Rain drips from the roof with the rhythm of tr(i)bal drums

‘ll never know what it is to’ve had everything st(ol)en from me

d men stagger under the weight of their years. Their greedy

eyes weigh them d(own)

ership is the illusion that keeps us working long h(our)s

needs are neighbors we’re afraid to meet; our wants are

the brothers-in-law of the (sou)l

p heals all wounds; if Mamaw taught you nothing else,

it’s t(his)

nails have grown yellow, curving into claws. His teeth

blacken and c(rum)ble

sinks into the bellies of the faithful. It will re-emerge

like rain

CL Bledsoe has two collections, _____(Want/Need) and Anthem. A third collection, Riceland, is forthcoming later this year. He has a chapbook, Goodbye To Noise, available online at www.righthandpointing.com/bledsoe. A minichap, Texas, is forthcoming. His story, “Leaving the Garden” was selected as a Notable Story of 2008 by Story South’s Million Writer’s Award. He is an editor for Ghoti Magazine.


Not far off the farm, we stumble a
          truck rut track smack into frack-
ing, hardhats and klieg lights. No

fence or barbed wire, bare zone
          of a work site, hilltop and dirt
bed, gravel and warnings—bag-

gage that towers the river. Lines
          of porta-potties under a big god
-forsaken rigged-out and gaudy

crane-looking thing, it’s a beacon
          for miles, without moratoriums
here, pumping 24/7. Factions and

splinter groups, senators, PACs,
          each send out their peoples to snap-
shoot and leer, test or just protest

Marcellus shale. Leaning, one guy
          takes his smoke break and gives us
the eye, but we see only shades;

he just tilts up a head, nods off
          our direction, beyond fecund gulfs
where quick reeds swallow green

toads, shallow glades, steep grades
          of a meadow, cricketing, croaking
for miles, no nondisclosure since

not undersigned. Under this shadow:
          the unbroken horse you’ve fed baby’s
breath, core of an apple. Turning

for home, out of roaming, down
          dusty lanes “not approved for gas
co. use,” by stables made over, trash

fire unwatched, a retrofit plowshare
          landscaped as maybe some whale
fluke, mailboxes chunky as lard

cans, and yards sunk under lawn
          junk, hole-fills, rotor-tilled gardens,
past pipelines, past privet, a sign

that proclaims “free manure”

William Cordeiro has previously worked as a NYC Teaching Fellow, a staff writer at the theater magazine offoffonline, and an assistant editor of Epoch. He has an MFA in poetry from Cornell, where he is currently a Ph.D. candidate studying 18th century British literature. He is also the co-founder of Brooklyn Playwrights Collective and have had several plays produced in regional and off-off-Broadway venues, including a libretto performed at the Johnson Museum of Art. For two years he has been the Artist-in-Residence at Risley Residential College. He has also received residencies from the Provincetown Community Compact, Ora Lerman Trust, and Petrified Forest National Park.

His work has been published or is forthcoming in journals such as Brooklyn Review, Harpur Palate, La Fovea, Baltimore Review, Leveler, Dirt, Waccamaw, Paradigm, Verse Wisconsin, Prick of the Spindle, Sentence, A cappella Zoo, Jacket, The Prose Poem Project, Carte Blanche, Poetry Quarterly, Spiral Orb, Barely South Review, decomP magazinE, L.E.S. Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Canary, And/Or, Third Wednesday, Crannóg, and Word for/Word.

Sister Carrie Facebooks Frankie Machine

What made me click his profile was his eyes. There’s sadness there, surrounded by a façade of confidence, but sadness nonetheless. There’s also something in his posture, the kind of weariness a man isn’t born with, but can only accumulate. All of it called out, Now Caroline, now there’s a man worth a gander. Maybe it’s the camera, maybe it’s the angle, or maybe someone just caught him at a bad moment. But remember, he chose that picture to represent himself. We’re talking freewill, after all: He wants the world to see what I’m seeing, wants everyone to know his pain, to reach out, to help him grow stronger. Of course, he has a wife, and that’s swell, but he doesn’t seem so high on her, either, with what he posts, and more so, what he doesn’t. In nearly twelve hundred photos—most in a bar, I might add—only a handful depict the lovely Mrs. Majcinek, and nary a one features them together. It is not my intention to impede upon their love, though that territory is not unfamiliar to me. It is just the nature of the beast, this Facebook, to bring such opportunities to light, to forge friendships of this nature. Reaching out to this man, to those eyes, may lead to him accepting friendship, and from there, who knows? A poke here, a like there, and before you know it, you find out if that friend is worthy of further pokes and further likes. Before long, the right needling can lead to messages, to suggestions, and if the winds blow right, actual human contact. I, too, am betrothed, but for now, all of this is innocent, a friendly hand reaching out. Eventually, though, this could be the man to swoop me off my feet, carry me forward, initiate nothing short of a positive change in my status.

