Our Amuse-Bouche series offers little bites once a month to keep you satiated between issues. Dig into a smorgasbord of genres every third Friday of the month!
Exercise: v. middling, meddling, 500 years ago—To put into action. Circa 1340: to raise from the dead. Circa 1729: to exercise one’s tongue. To practice one’s genius. To exercise one’s pipes. To bring to bear. Circa 1738, of Psalms and Hymns. A prompt of no serious exchange—except one’s rights. Take advantage of property laws. Speak out. Hear me out: i.e. to exercise power.
Isabel Yap is a Filipino writer of fiction and poetry. Her debut short story collection, Never Have I Ever (Small Beer Press, 2021), contains thirteen unique and extraordinary stories based on Filipino culture, history, traditions, legends, and mythology. Full of monsters, magic, and miracles, each story has its own touches of fantasy, horror, mystery, and/or hope that will keep readers enthralled.
The year I turn 9, my father hurls a telephone across the kitchen. My dad has just received news of a friend’s death from brain cancer. I suspect he figures the receiver might as well die too, and wound the kitchen on its way out. By the time he is shoved up against his own cancer diagnosis, 17 years later, my father is too weak to weaponize telephones.
Writing for young people is a privilege. When you write for them you have to be hopeful because your audience still has a lot of living to do. When a kid reads my work I feel lucky that they read my words, that they entered a small world I created for a little bit.
It was a sluggish day at the salon. Raining outside; a Saturday. The boss lady was on edge all morning, going on about the taxi strikes and the Arab grocer up the street. “Mariana!” she snapped at me twice while tugging a boar-bristle brush through a woman’s gray bob. She doesn’t like when I stare out the storefront window, gnawing at my cuticles.
I write for children and young adults because I see in them the greatest capacity for change. And that’s what we need in this country and in this world. We need informed youth who can take action that will build better communities. The level of ignorance in today’s society is astounding, and a lot of that has to do with what we had—or did not have—available to us to learn from when we were growing up.
I met Lia in an ad for her Haunted Doll Hotel. I suppose I didn’t meet her, but her personality was clear:
YOU’RE SEARCHING FOR A HAUNTED DOLL COMPANION.
THESE ARE MY HOURS: WKNDS, 8 P.M. / 4 A.M.
PINE BARRENS. FOLLOW SIGNS.
She was right, and I wasn’t busy, so I drove down there.
For twenty plus years, Lise Quintana has worn numerous writing-related hats: author, editor, publisher, book reviewer, educator, and more. She’s the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Zoetic Press, which publishes cutting edge short-form literature. Zoetic is the home of the award-winning journal NonBinary Review and the fiction and poetry podcast Alphanumeric.
At the beach house, Mama cooked whole crabs alive.
Through the steam, we watched them slowly seize up
and stiffen like the dead fish that washed ashore
the day you cut your foot on shattered glass.
When sand stuck to your weeping wound, I couldn’t clean it
the Russian train runs on only time
bones come from its exhaust pipe
we twirl our black umbrellas
and there is no dream
You’re waiting tables in Gunnison;
Grand Junction. Fruita is blood-orange dark.
Your hands are covered with silt, dry from the hard water
as you scale the Book Cliff mountains. No matter what
“I wish I could say I had a strategy. I clung to poetry like a lifeline in my grief, and what got written, got written. I will say that, early on in the grieving process that followed my boyfriend’s suicide, I wrote a lot of catalog poems. Writing in lists at that stage makes sense.” – Jenn Koiter
When the apocalypse comes, I won’t be allowed to have Cheerios anymore. Not because at the end of the world, there will be no breakfast cereal, but because if the world doesn’t end, my sister actually thinks there will still be beds to make and carpets to vacuum, and she says she’s tired of stepping on the little O’s that I just can’t seem to keep in my bowl.
