The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Geographies of the Heart by Caitlin Hamilton Summie


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Geographies of the Heart by Caitlin Hamilton Summie, released by Fomite Press in 2022.

Whole New Worlds
Sarah
December 1995

(excerpt)

My grandfather saw the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution. He stared from the deck of the U.S.S. Greenlet toward the thin strip of land that was the shore, and he thinks he saw puffs of smoke, the distant beginnings of a new war as the other died. His ship was outside Vladivostok. He was 15, and now, at 92, he isn’t sure he remembers what happened in Vladivostok correctly. His memory slips. He calls me by my mother’s name. He lies in his bed in the nursing home, voice thin as paper, and whispers pieces of stories. I try to catch them. I catch what I can. I create our history out of the pieces, pick them up, fit them together. Puffs of smoke.

I’m sitting in the gray half-light of early morning, alone. Just like Grandpa, I can’t think clearly. He’s looking back; me, forward. Try not to look at the borders, at the possibilities, I tell myself. They are boundaries into whole new worlds.

Grandpa lied about his age to get into WWI, running down to enlist with his buddy Jimmy Kantor before either of their mothers could stop them. Later, he insisted the Navy find him a place in WWII, even though he was considered too old. In my own life, I have never known such courage, and rarely such clarity.

The kitchen is cold, and I’m wearing my favorite wool sweater and a long flannel nightgown, the same outfit I wore yesterday, and the day before. I couldn’t sleep, and I slid out from underneath the heavy weight of Al’s arm and came downstairs. I stole his fuzzy bear paw slippers to wear, and each step I made on the hardwood floors sounded like I was being hushed, from restlessness to calm. Upstairs, Al snores softly. He’s sound asleep, head under his pillow, arm thrown over mine.

“I can’t believe you two planned a vacation in Iowa,” Mom had said. I called her last week to let her know we’d be out of town, to ask her to feed the cat. Alber hates to be alone. If somebody doesn’t come over and lavish him with praise on a regular basis, he’ll take revenge on the plants.

“We’re staying in an old farmhouse,” I said.

“Where else would you be staying?” Mom paused. “Whose idea was this?”

“Al’s.” I felt the conversation degenerating. “Mom,” I said. “We just want to get away for a while.”

“Oh, trust me, you will.”

We rented the house for the days before New Year’s, hoping to escape into a quiet and calm that the previous months had not allowed. I had a feeling then, in the way planning the trip made Al more buoyant, in the way he crossed days off on his calendar, that for him the vacation meant more than escaping a trying three or four months. Last week, when I wasn’t looking, the box with my grandmother’s wedding ring disappeared from the top of my dresser, and now, almost through our vacation, packing to leave, I wait for him to give it back to me.

The Realtor reminded us the amenities were few, just before we signed the rental contract for one of the few properties that fit his budget.

“No coffee pot,” she said, raising a penciled brown eyebrow, gauging our response. Her name was Mrs. Swenson, and she had an office right down the road from Al’s office at the university. Mrs. Swenson wore a bright red jacket and gold earrings. She smoked thin cigarettes.

“No coffee pot?” she said, and her voice rose at the end. We stared at her blankly.

“No washer and dryer.” Again, the eyebrow went up, and again, we were silent. “No shower,” Mrs. Swenson continued, “only a bathtub.”

Al leaned forward. He smiled. He said, “Does it have toilet?” The eyebrow stayed up. “Yes,” she said.

“Inside?”

“Yes.”

“Then we’re dandy.”

I had watched Al sign the contract, his hand gliding over the page.

It seemed so easy, being definite.

This morning, when I put a kettle on, blue flame hissed and sprang from the burner, and there was something beautiful about it in the darkness. Outside, for miles, the view is of snow and trees. There are no lights lining any highway, no garbage truck that thunders past, flashing yellow lights across the ceiling, nobody telling me that what my ads really need are borders to give them a little pep. Out here, lost in the long land that is farmland, I sit at a kitchen table of solid maple, and drink tea that is hot and strong. Later, I’ll drive down a dirt road, bump along until I reach pavement, and then glide past field after field, just for the fun of it, just to feel open space, wide open space, like I haven’t felt for a long time.

