Crisis by Tim Raymond

Is your name a reference to the video game? Can I really ask you anything? Is the Windows 10 update worth it? Are you? Who stole my bird, Cortana? Well? Can you tell me that? Who steals a bird? What do users generally ask you? How to find their files, now that the interface looks different? Is that what it’s called? An interface? Why in the world is Microsoft making a reference to Halo in their help-section? Why can’t I understand that? What am I missing? Is there some Greek or Latin god you’re named after? Are you supposed to be male or female or neither? What would you look like on my devices? Did you see the pictures of my bird? Do you have the capacity to really see things? Does anyone? Did you go through my pictures at all? Did you see the folder marked “Davey”? Where did you put that folder, Cortana? Why can’t I find it? What if I want to see Davey’s pictures right now?


Where do I go to report the theft of Davey? What number should I call? Did you come before or after Siri? Do you have a voice, too? Somewhere? Do I have to phrase my problems as questions for you? Is anything okay? Is your search-bar a gimmick? Why am I so lonely, Cortana? Can you answer that question? If you could answer it, would you tell me? Isn’t that what life is, just a long period of not knowing what the answer to loneliness is? Why didn’t I put one of those trackers on Davey? Why didn’t I keep a tag on him? Why is love so often like a prison? Why is it that so many people dismiss birds as companions? Did you see how beautiful his feathers are? Why are people so horrible? Why did I leave the door unlocked while going to get my laundry from the basement? Why would people steal a bird before stealing clothes? Is that question even fair? What are the statistics on stolen laundry, as cross-referenced with those on stolen birds? What about my nice TV? Can I die of a broken heart?


Didn’t I save some link related to that question? Why didn’t the thief also steal Davey’s cage? Are they more enlightened than I am? Where do I look first for him? Should I put up flyers? Do you think it’s crazy I never let Davey outside of the apartment? Do you blame people for wanting to protect their loved ones? Are you tired of my questions? Am I repeating myself? Was Davey tired of me? What happens if he doesn’t get his medication at the right time? Will he die? Can I call 911 for this? Am I going crazy? Why did I get on my computer in the first place just now? What was I looking for? Are you meant to be a distraction? Are you meant to inspire reflection? How long has it been since I got this Windows 10 update? How long have they been asking me to accept the update? How many questions have I asked you? Is it over 100? Do you believe in silver linings? Do you think Davey will be happier now that he is out in the world, scary though it is? Do you think that’s why I’m stalling? Is it my self-doubt again? Is it the anxiety? Should I just really think hard about it and decide in my mind to be stronger and more confident? Why do all the quick-answers popping up from your search-bar suggest looking at my work-folder and old resumes? Is that some kind of joke? Am I too indecisive? Do you believe in love? Isn’t that more relevant? Would you believe me if I say that love is the thing I believe in the most? Why is everyone so quick to belittle a positive attitude these days? Am I a hypocrite? But should I quit my job? Should I try to get laid? How long has it been since I got laid? Did you see the folder marked “Private”? Do you know what’s in there? Do you know what I use it for? Do you have the capacity to know things? Is knowing different from seeing? Does it matter if the answer is yes or no? Do I have the capacity to understand what that difference means? Should I get sleeping pills? Should I try to calm down already? Should I get on some kind of beta-blocker, or an anti-depressant? Should I get another bird? Should I wander around outside yelling Davey’s name?


Can I really do that again? Wasn’t I whispering when I did it? Should I simply let him go? Should I hope for the best? Should I picture him flying across an ocean? What if I went for a different animal? Is that betrayal? Is asking that question indicative of my failures as a partner? What do you think? How


long can I go on? Are dreams real? Are aspirations? Did you see the Browns game? Did you see the pigeons all over the field during the game? Did you also howl with laughter and joy? How does one become an official for the NFL? Aren’t I too old? Can you tell? How many years can someone realistically keep being an accountant? Numbers all the time? Is this a sign? That I should make a change? Do you believe in change? Do you want to help me find out if I do? What do you say? Can I have a do-or-die moment? Can I confront my pain and say no? No, I will not? Right here and now?


Does this mean I’m taking your advice? Are you me, when all is said and done? Am I going on? Will you help me, Cortana? Find me some space? And will you agree to say nothing at first, like Davey did?

Or is that the reason he’s gone now and apparently not fighting to get back? I’ve left the windows open, haven’t I? I should stop thinking so much, don’t you agree? But what am I asking for, if not for someone to just listen awhile, and wait until I too am prepared to breathe?



Tim Raymond has work forthcoming in Passages North, Sundog Lit, and others. He has an MFA from Wyoming, and lives in Korea now.

Dream Vacations by Danielle Elson

“Hello, this is the Worthington residence. How may I help you?

I think the real question is how I can help you. Im Dave calling from Dream Vacations and I would love to talk to you about the trip of your dreams. Im assuming this is Linda Worthington?

Uhhactually its Jessica. Jessica Wilson. I just work here. Which means I should definitely hang upUh, thank you now. Good bye--

Jessica! This could apply to you too. Stick around and Ill explain everything.

Look, I really should hang up. My employers are going to come home any minute and I still --

Just one minute of your time. Thats all Im asking for. You could miss the opportunity of a lifetime, Julia!

Its Jessica.

Right. Jessica. Anyway, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Im sure the Worthingtons will understand that their employee is just trying to take care of herself.

Err, I guess?

Thats the attitude I like to hear! Ok, listen carefully. I am willing to offer you the chance to be an owner of a piece of waterfront property for a very low price. If you could vacation anywhere, where would you go?

Probably Florida, right? Uh, yeah Florida I guess.

Florida! What a lovely state. Well, imagine this: This would not be just a one time vacation. This would be a place that you could return to year after year.

Sounds expensive.

Ah, it is anything but expensive. This property would only cost you a little but the reward is immense. You could visit this place every year but only pay for the time you stay there.

I really dont make that much --

All that stands between you and your lovely piece of real estate down by the ocean is a small payment of $10,000! Truly just a great deal. There is another small annual fee but the cost is nothing compared to the feeling of owning your own part of Florida.

Right. Uhm the cost is just a little high for my earnings…”

Jessica, listen. This cost is nothing and theres really no better investment than this kind of real estate right now!


Yes! Real estate is the soundest investment you can make. Forget a new car, buy a timeshare!

A new car is the last thing I could affordI would really love to go on a vacation but Im still not sure--

How about this: you come down to our next meeting at Sherwood Complex this Saturday and well explain the whole thing out plainly to you and the rest of our guests. Hey, you could even meet some of the people who could be the co-owners of the condo!

I guess I could maybe. If I get time off work…”

Also, as a thank you for even coming down, well throw in a free gift. Dream Vacations is willing to give guests who attend our short meeting a two night stay at Disney World Park! All you need to do is stay for the full 90 minute presentation and the tickets are yours! With or without your purchase of the seaside condo share.

Ive never been to Disney…”

All the more reason to come here! Ive really liked talking to you Julia --


Jessica. And for that reason, if you come down to this meeting, why dont I shave off $4,000 from the original asking price.


Yeah, woah is right. I feel like hard workers like yourself deserve the break.

Thatsthat could be doable.

Glad to hear it. OK so looks like our time here is coming to a close. Do you have any questions for me before the meeting?

I guess I have just a fewUh, so first question isWhat happens if I dont want to own my share anymore? How do I get rid of it?

What a great question. Thats why I like you, Julia. A smart girl like you asks the real questions. Doesnt let herself get fooled. Selling back is one of the easiest things you can do. Youll probably get your money back in full from the next buyer. Heck, you might even get a little more considering the high demand for such beautiful property. I mean, theres not any space left to develop on the water so you gotta buy whats there. People would be dying to take if off your hands.

Thats a relief cause Im not sure how long I could --

Well, great. Simply wonderful. I think weve covered a lot today. I looked forward to seeing you at the meeting.

I just have one more --

See you this weekend. Goodbye!


Hello? This is Diane Smith answering for the Sinclair family, how may I help you?

Hi there. This is Dave from Dream Vacations and I think the real question is how I can help you.





Danielle Elson is a freshman at the University of Connecticut. She is currently in a Creative Non-Fiction Writing class at the university and their final project includes them submitting a piece of our work from the semester to a publishing venue. This is that piece.

