by Lucille Walker

Everything Is Not Fine Right Now

Under the white graduation tent,

our paper cups of wine
leaving red spots on the tablecloths,

summer wind
causing everyone's eyes to linger
on each others exposed arms,

my professors tell me
to keep in touch.

This seems like a trap.

Like when I’m out at a neon bar.
The sour air forming water droplets
on my arm hair.

A friend will ask me,
Are you having fun?

There is no answer.
So I say,

Smiling in a way that says,
Yes, yes, having fun.

This is not the way they want it.
So there passes a disappointment
from her to me.

So she says,
Are you sure?

And we are in a nowhere place
where I am a performance piece
of fun-having.

Fun fun dreamy fun.
Yes yes funny girl.
Bubbles and fun and more yes and yes yes.

There is no point
and I’d like to be alone.

Peter Bogdanovich's wife
needed to receive polio shots
when she was a child in Germany

and described how white-coated men
surrounded her hospital bed
day after day with a long needle.

She fought them and fought them.
Until she made a choice to give in
and so the shots didn't hurt as much.

So yes I am fun having.
Having fun girl.

Yes, please, keep in touch.

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Lucille Walker is a New England poet with an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She has been most recently published in STONECROP magazine and Radius.

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by Elijah Rushing Hayes

Lost Field Guide

I should live so at the end I don’t have to repent. I’m nearer the moon than the sun.
As in I could be someone else.
I’m an axe and you’re the stump. You teach me how to be. We buy powder that
Turns flames into multiple colors. We sit by the fire and gaze. I grow
A beard under tough old stars. I shut my eyes. Height: 5’8. Diameter: unsure.

Mostly along streams, canyons, washes, rocky slopes.
Bisexual flowers. Disk-shaped. Waterlike. When I had my breasts removed, I went home
With tubes coming out my newly shaped chest. You pulled the blood out of them.
Thick into a bowl. It hurt, the way the plastic tubes pulled at the holes, the stitches.
Later a nurse pulled the tubes out of my chest, I barely felt it.
I was glad. Woodland zones. NE. Buckeye and goldenrod. I used to want to join the Navy.
But I couldn’t. Stalked and drooping. Wishing to be someone else.

July 9th—Seem to feel as though all my efforts amount to nothing...
Dull light green, turning yellow, shedding in autumn. Crowded leaf scars.
The water oak from this year is above the earth, full of itself. Leaves shaped like tears.
Feeling a kind of negative holiness, my higher power frowning down upon me.
Notes of birds, frogs, tree-toads, all seem gloomy; the wood-pile, the old house,
The meadow—all sad. Go out and see my father laboring all alone.
The mower mowing. He sprays it off with a hose at the end of the day.
I admire him. How nothing is wasted.

I’ve never been active but I’m always poised for an argument.
Robins, mockingbirds, missing Grandmother.
I thought I’d be beautiful as a boy. When I transitioned, I went from
Hairless to mostly hairy. We buy razors. We take our time. I wished for a long time
To be like my father. But I’m more like my mother. I come back to myself.

July 19 th—have an interesting conversation with a marine sniper.
She doesn’t smile. When I shake her hand, her grip is soft.
I’m running on my own sweet will, answering rings in the woods. Hairy twigs.
Dark purple. Naked seeds. I’m leaning forward, forked, irregular, spreading crown.

Flashing in the early afternoon sun, I hold your hand, buy okra. Nearly transparent.
Bark: gray; thin, scaly, exposing dark red inner bark.
You administered my first shot of testosterone in the doctor’s office. Easily.
A quick jab. And I was full. Your eyes teared at the edges. I felt nothing.
I wondered if that is what it meant to transition. To feel nothing as your body grows.
Fertilized and mature. Raising myself and becoming a body of light.

