Special Issue: Banned CDC Words
The Pink Balloon by David Drury

My daughter chooses blue, but the balloon man talks her into pink. A helium-filled latex teardrop bouncing at the end of a long string at the end of a long afternoon brining in the smells of the county fair.

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Laboratory by Nod Ghosh

It’s quiet in the laboratory today, so I do some paperwork. The office has made a code for thingy-maternal hemorrhage kits, so I can order one without typing the f-word. Without appropriate testing and treatment, pregnant women might develop antibodies.

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The Word Is Diversity by Dan Crawley

I’m sitting with my mother this morning at the rehab hospital. She is learning how not to be so vulnerable, using a walker, working at not dragging her leg after her like a heavy sack, lifting small weights over her head.

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Soft Spot by Jude Higgins

Since Brexit, they’ve opened a tanning studio where the Polish deli used to be. I’m inside, curled up on a sun-bed like a fetus. Going to make my skin invulnerable.

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Based on a True Story by Kat Gonso

He asked her if he could try something. Her lips were wrapped around him, so she looked up to meet his eyes. She nodded. In one swift motion he grabbed her head and pushed it down once, twice, three times—harder each.

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The Storyteller of Aleppo by Donna Obeid

In the barren cold camp, you wear a dusty cape and top hat, wave my cane as if it were a wand and tell me your dream-stories, one after the next, your words spun and tossed like tethers into the air.

Fulfilling by Fiona McKay

Kate is not ‘imagining it’. There are small tufts of pale fluff on her neck, and no, it’s not ‘just a tissue in the washing machine’ as John suggests. There’s nothing drifting off his shirts, nothing clinging to Ella’s favourite black top, Josh’s Minecraft t-shirts. It’s more solid than tissue, just on her clothes. And only she can see it.

Get Your Authentic Stardust Here by JP Relph

The night the sky cracked, I was sprawled on the hood of my car beside that good-for-nothing boy, naming constellations, ignoring his fingers on my neck.

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours by Eliot Li

I tell you I’ve only ever shown it to a girl who I met on a tour bus in Moscow, where I was traveling with my parents. She had bad acne, and she really liked Duran Duran.

Bog Iron by Shane Larkin

We make stops on the way to our bog plot to look at the little skeletons. Dad tells me about them. Curlews and skylarks in dancing poses. Tiny skulls.