by Devonaire Ortiz

Around Me, Hundreds of Prospective Lovers

Around me, hundreds of prospective lovers

who all know just what they need, a diamond

re-inserted in the darks of the mine, a blessing

well from which to drink, a christening.

they claim tribes in peacetime.

hunger runs rampant, satisfaction scarce.

I say I want to bask in your moonlight

til morning and he replies:



enough years i’ve passed through the fire to feel

red. they want sweet n low, not honey. am I

any more than what I am on my telephone

was I the blood ore that became something

no one needed? do I wear?

the bell tolls and I come

to the counter to deliver

mostly I am still

diamond. I decorate.

there are some times

when I wish to be

not only the stone

but the earth.

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Devonaire Ortiz is a Puerto Rican poet from the Bronx. He is an MFA candidate in poetry at Rutgers University-Newark and a teaching artist at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. His work can be found in PANK, Cosmonauts Avenue, and the Florida Review.

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by John Salimbene


March of the cicadas put me to sleep
where the state maintenance ends, with the kudzu
blocking the sun from this outhouse window.
Black cows are dotting the Virginian toes.
Blue Ridge ghosts whisper their stories as gnats
in our ears (smell of our unbathed bodies),
one hand touching thunder, the other you.

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John Salimbene is a writer and editor based in northern New Jersey. He is the poetry editor for Tint Journal and an editorial assistant for Map Literary. He is currently earning his MFA in creative writing at William Paterson University, where he works as a graduate/teaching assistant in the Department of English. His poems can be found in Small OrangeVoicemail Poems, the 2020 anthology, queerbook, published by Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni's Room, and elsewhere.

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by Amy Williams

Love Story

You’ve seen the way it can inhabit a tree. Lovestone. Vascular contortionists weaving through branches, embellishing oak. It’s beautiful, you once said. The decoration of it. The cooperation of it. The ivy wants light and promises to be good, promises to protect the tree from salt.

A covenant and wooded fingers creep. Tiny hairs from the Hedera helix burrow into the tree’s crevices and lignify. Holdfast for years. A thicket body blooms, hosts bumblebees, brilliant red admirals. The smell of nectar ribbons through her branches.

“Devotion,” you called it. Constant leaves warming the arboreal body whose shape you can no longer recall. Funny, how easy it is to forget the color of sapwood. How easy to forget the rough edges of the oak’s serrated leaves. What did the tree love? How twisted were her branches?

Decay when you peek under variegated green and white, discover woodworm. Selfish woman, the neighbors say, because he's such a nice man. Sick selfish woman in the garden with a shovel, stabbing the ground, screaming at vines.

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Amy Williams is an educator and writer based in New Delhi. Her poems have appeared or is forthcoming in Rust + Moth, The Shore, Redivider, Contrary Magazine, and Sweet Tree Review. She was a participant in the 2021 Kenyon Review Writers Workshop for poetry and is working on her first chapbook.

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by Michael Anthony

The Hawk

Ivy Guthrie sped past the truck rest stop on the interstate a half-mile before the exit that led to the childhood home where her mother still lived. She hadn’t seen either in over a decade. More than once Ivy considered turning back. But, she needed to confront what had driven her away; and, soon.

Watching for tractor-trailers reentering the highway, Ivy spotted a hawk perched atop a light pole in the parking area. The instantly recognizable hunched shoulders and curved beak resurrected a memory Ivy had buried with her father some twelve years earlier.

On the day of his funeral, eleven-year-old Ivy rode with her mother, Roslyn. Nervous, she watched the hearse skid repeatedly as it navigated the steep ice-slicked road through the cemetery. Ivy feared her father’s casket would come bounding out the vehicle’s back door and spill his body in front of the two-car procession.

It didn’t and the burial was over in minutes because Roslyn didn’t want to stand atop the hill in a frigid wind just to watch the coffin being lowered into the frozen earth. As mother and daughter hurried back to the car, Ivy saw a red-tailed hawk circle overhead before it landed on the skeletal limb of an oak. It remained there like a sentinel guarding her father while a backhoe dropped clumps of dirt into the gaping hole.