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Elijah is a transgender man from Alabama. His writing has appeared in jubilat, The Boiler, BOOTH, Hayden’s Ferry Review and other various journals. He is the author of the chapbooks Mad Dances for Mad Kings (Factory Hollow Press, 2015) and There Is One Crow That Will Not Stop Cawing (Another New Calligraphy, 2016). He earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is an editor for Biscuit Hill, an online poetry journal. He can be contacted at Instagram Handle: elijahrushinghayes

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by Molly Zhu

After it was all over

my father returned to Beijing and bought
a dozen lightbulbs for my grandmother, replaced each dying
glass tuber drooping from her ceiling, dried up and hollow,
just out of her reach for many months.

She told me on the phone, my apartment has never been so 
bright. In Chinese, I learn to nod with my words.
Your father is a good man…then a silence,
stretched thin like the wisps from a broken lotus root,
like the love she still extends to a man who is no longer her son.
I feel her wanting to ask me something stitched and raw
and bursting like the belly of a watermelon, a release
like surrendering a kite into a gale storm.
We both wince silently to ourselves,

is she wondering how things fall apart? I want to ask her:
if the end comes slowly or in one giant collapse, if her throat
ever burns when she remembers how a fact unravels, if
she’ll always carry a murmuring ache

when she pictures my parents and the rest of their evenings,
spent in different hemispheres of the same globe
seated in wooden chairs at the foot of the full-size dining table,
eating their meals silently, both

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Molly is a lawyer by day and a poet by night. Her poems are about gender, Chinese culture, family and the people she loves. She has previously been published in Hobart Pulp, the Ghost City Press, and the Bombay Review, among others. In 2021, she was nominated for a Pushcart prize. She is the winner of the inaugural Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize hosted by the Cordella Press and her first chapbook will be published and available for purchase this year. To learn more, please visit

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by Andy Bodinger

A Shattered Bone

In her own words Karly was an outsider to the fabric of family life. Growing up, it was her, her mom, and no one else. Her dad departed before she was born, her grandparents were long dead, and her uncle was cut off when she was eight. Twelve years on, Karly’s university team was competing in Model UN in Oklahoma City, not far from her uncle’s transplanted life. Following a long weekend of delegations, she was thrilled to see him again. Though, it wasn’t until Karly knocked on his door that she realized that there were cardinal, familial threads she hadn’t before considered: namely, awkwardness.

Uncle Tommy opened the front door a smidge and smiled through the crack. “What’s the good news?” he asked. He’d greet her at the door when she was little the same way. “Who's the intruder?” or “What’s the passcode?” he’d ask as he peeked at his niece. Beyond his symmetrically gapped teeth and the spittle bubbling in the crease of his mouth, all Karly could make out was a rugged silhouette in a faded flannel; he still looked twelve years older, twelve years balder, twelve years fatter.

Karly did not have good news. She forced a smile, nodded politely, and responded with a quiet hello. Her embarrassment was first and second-hand because she had grown up and he had plateaued.

She had imagined catching up with Tommy, potentially one day reuniting him, her, and her mom and closing that long-held schism. Or, at the very least, spending the afternoon petting the heads of Tommy’s furry rodents. Her enthusiasm reverberated into nerves once he unlatched the door.

“Come on in, blondie. Where’s your car?” he asked, his voice skittering and boisterous.

Karly had regained some contact with Tommy when she was a teenager, following him across several of his social media profiles. For the better part of a decade Tommy was just an overly confident photo of Albert Camus. Shriveled cigarette between knowing lips. Their interactions were memorized birthdays, virtual cards for graduation, the rare snapshots of baby guinea pigs.

“Make yourself at home," he said, and she winced. His house was scarcely bigger than a nook with a handful of abutting rooms. Too late for an excuse. Charity, she told herself—her visit was now an act of charity. If she could mend what was broken, she would. But, if not, she would move on.

A flat-screen opposite a recliner, a SmartPad glowing on a glass coffee table. The living room was a hazy stench of denim and floral detergent. The streaks from a mop curved inwardly across the wooden floor in a wind-swept pattern. In one hand was Tommy’s phone, a headphone cord trailing into his head, and in the other, a pair of sushi rolls.

