by Hannah Aizenman

Small Talk

You’re a raven, my friend said, and disappeared

into the library. I walked a while, toward the park,


and realized it made sense—my shoes were

uncomfortable, I could not help my elbows


lifting in the wind. Terrible at parties, and also

everywhere, my eyes lit on silver jewelry,


my throat a broken loom. That afternoon,

the sun was made of granite, sliding heavy


off the snowbanks piled high. I stopped to say

hello to a man I hardly knew. He said, Isn’t this


awful? I didn’t know what this was, but privately

agreed, and then I said, The weather? As if it were


impossible to speak of anything else.

Hannah Aizenman holds an MFA in poetry from New York University. Her work has appeared in BOAAT, Sycamore Review, Black Warrior Review, and Gigantic Sequins. Born and raised in Birmingham, AL, she now lives in Brooklyn.


by Caroline Cabrera

The marriage bed is ripe for dreaming

We both pretend the backyard rabbits still emerge to nibble at our grasses, though neither has seen them in weeks. I don’t know if you still look or just nod along when I proudly call them our rabbits. 


I know you used to fear rabbits until you allowed a large one to lie upon your back.


Each day approaches as another anniversary, of what I seldom know.


You say you’ve decided to pray again and I ask if that is accessible to you. You smile at the question. You tell my best girl you are praying for her and none of the three of us know if that is true. 


I hide treats in the refrigerator and you pretend not to find them, allow me to have something for myself.


You vacate when I ask.


I hear your story about awaking to the sound of a person being mauled by a bear so many times I start to believe I heard it too and tell the story as my own.


Sometimes it is simpler to tell a story as your own. In this way, we become each other.


In the morning hours I dreamed you asked if I wanted to stay another few years and I said yes and you prepared yourself to be happy doing that. 


Awake I don’t know what we’ll do or where we’ll go. The tarot deck keeps reminding me to unclench my gut and embrace the coming whirlwind. 


Someone hurt me once. And then others hurt me. Now I find it hard to embrace anything.


I resolve to make fried chicken and seduce you. Something soft in me uncovers and I consider you.


I touched fowl for you.


Understand my body became off limits to me. I cannot access it freely. My body might as well be yours, though I cannot give it up to you or anyone. So much to make of a body I sense so little of.


I cannot become melting ice or cracking stone. You cannot hold ice or stone.


No one should be so reducible. No one so reduced.


Caroline Cabrera is the author of Saint X, winner of the Hudson prize from Black Lawrence Press. Her previous collections are The Bicycle Year and Flood Bloom. She is editor of Bloom Books from Jellyfish Magazine and teaches with two nonprofits, Innovations for Learning and the O, Miami Poetry Foundation.

by Angela Qian

My Uncle the Magician

My uncle the magician came

with a basket of oranges.

The smell of citrus leaked

out through the house, 

heady, redolent, and sour-sweet like grief.

Inside the basket, a hole with the moon;

inside the moon, my face without color,

face-bones protruding like old

ruined structures.


In our house by the lagoon, where we lived

for ten years, an orange tree grew at the back of the garden.

It was heavy year-round with fat promises of health.

We squeezed the fruit with our hands, squishing

the pulp, drinking juice swimming with

these remnants of flesh. I remember ice cubes and glass,

my father’s strong fingers. Still, the ground underfoot 

crumbled with rot.  


My uncle the magician holds a basket of oranges.

An orange for longevity. An orange for luck.

He undoes the skin, showing nothing but air—

Come here, he beckons,


Eat this, he says.



Angela Qian is a writer and translator. She was the recipient of the 2014 Norman Mailer Award for College Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Catapult, The Millions, and other outlets.

by Nicholas A. White

The Pleasure Island Club

Pleasure Island was both a community in coastal North Carolina and an adult board game that my ex-wife had found one evening at a local thrift store. She said starting the club would bring the island together. Back then, only a few neighbors came to the meetings, and instead of stripping off our clothes and kissing someone else’s husband, we only sipped wine and laughed at the activities we were supposed to perform. That lasted about a month. Then, as the club’s membership grew, bras and boxers became less required, and the more adventurous people convinced the others to start playing the game for real.

