This Splenda Packet Advises Me, “BE THE ENERGY YOU WANT TO ATTRACT” by Carolyn Oliver

Lately I have been the energy of the kitefin shark, enormous-eyed, fatty-livered slow cruiser of the mesopelagic depths, hunting the sweet edge of daylight and everdark, belly glowing secret blue. Given this bit of encouragement, though, I’m considering attracting a new kind of energy: the energy of a petrified tree sixty feet tall and twenty million years old, the one paleobotanists just uncovered and lovingly extricated from highway dirt on Lesbos. Yes, I am now the energy of this tree that fell, whole, all its tree organs still attached, this tree making the best of a volcanic eruption. I am the energy of slow hardening, of lying in wait for the right eyes. That Miocene kind of patience.


Carolyn_Oliver_color_photo_by_Benjamin_OliverCarolyn Oliver’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Tin House Online, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, 32 Poems, SmokeLong Quarterly, Terrain.org, The South Carolina Review, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. A nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net in both fiction and poetry, Carolyn is the winner of the Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, the Writer’s Block Prize in Poetry, and the Frank O’Hara Prize from The Worcester Review, where she now serves as co-editor. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family. Learn more about her work at carolynoliver.net.

Gold by Michele Popadich

zhito / I never knew what it was made of / this wheat berries dish / boiled / ground down & mixed with nuts / sugar & packed into a crystal bowl / for special occasions like  holy days & in mourning on the morning of Nana’s funeral / Baba hands me a box of raisins / gold & dark ones stacked together to draw on top of the zhito / a cross & I feel as if the task is too holy for me / this placing of pieces in place of piecing us back together / “Ona je otišla” / She is gone / Baba tells me / the orchestrator of grief / with her hands on the neckline of my black dress / I  pinch it an inch higher / in church light pours in like fire / stained glass stamps a kaleidoscope of color / I am having a very hard time putting a hand on Nana’s hand but Baba collapses into her casket / she calls out to her / with a name too holy to write on this page & I cannot look away from this wholesome embrace / Baba a slanted black silhouette / bun flattened at the base of her head & I feel bad that it was so hard for me to put a hand on her hand & that the only coat I had was purple & not black but I never knew what grief was made of / in English — she is gone is state of being / a happening to you / in Serbian — “ona je otišla” is agent she went / left / departed / when I cross the sweet zhito with raisins / the pieces are coming together / Baba tells me to pluck away the dark ones for her departure / only the gold ones for / Nana


PotraitMichele Popadich is an MFA student in creative nonfiction at Northwestern University. Her essays have appeared in Hippocampus Magazine, Talking Writing, and Driftless. Her poems have appeared in Heavy Feather Review and LOCUS. You can also hear her tell stories in various live lit venues around Chicago. Follow Michele on Twitter @miche1ewith1L and check out her past work on michele with one l (www.miche1e.com).

The Editorial Says College Girls Should Just Stop Getting Drunk by Emily Banks

And when I peed on the floor at Pi Lam, I assured my friends it was fine because it was the study
room and no one goes in there. That’s what Sam said. He’d gone to find a condom and I’d already
undressed. At least I was being responsible—with the condom, I mean. I thought Sam looked like Rahm Emmanuel, who was Obama’s Chief of Staff then and made headlines for accosting Eric Massa naked in the congressional gym’s locker room to pass the universal health care bill. In a New York Times profile, he bragged his office was bigger than Joe Biden’s.

I’d met Sam during my brief stint as a reporter for the campus newspaper. He was the campaign manager for a Student Body President candidate doomed to lose. The candidate was hot so I primarily watched him at the debate I was supposed to cover and said yes when he offered me a ride back to my dorm, though it was only a five minute walk. Then Sam was talking from the passenger seat, fast and direct, hyped up on political adrenaline. His mother was from Brooklyn like me and he sang “Brooklyn Girls” by Charles Hamilton to me and I asked for his number under the pretense of future journalistic inquiry. My ethics were questionable, certainly.

