Month: April 2019

The Ellspermanns (1 of 4)

by C.R Resetarits

[Editor’s Note: Click on the image below to view it at full size.]


Author’s Note
The images used are part of my family tree—the Ellspermanns—who were a huge family (eight kids, scores of cousins). I’ve compressed the experience of them by just focusing on the women (all successful, outlandish and resolutely single). The last of these died two months ago at age 104, a final act of compression. I hope a bit of their energy and love of fun comes across. The  way the colors really made their smiles and eyes pop were the key and the surprise for me.


C. R. Resetarits is a writer and collagist. She has had work recently in Chattahoochee Review and Confrontation; out now in December and Saltfront, out soon in Southern Humanities Review and Modern Language Review. She lives in Faulkner-riddled Oxford, Mississippi.

No Knees

by Michelle Ross

Worse things can happen than spotting your ex strolling through the park with a robot. Not a sleek automaton, mind you, but a creature so primitive it squeaks with every step.

“Can a robot be primitive?” the current says. “Isn’t synthetic sort of the opposite of primitive?”

We’re walking hand in hand and so is my ex and that robot that looks like a kitchen-sink salad of random parts. The robot’s head is, I’m pretty certain, the pot my ex and I used to make soup in. Its shoulders the fat, coily metal piping that connects the back of the washer and dryer to the wall. I don’t know the terms for these things. My ex used to tease me about my ignorance of all things mechanical. My current and I just call up her cousin Ned when water oversteps its boundaries or when the screw that holds everything together comes loose.

A few years ago I would have said, did say, that my ex can take everything, do what she wants with it. I didn’t care, I said. In fact, I said I’d be happier with nothing. That’s how much she drove me crazy. Didn’t get me at all.

My ex’s reply: she would, in fact, take everything and with it she’d make something better than she ever had with me.

Now the fiery pink of sunset is fading, and the gloom is settling in its place—squashing the fiery pink really, like the current’s cat does my hands when I’m trying to type.

“You mean the gloaming,” the current says.

The current knows what I’m thinking before I say it. There was a time when the newness of this was sparkly and exciting. Like my ex’s robot, I guess, before you see it try to take a step from the hip.


Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Fanzine, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, and other venues. She’s fiction editor of Atticus Review. www.michellenross.com

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “No Knees”?

I drafted this story during my first flashathon with Meg Pokrass and several other writers scattered around the world. For those who don’t know, a flashathon works like this: writers take turns providing prompts to the group, and individuals draft a new flash fiction story every hour for some number of hours. We wrote for fifteen hours that first time around. “No Knees” was the first story I drafted. It was to a photo prompt Meg provided—a black-and-white image, from the 50s I assume, of a woman holding the hand of a very clunky, primitive looking robot. They were outside in what appeared to be some kind of public park maybe. This is one of those rare stories that mostly came together immediately. I put it aside for some weeks, then made a few little tweaks, added the one line it was missing, and made what had been the story’s last two words the title.

Fantastic Flights

by Mason Binkley

“You will be fired from the cannon,” Cleo said. Then again, perhaps Clover said it.

“I am not afraid,” Dante said. “I mean, I am afraid not.”

“This is not open for discussion,” Cleo or Clover said. They stepped closer. Dante could hardly tell them apart under normal circumstances, being identical twins, but now they wore matching leotards and tutus, hats with feathers, chokers with bells.

“It’s not fair,” Dante said, looking up at them.

“Don’t lecture us about fairness,” one of the twins said. She – whoever said it – gently slid her fingernail down Dante’s cheek. “We adopted you after your parents abandoned you near the lion cages. You owe us your life.”

The door of the dressing room flung open and Marvin, the circus master, stepped inside. His gray beard was rumored to have captured the souls of dead elephants. The top hat on his egg-bald head concealed scars from animal bites. “So, who shall it be?” he asked, clutching a whip.

Cleo and Clover smiled and looked down at Dante. “Me,” he said.


“Without further ado,” Marvin yelled into his megaphone, “I give you Dante the Dwarf.”

Dante, a boy masquerading as a small man, ran towards the cannon dressed in a clown costume, his face painted white. The crowd erupted, clapping and whistling, screaming and laughing. The scent of booze and vomit hung in the air.