Dismissing the images of that winter morning, Ivy slowed as she neared the highway exit. A tanker truck sailing by buffeted her car. She gripped the steering wheel to steady it.

The two gas stations at the end of the exit ramp looked familiar. So did Billy’s Hot Dogs, though a strip mall had replaced the fields of Hagel’s Christmas tree farm. A daycare center, a dollar store, a pharmacy, and several empty storefronts stood where once precise rows of Douglas Fir and Scotch Pine grew. Ivy accelerated up the winding road that crested the foothills. The closer she drew to the street on which to turn, the tighter her chest felt. She was less than a mile from the house in which she grew up and where, as a girl, she blamed her mother for her father’s untimely death from lung cancer. She remembered screaming, “He never even smoked!”

Back then Roslyn rejected her child’s claim, saying there was no such thing as secondhand smoke. It didn’t help that Roslyn was out drinking at Club 199 only a week after burying Clint. When Ivy wasn’t left home alone with only her father’s ghost for company, she would spend the night at her friend Katia Szabó’s house. There, the classmates played and listened to music until Katia’s mother Basha poked her head into the girl’s pink bedroom and ordered lights out. Katia’s father worked nights at a highway department maintenance garage across town. So, most often the Szabós passed each other; one heading out to work; the other returning.

With Clint gone, tensions between Roslyn and Ivy escalated. They often fought, sometimes physically. Ivy begged to live with her paternal grandmother some twenty miles south. To Ivy’s surprise, Roslyn agreed. Almost too easily.

Before moving away, Ivy promised Katia she would keep in touch. They wrote to each other every week, talking about what was happening in their respective lives. That lasted several months until Ivy’s letters came back marked UNDELIVERABLE - NO FORWARDING ADDRESS. She never received another from Katia.

That summer, while shopping with her grandmother at the mall, Ivy saw Basha and Katia walking towards them. Ivy waved. Katia smiled nervously before Mrs. Szabó yanked the girl away. Ivy called after her, but got little more than a shrug and what she thought was Katia mouthing silently, ‘I miss you.’

As her grandmother examined a package of curtains in the department store drapery section, Ivy again spotted Katia, though not Mrs. Szabó. Ivy slipped away unnoticed.

The two girls stepped behind a tall display. Once on the other side they embraced and fired off a litany of questions. Where do you live now? Why did you stop writing? Are you still my friend? How’s school?

They pulled a display curtain around them. Only the tips of their shoes stuck out beneath the hem of the fabric. Careful to avoid discovery, the girls hugged and stroked each other’s hair tenderly.

Hearing footsteps approach, Katia placed her finger on Ivy’s lips. It felt good. Ivy closed her eyes and imagined she was kissing her friend. Without warning, a hand burst through the opening in the curtains and pulled Katia into the aisle. Mrs. Szabó began yelling in a language unfamiliar to Ivy.

Fearing her friend was being punished unfairly, Ivy stepped forward, saying it had been her idea to hide. Mrs. Szabó glared at Ivy and unleashed a volley of what did not sound like compliments. The verbal tirade ended with Mrs. Szabó telling Ivy in heavily accented English that her mother was a home-wrecking whore. The woman stomped away with Katia in tow.

Crying, Ivy found her grandmother who wanted to know why the tears. When Ivy told her, the woman charged around looking for the Szabós. Ivy was relieved they were long gone.

The following spring Ivy met Katia at a track and field event where she learned what Mrs. Szabó had been shouting about in the store. Roslyn had begun an affair with Katia’s father soon after Clint’s death. Mrs. Szabó had caught them coming out of a motel. Katia said her parents had a string of big fights complete with dishes being thrown and doors slammed.

Though Ivy apologized, Katia said she didn’t blame Ivy for what her mother had done.

That was the last time they saw each other. Rumor had Katia moving back to Hungary with her mother, leaving her father behind.

