A mixtape

The Museum of Broken Relationships

April 25, 2016

By Jonathan Starke

There’s this letter on the wall in there that a young boy writes to a young girl during the Bosnian War. They meet at gunpoint, marching toward a van that will drive them to a war camp. The girl doesn’t know the boy loves her. Some will say the boy doesn’t know what real love is yet. If he does, the war camp will break him of it. He talks about a collection of songs in his head that he wants to give to her on tape when the war is over. He writes that he wants to tell her he loves her, that when they split her away from him at the camp, it was all he ever wanted to say. He has said it now—in scars and years and yearning and ink. She could walk into the museum and read it right on the wall. It wouldn’t take so much. It would only require a map of this human heart, the understanding that love can grow over bullets and blackness.

 


Jonathan Starke is a former bodybuilder and boxer. His essays have appeared in The Sun, Missouri Review, Threepenny Review, North American Review, Brevity, and Fourth Genre, among others.

Image provided by Antony Mayfield via Flickr’s Creative Commons licence.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Beautiful Things

Visitations
Visitations

Visitations

By Austin Hagwood
One morning a single hummingbird, iridescent green, tapped its sword-like beak against the windows of a Forest Service lookout tower 8,000 feet above sea level.

gray, pink, and black stones in sand
One More Stone

One More Stone

By Robin Schauffler
Once a jagged, broken chunk of black basalt, then polished for decades or centuries by sand and wind and sea.

Blurred image of operating room with medical tools in focus in forefront
C-Section

C-Section

By Alyssa Lindley Sinclair C- Section; noun; 1) The lights are on bright, the room freezer-cold and strangers wheel you in on a hospital bed, helpless and naked beneath a thin cotton gown, and they stick a needle in your back and you start shaking, from the drugs,...

Puzzle
Puzzle

Puzzle

By Janet Johnston
1934. Two sisters in flower sack dresses face the searing panhandle sun. The hot Texas wind blows their bobbed hair back toward Grandmother’s gap-toothed gate.

Little Packages

Little Packages

By Jennifer Robinson


Today the checkout clerk at Safeway folded my newspaper into three vertical sections, then opened a sliver of pages at one corner and tucked the other corner neatly in, making the whole thing into a trim and sturdy little rectangle.

Tiring the Ghosts

Tiring the Ghosts

By Ella Mei Yon Harris


My Chinese family revered our ghosts. We made altars, gave offerings, and publicly denounced accomplishments, inherited or earned, to make sure the ghosts passed us by.

Careful

Careful

By Sari Fordham


"Why can't you be more careful?" I ask my daughter, Kai. She is nine. Wild in her beauty. Her face reflects an ocean of moods–exhilaration, wonder, fury. Now it's awash in regret.

Labor Day
Labor Day

Labor Day

By Kathryn Ganfield


Labor Day is made for a garden, for a field. In childhood, it was made at Mr. Wright’s, his garden expanding my notion of what one could be, where the rows of tomatoes and peppers and trip-hazard zucchinis vined to the horizon, where a baby blue water tower cast the only cooling shade. On Labor Day, we were Mr. Wright’s pickers, us five kids tumbling from our diesel station wagon with our summer scabby knees, suntans, and streaks of blond.

Dinner Date

Dinner Date

By Jillian McKelvey


We sit on the cement porch, our legs folded over the top step eating seafood in the dark, like lovers.

Erasure
Erasure

Erasure

By Bhushita Vasistha


Chipped tiles. Sulphur fumes. Rust-freckled mirrors. Queues. A large vault of cement walls hived with twelve conjoined toilet booths on each side. Girls’ bathroom...

Photo of bánh mì
Bánh Mì for Beginners

Bánh Mì for Beginners

By Jeanette Tran


Get the Ham, Head Cheese, and Pâté, a.k.a. Special Cold Cut Combination, or Ðặc Biệt for short. Chicken is fine for the less adventurous, but only old people order shredded pork floss or sardines.

Watercolor Meadow
Watercolor Meadow

Watercolor Meadow

By Michelle Webster-Hein


At age 70, my mother has taken up watercolor painting. In our family chat, she uploads photographs of her progress—birch trees, beachscapes, stems of lavender. For my birthday, I requested a scene of a wildflower field, so she framed it and gifted it to me, brushing off my compliments with her usual deflections.

House with Christmas lights and snow
Inflatable Christmas Yoda

Inflatable Christmas Yoda

By Annie Barker
I discover him on my morning walk, in the yard of a brick Tudor home in my neighborhood, anchored to the dry brown lawn by wires and stakes, but nonetheless tipping forward at the waist, somewhere between mid-fall and flat-on-his-face. A full month into the new year, he still holds out a present—blue bow on blue paper—and he is smiling. Here, I have this present for you.

