by Amanda Peery-Wolf

The River Almost Arrives in the City

(already cracked open with debris)

 

(flatness the morning the bonebed—

I remember touching him

too much in the silverchest of night)

 

(a bakery of Christians

shake their heads where they serve

acid espresso, they would like to refuse me

my slice of cake)

 

(hemisphere of the last lover

where women spoke

soft languages sometimes

at night my words don’t reach—)

 

(I can't find his blue glass green

glass through the balconies

open mouth, teeth)

 

(the refractions! this place

could be the inside of a diamond)

 

(parrots & toucans. Toucans & passerines.

he teaches me the names of them.)

 

(floods, the fruits that are small at home

are huge eyes opened

whose is this best climate)

 

(the desire to be desired

has almost nothing

to do with it)

 

(the laws prevent

two buildings too close together

at least one must let in light—)

 

(I can’t find the lightshow

he made in the lobby—no wonder

my heart’s in another heart’s teeth)

 

(shaking down the sweet bananas

in the dogyard we go

to see the amazing trees)

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Amanda Peery-Wolf's work has been published in the Harvard Review and the Colorado Review, and is forthcoming in the Iowa Review. She is the winner of the Iowa Review Award for Poetry 2020. She is also the communications lead at Get Us PPE, a nonprofit founded during the pandemic to get personal protective equipment to people in need.

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by Amanda Peery-Wolf

Carrying

This is my suitcase of summer clothes.

My carry-on full of fluttery cloth.

When I left, it's all I brought.


Now, I watch the thin snow

and the governor says to stay at home

and home is wherever you are.


I wear the winter dress I left

when I left for Brazil

when I left for New York.  

I lived another life I'm so much more

beautiful in this than I was before.

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Amanda Peery-Wolf's work has been published in the Harvard Review and the Colorado Review, and is forthcoming in the Iowa Review. She is the winner of the Iowa Review Award for Poetry 2020. She is also the communications lead at Get Us PPE, a nonprofit founded during the pandemic to get personal protective equipment to people in need.

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by Evan Steuber

The Fall

It began with my daughter’s birth and escalated from there. By fifteen she was reckless with intent and threw herself from the perch of our roof. Drinking coffee at the time, I was splashed with burns in my leap to save her. Naturally, I asked why she didn’t use the ladder.

“You were just standing there.” She shrugged and scaled the ladder again, and I was forced to miss work that day.

When my boss lost his retirement fund he confessed he planned to jump from the window of our downtown office building. I’d worked there for years and appreciated that he never sexually harassed me. I asked if he had a time in mind and he relayed his tentative plans.

Though I attempted to enlist the firemen, they won’t respond to planned jumps, only imminent ones. “We wouldn’t have time to put out fires,” they said.

Just as well. My boss was late for his appointment. I stood below on the sidewalk waiting for hours. At dusk he finally sprung from the ribs of the still black structure. A broken, jagged piece dislodged and spread-eagled against blue and red-orange, suit billowed and rippling, mouth open and cheeks filled with air.

Catching him, my body collapsed in on itself. He was fine.

“You didn’t have to do that,” he said.

“You didn’t have to jump.”

“Well,” he said, “I hope you don’t expect me to pay your medical bills.”

Cuts were necessary if he was to recover his retirement fund. He told me I was being laid off. I got the doctor’s bill two months later and threw it in the trash.

That was the last straw for my husband. Said my catching habit was destroying our lives. He got full custody. They said I was a danger to my daughter.

I moved to India to get lost in the crowds. It was poorly planned. You can’t imagine how many people I caught there. They were falling all over the place. And they were angry. “Don’t you know the difference between someone who wants to be caught and someone who wants to be let go?” I didn’t. Wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Attempting to remove the temptation and escape the heat, I ended up in Antarctica. I almost drowned when a seal flopped in the water.

I came home when I learned my mother fell and broke her hip in the shower. Spent a good year locked up in her bathroom replaying the incident. Saw her aged body slip and grasp at the slick plastic surrounding her, my arms reaching out to envelop her fragile form. She told me to forget about it. But how could I, knowing exactly how it should have happened.

