Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read two poems by Jenny Zhang with art by Austin Power, selected by Jozeph Herceg.
The Universal Energy Is About to Intervene in Your Life
I am pure emotion and you must pour me
into something pure I shall take what I want
including the faces of pretty women
this way the standards for beauty will be instantly changed
this way the standards for faces will want new standards
the nerves in each face will stand on innards
inside me is every pregnant belly
and all the aborted children
play in the same playground
they don’t care that they were aborted
they don’t care that the stars were not created for them
they don’t care that they had selfish mothers
who could have been transformed
if only they had not aborted their children
though now the world is perfectly populated
each time the future is predicted
someone dies for no reason
this is how I became a ghoul
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read two poems by Evie Shockley with art by Paul Roden and Valerie Lueth, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
a white web veils its own frailty
each wan tendril an arachnid’s will
spokes wielding silence speak volumes
the white weave concedes its empty center
its see-through beauty colors the view
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read an excerpt from J.M. Ledgard’s forthcoming novel, Submergence.
He had lain down beside the trench and had a dream so lifelike he could not believe it was his alone. It was a Lenten carnival. A Christ-like figure was leading a crowd of young people in a dance. The music was techno. The street was narrow. Bodies were pressed up against old buildings. There were shouts in German and French. It might have been the pharmaceutical town of Basel. The Christ spelled out a message in hand movements like the hand movements of the flagellants who marched through Rhineland towns during the Black Death spelling out I am a liar, a thief, an adulterer, except that these hand movements were not confessional: the Christ and the crowd repeated over and over with their hands a thousand years of love, a thousand years of peace.
The faces were diverse. They were moved by a common happiness. Then there was a pop of a suicide bomber’s vest, a drawing in of air, and an exhaling, so that the carnival float, the Christ, and many in the crowd were reduced to shreds.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read three poems by Margarita Delcheva, with art by Maximilian Pramatarov, selected by Jozeph Herceg.
[from The Cold Slavic Heart, a folktale]
Extinct like the dinoceros, it will destroy itself
for a New Year’s resolution. Like Baudelaire’s, the cold Slavic heart
boils itself before hunger. Like an ice tray, it gives the form of promise selflessly.
The cold Slavic heart is a blue-gray sailor whose lass
and her white ruffled skirt sweep the sands of a faux beach
in a backyard brothel in Marseilles.
There is a prophesy of an unborn maiden who folds out of a red apple
to warm up its steel sinews. That maiden was me.
Born past-less, with instincts intact, I tried to enter the apple through the seed.
This is my love poem to the cold Slavic heart,
in the breasts of the ex-Soviet painters. They are the tender predator birds
who stop at the school girls picking linden and let them pass.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read Luis Negrón’s short story, The Chosen One.
Ever since I was little I’ve heard my mother tell the story, more than once, that when they presented me at church, barely forty days old, the preacher predicted that I would not be like other boys, that every step I took would be a step toward Jehovah. I grew up with the certainty of being anointed.
My brothers and father were opposed to this idea. Papi swore to my mother that they weren’t bringing me up right, that all the church and religion was going to ruin me. My brothers, backed by Papi, never went to church. They made sure I had something to talk about in Bible class when we’d discuss Job and his trials. They’d hide my Bible and my neckties. They’d spray me with a hose minutes before the bus arrived to take Mami and me to worship. If I cried, Papi would make me fight them and would shout at me: “Defend yourself like a man, goddamn it!”
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read four poems by Travis Nichols with art by Bob Stang, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
Baby ibuprofen and a receipt
in my hand. You in your study,
intruded upon by your girlfriend
trotting in with flowers.
“Poem!” you barked,
one hand raised,
not looking up from your typewriter.
She withdrew, bruised, nursing the hurt
until you emerged triumphant.
The one burden you had, shed.
Time now, not for me, to fuck around.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read an excerpt from Scott McClanahan’s So I Went Away.