The Post by Matthew Martin


    For the wicked crime of witchcraft or adultery or whatever it was, the villagers tied her to a wooden post planted hard and fast into the wet mud, off in the outskirts where decent folk wouldn’t have to lay eyes on her. But when the flood of deep orange sunlight had receded behind the horizon, another woman, Agnes, approached her and set right her leaning wooden tower.

    “Oh,” the foreign woman said. “So you’re brave enough to speak to me?”

    “I suppose,” Agnes said. “I didn’t think it was too right what they did to you.”

    “Doesn’t matter. I didn’t do it, so it wasn’t too right either way.”

    Agnes ran her hands down her apron, which was wrapped tight around her plump frame, the straps digging into her skin.

    “I don’t assume you’re going to whisk me away from this tyranny like all those heroes do in those old stories?”

    Agnes chuckled. “No, I’m too simple for that. And I value my life.”

    The woman sat up and twisted around in her place in the mud, as if trying to escape the tight grip the rope had around her hands. The more she struggled the filthier her thin white dress became. She couldn’t try to escape with the post still attached to her, since pieces of rope attached the post to a dry well and the handle of an outhouse only the most desperate still used. The post was only a formality.

    “Okay,” she said. “That should be all then, wouldn’t it?”

    Agnes coughed twice into her fist and gazed at her for a long while before leaving.

    All throughout the next day, the woman watched as the occasional villager passed by. She had no friends or family and was surely not a person of significant wealth, not much given up, or much taken, and thus as an outcast, she had no special connection to anyone here, so if she wept, she would weep for herself. She wouldn’t weep.

    As the sun set in darkness, bringing irrelevant gloom, with the rain-filled clouds hovering with some natural malice, threatening to dump all their contents onto her exposed head, Agnes came carrying a large bucket by the handle. It swished back and forth, rhythmically releasing its water at each sway in drops onto the grass until they fell onto the mud of the woman’s lonely area.

    “Oh, you didn’t have to bring that,” the woman said. “The rain’s going to fall soon. I can open my mouth.”

    Agnes lay the bucket on the ground, the mud spreading out to circle it under its weight.

    “I can’t tell whether you’re joking or not,” the woman said.

    “What do you think?”

    Agnes giggled. She plunged a wooden cup into the bucket and let the woman have from it what she would, so her lips would no longer be cracked and stained brown from the dust of two days’ exposure.

    “How’s your family?” the woman asked when she refused more water.

    “Fine, I suppose,” Agnes said. “As they usually are. Where’s yours? I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before, and I’d like to think I know everyone.”

    “It’s because you haven’t,” she said and hacked and spat into the mud where the aftermath bubbled white upwards then ebbed into the brown. “I’m not from around here, else I wouldn’t be here, strapped here. Where I’m from doesn’t concern you at all because it doesn’t much concern me.”

    “Alright, nowhere woman…let’s talk. You’ve at least heard about those performances that travelling group of actors and musicians and singers and what-have-yous are going around doing? Word reached these parts a while back, but they still haven’t come.”

    “I heard myself. Saw it too once, but it got rained out so we all didn’t really get to see much of it, but we got the general gist of it.”

    “Oh, really? What was it like?”

    “Nothing too special, I suppose. Just like any other one of those kinds of things they have going around.”

    “Well, you say that like you’ve seen all of them.”

    “I’ve seen my share. I’ve been around.”

    Agnes ran her hand through her dark hair, weaving her fingers straight through the collected strands to the other side. “All this time I’ve been asking you all these questions, and you haven’t asked me a single thing.”

    “Oh,” the woman said. “Okay, what-”

    Agnes giggled. “It was a joke you know. I wouldn’t really want you to do that in your state.”

    “Maybe, but I’m interested anyway.”

    “Okay, what do you want to know then?”

    “Hm…how’s your family? Like, really. Details now. Home all right? Been so long since I’ve been in anything like a home.”

    Agnes exhaled, her cheeks puffed out, and smoothed her humble blue dress. Her eyes shot to the sky, her light brown irises almost fighting to disappear behind her eyelids. She looked back at the woman.

    “Well…” She smoothed her dress again. “I don’t know. It’s a bit hard to explain. Never was much for talking about these things, but…fine, I suppose. Usual. Hugo comes home sometimes, sometimes he’s drunk or something and I calm him down sometimes, but other times…whew, isn’t so easy, you know?”

    The woman sat up, her back pressed straight against the post. “Isn’t so easy? You mean you don’t have any luck with it? Aren’t successful, I mean? What happens?”

    “Flails around a bit, talks some nonsense about how he’s going to pack up and leave us, how we’re a burden and what-not. Sometimes it takes a violent turn and…”

    “Sometimes? How often?”

    “Not too often…Not as often as it could be if his problem, or condition if you want to call it that, were a bit worse.”

    “How often?”

    “Maybe around…” She shook her head, her eyes staring blankly past the woman. “It’s just…I don’t think the kind of thing you talk about or give details about around here, you know?”

    The woman let out a high whistle and shifted her legs so her knees were pointed to the right. “Sounds bad…ever thought about leaving?”

    “Leaving? And do what with my children? I have them to think about, you know. I can’t just leave.” Agnes chuckled and snorted.

    “Go just a bit from here and you’ll find a place willing to take a woman like you for some kind of domestic work. You look capable enough to do it.”

    “No, it’s just…” Agnes shook her head. “There’s a lot going on for me here, and-”

    “Why does that matter? You’re trying to get out of a bad situation here.”

    “Oh please,” Agnes said, picking up the bucket with the cup floating on the remaining water. “It isn’t near as bad as you’re making out to be.”


    “I think I’m going to be heading back now. See you when I can again.”

    She didn’t come back for 5 days. Agnes found the woman in the dead of day leaning on nothing, hanging by her hands to the right of the post, her skin pale and her eyelids drooping over nearly perpetually gazing eyes. She stank of her excrement, and her torn dress was damp and coloured in the relevant areas, though it was coated in mud anyway.

    Agnes put her hand on the woman’s freezing face and ran her thumb down her cheek that was somehow damp without sweat. The woman coughed long and hard, all her air leaving her, the first sign of life she had displayed since Agnes arrived.

    “The prodigal daughter returns,” the woman almost whispered, her voice a wisp.

    Agnes face contorted into a tense frown, her lips pursed, her mouth continuously wrinkling. “I wanted to get out but…you’d be surprised just how difficult it is, especially…trying to make sure no one can see you.”

    The woman let another one of those coughs, moans of death. “You killed that husband yet?”

    Chuckling, Agnes shook her head, looked behind her and shook her head again. “I’m never going to kill him.”

    “That’s…too bad.” Her lips upturned for a second before she glanced at the outhouse. “You know, the real torture…doesn’t even come from being trapped here. It’s having the outhouse right within reach. Oh…how did I even get trapped here for so long? I thought…for certain I’d…break free or something, but…”

    “Stop,” Agnes said. “You’re using up all your energy.” She looked behind her again. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t bring anything to help. Hugo last time found out I’d come here and really let me have it, so…really, around here getting caught doing this kind of thing, talking to you I mean, isn’t good, but helping the person is even worse. Last time I did it, it really was a big risk for me, and I guess I really wasn’t thinking of the consequences too much either.” Agnes looked behind her again, then looked back at the woman. “Plus, this kind of state there’s not much I can do for you now anyway, if it’s okay to say.”

    Noticing the bruise on Agnes’ arm red with dried blood and hidden by her dress sleeve, the woman let out another strained groaning cough that pushed her ribs wide open and remained for longer than it was welcome for. “Well…you already said it. And I can take harsh truths.”

    The woman’s eyes drifted to the sky, where it was dark enough to portend rain but not dark enough for it to be a certainty. The wind was not at hand, though they didn’t notice with the cold blanketing them. “It’ll rain,” the woman said.

    “How do you know?”

    The woman glanced at Agnes and smiled. “I know.”

    The alpenglow shone in the distance when they buried her, inescapable, unshakable but spectacular, the effect never lessened after each subsequent day from the inception of the settlement. The elders permitted her burial only to be held early in the morning, when no children could see. Agnes attended, but only under Hugo’s watch, as some delusion of infidelity had grown in him, which he would vigorously express on certain nights.

    The wind never stopped blowing Agnes’ hair in front of her face while they shovelled the dirt back into the hole, and it only got stronger after the small crowd dispersed.

