Satellite of a Satellite of a Satellite by Avra Margariti

It’s been fourteen days since my wife made good on her threat to launch herself into space. Locked in accidental lunar orbit, she spins around the moon and her own axis. Meanwhile, I’m getting tired of the stillness in our house. The silence.

I dial the moon base number I now know by heart. Ask the operator, “What’s taking the rescue team so long?”

Luna’s lone operator recites some excuse or other—construction accident in the asteroid belt, freighter lost in space, giant squid invasion. I picture the operator behind an old secretary desk, filing her nails in-between managing the call center.

“Put me through to my wife, please.”

The operator sighs. “She doesn’t want to speak to you.”

Her and her pride. I picture my wife going round and round, acting like she could come down any time she wanted.

“Will you give her a message?”

The operator hums her assent.

“Will you tell her I miss her?”

The call disconnects before I can ask the operator if my wife misses me, too.

I wheel my old telescope onto the balcony and watch my wife orbiting Earth’s satellite the way she used to orbit me. Her luminous skin reflects all the stars and spilled dust of outer space. The unknowable black holes of her eyes seem to swallow the matter around her. I’ve heard it’s cold, up there, and she freezes so easily, toes chilly at night, fingers twitching with minute shivers.

I call the operator again to say, “She likes soup. Can you send her some French onion soup?”

The operator exhales. Drawn-out. Long-suffering. I hear her clicking buttons.

“You want any croutons with that?”

The operator is perpetually exasperated with me. It makes a girl wonder. Is she lonely up there? Does she enjoy the solitude my wife and I have disrupted with our melodrama? All these days—wax and wane—and my telescope has never once caught her leaving her Luna-based station.

I realize the line is still connected, but quiet. Static-y with the sound of our syncopated breathing. That is, until the operator asks, “What was the fight about?”

“What?”

“When she left you. What did you two fight about?”

She didn’t leave me, I want to shout loud enough I’ll be heard in space. All I say is, “I can’t remember anymore.”

Hum. Click. Soothing, strangely.

As I wheel the telescope back inside, clutching the phone tight between my chin and shoulder, I am reminded of my mother. How she once told me adulthood means losing people more than you get to keep them. Later, I can’t help taking another peek through the lens of my telescope, the view obscured by the smudged window. The cream glob drifting toward my wife could be her favorite French onion soup. The bright glint on her face could be a smile. But meant for me, or for the operator?

“Do you talk to her?” I ask the operator some rotations after that. Her voice is all buttered toast and golden sunlight, at least when callers like me don’t irritate her. A good voice to hear in the cold and dark, I suppose.

“Of course. Days feel long on Luna.”

Days are long here, too. Such is the interconnectedness of satellite systems.

The landline’s cord around my fingers cuts off my blood circulation. “Do you talk about me?”

Silence. I hate her silences. The operator isn’t exactly friendly, but hers is the only voice I’ve heard in so long, sometimes it slinks and settles into my bones through the distance between us.

I go to bed—my wife’s side—and picture her and the operator chatting through their headsets while my phone remains silent. My wife explains how to pair wine with soup, then laughs as she and the operator ponder how aeration works in space. She admits, all soft and confidential, that launching herself into space, then being pulled into accidental orbit, was worth it.

Why? the operator asks. And my wife says, Because I got to meet you.

My dreams that night orbit them both.

 

Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. Her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Forge Literary, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and other venues.

stillborn by Chlesea Balzer

night heaves its weight
at the half-wild farm.

I have filled my day with words
no one would sing —

sadness like tussocks parading the ground.
today the crisis could not take me.

my body became new machinery.
finally alone with it, I turn in.

each feeling needs all of the senses.
denial has done the hard work

of admitting only the truth I could hear.
it held the heavy base of a joy I mistook as my own.

now handed over, I take up the pain:
burst balloon. rinse torn tissue away.

not all blood is a sign of injury —
the body’s doors open.

we cannot say when a thing
must be put back, buried, begun.

some babies are born on the kitchen floor
in the swift grace of choicelessness.

our ask is to lay out soft blankets
and wait with what’s in labor,

to recycle the pleasure that’s passed.
sighing back breaches of sorrow,

I lie down next to its face
and hum.

