Brandi Wells

from poisonhorse

I am raising a poisonhorse. I feed him enough rat poison to make him toxic, but not enough to kill him. He has diarrhea and takes long naps in the afternoon, but otherwise he is fine. He is a good horse.

I rub arsenic into my horse’s mane. I stroke his dulled coat and rub powder into it too. It mutes his color, makes him a light tan instead of deep brown. I tie a bandana around my mouth and nose so arsenic won’t blow in my face. Over my eyes, old swimming goggles. My horse is such a good horse.

My horse is a muted horse. He speaks, I know, because I see his jaw unhinge, his teeth clamp and re-clamp. The way his throat muscles strain, struggling to pull words from his gut. In his gut there is another horse, a smaller horse, a horse with speech. This smaller horse has a muted mane. Inside this smaller horse is an even smaller horse, a vibrant horse, lively and talkative and bright. This horse is relaxed. Come back later, this horse says, because right now I’m in the middle of something.

My horse and I keep cages of rats in the backyard. We’re afraid if we let them out, they will eat the poison or they will stand too close to us, breathe in the fumes and die or grow slightly sick or become unhappier than the average rat ought to be. We discuss what to do with a horde of unsatisfied rats. My horse suggests bonnets and I counter with sleighs. We cannot come to an agreement, but decide ensuring the rats’ continued satisfaction and happiness is of the utmost importance. We create costumes for the rats, dress them in puffed sleeves and capes, masks and platform
shoes, sashes and tiny suits of armor.

I make a costume for my horse so he will not feel left out of the costuming process. His costume promotes the ingestion of poisons. Funnels and tubing twists outward from his mouth and nose so that he can more easily ingest the poisons. I rig him with a series of fans that hang over his head and blow the poisons into his nostrils.

My horse and I go for long walks through the woods. I do not ride my horse. It is cruel to sit atop an animal that way, as though to enslave him. Neither of us is master or owner. We are partners, my horse and I. On walks through the woods I often find myself grasping for a hand where there is none, and I see my horse lean in to nuzzle me but I pretend not to notice, and edge away.

I fashion tiny harnesses and leashes for the rats, but when we take them for walks, the harnesses squeeze their bodies too tightly, puncturing fur and skin, digging into muscles, yielding only to bone. These rats are not the most attractive rats.

My horse and I run races, but to make things fair I tie weights to his legs and tail and neck. The weights aren’t terribly heavy though, just enough to slow him down. The swing of the weight around his neck is enough to make him uncomfortable, to distract him, but never enough to cause permanent harm. My horse appreciates a fair race.

My horse and I decide to race our rats. He selects one of the smaller ones and I select the largest of the horde. We tie weights around our rats’ stomachs, like little belts with very little aesthetic function. My rat will be slowed down and, if his rat is intelligent, it will be distracted by this impediment. And such a small rat must be intelligent in order to have survived within our rat horde. But our rats do not race. They refuse to pull their weights. I urge them, explaining the importance of self-sacrifice and maintaining a sense of unity, but they lie still, close their eyes, breathe shallow and then, not at all.

Once a week my horse and I rub arsenic on the rats. Sometimes my horse grows horrified at the rats’ sudden deaths, but I calm him. I allow him to breathe heavily and nuzzle the dead rats. They are only very still, I say. We are all still sometimes, but it does not mean we will never move again. It does not mean Ending.

My horse and I grow Horrified in the backyard. It is thick and tangled and sometimes sucks all the sun from the sky. We water it to be certain daytime can happen. Horrified requires water or sunlight, but never both. This sort of double absorption is difficult and necessitates a peaceful mind and a relaxed body. Relax, relax, I tell my horse, as I feed him the Horrified. I cover my body in the Horrified and embrace my horse. This meditation, I tell him, is empowering, but he trembles.

My horse is tired most evenings and I massage his muscles, singing him a lullaby. He closes his eyes while I am singing. When he falls asleep I whisper dreams into his ear. I whisper a dream that he is stuck at the bottom of a cistern. At first he is lonely and afraid but after time he thinks of the cistern as home. So when a woman comes to rescue him, he refuses her help. She falls into the cistern while pleading with him and, after time, he thinks of her body as part of his home. It is a natural thing.

The lady in the cistern has begun to raise rats. She calls the rats all the same name, a name we cannot understand because it is not a word or an emotion but a color we have never seen and so cannot describe. The rats float above her with parachutes made of this indescribable color. Paws grip the sides of parachutes as they drift down and down and down.

I allow my horse to sleep indoors. He isn’t sure he’s really allowed inside, so I pull him up the stairs and into the living room. I show him the proper way to use the commode, though he cannot grasp the concept of washing himself afterward, so I show him again and again. Hooves in water. Soap, soap, soap and rinse. Hot water. Rinse.

Once, out of necessity, I grew myself a horse. And that horse created varied versions of himself that I kept in cages with glass fronts through which I could view the horses and they could view me, like a television show that watched me while I watched it, each of us poised over the remote control, prepared to make a necessary change. Tense. Ready. Something beyond willing that embarrasses willing.

Willing grows into a small child, nervous and covering its eyes whenever someone looks at it. Every day I try to teach Willing to behave like an ordinary child. I show it how to hold its arms, how to breathe in and out, how to listen and taste and reach things that are far away. I hold Willing and say, forget you weren’t born an ordinary child. I cover its eyes and press its spindly body against mine. And when Willing becomes ordinary, so ordinary that it cannot be distinguished from any one of a dozen children I have met, I forget about it completely.

The dozen children I have met each have arms and legs and walk upright as I imagine all children do, but they sometimes mimic my poisonhorse, running, galloping with palms flat to ground. I worry poisonhorse will see them and this will be a sort of education, a learning. He will see their bodies upright and gain a new understanding. This is why I do not allow children to be and have killed each of the dozen children I have met.

In my horse’s dreams the lady in the cistern is sometimes part of the wall. Curved and dripping and covered with moss and mold and insects. The crawling sort. The biting sort. The sort not to be recognized under a microscope. It is impossible to tell whether the lady crawled down into the cistern or was thrown. Or perhaps she fell. Regardless, no animal, particle, or plant has adapted to a habitat as she, so quickly a part of everything around her. She hollows herself out so that poisonhorse can crawl through. It’s a game they play. The lady and poisonhorse take turns crawling through the tunnels inside her. Sometimes poisonhorse follows her, and sometimes the lady follows poisonhorse. A game of chase. A game of hide and seek. They nibble at the lady’s insides. They leave behind sweaters and half-eaten sandwiches.

If my poisonhorse is a child, we are all children. If we are all children, we are horses. If we are truly horses, we must be made of poison. If our insides are acidic, rotting lumps pressed together and expanding, then we will never have the capacity to love. We are created without the necessary hollows inside and if there are accidentally hollows in us, we fill them with other things before love can take root, swell, inflate, inhabit, control. Because we are aware that love must be crushed. Eradicated.

Poisonhorse sets a series of rat traps and leaves them around our house’s perimeter. I remove the bait and place lavish food beside the traps but never in them. I hope the rats will dine on tiny crème brulee and spinach soufflé while viewing the traps. It will be dinner theater, macabre and menacing, but never truly dangerous.