“Will you feed Alber?” I finally asked my mother when we spoke on the phone last week. Lately, we’ve communicated by telephone, sending ourselves from one side of Minneapolis to the other, over the snowy roads we refuse to traverse, over the long gray landscape of winter.

“I’ll even take him for walks,” she had said.

I doubted Alber could make it more than two yards, but I didn’t say so. Alber could use exercise, like Al. They’re a pair. They stretch out on the couch together and watch college football on fall Saturdays. On occasion, I’ve even seen Al slip Alber a victory potato chip when the Gophers scored.

“What’s happening?” Mom asked. “You’re planning to quit your job, now you’re enamored of Iowa.”

I knew she was joking, but underneath the joke, she didn’t under- stand. For months now, Al has been like a signal man on a Navy ship who waves flags at boats on the horizon. The signals are sometimes subtle, sometimes not and then must be decoded, but the message is clear. Where will we spend the holidays next year? How do I feel about the ring my grandmother gave me, her ring, the ring she has slipped off her finger already, for me, now? That’s what he asked me when I brought it home and showed it to him in October, placed on a white cloth in a small white box. He asked, “Is that the one you want?” I think, being honest with myself, which sometimes is hard for me to do, that Al was willing to wait for me until he started hanging out with my Grandpa. Al’s signaling started with Grandpa, who has decided I need to hurry up so he can be here to see it all. Al’s signals are like the smoke in Vladivostok that warned Grandpa at age fifteen that something was beginning, something big.


Caitlin Hamilton Summie founded Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, LLC, an independent book publicity and marketing firm, in 2003. Over the course of her career, in-house and solo, she has launched Susan Vreeland, Emily St. John Mandel, William Gay, Kim Church, Bren McClain, and many more. Her short story collection, To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts (Fomite Press, 2017) won The Phillip H. MacMath Post-Publication Book Award, Silver in the Foreword INDIES Books of the Year Awards in Short Stories, and was a June 2018 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Bonus Book. Her first novel, Geographies of the Heart, (Fomite Press, 2022) was a Pulpwood Queen Book Club Bonus Book in January 2022 and a finalist in the Indie Next Generation Book Award for General Fiction.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Geographies of the Heart by Caitlin Hamilton Summie


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Geographies of the Heart by Caitlin Hamilton Summie, released by Fomite Press in 2022.

Cleaning House
Sarah
October 1995

(excerpt)

“You need to learn to accept a few things,” Grandma says to me now. “I need to accept some things, too. One of them is that I’m here. You need to accept that we are going to die.”

She catches me unprepared. “I know that,” I say, and my voice sounds light, surprised.

“No, you don’t.”

“Grandma, I understand.”

Grandma shakes her head. She slumps back into her chair. “If you knew that, you’d listen.”

I’m afraid to reply, so I sit and wait for her to speak. Grandpa’s hands still spasm, and I stare at them, wanting them to stop, afraid that they will. Grandma seems to know where my gaze falls.

“You do what he does,” Grandma says. “You turn off when you don’t want to talk. You turn away.”

Grandma lifts herself out of her chair part way, pauses, then sits back down. I try to help, but she’s too heavy. I press the call button.

She swats Grandpa’s feet. “Wake him up.”

I hesitate.

“Wake him up.” She raises her voice, and I lean over and tap Grandpa awake, tap until his eyes open slowly, and he looks at me.

“Tell him I’m giving you the gift now. Tell him not to turn off.”

“What gift?”

“The gift we’re giving you. Don’t argue.”

She presses a buzzer near her chair. Soon Kirsten knocks on the door, then comes inside. Without a word, she lifts Grandma from the chair and sets her walker in front of her. Grandma leans heavily on it. After Kirsten leaves, Grandma walks slowly over to her dresser drawer and pulls out a box.

Grandpa shakes his head. “I told her you wouldn’t want this,” he says. “I don’t want her to do it.”

Grandma grips the box in her hand, turns, and I’m shocked that she lets me guide her.

