Anne

My mother’s name was not hard to spell
His family always got it wrong
Every card, every label
40 years or until they died.

Christmastime and mother in the kitchen
Dirty dishes, brandy, cigars,
Laughter in the living room
Open-fly naps on the floor under the TV.

She made long lists each year.
Slanted, delicate letters
Their names and beside each
A gift.

by J.E. Beville

Fixer Upper

Sometimes I wish I could be
HGTV’s Joanna Gaines,
decorate a Waco farmhouse,
plant that exquisite garden.
The scent of purple wildflowers
would waft while butterflies circle
hyacinth beans and we picnic
under oak trees older than this country.
If Clint, from Harp Studios,
was my friend. He’d build
a dinner table of my dreams
from salvaged scraps;
I’d not need apologize
that I like pine or covet
refurbished stone and
Cotswold cottage-like windows.
But then I try to picture my
Connecticut private school kids
gathering eggs from our chickens,
watching baby chicks hatch,
helping birth calves and goats.
I have to smile when I imagine
my husband demolishing a house,
shopping at antique stores,
riding dirt bikes on our acreage.
Long ago I married tasseled loafers,
chinos, short hair,
and fancy German sedans
in lieu of trucks.
If I’m honest, I know that
I don’t want Chip—
he’d talk over me
and he’s silly.
But still, I have to say,
I like his boots,
and denim,
and beard.


About the Author: Cathy Allman entered the writing field as a reporter after attending the school of Cinema and Television at the University of Southern California. While her career shifted gears from writing to advertising and marketing, she never stopped writing or attending workshops, eventually earning an MFA from Manhattanville College. She has reinvested in her writing, and she teaches creativity workshops at high schools and at her Connecticut office. Her poem, “Not in the Wonder Box” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Red River Valley

Three-thirty in the night, thirty-two
and a half hours before the end,
two liters of tissue, blood, and fluid
gush in an arc, red, muddy,
landing on my floor.

I try to imagine what tributaries
have broken what banks of his belly
to wash lumps of liver into his stomach
to be thrown up on my shore
and why he has not yet bled out.

I deposit him on the toilet to sit alone,
wait to be cleaned, bedded,
while I squat in my nightgown
sopping up the flood with paper towels,
sobbing for my carpet.


About the Author: Donna James has practiced psychotherapy for over thirty-five years. After long years of academic writing, she returns to poetry, her first literary love. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Cape Rock, Carbon Culture Review, Kyoto Journal, and Secret Histories: Stories of Courage, Risk, and Revelation.

Boarding School

You had to know my pal Chelminski
to take full measure
of his unfettered enthusiasm for mischief.
One day, for no good reason,
he wrote

PEANUT BUTTER

on the blackboard in history class,
its chalky mockery hidden
behind a Mercator projection of the world,
pulled down to conceal the silliness beneath;
he wrote

PEANUT BUTTER

in red paint in the tiled foyer
beneath the bronze statue of Abe Lincoln
(its nose an erotic protuberance stroked
by giggling, complicit teenage fingers);
he wrote

PEANUT BUTTER

on our textbooks, on our lockers, in the halls,
on the floors beneath our beds,
and at last, on the door
to the headmaster’s living room.

Ah yes, our headmaster, the sanctimonious Tall Paul,
eventually found the ebullient prankster out.

“Chelminski,” he intoned before the entire school,
“I find your all too inappropriate treatment of

PEANUT BUTTER

low,
common,
cheap,
vulgar
and disgusting.”

And here Tall Paul paused, grateful
for the chance to wrinkle his nose
and condemn adolescent masturbation.
From somewhere behind invisible curtains
we could hear Chelminski giggle.

About the author, Victor Altshul: My second and third books of poems, Singing with Starlings (2015) and Ode to My Autumn (2017), were published by Antrim House, and two of my poems have appeared in the Hartford Courant. My work has recently been published in Alabama Literary Review, Burningword Literary Journal, Cape Rock, Caveat Lector, Chantwood Magazine, Coachella Review, Door Is A Jar Magazine, Existere, The Perch, and Studio One. I am active on the board of the Connecticut Poetry Society and have given several readings throughout the state. I am a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Medical School and am on the faculty of the latter. I have been in continuous private practice of psychiatry since 1967.

The Day in the Hilo Social Security Office

The security guard’s starry black eyes lifted her out of her seat into the waiting area.

