Unbroken #34: 
A Great Space to See Many Things

Go.

 
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Ian Willey

English-Speaking Animals

Fortunately for you the animals around here all speak English. This means that if you wake up one morning in your tent to find a badger gnawing on your ankle you’d be able to ask the badger, hey, what are you doing? It would answer, I’m gnawing on your ankle, of course. I need the calcium. This would bring a bit of comfort, wouldn’t it? Imagine if it spoke a language you didn’t understand, like Tagalog—or worse, if it could only grunt and growl in typical animal fashion. Listening to the birds would be like hearing an opera in English; you could actually understand who feels what and who’s after whom. There’s a downside to this, though. Let’s say you’re driving home late one night on a narrow country road when an opossum scurries out in front of your car and before you can react you hit it. You stop the car and kneel beside the broken little animal as it breathes its last breaths. It may tell you its greatest regret in life: I wish I’d spent more time with my family rather than playing dead all the time. Its tail curls around your arm as cars race by, the drivers inside shouting things you can’t understand.

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Ian Willey, an English teacher from Akron, Ohio, had some ideas about where he was headed, but life, like his writing, tended to go off in different directions.

Photo by Eric Prouzet

 

Kelly Gray

I Have Asked for a Great Space to See Many Things

I always want blood oranges when they are out of season. I want to make them drip red candy red and watch a vampire child eat the rinds. Like this vampire child, I wake in the middle of day and want what I cannot have. Seasons. When we sleep together, a fawn walks over our roof, her delicate hooves placed between tiles as she eats off our chimney moss. As you do your sex thing, I imagine her white belly, her spots as a colony of grounded ivory moths, and her deer mother below, looking up. Often, they are not in agreement about her being on our roof. Deer mother hisses. Get down here, this instant. The fawn ignores her. The deer mother thinks of her mother, that feeble bodied grass eater, dodger of car and lion. She wonders. And wonders. If she saw her today, would she apologize or act like she didn’t know who she was? This is not to say you are not a good lover, indeed, you give me vast floods to swim through. Blood citrus and spotted bleats 

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crescendo between our legs. When you stroke the back of my thighs, I rest my head into the warm pillow fabric and smell swans. All of them long necked with that perfect S of a body, me below on the bottom of the river. They glide over, their thick webbed feet pushing water across my face. Fish hover. Underside of swan procession. As my tendons relax and legs open, one swan face pushes through the water to scoop up the silver scaled being. There is great silence underwater, but I can hear pushing and swooshing. When the swan beak opens there is a great inhale of river. Before she pulls her head back into the sky the swan looks at me while her elegant throat gulps. Little bubbles escape from my mouth, rise to meet the beak of the bird and the slow blink of black eyes. You hold my face in your hands. After, you bring me a bowl of tangerines. We paint them black and scarlet and bury them in the garden before we go to sleep. Dirt conjures a grove of trees with glossy leaves in the moonlight, arranged in lines and shapes of geometry we do not know. The mother deer, the fawn, and the child vampire come to eat the blossoms. They wander alone and together, sugar tongued and full of luck.

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Kelly Gray is a writer living deep in the redwoods. She has recent work in Passages North, Northwest Review, Menacing Hedge, and Newfound. She is an assistant editor at Bracken magazine.

Photo by Mikhail Alexandrov

 
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Howie Good

Daliesque

They say it’s bad luck to wake up a student who’s fallen asleep in class, but if I don’t, she may never know that the thesaurus lists some 140 synonyms for darkness or that the renegade Spanish artist Salvador Dali sat up on his deathbed and cursed the priest who had come to shrive him. I myself have grown a swooping black moustache that curves fiercely down at the ends in homage to legendary brigands, “No gods, no masters / The revolution will be kingless,” a graffitist has sprayed on a retaining wall where anyone passing can see it. So wake up, child, speak. The tongue is all muscle.

 

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Howie Good is a writer and collagist on Cape Cod.