The cannon’s polished black mouth formed a perfect O. Along the barrel appeared the words, “The Widowmaker.” Cleo and Clover stood near the giant net in the distance, waving and blowing kisses.

“Behold,” Marvin yelled, “you will see this cannon fired for the first time.” The spectators roared, their mouths fixed open, eyes glowing yellow in the night.

At the top of the ladder, Dante stuffed beeswax and cotton inside of his ears. He glanced at the star-speckled sky, regretting the ladder did not extend into the heavens. He slid to the base of the barrel.

In the darkness, waiting for the blast to propel him through the air, Dante had this vision: The cannon fires and now he’s flying, watching the crowd shrink beneath him. He passes over the countryside, over cities and oceans, glides past stars and planets. Clouds of gas and dust glow in purple and blue. When he comes down, he’s somewhere similar to Earth, but everyone acts differently towards him. Children in the park smile and ask him to play games. Adults in the market wave. Some give him candy. Dante has a loving family in this other place. At night, near a gentle fire, he laughs with his parents and they read him stories. They promise to never abandon him.

Mason Binkley lives with his wife and identical twin boys in Tampa, Florida, and works as an attorney. His writing has appeared, or will have appeared, in Necessary Fiction, Jellyfish Review, Barely South Review, Pithead Chapel, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and other places. You can find him online @Mason_Binkley.

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

A writing prompt from Meg Pokrass in one of her online workshops inspired the first version of this story. The prompt involved an old photograph Meg had found of three members of a circus: a boy or small man dressed as a clown, his face painted white, and two women in matching costumes standing next to him. The first version was twice as long and had a rather macabre ending. I took the good advice of the workshop participants and pared the story down, discarding the ending and developing the aspects that had the greatest emotional significance. Then, over six months, I kept revisiting the story, trying to see it from a fresh perspective. I made minor adjustments throughout this process until I finally felt satisfied.

Succulent Sunday: The Little Things

Photo by Meg Boscov

[Editor’s Note: This ongoing Sunday feature pairs photographs from Meg Boscov with a thought (or two) from the managing editor about focusing on tiny things to find something significant. Click on the picture itself to view at full size.]


Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Here, Meg Boscov be-holdin’ her camera to find such beauty in an early spring garden.



When I looked at that same garden, here is what I saw:


“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you,” Andy Warhol once said. That is Sunday’s message from the succulents.



Meg Boscov lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education & dog training, along with her burgeoning interests in photography & gardening.



From Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry to his Lost Man at the Crossroad

by Michelle Morouse

[Editor’s Note: Click on the triptych below to view it at full size.]  


Michelle Morouse is a Detroit area flash fiction and poetry writer, and a pediatrician by day. Her work has appeared or will appear in Third Wednesdays, The Light Ekphrasic, Alimentum, Oxford Magazine, and the Southeast Review, among others.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “From Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry to his lost Man at the Crossroad”?

My grandfathers were auto workers. I was awed by the size and power of the Detroit Industry murals as a child. Years later, when I volunteered for gallery service at the DIA, I’d stop by the murals after my shift. Docent stories about the destroyed New York mural stayed with me, and I kept imagining what Detroit Industry would say about it, if it could speak.

You Named Things

by Avital Gad-Cykman

I count on you. Count on you. Still. Count. “A goose,” you said. “An iris.”

See, a lightning crossed the sky outside my window over and over today, and a fluorescent lamp lit other fluorescent lamps across the ceiling. The lightning reflected the fluorescent light and the fluorescent light reflected the lightning, and my fingers trembled against my thighs. When everything is named and is in its place, I can tell the west from the east. I can go places.

I head out, carrying a small backpack and walking down toward the port. Way south, between towns and behind a school, a cow still steals my sandwich, and you laugh. I am in peace, too, overlooking human epic. But when I return, years later, on the roadside sprouts a pale flower I cannot name.

I tell about you to this woman, whose skin is rigid yet fragile like the skin of the Earth. I didn’t know that every year was a bonus, when I felt blisters and lines spotting and crossing your palms. You walked like an explorer, and I walked like a landowner among landmarks named by you. “Go on,” says the woman. I try, although I hardly speak these days. Each word suspended in the air stretches the sky, and earlier words I said have the edge of a razor. Still. The woman stays for an hour. I count. Out she goes. Come in. I enter the torn spaces crossed by geese and stained by irises.