 

Chelsea Balzer is a therapist, writer, and the founder of Big Feels Lab, an organization empowering people to heal from injustice together. Her writing has been featured in a variety of publications including Elephant Journal, Plainsongs, Cigar City, and Omaha Magazine, and her debut book, A PITY PARTY IS STILL A PARTY, is forthcoming from Harper Wave. Follow her work at chelseabalzer.com or on instagram at @theconnectionartist.

Oxygenation by Gabrielle Trúc Cohen

Heat
(Fermentation)

Strawberries nestled between lumps of brown sugar-coated oatmeal for breakfast. Juicy, grainy, sticky.

Birds sing between the branches of jacaranda trees to the tune of something that sounds like honey spread on leaves, butter on bread. Snippets of summer radio remind us to stay hydrated while the cars whistle by, slowly. There’s nowhere to go. August will come.

South Los Angeles is just thirty minutes from the ocean. But most days, the only body of water we touch comes from the one we create. Sweat and joy. Pain and sadness. Cool to the touch.

Our heads submerged, coming up for air only when it is time to shower.

After breakfast, there’s always a can of Altoids. Inside, flakes of brown and green leaves. I watch you roll and lick, then pass. No mint, just grass. An early flame. We sit on your porch in plastic green beach chairs and smoke for hours. Through the morning, through the afternoon heatwaves, and wonder.

* * * *

We didn’t have any money. We were always driving around in old cars. Cars that belonged to someone’s sister or roommate, cars that someone’s something or other said we could borrow while they did their backpacking trip through Europe, a graduation present to themselves. We celebrated your graduation with beers, upgrading from Keystone Light to Corona. As if that was a rite of passage. No lime, still cold.

I celebrated your graduation by graduating from my parents. Nineteen and just happy to be loved by you.

Who needs parents who don’t know how to parent themselves?

This is how I remember us that summer.


Fruit-forward
(Rich, Lush)

Dinner always begins with the crack-and-pop of Trader Joe’s two-buck-chuck wine bottles. Moist cork. Glass pressed to your nose. Blackberry and aged grape. And the most important flavor: oxygen. Breath of life. Just enough, not too much.

Kitchen knives placed perfectly, Netflix ready on your computer. One day, we’ll afford a television.

Boiling water for pasta and fresh-cut cilantro, the crunch of black pepper, rosemary-crusted lamb roast. Fingertips pressed on the oven. Electric heat burning my face.

There I am, nineteen and already looking like my mother. Her waiting and all.

“I want to go everywhere with you and I want to go nowhere without you,” I say drunkenly, pulling you on top of me, undressing you with my wine-stained lips. And nowhere we go. We lay and smoke and watch ourselves become black skies. The place where stickiness feels like vast seas.

We knock down glass after glass with exhilaration, a forgetting. Like to be drunk is a climax, like to no longer be sober is to remember. Inhaling enough of each other to be high, cutting ourselves off just before comatose.

Multiple universes exist, I know that and only that for sure. But I still want to ask: where do the stars go after they die, where do meteors crash on Earth, where do you and I fall when we finally decide to wake up?

This is how I remember staying.

* * * *

I often wonder. If I could go back, would I tell myself the truth? That most of the time, my eyes were closed, like I was just bracing myself, hoping that I could make it through all the horrible parts of my life and somehow still come out alive?

Will you save me?

I never asked directly.


Structured
(Intense, Full-bodied)

I remember my parents talking about one day. One day, you will meet someone who you will share your life with. One day, you will be loved.

One day, they said, as if they were ever happy.

