"my name / appears like an angel: / speaking in distorted / & lost hymns, too loud to truly hear."
"I’d filmed a western once in the desert, and I see plant after plant I recognize but don’t know the name of."
"naked and tentative, a bridge across the lake. / I submerged down into the water. / until I was floating just above the bottom."
"I wonder which image you would have liked more: a peaceful canopy of ash leaves under the skin, or the marks of a dozen spears."
"No one will tell my cousin Lena how her father died."
"In Too Bright Light"; "What Can You Say"; "Learn to Speak"
"Let the soil and grit dissolve into the saltwater, clouds of milky brown mud dissipating into each swell of the sea."
"I am old enough now to have seen it happen again, / to know we are always dying / little deaths:"
"People were crying more than they used to, but they still needed to go about their lives for the sake of the economy."
"I / soul-search into corners / that cannot do the / possible ask."
"But there is something particularly adorable about senior dogs. They look sad and tired yet tinged with delight, much like how I feel, tinged with how I always wish I felt."
"have you ever felt this heavy? like last night was a shore. and you’re seaweed."
"You doused your noodles in chili sauce to clear your clogged sinuses, and your ankle was hanging over the edge of the bed, careless and gentle, the tendons relaxed, the soft hollow of skin like stone smoothed out."
"the first news report reports the government’s apathy. the second just says 'citizen.'”
"Prey would be smarter than this. When has a predator ever been dissuaded by a turned back?"
"I was alone I can’t / tell you [ ] / made me feel I can’t tell you"
"I closed my eyes and caught a whiff of Aiko’s Dove anti-dandruff shampoo. For a second, the idea that my absence hurt her too filled me with a bestial joy, then faded to pain at the idea of her pain."
"nothing but teardrop comets; tell her i taste her sticky rice, tell her i remember: / her silken-sleeve ribbons, her bamboo biscuits"
"This is what also delights: the stripe on the bottom of the pool, the stripes on the side of my suit, the snap of the rubber cap, my spine snapping into the turn, my feet snapping at the wall."
"With that, the video ends, breaking the spell before I can taste the sugar on my tongue, before I can take a scorching sip of tea."
"On the desk pencils are scattered. A laptop rests half open, the current tab on the internet opened to a WikiHow article about resurrection ceremonies. An unopened envelope lays on the desk, addressed to you."
"So I try / mimicking what my mother did. Endure. Never say / never, I learn."
I wish I could tell you exactly when they’ll appear. They used to come with the sunrise every morning, shouting their flourish into the skies, a salute like something you’d hear at an Olympic opening ceremony:
I (my whole body) am stepping out from behind cracked glasses and welcoming the big box of wheels rolling over the road
Mahogany board by swelling board sits still on a hill between yellow birch. The dogs down the road sing to each other, while a dead calf
If I took all of them and placed them in a sifter, and shook, then tapped the sides to separate the smallest sources of pain from the largest, I don’t know what would fall and what would remain.
He flung the hibachi spatula in the air, twirling it, catching it behind his back. Tossed a shrimp tail into my t-shirt pocket. Poor shrimp.
And when I walked by / the chicken coop, reader, / the chickens walked me home. / One got loose with her three chicks
A wineglassful of martyrdom was duty but wandering, wild, and fiery, was nice cold water,
Beneath translucent lids, its eyes were purple hull peas. Directly above, the nearest branches were much too high to reach, so we filled the shoebox with grass and twigs.
And you love the sound / a fresh pad makes when you peel / off the wax paper, unwrap it / like a birthday present, the one / you asked for.
Testosterone Cypionate Injection, USP name [an image here of the testosterone cypionate molecule] available in two, each
The fire, then: orange-red, orange-yellow, orange-blue, just blue. Colors like threadbare sheets pinned to a line, and blowing.
She understands now. How appealing it is to blow up your life.
I thought I was born blue / the way my hands looked / pressed against the inside / of a blue-glass jar.
The people that wore the hats didn’t see the birds when they lived. They didn’t know that their bodies never bent that way.
i am lost in the daze of my grandfather’s friday fish and whipped cream on dessert. i’m not sure he recognizes me most days, but still he clutches my hand and tells me he loves me.
A playlist to accompany our winter 2022 Joy issue, crafted and curated by issue contributors and Longleaf Review staff.
She hasn’t kissed anyone for seven years, and though with Diane she doesn’t feel the same electric desire coursing through her body that she had felt for the men she’d been with romantically in years past, she feels something. Something she didn’t know she could feel. Something she still hasn’t named.
I always thought she looked best, healthiest, happiest, when she was in a tank top and the dirty baggy jeans we swapped back and forth until they fell completely apart, a joint in her mouth and an axe in her hands, splitting firewood for a winter that she probably wouldn’t end up sticking around for.
you let victory linger / in your mouth until you forget its taste, /remember its shape.
