This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from All Hat, No Cattle by Mariah Rigg, released by Bull City Press in 2023.
Six months later, I sit in your outdoor shower in Eugene with my arms around my knees, watching the leaves of the apple tree dance emerald in the sun’s last fingers. You stand behind me. My head rests on your thighs, the water flowing from you to me, warmed twice over by the heater and your body. It’s dirty, but it can’t be worse than our own piss, which we lay in for months, curled inside our mothers. I feel safest here, soaped in Dr. Bronner’s, the mint so sharp it burns my eyes. Suds pop in my ears and down my body, catch in the filth that sticks to the blooming lilies. Have you ever thought about how everything we think and feel right here and now has been thought and felt by someone else in this same place but in the past? I say yeah and you sigh, and I know you’re thinking of the who came girl before me. Do you ever think about how everything we’re thinking and feeling here and now is going to be thought and felt again by someone in the future? I say no, and mid-wash, your hands squeeze, spasm against my temples. I know you’re wondering who will shower here when you move. Above us, a vine crawls up the wall and twists into a canopy.
After a drunken night of fucking, I wash the dishes. The hardwood floor has bruised my knees, and the plates in the sink are crusted with the dried sauce of frozen pizza, dusted in the ashes of half-smoked, burnt-out joints. The last petals of June’s roses drop through the window’s glass. I smell the honey of the baklava you bought from the store on the corner, the sharp Parmesan you shred over spinach-swirled eggs. Fleetwood Mac is playing. I want to archive this moment, but I’m multitasking: thinking also of my best friend, Bri, who’s quarantined in DC. Two years ago, we spent St. Patrick’s Day dancing to this album. Bri belted along with Stevie on her roommate’s microphone—the same girl who’s now in Nashville making music. Back then she was in my creative writing class, where she sat next to me. I remember a story of hers about a blue light and a man who wouldn’t change. When the teacher read it, he cried. Here I am, in Eugene, trying to write something gut-punching, but mostly falling in love with the way you twist your hands and look at me after we’re done fucking, your face whispering I love you even as your mouth says That was fun. I wish I could blame you, but neither of us has learned how to say what we feel, and I know it’s easier to be in love with the memory of a person than with someone you have to leave. I put the last dish on the drying rack, and you kiss me. Up close, your eyes swirl like water just outside the reef, blue once the surf’s whitewash is good and settled. I wonder what you see when you look at me.
When you leave, I’ll try to be okay. I won’t wear deodorant for weeks, because you once told me not to, and supposedly it only takes fourteen days for your body not to stink. I’ll quit washing my hair and start smelling like you, of firewood and onions souring. I’ll ride my bike by this house and one night, when I’m sloshed with whiskey, I’ll sneak around back and pull apples from the tree. I’ll eat them in the dark, and when I go home, I’ll cook meat, scare my vegan roommate by grilling it to a char, but it’ll be better that way. Something chewed up and burnt inside me.
Mariah Rigg is a third-generation Samoan-Haole settler who grew up on the illegally-occupied island of Oʻahu. Her work has been published in Oxford American, The Cincinnati Review, Joyland, etc., and has been supported by VCCA, MASS MoCA, the Carolyn Moore Writers’ House, and Oregon Literary Arts. In 2023, Mariah’s chapbook, All Hat, No Cattle, was published as part of the Inch series at Bull City Press. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon and is a PhD candidate at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Along with being the fiction editor for TriQuarterly and senior creative nonfiction for Grist, A Journal of the Arts, she is currently an editorial intern at Tin House.
Sarah Clark is a mad crip genderfuck two-spirit enrolled Nanticoke editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor at ANMLY, Editor-in-Chief at ALOCASIA: a journal of queer plant-based writing, Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology (Seagull Books, 2024) and the Bettering American Poetry series, and a current Board member and Assistant Editor at Sundress Publications. They have edited folios for publications including the GLITTERBRAIN folio and a folio on Indigenous & Decolonial Futures & Futurisms at ANMLY. Sarah freelances, and has worked with a number of literary and arts publications and organizations, including the Best of the Net anthology, contemptorary, Curious Specimens, #PoetsResist at Glass Poetry, Apogee Journal, Blackbird, the Paris Review, and elsewhere.
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