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.

What the Mailman Won’t Deliver

I’m not sure. That is to say I’m unsure about the lighting. It really brings out that milk mustache from six years ago and your skin looks like hot tar at noon in August. I can’t touch you like that. My skin will flake off and there won’t be anything left for you to steal from me. I know what you do at night. I know the way you peel back the layers, try to get into my insides. Try to steal what you know isn’t yours to take. But I let you do it. There’s something about your fingernails that makes my flesh jump into your hands. There’s something about the way you blink that makes me play dead while you massage the life out of me. There’s nothing I can’t fake and there’s nothing you won’t store in your trapper keeper. I found it last night. I won’t tell you but you’ll know I know. You won’t stop and I won’t either. I wish there was a way to place a double-sided mirror on our ceiling. I want to know what’s behind you, behind me, on the other side. I want to place a video camera there and watch what you do to me. I want to breathe on the glass and write your name on the inside. You’ll never see it, but I’ll know. Maybe it’s because of how you used to peel dried Elmer’s off your palm, maybe it’s because I taste like glue, maybe it’s because you want to bring me to show and tell twenty years ago. I’m not sure. That is to say I’m unsure about your freckles and how they jump off your skin at night. If I could trap them in a jar I would keep them like fireflies until they slept heavy on the bottom. I would cut your hair and knit a scarf. I know what you have in that binder. I know why I find it hard to inhale. I know why I have no voice to speak to you. But I let you. I’m sure of that. As sure as I am that you look good in any light, even if it means I’ve melted into the wall. Even if it means there’s no more of it, of us, or the freckles. I can’t live in your mailbox. I can’t sleep in your envelope. I can’t die in your sock drawer. But I will.

Alexis Pope is a writer of poetry and tiny fictions. She resides in Akron, which has recently been named “The Meth Capital of Ohio.” She doesn’t use meth, only massive quantities of caffeine. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Metazen, Breadcrumb Scabs,Rubbertop Review, and elsewhere.

Decision Tree

My mother likes anything that allows her to see inside herself—mammograms, x-rays, ultrasounds. She collects the results of these procedures and files them according to year and body part. “This is my brain,” she says, pulling out an x-ray. “This is my liver, my heart, my spine.” The tests are her proof of good health, proof that she is years away from illness or death.

My brothers and I find amusement in our mother’s obsession because we don’t want to face the reality of her problem. Last Thanksgiving, the boys drove up from their homes in Boston and D.C, and for almost the entire dinner mom spoke of her recent visit to a renowned gastroenterologist.

“You wouldn’t believe what they can diagnose from a simple MRI,” Mom said.

“Can they diagnose crazy?” Brian asked.

“Exactly,” Jay said. “Did you ask this hotshot to test your sanity?”

“Please,” my mom said. “My sanity’s tested every day – I have to put up with you three, don’t I?”

But my mother is serious about these tests. She lectures me often about the need to keep on top of illness. She uses words like safeguarding, patrolling, proactive. “Good health is the result of watchfulness,” she says. “Almost everything has a cure, but only if you catch it early enough.” I have heard her arguments so frequently that the conversations are white noise – just the mention of a medical term can send me into a deep slumber.

“Oh my god” I said while driving her around during one of her tirades. “I’m going to fall asleep at the wheel and kill us both if you don’t stop talking.”

“Fine – go ahead and make jokes, but you’re going to want this information one day,” she said. “You’re young and you take your health for granted. But just wait. When you’re older you’re going to be arthritic or hypertensive or worse! And when that happens, you’re going to be begging me to talk about this stuff. You’ll see.”

My mother has absolute faith in the ability of doctors. I tell her that she’s being taken advantage of, that her doctor should be sued for malpractice for all the things he’s allowed, and even advised her to do. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” she tells me. “Carl’s a dear friend and he knows what’s best. He’s a doctor.” She says this as if doctors are not born into the world, but burst forth from the earth, fully formed, stethoscope in hand, crying out, “This is a brain tumor. That is meningitis. Bring me the sick and I shall cure them.”

Two years ago, I moved out of my mother’s house to get away from her. I mistakenly believed that separate living quarters would distance me from her. Instead, she seems more insistent than ever that we stay close. Not only does she guilt me into visiting on the weekends, but she also calls every day. Most of our conversations involve something medical – a recent doctor’s visit or a test result she just received. Sometimes she phones just to tell me of all the cancer that exists in the family – breast, colon, lung. Or she reads me articles on the benefits of the flu shot and on advancements being made on the artificial lung. Since moving out, I have become more adamant in my dislike of doctors and hospitals. I am distrustful not only of my mother’s care, but of everything medical – of all those white pills with names that no one can pronounce, of blips on computer screens measuring all the blood being pumped to and from a heart.

