sky’s the limit
as for me, I’ve never seen
from the roof to see
if they’ll fly,
pass over trees and
spiral around signposts,
knock on doors—then perhaps disappear.
but maybe on a chance day,
knuckles white around
the streetside lamp-neck,
I’ve seen an umbrella—
dark ocean buoy among scarf-like
fog—drift, then bounce,
Emma Keas (she/her) is a high school student from Northern California who dreams of growing up to become an editor, designer, or journalist. Other than writing, you can find her painting or compiling lengthy bucket lists in her free time. Her poetry has been previously published in Kalopsia Literary Journal, The Hearth Magazine, and Interstellar Literary Review, among others.
Can you lower your volume?
As in, volume: how loud your voice. As in, make yourself silent.
As in volume, how much space you take up.
As in, can you take up less space?
I lower myself into the bathtub, water rising, becoming displaced, as I settle. A science lesson returning. This crude measurement not meant to be used on people, carries more weight than it should.
As in the time my grandmother said I didn’t need the fries. When my aunt says approvingly eyeing my body up and down: I’d kill for your long lean body. Later: Well, Jenny, you certainly have gained weight.
I have a baby. I don’t recognize myself. I become a parent. I do.
You’re so loud. People like you. Why are you all so loud? Can you be… less?
I say no.
I turn the faucet on, the bathtub fills. The water covers my thighs, my belly.
A small tsunami, the water slips over the sides, crashing to the floor. I can be more.
Don’t Feed the Animals
Her children move away and she begins to feed the racoons every night.
They settle into the space under the deck, leaving footprints in the mud. They eat the bread she leaves out. She hears their ecstatic screeches at night and goes to meet them. They are bandits and they carry diseases and she doesn’t care. As soon as she’s on the deck, they scamper away anyway.
Her son is supposed to call on Tuesday nights, her daughter on Sunday mornings. A week goes by: sorry ma, we had a thing. She says that’s okay because she too is busy.
She sits in the gloaming, waiting for the crepuscular creatures to come out. Neither of day or of night, like her. The feral cats, the bats spinning in the watercolor sky, the throaty birdsong of a Chuck-will’s-widow are a comfort in her silence. Her home is so silent since everyone moved away or died; it’s been decades now. When the music stops, she goes inside. Turns on a nature sounds playlist.
She doesn’t like the word widow because it makes her think of spiders. She likes racoons but does not like spiders. She likes summer but does not like sunny vacations. Anyway, they never ended up going on that one they were saving up for.
She reads an email her son has sent about cruises for retired people. He typed looks good! and includes the link. That is all.
She clicks. White haired, white skinned people, with very white teeth with a sparkling sea behind them. Everyone is coupled up, holding hands, staring into eyes and not at the scenery. It is astonishingly expensive. It is, don’t die alone. It is, doesn’t this look fun?
It does not and she Xes out and clicks to view a live zoo camera on a panda enclosure. She drinks tea-gone-cold and eats crackers from the sleeve as she watches animals from around the world cavort and roll while human voices of astonishment and glee issue from off-camera.
Her phone pings. It is a text from her daughter: stop feeding the animals, mom. <laughing face emoji, heart emoji>
As evening descends and lit windows in nearby houses become domestic dioramas, she hears high-pitch screeching patter. She puts on her jacket and goes back outside. Sitting on a cold bench, she places dry cat food on her hand and holds it open. The baby raccoons roll around their mother. She beckons, uses a calming voice. Soothing, something she learned when her children were young, alternating tones, motherese, she’s heard it called. After a minute, the mother racoon tentatively climbs the deck steps. With her masked eyes, the mom watches the woman, wary. She has every right to be. The woman holds very still, pleads with the animal with her eyes. Come, come, let me feed you. Let me care for you.
The racoon approaches. The babies squeal and the mother pops up onto her back feet and looks back to check that they are okay. They are. She falls back down to all fours, sidles up to the woman, crouches at her feet, and reaches up.
The racoon takes the food from her, its claws gently scraping her skin and it feels like love.
Jennifer Fliss (she/her) is a Seattle-based writer whose writing has appeared in F(r)iction, The Rumpus, No Tokens, and elsewhere, including the Best Short Fiction anthologies. She is the author of the collection, “The Predatory Animal Ball” and her collection, “As If You Had a Say” will be published in 2023 by Curbstone Books/ Northwestern University Press. She can be found on Twitter at @writesforlife or via her website.
was the hottest nightclub in Las Vegas. I have
been the valley for so long that my anger
has turned to sit-upons. The only water is
from capillary action. It defies gravity! When
you are a scar, you weren’t built to forget
these things. You just can’t erupt properly:
a hollow, a natural depression. My pillowy
rage is a laughable consolation. Cornflowers
nod to inscrutable rhythms. They aren’t for
me. The dancing day becomes the meadow.
There is the pressure of a beautiful
day, to be beautiful & not waiting
for the sofa to dry to see if a stain
remains there are bright canoes,
dogs on standing paddle boards &
shit like that maybe it would be
easier to swallow if I was hungover?
My hair is like sticks now that I take
it seriously. See? I tried, and it gets
worse. It’s astounding what I won’t
do to prove I am right about my
own mud-jacket of ugly axioms.
Originally from Washington, DC, Maura Way lives in North Carolina by way of Boise, Idaho. ANOTHER BUNGALOW (Press 53), her debut collection, was released in 2017. Maura’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Folio, The Appalachian Review, Puerto del Sol, The Red Ogre Review, and Poet Lore. She has been a schoolteacher for over 20 years, most recently at New Garden Friends in Greensboro.