Saturday, 21 July 2018

Of Flesh, Not Stone

by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

Remember, you tried. Not that this is any
consolation. Even now, writing it
feels like the opposite. You’re referring
to distance. You tried to keep it
better than your mother or hers. Tried
to find the middle ground where his head
can meet your chest without being bound
or sinking. Where it can rest as flesh,
not stone. Tried to keep that place
where your hands reach without touch,
to be okay with the empty space between.
—you   water    you you water you       water you—
Remember the time you asked to kiss him
and he said, no mama! pushing your face away
with his hand’s heel and then his foot’s.
Remember how you listened. Let him choose
anything else over what he is made of.
—water   you water    you water water    water—
Remember? The bathtub was only half full
when he slipped and asked you to kiss
his soapy ear lobe so the pain would stop.
But it didn’t. Not really. Remember, you tried.

* * * * *

"Of Flesh, Not Stone" was previously published in Cleaver.

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach emigrated from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six years old. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon and is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where her research focuses on contemporary American poetry about the Holocaust. Julia is the author of The Bear Who Ate the Stars (Split Lip Press, 2014) and her recent poems appear in Best New PoetsAmerican Poetry Review, and Nashville Review, among others. She is also Editor-in-Chief of Construction Magazine ( and when not busy chasing her toddler around the playgrounds of Philadelphia, she writes a blog about motherhood (

Friday, 20 July 2018

Those Who Give Birth to Goats

by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

Only one out of ten people born in a year of the Goat finds happiness (十羊九不全) ~ Chinese folk saying

Some would drown
theirs as soon as they
were born. Luck won’t come

with age, they’d say,
and death in water
proved far easier

than milk. Some would
cut theirs out early
to change the animal

while others would stop
making love altogether
and wait for the goat

to pass. Give birth
under the horse, they urged,
in its calla lily mouth

and mane of jasmine,
in brackish yellow heat.
A goat, they said, is raised

for nothing more
than slaughter, an arid field
of withered primrose.

But his heart
is nothing
like the sound

of goat or horse hooves.
Between breathing
and drowning, he listens,

silver and quiet, balanced
on the ribs
like on the ancient frame

of an unbuilt house.  

* * * * *

"Those Who Give Birth to Goats" was previously published in Midway Journal.

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach emigrated from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six years old. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon and is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where her research focuses on contemporary American poetry about the Holocaust. Julia is the author of The Bear Who Ate the Stars (Split Lip Press, 2014) and her recent poems appear in Best New PoetsAmerican Poetry Review, and Nashville Review, among others. She is also Editor-in-Chief of Construction Magazine ( and when not busy chasing her toddler around the playgrounds of Philadelphia, she writes a blog about motherhood (

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Where do I start?

by Mary Wescott

The Bible is the word of man.
God is not a Father.
Human bodies, once dead, do not return to life.
I am alone and afraid to die without doing what I came here
To do.

But what is that?
Once I asked a teacher the purpose of human life.
He said, “it’s faith.”
Faith in what?
Someone else’s story?

* * * * *

Mary Wescott Riser worked in Virginia independent schools for 30 years, most recently as Head of School at James River Day School, a K-8 day co-ed day school in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she served as Head for ten years. Mary received her B.A. in English and Philosophy from Georgetown University and her M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Oregon.  She writes the education blog “What’s Best For the Children?” Mary and her husband, George, live in Covesville, Virginia and have two adult children.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

The first evening on earth

by Mary Wescott

The first evening on earth
Finds you walking the outskirts
Of a mining town in Montana.
Moonrise baubles over the Divide
Chasing the indigo clouds.
A quickening breeze from the western valley
Meets you where you stand.
No one praises your footsteps.

* * * * *

Mary Wescott Riser worked in Virginia independent schools for 30 years, most recently as Head of School at James River Day School, a K-8 day co-ed day school in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she served as Head for ten years. Mary received her B.A. in English and Philosophy from Georgetown University and her M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Oregon.  She writes the education blog “What’s Best For the Children?” Mary and her husband, George, live in Covesville, Virginia and have two adult children.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Broken Connections