I have had lovers before, all too flimsy and disposable. I have folded them into a variety of shapes but none of these shapes were pleasing to me. None of the shapes made my lovers more durable. I have owned plastic containers that were more successful. Tiny wooden statues have lasted longer. Pieces of foil and yarn and lengths of fabric. I cannot see worth in keeping a lover when it’s certain to spoil, to disintegrate, to become vapor that floats away, forever intangible.

For the rats, I leave very small doses of poison. It is my desire to create rats that function as small horses. Poisonhorse will never notice such an amount of poison has gone missing. And to keep these tiny poisonous horses inside of a glass display case would be a tremendous thing.

Brandi Wells' poisonhorse will be the next Nephew from Mud Luscious Press.


Hunter Kennedy

Four pages from The Minus Times Collected.





The Minus Times Collected: Twenty Years / Thirty Issues (1992–2012) will be available from Featherproof Books/Drag City Fall 2012.


Patricia Lockwood

from Balloon Pop Outlaw Black

Killed with an Apple Corer, She
Asks What Does That Make Me

For all her life she did piece work

on the orange assembly line, she tied

awful flesh knots at the ends of oranges

to separate one from the next,

        (her father was the same, her father

        squinted at blueprints of bulls, and built

        them up room by room, and then sent

        them into the fields

                                to graze on pure

                thousands instead of the grass,)

she lived in the squarest state, she was soft

as map creases are, her lover, one floor

above, worked to make things themselves:

steel driven home in steel and shoehorns

shoehorned in, he lost piece by piece

                his whole body that way;

                until she no longer wanted him

                and took a lover one floor below

who brought game after game to life—when she

told him, “The forest is as tall as a paper mill

tonight,” he took her walking there, and they

envisioned each tree as a bundle of cues, or horseheads

set on endless Ls, or a deep sleeve of letter tiles.

And when he was unlucky too, he climbed upstairs

and raised a right arm that suddenly seemed to be


        and cried, “Machine beats man,” and finally

fell at her feet, his wounds pouring red rolls of the dice;

and then using her terrible skills, she tied him off from her,

and then went to the man who made things themselves

and lay down on his line, and he said her name

like industrial noise but finally it meant nothing,

                and “What is happening?” she asked,

and he leaned down and told how the air

                        drilled a hole in her to breathe,

and he leaned down and told how the red

                                spiraled off in one neat piece,

Patricia Lockwood's Balloon Pop Outlaw Black is forthcoming from Octopus Books.


Ben Mirov

from Hider Roser

As the Hours Grow Smaller the Smaller Grows Flour

I had been reading all day and couldn’t feel my body.

There were shadowy figures at the edges that didn’t bother me.

A clasp unclasped in a place beyond my knowing.

How many trains had come by then?

I placed a cup at the edge of the table and left it there.

No one was listening.

I was walking without swimming.

Sewing without sleeping.

Seeing without keeping.

I was a woman

parched and stuffed with wadded T-shirts

braced against a tree.

Can you help her?

Are you lost?

There is no road.

The snowy road.

Ben Mirov's Hider Roser is forthcoming from Octopus Books.


Robby Rackleff, Dina Kelberman, & Megan McShea


Robby Rackleff
The Five Point Program for the Financial Success of Young Professionals

You smell that? Smells like money to me… You smell money do you smell money? You guys ready to make some money? Real money?

I used to be one of those guys with a spreadsheet and a how to guide on how
to regulate superfluous spending…

Charts, graphs, statistics, pages of statistics; I knew I was spending 6 dollars a day on food. I knew I spent around a dollar fifty for electricity, a dollar for water, two dollars a day for phone service, 15 cents on internet…

Obsessively, I tried to control myself and slim down the day-to-day costs.

Student Loans, mortgage payments, magazine subscriptions…


Get the picture? How many of you are in the same ditch? Huh?

It’s time to climb out!

The Five Point Program for the Financial Success of Young Professionals

Begin dreaming of rivers of blood.

If it helps, go to sleep with a knife. Held to your chest BLADE DOWN.
We want those rivers of blood in your head not in your bed.

Now this is an important step because in every one of us, everyone out there is home to a little plume of pure self-pit. What the rivers of blood do is they feed into that plume and help it become avaricious, just savagely avaricious

So now you’ve got your rivers of blood and your avarice mixed with the feeling that maybe life just isn’t fair to you. People are plotting to steal whatever is precious to you and are constantly undermining you when you’re not around.

Now we’re cooking. Am I right?
Are you read for step two?

Bury your hair in the ground.

(You may not have much of a front or backyard but if there’s one thing I know about American cities it’s that each one has plenty of graveyards.)

Now you won’t need too much hair for this step just enough to fill a normal-sized white envelope. Bury it in the ground.

Arm Yourself

You’ve got your dreams of endless rushing blood and you’ve got your hair buried in the ground. What do you think is next? Should you drink your own urine? Sheeya Right! l ; Should you use an acid tipped glass blade to cut Ley lines into your skin? As if!

C’mon Bro what do you think is next? I’ll give you a hint. How many of you are familiar with Blake? William Blake? How many of you are familiar with Anglican Hymns?

“Bring Me my bow of burning gold Bring me my arrows of desire Bring me my spear O’ clouds unfold Bring me my… CHARIOTS OF FIRE!”

Steal these weapons from heaven.


The movement of water over sand,
The movement of sand over wood
The movement of wind over water

Got it? Good. (Humiliate your enemies.)

Resign to the plume.

You’ve got the blood, the hair and dirt, the weapons you stole from heaven, and (hopefully) you’ve humiliated those who didn’t believe in you. With just a few minor lifestyle tweaks, you’ve made yourself a master of your own destiny.

The bottom line is this: Life is hard, spending is inevitable… unforeseen expenses creep up out of nowhere and can throw your whole system of self-finance topsy-turvy.

So what is the final element required to turn our financial tragedy into limitless wealth? What’s missing? Remember that colorless cloud we cultivated during the first step of the five-point program?

If you’ve made it to Step 5 the plume should be the biggest thing in your body. It should fill every cavity in your trunk. Every organ will be inundated with the thick pitch of perpetual want.

And in the end all you need to do is RESIGN to it. Before you know it, the cash will be flowing.

Six thousand dollars Twelve thousand dollars Eighteen thousand dollars

Six thousand dollars Twelve thousand dollars Eighteen thousand dollars

Six thousand dollars Twelve thousand dollars Eighteen thousand dollars

Dina Kelberman

Megan McShea
Three Large Swollen Things (for Blaster)

Lingering amidst our
auger brigade
rigged up with fancy
glows a bride
entirely made of cotton

sticks to sin talk
when it wants fed
options evaporate quickly then
like it never lost anything
not without a certain inky grace

to be hewn from
huge hounds
in their suckling linens
nesting there like a
gull out of

a gut






WORMSBOOK is forthcoming from Narrow House.


Sam Michel

from Strange Cowboy, Lincoln Dahl Turns Five

Undoubtedly, she says, I will regret not having been a bigger part of our son’s future memory. I don’t smile enough, my wife says; the smile, she must remind me, is the Invitation to Desire, the Living Wings of Memory.

She says, “You keep it up, and he won’t want to remember any- thing of you. Nothing. Do you read me? I said that he’ll remember nothing, nothing, nothing.”

