O, (you) SEE, Death is around the corner. Literally—possibly—like if my hands are at ten and two but my eyes are darting from the rearview to the side mirrors because did I just run someone over back there? You say, Youd know if you ran someone over. And Youd know if you had appendicitis. Or heat stroke, a yeast infection, some rare heart condition, cancer, pink eye, worms, cancer, diabetes, cancer, cancer, meningitis. But would I? Because the hands on the clock don’t even feel real. The girl in the mirror has a cute waist, and I want to reach out and touch my own reflection, because I think I’m bisexual, and humbly, I am my type, and maybe if we kiss she will slip out of my medicine cabinet and become a Real Girl. I wing my eyeliner and imagine it would feel good to identify with my hot girl haircut as a formerly frizzy “sorry my hamster sent that text” teenager. I let the city soak in my performed sense of self and don’t notice the cherry red blisters that bloom on my heels until I’m about to cover them with cotton. The internet says it’s cancer, but my schedule is a bit too busy for me to deal with that. Four weeks later, the nurse at the walk in clinic asks why I’m in, and I tell him that the internet thinks I could have cancer blisters, and he gives me the ole you cant trust the internet!, until the doctor arrives and says if they aren’t gone in four weeks they could be cancer, but until then I should soak them. I should probably get on that.

Lucia Gallipoli is an undergraduate student concentrating in sexuality, love, and art. She is probably lost somewhere in the cycle of worshipping Mitski and Kate Bush via Spotify and forgetting that they exist for a few weeks. Her book reviews can be found on Instagram @TenderPages.

Twitter: @HottieDearest

Everything said in the group is to be kept private.

The whir of the ceiling fan’s the only sound in the room. Group members signed an agreement before entering. We know the rules. No putdowns. Show respect. One person speaks at a time. All is confidential, except in cases of child abuse or potential harm to others.

We’ve been screened, talked out our trauma. It’s unlikely that something new would arise, though if it did, we’d be upfront about it.

Things have changed since the former days. No jittering calves or the sight of others’ bodies to put us over the edge. Instead, there’s a smudge of faces—wind-blown features, like the nascent earth.

Diane, the group leader, a fixture in her leatherback chair, speaks through blonde, seventies fringe.

“There’s a road you can take that leads away from your troubles,” she reads from the palimpsest—a wire-bound notebook that once contained line-by-line notes, though the contents have been scratched out and rewritten in various shades of ink. “Not knowing where I’m going, any road will lead me there. Repeat.”

The six to ten of us repeat the mantra, ignoring the poor syntax, dangling participle, and lack of flow. Though we all recognize the quote by Lewis Carroll turned into a song lyric by George Harrison, no one corrects her. Nothing can be allowed to disrupt the next forty-five minutes of rapport and cohesion that we’ve built.

“It’s how you react,” she throws in.

Another noise—not the fan, but the click-clack of our rewards in the small, paper bag she holds: candies in flavors of watermelon, cherry, orange, and lime, sweet and melting like flavored ice on our tongues, like nothing we’ve tasted. When the time comes, we’ll each have our share, but not yet.

“Think of me as your navigator,” she entices, “and you as my cadets.”

We all nod and smile, though we’re unnerved, the way orange being both a fruit and a color is unnerving. Normalcy is dangled in front of us, when we hardly recognize each other.

Birds are chirping somewhere: chickadees calling from the soft folds of the sky. The sound was never clearer. She continues her overture, her riposte against silence, smiling widely.

“Remember, it’s not what you say. It’s what they hear.”

As we tell our stories, the familiar chorus rises.

I bake. A lot. 

That’s good, Linda. It’s helpful to have a relaxing hobby. 

I like to bake my brains out. It helps ease my stress.

Of course it does.

To forget the pain. 

Normalize and convert it to good.

The aggression. His.


It’s hard to describe. You had to see it to know, like the Seven Wonders of the World. 

I wish it were different. 

What, Robert?

Life would be different if I were white. 

Or straight.

Or female.

How different?

Better. Comfortable in my skin. Settled.

So what if you’re a rolling stone?

More like the shadow of one.

Film noir had the best actors.

I like to stare.

We know, Gavin.

I like staring at people for long periods.

Maybe you’re curious.

Do you know any famous starers?

You look like James Dean. 

Like or at?

This is your safe space. 

Know what I really wish?


I wish I could be the way I am, and my appearance didn’t matter.

That’s a very common reaction. 

It’s natural to want to withhold some information.

It’s natural to feel nervous sharing your feelings.

The fan sighs overhead, a syncopation of beats through dull, gray air.

