out of its
the library books
these things happen
You’re My Favorite
I asked him once to tell me “You’re my favorite.” In that instance, I was the favorite and I meant you as in me, like how he’d feel it. In hindsight, it felt weird to try and speak through his perspective back to him. To tell him who his favorite was, me, and to tell me it directly. He looked at me cockeyed and smiled. I could’ve left well enough alone because now he knew I wanted to be his favorite and that could just be that, settled. His smile should be enough assurance that I could blurt out a silly idea and he would stay quiet and not make a joke out of it.
But that is purely hindsight, looking back I’m far more logical than in the present. I got upset as I tend to when I get the impression I’m not being taken seriously. Even when what I said was a cute joke, which by virtue of being both cute and a joke, should really reinforce how not serious the request was. But even if someone had pulled me aside and informed me of how unnecessary the request was, stubbornly, I still would pursue hearing him say it.
I’m sorry, I’m kind of just that way. Apologetic before I’ve even done anything wrong. What I did didn’t merit humiliation either. I wasn’t sure what answer I expected because no matter what, unless his exact words were “You’re my favorite,” then I would take it personally. I would feel demeaned, I would feel like a cute joke.
I’ve been called cute and I hate it. It feels like being patted on the head. Cute is brushing a horse’s mane. Cute is finding your favorite color freeze pop on your tippy toes reaching into the box, tongue out like it helps, trying to sneak one before dinner. I don’t want to be cute, but I have to accept that I am. I’d much rather be sexy, but that’s simply not me. Sexy is all bedroom eyes and dirty talk and lace underwear. Sexy is loud, bordering obnoxious, fake orgasms. I can barely even get real orgasms, what would I base my fake ones on?
Maybe I’m scared I couldn’t be a favorite. I need to hear the tone in his voice, I need to know that it sounds genuine even if it’s not his real words. Not like he has to clear his throat first or that he has to tilt his head to the side. No nonverbal cues or body language besides an open embrace and using my words to articulate his passion for me. Which, to be fair, is not asking for much at all. As kids, our parents point to things and say “you know what that is, say it” and we just say it, excited to just know words and what they correlate to in reality. Why can’t he just say what I ask him to when I ask him to do it?
I would not be a tyrant with this control over him. I wouldn’t dare impose upon his will. If he said how he felt about something, I wouldn’t demand “No! Say it another way, the opposite even.” I love who he is for what he is, all of it. I adore him.
He is my favorite.
But he just can’t do it. Maybe not even intentionally, maybe it’s unconscious. Which is still a little negligent, in all fairness, but that I can overlook. That’s not the part that bothers me. The reason why could be anything and I’d still love him, he’d still have my heart. The why could be anything at all and I would understand. But when it happens, it doesn’t matter why. It has happened. There is no going backwards, much less when going forward reminds you of that moment. That pivotal, painful experience that has become a defining colorization.
I’d wish that time together we went to a state fair ironically and both were surprised by the great time we’d had would’ve been a more significant memory because when I do recall it, I’m nearly knocked off my feet in the sudden euphoria it brings me. I want to swoon onto a fainting couch, dropping my handkerchief that he catches before it gets the ground and then me, with superhuman speed, before I land on the couch all alone. And he is there because he’s always by my side.
Recently I discovered a calendar in a thrift shop that had word of the day on it. It was missing pages and was from years prior. By the time the calendar would line up like this and be accurate, I’d have lost it or tossed it out in impatience. The word on it was “penultimate.” I hadn’t realized there was a word for being second to last and to this day, I still can’t comprehend a worse place to be.
liz vignali – two poems
medusa washes the windows
Snakes don’t like ammonia;
it scorches their scent-
seeking tongues, burns
their many pebbled eyes.
Instead I use vinegar
and water, that piss and acrid
homely solution, the hiss
of spit and clean. Acid
and newspaper, like my mother
taught me. Like her
mother passed on to her.
Their palms, too, dingy
with bad news, the clench
and rumple of headlines,
man’s world in black and white.
My grey hands couldn’t hold
him back. But they can do this–
spray and wipe a circle of clean,
a halo for those who look past
their reflection to see me inside.
Cybele Rinses the Dishes
There are more dishes than
hot water. Too many dinners
with you and your women.
Even the plates are sick of your shit.
They don’t bother to break
when I throw a whole stack
of them on the floor.
Still, I want to take a bite
out of your disappointment.
Swallow it, swallow you,
swallow the copy of my key
you handed back to me.
You call all your friends.
No one will come pick you up.
We decide this is funny.
Leave the dishes, you say.
We call my friends now,
see how many we can get,
gather a pack to run across
the winter beach. Our feet
will leave holes in the sky.
The wind will stitch stars
in our cheeks as we scream
down the coast toward the city.
Elizabeth Vignali is an optician and writer in the Pacific Northwest, where she coproduces the Bellingham Kitchen Sessions reading series. She is the author of Object Permanence (Finishing Line Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in Willow Springs, Cincinnati Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and others.
dee dee chapman
Dee Dee Chapman has been published in The Noisy Water Review, Jeopardy Magazine, Sweet Tree Review and others. In September 2014 she self-published her first chapbook of poetry, Colluvium. In May of 2017, she was a Walk Award winner of the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest for the poem Colluvium. She is a cinephile, her favorite animal is the prehistoric Megalodon shark, and puns are the way to her heart.
joshua young – two poems
of the text
& what’s missing
boats out of
wood & styrofoam—
the old man suggests
we unload the grocery
shelves of canned goods—
he tells me:
i have built this flood but i have lost track &
now there are characters they / we no longer
involves me i have become voyeur i have
become the characters have placed lamps in
the field this is so cinematic—
i want to load
the magazine’s spool
there is no
wake in the discontinued
it has goals
they build a fire
in the mound
in the yard
i do not
what they think
Joshua Young is the author of six collections, most recently, Psalms for the Wreckage (Plays Inverse 2017). He was recently awarded a grant from the Reva and David Logan Arts Foundation for his multimedia work. He works at Cornish College of the Arts and lives in West Seattle.
