by Angelina Martin

Save me in your phone as ‘this one simple trick’

therapists HATE this one simple trick:
wandering aimlessly around your neighborhood,
aggressively swatting every low hanging leaf
that made the mistake of dangling in your path,
all because you can’t trade blows
with the real root of your wrath—
that evil bitch in the mirror
who keeps eating all your snacks.
the neighbors probably suspect
you’re insane but you’re certain of it.
you don’t love how angry you get
but you’re trying not to hate it.
so what! you’re a jealous, needy shrew.
so what! your face is quick to flush with blood
at every perceived slight or the faintest whiff of injustice.
so what! you cling tightly to every precious little grudge
like a boomer hoarding ancient receipts.
who knows? you might just need it one day.
but not likely so please unfurl your fists,
pick your teeth out of your cheek,
and try to have a good time, for once, Jesus.
you really do enjoy the concept of inner peace
so you plop yourself down in the park
and examine the ugly heat slow cooking your heart.
why are you really punishing innocent foliage
and curb stomping litter with such unnerving ferocity?
because humiliation has wrapped its arms around you once again,
slobbering all over your proud neck and leaving
loud raw hickeys like bullet wounds so everyone can see
what a great dumb fool you’ve been.
you chastise yourself like a disobedient pet:
               bad! bad! bad!
the dog in you hangs its head
you tell yourself this is the last time
you’ll let anyone embarrass you ever again
but you can’t even think such drivel with a straight face.
for as desperately as you yearn to be
a ruthless avalanche of a lover,
sinking each pathetic ship that dares approach your freezing fury,
you weren’t built like that, all hard and cold and 90 degree angles.
it feels better to melt and so you do, easily and often,
between fingers and occasionally down storm drains.
so what! you’re a sentimental sap.
so what! you’re sickly sweet.
so what! you slice up your own heart into bite size pieces
and pass out free samples to every stranger who spares you some kindness.
hey, there are worse ways to live. I’m assuming.
the park fails to solve all your problems
so you start to drag your heavy heels homeward.
you stop to kick a soccer ball back to some kids
and you feel your stubborn brow unfurrow despite yourself.
oh shit, nevermind! shake those starving hounds off your back!
maybe there’s hope for you yet. maybe
you’re not as useless
as you pretend to be.

Powered by Froala Editor

Powered by Froala Editor

Angelina Martin is a poet, comedian, and retired waitress in Austin, Texas. She has been published in literary magazines such as Sea Foam MagThe Hellebore, and Okay Donkey Mag as well as in the book Anthology: The Ojai Playwrights Conference Youth Workshop 2006-2016. You can usually find her on Twitter and Instagram (@angelinajmartin) or playing basketball even though she is bad at it and doesn’t know the rules.

Powered by Froala Editor

by Korey Hurni

Strawberry Peak

Jeremiah slides in and picks me
up from LAX, assures me to expect nothing
for the rest of the day, telling me to rest, to ease
back into his passenger seat, back
into California, my clothes already loose
and inviting. Like against a lithe curtain, a dry breeze swells
and knots in the slack of my shirt, my chest
hair rises, and for a moment I am made
forgetful, and think myself bare,
cold even, until Jeremiah makes fun
of my former life insulated
by humidity. Too often I feel a passenger
to the subtleties of my body, I watch as my fingertips contour
the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains 
—it is unusual,
brilliant how clear it is today—until I drift
past myself and feel extended wholly
along its ridgeline, almost like dancing—I can see myself nude
and florid on top Strawberry Peak, but Jeremiah nudges me
awake, says I was indiscriminate,
humming, but what if he too saw me rootless,
wandering through the yucca and sage—

Powered by Froala Editor

Powered by Froala Editor

Powered by Froala Editor

Korey Hurni was born and raised in Lansing, MI, and earned his MFA at Western Michigan University where he served as a poetry editor for Third Coast. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.

Powered by Froala Editor

Powered by Froala Editor

by Kaitlyn San Miguel


My mother’s suicide note contained only the word “ano,” which would have been funny if her body, heavy and cold, weren’t slumped over the steering wheel in the airless family car.

All my life I had heard my mother use that word in various settings, but her favorite usage was as a placeholder for a word she’d forgotten. “Anak, can you get me the ano?” she would yell from upstairs as I mindlessly watched reality baking shows in the living room.

“The what?”

