A Soft Splendor by A.M. Kennedy

Melt the gold between your palms
and smear it on everything you love:
your hips, your lips, the soles of your feet.

This month I am sick of sand and sun and callouses;
in my dreams I am new skin, tender and thin.
The fluttering of my heartbeat rises in every place
my angles meet, and anyone could see
how desperate they blush to be touched.

A fist I took once to make me ice
has instead made me fire, reduced cinder,
liquid in the rains, the shade of dried blood.

I bite the open hand, climb the fence instead of going though,
lie on my back and close my eyes to imagine it differently.
I cannot be made into granite no matter how long I stand still;
the bees and blooms crawl up my knees and drape me in honey
too heavy to bear, too sweet to eat. 

Melt the gold between your fingers
and press it to everything you hate:
the curve of your stomach, the length of your throat,
the lines time has carved onto your face.

I breathe in black and blue until the bruises bloom and then wilt,
the fat sunrise rests its face against the ocean, tired too,
in a better world the dawn remakes me,     new.

A.M. Kennedy is a writer and painter from Tampa. She specializes in precariously stacking books and half-finished tea mugs. She has been previously published in 3Elements Review,Popshot Magazine, and The Burningword.

Small Matters by Rebecca Wesloh

Leah and Cecelia, two teenage girls, sit buried in two chairs next to each other. They spend the entire time on their phones, not looking up. Brief pauses are taken between each dialogue break in which the girls continue scrolling through their phones.

Leah: Did you see Beth got her hair cut?
Cecelia: No. Let me see this. -pause- oh no.
Leah: I know, tragic. And she was supposed to have her date with Oliver on Friday.
Cecelia: We’ll see how that happens. If that happens.

Leah: Oh this is a cool picture.
Cecelia: What is it?
Leah: It says it’s from the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.
Cecelia: Wow. It’s so empty. It is beautiful, though.

Cecelia: Why did Suze post a picture of a horse?
Leah:  It’s the new horse her dad got her.
Cecelia: Her dad got her a horse?
Leah: Yeah, he felt bad that he hadn’t seen her in a year after he lost custody in the divorce.
Cecelia:  If only my parents were divorced.
Leah: I think he might have had to go to rehab.
Cecelia: Still a fucking horse? Imagine what else she can get.

Leah: Did you hear about all the cutbacks to student loans? Now, like, practically no one can get financed.
Cecelia: LOL, there goes college.
Leah: Like we ever had an actual future to hope for.

Cecelia: Oh no, Denny has to go to court.
Leah: Not Denny, no! What did he do?
Cecelia: He was texting and driving. Again.
Leah: I saw his snap-story. He was actually snapping while driving last time.
Cecelia: Ah, Denny. Is there any hope for him to ever learn?

Cecelia:  Did you see the news this morning?
Leah: Are you talking about the townhouse fire in the city? My mom told me about that over breakfast.
Cecelia: No, the mass shooting in Des Moines. 21 people were killed; they were saying about 40 others were wounded.
Leah: Another one?
Cecelia: Yeah, another one.
Leah: People need to chill the fuck down. Love each other. Stop shooting.
Cecelia: Tell me about it.

Leah: I took that “choose your dream shopping spree and we’ll tell you how old you really are” quiz.
Cecelia: And? What did you get?
Leah: Well, according to this, I’m a senior citizen.
Cecelia: Seriously?
Leah: “You are an old soul at heart. Your care for others is deep and grandmotherly to its very core. Your ideal day includes baking, watching birds, spoiling your grandkids, and watching some ‘Judge Judy.’ You might not admit it, but you have that stash of strawberry hard candies tucked away in the bottom of your bag. Everyone looks to you as a source of wisdom and cookies.”
Cecelia: I can’t. No. I just can’t.
Leah: Hey. Respect your elders.

Cecelia: Carter just posted a picture. His dad is in the hospital.
Leah: What happened?
Cecelia: Apparently he swallowed a bunch of pills and overdosed. They aren’t sure if he was trying to kill himself or what.
Leah:  Wow. I wish there was something we could do.
Cecelia:  I know. But what can we do?
Leah: I don’t know. Everything I can say at this point has already been said. And besides it’s all stupid, meaningless clichés.
Cecelia: Oh well. I sent him a text. I used a bunch of those little praying hands emojis.
Leah: Yeah, that’ll definitely help.