Soon it was rain and snow, my palms raised as I rushed back and forth to save each drop from the force of the ground, absorbing it into myself. In autumn, I lay beneath the tree in the front yard of the house I hated. Yellow and orange covered me until I was the earth. It got so bad I could barely stand for fear of what might fall from me. Dead hair, skin and small insects. Leaves, lint and crumbs.

I’d become a disruption to the natural order. I was the ground.

So I came up with a plan. Downtown, I found the tallest building. Ignored the elevator to feel my feet pound down onto each concrete step. Panting and red and soaked with sweat, I stumbled onto the roof where the wind froze my perspiration and stung my skin. Over the edge there was a mass of people waiting below, their bodies interlaced, still and strong, while mine was alone, weak and shaking. Each piece of me had become so heavy, like a compact history of the world. I had consumed all the things that settle from the sky and our bodies. Holding my breath, I imagined the crowd catching me and supporting that weight. And for a moment the thought was enough.

 


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Evan Steuber hails from Kentucky where they spent their first twenty-some years working in restaurants and retail, meeting the love of their life, and getting educated. Evan's short story "Pronoun Confusion" (originally published in Lumina Online) was recently included in the 2019 Best of the Net anthology. You can find Evan's creative work in other journals such as Apofenie, DREGINALD, Crack the Spine, and The Gravity of the Thing, and you can follow them on Twitter @justevanjs

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by Brittany Ackerman

Blue Movies

You will attend a Bar or Bat Mitzvah every Saturday for the next six months. Your mom will tell you to go to the service before the reception. You will beg to only go to the party, but she will drop you off outside the temple early. She won’t understand it’s awkward to wear your dress inside the temple, your heels, looking the way you look in your evening makeup. You wear her shawl over your shoulders. You sit in the back row. You try to follow along in the Torah, the big blue book tucked into a mesh basket in front of your seat. You open it. You try to make sense of what’s happening, but end up getting passed a handful of candies from Christina Riddler, who you hate. “You throw them when they’re done reading,” she says. You don't believe her. She’s wearing a tight silver dress and a pair of her mom’s heels, she tells you. “We’re both a size seven.” You think of how you never do this with your own mother. Your feet are so small, you still have to buy kid’s sizes. You put the candies in your mini Kate Spade purse and wait until it’s over.

Your closet has a section of black dresses for all the parties you’ve been invited to. You buy them from a store at the mall that sells Brazilian clothing. You can’t pronounce the name, but the saleslady is named Madonna and she treats you like you’re her daughter. The Town Center Mall in Boca Raton is your favorite place to be. You love eating Chinese food from the food court and carrying around your to-go cup of Pepsi with extra ice. You mom buys you a chocolate from the Godiva store, a raspberry starfish. Your mom gets something with caramel filling and takes a bite, says she doesn’t like it, throws it in the trash. She is always taking you shopping and buying you whatever you want. You once begged for a crimson colored dress to wear to Zachary Benson’s Bar Mitzvah and she obliged. You were so out of place that day in red. It was the first time the boys at the party asked you to dance. 

You want chicken fingers from the kid’s buffet. You want to escape the Bar Mitzvah and go to the playground. You want to kiss a boy, any boy, but it would be nice if the boy was Adam Green. Christina Riddler grabs your arm and drags you over to where Gene Fruchtman has formed a crowd around him by the slide. You don’t understand why she’s being nice to you, showing interest, but you know when you’re back at school on Monday it will be like it never happened. Gene shows his penis to a group of girls. He holds his testicles between his fingers and makes it look like a shell. He calls it the “slug.” He laughs. It looks so weird, the fleshy area of his boyhood. You wonder what it feels like, the skin. You want to touch it; you want someone to touch you too, but not Gene. He puts it away. Some of the girls are laughing. Some are pretending to puke. “Doesn’t it hurt?” Christina Riddler asks. “No, he says, “It actually feels really good.”

