Fall Quarterly – (Fall 2017 / 17.12)
Daniel Ableev, *1981, is a certified strangeologist and Selectronix engineer from Bonn, Germany; co-editor of DIE NOVELLE – Zeitschrift für Experimentelles; publications in German & English, print & online (“Born to Fear: Interviews with Thomas Ligotti”, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer’s “The Big Book of Science Fiction”, “Alu” etc.). Phaniel is a piece of modular art retrieved from scraps of Mönnen strangeology (#nunin).
On walking past the sycamore
Someone is always buying something: a lamb, a book deal, an election. I think they’re called martyrs—the ones that died for their own happiness. And does it matter? There’s no explanation for the long salt trail leading to no country, no home. Today is just another day. The sycamore outside is losing its leaves. How I love to watch it die and walk past its crooked branches, a few months of history I cannot buy, I cannot own, ever.
Loren Kleinman has published four full-length poetry collections: Flamenco Sketches, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, Breakable Things, and Stay with Me Awhile, and a memoir The Woman with a Million Hearts. Her personal essays have been published in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Seventeen, USA Today, Good Housekeeping, and The Huffington Post, while her poetry appeared in The New York Times, Drunken Boat, The Moth, Columbia Journal, Patterson Literary Review, and more.
I like to encircle the dates on the calendar. As if one could release time just by action. I am also saying I want to go to the future, that I go to it singing, waiting for my hand to encircle the day.
I sometimes encircle the date before night falls. As if I’m saying, I’ll get to the next day now, before I lose this day to the night, as the second hand of the clock sweeps past the hour hand, standing there like a rock.
I sometimes cross the date. But since last month, I’ve stopped doing this. It’s as if crossing is too adamant, a way of cancelling time rather than having it pass. More thrown away than simply let go.
This is also a symbol. Time encircled, rationalized, conquered, spent, used up.
But where does time go? Is it not here still? Is it not something which arrives rather than leaves? Like rain coming down rather than clouds passing clouds, almost reluctantly.
It is insistent. Or quietly mannered and shy sometimes. Like the ticking of a clock, it is perceptible when we listen hard but fades to the background when we are occupied.
Where are we going? Or should I say, Where are we arriving? Then we stop waiting. Then we stop wanting.
When are we moving from this place?
Jill Chan is the author of eight collections, including What To Believe (2017). Her work has been published in A-Minor, Eunoia Review, Otoliths, Poetry New Zealand, and many other magazines online and in print.
Uneven, Faint, Few and Far Between
Ground is hard, soil is spent, grey clouds, but no rain. Seed is dead, angry crows, only dregs remain. My blood boils, electric, rotting skin folds on feeble bones. My face is gone, my name is none. Empty sockets, ruptured drums, a mouth without a tongue.
But my feet are hearty, plump, calloused. I am ever walking, always with a smile upon my lips, and you are swallowing the lie. Clutch my limbs! Puncture, crush and tear till the blood and tears mingle. Smear my soul with the antidote – divine spittle and muddy hope. For the marrow is not yet petrified. Uneven, faint, few and far between – a whine, a wheeze, a gasp, a pulse.
Blake Kilgore lives in Burlington, New Jersey, with his wife and four sons. People there treat him with kindness, and he is at ease living among the old and tall forests of the Garden State. His lingering accent, however, verifies that his heart is still Texan and Okie. Blake’s writing has appeared in Forge, Midway Journal, The Stonecoast Review, OxMag, Lunch Ticket and other fine journals and more work will soon appear in The Roaring Muse, The Vignette Review and The Nassau Review. To learn more, please visit here.
1. These are items I never have in my handbag:
A driving license.
2. These are things my mother never did:
Go on holiday.
Go on the pill.
Leave the county.
Leave my dad.
3. These are people I never met:
My imaginary friend.
A best friend.
A gentle man.
4. These are things I’ve never been:
5. These are things my father never told me:
This is what boys are like.
This is what sex is.
This is who I am.
You look nice.
6. These are questions I never answer:
Who are you?
What do you like?
Where are you going?
Why don’t you speak much?
7. These are things I never said:
Ingrid Jendrzejewski grew up in Vincennes, Indiana, studied creative writing at the University of Evansville, then physics at the University of Cambridge. Her novella-in-flash, Things I Dream About When I’m Not Sleeping, will be published in late 2017. Links to Ingrid’s work can be found at www.ingridj.com and she occasionally tweets @LunchOnTuesday.
Freaks were born with their trauma.
They’ve already passed their test in life.
— Diane Arbus
At the Met Breuer I stand before
Jewish Giant at Home with his Parents in the Bronx,
think of Uncle Seymour, bulging eyes, bald head,
barely able to speak a complete sentence,
who the neighborhood kids called freak.
