Fatemeh Madani Sarbarani translates Ahmad Shamloo and Mehdi Akhavan Sales

I Am Still Thinking of That Raven by Ahmad Shamloo

I am thinking of that raven in the Yoush valleys:
With its black scissors 
over the blazed yellow of the grain field
intensely hissing
cutting a diagonal arc
from the opaque papery sky
And with its dry crackle 
                         saying something
to the near by mountains 
that the exhausted mountains
                         under the extreme sun 
in their stone heads
for a long time. 

Sometimes I ask myself:
                                                   a raven
with its heavy endless presence 
at the noon prayer time,
with its insistent sorrowful color 
flies over the blazed yellow of the grain field 
and passes over some poplars,
with that furious sound 
                         what does it have to say
to the old mountains
that these sleepy tired worshipers
in the summer noontime


In This Dead End by Ahmad Shamloo

They smell your mouth
To see if you have told anybody “I love you.”
They smell your heart
                              Such a strange world it is, Nazanin.

And love 
is whipped 
near the road barrier. 

                              We must hide love in the closet.

In this cold meandering dead end
                           with poetry and songs.
Don’t dare a thought.
                              Such a strange world it is, Nazanin.
Whoever knocks on the door in the night
wants to kill the light.
                              We must hide the light in the closet.

Then there are butchers
on the way
with bloody logs and whittles
                              Such a strange world it is, Nazanin.
And they suture a smile on the lips
and a song on the mouth.

                              We must hide passions in the closet.

Grilled canary 
on the Jasmine and Lily fire
                              Such a strange world it is, Nazanin.
The victorious devil
is celebrating our mourning
                              We must hide God in the closet!


Call For The Voyage by Mehdi Akhavan Sales

Like travelers in old tales
with shoulder-bags,
cane in their hands,
sometimes talking, sometimes mute,
walking that legendary foggy road—
we start our journey.

There are three roads. 
A different story is written above each gate.
The first is the way to comfort and happiness,
too scandalous, but leads to a town with gardens.
The second— half fame, half infamy,
sometimes noisy, sometimes silent.
The third one, no return, endless.

I am so gloomy here
and all the musical instruments sound harsh.
Let’s get ready.
Embark upon the road of no return.
See if the sky is the same color everywhere.

You know this journey is not to the sky,
to Mars, cruel murderer,
to Venus, joyful widow whore
who toasted Hafiz and Khayam
and danced cheerfully
and today toasts MacNiece and Nima
and tomorrow will toast someone other than us:
someone who doesn’t belong to this group or that,
someone who belongs to the godless plain where
thousands of stars die and fall on the ground
with each beat of my heart

Let this pure heaven
be the place for good people like Jesus and the like:
bad people like me 
never knew who their fathers were
and what was it they came for.
Let’s get ready,
and walk the road.

To the lands where
blood runs in my veins
like fire, alive,
not like this blood—old, dead, dark and sick
like a worm with no head or tail
inching along like a drunk 
into my infected withered veins
toward my heart, with chambers in dark curtains,
and asks with a weak voice:

Anybody home?

Hey, I’m talking to you. Anybody there?
Did anybody bring a message for me? a glance? Perhaps a smile?
A warm handshake? 
But there is no voice, no familiar light,
              not even a deadly look.
                           There is no voice but the crying of a dying candle
which is desperate, close to dawn and death.
Then he moves on to another chamber
hoping to inhale fresh air
but there is hashish and opium from a dervish 
who sings, “This world is old and ruined, shame on this Farhad murderer.”

And then he gets out, heading toward the shore.
After a boring exertion,
he goes back to the dark chambers and asks,
“Is anybody here?”
And he sees the same candle and the same whisper.
who asks you to stay here?
And you ask like that sick old man
“Oh, God in this dark night, where should I hang my ragged cloak?”

Let’s get ready,
and walk the road.
Where? Anywhere we can get to.
To the place where people say our sunset
paints the curtain of their dawn.
A golden flag in one hand, it says: it’s early.
A torch falling from the other hand, it says: it’s late. 

