assorted colors of nail polish or varnish

Hair and Nails

December 10, 2018

By Mary Elizabeth Reilly-McGreen

Jen was so venomous that I stopped having my students read their journal entries aloud. She said such cutting things unsolicited. She made a student cry just by staring at him. One day, the students were doing an assignment to demonstrate their understanding of symbolism by bringing in a box of things that held meaning for them beyond the things’ utility. We’d just read To Kill a Mockingbird and had watched the movie’s opening, the cigar box scene where they’d seen Atticus’ pocket watch, the carved figures of Jem and Scout, Scout’s mother’s pearls, etc. When Jen’s turn came, my department head walked into the classroom — a surprise teacher evaluation.

My heart sank as Jen emptied the contents of her box — one bottle of nail polish after another — onto my desk. There must’ve been 30. Then she withdrew a brush, a comb, and a hairdryer. She would use this opportunity to mock me. She’d said my assignments were stupid. I imagined the glowing evaluation I was going to get. Instead, Jen told us she’d been thrown out of her parents’ home and was living in the car her grandmother had left her. After school and on the weekends, she took her box and sat in a ladies room at a truck stop off I95 offering to do the nails and hair of the women who entered. This, she explained, was how she was paying for food.

I looked at her nails, long and sharp, dragon’s teeth. Not vanity, advertising.

 

 

Mary Elizabeth Reilly-McGreen is an author and content strategist from Wakefield, RI.

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The Bike Lesson

By Desiree Cooper
Jax perched on his brand-new bike. I stood beside him, a human kickstand.

“I can’t do this, Nana!” he yelled, his nervousness masquerading as anger. “It won’t stay up!”

“I’m right here. Put your feet on the pedals.”

My back groaned as my six-year-old grandson gave his body to the bike. The weight of his fears surprised me.

Woman on the phone looking out the window
To the Men Who I’ve Talked Out of Leaving Their Wives

To the Men Who I’ve Talked Out of Leaving Their Wives

By Amber Wong
When you called, I was careful not to interrupt your soliloquy. Sometimes the best truth comes in fragments, unguarded bits of prose, an ugly tone or misshapen phrase that reveals much. Words, unfiltered, somehow arranged themselves into a story, and even without sturdy markers of time and place and who exactly you were worried about hurting, by the time you’d exhausted yourself you always came back to one question. Should I leave her?

Cast-Iron Generations
Cast-Iron Generations

Cast-Iron Generations

By Tonya Coats
The cast-iron skillet has been in our family five generations, since the early 1900s. Twice as thick as when it was forged, it has layers of black scales on the outside. An imperceptible skin inside. Every time I use the skillet, mothers from both sides of our family–mine, and my husband’s–arrive to teach me how to teach the next ones.

“Mommy, when will this be mine?” my daughter asks, tracing the hieroglyphs on the outside of the skillet, understanding how it was passed down from them to me.

Goodnight Moon
Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon

By Cicily Bennion
Surely, in his two and a half years of living he’s seen the moon. But he looks at it now like it’s the first time. He knows it, yes, but only from his books on the shelf, the ones I read on nights I’m home for bedtime, when the sun is on the horizon and the blinds are closed. He presses his nose to the glass. The moon is a celebrity; he can’t help but gawk.

Here I Am
Here I Am

Here I Am

By Caroline Sutton
Two-year-old Ella takes a stick and draws zigzags in the sand. She asks me to write her name; I say each letter aloud and she knows that these are the marks that make words that make the stories we read to her, which she inhabits and commits to memory. I have shown her footprints, hers and mine and a seagull’s and a dog’s. I wave at our shadows.

Golden retriever laying on top of a man's legs
Gotcha Day

Gotcha Day

By Erika Nichols-Frazer
We adopted Nala the day my mother fell down the stairs. That wasn’t her name, but she didn’t look like a Mindy.

In the ICU waiting room, my boyfriend said, “We don’t have to look at dogs today.” I’d completely forgotten our plans. My mother lay in a narrow hospital bed, unconscious, neck in a brace, bruises everywhere. She looked impossibly small and pale, a porcelain doll...

Thingness
Thingness

Thingness

By Darien Andreu
My husband raps on the kitchen window from the deck outside where the cat sews in and around his legs. "Can you hand me that thing?" he says, pointing unsteadily. The scar from his brain surgery curves over his left ear...

Blurred crowd crossing the street
Pedestrian Acts

Pedestrian Acts

By Susan Barr-Toman
We were late for an appointment. I wove through the afternoon crowd at a quick clip with my son and daughter, nine and six, following behind me like ducklings. Head down and shoulders bent, I had the posture of someone punched in the gut.

Days earlier my husband was diagnosed with cancer, and already surgeries, treatments, and scans scheduled. I lived on the verge of erupting...

Into the Answer
Into the Answer

Into the Answer

By Erin Murphy
Your high school teacher mother taught you a trick for taking comprehension tests: always skip ahead to read the questions before the passage.

(Why are the mother’s hands discolored?)

You remember her sitting at the kitchen table, her pen carving into the triplicate mimeograph sheets, the edges of her hands bruised with blue ink. Sometimes she’d let you grade her students’ papers—yes, the way Tom Sawyer “let” the other boys whitewash Aunt Polly’s picket fence.

You loved making red checks and Xs for the root of “salubrious” or the Italian city where Romeo and Juliet was set.

(What is the significance of “first”?)

It was in a classroom that she had her first heart attack...

Black and white photo of a woman with her face in her hands
Things to do in the Belly of Despair

Things to do in the Belly of Despair

By Kerry Herlihy
Blow out the candle that burned for his last days. Dump the OxyContin and morphine in the cat litter like the hospice nurse told you to do. Touch his cheekbones that emerged like knives these last few weeks. Fill a large pot and bathe him like you used to bathe your daughter, part by part. Open a window so his spirit can leave...

Everything You Hold Onto in Your Body Lets Go
Everything You Hold Onto in Your Body Lets Go

Everything You Hold Onto in Your Body Lets Go

By Billie Hinton
In autumn, my massage therapist comes to the barn, plugs in her electric pot to warm the large black stones she regularly returns to the river, whose current removes things bodies hold onto: the ache of arthritic knees, tight pelvises, a woman’s chorus of sharp edges, shrill songs of sore muscles and little heartaches...

Olive bikini swimsuit laid out on top of gray blanket
On Turning Forty-Four

On Turning Forty-Four

By Kim June Johnson
This was a particularly hard number for me, and in the back of my mind, I knew it was because the late Nora Ephron, in her book about aging as a woman, wrote about how much she regretted not wearing a bikini the entire year she was twenty-six and suggested to anyone reading that they...

Tea
Tea

Tea

By Deb Werrlein
At every lesson, she serves me tea. She steeps it with cardamom and swirls of evaporated milk then pours it steaming into “my” cup—a white ceramic blue-flowered mug—and adds a heaping spoonful of sugar.

A hand picks up a landline phone.
Walk

Walk

By Beatrice Motamedi
I’m at my desk, playing with the idea of taking the day off, when the phone rings, and shit, it’s the landline, the number I dread, the one on too many contact lists and credit card applications to ditch, and unfortunately it’s in the bedroom, across my office and one hallway away, and even worse, I have to answer it, as I had a mammogram yesterday and I’m expecting a call from my doctor...

The Fawn
The Fawn

The Fawn

By Robert Barham
Hunting was a source of food, the main recreation, and a rite of passage. Everyone hunted. Still, I had a choice. It was dusk, and my father and I sat beside a crop field, plowed over in the fall.

The Last Pie
The Last Pie

The Last Pie

By Jill Quandt
I take my grandma to the grocery store. While perusing the produce, I mention that it is my father-in-law’s birthday. She takes that to mean we are making a pie, and who am I to remind her that she doesn’t make pies anymore?

A cardboard box sits on a wood floor.
Uprooted

Uprooted

By Jamey Temple
The day Papaw Laster kicked out Mamaw, just before their divorce, our pickup pulled up to their porch. Daddy worked in the bed, stacking and arranging furniture handed to him by Papaw.

Dandelion Fritters
Dandelion Fritters

Dandelion Fritters

By Bex Hoffer
Fingers flower-yellow.
I want to make a poem from those words, but as always, line breaks trip me up like wires at ankle-height. Still, yes, my fingertips are tinged yellow, blessed by the blossoms of dandelion suns.

Reason Enough
Reason Enough

Reason Enough

By Sherrie Weller
A friend and I are at happy hour. Icy doubles swim in glasses before us. Recently discovered: We are both adopted. Blooming: An intimacy unwarranted by the length of time we’ve known each other. I describe growing up with an identical twin, wondering about our birthmother. Ask if she has done a search.

She tells me she lied to the Catholic Diocese in St. Paul, conjured a research paper on matrilineal genealogy for class at the University of Minnesota, gained access to the 1965 baptismal records on microfiche. She found her birthparents’ names, looked them up in the phone book, made her husband dial the number...

Gratitude

Gratitude

By Kathryn Petruccelli
Spring in a cold place. Which means everything is so heartbreakingly tender—tulips lifting their dusky prom skirts, dandelions twinkling in their green sky.

I've lived here a little while, this rural New England town, its six months of winter, a place accustomed to waiting for beauty to appear. I've left somewhere I loved to move far away in service to a restless heart, the bonus draw of family. In the time since, I've witnessed a father-in-law dissolve from brain cancer, a second-born survive the bypass machine, tiny heart sewn back together...

Eyelashes
Eyelashes

Eyelashes

By Monika Dziamka
The AC rattles above me, but all else is silent, so silent, so blissfully silent. My baby is asleep at grandma’s tonight, across town and across space so wide and deep and needed that I now almost don’t quite know what to do with all this time. (Write? Read? Sleep. Stretch?) But I’m hungry, too. (Order Indian? Pick up Thai? Leftovers. Make popcorn?) But I want to binge on TV, too. (Hulu? Netflix? HBO. Nightly news?) How can minutes move so differently when you’ve got a baby, and when you don’t...?

Confession

Confession

By Rachel Greenley
It happens six, maybe seven times a day. I'm crouched. He looks at me with those liquid eyes, his face in front of mine, his wet nose quivering, exploring my breath...

Zero at the Bone
Zero at the Bone

Zero at the Bone

By Heidi Czerwiec
John Cage experimented with silence in his music, after an experience in a completely soundproofed chamber—he realized that, far from silent, he could still hear his nervous and circulatory systems, his breath, a white noise.

Silence is impossibility.

Cage claimed he composed all the notes to 4’33”—also called the “Silent Sonata”—but that they were all silent...

Flower Salute

Flower Salute

By Anne Leiby
The blush pink of the dogwood is still packed tightly into a bud on the small branch that floats among the other flowers. That tree, planted in your memory and now ten years old, has been with us as long as you have been gone...

Reenactor
Reenactor

Reenactor

By Laura Rose
My father was orphaned at eighteen, and though he’d made his own family, we weren’t enough to satisfy his craving for deep roots. For that, he had his sixth great-grandfather and the American Revolution...

Hard Frost

Hard Frost

By Yelizaveta Renfro
On the morning of the day the jury would return, snow swirled with fallen white blossoms in the gutters of the streets. April can be cruel like that. The next day, as I drove, all over town I saw plants that had been protected from the hard frost with sheeting and tarps, and the covered shapes seemed to shift before my eyes—or rather, my mind contorted them—until they took on the outlines of human bodies—as though, after the guilty verdict, in the night, we had all dragged out our collected corpses, the unjustly dead, and left them in our yards, under bedsheets, to say: And what about this one?...

