Unbroken #32: That is not my name
Among the Beasts
We pack picnics—Ritz crackers and grapes, bottles of Coke—and sit among the dead: a beloved beagle who is now "chasing balls in heaven," an 18-year-old calico "gone too soon." Graves are marked with lacquered photographs and poems, cracked and yellow from the sun. Someone has buried a horse. Its tombstone is a life-sized thoroughbred reigning over the smaller beasts. This is pre-Stephen King, pre-zoning that would prohibit a pet cemetery in the middle of a subdivision. One day we see a funeral for a German shepherd. The owner—a teary middle-aged man—peels back a plastic garbage bag to reveal a stiff head and open jaw. I think of the science experiment from class: our teacher dipped a goldfish in liquid nitrogen, then shattered it on his desk, orange bits scattering like glass. The boys laughed. In that brief moment of shock, I darted to collect the shards and reassemble them like a puzzle—or a memory. Then the teacher asked for a volunteer to scoop the pieces into the trash.
Erin Murphy’s latest book of poems, Human Resources, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Diode, Waxwing, Southern Poetry Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere. She teaches at Penn State Altoona.
Stairs to Nowhere
I was late for a class I taught at the college. When I dashed into the building where the class was held, the lobby was empty. I started up the main stairway. The stairs grew noticeably steeper the higher I climbed. By the time I reached the top, I was drenched in sweat and convinced that something was wrong with my breathing. I had arrived on the outskirts of a country one only hears about when there is a coup or an earthquake or when a virus crosses the species barrier from animals to humans. Toothless old women in babushkas crowded around me. If you must scream, one said, scream quietly.
Howie Good is the winner of the 2021 Grey Book Press chapbook contest for his manuscript FAILED HAIKU.
Photo by Luca Bravo
Pertaining to Darkness
A phone ringing in my dream wakes me. I feel like a body that has been pulled from a canal after three days in the water. Gerhard Richter says that only when he destroys a painting, scratches it out, is it fit to be seen. If I look back, I see snakes and coffins, and if I look ahead, I’m walking on corpses instead of the ground.
Used paper face masks litter the sidewalk. How’s that allowed? Even the crows on the wire must be wondering what the fuck. A series of incidents doesn’t necessarily add up to a plot. I want to shake this person and that person and tell them, “You can’t be lost in your own world all the time.”
I was sitting up in bed reading a book called People Love Dead Jews when I came across a quote from a Jewish sonderkommando. His responsibilities at Auschwitz included disentangling the naked corpses lying in heaps in the gas chambers and carting them to the ovens for cremation. Although hair caught fire first, he noted with scientific dispassion, it was the head that took the longest to burn.
Howie Good is the winner of the 2021 Grey Book Press chapbook contest for his manuscript FAILED HAIKU.
Photo by Tengyart
21 Days of Mass
When I thought my father was dying I went to church every day for three weeks, more in those twenty-one days than I had in my life. When I thought my father was dying I was six years old again. I was being carried up the stairs to bed, smelling the beer in his glass and gagging, whining at his ceaseless Van Morrison record. Death turned me into a child who went to Sunday school and memorized the Act of Contrition, and thought my father never made a single mistake, though it was his shot glass sins that placed me in those pews. For those twenty-one days I was the kind of hopeless that wishes to drown in a puddle too shallow to cover my toes. Prayer wasn’t comfort but something to do with my hands. I pleaded that his heaven be a library, a case of Steel Reserves with no consequences, a long drive in an old gold Camry. My arms went weak from the sign of the cross. My father got better. I will never try to claim a correlation. Death only mattered when it was close. I haven’t been to a chapel since.
Adrianne Beer received her BFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University. She is originally from Yellow Springs, Ohio, and currently lives in Tucson, Arizona while attending library school. Her writing can be found in Chicago Reader, Moon City Review, Southwestern American Literature, and elsewhere.
Photo by Paul Robert
Most people take it in stride, but some—grown-ups, people with mortgages and receding hairlines—say, “What are you?” I’m a graphic artist, a failed ballerina, a crack chess player, and yes, I have the head of a snake. Some need to be reassured that I don’t dispense literal venom. I smell pity at times. Don’t. I can tell whether you’re telling the truth about what you ate for lunch, what’s in your purse, your hygiene habits, what kind of pets you have, whether you have a rodent problem. I don’t have to worry about hair, or makeup. I’ve never lost a staring contest.