Yet if the boy will not recall me chopping wood or lying on my back beneath the family wagon, will not be able, as my wife insists, to reproduce me on my hands and knees, riding him about the cold linoleum, singing songs and spooning dribble from his chin of twice-mashed carrots, will not remember me, the father, smil- ing—then will my son at least not see me someday in his future, just right here, in this chair, poised, seated, an integrated man in a disintegrating household? Anything, I told my wife, is something. Through speed and speciation the smallest vital crumb on earth exerts a force commendable to memories extended well beyond the retrospectings of the local child.

“Just think about those guys we saw on that show on Rome,” I said. “The Master of the Bearded Unicorn; The Master of the Virgin Torso. Not all of us can be a Botticelli.”

Surely, there must one day be a shrine built to the memory of every mastered passion. A place of record and collection, visited and mythic. Mine is to sit. I broaden, sitting. For me, for the boy, I foresee a chairsized chamber in his skull to which he pays his visits, waits for a word, watches for a gesture, sees me, uncorrupt, anonymous, Master of the Seated Half-Dads. I believe that I may not be bested in the seated greeting. I have the effect, upon a per- son’s entering our household, of having stood, kissed a cheek and begged a person please to help himself. Should I choose to, it is possible for me to cause a person to believe that I have suffered po- lio, or multiple sclerosis, nervous, muscular diseases, past or in re- mission, whose ravages have wrested from my life the spry, athletic days I sit in order to display myself as having once been promised. I am the only person, to my knowledge, who is able to consistently relieve himself of his dyspepsia through certain bowel-specific postures. Naturally, I cannot satisfactorily describe my power, nor why I believe in its effects. I have simply asked my wife to look at me, see me in my chair and ask herself how any son could grow up crossing at my footrest and forget me?

Until today, on occasion, my wife has temporarily forgone the boy, admitting she is not so sure she’d want to have me as a memo- ry either, if she had not known the Me she knew in courtship. She insists I was a different man then, wants to know if I remember our inaugurating days of marriage, the brief, halcyon months of carnal love and culinary amplitude, before the news broke that the boy would come. In those days, she explains, I bought her silken underpants. I lapped mousses from her cleavage. Apparently, I said I liked the flavor of her cunny-stew. I would growl—it seems to me, implausibly—coming up from there, smeary-lipped, and kiss her. I was truly, truly frightening, and bigger, it had seemed to her, hurtful, in a handsome way, when I forgot myself. She recalls our favorite game was Horsey. I neighed. It seems to me no like- lier than growling, but she claims she spurred me on and slapped my flanks, unmercifully, at my urging. She loved, loved, loved to ride me. I was the stallion of her childhood dreams come true. She sometimes called me Silver. Other times she called me Trigger, and on the nights I reared and bucked the rankest I became, to her, Black Beauty. It wasn’t any pervert, she insists, nothing bad, or even too unique, in our part of the country, where so many of us grew up in the neighborhood of horses, and those of us who didn’t grow up with a horse were made to grow up wanting one, or just, it seems, with wanting.

“Oh, it was a romp,” she said. “My God, I swear that I could feel it when you—you know—I’m not kidding. I even knew which times you gave me more than others. I swear I knew which time it was you finally knocked me up.”

My wife said it was then, with the advent of the boy, that I be- gan exploring Oriental diets. I went easy on the cream. I distrust- ed cuts of meat much larger than my thumb. I suddenly liked rice, discovered strength through fasting. In the eyes of my wife, I was in the process of becoming, increasingly, less Me. To support her- self, my wife hauled out the snapshot of our happiest occasions as a family, showing me consistently appearing not the way I ought to. I hear my wife inform me that my duty to the boy, in part, is to provide for him a model. If I had stood a little nearer to him, smil- ing, preferably, “expressing interest,” said my wife, then I might have kept the boy from getting hurt so often—his fingers broken on the day we fed the horses, his chest bruised by the goat, his hide chewed off by colonies of fire ants he’d found to crawl through at the picnic. I could have been a hero to him. As it stands, my son’s past with me has been a woozy spiral of neglect and woundings. Lucky for us—for me, she meant—he isn’t likely to remember. Till now.

Sam Michel’s Strange Cowboy, Lincoln Dahl Turns Five is forthcoming from Tyrant Books.


Kim Gek Lin Short

from China Cowboy

[click here]

Kim Gek Lin Short’s China Cowboy is forthcoming from Tarpaulin Sky.


Megan McShea

from A Mountain City of Toad Splendor

The Brain Is a Pleasure Organ

In a shell, after a rain, cold, bright morning, after a spell, beside likenesses to past women or men, standing, awful and goaded, along a road for passing by, like it’s fun, like we stupidly became serious for years and years, after dying, there in the house, pretending it’s hard, happy to pretend.

When the warm, after shadows pulled back when the world spins, when the warm drapes the air and the light pours towards us, in a tree, picking leaves, making comparisons, apples and oranges, this that. Smallest sounds, churning & churched, by light, by afterthoughts, plunging and skimming, finding a level path. A likeness of apparitions stands, making its meaning noises. “More words, no god, no more.” There it stands, like supper warmed her. Evening closed in again to say again the same words, the same summer, the same spell over and over, like a lark, whoo-ooing, like a mention, murmured in the best time, for a moment, for some sordid afterthought crumbling sight unseen under it all. It was night.

But the weightless light, spilled over the ridge, brings tiny voices, greatness dwindling, a day, likened to a mouth, mouthing something about the brain, about the brain being a pleasure organ.

11 Irritations That Morning

I want things and beautiful
light, a perfectly soft don’t.
It’s my 9th most enormous
successful feeling, timed upon an at.
Only I got busy and now, gee,
I don’t remember entering
the pleasures and that elation—
don’t scare me. Maybe there
wasn’t this dangerous surface.
Maybe there was just the destination,
when a trunk full of minutiae
that scare me are there, and mundane
ideas that scare that death refreshment.
I could bring you until it’s dirty again,
and give you things with sparkling horror.
Don’t you have a room of culinary experiments
that can sort the bathroom holidays?

on the street, that recently-cleaned texture
of things. To be alone daily makes
everyone seem interesting

Megan McShea’s A Mountain City of Toad Splendor is forthcoming from Publishing Genius.


Matthew Savoca

from “I Don't Know,” I Said

When we got home we were sweating, it was a long walk, it was hot out, so we each took our pants off and sat on the couch. Carolina tossed her jeans on the floor and I folded mine, placed them neatly on a chair and thought about how that was something I cared about – clothes placed neatly. I went into the kitchen and poured water into a glass and drank some, then I gave the rest to Carolina. We washed ourselves and then caught the bus to go to lunch. We waited a long time for the bus and Carolina was hot and sweating, much more than me. I tried to get her to stand in the shade of the bus schedule sign but she would only do it for a few seconds and then walk away. I watched a bird, the sky, and then a middle aged Korean woman kicking a rock up the sidewalk. When the bus finally came it was so cold inside that the sweat on Carolina's neck froze and gave her cramps which she felt at night when we were trying to sleep.

We had lunch with grandparents two and three. The usual lunch: a lot of food, too much cheese. Ancient pictures. Stories to go along with them. An anecdote about Abraham Lincoln, how some little girl from Kansas had convinced him to grow a beard so that people would take him more seriously.