I went away from this place and I lived somewhere else. Years passed. When I came back, it was all the same. It had been years, but the place was the same. I started teaching at the school I went to as a boy. It was a substitute gig. The original teacher needed surgery and she would be out for three weeks. There was a little girl there in the 5th grade class and she was so shy she could barely speak. The other 5th grade teacher told me that the little girl’s mother was on drugs. She told me not to get close to the kids like that because they never made it through the school year. They always ended up moving or just disappearing. She told me that she had been to a funeral just a few weeks earlier for a student’s mother who had overdosed.
I discovered a few days into teaching that the little girl couldn’t read. I stayed after school and tried to teach her. I told myself I was helping her, but who knows. Then I went home in the evenings and waited for the next day to come.
I tried looking for Bill, but I couldn’t find him. I asked around but nobody seemed to know. I drove by Ruby’s a time or two, but the house was falling in now and it usually just made me sad.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read four poems by Bianca Stone with art by the author, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
An uneasy crowd gathers in the morning sun
and I should live a little more each day.
The marks on my arm
appear in the cold.
In the shed out back, stretched
across the big chair,
there is a book about the brain opened
on my lap. Enough about brains
I say to my brain.
and make vigorous love
until you feel less huge
and more human.
If I had a yard I would abandon
washing machines in it
then listen to that song that gets me
late at night,
my friends’ poems
circling my head like a flock
of yellow finches.
I believe in our pets buried
in the pines.
I beat the hell out of a white handkerchief
before waving it.
Do you know any horror stories?
Every night I tell God one more
and like Scheherazade, for this,
he keeps putting off my death.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read First Kiss by Clarice Lispector translated from the Portuguese by Rachel Klein.
The two of them murmured more than talked: the relationship had begun just a little while before and they were both giddy, it was love. Love and what comes with it: jealousy.
—It’s fine, I believe you that I’m your first love, this makes me happy. But tell me the truth, only the truth: you never kissed a woman before you kissed me?
It was simple:
—Yes, I’ve kissed a woman before.
—Who was she?, she asked sorrowfully
He tried to tell it crudely, he didn’t know how.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read five poems by Ronnie Yates, with art by Sarah Muehlbauer, selected by Jozeph Herceg.
Gulf Freeway, Houston
The leaves and birds are elsewhere,
Having left the city despite a tropical climate
In which everything grows. The glass
In the buildings, the muscle-y engines. Even the trees,
Black and bereft of leaves, grow fiercely tangled branches
Clawing at cables strung across a vast blue. Beside the swollen
Concrete artery of the freeway, crowning the steep gable
Of Philip Johnson’s copy of Ledoux’s House of Education,
The white pillars of an open-roofed, glassed-floored
Tempietto hover above a university. At night,
A dead-skinny, hare-brained Christ-girl hides there
Above walls of globed lights and floating Tuscans
That make the cavern of an atrium beneath the glass
Under the furred blades of her feet. Her hands so small no one sees
The wounds inside them. Her flying saucer eyes
Haunt the freeway. And passing there
In my sister’s circus red car, I think of her salted away
Among the pillars holding up a smoky night sky
Aglow with the lights of refineries, her shy and alien
Manner, and feel something glowing in me
Like a tumor.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read an excerpt from Lars Iyer’s Exodus.
He has things to tell me, W. says when I meet him at Newcastle airport in the morning. Great things! But first he needs a pint. He needs to regroup. W.’s plane was full of obese children, he says. — ‘When did everyone get so fat?’ They ran up and down the aisle, unhindered by their girth. But W. got down to some reading despite their bellowing. He underlined passages and wrote in his notebook. And what was I reading, as I waited for him? When I tell him, he nods and murmurs. — ‘Mazzarri, oh I see. Flusser, ah that’s far too complex for Lars. . .’