Leah: Did you see Karie got a new little dog?
Cecelia: A puppy? Let me see this cutie.

[I could paint some surreal image] by Alison Hazle

I could paint some surreal image
of this room—how the sun latches
to my back on the walk inside, how I screw it
into the lamp and how it sprouts
the seeds I scattered
across the floor. I could say it stays there
and keeps this room warm. I could say it lives there      
until the ceiling tiles part
to reveal the moon.
I suppose this naked gap could allow
for fog to pile on top of us, for us
to shape it into Queen and Queen
costumes, able to play dress-up
again. Perhaps crickets could come
next, the rub of their thighs
to replace the hum of machines.
But this all would be dishonest.
There is really a dresser with photos,
there is a bible stuffed with letters,
sometimes there are visitors who know
my name. There is the sharing of memories
and alcohol and alcohol. There is a wooden
box with a keyhole. In the corner is a window
with the shade always drawn
and a bed that seems to grow larger
but never wide enough
for me to lay against her.

Alison Hazle is a poet/writer and art school survivor. She plans to pursue an MFA somewhere far away from Baltimore.

What Am I If I Am Not by Micaela Walley

What am I if I am not
a girl? The pulpy body
of a dead sea mollusk,
             Am I crunchy?
                          The shell it left behind,
                          rotted in,            shouldering
What if I am made
from other shells, who
were made from mother shells,
who were stepped on so often
             that the gravity of their woman
           bones             collapsed in, made dust
                                  of themselves
                                                  the boot of a man I have
                                                  never met but can feel
                                                  still in the tips of my hairs
                                                  anytime someone asks me
                                                                              what I am?

Micaela Walley is a graduate from the University of South Alabama. Her work can be found in Oracle Fine Arts Review, Occulum, and ENTROPY. She currently lives in Hanover, Maryland with her best friend—Chunky, the cat.

[After my husband died, I did not] by Tim Neil

After my husband died, I did not
eat anything for two days.

Hunger felt familiar after years
of marriage to an echo.

On the third day, I just wanted
to make a simple meal.

I had no pasta, no fine bread,
just American cheese, a garlic clove,

and one fucking egg. He had left it
for me, along with his yolk-crusted

pan soaking in the sink. The last argument.
In his dictionary, underneath the word

“consideration,” he saw one pale egg
nestled neatly in the cardboard carton,

like a piece of fallen moon in a desert crater.
I pocketed the egg with care, and left

our cramped cottage.
I drove past the grocery store and football fields,

until I reached his new bed of silence.
If he were alive under the dirt,

his snores would wake the neighbors.
The crows in the distance made jokes

about me. They thought I was another clinging
widow. I cracked the shell on his tombstone,

watched the yellow dot the sod.

Tim Neil is a recent graduate of Towson University, where he received a BFA in Acting. He lives in Baltimore, MD.

Zion in El Salvador by Emely Rodriguez

Abuelita wraps me up in tamalitos, so warm,
But she cools me down with Fresa Tropical, ah
Canciones de mariachi cry in the background, and we
Dance like we’re wearing clothes made of cucarachas
Executing imprecise movements like forced twitches
Fixating, fixating, fixating, on las guitarras
Gently strummed, unlike the singers’ vocal chords
Harsh, hoarse, heartfelt vibrations that tingle my eardrum
I’ve never seen tears fall in tune to a beat like this before
Just watch my mother’s head sway back and forth
Knowingly imitating the tapping of the performers’ feet
Like her body embodies the songs of melancholic mariachi
Musical notes invading her bloodstream, her lagrimas shine
Nosotros – felices en nuestras vidas sencillas
Oblivious to our nearing flight departure
Persistently ignoring the dates on the calendar
Questioning what life could have felt like before this
Repressing the thoughts of once existing outside of this
Sin mi país bellísimo, sin mi país, sin mi
This is my people’s holy land, but it doesn’t feel mine
Unfathomable experience of being both free and shackled
Vulnerable with no country, vulnerable within it
Withholding parts of my soul, trapped in two places
Xenophobes in two nations targeting parts of me, I’m just
Yearning for my country to be mine.

