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Quiet Lightning is:

a literary nonprofit with a handful of ongoing projects,

including a bimonthly, submission-based reading series
featuring all forms of writing without introductions or
author banter—of which sparkle + blink is a verbatim
transcript. Since December 2009 we’ve presented 1,774
readings by 954 local authors in 145 shows and 118
books, selected by 77 different curators and performed
in 91 venues, appearing everywhere from dive bars and
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Full text and video of all shows can be found for free

There are only two rules to submit:

1. you have to commit to the date to submit
2. you only get up to 8 minutes


opportunities + community events

sparkle + blink 112
© 2021 Quiet Lightning

cover art © Jillian Crochet

“Your Horoscope for the Week” by Beatriz Seelaender

first appeared in Maudlin House.
“A Syrian Sleep” by Nathalie Khankan
first appeared in Action, Spectacle.

set in Absara

Promotional rights only.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form

without permission from individual authors.

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internet or any other means without the permission of the
author(s) is illegal.

Your support is crucial and appreciated.
su bmit @ qui e tl i g h tn i n g . o r g
curated by
Anna Allen + Sophia Passin
featured artist
Jillian Crochet |

Morgan Liphart What Frida Taught 1

John B. Oldenborg Even a Peppermint Scented Candle 3
Jessica Barksdale When I Wash Raspberries 7
Joseph Hardy How I Learned to Love Vanilla 9
Morgan Liphart The Current Scene... 11
Mike Horan Three Dads 13
Joseph Hardy My Children 15
Adam Cheshire Fish out of Water 17
Tracy Porch Pretty Hair Girl 21
D. E. La Valle Birthday Dress 23
Martha Stallman Minneapolis Minnesota... 25
Elizabeth Marino Dateline: July 25, 2021 29
Clara Olivo Then This Bitch... 31
Rose Menyon Heflin Shoes 33
D. E. La Valle Lone Bather 35
Madison Murray Halibut 37
Keith Mark Gaboury My Hairy Roommate 39
Beatriz Seelaender Horoscope for the Week 41
Jane Claire Bradley I’m Still Here 45
Nicole Farmer The Secret 51
Celesté Cosme We Became Like Them 55
Dawn Angelicca Barcelona the medicine... 59
Maggie Bowyer Best Friend 61
Morgan Liphart At the top of bluebell trail... 63
Ed Phillips Disco Neck Ted 65
Nathalie Khankan A Syrian Sleep 75
Andre Le Mont Wilson Hauntings 79
Jane Muschenetz Road to Hell, The Series 81
Shannon Lise Amarula on Ice 83
Cathleen Davies Nunca Más 85
g is sponsor
et Lightnin ed b
Qu i y
Quiet Lightning
A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet
Lightning is to foster a community based on literary
expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL
produces a bimonthly, submission-based reading series on
the first Monday of every other month, of which these
books (sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts.

Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the QL board is currently:

Evan Karp executive director

Meghan Thornton treasurer
Kelsey Schimmelman secretary
Connie Zheng art director

Anna Allen Christine No

Lisa Church Sophia Passin
Chris Cole Tom Pyun
Rhea Dhanbhoora Katie Tandy
Kevin Dublin Edmund Zagorin

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t h a n k y o u t o o u r pat r o n s

alex abreu catherine montague

sage curtis james morehead
frederica morgan davis sophia passin
chris dillon jessie scrimager
kevin dublin jon siegel
linette escobar katie tandy
ada genavia
mary gayle thomas
chrissie karp
miles karp meghan thornton
ronny kerr brian waksmunski
charles kruger emily wolahan
jennifer lewis edmund zagorin
shannon may connie zheng
rgan Liphart
What Frida taught

you are everything. you understand that, right?

you have the entire universe of stars inside your bones,
and you tell me that you don’t believe in miracles?
keep walking with your ten toes and ten fingers
and raging heart. you are already whole.
set down your phone. he won’t call.
go to a coffee shop and think about God and gravity
and how they must be the same. Frida taught
we are our own unfolding stories, our own map
of the world.
you are your own legend.
you loved a man with metal teeth and napalm breath
and it’s okay. because it will always be okay.
brush the ashes off your chest and take your
chain-metal heart somewhere else.
you are so goddamn beautiful that you cannot
be contained
in a glass jar. you are not a model ship for the world
to look at.
you are a lightning bug caught on a July night,
and you would die in there.

n B. Oldenbo
J oh rg

P epp Even a
e r mint Scented C a n d l e

could have burned down grandmother’s beach house

but I say nothing
Last winter I handed her that smelly chemical cylinder,
poorly disguised by snowflaked Santa giftwrap She
the peppermint candle With my grandmother’s soufflé
torch I got the wick going
My grandmother, notoriously afraid of flame
who always had me blow out her birthday cake candles,
is dead
There are revelations, this
isn’t one of them

I surround her grave with peppermint scented candles

which I buy
during Yankee Candle’s Christmas Candle Sale I forget
if they were buy-one-get-one or buy-two-get-two

Her beach house was not proper
No smoke detector A collection
of old Lladró catalogues I think
those characters are all completely hopeless and
hundreds of unwashed egg cartons Grandmother why
were you such a big fan of eggs, enough
to treasure their paper tombs? Oh,
well, she died and now I
am mostly alone

For Christmas when I was ten she bought me a

Walmart skateboard with horse decals (
I wanted a Rob Dyrdek Complete Custom Alien
Workshop Soldier Series Skateboard
[with turbo ball bearings]) so I did my best Hawk
impression kickflipped
the fuck out of the Lladró horses she had grazing above
our stockings

Each year she would buy me more horse-themed skater

Each year I would misuse the horse-themed skater
kickflip her glue-heavy figurines to smaller

4 J o h n B . O l de n b org
Each year out of fear I double the number of candles
to keep the malefic spirit of my dead grandmother at bay
I briefly consider exhumation
Walk her decadent corpse
Wear the dead skin
to once-loved spaces Let it ride
a pony or two again
Show my love finally
somehow, however late
into the day it gets

Joh n B. Olde nborg 5

sica Barksdale
W hen
I Wash Raspberries

When I wash raspberries

I think of my sister, the memory

deep, metal, hard as a sink.

I call out to her, aloud, to no one.

She ate moldy berries and was sick

for days, but that wasn’t the cause.

We were both living in my mother’s

house, though my mother was out

of town, me with a baby, another

on the way. My sister took up

the space I needed, so I left

her alone in her room. Finally, her

boyfriend arrived and rushed

her to the hospital.

It wasn’t raspberries
but her diabetes, again,

she with the illness

that held the house

still, she with our mother’s
full attention, she sucking

down all that I needed.

She was the daughter

who really loved my mother,

according to my mother,

especially now, she lost to dementia.

I wish you were the one

who died, she tells me,

and I wish sometimes

I had, so my sister could

live, so I wouldn’t think

about her closed door,

so I wouldn’t remember

not caring for her. I was tired,

going to school, tending my child.

This is the excuse, one I tell myself

when I wash raspberries.

8 J e s s i c a B a r k s da le
eph Hardy

How I Learned
to Love Vanilla

Mom took us to the ice cream parlor. Not every day,

as a treat, I think as much
for herself. We’d ask for chocolate, my older sister
and I, surely the richest
of all flavors, but she had difficulties eating hers.

It may make no sense my sister couldn’t learn to eat

an ice cream cone,
but she couldn’t. She’d push the scoop off the cone,
if not packed down as my mother asked.

More often, lick so slowly it would melt all over her

even with half a-dispenser-full of napkins carefully
wrapped around it.
At some point, she’d drop the slippery mess and wail.

My mother’s reaction was instantaneous. She’d

snatch the unfinished cone

out of my hand and shove it into my sister’s mouth.
As money was tight, I would not get another.

This scene happened enough a cousin told me seeing

it changed how
she raised her children. Happened enough, I learned
to eat ice cream in bites
that made my teeth ache. Happened enough on one
trip I asked for strawberry
instead of chocolate.

My sister ate the strawberry, but I remember her

saying to me,
you should have gotten chocolate.

The next time, I asked for vanilla.

It turned out she wouldn’t eat vanilla.

10 J o s e ph H a r dy
rgan Liphart
of myh e C u r r e n t S c e n e ome
Childhood H

The bees are circling something

warm and sweet in the yard.
I was something warm and sweet in the yard
once. The sky was the same color as a slow ache
for years, but now it’s blue. Just blue.
Now comes the unfolding of
prairie cones and wild indigos,
dotting color between the trees
as if nothing ever happened here.
I happened here.

