Pushcart Nominations 2016

2016, Blog

We’re happy to announce our nominations for the Pushcart this year!!

With each year of our existence, we continue to be both astonished and devastated by the talent and work of our authors that we publish. Read our nominees below and join us in celebrating their work.

Chelsea DingmanObedience
Trista EdwardsEquinox
Ángel GarcíaAntipode II 
Hannah Lee JonesDaughter of Cain
Phillip Scott MandelI Swallowed The Sword Of Shannara And Lived To Tell This Tale About It 
Anna Doogan – Heart(lands)

José Angel Araguz

2016, Poetry


When the man begging
on the train begins
his penitent’s stumble
and sway, the car thrusts
into silence. After each
of his God-bless-you’s
I feel myself bend,
neck yawed at first,
then fully craned.
The heads of others
bob and tremble
when he passes.
Were he to catch fire,
would I move,
would anyone cower
at the breaking light,
would anyone bother,
open their eyes to see
the hand of the god
whose hammer clanks
and clangs in rhythm
with the rattle
of the train
buckling along
in the dark.


When something like this breaks, it means
we must swarm around the narrow
stairway, our steps slower, the pace
set according to our sighs. Each
glance and gesture becomes a word.
My looking down and waiting speaks
to the old woman next to me:
after you. All the stars left in
the sky, all the calls and blinking
messages, the wintered sorrow
of all passing thoughts must now wait
until we are level again –
wait as we take turns returning
to our lives. When something like this
breaks, it means the words I wanted
to write before are different from
the ones I have got down for you.
These words are older than you think.


José Angel Araguz is a CantoMundo fellow and the author of six chapbooks as well as the collection Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press). His poems, prose, and reviews have appeared in RHINO Poetry, New South, and The Volta Blog. A current PhD candidate at the University of Cincinnati, he runs the poetry blog The Friday Influence. A second collection, Small Fires, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

Emily Rose Cole

2016, Poetry


After the burial—white ash, clay pot,
my tongue heavy as stone—I return
to this land whose language lacks
a word for home, this city

whose name I always
want to write
                         to lose.

In the park I watch the wind
crumple a small girl’s kite
under Pont Neuf’s center arch.

She wails.
                             The wind wails back

& I wish it would take me too,
pitch me up to join this carillon,
this terror of mourning.


I haven’t spoken in days.
In the courtyard, crows gather
dusk’s last light in their wings.
                                                        I lift my head—

they say the wind here cries
itself mad and I imagine a lost girl
grieving through the streets at night.

If I swallowed that wind,
would my tongue turn
to the clapper of a bell?
                                           Could I sing again?


The moon spools over the semis,
broken string of stars wheeling above the gas wells
that belch back their shine like a buzzard’s black eye.

October, & slush crusts the gutted asphalt, ice squealing
in the treads of the trucks that huff down Main Street, all day,
all night, waste water trailing them.

Can anyone here sleep anymore? Is there any road left
that leads somewhere I love? At the window, I search
for anything living. There—autumn’s last bats dive
& scatter, their wings sawing down the sky.


Emily Rose Cole is a writer and lyricist from Pennsylvania. She has received awards from Jabberwock Review, Ruminate Magazine, and the Academy of American Poets, and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Nimrod, Spoon River Poetry Review, Yemassee, and Passages North, among others. She holds an MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is currently a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati. You can reach her on Twitter via @EmilyColeWrites or via her website at emilyrosecolepoetry.com.

Terrell Jamal Terry

2016, Poetry


I was sleeping inside my head
I walked with someone throughout a house
Empty of all furnishings
Stem of the city morning
I couldn’t enslave or extend it
My castle of blemishes
Why do you never see them see you
Without seeing feathery flames?
Bereft of the sun, I would not hold
I could sink into incivility
I can be an idiot
I claimed the walls were cages
Sometimes they were not
In the attic of other ways
I still mean every sound
The orange ball dips into the river
Liquid neon light
If I hide in a boat (gloomstricken)
I’d have to jump out
That’s not giving up
Write this down
I want a red composition
I want a blue composition
I want it black
For a stretch of time
A scar across memory


Terrell Jamal Terry is the author of Aroma Truce (Black Lawrence Press, 2017). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Literary Review, Green Mountains Review, West Branch, The Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Columbia Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He resides in Pittsburgh, PA.



