by Lillian Kwok


My dead wife is like a sabertooth tiger, sturdily built, broad bones,

her mouth totally unhinged. It hangs open in the wind screaming

without end.

I can only talk to her in hallucinations. In my dreams I hear her

snarling all the time.

But I love her, love her to bones to dust love her past extinction

love her ten thousand years without her, great frightening girl

with lovely golden head and bouncing thighs. I love her until she

sighs like a cat, walks through the walls of hell to me, sleeps at my

feet purring until we're both asleep under the warmth of her skin.

Lillian Kwok is originally from Philadelphia and now lives and studies in Sweden. She has a chapbook published by Awst Press, and her work has been published in the Cortland Review, Paper Darts, Salt Hill and other journals. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

The Doctor by Lillian Kwok

Vena Saphena Magna

Now that she’s left me, I still see her wandering through the house

every night. She’s bigger than she used to be, my little ex-wife,

undernourished and small-boned and she smells a bit like the

morgue. Even though I know she’s not really dead, she’s in LA and

remarried to a college professor.

My ghost wife is sassier than she used to be. Walks around naked

and smiling mysteriously. Says unspeakable things to me in her

native Russian. Sticks her legs in the air and shows off the perfect

arch of her foot and that’s where the ringing in my head starts.

Because there are some things that have no flaws, and it would be

a shame to cut into that gorgeous white thigh, but I want to see it,

that most perfect of veins, vena saphena magna, rich and blue,

running from foot sole to inner thigh all the way up the inside of

her leg.

Lillian Kwok is originally from Philadelphia and now lives and studies in Sweden. She has a chapbook published by Awst Press, and her work has been published in the Cortland Review, Paper Darts, Salt Hill and other journals. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

by Lillian Kwok


Here it’s only ever morning or night, always one or the other. We

stand face to face and naked on the pale sand, under the big stars.

Somewhere above us the wolves our wild brothers are howling

restlessly, stalking across the dark cliffs. Let’s yell hello to the

wolves. Let’s light a bonfire on the sand. Let the sand be a

trampoline, let our bodies be acrobats and our minds forgetful.

You say dance, so I dance. There’s no such thing as the rest of our


Lillian Kwok is originally from Philadelphia and now lives and studies in Sweden. She has a chapbook published by Awst Press, and her work has been published in the Cortland Review, Paper Darts, Salt Hill and other journals. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

by Woodrow Hightower


Sheila, can I be honest with you and your personal assistant?

The rich irony of a monster truck’s windshield

Smeared with road ice and goldfish crackers

Is something a cider-sipping Cleopatra

Like yourself should be able to appreciate

The first time I saw your wedding ring and butterfly net

I was certain we would become friends and trading partners

The music box in my head played “They Call the Wind Mariah,”

Foreshadowing the role I would take in helping you

Chase your own unique vision of wilderness diving

But having the truck towed back here was unfortunate

How are we at Thaxton Motors responsible

For your late night, pub-crawl pileup?

Whether the vehicle runs or not should not be the question

How you look behind the wheel must outweigh all other considerations

And you, my platinum, sequin-jeaned prison wife, sparkle like diamonds

Draw strength from your ear buds and conjugal visits

Remember the sign of the cross and your antipsychotics

Reimagine life as a peaceful drive down a country road

And know that if I’ve been deceptive in any way

It was without doubt for your benefit

Woodrow Hightower is a native of West Point, California. He is a poet currently producing a first book of verse to be titled Vertigo Two-Step. A self-described “word muralist, with a passion for random reverie and the odd line,” his work has recently been accepted by a multitude of print and online literary magazines. Hightower resides in Sacramento’s Midtown District with photographer/co-conspirator Twyla Wyoming and their two Tibetan spaniels.

by Alec Hershman


Through which the names pass

clean as bullets.

I’m here to do a job.

The trees flicker

by way of traffic,


and as for hills: flax

crawls up in fists,

in curtains mud

does the opposite.

Say campus, garden, lobby.

Say cheese in the sculpture’s

chrome distortion,

an oversized screw

on its side. And what can’t be made

to scale, a button-hole

in the cloudless overhead?

General Verdigris jumps off

his horse and lifts a hand.

Ditto the flower minions

who seem also to be saying here

I am, here—

Alec Hershman lives in Bangkok, Thailand. He has received awards from the Kimmel-Harding-Nelson Center for the Arts, The Jentel Foundation, and The Institute for Sustainable Living, Art, and Natural Design. More of his poems appear in recent and forthcoming issues of Puerto del Sol, Denver Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Western Humanities Review, Hobart and The Adroit Journal. You can learn more

by Jason Reynolds

Blood Pudding

The first time Jonah slit a pig’s throat, he threw up. It was the Saturday before his thirteenth birthday, and he was embarrassed because he’d helped his father and his uncles slaughter pigs before. Jonah had never been upset by it, never even felt queasy, but this time, something got to him. It wasn’t the way the body swung upside down on the hook or the sheets of blood that fell from its new gaping jaw. Those things didn’t bother him, and he didn’t mind hitting the animal with a stun gun before they hoisted it up. If anything, that was humane. That’s what his father had taught him.

