Chidera Abii: “there are a lot of ways to kill youself”

there are a lot of ways to kill yourself

there are a lot of ways
to kill yourself i write
on my bathroom mirror.
i take off my shoes
and walk the streets.
it is dark, i am black,
i am female, i keep walking.
the ground is sinking,
the streetlights are sinking,
the neighbor’s dog is sinking,
the car i broke into is sinking,
the keys are not here.
i look into the rearview mirror
and the sign says no parking
between seven am and seven pm. 

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Chidera Abii is a Nigerian American writer. She studied fiction and poetry at the University of Virginia and is currently a Michener Fellow at the Michener Center for Writers. She lives in Austin, TX.

Carol Hamilton: “Seing Yourself”

Seeing Yourself 

They say Mexican peasants were shown
themselves for the first time in Diego’s murals,
images walking about all blocky and simplified,
glorified. Given welder’s glass to observe
the solar eclipse by the National Geographic team,
disappearance of their Sun God,
the little Aymaran girls were instead
entranced at their own faces.

They say sitters for Daguerre’s first photos,
so stiff and grim, thought the captured-image eyes
looked out, watching them,
a Doppelgänger existence frozen on paper,
shocking for both. A chimp with a mirror
examined his own colorful behind
once the instant of recognition came
 …  the other is the self.

They say we hardly exist now if not preserved
on film and broadcast for all to prove
we are not figments of our own imagination.
We hold out sticks to dangle ourselves
onto all sorts of backdrops: an elegant plate,
a child’s ballgame, an upthrust feature of stone.
But a question always arises … which
is the created and who is watching whom. 

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Carol Hamilton is retired from teaching 2nd grade through graduate students from Connecticut to Tinker AFB Oklahoma, from volunteer translating, and storytelling. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has published 17 books:children’s novels, legends, and poetry and has been nominated eight times for a Pushcart Prize.

John Brady: Two Flash Fictions

Dishes

_____“Who left dirty dishes in the sink?” 
_____She wanted to shout it. But in the cool, gray air of dawn, her voice would have carried, and her daughter was still sleeping. 
_____Anyway, she knew who did it. He was still sleeping too, snoring lightly in the bed she had just left. Probably rolled over to take the heat from her still lingering in the sheets.
_____Running her hand along the sink’s smooth edge, she appraised the aftermath: the once rubbery noodles baked hard to the pan; the smear of red sauce across the plate; the half eaten meatball speared with a fork.
_____Her mother knew lazy men. “Look at those hands,” she had commanded. “They’re soft like your father’s. He won’t lift those fingers to help you.”
_____Yeah. But he had done other things with those fingers. Like hold her tight and stroke her in lovely ways. 
_____Even last night when he came to bed after his shift. He ran his hand along her arm just right. He had smelled nice too, all freshly soaped and showered. She had nuzzled her body into his, smelling his nice smell through the haze of near sleep. 
_____She wondered too though. Wondered if she should come up through the haze and ask him if he had cleaned up. But after a moment, she dropped her suspicions, choosing to hold on to that little joy in the dark. 
_____As far as marital crimes went, it was a small one. Just a minor misdemeanor. 
_____But it wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last no matter what she said. 
_____How many small crimes added up to a big one? How many dirty dishes in the sink, how many times being late for pick-ups, how many toilet seats left up amounted to a felonious assault on their being together? 
_____If she couldn’t trust him with the small stuff, how could she trust him with the big stuff? The stuff that mattered. Like continuing to care enough about her to keep touching her in lovely ways. 
_____She picked at the dried cheese with the knife. 
_____It was lighter now in the kitchen, and she recognized the time that had passed. Looking at the clock, “Damn, damn!” She couldn’t be late again. 
_____As she ran to her bus, she noticed she still had the knife. She wondered what she should do with it.

Nails

_____Joyce stood by the stove and rubbed the patch on her arm through her nightshirt. Its roses, once so red, had faded with a million washings. 
_____“Rub it.” That’s what Carol at work had said. “When those cravings get bad, rub it hard. That releases the nicotine faster. Uh-huh,” she had said. 
_____Joyce still wasn’t sure. Carol had a lot of goofy theories she felt free to share. This morning, Joyce didn’t care. Goofy idea or not, the cravings were bad. So she rubbed. 
_____Crazy Carol. And Yolanda. She was a real winner too. With those nails. So long and bright and always matched to her lipstick.
_____Carol and some of the other girls would laugh about Yolanda behind her back. “Who did she think she was getting all fabulous just for office work?”
_____Joyce laughed too. 
_____But maybe not as hard. Those nails were kind of something. And long as they were, Yolanda could type. Clickety-clackety. One even had a little diamond in it. Not a real diamond, Joyce knew. She wasn’t stupid. Not real, but it sparkled like maybe it could be real. 
_____Goddamn this water was taking so long. The flames on these dinky stoves were so pale and tiny. 
_____She looked out the window over the sink. Beyond the roof of the house next door, she could see the sky. No clouds and already bright enough to make her blink. There was just too much sun in this town sometimes.
_____A lady singing about how much she loved her honey floated from the clock radio next to the open sleeper sofa.
_____That’d be nice, Joyce thought. A stray thought for one more stray morning. 
_____The water in the pan bubbled, and Joyce poured it into the cup. She watched the deep brown crystals turn muddy.
_____The screen door banged behind Joyce as she stepped onto the stoop. 
_____Across the courtyard, Mr. Ruiz was cleaning his grill. That guy was always grilling. Loved feeding all those kids and grandkids of his. Always coming and going and making such a racket. Laughing and yelling. Laughing mostly.
_____Joyce took a sip and then shaded her eyes. So bright. Even this early. 
_____Mr. Ruiz looked up and smiled. 
_____Joyce went to rub her arm, but waved instead. She paused and then smiled a bit too. She would ask Yolanda where she got her nails done. Sure she would, she told herself as she went back inside to get dressed for work. 