Monica Lewis

2016, Poetry

“first kiss”

we will meet each other like hawks who, at first tender, soon nip, nip nip nipping until tiny cries pierce out, deep from our guts, talons clawing the bark of the conifer to fine dust. i a sharp-shinned hawk (accipiter stratus) only slightly more pale and spare than you, will be caught in my tree, at just about its height, in the night, and it will be my eyes, orange lit moons flitting through the leaves that pull you, you a black sparrow hawk (accipiter melanoleucus), somehow drawn north, now lost, black belly, white breast, with a dove in your beak. you’ll not know i’ve not eaten in weeks, and that this hunger has been a choice. i am white-breasted, black-backed, so when we flutter together we become one monster bird of night and light. you’ll first offer the dove, and we will share the feathered flesh, the snapping bones, until below us, the tree seems dusted in snow and then you will kiss the gold of my cere. i will hook my bill into your nape. you’ll wiggle your bill down into mine. this close, you’ll notice my underparts are blue-gray, a startling flash of topaz when flecked by light. and your belly glistens both night and day, like a black beetle’s shell. like a black beetle’s shell, we are hard, yet smooth, soft if touched gently, cracking to ooze if pecked at and with this nip nip nipping it is clear, we will not let up till we’ve nipped to the juice.

“(lies to tell yourself when you are sad or happy or drunk or sober or woke or dreaming):”

they love you
no one loves you

you love yourself

love exists, but only in
inhuman things,

a tree or the sea sexed in sun or moonlight
a pup’s tongue,
a spider’s precise,
skinny, scattering sprint,
the sleep-waking space,
the blinking licks,
the dusky/dawny/drunk/druggy in-betweens

on the ledge, on the edge,
still sprung.

how we both always know:

you saw my status
i saw your status
you saw my text
i saw your text
you saw my tag
i saw your tag
you tweet\i tweet
you saw my retweet
my snap, my IG

you saw, i saw, you saw my saw,
i saw you saw my saw, until finally,
one of us saw a saw seen more than the last saw,
so the lies i tell myself when i am see-sawing?

life is a mirror, like the tree, like the sea
like you see and i see but we are flicking,
fading, stunk-dead bugs, so what do we do
slipping into seas and trees,
still hitting refresh, refresh, refresh?


Monica Lewis
lives in Brooklyn, New York and holds an MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts. Both her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The James Franco Review and her poetry in FLAPPERHOUSE, Breadcrumbs, and the anthology, TOUCHING: Poems of Love, Longing, and Desire by Fearless Books. She is a VONA/Voices alumna, an assistant editor for NOON, and the Media Director for The James Franco Review.

Nicole Santalucia

2016, Poetry


My brain is leftover cake in the freezer;
it’s trapped in a ziploc bag
and if the freezer ever stops freezing
my cake brain will melt.
The chocolate frosting looks like blood
and this bag of brains begins to rot.
My brain is cold out here in Pennsylvania
where black and white gunshots
echo above the train tracks,
where trains carry boxes full of hearts
pass the prison… where I sit now
with Rashanya and Elizabeth and Chelsea;
we sit in a cold cinderblock room
wearing red shirts and pants.
We heat up Pennsylvania from behind bars.


but not the one baking in the sun at the bus stop
or the worm that my brother made me eat when I was 7.
This worm has never been cut in half;
it doesn’t come out when it rains.
The worms in New York and the ones in Pennsylvania
are related to god and sometimes I smell them in a drinking glass
fresh out of the dishwasher. I swear that the difference between
the worm that is god and the worms that live in our guts
has made me regurgitate my desire to drink, swallow it again, then recite
Emily Dickinson, but in my recitation I get the words wrong.
Instead of a narrow fellow in the grass I imagine something narrow
and sly in my pants.