“The ano!” she would cry. “You know! It’s blue. In the lower right cabinet in the kitchen.”

I would pull into the driveway from work, and before I could even get off my bike, she would be at the front door. “Don’t forget to put your ano in the laundry! It’s dirty na!”

“Which ano? My pants? My shirt? My underwear?”

She would storm off, frustrated that I hadn’t understood.

Once, she had even abruptly awoken me from a nap. “Anak!” Her eyes were bright, her voice excited. “Ano is on fire!”

Panicked, I had thrown myself out of bed. I rushed to find what in the house was on fire, only to realize that she had been referring to a particularly good contestant on a singing competition show.

I had spent so much time discerning what my mother meant throughout the years, and now, staring at the small scrap of ripped paper bearing her often-used word, I knew the question of this particular meaning would haunt me for years to come.


I didn’t cry at the funeral. My mother had always admonished me for crying when I was young—“It’s not manly to cry, AJ!”—and I felt disturbingly smug about my lack of tears as I threw my handful of dirt into her open grave. The clump burst brilliantly around the smooth, deep oak of the casket.

Elaine stood next to me, dirt balled up in her fist as tears streamed silently down her face. I stared as her knuckles turned white from the pressure of her grip and wondered if she was rebelling in her own way. She had been against the casket our father picked.

“She would have hated it,” she said when he came home and showed us the details of the funeral services. “She would say it looks cheap and panget.”

“This, for once, is not Mama’s decision to make,” our father replied softly but without emotion. “Mama made her decision when she left.”

Now, rooted to the spot, my younger sister refused to throw her dirt in. I expected our father, who was standing on her other side, to nudge her or whisper to her or do something, anything, to stop her foolishness.

Instead, he turned around and gestured toward the gravediggers, who were milling around at a respectful but still close distance.

“We’re finished here.”

The gravediggers swarmed forward as we walked toward the family car, Elaine letting the dirt quietly slip through her fingers and onto the cemetery’s main road.


We did not hold the traditional novena for my mother’s soul after the services. We didn’t refer to her death as a suicide. We rarely spoke of her death at all, actually. Three days after the funeral, we had resumed the roles we played before: Elaine was in her dormitory in Baltimore, our father was on a business trip to Indianapolis, and I was behind a register at the local CVS, ringing up a disheveled woman’s purchase of Plan B and ibuprofen.

My parents hated that I worked at CVS, but what they hated even more was that I worked at 1) a CVS that was 2) ten minutes away from their house which 3) I still lived in, and that 4) said CVS was managed by my old high school classmate Reynaldo, who had barely scraped through our senior year with a 1.9 GPA. My mother’s hatred of all this had been particularly fiery. She insisted to anyone who asked about my CVS job that I was a pharmacy technician.

“Oh yes, Ate Emmy,” I overheard her once telling her older sister on the phone.  “AJ’s always been interested in healthcare. Being a pharmacy technician is just a stepping stone for pharmacy school.”

In reality, I was a “CVS Store Associate,” as my official job title read. And I was a shitty store associate at that.

None of my coworkers spoke to me on my first day in after the funeral. There were no awkward pats, no mumbled apologies, no sympathy cards. Instead, business proceeded as usual. Within the walls of the store, I transformed into the painfully uncomfortable and somewhat inept store worker the customers tried to politely avoid unless absolutely necessary. The glaring fluorescent lights turned my customers pallid and my grief nonexistent. So, I worked a lot.

I didn’t—couldn’t—think about my mother while I was working. For eight hours, my brain sang in harmony with the store heater’s static rippling just below the cheery pop music and random announcements pulsing through the CVS. As soon as my shift ended and I stepped out into the blustery winter wind, my mother’s shell once again slumped against the insides of my eyelids.

Days passed this way, dull and then abjectly slicing and then seemingly never-ending. Elaine called every two days instead of her usual once a week. Our father’s two-week-long trip was extended due to a blizzard. When he finally returned, the only hours we shared together in the house were spent with at least one of us sleeping.

