All at Once

Eating Fresh
inside the Subway
waiting for the world to end
the scooter bros whizz by
wearing the singular plaid shirt
allotted to straight white men
in DC

saucer magnolias peek out from branches
while COVID-19 erupts from the news
life and death
all at once
toilet paper has been restocked
but not my serotonin
scroll through CNN
(fastest way to cure happiness)
always forgetting to sanitize my hands
after thinking about my phone

did you know
that if you sing the first few lines of
Welcome to the Black Parade
it’s 20 seconds
or you can sing Happy Birthday twice
as a dirge
whichever you prefer
and never touch your face
with a straight white man
while riding an electric scooter


The Storyteller

my grandfather has been writing his novel
for years
a semi-autobiographical story
of growing up,
first generation Mexican American,
in Benavides, Texas
when the town’s young Tejanos
were sent to the front lines
and killed
memories of falling in love
and sin

my grandfather writes
four pages
sixteen pages
once he made it to thirty pages
before abandoning the story
and starting from scratch
pages strewn across my mother’s old bedroom
discarded drafts
jettisoned storylines
only to begin the cycle anew

“Mija, I need to tell you my story,
you’re going to be
the one who passes it on”
I nod,
knowing he cannot see me
over the telephone


dream progression

once I dreamed
that someone was murdered
by once I mean
last night
and by someone I mean
an imagined friend of
the family who disowned me
just a child
like I was

after the funeral
my cousins and I sat
on the nonexistent lawn
in front of the family parish
while the younger cousins clamored to play
like I did at age six
when our grandma died
and I knew my cousins didn’t know any better
but I got irritated

got on a bus
left them behind
and the straight couple across from me
were trying to have sex
and the girl next to me
was trying to impress me
only I wasn’t impressed and
she got distracted and
found someone else

and then a man boarded
carrying a cat with a
wide face
Cheshire grin
and the demon feline leapt
bit my arm
I shook it off my
olive leather jacket and
it bit my arm again

and I screamed
and I screamed
and I screamed

while the other people did nothing
and finally the spell was broken
and I flung the cat across the aisle
why the fuck didn’t you do anything
I hollered
but nobody said anything

and suddenly I was at my other
grandparents’ house
only it wasn’t their house
my grandma sat silently on the couch
staring into time
and my grandpa pulled out a
white cardboard plate
like the kind I used to draw on at age seven
and on the back of the plate
was an illegible scrawl of numbers

and I cried out
what do I do
if I get attacked in a dream again
and he said
you call this number
and I’ll come help you

only he couldn’t read it
couldn’t remember
was that a five
or an eight
he was sure it was a two
so I scribbled over his scribbles
desperate for a lifeline

before departing to the kitchen
that was not his kitchen
when the cast iron stove
that was not his stove
started to clang
and I opened the door
knowing the time had come

but then I was back with my paternal family
or at least my sister and one older cousin
and I knew some of my aunts were in
the other room
but I didn’t care because I
had a story to tell

so I left the room to get
sodas and chocolate milk
from the fridge
for the three of us
but I heard a noise behind me
in the kitchen

and I turned to see a
fat mechanical worm
two feet long with
gnashing teeth
slithering towards me
and I jumped
stomped it out
returned to the room
with my drinks

only to find that on the path below us
was a humanoid robot
like Prince with no head
and a mouth on top of the neck
and I jumped down
on top of Not-Prince
and his companion cried out
for reinforcements

but suddenly
I was surrounded by allies
who crouched around me
to block the robot from
his companion’s view
and I awoke
feeling triumphant
and unafraid


Kate Pashby is a queer Chicana hailing from San Jose, California and residing in Washington, DC. She is extremely particular about churros.