Flash Special: See What I See, after the image from JoAnn Tomaselli (October 2018 / 18.8)
Artist Jo Ann Tomaselli on her art: “Defining myself as a particular type of photographer is impossible as every moment behind the lens offers an opportunity to see the world from a different point of view. My photographic goal is to show a world less complicated be that in my landscape, nature or portrait work. My inspiration? Color, shape, design and the most delightful factor of all ~ fun!”
‘See What I See’ is one image is from the backyard series Same View ~ Different Day, a personal project informed by the art of light, the grandeur of the seasons and the mystery & majesty of Mother Nature. The entire 300+ images can be seen on Instagram @joanntomaselli with portfolio selections at joanntomaselli.com
In a Nutshell
The sun, a perfect egg-yolk against the blue-plate sky. Dublin, four seasons in a day: sun, rain, wind, frost. Twenty cigarettes, plus a bottle of Guinness and a dropeen of whiskey. Doctor’s orders. Martin’s skull-cap tilted precariously as he threaded his way home after long hours hauling bricks up and down the ladder. Hod carrier, soon-to-be-father, he twisted the withered potato he kept in his trouser pocket to ward off the rheumatism. He hoped for a boy, yes, a little gossoon with fair hair and green eyes.
The Stadium, packed to the rafters. Choking back the cider the lads headed for the entrance. Small, she was. A waif. Curly, curly hair. Same ringlets as Amanda Fee’s, how he felt the coils run through his fingers on the dancefloor as they made slow circles to “At Seventeen.” She was a “good girl,” and needed to be respected. His father told him, “Treat her like a queen, lad. Like a queen.” They broke up in the springtime. April Fool’s Day. Left him with two tickets to see Janis Ian in concert. Cousin’s friend from secondary school. First time meeting. Jesus wept.
The taxi from the airport slaloms its way through the drenched streets. Fanagan’s Funeral Home in Kimmage, he told the cabbie. No rush. His father passed while the airplane was somewhere over Greenland. Frozen waste. Wasted life. Destiny’s Child on the radio. The brother was at the door of the mortuary. Quick handshake. He went in alone. Cold. Skin waxen. Hair wispy white. Unnatural. Slipped a golf-ball in his breast pocket. Bit of a bulge. Outdoors, the sun, a perfect egg-yolk against the blue-plate sky. Dublin, four seasons in a day.
Irishman James Claffey lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, California. His work appears in the W.W. Norton anthology, Flash Fiction International, and in Queen’s Ferry Press’s anthology, Best Small Fictions of 2015. He was a finalist in the Best Small Fictions of 2016, and a semi-finalist in 2017. His story collection, Blood a Cold Blue, debuted in 2013 and his novel, The Heart Crossways, is now available from Thrice Publishing.
Leaving the Pool
I watched the man at the poolside with his family: two toddlers, a trim wife, and the older couple with them. The older man was bald and moved with difficulty, his right arm paralyzed and bent at the elbow, spine curved in a hunch. He was standing, trying to take some steps towards his fat grey wife in a beach chair. The younger man took the older by the elbow and helped him, then put his hand on the old man’s back and gave it an affectionate rub and gentle pat. His face was full of concern. This younger man, clearly a son, husband, and father of the two children, was overweight but muscled, short black hair still wet and shiny from swimming.
I watched all this surreptitiously, intruding on this family scene twenty feet away, touched by the tenderness the man displayed for his father. His two screaming toddlers gamboled with pink and yellow lifesavers, and his wife sat with a book that insulated her from the surroundings.
The man’s gaze swept around in an idle scan, but his eyes stopped on me, their focus signaling I had registered. He sat down, his father now safely by the older woman, and glanced my way again. I was embarrassed to be ogling and went back to my book, but only for a moment. When I was sure it was safe, I looked again.
Sitting in profile, his belly was round, and his muscled chest sagged a little now, the large red nipples conical, protruding like the teats of an ape.
I walked past this group on my way to the bathroom inside the hotel, looking straight ahead. Inside the marbled restroom, I was alone. As I finished at the urinal I heard the door open, and out of the corner of my eye saw someone stand in front of a urinal two places away. Observing men’s bathroom etiquette, I did not look until I was turning away toward the sinks and saw the man from the pool. He was violating protocol and looking at me, holding his penis in such a way that it was plainly visible and difficult for urination.
At the sinks, he took the one next to me and looked at me in the mirror. I smiled, and although my mouth was dry with nerves and I wasn’t sure I said, “Nice day out there,” feeling idiotic.
