Mialise Carney

Blog

THE NIGHT THE COWS GOT LOOSE

I wasn’t at Uncle Drew’s by choice—Mom sent me here to spend the fall at a new school, to work on the old family farm and learn about real hardship. Now instead of spending my weekends watching reality tv and scrolling through Instagram until my vision blurs, I rinse warm eggs under a cold, rust-speckled faucet and listen to coyotes howl at night. I can’t help but imagine what it would feel like to be crushed between their teeth.

Tonight, I press my forehead against the cool dusty window in my makeshift bedroom and watch the stalks of corn stand silent and still like sentinels. A shadow, a sweeping mass, slowly trickles into view and I strain until I can make out the outlines of cow silhouettes moving against the stalks. They look so careful that I feel embarrassed, like I’m intruding on something sacred.

I haven’t seen the cows out on the land at night before, I mostly see them inside the barn, cramped beneath heavy beams, dark eyes blinking past me like something was lurking just over my shoulder. I flinched away from them, scared of their birch-colored teeth and how they chewed endlessly like it soothed them. It made me nauseous to see their hot bloated bellies pressed up against each other and sometimes I felt like I was the one being squeezed and suffocated in the hot lowing smell and not them.

Drew said they liked it, that they were herd animals and being so close made them feel safe. He said I wouldn’t understand, being so young, that this type of thing was ancient and passed down through generations of farmers who taken time to study the earth. It was another thing I wouldn’t understand.

When I got out of inpatient, Mom said I couldn’t go back to school. She didn’t ask me if school had been the issue, I think she watched one movie about bullying on the Hallmark channel and assumed that’s what my problem was. She talked the whole car ride home about where I would go, what I would learn from real people who did real labor while I tried to bite my hospital bracelet off, the thin plastic catching between my front teeth.

Drew calls me his little TB patient like I need fresh air to rattle out all the dust and dirt that had collected inside of me. Maybe that’s what Mom thought too when she sent me here with two days warning. But I think she worried I was contagious more than she worried about me breathing clearer. When I was on the ward, she only visited twice, and she looked so awful there, fake cheery and red-lipsticked, her limbs pulled in tight like if anything touched her, she’d catch a plague. She’s the principal at my old school but hopes to run for a higher office now that she doesn’t have me to hold her back.

Now I go to school with kids I don’t know who have filled up their friend group quota since third grade. After dinner, sometimes I go to the cows and sit in the barn beneath one glistening, buzzing lightbulb, close my eyes, and try to relax into the swaying. And even though I’m surrounded by the herd, the shifting, moaning herd, even though Drew told me I should feel safe, and huddled, and warm, I feel even lonelier than the third-floor school bathroom where that girl from homeroom walked in on me. The girl that kept asking if I was okay while we waited for Mom to get out of her meeting, while we waited for the EMTs to come and scrape me off the wet tile floor. And it’s so quiet, even with the rustle of bodies against bodies, even with the howl of the coyotes, I can still hear the hollow rattle of the pill bottle when Mom snatched it from the cup of my hand, the one I took from her bedside drawer that morning, freshly refilled on the first of the month. Sometimes I can feel the cold breeze against my face as she paced, clutching the bottle against her soft baby pink sweater, how it warmed against her chest while I shivered on the floor.

It’s a messy thing, a baby cow, all legs and desperation, not yet having learned the grace of their mothers. My first week here Drew had two baby cows, one right after the other. They wouldn’t let me see the birthings, but I got to see them in the days after up in the field with the herd, staggering after their mothers. I admired one mother’s coolness, how in the gleaming greenness of the morning she could turn to her calf, knock it over with one swift nudge of her face and continue moving on after the herd without looking back.

I can’t see the baby cows tonight, but I hope they’re in there, somewhere, pressed up against the warm bloated bellies of their mothers. I hope they didn’t get left behind in that cold creaking barn without any light, except for maybe the moon pressing through the gaps between the rusting tin shingles. I hope they weren’t left alone with no understanding of how to get out.

Drew knocks on my bedroom door, opening it just a crack. His long face is darkened and backlit, the orange hall light haloing his head.

“I saw your light,” he says. “Everything alright?”

I wonder what he would do if I told him. Would he run out into the uneven night, pull a lasso from his belt? Would he call to the boys even though they’ve all gone home for the night? Would he blame me? Me, who did the last feeding, who went to the barn and sat beneath the glow of that one, sparkling lightbulb, and stared into their eyes, huge and glossy and wet with a sadness I could feel, raw and heavy in my gut, like I’d been given something I wasn’t sure how to carry. Me, who’d begged them to tell me how to feel it, how to feel warm and safe against other bodies, how to comfort myself with the chewing instead of gnawing through my tongue.

Do I tell him I pushed the gate open, that I guided them out into the cold open night?

I shake my head. I say nothing. Drew nods and closes the door.

I watch the cows, that shapeless shifting mass move through the grass and disappear past the corn. And I swear I can feel it, that ancient understanding. I can feel it warm like lightening bugs crawling underneath my skin.


Mialise Carney is a writer and MFA student at California State University, Fresno. She is an editor at The Normal School, and her writing has appeared in Hobart, Maudlin House, and Atlas and Alice, among others. Read more of her work here.