That night I was out with a boy I loved who had a French girlfriend and his friend who looked like a bird of prey when I texted Sam, calling him Rahm, to offer him the newspaper’s endorsement in exchange for a good time though in reality I had no say over the endorsement. On a couch in the Pi Lam basement he asked why I was wearing a sweatshirt to a party so I took it off, revealing a v-neck tee, and he slid closer to me. I peed on carpet so it soaked up quickly. I don’t remember what the sex felt like. Mostly I remember walking out into the night, leaving the house aglow with its red cups, its lingering odor of sweat and Everclear, behind me as I tripped dancingly down West Cameron, proud the way a dog might be after peeing on a grand old tree. Here’s what I want: for all girls to be free.


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Emily Banks is the author of Mother Water (Lynx House Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared in 32 Poems, Heavy Feather Review, Bear Review, The Cortland Review, Superstition Review, and other journals. She received her MFA from the University of Maryland and currently lives in Atlanta, where she is a doctoral candidate at Emory University.

the revivals we cleave, we endure by Vic Nogay

when she came to me at dawn / i was already spinning in the water up to my ankles with my long cotton cardigan pulling wet and winding up around my knees / body nude but glitter-sparking in the summer sun / there were mothers and sons and grandmas with their dogs and husbands walking by and looking without looking / and some even looked / like really looked / but i couldn’t be moved by any force but my own / my arms open wide while the world renamed me Beautiful because i was alive / and coming alive again.

when i came home near noon / light and heavy and sparkling new / i shed golden champagne skin of the morning around carelessly in the garden and on the sun-kissed heads of my children so they would grow roots and grow strong and grow real and irrefutable / i left some in our bed and painted it on my reflection in the mirror so i could see it when i didn’t believe / i sent some through the air vents and down drains so it would travel far and maybe come back to me too / someday / when i might need it.

when you woke at dusk some nights later / you thundered / unhinged the sky into your orbit / in the rain / you opened your mouth to let the water soothe the blackouts stuck to your teeth / cavities or carbon or the colossal crack of gunfire // you choked / forked a single speck of glitter from under your tongue / and spit it out at your feet.


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Vic Nogay writes to explore her traumas, misremembrances, and Ohio, where she is from. She is an animal cruelty investigator and a mother. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Emerge Literary Journal, perhappened, Free Flash Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, and others. She tweets @vicnogay. Read more: linktr.ee/vicnogay.

It was 1687 when a falling apple fell in natural motion by Tanya Castro

The galaxy sits in my palm. Only until it becomes a fist like watching a shark open his mouth and your life hanging on to nothing. There’s a story my father would tell my brother and I as children, there was once nothing until there was genesis. My father would list creation and I saw how it sat on his tongue, in the way that the stars sit against space. Everything sits on atmosphere. On the third day, when dry land was created, there was finally something to sit against light and sky. A reflection was born. The trees were created as well. A shadow was born. My father still tells me the story. Only now, I know how creation feels. It sits against me as I sit against it. The story ends on the seventh day, when creation finished like the way I watch a galaxy disappear when there’s nothing to hold on to. It was named gravity. The way humans fall.


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Tanya Castro is a Guatemalan-American writer from Oakland, California. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Saint Mary’s College of California. Tanya’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Acentos Review, Anser Journal, Floresta Magazine, and FEED Lit Mag.

If by Cheryl Pappas

If I were ice I’d sculpt my way to you over a century or two. I’d rise and roll and sink and swim into the shadow depths, just to inch closer to where you are, north or south, somewhere or nowhere: everywhere. I’d rise, all aglimmer, hoping sun would catch my light, that you’d see.

Come summer I’d turn to vapor and find myself on a cloud; I’d rain on you in Newfoundland, where I’d spot you on a city street, outside the bookshop, twirling that girl’s hair, steps from the shelter of the shop.

I’d stay pooled on the pavement a moment too long, let myself be a mirror of you and the girl dry inside, laughing. I’d see you leave.

