Photo by David Marvin

This week, Associate Fiction Editor Ethan Brightbill asked our editors how they’re kicking off summer.

Jackson Keller
Associate Editor, Fiction
Livonia, Michigan

Swearing that today is finally the day I’m going to clean my apartment before going outside to frolic in the woods for three hours instead.

Tianli Kilpatrick
Associate Editor, Nonfiction

Visiting much-missed Dunkins and beginning to read thesis books.

Ethan Brightbill
Associate Editor, Fiction
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Bombarding lit journals with my work. I’ve been terrible about submitting since starting grad school, so I’m making up for lost time.

Krys Malcolm Belc
Associate Editor, Fiction
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In New York doing some research for my thesis and eating as many bagels as I can.

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Photo by Jack Satta

Lower Columbia Watershed Haibun: Field Notes on Going Home Again

1. There are no watersheds downstream, only the ocean. There are no watersheds downstream, only the ocean. The ocean, the repository for everything. Microbes, salt, aluminum foil. Herbicide, pesticide, plastics, oils. The taste of your cheeks when you cry. No watersheds downstream. Upstream, the Willapa Bay watershed and the Lower Columbia-Claskanie watersheds, where also you have lived and wandered the logged hills, the fished rivers, the lusted-after foxglove you hoped would stop your heart from longing, from wanting, wanting anything but these logged hills, wanting anything you didn’t have, which was everything except your body, the body you pressed like a flower, tired of filling in the gaps, into the pages of a book until it was flat and thin. You drank the flower (to stop your heart from wanting a boy?, any boy who didn’t want you); you were stupid and malleable, you were not yet a feminist, you were always a feminist, walking into those hills was a way of walking into an ocean of fuschia, of waves, a meadow of not-metaphor. You wrote and you wrote and you wrote. No writing it out ever satiated your thirst. These flowers are still one way to die, drowning, electric current plushing your heart, slowing it until it stops beating and you fall into the river below. Chemical defoliant. Fleshy waste.

          On your father’s nightstand:
          a revolver
          in its case.

2. One can access the EPA reports of each body of water, the watershed summary reports, the microbiological, contaminant reports by organization. For example, the Shoaltwater Bay tribe reports, in 2009, on the Metal(80), Microbiological, Contaminants(314), Nutrient(339), Pesticide(4052), Physical(4293) toxins in the Willapa Bay. In the 1990s, you run the clear cuts of these watersheds. In 2014, the local oyster industry sprays the bay with a known toxin, marketed to the public as disastrous near any water source, in order to suppress the shrimp population so the oysters can thrive, so the locals can continue their reign as the oyster capital of the Pacific Northwest. All of the oysters fished in Willapa Bay are now toxic, but if you drive through Raymond, you can still see the piles of oyster shells, Babylonian in height, their insides gleaming with a moony glow in the daylight.

          Microbes, salt, aluminum foil.
          Herbicide, pesticide, plastics, oils.
          It’s raining. It’s raining again.

3. Driving, driving like an Inland American, you can reach this corner of Washington State. There’s a freeway of Scotch broom. Yellow yellow yellow. There’s Tacoma/ Neko Case. There are scabs of sawed down hemlock. Then foxglove, beautiful slippers on a stalk. Your partner tries one for the first time. Your reader wants to, but is afraid. (He’d have to try a thousand. She’d have to want to die to eat enough to die.) Exit at the turn for Olympia. You’re heading way out of town. Skirt Raymond, skirt Montesano. Remember your young legs in Montesano, or on a dock in Brownsmead, on a slough, on a spit of desire. Remember how much you desired? Remember desire, that slim stalk with the bloom you can reach, the bloom, the actual bloom? Is it reality? Is it part perception?

          Foxglove, Scotch broom
          bouqueting for hours
          the watershed of your heart—

4. Scotch broom in oceanic waves of yellow, flotsam/jetsam washing up along the roadside. Its smell is non-native, invasive, potentially allergenic. Its pollen is transported by wind, not bees, so it will survive the apocalypse. Its smell is everywhere. Roll down your window: let it in your car. Let it in your car because the wood can make beautiful pens; you’ll learn this later, you’ll learn so much, it’ll never be enough; and you’ll still be alive. Let it in your lungs because it won’t really hurt you, unless you’re allergic, unless you’re non-native. According to The Everett Herald, Scotch broom was spread by highway workers kicking up seed when they widened the freeway. According to The Everett Herald, the widened freeway disturbed the soil, made way for the bushes. According to gardeners and educators, the plant was imported from Britain to California. It was 1850. They wanted to control erosion.

