The Mother of the Oxford English Dictionary | Allison Maschhoff

Image: Quino

The Mother of the Oxford English Dictionary

mother, n.

definition a.

The female parent of a human being; [2]

as in the one who feeds you with her chest, the one who housed you next to her most sacred innards, the one your eyes search for as you cry.

a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth; [3]

            the unparalleled truth of motherhood: only one person will ever birth you.

the unbearable truth of motherhood: no world she births you into will as be as safe as the one she made.

(also in extended use) a woman who undertakes the responsibilities of a parent toward a child [4]

every place that has ever felt like a second home to me has had the influence of a woman who houses the strength and presence of a whirlwind framing everything from the door to the walls to my heart.

[2] [3] [4] from the Oxford English Dictionary

Allison Maschhoff is a creative writing MFA student at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Her poetry has been published in The Blue Route, Green Blotter, Windfall, and Better Than Starbucks. She also writes fiction. You can find links to her work at www.allisonmaschhoff.com or follow @allison.maschhoff on Instagram.

This poem is from South Broadway Press’ new anthology, 
Dwell: Poems About Home. Purchase here.

I am queer noir | Cipriano Ortega

Image: Cipriano Ortega

I am queer noir

I am queer noir.
The smoked clenched night.
The dark alley,
The pissed stained bathroom club floor.
I am the slammed door of rejection.
The constant rampant tapping to let me in.
The hot palpitation of a night.
The hookup line and sinker.

I am the low end speaker, the part of you that know’s something’s wrong.

I hold the light of morning inside my heart.

I am queer noir.

Cipriano Ortega (they/them) has been fortunate enough to have their work recognized and shown both nationally and internationally.  Cipriano strives to create works of art that probe the mind and make people question what they perceive as the normative. Whether that is shown in music, theater, visual art or some sort of culmination of all of the above; Cipriano enjoys blending all creative forms of expression. As a sociological artist, Cipriano deconstructs the worlds around them and observes it under a nihilistic perspective. As an indigenous POC, they also have no choice but to deal with colonialism head on by making it a daily practice to see the divisions we as a society create and continue to make the ‘normative.’

strange, what fabric the body can be | Jade Lascelles

Image: 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič

strange, what fabric the body can be

the materiality, texture layered atop itself

bristling old wool shorn and barbed from so much wear. knitted with cheap

yarn, the acrylic kind that tightens too much, squeaks after

time and so many washes. a thick polyester clinging to the body

odor of the great aunt who first wore it. a light chiffon scarf

draped, artful but nonchalant. a coat patched too obviously.

stinking of the mothballs from a long-untouched winter closet.

how you are sewn into it


how you drive around a town you have not lived in for fifteen years. the

streets so foreign for the first few days. you, without clear compass or

signpost. home, a place of now-unfamiliar intersections. until on the

third day you feel a strange tug. a too-tight stitch pulling beneath the

muscles in your chest. a breath caught in the button of your throat.

because you suddenly know these storefronts, just with different

names. because you remember the shape and weight of who still

patterns the pavement below. who forever married a part of you to

this neighborhood. whose cord has been knotted to yours all along. you

have driven frightfully close to where something terrible happened. until

now you forgot the event even took place in a house at all. it existing

all this time only in the unnamable space of your hazy recollections.


and the stains it collects, the memory


every time you put on the shirt, your eyes go right to the small spot of

redness. you know the exact meal you were eating. how you were sitting at

a not proper dining space. how the sauce splashed when the pot boiled

over. how her homemade jam was thinner and dripped more. when the

brown corduroy got that conspicuous patch of dried glue along the front

most thigh. the leaking pen. the accident. the accidental. that which

you pick at and sniff at and rub in and soak with hopes of it fading more.


how you wear it, but also, how you are woven of it

you sense the distinct tastes inside your mouth whenever you look at the

photo. it is almost unbelievable now, teaching kindergartners to cook.

trusting such small and wild hands with knives to chop the radishes, a hot

griddle to fry up tortillas. you made butter as a class, taking turns shaking

the mason jar of cream. the excited aggression you all stifled around pet gerbils

and younger siblings having found an escape. a riot of children given task

and purpose for their agitation. you hold a photo of this day, see your own

smile as you chew a bit of buttered bread. see how you once delighted

so in it. how delicious it could be, the violence of so many hands.