    That night, Agnes kneeled on her bed, staring out the window at Sweeny, the family horse, her thoughts racing, trying to reconcile her actions, trying to make herself believe she wasn’t responsible for the woman’s death. She hadn’t even gotten her name. But perhaps she could make it a bit better.

    Agnes called her son’s name, and his soft voice echoed down from his room. In silence, Agnes made her way through the dark hallways of her house and entered her son’s room to embrace him by his lower back and feel his soft fragile body in her arms and tell him to come with her, they’d be leaving and wouldn’t come back for a while.

    Her son’s hand was trembling when she led him out, both of them carrying potato sacks full of clothes and supplies. She made sure not to touch his upper back to not aggravate the cuts. He kept asking her what was wrong, why they were leaving, why they weren’t taking father, where father was, but she couldn’t answer any of those questions. She didn’t know the answers herself.

    By the time Agnes hoisted her son up onto Sweeny’s back, he was shivering. She hadn’t noticed the cold, and she refused to notice it now. She put the sacks in front of him and unhitched Sweeny and mounted him before he got excited. Sweeny looked around and whinnied. Agnes rubbed the top of his head and glanced at the sky, where dark clouds were cutting through the moon.

    Hugo might come after her or send out word for people to look for her or maybe even see her before she left, and whatever terrible consequences that could arise would arise. Nowhere near would even welcome her, as far as she knew. She was trembling, and she hoped her son couldn’t feel it as his arms squeezed her abdomen. It was cold, she realised. It might rain.

    “Giddy up now,” she said, and was off.




Matthew Martin is a writer and student living in Jamaica. Most of the stories and poems Martin writes try to maintain a nuanced view on conflict. When not writing, Martin is reading or watching movies. Martin's works have appeared in Danse Macabre. 

Pomelo by Max Berwald

           At 2:00 PM they had scarcely moved from bed, which was a mattress, the duvet stained, at the center of his room in Hujialou. Jean pulled the window open and looked down at the Third Ring Road– a permanent ribbon of cars parallel the canal, stretching on until apartments blocked it from view. The pollution had lifted. Everything was sky blue or leaf green. Pedestrians passed in and out of view under the trees that lined Hujialou Beijie.
            She heard him climb off the mattress, come up behind her and light a Zhongnanhai. “Weather looks better.” The petals dropped from a plum tree on the driveway.
            “You mean the pollution’s gone.”
            He sucked at the Zhongnanhai. “You don’t like it when I call it weather.”

            She nodded.
            “You want to go to Tous le Jours?”
            She nodded. They dressed and gathered their things and left the apartment. At Tous le Jours they sat holding hands at a table by the croque-monsieur case. Taylor Swift trickled out of ceiling speakers. He ate a purple donut.

            “If we keep doing this, in a few months we’ll have our phones out.”
            “I don’t like my phone.”
            “Books, then.”
            “What exactly,” he said, changing tacks. “Do you mean by ‘doing this’?”
            She blushed and squeezed his hand. “I hate this part.”
            “Why?” He let go of her hand and took a bite of the purple donut. “This is the good part.”
            “The fact that you know that soon we’ll be cold with each other ruins it.” She leaned forward and he kissed the space between her nose and her right cheek. “If we’re lucky, we’ll at least hate each other.”
            “What does that mean?”
            Tiny shrug. “Better than apathy.”
            He took a patient breath. “You don’t mean that.” His patience irritated her.   
            “It would imply we still cared.”
            His lips went tight.

            “Even this conversation irritates you, because it’s boring to you.”

            “Sometimes I forget you’re younger than me,” he said. “And then I remember.”
            She frowned. “Sometimes I forget you’re a condescending asshole, and then…”
            He laughed and waited for her to smile. Then, realizing it wasn’t coming, he said, “Get something to eat.”
            “Like what?” She watched the shrill, purple donut vanish.
            “Like bread.”
            She put her head down on the table. “I want fruit.”
            Mouth full: “What kind of fruit?”
            She looked up at him. “That’s bitter to you?”
            He shrugged and looked around. “No one here today.”
            “Because this place sucks.”
            “All they sell is bread.”

            Summoning all her strength, she picked up her tote.
            They walked forever without finding fruit and eventually descended into the subway and rode to Nanluo without complaint and elbowed their way up the bloated hutong between schoolgirls carrying fried squid and lechers carrying fried chicken and bands of man-children with glazed hawthorns, lollypops. After crossing Gulou Dongdajie things calmed down and they came to a fruit shop. She bought a pomelo and pulled off the Styrofoam, but it seemed impractical to eat it in the middle of the road.
            “I’ll call Zhuolin.”
            She nodded.

            “We can eat it over there, if you want to share.”
            She nodded.

            “Maybe we should buy two.”
            They went back and bought another pomelo. Jean held both while he called Zhuolin. “We’ll be over in twenty. Okay. Okay, great. Okay. Yes. Bye.” Then they each carried one pink orb up the middle of the street.

            “We could break up today.”
            He looked at her sideways. “You’re depressed.”
            “Yes,” she agreed.      
            “You’re depressed today, I mean.”
            “Yes,” she agreed.
            “Because things are going so well.”
            “Yes,” she agreed.

            “Okay,” he said. “We could break up today.”
            For the second time today, her cheeks flushed. Looking straight ahead: “Do you really want to?”

            He shook his head. “Just stop.” Then, “What made you think of that?”
            “Yesterday was perfect.” She felt herself sinking into a deep, acrid pit.
            “Last night was perfect.” But having begun, she did not have the will to stop.
            “This morning was perfect. This afternoon was perfect. Have you never done this before?”
            She could tell she was driving something excruciating into him. It didn’t give her much pleasure but she couldn’t stop.

            “Never like this,” he said.
            She nodded but said nothing. A breeze moved the leaves in an ash tree. A single cloud floated in from the north. His admission hung somewhere behind them, closer to Nanluo than to wherever they were now. Wings broke the air and a spray of pigeons crossed the hutong and made a tight arc, disappearing from view. “Okay.”
            At Zhuolin’s they sat in the dank landing and he lit a Zhongnanhai. “I wonder where she went,” she said.
            “Probably out to get something.”
            He touched the back of his neck, blew smoke. “Bottle of wine.”
            “Toilet paper.”
            “It’s a miracle,” he said. “Not even the roommates are home.” A speck of his ash landed on her shoulder. She thought about brushing it off but didn’t move. She watched him closely, doing his best to act as if everything were normal. Then she picked the pomelo up off the top stair and dug at it with her fingernails. They were recently cut, the newly exposed skin soft and pink.






Max Berwald is a Beijing-based writer from San Diego. He is interested in fiction and screenwriting. His work can be found at Loreli China,, Be Young & Shut Up, and in the forthcoming issue of Blackbird.

Two Truths by Sarah Jean Alexander

The only thing I knew about my virginity when I was a child
         1.      hold onto it until marriage

I don’t think I knew how sex worked until the third time I had it

Sometimes I wonder what my relationship with sex would be like
if my virginity wasn’t raped away after a Halloween party by my friend’s boyfriend

I probably would have ended up having less of it
but I guess I’ll never know

When I was in middle school
my mom called me into my older sister’s room and we all sat on her bed

We had a very short conversation that started off with my mother saying,
“Now I’m not going to tell you if I’ve ever done this
but oral sex is...”

Anyway if I could make out with my belly fat
it's likely I would develop some sort of addiction to it within seconds

I’d spend days down there, experimenting with my tongue
tasting the different, softest parts of me

Two truths about my body
         1.      I don’t love it
         2.      It is mine

It's safe to say I'd fuck the shit out of my upper arm jiggle

Hell yeah





Sarah Jean Alexander is an American writer from Baltimore. She is the author of Wildlives (Big Lucks Books, 2015) and LOUD IDIOTS (Second Books, 2016) and has been featured in the Quietus, the Fader, Noisey, Dazed Digital, Lenny Letter and other places online and in print. She is the poetry editor of Shabby Doll House and tweets @sarahjeanalex.

The Total by Erin Taylor

It was raining heavily. The wind shattered any and all hopes that they would leave today. Jeffrey was an idiot and had left their last pack of Marlboros outside, they were now soaked. There is little you can do with soaked tobacco, but it honestly didn’t matter because they had run out of lighter fluid last week. That didn’t matter though, they still had hung on to the hope that maybe they’d find more in the wreckage somewhere. They had hope that their last puff, outside of what used to be Bricktown Pub, wouldn’t be their last, but it was now. There is something about lost hopes that stays with people, the kind of thing that sours all moods and covers an entire room in red. Michael had a thick skull and beefy neck that brightened when irritated. Ever since the realization that Jeffrey had left the cigarettes on the picnic table, his neck resembled a steady sunburn. Blistering.

