DEAR ALISON by Stephanie Parent

I’ve used you so many times. In college application essays, you were the tragedy I experienced early in life, the loss that made me wise beyond my years and allowed books to speak to me so deeply I was determined to become a writer myself.  (I wasn’t wise beyond my years, and I never wanted to write as much as I wanted to read.) I recycled those same essays for graduate school applications, but when I actually made it to a master’s program and depression snuck up on me like a springtime drizzle, then slammed down all at once in…

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SITTING ALONE by D.T. ROBBINS

I had a dream about you. I sat in a pew that only had enough room for two people. Its red velvet had faded, its wooden frame splintered.  Someone played piano, sang a song for you, about you. The congregation sent up a crescendo of angel voices, enveloping the atmosphere, like a child wrapped around her father’s leg.  And me? I lost it. I bawled, wailed.  I’d saved that seat next to me for you, but you never came.    The dream-song, a melody I’d never heard before, stayed in my ears after I woke. I considered whether or not…

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HEAVENLY LAKE by Kristen Loesch

It might be June, or it might be July. I can no longer keep track of the days. It’s that halfway point of a Hong Kong summer, when the heat turns everything soupy. The days and nights run together, and the usual strictures of time and space begin to crumble. How long have I been with my British boyfriend? Long enough for him to have bought a new camera. He’s an avid photographer, one who’s always itching for a worthy subject to capture. One day he finds one: Let’s go off the beaten track, to Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province, to…

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GOD VISITED ME IN BALDWIN, NEW YORK by Ryan Norman

A sad poem picked me up at the train station. I missed my stop and he was annoyed that I wasn’t paying attention. It was my first time traveling alone. The day was long. I traveled two hours into Grand Central Station and had to get to Penn Station to catch the LIRR. This was before Waze and Google Maps. I was lost before I started, but there I was. Eighteen, standing in front of someone I met at college orientation. I melted in his eyes—already a puddle from five hours of train travel—making connections, walking in the summer subway…

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INCANDESCENCE by Evan Senie

We set the fire up in your backyard with only three logs, two on the bottom and one perpendicular across the top. I was quiet around you then, cautious. I’m afraid I still am, forever worried about possible endings. The fire burned for hours once it got started, but initially it was stop-and-go. We fed pages from the phonebook into the empty spaces, watched the flames cause each to curl inward, the ink running down in a purple wave until it burned itself out and was replaced. When the logs caught, it was just their edges, little strands of wood…

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FOREIGNER by Rachel Laverdiere

When the cockroach and I lock eyes, I’m almost relieved. You’ve half convinced me that I’m neurotic. You say I imagine the scrutiny of the old ajumas at the outdoor markets, the side-eyed stares on the train to Kimje, the personalized attack by the orangutan at the Taegu Zoo. Yet, I’ve caught these glossy black orbs peering at me from above the window overlooking the hall. A hand’s-breadth from the closed classroom door. My only means of escape. I twist the pinching wedding bands your mother had made for me when we came back to Korea to exhibit our newborn…

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THE SCHWINN by Rob Kaniuk

Mike showed up yelling and hollering about “the perfect gift” for Murph’s 40th birthday. He insisted everyone eat dinner and he’d give my dad his gift after we all had cake. Brylcreemed white hair, D.B. Cooper glasses, and one of his teeth, rimmed in gold, that twinkled when he smiled. It was a sly smile that was there whether he was handing me a butterscotch or crushing my hand purple in a handshake. He lived in a cabin, kept goats to maintain his lawn, and always had a paper bag filled with quarter sticks of dynamite.  Mike was nuts, but…

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LIGHTNING STRIKES by Emily Livingstone

Once upon a time, something truly devastating lanced out of the sky and struck the protagonist, turning him into a tragic hero. He was dead and born again in an instant, a demigod with a one-line history of having killed his whole family in a madness borne of squabbles between gods. He went on to perform twelve labors beyond human capability. He married a new wife and ascended to Mt. Olympus, a god-immortal.  Or, once upon a time, there was a woman whom the earth swallowed. In fact, it may have swallowed a whole town, but then she climbed out…

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AT THE ANIMAL LEVEL by L Mari Harris

I was not born with this rage. I don’t remember when it first entered me. (Yes, you do.) Nor do I remember when I first realized everything I saw was faintly veiled in red: the city streets, the faces of people I passed by every day, my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. (Are you sure about that?) Now, I drape this red rage over me like a hooded cape made of velvet and ermine. If I tuck my head just right inside the hood, I cannot see the trim of white that once scampered along a…

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BACKFLASH by Rebecca Portela

There it is. That particular tone that wakes me up from a dead sleep. Primal, sometimes guttural. Almost inhuman. Or so very human, more human than people ever dare to be. I feel for my phone in the dark. Corner of the nightstand. Lamp. Glasses. Phone. I get out of bed with less urgency than the last time and even less than the time before that. I flick on the lights and watch her for just a second. Hair in her face. Fists clenched. Body convulsing. I check the foam padding I put on the side of her nightstand from…

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