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By Dev Murphy

When there is silence all that there has ever been is silence and when there is noise all that there has ever been is noise: a music box, a baby scooped, a circle saw; all is heat and deep deep love and there will never be sorrow again—but I can’t take this tapping and whirring always, as sad as I am, as lone as I am, and now, now, it is silent again, it will be forever silent: I am awake in my bed again and you are lying next to me, and we are not touching because I don’t have AC and the night is too hot and still for contact, there’s a sweat at every brush, there will always be a sweat.

Dev Murphy is a writer and illustrator living in Pittsburgh.

Illustration by Dev Murphy.

By Candace Walsh

The son I carried for <famous actress> (I know who she is but can’t say: hint hint, she’s winkingly Sapphic enough to quicken our pulses) is five, quarantining with Mum and her husband (harrumph) on their English estate, the article said she humbly admits to success with homemade crumpets and wryly bemoans daily squabbles over home learning; a child often sulks and balks when his mother picks up schoolmarmish chalk…they’d never need to know he once swelled my belly and plucked my sciatic nerve like a fresco’s cherub plays a tiny lute, as I, back then, nineteen, disowned for my exposed desires and all alone, soothed myself to sleep with think of the money, the money, the money…stocks and bonds, now, duplex, security, wrapped within a boredom and sadness ourobourous; her onscreen kisses with women so peony-lush, I know that homing in of the eyes, intention in lips and tongue, a thundering tell, the hairs on my arms rise up, it’s like being touched: after lessons and dinner done, the walk on her heath a-hum in my blood, I’d offer my body to her once more, this time—late night, can’t sleep, alone, nightcap, slow burn, décolleté, declivities, hush-hush—for free.

Candace Walsh is a creative writing (fiction) PhD student at Ohio University; she wrote the NM-AZ Book Award-winning Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity (Seal Press).

Embroidery and Photograph by Candace Walsh.

By Steven D. Howe

If you want the honest answer, no, I’m not doing “fine” today or “well” or even just “plugging along” because last week my mom brought my stepdad home to a camper in the Oakwood RV Park to hospice-out the remainder of his life so she could physically be with him during his last days and not just speak to him from the flowerbed outside his hospital window with bluebonnet petals embedded in the mud on the soles of her shoes—speak but not see since daylight against a window reflects only soon-to-be-widows, and through a dusty screen you cannot see the collapsing cheeks of the dying or caress the arm awash in purple bruises that appear from nowhere, you can’t try one more time to feed the now-cold broth before the nurse removes the tray, and I was happy she could be with him but upset as hospice in this case only meant a sympathetic smile came by every day or two with some soothing words and comforting meds and the rest of the time my 78-year-old, 5-foot-nothing mom had to muscle my 80-year-old dying stepdad in and out of a shitty RV recliner so he could look out the window at a gravel parking lot and muse about the boats coming out of the wallpaper, hallucinations that appeared when his body stopped reminding him that to live he must eat, which caused him to become even weaker and slide out of that fucking chair and she couldn’t pick him up so she had to call the EMTs to pick him up and it should have been me picking him up, but I wasn’t there because the RV park is 700 miles away and serious public health professionals, contradicting clownish politicians, said I needed to put the community first, said my need to say goodbye in person and help my mom was selfish and I might already be exposed to the virus since, in this twisty new world, my McDonalds-drive-thru-working-kid is deemed fucking "essential" yet still earns piss wages and the greedy fuckers who own that multi-billion-dollar-heart-attack-shack won’t pony up hazard pay earned taking germ-ridden cash and debit cards from the hands of every finger-licking-cough-in-your-face-social-distancing-is-for-pussies-give-me-liberty-and-I’ll-give-you-death-piece-of-right-wing-shit who believes a president who tells them if they take hydroxychloroquine it just might make their dick bigger, or kill them, but probably make their dick bigger, these filthy moth people who despite there being an open door will repeatedly smash their skulls against the windowpane and as the bodies pile up on the sill beneath them they will insist theirs is the only path to freedom, so at home we clean the knobs and the counters and we don't hug or even touch but sometimes I sneak a hand onto their shoulder just to trigger an injection of oxytocin in my brain that reminds me I am human, a human who also wonders if every throat-clear is a symptom, and if my high-risk-lung-issue-mom got sick there would have been no one else to care for her husband, no one to touch him, to give him those brief injections of humanity, so I stayed home to not chance stealing those final days together from them, and today while she sat outside the camper in a lawn chair talking to me on the phone as the hospice-smile collected the oxygen machine and leftover morphine, I asked how she felt and she told me she’s done crying for now, that wailing is not in her nature, but she will probably cry again later.

Steven D. Howe is a writer and teacher based in Albuquerque whose work has appeared in The Rumpus, Booth Journal, Sonora Review, and Superstition Review among others. 

Art by Jeff Kallet.

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