Jess Stoner

When Tad Was 17 He Wanted Something

My kid doesn’t stop by often (and only at night (he seems unconcerned with his safety (not that I would deliberately put him in a seedy position)—the Hungarian gypsies who own this area fear those of whom, (and this is a poor translation) “god has blessed with four trigger fingers.” Tad won’t be in danger here, as long as his ring-fingers can be seen. God help him if he wears gloves.)

He doesn’t know I’ve been sleeping with the woman who serves him mashed things in his school cafeteria. I tell myself it’s because of the way she binds her stretched thighs around me, the smell of steak between her legs—not because she spies on him. She likes to bunt the tube, gun the butt. It’s clever. She’s a good woman; she knows he’s mine and gives him two scoops of gravy—no charge.

He’s quiet, I tell her. She tells me at school he’s the Gemini from Hades. She says
she saw him while taking the trash out (heavy and wet from the insides of tater tots, skins of fried chickens, hard edges of hot dogs and the heavy mess of eggs cooked under-easy and left uneaten). He was fingering the vegetarian girl who puts salad dressing on her pizza.

For some reason Tad’s here today. He offers to run an errand, butter or something; I shit you not, the kid can, if the east wind is blowing south, smell my paychecks.

“Any new ones this month?”

“Yeah, this one’s new, just came out.”

I point to the wall with the garden gnome with a yam for an arm. (one of the few things his mother let me keep before she kicked me out before Tad was born, then gave him that humiliating name, a tactical fallacy; the kid was pinched repeatedly in kindergarten)

I live in a series of IKEA shipping containers. I hang my clothesline between them to
dry my things; it’s a wise burg, made of just tin. Wallpaper does not stick to crate tin. The word is a misnomer, much like the word “bagel.” Anyway, the new set of instructions is plastered on the wall (it’s a mixture best left to your most sundry thoughts), the Rationell interior fittings—drawer dividers—the “how to put this together” diagram without words had plenty of places he could color in. We spend our Tuesday afternoons doing this. Once he skipped school for nine straight days and drew on each empty space of wall-instruction-paper a series of mustaches.

Tad walks into my living crate room; he’s not a goddamn Gemini with me, and I’m pretty glad.

“Listen dad…I need your help.”

What am I gonna say? (I’m not exactly thinking Hallelujah. (I am thinking, “You gotta look into your inner-butter kid.”)

There’s an aura in the shape of an L around him.

“I told this guy I’d sell him a kidney, five grand, and now he’s coming around, looking to collect.”

Jess Stoner currently lives off an island off of Wales where the wind blows in every direction. Her work has been published in Caketrain, Memoir(and), Juked, Word Riot, and other handsome publications.


Christopher Bowen

What Drives South

We drive north and others drive south, driving everything.

“You got a fast car. I want a ticket to anywhere. Maybe we can make a deal.” Dad’s talking to himself on the ride home again and myself not wanting to wake up to this or realize exactly how dirty my head of blonde hair is from swimming in that lake. The family lake, before the time of this eight-year-old’s ability to swim, before he thought, kicked and fought not wanting to know what can be or bite beneath so dark masses of water, beneath the surface of said water, and the grand design getaway-to-the-country-on-weekends trips, lies the purchaser long dead and into the ground buried inside the standard six feet and a grandfather…

“Dad? Dad are you crying?”

“No buddy, just the wind from the window…”

The song continues to play. It’s on repeat or rewind or eternity. “Remember when we were driving, driving in your car, speeding so fast felt like I was drunk and city lights laid out before us your arms felt nice wrapped round my shoulder?”

I always hated the end of these trips because it meant the weekend gone, back to school, books and being a kid and Dad back to residency, twelve hour shifts in a Detroit emergency room, two days on call, and a kid at heart and his heart not free.
Why does he keep playing this over and over again?

I wrestle uncomfortably with my seat belt in the truck running interstate eighty bounding with the Ohio road and myself bound. What happens to fathers when they can no longer drive to the country from three hours away to worship an earth where orchards grow planted with their son? I want to ask my dad, I want to ask him if we did good getting so many apples this time and how mom could turn them into so many things, special and carved into and a part of us like pumpkins on Halloween but eventually and foremost, into memories.