Gavin is looking at me now. Glaring like the eyes of deer at moonlit dusk. Like the reindeer stitched onto my brother’s famous sweater that he always wore in family Christmas photos. The ones where the whole gang’s superimposed on a mountain scene in front of meditative pines, my mom beaming with promise.

I want to play with your sex.

“Let’s talk about safety,” Diane proposes. “Any road can be a safe road if you let it.” 

The poor syntax continues. The rapturous monosyllables and inversion with no clear beginning retreat from black-and-white waves to grey. 

A siren whines somewhere. They warned about people like us. The boy we all knew, and the girl. The boy-girl no one did.

He’s closer now. Close enough to touch, though we’re in separate rooms, waiting on candy and a bittersweet salvo to carry us into the night. I can feel his hand creeping up my thigh, tapping at the juncture of flesh where leg meets hip. He could be looking at anyone, but I know it’s at me. I try to remember where I’ve seen him: in a theater or stadium, out the back window of a car that drove to a restaurant. It’s hard to remember. It feels like flashes from some vaguely remembered dream.

The screen crackles, magical woo, and we’re here—the whole group together. Diane shakes the bag of candy. Gavin draws his hand away as her arm flexes—a strength-training exercise, a chance to build positive imagery. Slow breathing, muscle relaxation. Her eyes soften when it’s my turn.

“Want some?” she asks, jiggling it like the calves we’ve imagined.

Katie Nickas writes flash and short fiction exploring conflicting identities. She is drawn to strong, unapologetic characters encountering difficult situations. Her work is published or forthcoming in magazines including Asymmetry, Dear Damsels, Five on the Fifth, Idle Ink, and STORGY.

Corey Qureshi is a writer, musician and parent based in Philadelphia. They work at an LGBTQ+ center and freelance as an arts journalist. You can find other work by them in petrichor mag, Rigorous, Voicemail Poems, and Broad Street Review among others. Find them on twitter @q_boxo.

If god can feel anything, it would be guilt
For the red futon in the middle lane of the highway
His skinned hide
detones the pride of a meteorite
as tireless, flagrant grins strict around.
screech the pavement
and a rusty pick-up lowers onto an unfolded road

each day,
a fist stuck in the air
stuffed Japanese pastries at midnight
under tickling July Christmas lights
waking up the ring app

dipping watermelon in thick, spiced chocolate
carmine slurps a multicolored popsicle—
reaching blue— the text of his teeth
spared a tinge of tint in the wooden stick
while squinting with magnetic scars of outburst.

If anything could strike a collision.
It might collide at a distance.
It would collide right away.

Stephanie Gonzalez is the daughter of Nicaraguan immigrants. She is a graduate of the Accelerated Master of Architecture program at Florida International University. She treasures her old Moleskines full of chicken scratch and loves indie and folk music, watching things grow and everything tea and topped with strawberries. You can follow her on Instagram @stephiee_xp

Cate McGowan is the author of a short story collection, True Places Never Are, winner of the Moon City Short Fiction Award and a novel, These Lowly Objects, forthcoming from Gold Wake Books. Her stories, poems, and essays appear in journals such as Glimmer TrainCrab Orchard ReviewTahoma Literary ReviewPhoebeShenandoahOkay DonkeyAtticus Review, and numerous other literary magazines. A Georgia native, creative writing and composition professor, MFA graduate, and current PhD candidate, McGowan serves as an assistant prose poetry and fiction editor at Pithead Chapel.

Joe Nasta is a queer writer and mariner who splits zir time between New York, Seattle, and the Ocean. Joe is one half of the art and poetry collective Eat Yr Manhood and runs a communal studio at the Sun and Moon House in Beacon Hill, Seattle. Zir work has been published in The Rumpus, Yes Poetry, Pidgeonholes and others. Ze co-curates a zine of unconventional art and writing at stonepacificzine.com and serves as prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Find Joe on Instagram and Twitter @roflcoptermcgee and at joenasta.com.

After Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son

Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Joanna is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015) Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), Sexting Ghosts (Unknown Press, 2018), No(body) (Madhouse Press, 2019), and #Survivor (The Operating System, 2020). They are the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing By Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017), and received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine.

Anna Saikin’s writing can be found in Potomac Review, Per Contra, Abstract Magazine, and Pretty Owl. Her chapbook DEAR CARO was recently published by Desert Willow Press. She received a PhD in English from Rice University, and currently teaches at a private high school in Houston, TX.

Twitter: @AnnaSaikin
Instagram: @AnnaSaikin