The Deaths of the Great Lakes by Jeffrey Hermann

The Death of Lake Michigan

First we took one last, long swim. Someone fished and yelled when he pulled up a walleye. I was given the honor of turning up the sun. God, the heat! By shading our eyes we could see it all turn to vapor. We were packing up towels and folding chairs when the fisherman approached me.

“Take this fish,” he told me.

“Take this fish,” he begged.

“Take it.”

 

The Death of Lake Erie 

We led a giant to the edge of the lake. The ground shook with his walloping stomps. His giant daughter walked beside him, holding his big hand. Using a sewer pipe like a straw, he sucked and drank until it was dry. The lakebed was like an endless barren planet. The giant’s daughter was the only one who cried. And this you won’t believe: A woman found the necklace she’d lost as a child, there in the stinking mud. When the giant told the story to his girl, she opened her mouth in awe.

 

The Death of Lake Ontario 

We kicked it full of sand and lawn clippings, boxes, clothes, bricks—anything we could drag over there. On top of that we built a beautiful pretend lake. It was made of tinted glass. Children were allowed to draw fish and beavers and boats on the panes. One made a mistake and drew a giraffe. Some people complained, saying it was unrealistic. I liked it. I liked how it seemed happy down there, not realizing it needed air. I liked that it was smiling.

 

The Death of Lake Superior

It hung itself.

 

The Death of Lake Huron

Some men came offering to buy it, but they only wanted the liquid, nothing living or dead in there. We filtered everything out the best we could. After the men hauled it all away we found the souls of everyone who had ever drowned. They wanted to go back to their old lives now—school children, wives, hotel managers, etc. We said it can’t work like that. They sank back into the sand and rocks, their apparitions like a thick, gray muck. That was surprising. All this time we’d dreamed them a watery blue.

 

Jeffrey Hermann’s poetry and prose has appeared in Rejection Letters, Lost Balloon, UCity Review, trampset, and JMWW, among other publications. Though less publicized, he finds his work as a father and husband to be rewarding beyond measure.

Medicinal by Jingyu Li

“Maybe I did treat everything in the world as though it was a medicine.”
Henderson the Rain King, Saul Bellow

What entered me
        as prayer:     soft globes
                    of chokecherry bunched
            in the buds of late aster     the dark-
                    eyed junco     a mess of
                                          eggshell & nest
The skin is the largest
                organ in the body
    meaning     what is outside
                                is inside too     meaning
              there are always two ways
                          to poison a person     from
Skin to shivering
                bone     love
                          is the color of cough
                syrup soaked in straw
                                          & sun:
Between the shadows
          I fold gold into a body
                                hungry for prescription.

 

Jingyu Li immigrated to the United States from Beijing at age three, and grew up in Wyoming with her younger brother. She went to university in Boston and is interested in myth in her poetry. Her work has appeared in Humble Pie Mag, and her self-published zine, Lunar New Year, explores Chinese language and diaspora and can be found at Bluestockings Cooperative, Dog Eared Books, and Silver Sprocket.

New Forever by Rebekah Morgan

I watched as she moved around the kitchen, arms filling up with fruit. She’d been sick for so long, I’d been the one making us breakfast. Toast usually, all that she could stomach, sometimes pancakes, plain, not even buttered.

But, the day before, we’d seen the elderly man with his banged up farm truck on the side of the road selling oranges when we were heading home from another bad appointment. He’d cut one in half right there in front of us and when he opened it up, the insides looked like the sun, they were almost perfect. “In the morning,” she’d said “I’ll make us some juice.”

I pulled the step stool from behind the trashcan and took the thick green glass juicer down from its perch. She sat at the wooden table, still wrapped in her white robe, and started slicing the oranges, digging her nails into the skin, little drops of juice running down the palms of her hands. Her nail polish was chipped a bit, little red flakes.

I watched her cut and twist the halves upon the juicer, the juice gathering in the cup below. I breathed in deep, smelling the memory of eating oranges on the beach in Georgia last summer. The wind mixed the scent of citrus and salted air as the storm came in and we’d run so fast back to our shitty hotel. I exhaled slowly, feeling my heart pound in my chest, my feet still bare on the floor.

She moved so slowly now. I handed her two purple glasses and she filled them with the freshly squeezed juice. “I’m tired,” she said “I need to lay down.” I followed her to the couch with our glasses, setting hers on the coffee table.

I stared out the window and watched the mountains evaporate and turn to oceans of blue. All the birds fell out of the sky, diving beneath the sea and reappearing at the surface with a small fish. I thought about her swimming. Her beautiful arms moving through the water, her body, so gracefully being carried out to sea, her strength bringing her back to land against all the currents. When she got to shore, her nose was bleeding. “I’m gonna shut my eyes, just for a few minutes,” she said. I took a sip of the juice she had used so much of her energy to make. It tasted like some kind of new forever.

