Fall 2021, Volume 42, No. 3
In this issue, we explore what “Roots” you, what “Routes” you’ve taken, how you got to be here and where you are going.
Featuring new work from forty-five writers from around the globe including Andrew Boden, J.J. Steinfeld, Nadine McInnis, Vivian Darroch-Lozowski, Lee Min-Yung & many, many more!
Cover photo Feeding Ed by Janine Tschuncky
Jeff William Acosta
Gabriel Awuah Mainoo
Eric C. Hayward
Eya Donald Greenland
Karl Schmidt checks the clock in his office. 4:16. He sucks at two red dots in the fleshy area between thumb and index finger of his left hand. A liquid like glass oozes from the wounds. He calculates: if the median lethal dose in a mouse weighing 19 g is 0.07 mg and a boomslang snake delivers on average 8 mg of venom per envenomation, how long does an average adult human weighing 165 lbs. have to get to a hospital before—he stops himself. No hospital in the Western hemisphere, let alone Chicago, will have boomslang anti-venom.
On his desk are manila folders, books, a framed picture of him and his wife, a jar with a bleached snake in formaldehyde that he uses as a paperweight. On the wall a framed clipping from the Life pages of the Chicago Daily Tribune: Meet Karl Schmidt, Expert in All Things Slithery and Slimy. Underneath the headline a picture of him looking glum as four lizards climb over his crisp white shirt. “Look like a scientist,” the photographer had said, so he looked sad.
He takes out his notebook and writes:
A boomslang with undivided anal plate—
He stops. No, not there, don’t begin there. Earlier. He tries again:
A thirty-inch snake brought for identification to Chicago Natural History Museum by Mr. Truett of the Lincoln Park Zoo proved to be uncommonly difficult to name.
Yes, he thinks. Uncommonly. That’s good. Uncommonly difficult to name. He checks the clock again—4:20—and picks up the phone. Three rings and his wife answers.
“Hello, Margaret, it’s me,” he says, and he tells her about the snake Bill Truett had brought to him, he tells her how he picked it up wrong—”just wasn’t thinking, dear”—of how the snake bit him before he could do anything. She asks him if it was poisonous and he says yes but tells her it was just a juvenile. He doesn’t tell her that he’s not sure if that makes a difference. There are other words he doesn’t tell her: intravascular coagulation, spontaneous hemorrhaging, renal failure, inability to coagulate. He tells her they’ll have to cancel dinner with the Wedelsons and she tells him she loves him and he says the same and says he is leaving soon.
for Patsy, 1932–1937
for Adam, 2011
She moves through her garden in darkened hours
when primrose smells sweeter than whiskey on his
breath, than black ink hammered onto stale paper.
He types providence. She sees God’s hand in every bloom,
in iris and larkspur, in white lilies floating on still
water, in her grandson’s skyward eyes.
My garden moves through me when I
won’t sleep, lying in this moonlit bed of ours.
Between the crest and fall of breath is stillness.
Husband. I want only to drown in his
skin but my garden needs tending. Words bloom.
I pluck them by petal and thorn; droplets on paper.
A Letter to Big Words
Dear Big Words:
I’m re-evaluating our relationship. I haven’t made a splash, not even a ripple, in the literary world since dedicating myself to writing. Editors and (honest) friends have identified you as the culprit. They say you are a dangerous catch. They say that I’d better keep my distance before you corrupt me beyond repair.
I was shocked by the feedback—small surprise given my cultural background. I’m an immigrant from China where the well-educated swoon at your cousins’ grand entrance. Even those who read and write little revere your relatives’ aura. I first felt your irresistible pull almost twenty years ago. At a roadside restaurant in my gastronomically obsessed hometown, over a feast of glistening dishes, a driven young man quizzed me on the words he had devoured in preparation for graduate studies in the United States. “Ubiquitous.” “Patronize.” “Audacity.” “Loquacious”.… Each time he uttered a word, I shook my head to admit defeat. This friend, now beaming with a victor’s smile, had often come to me with questions about English. Other than humble pie, I don’t remember the taste of the meal that night. But I’ll never forget the fire in my belly that would fuel my craving for big English words—for you, my dear—in the years to come.