The cows and apple trees and tractor trailers
thump between the prison yard and the university.
Sometimes I chase a heard of cows out of my classroom
and the earth thumps. The word of the lord thumps.
The word thump breaks my ribs. Brown battery operated
cows thump through traffic. Factories thump and farmers
thump. The warehouses are full of thumps. The sky thumps
to the ground when I get home from work and kiss my wife.
When two women fall asleep in the same bed
the stars thumpthumpthumpthumpthump
like bullets that have been hovering
over our heads since the beginning of time.


Nicole Santalucia is the author of Because I Did Not Die (Bordighera Press). She is a recipient of the Ruby Irene Poetry Chapbook Prize from Arcadia Magazine for Driving Yourself to Jail in July and the Edna St. Vincent Millay Poetry Prize from The Tishman Review. She received her M.F.A. from The New School University and her Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University. Santalucia teaches poetry at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and brings poetry workshops into the Cumberland County Prison.

Ashley Mares

2016, Poetry


Give me, my love, the fragments
of your prayers: the remnants

                            of your bones. Remember
                            that time our bones crashed

into each other: how
our bodies broke but nobody

                            noticed. Tell me how this
                            is your sea: the constant flow

of prayers: if the words soak
long enough in the waters

                            then they dissolve into bones, into
                            the hope from our wet eyes.

Show me, my love, your open
wounds: your veins like the

                            currents. Show me your folded
                            hands: how your fingers

come together like a
ribcage. How folded hands

                            keep your heart in place. Tell
                            me: what it does it mean to be

together, to be


This is how my body began unravelling: I heard
a raven sing into my bones – let’s plan

a murder: a gathering. A longing of unpinned
lungs. And I remembered this: a man’s

hands…a deboning. How a piece of me falls
while my body appears whole. I never

understood this: how a young girl’s prayer
can say somebody love me and the words

raise goose bumps on tree limbs like a cool
breeze. How spirits aid: filling the night air like

constellations. I let them rest in my
ribcage: this is enough to keep my body

breathing. Because my body says please,
says no more. I fled deep into

the forest: into tree limbs – how I clutched them
like they were my mother’s outstretched

arms. I remember feeling the moonlight sink
into my skin: how my lungs opened. How my

bones ached. And I saw that my ribs were fashioned
from my mother’s hope. She always said to honey

my prayers with words like be with me
always. And so I learned what it meant to be

broken yet whole: be marked by a prayer that
says, Lord, love me until my dying day. How

these body aches allow a young girl to feel
spirits inside her lungs: be gathering among

the star-scattered sky and see how pinkened
skin means breathe, means enough.


Ashley Mares has poetry that has appeared or is forthcoming in Menacing Hedge, Whale Road Review, Rogue Agent, Hermeneutic Chaos, Whiskey Island, The Indianola Review, White Stag, and others. She is currently completing her J.D. in Monterey, Ca, where she lives with her husband. Read more of her poetry at ashleymarespoetry.wordpress.com and follow her @ash_mares2.

John Andrews

2016, Poetry


This song is Scheherazade sweet:
take cover immediately. And my husband,
more so future husband, more so storm

chaser follows the wind north when
the beat drops. The emergency radio sings:
there are already two dead a few counties

over and the wind wants more bones,
a sycamore spine white as ivory,
like the one in the front yard humming

spring. I need a song to drown out
the breeze. My hands can’t conduct anything
anymore, can’t herd our black cat

back from the window, can’t convince
the dog into the bathtub, can’t count
4/4 well enough to lay a needle on red

dirt records without shaking like the night
we met. You asked me to hold your pitcher,
I did. I asked you to stay till morning.

You did. Come back out of the wind,
I want to hear the unchained shower
melody you sang me awake with

the next morning. Put the track on
repeat, hide in the darkest room,
in the darkest corner, dig my teeth

into my knees, till the storm ends.


