Ode on Datura

Drink this tea, he said, and you will fly naked into starlight. I drank, felt tired, and sat on the couch and ate potato chips. Drink this tea and you will not know yourself. We drove along the freeway by your old school, without direction or speed as light raptured down through barred clouds scudding […]

Mamasafari, Mountain Aunt, Property

Mamasafari Some people live and die worse than their cows. When the people were taken away cows lowed in the fields until they died. When I talk about this to colleagues, they turn to one another, as if I’m crazy. How do you talk about that at conferences? That’s much too practical for conferences. That’s […]

Roxane Gay, Author of An Untamed State

Prolific writer of primarily creative nonfiction, Roxane Gay tackles fiction in her debut novel An Untamed State, about a Haitian-American woman, Mireille (Miri) Duval Jameson, who is kidnapped for ransom and brutalized for thirteen days as her diplomat father struggles to get her back at a fair price. The problem is, there is no getting her back—at least […]

Susan Straight, Author

I recently interviewed Susan Straight on the telephone. During the first session, my recording software failed just as my two-year-old son woke up howling from an unusually short nap. A tired and hungry toddler is like an escaped rhinoceros; I have not quite worked out the glitches of single motherhood. Graciously, Susan allowed me to […]

Ayesha’s Dream

Listen. . . On a velvety night in a desert land, a cool wind moved among dunes and glided into a small village. The curious wind lifted the long limbs of the date palm trees, touched the donkey’s fur in the stable, and poked through the open window of Ayesha’s room in her family’s house. […]

Myth: Mixed Media

The House on Tator Hill

All night the wind strummed the shingles, while I slept with my jaw like a fist. She wanted sex first thing in the morning to the rhythm of the percolator’s clicks. Her aunt had a real Chagall hanging over the piano. She stocked the freezer with Grey Goose, then traveled for months. We claimed the […]

Secrets from the Underworld

The living room is bleached with a raw November light. I sidestep along a pristine white wall, past three perfectly aligned matted prints of geometric shapes, to the gleaming bookcase and consider the alphabetically organized books, all nonfiction. I keep my hands to myself. On Tuesday, Dad’s friend, Brett, lost his uncle, and fifteen minutes […]

What can I tell you (an Ars Poetica)

What can I tell you? I confess from you I learned sweat is poison as well as nectar, & there is no good word for how I linger as you exhale. I confess I am a cracked mirror, & you are a stone, a bird, starlight tickling the fractures. From you I learned jilting doesn’t require […]

Some Lines of Feeling 

“Autumn―that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness―that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.” ― Jane Austen, Persuasion   The oppressive, heavy, humid heat of another climate change Ohio Valley River summer makes way for […]

I’m Beautiful

[flash fiction] Darkness slow and deep, quiet, still, unmoving, unbreathing in a dark, sugary sleep: no pain, no joy, no sight, no sound, no taste, I remain floating, distant. I shall not wake up. I shall stay in this cotton-wool world, its soft-sleepy music lifting me up through the roof, through the banisters, the rooms […]

Pools, Crabs, and Wikipedia

The pool stayed the same for most of the year. Just a few meters from the beach. The waves came in far enough, breaking across the sand into the tangle of mangrove trees and long grasses, to give it just enough water to stay level with the well-padded trail that led from the small Honduran […]

Change: Watercolor Paintings

The Egypt of Mary’s Womb

A small town.  A back door. A young woman at her work chopping, searing, holding. A flash, not so much of light, as the chorus of sight that light trails as it passes by.  A strange word, an aspiration, a slight bow of the head, a warm wrapping of wings. There will be lions, later. […]

A Map of Jerusalem

For years my face and name were a message I didn’t know I was sending. In kindergarten, our teacher gave my classmate Daniel and me blue and white construction paper to make cards for our family when everyone else got red and green. I knew this was because we were both Jewish, but my mother […]

We’re So Lucky

[flash fiction] She likes her son best when he’s sleeping. At night, she sneaks into his bedroom, sits on the edge of his twin-size bed and watches his little chest rise and fall below the sheet. She places her lips on his temple and kisses him softly. It’s one of the few moments in the […]

The Persistence of Wolves

I Stillness in the mountains, in the way the mist clings, eternal, like suspended cobwebs on the prickly pine needles and limbs of green guavas, in the way the mountains curve like the rolling hips of the women hiking red dirt clearings far away. They’re balancing bread in baskets atop their tightly turbaned hair. Time, […]

The Known Unknowns

[flash fiction] 1. What do we know about her, a retired social worker, wife to a stubborn sonofabitch who refused to evacuate when the big one finally came? What does it say about the sonofabitch that he teaches conservation law, that his eyebrows go untrimmed, that he jogs in day-glo short-shorts each evening along the […]

Centerpiece

Days were short and buckled, the dinner to prepare, our table to set, cream and tan plumage to fan in a gold-rimmed goblet, hint of flight.  Together we hunted wild turkey feathers, tracked hay fields where flocks lumbered in summer, walked a trail over to the next road, followed it past the last house as […]

Selected Works: Oil Paintings

Dispatch from Liberty Ave.  

Pittsburgh, PA— It’s another day: not a sale, not a bite, not a solid, single look-e-loo. So I stand alone at the window and watch the old men walk in a stiff and stony parade up and down the avenue past my post at the East End Book Exchange. I count the ways to be an old man: to rein […]

When You Ask Me to Describe the Grief

 (after Clementine von Radics) I open my mouth & nothing comes out—I think, chest caving in, robber of breath, thunderbolted knees hitting the bathroom floor but it felt more like tumbling down a staircase into the basement of a heart that no longer relays rhythm, my shoveled out stomach— a hearse, a grave, a place […]

Recent Work: Mixed Media Sculpture

Classy

I’m particular about my gym wear. To illustrate, my socks must be white or a shade approximating my skin tone. I call the shade “nude.” Crayola misguidedly called it “flesh.” After a torturous day’s work, I reached the Y desperately in need of a stress-defusing workout. Too bad I’d forgotten to bring allowably-colored socks. I hadn’t time to run home […]

Post-Reunion

I drive my mother home because the train is late, because her hands shake, because my brother doing push-ups after he lost a bet had all of us fearing the explosion in his chest and what are family reunions for? Food.  Too much wine.  A kickball in the gut. When I pulled the folding chair […]

Baltimore is Burning

and my students don’t know a thing about it Ronnie K. Stephens is a full-time English teacher and the father of identical twins. His first full-length collection, Universe in the Key of Matryoshka, was published by Timber Mouse Publishing in 2014.

Noctiputations

Three a.m., and night is an oil spill seeped down to the benthic zone. The way a man-of-war is simultaneously individual and colony, I am wide-awake and exhausted. My head, sunken into the pillow, fills with ideas, insights, plans, and epiphanies like the gold coins and suits of armor stuffed inside a seafloored shipwreck. I […]

Tracing Wrist Scars

I used to keep exquisite potted plants. Now, just pots of dirt. My friend Meghann keeps pots of dirt. One with a ceramic hand creeping out, another, a foot. Funny, the things we covet. I only learned to begin wanting again recently. I don’t know where to place my wants. How to justify them, or […]

Denouement

Prayer flags heave like healthy lungs beneath a five colored sheet. Wind is implied. Or breath. Healing. But definitely movement. All the weightless things around us convulse into terrible ghosted forms, then return to their tenacious dangling. The world ages at the rate we expect it to. We are not so fortunate as cricket legs […]