The complete and fully searchable archive of ZYZZYVA’s 26 years of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art is coming soon. We’re working hard behind the scenes to make the entire archive available right here, free of charge. In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy browsing through these selections from our back issues.

“Summer at the Baltic Sea, 1958” by Kelly Cressio-Moeller, ZYZZYVA No. 110, Fall Issue

Summer at the Balctic Sea, 1958Kelly Cressio-Moeller is an associate editor at Glass Lyre Press. Her work has previously appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 101. Her poem “Summer at the Baltic Sea, 1958” from ZYZZYVA No. 110 is presented in its entirety below:

The sepia-toned man & woman
sit together in a Strandkorb
an arched canopy pushed back
their heads turned toward
each other eyes smiling
she wears a strapless swimsuit
her body leaning forward
arms mid-motion
as if brushing away sand
he wears a striped beach robe
one hand wrapped around
his raised knee on the footrest
the other holding the side of his neck
considering her measuring his words
in two years they will marry
forgetting seastorm days
no one remembers
who took the photograph
it does not matter
that it was captured at all
a wind-borne miracle
ephemeral as summer
her bare shoulders
glowing bright as amber
found along the strand

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Invisible Relations’ by Jenny Xie, ZYZZYVA No. 111, Winter Issue

Grape PopsicleJenny Xie is the author of the poetry collection Nowhere to Arrive (Northwestern University Press). Her latest collection, Eye Level (Graywolf Press), won the 2017 Walt Whitman Award, and is currently a finalist for the 2018 Pen Open Book Award. Her poem below, titled “Invisible Relations,” appears in ZYZZYVA No. 111.

There are no simple stories, because language forces distances. The days gummy and without drink. And a question stammers in the mind for weeks, one key aquiver on the piano. In the course of a day, your head will point in all the cardinal directions. It is good to wake and sleep, to scrape jars with spoons. Nights, grape popsicles sew sugar into your mouth. Police sirens clean the air and the TV burns out. Without your knowing, the unseen borders of your hunger are redrawn.

 

Far off, you are being stitched into a storyline in the smooth lobe of another’s mind.

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Carpe Diem’ by Lucia Berlin, ZYZZYVA No. 1, Spring Issue

Carpe DiemLucia Berlin was an American short story writer, who developed a small, devoted following, but did not reach a mass audience during her lifetime. She rose to sudden literary fame eleven years after her death, in August 2015, with FSG’s publication of a volume of selected stories, A Manual for Cleaning Women. ZYZZYVA published a number of Berlin’s stories during the Eighties and Nineties, and her work can be found in Issues 1, 4, 18, and 31. Below is her story “Carpe Diem” in its entirety from ZYZZYVA Issue 1.

Most of the time I feel all right about getting old. Some things give me a pang, like skaters. How free they seem, long legs gliding, hair streaming back. Other things throw me into a panic, like BART doors. A long wait before the doors open, after the train comes to a stop. Not very long, but it’s too long. There’s no time.

And laundromats, but they were a problem even when I was young. Just too long, even the Speed Queens. Your entire life has time to flash before your eyes and you just sit there, a drowner. Of course if I had a car I could go to the hardware store or the post office and then come back and put things into the dryer.

The laundries with no attendants are even worse. Then it seems I’m always the only person there at all. But all the washers and dryers are going-everybody’s out at the hardware store.

So many laundromat attendants I have known, the hovering Charons, making change or that haven’t got any change. Now it’s fat Ophelia who pronounces No Sweat “No Thwet.” Her top plate broke on beef jerky. Her breasts are so huge she has to turn sideways and then kitty-corner to get through doors, like moving a kitchen table. When she comes down the aisle with a mop, every- body moves, and moves the baskets too. She’s a channel-hopper. Just when we’ve settled in to watch the Newly-Wed game, she’ll flick it to Ryan’s Hope.

Once, to be polite, I told her I got hot flashes too, so that’s what she associates me with- The Change. “How’s it goin with The Change?” she says, loud, instead of hello. Which makes it worse, sitting there, reflecting, aging. My sons have all grown now, so I’m down from five washers to one, but one washer takes just as long.