I think about ritual, about the passing on of china, of linen, of antique furniture. To me, family history is made up of stories more than material goods, and the thought of wanting something, of saying, yes, I’d like the china, seems crude. I want the stories. I want connec- tions, and the rituals that forged them, like Grandpa and Grandma’s October favorite anniversary meal (beef stew and biscuits), Dad playing Santa each Christmas, my annual snow fight with Glennie. I want only to remember. I can’t believe that one day she’ll be gone; that Grandpa will be gone; that I’ll turn from the stove on Thanksgiving, turn from stirring the gravy, and not see them waiting at the table to taste; that I’ll walk down the aisle, one day, far away, and they will not be sitting in the front pews; that their stories are ones soon I will tell, and never as well.

“Here,” Grandma says, having returned to her seat and taken a breath. She thrusts the box at me, and when I hesitate to take it, she nudges my hand with it. “This is for you.”

I take the box. It’s made of a rough, hard material, and the white has yellowed.

“I’m not giving you the china.”

I stare at her.

“I’m giving it to Glennie. She likes it. She might use it. You won’t.” I smile, but I don’t feel much like laughing. Grandma smiles at me, too, and her smile is a steady one, determined. “I’m also giving you my tea towels,” she said. “You make more messes.”

I laugh, and the laugh is like a bubble, and it lets the tears loose.

“Just keep one or two nice,” Grandma says. “Keep the ones with my good embroidery for nice.”

Grandpa clasps his hands together as if he’s praying, and his hands still shake. Grandma waits for me to open my box. Inside, on a piece of soft, old white rag, is her wedding band. It’s dark in spots and needs a good rubbing clean, but it is there, with sixty-one years of marriage wound around it, slightly tarnished, but still holding firm.

I can’t touch it. I just stare at it. I raise the box in the air, hoping Grandpa will see the motion, and he does. His eyes follow my hands. He takes a deep breath.

“That,” Grandma says, sounding triumphant, “you will use.”

I give Grandma a kiss, then Grandpa. He holds my hand and whispers in dulcet tones, “I didn’t want her to do this yet. I wanted her to have it all her life.”

I say thank you, but my voice cracks, and I’m not sure he hears. “Whenever you’re ready, you use that,” Grandma says. “He’s mad,

but I want you to have it now, when we’re able to give it. He’ll talk to me soon. He’ll talk to me.”

I leave the ring in the box and slide the cover back down. I sit with them silently for a long time in the room that is not their home, in the place that is temporary and cold, and watch as the last light slips in a breath from the sky and the deep darkness seeps in, as winter takes over. Grandma eases herself back into her chair, and Grandpa, wide awake in the growing darkness, trembles. I tremble, too. Only Grandma is calm. Only Grandma is at peace. Only she is ready.


Caitlin Hamilton Summie founded Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, LLC, an independent book publicity and marketing firm, in 2003. Over the course of her career, in-house and solo, she has launched Susan Vreeland, Emily St. John Mandel, William Gay, Kim Church, Bren McClain, and many more. Her short story collection, To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts (Fomite Press, 2017) won The Phillip H. MacMath Post-Publication Book Award, Silver in the Foreword INDIES Books of the Year Awards in Short Stories, and was a June 2018 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Bonus Book. Her first novel, Geographies of the Heart, (Fomite Press, 2022) was a Pulpwood Queen Book Club Bonus Book in January 2022 and a finalist in the Indie Next Generation Book Award for General Fiction.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Geographies of the Heart by Caitlin Hamilton Summie


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Geographies of the Heart by Caitlin Hamilton Summie, released by Fomite Press in 2022.

Disconnected
Sarah
Fall 1994

(excerpt)

On their first date, Sarah wore jeans and a red sweater, to catch the auburn color in her hair. No make-up. She usually wore some, but not then. She didn’t want to. She just wanted to be herself.

She’d met Al in the library early in the week, in an unusually long line for reference help. After chatting about the wait and the weather, and just before she stepped up for her turn, he’d invited her out for a coffee at the Campus Cup.

The Campus Cup was just shy of being a dump, but students and faculty alike loved it, the lumpy chairs and scratched tables and maroon curtains, pulled back now to let in the last of the late afternoon light. The Cup served coffee or tea in mismatched saucers and cups, and there was no background music, just the hum of conversation. Sarah loved the Cup, and she often squirreled up there with books and tea at her favorite table in the corner by the front window, if she could get it. On rare occasions, she’d bump into her younger sister, Glennie, but Glennie most often studied in the library and only popped in to fuel up. She never lingered, so Sarah thought of The Campus Cup as her place. For Al to suggest it gave her confidence in him, even if it was a logical choice.

