“She regrets not what was, but what should have been, could have been.” —Marie NDiaye's self-portrait in green; Roxane Gay at war; Edward Carey on seeing and being seen; Rachel Farbiarz and Stefania Heim on Memorial Hill; new fiction by Jensen Beach, Elizabeth Gaffney, and J. Robert Lennon; poems by Camille Rankine, Craig Morgan Teicher, Marina Tsvetaeva, and others; and introducing Jamel Brinkley.
No. 21 • Marie NDiayeAgainst melancholy, against regret, common sense and cynicism can do nothing. She regrets not what was, but what should have been, could have been, had she only made some other choice way back then.
No. 21 • Jamel BrinkleyUncle Max made an ambiguous face and told me, not for the first time, that black men used to be kings. Then he shifted his Good Humor bar to his left hand, and slapped me. Sometimes I still feel the pop of his ring on my mouth.
No. 21 • Jensen BeachIt bothered him she didn’t try to hide it. He would have tried to hide something like this. When he thought this, he understood that his wife was a better person than he was and this bothered him too.
No. 21 • Roxane GayIt all happened so fast; it hardly seemed real until the war began and it was too real and then the war ended and nothing had been saved, which was always the case when foolish men made prideful decisions.
No. 21 • Rachel FarbiarzWhat does it mean to recognize a person? To know a person? To understand and tell what has happened?
No. 21 • Camille RankineI want to give you everything. / This is called a sickness.
No. 21 • Craig Morgan Teicher1 / You can’t prove it but / 2 / this is reality.
No. 21 • Matthew ZapruderI stood a while / before the flowers
No. 21 • Rusty MorrisonA thin glaze left on her palm from a thing held too long / or is it her own thingness / that rose from her hand to meet the bowl or apple or face in a dream, or is it / only memory / leaking from her / almost too slowly to notice.
No. 21 • Joshua Marie WilkinsonOne moth flies above many hands / & I don’t want the words for desire / to fuse to a life of what presents a weed
No. 21 • Patricia LockwoodNever has an empty hand been made / into more of a fist, and Waterfall Without / it swings so hard it swings out / of existence. How will anyone get married / now, with no wall of water behind them?
No. 21 • Li ShangyinAn idle wife in the home / Lying down early, getting up late
No. 21 • Anna PiwkowskaEveryone’s dead, the rest are gone. / What remains are deciduous words tasting of seaweed, / toothbrushes, hairbrushes, shoe brushes.
No. 21 • Irving FeldmanSuborned to bear false witness, he said to himself, If I don’t, someone else will. Whereupon he was someone else.
No. 21 • Jeffrey Yang8 / The stars inside preside / over time, for a century
No. 21 • Charles SimicThis warm spring weather made us lazy / Sitting side by side on a park bench
No. 21 • J. Robert LennonShe has a memory of the world outside this place. There was a time when she thought she might be able to outrun whatever it was that has made her this way.
No. 21 • Elizabeth GaffneyShe felt the sort of panic that sometimes seized her when she stood by herself on a subway platform, alone: She had lost her baby, forgotten her on the train!
No. 21 • Edward CareyA dark fairy tale about our faces, our transience, and why we take down life and try to preserve it.
No. 21 • S. J. NaudéThe recently dispersed with their encumbering passports. To them everything is new; everything has to be discovered and experienced and lost from scratch.
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