“Remembering…” by Lanre Apata

Our failures make children sleep under the cold moon, inhaling earth’s unhallowed dust, and living each day with bruised feet and damaged minds. Our insincerity does not consume children alone. Fathers are taken away from their loved ones in the name of conflict and survival. Babies suckle breasts of starved mothers because they’ve come to rely on the husbands that are now disarmed of the resources and the power that ensured a roof for the ones they love or are responsible for, milk for those growing, and safety when dusk ushers in darkness. The politics of interest that breeds conflict and warfare pushes young ones to forests meant for adults. And when they get torn by foxes, we count their bodies, sigh at the normalization of pain, and move on.

But they forget. The men at the center of this forget:

ONE DAY YOU WILL DIE. One day, your soul will travel far from you. Breath will leave you. You will become still like the giant iroko tree that fell to the saw. You will be pronounced pristine in the morgue. Probably buried in a cemetery or a grave around your former home. You will become food for the earth. The things you once crushed with your sole will gorge on your flesh and lick your bones, desiring for more. If you make it to the guarded cemetery, you might get some respite if your grave does not become the conclave for solemn meetings of your ancestors or the spirits you consulted while on earth, or become the target of dark beings desiring to excavate your remains immediately after your funeral. If your corpse ends up in that grave around the family compound, the mad man might shit on you, or the dangling penis of that troublesome boy peeing on you. You might be excavated with no apology, for family reasons, if, before all this, the rivalry between your uncle’s wives does not make them swear on your grave while they stamp their angered feet on you after the period of mourning done in your honor. But if you die on the sea, you may not see the bank. The sharks would probably welcome you for their feast. If you die between mangled metals in the name of an avoidable tragedy, you might not get more than a service of songs with no remains to fit in a coffin. If you die somewhere faraway, the few that care about you may not bother to find a home for you here. If you surrender to a gun or the pow of the mine you know nothing about, your friends in government may never find the perpetrators. And if you’re fortunate to die in your sleep, you may not be remembered for anything beyond the house of angst you built.


Lanre Apata is a fulltime reader of literature, a part-time writer and an editor. He also works in Nigeria’s educational sector. His other interests are politics and sport. He resides in Nigeria.

Photo by Mitchell Bowser.

The Power of Choice by Vijayalakshmi Sridhar

Get out, my mind screams, in high pitch.

I close the laptop with the acceptance mail, bolt out of the apartment into the night that is dense with humidity, the overhanging clouds laced with downpour. Pacing the pavement, I try flagging down the auto-rickshaws passing by.

“All fine?” I hear a friendly voice near the entrance. I nod, shocked at how much my face gives away and try to make up with Varsh’s news-the first one to know. “She got through the School of Economics with a full scholarship.”

“That’s great. Then you must look on top of the world—not like this.” She points at my faded bottle green military shorts and wrinkled cotton shirt, my pale eyes swimming in self-pity. I brush it off adding more. “She might not be taking this up. Her sights are set on International affairs. She might go next year.” I tell her my plan instead of Varsh’s, feeling the guilt that is dangerously balancing itself on the tearing sensation of joy in my heart. I can’t deny it anymore. “That is the power of choice,” she gives a thumbs-up. I move on, before she strips down my pretense.

Get out and lose this loser—I hear it again.

It is close to 9 o’clock when I get into my ride. Face to the whipping wind, I tuck my emotions in each of the shadowed street corners, silhouetted tree tops so that I have nothing of it when I see Varsh.

As always the city bewilders me with its never-ending circles and junctions and ubiquitous parks at every corner. “We are near Forum Mall,” the driver pulls the woolen cap off his ears and gives me a heads-up in Kannada.

I direct him in broken Hindi until St John’s Hospital, after which he melts into the gathering traffic and turns left. I am lost until he touches the park Varsh and I have crossed so many times en route to her class. A few more weeks and she might be in the TUBE and I will have no reason to come to 8th Main Road.

I spot her walking out of class- slim in the Bharatnatyam saree. I wave and she crosses the road and comes to me- my first born.

“You got through.” I break the news before she sees it herself.

“Yay!” her joy erupting, she claps, hugs me and gets busy informing her world.

