by Stephen S. Mills

Final Boy Plans to Save All the Dark-Haired Boys of Crystal Lake

like that fall / that pandemic fall / a cabin by a lake / not Crystal Lake / but a lake all the same / for a week / an escape / after nearly a year of isolation / in the city / death trailers / so many bodies / pots and pans out windows / small apartment / barely leaving your neighborhood / a lake vacation / fresh air / no masks / your husband / two friends / so quiet / barely another soul / or were they there? / watching? / waiting? / you kayaked / alone / out across the stillness / leaves just beginning to change / not blood red yet / more yellow / your arms rising with each paddle stroke / leery of hands emerging from beneath / or accidently unhooking a body in the murky lake bottom / a rescue plan / in your head / how to save all those boys / dark-haired / your weakness / the ones who always die / knife in chest / face / crotch / dark-haired like your husband / there in the cabin / that tiny bed / that hurt your back / by end of week / you were sleeping separate / all four of you / you up in a loft / above / a place of survival / a place of preparing / a place to be final / best chance of warding off locals / gone mad with Trump signs / and torches / the only bar in town / a monument to bigotry / a fear in a chest / otherness on full display / listening for that crack of a stick / a creak of a porch / a shatter of glass / surveying for secret weapons / anything of use / ready / you were ready to save all the boys / make them final

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Stephen S. Mills (he/they) is the author of the Lambda Award-winning book He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices (2012) as well as A History of the Unmarried (2014) and Not Everything Thrown Starts a Revolution (2018) all from Sibling Rivalry Press. His work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Columbia Poetry Review, The Antioch Review, PANK, The New York Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, The Rumpus, and others. Two of his books were placed on the Over the Rainbow List compiled yearly by the American Library Association. He is also the author of the plays Waiting for Manilow and Is That All There Is? He lives in New York City with his partner and two schnauzers. Website:

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by Eloise Schultz

Kind of Blue

Another day at work

Another crisis of love

I use my listening voice

& most encouraging face

To make myself a container

For the soft small agony

Of the child refusing

To come in from recess

She sits in the snow

So I lay down too

Waiting is something

I learned how to do

Sleepless nights listening

To my dad’s plastic flip-flops

Tread the umbilical hallway

Hitting repeat on Kind of Blue

Which was his way of saying

I cannot change your situation

But I can teach you how to bear it

Crying would not make sleep come

Nor could it make a parent come

I was on my own with Miles Davis

While the Lexington Avenue buses

Passed our block without stopping

I wish I knew what to say to this child

& her refusal of time/routine/normalcy

Which I admire as an anti-authority stance

Albeit an impediment to my daily tasks

I lay in the snow and refuse myself

Withholding, too, is a kind of love

Says the trumpet to the dream

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Eloise Schultz (she/her) teaches middle school and plays Balkan music on an island in Maine. Her writing has most recently been featured in HAD and $ - Poetry is Currency, and her first chapbook, Regular Remembering, is forthcoming from Alternating Current Press. Find her at

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by Ariel Friedman

Happy ending

Catch the story mid-stream
and hear the pounding doubt
between his temples.

See the pivot, simple
on the balls of his feet.
Eurydice’s gasp of realization

not unlike Lot’s wife
who, upon turning, glimpses
her flaming city one last time

before she goes rigid.
But these are endings, not beginnings,
and the difference between stories

and real life is that real life keeps going.
I scroll the headlines—
1.5 degrees and climbing. Horizons

like the walls of Hades.
When you ask for a story, I know
you mean one about cartoon trains.

The chase and rescue. The close call.
But in these stories you’ll find that nothing
saves Sodom, that Eurydice is swallowed

whole by the earth.
I tidy the kitchen, read another email
urging a call to my representatives.

This isn’t the world I wanted to give you.

Once you said women could not
be rabbis and I wondered at that
trope, three thousand years old and lodged

already in your small bones.
What other stories do you know
that I haven’t told you?

