by Tafisha A. Edwards

Between the State Sanctioned Murder of Your Son and Mine

there is the old pain.          the old tongue.          blood and its heavy hand.

         its spread fingers.               its hunger for concrete.               its fear

of containment.          of commitment to the body.          its slide



                                        torso of



love made flesh:               object permanence.           your boy: silent and sullen.

          your boy:                                         long limbed.

                              voice               deep

                                                                                          as a well.

your boy.                               between your waking               and his last

sleeping there is                                                            the bared throat

                    of a hungry god.                               a trillion cells

stalling.                     arresting the cardiac,                     the heartbeat

of your womb                    made flesh                     made fire.

          the unbuckling of the sky.                     rain. rain.                     a memory

          of the water.                     the bodies in the water.                     the spirits on

the water.                     the water:       mother           you cannot               name.

          tongue                              you cannot              swallow.

there is silence.           its heavy hand.           its closed fist.               its yawning mouth.

there is a .357 caliber

                                                  (where is your boy?)

a .38 Special

                                                            (have you seen him?)

a 9mm

                                                  (you just sent him to the store.)

a .45 caliber

                                                            (how long could it take?)

a .40 caliber

                                                  (maybe you should call)

a 12 gauge

                                                            (just to make sure)

a .54 caliber

                                                  (he is,       still.)

and the names           they will not               call your son               on the news:

he                               who takes out                     the trash

                    after only                                                   two reminders.

he that           saves               money                     in case of ______________________ .

          he of the           ever                     extended                     hand.

                              uncontested Call of Duty champ.

boy       that smiles.                 boy       that sings.                               boy       that beat

            boxes                   in shower,                   off key                             and proud.

boy that is                             your body                   outside of                   your body.

                      dreamer.                   beloved.                             child.

Tafisha A. Edwards is a Guyanese-Canadian poet who lives, writes and naps in Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared in the Little Patuxent Review, Vinyl Poetry, Toe Good Poetry and other journals. She is a Cave Canem fellow, and a graduate of the University of Maryland’s Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House.

by Nikki-Lee Birdsey

Day's Red

The good and bad mars the sea

it there, it here. I pass a finger thru

the wire fence that separates property

on the far side of town, power

lines colder in grey sky, just

one or four could disappear, I try

my eyes and follow them not far.

Ready to be already gone on the dirt.

I roll up my pants, they are the same

colour as the bleached, light dirt

and my bare feet make that same

colour in soft, faint brushes.

I live alone, see a man’s face at the window,

a reflection on the cold glass. I read

someone watched the sun go down

that becomes the last time I watched

the sun go down. Some Paris peasant.

Of the flowers you sent, one has a

snaking, curled stem with multiple bulbed

folds and each day a new bloom unfolds

yellow and each day it gets further

and further up the stem, closer and

closer to the tip, which is cruel,

heavy, leans against the aged mirror

in the kitchen.

He said don’t be

afraid to tell them

what you want

Got all these tears in my beers,

killing German, listening to Hank

Williams. Of them I remember,

this girl I went out with once,

said I was not straight enough

for her, I had this exact feeling

right now. I said But I am straight,

and she said Oh, cool. Her problem

was she got tired, but her hair

was red and her face always tilted

up, catching the light in a dim bar.

She tenderly touches the inside of my

thigh, leaves. I follow the tip

of your finger with my eyes,

down and left, down and right,

up and left, up and right.

Of fainting, I ask the optometrist,

she says Sorry honey you need glasses

but your eyes wouldn’t do it. I shrug,

shrug say, Cool, in the old-fashioned

exam chair, a pale turquoise-green,

I watch the flicker of fluorescent bulbs

slight and quick on the grey carpet.

I think she cannot see this.

See right through the old house

to the back door’s frosted glass;

I pass thru an empty frame with exposed

hinges, from the kitchen to the living room,

a classical painting of a boy in

faded hue; he looks to his left, hand

on his lap, the painted white paneling

lifts the roof higher; I pass thru,

the round chair’s leafed pattern and

black carpentry; I pass thru another

open door, just make out the cherry

cabinet next to the final door, see so

clearly your outline, your colours thru

clouded glass, a picture. The house

a finished court. I watch a couple having sex,

I could not believe the woman stood right up

on the bed to take off her shirt, skirt, her thong,

the confidence of that. To not fall naked.

I pick up a tomato from the gilded china

fruit bowl, I squeeze and burst its


I pick up some photos downtown.

I could not tell when I used the film,

the un-tarred roads longer, harder

in November, it took me longer.