“You happy?” she asks me. I nod, plant a kiss on her sweaty forehead as the auto trundles back through the pot-holed roads.

“You hear from anyone?” She asks me sweetly, her dad who has been out of work for the last three years, putting me right on the bubbling center of my anguish, the black hole that has almost swallowed me. In addition to a negative for her query, how can I tell that her accomplishment is making me more insecure, that it would be better if she lands her goals after I get a job? Won’t I have to be on my feet to see her take a wing?


Since young, stories have been part of Vijayalakshmi Sridhar’s world—both telling and listening to. She believes that human relationships and their dynamics are the most interesting things to write about. Ms. Sridhar is keen to explore her journey as a fiction writer in many interesting genres and formats.

Photo by Matteo Fusco.

“I Think of Grief as a Dying Star” by E.R. Murray

A star collapses when its fuel is used up, and so does the human heart. Not only in the physical sense, but also the nebular, nuclear stuff that we attribute to that particular organ. Grief can manifest in many forms, but it is always ascribed to loss; of a person, self-respect, hope, dreaming. We can grieve many things, and often do, but we tend to pack it deep inside as though always ready to move on, without experiencing any impact.

But the truth is, most stars take a million years to die, and in the same way grief will linger. From months to years to generations; grief can pass down through blood, song, and stories, an intuitive memory that weaves into century after century. War, colonisation; these are difficult griefs to forget. I was born in England and feel its terrible past keenly; I know I will apologise for its history until I die.

If you take a photo of a galaxy 100 million light years away, you are recording that galaxy as it looked 100 million years ago. Likewise, when someone dies, we time travel. Whoever dies, we seek a return to their best selves, even if it means delving back decades. It is important for us to care if we are to grieve, even when the person has done terrible things. It is a positive trait of the human condition.

Yet we also have the power to grieve a person long before their death, if they injured our heart deeply enough. This means we can experience loss without additional pain. People who are meant to be close to us may die, without that death impacting us in the way society expects. It is entirely possible, for instance, to not attend your parents’ funerals and to do this without anger or enmity. Which in many ways, may be the saddest grief of all.

My father was absent during my childhood, until I met him aged thirteen. He died after a few visits, yet I celebrated that we had actually gathered a few precious memories. His absence felt no different than before. My mother was violent and tyrannical, and I had finished mourning the absence of her love by the end of my teenage years. When she died, I felt only relief and empathy – she had finally left a life that she always seemed to despise. I wonder if I am capable of grieving? Or if, unknown to me, I am grieving still?

By the time we see another person’s grief, we witness only the tip, a glimmer of its true depth. And in that glimmer, we see a hint of ourselves. Grief is dealing with phantoms in all their forms. And just as we tend to forget to acknowledge the stars as we go about our daily lives, we live as though we, and everyone we love, is invincible. As though the one true fact of our lives – our death – does not apply.

Humans and stars are dying all the time. When we look at stars with the naked eye, they have already gone, and we are seeing an illusion; a ghost of their greatness. If you crashed a spaceship into a star tomorrow, you’d be long forgotten before it was even discovered. A buried piece of history. Like the ruins that litter landscapes, your successes and struggles and woes reduced to rubble and dust. The leftover glimpse of a star.

Now, don’t be sad about all this death, because people and stars are being born all the time – even if we won’t see them in our lifetime. It is in our nature to worry about what will happen to the world when we’re gone, but death does not have a definitive end. There is always a legacy, though it may exist in a different galaxy. Whether our life (and death) affects one person or thousands, our example can burn bright and linger, falling as a phantom star, ready to be captured in the hearts of future generations even a million light years away.


Elizabeth Rose Murray writes for children, young adults, and adult audiences. Her books include the award-winning Nine Lives Trilogy and Caramel Hearts. Recent anthology and journal publications include The Elysian: Creative ResponsesReading the FutureAutonomyPopshots, Terrain and Banshee. She lives in West Cork, Ireland. www.ermurray.com

Photo by Sven Scheuermeier.