Avital Gad-Cykman, the author of Life In, Life Out (Matter Press), has work published in Iron Horse, Prairie Schooner, Ambit, CALYX Journal, Glimmer Train, McSweeney’s Quarterly and Prism International among others. Her work has been anthologized in W.W. Norton’s International Flash Fiction, The Best of Gigantic and elsewhere, and won the Margaret Atwood Society Prize, The Hawthorne Citation Award and other prizes. She lives in Brazil.

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

The origins: it starts with my childhood memories of my cousin, ten years older than me, taking me to fields I crossed running, and telling me the names of trees, birds and flowers. I felt then and I still feel gratefulness for the clarity of words that open way through the chaotic world of feelings and dreams. Unsurprisingly, he became a scientist.

Princess Watassa Meets Thirty-Seven Children

by Cindy Hunter Morgan

[Editor’s Note: Click on the triptych below to view it at full size.]


Cindy Hunter Morgan teaches in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) at Michigan State University and serves as Interim Director of the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU. She is the author of a full-length poetry collection and two chapbooks. Harborless (Wayne State University Press) is a 2018 Michigan Notable Book and the winner of the 2017 Moveen Prize in Poetry. Apple Season won the Midwest Writing Center’s 2012 Chapbook Contest, judged by Shane McCrae. The Sultan, The Skater, The Bicycle Maker won The Ledge Press 2011 Poetry Chapbook Award. She writes regularly for Murder Ballad Monday, a blog devoted to the exploration of the murder ballad tradition in folk and popular music. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in a variety of journals, including The American Journal of Poetry, Tin House Online, Salamander, The Pinch, and West Branch.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Princess Watassa Meets Thirty-Seven Children”?

The center portion of this triptych is part of a larger book-length manuscript that recounts and imagines my grandma’s work as “Princess Watassa.” Though the Michigan Tuberculosis Association no longer exists as an organization, I found boxes of Association correspondence at Michigan State University’s Archives, which houses the Association’s history. This correspondence includes hundreds of letters from school children who wrote to my grandma, letters from Association executives who booked presentations, and newspaper clippings and itineraries. I sorted through files, touching things my grandma touched, eavesdropping on conversations from another century. The documents are both material and vestigial. It was a very strange thing to discover them – a kind of posthumous contact.


by Ian Mahler

here are the rules:
you don’t touch me. don’t
speak to me. you
pretend not to see me and I
do the same. you don’t
breathe anymore, do not
sneeze sigh not even whisper you
don’t. open your eyes. rattle
the silver full moons on your lashes do not
haunt me I want to
forget your


Ian Mahler is a non-binary, autistic queer author and artist with a lasting fondness for green tea and Granny Smiths. In his spare time he draws and writes poems that his friends tell him are ‘quite sad’. Find him on twitter @ianmahler.

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

I came out to my parents in my teens. The corrective therapy that followed created a permanent rift between us. Despite our estrangement Facebook would later suggest them as friends. I wrote this piece on my phone when my thoughts got too loud for me. I wanted to express the need to remove someone from your life, and the impossibility of it. The title is a play on the word -ghosting being the practice of ceasing all communication, often online.


Congrats to the Best Small Fictions nominations from Matter Press for Compressed Creative Arts: Sara Backer’s “Oh, What a Night”; Dan Crawley’s “Powers”; Jill Talbot’s “Malahat Highway on Boxing Day”; Christopher Allen’s “Falling Man;” and Kathy Fish’s “Five Micros.”


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


04/15 • Mason Binkley
04/17 • Michelle Ross
04/18 • C.R. Resetarits (1 of 4)
04/22 • Stuart Gunter
04/24 • Soren James
04/25 • C.R. Resetarits (2 of 4)
04/29 • M. McCune
05/01 • Julie Benesh
05/02 • C.R. Resetarits (3 of 4)
05/06 • Hannah Austin
05/08 • J. Bradley
05/09 • C.R. Resetarits (4 of 4)
05/13 • Kathy Kehrili
05/15 • Jennifer Moore
05/20 • Clint Margrave
05/22 • Leah Griesmann
05/27 • Natasha Sajé
05/29 • Carolyn Oliver