At Sea

Gabrielle Gillespie


His father was lost at sea. Michael always heard of that sort of thing happening, but it had never happened to him.

His father had been on a tiny little dinghy, alone at night. His mother revealed he often did this when he couldn’t sleep and had as long as they’d been married. It was a wonder it had taken so long for these moonlight voyages to kill him, really. Michael wondered how he had never noticed the door creaking open and his father slipping out during so many nights of his boyhood.

He looked at Donegal anew after his father was lost. All of the guarantees of his home, he realized, were not those of the rest of the world. There were towns without beige soldiers’ mean looks in the streets. There were places where every roof didn’t leak. When he was hungry, he thought there was another future where he could never know what that felt like again. When he thought of that phantom fullness, he felt his sallow cheeks fattening, arms growing stronger, a layer of fat keeping him warm even though the wet wind was real and the fat was not.

One morning he sat in the rickety boat and for the first time, his legs wobbled and head swam at the worry of tumbling over. He had known to be afraid of the water during storms and when he stood on a cliff high above it, but this casual fright was new, or something maybe he had known once but had been taught to ignore as a child because his father needed help and it was a son’s lot to do so.

It was a foolish fear and a counterintuitive one. If any of his ancestors had let a fear of drowning consume them, they would have starved. Yet the next morning he laid in bed, claiming due to sick but really because he became stiff as a board at the mere thought of boarding that boat.  

“What will you do if you don’t fish?” his wife Claire asked.

“I didn’t have to be a fisherman,” he said.

“I suppose you could have been a priest,” she said, “But you’re a shit reader and you love me too much.”

“I could have been a cowboy,” he said.

“The McCallen’s have some pigs you could wrangle but there’s no cows for miles.”

“I’ll travel then,” he said, rolling over to face the wall. Claire laughed.

His heart used to lift every time he smelled his mother’s fresh bread or saw the morning sun hit dewy grass just right, but now the joy didn’t strike so deep. People always said these sorts of things you never get tired of but no one ever pointed out that sometimes you do.

Yet his boredom excited him, in a way that he felt completely ready for something to happen at any moment. He had no idea what exactly, but he felt this Event watching him, waiting for the moment to introduce itself like a shy girl standing on the edge of a dance floor.

He wanted new people, new places, new problems. He wanted to be impressed about something for the first time, grow used to it, then throw it away.

He walked by the docks and thought about boarding ships. One day, he did. For some reason this boat did not scare him. Probably because he told himself it would be the last one. He wouldn’t be a fisherman in the next life. He would find one place on dry land that was his. Or he would travel on horseback across prairies.

He felt sorry for his wife and his brother. Would they bury him in an empty coffin like they did his father? But he was dying here anyway, growing in too small a skin that would strangle him if he didn’t tear it. And if it didn’t tear now, something worse would happen. When he took off the glasses of a native son’s love, he had seen a misery he thought was just a part of him. Now was time to amputate.  

As the ship sailed out, people discussed their destinations but he stayed silent. He didn’t know it yet. He only knew anywhere was better than here.

Things Left Unsaid

Jennifer Willis


In this piece, I think about my college experience, and how it all has prepared me for my future. It’s addressed to the person who played a big role in the reason why my college experience was the way it was.

We both know that I’ve done it, but we’ve never spoken it out loud.

You realized it during my junior year in high school, after I told you that I threw up during basketball practice. When you jokingly asked if I was pregnant, instead of saying “ew, boys,” I defensively said “no, I’m on my period right now.” I realized that you’d realized it when you gave me hug after I blurted out that idiotic response.

The only other time we talked about it was more recently, two months before my wedding. You asked me if I was on any birth control. Being the poor immigrant women we are, we concurred that birth control was shady and family planning was best. Who knows what that kind of stuff really does to you anyway.

Another thing left unspoken was why I was leaving your home so early to make my own, barely my own person at 22. For people like us, 22 was early to fly the nest. We both knew why, though. We just didn’t want to think of that night, way back when.

It was time to put down a deposit for a college and you chose the school for me. By your lucky stars, your youngest child happened to be born on that very important day, and we were throwing a party for her. No one in the entire family understood why I was not there when we cut the cake. I was probably the biggest nuisance of the night. Maybe I’d bugged you too much about going to my dream school that was too far away while you were putting up decorations earlier in the day. During the party, I stayed upstairs sobbing; baby cousins popped in and out of the room, looking for somewhere to play and hoping I would stop soon. Maybe the idea of me being gone bugged you so much that you decided holding me hostage for another four years would be worth it. Four years of commuting to a majority resident university. Four years of sharing a room with a sister seven years my junior. Four years of a long-distance relationship I was only allowed to maintain on your terms. Four years of working to provide for myself because I felt bad asking you for help. Four years of working to provide for myself because I was determined to become independent from you. Four years of discomfort and bitterness. Four more years of being at home, with you.

Another thing left unspoken is the reason why I’ve forgiven you for that night and those years that followed. It took me a while to figure out why you did it. Years of reflection and navigating complex feelings. Feelings that make me want to have a mother-daughter dance at my wedding, not father-daughter. Feelings that make me want to walk myself down the aisle. Feelings that push me to forgive him, and hold him accountable at the same time.

The spring before I was to leave for college, his abuse got worse than it had been in years. We are best friends, you and I, and you didn’t want me to go. You were scared to be alone. Understandable, completely. And you are forgiven. After four years of feeling alienated, outcasted, pushed aside, worked to the bone, lonely – I have forgiven you, and you know I have. Because that’s what best friends do. We’re there for each other when the going gets tough. But you think it means that I can forgive him too, and I can’t yet. You two are alright now, and I want to forgive him because I know it’ll make you happy. But I still can’t bring myself to say hello to him when I walk through the door. I can’t lean in to his hugs. I can’t dispel the image of him in my mind, the one that made you scared enough to hold me back from my dreams.

After I failed my road test, you said I should let him teach me to drive. I have to pass the exam before the wedding, so you think I might finally be willing to take his help. He is a good driver, but I quietly refused. I’ll learn from someone else in time. My husband and I will road-trip to our new home as newlyweds; we’ll go halfway across the country, just like I wanted to four years ago, when you weren’t ready. But one thing will not be left unspoken – you are my mother, I am your daughter, and we are best friends.

Luna Park

Phil Thompson


I’m saying goodbye to a part of my life and a place. I will probably have to say goodbye to other parts of my life and other places in the future but I really don’t want to.

I enjoyed shopping and sought out ways to prolong my time in the supermarket. I think it was the anonymity. And the purposefulness. I stalked through the dimly lit shelves of alcohol and selected a six-pack: something dark today, something called Luna Park from Byzantium Brewery in Anna Cortes, I’d never heard of it. The packaging depicted a stylized crescent moon between the tips of dark pine trees, faintly lit by a glowing lantern at the bottom of the case. That was first in the cart. Then several boules of sourdough, a jar of green olives, a block of gouda, spicy mustard, red peppers, Guinness-battered brats, coffee concentrate (I liked the shape of the bottle), a Jamaican rub, chicken breasts, pre-cooked garlic bread, eight ounces of tri-tip, pears, potatoes. And in the miscellaneous aisles, birthday candles. All for me. Except for the candles. But you never know.

As I was checking out, I noticed a woman in the line in front of me. Middle-aged, wearing athletic pants and a pastel yellow fleece sweater. She was really nice to the tired-looking man at the register. Judging by the amount in her cart, she was shopping for a family. A movie was playing on cable that night that I wanted to watch, but I didn’t have any other errands and I didn’t want to go home, because I knew I would succumb to one of those depressing early-evening naps, so I waited until she pulled out of the parking lot and followed her. I liked to see where the families lived.

She drove across the bridge into an upscale neighborhood where the street forked into two one-ways separated by a grassy, tree-lined esplanade. I used to know some people who lived in this area, but they had all moved away a long time ago. The light of the sun, dipping below the ridge which we’d driven up, sunk like arrows into the strong brown tree trunks. Its orange tinge turned gold against the drab brick houses of the block, and the windows with the closed curtains flashed like wet eyes. A sliver of frigid moon could be glimpsed between the treetops.

A kid ran in front of my car. I didn’t need to brake – he was far enough down the block, and ran back after retrieving his ball – but I felt a lump form in my throat and I pounded the top of the wheel with my hands and cursed into the roof. I curled around the first break in the median and rattled home. I got home, drank all the beer, and went to sleep before midnight, dreaming of a gigantic purple shape that crushed the city into powder. Woke up to no good news.

So Long

Pardo, C.


to the tune of Helena by My Chemical Romance

“Goodnight stars

Goodnight air

Goodnight noises everywhere”

-Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon

Long ago

Can I take a step back? Before I say goodbye. Just allow me this last reverie.

Just like the hearse, you die to get in again

Death and birth. Stagnation and Growth. Growing up and getting older. It's all the same thing, isn’t it?

Changing is dying.

We are so far from you

We aren’t who we used to be. There are so many years between you and me the space is hazy with all the time that’s fermented. I’m barely recognizable.

You’re not here anymore and all I can tell is that I’m here instead.

Burning on


Just like a match, you strike to incinerate

Is this what living is?

The lives of everyone you know

No wait

And what's the worst you take

No no this isn’t what I wanted

(Worst you take)

No wait, please

From every heart you break

I can’t take it, don’t do this to me

(Heart you break)

I’m not ready

And like a blade you stain

I don’t know how yet

(Blade you stain)

Please please I’m not ready

Well, I've been holding on tonight

I’m not ready to grow up.

What's the worst that I could say?

Let me be a kid again.

Things are better if I stay

What if I promised to be good? What if I had the cutest laugh and the brightest smile? And chubby little arms that were open wide as I could stretch them? That couldn’t wrap themselves all the way around my father’s chest but could hold all the love in the world.

I promise I wouldn’t be any trouble. I would always listen and put my toys away. I might not always remember but if you reminded me I would - I promise, I promise I would.

So long and goodnight

I guess it doesn’t matter.

So long and goodnight

There’s no use believing in childish fantasies anyway.

Came a time

I can’t remember

When every star fall

The last time I was simply and plainly happy.

Brought you to tears again

Can you?

We are the very hurt you sold

I didn’t think so.

That’s the danger of nostalgia, isn’t it?

Can you hear me?

No not anymore. My memory is fading.

Are you near me?

I still wish I was.

Can we pretend?

Haven’t we been playing this whole time?

To leave and then

It’s hard to pretend we’ve been left farther apart than we already are.

We'll meet again

If I smile tightly while I say this it’s not because I’m lying.

When both our cars collide

It’s because I know that’s why I’m crying.

We can’t keep meeting like this.

What's the worst that I could say?

I want you to stay.

Things are better if I stay

It would all be so much easier this way.

So long and goodnight

But you were never here, were you?

You’re just me.

And I’m alone.

So long and goodnight


Well, if you carry on this way

I can do nothing but move forward.

Things are better if I stay

All I have is this moment.

So long and goodnight

There is no going back.

So long and goodnight

But I’ll tuck you in gently, my childish fantasy

before I turn off the light.