“Work call,” he said, pointing at his ears. “Get settled. No need to wear that blazer—let me help you. Too hot for that down here even in the spring.”

Karly tried to move to the side and begin to shake her blazer off her own shoulders. Tommy, shoving one of the rolls in his mouth, got up and stood behind Karly, smothering her in the wingspan of his shadow and plucked her jacket off with the available tips of his fingers

“Ike could’a come in, I hope he knows,” Tommy said.

“He knows.” Ike her 25-year-old boyfriend with a monochromatic wardrobe and a lip piercing, had dropped her off. He flew down with her from Massachusetts to Oklahoma. As she spent the length of her days following procedures and bargaining in unmoderated mock caucuses, he drove the rental around Oklahoma City, coming back to their hotel room the following morning drunk as she was preparing to leave. He would stand in the doorway before her, slinking a wanting hand to her waist and holding it there and begging for several minutes before relenting.

“I meet parents,” Ike had told her as he pulled into Tommy’s driveway, “That I’ll do. I don’t do cousins, I don’t do aunts, and if there is anything I don’t do, it's uncles.”

Tommy shoved the other sushi roll into his mouth, chewed, and sucked debris of seaweed from his lower lip. “I hope your delegation or whatever won,” he said as his cheeks shrunk.

“Not exactly,” Karly said. “It was more of a crisis than a conference.”

“Ha-ha! Wait a sec, sorry, my boss just asked me a direct question. Give me a moment, would ya?” He half-ran to his recliner.

Nothing about Tommy was different; the house even resembled his old Vermont home. Vermont’s green and white pastures felt a kinship with the red and dusty expanse of Oklahoma in the same way that the Sahara and the Arctic follow the same barren logic. The houses too were familiar single-story scars of wood, penned-in green gardens, cozy humidity. The houses both breathed the same scattered breaths, their precious few doorways gasping at stationary air and loosening their grips on stapled hinges.

The house looked smaller on the inside than on the outside, yet the appliances, and indeed Tommy himself, were stumbling blocks, intimidating like shadowy patterns in a corn maze. Worse still, there was no scent or sound of pigs. Tommy hadn’t mentioned or alluded to his pets in his correspondence with Karly recently, but after so many years she couldn’t imagine his life devoid of animals.

“Uh-hum. Uh-hum,” he said as he lit a cigarette before quieting down, only providing interjecting chortles.

When Karly was little, years after they stopped visiting Tommy, her mother said, “Your uncle is an asshole who only cares about himself and his stupid rodents,” recounting how when they were kids he would lick the icing off doughnuts and put them back in the box and how as teenagers, he would open her diaries and dog-ear miscellaneous pages.

Starting as a teenager herself, Karly grew wary of her mother’s molding; her raised nose around girls wearing tight pants, her disapproving clicks of tongue towards women who wore a hijab, her disgust at piercings stuck anywhere that wasn’t an ear. Yet, she had also taught Karly to trust her instincts. If by Tommy’s sheer presence her anxiety coursed, Karly thought, he would be too awkward for a meal. Maybe their reunion needed to conclude as a crack in the door, the flaring ends of a hanging blazer.

She investigated the house on her tiptoes, seeking out a corner of a separate room to change her clothes and call Ike. She didn’t want to be impolite and explore her uncle’s house and leave him, yet she had no idea how long his work would take, how long dinner would go on for, how many polite fake laughs she could tolerate.

Tommy mumbled from his chair. Karly nabbed her bag by the coat rack and measured out furtive steps towards a door tucked beside the washing machine. She handled its knob, turned it slowly. She heard the muffled tangentials of pitter-patter. The door squeaked and she paused. There was the swishing of paper. She pushed further, the squeaks resounding and awakening a choir of chirping rodents. Behind gridded C&C cages lining the walls were numerous discrete colonies of multi-colored guinea pigs perching their paws on black rungs. 

