Issue 2.29

Autumn Break

And in the park below a child strapped into its pram
protests, a tethered dog frisks, and a young mother,
momentarily free of her own invisible constraints,
enacts some hidden memories upon a swing,
the red plastic of the seat obscured and she half-blurred
by the violent, joyous arcs the swing cuts through the air,
though she, like the dog, the child, is chained still.
The moments of her liberty pass. She knows they must,
she always knew.

Inertia regains its hold. The swing slows, energy applied
draining from the simple system, then stops. Feet regain
the sandy ground, the woman stands, something drained
from her perhaps, strength, remembered distant things,
and takes up again the pram, the child, the dog.
They leave the park, exit left, pursued
by who knows what.

Clive Collins is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/ Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Carried Away and Other Stories is available from Red Bird Chapbooks.

Scattered Rubies

There are lone, lost rubies, tiny magenta gems, somewhere on a stretch of sidewalk, or buried beneath the plums in the supermarket, or jumbled with dust in the vacuum that cleans the well-worn rug in the women’s locker room at the gym. They were mine, jewels so small that no one would notice them, sprinkled in my wake. They have fallen out of my ring, one, then another, then another, and unaware, I have left them behind.

Early in our now 38-year marriage, my husband, Paul, gave me the ring, a slim gold band embedded with seven small rubies. He denies it now, but I think he believed that my birthstone was a ruby, not a topaz. I think he confused it with my nickname, Ruby, taken from my last name, Rubin, way back in 1966, when I was 13 and The Rolling Stones released “Ruby Tuesday.” After the ring, Paul bought me a fancy gold bracelet with a row of rubies. I have worn the bracelet only once, but the ring I put on right away and didn’t take off.

For decades it hugged my right ring finger and the rubies stayed put. Then, a few years ago, I felt a sharpness as my left hand brushed the ring, and when I looked, I saw a hole where one of the rubies should have been. The ring felt desecrated; I took it off immediately. I brought it to a local jeweler, who assured me the stone would be simple and inexpensive to replace. I waited a few days to get my ring back, to restore order to my hands.

More recently, the gold seemed to weaken. First one ruby fell out, and within weeks of its being replaced, another was gone. I replaced that, and within days, a different one was lost. “Maybe I shouldn’t wear it anymore,” I said to the jeweler when I brought the ring back again. “Why have it if you aren’t going to wear it?” she replied. So I put it back on.

Then, last week, another empty space, and that was it: I put the ring in a velvet box in my dresser. I picture it there in the dark, its surface like a smile with a missing tooth, and I feel its absence on my finger.

I like to imagine my abandoned rubies, each one alone, lying somewhere, imperceptible, obscured. How many people have walked by, never realizing a sliver of gemstone was underfoot? How many might have caught a speck of glistening red or a rosy sparkle in the instant when sunlight hit the jewel and continued on, thinking there was nothing there?

Susan Hodara is a journalist, memoirist, and educator. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Communication Arts, and more. Her short memoirs are published in assorted anthologies and literary journals; one was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is one of four co-authors of the collaborative memoir “Still Here Thinking of You: A Second Chance With Our Mothers” (Big Table Publishing, 2013). She has taught memoir writing at the Hudson Valley Writers Center for many years. More at

My Friday Night

Neon yellow tiles like that disco arcade
game—trying to stomp out the
blue until they all turn blue
and then what. Flail across the ground like
something from the movies,
the bird that can’t fly
any more. The arcade needs more
quarters, or the car’s sticky
console, my pocket deep
with a gaping hole.

Double Sonnet On Winter’s FAQ

              My throat is an ulcerated watershed
where sixty plus dams bar all the salmon.
              Mini-mart grocery with a concrete chokehold
pressing and no fresh fish. To settle for a
              StarKist pouch is to wet the bed at twenty, bleached
cotton stuffed down the throat of the Colorado River.
              I have dry mouth: my teeth are dressed gauzy and
crack like asphalt caught in the plow’s lip. As I
              drive south black birds fly north up the state’s spine,
symptomatic of mass migration, of
              misdirection, body pollution, out of
compass. Pulling over to spit up split bone,
              holiday grief arrives fashionably early and
the wishbone lost behind the oven

forces us to pray like we mean it.
              Nobody mentions my teeth and so.
The heavy forecast for the new year,
              the sense that the wooden crate of my
house might collapse this winter.
              The dry of the air sucks it out of me
even though I never asked for my own
              birth. I am told not to shame my Mother,
so I ask the alternatives: Have
              you ever had an abortion?
Did you like to play
              hide-and-seek when you were winning? When
was your first green Christmas in Chicago?
              Did you notice when the birds stopped coming?

Stephanie Pierson is a writer based in Nederland, Colorado. She received her BA from the University of Denver and works at a local ski mountain. Her work can be found in Ghost City Review and the Tibet Post. You can find her on Twitter @piersonsteph or on Instagram @stephapierson.