That Motherfucking Light / Cuánta Luz by Maria Alejandra Barrios

Me and Pablo just met and we’re both depressed. I’m depressed because I don’t have a visa and I don’t know where I’ll sleep next month. Pablo is depressed because his pot business is too small and he’s scared he is going to get caught.

His real name is not Pablo.

My parents spent a lot of money on a fancy Ivy League education in New York for me. My J1 is about to expire and soon after that, if I don’t get an extension I’m bound to go back home to Colombia. Pablo is from Colombia too but that’s not why he sells drugs. He sells because he’s hanging out with the wrong crowd and he likes easy money. He likes meeting new people every week, too. That’s how we met.

“Fumas?” He asked at a house party in Crown Heights.

“I do now,” I answered, taking the cigarette from his hand.

While I took the first hit, I thought about RCN showing the marihuana cultivos being burned to ashes in the 90’s. I thought about the other Pablo and his reign of violence. I thought about the eight-year-olds selling drugs in Medellin on the streets. I thought about me swearing papi I would never smoke. I thought about me promising it to God when I was little at Catholic School. Pablo interrupts my thoughts:

“That’s not how you smoke. You have to inhale the smoke and hold it until it burns as it tries to get back out.” I thought for a second about papi and god but the thought in my head doesn’t last long. The burning in my throat does.

After we met that night, Pablo and I start hanging out almost every day. We both work mostly at night. He sells his stuff and I think about what will happen if the visa doesn’t get here in time and I will have to go home. I think about where home is. I think about not having a country. I think about how there’s no end in sight. I don’t sleep, and Pablo doesn’t sleep either. So it works out.

“That’s why I’m bad at this business. I’m too scared.”

“I am scared too.”

“And that’s why you don’t do anything. Maybe you should come with me tomorrow.”

The next day we get together to do his round. We speak to all of his clients and smoke with his favorite ones. The last couple of the night offers us chicken. Pablo lights up a joint and says:

“I know what I said yesterday, but you shouldn’t do this. It’s too dangerous. I would rather have you not do anything.”

I imagine the land under my feet splitting in two. I hear my mom’s voice “Come home. You’re spiralling, mija.” I hear the voice of my therapist: “are you sleeping?”

“It’s okay.” He says like he could read my thoughts. I wonder if he can.

Pablo gets caught the next day selling but he doesn’t stay in jail long because it turns out his par-ents have money too. It also turns out his real name is Pablo.

He calls me from prison telling me that he misses me. The week after he comes to my room in Bushwick and kisses me. He kisses my arms, my hair, my forehead and my sunburned chest. In that paisa accent of his, he tells me that he loves me.

“Pablo?” I ask but he doesn’t respond.

Pablo holds my hand. He says he’ll go back to go school for real this time and I don’t say any-thing because I don’t have a plan.

“Pablo,” I say, “Pablo, don’t fall asleep.” But he does.

And I think that Pablo and I don’t have a country but we have something better together, his snores go quiet and all I can hear is the noise of the sirens outside. I hold Pablo’s hand not caring about waking him up. I squeeze his hand harder and prepare for the road ahead.

He wakes up and tells me to go to sleep but I can’t close my eyes. I can feel the land opening up and swallowing me like it does every night. I feel the warmness of the earth and the mud. Except this time, I’m not scared. All I can see is the light.

That motherfucking light of love.


Maria Alejandra Barrios is a writer born in Barranquilla, Colombia. She has lived in Bogotá and Manchester, where in 2016 she completed a Masters degree in Creative Writing from The University of Manchester. Her fiction has been published in Hobart Pulp, Reservoir Journal, and Cosmonauts Avenue. Her poetry has been published in The Acentos Review. Her work has been supported by organizations like Vermont Studio Center and Caldera Arts Center. She lives in New York and is currently working on her first short story collection and her first novel.

Fishing in Ketchikan by Samantha Peterson

Baranof casts its magic over us on a grey Friday morning in June. It starts with a cut, knife angled under its fin, fish still wriggling on the wooden table as he peels away the meat. Flop-flop, as he flips it over, mouth open in a big gaping O- like it might say something. But all we hear is the wind and the water lapping at the rocks and the boat near the shore. He tosses the bones, tail, head in a bucket by his feet. No more stirring, just scraps.

“Food for the eagles, later,” he says, his hands wet, clumps of guts glistening like jelly.

I’d had trouble reeling it in, my palms sore from their grip on the rod, forearms burning, the feel of its tiny teeth still on the tip of my finger from when I’d held it, thumb packed into its mouth.

“Yelloweye Rockfish,” he’d noted, and we’d admired the bright blood-orange of its body, head spines long like flames on its back, the golden color of its eyes wide-wide-open.

“That’s a good-sized catch” he’d said, tossing it into the hatch, and I listened to it bounce, the heavy thwack of its tail against the hard wood, wrestling for breath.

After, we eat our catch by the fire; potatoes, tomatoes, fresh aioli spread out onto our plates, hot coffee, flames thawing our feet still stuck firm in their boots. I scrape my dish clean, suppress the urge to lick it, tongue craving every last trace, mouth full with the taste of pepper, garlic, butter, wild. Across the beach, I watch the boat nod from the water, white meat swimming in my gut, full now, happy. Clouds wrap the sky in gray, but under the small wooden shelter we glow, warm bits of blueberry crumble still stuck on our lips.