I’ll have to pay for the beer, W. says in The Trent. He no longer carries money, he says. He’s like the Queen. W. wonders why I always make my lips — my great fat lips — into a funnel as I lift my drink. No doubt it’s all the better to pour it down, pint after pint: a funnel for the two pints I always neck at the bar before I sit down, and for the dregs of pints that other people leave behind. . . .
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read five poems by Joseph Ceravolo with art by Harutaka Matsumoto, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
January 10, 1985
Like a punch in the face
planetary lights and stars,
do I see Spring.
The ground is frozen.
Dawn like the colors of an old fire
illuminates the south-east.
The ground is frozen solid,
yet not to permafrost,
yet not to this inner core
which glows like coals for you.
Overcast comes, overcast goes
the ground is frozen but not the core,
but not your eyes
which glow like coals
but not to permafrost.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read an excerpt from Amy Fusselman’s The Pharmacist’s Mate.
What is it about my dad being dead that I can’t say it enough? That I feel like My Dad Is Dead would be a good name for my son?
That I can picture myself saying, “I can’t talk right now, I have to pick My Dad Is Dead up from hockey?”
Singing, “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear My Dad Is Dead”?
I look My Dad Is Dead up on the internet and discover that there is a band with that name. And they’re from Ohio, like my dad, like me. And I can listen to their song right now, a noisy, static-y MP3 called “Don’t Look Now.”
My dad is invisible. Everything invisible is interesting to me now. Like when I sit in the apartment we just moved into, and play guitar. When I sit here and am aware, as I play and sing, that the music is invisible. And I imagine what I would look like to a deaf person. That I would look like someone opening and closing her mouth and sliding one hand along some wood and using the other to touch some strings. And how that doesn’t look like much. Just someone sitting, making little movements. Little patterns with the mouth, open close, open close, little patterns with the hand, up and down, up and down. And how the only way a deaf person would know what I was doing is because the movements are creating vibrations. And how even though the vibrations are invisible, I can feel them in the air. I can feel them, they are there, they are as there as I am.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read six poems by Adam Fitzgerald with art by Esteban Longoria, selected by Jozeph Herceg.
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING
HYDROPHOBE BORN UNDER WATER
Forgive me for asking, but why in this mottled world would you expect another? Eccentric pilasters stand in the rain: ruins for remaining ruined. My dreams meanwhile occur in mercantile factory houses whose shelves represent gaps in the Now Culture. Reduced, though not so enervated today, the reality of dingy parlor casements helps me parachute to bed for lack of better thing to think or do. The lanky, still sun ravishes an arching colonnade.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read “Underfed” by Susan Steinberg.
; there was the time I stood outside; it had snowed the night before; a sound in the distance could have been voices; it could have been something else; it could have been machinery; it could have been just in my head; I wanted the sound to be something else: waves crashing to the sand, an ocean I was standing in, an ocean I was drowning in; I wanted to be sinking into sand; but I was standing in snow under a tree; I was standing in my underthings; there was something about just standing there like that; there was something about just standing still, the sky about to turn light; I was not in a state of dire need; but I’d been up late thinking of dire things; I’d been thinking, for instance, of the reasons girls love love; I’d been thinking, as well, of the reasons guys love war; I every day bought the paper from the box on the corner; I every day spread the paper across my bed; I was reading up on various wars; I followed wars in various places I didn’t know; I was becoming well informed on battle; I was becoming well-informed on invasion; because there was nothing going on where I was at all; there was nothing going on where I was but snow; everyone had gone away for the winter; everyone loved to leave for the winter; and yes, I was feeling abandoned; yes, I was feeling melodramatic; then this one friend called who hadn’t yet left; and of course he would leave for the winter too; he would leave, of course, like everyone else…
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read two poems by Jared Stanley with art by Simon Nunn, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
When I prop the left
side of my head on my
left hand, my heart starts
beating in my right ear;
the hairs on that ear catch
the last of this year’s sun
heat, which is making spectral
filigrees in the hairs which
cover that lobe in
tiny prisms (these days
of emphatic color)
prismatic like the leg
hairs of pre-pubescent
boys and girls—I
was one of those
once, staring at
my shins; the hairs
exactly the same as
the hairs on Katrina’s,
who was on the floor
with her legs straight out
her back propped up
on a plush mauve ottoman
at the after school bible study
group somebody or other
convinced me to go to.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read “Backyard Man” by Sean Madigan Hoen, selected by Rosie Parker and Rachel Mercer.
Gordon zipped closed the pup tent’s interior window and cranked the activator on the bug bomb he’d set atop his sleeping bag. A Total Release Fogger––the thing was good for poisoning an area of four hundred square feet. Covering his mouth, Gordon shimmied backwards through the tent’s oval door, sealing the final zipper around it. God have mercy, if that didn’t do the trick. The insects had come in droves after he’d gotten lazy about recapping the peanut butter and left out a half-eaten tin of potted meat. Earwigs, especially, gave him the sickies. He wasn’t about to scrape every last menace from the tent’s polyester until they were good and dead. There were skeeters and gnats and fruit flies in there, too, but not for long. Friday morning and the sun was rising. He stood shirtless in his backyard, next to the kids’ swing set. He’d been camping here all summer on account of Shannon putting him out and telling him not to set foot inside the house until he was ready to surrender his caffeine pills and make some changes.
Living outdoors wasn’t a bad rub. He had a battery-powered radio and a flashlight. After a long day working at the Faygo Cola warehouse he could cool himself off in the kids’ inflatable pool. Gordon would have holed up in the garage had the roof not collapsed that March. The whole thing needed to be torn down one of these days, but after twelve years of owning the property, what was the rush? There were worse looking spreads on the block, not that a guy should go measuring himself against the riff raff. Despite these lackluster times, Gordon was a proud man. Shannon knew he’d stick it out in the tent until the first frost, which was just the kind of tough love that kept him wild for her all these years.
He stepped into his boots and walked up to rap a knuckle on the kitchen window.
Shannon was inside washing dishes and made a dismal face until Gordon tugged on his ears and stuck out his tongue. Then he mouthed, “I love you.” She smiled–– her crooked dimple–– shaking a dishrag at him. Once the kids were off to school, she’d get started on her medical transcriptions, at which she was a work-from-home expert, out-earning Gordon by a tax bracket. He widened his palm, reaching up to tap the wedding ring against the window, and Shannon extended her sudsy fingertips, smudging them against the plate glass so that their hands nearly touched.
Gordon walked down the driveway to his Bronco, where he stashed most of his clothes and a canister of Adonis Body Spray, as well as the toothbrush he dragged under the spigot each morning. He might have crawled back into bed with his wife any night, but––beyond his caffeine jitters, the grinding of his teeth that kept Shannon awake–– there was an unspoken aspect to this standoff. What Shannon truly wanted was out of the neighborhood, and Gordon didn’t have it in him to put in extra hours at the Faygo warehouse. Even if money wasn’t the case, he saw no reason to scurry from town as so many had. While living in the backyard, he’d resolved to stand ground and see to it that the neighborhood remained an upright place.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read three poems by Emily Pettit with art by Lisa Congdon, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
Calibrating One’s Certainty Level to the Strength of Evidence
A trailer, a pyramid. How did you get there?
A road that travelers take. What someone wants
is for you to believe in that someone. Someone.
In the shade to stammer. Omitted but understood.
I take my postcards to the post office. I take
my suitcase to the station. My boat is moving away
from your boat. My boat to an edge. Your boat
to a different edge. How many edges does a pyramid
have? It depends on the number of sides.
The processing power of a brain that might lead
eyes to see buildings that look like boats. Conflicting
information collected. Calibrating one’s certainty level
to the strength of evidence, of enduring uncertainty
for long stretches of time. To see transportation
as transformation. Serenity please! Subtraction
to tell time. Associations of opposites. Associations
of sound. To remember is a sort of repetition.
