by Paloma Yannakakis

Ordinary Grief

Ordinary grief, militant heart

heart without a shadow,

not a hand

the green idiom cycling through

its enclosure

Words remembered in isolation

schoolbook words, days

to be beyond all care

sharp burin

if it was a matter of caring

Death, and death again

a startled spring inside you 

flaring out of season

leaves you not alone to wonder

where the good is in that 

held the note as long as it would hold

the strays, run, limp slipshod across the wet grass 

in wingless flight 

Paloma Yannakakis recently completed an MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and holds a PhD in comparative literature from Cornell University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Washington Square Review, Green Mountains Review, and Transverse. 

by Ron Riekki

My Panic Attacks

are a job

where I work

at a place

             where I can get killed

             and I do

             get killed

about once

a month,

by drowning,


                      the water


into my cubicle

or whatever box

they have me in,

                                    whatever term

                                    they have

                                    for the current box,

and when I was in jail

I remember the thousand


                                                    on one of the walls,

                                                    the man,





                                                                   next to me


                                                                   over and over,

Get me out

of here!

and the more

                                                                                           he screamed

                                                                                           the more

                                                                                           I knew

he would be staying



Ron Riekki’s books include And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Independent Publisher Book Award), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Michigan Notable Book), and U.P.: a novel (Ghost Road Press). Books upcoming in 2019: Posttraumatic: a memoir—essays & flash non-fiction on the military, prison, iggy pop, the devil, & writing (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), The Many Lives of The Evil Dead: Essays on the Cult Film Franchise (McFarland, w/Jeff Sartain), Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press, w/Andrea Scarpino). 

by Tara Boswell-Ramirez

I've worked my whole life

to not be a spectacle and now the midwife has me opened up on the table and asks your father if he’d like to see my cervix and while I’m not sure I would mind, I just don’t know him well enough yet, but no one asks me before he says yeah crosses the room and bends down to my vagina without ever meeting my eyes. My body is only my body a moment before he’s in it, then you’re in it, then you’re out of it and napping and he’s telling me breast milk is actually very sweet but here’s the thing —I didn’t even realize I had leaked into his mouth.

Tara Boswell-Ramirez writes in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and son. She's happy to report the rumor that motherhood kills your poetry is false.

by Adrian Silbernagel

A Thicker Skin

I came out as trans while working at an Irish pub in Lexington, Kentucky. The pub, Laney's, was something of a legend in the minds of the locals. By the time I got there, however, its golden years were long over, and its legacy lived on only in the slurred stories told by the aging drunks who kept our doors open. The bar’s owner, Richard, a straight white guy in his early forties, had bought Laney's when it was hemorrhaging money, right after the previous owners had run it into the ground. I admired Richard’s ambition and work ethic; what I didn’t admire was his brand of masculinity, the way he cultivated a reputation of being insensitive and unempathetic, taking pride in his lack of such “feminine” qualities.

I will forever remember the day that Caitlyn Jenner’s story came on CNN while I was standing with Richard behind the bar.

“Man, he is messed up,” said Richard.

“Who is?” I said, pretending to be absorbed in the silverware I was rolling. 

“Him,” he said, pointing to the television. 

I winced. “You mean Caitlyn?”

Richard snorted. “Whatever. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I think people should be able to do what they want. But like, if you’re amputating body parts just because you ‘don’t think they should be there,’ something is wrong there.”

Part of me was desperate to end the conversation, but I pressed further. 

“I think that’s the idea,” I said, mustering up the courage to confront him. “Something is wrong. Their body doesn’t match their gender.” 

“No way. What’s wrong is their brain. If someone feels like they should’ve been born without limbs, then they need counseling—not amputation.”

