by Christine Larusso

Cell Death

Voices can wisp and still pierce; 

I’ve felt it. At twenty. I remember 

a stop light. I grew crutch-heavy, 

felt-lined on the outtake—there 

were many more walls, all shouldering. 

The hazy windowpane.

Things that remind me of my father 

include: talk radio, the Sports section, 

Sinatra. An eagle I spotted in Canada. 

A kitten laid down in new snow.

Radio comes from the word radiate 

—invasion of space. A tool nature 

uses to fool us, render some nights 

slumberless. My bed is a mash of 

fabrics and licked-away wishes. 

When I was two, I wanted

nothing more than a make-believe 

kitchen set. The same year I jerked 

an iron from its perch, burnt a triangle 

into my hip. It’s still there, if you care. 

Transmission: my father taught me 

to twirl pasta into a spoon. Transmission: 

my mother tells a story of riding 

in a friend’s Jeep down the Pacific Coast 

Highway, being stopped by the cops, 

later the friend explained why he sweated 

so much: the ten or more pounds of cocaine 

in the truck. Before, I was embarrassed 

of this history. Now I think: what luck. 

To get away. 

I see tunnels of intellect that divided

my father and my mother as geomagnets. 

Cells that once pushed forward weakened

ten times faster than scientists expected. 

Transmission: I have written many words 

around static to try and silence it. 

I have thorns of memories that are not mine:

rosebuds growing in my limbic system, 

a mountain slope in perpetual bloom.

Pluck one rose: a man holds a knife 

to my mother’s throat. He is a father. 

He is somebody’s father. Who belongs to him? 

Who do I belong to? 

For as many sunsets. For the clocks I lost 

count. As I called myself an orphan before 

I was one. I did check statistics, facts, 

information: the most obvious symptoms 

are movement-related; these include shaking, 

rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty 

with walking and gait


idiopathic (having no known cause)

I walk briskly. Even in humidity. 

I hold my hand above my head in side-

angle pose. My spine. I think about 

my own decline often, tell jokes about 

my demise happening before I turn 40. 

Transmission: my father’s entire livelihood,

income depended on the strength of his 

body and his confidence that it would not 

betray him. I call what happened beguilement

This is an understatement. Parkinson’s primary 

feature is cognitive decline, which can lead to hallucination.

I pull What Ifs from a pillow, (the spot 

I once fished for dollars and luck) pinch 

the base of my neck, hippocampus, limbic 

system, cerebral cortex. As drawn to the brain 

as I am afraid. Where memory is stored

the death of dopamine-producing neurons

Where memory is destroyed. Destroys?

What do knives remind you of? 

A shaking woman. She’s not cold,

it’s California. There’s something else:

a prismatic hour feasting on the room.

I watch a man torched from a photograph. 

A smoking car. It seems like all the women

are running away, have been running, never 

stopping. Was it her father? My own? Genetic, 

ancestral. Hereditary, patrimonial. 

To err is human, to persist is devilish. 

This is not my tale to invoke and warm

by the stove. Old shoe, black shoe. Died 

before I had time. Counting my steps, I’m

a tick-tock at a quick clip. Car-want. Car-thirst. 

Car-hunger and hanker. 

An orphan must learn to love the highway. 

I see a three-year-old palm in the hand 

of another (a kind of astrology, divination). 

The hours before I taught myself lessons

of on-ramps, geography, tectonics. 

Transmission: in this telling, no drought. 

In this telling, I have yet to move 

through the space of a quake, the vicious, 

headstrong earth. I ask the man (is it 

my father?), What wet? And he says, This 

is rain. Rain. How could you forget? 

Christine Larusso's poetry has appeared in The Literary Review, Pleiades, Women's Studies Quarterly, Court Green, Narrative, and elsewhere. She is the 2017 winner of the Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize, and has been named a finalist for both the Orlando Poetry Prize and the James Hearst Poetry Prize. She is a Producer for Rachel Zucker's podcast, Commonplace, and she currently lives in Los Angeles.

by Caitland Conley


the oral surgeon gave fentanyl on the day of my surgery. i remember my mother via patch on the forearm or hip took that too. every six hours i had to flush the used patch down the toilet, or maybe i did and shouldn't have. at the hairdresser i always tell them my name is tiffany. tiffany—well, i— am from boca raton. my parents? they spend their seasons perpetually warm, blanketed in memory. my therapist told me to imagine grief as a stone; i was nineteen when she described the stone to me. she said the stone is half-submerged in water. the waves slap against rock, making perpetual time. i imagine the stone beneath a fake water fall, plastic used to add empty sound to a waiting room. over centuries water will smooth the rock face until it is, to the touch, newborn skin. i carry that rock in my chest and occasionally a black, unkempt sadness rises in me. bile accelerates the process of velveting my grief. i feel wind cold through tunnel, dark ride home in that never-ending taxi. i carry furniture up to the third floor. i see the stray dog catch the taste of trash in his wet mouth. it’s the same sadness of seeing children bobsledding with fathers, photo albums of stories i’ve heard but don’t remember. liking horses and becoming the child who likes horses. years have passed since she was one hundred then sixty-six pounds. daily that winter i kissed her forehead and was so aware of bone.

