They wait. Gathered, assembled like parishioners, translucent orbs tethered to rock. How can something so solid be so ethereal?

They watch, eyeless, as we pass. The guide remarks that a small earthquake would pass unnoticed in these depths but a large one would shift the rock around us. They wait as we descend, two-legged insects into the belly of the snake. Shut our headlamps off and stare wide-eyed unseeing into total darkness. They do not fear this kind of dark.

They flow, imperceptibly. Drip gently. They are many shapes and sizes, a few contorted, one fetal. Some embrace. Most stand…


Washing the linens:
Your scent replaced with Tide,
Towel folded and tucked away;

Smashing the phone:
Wires and circuits
Crunching on concrete;

A good solid scream:
I haven’t had one in years;

The long-day cry:
Siphoning tears until empty;

The silence of finality;
The finality of silence;

Crescendos…

The perfect song;
The tightest hug;
Forbidden words;
The secret poem;

The gushing rain;
The breaking day;
The longest walk;
Returning home.


from the pages of my journal

Broadway shut down yesterday.
God, so much is happening.
Every day new cases, new updates, new policies, new estimates.

Happy Apocalypse Pi Day, world.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know it’s going to hurt.

suddenly I was crying for every time I’ve said “so long” not knowing if or when I’d be saying hello again.

Maybe if I could stop thinking about it every second of the day, it’d stop. …


I thought that I had lost you and the Earth cracked
And the bells grew deafening,
The rumble of the tracks a crumbling of beams
As the house fell.

The house fell,
Even as I ran down the stairs and into dusky air,
Ran,
Eyes casting for the opposite cliff
Where you stood, only inches away.

I felt that I had lost you
and I fell, and I fell,
and the world was empty,
and the bells were deafening,
and the ground was craggy
and made no sense.

And I fell, and I fell,
and I fell, and I fell.


I am only borrowing time,
These bones,
This algae air,
My pockmarked skin.

We commandeered the Earth
And charted a course to Hell.

But what to make of the parasite that savors as it siphons?
What if a predator says grace for its prey?

Today I pray an imprint into clover-speckled grass.

In excelsis to the wisp-shrimp cloud,
Agnus dei the preening dove.

It will never be enough
To praise what we despoil.

Still, I imagine Eve’s pink tongue
Sang hosanna
As she sucked the juice.


— And isn’t there something delightful about ephemera?

The way heat radiates from skin on a late September night

Just before the mercury drops

And children heed dinner bells, cracking voices,
Rust-bitten gates ajar,

The way these
words form
waves
delicious on my tongue
and are gone?


I smell birthday candles tonight,
Two blocks from the burnt out building
With one yellow bulb still lit.

We sit with folded hands,
Wondering.
What is to be done with wax?

Photo by Ekrulila on Unsplash

title inspired by “Faint Music” by Robert Hass.

The stillness of just-before-dawn is no longer a rare treat,
But it is a luxury nonetheless;

Even waking with a clenched fist in my abdomen
On the couch that once held people I love
And now holds only blankets.

Before the car horns and the sirens and the daylight,
There are only bird songs
Tentative, beginning.

For a moment, I could be in my childhood bedroom,
Almost ready for a new day of see-what-happens.

I think they call that grace.


Hot like dog breath.

Hot like fresh bread just pulled from the oven, if instead of the pleasant yeasty smell it came with the aroma of armpits and warm garbage.

Hot like the sauna you accidentally walked into at the gym instead of the showers, except now you can’t figure out the door to get out. And the door you entered from has disappeared and now you’re wandering steamy corridors and wondering how you ended up in a scene from A Cure for Wellness.

So hot an ice cube sliding across skin is the sexiest thing you can imagine, but…


The ground shook and I pitched side-to-side, watching for falling things. Finally, the whole house collapsed. I guess the quake was a volcano erupting, because when the house fell on its side it was swallowed by lava or some thick tar.

I miraculously survived, being lucky enough to have chosen a location that ended up at the top, above the raging black river. I had the fortitude to ride out the fall with sea legs and cautious eyes.

My immediate family members had also miraculously survived. Afterward, I hugged my brother and we laughed with the kind of absurd giddy…

Alisa Partlan

A professional lifelong learner.

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