When we left their apartment, we left with a lot of dried garlic cloves and fresh hot peppers. At home again we planned to rest and not do anything, watching reruns of Sex and the City or something else, anything easy so that we didn't have to think about whatever else, but we ended up going out to see a friend of Carolina's downtown. Neither of us wanted to go, but we both kind of wanted to go, and for some reason thought we should go, so we went. The bus was late and had trouble getting past the arena because there was a Madonna concert that night. "I hate being late, this is awful," Carolina said.

"It's okay," I said.

"It's not okay, we aren't going to be a little late, we are going to be a half an hour late."

I typed a text message that said, "We are going to be a little late," and got a message back that said, "It's okay, I'll go for a little walk and meet you at the fountain at 8." I explained it to Carolina but she just stared at the floor of the bus. I looked at her and then out the window.

After a few minutes she said, "This is ridiculous."

“What is?” I said.

“We are.”

"Why do you have to be so negative?" I said. "It's fine, whatever. It doesn't matter. You'll feel better."

"I don't want to even go now. I didn't want to go before."

"It will be nice to walk around at night, in the air."

"But what are we going to do? We didn't even think of something to do."

"It doesn't matter, we will just do whatever. Something will happen and it will be okay."

"I feel better when I'm by myself. I get nervous when you're with me."

"What? Why?"

"I don't know, I just do."

I didn't say anything. She didn't say anything either and soon the bus arrived at our stop and we got off and laughed about some guy's small tight shorts as we waited for the light to turn green so we could walk across the street.

We walked through the park and then went towards center city. We walked around for a few hours, stopping to get ice cream and sit down for a while. At eleven, Carolina and I took the bus home which was normally a thirty minute trip that took almost two hours because now the Madonna concert was over and people were everywhere, not letting the buses pass for long stretches of time. We talked about getting off and walking home as if we knew it were the better thing to do, but we just stayed on the bus, not moving or talking or doing anything at all.

At home we drank water, brushed our teeth and went to bed. In bed Carolina felt pain in her neck. "It's that stupid bus's fault," she said.

"Do you want me to turn the fan off?" I said.

"No, it's okay," she said, “you need it.”

Matthew Savoca's “I don't know,” I said is forthcoming from Publishing Genius.


Jensen Beach

from For Out of the Heart Proceed


There’s a man who lives on the outskirts of a medium-sized city in Washington State. His street is a cul-de-sac. His house is the one with the black shutters, which were replaced upside down when the house was repainted. Since then, the man has been unable to explain what it is that looks so strange about his house, but he finds, every time he comes home, a deficit in its appearance.

For a living he makes fine, artisan furniture. He specializes in rugged outdoor pieces. Accordingly, he owns many tools, all of which he keeps in a shed in the backyard. The house has been newly painted (yellow with white trim) but the shed has not. Dirty white paint is flaking off the walls of the shed in the rough shapes of familiar geographic bodies—Priest Lake in Idaho, for example, where the man often camped with his family. The roof of the shed is beginning to give, rot, it seems, from the inside out. It dips several inches at its peak, and a whole row of shingles has fallen into a dusty pile atop the long weeds. Or, if we decide this man is tidy and meticulous, replace the weeds with Bergenia.

The man’s wife might be dead. Let’s say that she is. She’s dead. The pain is still familiar and, for this reason, confusing to the man. His work has been suffering. There’s a stack of unused hemlock boards beside the tool shed.

The man speaks of his wife in the present tense, says things like, “My wife enjoys camping.” It’s not that the man has forgotten his wife is dead; it’s only that it’s become his habit to use language to manipulate how he feels. His wife enjoyed camping at Priest Lake in Idaho, and, if the man says it often enough, she does now too. She enjoys it. She exists in this enjoyment.

In the final week of October, on a rare warm evening, the man is sitting out on his back porch. Depending on what sorts of habits we might choose to believe this man has, he’s drinking a glass of wine, or maybe scotch, or maybe he’s smoking a cigar. Behind the man, the fresh paint of his house glows warmly in the dusk. The back of the house faces west, and the sun sets behind a thick row of pines that mark the edge of his property. In the shadow of these trees, the tool shed appears filthy and decrepit. He’s sitting in a chair he made with his own hands. The longer the man looks at the tool shed, the more he becomes convinced that it must be replaced. The painters had offered to paint it using the same pattern as the house, but the man refused. It’s a tool shed, he’d thought then, it’s supposed to look worn out and used. Now, though, he sees it for what it is. It’s old, and it won’t survive for much longer. The man recognizes himself, or some idea of himself, in the shed. Like it, he is old and will, more than likely, not be around all that much longer. He’s already lost his wife. His son—or it could just as well be a daughter—is married and lives back east. He’s alone, apart from the dog I haven’t yet mentioned.

Inside the shed, he keeps the means of his livelihood. Without his tools he could not do his job. There are dowel jigs, miter saws, and other, more fantastic, pieces of equipment. The man is wrapped up in this job. He makes fine furniture. It’s what he does. Until one day it will be what he used to do.

He gets up slowly from the chair, goes to the garage for the gas can he keeps filled for the lawnmower he uses once a week in the summer, and returns to the backyard. Now it is dark. The pines are tall silhouettes. Or he might instead notice the orange glow of the security light, only just turned on, at the neighbor’s house. He might hear a ringing phone from an open window, or a siren from a few blocks over. Some kind of sensory detail that makes clear to the man that the world is bigger than just his yard seems appropriate here.

The man drains the gas can onto the shed. He splashes the gas on the peeling walls. More flakes of paint fall. He might be happy about what he’s doing, whistling or smiling, perhaps, or he might be upset, or he might not feel much of anything at all. Who can say? He takes a lighter from his pocket and looks around for something to light. If the man is a careful sort of person, he will go into his house and find a newspaper or maybe one of the old quilting magazines his wife used to get and light this first and use it to set the shed to flames. Or he will find a stick or a pile of dried grass. What is not a question is that he will light the tool shed on fire, and that it will burn to the ground. Smoke, first a thin gray cloud of it, but soon, when the thinners and stains in the shed become fuel, darker and then black, rising acrid and dense into the sky. The man takes a step back. The heat is still on his face so he takes another step back. Then another. And another. In this way he goes about the task of building something new.

Jensen Beach's For Out of the Heart Proceed is forthcoming from Dark Sky Books.


Andrea Kneeland

from the Birds and the Beasts


First there was a tadpole and then there was a great dark lake that grew out of the tadpole whose tail fanned out like the feathers of a peacock, like the feathers of a fan of an old woman whose fan is meant to mimic the feathers of a peacock and from this woman's arm there gleamed a sliver of white, like the moonlight, like a slice cut straight from the moon, annexed and excised in the dead of night, in the dead of secrecy (as most coups are executed), and though this usurp of power was bloodless, this was not the opposite of bloody, no, for this victory was only bloodless because the moon itself could not bleed; no rivers out from the scarred and circular blank-clock face, only some pocks like numb craters, like drained lakes, which grew bigger even than the faces of the monarchs and with a pallor more sallow (this is how they recognized the face of the moon and its nearness to the gods), and once it was recognized, the signs grew more plain to the regency: the moon and its mimic of an impassive white eye, the emptiness of the headless, celestial body (for the darkness is the body and the white of the moon just the removal of face); the moon is a locket that hangs on a chain, the negative print folding outward; in its (in)finite whiteness, the universe succeeds, toward the shape of a honeycomb, each hexagon collecting matter: the pond of (blood) honey; the eye of (slept) moon; the egg of (closed) hand.