John Andrews’ first book, Colin is Changing His Name, is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press in Fall 2017 and was a finalist for the 2015 Moon City Poetry Prize. Other work has previously appeared in Redivider, Assaracus, Burnt District, Pembroke Magazine, and others. Currently, he is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Oklahoma State University where he serves as an Associate Editor for the Cimarron Review.

Will Cordeiro

2016, Poetry


Again the baths are running
              or maybe they’re only laughing
where logic’s turned white

noise. Hallways ricochet soft
              thunder. Each voice is counterfeit.
Needles serpentine crewel-

work our young failed suicide
              keeps stitching—every second
thought’s a fruit embalmed in

juice. Our afternoon’s used up
              without a lick of booze. The young
widow stares at the mantelpiece,

which must mean something,
              must. The few returning
from our garden (plump

pumpkins whose faces now
              collapse; stiff weeds gone limp
in beds) lift sheets and fall

to endless sleep. The harpist’s open
              eyes resemble sucker centers; her shock
of hair, like brainwaves leaking.

Lockdown at five. Faint rusted
              wires. Warped chain-links catching
dusk. A chill. The pill-pink flakes

of paint along my toenails dust
              as I pull up my starched, stained
sheet. Florescent lights seem injured;

the trees, unnerved. A bored nurse
              blurs on waxen floors. And cursed,
each gurney squeaks. One fat,

last housefly twitches on the sill.


All the people were life size, even the dwarfs. Do not—do not, I say!—finish reading this sentence. Now we have a “situation” on our hands. Oviparous as language, as anything expelling eggs from its hole. Then a rain came to wash away the scent of rain. A great line of ants wriggled into and out of the inkpot. Windows conjured us translucent. Sputnik and spattered, every bijou a catchall. A twist-off. Offshore or outsourcing, these were merely some of the variant texts. While the health inspectors no longer termed it a smoke break, the dancing bears went on bumming their cigarettes. Blips at the checkout, bleeps on the newscast. Nonetheless, an effluent flubbing around. Yup, it’s halfway between a grape and a raisin—feel it yourself if you want to. I should have specified: like reading Gombrowicz, that kind of squishy. No, more like the illegitimate stillborn of mathcore and screamo. Do-nothings thumbing their noses, docents tsk-tsk-ing. A murk-making muck-about, that’s what he was. Notable for his attached earlobes. Salamandrine and twitchy, whatever got eyeballed. Light like an avalanche, light going into shock. Splutters of doohickeys, spasms of gitchygoo. As the flat earth went bucking and buckled like a mechanical bull. Such back-and-forth -upmanship, all part of the game. These arguing mirrors. Dear hot-pants, milord, Mister Ass Master, O the jiggy-bit jailbait of jazzercise butt! You’re just another sheep poet, if you will. Afraid to merz up the dictionary. For we live, indeed, in a time of signs and wonders, no less at present than in the days of prophets. Stop with your deodorized blurb-droppings, y’ol’ goot! The violence is that the violence is most often erased. Buddy up with the pain; there’s a peen and a poon, one on each body. Now inflict such dialectic on your thoughts. Ad blitzes for those ticked off were on the uptick. “—It just, guh, pulled the wool right out from under me!” Icecaps that crackup, mantels dismantled. And what, you’re worried about uninstalled updates? See, I polished off another; I’ll take it to my masterclass next week. This-all so-called downheaval of curators, au pairs, and other factotums. Rural-ish realists getting medieval. So my therapist insisted, one stray look could collapse quantum states. Of course, the weather still mattered, residual rainfall, the wind chill and chilblains, the whole savage fallout, notwithstanding the chattering classes.


Will Cordeiro received his MFA and Ph.D. from Cornell University. His work appears or is forthcoming in BOAAT, Copper Nickel, Cortland Review, Crab Orchard Review, Drunken Boat, Fourteen Hills, New Madrid, Painted Bride Quarterly, Phoebe, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Whiskey Island, and elsewhere. He is grateful for a scholarship from Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a Truman Capote Writer’s Fellowship as well as residencies from ART 342, Blue Mountain Center, Ora Lerman Trust, Risley Residential College, and Petrified Forest National Park. He lives in Flagstaff, where he is a faculty member in the Honors Program at Northern Arizona University.