One night I found Rachel on the boardwalk with my neighbor. “What? It’s part of the game,” she said, shrugging. And though I moved to Georgia soon after, I could never stop thinking about the two of them kissing on the boardwalk, the ocean calmly moving with them in the background.

Sometimes I returned to Pleasure Island to rent, under a false name, a small condo a few blocks from the ocean. Between my visits the shoreline eroded, but the spot remained where Rachel and I had always sunbathed together. A family now sat beside those rocks, a tent pitched above them, their children scurrying underneath with buckets, shovels, and smiles. This visit saddened me, like all the others. Near the north end of the island, large machines floated a hundred feet offshore and pumped sand from the bottom of the ocean. These dredgers fought to keep the beach in existence.

The town rebuilt the boardwalk before my first visit back. The composite material looked the same as wood from a distance, but the texture reminded me of plastic, smooth and sterile. I never walked there anymore, choosing to access the beach from the street instead. They ruined the boardwalk for the sake of durability.

I passed through the barricade of boulders, which separated a thin strip of beach from the row of oceanfront condos. An older woman smiled as she climbed the other direction up the rocks. I nodded, squeezing the lighter in my pocket and hoping she wasn’t someone who would recognize me. She wasn’t. The unfamiliar faces of summer tourists relaxed me. After she passed, I watched a teenage boy and girl who floated on waves together in the distance, and I wondered if the Pleasure Island Club still met on Saturdays, and if Rachel was still leading the meetings, and if this young couple had ever stumbled upon one of their drunken orgies. Something was wrong, though, and they started swimming to shore, a pair of fins not far behind them. I knew the fins belonged to dolphins, nothing to worry about, but I took off my shirt and ducked under the roll of a wave, anyway, to help them to land. Maybe I just wanted somebody to save.

“They were just dolphins?” the boy said, his long hair sticking against his cheek.

“Just dolphins,” I said.

They walked north, headed toward the pier, and in their place appeared a woman my age, holding my shirt. I studied her, trying to remember if I’d ever seen her at a club meeting. She didn’t look familiar. But something about her expression, her curiosity, reminded me of Rachel.

“That was real brave of you,” she said, handing over my shirt.

“They were just dolphins,” I said. “We haven’t met before, have we?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“So you’re not from around here?”

She said she was from Raleigh—and her name was Kristen—but her mom had a beach house on the island, and a few times a year she visited with her son. She pointed to a toddler who carried a plastic shovel and chased a flock of seagulls. Perhaps he was the product of a late night club meeting. I glanced at the boardwalk; the composite wood of the newer sections, replaced after the fire, was greener than the rest. And I thought of Rachel’s skin shimmering from the moonlight, our neighbor’s body pressed against her.

“Did you lose something?” Kristen asked, pointing to my pocket, where my thumb clicked against the lighter. 

“Just a nervous habit,” I said, showing her the rusted lighter. Then I surveyed the beach, wanting to change subjects. “The erosion’s getting bad here. A lot of boulders and dredging equipment around.”

“Yeah, but it’s even worse other places,” she said.

An older man approached. He looked familiar, and there was something about his walk that bothered me, something about the looseness of his hips: a member of the Pleasure Island Club, I realized—though I couldn’t remember his name, and I hoped he wouldn’t recognize me.

“We should tell people about your bravery,” Kristen said, smiling. “Not everyone would jump in the water like that.”

“They were just dolphins,” I said.

She waved the old man to a stop and made a joke about me saving people from the dolphin-infested ocean.

The old man studied me. “John?” he said. “It is you. No beard, but you can’t hide those ears. There’s a reason people joked about how you were always listening.”

“You’ve got the wrong person.”

“Listen. I get it,” he said. “But you can’t keep coming back here.” 

Kristen inched away.

“I don’t know you,” I said. “Leave me alone.”

“Okay, sure,” the old man said. “But Rachel’s the only reason you’re not in trouble. She still feels somehow responsible, I guess.” The old man rubbed the sweat off the bridge of his nose. “You should thank her sometime. You should thank all of us,” he said, before walking away.

Kristen made an excuse about having to leave to cook dinner. She returned to her child and hurriedly gathered their stuff while I tried to spark a flame with the soaked lighter in my pocket, my thumb beginning to blister. I started back to the condo. But before leaving, I glanced one last time at the giant machines near the north end of the island. Day and night, they dredged, trying to replace what the ocean swept away.