Photo by Timon Klauser

 
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M. E. Silverman

The Lost Skeleton

for Ellen Doré Watson

i

 

Wandering in the desert, the Lost Skeleton stumbles into a town. This could be an old Hollywood set. Or the husk of a mining town. The Lost Skeleton stops to stand on the street corner. It whistles a tune with no name. Needing a body, the Lost Skeleton searches in the saloon with the swinging half doors. Inside, tables huddle in the corner. A long bar is built into the back wall. The mirror is missing. A forgotten piano waits for tourists. Or ghosts. A scorpion scurries across the floor. For a few minutes the scorpion stares. The Lost Skeleton stares back. The scorpion wants to warn about the 110-degree heat, how sun can break anything, make anyone lose themselves. Before the scorpion can say this, it sees the perfect patch of hideaway shade. The scorpion scuttles to the corner and settles in.

 

ii

 

The loose bag of flesh slithers south looking for the Lost Skeleton. When the Lost Skeleton pauses on street corners, the flesh scrapes across the ground, trying to catch up. In this part of the city, it always feels like night. From an open window, a saxophone hollows out slow songs from a forgotten place. When the music fades, the traffic deserts the littered streets. The loose bag of flesh slides along calling for the Lost Skeleton. Here cranial bone. Here ribs. Come home clavicle and carpus, come home. I am the loose bag of flesh. I need a spine.

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M. E. Silverman has had two books of poems published, and co-edited The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust, and 101 Jewish Poems for the Third Millennium. @4ME2Silver

Photo by Yann Allegre (edited)

 
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Sera Yu

Selective Memory

She used to pour salt on worms and watch them die. She’s talking to my brother who hasn't asked a question since turning thirteen. Her childlike laughter triggers somatic symptoms: racing heart, vertigo. I stumble in with a ladybug in my closed palm. My brother is playing a game on his phone, and my mother prattles on like a bird that doesn’t understand he’s a hologram. Whether she recognizes the body next to her as the actual boy or a memory is debatable. No matter, she is cutting fruit. Skins of various textures pile up on the table. Fuzzy, waxy, knobby, neutral. The tray underneath warps from the weight of skin and stones. I speak my mind. The words douse her like gasoline. The body never does right by the mind. Her face goes dark as a cloud blocks the sun. My brother looks up with his cosmic eyes which once held me in total trust, inducing an optical illusion. I wave away a crane fly. He goes back to his phone. You don’t remember the important parts, I say to my mother. I want to reason with her but have little faith. I open a window and the ladybug flexes its wings. I place it on a branch of a budding tupelo that hasn’t been pruned for twelve years. It’s April and the cold hasn’t let up. One day spring will show up like a pregnant woman holding a duffel bag. We’ve seen her standing in the doorway, time and again. How is she forgotten so easily with all those bruises and that sad tattoo of a leaf stretched across her giant stomach?

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Sera Yu is a writer and translator living near DC. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tampa Review, The Los Angeles Review, Five on the Fifth, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel and translating a collection of essays.

Photo by Raphael Wild 

 

Sylvia Byrne Pollack

Night Visitor

In the night, Letitia’s bedroom door eases open. Mr Zeitgeist sidles into the room, slips under the covers, into her head. He stays until dawn, takes control of her dreams, dangles a noose, screams slogans in her face, sprays virus-laden spittle. It is fatiguing. He makes her feel dreadful. Shilling for pharmaceutical companies, he suggests remedies for her symptoms, wears a sandwich board advertising his wares. She is wary. Whatever he’s pushing is undoubtedly harmful. Side effects may include headaches, nausea, blurred vision, vertigo, unwanted pregnancy. He suggests “consult your doctor” but where are the doctors? Medical schools shrivel under demagoguery. Sometimes she fears she might be carrying one of Mr Zeitgeist’s conceptions. Perhaps Mr Zeitgeist’s pals will decree she must carry it to term. If she delivers a litter, where will she find a strong enough gunny sack, heavy rocks, a fast-flowing river to carry them out of her life?

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Sylvia Byrne Pollack’s poems are in Floating Bridge Review, Crab Creek Review, and many others. She’s a two-time Pushcart nominee, 2019 Jack Straw Writer, and 2021 Mineral School Resident. Her 2021 full-length collection, Risking It, was published by Red Mountain Press.

