Current Issue

Fall Quarterly – (Fall 2016 / 16.12)

Untitled by Nelly Sanchez

Untitled by Nelly Sanchez

For around ten years, Artist Nelly Sanchez has been making cut-outs. She has been published in journals such as Mung Being, Sonic Boom, Le Pan des Muses and Temporel. She has also participated in exhibitions: in 2012, at Paris -“Femmes/Hommes. Stéréotypes à l’oeuvre”, galerie ABB (Belleville, Paris); in 2013, at Pézenas (Hérault, France) and in 2014 at Mestre (Italia) – “Quand saro più grande”, La Casa della Renna- and Dieppe (Seine-Maritime, France). She has also illustrated writings like La Falaise était nue (Bernard Baritaud), the American translation of Venus in fur (2014). Her artwork can be seen at Albums.

***

Cameron Conaway

Walking Tall

We’ve been doing it since
we’ve been here—planting

our heels to align our spine
and grow. We become

the symbol the act stands
for—extending our bodies

into the sky so it can speak
the words we’re not sure

we believe in: Be with me,
I am strong. Believe in me,

I am strong. Elsewhere,
an ant carries a wet leaf

and works under its shadow.
The snake, feeling scared

by the rat, flares its hood
to curve the story.

The more we stretch, the more
the burden to stretch shrinks us.

But sometimes, when we stand
before the sun breaks, we can

feel our way through the dark,
hear the grace of those still

sleeping, be with ourselves
and believe in the tall that we are.

Cameron Conaway is the author of five books, including Malaria, Poems, which was named a “Best Book of 2014” by NPR. His work as a journalist has appeared in Newsweek, The Guardian, and ESPN. Conaway is the 2015 Daniel Pearl Investigative Journalism Fellow. Connect with him on Twitter @CameronConaway.

~

Pia Z Earhardt

How We Get Around

Our sister, Gianna, texts the sisters to say our mother fell at The Carrington. Our mother used the call button she wears on a purple cord around her neck, and within minutes four people came to her room.

She asked the nurse to please, not call my daughters because we needle her, but Gianna is her conservator. On the phone with the nurse, Gianna could hear our mother in the background, frantically cheerful, offering Halloween candy from the glass bowl on her counter, trying to change the subject. The nurse said her blood pressure was okay, but our mother’s pulse was racing at 120 and her skin was pale and clammy.

“She fell backward,” Gianna explains from Mandeville.

“She’s scared,” Gigi says from Jackson.

“Did she break anything?” Nina asks from California.

“They need to check for a concussion,” Gigi says.

“And bruises,” Nina says.

“Okay, girls,” Gianna says. “Anything else? I’m on it.”

“This is why she is in assisted living,” I say from New Orleans. But the picture of our seventy-nine-year-old mother’s head snapping against the hard floor hurts us all. Her pale arms. Were they too weak to break her fall?

“I don’t want my daughters checking on me,” our mother insists, but Gianna gets her on the phone. “I know how to soften my fall,” our mother says. “You let your body go limp.” And we wonder if she’s been on combat alert, thinking ahead to her knees crumpling or her walker tipping over, or to a cruel slip in the handicapped accessible shower. Maybe she’s been having private falls and struggling to get up on her own? Is the Alzheimer’s decommissioning her reflexes?

The Carrington will now be checking on her at night with their own key, which infuriates our mother. “I can’t sleep expecting them to barge in.”

There’s a craft class on Friday to make autumn door wreaths with pumpkin squash and corn cobs. But our mother’s avoiding the peril of open spaces, the straight walk through the hall to check her mail or trade gossip with the receptionist. Because she needs the close grab of counter tops, upholstered furniture, and steel safety bars, but not daughters.

