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Tangerine Sonnet | Kenton K. Yee

Tangerine Sonnet

Is that a porcupine or a virus?
Hanging around didn’t seem safe
so I dropped last night. I take it
you did the same. Used to be
nobody would bug us on the branch,
but now squirrels, squirrels everyday
everywhere. Even on our own twig
we weren’t safe. But what do we
do now? How can we roll fast
enough to escape squirrels down here?
I can’t seem to roll at all. What if we
sprout wings, become orioles and fly
with coconuts—or are they owls?—
show the squirrels we’re top fruit?

Kenton K. Yee

Kenton K. Yee’s recent poems may be found in Hawaii Pacific Review, McNeese Review, Rogue Agent, Mantis, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Plume Poetry, Threepenny Review, and Rattle, among others. He writes from Northern California. INSTA: @kentonkyeepoet FB: @scrambled.k.eggs X: @leanpig

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decompose: A conversation with poet Séamus Fey

Hannah Grieco, editor-in-chief of the ASP Bulletin, interviews poet Séamus Fey about their new poetry collection decompose, out now from Not a Cult Media.


Hannah Grieco: First: Tell us about decompose!

Séamus Fey: decompose is for the cycle of growth. What you have to give up and let die, so that something new can grow. It's my very first book, and I have been making it since I still had the word "teen" in my age. I'm very glad it took so long, though, because I think the version of the book that's in your hands is decompose's final evolution. Likely, the book will grow more, but inside of its readers! If you have ever felt that terrible feeling of letting go of someone, something, or some version of yourself that you loved for the benefit of who you're becoming, decompose is yours.


HG: Can you talk a little about genre and form (or even genre vs form?) in this collection?

SF: The genre question is tough for me, as I write fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and plays, too. I've always moved fluidly through different genres, knowing that I will write them all at some point and (eventually) publish something in each one of them. As I don't live in one genre as a person, neither does my work. There's a poem in decompose that was published as flash fiction first. My press catalogued decompose under grief and loss, and LGBTQIA+ in bookstores and online. I think that's accurate, if we're going to label it as anything. There's also a tarot influence, so there's spirituality in there too. I think it belongs in all of the above. I call it my coming-of-age book, because one of the central themes is that we go through many coming-of-ages in our lives. It doesn't matter how old we are.

In the collection, there are many different forms. There are some sonnets, a triptych, prose poems, and two of my original forms. One of which is called the Spite, which I teach and have a forthcoming essay about. And the other I lovingly call "both sides of the coin" which can be found in the book as poems with two subsection titles in italics, with prose blocks beneath them. This form was an accident. I kept writing them, and then would find out that more and more of the poems in the book belonged in this form.

I love form. I was very resistant to it as a “youthier” youth. I thought it was The Man coming in to ruin my flow. Now, I see it as an incredible structure to guide a poem in stepping into its own shoes. Dr. Taylor Byas and I work on form a lot together, and she's helped me learn some new forms that were absolutely not natural to me at first. I have her and The Making of a Poem: a Norton Anthology of Poetic Form to thank for my development in form. My favorite forms to write right now are the duplex, the sonnet, and my "both sides of the coin" form.


HG: Who is your audience for this book? Who do you love to write to and for?

SF: This is a great question. My editor Shira Erlichman asked me this when we were in our first round of edits and I told her: every person out there who has ever been told they're too intense or feel too much, especially my little trans babies out there fighting to feel whole in this world. And if you've read Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red, you'll get this: all the Geryon's of the world. That's my audience. Also, really, anyone who wants to be here. I needed to be specific in terms of book curation, but now that the damn thing is curated, I can welcome everyone. You are my audience if you want to be. Welcome.


HG: How did this collection come together? Did you write individual pieces that slowly evolved into a collection, or did you know early on that you were writing with that aim?

SF: This collection has been forming for ten years. I've had more drafts of it than I can count. The meme that showed an author naming a file as "Final Draft (546)" is pretty accurate for decompose and I. Us <3.

I would say we slowly evolved. I tried this book as a chapbook in college, and then made many new drafts over the years. Eventually Rita Mookerjee said she thought it was time for me to develop a full length, so I tried. It turned out that that was all I needed to make a book. (The first draft of the full length, anyway.) I think three or four drafts later I sent my book to Daniel at Not a Cult. We had three more drafts and then finally, the actual final draft. It's hard not to change a book when its central theme is growth, letting parts of yourself die so that you may grow into something new. I think it's reflected in how much the book changed over the years.


HG: Were there any poems you initially thought would be included, but decided not to? Why?

SF: Oh, loads. I told Shira in our first meeting that it felt like the book was buried within the book. We chopped it down a lot. I think, ultimately, it was a matter of finding the heartbeat to the collection and sticking to it. A lot of the poems came out because they didn't fit in the world. I didn't object to cutting anything unless it was a poem that I knew in my gut belonged in there. There are more books to come, and it's not a book of my collected poems after all, it's decompose.


HG: What was the hardest poem to write in this collection? Were there any that slipped onto the page smoothly and easily, requiring little to no editing?