It’s been so long since I’ve had something good to drink. I can’t drink orange juice anymore and I can’t eat oranges either. Just the thought makes tears come out of my eyes and people tell me I look like I’m crying. Sometimes at night I can hear a man sobbing, but when I look around he is gone.

I watch for the elderly man with the banged up farm truck. I miss her so much, I want the old farm man to cut one in half for me and I want it to look like the sun and I just wanna say they’re almost perfect.

 

Rebekah Morgan is a writer living in good ol’ Eastern Tennessee. Previous work can be found in Fence, Hobart, Joyland, Maudlin House, and Tyrant Books, among others places.

Honey, Toasty, Marshmallow by Sara Potocsny

My mother bought my son three fish then fled the state.
Black Mollies. Nothing special. I was angry about them,
until I scooped the first from the bubbling tank, limp. I turned
the net and shut my eyes until he plopped into the porcelain bowl,
afraid I might never get good at this. The others went too,
all within a day. The store confirmed our lethal water,
then asked if I’d brought them in for a refund. Still,
they were loved enough to be named: Honey, Toasty, Marshmallow,
in that order according to Sol, who cried once for each
and then a whole lot more when I said “No” to a cat, instead.
I don’t know what lesson he’s learning other than things die,
and I was hoping he’d get a little more from a first pet than that.
We weren’t ready then and probably aren’t now, either. For tonight,
the tank is just a fountain in the dark, water rushing water into place.

 

Sara Potocsny is a writer in Syracuse, NY, where she lives with her son, Sol. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and a chapbook called The Circle Room, published by Lover Books. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in HAD, Hobart, Juked, Los Angeles Review, The Racket, Radar, Rejection Letters, and others. You can find her on twitter at @sarapotocsny and IG at @spotocsny.

Mr. Worldwide by Megan Robinson

One night my father turns to me and says, Son, you should strike out on your own and become a man of the world. Yeehaw!

He says this from his ergonomic chair in the den, in front of his Westerns, among his closest companions, his council of mounted deer heads. I don’t believe in ergonomics. But someday you will, he says to me and goes back to his shows, which he does not remember he has been watching for hours.

He says these things and I half-believe him half the time and the other half I don’t believe him at all, because I was born a girl. My parents even had a lady-stripper pop out of a pink cake. (They used to be fun, before the world and age and the recession and I, their precious one, sent them downhill.) That morning when I asked my mother, finally, that she call me by my real name, she cried and yelled and took a walk around a whole neighborhood block. Dad would’ve yelled, too. He is of that old guard who still believes in intangible things. Freedom. Marriage. Capital gains. Though he is not himself anymore—not enough to believe in much at all.

These days, he does Sudoku. Mom stopped giving him the crossword when its references started to confuse him. He used to do them in red pen with the confidence of a man with a house, a family, a career, and everything to lose.

What my father might’ve meant when he said man of the world, was more like the world was my oyster, or Café du Monde, or Mr. Worldwide. Or perhaps he meant that I should set the world on fire, stop sitting around with him, and go chase a career in something that will make me wildly rich and famous. Carve a road of slim and uncertain success. Acting. Writing. Hip hop. Fireball.

It’s also possible what he meant was, Son, though he’d never say that in his right mind, in this dog-eat-dog world, you should be a man. You should be a mensch of a man, a man who eats not on the ground with the dogs, but at the table with the board of directors. I was on the board, he might say, of a prestigious university. And what have you done?

You know, I have struck out, Dad. If I could, I’d tell you it’s my last night in the house. In a time out of time, you would know that by morning I will be asleep on a friend’s couch on the other end of this cramped, rotten suburb.

But I could say anything. I could say: Hi Dad, you don’t know me, but I was your daughter once. There’s proof, and it’s on tape. A three-year-old that puts on your robe and slippers and glasses and clip-clops down the hallway, then clambers into a chair and pretends to read your newspaper, pretends to drink your coffee. Mom calls them “little dad.” They scribble red lines all over your crossword. You laugh. You ask them for clues, and they tell you all the words they know so far. You call them a baby genius, but all their answers are wrong.

Sometimes I put this on for you, though your eyes glaze over and you don’t laugh like you used to. I try not to unsettle you.

Sometimes you turn to me and say, You should meet my daughter. She’s away at school, but she’ll be back at Christmas. That’s when you unsettle me.

You sit with your father for the night, the first night you’ve come home in years, a prodigal, and your mother might slaughter the fatted calf, prime rib you will not eat, and ask you questions about your mopped hair, your half-sleeve, your girlfriend. Your mother might rise silently from the dinner table, a storm cloud, a spotted napkin falling from her lap, her body and lips tight before she tells you to go. Then there will be your father, who you’ve sat with in the den all day, and you will both hunger and fear for his spark of recognition. He might say anything, he might babble like a baby. He might call you Son, and you might even smile. And whatever sounds he makes will have no rational meaning or origin you can discern. But he is your father, one of your first models of how to be in the world, and there are only so many hours left to tell him where you are going and where you have been.

