“Harold” by Jonathan H. Scott

Harold (Eve with Cain)
“Eve with Cain” by Marilyn Sears Bourbon

I am born with my grandfather’s name,
A joy to break the fever
Of his death—
My mother’s mourning sweated
Of loss, delivery of me.

Me into the world of linens, a whiteness
Of nurses, of lilies, of sun-paled walls.

We are our tears—mother and me,
A weep, a wail,
At the first pang of a new death
In the distance, at the last expulsion
Of placenta.
Recovery is ours to begin.

She in sleep—replenishment.
Me in purple bouts of struggle.



Jonathan H. Scott lives in Birmingham, Alabama. His poetry and short-stories have been published in The Able Muse, Blood and Thunder, Hospital Drive, Measure, Muse and Stone, and others.

“Greenie” by Tessa Torgeson

“Mother and Child” by Marilyn Sears Bourbon

I am a terrible, obvious liar. My nose squiggles and my legs start to fidget. I feel like I’m about to implode. My cheeks are still chubby and rosy with childlike naiveté and sometimes older strangers pinch them.

So it is with truth I say I had been clean and sober for 89 days. But I let it all slip away from me. Because of my vulnerability, my thin skin and heavy heart, I felt the world’s pain as my own. In a flash of a moment, in a fraction of a fraction of a second, I forgot I cared about anything.

I left rehab that night in flames. My feet felt like phantom limbs. Floating on their own down seventh avenue, that pitch-black street with no streetlights even to illuminate or keep the street company. I knew better than to go down that street but I went anyway toward the seedy dive bar. The seedy dive bar alcoholic’s haven. People like us get looks at the bars normies hang out in. Normies are people that wait till after five to drink and enjoy the taste. At our joints, you feel no shame for dumping a bag of loose change on the counter with fingers crossed. You feel no shame if you just pawned your dead great grandmother’s sapphire engagement ring for booze money. You feel no shame if you tremble outside the storefront at 9:55 a.m., eagerly anticipating its opening. Shame vanishes after the first drop.

Vanishing. Next thing I knew, I was clutching a paper bag in that dark street. I hardly remembered if I paid. I’m sure the longhaired dude with a penchant for comic books was working. He stopped carding me long ago. I imagine my hands were shaking and he wondered why I hadn’t bought my medicine lately.

I floated on phantom limbs back to that alley. I ripped the fifth of Karkov because of the way it burned, because it ignited my throat like poison. I was trembling, barely able to hold my hands still. My fingers knew what to do but my body rejected it. I vomited bile. Goddammit, I wanted that blanket of intoxication to cover me. I chugged it. Then I was so consumed by crushing guilt, I swallowed a fistful of Ativans and Effexors. I took a razorblade to my wrists. My wrists became the canvas. My memory is in flashbulbs like the fluorescent lights with the whir of the ambulance whisking me off in the night. The ambulance is the stagecoach for alcoholics. We don’t lose a glass slipper. We lose our sanity.

The screeching sirens still burn in my nightmares and I wake up in a cold sweat, the blinding bright red and blue twisting and distorting into a fucked-up watercolor palate. My head spinning, brimming with chaos, I am in a stretcher again. A bright red wristband to warn others I was on a 72-hour hold for suicide watch.


In 403 B, I awake to the orchestral hums of the fluorescent lights and floor waxer. I expect a welcoming committee with clowns and fire-breathing dragons and balloons, but I roll over and realize by the cold sterility and lumps in the mattress that I’m lying in a hospital bed. They must have already given me Ativan because I feel like I’m tripping out of my mind. I think I see David Lee Roth over my bed shredding.

Instead I hear a soft, confident voice and feel the tightening of a blood pressure cuff like a noose to my arm.

“Hey, it’s Sandy I’ll be your C.N.A. tonight. Okay, I’m just gonna check your vitals and pump some more fluids into you.” Sandy looked to be a few years older than my mom. She had a weathered face with gentle blue eyes. I became aware of the acute stinging of the new IV in my hand.

“Your pulse is still 150, but the Ativan should help with your anxiety.”

I nodded. And tried to smile but then I remembered where I was (again) and couldn’t make my muscles move.

“It’ll be ok, just rest up. Anything I can get you?” Sandy asked.

I wanted to ask for my sanity back but my mouth was frozen. I really wanted home. I wanted home and it was impossible because I belonged nowhere. I asked her if my friends brought anything and she nodded. Before I could ask her to get it she was gone; she knew how much I needed home. She was gone like she knew where she was going. She held out my bright blue duffel bag. I found my blankie, greenie. In its shambles it was barely recognizable as a blanket. But it was my familiar. I reached for it.

“Sorry, but I can’t let you have that. It could be used in a way…” she trailed off. “Well in a way it shouldn’t be used here and it’s our policy.”

Tears rolled down my cheeks. I brushed them away with my sheet and offered a faint, “I understand.”

“I can cut you off a corner if you want,” she said. “Let me go do that for you.”

“Please? That’d be so…” I tried to let the words of gratitude come out but Sandy had already bustled down the hall. I clung to my greenie, my piece of home.



Tessa Torgeson lives in Fargo, North Dakota. She recently graduated with an English degree from NDSU and hopes to pursue her MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Her poetry has appeared in the Red Weather literary journal. Her blog can be found here.

Read an interview with Tessa here.

“I Dreamed Your Epic” by Gay Giordano

I Dreamed Your Epic (Whoops)
“Whoops” by Marilyn Sears Bourbon

Children roll out like oranges
from doorways,
you appear, neck slashed
by a red scarf.
Ugly matrons full of advice
yank their fleshy stockings by the band
then pour the principal’s coffee.

Your mother half expects you to have caught
your scarf in a wheel
garland of itchy regrets
her petticoats frozen
her hair stiff.
You retreat into your peel.
Poor little orange.

Your father comes home
throat stitched to his collar
gurgling into a martini
tossing olives at the dog.

That envelope in the attic, dust,
your father beating the days,
your dollhouse like ashes.
Everything is used, even the roses.

Your mother stares at the ceiling
listening to the house pleat.
She has only lent you her face,
yours is on tiptoe
waiting for an invitation.



Gay Giordano earned her BA from Carnegie Mellon University in creative writing and her MA in philosophy at The New School for Social Research. She has been published in Mudfish, Ghost Ocean Magazine, The Lullwater Review, Illya’s Honey, The South Carolina Review, The Oakland Review and other journals. She has been a resident at VCCA, The Martha’s Vineyard Writer’s Residency, the Banff Center for the Arts, Bennington College, and the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony. She lives in New York City with her husband, with whom she co- translates German-language plays and aphorisms.

Read our interview with Gay here.

“Heartbreaker” by Sue Staats

Heartbreaker (Let's Dance)
“Let’s Dance” by Marilyn Sears Bourbon

We stand on the sidewalk outside his house, watching his daughter, and my brother says every time I see her walking down the street it breaks my heart.

I can see why. It’s not a walk, really. It’s a lurch, a stagger, a shuffle.

His daughter is twenty-two. She broke his heart with joy when she was born and with fear when she was five days old and stopped breathing and again with terror when she had the surgery to fix that mis-made heart.

Since then, his own heart has been a construction zone: continuously broken and re-broken, patched together so many times it’s a bit misshapen. Yellow tape marked do not cross surrounds it: traffic cones warn of dangerous ground. Of holes. Of weakened areas.

She throws her long thin arms around me, cries when I arrive. She will cry when I leave. In her embrace, I watch my brother over her shoulder.  His light blue eyes are reflective, transparent, fractured in the sunlight.

My brother takes her to Pirates games. She loves baseball. He takes her to church. She stares into the high vaulted space with long-lashed brown eyes too far apart. Her mouth hangs open, her lips parted and loose, her teeth crowded.

He says close your mouth, sweetie and she does, pushing it shut with her long, lovely fingers.

There’s something I’d like to tell her about what she has done to her family. But she may already know. Or not. Who knows if it would matter.  Who knows what she knows of broken hearts, of disappointment. She doesn’t talk. It’s enough to break your heart.



Sue Staats recently received her MFA in Fiction from Pacific University. She’s currently revising her novella, The Mitchell Boys, and working on a collection of linked short stories. Her short story “No Hero, No Sharks” was runner-up for the 2011 Gulf Coast Prize in Fiction, a finalist for the 2011 Reynolds Price Fiction Award, and was published this past spring in The Farallon Review. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry have also been published in Susurrus, the literary journal of Sacramento City College. Her poetry was featured in the 2012  Sacramento Poetry Anthology and her short story “Marshmallow Empire” was a finalist for the 2013 Nisqually Prize for Fiction.

Read an interview with Sue here.

“Umbrella Mouth Gulper Eel” by Jamie McGraw

Umbrella Mouth (Escargot)
“Escargot” by Marilyn Sears Bourbon

Two nights ago my father found me

dead. My body formed like a metal scrap
malformed by extreme heat.
A beat of him in an ocher grave.

Outside a starling grappled with a whore of a bee.
Inside a syringe containing cotton shreds,
coagulated blood, bacteria, and smack
hugged my left forearm.


At age five I called ants my friends,
showed them my baby teeth collection.
They grew so fond of me,
learned it’s okay to lose things,
you’ll go right on living.


The day I died I studied photographs of deep-sea creatures:
megamouth sharks, fangtooths, vampire squids.
The most frightful ones filled with light.

They care not who sees their crookedness,
their orthodontic atrocities.
God damned them to the deep,
because they’re so damned ugly.

Not so unkind, though,
to be so deep in something
that God grants you your very own light.

Just so you can recall your body.
Just so you can remember
you exist.



Jamie McGraw lives in and sometimes leaves North Carolina. She is currently enrolled in Queens University of Charlotte’s MFA program. Previous work has been published in APA journal Families, Systems, and Health, Red Fez, and Beatdom. Her spirit animal is a lobster. Don’t ask. (Actually, no. Do. Do ask.)

Read an interview with Jamie here.

Homepage Winter 2013

Cover Image

Dear Readers,

Welcome to 2013, and welcome to our Winter “FRIENDS & FAMILY” issue. We’re proud to present an interesting and diverse array of voices and perspectives — about the families we are born into and the families we create, about the families we love (or love to hate).

Our illustrator is the talented and generous watermedia artist Marilyn Sears Bourbon who graciously allowed us to select from her body of creative work to illustrate this issue. If you like what you see, please visit her website here. And thanks again readers, for giving r.kv.r.y. a portion of your day; thank you writers, for continuing to trust us with your fine work; and thank you Al Gore for the Internet that made it all possible. Our upcoming themes will be Faith & Doubt (April), Sexuality (July), and Shipwrecked (October).

Yours in Recovery,

Mary Akers