SF: The easiest, most "necessary" (I have a whole essay about what this means to me), and immediate poems were Dinosaur Spine and poem in which you get to be a kid. Poem in which you get to be a kid was so instant that it felt like nothing, and also made me feel incredibly vulnerable, so I actually didn't really count it as a poem that would be big to me. Then, in one of our meetings, Shira said she thought it was the heart of the book. I was so surprised, because to me it just felt like a little thing I wrote. Then I read it at my next reading and choked up while reading it. I was like, “Okay buddy, you wrote this poem off because it makes you feel vulnerable. I see you.”

The poems that needed the most time and attention were probably Associative Amnesia and I want to lay on the couch. I have Dia Roth, Shira Erlichman, and Taylor Byas to thank for help with edits on these two.


HG: I think many emerging poets find the act of ordering a collection confusing and overwhelming. What was your process for ordering decompose?

SF: Oh golly, YES it was a lot. I tried several different orders before I landed on the final. None of them were holding the collection together or guiding the reader through with a lantern. After talking with Shira, I had an idea and called for an emergency meeting of the Manuscript Ordering Club, which consists of Dia Roth, Dr. Taylor Byas and I. We hammered it out and the order fell into place.

Shira had asked me: If the book was a tarot card, what would it be? At first I thought it was the Death card. Then I thought it's its own card, which I call the Footstep card. The idea is the Footstep card lies in between Temperance and Death. It's the moment where something in you or in your life has metaphorically died or ended, and you don't want to let go, but you have to just take one step forward at a time and you will eventually make it to Temperance. Temperance, to me, is when you're reconnected with your path and/or your purpose, and remember why you're here. I spent some time with each poem, seeing which of the three cards it was living in. I placed each poem in either the Footstep, Temperance, or Death pile based on their content and how I'd read them in a tarot reading. So that's how I ordered the book, with the help of the world's greatest editors. The book order goes Footstep poem, Temperance poem, Death poem. With the exception of a few places where we take more than one Footstep.


HG: What is it about Tarot that called/calls to you?

SF: I've read tarot for a long time now. It's intuitive to me; even before I studied in the practice, it felt as though I had always been a reader. It helps me understand astrology, because each sign has a card associated with it. It's become the way I can help close friends through hard times. I read for myself sometimes, but most often I have other tarot readers read for me. It's become so intrinsic to me that I can't remember life before tarot. It's kind of something I keep quiet about, as it takes a lot of energy to do a reading, so I can't do them for everyone all the time. Also, though, it's so sacred that I tend to keep it close to my chest. It's a practice for myself, and to share with others when I choose.

Emotionally, tarot is an incredibly poetic tool. A tarot reading is not meant to be predictive, but rather to give light to a journey the querent is already on. Because tarot is an intuitive practice, and there is an element of intuition in my writing practice, the two are interlinked in some ways. They have some of the same sparkle to them. This book, in particular, is close to tarot due to ordering and its common theme in the individual poems in the collection. Also, with my tarot readings being centered on the present journey, and the book going through many evolutions/journeys, decompose itself feels like several tarot spreads to me.


HG: What is the first poetry collection you remember reading?

SF: One of Emily Dickinson's collected poems. I can't recall which one. Around the same time, I had a collection of Byron Keats and Shelley's poems combined into one book. After that it was Sharon Olds, Anne Carson, and Rita Dove.


HG: When did you first consider yourself a poet?

SF: In hindsight, it could have been sooner. I had a very tumultuous childhood, so I didn't think about much other than surviving for my first 18 years. I did keep a journal, and all my journal entries had line breaks in them before I knew what they were. I think out of all the genres, poetry is the most natural to me. I was writing poems before I knew they were poems. I didn't share any of my work until I was a senior in high school. I remember my teacher, who was very strict and read a lot of poetry, telling me that she thought my poem was beautiful and very well written. I still remember how surprised I felt by that. I never thought the work was any good, just that I needed to write it. Writing and reading were my only solace for a long time.

Eventually, I learned to desensitize myself to sharing my writing. It took a long time of repeating to myself, “Hey, I know this feels weird, but if you wanna do this thing like I know you do... you have to get used to sharing your work." I did, and in turn, found out some people actually kinda like my work!

In college, I was a theatre major, and my degree allowed me to take a lot of classes that would benefit me as an artist. I took English classes and two introductory poetry workshops. It was then that I realized I was a poet. I didn't know, before, that I would be allowed to call myself something I wanted to be that badly. I think I was under the conception that I had to wait for someone to knight me or something. I didn't know it could be as simple as loving poetry, writing it, studying it, living in it. It turns out I'm allowed to be a writer. It's actually still pretty wild to me.


HG: What's an early piece that you published that still feels extremely you?

SF: I published a poem in Knight's Library Magazine years and years ago called With two fingers I can squeeze the sun. It's in decompose. I was just telling a friend that it feels like I don't write poems like that anymore, but I don't think that's completely true, either. It's really light, weird and goofy—tells you nothing and everything you need to know. That energy still comes out in my poems, but they've also changed a lot since then. That poem and I can't focus right now but who can blame me, which I published in Hooligan Mag long before I was poetry editor. They feel like little windows to my interior landscape. They're just a bit quieter than my other poems; to really hear them you have to listen intentionally.