You kill cockroaches and yell at landlords while I pop two pills of Effexor, watching from the window. Peering through the blinds, I can feel you sighing as soon as you reach your car, the parking ticket flying like a kite underneath the windshield wiper. The auto shop across the street would always win the street-parking-war. Right next to an auto shop, you said. The perfect apartment.

Always preparing for the worst, you and I. Ready for a break-down. You never did go to that auto shop.

Has the lamb finished cooking, baby?

It’s done.

* * * *

Do you remember wheeling our baskets to the laundromat around the corner, our entire evening blocked off just to separate colors? Do you remember the church chorus serenading us while we soaped clothes? Do you remember the smell of street-grilled carnitas and piping hot tortillas? How we always stopped at the taqueria on the way home, how I would ask for all three types of salsa. Drenching my tacos until they bled.

Too much detergent, baby.

I’m sorry. I’m always too much.


Acidic
(Sharp, Spicy)

You can tell that wine has oxidized, if not by your nose, by your mouth. Tornado spinning on your lips, spiraling inward towards itself. Stringent enough to rub the insides of your cheeks dry. Wine goes down best when you close your eyes.

I could never handle my alcohol the way you could. Stinging. Sour. Full-bodied, all tannin. Jagged, dry burn in the throat like sandpaper rubbing the roof of your mouth. Nausea to make your head spin. Heartburn in the chest. Prepared to erupt.

A pause, then deep sigh, from the hollow part of your belly. The place where it hurts so bad that no one can ever visit, not even me, the supposed love of your life. I know this place because I have this place, too, and I promise: for all you think you have seen of me, you have never traveled here.

You, on one side of the bathroom door, and me on the other. Me on my knees.

What’s wrong what’s wrong what’s WRONG.

Is it your voice or mine? I cannot be sure.

When I finally unlock the door, you glance over at the unflushed toilet. You don’t know what to say after, and I can’t blame you.

We will always remain silent about these nights.


Oxidation
(Bitter finish)

Here’s a question I have been dying to ask you: when (if) you remember me,

Do you remember the summer, the girl on her knees, or both?

I tried to leave once before I really left.

Maybe, it was only in that space, the distance between us, and between that locked door, that we finally heard each other.

You remember, don’t you?

It was you who told me to go.

My bags packed. Suitcase at the door.

We never talk about that night. How you opened me up and left me exposed like the cork, the tree pulled from its roots.

I asked you to ask me to stay, and yes, I know I should have just said I’m sorry. But I was nineteen and still playing games. Pretending to be an adult when I was a child. Pretending to be your confidante when I still was a stranger to myself.

Our values are just different. Not just opposites-attract-different but irreconcilably different. Maybe it’s a good thing.

Your words melted like ice on my tongue, slid down my throat. I took the words with me when I left, when I found myself awake the next morning somewhere other than your bed. I told you I was a child.

But I came back, you remember that part, right? The knocking down of it all, the truth peering in like light through the window, the opportunity for us to set it straight. There was a chance for us to stop annihilating each other with our own demons.

When I returned, it was you on your knees this time. Please, never again. I love you. Whatever you need. The first and only time I have ever seen you cry.

You can give someone everything and it’s still not enough, baby. It’s never enough when they don’t love themselves.

This is how I broke.


Vinegar
(Enough)

I wonder what it would be like to work on a vineyard, to pull grapes and press them into something beautiful, to watch liquified fruit swim through machines and bottles, and eventually end up in the hands of two people, like you and me. To give someone something beautiful.

To give someone something that they want to remember.

* * * *

Why do people stay together when they are so different?

We learned to give each other space. So much air, we stopped breathing altogether. Squeezed every ounce of sweetness out, wringing the towel, licking the glass clean. Until there was nothing left but the pungent, sour, suffocating, sharp-like smell of acid.

Aeration is good for wine until it is not. Until it rots.

You never asked me, but I know it was always on the tip: Why are you like this?

I think you should have trusted yourself. But maybe that is why people stay together when they are different. Because of the things they refuse to admit, to each other, and to themselves. After all, here I am.