by Myra King                                 

Abby dips her toe in the bath like someone testing the water at the beach. But she does not stop, and plunges in with the rest of her body. The water smells of vinegar (her mother had told her it was the best disinfectant) and she glances at the empty bottle sitting on the floor. White brand from the supermarket. Everything she buys is on special or home brand. When there are eight to feed it is a struggle to make any money stretch far enough.
The latest hit song echoes from her transistor radio like applause. We shall overcome, we shall overcome…we shall overcome…someday…
Abby shivers and lays back, sees her stomach, which is slightly swollen, sitting above the water like a tiny white island.
The water is so cold. The sort of cold you could only find down south. Like her mother would say when the tourists came for their warm winters in her home town of Leonora, Western Australia. ‘Look at those people, off to the swimming pool and its only twenty-five degrees. They must be from down south.’
When Abby met Brandon, one of those visitors from South Australia, and he told her his profession she thought it was the most romantic thing she had ever heard. A lighthouse keeper. Such a noble calling. Saving all those people.

Now she hunches in the bath with her knees drawn up under her chin, arms wrapped around them in a sort of sitting foetal position. Immobilized. But she knows she has to move soon, make her arm reach out for her bag, the one with the paisley tapestry design, the one chattering with pins, needles, reels of cotton of every hue and all the buttons of her lifetime. Lost shirt buttons found long after the shirt had been made into rags. Buttons unpicked from babies’ garments little more than dust-cloths. Material covered buttons so big that she had let her children teethe on them. Everything has its use. Some have several. Her mother taught her that too.  

Before running the bath and getting the vinegar from the pantry, Abby had waited until her youngest boy, Hamish, was tucked up in his cot. Everything normal. The same bedtime story: The Very Hungry Caterpillar. ‘So much food he eats, mama.’ Then the plaintive and predictable, I’m hungry, so she’d gone to the kitchen, hoping she wouldn’t wake any of the other five children while she looked for something she could bring him. She prayed Hamish would be asleep, and he was, by the time she returned with a half cup of watered down milk. Then she’d put her mind on hold, readying it for the final task of the evening.

They live so far from anywhere. A white stone cottage coupling with a lighthouse of the same construction, on an island outcrop. Twenty acres wide. And they have been ‘working for the lights’ for so long now that Abby has almost forgotten what before was like. The only other people living on the island are an old couple, inured and comfortable in their seclusion. They rarely socialise.
Their only communication is a thin radio connection in predetermined hours. The operator on the mainland goes home after 7pm.
Abby’s husband, Brandon, is up in the tower. Checking, always checking. The light, with its many facets has to be kept burning. The ships have to be saved. He is their lifeline.

Abby presses her lips together and leans forward in the icy bath. She grabs the bag of many buttons and it slips from her grasp. She is mildly grateful that it remains closed and the contents have not been spilled. She retrieves the bag and places it on her knees. With hands which do not feel like they belong to her, Abby takes out one of the large cloth-covered buttons and places it between her teeth. Then she reaches in and takes out what else she needs.
Now she is someone else. She recalls what her mother told her to do. Her fingers delve and open, and she tries, with the rug-hook held tightly, to find the same pain she had felt when the doctor inserted that IUD four years ago.
It had not worked. Hamish was born with it grown onto his wrist like a bracelet.
He still bears the scar. But now, and she closes her eyes at this thought, it looks like a tiny question mark, whiter than his skin.
Abby clamps her teeth on the button. She feels the material slip a little, senses the structure of hardness beneath. Her jaw aches.
With fingers stretching, she pushes against herself, feels something burst in a lightning of pain and then it is over and just beginning all at the same time.
She lies back and watches the red, swirling from her as it warms the water. Her mother was wrong, she thinks distractedly, the cold water has not slowed the bleeding.
The batteries in her transistor seem to be fading, the voices like broken connections. But she sees the face of Brandon above her and, as if in a vacuum, she hears his cry. Now he is her lifeline.

Later she learns how he climbs the tower, flashes the light… three short, three long, three short… and thanks god that those he has saved so often are still familiar with the Code.

* * * * *

"Broken Connections" is part of Myra King's collection City Paddock & other stories.

Myra King lives along the coast of South Australia with her writer husband, David, and their greyhound, Sparky. Her poems and short stories, some of which have won awards, have been published in the UK, USA, Ireland and Australia in many literary magazines, books and anthologies. Myra has another short story collection, Uneasy Castles, and two YA novels: The Journey of Velvet Brown, and The Diaries of Velvet Brown, all published by Ginninderra Press, Adelaide, Australia. Her novel, Cyber Rules, was published by Certys UK.