HG: Who are some writers you're obsessed with right now?

SF: Well, I am always, always, always obsessed with my poetry friends and editors: Dr. Taylor Byas, Dia Roth, Dare Williams, Jason B. Crawford, Susan Nguyen, Rita Mookerjee, Natasha Rao, Shira Erlichman, and Mag Gabbert.

ALWAYS Diane Seuss, Danez Smith, Richard Siken, Khadijah Queen, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Anne Carson. Always. *insert Snape gif*

And three collections that have come out recently that I am absolutely obsessed with are Black Pastoral by Ariana Benson, I Do Everything I'm Told by Megan Fernandes, and Once, This Forest Belonged to a Storm by Austen Leah Rose. I cannot recommend them enough.

I could go on and on. I'll stop after this: Amelia Ada, whose book is coming out with Dopamine, the incredible new press my friend Michelle Tea made with Beth Pickens. Amelia's work never ceases to blow my mind. And last but certainly not least, the poet Gem Arbogast. They have a lot of forthcoming poems, so be on the lookout.

S. Fey (they/he) is a Trans writer living in LA. Currently, they are the poetry editor at Hooligan Magazine, and co creative director at Rock Pocket Productions. Their debut poetry collection, decompose, is out with Not a Cult Media. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Poet Lore, The Sonora Review, and others. They love to beat their friends at Mario Party. Find them online @sfeycreates.

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FEATURED STORY: The Chase | K.C. Mead-Brewer

The Chase

Here it is, The Fool, stepping off his cliff. I love you, he says, I’m saying, and fuck. Thank god the road is there to save me from myself. It’s always known how to love me best, by being there, by running away from me. Every mile I gain on it, it’s got thousands more in every direction. My previous lives have all felt its pull and stretch, the tease of its bending smile: when I was Jonah boarding the ship, out out! to the sea!, crisp salt air filling my chest with hope even as a hungry god lurked in the waters beneath; the road, the road. When I was Persephone climbing aboard my lover’s
oil-black motorcycle—the way his engine rumbled, it sounded like the growling of a three-headed dog. When I was Merlin deliciously insane on the dirt paths of ancient England, my youth rushing toward my creaking body even as the wilderness tangled in on my mind, tempting me toward kings and lakes and crystal caves. When I was Odysseus and everything, everywhere, a wine-dark sea. When I was all one hundred and one of those Dalmatians sneaking off into the dark, fresh mud squelching beneath my paws, my fur coat the night sky’s wild inversion. When I was with Allen and Jack and taking their poetry like medicine against all that my preacher-father taught me in our years running 92 The Chase through every parish in North Carolina. When I was the hurricane that dragged my mother’s house out to sea and everything started again. How it’s always been a dawn in my chest. A notion clear and untouchable as light. My soul bending toward the scent of circuses— popcorn, elephants, funnel cake; the chalky taste of that sad clown’s makeup as we licked each other—and the blaring of foghorns, the crunch of waves against a ship’s hull, the violent romance of a pirate’s laugh as they take you in their arms and swagger, “Kiss me if you want to live.” My grandmother, several greats back, smeared her naked body with blood jelly in hopes of drifting up to her lover, the moon. She scrawled with the black ink from a snake’s fang into a diary that now bakes in my old Impala’s glove compartment: Only ye who wish to be chased shall run away, and yes, Grandmother, yes! If you don’t chase me, how will I know you love me? If you don’t chase me, how will you ever taste my dust? If you don’t chase me, whose arms will I fall into at the edge of the world? What is a great fuck but a great running away—a flight into another’s body, another’s pleasure, another’s breath. I don’t care about sex, but I care about this: the road. The motion. The glorious roar of the horizon, a cheek so soft, so exquisitely curved, you’ll reach to touch it again and again and helplessly again. If you aren’t running by now, you’re either dead or much braver than me. If you aren’t running by now, there’s nothing I can do for you. If you aren’t running by now, sweetheart, it’s because you’ve already been caught.

K.C. Mead-Brewer

K.C. Mead-Brewer is an author living in beautiful Baltimore, Maryland. She writes mostly weird, dark fiction, the kind of stories that love flashlights, closets, and the green dark between the trees. For more, check out her website:

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Out of Nowhere | Vanessa Micale

Out of Nowhere

It was near nightfall, teasing and tenuous between pitch black and gray fog. The fog came in along the curvy road on Highway 1 north of San Francisco. The wind slapped the truck, windows down. Robert turned up the music on the tape deck. Lou Reed cupped his mouth over Robert’s ears with a lullaby about the kind of love you can’t lose because it lingers regardless of what’s on the physical plane.

Robert’s backpack slid against the floor as he took a curve. The road was smooth. It was hard to see the dangerous drop of the road edge as the light sunk. This thrilled Robert even as it made his head dizzy.

Don’t think about the water. Don’t think about the cliff edge. He gripped the wheel. He imagined the waves as slurping mouths, sea foam spitting out all sides. The salty residue coated his forearm. It was wild to snake over the asphalt at 40 miles per hour while his mind conjured up landscapes and then there she was again, Rosalie, lingering.