Ivy turned onto Rockledge Way where she had once lived. Her stomach knotted as the recognizable house came into view. It looked a lot smaller than she remembered. So did everything else.

Having parked the car, Ivy crossed the street to the house in which she spent her first eleven years, not all of it bad but most of it certainly not good. She wondered how her mother would look after all this time. Was she still bleaching her hair the platinum blonde that had earned her the nickname Whitey at Club 199?

Ivy stiffened as she pressed the doorbell. It didn’t work. She knocked, then hesitated; almost hoping Roslyn wasn’t there, though in her heart she knew otherwise. The hinges screeched as the door opened.

Peering down, Ivy first saw a pair of stained slippers. Then, a gray skirt, a wide black plastic belt, and finally, a blouse that looked several sizes too large. She ignored the stains. A cigarette dangled precariously from her mother’s lip. A cloud of blue gray smoke encircled the cheap wig that covered Roslyn’s head.

The women greeted one another using only their first names. Ivy worried Roslyn would reach out to offer a gesture of affection, or worse that she was expecting one from Ivy. The women stood awkwardly in the doorway for a moment too long until it was clear neither would concede.

Roslyn led Ivy through a living room cluttered with catalogs, magazines, and newspapers, many still in plastic bags. Ivy followed her into an even messier kitchen. Plates of half-eaten food added to the disarray. A half dozen or so drinking glasses stood on the counter. Most were empty, while in some, cigarette butts floated in stale beer like dead goldfish. Ivy lifted several tabloids off the chair and sat waiting for her mother to do the same, but Roslyn simply sat on the papers as if they were part of the chair.

An uncomfortable silence preceded their exchange. Finally Roslyn asked, “Well how are you?”

Ivy replied with a non-committal, “Okay.” Ivy did not ask how her mother was faring.

A sinkful of crusted dishes and an overflowing trashcan made sitting in the tight kitchen unpleasant as the two sat nearly speechless. Ivy declined Roslyn’s offer of something to eat or drink. Besides, there didn’t seem to be a clean glass or plate anywhere.

Considering the state of the two rooms seen so far, Ivy dreaded the idea of needing the bathroom. If necessary, she’d wait and use the one at the gas station near the interstate. Even with truckers and transients, it was probably cleaner.

Wheezing like an old accordion, Roslyn tried to restart the conversation, asking if Ivy ever heard from ‘that Szabó girl.’

The mere mention of her first love rekindled a fire that lay dormant in Ivy’s chest. She exploded, saying, “Not since her mother took her away after your affair with her father. All those things you did, the check-kiting, the screwing around with married men, made my life hell. That’s why I went to live with grandma. To escape you.”

Ivy found Roslyn’s mumbled excuses insincere, relenting only when a tearful Roslyn admitted she could have been a better mother.

When asked what she was going to do about the house, Roslyn said it already had a second mortgage. So, there was no equity left. Roslyn continued, saying that the bank was about to foreclose and she didn’t know where she’d end up.

Ivy sensed Roslyn was angling for an invitation to live with her. Four sharp knocks at the front door interrupted Ivy who was about to suggest some charities that could offer Roslyn assistance.

Roslyn rose unsteadily and shuffled towards the door she struggled to open. A husky man filling the entryway whispered to her. Roslyn reached into the drawer of a nearby table, then pressed something into his hand before pocketing his money. Ivy watched the man turn and practically stumble down the porch steps.

Ivy questioned what had just transpired. Roslyn responded bluntly that he was buying her pain meds.

“What are you going to do when you need them?”

 Roslyn said it wouldn’t be a problem for much longer.

Although Ivy suspected that, hearing Roslyn say it hurt more than she anticipated. In that moment, the brutal past fogged. The uncertain future was no clearer. Despite promising herself it wouldn’t happen, Ivy made a tenuous peace with the woman she wanted to call Mom, but couldn’t yet do.

Ivy was soon back on the interstate, this time heading east to the house she shared with her girlfriend. As she passed the rest stop, Ivy saw that hawk still atop the light pole. Asleep in the passenger seat, Roslyn did not.