Amelioration
Amelioration

Amelioration

By Mariah Anne Agee
I want waking up to feel like shuffling a new deck of cards: smooth and full of intention. The citrus sun rises early now. I remember that my body is also a tender peach, wrinkling as I stretch to the horizon line. I will be a little kinder to this flesh, to these cells within me working the third shift just so I can smile at strangers I pass in the park...

Echo

Echo

By Ann Guy
On nights I was restless as a child, my grandmother, Ama, would put her gentle hand under my shirt and rub my back...

Bird Families
Bird Families

Bird Families

By Renata Golden
"My mother taught me to look at birds by pointing out their details, like bill shape and breast color. She taught me the names for American Robin and House Sparrow..."

Dam

Dam

By Laurie Klein
We share the rowboat. I’m nearly nine; he could be 100, my uncle, sole survivor of his platoon...

Alt Text shows up here.
Ticking

Ticking

by Steph Liberatore
She wanted people to see the antique clock when they entered the house. That’s why she put it on the shelf to the left of the window, the one you see when you first come through the door. The black mantel clock, with its golden dragons for handles and clawed feet ...

Brood
Brood

Brood

By Jehanne Dubrow
Soon the insects would come up from the ground. It said so in the newspaper. After seventeen years—five longer than I had been alive—the cicadas would tunnel upwards from sleep into the hard touch of daylight ...

Green Apples

Green Apples

By Brian M. Kohl
I cut green apples into fourths and then eighths. I slice them into smaller and smaller pieces, the flesh slippery in my fingers. I arrange them in a careful line on the plate, counting as I go—one through twenty-four ...

Starter
Starter

Starter

by Alison Asagra Stoos
I’ve forgotten about the sourdough starter again, bubbling in the warmth of the oven light, the only temperature-controlled environment we have in our apartment ...

Retirement

Retirement

By Michael Diebert
My father-in-law, Vietnam vet, ex-medic, sat in his low-slung love seat. The thermostat was set at 80. Outside was 100. Through the sliding glass, the Strip shimmered like an alternate planet ...

Buckeye Pyre
Buckeye Pyre

Buckeye Pyre

By Amy Wright

We circle the farm first, gathering storm-downed branches for the pyre of a fallen buckeye tree like funerary lilies, without mourning the giant whose dark-stare fruit we bucketed at harvest to safeguard the cattle. Half each chestnut sweet, the other lethal. “Only squirrels know the difference,” my grandfather would say. The colossal trunk’s rings indicate its seed found this streambed at the height of the 1918 influenza...

The Heavy Bag

The Heavy Bag

By Maryam Ahmad

For three years of my teenage life, I fought. Around 5 PM each day, I’d walk into the boxing gym—a repurposed garage—and carefully wrap up my hands, winding the black cloth over and over my wrist and palm, in and out through my knuckles, until my hands felt safe. Then, I would start working the heavy bag, ducking and dipping and stepping around it as it swung back and forth, back and forth, in response to my hits. The coach, a vaguely sexist and perpetually sunburned man, would always comment on how hard I hit. "Damn, girl. You really hate that bag."...

Two Hot Zabagliones
Two Hot Zabagliones

Two Hot Zabagliones

By Lou Storey

Feeling lonely and hopeless, I went ahead anyway. Long before computers took over the planet, ManMate, a gay dating service, mailed me a multipage paper form to complete.

I had help.

“How is this?” I asked my friend Jill, handing her my completed self-description and candid photo...

Lamp Light

Lamp Light

By Zoe Randolph

I’m not worried about the meat in the freezer or the milk in the fridge. The only concern I have about the sudden soupy darkness is how I can maximize my time spent soaking in it...

Blues
Blues

Blues

By Anne Pinkerton

He taught the dog to howl when it was just a puppy.

I’d find the two of them sitting on the couch together, both tipping their faces skyward, eyes closed, solemn, focused. The little beast mimicked his best friend, his idol, his everything—in harmony, they pursed their lips and aroooo-ed as loud as their lungs could push their animal voices...

The Inside of Bones

The Inside of Bones

By Kelly McMasters

His small voice cuts a jagged line into the not-quite-morning quiet. My body reflexively lifts out of bed, finds its way over the piles of tiny cars and books, through the stone darkness of our new apartment, our first without his father. I steer myself into the bedroom he shares with his younger brother, find his bed, crawl in...

The Last Perfection
The Last Perfection

The Last Perfection

By Gary Finke
The week-old “Going out of Business” sign sagged in the store window the last night my father baked. Bread and sandwich buns near midnight. Coffee cakes and sweet rolls at two a.m. Last, as always, the deep-fried doughnuts were finished near dawn while my mother readied the display cases where cookies, cakes and pies were already waiting for their last opportunity to sell. At six-thirty, he filled cream puffs and whoopee pies, and then he drove home to sleep....

Life Takes Place Like This

Life Takes Place Like This

By Miranda R. Carter

**Content Warning** This essay discusses suicide.

My student tells me she is going home and then is found hanging by a shower rod on Tuesday afternoon. We do not sleep. All that was hers is now ours to sort through. We speak about her now in past tense.

Filling Cupboards
Filling Cupboards

Filling Cupboards

By Danielle Madsen
You don’t start out with coffee cups. You start with single-serve espressos and chai lattes at the coffee shop around the corner from your co-op. But a coffee together after work becomes morning coffee for two. And, suddenly, you’ve moved in together and have cupboards to fill. So you do...

Child sleeping in booster seat
Resting Place

Resting Place

By Kate Levin
When we arrive at daycare, I step out of the car and close my door gently, hoping not to startle my son awake. As I open the back door to retrieve him from his car seat, I see the bird. ...

Ascension Garden
Ascension Garden

Ascension Garden

By Stacy Murison (reposted from May 9, 2016)

The first time, you drive by yourself. You have some idea you are going there, but are still surprised that you know the way, without her, through the turning and turning driveways. Left, left, left, left. Park near the rusted dripping spigot. ...

purple bike handle bar with pink streamers
Merriment

Merriment

By Chansi Long (reposted from May, 2 2016)

I was walking to the store with my brother when we stumbled upon a father teaching his daughter to ride a bike. He was in his early thirties, the age my father must have been when he left us, with a widow’s peak and roseate cheeks. The man clutched the bars of the bicycle and dashed along, keeping it balanced. ...

Home to Roost
Home to Roost

Home to Roost

By Vivian Wagner

I liked the hens, with their kind eyes and soft, red feathers. I was seven, and I wanted to sleep with them, to nestle with them, because they felt like a dozen mothers, all watching out for me. ...

Silver pot with lid and wooden spatula
My Father’s Only Recipe

My Father’s Only Recipe

By Kim Liao
First, take pork spare ribs. Hack them up with an impossibly large cleaver into bite-sized pieces. Rub them with a proprietary mix of star anise, black beans, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, and secrets. Never ask him what happened in Taiwan, or why his mother never spoke the name of her former husband again. ...

Name
Name

Name

By Michelle Webster-Hein

I’ve recently dedicated myself to learning the names of trees. Before I never thought it made much of a difference, but the beauty of their names compelled me. ...

sunshine coming through in window
Morning

Morning

By Michelle Webster-Hein

When my infant daughter wakes at two in the morning and her father cannot coax her back to sleep, she and I curl up on the mattress in the guest room below the big window, and I drift off with her tiny fingers gripping my thumb. ...

Carrot
Carrot

Carrot

By Michelle Webster-Hein

Tonight I peeled and chopped carrots for dinner, tossed them with oil and thyme, oven-roasted them. The simpler the ingredient, the more miraculous it seems to me. ...

The Last To Turn In

The Last To Turn In

By Katie Greulich
Everyone went to sleep, except my cousin and me. I lingered a bit, my own children upstairs, sprawled across air mattresses, or burrowed in rented cribs. He wanted to stay awake, to party. Or at least have a companion to watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He keeps checking my reaction at the characters’ antics. I muster a smile. The curtains inside my brain are closing. His parents and sister are sleeping. I am responsible simply because I am awake...

The Extinction Museum: Exhibit #207 (Glass Coke Bottle—Labeled “Helium”)
The Extinction Museum: Exhibit #207 (Glass Coke Bottle—Labeled “Helium”)

The Extinction Museum: Exhibit #207 (Glass Coke Bottle—Labeled “Helium”)

By Tina May Hall

Parties were for destroying. You hit the patient hero with a stick until he broke open to rain down candy. Every wall was filled with pinholes and sword dents. In the backyard, your friends tore up the grass in handfuls, sundering unwary worms, leaving gouges to slip on after rain. One boy nearly drowned trying to bite an apple...

Ceremony

Ceremony

By Robert Barham

She dances beside the highway each morning. You’re driving your son to school, in thick traffic with lights to make, when you notice her across a stretch of construction and broken streets. Bearing marks of itinerancy and sleeping rough, she reaches the center of an empty lot, and it begins: a dancer’s poise with sure cadence and confident, inevitable steps...

Reclamation
Reclamation

Reclamation

By Justin Florey

The Army Corp of Engineers lowered the water level of the Mississippi River below St. Anthony Falls so they could inspect the locks. My wife took the kids down there at my suggestion. Children frolicked in areas where, in any other circumstance, they would surely drown...

Notes to My Father

Notes to My Father

By Kathy Fagan
On most surfaces in my house, you’ll find short notes I’ve written for my father. I flip the phone’s camera on FaceTime so he can read them when he can’t hear me. He mouths them slowly out loud...

Command
Command

Command

By John Bonanni

It’s nearing Easter, 2020. My lover, David, and I watch The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston. We break it up across three days, one hour per day. I always associated Heston with the NRA, with white old man gun-toting Uhmerca toxic masculinity, but the more I watch, the more Moses’s shoulders and thighs seem to flex, seem to bulge out of the screen, oiled...

The Drive Home

The Drive Home

By Kimberly Goode

We pulled out of the driveway. Our destination: Newark International Airport for a pre-dawn flight back to Seattle. My father drove his Ford Taurus just below the speed limit. Staring out the window, I thought of all the times we’d travelled this road together before. For Sunday trips to the zoo. To grab a birthday present for a party...

Reading
Reading

Reading

By Susan Hodara

I am reading. I have spun into the writer’s words, how his grandmother curled and uncurled the telephone cord around her fingers. I remember those curly cords, how the coils unspooled when you walked around, and then jumped back, spiraling in on themselves, hanging like a wonky rubber ringlet...

Resonance

Resonance

By Nancy Jorgensen
A fifty-something woman, wearing a faded floral dress, showed me the antique pump organ. “No one plays anymore,” she said, her wooden cooking spoon in hand. “And I could use the $150.” She went back to her farmhouse stove to stir a pot that smelled of onion and sage while my new husband and I—some said too young for marriage at only 22—whispered about the price. And whether the organ could survive the long trip home in our borrowed pickup truck...

Urn
Urn

Urn

By Jenny Apostol
“What kind of urn do you have in mind?”
“No need,” I tell the funeral director. “My mother was a potter.”...

Seasonal

Seasonal

By Laura Marshall
I don’t care for the pie, really, the corn syrup pulling at my teeth. But shelling is a calendar as much as it is culture, making me remember where we are in the world, when we are in the world. Because it is pecan season, it is pecan pie season—which makes it the holiday season, even though we live in a winterless land...

Mist
Mist

Mist

By Courtney Hill Gulbro
She was known for being on her own time. Mama was late to her wedding and to just about every event thereafter. Books, birds, an ant trail in the yard—all captured her attention. She was never in a hurry...