Robert was lost in a daydream of Rosalie’s teeth as her full-bodied laughter cascaded. Everything about Rosalie was full-bodied, from the wine she drank to her hips to her tenderness and rage.

The thump of an animal body broke the smoothness of the road. He pulled over at a gravelly turnout. He calculated how he would put an animal out of its misery if it was injured beyond repair. He grabbed his flashlight and shone it down a few yards. He hoped this gesture would be enough. He hoped the animal had leapt up the hillside with panicked adrenaline to bleed and die out of sight. He hoped to get back in his truck and home to Rosalie to tell her that after two nights on the mountain, he was ready to be the man she needed.

An animal whimpered. Oh fuck, oh fuck. His flashlight caught the eyes of a dog otherwise invisible with its shaggy black fur swallowed in shadows on a bed of rocks and brush. He was still 45 minutes from the nearest town. He walked towards the dog, who was in too much shock to move or run away from him. Robert threw his jacket over the trembling body. I got you, its ok, its ok, you’re ok.

As he lifted the dog, he could feel the heat from its body against his own. He couldn’t see or feel the wetness of blood, but he knew the bleeding could be internal. He lowered the dog onto the passenger seat and took off up the long highway. He tore over the ribbons of road past the sheen of the median and reflective markers and finally the oncoming rush of headlights on the 101. Robert looked over at the motionless pile, the rough outline of a dog underneath his jacket. Had it taken its last breaths? Was the dog still there, or was the jacket a marker of absence now? He moved his right hand under the jacket, rested it on the matted fur to check for warmth. The dog’s eyes opened, a soft sheen in the night.

When Robert pulled into the vet parking lot, the dog’s eyes were closed, breaths shallow.

Robert hadn’t spoken to another human in days. His voice emerged scratchy, subterranean.

“I need help. I hit a dog on the highway.”

“What happened? Were there any other cars around?” The young receptionist blinked at Robert under the fluorescent lights.

“It came out of nowhere.”

The truth was he didn’t know if the dog lingered lost in the middle of the road or leapt suddenly in front of the truck. At the moment of impact Robert was just as lost, remembering Rosalie.

Robert’s hands trembled as he filled out his name and address on the clipboard. He waited in the truck until the vet staff came out with an update. The dog had a fractured leg, but no internal bleeding, no tags, no microchip. Robert thought about the permanence of committing to a dog, how he and Rosalie would name this dog together, the way they might one day name a child.

Robert stayed in a motel for the night while the dog recovered from surgery. In the morning, Robert was on the road with the dog, who slept, heavily drugged. He tried to imagine what it would be like to see Rosalie again.

When he pulled into the driveway, he was met with her absence before he opened the car door. She had taken her favorite wind chimes and cut all the flowers from the front yard. When he walked into their small house, he was in a stranger’s home. The walls were stripped bare of her decor. Her closet was empty.

Robert brought the dog inside. The dog’s black fur was shaved around the surgery site. Caramel canine eyes scanned the room and returned to Robert who kneeled, palms open with pain meds hidden in bacon flavored pill pockets.

Robert wanted to feel the searing despair of being left alone. The only thing Robert could feel was the warm tongue of the dog against his open palm. Maybe Rosalie was right, that he was a man with a closed heart, unable to feel the world around him.

Just a few days before, when he still had a home and he still had Rosalie, he didn’t hear the pop of the Achilles tendon of their love, how the torn tendon wouldn’t bear any more weight.

“It’s like trying to love the fucking glaciers. You just melt out of reach.” Rosalie stared into the yard, stoned and tired.

“So I’m dead inside? I’m a disappearing glacier?” Robert tossed the words at Rosalie’s back and watched them slide off her spine along with past sarcastic attempts at reflective listening and “I” statements.

He wanted to place his hand on Rosalie’s back. He wanted to kiss her perfumed neck of tobacco and amber.

Instead, Robert hefted his backpack on. “I’ll see you in a few days. I do love you Rosalie.”

When Robert opened his eyes again, his hands were empty. He listened to the dog’s breath against the soundlessness of no wind chimes. Somewhere Rosalie walked with an armful of freshly cut flowers.

Vanessa Micale

Vanessa Micale is a multidisciplinary artist who lives in Portland, Oregon. She is a mixed Uruguayan American who creates across monikers and mediums as a poet, writer, singer-songwriter, musician and performer. Their work has been Pushcart nominated and appears in The Hopper, Roxane Gay’s The Audacity and zines + things. Vanessa has received support from Latinx in Publishing (2023), Randolph College MFA Blackburn fellowship (2022), Anaphora Arts (2021) and VONA (2018).

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The Wolves of Paris | Ryan Deegan

The Wolves of Paris

To a girl searching for proof of her own uniqueness, a wolf at a window is a curious thing.

Car lies in bed, knees to her chest, mouth held under a heap of blankets, collecting the heat of her own exhalations.

Behind the bifold shutter, the wolf's shape moves across imperfect seams. She has a curtain that would block out this view, but when it's this cold it's best to keep the curtain atop her with the other blankets.

