Author: lhenning181

An Excerpt from “In Picketville”

By Terell Robinson

Somewhere beneath the sound of the whirring bullet stream you could hear young men screaming “Picketville” at the top of their lungs in the middle of the night. When I was a child, I never questioned this. There were certain things that adults knew that I would and could never possibly understand. On John F. Kennedy Drive North there was a sign that reads “Swan Lake Estates”, but no one ever called the neighborhood this. It was simply known as Picketville. The sign was lined with big green stones and the image of a swan swimming in a pond softly as if waiting and welcoming each car that sped past it without properly calling attention to its beauty. After a while, the sign began to match the same dullness of the asphalt covering the road before it. Everyone ignored the imaged of the lofty swan, sitting at the entrance of the neighborhood like a sweet, silent god. Every day we passed by the swan I would wonder if it had a name, a family, a father, a religion. I could see myself as the swan, simply waiting in silence.

As a child, there were many things that I did. Objecting to the direction in which I was pulled was not on the list of things that I was allowed to do. I constantly moved in silence, from school to car, past the swan and the neighborhood children surfing their way through backyards, wire fences, and dips and holes in the yard playing basketball or creating their world. At my grandparents house I would simply sit in the living room or in my uncle’s old room to do homework. The world outside was an eruption of noise: screams, laughter, you never knew which was the sound of torture and which the sound of pleasure. My grandparent’s house was made of brick. To me it seemed like the brightest house in the neighborhood. When I was young, the sun would find ways to pool off of the roof in a curtain of brightness weaved with flecks of gold. It only made the house shine more red. In the past it looked like a fire truck standing on its hind wheels. Today, as an adult, it simply looks like bricks placed meticulously.

The house next door was dying. It was the one thing that had always scared me. My grandfather would tell me that things lived inside the forest growing around the house. A woman had died there. She never married, but she had a pool in her backyard when my mother was still a child and would always let the neighborhood children come and play during the summer. Now that she was dead I’m not sure where the pool had gone or if it was ever there to begin with. Everything was covered in grass that I swore came up above my head. I’d never truly seen the sea before but I assumed it was much like the dead house, slowly swaying in the wind and a great noise of green sprouting every which way until you couldn’t tell what was what. Sometimes dogs would roam through the grass, maybe cats, and maybe bugs of all kinds that I never had the imagination to recreate. At one point I thought someone lived there: an imaginary friend, a ghost, someone peering through the boarded up windows. One day when I came home the door was blown wide open. I thought my friend had finally escaped that ocean of grass or maybe it was just the wild wind that day. Instead, my grandfather said it was a drug bust in the most candid way possible in his deep, booming voice. The neighborhood swayed back and forth much like the sea of grass.


By Libby Svenson

We spread the book out between the oil stains
on the floor of my garage, and traced our fingers over
the diagrams that would later decide our fates. Everything
You Need to Know about Your Body, and we didn’t know
anything. My training bra was digging sharp creases
into my shoulders and his ear was swollen, bloody
from where he pierced it with a safety pin,
while the other boys watched, smoke rolling
from their lips behind the middle school, silent nods
of approval. The woman on the page
stood with her legs spread wide, arms at her sides,
taunting me. Someday
I would be her – I would know how to twist my hips,
how to smile and get what I wanted,
but for now, I stumbled over the pronunciation
of my own anatomy and looked at the boy sitting next to me
and though we could point at the pictures
and tell you what was what, we couldn’t identity
the feeling of the blood rushing, our cheeks
reddening. At that moment, maybe the time bombs
inside of us started ticking, counting down
until we were those labeled figures, until the days
when I walked past, staring at my nail polish
as he and his friends cooed at me, until
his hands forever smelled like rust
from the gym barbells, until I was a woman, spinning
in the dressing room in fancy dresses, and he was a man,
seeing red, driving fast; counting down
until the day they found him
in the ditch, two bullet holes in his head,
and asked me to cry, even though our bodies
predicted this long ago.

Fishing on High Tide

By Valeria Rivadeneira


The apartment walls were gray like the conditions under which the organism inside me was conceived. I was let inside by a woman whose voice sounded like it was constantly coming from inside a tunnel—her “O’s” lingered long enough to make me uncomfortable, but not so that I felt she was mocking me.

“My name is Dolores,” she said.

Her tongue hit the R the way a car hits a speed bump.

She told me where to sit and to keep quiet, while she prepared for the procedure. I scanned the doorknob for any sign of movement, but Margaritte—the thin lipped, coarse voiced girl who found me weeping into a bathroom sink and clutching an advanced Pregnancy Test—never showed up.

“Put your feet on these footrests,” Dolores said. “And keep your legs still.”

I closed my eyes when presented with an unobstructed view of my full thighs; they reminded me of thick tree trunks in a forest. She suggested I remove my hands from my slightly swollen abdomen. It was round like a lagoon on high tide, being tugged upwards by a bursting moon.

“Ready?” she asked.

But I wasn’t. I could partially see my reflection in the lagoon. And through my reflection I could see my mother’s. I could see what my mother’s disheartened face would look like if she knew.

“Any questions?”

Yes. I had all kinds of questions. I wondered if Margaritte was running late, if she’d entirely forgotten her promise to hold my hand through the procedure, or if she was on her knees somewhere, craving forgiveness. I wondered if it would hurt. I wondered what my mother would think if she saw me here, belly-side up like a vulnerable animal.

And if she did know, would she still pray for me?

And if she prayed for me, would she pray for me or on behalf of me?

The woman grabbed the metal wire with her left hand.

