Naked |
by Wayne Burke

the lion roared into
the hearts of everyone
in the theater
and the movie began,
whatever it was,
Elvis, or The Three Stooges,
or, once, The Naked Prey
which scared me silly
Friday night
I had gone to meet
my new Junior High School buddy
who did not show
and I sat by myself
in the dark
as half-naked dancing girls
shimmied on the screen
in coming attractions
that did not attract
but terrified me
I felt an aura of evil,
of adult-somethingness
beyond my 7th grade
understanding,
and then the movie
which featured the torture
and mutilation
of white men
who intruded into
darkest Africa,
and I got up and
went out to the concession
run by the theater-owner's kindly
mother
only she was not as kindly-seeming
as on Saturday afternoons
she seemed Gypsy-like and strange
dressed all in black
and part
of the evil
I had stumbled into
and was in danger
of somehow
becoming a part of.

___
Wayne Burke's work has appeared in FORGE, miller's pond, and Northeast Corridor. He was poet-of-the-month in Bareback, 7-13.

Treasures |
by Amanda Su Wilgus

Margot says it happened before I was born and Jamie says she couldn’t remember it, but I don’t think I believe her. She says she remembered the rabbits, but she didn’t remember what happened to them, in the end, or why our mother lost her wits. I asked her about it again, not that long ago, but she claims her memory is fuzzy. I don’t know though, my memory’s not that fuzzy, and I remember when she came outside one day to play baseball out back. I remember Jamie had on that dumb baseball cap she used to wear every day that summer, the blue one with the Superman “S” on the front and red flap in the back. She said it was funny and didn’t I have a sense of humor, but I just thought it was dumb.

Anyway, it’s like this. When my mother was cleaning out the attic one summer, she descended the stairs with her hair matted against her forehead and neck and a wire cage in her hand. She was looking at it with bewilderment until I tapped my fingers on the wall so that she would notice me at the foot of the stairs. She laughed lightly to herself and continued down the stairs, past me, proceeding to carry the cage to the back yard. I followed quickly behind and joined her. She was staring at it again when I arrived, so I stared, too. We stood like that for quite some time until I noticed the grass beneath the cage was dry and brittle and the roots of the magnolia tree between us showed through the sandy dirt. I couldn’t help fidgeting, wondering why my mother was standing, staring at this cage with cobwebs in its corners and rust on its wires. I motioned to it absently and she only squinted her eyes. Clouds skirted over our yard and the sun bore down on us between the gray. I looked at my mother, trying my best to gauge her thoughts by the small movements in her round face. Skin sagged beneath her eyes and the creases on her forehead deepened. As I inhaled the humid air noisily, she read my mind and said,

“Come on Dale, let’s go inside.”

She turned from the cage and walked across the crunchy, brown grass. I sensed something strange in the faint tilt of her head, so I called after her. She slowed to a stop and wiped her forehead with the sleeve of her weathered, plain white T-shirt. She had her moments like this, stopping and standing and staring and thinking a little too long on what seemed the littlest things.

Then the sun jumped loudly through the clouds and glinted across the yard to find our white magnolia petals, bouncing right back into my mother’s face as she turned toward me. It gave her a slight, girlish raise of a shoulder and tuck of the chin to shade herself. I couldn’t help thinking she looked absolutely beautiful, and I remembered an old photo I’d found of her and my father, with this same radiant look under a tall palm tree in Hawaii, taken twenty years earlier.

It was my sister Jamie, though, who spoke first, and not to either of us out on the lawn. She came through the back door into the garage that day and, well, my sister’s got a sharp eye, so she saw that wire cage sitting solidly in the yard right away.

“Dad, is that our old rabbit cage?”

My father was working his way through our garage, which, I should tell you, was filled to its capacity with all the strangest, most bizarre antiques our neighbors had left on their front curbs. He could barely navigate between all the dusty chandeliers, leather bar stools, paper lampshades and unidentifiable wooden figurines, but he looked around toward the yard behind him like some kind of contortionist and waved it off. “Why don’t you go play catch with your Uncle Ray?”

Uncle Ray, who was visiting from Reno and feigning interest in his brother-in-law’s antique collection, clinked his foot loudly against a chandelier beside him and cleared his throat.