 

 

My ninety-one-year-old mother-in-law, Jackie, has decided to drive less often. Malcolm and I worry she is hiding traffic near-misses, because her car is her freedom to visit her friends in nursing homes – promise me you’ll never put me in one, she’d implored Malcolm, and he’d promised; her white Toyota is her freedom to park at the boat launch and watch the pink and copper light glint on Lake Pontchartrain, maybe grab a cat nap in the setting sun; and her freedom to pull up in front of our house on weekends for a cup a coffee and a chat on our porch. Or else Malcolm and I drive over to her house, because a week doesn’t go by where Jackie doesn’t notice how many days it’s been.

In her driveway are plastic pots of eerily punctual, sweet-smelling pink four o’ clocks; bloomed-out St. Joseph’s lilies; and a root-bound Japanese mulberry that needs to be transferred into the yard, Jackie says, maybe near the fig tree. Malcolm’s younger brother will come by and do this. He’s her child who fixes things.

She’s in a funk today. She’s been having trouble swallowing, and we don’t know if it’s stress, or stomach acid, or if she’s slowly losing this function. She believes she’s having mini strokes. She pets her throat, like coaxing, and says, “I wake up and wonder why I’m still here.”

We sit in lawn chairs in her carport and talk about an older woman, an uptown lady, who jumped to her death last week from the tenth-floor roof of Canal Place, a ritzy shopping mall downtown. The newspaper said she’d suffered from cancer for years.

“Dogs are treated better,” Jackie says, and we agree. We’d put our Labrador, Eddie, down, a sad and simple decision, made easier when he looked at us with eyes that said it was time and we’d be okay.

I say, “I wonder what was in her goodbye note,” because that jump sounded pissed off, desperate, and public. The woman’s husband was long dead, and why didn’t the grown son and daughter we read about in the obituary listen to their mother’s plea?

Jackie doesn’t believe in assisted-suicide, religion-wise, although I don’t think she’d get in anyone’s way.

“Drive me straight to Oregon where it’s legal,” Malcolm says. And Jackie and I look at each other and shudder off the what-if, but not this kinder ending.

Pia Z. Ehrhardt is the author of FAMOUS FATHERS & OTHER STORIES. Her fiction and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Oxford American, The Morning News, Narrative Magazine, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Her essay “The Owls On Solomon” was a Notable Essay in 2014 Best American Essays. She is the recipient of a Bread Loaf Fellowship and the Narrative Prize. Her work has been performed at Symphony Space, Word Theater, and on WKQR. She lives in New Orleans.

~

Ann Neuser Lederer

Hoping for Juniper

Red welt of warning, comet tail, bear claw mar:
tattooed reminder, curved flair on an inner arm,
omen of scarification, merged and fizzled at the end.

I sent my aunt a small poem by somebody else.
She wrote back. It reminds her of her mother,
slowly climbing the stairs.
The poem was not about that. She wonders, now,
if she should have offered help.
But my grandmother never asked.
How they were masters of saying everything with silence.

On a fir tree, low hanging, a pale bluish berry.
Hoping for a scent of juniper,
I scratched its fogged surface: nothing.

At night, in the early pre-dawn, time of slow stirring,
an arm flung up in sleep.
A delicate sudden hint of eastern oils:
false cinnabar–or dragon’s blood, clove of nutmeg,
exotic foreign pheromones, compressed and gilded,
boxed as treasure.

Ann Neuser Lederer was born in Ohio and also lived and worked in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Kentucky as a Registered Nurse. Her poetry and nonfiction appear in journals, anthologies, and in her chapbooks Approaching Freeze, The Undifferentiated, and Weaning the Babies. Information and links available are available here.

~

Christopher Allen

My Boy Winston

If I’d ever made time for a son, there he’d be, down the beach, patting out his Picasso sandcastle – like baker’s man, like abracadabra. He’s even built a moat. All he needs now is a wave raring to fill it. I’m 45 and a moat would never cross my mind. This toddler is smart. I’ll call him Winston. Winston’s not waiting for a wave; he’s waddling down to the water, filling two pails at a time.

