5 Problems by Matthew Mahaney

Red figures look out over a blue forest

The Diagnosis Problem

A new disease abounds. Doctors find its curdled sap in sinkholes in the brain.
Further probes show a colony collapsed, as the mind becomes unkempt.
Patients soon report having dreams where fire floats. How many memories will
flash their redacted pollen in the time it takes a lipid to dissolve? At what point
will a muddled brain become a berry soaked in ether?

The Coastal Problem

A woman drags her hands through silt. The cloud dispersed obscures her first
impression, so she seeks a second prompt. She reminds herself that harbors can
erode in southern spirals. She practices apologizing. As rust perfects a fence’s
abscess, the woman acquiesces to the fact that future algae will colonize her
grave. If oil begins to blanket every gap in conversation, what frequency will
best reduce a weather system’s grief? To know this, first find the half-life of
floral kelp on a foreign shore.

The Chorus Problem

A girl is organizing every biome’s music. She separates the notes for grass and
knitted clover then primes a metronome with ice. Once she knows the radius of
every hollow octave, she designates a fissure. An elegy unfolds. The muted
cadence summons spores from every claw. At what point will migration be
redundant? Which unfettered quadrant should the girl reclaim?

The Thawing Problem

The warning of a frozen lake unspools in static bursts. Find the rate at which a 
mother’s prayers are doubled. Use the outer edge of a broken thought to
represent a forest’s range.

The Tundra Problem

If elk disperse their velvet in equivalent cocoons, how often have they stumbled
in the taxidermied snow?


Matthew Mahaney’s most recent book of poetry is The Plural Space, released by Salo Press in 2016. His collection of flash fiction, The Storm That Bears Your Name, won the 2015 Cupboard Press Award, and his first book of poems, Your Attraction to Sharp Machines, was recently reprinted in a fifth anniversary edition by BatCat Press. He currently lives deep in the shadows of the bayou, where he is a poetry fellow in the PhD program at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Katbing (@katbingart) is a graphic designer, illustrator and muralist from Los Angeles. She has worked on large-scale installations for Tommy Hilfiger, The Hive Gallery & Studios in LA, and festivals including Desert Daze and Music Tastes Good. Katbing is currently trying her hand at stop motion animation and she is having a really good time and doing a gosh darn great job. Katbing is good at most sports.