 “I’m really sorry, okay? I forgot, you know me, I’ve always been forgetful. I’m JUST as upset as you are, trust me. You think I want to be all alone in the world without any cigarettes? No, but it was going to happen eventually, anyway. I just sped up the process.” Jeffrey was rambling in an attempt to reach Michael. Michael had a way about him, he drifted. He was never right in front of you but never necessarily away, either. He’d always been that way, but Jeffrey could ignore it before. Before the Woods Jeffrey was able to ignore a lot of things about Michael. The way he drifted, how his ears were physically there but not functioning, the way he laughed when he was angry, how much it resembled a snarling wolf. Michael couldn’t help but ruminate on how everyone used to fantasize and sing songs and write poetry about being alone with your partner at the end of the world. They never ask if they would actually like their partner that much when they’re the only person you have to tell a joke to. 

 White flowers were blooming in the trees, small and delicate. Michael enjoyed staring at them, he could see them at night in the dark almost as bright as the moon or the stars, but they were impermanent. Flowers are only a reminder that things come and go yet are still beautiful. Michael could hear Jeffrey chattering, was it to him? Was it to himself? Michael never knew nor did he really care to. Sometimes it was better to just let Jeffrey go on and on until he exhausted himself. Then he would be comatose, he’d fall asleep in the shared bed they had in the cabin. Michael then would spend thirty minutes watching the flowers grow slowly until he was overcome with the desire to feel body warmth against his own. It would hit him suddenly, this longing. Since he was a child he always craved the subtle reassurance of touch. His mother’s hand while walking across a busy road, the soft touch of a lover on his body, the rough reassurance that he was necessary. The fleshy warmth he had while he made love was unlike any other warmth he could or would ever experience. In these moments of longing, he used to find any body that would do. The cute girl who worked at the grocers, the man who lived two doors down with the stern jawline, and eventually Jeffrey. Jeffrey cared greatly for everything and nothing simultaneously. Michael cared for being felt, little else. They were not a great match but they were a match. Once you reach thirty, you stop being picky about who shares your life. When you’re younger, you have this impression that there will be so many great loves in your life. You let go of people who love you in the hopes of finding people who could love you better, it’s not till later that you realize they don’t always come.  

“You’re not listening to me at all, are you? You always do this. You always fucking do this. I am trying to apologize, I fucking love you, you know? That’s why I asked you to come to the Woods with me. That’s why we’re here together or possibly the whole reason we’re even together in the first place. After all, you wouldn’t even have approached me if I hadn’t approached you. You just let things happen to you, you know that? That’s your fucking problem. That’s why we’re here.” Jeffrey was fuming. He was screaming into the Woods by himself or he might as well have been. 

“I love you too.” Jeffrey heard Michael mumble as he continued to stare at the trees. What was with the trees? They had been here five days and within the five days the trees had all taken on their own shapes, their own personalities. Maybe trees are one of those things you don’t really notice until you’re forced to. Jeffrey was all about finding motifs in his own life. He was one of those big picture people, always thinking in long term plans, grand scales. Michael was the exact opposite, he barely knew what he was doing in an hour let alone in five years. Hell when Jeffrey asked Michael out, Michael said yes seemingly just because it was the nice thing to do, not out of any general desire. Three years down the line, Michael had continued to just go along with Jeffrey’s schemes, whether that be something like going to the little Italian deli in Tulsa or moving into a flat together. Jeffrey was headstrong and in love. Michael was apathetic and said “I love you” back. 

    Jeffrey was worn out. There’s only so much emotional labor one can put themselves through before they just decide to sleep for a day. It’s not like he had any responsibilities either, eventually they’d have to leave the Woods in search of food in the wreckage, but that day wasn’t today.  

“I just love you and if we’re going to survive this, we need to communicate, okay?” he put forth his final efforts, his last hurrah before sleeping away the day. 

“I know, Jeff. I am listening, I promise, I am listening.” 

“You’re never really here though, are you? You’re always looking off or looking through me. I feel so fucking alone, Mike.” Michael knew this. Michael knew that he had isolated himself and in turn isolated Jeffrey. He just didn’t know what to do at this point. You can build gaps between yourself and others that feel too far to reach across. It didn’t help that lately, Michael did prefer his own head to anyone else’s company. Luckily the only person to keep him company in the whole world was Jeffrey and even if Jeffrey was angry at Michael, even if Michael spent the whole day spaced out, Jeffrey would accept Michael into his bed at night. Michael would never have to be alone except when he wanted to be and he took full advantage of this fact. 

    Jeffrey fell onto the rough bed, even in its roughest form a bed is the most comfortable place in the world. Often as a teenager he would spend hours of his time lying in bed when things got bad. It didn’t help his attachment to any and all beds, that Michael seemed to only interact with Jeffrey in them. Their love was born and existed in between sheets and a mattress. In the beginning he’d feel the absence of Michael’s body on his body, his touch, and his lingering hands up and down the curve of his back. It was like a domino effect, the moment he laid in bed the timer started, five minutes later Michael would be there slowly etching his hand along his abdomen. It was as if neither really existed unless they were touching each other. 

Just as expected, Michael was next to Jeffrey five minutes later. They fell asleep entangled in sheets. The night overtook the day as quickly as the day had overtaken the night that morning. Time had no meaning in the Woods. Nothing had meaning in the Woods.

Michael woke up. It must have been around one am, the rain had stopped. He went outside. The moon was broken up in pieces in the sky and the flowers had turned a dark pink. He didn’t question it, he had learned long ago to stop questioning the processes of the world. The moon’s pieces were floating close to the Woods, they looked softer than you would expect. Everything is softer than you would expect. Michael wanted to touch them but he knew that some things were too beautiful and fragile to really be touched. Some things just had to be enjoyed from far away, even if they wanted to be closer to you. Michael felt the Emptiness again. He had felt it sporadically over the past five days, it came when he became completely aware of himself, which luckily hadn’t been happening often. He did love Jeffrey. The first time Michael had seen Jeffrey, he held hello in the back of his throat for the entire night. He was shy though, he did not know how to greet his future. He did not know how to do a lot of things.  He knew they would eventually run out of food. He had known this since they left, since they had entered the Woods, but he had been holding onto this idea that he would make it work. He would find berries, he’d learn to hunt, they’d revert back to hunters and gatherers. He would provide. They would make love in every position in their shoddy cabin and they would love each other. They’d be alone but it would be enough. But it wasn’t enough and it’s always too late when you find out. He started thinking it was better that they hadn’t come to the Woods, that they had died with everyone else. At least he wouldn’t feel Jeffrey being far away. The flowers had started growing larger and more vibrant, they seemed to be reaching out just as much as the moon was reaching out. Everything was reaching out yet Michael felt nothing. He walked back into the cabin, Jeffrey was sleeping peacefully naked. He only ever seemed at peace when he was naked or when he was asleep. Michael loved watching Jeffrey sleep. In silence, all was understood and easy to grasp.  His hands felt tense and without all at once. He looked at his pillow and he looked at Jeffrey, so peaceful. He could see the moon through the window. 




Erin Taylor is made of feelings and often writes about them. Her feelings can be read in her chapbook of poetry OOOO (Bottlecap Press 2016). 

The Kink of Seduction by Katherine Menon



“So their theory is that to reach a higher plane of understanding one must literally be…” he was expounding.

“…In contact with higher beings…” I finished.

“Right!! Have you read it?” I shook my head. Cross-legged on his mother’s living room floor in a long skirt, I was wriggling my hips to some old bebop I had never heard before while we were discussing this book that he was keen on.  “You are a bad woman…”

“What? I am not.” I was a little confused. His tone was accusatory and his face scrunched in frown.  

“No…I mean, you are baaaad.” A small sideways grin crawled across his full, shapely lips as he motioned to my body.

“I thought we were being responsible about our friendship, and…huu,” I sighed.

“Yes. Yes, you are correct,” his reply changed his face, but only slightly. “Dance with me.”

He pulled me up by the hand, kissing it with a little bow.  I slowly swished closer, accentuating the drop of my hips to the backbeat syncopation. “Bad,” he whispered in my ear after he pulled me up close and tight against him.

