Bigfoot has been feeling lonely lately, wondering – self-indulgently, masochistically – what the plural of Bigfoot would even be. Bigfoots? Bigfeet? It’s purely hypothetical. There are no others out there.
Scoutmaster Justin’s on the pier, leg on a post, balls hanging out of his cut-off shorts like that guy on the Fleetwood Mac album. He has to feel that, has to know he’s flashing the ten of us treading water below. “Dive!” he shouts, all Full Metal Jacket, blows and blows his pink plastic whistle. “It’s cold as hell down there! Watch the cottonmouth nests!”
down the throat spill into the hungry stomachs of youth. / blue recycle bins knock over. an attempt to survive this / summer means every black body for itself.
the wife folds her arthritic body onto a shelf, a raccoon / squeezing her backfat thin as water only flexible bones / and silt filling her jello mold of pleated skin
I am a woman more than halfway through my cycle, twenty-one years into a body that has shed 250-some skins through slick, snake-slithering, four-day drains. I grew all the daughters I wanted to conceive and I have borne them into their futures.
"I wonder if he catches the same butterfly each time. I wonder if that butterfly has children at home it tells stories to over dinner."
I imagine a glitch: corroded wires, infinite loops of fritz-stuttered signals declaring that every day is August 5th, so every day the machine sings, celebrates itself alone
Rick calls meeting to order by pounding his shoe on the upside-down waste paper basket we use as a podium like the President of the Communists did on TV once.
The parent says it’s brinksmanship. Says the courts won’t block a school funding bill if it means closing schools. The teacher says it doesn’t matter. She’s starting a job at an insurance firm next week anyway.
Melvin’s had that rotten glob of stuck-together maraschino cherries plucked right out of his chest and thrown back into the dump. But still, he would give Denise the Astroturf right off his back. He is an avid reader of love letters, and he once tied one of his own, for Denise, to a pigeon’s leg—a difficult task given that he has no viable hands for writing or tying knots.
Backs of knees are pornographic. But openly hairier. My alien agrees with me. Or, at least, its sequins flash an affirmative when prompted.
There is the needle. Before that, there is an equine veterinarian preparing a lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital.
In life, we are playing with dangerous games: you, the witness of the visiting vatnajökull now blushing pink in the atom sky with the bright comedy of Frigg fooling the ashes of the colour, and I, making a cryogenic favour to the moonless nights
In December of 2015, a giant squid swam into Toyama Bay in Japan. A local dive shop owner guided the squid back out to the ocean. The squid clung to the diver’s body using its legs' suckers. Later, the diver said the squid was “unexpectedly beautiful, its body glowing red.”
In high school, no girl would date them—the conjoined twins who required special seating at the back of the classroom. Who never grew adept enough at matching one another’s stride to be athletic. Who struggled with conversation for the sheer fact that any attempt at talking to another person was uneven, and they would talk over and around one another in an effort not to be the third wheel.
A poised woman in a pink sarong and a straw hat points at the glass countertop, where the more expensive jewelry is displayed. The man at the register takes out a long chain with a black pearl pendant. Jill pictures an infinity pool and enormous, fluffy towels.
But the worst part for me isn’t a funeral on my sister’s birthday or people at church who bake casseroles I don’t eat or teachers who say I don’t really have to go to recess, not if I don’t want to. The worst part is what happens after—my father leaving dents in the cabinets, holes in the walls.
God knows what burrowing near his neck, near the occipital bone, along the base of his skull, where I’d held him. Soft spots no one thinks on. I like paying attention to places on a body most people take for granted. A smear of my lipstick (color, Medieval) true to its claim, everlasting on his Adam’s apple—that sweet hunk of thyroid cartilage named for sin.
Mae’s been cutting off pieces of herself since she was small. The mosquito bite on her Achilles, gone. The thick patch of eczema on her left shoulder, peeled clean. That one tattoo she got at Myrtle Beach when she was drunk on shitty cocktails, expertly whittled from her rib. And her eye. The purple black bruise he left her with.