I do not want to remember. What to remember.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read six poems by Suzanne Buffam with art by Fiona Ackerman, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
Books I’d Like To Read Someday
I and It, by Martin Buber.
Queen Lear, by William Shakespeare.
Moby Dick, by Gertrude Stein.
End Game, by Dr. Seuss.
Complete Poems, by Sappho.
Interpretation of Dreams, by Jorge Luis Borges.
Kafka for Dummies, by Franz Kafka.
My Mistake, by Laura Bush.
Why I Am So Wise, by Suzanne Buffam.
What Would Suzanne Do?, by Jesus Christ.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read two poems by Michael Robins with art by Evan Lovejoy, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
Her body small
& fastens mine—
Her hands lick &
I want this precise…
Just now a Sunday.
I convey this self
into my elder self—
April now like June.
* * *
A key of divinity—
What rabbit trick
before the atheist.
At the Easter table
(I believe) if light
floods a mouth or…
Or when she stands
& walks her own
down an aisle, oh…
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read a short story by Amy Benson, selected by Alexis Boehmler.
Rumors circulated. Interns quit. Depending on who you ask, the gallery was not careful with the wording or it was immaculately precise. Either way, the press release seemed to imply that the upcoming exhibit would be radioactive, with materials hot from Chernobyl. Attendants, they said, would be wearing protective suits; visitors would be asked to sign waivers.
A good deal had been written previously about the artists, mostly by critics, sometimes by journalists on the arts beat, but now they were suddenly, massively famous. Newspapers, morning shows, cable news networks, and blogs frothed over the story, leading with Has the art world gone too far? or Would you risk cancer just to see art? or While the world reels from Japan’s nuclear disaster, one Manhattan art gallery is allegedly bringing radiation to you. For a day or two, the radioactive exhibit was the dominant topic in online discussion threads and polls: Environmental art or sensationalism? Should artists who harm the viewer be prosecuted? A Court TV anchor interviewed a professor of law who said he would be within his rights to attend the gallery show because it might be radioactive and then initiate a lawsuit because it might be radioactive. “We must be protected from our curiosity,” he said.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read one poem by Ben Pease, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
from Chateau Wichman
Darkness embraced The Wichman a black nylon flesh covered his own the symbiote suit however maliciously it fed off Spiderman’s adrenaline when he slept at least provided the webslinger breathability and a fashionable wardrobe not so for the Wichman his sauna suit kept him in the dark a claustrophobic but all too familiar lack of light maintained itself for some time just as impatient as The Wichman the darkness began expanding as one imagines pasta unfolding from a pasta machine luckily for The Wichman’s sanity the darkness didn’t go on for eternity or make The Wichman feel like a ribosome in the first cellular organism to make its own food
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read two poems by Jena Osman with art by Marcelina Amelia, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
from Public Figures
Story: You begin the day with a brisk step and sense of purpose. But as soon as you meet
the first stopping point in your delivered set of coordinates, you find yourself pausing too
long. Long enough to give away the farm. So you push yourself along before your task is
done, so as not to give yourself away.
Thinly masked critiques at the end of the disasters.
The leader as bishop is a hawk with heads sutured at the ends of each wing.
With knees in the mud.
The parrot, the ass, the dog, the monkey, the wolf.
Infantalized humanoids, all cower in their bestial cover behind the leader like a
cloud, his wings holding back their perfidy of which he is a part.
You are the shadow at the back, looming like a trace of escape.
Caption: Man with safety orange sweater looking in backpack, then putting it on back. Man running while on cell phone. Family of three. Troupe of charlatans.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read two poems by Ashley Toliver, with art by KellyAnne Hanrahan, selected by Jozeph Herceg.
A LETTER HOME
I’ve arrived in a new city where nobody’s parents have died.
Family picnics are enormous:
grandmothers knit the dynasty crest into quilts
great grandmothers run across the lawn playing hoop and stick games
the oldest ancestors bash in
the heads of boars for the barbecue and moan together in contentment.