The snout lifts, floats in search of food-scent. The thin shadow of another passes behind it. The window should’ve been fixed in the fall, but no one could have predicted the winter of 1450 to be this severe. Car shuffles her legs, hides from pockets of cold. She considers the fact that blankets don't provide heat, only trap your own.

The wolves are nocturnal curiosity. The wolves are night's probing tongue.


On more than one occasion, Car has been described as ‘an unfortunate twig of a human.’

A diminutive girl, even her name is a diminutive of a diminutive of a diminutive. Carolane shortens to Carole which truncates to Caro which abridges to Car. Given the French propensity to abandon the final letters of any given word, her name comes out as a melodious and barely pronounced Ca. Like a stifled cough someone tried to sing.

She suspects if she doesn't get married soon, her name might vanish all together.

At fifteen, with a penchant for imagining boys without their clothes on, she has tacitly defined herself as all humans do: unique among the mass of existence but with no clear understanding of how, while patiently waiting for evidence of this belief to present itself. She thinks herself unique despite knowing that all humans think themselves unique, which makes her unique.

She is aware of the irony.

"I saw a wolf last night." In the morning, she tells her mother who scrubs at the washbasin.

The porridge in Car’s bowl is warm but not warm enough to fend off night’s catacomb chill. The pots her mother hangs are valuable and kept far from the window where they might be stolen.

"Going to market later."

"I said a wolf came to the window last night."

"Good thing you have no meat on you."

The wolves are new to Paris, having entered the city's dilapidated defensive walls from the surrounding forest that has been raked clean by the two hundred thousand people who reach out from the ancient city. But people seldom care about failing walls: a wall's disrepair is a gift from peace.

Outside, between houses, the trash barrels haves been knocked over, their contents rummaged and sniffed and tested.

The wolves are the need to survive. The wolves are the forest’s reflexive reach.


When at church, Car passes her time glancing around in search of boys whom she imagines without clothes. It is not a particularly easy task, seeing as how she has never seen a boy her age naked. She has seen older men on two occasions. Once, when her grandfather needed the assistance of two people to get out of bed. The second, at a public beheading where the body lay on the street afterwards.

Both times were a mere glance. Both times didn't quite seem representative of real life.

When service ends, an argument ensues outside the church. It seems Madam LaCour’s child is dead, attacked by wolves. Held in place, the mourning woman screams threats while the men debate whether to let her see the remains of her child. On the far side of the courtyard, Monsieur Clarion holds a wrapped blanket stained in red, his back to the arguing crowd.

Car finds a declaration of curfew nailed to the church door. If it is to be believed, more than just this one child have already been killed.

Atop the holy water floats a thin sheet of broken ice.


Car's boyfriend's name is Etienne. They have kissed twice. She has not seen him naked.

He works at the dock and speaks almost exclusively of his future successes without providing a means by which he will accomplish them. Two years older than her, he doesn't like the word boyfriend or use the word girlfriend and will not let her tell anyone they have met a few times at night.

Car often fixates on the word boyfriend, which holds within it the connotation of worthiness, but not as much as the word fiancé, which she one day looks forward to using so everyone can see that she's valued and therefore valuable.

At night, they meet in an alley behind the pub he frequents.

"You smell good."

"Like what?" The quickness of her response betrays her neediness.

He licks her lips. "Don't know." He sucks on her neck. He makes her feel not so thin. She can see her own breath and he smells of beer and she asks, "Can I see you naked?"

The sucking on her ear is too loud.

"It's cold," he says and takes her hand, guides it under his clothing, and she feels, explores, without aim or knowledge of any desire that might exist beyond exploration. What she’s done to his body is physical proof of her desirability.

Down the street, the pale glint of a wolf’s eye flashes across the intersection. It pauses, assesses them as Etienne's hand makes explorations of its own.

When the wolf moves on, an entire pack follows behind it.

The wolves are moving grey famine. The wolves are a skin-hugged rebuttal to a city's plunder.


Dozens are dead.

The eight-year-old daughter of a merchant. A homeless man under a bridge. It's hard to know what’s rumor and what’s real. The poor are the hardest hit.

Car's family is not poor but not rich. Her blankets are thick and supple – her favorite possessions – and if she complains of the cold, she'll be told to put some meat on her bones. If she asks for more blankets, her father will chuckle and tell her to sleep with the rest of the family like a normal person. She refuses.

The room she has claimed as her own is actually a large storage closet, at one point used to store barrels of mead when their house was a store. The rest of the house is definitely warmer, but having her own space makes her feel in control and fascinating.

At night, in the room that isn't a room but is hers, she masturbates without knowing the word masturbate, unaware that she is not the first to discover such a thing.

At first, she impersonates Etienne's finger, which itself had uncomfortably impersonated intercourse, but soon she finds something decidedly better, simultaneously delicate and seismic.

Her mind sets on the feel of Etienne's hardness. She climaxes without knowing there is such a thing and is somewhat startled, and when the wolf comes back, she's already looking at the window, her head lolled to the side, mouth breathing little clouds just beyond the frontier of blankets, confused about what just happened, unafraid, so certain this animal understands her.