“Why doesn’t mom come on the trips to the farm, Dad?”

“Your mom works so we have a place to live, buddy.”

Dearborn, the good suburb of Detroit, treated us well as a family. This is where we lived and dad driving us.

“You and I can both get jobs and finally see what it is to be living.”

Dad looks out the truck pane window as if seeing a ghost by the road and says ‘halfway there, buddy.’ His window is half down and something tells me the wind is not what makes him cry.

“I got a job that pays all our bills…so take your fast car and keep on driving.”

I reach out my small hand the size of a small orange or small baseball when I really clench it or mean it and put it over my dad’s, which is over the stick shift of the transmission.

Seventy miles later, we will be home.

Christopher's work has been seen in Hobart, The New Yinzer, and anthologized by Fast Forward Press, among others. Aside from working and being a part-time student in food service, he also runs the website


Peter Davis


Your gymnastics coach was inconsolable.
I remember how you teased your hair
and dabbed your eyelid. Your poor blue
eyelid, all florescent with the valley of the shadow.
Your little fish belly eyelids weren't alit
for no reason. I remember times
when you seemed like a robot, all stiff
with certain noticeable side effects.
Come on, Tina!
You know how to fold a tablecloth, Tina.
Don't give me any crap.
You know how to fold a tablecloth, Tina.

Peter Davis' new book, Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! is available from Bloof Books. Visit Peter's website.


Justin Sirois


I can’t seem to get to work today
so I might as well do this
instead of scrutinizing the profile pic
or checking out that new contraption
that scrutinizes the profile pic. See that?
It’s difficult to tell if the cuteness
would fall off the face
if the glasses fell off the face, too. Does
anyone have sex with glasses on, anyway?

nerds are so popular now. I blame
credit default swaps & DIY whatever. The coolest
nerds don’t do a heck of a lot of work –
they just make people laugh
or they’re paid for what they know
not what they do. I took off your glasses
& kissed you. Marshmallows, ummm
fabric softener, winter &
who’s your favorite?
Nerd, I mean.
Oh wait, wait, wait, & you might not
have had glasses on at all


there’s good work & bad work.
But there’s good work done poorly
& bad work done well.
It’s so hard to tell what work is your work
& most of the time it doesn’t matter
to anyone but you


pick me!
That was a waste of time, huh?
Pick the best for the job, the
person you think would do the
best job


once you actually start working on
the thing you don’t want to do, it’s not so bad.

Sometimes I trick myself!
I’m a Jewish paralegal
working for a Nazi malpractice firm – file
boring under totally, file masturbation under why not?
I’m an asthmatic serf who’s good with a knife.
I’m part wolf / part sioux chef from Manhattan.
I’m the first paper cut


fall off the face of
the face in the mirror
tuck & roll
into the break room

Justin Sirois is a writer living in Baltimore, Maryland. His books include Secondary Sound (BlazeVOX Books, 2008), MLKNG SCKLS (Publishing Genius, 2009) and Falcons on the Floor (forthcoming) written with Iraqi refugee Haneen Alshujairy. His novel DMBSTRCK will be finished soon. He also runs the Understanding Campaign with Haneen and co-directs Narrow House. Justin received individual Maryland State Art Council grants in 2003, 2007, and 2010 and a Baker "b" grant in 2010.


Christine Sajecki

The layers of wax and pigment and photocopy make up a scene, they are a palimpsest, a history. The paintings want not just to be seen but to be given a job. My work wants to narrate, to keep creating. I put the world into my work—the colors and forms, the juxtaposition and conflict, strokes of color and bits of text—and my work, if it can, sends it all out again. It all goes to you, for you, at you.

Visit Christine's site.


Shaun Gannon

in the hospital

whatever my grandmother smells like
is probably cancer

she wanted me to sneak her a Prairie Schooner
from the vending machine
I said grandma I don’t know what that is
and she said oh they must not have candy here
my sister was crying

what’s a Prairie Schooner

Shaun Gannon is the author of the ebook Casual Glory; or, Macaulay Culkin Does Nothing (Pangur Ban Party, 2010). Originally from Indiana, he is currently studying in the MFA program at the University of Maryland, College Park. He blogs at The Timeworn What.


Joe Milazzo

Verb Captures Pronoun; Article To Preposition.