Now that the car I was made in is gone, I wonder what will happen to me.
We could be your favorite place in the city, a still monument to ground that’s always shifting.
Bend down / and reach / through / the dark hole. / You’ve won:
“You’re wrong,” he finally said. “There’s no hell. Today is all we have.” The man blinked twice, then walked away shaking his head, a small man carrying on his shoulder the weight of a world without redemption.
isn’t it queer being queer / queer in that you search to find one’s / self
You take your son home to California with you for visits and one day your son peels you like the tangerines in your parents’ yard and you step out clean and open, nutritious, and your seeds can be planted to make new tangerines.
Something about Sally’s shadowy gait is familiar to the young woman’s dog and it seizes and yelps like a cut wire, emits unsettling dog-screams of deep yearning, runs in large loops to and from the window, my friend my friend it is my friend.
They had told each other they loved one another before, writing it in chicken scratch inside Valentine cards and muttering it before saying goodbye at school. This felt different.
Her dad’s old ‘55 Dodge Lancer sat beside Harold’s truck in the cinder block garage—cracked seats, mouse nests in the vents. It still reeked of unfiltered Camels.
that this is how / the dead come back / to have a chat
But don’t you worry about gossip, sugar plum. I have a sense about these things. I can see you’re in love.
I had no name for what I wanted. Not this. Desire / As sudden as cool milk in the breasts of a virgin.
We drank tap with pride.
wandered into the garden to / find what there was to reap and —
She could feel the hot pitch under her feet stretching both ways, boundless, like a solid ocean glowing at two opposing horizons.
In the beginning, the pain was a small thing, barely worthy of notice.
As you can probably imagine, the hardest part was we never knew what to do with that eighth tentacle.
It’s funny how history repeats itself, right? That feels almost cosmic.
Christ’s body — yes, only bread, but still this idea of a man in your hands.
My cousin got a reputation at school, and she said reputations are like ghosts. Once they decide to haunt you, there’s nothing you can do to get rid of them.
I’d waited for him to come to my side of the room, had been pretending to admire, for too long, something that looked as though it had once been Apollo and Daphne but was now melting like hot wax.
Surreal moment, this: a roo lounging on a road in the middle of the day, a horseshoe of people staring down at him like he’s some sort of a prophet—or an omen.
vague shape of a person, perhaps made up of broken seashells : the sound of fractured edges toned
He hovers over her, like Goldie after Kurt, as she floats and undulates in her half-dreams, me staring out the window, wondering if the fish might be dying rather than giving birth.
my mother married a willow tree on a hilltop, sat under its boughs through four decades of rain in a day
Sideways glances at others who are doing it better: crisp black ties, polish on their shoes, the right moves.
cocoons, tent worms eating the world just to be reborn, inseparable from the smoke
Horses and earth are just different shades of each other, and we start to disappear, all of us, into the thickets of leaf and shadow.
There’s a swing to Jessica’s step that reminds me of nights spent in a cloud of citronella, chasing lizards through my backyard.
I’ll meet all the fairies, and we’ll have tiny tea parties and I’ll wear tiny dresses and use my tiny wings to fly.
I was probably a maniac beyond salvation. That’s why I needed to meet with the Solid Gold Inamorato.
I’ve never encountered these strange invaders, these garden jellyfish that cling to me.
The past is an animal with its teeth bared.
and she’ll never die, and we won’t either.
you have a mother, but you do not have a mother. / we can see that on the tests.
Nothing / about my grandfather was soft, // though he planted fruit trees / in improbable climates.
I knew what a brown recluse spider looked like before I ever met a queer person my age.
At first it’s just a low feeling at the base of your tum, a knot being tied, but then it tugs like a rope being pulled at both ends by a pair of black hogs
She imagines the Other Mary Owen sunning herself on a terrace in Mykonos, reservations purchased with the real Mary’s stolen credit card.
Everyone knows when you build a bone house that you start with the front.
Let this harvest issue be your invitation to trust that seeds are being planted, that violets will—in their soft and fragile nature, yes—break through the rocks.
We laid atop a wasp nest. I was stung, but thought it was a dream.
Listen to the palpitating of this horse / heart and I will answer in the language // underneath this skin.
The boys have never seen him, don’t believe he’s real, but the girls all whisper about the latest boogeyman, the Deer Lord they see outside their bedroom windows at night; the deer who wears a human skull over his own face.
Every spot she has dug so far has felt lucky, magnetized, like some divine force led her to those coordinates; and each spot has been barren, empty, desolate.
I don’t own a cheese grater. capitalism makes this okay.
