by Frankie Concepcion

The hardest part of leaving is the wait

When they told me I was leaving. I began to take stock of the things I would have to do without. I think that if leaving is a type of death then everyone I know has already outlived me. If leaving is a type of growth then I must be the part that needs to be shed. I envy things that cannot speak and so I speak for them. That a plant could stay rooted without being asked whether it belonged. That a bed would not need a passport to be part of a home. I'm laying out the last eight years of my life in visas and work authorizations. I'm wondering about the person who sealed an envelope with their tongue with America inside. Calling myself an immigrant feels too much like a lie. It always seemed too permanent to me. Until now. I don't know how to explain to people that I am even less than that. That I always knew I was leaving.


And here I thought I had made myself American enough. Tamed my accent enough. Made it seem like I didn't mind the cold enough. I picture myself in the screening room of the San Francisco airport: showing Tim the immigration officer my Spotify playlist. My Instagram. Maybe if he could see the kind of music I liked, let my friends' white faces stand in for mine, he would realize what a horrible mistake he's made. 'Can't you see my whole life is here?' I'd say, and he'd apologize, and set me free.


I have always been. A selfish person. Desiring things I cannot have. Aching for things others have ached for. Only louder. A command in the cry. The extraction of a promise. In the 'I hate to go' always the 'tell me to stay'. Fight for me. Bloody your knuckles for me. Let them know I am worth keeping. I apologize. I have never been one for patience. Maybe having to leave. Is an opposite ache. A kind of punishment.


You want to know the truth? The truth is that there are things you will never get to do. The truth is that you ran out of time. You wanted to knit a blanket. Something to feel like home. But home is a fire and it’s smoking you out, and what good is a home if it hurts you? Feed the flame before it takes without your permission. You are running out of time. You are running out of time.


This year. Living in America has felt like living. In a house on fire. Like loving. The person who set the blaze. I am worried. That I am more flame now than flesh. That I will see fire. And call it home. Let it turn me to ash. Make the person that rises after. Unrecognizable. Still. When I tell you that America. Is a house on fire. That is not to say. It is the only one. Not to say. That my own home did not smoke me out. First. Sometimes. I can still feel the heat of it. Some singed version of me that I carry. Like a ghost. She reminds me what it feels like. To burn.

Frankie Concepcion is a writer from the Philippines and has been living in the U.S. for almost a decade. Her fiction, essays, and poetry have been published internationally in editorials such as Waxwing, Vagabond City, Rappler, and The Toast. In 2018, Frankie began the process of applying for Permanent Residence in the United States. Her latest Instagram project, @_l.e.a.v.i.n.g, is her humble attempt at documenting what it is like to try, and still want to be, an immigrant in America.  

by Terrance Owens

The Learning


My father was really shouting at me

because he didn’t love himself because he didn’t love his father,

or at least 

that’s how my mother weaved it later.


I was like a mirror, too familiar to him,

a boy dumb-stunned by the big world,

empty as a jar,

empty as an afternoon 

spent watching a cork bob barely

in the ash green sleep of a small pond,

empty as cigar smoke

lifting its silent cursive

around a boy

who has nothing to say for himself.


He had to know then

that the only way forward 

was away

and how the words of our fathers

pinball around our bones

dialing up different faces and shapes

until we look like one of Picasso’s people

and the ghosts have no place left to hide, 

until we're the walking arithmetic of change itself,

a portrait of a stranger

with life's first and last lesson 

chambered like a bullet 

in the rhombus of our heart in our heart.


And who could recognize himself now

here in the smoke of my decisions?



Terrance Owens has an MFA from Eastern Washington University. His poems have appeared in PANK, The Minnesota Review, The Literary Review, and The Adirondack Review, among others. He lives in Seoul, South Korea.

by Sarah Silberman


Lauren’s parents lived in a Victorian house with blue shutters, a patch of ivy scaling the turret. It was set on a large green lawn that seemed perfectly suited for croquet. Looking at the lawn, I imagined garden parties and seersucker and buckets of gin. My sister, Madeline, answered the door. “Jesus, Felix,” she said. “Finally.” She pulled me in for a hug, smelling the way she always smelled, like citrus and lotion. She wore a dress I had never seen before and lipstick. “Did you walk here?” 

