the way you move

Poetry by Chris Miner, Spring & Summer 2017


the way you move is so legit

as if wildfire had intention
as if it thought to itself,
       I’m gonna dance
       and burn
       all over this earth

but wildfires don’t have intention
that’s why they’re wild
they just burn and they burn 

and you,
you just dance and you dance
you burn and you dance


Chris is a professional sound engineer living in the mountains of Northern California with his cat, Bella. He’s traveled the world a bit, he loves music, and sometimes makes it and releases it on his label, Mind Altering Records: http://www.mindalteringrecords.com


But I Remember

Memoir by Danisa Bell, Spring & Summer 2017


People called him a sissy.

But he was a minister, a man of God, and he was my husband. It wasn’t really fair, the way people would point at him and snicker because of his long hair and flamboyant clothing. They didn’t know what kind of person he was. They didn’t know, like I did, that he knew God and everything He had written. The congregants though, they called him a gentle spirit, humble and meek. He was Christ-like, they said, and they called him anointed of God, smeared with His very own likeness. They didn’t care about his tender ways or call him vulgar names. He was a minstrel servant of the Most High God.

I knew already, from the very beginning of our courtship you might say, that he was not what you would call a man’s man. I knew he would never go hiking or play football or get his hands dirty working on a car. Instead, his hands were manicured every Saturday morning at 10:30, his hair and attire always brilliant, always meticulous. And there was the way he spoke, the way his words lingered not only on his palate but in the air around him, ornaments of expression and emotion, matched impeccably with feminine gesticulation.

It was his vivacity and confidence, though, that drew me. His spirit and personality pulled me to him like a lifeline. He knew God! And somehow he loved me, and all that that entailed. I was only twenty-six, and he picked me out of thousands, and I loved him for loving me.

And at the tabernacle where we were members, we learned a new way to sing and dance, to shout “hallelujah!” and praise our cares away. We came by the thousands and grew together in knowledge, assembled in the holy haze of the sanctuary, pressed into the wooden pews. We recited life-changing affirmations and declarations that could make mountains crumble and demons flee; declarations that could make a gay man straight, if that’s what he wanted. There was hope for everyone and anyone. We were elated! The pastor showed us on the gold-trimmed pages that we were forgiven, and our hearts swelled. Certainly, in the likeness of our God, we must forgive, and forget.

And I remember him telling me in the beginning that he had never loved a man in that romantic way a man loves a woman. But not because he hadn’t wanted to, he said. “It’s something I’ve thought about before.” I felt myself slowly begin to wither. His confession was casual though, as if considering which pair of shoes to buy. I said nothing to him then. I only looked down at the floor. I didn’t know what to say. He took my hand into his. “I love God, and I love you. I choose to walk in deliverance.” He wept easily at the thought of His goodness.

How perfectly things turned sour. By the time autumn turned to winter eight times, I had learned to pray, and learned to hate. I don’t know why I remember sitting on the back patio with him at the house on Dorchester, telling him I’d seen his secret glances with other men, at the bank, in the stores, everywhere; told him I’d seen his girly thong underwear in the dresser drawer that made my heart sink into the pit of my belly. I wanted to be like my Father in heaven and be merciful to his unrighteousness and remember no more.

He looked at me helplessly that day on the patio, puppy dog-like, eyes big as chocolate chunks; innocent it would appear. I’d heard it a thousand times: “You are my world,” he told me. I was the only one who let him be himself, he’d say. But who was this selfunfolding in the cocoon of our marriage?

I stayed up so many nights then; 2,920 sleepless nights, many in the first house—the pretty white house in Chicago with the ice-cold walls and broken furnace. And more nights awake in the brand-new house in Atlanta with the hardwood floors and triple-crown molding. I was unable to sleep and unable to concentrate on anything but my mistake of him. I didn’t know how to stop the whirlwind of regret that spiraled into a world of depression and heartache, and little brown pill bottles filled with solutions for all life’s issues.

I remember his hot, greasy curling irons on the bathroom counter and long black hair that cascaded past his narrow shoulders; the favorite salon chair at Etta’s, and his eyebrows arched like Miss California’s. Are we really close to God, I wondered, a minster and his wife? I don’t know why I remember the lustrous, full-length fur coat that he sashayed around the city in; chocolate-colored and flowing, nearly dragging on the ground if not for the high-heeled boots that went click-clack, click-clack on the laminate kitchen floor in the pretty white house. I closed my eyes to the sight of it and was ashamed to know him. I tried hard to be merciful, to remember no more.

But I hid myself from his company. I didn’t want him anymore. I don’t know how I ever could have.

There was that grand fashion show downtown, the peacock pride he wore like an evening gown as he glided past the crowd. He was the highlight of the evening, showing the young models how to strut, how to “own the runway,” he said. “I showed them how to do it right!” He beamed with delight, holding his finger up high to stress his point; he was giddy and on top of the world. More woman than me. What had I done, believing God would intervene, rid him of his secret proclivities because of my fasting and prayers, hope and desperation? Why hadn’t the mountains crumbled? Why didn’t the demons flee? I came to know, God was not a genie in a bottle.

There was the secret videotape, tucked away in the armoire, of sexy, half-naked men on some faraway beach with giant rocks carved out by waves. He watched it in our bedroom and he thought I’d never know. But I knew, and I cried because of him at the top of the steps that led down into the yard; hot, salty summer tears, running into my mouth and mingling with unspoken resentment. Rage and seething burned on the inside of me.

And yes, there was that letter, just before we said I do. Why did I say I do? It was from Elder Jimmy, at the tabernacle, that holy, holy sanctuary. He wrote of secret sex, and God and goodness; Elder Jimmy, who had a wife. Yellow notebook pages neatly folded, neatly tucked away, memories for secret savoring. Again I swallowed my voice until it was nothing but an ache inside my throat. I prayed and fasted and upheld the banner of forgiveness, and he embraced me more for it. Surely heaven would smile upon such undying resolve and commitment in the face of marital hardship.

Year after year I stayed; all red flags saturated with the blood of Christ. My virtuousness would be pleasing in the sight of God. Surely it would! I believed.

And even in the midst of his hidden appetites, he continued to chase God. He pursued Him with maniacal praise in the morning, and wooed Him with sweet songs of worship at night. He studied His promises for hours at a time, until the moon disappeared in the sunlight; the pages in his Bible worn, exhausted, like the pages in a waiting room magazine. And God seemed pleased. He placed him in the company of great men around the world; goodness and mercy followed him. He’d often smile and humbly tell me, cupping my face within his hands, “In you I’ve found a good thing. You are my most cherished blessing.” And with a gentle kiss on my forehead, he’d tell me I was beautiful. His once stunning words had become lifeless vessels of hypocrisy.

My heart sang songs of forgiveness. I tried hard not to remember.

I wondered what had become of me after all these years, and where God had gone in all this madness in His name—we were a minister and his wife. They taught us at the tabernacle: Pray, pray, pray; without ceasing, pray. Somehow we got it wrong. We paid our tithes unto our God, emptied our wallets, and filled our hearts with His sacred words; we followed the formula to a tee. And still…

How could I forget my own self-mutilating behavior? The aching flesh. Flesh from the heel of my foot tossed into the bottoms of trash cans and toilets, sometimes balled up in tissues, and always peeled off layer by delicate layer until the agony rose up into my belly, satisfying, climactic; blood on my hands and loving the pain, hating myself. I was not to be trusted with my own heart.

How I do remember the scorching June day in our garage when I sat on the back of my car. He stood facing me. Was he suspecting somehow that I was about to shatter his world, about to expose his counterfeit masculinity? Or maybe he was beaming on the inside with restrained anticipation that his much-awaited moment was here, the moment he could truly be himself. Who knows? I told him I was leaving. He reached for my hands and held them tightly, close to his beating heart. “You can’t leave me!” His eyes flooded with pain, and silence grew between us. Silence saying more than either of us could articulate. I pried my hands away from his heart. He said nothing more.

And in just one hour on a Sunday afternoon while he worshipped at the tabernacle, leading the Christians and singing the Jesus songs, I loaded up a U-Haul truck. I left him eight years tightly packed in a box in the foyer at the house on Maple Leaf Drive.

And by now winter has turned to spring many times over. In the likeness of our God, I have forgiven him. But I remember.


Danisa Bell attended the Columbia College Fiction Writing Workshop in 2001 and the Tom Bird Writing Workshop in 2003. Most recently, she received her Creative Writing Certificate from Emory University. Additionally, she received an Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition of 2007. Bell has been writing fiction since the age of eight, and spends most of her time reading and crafting imaginative tales for her readers. She finds most of her inspiration while outdoors, simply strolling or lounging by the ocean.

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*Note: This essay was originally published in The Penmen Review. http://penmenreview.com/but-i-remember/



Poetry by Chris Miner, Spring & Summer 2017


sometimes you just want to die

when you've been dead for months
          or years already

and I can't remember August
          or most of the Fall
and this winter's so long

I remember Iceland
I remember crying in bed
in a tiny blue room
in the middle of the snow

I remember laughing
and fireworks, bonfires, and brennivin
and I was kind because I was desperate
I wanted to live
and you were kind because it was safe
you had the numbers

and flowers die days before they wilt
a final act of beauty and deceit

and I've been fantasizing about all the wrong things
the highway, guns, and pills

I look up and see stars through the pines
but I'm lost
I forgot the ancient ways

stargazing is a pit
I need navigation



Chris is a professional sound engineer living in the mountains of Northern California with his cat, Bella. He’s traveled the world a bit, he loves music, and sometimes makes it and releases it on his label, Mind Altering Records: http://www.mindalteringrecords.com


Call Me Home

Fiction by Anthony Casella, Spring & Summer 2017


You don’t stumble over a word when your eyes find me at the back, careful not to lose the attention of the students shifting uncomfortably in their wooden seats. I wait patiently for your lecture to finish, and when the door finally closes behind the last student, we search each other from opposite sides of the room, looking for what comes next. Your face is something both familiar and new, and when it surrenders into an inviting smile, I walk to your open arms.

“My God, Luis!” you exclaim, taking me into an embrace. “This is certainly a surprise.”

“Well, I have a book signing this weekend,” I tell you, releasing you from my arms, foolish enough to think you’ve been following my work. “I’m sorry I didn’t call first, Richard, but I—”

“What are you apologizing for?” you ask kindly, “I can’t think of a better way to end a long week than seeing an old friend.” You gently place a stray hair back behind my ear, taking all of me in with your eyes. “You look good, Luis.”

“Thank you,” I whisper. “You look good too.” We aren’t prepared for the gravity of this moment, both wishing for a new one to arrive. “Do you have plans tonight?”

“My family is expecting me home for dinner soon,” you laugh, shrugging as though the idea that people are waiting for you is an accident you aren’t responsible for.

“I’m here until Sunday,” I say, not asking any more questions.

“I leave for a conference tomorrow,” you explain. I watch as you struggle with the offer we both know is inevitable. “Would you like to have dinner with us?” 

“I wouldn’t want to impose,” I respond.

“That’s ridiculous,” you counter, “I’d love for you to meet Natalia and Michelle.”

“You’re sure it would be fine?” I ask, giving you one more out we both know you won’t take.

“I won’t accept no for an answer,” you decide, taking me by the waist as we head for the door. You let me leave first, but you were always a gentleman that way.


The way Natalia says you’ve told her so much about me lets me know she’s never heard my name before the call you must have made on the way here. What would you have said if you did? Would you have told her about the fighting we used to do and the making up that happened after? The trip to St. Tropez that changed everything? How you introduced me to a world that you abandoned me in?