Michael Czyzniejewski is the author of two story collections, Elephants in Our Bedroom, released by Dzanc Books in 2009, and the forthcoming Chicago Stories, due this coming spring from Curbside Splendor. He teaches at Bowling Green State University, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of Mid-American Review. In 2010, he received a fellowship in fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ann Landers Advises Against the Use of Twitter

This isn’t like the razor blades in the apples. Or the rice making pigeons explode. Or my sister’s alleged “talent.” This, faithful readers, is real. While it seems like 140 characters could do no actual harm, studies—by Harvard doctors and scientists—have proven that prolonged use of and exposure to the Internet website known as “Twitter” is today’s primary cause of teenage pregnancy. Of course, our children are not having babies simply because they log on—though with what else can be found on this World Wide Web, you could see how it could happen. It’s the life path that tweeting, so it is called, can lead them down. One tweet leads to another, and before you know it, our children are listening more closely to their followers than we, their parents. What’s next? What’s after teenage pregnancy? The inevitable: crack babies. Yes, logging onto Twitter has, according to the same Harvard doctors and scientists, led to young pregnant girls—the very pregnant girls who became pregnant on Twitter—smoking crack and passing addiction down to their unborn fetuses. I don’t know if you have ever seen a crack baby, let alone a neglected crack baby, but it’s not an encouraging sight. Just imagine if that was your grandchild. Then what happens when these children-parents want to go back to school? To a football game? To prom? Either you’re stuck watching their babies while they’re out gallivanting, or they start leaving their babies in Dumpsters, in broken-down elevators, and sometimes, fire stations. Is that what we want? Parents, it’s time you took control back, said no to your children once in a while, spent quality time nurturing them, showing them the right way. They need human-on-human contact, not this cyberspace interaction they’ve grown accustomed to. And if some teacher or guidance counselor or friend wants to stand in your way? Watch it, Bub! Or the next thing we know, the abandoned crack baby who calls you Grammy will replace some poor Dalmatian as the official mascot down at the local firehouse. Mark my word.

Michael Czyzniejewski is the author of two story collections, Elephants in Our Bedroom, released by Dzanc Books in 2009, and the forthcoming Chicago Stories, due this coming spring from Curbside Splendor. He teaches at Bowling Green State University, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of Mid-American Review. In 2010, he received a fellowship in fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Minna and Ada Everleigh Reveal What Possibly Could Have Happened to Marshall Field, Jr.

Of course, we were downstairs. Our job was to oversee the operation, meet and greet the clients, make sure everyone was having a good time, and most of all, keep the money coming in. We were entrepreneurs, after all, good at what we did. We also trusted that our girls knew what they were doing when they entertained the clients, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been our girls: pretty in the face, smart in the head. All we can honestly relay is what we heard, what we were told, and what the papers reported afterward. So, firstly, what we heard was a loud noise. Someone, a policeman, for instance, might mistake this noise for a gunshot. Others, though, might call it a champagne cork popping from a bottle, one of several dozen popped every night. Others could say a headboard banged against a wall, which nobody would debate. We also know the man in question was on the premises—he frequented our services, proved a valuable business contact, many of the fine amenities on hand coming from the store bearing his name—but we cannot say for sure he was present on the night in question, let alone upstairs, in the Gold Room, or the gambling parlor. We know that the victim died soon after the alleged incident, but five days after, in his own home instead of a hospital, and to us, that doesn’t indicate a fatal wound could have incurred whilst in our care. We also know the victim was prone to depression—pillowtalk, don’t you know—and would have had access to a number of firearms, the means, the motive, and the opportunity. We also know that no one under our employ was charged, let alone arrested, and the alleged questioning that took place could have been, well, a lot of men talking to our girls, about a lot of things; questions may indeed have been asked and answered. No blood-stained sheets or mattresses were ever found or confiscated, and if an extensive search took place, no bullet holes would be discovered, either. What we think happened to Mr. Field in our house is that he enjoyed our services, contributed to the local economy, and left with a smile on his face. We’ve seen that. We can attest to it. We know it to be true. And we’re sticking with our story.
Michael Czyniejewski is the author of the story collection, Elephants in Our Bedroom, released by Dzanc Books in 2009, and the recipient of a 2010 NEA fellowship. His work has appeared in journals such as The Southern Review, American Short Fiction, and StoryQuarterly, and is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Indiana Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Knee-Jerk, and Artifice. He also teaches at Bowling Green State University, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of Mid-American Review.

