Tarnished Lace by Eden Metzger

I realized I never truly knew my mother. I knew she plucked pieces of lavender and orange blossoms from our backyard and folded them into her white dresses. When she whisked me into her arms I used to press my rosy face into her linen shoulders, just so I could smell her springtime scent. I knew she was born in Liverpool in a big house with green shutters but hadn’t lived anywhere else for more than a year until she painted white puffy clouds on the walls of my nursery.  That was back when we lived in the somewhat falling apart two-bedroom home on Chapel Street. I knew she had gone on pointe at the ripe age of 12, and although she had given up dancing many years ago, every Christmas she scraped together money for two tickets to the Nutcracker. I knew she always painted her nails a deep maroon and had a crooked smile. She loved to write poetry in long cursive letters. She must have had parents but I never saw a picture of them. I wonder if my grandmother had her deep black eyes, they were like splatters of ink against her parchment-pale face. She called them “dangerous eyes,” and said when she was my age, all she wanted was my powder-blue gaze. There was pain swirling behind her pupils but she was good at hiding it. 

Once she volunteered as a chaperone for my seventh grade field-trip to a history museum. “Louisa Wilson” was scribbled on a name-tag pressed to her chest. Between the artifacts from a Viking ship and the painted stoic faces of medieval kings was an exhibit called “Images of Auschwitz.” I saw my mother hesitate, then wander into the exhibit.  There was a picture of a girl with wide eyes her head jaggedly shaved. “Chaya Katz prisoner 107849.” Seeing it, my mother was violently jolted; though she said not a word I watched her quietly bite her nails until little droplets of blood formed at the edges of her fingers. I remember our drive home that day, sitting in her Volkswagen, the hot leather seats pressing against my thighs. “Did you know that girl in the photo, who was she?” I asked in a childish blunt way, my mother nodded slowly and we drove in silence the rest of the way home. I often repeated the memory of my mother in my mind, sometimes I was nervous it would one day fade away. 

Tears dotted my face like freckles. A week after the funeral, I shoved boxes of my mom’s tightly bubble-wrapped possessions into the trunk of my car. As I slammed the rusted trunk shut I desperately longed to be a kid, my mom gripping the pink plastic handle of a jump-rope as I giggled, feeling my feet hit the grass between skips in the backyard. I climbed the rickety ladder to the attic where the last few boxes sat. I lifted the heavy wooden lid of the trunk. Inside was a strawberry red scarf my mother knitted, a postcard from Austria, a worn copy of A Moveable Feast and Tales of the Jazz Age with her initials scribbled on the inside, and, a little black journal. I could feel my heart slam into my rib cage. I hesitated a moment, staring at the cover, then hastily flipped through the pages of her swirly cursive letters and began to read. 

        Ballet Class Holland 1941 

I was late by exactly seven minutes. My fingers thumbled with the pink silk ribbon that dangled from my point shoes. I hurried to tie them but the fabric slipped between my calloused fingers into a loose knot. Immediately I untied the mess of ribbons and started over. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the other girls were already stretching, leaning against the wooden barre grimacing as their white knuckled hands wrapped around the soles of their pointe shoes, the once blush fabric now withering away into a mess of dirt streaks, loose threads and tarnished lace. I pulled tighter on the ribbon, my fingers moving like a spider frantically crawling about my leg.  I could hear Madam Morel crack her knuckles against the maple keylid to the piano in the corner; she did this every time she was about to play and the sound of her bones popping under her thick layer of wrinkled skin made me squirm. 

She opened the lid of the piano and dusted off the keys with the cuff of her stained sleeve. Her messy mixture of white and grey hair spiraled by the sides of her face. She squinted her hazel eyes that were such a deep gold they looked like the violin resin my brother often left on the bookshelf. I watched her attention shift to her carpet bag with horribly embroidered lilacs on it that sat next to her on the piano bench. She undid the clasp and rummaged through the clutter she threw in the depths of the bag, lifting clean white sheet music as carefully as she could. 