The wolves are innocent desire. The wolves are nature's exploratory touch.


Car can't wait to be older but knows when she's older she'll want to be young again, which means there must be a day in between where she's exactly happy with her age and wonders if that'll be the day she and Etienne will announce themselves to the world.

Etienne has spoken of their future only once. It's hard to get him to speak of it again.

The people of Paris have given a name to the leader of the pack. The largest reddish wolf with a missing tail. They call him Courtaud. Marie Claire next door writes a song about him and sings it in the street.

As the wolves grow bolder, King Charles and the city's government present no plan other than declaration that the curfew is now enforceable by police. So men begin speaking of organizing a militia.


Behind the pub, Etienne's hands feel colder than they should on Car’s belly. The curfew makes it easier to see him now, makes it easier to be out at night.

She waits for the heat of the moment. "Should we get married?"

"Boss has me carting now 'stead of working the dock."

"Should I come visit you?"

His face buries into her neck. Her mouth parts. He moves quickly, hikes her dress, exposes her to night's cold. In the days to come, an assembled militia, including her mourning father, will gather and drive the wolves onto Île de la Cité, where they will be surrounded and beaten before the cathedral of Notre Dame.

Over Etienne's shoulder, Car sees the pack collect, shift, their focus maniacal and confident as Etienne works and she is unique and wanted and there are things more important than curfew.

Ryan Deegan

Ryan Deegan lives in the deserts of Las Vegas, where he masquerades as an airline pilot by day so that he might write stories by night. His primary focus is long form fiction. You can find out more or connect with Ryan at

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Waves | Francesca Leader


My in-laws’ summer house is two thousand and eighty-two steps from the Marmara Sea. The kids count as we walk, sandals slapping, zig-zagging the landmines of rotting figs and dog turds. Three summers ago, we only had Sibel and Erol. Now there’s Beril, the last one, fat-thighed anchor around my waist. We gave them names that work in both Turkish and English. Names designed to ferry them safely between their father’s culture and mine.

At the beach, we find cigarette butts. Bottle caps. Glass shards. A dirty diaper, plump with disdain, wedged between stone wall and trash can. Making the best of things, I find a clean patch wide enough to set up the chaise lounge, spread the towels and toys out, and warn the kids not to dig too deep. Little Beril stays near, content as a monk in a garden, scraping her shovel, filling her bucket with ancient rock glitter. Sibel and Erol run screeching toward the water. They hobble at the edge where pebbles collect, harder to walk on. As you go out farther, the sand takes over again. It stays shallow a while. You can wade almost to the end of the pier. Then it drops off, with a corresponding plunge in temperature, and you know the ocean’s touched you. This is where they turn back, call out to me.

When (if) Orhan shows up, he’ll make them swim. He’ll carry one on his back, pull the others by their arms, far out into the cold, scary part. He knows the resting points—boulders and sandbars breaking the deep where they can pause when they get tired, shout and wave at each other across a blue-black expanse. I can see them again, the way they were three years ago. The ideal children Orhan imagined we’d have. Before they began to defy and deceive, to push for selfhood. Before he retaliated by raising the branch of his love too high, and taught them to fight for it.

I was seven months pregnant with Beril on our last visit. Erol was two and couldn’t swim but didn’t know it. I kept pulling him back, and he kept toddling into the water, eyes wide, mouth open, and stood there, wobbling in ecstasy as the waves crashed into him. Sibel, who was four, forgot I existed, calling “Daddy, Daddy!” all day long, begging him to take her back out into the deep. The kids adored him that summer. I watched them with my hand on the calm waters of my womb, reassured that I’d made the right choice. That one more baby would make Orhan—and, thereby, all of us—happy. I imagine him back at the house now, enjoying a leisurely breakfast with his mother waiting on him as she did until he moved abroad for college, wife and children (shooed off to the beach) waiting for him. Perhaps for the moment, at least, Orhan is satisfied, reliving the ease of his youth.

The waves bear flotillas of jellyfish the color and size of lychee fruit, harmless unless you grab them, and a few that are huge and lightning-charged as the lost contact lenses of Zeus. The kids shriek whenever something in the water brushes them. They come crying they’ve been stung, but no marks. I say it must’ve been seaweed. Look back at the sweat-dampened page of the book I’ve been pretending to read as a way of being alone inside myself. It’s almost ten and getting hot.

But a discovery, at last, draws me out: dozens of hermit crabs, in shells like severed ice cream cone tips. We capture as many as we can, put them in a bucket filled with seawater, kelp, a little sand-scape. They put out claws and feelers, start to get the gist. Then they panic, scurrying around the perimeter of the bucket, getting nowhere. Each kid picks a crab and says I’m this one. We watch them battle. First Sibel’s crab is winning; then Erol’s crab. “That’s you, Mommy!” says Sibel. She means a small, harried one with a hanging leg. Wounded, but still going. We all know which one’s Daddy—the big bully, emboldened by an extra-large shell.

Long after the kids have moved on, redirecting their energies to complaint of hunger or thirst or fatigue, I find myself unable to stop watching the crabs do laps around the bucket, crashing into and running over each other. I think of the thing we all want: escape.

