Unbroken #40: The Hope Museum Is Now Open
Joshua Michael Stewart
To the Brim
for my brother, 1969-2007
My shadow elongates across the bedroom floor as the afternoon wears on. It’s like watching home videos of someone else’s children. Somewhere else, a man I once knew, once loved, finds himself in the woods. Inside a rotting log, he comes across a white coffee cup the size of a human heart. A crack runs the length of the cup. A hairline fracture in a skull. As night falls, my shadow becomes one with the carpet. In darkness, there’s only the shape of darkness. The cup’s handle is also broken, jagged like a tooth belonging to an old lion. The man I once knew, once loved, raises his eyes to the full moon. It’s like looking into an empty coffee cup. I mount my hobby horse and gallop through a field of wild pinwheels. I’m grinning like a jackass. Somewhere ahead of me is a man I once knew, once loved, holding an empty coffee cup, hoping I brought something to fill it with, something vitalizing and warm.
Joshua Michael Stewart is the author of Break Every String, The Bastard Children of Dharma Bums, and Love Something. His work has appeared in the Massachusetts Review, Salamander, South Dakota Review, Permafrost, and many others. Read more at www.joshuamichaelstewart.com.
Let Me Tell You About Snow
bear with me, I want to tell you something about snow. I want to tell you about winter in Minnesota in 1970 when I was eight. there were woolen mittens soggy and crusted with ice. there were snow pants, plastic, unbearable. let me tell you something about how mothers and fathers said, go outside. not a question. a command. and maybe I’d wish I could stay in with a book and a peeled orange snug in the corner of the couch under a quilt. maybe I’d dread a little bit the sleepy spell cast by the cold. let me tell you something about growing up in Minnesota in the winters of the 20th century. the temperature dropped way below freezing all the time. relentless. lip cracking toe numbing. bear with me while my mother puts plastic bread bags over my socks to make my snow boots waterproof while I roll my eyes. it never works, the snow gets in over the top. feet and feet of snow. drifts on top of drifts. snowplow mountain ranges. sidewalk tunnels. let me tell you, the plastic bread bags don't do much besides bunch up in the front of my boots. these were the snow days before gore tex and puffy down jackets. let me tell you how I hollow out a cave in the biggest drift next to the garage. how it shines glacial blue on the inside when I crawl in exhausted from digging. smells of clouds. let me tell you how I like it for hiding, for silence, for refuge. and how I don't like its freeze-to-death danger, it’s lack of compassion for skin and blood and small beating hearts under wet wool. I dare myself to lie there for as long as I can stand it, to be apart from the world, to pass time until I am allowed back inside, till I know I've earned my Swiss Miss with marshmallows and cheese sandwich. bear with me while I float there avoiding snowballs and the slip and fall, avoiding my sister and my two best friends who live down the street. cold bossy girls who know my sore spots, who can’t be trusted with anything breakable.
Jillian Hanson is a poet and collage artist living in Maine. Her poems and collages have been published (or are forthcoming) in The Meaning of Home and The Meaning of Things (Blue Sky Press), Wild Roof Journal, Terrain.org, ctrl + v journal, and The Stonecoast Review.
Bringing up Dead People on State Street
The spinster smelled like old phone booths and restaurants where my uncle used to hang out. I used to like meeting for lunch with my uncle, smelling his smoke, wishing he were nice. “Did I ever tell you about that creep?” I asked the old girl, who seemed happy when I was talking about dead people. “I don’t remember,” she said. I held her hand for balance when we ambled through town. Sometimes the light made a corner feel like home again. The new people looked effervescent and sinewy as we planted our aching feet a safe distance away. “It’s about endurance,” I said. “It’s also about hammertoes,” she sighed, plunking her ass down on the pavement in front of a bar where a group of glittery girls were pooling. “We can’t sit here,” I said. “Why not?” she replied. Last week we were nearly arrested with our pillows in shopping bags as we floated through lower State Street, her cough no longer a small concern, feathers from our pillows falling like entrails.
Meg Pokrass lives in Scotland. Her new collection of stories, The First Law of Holes: New and Selected will be published in 2024 by Dzanc Books.
after Victoria Chang
Anxiety was laid to rest after a long battle with checking the weather for impending storms. She drowned when a nearby river crested due to excessive rainfall. Children splashed. A man whistled while rowing a canoe. Anxiety wanted to warn them, but when she opened her mouth to scream, her words became bubbles. The bubbles turned back into words and floated around her. She held them in her fist, but they escaped through the cracks in her fingers. Then they composed a love poem: The earth is a music box/with sky for a lid/and your voice is its song. Emergency lights flashed against the window. They looked like purple heartbeats. She started thinking of all the people she’d miss, but she could only remember the towers of unread books in her bedroom, all those packs of fluorescent sticky tabs she’d never use. Inside every raindrop is a speck of dust, salt, soot—something for the water to hold to. Something keeping it together. She tried to make the words fit in her mouth, but it’s like when you overfill the washing machine—nothing comes out clean.
Sarah Mills's writing has been published or is forthcoming in HAD, Rust & Moth, The Shore, SoFloPoJo, Beaver Mag, MoonPark Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Ballast, Miniskirt Mag, Thimble, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. You can visit her at sarahmillswrites.com.
In a room with two curtained windows and two doors, two men sat face to face in wicker chairs. One in his early eighties, almost half a century older than the other. There are facts of life, the older one said, that we simply cannot grasp. Our intelligence is pitifully limited, no matter how hard we pretend it isn’t. The younger man nodded. We’re too full of ourselves, too blind with ego to see the acts of God. Maybe, the young man thought, but God? He kept quiet. The drone of a ceiling fan overhead. The old man mentioned Ramakrishna, the 19th century Bengali sage believed to have seen goddess Kali with his own eyes. The young man noticed a shine in the old man’s eyes. Somebody once asked Ramakrishna, can your Kali make a blue hibiscus bloom next to a red one? Ramakrishna said yes with absolute certainty, the old man said. And the next morning, strolling in his garden, the thakur found a blue flower next to a red one. On the same branch of the same tree. Can your science explain this? the old man asked, his chin jutting out. Maybe, maybe not, the young man thought, but said nothing. The fan’s whir filled the silence. The curtains danced. The red flowers printed on them might have been hibiscus.
Eugene Datta’s recent writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Dalhousie Review, Mantis, Hamilton Stone Review, Main Street Rag, and elsewhere. He has held residencies at Ledig House International Writers’ Colony, Fundación Valparaíso, and Stiftung Laurenz-Haus. Born in India, he lives in Aachen, Germany.