Monday, 16 July 2018

How I Learned to Cook

by Susan Tepper

1 cup long hair
tsp of tea (British blend)
3 generous strips silk ribbon
Wire whisk
2 eggs
White candles
Fresh lemon
Salt and pepper to taste


Set the table in advance using a nice cloth.  
Put out your best white candles. 
Blanch cloves in a saucepan on slow heat.  
Drain the cloves. 
Take a bath in scented clove water then shower for double cleanliness.
Rinse your hair with the fresh squeezed lemon. 
Towel dry. 
Slice off enough hair to fill a porcelain cup
add a teaspoon of tea
and place on the dresser to cool.  
Wind strips of silk ribbon around yourself fashionably. 
Salt and pepper to taste. 
Sift the loneliness. 
Using the wire whisk, beat the adultery with 2 eggs. 

* * * * *

More about Susan Tepper and her widely published work can be found at

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Drinking From the Rock               

by Lisa Fields

Driving toward 
mountain peaks                          
wreathed in pale gray fluff
we arrive inside drizzling rain,
and climb the steep path
Fog moves
in filmy tatters-
to reveal wondrous towers of rock
by curtain folds
as the fog exhales

Surrounded by stone shoulders
one conifer stands
straight-spined, vibrant
it explains to us
the hidden water
it sips from veins
of rock

A memory arrives
I am a young woman
in a pretty summer dress
trying on sophistication-
borrowed from somewhere
in calculated flattery
I sip from the tall glass
re-filled beyond my comfort-
to please

Returning to the present
I wonder
if --
I will learn to wear my limbs with ease,
and like the lone tree in its reaching,
select only the essential

* * * * *

Lisa Fields lives in Southwestern New Mexico. Writing poetry expresses her desire to be immersed in a state of balance. Her inspiration comes from the joy of wild places and the challenge to live happily in the domesticated world. She is a contract writer for Quirine Ketterings, Professor of Nutrient Management in Agricultural Systems, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. In her home state of NY, Lisa served the farming community as an Extension educator for 10 years, and then worked for 10 years as a self-employed advisor.

Saturday, 14 July 2018


by deb y felio

Be gentle, be kind, they leave very soon;
the days may be long, but short are the years,
presence is precious in late afternoon.

The journey requires a house over strewn
with toys and laughter and tantruming tears
Be gentle, be kind, they leave very soon.

The setting sun, the rising of the moon
require the comfort and assuaging the fears.
Presence is precious in late afternoon.

They become daring for risks opportune
ignoring you, seeking friends’ loudest cheers.
Be gentle, be kind, they leave very soon

Celebrating graduations in June, 
insistence on independence one hears.
Presence is precious in late afternoon

The years are passing, a familiar tune
yet something has changed in the tone, my dears,
the voices are theirs in late afternoon,
Be gentle, be kind, they leave very soon.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Hit and Run

by Riham Adly

FYI, no astronaut launches in space with his fingers crossed, and people won’t follow you on twitter based on your Myers-Briggs personality type. Tea-time and time-travel don’t mix; it’s just not how it goes. You think my life’s an eternal night lit by the ghost lights of perished stars? You know what I am? I am the fish that ended up on your plate Mr. Consumer, a sea-bass in an ice-slurry knocked unconscious. Whatever happened to mammalian pain? You enjoyed watching my live gutting, didn’t you? Admit it. Admit it! All those meditations on motherhood and those failed attempts to dazzle them gods, and OMG, those peanuts that I keep telling you ARE NOT NUTS---Again, I repeat, NOT NUTS! Roots, it’s always been those roots missing, those slow riveting fingers no longer thrust deep into the earth--- Severed. You think I’m a modern tomato when I’ve always been a spring-time cherry---a real-time cherry, not a cherry tomato. You taste me and think: Cardboard. It’s this love-hate thing I have for you and this hate-love thing you have for me. Piano man, I’m telling you, I don’t approve of the colors of leaving, and I don’t like jailbreaks. The clock reads 11:11 again, then 4:11 then 5:11 then 7:11. You are tiresome and exasperating like an ulcer, like that incomprehensible whiteness on my MRI scans. I’m tired of riding my bicycle up your walls.  I want you back home, but:
   1) Not without those waterproof boots.
   2) Not until you burn that “Lazy Benders Grunt in Sex” poem you gave me for our anniversary.
   3) And not before you admit that the LangKawi percussionists are awesome and that the Earth is flat---
         As flat as those pee- nuts…

Thursday, 12 July 2018

It’s Really All About the Right Key

by Riham Adly

The congregation of metal clanked with her every move in an inconsolable jingle. Farrah got used to the sound of her burden as the keychain, toiling above the hill of her breasts, got heavier every day. Everything and everyone in Farrah’s life had a key. The key to her husband’s heart was his stomach. The key to his generosity was her obedience, the key to his pleasure was her vagina. Her kids had keys too: hugs, praise, and that firm voice of hers. Her parents, her friends, and even her employer had their own set of keys. One day while Farrah counted her keys, she realized, that one, very important key, went missing.