I never did make it back home that December.

 

Megan Robinson is a writer, designer, and an MFA candidate at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, WA. You can find them on Twitter at @mrobwrites.

Nephthys Again by Marcella Haddad

I’m measuring time now by your shadow.
Measuring it badly. There’s a requirement in the old
country, that you have love ready when you land.
That you should use bright colors for your
husband’s scarves so you can spot him on his ship
approaching. That you should use bright colors on
his cartouche so the afterlife can see him coming.
And why the fuck does any of that matter when
you’re gone. That you’ve done this. And do any
oddities matter. Can you still see small enough or
are you as large as a soul. Are you carving through
the fog. Are you returning. Did you land safely.
You don’t respond. Did you land safely. Can
anyone tell me. We are all watching the horizon and
turn away one by one. And look over our shoulders.
And trace the entire earth. And repeat. And rest.
And remember. And eat. And eat. And land safely.
And the colors come home.

 

Marcella Haddad is an MFA candidate at UMass Amherst, the Managing Editor of Moonflake Press, and a Tin House YA 2022 Scholar. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Variant Literature, Everyday Fiction, Apparition Lit, and others. You can find her in a tree, or at marcellaphaddad.com

Spectral Analysis by Marc Vincenz

Down at the port where the ribbons flow on a Friday night the pubs are crowded at five, the old skippers congregate, drifting greedily into their odd banter: who caught the most frightening fish, who came face to face with the deep in the eye of a giant squid, or barely escaped that battering from an angry blue whale. Imagine what else they go on about. Long time coming, storm cloud on the horizon, beneath the weather, then above it. Here come the mackerel, the herring, the scores of transatlantic cod. Once this place was loaded with sardines in wooden barrels and sailed from here across the world. The fish could be scooped up by almost any hand—they came from as far as Siberia followed by all the seagulls and one hundred years of frostbite. Take this very can, over one hundred years old, dented and rusted, the metals seep in, but the oil (imported from the Cretan islands) is still a thick emulsion and when you bite in, the salt crystals crackle on your tongue; and the sardines are soft yet firm, their skins have quietly braised in history, touched by cosmic background radiation.

All’s well with you, you say. I would hand you some fragments, some cold evidence, how they were herded onto the boats, searing in pain from cable burns, or those who died with a wire across their eyes, or the cut and scrape of their gills against cold steel; how they came from the other side of the planet to mate and spawn and breed where the most vital and vibrant river finds its source.

 

Marc Vincenz is an American-Swiss poet, fiction writer, translator, editor, and musician. He has published 20 collections of poetry, including more recently, The Little Book of Earthly Delights, A Brief Conversation with Consciousness, There Might Be a Moon or a Dog, and forthcoming in 2022, The Pearl Diver of Irunami (White Pine Press). His work has been published in The Nation, Ploughshares, Raritan, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, 3 AM, and World Literature Today. He is publisher and editor of MadHat Press and publisher of New American Writing.

Something with a girl* by Pauli Dutton

                        and a mother.
                                                            Maybe they went shopping
                                      and the mother never came back.
Maybe she returned
                          for a while,
                                    but every time she reappeared,
            she burnt something.
                        Maybe a couch.                                     Maybe a bed.

Maybe it was the girl.
                                        Maybe the girl
                                                                      didn’t want to know.
            Maybe she needed
                                        to obliterate
                        the mother.
                                                      Maybe the girl
                    mutilated herself with

a       freezer of orange sherbet                         crashing windshields
                          and/or edging toward Karoshi.

Maybe she rummaged           rampaged
                                                                        and/or hemorrhaged
                                                                                                          for the mother.
Maybe the mother             didn’t care what the girl did.
                                        Maybe she howled
                            every night                                       until she immolated.

              Maybe the mother                           kissed the girl
                                                    in her dreams.

 

* First line of “Self-Portrait as Nostalgia” by Diannely Antigua

 

Pauli Dutton has been published in Verse Virtual, The Pangolin Review, Better Than Starbucks, Altadena Poetry Review, Skylark, and elsewhere. She was a librarian for 40 years, where she founded, coordinated, and led a public reading series from 2003 – 2014. She has served on the Selection Committees for The Altadena Literary Review in 2020 and The Altadena Poetry Review from 2015 – 2019. She has also co-edited the 2017 and 2018 editions. Pauli holds an MLIS from the University of Southern California.

Exposure Therapy by Jamie Logan

When her eighty-nine-year-old grandmother calls on Arlene’s twenty-first birthday, it is to celebrate another year spent exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide. Few things give Arlene comfort these days, and neither her birthday nor this congratulatory call is among them. The passage of time reminds both women of Arlene’s mother. Lately, they speak of little else.