After midnight I see it coming: a finale marked in gravel and salt. I / come down for sinner’s stripes, wear these clothes like queens do, / take the stairs slowly, out of the flood and into blue. This is what / the sun is for; still in the night I collect stars and I collect bees and I / keep them in mason jars, like little yellow dreams, my magic.
We didn't like her so we hung her on the wall. Hung her on a coat hook by the back of the stupid dress she always wore, because she wasn’t allowed to wear pants. There were other kids like her. Out where town met not-town, where cars without wheels bloomed in tall-grass yards and roads turned to dirt and pebbles, never plowed in winter, rutted and muddy in spring.
I wish I could paint you red, and fuse your four fingers together, on each hand leaving only the thumb free.
It’s aflame with corpses. We live in the past. / Every dead star still burning in our eyes.
Before the hurricane, we had a rosebush. An avocado tree. Limes. The backyard, where we hid plastic Easter eggs, buried the bones of small pets.
We called our local representatives to thank them for their thoughts and prayers.
auditory and visual hallucinations, she explains casually, as if describing the weather of California in July.
Riding in a gray Honda up a dark road, I felt someone looking at me. It was the light of the moon. Bright and full in all her splendor—in awe at feeling her warmth—I heard her speak.
After my husband left me, I decided to date a man with no arms because I liked the idea of myself as someone who would not rule out the limbless. Or maybe I thought he would be less inclined to tally up my faults.
The tapestry must be frailed if it is to survive, flipped over
Dear Reader, Like us, perhaps you are looking for different perspectives: the world is big, though our lives…
A woman I haven’t seen before walks through the door and demands my attention. She is taller than a medium-sized person. She is a lioness. A redheaded delight. Her lips take up her entire face. They’re red and I want to kiss them, bite them, and stick them in the pocket of my jeans.
When dolphins die they call out their own name. They do this to make sure their family is close––they do this to remind their near ones: this is who I am. I am here now. I have known joy.
We didn’t recognise his terror. We loved him cold. When his battered heart stopped, we cried and tried to bring him back, fingering lightly his pale feathers.
I remember thinking her head looked like the moon: covered in bumps and divots. I wanted to explore the topography of her scalp, but instead I clenched my hands into fists at my sides until my fingernails left half-crescent indents on my palms.
On those childhood Sunday mornings we used to watch the Orions take flight from the naval air base.
We’ve dug our way to the top of the casket. Our pockets are filled with plastic and wood, roots we’ve twisted off and not eaten. We’re tunneling up, making a barrier against the earth above our heads.
they pull out the woman / through her gut: think of the space now, / open studio with white walls, / dust like milkweed drifting
A diving bird, the pink duck returns for its things. What things? Whatever we took that made it dip its pink head under the waters, not to reappear. Its iridescent beetles, split-wings lifting in the air; its patch of jade grass; its water lilies; its tufted body, without the bullet’s path and tear.
I ran all the way home, my backpack bouncing and smacking me in the small of my back. I fell breathless on the couch, turned on the TV, and stayed there until the nightly news came on. The man’s body had washed ashore. The paramedics didn’t know if he’d died before or after he’d gone over Niagara Falls.
Beyond the bathroom window, the celestial jaw of night loosens its grip on the sky. Whale sharks with their astral skin are tracked by the same software that follows the galaxies.
She's snoring, her face turned to the wall. I want to wake her, see if we can take tweezers to it, extract it like a splinter or a rotted tooth and forget it ever was there, but I know it wouldn't take. Her legs are on loan.
Romanians say fleas serve an important purpose in the ecology of living. Fleas whisper true stories to Bucharest's homeless dogs, who then carry these legends from house to house, keeping history alive.