I have my own accumulating pile of articles, which includes clippings on the placebo effect, psychosomatic disorders, doctors leaving instruments inside patients or carving their initials into women’s newly enlarged breasts.

“These are absolutely ridiculous,” my mother said when I first showed them to her. “Where on earth are you getting these? Are you reading the Enquirer?”

As evidence, I brought her Scientific American, Newsweek, The New Yorker. “These are credible publications,” I told her.

“Nonsense,” she said. “The things people will believe these days.”

My brothers are generally left to themselves, left to drink themselves to liver failure or smoke their way to emphysema. I think my mother sees me as an easy target, or maybe she thinks that my brothers, older and more immersed in their bad habits, are already too far gone. My brothers take after our father who we never saw without a drink, cigar or fork in his hand. “We’re all gonna die someday,” he used to say. “Why not enjoy ourselves while we’re here?” It’s a mystery to me how my mother and father ended up together. I can only imagine that once, years before there was a family to worry about, children to keep alive, Mom was a somewhat lighthearted person – someone prone to bouts of recklessness and spontaneity, someone who saw in my father a sense of abandonment and was drawn to it. How many cases of colic, ear infections and ruptured appendixes did it take to steal all of that away from her? Was it gradual – boards softening and weakening over the years, the foundation slowly rotting out beneath her? Or was it sudden – the crash of a wrecking ball and then all that dust where once a building stood?

My father was not exactly careless with us, but he believed in letting kids be independent. Nothing was off limits – knives and matches were left in plain sight, electrical outlets were exposed and doors kept unlocked. For my father, childproofing the house meant locking up the cigars and liquor so we wouldn’t exhaust his supply. “Buy your own,” he said when my brother, at twelve, asked for a sip of beer. When I was eleven and my brothers were grown, or at least pretending to be grown in order to be out of the house, our father finally left. He left us for someone who was more appreciative of his lifestyle, and less prone to harping on him for all his bad habits that, god forbid, he pass on to his children.

My father was never sick, at least that I can remember. In my mind he was a hulking, robust man, too large to be felled by things as feeble as illness and injury. When my mother speaks of our father – which she rarely does – she says taking care of him was worse, by far, than caring for all three of us, even when were young and oblivious and always an inch away from some tragic, gruesome death.

“That man,” she says. “The way he ran himself down. It surprised me each and every morning to wake up and find him still alive.”

I still think of him as indestructible, despite my mother’s descriptions and my own distant memories of the drinking and smoking and napping with a cigarette still burning between his fingers. I think of myself as somewhat invincible as well, some imaginary inheritance from my father. So it surprises me to find myself sick with something that I cannot name or dismiss. Illness in my family has always existed as a threat and nothing more, and I know only how to handle this illness, the one that merely promises to emerge and tear our world apart.

When the pain first began, I thought it was indigestion, some heartburn. I took antacids, drank milk and slept most of the night sitting up, propped against pillows, but the pain continued and then worsened. Although I’m scared, I refuse to tell my mother because I can’t bear to hear her diagnoses and suggestions. I’ve been turning down her dinner invitations for three weeks thinking the pain will subside, so when the phone rings this afternoon I’m hesitant to answer.

“Are you avoiding me?” my mother asks when I pick up the phone.

“I’ve been busy.”

“Have you purposely been busy so that you can avoid me? It’s been weeks. Look, if you don’t come over tonight, I’m coming over there. Is something wrong?”

“There’s nothing wrong.”

“Good. Then are you coming over here or are you going to make me drive on the highway at night – you know how bad my eyes are.”

When I arrive at the house, I can see the shock in my mother’s face. I have lost more than ten pounds since I last saw her and my skin has turned some terrible shade of gray?

“You’re sick,” my mom says, and I can’t tell if it’s fear or excitement that I hear in her voice.

“It’s just a bug,” I say.

“How long has this been going on?”

“Not long. A couple weeks maybe? It’s probably nothing.”

“Oh, it’s something, alright,” she says. “I’m calling Carl.”

“It’s seven o’clock on a Saturday.”

“It’s fine. I have his home number.”

Mom calls Carl, and I overhear her making plans for me, recommending an MRI, blood tests, upper and lower GI’s. I have only a vague understanding of what these procedures entail, gleaned from the stories my mother has told me about her own experiences. I know that all of the tests are frightening in their own way. Each one will tell me something dark and foreboding about my body, something that is best left unknown. But what does my mom know about truths best left alone?

“Though I didn’t schedule one,” she says to me after hanging up the phone with Carl, “I think you should really consider an endoscopy. They’re very informative.”

