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Month: October 2019

Lessons

by David Galef

 

Make sure you have on clean underwear in case you get into an accident and are found mangled by the roadside.

Brush your teeth and gargle before leaving the house. Someone might kiss you without warning.

It never hurts to say please and thank you, even if someone’s humiliated you. Particularly in that case.

Tell them no twice before agreeing. A seemly reticence can be attractive in many ugly situations.

When you fall, be damn certain someone’s nearby to catch you.

If a skirt makes you look broad about the hips, remember that a maternal flair is fine in some circles. Know your audience.

If you’re going to read in public, choose your book carefully. Many covers are downright misleading.

Never carry a purse without money or a weapon in it, even if he’s the one paying or making threats on your behalf.

Cover your mouth when you yawn. We already have one Grand Canyon.

Always leave some food on your plate, no matter how hungry you are. Use your fork to swish around what’s left to make it look like more.

Make sure he loves you, through some simple test. When your hair finds its way into his mouth as you kiss and he spits out the strands, for instance.

Proper posture makes you appear taller. That can be an advantage when you’re wearing a dominatrix outfit.

If you’re going to entertain, learn how to cook. As you lose your looks, simple soups won’t cut it.

The later you marry, the more catching up to do, not that the finish line is much of a goal.

Children are half-pain, half-pleasure. Determining which half is which may take many years.

To die with dignity is a victory. Play to win.

 

David Galef has published extremely short fiction in the collections Laugh Track and My Date with Neanderthal Woman, extremely long fiction in the novels Flesh, Turning Japanese, and How to Cope with Suburban Stress, and a lot in between. His latest book is Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook. Day job: professor of English and creative writing program director at Montclair State University. Website www.davidgalef.com, Twitter handle @dgalef.

 

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

I wanted something like Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” with a different vibe. But the first two versions didn’t seem harsh enough, so I showed it to a woman who’d been through some of this with her mother. She made three suggestions for turning it nastier.

Sunday Focus: Psychedelic Prose Poem

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.]

 

 

Each bloom, without a caretaker, experiments with improvisational jams. The now-mad scientists reshape the thick air with rounder renditions of their reshaped selves. Like far-out stars, they examine the uncharted mandala. Our residual acid spawns freeform, and these other ones evolve into riffs on rebellion. Out front, the danseur trips the light fantastic; on stage, the phantasmal deluge whips up frenzies against the melodic dissolve.

 

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.

Escape into the Waking World

by Mary Grimm

 

Kathy puts her cup down, one more cup of the thousands we have drunk together, this cup, white with a blue band, down on the table between us. I used to think I had it in me to do something, she says. I used to think there was something ahead that would take everything I had. Now one day to the next is all I can handle. Everybody’s lunch. Everybody’s socks. Fucking shopping four times a week.

Outside there is a little boy starting a fire on a driveway, not either of ours, thank god, not the driveway, not the boy. He has a magnifying glass, the kind that is meant to be held over a book, square, with a handle.

I hate to go home, Kathy says, there’s no control. I murmur yes, yes, and we agree that home is chaos, home is a whirlpool that is always sucking you down, floating with egg-crusted plates, grass-stained pants, toasters that will toast only on one side so that you must turn the bread and turn it until it is the right shade of brown, the right shade that can be eaten without someone claiming it will make him throw up.

Yes, Kathy says, I hate to go home. I think that I think that she doesn’t really mean it.

At work Kathy wears a bathing suit, swims through the air at the side of the pool, encouraging the water-bound exercisers. She smiles, gleaming blonde in her blue suit, calling on the twenty-plus women to breathe deep, to love their own movement through the water. Now though, trapped in the sulky air of the kitchen, we cling to the handles of our cups. Something is chasing us, something dreamed and fanciful, but maybe also real.

I know it doesn’t matter, Kathy says. Everything is the same in the end. Her cigarette smoke drifts, smelling like heated caramel and burnt rubber.

I have nothing to say, nothing I want to say. I am thinking about sweat flesh sex, about trying as we do for the perfect new body, too late now for metaphysical fitness, too late for beauty, but still.

 

Mary Grimm has had two books published, Left to Themselves (novel) and Stealing Time (story collection). She teaches fiction writing at Case Western Reserve University. Currently she’s working on a dystopian novel about oldsters.