Where? Anywhere that we can get to.
To the place where people say
a bright city is born like flowers from the sea
and there are springs
where crystal flowers of poetry grow
and a man drinks from that saying,
“Why should we bother watering a garden 
that grows rosettes?”

To the place where people say there was a girl
              whose death (like Taras Bulba’s death, 
not like yours or mine) was another pure death.
Where? Everywhere that is not here. 
Here, I fear a caress as I fear torture,
I fear the slapper as I fear the slapped. 
I fear the image on the wall
that shows the Enemy,
with the monstrous whip of king Xerxes,
lashing madly, not the sea,
but my shoulders, my withered veins,
your living, my dead.

Let’s go 
to the meadow where nobody has sown or reaped, 
to the place where everything is virginal, untouched,
and has been like this from the beginning of time,
such a clean and pure place. 

Toward the happy sun of the desert
that doesn’t leave a patch not drenched with its hot blood.
And we sail our boats on the endless green and velvet sea
like almond shells
and we teach the white seagulls of the sail 
to embrace the wind
And we run fast sometimes, sometimes slow.

Come my sorrowful friend! You like me, sad and hopeless!
I am so gloomy here.
Let’s get ready, 
and walk the endless road.


Translator’s Note:

Ahmad Shamloo and Mehdi Akhavan Sales are the most influential poets of Persian modern poetry known as Nimayi. Their styles and languages are complex. Shamloo uses the traditional imagery that reminds us of the works of Persian poets like Hafiz and Omar Khayyám. Akhavan’s poetry maintains elements of rhyme and rhythm and explores new ways of utilizing them. His writing style combines the liberal approach of Nima Yushij, with the epic language of Ferdowsi. Sales’s Winter, is a good example for understanding the depth of his conviction. Both poets focus on the theme and employ beautiful images, similes, metaphors and symbols. 

Shamloo in the In This Dead End, uses themes like freedom and love to imply the dark repressive social and political situations of the society. He writes, 

They smell your mouth
To see if you have told anybody “I love you.”
They smell your heart
                             Such a strange world it is, Nazanin.

He reminds us that in this cruel world, love is the only remedy and a gate to freedom. For Shamloo, love will lead us to truth and enlightenment. Love means salvation, means life. Hence, this love is forbidden in this “strange world” and we must “hide it in the closet.” Nazanin in this poem means darling. It is also a name for girls in Iran. Here, the poet calls us Nazanin that shows his love and respect for us—the readers. 

Shamloo in his other poem, I Am Still Thinking of That Raven, brings modern poets in contrast to traditional poets through metaphors and symbols. Classical poets resist against the modern free verse. In this poem, Shamloo says that narrow-minded and prejudiced writers are “sleepy tired worshipers” that repeat their prayers in the summer noontime that even a raven’s croak does not wake them up. Raven symbolizes wisdom and knowledge; new ideas that to the classical poets sounds hoarse and unpleasant. “Still” in the poems implies the continuity of this confrontation in history.  

Akhavan is known for his epic poems and symbolism. He writes about social and political issues, his life in prison and the past. In Call For The Voyage, disappointed poet is inviting us to take a journey with him and walk the endless, unreturned road. This road doesn’t lead us to fame or comfort; It is a road to utopia. 

Where? Anywhere that we can get to.
To the place where people say
a bright city is born like flowers from the sea
and there are springs
where crystal flowers of poetry grow.

In this specific poem, he refers to the mythological and historical characters—Venus, Mars and Farhad—and famous poets and writers such as Hafiz, Khayyam, Fredrick MacNiece, Nikolai Gogol and Nima Yushij. 


Ahmad Shamloo (1925-2000), also known as A. Bamdad, was a Persian poet, writer, translator, and journalist. He was one of the most influential poets of Persian modern poetry known as Nimayi. His thirteen-volume Ketab-e Koucheh (The Book of Alley) is a major contribution to Iranian poetry. This volumes help us understand the Iranian folklore beliefs and language. He translated from French into Persian and his poems have been translated into a number of languages. He is also called “poet of liberty.”