“I wish I could say the same,” I reply, and we all laugh, three players pretending to know their roles in the foyer. She gently touches your arm, to signify you are hers or to let you know this will be the topic of a private discussion later. She is as beautiful as I would have expected, younger than you but not in a way that would make anyone whisper.  

The old you would have been endlessly entertained by this situation, delighted in its ironies, riveted with its unease. It’s the kind of story you would have told us about the next day in class all those years ago, asking us to examine it for you, do the philosophical work you wouldn’t, a group of kids openly debating the emotional shortcomings of a grown man right in front of him and for his amusement.

“Who are you?” a young voice asks, suddenly standing at my feet.

“This is our daughter, Michelle,” you say, scooping her up into your arms.

“You’re a stranger,” Michelle says with a shy smile.

“I’m an old friend of your daddy’s,” I say. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“This is Luis,” you tell her, saying my name as though it’s something she forgot.

“Are you hungry, Luis?” Natalia asks, turning our attention to the meal she spent all evening preparing and the last hour altering for an unexpected guest. “We should eat before it gets cold.”

I work up the courage to meet your eyes when you put Michelle down and gesture for my coat. They are warm and comfortable, like a blanket I haven’t wrapped myself in for years. Michelle is already seated when we enter the kitchen and Natalia is putting the finishing touches on dinner by the stove. I sit at the chair across from you.

“That’s mommy’s seat,” Michelle declares, pointing to my mistake.

“That’s okay, sweetheart,” Natalia says with her back to us. “Luis, Richard tells me you’re a writer. That sounds romantic.”

“It’s more sleepless nights and unproductive days than glamour, I’m afraid,” I offer. “But I’m certainly grateful for any success.”

“Don’t be modest,” you interrupt. “You’re a brilliant writer.” Your eyes won’t leave me.

“Are you still writing?” I ask. You shrug as though it’s an impossibility.

“Honey, I didn’t know you wrote,” Natalia says uncomfortably, turning around now, making her presence known in a conversation between two people whose history she can’t quite track. She brings the dish to the table and gently puts her hand on the back of your neck. “I didn’t know that,” she whispers again to no one before taking a seat, slipping back into the role of hostess, reaching for her wine glass that’s already full.

She plays with your hair during dinner the way I used to, still dark and curly, but graying now at the temples, making you look distinguished. You’re more handsome than I remember, a man who’s earned his broodiness rather than a boy who is just pretending. I remember the time we spent together like it’s from a dream, jagged recollections that make up our story—stolen glances in the hallway after class; dinners that lasted until the sun came up; watching you from underneath the covers as you paced in front of the bed, smoking cigarette after cigarette, ranting about how marriage is not only the end of one’s own life, but the downfall of all civilization, people settling for something that won’t make them happy. You were thirty-four, brilliant, and irresistible. I was twenty, hopelessly naive, and in awe of you.

But the man in front of me is a shadow of the one I once knew. He kisses his wife gently on the cheek and doesn’t challenge her when she repeats something as a fact we both know is incorrect. She’s probably never heard you scream at the top of your lungs or slam a door so loudly the room shakes. You probably never bring her to tears with your words and then turn it all around with your hands. I can’t decide which one may be the better version of you.

Michelle is playing in the living room after dinner as we finish our second glass of wine. “Tell me about the two of you,” I inquire, an innocent request I’ve been afraid to ask. “How did you two meet?”

“I used to work at the university,” Natalia says.

“He seems to meet everyone that way,” I respond, taking a long sip from my glass.

“And how long have you two known each other?” she asks, her brow furrowed.

“Almost ten years, I would say,” you tell her.

“And almost as long since we’ve seen each other,” I finish, holding your gaze.

“It sounds like quite the welcome reunion,” she says, draining her glass. “Are you married, Luis?”

“I’m not,” I say, a catch in my throat, the weight of the evening suddenly making me lightheaded. I’ve fought the urge long enough and stand to retrieve my coat, excusing myself as I poke around the inside pocket for my pack. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to step outside for a cigarette. Would you care to have one with me, Richard?”