Madam Morel was an older woman who had a nineteen year-old son, he was a soldier in the last war. People often say nice things about him in a sticky sorrowful way even though I’m sure they never met him. I remember him faintly. He used to ride the paper route, Chaya had a crush on him and one time we left him gingersnaps in a brown paper bag by the mailbox. I didn’t pay much attention but maybe I would have if I knew he was going to die in France just a few years later. In a nightmare once, I imagined his body sinking into the depths of the trenches alongside bullet shells and ashes, his perfect blonde hair covered in dried blood, the creases of his blue eyes filled with clumps of dirt. If you walked by the big brick house on Third Ave. with the antique lace curtains and the blue heavy wooden door which Madam Morel lived in with her boxer Leo, at 7 o’clock, without fail, you would see her strike a match. The candle she lit flickered in a crystal holder behind the speckled window panes of her sitting room. A homemade memorial.  It made me sad knowing that after practice she would return to a dozen empty rooms and a pudgy old boxer. My eyes fluttered away from Madam Morel as she shuffled through the pages of her music sheets. 

Winter had crept upon the earth like a frigid snake slithering its way into Holland as we sunk into our burrows in order to escape the serpent’s fangs. The frost-covered windows of the studio framed each of the girls like Degas’s little ballerinas. Their silhouettes were long and angelic, porcelain faces and stiff collar bones, grey under eye bags from last night’s sleepless hours spent huddled in the tube station. 

Anxiously fumbling with the hem of their nightgowns, listening to the light echoes of bomb blasts, pretending they were just fireworks upon crowded cement floors.  

This morning, between yawns which they politely covered with the back of their hands and rosy-lipped half-smiles they whispered and giggled about the lobby boy of the Maret Hotel on Basma Ave., the one with the curly hair and freckled face, or spoke dreamily about the pink satin dress they had seen in a Ginger Rogers movie long ago. In the midst of the world shifting there were still moments of youthful pleasure. 

 There were twelve of us where there used to be fourteen. Elizabeth, a mousy blonde with a pointy nose had left to live with her uncle in Suffolk last spring, I had a competitive streak that bubbled-up when I saw her perfect pirouettes and was somewhat happy to see her go.  Chaya, who seemed younger than all of us because of her tiny form and whose thickly lashed doe eyes teared up when she was sternly corrected had practically vanished. Her father owned a shoe store, which had been boarded up for months. I wondered where she was from time to time and if she continued ballet. No one really mentioned her anymore. 

I could feel a chill upon the soft pink tights that wrapped around my scrawny legs as I walked to the barre. I struggled to tug my hair into a bun until Briggetta the oldest, wordlessly began to twist my loose strands of hair atop my head and whispered something to me about being late to practice but she was drowned out by the sound of Madam Morel’s ringed fingers brushing over the keys. I gripped the barre and felt my body become light and elegant like a daisy, its petals shifting slightly in the wind. I could hear the stiff click of my dance teacher Madam Dubois’s heels before I saw her walk into the room. She wore a grey collared dress and always smelled of cigarettes and freshly pressed laundry. We all straightened up a few inches and felt her narrow eyes linger on each of us. She slowly walked around the room each click of her heels blending with Madam Morels rendition of Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux in a lyrical voice the words “Arabesque, Attitude ….and Croise,  relax your shoulders Louisa,” escaped from the gap in her teeth.  

Later in the flickering lamplight each of the girls would drape worn coats over the slippery silk tutus and hug the edges of the brick walls dipping in and out of shadows clutching their pointe shoes between mittened hands. Adrenaline pounding inside their fragile ribbed chests. I often snuck out just a few hours past curfew. In Madam Dubrois’ 17th century family estate there would be a small crowd of people sitting on oak dining room chairs. As Madam Mourier played Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky each girl managed a smile and a few good jumps. Some of the audience cried and held onto one another, some smiled in blissful contentment. Seeing a rosy cheeked ballerina in a blue silk tutu seemed so foreign against the common sights of crumbled buildings and bloody faces. On a dining table sat a milk jug of spare change which the very next day Madame Dubois would wrap in newspaper and pass it to the grocer who then would give it to the Dutch resistance. 

…I closed the diary holding it so close to my chest the edges poked at my ribs. In-between tearful inhales, I rubbed my fingertips against the worn pages with her inky words. It was like I held this small piece of my mother. 