“No,” I said. “No questions.”

She stood on the other side of the forest, partly veiled by my thick wooden legs.

She asked again if I had any hesitations.

“This isn’t my baby,” I told her. “I didn’t ask for this.”

With her dark rain boots and long-sleeved shirt, she was a fisherwoman and the fishing pole in her hands was long and thin. I cringed as she cast the first line, penetrating the solemn stillness of the lagoon. I bit my lip until it was the color of a grapefruit.

“Stop,” I whispered.

She reeled in the line and packed up her tackle box. She dialed 911 on my phone and handed it to me. She was gone in seconds.

I left the apartment as slowly as the blood dripped. It dripped down my legs and onto the floor. Outside the building, a stout old lady woman peeked out from her thick curtain of dull blonde hair and asked if I was okay. Her eyes became small smudges on a peach canvass and the edges of her body became soft and then fuzzy before I couldn’t see her at all.

Physical sensation was the first sense I regained when consciousness settled inside me. Cold hands moved around my lower body like trained dogs scouring the area for a treat. They slid up and down and in and out and sideways.The sounds of machines echoed off the walls but not as loud as the doctor’s voice when she spoke.

“Miss, do you have anyone you want to call?”

“No,” I said.

“We are doing all we can to save your baby, okay?”

“No,” I said. But nobody heard me.


The first time I felt the creature’s wrath was on the day of the 3-month mark, at the green market on Sunday, in front of a lime-colored crate filled with a variety of vegetables. I was searching for asparagus when the sweet odor of bananas entered through my nostrils and immediately rotted inside my nasal cavity. I drew my hand to my mouth, walked away from the disgusting odor and headed towards another cart full of greens and herbal goods. I reached for a moist lettuce head from the woven basket in front of me, but the rubbery leaves made my head spin. I tried to subdue the nausea by gradually taking in my surroundings.

I heard my name being called by a lanky man who squinted his eyes and bent his knees slightly, trying to make eye contact.

“Are you alright?” he asked, observing my protruding stomach.

His receding hairline and sunburned head resembled a half-peeled orange.

“Yes—I mean, no.”

I wanted to explain that the entity growing inside of me was planted with foul intentions, that it was growing the way weeds grow in a garden, despite being showered with pesticide.

“This isn’t my baby,” I told him. “I didn’t ask for this.”

I turned around and vomited.

The months went on and the creature inside me grew along with his unforgiving fury. As his body developed, so did his abilities to make me undergo the pain I made him feel. When I had grown used to the overwhelming nausea, he began to kick. He kicked so hard, so often, that I had to constantly place my hand on the small of my back to keep myself from snapping in half.

When the 6-month mark came around, I laid in bed for a week. Rage was being constantly generated inside me with no space for emission; His hostility was scorching and I became a fastened pressure cooker abandoned on a hot stove. Eventually, the heat rose, sifting itself through the spaces between my ribs and curling around my spine, eventually reaching my heart. The heartburn sent sharp waves throughout my muscles that stung slowly and dissolved only as they branched outwardly.

On the 7-month mark, my ribs threatened to crack. He swam inside me and was constantly stretching my skin, further rupturing it and creating hundreds of tiny pink canals.

At 8 months, I weighed more, but aside from my engorged stomach not much was left of me. I grew so slender that the bones in my shoulders jutted out like warning flags. He sabotaged my ability to walk. My feet and ankles were so bloated that they could have been boats sailing through the Indian Ocean.

I was at work on the day when his anger grew out of control. He started twisting recklessly and I felt a twinge in my lower abdomen. I tried appeasing him but he would not listen. Half an hour later, my water broke—he had shattered me.

At the hospital they kept asking me to breathe but they did not understand his malicious intentions.

“If he survives,” I told the doctor, “He will surely finish me.”

A nurse came in holding a pack of ice.

“Try chewing on this,” she said.

His spiteful whispers got louder with my contractions and the more I tired pushing, the more violent he became.

“Almost there,” the doctor said.

“But this isn’t my baby!” I sobbed. “I didn’t ask for this.”

She announced it was a boy. My lips went numb and black spots started to appear on the walls. The nurses only spoke amongst themselves. Something about too much blood.

“He’s going to kill me,” I cried, but my words became heavier and lengthier and harder to pronounce. The spots on the walls expanded like a cancer; everything went black. I could only hear the bawling child and the frantic murmurs of nurses who spoke of operating room number three. My thoughts grew detached from my body. The crying faded. I was finally free.



By Valeria Rivadeneira 

You claim:
That you are clearest
When the sun licks the backs of your hands
And the daylight
Scales up your arms
To seep into the chasms
Of your languid shoulders.

What you don’t know
Is that you’ve never been more transparent
Than when your clouded inner palms
Throbbed with the negligence and soothed with the moisture
Of an August night in San Antonio.

What you don’t know
Is that you fell asleep before the sun set
And that when I twined my hand through yours,
You held it there ‘till morning.

Swimming Pool

By Ellie Mortillaro 

in seventy seconds


in my grandma’s swimming pool i
sigh the air from my lungs and
sink down to lie still on
the rough concrete

one two

a leaf above moves with the wind and
the clouds look distorted like
through a bubble
maybe this is how they really are

twenty two twenty three

quiet has a new meaning
it is dense and
time is kept by the beat of the
veins in my head and
the pulse of the air filter

forty six   forty seven

i say a word but
only air comes out
it rises to the top and
breaks the numinosity

sixty one sixty two

what would it be like to stay here forever?

sixty nine  seventy

i always come up for air