“No really, Dad, what happened to all those rabbits we used to have? Remember? We had, like, that rabbit from Aunt Judy and Uncle Ray then that other one from the creek and then, like, we had a billion rabbits after that time they escaped from their cages and so we had to get that other cage for all those baby rabbits—”

Uncle Ray cleared his throat louder this time and Jamie stopped talking.

“Jamie, I think you’re talking your Uncle Ray’s ear off about your rabbits.”

“Mike, please, don’t bring me into this. It’s none of my business, I know, but you might as well tell her. She’s old enough.” Uncle Ray faced Jamie. “Your mother and father had a difficult time when—”

“Ray,” my father said sharply, “now is not the time to discuss this.”

“May’s my sister, Mike.”

“Mom?” Jamie asked suspiciously. Ray excused himself, muttering something about being sorry he’d come. My father sighed deeply.

“I’m sorry, Jamie. I didn’t want to do this. Today.”

“What are you talking about? What’s this got to do with Mom?”

He rearranged himself amongst the wooden figurines and settled onto a wheezy, cracked, leather cushion. He looked past Jamie into the yard, at a cardinal fluttering in front of the magnolia tree.

“It was going to be a boy,” he said. “It was that late, we already knew…but there were complications and…things can get complicated. After, your mother did not want those rabbits and all of their baby rabbits around. Too many babies, she said.”

It took me a moment to understand what he was saying, let alone its weight. When I did, I didn’t know what to do with this information. I suppose I gasped and looked back at the wire cage that had gathered an ominous hue of reddish rust, staked out in the middle of our lawn, and then back at my mother who was now crouched in front of me, but I imagine I may have stopped conscious thought altogether. I imagine my mother may have as well, and for that reason I think we were connected very briefly in a moment that neither of us could escape. She was very, very still, and I stared at the sweat gathering at the nape of her neck. Heat radiated from her body, as if electric currents were trying to jump ship to mine. I heard the back door slam and then blinked my eyes a few times. I reached out to touch her, but her skin prickled beneath my fingers and she stood, walking away from me. She stopped in front of the garage, swaying slightly, and my father quietly extricated himself from the antiques, following Jamie.

I didn’t say anything about it to Jamie—I didn’t know what to say—but I know we were thinking the same thing when little cues haunted us later of our phantom limb. We sat down to dinner that evening and I couldn’t help wondering who might have filled that seventh chair, what he’d be like now, if things had worked out differently. No one spoke, and we chewed our food thoroughly, thoughtlessly.

Forks scraped against plates and our heads were bowed, as if in prayer.

“How’s the garden coming along?” my father asked my mother suddenly, giving her a sad, nervous smile before looking away, realizing he might have stumbled upon hazardous territory. She swallowed and set her fork down lightly.

“Fine,” she said. “Just fine. Didn’t you see me today while you were working in the garage?” She maintained a tenuous evenness to her voice.

My father looked at her and tried quickly calculating his response. “Yes, well, maybe—I think maybe I did, when I was taking Ray on a little tour of our collection, but I don’t think they hold the same meaning to Ray as they do for me.” He made an effort to laugh, but my mother kept a level stare on him. “And…and so we just went on in—left the treasures to themselves,” he ended lamely.

So that was it. Treasures. A single word to trigger her and there she went. It was about the shit that was in the garage, the piles on piles of antiques her husband had hoarded and why this obsession, this inane obsession with such old shit when everything around them was getting old, she was getting old, and why didn’t he care about her, hadn’t enough time passed already? Hadn’t she been through it all, and by his side, too? How could he call such objects his treasures, didn’t he understand? Their child was their treasure.

She gasped and looked at Jamie, Margot and me.

I didn’t know that I could feel even sadder than I’d already felt. Our brother didn’t have a life, but ours were insignificant in comparison. We weren’t good enough. Nothing could fill the hole in her heart and we were ashamed and felt infinitesimally minuscule, perhaps not unlike the ova from which we each had grown. Our father became uncharacteristically dark and licked his lips. Jamie’s eyes ran between our father and our mother as mine watched her and Margot, who stared in a hardened gaze, mid-chew, at our mother. Our father rose slowly and hovered over our mother. Then he did something he regretted the rest of his life. He slapped her straight across the face.

