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  • Writer's pictureShana Ross

Recurring Nightmare

The beloved science teacher 

does this every year: takes 

a large glass container 

to the front of the room, 

shows it to the class empty, 

of all but air before filling it 

with rocks. Would you say this is 

full, he asks, when no more rocks 

– size of fists, potatoes, pig 

hearts – will fit without falling 

out. Yes, the students say. Then 

he takes out a bag of gravel & 

pours it in, the chips settling 

in the holes. He grins as he asks. 

“Would you say this is full 

now?” Everyone says yes, now 

it’s full. So he pours in sand, 

& then water, & when 

the meniscus strains at the glassy 

surface, reflecting back all 

the earnest faces in the crowd, 

he says, “Yes, yes, now it is full.”  

But in this dream I am here 

in the crowd. I chuckle as I raise 

my hand and walk to the front 

of the classroom, pulse attempting 

to escape the mob murmuring, 

moisture gathering, here & there 

where I hope it won’t darken 

the fabric that hides my creases, 

my bendable joints, the dead inside 

limbs that still shuffle. I open myself 

with a grunt, pour in a portion 

of my anxiety, let it sink in.  

Things start to wobble. Dread 

eats away at everything, the rocks, 

the sand, the water, the container.  

The experiment shines like a pickle 

hooked up to a battery. And I mean, 

I know, I know nothing can be 

created or destroyed, no matter, 

no energy, I flinch as I watch – 

waiting for something to blow.


Shana Ross is a new transplant to Edmonton, Alberta and Treaty Six Territory. Qui transtulit sustinet. A Pushcart and Rhysling nominated author, her work has recently appeared in Gigantic Sequins, Laurel Review, Phantom Kangaroo, Radon Journal and more. She is the winner of the 2022 Anne C. Barnhill prize and the 2021 Bacopa Literary Review Poetry competition, as well as a 2019 Parent-Writer Fellowship to Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She serves as an editor for Luna Station Quarterly and a critic for


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