I study 5 photos of a reflection

on the tinted glass of the coffee table.

See the reflection is green, the blurred,

soft abundance of summer leaves

thru the window outside and now inside,

I weep at all this focus, this angle.

When I tell you

something on the phone

I can tell when you are

writing it down

I hear a bird sucking air in beak

or wing. Then crows form. Just one

appears, then all form on the

smallest, topmost, bared branches

of a tall tree in the front yard;

the branches sway noiselessly, but hold.

Black on black, how unordered they are,

their flock refusing to flock. I suck on it,

my own disgust.

I roll my pants up further. Of the

bruises on my legs 2 have an

empty radius. I run a finger across

the fence, the still green grass

by the road switches sharp to

light brown as dirt, the last

yellow leaves of distant

trees in the field,

the uneven line

they make out there.

I live alone, see disparate sounds

send me to sleep, send me to sleep.

I imagine I pick up my cello and

I put it down, something I know

but no longer recognize. The fields

do not separate themselves.

I lie on the ground and close my

eyes, arms outstretched, my hair

mixes with the grass

now orange-flecked, patched,

dimpled in the subsiding, my

head slacks a side, my

mouth opens in spite of itself

and the cold air opens me.

I drain all the

mineral content of

this offer

I run bobbling, chaotic,

grinning, in the field,

the wire fence ran out, I touch

dark wooden posts, duck, duck,

the cracks and unexplained purpose

a thrill to behold.

Utility poles hook clouds,

swing further and further away,

I only reach one and it has a rusted

chain around the base, a flap

of a cardboard box, the faded

letters on it, I wonder at this

sign, what it once said,

the wood beneath seems

darker, rotting, and you

cannot see where

it touches the ground,

I came

into the world


Nikki-Lee Birdsey was born in Auckland, New Zealand. She is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has a BA from New York University. Her work has been published in The Broome Street Review, The Claudius App, Petri Press, Fogged Clarity, Hinchas de Poesiaas well as poems forthcoming in Handsome, 3:AM Magazine and others. She is also the author of the chapbook Free That Hooker (Aero Press, 2012). She will be a visiting faculty fellow at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, teaching poetry in the spring.

by Melissa Duclos

The Rabbit-Goats

I couldn’t sleep because they left the evolution video running all night and I need it to be dark-dark and super-quiet to fall asleep. I wasn’t about to get up and wander around the museum because Ms. Schlackman said if we did she’d nail our butts to our chairs for the rest of the year.

Adam Birmbaum got up during the third time the video showed the rabbit-goats. They really just called them rabbits, but they had long legs and hooves and fangs and they looked like goats to me. The first time I saw them I was scared, but then I remembered that it won’t matter to me what rabbits will look like in 50 million years. I bet people won’t even keep them as pets anymore.

There’s a fire alarm on the wall behind the giant wombat. I notice things like that because it’s important to be prepared. Maybe Adam got up to light something on fire. If he did I could pull the alarm and warn everyone and then they’d put me on the news standing next to a fire truck with flashing lights, and Adam would be in handcuffs because he’s a flight risk . I wonder if Oprah ever watches the evening news.

Adam will never make it onto Oprah because he’s too slow. My dad told me that people get to be slow if their parents drop them on their heads and I asked if he ever dropped me on my head and he said he couldn’t remember but he’d drop me out the window if I didn’t quit interrupting his show. I figure probably he didn’t drop me because I’m not slow like Adam. I wouldn’t talk about the head-dropping when I go on Oprah because it never happened, but also it might make my dad look bad.

I followed Adam because I wanted to see what he might light on fire, and not because I was scared of the rabbit-goats. Also I thought someone should make him get back in his sleeping bag. Misbehaving on a field trip is up on the BIG TROUBLE poster, and lighting a fire in a museum isn’t even on any poster because who could imagine doing that? It’s one of the worst things you can do so probably Adam’ll be kicked out of school and I’ll get some kind of award for catching him and saving the museum and probably even the mayor will want to meet me, which is a big deal because New York’s a really big city and the mayor is famous.

I can ask him to introduce me to Oprah and he’ll probably even want to come on the show with me.

If Adam has pockets in his pajamas he would have a place to hide the matches. Mine are blue with white clouds and only pockets in the matching shirt. His are green plaid, and he doesn’t have a matching shirt. All the boys just wear T-shirts anyway and only the girls wear the matching shirts. So Adam probably doesn’t have pockets which means no place to hide the matches.

