Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from our favorite emerging writers
I prize recent listings
of what they dish out.
The upstart goodtimers,
who lose in sorry nocturnes,
wearing an electric blue suit.
I have a formula
for dizzy schemes
when it’s raining.
I will spread eagle
in a pile of branches.
I sponge my red scalp
I am getting dressed,
like the grim sentries.
I move with them
in all due respect.
At 13, I wished to pluck music
from thin air,
to play my yearnings,
themes from Love Story and Romeo and Juliet,
not pound stiff fingers
like pogo sticks
through staccato notes
my mom played on a triangle
in her childhood rhythm band.
Opening the keyboard
of our black upright,
the front panel puffed, lungs
filling with air. Struck keys
threw felt hammers
hearts beating in secret.
I put on airs
with my crashing chords,
wringing music from the monstrosity falling out of tune
against the damp basement wall,
notes competing with tennis shoes
thumping through the dryer,
I wore jeans to the recital,
hulked above little girls
in puffy party dresses who
coaxed out elegant tones
from a honey piano
sheet music dense
with tangles of notes
requiring a page-turner.
unable to gain traction,
bench slippery as ice,
I jolted through
my frenzied notes,
wishing to race into my future,
dragged into my mother’s past.
Air composed by King Louis the XIII,
said the line across the top
as if a king had conjured this song
from thin air, or concocted
its tune on an air guitar
or while soaring
in a hot air balloon.
My mother beamed
as if the music and she and I
were points on a triangle
connected by invisible lines,
but I was already far away,
soaring above the treble clef, the metal chairs,
my beaming mom,
my heart hammering
as I composed my life in secret, fingers launched
like springs from broken lines of notes.
too much heaven for a fault line
spiked a motrin & sat waiting for the next Naples refresh,
aimed a fleshlight towards the heavens for some kind of inverted sign
as the statued woman tied a little noose with her purse
to avoid devotion from the pyramid of men
climbing over sisyphus like stolen sex positions
imbued within their feet a journey and guys
I swear it was like pussy power FR
the dirt under her feet was wet with wine
and frustration, loitering weasels grew hungry
though their stomach calls could just be another sound
in the discordant nightmare of time, treaties b/t
them ran sacred with spit and though they drooled over
the silent ligatures running traces across her teeth there
was no difference once their saliva ate the floor
the beggars never age and their pockets, well
you know. it’s always starvation and chase in those deep street
corners that bundle rocks like foundations to endless
mountains of beauty and wealth
and poor neophyte wonder. cross-eyed and alighted
by the switchblade I forgot in my coat, I climb numbered stairs
to the hungover wet bones of Bowery
and stare out into the black moor, waiting for rain.
I fell in love with a girl
on the front cover of a weekly
tabloid. Afterwards, I nervously
teetered the edge of quenchless
fantasy. First, she looked like a junoesque feather of peacock floating in the sky. Then,
like a thousand blossoming roses
in aridity. This delusion I grew up with,
hoping I would someday meet her in the rain or perhaps on my way home down
the prints of metrical inscriptions. Her
eyes were a million stars, so
florescent-bright that it burns
the chamber of lone desires. She wore
a skimpy ankara outfit that showed off
her bare midriff. She was something
close to a bloodsucking apparition waiting
to eat up one's eyeballs, then gulp down the
charred chasm. Sometimes, I wished I
tasted sweat-drops on her skin, other
times, I wished she heard the quiet
forlorn of sanded hope in my heart, eager
to escape the wailings of a dying nation.
Sometimes, I wished she took me far away
to a distant shore, where she and I will
listen unruffled to the heartbeat of the sea. I
fell in love with a girl, riding the clouds of
Christina Miranda is a writer who has been featured in the Watershed Review, and serves as the co-founder and Literary Editor for Latinx Spaces- a publication dedicated to showcasing Latinx writers and other artists. She currently lives in Austin, Texas.
No one really cares about you when they’re hungry. To hell with you if they need coffee or a drink.
You’d think they would love you, you know?
I’m the one who gives them their coffee.
As much as I enjoy my line of work, everything has been too off for all of us who work in the service industry. Being a barista in the middle of the pandemic has become more difficult the deeper we fall into its severity. All this has certainly brought out the goodness in some, but it has also revealed the ugliness in so many. Funny what the plague can do, huh?
Now darling, why did you take this job? You signed up for this so just shut up and make my drink.
I took this job because it was one of the few that doesn’t destroy my whole soul, Kevin. Honestly, I love making coffee. I’m good at it, and it gives me the flexibility to do what I want outside of work like applying to grad school and writing in my spare time. You know, the things that will provide me a better quality of life. At some point I have to get out of this. You can only stay at the party for so long.
And there are plenty of others out there who love being in the service industry and make their career out of it. It’s exciting and humbling being on the floor. It makes you pay attention while keeping your feet on the ground. Between your favorite office buddy and a server, I would much rather hang out with the server and anyone who works in a kitchen.
They’re some of the best people in the world, and you know it too. They are the ones you always love to serve you when you go out. They take care of you when you’re hungry. They make your cocktail just right. It’s why you always want to talk to your bartender, ask for your server’s name, or fantasize about that cute barista you’re always thinking about and keep trying to talk to while they’re busy.
