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Fiction: Amanda Hartzell

17 Nov

Stayed up until morning arguing about whether to destroy our soul machine. Francis Moss, city-born, rich and slender, is adamant the visual projection is harmless and besides only an estimate. Isaac Tsakos sulks. Empty Narragansett keep his knees company. His soul projected from the machine appears as a hermit crab. It scuttles around the door molding for a while then journeys over my shoulders, and in each pinch of claw to my tongue I see another house he lived in during his childhood. "Wicker chairs," I report. "A lot of carpet and AstroTurf porches."

Francis switches off the machine. We remove the earbuds. Isaac is crying, which made the crab flush a seaward shallow orange. "That can't be all," he says. I say, "Well, we can't all be Francis." Francis, whose soul last night appeared as the spinal cord of a whale. I swallowed the vertebrae down like beads of a candy necklace. It was just as sugary, bright and fizzy. With his soul in my throat I could feel the shape of everything he'd ever touched.

29 Nov

The soul responds much like a dog. When I spit his soul back up Francis conducts it via whistles and tongue-clicking back into the machine, where it must return before we disconnect the wires and bulbs from his ears. It's taken a year of trial and error to figure out which bodily entrance and exit the soul prefers. The ears are a small but natural tunnel and the only side-effects are ringing and dizziness. We've tried various techniques: blood-letting, sneezing, birthing. I have scars on my arms tattoos have recently covered up. Isaac complains his nose is more crooked now than when we first began, but when we were lovers I used to tell him his nostrils were fabulously Athenian and he never took offense then. It's all about the context.

An assistant of ours, Gladys Quake, drew the short straw for the birthing test, and she's threatened weekly to leave us after that failed attempt. I buy her lunch in the square. Brattle, JFK, bright cobblestone places where we watch people who do not suspect what we do. Note: All indexed in expense reports. I give her a spare key to my apartment hoping she'll seek me out more, and we can talk, and I can compare the length of our legs on the couch.

10 Dec

Francis, a failed cinephile, is enthralled by the pure visual notion of it. He pulls out his and Isaac's and Gladys' all at once just to watch them gambol around the room. A soul zoo, he calls it. He wants to take this to film, insists on its indie potential at Cannes or at least Coolidge Corner. Isaac meanwhile wants to achieve a traditional out-of-body experience and is depressed the soul does not carry his personal perception along with it—the soul emerges entirely separate, with its own awareness and decisions. This secretly worries me. Note: If the soul isn't me or mine then what is it? What is this stowaway in my bones, drawn out by our machine?

I'm the one to try eating them. Tonight the boys are watching stand-up at the Hong Kong so Gladys and I prepare hers over the stove in a pot of boiled salted water. We try chicken broth, vodka sauce, gravy. Her soul is most interesting to me because it arrives as a parade—tiny creatures dressed in gold, waving instruments and riding animals extinct or unseen. Swirling in soups they taste like ramen but never stay down. I keep a hot mouthful as long as I can, her soul's parade jangling against my molars and causing me sweet headaches.

15 Jan

The soul machine began as a boy's club. Gladys was the exception, and my way in—but she wears bowties and suspenders when she wants people to listen. Francis sublet briefly with her above the river during graduate school in the small attic of a third-floor Victorian. They hung photos of Bobby Kennedy and had a mouse problem. Tsakos Exterminators was called in last summer and Francis caught Isaac releasing more rodents so he could return to read the stacks of overdue science journals.

Gladys believes Isaac to be a regular con man. Francis finds him charming, and Gladys insists that proves her point. I received an invite in after the three solidified their pursuit of the soul machine, because they heard through campus adjuncts I cannot name that I had successfully created one in early November, although a series of accidents had left me sour and singed and unable to recall much of my findings.

17 Jan

We four sprawled on the floor of my room. My notes have been on Gladys and Francis all night and Isaac's jealousy spins out. "Why don't you do it," Isaac says. He is snappy, petulant. His nose is more crooked. "You've never let us seen your soul. What are you, scared? What are you hiding?"

"Remember," I say, "when we were together I made you take me out to French restaurants just so you'd struggle with the menu?" My plate of beans: ah REE koh VER. I mimic his nasal Southie voice: Hair A Cot Verts. He objects and Francis, hooked to the machine, laughs so hard his vertebrae soul—a lizard's tonight—trembles joyously across the ceiling like the borealis. 

Everyone watches and I feel cold. It gets very quiet. Their silence is a snowfall in me.

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Fiction: Angela Stubbs


She says yes sometimes when she wants to say no but you hope that this isn't one of those times. It's
cold outside and she has goose bumps on her arms. Out of the corner of your eye you notice how she
wears purple and beige and black all at once. You don't know anyone who can do that and not look
like a bruise. Her shirt fabric is always silky and forward. She makes it look effortless except for that
second where she adjusts her necklace, holding it to her chest. You sigh because nervousness has
entered the car and you don't like it. You swat it away for her. She looks over at you, smiling quietly.
A lady's voice comes through the speakers. You think, "Fancy," but she feels embarrassed. She agrees
something you say. You realize if she agreed with everything you said, you'd never want her opinion.
Words fall out like rocks. You keep talking until the sound of your voice sounds like a dull buzz.
She turns to the side and you see long, turned- up lashes touching the inside of her glasses. The blinker
in the car is ticking and you tap your fingers on the top of your leg. When you decide on a moment to
keep, you pick this one. You think about limits, how she walks the line, letting it be her alibi. She pulls
up in front of a house. Are you home? When the door opens, she reminds you of a crater obstructing
your path. You side step that and tell her about building something new. She asks you about handstands. You agree to hold her feet steady, allowing them to waiver ever-so-slightly. She marvels at the view involved
upside down.