Years later, still letting the wine swirl, tasting you turn on my tongue.

 

Gabrielle Trúc Cohen (she/her) is moved by narratives that interrogate space. The spaces we take up, the spaces we leave behind, and the spaces where we live in-between. She has previously published an essay about this in diaCritics, a journal of Vietnamese and Southeast Asian diaspora arts and culture. This is her first published work of fiction. She is a multiracial, Vietnamese-American writer from California who currently lives in Saigon.

Hierarchy of Hunger by Anthony Aguero

My dad burned most of our memorabilia
From childhood — just like that, poof,

A snake crawls between my thighs

And excretes the poison, I mean love,
I mean Here are my images

Bathed in sunlight — gone.
A man sucks the vitamin E from my body

And massages the place a scar should be.
Here are my lips: red and aroused.

I try to remember a litany of hungers:

The first and last drug as actual serpent.
A series of fires on a cold, cold night.
How I bite into the neck of man’s body.

My spine always in search of memory.
The sound of my hunger breaking through.

 

Anthony Aguero is a queer writer in Los Angeles, CA. His work has appeared, or will appear, in the Bangalore Review, 2River View, The Acentos Review, The Temz Review, Rhino Poetry, Cathexis Northwest Press, 14 Poems, and others.

And Then She is a Witch by Ellen Rhudy

Clarice wakes on blankets wet with her own secretions, damp with sour milk. “You know how you find a witch?” Sam asks as he strips their bed, Clarice watching from the corner. “You light a fire beneath her feet, and if she laughs instead of screaming, then she is a witch.” In the shower she presses liquid from the bee stung lump on her stomach, until the water cools and then shocks. But still there’s more to come, her body an endless fount of milk, and when she returns to the bedroom she can find the damp outlines of her body beneath the fresh sheets.

“They would have drowned you, once, for having that,” Sam says after scheduling her dermatologist appointment. That night he lowers his face to her stomach and suckles until he is stretched full of her. Once, Clarice thinks, she would have woken to a cat or a dog, a bat, latched to her; now, there’s only this man who holds her hand as the dermatologist explains it’s a supernumerary nipple, nothing odd, Ryan Reynolds has one, he usually wouldn’t remove them but since it bothers her—he numbs Clarice’s skin, and slices the nipple free with a blade flexed between thumb and forefinger.

“You know how you find a witch?” Sam asks the next morning as he changes Clarice’s pinkened, rusty gauze. “You dunk her in the water, and if she drips free with a smile instead of drowning, then she is a witch.” Clarice looks at a smudge, a potential cobweb, near the ceiling, because she cannot look at her stomach. She feels there is a thread latched to her wound, and if Sam finds that thread he will tug all of her out, inch by inch, until she is a heaped coil on the floor. He pats her thigh when the fresh gauze is taped. “Maybe tomorrow you can shower.”

In her dreams, her body remains complete. A child milks from her, grows larger and larger until she looks so much like Clarice herself that when she grips the girl’s arm Clarice is startled by the lack of her ghostly hand’s pressure on her own skin. Her wound will not heal, it weeps continuously and begins to smell rank, to smell like a dead thing. Sam drives her back to the dermatologist, who refers them to a plastic surgeon. “Maybe there’s a reason,” the doctor says, “I don’t normally remove these.” Clarice holds a hand on her stomach at all times and strangers, who do not realize she is trying to contain her body in itself, ask when she is due.

The plastic surgeon offers discounted supplementals—“while I’m in there anyway,” he says. A tummy tuck, a breast lift. “No thank you,” says Clarice, still waking fearful that her entire body will be encased in gauze, that she will have been made a thing unknown to herself. But there is only Sam, a clean bandage on her stomach. “Did you know,” Sam says, “that if you force a woman apart from her faithful black cat, and if she is rent with emotion rather than going to the barn to find another, then she is a witch.”

