Response: Broke

Editor Kirsten Larson, Editor's Choice, October 26th, 2015

"I pretended the blackness belonged there--that I had grown such a thing."

mike boening photo response broke

In our monthly Response Column, NAILED asks readers to respond to a particular word or topic. We are seeking raw, honest personal responses that aim less to answer questions and more to raise them. Responses in the form of art, photography, essay, story, poem, and rant will all be considered for publication. November’s topic is CHEATING, please email your responses to [email protected] by November 22nd, for publication at the end of the month. (Word count limit: 1,000 words.)

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Response: Broke


Letter from the Band Skinny Puppy to the Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, by Benjamin Barker


Dear soft and trembling boys, dear eastern darlings, dear guiltless and guilty, dear dearest flowers wasting your sweetness on the prison air:     We never wanted your blood.     Our country, like music, was not meant for this.   Both were built to heal, not to break.     The lions here only kill.     They do not eat the meat.   Murder is simply arithmetic.     Violence an art critique. You are threatening because you are art.     Your bodies galleries full of things they do not understand.     Like Nina Simone’s voice.     Like a sweet and bladeless poem.     Like a prairie.     Like a horizon with no city.       Your language the most gorgeous Basquiat.        Do not weep for your broken bleeding canvas.     Cry for the critic.     For the angry teen who beats a poem with a hose to torture a confession out of it.     Weep for the killer.     For the teeth that do not know. For the high school bully reenacting the violence of his father.   Because isn’t it tragic to not comprehend?     To burn a Sadequain without realizing what it is.       To roar at doves.           To curse an artist’s name                 because you cannot pronounce it.


Benjamin Barker was born at a fairly young age and had a dreadfully Norman Rockwell upbringing resulting in him believing in Santa until he was 17. He currently sits on the board of directors for Salt Lake Based nonprofit The Wasatch Wordsmiths. His work has appeared in Drunk In A Midnight Choir and Button Poetry, and his full-length chapbook Redefining Divinity is forthcoming from Tired Hearts Press.

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What Was Breaking, by Theresa Hamman


She sees herself in the living room with her husband; they hold each other on the couch. The bookshelves only half full, the television glowing in the midnight dark, the baby pressed to her breast. A moment stuck in its own happiness, false, fragile, a moment belonging to a hope long lost. She can’t stand it. She blinks, the image blurs, rain on glass. It clears. And the beer can explodes against a kitchen wall, directly above the baby, who chews on cheerios in her high chair. Beer rains down and the baby laughs.

“Look, she likes it,” her husband says. “She’s sucking it off her thumb.”


Theresa Hamman is a poet/writer and second year MFA student at Eastern Oregon University.  She has had her poetry published in Oregon East, EOU’s literary and art journal, of which she is currently the editor.  She lives in La Grande, OR and enjoys spending time with her family, especially her two grandchildren, when she is not writing.

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sophie harris taylor photo nailed magazine

Sophie Harris-Taylor is a London based fine art photographer. She graduated with an MA and BA (Hons) in Photography at Kingston University. Her work explores concepts such as vulnerability, familiarity and natural decay focusing in particular on the female form and the nature of femininity. To view a Photography Feature of her work from the series Slight Wounds, for NAILED, go here.

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Blonde, by Caroline Walton


Before I knew what it was to be scared, I braided black yarn into my blonde hair. A dash of darkness to match my chain belt and plaid pants. To match the color of my parent’s rotting marriage, my trendy angst. I pretended the blackness belonged there–that I had grown such a thing.

When I became pretty as a punchline to jokes boys made about dumb girls, I twirled it between my fingers. I collected moments of men running their hands through it, tangled and dirty the morning after, sighing about how long it was.

You’re that blonde girl.
You’re the prettiest I’ve ever
slept with. You’re the most
beautiful woman I’ve ever seen

at the bars.

The magazines say that men prefer it hanging down to the middle of my back. They don’t say that this makes me more of a target. That it can be fashioned into an extra limb to grab, one that can’t hit back. My hair followed me to bars, extending invitations to men without consulting me.

And he’d been no different – When I saw you, I asked, who is that?  He slipped drink after drink to my hair. Wrapped it around his knuckles and asked it to dance, to let out a schoolgirl giggle.  To sit on his lap, its strands draping across the sticky bar floor.  I never thought of cutting it before that day. Fourteen inches, two yellow thick tails that had to be bound with rubber bands. The day I left him, the day I left all of them, the twin snakes of my hair writhed on the floor. They grew fangs and I told them your names.


Caroline Walton teaches high school English in Central Arkansas where she tries to convince teenagers that poetry is actually cool. She represented Arkansas at the 2013 Individual World Poetry Slam, placed second at the 2013 Arkansas Arts Center Ekphrastic Poetry Slam, and has had her work published in Germ Magazine. When she’s not gushing about poetry, she’s gushing about The Office or her dog Holden.

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Daniil Maksyukov photo response broke

Daniil Maksyukov (1995) is an emerging street photographer living and working in Russia. He has achieved recognition and several awards for his work and is most passionate about candid shots, capturing the truth and pulse of life in the streets around him.To view his photo essay for NAILED, “Junk and Gems,” go here.

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Still, by Andrea Tate


A doctor’s waiting-room, heads hang low as red eyes focus on gray linoleum, an eleven-year-old and his stepdad sit. A few feet away a receptionist quietly answers the phone, fielding other emergencies.

Down a hall in a small dreary examining room, she sprawls out on cold orange Formica. Her heart makes a crackling sound through the stethoscope. As he pulls the stethoscope from his ears, a doctor inhales and exhales deeply then grimly shakes his head “no”… twice.

Thirteen years ago, she jumps onto a mother’s lap on Independence Day, while rockets explode in the near distance. Today, no lap jumping. Today, her mother quietly rests her cheek on a soft and black fur-head with speckles of gray. She whispers: “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

Now, the eleven-year-old enters the examination room and says his goodbyes through little boy sobs. His adolescent chest heaves up and down between each word. In unison, his life-long companion’s lungs battle for every breath. To this “only child,” she is more sibling than pet.

“I’ll… miss… you… Macy,” “You… are… a great …dog…. Macy,” “Bye… Macy.” He reluctantly moves toward the door, but then turns back to give a final hug. She receives four final hugs.

Slowly the vet opens the door. “Are you ready?” he asks. The mother shakes her head “yes”…twice.

As the needle enters, a grainy film begins in the mother’s memory. New baby sniffed by wet black nose. Pink tongue hangs as refrigerator cheese draw opens. Tail wags and hits glass cabinet door and makes a happy “I love you chime.” Arthritic final walk from a home that loves, and keeps, and cares, and is blessed.

Mother continues to stroke her until she sees the eyes settled to a calm, like a flag coming to a stop after a rush of wind. Her lids never completely close after the injection, but remain at half-mast. There, that odd distant look, as if no one is home. You can tell they are gone by the look in their eyes—there is none.

The vet returns and places his stethoscope on her chest one last time. Nothing. He removes the scope and bows his head. “I’ll give you some time alone with her,” he says in a half-whisper. Time? How much time? It hurts to be in the room, to look at distant brown eyes, to see two front paws cross in an “x” like a kiss. A kiss goodbye. A final touch to a cool black velvet ear that lies on the table, flat, and still.


Andrea Tate is a freelance writer and editor. Her essays can be found in Role/Reboot, A Daily Dose of Lit, Bleed, and Extract(s) 2013 Anthology. She is an adjunct writing professor for Antioch University, Santa Barbara, and an online writing instructor for “Inspiration 2 Publication” at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Andrea holds an MFA in Creative Writing, and a Post MFA Certificate in Teaching Creative Writing. She lives in Agoura Hills with her husband and son where she is an advocate for youth musical theatre. Her mission is simple—exchange algebra for the arts.

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Visit Home, by Cody Deitz


When my orbit had finally swung back,
I sat in the living room sipping coffee

with mom, the afternoon sun printing bars of light
on the wall, the game turned low,
and her voice sunk. Bad brother

like I was some lesser Cain
sowing temptation in these fields,

like I drew the map of roads
leading out of you,

like I was responsible for your cut brake lines,
the slight slope the whole town is built on.

I was just almost a man, driving these desert roads,
eyes peeled for a shortcut.

What I found—what clung to you like smoke—
was not just one of the things we found in the empty fields:

a usable couch, bedsprings, a steel refrigerator
with its cord buried in dirt like someone had plugged it into the world.

What we found, a weightlessness,
was already in me, and in you: a weakness for journeying into nothing.

Like all brothers, you followed the trail I’d broken.
You just couldn’t find your way back—the moon had risen
and it was beginning to get cold.


Cody Deitz resides in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he is pursuing his PhD in English at the University of North Dakota. His chapbook Desert Sacrament was a finalist for the Uppercut Chapbook Prize and he is the winner of the Academy of American Poets University Prize. His poetry has been published in various literary journals including Ellipsis, Chaparral, Split Lip Magazine, and others. He is currently at work on a full-length poetry collection.

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broke, by Miles Solstice

no money—compound fracture—never seen a real bone outside a bucket of KFC until now—glass shards—lightning + tree—tooth v. rock—fist v. nose—who looked at who in what way—post­breakup heart—no money—computer don’t work—car don’t run—no longer functional—shin bone protruding—call the goddamn ambulance—funerial hearts—good mourning—mug v. linoleum + coffee burns—status of toenail after stubbing incident—no money—empty house—blank walls—bananas are 39 cents/lb—raw organic dumpster­diving vegan—15 hours at Wendy’s, 15 at McDonald’s, 15 at Walmart and the kids are fed (hopefully)—taking the bus for 20 years—digging through the free​box at the shelter hearts


Miles Solstice is from Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Check out his Kickstarter: raising money for a rocket-powered iguanas-only roller coaster. @Allomycterus

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Header image courtesy of Mike Boening.

Mike Boening commonly finds his inspiration on the streets of his hometown, Detroit, Michigan, specializing in street and urban photography. Mike has shared his love of street photography by teaching and leading groups on urban photography in the Detroit area as well as out of state. To view his most recent photo essay for NAILED, “Empty Cells,” go here.
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Kirsten Larson

Kirsten Larson is a Contributing Editor at NAILED. She lives near Portland, Oregon. She loves words and is very curious. She received her MFA in writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles. She writes for The Huffington Post, and is an Adjunct Instructor at Portland State University. Her work can be found in NAILED, Huffington Post, Pathos, M Review, and several other places. She is currently working on two books.