Salamander 2021 Fiction Contest, Judged by Yiyun Li




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  Not his wrist, barcode-wreathed, but the back of his palm he parodied–a tarmac, where a cannula lands like a jet-let. Flight– whatever that meant–-meant catheter- bound. His guttural coughs inflamed the caliber of boredom. He found his IV drip … Read More

Improving the Office Art

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  I’ve worked enough winters under this black and white photo of branches and sky on a canvas wide as my stretched out arms. So I lift it from the wall and carry it home on the bus. Every single … Read More

Supermarket Pastoral

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  I saw a ground squirrel with a long naked tail in the wilderness behind the Stop & Shop where the brook rushes into the vortex of an abandoned dryer. I, too, have a wasting disease and at my core, … Read More

Mistaken Identity

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  I look up from my grave– I’m not buried, I’m building on the ground floor. I always intended to find something more than the right button for my coat, even as I was slapping mud off and flapping over … Read More

Four Years of Days

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  For seven years, on four of seven days I walked or biked or rode the subway to her real wood paneling and sat at first then lay so that my eyes were free to ride the airy currents of … Read More

Infant Boy 1895

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  I came into being unknown to myself, a small sac of seawater and soft bones. Time and memory had no meaning for me. Weightless hunger spidered with blood, I was alive. Then I wasn’t. And when I fell out … Read More

A Break with Specifics

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  A small space opens inside Tennessee, perennial-ready. At the last moment I manage to stay by the window, looking further. Whose body is that being sent back to ground? And how terrible to hear it speak fluent silent. I … Read More

The Arborist

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  (for Seamus Heaney)   With a two-handed grip, plunging the steel wand deep, there and again over there–the root web, he explains, as broad as the dogwood’s crown, feeding the underworld so we here might… all in good time….Nutrients … Read More


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  The Triangle Offense ::: The offense requires wide spacing: Slave ships: Slave ships: 14-hour workday for sewing machine operators: $2 wage a day: Cuts and screens: Garment workers are agitated: Necks connected by wooden yokes: Talk of unions, talk … Read More

Late Summer Elegy

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  Lately, I feel the days fly out into the dark trees and vanish. Without you whose love was air-thin and particular, I’m left these daughter-hands of bone that do me little good, arms fit for nothing but wandering vast … Read More


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  I sit naked to the first rays of the sun. I’d wrapped myself in fancy clothes–the glitter of discrimination, the weave of intel- lectual dis- tinction, the heavy silk of charged emotion. We take on more than we need. … Read More


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  They were tied, this couple, not knotted—strands looped and holding each other together—but even. Not the even that’s caged within revenge, but even like bangs cut straight across a forehead. No stray hairs. They lived at a finish line … Read More

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