A Girl Builds a Snowman by Ruth Joffre

Her windows smell like ice. Frost like delicate threads of lace embroidered in the glass. It refuses to melt when the dawn hits the panes, like a surprise slap in the face. Her cheeks are flush with heat after a night spent under her mountain of blankets. One by one, she presses them on the cold sheet of glass, pretending she is an alpinist resting on her ascent of a snow-capped peak. She knows even before she turns on the radio that school will be cancelled. A blizzard has descended, hiding the pits and curves in the road, smoothing the curbs until she can’t tell where the sidewalk ends and the backyard begins. Enough snow has accumulated on the windowsill to bury a bird. If she were to leap into the snowbank now, it would swallow her whole. Sometimes she wishes her parents’ bank would get the whole mess over with already, take the house and the yard, stop giving her parents those predatory loans. Life would be simpler then. Smaller, colder.

For once, she wants to be sure of what comes next.

Her parents take turns shoveling the driveway while she eats breakfast in her slippers. No one notices when she dollops peanut butter into her bowl or sneaks a little ginger cookie from the cabinet. Or perhaps no one minds. Nothing matters on a snow day, it seems. Nothing counts. She could while away the hours reading comic books on the floor or making snow angels outside, but come tomorrow the world would be just as still and the day would be just the same: oatmeal in the morning, soup in the afternoon, canned chili for dinner, the flavors identical, all options exact but for minor variations in the bowl being used, the curve of the only clean spoon, the quality of light reflecting off the icicles in the windows. She can do whatever she wants in these periods between meals. Sled down the hill. Throw snowballs at the neighbor kids. Build a snowman and pretend it will never melt.

All of this is extra. A heart over an “i.” A spell that stops time. Why waste it?

After breakfast, she pulls on her winter gear, her waterproof pants, her big puffy coat that makes her look like a walking sleeping bag with teeth. Outside, she cinches the hood so tight, her field of vision narrows to a point, pinching away the extraneous, the prepubescent nuisances who might distract her from her goal. One snowman isn’t enough. She plans to build dozens. Not only men but people of all genders and of no gender, people more properly defined as witches from an ephemeral snow coven that emerges once a year, after the first big snowfall. What do they want? What spells do they whisper into the frozen heart of the cauldron? The girl cannot say. She is just the sculptor tasked with building containers for their magical spirits. She doesn’t understand their ways any more than she understands her parents’ jobs.

What she does know is this: snow is like love—it collects, it drifts. It takes on unexpected shapes reflecting the source of desire, not the object. You could say that the girl has fallen in love with the one witch at her school, but you would be wrong. It would be more accurate to say: love is the only magic sustaining her as she waits for the other shoe to drop. For months, she has been gathering its power in the bottle of her body, storing up magical moments with the witch—a pale afternoon spent panting on the swings; a portrait unit in art class, where she was the artist and the witch the model; the stray lock of hair the witch allowed her to tuck behind an ear. Now, she will draw on that magic to build her miniature coven. Their pointed hats. Their arcane symbols. Their brooms made out of twigs. She thinks they’re perfect just as they are.


Ruth Joffre is the author of the story collection Night Beast. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon ReviewLightspeedPleiades, The Florida Review OnlineFlash Fiction OnlineWigleafBaffling Magazine, and the anthologies Best Microfiction 2021 2022Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness, and Evergreen: Grim Tales & Verses from the Gloomy Northwest. She lives in Seattle, where she serves as the 2020-2022 Prose Writer-in-Residence at Hugo House.

The Parched Queen by Corinna Schulenburg

Wound vac purrs and little jewels
of blood float from my body wondering
what they did wrong.

I try to explain, but my throat
croaks from intubation, my brain
seems to have misplaced the keys.

It’s easy to fall in and out of sleep
that isn’t sleep. It’s easy to say
this wholeness is the answer.

This wholeness stings like bees
with fists full of sweetness. This wholeness
is thirsty as the Parched Queen.

Do you know the Queen?
I ask my blood and piss as the tubes
ferry them to wastelands.

She ruled the dry places, her scepter
a snake’s bleached rattle on the tip
of an elephant’s femur.

She banished all water from her realm.
She thought this would cure her thirst.
Even the vultures wheeled away.

When her thirst became impossible,
she cut herself open as a door
with the spikes of a cholla

and do you know what happened then?
Her thirst poured out of her,
staining the desert blue and green.

My blood and piss search for a moral.
It’s easy to fall in and out of
morals. It’s easy to say

pain is the door we open into
wholeness. It’s harder to tell the body
this pain is also tomorrow, is also

the day after, the weeks to come,
this pain is the blue and green,
is the whole coming round.


Corinna Schulenburg (she/her) is a queer trans artist/activist committed to ensemble practice and social justice. She’s a mother, playwright, poet, and a Creative Partner of the Flux Theatre Ensemble. Her poetry has appeared in Arachne Press, Capsule Stories, Lost Pilots, LUPERCALIA Press, miniskirt magazine, Moist, Moss Puppy, Oroboro, Poet Lore, SHIFT, The Shore, The Westchester Review, and more. https://corinnaschulenburg.com/writer/poet/

Deer by Hannah Silverman

Emi finds the deer in the forest. It hasn’t been dead long, is still warm. It reminds Emi of her mother, something about the grey around its eyes and the sagging nipples on its belly. Emi has the urge to lean down and suckle.