“Lucky” by Anneke McEvoy

We tumble along the sidewalk. Visitors, friends, kids, a flurry of bright winter coats and scarves on a Saturday quest for dumplings and video games and sweets. It’s cold, but the day is bright. A golden day. Our sons, nine years old, huddle together, conspirators trading in knock-knock jokes and trivia as we wander from the twisted alleys of Chinatown to the open dome of sky at the Chambers Street stop. Her daughter bounces from kid to kid and back to her. My smallest climbs every wall and shoos the birds from any place they perch as we walk.

At the corner they all make it to the other side, safe and waiting in front of City Hall, but I hold him back as the light turns. He is not city trained. The cars back up and gridlock, and, after a beat, I think we can move into the street. I have him carefully. My hand is on his shoulder, then my fingers are grabbing for his jacket as he slips through and darts, but I see, and he doesn’t, and I’ve told him before, thecar you don’t see is the one that runs you down, and I am screaming in the crowded street, and the Saturday tourists all turn, because they hear in the sound from the deepest place that the most important thing will be lost, and the car is coming quickly, trying to make time along the side of the stopped stream of traffic with a fare in the back who doesn’t even look up to notice the blonde head, just above the hood-line, hesitate in the middle of the street. The driver brakes fast, and the car stops hard, pushing him up against his steering wheel with the force. He, like any kind of angel in New York, is not from here. His car is white, and the bumper gleams, just touching my boy’s knee. Music from another place trickles nostalgically into the sudden silence of the street.

All the air I have been holding forever for ten seconds rushes out of me like a popped balloon. An audience has stopped, and someone yells, you’re lucky, kid, as I pull him across the street. The cars move on. The people scatter. He begins to cry. I’m sure he doesn’t know why, and I hug him tight and close to me, his small chest heaving, and luck isn’t even the word.


Anneke McEvoy is a writer, maker, and mother who teaches English as a second language at the State University of New York at Oswego.

Photo by Lily Banse.

“Self-Care” by Meagan Lucas

Usually, my bed is a retreat, somewhere to recharge. Not today.

Today it is shame that holds me behind that door, yes, my body isn’t what it once was and that yes, I am vain enough to care. I exile myself to the island of my bed, because the sickly sweet scent of these pouches of Baby Feet foot peel make my children wrinkle their noses and move to the other end of the couch, and the squish-squish of the plastic booties causes my husband turn up the volume on the TV to passive-aggressive levels. Alone, I listen to their giggles through the wall while my feet tingle and I try to itch them through the layers of chemicals and plastic, and cry.

“Self care,” I say. “I want to have pretty toes,” I say. That’s why I subject myself to this chemical penetration that causes the skin on my feet to become white and loose, and flap and dangle. Over the next two weeks I will leave a trail of my flesh in my wake, and my toes will emerge soft and pink and too tender to walk barefoot. My children will be confused that their mother who will regularly run down the driveway to the mailbox without shoes, is now in thick socks picking her way carefully across the living room lest she step on a stray Lego. “Your feet look fine,” my husband says, and I simultaneously want to hug and punch him.

“Self care,” I whisper to myself as a defense and a balm.

It’s self care if by that I mean that I’m trying to forget how when I was 9 months pregnant, and so huge that strangers commented on my size, and so huge that I couldn’t easily see my feet, let alone touch them, that I got a pedicure to feel less disgusting, and to distract myself from the heartburn, sweating, and sleeplessness. A rare and expensive pleasure for that point in our lives that I was of two minds about, when the pedicurist announced to the room that I had the worst calluses she’d ever seen (and boy, she’d been a pedicurist for a long time) while my cheeks heated to scorching, I watched eyebrows raise, and knuckles come to mouths. It’s self care, Jesus Christ, if I mean that I’m going to do whatever I can to never feel like that again.

It’s self care if what I mean is that I’m trying to get back what I once had. That even now, I remember the way his palm cupped my soft heel, and his thumb stroked the silky sky high arch of my foot, and his lips met my ankle bone, and how my smooth calves wrapped around his lower back. How now looking down at my cracked heels, and prickly shins, I don’t recognize either version of me. It’s self care if I’m going to do everything I can to feel like that wild woman again, she wouldn’t hide in her bedroom.