What bothered Jonah was the way the blood pooled in the basin. It was oddly dirty, little swirls of white and gray in the surprisingly bright red liquid. It was thick, too, and flies descended from all sides. Jonah had never looked in the basin before, not really, and now he couldn’t look away.

He was okay for a few seconds, then it felt like a cat jumped up inside his stomach, clawed its way through his throat, and came out his mouth. When Jonah saw his vomit mixing with the blood in the basin, a second, smaller cat chased the first out of his body.

“Get some air, son,” his father said. “We’ll handle this.” Jonah couldn’t bring himself to move, so his father gave him a little push on the shoulder, away from the hog.

He could hear his uncles laughing and the flies buzzing in the blood, and that made Jonah think he might be sick again. He kept his eyes on the ground and stayed hunched over as he walked to the fence line. Jonah left one hand on his belly, but he extended the other out behind him, waving to let the men know he was alright.

In the field, there were two horses—Chestnut and Ames—grazing. The grass was tall, and the trees behind the paddock were impossibly full and green. It was fall, but not a single leaf had changed. The sun was bright, and the air was cold, and Jonah thought that it must be the most beautiful day in the history of the world, even as another wave of nausea came over him.

He was doubled over again, his hands on his knees, a string of spit hanging like a pendulum from his lip, when his father patted him on the back and said, “Don’t worry about it. It gets to the best of them. Especially the first time.”

“Okay,” he said. “Okay. Thanks.” He tried to keep himself from vomiting again.

In school, he’d seen a video about the ice age, how these giant glaciers and enormous rivers rolled right through the state, carving out the valley his family had lived in for five generations. He could picture it, too. It made sense. After the video, during lunch, he’d told Amanda Walker how beautiful he thought it was, how pretty, and she’d said, “Yes, yes!”

She looked around the cafeteria, then she kissed him, slipping her tongue between his lips, which caught him off guard. Amanda turned red and ran out of the cafeteria before Jonah knew the kiss was over. His eyes were still shut and his mouth was still open, but she was gone and everyone at the table was laughing.

Jonah had been doing push-ups every morning since, adding five more each day, and trying to figure out how to ask Amanda out. He had thought that he might marry her one day and take over the farm from his father, and they would live here in the valley, the sixth generation.

Now, it all struck him as temporary, like his home was a place he would outgrow. He felt dizzy and aged, as though he’d traveled through time only to arrive back in the same place, decades later, as an old man. That made him think that maybe he would leave for fifty or sixty years, then come back before he died. Just to say goodbye. That’s all.

He’d see Amanda, of course. She’d be married and have kids, but she’d still be beautiful. Jonah knew he’d be jealous of her husband, but not too jealous. A man would have to be born and raised in the valley, and never leave the valley, if he were to marry Amanda. Because of that, Jonah knew that when he met the fellow, all those years down the line, he’d have trouble not feeling a bit sorry for him.

When he finally recovered—finally caught his breath and stood up straight—Jonah noticed that the horses in the pasture had disappeared. They’d vanished, as though they’d already died and been buried where they fell over. That’s what you did for a good horse. Out of respect, you buried him where he dropped. That’s another thing Jonah’s father had taught him.

He scanned the paddocks again, just to make sure, but the horses were nowhere to be found. And for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out where they’d gone.

Jason Reynolds is an Assistant Professor at Southern State Community College. He holds an MFA from McNeese State University and has served as an editor at Fiction Weekly and Escape Into Life. He also produces occasional radio stories for WYSO, an NPR affiliate in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

by Maxim Loskutoff

Hideous Men

“Why she wanted to take her shoe off, do it that way, I don’t know.”

“Pretty little girl like that.”

“Weren’t none of her brains working at that point. Period.”

The three old men sat on the bench in front of Lakeside Convenience. Their sun-faded baseball caps tilted together under the Live Bait sign. Flies circled lazily in the spring warmth. “What I heard, she stopped being a girl ’round age eleven. Was out on King’s Point most every night.”

“And if she could find a ride then it was on to Kalispell. Behind the shopping mall, Moose’s.”

Used to walk around in that yellow two-piece like the whole world’s a beach.”

They fell silent for a moment, remembering. The one on the right, the tallest, waved a fly from the sweat-stained mesh of his cap. A breeze off the lake swung the screen door inward letting out the damp smell of worms.

“Pretty little girl.”

“I wouldn’t have let her wear that yellow number even if it was in my own backyard.”

“Oh, you might’ve.” The tallest smiled. “Get yourself a high fence.”

“Even then.” The oldest, on the left, twisted his cane in the gravel. His gnarled fingers were bound around the handle as if they’d grown there.