Emely Rodriguez is a Latina writer from the D.C. / M.D. area. She is in her first year of the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA program at the University of Baltimore, focusing on poetry. Her work has been published in 45th Parallel, The Voices Project, and Welter Magazine.

ANNOUNCEMENT: High School Contest Winners

Congratulations Samantha Proctor and Lily Davidson, winners of Grub Street‘s writing contest for high school students. Timothy Taranto, author of Ars Botanica (one of our staff’s all-time favorite memoirs), judged.

Sneak Peek of “The Boy Who Drew Halos” by Samantha Proctor

When I met her, it was dawn. Her chickens had come out, and the light that traversed over her fragrant driveway, where the sleepless bring life to the tortured, sprinkled like rose petals over the glint of her forehead. It is said that time is the expanse, a limitless blanket that seems to shroud any other concept in nature. The lightning, the seas, the birds all bow to His song. How lucky I am to exist in the same second of universe as the dry knuckles that lead me through the front gate of a home where spirit thrives.

Sneak Peek of “Saturated Introspection” by Lily Davison

Dark or light wash, it made no difference. Each of us wore denim like it was a second skin. My parents bought me my first pair of jeans when I was three; stretchy overalls with flowers on the front. It was my rite of passage. Don’t eat wild blueberries that you’ve found in the woods without making sure they’re wild blueberries. My lips were royally stained and buzzing with nerves, and my throat was raw and screaming. Beauty and poison go hand in hand I suppose.

To read more, you’ll have to wait for the print issue of Grub Street‘s release on May 8. Samantha and Lily’s full pieces will be available online after the print issue becomes available.

“Aria” by Sam Regal

Sometimes I’m shopping online, which is something I love to do, shop online, as every store is a new puzzle to solve, like, which clothes would I buy if I shopped here, and sometimes I end up buying the clothes, so I guess you could say it’s very meta and works on a few levels, and I stumble across something that I didn’t know I needed, like, say, a black bardot crop top, and it’s like suddenly I’m meeting the lord Jesus Christ or found the path to Enlightenment because I feel, out of nowhere, absolutely convinced that this is the one clothing item I have always been missing, like since infancy or conception, and that having this thing, wearing it but really just the owning it, the possessing it, will finally Change My Life in the ways I’ve been waiting for it to change, and it’s like I enter a fugue, I short circuit, I hit “purchase” and there I am, sort of shocked, addled, kind of post-coital, like exhausted but satisfied but not totally satisfied, and if I’ve ordered, say, a pair of bright pink palazzo pants that I know will need tailoring and I know I will never tend to, I feel itchy, and blue, and a little dumb, maybe, or sexless and vast like the last woman on Earth, and I start wondering after creepy stuff, like regarding my personality and whether I am worthy of love despite all the raisins in my bed, and I open another website and hope I don’t get struck by a thunderbolt of object fancy but sometimes I do, sometimes it happens, I hit “purchase” and the cycle repeats itself, and has been, really, repeating itself for some years, you should see my dresser, the drawers don’t close, they’re all overstuffed with shit, with pink and sateen fabrics that I don’t wear or know what to do with, that I drape around my hips like a hand, like a gift, and I know, at least at home in the mirror, alone among my things, objects too precious for this city with its leers and grime and violence and dripping virulent ugly, that I am beautiful, a Chaos void spotlit in pink, singing my body’s sweeping arias.

Sam Regal is a playwright, poet, performer, and recent transplant from Brooklyn to Athens, Georgia. Her translation of Yao Feng’s One Love Only Until Death was published in 2017 by Vagabond Press, and her poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from SumThe Wild WorldNoD MagazineLucent Dreaming, and elsewhere. A former resident at TENT within the Yiddish Book Center, Sam was awarded the Colie Hoffman Prize in Poetry in 2017. She earned her M.F.A. from Hunter College and now studies within the Creative Writing Ph.D. Program at the University of Georgia.