by Brittany de Carona
Once, when I was younger, I touched a butterfly. I watched it float for almost an
hour, around and around my head like a lovely little halo. Its wings, thin and delicate,
beat to the rhythm of my steady thump-thump heart. I thought I was alone in the world,
just my butterfly and me, sitting beneath a tree in the backyard of my grandmother’s
house. I was trying to read a book, but kept splattering the pages with my tears instead.
For that hour, with my butterfly, I couldn’t stop thinking about how lonely I was.
I was nothing like my family. They didn’t understand my constant need to escape
the world we lived in through books. They laughed at me, made jokes at my expense (I
was referred to as Mother Thesaurus, for my love of peace and words), or they simply
ignored me, failing to notice when I disappeared from the house for hours. I was not there
and they were none the wiser and I grew to accept my displacement of our collective
I was nothing like my friends. I was wondering if they were even my friends,
because “friends” typically knew what was going on in each other’s lives. They had no
idea that I was technically homeless, again sleeping on my grandmother’s floor because
I had nowhere else to go, or that I hadn’t slept in a bed for years. No friends, no family,
nothing but nothingness. That was how I felt and so I sat there, crying into the yellowing
pages of Lord of the Flies with the butterfly floating around my quivering shoulders.
by Joshua Greschner
As I waited for my interview with my cousin Carmen in front of the paleontology museum in the basement of the Earth Sciences Building, I ruminated on the large, lurid crystalline formations in glass displays, baked for millions of years within the ovens of the Earth and excavated by geologists, smiling widely in photographs beside them.
“Those rocks are pretty cool,” I say to Carmen before we settle in for the interview. She arrives with a bulging green backpack, exhausted from hiking from her petrochemicals lab on the Engineering side of campus.
“Those? Yeah, no, those are minerals,” she says.
My cousin Carmen is a second year geology student. Along with half of the students in her program, she plans to work in the oil industry.
“What exactly do geologists do?” I ask.
“We’re basically Earth’s historians. We’re reading the Earth’s story book… which are rocks.”
“Is that what your prof told you the first day of class?”
“No, that’s my philosophy. I thought it up myself.”
“Then what exactly do you have to do with oil?”
“Have you ever heard of the term rockhound or rocksniffer?”
“No. What is it?”
“So you know what hound dogs do? They sniff around on the ground and say ‘wooooo’, I found this. That’s what I do but not so… not in a literal sense. And if I find oil, they pay me. And if I don’t, they pay me anyway.”
by Desmond Fuller
The light was almost used up. What remained fell in pale stripes over the basketball courts like a ghost tiger biting the chainlink that bled shadows into the pooling dark.
Bryce spun the basketball, the taut rubber rolling under his fingers as he took a shot; the gasp of the net as it spit the ball back to him. He put new fractures in the quiet with each percussive dribble. He liked when the courts were empty. The passed day lingered in the stillness, recorded in spilled soda, cigarette butts in the fallen elm leaves and lazy hornets circling a discarded Happy-Meal bag.
When the courts were too crowded, he sometimes met up with Pete at the bridge. They would jump the guardrail and skid their way down the incline, grasping at protruding roots and rocks, their shoes pushing up dust. Sometimes they grasped at the loose dirt crumbling between their fingers. They walked the floor of the shady gorge along the train tracks to the school and then home, making dirty jokes and trying to forecast which of them would get laid first. As it was, that was no longer up for debate, and Bryce wasn’t up for fielding Pete’s questions about Michelle.
Blood was hot in his palms. The ball bounced off the backboard and stuttered to a halt near where his jacket lay by the gate. As he stooped to recover the ball, he heard his phone beep in the jacket pocket. He didn’t need to check to know that it was Michelle. They hadn't spoken since she told him about New York.
He took a shot. The ball bounced.
The evening felt indefinite. One could stay out till dawn moving in that darkness. It was hard to convey its impermanence to the blood in his chest and the sweat in his hair as he ran the ball again and again. Tomorrow was vague, out of mind, or maybe was too easily ignored.
He would graduate soon. But it felt abstract, like the paintings they had seen in art class the other day, with the giant animal skulls that loomed over tiny deserts and mountain peaks. Mrs. Sphensen had said the paintings were supposed to convey a sense wonder. Also, that the lady who painted them had suffered a nervous breakdown.
His brother Kris had left for college two years ago and received a three year prison term instead of a diploma. Somewhere in those tiny desert mountains Kris borrowed a stranger’s car and drove it over a fire hydrant. In his letters to Bryce he sometimes worried about getting beat on, but mostly worried that he wouldn’t have a chance against Bryce at one-on-one when he got out. He hoped Bryce was excited about being done with high school.