Do you know how long Orpheus walks
to emerge from the underworld?
How lonely he must feel, and helpless,

how close he comes to the daylight?
Do you know that our seas will rise,
that the more stunning the sunset,

the more toxins in the atmosphere?
That, when snow falls, I ache to swallow
the landscape? Maybe you know already

that Orpheus finds his bride,
fights to hold on, step after
step through the earth’s intestines,

ahead, the growing circle of light.
Maybe you know already how it ends.
Though, when I tell you, I’ll describe

a finger of fresh air that finds its way
to his cheek. The quickening
of his pace as he approaches the threshold.

This time, he won’t look back.

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Ariel Friedman is a multi-genre cellist, composer, and poet. Nominated for a 2022 Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets 2023, her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Pangyrus, december, Literary Mama, and Lucky Jefferson among others. She performs and tours with award-winning sister chamber-folk duo, Ari & Mia, was a winner of the 2020 Women Composers Festival of Hartford's call for scores, and a recipient of New England Conservatory's Alumni Award. She is a winner of the Boston Mayor’s Poetry Program and is working on her first chapbook. You can find her at

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by Faith Ryan

I Remember Pat Kelly

They scraped the gum off the bus seats. I never expected the chewed pastel globs to stick there forever. It’s just gum. I thought of chewing up wads and wads of pink and covering the seats whole, just to scream to everyone on the bus that you were here.

Would you be here in time for flowers and Valentine’s Day? We used to pick dandelions and collect pinecones down at the Roland Trail. I hoped we would prick, prick, prick our fingers on the pinecones and coat them in glitter and paint how we always do.

The next seasons came even when I begged them to slow in time for your arrival. I decorated pinecones with my mom in the spring and gave them funny faces. We hung them above the kitchen table. The teachers stopped calling your name. Now it’s just mine. It was Teddy then Pat, then Teddy, Teddy, Teddy.

The day after Easter was the first time I heard someone else say your name since the bus seats had no gum.

“I heard that Pat got sent away to his mom’s house,” Annie clicked her tongue. She was grabbing everyone’s pickles off our lunch trays. Annie ate our pickles and Joel brought us Pokemon cards. It was a system.

“He’s like Robbie,” Joel said, “I miss Robbie.”

“I forgot about Robbie,” I said quietly. Robbie left last year, he seemed to be best friends with Joel. Back then I didn’t know either of them very well.

“Makes sense. You never talked to anyone but Pat.”

“I miss Pat.”

“Well, I like that you talk to us now,” Joel smiled.

It wasn’t long before summer appeared and I was sticking to my sheets at night. I’ve been scribbling with sidewalk chalk, and sometimes your dad even passes me while he walks your dog.

“It’s too hot! I’m covered in sweat!” Joel whined and threw himself down onto the grass. Suddenly, he sat up again.

“Do you remember Pat’s pool?” his voice rose with giddy excitement. “With the waterfall and the floaties?”

“Of course I do,” I replied. I missed that big sloped pool. I missed your mom bringing us grapes and cheese. I wondered if you eat a lot of grapes and cheese now without us, in a new pool, in a new house with your mom.

“What are you drawing anyway?” Joel rolled over onto his stomach and poked his stubby fingers into my colorful chalk dust on the cement. “It looks… blobby.”

“It’s kind of blobby, I guess,” I laughed. For a while after you left, I had this desperate need to look and be down in the dumps. I felt like if I wasn’t grumpy every second, I wouldn’t truly be sad that you were gone.

School started up again and the flowers I sketched in sidewalk chalk had long been washed away by the rain. Mom said you were never coming back every time I asked. The other night our dads got in a fight, but I didn’t see much. Your dad’s truck headlights beamed through my window, and he yelled something inaudible. My dad came out next, and I had to crack my window open to hear their hushed argument. Something about your dad getting clean. I never knew your dad was dirty.

I hope your new house with your mom is clean, I hope everything is clean. People don’t talk about you so much anymore, but I bring you up all the time. Now our teachers say Teddy and Joel. But I miss Pat, then Teddy. Pat, Pat, Pat.