Emi will be fifteen this month. Her mother is planning a party with peony centerpieces. Emi finds the whole affair grotesque.

Emi sits down in the dead leaves beside the deer. It is heavy-looking and beautiful. Emi respects the deer, the way it retreated to the forest to die without ceremony. She wonders what it must have been like to live so quietly, to die in the leaves.

Emi’s mother wants to know what Emi will wear to the party. Emi says, antlers.

Emi visits the deer again the next day. It is still there, but a little less. There is a sparrow on its back, nestled in its fur. Emi strokes the deer’s snout. The bird is unbothered. Emi thinks the deer must have been a mother, and she hates it a little bit. She opens its eyes, yellow-orange irises. The eyelids droop slowly closed as if the deer is drowsy.

Emi goes through her mother’s closet. Sharp, pointed heels. Pearl buttons. Stiff fabric and wires and hidden zippers. In the back, white lace. Beading and tulle. Wherever her father is, Emi is sure he does not keep his wedding tux in the back of a closet. For this, Emi thinks her mother pathetic.

By the third day, the deer is a home for flies and ants, a few maggots in the ears. Emi wishes to climb inside its stomach and go to sleep. She rolls the deer onto its back. It’s no small effort. Emi wants a good view of the stomach. Bald patches, dry blood, matted fur. This stomach has scraped the forest floor, nourished hungry babies with sharp teeth. Emi lifts her shirt to look at her own stomach. It is rounder and rougher than it used to be. A patch of dark hair blooms around her belly button. Perhaps she is turning into a deer. She feels around for extra nipples. Still only two.

Emi’s mother has locked Emi in the house. It is a small house in a cul-de-sac of identical small houses. Emi is not allowed to leave until she picks out a dress for the party. Emi’s mother suggests pink, to match the peonies. Emi suggests brown, like dirt or death. There is a standoff.

Emi will be fifteen tomorrow. She lies naked on her bedroom floor. She may not come out unless she is wearing a dress the color of flowers. Emi lies on her side, head tipped back, belly brushing the grassy carpet, eyes wide and seeing nothing. She imagines she is a dead deer in a forest. She can feel the maggots crawling into her eye sockets, the birds pecking at her tail. Emi’s mother calls to her from the hallway, but Emi does not move because she is a deer and she is dead.

On the morning of her fifteenth birthday, Emi slips out of the house. Her bare feet scrape the perfect suburban pavement. Behind the house, the sun rises above the forest where the dead deer lived. Emi is wearing her mother’s wedding dress. It droops over her shoulders, gapes at the chest, leaving space that Emi is not woman enough to fill.

Emi walks into the forest, the long white skirt turning brown beneath her feet. The deer lies on its back, the way Emi left it. Four legs splayed out, hooves reaching for the sky. Its chest is a cavern, ribs exposed, reddish-black guts spilling out. Emi rolls up her sleeve. The inside of the deer is cold and wet and alive. An ecosystem of things that live inside other, dead things. Emi searches for the heart, but another scavenger has already claimed it. No matter, Emi has a heart of her own.

Emi wipes her sticky pink hands on the white dress. She pulls more goopy blood from the deer’s innards, paints four fresh nipples on the front of the dress. She thinks perhaps this is how girls become mothers, or maybe it is how girls become deer.

Either way, Emi turns fifteen in a pink peony-colored dress.


Hannah Silverman is a Brooklyn-based writer and filmmaker. She earned her BFA in Film & Television with a minor in Creative Writing from NYU. She is a reader at Pigeon Pages literary journal. Her prose has appeared in Litro Magazine, Pigeon Pages, Flypaper Lit, and elsewhere.

Tuesday by Micaela Walley

My lover makes dragon
noodles on a Tuesday. I watch him
measure sriracha with his tongue.
I know that tongue like I know this
place, my home, between his lips.
He sips red wine as I tell him a joke,
his smile stained in soft purple.
When light seeps through his teeth,
I imagine glow in the dark stars
on the ceiling of his mouth. Wind-chime
vibrations when he laughs or says my name.
Micaela. like a chili flake brush of heat
to the cheeks, like his favorite word
to swish, swirl around & swallow.


Micaela Walley is a poet and essayist living in Baltimore, Maryland. She is currently pursuing her MFA at the University of Baltimore. Her work can be found in Huffington Post, ENTROPY, Hobart, Longleaf Review, and elsewhere. You can follow her on Instagram & Twitter @micaela_poetry.

My Mother Visits Me in America and is Offended by What the Dishwasher Can Do by Tara Isabel Zambrano

She asks if there’s a human inside, who scrubs the dishes and puts them back as they came in. I laugh, kiss her on her forehead, dipping my nose into her thinning hair.