“Yes, May. Enough time has passed already.” He walked away from the table and we heard the door to the garage slam a few moments later.

Jamie slowly began clearing dishes, but our mother put her hand on Jamie’s wrist, motioning her to sit. She sat. What was said had been said and we knew nothing could retrieve it. As children, we began the long process of trying to forgive her.

“It’s not—please. Do not follow your father into that garage, Jamie. I hope that all of you,” she looked at us with liquid eyes, “will forget this.” She kept her eyes fastened on me until she slumped forward and pushed herself from the table.

After she’d left and we’d tried our hardest to shove the incident out of the stifled space between the three of us, Margot sniffed and said she had things to do, leaving Jamie with me. Jamie looked at me pathetically, almost pleadingly, and I looked back in disgust. I couldn’t stand it anymore, seeing that dumb cap with its stupid “S” and its red flap and her meek eyes peeking out at me. I promised myself I would never get hurt again. I would leave all of this behind as soon as I could. I didn’t know what I would do but I knew I couldn’t feel this way again.


___
Amanda Su Wilgus grew up in north Texas. She received a BA from the Plan II Honors program at UT-Austin and recently taught English in Taipei. Her work has appeared in The Bicycle Review and Blue Lake Review; she currently lives in Los Angeles. 

Fertile Skyline Salvation |
by Scott Thomas Outlar‏

An existential evolutionary pulse
getting high on the next horizon
scattershot and hybrid shocked
with an angel/animal dichotic nature
wrapped up tightly in organic halo symmetry
Symphony sharp across the envelope
to push against, to shatter
to topple down, to scatter
all the marching ants in infinite directions
A little chaos loves
anarchy as forward movement
The muscle breaking down
is not atrophied, but growing stronger
The final phase in place
plant seeds toward fertile skyline soil
Moisture in the fabric of reality
wets my appetite in the final hour
as the bell rings, as the siren calls,
as the grave yawns, as the fire
starts to fuel its own extinguishing
smoke its way to freedom
evaporated in the forecast
sending signals with the spirits
neuron synapse crisscross patterns
synchronized and ready for Revolution
as a Revelation, as a Renaissance
as a New Age dance, as a crisis
averted by the subversion
playing out on every station
worming toward core solution
twist the guts and spark a feeling
mood shift healing
rays of silent light
where X marks the spot in the haze
gone the gray fog disillusion
this is not apathy, but salvation


___
Scott Thomas Outlar hails from the heart of Atlantis where he kneels atop intricately designed rugs produced from prediluvian cloth and prays to The Holy Spirit Vibration for humility, guidance and discernment during this epic moment of time at the epoch of a rising New Age. When not caught up in such passionate fervor, he enjoys writing poetry, essays, fiction, rants, and experimental, existential, hallucinatory, prose-fusion screeds on subjects ranging from the outer limits of the stars to the innermost depths of the soul. His work can be seen at such sites as Dissident Voice, Daily Anarchist, Ascent Aspirations, Oracular Tree, and Loose Change Magazine. Scott can be reached at 17Numa@gmail.com. Send him a random raving and he'll certainly return in kind.

Bed Rest |
by Verity Sayles

I’ve been in my bed for 46 days now and I have no intention of leaving. I am fascinated by the way my body seems to have exhaled a sigh and simply never inhaled again. My bones are growing soft. I can feel them sinking like dough.

I chose the roses on these sheets myself, pinks and reds scroll in a brocade. You can’t see them until you peel back the thick down comforters, filled with white feathers. I like the way they emerge. Like August under a snowstorm.

I used to run. The thought of it bewilders me now. How my body could remain in motion for hours. I remember the feeling of feet on pavement. I remember the sound of the voice on my iPhone that relayed my distance and timing. I remember running thirteen miles in one go. I remember lacing my sneakers and stepping outside but I don’t remember the voice in my head that said, “Now. Start.” Or the way my body continued to go just because my mind said so. My sneakers are tucked away. They used to be in the front closet, but they were too loud there. I heard the squelch of their rubber from under my pillow. So I stuffed them under the couch cushions, I shut up the living room.