Photo by sebastiaan stam 

 
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Traci Mullins

I Am Your Disease

I am the life of every party, the lubricant for your awkwardness, the antidote to your loneliness. I am the one who claims you’re in control, whispers, “Just one more won’t hurt,” swears you only had two. I am your excuse for arriving late, leaving early, or not showing up at all. I am the best friend you long for, the liar and cheat who rescues you, the comfort who’s always a hand’s-width away. I am the siren song of a lover, the iceberg you fail to see, the headlight that blinds you. I am the saboteur of your success, the accuser when you wake, the heartbreak in your spouse’s eyes. I am the tiger in the corner, the demon in your dreams, the stalker two steps back. I am the one who loathes talk of God, voices of reason, the pleadings of small children. I am the one who will never deny you, never leave you, never release you.

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Traci Mullins is a non-fiction book editor by day and has been published more than 60 times in four flash fiction anthologies and numerous journals, including Fictive Dream, Bending Genres, Cabinet of Heed, (mac)ro(mic), and Blink-Ink. She was a two-time finalist in the London Independent Story Prize competition.

Photo by Eugene Triguba

 

Emily Macdonald

Sparking a Revolution

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Yesterday I smoked, telling myself it would be my last cigarette. I sucked right down to the filter tip, holding it between my finger and thumb. Today I am a new person. A non-smoking, active, running person who eats healthy food and has bright healthy thoughts. Yesterday I planned for myself a revolution. While I smoked, I imagined the fitter, thinner me, the person who wakes early in the morning, pulls the curtains aside and greets the day with pleasure and hope on their face. The person who helps to carry shopping for old people or who searches for the neighbour's missing black cat. The one who notices small things like the co-operation of ants or the dandelion glowing yellow between grey pavement cracks. I planned on having quick and agile thoughts, and moments of deep silence for clever contemplation. I would have the clean and tidy house and the clean and tidy mind. I would have an able, bending, stretching body and discipline, stamina, and strength. Today I went for a run. I ran the length of the block before I needed to stop to regain my breath. I jogged and walked in alternation between lampposts and came home sweaty and red. I poured myself a glass of water and sat in my chair. I sat for some time to cool down and read through yesterday’s newspaper. When I climbed the stairs to the shower, my legs felt stiff and brittle. I made a salad for lunch and chewed without pleasure. I added cheese and some mayo and fried a few bacon pieces to add flavour. Afterwards I rewarded myself with a cube of dark chocolate, said to be good for the heart. I had another as one piece seemed so mean. Still feeling hungry I lit a cigarette to dampen my appetite. Tomorrow I will start my transformation in earnest. I will fire my resolve, ignite willingness for alteration. I will warm to the burn in my muscles and the sparks in my thoughts. Today I eke out my last packet of cigarettes. I take deep inhalations, feeling the smoke smoulder in my lungs. I fall asleep on the sofa, tired after my morning exertion. I fall sound asleep dreaming of the new person I will be tomorrow. I fall asleep with a cigarette still burning. It slips from between my finger and thumb.

 

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Emily Macdonald lives in London. Fascinated by wine as a student, she has worked in the UK wine trade ever since. She has been writing since going freelance in 2020. In writing and in wines she likes variety, persistence, complex flavours, and enough acidity to bite.

Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic 

 

Lu Chekowsky

In Tokyo.

