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Month: February 2020

Edith Pope

by Miranda Campbell

 

I was trying to show off. He asked if I could cook. I said yes, because I can. I could cook the things you could cook with closed eyes and a preoccupied mind. Chicken on a hot skillet. Baked sweet potatoes. Zucchini squash under a steamed lid.

I cut the onion fine. Small quarters, eyes welling with sweet tears. I took the butcher knife and tried to flatten a bulb of garlic. It slipped, the knife lifted, sliced my skin so quick I didn’t feel the stab. No physical pain; pain to my pride. The fatty tissue reminded me of feta cheese. Drip, drip, drip—my blood pooling in small circles on a fine, wooden cutting board. I wondered if from now on when he cooked, he’d think of me. A stain. He lets the spots of blood dry to the color of red wine. Maybe he favored scars too.

I ran my hand under the kitchen sink, a cold rag pressed tightly against my palm. He hoped I’d get blood on his ex-wife’s bar stool. I wondered why he was thinking of her.

“Should I take you to the ER?” I said no. I wanted to be brave though my vision waned blurry and black, the pits and back of my shirt soaking with sweat as if it were July in Florida. Clammy. Nauseous. Craving a cold, crisp beer.

He drove to his mother’s for liquid bandage. He told her that he cut his hand. I asked why. I felt like a dirty secret. “Because she’s a mom. If I told her you cut your hand, she would’ve panicked, driven over.”

I heard, “I’m hesitant to share you.”

He wrapped my hand in gauze, we drank craft beer, listened to The Black Keys. He played his bass guitar, and I held my hand to my chest. It was a simple night. But all I could think about was how almost blacking out from a wound felt a lot like falling in love.

 

Miranda Campbell recently graduated with her MFA in creative writing from Georgia College and State University. She freelance edits for Triplicity Publishing. She’s a sucker for tacos, The Office, people who can quote The Office, and a good used bookstore. Much of her inspiration comes from her favorite place—her home, Flagler Beach, FL. Her work appears in The Laurel Review, Hippocampus Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, littledeathlit, The Helix Magazine, Saw Palm, and others.

 

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

During the origin of this draft, I thought of my interest in short, concise pieces of writing, of sharp, zoomed in moments of time. How sometimes when you peel away events, there is much more to find and unearth in that moment than what is obvious, than what is on the surface. The last line of “Edith Pope” came to me in the final draft when I realized what the piece was truly about. More than accidentally cutting yourself, it’s about letting yourself feel what you want despite the risk. “Edith Pope” is a pain scale.

When We Start Seeing Birches

by Kenneth Pobo

 

Forty miles ago we ate eggs
and talked about kitchen cleaners.
As more and more birches
come into view, we grow
silent. A little like being in a library
where pages turn quietly. We travel
for miles saying nothing. Yet
we’ve been talking
and talking.

 

Kenneth Pobo has a new book out from Duck Lake Books called Dindi Expecting Snow. Forthcoming from the Poetry Society of Alabama is his chapbook called Your Place Or Mine. He teaches English and creative writing at Widener University.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “When We Start Seeing Birches”?

Birches are probably my favorite tree. I’ve written about them before (or they appear in other poems). The initial drafts of the poem were gassy. Much of the poem was a big burp. It took a lot of revision to whittle the poem to its essence. This summer I read Robert Bly’s book of poems called Like The New Moon, I Will Live My Life.

Some of his poems in there are nicely focused, plain spoken yet working on an image that invites contemplation. I used that book to help in my revision thinking about “When We Start Seeing Birches.” My husband and I go to Wisconsin every year. The “Northwoods” really begins when birches begin to appear as we drive north. It marks a change, a welcome change. We wait for and anticipate that change.

Sunday Focus: All In

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. Paired with this photograph is a prose poem from the series AFTER, a series of photographs & prose poems that imagines the world without us, after the melting. Click on the picture itself to view at full size.]

 

 

Without us, the world goes full-dress, slam-bang, soup to nuts, A to Z. Without us, the world turns inward, figures out, focuses on, me-time. rebuilds self-esteem, gets grounded, glows up, bows to its own intimate parts. Ah ha! No longer Mother, Nature! No longer jungle vs. orchard, city vs field, us vs them. The world’s antennae like no other, smell and taste its home cooking. Names disappear like pie in Yogi’s park; the cuttlefish were neither cuddly nor fish; labels float on receding waters. What remains reaches for one another, allied.

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 at her website or on instagram at megboscov.

Blood-letting

by Gail Goepfert

 

          —The Wounded Table, 1940

Not saints, you and I,
          but may I please,
          please, be seated
          with you at the wounded table.
Let us exact from each other
          all manner of loosening
                    the pull of honeyed tongues,
          the sharp-boned
          cinch of hands—
loss and pain vined
          about our necks.

It is hard to weep
          when living
has made us strong.