Dating’s problematic. One said I used too much tongue. Another smeared me all over social media when he came down with Salmonella. My best friend knows an “awesome guy” with a frog head who lives out in Chelsea. Geographically undesirable. He’s a comptroller, whatever that is. We’ll double, Uber out to Ann Arbor, and go barhopping.
Michelle Morouse is a Detroit area pediatrician. Her flash fiction and poetry have appeared recently in Litro Online, The Citron Review, Ponder Review, Necessary Fiction, Wigleaf, Peregrine, Lullwater Review, The MacGuffin, Pembroke Magazine, and Cease, Cows. She serves on the board of Detroit Working Writers.
Photo by Elliott Blair
I used to think calls traveled through telephone wires like blood through veins, each phone a pumping heart. One pigeon peck could burst the line and spurt my words bright red on the people below. I kept secret my period even after mom found an acrid wad of toilet paper in the bin, my stain a gaudy rose. A box of tampons lay on my bed the next day. I never used those tight neon rockets, preferring my homespun nest, the way I could weave one even in my brother’s bathroom, the way it sponged me up quietly, and from a distance. It’s been years now, and still I can’t look her in the eye when buying tampons, the woman behind the register who thinks me one of them. During insertion I detach, look out my bathroom window where a peacock claims the telephone pole. Calls loud. Wakes the whole hill. Drops bright feathers on the people below.
V. Batyko is a poet from Los Angeles, California. They hold an MFA from the University of Washington, where they received the Joan Grayston Poetry Prize. They are the recipient of the Beau J. Boudreaux Poetry Award from the University of Southern California, and their work appears or is forthcoming in Columbia Journal and Ninth Letter.
Photo by Trevor McKinnon
inspired by photo: Yulia Pantyushkova
Woman walks the bird she caught one day in a weeping tree. The bird now tied to a string above her not five feet long. Just long enough to skim the sky. Her pet, she tells her friends. But really, she wants the bird to catch the dreams she had that flew away. Bring them to me, the woman says. You are lucky, she tells the bird, you have the gift of flight. If it were me, I’d bathe myself all day in the gauze of clouds, fill the air with stretch and song so loud no one would forget I was here.
Bird walks the woman he caught one day as he waited in a willow tree. Keeps her on a string below him not five feet long. Tells his bird friends she is her human. But really, he is safe now from the scavenge of vultures, the zigzag of lightning on a summer night. The bird is held by the gravity of flight, always having to skitter away at the slightest sound, the clouds not strong enough to rest on. You are lucky, he wants to tell the woman. You have the gift of land. If I had the pull of earth wanting to always keep me, the heft of a foot, big enough to leave a print, a hollow, I’d bathe myself all day in the swim of mud, push dirt together enough to start a mountain so high no one would forget I was here.
Francine Witte's latest book is The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon, from ELJ editions. She is a flash fiction writer and poet. She lives in NYC.
Photo by Yulia Pantyushkova
Mother calls me to brag about father. “Believe it or not, lately your father’s been treating me to breakfast in bed!” she says and giggles. “I don’t know what’s become of him; one morning there was even a note on the breakfast tray to say how much he loves me.” I laugh uncomfortably and, to avoid any further revelations, I ask her about the weather. The truth is that I do not have the heart to tell her that my father died many years ago. Later the same day, I remember that in the fifth grade—a time when I felt at my loneliest, ugliest and most unloved—I used to furtively post love letters through my own letter box. Each of them was written by myself but signed with the name of my secret crush. Neither of my parents ever let on that they knew that the letters were in my hand.
Réka Nyitrai is a spell, a sparrow, a lioness's tongue—a bird nest in a pool of dusk. She is the recipient of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for 2020 for her debut haiku volume While Dreaming Your Dreams (Valencia Spain: Mono Ya Mono Books, 2020).
Photo by Ire Photocreative
That is not my name
The “g” is silent, I say. The roll call routine. Sure, it’s not Smith or Johnson or Cooper or Brown. But I will help you out. It rhymes with bye. Or fry. Or sky. All words on a first grader’s vocabulary list. I’m sure you can manage that. I let it slide on day one, but a week has passed. And you still can’t say my name. Even though it rhymes with dry. Or guy. Or fly. All words my baby cousins can say. I wonder why you can’t manage that. You don’t struggle with the “p” in Campbell. Or the “w” or the “g” in Wright. But you can’t say Ngai. Even though it is as simple as tie. Or cry. Or shy. I wonder what is so mysterious about my silent “g”. A month later you have given up. You find my face during roll call to avoid my scary surname. I won’t let you off that easily. I hide behind a tall friend so you are forced to ask for my presence. And once again you falter, as if attempting to read a classical text in Ancient Greek. I do not respond. Because that is not my name.
