On the night my uncle dies i sing a little song by Alyssandra Tobin

I dance a little dance. I let the Jersey Devil talk me down. I listen for the sound of that big voice in my head and find it loud. I pray before the altar of see you laters. I scoop poison out of our rivers. I plant trees in our cities. I think it is no small thing to die and yet it’s also the most ordinary. And what of it. I click my heels and I’m in a smaller world again. One where fewer people who loved me as a child are still here to love me as a bigger child. It’s the vanishing I can’t stand. The sudden jolt of empty stair. The switchback to nowhere. All of it’s got to mean something. What if I told you I had an uncle once named Harry Tacelli? You don’t care. And why should you. I care tho. I’m gonna care until they finally get me. You know, the ones who get everybody, in the end.


Alyssandra Tobin is the author of PUT EYES ON ME NOT LIKE A CURSE published by Quarterly West in 2022. Her poetry can be found in Poetry Northwest, Bennington Review, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere.

The Dar-Ron Motel by Julia Strayer

The doctor says I should spend the night nearby, just in case, and now I think I’m crazy for doing this so far from home. I find a cheap motel with free TV. It looks better at night when sunlight can’t get to it. Or in a fog when the edges are blurry. But by the light of day, it’s the kind of place I’d drive by without turning my head.

The sign says Dar-Ron Motel and I know a couple named Darla and Ron run it without even asking. Or maybe Darren and Ronda—without an H, because her mother wanted her to be special, the kind of person who wouldn’t grow up to own a rundown motel. Either way, Dar and Ron probably aren’t even together anymore. Maybe it’s just one of them—Darla with a new man who now helps her keep up the place, even though the sign still says some other guy’s name. Maybe the new man resents Ron. Maybe he’s grateful. Or maybe it’s just Darla because no man will stick around long enough to make changing the sign worthwhile.

The night clerk’s a gum chewing teen with red lipstick and hair that’s black on one side, white on the other. I wonder how much thought went into deciding which color would look best on which side. That’s the sort of thing that would prevent me from doing that sort of thing. I envy her. She’s probably the kind of person who’d never change herself for some guy making promises he’ll never keep just to get in her pants, eventually saddling her with a smaller, needier version of himself, unless she’s the one who finds a doctor far from home.

If I owned the motel, I’d name it The Francine because it’d be all mine. I wouldn’t cut up my name and share it with some guy, because that only leads to heartache and dead unicorns. At Halloween, I’d go all out decorating the place, and people would come from all over to see it. Halloween makes everyone equal—visible and invisible at the same time. I’m safe because I can see the masks. It’s easy to tell who’s pretending.

My motel would have a lounge where the lonely people who are missing persons from their own lives could feel like they’re part of something and like they have a home. Maybe they’d rent a room and maybe they’d even meet someone. And they wouldn’t care if the room came with free TV, at least not right away.

Julia Strayer has stories in Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review Online, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, Jellyfish Review, Wigleaf, and Atticus Review, among others, including the Best Small Fictions anthology. She teaches creative writing at New York University.

rabbit’s foot harvest by Robin Gow

we must take control
of our own luck. in the graveyard
we look for rabbits recently returned
from their convening with the dead.
pick a set of rules & believe in it.
slaughter on fridays. on fridays
when it rains. on friday the 13ths.
i had a friend once who had a purple rabbit’s foot.
she wore it as a keychain on her backpack
& told me there was a rabbit limping
in the yard, watching her, waiting
to steal the charm back. aren’t we all
waiting to take a limb back?
soon it will be a full moon or
a new moon. soon there will be
a cross-eyed man to do the deed.
shape-shifting witch who walks
along the edge of the cornfields
with only one hand. what does it mean
to steal from another’s body to keep our own?
all i want is assurance that tonight
the world will not swallow me.
i want to eat oranges. i want to sleep heavy
& easy so i create a ceremony from which luck
will fall like a dead tree.
shot with a silver bullet. the rabbit
always running from the meanings
of her skeleton. hiding in her hollow
& counting her legs. one, two, three, four.
sometimes my eyes fill with fingers
& i am also a rabbit with four feet
for the taking. then, limping in my friend’s
front yard. once bones are taken they are
never our own again. i put my finger bones
in a box & set it on a porch.
the house was full of rabbits.
apologies almost always come
too late. it is not a friday. the moon is
thin & haggard. we buried the purple foot.
did not cry in front of each other
but later wept in our homes
thinking of the animal circling the house
craving the body she once had.
maybe luck is always something taken.