“I took an Uber,” I said.

“I would have picked you up,” she said, “but you never texted me back.” Madeline took me by the wrist and led me into the hallway, closing the front door. There was a side table and a vase with three immaculate tulips. I reached for one, inspecting a petal. It was real. “We’re outnumbered,” my sister said, quietly. From a room off to the right, I could hear voices, glass tinkling, harp music filtering from a sound system. I was the only person from our family Madeline had invited. Our father lived on a commune outside of Eugene, Oregon with a bunch of other dipshits and, anyway, we hadn’t seen him in over a year. Our mother had been dead for three months. 

A bearded man brushed past us and clamped a hand on my sister’s shoulder. He raised a glass, liquid sloshing over the rim. “Congratulations!” he said. Madeline tried to smile. She hated parties. She hated being the center of attention, or anywhere in its vicinity. Lauren’s parents had been the ones to insist on an engagement party for Lauren and my sister. Lauren’s parents were nice enough, but they avoided processed foods and owned recumbent bikes and seemed a little too enthusiastic about having a gay daughter. 

My sister and I watched the bearded man continue down the hall, slip into a room, close the door. A lock clicked. “I need a drink,” Madeline said. She twisted the earring in her ear, a turquoise stud with a gold setting. It had belonged to my mother, was one of the few pairs my mother managed not to lose. “Did you bring your pills?”

I reached into my shirt pocket and produced two ovals half the size of tic-tacs. I had gotten them from a bartender at work. I dropped one in my sister’s hand, and she rolled it between her thumb and forefinger. “What do you want to drink?” she said. 

I placed the other pill in my mouth and swallowed. “What do they have?”

“Everything,” she said. 

I followed my sister into a cavernous room that looked like the set of a murder mystery. It had a fireplace, an oriental rug, an abundance of built-in shelving. The room held a few dozen people, most of them old, in their fifties and sixties. They wore stripes and houndstooth and navy. I spotted Lauren by the fireplace, in a shapeless blue tunic. I spotted Lauren’s parents, Roger and Vivian. I spotted a cousin of Lauren’s—Harold or Henry—whom I had met once before, a year or so earlier. He had talked at great length about dog breeds. 

Madeline walked straight to the bar and poured two tumblers of Maker’s. We clinked glasses. We drank. “So you’re good?” my sister said.

“Yeah,” I said. 

Lauren appeared at my side. “Felix,” she said. “How are you?”

“Good,” I said. “How are you?”

“Your sister and I were concerned.” Lauren had the habit of intoning like a kindergarten teacher, and it drove me nuts.

“Can we talk about it later?” my sister said.

Concerned?” I said. 

Madeline looked at me. She set her drink on the bar, pulled her phone from a pocket in her dress, scrolled through the text messages, and held it out. 

I had sent the text on Wednesday at 1:42am. It was a picture of me in my kitchen, Modelo cans toppled on the counter behind me, holding my mother’s urn. 

Me and mom, I had written.

I looked at the picture. I blinked. “It was a joke,” I said. The truth was that I had only a vague memory of sending it, and no memory of what my intention was. 

“It’s not funny,” my sister said. 

From across the room, by the fireplace, there was the insistent chime of metal against glass. Lauren’s father, Roger, lowered his champagne flute. “If I could steal your attention for a moment,” he said, voice booming. “I want to share a few thoughts about Lauren and Madeline.” He launched into a long, earnest monologue about life and companionship, as if he had anything new to say about them, as if anyone had anything new to say about anything. I looked at my sister, who was looking at Roger, her head tilted at a polite, attentive angle. Lauren, of course, was beaming. “Lauren?” Roger said. “Madeline? Will you join me?”

Lauren and my sister went to the fireplace. Lauren’s mother, Vivian, joined them, too. Roger kissed his daughter on the cheek. He put an arm around my sister, raising his glass. “To the happy couple!” he said. There was toasting and clapping and whistling. And they stood there, the four of them, a family. 

