A Track List for Piercing Tongues
by Dorothy Bendel
“Big Mouth Strikes Again” (The Smiths)
He opened his mouth so I could inspect his tongue, thick and squirming like Jabba the Hutt’s. I aimed the needle at the sweet spot: dead-center, between two purple veins in a pond of saliva. I knew to avoid veins like I knew to avoid earnest declarations of love, which only bring trouble. I can’t remember his name. I’ll call him The Mark.
by Nate Waggoner
When he was a boy, Roy Sullivan was out in the fields, hacking away at grain with a scythe. Picture a turn of the 20th century kid, maybe in overalls, sweating, buzz cut, diligent, serious. An expansive field lies in every direction around him. This grim tool in his hand, the tool of a psychopomp, the last tool you ever see. The way Death might show up with it one day and attack you crossing the street, or might wait around in your room with you for months, checking his phone. Little Roy cut and cut in the Southern sun, and the sun went away and clouds crept out, and a bolt of lightning struck his blade, bounced off it and sets the crops on fire.
My Father’s Face
by Alex DiFrancesco
I am scrolling mindlessly through Facebook when an article jumps out at me. In the accompanying picture, a woman has a thought bubble with nothing in it. The headline says the article is about people who cannot see pictures in their mind.
Chasing Uncle Park
by Jonathan Warner
He was a renaissance man of all things cool – bush pilot, motorcyclist, electric guitarist, pool shark, gymnast, mechanical genius, high-diver, general bad boy, and smooth ladies man – he even built a race car for Paul Newman. All the fantastic stories about him that seemed exaggerated were straight true, but that didn’t stop him from growing even more mythic in my young boy mind.
Tell Me How Much You Love It
by N. Michelle AuBuchon
Your friends own an apartment in Park Slope a few blocks from your house. It’s modern and homey: plants on a terrace that faces a quiet street, all the pots and pans, a nice stove, and proper wine glasses.
They ask you to house sit for a week—water the plants, feed the cats. You live in a nice apartment with two other roommates, but it has never been a home. You are a cook, and you never cook there. The kitchen does not feel like yours. Your knives and cast iron gather dust. Your cookbooks sit on the shelf above the microwave—a reminder of your former life—when you knew how to prepare meals, take care of yourself, boil an egg, bake a cake, and roast a chicken every now and then. When you lived in Astoria, you taught yourself to cook. You read cookbooks and scoured every market in the neighborhood to make new recipes every night. Your favorites were the recipes that had ingredients you’d never tasted before—the whole experience a kind of adventure—a thrill.
I first encountered Felicidad Blanc the same way most people before me had, hearing her melancholy, singsong voice say in Spanish: “He died at seven in the evening in Castrillo de las Piedras one summer afternoon, luminous and clear, like so many others we had lived in other summers. The previous days we had been happy. Once again a rupture interrupted my life.”
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.