Farrah looked for it everywhere, under her bed pillows, in the wardrobe closet, in the drawers of her desk. She even looked inside her fridge, in the kitchen cupboards and in the belly of her stove.
Where could it have gone?  Farah looked down at her left breast behind which her heart lay shielded in its ribcage, unreachable, indestructible.  She remembered a time when her heart was a room without any trapdoors or contraptions--a time when it could skip and sing before reaching the outskirts of childhood and growing into the curse of womanhood.  She tried to quiet and shush her heart, but it pushed and punched its every beat a cry, a plea.

There was only one place left where she dared not look. The chest of drawers high up in the storage room where her most painful memories sat, neatly folded and pushed away.

My key, her heart demanded, find my key. 

When she reached the top shelf she found her book of secrets, and inside the book she found a map. The map led to a cottage nestled in the depth of pocketed time. She walked the length of her shadows, traversing the recollection river. Aubergine-hued Lily thickets lining the path with their black devil’s tongue stood like infantrymen ready to shoot.  When she last saw them a lifetime ago they had had soft petals of white and pink.  Her skin pricked and she felt a fever burn inside when she stood in front of the unlocked gate.  Inside the cottage she glimpsed the keeper of her heart’s key. Not much had changed except for the silver that adorned his beard.  His eyes still held the saddest shade of purple. Time lay curled in his lap like a cat. She watched the man that was not her husband cradle his pain and play with his own key chain.

Grief spilled in torrents when their eyes met.

“Did you come back for me?” The keeper asked, “I still have your key.”

She remembered their deep passion, how he filled the dead space of loneliness in her heart, how he watered the dead flowers once blooming with her youth. She remembered the hushed calls, the secret letters, and the cloying sweetness of roses.

“Adultress,” they had called her. “A sinner.”

She remembered the whiplashes, the cries, the pointing fingers, the accusing eyes, and the weeping of her children pulled from her grasp. If only their love hadn’t been a sin. She held the keeper’s eyes and let him see all she could not speak.

“I’ll sit here and wait then, till you’re free.” Her keeper said, “you still have my keys. You will always have my keys.” 

So she left the cottage and abandoned her key, letting her heart sit in its prison, but was her heart really imprisoned? Did it need a key? 

The inconsolable jingle of her chain guided her back to the sound of her children playing hide and seek. Time with its lancinating edges walked her back to the high shelf in the storage room. 

“Hi Honey.” Her husband chimed, his fingers wrapping her waist in a tight grip. She stood taller, her head held high. He must be proud, she thought. For people bless him even when he’s hit her/ cursed her/ belittled her, even when he has sinned.

She smiled at him, letting him hear the metallic tinkle of her key chain.

His grip of steel tightened.

“Darling, what would you like to have for lunch today? Would you like the lamb and lentil soup with rice pilaf and some Tzatziki?” She reached out and kissed him full on the mouth, “Try to come home early today, I’ll be wearing your favorite dress.” His grip relaxed. She smiled again.

She smiled more and more every day, enjoying the sound of her keys’ clanking jingle.

* * * * *

Picture used with permission of the Artist, Nikolay Reznichenko.

Nikolay Reznichenko was born in Saratov region of Russia, in 1958.
From 1982 Nikolay had lived in Karelia (Russia), where he taught painting and graphics. It was in Karelia, in 1986, where his first exhibition took place. Its success determined the future success of his works in many other exhibitions.

That same year he moved to St Petersburg. From 1989 Nikolay Reznichenko was a member of Free Arts Association where he permanently participates in all exhibitions. To a considerable extent his art was influenced by the Russian Orthodox tradition of icon painting; he has direct experience in working with icons and restoring them.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Words Leave Lips

by Kelli J Gavin

Words leave lips
Too harsh
Too often

Words hurt souls
Too rough
Too deep

Stop and think
Pause, just for a moment

What happened?
What happened to you?
Why did you let it?

Those words came at you
You took them
You reached for them
You received them

Why did you take them in?
Did you long for them?
Did you expect the hurt in them?

You speak those words
You run to those words
You use those words as if a gift

If they hurt you
They will hurt others

Throw them away
Throw them in the ocean
Deep and far and fierce

Rid yourself
Rid your mind
Your mouth
Your heart

Your life doesn’t need them
No one needs them

Stop reaching for them
Stop sharing them
Stop gifting them

They aren’t needed 
They aren’t wanted
Will never be appreciated

Words leave lips
Too harsh
Too often

* * * * *

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of 22 years and two crazy kids. She is a Writer, a Professional Organizer and owns two companies. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you). Check out Kelli J Gavin on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram: @KelliJGavin and her blog:

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

 by Sherry Shahan

When she was wheeled into the day room, attended by her IV drip, Jack thought she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She seemed absolutely pure, evacuated of all evil, honed to perfection. Her head was an imported melon covered by the finest filo pastry, stretched and rolled thin. Her cheeks were eggshells. Concave. The hair on her head was shredded coconut. The hair on her body was dark and fuzzy, like the mold on Gorgonzola. Her skin was the color of Dijon mustard – that wonderful brownish tinge that comes from lost vitamins and minerals. She was everything gourmet Jack had denied himself.
According to the nurse, her name was Iris and this was her eighth admission in three years – her parents checked her in, she put on some weight, she went home, she lost it. This time, she’d done a two-month fast and then eaten a carton of laxatives. Jack was impressed, he felt encouraged; apparently, it was possible to go through the program without being totally brainwashed.
When Iris looked at Jack, she wondered what he was doing on the ward. Not exactly no-boys-allowed, but he was the first male anorexic she’d ever seen.
When Jack looked at Iris, he couldn’t help but imagine what life would be like in their own tenth-floor apartment, no elevator. Living room with bar bells, rubber balls, wrist weights with Velcro strips. Medicine cabinet with over-the-counter laxatives (chocolate squares, capsules, herbal mixtures). Diuretics in timed released tablets. Digital scales, fine-tuned to a quarter-ounce. Disposable enema bags. No kitchen. Ultimate control over their bodies.
Iris smiled at him; her T-shirt said YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.
“Everyone’s on a diet,” she said softly, “and all they do is gain weight.”
Jack nodded.
            “The nurses are jealous of my figure,” she continued. “Most people are. Even Dr. Chu. Why do you think he started this program?”
Jack couldn’t think of any other reason.
“They won’t be happy until everyone on this unit looks like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.”
Jack sighed.

After dinner, Jack opened and closed the metal chairs 350 times before stacking them against the wall. Then he focused on questions to ask his nutritionist: How much does the average toenail clipping weigh? How many calories do you burn clipping them? What happens to the saliva I swallow?

Therapy filled the following days:
Plus lectures. “The issue isn’t food,” Dr. Chu droned on. “It’s about seeking perfection in an imperfect world.”

Dr. Chu gave Jack permission to join a few patients on 20-minute walks around the hospital grounds. Monitored, of course, by the physical therapist who made sure no one jogged.

Jack stared at his lunch: a sandwich (with crust), an apple (with skin), and a lettuce salad with a little packet of oily dressing. He portioned his sandwich with a knife and fork, careful not to touch the bread in case calories could be absorbed through his skin – the reason he’d never used shaving cream or aftershave.
He tried not to look surprised when Iris asked the nurse for a bullion cube. “This potato doesn’t have any flavor,” she said. “May I have a cup of hot water, too, please?”
Bullion sloshed over the potato melting the excess butter. Iris ate the potato and left her floating butter. The nurse didn’t make her drink the bullion because it wasn’t on her menu.
At dinner, Iris used her finger to wipe a pat of butter on an asparagus spear, then suck an adjacent finger, pretending to remove the excess butter. The buttered finger scratched an ankle and the calories were absorbed by a yellow sock.

Iris gave up her wheelchair on the eleventh day.

Iris and Jack shared secrets. Jack told her how he’d stayed up the night before the weekly weigh-in drinking gallons of water so the scales would show an increase in weight, which he’d pee away later. Iris told how she’d smuggled fishing weights onto the ward and sewed them into the hem of her hospital gown. “As long as the scales show a weight gain,” she said, “we have an argument against the doctor raising our calories.”