You and I, we must warble—
          to redden our stone-
bleached hearts.

 

Gail Goepfert, an associate editor at RHINO Poetry, is a Midwest poet and photographer. She teaches poetry at National Louis University. She has two published books—A Mind on Pain in 2015 and Tapping Roots 2018. Get Up Said the World will appear in 2020 from Červená Barva Press. Recent publications include Kudzu House, Stone Boat, Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine, Bluestem, Open: Journal of Arts and Letters, SWWIM, and Beloit Poetry Journal. More at gailgoepfert.com.

 

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

“The Wounded Table” is one of Frida Kahlo’s most haunting image-rich paintings depicting a skeleton, children, a figure wearing overalls typical of Diego Rivera, Frida’s often unfaithful lover/husband, and blood oozing from a human-legged table–all symbolic of the brokenness and desolation she felt during much of her life–a result she attributed to betrayal by people and her own body. The painting represents Kahlo’s harsh reality, but one I felt I understood. I wanted to identify with Frida in this poem, to acknowledge personal imperfections, a clear lack of saintliness, but also to be the advocate, the voice that said: Do not despair. We are strong. Suffering has made us that way.

Breakfast for Mia

by Madison Frazier

 

In the pantry,
by sugar and salt,
keep a jar
of live ants.
 

Like black pepper,
sprinkle them
into your eggs
and gravy.
 

With each forkful,
they’ll bite your lips
and tongue
and throat.
 

Feel them chew
off pieces of you—
your fat—from inside
and carry them
 

out of your stomach,
and back to their
queen, until you are
 

thin.

 

Madison Frazier currently attends the University of South Florida’s MFA program as a poet. She is interested in writing illness narratives, particularly illness narratives about the female body. She can be found eating ice cream or hanging with her dog, Dolores. She can be contacted through her website, madisonfrazier.com.

 

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

When I wrote the first draft of this poem I was going through a “form follows function” experimental phase. I was obsessed with writing poems where the shape of the poem on the page was just as meaningful as the line breaks, or even the words. So, after I wrote the first draft, I decided I needed to make the poem’s shape on the page marry the function of the poem. I wanted it to look like ants were physically walking back to their queen. In order to do that, I needed lean lines, physically short and tiny words, and I needed the poem to look thin.

Sunday Focus: Sweet Dreams

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. Paired with this photograph is a prose poem from the series AFTER, a series of photographs & prose poems that imagines the world without us, after the melting. Click on the picture itself to view at full size.]

 

 

They slept.
Sweet dreams.
The world in the wash.
Sweet dreams.
The seabed white with bones.
Sweet dreams.
Sweet dreams.
The oceans endlessly wave goodbye.

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 at her website or on instagram at megboscov.

Pyre, Derivative (7 of 12)

by Maureen Alsop

 

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


Author’s Note

These drawings evolved from a meditative process in response to my most recent body of poems, Pyre. I began to write (in faded blue, lined notebook) the words and lines from poems in the collection. On several of the pages I re-wrote one or two lines repeatedly, or overlapped poems as writing. On several occasions I wrote from ‘stream of conscious’. As I wrote the words, I would return the pages over time and ‘doodle’ or cross-out or write more words over the first words I’d written. There was no formalised structure to the process other than the consistency of materials (pen, notebook, poems). Later I photographed the poems and created close-ups of the images with the intention of creating a limited edition chapbook of the visual images to accompany the poetry collection at some juncture in the future.

 

Maureen Alsop, Ph.D. is the author of Later, Knives & Trees; Mirror Inside Coffin; Mantic; Apparition Wren. She is the winner of several poetry prizes including the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award through the Hawaii Council for the Humanities, Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry and The Bitter Oleander’s Frances Locke Memorial Poetry Award. She teaches online with the Poetry Barn.

 

CNF: Wooden Nickel

by Steve Cushman

 

For two years, almost three decades ago now, my father owned a bar on 19th Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was nothing special, even its name The Corner Tavern was generic. I only visited him at the bar four or five times because after my parents’ divorce I was living with my mother, two hours away in Orlando. Each time I visited, I was amazed at how gracefully he moved around the place, pulling a draft or shooting pool, tossing darts, talking to patrons, his customers.

He seemed to possess a calm at the bar that I never saw when my father was at home, where he was like a man who fidgeted because he didn’t know what to do with his hands. A year after the bar closed, he died of a heart attack while playing golf.

On Tuesdays, he gave out wooden nickels good for 1 free drink (a draft) on Thursdays between 5-7 only. A couple months ago, I found one of these nickels in a sock drawer in my home a thousand miles away from that bar, that life, all those years ago.

The nickel is brown and round, about the size of a silver dollar, but made of what looks like thick balsa wood. On the front is a stamped buffalo with the words Wooden Nickel along the top and United States of America at the bottom, the words riding the round curve of the nickel. On the back, in the center, a frosted mug atop a simple message: 1 free drink. Like the front, this side has lettering that follows the curve of the coin—The Corner Tavern on the top and a phone number below.