Eora, Ramaytush, English by Rachel Chalmers

Eora, Ramaytush, English1 by Rachel Chalmers

Mungi, wilkawarep, lightning,
Burra, rinnimi, sky, 
Murungal, pura, thunder, 
May, hiin, eye.

Darrabara, puuhi, daylight, 
Minak, muur, night, 
Biyanga, ‘apaa, father, 
Dyirra, laskainin, white. 

Wiyanga, ‘anaa, mother, 
Mudjil, chitkote, red, 
Mudung, ‘ishsha, living, 
Gugun, hurwishte, dead. 

1 Eora, or Dharug, is the original language of the Sydney region of Australia, where I was born and raised. Ramaytush is the original language of San Francisco, where I live today. Both survive in fragmentary form. English is the only language I speak.

Rachel Chalmers is an Australian writer living in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in SalonPainted Bride QuarterlyThe Marlboro Review, The Southern California Review and elsewhere.

Nepantla by Fernanda Vega

When crippled with otherness: I celebrate our differences
When treated like a stranger: I embrace our humanness
When provoked with rupture: I tend to my mother Coyolxāuhqui
When disjointed by oppression and pain: I appease in my bodymindspirit
When told that I don’t belong ni aquí ni allá
I bury my roots in the interstitial space, 
     in nepantla
Because, yes, I am different. What it’s labeled as other is my force.
I am the combination of cultures, of languages, of traditions.
I represent the struggle for acceptance and for healing,
          Soy Curandera Scholar Activist. 
I walk this path always seeking to spread and receive compassion;
to be firm when needed or to spread balm on my wounds.
I embody traditions observed under a critical loving perspective
and my bravery encourages me to transform 
for the better of my ancestres and future ancestors. 
Hey, wait! 
May all this push me to the peripheria, to the borders? 
I am not willing to leave completely. 
Harrowing it is, yet, I dwell in that space, 
in the in-between, 
                          in nepantla.

Fernanda Vega  Born tapatía, later adopted a borderlands identity who feel-thinks as Buddhist. She has an Anzaldúan heart; and she is an advocate of long talks, good food and bikes. To dodge neoliberal imposed celerity, she carves time to type poetry and to sip tea on a sunny spot. ig: _tragalibros

The Cup of Trembling Saramanda Swigart

The sunset is made of gold. It is                                                                                                                                              made of gold, the sunset, this sunset.                                                                                                                                made of gold—-pure gold spills down the mountainside                                                                                                     and I kneel before the mountainside’s golden 
     spread

Kneel on the stone and burn this image into my forsaken
brain, sear gold onto my retinas, behind its sackcloth
consciousness (made of gold it is made 
of pure gold--this sunset--made of made of made of the
quintessent 
     stuff)

This gold is flaked from god's massive loneliness, our lord
of deep aching things--
who makes abysses and ruins, a 
cosmos crowded
with empty and ravenous math, with savage laws to bind it; 
this god's mind stokes gravity, black holes, cataclysms, does 
not rest for a moment
     on me

This god built a Martian peak in our orrery without a single
climber; gave titan oceans of gasoline, methane rain, and 
no machines to mine,
and one orb that seethes, greedy with life, spending itself in 
the terror of the spheres and it and I will die without 
consent, or comment, or comfort, but today the sky lusters
     so I own

a sunset made of gold, of gold, of gold, of perfect gold. It is
made of gold, the sunset, this sunset. Never never
forget this sunset of gold, the way it pours like yolk over the
mountain scree, made for me to drink--drink until it turns, 
like all things, into
     what is no more

Ghost Species by Jillian Wasick

We were wrong to spurn 
the Neanderthals. 
Too fast 
we followed 
the first man who cried 
savage, his fingers pawing skull, 
and the scientists 
who nodded yes 
without looking side to side. 

I read this in a magazine left open, 
an issue from last year, when 
we still closed our days 
with the same turquoise door. 

But they plucked 
dark feathers for ceremony, 
colored their cheeks, 
broke the earth 
to press their dead 
into calmer land. 
Intention, superstition, 
worldview. We draw them 
closer to human. 
A charge made from nothing new, just 

from looking back 
at things settled in museums. 
Spears, jawbones craggy as cliffs, 
ankles edged by bone spurs 
jutting out like tiny, white lips. 