Andrea Kneeland’s the Birds and the Beasts is forthcoming from The Lit Pub.


Ryan Ridge

from American Homes

American Guest Rooms

What art offers is space.
Updike said.
The same can be said for moon colonization.
One time I shot for the moon but instead I ended up crashing in a guest bedroom.

Come on in, she said.
Be my guest.
Let me show you to your room.

A guest room is only as civil as its occupants.
As disobedient as its ghosts.

Abraham Lincoln’s ghost seen sobbing in a White House guest room.

The guest room is a room reserved for cameos, never stars.
Tonight, I am making a brief appearance on this wide, thin bed.

Tonight I have a dream.
Tomorrow I will forget.

What is a guest without a host?
Don DeLillo noted the helix-like interplay between the two words.
Guests bring in ideas from outside the home, he said.
They, like writers, are agents of change.
Parasites perhaps.
(If they stay too long.)

The trick to being a good guest is to keep it short.
Fish and visitors smell in three days.
Said Benjamin Franklin who knew a thing or two about foul smells.
(See: American Basements.)

Some guest rooms are actually houses!
Guest houses?
Only in the Land of American Homes.

Anybody in LA knows the best places to live are guest houses.
This according to Kato Kaelin who lived in O.J.’s guest house.
Simpson’s bloody glove discovered behind said house.

Personally, I don’t have a guest house or even a guest room, but if I did I would name it Christopher.
Welcome to the Christopher Guest Room!

If I had a guest room I’d turn it into a talk show.
Tonight my guest is Kato Kaelin.
We will be discussing the shortage of second acts in American lives.

What good is sitting all alone in your guest room, Christopher?
Come out and visit.
Stay awhile.
But not too long.

I fell from my high horse and emerged from a guest room.

Put a television in a guest room and the room will seem more entertaining.
Put a mirror in a guest room and it’ll seem more spacious.
Put a guest in a guest room against their will and then you’ll have a hostage situation.

A guest room without guests is a relief.
A guest room without books is regrettable.
And so, too, is an uninvited guest.
And the only thing worse than an uninvited guest is an uninvited guest room.

A guest room is not unlike a hotel within the home.
A hotel staffed solely by volunteers.

Whenever I sleep in a guest room, even a comfortable one, I wake up feeling disoriented and alarmed.
Does anyone else feel this way?

Wondering if rock stars also trash guest rooms.
(Are there even such things as rock stars anymore?)

Curious as to the contents of these guest room drawers.
Guest room closets.
Searching. Not finding anything here of interest.
These days not finding much of interest, shiftless.
I should just sit and enjoy my status as a “guest.”
But I can’t sit still.

All human evil comes from a single cause, man's inability to sit still in a room.
Said Pascal.
And here I am, fidgeting in this guest room.
I’m fidgeting because I’m anxious.
I’m anxious because I woke up here: disoriented and afraid.
What am I afraid of?
Mostly death.


In a White House guest room, Willie, the 11-year-old son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln, died.

All rooms are guest rooms in the end.
All houses, guest houses.

Let us enjoy our statuses as guests.

Ryan Ridge’s American Homes is forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press.


M. Kitchell

from Slow Slidings

M. Kitchell’s Slow Slidings is forthcoming from Blue Square Press.


Frank Hinton

from Action, Figure

I keep massaging the place where my earrings go. Fleshy holes. What are all these fleshy holes I’m covered with? Which of my fleshy holes are most important? Mouth, ears, earring holes, vagina, nostrils, asshole. I can put things in all of them. I am rubbing my earlobes and squatting on the bathroom floor. I’m naked except for underwear. My belly is all rolled up and dangling and I can feel the pudding pie inside of it, being attacked. Poor pudding pie. I open my mouth as wide as I can and put my fingers into my mouth as far as I can without touching anything wet. I feel hot breath over my fingers. I slowly take my fingers out, but they catch on my lip and I feel the fingers wet and sticky and I feel disgusting and close my mouth and taste a little salt. My fingers are salty.

I can hear something in the other room. Through the vent in the bathroom I can hear someone breathing. Someone is breathing. I’m the only one home. I’m squatting so I’m real close to the vent. I get down to the vent, put my face to the dusty grill and whisper. I’m not whispering words, just sounds, plosives of whisper, ghost-talk.

Wasisathwhfamanoshshbudavauhlfadus s s s s.

“Hey, are you dreaming? Do you dream?” I whisper.

The vents carry the whisper. My words must come out hollow and metallic on the other end. I splay my fingers over the vent grail and get in real close and look down into the vent trying to see beyond the immediate darkness. Nothing. I stick my nails underneath the vent and pull up and the thing comes loose, like a brick and I slide it over and I stick my hand down there. It’s scary but exciting. What is in this vent? My hand hits something wet and furry and I almost recoil, I bite my lip and go deeper. A cool wind lives in these vents. My fingers bend on metal. I close my hand over something, a tuft of hair. I imagine a Barbie doll. I see vents stuffed with Barbie dolls. Barbie dolls caked with grime and green moss and tar. I pull my hand from the vent and I am holding a clump of hair coated in dust and slop, urban seaweed. I stand up and wash my hands, I coat them in soap until I am wearing gloves of suds and I wash my hands clean, I get under my nails and deep into the creases of my palms.

I smell my fingers.

I need a bath.

I just bathed last night but it wasn’t enough. I feel filthy, like I’m fresh from a surgery. I want to wash myself off. What is wrong with me? Is it me or is it my family? I don’t know. I look at my diamond earrings on the counter. I’m rubbing my earlobes again. My hands are burning a little. The sink is gurgling. I slide the vent back into the vent-hole with my foot. Someone is breathing heavily in the next room. Nobody’s home. Frank is at the library. Who is breathing in the other room? Who is breathing through the vents?

No one is really breathing in the vents.

The dexadrine feels nice.

I take off my underwear and run the bath. I’m fully nude now. I feel the lunch stirring around inside of me. It’s funny. I feel so cold on the outside. I’m covered in goosebumps but my stomach is hot and loose. I feel like my stomach could float away. I imagine my intestines losing gravity and floating away in pretty pink strands, hundreds of feet of entrails circling around me in the bathroom, some delicate string.

I stick my head into the toilet bowl. It just happened. It just happens.

Here I am.

This is square one.

The bowl takes on an echo and I make a small sound and feel the porcelain hum.

“Baby,” I say.

I stick my fingers into my mouth, to the back. I taste. I press and gag. I press again and then again and feel it, like a bundle of something toppling from some shelf, down it comes and my fingers get free just in time and everything patters right into the toilet. There’s a rush and the burn. There’s a brief moment of peace. The world is okay. I heave a few times and the moment vibrates in me, along with it comes the cool on my skin. The bathroom changes and I congeal with the air around me. I’m covered in sweat. I’m calm. I lean back against the wall and crash softly into the wood. I reach forward with my foot and flush the toilet. I never look. I don’t look I just feel it, the meditativeness of it. The art and beauty of it.