 

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

On the origins of “Escape”: the start of this was a conversation I had with a good friend, years ago. We both were mothers of small children, which was both smothering and delightful. The conversation was on one of the smothering days. I wrote it down in my journal and then forgot about it for decades. Now my own daughters are in this same place — loving their sons and trying to fight for their own place in the world. I found that I wanted to write about that, and so I did, compressing and maybe dramatizing a little, taking the original (somewhat whiny) conversation to (I hope) a new level

Sunday Focus: Celebrate Change

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.]

 

 

“Puberty hit me pretty hard. All of a sudden, I woke up, and I had really curly hair.” — Paul Rudd Curls are ringlets, the tiniest of rings, like what an elf might wear among the midnight mushrooms. When this leaf woke up with that smallest curl, it too panicked. Oh my, the leaf shouted, spring has sprung and fall must be near. Don’t worry little leaf, curls rock!

 

“Curly hair is not just a hairstyle: it’s kind of a lifestyle. There is something really free and careless about it and loose and kind of naughty. I love it” — Inbar Lavi And what is this Sunday’s message? Go ahead. Embrace the changes that come without warning. Find the quote that not only accepts the change but loves, loves the new look. And then love it, too!

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.

poem without teeth

by Marlin M. Jenkins

 

my body finds new things
to fall out in my dreams. fingers.
intestines. fruit. hair follicles.
rusted coins. then the bones.
they clench against themselves
in a heap. they chatter all night.

 

Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit and is the author of the poetry chapbook Capable Monsters (Bull City Press, 2020). A graduate of University of Michigan’s MFA in poetry, his work has found homes with Indiana Review, The Rumpus, Waxwing, and Iowa Review, among others. You can find him online at marlinmjenkins.com.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “poem without teeth”?

This poem is from a series currently titled without. It started as an experiment in description of words/ideas without directly stating them: How can the poem evoke the image of a tree without ever saying “tree”? Evoke prayer without the word prayer? What weird directions and associations might develop from writing around an idea without naming it in the body of the poem? Mostly it was just a series of practice experiments, but they started to develop into poems I really liked and wanted to do more with. After they began to accumulate, they started to lean toward absence not just as a premise but a theme, and, as I tried to let them be driven by associative logic, they increasingly reached toward a sense of haunted longing.

Two Months

by Lilian McCarthy

 

 

Lilian McCarthy is a budding writer, artist, and cultural commentator offering insights from the perspective of a feminist queer millennial. Her primary areas of focus are LGBTQ lived experiences and their representation in media. Lilian is student at Smith College in Northampton, MA where she is studying Comparative Literature. She devotes her free time to reproductive justice advocacy and fabric arts.

 

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

An exciting fact about the book is that I learned how to use Adobe Illustrator in six hours from my friend who studies graphic design in London! Those skills were all it took for me to transfer my drawings into digital pieces. I am so grateful that she took the time to walk me through the process.

Solitude on Maps

by Socorro Venegas
translated by Toshiya Kamei

 

He made maps of remote sparsely populated places and some other places whose inhabitants didn’t even know what they were called—they were that far away.

I asked census questions and he placed everything on a terrain. Assigned to that town, we set out on a three-day trip, one whole day on foot included. The first thing that came into view was the bluish walls of adobe houses.

“Strange yet beautiful,” I said.

“Their homes are made by a pigment found naturally in the earth,” he replied.

The children who received us were barely clothed. As if they fed on the dirt, their skin was tinged with a slight blue hue. Some were more noticeable than others. They were all kids and malnourished. Their black eyes reflected how different we were from them. Their gazes were deserts, burned bridges, and an abysmal world. I thanked God for being so far from that, although later I felt shame. The naked misery of those children. We asked for their parents. Many had gone north. They’d had no news of their families. Homeless creatures, they were a strange tribe without grown-ups, except for a few weary elderly folks who let them do whatever they wanted. In their world, only the strong prevailed.

The census contained questions that were impossible to ask. Nor could we count them all because many children were out of the village—that was what they called that handful of houses in a shambles. The missing children would return the next day. They had gone to school, which was far away, and they slept there. School once a week. If they weren’t bitten by a snake, they told us, they would return. We had to stay there overnight.

The mapmaker asked me if I’d like to have kids.

I gave him no answer.

We entered the room they lent us to sleep. I undressed to apply bug spray because fleas had begun to bite me. When I handed him my bottle, he had a hard-on.

It wasn’t the first time we traveled together. But it was the first we needed each other.

He picked me up and laid me on the duffel bag. A candle inside an empty Coke can kept flickering. I closed my eyes. He began to slide his hands through my thirsty skin. At times he made me laugh while his fingers ran through me.