Mehdi Akhavan Sales (1926 to 1991) was born in Mashhad, Iran. He studied engineering but worked as a teacher in Tehran, where he became involved in politics and was sent to prison in 1951. He mixed Persian classic with Nimayi free verse style. Although Akhavan Sales’s poetic career began as early as 1942, he did not acquire the degree of recognition until he published his third volume of poetry in 1956, called Zemestan (Winter). This volume placed him among the top Persian poets. A Call For The Voyage is from this volume. 

Fatemeh Madani Sarbarani is an Iranian translator, playwright, and dramaturge. She holds a Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance of the Americas from Arizona States University. She translates dramatic texts from Persian into English and Middle Eastern, Latin American and English plays into Persians. She is also a translator of Persian fiction and poetry. Fatemeh received a literary translation certificate from ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures in 2017.

She translated into Persian two Argentinian plays The Walls and Antigona Furiosa by Geiselda Gambaro, an Iraqi play Baghdad Bathhouse by Jawad Al-Asadi, and I Am Yusuf and This Is My Brother by Amir Nizar Zuabi into Persian. Moreover, she translated an Iranian play, Tomb Dwellers, by Hossein Kiyani into English as a part of her PhD dissertation which was published by The Mercurian: A Theatrical Translation Review.




L. Nichols




L. Nichols is an artist, MIT-educated engineer, and father who has been writing and drawing comics for over 15 years. Their debut graphic memoir, FLOCKS, was published by Secret Acres in 2018, was named one of Publisher’s Weekly’s “Big Indie Books of Fall 2018,” and was featured in the NY Times article “When Comics Writers Defy Gender Norms.” FLOCKS is a memoir about growing up queer/trans in rural evangelical Louisiana. L was awarded a grant from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, a residency at The Studios at Mass MoCA, and a residency at Hewnoaks Artist Colony for work on The Reciprocal.




Leslie Lindsay

Making Space: Cicadas & My Mother

I watch the tremulous torso of the cicada, trapped on my driveway. I count the segments of its thorax. Seven. Or is it nine? I’m going for seven; there’s something I cannot discern, and the vibratory movement, the blistering heat, my harried errand does not lend well to studying the insect.

Also, I detest cicadas.

I deposit the outgoing mail in the mailbox and circle back. It’s a lone cicada. Its translucent wings splay and arc, as if lying in the snow making angels.

In death, the body becomes light. This is no exception when it comes to insects. One might call it Qi, life force, or the soul; spirit, and science has documented a slight shift in body weight when death occurs. 

The afternoon sun climbs higher and the cicada shimmers green and blue iridescent. I note the shape of its slightly pointed thorax, the veined wings, and for a moment, desire to flip it, in hopes that maybe it’s just stuck, and will be on its way in no time, but no. This particular cicada seems to speak: let me die.


Six years ago, my mother lay on her bed, spread her wings, and never woke. It was intentional. Her body became a shell, oozed fluids, became smaller, then bloated with gases.


More than thirty years prior to that, the seventeen-year cicadas invaded our suburban town, dropping from the sky like stones. We were at the park, picnic blanket spread lakeside: mother, father, little sister, myself. A bucket of chicken and Sporks mounded with mashed potatoes. My mother sat sidesaddle, tipped her head to the trees and said, “They go two by two, like Noah’s Ark.” The air wobbled, thick like honey. Cicadas skated from blades of grass, encroaching our meal. My mother gaped at the insects, and I feared one—or more—would crawl into—or out of—her mouth.


Just days ago, a screw pierced my tire on that driveway. Then another. And now, in its place: a cicada. I’m a little superstitious.

It has been seven years since my mother and I last spoke. Seven, like the segments on the insect’s thorax.

Her eyes were blue-green.


Crazed, at times.

