I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
EVERY YEAR, the river in our town runs wild with fish. They overhatch in gullies that burst forth in a high streaming rush, floe versus fish, fish versus fish. There’s not nearly enough room for all of them. The water thrashes with tails and gills flipped from the stream. The unlucky ones you’ll see bouncing on the rounded blue bulge of the run, again and again trying to slam themselves down.
Women with houses that border the banks lean from their windows with enormous brass pots, the day’s dinner leaping straight into their arms. Children toss bread from footbridges to see the fish torpedoing up to the sky. Dogs go temporarily mad with excess, shaking upwards of four fish in their mouths, then take off trotting with them through the streets, exhilaration eclipsing the instinct to eat.
The run lasts three days. It leaves our roads slicked with entrails and a smell that, if it catches in your hair, you cut out. We stay indoors and wait for the sun to bake the streets dry, for the breeze to stir and send the dust downstream, off with the rest.
Then we eat yeast cakes. Then spring is here.
Susan Anspach is an MFA student at the University of Maryland, as well as a co-editor for speculative literary journal The Golden Key. Her work has appeared in feminist zine Ladybones, and this past summer she participated in the Prague Summer Program conference, through which she was awarded the John Woods Scholarship for writing.
Abigail sat in her bathtub and unraveled the extra folds under her knees. The bathtub allowed her to do this neatly, instead of catching her crinkly skin underneath the kitchen chair or crushing it within the sheets of her bed.
Cities rose and fell along her torso, interrupted by parks, museums, and neighborhoods designed like ant farms. Her thighs were made of ill-lit country roads.
She ran a finger along the interstate that carried blood down to her big toe, where she discovered a blank patch on the tip of her toe. The map suddenly ended there, in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, and stung like a scab cleaned with lemon juice.
Her map needed updating because something, whether by accident or construction, had changed.
Abigail packed her suitcase and booked a plane ride that afternoon. The Missouri sun beat down on her, making the ink run on the side streets beneath her eyes.
At the airport, she was asked, “Business or pleasure?”
There was nothing pleasurable about complete strangers staring at her body – or worse yet, bumping her in a crowd or sitting too close in the next seat over. The old man sleeping beside her on the plane rested his head on her shoulder, crumbling the yellow-coded district printed there beyond repair. Abigail couldn’t smooth it back out again.
When she arrived at Old Orchard Beach, she dressed in wellies, gloves, and a raincoat. Hot wind blew foam off the water and Abigail hated soggy skin worse than wrinkles.
She smelled fried fish and funnel cakes wafting off the Pier. A mermaid sand sculpture sagged in the sun. Children roared against the waves, playing at sea lions. The Sun Wheel gently turned.
And then she saw it. The change in the map. Her big toe itched as she approached the shoreline, her crackling heart thudding from being so close to the water.
Odval was waiting for her, his own wellies ankle-deep. His beard covered the Karakorum mountain range cataloged on his jaw and neck. His mouth split a hiking trail in half when he grinned.
“So you found it, too?” he said, rolling up his sleeve to show her the blank patch at his elbow.
Abigail kissed his cheek. “I didn’t think we’d be sharing the landmark. We’re miles away.”
But the maps of their bodies have never made sense. They memorized the new rock formation jutting out of the water – to anyone else, it was just another place to steer rowdy kids away from. But for them, it was another little detail of the world to record, worth risking their road-marked limbs.
Back in the hotel room, they’ll take out their pens and ink and fill the blank patches.
Kimberly Karalius is a third year MFA student at the University of South Florida. Her fiction has appeared in the Rose Red Review, The Medulla Review, Hogglepot, and Luna Station Quarterly. She likes plane rides, but the snacks are usually disappointing.
Pull out my teeth, darling, if you don’t want to get bit.
You could wear them on a string around your neck, or keep them in a mirrored box, a reliquary. You could carry them in your pocket like change.
But as long as I still have them, dear, I will keep them sharp.
I will drag you under until you drown, and then keep you there, until your flesh is soft, and maybe a little longer still.
Carlea Holl-Jensen is an English teacher and erstwhile folklorist. Her fiction has appeared in Pindeldyboz, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Shimmer, and she is the co-editor of The Golden Key.
I love this trend!
A favorite book cover trend of mine.
Adoring the trend in silhouette book covers.
The people who lived there learned from an early age how to mold and sculpt and paint and glaze bowls. When the basins were ready, they would be filled with sweets and paper wishes and lowered into the well, then left there overnight. In the morning, the bowls would be drawn back up. Sometimes, if the bowl and its gifts had been pleasing enough, the completion of a wish would be returned, no bigger than a sunflower seed.
I love her dress.
There is no beauty without some strangeness.
We wrapped him in a tight band of paper because we could not bear the thought that he might open his eyes in the dark of the ground and beat his wings furiously, hopelessly, against the fresh-packed earth.