online magazine for short, good writing

Month: March, 2012

5 Things You Should Read (Minor)

by a contributor

Kyle Minor

  1. Cataclysm Baby,” by Matt Bell – An apocalyptic abecedarium that is one part baby name registry, one part S. Thompson’s Index of Folk-Motifs, one part Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. It might also be effective birth control, if Uncle Sam has taken away all your other options.
  2. Against Specificity,” by Douglas Watson – “The trouble: You want Thing A but are stuck with Thing B.”
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody,” by Sara Faye Leiber – Bedbugs, body, books, Bohemia.
  4. Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, by Danielle Evans – Eight stories sure to bust up your heart.
  5. One Perfect Bird: Poems, by Letitia Trent – The poems in One Perfect Bird ride like a dirty living letter in a good, clean envelope. They are the silty Tang in our cups, the color of the hunters’ vests like ribbons through the birches as they searched our forest for any rusty bursts of blood. They are primarily poltergeists; mesh net masks and subtly singing beards, bee bodies slipping from their chins like honey. If it’s true that I lifted all these lines of praise from the lines in Letitia Trent’s poems—and it is true—then who could blame me? For the lyricism required to describe them, I can’t better their maker. No one could.

Kyle Minor is the author of In the Devil’s Territory, a collection of stories. Recent work appears in Gulf CoastThe Southern Review, and Best American Mystery Stories 2008. Follow him on Twitter.


by a contributor

Ariana Nadia Nash

In the shoebox room she sits on the edge of his bed and slides her back to rest against his side.  As she talks, her hands trace small galaxies.  Silk skin distracts her as he touches her hand and she twists down to him, swizzling stick to rest on his shoulder.  He wraps his arm around her; her hands dance his geography.  Their legs double-decker sandwich.  They dissolve into talking then touching.  Talking.  Touching.  Sometimes not listening, she just watches the blueberry line on his lip.  And she’s an ice cube thinking he doesn’t know her, thinking her touch could be a reed whip, and she puts her ear to his chest, listen to his heart beatbox.


Not when I’m sick, he says, pulling his blue-line lips away from her threatening pucker, throwing back shaggy hair.  Biting lips into scarecrow line he shakes no.  She figure-eights her legs around his legs, her fingers around his neck, slow, seducing.  She goblets his chin, diving to drink.  He pulls away.  Her stomach coils.  Fine.  She squats beside her bag, shoveling herself from his floor into small compartments.  She turns to see fingers reaching and she’s a magnet, kissing his shoulder for forgiveness.  Then pulling away and back to the middle of the floor.  She’s inside herself—shut music box—saying goodnight.


Where his sweet raw lips and tongue are, she can taste tart blueberry.  They are lying, rooting into each other.  His arm vines her waist, squeezing skin to skin.  Her arm pursuing his, holding him holding her.  When he inches his fingers towards her chest, she holds her breath until contact and exhales in a stutter.  Silk moving slowly, pressure so slight she could scream.

Ariana Nadia Nash is the winner of the 2011 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry for her first book Instructions for Preparing Your Skin. Her chapbook, Our Blood Is Singing, is forthcoming from Damask Press. She is the recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and a MacDowell Colony residency. Her work can be found in Rock & SlingMain Street Rag, and The Mom Egg, among other journals.

See also: A History of Remembering, and Ariana’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

5 Things You Should Read (Nash)

by a contributor

from Ariana Nash, author of A History of Remembering and Presentiment:

  1. Ai’s Cruelty – Ai’s first book of poetry and probably her best. Her short persona poems are sharp as a knife, and aesthetisize pain like no other poet I’ve read.
  2. Russell Edson’s The Tunnel – A collection of Edson’s selected poems. His prose poems are crucial examples for anyone interested in the form. Strange fables and surreal fantasies, Edson’s metaphors transcend meaning and become imaginative transformation, an idea which drives my current work.
  3. Albert Goldbarth’s Budget Travel through Space and Time – Goldbarth is one of the most prolific poets alive, and every poem he writes is a wildly spinning galaxy of anecdote, observation, insight, and image. This was the first book I read by him, and it has remained my favorite.
  4. Sabrina Orah Mark’s Tsim Tsum – Mark is the youngest poet on this list, and Tsim Tsum is her second and latest book. Her poems are whimsical and bizarre, yet emotional too. Like Edson, she writes entirely in prose poems, and like Edson, the poems seem to value possibility and strangeness over meaning.
  5. Joan Murray’s Looking for the Parade – Murray inhabits each poem in this book with a gentle wisdom and a wry sense of humor. Her easy grace is so inspiring to me.

A History of Remembering

by a contributor

Ariana Nadia Nash

A lonely woman loved a wall, and the bricks left her lips bleeding.

The tortured man traveled for days with burnt skin along a river, slipping along the soft mud banks, scanning the trees for snakes, finally escaping.

A family became a forest.

A silk-skinned woman loved a silk-skinned man but he slipped through her fingers.

A husband, hoping to atone, kept asking his wife if she wanted more logs for the fire.

Childhood friends raced up oak trees to stare over the canopy at the height of the blazing world.

A stone-faced father sat very still and became a boulder.

The friends grew apart, and lived always half-forgetting the other.

A lonely woman loved a spoon, until she broke it rapping her knuckles.

A family became a lit match in the forest they had been.

A boulder realized he was alone and slowly crumbled.

A dying mother cried across continents and so a son came to pray over her body before it burned.

Learning that her skin was like the ocean, the silk-skinned woman rocked herself to sleep.

A child thought that some days the sun left the sky but no one would tell her where it went.

Covering herself in velvet cloth and velvet night, the widow climbed the trellis to her roof where she stood for years with her toes at the eave.

A silk-skinned woman painted her body—one creature for every man she’d loved, and a dragon at her back for her father.

A family became a gondola and the singer in that gondola, poling the water at sunrise.

A widow rose like smoke into the forgiving night after waiting cloaked so long on her roof.

A man three times divorced wrote about roses.

A family became a fish.

By chance the friends one day met and remembered the other again, and placed that sadness with the others they had bound in leather and collected on shelves, and took down some days to read.

A child thought that some days the sun left the sky and so she left the earth to find where the sun went when it left the sky.

He thought he had escaped, but the tortured man never forgot the sound of his own overgrown nails on metal.

A family became a fisherman that caught the fish they used to be.

A lonely woman loved a window and built a seat so she could sit forever and stare through the eyes of her beloved.

Ariana Nadia Nash is the winner of the 2011 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry for her first book Instructions for Preparing Your Skin. Her chapbook, Our Blood Is Singing, is forthcoming from Damask Press. She is the recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and a MacDowell Colony residency. Her work can be found in Rock & SlingMain Street Rag, and The Mom Egg, among other journals.

See also: Ariana’s prose poem Presentiment and her list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

5 Great Slacker Novels (Lichtman)

by Treehouse Editors

Johannes Lichtman

Adam Wilson’s hilarious debut novel Flatscreen (2012) follows Eli Schwartz, a young movie-loving slacker who decides to forgo college to stay at home with his mother. Problem: Eli’s mother soon sells their home to a wheelchair-bound, Oxy-snorting actor, and moves to Florida to be with her new boyfriend, Jeff Goldblum (not the actor). Tom Perrotta called Flatscreen “The slacker novel to end all slacker novels,” which is a bit of an exaggeration, but he did make this declaration in blurb-form, and recent years have demonstrated how out of control that can get.

Wilson’s clipped deadpan makes his novel, though not the slacker novel to end all slacker novels, still a pretty damn good read. Eli describes his first sexual encounter in recent memory like so: “She smelled like my mother’s perfume. Bit my earlobe, guided me inside her with her hand. Sheets were soft. I estimated thread count, ejaculated immediately.”

Here are five other great books about slackers.

Pride and Prejudice (1813): Elizabeth Bennet—eloquent, intelligent, strong-willed, and charming as she is—isn’t your prototypical slacker. But over the course of the novel, she doesn’t do much but take walks, write letters, and converse. Yet like any great slacker protagonist, she manages to make these idle activities totally fascinating.

Lucky Jim (1954): Kingsley Amis’ finest novel, which follows a self-destructive, sardonic, disinterested college professor, set the stage for great college campus novels in years to come, like Richard Russo’s Straight Man and Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys. It also features “the best hangover scene ever written.”

Jesus’ Son (1992): In the short story “Work,” from the middle section of Denis Johnson’s seminal book, Fuckhead says, “Usually we felt guilty and frightened, because there was something wrong with us, and we didn’t know what it was; but today we had the feeling of men who had worked.” The “work” that Fuckhead, a heroin addict, and his alcoholic friend Wayne have just completed is stealing the copper wire from an old house. In addition to writing one of the most kickass books ever, Denis Johnson made a great cameo in the movie version as the guy with the knife in his face.

Out of Sheer Rage (1998): “My greatest urge in life is to do nothing,” Geoff Dyer admits near the end of his memoir of not writing a biography of D.H. Lawrence. Dyer perfectly describes the agony of writing and of slackerdom in general when he writes, “It’s not even an absence of motivation I lack, for I do have a strong urge: to do nothing…Except I know that if I do that I will fall into despair.”

The Epicure’s Lament (2004): “The beauty of human existence is the control we exert over our surroundings,” says Hugo Whittier, the cigarette-smoking, Montaigne-reading, misanthropic foodie at the center of Christensen’s funniest novel. “Nature is only attractive to me insofar as I can mow, cook, kill, or change its components to my liking.” Unfortunately for Hugo, his cloistered existence is interrupted when his brother shows up in the wake of a divorce wanting to stay with Hugo and talk about his problems. Hugo is not enthusiastic: “The lascivious pleasure I derive from phrases such as ‘mercurial quiddity’ might possibly be all that prevents me now from flinging myself downstairs to beat my brother about the face and neck with my bare hands, shouting invectives and heartfelt pleas to go away.”

Johannes Lichtman is the acting mother goose to the Treehouse gaggle. His work has been published or is forthcoming in The Oxford American and Barrelhouse. Online work can be found here, here, and here.

5 Things You Should Read (Crouch)

by a contributor

from Michelle E. Crouch, author of  Step 9: A Misinterpretation:

  1. This poem, commonly referred to as “For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry.” It’s actually a fragment of a much longer work called Jubilate Agno, which Christopher Smart composed from 17591763 while in a London insane asylum. I find myself using the phrase “spraggle to the waggle of command” much more often than you might think possible.
  2. The Collected Short Stories of Lydia Davis. She is my short fiction hero, and also my long fiction hero for her beautiful translation of Swann’s Way.
  3. Inferno (a poet’s novel) by Eileen Myles. Loosely structured around Dante’s Inferno, this memoir/novel about New York City in the 20th century, poetry, and sexuality deserves to be at least as widely read as Patti Smith’s Just Kids.
  4. “The Library of Babel” by Jorge Luis Borges. Fun fact: I am a trained librarian/archivist, and conceiving of the universe as a giant mystical library pleases me deeply.
  5. The essays “Hatchet Piece: 101 Things I Hate” and “Puff Piece: 101 Things I Love” from Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters. As he says in the latter, “I’m so lucky to be having a happy childhood as an adult.” I think more writers should think that way.

Step 9: A Misinterpretation

by a contributor

Michelle E. Crouch

Melissa, I’m sorry I said you couldn’t come to my sixth birthday party. And Miss Massenberg of Lacey Elementary, I’m sorry you had to deal with the fallout.

Old guy from church with the tracheotomy, I’m sorry I laughed when you talked through your voicebox. I thought you were a ventriloquist.

Ben Thompson of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I’m sorry I danced with Matt instead of you for the last slow song at the end-of-summer-camp dance. Fifteen years later and I still remember your last name and hometown, not his.

[Note: there will be no more apologies concerning romantic or sexual matters, as they all follow BASICALLY THE EXACT SAME PATTERN]

Well, one more: C.H., sorry I told you I was coming back.

One last one: S. and other unknown and unknowable women, I’m sorry I fucked your boyfriends. I hope you found out and dumped them??

I’m sorry I picked flute instead of percussion in middle school band.

I’m sorry I took French instead of Spanish.

Kristy, I’m sorry I ever met you. But it’s cool. Whatever.

Andy Shapiro, I’m sorry I puked in your guitar case. But I am not sorry I snapped your Led Zeppelin CD in half.

To all of my roommates from 2004 to 2011, I’m sorry I didn’t do the dishes.

Mom, I’m sorry I was ever afraid of turning into you because you are totally awesome.

Dad – sorry, I wasn’t listening.

To my sister, sorry I always made you be a cat or a dog when the rest of us were playing house, or mountain climbers, or psychiatric ward.

To my brother, I’m sorry in advance that I will probably need to borrow money from you one day.

I’m sorry, everyone who met me before I was twenty-five, that I didn’t start seeing a shrink until I was twenty-five.

I’m sorry for the great self-immolation of 2003.

I’m sorry, I tried, I just don’t really like Bob Dylan.
I’m sorry, I tried, I just fucking hate Cat Stevens.

Dana, I’m sorry I poured a beer on you, even if you were performing a dis rap about my friend. I could have taken the high road.

Alex, Alice, Amanda, Angela, Annie, Arpy, Ben, Ben, Ben, Caleb, Carol, Caroline, Christian, Dan, Emily, Eric, Joe, John, Josh, Kevin, Lilli, Lisa, Michelle, Nan, Nick, Nick, Palmer, Tev, Toby, Tut – I’m sorry I suck at keeping in touch.

Ben K, I’m extra sorry. We miss you.

I’m sorry I missed all your birthday parties, goodbye parties, welcome home parties, dinner parties, dance parties, book parties, gallery openings, concerts, and readings.

I’m sorry I let you down,
I’m sorry I didn’t write back,
I’m sorry I am selfish
I’m sorry
I love you
I’m sorry

Michelle E. Crouch is one of the co-founders of APIARY Magazine. Her writing has appeared in The Indiana ReviewThe Journal of Information Ethics, and various places online (links to which can be found at She is currently an MFA candidate at UNC Wilmington.

See Michelle’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.