A Seasoned Skillet
A Seasoned Skillet

A Seasoned Skillet

By Jennifer Gallo Gaites
Searching for a recipe—old school, pulling cookbooks from the shelf and scanning glossy photographs—a yellowed advice column slips to the floor. “Hints from Heloise.” I bend down, and carefully slide my nails beneath the stiff newsprint. “A Seasoned Skillet.”

Sunlight through an open window
The Coloring Book

The Coloring Book

By Joel Savishinsky
He had red hair, almost white in certain slants of light. It was his first time on the ward. Barely three years into his life, the stuffed creatures were larger than he was, and he liked hiding among them. He loved his coloring book, and with his crayons he re-made creation to fit his palette: a smiling blue lion, a grinning green giraffe, a playful purple monkey. The hues each found a home in the peaceable kingdom of his mind...

Day One, or Maybe Two
Day One, or Maybe Two

Day One, or Maybe Two

By Kim Chinquee
There are people stuck in cars. There’s a driving ban, save essential workers. The essential workers are getting stuck and the rescue teams trying to rescue the essential workers are getting stuck, snowplows are getting stuck trying to rescue the rescue teams, and finally the city gives up. Three people have already been confirmed dead...

Silhouette of person smoking at sunset, with the sun looking like the flame of the lighter
Playing Hooky

Playing Hooky

By Candace Angelica Walsh
Dad sat at the park picnic table smoking one Marlboro after another, with not a word of protest from my sister or me — poles apart from the week before when we snapped his whole pack in half and flushed it down the toilet. We were extending some grace in exchange for the freedom of a Tuesday outing during the school year, not yet knowing...

Homage to the Jewish Morning Prayer Giving Thanks for the Wonders of the Body, Its Vessels and Arteries, Openings and Closings
Homage to the Jewish Morning Prayer Giving Thanks for the Wonders of the Body, Its Vessels and Arteries, Openings and Closings

Homage to the Jewish Morning Prayer Giving Thanks for the Wonders of the Body, Its Vessels and Arteries, Openings and Closings

By Naomi Cohn
After getting held up in the Y parking lot all those years ago, after the weirdness of seeing the dark circle within the approaching gun muzzle, after feeling the metal on my cheekbone, the exact spot I’d bumped with the phone receiver earlier that day, after the adrenalin rush...

Honey (I Put Down My Ax)

Honey (I Put Down My Ax)

By Rasma Haidri

The first one said honey was what Vietnamese hookers called from doorways, so don’t call him that. The next one said honey was a substance to spread on bread, so why did I call him that. Store clerks in the South called all of us honey. Teachers, too, even when paddling our behinds. Oh honey...

A pile of fallen leaves and a red rake. The rake is leaning against a bench.
Jumping in Leaves

Jumping in Leaves

By Joseph Gross
He runs laps around the yard that culminate in a cannonball or a backflop or a headfirst dive. He has shed his gloves, coat, hat, despite the forty-degree temps. I think of my own jumping age, the familiar mold and fruity cedar smell down in the pile, the desire to be buried completely.

Ceremony
Ceremony

Ceremony

By Jill Talbot
This is our end-of-the-day walk with our dog. A few nights ago, she picked two of the tulips—red-pink petals, black anthers—and put them in a mason jar on my nightstand. Tonight, she asks if she can pick one for herself. And because they're on an island not attached to any home, I say sure...

A close up image of red rose petals, wet with dew drops
The Beckoning Rose

The Beckoning Rose

By Alvin Johnson
Several years ago, my wife and I drove from Charlotte to Pinewood, South Carolina, hopeful we might find the gravesite of my Johnson ancestors. This was the town where my ancestors were slaves on plantations owned by the Richardson and Manning families, who produced five governors of South Carolina...

Skywriting
Skywriting

Skywriting

By Sabrina Hicks
One evening, when my kids were little and demanding, and my sense of self felt like a slow leak, replaced with the repetition and duty of young motherhood, I took refuge in my backyard. I was alone, feeling a thousand miles away from the desert and mountains of my childhood, uprooted and placed in a New York suburb near a hidden coastline.

A cheese case with a variety of cheeses on display
The Cheese Case

The Cheese Case

By Katie Machen
Sundays give the impression of time. There’s patience, even as a line forms to the back of the shop, everyone coming in all at once for their week’s salami and ham.

Old Horse
Old Horse

Old Horse

By Rebecca Reynolds Weil
Along the edges of bramble rose and burdocks, he flushed wild turkeys into flight in front of him, like a ship scattering schools of fish before its bow. Gleams of deer, wide-eyed beneath the apple tree, would freeze in place—hocks cocked to run, green apples paused in their mouths—cupping our sound in their ears as we clattered by, all hooves and thunder over the ground...

Snapped
Snapped

Snapped

By Kate Lewis
I heard the snap before I saw it – my late grandmother’s worn rosary tugged apart by my preschooler’s tight grip. She’d only wanted to look, and I’d let her, and my sudden tears were a surprise. . . .

