elsewhere / 6


Mismatched living room couches threw up their stuffing onto the laminate wood floor. I threw up the antibiotics you surreptitiously buried in my meals. O chunky yellow puddles! O deficient sprinkler systems in the corners of mouths! O acorns under the tongue, parade of ambulances receding into the distance toward your complication, shorn by the blaring horizon. When you stub your toe, it’s now a nub. There’s the tub filled with Absolut Vodka, the product plug. Mark the case as unsolvable, turning thirty insoluble. We moved across the United States and demanded a refund. You get to that age. You blunder around, roll up your sleeves, and determine that somewhere you, not the transmission, went wrong, and that you can no longer afford to take your calls outside without being loud and toothy, a flowering tree.


The last afternoon of summer people anchor their dogs to vacant objects and go indoors. The sun recruits us to join its monopoly of peeling layers from our necks. A motorcyclist stuck in traffic gets struck by lightning, his flammable frame a cruel diptych of bones on I-5 as if to say in what way do you think you’ll flat line? What menace will saw you in half, which organ to wager, which infatuation to not indulge. The garden bulges with ticking rocks so I drape myself in chainmail and wage war on anyone huckstering copper pearls or pamphlets. I look both ways before crossing, as there are riots to reward, revelations to strikethrough, game shows to pretend I’m not living steady off speculative reports on the latest shootout, combed with mascara and ready for a night with nominal shadows.

Stephen Danos is author of the poetry chapbooks Playhouse State (H_NGM_N Books, 2012) and Gravitational (The New Megaphone, forthcoming 2014). A finalist for The Akron Poetry Prize and The Joanna Cargill Coconut Book Prize, his poems have appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Court Green, Cream City Review, NOÖ Journal, Sixth Finch, and The Southeast Review, among others. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online poetry journal Pinwheel.

You Knew the Whole Time

After leaving the horses we stay the night at the other end of the plateau. You said we hadn’t intended for it, but I think maybe we had. Everything snuffed. Everything walking on tall legs above us. We try to eat. That’s the funny thing. Someone starts to laugh and then doesn’t. Rabbits in the brush. The horizon staying blue for awhile. At home my father takes off his glasses and looks out at the trees, his back wide and intentional. Somewhere else the sound of wings. Somewhere else honey and nails.

Emily Ho has been published in MiPoesias, jubilat, Pleiades, and now elsewhere. She lives on the most remote piece of land in the entire world, teaches freshman english, and fights the constant threat of oxidation to her small trail 90.

[A Jaguar Chasing Birds]

Brazil is nice in winter if it’s cold. Rumor has it the birds are there, & warm, the roofs painted ornately red & gold. Climates like Brazil cause macaws to charm the tourists dining in the open air cafés. & when they leave, the feathers a facade, staining a space colored before the rain washes the birds & blue hues from the sod. Sometimes I wonder if the loss is worth it. I feel like a fool, a jaguar chasing birds. The winter isn’t harsh enough to sit & watch a fruitless game. It seems absurd. Decline, decay: it’s all the same this year. Maybe we’re better off to stay, endure.

My Favorite Germ

Legs for me, legs forever because angles and such. I can’t count. I can’t count pieces of glass on the grass. Sheet metal appliances on street corners. I play with germs of any color. What is your favorite germ inside you? What does it look like inside you? Probably warm, but with no paint on your bones. How can I estimate your size? Do you even subscribe to size? The filling is not inadequate, but I crave more. Wanting more says I have no moderator, no flip-switch to tell me to stop. You like me anyway. I like that you like me and my struggles.

Nathan Kemp lives in Akron, Ohio. His recent work appears or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Columbia Poetry Review, decomP Magazine, H_NGM_N, and The Southeast Review. He is an editor for Whiskey Island and Barn Owl Review. More here.