“She had pretty little feet, too. You remember, she’d walk around barefoot most of the summer. Nails painted yellow to match.”

“Her momma was the same. Always said Till should’ve kept her tied up. It’s the only way with them kinds. For their own good.”

“By July she was tan as a Indian.”

The lake glittered in the afternoon sun. Children played on the thin strip of sand across the road, flinging water at one another, the drops flashing across the blue sky.

“It’s not the way I’d’ve thought a girl like that would do it. Using her foot.”

“Wonder if she done herself up for the occasion.”

“Have to ask the sheriff.”

“I bet she did. Spend an hour in front of the mirror just to get the mail.”

“Might’ve been plannin’ it for months, thinkin’ all the different ways.”

A maroon SUV pulled into the small lot and parked in front of the bench. A tall, pale, doughy man stepped out. He fumbled through the pockets of his khaki shorts, then used his key fob to lock the SUV’s doors. He nodded and smiled at the three old men. They nodded back grimly, waiting for the screen door to bang shut behind him. A white sticker family: Mom, Dad, four daughters and two sons, all holding hands, was pasted to the SUV’s rear windshield.

“Wouldn’t surprise me if it was some Latter Days that took her out on King’s Point, at least some nights,” the shortest of the three old men, in the center, said, untucking his chin from the collar of his plaid shirt to jerk it at the SUV. “They act real holy with their no coffee, no alcohol, but I’ve heard what they do to girls when they get them back to the compound.”

“Pass ‘em around like cards is what I hear.”

He nodded. “Even the money they make don’t smell right.”

On the beach, a boy ran up from the shallows with a minnow cupped in his palm. His sister screamed and leapt back, slapping his arm.

“You remember the trouble she ran into last fall after the football game?”

“Wasn’t trouble until she tried to make some afterward. Everybody saw the way she was hangin’ off the Johnson boy, drinking all night. What’d she expect was goin’ to happen?”

“Sheriff felt the same. Reckon you give up the right to complain with all that runnin’ around.”

“It’s a sad thing, though, just partwise how she was raised.”

“That boy near got run out of town.”

Inside the store, the clerk gestured at the brightly colored lures hanging from the wall while the pale man stared up at them blankly.

“Must’ve been something like this,” the oldest said, carefully rotating his cane so the bottom pointed at his nose. He leaned forward and pressed the dirty rubber nub between his eyes. The loose, wrinkled skin puckered up around it. He blinked. “Big toe. Hook it through the guard.” He clasped the wood shaft between his knees and tapped the handle with his shoe.

“Yellow as the sun.”

“Really have to squeeze it through.”

“No, not her. Those little feet, her toe’d fit right through.”

“There’s different ways to do a thing but it sure isn’t how I’d expect a girl to go.” The old man’s watery blue eyes crossed as he stared down the shaft.


“A hot bath.”

“Why she didn’t just lean over farther and use her finger.”

“Might’ve slipped off, see.” The question animated the old man. He stretched out his arm and leaned forward to grab the handle. The nub slipped to the left side of his forehead. He demonstrated again, the nub slipping off to the right and ending up in the tuft of gray hair behind his ear.

“Well, she got it on the first try.”

“Yes.” They all three paused and looked out at the water.

“Must’ve been one hell of a mess.”

“Up on the wall and the like. Was her mother that found her.”

“In the room where she growed up.”

The cash register jingled as the clerk slammed it shut. The old men kept their eyes fixed on the lake. A red kayak slowly made its way along the far shore, passing in front of docks and boats and trees.

Then the oldest spoke again, a note of agitation coming into his voice. “She’d’ve come through it, though. You can’t tell them anything at that age. But they grow out of it. I remember my Lisa—”

Uncomfortable, the shortest interrupted. “It won’t be the same come summer.”

“Mormon women with their hair trussed up, water skirts.”

“They don’t even swim. Just set there staring.”

“She’d’ve growed up and moved out and had girls of her own someday.” The oldest finished. He laid his cane across his knees, sat back, and stared at the ground. He tapped his foot, touching an invisible trigger with his toe. “Fifteen years old.”

The pale man emerged from the store carrying two bags of ice, a can of worms, and a rented fishing pole. He nodded to them again but didn’t wait for a response, and they didn’t offer one. He climbed into the SUV. It growled to life, pulled out, and turned down Lakeside Drive.

“He ain’t going to catch naught but mud in this heat. Damn fool.”

The oldest’s eyes followed the red kayak as it rounded the point and disappeared. “The colors out there all start to run together.” He squeezed the cane, a whiteness appearing around his knuckles. “You hardly even notice.”

Maxim Loskutoff's stories have appeared in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Narrative, DIAGRAM, Willow Springs , and elsewhere. Honors include the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award and fellowships from Writers Omi at Ledig House, Ox-Bow, Jentel Arts, Sitka Center, Caldera Art Center, The Brush Creek Foundation, and Mineral School. He lives in Oregon, where his current work is supported by a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation.