Seams / Seems
by Jessica Lee
How to categorize the mundane?
“Mary comes home and nothing happens”
or “Alex comes home late from work and nothing happens”
but if that’s what you see then maybe you aren’t
what something happening looks like for you
maybe everything is not relative but these are the Stone’s
daily lives “little domestic happenings” perhaps
but dare we minimize even these fictitious lives
children breaking figurines and not getting asked
to the dance couples arguing over who remembers
their first date as it really was I can’t say a life
is a life is a life but your life is your life is
your life spilled milk can ruin a day
and yes this is pretty white domesticity
the kind we see on most TV screens
which is in actuality a rarity
but still I think there’s something here
a collective seam if you will
Jessica Lee is an Assistant Editor for Narrative Magazine. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Literary Review, BOAAT, The Boiler, cream city review, DIAGRAM, Fugue, phoebe, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the 2017 So to Speak Poetry Contest and the 2017 Greg Grummer Poetry Award. Find her at readjessicalee.wordpress.com.
by Kathryn Bucolo Hill
It didn’t start with scissors.
It started with creams and sticks of highlighter, with video tutorials, a magazine she’d seen at a checkout. She’d been buying blueberries and Tic-Tacs and bologna, a new diet for summer, until she saw a cover with a woman’s face half striped with creams—white and brown and taupe and gold—arched along her left jaw bone, the left side of her chin, her left brow, gold flecks of eye shadow haloing a tear duct. The right side of her face was wedding perfect. Contour, the cover said, and look five pounds lighter.
She told the cashier she didn’t want the food and sat down on a bench in the pharmacy section. She flipped through the faces, full spreads in the magazine, each face bisected by the center fold, surrounded by pictures of bottles and compacts and tubes. She went through the pharmacy aisles and returned to the check-out with the magazine and an armload of smooth, slender bottles.
The first time she tried, she was sure she’d used too little. She could still see the fat of her double chin, the welts of fat plumping her cheekbones. Her face was slick, dripping with colored creams, but she could still see fat hanging around her neck like a beard, making her mouth look small. So she watched videos on her phone, watched the women and men smudge themselves out with lines and streaks, their lips broad and their chins small and their cheeks sucked in like violins. She imagined them with their perfect faces eating barbeque and loaded fries and crab legs dipped in butter. Their make-up perfect, their stomachs full. They would look five pounds lighter no matter how much they ate.
And so she ate grilled cheeses and pounds of pasta and wet her face with the lotions and creams. She spun her fingers in circles and dabbed with triangle sponges, stroked her eyelids with powders and glitter until she watched a video one day that said be sure to match your neck to your face you don’t want to have a neck that’s one color and a face that’s another haha.
So she covered her neck with a bottle of matte concealer and used up half her bronzer to make her clavicles more pronounced. She let the concealer drip down her shoulders, down her back because there were thick folds of fat where it should have been smooth and she wondered if the creams could smooth them. She stood naked in her mirror and poured bottles down her arms, her legs, brushes swirling creams and creams and creams, contouring in muscles and angles of light. She started ordering theatrical grade make-up in forty fluid ounce tubs, started yelping when dates tried to touch her shoulder, hold her hand.
Until one day, in her kitchen, trimming a pork shoulder with a pair of kitchen scissors, she accidentally snipped across the pad of her thumb, her thumbprint bleeding, cut in two. Until she went to the bathroom to get a Band-Aid, but instead cut her finger a little farther up. Until she poked divots into the fat of her hands, carved around her knuckles so they stood instead of sunk. Until she cut a whole stretch up the back of her arm and the scale said she’d lost five pounds. Until she carved a gap between her thighs, pinched the fat of her knees between her fingers and skimmed the scissors up to her pelvis. Until she cut her calves to sticks. Until she lost ten pounds. Until she lost thirty pounds. Until she struck bone. Until she smiled.
