by Tingyu Liu

Dearest

Dearest,

Recently, the shadows have started to stretch their bodies at noon. I’m wearing two pairs of ski socks and my feet are still cold. I’ve moved your blue armchair by the radiator.  

This will be a long winter. 

Did you know that our mattress still offers up the curve of your shoulder, the press of your heels? I haven’t washed your pillowcase, and some nights I press my cheek into it. Even now, I will not steal your covers. 

Sometimes, I clutch our doorknob for far too long. 

If letters folded into bridges, we could meet on some slip of an island, honeycombed and sun-slicked. I’ve been thinking about my packing list. I’d bring a suitcase of snorkels and tulips. I’d be more skin than clothes. 

Yes, I’d say yes.


Tingyu Liu was born in Huaian, China, grew up in Miami, and currently works in Boston as a healthcare consultant. She has been published in Spillway, The Broken Plate, Up the Staircase, and Maudlin House, as well as various scientific journals for her neuroscience research. She has degrees from Pomona College and MIT.


by Michael Brown Jr.

Totem

In the heaven of these hours
As I rise from chalk outlines
Chiseled on concrete 

To be as the two
Divided halves
Of the moon 

Half a fag
Beneath black skin
Living so close 

To Burnside
Where they beat
And sodomized 

That Hispanic boy
For trying
To join their gang 

I hope to become wholly
A man in ecstasy
As I am in agony 

Movin mong the moonlight
Like ashes tossed from urn to wind
In the heaven of these hours


Michael Brown Jr. is a resident and native of the Bronx in New York City. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, SAND Journal, American Chordata, and elsewhere.


by Sophie Herron

12/11

On the night of August 24, a man masturbated to me on the subway.  

People I told:
That night, the internet. Then, a friend,
in confidence. Two weeks later, five or six
at a bar, some I barely knew. 

Words I want to put back into my mouth:
                           I’m not even that hot.

People I did not tell: The police. The train car.  My roommates. 

I stared him down, if that makes a difference.
                           He looked south, across the water.
                           You can see Lady Liberty there, in the daytime. 


                           I was so worried he’d start again.

            At the bar, finally, someone,
Why didn’t you—?


The week after, I stopped
masturbating. Writing. Worrying
how to walk down the street.
Avoiding strangers’ eyes.


Sophie Herron obtained her MFA in poetry from New York University. She has taught English and creative writing to students of all ages in her work as a high school teacher, a teaching artist, an NYU instructor and a Fellow at Goldwater Hospital.


by Sophie Herron

6/5

Walking to get coffee,
I let my eyes linger on a man’s ass, 
and sit where the long-torsoed barista
can see me. 

In Paris, 1885, Olympia stared back, 
white hand over pubic bone, ankles crossed,
pink orchid behind one ear. A cat at her feet.
A black woman in the door, holding a bouquet.

At 3:08 this morning, a child yelled for four minutes from the building across the street. I didn’t mind—it was too hot, I wasn’t sleeping—but I was worried. I walked onto our astroturfed balcony and called to him. Quietly. I didn’t want to wake anyone else. Hey. Hey! Hey. I tried not to lean on the white-rotting railing. I tried to know what I was doing.

The child held a full water-bottle out between the bars of his window, and turned it. Back and forth. Over and over: back and forth. All the while, yelling—a bright, unformed noise that rose and fell as his thin wrist twisted. For four minutes.

The bottle was the kind that comes in packs of sixteen: plastic thin, lumpy and easy to malform, label peeled off. When he turned it just right, it blazed.

On the way home: 
a woman’s hourglass curve 
under lace. I love waists. 

Vulgar, they called her, 
and gave her guards. 

I don’t want to fuck 
anyone. I’m pretty sure 
that’s true.


Sophie Herron obtained her MFA in poetry from New York University. She has taught English and creative writing to students of all ages in her work as a high school teacher, a teaching artist, an NYU instructor and a Fellow at Goldwater Hospital.


by Elizabeth Allen

Northern Suburbs Crematorium

Those are the words people use: “passed away.” So she starts to use them too. She hears herself saying to people in a dignified and grown up voice, “he passed away.” The words sound gentle and easy and she knows that is a lie but they also contain a sense of elusiveness, of slipperiness, and she knows that part is real enough.

She watches the coffin moving down the aisle. “My father is in the coffin,” she says to herself. She has walked down a lot of aisles in her life: plane aisles, supermarket aisles, the aisle at the Town Hall on Speech Night, the assembly hall aisle, video store aisles, library aisles. This is a defining moment but it seems like a waking dream she is having while walking to the fridge to get a midnight snacka reflection in the night window that vanishes when she looks at it too closely.

At school, in science, her class is learning how to do scientific drawing; to properly represent Bunsen burners, beakers, and test tubes. They are also learning how to draw different liquids and their menisci: the curve seen at the top of a liquid in response to its container. Some liquids have a concave meniscus and others a convex one. For alcohol, however, the meniscus doesn’t curve at all. You have to draw a dead straight line from one side of the container across to the other.

She thinks about the tears pooled inside the fleshy container of her body and wonders which way their meniscus would curve. Perhaps she would just draw a straight line as the event has the hard and sharp edge of an inescapable fact. She has a deep clean paper cut inside her, right from one side of her body to the other. She is disappointed when her tears taste salty and unsophisticated, like a mouthful of seawater. She realises she got it wrong. She had imagined neat whisky.

An object is being thrown at her but she is not sure how to arrange her hands in order to catch it. Her life has started to come apart like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of which can’t be retrieved; the well-meaning voices of family friends falling off the end of the telephone line as they arrive at conversational cliffs. She and her family have been learning lines in a play without even realizing it and have all come together for the final performance. Here, in this space. Now. “That was the year my father passed away.”


Elizabeth Allen lives in Sydney. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in many major literary journals as well as in the Best Australian Poems 2012 and 2014. She is the author of a chapbook, Forgetful Hands (Vagabond Press, 2005), and a full-length collection, Body Language (Vagabond Press, 2012), which won the Anne Elder Award. She was one of the judges of the inaugural Noel Rowe Poetry Award and carried out a writing residency at the Arteles Creative Centre in Finland during 2016.


by Alex Sniatkowski

Saigon

In Saigon my uncle caught gonorrhea in the back of a bar behind a dumpster. My cousin and I spent Saturday mornings in front of the television, watching Star Trek re-runs. Before the birth of my daughter, I didn’t complete a half marathon. Under the palm trees, hidden from the streets and the war, he took the woman and made love to her with the smell of garbage enveloping the two of them. My cousin liked to pretend to be Spock when we watched Star Trek. Rain falls on the house. She mounted him, while the dirt and grass tickled his bare back. I figured Beth couldn’t drink during the pregnancy, so training for the half marathon was my way of joining her in solidarity. My cousin was named Brian, but we called him Spock. My uncle was named Seth. I signed up for a race the day before Beth’s due date. Beer bottles cracked under my uncle’s back. Spock used to wake up in the middle of the night screaming, waking me up after to see if I was alive. Rain popping on the gutters, I approach the house and draw my gun. Beth went into labor while I was at the fifth mile, almost halfway through the half marathon. Spock had night terrors. I met Beth two months after my last tour in the desert. Spock would wake up the whole house when he had night terrors. I didn’t tell Beth that I had served until four months after we started dating, because it made things easier. I draw my gun, approaching the house, the rain popping on the gutters. The next morning my uncle woke up with cuts all over his back. Beth’s labor lasted into the night, and I stayed with her, unable to sleep. I am still in the desert. My uncle is in Saigon. Beth is in the hospital. Spock is sitting up in bed screaming for everyone to hear and checking to see if I’m alive. My shoes are soaking wet from the puddle I step in on the side of the house. Jeff is dead. The baby came out a girl, a relief; there are already too many boys in this world. The windows reveal a dark house made darker by the clouds. I met my uncle once. Beth and I both cried when the baby was born. I held Jeff the same way I would hold my baby years later. I hold my baby the way I held Jeff years earlier. Both are covered in blood. My uncle grabbed the girl’s neck and pulled her closer to him. Jeff was plugged with bullets while we circled a house. Spock woke up one night screaming and then started slapping my chest because he thought he had killed me. My gun is drawn, and I approach the house, while rain pops on the gutters. My half marathon remains unfinished and will stay that way. My uncle showed up drunk in the kitchen and told Spock and I about the cuts on his back one night when we were twelve and my parents were out to dinner. As I held my baby, I felt that she could be safe in the world. Lowering my gun, I check if the door is unlocked, my feet still soaking wet. My uncle drank three of my dad’s beers before escaping through the backyard at the sound of my parents’ car. When Jeff got shot, he was rounding a corner and exposed himself to enemy fire. Spock told me he thought he had strangled me to death, and he was happy that I was alive. My uncle left the beer cans, and my parents punished Spock and I for drinking. I knew she would be beautiful. Using the handle of my gun, I smash the window. Holding her by the neck, my uncle fucked her harder and harder. Bullets don’t make a sound when they hit somebody. Spock never ended up drinking like his father. Through tears my mother told Spock that he really shouldn’t. Beth slept after she gave birth. Jeff paused a second before falling. Their noises grew as they came closer. I hid behind the wall, staring at Jeff’s dead body, thinking that around the corner was the only way to meet up with the rest of our battalion, aware that there was at least one person with an automatic there to kill me, aware that Jeff was dead, aware that I was alive, aware that I was fucked, and aware that I would more than likely die the same way as everyone else I knew. Through tears, my mother told Spock she lost a brother, not knowing that he had been there less than twenty-five minutes before. The house is dark, and I know I have to go downstairs to the basement. Someone came out of the kitchen and spotted my uncle and the girl who gave him gonorrhea. My gun is drawn. I kicked in a door and found a stairwell. She was so small in my hands. Jeff felt small in my hands when I held him too. I cried holding both of them. My uncle is in Saigon. I am in two houses, one in the desert, the other is across town in the rain. Beth is breastfeeding the baby in the hospital. Spock is screaming in the night. My mother is crying at the kitchen table. My grandfather is being born in a Hoover town while my great grandfather steals bread from the deli his cousin owns. From a bare window, I spotted the man who fired six rounds into Jeff. The smell from the basement knocks me to the ground when I open the door. I watched the baby and Beth sleep from a chair in the corner of the hospital room. A bus boy and a line cook pulled the girl off my uncle and started shouting at her. I could have used one shot on the guy who killed Jeff. Spock didn’t go back to sleep the night he dreamt he killed me. One of them slapped her across the face, and she cried, while the other spit on my uncle who still was naked on the ground. I emptied the entire clip into him because I wanted to make sure he had more holes in him than Jeff did. My uncle fell asleep behind the dumpster that night. I went back to Jeff and held him my arms, feeling that I would spend my life holding dead bodies. I held my daughter the same way I held Jeff. I vomit at the top of the stairs, and then grip my gun with two hands, and descend. Spock said he didn’t want to sleep again because he didn’t want to kill me again. I watched Beth and the baby sleep because they made me feel that maybe I won’t only hold dead bodies. The most active sense in the basement is smell. Jeff’s dead eyes stared into mine as I held him. The smell is putrid. My uncle never left Saigon. When I was in the hospital, I felt that I could leave the desert. Here in the basement, holding more dead bodies, I know I never will.


Alex Sniatkowski somehow managed to find himself in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in the Dangling Modifier. He also podcasts about punk rock albums with his friends. You can follow his twitter account, @alexsniatkowski.