Skeletons in the Closet by Rina Olsen

I found some skeletons in the closet the other day, when I was moving back into my childhood home. There weren’t many, just a few, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to find them. But that’s the thing about skeletons, they come out when you least expect it.

So, of course, I sat down to sort them out.

The one on the very top was gilded with gold, pennies in its eye sockets, nickels for teeth, dimes lined up in a spinal cord. Its fingers were curled around a restaurant receipt. I tugged on it but the skeleton wouldn’t let go. I could see the tip: $100.00.

It was from the summer of freshman year, when I was working as a waitress. The tip was actually for Janice—Janice Quarl, my best friend since the days of nap time and sippy cups.

Cynthia, can you take over my tables? The customers are just about leaving, I promise.

What could I say? She’d wanted to go to the movies so badly. With her other friends, not me. Too bad it was during work hours—but of course, there was always Cynthia to fall back on!

Afterwards, she found me in the bookstore. “That’s a lot of books, Cynthia.”

I shrugged, lugging a plastic basket that swung with the weight of more than ten paperbacks. “Guess so.”

“Did you get a big tip or something?”

I clutched the basket tighter. “It’s my money. I get to use it however I like.”

There hadn’t been much she could say to that. But when she left, neither of us was very satisfied with the other.

I pushed the skeleton away to find another beneath it grinning. It shone with the metallic sheen of candy wrappers: Almond Joys for a rib cage, Twix bars for a pelvis, pumpkin seeds for toes, skull grotesquely round like a jack-o’-lantern. In its jaw was lodged a McIntosh apple, its green flesh sporting a gradual blush.  It looked like the apple Janice had stuffed into the mouth of the seventh grader dressed as Snow White, on the Halloween of our sophomore year. Snow White had stumbled back, her mouth an O around the fruit, and I’d snatched her bulging trick-or-treating basket. Her tear tracks glistened on chubby cheeks in the lamplight. We cackled as we ran off. Happy Halloween, Snow White!

Later, as we were strolling home, I wondered if we’d really had to use the apple on her. “Maybe we were meaner than we should’ve been.”

Janice jostled me, hard. I stumbled. “What’re you talking about? The apple was for her costume—no Snow White is complete without an apple. Besides, I don’t know why you’re feeling so bad. You’re the one who has better experience stealing.”

She took her share of the candy home, while I took mine. It wasn’t like the old days anymore, when we’d dump all of the candy on her bedroom floor, when we’d shared secrets and basked in guilt and glory together.

I pushed the skeleton off. That was Janice’s skeleton, not mine. I’d only done what she’d told me to do. I didn’t know what this skeleton was doing in my closet.

The third skeleton wore a glittery black prom dress. My breath caught in my throat. Janice, again! This was hers. I was about to take it off the skeleton when I was hit with the stench of rotten eggs. I scrambled back, pulling my shirt collar up to my nose.

That smell.

After Janice had turned him down to go to prom with someone else, her boyfriend had recruited several of us: she needed a reality check. She couldn’t do that without consequences.

That night, her dress sparkled in the shade of her porch as she peered out to see if our approaching van was her date’s car. The headlights cast her in a ghastly yellow, set her dress ablaze, forced her eyes into slits. I don’t think she even saw the eggs sailing out the windows until it was too late. But she must have seen me, my face bobbing in the van’s dim interior.

The last skeleton lay on the carpet. Words crawled along its pristine polished bones, like tattoos running up its legs, hips, arms, shoulders. On its rib cage, over where the heart should go, was stamped: THESIS STATEMENT. On its sternum was typed the name: JANICE QUARL.

In our last year of high school, Janice and I both interned at the community women’s clinic. We both planned to study to be OBGYNs. Even so, she rarely looked at me when we arrived, when she passed in the hallways, when we crossed paths in the bathroom. But I was struggling with my college application essays—I simply didn’t know what to write. I’d done what Janice had done all my life. So why could she write an essay about herself with ease while I struggled to form the first sentence?

At last I worked up the courage to ask her for help. Janice studied me. “Help?”

I took a deep breath. “All I need is some insight. I’m not asking for much—just tell me how I should write it, or what you wrote about, or….”

“So you want me to help you,” she said slowly.

“Yeah.” I proffered a small, hopeful smile. “Is that okay?”

She sent me a folder of her essays. One look told me I would never be able to write like that. She was good. So good that I highlighted her name with the cursor and typed in my own.

What else could I have done? What the admissions officers didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. What my parents, who were counting on me to get into a good school, didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. And what Janice didn’t know definitely wouldn’t hurt her. But after we’d graduated Janice called and asked to see the essays that hers had helped me with. I said I’d lost them. I didn’t expect her to go to my mother, who’d saved copies.

Janice didn’t need to rat, to get me kicked out of school. I hoped that she, at least, was happy with the mess I was in.

I pressed my lips together and shoved the skeletons back into the closet. I’d visit Janice later, just as my parents had been telling me to. I needed to apologize, to mend our relationship. I wanted to ask, What relationship? When had I ever had a choice in the decisions I’d made?

I closed the closet door. I’d go and pay her a visit. She’d have skeletons in her closet too. All I would have to do is go and pull them out.

 

Rina Olsen is a Korean-American teen writer living on Guam. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in 101 Words, Dreams & Nightmares, Emerge Literary Journal, The Hopper, Jellyfish Review, Nanoism, and Write the World Review. She is a general editor for Cathartic Youth Literary Magazine. Her debut novel, Third Moon Passing, is forthcoming from Atmosphere Press in late 2023.

The Emmy Goes to the Seagull, Flying off with the Hot Wing… in Front of the Chicken Spot? by Khadjiah Johnson

And I was like,
but ain’t that shit cannibalism?
Ain’t that your cousin in some retrospect?

I should be more empathetic to hot wing homie,
flying off with fam drenched in Frank’s Red Hot cloaked all over its claws.
I might be witnessing a long-distance funeral;
I recognize that we need physical evidence in order to personalize our grief.

I walk into Whole Foods and think
damn,
somebody’s house
was ripped out of the ground
to make room for this poultry section.
Government done stole somebody’s livelihood,
then gave them a job,
as a cashier,
in the store
of the home
they ripped from them from.

Maybe that seagull was onto its way to a memorial.
Maybe he knows, and doesn’t plan to eat cousin Hector in Red Hot.
Maybe Hot Wing Homie has a shrine on the corner of a Wing Stop
where he’s actively protesting Lemon Peppers and we can’t hear him
because the crunch from crispy skins drowns him out.

I am standing in front of a Telco in the neighborhood that raised me
but can no longer afford.
A Chinese Buffet, into a Starbucks.
The wedding boutique, is a Taco Bell.
I hear a Jamaican woman in the distance proclaim to a customer
“We ran out of oxtail,”
and I pray for more of those grievances.

As I turn the corner,
I peep Hot Wing Homie hiding behind a 2010 Range Rover,
piercing his claws into his cousin.
Tearin’ that wing up,
Franks Red Hot smeared across the beak and I say,

Damn, sometimes it be cannibalism.

 

Khadjiah Johnson is an Afro-Caribbean American poet, producer and comedian from Brooklyn, NY. You can see more of her work in The American Bystander, Sakura Review, Widget LOL, and more. She’s a Periplus Fellowship finalist, her poetic comedy “Shady Shepherd Psalm” was nominated for the 2019 Best of Net Anthology by Emrys Journal, and she currently serves as a Contributing Writer for Black Nerd Problems and Crunchyroll. You can also catch a couple of Khadjiah’s produced pieces on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Like Real Women Do by K.B. Carle

Mama says real women bleed. Between their legs just as much as the blood being pushed through their veins. She says real women wear tampons. Pads for emergencies. Both when their allergies get bad and they gotta sneeze. Mama says real women get caught foolin’ but doesn’t say what “foolin’” means. Only that Aunt Tessa got caught and got the belt and, when she bends over, folks can still see grandad’s buckle stamped on her legs. Mama says real women work, like her and Aunt Tessa, before any foolin’ happens. That real women know how to treat a man so he’ll cover up, though she doesn’t say what that means either. Real women aren’t afraid of the pain and, mama says, there’ll be pain at first but I’ll get used to it. Some women like the pain while some, like Aunt Tessa, never learn to. I ask mama if that’s what foolin’ means and she says no. Says that foolin’ is what got me my cousins, Rochelle and Azriel. What she means is Aunt Tessa likes to love real women. Not like loving mama and me and her babies. But the women she takes to the back of our trailer, letting them trace grandad’s belt buckle brandings with their tongues. Mama says that, now I’m a real woman, I can ask them to do that to me too. I ask who “them” are. She says whoever I want. As long as, if they’re men, they cover up so no foolin’ happens. I ask if I have to see “them” like she does and she says no. Then she says yes. Just not as often. Real women make sacrifices and she tells me sacrifices are food and clothes and this trailer and these babies and, since I’m a real woman now, I have to help with all of that. Real women know how to keep quiet like Aunt Tessa leading another real woman to her room. Like mama holding hands with two men and leading them to her room. A man comes up behind me, rests his hand on my shoulder. He says something I guess real women like, but I can’t figure out what his words mean. He offers me money, like I’m a real woman. I listen for my mama, my Aunt Tessa, try to hear what real women sound like, then remember real women get real quiet behind closed doors. I unzip my pants, but I don’t pull them down. Peek inside my underwear, make sure the man can’t see. Check if I’m still bleeding, like real women do.

K.B. Carle lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her flash has been published in a variety of places, including Good River Review, HAD, Waxwing, Bending Genres, and No Contact and have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Her story, “Soba,” was included in the 2020 Best of the Net anthology and her story, “A Lethal Woman,” will be included in the 2022 Best Small Fictions anthology. She can be found online at kbcarle.com or on Twitter @kbcarle.

A Little Bliss by Joanna Acevedo

I’m drinking the coffee but I’ve forgotten to take
the laundry out of the dryer. I’ve made dinner but
I’ve thrown the burnt ends of the meat into the sink.
I’m no good at this, this domestic life, where you
come home from work at the end of the day and
want a martini, a pint of whiskey,           a little bliss.
                Tell me how to be alright,
because I can’t find my way to the door. The ambulance
is coming and I’ve thrown all the instructions for the
bookcase into the garbage disposal.

 

Joanna Acevedo (she/they) is the Pushcart nominated author of the poetry collection, The Pathophysiology of Longing, (Black Centipede Press, 2020) and the short story collection, Unsaid Things, (Flexible Press, 2021). Her work has appeared online and in print, including in The Bookends Review and The Write Launch. She received her MFA in Fiction from New York University in 2021 and is supported by Creatives Rebuild New York: Guaranteed Income For Artists. She’s also a Guest Editor at The Masters Review, an Associate Poetry Editor at West Trade Review, and Reviews Editor at The Great Lakes Review.

City People by Benjamin Warner

Then there was the time my father ended up with only four fingers on his right hand. Four and a half, really, and we probably could have saved the part above the knuckle if we weren’t so deep into the woods. That was when my parents began to notice something strange about me. Most likely, it was why they noticed it.

We were camping, of all things.

We never camped. We weren’t that kind of family. But something had gotten into my father’s head. He’d watched a special about the Smoky Mountains, and off we went—all that gear, “a real adventure,” he called it. The seams on our packs were straining, and while we hiked toward our campsite, my father was all of a sudden a wildlife fanatic. 

“Stop,” he’d say. “Freeze.” And my mother and I would stand where we were on the trail. “Do you hear that?” We’d listened to hours of bird calls on cassette tapes driving down. “A warbler . . . no . . . a chickadee.”

My mother cocked her head, an ear angled toward that avian domain. But her eyes darted down at me. They seemed to say, It’s good for him to be out, don’t you think, Christine? For him to have an interest we can all take part in?

“Christine!” he said. “Are you listening? A chickadee?”

And my mother nodded to me, and I said, “Chickadee. Yes. I hear it.”

Then we’d walk some more, and he’d say, “Freeze!” again, and we’d wait while he inspected a pattern in the sticks. “Snake tracks,” he said, bending so that his pack almost tipped him over. “No…deer more likely, white-tailed deer.”

My mother lifted a handful of sticks to her face then lowered them to mine. “Yes,” she said. “White-tailed deer! I see it. Christine, do you see it? Christine?”

* * * 

At the site, my mother and I unfolded the tent poles, while my father unwrapped cellophane from a roast and started up the white-gas stove. We sat on rocks and held plastic plates on our laps. My father’s back was toward us as he fiddled with the flame. The stove roared and quieted, roared and quieted. He scraped a cast iron skillet atop the burner. My mother hugged me toward her.

“We’ll be okay,” she said softly. “This is what he wanted.”

The roast began to hiss.

“Ultimately that’s all people really want, Christine, is choices.”

I could still remember how his sobs had traveled through my bedroom walls. Back then, there’d been frequent sobbing. “I want you to take an interest in something,” my mother had pleaded. She’d just suggested an open relationship. “No,” he cried. “But you can try it. I’ll stay home with the cat.”

Now he stood with a knife in his hand, the other holding slabs of meat. “Eat, eat,” he proffered, gesturing toward our plates. 

So much had changed.

We ate, but we couldn’t eat it all. “Stuff it in,” my father said. “Christine, try burping. Your problem is that you’re full of air.” The leftover roast rested on the table, in a puddle of juices like a wounded animal. We would leave it there, unfinished. That was our mistake. But what did we know about camping? We were city people.

By 8 o’clock, we’d retired to the tent. The hike had wiped us out. My mother and father played cards by lantern light, sitting cross-legged in the tent. My father was letting her win at Bartok. She touched his ankle and smiled in a distant, knowing way.

I was glad they were getting along.

I was in my sleeping bag, watching the nylon of the tent start to fade from blue to gray to black. I thought of the night my mother had shouted, “It’s only been two dates, Frank!” She’d been pleading with him to try a bar, any bar, even if it was just to meet another Mets fan. I thought, Mets fan? From my room, I cried out, “I’m scared!” They’d both rushed in. They took me to their bed and said, “You can sleep here, if you’re scared.” I’d burrowed into the spot between them, smelling my father’s sour shirt, the heat from my mother’s back warming my own. “OK,” I whispered, “ I am.”

In the tent, my father was flipping cards. “Your turn,” he said in an agreeable way. In my half-dream I was tucked between them again. In his confidence, the future of our family could still rearrange itself, unformed.

Then, outside, we heard a baby shrieking.

“You hear that?” my father said. “Sounds like a baby shrieking.” He tilted his head. “Interesting. Northern poke weasel, I’d say. Don’t see many in these parts.”

My mother had laid her cards down on the nylon floor. “That’s no weasel,” she finally said. She did not reach for me, but I could feel how much she wanted to.

The shrieking outside grew louder.

“Oh dear lord,” she said. “They’re killing it.”

“Killing what?” my father asked, panicking. “Killing who?”

“Does it really matter, Frank? Can we do something?”

He placed a hand atop her shoulder and got to his feet.

“Frank,” my mother started. He turned to regard her. They looked at each other deeply for a moment.

Before those wilderness shows, he’d always been afraid of noises. Tree limbs scraping the house could make him curl up with a baseball bat. But now he strode into the dusk, carrying a lantern by its wire handle. He lifted it to inspect the trees. He shined it on the white-gas stove facedown in the dirt. He swung it across his body, a sphere of light bobbing all around him, and there, at the edge of the campsite, a bobcat was tensed above our roast.

He had never been a strong man, or a brave man, but my father did not run. He said, “Ohgodohgodohgod,” but stood there, turning into a wall between that wild thing and us.

“Frank!” my mother shouted.

He kept his eyes on the bobcat and reached back to the table where he’d done the dinner prep. Blindly, his hand fumbled among the utensils. The bobcat hissed and exposed its teeth in the way of a venomous snake. My father’s hand found the carving knife and he brandished it—but he’d grabbed it by the blade. He pointed the wooden handle at the cat. It hissed again, and my father cried out, “This is not your domain!” Then he squeezed the knife so tightly it severed his middle finger above the knuckle.

It cut so cleanly that it took several seconds before the blood and pain arrived—before he started screaming.

I remembered him in that darkened living room, while my mother was out. How he’d laughed at the wilderness host in a khaki vest. “Look at this guy,” he said. “All alone. He’s gonna get himself mauled!”

Suddenly, I was marching past my father’s naked legs. I was banging on a pot with a metal spoon, marching toward the beast. It smelled like cat food, I thought. The way my father had smelled, the first night my mother hadn’t come home from the bar. Christine! This cat’s breath smells like cat food! I’d been watching wilderness programs with him, but he’d been kissing the cat. It was 9 o’clock. Even back then, I understood what was possible.

I got closer to the bobcat and it made that sound of a wailing infant again. It arched its back. Its hair stood in a ridge. I thought, Maybe I’ll be mauled. I got closer, making my terrible racket. I thought, Look at you. Smelling like cat food. Then I smacked the spoon into the pot as hard as I could and the bobcat popped away and disappeared. 

Only when it was good and gone, deep in the woods, did my father wail, “Christine!”

If I close my eyes, I can still see the look on his face, regarding me, his daughter, as though I were someone he didn’t know. How unsettling that must have been, to no longer see me as his little child.

That was the last time we’d go camping, the last time he’d notice the sound of a chickadee, or the color variations of a woodland squirrel. Never again did he eat a wild blackberry, or grip a knife in his hand. From then on, it would be me who carved our meat. He would stand off in a corner of our kitchen, his arms crossed so that his missing digit was tucked in his armpit, watching me slice the flesh of some headless bird. He would nod at me, hiding what he’d lost.

At the back of the tent, my mother was cradling my sleeping bag against her chest, as though she imagined I was still within it. And while I stood in that chittering nightscape, among the invisible nocturnal creatures, my father retreated into the tent, finally, to be with her.

 

Benjamin Warner is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University’s MFA program. A lecturer at Towson University, he teaches courses in composition, environmental writing, and fiction writing. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in American Short Fiction, Guernica, Lithub, Salon.com, and The Washington Post Magazine. He’s also the author of the novels Thirst (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016) and Fearless (Malarkey Books, 2022).

Space Cowgirl by Madeline Augusta Turner

i am not an extraterrestrial. i am
leather-sewn and blistering

detritus at the cusp of an Appalachian summer, that kind
of amber decay hemmed with fungus and arrogance. here

i am safe, knowing that
the fruit the apricot tree could not hold is still light incarnate

lying sun-warm on the ground, rotting
to become new. the astral is a body too, and two

nights ago when i slept
next to my mother in her lover’s bed she told me

she didn’t know it would be like this, told me
that when the line is drawn

in my mind, the line of decomposing honeysuckle
cast aside and fractured, dissociated

nuggets of coal held together
sharp with multi-flora rose, to touch

the last place my feet hit the ground. it’s okay
to disappear from your body, i think–

we leave this world briefly, melting
to protect ourselves. what lies beneath

the sun and the dirt are no farther
than my hands, and enough

 

Madeline Augusta Turner prefers to be covered in glitter. Currently living in Northampton, MA, her heart is always somewhere at the intersection of industrial decay and endless cornfields. Madeline has received a Brooklyn Poets Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and the Smith College Elizabeth Babcock Prize for Poetry. In 2022, she was also a Kenyon Writer’s Workshop participant. Say hello anytime at madelineaugustaturner.com.

Offering by Laura S. Marshall

My patron saint only visits when he needs something from me, his head bowed to bestow grace but watching for someone who might blow his cover. I first saw him in a dream, the kind that wakes you gasping, catching yourself as you fall back into your bed, but after that he started coming around every afternoon with some little request or other. He shuffles down the hallway to my room to ask for some little thing. I never know what he needs it for because he’s not really much of a talker.

Today it’s socks. “Do you have a fresh pair of socks?” he asks. His robes rustle around his feet.

“Fresh as in clean, or fresh as in new?” I mutter. His nimbus makes my dorm room look dingy. “What do you need the socks for?”

He doesn’t answer. He never answers my questions. Not about the things he needs and not about anything else.

I could give him an older pair, thin worn grey with holes burgeoning on the bottoms, but who gives garbage to a holy figure? 

I place a clean pair of socks in his patient hand. They’re among my favorites, thick and warm and navy-flecked with orange toes and heels; they make my new boots bite less sharply at my feet.

“What did you do with the safety goggles yesterday?” I ask. 

He just holds out his hand and waits for my offering. He makes that blessing sign with the other, his thumb and first two fingers up, gentle, like rays of light could shoot out from his heart and warm the air around me if I would just shut up for a minute.

I never know when it will be my turn to ask for something, or what I should ask for when my turn comes. For now, he’s the one who does all the asking. I watch him walk to the stairwell and wonder what he does with my stuff, why he chose me, when I’ll finally see some kind of blessing in return for all this gifting.

When he shambles over for a roll of film, the day after, I choose to be the silent one. Holy and beatific, my head ringed with light. A chorus of seraphim, rapturous, as I open the door. My patron saint tips his head back in saintly surprise, then rummages in his pocket and hands me a single crinkly butterscotch candy.

 

Laura S. Marshall (she/they) is a queer, nonbinary disabled poet, educator, and former linguist who lives outside of Albany, NY. Their work appears in South Dakota Review, Bennington Review, Juked, Lunch Ticket, 8 Poems, and elsewhere. She received her MFA in poetry from UMass Amherst, and has served as guest editor at Trestle Ties and special features editor for jubilat.

HEALING SONATA by Pamilerin Jacob

In my dreams, I am so pure
I don’t need a bath,

or a secret pill to keep
my liver from exploding

like a piñata. There is an artery,
I believe, for safe passage of faith

through the body’s dark. Fickle,
I am almost alive as the next

person. Brimming with desire, a real
boy, except for the bones lighter

than plastic. An Ostrich’s eye is bigger
than its brain, God’s eye is bigger

than my desolation. The expansion
of the universe is the expansion of us.

I hope no one looks me in the eye
ever again, I remember saying when

I caught wind of my prognosis.
You should know I tried counting down,

scattered my heartbeats like seeds
upon things that watered woe.

Whereas, God was busy, leagues above
tilting sunlight into my bone marrow.

 

Pamilerin Jacob is a poet & editor whose poems have appeared in Barren Magazine, Agbowó, Lit Quarterly, IceFloe Press, Palette, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. He is the curator of the PoetryColumn-NND, a poetry column in Nigerian NewsDirect, a national newspaper.

Funland by Rebekah Morgan

We were bout run ragged, sittin’ in the brick building on the side of 72 right before Cooter Creek but past the McDonalds. Getting a call, jumping up, hauling bodies mostly dead, runnin’ back and then sittin’ in the garage smoking pall malls talking shit bout so and so’s niece being strung out again while we was sittin’ next to the big engine or sittin’ outside on the lawn with burnt up grass till another call come in. Mikey’s brother failed outta scuba diving certification on account of claustrophobia. Mike’s daddy had paid for him to go all the way down to Florida for it. Mikey asked me what I thought his daddy bout done to his brother and I said to this man he oughta whooped him two tits from Tuesday and everyone nodded in agreement. Bobby Lee said they found a cop in an old outhouse yesterday or day before with a plastic bag filled bout yay high with gasoline and part of the bag over his head and he was damn near dead from huffing by the time they got to them. Bobby says it was the same damn cop they took out from the Funland not too far awhile back after the cop drank him a bunch of latex paint and it turned his whole mouth black. Bobby says that cop be selling cocaine around here too and knows them boys up in the hills who are runnin’ the gambling ring one county over. Ol’ Coolie chimes in about the paint and why people can’t just stick to sniffing glue like they used to cause now everyone drinking paint or runnin’ rubbing alcohol through a slice of white bread to drink and it’s making a whole lot of extra work for us and don’t they know we’re too tired for this mess. Jason come in even though it’s his day off cause he don’t wanna be at home with his wife cause he hates that fucking bitch and he remembers when him and Bobby were in high school. Jason says him and Bobby were damn near side ways one night at the Red Iguana cause they never carded anyone back then and started calling the escort services from the yellow pages and Jason says after they called bout five different ones the operator asked them if they realized it was the same lady they’d been talking to the whole time and Bobby asked if he’d worn her down yet.

 

Rebekah Morgan is a writer living in good ole Eastern Tennessee. Previous work can be found with Bull Magazine, Fence, Joyland Magazine, Maudlin House, and New York Tyrant, among others places.

Still Yellow by Katie Oliver

I am thinking about the flower
my son picked, insistent
that we put it in a glass of water
or it won’t survive, he said.
I didn’t know what to tell him.
Rootless, it floated
in a bottle. I knew the colours
would never glow so bright again.
That night, as the sun went in
the petals closed, and when it rose
again they opened. They were
still yellow: defiant
as a dying star.
There have been so many times
I too have strayed, adrift
on open water, with life seeping
from the very stem of me
but still I turned towards the sun
and here I am. And I am grateful
for the thing that keeps us
going through the motions,
trying: reaching
for the light.

 

Katie Oliver is a writer based on the west coast of Ireland, whose work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfiction. Her debut short story collection, I WANTED TO BE CLOSE TO YOU, will be published in December 2022 with Fly on the Wall Press, and she is a first reader for Tiny Molecules. She can be found on Twitter @katie_rose_o.