an online literary magazine for extra pungent poetry and prose

Jennifer Maloney


It’s not like it tastes that bad to me
if I haven’t brushed my teeth in days.
That’s really a you problem. I’m sorry
you’re uncomfortable
with the stink of rotted teeth.
It smells remarkably like shit, doesn’t it?
I’m sorry,

but when I think of heaven,
and everyone that might be waiting there,
and ticking,
it’s not exactly comforting.

What comforts me is sleep.
That’s why

I’m wearing this nightgown to my disability hearing.
I’m hoping for sleep.
I want to be ready for it
at any given moment, a moment
I won’t even recognize as happening,
because who realizes
that they are falling asleep? I have to catch it

like a butterfly, pin it down under glass, preserve it,
because it might be the last example of its species.
I’m sorry you feel uneasy

next to me,
on this crowded bus downtown
on this very hot day.
Makes you grateful for air conditioning, doesn’t it?
Me, I’m grateful too, for a lot of things,

for 2 out of 3 kids that still speak to me,
for the food I am fraudulently accessing
through friends with connections, grateful
for those friends, incredibly grateful, as grateful
as I am sure that I don’t deserve them,
or anything, really,
as grateful
as I am certain
that you don’t deserve this:
these too-close quarters
that force you to rub shoulders with me,
this particular bus’s crazy lady,
not that different
than any other bus’s crazy lady,
similar, in fact, in so many ways,
ways that count,

The reek of old urine.
Unwashed hair and feet.
I’m not wearing
my filthy winter jacket today,
although that might have been preferable
to this see-through gauze nightie—
I hope you understand.

I just don’t want to miss it.
Sleep, I mean—
in the same panicky way
you don’t want to miss your bus.
There’s a schedule,

but you can’t always trust it,
can’t even always understand it,
and it’s important
to get on the bus
that you know will take you where you need to be:

The doctor,
the university

your grandmother’s house in 1970,
white clapboard, green shutters,
tiger lilies bloom
beneath a patient window,
you strip off their black bulbils
like beads on a string,

the Social Security office.


You want to get
where you’re going
as soon as you possibly can,
to take an express if possible,
so you ready yourself quickly—
hop out of bed, skip the shower.
You’re late, you know it,
and you don’t want to miss the bus.

Jennifer Maloney writes poetry and fiction. Find her work in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Litro Magazine, The Neologism Poetry Journal and many other places. Jennifer is the author of the hybrid chapbook Evidence of Fire, Poems & Stories (Clare Songbirds Publishing, 2023), and Don’t Let God Know You Are Singing (Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2024), a full-length hybrid collection. She is also a parent, a partner, and a very lucky friend, and she is grateful, for all of it, every day.