Unbroken #39: Anything Can Be a Weapon
Hert Niks (Unsplash)
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.
Homage to Jack B. Yeats
A man in a psychedelic overcoat and with no face starts across the late light. Red cattle lie under the elms but we cannot see them. What looks like milk is just the river spilt over the grass. Blackbirds hide in thick leaves that we do not see. A bridge of foxgloves has broken into bells, and a ridge of mountains with luminous lakes coming from going somewhere, rises in the silent land. His webbed feet fill with drowsy pleasure. Hadn’t I almost forgotten that something in me belongs to these things?
Jim Burke lives in Limerick, Ireland, and is co-founder with John Liddy of The Stony Thursday Book. His haiku featured in the anthology Between The Leaves (2016), edited by Anatoly Kudryavitsky. His other books include Quartet (2019), poems with Mary Scheurer, Peter Wise, and Carolyn Zukowski and Montage (The Literary Bohemian Press, 2021).
Pick a Date
she says, meaning another appointment with the specialists doing their best to defy my resolute death, but I’m a dad and so I crack a joke, no thanks, I’m allergic, and because I can’t keep dates and figs straight, having never (to my knowledge) eaten either, I think of Jesus on his way to Jerusalem’s den of thieves, and how he, so hungry, cursed either a fig tree or a date tree for having no fruit for him when he came upon it outside of Bethany. I’m sure my Sunday school teacher had a holy explanation for this, but all I could think at the time was how spoiled Jesus was acting. Used to my banter, the receptionist smiles with patient eyes. It’s an inverted flower, you know, I say, continuing on about either dates or figs, though I have no idea when or where I only partially learned this, not a fruit, and it’s pollinated by a wasp that dissolves inside, so whenever you eat one, you’re also always eating a wasp. She holds her smile as steady as the heavy hands of Moses, waiting. She knows that, eventually, I’ll have to turn to the calendar and voluntarily select a day to return for an update regarding my looming departure, but for now I’m smiling back at her, enjoying the slight whimsy of the moment, wondering if I’ve accidentally plucked a metaphor for what remains of my life, one that I’m unsure how to peel, much less eat.
Kevin Grauke has published work in such places as The Threepenny Review, The Southern Review, StoryQuarterly, Fiction, and Quarterly West. He is also the author of Shadows of Men (Queen's Ferry Press), winner of the Steven Turner Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. He’s a Contributing Editor at Story, and he lives in Philadelphia.
I’ll admit that I cried when the toast came buttered. I put protein powder in places it should never go. If it tasted great, I couldn’t have it. If it tasted like nothing, it tasted great. I brought almonds to the movie theatre. I wrote down all of it. If I forgot, something bad would happen. What exactly, I either didn’t know for sure, or wouldn’t say. The boyfriend was a personal trainer. I ordered salmon instead of pad Thai and he never stopped me. At night, his phone lit up with pictures of bodies I would never have. I was a direct descendant of the devil. I cried at spoons dropping. I yelled at any hand that asked to touch something on my plate. I seethed when the reservation changed at the last minute and I didn’t have the menu memorized. I hated math but I was always doing it. They say it’s about control but my grip was unhinged, oiled, slipping. In pursuit of indentations I called health. I’ll admit I don’t know what the goal was or when it ended, just that eventually I stopped fearing white rice. Fruit was fruit again. The days opened up like the mouth of a tornado. Endless time without the stale confinement of the garage gym, the work gym, the campus gym. I could enter the freezer without inhaling the full sleeve of pumpkin cheesecake bites. I slept when I wanted and I allowed myself to want, to receive. Some way or another, my limbs carried me out of the labyrinth. Some way or another I made it home again.
Danielle Shorr (she/her) is an MFA alum and professor of disability rhetoric and creative writing at Chapman University. A finalist for the Diana Woods Memorial Prize in Creative Non-fiction and nominee for The Pushcart Prize in Creative Non-Fiction and Best of the Net 2022, her work has appeared in Lunch Ticket, Driftwood Press, The New Orleans Review, and others. See more at @danielleshorr.
Nothing Changes in These Towns
Ten people shot in a Brooklyn train station. On their way to work. On their way to a store. On their way to some ordinary day. Two hours away I drive behind a car with a license plate that reads Ruger-3 and a bumper sticker that says, “I love my gun dealer.” Don’t think about the dead deer hanging in the tree, early December, the lifeless eyes. Guns sat under chairs, rifles tucked under beds. I tiptoed across that sacred space, squeaking floors, unheated, the only place my father could claim. The warm stink of sulfur, black gun powder-like coffee grounds. I liked the measure and fill, the way the drill press righted the bullet in the casing, finishing the job. My small hands managed the tiny pieces well.
Jennifer Judge teaches college English. Her work has also been published in Sheila-Na-Gig, Plainsongs, The Fictional Cafe, Literary Mama, Under the Gum Tree, and RHINO, among others. Her first book, Spoons, Knives, Checkbooks, is forthcoming from Propertius Press. She lives in Dallas, Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.
You exited the place of worship because it no longer served you. You held your black idol’s hands one last time. His eyes glimmered in seeming recognition, but you could never be sure. You have lived here so long; you can’t see the exit. It’s a khrishna-blue door, closed yet. You wonder at how the sunlight will stream in, when you will open it. That you have chosen to sleep here, on the cold floors of this temple, is a reality you can no longer deny. Love is moving into the past register; and you are leaving the only place you ever loved. The ghost of your idol is watching you move as if in a dream. But you have woken up. Soon, you will leave the boundaries of his glow. He will no longer guide the insides of your eyes, nor hold the tips of your fingers. You will be free in absolute ways; the winds will learn for the first time that you have a name. You will walk with your own feet, write with your own hands. You will sing of your idol, but he will no longer be by your eternal side. You are becoming a bird, people will say. How long and hard and high your flight, they will wonder but no idol will keep you bound to the glow of his eyes. You will leave certainly, the uncertain realms.
Fatima Ijaz is a Karachi poet, currently pursuing her Masters in English at Rutgers University, USA. Her recent publication is The Shade of Longing and Other Poems (2021). Her work has been published in numerous magazines including Kyoto Journal, The Aleph Review, and Bombay Review. Her memoir was longlisted by the ZHR Writing Prize (2022).