Stateside

On Mondays, we eat Chinese food and pray
for sleep to come fast and well. When it does

we drift off with bellies full of noodles instead
of fish eyes or cash, green that balls up inside

and makes me ill. When I was young I split
cookies with my tongue and swallowed the

thin slips of paper like penance, maybe for
the orange peel I opened like a rose, maybe for

the white wings of the takeout boxes that folded
up like swans. Wooden chopsticks, oil

drippings – I hungered for it all. Even the receipts
Peter Choy marked down by hand – out of pity

or love, I couldn’t tell. Now Peter lives above
the store and writes the fortunes by hand.

I keep the rice paper pinned above my bed,
all the ink I can’t read, strange as butterflies.

Strange as the lanterns that swim the ceilings
like rivers of fish. Strange as the old woman

at the factory years ago, winter in San Francisco,
with her basket of broken chips. The one I took

was as papery and round as the moon.
In the dim she grasped my hand and asked

Do you see now? Do you see?

Eliza Browning is a seventeen-year-old high school senior from Connecticut. She is the editor-in-chief of her school literary magazine, Sidetrax, and the founder of the Janus Review, an online publication aimed at promoting diversity in the arts and amplifying the voices of high school and college students. Her work has been recognized by Hollins University and College Xpress.

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Bennington

At the line where the land meets the sea there’s nothing,
not even a pocket of smoke for my fingers to latch on to.

I trace the edges of the skylight with my tongue,
try to fit in words for bird and space and bleed.

I can feel the time passing. Once on a mountain
in Vermont a boy picked up my dropped ski pole

and handed it to me. Once a girl who slept below
the shore of Lake Michigan sent me letters

postmarked St. Paul and Alberta. The trees form a fence
and surround us. Like Halley’s Comet they know the way,

are liable to circle around again until we get what’s
owed. In your father’s old shirt you are faultless,

unsure, and the first open mouth on yours has sold you
an unshakable force: it leaves you wanting more and

more of it. A goose cuts through the whiteness overhead.
The acrid smell of earth and tree-rot. In the leaf litter,

something tries to hide its own heartbeat.

Eliza Browning is a seventeen-year-old high school senior from Connecticut. She is the editor-in-chief of her school literary magazine, Sidetrax, and the founder of the Janus Review, an online publication aimed at promoting diversity in the arts and amplifying the voices of high school and college students. Her work has been recognized by Hollins University and College Xpress.

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In Western Mass

When you leave the rain starts up again.
Here’s the thing about despair – it just sits there, unblinking.

On the green Chinese rug in the living room.
In its own baby-sized coffin in the parlor.

In the kitchen with a coffee cup, army-green uniform,
watching the snow fall. Snowfall: an empty, quiet word.

A whisper of the things we long ago dreamed on.
Lying awake in a barren crib. Walking around the house,

counting your footsteps in each corner.
The silver purr of the radiator. I think of all the days behind us

rippling into history. In the spare room, lace curtains
at the window, eiderdown on the bed. White weddings.

Rocking chairs. Friends growing old and dying,
babies being born and starting again. Children asking,

What is life? The spinster of an aunt, all of twenty-six,
answering. Privation. Austerity. Loss.

Eliza Browning is a seventeen-year-old high school senior from Connecticut. She is the editor-in-chief of her school literary magazine, Sidetrax, and the founder of the Janus Review, an online publication aimed at promoting diversity in the arts and amplifying the voices of high school and college students. Her work has been recognized by Hollins University and College Xpress.

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Recognition

There were too many dogs in the room. The call came in from the hospital: her grandmother had passed.

Her mother must have gotten the call too; she dialed her right away. She wouldn’t ask.

Light moved into the room. Milo had nosed the door open to leave, and she had forgotten to turn off the light in the hall.

Bax stayed put, not approaching her hand, but not giving up yet. There was space up there on the bed. The apartment was cold and she cut his hair too early. Spring was not here. Besides, he liked it when he stretched long and she stretched long, and he placed his back against her leg and leaned into her. That way he could tell if she woke up and moved. He could tell if she had left.

In the place before he had to back against a crate’s enameled metal. Nothing around him was stable. The crate did not support him—he could feel the space he pressed into between the bars. He could smell the people when they left.

