STATUS (bottlecap press 2016). her work appears in places like Hobart, Electric Cereal, and ENTROPY, and a full list of her publications can be found at shywatson.tumblr.com/writing.

Día de los Muertos by Caitlin Stall-Paquet

First, I heard sharp rain on the window. Soares Grocery’s delivery men downstairs yelling at each other in Portuguese as they backed up the truck, dangerously close to the building. Henry’s snoring. He was still wearing his devil horns. Took my eyes a few minutes to adjust to the ceiling and the pounding in my head. 

First, I smelled the sickly sweet, sour aroma. Decay. The kitchen garbage. Henry smelled like he’d fallen asleep from bourbon. 

I lifted my head, brain crashing against skull, a tidal wave. I crawled out of bed backwards, feet first, breech birth. My blue pillowcase was marked with black and white makeup. First, I needed to deal with the garbage. The kitchen smelled of whiskey, tequila and Cuban butts squashed on the floor. Candy worms were in the punch bowl, Gaby dressed as Frida Khalo was sleeping on the floor by the door. 

The rotting smell rose above it all. I took a deep breath. I could here them as I removed the garbage can cover. Maggots crawling through a piece of meat. I tied up the bag without breathing, them squirming. I ran down the stairs, flung open the door and threw the infested bag to the curb, narrowly missing two women dressed respectively as sexy cat and sexy mouse. Dishevelled, a walk of shame. They glared at me as they passed. I stepped down onto the sidewalk, looked at myself in a car window and saw that half my skeleton makeup was still intact. 

A cold wind rose in the grey sky, blowing the last brown leaves from the trees, tossing them, mixing them with rain and brightly coloured candy wrappers discarded in the street. A mini Snickers wrapper hit me in the face. I looked back at my half-living reflection. Thought about tiny chocolate bars and candy-filled booze standing in for remembering our dead.

I thought of my uncle John. The last thing I saw of him was his frail hand reaching for a glass of water as I opened the door to leave, the rest of him obscured by a bouquet of white lilies. 

I though of Henry’s mother who couldn’t talk anymore, stopped asking for help, stopped speaking, couldn’t take it.

I thought of my friend Caroline’s little brother who felt like he was drowning when he breathed. 

I thought of the barista at the café up the street who was drunk and forgot to ask if the noodles contained peanuts. 

I thought of the woman I read about in the paper who was hit by a truck biking under the St-Denis Street overpass last summer. 

I looked up at our patio, empty bottles slowly filling up with water, some half full of alcohol. Wounded soldiers. The rain was making my makeup run down the right side of my face; the black and white streaks stung my eye. I went back upstairs to remove the rest.





Caitlin Stall-Paquet is a Montreal-based writer who loves books, cheese and libations. Her work has been published inenRoute Magazine, VicePaste Magazine, Cult MTL, Matrix and She Does the City

Spider Vein by Molly Guinn Bradley


the precious territories
of the backs of knees, of elbow bones,
of bruises, are not
cheap and are not

you've never felt as sticky-cool and
honest as in the slight rain
on a late June day
after a round of beers
and rejection all year.

your mother has a spider vein,
huge and bulging on her lower leg,
and you're starting to see the red lines
in your own thighs, tangling;
is it just you, or are they beginning
to spell out
ha, ha—

you notice other frailties:
a tenderness of one side of your neck,
a clicking in your knee,
an uneven symmetry in the way
you love harder when you are

your heart is not replaceable
but it's depreciated significantly and so is
cheaper than it's ever been.

come here and fit
the bend of your elbow into
the crook of my knee
and let's examine the parts of
each other
we can't even see.

I’m afraid. you’re right.
but as long as you say,
just do it for me—






Molly Guinn Bradley is a writer and editor living in New York City. Her work has appeared on The Toast, The Equals Record, Splitsider, and Defenestration Mag. She enjoys long walks along the dirty, dirty Hudson.

Emerald City (Pt. 1) by Brian Birnbaum

Only time caulks a torn heart with scar tissue. Maybe it’s to avoid that very hardened healing that the heartbroken often deny this process, instead choosing to engage in various damages and escapisms, often simultaneously. To divert from the immediate pain of each moment.

Following the breakup, Julia Paolantonio slalomed like a skier between texts from Peter’s druggie friends. Offers to get smoked out that only sometimes set up their not-so-subtle stabs at being her rebound. Each text was a ski-pole glanced against a checkpoint, trading up from cherried bowl-packs to key-bumps at bar bathrooms, all drug expenses written off on account of her company’s beauty (trying to get a nineteen year-old male to empathize with how she felt and thought was like trying to appreciate The Kiss for its interior marble density).