This conversation took place just a few weeks before I came out as trans. I came out to my coworkers first, so that I’d be able to use their support as leverage when I came out to Richard. Standing awkwardly in his office, I told him that I had been seeing a gender therapist, and how after years of discomfort I was ready to acknowledge that I am male, which for now would mean going by a different name and male pronouns, and eventually, physically transitioning. I let him know that I’d already told my coworkers, and that I had their support. When I was done talking, Richard nodded, and matter-of-factly said that it didn’t matter to him, all that mattered was that I do a good job, which I did. I couldn’t believe my ears. Why was he being so civil? Did he not hear me? Should I explain it again? Hell no, I was going to quit while I was ahead.

Tears of relief spilled down my face as I stepped out of the bar into the cold winter air. Though it was still early in the afternoon, I went home and cracked open a beer. “To celebrate,” I told myself. In reality I was drinking not to celebrate, but to alleviate the stress and anxiety that I had been carrying around in the weeks leading up to my conversation with Richard. I drank until I blacked out early that evening. I hadn’t forgotten the transphobic comments Richard had made a few months earlier, but I also knew that surely he respected me on some level, and that even if he didn’t respect my identity right away, he would learn to.

After a couple of weeks, I was growing increasingly anxious to change my name in the system. I voiced the request several times over the course of several days, and each time Richard replied vaguely that “he would do it.” But everyday my old name kept coming up on my tickets and my customer’s receipts, and everyday I’d be forced to explain the discrepancy to at least one curious customer or table. I could feel my social anxiety growing, and I was beginning to get the sense that Richard was avoiding my request. Finally I confronted him about it.

“Hey, umm, were you still planning to update my name in the computer? Sorry to bug you, I just wondered if maybe you forgot.”

He snickered. “How could I forget? You bring it up every time you see me.”

“ it difficult to change?”

“No, it’s easy.” He was avoiding my eyes, shuffling around the office trying to appear busy.

“So do you think you could do it, maybe tonight? It’s just, like I said, it’s kind of awkward introducing myself to customers as one thing, and their checks saying another thing. I don’t want to confuse anybody.”

He smirked. “Oh come on, customers aren’t reading their checks that closely.”

“You’d be surprised. I’ve had two tables ask me about it just tonight.”

When he didn’t respond, I took a deep breath, and pressed further. “Is there some reason you don’t want to change it?”

He finally turned to look at me. “It just seems like you’re jumping the gun.”

I laughed awkwardly. “Okay, uh, well, I get that it might seem that way to you. But for me it's been a long time coming. And all of my coworkers and regulars are using my new name now. I even have a court date to change it legally. What difference does it make anyway?”

He looked exasperated. “Alright, alright, relax. I’ll do it before I leave.” 

He took his time leaving the bar that night. Meanwhile, I seated, served, and cashed out several more tables before a check finally printed out with my new name on it. 


“Wait, you’re a ‘he’ already? That was fast,” Richard would say the first time I reminded him of my pronouns. It wasn’t just my pronouns that he butchered; he regularly referred to me using hyper-feminine language, such as “lady,” “ma’am,” “girl,” and “girlfriend.” If he apologized, his apologies were backhanded: “Sorry about that. But what am I supposed to call you? ‘Sir?’ That’s a stretch.” Again and again I broke it all down for him: the psychological consequences of misgendering, and the ways it affected my performance at work. But psychological consequences carried no weight for Richard, who regularly used emasculation as a means to silence me. He downplayed my anxiety, mocked my over-sensitivity, and mansplained that if I wanted to be a man, I would need to grow a thicker skin.

It eventually became apparent that Richard’s “inability” to adjust to my transition came from a place of resistance. He couldn’t adjust because he didn’t want to adjust, because he didn’t want to believe that I was a man. It offended his sensibility, or more precisely, his misogyny: his sense of being biologically distinct from, and superior to, those he classified as women. Meanwhile, my health was beginning to deteriorate. I wasn't eating, and was drinking heavily while relying on pain relievers to relax the knots in my shoulders, where I carried the stress I brought home from work. If I was able to sleep at all, it was a fitful sleep plagued with anxiety dreams. 