Slowly, geneticists turned true the few whispers.
The Neanderthals 
are in us. 
From both bodies wanting 
or broken halves breaching 
is unknown, 
as ancestor truths often go.
I turn the page and see my nails
need cutting. He’d smile 
when I told him, scurry and return
to set his clippers in my hands.
I’d press the silver, sending clicks
chiming, pale slits flying 
from my body as he stayed close. 

For thirty summers 
college students have traveled
to a cave ten stories 
tall in Gibraltar. 
Like ancient women knitting
they are hunched, 
chipping away at a sandy hearth,
pulling away pine-nut husks,
flint fallen from axes. 
Never bones 
found, just things  
once touched. 

I think of my ridged bobby pins
underneath our bed, wonder
how many more Saturdays 
he will sweep 
and still find them. 

The Neanderthals had 
a last refuge on Gibraltar. 
An expert called them the butterflies
and snow leopards of our time.
All of them a ghost species.
Still alive, but no longer enough.
They’d passed the point of no return.
And I wonder if there is a knowing,
if it is freeing or sweet.  
And what he would say,
looking back.

Jillian Wasick is a former public school educator and current instructional designer for a nonprofit organization. She was a Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Fellow in 2019. Jillian enjoys dancing and trying to emulate the Wicked Witch while biking the streets of San Francisco, where she lives.

The Singer by Shannon Wolfe

Alan’s songs still echo from the basement of the house.  Gingerbread, pink, sweating like an old southern Baptist lady in the forever sun. The willows on either side fanning, their shade more illusion than testament. 

Gil speaks to me in the quietest tones as I make my way up to the tired porch, painted icing railing flaking under my hand. 

This grand old dame’s best days so long past her, her bones a home of bitter chocolate drop memories.
Her shutter lashes no longer batting, sagging from hinges now like tears, now like rust.
This man before me too stuffed with the past, flickering in and out of him like damaged silver film.
“He’s been loud down there now that I have a new man.” Gil, fishlike eyes a suit of fine pressed pastel.
His freckled hand opens on empty air. “I used to not mind but now I want him to find peace.”
How sad, how tired I am of putting ghosts to sleep, throat devouring these words I won’t speak. 

Inside tastes of peppermint, Nagel, lavender and electricity.  Beyond these angles the stuffing is coming out and the wallpaper a candied peel but there’s sweetness here still.  A tin radio, a whisper, a rhythm under my feet where it’s not meant to be.  Alan, a photo on the mantel floating, 
Grinning, gracious long dark face. 
Alan, a song long ago that finished singing. 
Oh, how he loved you, Gil. 
How he loves you still. 
The sound of this love curling here on a cinnamon breeze, immortal and melancholy.
I snatch the notes from the air and swallow them whole, and I sing their special song.
“Smile, though your heart is aching. 
Smile, even though it’s breaking.

The piano in the corner protests on its own. 
A music box flung, hands unseen, sails through the air, 
“When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by.” 
Oh how the house is sweltering, hot syrup and time too sweet to digest. 
“If you smile though your fear and sorrow.” 
A figure flickering, his delicate fingers splayed over the keys. 
“Smile, and maybe tomorrow you’ll see the sun shining through.” 
A look of understanding like a skipping record, a broken note suspended in midair.
“For you.” 
And then I have him, a trembling clef curled under my tongue. 
“Light up your face with gladness, hide every trace of sadness.” 
(Souls taste of sweet smoke, in case you didn’t know.) 
And here I urge him to linger no more on this lullaby. 
And here I unmake him and return him to melody. 
The ghost sighs in wonder and fades into silence, his last refrain spent as he joins the eternal choir.

Shannon Wolfe is a long-time San Francisco resident who has contributed work to Forum Magazine, Sandy Magazine, and Scary Monsters. 

Two Lovers Sitting at a Table, Drinking Coffee by Jamie Avery

Give me your gentle mornings, 
your seashells, your palms. 

Lend me your wine-stained 
mouth. In the early light, speak softly. 