All their children know exactly what to do
and move in endless waltzes.
Here the people speak only in witticisms
and laughter is a form of currency.
They’ve turned the cemetery plots into community pools
and scatter the childless under the trees like family pets.
The new citizens are not callous.
They have built memorials out of timber, soil and fisherman’s nets,
rain-scented body wash and corrugated marble but what always happens next,
a black horse that marches out of their hands and out of their hands
and out of their hands.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read the first chapter of César Aira’s new novel, The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver, selected by Fiction Editors Rosie Parker and Rachel Mercer.
One day at dawn, Dr. Aira found himself walking down a treelined street in a Buenos Aires neighborhood. He suffered from a type of somnambulism, and it wasn’t all that unusual for him to wake up on unknown streets, which he actually knew quite well because all of them were the same. His life was that of a half-distracted, half-attentive walker (half absent, half present) who by means of such alternations created his own continuity, that is to say, his style, or in other words and to close the circle, his life; and so it would be until his life reached its end—when he died. As he was approaching fifty, that endpoint, coming sooner or later, could occur at any moment.
A beautiful Lebanese cedar along the verge of a pretentious little street lifted its proud rounded crown into the pinkish-gray air. He stopped to contemplate it, overwhelmed with admiration and affection. He addressed it in pectore with a short speech that combined eulogy, devotion (a request for protection), and, oddly enough, a few descriptive features; for he had noticed that after a time, devotion tended to become somewhat abstract and automatic. In this case, he noticed that the crown of the tree was both barren and leafy; the sky could be seen through it, yet it had foliage. Standing on his tiptoes to look more closely at the lower branches (he was very nearsighted), he saw that the leaves, which were like small, olive-green feathers, were partially coiled around each other, it was the end of fall, and the trees were struggling to survive.
“I honestly don’t believe that humanity can continue much longer on this path. Our species has reached a point of such dominance on the planet that it no longer has to confront any serious threat, and it seems that all we can do is continue to live, enjoying what we can without having to risk anything. And we keep moving forward in that direction, securing what is already safe. With each advance, or retreat, no matter how gradual, irreversible thresholds are crossed, and who knows which we have already crossed or are crossing at this very moment. Thresholds that could make Nature react, if we understand by Nature, life’s general regulatory mechanism. Maybe this frivolity we’ve achieved has irritated Her; maybe She cannot allow one species, not even our own, to be freed from its most basic needs . . . Of course I am personalizing this quite perversely, reifying and externalizing forces that exist within us, but it doesn’t matter because I understand myself.”
Such things to say to a tree!
“It’s not that I’m prophesying anything, especially not catastrophes and plagues, not even subtle ones, no way! If my reasoning is correct, the corrective mechanisms are at work within our present state of well-being and as a part of it . . . I just don’t know how.”
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read one poem by Thomas Devaney with art by Will Brown, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
How open the parking spot
that takes us out of time.
Shift and reverse—
as seen through
of the rear window,
a need and skill met there
in a semi-blind act.
All that happened—
all that needed to happen.
Shall we simply sit here and stare?
Whichever year it was,
the make of the car
ten or twelve years
older than that.
All those years
in one: The one of the auto.
The one of the war.
The one of which side
of the street
did we park?
After the last argument,
the last silence
of the last two people
to hear it.