All rights reserved to Angela Stubbs

Illustrated by Meghan Murphy

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Poetry: Dalenna Moser 

First Job, Receptionist at Hair Salon

Donna tells me to shampoo her customer.
The color must come out on the old woman

with black dye lining the brim of her forehead. 
She sits in the shampoo seat.

I test the water: cold, warmer, warm.
She bucks me like a horse, jumps from the seat

painting the linoleum in black dye, screams hot
in a voice that gallops over my abdomen.

This horse tells me how precious hair can be.
The woman: everyone speaks in different temperatures.


Losing Hair at 13

Her hair fell out gradually
like pine needles after Christmas 

hit the floor silent sucked
by the vacuum, no diagnosis.

We tried giving her shampoo,
tried using words like alopecia, B-5,

minoxidil, panthenol. To cover the bald spots
and thin slices of darkness

she wore hats. When there was nothing left, nothing to hang
around her face, she bought a wig made of someone's

extra hair. I have to imagine her now a horse,
a mane the color of hot charcoal

galloping through an open field
too beautiful to touch.


All rights reserved to Dalenna Moser

Illustrated by Meghan Irwin

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Poetry: Molly Jean Bennett

Embarrassment of Radishes

Our radish patch had one good season. I was twelve, and the way
winter became spring that year must have been finally

perfect. We filled milk crates and paper shopping bags
with the vegetables, hard and bitter like balled fists.

That was the same spring my grandfather's heart jammed
the first time. He sat on our back porch for what might

have been months, recovering. His shirt open, I could see the red
lattice striding across his chest. My friends and I circled

the backyard, heaving radishes at each other while my grandfather
cursed the waste. For me, there were a few months

yet before the blooming of my hips, the explosion
of my cheeks into redness every time I spoke.


My Sister and I Talk About Men

When I see a man I like, I make sure never
to talk to him, my sister says. If he walks
into a room, I leave. We are sitting beneath
a watercolor of our grandmother—bare tits,
nipples long and plum dark. Bitten and sucked
by men and too many babies. These are not
what we know. I will not say our own
are rosebuds. More, they are cherry pits.
Small, stoic.
        My sister fears men as I do. 
When I see a man I like, I say, I—but a plate
crashes to the floor in the next room. Cursing
the ghost that lives in this house, we spring
for the hand broom. It was an old plate, fine
leaded porcelain with gold piping, now in death
spreading diaphanous dust across the kitchen.
Toxic, faintly. And our lives, our unbroken
inseams, become a few minutes shorter.
Shorter, perhaps, and a little less tender.


All rights reserved to Molly Jean Bennett

Illustrated by Meghan Murphy


Poetry: Anne Barngrover

My Lover Vows to Follow Me Even after He Leaves Me

That winter, I stirred sugar and cream. I cut your hair

            and counted spoons, tamed the river birds
                      into umbrellas and taught the dog to sit

for a piece of apple. I wanted to unmake a fox earth

            into a home. You thanked me a little less
                      every day, never saw my love-scatter

skunking off like shingles. As a child, I played a hiding

           game as if I were the smallest creature,
                      training my eye to spot places where

I'd disappear if I needed to flee. Too late for you

           to track me down. Where would you find
                      me now? In booths, in burrows, an attic,

a woodpile, your pocket, the milk jug, under bridges,

           under porches, under a moss-eaten log?
                      If trust is to hem your promises

into my jacket lining like folded dollars during

           an ice storm, then I have been trusting all my life.
                      I could vanish in a white rain.

I am trying to sluice your words from my clothes,

           sodden with ink. I've been meaning to tell you:
                      I cannot comprehend your changing ways—

from balm to shovel, from padlock to light snow.

The moment I look back, I sour and see again

           your lips shaping the words

I will follow you, each syllable tender as teeth.


Ask Me

She's so darling about the whole thing—
           asking me to be a bridesmaid

when we both know but won't say
           how two years ago she called me

drunk from a bar bathroom, her slurs
           knotted like fingers in hair.

Sweat pooled in the crook of my arm
           as I swore to her, Girl, he's a dog.

It was the season of abandoned 
couches that mushroomed in lawns,

the smell of Palmetto bugs soaked
           in hot tequila. God bless

the state lines: I said yes when he asked
           on a beach towel between Florida

and Alabama, yes the timeshares
           loomed behind us in their turquoise

and salmon knolls, yes the jellyfish
           floated thin as ghosts. How long

until I became just a sad and empty bag?
           Weeks later, he and I ate sundaes

on a breezy patio, my eyes rimmed
           in salt, while a baby screamed

at the next table over. The dogs and I
           have this in common—our mouths

remember everything we put in them:
           the bright fruit's unexpected gristle.


All rights reserved to Anne Barngrover

Illustrations by Alex Fukui

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