I turned my attention to the trays of finger foods next to the bar. Hard and soft cheeses, an array of crackers, fresh fruit. There was a pyramid of miniature quiches and I chose one from the bottom, hoping to topple it, but it remained intact. The quiche was buttery and rich, with a good amount of salt. I realized it was the first thing I had eaten all day. I ate another quiche and some grapes. Then I finished my drink, poured another, and wandered to one of the bookshelves, where I was intercepted by Vivian. Vivian preferred to go by Viv. 

“Felix!” Viv said. “You’re here! Isn’t it wonderful?”

“It’s fantastic,” I said.

It was fantastic. I was halfway through my drink, and I could feel the Alprazolam in my bloodstream. I was vaguely aware of the anxiety I had felt a moment earlier, but it was a separate entity, a balloon tied to my finger with a piece of string. I glanced across the room, watched as Lauren looped her arm through my sister’s, as she leaned over and whispered in her ear. I wondered about Madeline sometimes—wondered if she had chosen comfort over something trickier and more elusive—but every once in a while she and Lauren looked halfway decent together. 

Viv introduced me to one of Lauren’s uncles, who lived in Delaware, and the two of them talked about a property up in Maine—about whether or not it was winterized, and when the contractor was supposed to show up. My mind wandered, as it does when people talk about real estate, and I scanned the bookshelves, zeroing in on a shelf of DVDs. It was a varied collection, with Home Alone shelved right next to Sophie’s Choice. I tapped on the case for Sophie’s Choice and remembered a story my mother used to tell about seeing Meryl Streep in a Marriott in Boise, Idaho. Meryl Streep, my mother said, had worn all white and eaten a popsicle in the hotel restaurant. A popsicle in a restaurant, my mother said. Can you imagine? 

I suddenly became aware that Viv and the uncle were looking at me with some degree of expectation. “And what do you do, Felix?” the uncle said, possibly for the second or third time. 

It was a question I could have answered in a variety of ways. I could have said that I drank a lot. I could have said that I watched dozens of YouTube videos of a walrus that had been trained to sputter and whistle and roar on command.

“I work at a restaurant,” I said. 

“A manager?” he said. 


The uncle nodded and rocked on his heels.

“It’s a terrific little place in the District,” Viv said. 

“And the rest of your family,” the uncle said, “are they local?” 

Viv’s face fell. She peered into her wineglass, as if it contained the answer. “Felix’s mother passed away,” she said. 

My hand tightened around my glass. I hated euphemisms for death. People die, my mother would have said. And then they’re dead

“She had a touch of cancer,” I said. 

The uncle cleared his throat. “My condolences.” 

I turned to put my glass on the bookshelf, but my aim was off and the glass knocked into a candlestick, which rolled off the shelf and crashed to the floor. “Whoops.” I crouched to retrieve the candlestick, encountering the floor sooner than I anticipated. I ended up on my back, somehow. The oriental carpet provided minimal cushioning. The room quieted and my sister appeared in my field of vision. She gripped my arm, her nails piercing my skin. “Stand up.”

It took considerable effort to stand up. I was a little woozy. Madeline’s hand was still digging into my arm. She led me down the hall and into a powder room, where she pulled me inside and closed the door. She flipped a switch. A light came on, a fan whirring. “Felix,” she said. “What are you doing?” 

“How do you mean?” I said. 

“I mean,” she said, “what the fuck are you doing?”

The room smelled artificially of lavender. There was a ceramic dish on the sink filled with small purple beads. I imagined plucking a bead, placing it in my mouth, and swallowing. 

“Grieving,” I said. 

My sister slammed the toilet seat down and sat on top of it. She leaned forward, elbows on her knees, head in her hands. She breathed in and out. She sat like that for a full minute. The powder room, I realized, was a small place for two people. It reminded me of how, when we were little kids, my sister and I would crawl into our mother’s closet, sit on top of her shoes, and let her clothes drape over our heads. She had all these long, button-down dresses in bright, floral prints, and they had a very distinctive, musky smell. We did it, not to hide or escape or anything, but just to sit there, the two of us, in the dark.

I heard footsteps outside the powder room. “It was very sad,” Vivian said, her voice receding. “Madeline was devastated.” My sister wiped at her eyes. She pulled a card from her pocket and handed it to me. 