Tell me: Where’s your favorite mountain?
What shapes do you dream in

How old were you the first time 
you realized you’ll die? 

Were you scared then? 
And what scares you now? 

Give me your gentle mornings, 
your seashells, your palms. 

Anything you place 
in my hands, I will hold.

Jamie Avery (she / they) is a writer, editor, and plant parent living in Berkeley, California. In 2020, she graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in Creative Writing. Her work can be found in Forum Magazine and Hey I’m Alive, and her digital avatar lives on Instagram at @jamiejacquelineavery.

11:34 PM by Jamie Avery

It begins the way most things do, meaning you are late. When you fluster into the bar your stomach is growling and the honeybees in your chest buzz with nerves. He buys your drink. You say, Thank you. There are gaps. Pauses. You are both treading lightly, but the beer is helping and soon you are talking about academic elitism and Christopher Owens and the suburbs of Las Vegas where he grew up and suddenly it is ten o’clock and you are leaving the bar and walking to his place for wine or tea or chocolate. The moon is full-bellied and the sidewalk swells to greet you. When he asks if he can kiss you, you say yes. When the lights dim in his quiet Cole Valley apartment, you say yes, again, and while you are falling into something, down Belvedere and two blocks to the right, on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, there are shouts. Two men, then a third. One man has a gun. The man with the gun wears plain clothes. The man with the gun shoots the third man, twice in the stomach. Then the man with the gun pulls out his badge. There is silence before there are sirens. From his bedroom, you hear them wailing.

Jamie Avery (she / they) is a writer, editor, and plant parent living in Berkeley, California. In 2020, she graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in Creative Writing. Her work can be found in Forum Magazine and Hey I’m Alive, and her digital avatar lives on Instagram at @jamiejacquelineavery.

After being hungover and facedown in a wildflower field in an unincorporated town outside of Fresno by Kelly Egan

All the tiny stems 
are popping right back up 
from where my body has just been 
alleviating my concerns of killing 
what I’ve just recognized, intimately, as a world. 

As a world they go on by themselves. 
As a wild they do not easily succumb. 

Which brings us to an ethics of picking them— 
            At the moment such a gesture 
            is the very etymology 
                        of violence— 

Which brings us to an ethics of silence, 
            sparse grackle and a mile-deep breeze 
                          challenging the substance of words— 

Which brings us to an ethics of crawling through a hole 
in the fence to the other side’s even more orange: 

Because we could we did not. 
Because we could but did not 
we then understood 

how indigenously, how to the moment  
precisely evolved they are always arising— 
the property lines, and pleasures of 

                                                         /  / abiding them.

Kelly Egan’s poems have appeared in Colorado ReviewLaurel ReviewRHINODenver QuarterlyLuna LunaBlazeVOXWhite Stag, and elsewhere. Her manuscript was recently a finalist in the Midwest Chapbook Contest. She lives in San Francisco and has an MFA in Poetry from Saint

Mary’s College of CA. She likes to think about outer space and visit small towns.

My Estuary by Dana Delibovi

The highway droning. Soot 
settling in. Thunder, then rainstorm. 
But not refreshing, because heat was envy 
spread across the green harbor. Jagged bottles. 
Wide concrete stanchions in the dark mud. 

Smell of low tide. Smell 
of dripping diesel and sharp envy, the wide bay 
covetous, our house leaking in silence. 
Money still evading the heat. 
The highway pointing and laughing; the harbor 

mute, a man working dockside, 
scraping, then sanding. Paycheck. And soon 
a motorboat, and then the creaky 
grind of a winch. The heat 
clinging, like a pact between 

fortune and fame. Wet humid air. The wealthy other shore 
beckoning sensuously, a fog hanging over it. My door 
bolted tight as a polemic. Rainstorm, 
pea-souper. Childhood tarred over with bills. 
Rich and poor dividing. The wide bay cutting. 

Dana Delibovi is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her work has recently appeared in After the Art, Apple Valley Review, Bluestem, The Confluence, Ezra Translations, Linden Avenue, Noon, and Zingara Poetry Review. In 2020, Delibovi received a Pushcart Prize nomination. She is consulting poetry editor at Witty Partition.