Brynne Rebele-Henry

2016, Fiction


Open up, Hills says. Hands me a mug of chamomile tea with a clove of garlic sticking out. She’s got her red lipstick on and three strings of different colored pearls (one buttery yellow, one bone white, one almost pink). Her monogrammed pajamas are skewed, three buttons in the wrong holes. Her hair is a looped-up nest that reminds me of burned angel hair pasta and knotted sewing thread, thin and ragged but still shimmering in the off light. Rayn comes in, she’s still got her thundercloud-shaped pledge brooch on from twelve months ago, but still. Mine is a lily, the pearls look like tongues or dripping spit. I didn’t want to break it myself, so I put it into an envelope and buried the envelope under my science textbooks, which is to say, it’s gone. I bought all the textbooks at first but then I just started rubbing my fingers over the jaw-lines of the Forester House members and asking them to do the work for me. I always say yes when they ask if I want to get dinner at the all-you-can-eat crab place but never show up. I say that my cat died, or that my stomach hurts, or I just don’t answer, have Hills say that my brother is sick or I’m having women’s troubles, they turn bright red at that one, start to stammer even, she says.

Then there are the Woodland brothers, and the Sky Sisters (our rival sorority), the Foresters, and us, the Flower Family. Tonight’s the Maypole, so I need to look my best. I shake my hair out, tangled from last night. I smell like box wine and sweat. Go to the bathroom. Brush my hair, twenty strokes each side, then smear foundation on, three thin layers is my secret: not enough to look stanky but enough to look airbrushed. Perfect. And then mascara and nothing else on my eyes. Concealer. The blush that comes in a pot. Lip gloss. I want to look fresh, blossom-like. I curl the ends of my hair and put on the bright pink sundress with roses on it. I call this one my secret garden dress, because it makes my tits look like honeydew melons and smoothes out the bump of my stomach, and if you look close enough, you can see my thighs through the too-thin fabric. Espadrilles. A yellow purse. Pearl earrings. A gold barrette that looks like a rose, my namesake now. When I came here I was just Rose but now my name is Rosy. Like, everything’s just Rosy everything’s just good. One of the Foresters called me that one night after I blew him in a bathroom stall, and I liked it. Started introducing myself like that, “Hi, I’m Rosy, just good, how about you, I can make you good.”

I open my purse looking for my phone, but even better: three pills. Xanax, Adderall, and something I can’t identify. I swallow them all dry. Nice. Go to breakfast with Hills and eat one orange and nothing else. The pills are kicking in. Shouldn’t have taken them on empty. Whatever. I set my face into a smile. Half a cup of coffee and a banana and I’m out and ready. Skip classes again because who cares, one of us will just blow the professors or tell the only woman we had to recover after we all got our hearts broken by the same guy. When I first heard that ForestGale was a Christian college I wasn’t into it, but then I realized how many parties and guys with stacks there are here and I went for it. That was last year.

Now I don’t even go to class. I’m going to find a guy and leave soon anyway. Be a wife or whatever. Hills says that with tits like mine I can do whatever and she’s right. No one cares. Hills has a flat chest, nothing up top or bottom, but her face makes it up. Her cheekbones jut out perfect and her jawline could cut glass. Not to mention her eyes are this smashing shade of silver. All the guys stumble over her, but last year there was this rumor that guys aren’t what she’s after. Mine are just brown but the last guy I did said that he loved them because he could see specks of gold around my pupils and that gold is hot. That was such a nice thing to say. I loved it. But then his girlfriend walked in on him bending me over his desk and she freaked. Went totally mental. Crazy. Bitch.