A dove against a black backdrop
The Aquarium

The Aquarium

By Michele Rappoport
The glass is splotched from her many attempts to escape, but she is not frantic now. She floats in the small space like a seahorse in deep ocean...

Hole
Hole

Hole

By Eric LeMay
“Do you think we’ll find treasure?” he asked.
I stomped on the shovel, feeling it tear through the dead grass.
“Sure,” I said.
Maybe he believed me.

A steaming pot sits on the stove
After a storm, a quiet dinner

After a storm, a quiet dinner

By Liv Kane
I watch a little part of my mother heal, stitched together with each slow blink shared between them; she is a girl left behind, feeding a man who never fed her. His jaw broken from a one-sided fistfight, from sleeping on the street, his graying tongue and beating heart flashing wildly each time he chews...

Depths
Depths

Depths

By Carol Moody
We’re an unruly bunch, his kids—buying all sorts of over-priced junk food with money Mom gave us. She’s the fun one—cheering us as we whack the vending machine, bumping an extra Snickers off the rotating coils...

A picture of people eating in a communal dining area. The picture has a forced perspective, with the lens focusing on the table at the front of the camera, while those eating are blurred.
Chicken Fingers

Chicken Fingers

By Kelly Shetron
“Everything is copacetic!” Memom would say whenever I called. I imagined her feeling her way around her small apartment, keeping up with her rituals: drinking instant coffee in the pre-dawn morning, singing aloud to Sinatra, organizing her closet...

Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

By Ann Kaye
After we’ve been watered, she pulls me toward the garden filled with descendants of my mother’s divided hostas and lilies. I press my ear against a tiger lily, name it, and ask if she hears it roar. She listens, eyes wide, and says no...

A sheer yellow scarf against a white background
The Bird

The Bird

By Diane LeBlanc
I don’t know the student leaning into my office with this question. But I’ve just finished active shooter training, a mental health webinar, and several pandemic-response seminars, so I assume the worst. I follow her down the hall as she explains. A bird is swooping around their classroom. It might hurt itself...

Back in the Same Day
Back in the Same Day

Back in the Same Day

By Rebecca Turkewitz
This is my dad’s particular gift: to find wonder and surprise in the daily act of living. "You really just made that?" he says with delighted skepticism when I bring a platter of French toast to the table. "Oh, wow! You’re GOOD!" he exclaims after my mom remembers where the birthday candles are kept...

A person turns the volume up in their car
Cool Mom

Cool Mom

By Heidi Fettig Parton
When the Pixies’ song, “Where is My Mind?” comes on the radio, I turn it up.
My backseat passengers usually spend the drive home in a sort of side-by-side engagement with their phones, occasionally sharing mutual laughter at things I cannot see...But on this day of spring weather, the boys go eerily quiet, and I wonder if this 1997 song translates perfectly into 2022...

Welcome to Iowa
Welcome to Iowa

Welcome to Iowa

By Robin Hemley
“Wow. Well, welcome to Iowa.”

“I live here,” I said.

“Oh, how long were you in Japan?”

“Three days, but before that I was in Singapore for a year.”

“Singapore,” he said. “I’ve never been out of the country. Well, Canada. At least here, we got toilet seats with covers.”

A purple flower growing through a crack in the pavement
Lydia Walked

Lydia Walked

By Sarah Beth Childers
At sixteen-and-a-half months old, my daughter was committed to speed crawling across the drought-dirt lawn, to strolling the summer sidewalk while clutching a large, firm hand. An early crawler, she’d scuffed out the knees of every zip-up sleeper and pair of baby jeans she’d worn since she was five months old...

Reckless Memory
Reckless Memory

Reckless Memory

By Anna Leahy
That night I drove in the dark with you across the lawn, we were each leaving in our own way and had been drinking for tomorrow, and after I didn’t hit the college security guard on his bicycle, thank god, I let you take the wheel and also the rap because, even though it was my car, you were driving when the siren stopped us.

Taiwanese-Canadian citizenship papers
The Paper

The Paper

By Wiley Wei-Chiun Ho
I recently framed the first piece of paper where my anglicized name appears. I paid extra for the non-reflective glass, so that viewers can see the details, including the black and white passport photo of my six-year-old self, looking very serious...

Ways of Seeing
Ways of Seeing

Ways of Seeing

By Melanie Bryant
I hope she finds lucky pennies and treasures, but she tells me there are only weeds and cracks in the concrete. I want my mother to unbend herself. I want her to see how the clouds break in the evening sky, the cascade of purple wisteria that falls from the rooftop, the fullness of the moon...

A mansion in springtime; it has a red brick exterior and sea green detailing
The Mansion Game

The Mansion Game

By Caitlin Horrocks
As we drive, the houses swell until they are mansions with sweeping green lawns. Of course my four-year-old notices. His noticing becomes a competition: every house he deems nicer than ours...

Wind
Wind

Wind

By Emily Brisse
All along the creek trail, the grasses were taller and thicker than we’d ever seen them, the tops brushing our foreheads, even my husband’s, the bottoms obscuring the path, even for the children, their small bodies still so close to the earth...