In Tokyo, I cross the street until I disappear. I came all this way to be a blur. Today, my hands are gone; tomorrow, I’m hoping for my feet. Here, there are thirteen million ways to be invisible. I’m not a Sanrio pencil case, I’m an eraser—pink, scent of bubblegum. I’m rubber rubbings in a Hello Kitty wastebasket. I always trash myself first. On any given day, I’m either a fuzzy baby bunny broach, pinned to the collar of a Lolita dress—or wasabi peas. I pray to Godzilla I’ll make it as the light turns green. The only word I really know is: Arigato. In Japan, I do what I always do. I eat. In that way, I’m never not home. I down a hundred microscopic fish—eyes and all, a prehistoric pyramid, piled onto steaming white rice. I drink twig tea with sugar syrup. I’m the world’s fattest hummingbird. I submit my mouth in service to slippery udon, still-squirming squid, an egg sac from a salmon, plump with child. I slurp. I dunk. I masticate myself for my sins. Fry me up like an octopus ball. Put me on a stick. Sure, it’s not ice cream, but it’s tentacles I want; hugs from the inside. The mochi on my tongue is a depressor. I keep my teeth a secret; there’s never not love stuck between them. Luckily, this whole city is a screen. I can watch all of my American failures on the Shibuya billboards. I wink back at the smiling ten-story tall, two-dimensional models selling sneakers. My body doesn’t sell product; only itself short. Listen, I don’t want to be confusing, but this story isn’t about the food I eat, it’s about the food that’s eaten me.

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Lu Chekowsky is an Emmy-winning writer and creative director who built a successful career in media through gut intuition and addiction to approval. Her work can be seen in Pigeon Pages, Bending Genres, The Maine Review, Hobart, and at lchekowsky.com.

Photo by Beth Macdonald (edited)

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Tia Paul-Louis

Annabel

There’s a pool in Annabel’s yard with cyan waves accompanied by no wind or sound where they say she drowned. But who really knew, for not one shadow was on guard to argue she flew, ran, or drowned? Not many care, except for the current that transforms into a woman’s figure, raising a fountain where water streams upward from one hand and pours from the other whenever the clock’s needle pricks ten: the hour they claim Annabel drowned. All tales from folks to fairies agree that she swam, like the loon she was, for a minute or two then dove out of sight. Her slim—leathered in caramel skin and her locks—raven as they were—slithered out of sight beneath the waves she’d curl to practice her aqueous acrobats. But who’s to really say that Annabel travelled by land, sea, or air?

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Tia Paul-Louis began experimenting with songwriting then felt a deeper connection to poetry during her teens which led her to pursue a BA in English/Creative Writing. Her themes portray family life and mental health. She admires the freedom of expression through art.

Photo by Johnny Briggs 

 
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Michael Brockley

Maureen

She knew which balloon to buy when Woolworths offered banana splits for the price on the token hidden within the party favors. She had a knack for choosing thirty-nine cent bargains. I had a paper route at the top of 8th Street hill. She babysat for a family in the boondocks near the end of my route. Saving her money for college. On Valentine’s Day, I’d give her sweetheart sugar candies and one of those small cards with a puppy-eyed Cupid on the front before scoring sandlot touchdowns she never saw at Claypool Park. Before I left to play football with her brother, she’d quote Mae West. “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful,” she’d say. “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted. Come up and see me sometime.” While her friends screamed, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” with the Beatles, she had a thing for duets. Simon and Garfunkel. The Righteous Brothers. Phil and Don Everly. I sang “All I Have to Do Is Dream” to her after my voice quit breaking. When I could imitate Don’s baritone. She listened, while her eyes made darkness seem sacred. While looking jaunty in a red beret paired with a turtleneck sweater. As a freshman, she joined the first German class our high school offered. The next year I took neuling Deutsch as a senior. By then, she knew I’d bottomed out of Drivers’ Ed. Like everyone shaking it up at the armory’s Saturday night dances, she believed I couldn’t tell the accelerator from the brake. Only one of my memories of her is true.

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Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana. His poems have appeared in Marrow Magazine, and Down in the Dirt. Poems are forthcoming in Riddled with Arrows, and Lost Pilots Lit.