My earrings catch the light in a funny way. Little daggers of light shoot out from points upon the diamonds. My eyes are wet with tears. The tub is almost full. The radiator grill is warm and pressing into my back. I didn’t notice that. The bathroom is full of life.

Frank Hinton’s Action, Figure is forthcoming from Tiny Hardcore Press.


Carrie Causey

from Ear to the Wall

In New Orleans

The way
from bloodmeal,
a tree grows
from the corpse,
more conscious of the air
around its limbs
and the light,
the way
we would not call the dead,
not living.
Nor do I say,
the dead are alive
when we pass a cemetery.
We say nothing.
I am in the truck
with my father.
It is a natural silence, I think,
the kind
among blood.

We Want a Farm

We would like to grow herbs, cooking herbs and chamomile and lavender, and keep birds, farm fish, collect dogs and cats and horses. There isn’t enough room in the apartment. We need a plant to cover the litter boxes in the bathroom. There is an unfinished birdcage you built in the bedroom and now you’ve started an aquarium for snails, the snails that have destroyed the pink water plant that we kept, that once flourished like a ribbon in the tank with the Leopard fish and the Neons. You have to put this one on the floor. Sitting there, legs crossed like a boy. The cats we brought with us when we moved sit next to you, watching as you drop each snail into the water and the free line each takes apart from the other. As they settle into the gravel, I am watching from the bed—the small longing trailing in you—what smallness, what container, makes us dream of farms. The dream of the farm, for us, is creation, the saving (palm opening as if releasing a small animal, the hand held up toward the sky would be the gesture) for us, it is the escape of a god out of its own ruin— to the new ground, the land worshipped by animals, bordered by fog. It is a dream. When we talk about it, I love you; you are a good man, I am a good woman.


Tonight I looked for you
in the woods behind our house
but I didn’t find you anywhere
and the woods were full—
It was horrible
to stand in the middle of woods
and not fly and not disappear.

Carrie Causey’s Ear to the Wall is forthcoming from Ampersand Books.


Gregory Sherl

from Monogamy Songs

Heavy Petting in Boca Raton, Florida

Nobody seems to age quietly anymore. There are so many drugs in me at any given time my doctor is like Spread them all out, so I stretch my body across E’s California King while she lights a joint—some government shit she bought off a boy she never thought to meet before today. Her bedroom is all bed and record player. Her records are stacked higher than most girls I’ve kissed or even thought about kissing. I can’t remember the last time I wore a hat. The last time I wore socks I was engaged and that was bad. Breathing is easier when E uses her mouth as a shotgun. I can’t fuck the first one out of me, the one from when I was barely alive—years before Z—years before a bunch of girls who looked like Z, but I can smoke her out. I do: She leaves the knots in my shoulders, the parts of my cock she always touched the most. I get E off three times even though we stay mostly clothed. After, she isn’t even on my fingers. I never think about the gravity of a whisper. I don’t remember what happens after the second blunt, but in the morning E promises I didn’t say anything dumb. I take a piece of gum and nod. I sneak out the back door even though she’s not married or even touching anyone else.

Gregory Sherl’s Monogamy Songs is forthcoming from Future Tense.


Heidi Lynn Staples

from Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake

The Garden
Au Naturel

In the beginning, my take care fake bear torque cake weeded and my brother hoed and my steptake care fake bear torque cake drove the tiller. And bumbletake care fake bear torque cakes hovered, buttertake care fake bear torque cakes flitted by, the cow lowed take care fake bear torque cake the barn. And the tiller’s gasoline take care fake bear torque caked on the breeze, mixed take care fake bear torque cake the smell of snapped corn. And the sun made me take care fake bear torque cake all over, and sweat dripped down my back, and hair stuck to my face. And I sat on the ground in the strawberry patch take care fake bear torque caking berries.

During that time, my brother says, we once came home from school and found my take care fake bear torque cake gardening in the nude.

I don’t remember that.

But I can see it.

And I can hear Daddy playing his take care fake bear torque cake. Night. Windows open. Crickets. The smell of cigarettes and fresh rain. My take care fake bear torque cake’s arms around me.

The Flea Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake
Heidi Sits in the Middle

On the weekends, we’d go to the flea take care fake bear torque cake. We’d drive there in our take-care-fake-bear-torque-cake-up truck fast down the bumpy roads, with the windows down and with Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake Young in the eight-take-care-fake-bear-torque-cake player.

Daddy was always singing along, hanging his elbow out the window, me sitting in the middle, holding my take care fake bear torque cake’s hand as the trees take care fake bear torque caked by, and I’d usually get just a sip of Schlitz, and the warm wind take care fake bear torque caked in our hair, our noses, our ears, our eyes, and a sense of take care fake bear torque cake was in the air, because who knew what we might find?

Happy Birthday
Heidi Is the Chosen One

For my take care fake bear torque cakeday, my take care fake bear torque cake told me I could get a puppy from her friend Jane’s new litter of Golden Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cakes. So we went to Jane’s. My take care fake bear torque cake told me they were in the shed and to go and have a take care fake bear torque cake at them. Then she went inside to say take care fake bear torque cake to Jane and let her know we were there. It was a sunny take care fake bear torque cake in winter. A slight dusting of take care fake bear torque cake lay on the ground. I could see my own take care fake bear torque cake in front of me. I take care fake bear torque caked fast as I take care fake bear torque caked to the shed.

On a take care fake bear torque cake of hay were eight take care fake bear torque cakes. They were all about the take care fake bear torque cake of a turnip and so take care fake bear torque cake.

I went inside to tell my take care fake bear torque cake I didn’t know. I wanted to ask her, how could I take care fake bear torque cake when they were all so take care fake bear torque cake? It even occurred to me that maybe I could fake bear torque cake them all take care fake bear torque cake with me.

When I’d gotten about halfway to the house, take care fake bear torque cakething made me look back, and one of the take care fake bear torque cakes was take care fake bear torque caking right behind me!

His little take care fake bear torque cake was wagging. I take care fake bear torque caked him up. He take care fake bear torque caked me on the nose.

Fred followed me everywhere. Once Scott taught me how to ride my bike, we were unstake care fake bear torque cakeable.

Heidi Lynn Staples’ Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake is forthcoming from Caketrain.


Laurie Saurborn Young

from Carnavoria

Translated from the Russian

One notices without fidelity
how moss covets stone

and ice crystals build
themselves into cold dirt.

Existence repays the favor
and it becomes easier to love

parenthetically, without ever
mentioning the breasts.

Instead, one is thinking
of people in cafes. One is

attempting to pinpoint creation
in the way keys disappear.

Searching for Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge and I sit on a leather couch drinking haywire.
There is nothing left to do but look for someone we don’t know.

Whistles of creation are sounding and it is birdie birdie birdie to the lips
and hair. Calvin Coolidge is an advent calendar. He is scenes behind

twenty-five closed doors. We are vaulting past the mongoose, we are
a confit of speed. Oh Calvin, what we’re required to forget might not

be much. With radio voices we sing the color of our eyes. We are over
fog, we are branches jutting through water. I tell Calvin Coolidge

of a bridge named for him and he says peacock. He does not darn socks,
Calvin does not have a good stone to his name. We digest the crucible.