A wooded path
Trout Lillies

Trout Lillies

By Ginny MacDonald
I want to let Allie know that the autumn leaves were beautiful when she left, and now the trees are budding out in every green. The days are long again, and I showed her kids where the wild strawberries bloom. The growing is so quick and condensed up here...

For My Students
For My Students

For My Students

By Robert Barham
From Alabama, Tennessee, and Michigan, China, Austria, and Indonesia, they see the world’s grandeur and glory, menace and ruin. They are Nabokovs, Morrisons, O’Connors, Didions. They want answers, want to know what matters, would rather be somewhere else...

Gravity

Gravity

By Hanna Saltzman
His eyes are shimmering lakes of grays and blues, absorbing all that he sees above: chipped paint the color of clouds, an arcing sparrow, summer sunlight dancing the polka on leaves of ivy draped across his sky. His weight pulls him down, while his awe pulls him up.

Shadow in the Wrack
Shadow in the Wrack

Shadow in the Wrack

By Jodi Paloni
The morning I found a loon curled in seaweed, breast picked clean, bones laced with foam from the outgoing tide, I had just been thinking how content I’ve been living and walking this brief bit of Maine coastline, black and gold sand glitter shifting in the shallows.

Tulips against a wood panel background
Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs

By Angela Sucich
After repairing her ruptured aneurysm, her doctors still worry about blood-on-the-brain; the risk of stroke. Funny how that word can refer to both a deadly blow, and my hand caressing her hand.  

A shelf with mason jars, some filled, some empty
Sweet Remedy

Sweet Remedy

By Jeniah Johnson
Her nighty glowed in the dim light as she filled the kettle from the tap. Long fingers tweezed in a mason jar of golden buds picked from the scars of stones.

An image of a dictionary open to the words "abacus" and "abbreviation"
Accord

Accord

By Vandana Khanna
My mother wanted order wherever there was wildness. It was the same with words. She’d make me break them up into two and three syllables, manageable units that she insisted I repeat. The sound of them in my mouth like some kind of ancient prayer, my tongue shaping them against my teeth until ambition slid easily into atonement like I’d been saying these words forever.

Just Now
Just Now

Just Now

By Lesley Stanley Roberts
On a morning when I need you most, the cardinal appears in the dead bush we meant to pull last spring. His round frame hefty, feathers tight to his bobbing body, as if he’s the beating heart of the gray yard.

A paper boat
Paper Boats

Paper Boats

By Sara Martin
The pastor talks of frankincense and myrrh, but Jeff and I are fixed on Grandpa’s hands as he creases and folds one of the papers until he peels the sides apart into a small boat.

A book lays open with two pages lifted up to form the shape of a heart
Gestures

Gestures

By Jody Keinser
We sit on her bed, legs touching, and I read I’ve Loved You Since Forever, her choice, a story about adoption. After she came home with us three years ago, I searched the internet for books about adoption and with protagonists who are Hispanic, like her birth father’s family.

Two people stand at a lake
Ode to a Buddhahead Dad

Ode to a Buddhahead Dad

By Edward Iwata
Dad and his pals call themselves buddhaheads---street slang for Japanese Americans. He believes in Uncle Sam---until his immigrant parents lose their livelihood and Los Angeles farm during World War II.

Into the Mist
Into the Mist

Into the Mist

By Ken Martin
...Those were the early days. I would later learn the best tools for helping Dad were not confrontation or argument, but simply calm and understanding, always approaching him with a smile and an attitude of acceptance.

A close up of books, looking down on them from above
Itch

Itch

By Alexandra Dane
Fifteen years before, on the terrible day we buried my grandmother’s only daughter, my mother, we leaned against each other sharing family stories. Then she told me one I had never heard: “In a letter from Paris a charcoal drawing just fell out, your mother, nude!”

Forest of trees
Honey (I Put Down My Ax)

Honey (I Put Down My Ax)

By Rasma Haidri
Store clerks in the South called all of us honey. Teachers, too, even when paddling our behinds. Oh honey, I hate to have to! Honey is why I’m supposed to be careful with how much heather I hack to clear the cliffside path where I want to walk with bad knees...

Snow Day
Snow Day

Snow Day

By Rick Joines
At least an inch, with an underlayer of ice, a glaze of tiny beads, encrusted light. Strange and rare here, so everyone stays home. No school. A few cars creep by, spin sideways into the intersection. The kettle dings. Coffee burbles in the filter, steams in its pot. Across the street, the little girl and her brother, only a bit older, step out. Side by side, for balance. They bend to touch frozen blades of grass, leaves, pine cones, needles, the peach tree’s bare stems.

Bathroom Pass Cone
Bathroom Pass

Bathroom Pass

By Mazzer D'Orazio

A freshman appears in my doorway, late for class again, extending an orange traffic cone. She proclaims: “I found it in a ditch!”