Once, I offered pieces of myself to every man—my hands, my coins, my words—
I’m instantly reminded of why I skipped the last few of these—the room is all hot breath and squeezed shoulders, and I have two giants in front of me blocking my view. One wears a blue topcloth with the words Garbage to Curb carefully painted across the back, staring me in the face.
For the hole inside you, never filled: a stolen bag of cherries. Spit the pits into your hands and go to sleep with stained palms against your hard, round stomach, pretending you can feel kicking feet.
The paths are unmarked, the trees wary of strangers. But I keep dried fish on hand, honeysuckle, ropes and knives, for the rare occasion of company.
A sister’s dry palm in my left, a sister’s wet palm in my right, the winter wind there on my throat; we sang the songs only learned at midnight, when the ordinary and the secular slept.
Imagine her saying, as she settles, “Good God, Ben, my constant pessimist. Give it a rest. I’m not here to fry.” And imagine a pebble loosened from the clifftop, falling. Impacting her skull. There would be damage.
And, too, the minding of where to step – the one rotten apple in the shade with the bees feasting.
In my history, I was the prettiest girl in town who was seduced by the summer eclipse or the hellion who stole the keys of Daddy’s 1958 Impala
What I can’t quite say to my husband, or to myself: that it is you I am thinking of as I take the armadillo from the shelf.
Her many-boned arm comes out and there in her hand is a tattoo gun, already buzzing and dripping ink.
There’s nothing quite so sinister as a hot wind on a California night.
Juan's skeleton walks out of the water, his bones dripping with bulbous ribbons of olive-green seaweed.
You bump into White Boy on a parched, irreverent Wednesday morning, power-walking your way to line up for the three hour commute at 6 AM, and too loud he announces, I am in love with your country.
I need to speak now; he’s expecting it. Waiting for an answer. Summoning all my energy, I push the air from my lungs, forcing it over the golf ball wedged in my throat.
Hope is a naked goose that made a wrong turn somewhere.
When I first saw that my mother was running for mayor I was in the grocery store. It was the morning and I wasn’t doing too well and the check-out girl was wearing this big blue pin with my mother’s big white face on it.
Last week I / courted the moon from a stop sign.
we were plunged into the river / and made holy the pale man
In the old days, we burned the bodies of fossils to keep warm.
I found you bitty in a snap pea, plucked you out and swallowed you whole, / rivered your body through my insides and grew it quietly. What bad men? we say.
Down here at the bottom of the year, the greenest thing is moss.
and on the eighth day, my grandfather’s church organ fell down heaven’s / winding staircase & became a persimmon tree the size of my fist.
Stuck in the basement where the TV was, out of Mom’s way, I’d pinch the well-timed edge and prolong the pull-away, the cling of flesh where the glue most adhered, the release, the skin’s snap back to itself.
My lawyer asks if I’m ready to listen to all five of our 911 tapes.
I'll give you until midnight, she said, and I could tell she meant it. She opened her eyes wide so that her mascaraed lashes stood out like the rays of small black suns.
You decide I’m going to shoot myself out of a cannon this coming Sunday. “How romantic,” you coo, even though it was your idea in the first place.
The girls climb down under the bridge. Below them, the river is dark and still, a surface so solid it almost doesn’t look like it could drown you.
You’re not the one in the bathtub with screams stuffed like wet rags down her throat, the girl who eats herself inside out with silence, who so desperately needs some help right about now but does not want to be a bother.
My birth certificate is an inventory of negative space. FATHER'S NAME. FATHER'S PLACE OF BIRTH. FATHER'S AGE. All of these data fields are empty, clean of the typewriter keystrokes that might otherwise list all the facts my mother knew.
It’s been a while since I rooted for a straight romance, but I can’t help gunning for this little blenny. He’s turned himself completely black except for his one bright orange fin and now is doing a hell of a seductive dance for the ladyfish.
we teach ourselves to crack without spilling over / the egg before it does not hatch
Nargis hits and we belch out thought and memory. / Overturned electric lines crackle with teeth.
Bounce on the floor. Suckle me his absurd Hubba Bubba chew by chew chewing will I? No.
the kind that stinks like shit & empties you. to say i can’t, for whatever reason, take this shit, but for days now have felt like i need to.
I eat paintings the way a woman eats bibles — in the back corners of used book stores, the cracked leather and faux gilt burn her
Two weeks after the man moved in with the woman, the woman began to grow gills. They hurt coming in, like the pain of an emerging tooth. She hid her neck with scarves at first, partly because she didn’t want the man to see and partly because she didn’t want to.
In the Calle 13 song “Latinoamérica,” Residente says that whoever doesn’t love their country doesn’t love their mother. How does one write about their mother?
You say the earth is mad.