P. takes the thing from Q. before Q. has an opening during which to give the thing to P. And despite several facts. This thing is too old to shine, and too new to be its opposite. The thing has dimensions, irregularities and little to no value; the thing is very possibly broken (inoperable rather than damaged), or a mere fragment of a greater thing, itself a testament to the thing's proposing to value. Q. had performed a vast pantomime, complete with winds and swinging doors, peeled fruits, pulled ropes and tipped hats, around underselling the offer. Doubts about desire dribble down past P.'s ankles. Q.'s face is hidden in hair and attraction. P.'s hand is for once uncostumed, marble-salmon, raw.

Q. could mock P., mar or stain P., or look at P. in such a way as to reduce P. to the fine, careless outline guaranteeing the invisibility of the transparency being outlined. The thing is heavy and moist in P.'s hand, open still all around its gravity. The thing simultaneously resembles a video game graphic jumping from plateau to plateau in P.'s adolescence, a lonely meal P. once ate, and rapidly, or a surrendered vice to which Q. has tethered nostalgia for "Q.", or, not lastly, a song, movie, movie's song that played once or many times, memorably, but when P. and Q. were less defined by a meticulous tallying of giving and taking. P. and Q. are standing at points on an angle in a room where the light is scorn and the air sighs and the familiar depressions of the furniture are familiarizing themselves with awkwardness.

P., holding, feels, suddenly, how little "P.", thus lensed, can feel, all over and in "P."'s skin and cells and indeterminate but capacious, P. has it on faith, insides. "P." closes another hand over the thing. The thing does not disappear, and its heat paints the walls. Q. senses, gradually, that, in losing possession of the ability to discard that thing, that "Q." has made an ugly return. Q., limbs fold and in the process of folding further, accepts the embrace of the name "Q.", and knows now that Q. has lost the will to connect. "Q." experiences thirst in the form of an asphyxiating relief. P.'s dread believes it has blacked out, but it has only crouched among the sleeves and laces of a closet.

"P." gives the thing to Q. before "Q." takes the opportunity — a mere crack — to refuse it. Falling, the thing cannot remain an "it", but neither P. nor Q. (nor "P." nor "Q." either) has yet been sacrificed to that epiphany. So. The thing is quickly lost in the various visual patterns that coagulate on the floor, which is also where both P.'s and Q.'s eyes have discovered avoidance. It is in these manners that reflections are made and then shattered. Made, shattered, mirrored, made, shattered, and over again.

For information about the author (bio, publications, current activities), please see:


Micah Cash

Maybe Tomorrow // Return // Lowcountry

These images are from a series of paintings entitled Substance. They are a visual representation of the search for transcendence. While emotive in nature, the successive layering of pigment, drips and glazes allows one to contemplate the common threads of human experience and how they shape us as individuals, such as the acceptance of our weaknesses and burdens, the overcoming and resolution of guilt, coming to terms with our heritage and past, and the search for higher meaning and comfort. These paintings speak about the importance of internal experience, and the positive aspects of self awareness. Oil on canvas. Visit Micah's website at


Emily Jern-Miller

creatures jumping fences your hands once grazed

Can you describe prehistoric? A sky has its own exhibit of trophies

Where is the exact location of longing? I say "concave" until "clover"

Bells or rivers? My mouth is full of kites at the end of their strings

Do you enjoy the earth? Beyond violet, waking disheveled stranger

What can you say of vocabulary? Chasing means wearing someone else's departure

Are the trees tall in side your lungs? Heirloom wings fold themselves into a factory

When do you turn a page? A stack of pianos stare in through my window

Emily Jern-Miller is a recent MFA graduate from California.


Scott Dennison

I really liked those trash removal & hauling trucks that started appearing on random street corners in Baltimore around 2009. So I made a couple digital collages with big solid colors.


Stephen Aubrey

Between Now and Before

Eying the world through a rear view mirror, I have often believed dusk to be my favorite season because even though it does not last long, it comes more frequently than autumn, my second favorite season. Perhaps this is why I like it: dusk feels like autumn (and when I say this, wait for the undertow beneath the sound) but passes quicker and lighter on the heart. It tastes like horseradish and brings me to the front door of a home like a nightmare caught in the folds of my heart, a sense fluttering like a scared bird bleeding rusted leaves. This is the home I am always backing towards, looking forward and moving backwards (consistently amazed at how everything moves farther away.) The Russians have an untranslatable word for this: toska. A feeling like eying the world in a rear view mirror when you leave some girl you love at dusk some day in autumn and all your breath gets caught in that one moment after you hope she waves but before she does.