Several fans oscillated a necessary breeze. Some pigs had short hair, others, long, Abyssinian bangs, all clean and groomed. They all zoomed in excitement, over inky newspapers and slash-and-burn remnants of hay, under forts of blankets and through groves of cardboard tents.

Tommy had expanded the concentric circle of himself. Karly had to admit that, though nothing with Tommy had really changed, she was still eminently curious. She had never had pets of her own. Growing up, her mom never budged, believing them to be a frivolous expense, and Ike had no interest in the responsibility nor the smell. She was overwhelmed by her own excitement. The guinea pigs’ sonorous cries echoed in all directions. Karly kneeled above the central pen.

“Never trust a single man who gets himself a vasectomy,” Karly’s mother warned about Tommy. She told him to his face that he was the epitome of abrasiveness, that he didn’t understand the first thing about family, that he only cared for his mindless rodents. Karly saw her point now: these cages were pristine while the rest of his home languished.

Forgetting her plan for an Irish goodbye, Karly reached her hand into a nearby bag labeled “Pea Flakes.” The rustling plastic incurred the pigs to chirp louder, bolting to the perimeter of the cage at her feet. Even though she was a stranger, when she reached her hand down into the cage, the fearless rodents ate from her palm. Unlike his older pigs from many years ago, these were not easily spooked. The pigs lining the walls cried sonorously, echoing in all directions. One pig in particular, crowded out from her hand, waddled in circles trying to find a way in, eyes shining and hopeful, glimmers of prey-like empathy.


Twelve years ago, when Karly was eight, she went to visit her uncle in his Vermont home. She had learned days earlier that he had bought young guinea pig triplets from a breeder. When Tommy opened his front door a crack, she shimmied through it, ignoring his greeting of the week, and bolted to the den. Her mom and Tommy spoke in the front room as she greeted the trio.

She had no reference point for handling rodents. She wanted to treat them like her friends’ dogs or cats who were easily approached and tolerated the way children held and cuddled them.

She tried to pick up a brown long-haired pig named Dresden. Tommy had sent her pictures of him. Dresden sprinted into his transparent plastic igloo. She didn’t know that the pack was on edge, seldom leaving their hidey holes. She wasn’t prepared for his cries and fear when she reached her hands in after him.

He kicked up a storm of wood chips as Karly hoisted him by the stomach with one hand and stood up. She tried to stroke him as he thrashed, pushing off her fingers with his nails in convulsions. “It’s okay! Calm down!” she said, attempting to sooth him. He squirmed through her pudgy grip, first falling into her wrist, rolling off and then landing on her other hand. Her hand-eye coordination mixed up its signals and she inadvertently launched him into her waist. From there Dresden tumbled to her knee and spiraled onto the ground, hitting the floor squarely on his back.

Years later, Karly found a diagram of guinea pig anatomy in a library book, learning that guinea pig spines are curved much like how turtles’ spines arc through their shells. The spine’s crack was inaudible and invisible, yet for years Karly dreamed of every muscle tightening, of bone shrapnel, of the unequal snap of a wishbone.

Dresden died an hour later.


In the hot Oklahoma house, bare footsteps, too light to be Tommy’s, resounded. Karly’s hand was emptied of the pea flakes and the guinea pigs scampered away as an unfamiliar woman kneeled beside Karly.

“Cute, right?” she asked. She smelled warm, sugary. Her voice was high, her face a smattering of freckles. Karly couldn’t place her. A pet sitter, maybe? Her tie-dyed shirt blanketed her jean shorts; strawberry blonde hair dried behind her shoulders. She wasn’t much older than Karly, if older at all. The pigs’ chirping had stopped, losing interest in Karly the moment she no longer had food and their memory of crinkling plastic faded. The room quieted to the angling of fans. 

“But you shouldn’t be touching them,” the woman said, her voice raised and eyebrows pointed. She wagged her finger Karly’s way. “You know better than that.”