“Why does daddy do this?” Sibel furiously flings these words, and herself, into the sand.

“I don’t know, sweetheart.”

“He’ll be mad if we leave,” says Erol, lip trembling.

“No, he’ll understand,” I say. It’s a hope, a lie, a mix of both.

Beril alone is unperturbed, still certain of her own perfection. But I’ve seen this before. It can’t last.

Dumping the bucket of crabs back into the waves, I see it’s already too late. The big bully crab has subdued all the others, pinching off their legs and eye-stems, dooming them to drift, blind and rudderless, waiting for the pain to end.

We take a side street, in case Orhan is finally on his way. If we ran into him, he’d drag us all right back to the beach, tired or not. Sibel, the fiercest resister, is small enough yet that he could carry her—and he would, kicking and screaming. Once he got her back to the water he’d say, See, what was all the fuss about? I’d check her later, out of his sight, for bruises. What will I do, I wonder, when the first mark appears, dark as a crushed plum, on my child’s skin? Will it be enough to propel me—frightened, overburdened—into the unknown reaches?

I say, “Hold my hand, Erol,” because he needs me to. With Beril on my hip, Sibel out in front, we walk back to the house that’s not ours, each of us preparing, in different ways, for what awaits.

Francesca Leader

Francesca Leader is a self-taught writer and artist originally from Western Montana. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Fictive Dream, Barren, CutBank, the Leon Literary Review, JMWW, the Mom Egg Review, Stanchion, Streetcake, Bullshit Lit, the revival issue of Shō Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. Learn more about her work at, or connect with her on Instagram at and Twitter at @mooninabucket.

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Postmemory | Michael Don


Sometimes she would put her hands on his shoulders and plead, “Are we gonna be alright?” and he would reply, “What’s the alternative?” This was in their early years of togetherness, when uncertainty reared its head so boldly that she began consulting her family psychic, the one her grandma and most beloved aunt used. He also consulted his family psychic, secretly, as no men in his family, at least not openly, had ever done so. His maternal grandfather read coffee cups, but jokingly, only to make a spectacle of himself. Scholars or psychologists might attribute their mode of being—this resigned doom—to the genocide their grandparents and great-grandparents had barely escaped in 1915. Internalized postmemory trauma, or something of that nature. But she would never use the past as an excuse for the present; she would say it was simply how they were wired, and he tended to agree, praying that it wasn’t in fact more complicated.

The psychic was right. She always was. In the second decade of their togetherness they had met all the major milestones they had set out to meet. Only time had been doing something very funny and one day they woke up and realized not only were they middle-aged, but the other side of middle-age was imminent—everything was now imminent, shrinking, filling in. Somehow their baby—who became a boy, an adolescent, a young man—was already on his second marriage. Many of their dearest friends, the ones they would host for dinner parties and even the couple with whom they once shared a THC-induced carnal night, were gradually moving away to retirement communities in warm climates or the city their eldest grandchild inhabited. Back in their mid-thirties, the beginning of middle-age in view, the night they closed on their house, they laid in bed unable to sleep, pinkies clasped, feet touching—he declared it would be the last time they would move, and she agreed, assuming they were blessed with the best of fortunes.

When his body finally powered off, he was ninety-three and she was ninety-one, having spent the majority of their togetherness acknowledging and basking in and questioning their good fortune, waiting for it to turn on its head. Too bad all along he’d been pulling out his eyebrows and she’d been chewing the skin inside her cheeks. Too bad the psychics couldn’t penetrate their cores. Too bad shit never did hit the fan. Too bad their child never rebelled, never said they were being unreasonable or that he hated them for what they passed along to him or that he wished he was never born. Too bad she never told her husband that her psychic declared there was no legitimacy to their self-fulfilling prophecy. Too bad she never trusted her psychic, never reported any of the good news to her husband. Too bad she fired and rehired the psychic dozens of times because she refused to acquiesce to any of that positivity nonsense.

Now, in their beautiful old colonial, over black coffee and popcorn with her dearest and oldest friend, she declares everything did more or less work out—even if thanks to it her son can’t hold onto a job and thanks to it her nine-year-old granddaughter can’t sleep in her own room—and she finds herself smiling at whether she stays or goes, all that being inside of her, his flakes and nails and hairs still collecting in cracks and corners and under things.

Michael Don

Michael Don is the author of the story collection Partners and Strangers (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2019) and Coeditor of Kikwetu: A Journal of East African Literature. His work has appeared in journals such as Washington Square Review, The Southampton Review, World Literature Today, and the Brooklyn Review.

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in the end we all become houses | Violeta Garza

in the end we all become houses

after Margaret Atwood

in the end
               we all become

a kitchen
          with a too-short
                                 a blanket like dimpled thighs,
                                                  a shoe rack
                                                               in the corner
                                                                           for those ankles
                                                                                     that leave and return.

                                                  it seems that my body has transmogrified into
                                                  a quarter of space in a four-plex,
                                                  compartmentalized and cozy–
                                                  crooked wooden floors and
                                                  cupboards that have been sealed shut
                                                  for– oh,
                                                                                           what reason?

