Plums by Anna da Silva

“How about you put the phone away while we eat?” I tell Beck. My words float up, accidental question mark dangling.  “Ma, it’s for school,” Beck says without looking up from under his basketball hoodie. “Besides,” he waves his hand at the empty place-setting in front of me, “are you even eating?” The three of us sit at a round table in the center of a bustling Holiday Inn Express breakfast hall, boys’ jackets and backpacks strewn on chairs, their clunky boots jostling under the table. The air tastes like hot maple syrup.  “Duh! She never eats breakfast!” Finn makes…

Crescent City Connection by Daniel Webre

Her name was Facetia, or so she told me anyway. I met her on Interstate 10. She was hitchhiking, maybe stranded, and I was bored and curious, on my way to New Orleans from a city across the swamp. I had picked up hitchhikers before. So it wasn’t just because she was a young woman and reasonably attractive. But those other times, I’d been drinking, which I realize now made it a bad idea for both of us. I was barreling down the interstate in a mid-nineties Town Car—coal black. This was one of my rare excursions beyond the city’s…

Three Poems by Kai Cruz

Machinal Pull yourself together You did this to yourself You made it this way Tell the story The story of a helpless creature A being who did not ask for this Any of this Sometimes the stories we tell Are not just reflections of us Sometimes we create As a cry For help God help us all Why would you do this Why would you make something so horrible A living thing It lives and it lives to die It lives to bleed Scraping itself back together Wasting and wasting away It cannot help itself You cannot help it All…

What am I supposed to do with this? by Madeira Miller

All of this feeling, all of this wistful, all these memories in the shape of phantoms, the snakeskin of your arms around me? This nomadic heart which always finds its way back to you? The soft underbelly of rage, which was always secretly an armful of sorrow? A shrapnel of grief? A mouth like an open wound? Your name engraved on a hatchet? Your fingerprints, but all I could think about were your hands, your beautiful hands, how they hurt me, what am I supposed to do with all of this hurt? The nomenclature of the hatchet caked in dirt…

Life Uprooted by Janice Post-White

The stately burr oak stood deeply rooted in the center of our backyard, high up on the hillside. It shaded the patio from the midday summer sun and provided the perfect hideout for backyard games. I took its steady, reassuring presence for granted for the thirty years we lived under its canopy.  When the tree’s bark started to peel, the young, lithe arborist led the way as we tromped through wild grasses and ground cover draping the steep, compact backyard. “It’s dying,” he said as he tugged at a strip of peeling skin. “Something damaged its roots.”  “Dying?” I echoed,…

Three Poems by Radian Hong

A Flat Tire You contemplate the car sitting back on its round rubber haunches as if it were some lame exotic animal, the last of its convertible kind. Pity in your eyes, you bite your round rubber lip and put your ear to the warm tire like a stethoscope to listen for the telltale hiss. You hope only to diagnose the cancer whose presence you can already sense. The sun is hot on your plastic neck. Giving up, you lean against the car door and fan yourself. You look up and down the flat, shimmering road and wait for someone…

Head, Heart, Belly by Jennifer Lang

 חָרִיף Haifa, 1989 Philippe drizzles a greenish, garlicy hot sauce on his falafel. Between the torrid temperature and cayenne pepper paste, he is on fire. Watching him bite into the fried cumin-infused balls causes me to salivate. The thought of his thick, fleshy lips on mine creates inner heat.  “Délicieux,” he says in his mother tongue. Beads of perspiration form on his forehead and trickle down his face. “Spicy food,” he says, “makes me sweat.”  My senses are on high alert. Men and women, young and old, race to shop for Shabbat at the souk before stores close midafternoon. Stalls…

Wolf at the Door by Peter Pendras

The guest-room wallpaper has a muted shine like expensive gift wrapping. The bed—which has been pushed to the back wall—is covered with bulging white pillows and a hand-hooked cotton coverlet. It is a feminine room, nicely appointed with dried flowers in pottery vases, vague and colorful prints on the wall, psychology books on a low shelf. Everything is as it should be except for the hospital bed, which dominates the limited floor space. This is the room where my brother lives now; sixty-one-years-old and a guest in his own house. It is the hand-holding room and the whispering room, the…

Three Poems by Ben Murigu

Black Houdini For a while, he’s been missing our Mheshimiwa— A shepherd unseen A leader heard A presence unfelt A true, black Houdini. Five party-branded calendars Cheap and unseemly Used and discarded After having angered our visitors Marred our living rooms. No word from his honorable person No help from his hired personnel. No progress report on his projects Stalled or otherwise No newsworthy mentions No fruitful radio discussions. A Harvard-educated marine biologist Who’s a mirage A myth A true lie, living and breathing— A ghost in his classy government-issued office at Continental House A stranger at his posh wananchi-built…

The Mechanical Bull by Jacqueline Berkman

It wasn’t until the bachelorette partiers were on their third round of Never Have I Ever that Violet, sitting under the Cactus Cove’s pulsating array of strobe lights, looked around and realized she couldn’t find any hot guys anywhere.  “Lemme see here,” said the bride-to-be Olivia, her eyes droopy. She’d already had a couple shots and some passion fruit rum drink from the bar and was starting to slur her words. “Never have I ever…done the mile-high club thing or whatever.” This resulted in an eruption of giggles, and at least three of the ladies threw back shots. Violet grimaced,…