What’s here is here, almost none of the time—
no matter what clever slogan your coffee cup says,
no matter which way
the plastic flamingos are facing,
and even if there was a happy ending.
to the point of blurred vision. My breathing feels
like a broken train of thought,
the actuality of my fears, derailed and spreading
all across town.
This realization that somewhere, far enough away,
those cataclysmic flames are just a distant light;
that even a mass extinction
is just a distant light.
Which is to say, somewhere else, half buried in the snow,
a dying coyote is hallucinating warmth
and maybe the Harvest moon,
hung by yellow rope
in a December sky.
Which is also to say,
despite our awareness of absent mercy,
every star is someone’s final illusion,
not a redeal,
but one last ember
by John Leonard
John Leonard is a substitute teacher and professor of composition. He holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University South Bend. His previous works have appeared in Twyckenham Notes, Poetry Quarterly, The Jawline Review, Fearsome Critters: A Millennial Arts Journal, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. He was the 2016 inaugural recipient of the Wolfson Poetry Award and 2018 recipient of the Josephine K. Piercy Memorial Award. John was recently appointed assistant editor of Twyckenham Notes. He lives in Elkhart, Indiana with his wife, three cats, and two dogs.
“Great to be on the show, Jill!”
“So—what’s your outlook on today’s prison market?”
“Well, I’ve been bullish for a long time, and the private sector has done well by any metric. All is solid on the fundamentals. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. More than China, more than Russia. Belarus isn’t even close. Cuba and Saudi Arabia can’t touch us. The numbers don’t lie. The smart investor can still hope to see a good return.”
“But can growth continue? Some people say that opioids have created a bubble.”
“Don’t believe the doomsayers! You hear lots of sensational things in the media, but I don’t think the market has peaked. Here’s an inconvenient truth for the hand-wringers, Jill: opioids bring repeat customers. It’s a very loyal base. We’re seeing growth in rural America that folks wouldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago. And that puts a premium on our product. Law enforcement needs us. And so do hard-working, law-abiding citizens. We’re renewing a vital infrastructure and we’re big job creators. Construction and security contractors, laundry services and independent catering—you name it. Forget the fancy talk. The hotel industry isn’t seeing this kind of growth. Theme parks are saturated. But we’re still expanding.”
“How’s that look from the inside? Break it down for me. What’s hot and what’s not?”
“It’s a question of vision, of keeping up with changes in today’s world. Some people hear the word “prison” and they think: rapists and murderers. Armed robbery. Arson. To their mind, that’s the brand. OK, that’s our legacy, sure, but in reality there’s so much more—for instance, we’re seeing an uptick in incarcerations of undocumented people. For a long time it was a sleeper sector, but lately we’ve been tapping an unrealized potential. There’s less red tape involved, compared to regular prisoners, which brings a promising margin for the savvy provider. I’m bullish on the undocumented.”
“How about juveniles?”
“Depends. Investors need to do their homework. Different states have different codes. Overall, though, progress is being made, because we’re getting some leadership from the top. Nobody with skin in the game really wants bureaucratic meddling.”
“Terrorism? Where does it fit into this cycle?”
“We’re growing partnerships internationally, and domestically, we’re probably going to see some movement. I don’t have a crystal ball, but indicators suggest that we can expect more activity in this area. Nobody wants to think about it, but professionals in the field are rolling up their sleeves and they’ll be ready. A big part of our value added is being poised so that the rest of America doesn’t have to think about it. People sleep better at night knowing that the invisible hand has long arms. Count on us, Jill. We’ll be there!”
“Thanks, Tim. We’ll take a commercial break, and next we’ll hear from Micah Stevens about a controversial new pet food. The kitty kibble wars are heating up! Come back and learn all about it.”
by Charles Holdefer
Charles Holdefer is an American writer currently based in Brussels. His work has appeared in the New England Review, North American Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Slice and in the 2017 Pushcart Prize anthology. His recent books include DICK CHENEY IN SHORTS (stories) and GEORGE SAUNDERS’ PASTORALIA: BOOKMARKED (nonfiction). Visit Charles at www.charlesholdefer.com
One night, we don’t know how, he slips the bands
that bind his claws and sets to work. If fast or slow,
it doesn’t matter—whether, in a rage
of thrashing action or, methodical
(the slow precision of a diver bent
on patient reclamation from the sea),
he stalks and disassembles each bound mate
he’s harbored with, and snaps off limbs and pries
between the overlapping plates their shells
can offer only for their weak defense.
He rips them up, thrusts toothed appendages
into the soft connective flesh, and feeds.
All through the night his work transpires until,
in morning’s white fluorescent light, he lies
revealed: an armored, glutted emperor,
a sated cannibal astir within
his muddied lair, his realm acloud with limbs
adrift and picked and gnawed to fringe along
the edges of their shells, and tissue ripped
to pennant threads and litter at his feet.
Consider how we care for him: the creature we’d
have eaten without thought, though he contrived
to feast before us, had he not consumed
the meat we’d meant to satiate ourselves.
And now, the empty tank near tenantless,
do we declare the victim we’d have made
our own a criminal among the just, or call
him reprehensible in spite of us?
by Gregory Loselle
Gregory Loselle has won four Hopwood Awards at The University of Michigan, where he earned an MFA. He has won The Academy of American Poets Prize, the William van Wert Fiction Award from Hidden River Arts, and The Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award for Playwriting. He was the winner of the 2009 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, The Robert Frost Award of The Robert Frost Foundation, and the Rita Dove Prize for poetry (where he won both First Prize and an Honorable Mention) at Salem College. He has won multiple awards in the Poetry Society of Michigan’s Annual Awards Competition. His first chapbook, Phantom Limb, was published in 2008, and another, Our Parents Dancing, in 2010, both from Pudding House Press. Two more, The Whole of Him Collected, and About the House, were published by Finishing Line Press in 2012 and 2013 respectively. His short fiction has been featured in the Wordstock and Robert Olen Butler Competition anthologies, as well as in The Saturday Evening Post, and The Metro Times of Detroit, and his poetry has appeared in The Ledge, Oberon, The Comstock Review, Rattle, The Georgetown Review, River Styx, The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Pinch, Alehouse, Poetry Nook, Sow’s Ear, and online in The Ambassador Poetry Project, among others.