“When did you stop speaking like a person?” Clarice asks, but she still holds his hand. She does not wake him that night when a frog comes to her and pads down her thigh, or the next night when a black cat kneads at her heel. Clarice is in and outside her body in one moment, she feels every part of her self but cannot locate her presence in physical space—as if she is everywhere, and nowhere, at once. The plastic surgeon is pleased with her healing, her stomach swells, she feels Sam watching her closer and closer, she closes her eyes when he lays his hands on her. One day she is searching for a pebble in her shoe and finds instead a familiar damp soaking her sock. A slight, sour release when she presses the lump nestling into her arch.

Their daughter is born that July, a girl who looks so much like Clarice as a baby that she might have borne herself. At night she cries until Clarice relents and carries her back to bed, where Sam pretends to sleep and no more toads pay their silent visits.

“You know how you find a witch?” Sam asks. “You watch her at night, for who comes to her and lays close to her body—and depending on what you find, she is a witch.” Clarice wonders who he might have been in a different age—this man with his pocked cheeks and scratching beard, always inspecting their sheets. “So,” he says, “what do you say?” Their daughter suckling at her sole, Clarice reads Sam’s eyes on her and waits for him to speak her name.

 

Ellen Rhudy lives in Philadelphia, where she works as an instructional designer. Her fiction has recently appeared in Split Lip and Gigantic Sequins, and is forthcoming in Story, Cream City Review, and Pithead Chapel. Her story “A Writer’s Guide to Fairy Tales” will be included in The Best Small Fictions 2020. She joined Ohio State’s MFA program in the fall, and you can find her at ellenrhudy.com, or on twitter @EllenRhudy. 

Bath by Gretchen Rockwell

There is something about the final rising
into the sweet hanging air, whole body
perfumed and heavy, that I appreciate.
I imagine it’s how the frilled shark feels
as it trawls its way through the bathypelagic
zone with its green-lit eyes and feathery teeth.
I once called the frilled shark cute to a friend
and she told me that in fact, it was terrifying,
but she was glad I loved it because everything
needs to be loved: the frilled shark and its prey,
the scientists who gave the midnight zone its name,
the person who made my bath bomb. Even my body
as I dredge it up from the shallow depths of my bathtub,
the scent it now carries as I move through the dark.

 

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet currently living in Pennsylvania. Xe is the author of the microchapbooks, love songs for godzilla (Kissing Dynamite) and Thanatology (Ghost City Press), and xer work has appeared in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Poet Lore, FOLIO, FreezeRay Poetry, Moonchild Magazine, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender and sexuality, history, myth, science, space, and unusual connections – find xer at www.gretchenrockwell.com or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell.

Fireflies by Ron Burch

At night when she exhales, fireflies burst forth, yellow fireworks against the nighted sky. She covers her mouth, surprised, terrified, a tear and trip of emotions, as one more flits forward, hovering in front of her eyes until it sweeps away.

From the house, her husband calls her name. She doesn’t want to answer. Things haven’t been easy. They have nothing, jobs, a breath gone, him, a trigger of frustration and loss.

At first, she was afraid of them. Of what they were, of where they came, of what they might mean. She didn’t know why it was happening, didn’t want to waste money on a doctor who might not be able to tell her anything at all. Even worse, might want to run more expensive tests. Like her friend Diane who got cancer and lost her house. There’s no mercy in this world. Online, she’d read about weird stuff like this. She searches the internet while he naps on the green couch, across the large-screen tv a black and white line of monstrous bugs crawls through the desert. She finds nothing.

During the day, when she breathes, it’s normal although, after it had first begun, she feared every exhale. She took measured breaths in an attempt to control them; it changed nothing. When it gets dark, the fireflies leave from her, staggered times, sometimes one, sometimes many, often none at all. She sits in the dark of the back yard, her husband inside, months of staring lifelessly at the tv. They have no children. She feels it and opens her mouth, a yellow flash shooting out. He bellows. She shrinks back, ignoring it. Later, she tells him she’d fallen asleep in the moonlight.

