By Ryan Drendel

Mom made us chew sugar-free gum during takeoff to release the cabin pressure before it bubbled through our ears ignore the flight attendants’ safety procedures so we can say our prayers up here a perfect farm circle appears oval and all of Missouri is farmed into square-mile pixels and even the Flatirons have been flattened into reminders of my grandmother’s crow’s feet keep pushing their personal items into the backs of my heels kept clapping the first time I flew I flew into Las Vegas to help my mom help her mom get rid of her husband’s old gloves used to squeeze my five-year-old fingers and command that I shake the hand that shook the hand that shook the whole wide world and I remember giggling even though it hurt because I had not yet learned about the premature stress I placed when I tried to pronounce di-abetes my tongue would leap ahead of itself to keep pace with my thoughts and the speech therapists would call this lazy passenger refuses to cover his nose with his mask while the shadow of our contrail stretches into the meadows like another powerline I wonder whether we change time-zones in the air or after the voice on the PA tells us it’s okay to turn off airplane mode and often I forget I’m allowed to wear a watch on each wrist but I remember tapping my grandmother’s during our final descent into the overcast I asked her whether we were where Grandpa had gone and I remember she told me to close my eyes and keep chewing until the plane landed like a moth who was exhausted of flying into the moon.

Ryan Drendel is an MFA candidate at Northern Arizona University, where he edits Thin Air Magazine and co-hosts Cinder Skies: a High Desert Reading Series.

Art by Amanda Cortese.

By Kari Treese

I got this advice once to put it in a letter and stuff the letter into a drawer and set a reminder on my phone for one month and then at the end of the one month I was supposed to open the letter and read it and if what the letter contained still felt true I was supposed to send it to him so he could understand what truth I was living in without me having the weight of telling him the truth but it was still weight to write it down and the therapist said well yeah that is the work we are doing here and I was still anxious then and I am still anxious now and I never sent the letter but I did turn the letter into an erasure because I was a poet at the time of the letter writing and I still have the erasure file but I no longer have the letter but my father is dead so it doesn’t matter anyway.

Kari Treese is a fish loving math teacher who reads for Atticus Review with an MFA from Mills College with words in Pithead Chapel, Lunch Ticket, Hobart, CutBank, and others and a twitter account that isn't as cool as she'd like it to be @kari_treese.

Art by Kari Treese.

By Michelle Bitting

Didn’t you love riding in them as a kid, before you got too big to climb into the collapsible seat, your body folded up like a fortune cookie, shimmying your soft bottom inside the metal purse, knees to chest, a contortionist popping feet through steel lattice to dangle and kick mother’s shins as she pushed the load along stacked aisles, backward wheels squeaking, little insane planets spun askew; how sometimes she’d scan shelves and lean in to kiss your hair, sometimes deliver a stern knock it off if you squirmed too much or whined for root beer or that blessed box of Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries, and how in frozen foods, your young chubby fingers would make a prayer pyramid, hoping she’d be merciful or just too tired to refuse you (prayer’s solemn knuckle-to-lip gesture no one performs in public these germy pandemic days) but when you finally got too big for the cart-seat, how fun was it to plunk your whole self plum center of the goody basket, mom piling in loaves of Wonder, chuck roasts and Granny Smiths, Dad’s after shave and booze, the Entenmann’s turnovers you and your brothers would fight over, especially the tart lemon ones everyone loved better than seedy raspberry; only now it’s 2020 and both those boys are dead, both suicides—a quarter century apart as of last Christmas—and now there’s a plague going round makes going to the market like crawling out of a foxhole to forage canned nuts and beans, fill canteens with the only well water for miles while dodging fragments and debris, horses and soldiers (aka the people of your town) now zombies wandering the wreckage, masks and ventilator buttons fixed to muzzles, dust and smoke filtered through flared nostrils—everyone skirting the mask-less red-faced crazies, the science defiers and “masters of the universe” who refuse to let a virus tell them what to do—blowhards who steered us here in the first place and into every pustule of civilization, every historical abyss when you think about it so that again I think of Rothko who said You’ve got sadness in you, I’ve got sadness in me until I want to peel the decades back and sit with them, my brothers, beautiful in your bell-bottoms and black turtlenecks, your bared and open mouths stuffed with corn syrup and lemon curd—you who failed to say you were leaving—as if all that time we were strangers fighting to feed ourselves and a threat of death we could never see coming.

Michelle Bitting was short-listed for the 2020 Montreal International Poetry Prize and her fourth collection Broken Kingdom won the 2018 Catamaran Book Prize but it's her kids and students who keep putting the pieces together, the horses running...

Painting by Bill Bitting.

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