When it’s time, he throws the bloody bucket in the boat, the gentle purr of the motor pulling us farther from shore. We watch him throw the carcass to the eagles, wings back, talons sharp, bowed like hooks. We sit like that-still, drifting- the white-brown body descending, the quick whoosh as it grabs at the small head sinking before soaring back up into the trees, carrying its catch deep out into the wild where it belongs.



Samantha Peterson is a freelance writer and medical biller from Scottsdale, Arizona. She graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. in English and Creative Writing and is currently in the process of relocating to Juneau, Alaska with her husband and their dog.

Ted Cruz Tries to Fight a Grackle Over a Single Tortilla Chip by E. Kristin Anderson

and loses, of course. Nobody ever wins a fight with a grackle. At least that’s what Ted is telling himself as he walks back to the picnic table where the rest of his family is pretending to not have been staring at him. Ted knows they were. Who wouldn’t stare at a man chasing a bird through a park? But there’s only so much Ted can take. After the week he’d had? This was a tortilla chip too far. Maybe (as his wife would later insist) it was just one tortilla chip. There are plenty more tortilla chips. Still. Just one can be powerful. Just one vote in the Senate. Just one Tweet. Just one loose button on Ted’s shirt. Just one camera recording when that button pops off. Sometimes just one thing sets everything else in motion. And sometimes that motion is Ted tripping on an old, rotted tennis ball and falling on his ass as a grackle gets away clean to a magnolia tree. It was a female grackle, his older daughter had informed him, shortly before the bird snapped her beak around that one tortilla chip Ted had been about to put in his mouth. He brushes off his grass-stained khakis in an act of futility as he sits back down next to his wife. At least the park isn’t crowded today. It’s almost too quiet and when someone finally crunches down on a pickle, Ted feels like he can breathe again. His younger daughter nudges the bag of chips toward him, but he refuses. Ted feels that bird watching, knows she’s waiting to swoop in again and take what’s his. And he’s never felt less hungry in his life.



E. Kristin Anderson is a poet and glitter enthusiast living mostly at a Starbucks somewhere in Austin, Texas.  She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture (Anomalous Press), and her work has been published worldwide in many magazines. She is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII (Grey Book Press), and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press, forthcoming). Kristin is a poetry reader at Cotton Xenomorph and an editorial assistant at Sugared WaterOnce upon a time she worked nights at The New Yorker. Find her online at and on twitter at @ek_anderson.

Honey by Leonora Desar

After my husband died I started drinking coffee. I drank it before but I never liked it, not that much, his death kicked something in me. It’s as if it turned on a secret gene, a gene for liking coffee. I drank it. Then I went out and got some more. There’s this place, like Trader Joe’s, you stand in line and the guy makes you the coffee. He stands behind the counter and wears a shirt, Trader Joe’s. Maybe that’s the name of this place. I forget things. It doesn’t seem important. Like clothes, sometimes you want to put them on and sometimes it feels like too much. Like making the bed, you have to unmake it anyway, so why bother, make it, unmake it, doesn’t it give you such a headache?

I stand in line like that, at this place. Without a stitch. Some people look at me but most don’t, it’s just the way these things go. There are things on line, candles and aromatherapy and cigarettes, the people look at them and not at me. Sometimes they look at a breast and then a cigarette, they look like hey, which is better. Then they choose the cigarette.

I stand here and think about my coffee. It’s hard to stay awake these days. I am falling asleep right now. Some guy has to scoop me up and he tries not to cop a feel, especially with this whole Weinstein thing. He doesn’t want to end up on the cover of Page Six. He smells like alfalfa beans and Brussels sprouts, he has a beard and there’s some gray in it, hiding, I want to pull it with my hands and feel it, I want to pull all that gray out, I want to feel it with my hands.

There are aromatherapy infusions, in little candles, I guess that’s to counter the weight of the cigarettes. The cancer.

The line it goes and goes. It never stops, I think I’m about to get somewhere when we bend the other way. And it reminds me of a car, like on the freeway, I sit back and let myself enjoy it, the ride of it, the bending back and forth. A man catches me, he says woah, and I say woah, and we woah like that together. It sounds like woe woe woe or row row row your boat, my breasts are getting tired, they want to lie down awhile, and then one of them does, it lies down in some honey. It just curls up there. The nipple is long and droopy, it wants someone to suck on it, a person or even a kitten, that will do.

One walks by. There is some white on it, it looks like a little hat, like something my son would wear, if we had one. The cat stops and sniffs. Then he walks away.


Headshot_Leonora Desar

Leonora Desar’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in River Styx, Passages North, Black Warrior Review Online, Mid-American Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Quarter After Eight, and elsewhere. She won third place in River Styx’s microfiction contest and was a runner-up/finalist in Quarter After Eight’s Robert J. DeMott Short Prose contest, judged by Stuart Dybek. She was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize, is a three-time nominee for Best Small Fictions 2019, and has three stories forthcoming in the Best Microfiction anthology.