Kelsey Ann Kerr

High School Lunch

My father made me a sandwich for lunch every day,

carefully put the turkey, cheddar, lettuce and mayo

on the sourdough, then zipped it up in a Ziploc.

 

And every day during orchestra, I slipped the sandwich

into the whooshing plastic of a black trashcan, or palmed

it off to a friend. Those feinted days, when I almost fainted

 

in the hallways, eating less than three hundred calories.

Once, my father made a spaghetti dinner—the last
he’d cook for us as a family—and I refused to eat

 

anything but Special K. His dish crashed into the sink

and my mother ran after him (then, she still could).

I held the shards in my hands; the pasta sauce

 

coated them like coagulated blood. That was

the first time in my life that I felt regret,

true regret, the kind that’s parasitic

 

and coils up in you like a tape worm,

eating through your intestines,

inside out. The kind that swims

 

around in your stomach when you wake

covered in the lilacs and butterflies

of your childhood bed, to come downstairs

 

and find your mother, alone, crying.

The kind that feels like the frozen lace

of love covering your heart

 

when your aunts are waiting for you at the airport

in Seattle, instead of your mother’s friend,

and they sit you down in those grey vinyl chairs

 

by baggage claim. You don’t want to look
at them. You want to watch the carousel

until it’s one with painted horses that never

 

stops spinning. You hop on, grab

a magenta mane, and hold as tight

as your tiny hands will let you.

 

 

 

Visiting my mother’s memory on a stormy Friday night

I stare at the reflection

in the candle, aimlessly,

until it hits me—it looks

like my mother’s eye,

dark as the sea in a storm,

grey and sad but inquisitive.

Then I realize, it’s actually

the matting of our portrait

that I took in college,

in the reflection, of us

in matching outfits,

mounted on my wall.

The cancer had gotten worse

then; she’d started fearing

death for the first time.

When I asked her

that winter where

she wanted her ashes

spread, she said

she didn’t know,

maybe the Grand Canyon,

where she and my dad

were wed, maybe

Bandelier, where

she spent much

of her childhood,

just outside Los Alamos,

then looked me

in the eyes

and just cried.

I held her until

she fell asleep;

her short

blonde hairs

stuck to the pillow

with static.

The next morning,

when I kissed her goodbye

and flew away,

I refused

to know

it would be

the last time

I’d see her smile.

 

Kelsey Ann Kerr

 

Kelsey Ann Kerr has a great interest in loss: holes both metaphorical and physical of the heart, holes in life left by the loss of parents, cauterized by love. She teaches writing composition at the University of Maryland and American University, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Maryland. Her work can be found, or is forthcoming, in “Stirring,” “New Delta Review” and “The Sewanee Review,” among others.

kt farley

Clear Night

 

The first time she fucked a machine, there was some uncomfortable pinching.  But it was momentary, corrected after a few thrusts by a data-driven recalibration.  The second time was much better.  The machine had measured her depths, tested her temperature, listened to the tempo of her breaths, and now it slid into her with the smooth precision of a crescent moon turning in circles for the sun.  And the money was incredible. Impossible to beat. She could show up for two study visits a week and spend the rest of her time lounging around the hacienda with her fat black lab, Queero, painting and having languid encounters with lovers of the human variety.

 

But lately, something was different.  She was starting to crave the feeling of the machine’s slithery suit sliding across her skin—the softest organic polymers yet, they said.  The other night, Juno came over and seduced her.  As they fell to the bed with mouths full of blue agave, tonguing the circles of tequila’s heat, she caught herself listening for the soft purrs of the machine’s sensors transmitting data back to its central server, missing the rhythmic hum of cooling fans spinning behind glassy eyes.  After Juno left, she sat on the porch in an old flannel robe, feet tucked under Queero, staring out across the bay.  The night was clear, no fog, and there were thousands of drones flying above the waves in coordinated fashion.  Manufactured by the same company as the machine.  Her machine?  God, only two more days until she would see it again. Queero started to snore and she decided there was nothing wrong with drinking alone.