When he rang the doorbell, looking for love,
I didn’t answer. At thirty-five he held a gun
to his mouth and fired.
On the wall, a description of Arbus’s last days
at Westbeth, found dead in her bathtub
after taking barbiturates.
I might have driven past her on the Pulaski Skyway
heading back to Manhattan
after she photographed Identical Twins, Roselle, NJ.
I might have caught up with her
on West 12th St. in The Corner Bistro where I,
a girl from Newark, practiced being a Bohemian.
I wonder if she wanted only to become invisible,
her photographs who she was.
Distinguished Professor of English and creative writing, emerita, Montclair State University, Carole Stone’s most recent poetry collection is Late (Turning Point, 2016). Hurt, the Shadow (Dos Madres Press) was published in 2013, and American Rhapsody in 2012. Her recent poems have been published in Slab, Exit 13, Cavewall, Adanna, Bellevue Literary Review, and Verse-Virtual. She divides her time between Springs, East Hampton, New York and Verona, New Jersey.
His mother sits in an oversized armchair; the afternoon sun about to reach the rim of her right ear. She was a housewife, an accountant, though she never took formal bookkeeping classes, and now sits mute with stoic face and emptied head. He thumbs the photo album, pointing out tableaus of ancient history: the day he got thrown across the room when he put a wet hand on an electric switch; the afternoon they lost his younger brother in the sand dunes. His parents walked the links, shouting his name over and over for what seemed forever. Eventually, three nuns came sailing along the strand, habits billowing in the blustery Atlantic air. Between them, protected by their large silver crucifixes, his small arms held aloft by their chapped hands, his face is a marred pennant in the wind.
James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA. His work appears in the W.W. Norton Anthology, Flash Fiction International, and in Best Small Fictions 2015. He was also a finalist in the Best Small Fictions 2016, and a semi-finalist in 2017.
Count what can be counted. What’s counted
counts. Number tree-rings. Rearrange by rain-fall
by insect activity, by rows of woodpecker holes.
Check the arrangement. Check please. Pay with ones.
Reordered trees. With bark flakes. Lichen.
Pay with fallen leaves. Organize the serotonin, tryptophan,
dopamine. The same chemicals that flare when falling.
Love lights up Cat scans. Cats land on their feet. Light like
flipping the switch three times exactly, like checking locked
doors. Lichen only grows on the sunny side of damp wood.
Like grows in oxytocin bathed brains.
Like-love. Like counting.
Keri Withington is an assistant professor in the English department at Pellissippi State Community College. When she’s not in the classroom, she grades papers, visits museums with her family, and writers. Her poems have previously appeared in numerous journals and other publications, including The Fourth River and Fox Adoption Magazine.
The height of the fur
The Guangdong Victory Hotel is in two buildings. I can never remember if the cheaper one away from the river is the East Wing or the West Wing. Where the sun is in the south, I lose track.
The first time I came to see my teacher son, the worn muted room on the eleventh floor looked down into a large dark lightwell. Now it’s been done over in smart Sino-Deco, the lightwell has become the Palm Court, and I can’t work out how to turn down the air conditioning. I call housekeeping and they send a maid who looks at me with open contempt.
My son chooses the buckwheat pillow from the pillow menu and eats steamed buns with his bacon and eggs.
He brings me shiny brochures where Chinese clothing companies advertise to Western agents. Pale Russian male models with long hooded eyes peer down over sharp cheekbones.
Enough belts to show off your wilds. Keep track of the fruitcake you enjoyed!
A taffeta exploit evokes the past in this meeting of chichi falpal and majestic rigour.
The height of the fur is never lower your standard.
On the Pearl River evening cruise, young couples holding hands pack the deck seats. They ignore the giant neon banners of flashing silent characters endlessly unfurling down the dark buildings to the water.
Anne Else is a Wellington, New Zealand writer and editor. Her published work has focused mainly on New Zealand women, history and social change. Her fifth book, The Colour of Food: A memoir of life, love & dinner (Awa Press), was a finalist for both the Food Writers Culinary Book Quill and the Bert Roth Labour History Award.
John C. Mannone
Dreams are exaggerations of past realities
I wake up and the sky
is gray with that crisp
smell of rain. My father
is determined to take me
to the park. When three
years old, the whole world
is a beautiful exaggeration—
wet, fist-size pebbles are boulders,
the gurgle of the streams, a roaring
waterfalls, the short path
into the woods, a mile,
my father’s tender clasp
around my hand, a hug
I still long for. The walk back
from dirt to concrete, and the dark
green-railed steps, the black
streets, is what I remember most.
