Unbroken #39: Anything Can Be a Weapon
Because a story is like a gun
You were in the first act of your life and you wanted to leave it. You were thirteen and shunned by your few remaining friends. You were sixteen and renounced by your mother;
just another girl with too many sharp edges, a girl too like herself to love. No wonder you turned to strangers, never learning a boy with a barbed wire smile can’t take you anywhere you can come back from. Not that you wanted to come back. So maybe these suburbs had shielded you before, but you were older now, and mighty: too mighty for the windows that went dark before nine, the vacant parks with their quiet languor, their interminable green. At eighteen, you stood on someone’s lawn and burned every birthday card your stepfather gave you. Could I have helped you? Could anyone? Maybe I’m just telling this story because enfolding you in it keeps you safe, for once, for the final time. Because a story is like a gun: its power is in the hand that holds it.
Anuja Mitra is a writer from Aotearoa/New Zealand with work in local and international publications. Her poetry has recently appeared in the journals Haven Speculative, Landfall,
Poetry New Zealand, and takahē, as well as anthologies from Auckland University Press. Her linktree and occasional commentary can be found on the dying platform that is Twitter: @anuja_m9.
Lisa Caroline Friedman
The TSA agent calls you Poppy when the body scanner — the one where you stand on the Big Bird footprints and put your hands over your head in an admission of guilt — detects a potential threat residing on your body. Poppy hits me as too familiar yet wholly unfamiliar — you are Bapa to my girls and Grandpa to your five other grandchildren. Poppy also sounds condescending, but I don’t say anything because we would like to get through security without incident. He speaks to you very slowly,
like you’re a frail old man needing very specific instructions, and then I remember that you’re a frail old man needing very specific instructions because several months
ago, you went inside a different scanner and it lit up — you’d had several mini-strokes in your cerebellum — a revelation that was not a revelation given your poor balance and unreliable short-term memory. Recently, you read The New York Times and then twenty minutes later, walked outside to pick up The New York Times, which you had only just finished reading twenty minutes earlier. The TSA agent who calls you Poppy pats you down because something has lit up on this scanner as well — your watch or your belt buckle or a pen — so now you’re standing, slightly wobbly, with your legs apart and arms held straight out like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man — while he works his gloved hands slowly, though not torturously, up and down and across your body, feeling but not feeling how your frame is held together more by bone and tendon than muscle.
Lisa Caroline Friedman (she/her) lives and works in Palo Alto, California. Her poems have been published by Pink Panther Magazine, San Pedro River Review, and Rat’s Ass Review. This winter, she will begin Antioch University’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program.
Happy Mother’s Day
I bring Mom’s ashes on vacation, packed in my suitcase — like a first aid kit or a just in case beach read — in a black velvet bag with a drawstring. On the bottom of a glass vial, a sticker with her full name, which no one used ever…except her mother. I reach the cabin where we will spend the weekend. I wanted to face our first Mother’s Day without her somewhere beautiful. The reality is a bit different than I had pictured. The daffodils here have given up, hunched and shriveled in their beds. On an outdoor shelf, antler sheds rust dust with “vintage” frisbees. A pair of houseflies make passionate love on my notebook. At the lake shore I joust an avenging archangel goose. It eventually waddles up to the cabin, neck craned at the sliding glass door, trumpeting its disapproval–its rage. Scared, my youngest breaks into tears. I chase the goose down the hill with a cottonwood branch plucked from the grass. I’m sure the neighbors are watching. The next afternoon I jog through the cedar forest, fragrant in the heat. Guerrilla mosquitoes spring from the shadows. Swamp lanterns as big as my toddler line the creek, gleaming. Moths flicker along the dirt road in the fading light. Nettles sting at bare legs scratched and dusty. The creek burbles in ravenous delight. I hear the clarion challenge of the goose once more. Looking out the window, preparing for another battle, I note downy goslings toddling along the lake shore, nibbling the grass. Ah. This time when the goose waddles up, I tip her my hat.
Linea Jantz has worked in a wide range of roles over the years including waste management, medical records, paralegal, teacher, and writer. Her poetry was featured most recently in HamLit Journal and the F*ck the Patriarchy anthology by poetry press Sunday Mornings at the River.
Foster W. Donnell
A man buys eleven jars of rain clouds, one for each of his daughters. All eleven return their jar resealed and wrapped in wax paper. They have grown tired of their father’s confused gifts, his angling for affection. Too many meals they’ve spent in rain slickers and umbrellas. A breakfast of sleet and flash floods, early dinners under threat of monsoon. The man watches the graying clouds break from his window. He walks to the horizon and carves the moon with his knife. Cold slices of moonrock whisper in his pockets like windchimes. The sky is an empty bowl. Sweat drips from creased hands as the man portions out the moon for his daughters. Seals the moonlight in old jars his mother had used to trap the breeze carrying glints of the sun.
Foster W. Donnell is an emerging poet currently enrolled in the Writers' Program at UCLA Extension. His work is forthcoming in Southland Alibi. Originally from Dallas, Texas, he now lives in Los Angeles, California.
Accidentally on Purpose
The summer burned without being consumed. Girls hid themselves behind too much makeup. I felt surrounded by sleepless objects – a wooden mask, a silver drinking cup, a candle stub – invested with incommunicable meaning. Crossroads were rarely in the same place from one morning to the next. Word came of orcas battering the hulls of fishing vessels in revenge for past humiliations. I stood on the beach, an old pair of opera glasses to my eyes, and scanned the ocean for pieces of wreckage. All I could see was the rippled surface of a vast emptiness, everyone seemingly dying by their own hand.
Howie Good is a writer and collagist on Cape Cod.
Waves whisper into the ear just before they attack. The crests rip open the surface and roar to the sky. A cold numbs the body and mind. Still, I tread through this beautiful, brutal ocean. Adrift in this abyss, my legs circle nonstop. I’m nowhere near being rescued. Salt and sediment flood my lungs every time I scream. I savor the sunlight on my cheeks but the ocean has decreed my death. If I dare calm my breaths to an easy thrum, the ocean plunges my head into a cyclone of snow and blue. When exhaustion creeps up, an island manifests a few meters away. There is warm sand to dig my toes in, palm trees to lie beneath, fresh fruit to sweeten my tongue. Sometimes there's a pond that could quench my thirst, reveal a shy reflection that smiles back. The ocean enjoys taunting me with this oasis. The second I swim toward it, hope evaporates. If sleep consumes me, then ships appear in my dreams. They sail close enough to scrape my nails but never stop. On their grand journey to better worlds, I am a speck of dust, too small to be worth saving. So I count down the days until the ocean swallows me whole. Marine monsters might do its bidding. A shark digs its teeth into my ribs. Kelp strangles my neck. Perhaps my breath will surrender first, leaving me for a stronger, worthier body as I sink to the seabed. But there are days when I welcome the overwhelming weight of the water. On my skin, it becomes cool instead of cold, refreshing. The currents languish to a gentle embrace. It’s naive to fall for this illusion but if we do, we shall revel in the beautiful stillness. The sunset kissing the horizon. Our breaths mingling with the seagulls and salty air. And from moonlight to sunrise, no matter how much we’re drowning in darkness, we shall search for that one bright thing to cling onto, even if it’s just a tiny star cracking through the clouds.
Kathy Vo is a digital marketer based in Santa Clara, CA. She enjoys swimming, knitting, and binging cheesy reality shows. She writes as a hobby and hopes to finish a novel about the Vietnamese-American experience.