I moved last week, maybe for the 200th time. I took in all my sheets and curtains and towels, my cart piled high. The laundromat was very crowded; there weren’t any washers together. I put all my things into three machines, went to get change from Ophelia. I came back, put the money in, the soap in and started them up. Only I had started up three wrong washers. Three that had just finished this man’s clothes.

I was backed into the machines. Ophelia and the man loomed before me. I’m a tall woman, wear Big Mama panty-hose now, but they were both huge people. Ophelia had a pre-wash spray bottle in one hand. The man wore cut-offs, his massive thighs were matted with red hair. His thick beard wasn’t like hair at all but a red padded bumper. He wore a baseball hat with a gorilla on it. The hat wasn’t too small but his hair was.so bushy it shoved the hat high up on his head making him about seven feet tall. He was slapping a heavy fist into his other red palm. “God damn. I’ll be Goddamned!” Ophelia wasn’t really menacing; she was protecting me, ready to come between him and me, or him and the machines. She’s always saying there’s nothing at the laundry she can’t handle.

“Mister, you may’s well sit down and relax. No way to stop them machines once they’ve started. Watch a little TV, have a Pepsi.”

I put quarters in the right machines and started them. Then r remembered that I was broke, no more soap and those quarters had been for the dryer. I began to cry.

“What the fuck is SHE crying about? What you think this does to my Saturday, you dumb slob? Jesus Wept.”

I offered to put his clothes into the dryer for him, in case he wanted to go somewhere.

“I wouldn’t let you near my clothes. Like stay away from my fuckin clothes, you dig?” There was no other place for him to sit except next to me. I wished he would go outside, but he just sat there, next to me. We looked at the machines. His big right leg vibrated like a spinning washer. Six little red lights glowed at us.

“You always fuck things up?” he asked.

“Look, I’m sorry. I was tired. I was in a hurry.” I giggled, nervously.

“Believe it or not, I am in a hurry. I drive a tow. 6 days a week. 12-hour days. Dig? This is it. My day off.”

“What were you in a hurry for?” I meant it nicely, but he thought I was being sarcastic.

“You stupid broad. If you were a dude I’d wash you. Put your empty head in the dryer and turn it to cook.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“Damn right you’re sorry. You’re one sorry excuse for a chick. I had you spotted for a loser before you did that to my clothes. I don’t believe it. She’s crying again. Jesus wept.”

Ophelia stood above him.

“Don’t you be botherin her, hear? I happen to know she’s going through a hard time.”

How did she know that? I was amazed … she knows everything, this giant black Sybil, this Sphinx. Oh, she means the Change.

“I’ll fold your clothes if you like,” I said to him.

“Hush, girl,” Ophelia said. “Point is, what’s the big deal? So what? In a hunnert years from now just who’s gonna care?”

“A hunnert years,” he whispered. “A hunnert years.” And I was thinking that too. A hundred years. Our machines were shimmying away, and all the little red spin-lights were on.

“At least yours are clean. I used up all my soap.”

”I’ll buy you some soap for crissake.”

“It’s too late. Thanks, anyway.”

“She didn’t ruin my day, she’s ruined my whole fuckin week. No soap.”

Ophelia came back, stooped down to whisper to me.

“I’ve been spottin some. Doctor says it don’t quit I’ll need a D and C. You been spottin?”

I shook my head.

“You will. Women’s troubles just go on and on. A whole lifetime of trouble. I’m bloated. You bloated?”

“Yeah, seems like I am bloated.”

“Her head’s bloated,” the man muttered. “Look, I’m going out to the car, get a beer. My head aches and I’m hot and I need a beer. I want you to promise not to go near my machines. Yours are 34,39,43. Got that?”

“Yeah. 32, 39, 42.” He didn’t think it was funny.

The clothes were in the final spin. I’d have to hang mine up to dry on the fence; when I got paid I’d come back with soap.

“Jackie Onassis changes her sheets every single day,” Ophelia said. “Now that’s sick, you ask me.”

“Sick,” I agreed.

I let the man put his clothes in a basket and go to the dryers before I took mine out. Some people were grinning but I ignored them. If I had paid any attention to the other people there, I might have abandoned my things and left. I filled my cart with soggy sheets and towels. It was almost too heavy to push and, wet, not everything fit. I slung the hot-pink curtains over my shoulder. Across the room the man started to say something, then looked away.

It took a long time to get home, even longer to hang everything, although I did find a rope. Fog was rolling in.

I poured some coffee and sat on the back steps. I was happy. I felt calm, unhurried. Next time I’m on BART, I won’t even think about getting off until the train stops. When it docs, I’ll hop up and rush down the aisle, will get out just in time.

Read more of Lucia Berlin’s work in ZYZZYVA by purchasing a Selected Back Issue and choosing Issues 1, 4, 18, or 31.

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Landscape with Doe Eating Where She Does Not Belong’ by Daniel Neff, ZYZZYVA No. 113, Fall Issue

Landscape with DoeDaniel Neff’s poetry has appeared in Ninth Letter and Pittsburgh Poetry Review, among other publications. He is the winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize. His poem “Landscape with Doe Eating Where She Does Not Belong” is appears in ZYZZYVA No. 113. You can read the poem in its entirety below: 

1.

A garden is a landfill without the garbage. Garbage is consciousness
without the humans. If there are no humans and no consciousness, where
are we? The premise is flawed: gardens and landfills both have garbage,
but a difference in definition of terms. My garden is a landfill and yet
the only garbage is myself. (Let’s not talk about me, what about you
and your—and you eat your braised fallow round and juniper berries—
self?) This is not what happened. I am just a kaleidoscope. The world
is symmetry through stained glass. A doe stands on her head in the
shifting colors and runs away from you. The ones you killed and the
ones you loved.

2.

You sit, wearing leather wingtips, and play the accordion. I place cayenne
pepper on the bib lettuce so the deer won’t eat it all. I weed the garden
and remove all the onions because nobody needs to cry. My knees
are different shades because I’m kneeling in the dirt. You say, dirt is
earth
. And the Earth says, I am dirt. Which is correct? And which am
I crying into? Cutting onions is not the only way to shed tears. I hide
my face from you.

3.

If a pane of a kaleidoscope’s stained glass is broken, who’s to say that I’m
not just looking into a mirror? At dinner, I cooked the fallow doe in a dry
sangiovese red wine for you. Speaking in slurred words, the wine told
me, I have to save your life, but I don’t like the air in here. Is a corkscrew
not a little like a guillotine? Of course not, you say. The guillotine cut
heads off, but it never pulled heads out
. I burnt the parmesan asparagus.
The candlelight hurt my eyes. I had to put glasses on, but the colors
just kept spinning and condensing. You leaned over to kiss my mouth,
but I couldn’t see anything but the candle fire. It doesn’t mean you’ve
avoided anything. My lips still exist without your touch. That’s ridiculous.
Artifacts exist only with acknowledgement from the audience.

4.

You called my garden a landfill. The fallow doe is silent and drinks
from the river. You want me to kill her. I am silent and cut asparagus
for dinner. In my basket I separate the radishes from the radicchio, but
basil is everywhere. Basil doesn’t grow in landfills, but it does flavor
venison. I wear it behind my ears. When I stand to look at the doe, I’m
not sure I’m not conscious. The doe says I am abstract and I am garbage.
You shot her. This is logical.

Read more great poetry like “Landscape with Doe Eating Where She Does Not Belong” by ordering ZYZZYVA No. 113 today. 

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Mama’ by Emma Copley Eisenberg, ZYZZYVA No. 113, Fall Issue

MamaEmma Copley Eisenberg’s work has appeared in Granta, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, and other publications. Her first book, The Third Rainbow Girl, will be published by Hachette Books in 2020. Her short story “Mama” appears in ZYZZYVA No. 113. You can read an excerpt from the beginning of the story below: 

My daughter’s new girlfriend is big. Big mouth, big breast, a tuft of hair so curly it looks permed. My daughter Beth has one girlfriend already, the pint-sized Tomboy who drops by every Easter and Christmas.

Mark my words, says Donna from black-belt class, looking over my shoulder at the picture on my phone as we change into our uniforms. This will end in clusterfuck. No one can have their cake and eat it, too.

There’s no cake eating, I say, they know all about each other, and everyone knows what they’ve signed up for. Very modern. Not so different from when you were going out with that postal worker while driving loops around the Baltimore harbor late at night with a student of philosophy, hmm?

Well, Donna says, folding her capris into the locker’s highest shelf.

On the mats, I’m paired with a ponytailed man who goes down easy with a swift kick to the rump. He looks at the ceiling. I look at him. For I also have questions. I am only human. Two girlfriends! What does one alone person do with so much love?

 

Beth calls while I am prepping dinner to say they will leave the city after work then drive east to us through Friday night traffic.

Can we go to Chincoteague? she says, the sounds of her hospital bleeding through the Baltimore end of the line. Cara really wants to see ponies, she says, and I need to make it up to her.

What “it”? I say, but she’s already off the line.

Despite having money now, Beth still lives in crappy rentals with roommates and without blinds and moves every year. She likes to create harsh conditions so she can be proud of having overcome them.

The dogs stand on the couch, white, fluffy twins, watching out the window for Beth’s boxy sedan.

A watched pot never boils, I tell them.

That’s not real, Mike says, ever the lawyer. It’s just a thing to say.

I reach for my practice sword on the kitchen island where I left it, wave it between Mike’s face and the television where men are sporting against a green background.

Careful, I say.

 

Cara beats Beth to the mudroom door and comes in first. She gives me a bear hug then rests her wide jeaned butt atop the washing machine. She wears a button-down shirt that looks too soft and rounded to be for business. If I didn’t know better, I would think: pajamas. Earrings that hang down but don’t match. I like her already.

Beth appears, loaded down with gear. Beth looks like an eight-year-old boy in a blazer, but more underslept. She rubs her eyes with the tips of her fingers. Her hair has gone gray above both ears, which gives her a distinguished look. She’s thirty and a doctor of lungs now. When she moves to hug me, the ring of keys on her pants make a clanking sound against the travel mug on her backpack. She hugs me a long time.

Mama, she says.

 

I’m parched! cries Cara, shooting Beth a look. I get it, the AC in Beth’s car is broken, has been broken. The Tomboy and I have long since given up nagging Beth to get it fixed. But in the context of this new girlfriend, everything seems possible again.

Oh for God’s sake, I say to Beth, I’m calling my guy, he can take care of it tomorrow.

And to my great surprise Beth just flops her shoulders. Okay, she says.

They have eaten sweet potato burritos already from Tupperware in the car, but they want to drink. Beth, Cara, and I sit at the round kitchen table drinking small amounts of whiskey from large plastic glasses. Mike sits in the living room with his back to us. The brown recliner’s springs crack every time he reaches for the can in the carpet.

I’ve always wanted to come to the Eastern Shore, Cara says to me. Ever since I was a little kid and I read that book about Misty, this pony who roams Chincoteague. She was wild and free and ate sea plants and took no shit. She could kill any of the other ponies no problem.

That’s like my Mama, Beth says, tipping her plastic cup in my direction.

Oh yeah? Cara takes her own face in her hands, elbows on the table, and wiggles her weight side to side in the wood chair, making it creak, like a soft bird in a nest, brooding. She is soft at the tops of her arms and in the middle where her shirt is tighter, where Beth and the Tomboy and I are hard. Her shirt is definitely a pajama top.

Yeah, Beth says. Mama’s a black belt now, can take down anyone in her class, even the men. If I were a strange man, I would certainly think twice about messing with her.

I have always wanted to fight, Cara says. I have always had the fight inside me but never has the outside world provided an opportunity for its expression.

Lucky you, Beth says.

Don’t listen to her, I say, she’s a bad example.

I used to get into fights, says Beth.

Understatement of the century I say. Then remembering, I add, Punchy cake, punchy cake, punch me in the face.

My guy friends in high school, Beth explains. We used to say that to each other. Then in college, I walked around campus at night just saying it, until someone did.

And then she’d call me and cry, I say.

I never cried, Beth says.

Read “Mama” in its entirety by purchasing a copy of ZYZZYVA No. 113 today.

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Where Things Stand’ by Cynthia White: ZYZZYVA No. 109, Spring Issue

Where Things StandCynthia White is a poet in Santa Cruz. Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, Nimrod, and Catamaran. You’ll find three of her poems in ZYZZYVA Issue No. 109. In celebration of the Thanksgiving season, we present her poem “Where Things Stand” in its entirety: 

 I, in the doorway, reporting on the dawn,
you with your coffee. A small bird
is disturbing the quince, its name
forgotten. You, lost
to a book. The children
stand on their own, distant,
brilliant stars. Wild iris
in a jar stand on the table,
the table steadfast
on cherry legs. Chairs stand
empty, generous. We could be
a couple in a Dutch painting, light
cherishing the blue drapery
of my bathrobe, your freckled hand
as it curls around a cup
that belonged to your mother,
her mother before. Husband,
the sun stands on the horizon––
and the darkness.

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Secular and Inconsolable’ by Noah Blaustein

Secular and InconsolableMy goal was to wake with nothing
in my head –– it’s nice to begin a day
having already achieved. Sunlight
on the dead grass of the ski slope.
A lone runner works his way up
the fire road, a dull throb in my ankle
where it twisted on the edge of getting
younger, of celebrating my luck
in still being able to run. Ralph, my friend,
has been trying to convince me for years
that the life of an adult is boring
but I’ve never aspired to the life
of an adult. My wife holds up a diaper,
“A pound of pee.” There’s joy in that.
In another city, strangers excavate
our old lives to make room for our
new ones. Why we don’t say we’re lucky
and leave it at that, I don’t know. “You know,”
I say, “there’s enough water in Lake Tahoe
to fill a canal fifty feet wide and two hundred
feet deep from San Francisco to Los Angeles.”
A full sentence that startles me but I’m
still not ready to say something big,
something about grace and the rhythms
of a body moving from half state to awake
and someone on the stereo is already
asking if this life would be easier
if I had someone else to blame. Outside,
a shriek and giggle –– the girls
we listened to last night
smoke their first cigarette, cough
in the high of transgression, run
through the grass to cheer
camp. My ankle throb synchs
with the sprinklers. I do a Jesus
stretch and my daughter clears
her sore throat like a prop plane.

Noah Blaustein has had published poems in ZYZZYVA, the Massachusetts Review, the Harvard Review, Barrow Street, Poetry Daily, The Fish Anthology (selected by Billy Collins), Orion, Pleiades, and many other journals. Noah’s first book, Flirt, was selected by Kevin Prufer for University of New Mexico’s Mary Burritt Christiansen Poetry Series edited by Hilda Ras. The anthology he edited, Motion: American Sports Poems, was an editor’s pick of National Public Radio and The Boston Globe as well as a Librarian’s Pick of the New York Public Library.

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Letter From the Editor – Fall Issue 113

ZYZZYVA Volume 34, #2, Fall 2018The following is the Letter From the Editor as it appears in ZYZZYVA’s Fall Issue No. 113, our special issue focusing on the Environment & Conservation: 

Only in nature have I had experiences that could be described as spiritual. This may surprise anyone who knows of my longstanding lack of interest in camping, or, on the other hand, confidants who have witnessed the inverse of inspiration: times when I’ve been undone with distress over the plight of animals, plants, and ecosystems. Beyond all that, though, have been the private moments when, hiking or traveling, observing animals at peace in their natural habitat or taking in a vista, I’ve felt something like grace, something like awe, wash over me in a way that is both overwhelming and, somehow, steadying. In such moments, there is both a sense of stillness and unrelenting change; a sense of the breadth of life stretching in every direction (and through time), far beyond my own perception—a visceral sense of what is greater than me. And at the same time I have a more than usually concrete sense of my own being, of my feet on the actual ground, of my self as a physical creature (not just a mind endlessly busying itself). It’s as pragmatic as a sense of perspective sharply reasserting itself, and as ethereal as a daydream. There’s no accounting for such moments, and at times I’ve felt there’s no expressing them, either. And like so many phenomena on this little planet in this enormous universe, those moments have been real—whether or not anyone else can corroborate or appreciate them.