“Winston!” I yell. “Be careful of the waves!”

Sunglasses lift around me—Gucci, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana. Eyes squint then return to their gossip rags. That’s when the sea grabs my boy Winston: as childless sunbathers idle over glossy people made of hair and high fashion.

“Wait! Winston!” I run to the water, hurdle foam, cream snorkeling teens. Winston’s so far out now that all I can see of him are two sparkling hands outstretched above the surf patting down the waves like they fathered the tides. Like downy antlers, like look-Mom-no-hands! Like anything but my drowning boy.

I scan the beach for a father to blame, and for a second’s insanity I wonder if I might be that father. But then Winston’s gone: the potential of a son much smarter than his dopey old dad, a man not much more than a boy himself. A man who can’t even swim.

How long do I stand there searching the swell for signs of life before I give up on my boy Winston, turn and walk away, past his cubist sand folly? Ten years? Twenty?

The moat is full now and lapping, and behind the castle comes a flurry of sand-dusty hands—like peekaboo, like a healer. The boy is there. He’s safe. He’s roaring. And he’s not my son.

Christopher Allen’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Juked, Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, FRiGG and others. In 2016 Allen was awarded third place in the K. Margaret Grossman fiction awards. In 2015 he won Ginosko Literary Journal’s award for flash fiction. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen’s stories have been nominated for the Pushcart, Best of the Net, and storySouth‘s Million Writers award. Allen is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.

~

Tim Kahl

House Actress

           – for Lei

She is an improbable raptor, this realtor
whose face graces the ads on supermarket carts.
She grins a pleasant edge to her purpose
as she grabs a new client’s hand to close the deal.
This is the way in to negotiation, she reveals,
as the many layers of interests build and
thicken, impasto on the point of purchase.
She can hawk, hawk, hawk all day,
a veteran stager of rooms that simplify
and perfect the lives that drift through them.
Every looker believes the theater is real
and improves what’s felt. Maybe today
she plays the part of pheasant and wanders
across the yard from another continent,
from the opera in Beijing, monkey king
whirling her pheasant feathers
to illustrate spite, rage, calculation,
decisiveness . . . this is how her strategy
plays among the house hunters.
They are not allowed to peek until
the dream of the suburban home comes
to tame them. She fans the primal
flames of spending. Then the bidding’s over.
How many winners have crossed
the threshold to nest in the present?
Another one’s money could not create
the future in that space, and she rehearses
the part of the naysaying raven:
the world is not made of what you want.

Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) and The String of Islands (Dink, 2015). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup (http://greatamericanpinup.wordpress.com/) and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. For more information, read here.

~

April Bradley

Thunderbird

Dinner’s on. Chowder’s simmering and the bread for the week cools on the racks. Clarey wipes down the counters and then picks up a clamshell out of the sink, a handful of striated slate. It’s a waste throwing them out. She should keep them, crush them up for gravel or maybe compost. The inside is smooth with pretty bruised-colored banding, not purple enough to make wampum, but she likes it. She sets it aside to wash her hands with lemon juice. She could cook chowder for centuries and not have enough to re-grade the driveway. She hears Andrew drink his bourbon, the ice cubes clink and settle in his glass. Instead of asking for another like she expects, he clears off the clutter on the table: bills, junk mail, books, a plastic bag, returned homework, lists, receipts, knitting needles, jackets, crayons, a calculator.

 

“This is insane. How does this accumulate in one day?”

 

Clarey stacks school papers and supplies and nods at the recycling basket by the mudroom door. “This is the catch-all place, the heart. It’s where we all end up.” Andrew gives up and heads for a refill. She says, “Just toss the paper over there and grab some bowls.”

 

Clarey grabs a green plastic grocery bag, the kind she despises, and hundreds of tiny, black kernels fly all over the kitchen. She’s too bewildered to ask what the fuck they are. Her eyes can’t open wide enough to take it all in.

