River Teeth Journal Issue 21.1

February 7, 2020

River Teeth Journal Issue 21.1

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Editor's Notes Joe Mackall

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The other day I had occasion to drive through a town named Red Haw, just a few miles from my home in rural Ohio. I live in a small community, but it’s a booming metropolis compared to Red Haw, a town of Trump re-election signs, a smattering of houses, a few barns, and a Methodist church. Red Haw is an easy place to ignore, and it’s an even easier place to think you know. When I drive through a tiny town during the day in rural America, I’m quick to characterize the town by what I think I see there.

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"Grace" Jan Shoemaker

I forage for leaves and reeds and seed pods––which tell me, with their symmetry, that there is an order and maybe a grace to things. From their pulpits in the creaking tree canopy, crows bellow their wild heresies with the bombast of Baptist ministers and, riding half-submerged logs, frogs elvis their velvety love-me-tenders. It’s a better noise than I get from the news.

"And I Will Give You As Many Roast Bones As You Need" Sean Ironman


I crawl into an empty dog cage. My father shuts the door. On my hands and knees, I shake an imagined tail. I fall on my side, scratch myself with my back leg. I lick the back of my limp hand. My father comes by, and I shake my butt, push my nose against the gate. I whimper. He marks a clipboard as he walks out of sight. I try to circle, but the cage is cramped. My butt smacks the sides. My neck aches. Knees and palms press against the thin metal frame. Newspaper shreddings offer no comfort. Red lines form. They throb. I lie down, but the frame hurts my cheek where my mother kissed me goodbye. I think about how strong a dog must be to live like this and how much it must mean when someone comes along to love them.

"Where Is My Little Ferret?" Lawrence Lenhart

Not far down, there is a turning bay. Animal behaviorist Con Slobodchikoff says this allows the prairie dog, burrow architect and ferret prey, to turn comfortably or let another animal go past––like a cul-de-sac or highway pullout. The turning bay resembles my wife’s pear-like womb as depicted in the ultrasound. She is pregnant now, and the fetus––our fetus––often fidgets and flutters in the sonographer’s short films, well on their way to a full somersault. I ask my wife if she can feel it, the baby swaying in her womb. “Sometimes,” she says.

"Distilled (From)" Laurie Uttich

For generations, the men in my family picked through rocks looking for coal. They chipped to free what was buried alive, what burned and festered and waited for millions of years to reappear. When they finally pulled it from the earth, it pulsed in their palms. It may have been cool to the touch, but it was destined to redden and flow, to fill the space around it with air that could warm a house of choke everyone in it. For the men in my family––for all of us––is booze a math that ignites us or a door we walk through?

"The Physics of Sorrow" Leonard Winograd

Sometimes in the summer the air is clear and dry, as it should be this high up in Colorado, the sky above studded with moonless light, the Milky Way a swath of stars. But other times the weather’s different: there’s moisture in the air and it’s full of currents smearing what you’re trying to focus on; my eye blurs and tears up at the eyepiece. Worse, there are often fires thousands of miles to the west and north and south, and smoke from those fires stains the sky. It’s hard to see anything. And now the fires grow near.

"Captain America" Nicholas Dighiera

I don’t want him to end. I don’t know a life without this man. I think about saying this, but instead I say, “Which turn do I take for the back-way home, by the river?” 

He blows the smoke out, coughing a little, and says, “Right up here, take the next right.” 

And I do take that right.

"Jell-O: An Irrespective" Molly Gallentine

On the day of my appointment, the Director of Archival Operations meets me on the outside steps of the National Archives. I’ve agreed to view the box early in the morning, before the building’s official public hours, and the sun feels warm against my skin as I wait for him to unlock the door. On the phone, when I’d told him I wanted to see the object, he’d warned me, “You know it’s just a Jell-O box, right?"

“What You Know Is Real" Beth Ann Miller

There is a young couple holding hands across from you, silhouetted against the sky. The man is anxiously patting his pocket and you know he is going to propose. You cannot tell if his pretty girlfriend will say yes. She smiles at him but looks off into the mountains with a longing you identify right away. An untapped wildness boiling inside her, waiting to crack through her ribcage and crawl out of her chest. The two of them look like they are barely eighteen and you love them and hate them for their adolescence.

"My Mother's Last Days" Stephen D. Gutierrez

I want to bash down the door and save her. But I wouldn’t know what to do if I were standing in front of her. We’re not a hugging family. We’ve never been demonstrative except in our anger, our joy, our laughter. Never in the deep, abiding ways to express real love. We’re love-challenged. As soon as you walk in the house, there’s a row of crutches lined up against the wall with everybody’s name on one. It’s how we manage our missing love limbs. So much comes to me now that she’s dead.

"Camacho's Violet" Susan H. Greenberg

The violet flowers on, impervious to tragedy. It greets me brightly on Labor Day weekend, 1997, when I––seven months pregnant––am called back to the office at 2:30 a.m. to help cover the death of Princess Diana. It blossoms through one grim news cycle after the next, untroubled by earthquakes, plane crashes, genocide, or civil war. On 9/12, I ride the train past the smoking hollow of lower Manhattan, weeping all the way to the office, relieved to find Camacho’s violet still standing, robust as ever.

"The Beauty of Brook Trout: A Salvation Story in Six Parts" Noah Davis

I was no longer satisfied with peering down on the shadows of swimming fish. I wished to see what they saw: leaves like clouds, nymphal shucks suspended in water; the blurred image of birds above. My body longed to be immersed. I untied my boots and threw them to the bank. My shirt, shorts, socks, and underwear followed. Then I jumped. 

Contributors' Notes


More about this issue's authors.


Photo Credits, Courtesy of Public Domain Sites:

Pexels: Gabriel Palai, Lucas Pezeta, Ryan Conrow

Unsplash: Jolanda van der Meer, Brian Patrick Tagalog, Kara Eades, Kevin Ianeselli, Neslihan Günayd?n, Taylor Grote

Pixabay: IvanPais, derwiki

Keywords: 21.1
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