Madagascar by James Cagney

I never felt as lonely as the night I was standing in the Paramount lobby an hour before Morrissey. I wasn’t the only black person in the theater but I was certainly the only person to come alone. As even Morrissey himself later told us mid-set, “You came all this way, in the rain, just … Read more

Can I Keep You? by Melissa Grunow

“If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” ―Friedrich Nietzsche He had been speaking for ten minutes about a girl named Maureen, whom he also referred to as Mo, also referred to as “my girlfriend.” She was a residence life director in Indiana, he said, and he continued on … Read more

Ah-DAH! A Literary Education by J. A. Hijiya

“Jeemy says, ‘Ah-DAH!’” This was the observation of my cousin Dave, six months older than I and infinitely more articulate. Either he was fast in learning to talk, or I was slow. He reported my utterance to my mother, brother, and sister, and they laughingly repeated it for years to come. My first recorded attempt … Read more

Bloody Mary by C. Cimmone

I never played Bloody Mary in my mother’s bathroom mirror. It was thin and tall and displayed random black spots through its lens as clearly as it did my big, turned nose and fat gap between my front teeth. The mirror, bastard by nature, hung tightly to the back of the bathroom door and was … Read more

Board-Box by Andrea Lambert

I’d left Nick once before. I remember when I left. 2006. The walls of the Echo Park squat where he was staying were pressboard. Black. Brown. Whorled with hibiscus. Soot. Pressed hard into the board-box as Nick liked to call it. The dim dawn hid through a crevasse in the wall. A pigeon lived in … Read more

Maybe by Chelsea Cristene

Look at the baby, my mother mouths against my ear, pulling me close. She sees babies at the mall, in the grocery store—babies in the tomatoes! Allen Ginsberg would shout. She calls my name to show me babies on her phone, searches my face for a sign of enchantment. But all I see are strangers born … Read more

This is my Body by C.J. Griego

In those days, Janet was always hungry. It seemed to her that the space behind her bellybutton was just that, a space. No number of fish fingers or baked beans seemed to be able to fill this gap within her, and, just lately, Janet had begun to suspect there was something missing inside her. That … Read more

Summer Arts Fest by Carol Tyx

Early June. Music turns the street into a pool of sound where we float together in the summer dark, the scent of peonies and roses behind the hot grease from the Belgian waffle tent. Now the pool drains, street becoming street again, residue of plastic cups, cracked spoons, empty cans. I’m slow to rise, still … Read more

Fledgling by Gabriela Frank

Saturdays were piano days. Each week, Mom eased our maroon ’79 Grand Prix into the Southwestern faux-paradise of Sun City, Arizona, its streets lined with palm trees and tidy beds of gravel. Inside the white barrier walls, lazy herds of Continentals, Cadillacs, and golf carts grazed between the lush grass medians and strip shopping centers … Read more

Of Shapes and Shocks by Sarah White

Dr. Z.P., the distinguished psychologist, likes adages. He cites them in Latin, French, English, and his native Polish. He quotes them from ancient authors and from himself. AFFECT LEADS, INTELLECT FOLLOWS is the motto I find spelled out under the image of a Rorschach inkblot, rendered in needlepoint, and hung on his stairway. It is … Read more

How It Slips Away by Emily Brisse

First position: Your feet behind your mother’s waist, dangling. Music is playing. Your body rests in her arms, your head on her shoulder, your eyes closed. You sway and spin, breathing in and out of gentle pirouettes, dreaming toward the eventual dip into deeper sleep, adagio, adagio, where you remain elevated, where your ankles have … Read more

Misty by Kathryn Brown

I balanced a cup of strong coffee on the dashboard of my patrol car and watched the transgender woman I knew as “Misty” leave the free medical clinic in the Tenderloin. She walked with a dignified, stiff posture that I admired considering she was 6’2” and wearing a flower print dress with little puffy sleeves … Read more

A Vacant Lot by Ron Ballard

On an early Friday morning in June of 1946, I started walking down to Mount Pleasant Cemetery with Sonny and Jimmy. My parents were still asleep and I knew my mother wouldn’t like to know her nine year old son was walking all the way down to the end of Seattle’s bus line. We walked … Read more

Feeling My Age by Jessica Allen

Shortly before my 37th birthday, my husband, Garrett, and I decided to go to Nicaragua, also known as the land of volcanoes and lakes. We built our trip around a two-day, 20-mile hike up a volcano called El Hoyo in order to see as much of the former as possible. To prepare, we wiped cobwebs … Read more

Naked by a Five-Dollar Bill by Kanak Kapur

“Everything from here on out is a rat race—” I write on my grad school application, in the words of my late brother. He isn’t really dead, but his career may be. It’s so far gone that he talks of settling down and having children. Just a year ago, he told me that he could … Read more

