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After his second wife left him, Leo decided to live underwater.

At first, it was hard to get used to the dampness. Leo’s underwear always felt wet. He tried to shake water from his shoes to no avail. His pudgy feet sloshed when he walked.

Leo liked to watch a certain mermaid in the seaweed. Her tail’s glittering scales reminded him of silver spikes. He was afraid to speak to her, however.

One afternoon, she approached him. Leo trembled. What could she possibly want?

She waved an unlit torch in his face. “Got a match?”

Trembling, Leo lit the fuse.



You’re stretched out on the floor. Resting on your back. The ceiling looks like sky.

The sun no longer remembers how to spread its beam to your submerged bones. You’ve given up waiting for its return.

Sometimes, its heat pierced your skin like molten spikes. On other occasions, the warmth was imperceptible, like the faint brush of summer clothing.

You’ll lie here until the last beam parks behind the horizon and shuts off its engine. Then your molecules will dissolve, one by one, popping like bubbles until they become pure oxygen. Peace and silence. You finally made it home.



An oasis

of microbrews

and food carts

in the middle

of the New Mexico

desert. I’m not

forty, like when

I backpacked

through Europe.

Now, I recline in style:

central air conditioning

and a sparkling pool

with lounge chairs.

All the accoutrements

of middle-class comfort.

Outside, muscle cars

roar down 66,

searching for

that vagabond dream,

while I run on fumes,

with stomach knots

and a crooked spine.

I sleep in a bottomless well,

on a soft mattress

with organic cotton sheets.

In the morning,

cable television

and fluffy white towels.

I pretend to be

a wealthy eccentric,

before returning home

to food bank vegetables

and social security.

Life is the twisted

road that lies ahead:

endlessly unwinding

and paved with potholes.



When I was a kid.

I wanted a tree fort

and a telephone clothesline

with plastic cup receivers

between my bedroom

and the building next door.

We moved every few years

from one boring town to another,

and the adjacent houses

were either too far away,

or occupied by old people

who spent their time

watching soap operas

and perusing Reader’s Digest.

Our backyard trees

were never strong

enough to bear the weight

of a wooden structure,

and my parents didn’t want

to build tree forts,

or do much of anything,

except send me to the store

for bread and cigarettes.

I spent my adolescence

walking to a pond

behind an auto junkyard.

Staring at the freeway,

I dreamed of escape, and

wrote poems about alienation.

Now, I like my next-door

neighbors, but we

talk on cell phones,

and have no need for clotheslines.

Since I live in the desert,

no trees grow in my yard.

Maybe I’ll pitch a tent

beside a prickly pear,

and make believe I’m

slumbering in oak branches.

It shouldn’t be too difficult.

I can imagine a lot.

I’ve had plenty of practice.


Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Bisbee, Arizona. She is the author of nine prose and poetry books, published by numerous small presses. Her latest chapbook, "Land of Eternal Thirst" (Dumpster Fire Press) was released in 2021. Leah’s work appears in Rattle, Midway Journal, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and elsewhere. Visit her website at

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