The Bends of the Kickapoo

The Bends of the Kickapoo

By Craig Holt Segall
One summer, we glided downstream in the old metal canoe, my father and I. He sat in back, in his old jean shorts and his not clean shirt, his thin legs scabbed from falls on long runs. Around us was the thick peace of August: rising trills of birdsong, deep thrum of a far-off tractor. This was when I was just out of adolescence, still close to mornings when, small in the tent, I would wake at dawn and watch the leaf shadows on the canvas, my father sleeping next to me.

This is Orange
This is Orange

This is Orange

By Jill Kolongowski
Around 10:30 this morning the world is orange. The sky, the houses, the air. Inside, my new baby is trying to roll over. She wants to do it so badly she tries to do it in her crib instead of sleeping. She is hopeful. She is determined. She tried it yesterday, and tries again today. She is so close. She does not notice the orange. This orange is not fire, but an atmospheric phenomenon, the result of wildfire ash high above the marine layer, scattering the sunlight into color...

Red Talisman

Red Talisman

By Christina Rivera Cogswell
My brother retraced my father's steps with a camera. He called his collage of ugly photos our dad’s “street life”: cement sidewalks, hanging traffic lights, squat buildings with short awnings, a white-rimmed sign with WALL ST marching across. My father isn’t in the photos because no photos were taken of him...

Talk to Her
Talk to Her

Talk to Her

By Michael McAllister
I once took a job with a major online retailer, listening to the words that people spoke in their own homes to a voiced virtual assistant I’ll call Amaya. Our ragtag team of English and Linguistics majors tapped away on laptops, categorizing the words for the developers so she’d respond better over time, listening to the private words of a faceless people...

On Sam Mountain

On Sam Mountain

By Mary Lane Potter
At the peak—932 feet above the Mekong floodplain—beyond the holy caves and the Cham, Buddhist, Hindu, and Mother-Goddess temples that litter the twisting pilgrim road, a mother and father are teaching their young son how to pray...

Purse Candy
Purse Candy

Purse Candy

By Cora Waring
There’s a single, beat-up black jack bobbing around my purse, its wrapper feathered from accidental collisions with lipstick tubes and wallet, the once-bright stripes gone gray...

The Perfect Day

The Perfect Day

By Lisa Hadden
The images are still with me thirty-five years later. The weather in the Northeast Michigan woods on Grand Lake is warm, heavy with fragrance of late summer, cedar pines, sandy soil, the water clapping the edge of the land. The turquoise sky turns to twilight with a soft glow of lavender rising...

Wildflowers
Wildflowers

Wildflowers

By Brie Deyton
Another set of packed bags. After another get out now. This time my mother, sister, and I landed in a trailer across the abandoned tracks. Fake wood paneling on the walls repelled all light, and years of cigarette smoke made every surface feel singed...

Le Sacrifice

Le Sacrifice

By Terri Kent
Mom, sitting on the floor among a group of cross-legged Girl Scouts, teaches us a song in a language none of us know...

Leeches
Leeches

Leeches

By Katie Walsh
When we get home from the hospital, I realize the electrodes are still stuck to my father’s chest and back. He says that it hurt too much when the nurse tried to remove them, so he told her to forget it...

hand silhouette
Drawn In

Drawn In

By Lisa Huffaker
I got better at drawing when I began to think of petting an animal. I sent my eye running along the spine of a thing, felt it warm and alive, arching its back into my palm...

Rubber Tourniquets
Rubber Tourniquets

Rubber Tourniquets

By Kristin Engler
My four-year-old son plays with the blue rubber tourniquet from his latest hospitalization. A nurse tied it around his arm to insert an IV into the tender part of his forearm near the crook of his elbow...

black dog on a leash
You Should Ask for More

You Should Ask for More

By Rachel Sudbeck
“Am I sad?” I ask my dog, because it’s not something I recognize anymore. Sadness had come so thick and urgent for a while that the quieter emotions don’t register like they used to. She looks back at me, mid-squat, doesn’t seem to have an answer. ...

Car Keys
Car Keys

Car Keys

By Bridget Lillethorup
“I can drive today,” my partner said, and I tossed him the keys over the hood of my 1999 Jeep Cherokee.

Up went the key to my mom’s house, which opened a small home of wall-papered, floral prints and a retired woman shuffling in a bathrobe, slowing sipping coffee, leaving lipstick stains on the mug, and listening, always giving space to listen....

scenic view of a waterfall
The Ledge

The Ledge

By Anna Reid
We’ve come to Switzerland and we’re in love. It’s the crisp air, the towering waterfalls and majestic peaks––a guise to hide the death that lurks behind the exquisite landscape where we’ve flocked to feel alive. ...

Real Mom
Real Mom

Real Mom

By Mee-ok
Until I decided to come to Korea, I hadn’t realized how special my mother was—how selfless, how enlightened. Most adoptive parents of her generation can’t understand that searching for our origins isn’t a direct affront to them. In truth, it has nothing to do with them at all. ...

Jars of Daybreak

Jars of Daybreak

By Robert Erle Barham
Roused before dawn, my siblings and I stood at the edge of the kitchen and marveled at gleaming red jars that filled the room. Our parents shuffled wordlessly from stove to kitchen table and back again, their bright faces like blacksmiths’ flushed by forge light, and we stared in wonder as they stirred, poured, and sealed...

After Hours
After Hours

After Hours

My grandfather wakes, confused and flooded with his body’s toxins. "Sit down," he tells my grandmother. "We’re going around a bend." He thinks they’re on the train forty years ago. He reaches for invisible handholds and says, "It’s bumpy. Will you please sit down, dear?"

The China Tea Set

The China Tea Set

By Aisha Ashraf
The china tea set, wrapped in tissue paper, nestles in its warped cardboard box on the shelf inside my mother’s wardrobe. She draws it down gently, as though not to wake it, places it on the bed, slides the lid off...

Photograph
Photograph

Photograph

By Sarah Ives
I push through the brambles and climb over the rotting, peeling fence that inevitably grabs at the cuff of my pants. Getting snagged, I always seem to fall cursing onto the beach, an unfitting way to enter the quiet beauty...

A Good Day to Die

A Good Day to Die

By Shannon Cram
What I remember is the salt that formed in his pores like crystalline grains of sand. A million tiny specks covering his skin. Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere...

The Hart

The Hart

By Kelly Gray
He steps out of the grass like a god. Thick necked to hold up east-to-west spanning antlers which in turn hold up the entire sky, three clouds and a Northern Harrier...

Before the First Frost

Before the First Frost

By Stacy Murison
The yellowed aspen leaves shimmer like so many pennies against the setting sun, almost frantic in their last-dance enthusiasm for the night’s forecasted hard frost...

Waste Not
Waste Not

Waste Not

By Desiree Cooper
My parents are old and inert, their bones want only to be still. There’s not much we can do for entertainment, except sit here, and then for a change of scenery, sit there....

One foot (wearing black Converse) holds down one end of a skateboard, raising the other end up. The other foot rests gently a little more than halfway up the elevated skateboard.
Flicker

Flicker

By Vince Puzick
I watch her snap the skateboard’s tail to the street just like her boyfriend does, mount it, one foot at a time, steady herself and roll to the corner....

A golden crown (embedded with diamonds and dark blue gems) sits on a black background.
Black Hair Matters

Black Hair Matters

By Marsha Lynn Smith
My toddler grandchild sits still on the carpet between my knees, her back cushioned against the sofa. I consider detangling her springy hair coils. Should I fix her hair similar to the way my mother did mine?...

Dark brown adult horse in a valley field with a smaller, young and lighter brown horse beside it.
Fog

Fog

By Annie Penfield
Low-slung fog canvasses our narrow valley. The film of haze blurs the trees, rubbing out their distinct edges—as if the forest is fine print and I am trying to read it without my glasses....

Footfall
Footfall

Footfall

By Jennifer L. Hollis
The black, four-inch stilettos with pointed toes were a gift, so I tried to be polite as I thought of a kind way to say: Hell no....

Wooden house in a yellow-green field of grasses near a mountain cliff.
Convergence

Convergence

By Diane LeBlanc
Rain falling on the cabin roof isn’t music or balm or metaphor. For two days and two nights, it’s nothing but water saturating the stairs I descend in the dark to go to the outhouse while my husband sleeps....

False Spring
False Spring

False Spring

By Stephanie Cox
Fourteen cedar waxwings cluster in the apple tree. The bright February sun sharpens their dark masks and perky crests as they bounce from branch to branch...

Henry James's bronze sculpture "Large Two Forms"
Two Forms

Two Forms

By Deborah Elderhorst
Henry Moore’s bronze sculpture Large Two Forms sits like a pair of discarded vertebrae on the pavement outside the art gallery, where small children clamber and slide through its round openings on their bellies and backsides. Teenagers, too, are drawn to these primal shapes....

Stream
Stream

Stream

By Harmony Hazard
I want to believe that the first song I heard came from my mother. She sang "Moon River" while putting me to bed....

Old photograph of an overhead view of a house; the other houses in the photo are distant from the main house, separated by trees and a road winding through.
Airview

Airview

By Beth Boyle Machlan
My father decided he wanted an airview, a photograph of our summer home taken from a tiny plane on a clear, bright day....

Bolt of white lightning against a purple sky
Electric

Electric

By Kathryn Petruccelli
I try not to give too much power to what some call signs. Sure, when my mother was dying there was that thing with the poem I’d written about lightning, followed by the plane ride I took to her deathbed in the lightning storm...

Enigma
Enigma

Enigma

By Jeff Ewing
My father’s face could accommodate almost any emotion but disappointment. There were times it was called for, certainly, but it just couldn’t get any purchase....

Bowl of sliced peaches
Peaches

Peaches

By Carolyn Rose
My granddaddy’s knotted hands were forever peeling a tangerine, slicing a fig, cracking a native pecan, offering it to someone he loved. Most often, most tenderly, to my grandmother....

Red rake propped against a wooden bench next to a pile of autumn leaves
Jumping in Leaves

Jumping in Leaves

By Joseph Gross
Somewhere after the turn of the millennium I slid from leaf jumper to leaf raker, and so on this smoky November afternoon I hold down my job for the boy in front of me during what will be his only non-digital hour of the day....

Brick fireplace with a blazing fire
Cord

Cord

By Kat Read
I think the apartment is horrible––the bathroom sink is in the bedroom, the blind in the shower falls down every other day, the sliding closet door skitters out of its track. Everything feels rickety and as though it is about to topple, especially the life that I am living inside it....

Pawpaws
Pawpaws

Pawpaws

By Kelly Zanotti
Pedro is quiet as we walk, and is still quiet when we stop to rest on a rock where above us pawpaws hang overripe like clean green hearts....

Beige mayfly upside down on a green leaf
Beneath

Beneath

By Laura Stott
Think about the spirit of an animal that could occupy a house this big—the whale. There goes my first born, gliding past me at the pool with her dad in a man-made river, smiling and carrying the sun like she was born to do...

Black and white close-up photo of an ape's face from the nose to eyebrows
The Delicacy

The Delicacy

By John Yu Branscum & Yi Izzy Yu
The Delicacy by Ji Yun (1724-1805), Imperial Librarian and Investigator of the Strange...

Nesting
Nesting

Nesting

By Erin Wood
After the very worst winter, spring pushes back the smell of antiseptic, the taste of iron, the pain of useless milk, and fills the air with the green aroma of life once more....

Sunset over a field with tall grasses and a metal farm gate
Another Workday

Another Workday

By Robert Erle Barham
“Daddy, are you going to work?” my son asks when he sees me wearing a jacket and tie before I leave for campus and a day of teaching. Years ago my father’s work boots and overalls prompted the same question from me before I was old enough to join him on the farm....

