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By Amy Zaranek

Military spouses—all of us, Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force, Space Force—have heard the stories of divorce, separation, one or both spouses cheating on deployment, moving alone, moving while pregnant, moving while pregnant and alone, and of course, there’s the PTSD, he or she waking at night yelling or sweating, bolt upright with wild eyes and hands balled into fists and you, unsure if you should whisper or soothe or if this is like sleepwalking and waking them from combat will only make it worse, and then there’s the addiction, this life itself—that ship in a bottle floating in its own stagnation no matter how high the waves rise, how much the world shakes, how many jets and helos take off or how many missiles launch into conflict from sea-sprayed decks, all of them encased by glass with only one way to come back down—and sometimes there’s a community to lean on through it all, a revolving door of other spouses and partners dealing with the same things, but sometimes it’s quiet and sometimes there’s not even a base at all, not even a net to cast into the few inches of liquid holding the ship when either of you goes overboard, and that’s when, with shaking hands, both of you need to still the bottle (before the ship capsizes), to dust off the mantel or bookshelf or TV stand, to put it back on its pedestal, to keep it from shattering.

Amy Zaranek is a Navy wife and MFA graduate living in Detroit, Michigan.

Art by Jason Gaidis.

By Robert Erle Barham

And when I think of home I think of silt that pooled like water around my

boots, around the farm, around crops folded into rows of caked earth—and the

heat and sweat of course—as we worked solitary tasks at a distance from one

another, plowing, planting, and watering the land again and again, with ragged

breezes sweeping by, cooling our sweat like ghosts passing through us—and the

time I sat in a deer stand at dusk across from woods with an unmarked graveyard

past a stretch of barbed wire that ran through brambles and the middle of a tree

trunk—and instead of hunting I read a story about a place haunted by phantoms

who disguised themselves as people who lived there, and it scared me enough to

climb down, the rifle useless and cumbersome slung across my back, and then

walk to my father’s stand where he was hunting with my brother, and my father

whispered why did you get down early, this is when the deer move, and we might

as well leave, and I walked beside their silhouettes moving across the dark fields,

silent but for the swish of our steps, wondering if it was really them but thinking

how comforting are even the shapes of those we know and love.

Robert Erle Barham writes essays, teaches, and lives with his family in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Art by Nick Botka, who runs the cassette tape label, StillVHS, and who snaps stills of VHS @stillvhs.

By Maria Hardin

There should be a word for when you’re walking through your parents’ subdivision at dusk and the sky is lavender and peach and sweat is dripping down your neck as you stop take a picture of dead baby bluebird covered in ants and wonder how you’re going to tell your born again christian father that you know he is secretly drinking a fifth of whisky everyday and a gust of wind hits you in the face with the smell of rain.

Maria Hardin can be found at

Art by Maria Hardin.

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