by Vanessa Gebbie

Under duress, stone gives
up its constituent parts.
Ancient shells, sediment
filled, crystalline. These
shells fell gently, a rain of
mollusc debris, landed
in the near-silence of
seabed crepitation, the
ceaseless whisper of silt.

Vanessa Gebbie is a novelist, a flash fiction and short story writer, and commissioning editor of a text book on the art of the short story. Her publications include: The Coward’s Tale ( a novel from Bloomsbury), Words from a Glass Bubble and Storm Warning (short fictions from Salt Modern Fiction), Short Circuit, Guide to the Art of the Short Story (text book from Salt Publishing). She is also a prizewinning poet, won the 2012 International Troubadour Prize, and her pamphlet ‘The Half-life of Fathers’ is published by Pighog Press. She teaches widely.

I’ll admit it. I had to look up the meaning of “cenotaph.” What if I hadn’t? What other meanings do you think might exist for it?

This is hard to answer, in the sense that it can’t mean anything else here in the UK, it’s such a well known, iconic thing—a memorial in the shape of an empty tomb, put up after a war to those who are either buried elsewhere, or have no known grave. We have many, in most cities, usually memorials to the Great War (1914-18). I did a bit of googling, and see that the US has them too, Yale has a particularly fine one, and the Alamo memorial is also a cenotaph. As you know,the word is based on the Greek, meaning ‘empty tomb’.

Whatever it might mean, otherwise, it would need to be something made of Portland stone or similar, a type of stone filled with shell fossils. It might mean a plinth? Or a memorial poem….

This poem is one of a series inspired by the memorials in London to the fallen of The Great War.


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now closed. The reading period for standard submissions opens again March 15, 2023. Submit here.


05/27 • Claudio Perinot
06/03 • Amanda Chiado
06/10 • John Davies
06/17 • Lynne Jensen Lampe
06/24 • Valerie Valdez
07/01 • Carlin Katz
07/08 • Meg Eden
07/15 • Tim Raymond
07/22 • Mike Itaya
07/29 • TBD
08/05 • TBD
08/12 • TBD
08/19 • TBD
08/26 • TBD
09/02 • TBD
09/09 • TBD
09/16 • TBD
09/23 • TBD
09/30 • TBD