                                                                                                         a window ledge
                                                                                            embraces the curry
                                                                               and rosemary plants outside.
                                                                   they wait for my fingertips to
                                                     to climb and clutch
                                       and speculate about
                       the next forage into fertile soil–
               a birdflight
in reverse.

Violeta Garza

Violeta Garza (she/they/ella) is a non-binary Latinx poet and weaver from the Historic West Side of San Antonio, Texas. Named a semi-finalist for the 2023 Nine Syllables Press Chapbook Contest out of Smith College, she has been published in Acentos Review, Boundless, and Yellow Arrow Journal, among others. She is also a member of the Macondo Writing Workshop. Their safe space is listening to cheesy Mexican love ballads from the 1980s. You can peruse their work at

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Smart & Rhapsodomancy | Lesley Wheeler


At twenty-five, adrift in the mirror,
I cried, It will never get better than this!
Sobbed as if a time-lapse film
unblossomed in the rented sheen

of the medicine cabinet. The girlishness
I was told to tend ready to crisp and drop.
That’s what pretty does. It dies.

So I shrugged off pretty, despite
my mother’s warnings, and chose
a cheap wedding dress that quit
at the knee and loosely shrouded

the most suitable I’d ever be. Refused
to process in regalia for my PhD.
Smart shatters the vase.

Smart skips the strappy heels.
Smart enough to learn I would never
matter to my father except
as I reflected him, I gathered

bouquets of promotions and pages,
each stained by pistils under pressure
for years. Now I’m a litter of leaves

molding in a specimen jar.
Through the bottle protecting me,
I see how often it’s the pretty one
gilded by honors. The irony.

It’s not that I picked the wrong
way to please, but my eyes
smart at the fumes sometimes.

Lesley Wheeler

Lesley Wheeler, Poetry Editor of Shenandoah, is the author of the forthcoming Mycocosmic, runner-up for the Dorset Prize, and five other poetry collections. Her other books include the hybrid memoir Poetry’s Possible Worlds and the novel Unbecoming; her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Poets & Writers, Guernica, and Massachusetts Review.


Major Arcana

O. Every time you speak, you’re dancing at the edge of a cliff.
I. Just seize the mic, ignoring the pong of scorched plastic. You will burn your candle at both ends and never die.
II. Be pomegranate. Come on, try.
III. Mantra: you are not everyone’s mother. This is an epoch of abundance. Scarf it down.
IV. There’s a dick in your life. Could it be an inner dick? If you live by the clock, break it.
V. So many futures to reveal, so many truths to tell yourself. In the meantime, whatever your temple, bring it flowers. You crave the groove of holy music.
VI. Volcanoes are fertile and aflame. Choose what you love—or love not to choose.
VII. The stars may bloom in daylight and sphinxes adore you, but you’d better keep your hieroglyphic armor on.
VIII. Maintain a firm grip on that red snout. Some fail to observe your magnetism, given the head-rush of roses.
IX. Dusk is swooning. Today will be resinous: rosemary, lavender.
X. See what happens when you ask a poem for advice? Every word is a chimera. All you can do is ride it.
XI. Expect an acid verdict from a sharp-tongued woman. Swallowing it may sting your throat.
XII. Upside, flipside: what crucifies you is also alive.
XIII. Don’t freak out. Desire always dies.
XIV. Pour yourself a glass of something expensive. Now share it.
XV. You didn’t need wine in the first place, you thirsty thing.
XVI. It seems like lightning forks down from the sky, but it leaps from the ground to knock you out. Life will zap your hat off with a thrumming sound.
XVII. There’s always a risk, yet if you pour out your nakedness, you just might shine.
XVIII. Appreciate that you are pulled into tides by a satellite.
XIX. Backed against a wall, you thrive.
XX. Roll your liquid eyes at prophecies, but the angel still arrives.
XXI. Float up and enjoy some perspective. You know how fireflies alight as they rise? That's beautiful you, luminescing.

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Toads & 4.22pm, December 5th | D A Angelo


The plane tree leaves are reincarnated toads.
Look how they croak under a ballast
of snow, how they cannot tolerate
a weight of rain heavier than grief
or love or lust or any human thing.
Look how they curl into boats
at the sight of birds, as if the beaks
pecking away at their hulls
might reveal some secret innocent
and slippery as a tadpole.

4.22pm, December 5th

The night is unboxing itself.
Out comes a grey cloud
doubling up as a murmuration of starlings.
Out comes the last of the blue,
muddy as brushwater, above the cathedral’s polished scalp.

The commuters at the bus stop
tremble like fearful dogs
at the uncertainty of the hours.

Buses bark away the cold,
struggle to shake off the animals
attached their mammoth bodies.

We are all caught between ages,
I imagine, feeling my legs
stiffen like a prehistoric beast
caught in a tar pit.

D A Angelo

Shortlisted for the 2023 Manchester Poetry Prize, D A Angelo is a UK-based poet with work in Eclectica Magazine, Free the Verse, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Sage Cigarettes, Flights of the Dragonfly and Petrichor Mag. New work is forthcoming in SurVision and SUNHOUSE Literary.

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