Jade Lascelles is a writer, editor, musician, and letterpress printer based in Boulder, Colorado. She is the author of the full-length collection The Invevitable (Gesture Press, 2021). Selections of her work have also appeared in numerous journals and the anthologies Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism and Precipice: Writing at the Edge, as well as being featured in the Ed Bowes film Gold Hill and the visual art exhibit and accompanying book Shame Radiant. Several of her poems were recently translated into Italian for the journal Le Voci della Luna. Beyond her writing endeavors, she is a longtime steward of the Harry Smith Print Shop at Naropa University, a core member of the art group The Wilds, and plays drums in a few different musical projects.

This poem is from South Broadway Press’ new anthology, Dwell: Poems About Home. Purchase here.

Rooms | Liza Sparks

Image: Guillaume Lorain

Rooms 

“I dwell in Possibility—”
-Emily Dickinson

Every
body has a right
 to shelter in a home.
To be safe from cold, the heat,
the storm.

///

We want a house built by the people / we want walls of justice / 
we want liberation / we want windows and doors of possibility / 
look outside / in a world where everyone has a home / 
anything is possible / how do we transform / 

///

“Home is where the heart is.” The heart is the size of your fist. 
Some things are worth fighting for.

///

Homelessness is not a choice. 

Criminalizing survival is unconstitutional.[1]

///

The body—
my body is made of rooms of memory—
The body—
my body is made of hallways—
The body—
my body does not remember—
The body—
my body remembers everything

///

Here is my skin. Imagine all of the things I have touched.
Here are my bones. 

///

I do not remember leaving the dwelling of my mother’s body.
I do not remember being born.

///

What does it mean to care for another? 


[1] Denverhomelessoutloud.org

Liza Sparks (she/her) is an intersectional feminist, writer, poet, and creative. She is a brown-multiracial-queer-woman living and working in Colorado. Her work has appeared with Ghost City Review, Bozalta Collective, Cosmonauts Avenue, and many others; and is forthcoming with Honey Literary, Split This Rock’s social justice database—The Quarry, and will be included in Nonwhite and Woman Anthology published by Woodhall Press in 2022. Liza was a semifinalist for Button Poetry’s Chapbook contest in 2018 and was a finalist for Denver Lighthouse Writers Workshop Emerging Writer Fellowship in Poetry in 2020 and 2019. She is a poetry reader for The Chestnut Review. You can read more of Liza’s work at lizasparks.com, IG @sparksliza534, or TW @lizathepoet

This poem is from South Broadway Press’ new anthology, Dwell: Poems About Home. Purchase here.

Carrying stones | Jane-Rebecca Cannarella

Image: Tom van Hoogstraten

Erin told me her face was falling. We sat on a motel bed in downtown Anaheim, each of us with stones inside our bodies where organs used to be. Hand to her face she placed her fingers at her jaw and said, it’s sagging. Like a landslide.

Our foundations were made from the gulfs created in the void of saltwater and sun; we were grown from the melting glaciers. Skeletons shaped from every piece of rock we had once picked up from the tongue of the shore because we thought it was pretty, replacing the bone until we were both ambling monuments.

In the motel in downtown Anaheim, we cracked geodes against one another with enough force to break them open to see if our guts were quartz. The same sort of rock scientists on playgrounds smashing stones to see if there were hidden crystals, only we were older, and our shared insides didn’t carry crystals…as we found out. Sharp fragments splintered and dented the cold bedcovers, rock people applying pressure as a kind of embrace.

