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Month: March 2019

Penelope Moves In

by Hannah van Didden

Hannah van Didden tends to words, projects, children, and chickens in the second most isolated capital city in the world. She likes to think her shower voice is particularly suited to jazz; others in earshot may not agree. You will find other pieces of her in places such as Crannóg, Southerly, Hippocampus Magazine, Breach, Atticus Review, Southword Journal, and her blog, thirtyseven.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Penelope Moves In”?

‘Penelope Moves In’ began as a procrastination, in response to a prompt on the Tin House blog. I imagine Penelope would have understood Grenouille better than most.

Beneath

by Sara Crowley

Siobhan is looking at her husband’s reflection in the window as he speaks.

“We’ll be OK.”

“I…”

“We’ve been through worse.”

“Yes.”

“It’s tough, but we’ll be OK.”

Through the window Siobhan watches the daffodils in the side bed. She thinks them cheap. Each year she waits for the tulips to push through the earth, holding their buds tight before relaxing in sun and opening to reveal candy stripes, clean whites, yellows, thick purples.

“Are the daffs early?” Tom asks.

“No,” she replies.
She allows his embrace and sags against him, drooping.

“I love you.”

“You too.”

“Do you fancy pasta?”

“Yes, OK.”

“Tomato or cheese?”

“Tomato, thank you.”

“Garlic bread?”

“No, thank you.”

They are holding on, hanging on in there. She is choosing sauce and declining bread as if she has a preference. She is thanking him and thanking him.

Siobhan hears an insistent low rumble and can’t tell if it’s in her head or in the house. She lays on the kitchen floor listening, imagining how the centre bed would feel if she dug into it, past the hard outer layer and into moist, softer soil. She thinks it would be quiet.

 

The long awaited tulips are short lived. The timing is off; the reds arrive first and it’s not until they are in full bloom that the others appear. The weather isn’t conducive and they quickly wilt; petals blown or dropped, stalks wobbling. Ragged leaves are turning brown and she longs to tidy them but knows to leave well alone – they send vital nutrients into the bulbs beneath, feeding and nourishing as they die. Tom has gone to the shops. He will return with a peach, a paper. Small tokens she will accept blankly. She watches for his return.

 

They sit side by side on the sofa watching their regular TV programmes. He favours light entertainment which fails to amuse her. In her mind she digs, down, down.

She hears a recurrent crackling in the walls. Together they try to identify what it is. It becomes almost a hobby. A glass on the wall and a careful hush. Tom explains it away, it could be the fridge, or an electrical hum echoing from the downstairs light. Siobhan is dubious.

She wishes she could give reassurance that they will indeed get through. She works on pastry in the kitchen, fingers rubbing at flour and water, and her mind skitters away from pie and back to earth.

The noise gets louder at night. She leaves the house intending only to breathe night air. The flowerbed offers sanctuary. At first, Siobhan sits in it and uses her hands as scoops, flinging clods onto the surrounding grass. Then she sprawls across the bed, presses her face against the cool darkness, inhales mud and digs deeper.

 

Sara Crowley’s fiction has been widely published in places including wigleaf, PANK, FRiGG, 3: AM and The Irish Times. Her novel in progress was runner-up in Faber’s Not Yet Published competition and she was the winner of the Waterstones’ Bursary. She’s Managing Editor of The Forge Literary Magazine, blogs at saracrowley.com, and appreciates you taking the time to read this.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Beneath”?

In answer to your question, I don’t think I can tell you anything surprising or fascinating about Beneath. I wrote it quite some time ago and have often sliced away at it to make it sharper. The last edit was seconds before I sent it to you. To make up for such a dull reply I am attaching a photo of the flower bed that inspired the story. I see this from my kitchen window and the tulips are gorgeous. 

CNF: How To Be Poor

by Tamara Gane

Pancakes are acceptable for dinner if that’s the only thing you get the makings for at the food bank. If you also received a can of peaches or a jar of peanut butter, use one of them for a topping and convince your son it’s not food for poor people but a fun game called Breakfast For Dinner.

