Tony Pena

David Morris

Jack Nicholls

Howie Good

Jeffrey Zable

Tara Roeder

Doug Mathewson

LAST DANCE - tony pena

Definitely one of them disco sucks boys back in the seventies. Too many rules in them bass happy horas for this rock and roller so you'll excuse me for ignoring Donna Summer when my last dance card is punched and I kiss the spirit in the sky. 

Though just shy of sixty I dropped in a dive featuring old school rock cover bands and glittering cobwebs figuring I'd lean against the wall with eyes closed and head bopping while swigging from a long neck Budweiser. A goth gal maybe two score my junior pulls me to the dance floor despite my protestations of being too fragile to frolic with bones rattling like broken glass in a box. Kids with cellphones circling like buzzards. By the bridge of "Get out of Denver," my lungs are burning and the lead mullet's measuring me for my burial suit. 

But the rush lingered like a lover's perfume. Funny how pushing that envelope with my saint's prayer on a Mass card makes me come alive and now it's fuck the marathon, I'm sprinting to the finish and Saint Peter can bury my bones wherever the hell he wants cause the music in me ain't dying.

Tony Pena
Richard Price

HURT - david morris

When I was a kid, after my mother died, I’d look at the other boys in my class, playing at recess and lunchtime, laughing, and then going home to their families, and I’d think; “They have it so easy. They have no idea what it’s like to really hurt.”

So I showed them.

I’d walk up to one of them while he was playing or eating lunch or sitting quietly reading, and I’d punch him in the face. It didn't matter if he was the biggest kid in school or some weedy runt. I’d keep punching him until some teacher came and pulled me off.
I’d look at their bloody nose or already swelling eyes, and I’d think; “Now you know.”

But it wasn’t just that they were in pain. I knew that would pass. It was that confused look on their face.  It was the fact that now they knew they lived in a world where something like that could happen.

David Morris
The Ghost Sonata
August Strindberg

GRUMPY CAT - jack nicholls

They line up one by one and hold their arms to me. I am the locus their fingers ache for. When I am alone I feel their ghosts and tingle to be held and brought to a room like this one. Finally—their fingers drag—yes— and then Oh, horrible, horrible.

Bring them to me. We are sick from not touching. I am all of their hearts, ready to curl up and yawn in their chests, and they are my bristling armour. Without them I’m nude. They were born with me missing.

Bring them all. Let the days end with my muscles soggy and my skin an ill-fitting robe. Give us that second when we connect, electric, when we are phantom limbs locking into sockets, that sweet empty second before each of our itches return.

Grant them these moments. Bring them forth. None shall go unhealed.

Jack Nicholls
The Dig
Cynan Jones


I’m sitting in front of my laptop at the dining room table, but staring out the window without even registering the fact that all the leaves are down, when some sort of shining – a deer! – comes springing out of the woods and cuts across my vision for about half of a teachable moment.

The day was covered in the same cold grayness as the day before, with everything seeming either broken or old, but then five, maybe six men, emboldened by the barbaric roar of their backpack leaf blowers, marched in a loose line across the dull width of a dead space, incautious conjurers inspiring the last ragged remnants of summer to dance.

This isn’t any ordinary day. Anything can happen. Backyard chickens can peck foxes to death, and a drunk traffic cop arrest a drunk driver. No one is safe. People stand in the dust, talking, breathing, wondering at it. They lift their kids up, say, “Look! Remember!”

Howie Good
Neil Postman

I AGREE WITH BUKOWSKI - jeffrey zable

that there is nothing worse than being in bed with a woman you no longer want to screw. Been there, done that, and in this one particular instance I kept doing it for months out of fear that I wouldn’t find anyone better and I believe she was thinking the same. Two bodies and two minds trapped in a sad dance that went on until we finally reached the point of no return. We stopped seeing each other completely, and it wasn’t long before she found someone new and I did the same. She wound up marring the guy and is still married to him for many years now. Me, I went through a lot more decent and indecent relationships before I found someone who I also married and am still with after what has been three times the duration of my previously longest relationship. All I can say is that I still think of the woman from the first part of this little story and speak with her on the phone at least once a year, seldom talking about our relationship of almost three years, but mainly encouraging each other in our current endeavors, and I usually tell her what a good person she is and that I’m glad we stay in touch because a lot of the time old friends lose contact forever. . .