It was Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell who figured out the cure of bed rest, and who coined the term ‘phantom limb’, but I am not interested in the latter. He wrote Fat and Blood in 1872, advised rest for his patients, mostly female, mostly suffers of hysteria. Mitchell’s disease is named for him—blocked blood vessels in the hands—fingers swell and burn and puff and warp in pain.

I wonder, when you are a Doctor, will you have a disease named after you?

The triangles are all wrong today. Usually I can get them to line up like a row of teeth grinning from the half moon of my cuticles. Like one of those pumpkins that are carved and put out on doorsteps on that day in late October. I draw and draw and lick at my hands to erase the pen and start over, but I can’t get the triangles right, so I stop drawing. My left hand is smudged with greying ink.

I can order anything I need from the Internet. My most recent purchase was a 5 lb. tub of Twizzlers. They were delivered to my house two days after I clicked purchase. I eat them with a knife and fork because I want to. No one can tell me otherwise. The front door remains locked. If I get a package is delivered the UPS man rings the doorbell and leaves it on the front step. I will spend an hour or two working up the courage to retrieve the package. Sometimes, it will take a full day. When I feel ready, I will peel off the sheets, put on a pair of socks and slide across the hardwood to the door. I don’t like to lift my feet, the thump is deafening. Sometimes after this sliding, I will take a break, lean against the knob and catch my breath. Then I will open the door, tip the package across the threshold, and coax it to my bed with my foot. Sometimes this endeavor exhausts me so much, I won’t order anything for a week.

It’s been snowing the whole time I’ve been in bed. I have been counting the flakes from my window. I can hear each one as it hits the earth. It’s the sound of one pill hitting another, or a cigarette being stubbed out, or the scoop of a spoon in thin air. Sometimes it is hard to sleep with the crashing of snow.

I had thought getting on a plane and heading south. Maybe to Florida, or some British Virgin Island. I wouldn’t bring any luggage. I would just step of the plane and walk to the closest beach and curl up in the warm sand. I would bake in the hot sun until my body dried to a cracking wheeze. I like that idea, my organs turning to raisins. A pruning pancreas. A shriveled liver. But surely, even buried in the hot sand, I would eventually be in want of a bed. How to get a bed in

Florida? I’d succumb to a map. Or the exhaustion of reading signs. Finding a hotel of sorts. Producing a credit card. An interaction with a man at the front desk who I am absolutely sure would ruin everything for me. Just the sight of his face would ruin everything. Having to push words from my mouth to talk to him would ruin everything. I prefer it here, anyway.

Things I remember my mother saying to me more than once:

1. Sleep is the best medicine.

I used to eat a bowl of cereal every morning. I stopped doing dishes two weeks before I took to bed. I was going through bowls like playing cards. I ran out of bowls and I ate from coffee cups and glasses and Tupperware boxes and measuring cups. Stacking dishes in piles that reached my waist. Glistening with the sheen of leftover milk. How they tipped and bobbed, those stacks. How they collected flies. Like the weighty heads of roses, drooping, nudged by hungry bees. I feared these stacks would crash, so I shut up the kitchen. I don’t need bowls now.

You helped me buy this mattress, remember? We lashed it to the roof of my car and you drove it the two miles back to my apartment that still smelled new. You said I would like it here, it would be good for me.

When the closet yawns, I cannot help myself, I do too. How many clothes line the jowls. I don’t need these shirts with buttons and zips and clasps and ties. So foolish, so wasteful. My bureau is dripping with old necklaces and bracelets and cheap beads from parties I’ve since forgotten. Bottles of make up and powders and perfumes and dried up lotions and moisturizers—oh rotted attempts to keep soft—and salves to conceal and wands to reveal and bottles of glitter and shine and matted flesh tones—still there, all of them. The pictures of you and I, however, I took those out of the frames weeks ago.

I’m drawing an octopus on my left arm. For the past few hours I have been working on the tentacles, tracing them around my wrist. I don’t know how many suction cups are on a single octopus tentacle, but I guess thousands. I will draw them one by one.