It was a business card made of nice, thick cardstock. It listed a phone number in tasteful grey font. 

“She’s a therapist,” Madeline said. “Lauren’s friend of a friend.” 

“Ah,” I said. 

“We think you should call her.”

We?” I said. 

“Please call her,” my sister said. “Okay?”

I folded the card in half and slid it into my pocket. I wanted nothing to do with my sister and Lauren’s we. I wanted nothing to do with a therapist. “Sure,” I said. 

My sister left the bathroom. I locked the door behind her and sat against it. I bundled up a hand towel, embroidered with geese, and used it as a headrest. I tried to remember the last time I had gotten a full night’s sleep. Grief was like an indefinite head cold. I was sapped of energy, waiting for it to run its course. There was a knock on the door and the knob rattled. “Hello?” a woman’s voice said. “Are you okay in there?” But I just sat there, not doing anything. It was a pretty loaded question. The knocking resumed—louder this time, with urgency—but I ignored it. I ignored it as long as I possibly could. 


Sarah Mollie Silberman holds an MFA from George Mason University and lives in Washington, DC. Her stories have appeared in Booth, CutBank, New South, Puerto del Sol, and Spartan. Find her online at

by Claire Drown

Green Like Ivy

On a Wednesday morning in mid-August, my therapist pauses, then says, “So why don’t you think of Annie Lamott when you get jealous?”

We had been talking about school, or friends, or writing, I don’t remember now, and must have mentioned Anne Lamott off-hand. I had been carrying her book with me for weeks, until it was slowly becoming an extra appendage. I was struggling, and I clutched to the paperback like it was a buoy in the rough, sparing me from the worst of the seawater waves.

“In her book. Think of that chapter. When you get stuck, that’s where you’ll go. You’ll think of Annie Lamott.” My therapist speaks like this sometimes, using a nickname, like she’s familiar, like she knows her in real life, making it feel like maybe she does know her in real life. And I agree without fully understanding what I am agreeing to, without knowing where it will take me or if it will work. Such is often the case in therapy, but I have learned to trust the process—so I agree.


I am a reader, and I am a writer, and those two take turns deciding which comes first. I wrote long before I considered myself a writer. I wrote months before I could read, in the storytelling-through-dictation kind of way. And writing is still one of the only areas I feel jealousy so acutely that it manifests itself as stomach aches. It sits like cacti spines at the back of my tongue before I swallow it whole, where it grows into a gnarled tree in the pit of my belly, an ugly reminder of ugly thoughts. 


Anne Lamott’s words make sense to me, and are a comfort. They have been for many years, and I suspect they will be for many more years. I carry my dog-eared, paperback copy of Bird by Bird most places. Chances are you will find it in whatever purse or tote bag or backpack I grabbed running out the door, or it will be lying face-down on a nearby table, spine cracked. It is older than me by two years, but every sentence still rings true when I put my head down on the pillow at night. I can quote it. 


LAMOTT: I went through a very bad bout of jealousy last year, when someone with whom I am (or rather was) friendly did extremely well. It felt like every few days she’d have more good news about how well her book was doing, until it seemed like she was going to be set for life. It threw me for a loop. I am a better writer than she is. A lot of my writer friends do very well, hugely well, and I’m not jealous of them. I do not know why that is, but it’s true. But when it happened to her, I would sit listening to her discuss her latest successes over the phone, praying that I could get off the line before I started barking. I was literally oozing unhappiness, like a sump.



There is a way in which I look at the world, a way I am not proud of. I am always looking around me, eyes peeled and ears open. I see it in myself and I see it in others. I see it in my words, but I also see it in my flat feet and my curled fingers. The stiffness in my shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee. The scars from falls that refuse to go away. I always scar in the same places.

My body is not a source of jealousy for others. Perhaps instead it is a source of relief, of quiet gratitude of what others possess, that I maybe-maybe-not lack. They do not share their thoughts with me. I do not ask, but I do look, and I send my silent wishes out in invisible tendrils that wrap around coveted parts like ivy, squeezing before letting go and vanishing completely, leaving only ghosts of feelings, of ifs and could-bes. 


