BRANDON HOBSON I have been unhappy for many years now. I have seen in the faces of young people walking down the street a resemblance to people who died during my childhood. The period in my life of which I am about to tell involves a late night in the winter of 1989, when I was fifteen years old.
ELIZABETH WITTE Even in the raw of winter, the succulent house will be hot and dry. The air in the palm house will be thick. These alternating glass houses of desert, forest, floral exotica—carnivorous pitcher plants and living stones—will be a refuge when New England is in February...
MATTHEW GELLMAN It was like a woman throwing off / her shawl at the end of an evening. / The way it dressed itself in moonlight. / The way it planted itself on the sill. / Settling against the glass, its head shook… / And each of its green muscles ticked / even closer to the end of its slenderest life.
HELEN BENEDICT War has always been seen as a man’s story, dating back to the earliest oral battle ballads from cultures around the world. Yet today, more women and children die in the world’s wars than men.
STAFF PICKS TC staff and interns are busily reading in anticipation of LitFest, so we're recommending new work by the National Book Award finalists, Pulitzer Prize winners, and NYT's bestsellers who will be visiting us in Amherst soon.
VANESSA VILCHES NORAT The next day I woke up giddy with anticipation. It was my turn. I couldn’t concentrate at work. When I got home, Rubén was already waiting for me. He had decided to come home early from work, I suspected. He wanted me to take the cell phone. I told him it wasn’t necessary.
JILL MCDONOUGH Josey picks me up at work in a car we bought / together, car she dug out of frozen slush for hours. / She picks me up and gives me roses. Valentine’s Day. / Usually we just turn up the heat, one day each winter / we don’t need PolarFleece and UGGs inside our house.
SHIRA ELMALICH “Could you take a picture?” the girls ask, and I jump up from the bench outside the candy store and check they are all here, all thirteen. I am pleased they want a picture together, considering their history, which is fraught and filled with ugliness. This is their Senior Trip.
CARMEN GRACIELA DÍAZ After María, the silence became unbearable. For some, it lasted hours; for others, weeks. Others never heard back from their loved ones. We all, in some way, came to know a type of despair we’d never experienced before.
SAMUEL MIRANDA is a poet, teacher, and visual artist. He is originally from the Bronx, but has made his home in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Departure, a chapbook published by Central Square Press.
DOROTHY CHAN "...I'll put maple syrup on my breasts… if you’ll decorate / other parts with cream, that rush rush rush, taking me back / to an Orlando vacation: eleven, when I encounter the first boy / who makes me feel it, the way this nineteen-something-ride/ operator… looks at me as my parents and I / get out of the…
MARA PASTOR She asked me for an ice cream machine. When she said it her collarbones were pronounced. They were beginning to wilt, but her skin was the flesh of coconut itself. She wanted a machine to make ice cream, to sell it in the neighborhood. . .
DAVID LEHMAN In this my thirtieth year, / Drunk and no stranger to disgrace, / I grin like a fool from ear to ear / Despite the trickle of tears on my face, / Clown that I am, condemned / By Thibauld d’Assole’s command, / Threatened and even damned / By the faker with the crozier in his hand.
MERCEDES TRELLES HERNÁNDEZ This work is characterized by its intense relationship to social media and its collaborative nature. Pertaining to three different series—jumping, underwater, and sleeping portraits—each series establishes certain parameters, such as the distance between the photographer and the subject, the camera angle, the location, and the color scheme. However, the photographic subjects choose their own props.
MARA PASTOR Dozens of cars / wait in line / for a little fuel. / At the gas station / they’re waiting for a ladder / that leads to a generator. / Faith is waiting / in this line / for the machine to work. / We want / a little fuel / to reach our village / and see…
TINA CANE For ten years I fed my children from my body Kissed their fists to custom-make them milk to fight the germs I did this without realizing I did it all the same I wipe the counter and wipe the counter again If I had to live under a bridge my children would go with me
CARINA DEL VALLE SCHORSKE So many perfectly good words have been ruined: Promise. Paradise. Free. Even: Like. Love. Friend. We know that the task of the poet is to renovate ruined words, to make language livable again. To make sure the mouth doesn’t hang off its hinges. To make sure the flame of the tongue stays lit in the storm…
OKSANA MAKSYMCHUK The power goes out at night. / The house grows colder, its walls / begin to shiver, and we, its organs, / organize. / My little son arrives / at my bedside, breathless, / in an inflatable boat. / We go to the window and search for signs.