Samantha Ngai is living and writing in New York City. Her work mainly consists of essays, short fiction, and poetry. She is currently a student at New York University.
Photo by Tim Mossholder
The Proper Brush Stroke
Every day I read the art news on the Web. Today I learn that someone has revealed a Rembrandt. The face had hidden itself behind layers of mud, like something slowly evolving. But Rembrandt had painted it in a swoop of bravado, the brushwork meticulous and permanent. In the heat of composition, the face detached itself from the person who owned it and became a Rembrandt. He, Rembrandt, was a man of many faces, some of them his own, most of them peeled from the living flesh of the local bourgeoisie. Now museums teem with Rembrandts. Each irreplaceable, of course, and sometimes a little self-righteous. I wish I had become a Rembrandt. Too late now, the master having peeled off his own face once too often and stuck it onto a canvas that held it too firmly for reclamation. This happens to all of us, but only a few have the proper brush stroke, like rowing in a deep dead calm.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.
Photo by Steve Johnson
we are at the airport when wai po complains over the phone about the loss of Penang Hokkien, complains about Mandarin becoming the dominant language along the peninsula, about the loss of the language her mouth knows so well. i can’t see her but i know that when she speaks, the mole on her lower lip quivers like a beetle hanging desperately to the skin, the boundaries of the discoloration clear as the borders to a country: a connection so tenuous that a breeze might scrape any trace of Hokkien from her tongue. and yet she clings to it, contours her mouth and shaves down the sharp edges of her cracked lips to fit in the memory-rotted mould. she says tauhu instead of doufu, says sai-ang instead of ai, her mole always reaching for the sea-salt vestiges of a childhood spent celebrating chingay parades and eating char kway teow, one she has never not known how to carry. if there is a god here, let them find me curled in the dumpster, surrounded by luggage tags and takeout containers and timbits, which my mother pronounces as ‘timit’ and wai po just calls ‘dough pieces.’ i am a scribe with no paper, no pen, no mind and no memory, just this small piece of home tucked against rain-lashed windows like a secret. if there is a god here, let them find me standing on this wind-worn peninsula, refracting borders and paling in saliva. let them find me: mouth full of every language but my own.
Sophie Choong (she/they) is a fifteen-year-old student in Vancouver, Canada. In her free time, she enjoys drinking green tea, playing video games, snowboarding, and watching Ghibli movies.
Photo by Erwan Hesry
In the Library Before the Superintendent Calls an Early Release
We can’t do anything without internet around here, so when the power goes out I leave the kid taking his chemistry test unwatched for a minute and look for something to read—preferably Dorianne Laux. No glittering grunge on these shelves, though: it’s the Brits or Mary Oliver. So here I am, immersing myself in golden fields of flowers, in the body of a beetle hopping from plant to plant. The library is dark and no longer whirring its air filter whir; instead we’re submerged in, guess what, a momentous and beautiful silence. A thickened stillness bespattered with power outage hallway chatter. I like Mary Oliver in spite of myself. So much so that I take a picture of “This World”—because although it’s too hopeful, too grateful, too far away from all the people locked in industrial complexes and prisons and other places where there are no beach stones to soak up morning light, I know what she means. The school has a generator for situations like these. It powers a few recessed bulbs in the ceiling behind me, so although the picture is of the poem, it is also of the shadow of my iPhone and my hands using the iPhone to take the picture of the poem. It shouldn’t be fancy, this Millennial cliché I cast over the tulips flapped open. The iPhone is an ugly thing, and the shadows cast when you’re trying to take a photo of a poem on white paper are ugly things. But these shadows encase the poem just so. And the generated light encases the shadow that encases the poem. It looks like a cyanotype in cream and gray. Like a secret message or a moth at night in a lit driveway.
Sara Mann teaches English at a high school in Massachusetts, where, like in other places, the power sometimes goes out. She holds a BA in Nonfiction Writing and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University.