          How can you control the erosion
          of a teen? Will she slide
          downstream with the mud in the rain?

5. In the 1990s, you want to control the erosion of your heart. It’s 1996. You’re juvenile. You’re a  teenager. You’re pretty and stupid. You’re ugly and smart. You know there are no watersheds downstream, only the ocean. You know the names of all/almost all the plants, the trees, bushes, ferns, and mosses. You are learning the mosses. You make a book for biology class, once in Astoria, and when you move across the river (Columbia River, straight to the ocean), you make one again in Naselle. What you learn in one state is often repeated when you move to another. What you learn in one small town is often repeated in a smaller town, in a county school, in a classroom where everything feels repeated. What you learn as a teenager is repeated when you’re an adult, what you learn is what you learn, is you never learn. You are learning the mosses. You are learning the veins. You are learning the heart, the roads, the watersheds. You are learning there are no watersheds downstream.

You drive for hours and hours to see yourself again, this maze of water, this topography of loss and lust and hormonal mess. It’s spring. It’s spring and the roadsides are blooming, blooming back into the hills. Everything’s blooming on State Route Four. Everything’s blooming, shoring you up.

It’s more like the smell of honeysuckle than death, more like warm wet wood than a heart, opened, on the table. On the table, your watersheds, unfolded, repeating.

You turn away, look out at the house just torn down so all that’s left is dirt where the house once was. The house where you lived. The highway just a few steps away.

          Where the house once was:
          a hole full of water.

          Where the house once was,
          your heart:
          a hole full of flowers.

Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of Rust Fish (Lost Horse Press 2011), Yesterday, the Bees (Floating Bridge Press 2015), and the forthcoming collaboration (with visual artist Carrie DeBacker), Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts (Entre Rios fall 2017). When she is not cavorting in geologic landforms & waterways, Maya teaches poetry and poetics at Central Washington University and/or parents two small children.

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Greenhouse tomatoes at the ITC landfill and recycling center

Photo by World Bank Photo Collection

Editorial intern Brian Czyzyk on today’s bonus poem: Lindsay Illich’s “I Explain the Dark Center” carries an earthy sensuality and juxtaposes a curious combination of images: a bathtub, tomatoes, and volcanic rock, as a collage of heartbreak. Loss paints the narrator’s Earth blue with “warm sorrow,” and stone-like hips are worn down to bone within Illich’s tight and evocative lines.

I Explain the Dark Center

It started with your eyes
calling from the tub to come

get me, bring me your warm
sorrow. The part of losing you

I can’t get over is how you grow
despite my not watering you:

I threw seeds out the window
and this year I pick all the tomatoes

I want. You said, it’s the humidity.
Yes, I approve the antediluvian.

No rain but everywhere lush
the Earth found blue.

Your hip crests, a caldera of pumice
we rubbed and rubbed like worry

until we were worn down
to the bone.

Lindsay Illich’s first book, rile & heave, won the Texas Review Press Breakout Prize in Poetry.

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Twisted Contrails

Photo by Marcus Ward

A History of Morning Clouds and Contrails

So you think that you can live remote
from city streets paved with bullet casings,
the beheadings of girls sprayed from cable TV.

While the intricate lace burka of contrails smothers dawn’s blush,
sky blasts dogma to smithereens over mountains
too distant to notice the woman barricaded
down the road at Fox Fire,
her automatic rifle aimed at police.

Each morning, ravens carve black questions
that go unanswered by light.  Assailed
by head winds, they sheer, intent on laughter
as they bank nearly upside down to sing.

Sun climbs hand over burning hand
through aspen leaves going to gold bullion
anyone can spend regardless
of what bank they believe in.

Go out, lie in last season’s sinking tomato bed, pull
dead plants around you and spit seeds
at the chemical ooze of contrails jets expel
bisecting the blue intelligence of sky’s water dreams,
crosshatching quadrants between clouds
gauzy as love slipping between finger cracks.

