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Unbroken #38: Standing in the Allowed Light


Sebastien Gabriel

Subhaga Crystal Bacon


For My Father, Decades Dead:

A Zuihitsu

I’ll take a barrel of wooden assholes if they’re free, my father used to say. His garage orderly, the place he went to putter and hum, to be alone, on a weekend. After his death, jars and jars of fasteners sorted by size and use. Tools hung. He wasn’t handy, but he was neat.




I put the tires up on the free stuff site. They came in a Monster Truck. The kind high as a church, homely as a house. Maybe not safe as. One by one he tossed them in to get a season more out of them. His woman did the talking. Free Bird on his stereo.




Smoke billows up over the empty ditch. It’s not fire season, still, the way it plumes and spreads sets off an alarm in my adrenal system. First it smells of toast, then the hot pan, then finally, brush accelerated by gasoline. The dog and I walk the gravel bed until we meet it, and see the two men, one leaning on a shovel, sent to burn what they’ve cut. We turn back before we’re seen.




It’s Earth Day, April 22. A trio of juncos flit and twitter in a cottonwood sapling. Have I ever heard their song this way, up close, blending both sight and sound? They’re maybe talking about the smoke, or about the water coming soon. Smoke and water. Water and smoke. We try not to expect the burn.




More and more, I think about death. I write poems that dredge up the debris of childhood. Who said and did what that left its spark in me. Sparks that flare up now, decades later. My parents dead, the house that was our home (safe as) sold again and again. The garage may be an in-law suite, maybe a mess of discarded junk, like mine. A barrel of wooden assholes.




The sky hasn’t yet turned to slate. There’s still snow on the peaks. Fat cumulus clouds spread like smoke. Fir branches bow in the wind, supplicants, patient, ever green.


Subhaga Crystal Bacon (she/her) is a Queer poet living in rural Washington on unceded Methow land. She is the author of four collections of poetry including Surrender of Water in Hidden Places, Red Flag Poetry, and Transitory, forthcoming in the fall of 2023 from BOA Editions.

Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home.

Your house is on fire, your children all gone.


In the morning mirror, the house around me is ablaze. It’s only the neighbor’s maple at the window, on fire with autumn and the early sun, but it shocks me to know how close I am to such flame. Just in from across the world, jet-lagged, I look older than I thought. Friction burn. While I was away, the almost-grown children found the serrated edges of their world: it was their father, hungry ghost—


daughter, too much a woman; son, too much a man who understood what needed to be done, stepped between. He used to do that for me when he was young and I could not keep him from it. Back then I thought I could save them, though it seems I only banked the fire, put off the day the old man would turn us all, like kindling, to ash. Those flames in the mirror—

Oh Ladybird, Ladybird.



Laura Apol is the author of several prize-winning collections of poetry, most recently A Fine Yellow Dust (Michigan State University Press, 2021), winner of the Midwest Book Award. She is a past poet laureate for the Lansing area.

Laura Apol



M.R. Mandell

The Pretender

I loved pretend games. Playing school with my sisters, casting myself as the teacher, ordering them to call me Miss Marvelous. Building desks with stacks of encyclopedias, swinging a ruler through the air, lecturing on the importance of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet to the survival of the human race. The only time I was given permission to boss them around, but my tenure never lasted long. It would end with Cathy beating me up for giving her an F (she deserved). On Saturdays, Mom would join in the fun, marching into our classroom as fiery Principal Poppington, waving a pink slip, ordering a poor soul to "Come with me." Holding giggles, the guilty one would feign shame as Mom tugged them out by their ears.


That’s not the only game of pretend I played with Mom. When she forgot to pay bills, I’d tell her I did that too. When she walked into a room, not knowing where she was, I’d pour her a cup of tea, with a drop of honey, tell her she needed more sleep. When she moved into Sunnyside Convalescent, I’d pretend she recognized my face, still knew my name, that I was her daughter, not her nurse. Arms linked, we’d stroll through Hundred Acre Wood, planning summer adventures I knew would never come. I’d tell her Amy was still alive, that Dad never left. When she asked if I could stay, I’d tell her I’d be back the next day to take her home with me for good.




M.R. Mandell (she/her) is a writer living in LA. You can find her work in Boats Against the Current, The Final Girl Bulletin Board, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, JAKE, Roi Fainéant, sage cigarettes, Anti-Heroin Chic, Stanchion Zine, and others.



Gwen Sayers

Drop Dead Beauty

I’m scrolling the news feed thinking about how exquisite my mother was, when I see a wicker coffin that looks like a hamper with rope handles down the sides. My mother shades her eyes, their picnic basket contains remains of eggs, sausage and lipstick. My father spies behind a lens, steals her blood red lips, black curls and yellow basket in a snapshot. He never managed to pry open her casket—a tisket, a tasket. Not with kisses. Not with fists. If he had, he would not have found her secret letter. My grandmother used to visit them with a basket of meat pies. She wasn’t afraid of wolves. The natural woven coffins on my screen are made of willow, seagrass, cane, and wicker; all pictured against scenic beauty. A lake at sunset. A field of bluebells. A forest path. You can click on a colour or type of weave that suits you. Choosing a coffin on-line is like buying a settee. The settee can have an ash or pine frame. Grey or green fabric. Soft or firm cushions. A wooden casket can be lined with silk or satin. Its handles, gold or silver finished. And didn’t e. e. cummings ask Mister Death how he liked his blue-eyed boy? In the end, we have no choice. That’s the beauty of it.




Gwen Sayers lives in London. Winner of the Magma Poetry Prize, her poems have been published in literary magazines and anthologies.


Cherie Hunter Day

Every House Has One of These

I look for you in, of all places, the junk drawer. And there I find: three rusty utility blades minus the handle; a penny with a hole drilled through it; a rubbery ball of mostly red and yellow elastic bands; four small spiral notebooks with short grocery lists with room for more items; a box of wooden safety matches; an assortment of loose, anonymous house keys; five packets of white sugar; thirteen large paper clips, seven binder clips, and four bright plastic chip clips; hand-sanitizer wipes from the law firm; strip of college-lined notebook paper with a network passcode; the black inner gasket from a garden hose; long white plastic twist ties from electronic packaging; a zip-top sandwich bag with miscellaneous roofing nails, deck screws, and metal washers; a magnet with its cluster of straight pins; the business card of the guy who installed our water heater; six extra dress shirt buttons; a hard peppermint candy in its cellophane wrapper; an expired coupon for a lube job, and your pocket watch circa 1973. When I wind it up it still ticks, but for how long.




Cherie Hunter Day’s work has appeared in Mid-American Review, Moon City Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Rust & Moth, and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Microfiction anthologies. Miles Deep in a Drum Solo (Backbone Press, 2022) won a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award 2022.

Andrik Langfield

Andrik Langfield

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