by Emily Weitzman
The Long Valley Pub is the kind of typical, cozy, dimly lit Irish establishment that perpetually smells of Guinness. I climb up a tight stairwell to the tucked away bar that hosts Cork’s weekly poetry open-mic on my first evening in the city. I came to Ireland to escape—from what, I’m not so sure. I have a poetry grant, which provides me, a recent college graduate, with the freedom and money to travel the world solo for a year. Yet each new place I make home inevitably leaves me restless. My eighth time starting over in a new country this year, the feeling of the unfamiliar has become almost ordinary. I don’t have a clear sense of direction, yet I cannot stop moving. This is my last month of movement, this time in Ireland, before heading home. The decision to come here was almost an afterthought: a place so steeped in literary tradition, why not? As I order a pint and take a seat by myself in the packed room of Cork poets, Ireland seems more steeped in beer than anything else.
by Tabitha Blankenbiller
The orthodontist asks me to bite and bite again. I grind on a slip of magic paper. A woman hovers behind him with a water pick and instrument tray, and knows what he requires before he asks. Together they file down a stray edge to my front tooth, the one I’ve paid hundreds of non-insured dollars to fix. I have spent the last 30 months with my mouth corralled by invisible fences, yanking my stray right incisor back in line with the friends it abandoned so long ago. In the commercials they tell you that Invisalign should only take you a year, but that’s because your teeth weren’t as fucked as mine.
by Joshua James Amberson
In fourth grade, my aging teacher’s neat handwriting began to morph into a series of arcane, jumbled symbols, their formerly straight lines and perfect circles turning wavy and uneven. I wondered if Mr. Youngren was getting shaky as time went by, or if it was an issue with the chalk, or even the board itself. My confusion continued for weeks, maybe even months, unable to interpret the words in front of me and not understanding why.
The Back of the Box
by Rachel Ann Brickner
I almost became a pop star from the back of a cereal box. It was 1998. I was twelve. Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” was at the top of the charts and her bare belly covered the United States. Every boy wanted her. Every girl wanted to be her. It was a difficult time for us all.
by Linnie Greene
I needed some serotonin, so I bought a $35 nosebleed seat in Madison Square Garden. That spring, my main association with Harry Styles had been antagonizing basic men at bars—declaring his genius, and then watching them go catatonic referencing Elliott Smith or Bowie’s Berlin years. I liked him enough that I could recognize the opening bars of “Sign of the Times” when it came on in a comic book shop, but could not tell you his hometown or a favorite One Direction single. I imagined June, months away, channeling my mother as she carted me to skeevy amphitheaters in Raleigh all those years ago.
Optative Bop: Ping-Pong in Life and Literature
by Henry Stimpson
Years ago my friend David came down from Vermont to go to a Celtics game with me and his 16-year-old son, who was hanging around with a druggy crowd and close to flunking out. David feared the weekend might not go well; they weren’t getting along. But they played ping-pong in my basement, and David soon had a big grin on his face, and so did Jake: he was beating his old man.
The Newspaper Clippings
by Susan Harlan
Last June, I cleared out my childhood bedroom in Sacramento. My parents were selling the house that my sisters and I grew up in, and although I had claimed most of the things I wanted over the last 22 years, there were still a number of boxes in my closet. I had never thrown the boxes away because they were filled with pictures, letters, postcards, notebooks, matchbooks, ticket stubs, coins, and all manner of souvenirs of youth, but I also had never moved them to any of my post-college homes: Seattle, London, New York City, and North Carolina.
by Brandon Caro
I like to ride my bike at night. It’s not too cold out, usually, and there are fewer cars on the road. If I wait long enough to ride, there are no cars at all. And it’s not really my bike, but a bicycle from the Austin City Bikeshare which I borrow and ride for a time, returning and checking it out again periodically at various stations along my route to avoid any unnecessary overages.