After lights out, sometimes at two, sometimes three or four, depending on the schedule of the night nurse, Jack sat on Iris’s hummingbird feet while she did sit-ups. She rode his bony spine while he sweated out push-ups.
“Was it good for you?” he’d ask afterwards, collapsing from exhaustion.

The next weigh-in showed that Jack had not put on the required weight. Dr. Chu
summoned Jack into his office “to chew the fat.”
“We monitor your weight very carefully,” he said.
(It’s our job to make sure you gain as much weight as possible while you’re here.)
“Did you hear me, son?”
“We can’t let you go home until your weight stabilizes.”
(You’re a prisoner until you gain a thousand pounds.)
“Do you understand, son?”
“Since your chart indicates no weight gain, even after we’ve raised your calories another 200 per day, the staff can only conclude you’ve been exercising after hours.”
(We have closed circuit cameras and hidden microphones in your bedroom.)
“Are you listening to me, son?”

Jack found Iris in the day room playing solo scrabble. Four ‘S’s spelled slim, slender,
slight and svelte.
Iris smiled at him. “I got emaciated on a triple-word score!”
“They’re on to us,” Jack said, sitting beside her. “Guess all that water before weigh-in didn’t make up for exercising.”
“Salt pills. Then we’ll retain more water.”
“Tomorrow’s my mom’s birthday and I have a two-hour pass,” he said. “I’ll buy some.”
“Wrap them in a tissue,” Iris said, “and put it under your arm. Nurses never check
Jack savored these conversations with Iris; he relished them.
Sandy and another bulimic strolled by sucking orange wedges.
“Quitters,” Jack murmured.
“No will-power,” Iris whispered back.

Before visiting his family, Jack stopped at a drug store and bought a packet of salt tablets.
A display of boxed chocolates by the register gave him an idea. He headed to the Home Remedy aisle and grabbed a carton of laxatives, then paid for a small paintbrush and the latest copy of Weight Watchers.
He set the laxatives on his dashboard during his mom’s birthday party. They were a melted mess by the time he returned to the hospital. In the parking lot, he used the brush to paint the pages of the magazine with laxative. Then he checked in at the front desk. Pockets were turned inside out. Shoes shaken. Cuffs unrolled. Frisked, like a felon. Thankfully, the salt tablets didn’t drop. Sweat kept the tissue in place. No one questioned the magazine.
“Have you seen Iris?” he asked the nurse.
“Took her to ICU an hour ago.”
His heart slipped. “Is she okay?”
“Her resting pulse shot up to 250 beats per minute,” the nurse said. “That girl’s a cardiac arrest looking for a place to happen.”
Jack didn’t bother to ask if Iris could have visitors. He knew the answer. He also knew the hospital layout better than most of the staff, since he used to jog the halls late at night.
He found her in Room 602. She wasn’t under an oxygen tent. Good sign. She had an IV. drip and a heart monitor. Her eyelids fluttered lightly.
“Iris?” he whispered, moving closer.
“Jack?” Her voice was thin as angel hair pasta.
He held a limp hand. “How’re you feeling?”
“How do I look?” she asked, eyes still closed.
“Like a delicately carved skeleton,” he said.
She smiled. “Come closer.”
Jack lowered the rail and slipped under the sheet. He was about to give her the magazine when the bouncing ball on the screen went flat and a siren sounded. Nurses stormed the room screaming medical stuff Jack didn’t understand, although “Get the hell out of that bed!” seemed clear enough.
A nurse slapped at Iris’s arm and jabbed it with a needle.
Jack watched from the foot of the bed and stuffed pages of Weight Watchers into his mouth. He choked down the table of contents. He finished off a laxative-lathered essay, ‘Hunger Pains.’
The bouncing ball reappeared on the monitor, slowly, at first, just a simmer, then full boil.
While Iris began to breathe comfortably, he finished off ‘Feed My Lips’ and ‘Food for Thought.’
His darling had pulled off another near-death experience; Jack had never hungered for her more.

* * * * *

“Skin and Bones” first appeared in ZYZZYVA as “Iris and Jim” in 2004.

Sherry Shanan's credits include several novels published by Random House. Her short stories, personal essays, and articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Oxford University Press, ZYZZYVA, Confrontation, Exposition Review, and many others. Upcoming publications include Westwind (UCLA Literary Journal), Mount Hope (Roger Williams University) and Dark Ink Magazine. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches an ongoing writing course of UCLA Extension.