Your old motorcycle glinted like a fleck of mica in the sun from where
I toed a discarded shell in dry dirt. You said we could carve a hole in it;
string it like a jewel around my neck. If I wanted. But I wanted instead to shoot.
So you brought me the smallest rifle of your dad’s dozen from inside,
where Rainer and Zola jingled behind you curious. And two aluminum cans
we set on flowerpots at the foot of the shallow ditch. I watched you feed
.22 cartridges into the magazine, explaining—open action, safety on, aimed
away. Before you reversed the orders and shot the first can dead-on.
I lifted my dress, set a knee to gravel, scoped over the garden cart
the metal heart, and shot. Ping, thrill. —That was that. Back inside, Rainer
pursued, sniffing the empty barrel as you moved to lock it up. I remembered
you’d once said, watching him lick my face, how you’d realized just how big
he was. His teeth and broad neck, capable of shaking animals to death.
We put the planters back in the shed. We let the dogs back out into the yard.
You pointed out flocks of geese, snow geese, and sandhill cranes migrating
over the alfalfa field. More than beautiful. Said, No one can hunt them. At least
not here. Pointed out their shadows. Like smoke descending onto the trees.
By Gabriela Valencia
I have known since my father’s death 10 years ago that grief doesn’t tiptoe in stages. It seeps in slowly and swells and swells and propels you into the arms of solace in unimaginable ways. Mine led to the banks of the Ganges. I believe I was summoned—pulled an inch each day. The urgency caught me by surprise. It’s not as though I hadn’t clutched my husband’s collar and left damp blotches on the white. It’s not as though I hadn’t sat under the grandfather banyan in the hospital’s parking lot and howled like a wolf in labor with my father’s medical report clenched in my hands. But the well never ran dry.
From "The Ritual of Grief" by Vimla Sriram
Who can say exactly how it happened? Ask any of the other students, or ask the bespectacled teacher at the front of the room, and they’ll tell you that it was an immediate transformation. One moment, the quarterback was there, grasping his teammate’s hand. The next moment, he had been seemingly replaced by a little cardinal, its scarlet feathers flashing as it swooped through the air. It chirped, and its falling aria sounded very much like a repeated human word: You, you, you.
From "Fable Containing the Warmth of a Hand" by Kimberly Ramos
Cover art: "Mama Horse" by Jessica Sid