Remember when I asked you about the way that we feel? Remember when I asked you about the way that our hearts hurt and break? Remember when I said phrases like sickening guilt? And gut-wrenching? And soul-crushing? It’s so physical, these feels. You told me it was the vagus nerve. That’s all, you said. You learned it from your anatomy textbooks. As if it were so simple, written on the page in black and white. Dr. Mitchell, perhaps he knows better than you. “If such a person is by nature emotional she is sure to become more so, for even the firmest women lose self-control at last under incessant feebleness…If no rescue comes, the fate of women thus

disordered is at last the bed.” Emotion is a natural state, a drowning force, causing your lungs to suck moisture. I have no rescue. This is my fate.

I turned my lamp pink a few days ago. I found and old tube of lipstick—a shade I can’t remember ever wearing myself. It’s a shade that reminds me of the books I would rather inhabit. The fat books with the spiraling gold threads on the cover, the books that look just as luxurious as the lives of the characters inside. Parties with crystal champagne glasses and white gloves and pearls and fleeting glances and where a glimpse of a lady’s stockinged ankle would send a man into a frenzy, where people are lovesick and hopeless and desperate and die from broken hearts. I took that tube of lipstick and rimmed the entire shade of the white lamp. Colored the spaces between the seams of the fabric like a coloring book. It was immensely satisfying, drawing with lipstick. Now my light glows with a waxy orange pulse that I think I could fall in love with.

My muscles are raspberry jam. I am sure they would be sticky if I were able to peel back the top layer of my skin and prod at them a bit.

I don’t know why the character in The Yellow Wallpaper took a turn for the worst. Women in the walls? A yellow smell from the paper smeared on her walls? What madness. A lifetime in bed, who could think of anything more wonderful?

I once ordered a pound of spirulina. I thought it would be good for me. I thought it would make me a better person, this “superfood.” Though, I don’t know what constitutes a superfood. I guess an unprecedented amount of vitamins and minerals and folic acids in one teaspoon. I think a

superfood also needs to be harvested from somewhere remote—the bowels of the Amazon, the farthest corner of the Serengeti—and discovered after the year 2000. (No one would ever call something a superfood in the 1900s. Any food would be a superfood.) The powder arrived in a plastic bag. Spirulina is made of algae. Perhaps that is what appealed to me at the time. Eating something that had been scraped from the surface of the ocean, where beforehand, it had simply bobbed along, wafting and waving in the tides. I scooped a heap of powder into a glass. It smelled like the underside of a water-clogged dock. But when I poured water into the powder, it rebelled, fluffed in a great cloud, it shed all over my counter tops. Deep blue and green smeared everywhere, dying the linoleum. I tried to drink the mixture but it tasted like pondscum, like low tide, but not in the good way. My mouth filled with chalk and my body felt no better. The spirulina powder must have cost a fortune. I don’t remember how much. But I remember weeping over the loss.

Dr. Mitchell chronicles the typical patient, offers and account in Fat and Blood. He says, “A woman, most often between twenty and thirty years of age, undergoes a season of trial or encounters some prolonged strain.” Perhaps, he musses, she has taken on a hard task, or had emotional excitement, or has been swayed with hopes and fears so strong that she becomes forgetful of herself. “But, no matter how it comes about, whether from illness, anxiety, or prolonged physical effort, the woman grows pale and thin, eats little, or if she eats does not profit by it. Everything wearies her,—to sew, to write, to read, to walk,—and by and by the sofa or the bed is her only comfort.”

I suppose I should say, I do get out of bed occasionally. Not to be lewd, but certain business must be attended to at times and I take care of that in the proper manner. I want to keep my roses in season for as long as possible.

I have written you a letter every day that I have been in this bed. You don’t know I’m here, like here-here, under sheets and pillows and white down, covered in petals. All you know is that I am not there. I had to write you letters, because the night of the party…the night when I drank too much…one of the nights I drank too much…I erased your number from my phone. I am not going to send you the letters of course; they refuse to be torn from the pages of my notebook.