This is the blessed randomness of a high school creative writing class. The students’ hair colors are a rotating gradient of pinks, purples, and blues. At any given moment we could make a rainbow. When thirty percent of your face is covered, your hair color matters thirty percent more.

On Massachusetts General Hospital Reaching Out to Schedule Your COVID-19 Vaccine
On Massachusetts General Hospital Reaching Out to Schedule Your COVID-19 Vaccine

On Massachusetts General Hospital Reaching Out to Schedule Your COVID-19 Vaccine

By Sarah Kinch Gaffney
Even nearly a decade on, they couldn’t have known that your cognitive decline and general dislike of communications necessitated all emails come to me. They couldn’t have known about the radiation oncologist there who spent hours with us, but never spoke to you, or that the proton beam radiation she ordered, galactic and mysterious still, was meant to save your life, but instead prompted a cascade of complications you would never recover from.

Sprouts- Grocery Cart
Sprouts

Sprouts

By Kaci Stiles Laws
A woman scrunches up her nose. I follow her gaze to my five-year-old son, oblivious to her, picking out his favorite Zevia. He grabs a root beer; she sneers, makes a sideways comment, her husband laughs, and I catch his eye. I brush it off and smile because I have a choice. My first option is to let my insecurity tell me a story about the couple at the store: It's my son's hair. It’s his clothes. It’s the ringworm on his cheek he got from our kitten. It’s about us. Something mean.

COVID Subnivean
COVID Subnivean

COVID Subnivean

By Adrie Kusserow

Northeast Kingdom, Vermont

Ground frozen, mice and voles on lockdown below, still they skitter beneath, not even the fox dares to dive into the snow taut with a glassy sheath of ice. The Barred owls, too, are starving, crouched near birdfeeders in broad daylight. This morning, I spot a huge one huddled in the gangly clutch of our plum tree, tucked deep into its speckled feathers. I tiptoe up. No matter how close, it doesn’t budge, watching me, but lapsing into sleep, grunting as it dozes off in a dopey hunger trance.

moon and forest
Moon Walk

Moon Walk

By Libby Brydolf

We make it to the brushy meadow before we get our first glimpse of the moon: a slip of glow rising. We watch in the cool spring evening until it hangs whole over Kwaay Paay Peak before continuing on the wide dusty track.

Two teachers, a dozen wild-eyed preschoolers and their parents, we are on a full moon hike, no flashlight in sight. We chat as we wander down a slight slope toward a grove of old oaks and watch shadows deepen in the rising blue light.

Backward Steps
Backward Steps

Backward Steps

By Gary Fincke
In our kitchen, some nights, my wife walks backwards, but mostly she does her retreats in the living room, where there is room for additional steps. She says this exercise postpones the arrival of unsteadiness, mustering a smile when she manages back and back again with grace. Mobility is vital now that we are in our mid-seventies. A friend’s hip-breaking fall is already stored on our anxiety’s flash-drive.

crocheting
Lenore

Lenore

By Monica Judge
I never witnessed Grandma Judge in the act of creation. On her visits, she presented crocheted doilies and Kleenex box covers, butterflies stitched in monarch colors affixed to magnets. My sister and I snuggled under the blanket she’d hooked together, dozens of brown circles edged in orange and yellow. We hung her angels, fluttering in white yarn, on our fir.

Last Night in Billings, Montana
Last Night in Billings, Montana

Last Night in Billings, Montana

By Sheree Winslow
Your mom, dad, and sister left for California first, explorers in search of housing after Dad got a job in Los Angeles. When they returned to pack and fetch you, they talked fast, words buoyant, while describing an event at Paramount Studios, then another in Beverly Hills to celebrate the anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Tom Hanks was there. Mom had a new CD, music acquired after hearing it on smooth jazz radio, a variety of station not available on Billings FM. From the house they rented, they could hear the crowds attending World Cup games at the Rose Bowl, celebrating winner Brazil. But the skies were barren at night, no stars.

Groomsman Close Up on flower pin
Parting Smile

Parting Smile

By Brad Snyder
Dan has lost weight along with most of the feeling on his left side. His wife, Amanda, holds a four-pronged cane. The two of them perform a slow maneuver to get him into his wheelchair in preparation for our lunch. I’m seeing my friend for the first time since his diagnosis, brain cancer at 43, during this visit that the vaccines made possible.

“Are you in pain?” I ask.

A tear runs down Dan’s cheek. I want the question back.

Heart Height
Heart Height

Heart Height

By Melissa Bowers
After practice, she pulls down her unicorn pictures and the hand-lettered painting that reads My love, only you know what my heart sounds like from the inside. Replaces them with creased softball posters. I’m sorry, she tells me, I’m not sure if I believe in unicorns anymore.

Atmospheric River

Atmospheric River

By Anita Lo
When I was a child I frequently imagined ways in which I might perish in a natural disaster. I remember one night waking my father to ask whether it was more likely that a volcano, a tornado, or a flood would destroy our house.