Photo by Kat J 

 

James Kangas

Camera

My camera escaped through an open window and went waltzing down the street to see what was going on, to see what sights she could capture. There was a bed of white tulips she fell in love with but alas, the blossoms didn’t last, withering and falling apart in a few days with the spring heat, shedding their petals in the dirt. She went on, blurring fast cars, dogs and cats, frolicking kids, a couple squabbling, before she hitchhiked to Detroit and then to Toronto and Halifax where she stowed away in the wheel well of a plane to Paris. She made a cathedral tour of France, finagling rides all the way before making her way to Rome to shoot all the glitterati she could find. Then on to Prague, Bucharest and Oslo. Within five years she had traveled throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas shooting architecture, outdoor markets, natives, wildlife, etc. before settling down for a bit in a small burg in Michigan to write a book about her adventures which soon made its way to the top of the New York Times best seller list. How happy that made her. She had an oversize gin martini and then another one. For days she couldn't stop grinning.

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James Kangas, a retired librarian living in Flint, Michigan, has had poems in Atlanta Review, Faultline, NYQ, The Penn Review, West Branch, et al. His chapbook, Breath of Eden (Sibling Rivalry Press), appeared in 2019.

Photo by Mathyas Kurmann

 

Gene Twaronite

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Something in the Air

imparting the very flavor of his being. It was, however, beginning to take a toll on him, and he was deeply worried about his recent weight loss and lack of energy. And while everything he made tasted wonderful, the others sometimes wished for at least a dessert that didn’t taste like sausage. The smell permeated the air and stunk up the furniture. But they lived with it, for a good cook is hard to find. One day, the sausage invited his friend, the liver, to dinner. The liver turned out to be a lively conversationalist, and spirits were high. The sausage invited his friend to stay overnight and share his bedroom. The one night turned into a month. The mouse and the bird didn’t mind, for one firm rule of the house was to respect each other’s privacy. They ignored the nightly shouts and cries that sometimes came from the bedroom. To show his gratitude, the liver insisted on making dinner, not just one day, but for a whole week. The first dinner was surprisingly good, but by the end of the week things came to a head. I think it was the mouse who turned up his nose at the liver-flavored custard for dessert. The liver took umbrage, and the sausage called the mouse rude. Things went downhill from there. Thereupon the sausage and the liver stormed out the door, and were never heard from again.

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Gene Twaronite is the author of four collections of poetry. His first poetry book, Trash Picker on Mars, published by Kelsay Books, was the winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Arizona poetry. His newest poetry collection, Shopping Cart Dreams, will be published by Kelsay Books in 2022. Follow more of his poetry at genetwaronitepoet.com.

Photo by Bharath Sriraam

A retelling of Grimm’s The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage

 

The most amazing thing is not that the three of them kept house together, but that they lived in perfect peace for so long. Oh, there were the usual quibbles. The mouse, for instance, complained he was getting fat and needed a vacuum cleaner so he wouldn’t have to nibble up all the crumbs off the floor. And the bird, caked with dust after swooping across the shelves and knickknacks, felt like a worn-out feather duster. As for the sausage, he didn’t mind cooking, immersing himself into the stews and other dishes he prepared,

 
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John Krumberger

Cass Lake

Some winter days the sheen off the lake can be blinding, white pines along shore bending forward like old men looking at their shoes. Two miles into town the Dialysis Clinic, closed on Sunday, dozes under rags of dirty clouds. When the wind blows hard it obliterates the only road, leaving icehouses stranded out there. Maybe it’s too late to change the way you live; your stomach sour again, the drifts piling up onto the highway. The few scraggly windbreak trees like the last hairs on a bald man’s head aren’t enough to stop anything from happening. Still, when you breathe in the cold air something settles and softens. The walleye filets are thawing in the kitchen, a recipe for tartar sauce scribbled on a torn scrap of paper. You remember a phrase, then a whole song from the old language.

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John Krumberger has published a volume of poems, The Language of Rain and Wind (Backwaters Press, 2008), and a chapbook, In a Jar Somewhere (Black Dirt Press, 1999). His latest collection of poems is Because Autumn (Main Street Rag Press, 2016). He has a PhD in psychology from the University of Minnesota and works as a psychologist in private practice in St. Paul MN.

Photo by camila igisk

 
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Andy Fogle

The Pond at John Brown’s Farm

Can’t see its water or the ice that floats atop it, only the snow on top of that, and the deer tracks across all three of those layers on top of that depression in the earth’s crust skimming its mantle, giving way to iron and nickel tightened to that inner core that none of us really know. Simple, but not easy: the invisible shapes the visible, and it takes closed eyes to see two veils beneath.