The ethos of this special issue assumes only that we can all agree on two things: first, that the environment is changing at an alarming rate (with Antarctic ice now melting at triple the rate observed ten years ago, and greenhouse gas emissions surging globally); and, second, that this is a matter of increasingly urgent concern, demanding action. Myriad questions and divergent opinions may follow from that shared ground. Some may never feel that care for the natural world is an ethical imperative, but will be mobilized by the likely devastating consequences for human beings—particularly the most vulnerable. We must make plenty of room in this movement for different views if we’re going to make progress. The hope must be to elevate the issue above partisanship just enough so we can have the necessary, generative disagreements and make the necessary compromises that may result in change, both local and global. Right now, in this country, we are stymied.

Concerns over the implications and applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are linked to questions about our relationship with the natural world, too, and should remind us, in case there has been some confusion, that our own minds are not computers; we, too, are animals, and irrevocably part of the natural world (not simply a force that acts upon it yet remains outside of it). Perhaps the underlying lesson is simply a cautionary tale about how difficult it is for humans to appreciate other kinds of intelligence and consciousness. Historically, we tend to perceive nonhuman intelligence as radically inferior—which says more about our powerful bias than it does about the creatures with which we share the planet. To hold ourselves separate from and somehow above our environment is a posture that frees us from the burden of worrying about catastrophe, but it is a failure of ethics and of the imagination that is destined to have dire consequences.

For this issue we sought out work that approaches the environment (and human interactions with it) from a wide variety of perspectives, but always as something more than a setting for human drama. Environment is treated here as a dynamic part of the drama, part of ethics, part of spirituality. Similarly, on the shadow side, when we think about social injustice, systemic violence, the exercise of power—the environment is ever-present, part of the drama. The environment, from parks to wilderness—and our (mis)apprehension of it all—is tangled up in every thorny moral issue, if we could only see it.

Perhaps most poignantly, in this month of very public suicides, for those who see us at or near a tipping point from which there can be no return, the environment poses this question: how do we continue, and continue to try, in the face of despair? One answer, perhaps the only answer, is that we simply must.

And there is room for hope, too. The works collected here remind us that our understanding of the environment has transformed before, and can change again. That local legislation can result in important changes with global implications, and with tangible results. That storytelling and the creative imagination have a role to play in advocacy; that such art can perhaps move the needle more effectively than argument. That we are guilty of terrible violence to ourselves and one another, but also capable, with tremendous effort, of improvement. That the end of this story is not yet written, that it is ours to decide and to tell.

In this way, this issue hopes to frame a less partisan but no less urgent approach to concerns of the environment—an approach disinterested in wearing the label “environmentalist,” and focused instead, as Obi Kaufmann proposes, on conservation and restoration. We’re hoping to do our part to lean into the creaking motion (already in gear, but working against so much lethargy when there is not a moment to spare), to make complete this paradigm shift in how we see our relationship to the environment, and to divorce ourselves from clichés of tree-huggers vs. capitalists—clichés that sneeringly diminish all of us.

Once the perspective has shifted and the picture has sharpened, the question won’t be whether to act, but how.

Yours,

L.

You can read the issue in its entirety by subscribing to ZYZZYVA or ordering a copy of Issue 113 today. 

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Selection of the Writing You’ll Find in our Spring Issue No. 112

No. 1112 ExcerptsHere’s a sampling of some of the writing in Issue No. 112, which you can get today with a subscription to ZYZZYVA:

San Francisco Loved Us Once, an essay by JOSHUA MOHR: We stampeded to this magnificent speck known as San Francisco because we were too queer, too punk, too arty. We were the wrong color or born with the wrong genitalia. We were too fat or too tattooed or too sick or our own family simply despised us. Other places, we were easy targets. We were gristle trapped in a bully’s teeth. So we flocked here because it called to us, San Francisco summoning, saying, “All are welcome. All are loved.” And we basked in that affection. And we found ourselves. Granted, that San Francisco is now dead, dismantled in the name of Tech. Our surrogate mother has pushed pushed us away, allowing only the wealthiest into her arms. The whitest. No black or brown skin. No artists. A place once synonymous with prodigals and immigrants is now a country club. But for a long time, this place was a sanctuary of misfits. It was my home. I moved here when I was seventeen and came of age on its streets.