After Italo Calvino’s “Cities and Desire 5”
Fists spiked with keys, phone silent by her ear, walking, walking faster, throat practicing yells, she ran through the city of Zobeide. Men had seen her, called out to her, gotten out of their cars. They wanted something about her that wasn’t her, wasn’t there. There is nothing beautiful about a woman running naked in a street.
The city grew around her everywhere she ran, built itself up with slim white alleyways, circular plazas, white ramps and tunnels and parking lots, white skyscraping towers like thick shafts from the ground. The men wanted themselves, the power of pinned wrists and choked throats, wanted her in their minds for their nights alone with their hands, wanted those fast-hand nights to run, breathe real.
The city protected her. The city trapped her. The men could change the city as they wanted. The men said she ran because she knew they couldn’t unwant, couldn’t unsee the way her body dove and twisted like the city, the city built for her, all women. The men said she ran because she wanted them to follow.
She became like the city in order to hide, made her body labyrinthine, invisible, collapsible, bent at the knees, bent at the elbows, shrinking behind things, under things, running, taking up space, apologizing for it. She said prayers toward the moon about where to cast its shadows, and where to shine its white body so the things they might do could be seen.
The men who say they did not chase her are liars. The men who say she built the city for herself think a woman running naked in the street is beautiful.
Whose fault is it that they did this, said this? Is the fault in the air between their running bodies? Is the fault in the eyes of men—do their pupils constrict in the dark, white cities expanding, pupils diminishing within? Is the fault in the light, in the swoop of the city steps? Whose fault is it that this story of the woman ends with the men who chased her until she was gone?
Kathryn Bucolo Hill holds an MFA in fiction from Arizona State University and her fiction has appeared at AGNI Online, Fiction Southeast, Gigantic Sequins, Monkeybicycle, Passages North, and elsewhere. She was the winner of the 2016 Innovative Short Fiction Prize from the Conium Review, the 2017 Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Prize, and was a recipient of a Virginia G. Piper Global Fellowship.
by Marie Baleo
It’s his genes against your jeans now, seeing as he’s snatched you from the river bed, throwing you over his shoulder, where you hang, diagonally. Wading in the flickering water behind you, the girls call after him, saying put her down, put her down, like you are an ailing animal. He’s got a hand firmly between your legs and you thank God fingers are weaker than jeans are weaker than you, just as paper is weaker than scissors is weaker than rock, and you thank God you swim fully clothed. You once carried a great many things the way he is hauling you now, trudging through the stream, a colossus ravishing a reward of some sort, squelching the moss below. You were told he had a missing piece, a missing cable, some missing links, he’s not all there. You understood, you nodded, softly, now you won’t say a word, not one whisper, not one hiss, you will endure, cradled by your power and safe in your mind, aware as you are that you see the world and he doesn’t, and you think he knows not what he does, and you sing to yourself, put me down soon, and every single stone in the river is looking at you, seeing you through this, and your mind sharpens and dulls sharpens and dulls, till all you can hear is a thousand needles of light floating across the tide.
Marie Baleo is a French writer born in 1990. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, Litro Magazine, Five on the Fifth, Jersey Devil Press, Five 2 One Magazine, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and Eunoia Review.
by Ananda Lima
I work on stifling my predatory instincts, a fact
the airline neglected to note on the file assigned
to my seat, they offered me their dead and their
congealed secretions in vain and after my desperate
hungry pleas, the hostess promised to check if there
were any remains from the feeding in first class
later she tapped me on the shoulder as I napped
and I was not sure if the tray she delivered was
a dream, just sides, but the fruit, the olives, moist
more like flesh than plastic, likewise, the receptacle
for my boxed OJ and the knife, not plastic but
a glass which the delicate pale fingers in first class
would never smash for the shards and the metal blade
they would never use to pierce a stomach, all polished, all
shiny, a mirror reflecting their teeth as they readied themselves
Ananda Lima's work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Rattle, The Offing, Public Pool, Origins and elsewhere. She holds an MA in Linguistics from UCLA and was selected for the AWP Writer to Writer mentorship program. Ananda is currently working on a poetry collection centered on identity in immigration and motherhood.
by Adriana Bañares, translated by Sara Sams
A rigid system reaches rotational equilibrium
when the sum of all actions over the body is zero
Let me show you a postcard.