Stephen Aubrey's work has been published in Electric Literature, The Brooklyn Review, and Commonweal.


Amy Lawless

from Elephants in Mourning

Elephants come across an elephant carcass in the wild.
They gather in a defensive circle around the bones and rotted
Flesh. They pick up a bone and another bone. They rub the bones
With their trunks. They touch each bone with a hind foot.
They investigate each part of the Body, put the bone in the mouth like a cigarette and it
looks like it’s smoking it. For a moment I feel like I’m watching detectives gnawing
On a new case.

This means something.
One day my matter will return to the land.
The water in my body disperses
And isn’t replaced with new tap water.
Let’s all drink to the death of a clown.
The water will go into leaves.
What can I leave here?
There was a ritual, and now she is gone.
Visit remains.

When an elephant dies
The lover will approach and stand there
Seemingly clueless about what to do.
When an elephant dies he tries to necessitate the other elephant.
This is called searching for meaning.
When a human dies
A person who’s spent a hundred thousand dollars on medical school
Will confirm that
Something is gone.
Spirit? Animus? Evelyn?
Something left the room.
And now here is matter. Calories of energy.
Rotted DNA. Hair thinned.
Once the oxygen hits it will be read.
Once my grandmother told me that if a needle got into my bloodstream
It will go all the way to my heart and pierce my heart and I’d die.
This made no sense but her passion convinced me. And I feared the needle.
Any needle. Why couldn’t I have been encouraged to be bold?
Why was I encouraged to be afraid?

When an elephant dies you want to be immediately pregnant so you can feel the huge
cessation of Earth life while stroking your own belly and its hugeness. When an elephant dies they are all emotionally affected and you are emotionally affected unless you have a condition or you were born that way or you have Alzheimer’s. Elephants are known for their memories. But you’ve been surfing the internet and not paying attention. You’ve been watching Law and Order episodes, eating candy, and texting jokes with your best friend. You’re also cooking a batch of cookies. Pay attention. Pay attention. I’m only going to say this once.

When an elephant dies
Please don’t eat chips in the corner after a five hour-long wake
Because the daughter will take her trunk
And beat you with verbs and nouns.

When an elephant dies
Sometimes the remaining elephants become distressed
Because there’s no evidence of an afterlife.

People like the word faith.
Elephants don’t.

When an elephant dies
Sometimes all you have to do is be there
And no one will judge you
If you don’t say something witty.

Sometimes when an elephant dies
I want to grab a bunch of scientists
And one scientist will wipe the tear
Out of the elephant’s eye
And say, “I can explain” and draw the bone
From the mouth of the living.
Scientists are people who can explain things
To us. They have brain matter and
Access to tools that elephants don’t have.
I can explain, one will say.

But getting an elephant to let go of the bone
Is an entirely different matter.

Amy Lawless lives in Brooklyn. Her first book Noctis Licentia was published by Black Maze Books in 2008. For more information, check out her blog: Sometimes she blogs for Best American Poetry.


Becky Slemmons

Gatherings is a art project that began on Sept. 5, 2010—an assignment I have given myself. It goes like this: I will attend different places of worship (two or more each week, as long as it takes to reach my goal of 100), choosing from Pittsburgh’s pool of 3000 temples, churches, synagogues and mosques. I have made a white dress. I wear this dress to every worship place visit. In response to each experience (in my own studio between visits), I add pieces of fabric and/or embroidery to the dress; with my accumulation of experiences, it grows and changes in appearance. I will create a page of drawings during each visit and document gatherings with photographs, off-site video and this blog: At project's end, I will exhibit the work.

Through my work, I wish to question whether the ritual of art-making and the spiritual ritual are not at odds. I also wish to raise an awareness of and hope for tolerance.


