“My brother is dying,” my mother tells me over the phone, her voice spilling down the line, a thin stream of water over the lip of a dam. My mother says the word dying like it’s a question. As if we have some input in the matter. I’ve been expecting this news for some time and yet still, I feel a click inside my head, the pinioning tooth of a clock gear grinding down into sudden, absolute stillness. My hand goes up to my forehead where the bone is surprisingly intact. Curved, warm, hard. It comes to me that silence is just a figment, a metaphor. What sounds like a barren expanse, if you listen harder, is actually a tidepool glinting with shape and movement. Like the man in the sound-proofed room who hears the storm of his breath, the wonder of his own heartbeat.
Careful, there’s little difference between the woody surface and the edible veins of the sugarcane. Carve the skin first to reveal the sweet blood that hums in your mouth until you’re chewing the gospel. Don’t swallow Mississippi; it does not belong to you fully, but touching the root is all it takes for the dirt to find your ears, for the music to seed itself into your brain as if you are the ground itself, acres of cotton and cane, rooting your tongue.
“how liminally can the lyric exist,” I asked the wilderness & the wilderness just blinked. so I exited, stage-left, & offered only my agreeing with green: explosions of caricature I could claw from suburban lawns.
I reconsider the sea. How uncomfortable it makes me that water might decide what breathes & doesn't breathe. How the shape of water hides its cruelty. Unleashed, how it teaches me I have no power here. I think of a child we lost, as the sun lays itself down. The sea, in repose. I think of you.
Featuring our 2016 spring contest winners: Annie Sheppard, Rochelle Hurt, Jacqueline Doyle; and our poetry finalists: Shonte Daniels, Alexandra Barylski, Kat Keller, Chelsea Dingman, Naima Woods, Jake Syersak, and Anne Barngrover
and bandy-legged, I passed time among hills and hay, swam in dirty pools. The summer skies were green- eyed, the color of witches and grassy cow pies. I was greedy for blue. In the fields, in the high school with no AC, men with big teeth scolded girls' skin. Shirts must cover shoulders. Shorts must be longer than arms can swing. Our bodies were symmetry or else
Jacqueline Doyle Manka curled up on her white linen couch with a glass of Pinot Noir and opened the new New Yorker to the fiction page. On the left there was an illustration of a snowy landscape, with dark trees silhouetted against a pale gray sky. And on the right, the title and the…
I was several blocks away, kicking a soccer ball against a cinder block wall. In the hospital that evening I stood alone in the fluorescent hall. I didn't believe a bit of it. Was Gawk in the room behind the half-closed door? I pictured him in there eating chocolate ice cream, the TV turned up loud, Dad reading the sports and Mom hovering. I remembered I needed to pump more air into the soccer ball. I stared at the door refusing to enter.
The word “benign” has several meanings. It can mean kindly or harmless. Or gentle – which is nice. I thought it also meant “sitting around doing nothing,” but this incorrect. If you are busy, it can be irksome to observe others doing nothing. “If you’re not doing anything...” my husband says. I would argue that reading is not “doing nothing;” nor is smoking. I am of robust health. You may find this offensive, given the above. Perhaps you do not feel robust yourself, or must work at it. If so, you may be glad to know that I will get my comeuppance.