In dreams,
my memories are something that can be undone,
like a leaf falling upwards.
As if a flutter of small hands, tender and purposeful,
never struck the sandpaper of a matchbox
again and again underneath the porch until
everything I knew was black dust.
As if I never believed we could have
started new if just given the chance.

But, still, now, a breeze

scented chamomile sweeps through
the tall grasses, leaves, past rabbits drifting
to their dens. It’s as if the land itself

was healing, slowly forgetting.
I want to heal too. I want to
rush back, put my palms to the earth
and say, “I’m forgiven. I’m forgiven.”

12 Mor gan L i ph a r t

Three Dads

Pop had 3 Dads and was

screwed immediately.
The first one,
the biological one,
left when he was small.
The stepfather came along,
beat him regularly.
He didn’t want the competition so
wanted to kill Pop but
the booze killed him first.
Then his foster Dad,
the one he should have had all along.
It was probably too late at that point.
He was already damaged.
That wouldn’t have mattered I guess, if
his third father hadn’t died as well.
From then on he wasn’t guided,
he was enabled
and we all had to pay for that.

eph Hardy

M y C hi l d r e n

     are all children of care, from the first who reached out
becoming mine when I didn’t let him go.
These days, I’m named godfather and grandfather
which might make a good Catholic shudder
given my confusion of Jesus and Buddha.

But that’s less disconcerting, than when

my younger brother and sister felt comfort
in my presence,

when I felt less than the task of protecting myself

and they took, It will be alright, as a promise.

am Cheshire
Fish out of Water

The boy’s gills had stopped pulsing by the time my

dad found him by the river at the back of our land,
large slits along his sides, oily and smooth. But for
that, he just appeared a boy, like me. The thickly
webbed hands and feet—well, yes, that was different.
Other than that, though, he could’ve been me. If I
had been a handsome boy, that is. Or well built. How
I’d prayed for a similar physique, lean and lined with
virile veins, divots scooped in all the right places.
What all that might do for me. Popularity, protection,
prospects of great romance.

But the boy’s body didn’t mean much to him, not

anymore, and the deep purple bruises that covered it
suggested he had had his own protective failures. Dad
stared at him, baffled. He couldn’t see me; I was up
on a corner bank behind one of the larger trees in the
woods, one that curved out over the river. I rubbed
my neck as I watched dad contemplate the carcass.
A boy had pinched me so hard in the locker room a
few days before, and the skin had broken, leaving a
perfectly vaginal flush across my neck, a likeness no
one failed to notice. A metaphor all too perfect for
them, it seemed, in their adolescent hatefulness.
But I thought of it then as a puckered, vestigial gill,
something unique and fascinating.

Dad still stared, wide-eyed, at the boy. It was perhaps
the first time I remember seeing him truly frightened.
A visceral, physical fear, more pronounced and naked
than the confused, uncertain looks I’d encountered
when he’d found my Sweet 16 magazines and cutouts
of Macauley Culkin in my dresser drawer, or the
anxious throat clicks he’d make at dinner when I
knew I’d made a dishearteningly flamboyant turn of
phrase. In the woods, he spoke my name in a hoarse
whisper and looked around. Hovering closer to the
boy now, he bent down, unsteady, and touched each
gill; patted at them in a comforting way, this boy
who was long past comfort, or had already found it. I
sneaked back to the house, to my room.

I’m not sure if I can still get in trouble for this; if

there are any statutes for lying about what most of
the town believes as myth. But I saw the boy alive,
minutes before he wasn’t. I saw a spray of water by
the damn, and his impossible body falling upward
toward the earth. I ran to him. He lay there, shivers
in every taught muscle. He watched me silently, eyes
wide, a blue film of river blurry across them, dream-
like. His gills quivered like cold lips in their effort to
find water. Instinctively, as if he were a tremendous
baby fish, caught too soon in life, I took hold of him
by the shoulders to roll him back in. He clutched me,
and I couldn’t move. He wagged his head viciously,
painfully. I lay beside him, my hand cradled beneath
his head, my fingers entwined with his soft, moist
hair. I ran back to the bank when I heard my dad
calling, his footsteps sturdy, manly, as they crunched

18 A da m C h e s h i r e
through the woods. The boy lay still, his eyes no
longer watching. His body no longer searching for a
place to breathe.

Dad told me years later, when we’d both decided

truth wasn’t always a friend, but mostly on our
side, that he’d placed the boy back in the river, let
the current carry him away. That’s why, by the time
anyone found him, the strange anomaly of the boy’s
bones was all that was left, and thus it was chalked up
to a prank, Bigfoot’s empty suit.

He never told anyone because he couldn’t bear to

think what they might do to the boy. Tear him apart
and study him; attempt to find a reason for such an
occurrence in nature. “I decided to just let him be. It’s
the only thing I was really capable of at the time. I
hope you understand?” I told him I found no fault in
this. I thanked him for it—for both me and the boy.
I assured him we both understood, and were more at
peace because of it.

Ada m Ch e sh i re 19
cy Porch

Pretty Hair Girl

I had never heard such a sweet voice,

swirling around me,
dancing and tugging me closer.

Hips and fingertips.

Daisy fabric,
the brass teeth of a zipper.

. La Valle
D. E

Birthday Dress

I saw it in the BiWay flyer

Alternating black and white polka dots
Tube top
Ruffled skirt

But I could not see in the BiWay flyer

That on my birthday, the tube top
Would tell a boy
He had the right

Mortified I would fight first

Face red, fists swinging
Covering my nudity was a last priority

Then cry later at my desk

The other children sat for story time
My Victorian teacher, mentally planning a phone
call to my mother

“You see, this is what happens when children are
dressed provocatively”

Being only seven

My heart simply said, unfair, unfair, unfair

I had no idea at seven

What I would know at Twenty Seven
And now Thirty Seven
That it never stops being unfair, unfair, unfair

24 D. E . L a Va l l e
rt ha Stallma
Ma n
polis Minnesota
M ay 3 0 t h
2020, 8:17 pm

Most of the spray paint says “Fuck 12”

Or “ACAB,” but
When the camera pans right
To follow the cops
Who are beetling forward
To crack heads for freedom
(or whatever their slogan is)
On the concrete they’re mounting is
“No towns. No structures.”
And how could I not think of you?
Or when I consider
The softness of meat
In those crunchy black shells, and
How that thought
Would be thought
To make me feel tender
Towards this swarm I see swarming
But doesn’t?

Before we left my hometown,

You gave me a camera.
And I quickly enraged you
By wasting the flash bar
On pictures of nothing.
But I didn’t want photographs anyway!

I just wanted the flash bar
That thick row of unmelted ice cubes
Cracked and dirty
With only one use.
A break you can’t paint over.
“You wasted it,” which was reason enough
For everything after.
And once my face healed,
I could again eat
The dark meat chicken parts
You brought home from work
Or the garbage.

At the crack of dawn, I would get up and run

To the house next door
(which was vacant)
And grab the boxes of books
Or tapes
Or exotic meats
That I’d ordered dishonestly from catalogs
And told you I’d paid for
By pawning my camera
(which you had to have known was a lie).
“We’ll paint the town red!” you said
Which meant I got booze.
My reward for making this
A nice Christmas.

Meat rots into roadkill

When you leave it uncooked
For too long, and hurt is the same;
It goes septic.
“Forgive your abuser” is something you hear
From people who live

26 Ma r t h a S ta l l m an
On the other side of the camera
In a nice part of town
With lawns that stay mown to a specified height
And homes painted tastefully dull.
What nonsense!
Crack the skin of that phrase, and you hear
“Let it go. Was it really so bad?
Let it go.” and “It’s your fault.” and
“Don’t tell me.
Don’t make me a witness.”
Still, you are.

Cameras don’t make truth,

They see it. The paint doesn’t
Heal wounds, it hides them.
Don’t turn away.
The air smells of spoiled meat and smoke where I
come from,
The people too scared not to hate you.
Don’t turn away.
I remember my voice cracked the first time I went
To a pawn shop and begged the man there
To buy what I had, and
He shook his head “No,”
And turned away
When I started to cry.
If a man won’t protect you,
He’s no friend of yours.
If a town won’t protect you,
Burn it all to the ground.