Whoever she was, Tommy had told her about Dresden. He hadn’t moved on. Karly’s insides liquefied. This woman, this child, Karly thought, was shaming her for a twelve-year-old sin. Karly felt eight again, peeking into the living room where Tommy and her mother were arguing.

“She’s a kid! You should’ve been in there with her. You shouldn’t have gotten her so excited.” Her mom was yelling.

“Leave,” Tommy had said, cradling the stiff body in his hands. “Get out of my house.”

Before Karly could respond to the woman’s chastising, the lurching silhouette of Tommy entered the room. The woman stood up. Tommy set the bony prints of his fingers on her petite shoulder. How had Karly missed their gold bands? Her vision tunneled. Tommy’s awkward playfulness now seemed like a ruse.

“Meetings over. Are we hungry?” he asked, gazing between the two girls. “Karly, this is my wife, Emily.”

“What do you think?” Emily asked, offering her hand. “I’m good with picky eaters.”

Karly stood up on her own and tried to resist a minute tremor. Tommy was married to a girl her age, though blonder and maternal. She couldn’t trust him. To what degree was his bumbling even real?

“I should call Ike,” Karly said. She gestured to pass between them.

Tommy’s face contorted sourpuss, eyes soggy with a pitiful droop. “Don’t do this to me,” he said, defiance weak on his lips. He didn’t budge to let Karly through. He stood taller; his chest widened. A grown man, two young women, an audience of caged rodents on all sides. The standoff continued, a bead of sweat perched on Karly’s nose.

“Baby,” Emily said to Tommy. He surrendered. His puffed chest receded and he moved his shoulder aside to allow Karly to pass.

“I told you,” Tommy said. He and Emily followed Karly to the living room. Karly draped her blazer on her arm.

“Didn’t I tell you? Her mother got to her,” Tommy said. “You can’t trust family, not one bit.”

Karly tapped Ike’s name on her phone. She placed her hand on the knob of the front door. This wasn’t right.

“Has he told you everything?” Karly asked Emily. She didn’t know whom she was hurting, but she didn’t care. She made a puncturing guess at the lies that undercut their marriage, scattershot. “Just so you know, your man is snipped.”

Tommy grimaced; Emily clutched the ends of her shirt. Bullseye.


When Karly left, Ike picked her up in their rented silver mini-van and drove them away along a plain road towards the city, the interstate transitioning from farms and copses. Karly explained to Ike why she left so early. 

“This is why I don’t meet creepy uncles,” Ike said, tongue adjusting his lip ring. “Why is your family the literal worst?” Karly ignored his question.

“We should adopt a bulldog,” Karly said, ignoring him. Whenever they talked about moving in together, like before they fell asleep or when he stood at her sink doing his skincare routine, his answer was the same: “not a chance,” he said, pulling his hair into a bun before treating the tight stiches of his acne scars.

“Nuh-uh,” Ike said. He tapped his fingers on the wheel, “We’ve talked about this.”

Out the window, a sizzling rise of smoke and a glimpse of a red truck emerged in the shoulder lane.

Karly prodded Ike, her voice swelling with each question.

“A rat? A hamster? A guinea pig?”

“Why are you pressing this?” Ike asked.

The red truck grew closer. Karly could see that a solemn woman was sitting in the passenger seat. A child in the back. And a man, hands on his hips, was standing in front of the open hood of the car. Karly thought about the perturbations of an argument she overheard as she waited for Ike outside Tommy’s house. Nondescript, sparring yells back and forth. Ike didn’t change lanes as he sped by the red truck and the stranded family. 

“What about a betta fish? Just one,” Karly asked, watching the rearview mirror.  “We could watch it swim in circles.”

“Not even that,” Ike said.

Ike had talked about the two of them getting a lease together. When they drove them past apartments for lease, he said there were possibilities, maybe with roommates, or maybe not, depending; something he’d consider. Karly considered his considerations as the family’s eyes seemed to track them. Deserted echoes that, as far as Karly could tell, would disappear from existence the moment their light could no longer reach the mirror.