Eventually she graduated to the EDM scene. Raves where mid-rung dealers spent their excess cash, rolling on Molly and chasing chemical interconnectedness. Under schizo light shows she shook her body to dub-step boomers, Schedule I neuro-nuggets climaxing in synchronicity with a dropped beat.

She’d look around at strangers suddenly turned best friends, the experience intensified all the more for sharing this experience, a sameness that almost transcended them if not for the barren, skin-crawling come-downs accompanying her chilly walks back to campus, now, suddenly, not so interested in any sort of company. Just hours before, in those shared moments she believed her bliss not to come with an expiration. Amazing, how many harrowing come-downs it took to teach her otherwise, but then again that was incentive salience for you, being drawn to the drug’s first experiences, its most powerful hits, despite subsequent evidence to the contrary. Sounded familiar.

Then she started drinking, to come down from all those rolls compounded like hangover’s interest – and also, as if on the retrograde mend, to come down from the breakup, precisely where she’d started, where it’d ended. It didn’t help that all this time it was summer, students loitering on campus like burnouts outside a 7-11, but with money, or family money. There was ever an evolving choice of whiskeys waiting in her roommate’s cabinet above the fridge. She’d pad out and peek for clearance, swipe the resident bottle, pour several thick fingers into her tinted Nalgene, replacing roughly half of what she’d swiped with water. Often she swigged right there in the common area. Her roommate would show up, unbeknownst of her whiskey connoisseurship turning deliquescent in Julia’s shattered gut. But booze sufficed only the first few times before Julia gained a kind of caustic respect for her father’s ability to withstand hangovers and comedowns, the addict’s thankless work. She thought of the city outside. The summer had been sucked into her solipsistic binge, crushing bowling nights at the Garage and hangouts at Gasworks’ lush golf greens to unhad dots. Plus, the drink and the drugs reeked of Peter’s influence.

But the pretext of making up for missed experience proved quickly to be strange sex. She’d later identify this phase as an attempt to defamiliarize her associative lattice of love. This promiscuity she practiced until a mild illness led to an STD scare, the battery of costly tests likening fornication to that of its clinical phonemes. Plus, these misguided experiences had led back to drinking, only this time at bars, which cost money.

Then there was of course the thing in her dresser drawer. If she looked at the drawer too long, she thought she saw its contents lifting like weightless plasma from the slightest gaps, or inscrutable voices that didn’t originate from her head, beckoning her to it. Always changing shape and color within its mere idea in her mind, behind its smokescreen of solution was something infinitely black. The thing was a gaslight burning off her attention to homework (three-credit social psych class to make up for a D last trimester – the first D, let alone C, of her life). Even a friend she’d brought over – Julia caught her gazing at the drawer, the friend’s expression some complex permutation of lust that too could be reconciled.

The drawer reminded her of him, then of her granddad, then her dad, a lineage of premature pain and loss, a lesson in life higher than any education she could get here. This, though indeed painful, was, however, clear, an idea all too palpable. But Julia also began equating the drawer to…to something amorphous, which called to her from a better place. Though less painful, it was just that: the opposite of painful, diametrically contradicting its implications of pain. The drawer called from a place where understanding was possible. Where accounts were settled and time mapped out. Knowing how ridiculous this was – knowing there was no beating life’s closed design – she forced herself to turn on a Pandora comedy station, and soon was listening to a standup special while filling out a MayoClinic depression survey (the new nadir for her attentive graces).

The following morning Julia spent significant time laying sidelong in bed. Futility surrounded her. Outside her Compartment was experience, proven nothing more than derivatives of her past, reminders at every corner. Within her Compartment, either booze or brooding, cloistering experience. But here in her room was worst of all. Here in her room was the drawer, what lay within, some root force of life, its noxious hope luring her like the incense from a carnie teller’s tent, teasing her with false premonitions and fortuities. She pried herself up to her makeup mirror, the dresser drawer in question just before her knees. She stared at herself in the rotational oval glass like a latent junkie who knows their first hit will bind their fate. Triumphing the urge, she instead blessed her sodden face with cold water and went out for a constitutional. To face her grief, then perhaps what lay behind it.





Brian Birnbaum is a recent graduate at Sarah Lawrence's Fiction MFA program. He has been working on a novel for a little over three years, and this is a short story that spawned from such. He thanks you so much for giving it a read, and looks forward to hearing back.