 

kt farley

 

 

kt farley is an errant daughter of Deseret, birthed by pioneers along the red risk lines of the Wasatch Fault. To humor the gods and keep life’s unavoidable balances in the black, kt spends her days working as an attorney and thinking and talking about bioethics and clinical research. Before making the trek over Donner’s peak and settling in Berkeley, kt taught courses in gender studies, queer theory and trans* studies at the University of Utah. kt lives full time with three woodland nymphs (a boy, a woman, and a man who strangely all have the same diminutive waist size), two cats, one naughty dog, and several despicable South American Cichlids.

 

Maryann Wolfe

Guidelines for Eating

 

Do you like peas?

Do you like rice?

asks the little girl in her highchair.

 

Maybe it’s when we are her age

that we first learn the truth about food.

It’s when we make our choices to be

eaters or starvers in times of crisis.

 

Maybe you didn’t grow up that way,”

he says, but “I’m European….”

 

Do you like cheese?

 

I made that soup for you!

I know you love meatball soup—

would you cry if I told you to go

in the kitchen and fix yourself a bowl?”

 

Do you like ham?

We had ham for Easter.

 

“Why are you crying? It’s not like

an airplane has crashed. It’s not like

your mother has been hit by a bus.”

 

Do you like peas?

Do you like rice?

 

“You shouldn’t eat that bread and butter.

Butter is all fat. It will kill you!

Go ahead—here, take this!”

 

Two pounds of butter tumble

across the counter.

 

Do you like cheese?

 

There are times when a woman

wants salt or chocolate,

at least comfort in the form

of bread or peas.

And there are times when this man

eats an entire can of condensed milk.

“It’s a treat,” he says, “Where I grew up

this stuff was over two dollars a can.”

 

Do you like ham?
We had ham for Easter.

 

I know the planning, the time

and preparation that go

into making ham for Easter

or into a bowl of homemade soup.

 

I know how hard it is

to taste a gift when it comes

with words so often repeated,

words that pass through the filter

between brain and mouth

as easy as water through a colander.

 

Do you like peas?

Do you like rice?

 

 

 

Walking in Circles

 

If blindfolded and told to walk

a straight line in the desert,

we cannot do it.

In a forest, where the canopy

of leaves blocks the sun,

we will find an invisible wind

blowing us off course.

It is ingrained in us

to walk in circles.

 

Perhaps this is why I wake

each morning, surprised

that there is no head

on the pillow beside mine.

There is a need to check my phone

for a message from you,

as if I simply slept so soundly

that I did not hear you

returning in the night.

 

But I woke seven times–

the cat was running a circle

from the windows on the east

to the windows on the west.

She is curled up now,

a nap-circle beside my knee.

It doesn’t seem to bother her,

to accept that circular nature

of nose to tail.

 

But I feel myself, orbiting moments,

reaching backwards

for when you were here.

Everyone’s advice would be–

Move on.

As if I could control (or would want to)

the emotion circling

through arteries and veins.

It is only natural

to remain unable (unwilling?)

to follow a linear path.

 

 

 

Pica

 

I remember exactly what my crib tastes like—

a sort of plastic-wood, the way I imagine

a fresh snapped birch twig to taste.

 

These days, as an adult, I try to be choosier

about what I put in my mouth.

As children, we explore and discover,

almost forget how to stay alive.

 

We leave the safety of children to adults,

who install crib sides upside-down

and inadvertently allow our heads to get trapped.

 

Maybe it’s because I understand that imperfection

that I crave the creamy texture

of plastic Risk troops on my tongue.

 

I have the inter-generational habit of idly chewing

the ends of hair, while pondering

some kindergarten question—

 

Some of us always return to taste

as the basic means of understanding.

 

Even the cat is drawn to circles of elastic,

lying in wait on the kitchen table

or on top of the clothes hamper.

 

And somewhere, someone in this neighborhood

is trying to overcome the need to gnaw and chew—

I found a metal spatula with bite marks on its handle.

 

It is lying, lonely, on the sidewalk under a pay phone.

It makes me wonder if its surrender was forced or voluntary.

 

I can picture this cooking tool flung out an open window

by a cook weary of seeking from utensils

what can’t be found in food.

 

Maryann Wolfe

 

Maryann Wolfe teaches creative writing, composition, and food writing at Bridgewater College. She has had work published in The Bluestone Review and Earth’s Daughters and placed in contests run the VA Poetry Society.