BETH GILSTRAP AND JIM WARNER
She sings to the dogs like they’re children because she has none. Puts sweaters on them when it’s below freezing. Cooks like someone’s coming. Scrubs the floors, wipes the counters. Plays folk music at first, then 80s pop, then hardcore and death metal when her mood’s gone south again. The artwork is curated from years of trying to make people see the nest strung with blue ribbon dropped in a clearing. Twenty years on and it hurts to talk anymore so weeks when he’s gone, she doesn’t. A maelstrom of bark falling from the hundred-year-old pine out back. When men come to take her down, it pops when they begin scaling, so the workmen climb the poplar on her flank. So much rigging between the two and the audience below shaking their heads and backward stepping down the hill. When it hits the ground, the hallway sucks its breath in and she winces, thinking about the neural network of tree roots, how when they’re dying, they release all their nutrients for their surviving kin.
for dinner again
Dischord No. 17.5
Between the restaurant and me, seventeen-thousand and twenty-one feet. Waves and steam haunt the asphalt and a sweat-itch forms around my top-bun, in my pits, between my toes, trampling high grass in hiking boots and socks too fat for late spring. A twenty in my pocket from my grandma burning a hole for smokes and a tofu sandwich I can’t afford except on second Fridays when she sends mail. Don't get too skinny on me now, girl. We got to recognize you when you come home. I’ve given most of the clothes other people bought me away. To girls I no longer speak to. I’m obsessed with diseases, communicable and genetic, but I can’t do the calculations it takes to be a doctor. I can’t do the calculations to get out of my head, to keep from withering under the gaze of strangers, to breathe without it turning sharp. My only hope is to limp my way to freedom, to a meal that doesn’t make me feel guilty, to a time when I am able to wander in snow so delicate it floats, to a place where your hands will always want me and never feel less than normal. In my regular booth by the window, I stir tahini with a potato wedge and try not to burn my mouth.
dine alone blighted Dogwood trees
BETH GILSTRAP is the author of I Am Barbarella: Stories (2015) from Twelve Winters Press and No Man’s Wild Laura (2016) from Hyacinth Girl Press. She serves as Fiction Editor at Little Fiction | Big Truths. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Bull, WhiskeyPaper, The Minnesota Review, Literary Orphans, and Little Patuxent Review, among others.