In the house I lived in before this one, I left medals. Running medals. Medals with American flag straps and silhouettes of muscular men and city skylines and feet with wings. I didn’t win those races but I ran them. And I guess crossing the finish line deserved a medal. Thousands of these medals, unpacked from cardboard boxes and looped around necks of runners corralled through the gates without ceremony. Certainly, there were leftover medals at the end, once the last runner gasped across the finish line. Better to have too many than to few. What happened to those extras? Did they simple get thrown away? Devalued without a neck to cling to? I hung my medals on a peg by my door. Sometimes I can hear them clink clink clink, shedding their coats of dust, 3,000 miles away.

Today I have been pruning the roses on my sheets. Tending the faded pink rows, smoothing them one by one. Some of the roses are wilted, stained with age, lined with a layer of skin and grime.

Here are the things I have on my nightstand: Scissors (for opening packages). A jar filled with black fine tipped pens. A notebook. An empty tube of lipstick. A stack of novels I haven’t read yet. A wet rag. A box of tissues. A tube of chapstick. Cold cream. Twizzler wrappers. A scented candle (no matches though). A folded receipt. An empty glass. A bottle of bourbon.

I suppose true exhaustion begin with a hangover. Or I suppose all hangovers begin with drinking. And all drinking begins with desire. And all desire begins with loneliness. It began with whiskey and then it was beer and then it was more beer and then it was tequila and then it was beer and then it was tequila and then it was beer. This is not uncommon. Before taking to bed, Dr. Mitchell explains, “Every effort is paid for dearly, and she describes herself as aching and sore, as sleeping ill and awaking unrefreshed, and as needing constant stimulus and endless tonics.

Then comes the mischievous role of bromides, opium, chloral, and brandy.”

The party was red and filthy. I swayed between taking shots at the bar and dancing on the floor. The music filled my head, but not enough. There was still room to think. The party was a fever. I remember the hot press of someone’s body against my back. His hands ran down my sides. He turned me around and kissed me. I felt his lips through his beard. They felt nothing like yours.

This made something deep in my ribs cramp with sadness.

I don’t know how I got back to the house that night, I was wandering the streets for hours, hitting road blocks and dead ends. Clawing against chain link fences hiding darkened tracks and football stands. I curled up in someone’s yard, folded up like the morning paper. I called you and you didn’t pick up. Not that it would help. You couldn’t see where I was. I tried to make sense of the

street signs—everything moves in order, the avenues are numerical, how could I not find 13th?

Perhaps I crashed through the hedges. Perhaps I was rolled there in a trashcan. Perhaps I was mailed in the midnight post. Perhaps I was drawn by the lamplight, the call of the doorbell. But either way, my knees hit the porch steps and I was there.

I sat on the floor with people I didn’t know and drank water from a saucer. They were all on drugs. Girls crammed between the knees of guys who stroked their shoulders and rubbed their heads. I recognized one of them from a few days before; she had been waitressing at a restaurant. She served me a plate of falafel. Her shirt was low cut and I could see the pink line of a scar running down her chest. That scar that signified that at one point her chest had been cracked open, sternum severed through. Her heart exposed to the blue-latex air of the operating room.

She shouldn’t be taking drugs with a heart like that, I thought.

I don’t know why I ordered falafel. I had been to the restaurant only once before. I ordered the falafel. I didn’t like it. So why did I do it again? I remember when you told me the definition of insanity was doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.

You wanted me to stop smoking cigarettes and I said okay. But I didn’t. I told you I did. Sometimes, or at least now, if I have run out of canvas on my arms or my roses are pruned, I will crack the window and light a cigarette and smoke a few puffs. But the snow is relentless. I can feel it on my fingertips. It chills my nose. I hate having the window open too long because I can feel the flakes of snow being sucked into my body.

I’m almost done with the octopus on my arm. My forearm has tentacles and suction cups twisting all over it. When I am done drawing the octopus, I will wipe it away with the wet rag.

Maybe I will work on some rosebushes next. My arm is grey from so many erased drawings.

I paid my rent check. Slipped the blue envelope out the door with a stamp and my spit. I bought myself another 30 days.

It’s too late for me to have a lace robe, but I think I would like that. I think that it would fit my bed scene. Or perhaps just lace trim. Languid sleeves of yellow roses. A silk tie.

