Domino Night

The ritual of Domino Night began the summer after we immigrated to the United States. On warm, dry Friday evenings, after we ate dinner, Mama and Papa collapsed the card table and a folding chair from our kitchen, then Papa hefted them the entire half-mile down the tenement-lined sidewalk to where Broad and Union Streets converged, ending in the emerald triangle called Salem Park.

Once there, Papa plunked his table and chair among the labyrinth of other players—all Russian-Jewish Papas and Grandpapas—and commenced doing battle. The United States and the Soviet Union were waging their own war in the eighties, each threatening to nuke the other into extinction. Speaking Russian within earshot of American passersby was asking for trouble. Too ashamed of their broken English, the players spoke to each other through the slide and click of their moving tiles.

When I wasn’t off trapping fireflies in old jam jars, I was hiding behind the bushes on the northern angle of the park, which pointed towards Manhattan, secretly practicing my English curses with a tribe of equally naughty grade school kids. Or, I was hanging with Mama on the southern angle, which pointed towards home, my presence shielding her from heckling in-laws. Or, I was standing beside Papa, watching him play, a distraction he would allow only while winning.

Today I know that Domino nights were a proving ground for Papa’s much later conquests—like wealth and corporate celebrity—personal victories that, according to Papa’s polemic, upheld the American Dream as something available to all who were willing to work hard and sacrifice. In between moves, he used to sit in utter stillness on Domino nights to consider his hand, bony elbows propped on bony knees. A still life of sinewy limbs folded in on each other, poised to capture a hundred black dots, like a young mantis seconds before pouncing on a colony of beetles.

Meanwhile, Mama and I waited—often in corners of hedgerows, often until midnight—for it to end. Once it did, Papa hefted my small, sleepy body onto his shoulder, carrying me back along the concrete path lined with tenements, my head bobbing beneath his chin, the sounds of motors and the threat of epithets muted by the nighttime sigh of a city that was, for the moment, too tired. The world silenced by my ear pressed against his heart.

To make room for me, Papa left the card table and folding chair behind, to be delivered later by one of his opponents—a tacit consequence for losing.


Tali Perch

Tali Perch earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She enjoys writing about parenting, feminism, cultural anthropology, and her childhood as a Soviet-Jewish refugee. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Sweet: A Literary Confection, Under The Gum Tree, The Colorado Review, Longreads, Mom Egg Review, and elsewhere. Tali’s essay “Records on Bone” (2019) was nominated by The Colorado Review for a Pushcart Prize. Currently, Tali is working on a memoir about the challenges of assimilating into American culture as a soviet-Jewish émigré during the Cold War.

To the River

As the nights grew longer, more children appeared at the swimming hole. Except they weren’t children, not anymore. Months of solitude had hardened their bodies, as if loneliness were tougher than skin. Yet inside, they softened from the relief at finding others who were lonely too. We can say they knew more than they should. But that’s only part of what came of their gathering.

I went down to the river
Before the break of dawn
I went down to the river
But now the river’s gone.

Down to the river, her phone lighting the path through the woods, Hollie wondered how many others she would find this time. Every night since the problem began, more were congregating at the water’s edge. With the town in lock-down, they had nowhere else to loosen their fear except among these dank shadows, drifting first to one cluster, then another, like moths drawn to broken flames. Distances were breached, breath expelled too close in illicit sighs from mouths unmasked. They believed the danger couldn’t follow them there. The river would keep them safe.

Beyond the trees, the half-moon hit the obsidian pool as the revelers held hands to jump from the bank above. The cold took their breath away before they rose to the surface with screams of laughter. After months of self-restraint, they craved spontaneity. They did it for kicks, just like kids had been doing for decades in this very spot, the clock turned back to a time when the biggest threat was gossip. Now, no one cared. Clenching and unclenching, they cleaved to each other in the night’s unburdening.

I jumped into the river
To the place where I was drawn
I jumped into the river
But now the river’s gone.

Hollie looked for friends but saw only unfamiliar faces. It didn’t matter. They were all here for the same thing—the ritual of water and the cleansing it could bring. Since entering the river was required, she shed shirt, jeans, phone, and shoes, bundling them at the bottom of a tree, not worrying whether they would be there when she returned.  

Watching for an entrance into the current of bodies, her mind rewinds to a time when women in white were dipped backward, their unbound hair mingling with mud. As if all it took were water and prayer to cleanse a transgression. If she listens, she can hear the murmur of hymns promising salvation or heartache, with no guarantee as to which would be given.

 I crossed the river
And found my way was wrong
I crossed the river
But now the river’s gone.

Hollie wades out until the water reaches her chest. She raises her arms, takes a breath, and dives. Going under, she swims away from the pack before surfacing toward the pale light.

In five days or fourteen, she will know: has the river washed it away?


Kayann Short

Writer, farmer, teacher, and activist Kayann Short, Ph.D., is the author of A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography (Torrey House Press), a Nautilus award-winning memoir of reunion with a family’s farming past and call for local farmland preservation today. Her work appears in Midwest Review, Hawk & Handsaw, The Hopper, Pilgrimage, Dash, Genders, Mad River Review, and the anthologies Dirt: A Love Story and Rooted: The Best New Arboreal Non-Fiction. Dr. Short organizes community writing events and teaches digital storytelling and ecobiography at her own Stonebridge Farm on Colorado’s Front Range. More on her work can be found on Instagram @kayannshort and at

Patrice Boyer Claeys, Featured Author




the apple’s green and glazed skin

something is taking place

hunched in darkness, an ache

for a rebirth of wonder.


The five unmistakable marks

little brown seeds

give birth to     a single idea—

delicious rottenness.


The star-apple kingdom

lies waiting inside it to be born.



Cento Sources:  Linda Hogan, Saul Touster, Robert Duncan, Alice B. Fogel, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lewis Carroll, Anonymous, Jorie Graham, D. H. Lawrence, Derek Walcott, Li-Young Lee






A bite into a ripe Mariposa,

her blue bodice split at the bulging seams,

explodes like a hot stone

in my mouth.


Just one seed

the pit

widow’s eye

in my two hands.



Cento Sources:  Charles Atkinson, Paisley Rekdal, Louise Erdrich, Mymai Yuan, Jill Bialosky, John Fuller, Lenelle Moise, Carolyn Forché


Patrice Boyer Claeys

Patrice Boyer Claeys is the author of two poetry collections: The Machinery of Grace (2020) and Lovely Daughter of the Shattering (2019). Recent work appears or is forthcoming in *82 Review, little somethings press, Relief, Zone 3, Glassworks Magazine, Inflectionist Review, Pirene’s Fountain and Aeolian Harp Anthology 5. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net. Patrice lives in Chicago and can be found online at


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