Tyler Gobble

Be Nice

Every time I see you, Patrick Swayze dies again.
Rewind the clock, let’s listen to the clank of your hips

dancing with the dirtiness of the mid-teen years.
Back then, that whole place was like Skatetown, U.S.A.:

board shorts and backward hats, the scars on my knees
to prove it. Before school, we’d roll out of bed and

there would be a red dawn, and oh we knew, we were
safe, decisions made for us in some other room.

At 13, things were sucky, scoffing about our ugly friends
and the way they butted into pictures at the dances.

In 7th grade, you failed a social studies test, bawling
outside Math class, and I laughed. That was as bad as life

could get, red pen scribbled F and some dude with six armpit hairs
mocking you in the hall. You think you are the loser of some game show

consolation prize, a ghost holding a straight jacket or a baby
with an eating disorder. Now, I’m sure the house on the other side

of the road reminds me of my childhood home, the shitty pool
in the backyard and shirtless kid in the window with a knife.

Looks like a nice neighborhood, I say. This is the point where I break,
where I forget where I was going with this, like how you forgot the way,

taking the wrong turn, ending up at an abortion clinic on a county road.
If you died right now, on this porch, I wouldn’t have an answer when

they ask, who is the next of kin? We never got past catching up, fake laughing
about the hours you spent staring at the ceiling in your underwear.

If you gave me three wishes, none of them would be to die, so that’s good,
you said, looking down the alley, then back to me, grabbing my hand.

Tyler Gobble is a student at Ball State University. He is blog editor with The Collagist, lead poetry editor of The Broken Plate, and a contributor with Vouched Books. His work has appeared recently with Metazen, Mad Swirl, and Spooky Boyfriend, among other places. He blogs here.


Magnolia Laurie

Delicate, precarious structures are at the heart of the work with different paintings drawing on different sources, but all having a sort of cumulative nature: such as bird nests, rafts piled high and strapped down, or residual heaps that remain after a storm. Within all I think there is the suggestion of endurance and survival, the activity dwelling, making-do and adapting. //Magnolia's website.


John Dermot Woods

Factory Renaissance

In the early-1980s, in an old bread factory in Greenmount, a local real estate developer built a video arcade for his daughter, who was two months away from earning her M.B.A., an arcade which, when fully established, would have touted the most game consoles, not just in Baltimore, but the whole Eastern seaboard. It would have offered visitors 376 coin-operated machines, arranged on three floors plus a mezzanine level-all to be built in a matter of months. Before the game consoles were installed, the infrastructure for a full entertainment complex had to be constructed, including handicapped-accessible rest rooms and a full snack bar in which popcorn, hot dogs, and pizza could be prepared on premises. All of this was built inside a factory that the real estate developer discovered late one night after taking clients from Miami out to dinner and drinks, when they were lured to it by smell of fresh bread, a few loaves of which the men loading the delivery trucks were willing to share with the men in suits. Nine separate unions were engaged in the project at one time, which was necessary to convert the bread factory into an arcade in such a brief period of time. In the week leading up to the arcade’s opening, the real estate developer’s daughter was arrested on murder charges, accused of killing another woman in her business school class. It was a well-publicized trial that resulted in a guilty verdict and a lifetime prison sentence for the developer’s daughter. While his daughter was being tried, the developer decided to stall the arcade’s Grand Opening, and once the verdict was passed down, he abandoned the project all together, paying the contractors’ bills in full and shutting the arcade to the outside world. He had the old bread factory locked up tight with 376 unplugged and unplayed arcade games sitting inside of it. Recently, a friend of mine, a commercial real estate agent, acquired the keys to the long dormant factory, and took me inside of it. The expanse and desolation was astounding for a closed and contained space. The snack bar sat quiet and untouched on the mezzanine and, apparently, most of the arcade games had been sold, although the Ms. Pacman terminal remained and was plugged in, whirring and singing softly in a corner lit by its own screen.

John Dermot Woods is the author of The Complete Collection of people, places & things. He has a collection of comics, and collaborative novel, and a comic chapbook (from Double Cross Press) forthcoming in 2011. He edits the arts quarterly Action,Yes, organizes the online reading series Apostrophe Cast, and co-hosts the Soda Series in Brooklyn. He is a professor of English at SUNY Nassau Community College.