She saw Al now, half-standing up from his chair, waving, blushing. He was as she remembered, with his Scandinavian white-blond hair, the blue eyes, those dimples. He was tallish and on the heavy side, not that she was petite, and she was grateful they’d be sitting down. It would be easier to look him in the eye.

When she reached his table, Al held out her chair. Who did that besides her Grandpa? The gesture charmed her, and Sarah smiled her thanks. They smoothly navigated the awkward subject of who was paying. Sarah imagined that any offer to treat would be waved away and asked for a coffee but declined his offer of a cookie. Lately she had been eating too many of those, as the stress of her final semester took its toll, but the stress was less from schoolwork than her job search, which hadn’t yet yielded any results.

Settled later, after making a careful landing with their blue cups and red saucers, Al looked at her brightly, quickly glanced away, then looked back. And just as quickly, a scruffy, gaunt young man appeared, pausing to readjust his heavy backpack as he passed their table. At least that’s what Sarah thought until he lifted his hand in a half-hearted wave.

“Hi, John,” Al said. “John, this is Sarah.”

She held out her hand, and John stared at it, then shook it more forcefully than necessary, as if to make up for his not having understood what to do with it in the first place.

“I just wanted to let you know that I read the book you suggested. I didn’t, uh, I didn’t agree. With some things,” John said. His voice was soft, and he seemed nervous, taking his time getting his words out and fiddling with his backpack strap, but Al never interrupted or tried to fill in his words for him.

When it was clear that John was done speaking, Al said, “I’d love to know what you thought of it. Do you want to come to my office hours tomorrow?”

John nodded. “Okay. I’ll come by. Not this week. Maybe next week.”

“Looking forward to it.”

John nodded again and hoisted his backpack higher on his shoulder. “Okay,” he said, and with a glance back at Sarah, “Bye.” But he didn’t leave.

“I’m glad you stopped,” Al said, smiling.

And then, still nodding, John left, bumping people with his backpack as he passed, apologizing his way out the door.

The exchange was painful to watch, and Sarah admired Al’s patience. Or maybe, she thought, it was actually kindness.

“Are you a professor?”

“Almost. I’m a Ph.D. student in the Religion Department. How about you?”

“I’m a marketing major. I graduate this December, so I’m in the middle of a job search.”

She took a sip of her coffee. “Why religion?”

“I’ve always been interested in it. I was like John. I read a lot when I was young. It’s hard for me to explain, but I’m interested in its role in people’s lives. Maybe in redemption, or the hope of it.”

“Redemption? All I want to do is sell Cheerios or something,” Sarah chuckled.

“I get this question a lot, but I don’t really have a great answer. I think I’m still figuring it out myself. It’s why the B.A. became an M.A. and is now a Ph.D.”

Something about his truth nagged her, perhaps because she was ready to move on in her own life. She wanted to be solid, set, ready, employed. “I thought when we graduated, we were automatically adults.” Her tone was light, but his reply, when it came, was pensive.

“Adulthood is hard.”

“Well, spare me some pain. What’s hardest?”

“Making friends,” Al said, blushing again. “It’s hard to make friends without classes and dorms and parties. Where do you meet people, you know? And I’m not even talking about dates. I mean friends. How often can you go hang out with people in the department? Even if your old friends are still your friends, you want to meet new people, too.”

And that’s when something recalibrated for Sarah, made her tilt her head and begin to listen with the same care Al had listened to John.


Caitlin Hamilton Summie founded Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, LLC, an independent book publicity and marketing firm, in 2003. Over the course of her career, in-house and solo, she has launched Susan Vreeland, Emily St. John Mandel, William Gay, Kim Church, Bren McClain, and many more. Her short story collection, To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts (Fomite Press, 2017) won The Phillip H. MacMath Post-Publication Book Award, Silver in the Foreword INDIES Books of the Year Awards in Short Stories, and was a June 2018 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Bonus Book. Her first novel, Geographies of the Heart, (Fomite Press, 2022) was a Pulpwood Queen Book Club Bonus Book in January 2022 and a finalist in the Indie Next Generation Book Award for General Fiction.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier


This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier, released by Texas A&M University Press in 2021.