Field of yellow dandelions
Picking Up Lint

Picking Up Lint

By Mary Potter
My dad was an exacting man. When he ran a motor assembly plant in Belgium, he plastered the shop floor, break rooms, and bathrooms with signs that urge-warned in Flemish, WHAT YOU DO, DO IT RIGHT!...

A black-capped bottle of red nail polish on a white background
Nails

Nails

By Kristine Crane
My mother’s fingernails were sculpted and strong—not like salon nails, more like the backs of beetles. Every Saturday night she’d paint them for Mass the next day—usually deep red, her favorite color....

Atlantis
Atlantis

Atlantis

By Angie Crea O'Neal
“Because, what if they don’t turn out okay?” The question, posed by my 14-year old daughter, hung in the air as we drove past the park after school late one afternoon.

Black and white photo of a record needle on a record.
Jasmine

Jasmine

By Leah Christianson
He’s outside, singing. On the record player, Sinatra spins. Next, it will be Pavarotti. Maybe a big-band soundtrack. Whatever the treasure, he will make a big show of dusting off and placing a needle upon before heading back to his garden....

Home to Roost
Home to Roost

Home to Roost

By Vivian Wagner
I liked the hens, with their kind eyes and soft, red feathers. I was seven, and I wanted to sleep with them, to nestle with them, because they felt like a dozen mothers, all watching out for me. ...

Silhouette of children
Here, Look

Here, Look

My husband hadn't meant to render us in silhouette. He was a novice, the camera new and heavy in his hands. As we gazed out the window he didn't realize that by aiming into the sun he'd cast us in shadow, erasing specifics.

Floodscape
Floodscape

Floodscape

Come spring, there is imbalance—too much snow that’s too quick to melt. The river becomes my backyard. The walnut grove sinks first, followed by the meadow. A day or two later, the river overcomes the pond banks. We are hemmed in.

Nature photo
Woods Cove

Woods Cove

The life in these coastal margins is sparser now, stripped of extravagance, down to survivors. A few darting fish, the odd crab, glossy black clusters of mussels clinging here and there at the brim of the booming surf.

Cat
Stray

Stray

She was over dogs when one appeared by their table at a beachside cafe. Strays roamed everywhere in Nosara, breedless, leashless wonders. This one had some pit bull and Corgi.

Offering
Offering

Offering

Inside me, I felt a squeezing in my chest. Even as I write this I can feel again that bound-up thumping of my heart, feel the warm still air, the smell of the creaky pews, light casting down through stained glass, all of us in the honey jar of light together.

Old building
Home

Home

It was just a gray concrete shell, wrapped with chain link fence. A dream home, unfinished, left to sun, dust, and rain. Around it, pastel mansions with swimming pools, iron gates, and razor wire.

Bird
Weight of Bones

Weight of Bones

A loon is not crazy for spending more time in the water than in the air, though the other birds may think so. He is made for it. Unlike his feathered brethren, his bones are solid.

Collision
Collision

Collision

Years ago, in another state, I watched a car fail to turn with the road. It mounted the sidewalk, spiraled into the air, and, after rolling once or twice, came to rest in a vacant lot. Dust swirled and settled like memory.

Beach
Beach Day

Beach Day

Blue skies, blazing sun, of course. But honestly, it was a perfect day for fleeing steaming city streets, freezing corporate offices, our apartment, where a stuffed hippo and a crocheted blanket menaced.

Tangelo
Clementine Time

Clementine Time

Dad is hungry for a clementine; my three-year-old daughter Sarah is hungry for a clementine. I peel one for her and feed her the wedges; my mother peels one for my father.

Chosen for Something
Chosen for Something

Chosen for Something

By Stacy Boe Miller
Sometimes as a child I would brush my grandfather's thinning hair. He was a long haul trucker turned Pentecostal preacher who mostly showed affection through prayer and cash money, both of which he handed out at random to his grandkids. The chance to be physically close to him made me feel as though I’d been chosen for something special...

Couch feet
Chosen for Something

Chosen for Something

Sometimes as a child I would brush my grandfather's thinning hair. He was a long haul trucker turned Pentecostal preacher who mostly showed affection through prayer and cash money, both of which he handed out at random to his grandkids.

Footfalls
Footfalls

Footfalls

By Andrea Marcusa
On the plane home, out the window, all I see is empty sky. As a girl, when talk of dying arose, I always gazed up to where I am now, drifting past the tops of snowy clouds.

But you are nowhere...

Clouds
Footfalls

Footfalls

When I understood you were dying, I remembered the sound of your feet on the stairs each morning when I was a school girl. You dashing down them, spare change jingling in your pockets. You already wide awake for your long commute while I dozed in bed.

Sneakers in Sand (repeat)
Sneakers in Sand (repeat)

Sneakers in Sand (repeat)

By Dina Relles
The baby's shoes were nowhere.

That morning was spent in the chaotic swirl of cleaning and packing the vacation house. Countertops lined with coffee cups, milky-bottomed cereal bowls, last laundry loads, shouts up the staircase, don’t forget the shampoo in the shower! It was New Year’s Eve. We had a flight to catch...

Sneakers in sand
Sneakers in Sand (repeat)

Sneakers in Sand (repeat)

A deep, irrational sadness swelled at the thought of my son’s sweet shoes sitting at the shoreline as night fell. The waves lapping relentlessly, the mysterious draw of the ocean depths, the heavy awareness that, when it comes to water, what goes in does not return.

Ritual (repeat)
Ritual (repeat)

Ritual (repeat)

By Kelly Morse
Most nights I nurse my four-month-old daughter to sleep. The internet connection is terrible in our bedroom, the light thrown by the little green glass lamp not enough to read by, so I end up sitting in the semi-dark, looking across the bed to the window, or down upon the face of my baby in her steady, drowsy pleasure...

Quilt
Ritual (repeat)

Ritual (repeat)

The first couple of months, I listened to the dry rattle that preceded the radiator's strange atonal song. I watched ice crawl up the sill, watched storms fling themselves across the prairie, flapping tree limbs across the neighbor's outside light.

Mars and a Reflection of Mars (repeat)
Mars and a Reflection of Mars (repeat)

Mars and a Reflection of Mars (repeat)

By Carolee Bennett
"There are two red planets tonight," I say. And you reply, "What a brave universe." And I feel brave. Two 30-lb packs hang near the tent we pitched just before it got dark enough to need headlamps. It’s Night One of this backpacking trip, and I’m an amateur, clumsy at everything, even walking. But right now, we are the only humans on the peninsula at Pharaoh Lake. And we divvy up the skies between us: one for me and one for you. The night’s so black stars reflect on the lake. Mars, too...

The End of the Movie (repeat)
The End of the Movie (repeat)

The End of the Movie (repeat)

By Christopher Bundy
Today: summer afternoon on the front porch as thunderheads grow over the top of a giant oak. In the yard you perform perfect cartwheels, your legs long and straight in the air.

Watch this, Daddy, you say,

and execute another textbook cartwheel before you bounce up the steps to sit in my lap and rest your head against mine. You stare at the darkening sky. A breeze lifts your hair as distant thunder rumbles...

Bare, Naked (repeat)
Bare, Naked (repeat)

Bare, Naked (repeat)

By Andrea Fisk Rotterman
Rain falls, dimpling puddles. 

I kick off my clogs. My toenails shine like sparkling pumpkin peel. I slide my underwear and jeans down my legs, unsnap my bra, pull my sweatshirt over my head, lay my folded clothes on my shoes. I cross my arms over my silicone implants, icy to the touch in the November chill...

Venus statue
Bare, Naked (repeat)

Bare, Naked (repeat)

Isis, the photographer, is making portraits of 800 mastectomy survivors, the same number of breast cancer diagnoses in the United States each day. Her vision of beauty is inspired by Ancient Greek sculptures, pitted by weather and wind, missing a nose or an arm. 

The Teacups (repeat)
The Teacups (repeat)

The Teacups (repeat)

By Pamela Rothbard
At the boardwalk, everything is past its prime: sweating hot dogs, mashed bags of cotton candy, melting ice cream. The workers move by rote--lifting and lowering the gate, pulling up on harnesses, scanning tickets. I slump in line. My daughter presses her whole body against the bars that separate us and the ride. As we board the teacups, the song, “Hey Mickey,” blares...

Large teacup
The Teacups (repeat)

The Teacups (repeat)

At the boardwalk, everything is past its prime: sweating hot dogs, mashed bags of cotton candy, melting ice cream. The workers move by rote--lifting and lowering the gate, pulling up on harnesses, scanning tickets. I slump in line.

Playboy (repeat)

Playboy (repeat)

When my mother caught Chris and me looking at Playboy, we knew we were in trouble, but to my surprise she did not get angry. She took me into the house and pulled out the large glossy art books with paintings by the Impressionists. “A woman’s body is beautiful,” she told me...

Stand Up Tall
Stand Up Tall

Stand Up Tall

Night sets me free, free from the need to know, free to be, free to go, free from the face of God staring down, free from the world around, from the hours that chain me down.

light post from below angle with trees surrounding it
Stand Up Tall

Stand Up Tall

By Allen M. Price
My father turns his head, puts me on the floor, opens the screen, and walks out the back door. Just the silhouette of the bare trees shadowing night's sky is all I can see. I stand there for long minutes listening as night whispers peace. Night sets me free, free from the need to know, free to be, free to go, free from the face of God staring down, free from the world around, from the hours that chain me down...

photo booth in the shadows against a brick wall
Those Days

Those Days

By Nikki Hardin
In 1976, when you were still alive,
I wrecked my car on 14th Street
in D.C. on our first date.
ME: A single mother and student in your “Death and Dying” course...

Rocks
Rocks

Rocks

Gravel dots her fingertips, her knees, the edges of her yellow dress. She runs along the parked RV, the sun hanging low above its roof. She bends and picks up a pebble; it stretches along the small of her hands. Her arm cocks back as she eyes me, smiles.

pile of rocks
Rocks

Rocks

By Emily James
Gravel dots her fingertips, her knees, the edges of her yellow dress. She runs along the parked RV, the sun hanging low above its roof. She bends and picks up a pebble; it stretches along the small of her hands. Her arm cocks back as she eyes me, smiles...

Swings
Lightening Up (repeat)

Lightening Up (repeat)

My brother and I grab hold of dangling metal chains fastened to schoolyard swings in this expanse of crabgrass, red dirt, goalposts, and hard bleachers, where he'd slapped the face of the sky with baseballs all those years ago, where I'd ducked every flying thing—small-town insults and countless foul tips.

Lightening Up (repeat)
Lightening Up (repeat)

Lightening Up (repeat)

By Laurie Granieri
My brother and I grab hold of dangling metal chains fastened to schoolyard swings in this expanse of crabgrass, red dirt, goalposts, and hard bleachers, where he'd slapped the face of the sky with baseballs all those years ago, where I'd ducked every flying thing—small-town insults and countless foul tips...

Star Trails
Rocket Scientist (repeat)

Rocket Scientist (repeat)

My father was a rocket scientist for NASA, so the idea that a person could be anything, in this world or beyond, was real to me. With his telescope we peered through the reaches of time, to stars and planets light years away.

Rocket Scientist (repeat)
Rocket Scientist (repeat)

Rocket Scientist (repeat)

By This One Guy
As a child, when adults asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had plenty of answers, but they all sounded like Halloween costumes. Race-car driver. Astronaut. Olympic track star. My father was a rocket scientist for NASA, so the idea that a person could be anything, in this world or beyond, was real to me...

Flag
Kinetic Energy (Repeat)

Kinetic Energy (Repeat)

As sunshine dropped behind the buildings up the hill, we rendezvoused to march the streets. The Dykes on Bikes ripped by, leading the way, two gals to a bike, bridal veils drifting behind. Loud-as-shit motors rippled inside our chests over the constant song of women’s voices.