PENNSYLVANIA, MORTUARY TRANSPORT
You sound like a barn,
The Allegheny river crackles behind you
slow and goosey.
All the trees fall over. They’ve been falling.
The limbs stick up grey
as burned things.
You said: I wouldn’t mind being a guy who drives dead bodies.
You get a complementary meal, a drink.
All you have to do all day is not think about what you’re hauling.
Once, with my thumbs on your hips,
I decided I wanted you
to want more from me.
When I fly to tell you
you gift me a flannel shirt that shrinks.
There is an unimaginable safety
in the way your arms hang while you speak.
Your disinterest. How you turn away
from me naked, kicking the moss,
the gravel off your feet.
Making that chalk you don’t think
to shake from the sheets.
Recently named a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Taneum Bambrick is the author of Reservoir, which was selected by Ocean Vuong for the 2017 Yemassee Chapbook Contest. She holds an MFA from the University of Arizona where she received an Academy of American Poets University Prize. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Pleiades, Entropy, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Passages North, The Southeast Review, Hobart, The Nashville Review, New Delta Review, and elsewhere. She’s received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference.
(originally published by Five on the Fifth)
The moment Denise touched a cold slab of Aquaphor to her bare back, she heard Ari’s nagging voice. “That’s too much,” they said.
Denise waited for Ari to reach their hand out and remove the excess, to feel one thin finger clean the raised ink of her tattoo. Instead the handle of her butter knife, duct-taped to the blade of another butter knife, came loose and clattered on the hardwood floor behind her. She attempted to rewrap the knives in the last of her duct tape and heard Ari’s complaints again. “The butter knife isn’t clean, and honestly not even a safe way to take care of the tattoo. Just ask Wyatt to help you.”
Denise used the ladle from the dishwasher instead. She made small circles against her tattoo. In the bathroom, she twisted her chin toward her shoulder to get a better look in the mirror, but couldn’t tell if she’d done a sufficient job. The phone rang in the other room. That gave Denise an idea. She hung up on Ari’s mom and used her phone’s camera to take a picture, but the moisturizer didn’t appear in the photos.
“Want me to ask Wyatt for you?”
Ari’s voice always had a tone of knowing triumph, and Denise was stubborn. She knew she would’ve said no again if Ari had another night to lean against the frame of the doorway with arms folded over their chest, smiling to themselves. Denise imagined what it would’ve been like to say yes at least once, to allow somebody who was not Ari to help her when she needed it. She pictured her ex-partner watching Wyatt take care of the tattoo from the toilet seat lid, chugging a beer and cracking jokes about other new uses for silverware.
Ari’s mom, Michiko, came over unannounced as usual. She didn’t say hello when she entered. She did, however, ask questions in her usual and succinct form of barrage: “Why don’t you answer my calls? Do you make enough to pay rent alone? Are you going to need a place to stay? Why did you use so much tape on the boxes? Why is there a ladle in your bathroom?”
Denise learned from listening to Ari talk to their mom that Michiko appreciated a similar prompt response to her questions: “My phone was on silent. I can make rent work. No. The extra tape kept me from re-opening them. I was trying to take care of my tattoo.”
Michiko marched her child’s boxes to the car. She and her husband had already sorted through the things they wanted to keep. What was left was the one big trip to Goodwill. When the last box was put away, Michiko forced the overpacked trunk of her Outlander shut. “Can I see it?” she asked.
The question didn’t register with Denise.
“The tattoo,” Michiko added.
They returned to the apartment. Denise removed her shirt. She hadn’t told Michiko what the tattoo was, didn’t think about who she was showing it to. Ari’s mom stared at her child’s handwriting, copied directly from the name line at the top left hand corner of a recent in-class assignment. For a moment, the silence doubled.
“Why on your back though?” was Michiko’s last question. “Don’t you want to see it?”
Denise didn’t answer the first part, which was that she was large and Ari’s arms were stubby. When they embraced, it was where Ari’s hands met, barely able to touch their fingertips together. She only said, “I know it’s there.”
Later, Denise would learn she’d used too much Aquaphor during her recovery. A friend of hers would inspect it and tell her, “It’s faded. You should touch it up.”
She’d be blunt about it, shrug and say, “Everything fades,” but still she’d schedule an appointment the following month. She’d tell herself she wouldn’t cry this time, wouldn’t have to stop a million times for such a small tattoo—one whose size was changed at the last minute by her intolerance to the sharp sensation. “A tattoo,” she’d remember the artist saying about aftercare, during her first visit, “is an open wound,” and how a moment came when the artist rested his large, gloved and unfamiliar hands on her back and the needle buzzed to life. She didn’t realize how long the pain would last, certainly never imagined she’d ever want to come back for more.
Ethan Leonard is an MFA fiction graduate at the University of New Hampshire. Previous work of theirs has been found in Five on The Fifth, Dime Show Review, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, Reservoir, and has been honored by Glimmer Train and Southwest Review’s Meyerson Fiction Prize. They tweet at @autonomousbagel and are trying to publish their thesis.