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Kim Peter Kovac – Elements

Elements

We like to think we’re built of major, minor, and trace elements, which use DNA as the recipe to mix and combine in patterns to make blood, bones, organs, skin,and such. Wrong. We are made of words. Words are in us from birth. As we grow, words take on meanings, so they can be combined and recombined indifferent patterns. Phrases and later sentences lock together, shaping how we move through our lives, more as architecture than language. Some of our words look inward and some outward, and we need a full complement of each. If some inward words are missing, we are incomplete. If some outward words are missing, there are gaps in our connections with others and these gaps are the distances between us. We are made of words, which are the elements of stories. As we learn to combine and recombine more and more words at the same time, they become stories, an infinite number of stories. All of our stories,together, make up the DNA of our culture and consciousness. Our stories ride with us as we walk through our days

– Kim Peter Kovac

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Siamak Vossooughi – Why

Why

     The way that a single man carries the human race is a mystery. Some men carry it so closely that they have a place to put the catastrophes of human behavior when they come their way. They have a place for them in their body and on their face.

     When the newspaper told Kamal Abdi in the morning of Nicaraguans killed or Salvadorans killed or Palestinians killed, he would make a place for them inside him. It was what he had always done. You started with the premise that the space you could make for them was infinite. Until human beings got it right, that was what it had to be.

     On Saturday mornings, something very bright and alive would happen. On those days, he would not have to make a place for them inside him because he would have breakfast with his son. His son, who was ten years old, wanted to know. He wanted to know about all of it. It was the world of men. It was something he was going to have to know about when he was older. If he didn’t know about it, who would?

     And so Kamal would be very happy when he told his son the histories of Third World nations, the stories of revolutions and counter-revolutions. Not everything had to go inside him. Some things could come out, and have a place on the table right next to everything that was beautiful about the morning – the bread and the honey and the cool air outside. Right there next to them would be the story of how the people of a brown or black nation had struggled for their liberation, and with his son listening, he saw how much it belonged out in the open. It was a wonderful feeling. It was not that the place he’d made inside himself was a bad place, but it did not have to be the only place. And the new place he’d found was just as infinite as the old one, because the person he was telling was a boy. Continue Reading »

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Jenny Williamson – In the Room

In the Room

It is more than a shadow over my face.
It is my own skull rising out of my skin
in slow motion;
the years piled up in the yard like slaughtered wolves.

Sometimes I catch my death
in the corner of my left eye
and trap it behind a contact lens.

Other times it will not be contained.
Some days it insists on itself
to anyone who will pay attention.

In the last room, I want it to be you.
Bring me a sprig of pussywillow
and all you ever were, in manuscript form.

I will be the old woman
clasping the limp word-corpse of some dead poet
tight to my chest, the smoke of my last burnt offering
rising from my mouth.

Jenny Williamson

*This piece was originally published by 24Mag
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Kyle Rackley – Wally World

Wally World

Mommy, why is that man crying? A blonde girl about six-years-old in pigtails asks. It takes me a moment to realize that she’s talking about me.

I slide my sunglasses from my bald head to my nose. Never take them off. Never let anyone see my eyes. Force a smile at the girl. She stops kicking her legs, lets them dangle from the Wal-Mart shopping cart seat and stares at me. She’s probably looking at herself in the mirrored lenses, but I can’t help but think that she knows that I’ve killed girls like her in other countries.

Don’t look at her. Stare at the check-out candy. Chunky Bars? They still make Chunky Bars?

That’s right, Mommy. Shield your baby girl. Get her as far away as you can from the monster in aisle six.

Glance away. Spot Wal-Mart’s sign that reads We Support Our Troops on the wall beside the restrooms. Fitting.

Don’t worry, Mommy. No doubt you and your family worship the right god, and your little girl was born in this country. It also helps that she doesn’t have dark skin.

Don’t frown, kid. Sometimes monsters can protect you.

Kyle Rackley

 

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Scott Jones – Lost Man in White Vinyl Gloves

Lost Man in White Vinyl Gloves

The year 2010. He’s nothing I want to befriend, and I’m dripping in exhaustion, unable to rub two thoughts together.  Spaced three feet apart, a gulf between us.  A recumbent child, a dwarf, a lifetime could fill the hole between us on the bench.  He says, “You missed a belt loop.  And your pants are unzipped.”

I’ve dodged across the US all day, flown from Oklahoma to get to Texas to find Los Angeles to arrive in Albuquerque, all in pursuit of an additional forty-five dollars of savings.  Now, in the late afternoon, I wait for a magic coach to carry me miles out to my car.  I wait on a bench with a morose, humped-over man in black pants and a white shirt.  With epaulettes and patches, a little American flag on his shoulder, a phone but no gun.  In his hands he cradles gloves, the semi-transparent kind you stretch and stretch to fit your hands, that you snap loudly.  The kind that make bulges where they bind your wrists. 

I flick my eyes down to my crotch.  He’s right.  I shimmy in my seat to jerk my zipper up.  What do you say – thanks?  I grunt. 