Jamie Iredell

The man with a shoe for a head told everyone to look for him in their local Athlete’s Foot. He said, you should really buy my head. He said, go hard or go to the grocery store, and, just make your way through the world, you pussy, and, if I’m not in you then you don’t have a man with a shoe for a head inside you and that’s just a sad thing. He had a wife who had a tooth for a head. If you could have heard her, she would have said things like, you wouldn’t believe all the things that get stuck between me. Their children were frogs, but not real frogs. They were the kind of frogs that look exactly like the puppet frogs on a children’s television program. How the man with a shoe for a head, or his wife with a tooth for a head, or their puppety frog kids, or you, or the me, got to be the way we are is anyone’s guess.

Beneath her hair lay more hair, the black strands cables holding up the suspension bridge that is her head. If you could peer through these fibers—and few can—you would spy yet another world living upon her scalp. Her skull is the mantle of this planet, the skin a crust, the hair an atmosphere. Under this atmosphere, running about, tiny mothers in tiny minivans, with tiny bumper stickers with the wee-est messages scrawled across them: I vote for level-headed-ness. Let’s forget the word “tiny,” now that that’s obvious. A mechanic has a tow truck. He is grease-splattered. His grease-splatteredness makes its way all across the globe. This is the man of our woman’s dreams—our woman with the thick hair. What we mean, is that this man had once shaved his goatee and when he did so he entered the woman’s dreams. He fell through her scalp-crust, fell through the thin fatty layer, fell through the parietal, into the cerebral cortex, and thus became a dream of a man with no goatee. When he emerged he was inextricably changed: he ordered a cleanup of the world of the woman’s scalp. This mechanic’s greasiness became biodiesel, the scalp area grew more atmospheric hair. The tiny—sorry—people of this tiny—sorry again—world, breathed wonderful air. The woman ended up on a television commercial where she flipped her hair through air lit by a director of photography’s lights. This woman became famous even if only for a while. Then everyone forgot about her and her thick hair. And everyone upon her scalp died and the planet went extinct. And then the woman died the way all women die: her hands were crossed over her body peacefully.

celled its way to a golf ball-sized clump of cells. Tumors and certain weather phenomena are always compared to sporting balls and fruit. Example: There’s a grapefruit-sized tumor in his colon. Our town was pummeled by softball-sized hail. Why are not tumors and hail tumor and hail-sized? The doctors and meteorologists wander their offices tapping pencils to their temples and eyeing through stacks of Sports Illustrated, their walls wallpapered with fruited still lifes. This particular tumored man, about whom we’re discussing, possessed good teeth, bad gums. His gums smelled like dead flesh. He jogged. His heart was a very fat man’s, and he pounded it inside his chest. As many syllables as “cardio vascular disease” lined by on a sign inside his head. His tumor was a basketball under his shirt. Sex evaporated as quickly as his wife’s presence in his apartment. His body remained, tumor-attached. The body was named Larry. Outside the hail was the size of hail.

Jamie Iredell wrote Prose. Poems. a Novel. and The Book of Freaks, with the latter coming out soon from Future Tense Books.


Kathy Fahey

(Click image for larger view.)

This painting was inspired by local songwriter Bob Keal’s song, "I Love the Sun," performed by Small Sur. This song brings up for me the feelings of this place I love to go in the summertime and moments relaxing with friends. In particular it is about one day when crows began to rise up out of the trees across the water at dusk and fly toward and over us. Then they just kept coming. There were so many of them. As we walked back to the car and could hear them flapping and singing in the branches above us all the way 

More from Kathy Fahey.


Catherine Lacey

A Couple of Queens

I have been sifting through the mess of my negligence. It is taking me years to sift, so much I have neglected. I seem to have forgotten how long I have been neglecting the mess.

One event can mark the beginning at least; my father came to town and slept behind one of the doors upstairs. That week it was rarely that I could bring myself up there; a noise was noising, a high-pitched little piece of torture, it hummed all week.

All that is over now. He's left. I can hear. The heaped laundry, stacks of mail, black-bottomed coffee cups and the gummy floor—well, I prefer it.

I should mention that my father is well-liked. When he drawls and people want to pet his hair. The women are always telling him how young he looks and he does look young. He looks about seven years old to me. Some people say he's a convincing thirteen, but I would disagree. Sometimes, if he hasn't slept, he looks like a teenager but the rest of the time he really looks about seven or eight.