Kinetic Energy (repeat)
Kinetic Energy (repeat)

Kinetic Energy (repeat)

By Sam Brighton
Weeks after California first legalized queer marriages but before the voters snatched them away in 2008, my girlfriend introduced me to the dyke march. Women of every kind gathered in Dolores Park to lounge about the hill and drink liquor and crack “lick her” jokes...

Spilled water out of a glass cup
The Dying Room

The Dying Room

By Abigail Thomas
When he woke again he questioned how had he come to be here in this terrible room, who had allowed it to happen? And he raged at his wife for betraying him, and when in her pained look he could read nothing he understood, I should never have trusted you, he said and went on that way like a bath overflowing until his voice softened, I loved you passionately, always, and let his head fall back on the pillow...

Bed and nightstand
A Perceivable Soul

A Perceivable Soul

The last time we saw her, two weeks before she died, her dementia seemed to have taken everything from her. The traits we thought particularly hers were no longer visible to us. We could discern nothing of her intelligence, her compassion, her vitality, her humor, her charm.

Photo of a doorknob against a wooden door with shadows
Like Breath, Like Doors

Like Breath, Like Doors

By Anne McGrath
I woke in 3 a.m. darkness to what sounded like a barking seal. It was my husband—teeth chattering, too weak to stand, and too confused to speak. I called 911 and paramedics arrived to find him gasping for air at 107 degrees...

Iceberg in a body of water
The Art of Icebergs

The Art of Icebergs

By Sharon Goldberg
In Jokulsarlon Lagoon, at the edge of Vatnajokull, Iceland's largest glacier, ten of us and Erik, our guide, bounce bounce bounce in a Zodiac boat. We are here to see icebergs, calves of the glacier, chunks that break off and fall into the water...

What Dreams May Come
What Dreams May Come

What Dreams May Come

By Gina Williams
If it wasn't for me, maybe he'd still be dreaming. When I told my Dad I wanted to live forever, he said, "Just wait 'till you get to be my age, then you'll wish you were dead." I was eight. He was twenty-eight. He was always joking, never kidding...

Subway train passing by in station
Family Portrait

Family Portrait

By Laura S. Distelheim
Yesterday, when I was riding the train north from Chicago back to the suburb where I live, I happened to look up from the newspaper I was reading just as the tracks veered up alongside the back of a faded brown brick building, where I saw two children seated at a kitchen table in one of its windows, with their homework spread out before them and their mother standing close behind them, leaning over, pointing to something on one of the pages...

Cold (repeat)
Cold (repeat)

Cold (repeat)

By Kate Hopper
On the hottest days in San Vicente, I sit on the front porch of my host family's house, sweat dripping from under my arms, dust turning to mud on my salt-streaked legs. I watch the heat shimmer up from the dirt road, dissolving into blue sky. On these days, I long for snow, hunger after the numbing cold of January in Minnesota...

fresh peaches in a wooden basket
Peaches (repeat)

Peaches (repeat)

By Elizabeth Paul
The peach's soft flesh is so barely protected by its thin and fuzzy skin that I think it can't possibly be serious, but rather a jubilant sunburst, radiant and unworried in the brief noon of its summered existence, simply satisfied with the bright sweetness of its being. I take eight of them from a dusty crate at the farmer's market and place them in a bag. On the bus ride home, I hold the bag in my lap and feel their round sun-touch on my legs...

Close-up of a large pink peony
Perennial

Perennial

By Kristine Jepsen
Yesterday my uncle Russ, my dad's older brother, texted me a video of a peony bush in bloom. The plant isn't his—he left the farm where it grows, in the remains of his mother's garden, to become a middle-school band director a half-century ago. But he can't stop tending things, a dogged farmer...

Very Large Array
Very Large Array

Very Large Array

By Ann Vallee
While traveling in New Mexico, I made a pilgrimage to the high desert to see the Karl G. Jansky Array, curious to witness a telescope as big as a valley.

An hour up an empty road, I come to a towering dish antenna, and then another and another, lined up like cairns across the sprawling plain...

Baby hand gripping adult hand; Black and white
Midnight Feedings

Midnight Feedings

By Alexa Dodd
We are limbs, braided and heavy, under sheets reluctant to release us. We are dreams interrupted, sleep sliced away like an appendage, the knife a familiar siren, filling the space between walls. We are silhouettes, faceless shapes against muted window glow...

Young Moons
Young Moons

Young Moons

By Melissa Sevigny
The moon drifts in the west, too thin to be called a crescent, Venus above like a sleeping child lowered by invisible hands into a cradle. It's a glimmer in the sunset sky above a skyline of pine, a sweep of summer grass...

Scenic tree trunk and walking path
October

October

By Kathryn Wilder
October light leaks between slats of graying barn wood. A yellow stripe marks Craig's cheek, his shoulder. I taste salt and smell sun on skin and in the hay beneath me that makes our bed in the neighbor’s old hay barn, a place we run to in daylight...

Powerless
Powerless

Powerless

By Madeline Bodin
Our off-the-grid neighbors say that they know when the power has gone out because a chorus of hums rises from the generators in the valley. Now, our house has joined that choir...

Tree in a flowery meadow
Life Science

Life Science

By Michelle Hope
You taught me, once, about the Swainson's thrush—its call like an invitation to another world: a swirling up of sound, unseen. Teach me the names of all the birds you know, and how they sing—the Northern shovler, the greylag goose, the magnificent frigate—so when you hear that call to another world—the snowy egret, the golden-crowned kinglet—you’ll know I’ve heard it, too...

Mosque with sun setting in the background
Mosque/Musk

Mosque/Musk

By Heidi Czerwiec
I want to tell you that the word 'musk' comes to us from the Sanskrit mushkas, meaning ‘testicle,’ testimony to its source in the aromatic abdominal sacs of musk deer...

Chanel Perfume bottle
Ghost Sigh

Ghost Sigh

By Terry Parker
I survey the elegant glass skyline crowded on the tray: the fine-boned Chanel, curvy Burberry, sleek Cabochard. The bottles display various levels of fragrant amber liquid, belying their owner’s favor...

the stomach of a pregnant person
Pooled in Ripples

Pooled in Ripples

By Holly Pelesky
I wasn't like the other 22-year-olds after you, carelessly wearing bright bikinis. I was too preoccupied with how I looked suddenly: child bearing hips, a soft middle....

a picnic table in woods
Standoff at Wolf Creek

Standoff at Wolf Creek

By Rachel Smith
I tell Cory "no" again. I can't help him resurrect dinosaurs using chicken eggs, even if I am impressed that an eight-year-old already knows so much about genetics and paleontology....

When and How
When and How

When and How

By Anna Claire Beasley
1) A tent flap When the zipper teeth cut the air, filling the tent, humid from a night of bodies letting out breath after breath....

close up of essay being corrected with red pen
Correction

Correction

By Sian Griffiths
I am correcting your typos (fallow becoming follow, gooing becoming going), correcting the interesting but incorrect with the boring and banal because what you meant was boring and banal....

Art Lesson
Art Lesson

Art Lesson

By Joanne Lozar Glenn (reposted from July 18, 2016)
They saved it for Fridays. Every teacher had the same projects. Fall: iron leaves between waxed paper. Winter: chalk snow scenes on black construction paper. Spring: draw daffodils. Except for Miss Malik. She was young, pretty, and not a nun....

a small jar of flour tipped over
The Day to Day (repeat)

The Day to Day (repeat)

By Jessica Terson
Sifting the flour. Squeezing the lever once. And then waiting. For a moment, it is winter again. I take my finger and make snow angels in the little blue bowl. After you died, they said the only thing to do was keep on living....

Maps
Maps

Maps

By Abby Mims
Dr. A, my mother's handsome Bolivian neurosurgeon, lost his father on Everest. I pictured whorls of snow, a crumpled map and a man, stepping into thin air....

close up of a headlight of a turquoise Oldsmobile
Window Vent

Window Vent

By Lynn Barrett
You take me for a ride in a sixties Oldsmobile. The radio doesn't work and you had to put additive in the gas....

Late
Late

Late

By Laurel Santini
You hoped she wouldn't show up today, the student who scares you. She in her crop tops and lace-up tanks, her camis with labels like Juicy or Nasty Gal that stick up between her thick shoulder blades....

two large fruit bats hanging from a branch by their feet
Vantage Point

Vantage Point

By Donna Steiner
Some boys found a little brown bat in the parking lot outside the surgeon's office. Delicate as a tea bag, they poked it with a stick, kicked it....

A Grandmother Listens
A Grandmother Listens

A Grandmother Listens

By Gail Hosking
She is a bird in song with whole consonants flying out of the cave of her tiny mouth, the tones airborne like a floating leaf. She hands me a block, and with it comes language not yet molded into comprehension, but so sweet, that I listen carefully like one does on a forest walk....

a bird clinging to the bark of a tree
In Answer to Fire

In Answer to Fire

By Maya Khosla
For a long time, we could not go back. But once we were done averting our eyes, once we had mourned and banished all smoldering thoughts about the tribe of blackened trees replacing the known world for now and another season, and the last long fingers of smoke were ushered out by wind, a ticking began....

Walking
Walking

Walking

By Jia Lim
I do not want to be naked. The thought consumes me to the point of obsession. As we crunch across the luminous blue-gray glacier, as we delicately spear a rack of the best lamb I've ever had in my life, as we drive for hours in the liquid darkness searching for the northern lights, my mind churns over scenarios....

a bright hazy moon in a dark sky above some trees
Visitation (repeat)

Visitation (repeat)

By Kelsey E. Moore
On the porch, under a Blood Moon, our fire is dying down, so we wear wool blankets over our shoulders. We're drinking cider warmed in a pan on the stove, splashed into mugs with whiskey....

Excalibur
Excalibur

Excalibur

By Jessica Gigot
We sprinted by the worn house with the closed blinds that reeked of pot and who knows what else. I gave the leash a short tug and we slowed to a walk again....

the inside of a wooden crate
Mail Order

Mail Order

By Ksenia Panova
You know what I heard, I heard your mother was a mail order briiiiiiide. The girl with a thoroughly sensible name in my first-grade class drew out the last word, and I struggled with the new sentence structure....

Leave-Taking
Leave-Taking

Leave-Taking

By Chris Erickson
Sassafras, shagbark hickory, spicebush, paw paws and sycamores marked the descent to the creek. The untillable acres, as they call them. The hills too steep and outcrops too rocky. The forgotten backs of farms....

yellow daffodil covered in snow
The Petals of Summer

The Petals of Summer

By Marybeth Holleman
They lie like bits of tissue on the bathroom floor rug, caught in the fibers; I bend to pick them up and see the yellow and pink threadworn veins, dry and broken and translucent pieces of geranium and nasturtium....

This Is What Men Do
This Is What Men Do

This Is What Men Do

By Diana Rico
At the tiny Eretz Shalom Cemetery on the mesa south of Taos, I feel like I have stepped into a John Ford Western. The impossibly big New Mexican sky dwarfs the mourners standing in sagebrush around a six-foot-deep hole in the ground....

double arch rock formations
Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

By Sunni Wilkinson
Our three-year-old sits on my husband's shoulders, bouncing. Red rock and yellow cottonwood trees and blue sky surround us. Fall break in Capitol Reef, Utah, and we’re winding up a trail we’ve never hiked before to see an arch...