Things around me tend to die. People, plants, relationships…you name it. My father killed by a hit-and-run driver when I was eighteen, my mom with breast cancer a year later. I’ll spare the details, other than to say that this past summer my husband and I lost what would have been our first child.
I can still taste the satsumas I ate when I came round from the anaesthetic. They told me I couldn’t have water. I waited until they’d gone and, hidden by the cubicle curtains, I reached out to my locker for an orange, peeled it, crammed the segments into my mouth, felt the juice trickle down my throat.
you guys look like celebrities / the black jacket and the blond hair / and wow now in this light / he’s off with spit froth and eyes wide
The planets and too-close suns hovered stillborn. The dust motes found their way back.
"But it's not him. No outline can represent a black body. / White space cannot hold who Michael Brown was."
As in dead, a completed action, not / the slow lingering of life lengthening / towards death. I mean the death itself: / vibrant as a moth’s wing, excited /as forgetting.
I went to the window and there, on the sill, was a small mouse, grey with peach fuzz. It looked almost fetal.
But heed me you have not / and as its claws dig your flank, hot mouth hunting your hidden loins realize this: / X gon give it to ya. He’s gon give it to ya.
When we quiet down, she tells me to make the night disappear, to place wishes on her shoulders, to calm the dividing cells in her body because she can hear them switching, separating, calling out her name.
I consider, oddly, / how the Creature from the Black Lagoon / l was filmed in Florida, and is an iteration / of Grendel, and how intrepid saints have / a fondness for banishing serpents a’ la Beowulf.
The outside was getting harder to ignore. What was coming was coming for us all.
Two summers ago I learned how to take a knife / to my arm and cut along a pig’s leg instead.
That uncertainty is also a gift / was your next gift, / the no-questions and questions twinning themselves / on your overflowing bookshelves, under your bed: / Science and art.
Dear Reader, The work we’ve read during this past submission cycle has been astounding, and because of the…
Boys everywhere—actors, singers, models—bodies hairless and hips slim, leaned against palm trees. A thousand gazes follow us always.
Even in the dim yellow light I could see the hives spreading across my neck where your stubble had burned me.
Race for the Cure, 2008. I write your name on my pink dedication bib, use extra safety pins…
It must have taken him weeks to build them, to glue the mixture of rice and crushed glass to the string.
bring the cigarettes out, and drinks for you and Dan, left the Diet Cokes there, sweating on the ledge. Tonight you’ll allow me to stay for no other reason than to listen. You knew what I would become. But I can’t remember words now,
"Skate babies," he said cryptically. "Protects them from all the dangers." He flapped a leathery arm towards the snack bar and drawled something about signs.
The news suggests that acid rain is to blame. Years of acid rain falling unchecked, seeping into the ground and doing what acid does, eating away at everything it touches. Scientists point to plastic models, removable chunks revealing concavities in the earth, the surface too thin to support what’s on top.
You stand in the hall poking at the window blinds. They’re old vinyl, faded yellow and nearly melted with years of endless sun. Your fingers walk to eye-level, push a slat up so you can see out, and then climb higher. Above your head you reach to press your finger, through the hole of a bent, half-broken slat, all the way to the fogged glass.
I had stereotyped her. She wasn't shy or cautious, but flung the door open to reveal a riot of colourful living. A floral-patterned rousari was settling over the crown of her skull as if it had just dropped from heaven. The ends of it draped loosely beside her thin arms. I didn't know where to look, and tried not to flick my curious gaze to her periphery. It meant meeting her eyes, those eyes.
The photo album is dry like carefully stored tinder, the dried rose petals haphazardly stuck on the front look yellowed and frail.
A Maine morning, sea and sky muddled gray. She’d picked her way from the beach to a small piney island across a stretch of seafloor low tide had left bare.
One moment of quiet and I’ll be able to think about stitches without my skin crawling out from under me, away, like leather on my body.