But that’s because I only knew
my dad’s fear
as he hobbled with his cane,
broad-rimmed hat on his head
whose shadow would not be able
to hide me or protect
nor emancipate me
from all the distortions
of black and white things
—nightmares soon would come.
John C. Mannone has work in Poetry South, Artemis Journal, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Pedestal, Pirene’s Fountain, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, and others. He’s the winner of the 2017 Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian literature. He has three poetry collections and edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and others He’s a professor of physics near Knoxville, TN. Visit here.
The shed is my sanctum for months. I leave and return under cover of darkness. Fill my bottles in the creek and relieve myself. Pick berries, collect seeds, steal food from the sheep. No one suspects I hide in plain sight.
All is good until the weather changes. I stay within the four walls of the shed — one week, two — hungry and in my own filth, dissolving the hated snow in my mouth. When I feel my muscles weakening and fear for my life, I open the door and flee.
At first, I try erasing my footsteps like you would in the dirt, sweeping a branch over the path I’ve chosen. But it’s no use: the snow tells everyone where I’ve been. So I keep on walking — hours, days — doomed to travel until the sun will melt my tracks.
Claire Polders is a Dutch author with a debut novel in English on the way. Her flash fiction and micros appeared in Okey-Panky, SmokeLong Quarterly, New World Writing, Necessary Fiction, Connotation Press, The Offing, Hobart, Cheap Pop, matchbook, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @clairepolders or read more stories on www.clairepolders.com.
Tara Isabel Zambrano
I still remember the smell of the tandoori chicken we shared on a roadside that day, how you looked at the horizon and cursed with a smile. And I wondered if this is how all the love stories should begin.
Was it that long ago we fought under the flicker of the street light? You stubbed your big toe and blamed me for everything that was wrong in your life. Or perhaps, what was left of the wrongs you never dared to make right. Including me.
It was never my intention to leave. But I had to. However, a week later, when I deliberately passed your apartment and saw you on the patio, smoking from my Marlboro pack, I felt happy and weary. All at once. I opened my mouth to call your name but no sound came out.
Since then, there is a difference in the quality of silence, the shape of echoes. And I wonder what if love isn’t the greatest glue between two people? If it’s an excuse to fuck and dream at the same time? What if love isn’t the answer.
Tara Isabel Zambrano moved from India to the United States two decades ago. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vestal Review, Minnesota Review, Storm Cellar, and others. She is an electrical engineer by profession and lives in Texas.
The Ellen Show Comes to Visit
Yes, Ellen, being on TV makes me very uncomfortable, the camera, your crew, YOU, in my house witnessing all my – collections.
I don’t really know why you’re here. It’s trite now, isn’t it, Ellen, just a little bit, to focus on me with all those psycho-pop TV shows like “Hoarders” and “Buried Alive,” and that Grey Gardens thing?
And it’s not my fault, Ellen. I inherited my DNA and this lumbering old house from my aunt Mariska, and besides there, lurks in all if us this undeniable craving to collect the objects of our desires, the stuff we feel essential to our very existence. Without them we feel ourselves lessened and lost, and we have to have them, some of us, even though we risk isolation because of the embarrassment, humiliation, judgment, and shame. I’ve studied this.
It wasn’t my aunt’s fault either. She grew up in the Great Depression when nothing could be thrown away because it was certain that if they tossed something, there would immediately be a need for it. She had nothing, living then in a two-room house in Oklahoma where great clouds of grit darkened the skies, settled on the land, blinded those who didn’t burrow inside their hovels under blankets with only a clod of dirt to gnaw on, and I’ve carried this image with me even though I grew up in the 50’s.
Ellen, you must here stories like this all the time. All we worried about was the atomic bomb, Ellen, and if the powers that be pressed that big red button what did it matter to us what we’d saved. Still Aunt Mariska built a fall-out shelter with everything anyone could possibly want including sleeping cots, dehydrated foodstuff, cartons of Tang as well as jigsaw puzzles, Monopoly and Life board games, and a television set which, at least to me, didn’t make any sense if everyone above ground was obliterated, but of course, I didn’t say anything to her at the time, and the TV eventually didn’t matter because the Cold War ended.
She started moving stuff from the house to the shelter, her jewelry – my favorite container filled with Damascene brooches, necklaces, bracelets, coy little boxes, demitasse soups, tiny plates with their leaf patterns, their delicate birds, gold on oxidized gold, copper motifs, touches of steel, each one intricate, delicate. I did try to dig out that container of trinkets, but could not penetrate the newspapers, magazines, editions of the Bible, cartons of paperbacks, bags of wire coat hangers, and so I began to collect my own stuff in the house.
That’s how I discovered e-Bay. There’s hardly anything I can’t find there and now the house is overflowing onto porch and garage and I can’t part with anything, won’t part with anything, because I know that someday soon a dusty cloud will descend again from the sky, and I want more than a clod of dirt to chew on, and you too, Ellen, and all of you who hear my voice, out there in television land, think about it. I am prepared and I am not ashamed of that. Ellen? Ellen?
Gay Degani has a collection of short stories, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum, 2016). Nominated for Best Small Fictions and Pushcart consideration, she won the 11th Annual Glass Woman prize. She blogs at Words in Place.
Brad G. Garber
My father was a universe
all welcoming expansion
inexplicable origin, all
vulnerable as a cracked egg.
His bladder, at age 85
turned to blood and bother
and was thrown into a fire
sizzling in its firmament.
Then, spots showed up
wisps of fog in lung morning
jellyfish in an airy ocean
floating in deadly beauty.
They appeared like ghosts
something slightly opaque
on a background porous
to life and hope.
Unmoving, except at edges
not quite walled, they took
exponential cellular steps
until taking human form.
At night, the stars are spots
of cancer in the universe
their metastatic light
a ghostly warning.
Brad G. Garber has degrees in biology, chemistry and law. He writes, paints, draws, photographs, hunts for mushrooms and snakes, and runs around naked in the Great Northwest. Since 1991, he has published poetry, essays and weird stuff in such publications as Edge Literary Journal, Pure Slush, On the Rusk Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Barrow Street, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Barzakh Magazine, Ginosko Journal, Riverfeet Press, Smoky Blue Literary Magazine, Aji Magazine, and other quality publications. 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee.
Bathrobe, Biscotti & Bike
Truman watched from the kitchen window as Fiona walked to the bus
stop carrying her billboard briefcase which included the lunch he’d made for
He hummed along with Mozart as he rinsed the breadboard, did a little
tai chi as he put away the bread, the jelly, and the extra chunky peanut butter.
Something caught his eye.
He bent down to the checkered linoleum and peered closely. It was the
chocolate dipped biscotti, individually wrapped, that he’d tucked into her bag
as a surprise. It must’ve fallen out when she re-packed her billboard briefcase.
He picked it up and brought it close to his nose. Such a perfect treat.
“Your safety,” he said feeling ravenous, “cannot be guaranteed.”
Truman ran outside, forgetting he was still in his robe, but instantly aware
he was barefoot by the cold slab of concrete. Fiona’s bus pulled away. He
hopped on the bike of his 8-year-old neighbor Sam and began peddling. The
bus had one more stop before the freeway. With a bit of good fortune – perhaps
a commuter with inexact change, he just might catch it.
For he was no ordinary stay at home retired house spouse in a robe,
kleenex in his pockets – he was Bathrobe Man with a job to do. Gripping the
individually wrapped biscotti firmly between his teeth, Truman held on to the
handlebars with both hands and peddled hard, bathrobe belt blowing in the
wind behind him.
Guy Biederman lives on a houseboat near San Francisco with his wife and two cats. He teaches low fat fiction. His work recently appeared in Carve and Third Wednesday. Iota Press published his chapbook, House Samurai. An obituary, Orange Spoon, 1975-2005 hangs in a Gastronomy Art Exhibit in Sonoma County. Guy prefers writing on matchbooks, receipts, and parking tickets while waiting for traffic lights to change.
Down on your knees, said the god.
And they fell like shooting stars,
like a shower of arrows.
As if blossoms in springtime.
For eons the god’s belly rumbled.
The earth flew into the west.
The sun wept butter and blood.
Worship me, an unquestioning love,
the god haughtily commanded.
And the dust formed temples,
and these fell away.
The ashes gathered in cities
that were once incredible.
The moon shattered.
I am your god,
the voice spoke to the silence.
But even Death had departed
for the meadows of time.
Even the light twisted,
the darkness too, for that matter.
Ever the god was beautiful no more.
Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a Pushcart nominee with over a thousand poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and North American Review. His books are The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press), An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy (Cawing Crow Press), and Like As If (Pskis Porch), all available via Amazon.
You’ve some impressive talent here. Bathrobe, Biscotti & Bike is surely a great vignette. Ingrid Jendrzejewski’s “Seven Nevers” is impressive in its brevity and powerful in its vision.
Stunning eclectic issue, the BFR never fails to entice. Loved all the work. Special shout outs to Loren Kleinman (made me shiver), James Claffey (stirred me deeply), Claire Polders (so mystical), and Gay Degani (intense originality).
Hey, Blue Fifth Review Crew. This is a great issue. It may be your best so far.
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