Photo by José Ignacio García Zajaczkowski
Mike W. Blottenberger
At the funeral of Charles Schulz, the Peanuts Gang was all there. Peppermint Patty wore a grey suit and brought her new girlfriend Peggy. Sally looked radiant and was just crowned Miss Minnesota, but secretly was battling anorexia. Schroeder played a jazz version of Amazing Grace and sold pianos in Chicago. Lucy provided free therapy to all the bereaved, for she was a hotshot psychiatrist in Bloomington. Pigpen volunteered to be a pallbearer, and some thought he smelled like Clorox, for he owned a chain of laundromats. Snoopy wore dark sunglasses, and pinned to his black scarf was an animal rights button. Linus looked sharp in his Armani suit, for he found his fortune in the Garment industry. Charlie Brown placed his old baseball cap in the right hand of the cartoonist; and thanks to Prozac, he actually smiled for once. And after many years of speech therapy, the teacher read the eulogy.
Mike W. Blottenberger lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania and his poetry has appeared in The Baltimore Review, Gulf Coast Review, Mid-American Review, The Pennsylvania Review, and The William & Mary Review. He works for a non-profit organization and teaches poetry in schools.
Photo by Lee Kurth
The Uncanny is an artist, but even for an artist a pretty weird and imperious one. Last week, for example, she sent her assistant out to gather up a lot of voles. Voles? her assistant asked. Voles, the Uncanny said. Where am I going to find voles in New York City, and what the fuck does she mean by a lot the assistant wondered. Still, he checked out the pet shops, even found himself tramping around Pelham Bay. No voles. The Uncanny was pissed. Last week it was canceled stamps from Nagorno-Karabach and before that he’d stayed up all night yanking the mechanical voice boxes out of 48 Chatty Cathy heads. Fine, the Uncanny had said, good job, when the assistant staggered up the stairs with two big cardboard boxes. Seriously, though, what about the voles? And the prosthetic ear? Oh, and shadows, you can never have enough shadows ...
Daniel Lawless’s book, The Gun My Sister Killed Herself With, was published in 2018. Recent/forthcoming poems in FIELD, Barrow Street, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, Poetry International, Los Angeles Review, upstreet, and Massachusetts Review, among other journals and reviews. A recipient of a continuing Shifting Foundation grant, he is the founder and editor of Plume: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry, Plume Editions, and the annual Plume Poetry anthologies.
Photo by Tapio Haaja
I want to be a nameplate girl, door-knocker earrings, the bamboo ones with a name swirling in the middle, some girls get a necklace like a quinceañera, statement jewelry that says womanhood, their names and a whoosh underneath, double-plated, gray diamonds, my mother likes Erykah Badu bangles, thinks my hoops are too big, I tell her more is more, then I’m a woman with my own bills, two hundred dollars is a fifth of the rent, I buy thin nameplate necklaces for half as much, a box chain, not a cuban link, it snaps after a year of every day use, when I shop online all the nameplates are against white skin, once I saw a woman wearing her boyfriend’s name in the earrings, looking at them felt like lust, once my crush dropped enough to get one with the word Love, laid against his chest hair, once my girlfriend gave me hoops that said Bruja, too heavy, real door-knockers are 14 karat and light as a feather, and the ones I always buy on the corner are heart shaped bamboo, with no name, and the seam between the plates too sharp, the yellow wears down after a month, just $10.
Vida James is a Nuyorican social worker from Brooklyn and an MFA candidate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her writing has been supported by the St. Botolph Club Foundation, Bread Loaf, Tin House, and VONA/Voices. She has fiction appearing or forthcoming in Story, New England Review, Epiphany, and elsewhere. This is her first poetry publication.
Photo by Mike Von
Eli S. Evans
Concrete Squirrel Sodomy
A sculpture in the form of the top half of a squirrel, cast in concrete from a mold made by who knows whom, has been arranged such that, provided one does not bend or drop to one knee to peer at its underside, from which no corresponding bottom half dangles, it appears as though a squirrel, albeit one made of concrete rather than flesh and fur and sharp, curved claws, has crawled up through a hole in the center of the seat of the chair at the edge of the garden and paused to rest or, perhaps, take in the view, propping itself on its fuzzy little forearms for comfort. The effect of this decorative flourish, officially attributed to a bit of uncharacteristic whimsy on the part of the lady of the house despite persistent rumors that she was only acting on the gentleman’s orders, is that as far as places in the yard to sit are concerned, this chair has for all intents and purposes been taken out of circulation, inasmuch as to sit on it would entail being sodomized by a concrete squirrel, which on second thought doesn’t actually sound so bad and for all anyone knows might even have been the specific reason for which the lady of the house—that is to say, the gentleman—endeavored to have it installed there in the first place,
Eli S. Evans has recent or forthcoming work in, among others: N+1, X-R-A-Y Lit, Heavy Feather Review, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Expat Lit, Misery Tourism, Rejection Letters, E*ratio Postmodern Poetry, and many more. A chapbook with Analog Submission Press, A Partial List of Things I Thought Might Kill Me Before I Started Taking a Daily Dose of Benzodiazepines, was published in August 2020 and a small book of small stories, Obscure & Irregular, is available now from Moon Rabbit Books & Ephemera.