The woman is desperate, mistakes bullets
she jams in her ex-husband’s gun for
her own screams for his incessant fists.
How else can she feel secure? She, too, inhales
toxins saturating sky.

Lean to the warmth of an otter’s last dive
before ice takes the river, the exhausted heart of the land.
What we’ve relinquished in the name of security
to the awful gravity of military science
manipulates what we deep breathe.

Interview with Pam Uschuk by PN’s Poetry Editor Patricia Killelea

Some readers may know Pam Uschuk’s poetry from her collection One Legged Dancer, Scattered Risks, Crazy Love, which won an American Book Award in 2010. The Michigan-born and raised author of four full-length poetry collections as well as multiple chapbooks, her work has appeared in Poetry, Parnassus Review, Agni Review, Pequod, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, Hunger Mountain, and many others. Now her work comes to Passages North online in the form of “a History of Morning Clouds and Contrails,” a poem filled as much with indictments of normalized violence and mechanized greed as it is with crow’s wings and rivers turned to ice.

I first came to Uschuk’s work through Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, since it regularly features voices from diverse writers, including up and coming Native American voices. I asked her about “A History of Morning Clouds and Contrails,” since it takes on some contemporary issues affecting us all: gendered violence, technology use and misuse, as well as the link between voice and environment.

PK: One thing I noticed with this piece is that you are especially concerned with the experiences of girls and women as related to violence, both in the context of the brutal beheading, domestic violence, the armed standoff. This is atypical of representations of these overt forms of violence in the media, which are often focused on men’s doings. Could you talk a little bit about your interest in gender and how it intersects with violence in the media and how that relates to your ideas about poetry, both in this piece and beyond?

PU: My interest in women’s issues stems from my own experiences growing up and living in a male-dominated culture. As a young woman, I had male teachers, male bosses, I read mainly male writers, looked at art made mainly by males.  The dearth of women artists, writers, explorers, sports heroes, and warriors was disturbingly apparent. This poem is based on a real incident that occurred outside of the tiny town of Bayfield, Colorado where I lived for many years.  I imagined a woman, driven to extremes, with a long history of being threatened, belittled and beaten by her ex-husband.  I imagined what that scenario would be.  She managed to get her ex-husband’s automatic rifle, to shoot him and barricade herself in her house. I remembered, perhaps, the woman prisoner in Wyoming, where I conducted a three-week poetry workshop for women felons.  This woman, kind and gentle, had murdered her husband after he knocked out all her teeth.  He’d abused her their forty years of marriage.

How can anyone live in our culture without witnessing violence against women?  Most murders committed against women are committed by abusive husbands and boyfriends. Indigenous women, as a group, are more often victims of domestic abuse and rape than any other racial of ethnic group worldwide.  Thousands of rapes are never reported because women are afraid to come forward, knowing that more often than not perpetrators go free.  One of my close college friends was raped on her way back to the dorm from work.  The rapist beat her ferociously, breaking her ribs and cheekbone.  I was horrified to see her face.  Her suffering wasn’t simply from physical wounds.  There was something broken inside of her.  The rapist was never caught, never brought to trial.  I’ve known several women, including my sister, who were victims of physical and emotional domestic abuse.  One of my best friends was hospitalized when her then husband beat her so badly, she suffered a skull fracture.  More than one friend has been threatened with murder by her husband/boyfriend.  The list of these women is long, and it is hungry.  My sister-in-law committed suicide just last year in a battered women’s shelter after her long and violent marriage.  She had left her husband several times but always went back to him.  The cycle of abuse is well documented, but it really hits home when it happens to a family member.

PK: Your poem asks readers to directly confront the ways that we often turn our faces from the stories and realities of struggle around the world. Even in a time when we are all more connected in terms of communication (internet, television, etc.), it seems like there is less and less empathy. In addition to television, you also bring in other forms of technology: guns, airplanes, and military science. Could you talk a little bit about why you decided to address technology in this way, and why (perhaps) you think poetry might be useful for thinking/feeling through our relationships with technology?

