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.

By E.M. Tran

My father moans in his sleep, says things in his mother tongue, goldfish mouth agape as he speaks to the absence where his friends used to be, and I, an American child, sit at the door in the dark listening for some hint of who he was.

E. M. Tran lives, writes, and teaches in New Orleans, LA, and has work in such places as Prairie Schooner, Little Fiction, and Joyland Magazine.

Art by Jeff Kallet.

By Victoria Buitron

It’s not a baggie, it’s a plump bag of marijuana, plopped on the street two houses over from the new place we've lived in just some months, and it seems like what’s inside might cost at least a thousand bucks but I don’t say this to my mom who is walking next to me, who I had to teach how to use a tampon, because I can picture it already—we are the brownest people on the street—and I imagine a cop arriving who doesn’t wear a mask because it won’t let him breathe, and he’ll refuse to social distance, then I’ll have to explain that no sir, this is not my pot, sir, I just found it here, sir, because who will believe us, on this street where everyone probably says cul de sac instead of dead end, these neighbors who may or may not know that Black people are arrested four times more than white people for marijuana possession, and they already think we play music too loudly in a language they can’t understand, and maybe we'll end up hating each other instead of relishing in the mutual apathy we feel now, so I tell my mom this is none of our business and some pizza-delivery man’s oregano must have fallen from his car and she believes me or at least I think she does, until the following day when my husband confesses he saw the bag while walking our dog, and then a man came in a Mustang, refused to look him in the eyes, grabbed his merchandise off the pavement, left with a tire screech like out of a thriller suburban movie, and I say: of course I saw it, sometimes you just have to keep your mouth shut 'cause—and my mom interrupts me and says I knew it, this woman who’s only smoked one cigarette in her life, who thinks no one on our street could be a drug dealer and who says omaiga instead of oh my god—but none of us say we should have called the cops, since it's not like it was cocaine or human trafficking or someone screaming for help because what good has ever come from calling the cops for cannabis anyway.

Victoria Buitron used to write and travel, but now all she does is write.

Art by Danny Sancho.