For My Lover, Returning to Her Husband

               After Anne Sexton
He is all there.
Disney promises,
fairy tales,
a cameo carved out of soap.

He has always been there.
Buff and bench-pressed,
primped, posed,
safe under glass.

I was an indulgence.
Cashmere draped across your thighs,
brownie binge after years of salad,
sweet cling peaches in February.

His piece fits your puzzle,
a perfect match. You see
to the girls, the dog,
the job, the mop,

he writes checks
that buy the best,
orders the chaos
you call your life,

marked by a Swiss watch
that minds minutes,
but not children
he seeded—

round and female,
your body filled with life
he put there,
cocky as God.

I give you back.
I give you permission—
for the lava inside him,
spewing on your thighs,

for the coward in him,
the drinker, the liar,
the teller of secrets
who wanted to watch,
for the pale scar on his nose,
for the prize that is his face,
for his strong man’s arms
and seven white shirts,

for the vasectomy,
for the caretaker in you
who will consider compromise
when he burrows beneath you

and tugs on the brown
ribbons of your hair
to tie you up, tie you
to him, captive.

Caridad Moro-Gronlier is the author of Tortillera (TRP 2021), winner of The TRP Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series and the chapbook Visionware (FLP 2009). She is a Contributing Editor for Grabbed: Poets and Writers Respond to Sexual Assault (Beacon Press, 2020) and Associate Editor for SWWIM Every Day, an online daily poetry journal.

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.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier


This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier, released by Texas A&M University Press in 2021.

That Night at the Rack ’Em Room

She talked me into a pool hall
strung out on tequila and cafecito
a gang of troubadours singing her praises
Damn, baby, you so fine!
as we walked in.

And she was. The kind of girl
who could get away
with Brazilian jeans.

I was coming off a bed-rest pregnancy—
skin stretched soft and loose
a half-racked game,
but with her, I felt bold
and pliable, shards of never-say-
never stuck in my throat.

I wasn’t good at geometry,
how to control the crash
of the cue ball, the candy-coated orbs
that scattered into constellations
across the felt, but she kissed me
for luck and took her shot,
all angles and elbows,
taking them down
with a click of the stick,
the suckers who lined up
just to watch her
bend over that table,
hair blazing a trail

toward the sun that rose
out of the low-slung horizon
of her waistline, a single dot
that chased its tail into a swirl
I rode, knowing even then
everything spirals downward
but she kept shooting me smiles,
sinking one after the other,
me along with them.

Caridad Moro-Gronlier is the author of Tortillera (TRP 2021), winner of The TRP Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series and the chapbook Visionware (FLP 2009). She is a Contributing Editor for Grabbed: Poets and Writers Respond to Sexual Assault (Beacon Press, 2020) and Associate Editor for SWWIM Every Day, an online daily poetry journal.

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.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier


This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier, released by Texas A&M University Press in 2021.

Grilled

               For Sean
When you asked me why I loved you early into the morning
of a fight that had raged all night, I couldn’t answer, so I 
        asked you
for a grilled-cheese sandwich, a request that left you slack-
jawed and baffled as if I’d asked for a divorce instead.

I was the mouthy one but could not explain
what I saw in those sandwiches—the delicate balance
of starch and protein, white bread that braved direct heat
for the sake of cheese so flimsy it was dependent

on a framework of flour to keep it from burning
on the unforgiving surface of a wounded frying pan.
I thought it settled when you gave me what I wanted,
toasted gold streaming light on all the damage we’d done.

I never did tell you how I felt,
just chewed it all up, the love
you served on our best china.
Never once offered you a bite.

Caridad Moro-Gronlier is the author of Tortillera (TRP 2021), winner of The TRP Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series and the chapbook Visionware (FLP 2009). She is a Contributing Editor for Grabbed: Poets and Writers Respond to Sexual Assault (Beacon Press, 2020) and Associate Editor for SWWIM Every Day, an online daily poetry journal.

