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More Fire [private]

Kwasi woke up somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. What time was it? He looked out the window for a sign of land but there was only blackness and wisps of gray. The boy in the aisle seat who had fallen asleep on his shoulder woke up and looked blankly at him. He looked like he could have been Kwasi’s son. They had the same high cheekbones, the same sleepy, almond-shaped eyes. The boy’s head weighed on him like a great stone, but in the moment, Kwasi felt thankful for it. “It’s okay,” he said. “Go back to sleep.”

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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 

Drawing Water

Picture if you will Tony Hoagland
and me, he in his Donkey Gospel
hat and me wearing my Hustle ring,
in his car patched with silver duct
tape and sagging passenger mirrors
discussing vehicles as metaphors

Illustration by Lauren Nassef

Fat Swim

Alice spots the fat women through the second-story kitchen window. It’s Wednesday, so Dad is out at his feelings meeting. She has just turned eight and has been dragging her drumsticks over different household surfaces to see what sounds they make. The sink has been working well—a satisfying ting, ting, ting. Also the panes of window glass—higher, though, and more muffled. The kitten meows on the ledge. Shush shush, Alice tells him, then bops him lightly on the head with a stick. 

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.

Elegy on the Far Bank


i.m. Greg Greger (1923–2015)

I. West of Chekhov

A month since Father died. Back in our old house, 
sisters, where were we? Desert of childhood, 
      great preserver, 

for you we opened another closet.
Father the farm boy––what didn’t he save?
      There his Army jacket 

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