I can’t tell you anything about social security.
I can tell you how to get a numbered ticket,
where to sit,
when we open and when we close

The bald man next to me said he’d moved to Hilo
because there were too many Mexicans and Blacks in California.
My daughter said later that I should have punched him.

The security guard said:

There’s no point in coming before they open.
Let me put it this way.
If you get here early
and there is no line,
the heavens have parted for you
and sent down angels,
unicorns, mermaids, all sorts of
magical creatures”

It wasn’t anticlimactic
           when she asked me about my
           new aqua New Balance running shoes
     on my way out.
     She said she was going to buy herself a pair
           from the store here in the mall
           after work.

About the Author, Melanie Lee: I live in Brooklyn with my husband, daughter, Havanese and hedgehog.

Lonely Bones

       Jessa smiles the first time that she runs away from the hospital—the same smile that always wins Amelie over, bright and wild. She stands in Amelie’s bedroom like it’s the only place she belongs as Amelie muffles a yawn behind her hands and says, “Jess? How’d you get here—I thought you were supposed to still be at the hospital?”

       “It’s okay, I’m way better now. Like a whole new person, you know?” Jessa says and something inside Amelie sinks because Jessa has fed her those exact same lines at least a hundred times. “And anyway, I didn’t really like it there. I’d rather be here with you.”

       Amelie pushes down her doubts as she climbs out of bed and wraps her arms around Jessa. Her body feels so light, like a strong gust of wind might carry her away into the wide prairie sky.

#

       On their first date, Jake watches Amelie eat—fork and knife slicing her meal into tiny pieces. There’s only one restaurant in town, so they slide into the corner booth that has belonged to Jake and his friends for as long as Amelie can remember. 

       “Has Jess come back from the hospital yet?” he says. Amelie blushes every time he speaks—tall and broad-shouldered, he is so beautiful that sometimes she forgets to breathe. 

       “Yeah, the hospital signed her out this morning.”

       “I’m glad she’s back. But let’s go, we’re late for the movie,” he says, blue eyes drifting up to the clock hanging on the wall. When Amelie glances back down at her half empty plate, he says, “You weren’t going to eat all of that anyway, right?”

       “What? Oh—no.” She shakes her head and pushes it away, although the smell of food still makes her hungry stomach grumble.

       Later, his hands cover her body—fingers running across the smooth grooves of her bones.

#

       The next time that Amelie visits Jessa, it feels like she is barely there at all—brown eyes huge in her delicate face. They sit quiet on the floor of Jessa’s bedroom as sunlight falls through the open window. White curtains blow in the breeze.

       “So you’re feeling better?” Amelie draws her knees up to her chest.

       “Yeah, I feel great.” 

       “Why do you do it?” 

       “Do what?” Jessa blinks, thin cotton shirt clinging to every curve of her vertebrae. They stare at each other in silence before Amelie says, “Never mind. I just—I missed you so much.”

       “I missed you too.” Jessa hesitates before she takes Amelie’s hand. Amelie closes her eyes and wishes that they could just stay like this for the rest of their lives.

#

       Jake meets Amelie late at the party out in the country—loud music thrumming like a second heartbeat deep inside her body.

       “Want to dance?” He smiles, slinging an arm like an anchor around her shoulders.

       “Okay,” she says and he takes her hand, pushing through the milling bodies as she drifts in his wake. They dance through several long songs—his heavy hands wander from her waist as they sway in slow circles. 

       When he goes outside to smoke, she glimpses Jessa through a brief gap in the crowd—thin, almost ethereal body moving to the music as people watch like they can’t look away. Amelie doesn’t blame them. 

       She waits, but Jake never comes back from his smoke break and so Amelie pushes through the crowd until she reaches Jessa. They dance the rest of the night away and when Amelie places her hands on Jessa’s waist, she can feel her hip bones, sharp beneath her clothes. 

       Later, they both crawl into an empty bed, heads heavy from exhaustion. Jessa falls asleep almost immediately, despite the pills that she has been popping all evening—body warm beneath the sheets. Amelie stays awake, listening to the sound of her breathing.

#

       The second time that Jessa runs away, Amelie also stops eating. She cuts her meals into small bites and pushes the pieces around on her plate until it grows cold, and then she throws it out. At night, she lays awake in the dark, waiting for Jessa to tap on her window, demanding to be let inside. When she sleeps, she doesn’t dream about anything.