She begins to anticipate it, impatient for the night, the day a wall to climb. While she sits in the backyard, the moon a curved stick, a pale remnant, she waits, away from a weak yellow bulb burning a hole in the space around the back deck, thinking of them, begging them to fly. One by one they flutter out, brushing the night.

When she creeps late into the house, the tv a commercial, her husband, a snore. She goes to bed and sleeps dreamless sleep and wakes up, already anticipating that evening. Her husband doesn’t pay attention, his face obscured behind his dirtied coffee cup, lost in his own bad dreams.  Never does he ask about the burgeoning nights that she doesn’t return.

The crickets swell in the full light of the moon while she hides in the back of the yard, lost in the trees at the edge. Her fireflies sail through the sky, twinkling like steampunk ships. Tonight, she can’t seem to stop them: a consistent flow that fills their back yard. She hears something clank and sits up, unsure of what it is, probably their widower neighbor tinkering in his garage. She leans back and another firefly appears. Her husband walks up behind her, both of them watching the firefly linger on her lips before it joins its companions.

This is her gift. Hers alone. She doesn’t want to share it with anyone. She never wants it taken away.

“I saw the yard,” he says, “it’s lit up like at summer. Like when we were kids.”

She nods and another firefly slips its head from between her lips, leaping into the air. She watches her husband as he watches it. He sinks down beside her, into the grass, the blades wetting his legs.

He looks at her and she smiles. He places his head on her knee, gazing up. His face, younger in the dark, like when they’d met almost ten years ago, a kid again watching the stars. The fireflies burst forth, a sparkler so bright they both have to close their eyes.

 

Ron Burch’s fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including South Dakota Review, Fiction International, and Mississippi Review, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His novel, Bliss Inc., was published by BlazeVOX Books. He lives in Los Angeles. 

one day when I become a museum by Juliana Chang

one day when I become a museum
little girls are gonna walk by
my mouth
and point with two hands.

they’ll tug on their mothers’ shirts
and ask
what’s that tongue
sitting all pretty like that for
and what’s that thing that swings
like cold honey
and is that the whole sun I see in there
and isn’t that where the water wants to go—

how come we let it be
just there
like that?

 

Juliana Chang is a Taiwanese American poet. She is the 2019 recipient of the Urmy/Hardy Poetry Prize, the 2017 recipient of the Wiley Birkhofer Poetry Prize, and a 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Gold Medalist in Poetry. She received a BA in Linguistics and a MA in Sociology from Stanford University in 2019.

Whale Watch by Gabrielle Griffis

Theo didn’t want to be baptized. First, the baptistry was gross. Second, the pastor made her feel creepy. Third, she didn’t believe in Jesus.

Her parents sent her to boarding school after her Sunday school teacher found her making out with Gina in the church library. Theo regretted the loss of their love notes, which included a lot of suggestive stick drawings.

From there, it was a downward spiral. First, the school was boring. Second, everyone was noticeably miserable. Third, she set her agenda on fire in the school bathroom. Citing her potentially violent tendencies, they revoked her dissection privileges, which was fine by her, because she wasn’t interested in cutting up dead squids anyway.

Her earth science teacher tried to get her excited about whales, by inviting her on a whale watch.

Theo’s parents wanted her to become some kind of missionary evangelist, spreading the gospel to less-fortunate nations. Theo read about colonialism that included pictures of forced labor and threw up in her hand. She didn’t want to be a missionary. She was prone to vomiting and didn’t know why.

On the day of the whale watch Theo listened to a CD Gina gave her. On the bus, she drew a picture of herself as a monster. In the drawing, she had thick tusks, big eyes, a lot of teeth, and drool. She figured it’s what her parents thought she looked like.

She got sunburnt on the boat.

One layer of sunscreen wasn’t enough for a couple hours on the open ocean. One of Theo’s classmates with hair down to her butt stood at the front of the bow. Her hair whipped into Theo’s face when she tried to get a better look at a humpback breaching in the distance. Theo tried to enjoy the experience, but it was hard with an odd chick’s ponytail in her mouth.

