By Claire Elder

A man bent over and expelled his hot breath in my ear, if Johnny Cash was the man in black you must be his woman; his vulgar wink prompted a bile of discomfort and repulsion to climb and burn the back of my throat—if I wore red I would be too seductive, glitter a tramp, gold an ornament for his lap, lace a Victoria’s angel modeling lingerie, pink a Barbie with nice tits and the perfect size four waist, leopard print his feisty prey, leather his submissive to be bound and gagged, purple a jewel bought and kept in a box, white an innocent virgin, but black should be unapproachable because black is the color of mourning—I mourned my eighteenth birthday when it became legal; my mother mourned my adolescence after my first period; I mourned that night in the backseat of my high school boyfriend’s car after he couldn’t help himself; I mourn the moment when the man mistook black for a green light—when I turned away from him, I feared he would whisper in my ear that black means I should smile more; black means I’m easy; black means I'm a slut, and sluts don’t get boundaries.

Claire Elder currently attends Ohio University's Undergraduate Creative Writing Program and interns for New Ohio Review.

Painting ("Self-Defense") by Liv Dempsey.

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.