Kristina England

The shape of his wife's face at night when she lay in bed, half in shadow, half in the light, her smile always more visible than the frown.

Finally, when she lassoed her neck, it took him a while to turn around, to realize what she had been hiding in the dark.

But by then, it was too late; she had already eclipsed.

When he woke again, he witnessed a blood moon, heard the howl of night. Shivering in the absence of warmth, he reached across the bed, pulling back dust, his own face a half-ellipse bounded by the intrusion of night.

Anthony Cordello

A hemorrhagic stroke lead to aspiration pneumonia. Flowers grew in his father’s sixty one year old mouth. Stamen produced pollen, anther received pollen. Yellow petals bloomed between his teeth. The roots dug through his gums and screwed deep into his bone. Caterpillars inched across the leaves, snakes were pecked apart by ashy birds, and alligators swam through the river of warm green sludge flowing down his throat.

The son floated on a log paddling along with the current. The river dwindled until eventually the log got snared in mud, so he ventured on foot through the ripe jungle until he stumbled on a cave entrance hidden behind a row of reeds.

He made a fire by rubbing two sticks together. He made a torch by soaking a thick branch in resin. Something he learned years ago in the dry woods behind his home.

He crawled inside ducking under stalagmites waxed with minerals and moved through a series of damp tunnels that widened, narrowed, emptied into an enormous amphitheatre. On the far wall there were charcoal paintings, scenes of mammoths stampeding in the flare of his torch, other figures too, a vulva balanced on stick legs and crowned with the head of a bison and between the crescent horns was a block of writing. A paragraph in flowing cursive.

The son mouthed the words as he read the last will and testament of his father. All the property and estate divided. The medical directive. Resuscitate or do not resuscitate. He bit his tongue on the last syllable.

Compassion Dies
Gray Sanders

A young man stands in a college auditorium. And the other students are chanting. They have been worked into a frenzy. Six thousand freshman, and they have all been reduced to what he is sure a Nazi German rally must have looked like circa 1939. And all of this hoopla over a sports team. He sits in the back of the auditorium, and he knows he and these people are not the same. It is not that he is incapable of being worked into a frenzy, on the contrary his mind alone is all too capable of this mesmerizing feat. It is simply that he is not so easily deceived, he refuses to become a puppet of pseudo-nationalism. And he possesses a combination of two characteristics that must be truly enigmatic these people in particular. They are equal parts the veil having been forcibly torn from the eyes. And an appalling lack of courtesy in regards to faking it. Because displays like this he is sure make many people other than himself highly uncomfortable. Whether they understand the implications of why exactly they are made so uncomfortable, they are too worried about whether Suzzie the slut will endeavor to blow them later. That or whether this entire group of new people will somehow sense their hesitation and pounce on them, as humans in a group setting are so apt to do. So this enigma sits in the back of the auditorium, unassailable, and watches as compassion dies, to thunderous applause.

Buffalo Ricotta
Becky Bailey

Daydreams swell behind a crumbling dam as I sink into the couch in my shoebox apartment, in the middle of a quiet street, under a sky smothered by dark clouds. It can’t be helped with surroundings like this. So when I place onto my tongue a forkful of pillow-y ricotta that I paid far too much for at that artisanal cheese shop on 9th Street, I’m back – leaning on my elbows across the long table that we sat smack in the middle of, facing one another, taking tiny bites from a cheese plate to try and make it last a little longer. The buffalo ricotta was a piece of paradise, a make-you-close-to-orgasm kind of good. I said after one bite, “oh God, I want to do this meal over again when it’s done,” and all he said was, “mmm.”

The ricotta melts on my tongue. I take a drink of red wine, poured from a box perched on my faux-granite countertop. It does what it is supposed to do, though it’s too sweet. Cheap-tasting, like the wine they gave us at dinner each night that summer. That wine was probably poured from a box, too, into sparkling glass carafes, so that at least everyone could wonder aloud whether it came fresh from the vineyard down the road. It didn’t matter, so long as the three of us, him and her and I, could keep sipping long after everyone else had gone down to the bar or to bed. Sitting on the little wall around the terrace, looking out onto patchwork farms and burnt red tile roofs, we rambled about painting and seeing and all the self-proclaimed artists who just didn’t get it like we did. We were subversive leaders of a guerilla army, fighting the noble fight of not selling out. Of painting with our souls. They talked so much. I didn’t. I was happy to just sip my wine, letting their words, his words, wash over me like rolling waves on a dry sea sponge.

I slice through a pepper-crusted salami from the same ritzy cheese shop. I wonder for a moment if the maker knows the power his dried pork holds, or if the shop preys on people like me, looking for an escape by way of taste buds. But the cynic is shushed as soon as the pepper-laden casing touches my lips. Saliva rushes to meet the salt and garlic and spices, like it did when I tasted his skin that night. When I asked if I could see his portrait, in the main building where his bedroom was, he knew. Because once we ran out of colors to analyze, forms to deconstruct, lines to follow, he hooked a finger through one belt-loop and closed the space between us. Then he took my hand and led me down endless steps until – silence.

More wine, more wine. But as I rise to pour another glass the shoebox spins around me, and now I’m in the other apartment, the one I shared with her that summer. Around the square table, he and she and I passed a bottle. We talked about artists, the ones we deemed phonies and those we declared prophets, and then the regular people we liked or didn’t like, passing down our judgments like members of a high court. Another bottle uncorked. I stood up and professed, “I must pee!” and climbed up and up twisting staircases to the top, found a door, and began the dance of lowering myself down onto a toilet that kept jumping from side to side, playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can. When finally I finished, I raced back down the snaking staircase, stumbling, tripping, falling, crashing to the bottom where I was met by – silence. No space existed between them. They filled in the cracks of one another like watercolors bleeding into the fibers of virgin paper. He saw me standing there – scarecrow. Slowly he cleaved himself from her like a skin cell. “I should go.” And he did.

My cup is dry. My plate, empty. Here, in the cushions of my couch, alone under a pewter sky, with bile rising up from my stomach and onto my tongue. I push myself up and cross the tiny living room. Hold my glass beneath the spigot and pour another drink from a cardboard box. One more to forget.

Lost Limbs
Darcy Chanin

I laid down in the middle of a sidewalk once, out by an abandoned Siperstein's paint store. There was clover shooting up from the rift where I placed my neck. When I pushed my hands against the pavement, I realized the wayward concrete cracks were veins: pulsing against my own, blood-filled and verdant. They entangled at my chest.

I eased my spine and looked up to the sky. Every so often a hovering boot-print would blot it out, and there’d be nothing but rubber and grease. But the blue would return by and by, with all its crystal omnipotence, and the clouds would converge timidly into some distant, white-tipped point. I laid there for hours, watching. The pavement’s heartbeat arched against my own. I felt the singular force of our breathing.

When I went back home that night, people were worried. They asked me where I had gone, and how, and why. I got in the habit of telling them I had been out to claim lost limbs. And I figure it was true, too.

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