The rest of the boys are inside the party stealing liquor from leftover cocktail glasses. You get the nerve to ask Gene if there’s more. 

“What do you mean?” he wants to know. You ask if he can make any other shapes, or if it’s just the slug. 

“I can make a few more, if you wanna see.” He says and reaches into his dress pants. “I can do the Eiffel Tower, a one-eyed snake…I'm still learning, but I can kind of do a cow face.”

The girls in your grade are giving blowjobs and hand jobs and getting eaten out and fingered. Some of them are having full on sex. You felt a penis once, but just from the outside of Drew Carter’s pants. It was after school. You were usually first to get picked up from the carpool line, but your mom was late that day. Drew corned you in the doorway of the art room and put your hand on his crotch. “You gave me this boner,” he said. You ran away and never spoke of it again to him, to anyone. Years later, he invites you to his house to smoke pot and you drive over in your new car. You’re supposed to be home by 11:00pm and you get so high you’re not sure how that’s going to happen. He puts his cell phone on the table. When someone calls it lights up the whole room and you think it’s the cops. You grab your keys and run outside to the car. He hops in the passenger seat and you drive and drive until you hit the main road and see a Walmart in the distance. You park and walk in together. He buys you a candle. He apologizes when he realizes it was just the light on his phone. You laugh about it and that’s the last time you see him. You wish he could have been your first, if maybe the lights didn't dance across the room and scare you so bad. Maybe you ruined it. Maybe you never had a chance. 

Christina Riddler pulls you away from Gene and asks if you want to dance. You do, suddenly feeling bold, and go to the dance floor where everyone is playing Coke and Pepsi. You take off your heels and leave them next to your purse. You put on the socks your dad forced you to take for this very reason. As you run back and forth across the dance floor, you wonder how you’re expected to be a woman one minute, and the next minute you’re expected to act like a kid. You don't know which way is the right way to be. You wish you did. When you dance, it’s silly, easy. You feel so separate. 

Someone’s mother is always taking photos of you and the kids who are supposed to be your friends. You don’t see the pictures until twenty years later on Facebook, and they’re pictures of pictures. In the photos, you see your sadness, your anxiety. Your arms, thin. Your nose, bumpy. Your hair, always big, fried from the straightener, but never fully straight. You know the other kids got something you didn't. They were winning a game you weren’t even playing. They’re all smiling and laughing in the photos. You wonder what was so goddamn funny. 

Gene Fructman, the boy with the penis shapes, grows up to be class president. On a field trip to Washington, D.C. he asks your best friend to rub his cock with her foot on the bus. A “foot job” they joke at dinner in your country’s capital. You watch her, sprawled out in the last row of the bus, her sneaker on the floor while her socked foot rubs his dick. The look on his face: happiness, pleasure, satisfaction. He will tell you your skirt is too short when you wear a denim skirt to school on your birthday. He will date Margot McKey for three years because she has big boobs and her dad is rich. He will never have the right haircut, and he will go on to college, to marry a woman, to have a child. You will remember him when years later you watch a video online of a man making figures out of his penis. The man is naked and explains into the camera how to twist the testicles to make a bow, how to hold the shaft and arrange the tip to look like a hammer-head, how to hide the balls and make an elephant trunk. You will watch the videos until they finish. You will not understand why it’s so hard to look away.

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Brittany Ackerman is a writer from Riverdale, New York. She earned her BA in English from Indiana University and graduated from Florida Atlantic University’s MFA program in Creative Writing. She teaches Archetypal Psychology and American Literature at AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Hollywood, CA. She was the 2017 Nonfiction Award Winner for Red Hen Press, as well as the AWP Intro Journals Project Award Nominee in 2015. Her work has been featured in The Los Angeles Review, No Tokens, Hobart, Cosmonauts Ave, Fiction Southeast, and more. Her first collection of essays entitled The Perpetual Motion Machine is out now with Red Hen Press, and her debut novel The Brittanys will be published with Vintage in 2021.

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