The family was temporarily remarkable. They were meager indentations on a carpeted floor. Ike’s eyes remained trained forward, and Karly waited for the final glimmer of red to be obstructed behind the curvature of an under paved road. 

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Andy Bodinger is a fiction writer and a PhD student at Ohio University. He earned his MFA from Oklahoma State University where he was an associate editor at The Cimarron Review. He is formerly an ESL teacher, having worked in The Czech Republic and China. His work has appeared in Lunch Ticket, BULL, and Flash Fiction Magazine, among other places.

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- For Helen Long by Steven Long

After Netflix Binge, You Have to Make Your Own Fun

To entertain ourselves as we trudge across the tundra of the waking day, my daughter and I argue over impractical philosophical questions and invent future worlds.

Maybe, for example, when I’m, like, ninety-two years old, my daughter will be a genetic engineer and still live close to home, or I will live close to my daughter’s home, or we’ll both live near our favorite coffee shop, and the owners of the coffee shop will call it The “Coffee” Shoppe because, by then, all the honeybees will have died and genetics engineers will have built coffee-flavored lima beans. Maybe the “coffee” shop will even be called The Roasted Lima Bean.

Maybe my daughter and I will meet for “coffee” after her days of re-stacking the genomes of anything not-bees. 

We will both hoard cats. And also argue over the best categories for cat names. 

She will insist that “words for family role designation” be toward the top, so she can tell people stuff like, “Today, we had to put Dad down,” or “Today, Mom’s fleas have been acting up again.” I’ll counter that everyone living in a house should have a corresponding pet with his or her name, so I can tell people, “Today, I had to take Helen to the vet and have her anal glands expressed.” However, we will both agree on two favorite categories of cat names: (1) minor film criminals viewed with derision by the other characters, which will allow me to name one of my kittens Little Don Segretti and (2) causes of death, which will allow my daughter to name one of her kittens Autoerotic Asphyxiation.  

Maybe in 2060, the Gulf of Mexico shoreline will have crept up over the southern Houston suburbs, and my daughter and I will sip our warm somethings on the south “coffee” shop deck, on the sea wall, and see the sea where south Houston used to be, while molten Greenland slops its sounding sighs beneath our feet. To our North, smokestacks will stand erect like fists and middle fingers. And maybe not all “coffee” shops will allow pets, but the one where I will meet my daughter does, and my daughter’s kitten Prostatic Hyperplasia will curl around my foot while my kitten Blunt Trauma will rake her paw down the other’s squinting face. 

Perhaps my daughter will smuggle into the “coffee” shop the white lab mice she can’t bring herself to kill or maim. And she’ll name these mice after infamous white-collar criminals.  Maybe I will sit at our table on the porch on the sea and see the four black beady eyes of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling lock with mine across the brim of her hat.

Maybe my daughter will tell me something like,

Today, I made Ken Lay’s sister into a miniature horse, and tomorrow, I’ll splice a gene into Jeffrey Skilling’s clone that will allow her to clap her front paws together in rhythm.

Then maybe my daughter and I will both sit there and both take a sip. Maybe then my daughter will say,

The day after tomorrow, I’ll splice a gene into Jeffrey Skilling’s cousin that will make her next baby into a miniature horse and a solver of differential equations.

Maybe I will respond:

Last night, a cat slept on my neck.

Perhaps, my daughter will demand that we replace “while” with “whilst” during our conversations and preface all prophecies with the words “Verily, verily…”  For example, she might say something like,

Today, whilst I made Ken Lay’s brother into a horse, I glimpsed the future… 

And then I might get confused and want to know, “Verily, Verily, … what?” And she will tell me to stop interrupting her and say, “Verily, verily, Ken Lay’s brother will one day make a fine steed.”  

Then I will tell my daughter that

last night, I dreamed Famine chased Starvation into the food pantry, and I locked them in there, and they ate my whole box of Lucky Charms. Then, after I woke up from the dream, Starvation curled up on my stomach and Famine slept draped across my eyes.

