Month: July 2019

A Folding Chair

by Peter Cherches


I own a folding chair. In case a guest should arrive unexpectedly. If a guest calls in advance, gives me ample notice, let’s say three or four weeks, then there’s the choice of the easy chair, the Morris chair, the La-Z-Boy recliner, the director’s chair, the bean bag chair, the white wicker chair, the high chair or the lawn chair. But should a guest arrive unexpectedly, there is the folding chair, which creaks when you unfold it, creaks when you sit in it, creaks with every little movement, with each breath you take, and which reminds you with each and every creak—be courteous, call first.


Called “one of the innovators of the short short story” by Publishers Weekly, Peter Cherches has published in scores of journals, anthologies and websites over the past four decades. His recent books include Lift Your Right Arm, Autobiography Without Words, and a historical study, Star Course: Nineteenth-Century Lecture Tours and the Consolidation of Modern Celebrity. His next collection, Whistler’s Mother’s Son, will be published by Pelekinesis in 2020.


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

“A Folding Chair” is part of a series about objects, real and imaginary. Others include “A Prosthetic Mole,” “A Letter Opener” and “A Messiah with Handles.”

Sunday Focus: The Meditative

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.]



As a kid, Sunday mornings meant the color comic strips in the Patriot News, Casey Kasem’s countdown on WKBO, Sunday school at The Unitarian Church in Harrisburg, Pee-Wee football games with the West Shore Vikings—and then, later, Charles Kuralt. Now, it’s the stillness of Sunday that I seek out, the meditative, the om.


“We live in an old chaos of the sun,” writes Wallace Stevens in “Sunday Morning.” “Or old dependency of day and night, / Or island solitude, unsponsored, free, / Of that wide water, inescapable.” We live surrounded by the natural world, isolated. Perhaps in the moments like the one captured above, we feel the knitting that connects us to Nature. In writing fiction, it is often through action that characters reach their hard-earned epiphanies. Can one, in the very short story, find that insight through stillness? Think about something that only occurs on a Sunday. Think of stillness. Think of the moment as something to be read. What does it say? That’s what this Sunday asks 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.

Visual Poem Series: Standard Aerosol (1 of 8)

by Nance Van Winckel


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



Nance Van Winckel’s fifth book of fiction is Ever Yrs., a novel in the form of a scrapbook (2014, Twisted Road Publications); her eighth book of poems is Our Foreigner (Beyond Baroque Press, 2017, winner of the Pacific Coast Poetry Series). A book of visual poetry entitled Book of No Ledge appeared in 2016 with Pleiades Press. The recipient of two NEA Poetry Fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, Poetry, and Prairie Schooner, she has new poems in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Field, Poetry Northwest, and Gettysburg Review. She is on the MFA faculties of Vermont College of Fine Arts and E. Washington University’s Inland Northwest Center for Writers.


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

What always surprises me when I (digitally) enhance my photographs of walls is the way the words themselves arrive. My conscious mind works on the images and the wall, tweaking and torquing. Then suddenly some words arrive and want to belong on the wall too.

CNF: Their Marriage

by Andrew Stevens


Months before my mother’s mental breakdown, she found my father’s suicidal scribblings tucked away in the garage. She was delving through documents, digging up dirt before their divorce. Always too absent-minded to hide anything properly, this wasn’t the first time my father had left the closet door open with a spotlight shining toward the skeletons inside.

When I was thirteen, I found out about his third DUI when he left his lawyer’s information in the backseat of his car. He’d been cockeyed on cabernet when he carelessly crashed into a cop car. Technically, it was only his second offense. He wasn’t charged the first time — the police said his pain was punishment enough, his bones pulverized in ways that would never perfectly heal. It was 1981 — a different time; he’d be imprisoned, if it happened now.

He’d been training to be an Olympic cyclist; instead, he needed a hip replacement before he turned 50. He never rode a bike again. His hip surgery was performed by my former uncle — former, as my father’s sisters are about as successful at maintaining marriages as he is. My mother’s side has the opposite problem — they dig their digits deeper into their dead marriages, even decades after their undeniable demise.

Before my parents met, my mother’s parents separated for a short time — my grandmother left for New York. As she crossed the street en route to a Jewish singles meetup, she was struck by a car, instantly shattering any semblance of normalcy her life would ever have again. Brain-damaged, a shell of her former independent self, she returned to live with her estranged husband until the day she died. Each of their children internalized the same superstitious sentiment: “Never leave your spouse, or something bad will happen.”

