No Anything

  1. June-ish.

We drove by William S. Burroughs’s house

to see if we could feel his

aura from the street. We were confused about

why he lived in Kansas, of all places—

because we’d only ever prayed to leave it.


I was young and dumb and didn’t know

half the story behind this cynosure

who looked like my grandpa.

But I knew how I felt after reading Naked Lunch:

Stoned, mostly. And a bit revolted.


You, though, were smitten

with the wasteland of his words.

Obsessed, really—

keeping his books, dog-eared and disguised

from your mother’s eyes (or so you thought).


I watched you leave Kansas as a

high school dropout turned

stripper turned

drug addict turned


And I started to wonder where it all

went wrong.


I ran into your mom at the store a while back.

Through tears, she claimed it was those

damn books.


I thought back to your childhood:

No dad.

No sugar.

No skirts.

No boys.

No fun.

No anything.

Except taking care of your little brother

while your mom got tanked.


So I said to her,

“I don’t think it was the books.”


Erika Seshadri

Erika Seshadri lives on an animal rescue ranch with her family. When not caring for tame ritters or feral children, she can be found writing.

Someone Special

In the video, you’re riding a brown horse around a dusty cement arena somewhere in Mexico, the place you told me not to visit because you were enjoying your solitude, so I didn’t bother learning the city’s name. The horse trots and you bounce like a child on his uncle’s knee. As the horse makes its rounds, jogging you up and down, you laugh – a laugh I know well enough to know it isn’t from joy but to mask your lower back pain from an old skateboarding injury.

Anyone else watching this video would think you’re having fun, but as grainy as the video is, I see suffering. In November, just seven months ago, I drove you to the hospital in Tuscaloosa at dawn, sat in the waiting room for hours for your outpatient lumbar surgery. When the nurse called my name to meet you, I was in the bathroom. You were afraid I’d left. Call her again, you slurred, heavy-lidded from anesthesia, not realizing I’d walked in behind you. Two days shy of your 44th birthday, you slouched in a wheelchair, sipping apple juice from a Styrofoam cup. Your relief when I said, I’m here, mirrored my own elation decades earlier when I was a sobbing child separated from my mother in JCPenney, just to realize she’d been behind me the whole time.

When we got back to your apartment, I helped you into bed, then tucked myself in beside you. You curled your arm around my waist and said your biggest fear was my cancer coming back. I whispered, That’s my fear to have, not yours. As you shuddered into sleep, you said you loved me for the first time. You didn’t remember it the next day.

Seven months ago. That’s not so long.

In the video, your sunglasses hide your grimace, but as the horse speeds up, your mouth opens slightly and you let out a sound I’ve heard before, halfway between a laugh and a cry, and my own spine throbs. Your groan is not unlike the sound you made so often in bed, the soft moan as you turned me on my side after sex, staying inside me, our bodies slick with each other’s sweat.

You post this video on Facebook after three days of radio silence. After nearly a year of daily communication. After hundreds of messages claiming I am everything you ever wanted.

In the video, someone is offscreen, recording. A woman. She giggles each time you trot by. In her giggle, I hear everything you haven’t told me—why you didn’t want me to buy a plane ticket, the precise way you have been enjoying your solitude. You post this video three days before sending me an email you didn’t have to send. The video is enough. Still, you feel compelled to tell me: I’ve met someone special.


Sara Pirkle

Sara Pirkle is a Southern poet, an identical twin, a breast cancer survivor, and a board game enthusiast. Her first book, The Disappearing Act (Mercer University Press, 2018), won the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. She also dabbles in songwriting and co-wrote a song on Remy Le Boeuf’s album, Architecture of Storms, which was nominated for a 2023 GRAMMY in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category. She is an Associate Director of Creative Writing at The University of Alabama.

The Romantics

‘Never apologise, never explain’: a mantra my mother shared with me frequently, and herself embraced as fiercely as any of her lovers whenever another of her liaisons came to light. Describing herself as ‘a strong woman’, she was, she said, unfettered by petty censure and the expectations of others.

My father’s forbearance appeared limitless, but ‘a strong man’ he was not. The term itself invites ridicule. I picture a fairground performer, attired in leopard-skin tights, sightless eyes, rictus grin, swinging rubber dumbbells above his head.

Why, you might ask, did my mother marry him? Were there boundaries that still needed to be stretched? Freedoms that still needed to be tested? Was my father’s love a provocation? Was his patience a challenge?

He never asked for apologies or explanations. There would, he knew, be none. She was the woman he adored. This was the price he paid.

His solace was poetry. Whatever the season, whatever the weather, he would take his pale, age-stained edition of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury into the garden. Sitting under the protecting arms of the wych-elm, wearing a light cotton jacket in summer, a heavy gaberdine in winter, he would read Byron, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, losing and finding himself in the mists, clouds and clearings of their alchemical words.

Summer and winter, summer and winter. Did his poets start to tire him? Did their high sentiments fail to uplift him? Turning the pages, did the familiar verses begin to weary him? Did they weigh him down?

My father was found hanging from a low branch of the wych-elm. Palgrave, released from his grasp, lay open beneath his feet. Taking it up, I searched its pages for a note or letter, a slip of paper perhaps, something to mark his place. I discovered nothing. No explanation. No apology.


Nicolas Ridley

Nicolas Ridley lives in Bath (UK) where he writes fiction, non-fiction, flash fiction, scripts and stage plays under different names. A prize-winner and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his short stories have been widely published in anthologies, literary magazines and journals in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA.

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