It’s autumn and it’s raining. In the center of the image a woman is losing her balance, as fish lose
their equilibrium when they begin to die.
Behind the woman, a second layer: above and to the right you see four legs. All are pure white and fat, short stocks with two interlaced hands between them.
Such a composition removes any potential drama from the postcard. No one should be paying attention to this partial couple; the photographer didn’t even notice them when he took the shot. But it’s too late now. We’ve seen it.
The composition keeps the four legs in eye-line and gives a sense of equilibrium to the couple walking by, but it also destabilizes everything else.
The woman without equilibrium is no longer the protagonist of the photo. Now we can’t see the rain. The woman without equilibrium curls her lip and squints. She somehow knows that the rain has stopped.
In all of this, the couple hasn’t hinted at movement.
The woman without equilibrium trips, begins to fall over her own axis. Look closer. Take the postcard between your hands. You’ll see that you’re not seeing everything here, that the photo has been folded in half.
Unbend the card from above the couple, and the sky appears, emitting a slow and acute music on repeat; this is when the snow begins.
The couple is now being covered in white and the woman without equilibrium continues turning in what seems like an eternal circle.
The end of the street is covered in a snow so white it’s as if the photo is burning. This makes us laugh, of course, because while we’ve been looking at the postcard, snow has begun to cover everything with cold.
Beneath the legs of the girl without equilibrium, a perfect circle has saved her from the snow.
This is what I’ve come to offer you:
a refuge from the cold in exchange for stable ground.
Adriana Bañares was born in Logroño, Spain, in 1988. She studied philosophy and serves as coeditor for La Fanzine. She’s the author of a book-blog hybrid, "La niña de las naranjas" (EditionsEmilianenses, 2010) and four poetry collections, "La involución crítica" (Origami, 2011), "Engaño progressive" (Fundación Jorge Guillén, 2012), "Ánima esquiva" (Origami, 2013; Excodra 2015), and "Ave que no velamuere" (Ediciones Oblicuas, 2015). She coordinated the erotic poetry collection "Erosionados" (Origami, 2013) and blogs at La niña de las naranjas.
Sara Sams is a poet, essayist, and translator from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. She spent the past year in Logroño, Spain, where she worked on translations from the Spanish and taught for the Ministry of Education. She currently works for the Arizona State University College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, leading online classes for the innovative Writers’ Studio. She is a graduate of Davidson College (B.A.) and Arizona State University (M.F.A.). Her poems and translations have appeared in Blackbird, The Volta, Matter Monthly, Drunken Boat, Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine, and elsewhere. You can find her online at saraesams.com.
by Katie Clark
This is a question, the thing I almost saw thawing.
I am looking for you in all the things you’ve been: daffodils, ice cubes, a kitchen knife
I think saying “I love you” may be a compulsive gesture.
I love you.
Everything is matter. We can only see the result of it, make it true by saying it out loud. (Truth is something someone told us when we were young, like love & dandelions, just a little less honest).
Here is a sequence: The blue the world becomes when you close your eyes at the sun. Snow falling on the soft spines of our open mouths. A tangerine in your left hand, all the rings I’ve lost and where.
This is me taking something for you. Consider this the tangerine, halved. Consider this me climbing the tree it came from. Consider this my hands weaving through the branches to reach it–
This is the problem of being a person:
I can never know whether my life will be like food or stone,
but I am going to say it anyway; I am afraid of not knowing.
Katie Clark is newly 20 and in love with the world. Katie interviews for Vagabond City Lit and has been in several kind publications including Nostrovia!, Alien Mouth, and Third Point Press.