top of page

By Katrina E. Halfaker

The voices come like dry ice—there, and not there, these impressionistic figures with peppermint oil saying, "Undress yourself and we can escape..." standing at the doorway, loose protectors; is this the before or the after, I wonder, drifting away to the humming pulse of oxygen, staining my blood pressure cuff yellow as urine, blinking at the clipboards and vials; here, time is not and neither am I, and death comes godless with no reservation: hello, body, mother of scars, daughter of the great nothing, marred by the screech of a harpy with one wing broken—I am a bear—look at the fur on my lips, the dirt underneath my overgrown toenail ledges; shaved and sullen, skin sagging like a wet plastic bag—I am a tooth and talon, beauty macabre; a natural strawberry with the taste of tarnished pennies stuck to the roof of my mouth, waiting on this bridge that is collapsing against itself in wordless profundity: I consent.

Katrina E. Halfaker holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Rhetoric and Anthropology and is currently in the Master of Social Work program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; additionally, she is a survivor of severe secondary Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis and is still in treatment—the case study on this, should it be desired, can be found in Blood Advances.

Art by Daniel Corkery Jr.

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.

bottom of page