"The Origin of Red" - carolyn adams



lydia copeland

Our bed sheets rise and fall in the autumn wind, leaving their ghosts behind. I always imagined a blanket on the grass over there, baby on my hip whilst hanging. Pinning. Folding. My husband is lying on the mattress with a fever, too sick to notice my new hair. I cover him in clean towels, bring lemon in hot water. I run him a bath, clear the table, open a book and find my place. The neighbors talk in their yard. I hear the murmur of their sentences and think of them in their beds at night in t-shirts and dirty socks discussing. I think of the evenings I've walked around the block looking into their glowing televisions. My husband sleeps and the water runs. The smell of soap.

Lydia Copeland
Where You'll Find Me
Ann Beattie



jan windle

There were no Obama poems.

I wrote the Chinese New Year poem on the train. The Cafe was packed. The poem went down well.

In the station buffet, the Chinese boy who always sells me a chicken sandwich on Tuesdays was talking with a man discussing Chinese New Year rituals. The boy was looking sheepish. “I don’t know, my parents know more.”

He’d reminded me about Chinese New Year last week and we’d chatted. He turned to me. “Big party tonight!” For New Year? “No, no, on TV, all stars, big show! President Obama!”

I’d forgotten. I was focused on open mike night at the Poetry Cafe.

I remembered Brunei, 1982. Gangs of boys on Toyota trucks thumping throbbing drums across steaming grey landscape, crowds in the Kedai, the Lion’s head reaching up for dollars as shopkeepers bought next year’s profits from Fate.

Jan Windle
The Favourite Game
Leonard Cohen

HAD SHE ONLY KNOWN - brendan o'brien


brendan o'brien

He loved them immediately, oddly, and now proceeds with a steady finger, the way someone might accept a parakeet. If she’d known the dimples on the small of her back would cause this she would have never accepted his invitation. Had she known the dimples (found above a tattoo only a handful of the world’s men are privy to) possessed certain intangible powers, like glowing kryptonite, she would have stopped the jogging and the sit-ups and the advanced yoga until they faded away like a phone number from skin. She would have quit ordering ice water with lemon. She would have started devouring things like fried turtle cheesecake and chicken fingers dipped in gravy. She would have become huge. She would have bathed with a yardstick and a sponge. She would have let the cotton fibers of her nightgown grow into her skin. She would have waited as giggling construction men knocked out the living room to take her outside for the first time in years. She would have looked into the blinding sun as the crane swung and the camera crew hurried into position.

Brendan O’Brien
Chuck Palahniuk

BIVOUAC - bonnie zobell


bonnie zobell

Giblet wishes her drowsy, liquored dad would get his face out of his ravioli and see what she’s prepared for his 60th—she's mounted the photo his buddies from the 31st sent, him parachuting into a bivouac in Laos at seventeen—ever since her mother died, her dad just keeps falling.

Bonnie Zobell
Five Fictions
Kim Chinquee

PERSONAL RITUAL - crystal folz


crystal folz

Long before she bought her first pair of fishnets and rolled down the waistband on her skirts to raise the hemline, there was a nakedness in her eyes like swollen blackberries on a leaf-barren vine.

She looked for it in other people, touching strangers' arms in passing to lure a glance and thumbing the brows over young eyes, soggy with whiskey, until one night there was a wicked dance between the conversationalists in her head that lasted well into morning.

Her ugliness was unique.

She wore it in embarrassment, like stained panties, discreetly, always glimpsing behind to ensure invisibility. She tried to calm the pain by holding in her stomach. Jutted hipbones, concaved stomach, fleshless between her thighs, she fumbled around like a skeleton, a skeleton with bulging ugly eyes.

Crystal Folz
The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America
Louis Menand




You can go home now. You are done counting to fifteen. Of your dreams (he's had many) of beaches and angels and educating the dead on the ways of life, you are through. You are done with the smell you will never forget. Take the smell and save it somewhere inside where it will wait for its release on a day where a photograph sparks a memory and endure as it fills your nostrils like smoke.

You can go home now. You can put the fires away with the sand and the knowledge of what you have done. Everything you have wondered will now become. The waiting is over. This will be the first and the newest beginning you've ever had. This will be starting over.