Robin Gow (they/he/ze) is a trans poet and YA/MG author. They are the author of several poetry collections, an essay collection, and a YA novel in verse, A Million Quiet Revolutions. Gow’s poetry has recently been published in POETRY, New Delta Review, and Washington Square Review.

Nails by Julia Kenny

I finally stop biting my nails when my seven-year-old shames me into it. Don’t bite, stop doing that, a gentle slap against the back of my hand. Are you embarrassed by my hands? I ask her, and she kind of shrugs me off. Her silence speaks volumes. So I dig out the clear polish and get to work. I wince as I paint over a broken cuticle. For the first day or so I marvel at how much worse they look with the shiny lacquer, at their vulgarity. If my daughter notices, she stays quiet. I worry about what she’ll find next. My chipped tooth, mottled skin. I try with all my might not to talk about my body in front of her, not to obsess. But she’s always listening when I least expect it. The other day, I hissed fuck under my breath and she called out from the other room, is everything okay?

Friends come over for dinner. She watches them kiss and races up to them. I saw you, I saw you! You saw us kiss? the woman says. We kiss all the time. My daughter giggles and does a dance. I’d bury my face in my hands if I wasn’t trying so hard not to bite my fingernails. My husband arrives home from work with a bag of groceries and we say hello. I went shopping in the morning but I’d forgotten nearly half of what he needed. I help him unpack the bag in our tiny kitchen. Almost immediately, the counter is again a wreck. I rub his back and feel him tense up ever so slightly.

All during dinner, I see my daughter’s eyes darting back and forth between us and the other couple. The other woman smiles a lot. She’s in a very good mood. Her laugh is light and comes easily. Her nails are short and tidy, a subtle crescent of white hovering just past her fingertips. I look down at my own hands, clutching my glass, so much fingertip exposed. I’m distracted and I try to reinsert myself into the conversation. They’re talking about politics while I was sure they were still on TV, and I make a joke that confuses everyone. My husband gives me a sheepish smile and shrugs and my ears go hot. I refill everyone’s drinks and let their chatter swirl around me, nodding along when it seems appropriate, grateful that no one brought dessert.

They finally go home and my daughter heads to bed. Once she falls asleep, I devour her. Her room is just barely lit up by a nightlight, and I study her in all her sleepy perfection. Gone are any angles, her face now slack, all eyelashes and tufts of unruly hair. Later that night, when she inevitably shuffles into our room, I’ll sneak back into hers. I’ll spread my limbs out across her tiny mattress, no one else to knock up against. I tell myself that if I get enough sleep, tomorrow will come easily. I’ll be light, I’ll smile and laugh. 

In the morning, she wakes up like a whirling dervish, full of questions and jokes and stories. I grimace. I’m tired. My husband makes breakfast while I brush her hair, beg her to get dressed a little quicker. I could take her, he offers, when I snap at her to get her shoes on. I glare at him. I’ve got this. I show her how to tie her laces, but she can’t seem to grasp the first step. She gets frustrated and asks for daddy, who swoops in. I move toward the front door, waiting. I check my phone. Within minutes she’s beaming with pride. She’s tied them herself. They hug and I tap my foot impatiently, loud enough that they both turn to look at me, disappointed. I overdo it on our way out the door, embrace him and give her a cookie for the walk, her eyes wide, watching.

Don’t bite, she says, on our way to school. With her backpack on my shoulder, I bring one hand to my mouth, while the other holds her cold hand, her gloves once again misplaced. I pull her soft fingers to my lips and kiss the dimples on her knuckles. For a moment, I feel a weight come off. Then I worry that the teachers will admonish me at the end of the day. We’ve also forgotten her hat. I bring my longest nail, my right ring finger, to my teeth and bite down, relishing in the familiar sting. I start again.


Julia Kenny’s fiction has appeared in The Greensboro Review. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.