Surveillance is one of the skills I learned from Dad’s shows. I’m getting better and better at it. Tomorrow, I’ll tell Dad that I was so good at surveillance that I followed Adam all over the museum without being spotted. Adam’s looking at all the same stuff we saw on our tour today. If I had to guess, I’d say he wascasing the joint , which means that he’s deciding where the best place to light a fire is. So far we’ve gone past the armored sloth, which is very big but doesn’t eat people, and the dinosaurs that look like ducks. I’m remembering the details for my police report. I don’t think the duck dinosaurs could eat people either because it doesn’t look like they have any teeth, and anyway I just remembered there were no people around back then to be eaten. That part doesn’t have to go in the report but it’s interesting to think about while I’m tailing Adam.

Right now would be a good time to catch him in the act because I have the element of surprise on my side and he’s just standing there staring at the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

“Did your parents drop you on your head?” This isn’t really mean because probably it’s true and it shows that it’s not Adam’s fault that he’s so slow, which should make him feel better about it. Plus it’s a surprising thing to say.

Adam doesn’t answer for a very long time, or else he’s trying to think of something to say. This is the reason he’ll never be on Oprah, even though she’s a very good interviewer. People will only wait so long for you to answer. I start looking at his mouth like I do when I’m talking to people sometimes and imagine kissing them, like smooshing my face into theirs just to see what they would do. When I picture it I have to close my eyes because I’m afraid I might really do it and I don’t know what people would do, but I don’t think they’d be happy.

I wouldn’t tell that kind of thing to Oprah, though. Not that she’d ever ask about my secret thoughts because we’d be too busy talking about how I saved my dad’s life when he lit the couch on fire and how I got to be so brave.

“I’ll never believe in dinosaurs.”

This is another reason Adam couldn’t be on Oprah, because this has nothing to do with the question I asked him.

“Listen carefully, please. It’s time to go back to your sleeping bag.” Adam is an unpredictable element, so I have to talk slowly and tell him what to do.

“You can’t tell me what to do. Anyway, I’m just looking.”

Adam squinches his eyebrows at the Tyrannosaurus and pretends to look at it even though I know he’s up to something. No matter how long he takes I’m not going to leave him here, so I just squinch my eyebrows at him and put my hands on my hips so that in case he does look over at me I’ll be anintimidating presence. Adam walks toward me and so I clench my teeth together because that’s even more intimidating than just squinching my eyebrows, and even though he doesn’t look afraid, I know he might be faking it.

“Do you believe in dinosaurs?”

He gets real close to my face, and so I have to try very hard not to think about kissing him even though he already looks sort of mad or crazy, but that might just be because his hair is sticking up from being in his sleeping bag. I don’t really want to kiss him but I can’t control the secret thought because that’s how secret thoughts work. I know it’s okay as long as I don’t kiss him, which I don’t want to do anyway, so instead I just close my eyes and start humming for a minute until the secret thought goes away.

If Adam was Oprah I’d answer his question, which would be easy because the dinosaurs are right in front of me and we learned about them in school so of course I believe in them. But he’s not Oprah so it’s okay for me to start humming instead of answering.

When I stop humming and open my eyes I see that Adam has moved away from the Tyrannosaurus Rex and is standing in front of a glass case with dinosaur skulls inside. I know he can’t light the glass on fire but I wonder if he has some kind of special glass cutter hidden inside his no-pocket-pajamas that I can’t see. The dinosaur skulls are connected to a motor that moves their jaws up and down, and Adam is moving his jaw up and down like he’s connected to the same motor.

“See? Just like ours.”

“Yeah? So?” I decide to see what he’s getting at, which means talking to him to discover his plan. Discovering is another one of my skills.

“That means it’s a lie. All of this is just a lie that the teachers and museum people want us to believe because otherwise they’d lose their jobs.”

Up close Adam’s pajamas smell like my grandmother, which is sort of like sour milk and laundry detergent. I don’t tell him that though because it might make him mad and if I make him mad he won’t reveal his plan.

“It’s not a lie. It’s evolution. Like the rabbit-goats.”

I remember that he might not’ve noticed about the rabbit-goats, but he doesn’t ask what I mean.

“It’s a lie because God made the world and then he made the people. He didn’t make dinosaurs because they would’ve eaten the people and they didn’t believe in God.”

“It can’t be a lie because scientists found all the bones in the ground and then they put them in a museum and only things that are real get put in museums and scientists aren’t allowed to lie.”

Adam doesn’t say anything for a long time because probably he knows I’m right. Except then he hits the glass case really hard, but not hard enough to break it, and I have to think fast before he tries again. I grab his arm and try to hold on but he pulls away from me, even though I won the girls’ tug of war this year in gym class.