You can go home now. Put her behind you along with the fires, the smell, the sand. Forget it ever happened. Remember the Spartan lifestyle and the 700. Remember bits of his flesh in your pockets…your hair…and being so long living inside your head.

You can go home now. I hope you have delays. I hope the trip is uncomfortable. I hope your back aches. I hope they lose your luggage. I hope there is nobody to greet you on landing. I hope these things because I know they will drown in the face of the moment she opens that door and sees you standing there.

My Less Than Secret Life: A Diary, Fiction, Essays
Jonathan Ames

THE ELKHOOD - kim parko


kim parko

The elkhood live in the glade behind our house. They like to chew, methodically, on the tough forest greens. Their top teeth are like pestles. Their bottom teeth like mortars. They grind seed and grain to flour in their mouths. My wife employs the elkhood as she would a gristmill. She allows the elkhood to consume one eighth of the food they process. The elkhood are slender and sinewy. Their jaws have biceps. The elkhood have a leader who has many rounded breasts and a large, open vagina that doubles as a nursery. The many elkhood children are often found playing within her. The walls of her vagina are covered in bright posters. The floor of her vagina is always vacuumed after snack time. The elkhood tower over us. We are small and plump and barely move. When I yell into my wife’s vagina, my voice circles around inside and comes back diminished in loneliness. But we own the elkhood and have many other wonderful possessions.

Kim Parko
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

CONEY ISLAND IS DEAD - timothy gager


timothy gager

“Coney Island is dead baby,” Deborah said as she pulled the needle out of her arm. Tom had done his first. “Dead,” Tom repeated. He sat there. He could feel the sleeping coaster move, its shaky ride sliding him from one side of the seat to the other. “This is my Coney Island,” Deborah tapped her bicep.

She tilted her head back until she could see the carousel straight ahead of the tip of her nose. “Oh I used to love horses.” She forced herself to her feet and started running, knocking over an old rust and black trash barrel. “If you get on, I’ll see if I can juice this thing up.”“With what, magic?” a small trickle of blood ran from her chin, another from her arm.

Deborah sat on a white horse, her teeth bore out matching the angry expression of the horse. There was some shine where she patted its neck. Tom tracked the snake, crawling on his hands and knees, the concrete pushing back hard against his knee caps. “It has to work, it has to work,” he thought, slowly following the wire. It was a trail that led him to a tattered end. Deborah sat on the ride going up and down and up and down.

Timothy Gager
Dear Everybody
Michael Kimball

IN SURGERY - alexandra isacson


alexandra isacson

Hi honey what ya do? Joe the anesthetist asks.
I dance.
I bet you make a lot of money.
Oh yeah.
She’s out. Al says.
It’s a shame, it’ll probably go up her nose. Joe says.

Draped in blue ether, nude without her makeup, one nail without polish, she looks like anyone else. Al opens her soul, touches Michelangelo’s God with fingertips and takes the old implants out, one upside down.

Put that in the chart, Smith did that one. Al says.

If they’re not big enough, they get booed off the stage. The blond, pink-scrubbed nurse says.

I just want to rent a room at the Holiday Inn with some girls. Joe says.

Al stuffs plastic bags in her chest and fills them full of saline. Custom tits. Do they match? Whata ya think he says to the nurse. A little more on the left side she says, and he sews her up. He says he has the biggest ad in the newspaper. Al’s in love with the centerfold tacked to the surgery center’s wall. Her hovering airbrushed flesh has the golden tones of Renaissance Madonnas. Devotion and emotions give breath to this immaculate vision. She dances on tabletops and gives money to the church. She’s practically a nun. But the nurses say her breasts are ugly. Al hands the nurse a paper scripted in Latin for the dancer.

Alexandra Isacson
The Witches of Eastwick
John Updike



THE SET-UP - randall brown


randall brown

Like quicksand, she said of our marriage. Around us merriment, an aperitif, teriyaki martinis, the hibachi chef emasculating shrimp and flipping them plate to plate. No one move, I said, or else we'll sink. Everyone stopped, the shrimp frozen in mid-air. I need to breathe, she said. Not even that.