La Voix Du Sang, a short story by NATALIE SERBER: There’d been an incident. Vince was in custody. They drove in silence, each lost in his or her own version of what had happened to their sweet and eager boy. In Trina’s version things came too easily to Vince. Sure, he did fine in school, was satisfied with his effortless B’s, handsome and athletic enough. Vince loved the drums, weed, and girls. All things his father had loved, still loved. But unlike his father, who rose to every challenge, Vince gave up things he couldn’t master quickly. Their garage was cluttered with his expensive jetsam; lacrosse sticks, an empty aquarium, amps, a guitar. Friends, too, had been tossed aside. Whenever he felt bored or a slip in status, Vince resorted to teasing with a cruel edge. Trina had witnessed it in her own living room. Adept at discovering weakness (perhaps he’d be a politician), he had mocked a good-looking boy, a talented guitar player, calling him Corn Niblet, all with his arm slung around the boy’s shoulder. In Lewis’s version of what had happened, their boy took no risks, surrounded himself with mediocrity. He was the best house in a middling neighborhood. “Breaking and entering?” Trina said.

Casa Nirvana, a short story by OLIVIA PARKES: “Edgar, in God’s name, why? They’ll have you playing Yahtzee, or finger-painting, and say you’re suicidal if you opt out. Even convalescing is a group activity in those places. And you’re fine, we’re fine.” Edgar lowered the paper and shrugged. “I’ve always liked hotels. There comes a time in a man’s life when he would like to see a buffet at breakfast.” His bowl of Fiber One cereal had gone soggy at his elbow. “Every day?” she asked. Edgar nodded, and in six days he was gone. Now, almost a year later, Mitzy wanted to move back down to their old room. It sweltered upstairs in the summer and the nights spent navigating a dark corridor in the abandoned hours, her bladder like a burning drum, had led her to appreciate the luxury of an ensuite bathroom. Alone, however, the house still felt strange to her, and it was easier to sleep if she could pretend it belonged to someone else. Edgar, she knew, would not be coming back, so Mitzy moved back downstairs into the master bedroom and set about converting it.

Read these pieces in full by subscribing to ZYZZYVA, or just ordering Issue No. 112.

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

National Poetry Month: ‘Richer than Anyone in Heaven’ by Jennifer Elise Foerster

April represents National Poetry Month, intended as a way to spread awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. To celebrate, each Wednesday we will be taking a deep dive into both ZYZZYVA’s recent and distant past to share some choice selections. For the final week of April, we present Jennifer Elise Foerster’s poem “Richer than Anyone in Heaven” from ZYZZYVA No. 95, Fall 2012

Richer than Anyone in HeavenI abandoned my shoes at the corner
of Market & Pine. It was hailing.
We were holding tin pots above our heads.
Collecting the granulated wind
and singing. I don’t care
about my shoes, I said. The city was in ruins.
Pieces of fiberglass glittered in gutters
like particles of space shuttles,
of a shattered moon. We will be richer
than anyone in heaven, I said.
We stole from parlors the dying embers,
gathered the porcelain figurines.
On the fizzled trees, leaves
clanged like spoons.
Our shopping cart squeaked
down the cobblestone street.
Saw-toothed lightning slashed the sky.
Will there be music, you asked,
on the other side?
We listened through wind-vents
for echoes of earthquakes, listened for God
until the radio died. A hawk floated down
like a frayed paper crane,
snagged its claws on the electrical wire.
We crumbled the hands
from statues of saints.
Beneath the cathedrals
were underground trains
and we rode every one of them to its end.
Each station was a burned-out lantern.
I want to go home, you cried
but even the ferries bobbing on the docks
had canceled their passages.
We sat in the dark eating crusts of stale bread.
Come with me, I said.
We stumbled beneath the starless night.
We climbed the vacant streets.
From the crown of the bald,
illuminated hill, the city’s windows
dazzled. A flock of geese
scissored over smoke.
Back home, my television
blinked and snowed.

