Ashley Nissler


During Monday’s cir­cle time, they passed a card­board shoe­box from neigh­bor to neigh­bor. Each in turn they lift­ed the lid, tilt­ing it to hide the shoe­box’s con­tents. If they paused to long, their facil­i­ta­tor mur­mured, “The first word to come to mind.”

A woman who hud­dled in a shape­less man’s sweater with a golf club appliqued on the chest where a baby’s head might rest said, “Refrigerator,” and passed the box to Sharlene, acknowl­edg­ing her with a please and a sur­rep­ti­tious dab at Sharlene’s fin­gers with a dis­in­fec­tant wipe.

Sharlene said, “Thank you,” opened the box, and saw the lemon inside, a minia­ture dis­co ball, and a sin­gle baby sock. She read­ied her­self to howl but was dis­tract­ed by the moth rest­ing in her neigh­bor’s neck sags and said, “Car.” She hes­i­tat­ed to pass the box, afraid now it was known to her she’d be lone­ly with­out it. When she did, the facil­i­ta­tor smiled, his mouth nar­row on one side and wide on the other.

She watched the box cir­cum­nav­i­gate the room, com­mu­nal prop­er­ty. Women burp­ing and bounc­ing it when the facil­i­ta­tor was­n’t look­ing. The girl who roamed the ward bare­foot spread her webbed toes, opened the box, and said, “Destruction.” The facil­i­ta­tor mum­bled some­thing about con­crete ver­sus abstract nouns.

Sharlene’s lone­li­ness waxed and waned with the box’s motion. More than less —  than almost noth­ing when her neigh­bor once again cra­dled it. “Please,” she said, pass­ing the box to Sharlene. Their hands brushed, fin­gers damp with disinfectant.


Eye-size apples I can­not reach

Outside my win­dow, in a tree we long mis­took for anoth­er, hang eye-size apples I can­not reach. Neither from a down­stairs nor an upstairs win­dow nor from the lad­der named after my husband’s father. My uncle wants these apples. He spends the morn­ing straight­en­ing wire hang­ers and insert­ing them in sock­ets. He places the oppo­site ends in dirt, and worms teem forth from the ground. He hypoth­e­sizes he can wire an apple to illu­mine the tree like a light bulb. My youngest daugh­ter builds a lamp from alu­minum foil and an index card. In both instances, the idea came first. And, in gen­er­al, same-sign charged par­ti­cles repel while dif­fer­ent-sign charged par­ti­cles attract. In Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Sir Thomas Browne states, “If the ground were true, that the Earth were an Electrick body, and the air but the efflu­vi­um there­of, we might have more rea­son to believe that from this attrac­tion, and by this effluc­tion, bod­ies tend­ed to the Earth, and could not remain above it.” But I tell you the apples are out of reach. And my oth­er uncle tells me when the elec­trodes were attached to his head, he smelled apples and saw his brain fly across the room.

Ashley M. Nissler’s sto­ries and poems have appeared in Vestal Review, Dogzplot, The Black Boot, Literary Mama, poemeleon, The Mom Egg, Tar River Poetry and oth­ers. She lives in Hillsborough, NC, with her family.