MARA PASTOR They were counting on the debt, but not on heavy metals in the water, cadmium in the ash they breathe. Nothing prepared for the poverty of the house, for a piece of the pool collapsing, for a molar that will make your mother. . .
WILLIE PERDOMO And after we officially gained entry into the Brotherhood of Bad Motherfuckers, what could our mothers do but lose sleep, wake into prayer, prepare herbs & apples, cursive the names of our enemies on loose leaf, & let their names dust in the sunlight.
BINGH Yeah, the promoters in full force, yeah, hustling virtually every, yeah, club on Avenida / Revolución to get el capitán and his tres—el capitán and his tres amigos—to enter / their tequila-steeped discotecas. Yeah. “I’m in luv with Tee-ah-won-nah! Luv luv / Tee-AH-won-nah!!” Bê-Ðê’s singing high praise mingling with the gray smog. / Captain of big shot college lacrosse…
ANA TERESA TORO That must be the saddest piña colada in the world, I thought as I walked by Barrachina, the restaurant famous for being the birthplace of the Caribbean drink. This was a few months after Hurricane María destroyed everything we knew, and Old San Juan, an epicenter of tourism in Puerto Rico, was still without power.
RICARDO ALBERTO MALDONADO One lápiz. One pen. One ocean between us. Six: Home. / Seven: FEMA: four thousand more, / I recite. / I state I am large; we are to be / larger. Uno dos tres siete dieciséis cuatro mil / más I begin with. I begin dentro de mí, dentro / de nosotros.
SEBASTIAN MATTHEWS All the man’s movements were slow, deliberate, controlled. He fingered through his change purse and dropped a quarter on the counter. Still talking. The woman made change. The man took his time replacing his wallet and gathering up his items.
JOHN MURILLO I’m standing / in a section 8 apartment parking lot, / pistol cocked, and staring down / at this man, then up into the mug / of an old woman staring, watering / the single sad flower to the left / of her stoop, the flower also staring...
AMY LAWLESS and JEFF ALESSANDRELLI The way the godly Jupiter paints them, / each butterfly comes to life / upon his brushing of the canvas, / inanimate specter becoming animate / instantly away. Winged motion— / artifice and authenticity...
FRANCISCO FONT-ACEVEDO Although it was later annexed as a neighborhood of San Juan, Santurce—originally called Cangrejos—has been a municipality since the eighteenth century. It was also the first town founded by blacks in Puerto Rico, in 1773, one hundred years before the abolition of slavery in the country.
PEGGY ROBLES-ALVARADO “they say it’s because they are hard to predict /and even harder to forget / their naming ceremony broadcasted over live feeds, satellite images / insisting she settles on the tongues of both faithful and atheist / María: a road blocked by land that slides into / screaming mouths, the saltwater of sorrow stuck in throats…”
MARÍA LUISA ARROYO CRUZADO Born near the Cape Verde Islands, Hurricane Irma swished / her skirts of winds & rain, toyed with Puerto Rico, / stole light from 1,000,000 Puerto Ricans, her eye / on Florida. / Some say she roared past like a train / that descended from the skies.
POLINA BARSKOVA "She is bewitched… / as Verlaine would have it / a gray rose / that sparkles and alarms / letting out a cartilaginous moan / instead of speech. / Her deformed gray matter/ clatters and things add up… / If this land / is descending into… / hell, whoever arrives with a sword / sword will be sweet..."