Il Nocciolo De Pesca
Il Nocciolo De Pesca

Il Nocciolo De Pesca

By Anna Farro Henderson
We cut the peaches, cook them down and pour the meat and juice into glass jars. We collect the seeds in another jar. “Why do you collect the seeds?” I ask. I am working on a farm in Alba, Italy. In exchange for my labor, I eat meals with the family and sleep in a small trailer by the chicken coop.

Irish Coin. Horse side up
The Silver Horse

The Silver Horse

By Rose Strode
I found a silver coin in my mother’s fancy things drawer when I was six: a large coin, inscribed with inscrutable writing, nestled among thigh-high nylons and diaphanous shortie nighties. On one side was the harp of royal Ireland; on the other, a horse.

The horse wore no saddle, but stood braced, head high, ears pricked as if listening to someone outside the silver circle of its world. A hole was drilled through the top. Ma left rural Ireland in 1960 when she was nineteen, married in Boston at twenty-five. Her parents couldn’t afford to attend her wedding, but sent this coin, which Ma wore under her dress.

Still Life
Still Life

Still Life

By Elizabeth Koster
“Isn’t this magnificent?” my mother says, sweeping her arm across the sky’s reflection in a pond of water lilies in Giverny. To think, we were in the very garden that Monet had painted....

Magnolia flowers blooming
Magnolia

Magnolia

By Emily Lowe
On the day we move to Mount Airy, we stand in the front lawn of our new home next to a large magnolia tree in full bloom. Already, we are less than three years away from my father’s stroke, just feet from where he will fall. As we move our bags into the house and unload the small bits of our lives that fit in the trunk, we walk past the magnolia again and again, not realizing it is where my father...

Patches
Patches

Patches

By Jennifer McGaha
In April of 1979, my mother, father, and I lounge on a jon boat on Lake Keowee in South Carolina. In the stern, my dad props his fishing rod against the motor handle, then pulls off his hat, wipes sweat from his bare head. In the bow, my mother guards the cooler. If you want something to eat, you have to run it by her....

lock combo
Larceny

Larceny

By H.T. Ngo
The combination to my gym locker is 6-22-32. Locker number 433.

To unlock the gate at the club, use 5024. It’s usually already opened by the groundskeeper.

My code for the office copier is 4599.

My credit card number is 4024-0071-3578-1044.

You can have them all.

A Cup Cracks
A Cup Cracks

A Cup Cracks

By Vimla Sriram
I can’t remember if the teacup was under the cutting board or above it but obscured by the mountain of plates, glasses, and steel pots on the dishrack. All I remember is the crack of porcelain on the wooden floor and two pieces instead of one. Why I was a dam breached I couldn’t understand. I sobbed as if someone close had suddenly died, prompting my son to fix the cup like only a 12-year-old could, with a tape fastened over the crack like a sash around a broken beauty queen.

club dancing
Acceptance, Both Ways

Acceptance, Both Ways

By Anita Vijayakumar
I was an untested psychiatry resident learning the intricacies of therapy. She was my first patient, a young woman who needed to unpack her suffering. She spread out her traumas like snow globes, delicate stories encased in fractured glass. What will you do with them? she asked without speaking.

Lima Bean
Lima Bean

Lima Bean

By Anna Chotlos
When my friend texts me her first ultrasound photo, it’s still early, 8 or 9 weeks. We hold our joy tenderly, hoping it sticks.

This is the first time I have looked closely at a sonogram, and to me, the baby looks like a lima bean or a popcorn kernel or a tadpole. Wet, blobby. Recognizable, but unfinished. A dark spot that might become an eye or an ear. A little notch that might be a mouth. The beginning of an umbilical cord.

little kid riding bike
The Bike Lesson

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.

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

Skillet
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.

Full moon above skyline.
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.

two year old in the sand
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.

Gotcha Day
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...

Two wooden spoons laying on top of a towel
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...

Pedestrian Acts
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...

Plant growing in lightbulb
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...

On Turning Forty-Four
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...

A steaming tea cup.
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.

Walk
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...

Two deer standing on green grass.
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.

A pie and a rolling pin sitting amid flour.
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?

Uprooted
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.

Fingers holding a yellow dandelion.
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dam

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

Developmental English

Developmental English

By Jessica Rapisarda
Julie’s name is Adriana or Alessandra. I can’t remember, because she insists on Julie. More American. It’s not that she doesn’t love Brazil, but she worries that her real name will be too big for American mouths...

Ticking
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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....

colorful coffee mugs on shelves against a brick wall
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...

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. ...

water spigot in front of blurred bush
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. ...

Merriment
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. ...

A brown hen sits in a nest with eggs
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. ...

My Father’s Only Recipe
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. ...

tree trunk, branches, and bright green leaves
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. ...

Morning
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. ...

Close-up of carrots
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

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”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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...