Bryce hadn't written back.
by Josh Greschner
Technicolor snapshots of heaven most high,
The marquee singed the dilettante’s eyes,
Smoke rose from Mae West’s breasts
On an effigy burnt at the South Central riots.
A d m i r e t h e d a y t h r o u g h 7 0 - m i l le n s e s:
Billboards, dreamcoats, refugees, celebrities
In lurid kaleidoscopic colours almighty,
Acid blotter stamped with the face of Aphrodite.
Hard-light burns from the ball in the sky,
Technicolor snapshots of heaven most high.
One’s life work
Is the curved iron of a minaret,
Others, a blood splatter resisting departure on an immigrant ship
From the setter’s smooth concrete.
But he forgets all sets in stone
Plundered from the Islands,
W o m b s o f n a t a l b o n e .
The setter spins the tongue in ovals
When slides are suffice
And the crew knows he hides
His chagrin with gin and ice,
B e h i n d c l o s e d b l i n d s l e a k i n g l i g h t.
The chiseler, the witness, the mythmaker
Of the inscription defying expected passé,
Shall win back elusive day.
When righteous man sees the conquered plane
When righteous man sees the conquered plane
Hooked on transmigration,
I’m not surprised
I believed everything I told myself.
Be it minstrel congregation
Within village oblast,
Within amorphous mass,
Backlight exposes transgressions
Anchored in the unperceived.
Deepen cause to disengage,
Negative space between borders scythed
With dull blade,
Along lands the northern prism bleached
Like movie theatre screens,
Like noseringed cattle, careened by machine.
by Joseph Musters
The small group of Earthling tourists followed their Toomsian
tour guideon a wide, enclosed catwalk several dozen boolts (close enough to metres) above the Toomsicle factory floor. They were the kind of tourists that just want to have an easy, moderately good time, facilitated by the tried and tested routine that isa guided tour. Only a small perimeter of sunlight seeped in from the top of the circular room the group filed into. Down below, a spectacular mess of gadgets and
machinery assembled what vaguely appeared to be a series of varying styles of mobile toilets. A frail, ancient-looking human father and his short but stout little monster of a boy were front and center. The Toomsian Toomsicle factory tour guide, sitting in his mobile Toomsicle, began:
“Life on planet Tooms is just about perfect this afternoon. Aside from world peace, everlasting clean energy and enough farmland to perpetuate the Toomsian species, we have perfected the art of convenience. It is the reason nobody ever wants to leave the planet; an addiction to luxury. Instead of enduring bad weather, we constructed a series of domes over their major population centres. To dispensewith the need to do laundry, nobody wears clothing anymore; this made possible in part due to the domes. Need to do the shopping? No you don’t! Just order whatever you need from your armrest interface at any time, and it’ll arrive the next quarter cycle at your door (about 3-5 Earth business days). Perhaps the Toomsians’ greatest achievement is the invention of the Toomsicle.”
At that point, the fat little human boy took his fist out of his mouth long enough to pull on his father’s pant leg and whine.
“This is stupid. I wanna go to Disneyland!”
His father, a meek, elderly man with an aluminum hip replacement and thick bifocals (who was just then silently berating all those who opposed the metric system) responded, “Oh, well you know we don’t have the money for that, Tim. Space flights all the way to here from Earth are cheaper, plus the tours are free. Let’s just enjoy the tour, shall we?” Fat Tim’s mother thought of him as a “happy” little accident, but even she wouldn’t take this kind of guff from her son. Too bad hers was an even sadder misfortune, leaving him alone. Well, NEARLY alone. When she was alive, all the best of Old Tim’s pleading amounted to nothing – rather, he WISHED it had. Instead, it had amounted to this insatiable troglodyte he now had in tow.
by Michael Prihoda
I hear Marilynne Robinson
give a reading
in a distressingly empty theater,
half-stricken with the set
of next month’s performance,
her grandmother voice
wilting between her and the
twelve rows to me,
her words vessels for
the pain I still kept in little jars
from my grandmother’s death.
the softest shattering played
cello to accompany
like an oil spill
life couldn’t quite absorb,
the lines of Marilynne’s face
like the borders I never
crossed, wanting a fictitious
passport, no fuel for a
and she began answering
questions in the quiet,
my timidity chaining my tongue
from asking “are you proud of me?”
suddenly I knew why
people entered defeatist affairs
with untenable, unattainable
ideals at stake and I waited
until questions ceased
with the sputter
of a dying rhinoceros
(almost embarrassed by
his final moments as if
he distracted by living)
before leaving with
the faint subpoena
feel of having
by Colin James
We went for a walk to the quarry
and saw a man killing a dog.
He was wearing denim jeans
and a long blue coat.
A truck parked nearby idling.
The air was dense and uncooperative.
One lone steel cable sagged overhead.
In the summer swimmers risk everything.