One night, after a string of triggering encounters with Richard, I had my first-ever panic attack. I was standing at the bar waiting for Doug, the Sunday night bartender, to make the drinks I had just rung in. It occurred to me that I was having trouble breathing. Before I knew it, my heart was racing, and my head and hands were starting to tingle. I asked Doug to keep an eye on my tables while I took a lap.

I sat on the office floor, facing a small electric fan. I was shivering but could feel rivers of sweat trickling down my sides and back. I didn’t know what to do. If I called Richard he would just tell me to get ahold of myself. I searched the room for something to focus my attention on. My gaze travelled up the liquor shelves. I began at the top shelf, reading each label until my breathing had normalized and I could return to the floor. 

The day finally came when I’d had enough. I gave my official notice to Richard in the form of a typed letter. In the letter I stated that I’d received an offer that I could not turn down (in truth I had yet to even secure a job), and downplayed my actual reasons for quitting Laney's. My intention was to make my departure as amicable as possible, so that I could still use Richard as a reference. It was as if Richard sensed that this was my goal, and set out to undermine it. He left my letter sitting on his desk for days unopened, heaped additional tasks on my plate without a please or thank you, made snarky and condescending remarks at every opportunity, and made even less effort than usual to gender me correctly. In response I held my tongue, kept my head down, and counted down the hours until it was over. Finally, he broke me.

It happened during Friday lunch, the busiest shift of the week. We had just lost our kitchen lead and were down several line cooks, so Richard and I were forced to tag-team manager duty. My replacement, who I was training that day, stumbled around on my heels like a lost puppy as I raced back and forth doing the jobs of several people: making and delivering drinks, seating tables, checking in food deliveries as the trucks rolled in, printing checks for the vendors and putting away the orders, periodically stopping to help the server cash out and bus her tables, then sprinting back to the ten-by-ten-foot kitchen where Richard and I worked elbow to elbow to crank out orders, handing off hot pans and sharp utensils, barking instructions and clarifications back and forth. The tension between Richard and myself, combined with the grating sound of the ticket printer and the heat coming off of the grill, created an atmosphere that could compete with hell.

I was pattying out burgers during a lull, and my trainee was helping me. Richard was doing cold prep a couple of feet away from us. At some point, I asked Richard a question, and after a beat he responded, “I don’t know what to tell you, lady.” My stomach lurched. A second or two passed, and he continued, “I mean, guy. Dang it...I suck at this.” I dropped the utensil I was using onto the cutting board. I could feel my body temperature rising, all of my blood going to my face, and my trainee—who I hadn’t told I was trans—turning and looking at me. After an indeterminate amount of time had passed, I picked up the utensil again, and with shaking hands finished the task in total silence, dizzy with shame. When I was done I walked wordlessly out of the kitchen. 

In the office, I tried to control my breathing, to tame my anxiety so that I could go over my options. But there was something else inside of me, something less submissive than anxiety, that refused to be tamed, that wanted to take the bottles off of the shelves and smash them against Richard’s skull. I forced myself to stomp out the violent fantasy. I needed to calm down. I needed a plan. Should I go back out there and act like nothing had happened? Or pretend to be sick and go home for the day, come back tomorrow with a cooler head? The thought of placating Richard in this way repulsed me; my rage responded to it like a fire to gasoline. I felt sick, like I needed to vomit, and could barely breathe. I was trapped, what felt like miles from the exit, inside the tiny office being consumed by flames.

The door flew open. “Are you hiding?” 

“I’m furious,” I croaked. 

He looked annoyed. “Yeah, that’s obvious. Look, Adrian, maybe you should go home for the day.”

I had no words. He was the one who was driving me out. He was the one who’d just outed me to my replacement and the other new employees in what was obviously an intentional, fucked-up power play. I no longer expected him to respect me. At this point I just wanted to finish out my notice and leave Laney's in peace, and he couldn’t even give me that.   