I wagged a finger at him accompanied by a teasing smile. The record hissed the transition to the next song. I let my head slip back and sway to the adagio beat. He stroked his fingers lightly across my throat to the nape of my neck. And we danced…oh, how we danced. Every move anticipated, seeming almost choreographed. I switched style; he followed. He jumped back forty years in time; I made the leap.

“It’s so hot…” I panted.


“No, I really need to remove a layer,” I chuckled. “Seriously, I have a tank top on.”

He roughly pulled the unbuttoned shirt I had layered from my shoulders and off my arms. “Ssss. Goodness.” I wrapped my bare arms around his neck and shoulders. His warm, strong hands slid down from my wrists and rubbed my back in slow circles. “Hmmm…no bra?” He smiled, voice lilting with pleased surprise.

“I told you. Only when necessary. Evil contraptions.” His touch was mesmerizing, timeless.



He led me to the sofa and sat down, patting his legs. I sat on his lap tentatively. “You don’t seem relaxed. You aren’t putting your full weight on me, are you?”

“No. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Ach. I don’t want you to worry about that. In fact, I don’t want you to care one way or the other.” This, I did not understand at all.

“Really? You don’t want me to be considerate or worry about your comfort?”

“No, not really. Just relax and think of your comfort. You can’t hurt me. It feels…well, you feel fantastic.” And I knew that he was being truthful by the shift in the contour of his lap.

As I eased fully onto him, his erection wedged perfectly between my legs. Holy shit; he’s huge. “Oh, my God. You do like this, don’t you,” I teased.  I stroked his cheek, fingertips playing at the edges of his covered hair. It was soft and twisty; I wanted to play in it, but he kept it covered like a good boy should. This, of course made me even more curious.

I continued our dance, his hands following the motion of my body. Excruciating pleasure piqued with a melancholic longing for more coursed through my veins. But there was not to be more, not for several years. Always on the verge of decision, of completion, and of fulfillment I would linger, unable to move for fear of making a tragic mistake. That was my mistake. Pain and pleasure was inexorably linked by indecision on the lap of a gorgeous soul whose intentions I would never really know.

“Do you remember Pee-Wee’s Playhouse?” he mumbled. His hands ran down my sides and over my hips.

“Ha!” I barked out a laugh. No transition…from transcendence via extra-human interaction to seduction via dancing to Paul Ruben… I didn’t yet comprehend the arc. “Yes, I remember. Why?”

“Well, there was this one character called Chairy…the pink chair, yes?”

“Yeees…” Still not knowing where this was going.

“And Pee-Wee would sit on her—right on her face, basically.” And he paused for quite a while, stroking my hips, fingers padding around my bottom.


“I would love it for you to use me like Chairy.” My pulse quickened, a slow burn tingled in my chest. I felt a little nauseated by the sudden adrenaline rush. And guilt settled in my gut, the pit of which was that this idea was very appealing. The nagging church-girl voice in my head said: that’s so bad; he’s right, you are a bad person. Mm-hmm. Oversexed.




Contemplations Upon You

I settle onto your gorgeous face,

Enjoying your initial shock and subsequent acceptance

Of the juxtaposition between deprivation

And overstimulation of your senses;


I pulse from toe-tip to nose,

Thinking of your lips lingering closely to mine

Of your sweet breath warming my delicate skin

And overstimulation of my senses.


I contemplate the universe beneath me,

Creating a microcosm, which you now inhabit,

Of flesh and presence without pretense

And overwhelming you;


I channel lyrics of passion and

Feeling distracted by musings mundane and divine,

Of aliens, forces of nature, and fertility

And overwhelming me.


I take you in my hand, satin-covered steel

Swelling at my tentative bashful touch

Of wanting to please and bind you

To me in an unexpected way.


You clench your fists at your sides

Relaying a message not quite understood

Of overwhelming sensation coming

To you in an unexpected way.



“Look what you’ve done.  Mmph. What are you doing to me? How did you do that…I usually don’t…” he took my face in his hands, kissing me, eyes soft and mouth soft.

“You don’t like to or you choose not to?” I mused. What a strange guy. He seemed to enjoy it but not happy about enjoying it? Hmm.

“It’s a choice; it’s always a choice. This,” pointing to his temple, “is in control. You did it just like I like, what drives me mad. How in the blazes?”

“Wasn’t in control this time it seems,” I teased. “Did you like it?”

“One thing I will say; you are passionate.”

“Huh. Well, I don’t suppose I will do that again if it will just put you out. Dang.”

“Psh. Come here! I’m bloody cold.” And he pulled me into his lap and squeezed me.




Katherine Menon started writing poems and stories before she could spell, and it has been part of her for as long as she can remember herself. After earning a Literature degree and setting straight away not being able to do anything with it, she is finally working toward using what questionable talent she has to do something: write.

The Ginger's Contagion by Kira Yates

My identity was caught in the same way that people catch the flu—through direct contact with a virus. I was infected at the age of six on Christmas Eve, unaffected by the chill of Minnesota in December. Six foot snowbanks slowly ate away at the sidewalks, waring them down over the course of a winter into one-foot wide walking paths. It was a natural part of life, the ubiquitous snow; Christmas couldn’t exist without plows flinging it out of the street and into our yards.

I colored a Christmas tree at the dining room table as Dad and Pat cooked Christmas dinner a few feet away in the kitchen. Pat talked to me about coloring in the lines before leaving to prepare the turkey. For a moment I truly tried, until my motor skills got the best of me, sending my green crayon across the black borders of the tree into the uncharted space that was unmarked white paper.

“How you doin’, Darlin’?” Asked Dad. He looked out the window into the mountains of snow, now covered in dirt and bits of tar chipped away from the asphalt in the road.

“Good,” I cooed, smiling up toward my father. My hand slowly drifted over the portion of the paper now covered in green, a product of my unruly hand. I knew that if Dad saw it, he would tell Pat, and then we would be back to square one once more.

“Looks chilly out there, don’t it?” He asked.

“Yeah,” I said, trying not to break his eye contact so he wouldn’t look down.

“And how’s the art coming along?” His hand moved to the page, which I quickly ripped away and hid behind my back.

“It’s a surprise,” I said to him, attempting to cover my tracks. Dad raised his eyebrows to what would have been his hairline, had he any hair left to lose.

“Well, my apologies. I’ll get back to cooking, then. Can’t disturb Michelangelo, huh?” “That’s right.”

Dad looked out into the white world once more, peering up the road. The street was set on a slight incline to adults and a mountain to children, and he stared to its summit.


“Yeah,” I said, picking out a new Christmas pattern from my coloring book to ensure a more steady and intricate work to show off later that night.

“Tell me if somebody comes to the door, okay?” “Why?”

“‘Cause I asked you to.”

As a child, I dreaded this answer. Now, as an older child, I still do. It is a clear brush off, a statement of perpetual seniority. It locked me into submission, and gave only one option for an answer:


The red crayon broke in half as I began to work feverishly on the shirt of an elf, its cheeks already rosy from the “Tickle Me Pink” I selected a moment earlier. I sighed at the sight of another one of my artistic brethren, broken in battle. The house smelled of turkey and of pricey cologne, with just a hint of cigarette smoke that lingered on Dad’s clothes. He only smoked on the back patio, but the scent clung to him, brought into the home from the outside world, like the stresses of work or snow tracked in on a pair of boots.

Warner, our neighbor, made his way down our urban mountain through the snow, scraping a cheap plastic shovel on the small clearing of sidewalk. Though comfortably in his late sixties, he managed to shovel the whole block after every snowstorm without ever being asked to do so. Whenever I asked him why, he told me that it was good “to stay in shape, no matter how old you get.” As one who is vehemently opposed to working out I still cannot fathom this sentiment; nevertheless he scraped, loudly and with feeling, outside Dad and Pat’s snow-covered bungalow.

“Is there someone out there, Kira?” Pat asked from the kitchen.

“Yeah, Mr. Warner is shoveling again,” I replied. With another loud heave, Warner threw a pile of snow from the shovel onto the six-foot pile of snow lying atop what was now the memory of a boulevard. Half of the snow fell back onto the walk as he stepped forward and scooped again. He with a shovel the way that I worked in crayon, the way that that Michelangelo who Dad talked about worked in paints.

“Okay, Honey, just tell us if someone comes to the door?” Pat called out. “I told her, don’t worry,” Dad said to Pat, muffled in the kitchen.