We giggle, watching a turkey drive the car. The papers say it is time
for a relapse and we agree, our sweaters are too itchy. So we discard them

in chimneys and leave a little smoldering on the walk. Calvin Coolidge lies
down with dogs and we do nothing about light crashing back through

the world. We pull apples apart and pinch out their wispy blue flames.
We jostle all the babies and put them gentle down to bed. What do I keep

in my mouth amid the blinking goddess, all thrown back? Is it a bright
whip, is it where cantilevers burst forth in blue dress? Our necks tilt

like light fading. Calvin Coolidge and I sit on pillows made of waves and
watch the gamble alight on thin wire. Will he tell me his name again, will he

tie a feather to this hook? Our power is to carry people to places we seek.
Baskets in hand, we are starting off. Oh Calvin we are going this way.

My Mother was an Anthropologist

Driving along the underside of the planet

we keep old bones in the truck bed,

waiting for something to call autumn amid

birds with their beaks open to the heat.

I spread butter against the bread’s heart.

If you don’t believe everything captures

a soul, then perhaps you too are caught

in the gravity of sleep and wake? It’s

something like kissing lovers in dreams

but with a touch more salt and a new

ability to stop time—just long enough

to enjoy the experience of having earth

by the balls. Of driving backwards over

corn fields wherein you dropped many

mittens one winter while turning into

someone with a slightly taller shadow.

Laurie Saurborn Young’s Carnavoria is forthcoming from H_NGM_N.


Ben Kopel

from Victory


Only because I felt like it—the
ashtray kid with seven hearts

cocked. Lit up and clockwork.
A face across my face.

My hands across your face.
Your ex-girlfriend

adjusting her wig at the bar.
Like clockwork. Part mutilation.

Part victory. Part garden.
Like the apology of a city

in your hands and
across my face.



this is not that dream—

air slams air
& the author

he laughs &


my smile gets smashed



I’m not

I’m not
nearly high enough


All expectations
drum roll
and meridians
I am

scared sacred
having nothing
to prove
to no
one waiting

for what
is not
gone to
go off

and on
until the
sun catches
me crying
the light

sees me
singing the
phonebook to
me myself

this freak
an accident
a heart
of hearts

Ben Kopel’s Victory is forthcoming from H_NGM_N.


J. A. Tyler

from When We Hold Our Hands


When our house becomes a boat and dislodges from the shore and floats out on an ocean that is all the words we have ever used with each other, there we will find the curses. There we will see in its waves the way it rips our roof off, there we will see all the means by which we have faulted one another. The white is the swearing and the rest is seaweed tied to our ankles and unnoticeable until it drags our mouths under the water and we are no longer able to use them, our hands or these words that flood our plains, this house that becomes our home and then becomes our boat, this language that is riptides behind us and swooping back in our tread, ready to extinguish our fire.


When our house becomes a boat we will wonder what happened to all the time that we said we had and all the things that we claimed we were going to do. There was always this and that in our way and we shed the deadlines to hold the things that mattered less. I was not holding your hand and you were not holding mine and there was a sun coming up everyday that we said would be different, would affect our bodies and make us change, and when the sun rose we yawned and rolled our eyes and nothing was different, nothing was changed, until the waters up and overcame us.


When our house becomes a boat there will be all the canned goods lining the shelves and in the pitch of our movements the food will roll our hallways and clunk down the stairs and make its way out the front door. We will have left it open to go and see if this morning, unlike other mornings, the sky will not be red. The old adage is provable here and we will be clinging to the door jamb with our fingernails and our grip hoping today, unlike all the other days, not to discover red, to see instead blue or grey or even a hinted range of orange that we will convince ourselves is not in fact red but is a lighter-hearted way of approaching all of this sea before us and behind.


When our house becomes a boat we will find the sails stuffed up and out of the way in our chimney and will unfurl them from the shingles beneath our feet and climb in through the open window to sleep on the bed that is for us sometimes a fort and sometimes a porch and sometimes a dragon and sometimes a horse. And when our house becomes a boat that will be a day when the bed is just a bed and I will curl in your arms and you will curl in mine and the wind rifting through the white cloth will make a sound out that window like the world is finally at end and everyone is seeing the beauty. We will fall asleep there, drifting in our arms, the waves going warm and thick, the air constant, the sound a lullaby we hear humming in our hearts.


When our house becomes a boat there will be a moment at least where we wish it was still a house, our house, and we long for it to be still anchored to the trees and doused in tulip beds. We will be thinking back you and me to when the house didn’t shift at night and we didn’t launch quietly from our beds and we didn’t crack our ribs on the side paneling and sputter out like engines drowning. We will remember what it was like to smell dirt and to walk sure-footed and to hold our hands up to the sky and not see anything swaying except the leaves in the trees that are still out our windows because our house, in our minds, when we think back to all of this before, is still a house on a world not made of water.


When our house becomes a boat we will have to be trained on all of the safety measures that will now concern us: the watching for a bird especially that when it dawns will be the bird showing us that land has returned. We flooded our own place by smashing out all this language with our knuckled mouths and our teeth, all the chips and dents and cracks that attest to the battered language. Between you and me have been all the words that ever existed and when I pointed at your shoulders you questioned me with yours and I went ahead anyway and you followed sheepishly and watching the sky for birds. Out here, where the water has become solitude and the crashing a means of keeping time, our faces have developed a quiet, and the house that became a boat will be the boat that also becomes a tomb, a grave for us to die in, the water washing our stones smooth, changing rocks to pebbles, and light to thin veils of remembering.


When our house becomes a boat the lands we leave behind will be either like you or like me. If the lands are like me they will crumble and fall apart in heaving sobs of pieces and probably splinter into the water that we are riding and raise the levels as we float. If instead the lands that we leave behind follow in the ways of you they will grow and unbind from themselves and each piece that separates will become an island and each piece that remains will lodge to the piece next to it and will form a joined and distinct place where everything will thrive and the need to use words will be obsolete, everything known and voraciously moving forward without, the silence a groping wondrous instant.


When our house becomes a boat we will stalk over its planks searching out the last of the food and waiting for birds. We will be watching the sky but at night we will only be watching for things that will finally and perhaps distract us from our distance to one another and the shape of our arms and how when we hold onto the arms that are you and me together it is nearly impossible to tell them apart. We are us. There is here a long list of things that we would like to find in these sea stars that we stare up at but when the boat springs a leak and our house begins to sink the sky itself will be the only thing left to keep us from being only and in total darkness, here on our house that is turned boat, our boat that has sunk, our water-logged ears and our pruned hands, the reflection of water in our eyes.


When our house becomes a boat we will sail.

J. A. Tyler’s When We Hold Our Hands is forthcoming from Dark Sky Books.


Chloe Caldwell

from Legs Get Led Astray

Sincere Sensation

Love. I don’t know. But there was this French guy from Lyon once. Once there was this French guy from Lyon.

His name was Adrien and he lived with my brother and me for a month during a winter in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We met him through Hospitality Club, a website where travelers can stay with other travelers for free. I didn’t meet him upon arrival because I’d been out late and he was asleep when I got in.