Randall Brown
Tinderbox Lawn
Carol Guess

JULY IN CINCINNATI - molly gaudry


molly gaudry

In sleep, I hear your wristclock click, your icicle toes tip carpet particles, your scuffed slippers shuffle into the kitchen, hear the Frigidaire door pop and release, a tray crack, shards erupting, melting, on my mango-skin pink and bamboo-shoot green Formica floor. Next thing I know, you're carveboarding loops and swirls around my oval heart on royal-blue Egyptian cotton bedsheets of ice; you're running cold, wet lips down my neck, trailing an ice cube along my veins with the tip-of-your-iceberg tongue. I wake tasting last night's pint-sized bites of double fudge chunk and butter pecan, shared during National Geographic videos from the Public Library of Hamilton County: "Ocean Drifters," "Rain Forest," thinking, this must be what it feels like to be icing frosted on the cake.

Molly Gaudry
Whose Song?
Thomas Glave

PARLEZ VOUS? - shome dasgupta


shome dasgupta

“I don’t know any French,” I said.
“You only need to know one word mon cher.” she said. “Amour.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. “What’s that? Is that your name?”

She moved her hands, removing my body from reality, making an atheist feel holy. She closed her eyes, and I couldn’t keep mine open, and in the darkness, I saw her touches, each touch, each graze, giving a little glow, like a million lightning bugs floating around us. I saw her moans, and I kept muttering to myself, "Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster," hoping that the next morning I won’t forget to buy a French-English dictionary.

Shome Dasgupta
Grab On To Me Tightly As If I Knew The Way
Bryan Charles

PALM PLOT - bryan jones


bryan jones

When I was younger, strange things used to happen to me. Once, while crossing at night through a confusing grid of dark alleys cut between the tall buildings of a strange city, a wild woman with a knife darted out from behind a dumpster and pushed me up against a dirty brick wall. She held the blade to my throat and said she wanted to read my palms. Her face was partially covered by a veil of black hair, but her lower lip quivered as she spoke. She had read too many palms, she said. She knew too much about the future, she said. A distant light mounted high on a wall made the knife gleam in her shaking hand. She ordered me to hold up my palms and I raised them to her. She looked closely at one, then the other.

It’s impossible, she said as she withdrew the knife.

I asked her what she meant.

You have no future, she said. She backed away from me in that alley until she reached the corner. Then she turned and was gone.

I never saw her again.

Nothing has happened to me since.

Bryan Jones
Juan Garcia Ponce



howie good

The repairman says mice have eaten through the wires. Thank you, I say – to the mice. Maybe now I can think without being interrupted. But first I must do something about the Styrofoam peanuts scattered all over the floor, and then there’s the fire to strum and the Bureau of Weights and Measures to contact. My wife won’t be any help. She’s hiding in our bedroom, embarrassed that we have grown children. I pat my pockets as if searching for cigarettes, or, if not cigarettes, symptoms. One side of me is cold and dark; the other side, cold and bright. I exchange melancholy glances with the deer head on the wall. The repairman says he’ll be back. Quiet, I say, the baby’s sleeping.

Howie Good
The Viceroy of Ouidah
Bruce Chatwin

SIGN MY TITTIES - joel willans


joel willans

She’s a beauty, this one. Italian, I think, or Greek. Her hair’s blonde, though, and she has blue-green eyes that look all the more amazing sitting in her caramel coloured face. I wonder whether her hair is really that colour. I will find out soon enough. She stands up and starts gyrating, teasing with a slow motion belly dance. She is still wearing the bikini and I can just make out my scrawl on the top of her breast.

“Sign me. Sign my titties,” she said as I rocked into the hotel. “They’re the finest in Turkey.”

“I'd rather not, Madam,” I said all pompous, which almost made laugh because I knew I was at my weakest after a gig.

It’s all that adoration, waves and waves and waves of it. It has its own smell. A mix of perfume and sweat, panties and smoke. It smells sweet even when it doesn’t.

Joel Willans
Olaf Olafsson



scot young

We stumbled around the corner and found ourselves in Chinatown. This stretch of street was experimental poetry with Peking duck hanging in the window. The rain had stopped and the naïve world was washed clean by green tea and paper dragons.

