Back to Issue Thirty-Three



Bright against the tiki bar’s
dark wood, a tiny ocean
sloshes inside. Technically

a summation of all sounds
perpetrated in the bar
scrambles to a wash of echoes

intimating waves—a wide lonely
pressed to one’s ear, the finely furred
tunnel twisting into the brain.

Among the stuff the conch hears
and, by hearing, erases:

I bet you still on
Mommy’s credit card, the man
says to him. Sucklin’ them fat teats.

Can’t even help yourself
she taste so good...

Compartments. Rooms inside rooms. Inside
his chest thrums
the dumbest song. The song is

tequila. He was feeling on edge.
He was drinking not
at all because of what the man

makes him remember—

a basement bedroom. He is lying in bed. It’s dark except for the blacklight in which glows,
tacked to the wall, a felt poster of a black panther, yellow eyes, open jaw. Bamboo beads for a
door trickle like rain as they split. His mother, wasted, her nightgown halfway down her
shoulders, her chest. Her nipple, the shape, the dim color in the doorway, the beads behind. She
does not come closer. She says something he can’t decipher. He stares at the panther’s teeth. She
speaks. The world gets trapped inside.

In the bar, he smashes the conch across the man’s unbearable mouth.



Python with a Dog Inside It


Poor dog. Chained to the pine behind the camper RV
where else could it go but in?
                                                   White barb. Placental speckle
unwriggling. & the elastic ligament that walks
the skull, unhinged,
over the dog’s tufty head, neck, torso, tail.

There could be Heaven in there.

Pleasure in adrenaline, pleasure in uncoiling
the grip. Pulsed bristles, halogen
leaking from the vacant bocce courts...

But the chain yanks back—tangled around the dog
already in the throat’s long slink. & because
the dog, wet, fetal, slides

head-first in, the python with no mechanism
for revision
                       is tethered to what it did,
& to the pine whose fan of roots
anchors it to ground, the dog to it.

Everything wears its consequence, extending
beyond itself the visible.
This is what we see.

Pattered mud. Metal bowl, tipped over. Film of water
glinting white. Crisscrossing
                                       spike-like shadows
darkening toward morning’s old man, the machete
he’ll bring, not yet.
All night—

the other world
chained to this world

by its stuff: a dog, a chain, a pine, a python.


Max McDonough lives and works in New York City. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in T Magazine, AGNI, Food52, Best New Poets, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. You can find him online at


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