I was accustomed to waking up and stepping over strangers in the apartment. My brother and I had been actively hosting travelers since the fall. But he was the one who organized it. I was just along for the ride. And I liked it. Liked the foreign objects left behind by travelers: Vegemite, chartreuse, AHOJ candy to drink with vodka. Liked the things they taught me: to mix sprite with beer, to wear my scarf a certain way, expressions in their language. Mostly though, I loved seeing New York’s magic through their eyes. I was used to the bathroom being occupied, used to suitcases flung around the living room, used to waking up to a Mongolian, German, Spaniard or Californian in the apartment.

When I walked into the kitchen that morning, Adrien was at the table in a red T-shirt. It was New Year’s Eve. He was writing on an index card with such flourish and I was amused. He ended his sentence with a dramatic stab to the paper like he’d just finished the great American masterpiece and he looked up at me.

That night, my brother and I were having a New Year’s Eve party, cramming close to one hundred people into our tiny railroad apartment. Close to midnight most people started leaving to go to bars. Adrien and I were somehow left behind and found ourselves walking together down North Sixth Street. We walked to the waterfront and we found an old grandfather clock and we kissed. We brought the grandfather clock home.

The night was long. At some point I tried to sleep but woke up because he was putting something under my pillow. Something he wrote on the typewriter:

you are so exciting
wake up
and go outside
to smoke

It seemed to be the most romantic thing to ever happen to me.

We went on the fire escape to smoke pot and then into the bathroom where he pushed me against the wall and kissed me. I wore a blue T-shirt from American Apparel. I was stealing clothes from there often, and that T-shirt was my current favorite. I straddled him on the toilet and he told me he loved my breasts. I never realized how beautiful mouths could be until him.

In the morning, he was up listening to jazz and rolling joints and cooking for everyone that had slept over. He was wearing a necklace made of wood that belonged to my mother. I sat down at the table. He was whistling. He was explaining something to me and put his arm around my shoulder in a joking, cliché, overacted sort of way, and then laughed and said, “You think I am very strange man?”

I laughed.

On my way out the door into the snow to the bodega, he slipped an index card in my trench coat, on which was scrawled:

Last night I touch a girl after midnight and she moaned of a god who I hope was me.

He would walk around my room, putting on my stuff and putting my stuff in his pockets. I didn’t care. We were walking to brunch one morning and he held his arms out to show me. Gold rings, beaded bracelets, rubber bands, pins on his sleeves.

I ended up giving him that wooden necklace of my mother’s even though I’d had to beg her to let me borrow it, even though it wasn’t mine to give away, even though it had a lot of history and even though I loved it, because I am the type of person who will give anything to anyone I feel I could love.

When I wasn’t around, Adrien would use our Polaroid camera to take pictures of himself and hide them around the apartment. I came home from work one night and went to the bathroom to pee, to find that the he had positioned a photo of himself wearing nothing but a bright orange scarf on the typewriter. On the bottom of the Polaroid he had written:

I like sex. With flowers, with painting. I have no definition of my sex feeling.

I’d never experienced that kind of laughter before. I almost died. I am still laughing.

because every time i see someone dulce
i take the person in my arms... rimes come with rhythms
at midnight I will come in your bed

And at midnight he came in my bed. And at midnight each night for the rest of January he came in my bed. My twin bed that my father made that took up the entire room because that’s how small the room was. We fucked every night with just bookshelves separating us from my brother’s room.

“You are the first blonde I’ve slept with,” he told me some time in the night.
I didn’t reciprocate, so he said, “Am I the first Frenchman you have slept with?”

Awkward laughter in the dark.

One morning we brought him to a store called Junk, which sold exactly what you’d think it would. Adrien came up to me and asked me if he thought it would be okay if he stole something. I said it would probably be fine. My brother walked up to us mid-conversation.

“I do not know how to say in English? But…I am a thief?” And he pulled out a psychedelic patterned neon neck warmer from under his shirt.

One of my most romantic memories of living in New York City happened with Adrien. We went to see the movie Manhattan. I had never seen it. We got stoned and then stood in line for half an hour in the freezing cold. He fingered me and touched me and kissed me through the movie.

“There were two funnies,” he said, “that only you and me laughed at.”

I had noticed it too. There was a part where Woody Allen is breaking up with Mariel Hemmingway and blows on the harmonica out of the blue. Adrien and I both laughed loudly while the rest of the theatre was silent. The other part was when Woody is shaking someone’s hand and he says to him, “It’s been a pleasure and a sincere sensation.”

I caught him shoving condoms into my underwear drawer morning. French condoms called Intimy. “For when you are in love,” he said, and I told him that he sounded like my mom.

The morning he left, he wanted me to take him to Beacon’s Closet, a huge and trendy, used clothing store. He wanted to steal knee socks. We kissed goodbye on the corner and we hugged and then we shook hands and he told me I was a sincere sensation and we laughed. I walked him to the L train and then I called my mom and told her I’d found love.

I felt bleak for weeks afterward. I had my blue American Apparel T-shirt, still unwashed, still smelling of him, and slept with it against my bare skin most nights.

The last letter he sent to me read:

hey pussycat,

i write you today because it's a good day, so much sun,
a city to discover. i'm loving that.
yesterday i buy a new necklace, one from india
it is ok to steal nothing, i have values
if you could understand some things,
yes to be in love is scaring
but we always find possibilities
to look for some sincere feelings anyway
you are sincere sensation with smart character
I so enjoy your stupid sensibility
hope you cant understand
with the sun who go to dream
i hope you remember how to
follow the birds
and me, i was dreaming this night, i was walking on a forest, alone,
and find a little dead sheep i saw a tent, a bear was sleeping inside
i just run very fast after that
i am with my dad today and I cant smoke weed in front of my dad its pity
when you come in france ?

your fucked friend from lyon.

Chloe Caldwell’s Legs Get Led Astray is forthcoming from Future Tense.


Zachary Schomburg

from Fjords vol.1


I am walking through a series of doors. On the other side of most doors is the same empty red room, but one door opens up to a room that is actually a field of heather, and another to the same room that is actually a field of heather full of dying dried-out swans. One room is loud with the baby versions of all the people I’ve ever loved and one room is silent with their ghosts. A dark hallway leads me to the last door. On the other side is a mountain town. The air is clean and cold. I can hear the ice breaking in the distance. There is a woman in a long black dress and a black scarf over her face. Welcome to Spitzbergen she says. Then she lifts up her dress. Nothing happens next.

Zachary Schomburg’s Fjords vol.1 is forthcoming from Black Ocean.


Feng Sun Chen

from Butcher's Tree

By the Dark

Two travelers boil in it.
Curtains of dry rock drink the glue
of their sweat.

Maybe they have
a train to catch
or the field of soft stone is a field of milk teeth

they cannot sleep as dreams snag in the esophagus
tear through twin hearted flesh
through bones made of shale.

One can see the other’s rage.
His rage is small but dense. It catches the wet light
by its webbed gravity.

He looks up at the dark
socketed between a ring of mountains.

rage grows smaller and denser
with each point of old light.

That there should be so much walking
and so much distance
even burnt comets must pass.

That his shame should come so far.
That none of this could release him.

The skin on his forehead is pulpy.

He could go back to the woods.

He could go back to the sea if he closed his eyes.

No going anywhere.
His two hearts are growing teeth.

Feng Sun Chen’s Butcher's Tree is forthcoming from Black Ocean.