Milo Himes

Milo Himes disappeared from a Utah beach one Wednesday last month. It’s possible he wandered too far out, drowned in the undertow, but the police suspect foul play, someone grabbing him then disappearing over the dunes. Drifters and local sex offenders top their list. The media thinks it’s the stepmom, how she stayed at the beach four hours after she reported him gone. Me? I’m wondering why no one’s saying “shark.” That lake in Utah, it’s salt, so why not? I call the police and posit sharks into their heads. The police hang up. There’s no cash reward involved—I just want to help. If there’s a great white in the Great Salt, it could strike again. At any time.

On the home front, it starts with tiny red ants. I find a gap between the faucet unit and the countertop, the seal disintegrated. Or melted. Or chewed. I paper-towel them, make it all white again, but every time I get a drink of water, go to the fridge, or take a pill, I see a thousand more. I wipe them up, they come back. I clean, they come back. I put out traps, they have a little party. I spray my entire house with vinegar—I read about that once—sixteen bottles of Heinz, and after a few days, they’re gone. I recaulk the sink, do the same in the bathroom, tub too: It’s a big tube of caulk. I have defeated the tiny red ants.

The Great Salt Lake contains no sharks: I checked the Internet. But other lakes in the world do. Bull sharks in Africa can live in fresh water—they take a wrong turn at a channel and can’t find their way home. For some reason, they produce twenty times more urine than bull sharks living in saltwater. I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite for people: salt = peeing. I think of my father’s prostate, his need to go every ten minutes. I picture him in a saltwater tank in his living room, wearing a scuba mask and oxygen tanks. He’s floating in his red and blue trunks, giving a thumbs-up, watching a game, reaching over the side of the tank for a shot of rye, to dip a chip in dip. He doesn’t have the money for that kind of contraption, and I’m guessing his insurance wouldn’t pay for it, either. And Milo Himes didn’t disappear in Africa. Case closed: the shark didn’t do it.

Next is a mouse in the cupboard. At least I hope it’s a mouse and not a rat—I’ve never seen it/them. Bags of rice, of flour, of tea are gnawed through. Black shit dashes my linoleum. Floury steps lead to a hole in the baseboard behind the stove. I duct-tape it shut; two days later, it’s bored through. I set traps; they’re picked clean. I get a cat; it runs away. I buy D-Con, shove it in the hole, nail a new board over the opening. I sit in the dark and listen, hear something scuffle, something struggle. They are inside the cardboard packaging, eating the poison. That’s the last I hear from any of them. The reek from their carcasses lasts a couple days, but smells, no matter how nasty, can’t eat my food.

Milo Himes’s left shoe is found in a diner bathroom in Green River, southern part of the state. They know it’s his because descriptions have been all over the news, his shoes distinctive, Elmo and Big Bird, arm in wing, Milo’s squiggles doodling the toes. A janitor spotted it behind a toilet. I think the janitor’s got Milo, to be honest, because it’s always the janitor, some ex-con or mental patient. He just happened to spot this shoe and turn it in? Fuck me. But I used to be a janitor, at a school, and I never did it. When she hired me, the superintendent told me never to smile at the kids, never talk to them. I obeyed. Last fall, some girl showed signs of abuse, said it was her dad, and the first thing he said when they questioned him? “It’s probably some janitor at school.” The police had to follow it up, questioned me in the kindergarten for two hours, treating me like I was feeling her up right there on the tiny desks. They brought up my B&E from when I was 17—I pinched a couple of car stereos—and somehow tied that to raping third-graders twenty years later. They had nothing on me, and eventually, the dad got caught, in his daughter’s bed, both of them sobbing and naked. A week later, I got laid off. The superintendant said she’d gotten too many calls. Parents didn’t want me around, even though an aunt walked in on the scene, the dad confessed then hung himself in lockup that night. But no, I got the ax. Go figure.

Pretty sure I have squirrels in my attic. They move in the evening, scampering about for a while, then hit the town in full dark. I sit in my yard at dusk one night and watch: it’s raccoons. There’s a hole right under the gutter, southeast corner. Two coons use it like a revolving door, living in sin in my attic, which I can’t tolerate. I make some calls—raccoons will claw your fingernails out, then give you rabies—and find an exterminator who says he can handle it, but it will cost me $380. I clean my rifle. I give the raccoons one more night together—I imagine them at a midnight chapel, tying the knot, having a final roll in a Dumpster—then pick them off at dawn when they cross my property line: two shots, two kills. I’m burying them in the garden, free fertilizer, when three squad cars pull up and six cops jump out, vests on, guns drawn, screaming for me to get on the ground, to drop my motherfucking shovel or else I’m fucking dead. They see my Winchester on the porch, take it and me in. I discover that you can’t shoot at mammals, or anything, even on your own property, within city limits. The judge doles out my fine—$2400—plus I have to surrender the Winchester. I wonder if this judge isn’t the bastard who married those raccoons. Vengeance comes full circle, I guess, and I surrender my life savings to the clerk, just so I can go home, see what else has made its move.