We were on a mission for dim sum. We wandered down an alley with the sweet fragrance of opium hanging in the air. We settled in at Hang Ah, one of the oldest dim sum restaurants in the city. I pointed at the noodle rolls, tarts, and dumplings as the carts rolled by.

"Smell that coming in?" I asked.

"Opium. The Chinese smoke opium in their bathrooms," Brautigan said.

"Put that on a postcard and send it home," I said. "Hey, try this noodle roll."

"The old people sit in the tub," he said taking the last swallow of his beer.

"That's just bizarre, man—the bathtub?"

When we got up to pay the ticket, Richard said something to the busboy in Chinese and we were nodded and motioned to the kitchen area. In a darkened storage room off the kitchen a clay pipe was passed around. It was a dream scene set in a Chinatown fog. Old Chinese were sitting in the tub and young children gathered around on the floor. Paper lanterns were stretched across the ceiling on fishing line and bobbed to the sound of an Erhu breeze coming from the alley. A plastic Buddha sat winking on the window sill. I listened to the ping, ting, sing, for minutes, hours or days. Time did not move when the Erhu played.

Finally, inching our way out of the alley, we saw a Chinese princesses riding a lotus flower to the sun weaving down Grant Street in a slow motion display of waving silk. This image stopped us along with a head of cabbage being yo-yo'd down on a string from a balcony above. Smiling elders grinned and waved at us on from above. It splattered at our feet and plastered bits of damp cabbage on our jeans. The old Chinese celebrated from their loft—smiling, nodding, and clapping.

"Ah, man--look at my jeans" I said. "Now what?"

"I need to find a paper, he said."

Brautigan put the coin in my hand and disappeared behind the paper dragons.

Scot Young
Trout Fishing In America
Richard Brautigan


'NOMAD' - jordan c. brun



ted powers

I wonder why the farmer chews fat, muttering about the damn Chinese beetles this season and is the damn corn ever gonna get around to growing? I wonder, following intently, if a dog barking a few yards over is haunted. He isn't, I surmise. "It's a real dust bowl out there," the farmer says, "We need the rain. I wonder when the old girl will yield." The man next to him says it's supposed to rain in a week, but who knows really. "I heard Thursday," the farmer says, and suddenly I am wondering where grows such appetite that small talk is urgent talk. I see what he is wearing, this farmer: real work boots, sturdy jeans, dirt stains, and a rough leather frock, skinned off generations waging war with the sky and still lined with tools. Examining my own attire, I see I am dressed for the grand choir of some momentous moment and now I am no longer wondering anything except if my face will be washed out in the lights.

Ted Powers
Selected Poems
Max Jacob



rusty barnes

Billy's joints are hurting

Billy's putting a hurting on a joint since his wife Donna slammed his fingers in the car door, accidentally so she says, but we all know what that beeyotch is like. Got no insurance so it's finger-sucking, band-aids, and cannabis, and by the end of the night when Billy's fingers are purpling he'll go to the clinic and sit in line with the other poor people who don't speak the King's English, a little boy hacking a lung into a paper bag and a triumvirate of drag queens with runny stockings and false eyelashes holding their sister up and propping her snapped ankle. Billy can see up her skirt oh god he can see up her skirt he closes his eyes and feels his heart throb in his fingers.

Michael is shattered

Sh-doobie. His girlfriend said they should see other people, which means she has someone picked out already and even though he bought a Bowflex and runs 25 miles a week and reads books on how to perform cunnilingus, it's just not enough. He stood in front of the bathroom mirror and practiced his tongue action for nothing. He got drunk in a titty bar in Atlanta and overpaid for a lap dance from a girl with no body fat and a muskmelon chest, which meant nothing. He staggered out blindly and got a parking ticket. He fell to his knees in the gutter. It began to rain. He drunk-dialed her, then dropped the phone in the street before he could speak. Sh-doobie.

Rusty Barnes
A Peculiar Grace
Jeffrey Lent

WHAT I WOULD LIKE - david erlewine


david erlewine

I would like a cheeseburger with red onions, a thin tomato slice, and crispy fries on the side. A five-year-old could order this.