We left my mother’s things untouched for four months. My father tiptoed over her woolen sweaters and beige underwear, dotting their bedroom floor. When I’d rest my feet on the coffee table, I made sure not to disturb her magazines splayed haphazardly on the dusty wooden surface. Perhaps that should have been the first sign, disarray so unlike my mother’s usual strict tidiness that demanded even the tiniest dust mites have their correct place. But what did we know about troubling changes in behavior, what did we feel besides relief that she hadn’t yelled at us for sticking the pancit noodles in the lower left cabinet instead of the lower right? That she made no mention of the mugs I left scattered around my bedroom? My mother, always so quick-tempered and imperious, mute and far away from the misplaced noodles and the unwashed cups. My mother, always so hawkeyed and critical, moving through the last months of her life as though in a trance.

Then there were strange boxes in our driveway. “Should we wait for Elaine to come home before we figure out Mama’s things?” I asked our father. When I looked inside one of the boxes, my mother’s Burberry sunglasses, perched atop a floral Vera Bradley sundress, glittered back at me. My heartbeat quickened. My mother had worn that exact outfit to Easter Sunday mass two years ago—the last mass I had attended before I had accidentally revealed my atheism to her in one of our many fights. “Maybe she wants to keep some stuff. I think they are the same size.”

“No,” our father replied, not moving his gaze from the basketball game on the television. The Lakers were down by twelve points. “Elaine wouldn’t want any of that.”

He was right, but I said nothing. I’d hoped Elaine would visit the house more often now that it was just me and our father, but she hadn’t. Instead, she kept her normal distance, dutifully and regularly calling but never offering to drive to the house. She would stay the coming summer in Baltimore, doing research on cervical cancer at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. As before, I wasn’t sure when I’d see her in person next.

“Are we going to throw everything away? Or are we going to donate anything?” I didn’t ask if we would keep anything. I knew that answer.

“No,” he said again, still unmoving. “No donation. They were her things. She would want them to stay her things.”

He spoke with so much authority I almost believed him, as if he knew what my mother had wanted, as if anyone ever had.


The question caught me off guard. Elaine and I didn’t speak of my mother. When Elaine called, we mostly discussed her undergrad life, and even though I had only received my bachelor’s two years earlier, college felt worlds away: the genetics class she was a TA for, a book she’d read for a South African literature class, the other executive board members of the Filipino association she headed. Sometimes she’d talk about a boy she was seeing. Sometimes she’d ask me if there was a boy I was seeing. She was the only one in the family who addressed that.

“Do I miss her?” I repeated somewhat incredulously, wanting to make sure I had heard her correctly.

She snorted. “Yeah, I guess it’s a kind of dumb question.”

“No, no,” I said hurriedly. “It’s not dumb. Just… unexpected.”

Elaine was quiet.

“Sometimes,” I admitted, the answer so honest it must have surprised both of us. “Sometimes, when I have the time to think about it.”

Elaine exhaled loudly. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah. I think it’s the same for me, too.”

“Even after everything?”

“Especially after everything. She wasn’t my mom and she never tried to be, but she was the closest thing I could get to one. At least she didn’t stop me from being close to our dad.”

“So you still miss her?” I asked, the need to confirm suddenly overwhelming me. “Even though she hated you?”

“I mean…. She hated you too, Kuya. And here you are still missing her.”

Now it was my turn to be quiet.

Elaine cleared her throat. “Is that fucked up?”

I laughed a little. “I think it’s all fucked up.”


Six months after my mother’s funeral, I visited her grave for the first time, not because I wanted to, but because the guilt was slowly eating me away. Her headstone looked cold and hard despite the day’s heat, the ground strangely mottled as though the decay of bodies seeped through the surrounding soil.

I didn’t bring flowers. I didn’t pray.

Instead, I stood staring at the inscription on the headstone: GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN. No LOVING MOTHER, no CARING WIFE, no FRIEND TO ALL that shone on some of the other graves of departed women. Just GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN. A premonition, and a threat.

At least it was true.

Three rows ahead, a crowd was gathered around what was presumably an open grave. A man was leading the group in a solemn prayer.

Suddenly a child cried out, the evident pain in his voice piercing through my body. “Mama!” he yelled frantically. “Mama! Mama!”

No one answered. The man continued praying.        

“Mama!” the boy shrieked between deep gasps for air. “Mama, please!”

Without thinking, I took a step forward, extending my arm out as though to touch the screaming boy I couldn’t see. My hand grasped air.

“Shh, AJ,” I heard a voice softly cooing. The boy’s shrieks ebbed. “Hush now. You’re a big boy, aren’t you? Shh. Big boys don’t cry.”