PU: Technology as a double-edged sword often finds its way into my poems. It can save us or destroy us—in medicine, at our jobs, in our homes. Technology is just another name for our sophisticated tools. Like this computer I am typing on.  I can rearrange sentences, correct grammar, revise my quick thoughts, but the screen is sending out energy that changes me at a cellular level, shaking up my neurons for good and for ill.  This screen affects my eyesight and my mental state, but I use it for efficiency. T.V., computers, cell phones have distanced us from our emotions.  We are anesthetized to the pain of others because we are bombarded with images of the pain and suffering of others.

We have developed extremely sophisticated weapons, automatic weapons, drones, super-bombs, atomic weapons—tools that can destroy humanity and most life forms on earth.  Our psyches have not, for the most part, advanced much further than Neanderthals.  In my poems, I can’t fail to address this disparity.  Sometimes, it seems the more advanced weaponry we develop, the more we retrograde to brutality.  Look at the current administration, the President’s hair-trigger anger, his authorization of bombing raids and dropping the “mother of all bombs” in Syria and Afghanistan without congressional approval.  This administration’s threats of nuclear retaliation have me worried.  We have a long way to go to advance on an emotional, empathetic, humanitarian level.  I feel a need to address this, and so I make a connection between domestic abuse and military science, our advanced weapons of war that could easily destroy us.  Violence is violence.  Bullying is bullying, abuse is abuse, whether it’s perpetrated on a playground, on the natural world, in a kitchen or on an international scale.

PK: The juxtaposition and overlapping of images of the natural world with those of the human world really drew me to this piece; of course, it’s a total illusion that these worlds are separate. I love the way you bring in the ravens as witness, the skies and land as agential and likewise affected by these human happenings. Could you talk a little bit about why you think it’s important to bring in non-human perspectives and land relationships into your poetry?

PU: I grew up very close to nature.  When my grandmother talked about birds, she talked about them like beloved relatives.  She was particularly fond of a wren who nested in her magnolia tree each spring.  I grew up on an 80-acre farm in Michigan. We lived in intimate proximity to all the creatures on that land.  My father named all his cattle, and they came to them when he called, following him around like puppies.  When he plowed his wheat and oat fields, he made islands around rabbit warrens and trees, so that there were islands pocking all his fields.  He taught us never to kill anything we didn’t eat.  We were imbued with a love of and a respect for the natural world. He taught us that life was sacred.

Whether it was on Michigan lakes or rivers or on that beautiful mother, Lake Michigan, my father loved to fish.  My mother’s father also was a fantastic fisherman.  From my father and grandfather I learned all manner of things about fish, but, mostly, I learned to respect them. My parents took us often to the woods, taught us the names of creatures, plants and trees.  On vacation, we drove to the Upper Peninsula, walked in the woods in Seney Wildlife Refuge, hiked to Tauquammenon Falls, walked Lake Superior’s shores, jumped into its icy waves.

My father’s family were immigrants from Belarus and the Czech Republic. My Czech grandma, Anna, worked with medicinal plants.  She was an intuitive healer and psychic. She taught me the names of plants and their medicinal uses.  She taught me the names of birds and their habits. For both sides of my family, wild nature was central.  Some of my elementary school friends were Chippewa.  I learned from all of them to love the land and animals and trees and plants.  From both sides of the family, I learned that animals and trees were my relatives.

All those things show up in my poems because they are such an integral part of me.  Wild nature is essential to my wellbeing, essential to my work.  At our great peril, we ignore or trample on our roots in the wild natural world.  When we destroy the natural world, we destroy the most essential part of our psyches. We destroy our hearts.  I am very much concerned with maintaining our connection to the natural world.  It’s one of the few things that can save us from our own greed and power-seeking ignorance.

You can learn more about Pam’s work and Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts here.


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Wuhan / 武汉 | The black of the pool

Photo by Tauno Tõhk

Associate fiction editor Krys Malcolm Belc on today’s bonus story: Douglas Macdonald’s tiny piece starts off as a fast-paced, gorgeous picture of two kids, Vito and Avril, on a regular summer’s day, and suddenly—and shockingly—turns futuristic, otherworldly, and sinister. This story and its culminating image stuck with me long after the first read.