Ma rt h a Sta llman 27
iz abeth Marin
El o
D AT E L I N E :
JULY 25, 2021

On a Sunday drive to take in the downtown Houston

sites, my brother remarked how his own grandmother
would take him downtown here to shop when he
was seven. I could picture him, all arms and legs, and
dressed impeccably. His grandmother had become
upset when he went up to a water fountain.

“Why was she upset?” snapped Mom, still taking in the

small new parks and water displays.

“It was still marked for ‘whites only’, he replied.

“Harrumph!” Mom shook her head slightly and

continued to browse out the car window.

I thought that if I had been there, a two-year-old in

white anklets and a frilly Sunday dress, I would have
raised my arms up for my big brother to lift me. I would
have been thirsty, too. But he was down in Houston as
an only child, and I would have been in my new crib,
just southwest of Chicago, raising a pudgy finger to
say “No!’ My favorite word at the time.

Sketching the history, I was born in Englewood,

just over two weeks before Emmitt Till’s murder.

He was still that lanky boy then, who always spoke his
mind. He still played on the leafy Chicago streets then,
as if there was no tomorrow.

As if tomorrow had turned out differently –

Happy 80th birthday, Emmitt Till.

30 E l i z ab e t h Ma r i no
a Olivo
Then Had
The AuTdhais BitcTh
city o Say…
A physiological response after Kamala Harris, the VP of the great
American nation, uttered disrespect upon the Guatemalan people
and all Central Americans looking for the same freedoms her
hypocritical ass was afforded

“Don’t come, do not come.”

You are not wanted
Because give me your tired hungry and poor
does not apply to you
We do not want your children
your elderly and vi-rile
nor the stories they tell
the promises they keep
Do not come
For this land is not your land and to
“Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all
the Inhabitants Thereof”
Does not apply to you
who have raised cane, corn, and codices
long before this land knew the name

a nation we flee to
the illusion of safety
a land we die to call home

unbeknownst to us
weary travelers
seeking refuge from the rain
of terror cast upon us by
The ravenous monster
Devouring our culture,
history, and futures
this place where
we are unwanted
But desired

The truth is hard to swallow

Y El dicho es sierto
not all skinfolk are kinfolk
And never forget
Que la boca come lo que le da las ganas

32 C l a ra O l i vo
e Menyon Hef
os lin
Sh oes

Jamari was a precious child,

desperate for attention
but rarely acting out.
His parents were divorced
and split custody
and he had few friends,
both of which I could tell bothered him,
so when I worked as
Assistant Director of his after school program,
I let him braid my long hair,
which he loved,
despite the fact that it majorly triggered my OCD.

One day, during a custody transition,

after carefully avoiding
the squelching post-rain playground mud,
Jamari explained that both his parents
were sticklers about his shoes,
emphasis on the “both.”
In an effort to get him to open up,
I told him about how I
used to go barefoot
when not in school
to preserve my shoes,
because my parents could only buy me
one pair a year;

how growing up in rural Kentucky,
this meant I often stepped on painful things,
like rusty nails and wasps;
and about how the whole affair
was parentally-sanctioned.

“No offense,” Jamari said,

“But your mom and dad sound like bad parents.”
It was not the response that I was hoping for.
I started to agree with him, though,
to tell him he didn’t know the half of it,
but the words died,
caught somewhere in my throat for some reason -
perhaps out of protectiveness,
perhaps out of embarrassment,
perhaps out of sadness,
or perhaps out of some misguided sense of loyalty to
the dead.

For a moment,
the playground seemed to echo silence in my ears,
but then I was saved by the proverbial bell,
Jamari and I jumping and dodging mud flats,
preserving our precious shoes,
as we made our way to the school‘s back entrance,
me simultaneously picking at the tight braids
in the hot mess
that was now my hair
and at the scab deep in my soul.

34 R os e Me n yo n H ef li n
. La Valle
D. E

Lone Bather

Like these bluffs, I too am eroding

Both slowly
And quickly

But today I am a lone bather

I remind myself of that old photo I found:

A woman
Somewhere in the 1920s
Standing calf deep in a lake
Or the ocean?

Her bob is wind tussled

If you look closely you can see she is wearing eye liner

She looks like

She wanted to come to the beach
She prepared

But now
She doesn’t know what the fuck she is doing standing
in the middle of all that water

She thinks:

“Should I be happy now?”

“Is this what people do and somehow doing it
for hours and repeating it makes them

I suspect that she also cannot swim

But her excuse is better than mine

36 D. E . L a Va l l e
dison Murray

H a lib u t
At the neck, I’ve touched tongues with churches,
bisexuals, Michaels, and soft serve ice
cream. Yes, I did
set fire to “the bridge”, curse initials in wet
sand, collect dirt from our colonial burial grounds
in empty prescription bottles. I’m sorry;
I’m just a little shellfish.

When the rotary wore polluted, we bared a sharp

right past the Jasmine Garden Chinese Restaurant.
We found
that the village committee had planted wind farms and
a subpar plaza. In May, as the boys skipped
from the peaks to the quarries, I sucked in my stomach
skipped SPF, but I did not test my burn with
a thigh-set Playboy Bunny sticker.

The laughter I shared with the seagulls was

because of our townies: the Band-Aid

on the beach, the dancer, the blondes, and the moms.
Riding in Subarus with Boys with make out
playlists and urban dreams – “I don’t
care, I just want a PBR and a boyfriend.”

Now in my mid-twenties, when I visit

this island of dogs, I do it for the conifers and
wild cherry tree bark. It’s strange to harvest from a
traumatic place. But I guess there are flashbacks no
matter where
I go. There is the Front and there is the Back…there is
even a Half Moon and a Long. The townies taught
me to love oysters and to accept that
there is no such thing as “home” when you survive
surrounded by the ocean.

38 Ma di s on Mur ray
h Mark Gabo
K eit y
My Hairy Roommate

For twelve lunar cycles, I collected my roommate’s hair.

In a cyclical pattern, it got caught in the shower drain,
a black knot I plucked out and added to the limbed
body of my design. Am I God or Frankenstein?

Under a dripping blood moon, Susan, my flesh-based

roommate, exclaimed “I’m moving to the ocean shore. I
want to bathe in water that hasn’t just passed through
pipes to clean my long thick hair.”

I smiled at Susan’s departure since I already had a

hair-based replacement yet my new roommate needed
a heart to kickstart her hair-earning — excuse me —
money-earning potential.

On the first of the month after Susan departed to

Pacific waves, I went down to Sammy’s Butcher Shop.
At the counter, once I greeted the receding shoreline
of Sammy’s wispy hair, I bought a pig’s heart.

With it wrapped in bloody butcher paper, I sprinted

home through a July’s solar whiplash. In my living
room, my sweaty hands shoved the swine organ
into Susan II, my hairy creation. Rightly so, I called
myself a Frankensteinian God as I walked with
Susan II to the hair store on Harrison that pays Ben
Franklins for real human hair.
In an ascending dusk, she sold her legs to buy a
microwave. “I like my burritos steaming when they
tumble through my digestive system’s haircut.” The
next month, she handed over her arms to pay her share
of our water bill. “I have to clean all my knots in the
shower,” she said over our pho dinner.

When I told her how much the plumber charged to

clean the clogged drain, Susan II gave away her torso
with shame. Through stinging winter months, her
head rolled back and forth over black snow between
our apartment and the dive bar that accepts bodiless
customers. As a new moon shined empty, she forfeited
her head for the December rent.

Ten heartbeats after I put up an ad for a new roommate,

the hair store called my apartment’s landline. “We
found a pig’s heart in the torso you sold us. Can you
pick it up?” I took it over to Sammy’s. He just flipped
his ‘Open’ sign to ‘Closed’. Sammy grilled the red to
black. We ate the chambers with a bottle of Merlot.

“Larry, there’s a hair in my heart dinner.” “Well Sammy,

you should sell it to the hair store for a quarter.” “I’ll
do it. I’m saving up to buy new shampoo.” “You know
my roommate just moved out. Are you looking for a
place?” “You don’t mind I’m a late-middle-aged balding
man?” “No, not at all. My last roommate was way too

40 K e i t h Ma r k G ab ou ry
triz S der
sc ope fo r the W e e k

ARIES (March 21st – April 20th)

This week, you will finally do the thing your mom
told you you were going to end up doing anyway, and
she will laugh at your face for knowing you better
than you know yourself. Moreover, as Pluto’s orbit
synchronises with the house of Aries, you might
find yourself questioning the real motivation behind
Plato’s Republic. What are the ancients not telling us?