Nicholas A. White worked as a civil engineer before shifting his main focus to creative writing. He's currently an MFA candidate at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and his stories have appeared in Pembroke Magazine, Permafrost, Necessary Fiction, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere. Learn more at

by Lily Ray Darling

After Paris, Texas

It was October of 1997 and his brother came home from a movie about a boy with teeth too big for his mouth. Dewey and his friends would call him Solomon for weeks after that, in the cruel way only an older brother and his friends could. Dewey snuck him into the theater after days of pleading and Atticus had nightmares for weeks after, a certain inclination towards a sense of unease at the sight of a child on an overpass or the corpse of a cat on the side of the road. That was the year Mama started slapping Dewey upside the head a lot more often because, they guessed, she was still mad about him calling her a fat bitch. 

They spent a lot of time outside that fall. The school days were short, and sometimes Dewey would pick him up in their Daddy’s white pickup early so Atticus could do stupid things that would make Dewey and his friend laugh. They hung out under the highway. Sometimes Dewey would leave without telling him and Atticus would have to walk home by the side of the interstate. 

It was Tuesday that he saw Father Abraham. 

He was a pianist, first. That’s what everyone always said. He was a pianist and then he found God during the war. In some stories he was German, in the others he was French, sometimes (only sometimes) just good old fashioned American. He wore wire framed glasses and would only stop wandering to deliver a sermon. They called him Father Abraham because he looked old enough to have been at the founding of Babylon.

It used to be that older kids would drive in their trucks beside him and see how far he could go but that got boring fast. He just walked, didn’t stop for much of anything. Walked like he had everywhere and nowhere to be all at once. 

Now, a housewife would sometimes venture out and give him a cup of water on particularly hot days but that was the extent of the town’s interactions with him. When he would pass through people would stop and stare, maybe bring it up in conversation the next day like they would a bout of rain or a brilliant sunrise. He was skeletal, and his skin was browned and freckled by the sun. Only a downy fuzz of white hair dusted his skull, but his eyebrows were thick and his eyelids droopy in nature. 

Atticus kneeled on the couch with his arms propped against the back cushions to peer out the window as he passed. Mama was smoking a cigarette on their front step and she hesitated for a second as Father Abraham rounded the corner before taking a long pull only to push the smoke back out of the corner of her mouth.

He walked with his spine curved into itself. Atticus was friends with a girl who went to the church he preached at two towns over. She said he smelled bad but not bad enough that anybody was complaining and the only time she saw her daddy cry was when he delivered a sermon after that girl’s body was found in the bayou. She said she shook his hand, she swore she did. She said it was warm but dry, like all that sun he soaked up during his wandering decided to stay there a while. Like he was one of those miracle August days when things weren’t too humid at all and no one cared about how hot it got because of it. She told Atticus her mama said maybe his walking was something for the soul. Like playing the piano or painting a pretty picture.

Someone should chase him away with a rifle, was the first thing Dewey said when he looked out the window over Atticus’s shoulder. He ain’t human. Swear it. 

Atticus told him it isn’t his fault because he can’t stop walking. Couldn’t stop even if he tried. Though he never heard that before, he wanted to defend him in some way for some reason. He didn’t know why, just felt like he should. Maybe it was something about having respect for a man that could make someone’s daddy cry. Maybe that was it.

It’s bullshit, Dewey told him. That’s something only horses get. A rot in the liver. That’s what Dad told me, it’s bullshit. 

Atticus didn’t believe him, because Dewey always held the words of that ghost like they were a lost sacrament. He was always wrong when it came to saying something like that.

That night, Atticus opened all the windows in his room and crawled into bed more tired than he had ever felt before. He stared, out the frame and into the yard, as the brush turned into dark shapes etched into a blue-black sky. He closed his eyes and thought he could hear the gentle call of cicadas.

Lily Ray Darling is a Brooklyn native who will be attending Brandeis University beginning in the fall of 2018. She was the Editor in Chief for her high school's only student-run newspaper, The Polygon, and her work has been twice recognized with Honorable Mention awards from the Brooklyn Public Library's Ned Vizzini Teen Writing Contest. Both works have been published in the Brooklyn Public Library's Teen Writing Journal.