 

She’s trying to stop the hemorrhage but the pebbles pour over her hands and onto the table. They fill up grooves and roll onto the floor like seething insects. “Why is there a bag of dirt on the table? Where are our children?” Clary’s hair has half fallen out of its clip. She’s holding a bag of dirt in her own kitchen and her husband just watches. Words like goddamn and motherfucker run through her head. She drops the bag down on the table and ties up her dirty hair.

 

Andrew picks up his drink with steady surgeon’s hands. He leans against the counter and watches her with that slow, easy grin that works on hospital staff and grad students. “It’s not them.” Calm down, baby hangs between them but Andrew knows not to say that right now. He takes a long sip of his drink and laughs into the tumbler. This is the man who used to undo her.

“Look,” he says. “See, it’s poppy seeds.”

 

Clarey looks. Andrew’s right. There are hundreds and hundreds of poppy seeds everywhere and more in the bag. “And?”

 

“Well, I didn’t want to spoil to the surprise – sit down, Clarey – I’ve been getting up every morning in the dark this week, scattering these things around front lawn. Remember how you said you’d love to see a field of poppies again? I’ve been trying to sow these things without you finding out.”

 

Clarey doesn’t know what to think. This is unlike him, but she’s warming up to the idea, remembering the lush early days of their marriage. A faint blush suffuses her skin. What a thing, what a grand, lovely thing.

 

Andrew sweeps up the seeds. Clarey sits with her knee tucked up under her chin and imagines hundreds of poppies swelling and blooming away from her, glorious, as if hope is something to store away and eat during the winter. Maybe, things have changed.

 

Andrew calls the kids down to dinner. Warm bread, hot chowder, a third bourbon. Clarey’s family is here, safe, and her love moves outside to harden and germinate.

 

The next morning, Clarey finds more seeds on the kitchen floor. Nothing for it but to drag out the vacuum and get it over with after the kids get off to school. She vacuums the entire first floor, including her husband’s bedroom. Under the bed she finds plastic bottles filled with water and poppy seeds or a gooey resin. She finds her missing mortar and pestle, finds missing saucers with dried, clay-like splotches.

 

Her teenage son startles her from the doorway. “You finally found it.”

 

“What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at school.”

 

“I forgot my homework. It was on the table last night.”

 

Clarey’s looking at the bottle, holding it up to the light. “I must have put it in the school supply box with your sister’s things on top of the fridge – do you know what this is?” It looks like a bottle full of dirt and river water.

 

“Yeah Mom. I know what that is. That’s homemade opium. There is no field of poppies. Or maybe there is, I don’t know. He’s been doing this for months.”

 

Clarey turns and looks at her son standing in a shaft of light bisecting the threshold of his father’s room. He’s too young to shave, but he knows what homemade narcotics are.

 

“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t know how to tell you.” The boy fiddles with the straps on his backpack, looks anywhere but at Clarey.

 

Clarey sits on Andrew’s bed and looks up at her son, the one she’s supposed to protect, protecting her. She is serene. She is the loving mother, the understanding wife. “It’s fine, pumpkin. Don’t worry about it. I’ll talk to him about it.”

 

Clarey feels her heart beat. It explodes with the fury of her love. She’s standing among the red blazing poppies in her mind. The field catches and rages. She is alight, and her love, her love razes and burns.

April Bradley is the Associate Editor of Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and the Founding Editor of Women Who Flash Their Lit. Her writing has or will appear The Airgonaut, Boston Literary Magazine, Flash Frontier, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Narratively, and NANO Fiction, among others. She lives near the water on coastal Connecticut with her family. Find her at @april_bradley.

~

Susan Tepper

Blood

You get in the habit of expecting
blood to spill from the flower vase,
tea kettle, water spout, even the dry
clay pots where the mums weren’t
the hardy type, dying off too soon:
It was still fall and the matter of grief,
unending: simple torture of a raised
shade you think twice before opening.
Phone that is seldom answered.
Shoulders carried high and tight
so they hurt by the afternoon.
News from the ports is not good.
Every portal bringing fresh blood.