Jennifer Elise Foerster is the author of Leaving Tulsa (2013) and Bright Raft in the Afterweather (2018), both published by the University of Arizona Press. She is the recipient of a NEA Creative Writing Fellowship (2017), a Lannan Foundation Writing Residency Fellowship (2014), and was a Robert Frost Fellow in Poetry at Breadloaf (2017) and a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford (2008-2010). You can find the poem above in ZYZZYVA No. 95, available for purchase in our store

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some of What You’ll Find in our Spring Issue No. 112

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 3.00.50 PMWe strive to fill each issue of ZYZZYVA with a dynamic and challenging blend of contemporary fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Here’s a sampling of some of the writing in Issue No. 112, which you can get today with a subscription to ZYZZYVA:

An interview with Man Booker Prize-winning author PAUL BEATTY: I think the real reason I set The Sellout there [in Dickens] is that there’s this weird neighborhood in L.A…There are a lot of weird neighborhoods in L.A. [Laughs] This one is called Richland Farms. It’s a small little section of Compton. My sister teaches there, and when we were little my mom used to drive us to––I don’t even know if they still have it––to the Watts Parades, which were like a celebration of the Watts Riots. Not a celebration of the riots, but…I guess a celebration of surviving the riots? You’d go through there and occasionally you’d go down these streets and you would see black people on horseback, just riding down the street. It’s something that stayed in my head…So one day my sister was telling me that her students come to class with milk that they’ve bought from their next-door neighbor’s cows––like the neighbors milk the cows and sell the kids the milk for fifty cents. So it’s this weird section of Compton that’s zoned for livestock and stuff like that. It’s just something I’ve always been thinking about and no one knows about it.

Ugly and Bitter and Strong, an essay by SUZANNE RIVECCA: What struck me about the people at the center of these stories––Wooolson, the relic-destroying classical scholar, the Academy suicides––was how uncomfortable they made everyone else, and how swiftly and neatly their breakdowns were classified, and thereby negated. They were crazy. They had diseased brains. They were destined for this end. And I knew that Italy did not break them; it merely threw their brokenness into profound and excruciating relief. But I didn’t want to believe that they had all merely succumbed, as fated, to some inborn flaw in their synaptic composition. I wanted to believe that there was something Woolson had left undone, something the Academy ghosts had left undone: something they averted their eyes from, and ran from. Something they could have confronted and survived.

Barbara From Florida, a short story by MADDY RASKULINECZ: Eric and Casey had a lot of advice for Alison about being a pizza boy. Mostly the advice was about getting robbed, which was an inevitability. They told her not to put the topper on top of the car and to always park directly in front of the customer’s house. They disagreed over keeping a gun in the car. Case and Malcom had guns and Eric did not. It was against the rules of the pizza store, Miles the manager had told her. The pizza boys agreed he had mentioned it specifically because it was specifically a very logical idea. They agreed it was best to have a fake wallet with a fake driver’s license and fake credit cards in it. Eric and Casey and Malcom were younger than Alison, younger than twenty-one, and all had fake IDs for many of the things they liked to do. Casey offered to get Alison a fake ID and Alison accepted…The fake ID that Casey brought her said she was Georgina, from Georgia.

Read these pieces in full by subscribing to ZYZZYVA, or just ordering Issue No. 112.

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

National Poetry Month: ‘Creation Myth’ by Austen Leah Rosenfeld

April represents National Poetry Month, intended as a way to spread awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. To celebrate, each Wednesday we will be taking a deep dive into both ZYZZYVA’s recent and distant past to share some choice selections. For the third week of April, we present Austen Leah Rosenfeld’s poem “Creation Myth” from ZYZZYVA No. 107, Fall 2016

Creation MythIn the beginning, there was only darkness.

Not the dark of the prairie at night,
fireflies nestled like hot pearls in the grass.

More like the sense of something
approaching, weaving a black basket in the sky.

Days came and went without epiphany.
Then the world began to materialize.

It was like coming down out
of the clouds in an airplane:
miles of snow-scented wheat,
white-tailed deer and wild turkey.

The people had a feeling
somewhere their lives were already lived.

They heard a narrator
in the cornfield, a voice like a flashlight
in the barn of the future.

Austen Leah Rosenfeld’s poems have appeared in AGNI, Salmagundi, Indiana Review, and other publications. She lives in San Francisco. Two of her poems appear in ZYZZYVA No. 107, available for purchase in our store

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment