By Robbie Gamble

I was waiting for a train in Penn Station, maintaining my little island of space within the flow of humans on the move, and I looked up from my book to see, right in front of me, the unmistakable profile of Robert Pinsky, staring up at the trackboard, trying to locate his train, and for a brief moment I had this urge to introduce myself, which flared and snapped shut like a Zippo lighter; I mean, what was I going to say?— “Gee, Mr. Pinsky, I’m not just a fellow traveler, I’m actually an emerging poet, and I love your work; in fact, I was thinking about the strings of inventory in “Shirt” just the other night, such an awesome poem!” – and he would have to shake himself free from the anxiety of missing his connection, tuck away his formidable mental to-do list, mumble some gracious pleasantries, maybe ask a question or two about my own influences and trajectory, all while keeping an ear out for the overhead PA track announcement, as commuters shouldered by us all around; all that work I did for him in my head before returning to my book, staring down at some random phrase until I sensed he had moved on into the cavernous bustling, just another guy trying to get to somewhere else.

Robbie Gamble writes poems and essays, bakes bread, and tries to be kind.

Art by Nick Botka.

By Violet Kieu

When I transfer your embryo, I will ask you for your three points of ID – your full name, date of birth and address, please, I will disregard how made up or disheveled you are – your hair, lipstick, pubic hair (or lack thereof), remnants of progesterone pessary in your vagina, mucus at your cervix; but I will remember your socks, the lucky socks: the orange fish, the red cats, the icy poles with a bite taken out of the corner, the lack of socks, non-descript socks: white sport socks, black work socks, beige footlet socks that hide under the shoe line but don't quite blend into the skin, the toes rings, anklets, the tattoos...

(‘Can I keep my socks on?’

‘Yes – Don’t want you having cold feet,’)

I will tell you how your IVF cycle went, how many eggs were collected, how many fertilized, how many survived to the embryo stage, what the classification of today’s embryo is, critiqued like a diamond AA grade I will tell you if we have been able to freeze any embryos, or if we are culturing any, I will talk to you of chance; you are here with courage –

I will talk to you about your socks if you are nervous and/or if they spark my interest, a lateral way of breaking the ice to humanize the seriousness, the important-ness, of today small, perhaps, but what you and I can talk about calmly in this hyper-aware state; once a woman forgot her birthdate when I asked, and cried angry tears at herself – the stress frays you – I want to disarm you, but I have a quiet anxiety too: I don’t want to drop your damn fine embryo.

Violet Kieu is a fertility doctor and writer from Melbourne, Australia, who writes memoir about medicine and motherhood.

Photo by Violet Kieu. Art by Jess Anderson.

By Nadia Ghent

I think, therefore I am, but if I don’t think then I am not: Descartes knew what he was talking about, but he had it backwards: sum ergo cogito, I am because I think, and making the thinking stop means that I will not be, the “I am” cut out of my heart, spreading my body into nothingness, and I can feel the blindfold tight against my eyes, and it is one a.m. and I am crossing Flatbush Avenue not seeing, not thinking, soon not being, it is a fabric, a shroud, a crown I wear like a cowboy kerchief across my face, I am King Harold of the Rough Riders, and the boys in the neighborhood make me out to be a sissy because I am soft and yielding and left-handed and I play the guitar, not Elvis but Johann Sebastian Bach, and I won’t ever be an ironworker like my father Lester and his crew of Iroquois and Mohawk walking in the sky on twelve-inch girders looking down at the world below from skyscraper skeletons, the linchpin on their tool belts releasing them when they fall, but they are not even as brave as I am, I am not a sissy because nobody else has ever walked across Flatbush Avenue blindfolded before, and I am here doing it right now, I can hear the traffic roar, cars honking even now so late, I know it is dark even though there must be a moon that I can’t see through the blindfold, but I can feel the streetlights shining down in photons of brilliance that illuminate me like God himself, I wish I could see what I look like with a divine halo, and I wonder what Mary Mother of God thinks about me, her lover boy, but the cars won’t see me when I cross, the Saturday night boys out for beer and girls, engines revving, those fantastic fins cutting, thrusting, shoving aside the hot night air, inside those dicks ride their thrones, foot on the gas foot on the gas foot on the gas, it’s not just a thrum but a roar the engine makes underneath the chassis, I can feel the vibrations on the pavement, and if I can hear it, it means that I am not yet nothing, but soon I will be nothing, Descartes never thought about the future, and I feel the blindfold which is actually mama’s hankie I stole from her top drawer because Lester’s don’t smell as nice, and I smell the dust, the exhaust, the oil leaking onto the manifold, the dirt smell of cars moving like souls across the desert looking for Jesus in a palm tree mirage, fast, hot, loud, and it is time to take a step, I dare myself to take a step, a dare is not an intersection but a straight line between two points in a plane which exists in space, in the universe the closest distance between two points is a line, but this is another axis, the function of which is to float above the “y” axis in the space above my steps, and each step will take me higher across Flatbush Avenue, I will be climbing up St. Peter’s ladder, by the time I get to the other side my feet won’t touch the pavement anymore, O Charon no need for the boat, I will float above, I will step with the lightness of grace over each car as it speeds down toward what used to be my body, since I will be nothing, the cars will all pass through me, a transubstantiation like the Jesuits taught me, the sinister in my left hand in this world can go by any other name, I am ready.

Nadia Ghent studied literature at Brown University and violin performance at the Manhattan School of Music and was a violinist for a long time but decided she had things to say and some of the things she has said have been published in Slag Glass City, Talking Writing, Solstice Literary Magazine, and Necessary Fiction, and she keeps on talking and writing while she works on a lyric memoir about music, parenthood, grief, and mental illness.

Art by Nick Botka, who lives in the Northwest, where he makes trippy visuals and runs a tape label.

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