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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Photo by Marcus Raitner

Assistant poetry editor Stephen Wardell on today’s bonus poem: This poem by Jessica Morey-Collins flies in a circular motion, uniting families in the suburb with ghosts in the desert. In this prose poem, long, lovely sentences are curtly broken with the ominous signs of war.

Teachers Tell Me that from Far

the force of our recitation spins a pinwheel planted at the edge of a desert. A child, standing on the hem of a suburb, gathers her scraped knees to listen. Her father is a thought-form, broad-shouldered, palm-fronds flapping from his neck-hole. He bought a gun to protect her from the Muslims. Landlocked, she plucks a blade of scrub-grass, touches it to the lips of her invisible twin—a kid like her, padding over shattered glass. Flashlight under-chin, she reads stories of girls like her in distant deserts, senses a far-off simultaneity, gossamer same-same of first crushes, frustrated love of fathers, fathers filled-to-burst with fear. Kite shadows. Drones float overhead.

They pick their scabs and believe in love. As fragile as a spider’s web. Her shadow vanishes as the dust of collapsing structures blots out the sun. Her shadow vanishes as she slips into cool proximity of stucco. Strands clot into cobweb. Their mothers are herds of extinct pachyderms. Their fathers are lost languages. Equidistant from each, I am lost in a congregation chanting mantra. Palm fronds waft smoke from cedar, a sweet fog to feed hungry ghosts. Distant needs—pleas for understanding, for stability. One’s country floods the other’s with drones—

home is a blown dandelion, the sky frothed with coptering seeds.

The teacher tells me that though we are distant, our mantra recitation is a karmic influx that can empty any deserts’ pressure systems. Smoke billows. A pinwheel, elsewhere, spins.

Jessica Morey-Collins is a Pushcart nominated poet and educator living in New Orleans, Louisiana. She received her MFA from the University of New Orleans, where she won an Academy of American Poets award, and worked as associate poetry editor for Bayou Magazine. She was a finalist for the 2016 Iron Horse Review Chapbook Contest and the 4th Annual Gigantic Sequins Poetry Contest. Her poems and essays can be found in Pleiades, The Pinch, Juked, Animal Literary Journal, and elsewhere.

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Photo by Paul Wilkinson

This week, we posed a hypothetical situation to our editors: You’re at a party with the characters of every book ever written. Who are your top three priorities to hang out with?

Ashley Adams
Associate Editor Emeritus, Nonfiction
Watervliet, Michigan

All the dogs that got killed in childhood books. I don’t care how many that is, they’re all coming home with me.

Tianli Kilpatrick
Associate Editor, Nonfiction

If I had to pick only three: Randle McMurphy, the Cheshire Cat, White Fang.

Ethan Brightbill
Associate Editor, Fiction
Allentown, Pennsylvania

The narrator of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, since he’s chill and would have great stories; Anne Rice’s Lestat for party skills and the possibility of existential vampire adventures later; and Shevek from The Dispossessed, not for the party itself, but rather the profound, drunken conversations sure to take place afterward. Honorable mention to Fizban from the Dragonlance YA novels, who could probably put on a good show provided he didn’t accidentally fireball everyone.

Brenna Womer
Associate Editor, Fiction

Esther Greenwood, Ishmael, and Miss Havisham.

E. Flores
Associate Editor, Poetry
Bowie, Maryland

The mouse from “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” Christian Grey, and the Grinch.

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Worm Macro

Photo by Groman123

Editorial intern Brandon Hanson on today’s bonus story: This story is as sweet as it is strange. This fishy tale will hook you in the heart.

When Michael Turns Fish

he doesn’t understand.  He is clueless in the conference room, fiddling with his slide presentation. His brain flipping and flapping in the waterless air.

As his skin scales over, he is thinking of Margaret, his wife. How she will never accept him as fish and might just run off with Gustav, her guitar instructor, who after one whole year has only taught her three chords.

As his arms tuck in and he is left with fins, he drops the projector remote, and no one even offers to pick it up.

And he doesn’t mind for himself, but more for Celeste, who might not enjoy that he has no arms, no hands and can no longer hold her for long, stroke-y hours on motel Thursdays.

His legs are gone, and there goes his hair.  His nose juts forward, and his eyes are on either side of his face. He can clearly see Celeste playing footsie with Clark from Legal.

And it’s just as well when he tries to speak but his mouth just opens and closes and opens and closes and nothing comes out, because what does he really have left to say?

And is that Gregor, the summer intern who went on and on about wanting a job exactly like Michael’s?  Is he really standing over there in the corner right now wriggling a worm onto a hook?

Francine Witte is the author of two flash fiction chapbooks and four poetry chapbooks. She is a photographer, reviewer, and blogger. She is a former high school teacher and lives in NYC.

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Photo by Brad Greenlee

This week, Associate Fiction Editor Ethan Brightbill asked our editors what they’re most looking forward to in the coming summer.

Jennifer A. Howard
Escanaba, Michigan

There’s a day every spring when I pick up all the sticks in my very big yard and stack them neatly into kindling piles for my bonfire and it is my absolute favorite day and I can’t wait.

Sarah Wenman David
Associate Editor, Fiction
Minocqua, Wisconsin

Flip-flops and camping.

E. Flores
Associate Editor, Poetry
Bowie, Maryland

The death of winter.

Ethan Brightbill
Associate Editor, Fiction
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Walking at night on the beach with my feet in Lake Superior, as is right and proper. I get sand all over my car and apartment, but I’m okay with that–it keeps me connected to where I live.

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Photo by George Redgrave

We are happy to announce this year’s 2017 Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize will be judged by the author of the best-selling Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong. Winner of the Whiting Award, finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, Vuong’s writings have been featured in The Atlantic, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. PN’s associate poetry editor Sarah Bates had the opportunity to pick his brain about poetry, surviving winter, and the state of 2017.

Sarah Bates: Is there something specific you look for in a poem? Or do you look for a poem to surprise you?

Ocean Vuong: There is nothing specific because, for me, a piece of writing is best when it privileges surprise, discovery, and excitement. To expect a singular enactment of any of these values is to limit what might be possible. So I’m open—but I will say that these things are rarely achieved without a strong ear for rhythms, cadences, and sonic pressures in the syntax. A well crafted, tight, musical, and somehow wild sentence helps achieve an idiosyncratic expression, and therefore a “voice.”

SB: What are you reading right now? Is there anything you’ve found yourself coming back to recently for inspiration, or maybe, just to get through winter?

OV: Right now, I’m reading Wendy Xu’s incredible new book Phrasis alongside my revisiting of Dante’s Inferno. Xu’s meditations on political and personal ruptures, enacted through a dissociated tone while employing a sharp and searing gaze, amplifies the effects political oppression has on one’s language—among other things. Likewise, Dante, moving through hell and naming names, performs an unearthing of corrupt systems that seem suddenly contemporary and urgent to how I feel right now as a citizen.

SB: If you had to give 2017 a title so far, what would it be?

OV: Don’t give up.

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