Her grandmother had dementia. Seven years of disappearing from herself. One of the first Christmases she told her family she was leaving for the West Coast by herself. One of the last she didn’t talk at all.

It was for the best, her mother said. It was time.

Jackie, who had been her grandmother’s dog, pressed into her body.

Her mother told her animals are conscious, they have memories. She said this before other people like her said it. Even now, they brought their dogs to the closet mirror together, and they watched how their dogs watched themselves. Milo was nearly eight, and had seen the mirror many times. He pressed his cold feeling nose into his cold unfeeling nose, and if he did this more than once, he could obscure his vision of himself.

She didn’t know who she was anymore, hadn’t for years, she said to her mother. Perhaps she could again, wherever she was. Her mother agreed, perhaps without agreeing, and said good night.

When she was little, her mother would come to her room before she slept, and they told stories back and forth about their dogs’ lives. Lady had three puppies they had never seen because she kept them in the closet. This closet had a portal—a door opened on the other end and Lady took her puppies anywhere, everywhere they desired.

Her mother took her to her favorite café sometimes, usually just one weekend a month. There they heated the chocolate so hot she had to wait ten minutes to start, else she’d be scalded. When she forgot and drank too early, besides the burn, she noticed that the milk felt thinner, closer to water.

Someday, she will take her son to a different café in a different state. He will want hot chocolate and she will order it for him, even though he’s really too young to drink it. She’ll wait at the other end of the café after paying, her son on her hip. He will be getting too heavy by then—she will jut her hip out and feel the muscle stretch over bone to hold him. When the barista hands her his drink, her son will bounce from excitement and she’ll almost drop the drink. She will hold it far out, in case he bounces again, so that the movement tips it onto her hand and not onto him.

They will choose the best table open and sit down. She will get his toys out so he doesn’t have the impression of waiting as his drink cools. He will drink the hot chocolate, and he will say he loves it, but will be unable to finish it. She will hold his stuffed dog as he drinks, so that she can hand it to him when he says he’s done. She will watch him play as she sips the rest of his drink. Her heart will ache.

Natalie Gerich Brabson is currently a student in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College. Her work was published in New World Writing, and was included in Go On Girl! Book Club’s Magajournal as the 2017 Unpublished Writer Awardee.

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How Little I Know of Death

I wrote the letter today. The one that holds
your son, his limp body, oh
no letter could buoy
the blue jammies he wore
in your beaten arms.

This letter holds
a few wild buttercups
I found with faint hope.
They will bend too. For a few
bright days they grew.

Deborah Bacharach is the author of After I Stop Lying (Cherry Grove Collections, 2015). Her work has appeared in The Antigonish Review, Blue Mesa Review, Ilanot Review, Global Geneva, CALYX, and New Letters, among many others. Find out more about her at http://www.deborahbacharach.com.

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Let’s Leave What We Can

The stone walls stubborn themselves
against the foreground. We empty
out what we know and leave
the mould to carry on creeping.

The windows are openings to a past
we must leave behind. The cracks
that scarred what we saw. The damp
that wet our eyes too often.

The punch you gave me shuddered
our foundations. Words we said
that should never have been formed.
Slamming doors that only ever kept

the wind in. The logs we burnt, the glow
that filled half a room as we sat
in the dark. Let’s leave it there
behind the stubbornness.

Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He has his first collection out in April 2018 by FutureCycle Press. He hopes to achieve much more with the pen.

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Hemmed In

There’s a wall, twelve feet from our house.
It’s the boundary wall that keeps the estate
from spilling into local hands.
The wall fills the living room window,
like a bully’s palm in the face of a child.
To see beyond the stone
you have to go to the bedroom.
Mole hills wart the fields, and sheep
gather in their own undecidedness.
Six larch trees bottle brush the sky.
I feel like my world has been belted up,
and the tightness is killing my legs.
There’s a place I once knew on the other
side, my footsteps are there in the woods.
All I can do is listen to the wind
that carries my lost voice, and hope
it falls back into my mouth.

Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He has his first collection out in April 2018 by FutureCycle Press. He hopes to achieve much more with the pen.

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