You Are Not Alone by Michael Lambert

      You are not alone. You are here. Please find a seat. Where ever you would like. Would you like a glass of water? Here is the person that will help you. He is balding. He is visually submissive, so submissive that in fact he neither smiles nor frowns at you. You know people that have this sort of face that is neither happy, nor sad, but just neutral. You like neutral. He wears glasses, so you deductively assume, perhaps on false premises that all people who wear glasses are educated. He crosses his legs. He chews on his pen. He neither puts you at ease, nor composes an authoritative posture or demeanor that causes you to feel threatened.  You are nervous but ready. Here it lies open in front of both you: your personal account book. Here is a certain amount of pity within your scarcity of self-esteem. Perhaps you are spending too much here. Your troubled eyes weep and are as bleak as overdrawn accounts, negative in their bloodshot I-did-not sleep-last-night numerical sense, if one could actually establish a certain parameter within this calculation. This is where you are now: You sleep the night against the thoughts that dwell within shadows, the thoughts that have no balance, no quantitative quality, held in abstraction, no unit of measurement, but regardless of their abstraction they still instill a certain fear and worry within you. You think you are alone. Your stomach turns. You are an accountant who has discovered a miscalculation within his numbers; who returns and devises methods of keeping track of these withdraws and debits of thought, and the endless yawns, deep and wide, under the midnight, when nothing arouses within the intervals between the settling of the house. Your mind creaks in unison. And still you know that in order to have psychological wealth, you must gather and save for those days, those worn out days where what you believed to be your low, was merely a representation of the surface of your low. You have not quite reached it yet. Although your bones and muscles are tired today, this is not the low -your low. You have been submerged before. Don’t you remember? It’s like the hangover that you forget when you take that first drink in celebration, a misbalance of your personal accounts within the existential haphazard and mental expenditure of not being in the moment and actually breathing in the air. Inhale. Exhale. The air will keep you alive. In the back of your subconscious, that walled in room, the place that no one but you goes, like your own personal vault with no key, it begins to drop hints of its too-soon arrival. Here it comes again, as unexpected as emergencies and it blindsides you, suddenly, almost violently pushing you back into your place, the place where humility can’t rescue you. Your day becomes night. And your night lasts for weeks. You check your accounts and realize [your shock being well-rehearsed] you have overdrawn once again and that even your savings, the hope of the future, is almost laughable; and recovery will be as always: a long path held to the house, of unanswered phone calls, of sleepless nights and somnambulistic days. You are a nation in and of yourself that is psychologically helpless.

“So where do you think these lows, as you define them, stem from?” asks Dr. Steve.

“I don’t know. I have been really on top of keeping my life in balance,” you say. “I don’t drink anymore (which is sort of a lie, but I don’t overindulge). I try to eat well (another lie). I exercise (lie). I try to establish a routine within that pre-bed part of the evening. I read books that are so dense that my hands go numb holding them. It may be similar to a person reading a dictionary. I drink tea with no caffeine. And caffeine, I have cut back on coffee (lie), but it is difficult when sleep is scarce, and these thoughts return.”   

    You sit back in the contours of Dr. Steve’s leather brown chair. You sit back with your account book in front of you, the pages so naked and honest that it causes you to briefly sweat in the fact that you are being so incredulously honest. The leather squishes behind your back and beneath your legs. Your skin sticks to the leather. You feel yourself slowly sinking into the heart of the earth, beneath the crust and into the towering flames of the mantel. And here is Dr. Steve watching you slowly melt. Depression is strange. Even with the medication. Life becomes muffled and your eyesight, although you view the world, encompasses a field of vision within a perimeter that cannot or will not go beyond you. It is selfishness at its worst. It is a pit that is similar to those dreams where you cry out, but you have no voice. It is the helplessness of being locked in the self forever. The world, and all its disparity have a sort of reflective value or quality to it. It is you. You live within its worst extremes. Small moments become enlarged, so large that they eliminate you and take on your life. Life is held under an emotional microscope. The world is viewed through a funnel. There is an atrophy of response and reaction and you live guided by its will. You merely hold on, waiting for your life to return, but it won’t. It won’t. It is the silence that racks your brain with paradoxical slowly turning static. It is the silence behind the silence. 

