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daughter

Nocturne

Daddy was a slick devil, so he must have thought my sister his
succubus; a mud-bone Lilith, her lurid tresses struck shut with
igneous flicker when it happened in the black. His cinereous 

peepers, glazed over moons which pierced through Tweety Bird
jammies. He tended to sissy’s unassuming sinew with his eyes first
so as to handle the unfathered clitoris with the only sort of care 

Illustration by Lauren Nassef

The Obituary

When reporting on suicide, the CDC advises against including the suicide method or overly positive descriptions of the deceased for fear of causing contagion. 

Which gave Reporter Jane a problem in reporting on how her dad did what he did. She can’t mention the means, so readers will be left to wonder:

Was it a gun? A rope? A razor? Pills? Poison? A train? A hair-dryer? 

And (according to the CDC), the mildly suicidal among them will begin to salivate.

Trout

Two years after her mother’s death, Jane’s boyfriend asked her to marry him, and nine months later, they moved across the country to start their new life. Jane was twenty-nine, ready to step away from Phoenix after a hard few years. Ryan had taken a job at a recording studio in Tennessee, and he pointed out that the public schools there were as bad as the ones in Arizona, so she could easily fail teaching fourth graders in either place. Her father was a kind, if distant, ichthyologist, and he seemed to think the move was maybe not ideal, but maybe not a bad idea. Jane was excited to start over. She’d been adopted when she was six, and she thought of six as the beginning of her real childhood. As they drove out of town, she decided twenty-nine was the beginning of her real adult life.

Photograph by Jeff Sharlet

Not Even My Own

I thought they were wild but I’m told irises rarely are. Planted; invasive; European, mostly, or Asian. But there are natives, too. These, with their ribbed yellow tongues, resemble an iris called the wild flag, which grows from Nova Scotia to Sitka. How might it have come to this small valley? First a bulb, then a garden, then flowers, planted; now flowers, wild. Escapees or refugees, invaders or simply the left behind.

The Week Before She Died

I dream us young, again,
mother and daughter back
on 69th Street inside
our old brownstone—across
from the church, patch of lawn— 

a house neglected, wrecked,
as if the family
had been forced at gunpoint
to move away. In corners
dirt stacked like miniscule

Illustration by Anna Schuleit Haber

Renovation

Water, I learned, was the most abundant element in nature whose only value came from controlled and measured distribution. Our lives invariably revolved around its input and output, and the same rules which governed the natural world were also true for our family’s own ecosystem.

Smother

She was very young then. It had to be 1974 because she was in second grade at Buhr Elementary School, which was the faded-red-brick building set back from the busy street; she has forgotten the name of the street and much of her life at that time, but she remembers the school, she remembers a teacher who was kind to her, she remembers Rock Basin Park, where the child was smothered.