I can feel the dull buzz spreading through my arms and face and stomach. I think I mixed uppers and downers, though, and that shit isn’t fun. Pills are pills, as Rayn would say. Last year we started calling her the Capsule Queen because she could just pop them all day and nothing. She claimed her head was spinning, but she seemed totally normal. Hills knocks on my door, “You want to go get some Vitamin Water?” She thinks that Vitamin Water keeps you skinny, and I’m not sure if I agree, but, look at her thighs, obviously it’s doing something. I say yes. We walk down the street and I feel weird, try not to look at her. I don’t know why. Get the waters. I choose the pink one. Nice. Nice. Bile. Go to the bathroom in the store and puke. Wipe my mouth. Meet her back at the register. Notice a new bruise on my ankle. Don’t remember how.

Hills has a little bite mark on her shoulder. I think about asking who from but decide I don’t want to know. We sit on the curb outside and drink the waters in one go and then she stands up. Brushes off her dress. Says, “Come on.” I get up. The light is reflecting from her face like a beacon and the ground underneath me ripples. I tell myself that I am a rock or moss and put one heel in front of the other and when I start to fall I think: but I thought I was solid. Then I’m sitting on the ground and my dress is covered in dirt and  gravel. A crowd of boys and Hills. They help me up. I stand shaky. Say “oops” and giggle all cute. Open my eyes wide. I steady myself on Hills’s shoulder and then when I start to fall again pretend to hug her but really I’m hanging on to her. She feels warm next to me. We stagger down the road.

Get back to the house and it’s whatever. She looks at me all concerned but I say “I’m fine, just tired.” Then go puke again. Don’t remember what happened last month but I woke up with a guy and didn’t remember if I made him use one. But it’s whatever. I can will my body to do anything, true story. Once I was about to gag on a guy’s dick but I made my body swallow the vomit. And once I got alcohol poisoning but I refused to do anything about it and it went away. So I’m not knocked up. I know it. If I was I would know it. I don’t remember if I got my period last month. I was doing a lot of specials so it doesn’t matter anyway. I think maybe I should get tested but I don’t think I care enough, so it’s whatever. I drink a cup of water and put on more mascara then fall asleep.

Wake up. Hills is shaking me. Says, we need to go soon. I get up. Put on my tight white dress that makes me look all Marilyn and some red lipstick and another chain of pearls and leave. We get there and there’s already beer everywhere, mirror lines placed in a circle around the base of the maypole. I pick up a pink ribbon and start twirling around. Everything blurs and soon it’s dark out and no one else is spinning so I stop and snort a few lines and then go into the Forester House. The boys are jostling and dancing and one rubs his boner on me. Cute. They all try to give me red cups but I’m not taking any. See Hills. She’s dancing, her arms out, her silver strappy dress has slipped off one shoulder and you can see that she isn’t wearing a bra. I go over to her and put a hand on her  shoulder. She smiles all blurry. Then two guys are pushing us together and her mouth is on mine and our hipbones are pressed together and she’s sucking on my bottom lip. Everyone is chanting “kiss” and whistling like we are two stars, like we are two explosions. Then she pushes me away and I start to run. To the house. I don’t know. Somewhere.

Get to the house and take my dress off. Then she’s there and we are on each other and I don’t know what to do but her mouth is on mine and I feel weird and gross but it feels good and I already know what I will say after: I was high. I was drunk. I’m straight. I know. So I let her suck my clit and I let her push my head into hers and I take it all and when she bites my neck I moan.

Wake up. My thighs and hands are covered in cum but it doesn’t look like jizz. Drink a glass of water with some lemon squeezed in. Then I remember. And I puke. In the mirror my belly looks hard, rounder. Need to eat less. Yeah. Drink another glass and decide to stay in bed. Stay like this all afternoon. Then I hear a weird sort of moaning and decide to go scare Rayn and her on-again off-again guy. It’s coming from Hills’s room. Open the door and say “Hey slut, hope you’ve got a rubber.” But it’s not Rayn. Hills is straddling the psych professor we all think is totally weirdo because she always wears blue cardigans no matter what, and Hills is sucking her nipples and she’s got a hand on Hills’s bony ass and they turn and look at me and their eyes and mouths are two giant tire-like circles of surprise. Like animals before you run them over. Hills falls off the bed. I run out and into the street.