The Flies at the Pool in DC

Through the hedge a gleam of azure. Beyond the black iron railings the pool glistened like a layer of sky ripped out and spread before us like a blanket at a picnic. Me and Avril. No one else around. Sundays are like that in DC. So screw all those signs saying GOVERNMENT PROPERTY KEEP OUT.

—We need a fix from this fucking heat, Avril said, smoothing the hair off her forehead.

—No suits.

—So what? If we’re caught we’re caught—we’re kids.

On our bellies we crawled and squiggled under the iron pickets. We were surprised how easy. Big buidling beside the pool with antennas. Quick selfie—Avril in her panties and t-shirt and me in my polka dot boxer shorts by a lounge chair. First time I noticed her hips starting to bulge with womanhood. We held hands in the foot chill of the shallow end on the first semicircular step.

—Vito, you go first. Her voice a silver quivering wire. Sucked in my breath dove along the surface, skidding, blue shrapnel of splashing I was born anew in our rebooted universe. Soon Avril was beside me, shivering and whirling, her lips all wet tangerine lipstick. We were just old enough to start kissing and not anything much else.

When the first big furry black fly flew over the pool we scarcely noticed it. We were in the deep end now, hanging onto one of the ladders. Soon a number of flies were buzzing around, swooping over our heads, sailing off into the blue, and returning.

Avril’s scream was a shock. —It bit me, she shouted. The loud buzzing panicked us.  Once one fly found us they all learned. We ducked under. Her legs were so pale beneath the water, scissoring wildly back and forth like a hurt octopus. We thrashed to the shallow end. How to get out, get out, get out and not get stung. Avril started up the steps but the flies swarmed over her. Shrieking she fell back into the water. Couldn’t talk. Something had gotten into her mouth. I reached in her mouth with my middle finger and thumb and felt a big fly still buzzing. Felt solid. Pulled it out. It was metal. On the bottom of its belly were some tiny numbers. Shit. A man in a blue uniform was coming towards us from a door we hadn’t noticed.

Douglas Macdonald has published poetry widely and recently returned to the short story/flash scene. He has won several prizes for his short stories and poetry. Recently a story of his was published in the volume Visions of Life (2015).

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Photo by Anaxolotl

Associate poetry editor Sara Ryan on today’s bonus poem: This poem by Kaitlyn Duling is intimate and moving. It questions. It quietly hints at something more. The relationship between the brother and sister in this poem is humorous, maybe awkward, and hopeful. There is a knowing between them, a knowing glazed with maple syrup and the stark geography of home.

Poem in which my brother doesn’t come out to me, his gay sister

His first time in my new state,
I point out the window and say “There,

those are ‘rolling hills’ like we always
read about and hear about in movies,

see?” And we get pancakes at the place
where President Obama supposedly loved

the pancakes and had his picture taken
while he said so. The quote is on the wall

in a glass frame. I take him to the zoo
where we have to ride an escalator

to get anywhere close to the animals and
I pull my arms up high, show him how

I live in mountains now. No more of that flat,
quiet earth that waits you out. The first time

I drove through Pennsylvania, I couldn’t breath
because of all the closing in around me, I tell him.

I never knew dirt could be piled up that high.
I want him to see the high dirt and eat his

pancake and believe me when I say I’m happy
here, so far from farmland and flat spots and all that.

Obama dripped syrup all over the floor, I heard,
when he stopped here on his way around the country.

I say this and wave my fork around and make
eye contact. Later, I take my brother to the incline and

point at the river and say “Look, that water isn’t
drinkable” and he says “Huh” and quietly

we drive back down the mountain, stopping
for ice cream to fill his endless teenage stomach

and I grip the wheel because it’s so easy, here,
to fly off the road and down and down and down some more.

Kaitlyn Duling currently resides in Pittsburgh, where she manages the Storymobile program at Reading is FUNdamental Pittsburgh. She is a graduate of the Program in Creative Writing at Knox College, where she studied poetry.  An Illinoisan at heart, Pushcart nominee, and winner of the Davenport Poetry Award, her poems have found homes in Denver Quarterly, Big Muddy, Ninth Letter, IDK Magazine, The Fourth River, and Wilde Magazine, among others.

