when i was five, was eight, was thirteen, you always taught me what
was bad. and called me a good girl when i washed the dishes, watered
little plants, did a dance. i never had any talent so when my junior high teacher
needed to name a good trait about me, she said i could differentiate
between the bad and good. in movies i watched, i always asked you
who’s the bad guy, and now i still do because my two eyes
can only be strong enough to carry the world
when it has two colors. now i watch you become the bad guy
whether it is tumbling down the
stairs or soaking in that fine wine
in the middle of the night, i don’t know. i guess in
this movie, i’m stuck watching mom
forgives you every time because forgiveness
is good. now you still say good girl when i
check up on you, pat you on the back, clean
your vomit and i don’t know why i do but this
silver screen is evergreen and i think your hair is
starting to grey.
Trần Quỳnh Nguyên is a rising senior at Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted in Hanoi, Vietnam. Her work is featured or forthcoming in The Rising Phoenix Review, Anak Sastra, Ample Remains, among others. She likes chicken nuggets and peach milk tea more than anything. She’s always down for river trips, grocery shopping and midnight car rides.
Here It Happens
Snow melted but mountains stayed. Dobsonflies bothered their drifts of sow. I was afraid of the dog getting into the road and dying. Or worse: getting terribly hurt and yipping, yowling, while I held her in the car on the way to the vet only to learn her injuries were too severe and she must be euthanized. These things never happened. She sniffed around the birdbath. Herds of cow swayed in their bright green farms outside a big, white house. The raccoons got bigger, hunching down Exit 10, all ass and shoulder. Craneflies congregated on the bathroom wall. Crows stood over dead woodchucks on the highways. Children messed under boughs and suckers and flies.
Joy of the World at Night
See, Amia left at night, and it was never supposed to turn into this. She left every night at seven when Tony came through the door, and said to him, “Hurry up,” and, “give me a kiss, I’m late!” Then she got in their car and drove to the edge of the woods or the lake and sat there till morning with Spec, their sleepy, spotted puppy.
Sometimes she sat on the hood of her station wagon and listened to the spring crickets stridulating. Or she’d light up the eyes of a red fox when she turned her key and could hear something stomping in the woods, and would wait for it, and it would never come out. And she’d wonder if it died, or fell asleep, or just wanted to see her first, hungry, or naked, or alone. Nighttime in Skaneateles after one-thirty began to feel like the sea: vast and eager with soul. There were times, multiple, when Amia considered a beast may be nearby, walking around like anybody else.
Tony wanted to conceive, and she could not bear the thought. She had been pregnant twice before—once with Wyatt, who was four, and once weeks earlier, which she put a stop to. She started leaving the house at night, and he hadn’t found a way around it. Incidentally, she’d taken up smoking, and left trails of butts on the shore of the western border. She took Spec out on a leash to do his sniffing, of which there was much to do. Though the lake was closed for swimming due to high levels of bacteria, Amia was dirty, and slid out of her clothes and into the water, where baptism commenced with the power of God. Her shame, all-encompassing, came out in fists and open palms, rapping the side of her face as she said, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”
Tonight, Spec was on the front seat, gumming a hot spot on his left hindquarter. Amia had brought a bottle of witch hazel, which she dabbed onto the wound, and Spec would lick it off and she wasn’t certain what consumption of so much witch hazel would do, so she stopped.
“You can’t handle it,” she said. “I’m trying to help you.”
Spec didn’t look up from his work. His little teeth rubbed and chomped against his rear with his lips held open as if by a cheek retractor. Amia rolled down her window as she blew a stop sign and flipped her car into a turnip patch.
Being in the turnip patch wasn’t so bad, given that she still was not pregnant, Spec was good and alive, and the only thing that had changed was that she found herself upside-down. Amia turned off the engine and Spec, who was stunned, again began work on his hot spot, on the ceiling, which was now the floor.
Bracing herself with her hand, she undid her seatbelt and landed next to Spec, who bit her when she picked him up. She worked her way out the open window, holding him against her chest, and backed away from the station wagon as if it would combust. With nowhere to go other than the direction of home, Amia sat on the road with her dog and said to him, “It’s okay, you didn’t mean it.” She grazed the top of his head with her lips, and he snapped at her chin. They waited for beasts, but none arrived.
Carolynn Mireault is a fiction writer from Waterbury Center, Vermont. She is a Leslie Epstein Fellow and Senior Teaching Fellow in the MFA program at Boston University. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Louisiana Literature, the Westchester Review, the South Shore Review, Misery Tourism, Abandon Journal, Across the Margin, and BULL. Access her most recent publications at carolynnmireault.com
The Space Between My Ears Looks Like a Killing Floor
Someday I’ll die is a thing I think a lot when I’m doing the dishes or walking the dog or driving home from work taking that curve a little too quick my brain conjuring images of cracked windshield warped metal my body a strawberry on a supermarket floor burst open unwanted anyway and long gone. Someday I’ll die. I place my fingertips together one at a time and count my breaths and try try try to remember that tragedy will come but not now. The sleeping pills I started taking only work half the time and anyway I’m afraid if I fall asleep I won’t wake up. Sometimes I don’t want to wake up but I also don’t want to die. Someday I’ll die. I had a dream last night about cows and a killing floor and babies crawling out of carcasses something we all become and god I wish there were words for that kind of red.
Beck Guerra Carter is a queer poet from Austin, Texas. They are currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Texas State University. They have been published in Lavender Review, Q/A Poetry, and Odes and Elegies: Eco-Poetry from the Texas Gulf Coast. Beck currently resides in San Marcos with a tiny dachshund named Cookie. Beck’s pronouns are they/she.