“I’m trying to run a business here,” he said, raising his voice. “If you can’t keep your feelings from interfering—” 

I cut him off. “Are you fucking serious?” He was gaslighting me, and we both knew it. 

“I corrected myself, didn’t I?” He was yelling now. “I can’t help how I see you. Mistakes are going to happen. I’m human.”

“This is not about mistakes, and you know it.” My voice was still shaky, a testament to my fragility, but at this point I didn’t care. “It’s been a year. And you still call me ‘lady?’ In front of new employees—people who don’t even know I’m trans?”

A look of amusement spread across his face, and I could tell that he was trying hard to not say what he was thinking: Of course they know you’re trans. Do you really think you pass? Besides, they’ve heard me call you “she” a million times. If you really think they think you’re a man, then you truly are delusional.

Instead he said, “Humans make mistakes. If you can’t deal with that, well then—” 

So this was it, I thought. This was what I waited a year for. All the times I “hung in there” just to get shit on again and again, for this. I couldn’t hear him anymore. I fumbled to get my bar keys off of my key ring, threw them on his desk, and brushed past him as he continued barking at me. I left the bar without saying goodbye to anyone, and never went back. 

At least, in my waking life I didn't.

Years later, and over a year sober, my dream-self still wakes up hungover, puts on his binder, and holds his breath as he goes into work.     

Adrian Silbernagel is a poet and coffee shop manager who currently lives with his partner and two cats in Louisville, Kentucky. Adrian's first book of poetry, Transitional Object, is forthcoming from The Operating System in April 2019. His work has been published in TYPO Magazine, PANK Magazine, The Atlas Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Columbia Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. 

by Keene Short

All Good Things

It was in Dublin that I met this woman who said she was Jesus. I was working the fish market then, and my job was to haul these crates of cod from the docks to the market, and then the restaurants bought them, the cooks approaching me early in the morning when I got there. I got so used to the smell that I started to like it. 

I got to know the cooks and their respective restaurants quite well. I remember one cook from the kind of pub where radicals and revolutionaries met to plan risings always met me at the same corner, and he kept me informed about which radicals were planning which risings and when I should be prepared, and in exchange I sold him his cod a little cheaper. 

Until one day that cook wasn’t there. Instead, there was a woman standing in his corner preaching about being Jesus. It wasn’t the strangest thing I’ve seen in the fish market, but it was well among the strangest. Someone asked her if she was the second coming of Christ, and she said this wasn’t the second coming, she was here on a temporary mission, just a quick fix of a small problem. She said there was a twelfth commandment she had to tell us about. 

She stood on a milk crate on the street corner. I think she was a fisher who went mad. Or a butcher, maybe. She wore boots and a black apron and there was fish blood smeared on her arms and the top of her head, like she’d wiped sweat off her brow while gutting cod with bare hands, which is how most of us did it back in those days before big ideas like health and gloves. 

She stood exactly at the corner where the radicals used to meet. She must have scared them off. A lot of cooks were turning away while she stood there yelling about a twelfth commandment. None of us being priests and the like, one the fishers walked up to her, leaving a crate of cod behind him, and asked what the eleventh commandment was supposed to have been, and the woman who said she was Jesus said it was to love thy neighbor as thyself, which she told the apostles at the last supper. The fisher frowned and then looked like he recalled something like that from last year’s Easter sermon but couldn’t be sure, so he walked back to his cod. 

The woman named Jesus said the twelfth commandment was an emergency preparation for things to come. Another fisher asked her to get on with it and tell us what it was, but some others were grumbling for her to be quiet. I think most of us were entertained by the whole ordeal. 

She said the newest commandment, which was more like an afterthought on God’s part, was that all good things must come to an end. Someone pointed out to her that this wasn’t really a commandment so much as a proverb or a general state of things, but she pointed a long fish-caked finger at him and said in this loud, crunchy voice that it was a direct order from God. That good things must come to an end, that all of them, wherever they are, must be put to an end. We should love our neighbors and put good things to an end. The fish guts had dried on her hand by then, and on her boots and apron and her hair. 