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The guilty cooking companion

Photo by Kurt Thomas

Assistant editor Tony Piatti on today’s bonus story: Colonization meets consumerism in this formally written complaint by Aaron Morris. Complaint re: MicropeopleTM is a disquieting expression of consumer expectations in a narcissistic world where the line between needs and wants does not exist. You won’t forget this piece. Read it on your iPhone for the full effect. 

To: (Associate Administrator of MicropeopleTM Manufacturing)
Subject: Complaint re: MicropeopleTM

Dear Sir or Madam,
Like most people, I found myself caught up in the toy craze of the MicropeopleTM. It was most serendipitous that the International Cloning Administration (ICA) discovered the MicropeopleTM technology during a project to clone super warriors, and the toys are an outstanding idea. Who would have thought that one key genetic algorithm coded backwards would result in these tiny imitations of people with docile personalities? The idea to sell the MicropeopleTM as toys was genius, since the profits on toy sales funded the revised super warrior project. Our country’s dominance in the new War on Terror, Drugs, and PovertyTM would not have been possible without funding from toy sales. This project makes me proud to be an American.

I am, however, writing to express my extreme disappointment with a flaw I found recently in the latest MicropeopleTM model. Since the beginning, I have been a staunch defender of your product. I recommended the toys to my friends, even after the announcement from that television preacher who decried the sinful nature of premature birds-and-bees lessons when he discovered his male and female MicropeopleTM Mark I models in flagrante atop the fluffy confines of his children’s sock drawer. As you know, the children were witness to the entire lewd event, prompting the preacher’s outrage. Still I was an advocate for your product.

A second flaw, witnessed firsthand soon after the preacher’s broadcast, involved the nature of blood in the MicropeopleTM. As you can imagine, it was upsetting to children to find a red puddle oozing through their hip pockets after inadvertently sitting on a MicropeopleTM.

It is my understanding that during the R&D process for the Mark II models, ICA Geneticists learned how to clone Mark IIs with transparent, highly evaporative blood. I also understand that the ICA discovered that the modifications necessary for transparent blood in the toys also cured hemophilia. I considered this a win-win situation for everyone, and I applauded the technological progress. I remained a staunch advocate for your products.

Last week, I became less of a fan. My dog used one of the Mark II models as a chew toy, and, I must say, if her shrieking hadn’t been so shrill then perhaps my dog wouldn’t have thought the Mark II resembled a squeaky bone from PetWorld. After this unfortunate mistake with the dog, I bought a new MicropeopleTM Mark III for the family. Once I brought her home, the Mark III asked for a guitar in her miniature, squeaky voice. I told her in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t afford to buy these tiny trinkets. The very next day she asked to be let out of the MicroterrariumTM. She said she wanted to travel! I explained to her the ridiculous nature of her request. “Stay in the Microterrarium – You’re a toy,” I told her.

This brings me to my request. Please ask your geneticists to eliminate the tears in the next MicropeopleTM model. The crying is off-putting. Who wants a toy that won’t stop crying?

Yours Truly,

Foy H. Worwarton

123 Belonger Lane
Friendswood, TX 77546

P.S. I heard on the news that the new ServopeopleTM will be available some time next month. I look forward to owning one. It will be nice to finally have some help cooking and cleaning the house.

Aaron Morris is an MFA fiction candidate at Old Dominion University, who also works full time as an aerospace engineer at the NASA Langley Research Center. He writes poetry and fiction with damaged characters set in harsh landscapes. He is currently working on a humorous, satirical novel.

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Walking on Water

Photo by Stephen Lightfoot

Editorial intern Brian Czyzyk on today’s bonus poem: Delicate and magical, Lillian Kwok’s poem “Arabesque” begins with birds, and dances through fantastic images of the natural world. Here unfolds a world where birds reach toward the heavens with their feet, and where their grace transforms them into gods in the eyes of watching fish.

Arabesque No. 1

At the lake we begin like birds, sitting on the water cross-legged. Until our hearts grow bolder and we walk on water. Start to run to the far shore. To the fishes, we are their greatest miracle, our feet above them an incomprehensible act and yes, they believe. You hold my foot in your hands, lift it to the sky. We will stay this way, our most perfect selves, for as long as we still are gods.