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.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier


This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier, released by Texas A&M University Press in 2021.

What the White Girl Asked at Our 20th High School Reunion

Why weren’t we friends in school?

We weren’t friends because I knew
you hung out in the American parking lot
unlike my boyfriend who parked his Stingray
in the Cuban one on the other side of school. Of course
I hung out there. Not that you would understand
why being his girl meant I could not
sit in your car at lunch and listen to
your Def Leppard, your Mötley Crüe,
leave him to fend for himself.

We weren’t friends because he courted me
old school, couched beside my father
every Sunday while I served apprentice
to my mother, her eyes onion stung,
arms spattered with marrow and lard,
who worked at loving her place at the stove,
rules I had not learned how to break, yet.

We weren’t friends because I envied
the way you weren’t allowed to settle,
how you were encouraged to date
assorted breeds of boys who strutted
across the lawn to ring your bell. Your dad
waved his blessing out the door and didn’t worry
because he taught you to discern, to choose

among them, taught you to drive
yourself, headlights set on more
than the slam of the same car door,
even if it was a Corvette.

Caridad Moro-Gronlier is the author of Tortillera (TRP 2021), winner of The TRP Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series and the chapbook Visionware (FLP 2009). She is a Contributing Editor for Grabbed: Poets and Writers Respond to Sexual Assault (Beacon Press, 2020) and Associate Editor for SWWIM Every Day, an online daily poetry journal.

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.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier


This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from Tortillera by Caridad Moro-Gronlier, released by Texas A&M University Press in 2021.

What I Should Have Said, Instead

               For Zelda
I took you to Arby’s for lunch
to get you talking. Something about
that ten-gallon hat inspired courage
and you glowed like the cocuyos
we trapped in glass jars that summer
you were five and sure Papi was right
about everything, including me.

You unearthed confessions,
meteors that streaked past your lips.
Explosions—
I may not graduate.
We never use condoms.
He grabs, but almost never hits.

Geese do it too, tuck their heads
beneath a pall of fluff
to keep from noticing the danger
all around—Styrofoam cups
that fool babies into taking strangled bites,
silent alligators that prove lethal
beneath the green guise of indifference.

I ate your fries. Shoveled them down my throat
like a grave digger. I spun sugared sentences
into webs sticky with logic, but you swept them away
with bristles long practiced at the art of cleanup.

On the way home, I missed my chance
to get it right, missed the moment
when you asked me to go back
for the purse you’d forgotten on the table,
missed my chance to try again
as we pulled into the same parking spot
and walked through the same double doors
back to the moment when I got it all wrong,
missed the miracle of your purse, right
where you left it, still untouched, valuables intact.

I threw stones when I should have created
a pile, planted a rock garden, assembled
sentries to guard against erosion.
We could be there now—
weeds blooming into flowers,
talking about nothing,
nothing at all.

Caridad Moro-Gronlier is the author of Tortillera (TRP 2021), winner of The TRP Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series and the chapbook Visionware (FLP 2009). She is a Contributing Editor for Grabbed: Poets and Writers Respond to Sexual Assault (Beacon Press, 2020) and Associate Editor for SWWIM Every Day, an online daily poetry journal.

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.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: All Hat, No Cattle by Mariah Rigg


This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from All Hat, No Cattle by Mariah Rigg, released by Bull City Press in 2023.

BLESSING

The green onions on the sill above my window are sprouting again. I’m sorry for eating you, I tell them. I’m sorry for not planting you in soil. Sometimes I think they understand me better than anyone in Knoxville—how it feels to be rootless without C, what it means to grow happy only when the sun is out.

The green onions on the sill above my sink are more resilient than I am. I’ve been cutting them at the base now for the past six months. Each time their roots get a little more tangled. The tips of their green stems curl like fingernails. I change their water every day so they don’t rot.

The last time I visited C in Lubbock, we made fried rice with green onions. We cut the whites first, sautéed them with red peppers and shallots. We fried shrimp, added eggs, stirred in rice and basil, sprinkled the green onions’ tips. After we’d eaten, C took me to the backyard, where we stuck the green onions’ roots in an old coffee can. I told C how, in the evenings after she left Dad, Mom used coffee grinds to fertilize our gardenias. She hoped for blooms. She never got them. We hung the can of green onions on your fence. Three days later, I went back to Knoxville, and C promised to keep our green onions alive. For a few weeks, he did.

