Issue 1.43

The Crushing Machine

Sometimes we insisted on closeness. Piled onto Dad’s bed while he read. Chris was likely the one to get nearest to him, as she was throughout his life. We were all giggles, and he knew what we wanted. He’d toss the book aside, scooch down in his bed, and start the chant: “Chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga.” The steamroller warming up. We’d line up, his three smallest children. The bed started quaking as Dad rolled his lean body toward us, then over us. “Chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga. Here comes the crushing machine.” How he didn’t smother us I’ll never know, but we loved it, this human contact we were afraid to ask for any other way. How we loved to be crushed by our father.

Night Terrors

We knew not to wake Dad when the moans started. Ghostly wails that slid from deep in his throat. The rustle of sheets as his legs churned, the thump-thump as they pummeled the mattress. At night, we could hear it through our thin walls. He might have been running from Nazis, or from the gruff father he aimed to please. We never asked him which one. I saw it a few times when he napped on the sofa. I’d stop breathing when his eyelids fluttered, head swung from side to side. “Never wake a person when they’re having a nightmare,” he’d schooled us. “They might hit you.” Indeed, Mom said his arms also flailed in the night. She’d learned to sleep a safe enough distance away, as did we all.

Marie Manilla’s nonfiction has appeared in Word Riot, Cossack Review, Under the Sun, Hippocampus, and elsewhere. Her novel, The Patron Saint of Ugly, won the Weatherford Award. Shrapnel received the Fred Bonnie Award for Best First Novel. Stories in her collection, Still Life with Plums, first appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Prairie Schooner, Mississippi Review, and other journals. Learn more at Follow Marie on Instagram and Twitter @mariemanilla.  

On drowning

Last summer, we flipped over the chain link fence of the YMCA and you threw me into the deep end, carving a grave out of watersports. By the time I woke up my body was dreaming and hollowed out below me, my ghost fingers calculating the slope of your smile, the taste of living flat against the top of my throat like a razor blade broken in two. A tragedy, learnt twice over in red. Dip-dyed, and then left to rest. When they fished me out they told you the pulse of empty tanks was all that was left. So you stayed there, clutching gasoline fumes until they melted into cradles.

Red-dye flights from either side of the ocean as I turned into chlorine and the puddles sifted white, they put roses on my coffins and called it a day. It was the first time in twelve years that the whole family was in one place, and if the last place my sister ever hugs my mom is my funeral, that will only be because the undertaker charged less for more people. It is too late now to unbend my fractured spine, but how were you to know that they’d drained everything except for the sinks that day? Stop calling me, please. Even the dead need their rest and the last time you dug up my ghosts I was too short to reach the top shelf.

Amy Wang is a writer from California. Her work is published or forthcoming in Myrina Journal, Ogma, and Superfroot and has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. In her free time, you can find her reading fanfiction. You can find her on Twitter at @amyj_wang.

Dylan Goes Shoegaze

This elm is an ornamental shade tree, so I’m told.
Despite myself I can’t bring myself to wonder when it rooted, and by whom,
because I’m tangled up in blue tripwires,
staves of mock piety above,
below, behind, bewildering.

This world is a wilderness,
each man a tree
(or leopard). Skin yields much too easily.
Fortunately, bushwhacking through requires no machete.
Only silence.

I sometimes only like music that suffocates me
that fills my lungs with honeyfluid words and textures.
There’s warmth in failing to draw breath,
like a car engine overheating,
billowing thick white smoke into the cold desert night.

Highway 95 revisited for the fifth time this year.
It’s not a place, just an in-between, but it still feels realer than staying still.
Hejira. Redenouement ad infinitum. Samsara?
I’m sorry. I just wanted to feel like home.
It’s alright ma. I’m only bleeding.

Below, behind, bewildering,
only silence,
billowing thick white smoke into the cold desert night.
It’s alright ma.
I’m only bleeding.

Jared Schwartz is a writer from New York and a student at Brown University. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Glassworks Magazine and North Dakota Quarterly. He can be found on Instagram or Twitter @jschwartzpoetry.