TAURUS (April 21st – May 20th)

Stay away from movie sequels as they shall only
upset and remind you of the fact that no one
produces anything original anymore, leading you to
a public meltdown at the movie theatre. Though an
uncontrollable broccoli craving will come to you by
the fifteenth, you must resist the urge to eat broccoli!
I suggest you eat a cauliflower instead. However, if you
do end up ingesting broccoli, be sure not to disrupt
the natural migration pathways of ducks.

GEMINI (May 22nd – June 23rd)

As Venus approaches Earth’s orbit, Geminis should be
wary of classical music. You may find out, this week,
that your cat likes your neighbour better than you.
If you love something, let it go. Your cat will be not
be coming back to you.

CANCER (June 22nd – July 23rd)
Your week is going to start out tough, Cancer, as you
will realise you’ve been mishearing the lyrics to your
favourite song for years, and that the real lyrics are
not as great as what you thought. Power through this,
though; and you will have a fine week involving lots
of activities starting in a silent consonant: knitting,
knocking, knighting (only if you are already a knight),

LEO (July 24th – August 23rd)

You and your arch-nemesis will be entering a rough
patch as you worry you are being ghosted; and dumped
for another arch-nemesis. If said arch-nemesis is
another Leo, you might get a chance to get them back.
If not, it’s time to move on- preferably with another
Leo. Other signs are not strong enough to have you as
their most permanent enemy.

VIRGO (August 24th – September 23rd)

A tough decision is underway for Virgo involving
either your pet fish being eaten by your cat, or a
catfishing scheme online. It is not clear whether Virgo
is the catfish or the catfishee in this case, but no one
can deceive a Virgo for long- so, if you have been
pretending to be someone else online, make sure the
person is of the more trusting water signs.

LIBRA (September 24th – October 23rd)

Libra, the universe suggests that something extremely
embarrassing you did years ago will suddenly resurface
for no apparent reason while you are walking down
the street. If you want to avoid this repressed memory,
try not walking for a week.

42 B e at r i z S e e l a e nde r
SCORPIO (October 24th – November 22nd)
Brace yourself for a terrible week, Scorpio, as your best
friend- the person you would call for help to dispose
of a body if you accidentally murdered someone- will
accidentally murder someone and call you for your
help in order to dispose of the body. Do not hide it
anywhere near a body of water, as Mars and Mercury
meet and conspire jealously over Earth’s most prized
possession. If your friend is a water sign, however,
there is no hope and you must betray them by turning
them in, unless you want to be implicated in the crime
once the body is found.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23rd – December 21st)

Because of Uranus’ extra-galactical scheming, you
will find yourself deeply affected by minor details in
the coming days. An annoying noise; the misspelling
of a simple word, might push you over the edge, so
standing over edges is rather ill-advised. If you are a
professional mountain climber, call in sick- unless you
wish to plummet to your death in a disorderly fashion.

CAPRICORN (December 22nd – January 20th)

The planets have all conferred in order to tell you,
Capricorn, that no one wants to see the mockumentary
you are making about Jared Kushner’s life. No one
really cares about that. This is not directed at just one
Capricorn- you would be surprised.

AQUARIUS (January 21st – February 19th)

At times you may fill like you are trapped in a fishbowl,
Aquarius, but there is more to life than making up
metaphors about your life. As Venus approaches the
Earth, you might want to get yourself checked for

Be at ri z Se e la e nde r 43
STDs.In other news, your neighbour’s cat might be
leaving him for you any day now.

PISCES (February 20th – March 20th)

As it is quite likely you will murder someone this week,
remember Scorpios will never be there for you when
you need them most. Consider going to a fire sign for
help hiding the body, as fire extinguishes water and
the powers that be will get thrown off. If the one you
kill is a water sign, however, there is nothing to do but
turn yourself in.

44 B e at r i z S e e l a e nde r
e Claire Bradl
J an ey
I’ m S t i l l H e r e

Here are some ways I make money these days:

• Infuse almond oil with calendula flowers. Dark
glass jars in the airing cupboard, shaken daily
for six weeks. Then strained and sold online to
witches without gardens. Or whoever. Botanics
in skincare is a trend, apparently.

• Scour eBay for job lots of kitschy floral plates

formerly owned by someone’s dead nana, then
paint words like cunt and slag round the
edges and re-sell them as ironic presents. A
tenner a go on Etsy. It adds up.

• Press cobwebs between card and glass and then

lower them delicately into frames. Goths will
buy anything.

It’s not much but, between these endeavors and my

savings, I have more than I need. I can spend the excess
on whatever I want, and I do. I buy candles hand-
sculpted to look like goddesses. That means: big bellies,
big thighs, big tits. Those ancient cultures knew
what shapes deserved worship. When the wax melts,
it hollows them out in a glowing pillar. Their curves
soften, but don’t drip. The goddesses stay beautiful,

even as the flames eat away at them, turn them into
brittle husks. If you tried hard enough, you could dig
your fingers into all that half-melted wax and mould
a metaphor.

After much research, I place another order. A selection

of glass dildos, shaped like tentacles. The reviews
all said they were stunning enough to double as
ornaments. I make dioramas of the objects on the
shelves, develop a nightly ritual of reshuffling them
until I can sit back, satisfied. The tentacles refract the
candlelight, sending flickers and shadows into every
corner of the room. The goddesses stoic in the face of
impending sea-monster doom.

Between my creative-hustle materials and the things I

buy just for me, deliveries come most days. Sometimes,
I find notes in the boxes. They look handwritten, but
it might just be an effective font choice. At first it’s
innocuous enough. Thanks for your order. Hope you love
your purchase. Then it gets more personal. Is this what
you wanted? Seems too enigmatic for a customer survey.
The one after that: Are you still there? Then, some weeks
later: These things aren’t enough to tell me who you are. In
the bottom of the box is a scrap of card with a discount
code for my next order. On its other side, two words,
in the same handwriting. Try again.

There’s a return address on the packages, but I don’t

write back. I research where the warehouse is, but
decide against visiting. What if I found a Willy Wonka
factory, lights on inside but padlocks on the gates?
What if it was just rubble and dust? What if it was
some sort of trap?

46 J an e C l a i r e B ra dle y
I place another order, from somewhere else. Next day
delivery from a special courier and it comes without
funny business. Spraypaint, fume mask, black leggings
and balaclava. At 2am, I climb the railings on the bridge
above the motorway. Soak in the bath with the kraken
afterwards, then scrub the neon stains from my hands
again before bed. Imagine tomorrow morning’s rush
hour commuters, slow-crawling under my reply. i’m
still here. Then, on the other side, so they see it on
their way home: you can’t scare me.

When I went missing, my photo was everywhere.

Funny, getting all that attention and concern, when
by then I was fine. The re-enactment on Crimewatch
got everything wrong. I was never abducted. I saw my
chance and ran. But I like the legends and conspiracy
theories that get resurrected every anniversary. I
bookmark the weirdest ones on Reddit so I can re-read
them whenever. Maybe add more elaborate suggestions,
if I’m in the mood. She got abducted by aliens when her
boyfriend’s back was turned. She’s under his patio in bits.
She made it to the coach station and snuck into the luggage
hold while the driver was distracted, smoking and dirty-
texting his bird. Slid out between suitcases at a service
station and dyed her hair blonde in the toilets. Could be
anywhere by now. Like shipwrecked by a glass sea
monster and high on spraypaint fumes.

It’s comforting, in the candlelit aftermath, to think

of myself as more mythic than real. Like: if the
neighborhood kids knew my name, it’d be something
they’d dare each other to say in a mirror three times.
I’d make a good shrieking phantom, wild-haired and
full of malice, terrifying sleepovers into nightmares

Jane Cla i re Bra dle y 47

and incontinence. Good to have aims, isn’t it? I’m not
a ghost yet, no matter what the internet says, but it’s
only a matter of time. For now my house is no more
haunted than most.

The fences in the back garden are high enough that I

can shed my clothes and let the sun sear my skin. I don’t
melt into a puddle of wax. There’s no hollow where my
heart should be. If this was a fairytale, I’d turn to stone
or the moss would take me over, ivy snaking my limbs
until I become part of the undergrowth. I stay awake
at nights. That’s where most of my entrepreneurial
ideas came from: idle online exploring in that limbo
time when it’s too dark to sleep. So when it’s warm
enough, the garden is a place I can nap. Everything’s
fine. No one can see me. No one can get me. I may as
well be stone or moss.

