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By T.L. States

I once read a story by Lydia Davis about the crying people of the world and how they wept and bawled like little babies as they approached nap time, and how midday hunger struck them so hard that they snapped at their friends and turned their noses up at acquaintances who only meant well and wanted to break bread with them; when I read this story I laughed more than once, out loud, nearly spitting out my diet soda, but when I went to the Internet to tell all my friends about how funny a writer this Lydia Davis was and that she had written one of the most hysterical stories I had ever read, no one said anything and it was as if I were typing into a void, except this void was filled with my Internet friends that possibly weren’t my friends at all and maybe, I thought, they were reading my words about the hilarious Lydia Davis and they were snickering about the fool that doesn’t get serious literature, discussing amongst themselves how he, the fool, me, was probably the one crying, not knowing where the tears came from.

T.L. States lives with his family in Tucson, and his work can be found at HAD, Hobart, Back Patio.

Art by Nick Botka, who runs the cassette tape label, StillVHS, and who snaps stills of VHS @stillvhs.

By Matt Leibel

My book failed so badly that I was put on trial, because I lived in a country in which failure had been made illegal, and I was convicted by a jury of critics, and spent my time in captivity reading other failed writers, ones who had failed far worse than me, frankly, and I started to forget what good writing even looked like, until the day I was slated to die (I would be stoned to death with stone tablets on which all the great works of literature I couldn’t live up to were inscribed) and as the tablets were about to smash into me, I had a sudden vision, a vision for the greatest work of my life, a story that couldn’t fail, only now I knew I’d never write it, which made me sad, but just for a moment, because I knew that even if I had written it, even if it had been a critical smash, even if it had mass popular success and sold 10 million copies, even if it had been translated into hundreds of languages, even if it had been tattooed onto the chests of people on distant islands discovering the written word for the very first time, even if it been used by primatologists to teach sign language to monkeys, even if it had been turned into a wildly popular musical whose percussive elements involved the rapid opening and closing of multiple copies of the book, even if my book was the first thing people thought of when they awoke each morning and the last thing they remembered when their head hit the pillow at night, even if people in cold climates saw my story spelled out letter by letter when their own breaths materialized in the frosty air, even if skywriters were hired to reprint my book above the earth, even if my book was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace and Medicine as well as Literature, even if it led to breakthroughs that alleviated human suffering and pointed to a new way forward that reconnected us with our shared humanity, even if my book could be converted into edible form to feed the entire world, even if all that happened, the likelihood was that my next book, the one I wrote after that, whether by comparison or objective measure, would likely be a clear failure, an utter flop, a linguistic crash and burn, and through the same inevitable punitive measures of the merciless, memoryless society I lived in, I would end up right back here, in the same position, staring at angry, unsatisfied readers, ready once again to pelt me with the heavy, deadly words of my betters—so perhaps, I thought, I should embrace failure as the one thing I hadn’t failed at yet, I should make an argument that instead of a successful book, I’d set out to write an unsuccessful one, and by that standard I’d succeeded spectacularly, and I should be celebrated, feted as if I’d written something truly great in its terribleness instead of a forgettable, even-keeled mediocrity, but even as I thought this, I could already see the critics gazing at me askance, stone tablets in hand, bloodthirsty and ready for bear, primed to punish me for my crimes against literature, and my last thought, the one I hoped might bring me some consolation in this moment, was that at least these people cared about words; at least, I knew, there were people who believed that stories mattered—even if this time around, I didn’t much care for the ending.

Matt Leibel is a San Francisco-based writer whose work has appeared in Wigleaf, Lost Balloon, Electric Lit, and elsewhere.

Art by Liz Worthy, a Bay Area writer, illustrator, and ceramic artist.

By Adrianna Sanchez-Lopez

Early in the morning, before the sun elongates her limbs through darkness, I watch you watching me and I don’t want to hear I love you; instead, I want to stretch my body into dawn’s vast reach, tongue unsubdued—reckless, tasting the shape of language like fermented earth, like air, I whisper: husband mine/sagrada tierra/misericordia/swallow my heart/digest it in the four chambers of yours/breathe through the pores of my lungs until each exhale squalls through this bruised lacuna between us, my secrets escaping your organs, unveiling my distorted reflection as if it’s staring back at me; carbon dioxide escaping lips like an explication, searching, refrain after refrain until you understand why I cringe away from touch (even your touch), gripping my mom’s pain with clenched teeth; eyes closed, her spirit crushed to colorless dust strewn across cold linoleum; witness how two quick blows to her abdomen recur in my dreams while my father turns, walks away and leaves child-me to run to her ashen remains; witness as decades later, still thinking about this moment, adult-me checks her pulse, removes her oxygen tube, calls hospice to confirm her death, levers the window open for doves to carry her soul away—I want you to know these junctions like I know them; wild, rapacious sounds gush from my lips: sanguis/sangre/blood—pebbles of speech pocketed into small, nebulous lexicons: from childhood Sundays spent at mass; from listening at my grandma’s kitchen table; from mourning the many devastations of my mother, craving the safety of your earth like a hunger in me that seeps into every splinter of memory, every dream, every lie, every promise (fear) that threatens with poisonous, rotting seams.

Adrianna Sanchez-Lopez is a writer, teacher, and mother living in the San Luis Valley.

Photo by Jason Thayer.

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