“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves,” I say. “I’m not sure I even need all these tests.”

“Well, it’s best to be on the safe side,” Mom says.

At the doctor’s office the next morning, Carl is cheerful and full of questions about my body.

“There are lots of things we can do for you,” he says.

He has a list of questions for me concerning my symptoms, and we quickly fall into a pattern of Carl asking, me answering and Mom elaborating.

“You don’t even know what I’m feeling,” I say to her after the fourth or fifth question.

“Well, you’re being too brief,” she says. “How can you expect Carl to help you when you won’t even answer his questions in any detail?”

“Actually, I think this is a good start,” Carl says, interrupting us both. “I’m going to have a nurse take you to get some x-rays, and your mother and I will see you back here in a few minutes.”

Through the office window I can see Carl studying my x-rays with what I consider to be unusual seriousness. It is a look that I imagine passes over the faces of a flight crew when they first realize the plane is going down.

“It’s something terrible,” I say to my mother.

“It’s fine.”

“He looks worried.”

“All doctors look that way – pensive and in charge – it’s calming for the patients.”

“It is?”

“It gives the impression that everything is under control.”

“Is everything under control?”

“Now, I don’t want you to be alarmed,” Carl says when he enters the room and holds the x-ray up to the light. “It’s a very small mass, nothing to be worried about. Most likely it’s completely benign.”

My mother moves in closer to inspect the x-ray.

“It’s here,” Carl says to her. “Do you see it?”

“Oh yes,” Mom says taking the x-ray from him and turning it around in front of the light. “It’s very obvious, isn’t it?”

They point and nod and say things like minor surgery and biopsy. They throw those words around as if I were not even in the room, as if it were not my body, but somebody else’s, that was going to be split wide open and stripped of essential parts and pieces.

“It’s nothing to be worried about.” Carl says, turning to me.

“Yes, don’t be worried,” Mom says. “It’s practically nothing at all.”

“Your mom is right – it’s almost nothing,” Carl says. “Would you like to see what we’re discussing?” He takes the x-ray from my mother and motions for me to look closer. “It really is so small, hardly noticeable I would say. Can you see the mass we’re talking about? It’s here.”

Carl holds up the x-ray but I see only black and white and shades of gray. There is no mass. There is not even a body for the mass to have grown in. It looks nothing like my liver, my stomach. I want to tell them that they’ve made a mistake, that we’re looking at someone else’s x-rays, the insides of a stranger who, by the look of it, needs to get a hold of herself and decide just what exactly is going on in there.

“Are you having some difficulty seeing it?” Carl asks. “It’s here. Do you see?”

Slowly, as I look more closely, things begin to take form. Lines and shapes become more distinct, and even the color is changing and looking a little more blue than it did just minutes before, or is it more of a green? I look at it now, and I am surprised that I didn’t notice this before – it looks not unlike Lousiana. Or no, maybe more like an ocean liner cruising the Pacific.

“Can you see it?” Carl asks again.

Of course I see it. It’s an old man on a porch, smoking a pipe. A figure skater landing a triple salchow. Zebras running roaming the savannah.

“This is your liver,” he says and he points to Senegal. “And this is the malformation,” he says pointing to the bomber taking flight.

“”Do you see it?” my mother asks.

“Of course,” I say. “Of course I see it.” And I do. Everything is becoming clearer to me.

Melanie Roeder is a graduate of the University of Arizona and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She currently lives in Chicago where she is an occasional writer and a more frequent hypochondriac.

Landscape: A Storm

Anne Marie Rooney

a real sky is a real human
in the quiet sense
and stick stuff out the back
the bark age that there is
being necessary to quell
a feeling under all questions
and so the going of all extra
bespake every glow worm
                                                     this point of narcissism with zero
                                                     a trace of loveless on the wall
that in-deep                                    and shadow that exists in the easy zero
                                                     and the crash of course of arrows
                                                     as if one drew only on the condition of
                                                     not seeing the quell arch

carry throughout & quell
a heart tall in the thrush
if no bodies canteen again
no one body of fallen water;             or god of scales
or go-further is a real human
all of the shakes & thorough blues

                                                     those ugly empty slews
and what it is

outside of what isn’t moving               I took about my passing
anymore outdoors or in the station
into howsoever no even zero
that isn’t divisive or is this cartography
lines drawings of tearings
down stream out & bottom out

Anne Marie Rooney’s first book, Spitshine, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press in early 2012. She has won the Iowa Review Award, the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, and the Amy Award, and been featured in the Best New Poets and Best American Poetry anthologies. Born and raised in New York City, she currently lives in New Orleans, where she is a teaching artist.