Image by Unbroken staff
My husband calls me selfish because I haven’t called my family this year, but last I tried their voicemails warned overcrowding. When I try to write them e-mails, my fingers stiffen with familial arthritis. I imagine Grandad still fights in a war I can’t see, scrubs bathroom grout with a toothbrush, sweeps only in vertical motions, spreads mustard and mayo evenly on opposing sides of bread, washing the knife between condiments. His sister killed her daughter, but we don’t talk about that. My Nan, Grandad’s mom, was Scottish, married into Louisiana. Unholy union, manic-bipolar blessed. Women on the Louisiana-Scottish side self-destruct. For my great-aunt, it was the southern anti-fairy tale; she fell in love with a dark man, and depressed by the choice of family or love, chose or. I have a childhood story for everything—Stone Mountain for my mother’s heroin needles, New Orleans for kitchen timers and belts, Mexico for curb stomping and ants in mashed potatoes, McDonough for things that knock on doors unescapable. Did you know a dime can open a bathroom door in most apartments in Georgia? If our family was a tree, it would be gnarled, all knots trying to push themselves out the same trunk. How far would we fall away from each other if we could just separate the blood from the sap? For every one of my stories, the family has three. We’re weighed down like anchors hitting quicksand, fluid buildup on the collective family spine; we try to send a nerve signal to each other, but it’s ringtone disconnect. We’re suffering from reality, it’s pulled us down to dregs, scraped us across the sand of the Marianas Trench and left us callousing on the shore.
Mea Andrews is a writer from Georgia, currently residing in China. She's finishing up her MFA from Lindenwood University and is only recently back on the publication scene. You can find her in The Round, Feminine Inquiry, and others. You can also follow her on Instagram at mea_writes.
Photo by Lily Banse
Chiu-yi Rachel Ngai
early morning walk in a burned-down park
the plastic slide, faded from boysenberry to periwinkle by the sun, lies abandoned. in this place lives the skeletal memories of childhood preserved, fossilized in amber like the last veins of millennia-old maple leaves. the grey pavement under my feet echoes the frayed ends of rope jungle gyms and candle wick ash on mid-autumn. i remember the red of melting candle wax, bright and hot, the steady drip of my brother’s blood when he lost his grip. the candles we lit for him afterwards were mourning white, like sunlight burning my eyes when i tilt my face to heaven.
Hailing from Hong Kong, Chiu-yi Rachel Ngai is a high school student living in Springdale, Arkansas. She has been published in her school's award winning literary magazine, Footnotes, where she is also an editor. She writes for Intersections Magazine and Project Said, and has been published in Skipping Stones and Paper Crane Journal.
Photo by Vika Strawberrika
A perfect imitation of the real thing
For weeks the sound of oceans comes from underneath the door, now and then a shell or several handfuls of sand and we are patient, going on with everything: the vacuuming and cooking, taking trash out, speaking with the neighbors as if nothing is unusual about the hurricane-force winds tearing at the windows we have boarded from the inside saying "we’ve decided to remodel, there is nothing wrong with anyone or anything inside we just watch a lot of noisy films at night, the water leaking from the cracked brick is a minor issue with the plumbing, nothing you can do! the house was built before the second world war, how can anything stand up to time unscathed?" and when the door does open this will all be worth the wait you have to wait you wait until the wait is over until whatever you are feeling finds a home believe me everything eventually finds a home.
Andrew Anderson doesn't really have enough time to write poetry because he's married with two cats and a dog and that's a lot already. He enjoys a good cappuccino.