Lillian Kwok is originally from Philadelphia, and now lives in Honolulu. She has a chapbook published by Awst Press and one forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. Her work has been published in the Waxwing, Cortland Review, Paper Darts, and other journals. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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Photo by Ram Joshi

This week, Associate Fiction Editor Ethan Brightbill brought back an old Crew Quarters question for our editors: What is the first website you check after waking up, or alternatively, what’s the last site you check before bed?

Brenna Womer
Associate Editor, Fiction

Submittable. #noshame #writerlife

Karl Schroeder
Associate Editor, Poetry
Buckhart, Illinois

I usually play Sporcle quizzes every night until I pass out and wake up to learn the capital of Montenegro is not mmmmmmmmmmmmm;/io;;o//////////////////////

E. Flores
Associate Editor, Poetry
Bowie, Maryland

I normally wake up and check the stock market to see if my smell-o-vision investment has finally paid off, and most nights I fall asleep to this cool website that plays children screaming on loop.

Jacob Hall
Associate Editor, Fiction
Decatur, Illinois

Lately I like to get lost in comment chains on C-SPAN’s Facebook page until I find someone arguing that they’re fake news. I try to go to sleep then.

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Window Puzzle

Photo by Earl Wilkerson

Editor-in-Chief Jennifer A. Howard on today’s bonus short: Elijah Tubbs’ curious, twisty descent into language and history and violence left me feeling like myself at 8, spinning for kicks in the kitchen: fun-tippy and off-kilter until the feeling hit my stomach and I knew it was time to worry about where and how hard I would land.

In through a Door, Out a Window

Defenestrate, as in being thrown out of a window; as in a word created solely based on one incident, The Defenestration of Prague; as in Protestant radicals tossing two catholic deputies of the Bohemian Assembly and a secretary out of castle Hradschin in 1618; as in the first event of the thirty years’ war; as in forced faith; as in famine and disease; as in the deadliest European religious war; as in eight million causalities; as in the grace of a Holy Roman Catholic tyrant, Ferdinand II.

Many twentieth and twenty-first century linguists tie defenestrate to fenestra, Latin for window, possibly related to the Greek verb, phaenein, to show; possibly as an Etruscan borrowing, suffix, -stra, as in Latin loaner words: apulstre, the carved stern of ship with ornament design, or genista, the plant broom, or lanista, trainer of gladiators.

A word trails off into another and another then needs another, and like all incidents, experiences, and ideas minuscule or massive, they butterfly effect out, changing the following. Leaving seemingly an infinite amount of cookie crumbles behind.

Defenestrate, as in have a nice life.
Defenestrate, as in Francois the tabby cat swung out of a window by dastardly Laurent.
Defenestrate, as in reality television as quality entertainment.
Defenestrate, as in milk blue.
Milk blue, as in breast milk; as in a child; as in an Omaha defenestration.
Defenestrate, as in Bohumil Hrabal feeding songbirds; as in death.
Defenestrate, as in tomorrow. Or yesterday; as in a time machine.
Defenestrate, as in MKULTRA; as in Stranger Things; as in a few “wrongful deaths.”
Defenestrate, as in the canary who could sing, but couldn’t fly.
Defenestrate, as in a poltergeist; as in broken televisions.
Broken televisions; as in shattered glass; as in irate exes from a second story window.
Defenestrate, as in Eutychus; as in apostle Paul’s outstandingly boring traits.
Eutychus, as in fortunate; as in true bamboo.
Defenestrate, as in two different stories, a fall or a throw?
Defenestrate, as in mainly suicide.
Suicide, as in a depression; as in Pierre Q.
Defenestrate, as in poetic inspiration.
Defenestrate, as in _____________.

Those two deputies however, by what Cicely Veronica Westwood said was a holy miracle, or a comic accident according to the religion or lack thereof of the beholder, survived their fall, landing on pillows of trash.

Trash, as in streets of mud; as in defecate; as in odoriferous; as in horseflies on hot horse shit; as in summer on an Arizona ranch; as in sticky plaid love; as in inevitable betrayal; as in shit happens; as in defenestration.

Elijah Matthew Tubbs lives and writes in Arizona. Recent work is featured in Sonora Review, Permafrost, Connotations Press, and elsewhere. He is co-founder of ELKE “a little journal.”

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