But it fucks me off when the magpies eat my

strawberries. This is my domain, and I’m protective of
it. I shoot glass marbles at them with a catapult. They
have the same chaotic gleam as the magpies’ eyes. I
think about somehow preserving and selling the one
I hit and kill, but imagining its oily wings coming
apart in my hands makes me sick. So I leave it out like
a sacrificial offering, surrounded by hollow goddesses.
In the morning there’s only feathers and a smear of gore
on the flags. I collect the feathers to craft individual
listings in my online shop. Hashtag goth. Hashtag
pagan. Hashtag spell. All the while, I imagine pleased
cats and foxes burping and cleaning their paws. More
marble eyes glinting from the overgrown flowerbeds.

On my birthday, I treat myself to more tentacles. They

48 J an e C l a i r e B ra dle y
come with a card. All my love, always. The sight of it
makes me drop the box. Despite the plastic pillow of
protective packaging, the glass shatters into a million
bits. I leave a sarcastic one-star review and then make
plans for that night.

The next day, my response is on all the local online

news sites. this isn’t funny any more. Letters
as big as me in vicious pink on the side of the town
hall. Some newspapers say it’s a political statement by
a guerrilla artist. Idiots. I sleep well all day, and only
wake up when a magpie divebombs my window. It
must have been going for the glassy glitter of the dildo
tentacles. The kraken strikes again.

At twilight, I stage an elaborate funeral for it, and

dine on strawberries after. I’ve got a long night ahead,
setting up traps in case of intruders. When a postman
loses a toe in the trap’s metal jaws, my address is
blacklisted. But no-one tells the other couriers. They
still come. There’s a delivery note on my account.
Leave the boxes at the end of the path. Don’t come any
closer than that.

i’m fine, I write on the side of the underpass tunnel,

once it’s been months without a cryptic message.
Always got to have the last word. i’m still alive.
The paint’s running out, but there’s more at home. A
rainbow of colors, guarded by krakens and still-intact
goddesses. i’ve got everything i need.

Jane Cla i re Bra dle y 49

- SET 2 -
ole Farmer

T h e S e c r et
“She comes in colors everywhere”
the rolling stones

The sky weeps big pelting drops on the window.
Outside the brown leaps from the trees in a windswept
blur. Here, inside, my mother reaches for my hand by
feeling around on the bed covers as if she is blind. She
cries out for me. Panic. Contact. Reassurance. The
death grip pulls her hard, so she clings to my warmth
with a Herculean strength. Her voice like a crocodile
hiss. I have something to tell you I have never told
anyone before. Intake of breath as I fall forward into
the cerulean unknown.

Her eyes so pale and deep set like a field of new clover
darkened by shadows, now red rimmed and puffy. Tired
of it all. She tells me she had five daughters, two she
gave away, and I think this is the dementia laughing at
me. A lifetime of closeness and no secrets, right mom?
Right? Hospital walls of puke green tighten around us,
and I try to correct her. No mom, It’s just me and my
sis, and the unwanted pregnancy before marriage.
She has no patience for my interruption—the story
unfolds before me like an artichoke heart.

Wait. Stop. What? Two alive, that’s me and my sister.
One long departed from a trash bin in Mexico City
down some back alley in 1956—a brief life interrupted
at twelve weeks. Two, she says, created for a couple who
couldn’t have kids. She, the ripe plumb impregnated
with a turkey baster by the fertile dad, not my dad,
way before the term surrogate even existed. Twice she
did this. For them. For my dad—to put him through
graduate school. Not for herself. Never for herself.
Behind my left ear I hear something pop inside my
head. Blood purple placenta five times generated.

I hide in the sanctuary of my car. The hurricane rages
around me—sheets of rain littering my windshield
with leaves of rust, ginger, tiger and fire. While she
sleeps, I drive mindlessly down dead-end streets. Can
this be? When I said Oh mom that must have been
so hard for you, she said No, no it was easy really in
that dreamy distant way she has where she looks right
through you into a world you will never know. I just
had to hide my belly and stay inside or wear your dad’s
clothes, she sighs. She turns her head away and curls
into a coiled oleander caterpillar.

I’m stumbling around the aisle of Target in a daze
with sunshine colored Pine Sol in my cart. I don’t
remember how I got here. Who can I call? Dad died
six months ago. My sister is in China and it’s 3 am in
Tianjin, so I have to wait. Somewhere on this planet
are two women just slightly older than me, my half-
sisters, walking around with no knowledge that their

52 N i c ol e Fa r m e r
genetic mother is dying. Were they ever told? What do
they know? Nothing makes sense. I push my cart into
the sock aisle and pick out rainbow footies for mom’s
tiny bird-boned feet. Parts of me, parts of you, sepia
tone seagull bones.

The sky has melted and is running down my face so
that my tears no longer taste of salt. All the Goth girls
want the number of my stylist. Wet and dripping I
reverse out of the parking space and almost run over
an old man with a walker—I scream like a punctured
tire and pound the steering wheel. When I close my
eyes all I see is a blistering white starburst of rage. My
mom is dying. I need to be there. Why didn’t she tell
me sooner? Will I find the courage to ask her more
questions? Stepping into the rehabilitation center the
disinfectant mixed with feces smell hits my nose with
a slap and the floorboards feel like quicksand sure to
part under my feet. I am falling into a milky abyss.

Spinning out into space, hurtling into the great
unknown, sucked into the black hole where the truth
has disappeared. Mom is sleeping. A deep sleep I fear
she may never wake from. With this new knowledge,
thinking of my parents’ marriage, the odd comments—
‘That Donna, you look at her sideways and she’s
pregnant!’—is like the distortion of a fun house
mirror. Small town factory girl who ran away to the
Big Apple and became a successful model only to give
it all up to support her man. Separation, reconciliation,
separation, another try, knock down drag-out fighting,
divorce, and an undying connection. He owed her, big

Ni cole Fa rme r 53
time. No one to question about this dark undisclosed
act of martyrdom. Three more hours and I can call
China. Three days later she is gone. She died alone, just
as she said she would. In the pitch black of midnight,
she sailed away, without ever saying another word.

54 N i c ol e Fa r m e r
esté Cosme
W e B e c a m e Li k e T h e m

We came with our long hair, bell-bottoms, and foils

of LSD. Some of us were invited by friends, others
by strangers passing out tracts, and some of us
by circumstances you wouldn’t believe if we told
you. There was hunger in our hearts, but our drugs,
enlightenment, and freedom didn’t satisfy it.

We left the Bronx, South Philly, and Trenton. We

hitchhiked, took trains and buses to get to a small
little storefront church in South Jersey. All of us were
welcome, even those of us who came in bare feet. We
sat in folding chairs, sweat gleaming on our foreheads.
It looked like we were being bathed.

He told us he used to be a farmer. To us, he was like

God. He spoke with power and authority about a man
who took on our sins and gave his life for us. They
played guitar and sang into the microphones. We
stood when he asked if we wanted to accept the gift.
We came to the front in tears, making a V-shape with
our outstretched arms. We became like them, the ones
with the guitars singing about Christ.

Soon, the building couldn’t hold all of us. So many

more joined us each week. 50 acres were bought.
There was a lake. We sat on blankets, passing loaves

of bread around and sharing a goblet of grape juice
for communion. We testified of our futile attempts to
find meaning, ones that often included dropping acid
and psychic readings.

We allowed him to lead us into the lake. We walked

until the water reached our chests, his hand on our
shoulder, telling the rest of us about the power of
public commitment. He put one arm around us and
the other held our wrist of the hand pinching our
noses shut. We rose out of the water new people. Even
newer than we had been those nights at the altar with
our arms outstretched in surrender.

As time passed, we cut our hair, put on suits, and got

jobs. We started families, babies held on one hip while
the other hip was smacked with a tambourine during
the worship service. We called each other Brother and
Sister and taught our children to do the same.

He told us we needed money to start a school. We gave

and gave and paid the tuition every month as we sent
our children. In the first years, we could only afford a
couple of trailers and our children walked down rows
of painted white metal boxes to learn about God and
arithmetic. Finally, a real school was built, and we met
in the gymnasium for services.