Together, that’s the light we are in.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read two poems by Jaswinder Bolina, with art by Scott Hazard, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
When I’m waiting in the examination room
at the dermatology clinic for Dr. Fine to arrive
and undo the six stitches knitted into my jawline,
it’s superfluous to ruminate on beauty
and the marvelous human machine. The city
doesn’t need another treatise on healing,
another ode to pulchritude. It needs more lidocaine,
compression wraps, 0.9% bacteriostatic solution,
and more diamond-edged cutting blades
for the road workers incising Halsted Street
four stories below the window, more gauzy cirrus
bandaging the jawbreaker-blue dome
of early afternoon, more of the scaffolding
that gives the skyline the appearance of a patient
in traction so the whole of Chicago feels always
unfinished. Beauty is too easy. The serene
brown bottle and its white block font plainly
stating ALCOHOL is beautiful in its honesty,
and the glittery diode in the catastrophic red
of the fire alarm on the wall is beautiful for its pent-up
vigilance, and the cover of People magazine there
on the rack is flat-out ravishing with its vivid photographs,
its brash pronouncements. It says ELIN NORDEGREN
IS DATING AGAIN. What a relief! Elin Nordegren
is too gorgeous to go alone, and though I’m uncertain
who she is or on what reef she’s been lacerated
after what wreckage of marriage to emerge again
into romance as if a deity from the sea, I’m concerned
for her well-being same as the motorists who pull
to the curb to permit the anonymous, wailing ambulance
to pass, a gesture that serves as proof humble acts
of astonishing beauty are possible even in the rancor
of traffic. And it’s true Dr. Fine, first name Lauren,
possesses a confidence that begets elegance
which begets grace, so she’s awful beautiful too,
more so than Elin Nordegren, and more so
for the ring on her finger which makes her
utterly unavailable for dating, but I wait for her still
on the butcher paper of the exam bed with sutures
in my face that give me the appearance of being
more rugged and vulnerable than I am, more beautiful
and true, but honestly I’ve had my fill of truth and beauty.
I need to know the uncertain and the scarred also
so I don’t mistake this for a place I’m welcome
to linger in ever expecting an exquisite other to enter
and mend me. No, don’t dally a minute, doctor.
Open the door and bring me some terrible news.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read “Window,” a short story by J. Robert Lennon, selected by Fiction Editor Rosie Parker.
After the absent father, after the diabetic mother with her motorized chair and velvet Chivas Regal bag of weed, after the high school boyfriend with the knife collection, after the drunk driving without a license, after the best friend’s suicide, after the only remaining friend’s betrayal, after the dropping out, after the flight to the city, after the failed attempt at prostitution, after the vagrancy and solicitation charges, the commuted sentence, the halfway house, the social worker, the job-skills exam, the placement, the train to the suburbs, the motel maid job; after the Craigslist ad, after the meeting in the public library reading room, and then the strange friendship, the speech, the plan, the sourcing of materials, the setting of the date, the preparation of the spaces, the scheduling, the promise, she calls him at the agreed-upon time and he answers with the words “I am very proud of you now, Juliet, very proud.”
“I don’t know.”
“You called. You called when you said you’d call, that’s something to be proud of. Do you have everything ready? Are you ready?”
“No. Yes. I mean, it’s all here. I’m scared.”
“There’s nothing to be frightened of.”
“There’s nothing to be frightened of. Everything that has come before, that was frightening. Not this.”
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read two poems by Samuel Amadon, with art by Matthew Brandt, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
WHAT IS GOOD APPEARS, WHAT APPEARS IS GOOD
I pull the knife from my throat, walk into
heavy sands, seas, a long line flashes,
rises and warns, or we see to put it off.
A spider hung by its own or some other’s—
that works with I’m present for it
in the basement, changing fuses or shelving
boxes, empty, flattened. Is there a private
revolution not worth attention? Since
my cup’s not smaller. Since a cat encircles
my legs. Since I get all human on the couch
with maturation, slip the door into baby
a little bit more. There’s no metaphor in
memorizing the state capitols, or it’s probably
rank behind my ears—would you
scratch them in the middle–school parking lot?
Recovery’s not a fetish, but a bliss I’ll go
sick for. Staggered the alleyway,
or staggering, a knife down my throat, I
couldn’t bother in line, in a summer stale
with winds that unwind May, April.
I’d rather work again. Sweat moving, not
pools around unshaven neck fat flexed for
the sound of trees, the life
of the trade. While what won’t come about,
the cat turns her head in, sleeps a bit longer
in a place where she knows
we can find, but it’s better if we have to try.