elsewhere / 13

I Say I Want to Write About Someone Who Isn't Me

I keep him locked in my head, in a room full of dusty books, old family photos, a muddle of childhood toys, abandoned exercise equipment, random alphabets scrawled on splintery beams. I keep making him try on different wardrobes, new identities. One day he’s the son I never had, the next my long-dead grandfather, balding and arthritic. A biker, though he’s terrified of motorcycles, a Sherpa, despite his fear of heights. He gains forty pounds in the month he’s a gourmet chef moonlighting as detective, grows gaunt and pale as a prisoner of war, goes under the knife, wailing and pleading that I reconsider my improbable plot when I decide to write about a one-armed transsexual nun in a convent in Duluth. After surgery, he mumbles resentful rosaries and keeps losing his faith despite detailed visions. For a series on sparrows, I send him hop, hop hopping across many a springtime lawn, until his unfortunate encounter with a ginger tom, after which I gather a tuft of brown feathers from underneath an azalea, carry them to a slope above his favorite river, let him go.

Rebecca Baggett is the author of four poetry collections, the most recent of which are God Puts on the Body of a Deer (Main Street Rag) and Thalassa (Finishing Line). Recent work appears in Miramar, New Ohio Review, Southern Poetry Review, and Tar River Poetry. She lives in Athens, GA.


Downy-legged girls with dirty fingernails and bare soles pricked by thorny weeds. Inside, the home pretends to be innocuous: plaid bedspread, wood shelves, muddied sneakers stacked beside the door. When I sent you trees changing yellow and nearly blood red, you replied more. You craved that color. Today, the beads of sweat clinging to a pot of boiling water were small glossy beetles. I figured outside had sheltered under the floorboards for winter, a sudden insect heat looking for a way out. I can never know who is still hungry, or who has learned to remain full until the next lush season.

Alyse Bensel is a PhD fellow in Literary Studies and Creative Writing at the University of Kansas. Her recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, New South, Pleiades, and Poetry International. The author of two chapbooks, she is the Book Reviews Editor at The Los Angeles Review.

there are casual errors, there is camouflage

mostly I decide against what seems inaccurate—what fails to traverse the invisible river. The floor-plans are identical in this apartment and the last, so decades from now I will have to look carefully at the arrangement of furniture, the way the light falls across it. Yesterday I drove past a field and saw the cross-country team out at practice. That would have been me once. Memory surfaces, memory vanishes. I am left with the notion of effort, a map of campus. Because there are seasons, history migrates in and out of focus. The annual trance occurs. I realize nothing is altogether voluntary, nothing ever complete. Last time I tried to study consciousness, I wound up leaving town. There was an elegant horizon. Now only the nervous facts remain: once again my desk faces east and I lift a hand to shield my eyes

Ceridwen Hall is pursuing a PhD in creative writing at the University of Utah. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Moth, Hotel Amerika, Grist, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, and other journals.

in the mean time

dislodge the fish head     from your dog’s mouth     stare at the empty bed
hate the fact that you can’t talk     about shoes to the nice woman   swim up every hour you are awake     he’s gone     admit you cannot finish the thing about a tightrope of light    leading to the stone island     he said he would return     wonder how long   before the fish head in the garbage begins to stink turn right at the dead tree to find your way home   take comfort in the wild yeast    living    in otherwise empty air

today's interior

      —Centre Pompidou, Paris

blue with goldfish//and a man by the open window stands/// tomorrow a woman will bathe smell lemons in a bowl/ lower her naked body onto a rose/-strewn floor/// who broke into my cellar/ who watched me sleep///// if I live// in a hole/ that has no end bless the window/ this close to shards////////////   /   /    inside the sanctuary   a bird rests   on a harp   rapture explains how I didn’t feel // someone sneaking up behind me/   /   /   nailing stars  /  to the back of my head

Betsy Johnson-Miller's work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Boulevard, North American Review, and Poet Lore.


She and I behind the lilac bushes on summer nights when all the neighborhood kids played capture the flag. Tiny kisses and strawberry lips, our bare young-girl arms set free. In the morning, fireflies dead in our jars. Our forgotten flower chains, shriveled and brown strewn out on the yard. It was like that with us too, whatever floated between us seemed to die without protest from summer to summer, from day to day under our careless bare feet. But nothing is allowed to die that easily. Even now it strains between us when we meet in town and kiss on the cheek. Almost not touching at all.

Lillian Kwok is originally from Philadelphia, and now lives in Honolulu. Her work has been published in Waxwing, The Cortland Review, Paper Darts and other journals. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her chapbook “Piano” was published by Dancing Girl Press.

I’m Sámi

Disgruntled indigenous. So cool that I’m Arctic. A heart like an icepick. I’m sorry, but I’m not white. I’m not right in your eyes, the color of my skin a shade off, a shadow often hid in the blizzard wind. You’ll find me north. Further north. So north that I’m south. You’re snow-blind. I walk home, straight, while you walk backwards. I’m born in the backwoods, Eskimo-blooded. You can intuit that I’m Inuit-offshoot, Michigan reincarnated, but more fjord than Ford. Sauna-lunged. Alcohol-raped. Worked in a mine that isn’t mine. Waterlogged. A government wind farm forced on our land, reindeer-land, reigned over, resigned, reformed in a new north, where the poverty isn’t poetry. We are sisu. It means persistence. We are. Like hullu, we are. Through hell and high snow, we are.

On the Suicide of My Cousin

Reservation.   The restaurant wouldn’t take us.    I took you to an ice-cream shop.    Your cone fell on the ground. I picked it up. Gave it to you. You said you tasted stone.  We drove home.    A week later, you’d drowned. We need an ombudsman.    A home.    To drive to.    I talked to the man who reached for you.    He said you suddenly got still.    Your hand was a cloud.

To the Seven Bars in Our Town of 4,614 People

There are so many wars. The wars of now. The wars of control. The wars of Dantean fourth circles of Hell. Toivo walks out. He chambers out. He tumbles out onto the prose street. He vomits babies. We watch. Shakespeare plummets out of his mouth. All of the deaths at the end. We go home. Storm clouds are coming. They look like America.

Ron Riekki wrote U.P.: a novel (Great Michigan Read nominated) and edited The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book), Here: Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula (2016 Independent Publisher Book Award), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017).