And maybe my daughter will respond that

last night, I dreamed they made some of the marshmallows in Lucky Charms out of bacon—only it wasn’t real bacon. It was fake bacon.

I might then add that

last night, I also dreamed that my penis turned into an Allen Wrench. Then, later, after I woke up from THAT dream, Famine bit my left eyebrow hair and wouldn’t let go, and Starvation slept the rest of the night with her paw jammed in my navel.  

Maybe when my daughter and I drink lima bean faux coffee, we will both sigh at the same time.  Which will be really cool. 

And both of us will bathe in a bath of south Texas air. And maybe my daughter will ask aloud why names of boats sound like insults, which will cause me to utter desperate prophecies, and then I will ask aloud why names of geometrical objects sound like insults.

Maybe my daughter will ponder in silence and then ask me if I have “heard the one about the group of Mycenaeans milling about outside the Agropolis?” And I will answer No.”  

And she will tell me that famous joke about the time one Mycenaean asks the others

Did you guys hear that Achilles tried to pick a fight with the River God?  

The other Mycenaeans are about to answer when Achilles himself suddenly appears—completely sopping wet—and says, “OR, maybe the River God was just being a dick.”  

Then maybejust to be a sopping dickI will not laugh at all, even though I really do think the joke is funny, and I will only respond, “When War sleeps, he snores, and his snores sound like porn film soundtracks.”

Maybe my daughter and I will sit drinking “coffee,” watching the orange cookie sun dunk down into the hot Abuelita-brown bay and watch the score of gasoline processing plants flipping us off, and maybe all the polar bears in the world won’t have drowned. Maybe the last polar bears will ride all the way to east Texas on a chunk of Greenland that cracked off from its main ice shelf. I will have the chance to say,

Verily, verily, mayest we receive the white bears on their frozen white berg with depths of reverence equal to our gratitude.

And maybe my daughter will gut-punch me back. “Now you’re thinking like a leaking punt,” while my daughter and the mouse Michael Milken, in her lab coat front pocket, seem both to shoot a damning gaze at me. Perhaps she will add, “Your head is like a hollow, leaking scull.”

But maybe, having achieved enlightenment, I will tell her with perfect equanimity that  

Last night, Thrombophlebitis wandered into an adjacent field and was plucked up by a red-tailed hawk. And so this morning, I no longer have Thrombophlebitis.  

And perhaps she’ll respond, “I don’t understand,” and my enlightenment will once again be clouded: “That’s because you’re a rhombus,” I’ll say. “You can’t understand because you’re a truncated cone-head.” 

Maybe my daughter and I will sit drinking warm Abuelita and feel neither the crush of the inward weight of the world, nor trace of the outward plosions of craving, and through the non-medium of our emptied selves hear Galveston Bay slop the sea wall before us, and feel it clothe the I-59 Freeway in thick forgetful waves. And maybe thenwhile we toss our unused pets to the grateful, starving bearsmy daughter will remember to tell me, “Tomorrow, I’ll use Martha Stewart’s daughter to make a tiny, little polar bear.” And that will remind me to tell her

Yesterday, Infarction chased and cornered Psychosis-Induced Respiratory Alkalosis, and then Stab Wound bit the hell out of Infarction’s tail.

And, verily, verily, my daughter will respond, “That’s because you leak knowledge worse than a water-breached dinghy.” And maybe she will add, “Last night Gregory slept with his head jammed into my armpit.”

And, verily, I will add, “That’s all well and good. Because last night COVID-19 slept with her front paw jammed in the crack of my ass”  

And maybe it will be. All well and good

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Steven Long lives and writes on the suburban edge of Houston, TX and Fort Bend County with his wife, daughter, and son. With his wife, he practices at a Taiwanese Buddhist Temple. Steven and his family all enjoy meeting people from different parts of the world, learning some of their languages, and sampling all of their cuisines.

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