And her face was falling like how Venice is sinking, and the world is impermanent, so we split our skin open to find anything secreted from the soft outsides. The shells of our exteriors thawed like those candles whose wax peels away to reveal tiny gems, but really, it’s just a trinket more like trash than treasure.


Structures like bones crease into putty like how memorials fall and become their own grave markers, and on a floral smoke-smelling comforter in a strip mall in Anaheim, I ease into the rock rain of my own face and the spring that found itself seeping out of the remains of my body. Our mingled landslide faces and surfaces liquified with only the memory of boulder bodies and gritted organs left in our wake.

Tomorrow we’d go back to carrying our stones.


Jane-Rebecca Cannarella (she/her) is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia. She is the editor of HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit, and a former genre editor at Lunch Ticket. She’s the author of Better Bones and Marrow, both published by Thirty West Publishing House, The Guessing Game published by BA Press, and Thirst and Frost forthcoming from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. 

The Artist’s Prerogative | Gracie Nordgren

Image: Sergio Rodriguez

His name was Pietro Ludivicci, and he was in love with symmetry.

            Those statues of his were carved with a delicate accuracy, angels and saints poised to bless or condemn, their pale faces set in expressions of aloof piety. That marble virgin of his was housed inside the chapel, the object of awe among the townspeople. For the sculptor had rendered the stone folds of her clothing as soft-looking as fabric.

            The flawless beauty of Ludivicci’s creations was rivaled only by the appearance of the sculptor himself. With his tight curls, regal nose, cherubic lips, and mahogany eyes, it was as if he were the personification of the suppleness of youth. How lovely, this Pietro!

            Of course, the young women of the town were hopelessly taken with him. Why, even the mayor’s wife fondly referred to him as her first love! A cacophony of tokens, flowers, letters, and gifts took up permanent residence outside his door. In the marketplace, women would tarry and stare, and those bold enough to proposition him always received the same answer: a curl of the lip, and a flat “I’d rather not”. You see, Ludivicci was a paramour of human beauty- and perfection his muse. How could he settle for anything else in a lover?

            These harsh rejections were hard on the ladies of the town. Many would weep, and some would pull at their hair. Young Viola, who cleaned the sculptor’s apartment, witnessed countless of these spurnings. In the smoky bars, her father, the innkeeper, and the older townsmen would snidely remark that Ludivicci may as well wed one of his statues.

            There came a day, as the harvest-season came round, that the sculptor unexpectedly stopped accepting commissions. For seventeen days on end, he vanished from the eyes of the community. Circulating whispers suggested illness, or even his death. Viola of course knew that the artist was not dead at all. He had thrown himself into his newest project.

Ludivicci the recluse remained shut up in his apartment, his door opening only to receive the bread and wine he paid Viola to purchase for him. During these visits, the girl caught glimpses of a form standing in the center of his room- a new statue, perhaps? Alas, she could never get a good enough look, as the sculptor would pay her what was owed and then slam the door with a force that made the frame creak.

The longer Pietro Ludivicci was in isolation, the more fanciful the rumors about him became. He had certainly lost his sanity, most agreed. Signora Columbo swore she had spotted him at the temple, worshipping the pagan gods! How could he have fallen so far? Poor Pietro! A red-cheeked and mortified Viola confessed to her sister as they lay in bed one night that she had caught the sculptor cradling what seemed to be the face of his passion project and kissing its lips!

Months passed before Ludivicci was spotted in public again. He looked certainly worse for wear, with dark shadows underneath his eyes, an unkempt beard, and his shoulder-length hair hanging in an unruly tangle.

His sculpting seemed to be abandoned as a thing of the past, as he had emerged from his isolation with nothing to show for it. If one would catch him walking about in town or marketplace and inquire about his work, he would stare back with haunted, glassy eyes and mutter something about having more important matters to pursue.