Jealousy is rage is grief is raw is painful. Jealousy hurts.


I turn to Anne Lamott and sometimes question where my faith in her comes from. She is a single mother, and a recovering alcoholic, and she is devoutly Christian. I am none of these things. She is also irreverent, and funny, and kind; things I want to be. When I read her writing, and when I read her writing about writing, I find a strange, tenuous kinship that is me looking into the past, present and future all at once. To me, Anne Lamott is at once a roadmap, and a how-to on how to feel and to forgive and to express. Not a manual on right or wrong, but a manual on being, and finding comfort in the uncomfortable.


LAMOTT: My deepest belief is that to live as if we’re dying can set us free. Dying people teach you to pay attention and to forgive and not to sweat the small things. So every time this friend called, I tried to will myself into forgiving both of us. I had been around someone from the South that summer who was always exclaiming, “Isn’t that great?”—only she made it almost rhyme with “bright.” So when my friend would call with her latest good news, always presented humbly like some born-again-Christian Miss America contestant, I’d say, “Isn’t that gright, huh? Isn’t that gright?”


My therapist writes and publishes poetry as a side gig, and she is one of the most talented poets I have ever met. Whether I am sitting on the sofa across from her in her office, or whether I am looking at her through a computer screen, she sees me as a writer, like her, and we talk like that sometimes, writer-to-writer as well as patient-to-psychologist. I am grateful for all the facets of her, and I am grateful that she can see all the facets of me.

I started my appointments with her post-back brace and pre-seizures, an accidentally perfect in-between state of my life. She met me once, years before I became her patient, and she remembers this meeting when I do not. I wish I did.

I look at my body now, and think of how she has seen it evolve, and the iterations of it that she has missed. What kinds of jealousy have passed over me, through me, and which jealousies have stayed long enough to fester, and rot away parts of me? I write my way out of this body, and I am stuck with this body. I am stuck with its imperfections and its failures, stuck with its history. 

I learn to live with jealousy, present-tense, because it is a process, and I don’t foresee an end. I am, however, ever so slowly starting to realize that it is not a fight I need to win. I have located its unruly beauty, its jagged edges and pockmarked surfaces. It is beautiful because it is mine, of me and from me, a place to rest and a place to grow. A place to let go of comfort.  


Annie Lamott announced her engagement a few months ago. She is sixty-four and her fiancé is sixty-three; she has a thirty-year-old son and a nine-year-old grandson. This is her first marriage, and I cried when I saw the Facebook post, feeling like I was hearing good news from a close relative. I wished I could call her and say, “You’ve waited so long for this. I’m so happy for you.” I would say, genuinely, “Isn’t this great?” Because it is great, that this writer who has spent so much time writing about love in its myriad forms has finally found love in a partner. It’s a kind of glorious. 

Is jealousy a form of love? Of misguided, misplaced love and pride? Is it inherently bad, or counterproductive? Does it deserve its place in the lineup of capital sins?


LAMOTT: She would say, “You are so supportive. Some of my other friends are having trouble with this.”

I’d say, “How could I not be supportive? It’s just so darn gright.”

But I always wanted to ask, “Could I have the names and numbers of some of your other friends?”

Sometimes I would get off the phone and cry. 


Maybe it’s a cycle we must learn to live with. A circle, a serpent with its tail in its mouth. The Ouroboros. The life and the death, ever-continuing, lacking a beginning, a middle, or an end. It is my beginning, my middle, my end.

My therapist says to me, “We are writers even if it isn’t how we pay the bills, even if it is something we do in stolen moments, scribbles on the backs of scratch papers or fragments of sentences in smartphone notes. That is enough.” And I want to cry.      

I stretch out my right hand with my left hand, feeling its joints and the grooves of its surgical scars. I flex my right foot the best I can. I look at my therapist as she sits in her chair across from me, her own hands folded in her lap. Right and left working together. My hands don’t match up quite as well, as I fold them in my lap, intertwining fingers, but I am not jealous. Not while I’m with her.


Claire Drown studies English literature at Whitman College, and hopes to work in library science after graduation. She lives in Davis, California.