Jeffrey Zable
Ham on Rye

NEWHART - Tara Roeder

That’s not a real exercise. Wildly flailing your arms and legs in bed doesn’t actually do anything.
Fuck you. You’re watching Newhart. What the fuck does that do?
Fuck you. Bob Newhart revolutionized television. 
Fuck you. Those fucking brothers all have the same name.
Only two of them do.
Fuck you. It’s a real exercise. 

Tara Roeder
The Argonauts
Maggie Nelson

BUS STATION - Doug Mathewson

The TV commercial confuses me. There are young beautiful people in fluid choreographed motion. Their dancing is perfectly timed, and their eyes always connected with the camera. 

While in motion they unzip pockets on themselves and each other. Cooley smiling goofy smiles, flirty smiles, knowing smiles so confident, and like magic personal electronic devices pop from pockets and spin once, then grow on screen. It is unclear to me what these delightful youngsters are selling until a girl with a million dollar smile holds up something rectangular with a screen, and teasingly shouts out, “What’s in your technology pocket?" “Oreos,” I shout back in a splutter of crumbs.

Doug Mathewson 
Kevin Barry 
Oklahoma - David J. Thompson

Rebeka Singer

Drew Knapp

Heather Brown

Shawn Misener

Irene McGarrity

Ron Riekki

Stephanie Amargi

CRACKED OPEN LETTER - rebeka singer

I want it harder. More. Always. I’m not an addict. Ringing is good. High means something inspiring. I love you, too. There’s never enough.

Until there’s no product left, and I can accept that, at least until tomorrow.

See, I told you I’m not an addict.

Not seeing straight is the best. Swaying, my favorite. Can I get another hit?

No monitor for this drug. Why? It’s secret. People, too judgmental. There are no allies.  
I want to be so fucked up I pass out awake. I’ve had it a few times. One of them I was with my dealer and a friend. My friend left the room. There I was, passed out awake. The surrealist, bestest state. I couldn’t move. Our dealer leaned over my body, started with his hands all over my chest. Neon lights and shapes and fantasies swimming in my head. My friend came back. It was okay in the end.

Still call the guy for shit. I mean, his shit is the best.

I’m a sloppy user.

My lungs feel kicked.

I never listen to anybody. (How cliché?)

I was going to say something else but I lost it somewhere in my head. 

Rebeka Singer
Jesus’ Son
Denis Johnson

LETTER TO MY FATHER - drew knapp

there is a tree in the backyard of your old house that wonders why I’ve stopped coming to climb it. this is how i miss you.

i think we try and raise our sons to be the men we wanted our fathers to be.

he’s a bit older now than the first time you met him. i see you and i in the ways i try to grasp his silences.

there is often anger--and sometimes happiness, but never misunderstanding.

i don’t think that i ever thought you were wrong about anything. the times i pretended you were amount to a curiosity for the why.

this is a hunger i feel blessed to have inherited from you. i will do my best to make sure my son is fed.

perhaps if i do, he will have the courage to send me letters before time comes to cut me down and haul me away.

Drew Knapp
The Palace of Dreams
Ismail Kadare


It’s a long and tedious drive through a winding canyon to get back to the small town where my family lives. When the bus finally hits my stop, my best friend is waiting for me. She is a grade behind me, and still attending the K-8 school where we have spent most of our lives. High school isn’t quite the adventure I thought it would be and I look forward to these few stolen moments before returning home each day. We make our way to the field on top of the hill between our houses. She pulls out a cigarette and lights it, holding it to my lips so the smell won’t stick to my fingers. We laugh over our mishaps and adventures, while taking alternate drags until we’re down the butt. She stubs it out in the chocolate-brown dirt as I pull out my cinnamon gum and perfume. After completing the ritual, we hug goodbye―promising to see each other tomorrow―and as I turn to leave, she says "You smell like musky sweet flowers." I smile back at her before trudging down my side of the hill, wondering whether or not my parent’s car will be sitting in the driveway.

Heather Brown
Bad Feminist
Roxane Gay

COLLISION - shawn misener

You think the black hole is out there, somewhere distant, unattainable, light years away. You also think it's a hole in space, where anything that enters vanishes forever.

Yet I know something. That black hole isn't really a hole. It's a condensed mass, a violent object, and if you look closely, it's RIGHT HERE. I can look in your eyes and see it, so clearly. 

Take my heart, take my own black hole, and slam it against yours. See what happens.