No one quite knew where the woman had come from. The way the innkeeper told it, she had knocked upon the inn’s door late one night (the night before Ludivicci returned to society) and requested residence. Said her name was Giana Aldi. She had paid him handsomely for room and board from a fine leather coin purse that hung from her waist. She was a painter, this woman, who wished to work undisturbed within the rooms. Why is it that this town is the place of so many fussy artists? The innkeeper bemoaned to his wife and daughters as they, dazed and recently roused from sleep, stumbled to prepare a room.

Soon enough, the town forgot their fascination with Ludivicci in favor of the mysterious Giana Aldi. It was if she had been carved from marble, as such flawlessness seemed unnatural. Smooth dark locks flowed down her back to her waist, and large black eyes were framed by heavy lashes. They seemed to see into one’s heart, and one couldn’t help but feel naked and exposed under her gaze.

She was stern and dedicated to her art with a borderline religious fervour. Her neighbors took notice, with news of her traveling within hours. Who was she? Perhaps she and Ludivicci would be the perfect match for one another. Two kindred spirits, parallel in looks and practice.

Evidently, Ludivicci was enthralled by her as well. Every evening, he would stand at her balcony, wildly waving bouquets of flowers, imploring her to come down and speak to him. No one ever saw Giana Aldi do so much as open her window. Late into the night, the sculptor would cry, shout, and even sing love poetry! Poor Ludivicci was in such a state of ruin by the seventh night, yet he persisted. Having enough of this, the innkeeper accosted him on the street, ordering him to give it up at once! Ludivicci, likely emboldened by the wine running through his body, declared that he would never stop his pursuit until he heard word from the lady herself.

It is said, and there have been several witnesses to this, that Giana Aldi appeared on the balcony then. Leaning over its edge, raven hair spilling over her shoulders, her disdainful shout could be heard by all:

“I’d rather not!”


Gracie Nordgren is a Creative Writing student at the University of Colorado Boulder. She enjoys daydreaming and pomegranates, and would very much like to travel to Venus. Her work has appeared in Kalopsia Literary Journal, The University of Colorado Boulder Honors Journal, and Cathartic Youth Literary Magazine, among others. 

An Army of Frogs | Mark Blickley

Image: Frog Concerto, Mark Blickley

Image: Bobbie Oliver

 “I don’t want to go to school today, Ma.  I don’t feel well.” 

            “You felt well enough to stay over Lamont’s house two hours past your curfew, playing video games.  Now get up and get ready for school.  And I mean now, Gregory John Burton!”

            The boy jumped out of bed.  He knew that when his mother called him by his full name instead of the familiar Greg, she could not be argued with and was primed for the yelling that would most certainly alert his father and bring him into the conflict.

            As he scuffed his way towards the bathroom he thought about explaining to his mother why he had distracted himself to the point of disobedience at Lamont’s last night.  They were both trying to erase the fear and anxiety of what was sure to be the most horrible day of their seven-year education the next morning.

            His father flung open the bathroom door, his waist wrapped in a purple towel as he delicately dragged a large comb through his thinning brown hair.  “It’s all yours. How’s it going, Sport?” 

            “Terrible,” answered Greg.  “This morning we’re going to cut up a frog.  Yuck.”

            His father paused his grooming to put a hand on his son’s shoulder.  “Don’t worry, Greg.  I remember not being too thrilled by the dissection my science teacher forced us to do, but he reminded us that we don’t kill the frogs, that they were already dead. And if we didn’t learn from their sacrifice, then their deaths were wasted. He also told us to pretend that we were surgeons cutting into a patient.  It turned out to be quite interesting.”

            “Yeah, well the only cutting I’d like to do is to cut class today. Dissection’s disgusting. I mean, there’s already enough violence in schools.”

            “I suppose you have a point, Greg.  I remember reading an article about that serial killer who cut up his victims and ate them.  What was his name?”

            “Jeffrey Dahmer?”

            Yeah, that’s him.  Right before the prison inmates killed him Dahmer gave an interview where he said that he became fascinated with blood and guts when his school gave him a knife and a dead animal to cut apart in biology class.”

            “Gee thanks, Dad.”  