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John Brady is a writer based in Portland, OR, whose fiction and non-fiction writing has appeared in various outlets, including Exposition Review, the Los Angeles Review, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mother Jones, Punk Planet, the Los Angeles Daily News, the San Francisco Chronicle and on National Public Radio.

Felipe Rodolfo Hendriksen: “Folkstone (2013)”

Folkestone (2013)

It’s always winter there, but it feels like autumn, because it’s all slightly dead and slightly broken. It’s 2013 and you’re still young and skinny and your family can afford the trip and no one knows who Trump is. They use pounds there but the pounds look like big stamps and you forget it’s money and you start buying stuff only a teen would. It’s 7:30 not 4:20 but you’re smoking all the same you don’t care, you have long, silver cigarettes (the cheapest, still too expensive) for breakfast. You drink Monster before classes not coffee because you know you’ll need it and because you pretend to care but don’t and that’s okay because you’re 16 and in love and there’s parks everywhere and people say hi and no one steals a thing because you’re in Europe and South America is far away. You think feelings and emotions are for emos and you call them faggots but you know you love someone and that makes you proud and special and it makes it easier to sleep at night after you jerk off (never thinking about her). You live with a young couple that must have been lovely but you never noticed because you’re too busy smoking and drinking and watching Heroes with the Muslim friend you never thought you’d have. You lose the house keys once and don’t see the allegory there but no one does anything because it’s Britain and everyone’s polite about everything and no one really gives a shit about an Argentinian. You buy beer with a fake ID from a Pakistani girl that can’t be older than you but already is (she has to be), you go to a hidden garden full of orchids and bees and get offered some hashish but you don’t have enough money and you’re too afraid to try. There’s a cemetery in the street where you think you’re living but you’re not because you will always be an Argentinian and you’ll never escape from the Third World.  So you go there with the girl you love (names never matter) and you walk and should be holding hands but don’t because you’re nothing and will never be, and she talks and talks and you’re Semele so you can’t reply because you’re burning inside and everything’s on fire even though it’s winter and suddenly wearing shorts isn’t such a bad idea. She stands in front of a big tombstone with a ship on top, some German soldiers who died once, who cares, she does, so you stare too and think it’d be right to cry for the dead young men because you’re young too (not for long) and dead (this you’ll be forever). So one day you get up and think that maybe she loves you back so you call her and talk and make her sit beside you and you tell her. You don’t say “I love you” because you know better, but you do say things like “I always dream about you” and “I like you a lot.” A second passes and your fate is decided in that second. She shakes her head, says “No,” and starts crying. You cry too, but that doesn’t matter, your life is already irrelevant and stupid. She goes away and doesn’t look back, never looks back, always moving forward (unlike you). A couple sees her and asks her if she’s okay and you know what she says and what she should have, but it’s too late now and you can’t chase her and you’ll get scolded once you get home and you will nod and pretend to be sorry and go to your room and see what it feels like to scream in your pillow. 

A lot of things happen after that, too many, you want to write them all down, you get obsessed with the idea of laying down all the facts you think you remember, but no one will ever read them because you’re too afraid to let people know how you really feel about her, about that trip, about Folkestone, where it’s always winter, where you bought pot once and went to English classes, where everyone says hi and no one steals a thing, where you’ll always lie dead.    

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Felipe Rodolfo Hendriksen studies Literature at Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina. He currently lives in Quilmes.

Sudhanshu Chopra: “Combustion”

Combustion

I

Where do I go without you? The shell
in which I hid before you arrived is now
compromised, and I feel naked as a wire.

I’m an old-school purchaser, always buying
two in place of one; a spare, an extra
for emergency.

But with you I was young & careless: never
thought of getting insurance, never imagined
slipping my number to another, or handing them
the duplicate of my back door’s key.

I understand persons are not objects; who then
are these people I see kneeling in cemeteries, talking
to stone? Where I reside, presidents inaugurate

aircrafts by cracking open coconuts at the landing
wheels, anointing moist vermilion with their thumbs
in vulcanised rubber grooves.

II

An ambulance—its siren bawling like a hungry
child—vanishes as soon as it appears. A grey
nightjar prepares to launch from an electric pole.

The traffic light: red; the zebra-coloured
pavement strewn with rat-gnawed foam
mattresses and homeless tykes asleep

in crisp November chill. Their still,
subdued bodies shrouded in papery blankets,
their surreptitious breaths detouring
no passing feet. Alongside, on the road,

engines hum, exhaust pipes vibrate.
Petrol continues to ignite.

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Sudhanshu Chopra is a poet, wordsmith and pun-enthusiast. 30 and rootless, he is fascinated by nature and frustrated by its incomprehension. He wishes we had evolved better or not at all. It is the midway that causes Catch 22 situations, which are quite troubling, mentally and otherwise. He tweets at @artofdying_