Susan Tepper has been a writer for twenty years. Her stories, poems, interviews and essays have been published extensively worldwide. An award-winning author, Tepper has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize and once for a Pulitzer Prize for the novel. “Let’s Talk,” her column at Black Heart Magazine, runs monthly. FIZZ her reading series at KGB Bar, NYC, has been ongoing for eight years. Before settling down to study writing, Tepper worked as an actor, singer, flight attendant, marketing manager, tour guide, television producer, interior decorator, rescue worker and more.

~

Emma Neale

Cabaret

It was a day of odd scenes, as if dreamsight had leaked from a thousand sleepers, and the city air itself flickered; only half awake. In the town belt, a man cycled through the rain with an open umbrella held ahead of him like a jousting lance, his unbuttoned, damp surgical gown flapping like newly-hatched green wings, his cycle helmet bejewelled with stick-on diamantes from the two-dollar shop. In the basket on the back of his bike there was a glass aquarium with a wire netting roof, and inside, a small, gingery rabbit. Approaching in the opposite direction, while we were still asking ourselves, was that really a rabbit, an umbrella, a surgeon’s gown, a flatbed truck rumbled along with a piano on the back, which was draped with net curtains. Presumably the owners set out before the rain began, as the curtains would be useless as wet weather gear. It looked as if someone had just fished the piano from the harbour; no, my son said, it looks as if the piano is a bride. Who would be the groom? Some stool pigeon! We laughed and in the giddiness of it, I didn’t look left, right, left again, but only left, right. So at the intersection there was no time to reassemble a bland expression when a woman pushed another woman wearing a tiger-suit onesie in a wheelchair up to the kerb. The elderly disabled person had a haughty profile and held a walking stick between her knees. The tiger onesie hood was pulled up, and she had the faux-fur tail draped over her wrist.

 

‘Imagine if your grandmother thought she was a tiger,’ said my son sombrely, staring in completely the opposite direction, as if the woman weren’t there, and the thought had come unbidden. By the time we came to the end of the tree canopy and out onto one of the surburb’s main roads, and saw the team of five men and one woman struggling to carry a trampoline along the puddled footpath, I thought it safest to pull over. My son threw open his door, and leaned out, looking squint-eyed up at the clouds. ‘What are you doing?’ I said, using a sleeve-cuff to wipe away the mascara smuts that I’d cry-laughed under my eyes. ‘I thought they must be trying to catch some clown jumping from a tree. Or a plane. Today is way-strange.’

 

We arrived at his dance class without any further incident, and inside the auditorium, the light took on a dull patina: as if we’d been part of a spontaneous cabaret and now we both had the post-production blues. Then the other dance pupils arrived, and the children were all asked to stand in a line, waiting for their turn to sashay across the floor in the gangsta walk to a Michael Jackson song. Standing behind one of the best dancers, my son edged away from her a little more, his face serious. Then I saw why: his hand was rising up, involuntarily, it seemed, to the burnished glow of her long, brown ponytail. Then he snatched his own hand away, plunged it into a pocket, biting his bottom lip. Belatedly, the girl sensed something. She turned and looked over her shoulder. He swallowed. Then he blinked and shook himself a little, as if he’d just finned his way up through sea water to catch breath. The final shake seemed to say yeah, so? Both children drifted back to the music. Outside, the rain dreamed on.

Emma Neale, a poet and prose writer, was born in Dunedin and raised in Christchurch, San Diego CA, and Wellington. She has written five novels — Night Swimming, Little Moon, Relative Strangers, Double Take and Fosterling — and a number of poetry collections, and has edited anthologies of both short stories and poetry. Neale was the inaugural recipient of the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature (2008) was the 2012 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. Her poetry collection The Truth Garden won the Grattan Award for poetry in 2011, and Fosterling was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Award in 2012. She teaches, works in publishing and looks after her two young sons. Neale blogs at emmaneale.wordpress.com.