If he hands you a note stating you need to send him to school tomorrow with $6.00 for a field trip, don’t yell at him for not giving it to you sooner. Instead, wait until he goes to bed and gather change from underneath the couch cushions and on top of the washing machine. Run out to the car to check the console and between the seats. Count it. Put the $4.27 in an envelope with a note saying it’s all you have and to please not say anything to your son because it will embarrass him. Seal the envelope before you put it in his backpack. Tell him to give it to his teacher without reading it. Try not to cry when he heads out the door.

Expect to be pulled over frequently by the police no matter how carefully you adhere to the law because you drive an old, beat up car. They will speak to you sternly and ask if you have drugs for no apparent reason. They will look at you’re not a real person.

Learn to lie so you can tell your son you’re not hungry on nights there isn’t enough food for two. Live with the shame of your circumstances knowing this is all your fault. Feel you deserve this life so deeply it hurts your bones.

But also know this. Poverty does not define you. You devour books at night. You see things, understand things. Your inner thoughts run deep and wide. You have value, even if no one else sees it. Even if you don’t see it yourself.

Someday you will take all those words in your head and put them down on paper. Poems will burst from your fingers like flames. Remember this as you peer inside your empty refrigerator.

You have flour, water, potatoes, and a cube of chicken bullion. It’s enough to make soup for dinner. You carry the bowls to the table, steaming and hot. Your son says it’s delicious. And words fall down like rain.

 

Tamara Gane is a freelance writer in Seattle with bylines in HuffPost Personal, The Independent, Ozy, Fodor’s Travel, USA Today’s Reviewed and more. Find her on Twitter @tamaragane.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “How To Be Poor”?

“How To Be Poor” is based on my experience as a single mother. I worked full-time, yet struggled to put food on the table. It was lonely and terrifying. But I also had the love of my son and a rich interior life filled with poetry and words. In that sense, I was lucky. This piece is basically a letter I wish I could have sent through time to let my younger self know that things would be okay someday. I started out expecting it to be a full-length essay but the words decided they wanted to be something quite different. The length gave me to permission to fuse together elements of prose and poetry.

Coffin Coffee Table

by Dawn Vogel

I found the schematics for the coffin on the dining room table. “What’s this?”

He gave me a charming smile. “Coffee table, I was thinking.”

I smiled back. “Kinda spooky, but alright.”

“It’s got hinges on one side of the top, so we can keep blankets and pillows inside.”

“What for sleeping in?”

“No, for when we’re watching movies and you fall asleep on the couch.”

It sounded so sweet, I had to believe it.

#

The wood he picked was heavy and sturdy, not just plywood like I anticipated. “That’s going to be a beast to move.”

He frowned at the wood and nodded. “Yeah, but it means we don’t have to paint it.”

“What about the edges?”

“Oh, I’m getting some custom molding made. Same wood. For the lid and the corners.”

“You’ve got this all planned out, huh?”

He shrugged. “More or less, yeah.”

Should have worried about the less. Maybe the more too.

#

When the bolt of satin fabric arrived, I tried to tell the delivery driver that there must be a mistake. “I didn’t order purple satin.”

He swooped in from nowhere. “Yeah, that’s mine, thanks.”

After I closed the front door, I looked at him, my brow creased. “What’s that for?”

“The inside of the wood’s a little rough, and I don’t want the blankets catching on it. So I figured I could whip up a lining.”

“That’s not as easy as you’d think. You want some help?”

“No thanks, I’ve got this.” He kissed my forehead. “You look tired, go back to bed.”

I was tired. I wasn’t normally up at this time of day.

#

It was just after nightfall when I woke up, and I luxuriated in the soft sheets, stretching my arms out to the sides as I regained consciousness.
My left arm felt leaden, just before it thumped against something solid.

I fumbled for the switch on my bedside lamp, surprised at my clumsiness. I turned the knob but shoved the lamp off the table in the same gesture. My earlier trip downstairs had taken more out of me than I’d expected.

The coffin coffee table was on his side of the bed. In the bed.

An IV line in my left arm trailed through a small hole between the hinges.

“No.”

I became aware of the blood leaving my body, even as I reached to pull the needle out of my artery. My hand froze when I saw the note propped on the lid of the coffin.

Joining you in the dark, my love.

I’d told him “no” a million times. It wasn’t the life I wanted for him. For us. Undead couples don’t last.

I pulled the line from my arm, pressing my thumb over the hole the needle left behind.

The coffin’s lid was heavy. He lay inside, arms crossed over his chest like a cheesy movie, the last of the blood he’d stolen from me slipping out of the IV line.

I lifted his eyelid to see how his pupils reacted to the light. They contracted like a human’s, not lightning quick like mine. The transformation wasn’t complete, but it was far enough along.

“This is not yours to take,” I murmured. “It was mine to give, and I said ‘no’.”

He’d always kept stakes in his bedside table. To defend me, he said. On my more cynical days, I suspected he also kept them in case I lost control.

Either way, they were handy now.

But I moved him to the bathtub first.

Intentions aside, it was a gorgeous coffee table he’d built.

Dawn Vogel’s academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-edits Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. Her steampunk series, Brass and Glass, is being published by Razorgirl Press. She lives in Seattle with her husband, author Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. Visit her at http://historythatneverwas.com or on Twitter @historyneverwas.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Coffin Coffee Table”?

“Coffin Coffee Table” came out of my personal take on Drawlloween (also known as Artober in some circles). I challenged myself to start a new piece every day during the month of October, based on a set of prompts for Drawlloween. To complicate matters, I spent nearly half of October travelling for work or on a vacation with my sisters and mom. However, I did succeed at my goal, completing a number of pieces of flash and poetry, and starting a number of short stories. “Coffin Coffee Table” was written for a prompt of “coffin/grave,” and was drafted on a plane on the way to my hometown of St. Louis. The story came out almost entirely in the first draft, with just a few tweaks for the final version to streamline it.

The inspiration behind the story involved both an ex who had wanted to build a coffin coffee table and my desire to examine the question of consent as it applies to vampires. So often, vampire media shows those being fed upon or those being converted to new vampires as victims, but in this case, I reversed that trope, making the vampire in this story the victim, but also one who had the power to put an end to the victimization.

CNF: Because I Could Not Stop for Death

by Jacqueline Doyle

“People with dementia often ask to go home. … many nursing homes and hospitals have installed fake bus stops. When a person asks to go home, an aide takes them to the bus stop, where they sit and wait for a bus that never comes.” Larissa MacFarquhar, “The Memory House,” New Yorker (October 8, 2018)

On our nightly walks, my husband and I see a bus trundling by, lit up inside like the diner in Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” but completely empty. Every night, the dark outside, the artificial light inside the bus rumbling along the empty street. The silhouette of the driver, the rows of empty seats. We’ve contemplated getting on the phantom bus, just to see if it’s real, but some superstitious dread prevents us.

Imagine instead the Alzheimer’s patient who sits patiently at a fake bus stop. “I’m going home,” the elderly woman says to no one in particular. She fiddles with the top button on her coat, plants her purse more firmly in her lap. The aide has promised to pack her bags and send them later. She’s been waiting a very long time. When is the bus due? There’s no schedule posted. She’s hungry and tired and wants so badly to go home. Night is falling.

Even as she waits, she knows that her home is no longer there. The cupboards with their orderly stacks of plates and bowls and cups, the drawers with silverware neatly sorted, the closets filled with outdated clothes she couldn’t bear to part with. The yellow sofa she should have reupholstered. All gone.

Still, she waits. She can picture the phantom bus so clearly, the empty interior brightly lit, the driver who will kindly stop for her. The brakes will wheeze as it pulls up to the bus stop. The folding doors will open with a thunk and the courteous driver will get out to help her up the stairs. He’ll be wearing a plaid shirt like her husband’s. He’ll comment on the weather, ask how she’s been doing. Best get moving, he’ll say. You don’t want to be late for your family reunion.

She stands and raises her arm, ready to wave when the bus appears.

 

Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a recent flash chapbook (The Missing Girl) with Black Lawrence Press, and recent flash in Wigleaf, Post Road, matchbook, Hotel Amerika, and New Flash Fiction Review. Find her online at www.jacquelinedoyle.com and on twitter @doylejacq.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”?

I was fascinated by Larissa MacFarquhar’s article in The New Yorker on “comforting fictions” for memory-impaired patients, particularly the fake bus stop. Was it comforting or was it cruel? What exactly did patients mean by “home”? And it reminded me of the eerie bus that my husband and I see on our walks. This is the sixth draft of “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.” The first drafts were considerably shorter, but seemed too cryptic. I felt I needed to spell out what I meant by the Emily Dickinson line and what, exactly, the patient might be waiting for.

To Cut

by Robin Moss

Robin Moss has an MA in linguistics and writes poetry and short fiction. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, three sons and three cats. She teaches and organizes writing courses and craft-focused literature discussions for dedicated writers outside the academic writing community. 

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “To Cut”? 

This poem was inspired by a discussion of particulars and universals in The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, which says:

 “When, for example, we hear the sentence, ‘Charles I’s head was cut off’, we may naturally enough think of Charles I, of Charles I’s head, and of the operation of cutting off his head, which are all particulars; but we do not naturally dwell upon what is meant by the word ‘head’ or the word ‘cut’, which is a universal.” 

I read that and thought, Well, what happens if we do dwell upon the word “cut?”

APPSTREAM FOREST SONG

by Dennis Mombauer

the wechat bubbles over xings and xangas
snapfish migrate appstream
qqs waddle along the riverside
stumbleupon myspaces and foursquares
caretwos buzznet over reeds
a telegram glides gently over the canopy
a whatsapp bings in the distance
facebooks post and note, looking for feed
a flock of skypes burble their song
instagrams rustle with colorful wings
tweeting everywhere, a yahoo in the distance
two googles are hanging out
a tumblr renrens over the forest floor
vibers behind him with pointed flixsters
snapchat! snapchat! it sounds in the bushes
pinterests rise up from the trees
a flickr, a reddit, a flash of youtubes
only the linkedin seems undisturbed
tagged proudly on a branch
tangled in vines

 

Dennis Mombauer currently lives in Colombo as a freelance writer of fiction, textual experiments, & essays on climate change & education. Co-publisher of “Die Novelle Magazine for Experimentalism”. Publications in various magazines & anthologies. German novel publication “Das Maskenhandwerk” (The Mask Trade) with AAVAA press in 2017. Homepage: www.dennismombauer.com | Twitter: @DMombauer

 

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “APPSTREAM FOREST SONG”?

Delving into social media is like entering a forest of voices. The poem started with me thinking about Twitter’s icon and imagery, which is a songbird chirping away at other songbirds. I wanted to see how robust this metaphor would turn out if I include other social media apps and give them the attributes of forest animals. I believe it works quite well, because this is what social media has become: a virtual environment indistinguishable from nature. In short: I started with Twitter and worked my way through the most popular social media apps, all the while attempting to visualize them as if they were part of nature.

News

Congrats to Christopher Allen for having a work from HOUSEHOLD TOXINS being chosen to appear in BSF 2019 from Sonder Press.

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

Submissions

Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions is now CLOSED. Check out our new category triptychs! The next submission period opens September 15, 2019; submit here.

Upcoming

07/15 • Peter Cherches
07/17 • Christopher Ryan
07/18 • Nance Van Winckel (2 of 8)
07/18 • Alex Durham
07/22 • Jessica Kehinde Ngo
07/24 • Jillian Pretzel
07/25 • Nance Van Winckel (3 of 8)
07/29 • Theresa Senato Edwards
07/31 • Stephanie Dickinson
08/01 • Nance Van Winckel (4 of 8)
08/05 • Callista Buchen
08/07 • Sara Elkamel
08/08 • Nance Van Winckel (5 of 8)
08/12 • Steven Ostrowski
08/14 • Karie Luidens
08/15 • Nance Van Winckel (6 of 8)
08/19 • Nick Ackerson
08/21 • Tyler Friend
08/22 • Nance Van Winckel (7 of 8)
08/26 • Suzanne Verrall
08/28 • Amelia Wright
08/29 • Nance Van Winckel (8 of 8)
09/02 • Kim Peter Kovac
09/04 • Ugonna-Ora Owoh
09/05 • Richard Baldasty (1 of 4)
09/07 • Briel Felton
09/12 • Richard Baldasty (2 of 4)
09/14 • Frances Badgett
09/19 • Richard Baldasty (3 of 4)
09/26 • Richard Baldasty (4 of 4)
10/03 • J.I. Kleinberg
12/02 • Tara Campbell