Tell Me
Tell Me

Tell Me

By Denise Wilkinson
Show me the shape of your thoughts when the doctor announced my cancer. Reveal the colors and the shadows. Tell me not the lines, but the in-betweens, right to your bones. Lament with me the unrest of memories yet to be lived, then speak them...

close up of a stream running over mossy rocks
The River and How She Heals

The River and How She Heals

By Amber D. Stoner
When the house went cold - not the oxygen and nitrogen, but the mood, the atmosphere around my parents - when that froze into stasis, into wariness, into step-lightly-quietly-invisibly, I would retreat outside where I could breathe without...

The Dancer
The Dancer

The Dancer

By Jan McGuire
Mom danced with The Dancing Divas - women in their seventies proudly performing in over thirty elaborate costumes. Accessories included a Fedora with a plastic mafia machine gun, a red suitcase doubling as a small platform for tapping to...

a basket of guavas
Guavas

Guavas

By A. Mauricio Ruiz
This morning I went out to the garden with my mom and picked up guavas, tiny yellow pieces of fruit that had fallen from the tree and now lay scattered on the ground. I bent over and picked them up, one by one, thought of the time when there was only...

Wrinkles
Wrinkles

Wrinkles

By Valerie White
They surround her eyes, her nose, and her mouth. She likes to touch them, to run her fingers over them, to try and count them, although it is nearly impossible to see where each one starts and ends. Each wrinkle seemed to appear with a major...

a photo from a rock climber's perspective looking up the face of a rock wall.
On Belay

On Belay

By Rachael Button
When I climb, my husband catches me. Peter is younger than me, lankier, quieter. His body weaves up rock with a grace my shaky, short frame cannot yet settle into--but he's learned not to correct or coach me. Instead he holds me on belay...

Learning to Tell Time
Learning to Tell Time

Learning to Tell Time

By Cathy Luna
Learning to Tell Time Corpus Christi, Texas: February 1, 1969 It will always be eighty degrees in Corpus and I will always be six when the telegram comes. For me, this day will always have passed as if it were any other. I will always be inside...

a photo of a small Ganesha statue
Idols

Idols

By Nicole Baute
In September, they carry Ganesha to the river. The bedazzled elephant god sits Sukhasana, mala of flowers around his neck, unlikely to swim. My inherited religion is about a man who rose from the dead, his bloody corpse the symbol...

Reunion Tour
Reunion Tour

Reunion Tour

By Renee Nicholson
Thud of drums, The Edge’s guitar lick reverberating in our sternums, and the first flinty sound of Bono’s voice. We never expected...

picture of a controlled burn of a field
Controlled Burn

Controlled Burn

by Traci Brimhall
Spring is the season for burning on the plains. Ranchers across the tall grass prairies of Eastern Kansas watch the forecast for the stillest days, when wind nests between mountains, before they bring the driptorches to the fields.

Pop-Pop
Pop-Pop

Pop-Pop

By Chloe DeFilippis
If I put my ear to the hardwood, will I hear the shuffle of his steps? The velcro shoes? I never saw him with his socks off. I imagine his toes like his fingers: thin with long thick yellowing nails. "To grab things with," he told me...

four blue eggs in a bird's nest
Passenger

Passenger

By Tamara Lang
I nest, my sleeping bag encircling me as I sit, skin-hot down sheltering this present happiness as if it were a round, warm egg. Clouds have erased the peaks beyond the harbor, and I feel the boat that formed my bed tugging at its lines...

Afterglow
Afterglow

Afterglow

By Elissa Favero
By morning, feathers had settled lightly in the corners of the bathroom. They swept up into the air, though, as I moved past. Down, up and down. One brushed the nape of my neck as I stepped from the shower, and clamped there to damp skin. A torn comforter; a small domestic catastrophe....

picture of iPod with headphones laying atop sheet music
Little Traveling Altars

Little Traveling Altars

By Olivia Dunn
I am calling my current situation 'vow of poverty' because that sounds much nobler than 'slumming' or 'lazy.' Vow of poverty helps me remember that the reason I will eat chickpeas for dinner for the next three nights is because there is a larger goal at hand....

a pink rose surrounded by thorny stems.
Afghan Roses

Afghan Roses

By Francisco Martinezcuello
In Massoud's Circle, weathered plastic shopping bags are captured by the thorns of Afghan roses. Armored vehicles crisscross in formation. Liberators with their guns pointed bully civilian cars to halt. My convoy breezes by, failing to free the bags from their thorny prison....

Light shimmering on moving water, seen from above.
Ripple (repeat)

Ripple (repeat)

By Magin LaSov Gregg
On a rusted railroad bridge overlooking Ohio's Rocky River, I stand with my father beneath an ocean blue sky and listen to the water's murmur. My father removes his glasses and points to a large rock beside the lower bank...

Wake Up
Wake Up

Wake Up

By Krys Malcolm Belc
In Arizona, in Queens, it is the same everywhere. Brains give way, cannot tell bodies to get up and hike, to get up and go to work...

Black-and-white photo of riding a bike, from the rider's POV
Sometimes Life Is Like That

Sometimes Life Is Like That

By Jay Wamsted
I saw the sunrise, huge and orange, peeking up over the skyline of Atlanta, dazzling. I had to look away. Bewildered, I swiveled my head right again to the blue sky before looking straight ahead into a roiling mass of dark gray clouds. Water careered about me as I kept inadvertent pace with the storm. ..

How to Envy
How to Envy

How to Envy

By Carmella Guiol
It's important for the bird to see the world, one man tells me, his birdcage propped on the seawall, the sea crashing against the rocks a few feet away. That way the bird doesn’t forget what the sky looks like, what the wind feels like in their crayon-colored feathers...

Half-peeled orange
Oranges

Oranges

By Sarah Dalton
My memory unfolds, and it is inevitable: the scent of a sweet Navel orange reminds me of my first love. I see his clean, large hands, the prominent lunulas on each nail...

In-Betweens
In-Betweens

In-Betweens

Ny Hannah Cauthen
A tiny green lizard clings to a brick outside the window. It takes in the late-morning light, attempting to combat the smooth chill in the air. I watch people filtering in and out of the restaurant wearing sweaters too thick for early September in Georgia...

Pigeons
Pigeon Prayer

Pigeon Prayer

By Erica Meurk
And then, as if called to midday prayer, they swoop as one into the air, their shadows littering the square below like paper napkins in a swift wind. Once around, twice around, bunching and spreading and bunching again as they fly.

Paris Street; Rainy Day
Paris Street; Rainy Day

Paris Street; Rainy Day

By Rachel Anne Murphy
This is the painting that would have greeted us, at the top of the stairs, just inside the gallery doors, centered on its own freestanding wall, seven feet by nine feet, we couldn’t have missed it, if I had said, yes, when he asked, would I like to go with him, to the Art Institute, that weekend, or the next?, instead of looking down at his classroom floor and saying, um, no...

Stream with wildflowers
Lick Creek

Lick Creek

By Sarah Marty-Schlipf
A breeze tousles the cottonwoods, sending down fine white seed tufts like snowfall in early summer. Minnows gather and part at her pink sneakers. Charli is still, hands cupped at the surface, waiting.

Soft Spot
Soft Spot

Soft Spot

By Lynne Nugent
Everyone talks about the sweetness of expecting a baby, but less about the terror at having created something so vulnerable. I spent each of my prenatal appointments barely breathing until the moment they swirled the Doppler through cold gel on my belly and relocated that rhythmic swishing...

Fawn in grass in front of trees
Signs

Signs

By Holly Willis
In the late afternoon, as my mother breathed her way toward her last breath, a deer stepped from the edge of the woods into the coppery light and stood tall, fixing us with a direct gaze from across the field. Waiting for death, I yearned for a signal, a sign, a way to sort figure from ground...

Did You Notice Me?
Did You Notice Me?

Did You Notice Me?

By Aaron Newman
When I was twelve or so, I shared a poem with Aunt B that I was to read at the public library later that evening. It was called “Summer Skies and Her Silver Eyes,” but she read it as “Summer Skis.” When I corrected her, she laughed first, then continued, line by line, with enough care to make me blush.

Records for sale at a record store
Mentor of Cool

Mentor of Cool

By Richard LeBlond
There were Beatniks and wannabes like me in 1959 Portland coffeehouses. We sipped espressos and listened to cool jazz, whatever that was. Too young and inexperienced to distinguish authentic from pretentious, I tried, impossibly, to be cool.

The Lesson
The Lesson

The Lesson

By Jessica Jacobs
Only after the starter gun's snap, did my father burst from the port-a-potty. Only after the other triathletes had raced across the sand and high-stepped it through the shallows like a flamboyance of flamingos in wetsuits, did he run, a streamer of toilet paper flapping from his heel, a crowd of funny guys shouting, "You can catch 'em, buddy!" as he waved to my sister and me in the stands...

Pair of hands holding themselves
Grateful

Grateful

By Sarah Beth Childers
Often, Grandad descends into a wasteland of words, connecting blessings, family, country, and company with “help to help to help,” but sometimes, he gets stuck on his thankfulness. One night, he bowed his head over the pot roast and said only, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Mountains
Mountains

Mountains

By Erin Slaughter
I can laugh, and do. I’ve long since domesticated grief and whatever grief turns into. Grief the cat, rarely resembling grief the lion...

Novelty coffe cups, upside down on a table
Filling Cupboards

Filling Cupboards

By Danielle Madsen
When the first mug cracked, you thought it wouldn’t matter, but then they started to shatter. You end up, somehow, in battles over alimony and the kids’ college funds and that broken-down crockpot, and you forget to put your coffee cups into the divorce proceedings. When it’s finally over, you’re both too bitter, too broken, to give each other anything–even a worthless old mug. So they all get thrown in the trash.

Overhead view of the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of Boston
River

River

By Luba Feigenberg
I breathe in, feeling the air fill my lungs. Here I am reminded that leaving the warmth of my bed is worth it. Here I feel the possibility of the day with its new energies, new mysteries, new discoveries. The view offers a fresh start with countless opportunities to begin again. I blink, my eyes like the shutters of a camera, snapping the image to my mind. Inhaling deeply, I pick up the pace...

Metaphor Lesson
Metaphor Lesson

Metaphor Lesson

By Robert Hardy
There are three girls in Poetry Club. Tra’niyah, the third grader, walks around the classroom looking at everything through a magnifying glass—the leaves of the plants, the point of her pencil, her fingerprints—remarking on how different everything looks...

Church pews
Eavesdropping in Arizona

Eavesdropping in Arizona

By Jason Bruner
"And," he continues, “don’t forget there were the Mongols and” he shakes his head, sighs a smile, “and...” he trails off. I smell their voices weaving with the silver smoke, from the altar up to the golden throne of God. Qadisha...

Night Song
Night Song

Night Song

By Wendy Fontaine
My corner of the world is finally quiet - no cars, trains or helicopters; no neighbors clanging soup pots or shouting into cell phones. My daughter, too, is asleep in her bed, limbs spread like compass points. In this stillness, I go inward, listening for the small voice that exists after everything else has been stripped away...

Cream poured into coffee with beans and tengu mask.
Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, Holy, Holy

By Margaret Renkl
An irreplaceable life had winked out in an instant, but outside my window the world was flaring up in celebration. Someone was hearing, “It’s benign.” Someone was saying, “It’s a boy.” Someone was throwing out her arms and crying, “Thank you! Thank you! Oh, thank you!”

Akathisia
Akathisia

Akathisia

By Rijn Collins
There hadn’t been many other teenagers on the ward. I’d watched the obsessive-compulsives, addicts and anorexics, admired the rainbow of pills in my palm, and listened to the speech slur from my mouth, thinking, I am not one of you. 
But I was. 
So was he. 
And there you go.