Without smiling, he nodded. He pulled the elastic waist of his trunks, looked down at his genitals and reached down and made as if to adjust them, but his hand lingered on them longer than necessary and he looked at me again. I could just make out the black pubic hairs below the waistband, and I had to resist the temptation to reach in.
The toilet stalls behind him had privacy doors, and now he went into one and didn’t close it. I dried my hands and as I walked towards the exit I saw that he was standing in the stall, trunks down to his thighs, with an expression that signaled desperation, not lust. I was still aroused at the sight of his tumescence and his nipples, and under the spell of the gentleness he had dispensed his father. I stepped towards the stall. At that moment, a toddler’s pacifier fell out of his trunks’ pocket and landed on the floor next to the toilet.
The rubber nipple was like a tarantula on that floor, inches from his bare feet. I jumped and pointed. “Look!”
“Oh, Christ.” He reached down to pick it up. Before he had straightened up I was out of there and on my way to the elevators, intending to go back to my room. I would go back to the pool later, during what was sure to be the toddlers’ dinner hour, to retrieve my book and sunglasses. I stood by the elevators but didn’t push the “up” button. Not just yet.
José Sotolongo was born in Cuba. His fiction and poetry have appeared or will soon be seen in Leafland, Litro, Flash Fiction, New Reader Magazine, and Adelaide Journal, and the anthologies of The Peacock Journal, Atticus Review, and Love Like Salt. His first novel will be out in 2019. He lives with his husband in the Catskills of New York, where he is working on a short story collection.
To a Middle Eastern Poet
after Zeina Hashem Beck
How can I understand your life – the bomb, and your brother, in the mosque that day … or not? You asked me to listen to the moment just after the explosion when your thoughts shattered into pieces on the other side of your world. You wrote poems of Lebanon, Syria. I haven’t been there. I know my sadness won’t last, isn’t damaging, at least not in a physical sense. I imagine you have dark hair, flashing eyes, you are tall with a bony nose, beautiful, but I know this image is rose-coloured. I blame American movies. Perhaps I’m jealous, though I didn’t set out to reduce you to this.
you are my rangy cat, curled tightly at my feet. Isn’t there a link? I’m thinking of Old Persia; the reverence they had for those slinky beasts. I hear him cry in the morning.
He sits outside my door, falls silent, just before the alarm goes off.
Gail Ingram’s poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry New Zealand, takahē, Atlanta Review, Penduline Press, Flash Frontier, Cordite Poetry Review, Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand and Manifesto: 101 Political Poems. Awards include winner of New Zealand Poetry Society international poetry competition, third prize Poets Meet Politics international poetry competition, Runner Up National Flash Fiction Day NZ Micro Madness, finalist for Best Small Fictions, shortlist for Fish Short Prize, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is a poetry editor for takahē and Associate Editor for Flash Frontier. She teaches at the School for Young Writers in Christchurch New Zealand, and holds a Masters of Creative Writing from Massey University. You can find her at https://www.theseventhletter.nz/
Canoe Lake 1917
“Have done a great deal of paddling this
spring and the fishing has been fine.”
A picture is a fact, a picture reaches out to reality. I canoed into
colour, slashing the blue to a point of no departure. There was my
reach, my reaching. I had struck out alone, wordless, timeless. My
silence could not silence the rushing wind and water. And then I
paddled easy, unhurried, a calm blood pumping through my veins – a calm
touched by turbulence: black spruce harrowed a black-edged sky as I
paddled by. Massing white-whipped cloud-fronts yielded to a
bluish-purple I had never seen before. My knuckles whitened on the
shaft as I reached the edge of sheer vertigo, scraping diagonally,
stabbing-dabs of flame and gold-leaf where I perceived it,
undercurrent in the apprehensive greenery, snapping branches, rotten
trunks bowing to cyclonic wind – then as suddenly the edgy storm clouds
fled and I paddled freely. Picture as fact: picture reaching out to
Then the lake-cool quietude of evening, the flattened horizon of warm
mauves and pinks, pulsing greens. Drooping red-brown tendrils of bare
pine branches, muddy curve of hills, lone pines foregrounding a kind
of silent poetry, or prayer – faceless in the face of my study, I was
essentially in absentia. Impressions fitted into my beloved sketch
box, a portable kit for tough terrain. A sketched palpitation and
throb – a frontal assault on the senses, pow – the flat paddle-blade
pierced the water, thrust forward, pounding the palette coarsely, hand
of the deep bush, roughened, Northern. There was no final picture for
my rugged intuition, laid cold against reality like a measure. Alive,
the finished works resisted a shift toward pure abstraction,
juxtaposing luminous greens, reds and yellows side by side in
I canoed into colour, splashing wildly to point of no departure.
The canoe sliced through the slabbed blue lake, black spruce pointing
skyward, past a fast frieze of buzzing pine, birch and cedar, and a
holy blaze of sun-kissed tamarack. This was Eden as Algonquin:
untrammeled save for savage flies and mosquitoes blackening the air.
Maybe as the Creator had envisaged it: teeming life. A picture model
of reality. And then reality as a thrashing moose at night, paddled by
at panel-speed, rendered in the perfect pitch of animal vibration,
moonlit plash and pull. Manifesting moods, tones, immediate and primal
energies, my work was a counterweight to unavailing utterance, as
words always fail the presentness of nature. Truth, beauty, colour,
yes – but my heart was my true palette. Trees, lakes, life-strokes, the
I expressed the uncanniness I saw and felt, a raw-boned wilderness or
wildness, scintillant with life – in a wordless tongue – high priest of
the colour wheel, stroke by stroke, dividing water, black, blue,
white-capped, windswept. Backdropping the violent-splendid nature play
were objects shaped only by space and colour, and silence was the
purest object, a gestured flash of evanescence, for a moment pausing
time, the experience filtered through my soul, in thrall of the
actual, perceiving it all as pure colour, mutation, creation – there was
no going back – stroke by stroke, framed in black-edged time, resigned
to a sturdy fishing line and sketch box, navigating that shoreline for
something, that finishing object, that twilit North beyond..
Salvatore Difalco is the author of 4 books, including two story collections, Black Rabbit and The Mountie At Niagara Falls (Anvil Press). He lives in Toronto and has spent time in Northern Ontario exploring the tones, moods, and aesthetic legacy of Tom Thomson – Canada’s Vincent Van Gogh – who died mysteriously in 1917.
What the Tarot Said
If he said he would send word for you, he will, provided his ship does not sink, provided he is not drafted into the new country’s war, provided he works hard and earns the money for your passage, provided he is not thinking of someone else and forgets about you. He will write a letter and ask you to meet him.
If he puts this letter in a bottle, which he will, he will enclose the fare for your travels to meet him in the new land where he sweats under the sun and ponders the verse of his letter and misses you. He will drop the bottle into the river that winds amongst the trees behind the fields. If it floats instead of sinking into the silt that lines the river bed, if it does not get caught and tangled in the tree roots along the river’s edge or amongst car tires and bicycles and fishing lines and beaver dams or if it isn’t trapped in the whirls of a never-ending eddy, it will reach the mouth of the river where it will be pushed into the ocean where the current and salt and fish will gnaw on its cork.
If the bottle is not swallowed by a shark or caught in a net, if it is carried by the ocean tide all the way back to your side of the world, and if you happen to be outside walking along the beach like you sometimes do, you will find it bobbing in the waves. But the cork and the letter and the fare will be lost, dissolved in the water weeks ago. In the bottle, you will find a blue fish and the only thing you can do is set it free back into the ocean.
But if the queen sees you do this, she will recognize the bottle because she loves the man as much as you do, and she, too, will be waiting for a message in a bottle that should one day arrive, provided it made it all the way across the ocean, provided it safely traveled down river, provided it was dispatched with a letter written by a man who said he would not forget her and promised to send word, provided he was not thinking of someone else.
The queen does not need money for travels, and she will decide to go to meet the man who said he loved you both. If her ship does not sink, and if she and her crew are not attacked and killed by pirates, she will find the man and plunge her sword into his heart.
If her sword does not kill your lover immediately, his heart will swell and grow strong around her sword. If it should be removed, he will die.
If he lives, he will carry on with his life. He will live in the new country while you and the queen will live in the old country. (She will return, provided her ship does not sink, provided she is not killed by pirates….) He will sweat under the sun and earn enough money to build a home. He will marry some girl named Lauren. They will have two children: one boy and one girl. They will live happily ever after in the house with a white fence along the river where he, your one-time lover, once sent a message in a bottle to be later retrieved by you or the queen or maybe someone else. Only after he dies of old age, long after you and the queen have stopped thinking about him, will someone dig up his grave. It will be the king who wishes for the return of the queen’s sword.
Heather Momyer is the editor-in-chief of Masque & Spectacle and the founding publisher of Arc Pair Press. Her fiction chapbook, How to Swim, was published by Another New Calligraphy (2013). Other writing appears or is forthcoming in journals such as Tahoma Literary Review, Wicked Alice, The Collagist, Puerto del Sol, Psychopomp Magazine, and Bennington Review, among others.