Flash Special – Five Writers (May 2017 / 17.5)
Originally from New York City, Robert Bharda has resided in the Northwest US where for the last 35 years he has specialized in vintage photographica as a profession, everything from salt prints to polaroids. His illustrations/artwork have appeared in numerous publications, both in the US and abroad, and are current on covers of Naugatuck River Review and Blue Five Notebook, and within recently published Cirque and Rio Grande Review. His portfolios of images have been featured in Cahoodahoodaling, Superstition, AADUNA, Serving House Journal, The Adirondack Review, and here at Blue Five Notebook; they are also forthcoming in The Critical Pass and Santa Clara Review. Also a writer, his poetry, fiction, and critical reviews have been published in The North American Review, Northwest Review, Shenandoah, Quarterly West, Willow Springs, ACM, Cutbank, Fine Madness, Kansas Quarterly, Yellow Silk, Poets On, Conclave, and many others, including anthologies.
Wherever there are books, there is a log of coal. It completes the circle. When I talk, I slow down, my head a pot full of thoughts, a lazy simmer of bubbles fighting to the top. I don’t like to think of my family, it pains me to lie to you like they do to themselves, but at night, while the insects buzz, stunned by the stumble of light, I become the lull of stories, told in careless repetition.
Ivy Alvarez is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, New Zealand Poetry Society’s editor for a fine line magazine, and an international editor for the first NZ/Aotearoa edition of Atlanta Review. Born in the Philippines, Ivy Alvarez grew up in Tasmania, Australia. Having lived in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, she lived almost ten years in Cardiff, Wales, before arriving in Auckland, New Zealand in 2014. Widely-published and anthologised, her work also appears on a mobile app The Disappearing, in Takahē, The Age / Sydney Morning Herald, and Best Australian Poems (2009, 2013), with several poems translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. www.ivyalvarez.com
International Incidents and White Beans, Not to Mention a Duck
My wife and I discovered that the towns of Toulouse, Carcassonne, and Castelnaudary all passionately insist they originated cassoulet, a thick casserole of beans and fatty meats. We found this out because a tiny café near a metro stop served it and we fondly remembered eating it while visiting Carcassonne.
The waiter got upset when my wife mentioned that though. He was a crusty old drunk who looked more like he should have been loading trucks in a warehouse rather than serving at a café, but he was from Toulouse and insisted his hometown had invented the dish.
That’s when another patron at the other end of the sidewalk tables joined in, an intellectual looking man with glasses, freely offered opinions, and an actual beret. I think you can guess he was from Castelnaudary.
The two of us retreated out of it as the two of them continued to argue, instead simply eating our bowls. We weren’t even French. We didn’t think anything we could offer would carry much weight.
David S. Atkinson is the author of Apocalypse All the Time, Not Quite so Stories, The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes, and Bones Buried in the Dirt. He is a Staff Reader for Digging Through The Fat and his writing appears in Bartleby Snopes, Literary Orphans, Atticus Review, and others. His writing website is http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/.
She and her Nana walk across the street to buy eggs from Mrs. Senericco. The girl is seven. The Sicilian grandmother and the wife of the Mexican egg farmer exchange warm greetings, squeeze each other’s hands. Foreignness bonds them in the 1960s rural, upstate town. The girl belongs to her Nana; she alone is church and sanctuary from the chaos of the girl’s family. Nana lives next door.
The kittens are in the faded red barn behind the house where the women are collecting eggs. One grey female, a delicate fluff of curiosity leaves the pack, skip-hops to the girl. The girl gathers the softness into her hands, lets it nestle into her neck, licking and purring. There can be no parting them. Nana knows. Negotiations, arrangements and then the girl and her Nana walk back across the street, Nana with a dozen eggs, the girl with her kitten, already named, “Little Girl.”
The mother and father are not happy about the addition with three kids, and a dog, a growing black lab to feed. The father did not make this decision and is diminished in his domain, but his mother did, and he must concede. It’s an Italian thing, and it makes him angry. The girl, wrapped in her glowing new world doesn’t notice the fray and fuss, or that Nana wins. A compromise is struck. The girl can keep the cat, but under no circumstances can it come inside the house. The father is allergic, but not ten years later when he will bring home his own cat and give it free reign. The kitten is skittish and suspect of its new surroundings. She clings to the girl who clutches her close, whispering, “Don’t worry Little Girl. I’ll keep you safe,” and kisses her silky head. That’s when the dog spots her and leaps, his sleek muscular body wagging from head to tail. The kitten wrestles free, streaks down the porch steps and headlong into a concrete drainage pipe under 30 feet of sidewalk to the driveway. The girl knows how frightened she is. She feels her there in the dark, trembling, needing help and comfort.
She begs her father and two brothers to please, please leave her kitten alone, let her stay in the pipe until she wants to come out. She’s trying to hold the over stimulated dog by the collar but he breaks free and positions himself at the end where the kitten entered. He’s barking, echoing his threat into the concrete cave.
The father goes for the garden hose. The brothers follow. It’s a great male quest, a showdown, a boy-bonding event. The girl runs inside to the mother, yanks her hand, “Please, please tell them to stop. Please Mommy, please.” The mother pulls away, shrugs her shoulders and walks into the kitchen. Nana, she looks for Nana, but Nana’s gone home.
The girl runs back outdoors as panicked as the kitten. The father and brothers are a unified force with the sole intent of flushing that “damned thing” out of there. It’s great fun, a true boy endeavor. They descend with cold water, running it, jet streaming it until the kitten spits out the other end, drenched, terrified, so violated the girl hardly recognizes her. They roar triumph over the soaked, shivering ball curled into itself. Laughs and hurrahs. They don’t notice the girl, crying, gathering up her kitten and running into the house to swaddle her in towels.
The kitten doesn’t stop trembling. Her eyes fill and leak. They say she’s sick, to keep a safe distance. The girl says no, she’s scared. She pleads to bring her up to her bedroom. “No, no, she could be sick.”
To protect her from the dog, the girl makes a bed on the front porch. She stacks a child-sized wooden lawn chair on top a small table, out of the dog’s reach. She makes a bed, warm and thick with towels, places the kitten in the center, wraps her in soft terry. She nuzzles and kisses her, promises that she will take care of her, not to worry, ‘I’m here Little Girl, I’m right here.” But the kitten has withdrawn, is already coiled away.
The girl stays with the kitten, singing, “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” until the mother insists she come in to bed. Again she pleads, “Can I please bring her inside? It’s summer, but it’s cold at night. Please?”
In bed, the girl prays as she does with Nana in church when they kneel in front of the tiered, votive candles, lighting them for people who need help or who have died. She imagines lighting a candle for her kitten, holding her there in the light.
In the morning the kitten is dead. She’s stiff and cold, still curled into a soft C, her eyes half open and full of tears.
Catherine Arra lives in upstate New York. Recent poetry and prose appear in The Timberline Review, Boston Literary Magazine, The Naugatuck River Review, Gloom Cupboard, Peacock Journal, and Flash Frontier. Her chapbooks are: Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press, 2014) and Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015). www.catherinearra.com
David James resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and upon entering the third trimester of his life he finds himself reading a lot and staring at walls. He has had several pieces of work previously published in Apocrypha & Abstractions, Camroc Press Review, Miscreant, Revolution John, and One Sentence Poems.
When some thought comes to me out of the blue, I snare it just like that. Pretty soon, there’s a herd of thoughts climbing into my mind like animals grazing or charging the wilderness.
What is this herd? These animals goading me along, or guiding me.
Then I stop and a particular animal lies down to rest. As I stand up, he looks at me and growls. Until I tame him, I am nothing. Until I think of him as a part of me, I am no one, nowhere.
To understand what I am doing is what this current thought, this animal, is. He is hungry, in motion as my thought is being thought.
To think is the easy part. To organise my thoughts is the hard part. It is like writing with your finger. It is silent. That is what we’re doing to the words, to our thoughts. Unless we let them live.
This is not just about writing. It is about bringing thoughts to the fore.
Think about rain.
We may think about so many things and thoughts about rain. We may think about where it is going, where it comes from. We may chase origins with our thoughts about rain.
We may run after someone in the rain. We may delight at the sound of rain. We may go out; we may come back in.
We may suppose.
Jill Chan is the author of eight collections, including What To Believe (2017). Her work has been published in A-Minor, Eunoia Review, Otoliths, Bluefifth Review, Poetry New Zealand, and many other magazines online and in print.
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