Greyscale drip of water into puddle
Reincarnation

Reincarnation

By Kathryn Stinson
A radio interviewer asks an aging mystic, “What will you miss the most when you leave this world?” My mind replies silently, sunlight on moving water, and fills with images: afternoon light glancing off the lake, morning sun on ocean tidepools...

Suspension
Suspension

Suspension

By Erin Ruble
Retrieving our boat, we pass into the rose-storm of sunset, startling a pair of loons. For twenty million years these birds have lived here. Over my children’s heads I watch this pair sound their tremulous cries, resurrecting their ancestors—as do we, in our melancholy and joy...

Abendstimmung ("Evening Mood")
Two Degrees

Two Degrees

By Alan Rossman
I can still feel the insignificance of those two degrees sloughing off the shoulders of my teenage indifference. For despite all his lectures, Mr. Mitchell never taught us the meaning of two degrees. He never let us feel how those two extra degrees could warm your face and kindle your heart or loosen the rust that had been building around your joints all winter long.

Dinner Talk
Dinner Talk

Dinner Talk

By Edvige Giunta
The asparagus grew in the Sicilian garden, and my mother made frittata that was sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner, sometimes snack. Food ran like a thread through our days, and it was orderly and good...

Blank wooden sign in meadow
This Is It

This Is It

By Natalie Tomlin
We stole it at night, one of us running across a lawn we had scoped out beforehand. With a firm kick, I popped it out neatly and ran away with it under my arm like a football, never really breaking my stride. The runaway car was there, waiting...

Reunion
Reunion

Reunion

By Scott Russell Morris
Such delight at this chance meeting, pleasure measured by the firmness of the embrace: their teeth showed, their hearts so close together the employee badges intertwined...

People in theater seats, seen from above
Shame and Drum

Shame and Drum

By
In the Midwestern auditorium, a tired Richard Ford reads a fiction about Grand Central Station to a ticketed crowd as tired and sparse as his scalp. He is old and disappointed, and he is reading about old disappointment...

What Matters
What Matters

What Matters

By Isaac Yuen
People post sticky notes on what they think it is: 
Kirk's ego
                                 Cthulhu Slime
MOM'S MEATLOAF
                                                           oblivion...

Shadow of people crossing the street
Yield

Yield

By Kelly Miller
I see her hustling with baby and bags of food. So close to stacked bumpers. Cars hurrying toward fast food or fun. People inside who hate their jobs or spouses. People who don’t understand why they’re always angry...

YES
YES

YES

By Michael Fischer
“YES,” he writes back. That’s all, just like that. All caps.
On the 17th, he kills himself...

Pride flag with sun right in the middle
Kinetic Energy

Kinetic Energy

By Sam Brighton
I loved her with all the kinetic energy rocketing up from this ruckus. We rumbled the tectonic plates below our feet, no doubt, but they held us, all of us together...

Saturday Night
Saturday Night

Saturday Night

By Don Dussault
Every Saturday evening I put on my best jacket and roll out to my car and fold the wheelchair and place it on the backseat and get behind the wheel and the hand controls and drive five miles out of my small town to the dance hall on the lake. When I roll up to the front double doors and pull out my billfold, the cashier won't let me pay...

Yellow Japanese Rose from the botanical garden of Lyon, France
Kerria

Kerria

By Jenny Apostol
“Cheerful!” she said, “What is it?” Then recognizing the compact rows of marigold trophies lining spray upon spray arcing over the yard, “Oh, kerria, that was my mother’s favorite.” A moment of silence for one mother’s mother gone twenty years...

Bottle Memories
Bottle Memories

Bottle Memories

By Stephanie Eardley
Like a mother waiting for the reassuring cry of her newborn, I pine for the pop of jars sealing. Like apples to apple pie filling I have gone from intimidated tomboy to homemaker...

Fancy feet
A Dress for the Wedding

A Dress for the Wedding

By Lisa Romeo
The bride, it turns out, is a large woman. The bride, in her floaty white dress, and you, in your drapey black-and-white dress, are only one size: the size of love. Your husband says, "Let's dance." On the dance floor, you twirl...

The Boarding School Letters
The Boarding School Letters

The Boarding School Letters

By Ah-reum Han
But consider for example the six-year-old daughter, face down on her new dorm bed, who cannot possibly imagine what to write to her mother a thousand miles away. What she remembers: departure, leaving their house like thieves, by moonlight, so they wouldn’t miss the first ferry or the first day of school. Dear Mama, she begins...

Butterfly on pavement, probably Monarch
Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

By Angie Crea O'Neal
“What if it’s just sleeping,” I muse, “like Jacob on his pillow of stones?”
But she’s nine now and knows...

Holding Hands
Holding Hands

Holding Hands

By Stephanie Dethlefs
She lifts the pencil to her tongue, wets it, and answers 34-Down before noticing us and smiling softly. She presses her hands into the armrests and rises to greet us, placing her small, soft palms on each of our cheeks...

Junk in an alley
Dead Man Tim

Dead Man Tim

By Cheryl Lynn Smith
Tim’s apartment was cleaned and all his belongings put out on a curb in the parking lot. This is the saddest part. Seeing a life in a parking lot...

Homeless man lying down in crowd
Ice

Ice

By Heather Osterman-Davis
“You can take my arm if you want help across,” he says, crooking his elbow as if offering me a dance. "Though I understand if you don’t want me to touch you.”

Lines of Light
Lines of Light

Lines of Light

By Clara Mae Barnhart
When I was a child I liked to squint at street lamps at night because it makes them look like eight-pointed stars. We walked around late in our little village. In the summer we would dodge the toads on the sidewalk in the soft copper glow. Our cat would follow us everywhere...

Parabolic
Parabolic

Parabolic

By Jack Bedell
As many times as I heard that story growing up, I could never shake my focus off the chickens, the fault in their nature, blame and loss. All stories held hard lessons for me then...

Yellow morning sunlight through tree
Morning (repeat)

Morning (repeat)

By Michelle Webster-Hein
When my infant daughter wakes at two in the morning and her father cannot coax her back to sleep, she and I curl up on the mattress in the guest room below the big window, and I drift off with her tiny fingers gripping my thumb...

The Day to Day
The Day to Day

The Day to Day

By Jessica Terson
Sifting the flour. Squeezing the lever once. And then waiting. For a moment, it is winter again. I take my finger and make snow angels in the little blue bowl. ...

White

White

by Jennifer Bowen Hicks (repost of 07/20/15)
We no longer remember the sound of birdsong or the feel of dry pavement beneath our feet, but we walk to school anyway because school is the place we're meant to walk to on Tuesday mornings...

Grace
Grace

Grace

by Aaron J. Housholder (repost of 03/09/15)
The manager brings me two white sacks too full to close. Steam from fresh chips tickles my face. Salt and oil, a ravenous fragrance. Foil-wrapped fajitas still sizzle...

Holding

Holding

By Kathryn Wilder (repost of 09/29/14)
My sister and I live on either side of sixty. We've been mothers half our lives. Visiting her in Oregon, Ashland running a steady hundred degrees for days into weeks, we head to Lake of the Woods for the coolness of lake water and wind in the pines. Winding up the mountainside and back through our lives, our four children are never far from our conversation, like our own childhood—childhood, singular, as we shared it, for better or worse, till death do we part...

Turkey Soup
Turkey Soup

Turkey Soup

By Marissa Landrigan (repost from 12/01/14)
On Thanksgiving, after the turkey is carved and gutted – after we slice through half of the twenty-pound bird my mother insists on ordering, though there are only ever seven of us for dinner – my father and grandfather return to the half-spent carcass and harvest the rest...

Birthday Cards

Birthday Cards

by Jia Lim
Once, I skulked into her darkened bedroom, and hid the card for her forty-sixth under her wallet. I was too antsy, announced my fatigue too loudly, and retired for bed too early...

Claudia

Claudia

by Jo-Anne Cappeluti
It’s always strange to see someone in the flesh after you’ve talked about them—in our case someone we supposed to be lame or wounded...

In the Fold
In the Fold

In the Fold

by Ariana Brocious
Puppeting her hands into the rounded corners, swiftly finding the points. She deftly converted scrunches and wrinkles to smooth lines, the whole thing a neat, soft rectangle in moments...

Only Now

Only Now

by Suzanne Farrell Smith
Only now, head and shoulders above-coffin, do you look forward and see nothing of your mother’s patchwork skirt that once shielded you, smallest mouse in a big house...

Bike Ride
Bike Ride

Bike Ride

by Ethan Joella
I do remember watching the beach rental disappear behind me as he pedaled away. I remember wondering if he saw the potholes in the dirt road. I remember fallen pine needles on patio umbrellas and in the water of bird baths...

Red Birds

Red Birds

by Melissa Ballard
Pointing to the tree above, he says, “See those red birds?” I, with my college education, am too busy for birds, but I’m vigilant about dad’s vocabulary...

Reliquary
Reliquary

Reliquary

by Leah Silverman
When Rachmaninoff swallows my mother, I no longer know the woman who gleefully embellishes with staccato flourishes nursery rhymes and schoolyard chants and ditties of her own that make us run run run through the living room dining room kitchen...

Bare, Naked

Bare, Naked

by Andrea Fisk Rotterman
She hands me a filmy gray scarf with silver sparkles. She directs me. Drape and tuck the scarf around your waist. Breathe from the bottom of your lungs...

On Guilt
On Guilt

On Guilt

by Jennifer Wortman
At the park, I spied a fallen hatchling in the grass. When I returned with my husband for help, it was a crushed rainbow mess. Why hadn’t I lifted it?...

Water

Water

by Chris Huntington
My thermos is stainless steel with metallic green paint and says L.L. Bean on one side, my name on the other. Above my name, there is a ring of exposed metal exactly the width of my fingers; this is where I lift the thermos to take a drink...

Don Isidro
Don Isidro

Don Isidro

by Diane de Anda
Don Isidro stood at the front door, gunny sack in hand. His hair fell in twisted grey strands just above his shoulders, his beard patchy and uneven across the flushed skin on his face, his nose redder, with purple lines snaked across it...

Brake Lights

Brake Lights

by James M. Chesbro
This woman still moves in the paper route of my mind. I see her when I’m loading the car with my bag and my son’s mini-cooler for daycare...

Stay Put
Stay Put

Stay Put

by Katie Powers
The efficiency of it is always shocking: a few moments of the saw at high pitch; the wedge taken from the trunk like a bite – a bright and wide open wound; him stepping away, practiced...

Swings
Lightening Up

Lightening Up

by Laurie Granieri
Hope and defiance loiter beneath the stars, we'll take our chances, because have you ever felt your own body fling itself into grace?...

Candy Thief
Candy Thief

Candy Thief

by
At a distance, I watch as he grabs candy bars off the shelf and slides them inside his coat, so absorbed in the act of stealing, he doesn't notice me approach...

broken glass
Art Lesson

Art Lesson

by Joanne M. Lozar Glenn
Every teacher had the same projects. Fall: iron leaves between waxed paper. Winter: chalk snow scenes on black construction paper. Spring: draw daffodils...

Galaxies

Galaxies

by Laura Haugen
There is no time this time, in this age of no-time, time that spins in ballerina shoes leaping across years to then dig for fossils with trucks in a sandbox, now taking off running to hunt for frogs, one-last-look, and hey do you see the stars, do you?...

Tornado
Tornado

Tornado

by Sheila Squillante
I stood in front of my bedroom window watching the sky turn a pretty dark purple. I couldn’t hear birds anymore, but I could hear, far away but coming closer, the sound of a train...

All Our Travels

All Our Travels

by Paul Crenshaw
Small world, we say, when we uncover these coincidences, but what we really mean is that we feel small in it, struggling to find some connection through age or geography...

