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Month: June 2019

Sunday Focus: What To Call It

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.]

 

 

“An insightful title is almost like a philosophical question. You can chew on it for weeks, or even years after reading.” So says New York Book Editors. What would you title this image? There is the “story” the photographer has shot and the one that the viewer sees. Does a title bridge the gap? Is that light in the distance the coming Apocalypse or a savior? From where did they set-off? Who held whose hand first?

 

“One of the greatest titles in the world is parent,” writes Jim DeMint, “and one of the biggest blessings in the world is to have parents to call mom and dad.” Sunday’s Focus asks you to consider what to call it. See how it changes everything.

The photographer calls this one “Together.”

Meg Boscov is a photographer who lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education and dog training. She can be reached on instagram at megboscov.

CNF: 17 years later, my hand still closes in a fist

by Hege Lepri

 

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

 

Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri is a Norwegian-Canadian translator and writer based in Toronto. She returned to writing in 2011, after a very, very long break. Her writing has since been all over the place writing very long short stories and very short poems. She was recently shortlisted Briarpatch’s ‘Writing in the Margins’ contest. She’s been published or is forthcoming in J Journal, Saint Katherine Review, Monarch Review, Citron Review, Sycamore Review, subTerrain Magazine, Agnes and True, Forge Literary Magazine, Fjords Review, Grain Magazine, Typehouse Literary Review, The Nasiona, WOW! -Women on writing, Burning House Press, Haiku Journal, Gone Lawn, Crack the Spine, Carve Magazine, The New Quarterly and elsewhere. You find her on twitter @hegelincanada and on her website: www.hegeajlepri.ca

 

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “17 years later, my hand still closes in a fist”?

This piece is based on a lingering memory of our first ophthalmologist back when we lived in Prato, Italy, It has kept going off in my head for all these years (while watching the sassiest, most talented low-vision kid in the world grow up). And I’ve tried to write about in longer essays that all turned to too cheesy.

Finally, during a course in really experimental forms with writer/mentor Nicole Breit last fall, I was able to make sense of it.

Earthbound

by Stephen Reaugh

 

Work on the farm is an assembly line
of alienation: those imperfect,
grotesque gargoyles of tools; head-down labor;
the exquisite wild, un-celebrated;
a montage of the not-quite-square;
that vampiric index of every
earthly being lowered into our mouths.

 

Stephen M. Reaugh grew up in western Pennsylvania. In 2016, he obtained an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama. His creative and critical work has appeared in Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Hawaiʻi Review, Rabbit Catastrophe Review, and others. Currently, he is a Ph.D. student in English and American Literature at Washington University in St. Louis.

 

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

“Earthbound” is from a series of poems “found” from conversations in Dr. Julia Walker’s “Rethinking Aesthetics” course at Washington University in St. Louis. I harvested most of “Earthbound” from our discussion of taste and alienation through Sara Ahmed’s “Happy Objects.” Somehow, we ended up talking about farming; it was a fruitful discussion, at any rate.

Sunday Focus: I Spent a Little Time on the Mountain

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.]

 

 

Mountains, the dream readers tell us, represent obstacles to be overcome, a challenge that’s been conquered. But I think that’s an easy fit, an analysis that focuses on the conquering rather than becoming, on battling nature rather than becoming one with it.
 

“For nature, as we know, is at once without and within us,” Joseph Campbell writes. “Art is the mirror at the interface. So too is ritual; so also myth. These, too, bring out the grand lines of nature, and in doing so, re-establish us in our own deep truth, which is one with that of all being.” One love. One heart. Let’s get together and feel alright. Rather than seeing “nature” as something to be overcome or conquered, see it as something to become part of. That is what this Sunday Focus wants of you.

Meg Boscov is a photographer who lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education and dog training. She can be reached on instagram at megboscov.

Wave

by Tommy Dean

 

You’ve started talking through the picket fence of your teeth. Drawing me closer with every lisping word. Your breath smells of wilting dandelions, a sugary spike that pokes at the nerve endings in my toes. Your pleas like broken cartilage wrapped in cellophane, as you decide if this is the last time you’ll leave me.

Say it, I beg, but your nose only whistles the tune we haven’t yet placed on the map of your soiled emotions.

I beat at your chest, but the birdcage only rattles, keyless, fragile as plastic fork tines, yet unyielding. Anything unbreakable I find endlessly irritating. Maybe love is one knob turn of agitation away from complete surrender, but that would be too easy for people like us.

I’ll say it then, my mouth opening, teeth bridging the gap between object emptiness and the sated timbre of intimacy decoded into language, but, and here the fuel needle of my need for you dips, trails, hitches, like a hiccup never expressed, because your tears won’t stop the goddamn door from slamming shut or the echo that reverberates into space, a place where all I can see is the backlit shadow of your back, bent like those unbreakable combs given away on picture day, boys like you worrying them until they snapped.