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Andy Fogle is the author of Across from Now and seven chapbooks of poetry, including the forthcoming chapbook Arc and Seam: Poems of Farouk Goweda, co-translated with Walid Abdallah. He received a 2021 Individual Artist Grant from Saratoga Arts to write poems related to abolitionist John Brown.

Photo by Syarafina Yusof 

 

Aaron Sandberg

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All the Skulls We Dig Up in the Yard Are Our Own

What we mean is that they’re ours. And what we mean is that they are our bones. What we mean is that they’re from our heads. And what that means is that we keep living and dying. Through the crust of the earth, we sift through them all. We build shelves in our garage that barely hold. We plant some back and see what grows. And still, we dig up more each day—dust them off with an old toothbrush, and jot down notes we never remember. We can’t read our handwriting anyway. But we are our own archaeologists—our own hoax-makers. For some of the skulls, we shave-out sharp horns. Some of the skulls get glued crowns. And some we wrap with feathers or thorns. We return them to dirt and wait for a flood long after we’re gone to make them all float to some surfaced future where others will figure us out.

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Aaron Sandberg bites into both Kit Kats like a psycho. He’s appeared or is forthcoming in Asimov’s, No Contact, I-70 Review, Plainsongs, West Trade Review, The Offing, Sporklet, and elsewhere. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, you can see him on Instagram @aarondsandberg.

Photo by Faria Anzum 

 

Benjamin Faro

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July on Seneca

Tonight the sun sets like some worrisome affliction, absent our want of remedy. Sunlit lethargy, packaged meats, and malted grain. Empty two-liters collecting like zebra mussels. I cut my foot on one the other day. Dad says the lake’s so deep that after we declared war on Japan and imprisoned a hundred thousand of our own citizens for fear of what they looked like, the navy drilled their grunts for combat here, getting ready to invade that unknown land. Battleships and submarines where canoes once practiced silence. Consider the names of those who lived here. Guyohkohnyah and Onondowahgah are not names my people practice much. A light turns on. Inside the four-bed, three-bath villa that we Airbnb’ed for the hot tub, mainly, my uncle opens up a game of Monopoly. He invites me inside. I think to bring it up to everyone. The history of this place. Then I think how crickets make their noise because their legs are jagged. How we find it soothing. How tomorrow we will waterski or tube, make a ruckus on the water. How nice it is to feel like family again. How when we play we laugh and laugh until we get our fill, eating too much ice cream, then serving more because we never do this. How we keep doing this. How this is our tradition. How we’ll never stop.

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Benjamin Faro is a green-thumbed writer and educator living in Asunción, Paraguay. He is currently pursuing his MFA at Queens University of Charlotte, and his poetry appears in EcoTheo Review, Portland Review, Atlanta Review, JMWW, and other literary outlets. His prose is forthcoming in the Best Small Fictions 2022 anthology.

Photo by Ian Keefe 

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Morgan Ray

Three Postcards from the Edge

I.

 

Postcard from the Edge of the Fire Zone

 

Across an orange sky blackbirds spiraled by while Redwood roots burned underground. A copy of Call of the Wild was splayed open in the ash, pages singed, and spine unbound. The moon was a spinning yoyo suspended in an act of trickery. My cat, pancaked between two blankets, peered out at the mountain’s torch as smoke coursed from the crevice trees like a censer of cedar sticks. A boy rode by on a flying fish. Many came to see the miracle, Mary’s face manifest in a scorched tortilla.

 

II.

 

Postcard from the Edge of the Golden Gate Bridge

 

The bridge was built to cross a divide. A suspension pulling away, two sides supported by tension. To avoid collapse, a structure needs strain but not too much. On a rare fog-less day, when the city shimmered like a sequined gown, Howard’s car was finally found in the north end lot. He never told anyone he was going to cross. No one knew he preferred the city to the headlands view. He left us all to ponder his untimely demise, why one side pulled away from the other.

 

III.