Not That Kind of Royalty

Not That Kind of Royalty

By Lea Page
I’ve learned that jokes are the best and maybe only antidote to terror.
My daughter often reminds me, “Don’t relive past traumas,” so I won’t describe the horror show of dental malfeasance that got me here...

Resonance
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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...

white flowers on sidewalk
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...

Drawn In
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...

messy desk
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...

Key hole in a light switch cover
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....

The Ledge
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. ...

Mother and daughter stand under an umbrella with a scenic sky behind them
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

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

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

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

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...

The Hart
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...

Grandmom’s House

Grandmom’s House

By Karen Langley Martin
Our house was like a radio playing six stations at once: brothers arguing, piano keys banging, lawn mower mowing, blender blending, phone ringing, dog barking...

An overlapping pile of old watch faces
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....

Flicker
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 white piece of clothing on an outdoor clothesline. The clothespin is red and the background of the picture blurs.
Mom’s Nighty

Mom’s Nighty

By Jonathan Rentler
I started wearing Mom’s nighty after she died. “You don’t remember?” Grandma asks. “You used to spray her perfume on ribbons.”...

Black Hair Matters
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?...

A woman sits by the window of a shadowed airplane. The window provides most of the light as she looks out it.
The Greatest Unease

The Greatest Unease

By Irene Fick
Flying over deep water in the inscrutable dark. We are doomed. I hear the pilot slur his words. My neck is stiff. I feel a headache coming on. My legs begin to cramp. The anxiety pills make me nauseous....

Fog
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....

Close-up of the bottom of a boot. The wearer of the boot has their foot at the level of the camera lens and stands back on their other leg in a field.
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....

Convergence
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....

Two cedar waxwings sitting on a tree branch, sharing a bug between them
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...

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....

River banked on both sides by hills with the full moon bright in the sky. The sky and water both look purple.
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....

Airview
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....

Pimm's cocktail in a tall glass with a wedge of fruit and sprig of mint at the top of the glass.
Fear of Poetry

Fear of Poetry

By Claudia Monpere
My beloved friend dying of cancer said she’d been afraid of poetry for too long. I suggested a poetry party....

Electric
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...

Black bookshelf filled with books and a few knick-knacks. The books are stacked in rows beside each other and on top of each other
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....

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....

A flowering jacaranda with purple flowers
The Perfumed Winds of May

The Perfumed Winds of May

By Leanne Ogasawara
In the Japanese taxonomy of breezes, the perfumed winds blow just before the south-easterly winds of the rainy season, which arrive later in the month. Known as plum rains—so heavy, the downpours are said to knock the ripening plums right off their branches....

Jumping in 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....

Piano keys
The Entertainer

The Entertainer

By Amber Emanuel
When my mother sits in front of our antique upright piano, it is almost always Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.” Almost always only the refrain....

Cord
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....

Pawpaw tree
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....

Detailed pastries on a silver tray. The pastries are golden brown with flower and leaf designs made out of smaller pieces of pastry.
These Italian Pastries

These Italian Pastries

By Amy Suardi
These Italian pastries were decorated by an 87-year-old woman in a drawn-out process involving almond paste and mandarin oranges. I bought them at a cliffside stand in a cellophane bag tied with red curling ribbon on the Sicilian island of Lipari....

Beneath
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...

Yellow and black bird perched on a flower
Beginning of Spring

Beginning of Spring

By Leanne Ogasawara
The Chinese calendar had it right. Insisting that spring begins in February is to begin a season at the beginning, when the season is only just awakening, a quiet stirring....

Upward view of the sky from an apartment courtyard. Four building sides of apartments are visible/framing the sky
How Do They Find Me?

How Do They Find Me?

By Donna Steiner
My mother’s greatest pleasure since her stroke is to sit in the courtyard of the rehab center. It’s not a beautiful space, just a square of concrete surrounded by high walls....

Nest of four blue robin's eggs
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....

Another Workday
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....

Picking Up Lint
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!...

Nails
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....

White clouds all but blot out a blue sky over a straight road. The road is bordered by large pools of water on either side
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.

Jasmine
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....

A brown hen sits in a nest with eggs
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. ...

Here, Look
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.

Owl
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.

Woods Cove
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.

Buildings
It Happened in Brooklyn

It Happened in Brooklyn

He taped her photograph to the inside of his military locker. When the war ended, they married and lived in an apartment without running water in the kitchen, so they carried their dirty dishes to the bathtub.

Stray
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.

Picture of something
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.

Home
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.

Bowl
A Loss for Words

A Loss for Words

This Chinese bowl, smooth in my hands, white as bone, entwined with blue dragons, reminds me of my friend Joyce’s mom. Faizai she’d christened me.

Traffic
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 Day
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.