My parents were only married a year when they got into their first big fight. Storming out, my father didn’t return home that night, leaving my mother panicked and perturbed. When a phone call from a jail cell confirmed he’d let the liquor take the wheel, my mother internalized a new strategy: “Never fight with him. Don’t make him angry.” That thought would worm its way into their marriage like a passive but penetrative parasite, slowly sustaining itself on the spirit of their withering affection and their cooperative, comfort-based cowardice.

I was born a year later. Having children sometimes allows you to put problems on hold. But beneath the surface, the leering leeches linger, lying in wait to escape in reenergized resentment when the nest empties.

My father idly threatened suicide several times during my parents’ year of so-called separation. Though the dissolution of their union was looming, they continued to live together in the house I grew up in. She made him breakfast every day, despite the disapproval of her friends and family.

I’ve held back from telling my father exactly how I feel, fearful of my honesty being the proverbial straw that breaks his back and ties his noose. Logically, I know his death wouldn’t be my fault, but logic doesn’t always get a say.

On a November night, I sat at home, stoned and dissociative, when an unknown number called. One of the neighbors had found my mother sitting on the porch in her robe, refusing to speak. She hadn’t been eating, drinking, sleeping. Her veins protruded, bright and blue, under her pale, malnourished skin.

Weeks later, with her attorney’s assistance, the divorce was finalized while my mother hid under blankets in the mental hospital, staring silently at the wall from her bed.


Andrew Stevens is a Seattle-based writer who specializes in self-deprecating flash nonfiction and marketing pieces about insurance. His work can be found nowhere else, due in large part to long-standing depression, insecurity, and laziness.


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

There’s no chance I would have written this piece if it weren’t for the Assembly Literary Open Mic in Seattle – it’s an independently run open mic (and the only one I know of with the concrete, excellent rules of no stand-up, no slam poetry, and no snapping). I started attending last year and it provided me with a reason to start writing creatively again, something I hadn’t done in a long time. I decided to write about the most personal, potentially uncomfortable parts of my life, so I’d be forced to read those pieces out loud in front of an audience, because I find that to be cathartic, and because my life and family are a seemingly endless source of material.


by Matthew Barrett

When I’m home, I put my suitcase down and Marilyn asks me how the conference went and I tell her it was fine. She wants details, though, so I mention the happy hour on Tuesday, how John Matthews, my boss, got so drunk he climbed on our table and stuck his finger in an empty light socket to see if he’d get electrocuted. He didn’t, I tell her, and she says, My gosh and opens the bathroom door and steps out in her robe and kisses me twice on the lips. You didn’t get into any trouble yourself? she asks, so I tell her about the presentation and how I’d forgotten the fourth slide, and she laughs and says, I guarantee they didn’t even notice.

It’s in the details—that’s how I survive. I give her the right amount, and she believes me since they’re true. It’s the secret to a happy marriage: to not pretend you’re a saint. To mention your shortcomings, your boss’s failures. When you’re honest, she accepts you more.

We get into bed and she kisses me again and I turn the TV on and we watch the next episode of Mad Men. She says, I almost watched it without you but I waited, and on TV, Don Draper’s in a doctor’s office getting his blood pressure checked, and I know what the doctor’s going to say before he says it, that Don drinks too much and smokes too much and probably isn’t in good health. It’s funny, because he looks healthier than anyone I know. But I guess he’s just hiding it well beneath the surface, like John Matthews when he’s not on top of a table.

I try giving her a few more details so I don’t feel like I’m keeping too much from her. But I know not to hint at anything larger, at least before we go to bed, when her dreams might show her what she hadn’t noticed earlier.

I was hit on, I say and she takes my hand.


I had to flash her my ring.

What’d she do?

She backed off. Eventually.


After I told her a second time.

Well, that’s good.

Yeah, I tell her and she waits for me to say more, even rolls toward me and searches my eyes. I look back into hers. I don’t hide, I present myself in the open. She turns off the lights, and then the TV, and I can tell she’s looking at me even though I don’t see her, and when my eyes adjust to the darkness, I see she is and I wonder if I said too much.

I pretend, too, she tells me. Like you do.

There are things I want to ask but I don’t know the right balance, if I should focus more on her or on me. What do you mean by pretend? I ask and she smiles. Her teeth catch the window light, from either a street lamp or the moon. She holds it in her mouth and when her lips finally shut, she swallows the light whole.

We’re both into make-believe, she says, and as I reach for her arm, my hand turns hot, too hot for me to touch her, and she rolls to the other side, a hazy silhouette I have not seen before.


Matthew Barrett’s writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in River Teeth, SmokeLong Quarterly, the minnesota review, Great Jones Street Press, The Maine Review, Wigleaf, Best New Writing 2018, and elsewhere. He lives in Sacramento, CA with his wife, dog, and son-to-be, and holds an MFA in Fiction from UNC-Greensboro.