Once Again Virginia Woolf Swims Back to Me

Not her body or pinned-up hair, but her finger. I was old enough to have a moustache, and she was young enough to be growing into her fabulous hips. I’d been plotting to save her from something, but nothing so accidental as a shop class saw or splashed blood, her pinky skittering across the floor like an eraser. Who can get to the bottom of ruptures in time, raptures in waiting? One boy tore off his shirt, and I scrambled after the finger, dropping it into my cup of ice. She had unwritten novels boiling inside and would one day need every digit. Shop Man’s desk turned into a car, and he drove, and Virginia rocked with the pain, and I climbed in back with her finger. We didn’t tunnel or dance across clouds or follow the River Ouse. Nothing in the backseat but jumper cables and dry cleaning shimmering in plastic, a waterfall you walk through to find a secret room. We passed factories and drive-ins, but no secret room. Her finger was a chalice, and my charge was to keep it from spilling any more wine. At the hospital, orderlies whisked it away, and Virginia with it. Shop Man pointed towards the high school, where he had a roomful of night stands and needy students to hammer together. I had desire and the rest of my life so I stayed. Soon the rain began. Could they save Virginia’s finger? Would she later kiss me all the way to the lighthouse? I did as wind instructed. Only without the waiting room to do it in, just a fenced pasture of roans and Appaloosas lining up like kids at lunch. I fed them clumps of grass straight from my hand, their eyes rolling like the moons of Jupiter, and when the grass was gone so was my finger, the one for pointing to mountains I will never climb, the one for inviting strangers on the street into my life.

Lance Larsen, poet laureate of Utah, is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Genius Loci (Tampa 2013). He has received a number of awards, including a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from Sewanee, The Anderson Center, and the National Endowment for the Arts. A professor at BYU, he recently directed a study abroad program in Madrid.

Neurologically Speaking

“Chance favors only the prepared mind.” —Louis Pasteur

I have no prepared mind. Closer to zig zag, erratic, not rabidly forgetful but shifting, unable to light. A jitter bird. What might be useful comprises a layer, much as survival drives the bus. Followed by illumination, so rare, in fact, almost extinct. To see, absorb and know some shim of sense, a glance at clarity, what keeps us tethered despite the dizzy, the flirt with despair.

Mercedes Lawry has published poetry in such journals as Poetry, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Poetry East, The Saint Ann’s Review, and others. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she’s published two chapbooks, most recently “Happy Darkness”. She’s also published short fiction, essays and stories and poems for children. She lives in Seattle.

When I Heard About the Trombone

I’m not the kind of guy who goes looking for trouble, but when I heard about the trombone, I knew I had to do something. People had been talking about it the night before at the bar. I could hear them as I chalked my pool cue and lined up my shot. It was all trombone this and trombone that, even though everyone pretended like they hadn’t been talking about it. They drank their beers and laughed like they didn’t know a thing about the trombone. But I knew. I knew what had happened and why and who was responsible. I could see their guilty little faces as plainly as I could hear a trombone playing in my head.

I left the bar and drove to Freddy’s apartment. It was late, but I could hear the TV turned up loud the way Rita, Freddy’s girlfriend, always liked it—so Rita was there. When I knocked, someone muted the TV. I heard whispered arguments, furniture being moved, and what sounded like a chair crashing to the floor. Freddy’s face, behind the security chain, was pale, puffy, and mottled with stubble.

“Try shaving,” I said, but before Freddy could say anything, Rita pushed him aside and pointed a finger at me. “Stay out of our lives!” she screamed. “We don’t know anything about it! Stop bothering us!” She was wearing an ugly pink bathrobe that seemed recently stained with slide oil. Through the aperture of the chained door, I could see a trombone case hastily stuffed beneath the coffee table.

“That empty?” I said, and gestured toward it.

Rita slammed the door in my face. “Get out!”

“Yeah,” I heard Freddy say, “and don’t go bothering Aloysius, either!” and then I heard Rita punch Freddy and Freddy say, “What? What did I say?”

Aloysius. Of course.

When I found Aloysius’s house, his mother was in the kitchen fixing him his warm milk, the way she sometimes did after a long night of trombone practice. Steam rose from a heated saucepan. Aloysius’s mother invited me to sit at the table, where stacks of what looked like sheet music had been hurriedly flipped facedown. “Junk mail?” I said.

His mother handed me a trembling mug of milk and said, “Oh, just this and that.”

“Familiar tune,” I said.

Upstairs, I found Aloysius in his bedroom, feigning sleep, although he’d neglected to turn off his desk lamp, bright enough for me to see the mouthpiece he’d pathetically tried to hide beneath his bed. I palmed the mouthpiece and punched him in the arm. “Ouch!” he said. His breath was lousy with warm milk. “Listen, I don’t know what Freddy told you, but—“

“Save it,” I said. Aloysius was wearing his headgear, his forehead freckled with acne cream. His eyes were dark seeds. “Tell me,” I said.