I’d attach myself to the sole of an old man’s shoe. He’d take me to his third-floor apartment, the floor a maze of magazines and photographs. I’d find a photo of a glacier and crave the certainty of stone. I’d become meshed with paper, a spruce tree from the west. Hello, old tree, I’d say.

I’d barely be, there in a plastic box waiting for pick up. At the first fierce wind, I’d hitch a ride straight to Gibraltar. I’d drop myself off on the heady branch of a stone pine, the rich scent a pleasant repository for pain.

This terrain would suit me. I may solid to rock or branch, let water become a distant memory, let the languor of ice become a dream.


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Cheryl Pappas is a writer from Boston. Her work has appeared in Juked, The Chattahoochee Review, Jellyfish Review, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, and more. Her flash fiction chapbook The Clarity of Hunger will be published by Word West Press in 2021. Her website is cherylpappas.net and you can find her on Twitter at @fabulistpappas.

Sparrow Haibun by Kim Ellingson

For a short time, I was gorgeously exhausted from grief. My body rejected food. My hair fell out in thick plumes. People said, My god, you’re glowing. There was man I loved, who said, I wish you were less. I closed my mouth. I stayed silent and hungry. I lost a cup size. My skin stretched taut, thin as tissue paper. My mouth became a refuge for endangered birds. Soon, my size five prom dress fit my once size ten frame. There was no occasion to wear it aside from washing the dishes and taking out the trash. The man I loved said, look at those shoulder bones, look at those pretty closed lips. When my protruding ribcage received an ovation, the sound nearly drowned out his voice when he said, I choose her.

How can I eat when

a sparrow dies every time

I open my mouth?


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Kim Ellingson is from Token Creek, Wisconsin. She holds an MFA in poetry from Antioch University, and her work has appeared in Five:2:One, Prometheus Dreaming, Cagibi, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Omaha.

This, Too, Is a Sacrament by Kimberly Casey

This is how you make
your world small enough for you
to wake up each morning and breathe.
— “Creed” by Kwame Dawes

Run before the sun comes up, before the humidity will drag your lungs to the pavement and fill you like a watering can. Once you catch your breath, head to the backyard garden and touch each plant, inspect for new life, admire the way the vines find new directions for growth. Keep them from crowding and smothering each other. Sling the satchel across your back. Pick blueberries, dropping them into the bag producing a simple staccato percussion. Rather than taking one at a time, let your fingers curl around the bunches and pull. Forgive yourself for the ripe ones you let slip to the earth. The birds and the squirrels will clean up your messes and you have enough harvest to fill a freezer. When you sit down to sip your coffee, read the news. Put a bowl of fresh berries next to your left hand. Every time you read of a new death put a new berry into your mouth. Notice how full you become. Notice how life can get pulped between your own white teeth. And even though you haven’t eaten red meat in 11 years that doesn’t mean you didn’t inherit incisors. Leave the juice dripping from your lips. When you put on your mask and go to the protest, remember the stains you’ve made that others can’t see. Remember that pulling out your own teeth won’t undo the damage of the past.


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Kimberly Casey is a Massachusetts native who received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She has since moved to Huntsville, Alabama where she founded Out Loud HSV – a spoken word poetry and literary arts nonprofit dedicated to inspiring community outreach and activism through spoken word. Her work has appeared in The Southern Women’s Review, Tilde Literary Journal, and The Corvus Review, among others. Kimberly is currently pursuing an MFA at Pacific University.