As a child, my oldest sister kept a cage of guinea pigs in the garage, and she’d made a deal with the produce manager at the Lucky down the street—well not really a deal; he just gave her all the expired lettuce, which she fed to them. On weekends, she took them out of their cage and let them run around on the lawn…
A paradox is something that contradicts itself. It seems that all human beings are a paradox within themselves. People hold on to their own moral sense of right and wrong, yet go against it every day. This pattern unleashes us to many different paradoxes of human behavior. We see this loop show itself in many aspects of life, such as defense mechanisms, hypocrisy, and the commonly known paradox of choice.
It must have been hard, growing up with transparent skin,
when even then, no one wanted to look at your still-beating heart,
your outstanding insides
rotting in rainbow colors.
Everyone else was getting X-rays
When she died, they were buttery smooth and still, and buried under mine, palms pressed flat against dry, cotton hospital sheets. I suffocated them with my grief, pressing the fear of going on living without her into the skin, into the stiffness of the bed. When she entered the hospital just days before, they had been trembling…
Clare is alone in the hotel swimming pool when the boy and girl appear, hand-in-hand, at the door in the tall perimeter gate protecting the pool and its authorized users from everyone else.
The boy speaks first–he’s a man, really, somewhere in his mid-twenties, sandy-haired and hefty-jawed, a wad of gum stuck in his cheek.
An infant, I startle, flinch, and boom
When she touches me. Burning pistol,
She says, years later,
“It only takes one bad shrimp
I did a lot of research on human experimentation. I enrolled in several soft contact research studies because I did need to know two things: how it felt to be in a research study and what an ethical, by the book research study looked like. At the same time, I was reading a lot about how most of our knowledge about gynecology is based on deeply unethical methods.
Past the dry cornfields and cobblestone roads, surrounded by forests barren of leaves, lay the sleepy village of Lumbrow where rats scurried down the streets. A rumor about a mysterious key swirled in the village square and tangled in crooked branches. Supposedly, the key was buried in the dark woods, but no one in Lumbrow knew anything about it.
I cut my life into small slices
And freeze them, to prevent them
From going bad like bread, or coffee.
With my life too, I keep my hand hovered
Over its railing, close enough to grab,
The journey south is always easier. A northern haul is cruel. See those trees leafing plastic shopping bags; that is how they see us. The soft gifted thin tents and sleeping bags. If lucky, a truck will stop, open a freezer gate, conduct us elsewhere, the fence will already be cut, the police baton will wave and not shatter as jackhammers may brick.
scrambled. For weeks, I’ve been nursing a strange, unproductive, overwhelming urge to egg my abusive ex-boyfriend’s house. Strange because I am not usually one to waste food, especially on rotten people. Unproductive because revenge fantasies are only so cathartic, especially when you don’t intend to act them out. Overwhelming because, well. It’s all I think about.
The world was on fire and men were to blame. Not all men, of course. The
book club members said this reflexively, as though Marc still attended.
“Men aren’t empathetic enough,” Allison said and glanced at Joanna,
who may or may not have voted for Trump. There had been whispers.
Joanna leaned in, “You know who should be in charge? Women!”
-For friends and for myself.
The tip of my pen leaks forgiveness.
Jotted spaces between lined pages, I seek your redemption.
My encapsulated words remind me, I swallow
memories like the Xanax you popped, and the whiskey you chugged to forget me.
Then, I glowed lattice and ladder.
A boddice of between. In the dark I left the ground.
My gender cutting holes in shadows. Portholes
and gloryholes. Meeting selves on the other side.
Across an invented expanse, nothing arrived
It was cold the night Faruq let Narmina go. The draft climbed over his bare legs, sank into his pores and frosted through his insides. He shivered as he sat at the edge of the bed. He bound his knees in his arms, tried to tie up his naked body so that it would disappear into itself and rid the world of its ugliness.
Imagine a world in which removing your lover’s eye is normal.
You don’t come from this world, but at a house party in New Jersey, in an apartment across the street from an A & P, you meet someone who does. You’re sitting on someone’s bed, half-drunk and navigating a potential threesome, when they walk in, sunglasses on indoors at 11pm, holding a bottle of beer in a way that judges you.
Twenty three from you, my mother
half my body/mind
for sure my blue eyes
but not my right-handedness
which has made my life easier