By Margarita Cruz

Norteña musician Ramón Ayala is my father, which, is to say is true to some extent by means that my father took my mother or perhaps the other way around in that my mother took my father as they wound their way around a tiny apartment bathroom and a tiny apartment shower where the color of the tile would follow them to their first home in the US as a family where I would trace the grout with my fingers, let the water pour over me as I listened to my parents in the next room fight or sing, sometimes I heard them dance and always Ayala in the middle of their breathing, in the middle of their bed, in the words they whispered to each other at night when they believed me to be tucked away instead of rummaging through their photo albums in the closet, examining the time before me in a jungle I recognized only in dreams—here where in every photo Ayala’s presence was overwhelming; Ayala at the wedding, Ayala at the gas station holding his countless CDs the peddlers would sell my parents, Ayala in the back of a Ford pickup with all of the uncles I remember holding me to the sky to say hello to the abuelos Ayala had outlasted in Tamaulipas where he is still holding parties, still snorting coke in the same fashion as myself—in the dark on some stranger’s bathroom sink becoming lost, him in Mexico and I in Seattle where I am tracing a map of his words into the purple tiles of a stranger’s shower in hopes that someone recognizes that I, too, am a Norteña.

Margarita Cruz is an assistant editor for Tolsun Books, a columnist for Flagstaff Live!, Vice President for the Northern Arizona Book Festival and recently received her MFA from Northern Arizona University in Creative Writing where she exists outside of herself most days at PANK, the New Delta Review, and the Susquehanna Review among others and at @blue_margaritas anywhere.

Art by Margarita Cruz.

By Carol Stockton


Carol Stockton is a photographer, art quilt creator, in-door gardener, survivor of three different cancers, happy writer.

Art by Carol Stockton.

By Sarah Twombly

Don’t worry, I say to my screen, where Zoom has frozen my colleagues into solid, black cubes, but to whom I am speaking anyway, because I am not late, I made it, I am here, just barely here, or maybe here, but not completely; a semblance of parts are here, for instance my right-forefinger and the crook of my knee are here, while my tiptoes are outside doing their best not to topple while stringing up the Christmas lights, and my lap is downstairs on the couch, overfull of children who are, like me, home and not home, here and there—and somedays neither here nor there—and my heart is in my chest, locked in place by my breastbone—I feel it beating—but my vasculature has sprung a leak or been mis-plumbed, because my blood, instead of flowing to my right-forefinger or my big toe, is flowing to Nora’s father who, yesterday, was admitted to the isolation ward in Jordan, and my oxygen is circulating through Jodi’s daughter, contact-traced just this morning and now quarantined; my breath is caught in the naked fingers of the beech trees outside, struggling to rise, to fall, to flow; my guilt is downstairs, abandoned with the groceries on the counter—boxes like sentries, announcing my neglect; and my fear—my precious fear—is trapped across the street with my neighbor who is speaking, again, of stolen elections and the plight of women under progressive regimes, how girls will be forced to go without make-up and to wear pants—dear god, my fear says, not pants! anything but pants—while the meteorologist is whispering to my ears, which have been attached to the radio for days and days, that the weather will be warm again today; seasonably, unseasonably, who can say: my temperature regulation has been stranded in Tonga, where foreigners have not been allowed in or out since March; March, my hair is still in March, a heap of, it deserted on the bathroom floor, after my husband drew the scissors closed and promised, “I got this."

Sarah Twombly’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Prairie Schooner, Esquire Magazine, and Scary Mommy, among others; she lives in Bangor, Maine.

"Before and After," mixed media by Jodi Paloni.