Milo Himes is never found. The stepmom and the dad divorce, which seems like a clue, but tragedy results in so many divorces, the experts say, so maybe not. A few months later, it comes out that the stepmom went to high school with that janitor’s first cousin. A lot is made of that. But Utah is small, people-wise, and everyone knows everybody. I want to believe that Milo is somewhere, in a well-lit room, eating Trix, drinking a juice box, watching cartoons, asking when he can go home, but less frequently than he did before. I want his captors to love him, to just have wanted a little Milo for their own. Maybe Milo loves them back by now. Maybe he never liked his stepmom to begin with. Maybe his dad drank. Whatever the case, I hope they find these people who took him. So much trauma, to the dad, to the family, to the police. And to me. If something bad happened to Milo, the likely case, I hope it’s a swift trial, that the defendants don’t appeal, just take their medicine, do the honorable thing. They still have firing squads in Utah, but that’s a waste of bullets. With me: one shot, one kill. I’d tie that found shoe from the end of my gun, let the fuckheads see it, watch it dangle as the explosion pours forth.

I wake up to some noises coming from downstairs. It’s three weeks after the raccoons, and I only have my mom’s old handgun—sadly, no bullets. I walk downstairs and find a guy stuck in one of the side windows, his huge ass unable to wiggle free. He’s trying to reach the floor with his hands, grab onto the radiator pipes off to the side. I kick him in the cheek. He reaches back like he’s got something to use on me, but I cock my empty Glock under his nose and he goes limp, half of him in my dining area, half of him outside. I find a .22 in his belt, put it in my pants. I ask what he’s doing, and he says he saw my TV from the street, my plasma.

“You were going to carry it out the window?”

“I was going to unlock the door.”

I’m pretty certain I can shoot an intruder—an armed one especially—once they cross the plane. I tell him this and he begs me not to kill him, suggests I call the police. I think about it, but instead go and get my duct tape, my boards and nails, the tub of Plaster of Paris. I tie the guy’s hands and start sealing him in, taping him up, boarding the window. He tells me the blood is going to his head, how he’s going to faint. I give him a glass of water from the sink, a banana and a granola bar—the corner chewed off—from the cupboard. I tell him his new name: “Fido.” He says that someone will see his legs, half a man hanging out my window. He says he has to go to the bathroom. He asks why my house smells like vinegar. I tell him that nobody lives next door, and soon, I’ll go out and cover his legs with a tarp, make him look like a stack of firewood. I tell him to go to the bathroom, just let it fly. He eats the banana and asks if this is his last meal. I tell him no, that he caught me at a good point in my life.

“There’s been enough killing,” I say.

As soon as the cast dries, I go upstairs and sleep, more soundly than I have since I can remember.

Michael Czyniejewski is the author of the story collection, Elephants in Our Bedroom, released by Dzanc Books in 2009, and the recipient of a 2010 NEA fellowship. His work has appeared in journals such as The Southern Review, American Short Fiction, and StoryQuarterly, and is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Indiana Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Knee-Jerk, and Artifice. He also teaches at Bowling Green State University, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of Mid-American Review.

What Horse Hooves Turn Into After the Horse is Over

what adheres me to you is not that you are glue, but that you are the idea of sticking to something. the possibility that i will one day become tinfoil & stick to you while holding all of you all inside of me, holding as adherence, the idea of glue. if i were your blood, i’d encourage you to cut your finger, slicing onions, so that after i dried, i could look at the world while holding your skin together. there is something to be said about trying to sew myself to your feet because i fancy myself as your shadow. it says sticky. you are a state of magic, like the way your blood swims through your body while you are still asleep as sleep, like the way you shoot through a subway tunnel by just sitting, still as a tattoo, because tattoos can’t make shadows, but they do: go where you do, without ever moving from above the blood that they are hiding. the wind is invisible blood running through the veins of this city, you say to me. the wind is invisible blood running through the veins of this city, i repeat at you as the people begin to eat sticks of glue.

M.G. Martin is the author of One For None (Ink., 2010). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Mud Luscious, >kill author & Everyday Genius, among others. M.G. lives in Booklyn with the lady poet, Tess Patalano & the lady dog, Ihu. Find him at mgmartin.tumblr.com & @themgmartin.