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Michael Anthony is a writer and artist living in New Jersey. He has published fiction, poetry, illustrations, and photographs in literary journals and commercial magazines. Most recently these include ARC Journal, Pigeon Review, The Coil Magazine, Dove Tales, and Minnow Literary Magazine. His work may be viewed at:

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by Ben Roth

Rebecca Rebecca

She imagined him opening his mailbox. Which was a little hard to do, because she had no idea what his mailbox looked like, having mostly interacted with him over email, only going to class twice in person, just watching the lecture videos from home instead most of the time. How would he react?

She worried that she had maybe sent him too many emails about the class, asked too often for reading recommendations, and she made sure to say as much in every email, letting him know she didn’t want to take too much of his time and he didn’t need to respond if he was busy, but she really didn’t have anyone else to talk to about these things (she didn’t say that last part to him, just herself). He always did reply, and pointed her to such interesting things to read, but his emails were otherwise so terse that she could never tell if he was happy or annoyed to hear from her, really couldn’t tell what he might be thinking at all.

And this time she was extra worried that she might have gone too far. She had made it totally, totally clear that it was the passing misogyny of these philosophers they had read that she was angry about, and their obliviousness to women’s sexuality, not him. She loved the class! But he had assigned these readings—and she was so glad he had!—and might be defensive about that.

She again checked her email. Why wasn’t he writing back?


Dear Rebecca,

Thanks for the chocolate! Certainly unnecessary, given my meager efforts. For reasons completely out of your control, the package did cause me a moment of panic. I hope you enjoy this story.

I had a very good, but also overeager student in my night class last semester: a middle-aged woman who, by her own description, had spent the last two decades of her life raising her kids and running her household, with nothing in the way of intellectual outlets. She was gushingly positive about the class and how it had revived a dormant part of her. After the semester ended, she sent me a short dialogue she had written about civil disobedience between MLK, Thoreau, Socrates, and a self-important Alabaman philosophy professor—not terrible, so far as such things go, but such things are rarely good. I just sent her a short email in reply, not wanting to discourage her newfound interest, but also hoping her weekly, if not daily, emails would trickle off now that the class was finished. But then she mailed me a draft of a way too personal essay she was working on, which arrived at my office mailbox right around the same time as I got an email from her—so obviously sent a couple days after the hard copy—in which she realized that maybe she shouldn’t have sent the essay. I decided the best approach would be to not acknowledge the essay or last email at all.

Anyway, this student’s name is Rebecca. So when I got this package of chocolates and the accompanying note—“Thanks for all your help with the mail. Rebecca”—my first thought was: Help? Does she mean my faint praise of the dialogue and tactful ignoring of the essay? And then I thought: Wait, how does this overeager student know my home address? And then I kind of panicked for about three seconds. And then I remembered that I knew another Rebecca.



She laughed at this email, imagining his eyes dart from the note and box of chocolates up to the windows, and then to the locks on the inside of his front door. It was not so much his labored, too-artful telling of the anecdote that she found funny, but rather the idea that any student would think he was the right audience for a way too personal essay. This was someone who a mutual friend regularly joked might be a Replicant: “You’re in the desert and come upon a turtle trapped on its back.  What do you do?” She had known him for over ten years—they had started grad. school on the same day and defended their dissertations a week apart seven years later, before she had been driven out of philosophy by the oblivious men at her first job and moved to Canada, where he forwarded her mail that had to be sent to a U.S. address—and she would never have given him anything more personal than a draft of an essay on Kant for comments. Man, did she not miss trying to understand what was going on in students’ heads, and their strange projections as to what was going on in hers.

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Ben Roth teaches writing and philosophy at Harvard and Tufts. His short fiction has been published by Nanoism, Flash, Blink-Ink, Sci Phi Journal, Aesthetics for Birds, Cuento Magazine, 101 Words, and decomp journal, and his criticism by Chicago Review, AGNI Online, 3:AM Magazine, The Millions, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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