“You’re so stupid. Teachers and museum people and scientists lie all the time, but God never lies because he’s perfect. You don’t know anything if you don’t know that.”

Adam walks away before I can tell him that I know a lot of things. I got four B’s and one B- so far this year, and the B- wasn’t really my fault because I couldn’t finish my social studies diorama project because Dad had to work late and I couldn’t drive myself to the store to get the cotton balls and popsicle sticks. And anyway Adam is the one who doesn’t know anything because we already learned all about dinosaurs in school last year and everyone knows about evolution and it doesn’t have anything to do with God.

“I’m going to wake up Ms. Schlackman,” I whisper-yell to Adam, except I don’t really want to wake her up because then if Adam lights the museum on fire or tries to break something else, she’ll be the one to stop him and she’ll just say to me, “Candy, go back to your sleeping bag.”

“So what? She doesn’t know anything either. I already know you can’t trust people who aren’t your parents. My parents told me that I don’t have to listen to her or the museum people.” Adam stops and turns around and I almost crash into him because I was hurrying to catch up. “I bet you can’t even trust your parents though, and that’s why you believe everything stupid Ms. Shlackman says about the dinosaurs and everything else.”

Adam is staring at me like he’s going to keep talking, and he’s close enough to my face that I can notice his breath smells a little like pickles, which is strange because there were no pickles at the dinner they gave us in the museum cafeteria and I wonder if he brought them from home. Except I bet he’s not even allowed to have pickles at home, or cookies or anything else good because his parents just spend all their time talking about dinosaurs and telling lies about Ms. Shlackman, so they don’t have time to go to the grocery store. Sometimes my dad doesn’t have time either, but when he does he buys pickles and cookies and cheese doodles and Coke. I start thinking about the grocery store and the cheese doodles and about how I wish Adam would stop talking, and so I don’t even notice when the secret thought comes back until it’s too late. I don’t have time to close my eyes and start humming because before I know it my face is smooshed up against Adam’s, and his nose hurts the way it’s pressing against mine and our lips almost touch and then he jumps back like I bit him.

“Did you just try to kiss me?” Adam shouts like he forgot we’re in a museum, and he looks like he’s about to hit me.

I just shrug my shoulders because even if he does hit me there’s no way I can explain something like the secret thought to Adam because he’s way too slow to understand anything like that.

“I feel sorry for you.” Adam looks at me like he’s pretending to be a grown-up. “My parents told me that your mother left you and your dad. I asked them why, but they didn’t know. I think it must be because you’re such a freak.”

Adam walks away and I can’t even worry about him lighting the museum on fire because my mind is racing and I have to close my eyes and start humming again to make it stop. I know my mom left because she’s an undercover secret agent and her job is so secret that she couldn’t even tell my dad or me where she was going. Probably she’ll be home in a few months or years after she completes her mission and gets a medal from the president and then she and I will go on Oprah together. After she gets home she can work on proving all the facts about the dinosaurs so Adam and his parents will feel so stupid that they move away and never come back again.

Right now, though, I have to do damage control because if Adam knows that she’s gone then he could tell other people and then her secret identity could be compromised and she could be in danger, all because I couldn’t control my secret thought and because stupid Adam tried to light the museum on fire.

I hurry back to the rabbit-goats and get inside my sleeping bag and pull it up over my head so that I have somewhere dark-dark and super-quiet to think. I have a little bit of a headache, which sometimes happens when I have to solve major problems or think of things that are difficult, like how to protect my mom’s secret identity. Then I remember that there’s only one way to deal with a problem like this, and it’s that Adam will have to be eliminated because he knows too much. I have to make sure my mom’sidentity stays secure so I’ll just have to follow him around until I have the chance, and I’ll have to follow his parents because they know too much too.

Once I solve the major problem I feel much better and my headache starts to go away and it doesn’t even matter that Adam is still wandering around the museum looking at the stupid dinosaurs. People like Adam and his parents aren’t important because they don’t know anything about sacrifice for the mission. They don’t know anything about how the world really works.

Melissa Duclos received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and now works as a writing instructor and freelance writer and editor. She is a regular contributor to BookTrib, Bustle, and Mommyish, and the founder of The Clovers Project, which provides mentoring for writers at various stages in their careers. Her fiction has appeared in Pound of Flash, Blue Skirt Productions, and Scéal, and her non-fiction in Salon, Electric Literature, Cleaver Magazine, Fiction Advocate, and English Kills Review. Her first novel, Besotted, is a work of literary fiction set in Shanghai, for which she is seeking representation. She tweets at @MelissaDuclos.