We were there on Sunday mornings and Sunday

nights. We were there on Wednesday nights and sent
our children to Bible class and youth group. We were
there on Thursdays for prayer meeting. On Saturdays,
we knocked on doors throughout the county, inviting
our neighbors to church.

56 C e l e s t é C os m e
Every Friday, we vacuumed the carpet, washed the
windows, cleaned the bathrooms, took out the trash,
made repairs, and cooked food for events. No one ever
got paid.

Then we needed a church building, one that would

be grand enough for our big God. We scrimped and
saved and filled out our tithe envelopes. When the
buckets were passed around, we threw in whatever we
had. Our children didn’t need much clothing, they had
their school uniforms to wear most days.

The new church had real pews, ones with padding

and upholstery. There was a balcony with more pews
and the sound crew stationed up there. The stage was
magnificent and we placed a regal high back chair on
it, where he could sit and look out at us while we sang
with uplifted palms.

He’d take the mic after the offering was collected and
he’d tell us about hell and how he hoped none of us
would go there. We’d shout amen when he talked
about God’s strength and our weakness. He’d dip his
fingers in some anointing oil and lay his hands on
us during the altar call and we’d speak in tongues or
get slain in the Spirit and a Sister would come lay her
shawl on our ladies’ bare legs.

Whenever a missionary would come to town, they’d sit

on the stage with him and we’d cry, listening to their
tales of some poor country they’d devoted their life to.
Our children would dream of going on missions one
day and we’d be proud. We’d tell them that’s the best
dream they could have, better than any dreams we had
at their age.
Ce le st é Cosme 57
All the while, we were giving. Giving time, giving
money, giving ourselves. We were taught that service
was the answer to God’s call. We’d traded ourselves
for the church. We came to church in times of crisis
and times of joy. It was more our home than our own

It went on like this for decades, longer than any of us

could tell. Whenever he asked us for more, we found
ways to give it. We didn’t know what family night was
or a savings account. We just knew being in church
was what saved us from ourselves, so we stayed.

On his seventieth birthday, we had buttons made up—

his face with the words “Our Hero.” We pinned them
to our car sun visors and our purses. He was our father,
and we had to remind ourselves to think of God when
saying the first words of the Lord’s Prayer.

When he died, some of us opened the safe in his office.

After all was counted, there was over five million
dollars. Bundles of cash from fundraisers decades ago
and envelopes of our tithes and offerings.

None of us, even the few of our children who stayed

that long, could understand why we kept giving all
those years if he was never going to spend it.

58 C e l e s t é C os m e
ng elicca Barc
n A el
aw a​​
the edicine
was alwmay
s i n si d e u s
even after the trees outlive me and war stops
the ants from crawling into my decimated living room,
what my body sensed and felt and knew
was planted beneath the rocks. will anyone recall​​​​​​

this memory where the tufted titmouse

carried its orange-yellow belly to my hand,
careening headfirst as if i was a sunflower seed
opening up so it could chip away at me.​​​

i want to freeze over these quiet moments.

i want to stifle the shouts, swears, and screams
that shoved us all into arguments.
i want us all to search for each other​

keep each other’s energy so warm that we can hold it

while it fizzles out then send it to our future graves—
frothy waves, sour fruit plants, the belly of an

growing an afterlife with a palm that wonders if this

can change us, if it can help us turn back time

so we can trust that we were going to spring up
over and over again. the medicine was always inside us.
the touch and turn of stomach acid, a liver to rest

enough blood to circulate a cure going back and back

through our hearts. our oxygen yields to this lonely
of healing. all of us holding our backs up, resisting the
of the wind as if we weren’t already part-way dead

60 D awn An g e l i c ca Ba rce lona​​​​​

ggie Bowyer

B est F r ie n d

When I look up at the sky

Late into the night,
The moon only a sliver,
I can still see a silver string
Of sparkles connecting each
Of the stars to one another,
The same way our memories
Connect us infinitely.
The warm summer air
Mixed with our cigarette smoke
As we ran across the highway –
I don’t know if it was the late hour
Or the psychedelic’s power,
But I had full faith as we burst
Across the lanes, hair in our face
Only pulled back by our laughter.
We always had a taste for adventure,
Tucked it underneath our tongues
In order to bury our grief;
I no longer get blasts from the past
Randomly when I crack my back,
But I am not sure I will ever see
The stars, or life,
The same since I met you.

rgan Liphart
At t h
e top of bluebell trail,
un derneat ir
h a d o u g las f

In the wind, in the rocks

with the bones of fine dust
I’m burying you eight years too late
It took that long to leave
the sticky town we grew up in—
as if the tangled roots of it wouldn’t give us up

Its breath crackled and its buildings shook

with the weight of your grief,
then the weight of my grief     after
they found you in the garage with a rope,
          finally lighter than air

No school assembly was held for you No signs

or ribbons coated the town There is only me, only you
and our one set of footsteps
on a sandstone path,
deciding that if you didn’t feel the freedom
of the sharp scent of pine and a borderless map
in life, then maybe freedom in death
is the next best thing

Fragments of earth cover

my hair and cheeks like soot
as I scoop you out from the core
with my hands cupped like spades
   All I can do
is give you a new home
I can carry the weight of both of us,   
     your ashes and my apologetic body,
to the misted top of mountains
you’ll never get to see

So let your second life

          your softer life be
                          not somewhere else
                          but here

Then, here, a bluebird sings

64 Mor gan L i ph a r t
Ed Phillips

Disco Neck Ted

disconnected /ˌdiskəˈnektəd/


having a connection broken.

Morning coffee
Light rain fell softly in the twilight. The sky was
dark purple fading into the pink sunrise looking east.
The moon was slipping below the horizon and a few
stars still twinkled in the night sky. The car quietly
hummed a steady drone as the windshield wipers
kept a hypnotizing beat. The temperature in the car
was warm. He was slightly distracted thinking about

With a quick jerk of the steering wheel he pulled

into the McDonald’s parking lot and drove through
a puddle. The sound of the splash woke him up like a
cymbal crash. He pulled up to the drive-through and
a voice crackled through the speaker

Wet pussy ass? Maga maga maga? Bee bop alulu a sis
bam boom? fake news?

“I’m fine thanks.”

Another school shooting?

“Just a small black coffee.”

The speaker stuttered and crackled, garbling the voice.

It choked out something like “But Wait there’s more!
For just 19.99 you’ll get TWO Frenchie’s fucked up food
fuckers and a box of condoms for free!”

“No; just black thank you.”

. Joe Biden, Mike Pence, Kamala?


one fish two fish red fish blue fish?

“No that’s it thank you.”

Rain today as a front moves in from the west. Fever,

chills, High temperature, nausea, vomiting and

“You too.”

Wipers squeaked as the rain slowed and purple night

dimmed for a grey dawn dotted with harsh yellow
headlights. Turning on the radio wouldn’t help;
a hundred plus channels trying to sell Frenchie’s
Fucked up Food Fucker with a free box of condoms
for 19.99….

…but wait there’s more!

66 E d P h i l l i ps
The work day begins
“Hi Judy”

Whatchoo talkin ‘bout Willis?

“Just Ted, Judy. Remember I told you not to call me


He had called for Cuomo’s resignation but then

admitted to groping one of his own staffers and
announced he would be stepping down.

Smile “It’s not a big deal really.”

He lied. It was a big fucking deal. He fucking told her

three times not to fucking call him Theodore. What
was next? She gonna ask him how his goddamned
friends Alvin and Simon are doing? How’s the
fucking band coming along? How’s goddamned Dave

Authorities in 219 countries and territories have

reported about 124.1 million Covid-19 cases and 2.7
million deaths

“Yes. He said he would stop by this morning and pick

it up.”

Johnny Bench Don’t Smell Funky or Stink. Blue-Emu

Helped. Hi I am Johnny...

“Around ten. Yeah so I just needed to add a few things

before he gets here and then you can look it over, we
can both sign off on it.”

Ed Ph i lli p s 67
Electric scooters are now disrupting wrists, elbows and
heads. Injured scooter riders are flooding US emergency

“Sure. As soon as I finish I’ll let you look it over.”

snap crackle pop

“Okay if you’re sure.”

sildenafil citrate is an oral therapy for erectile

dysfunction, is the citrate salt of sildenafil, a selective
inhibitor of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-
specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5)

For most patients, the recommended dose is 50 mg taken,

as needed, approximately 1 hour before sexual activity.
However, VIAGRA may be taken anywhere from 30
minutes to 4 hours before sexual activity. The maximum
recommended dosing frequency is once per day.