“I’ll tell you,” I told him.

I heard hatred before I saw it. It was the sound of boots grinding into thin layer of snow that fell back onto the sidewalk in Warner’s wake. There were varied footsteps, I could hear two, maybe even three sets of feet, coming down the thin strip of pavement. Some were lighter than others, but all parties were determined in their destination. The sound of their feet hitting the ground was rhythmic, rehearsed.

They stopped in front of our door. Living in the city, I was brought up to never answer the door to strangers, but that day Dad and Pat were especially insistent. I turned to the window to see who was standing at our front steps.

My virus was a three-foot-five ginger, standing in a navy blue coat that was three sizes too big. He was engorged in fabric like a tick in the negative windchill, standing at my door with a smile on his face.

He was shorter than me. Surely, this was not the doorbell ringer that Dad and Pat warned me about.

There is a moment in every child’s life when they first actively decide to cause trouble. With full knowledge of the right decision, morality completely in line, there is a defining moment in which every child discovers the thrill and sting of disobedience. There is no understanding why we betray our parents, but one by one, we do. After a while, “because I said so” just doesn’t seem to work.

And so I pulled the heavy lock to the left, swung open our oak door quietly. I stepped onto the front porch to face the child.

The freckled boy was a year or so my junior, and smiled too cutely for my tastes. He had to look up at me to find my eyes, his hands clasped behind his back in an anxious attempt to look proper in the presence of an older child. I stared him down, waiting silently for him to speak.

“Do the Fags live here?” he asked me.

“No,” I replied matter-of-factly. Scott and Pat live here. “I don’t know the neighbors’ names, though. If you want the Fags, you might want to try next door.”

“My Dad says that the Fags live here and that I have to give them this,” his hands swung around from behind his back, holding out a small booklet.

I looked down at the piece of paper without taking it from his mittened hands. Surely, this was not for me. My fathers were Scott and Patrick. The orange glow of fire on the glossy pamphlet burned around a cross that bore a suffering Jesus. I’d seen the suffering Jesus before, though we never once went to church. Jesus suffered on crosses above the bedroom doors of my friend Ava’s house, and a huge suffering Jesus was displayed on the back of a church we drove by on the way home from the YMCA that held weddings almost every Sunday.

“This isn't for us,” I told the boy, still holding out the paper to me. “God hates fags, but you can be saved,” the boy blurted at me.

“I told you, the fags don’t live here. Their names are Scott Smith and Patrick Prochaska,” I took the pamphlet from his hand, “Listen, I’ll take this, but I want you to know that—“

“Kira! Get inside right now!” boomed my father, running through the dining room, bursting through the door. He pulled on my wrist hard. It didn’t hurt, but it was more forceful than I was used to.

“You take your son and get the hell off of my property, or so help me God I will call the police! Is twenty-four years of this not enough for you? Now you’ve got to get my daughter, too? You sick bastard!” I heard Dad scream out into the snow.

The little redhead sprinted back to his father, standing on the sidewalk in front of our lawn. His father patted him on the back.

“Merry Christmas, fags! May God save you, and that little girl of yours too!” The bearded man on the street yelled to Dad. I could hear the man’s voice, though it was faint because of my unsteady and panicked breathing. Tears flooded my eyes the moment I ran inside; perched on the couch, I hyperventilated, grabbed my lightly hurt wrist and cried into the sleeve of Pat’s shirt.

“Fuck you, too!” I heard Dad scream, slamming the door. The pamphlet, fallen on the floor under his feet in all the commotion, was slightly creased from where the little boy’s nervous fingers had been. Dad picked up the pamphlet and ripped it in half, letting either side of the severed cross and suffering Jesus fall to the ground and stay there.

His face was red and was out of breath as he locked the door. There was rage in his eyes as he turned to look at me.

“Kira Sinclair, I told you not to open this door,” he said, walking toward me. His voice rose with every word. He squatted down in front of my face; I clung to Pat’s orange shirt, a silent plea to be saved. Dad’s eye twitched, a trait we both exhibit when we are truly incensed.

“I told you not to open the door, and what did you do, Kira? You—“

“Dad, what’s a fag?”

That was all it took. It was the first time my father cried in front of me, his face falling from fury to the watery-eyed face of a small child. Dad threw his arms around me, and for the first time in my life I had someone else’s tears marking the soft cotton of my shirt.

“I’m so, so sorry.” He sobbed into my shirt. Pat reached out a hand to touch his shoulder. He lifted his face to meet my eyes, and I realized it was one of the rare occasions when we looked just alike. Our blue eyes were bright and watery, our cheeks red with tears and shame and words left unsaid. There are times, despite crosses and closed doors, that we cannot be saved.

“I’m sorry, my Kira girl.”

That was the day I learned of hatred, a virus that inhibited my freedom and innocence. Fear is a germ that can be caught without knowledge.



Kira Yates is a first year at Mount Holyoke College where she studies religion and English. In her spare time, she cares for her four dogs and attempts to maintain pacifism in their war waged with the UPS guy. 

Two Poems by Esther McPhee


In a bar on Mary Street, Martin and Foggy
and Katie and I sing the same songs every night
after Liam locks the doors and lights a cigarette.
Fitzy calls for Katie and me to sing Amazing Grace,
says he was at a friend’s funeral that day

but everyone else says Fitzy’s a liar. The days
disappear into wind. Saturday night, Brian brings in the band
while in the back hallway I sing sloppily
something wordless into Foggy’s mouth.
Martin sings his favourite caoineadh

through the side of his mouth, lamenting
each human heart must know its grief.
The season puts a stumble in Austin's walk—arthritis
or old memories; the water rises
like the voice, the harbour aching in storm.

Fitzy comes in, tells us how Tommy got so drunk
the other day, he fell down in the street in the middle
of the afternoon. Foggy leans back against the bar
with his eyes closed and bawls out will you go,
and we'll all go together
; the voice

becomes a fist. Liam tells Katie and me about the Brent geese,
how they travel from Canada to County Waterford
for the winter. We all flock here after hours
with a kind of violent happiness, find there is an urgency
to our voices, to the momentary absence

of ghosts among us. Brian, the youngest of us—
only eighteen and everyone cheers for him to give
another song—sings you can't live on love,
on love alone
. Foggy’s on the bodhrán now, thunder
from the tipper, and we all sing together; the voice

the storm. It surges up from our bodies as we call
come fill to me the parting glass and good night and joy
be with you all
. The rain takes over then, water
swelling into a howl that holds what's left
of the night for us; we lay it down.







The lake a basin of fog with the moon dropped into it.
Us on the dock, breaking silence into quarters

with our silhouettes—poised, conjuring
night thick on our shoulders like a mist

stole. Michael Jackson on our minds.
It was his birthday that day and you

were shouting a sort of tribute
into the darkness; you'd been waiting to dance

all night for the occasion. Orion's Belt
sparkling on the invisible horizon.

Even unseen we could feel it fastening
us into our hemisphere, where all week

we'd been talking about Orion,
trying to figure out the truest turn of events

and who was to blame. No matter how you spin
the tale, it ends the same. Or begins. Someone,

somewhere, looking out across the night­time.
So what if sometimes we want

to be the kind of story someone else would tell.
Details, like how long we stood there in the rain,

waiting for the probability of a kiss—
the first one, unknown. Your dress

a sheet of starlight over the black lake.
There’s too much injustice in our own time

to worry over what went wrong thousands of years ago
so why are we so angry

about everything. Least of all hearsay
and the chances we never got. If they say, why,

why, tell them I don't want to lose
to history, love distorted

or buried by time and our own fearful mythologizing
of what really happened.

So what if music is just the sound
of what's already burnt out

piercing you new every time it alights
around the dark of your body.

I still liked when you hee hee’d higher
than I’d ever heard anyone go and then fell

into laughter. What does it take from a person
to turn into a constellation? Arrow­bright

and buoyant as a gem. There was a ridge of stars
we were waiting to become.





Esther McPhee is a writer, magic-maker, and collective organizer, who lives on unceded Coast Salish land and co-curates REVERB, Vancouver’s queer and anti-oppressive reading series. Esther's writing has appeared in various journals across North America and can be found online at

Their Mother Didn't Make It Home by Ryan Loveeachother

He pushes one more pebble down the throat of an empty plastic milk jug. He pokes his sister. She sits on the cement stairs of the front stoop, under the long shadow of the stout grey trash container and the overstuffed recycling bin, twisting red lipstick up and down. Her eyes are stuck to their mother’s lipstick. The brother sees her gaze, mistakenly following it across the street, to the 280D on the door, and the sheriff’s shiny squad car in the drive.

