LIKE HUMMINGBIRDS by Shome Dasgupta

Like when we sat on the sun and watched the world simmer in our heads, brother—remember that time? And how you were so furious and the words from your mouth smoldered, drifting towards every star, making sure there was no void. The pain. The pain you felt became ashes in my own body, and I’m so sorry, brother. I was helpless. And as much as I felt your pain, there was nothing I could do to take it away from you. Your skull vibrated as the smoke left through every pore of your body, and I just wanted to hold…

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APEX PREDATORS by Nicole VanderLinden

Jessa hears a bear. Only it’s not a bear. It’s the wind nudging against the nylon of our tent, but my new wife has never camped on a grassy bald in the Smoky Mountains. So when she elbows me, whispers, is that a snout? where the fabric pushes in against her sleeping bag, I say, probably. I say, you didn’t bring in a candy bar, did you? She knows this story, that tent walls aren’t really walls and that a bear can slice right through them, drag you away for a bit of chocolate. Next to me, I feel her…

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HE FINDS AN ACORN WEARING A BONNET by Katie Piper

Leaves look like they were almost autumn for a moment. Most are pocked with black scars, as if cigarettes have been stubbed out and the ash has coagulated in their papery veins.  My fingers feel gritty–that’s what they said to me last time, ‘your placenta is gritty’ –and so I felt the shame of geriatric pregnancy, as if I had a rheumatoid uterus, or bulbous eggs at 40. My own brutality has come out of season, and , I keep searching, even though I won’t find what I’m looking for. It’s one of those days, and I can only see…

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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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COME HERE, I WANT TO TELL YOU SOMETHING by Jamy Bond

Sometimes, I would catch her peering through a crack in my bedroom door as I changed, watching me with those blue dagger eyes. “Do you think you need some new bras?” she might say later, “those no longer seem to fit.” A way of letting me know what she’d seen.  Locks were not allowed in our house, not even in the bathroom, and sometimes she would stand outside of the door while I bathed, chatting away like we were friends.  She’d rattle the doorknob, just to let me know she could come in if she wanted to.   Come here, I…

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NEANDERTHAL by Noa Covo

Two months after we get married, my husband tells me he is the last Neanderthal on Earth. We are nestled together on the couch when he says it, and I can tell he is serious. I do not laugh. I ask him how long he’s known. He says he first found out when he was a teenager. An archaeologist came to his school, as part of an attempt to encourage rural Americans to get into science. After the assembly, my husband was called to the principal’s office.  I imagine my husband on his way to the office, his shoulders hunched…

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LETTER TO MY FORMER SELF ON THE 20th ANNIVERSARY OF RECOVERY by Elizabeth Muller

Letter to My Former Self on the 20th Anniversary of Recovery: Hey, kid. Yes, you. You don’t think this term applies to you anymore—you’re fifteen, after all—but believe me, it does. I wish you knew how much.  You’re about to leave the dusty hellscape you’ve called home for the last two months, relearning how to eat so that your weight can go from 85 to 90 to 100. It cost $80,000 and your father won’t let you forget it. You’ll feel much better about the barbed wire fence once it’s behind you. You’ll keep a little barbed wire in your…

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AMERICAN LAKE by Aaron Burch

Did you grow up near water? What did you think of when I asked that—lake, river, ocean, pool, other? Do you like to swim? Do you remember learning how? Did your grandmother live not on a lake, but near? Walking distance? Do you have fond memories of going to your grandmother’s house, getting one of the large towels she kept for you in the bathroom, one of the inner tubes she kept in her garage? Do you remember being little and using actual inner tubes on the water, not an inflatable pool float or tube like you might buy from…

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LIPSTICK BOTTOMS (CHICAGO, IL – JULY 2008) by Taylor Byas

It’s past 2 am on the southside of Chicago when my aunt Danielle, my father’s older sister, brings me and her daughter Ginai along for a late-night alcohol run. With each step, every part of my aunt ripples. Her hair is half-pressed half-shrinking from the dry summer heat. On her right thigh, clear packing tape covers a hole where she says a spider bite ate away at the flesh. I am too young to know that “spider bite” is a euphemism for an infected track mark. “Damn girl, you wore those shorts just for me didn’t you?” a white man…

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DOGWALKER by L Scully

I  Once, when you were still a girl, you loved another person. At the time, they were a girl too and you relished in your mutual girlhood from the roof of the funeral home in which you lived. You stayed in the funeral director’s suite and put up strings of tiny lights and a record player your girlfriend restored from the 70s. You would lay in the park with this friend of yours, heads on each other’s chests, nights spent giggling and intertwined. When they were a girl and you were a girl they were magic. You would crawl out…

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