“Yeah I sent that to real estate and they said it met the
criteria so I really don’t see that as an issue anymore.
Let me get started on this and I’ll have it for you in
about an hour.”

Based on effectiveness and toleration, the dose may

be increased to a maximum recommended dose of 100
mg or decreased to 25 mg. The most common adverse
reactions reported in clinical trials (> 2%) are headache,
flushing, dyspepsia, abnormal vision, nasal congestion,
back pain, myalgia, nausea, dizziness, and rash.

“No it was only sixteen.”

side effects of Accutane may include depressed

mood, trouble concentrating, sleep problems, crying

68 E d P h i l l i ps
spells, aggression or agitation, changes in behavior,
hallucinations, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself;

* sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of

the body;

* blurred vision, sudden and severe headache or pain

behind your eyes, sometimes with vomiting;

* hearing problems, hearing loss, or ringing in your ears;

* seizure (convulsions);

* severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your

back, nausea and vomiting, fast heart rate;

* loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools,

jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

* severe diarrhea, rectal bleeding, black, bloody, or tarry


* fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, purple spots

under your skin, easy bruising or bleeding; or

* joint stiffness, bone pain or fracture.

“I know that Judy. We went over it on Friday

remember? I’ll be sure to include it.”

Ed Ph i lli p s 69
“Sure Andrea you can sit here. I’m almost done. I
heard about your husband. I’m so sorry. How are you
holding up?”

Lately I been eatin the heck outta Fritos ya know what

I mean? My husband, right, he was eating the heck out
of chips and I said I don’t wanna do that I want Fritos
I heard the weather’s supposed to be bad or was it good
I can’t remember now but I like my junk food. You know
And lolly pops! I love my lolly pops. I’ll go through a
whole bag of them in a week. My grandson he eats the
grape ones but I like the pink ones. He eats the grape
ones sometimes but mostly he likes the grape ones but
sometimes he eats the pink ones but he likes the pink
ones but sometimes he eats the grape ones now I like the
pink ones but my grandson he pink grape pink grape
grape pink ones chips Fritos shoveling lolly pops in the
summer it’s cold pink grape.

“I’m sorry for your loss. He was way too young.”

The weather’s always changing ya know but sometimes

it doesn’t and it’s hot then cold or just stays hot
and then gets cold and then it stays warm and then
there’s shoveling snow. Twenty four seven three sixty
five. There it is. Ya know what I mean hon. I like a
light snow but you can keep the ice. No and when the
humidity is high and my Frito pops I just eat them
and my husband ate the snow in the summer it gets
high and the cold Chips humid snow Frito pops eating

70 E d P h i l l i ps
humidity chips–Oh he was a good man. Be bop ah loo loo
ah sis bam boom. I didn’t get it as bad as Jeannie got it

The weather is good the weather is bad

It’s the only weather we ever had

I am stuck on Band Aid cuz Band aid’s stuck on me

“At least he’s not suffering anymore.”

Just Do It. It’s Finger Lickin’ Good.

America Runs On Dunkin’. Have A Break, Have A Kit

Kat. Diamonds are Forever.

Where’s the beef? I’m lovin’ it. We’ll leave the light on.
Whussup. Are you looking at my butt? Stop looking at
my butt are you looking at my butt again? Do you like
my eyes?

“I can’t imagine your grief. It doesn’t seem like you

were off work that long did you take enough time?”

Tootsie rolls stays hot and then gets cold and then it
stays warm and then there’s snow. Twenty four seven
three sixty five. There it is. I like ice. No and when the
humidity is high and my Frito pops I just eat and my
husband ate the snow in the summer gets high the chips
humid snow Frito pops eating. Be pop a looloo ah sis
bam boom.

“Right who can afford it? Again I’m very sorry. I only
met him twice he seemed like a wonderful person. I’m
going to get back to work you take care ok?”

Lolly pops. Pow. Zam. Bing.

Ed Ph i lli p s 71
He hoped he sounded, at least, somewhat sincere or
empathetic to her. Reflecting on the conversation,
on his way back to the office, he felt his words
were empty and hollow rather than genuine and
cognitive. He knew that saying things like that and
sounding sincere would make her feel… something.
Not happiness, he guessed; the lady’s husband just
died, but something. Whatever people who are sad
feel when virtual strangers show them polite, cliché
empathy. Maybe he didn’t know what it would make
her feel but he was sure she would feel something
(comfort?) and his words were the right ones to
say to evoke that feeling; whatever that feeling
was. One hears these phrases being said throughout
one’s life and one repeats these phrases. You bring
them out like a funeral suit when your uncle dies;
these awkward stiff phrases hanging around in the
corners of your brain waiting to be dusted off at the
right moment. ‘I’m sorry for your loss, you have my

(The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term

empathy as the action of understanding, being aware
of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing
the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another
without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience
fully communicated in an objectively explicit

And why even bother? Did it really matter to her?

Maybe she would’ve rather just talked about the
goddamned weather. He thought she had a grandson,
maybe she wanted to talk about him. It’s all so
fucking complicated. “I need to remember to eat
lunch in my fucking car tomorrow.”

72 E d P h i l l i ps
End of day
The elevator was crowded.

“Hi Jeff.”

Before taking ZOLOFT, tell your doctor and

pharmacist about all prescription and over-the-counter

“Ground floor please.”

A rash, hives, swelling, or trouble breathing may be the

symptoms of an allergic reaction.

And then he saw her in the back corner.

“Hey Clare! I thought you left town.”

“At the last moment I decided not to. The offer just
didn’t feel right. I was going to call you tonight. Do
you wanna get together and drink a beer or two?”

“I’d love to.”

“Great! I’ll call you later.”

Ed Ph i lli p s 73
t halie Khanka
Na n
A S y ri a n S l e e p

this husband is a beautiful sleeper

he falls asleep as i turn on the faucet
he sleeps like a baby in his eyes
sometimes i place my hand in front of his mouth
to hear him

once i didn’t sleep

more than two or three hours
at a time for eight years

it’s true that i tried to

& it’s true that i cried too
& prayed for a shipment of new spinal entheses

did you know that you can sleep on your side

like the edge of a sword?

somewhere i read about the underground

language of syrian detainees
do you realize how many syrian detainees

i read about tasyif

which comes from sayf
which means sword in arabic


to pretend to be a sword

to sleep on the thinnest side of your side

(to sleep on the thinnest side of your side, nathalie)

it’s true
that not sleeping will drive
you over the ledge
especially of rocks beneath the sea near the shore

i did go on to lose the arch of my back

i looked & long for it
in all the places
i cannot retrieve it
my sweet an arch
where drops of sweat could hum
where maybe would nest his lips

before this fusing spine

inside it such amphibious matter
liquid & porridge

i thought then maybe i’ll be safe now

from here on out
i already received my chronic

we think we may be safe now

toward the end of a year of our global condition
certain caliber calamities
don’t strike with that kind of proximity

but we are not

safe calamities

76 N at h a l i e K h an k an
do as we know
come in stereo & string

& they come

as we wait
on the thinnest side of the side

our crowded room

going numb in every limb

Nat h a li e Kh ankan 77
e Le Mont Wil
dr s on
H a u n tin g s

One night before or after World War II, when she

was a girl, my mother saw a ghost. For whatever
reason, perhaps a sixth sense, perhaps chance, she
looked out the window of her sharecropper’s shack
in Somerville, East Texas and spied a figure gliding
across a field. The figure of a man. A Black man.
Fuzzy around the edges, the cloud-like apparition
appeared to run, but its feet made no sound. They
touched no ground. With wide eyes, the girl tracked
its movement.

Years later, when Mom told me this story, I asked,

“How do you know it was a ghost?”

“Well,” she said, “there was a fence at the end of the

field. The ghost didn’t climb the fence. It passed
through it.”

I instinctively knew the ghost was that of a runaway

slave who didn’t make it. Whether he was running
for refuge with an eastern Indian tribe or south to
the Mexico border, he ran during a time before fences
subdivided the plantation into sharecroppers’ plots.
Although years have passed since Mom told me
this story, I still cry when I think of it. I question
not whether she saw something or imagined it.

