[Variations on a theme:]
Sunset in Pasadena, CA 7:20 pm
My parked car
in the corner spot has
on the dash with
date and time
the printed paper slip
encased by the glass
of time spent or fading
dark blue, light blue,
soft green, harsh
The orange slice
My citrus swallow
And juices into
The fire pit
Of my stomach
Across the half-light
Of mixed blood
- Nick Maurer
Red beef with flesh in jewel-bright slabs
All piled inside a gleaming pot.
A narrow knife-point peels and stabs
Red beef. With flesh in jewel-bright slabs,
My father gathers up and grabs
The meat, stirring the stew of hot
Red beef with flesh in jewel-bright slabs.
Light lurks unnoticed in the alley's edge,
a spectacle from some unseeing eye.
The road is still, and on a window ledge
light lurks unnoticed. In the alley's edge
discarded signs are muttering illeg-
ible proclamations and asking why
light lurks unnoticed in the alley's edge,
a sight for some unseeing eye.
- Jonathan Diaz
If you throw salt in February,
it will eat like ringworm.
But in June the fans turn on,
and the breeze thaws,
and the air crinkles up into a steady heat.
In the front a sprinkler is going,
reminding each end of the lawn
just how much it is loved,
spitting confetti through missing teeth.
And if April comes and you haven’t seen rain,
But when September,
with leaves rolled in his hair,
comes stumbling in with misplaced Saturdays,
make sure the pilot light is burning.
In the battle between the rope and the fir,
the rope lost;
cut lengthwise as not
to spoil the effectiveness of its heavier twine.
In the lawn,
as it is made weekly,
off-white shoes will be confirmed,
smothered in desultory
greenness of that precious oil.
And if you buy a mint in January
it will freeze on the top of your tongue.
October always twists again
to temper off the harshness of the greens.
In the center of the neighborhood,
there is a drain that willingly swallows
And if the clouds convince enough rain to jump,
then bleeding parking tickets and
excavated chew toys
all become one.
- Justin Potesta
The children filled the clearing with the sound
Of laughter raised to heaven, to mothers,
And next the men were called to dance, their feet
Hard pressed the earth, their backs grown wet with sweat.
The women watched and then were called to cry.
They didn’t hide their faces from the rest
But let the water drip from chins and run
Between their breasts. The children danced, the men
Wept, women laughed, then danced, and all collapsed.
Small, Baby Suggs went wading through the crowd-
She whispered milk-white ink over them all
And, looking up, spun with twisted hip.
- Sarah O'Donnell
Nineties babies wanted to ride in the
Mystery machine. Watching Shaggy and
Scooby eat snacks, while Velma searched for clues.
Jinkies, what are jinkies? Methamphetamines.
Too naïve to know that Scooby stood for
Sensless collection of obtuse youth,
Shaggy was a stoner, Velma was a
Rebel and Fred and Daphne they always
Disappeared for a reason. Mystery.
- Julius Thompson
Night covered me with salt and pepper and but-
ter like I was a dish to be sauteed.
I laid in the pan I called my bed, but-
tonning up a plan to make me unmade.
I want to simmer down to an emul-
sification of myself and watch the
unnecessaries float away. This dull-
ness tries and tries and tries me. Will I come
to find in the light that I wasted my
night-time time in thought when deeds were what were
called for? This question raises the heat by
three, four, at least. The skin begins to burn
and bubble, my liquids sizzle and crack,
my skull explodes, the pan sticks to my back.
- Spencer Cullum
“Praying for you right now! I bet you are doing great!”
She said, “Praying for you right now! I bet you are doing great!” I didn’t know what to say to her. It made me feel even worse for lying. And I definitely was not interested in her prayers. I know she means well but things have just been tense for us…I know its my fault. This always happens when I keep secrets from her. There is no way I would tell her about this though. I don’t think she’d be praying for me if she knew I was going to Planned Parenthood today. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I’m here. I’ll call you after. Good luck with the history test haha I’ll see you in 3rd period.
- Hannah Perry
The mountain air was cold against his cheeks, camouflaged hunters cap pulled down over his eyes to shade against the afternoon sun in the blue Colorado sky above. It had been a long climb up the mountain, and he could feel sweat dampening the back of his cotton shirt. The late fall breeze coming up the side of the cliff brought scents from the valley below and cooled his perspiring skin.
He straightened up and adjusted the leather strap of the hunting rifle on his shoulder, the wooden stock settling between his shoulder blades. His eyes went out over the valley he had just left behind, a small silver river barely visible as it trickled its way through the rocks far below.
Taking a deep breath, he turned back up toward the crags above him and squinted into the sunlight. The sky was clear and blue, with a few wisps of white vapor way off on the horizon.
His quarry was not in sight, but he was not in any hurry. He would catch up, eventually.
Shifting his rifle, he began to once again resume his ascent up the mountain.
His breathing was becoming more labored now, the oxygen molecules arriving at his lungs with more scarcity as he climbed higher and higher.
Stopping at a particularly large builder, he took off his ball cap. He took a moment to swing a small pack around his side and reached inside to pull out a small flask of water.
Unscrewing the cap, he took a swig, not minding when it overflowed past his mouth and dribbled down the outside of his throat. It was cold and refreshing, and once he had almost drained the bottle, he poured the last ounces over his head, dampening his hair.
Replacing his pack and shifting his rifle, he turned to face the large boulder in front of him. It was smooth and polished by the wind, and it sat directly in his path eliminating the possibility to go around it. He wiped his hands on his cargo pants and scrutinized the surface for handholds.
A crack near the top looked promising. He braced himself, then jumped, his hands grabbing the crevice and sticking. Grunting and struggling, he hefted himself up the rock face and grasped the top of the boulder. Boots scraping, he pulled himself up and over the top, panting with exertion.
- Matt Glass
Things the Sky Fits Inside of
The World You Inherit
a precarious habitat.
How the Canyon Became Grand
The water was wild.
- Rebecca Johnson
They fell asleep while smoking in bed.
The extinguished batteries in the
smoke detector left the flames unattended.
With no cautions provided,
they never reached the fire extinguisher
kept in the bathroom.
Difficulty removing themselves from the fire.
Difficulty removing themselves from the burn source.
Their reduced mobility, coordination, and strength
increased their risk of severe burns.
They were referred to a specialized burn center.
Their elderly skin–thinner, less elastic–
challenges their ability to heal.
Alex and Wolf
This morning, I told Alex that I was a really good dancer. I was joking, of course, but he thought I was serious. “Ew,” he said looking down at me from his couch. “Are you serious right now?”
When I saw his repulsed look, I knew I couldn’t take it any farther. “I can’t believe that you even thought for a second that I was serious! Oh my gosh, why is everyone so willing to believe these things lately?” I laughed and laid down on his living room rug.
Alex clearly wasn’t over the initial shock. “I’ve seen you dance before! You dance exactly how I imagined people from Jersey would dance.”
“Oh. My gosh,” I was laughing. “I’m kidding, and why does everyone believe these things all the sudden? The other day I told Louise that I wasn’t going to her housewarming because she hadn’t personally called and invited me, and she thought I was serious and got really weird and stern with me.”
Alex shook his head, and looked down at his laptop again. “I don’t know,” he said. “I just believed you for some reason.” He looked up. “Hey. Where’s Wolf.”
Wolf is Alex’s miniature dog, and even Alex doesn’t totally trust the little creep. He grins constantly, baring all his miniscule teeth and his fur sticks straight from the sides of his little body. When we take him for walks along the beach, people’s faces melt, and they come up to us. Alex is really annoyed by this and selfish about Wolf, but he hides it well. They always, always ask what kind of dog he is, and lex consistently evades this question, even among his closest friends. He is convinced that Wolf could have his own reality show someday.
“Wolf!” Alex opened the front door and walked out into the hallway. “Wolf!”
When this happens I have to have a panic attack with him, or else I’m not a caring person.
“Wolf, where are you?” The dog’s crazy little head poked over the arm of the couch. “He’s right here,” I say.
Alex shut the door and walked toward Wolf. “Hi!” he cooed, kneeling. “Hi!”
“I wuzz just playing hide and seek because I’m a crazy little man!” said Wolf . . . said Alex.
“Yes you are! Yes you are!” Alex responded. He grabbed the dog’s little face, clutching Wolf’s itty-bitty ears and pulling back the corners of Wolf’s eyes. I sat down and watched. I’m always a little worn out from the intensity of Alex searching for Wolf.
Four p.m. I’m working. I’m trying really hard to sell the shirt with the palm trees that never sells to the first customer that’s walked into our store in the past hour. She’s wearing a blue dress that I happen to know a ballpark price for. I’m pretty sure she’s loaded. We’re about one minute away from her deciding to buy this if I can convince her she will wear it. “Mmmm. I just never wear button-downs,” she admits.
“I totally understand, but it just has to be the right one,” I tell her. “This is the kind of shirt that you can wear with pretty much anything on the bottom because it can be either worn super clean or messy.”
She holds on to it and circles the store. I go behind the counter and look at my phone. Suddenly, she’s in front of me. “I’m just going to do it,” she states. “I won’t sleep tonight unless I’ve bought something, you know?”
I smile as I ring her up, “Yes. Totally.”
My boss walks in from the back and sees me folding the shirt with the palm trees. I feel his admiration from the other side of the counter as I finish helping the customer. As soon as she walks out, he turns to me. “I really hope you weren’t on your phone while she was in here.”
Ten p.m. I’m at Alex’s. We just finished watching the levitation scene in Solaris, and he’s already tired. The ceiling fan is on low. I’m watching a dust bunny roll around in the crook between the entertainment center and the wall.
I look down at Alex. He’s laying facedown on the rug, asleep. Wolf is literally laying on top of Alex’s back. I shake my head, but I take a picture of them. Then, I stand up quietly to get my jacket.
As I open the front door, I hear shuffling behind me. Wolf is standing at my heels, watching me with his crazy little eyes and his tiny, pink tongue hanging out of his mouth. The warmth from the hall light diffuses on his monochrome fur. I can almost see what other people see in him.
It’s midnight, and I’m home. My roommate and his girlfriend are talking in low voices in the next room. The cold, sticky air sifts through the screen on to my face. I’m looking at my ceiling. I see the lady from work today. She’s standing in her room with her back turned looking at her new shirt spread out on her bed. I didn’t like that shirt very much. I really, really wish I had shown her something else.
On the table next to me, my phone lights up with another text from Alex. I reach over and flip it face down. Then, I turn on to my side to face the window. My mattress shudders. Four little paws creep up and lay down behind me.
- Alyson Luthi