Maybe it was the advertisement on the coffee cup sleeve that did it. I was halfway done with the cup of coffee when I realized the sleeve was imploring me to come to an event on the 15th of

March. Had I not noticed the sleeves on these coffee cups? Had they always been asking me to do something? Who created these sleeves? The sleeves would only be relevant until March 15th, then what? Surely, there would be extras. Would they too be thrown away? I hated these sleeves. I wanted to cry over them. The thought of coffee makes me giggle now. Who would choose to take something that makes them stay awake?

My blood runs like honey. But I wouldn’t say my heart is a beehive. There is no buzzing frenzy of workers, no honeycomb cells, no din of wings flapping.

I hadn’t seen you for three months. I hadn’t noticed the time, but you did. We sat at your parent’s dinner table over Christmas and I wore a black sweater because I wanted to look thinner than I

felt, or thinner than you last saw me. Your mother passed the mashed potatoes around for the second time, and your father offered you scotch but not me. I drink more scotch than he does, I wanted to point out. But I didn’t. I said nothing and finished my wine. Your sister smelled the drink and wrinkled her nose. She couldn’t stand the smell. It was on your breath when you kissed me and left me at the airport and waved goodbye and I wanted to drink you. Now I drink bourbon in the afternoon because nobody tells me not to.

Perhaps this is why my bones are porous: I never drank milk when I was younger. Your mother is an orthopedic surgeon. Each day, she cracks bones and resets them. I ran too hard one summer and my knee was in pain every time I went up and down stairs. I would have to turn my foot ninety degrees and take the steps sideways, to avoid the sharp pain. Isn’t it strange—I remember the idea of pain, I know it happened, but I cannot feel it now. Your mother had me lie down on the leather couch and raise my knee. She cupped two hands over my patella and moved my knee slowly outward and down. She closed her eyes, feeling the squeak of my joints. She called you and your brother over and your entire family was there around my knee. Do you feel that crunching, she said. Yes, yes, you all felt it. You all felt the premature aging in my bone. You all felt my milkless history and I was deeply ashamed.

Are you going to be this way too? Are you going to reset bones? I like the idea of you in an operating room. I like it better than the idea of you in your living room. You don’t have bookshelves because you don't have books. I find this devastating.


___
Verity Sayles is an MFA candidate at Oregon State University. Her nonfiction work has appeared in Burningword Literary Journaland Dark Matter: A Journal of Speculative Literature. Originally from New England, she now resides in Oregon. 

For M.E. |
by Alisa Velaj

Thoughts without sounds, 
thoughts,
thoughts.
Deep thoughts without sounds,
thoughts,
thoughts,
deep wavy thoughts.

Deep sounds without thoughts
sounds,
sounds,
deep wavy sounds.
Blue sounds
in the echo of the winds.
Do you hear this symphony
Captain?


___
 The Poet: Alisa Velaj, (born 1982, Vlorë, Albania),  is an Abanian poet whose work has appeared in a number of print and online international magazines. She also has works in forthcoming issues of “Poetica”, “Otter”, “The Journal” and in the Anthology by Mago BooksAlisa Velaj has been shortlisted of the annual international erbacce-press poetry award in June 2014. She is also shortlisted in the Aquillrelle Publishing Contest 3 in January 2015. Her poems are translated into English by Ukë Buçpapaj.

The Photographer: Faun Scurlock is a digital artist/photographer born and raised in Vancouver, WA. The constant weather changes of the Pacific Northwest bring her plenty of opportunity to capture landscapes, action shots, and abstract photographs. Faun's been published in multiple journals - The Phoenix and Salmon Creek Journal - and included in a student art show at Clark College.

I AM ME
(a creed of self confidence) |
by Ajise Vincent

I have burnt 
My glad rags of cowardice 
On the oven of salvation 

Buried its ashes 
In the cemetery 
Near the evil forest 

So bring on the heat 
Of your odious parody 

And I will Let you know that witticism 
Without attitude is zilch



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Ajise Vincent is an undergraduate of Economics at a prestigious university in Nigeria . He is also a contributor to various print and online magazines