I squinted to see if I could discern the cooing voice and the boy in the crowd. I searched as though seeing their faces would open a door for me, would put the woolen sweaters back in the closet and the beige underwear in the drawer, would make the fluorescent lights in the CVS dim and shudder off.

I couldn’t make the two out in the sea of black-clad mourners. I inhaled, clenched my fists, and turned away. I walked toward the family car, the dry grass crunching under my heavy steps forward.

Powered by Froala Editor

Powered by Froala Editor

Kaitlyn San Miguel (she/they) is a queer Filipino writer based in Princeton, NJ. She works as an associate production editor at Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing and moonlights as a liberal arts graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. Their poetry and short stories have appeared in Cosmonauts Avenuepetrichor, and Black Fox Literary Magazine.

Powered by Froala Editor

by John Carr Walker


I peel myself from wet sheets, calling to my mother for help. She wipes down the plastic cover fitted to my mattress and remakes the bed while I, shut-eyed against bright bathroom lights, change into fresh pajamas. I keep at least two pair that fit, Transformers and G. I. Joe, though by now the printed cartoons make me feel almost as much a baby as still wetting the bed. I sleep dry the rest of the night, only to wake up wet again tomorrow.

I’m twelve, too old for these accidents to still be accidents—must be something wrong with me, I conclude. Something I couldn't see or feel. On the advice of doctors, I strip dairy from my diet, resulting in the longest month of this milk-guzzling cheese lover’s young life. Three days a week, my mother drives me to a chiropractic office where I lie on a table and try to relax while my glands are stimulated, the chiropractor’s knuckles working like pistons in my soft abdomen. I refuse fluids after six o’clock. I set an alarm for the middle of the night. Nothing fixes me. I sleep through the alarm and wake yet again in the aftermath, soaked in fluids I hadn’t put in my body. I’m starting to think of myself as failed experiment, as alien specimen, my biology part hose or fountain. Whenever I dare imagine myself, I see me from above, my body on tables, scientists scratching their heads over my impossible autopsy. Of course, the doctors, the chiropractor, and everyone else promises I will eventually outgrow wetting the bed, but I had already waited a lifetime. Childhood passes slowly when every night is split into before and after.

Although I only wet the bed at night, I was a bedwetter all the time, and being a bedwetter eroded possibilities. I couldn’t sleep over at friends’ houses. I skipped camp with my sixth-grade class in Sonora; I joined the seventh-grade class instead, and for a week I avoided answering my new classmates’ questions about why I was not at camp. My evasions, misdirection, and outright lies proved more isolating than if I’d faked sick and stayed home, but not as isolating as wetting the bed at camp would have been. The teachers knew I wet the bed; they knew why I could not tell anyone my age the truth. My mother told a few parents as well. If I’d been invited to stay the night somewhere, my mother would decline on my behalf, and on the drive home she’d give me another name in the shadow network of adults who kept my secret from their children, my friends. Knowing they knew made me more ashamed than ever. Being a secret bedwetter chiseled all my experience into certain shapes. Decided the poses I assumed. Made keeping the secret my life’s work: I couldn’t imagine surviving exposure.

I was made of hidden frailties.


My father had been applying a chemical to our family vineyards that depressed the population of Black Widows since before I was born, but after changing chemicals when I was twelve-years-old the population exploded.

The first Black Widow I ever saw had made a web in the irrigation valve of a vineyard row. It appeared as a red hourglass floating in the dark, little more than a heat spot in my vision, barely enough to make me pause before putting my hand in the valve to turn the regulator. As my eyes adjusted, the Black Widow’s fat body and eight sharp legs like jointed needles resolved into view. I asked my father what I’d found. He killed the Black Widow with the end of his shovel handle.

Soon Black Widows moved out of irrigation valves up the canopy of vines to live between the berries of grape bunches. They dropped flossy webs from our garage rafters to the concrete floor, their black bodies camouflaged like assassins in the night. I found a Black Widow in the coat closet by our back door, vibrating in her web with a blister-white egg sack; after that I checked my coats with a flashlight before putting them on.

Black Widow venom induced nonstop retching, shook the body from the inside out, and could prove fatal to the very old, the very young, and the ill—the last danger zone terrified me most because I worried venom entering my body would expose yet another frailty I didn’t know hid inside me.

