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Safeway Roses


during the fourth and penultimate world war, a soldier—

a warrior, really, in the purest and truest sense—rose

to power. she moved like smoke, could simply whisper

a person mad, drained more blood than the eldest

of vampires, she knew no allies, and was able to organize

the world against her, and through her efforts, a thousand

years of peace.


we drove to the mountains in early summer, you had

just finished your residency and we had absolutely no

money, we stayed at your great uncle’s place, we couldn’t

afford it otherwise, and each morning before dawn we got

up and walked to the rocky shore of the lake, and you’d press

your lips to the skin behind my small ears, and ask me to draw

the word the into that rocky shore, stare at the word until

the world and language and even you melted away into pure incoherence.


what many will tell you is that I often claimed that I wanted

Olympic Village sex, that kind of fucking, but what I really want

is the dropping Reese’s Pieces into my mouth while a bootleg tape

of Aaliyah—her masters and licensing rights are tied up in courts—

plays softly in the background and our children are downstairs

somewhere doing something reckless and dangerous under

the sleepy supervision of our very fat dog kind of sex, Safeway Roses

dying in some coffee tin or hideous, reprehensible vase

one of the children made, not apology roses but just because roses.


scientists estimate that the amount of fucking that takes place

at the Olympic Village, well, if you harnessed that energy

you could power a small hamlet for approximately three-

and-a-half weeks, or create some kind of explosive device

that would liquidate two average-sized city blocks or one

large city block.


in the 40s and 50s the U.S. government used to spray Braceros—

legal Mexican farm and day laborers who crossed the border—

with DDT, pesticides, at processing centers in places like Hidalgo,

Texas. Hidalgo means nobleman in Spanish. when people

say that we’re made of stardust, sometimes I want to say

that I’d rather be made of the ocean, the Pacific, specifically,

but I know that I’m also made of a bunch of bullshit, too.


I wish I could tell you different, but there are nights that I leave

you and the children and the dog and the dying Safeway Roses

and the house and my phone and wander into the forest,

hoping, praying, I find a large pair of glowing eyes, the largest

pair of glowing eyes I’ve ever seen, so I might kneel

before those eyes, and compelled, say this:


PATRICK HOLIAN (he/him/his) is a Mexican American writer from San Francisco. He holds an MFA in creative writing from St. Mary’s College of California and a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Black Warrior Review, The Cincinnati Review, Salt Hill Journal, Arkansas Review, Bennington Review, The Acentos Review, and Yalobusha Review; he was a 2019 Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Fiction finalist and a finalist for Michigan Quarterly Review’s 2021 Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize.


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