You push my head to your chest, but keep walking until we’re outside, night-vision lit, my blood vessels traitorously flowing toward you, an Earthly gravity I regret. I start to yell, but you say, you only want the quiet parts of me. I stomp I clap, I shout, dancing in the off-rhythm way that follows the earthquakes of your departures.

***

Every month, I take down a new door, leaving them on the curb for the trashman, small offerings to the spirits of unnamed barriers. Cabinet doors pop from their hinges, exposing industrial cleaners and solvents, cups from shuttered restaurants, plates with scratches from your overzealous stabbing of beef and potatoes. The Disney cups bought at garage sales for nickels, while we joked about needing them for the children, the ones this second marriage was supposed to provide, the cartoon faces twisting toward garish impressions of joy you obviously never felt.

When you stand on the porch, your hand pushing through the empty doorway, I think of snorkeling in Jamaica, how you almost drowned, your lungs mistaking water for air, your arms retracting away from the fish below, sure you were about to be bitten.

I want to give you a tour of my obsession, but you’ve always hated mania, and I won’t apologize. You’ve come back, I say, but you’re still working out how I can dare to live in a state of unprotected bodily harm. I’ve gotten rid of the alarm too, the baseball bat hidden under your side of the bed.

You’ve come back? This time the question closes to the frequency of a liquid metal being struck by the bow of a violin.

And you wave and you wave, and you…

 

Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. He is the Flash Fiction Section Editor at Craft Literary. He has been previously published in the BULL Magazine, The MacGuffin, The Lascaux Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His story “You’ve Stopped” was chosen by Dan Chaon to be included in Best Microfiction 2019. It will also be included in Best Small Fiction 2019. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter.

 

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

Traveling on a plane is rarely conducive to anything creative beyond trying to contort your body into the resemblance of comfortability while you try to ignore your seatmates. Flying back from AWP in Portland, the germinating idea for this story came to my mind. I sat there for twenty minutes trying to deny the voice speaking the first couple lines of this story over and over until I gave in. I rarely write by hand on paper, because I’m such a slow typer it takes forever to type up the draft. I hate this inefficiency in myself, so I’d much rather type than write, but the voice of this story wouldn’t be denied! I drafted this story as quickly as possible, pausing a few times to ponder word choice, etc. What I quickly realized was that I was pushing the language really hard, bordering at times at incomprehension. I let the sentences linger and twirl, bounce through similes and rocket out the other side. It felt like all the stages of riding a rollercoaster. This final version is fairly close to the original draft, except for a few sentences peppered into the draft to give it more narrative clarity, to off-set the raucous use of twisting language. The condition of being stuck on an airplane, in my seat definitely contributed to not only the completion of this story but also the pressure I decided to apply to the diction and syntax. I’m not sure I could have written this story at my home, with the normal conditions, the ability to escape both the story, but also the room, the house, whenever I wanted. Sometimes pressure, a crucible is exactly what a writer needs to create.

Periods Without Pain

by Avra Margariti

 

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

 

Avra Margariti is a Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction, The Forge Literary, Argot Magazine, The Arcanist, and other venues.

 

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Periods Without Pain”?

I’ve always wanted to experiment with blackout poetry, but I could never find the right text until I went thrift-shopping in downtown Athens. A battered book—a guide to handling menstrual pain written in the 1960s—immediately grabbed my attention. I kept the original title (“Periods Without Pain”) since “period” could also refer to a length of time. Then I started crossing off words, paring the page down to its pink, raw essence.

Sunday Focus: This Little Light of Mine

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.]

 

 

“Turn on your love light let it shine on me. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” Do you have someone who lit up your life, who is no longer here? Shining a light on those memories brings such pain, yes? But forgetting isn’t an option, and even if it were, how could you ever keep that person in darkness.

 

“Walk into splintered sunlight,” the Grateful Dead tell us. “Inch your way through dead dreams / to another land.” Eventually, although the pain never subsides, something light breaks through, yes? This Sunday, the garden asks you to see if there’s light yet. Hope there is.

Meg Boscov is a photographer who lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education and dog training.

The Cake Makers

by Beverly Jackson

 

“The historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence” ― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

In the heat of a large country kitchen,
(think back to Southern plantations
with sideboards and planked floors
live oaks silhouetted at the windows
sunrays dappling a farmhouse table
in the middle of a steamy room.)

A dozen aproned aunties-skin black
as cast-iron pots, – kerchiefs ‘round their hair
sit on wooden chairs- animated, laughing,
spilling soft gossip with rolling eyes.

Palmetto hand fans push against the
Rising waves of heavenly scents.
Newly-baked cakes. Lemon and coconut,
vanilla and chocolate doesy-doe on the air.
Pastel frosting gleams in bowls:
soft peach, butter-yellow, and pink.