Glass jar
Scent’s Memory

Scent’s Memory

My son pops the lid on the swing-top bale jar, and using both arms to hold onto it, presses his face into the opening, taking a big whiff.

sunset at the beach
Simplify, Simplify

Simplify, Simplify

By Jan Priddy
This could be the morning I slide out the door instead of back under sheets and escape before I drink my coffee. My arms unburdened, no one calling me back, no shame or remorse to shadow my escape. Away...

Couch against window in black and white
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...

clouds in the sky from an airplane window
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...

Footfalls
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.

baby shoes in the sand
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...

close-up of a pink and white baby quilt
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...

Ritual (repeat)
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.

camping tent under a night sky of stars
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...

Group of people doing cartwheels outside at night
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...

art sculpture of a woman crouched down
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...

Bare, Naked (repeat)
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. 

Adult and child spinning on teacup ride
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...

Playboy (repeat)
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...

Tree photo
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.

Stand Up Tall
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...

Phone booth
Those Days

Those Days

In 1976, when you were still alive,
I wrecked my car on 14th Street
in D.C. on our first date.

Those Days
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...

Rock wall
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.

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...

Hand in pocket
His Pockets (repeat)

His Pockets (repeat)

Experience has taught me to turn the pant legs out to see if anything moves. Has he captured some critter and forgotten it there? Using my thumbs, I push the fabric inside out. I’m careful to do this over a container.

Lightening Up (repeat)
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.

Swing set at the park in the dark
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...

NASA building under a sky of stars
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...

sunshine coming into a field
Missing (repeat)

Missing (repeat)

By
You have been ours for ten months, and tomorrow, the state will return you to your mother.
Not ours, of course. We know. Foster parents have no rights, not really...

pride flag flying
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...

The Dying Room
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...

Glass of water
The Dying Room

The Dying Room

I loved you passionately, always, and let his head fall back on the pillow. She wasn’t his wife anymore, but she would always be his wife.

A Perceivable Soul
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.

Like Breath, Like Doors

Like Breath, Like Doors

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.

The Art of Icebergs
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...

Teal pail in the sand
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...

Family Portrait
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...

close-up of a frosted pink chrysanthemum flower
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...

Peaches (repeat)
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...

Perennial
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...

A set of white Satellite dishes on top of a roof
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...

Midnight Feedings
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...

Moon in the day sky
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...

October
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...

Wooden logs on fire
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...

Life Science
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...

Photo of bookshelves and chairs in a library
Back Aisles (repeat)

Back Aisles (repeat)

By Ashley Hutson
The library building was my body like your children are your body, like your spouse is your body. Its wood and glass grew out of my chest. It came with a key and code...

Mosque/Musk
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...

Basketball on a court
Say When, Say It Louder

Say When, Say It Louder

By Rachael Peckham
You pinned me to the basketball court in the middle of gym class while Mrs. Thompson was busy tending to a "situation" in the locker room, or off fetching ice from the cafeteria. Whatever drew her away, you seized the moment...

Ghost Sigh
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...

close up of reddish pink Japanese quince
Forced Quince, as Study

Forced Quince, as Study

By Arra Ross
The way, on the fourth day, the sepals' little leaflets, grown twice yesterday's size to a fourth inch, have curled back–like legs spread or backs arched—from the buds, and....

Hair and Nails
Hair and Nails

Hair and Nails

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....

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

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

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

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

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...

Mountain rising above fog
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

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...

Growing Season

Growing Season

By Verna Kale
In the two-years-ago garden she sat in the tilled soil and pulled an earthworm taut between two hands and touched it with her tongue....

Waiting for Owls

Waiting for Owls

By Mark Liebenow
Alpenglow colors the white granite peaks a warm crimson. Half Dome, rising a thousand feet above everything else, holds the last golden rays of the sun...

Back Aisles
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....

Sewing Notions

Sewing Notions

By Karen Zey
As a child in the fifties, I didn’t understand that my mother sewed our clothes out of necessity, not as a hobby...

Recovery
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...

Moon
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.

Cosmos
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.

The Ladder Tree
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...

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...

Last Kiss
Here’s What Happens

Here’s What Happens

You admit it’s not death that makes you shrivel into yourself and brings up those old whimpering voices pleading for safety; it’s dread of that conversation, of giving permission to one’s life partner to take that journey alone, without you.

In Perilous Times
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.

Autumn
Something Sweet

Something Sweet

The sugar maple stands on a ridge alongside the old tobacco barn. Dark green leaves, the undersides the color of luna moth wings, waggle in a cross wind.

For the Birds
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.

Chrysanthemum
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.

Mercy
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.

Rock
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.

Resting Place
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

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.

Skateboarding statue
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.

Duet
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.

Corn stalks
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.

Leaving Our Mark
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.

Books
The Smell of Old Books

The Smell of Old Books

There was a row of shops where the flyovers now swirl and swoop. The shops were cubes of tin and plywood on a strip of pavement in heaving, humid Calcutta. They stood under gulmohar trees; fire-red petals with shade as cool as coconut water.

House Call
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.

Thistle
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.

Crush
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.