The white paint hangs off the porch railing. He rattles wildly and whines Come on, let’s do it! You said you’d do it with me. His sister stops with the lipstick. Fine, fine. She purses her reddened lips. The boy jumps and jumps. The world be my stage! He stretches arms out wide, bouncing his wrists in the air like he’s dangling dancing puppets. Then he grabs the jug, doing violence with it. His sister chases Hey, hey, hey when you shake it, you gotta have one hand on the cap, cuz the rocks will bust the cap off, and it gets wrecked.

The sister takes her recorder out of the velvet bag with a drawstring. Ok, ready? she asks. Oo, wait, not yet, he whispers. He reaches for the lipstick, and chalks three long lines under each eye. Then, the boy blinks and growls, Fugging cops. His chin is tucked to his chest, trying to match the low lung of his father. Painted in war mask, fingers flailing on rock rattle and a dark brown recorder, they tip-toe across the street, nervous and fidgeting. The brother and sister stand beside the tinted windows. Their nervousness is overlapping.

The girl begins. Ra ra, ra ra ra. Like a cheerleader, first. Then: aye yigh yigh yigh, hand flapping and fluttering over mouth. Then she squeals on the recorder. The boy bobs behind, small hand holding cap down, arms heaving up and down, pebbles smashing against themselves, up and down, up and down. Aye yigh yigh yigh yigh! Then the boy grunts oo ah oo ah oo ah, doing the low notes.

They’re bouncing. The brother after his sister, in step, ovaling around the unresponsive law enforcement vehicle. Their eyes peek inside. A cage separates front from back. They howl and rattle, around and around, grinning wide, eyebrows lifted, and shoulders taut. As he yelps, the brother trips and falls on the uneven place where the curb meets the street. He scrapes his knee and drops the jug. He loses several rocks. He quickly replaces the dislodged cap and tightens up the corners of his eyes, which threaten tears. He jumps up and follows his sister. He shakes his rattle at the front windshield. She sirens the recorder. And the brother adds in fugging cops, fugging cops, fugging cops.

The sheriff’s wife opens her front door. She watches the charade, hand on hip, and smiles as the screaming boy shakes a milk carton. Milkshakes, she thinks, shoulders bouncing, as she laughs to herself.

The sister stops suddenly, seeing their observer. The brother doesn’t notice. What? he moans. Why’re you stopping? He turns. Their mouths surrender. Joining the joke, the neighbor woman kneels down in a lunge, one knee in front of the other, interlaces all ten fingers, releasing the pointers and the thumbs. A gun. Pssshuu pssssshuuu she blasts. Ghost face fades, then grins. The brother crumbles. The milk jug drops, rocks spilling. He clutches his heart, gasping I can’t breathe.

Before the sister can speak, a vehicle like a silver bullet rounds the corner, blinker flashing, and rocks side-to-side over the curb into their driveway. The father steps out of the passenger seat. My first Uber ride, he exclaims to the kids, lifting his fist in the air, not noticing the dead son. Car’s in the shop—dead battery and broke belt—same day. The sister squints, pierced by the driver. Her eardrums rattle with the sounds from the sheriff’s woman’s lips, pssshuu pssssshuuu. Then, the red and white reverse lights. The driver looks over his shoulder. The sister sees his eyes, swollen and puffy, like his cheeks. His bangs are heavy and metal-colored, like his vehicle. Then, the strange car is gone. The brother reaches for the rocks. The sheriff’s wife is still kneeling.

Not a minute later, shots are heard. Distant, pocked metal on the ears. One after another, like a sick joke.


Ryan Loveeachother is an MFA candidate at Georgia College & State University. He writes with one foot on the bass drum, keeping time, BOOM, BOOM, on one and three, til the lights go down and the party ends. 

Two Poems by Marcus Slease


I am not going to win because I am not a winner and there is nothing to win and that is
sad don’t you think I was told to be a winner and I don’t know what it means my face
orbits a paler sun the spirit monkeys are in the trees they hit me with their ghost sticks
there is a reason for all of us and we invent that reason and you cannot win it on the
flame of my tongue I cook my own food and you can eat it too on your own tongue not







There goes my life there goes my last feeling. I want to suck the bones and the beans of
Poland. I do not want to suck the coal the flowers of Hades. I traveled lightly with 15 kilos
and I burned. And I am still burning. It is a dark life full of awe. I want to float in this
bathtub. Just be for now and later too. If you turn a word on its side it becomes a colour.
I am going lightly like a cockroach. I have hard shell but soft somewhere. Deep inside.






Marcus Slease was born in Portadown, N. Ireland. They are the author of eight books of poetry from micro presses. Their writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, featured in Best British Poetry 2015, and has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, including Tin House, The Honest Ulsterman, Helikopter, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. Currently, they live in East London. Visit them online at and on Twitter @postpran.

Another Story About the End of the World by Claire Greising

The world was set to end on December 17th. We knew because they announced it several different times on several different television channels, meaning it must be true. I marked the date carefully on a small calendar we kept next to the coffee machine. “WORLD ENDS,” I wrote in my thin handwriting. We decided, all in all, that it was maybe even a bit lucky the world was ending on that particular date, as Marcia’s wedding was scheduled for the next day. Marcia was your cousin, the one that always smelled of lice conditioner and squeezed too hard on hugs. Her wedding would be an expensive, exhausting requirement to attend if circumstances were normal. However, as circumstances were anything but that, I quickly wrote her a note explaining that we wouldn’t be attending the nuptials, what with the world ending and all. She responded with a long, sympathetic letter. “We completely understand.” The world was ending so everything was understandable.

The world was set to end in December, but it was still mid-August. Kids were off school, the beaches were open, lemonade stands popped up on every corner. Everyone knew the world was going to end in just a few months, but it certainly didn’t feel that way. In fact, we went entire days without even remembering what was in store. The realization would come in sporadic bursts-- I would wonder at what would become of our valuables when our community was ravaged by post-apocalyptic mayhem while you applied sunscreen to my back. You would muse about how we should start stockpiling canned foods while we perused the farmer’s market.

The imminent devastation seemed separate from us, like the plot of a movie we were only half-watching. It was like preparing for a vacation that wasn’t quite real-- we all knew we should be packing, but it was so much easier to put it off.

The fall brought fear. While the summer was defined by a willful ignorance of our given situation, the fall was filled with obsessive and frantic dread. Suddenly, every meeting meant something, every person you decided to spend time with was an outstanding vote of confidence. A “see you later” from someone you didn’t particularly want to care for was more than a promise, it was a threat. Even so, the disaster was still distant. There was a lazy sense of urgency embedded in every interaction, conversation, and occasion, but we still have the privilege of ignorance.

Stores were sometimes open, sometimes closed. It depended on the mood of the shopkeeper. Same with schools-- many teachers vacated their desks and some parents extracted their children from their studies. For others, impending doom was an educational reawakening. Seventy year-olds sat in class next to seventh graders, scribbling furiously in their notebooks about prime numbers and factorials. High-ranking but retired professors at formerly-prestigious schools gave lectures in musty school auditoriums to packed listeners, ready to extend their knowledge before they turned to nothing. To go to school was to attend an academic circus of sorts, although it was unclear who was the ringleader and who was the monkey.

There would be a time for chaos and stress, for destruction and breakdown, for crying and pleading and suffering and ending. The fall was not that time. Instead, in the autumn, we clung to what we knew. Casual relationships quickly became steadfast. Children called up parents they hadn’t spoken to for years due to long-forgotten grudges from stale arguments. Writers finished their moldy manuscripts. Tenants who lived for years in apartments with filled moving boxes finally unpacked. Everybody who started a puzzle, finished it.

The fall was long. The fall was unsure. The fall was nervous. The fall was anticipatory. The fall was the moment between jumping off of the diving board and hitting the water’s edge. The fall was the silence before receiving a well thought-out answer to an important question. The fall was a smoldering cigarette between shaking teeth.

The fall did not prepare us for the winter.

Reality came in with the cold. Gone were the days of purposeful ignorance. November and December were a wave goodbye to our casual attitude towards our inevitable and (presumably) violent demise. We finally decided what was important and what was not.