 

Postcard from the Edge of the Backseat of Barbie’s Convertible

 

She hasn’t changed, well maybe a little. Her grey hair blows back in my face. She’s ditched balding Ken, wears tight leggings and boots laced to the knee, reliving her youth. We’re cruising the town, top pulled down, in her pink dream machine. She got a raw deal from Mattel; fifty cents to every Kendoll-ar. So she quietly rectified the debt; stole a mink with an ermine collar, a wardrobe of dresses and this sexy Corvette.

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Morgan Ray lives in Salt Lake City. The view from her kitchen window is Emigration Gap, a split in the mountains where pioneer settlers walked into this valley. She would have been a lousy pioneer, questioning the authority of anyone who thought it was a smart idea to settle next to a salty lake. She occasionally volunteers at the Natural History Museum of Utah cataloging dinosaur bones.

Photo by XINYI SONG

 
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Caleb Bouchard

Bookends

A man had some extra shelf space, and since his books had a habit of leaning, he decided he would take out his gallbladder and use it as a bookend. The procedure was fairly straightforward. He used a steak knife and a pink baby spoon to extract the organ, examining himself in front of the bathroom mirror. He was slightly disappointed at the size of the useless organ—the thing could barely buttress a leaf, let alone a row of hefty volumes. He tossed it in the trash bin without even rinsing it, and again plunged into his abdominal cavity. This time, he scooped out his liver. He had never been a big drinker, so he supposed he wouldn’t miss it too much. He rinsed the liver, patted it dry, went back to the bookcase and wedged it at the end of the shelf, beside a copy of Chekhov’s stories. The man crossed his arms and silently admired his handiwork for several minutes, as the liver shimmered in the afternoon sunlight. The man’s daughter entered his study with bloody hands, holding a small wet sac. “Father,” she said, “what’s this?” The man smiled and led his daughter to her bedroom, where she had a small bookcase of her own in the corner, filled with little books about wizards, fairies, talking animals, and shamans.

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Caleb Bouchard's writing has recently appeared in As It Ought To Be, The Atlanta Review, MORIA, and Thimble Literary Magazine. His translations of the French poet Jacques Prevel have appeared in AzonaL, and Black Sun Lit (also forthcoming in Poet Lore).

Photo by v2osk 

 
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Richard Delaware

Teaching Sounds: Mathematics Exam Proctor

Forty-five students—fifty minutes—university Calculus II exam—sitting at the front, a screen behind: I offer blank paper. Backpacks like boulders lumped across the floor—heads down and focused—hair in a top knot tied away—fallen locks frame a face: blinders to concentrate—shoulders hunched—then . . . creak of tablet armchairs: seats adjust—fabric rubbing fabric—water bottle upends: burbling swallow—foot knocks a chair leg— sneeze: from somewhere “bless you”—rustling: waves sweep the room— overhead: fluorescents buzz—in spring: AC whispers—windows open: grind and groan of traffic—in winter: a cough—humming ceiling-mount projects: digital time behind me—flutter, crack of paper—backpack zipper ripped open: a pencil plucked—hollow, cupped pop: a flipping page—questions come forward: Am I on the right track?—sides of hands brush: eraser debris—pencil tips strike staccato—taps align a page stack. Time!

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Richard Delaware has taught a writing-intensive history of mathematics course for 20 years in Kansas City, MO. His recent memoir and literary creative nonfiction appeared five times in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, and in the Writers Place Yearbook Volume 1.

Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli 

 
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Alan Peat & Réka Nyitrai

Nulliparous

Ekphrastic haibun based on Gertrude Abercrombie’s The Dinosaur (1964)

 

Before getting married, my wife and I promise each other that we'll live an extravagant life, without children. All goes well until, one day, my wife notices that we aren’t immune to ageing. Since that day, whenever we encounter a mother and child, my wife's eyes grow misty and her heart fills with longing. I have also noticed that our bathroom has begun to overflow with all kinds of creams and potions, every one of them promising to rejuvenate our looks. In desperation, having read of the anti-ageing properties of its yolk, she purchases an ostrich egg. However, when she cracks it open there is neither yolk nor white, just a tiny dinosaur. Eagerly, it jumps onto her lap and cries—Mummy.