Photo by Fredrick Lee
Abby Alten Schwartz
My Muse Is a Slippery Bitch
I turn on the shower and words pour out. I catch sentences on my tongue, absorb paragraphs in my hair, watch in frustration as whole chapters slick off my body and swirl down the drain, trapped for eternity in a snarl of wet strands. My husband once cleaned the drain with a hanger and pulled out an otter made of sludge, holding it aloft like a prized fish. I escape the shower, my trail of footprints a crime scene in reverse, to capture the remnants on my phone by the sink. Someone on a TV show could only sing in the shower. He was a disaster on dry land. They had to set up a makeshift shower on a public stage for his singing career to explode. I need a courtroom stenographer to perch on the lid of my toilet and take dictation. Maybe in the future our thoughts will upload to the cloud. Last week I had an idea at my desk and in the nanosecond between congratulating myself and reaching for my phone it popped like a soap bubble, gone forever.
Abby Alten Schwartz, a Philadelphia writer with work in NYT, The Washington Post, Brevity, Hobart, and elsewhere once had a column about hooping—the hula kind—and is on Twitter @abbys480 and at abbyaltenschwartz.com.
Photo by Michael Trimble
Brad Rose is the author of three collections of poetry and flash fiction, Pink X-Ray, de/tonations, and Momentary Turbulence. His fourth collection, WordinEdgeWise, is forthcoming in 2022. Collateral, a chapbook of prose poems, was recently released from Right Hand Pointing.
Brad’s website is: www.bradrosepoetry.com.
Photo by Nick Fewings
Now that I’ve tuned up my force field and miniaturized my plasma deflector, I’m not as anxious as I used to be about Andromeda hurtling at 70 miles per second toward the Milky Way. Of course, it’s no longer business as usual. This season, I’ll be selling my sweaters to the moths. I spent all day yesterday trying to make some honest mistakes, but wouldn’t you know it, those beige parrots swooped in, like it was a sign of something colorful. Last night, uncle Billy said, "Don’t get too smart for your own britches. Remember, Jesus didn’t need a bible." Talk like that makes me wonder what color the Red Sea is, but I’ve got a feeling that ladder doesn’t have any rungs. After a little hemming and hawing, to-ing and fro-ing, automatic weapon fire erupted in the strange distance. Billy leaned in, his eyes dead as a hit and run, and said, "The devil is made of asbestos, burning, Leon. Know what I’m saying?" I hunkered down, like a hole in the earth, as the stars cinched tighter in an ill-fitting sky.
Where Are You?
She called to let me know she’d been killed in a traffic accident on the way to work. Oh no, I said. How is the car? You’re asking about the car? she asked. Well, the car is fine, except for it being at the bottom of the sea. What happened? I asked. I was on the bridge, she said, when a baby walrus hopped out in front of me. I swerved to miss it and I guess the rail must be made of aluminum foil or something. I dropped right down. Plunk. Here I am. But you should have seen that baby walrus. It had the cutest little tusks. I hope it’s okay. I do too, I said. Is there air in the car? Did you miss the part about my being dead? she said. The windows were down a crack and the sea rushed in. Bad luck. Starfish are trying to climb in now. How slowly they move. Oh, I said. It’s amazing I can hear you so clearly. Yes, she said. That is amazing.
Ian Willey (rhymes with "chilly") is an English teacher from Akron, Ohio, currently living in a small city in Japan. His poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart Prizes.
Photo by David Clode
The Bravest Oceanographer
Stanley has been living in a submarine for two decades. (Everyone back home thinks he’s dead, and they’ve erected a statue of him, the bravest oceanographer they’ve ever known, in the middle of their homely town.) The submarine has been lingering in ocean depths where it is always night. It is here where Stanley has discovered a new species: fish who glow green and whose bodies are shaped like letters of the alphabet; fish who, unlike other dull savage fish, have feelings; and in this abyss of ocean these fish arrange themselves to form words. They read: LONELINESS IS BETTER THAN SUFFERING CLAUSTROPHOBIA. And in a scene from an impossible aquatic documentary, Stanley films himself scooping up the fish with a net and plopping them into a sink full of dark dish water for safekeeping. Soon, he will take them to the surface for everyone to marvel at. He’s so excited he can no longer sleep. Question: Did he waste his life?
Lucas Clark writes about his dreams often. He has a reoccurring nightmare where he is chased by black-haired dogs. He doesn’t know what this means.
