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Month: May 2013

The Umamist

by Marc Sheehan

First of all, what is Umami? It is the fifth taste beyond sweet, sour, salty and bitter. (more…)

Sunday Drive

by Joe Kapitan

Eastbound on Route 422, between SOM Center Road and 306, is where all the leavers go to do their leaving.

The grassy berm is uneven, swampy for stretches, overwhelmed in spots by stunted pines and scraggly oaks. In summer, cattails conceal things. In winter, the walls of plowed snow. It is April now, and windy, in between masks. Nothing hidden but the sun.

We roll to a stop on the gravel shoulder.

She takes my hand. She squeezes hard. We wade into the wash of things they’ve left.

Cardboard box of squirming kittens, threadbare couches, bloody weapons of choice, shredded bras, gigantic panties, plastic sacks of anonymous trash, personal belongings of exorcised exes, stained mattresses, ponds of reeking diesel, bald tires, broken mowers, aluminum deck chairs, an old cancerous dog.

Just past the Rest Stop Five Miles Ahead sign stands the white wooden cross. Stapled to it, a photo of a baby girl. Strung from it, garlands of plastic flowers. Wanted and not. Did but didn’t. Someone planted this small confession. This is why we come, to learn what they knew. Many leavers are young, most are hurried, few linger, a mere handful return.

She needs some time. I wander back to find the old dog.

The old dog licks my hand, rolls over with difficulty, lets me rub his neck. His stomach is swollen fat with tumor. When he quiets, I hit him at the base of the skull with a rusted pipe.

I go to find her. I watch her carry the box of kittens in her arms, set it next to the cross. She covers them with panties.

She likes to visit the cross on Sundays. The earth here is soft. The clinic on Fourth is surrounded by concrete. Nowhere to dig.

See, this is what we should have done, she always says.

We’re so much smarter than that now.


Joe Kapitan frequents northern Ohio disguised as an architect. His short fiction has been published online (PANK, Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, etc.) and in print at The Cincinnati Review, A cappella Zoo, Bluestem and others. His goal is to write a novel by 2018.

What’s fun about writing flash? What’s not fun about it?

To me, the things that are fun and not fun about writing flash fiction are the same—the difficulty in achieving interest and emotional substance within such a tight window. I can usually do interesting. Most people can. But what about diving deeper than interesting, down to emotional resonance and empathy? Creating emotional substance is especially hard to do in flash, but very rewarding when you pull it off. That’s the real work to be done. How can you accurately capture a character’s needs and desires in 400 words? How can you get a reader to care about that character in the span of 600 words, or say something meaningful about the human condition in 800 words? There’s nothing easy about that. But I’m a sucker for a good challenge.

Firebug

by Kathleen Hellen

Neon winked   The jukebox accused     you
shouldn’t have done it

My throat a smokestack
sprouting fever from my head
The cops asked   That one, there
That pocket full of posies

The orange pop I had been sipping
                  slipped    A stickiness that

                                opened
into fists   into haloes  from a
host of gnats   opened

into lavenders of air as thick as ash
The third floor of the building like a burned-out match

If you keep this up


Kathleen Hellen is a poet and the author of Umberto’s Night (Washington Writers Publishing House, 2012) and The Girl Who Loved Mothra (Finishing Line Press, 2010). Her poems are widely published and have appeared in American Letters & Commentary; Barrow Street; Cimarron Review; Nimrod; Poetry Northwest; Prairie Schooner; Stand; Sycamore Review; Witness; among others; and were featured on WYPR’s The Signal. A Pushcart nominee, she is senior poetry editor for the Baltimore Review.

As I formatted this piece for its online publication, I became aware of its spaces. How did you decide upon this layout for “Firebug”?

I like the “unstruck chord” wherein the mind moves between sound and silence. In “Firebug” these “chords” are intended to assist in the compression of the monologue. Narrative in the poem advances using the medial caesura. The “silent pause,” the natural break between the independent clauses of each line, replaces the expectation of end punctuation in the middle of the lines. In this way, space is configured to provoke dramatic tension. The device also functions ironically here to suggest the firebug is lurching toward potentialities, toward consciousness, a dynamic better understood perhaps by the reader than the narrator of the poem and given awareness in the lines: “you shouldn’t have done it” and “If you keep this up.” The terminal caesuras lock the stanzas into movements. As in musical notation, they require a “hold,” where a breath is taken. An opening for awakening. A little opera, if you will, assisted with assonance.

Ohanami

by John Savoie

Bottles clink, banquets spread
on vinyl sheets cast wide
to catch these urban sprawls.
The moon is lost, but electric
lanterns buzz, illuminating
Ueno’s sacred sakura,
pinkish popcorn, tropical snow;
the faces more gaudy yet
bloom in pungent shades of red—
see how they crawl. O-hanami,
oh tako-on-a-stick!

notes: hanami-flower viewing, o- prefix as honorific; sakura-cherry tree; tako-octopus, a festive food sold by street and park vendors.


John Savoie’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Umbrella, and Best New Poets 2012.
He teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

In your cover letter, you wrote, “ars poetica: Implication precedes explication.” Can you talk a bit more about that idea and how it applied to your process with this poem?

Implication precedes explication. My day job is professor of seventeenth-century literature explicating the likes of Donne, Milton and Marvell. (By night I’m a brooding conflicted demi-hero, but that’s another story.) Their poems have an immediacy, embodying, in Eliot’s phrase, “a direct sensuous apprehension of thought” that any alert reader can appreciate. But they also enfold, that is ply or implicate, subtleties that emerge more slowly and keep me fascinated year after year. I want to write like that. Yes, it’s a high ambition and seldom achieved, but should we aspire to anything less?

Through quick images and palpable sounds my poem “Ohanami” seeks to convey the sensory experience of contemporary flower-viewing, an odd mingling of natural beauty, ancient tradition and modern decadence. But there’s more. I’d like to think a well-tuned reader might overhear in “the moon is lost” a play upon Donne’s “the sun is lost,” from a crucial passage in his Anatomy of the World; that cosmological angst crosses 400 years and 6000 miles to figure here as farce. Or a linguist might wonder if the Japanese honorific o- shares a common, even universal, lineage with the English exclamation oh. And the very playful reader, most likely reading out loud, may hear in ohanami a distant dissipating echo of oh the humanity, tragedy modulated through melodrama to belated absurdity. And tako? I can’t tell you everything. Meaning burrows deep that the reader may set it free. You complete me.

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