            His father made a silly face, scooped him off the ground and tossed him into the air.  The squeals of delight coming from the boy temporarily made Greg forget about the brutal day he was about to endure until his sister Carol, hearing her brother’s screams of pleasure, trotted into the living room and demanded that her father also give her the chance to go airborne.

            Greg’s four and a half block walk to school took on the pace and enthusiasm of a killer being led down death row for a private sitting with an electrician.  As he turned the corner he saw Kostas, Selim, and Pascal climbing the steep steps leading to the school’s entrance.  When he shouted at them to wait up he thought that they, too, had a sickly look about them.  The four of them silently scuffed their way to the classroom.

            Everyone except Regina Boloff was inside and in their seat.  Greg didn’t think Regina would show up.  Every time Mrs. Worton would give a math or spelling test, Regina would wet her pants and cry.  When this happened, Mrs. Worton would send for the school nurse and Regina’s mother would come to pick her up and take her home.  The day afterwards Regina was always absent.

            As Greg settled himself behind his desk, he noticed Regina walking in.  This worried him.  Because of the terrible importance of the day, even Regina’s embarrassment couldn’t allow her to stay home, and she certainly had made a huge mess the day before during the math quiz.  But what really bothered Greg was that none of his classmates (or himself, for that matter) bothered to tease her.  The class looked as if their thoughts were a million miles away.

            Mrs. Worton strolled in and put on a big smile, even bigger than the smile she gave when the class presented her with a large, multi-colored paperweight, shaped like an egg, for Christmas.  Trumella  Austin’s father took the seven dollars and sixty-four cents the kids had raised and picked it out for the class from the stationary store he owned.  Greg thought it was a beauty.

            Behind his teacher’s smile Greg knew she was nervous too because she took roll call before the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.  Nothing was mentioned about what they had to do in a matter of hours. 

            For the first time all year the classroom hours sped by.  The clock read 10:30 when Mrs. Worton ordered them to lay down their pencils.  She then distributed  11×15 sheets of construction paper to each student and told them they were to use it to create a frog map that they would fill in as they dissected their frogs.  

     Greg raised his hand.  “What do you mean by a frog map?  I don’t understand.”

Mrs. Worton looked sternly at Greg. “Had you been turning in your homework regularly the past two weeks, Mr. Burton, you would have known that the handouts I gave out in class were to prep you for this project.”

“Why do we have to cut open a frog?” whined Regina.  “What’s the point?”

“The point,” said Mrs. Worton curtly, “is to satisfy national standards for sixth grade introduction to organs and organ systems.”

“I get all the info I need about organs and organ systems by sneaking on to my father’s Spice Channel website,” Hector whispered to Greg.  Both giggled.

“Hector, is there something you’d like to share with the rest of the class?” asked Mrs. Worton. 

 Hector shook his head.

“Very well, then.  As you cut away the layers of the frog’s anatomy, you will record your findings on your frog map.  Everyone draw an outline of a frog using the markers I placed on your desks before you arrived this morning.”

What followed was the greatest shock in a day already filled with much tension and apprehension.  The frogs that Mrs. Worton handed out to each student weren’t dead and pickled, but alive.

“Oh my God,” said Habib.

“Gross,” said Sophia.

“This is gonna be cool,” said Badra.

“Your frogs have all been anesthetized so they won’t feel any pain,” Mrs. Worton smiled.

“I bet,” muttered Greg.

Mrs. Worton heard Greg’s remark but chose to ignore it.   “The school paid extra so that we could observe the organ systems of a living frog,” she said rather proudly.   “Before we begin the actual cutting, please weigh your frog and measure its length from snout to vent and record this data in the lower right hand corner of your frog map.” 

Greg waved his arm. “What’s a vent?”

“Had you been studying like the rest of the class, you’d know that the vent is the cloaca.”

“The what?” shrugged Greg.

“It’s the ass, you ass,” whispered Badra. 

The moment Greg’s hand squeezed around his frog and felt it inhaling and exhaling, he wanted to run outside and set it free instead of lining up in the back of the classroom, waiting his turn to use the scale.  But he figured what would the point of freeing it be?  There aren’t any ponds around here.  It would just get squashed by a car or some punk would shove a firecracker down its throat.

After all the students measured and weighed their frogs and returned to their desks, Mrs. Worton pulled her desk to the center of the room to talk them through the surgery while slicing up her very own frog.  “Our first step will be to decapitate the frog with your special dissection scissors and then pith its spinal cord with the pithing needle on your tray.  The frog will twitch.  Pithing greatly reduces the incidence and intensity of muscle contractions, thus simplifying the dissection.”

Most of the class scrunched their faces with revulsion as they followed Mrs. Worton’s commands.  

“As you hold the frog’s head, “ continued Mrs. Worton, “squeeze it with your thumb and index finger to open its mouth for easier insertion of the scissors into the mouth.  Hold your frog against the tray with your palm as it may twitch while you are decapitating it.”

Greg did as he was told and placed the lower scissor blade inside his frog’s mouth while the outer blade rested on the back of the frog’s head.  Without applying much force, he was surprised how quickly the head was severed from the body.  His frog twitched and contorted so violently that it jerked out of his hand and fell to the floor, where it flopped about like an awkward break-dancer trying to spin into a finale.

Mrs. Worton hurried over, responding to the many shrieks of disgust surrounding Greg’s desk.  “Didn’t I tell you to pith your frog?” she asked.

Greg just stared at her as she picked up his headless frog and dropped it onto his tray.  It continued to twitch.  She handed him a pair of forceps and ordered him to lift the skin of the abdomen with them before cutting into the skin, from left to right.  Greg made an incision with his dissecting scissors into the lower abdomen and then cut along the sides of the frog to make a flap of the skin and abdominal musculature.  He then lifted the flap back and cut it off, exposing the internal organs that his teacher called the viscera. The exposed innards of the frog were such an appalling sight that it made Greg want to heave his breakfast.

“Now cut off the intestine and urine duct from the hip to free the viscera from the body,” said Mrs. Worton.  “Be careful not to touch the nerve when cutting.”

Many nerves were touched in the classroom, and most of them belonged to the students.  As he snipped through muscle fascia, hemostats, and the sciatic nerve of his frog, Greg felt terrible.  He thought about the trauma he underwent weeks earlier, the day he had to get a stupid TB test. And that was simply a prick of his skin while his frog, who was alive and breathing when he first held him, was now dead and Greg was ordered to remove its skin because Mrs. Worton said the skin represented one of the ten body systems a frog needs in order to survive. One of the ten body systems they needed to expose and explore.  She called the skin the Integumentary System, but flaying the frog proved too much for Greg.  He lay down his scalpel and put a paper towel over his torn, mutilated amphibian. 

“Hey, Mrs. Worton,” said Victor.  “What are gonna do we do with all of these frogs after we’re done?”

“Victor, do you know what you call a group of frogs?”

Victor shrugged.” What do you mean?”

Mrs. Worton smiled.  “Well, a group of fish is called a school.  A group of geese are called a gaggle.  A group of birds are called a flock.  A group of horses are called a herd.  But what do you call a group of frogs?”

“Butchered,” muttered Greg. 

Mrs. Worton once again ignored Greg’s comment.  “A group of frogs are called an army. An army of frogs.” 


Mark Blickley  is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center whose most recent book is a text-based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, ‘Dream Streams.’ (Clare Songbirds Publishing House).

Alienor | LindaAnn Lo Schiavo

Image: LindaAnn LoSchiavo

To unobservant eyes they seem like plants.

Long, limber stalks with out-sized bulbous heads
Could be confused with other specimens,
Especially to folks who’ve never seen
Exotics rooted in a foreign pod.

By night they leave protected flowerpots.

Exhaling oxygen, these beings fly,
Determined to reverse what climate change
Eroded by offsetting greenhouse gas
With purifying breaths, restoring trees,
And tackling global warming, ice-shelf melt.

I won’t reveal this methodology.

My job is to provide fresh nutrients ― ―
Ingredients from our rare biosphere.

Then curious balloon contraptions sail
These pods to sites that need repair and care.

Disguised as gladiator allium,
Purple florets compressed inside a round,
Attractive head, the team disperses from
Each stem ― ― a green antenna ― ― gets to work. 

Earthlings don’t know extraterrestrials

Are wise, solution oriented, pained
By man’s destruction, astral gifts blood-stained.


Night winds blow golden over what’s reclaimed
And what’s unfinished. Damaged nature won’t
Regenerate except through tender tips
Renewing fruited plains, life’s green wealth,
’til Earth rejoices in its own undeath.


Native New Yorker LindaAnn LoSchiavo, recently Poetry SuperHighway’s Poet of the Week, is a member of SFPA and The Dramatists Guild. Her poetry collections “Conflicted Excitement” [Red Wolf Editions, 2018], “Concupiscent Consumption” [Red Ferret Press, 2020], and Elgin Award nominee “A Route Obscure and Lonely”‘ [Wapshott Press, 2019] along with a contribution in “Anti-Italianism: Essays on a Prejudice”  [Macmillan in the USA, Aracne Editions in Italy]  are her latest titles.

This piece is part of South Broadway Press’ March 2021 issue, The Language of the Earth.

Word Counts | Samantha Steiner

Image: Simon Pelegrini

Fuck word counts, and fuck regret, and fuck enjoyment, and guess what? Fuck origin. That’s right, fuck origin, and fuck memory. Do you know what fuck means? A girl told me back in middle school: Fornication Under Consent of the King. She said the word was posted on the front door of every reputable home, and that it meant yes, we got the okay from our royal leader to mate, copulate, dance the horizontal polka, put the thing in the other thing. We’re sinners with a lifetime indulgence we bought in advance. We fraternize with the devil, but only according to protocol, baby.

So I say fuck word counts, and fuck regret, and fuck enjoyment, because that’s what fuck is. Fuck is enjoyment. Fuck is regret. The Fuck Word Counts. Fuck is the apology before the infraction, the permission before the play. And who is fuck for? Fuck is for the people who look like Matt Damon and Marilyn Monroe, for bodies concealed just well enough to display. Fuck is for paleness and paler-than-paleness, a certain shape of eye, a certain girth of waist, a certain functionality of limb, a certain history of genitalia. And I say fuck that.

I say fuck origin, and fuck memory, and fuck death, because fuck is a gift, and Fornication Under Consent of the King is Matt Damon in a red velvet hat and a red velvet cape, a walking blood-filled penis with a golden wand, pretending to give out fucks when in reality, he doesn’t give a fuck. I say fuck origin because fuck is origin, because before you and I were you and I, we were twinkles in the eyes of people, maybe lusty, maybe frightened, maybe willing, maybe not. I say fuck memory because fuck is memory, because no one was watching when you or I morphed from a twinkle in those eyes to a glob of cells, as the glob of cells halved and doubled into the tube that formed a mouth and an asshole, two instruments of fucking, consent of the king or not.

Fuck is one person. Fuck is two. Fuck is three. Fuck is more. Fuck is rapid addition. Fuck is no gender. Fuck is all genders. Fuck is silent. Fuck is loud. Fuck is ordinary. Fuck is occasion. Fuck is insult. Fuck is compliment. Fuck is monetized. Fuck is freely given. Fuck is hot. Fuck is cold. Fuck is chafed skin, hidden liquid, violation, ceremony. The Fuck Word counts.


Samantha Steiner is a Fulbright Scholar and two-time Best of the Net nominee. Her 2019 essay “To the Current Tenant” appears in the print anthology Coffin Bell 2.2, and other works are published or forthcoming in The Emerson Review, Apple Valley Review, and The Citron Review. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Steiner_Reads.