She said once to my father, “The eyes are the window to the soul.”

He nodded.

With more insistence she said, “Your eyes are snow white, do you know that? Like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

What was she suggesting? My father’s eyes were void of color? Of emotion? That he did not have a soul?

“You’ve had a long day,” he said. “My eyes are brown.”

She smirked then. Turned away. “Like Noah’s Ark.”

A cicada crawled along her hand, danced along her wrist. She studied its wiry legs, red eyes, the complex membranous layers of insect. It climbed, higher, onto the fleshy part of her arm. She wanted another to join. Two by two.

Another dropped from the tree. Two more landed on her back. She was rapturous, her face glowing with something wild and feral.

“I am Noah’s Ark,” she called.

She opened her mouth: a door.

I couldn’t watch.


Seven years is a long time.

They say every seven years the body regenerates. New cells, new perspective. Evolution of body and mind, a stunning rejuvenation of thought and perhaps space. If this is so, then everything I carry in my person never once came into earthly contact with my mother.

Now, I poke at the cicada with a piece of cardboard from the dumpster that sits on my driveway. We’re in the midst of home renovations, hence: the screws. The cicada is devoid of life.

Days later, it’s mysteriously gone from the driveway. Carried away, I assume, by wind or rain, or a bird.

I am sorting through our household belongings. Seventeen years of marriage. Chipped dishes, missing lids. Seventeen years of ‘I love yous’ and worries and growth.

Seventeen-year cicadas.

Sticky technicolor days.

I sand down a dining room table, stripping it of its rich orange-brown finish, the cells of the wood splintering in fragments.

In the kitchen, I roll paint over cabinets, transforming them from crisp Maple to deep gray and silver.

The windows are removed, leaving gaping sockets dark with emptiness until new ones slip into the frame, like the sun splitting through clouds.

Still, she occupies an indiscriminate space.


But the cicada is gone, I’ve looked.

The table, the windows, too. We toss out a toilet. And then a shower.

It’s invigorating, stimulating. We relish in creation.

New floors go in. Baseboards are replaced, painted. My mother once walked on those carpets. Where she once nearly fell from her chair at a meal she requested I cook, the tiles are shattered into chalky bits, tossed into the dumpster.

My mother was an interior decorator.

My mother was the house.

My mother died in a house.

Her house.


In our home, we bring in new furniture, new colors, textures. Grays and blues and greens.

The curtains are ripped from the rods. Nothing replaces them. We want light, openness. Spaciousness.

Outside, the cicadas call, their tremulous torsos humming like violins.

I say to my husband, “Is the back door open? It sounds loud, louder than ever.”

He goes to check. “No. Closed.”

“Do you hear it, though? The cicadas?”

He shrugs. “It’s summer.”

I go to the back patio and collect laundry drying in the sun. I re-tie the rope pull onto an antique farm bell, which has been relocated from my husband’s childhood home to ours. I take in our verdant yard, the garden our daughter tends to, the trees we’ve grown, and am lost in thought.

The wind rustles my hair. I lose sight of the bell handle.

I tuck my hair behind my ears. There, on the post, a cicada molt, molded in its former juvenile self.

For a moment, I am stunned. Disgusted. Then intrigued.

Cicadas shed their former selves when they grow too large. They emerge, evolve.

I think the husk will lift right off, but vestigial claws of the former nymph pierce the fibrous wood. I scrape, lifting the carcass with a wood chip, fully intact. A lightness overcomes me. The wind picks it up and blows the yellowed shell away.

Back inside, I collect stuff to go to the resale shop. Tables. Lamps. Rugs. My husband loads them into the back of the car. “That, too?” he says.

“It doesn’t match anymore.”

“You’re running out of space. In the car.”

“Good,” I say. “Better there than the house.”

He closes the tailgate, steps away, and there, on the ground, in the wide crack of the driveway, a shimmer of green, a cracked translucent wing, the cicada in her grave.

And I know: I’ve made space.


Leslie Lindsay’s writing has been featured in The Rumpus, Hippocampus, Psychology Today, Mutha Magazine, Ruminate’s The Waking, Manifest-Station, Literary Mama, Pithead Chapel, Cleaver Magazine, Motherwell, Flash Frog Literary, Visual Verse, Agapanthus Literary, and A Door = Jar, with forthcoming pieces in Levitate, The Tiny Journal and Brevity. Her memoir, MODEL HOME, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. She was recently accepted to the Kenyon Writer’s Workshop and has participated in Kathy’s Fish’s The Art of Flash. Leslie can be found on Instagram and Twitter @leslielilndsay1. She resides in the Greater Chicago suburbs and is at work on a memoir exploring ancestral connections.




Matthew Klane & James Belflower

Birch in His Cottage


Matthew Klane is co-founder of Flim Forum Press. He has an MA in Poetics from SUNY Buffalo and an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His books include Canyons (w/ James Belflower, Flimb Press 2016), Che (Stockport Flats, 2013), and (Stockport Flats, 2008). An e-chapbook from Of the Day is online at Delete Press, an e-book My is online at Fence Digital, and a chapbook Poetical Sketches is available from The Magnificent Field. He currently lives and writes in Albany, NY. See: matthewklane.com.

James Belflower is Teaching Assistant Professor at Siena College. As an interdisciplinary poet and critic, his work investigates how language mingles us with matter. He is the coauthor of the graphic novel Hist (forthcoming from Calamari Archive, 2022), and the multimedia project Canyons (Flimb Press, 2016) with Matthew Klane; The Posture of Contour (Spring Gun Press 2013); Commuter (Instance Press, 2009); and Bird Leaves the Cornice, winner of the 2011 Spring Gun Press Chapbook Prize. His work appears, or is forthcoming, in Postmodern CultureJournal of Modern LiteratureDiagramand Sleeping Fish, among others.




Sihle Ntuli


after Nkosi Nkululeko’s poem “The Chessmen

* Note: The poem should be read horizontally starting at the word ‘The’ going clockwise into the inner square & ending at the word ‘Game’.
The poem can also be read vertically [downwards] as an octuple poem consisting of eight three-word micro poems all ending on the word ‘Game.’

¹ African boardgame also playable on sand with beads, coins, or pebbles


Zabalaza Republic

  1. 1.

                                      the coup d’etat would not have been possible

without Azania’s heartbeat       black pain & black voices         of all the struggle
songs turned against us            of revolutions archived,          of our volume lowered
by black hands                              that look just like ours,           the country fell silent
as a nation patiently waits        for the president                         to begin to speak 

  1. 2.

                                                        the people shall govern 

a line borrowed                           from the since withered & sealed     long forgotten Freedom charter,    
of small-a-nyana2 skeletons    hidden under clapping of hands        under stomping of feet, 
& all the cadres left behind      after the black consciousness of Biko               have chosen 
to not let imbokodo3 lead         unless flung towards a window          moments before the catalyst
for an impending war                the shattering sound of glass                  a lesson on breaking 

  1. 3.

                                                     the children of the soil need new songs    

to touch beneath the surface,        the movement is only one by name      when we are at a stand-still, 
& it appears we have a problem      of a rainbow with only two colours          songs of Zabalaza                        
as our inheritance                               from the generation that struggled                before us    
of restless troubled spirits                   there is something among us          that is simply refusing to die,   

we say we are tired of these same songs   we are not yet tired of these same songs
we cannot seem to agree on anything,     
 soldiering on with old songs still relevant
the pain is becoming much too heavy     it is almost time to unburden
in language of screams universal

2An infamous quote by South African politician Bathabile Dlamini 
3isiZulu for ‘a large rock’ also used to refer to strong women as taken from the isiZulu saying ‘wathint’ umfazi wathint’ imbokodo’ meaning ‘you strike a woman you strike a rock’.


Sihle Ntuli is a poet and classicist from Durban, South Africa, he has had work appear in notable publications including The Rumpus, SAND Journal & Transition Magazine amongst others. He is the author of Rumblin (uHlanga, 2020) and poetry co-editor of instagram based zine Wild Pine Poetry. Author photo by Niamh Walsh-Vorster.




Joshua Gottlieb-Miller







Joshua Gottlieb-Miller’s writing appears in or is forthcoming from Concision Poetry Journal, Berru Poetry Series, Poet Lore, Cincinnati Review‘s miCRo series, Pithead Chapel, and MAYDAY Magazine. Previously, he was a Tent Fellow in Creative Writing at the Yiddish Book Center. Currently, he tutors in a writing center, pinch hits at the back desk of the Menil Collection, and teaches creative writing to seniors (memoir) and school-children (poetry).




Jo Blair Cipriano

Body Image Therapy Center: Day 8

“You know, I’ve been doing this a long time.” Me too. “Funny, Joey…listen: almost always, the root of these things is found in the relationship with the mother.” The mother. “Sure, try to imagine your mother.” Imagine my mother? “Even when we think we have good relationships with our parents, we learn in recovery it’s often more complicated than that.” So you’ve had an eating disorder too, then. “We’re not here to talk about me.” We’re here to talk about me. “Yes.” And my eating disorder. “Right.” You have no idea what we’re going through here. “Why not?” Because you don’t. “What if I told you my sister died of complications surrounding anorexia?” Did she? “What if she did—would you trust me to understand?” So my brother should be a therapist. “That’s not the point.” You switched bodies with your sister before she died. “Of course not.” So I don’t get how you think you can help me. “Let me try.” Try. “What’s your family life like?” Great—I’ve just found out my brother’s an expert on bulimia. “Joey, if you’re not going to take this seriously, I can’t help you.” My brother doesn’t have a job. If you need help, he could start on Monday—we could use the money. “Fine, Joey, fine. And your mother, what about your mother?”


Still Life With Wreckage: Before and After

the spider    alive
still watches   from the ceiling

clots of blood on the floor   rocks
overturned on rough carpet

my bed isn’t mine     it’s evidence     
poisoned   and useless       as a girl    

i understood creation  as distance
from god      who designed you to crave

death in your fist     to recognize
which girls wouldn’t tell

no one    taught me how        
to live with skin that betrays  

how to forgive    the trembling hand
that cushioned my chin

the way it looks now   in daylight

at daybreak   mouth open
the poplar  spits seeds

the shape of his fists
impossible    delicate  

i must’ve prayed wrong      decades
i waited   before he came

life    ripped from my center   then
relief    arrival    the innermost spiral of

a perfect breath     how to know
the way my blood would move

to house him for months
gently    harvesting his name 

i sheltered          this body
is ours now    this wreckage

its mouth   only opens for you

Jo Blair Cipriano (she/her) is a 2019 Brooklyn Poets Fellow whose work has been published or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Copper Nickel, diode poetry journal, Epiphany Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the 2021 Brooklyn Poets Poem of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Frontier Magazine New Voices Prize. She lives in Tucson, AZ.




Stephanie Kaylor

Two Poems from ASK A SEX WORKER!


Somewhere there is a line up at this very moment, yes, even at this hour. Steak and eggs, coffee and head, a man once said when I asked him: why so early? Somewhere, there is this line up: a woman will be picked, or she will not. These days in the desert, the men come so rarely that the twelve hour shifts turn into always being on call, days rolling into one another like the barren plains, wild horses spoken of more often than seen. Somewhere, they are trying, helping one another out of bed when the bell rings. Someone is always sleeping, but still she rises. It will never be the right choice: too tired to work, haven’t gotten enough work, should have left last week, should have come in early, should be working solo again, should have pinned my hair up, should have bought another pack of cigarettes, should have tried harder with, should be going home to, should try harder to forget the, should get another coffee, ashamed to be unphased by the smell of broiling meat.