Photo by Andrés Canchón
Broadcast, forecast, overcast. Bowed heads to the drizzle, four dark birds perched on naked branches in the same tree silent, barely shifting. Like grounded jets but also lost kites tangled by weather. Shoulders up, necks down, acknowledging a higher power, no control tower. They cannot warm their wings to go.
As if a masthead topped a telephone pole, this carrion consumer, wings out, warming in the slanting morning sun like the engine of an ancient car before a long commute. Pushing off from its perch, an effort to drag its huge wings aloft, find the updraft, the vortex to ride, view of the traffic jam below, but mostly scanning for the remains of the day not yet begun.
Alisa Golden writes and makes art in a one-square-mile, California city. She is editor of Star 82 Review, author of Making Handmade Books and her work may be found in Blink-Ink and Nanoism, among others. www.neverbook.com.
Image is a detail from a found image, unknown source.
Everyone Is Named Patience These Days
Late night. Bored. Pizza cold to the point of freezing itself. Flicking through the TV, I come across a channel I've never seen before: the presenters are selling Idi Amin's head (throwing in Stalin's liver), Popescu's feet, Mussolini's belly. Saddam's heart, a recent acquisition, thumps to lounge music in its jar. Free P & P if you order before midnight. General Franco’s lips, a bargain at £99.99. I buy them as a talking point for parties. Fascinated by these oddities, I check daily to see their latest offerings: Tito’s nose, a wig of Antonescu’s red hair. Salazar’s ears. The suddenness of sirens. A transparent crate brought in: Nero's testicle, black as volcanic ash. I remember learning how he tried to turn his lover, Sporus, into a girl and check my Adam's apple, rummage around my underwear. General Franco’s lips curl into a grin as my wife erupts, starts to smoke.
Christian Ward is a UK-based writer who can be recently found in Stone Poetry Journal, Discretionary Love, and Red Ogre Review. Future work will be appearing in Dreich, Uppagus, and BlueHouse Journal.
Photo by Yosh Ginsu
111 Canyon Court
Behind my house sits an alley that borders backyards and driveways, where I stand smoking my one and a half cigarette(s) until it is time to go back inside. There are no people out here, but in the pitch dark of night I sometimes encounter raccoons. Do I talk to the raccoons? No, but they offer their opinions. There is one in particular who doesn’t approve of me, whether it’s because of my smoking or because I’m hanging out in the alley when I should be inside with my family. This particular raccoon seems to understand that I have exactly eighteen minutes to myself before I return to my house. This reprieve seems to both amuse and irritate. On average it takes about twelve minutes to smoke one cigarette, but twelve minutes is not enough time to gather and fortify myself, so I smoke another cigarette but only half way. I make sure to stamp out the cigarettes when they are done. I make sure not to litter. This raccoon wants to have a conversation, but what is there to say?
Vince Montague is a writer living in Northern California. His writing has been published in literary journals such as The Green Mountains Review, Nimrod: An International Journal, Other Voices, and The Florida Review. Recently, his poems appeared in California Quarterly and Westwind.
Photo by Riley Pitzen
If God Had Miscarriages
Dead babies sleep in rose gardens and savages drink hot water from the tap—laws of the world, she concludes as she nurses a little Earth in her palm, rolls the Atlantic Ocean across her knuckles and back, then smashes the Alps flat with her fingers, rubbing it like a marble because it is a marble for the most part: small, glassy, easily lost, easily forgotten in the dust beneath a couch too ornate for the room, chosen by her parents who like antique styles with personalities larger than their function, but who is she to argue, a freeloader sitting on the lawn chair, tossing glass planets into soil, watering with a stable hand, waiting for them to sprout because if they bloom large and full, then surely it’s not her fault that the second baby is following in the steps of the first last October, deep into the earth’s mantle, deeper than she cares to see, and her parents are being very gentle with her, fearful that she’ll purposely drop the remaining marbles and refuse to try for a third.
Lucy Zhang writes, codes and watches anime. Her work has appeared in Quarterly West, The Fourth River, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. Find her at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.
Photo by Eyre June Bustamante
Unbroken #32: That is not my name
Unbroken is edited by Ken Chau, Dale Wisely, Katherine DiBella Seluja, Tom Fugalli, Kelli Goldsmith, and Tina Carlson. Our staff dentist/spiritual advisor is the Reverend Conway B. Memphis III, D.D.S. Roo Black is founding editor emeritus. Our thanks to the contributors to this issue and all who submitted their work.