The whale spewed hot air and mucus from its blowhole. Her teacher said whales were like humans because their respiratory system’s had a larynx, pharynx, trachea, and lungs.

A pod of mottled dolphins swam beneath the surface.

That night, Theo lay alone in her dorm room. The bed rocked like a boat. Theo enjoyed the sensation. It was the most pleasant thing she’d felt in a while. It made her think magic was possible.

Spring air blew through her window screen. She could hear peepers and insects being electrocuted by floodlights.

Theo kept thinking about that baptistry. She wondered how they cleaned it. The grimy white tiles and dust. It was weirdly large, like a mini-swimming pool behind the choir. People probably contracted meningitis from giving themselves to the Lord.

At church, Theo mouthed the words to a hymn. Her voice seemed to have choked at some point, but she didn’t know where or when. On some level, she didn’t really care.

On Friday, her earth science teacher asked her to stay after class.

“I have a surprise for you”, he said, lifting the cover off a dead squid. Theo frowned.

“I thought you’d like to dissect your own,” he offered.

“Yeah, I really don’t,” Theo replied, repressing the urge to vomit. “Where do you even get these?” She asked.

“Mostly the wild,” he shrugged.

“Well that’s awful,” Theo replied. She was afraid of the wild. She was afraid of blood, and needles, and feelings. Her emotions hid in church libraries, folded notes, and dark corners.

She felt obligated, and sat at the lab table, donning an apron and latex gloves. A fishy pickled odor emanated from the body. The squid’s tentacles and suckers looked incredibly sad lying limp on the metal tray.

Her hands shook as she pressed the knife into the squid’s soft gelatinous body. She apologized to the squid for its life being wasted on her education.

The squid jiggled beneath the knife as she moved its sallow pink skin aside. Theo held her breath as she cut. She referred to the dissection diagram. Siphon. Ink sac. Ctenidium. The lab room was very quiet.

“How do you feel?” Her science teacher asked, smiling as she looked up from the dissection tray.

He looked genuinely eager to know. She felt genuinely eager to leave. She felt anxious, but she always felt anxious. Sad. Lost. Empty.

Now she was filled with this. This squid-guts experience, and the bizarre part was it was sanctioned as perfectly normal.

“Great,” Theo said, flashing a fake smile.

She went to the school library and checked out an art book. She drew herself as a pagan wearing a floral crown. She thought about the baptistry, how steam rises off wet fields in the morning. She missed Gina. It started raining outside. Fat silver raindrops burst on the rooftop. She put her headphones on to drown out the hymns in her head. She preferred not to be filled with the holy spirit. The only thing her parents focused on was God, so she didn’t know how to focus. Her feelings were pink ephemeral clouds. They dissipated and died. She was outer space. Cold.

 

Gabrielle Griffis is a mutli-media artist, writer, and musician. She studied creative writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she has also worked for the Juniper Writing Institute. Her fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from XRAY Literary Magazine, Necessary Fiction, Gone Lawn, Cease, Cows, decomP, Bending Genres, and elsewhere. She works as a librarian on Cape Cod. You can visit her website at www.gabriellegriffis.com.

Weeds by Ivana Gatica

I felt you in my skin long after you left.
Under the dermis,
hair follicles growing out of me —

Thick and stuck just before reaching the surface.
I tried to itch you out of me.
Scratch you raw.
Pull you out with pincers.

The skin is the largest organ in the body.
You grew all over mine like a weed, a rash of
Dandelions,
Stinging nettle,
Crabgrass,
Pigweed.

I prayed you would bloom from within me in
soft petals and leaves
that I could cultivate come Spring.

 

Ivana Gatica is a Mexican-born, Chicago-based writer and a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has earned an honorable mention on Glimmer Train and has been published in the print and online issues of Fifth Wednesday Journal.