I am vain, but I am not stupid. I know that this crisis is not just about just skin, about the constant battle to feel okay with my body, but about the passage of time, and my place along the continuum of it. Maybe self care is simply the reminder of the ability to be reborn. That no matter where I am, no matter who I’ve become, I can still be fresh and new. I am not trapped in this wrinkled, calloused and freckled sack of flesh half way to its return to the dirt. Maybe the pink, sensitive that flesh that this stinking, itching chemical reveals is really the hope that if my asbestos soles can be transformed, I can, too.


Meagan Lucas is Pushcart nominated writer. Her short work has appeared recently in: The New Southern Fugitives, Still: The Journal, and The Blue Mountain Review. Her debut novel, Song Birds and Stray Dogs is forthcoming in August 2019 from Main Street Rag Press. She won the 2017 Scythe Prize for fiction. Meagan is an Adjunct Instructor at A-B Tech, and the Fiction Editor for Barren Magazine. She lives with her husband and children in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She tweets: @mgnlcs

Photo by Zé Zorzan.

“I Will Not Eat Your Sandwiches” by Sarah Berry

I am not afraid of a sandwich.

I probably really should be.

I have food allergies. Nasty food allergies. Lots of them.

I cannot eat at restaurants. I cannot get takeout. My own shared kitchen is a minefield.

My life has been dictated by the whims of my immune system. The high school I went was chosen because it was close enough to home that I could probably make it back under my own steam if I had an allergic reaction. I tried and failed to get a Saturday job because I could not take any jobs where I would be working with food. I was so ill during my exams that I barely got the grades to go to university. But go to university I did.

Every couple of years or so, I develop a new allergy. No one has yet told me why. Gradually my life is becoming more and more restricted, and yet on it goes.

I have a job. I have developed an allergy to my job but I still go. Being unable to work safely does not negate the need to earn money. I do not get to call time out until I catch my breath. One day soon I will get a new job and I will go to that instead. With any luck my body will not take issue with this one.

My body has failed me in so many ways, but this cannot be seen. I am tall. I am healthy. I am smiling. I am strong. I am a martial artist. I am a pole dancer. I have two degrees. I am laughing. I can play the drums, and the guitar, and the piano. I will take no prisoners. I have nothing to be afraid of until lunch time.

People forget that I am not like them. I cannot imagine eating something without checking the ingredients first. I do not voice this and they do not see inside my head. All appears normal. I wash my hands before I eat. Hand sanitizer does not get the allergens off. It just moves them around. People forget that too.

I wonder if my allergies will kill me one day, or if it will be a bus or a heart attack or nuclear war. Presumably I won’t ever find out. The important thing is it doesn’t bother me to think about it anymore. Something will kill me and I will avoid it for as long as I can, but ultimately I will not be thinking about that when it happens. I will be living my life on my terms, and death can fuck off with his sandwiches.


Sarah Berry is a contributor to Crescent Waves and a lab technician with a background in Human Biology and Forensic Anthropology. She has an interest in feminism in science and is using her platform on Crescent Waves to highlight the work of female science writers. She can be found on Twitter using the handle @BonesofBerry.

Photo by Oliver Sjöström.

“Pooling” by Émilie Kneifel

he howls at the empty tree full of leaves. she dreams she sinks in the deep end twice. too weak Too weak to walk up the stairs.

X

her echo-green arms trail her as i do, as light wobbles the trees as a great wealth reflected. her certain neck steadies her bobbing away, from us and toward the well’s sinking floor. the dog and i sob with our overturned mouths. that— is my own hairline clutching her bun. that— is the person i lost for forever. he scrabbles at the edge of the pool of himself, barks stop- don’t- stay- but i just watch, i stop-stay, trace her out with my shrinking throat gulps, knowing i will never catch it, that-there, the edge of the ebb of her glow.


émilie kneifel is sick and so is their mother. if everyone’s a critic, em is everyone at Adroit, PRISM International, Exclaim!, Bearded Magazine, The Puritan, Cult MTL, and Wax Museum, and everyone’s poems-etc skim in Bad Nudes, Canthius, Tiny Essays, and Theta Wave.

Photo by Carlos.