~

Tom Montag

No Home

Assume the crow
is at the edge

of the universe.
Everywhere the wind

is blowing in.
Assume there are

trees. Assume long
light is laid on

swaying things. Does
the sunset mark

a loss of wisdom?
Is night always like

the silence it brings,
a black bird with

nothing to say?
Is darkness the only

place to call home?

Tom Montag is most recently the author of In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013. He is a contributing writer at Verse-Virtual and in 2015 was the featured poet at Atticus Review (April) and Contemporary American Voices (August). Other poems are found at Hamilton Stone Review, The Homestead Review, Little Patuxent Review, Mud Season Review, Poetry Quarterly, Provo Canyon Review, Third Wednesday, and elsewhere.

~

Andrew Stancek

Caged Hamster

The shopping cart wheels are stuck in the sludge but the woman is in no hurry. She pushes her trove of rags and blankets and, teetering close to the top, a shiny cage. A furry creature is running inside a wheel.

Pacing at the corner, Rasto kicks at an icy mound and checks his watch. Why can’t Monika ever be on time? The muttering woman shuffles three steps closer and slips on the ice. As the shopping cart hits a rut and falls over sideways, the remains of the woman’s life spill.

“Götterdämmerung,” the woman yells at Rasto. “Just stare, why don’t you? Ugly tie. Doesn’t match.”

Rasto thinks Mother. The words and tone, even the Wagner, reek of Mother. When Rasto reaches out, the woman grips his leather jacket sleeve with a claw. He staggers but manages to pull the woman to her feet.

A passer-by kicks a shawl; a hopping pigeon squawks and pecks a sleeve. “Henry, are you okay?” she calls and limps to the cage. Rasto stands the shopping cart upright, most of the contents still intact. The woman trills at the squawking fur ball in the cage. “Don’t be frightened, Momma will look after you.”

“Do you want the wet stuff back in the cart?” Rasto asks.

“What do I look like, Princess Grace? No, I want my tiara to be sent to the jewelers first to be reset.”

Again, a sense of Mother. Where the hell is Monika? He tucks a pile of rags into the shopping cart. The woman is still sending kisses to her pet.

“Do you have a place to go? Shelter?” he asks. The woman’s back is turned, her eyes only for the hamster spinning the wheel, and she coos. “You’re a sweet boy, you are, Henry.”

Rasto reaches for his wallet, pulls out a twenty. “Buy yourself something warm,” he says.

She grabs the money, snarls. “Your conscience clear now?”

“Pardon? What are you on?” She has nothing, his inner voice screams, You have everything. You neglect Mother. He leans against the fake brick of grocery store wall. So much for a year of therapy. He can deny and justify but he recognizes the slap of truth.

Last week when Rasto entered the Home, Mother was hearing voices, convinced everyone was conspiring to take her money. She screamed at Rasto,“Got here too late. You’re written out of the will. You, your prick of a father, your whore sister – all of you. Don’t see you for years and when you smell money, you come, unctuous smiles on your whitewashed faces. Well, it’s too late. Nothing is what you get. It’s all going to the Poetry Society, every last penny. Every time you teach a poem, you’ll know that you could have been rich if only you’d looked after your mother. Sic transit Gloria.”

She cackled, raised herself up to declaim, “the blood/ Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs/ Bitter as the cud of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,/ My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/ To children ardent for some desperate glory,/ The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori.”

Rasto cringes at the memory. Mother’s dramatic streak still flourishes. Rasto’s father, long-suffering through her affairs and addictions, is long dead. His sister, loving one impossible married man all her life, never got a chance to marry him, or have affairs, felled by cancer at thirty-three.

Rasto is the only one left.