“Look,” he said. His fingers were smeared with something white and sticky, which stretched as he drew his thumb and forefinger together, then apart. “You’re ovulating.”

I half-smiled in response. We remained still. A grand concert of crickets. Our shadows stretched long on the roof and adobe walls.

I thought of those animal-like children with their easy smiles and calloused hands. Children?

“You don’t let me think,” I said, stretching out my arms to him. My tongue snaked inside his mouth, my hands sought his soul, and his gaze hovered around the center of that lost world.

 

 

We woke up in pain. My insect repellent had been weaker than the bugs’ appetite, so we had red bumps on our skin. I gave him a comb to untangle my hair. He gathered it together with a ribbon and kissed my eyes.

“Do I look like a pregnant woman?” I asked.

“You look like a castaway.”

The door swung open. A barefooted girl came in with a dusty sunbeam. No more than eleven or twelve, she was one of the bluest children. The girl already carried another child in her womb. She asked us if she counted for two people.

 

Originally published by Editorial Páginas de Espuma.

 

Socorro Venegas is a Mexican writer and editor. Her latest book is a short story collection called La memoria donde ardía (2019). She was a resident writer at The Writers Room in New York and received a fellowship from the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes y del Centro Mexicano de Escritores. She has managed editorial projects for the Fondo de Cultura Económica and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Translations of her short stories have appeared in venues such as Bodega, Sudden Fiction Latino, and trampset.

 

Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in literary translation from the University of Arkansas. His recent translations of Latin American literature include books by Claudia Apablaza, Carlos Bortoni, and Ana García Bergua.

 

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

This story was inspired by what a friend told me. He has worked for the census that is conducted periodically in Mexico to count the number of people in the country and survey their living conditions. Once he arrived in a very poor village whose houses were blue and whose inhabitants had a bit of that skin color that came from a natural pigment in the earth. That image haunted me, so I used it in this story. I also felt it was essential that the female character talk about her body and her sexuality without prejudice. In contrast, the story also shows how girls can be forced into sex from an early age when they don’t even know how to enjoy it. All this takes place in a country where the poor emigrate and leave behind their children, their communities, and never return. Sometimes one never knows if they died on the way or maybe they decided to forget what they’d left behind. These unknowns remain in the lives of those who stay behind and wait for them or forget them.

Sunday Focus: Bokeh Balls

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.]

 


 

“In real life, no matter how good we are at juggling the many tasks on our plate, sometimes balls will drop.” — Monisha Longacre Using the metaphor of glass (need immediate attention), plastic (can wait to be attended to), and rubber balls (can be easily picked up later), Longacre suggests holding onto the glass ones while dropping the others. For now.

 

“At the circus, one might compare a juggler to a multitasker. But, have you ever seen a juggler checking email, talking on a cell phone, drinking coffee and keeping three balls in the air?” — THE ONE THING And what is this Sunday’s message? Drained brains have a hard time grasping the big picture so THE ONE THING tells us. Juggling too much? Today, drop all but the glass ball(s). And see, maybe for the first time in a long time, the big picture.

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.

Compressed Wordages

by J.I. Kleinberg

 

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

 

 

In the unrelenting battle against doggerel and sloth, J.I. Kleinberg wields recycle-bin magazines, x-acto knife, and glue. Her series (1900+) of found poems, which populate a small landscape between Dada and Twitter, between ransom note and haiku, explore the accidental syntax of unintentional phrases. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, blogs most days at chocolateisaverb.wordpress.com and thepoetrydepartment.wordpress.com, and still doesn’t own a television.

 

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

In these collages, each contiguous fragment of text (roughly the equivalent of a poetic line) is entirely removed from its original sense and syntax. That means the process of finding first the words and then the poems is one of surprise. I look for the inadvertent juxtapositions of words, and even as I tear them out, I may not know what they mean. But as they sniff around each other on my work table, they find resonance with other chunks of text, then others, until they have piled up to make a new sense and syntax – a poem-like compressed wordage.

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

12/09 • Foster Trecost
12/11 • Margaret Madole
12/16 • Janiru Liyanage
12/23 • Tanner Barnes
12/25 • Tara Campbell
12/30 • Caroline Firme
01/06 • Meg Eden
01/13 • Daniel Galef
01/20 • Francine Witte
01/27 • Abigail Manzella
02/03 • Julia Lynn Offen
02/10 • Jennifer Delisle
02/17 • Madison Frazier
02/24 • Kenneth Pobo
03/02 • TBD
03/09 • TBD
03/16 • TBD
03/23 • TBD
03/30 • TBD