The last green onions above my sink died because I didn’t tend to them. That was eight months ago, in my first Knoxville house. I had just moved from Oregon and was flattened by the Southern humidity. I bought those green onions to make noodles, but without C, I couldn’t. One day I came out of my bedroom and found them soft, smelling like the food that, years ago, got stuck in the holes where my wisdom teeth had once been. For weeks, I couldn’t get rid of the smell, even though I threw those green onions out.

If I leave Knoxville, which I must—the weight of this place, so far from Hawai‘i, is drowning me—the green onions on my windowsill now will have to be thrown out like the last. This is what keeps me holding on to this city: the thought of my green onions curled like a baby in their recycled jam jar. The thought of them with broken shells and drying peels at the top of some trash pile, baking in the sun.

Because me and the green onions, we’ve been through so much now. They’ve been in so much—fried with eggs in the morning, mixed into the oil-splat noodles I roll out by hand. You’re the reason I get by, I tell them. You’re my only constant. I tell them I love them because without C around, they’re the only ones that can hear me. I tell them I love them because I do. Because I can.

The green onions on the sill above my sink have given me their blessing. Be free, they tell me. Go forth, somewhere far. But when I leave—which I will—I won’t toss them. I’ll plant them outside, beside lilies and violets. Without me to cut them, they will flower, white balls of blooms that invite bees to dance. In my new city, I will buy another bunch of green onions. And when I cut them, I will think of the green onions that grew on my windowsill in Knoxville. I will spread my fingers, feel their nutrients reach through my limbs. The green onions above my windowsill have become part of me through how they’ve nourished me. And though we will no longer be together, I will be grateful for that.


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 AmericanThe Cincinnati ReviewJoyland, 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.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: All Hat, No Cattle by Mariah Rigg


This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from All Hat, No Cattle by Mariah Rigg, released by Bull City Press in 2023.

COMPRESSIONS

The first time I spent an afternoon bent over, I had a panic attack. This was nineteen years before I moved to Knoxville, seventeen before I met you. I was eight years old and at the beach, looking for shells. I could not watch my best friend, Bailey, who’d run off with another girl to slip down the algaed lava of the jetty to my right and jump like ‘a‘ama crabs into the broiling water. Ass in the air, face to the sand, I scoured the waves’ residue and found only shattered whorls, topless cowries, and pink drills too small to home the hermits patrolling the shore, smaller even than the moles on my shoulder. Bailey and the other girl swam across the cove to the anchored boats. They kicked to climb. They lay flat on their backs—the sun drying their skin to salt—for at least an hour. On the shore, I gathered palmfuls of broken bones, my breath growing shorter and shorter. Soon, I could not breathe. Soon, I could not stand. And by the time they returned to shore I was in the backseat of my stepmom’s Escape, on my way to the hospital. You strained your intercostals, the doctor told me. Through the closed the door, I heard her tell my stepmom: The spasms were caused by shortness of breath. And then: Does your family have a history of anxiety disorders? Now, two decades later, I do not speak to Bailey though sometimes I like the Instagrams she posts from California—her bleached brows, the ribs that reach like claws from beneath her shirt. I have not been to that beach, or back home to Hawai‘i, for nearly three years, have not held a cowrie in hand, thumbing its smooth mound, still wet and cool from water. Instead, as my shell collection on O‘ahu gathers dust, as my name grows too small to be held in the mouths of those who loved me as a child, I gather violets. I walk the cemetery across the street from my Tennessee apartment and make plans for the flowers—syrup, garnish, vodka sodas. And after I have filled my pockets with blooms, after I have tired myself with laps through cracking headstones and over long-dead bones, I return home to you. You lead me to bed, and as you enter me, your teeth break the pebbled keloid of my earlobe. Violets crush beneath our weight, the air we breathe sharp as the oil bursting from a squeezed peel of lemon. You gasp, and pleasure rolls over me until I drown, my face pressed into our sea of pillows.


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 AmericanThe Cincinnati ReviewJoyland, 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.