The One-Armed Man and His Dog by Tiffany Hsieh

The one-armed man who moved in next door has a little dog. The dog is shared between him and
his ex who comes now and then to walk the dog. Sometimes we see the one-armed man and the
dog outside the house. Now and then we see the ex and the dog on the trail. Our dog is usually
friendly with other dogs but the one-armed man’s dog has no friends. A couple of times our dog
goes out of her way to be neighbourly with his dog and his dog whines as if our dog is going to
maul him because our dog is bigger and taller and has the ability to growl a deep growl. Both
times the one-armed man turns into a mama bear and shoos our dog away with his leg, as in
kicking. Both times we can only watch in horror and call our dog back and say sorry to the one-
armed man. We say sorry to him because we can’t think of anything else to say to a man who has
only one arm, like, Please stop kicking our dog. We say sorry because the one-armed man may
be ex-military or a victim of a car crash, and he is holding the dog’s leash in his only hand and
kicking is his only option besides standing there and watching his dog get pawed, as in playing.
Each time we try our best to avoid the one-armed man and his dog for a few days. We discourage
our dog from going pee-pee in the backyard when his dog is going pee-pee in his backyard. At
times this is unavoidable and our dog sniffs along the fence trying to be neighbourly. Three times
now his dog whines as if upset by our dog’s nose but the reality, according to the ex on the trail
now and then, is that the dog is going blind. All three times the one-armed man shoos our dog
away from under the fence even though our dog is in our backyard and not his. All three times
we call our dog inside and slide the patio door shut behind us. We leave the one-armed man be
because we can’t think of anything else to do with a man who has lost an arm and whose little
dog is going blind.

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Tiffany Hsieh was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada at the age of fourteen with her parents. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Salamander, The Shanghai Literary Review, Atticus Review, Poet Lore, Sonora Review, the Apple Valley Review, and other publications. She lives in southern Ontario with her husband and their dog.

A History of Baptism* by Christopher Bowen

First find the body of water you knew as a child, thinking about the body.


Baptism was practiced by John the Baptist, a Jewish preacher, in the early 1st century. Revered as a major religious figure in Christianity and Islam, some saying he belonged to the Essenes, a semi-ascetic Judaic sect who expected a Hebrew messiah and who practiced Baptism ritually.


Anais Nin writes in The House of Incest, “My first vision of earth was water veiled. I am of the race of men and women who see all things through this curtain of sea and my eyes are the color of water. I looked with chameleon eyes upon the changing face of the world, looked with anonymous vision upon my uncompleted self. I remember my first birth in water.”


Baptism is practiced in several different ways. Aspersion is the sprinkling of water on the head. Affusion is the pouring of water over the head.


Walk towards the beach or drop past the deer trail clearing to the muddy bank. Don’t slip on the summer grass, you will need to strip down. Now praise the sun that reflects off the water’s surface by stretching your arms out in a Y towards it. Good. Feel the way it warms your skin, the vibration of it. If it is cloudy and there is no reflection, there cannot be baptism. If it is cloudy and there are incoming storms, you cannot be purified this way.


*See also: rain as a form of baptism.


Precipitation is performed in several ways. Remember first your birth in water in a porcelain tub in a house by a seaside cliff. You take the clothes off, the sea crashing on nearby rocks. Remember how it wailed for you, too, once.


*See also: driftwood on the shore, driftwood in the water, driftwood in your heart. It may take years to come ashore.


The tide comes, small crabs and nonsense things crawling into pools and crags until morning, the places you can’t get them out of or speak about. A sand bar above the horizon’s edge is an image that means there’s still hope. Your humanity stands a quarter of a mile out and you swim the marathon.


John was sentenced to death and subsequently beheaded, so you dip your feet in the frothing water. The wave is something the ocean does, too. Don’t hesitate, but there’s room for regret because you’re halfway past the waist now. That scrap of fishing net to the right has knots of hemp and cotton and promises. Waves lap each other like birthday cake icing and white foam—the visions of your parents nearby and a paper hat strapped to your head by string in a darkly lit room. The joy of your eyes blowing the candles out with all the wind your little life lungs can handle, it is enough.


Experts say the gravitational pull of the moon ebbs and flows the coming and going of tides on beaches across the world. Still others say there’s billions and billions of stars and solar systems to find out there. They say you are eternally saved after a lifetime of baptizing and for some reason that is just enough for this first lesson.


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Christopher Bowen is the author of the chapbook We Were Giants, the novella When I Return to You, I Will Be Unfed, and the non-fiction Debt. He was a semi-finalist in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Competition and honorable mention in the 45th New Millennium Writing Awards in the non-fiction category. He blogs from Burning River (http://www.burningriver.info.)