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By Nick Riccardo

sometimes i wonder what was in the water in the town i grew up in, because most of us turned out real fucking weird, and you might say that “grew up” is a strong phrase to call, well, whatever it is that i did, & yes i know this is pseudo-science, but i may as well look into it because speaking of life, i am currently digging to find the body of who I once was, & i’m getting closer every day, but the nature of digging is such that the closer you get — that is, the more you’ve dug — the dirtier you become, but you can’t clean a house without getting your hands a little dirty; you can’t shut off its pipes without expecting some sediment you’d rather not run your hands under in return, which is to say, i am in the ‘brown water’ phase of self-correction, and to say, i wrote a poem (or something) about the sputtering of newly closed pipes in a house, dry & vacated, and it wound up being both my most laughable & most personal work, so i am treading on questionable terrain with this metaphor, but american poet john mulaney once wrote, “i always thought that quicksand was going to be a much bigger problem than it turned out to be,” and it is only logical to believe he intended this as an extended metaphor to say, “it’s okay, you can trust the ground” (or something) — which reminds me, by the way, that at the end of last year, as i was leaving a bookstore, a stranger among a crowd of strangers looked at me and — unprovoked & so casually — chose to say, “it’s going to be okay,” and all that ominous shit did was make me wonder for weeks what was going to go wrong, so on christmas, american scholar john mulaney presented a special intended for children that wound up hitting me harder than most things i had seen that year, and i don’t want to spoil it for you, so i will just tell you that it was about home invasions & pasta, but if you’re cool with another conversation about mental health, and you don’t mind your eyes rolling to the back of your head, i will tell you that it was a special about anxiety, and it exists because american thinker john mulaney has anxiety, and so i am surprised that he once said that he has never encountered quicksand, because i’m pretty sure the human brain in people like us is quicksand.

Nick Riccardo is a writer whose work has appeared in Maudlin House, Bullshit Lit, and the New York Times' Metropolitan Diary.

Photo by Nick Riccardo.

By Neema Avashia

Baby writhes on the changing table, furious at this momentary loss of bodily control, until she catches sight of the bangles glimmering on my wrists–three on each, two thin, one thick, solid gold engraved with thin filigree, made from my mother’s melted-down wedding jewelry–and grabs hold of a bangle that I then slip off my wrist, slip off a second, hand them to her as distraction while I change her diaper, connected in this instant both to my own mother, and to generations of desi mothers who have worn bangles not just as adornment, but also as entertainment, as announcement, as omnipresence, the glint and jangle offering this sharp jolt of intergenerational synapse, babies and Ammis and bangles past, babies and Ammis and bangles present, babies and Ammis and bangles yet to come.

Neema Avashia is the author of Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place (WVU Press, 2022), and lives in Boston with her partner, Laura, and her daughter, Kahani.

Photo by Neema Avashia.

By Matthew Merson

Since your mom is visiting after the funeral, please pick up while you’re out: Laundry Soap; Candles; One dozen eggs, large, brown; Buttermilk; Sausage, the spicy kind we usually only buy at Christmas; Green olives, the big jar; Toothpicks, so we can feed each other without dirtying the dishes; Ice cream, vanilla; Maple syrup; Kumquats; Skirt steak, like the kind we had in New Orleans on our anniversary; Blood oranges; Mushrooms, your pick, you always spot the good ones; Tomato soup, in case I feel lonely; Butternut squash, so I can make your favorite when you feel alone; Bonzini, head on, whole fish, you can grill it in aluminum foil with thyme and lemongrass like when we were first married and we would eat down to the bones, pretending we were somewhere in the mediterranean; Cheddar cheese, the Vermont kind so we can taste our first love again; Fig jam, the jar with the orange lid, the same kind we ate along the Pacific with brie and french bread, sitting in the sand talking about the love we just made; Strawberries; Rhubarb; Basil for the pie I want to make; Pita Bread; Chickpeas for the hummus you make me on Sundays; Bok Choy; Asparagus; Purple potatoes; Peaches; Pistachios; Butter, salted; and Wine, for God’s sake do not forget the wine; the good bottle with bull on the label, tonight might also be our last.

Matthew Merson is a high school science teacher in the lowcountry of South Carolina where he lives and plays with his wife, two kids, and dogs. His other works can be read at Apocalypse Confidential, The Basilisk Tree, and Hidden Peak Press.

Art by Hannah Leach.

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