364 days ago, shortly after my wife left (“all pep talked out”), I vowed to cure my stutter in one year. My manifesto was notarized, draconian consequences explicitly set forth.

A true professional, the notary read and signed without moving either eyebrow.

The waitress now openly stares. My eyes cloud.

I point at a blurred entry and all but throw the menu into her hand.

Tomorrow will arrive quickly.

David Erlewine
You Are Not A Stranger Here
Adam Haslett

A HIGHER VANTAGE - jonathon dozier-ezell


jonathon dozier-ezell

My father died before I was born. Hard on the heels of my mother's swollen news, he leaped from the second floor of his apartment building and survived the fall until a truck hit him. That was the sort of man he was; his man-traits were inheritable.

Most days, I know that when I decide to leap, I will do so from a higher vantage. I will pierce the blue ocean, run windward across the sky. Yet what if, like my father, I have keys only to a second floor window, and no one living higher will let me in?

Jonathon Dozier-Ezell
Man in the Dark
Paul Auster

THE SANTA FE B&B - alexandra isacson


alexandra isacson

Hearing soft chimes, she walked over to a lace-draped window. In the waning snow flurried light, she could see a shimmering rose window in the church across the narrow street. Headlights from cars driving over a hill flashed into their Victorian suite. He threw some kindling in the fireplace and turned on a light by their bed. From the window, she watched him take off his shirt. She pulled down the shade and pulled a drape shut. She could smell spice. He was behind her, lightly kissing the back of her neck, touching her beneath her nude silk dress. He pulled on the shade, and it spun back up.

“No one knows us here,” he said.
“There’s a gothic church across the street,” she said. “Inspired by some dabbling Rosicrucian saint.”
“Come on, Crystal,” he said, “We’re alone here.”

Al softly recited poetry, and he touched with his fingertips. She closed her eyes, and felt Vincent touching her. Vincent had been all over her the last time she wore this dress. He had undressed her for his charcoal sketch, and she had not washed it since. She kept the dress tucked away, hermetically sealed in her heart, him tightly woven in the memory.

Her dress floated to the floor. At first, she covered herself with her arms. She was incense burning. She left the skin of her dress on the floor.

Alexandra Isacson
Fish Museum
Charles D'Ambriosio

A NEW CONTRY - r.m. glover


r. m. glover


“What is it, speak up.”

“You’ve left your pen, sir.” The clerk offered up a green and white hotel pen.

“Aw, hell. I sure did. Why do you suppose I did that?”

The clerk shrugged and held the pen out like a prize. At the counter, in the lobby on a Saturday morning in downtown Atlanta, their eyes met.

“I don’t want it back, get it?”

The clerk stroked his thin mustache. His head wagged left and right. “Yes,” he said. “You don’t want the complimentary pen.”

“No. I don’t want the complimentary pen.”

The man turned and walked through the lobby and out the revolving door.

He was still chuckling two blocks later. A city bus passed by blowing black smoke and a pigeon rushed over his head and he could hear the bird’s wings flap and then he stopped and lit a cigarette. Newspapers whirled in the wind and steam puffed from a grated storm drain. Next to his foot at the crosswalk a green and white hotel pen laid crushed in the crease of the sidewalk.

R. M. Glover
History and the Ugly Facts of Cormac McCarthy's ‘Blood Meridian’
Dana Phillips

SMALL FAVORS FROM STRANGERS - emily siegenthaler


emily siegenthaler

In the bitter cold I go to my old house. A girl answers. I introduce myself, a former tenant. She lets me in, we know how expensive the heat is. The house smells different. Like coffee. I wonder which room is hers.

I ask her about the mail. She hasn't received any of mine. She offers to take my number. She has dark eyes, and I like them. I give her my number. I wonder if her bed is soft, if she makes good coffee. The girl is wearing a thick white sweater. She tells me her name; she does not offer me any coffee. I hold out my hand, I say thank you.

Really I want to ask her, "If I had an acid nightmare and felt like my brain was broken and the next day I had a thesis paper due, would you sit down at the computer and help me write until I felt better?" I want to ask because I know she'll say yes. I want to come back to my old house with her living in it now and watch her live.

Emily Siegenthaler
The Savage Detectives
Roberto Bolaño