By Aileen Hunt

A fox walks along the shed roof, graceful and sure-footed, turns to look at me, one heartbeat, two, then jumps onto the neighbour’s wall, sun shining on his red fur and oh, the colour of his fur, the same colour as my son’s hair, the surprise of a first red-haired child, a wiry boy, fearless, impetuous, who jumped into the deep end of the pool and had to be rescued the first time I brought him swimming, who leapt off the couch and hit his head on the coffee table when he was three, and I held him in my arms while blood poured down his face and the neighbour who’d called to welcome us to our new house stood holding a plate of newly-baked cookies and that same neighbour stepped in front of my car one day, shouting and pointing at the gates of the complex where we lived, the gates half-closed and my son wedged in the corner, on his knees, the gate compressing his neck and the motor grinding, grinding, trying to close further and somehow two men in business suits appeared and managed to shift the heavy gates off their runner and I lifted my son, pale and limp and laid him on the grass and even as his eyes flickered open and even as I burst into tears of relief, I knew for one second the grief of mothers who feel the weight of their child for the last time, and I remember the dead fox I saw at the start of the summer, his red fur luminous in the morning sun, lying graceful and unmarked on the footpath, and imagine the driver of the car who hit him, his shock at the fox’s sudden appearance, the panicked stab at the brakes; and how he must have stopped his car and cursed his luck; known that if he’d left his house a minute earlier or a minute later, he wouldn’t be kneeling over a dead fox now, lifting him off the road and carrying him to the footpath to lay him out in the sun, still warm, still beautiful.

Aileen Hunt is an Irish writer with a particular interest in flash forms and lyric essays; her work has appeared in various online and print publications including Cleaver Magazine, Sweet, Hippocampus, Entropy and Slag Glass City.

Art by Colin Laing.

By Jessica Franken

Thank you trekking poles, molded to my dead father’s hands thank you full-bellied bats thank you rushing river for your amniotic lullaby past the womb of my tent; thank you unnamable green of the sun through aspen leaves thank you forest birds who taught my ancestors music—the etude of the whippoorwill, the white throated sparrow’s perfect fourth and the grouse a drum inside me thank you; thank you toad who refused to be metaphor thank you yowling wolves thank you sunshower that fancy-dressed strawberry leaves in glittering jewels, one bead on each serrated leafpoint; thank you smooth flat worrystones of Lake Superior that rattle-sang at the waves’ tug thank you fuzzy, playful mind uncrutched by Google thank you pine tree’s leg seamed with trillium and stretched like a tall man’s across the path thank you slug, we watched you for an hour and gave you different barks to try oh thank you; thank you ferns with palms up in worship thank you owls caterwauling thank you skin cells falling and replacing as I walked thank you every moss-covered boulder I loved and have forgotten but that dwells forever in my underskin thank you starflowers, bunchberry, columbine, you who lined the whole path like I was Nature’s bride, walking down a four-county aisle so beautiful we both forgot about the altar.

Jessica Franken is an essayist and poet living in Minneapolis who knows a lot about blisters and mosquitoes.

Photo by Jessica Franken.

By Krista Varela Posell

You’ve let the dishes pile up this week, which has really only been three days, because you’re at home and using at least dozen different utensils and dishes a day, which doesn’t include the cookware you’re using to make all of your meals, because, though you can’t make yourself do much of anything else, you’re at least managing to cook and get some fresh veggies into your diet; all week you’ve been telling yourself, “I’ll do the dishes after dinner,” but then after dinner comes and all you want to do is collapse in bed and watch Netflix on your tablet until you pass out then wake up at three in the morning to find the show you’ve watched a dozen times still going, still rolling on somehow from one episode to the next, as though the app has forgotten about you, and you miss when it would ask you, “Are you still watching?” (which is probably a setting you could adjust but you’re too lazy to figure it out); so then you tell yourself, “I’ll do the dishes in the morning,” but then morning comes and you just want to get outside for a walk before you settle in to work, because it’s the one thing you can do in the middle of this pandemic, for now, while the air is clear as you wait for the next fire to turn the sky apocalyptic orange; so the dishes keep piling, multiple heaps precariously stacked in the sink that then start to spread to the counter, until finally there are no forks left—not even the mismatched ones from the original set that you first bought when you left your mother’s house twelve years ago and have made it through six moves, even if some have gone missing along the way—and you get tired of washing a single fork when you need it, but then you run out of plates, so you have no choice but to finally do the dishes, which really only consists of rinsing them and putting them in the dishwasher, but even that has been too daunting a task; but it feels good letting them pile up in this way, knowing the inevitability of reaching this tipping point of having to wash them, because sometimes it’s easier to start from the bottom, to tackle a total mess, and know that no matter what action you take, it’s better than doing nothing, which is what you’ve been doing for the past three days while the dishes have been piling—staring at your phone waiting for people who take hours or days to text you back a response to a simple “hello,” scrolling through Twitter to see what stupid thing That Idiot said or did today, looking for places to send your writing but not actually sending your writing, jotting down ideas for essays in your notes app but not actually writing—so you get the water nice and hot, to soak the dried ketchup on the plates, to rinse the olive oil from the salad bowl, to run your hands under the faucet even though it burns—your husband, who does his best to help with this chore when he’s not working four hours of overtime a day on his graveyard shift, isn’t sure how you can stand it—but you like it when the water is scalding, and the whole task only takes twenty minutes, maybe thirty at the most, to plow through the stacks and empty the sink, but when you’re done, drying your red, tender hands on a towel, you wipe down the counter, which is now empty aside from the flowers some friends sent you as condolences for your dying mother—because what else can you do for someone when you can’t give them a hug?—and you breathe a sigh of relief at this small triumph, delighting in its ephemeral tidiness so much that you think about taking a picture of it, before grabbing a bowl and a spoon for some cereal.

Krista Varela Posell is co-creator of Poly in Place and actually enjoys doing the dishes. 

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