Artwork by Pratyshua Chakraborty
  1. Life Jacket by Suzette Marie Bishop
  2. The River Knows— Trishna Basak (Translated from the original Bengali by Rituparna Mukherjee)
  3. Oleander— Suvechchha Saha
  4. Hazardous Gas: The Biblical Flood—Shruti Sareen
  5. Tub—N.H. Van Der Haar

Life Jacket by Suzette Marie Bishop

B.J. liked to wear his lifejacket around the house. They had a small pond in the front yard. B.J.’s dad, a freshwater biologist, was sold on the water feature when they bought the house, but his parents worried he might fall in. Instead of taking the lifejacket on and off, flinging it off as he ran back inside, feet wet—he just kept it on.

Sometimes his dad would take him to the big lake and out onto his rowboat where he worked away at taking water samples, clear jars then filled with greenish lake water, labels added.

“This part of Texas still has trees,” his dad would say. And although not as bright as the ones from back East his father described, “Yellows like the sun, reds like that car,” their leaves did change color in the fall.

“Did you catch a fish yet, B.J.?” his father would ask, turning towards him slowly in the boat. They both brought fishing poles, staring off into the distance. B.J. liked to peer over the boat, too, just watch fish, insects gliding on the surface. It was time to be with his dad. Sometimes his dad drove all over town trying to find out where his mom was racing with him this time. After taking huge gulps from a bottle, they would get in the car, driving fast out of town. “At least you put a seatbelt on him,” B.J.’s dad muttered the last time as he pulled him out of the passenger seat, his mom asleep. She’d stopped a while ago and he’d dozed off, identifying the bird calls his dad had taught him, duck, blue jay.

“Why do you take all those jars of water from the lake, Daddy?”

            “I’m checking to see if it’s clean. People have to drink this water, swim in it. I want it to last so you and your kids can drink it. It’s not good if it has stuff in it.”

            “What kind of stuff?” B.J.’s lifejacket made it hard for him to turn his neck towards his dad, so he just stared towards the beach. Some people were setting up the grill. A boat in the other direction was pulling skiers.

            “Pollution—like you know the oil that’s used in the motor for a motor boat?”


            “It can leak into the lake and hurt things growing in there.” 

The boat pulling the skiers headed toward them. “Can we go skiing, Daddy?”

“Snow or water skiing?”



            “I want to go on that thing that goes in the air—”

            “A ski-lift?”

            “Yeah, and I want to wear my lifejacket.”

            His father laughed, something he hadn’t done much lately, imagining B.J. next to him on the ski-lift wearing that bright orange lifejacket in the blistering sunlight that bounces off the snow. He put his arm around him being careful not to upset the boat, the jars of samples, the lifejacket smooshing with air.

Suzette Bishop has published three poetry books and two chapbooks, including her most recent chapbook about the endangered jaguar, Jaguar’s Book of the Dead. Her writing has appeared in many journals and anthologies. She lives in Laredo, Texas, with her partner and two cats.

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