Arlene spends hours walking in suburban circles listening to podcasts on mountaineering disasters. She starts her day with YouTube content from a friendly neighborhood mortician and ends with exposes on wreck diving. These she finds reassuring. They remind her that there are other kinds of deaths. It’s not all cancer or car crashes, at least not all the time.

She is fascinated by death’s proximity. She places acorn circles around every car-flattened frog she finds. She worries about her cat and what will happen to him when she is gone. Shackleton is a fat boy, whose favorite activity is eating spiderwebs in hidden corners. She reads a book called Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? and is comforted to discover the answer is yes.

Arlene does not want to die, but more importantly, she does not want to die without reason. Her therapist Janet suggests cognitive behavioral therapy. “You are clinging to false beliefs,” Janet says. “You don’t need to quantify your contribution to the world, in death or in life, to justify existing.”

Arlene likes to quantify contributions.

For example, Shackleton is named after the Antarctic explorer. The cat squeezes himself into nooks and crooks in search of camouflaged bugs and forgotten hair ties. He has charted every room and continues to do so on the off chance the topography has changed.

Shackleton’s contributions are small, but so is his scale; Arlene’s scale is slightly larger. She creates memorials for her mother—worn clothes stacked on a cheap folding table, a hand-me-down necklace warmed by her own skin. She imagines these against her mother’s thin, sallow frame. Bodies hold memories and so does she. If Arlene can bear witness, she can continue.

Her grandmother suggests Squid Game, Game of Thrones, and other heavy fictions. “Stop dwelling,” she says. “Do something fun.”

“Like you’re not dwelling, too.”

Arlene’s comment goes unnoticed, as does its implication. Her grandmother admires a handsome actor who lost his hand in Season 3.

“That show aired years ago,” Arlene says. “I already know how it ends.”

She hangs up. She waits, but her grandmother doesn’t call back. If she did, Arlene might admit that she doesn’t know how the show ends.

At night, Shackleton finds her crying on the bathroom floor as her phone narrates the deaths of eleven climbers on the world’s second highest mountain thirteen years ago. Shackleton purrs and she rubs him until he starts crying too. She knows what he wants: to watch the bathwater run. She twists the knob and sits beside him. She starts to feel okay.

“Why do you do this to yourself?” Janet asks. “You listened to three separate podcasts about the deaths of the same eleven people, laid on the floor, and cried. It’s a twisted kind of punishment, substituting this new obsession for the old self-harm.”

It isn’t.

Arlene tells Janet that even though eleven people died, only eleven people died. Sixteen came back. It’s their stories she lives for, their grief she cannibalizes. She watches them scramble for purchase and breath. They reunite with husbands and wives and children, and most of them continue to climb. They pull the past into their bodies, refusing to relinquish it at the cost of frostbitten fingers and friends. Arlene envisions all those bodies on the mountain and all those people who returned.

Those on the mountain remain preserved, along with their memories. Already, though, Arlene feels her mother slipping away. She pictures her mother—burned to ashes, spread in her grandmother’s garden, lost in the wind. The stretch marks on her mother’s abdomen and the scar on her chin are gone and so are the stories of how they came to be. Arlene fingers her own, more recent, scars and fights the impulse to add to her collection. Eventually, she will clean the piles of clothes and jewelry, rid them of her mother’s lingering cells. For now, she stares at these remains. Shackleton joins her. He presses his cheek into hers, and together, they mourn.

The next time Arlene walks, she imagines herself as a stranger might. She sees a girl, barely more than a child, wandering in circles, looking for bodies.

 

Jamie Logan holds a BA from Tulane University in English & Classical Studies and an MFA from the University of Memphis in Creative Writing. She has served as Managing Editor at The Pinch and Product Magazine and now holds the same position with BreakBread. She is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she is an Associate Editor for the Mississippi Review. Her work can be found in the New Ohio Review, Rougarou, Palette Poetry, Variety Pack, and elsewhere.

WHAT CAN WE DO WITH A CAPTURED ASTEROID? by Dare Williams

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PDF Link: WHAT_CAN_WE_DO_WITH_A_CAPTURED_ASTEROID?

 

Dare Williams (he/they) is a Queer HIV-positive poet and artist rooted in Southern California. A 2019 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow, he has received support/fellowships for his work from John Ashbury Home School, The Frost Place, Brooklyn Poets, Breadloaf, and Tin House. He was the co-curator of the West Hollywood Literature Festival 2021. Dare’s poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best American Poets. His work has been anthologized in Redshift 5 by Arroyo Secco Press and is featured in Foglifter, The Shore, Exposition Review, West Trade Review, and elsewhere. He is at work on his debut poetry collection. Follow him on Twitter @Dare_Williams13 and www.darewilliams.com.