Caitland Conley is a writer living in Brooklyn by way of Tallahassee, Florida. Her poems appear in the inboxes of her friends. She is a graduate of Florida State University. Follow her navel-gazing on Twitter and Instagram by way of @stateofcaitland.

(Soma)tic Poetry Ritual for "Bathe The Door..." by CAConrad

Silhouette of Whisper

When I became vegan and macrobiotic in 1988 it was when scores of friends were dying of AIDS and I was constantly urging them to join me for the health benefits. This is to say I did not begin being vegan for animal rights, but becoming vegan changes our bodies and cleanses our formally inconsiderate perspective on other creatures. I remained vegan for the lives and rights of animals, but as a child, I grew up hunting deer, rabbits, pheasants, and squirrels. Whisper was the name of my hunting dog. After receiving my first rifle at 9 she and I loved to explore the forest and meadows together. When I shot a squirrel she would retrieve it and hover eagerly, waiting for me to toss her the heart as I skinned and cleaned it in the running brook, then secured its little body onto sticks to hold over a fire for lunch. I now refer to Whisper as my Lord of the Flies companion and she would be very sad if she were alive today to find that I no longer kill and eat squirrels in the forest. I drew a rough sketch of Whisper and filled in the drawing with black ink. Then I made a kite out of sticks and paper, gluing Whisper's silhouette on the front. I made secret notes on another piece of paper with words she knew for hunting and running through the forest, then glued it to the back of the kite, or rather the side that takes the wind. Sending it up, her rough portrait facing the sky above me, the wind pushing my secret messages through the kite and into her image. Because we lived in the country she never knew the tug of a leash, so it felt odd having the pull against my wrist, but at the same time I liked it, that tension, getting to feel the weight of the wind upon her drawing. I took notes for the poem while flying my old friend above me. In the evening I cut her silhouette from the kite and placed it under my pillow. The dreams were beguiling, being led into a realm of moss on tall trees, lily of the valley, and many pieces of light dancing on everything. Whisper was not there as I knew her but somehow all around me. It was a place where I felt myself relax in the dream. Then I realized that I was resting in the spot where I had buried her when I was a young teenager. I was, in fact, visiting my old friend all along in luxuriant consolation! After waking I took more notes for the poem.


CAConrad is a 2019 Creative Capital Fellow, and the author of 9 books of poetry and essays. While Standing in Line for Death (Wave Books), received the 2018 Lambda Award. A recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, they also received The Believer Magazine Book Award and The Gil Ott Book Award. Their work has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Polish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Danish and German. They teach regularly at Columbia University in NYC, and Sandberg Art Institute in Amsterdam and their poetry can be found online at  

by CAConrad

Bathe The Door With Blood Of The Centaur


                                                                                                     when orders 

                                                                                                  for evacuation 

                                                                                come over loudspeakers

                                      the forest is at the center of the predicament

                              their position keeps changing in the backroom

                                             dolling up the F-word with sequins

                                               we know what is coming is the

                                     oldest malediction against gravity    

                                    keeping pressure on the wound

                                                                writhing against 

                                                                 impressions the

                                                             center brought us

                                                           a new kind of anvil

                                                        dropped without the

                                                     slightest apprehension 

                            we later lapse into a season of latent beauty 

                                 leveling quiet towns in their sleep

                              somewhere north of here the beginning of 

                               the Mississippi is a bucket of water

                                                                            we tilt our 

                                                                             ears from

                                                                            blankets of

                                                                         sweat and cum

                                                                     overhearing birds in

                                                                  their temples of the trees  

CAConrad is a 2019 Creative Capital Fellow, and the author of 9 books of poetry and essays. While Standing in Line for Death (Wave Books), received the 2018 Lambda Award. A recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, they also received The Believer Magazine Book Award and The Gil Ott Book Award. Their work has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Polish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Danish and German. They teach regularly at Columbia University in NYC, and Sandberg Art Institute in Amsterdam and their poetry can be found online at  