On the other hand, I was born with a full head of gray hair, little wrinkles around the eyes. People joked that my mother must have been pregnant for nine decades instead of months. Ha. Ha. I never thought that was so funny.

Charles came by after my father had left. I put my hand on Charles's jaw and said, Charles, you are a beautiful man. Charles smiled and put his hands on my shoulders, and his forehead against my forehead. Adrian, he said, you are a beautiful man.

I smiled even though I didn’t want to because Charles knows how I feel about being called by a gendered pronoun. My smile made a little laugh and Charles said, No, just beautiful. You are simply beautiful. That was better, though it still seemed lacking.

Charles told me he prefers older women, actually older women and men.

I think I know what Charles means by this but what is upsetting is that Charles is fifteen years older than me. He carries it well, of course. When we're out strangers probably think I'm the lech, a cougar, a nasty old man.

Charles wants to know about my father.

I tell him, so do I.

You see, everyone enjoys my father except those who have reached the brink. I have reached the brink. My sister has reached the brink. Our mother reached the brink twenty years ago but has an inconvenient amount of patience. Pill bottles appeared in the kitchen pantry, between the Poppy Seeds and Turmeric, and that's how I learned about the brink.

Charles tells me it isn't as bad as I think. I ask him, What isn't as bad as I think and he says, Nevermind.

On the last night my father is in town he asks when he'll get to meet Charlene.

I say, who? and my father says Oh, don't play dumb. Charlene, the one you keep talking about.

You mean Charles? The man that I love named Charles?

My father says, Oh, don't be ridiculous.

He often reminds me that I was once a prom king dating the homecoming queen. It was lovely, I remember, feeling so royal and young and supple. My father took photographs of us at the mantle and on the front porch and beside the pond of ducks. All that's over now. The homecoming queen left me for a college boy and I found a minor league shortstop who, when provoked, insisted on champagne. My father saw me and the shortstop holding hands in the park and started screaming across the field about the homecoming queen and later that day, at home without a witness, I reached the brink. I put my small blue suitcase in my car, slowly backed out of the driveway and went to find my shortstop—he was right where I would have expected, out on our small town, insisting.

What about the queen? my father asks on his last night at my house.

That was ten years ago and I haven't even hugged a woman since, I say. I'm in love with Charles. We’re very happy.

I wish you would reconsider. Boys are so terrible. Trust me, I know. They do things that we all agree they shouldn't.

Ha, I say to my father.

And he wants to know, What's so funny?

Recently, Catherine Lacey has published work with Cousin Corinne's Reminder, Trnsfr,, Lamination Colony, etc. She is 1/8th of the team behind 3B, a cooperatively-run bed and breakfast in Downtown Brooklyn. Less frequently than she'd like, she writes for HTMLGIANT.


Linda Franklin

STUFF: Another Self Portrait, Linda Franklin

Born in Memphis, living in Baltimore, Linda Franklin does a little bit of everything, writing, painting, video-making, sculpting, and walking her dogs, among a whirlwind of other life-making things. Visit her blog at


Jerome Gaye

Apres Moi Rien

The extra bucket was for bonuses,
Assimiliations so out of the question we had to amputate

I like your little hat, the way it howls across
The EMS in the overloud sun

And we were so sure of ourselves that day we didn’t even look
To see if our socks were the same height

And you with the limp. And you with the limp, I said,
Little boyscout like a laptop with no harddrive.—

The mold grows like schematics.

South Dakota

Because the considerable endemism is wizardry:
Capers rolling along like high-cultured cheese wheels—

I lower a bowler to my breast like a banker. Black & white.
Best of luck blowing this one, I say. Sheesh! Quiet as a mime.

And aren’t we just terrifically hungry, you say. Dust-mawed,
Helloquacious. We align ourselves like ruminants; face the west.

We tip our tufts to the taoishness of the Milky Way, and sing:
O saccharine sky / unfennel us cows // we presidents / we puma.

J.A. Gaye earned a Bachelors Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University in 2000. He currently works as a preschool and elementary school physical and special education teacher and lives in Benton, MO with Alfred, his Siberian Husky.