Left Turns by Marcia Bradley

You are not the enemy. You’ve told yourself this many times but still can’t help but feel that you have been miscast, that this role of ombudswoman and authoritarian is very contrary to the wild girl you carry inside you. “Watch the road,” you tell your daughter and grip the armrest on the passenger’s side … Read more

My Year with Mr. Elser by Constanze Frei

Mr. Elser’s fourth grade class in the little town school included the four of us, a band of orphanage misfits. In addition to me, the three other eleven-year-olds were boys: Emil, Roman, and, Albert. When the sun touched Emil’s hair it looked like he had shiny golden reddish stripes in his thick curls. Emil—a sweet boy who never could do anything right— was an easy target for Mr. Elser’s attention almost every day. In addition to the daily trouble from Mr. Elser, the other boys in the school regularly chased Emil until he stumbled and fell down or was overtaken.

Each time Emil was in trouble in school, he received punishment in the orphanage when Sister Ariana hit him. I knew that Emil didn’t make the boys chase him. Sister Ariana announced in the dining hall a few times that Emil was a really bad boy as she looked at him with serious concern. Maybe she did not know about the boys. I wished I could tell Sister Ariana about the boys chasing, or Mr. Elser. Yes, Emil was not a fast runner and he did cry quickly—he seemed mostly scared. If I tried to tell her, she would be very angry. If I were a boy she would hit me all the time, too.

Once Emil was running so hard to escape the boys that he unsuccessfully threw himself over a high spiked iron fence. The blood dripped down one of the spikes. The other boys disappeared. I climbed way up there to help get Emil’s leg off the spike so he could get down. His red dirty face was full of tears. The ripped brown fabric of his pants exposed the open wound in his flesh. Emil left a bloody trail as I helped him walk back to the orphanage. After a while he couldn’t walk anymore, so I carried him. His face grew paler and paler. When we finally arrived, I sat on the staircase with Emil in my arms and waited. Sister Ariana appeared and yelled at him, and then she quickly sent me away.

Read moreMy Year with Mr. Elser by Constanze Frei

How Not to Spend Your First Month in California by Sara Walters

Don’t unpack too quickly and feel as hollow as your suitcases empty under your new bed.

Don’t accept a bottle of Dr. Pepper, banana chips, a Ziploc of almonds, and a pillow from a boy who looks little to nothing like his Facebook photos, even when he sings you Justin Bieber songs.

Drive Safely by Holly Alderman

“I’m really mad at you right now.” “Why?” I mumbled. We were sitting in her car in the darkness of her garage. Her temperament had oscillated between dissociated and hypomanic all night. Now she seemed to have settled on conscious hypomanic dissociation. Between my previous tour in treatment and two decades of therapy, I was … Read more

The Raven and The Crane by Julie Hill Barton

You are sitting in couples therapy. It’s 10:00 a.m. on a Tuesday and nothing is out of the ordinary. You and your husband have been seeing this therapist for almost five years and your marriage is solid. Still, you’re talking about how you wish he cared more about the upkeep of the house. As you … Read more

Teaching in 8 Parts by Julie Gard

1. Someone has to drive What would I do without students, their cans of Jolt and indiscernible needs, their wept-on poems and muddled brilliance? Twitching with meth, slumped in sweatshirts, numb from grandmothers’ slow deaths and boyfriends’ quick suicides, they crash into college like cars into phone poles. With one of my hands, I grade … Read more

The Ghost in the Book by Tanyo Ravicz

When I open a book I am always in a position to find something—information, a thrill, a moral insight, a happy turn of words—but to find an actual something in a book, an object I wasn’t looking for, stirs up an awareness, often an uncanny one, that somebody was there before me. An unexpected channel … Read more

Buttercup in Wonderland by Holly Alderman

The freshly painted green gate doors swing out. The slow drive up the windy hill. Eternity. Where the hell am I. Top. A middle-aged man is standing in front of what seems to be the office. Mom pops open the trunk so I can get my duffel bag. My lack of upper body strength doesn’t … Read more

The Pattern Makers by Lisa Lepore

Jesse Hauk Shera was a librarian and a prolific beautiful writer who has been dead quite a few years and with whom I am newly in love. Completely smitten. I often fall in love with the dead. In fact, I often wait for people to die before falling in love with them.

Involuntary Reflexes, or How I Ruin Art

Andrea Danowski   I was going to start off with the story my dad always tells about how he almost knocked over a Giacometti once. I don't know if it was the one that recently sold for just over a hundred million dollars, but it was one of the Walking Man bronze sculptures. My dad … Read more