On Twitter, people joke about getting a doctorate in OnlyFans Studies. At dinners, I drink too much wine until my lips chap into a purple rose. Once, I made poetry from the discomfort, recited it as a verse, as a prayer to consecrate myself holy: why must we ask and tell what we do to make money? Why can’t we speak of our passions, our hobbies, the questions that keep us up at night? Lately I have only been kept up by tiredness. If there were someone beside me I’d say isn’t it funny how you can work from bed and still be so tired after, the joke being that there never is an after. Lately I neither ask nor answer, reciting silences from memory, enunciating their every vowel wholly.


Stephanie Kaylor is Reviews Editor at Glass: A Journal of Poetry. They are a PhD student at UC Santa Barbara, and curate the Sex Workers’ Archival Project. They live in Brooklyn.




Stephanie King

Everything Unfolds As It Was Meant To

Four-tiered flowchart - full text follows after image.
Flow Chart Alt Text for Accessibility

The house you’ve been renting, on the outskirts of the small town you grew up in, is being sold. Do you:

a) Just find another place in town, maybe walking distance?

b) Strike out on an adventure, sending your resume to staffing agencies in the three closest large cities and move to whichever one calls first?

a. One day you will die as you lived, wondering if there is anything more.

b. The city ends up being New York. It could have been any city, towering spires of metal and glass. Do you date:

1) Temu, the security guard with huge diamond studs in both ears who dreams of owning a recording studio?

2) Bret, the junior investment banker from Connecticut who went to the same Ivy League school as his father and dreams of opening a school for impoverished children in Africa even though he’s never been to Africa?

3) Owen, the poet with stars in his eyes who moved into his grandmother’s rent-controlled apartment on the UWS when she got sick and has been dutifully sending the rent check in ever since, even though she would be 96 by now and has been dead for 9 years?1) You share a pocket-sized bottle of Hennessy on the Staten Island Ferry while the city lights twinkle behind you. When he texts you the next week, you’re busy, and he slides into the archives of time.

1) You share a pocket-sized bottle of Hennessy on the Staten Island Ferry while the city lights twinkle behind you. When he texts you the next week, you’re busy, and he slides into the archives of time.

2) LOL no you don’t.

3) Your first date is only coffee and you’re hyper-aware that you’re supposed to demand he take you to Nobu to show he’s serious but you don’t care, you’re new in town and don’t like sushi all that much, but then your second date is baguette-and-brie on a picnic blanket in Central Park and the afternoon date keeps going until dusk, when you find yourself on top of a rock outcropping and he’s such a good kisser and the rock is hard against your back as he leans down to your neck, your collarbone, and you wish you’d worn more revealing clothing so there would be more exposed skin for him to put his lips on.

After a couple of years, your boss offers you a promotion and transfer to the Princeton office. Do you:

a) Take it. The suburbs aren’t SO bad.

b) Drink so much in celebration at the office happy hour that evening that you embarrass yourself and the offer is rescinded.

c) Tell Owen that you’re thinking about it and then send an email from your phone at 2 a.m. to decline, after Owen has spent the evening convincing you to stay, for about an hour with talking and the rest with his body.

As you sit up in the dark, hovering over your 3-year-old who begged you not to leave, feeling his feverish forehead and praying for a negative COVID test result when you can call in the morning, do you:

1. Wish you’d moved into a bigger apartment years ago.

2. Feel a flutter in your tummy that tells you to take a pregnancy test after you kept screwing up your birth control pills when the days melted into each other, so you didn’t know if you’d taken it that day.

3. Sigh with relief when Owen gets up at 5 a.m. to write and comes in to relieve you so you can get some sleep instead.

4. Thank the heavens that you’re alive to do any of this at all.

5. All of the above.


Stephanie King is a past winner of the Quarterly West Novella Prize and the Lilith Short Fiction Prize, with stories also appearing in CutBank, Entropy, and Hobart. She received her MFA from Bennington and serves on the board of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. You can find her online at stephanieking.net or on Twitter @stephstephking.