I remember that voice most of all, not angry or bitter or anything, just trying to be loud enough to be heard and cracking at the edges. I didn’t understand it myself, but some of the other fishers seemed content with it. She preached the rest of the morning, and by then we were out of cod for the day, and she hadn’t drawn too many customers away. We left her where she was, not wanting to talk to each other about asylums or anything like that. The next day, she wasn’t there. The cook from the radicals’ pub was back where he always was, and he bought five dozen cod from me for our usual special price. I asked him when the rising was going to start and he said soon, lad, sooner than you can imagine. 

Keene Short is an MFA student at the University of Idaho, where he studies and teaches. His work has appeared in Longleaf Review, Split Lip Magazine, Waxwing, and elsewhere. 

by Jacquelyn Stolos


There’s been something going on with the cat’s left eye for about a week now, this cloudy gray ooze leaking out of her tear duct. I’ve been swabbing it away with a cotton ball, once in the morning before I leave for work and once in the evening when I get home. She doesn’t let Owen do it. We’ve been trying to hold off on another trip to the vet. Poor thing is already on five daily medications, and at some point you’ve just got to consider quality of life. 

Last Thursday we slept through our alarm. Owen told me to just hurry, go, he’d take care of all the cat’s morning stuff. After I left, he was able to get her hyperthyroid drops in one ear, but after that she ran under our bed, scooting out of his reach as he went from one side of the bed to the other, trying to grab her. She didn’t even come out when he shook her bag of treats. He tried for forty-five minutes before he really needed to go. 

When we got home that night there was this black scab crusted over half her left eye. It looked thick and craggy. I fed her, dampening a washcloth while she ate, and then I took off my shoes and waited on the couch. Sweet girl always comes to cuddle after she eats. Owen sat down beside me with his laptop and started flipping through some pictures his mom had sent from our weekend at the beach. The cat hopped up on my lap. I let her purr and rub her little face across mine for a bit, and then I clasped my hand around the back of her neck and began to dab at her eye with the damp washcloth.

 I was half paying attention to the cat’s eye, half looking at the laptop when Owen paused on a wide-shot that his mom had taken from where we’d set up our chairs. The beach was crowded, but I zeroed in almost immediately on this one woman standing in the surf, facing out toward the ocean. She had long, white thighs and an impossibly narrow waist. She stood with her hands on her hips, her spine tall. The sun reflected off her dark hair. I leaned over to get a closer look, feeling something between envy and attraction toward this woman. Her body, her posture, her life. 

Owen clicked to the next picture. No, go back, I said, and when he did I spotted him in the picture too, unmistakable in those orange swim trunks. He stood right beside the woman, his hand on the small of her back.

 I stopped. My back. The woman, it was me. I squinted at the screen, trying to comprehend my mistake. My hair, my thighs, my waist. I looked away from the picture, embarrassed. I’d been ogling my own body. What kind of asshole is attracted to herself? 

The cat stared up at me from my lap, ears flicking. Her eye was clean, but where was that scab? The washcloth was clean. I took my hand off the back of her neck and looked down my blouse, pulled at the creases of my slacks, and slid my hands between the cushions of the couch. Nothing. The cat stayed on my lap while I searched. When I stopped moving she put a paw on each of my shoulders and lifted herself to my face, pressing her sweet little skull against my mouth. Owen closed his laptop and asked what I’d like to do for dinner. 

Jacquelyn Stolos is a writer living and teaching in Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from NYU, where she was a Writer in the Public Schools Fellow. Stolos is the recipient of Georgetown University's Annabelle Bonner Medal for short fiction and has won fellowships to attend the New York State Summer Writers Institute and The Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Her short fiction has been featured in The Atticus Review, Conte Online, and The Oddville Press. She is at work on a novel.