Around the dinner table one night, my mother told a story about Black Widows making their homes in port-a-potties, which from everything I’d been learning about the invaders on our doorstep, sounded to me like ideal Black Widow habitats: dark and damp, where victims willingly exposed their softest, most tender flesh to attack. She claimed to know someone bitten in the privates. I could not have borne such humiliation.


Held annually in my hometown and attracting people from all over the central valley, the Caruthers fair was the largest free-gate fair in California. The very old checked in with each other to learn who had survived the year. The very young were debuted, shown off. Older children rode rides, claimed midway prizes, asked their parents for toys from stalls in the commerce barn, and to look again at the animals in the Future Farmers of America pens. Teenagers shared first kisses at the fair. I’d been one of the babies debuted and in a few years would be one of the kissing teenagers. At twelve, I was in between, and a secret bedwetter.

My mother gave me money for rides, games, and root beer before she started another shift volunteering at my school’s food booth. I suppose she wanted me to enjoy myself, safe from my nighttime problem, but I’d learned to gauge risk in every situation, and the fair seemed dangerous.

In the midway, the smells of cotton candy and corn dogs mingled with the fumes of diesel that kept the rides spinning. People lined up to ride the Gravitron, Zipper, and Hammerhead, each pulsing with colored bulbs. Barkers shouted at passersby, daring them to test their luck. Extension cords passed under gray protective covers crossing the grass path—I looked at those dull shields instead of meeting the eyes of strangers or searching for friends in the crowd. I wanted to be invisible, inaudible, without mass or a trace of odor. I kept out of everyone’s way, kept away from people I knew, and kept drinking my root beer. Soon I needed a bathroom.

My blood went cold at the sight of port-a-potties. I could almost see through the plastic doors to an executioner’s row of Black Widows, rubbing their legs in anticipation of unwitting victims. Except I was not unwitting. I'd armed myself with knowledge and would not be undone by the urge to pee. I held it. Turned more laps around the crowded midway, ignoring the barkers, side-stepping couples, hiding from classmates. Until I pissed my pants.

One story should not have been enough to frighten me out of using port-a-potties, especially as pressure built in my bladder, but my reality had been shaped by stories, by imagining what would happen if. I didn’t skip sleepovers and sixth-grade camp because I wet the bed, I skipped because of the stories I’d invented about what would happen if my friends ever found out I wet the bed: I’d be ridiculed, pariah-fied, ejected from friendships with cause. The truth about me would flood the world, drowning my past as well as future, and I would never arrive anywhere I hadn’t already pissed myself. To pass the hours I might have otherwise spent with friends I read books, adding shape and form to the dramas already in my head. Of course I avoided port-a-potties. I’d pictured Black Widows biting my penis, pictured my gnawed penis falling off, though not before deadly poison had spread to the rest of my body—I’d imagined calling my mother from another room to help me, and imagined her arriving too late, to find a husk of skin and blood on the floor, a death spasm knocking my knees. Such conjurations overpowered reality.

I rushed from the midway without letting myself run. Found some privacy at the back of the food booth. Rubbed the corduroy grain of my pants up and down until I'd blended the wet and dry to the same shade, more or less. Soon my mother checked on me. I must have stunk. My hands were sticky. My face throbbed scarlet. I felt my body had betrayed me. Root beer had betrayed me. The fair had betrayed me. My secret—my life—balanced on the edge of exposure.

My mother gave me a long look but didn’t ask for explanations. I sat on a food booth stool for the rest of her shift, assuring her this was where I wanted to be, that I didn’t need anything, not even water. I felt the first breeze of fall blowing through my wet pants, which signaled the Black Widows’ coming hibernation, so in a way I’d saved myself. By refusing to use a port-a-potty I’d outlasted the threat for another year. My legs remained strong enough to stand on, even if shivering. I would suffer no collapsing muscles, no poison seizures, no parts dropping off. The fair had betrayed me, but I would not forever spoil the fair for all those people, family, friends, and strangers, who would have otherwise watched me die.

Powered by Froala Editor

Powered by Froala Editor

Powered by Froala Editor

John Carr Walker is the author of the story collection Repairable Men (Sunnyoutside, 2014). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gimmick Press, Shantih, Hippocampus, Gravel, Five:2: One, The Toasted Cheese, Inlandia, Split Lip, The Collagist, and Pithead Chapel. A native of California's San Joaquin Valley, he now lives in Oregon.

Powered by Froala Editor

Powered by Froala Editor