He’s impressed by Mother’s recall of poetry when she remembers so little else, her money spent long ago. Rasto signs the checks for the monthly residence fees. The Poetry Society will not have a new benefactor.

Rasto thinks he finally sees Monika’s red hat in the distance, but it turns out to be a jogger’s tuque. Back to the woman, her hamster. “Want help? Can I do something for you?”

“Yeah, a million dollars would be nice.”

The cell phone rings and Rasto sighs. Monika must be calling at last. “Where are you? We’re gonna be late. I’ve been…”

“Mr. Popol? It’s Gloria from Restful Manor. Your mother has taken a turn. You’ll want to come quickly.”

Huge snowflakes land on the woman’s disheveled hair and on the cage she’s cradling. Rasto glances at the hamster, the small staring black eyes, long whiskers and black ears twitching. Rasto knows he should be flagging a cab, but he continues to stare at the hamster. All his upsets – Monika and her lateness, the missed celebration, the homeless woman, his mother – fall away. The world stills and he’s filled with the strange beauty of the furry creature. A car horn blares. Rasto shakes with a sudden chill, waves an arm and a passing cab squeals to a stop. Rasto pulls out all the bills except for a twenty from his wallet, thrusts them at the woman and scrambles into the cab. He sits in the back, dazed.

Mother’s breathing is raspy. “She’s not in pain,” the nurse says. “It won’t be long.” Mother’s hands, once model-smooth, are blotched. Rasto brings his lips to one, warms it with his breath. He wants to share his new peace.

“Mother,” he whispers. “I’m with you.” Her eyelid twitches but the eyes don’t open. Her face lets go and her wrinkles soften. She shudders.

The oxygen tank, the heart monitor, the beepers, have been removed. Rasto runs his fingers over the radiant star quilt covering her. Outside the window the snowflakes are floating. His mother’s body, her bed, the peeling paint, the dented night-table are outlined in light.

Andrew Stancek entertains Muses in southwestern Ontario. His work has appeared in Tin House online, Every Day Fiction, fwriction, Vestal Press, Pure Slush, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and Camroc Press Review, among others. He’s been a winner in the Flash Fiction Chronicles and Gemini Fiction Magazine contests and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

~

Len Kuntz

Your Facebook Page

Even now I keep returning
To your Facebook page
Like a foolish and hopeful stalker
But nothing changes
The photos stay the same
No one posts anything
Except on your birthday
Because none have been told you’re dead
Happy Birthday, big guy!
Hope it’s great!
Hope it’s fantastic!
Hope it’s your best one ever!

I should tell someone to take it down
Or finally stop looking
But I loved you once
And now this
Is all I have
To remind me that you
Were actually real

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans. His story collection The Dark Sunshine debuted from Connotation Press in 2014. You can also find him here.

~

Gail Ingram

A dissociative episode (psychology)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment to more severe detachment like television sobbing from physical and emotional experience like being. In mild cases, it can be regarded as a coping mechanism on the outsideseeking to master stress of thick glass. At the nonpathological end, it describes looking in atcommon events such as a son running, daydreaming while driving a vehicle out of air, alterations in personal identity or sense of self, her son the world is unreal running into separate streams of zigzag across the screen in search of startling autonomous intrusions of definition.

Gail Ingram’s poetry and short stories have appeared in Takahē, Poetry New Zealand, Flash Frontier and others. She was selected as a finalist for 2016 Best Small Fictions, and placed in the 2015 NZPS international poetry competition. She is currently studying for a Masters of Creative Writing at Massey University.

~

Karen George

Feast of the Missing, the Unaccounted For

Clock the music of loss
the weight of holes

Borrow the scale
of small birds

Map the mercy
of rocky streams

Tongue the dark
hungers

Author’s note: Found poem composed from Jane Hirshfield’s “Like the Small Hole by the Path-side Something Lives In”
Karen George, author of Into the Heartland, Inner Passage, Swim Your Way Back, The Seed of Me, and forthcoming The Fire Circle, has work published in Memoir, Louisville Review, Naugatuck River Review, and Blue Lyra Review. She reviews poetry at Poetry Matters, and is fiction editor of the journal Waypoints. Visit her website.