By the way, stop doing that. It’s creepy, Kevin. Just stop it.
What I didn’t sign up for was having to choose between not being able to afford rent and food, and insurance, because I desperately need it right now. And risking my life for your latte was not in the plan. You get to work from home. I don’t.
Allison Krupp is a Berlin-based American writer. She works frequently as a fiction ghostwriter. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patchwork faces marched down College Ave. Everybody was visibly dying. Their scrunched cigarette soldiers, post-duty, nuzzled close together by No Parking posts. This was my flat tire on memory lane. Caught between 54th street and College Avenue, time was licking at my toes. Life versus death was never so stark than in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis.
I sat where it all happened, or once had happened. Hump-backed TJ sizzled burger patties. He rustled the paper plate of flipped fries, heading out to my outdoor table. No, it wasn’t sun-drenched; there was nothing romantic about this sun on my table, on my cheeks. Impenetrable, inescapable. You paused for too long between breaths.
TJ’s rugged reflection caught in the tall pint as he approached. We knew each other once: spoke sluggish, drunken words. Back then, we were better, we were best. Now, heroin made his eyes dripping pools, his fingers fidget.
“He’s been stealing bills from our purses,” Anna slurped to me, dashing a knife into that waxing nostalgia. She sat across from me, her baby perched on her bird-like legs. Bracelets of fat bubbled beneath the skin of his cock-eyed arms. After he dropped the fries, TJ scratched the hump, stomping back to the smokey kitchen. His ponytail dribbled grease to the floor.
It was about two-thirds of the way down the pile when she spotted it. There were a couple of cracks – one faint and barely noticeable, the other quite a bit more pronounced – going horizontally all the way across the spine. But Clare could still make out the title and the author on the book: Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. The style of lettering in which the words appeared, however, she didn’t believe she’d seen elsewhere, and that gave her cause for optimism.
Could this have been the exact edition of Steppenwolf she’d been desperately trying to find?
It was temporarily imprisoned by the books stacked above it, but Clare was nonetheless determined to get the closer look she needed. Dogpiled on top of it were seven or eight other paperbacks about the same size – the small, portable kind that they used to call “mass markets” – also used copies, and in similarly harried condition. The titles included several recent bestselling novels (one of which was the second installment of a very popular fantasy series), a diet plan book, a tell-all by a famous rock star and collection of crossword puzzles.
She leaned in to try and dislodge the book from the pile. Despite her elation, she managed do it quite gingerly, so as not to knock the other books over, and ultimately leave everything else exactly as she’d found it.
This was one of Clare’s favorite tables among those operated by the street vendors on Sixth Avenue in New York City near the West 4th Street-Washington Square subway stop. She could even (for the most part) ignore the pile of hardcore pornographic magazines usually situated on the far left corner. There was also a stack of old 12-inch disco records propped up vertically, leaning against the front right leg. Everything else on this one table was books, which in turn were represented by a wide variety of bindings, sizes, subjects and conditions.
Rain and similarly disruptive weather were always the principle threat to these venders, but today not only the sun but also the temperature - a dry and comfortable sixty-two or so degrees – seemed to offer their full cooperation. Still, the Greek food truck which was usually parked on the corner chose to take the day off, so by default the aroma which dominated the immediate area was coming from the nearby pizza place which sold two slices plus a small soda for $2.50 (as they informed everyone through a sign handwritten on a paper plate).
Some of the neighboring vendor tables hawked everything from vintage comic books and baseball cards to used electronic devices and quasi-legal drug paraphernalia. Between them, the sidewalk peddlers on this relatively minute stretch of the America’s biggest city probably offered something for every taste.
However, Clare always knew exactly what she was looking for. And after successfully freeing Steppenwolf from the heap, she knew instantly that she’d found it when she spotted a name on the cover that wasn’t “Herman Hesse.”
That name was “Max von Sydow.”
Every autumn day Rose passes by the hot air balloon field in Stillwater, wishing she had enough money to go up for just one ride.
Last winter had not just taken a toll on Rose, it took nearly everything she had left. Now, she has a frostbitten toe and a frostbitten heart.
Rose knows that even the happiest golden leaves grow weary when they catch the first gust of winter’s harsh might. Rose knows that if the sun ever decides to go away for good she’ll try to make it promise to come back. Rose knows that if she would have had her life together, her adopted boy Frankie would still talk to her.
Across the air balloon field, sits a pawn shop. A pawn shop is a depressing place when you’ve got nothing to pawn, nothing to sell, and not enough means to buy anything. A job application turns into a hopeless slate the moment you see “Three years of experience needed.”
After staring at her weathered reflection in the pawn shop window, Rose turns toward the field and observes an unattended hot air balloon. She crosses through the dewy green grass, looks around, and hops into the balloon’s gondola.
The balloon is much bigger than Rose thought it would be. Her eyes widen as she gazes up at its bright rainbow colors. Suddenly, a pair of balloon tour guides run toward her, yelling “Stop!”
Rose quickly unravels the ropes from the ground, boosts the propane flame, and takes off into the sky. From this view, the falling leaves look like fluttering butterflies. Rose knows that when she comes down she’ll be in a lot of trouble. So she squints up at the sun and gives the balloon some more power.