“Did my mom give you milk?” Aloysius said, but I grabbed him by the headgear and began to twist. “All right! All right!” he hissed. “Jeez! It was Tito, okay? Are you happy? Tito did it. God!” He made little whimpering noises. “You don’t have to be such a bully all the time.”

I stood from the bed. “Most days,” I said, “I think I’m the nicest guy I know.”

It was the early morning when I got to Tito’s place, but the door was unlocked like always. Tito was sitting in his La-Z-Boy, his pet ferret, Franz Xavier Sussmayr, wrapped around his shoulders like a poorly knotted scarf. “Sit, Sussie!” Tito said when the ferret lunged for me. “Can’t you see our hero has arrived?” The ferret nipped at my shoes and made a noise like sausage frying. “You’ll have to forgive Sussie,” Tito said. “We are not used to visitors, are we, Sussie?” Tito pulled Sussie back with the thin rope tied around his neck—his whole body was a neck, really—and hooked the rope to a zip-line strung across the ceiling. The ferret darted down the hallway, the line whirring in his wake.

“Now, where were we?” Tito asked.

“About the trombone,” I said.

“Ah,” Tito said. “Yes, about the trombone.” He reached beside the La-Z-Boy and raised the trombone to his lap. Its tubing had been newly polished; the bell glistened and shone. “Do you know what I asked Sussie this morning?” Tito said. He worked the slide, warming up. “I asked him what he had done for his country lately.” Tito laughed his tuneless laugh. “Now, isn’t that a funny thing to ask? But a good question, nonetheless, I think. Even though I’ve since wondered how I would answer. That’s what I was thinking about when you came in. How I would answer.” Tito looked at me. “How would you answer?”

I reached in my pocket, grabbed the mouthpiece, and tossed it to Tito all in one motion. He caught it with his repulsively large hand. “Perhaps one last song?” Tito asked. “For Sussie?”

I considered this. “OK,” I said. “One last song.”

Tito inserted the mouthpiece, raised the trombone to his lips and played. Sussie ran the length of the house, through the rooms and up and down the hallways, in what was surely a dance.

Anthony Varallo is the author of This Day in History, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award; Out Loud, winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize; and Think of Me and I’ll Know (Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly Books). Currently he is an associate professor of English at the College of Charleston, where he is the fiction editor of Crazyhorse.

The Joy of Living

Shortly before the garden prayer, a sorrowful man who had gone to see Jesus conversed with Phillip. They spoke while the Master finished praying. “I am the risen one of Nain,” said he. “Before my death, my heart was merry with wine, I reveled with friends and with women, I delighted in music and I lavished my riches upon all. I am an only child, my widowed mother’s fortune was mine alone. I cannot do any of this now; my life is a wasteland. Why should this be?” “When one is raised from the dead by the Master, he takes one’s sins upon him,” answered the apostle. “It’s as if you were born again, with the purity of an infant.” “That is what I thought and so have I come.” “What could you ask of him, he that has already given you back life?” “To give back my sins,” sighed the man.

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

. . . la femminetta Sammaritana . . . —Dante. Purg. XXI

When the Samaritan woman left the well, after having given drink to Jesus, a woman who had seen everything said to her: “Why have you given drink to him, for this man is a Jew?” The Samaritan woman responded: “He is young and handsome. The words he speaks are beautiful. He has said to me, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give her shall never thirst.” The other woman thought: “And this, the woman who has had five husbands and has now taken a lover? Can her thirst be quenched? . . . ”

Free Agency

As Jesus bore his cross through the miserable boulevards that led to Golgotha, a man showed his malice more than others by spitting upon him. Someone, recognizing him, said to the man: “Are you not the cripple healed at the pool of Bethesda?” The one being asked responded: “Certainly, but I have not lost my freedom of thought, and believing that this man is a detriment to my homeland, I sacrifice gratitude for patriotism.”

Leopoldo Lugones was an Argentinian writer, journalist and one of the leading figures of the Latin American Modernismo movement of the early twentieth century. He was a large influence on fellow Argentinian writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares and Julio Cortázar. Though mostly known for his poetry, these micro fictions come from his collection Filosofícula, which features various retellings or interpretations of mythic and religious texts. Over the course of his life, his political stances varied between socialism, traditionalism and fascism. Political frustration has been cited as a possible reason for his suicide in 1938.

Anthony Pearce studies Spanish and translation at Brigham Young University. He is currently working on translations of other micro fictions by Lugones, Rubén Darío and Amado Nervo.