 

 

creeping sepia—

sunlight catches the insect

in amber

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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).

 

Alan Peat is a UK-based poet. In 2021 he was runner-up in both the New Zealand International Haiku Contest, and the British Haiku Society ‘Ken and Noragh Jones’ Haibun award. He also writes art and designs history books.

Photo by Hannah Pemberton 

 
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Réka Nyitrai

The television set

There is a boy who one day turns into a television set. His transformation does not happen all of a sudden, but it is a slow process, no-one really cares enough to notice. Even as a baby he received sounds and images; sent to him by invisible forces. The words he uttered were incomprehensible even to his mother. Later, in the kindergarten he drew nothing but strange little men with flattened heads. When he grew older he started to converse with the weatherman, the astrologist, the news reader and the various pundits and experts populating his favorite talk-shows, often in languages no-one local could understand. Now, that he is a television set, if you look into his eyes, you will see excerpts from your own life broadcast. You will see your many selves, all hurrying toward something cold and misty.

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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 Matteo Cancellieri
 

 

Karen Brennan

Phone Call

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When she is at her lowest point, watching endless Netflix series and eating fudge out of the pot with a wooden spoon and burning her tongue, her son calls. What are you doing? he asks. But he is never interested in the answer. Instead, he delivers his report to her, how he is working out in the yard, how his cellie is a very smart man, how he may be released earlier because of Covid, how he doesn’t believe in vaccinations. After his call, she feels even more despondent, and she walks around the garden and gazes without much interest at the wilting plants—the geranium blooms have fallen to the ground, the petunia stalks have turned woody and grey. Still, she cannot muster up the energy to drag out the hose. She goes inside and looks around her house and everything looks wilted there, too. She is not really surprised at the confluence between the outside and the inside, the wilt, the grey. She too is grey and wilting, less nimble than she used to be, more prone to overeating and despair. She wishes she hadn’t consumed all the fudge. She wishes her son wouldn’t say “cellie.”

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Karen Brennan's most recent book is Television, a Memoir (Four Way Books, 2022), a hybrid of micros, prose poems, and lyric essays.

Photo by Peter Heymans

 

Allison Thung

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Road Trip

There is an inimitable kind of invincible you are at 19 making promises you cannot keep to friends you will not keep. Because hubris is not deception, and it’s not a lie if you believe it. And at 19, there is no reason to disbelieve the plans you make with Sarah and Ed over McDonald’s hash browns to road trip across California right after graduation, even though you paid with loose change in currency from a country 8,610 miles away. While Ed nods off in his seat from yet diagnosed narcolepsy, Sarah tells you how the best breakfast potatoes are always from diners attached to gas stations in the middle of nowhere, and you nod sagely as though you are in on the secret. For the rest of college, hash browns and gas stations alternate as shorthand for your grand plan, symbols of an unbreakable promise. But after 19 comes 20, and after 20, 21. And one day you are suddenly a 30-year-old liar, Sarah is a text message from 6 years ago you never responded to, and Ed is Edmund or maybe Edward again. And though you will meet other people, go other places, and have other adventures, every so often you will think about the time you never pulled up to the gas station-diner combination at which Sarah had the best breakfast potatoes of her life, only to discover the entire place had long been abandoned for ruin, and the only lights you thought you saw were from Sarah’s memories and your imagination.

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Allison Thung is a poet and project manager from Singapore. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Anomaly, Emerge Literary Journal, Brave Voices Magazine, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @poetrybyallison or at www.allisonthung.com.

Photo by Jakob Owens

 
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Unbroken is edited by Ken Chau, Dale Wisely, Katherine DiBella Seluja, Tom Fugalli, Kelli Goldsmith, and Tina Carlson. Roo Black is founding editor emeritus. Our staff dentist/spiritual advisor is the Lt. Col. J. Benton II, D.D.S. Our thanks to the contributors to this issue and all who submitted their work. 
 

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