“Richard doesn’t smoke,” Natalia says sharply, her voice different, now soaked with wine and frustration from having to listen to the version of our past we’ve allowed her to know. “Not anymore.” She links her arm with yours and dissolves into your side, nuzzling her face into your chest.

“That’s good,” I say, standing over you both. “It’s a nasty habit.”

“Don’t stay outside too long,” Natalia warns, a hint of victory in her eye. “You’ll freeze.”


You’ve settled into this life. I can see it in the way you tend to her, making sure she’s included in the joke, taken care of in the simple ways that people who love each other worry about. But there’s an edge in her kindness toward me, as though she fears her suspicions are true, that she and I together make up a part of your history. I’ve decided on a second when you join me, buttoning your jacket and then rubbing your hands together for warmth.

“Natalia and I were going to tuck Michelle in,” you say. “I can’t believe how late it’s gotten.”

“I should go then,” I offer. “It was great seeing you, Richard. Give Natalia my best.”

You lean down to my hand with just your face and I bring the cigarette to your mouth, allowing you a few quick drags one right after the other. You walk just to the stairs to exhale, blowing the smoke away from the house, careful not to let it linger. “If Natalia smells this on me, I’m a dead man,” you say.

“She doesn’t know about us, does she?” I ask.

“No,” you respond, looking down. “She doesn’t know.”

“Your home is beautiful,” I finally say. “Do you mind if I take a moment to finish this?”

“Take all the time you need. It really was great seeing you, Luis.” You start to head inside.

“Hey, Richard,” I call out, needing you to stay before I know why. I gesture to the house and then the entire block, the identical houses with the perfect families inside. “Why?”

“Why?” you repeat, a question for yourself that you’ve never tried to answer. “After a while, it’s easier to be a part of something than it is to fight against it,” you say.

“And are you a part of it?” I ask, my teeth chattering from the cold.

“Goodnight, Luis,” you say with a smile.  

You walk inside and your daughter runs to you before the door closes. Natalia waves goodbye warmly through the window now that you’ve been returned to her. I watch as you both carry Michelle through the foyer. She is shiny and new and without regrets, a miniature version of the dreams you both had, and you each get to carry a part of her with you up the stairs. I am alone in the cold, smoking outside your house, illuminated by the generous porch light you’ve put on, while you prepare to collapse into a warm bed with your beautiful wife. Which one of us is the fool?

It’s easy to remember—the conversations we had about who we wanted to be for each other, the cigarettes we shared outside your townhome as the street light flickered above us, the fights about other men, how deeply we could hate each other at night, how I wanted to be with you forever again in the morning, when you first told me you loved me on the beach that night in Sr. Tropez, the way you took it all back unexpectedly the night before we left, my tears staining the pillowcase while you refused to comfort me, how I needed you after and maybe haven’t stopped. I can still feel the sand between my toes, your body on top of mine, the heat from the sun beating down on us, and the salt water from your mouth in mine. I wonder if you can too.


Anthony Casella's fiction has appeared in HOBART and he was a finalist for the Mark Twain House & Museum Royal Nonesuch Humor Award. He lives in New York City.

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after he tells you you're nothing say


Poetry by Gabrielle Grace, Spring & Summer 2017



Gabrielle Grace Hogan is a queer lady poet from St. Louis, Missouri whose work has been published or is forthcoming in Crab Fat Magazine, COAL Magazine, and the Fem. She is currently studying Creative Writing from Bradley University, and can be found on gabriellegracehogan.tumblr.com.



what's that white

Poetry by Karin Drucker, Winter 2017 


the streets are
paved with ooooh
no what’s that white?
boom, blue nose
pit ballin’ –what’s
the diamond? mona
laugh like station
singing never
heard her there outside
the christian’s lot on
taylor only ever met
her shining skin puffy
hands hey honey
at the dahlia -- just
around the corner
where the pit cashmere
sings behind the splinter
door, #331.


Karin has been a community organizer and service provider to homeless and low income people. She is a word geek and a cheerleader for incarcerated writers. http://bit.ly/2heqXyg

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