After the first snow in November, you and I sat down at our dining room table and made lists. It started off easy: where we wanted to make final dinner reservations, which movies we were going to make a point to see, any final travel destinations. We’d both quit our jobs months ago, as we hated them and money had no worth in our free-falling world. We could finally do all the things we’d always been too busy to do. But, given the opportunity to live out our wildest dreams, we seemed to forget them.

“Didn’t you want to go to New Zealand at one point?” I asked, scratching my head as I stared at our empty page devoid of exciting travel destinations. “Do you still want to do that?”

“Not really.” You shrugged. “I think I only wanted to go for the pictures. So our friends would be jealous.”

Friends. That was the difficult part. After deciding on all of the things we wanted to do, we suddenly had to pick what we would permanently cut out. We blacklisted foods, television programs, particular streets, sex positions, topics of conversation, and people. We decided we wouldn’t go home for Thanksgiving; we didn’t love our families enough for that. We wouldn’t have dinner with that one couple because they were vegetarian, we wouldn't bother contacting anyone we knew for under five years, and we wouldn’t waste our time with any friends who had children.

Our list of acceptable people was smaller than we expected. Some who made the cut ignored our calls and invitations for dinner, leading us to believe that we’d been placed on similar blacklists. The dinners we did attend were awkward and ultra-quiet. The self-aware finality put pressure on every interaction, rendering them hollow. By the end of December, it was clear that the connection between you and I was the only solid thing we had left.

The day was December 17th and the world was going to end. Everyone made fantastic plans for how they were going to spend the last day ever on Earth, but no one followed through. Several of our friends sent out invitations for End of the World parties. Guests bought outfits for the events, but no one put them on. The hosts ordered food, but didn’t prepare it. No one came and no one expected them to. Before, it was the act of planning that mattered. Now that the time had finally come, nothing mattered anymore-- not when the world was about to end.

You and I spent the day eating expired soup and watching reruns on TV. At 8 o’clock you looked at me, almost surprised to see that I was there. You cleared your throat and suggested we do something.

“What do you want to do?” I asked.


We decided to take a walk. We walked outside as we were, in our pajamas, despite the fact that it was cold and snowy and our clothes were dirty. We went outside and started walking. We walked and walked, past houses where we used to live, past parks where we used to play, past stores where we used to shop. We walked past the Italian dessert bar where you found out your grandmother was dead, we walked past the ice cream store that always gave me a free scoop, we walked past that one place where you sideswiped the woman who ended up suing you for damages you did not create. We walked past the bar where we first met, the curb where we first kissed, the parking lot where you asked me to move in with you, the restaurant where you proposed, and the church where we were married. We walked past a house where we once got so drunk we had to abandon our cars for the night and take the long walk home. We walked past the public library we’d never visited, the small coffee shops we used to frequent, and the movie theater where we wasted our weekends. We walked and we walked and we saw everything there was to see, but we never stopped. We kept walking.

As we walked, people began to join us. Your friends and my friends and our friends. My teacher from 2nd grade and the kids you used to babysit and the first person I ever loved enough to drive away. We were joined by your dad’s chiropractor and the guy at the Pet store who sold us a fish that died on the drive home and a man who mugged me while I was vacationing in Concordia. The women from your mom’s book club and the authors who wrote the books and the publishers who printed them. Everyone we’d ever met and everyone they’d ever met and everyone else in between flooded the streets. Nobody spoke. Nobody laughed or cried or said “Excuse me” when they accidentally stepped on the back of the shoe belonging to the person in front of them. In deafening silence, we simply walked. Eventually, we returned to our house. We stopped walking.

At home, everything was the same. The lights were still on, the TV was still flickering, and the cat was still mewing quietly by the door. We didn’t turn off the lights, we didn’t mute the TV, and we didn’t feed the cat. We climbed into bed and stared at the ceiling for the last time.

“Should we have sex or something?” You asked.

I paused. “To be perfectly honest, I’m sort of tried from the walk.”

You barely hid a sigh of relief. “Me too.” We stared for a few more moments. The air should have been pregnant with last moment confessions, tears of regret, and fervent exclamations of undying love. Given the opportunity, we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. I listened to a clock tick downstairs.

You broke the silence. “Could you give me more blanket? It’s cold and you’re hogging it.”

“Oh. Yeah. Sorry.”

Presumably, those were the last words we would ever speak to one another.


We woke up on December 18th. The world was still there. We closed our eyes and opened them a few times in a row, just to make sure we weren’t imagining it.

You got up, took off your clothes, made your way into the bathroom for a shower. I clunked downstairs and stared at the yard. In the brightness of the kitchen, I clenched and unclenched my hands a few times-- my appendages felt like they were phantom limbs. Everything was the same, but the sameness felt different. I turned on the coffee machine. A few moments later, you came down in your suit.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Marcia’s wedding,” you said plainly. “There’s no reason not to go now. We have to leave in fifteen minutes if we’re going to make it.”

I went upstairs and fixed my hair. I put on a dress that scratched at my sides and shoes that blistered my feet.

You drove slowly. You turned on your blinker. You stopped at red lights. You waved for pedestrians to go ahead and cross at stop signs. When we got to the church, everybody was there. We made small talk with your aunts. We ate overcooked cream puffs at the reception. We danced to the songs we hated and laughed at the toasts even though we did not understand the jokes.

Life went on, the same as before.



Claire Greising is a freshman at New York University. She spends most of her time reading good books, watching bad TV, and crying in elevators.

Three Poems by Andres Rojas

              after Osip Mandelstam

Innocence won’t age
well, a dodo’s beak
for this old man’s face,

my life a waiting room
for saber-tooth lawyers,
Neanderthal jaws on lye:

Erebus is the time, the place
for what will happen again.
And you, Tristia,

you belie the word,
not flesh, not vodka, nor a lyre
like a bird-cage door:

Yes, I lie in the earth
moving my lips.

A tundra in thaw
is a song and a mistake.

The art of departure is neither.







     In’am Sabahan

Almost still a boy. Stalky.
As a reed. A rod.
Your words on my ear,
the desert in your voice.

Even here water flows
in murmurs, like your uncle’s
caravan. Like years,
certain aches. Like the life

of the starved stray
on your black dog’s fangs,
snarls dark as winter-crop
thunder clouds. Like questions:

the sieve of a body
dying, eyes on mine
anything but quiet, blood
on my bloody arms.

You chided, Such a girl
to let her hands
into the mouths of curs.


     Salaam Alay-kum

The only haven
to which I belong:
what you have revealed.

For it, any wilderness,
the recitations of armor
on the day of battle.

My heart is a box
full of swords: pray
you do not open it.

Or pry it so.
Whom a blade may slay
it may also deliver.

     Walay-kum Salaam

You were horizon
to my wandering,

grackle to my earth-
shadow, your call

a foot trail sudden out of brush,
a spring amid deaf sand.

Now you are my plectrum,
I your plucked string.

Thus I will sing mercy
even if not yours: fever

I know, and noon heat.
And the break of fever,

cool sleep that sates.
The bite of thorns.

The body’s self-love
bent on healing. Not why

but that otherwise
is silence. Of this I sing:

You the miles and I the feet.
I the sore and you the callus.

I the sea. You the shell.
You the flesh and I the pearl.







Appears as in an ad.
Makes you want

to buy another life.
Makes you want a baby.

Grins like a vamp
on a shoe. Reads

the fine print,
your email. Uses

a smart phone,
credit cards,

anybody. Will
make its feelings

known at the viewing.
Closes its eyes

without remorse. Wears

But doesn’t have to.
Is not a slave to logic.

Is not a slave to weather.
Is not a slave.






Andres Rojas has an M.F.A. from the University of Florida and his poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, Colorado Review, Massachusetts Review, New England Review, and Notre Dame Review. He is the poetry editor for Compose and he also blogs about poetry at

And So On EP by Breakers

The Breakers bring a mix of originals stylistically inspired by the past five decades of rock and laid over top a bed of interweaving compositions. With more modern influences by the Beach Boys, the Strokes, QOTSA, Green Day & the Who, it’s a realized compositional style spray-painted with simple straight forward New York rock n’ roll.  "Debussy meets alt rock" - Matt's friend

Lucas Brown - gtr / vox
Vicente Arroyo - drums
Vince Tarrance - gtr
Matt Sorrentino - bass