He begins to talk, and he may not stop.  “It’s okay, the zipper I mean.  I see it all the time.  Mankind is nothing if not unbuttoned and hanging out.  You all are clueless as to what you look like.  And judgmental, Jesus Christ!  All day you and your fellow travelers troll past me, curse me, roll your eyes when I ask you to take off your shoes.  All day I’m reviled as I work to keep the airplanes safe from some yo-yo with C4 stuffed down his underwear and a primer in his ass.  Day after day you frequent fliers stare at me like I’m shit.  It’s okay.  It’s a living.”  Continue Reading »

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Greg Letellier – Paper Heart

 Paper Heart

The heart was in bad shape when you gave it to me: a crumbly autumn leaf of a piece of paper with two gentle humps meeting neatly beneath the top. I don’t quite remember the lyrics to whichever pop song you painted on it, around the edges, spiraling into the middle. What I do remember is that those words, not your words, were dark and smudged like bruises.

Your heart had its fair share, too. You confided in me: rain smacking off my windshield, texts from our parents saying that the power’s out, and we should come home. But we didn’t leave. We lay in my tiny car, rubbing our noses together and wrapping our tongues around the abstract idea of heartbreak. You mentioned Ben, the brooding skater guy who left his heart in another zip code. You mentioned Nick: emotionally inept. The percussive patter of rain could have pulled me into sleep. I said I would never be like them. You said I know, you’re nothing like them. Then you touched my hand and said you’ve liked me for a while.

I don’t remember what I said back.

I don’t remember what I said back but I remember the way summer use to burn your skin pink. I remember saying your name, Melanie, whispering it and letting the syllables float from my tongue like smoke. Like birds. I remember the scrape of your hand as you tied bracelets around my wrist. I remember the time we sat in my apartment, and you asked if I had any food, and I said yes, we have apples. I remember picking the green skins from our teeth. Is green still your favorite color? I remember sliding our hands between each other’s legs.

But then there was the end to us. There was no fight. There was just a day, a small shop, and two cups coffee. You said it’s over. You said you felt something was wrong. I asked what, or how. You said there was nothing specifically wrong, but it didn’t feel perfect. Sometimes, you said, that was enough.

“It’s got nothing to do with you,” you said. “It’s just my life, and this is how I’m choosing to live it.”

I didn’t say anything. I drove home from the coffee shop. Huge pools of rain lay like the dead along the sidewalks.

*

One day, writing fiction, I thought about symbolism and concluded that memory is nothing like a river. Memories don’t flow. Memories are more like the tiny circles left by skipped stones. They’re pretty, but they fade.

I dug through my desk drawer, looking for the paper heart. I can’t hold anyone’s heart, not even my own. But the one you made, the one about to turn to dust? At least I could still feel it.

Then, hours later, I found it beneath my camera and about fifty seven cents. It was almost torn cleanly in two. I couldn’t read the words you painted on it, so I held it in front of my bedroom window. I still couldn’t read the words. Then I gave up and looked past the torn heart, out the window. All I could see was the hummingbird feeder my dad put in his garden. There were no birds around it.

I remember a particular conversation about the bird feeder. It was the end of spring; bright green leaves were bursting along the road. I asked my dad why he bought a hummingbird feeder. He said to watch the hummingbirds. I asked him why he would want to do that. He said why not. Then he stared out the window, waiting.

“Saw one just the other day,” he said. “I think they’re beautiful.”

“But they don’t do anything,” I said. “They just eat and then they’re gone.”

He didn’t answer; we both watched.

How sad, I thought. To move through life so quickly.

Greg Letellier

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Harold Stallworth – The Creaking Staircase

The Creaking Staircase

Justin’s basement was an open-air museum of ‘90s pop culture. Action figures, cassette tapes, professional wrestling belts, 16-bit video game consoles — it was enough to send any garden variety millennial into a euphoric tizzy. I wanted nothing more than to horse around with the sprawling collection of novelties lining the walls and bookshelf, but Justin was as stingy as he was nostalgic. We sat opposite each other, slumped in sticky polyester bean bags. I sucked down a billowing cloud of smoke, flicked a clump of ashes into a giant psychedelic conch shell, then passed the tightly-rolled joint back over to Justin. A round of aggressive thumps at the basement door interrupted the chilled silence of our smoke break.

I sprung to my feet and opened to the door. Justin’s wife, Caroline, was standing on the other side, toting a tray furnished with hoagies and cashews and beer bottles. The room service was a timely and appreciated gesture, but it was difficult to concentrate on anything other than the tracksuit clinging to her curves, which were steep and plentiful. “Lunch is served!” She announced in her usual carbonated tone. “I’m headed to the gym, but there’s some meatballs on the slow cooker if you guys get hungry later.”

Caroline was unanimously gorgeous, a delicacy to which everyone could agree. I never understood how she fell for my best friend. Justin was obnoxious, dimwitted, irreparably big-boned, and cursed with a disembodied hairline. He barely acknowledged the lunch platter and shooed his wife away like some unwelcome pest buzzing about his man cave. Caroline’s warm, inviting eyes glazed over and narrowed to a villainous squint. I accepted the tray and she marched back upstairs to pursue whatever rigorous workout routine was responsible for her celestial frame. Continue Reading »

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