I am being summoned by the senses,
But history’s call is not a dream.
It begs to be remembered not as the glow of
Pastel icing on strong African hands,
But in bloody red and the sepia tearstains of
antebellum walls. The Cake Makers beckon me.
Come make the cakes, they call. We’ll teach you how.
The time has finally come for you to learn.
Come, they titter, come.

 

Beverly A. Jackson’s short fiction has been nominated for BASS (Best American Short Stories) and Pushcart Prizes; Her work appears in over eighty print and online literary venues. Her poetry chapbook “Every Burning Thing” and her 2-volume memoir, “Loose Fish”, are available on Amazon, and her first novel “The Eye of Hachiman” will be published in 2019. www.beverlyajackson.com

 

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

The recession of 2008 was still hard at work in 2014 when I lost two homes ( one, my dream house for retirement). It was not a good time in my life, and I began dreaming uneasy dreams. One odd and persistent dream made me question its meaning, and became a daydream ultimately finding its way to paper.

Since the world today gives me great anxiety regarding our country, our politics, and many of our people, I reconnected to the poem in new ways. History has a way of pushing in on us in mysterious ways. Poetry and dreams both carry secrets, hiding places for all those warnings that are not understood, but come to light with time.

CNF: Know Your Cans

by Erica Soon Olsen

 

1.
Cowboys in the Old West played a game called Know Your Cans. One would call out a brand name, like Hunt’s baked beans, Borden’s condensed milk, or Maxwell House coffee. Another would step up and recite the label on that can from memory, word for word, including the punctuation marks. Miss one thing, even a comma, and the cowboy would forfeit a dime.

In the bunkhouse, there was nothing for the men to read except the labels on cans.

Proposal for a collective noun: a hardship of cans.

2.
It’s good to keep some canned goods on hand in case of a natural disaster—an earthquake, a hurricane, or a flood. People who keep canned goods at home are prepared and self-sufficient. They donate canned goods to food banks, to shelters, to people who are not as prepared and self-sufficient as they are.

Proposal for a collective noun: an admonishment of cans.

3.
Once, out in the desert, we found a miner’s camp with the remains of a narrow metal bedframe, the springs all sprung; a stove, stove in; and, in a gully below the camp, the miner’s can dump. The labels on the cans were long gone, but I could imagine the illustrations: a red-checked border, a touch of the feminine, the grace of a hand pouring milk. This miner was prepared and self-sufficient. He was also lonely as hell.

Proposal for a collective noun: an isolation of cans.

4.
At fifty years of age, an artifact becomes historic. At fifty, a rusty can may be collected by archaeologists, analyzed, catalogued, nested in Ethafoam, and housed in an acid-free box in a climate-controlled museum curation facility.

Proposal for a collective noun: a preservation of cans.

5.
There is a can in the kitchen sink. There is a can on the kitchen counter. There are cans in the driveway where you opened the door of your truck.

There is only one of you, and so many of them.

A can is a masculine thing: strong and functional when full; when empty, easily crushed.

Proposal for a collective noun: a thirst of cans, a quench, a disappointment.

 

Erica Soon Olsen was born in Hollywood. She is the author of Recapture & Other Stories (Torrey House Press), a collection of short fiction about the once and future West. She teaches online in the UC Berkeley Extension Professional Sequence in Editing and lives in a log cabin near the Ashley National Forest in northern Utah.

 

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

This short essay came together over a number of years. I knew about the cowboy game called Know Your Cans and had long wanted to use it in a story. In 2010 and 2011, while I was working at what was then known as the Anasazi Heritage Center, an archaeology museum in Dolores, Colorado, I became aware of the fifty-year threshold for an artifact to be considered historic. (The common ring-tab beer can achieved this status in 2015.) I liked the idea of the can as an object that embodies both sustenance and a kind of social or emotional deprivation. Stumbling on a rusty logger’s lunch box in the forest while camping last summer prompted me to see what I could do with these materials. The idea of collective nouns was a late addition; it holds this assemblage together.

Focus on Sunday: The Capture

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.]

 

 

“Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.” – Man Ray What does one do for the photo? Take it? Snap it? Shoot it? Make it? Capture it? Capture comes from the Latin captūra: taking, seizing, What has one taken here? What has one seized? An opportunity, perhaps? “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”– Dorothea Lange Stilled it? Distilled it? “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”– Robert Capa

 

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” And what is this Sunday’s message? Seize the moment. Hold it still, close. Make it yours, your swan song, your moment both in and out of time, your ‘why.”

Meg Boscov is a photographer who lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education and dog training.

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.

New titles available from Robert McBrearty and Tori Bond.

Submissions

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

Upcoming

10/07 • Socorro Venegas
10/10 • Lilian McCarthy
10/14 • Marlin Jenkins
10/21 • Mary Grimm
10/28 • David Galef
11/04 • Douglas Milliken
11/11 • Janiru Liyanage
12/02 • Tara Campbell