Shawn Misener
Cordwainer Smith

BOY - irene mcgarrity

It’s the spoon I like to gag myself with, the wooden one with “boy” carved into the handle. I found it in a junk shop just hanging from a hook by a dirty piece of twine. I thought it would be splintery but it was smooth. The guy who made it sanded the hell out of it like my dad would have. Dad was always in his shop all hours of the night drinking Buds. I could see him making a spoon like that when my mom was pregnant with me. And I could see mom hanging it from the wall, then jamming it into the back of a drawer after I was born.

Lately, it’s my favorite spoon to throw up with. I keep it on a shelf with my razors and pills and lighters, other things I use a lot. After dinner, I tie my hair back and go into the bathroom with the spoon, thinking maybe I’ll be luckier than my dad. Maybe I’ll make a boy. I lift the toilet seat with my foot, and my gags sounds like laughter echoing off the bathroom walls.

Irene McGarrity
The Corrections
Jonathan Franzen

NON-FICTION: PARIS - ron riekki

Text from my girlfriend:

I was in a café terrace,
drinking with my
roommate from china.
We were talking when
suddenly about 20/25
persons came in our
direction running and
screaming that we need
to go somewhere safe.
Suddenly everybody
start running and I went
inside the café with my
friend.  After few minutes
I checked and policemen
with big weapon and fire
men were outside
screaming to stay inside.
It was so crazy, a
helicopters were flying
too.  Finally I went
outside and I was sure it
was a mistake.  I started
walking away and saw
that all the street was a
messed.  People while
running moved all the
table on the floor, broken
glasses where on the
floor, etc…  Journalist
were taking picture and
asked question.
I knew after that an
explosion from a bar was
the reason why
everybody runned.
People panicked and it
was nothing!
The atmosphere is very
very weird.  People are
scared  and bad news
are all over the news.

Ron Riekki
John Logan

NIGHTLY HABITS - stephanie amargi

The cat was in heat. She sent her lamentations to the sky, hungry for moonlight and a cat dick. I imagined her on her back, rolling in the damp earth outside my window, her belly rising like a loaf of bread.

We are similar, the cat and I. Some nights I lie awake in bed, aching with an appetite that I can't feed. I've learned my lesson though. I don't trust my nightly habits.

On my lips is a wail, wild yet tamed. I suppress it and toss in my sheets as dirty paws and whiskers coalesce in the dark.

Stephanie Amargi
When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi


Matthew Dexter

Luke Silver

Andrew Davis

RV Scaramella

Mark Crimmins

Joanna Arnow

Melanie Meyer

HOW I GOT MY GANGSTA RAP NAME - matthew dexter

That boy could fly. Nailed a cannonball from the rooftop and hovered above the Weber barbecue grill. He changed his name to Chopper and started smoking blunts in the treehouse and scored hash from heads who commandeered the In-N-Out Burger drive thru. He farted into marmalade jars and sniffed them under his Muppet sheets. He ate acid after family barbecues when his stepfather ambushed his sister in the squalor of the doghouse camouflaged in fire ants and feces from dragons. The cold-blooded thug sniffed highlighters and spit lyrics through his #2 pencil from the tallest limbs to orchestral moans of a jaundiced mechanic razing a shipwreck. He vomited and expectorated vodka on cocaine bark before wielding the butcher knife. Mom married a man who severed heads of pigs at Walmart. Half his life wasted with one wrist up a chicken's ass. I saw through the slits of Miss Piggy's cheeks. Kermit and Gonzo's nose and the Swedish Chef between my balls. I aimed for that drug dealer's scrotum and butchered his family treehouse. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew came to life as the lava flow spit from Rizzo the Rat. 

Matthew Dexter
Great Jones Street
Don DeLillo

MILLENIALS - luke silver

None of my boat left. I’m all out. 

Mae claimed two. Tom took three. Fred wanted twelve white whales, said his friends are all fiends. 

I said, “Fred, they’re twenty a pop. Market prices. Completely clean.”

He paid for them all. Coating cloaks the Ketamine.

Terry’s by the speakers, go see him, he might have more. Heads up, his crowns are mixed with mescaline. Visuals should be on point.

Nate and Greg got nervous, gnashed on green dollar signs in line.

Guess their batch was weak. Both came tweaking, seeking mine.

Last time I saw Leon was with Charlotte in the grass.

Two whales deep,

Ain’t seen him this jazzed since Rebecca dumped his ass.

Mikey met some blond, now they're fondling in the rafters.

Soon some princess gets plowed by a legendary phallus.

Jules is puking by the bathroom.

His girl Hazel told me his come up came too strong.

She asked for my last pink owl. Then gave that look that says she wants to get it on.