       “Are you on a diet or something? You’ve lost a lot of weight,” Jake says one morning, sitting half-dressed at her kitchen table.

       “No.” Amelie sips black coffee, taste bitter in the back of her throat.

       “Well you look great.”

       “Thanks.” Amelie stands, pushing back her chair—its legs scrape against the kitchen tiles. When she shrugs into her jacket, he says, “Where are you going?”

       “Out to look for Jess. No one’s seen her since she ran away from the hospital.”

       She kisses him on the cheek before she leaves.

#

       Amelie visits all of Jessa’s favorite places, always expecting to find her waiting—smiling like it’s some kind of game. But she returns home alone as the sun sets, feet sore from walking all around town. 

       Up in her bedroom, Amelie shuffles through all the clothes in her closet, picking a few potential outfits to wear on her next date with Jake. 

       “Hey, could you just say something?” She sends the message to Jessa and waits for her phone to vibrate. When it stays silent, she tosses it down on the covers of her bed and bites her bottom lip. Her head hurts, a dull pain pulsing at the back of her skull.

       She tries on the outfits in front of the mirror, spinning in slow circles to study the way the clothes hang from her body. Then she strips down to her underwear and runs her hands along her rib cage—feeling all the empty spaces between her bones.

#

       On their next date, Jake drives far out of town—parking the truck on the side of a deserted dirt road, headlights brightening the night. They sit in the open bed of the vehicle, passing a bottle of wine back and forth beneath the stars.

       Amelie only takes small sips, eyes tracing the constellations in the heavens above as Jake curls his thick-muscled arm around her waist. When she checks her phone, screen highlighting the delicate contours of her face, he says, “Have you heard anything from her yet?”

       “No.” Amelie knows who he is talking about without even asking.

       “Well, she’s got to show up eventually. But it’s kind of nice that I’ve got you all to myself right now,” he says and kisses her, mouth rough and hungry.

       When he pulls off her loose cotton shirt, he grins at her skinny body. Amelie wonders if it’s possible to become thin enough to just disappear completely.

#

       She showers after Jake drops her off at her place, shivering beneath the slow-warming water. Crawling into bed, she pulls the pillows over her head and breathes deep, like maybe the scent of Jessa’s hair still lingers caught in the fabric. But it doesn’t smell like anything and so she reaches for her phone on the nightstand.

       “Please say something.” Amelie sends another text to Jessa, slender fingers tapping against the smooth screen. Stubborn, her phone stays silent and she sighs, closing her eyes.

       In her dreams, Jake is eating her—skin, bone and marrow. Bright blood smears the corners of his mouth and she wakes with a start, heart hammering as she stares into the dark. 

       And this might also be a dream, but later Jessa taps on the window until Amelie stumbles out of bed to let her inside. They fall asleep together, Amelie holding Jessa close enough to feel the bones beneath her clothes.

       When she wakes, her stomach aches. 

About the Author: Ashton Noone writes short fiction from Calgary, Alberta. Ashton's work has been a finalist in the In Places Between: The Robyn Herrington Memorial Short Story Contest and has appeared in the Aurora Award-nominated anthology Enigma Front: The Monster Within.

The State Trooper’s House

Across the road that borders my backyard
at the end of a tarmac drive his house is built
into a rise whose lawn slopes to a pond
about a quarter mile long.  A green scum
extends its length which was broken 
by ducks and a heron.  Most people
don’t know it’s there since his land is hedged
with trees and he owns to the corner
and woods that surround and climb 
for twenty-seven acres.  Trumpet vines
are bellowing orange on rotting fences
and a snake skin glistens near the overturned
boat.  Oars must be in one of several
locked sheds.  The house has no shade,
perfect for solar.  There’s a fireplace
and a heat pump.  Twenty-five years
ago I had just moved in and saw him
the first and last time.  I know what 
you new people want-street lights and 
sewers.  He used to shoot woodchucks.
The underground stream that emerges
to drain his pond he does not visit from 
his nursing home.  

About the Author: Bob Elmendorf has been published in 44 magazines including 4 poems in the current issue of Little Star. He gives infrequent readings and was in poetry workshops for 20 years. He has been teaching Vergil, Catullus, Ovid and Horace and New Testament Greek pro bono to home school teens the last 12 years.