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

The day before I wrote “Silhouette,” my wife was binge-watching Mad Men in the other room, and when I went to make my lunch, I saw Don Draper in a doctor’s office, getting scolded for drinking and smoking too much. It was hard to imagine that Jon Hamm wasn’t in great shape, and I thought, what is his body hiding? The next day, after spending hours writing stories that were going nowhere, I switched gears, thought about what sort of scene Don Draper’s presence might parallel or illuminate, and just began to write. It was one of the fastest stories I’ve written, over the course of a couple hours, which has made me think that scrutinizing over every detail has unnecessarily complicated some of my other stories, and that it might be better to write without worrying so much about each word. Of course, worrying about the words came later, but it was nice to get everything on paper before fussing over the details.

Sunday Focus: Bokeh

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.]



the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens.

Harsh transforms to soft; bright to diffused. Bokeh, acccording to the good people at Nikon, comes from the Japanese word boke (ボケ), which means “blur” or “haze”, or boke-aji, the “blur quality.” Bokeh is pronounced BOH-Kə or BOH-kay.


“Always two there are,” Yoda tells us, “no more, no less.” Two sides: focus & blur. Apollonian and Dionysian. This Sunday, turn up the volume on one side to “11.” And may the bokeh be with 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.

Do the Conga Series

by Uday Dhar


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













Artist Statement

These works relate to my experience as a gay man coming to terms with my sexual identity in the hedonistic times just after Stonewall. New York City was a vibrant, yet gritty town, and sex and drugs and music were the normal phenom.

The drawings are about memory as Compression. Time, Space, Music, Experiences all collapse into a dream that I wanted to translate into a visual language that is depicted by jostling forms and overlapping colors all tied into a compressed mass.

The drawing are my evocation of that time as a memory capsule. They are a connection to a time that is lost in the present day – an era defined by fragmentation and vitriol. These works celebrate pure joy and pleasure. They evoke the hot muggy summer days from July and August when everything in New York goes a bit nuts.

The drawings were sketched at various time periods (dates marked). They are a diaristic exercise. Only recently in the past 6 months has color and form been added.

The works are abstract because without specifying location or even a moment, they are about a time, place, and celebration. A transcendence.


Uday K. Dhar is an artist of South Asian descent who has lived in the United States simce 1971. He is an out and proud gay man who got married last year to his partner of 27 years. His partner grew up in the the former GDR, and they met in Berlin just after the wall came down. These experiences are the basis of Uday’s art practice. They refer to the possibilities that open up as it reflects on the nature of desire and curiosity about the Other.

CNF: When a Jack Fails

by Shirley Harshenin

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



Shirley Harshenin writes from her home in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. She believes in angels, caffeine, and the human spirit’s extraordinary resilience. Her work has been published in Canadian Writer’s Journal, Room Magazine, Contrary Magazine, was longlisted in Room Magazine’s 2018 Short Forms Contest.


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

While taking Nicole Breit’s “Spark Your Visual Story” course last fall, I was immediately drawn to the quilt essay for its striking visual appeal as well as the endless variety of sizes and shapes and arrangements of “squares”. Each block offering a tidy container for a story fragmented by trauma and time. I scribbled my notes on a piece of paper and scrolled through dozens of patterns until one popped out. It was perfect, allowing me to divide the content into three sections—core event, impact of core event, central theme. I scrunched content to bare bones, then printed and cut the text into fragments equal to the number of blocks I had to work with. Like a puzzle, I tried each piece in different positions until everything fit. A thrilling and satisfying endeavor.

Visual Poetry Series: Empty Cage

by Danielle Hark


Author’s Note

Creating the images for this series has been a journey, emotionally and artistically. Over the last year and a half, I recovered memories of trauma from my childhood. Poetry and art have been a part of my therapy, and have helped me start to process. The mediums and pieces have evolved. Currently, I am creating assemblage altered art, and photo-based mixed media, using unconventional techniques like breaking and burning. Using my typewriter, I try to tap into my child self for the accompanying text. It is a very different process than my other poetry. With these pieces, I let my unconscious be the guide.


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


Danielle Hark is a writer and artist who lives with PTSD and bipolar disorder. She is the founder of the non-profit Broken Light Collective that empowers people with mental health challenges using photography. Danielle lives and creates in New Jersey with her husband, two sassy young daughters, a Samoyed pup, a Scottish Fold cat, and a typewriter named Cori Blue. www.daniellehark.com @daniellehark.



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.


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.


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