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  This issue on love—in all its painful and joyous diversity—is dedicated to
Nancy Bourne whose loss (March 11, 2021) we who will always love her mourn.


Louise Blalock • Submerge

She had gone at dusk to scatter the ashes in the churchyard, secret and solitary, sowing them into the garden beds that had been turned for spring. The ashes fell like shell and bone from her hands. At last there was only dust, dust to dust, and she threw the dust into the wind, watching as it traveled from west to east. The dust glittered like rain. She had done this in the days before she had learned of the betrayals, in those days in which she had so much tenderness for him.


Margaret Emma Brandl • Pomegranate

They cracked one open in the early post-studying hours of the morning and plunged it into water—the best way to extract the round red seeds, Brett insisted; their hands bumped as they separated the pulp, laughing, dripping fingers scooping away at treasure like rubies, the fruit.

• Endings

She wished it had ended like a story, with something mutated or contaminated washing up on the shore of the beach, something from the nuclear waste putting a damper on their forever—a fish with two heads, a piece of kelp with eyes, a bobby pin that glowed in the dark and leeched deadly particles into her hair.


Ed Davis • Owl Boy

By seventh grade, he refused to let her drive him to school or pick him up afterward. If he were still being bullied, he no longer told her about it. He rode the bus, came home, closed and locked his door. When he was absent, and the door was unlocked, it became a game between them: enter and pay the price. She’d done it once, when he was in high school. He’d come home smelling strange and she’d suspected he was smoking pot. But she’d found nothing, and when he found out, it earned her total silence with zero eye contact for a week, a cost she could not bear. Since the divorce, at least he asked her to pass the Captain Crunch and usually said goodbye.


Stefan Kiesbye • Dare

The art history teacher’s house had burned down. On the day the campus reopened, she stood in front of the class and asked who else might have lost their home. White ashes lay scattered on the desks, and students wore masks on their way to class. A girl Lucas had not paid much attention to in the first weeks of school started to raise her hand, then let it fall away....
   The girl’s name was April. She wore combat boots, black jeans, and a black sleeveless top. She was overweight, with messy black hair and tattoos on her shoulders and arms.


Nick Sweeney • The High Life

Whatever I’d planned for the evening I met Faria, I dropped it as soon as I saw her board the train at White Plains, in a yellow dress with a yellow pattern in it. It was a pleasing idea to me, of things hidden, yet on show. She was carrying a case for a small musical instrument....
     We had the subway’s ticket hall to ourselves, apart from a guy banging and swearing at a ticket machine; it was kind of a Bronx thing to do. He paused to wish us a good evening. I thanked him, and turned to Faria, and her face told me that we were about to have one.



Jane Boch • The Climb

My heart yearns for an easiness in giving and receiving, for the joy I should find in his cheeks and gums, the soft skin that has only known the world for a short while. When I go to him, I want my instinct to be a smile. Instead, I cringe when I pick him up, knowing that I will have to offer him a breast that screams at the touch of his mouth as he takes what he needs.


Ruth Askew Brelsford • Together Forever

The real reason that this pretty girl, who had the bluest eyes he had ever seen, grabbed our Daddy's attention was that he was looking. Paul was ready. When Mama left the cafe and started her walk home to the house on the hill a couple of miles east of town, Daddy paid for his coffee and borrowed his brother's truck. When he caught up with her, he slowed down, opened the passenger door, and asked her if she needed a ride home.


Laura Foxworthy • Whisper to a Scream

The first time I visited the ocean I screamed. Not a scream of excitement, or one of delight, but more the blood-curdling-psycho-killer-come-to-take-my-life kind of scream. At least that’s how my mother tells it. I don’t remember it that way. But memory is a trickster.


Carmela Delia Lanza
• Crossing Continental Divide(s)

I never consider the fact that love has a difficult time growing in this landscape of wind and rock. It is a place for hiding, for giving up, for losing one's way, not a place for kissing, for offering a poem to a stranger, not a place for a beginning.



Leonore HildebrandtThe Younger Brother

My mother loved her younger brother, but I feared him. His rules. His threats. Even though I never witnessed it, I believed in the power of his “green stick” to instill order. The children had to finish their plates of unsweetened porridge. They were expected not to speak at the table.


Robert MurrayBe My Friend

Be my guest was transformed into Be my friend
in a momentary lapse of tripped-up surf-dare

that soaked us both to the ass in a frothing high tide...

• Monkey Business

... the malaprop mischief in me was surely at play that day
her pre-school word flub snickered the air between us


Jacalyn ShelleyBlue Aegean

                      This is not about a woman
climbing the volcanic wall of Santorini
where life clings to the hollow of its circular

• The History of Kisses

... my teenage grandfather thought I like the look of her, smelled her brown hair, and when she made no objection, the ripple they created was heard only by the earth’s ear, the sound of a bird chirping.



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