She pulled out a pack of Camels, packed them, said, “How about a Blue?”

I said, “No thanks, Hazel. I’ve got my own cigarettes. Besides,

I’m a Marlboro 27 dude.”

Luke Silver
Thomas Bernhard


I can't love dad because I loved mom. She always loved me.

I sleep under stale sunlight and dirty clothes, I hug my piss bottles so I never have to find the bathroom. I like to save time.

Dad loves his new family. He made it with the little insurance money mom left me, and he always tries to bribe this betrayal from me by reminding me of the bumper cars at that carnival we used to go to in the fall.

I always remind him about the time mom found him fucking a college girl, who happened to be his secretary. He tells me I'm my own worst enemy, and I say, "Guess the asshole didn't fall far from the tree." That's how we leave things, and I feel good when he stutters before he hangs up.

Mom. I love you. I've said this so many times before. I've held my breath and pushed until I almost shit blood, believing this is how a young man brings you back to life. I've waited, I'm waiting, and now I know if I keep wasting my energy fighting dad, I'll end up like you. I think this will make us happy.   

Andrew Davis
Nic Pizzolatto


Some cartoon must have been our manual. Probably I was nine. Or maybe eight. Three ways we tried to make my hair stand up, but it wouldn't stay. We had practiced laying still, eyes open but dull, like in the movies. Outback, by the burn pile, April Lee painted black ash stripes underneath my nose. She wanted to put some of it in my ears, but I wouldn't let her. The filched screwdriver was carefully placed, then rearranged further from the outlet, as if thrown.

Ape kneeled. She cried and was convincing. Mom stood near the door. She didn't panic or pick me up mid-shriek or come to the rescue, like we had expected. Big tears slowly growing. Then April Lee laughed, flew toward the back door. Its spring clapping it shut after she cleared.

And I moved quickly to catch her.

RV Scaramella
The Black Rhinos of Namibia
Rick Bass

WASHINGTON AND POLK - mark crimmins

Three thousand six hundred paces down Geary and up Polk get you an omelette and home fries breakfast with strong coffee in a heavy mug and four slices of sourdough toast from The Crepe House at Washington, where, sitting at a sidewalk table, you engrave these words on a napkin with the cool phat Employee Development Services pen you found in an aisle of the Kips Bay Cineplex on Second Avenue in Manhattan after A Quantum of Solace, and, since your girlfriend--behind sunglasses and inside the hood of the Funk and Spunk windbreaker she bought on Valencia--remains deeply engrossed in her Journey to the End of Night, you look down Polk at the clouds over Alcatraz before watching an old woman in a red overcoat and a blue beret wait for the stoplight in front of the It's a Grind Coffee House and then walk resolutely--as if anticipating a duel--across the intersection, using a huge multicolored umbrella as a walking stick, while behind her, on the lamppost in front of the coffee shop, an orange banner advertising an exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum ripples in the breeze, concealing and revealing its theme: IDEAS TAKE SHAPE.

Mark Crimmins
A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess

A LEGACY - joanna arnow

They said to write whatever came to mind, but all I can think about is peanut butter. After I finish writing this, they will give me a snack with peanut butter. Because the peanut butter snack always follows the writing, my whole entry is about peanut butter every time.

Does eating peanut butter feel as good as having orgasm? I feel I would have to eat peanut butter and then masturbate right afterwards to accurately judge. But they usually make us do the art activity right after they give us the peanut butter, so I will likely never know whether I like peanut butter or orgasms more.

Creamy peanut butter, creamy orgasms.

I hope my grandchildren do not read this diary when I die, because then they will believe all I thought about is peanut butter. 

Joanna Arnow
Manual for a Cleaning Woman
Lucia Berlin

FINAL PHOTO - melanie meyer

Ariel fingered the blade. She wanted blood. It had started with a kiss in a kitchen. Her thirty-first birthday, they had drunkenly talked of Prufrock’s mermaids and Whitman’s ferry in the dim lighting of Noah’s friend’s liver-colored apartment. It had ended three months later. A photograph of her sucking his dick in the Honda backseat snapped before he went home to his wife and three children had been found. Her question to him when she’d learned it was over had been, of all things, “Did she read my poems?” “No,” he responded coldly. “I deleted those. I don’t want you to think this was ever more than sex.” Ariel cut into her wrist. Cum bucket, she whispered aloud to herself in the bathtub, that’s all you ever were.

Melanie Meyer
The Marriage Plot
Jeffrey Eugenides