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Faith Ryan is a young writer, cat mom, and friend. She is currently enrolled at Clark University, where she is studying Psychology and Creative Writing. Originally from Florida and now living in Massachusetts, she does not miss the heat and always welcomes the snow.

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by Faith Ryan

The Story of a Little Grape

We wouldn’t be in season for a while and we knew it. The farmers took extra care with us, nursing us to health and pumping us full of artificial juices that made us plump. We heard stories of those who came before us that dangled heavily—proudly—off of their vines. Supposedly for them it was effortless. I had a brown dimple on my rear that everyone made fun of, all those fancy elixirs they gave me and still it wasn’t enough. I was pushed up against the net, huddled with other grapes I’ve come to call my friends. There was some arguing and rustling above me. Some of us got lucky with who we sprouted next to, but Goe and Ghap despised each other.

A boy with no eyebrows roared toward us, clicking his tongue and stomping across the white tile with his muddy red sneakers. He reached toward our net hungrily, plucking and fraying the edges and touching us with his sticky fingers. We all waited silently, even Ghap and Goe. Shopping carts rumbled past, almost in rhythm with the child’s labored breath as he stared. Suddenly, I was between his fingertips, and my body was ripped straight off the vine. I thought to scream. I involuntarily writhed in his grasp, but he didn’t seem to care. A woman in all dark attire slipped her arm under the boy’s and dragged him ahead, the impact causing him to lose his tight grip on me. I was relieved, then cold.

There were so many types of shoes; the farmers only wore boots in black or brown. There were sharp, shiny kinds, or ones with flat round tops in multiple colors. Some were hollow, with holes for toes and cloth. A shopping cart wheel caked in dust and grime narrowly missed me, and then something furry approached. I looked up into its eyes—I’ve seen something like this before. My bunch and I were laying limp in a cement room, and through the gaps in our turquoise bucket I saw a moving picture in front of a man in a red apron. There were fuzzy four-legged creatures in the picture dancing, singing, and drinking milk.

The fluffy thing looked at me curiously with its big green eyes.

“Do you sing?” I asked. The only response I got was a blink, and then it started to lean down towards me. Three huffs against my side, rough and warm. A gold, jingling circle attached to a pink strip of cloth caught my eye. Marjorie, it said.

“Is that what you are? A “Marjorie?” I asked again. The Marjorie took no notice, and it opened its mouth. I tried to protest but it was no use. The thing suspended me between its teeth gently, and then the ground passed by us much quicker. We weaved through aisles of bright boxes and people with green baskets hanging off their arms. A man like the one in the cement room rounded the corner, the broom in his hands swatting wildly at us. The Marjorie bounded forward, easily gliding past him and his gritted teeth.

Big glass doors slid open and we snaked through, following a woman’s spiked shoes. A soft breeze tickled my skin, one side of me caressed in the thing’s mouth and the other prickling with life at the wind’s sensation. There was peace for a moment, then motion again. The gray asphalt below the creature’s white feet turned into a vast expanse of grass. It continued like that for a while: passing trees, frail blossoms of flowers and plush grass.

Oh, how I’ve missed that endless blue stretch of the world’s ceiling. Everything was tranquil now, and the Marjorie lowered its head down to the soil and unclasped its teeth, causing me to roll onto the dirt softly. It seemed that we might be at the edge of the earth.

“What is this place?” I said. Below us, farther than I’ve ever been able to see, there were rows of geometric shapes and lights. The big light in the world’s ceiling had fallen now, rolling down the landscape like a droplet of water. The Marjorie began to lick itself, strands of white hair getting caught on its tongue. It paused after a few licks and then curled into a ball, wrapping the long coil from its back around its body. There was a brown spot on its hind leg.

“You have a brown dimple too,” I exclaimed, “everybody said I was the only one!” The Marjorie shut its eyes tight and a low rumble came from its body. The blue above me now morphed into many colors—pinks and purples and oranges. I hadn’t seen it since I had lived in the vineyard.