       And you are not alone. You think you are alone, but you are not alone. You know people who are alone, but you are not like them in what you define as your ‘aloneness.’ They are alone and they are pathetic. So pathetically alone in the fact that they whine and complain and sort of set themselves up to be alone. Nobody wants to be around a complainer, especially a complainer that is lonely. You sometimes second-guess your capacity to entertain, stimulate others with your ideas, and invoke influence in dialogue in small groups settings and meaningful companionship in more intimate settings. Therefore you stay home. Perhaps this is why you feel alone. This causes you a great deal of anxiety, an irrational amount of anxiety in fact. But you are not pathetic. You don’t complain. You don’t speak in that mournful sad hopeless way saying, “I’m so alone. Nobody loves me. Nobody cares if I exist.” You know those kinds of people. They set themselves up. They quickly push their friends away. Nobody likes nor loves a complainer. You have friends. They love you. You have people you see, but perhaps you don’t see them as much as they would like. Often you find yourself ignoring their phone calls, their texts, and perhaps you don’t make that much effort in the idea of pluralized ideas and endless enunciations, anecdotes, small talk and air stirring silliness that result in that high pitched laughter that irritates you to the point of where you shudder with an almost feverish cold, a teeth grinding cold of nightmares, that leaves you with sweat streaming down your arm pits, urine stained sweat, moist pools that reminds you of why you do not wear white t-shirts, and prefer more natural and neutral tones. You are not alone. You can say you are alone again and again. Go ahead. Say it. But you know this is not true, because when you say it your mind your mind sort pans the gallery of faces that exist in your life, a sort mosaic of companions who have accompanied you on your travels, to dinners, to a movie, to a cup of coffee. Your mind is aware that your being alone is unfounded. It again reminds you of those brief still nights on the back of a porch with a few friends where you almost felt content, almost unaware of that compulsive voice in your head that tells you that you are alone, a soft halo of light from a nearly extinguished candle and the syllabic iambs of small talk. There are a lot of people out there that you converse with. If you were alone you would not converse with anyone and you would be miserable. We would not be having this conversation in your mind. If you were alone, which you pretend to be, a sort of faux recluse, you wouldn’t be having this conversation with yourself right now, you wouldn’t be going over this fear again and again every single time you were amongst people you know. You wouldn’t be here now as you sit having dinner with your friends contemplating your aloneness as you stab the tines of a fork while holding in your left hand a nice well sharpened steak knife in a really delightfully prepared grilled chicken breast, seasoned so well that it raises your delight exponentially, not a thought of your bubble like existence, your almost desperate wannabe existence as you call it as you place the flaking pale breast meat in your mouth and upon your tongue, as steam rises from each tender flaking morsel as you continue to cut away more and more of its meat again and again. They wouldn’t have called you. They wouldn’t have known you to even think of calling you. They think about you.

        Okay so it is true that you prefer to be able to make the choice of not indulging in idle evenings over glasses of red wine, which might I point out that you really love, rather than it being obligatory, but you don’t want anyone to think you’re a dick, and so you end up pretending to watch the play-offs, faking your interest in small talk, what your plans are tomorrow, what you think about all the problems in the Middle East, the dwindling gas prices, politics … Oh God politics, what kind of skis and equipment is best for really really good snow, which there has been a lot of lately. But these idle merriments always end. You feel blessed as you walk out the door towards your cold car sitting under almost a full moon that shines upon its hood, like a reflection of a glass off a lake in the evening in the woods. You think about merriments that you had to almost pry yourself off the cushions of your couch to attend because you are just simply so lonely. Isn’t that a little dramatic? And it is in your goodbyes and see you next weeks that you think you are alone? Honestly when you leave events and social situations and you are in your car, and you are waiting for it to warm. And you don’t turn on the radio because it’s nice to have silence sometimes. And you warm up as you are driving the winding road home staying within the yellow lines because you never overindulge. Well you are alone here. At these times. And being alone at these times is perfectly normal, not dramatic. Not life ending. And to speak frankly you are not alone in your diluted irrational belief sort of way that you are alone. People think about you. These kinds of thoughts just stale you from the inside, pale any hopeful horizon in the near future, eclipsing all that is possible for you, laying down more and more distance between you and your relations to others. No you are not alone. Think about it. Hold that thought. Delay your observations because you are highly emotional and critical about yourself and this often obscures your rationality and distorts your factoid appearance when passing mirrors. You don’t like passing mirrors. You know this. Passing mirrors is like pausing to visually reassure yourself of every single fault that constitutes your existence, an existence of larger reflections. Listen to me. To you. Listen.    



Michael Lambert is from mountains of Colorado and lives in a town of less than a 100 people at an elevation of over 8,000 ft. The nearest gas station and grocery store is 45 miles away. Without television or reliable internet, he has plenty of time to come up with stories. He is a teacher and an avid reader and writer. He also spends a great deal of time working on his cabin, shoveling snow, and cutting firewood. He is currently working on a novel. After an extensive writer's block, he is back writing. This is first publication in a long time.