The only book about a black or brown person and the main character is a black girl whose black friend got shot. I’m not paying $20 for this book centered around a dead black person. I’m spending $32.99 to buy some boxing gloves from Amazon so I can get ready to show these girls what’s good; so I can look my teacher into her bespeckled face with its green eyes and, right before I tell her to put her dukes up to defend herself before I actually start swinging. tell her that I cannot believe that she has the audacity to decide the one book about a person of color will be about death.
My favorite iteration of God is 12-year-old GirlGod — God of watermelon bubblegum and Dr. Pepper LipSmackers. Of hologram stickers and locked diaries. GirlGod of 1994.
to that creek with the sluggish / brown water that swells up each / spring and recedes as if sipped / from old bags of toilet wine God / won't find you in the cornfields
Soaking wet in cotton underwear and an oversized soccer jersey, I am an animal—a 12-year-old in human years—sitting on a flooding wrap-around balcony in eastern Canada. This is where spruce and pine needles stick to the bottoms of your feet. This is where jewelweed grows in creeks.
Since my eyes are not blackened I can see so much more. I see the sobbing coming from Bonnie’s classroom. It is coral and curved like an undersea animal blooming in the sand. A thousand colors hidden in the absence of sunlight.
sing, the guttural & saccharine / taxonomy of shame: what want demands / the body forgives
his gun // memory of steel bars // the plea // his gun // her self-defense // his reaction // her end // his gun // any being cornered will fight back // & her teeth already dull from repeated use
A black bear – not too big, with a golden snout and shiny gold eyes. Was I that close? Close enough to feel the bear’s hot breath? Something in the shared glance and glare took me close. Closer. If I had wanted to, I could have sidled up and touched the animal.
Later, I dream of running across the street, a transparent green grid over my slow-motion running. Like a target. The car doesn’t make a sound, but the noise of my head hitting the car is still somewhere just across the threshold of awareness. The ears are the last to submerge.
When the man pulled the body from the bog, it had been flattened like a bear skin rug and carried the consistency of damp glue. Perhaps the fen had done this to the boy, or perhaps it was solely a carrier. They won’t want to see their boy like this, the man thought, and thusly collected the dripping anatomy into his fertilizer bucket.
For years after my travels, I’d track stories of women traveling alone, of women murdered, of women who’d made similar choices to the ones I’d made on the road. I followed the story of a young woman who’d been around my age when she’d gone backpacking and then missing in Nepal.
the world works in broken & imperfect circles like arms hugging a baby’s toothless smile the way a dog spins around & around before sleeping the word moon sung by nick drake the soft & rounded edges of the adobe home
Of course she asks if she can keep it. She usually hoards whatever she finds floating near the stern—empty beer cans, folded tourist maps, shredded bike tires—without asking permission. But this is something else, and she must know it.
She wrote about the man who sold balloons in the train station, how one of them floated off and got trapped against the ceiling, a balloon that read Congratulations! She told her the outside world was cruel and boring. She signed the letter Your Friend Forever.
Knausgård smells like cigarettes and not just like he just smoked but more like he is actually made of ashtrays and then loosely covered with hair and skin. “I’m quitting, I know,” he says and it’s clear he is accustomed to being called charming, but I’m not falling for it.
Returning the whale was soso still It did not complain when I crawled inside with my one can and my no candle The mouth the humid mouth was like a tunnel of warm sponge I thought A whale is smaller from the inside I thought This is what my heart would look like from the middle
Once upon a time, no one believed her. Even when Bear stands toe-to-toe with the sheriff, they do not believe her. Even when Bear huffs, or rudely shimmies against the living room wall, marking it with her scent, or crams blueberries into her snout—still, they do not believe her.
This run-down, rusted-out trailer park was the first place in years that wasn't someone else’s farm with frozen pipes in the winter, far from everyone including school friends. There were other kids here.
They say you can’t compare people’s suffering, but Rhiannon’s personal apocalypse is objectively stupid. Which somehow makes it more devastating. That someone with enough money and a nice fiancé and a flamingo shirt could be sad enough to turn herself inside out like this.
The statue of Mary extends a hand from her alcove by the altar, as if she’ll swap her cloister, her blue robes, and her thin stone lip for your chartreuse, corset-back gown and an hour pass to Cassidy’s reception in the church basement. It’s a tempting offer.
The body is gone. / But the shape of gravity is known. We carry her, / like a folded jacket of spirit, laying in our arms.
My little sister DeeDee drowned but they brought her back and now she is my dead grandmother. On the first day back to school, she accidentally bumped into Stanley, that fifth grader who looks like a seventh grader, and said, oh, cheese and rice.
You learned to spill by breathing out / make room for the warm marrow / that gives this pot its power
I'm in the back of the band room, sipping vodka from a dented Sprite bottle, trying to avoid Christopher Mackley and his overly earnest attempts to get me to buy something for the FFA fundraiser.