Don’t know where I’m going. Wait. I do. The liquor store. Doesn’t card doesn’t care. Get a bottle of Raspberry Smirnoff. Drink. Don’t know how much. I eat a tomato. Sit on the kitchen floor. There’s a party tonight but I don’t know if I want to go. Hills comes in. I tell her to fuck off but she won’t. She sits down across from me, leans against the dishwasher we never use. Let our dishes pile in the sink. It’s a punishment. If you eat too much the dishes pile up like a mountain of fat on your thighs. So we don’t. I don’t know what to say but then she grabs me and our tongues are touching. She’s holding me on top of her on the kitchen floor and then someone screams. Rayn is standing above us, with her on-again off-again, he’s shirtless and holding on to her ass like it’s a football. They’re just staring down at us. Everything shatters. Rayn closes her eyes again. I clear my throat. “I was just teaching Hills how to do the tongue trick.” They’re looking at me like I vomited. I try to say something else but my mouth won’t work. Hills clears her throat. “They can tell, Rosy.”

I don’t say anything. Just stand. Get into bed. Lock my door. Hills knocks fifty times before I let her in. I know. I counted. She curls up next to me and I can feel my belly pressed against hers and it feels warm and weirdly wet. When I look down there’s blood and I think, oh good, I got it. But when I sit up to go get a Tampax something feels wrong and that’s when I see that the clots aren’t just blood. Hills looks down and her face goes paper white. Helps me up and onto the toilet. I try to keep it in but can’t and I can hear it crunch in the toilet. Everything hurts. Hills pats my back, pushes my clenched legs open a little more and holds them there. Whispers. She knows what she’s doing. I look at her and raise an eyebrow and it’s almost funny. She nods. “My sister.” I don’t say anything, but I don’t need to. After she helps me up, I curl up on a pile of towels and feel everything shift inside my belly. She curls up next to me and the blood soaks through the towels and onto the floor and it feels warm.

Wake up. My thighs are stained the same color as a rose. Ha. I get up and more falls out. Go to the window and there’s yelling. Ten boys. All holding shovels. Rayn is there too. In a cardigan and heels. Hills is already up, looking out the window. She starts throwing things into a bag. I do too. I don’t know what. I get five Kotexes and pad them into a pair of black lace knickers. Get dressed fast. Wear heels even though I’m fucked, can barely walk. I can get most of my dresses and heels into a suitcase in four minutes. Fact. Hills can too. We go out the back of the house but her car is in front. I walk up to the car as the boys yell and they start to walk towards me, waving their shovels, but I get in and do the locks and pull out of the driveway so fast that they don’t have time to. To do. Whatever it is. When I pull out of the driveway they all just stand there.

For a minute I forget if I got Hills but she’s there. Our suitcases are in the back of the car. She must have put them there. We drive for six hours. Don’t know where we’re going. I start to fall asleep and think about stopping but then decide that I don’t care and I swerve and almost hit a tree and then I just stop and we sit there in silence. Hills unlocks the car door. She gets out and gets her suitcase. Doesn’t say anything. I try to talk but I feel like I’m drowning, my lungs surrounded in something thick. She starts walking down the road. It’s dark and she’s wearing stilettos but I don’t try to stop her. Just turn the car around and start driving. I’m halfway on the road and half off. I close my eyes. I will stop this humming in my head. I will be clean. The lines in the road are swerving and my stomach sloshes. The car is humming and the road turns into an ocean and I am swimming. The air is blurry. I am steering my ship. I am almost there.


Brynne Rebele-Henry’s fiction and poetry have appeared in such journals as The Volta, So to Speak, Adroit, Pine Hills Review, The Offending Adam , Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and is forthcoming in Fiction International among other places. Her book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books in 2016. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia