Back to Issue Eighteen.



“All I remember is a gush of wind, and then the sound. Leo, who was standing next to me, wasn’t standing next to me. He was off to the side,”

–Mark McNitt reporting what he remembers after Adacia Chambers crashed her car into a crowd of people at Oklahoma State University’s Homecoming Parade on October 24, 2015, killing four and injuring forty-four.

Do you know that people died? As a child, I believed
a floating pinpoint of dust was so relative I cried

and kicked when it faded. Close as possible, my eye

must have seemed to the mote’s microscopic lives
like a blinking satellite reentering at night.

Do you understand what you’ve done? Her answer is not

a house but its doors. (The distance between
beginning and end is a formless, unpredictable matter.)

Do you understand what has happened? Her chest fills

with baths burning to white. A family dog sleeps
through the day, and the moon in a hungry haze opens

the fridge for some milk. The moon, the dog,

and the family who won’t come home tonight
huddle closer and closer in aperture like an exit wound.

Do you understand you hurt a lot of people?  Her hand

is a bandaged bomb. A burst fist gripped by little dolls,
stuffed bears in chairs, the mutt in his rescuing kingdom.

Do you understand why you’re here? Her answer is not

a room but its walls blown down, the air-born rubble
elided with light and twinkling as though America

from space. If I move close enough now to the lit image

of my country in that arrested moment of orbit,
I see only its beginning and ending.

Do you understand what you’ve done? Her answer is not

a place but its entity trying to find a word for time
when dropped as though ink into that inevitable proximity.

Most recently a finalist for the 2016 Four Way Books Intro Prize, the Akron University Book Prize, and the University of Wisconsin Press’s Brittingham and Pollack Book Prizes, Melissa Cundieff-Pexa received an MFA in poetry from Vanderbilt University. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in places such as Best of the Net, Ninth Letter, Four Way Review, Linebreak, Mid-American Review, Bat City Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review. She lives with her family in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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