ADÁL is a photographer, graphic artist, and installation, performance, and alternative artist. He co-founded Foto Gallery in New York City with Alex Coleman in 1975, and was artist-in-residence at Light Work in 1986. He and poet Pedro Pietri founded the El Puerto Rican Embassy project in 1994.
JOSEPH O. LEGASPI Between the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and The Body Shop / a station of the Cross. On a trodden lawn browning into / desert, two lines are formed for shoppers to be Christ-like. / Christ-lite, puns the Pinoy. The devout come forward to suffer, / put their suffering on display.
MARÍA LUISA ARROYO CRUZADO June 2018 / Ten months ago, rich Puerto Ricans & tourists had the means / to flee first after the hurricane. What about the average María y José? / Where are the names of the dead to make them more human? / Why do the deaths of these U.S. citizens matter less?
PEGGY ROBLES-ALVARADO "Suicide prevention hotline women, pulling her people off the edge… / holding them all in the arms of her voice, those women / Soup kitchen stove sweating women / “Que Dios bendiga a Puerto Rico” prayed over pots of rice… / First responder, temporary housing, blue-tarp-tying, / cagandose en la madre de FEMA, rooftop women..."
SERGIO GUTIÉRREZ NEGRÓN The longer he stayed there, sitting alone on his towel, his shirt on, the more conscious he became of the presence of others, whose eyes he felt looking at him, examining him, measuring him up. He felt that his body was made of lead, that it was beginning to weigh even more than it really did, and…
SAMUEL MIRANDA This building stands, / the last tree to be cut down / in a garden of brick and steel / made desert of rubble and dust. / It still shelters families / whose poverty / bites into them like the rats / that chew holes into their cereal boxes / and gnaw at their toes.
ANA MARÍA FUSTER LAVÍN Día 29 desde el huracán y sin luz. Todavía las jornadas en mi trabajo, por la falta de energía, son más cortas. Mi oficina, a la que llamaba (y ya todas mis amistades conocían como) las catacumbas jurídicas, se perdieron, por lo que nos reubicamos en la biblioteca.
JOANNA KLINK What have you, in such indignation, become. Dusty—/ a vaulted interior echoing with air, envy, blood./ Vanity’s steady hum. Each wrong done to you/ a gate that opens forever into storm. Farewell to cobwebs/ swept with water-lights. Farewell to children who smile off/ into the distance.
TERE DÁVILA Something had caught their attention as they searched for pebbles and twigs. They crouched amid the soggy storm debris, then sprang up, kittenlike, uncombed curls against the gray sky, chattering and unaware of my presence.
RACHEL DANIELLE PETERSON "Mother, can we distil the pink threads, fabric… / the odor of Bud Light, fills the door / she walks through, dust, Mamma. Dust is all we is... / the knock leads inta porch, cement on bare feet, / only a stuffed Bambi knows lips open in prayer / ta a vengeful gawd while another… sun spills……
WILLIE PERDOMO The rain had just finished saying, This block is mine. / The kind of rain where you could sleep through two breakthroughs and still have enough left to belly sing in the ambrosial hour. / Blood pellets in the dusk & dashes of hail were perfect for finding new stashes; that is to say, visitations were never announced.…
JOHN MURILLO Whitewalls Mudflaps/ a dark dirt road Headlights/ killed and so the world gone/ black but for the two blunts/ lit illuminating Jojo’s fake gold/ grin One girl each screaming/ from the backseat we raced/ the red moon rawdogged the stars
CHRISTIAN IBARRA Two hours ago the situation was different, the scenes distinct. Carmen—the oldest of them—was in her house, in the back room, inside the shower, keeping still while the water fell around her. The cold gave her goosebumps, which she tried to avoid looking at. At her age, seeing her body made her feel weak.
BEN SHATTUCK I pushed through the crowd, towards the music. The smell of soap, beer, and smoke filled the room. I leaned against the wall, hip touching the piano’s back beam, watching David play. His eyes were closed. Cigarette wilting from his lips. Smoke crawling up his face. Black hair combed back.