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Paul Beckman

Kaboom!

Because I read a passage that spoke of them, I hear the sound of church bells. The librarian shoots me a look. I must’ve scraped my chair or something. Gunshots—I need an aspirin. Maybe the librarian has one but she glares at me again. This morning I drove in to a school bus while texting and got concussed. These noises never happened before unless I was playing “Mimic” with my family, but those were mostly voices and I turned out to be the best mimic.

I close my book. I begin to write and in the opening scene the Pope walks out onto his greeting balcony and everyone in the courtyard looks up, applauding and cheering. I wish I had a volume switch in my head. The noise makes me tug my right ear and it gets louder. I try my left and it softens. What the hell! What a godsend. I think about getting on my motorcycle and heading to the hills of Italy but first I rev it up. Boy is it loud in my head. I tug my left ear and smile.

“This is a library and not a sound effects studio,” the librarian says, towering above me, arms folded, face contorted, bun shaking.

“What seems to be the problem?” I ask her.

“The problem is you’re sitting in a library surrounded by quiet sounds and you’re making noises—church bells, motorcycle, applause, and who knows what else. I’m going to have to ask you to leave if you do it again. You’re disturbing our other patrons.”

How can she hear what’s going on in my head? Maybe she should pull her left ear lobe to turn down the volume.

She scowls.

 

I walk over to a college-age man a few tables away and ask him. I explain about the concussion and the sounds and I give him ear instructions and go back to my seat. I read the church bell paragraph again and he nods his head. I motion an ear pull and he yanks his left lobe and shakes his head. And then, I try again, hoping for . . . Again, he pulls his left lobe and shakes his head.

I’m fucked.

The librarian sits down and the splat of a whoopee cushion goes off. I chuckle but she’s out of her chair and heading my way so I grab my bag and leave.

I walk out to the sound of a bicycle with a playing card hitting the spokes.

Paul Beckman’s story “Healing Time” was one of the winners in the 2016 The Best Small Fictions and his 100 word story “Mom’s Goodbye” was chosen as the winner of the 2016 Fiction Southeast Editor’s Prize. His stories are widely published in print and online in the following magazines amongst others: Connecticut Review, Raleigh Review, Litro, Playboy, Pank, Flash Frontier, Matter Press, Metazen, Pure Slush, Jellyfish Review, Thrice Fiction, and Literary Orphans. His latest collection, Peek, weighed in at 65 stories and 120 pages. Paul lives in Connecticut and earned his MFA from Bennington College. His published story website is www.paulbeckmanstories.com and blog is www.pincusb.com

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Penny Dyer

The Tanager

Sun streams along holy cypress knees,
hardened by water’s cold caress.
I hear no prayer today, just a lit match,
the humiliating next breath, stitching
this day to another. Finger-tapping of lost minutes,
time capsules swallowed like useless medicine.

Artifacts of dropped hours bury in silt,
grind against the sand. Who would bother
to open them again in the next millennium,
an eon from one small root? What would remain
a light-year between the breadth of an atom?
My boat slips beneath the overhang of shade,
where boughs conspire to entangle my shadow-thoughts
within the braid of their green web.
Then a quickening of birdsong—a single spark
repeated, a blessing, a mantra. I take up the song,
choke out the first childish notes.
Lay siege to whatever darkness remains.

Penny Dyer is the recipient of the 2007 Oberon Poetry Prize, and the 2006 Louisiana Literature Prize for Poetry. Articles and poems appear or are forthcoming in the Pulse, Poems Niederngasse, SouthLit, Arsenic Lobster, Dogwood, Narrative, Rosebud, and others.

 
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