by Erich Brumback

Monologue at Arlington National Cemetery

In the cemetery it is hard not to daydream. That is often the only thing you can do. “You really get to know yourself,” the guard who trained me said. He has a couple of pitbulls, a new grill, and plenty of pictures of both to share. When we were training we talked, but now that I am trained I daydream. I stand in front of a memorial and answer occasional questions from visitors, who usually crave directions. When my daydreaming is about my life (what will I do if I don’t get into grad school? where will I live after my roommates have their baby?) I guess that is getting to know myself. When my daydreaming is about something else, I’ll usually think of the scariest thing I can, which is probably also getting to know myself. It’s difficult if I open the contest up to somewhat abstract things like war or abandonment, but it’s easy if I limit it to physical objects. The scariest physical object I can think of is the B2 Spirit, or stealth bomber. Or maybe it is just mysterious and sinister, a black bottle opener hooked under the lid of a dream. The stealth bomber is invisible because it is shaped right. Radar sees by emitting electromagnetic signals, which bounce off of objects and return to the receiver, carrying news of the object’s position. The curves in the plane’s design bounce the signals, most of them, somewhere other than back toward the receiver. This accounts for part of its sinister appearance, but color has nothing to do with radar. They didn’t have to paint it such a humorless black. A stealth bomber has the radar cross-section of about a square foot, which I think means that, to a radar, it looks like a passerine bird. Yesterday evening after the visitors had all gone out to eat across the bridge, I watched one of the guards feed a grackle that he had been taming in the depths of his boredom. He was not a bird person, and I am not a military enthusiast by any stretch; I am just wondering what the worst thing they will find is when they pick through the rubble of this empire once it is razed. I guess the guard could be a bird person, but probably not. He is too young, and kind of a clown, and I appreciate his ways of fucking with tourists, hovering right on the line. Djuhherrmee? he’ll mumble at them, see if they catch his drift and answer. But they all dispersed and he started dropping sunflower seeds from a pocket in his reflective vest, coaxing the grackle that hops out from the bush a little closer to him every afternoon. The stealth bomber costs $135,000 an hour to operate but I stand here and watch this for $16 an hour. I guess if I included “operational costs” it costs a little bit more money to provide me with the uniform and, maybe, to pay all the people whose job it is to schedule, hire, and oversee my standing here, but I’m not sure how much. One person, an engineer who worked on the stealth bomber, desperately needed money, just like I do. He was going through a divorce (which I’m not) so he called the Soviet embassy and asked to meet with officials. He didn’t get very far, tried to accept $25,000 for information about the stealth bomber and was immediately arrested by the FBI agents that arrived instead. He said he was very sorry. He called his actions “disgraceful,” and was released from prison sixteen years later, but these aren’t the kinds of facts visitors ever ask for. No one seems to think anything here is particularly worrisome. No one asks who might have developed such a sinister object to hang in the sky. Maybe no one asks because they do not see it, nor do they see any other weapons except those carried by the guards at the gate, but today I can’t stop thinking about it. The B2 Spirit was developed by Northrop Grumman, the fifth largest arms dealer in the world. On my commute to my last job (as a barista: $9.50 an hour) I would drive past Northrop Grumman's headquarters, an office tower rising out of the plain beside I-495. At night it loomed over the noise wall I drove back home along. I have gotten so used to this, to being surrounded by the defense industry, that when I drove up to Bethesda with a friend a couple years ago to the tattoo shop she liked and we passed the headquarters of Lockheed Martin, the first largest arms dealer in the world, I thought nothing of it. I didn’t even notice. I don’t know where the second, third, or fourth largest arms dealers are headquartered, but there is a bell tower here that was gifted by The Netherlands at the end of World War II, and occasionally people ask about that. It is harder here than anywhere to forget that we live in the twilight of an empire; I have so much time to remember. I am just standing here, wondering what the worst thing they will find is when they pick through the rubble. I am standing in a cemetery, wondering what comes next. 


Erich Brumback’s essays have appeared in Territory, rivulet, and Entropy. He currently lives and frequently cat-sits in the Willamette Valley.

by TR Brady

Some Morning


June 2018, the waiting room. All the staff in rubber shoes. Rae is knitting a cowl on circular needles. The green bulk of it tucked into her knapsack, sure to be tangling around some mechanical pencils, her wife, Joan’s, glasses, a tube of chap-stick, a broken crayon, a crumbling strip of birch she found last winter, her beaded keychain from a secret Santa Christmas eight years ago. Her first Christmas in high school. Brianna, a blonde senior from drama club had made it, painted the wooden beads herself. They’ve smoothed over now. The paint thin. The leather stretched. Rae hadn’t expected the leather to stretch this much.

Once when she was working at the boutique, she had a customer who was trying to return a pair of shoes past the noted exchange date because they had loosed around the ankle. Rae, new and inexperienced with the depth of customer demand, stumbled over a shocked apology. It’s leather honey, the customer said, it stretches, but this? The customer threw up her hands.

Rae pictures the keychain in her bag, the gaps between each bead, the soft bump of them meeting each other. She really should be rid of it by now.

A few people filter through the waiting room. A towheaded girl in unicorn pajamas. A red-faced boy jabbing his pointer finger at a durable-looking tablet. Parents hauling Pillow Pets to reception, then to the coffee bar, then to some sterile room beyond the swinging doors to wait. Swing swing.

Knit purl.

Old people with their middle aged children. 

Rae puts on her headphones and imagines her life as film. Scene: the ambulatory surgical center. Seven a.m. A few skipped stitches. A few holes in the scarf. A few incisions in Joan’s knee. Joan’s white face when the nurse hooked up the IV. The masked doctor.The overhead light. Those children. 

She takes a moment to recount her stitches. She sees how badly she’s botched the job and tries to knit back to the source of the misstep, but the shape has gone. 


TR Brady is a Teaching/Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Foundry, Denver Quarterly, Prelude, Passages North, and The Arkansas International.