Best of the Net nominations for 2018

2018, Blog

We are excited to announce our nominations for the 2018 Best of the Net anthology!

POETRY:

no te quedes” by Anthony Cody
Revenge of the Asian Woman” by Dorothy Chan
The Weight” by Cameron Alexander Lawrence
Success That Is Partly The Result Of Chance; Or, An Uncertain Course Of Events” by Alysse Kathleen McCanna
Dumb Luck” by Victoria Lynne McCoy
Marfa Lights” by Iliana Rocha

FICTION:

Bad Bones” by Alexandra Kessler
Patterson Field” by Kate Arden McMullen

NONFICTION:

Little Deaths” by Annalise Mabe
Tension And Release: Diffusing Pressure Points In The Abnormal Adolescent” by Naomi Washer

Sara Peck

2018, Blog, Poetry

dear anne with the broken fingernails

in turn it regrows—impulse to gather
every escaped branch I can hold in the pit
of my shirtde
                       whittle each to a point

there are so many more roots
than we planned for
think we never would have known
had we not teased them out
made visible the underearth
and now that we know
it’s no wonder they don’t believe you


dear anne with the broken fingernails

we watch the rain misdefine health
and no matter how we look at it you’ve had to unlearn
how everything falls sideways
                                                      words, hair, slant
of water against glass

your shrinking pulls the air out of the room
like a well and you divide it into parts

                                                      minus arm
                                                      minus thigh

but our body’s house has many rooms
and walls made out of light
only feel beautiful until they decay

I can’t prepare a place for you
                           can’t tell you to stop playing
in the wound of the barren rooms

my teeth are light-full still
my hands clawed to the chimney
to keep the birds out


Sara Peck is the author of a chapbook, Yr Lad Bob (Persistent Editions) and a collection with poet Jared Joseph, Here You Are (Horse Less Press). She runs a bookshop and teaches school in Charleston, South Carolina.

Brenna M. Casey

2018, Blog, Poetry

thickly settled: a poem  begun in august

golden rod and the sun singed cones of
the last of late summer’s honeysuckle simmer in the fields;
and my inbox, says nate, is like a game of fucking minesweeper.

my chest grows heavy and reads like a road sign for a small, slow sped
new england village: THICKLY SETTLED.
and i regret not grabbing shoes out from under the desk,
as i head for the pebbly pumice of hickory ridge road,
thinking:
we muddy our own waters.

i read, then i realize:
“they were full- blown, abandoned to this.”

in lieu of admitting i was sad, i described to you a somber scene:
told you i had walked to the old church yard on west main street
and sat underneath the double headstone i like so well.
“READER,” it reads you from the new-found american folk art etch of a slate slab,
“if you knew them,”—two boys drown in the west river,
the one trying to save the other,–“you will weep with their friends.”

in these days i think constantly of getting a tattoo of that line from that novel
great house by nicole krauss who is married to what’s-his-three-names.
it would read in lanky hipster script:
“it would be wrong to say that the conditions of such a life had been a hardship.”

and the scene is mostly somber, which is to say sad, because:
as the stream of autumn air bleeds in the nighttime
between the ineffectual grate of heavy-lidded venetian blinds,
somebody should fish us out from
the river’s tow.


long distance valedictions

we say goodnight symmetrically.
as in:

goodnight, your name.
goodnight, my name.

if i use your surname,
you use mine.

if you deploy my title,
i yours.

if i am yelling,
you match my capital letters.

and when you whisper, mhmm,
swaddled in bedclothes and sleepy,

such a long way away, i script my
mumbled volley in lowercase too.

it’s paltry and precious
and all that we can give.


Brenna M. Casey is a Lecturer at Duke University where she teaches courses in Creative Writing, Literature, and Gender Studies. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in English from Duke University. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Bitch Magazine, and Post Road, among others.

Best of the Net nominations 2017

2017, Blog

We are excited to announce our nominations for the 2017 Best of the Net anthology!

POETRY

Caleb Braun,  “Lessons
Trista Edwards, “Bellows
Marlin M. Jenkins, “Psalm regarding the Young Man’s Hands

Sophia Terazawa, “The Waiting Room
Kelly Grace Thomas, “The Most Bones
Paul Tran, “Elegy With My Mother’s Lipstick

FICTION

Katie Young Foster, “Babymoon
Meghan Lamb, “The Widower

NONFICTION

Kym Cunningham, “Waiting for the Flood
Kailee Marie Pedersen, “The Beginner’s Guide to Matricide

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)

Best of the Net nominations 2016

Blog

We’re happy to announce our nominations for the Best of the Net 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. 

POETRY:

Sarah A. ChavezDear Carole, I Wait to Stop Feeling Hungry

Ángel García – Stampede

Jim Redmond – For All Those I Have Loved

Nicole Steinberg – Have You Considered Moving Somewhere Else?

Naima Woods – Euglogy Covenants

Emily Paige Wilson – The Fortune Tell Predicts A Journey


FICTION:

Blake Kimzey – The Quiet

Monique McIntosh – Bug


NONFICTION:

Timothy Gomez – A List of Things I’ve Watched Die

Eric Tran – 10 Rebuttals to a Clickbait Headline