I smear creamy lotion on my mother’s calloused palms, white settles in the trench of her lifeline. Years of washing dishes for restaurants, to send me to school, to buy books and uniforms after Pa died. Her back curved over dhobi ghats, wringing out towels and sheets. Her long face against the fabric on the clothesline, siphoning damp relief. Now, next to the sink where she has rinsed her life, a dishwasher is draining erasure into the creases on her forehead. During the day, she sticks her finger in the turrets of silverware holders, presses the soap pellets on her wash-annulled palms, their scent embroidered into her shadow. After dinner, her rosary-shaped eyes wait until the red LED of the machine turns off, expecting someone to walk out drenched in water, laced in froth.

“I haven’t embraced the porcelain in days,” she complains, her eyes dull with boredom. “My limbs are sore from underuse.”

“Ma, I have it all so you can rest now!” I plunge my gloved hands into the greasy dishwater in the sink, a mechanical whirring of the motor starting in the background.

“I wake up at night,” my mother says, “and grow sad about the world. It’s dying because there’s too much smartness and not enough touch.”

I shake my head and hear the mushy hurt of her guts–deep breaths, snotted air, a washcloth-cringed wetness split between us.

“It’s a curse not to use your gift to serve. Besides what do you do your entire life if not clean? First, the skin for good health, then the tongue with silence, and last, the mind with compassion,” my mother says.

 I don’t know what to say, so I interlace my fingers in hers. They don’t fit as they once did. There are gaps from which the light escapes.


Tara Isabel Zambrano is a writer of color and the author of the full-length flash collection, Death, Desire, and Other Destinations, from Okay Donkey Press. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in Copper Nickel, West Branch, and Post Road. She lives in Texas and is the Fiction Editor for Waxwing Literary Journal.

Horoscopes by Randi Clemens

We found them between ads for discount flower pots and a story of in vitro success, and I’d ask my mom to read mine. Try to understand the shape of a lion’s mouth, the color of water running over the side of a pot. Forecasts, love, written in dusty tongues she so desperately wanted to sink pincers into. She would sometimes buy them from the grocery store, tiny scrolls in clear plastic cylinders. Hers on orange paper, mine—blue, opposites on the color wheel. I like to believe the solar system and I are intertwined, our cells made in the furnaces of stars, the fate of the sun determining mine. I count the ways in which the moon is at fault for so much, so many crumbling constellations of lies I tell myself.  The stars are so heavy, ripe with what it is to be beast, to be bearer. I would look at my mom and think of all the starry things that we could never have. How the world is shaped elliptical and it keeps returning us back and back to the pages of the newspaper, the ink on our fingers, the seeds of something we could never map just right.


Randi Clemens is a poet, editor, and educator who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She holds an MFA from Northern Michigan University, where she previously served as the Managing Editor of Passages North and taught creative writing. Her work can be found online at Pidgeonholes, LandLocked, Lammergeier, Meow Meow Pow Pow, and Up North Lit and has been nominated for Best of the Net.

Closer by Tara Isabel Zambrano

For fun, we make a dating profile and start talking to girls from other cities, words shooting like a script, Hi, what are you wearing?

Pink blouse, ripped denim shorts.


Raspberry colored bra, a purple thong.

Show me? A little lower, yes, right there.

It’s adventurous to sync up on Twitter, push stories on Insta, location enabled, our fingers swiping the apps as if it’s each other’s skin. We ask each other, Will you let me touch you tonight, our tongues circling inside our mouths like thirsty leeches. We rub ourselves to those topless pictures taken in dimly lit bathroom stalls, until our lids go heavy.

Did you cum?

Not yet, did you?

Yes, of course. Heart emojis, a hot-pink smooch. You have an amazing body, we text before we birth a lake on our bedsheets, smother each other’s names into our pillows.

We want to visit the girls, we want to bring them home. We want to untangle each other’s hair. We want to bitch about the size-zero waists and the shrill voices of our exes, show how we dope in the vape-sucked restrooms at school, how we sneak out of the labs to avoid dissecting a dead cat. How we plan to push and prod on the kitchen floor with each other someday, stretch our skin in imaginative designs and bake cupcakes, stick tight, glistening cherries into the fleshy sponge.

When we get bored of sex, we fight without fists, our words screwing the airwaves. To cool down, we watch the same ASMR session, the drowsy wavelengths like eyes blinking in a dark cave until the video runs out and we wait for each other to hang up.

What we have won’t be fixed without touch, though the difference in our time zones makes us safe and complicated. For a while, it’s just, Hi, thought of you.

Me, too.

We cling to, Are you wearing something interesting today?

No, are you? OK, gtg. We give up calling each other, Amazing, Gorgeous, our fingers sore from softening the knot between our legs. Our skin goes cold for a while, until we swipe through profiles, text another name, the exposed ink on cleavage warming through the screen, our torsos bent, our eyes drunk with expectation as we gaze deeply, Closer, Yes, Can you come closer?


Tara Isabel Zambrano is a writer of color and the author of a full-length flash collection Death, Desire, and Other Destinations from Okay Donkey Press. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in Copper Nickel, West Branch, and Post Road. She lives in Texas and is the Fiction Editor for Waxwing Literary Journal.