I question not whether it was smoke or shadow.
I don’t care whether or not the ghost was real. A
ghost is a series of unanswered questions, and the
questions I have, I will address to the ghost himself:

Why are you still here? The Civil War ended. Juneteenth
came for every slave but you. No doubt, if I were to return
to Texas today and stand on the plot of land where my
mother’s shack once stood, you would still cross that field,
night after night. Why? Something is unresolved. I’m
struck that my mother’s story is essentially the same story
as those of today. The places, names, and details change,
but they are the same story. A rope around a neck; a knee
on a neck. Blood on the earth; blood on the street. A jogger
who never made it home; a slave who never made it to
freedom. These are all the same story. It seems that you,
that we, are doomed to repeat the same story, day after
day, century after century. You, we, are stuck in a loop.
No, even worse, a Möbius strip. We keep going around
and around, repeating the same story. Sad to say, a fleeing
Black man can still be shot in the back today. I confuse
which century I’m in—the nineteenth or the twenty-first.
Is there a way that you, that we, can break this cycle that
is stronger than the chains that once held you, that once
held us? Violence and racism haunt our land to this day.
Must we create new versions of the same old story to tell
future generations? Can we tell a new story? Can we create
a new ending? Perhaps your hauntings will cease when the
living achieve the freedom you ran for.

80 An dr e L e Mon t Wi lson
e Muschenet
Jan z
t o H e ll, T h e S e r i e s
“Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American woman, was fatally
shot in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment on March 13, 2020,
when white plainclothes officers … of the Louisville Metro Police
Department (LMPD) forced entry into the apartment…”

I know the pretty paved road you are traveling

ends in a gas chamber lit by 6 million stars,
a Trail of Tears, and it ends in a woman’s bed
surrounded by already spent bullets
(Zoom in on a police procedural, gripping
another black, ricocheting thing
and that thing is your mouth)
so don’t even bother pretending and asking
Where will it end?
like we don’t already know
the plot of this show is repetitive, the acting tired
we’re all still binge-watching anyway
Hooked on how good it used to be
and how pretty those good intentions paved over all
of us
In the beginning, it was so good, God
saw that it was good
and the serpent also saw
It was not good enough

nnon Lise

A m arula o n Ic e

Amarula on ice, pretending it is summer.

Music like honey in the body, stronger
than the alkaline confusion in my head.

I am making peach tea and omelettes,

I am trying to listen as the sun goes
down, as the cat comes scratching

at the door. The wifi keeps cutting out

and I keep running from the white space,
waiting for the right moment, the gift

in the dark. I know it could be lying in

wait at any street corner, spring upon me
from the hedges. My baby girl picked her

first dandelion today and promptly ate it.

Today like every day I wake up knowing
any cracking sidewalk, any newly flowered

lilac never noticed before might hold the

thing that makes the difference. I don’t
know what it is, but I’ll know it when I see it.

Today my lover found the first white hair

of mine, long and coarse like the others but

perfectly white. I am twenty-six and I am

not sure how this makes me feel—my first

thought was to bleach it all, turn my hair
to snow. I know it looks like I have done

nothing—I see you over there, watching me

watch the best years slide behind the hills,
not even trying to intervene. But I’ll know it

when I see it. I want someone to tell my

baby long-ago stories about how we danced
and sobbed and played in the dark and how
nobody was ever really lost, after all.

One of these days it will take me from

behind, slither up between my shoulder
blades, grab me by the throat.

84 S h an n o n L i s e
en Dav
thle i es

Nunca Más

The church bells chimed, a deep vibrato, signaling

a quarter to the hour. It was nearing midnight, and
I felt I could not have been more prepared. Rain
pounded heavy on the sky-light, but the rest was all
in silence. My room was dimmed, the only means
of viewing my surroundings was through candle
and lamplight, the candle flavored pleasantly with
cinnamon and nutmeg. This scent pleasantly inter-
mingled with that of my clean bedsheets. Today
I’d got around to all those pernickety errands that
often elude us for days longer than they should, and
with my head against my soft, clean pillow I was
comforted by the lemony, soapy scent of Lenor. I
rest, a paperback between my fingers, with every
intention of finishing the story but alas, my eyelids
drooped and the words swam in front of me in such a
way that signaled any reading done would have to be
repeated. I placed the book aside, yawning, and went
to flick off the lamp beside me.
And I had sworn the skylight had been closed
due to the rain, and the doors were all locked safely.
However, if this were the case then no stranger could
possibly have entered my dwelling place (unless it
was the cat, perhaps? But no she rested still, curled
up beside my feet). Yet suddenly I became aware of
a fluttering sound above me, and a deep emerald

shape swooped before me, extinguishing the candle
in its breeze. At first it seemed like a blur of feathers
and claws, before it settled down, its talons digging
into the doorframe above, staring at me with eyes as
wide as clock faces. It opened its grotesque orange
‘Hola’, cawed the intruder.
‘Hola’, I responded, conscious of my shaking
breath, ‘el buho de Duolingo.’
Perhaps I might have found such an
unwelcome visitor so late into the night with
something like amusement. It was clear that I was
in no position to continue much of an entertaining
conversation, wrapped up in fresh sheets and warm
pajamas, pleasantly safe indoors on a dark and stormy
night. Despite my usually polite and amiable nature,
I felt a stab of dread as the bird stared down at me,
contempt apparent in its circular, boring eyes.
‘Qué tal?’ I attempted.
In response the owl simply laughed, as
mockingly as one could laugh when burdened with a
beak. It responded in a tone I felt to be unnecessarily
‘Qué tal? Bueno… a ver. Estoy enojado contigo,
mi amor,’
‘Pero… Por qué?’ I stuttered helplessly.
‘Sabes por qué’, it scoffed, mercilessly. I took a
deep sigh. Truly, I had known this day would come.
‘Si. Lo sé.’
‘Olvidaste tu lección de español.’
‘Lo sé.’
‘Y por qué?
‘Yo estaba ocupada, yo…’

86 C at h l e e n D av i e s
I felt the tears fill up my eyes, the hot shame of
all that I had promised, and failed, overwhelming me.
The all-knowing eyes of Duolingo bore into my heart,
and I clutched my chest in agony.
‘I’ll do it now, I still have fifteen minutes, I…’
‘En español’, quoth the búho, ‘por favor.’
‘Ya tengo quince minutos!’
But alas, the church bells did then ring, one
dong after another, vibrating through the rain
a dozen times. Lightning flashed and I caught a
glimpse of electric blue, as though the gods were
warning me of what was now to come. The rain
continued, unrelentingly. My cat stretched out a paw,
unconscious of the certain terror that was sure to
‘No…’ I gasped in agony.
‘Es verdad’, the owl confirmed. ‘Me has fallado.’
‘No!’ I cried. ‘Please!’
Quoth the buho:
‘¡Por favor! Y ahora sabes las consecuencias…’
‘Mi alma y las vidas de mi familia y mis amigos.
Pero, soy una buena persona. No puedo tener la
sangre de mi familia en los manos.’
The owl stopped me in my tracks with
the turning of its head. It swung its neck like a
pendulum, and again I felt the shiver of dread
arising from the helplessness of my situation, and the
inevitable bloody and hopeless carnage that was to
‘Pobre…’ tutted the owl. ‘Pobre. Quieres decir…
LAS manos.’
I knew then that all was lost and my fate
was fully sealed. Now, all I could do was watch as
those I loved were taken from me, brutally, to feed

Cat h le e n Davi e s 87
the bloodlust of this shiny opal demon with an
unquenchable thirst for the ignorance of innocents.
I curled up on myself within those bedsheets and
sobbed. The candle had been blown out by the
swooping of his wings, but still I felt the tingling of
Lenor fabric softener in my nostrils, the only comfort
I had left in what would soon become a cold and
heartless world.
To this day the bird still haunts me. Its shadow
left under my eyes and in the hollows of my cheeks.
I no longer have the strength to eat, and wine tastes
bitter on my tongue as I recall the vineyards of La
Rioja and my greatest mistake. Rest seems impossible.
Siestas and fiestas are a thing of a bygone era, a time
when I remember hope and joy, where the trees
swayed in the breeze, and fresh bedsheets lulled me
into gorgeous, deep unconsciousness. But now the
owl has taken everything. I have no happiness, no
loved ones to appeal to. In desperation, I can only
beg for relief from this servitude, but the round eyes
are so unforgiving. No matter how I beg, they show
no mercy. And so I must collapse upon this rotten
bedroom floor and futilely ask for an end to this
unceasing madness. Please, an ending. Por favor.

88 C at h l e e n D av i e s
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