Hubby

Hubby

by Matthew Vollmer
Once born, the doctor said he’d give the mother fifty cents if she named the baby after him. It wasn’t the first time Dr. Hubby had paid a new mother to perpetuate the moniker. At one time, these mountains had been full of Hubbys...

Graffiti the Walls
Graffiti the Walls

Graffiti the Walls

by Matthew Barrett
I want to graffiti the walls where my grandmother lives, white and sterile walls (egg-shell colored walls, as the nurses say), replace her sanitation lists with photographs, magazine spreads, and paper clippings...

T-Shirts

T-Shirts

by Wayne Scott
My shy, contemplative daughter started wearing my clothes when she was thirteen. On her they looked baggy, her thin body lost in wrinkled folds...

water spigot in front of blurred bush
Ascension Garden

Ascension Garden

by Stacy Murison
The first time, you drive by yourself. You have some idea you are going there, but are still surprised that you know the way, without her, through the turning and turning driveways...

Merriment
Merriment

Merriment

by Chansi Long
His daughter sat on the banana seat, pink streamers dangling, a mess of tightly wound ringlets atop her head. Her expression was one of fierce determination: eyes squeezed into slits, head tilted, legs peddling wildly...

Dandelion
Dandelion

Dandelion

by Michelle Webster-Hein (repost of 02/21/14
We have a carpet of dandelions over our front lawn--bright yellow heads peppering the cushions of moss and tufts of grass...

Concrete Hands

Concrete Hands

by Sara Ackerman
Bits of grit from the stairs stuck to my knees and the marker tip. Branches from the cherry tree, the white-pink petals so papery and particular, threw shadows across the stoop....

Brothers
Brothers

Brothers

by Rebecca Swanson
Their heads will press together over a book, a game, a map, a worm. When one gets too close, the other shoves. When one cries, the other worries....

Somniloquy

Somniloquy

by Michael Levan
Trained by his body to wake now every two hours, he doesn’t much need her voice to tell him it’s time for more meds...

Mountains
Mountains

Mountains

by Erin Slaughter
To me, the mountains are still intimidating and holy. I haven’t yet learned to live among them as domestic creatures, the way we forget that house-cats are made of lions....

Safety Popcorn

Safety Popcorn

by Sarah Thieman
After all the ruckus there were a few silent hours when no one would be seen or heard. My three older siblings and I hid together in the bedroom my two sisters shared, one of the only two bedrooms in the house...

Sneakers in Sand

Sneakers in Sand

By Dina Relles
A deep, irrational sadness swelled at the thought of my son’s sweet shoes sitting at the shoreline as night fell....

Stay With Me Awhile

Stay With Me Awhile

By Gina Williams (repost of 08/10/15)
On the day of his visit, I did Helen's makeup, spritzed Chanel No. 5 onto her wrists, and held the mirror while she frosted her lips with Rouge Noir from a gold case...

Back Aisles

Back Aisles

By Ashley Hutson
Here, a man casually told me he had kidney cancer. A woman wept while revealing her son's autism diagnosis. Teenagers exchanged kisses of clandestine devotion, unaware of Alton Brown's kitchen chemistry near their shoulders....

Recovery

Recovery

By Maria Jerinic
In this city of artifice, where there is attention to the last detail in the recreation of Paris or New York or someone’s idea of an Italian village, I live in a spot that has been forgotten, abandoned, allowed to take on its own shape...

Visitation
Visitation

Visitation

On the porch, under a Blood Moon, our fire is dying down, so we wear wool blankets over our shoulders. We’re drinking cider warmed in a pan on the stove, splashed into mugs with whiskey. This cold is still new, still exhilarating; the season is shifting, like the roll of a wave against your body.

Interruptions
Interruptions

Interruptions

Seek stillness. Close your eyes, relax in the lotus position, and breathe deeply. But hold on tight. Search every corner of the cosmos and you find only a universe in motion. Everywhere bodies and matter interrupt one another. Everywhere stars and planets and forests and cell tissues are born. Everywhere they die.

Ladder
The Ladder Tree

The Ladder Tree

Hand-built, smoothed gray with age, the stubby ladder rests against the old apple tree, its gnarled bark accepting the still, hopeful embrace of the rails and rungs once climbed by a child when this tree by its stone wall watched over a field of corn...

Linda on the Beach
Linda on the Beach

Linda on the Beach

We don’t know her, the woman who grins and waves as we wander north along Hollywood sand, bedsheets for yoga class billowing in our hands. But maybe, I think, we do know her from somewhere, and it’s not in our nature to be rude, so we wave, too.

Peanut butter
Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter

What was that feeling last night, of chasing a thread of thought from sleep to wakefulness, back into sleep again, not quite sure at any moment whether I was fully awake or fully asleep and only knowing when I got up to use the restroom and perhaps not even then and what was I doing, trying to string some thoughts together...

Chair
In Perilous Times

In Perilous Times

The Frank Lloyd Wright calendar hangs askew on your cubicle wall, the citrus skylights of July turning right angles into August in an attempt to create unity on a Tuesday morning when you’re wearing stripes and your socks don’t match.

Corner room
For the Birds

For the Birds

Birds keep getting lost in my living room. It’s my fault, for leaving the doors open. For answering the knock of valley wind so strong it rips posters off the walls, comes pounding, shaking our wood-framed house with big fists, demanding to be let in.

Cold
Cold

Cold

On the hottest days in San Vicente, I sit on the front porch of my host family’s house, sweat dripping from under my arms, dust turning to mud on my salt-streaked legs. I watch the heat shimmer up from the dirt road, dissolving into blue sky. On these days, I long for snow, hunger after the numbing cold of January in Minnesota.

Person looking up
Mercy

Mercy

The Italian museum had a gory multitude of blood-streaked Jesuses. But in one immense painting, he was flanked by two anonymous thieves—palms nailed, faces obscured, genitals exposed, legs cudgeled by a guard to speed their deaths.

Ripple
Ripple

Ripple

I know Big Rock from a story he has told me, a strand of his story now interwoven with mine. I know my father, as a boy, stood on Big Rock, while neighborhood boys stood across from him, on a narrow cliff ledge, and hurled rocks at him.

Kid sleeping
Resting Place

Resting Place

When he was younger, just born, fear overtook me in waves. I could lose him at any time. I could lose him because I had him, and anything I had, I could lose. The logic was airtight, suffocating.

Resting Place
Resting Place

Resting Place

by Kate Levin
When we arrive at daycare, I step out of the car and close my door gently, hoping not to startle my son awake. As I open the back door to retrieve him from his car seat, I see the bird ...

Hawk
Hawk

Hawk

Alone, I stare down the wide notch behind my house where the mountain to the east rolls inward to the west, and the western mountain rolls inward to the east till at last the two converge. A thousand feet below, a ground fog grays the Piedmont, but the sun has risen quite high and the thermals bend the spring-green hardwoods. These are worn mountains, the last mounds of the Southern Appalachians.

Dress Up
Dress Up

Dress Up

We were having drinks at a friend's house when my two-year-old entered the room, pantless, sans diaper. Whenever his older sister and her friends played dress up, he'd get silly and play dress down. But this time he was red-faced and crying. I excused myself, brought him to the other room.

Gooses
Duet

Duet

Overhead, a pair of just-returned Canada geese honk and carry on, their long necks stretched toward a pond in the middle of the field. Their bodies turn bronze in dusk, but it's the blending of their voices that makes us curve our necks upward.

August Garden
August Garden

August Garden

My August garden has changed overnight, like a middle-aged woman looking into a mirror, asking, When did that happen, or how did this happen so soon? The cornstalks stand shoulder-to-shoulder, answer in sibilants, and that answer is enough.

Fire
Leaving Our Mark

Leaving Our Mark

In the weeks before we end our active service in the Marine Corps my roommate, Caleb, and I slug Wild Turkey in our barracks room, and then decide to celebrate our impending freedom by burning down the thirty-foot-high diving platform a mile away off Christianitos Road.

Flowers
Stay With Me Awhile

Stay With Me Awhile

They hadn't seen one another since her diagnosis. Pete was her last boyfriend and because she was terminal, would always be the final man in her life, the only remaining thread of sexuality, desire.

Cat
House Call

House Call

Tom lived just five minutes away from my house, and his wife said his legs were so swollen that it would require a 911 call to get him to my office. This was the only house call I’ve ever made.

White
White

White

We no longer remember the sound of birdsong or the feel of dry pavement beneath our feet, but we walk to school anyway because school is the place we're meant to walk to on Tuesday mornings. Temperatures register -23 below zero if you don’t count the wind chill, and I always count the wind chill.

Button
Crush

Crush

When I was married I crushed on another man. He played a pan flute while riding his bike past the reservoir and I stepped into his path feeling reckless one evening on one of my walks. Our groping shouldn't have led to anything more.

Guppy
Guppy

Guppy

A moist breeze hints at the monsoon that will soon descend on our city in South India. My son has fourteen orange- and coffee-colored guppy-fish swimming in a thin plastic bag. He is waiting to empty the little, translucent creatures into the garden pond.

Trashman
Trash Collection Day

Trash Collection Day

From my quiet perch, I would marvel at how effortlessly the men would grab hold of a bin and swing it forward, dumping the entire contents of a week’s worth of trash over the metal ledge and out of sight, then drop the empty can back onto the tired grass.

What I Made
What I Made

What I Made

I want to be a man who pays each bill the day it arrives. I want to be a man who knows the precise location of every object in his backpack. I want to be a man who knows about carpentry. 

Moon
October Moon on Lake

October Moon on Lake

For all that, gentle reader, behold these two loons that paddle so close along the riffled band of light, which the moon has deftly laid on the nervous water by the shore, where leaves titter above me. The birds’ calls are plaintive, an adjective so precise it needs no iteration.

His Pockets
His Pockets

His Pockets

At four he is an earnest collector. He keeps his secrets in his pockets and leaves them for me in the laundry basket. As I unroll the cuffs of his too-long-yet pants, sand dribbles out, a clump of mud caking the cloth. Even if all is quiet, I remain cautious.

Golden canopy
Summer Night

Summer Night

On warm August nights, I take out my contacts and go outside, find a spot to lie down, and look up through the basket of live oak branches.

Inheritance
Inheritance

Inheritance

In his 70s, dad bought a gas-powered log splitter and would perch on a stump for hours, loading one log after another, pulling the lever to engage the iron wedge, which descended with a crushing force to split the logs. He recruited his young grandsons to help and they ran back and forth, to stack the wood in orderly rows in the mossy roofed shed in the meadow.

Cutting board
Taking an Art Class

Taking an Art Class

We are given a project to do. Here are the parameters. Lines parallel. Lines perpendicular. Clear relationships. Mass, plane, line. No diagonals. I put the safety glasses on. I cut the wood.

Tiny Purple Flowers
Tiny Purple Flowers

Tiny Purple Flowers

My mother stands at the grocery store counter. Tiny purple flowers rest tucked behind her ear. They have wilted as we walked through the aisles, comparing prices per ounce and coupons to sales. Now, the flower petals are withered balls of lint.

Speed sign
Road Warrior

Road Warrior

Someday, the newspaper photographer told me as we drove back from the fire, he was going to do a photo essay on all those raptors along the highway.

First Walk
First Walk

First Walk

We are deep in the woods standing at the top of a ridge, surrounded by leafless, lifeless trees, as the last dull light fades into charcoal gray. Bracing for the momentous roar of the next gust of wind, it whips and ruffles the tops of the pines below, then blasts up the ridge in waves of long, slow moans at forty miles an hour

Bird in tree