“Thank you for bringing me here. I don’t understand it, but it’s beautiful,” the thing that looked like it was sewn from fleece and wool rumbled louder.

I thought of my bunch, how they might never feel this cool air on their skin again. When we were in the cement room, we’d watch bundles, just like us, come back brown and shriveled and then thoughtlessly discarded. We didn’t know how long it would take to become like those old bundles. Those who ended up in that form never lived to tell the tale. One of my vinemates, Gippy, worried about it constantly.

Sometimes his fears would get to me too, terrified to end up like one of those wilted elders in a bin. The Marjorie scooped me up and I landed in a crevice of soft fibers. Maybe I would never wilt. Maybe those poor old families of ours were discarded because they had never made a friend.

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Faith Ryan is a young writer, cat mom, and friend. She is currently enrolled at Clark University, where she is studying Psychology and Creative Writing. Originally from Florida and now living in Massachusetts, she does not miss the heat and always welcomes the snow.

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by Bridget Rohde

The Cache Pot and Tulips

The Cache Pot

I recovered the phrase from deep within my memory. What is a cache pot anyway? It arrived, this pot within a box, and seemed a peculiar gift from a 30-something year-old man to a woman he’d known since childhood. He had never loved me. That is a story for another day, but he maintained the degree of affection that caused him to send a pot packed with dirt and tulip bulbs primed to bloom when Christmas was a distant memory and we, I include my former roommate here, were yearning for spring.

It is white and blue like the Chinese porcelain in the glass cases lining the walls of the Met Museum balcony as you make your way to the little bar where trios play. I know because to this day the cache pot still sits on my kitchen counter. Or I should say that it sits on my current kitchen counter much like it did at each of my apartments before this house. It travels with me everywhere.

Amazingly, it is still in pristine condition despite being shipped by the U.S. Postal Service and those many moves, bouncing in rental trucks on long, narrow side streets from upper east to far upper east to west in Manhattan then over the bridge and around the expressway in Brooklyn. Other pieces were lost or broken.

But the cache pot doesn’t have any chips or scratches.

It holds the bounty of the seasons, right now two, big juicy Red Delicious apples and a green Mutsu that is going soft. Sometimes, the pot and little plate it sits on stick together with the juice that oozes from some rotting piece of fruit. But when I notice that, I run warm water over the pot and the plate untiI I can gently separate the two without breaking either.

I started out meaning to tell you about the tulips. Actually, I was hoping you would guess what happened because it seems so damn trite every time I try to put it into words. My friend died that long ago March and the tulips didn’t bloom. Is there an elegant way to recover from that sentence? I could tell you about the one remaining wine glass from the set of four he gave me, purchased when he and another of my friends were traveling in Poland. That glass is at the very back of a breakfront so that no one will use it. It is more fragile than the cache pot.


I forced myself to walk early this morning, before the rain began in earnest. Over the weekend, I read an article questioning whether there were more tulips than usual this year or, as a psychologist suggested, we were simply more aware of them. But I think I missed the tulips for looking up, trying to distinguish the varieties of cherry blossoms, breathing in the wisteria. So, I made a point of viewing the tulips. At the little park in Cobble Hill, behind a plaque boasting of the Dutch settling there in 1640, the tulips were past their prime, fully opened and slightly stooped from the effort, their brilliant reds and yellows beginning to fade. By the promenade, however, dazzling white tulips stood tall and firm. I doubted my memory of these white tulips when I saw the ragged orange ones in front of the courthouse. But oh, the irises; they were about to unfurl their purple flags. The rain came while I was walking home and that was alright too.

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Born in Baltimore and living in Brooklyn, Bridget Rohde is an attorney who has worked as a federal prosecutor, including Acting U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, and as a criminal defense lawyer. For the past few years, she has been searching for other ways to discern the truth and has been writing. In November 2021, The Loch Raven Review published her short story, "Soundtrack," and in April 2022, Epiphany magazine published her flash fiction piece, "The Water Goddess."

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