Once the whole is divided, the parts need names. / There are already enough names. –– Lao Tsu
She skitters away on her keyboard: Tic tac tac tac tic. Then pauses to scratch her head; the noise a cacophony, forming a symphony of disturbance that rattles my loaded head. Every day she rattles me.
to thank the pines for letting the snow melt for letting grass grow between their feet
She always has at least 1 can of cherry pie filling socked away somewhere—God knows why—the woman don’t even bake.
the background to try and lull them to sleep.
In the middle of surviving you, I sat on the sidewalk outside the bookshop that paid me too little, sterilized a safety pin with the flame of a lighter and stabbed it through my right big toe.
Glimpses of what-ifs. Hail Mary passes. That's what this ink really says: please stay; we can do this.
I can count the number of times we touched on two hands plus two feet, plus your hands and your feet.
The surprise clusters of brown pears punctuate the leaves. My children burst down the pickers’ lane their feet smashing the rotten fruit into a fragrant mess, a prayer in earth. It is all too much.
A rook snags a branch in the sycamore outside my bedroom window. That’s not what I’m thinking about.
I could be a shutter, about to fall off its hinge and be consumed by feral shrubbery. Start a new life as a rotting piece of wood. Natallie raises her fist to knock, but the door opens. He looks like someone who once sold bathrobes in a plaza. Long, red, veiny hair combed over a blonde face.
The itching begins at night. Fire on my scalp, ears aflame. I was dreaming about butterflies and barbed…
I HEARD THE FLIES BUZZ TWICE IN MY LIFE, ONCE OVER THE DEAD BODY ON THE RIVERSIDE, AND ONCE…
our wanderings conjure desire, the selfish kind—hunger to ask for more without bothering to hear the answer.
What if it came crashing down, I thought. What if it fell like a blanket and smothered us all.
The night of my parents’ funeral, she told me that the most important thing you can tell people, dead or alive, is that you are here. On this earth.
Leaning bicycles on old iron fences. The kids grow out their bowl cuts. The merry-go-round weeps behind the Baptist church.
Two Saturdays after Joe and I get married and buy a house in the Upper Ninth Ward, a…
When the waitress left, Kate locked eyes with Jase and said rather than asked, “What if they don’t let us into his room at the hospital.”
It starts with a crocodile. With a woman, with an awning. A touch and a touch. It starts like everything starts, you think.
Stevie and I fed the alligator in the lake behind the bowling alley on our lunch break. Not directly. We weren’t idiots. We left expired hamburger and piles of fat scrapped off the Snack Shop grill on a special rock at the edge of the water, farthest from the dock.
“If he says no, I’m dead.” Hard words from a hard man to the governor.
the fruit stains a woman’s fingers.
You marry the dead girl. She is a scarecrow in a white dress, only the smallest bone of her pinky finger woven into the straw and wood holding her together in effigy. The rest of her has gone into the air as smoke and ashes.
Later, when I gasped his name it sounded strange in the air, like a phone ringing in a home you know to be long emptied of anyone.
The diaspora of your voice is hatched from the space you refuse to continue drowning in
Red-tails are not rare—they nest in the trash trees on the limestone cliffs of Interstate 440. But wherever or whenever I see one, normal life stops.
after Rufino Tamayo’s Hombre con pájaros, 1945 & Los astrόlogos de la vida, 1947
Tonight, we inhale combustion / quilted with orange residues / that leak from solitary bulbs.
If he spent years studying some aspect of what you think of as “your” culture, he won’t waste time arguing with you about whether it’s really your culture, or whether you know enough about it. Instead he’ll make clothing suggestions––sarongs, saris, dashikis, dreads, natural hair instead of extensions––and he’ll study you.
It’s for your own good, she says. Otherwise you’ll bake like a pork tenderloin. Or does she call me a pork tenderloin? Or maybe what she says is, Are you hungry yet? Dinner’s getting cold. If you don’t eat your pork tenderloin, he will.