I don’t know how this wooden nickel has survived almost thirty years. It’s as if I stole it away that last time I visited, sealed it in a plastic bag, knowing it would be a souvenir some day. Knowing it would somehow transcend, to me at least, the promise of a free drink at a corner bar.

Sometimes, after my wife and son are asleep, I’ll pull it out and feel the rough wooden edges, lift it to my nose as if I can still smell that bar, though of course I can’t. I keep it because it feels good to hold something he might have held, and because it keeps my hands busy on those nights when I don’t know what to do with them. I keep it because it helps me remember it took him forty-five years to find this bar, his home, and gives me hope, that it might not be too late for me after all.

 

Steve Cushman earned an MFA from UNC-Greensboro and has published three novels. His first poetry collection, How Birds Fly, is the winner of the 2018 Lena Shull Book Award. Cushman lives with his family in Greensboro, North Carolina.

 

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

Well, I don’t know fascinating it is, but I’ve been teaching a class for a while where I use a prompt–write about a special object-for years. After using this prompt a dozen times, I thought what’s a special item to me and the first thing that popped into my mind was this wooden nickel. I thought I knew where I had it stored, but it wasn’t there. This sent me on the proverbial wild goose hunt through the house looking for the wooden nickel. I did finally locate it in my sock drawer, in a small box, where I keep other non-monetary treasures. I did take it out a time or two after a night of drinking and ask myself those questions posed in the essay. Drafting of the essay came quickly, one of those gifts from the Writing Gods, I suppose. I’d say the third draft is what I sent out into the world, which is like a first draft to a writer like me who usually goes through 40-50 drafts of a piece. But the essay felt like a gift, even if I never published it, though I’m sure delighted it will make its way into the world via Matter Press.

The Best Years

by Nicole Hebdon

 

Prom had to be cancelled the year of the feed mill fires. We hoped, since the venue was a block away, that the scent of rat corpses and burned molasses wouldn’t stick. It did. Susie petitioned to have the dance moved; the principal refunded everyone’s money instead, so Susie hosted a slumber party. We hung tinfoil stars. Someone’s brother bought us two cases of beer. But the only music Susie played was Christian rock. Even turned all the way up, it wasn’t as loud as her brother’s catcalls or the girl who cried all night about her stained skirt. Still, we smiled for hundreds of photos. As we were dancing, our chiffon and satin scaping against the boys’ denim, we knew that we wouldn’t remember the dead rat smell well enough to describe it, but that we would one day tell our daughters that our dates smelled like molasses cookies, and that their skin was warmer than the heat of a two-week-old smolder.

 

Nicole Hebdon’s fiction has been published in The Kenyon Review, The New Haven Review, The Southampton Review, The New Ohio Review, and The Antigonish Review among other places. She has taught creative writing at Stony Brook University and Sylvan Learning Center, and is currently volunteering at the Just Buffalo Literary Center. She is writing a horror novel about sisterhood. She received her MFA from Stony Brook Southampton and journalism degrees from SUNY Plattsburgh. 

 

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

I grew up in a rural town where memories were somewhat shared. Local floods, blizzards and fires were events we both learned about in history class and read about in the newspaper. The feedmill fire in “The Best Years” is one of those shared memories. I’m not sure where or when this fire took place, but I remember hearing about it at family gatherings, or perhaps at school. As an adult, I experienced a feedmill fire and was struck by how strongly it smelled. It smelled for days.

When writing “The Best Years” I was thinking about how dishonest a photograph can be. I imagined the children of the characters looking at their parents’ prom photos and only taking in the sparkle and tulle. Even if their parents told them about the fire, they would never understand what that meant. 

Sunday Focus: The Standout

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. Paired with this photograph is a prose poem from the series AFTER, a series of photographs & prose poems that imagines the world without us, after the melting.Click on the picture itself to view at full size.]

 

 

“Never rebel for the sake of rebelling, but always rebel for the sake of truth.” ― Criss Jami To rebel—to stand up for what is right—requires one to pick a side. When you stand not against the perceived enemy but your own “side,” that stand can be especially hard to take.
 

“Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don’t give up the fight.” — Bob Marley And what is this Sunday’s message? My guess is that the coming year will require an ever-ending need for someone to take a stand. Will that someone be 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 at her website or on instagram at megboscov.

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 are now CLOSED. Check out our new category triptychs! The submission period next opens March 15, 2020; submit here.

Upcoming

02/17 • Madison Frazier
02/19 • Gail Geopfert
02/20 • Maureen Alsop (8 of 12)
02/24 • Kenneth Pobo
02/26 • Miranda Campbell
02/27 • Maureen Alsop (9 of 12)
03/04 • John Meyers
03/05 • Maureen Alsop (10 of 12)
03/09 • Grant Faulkner
03/11 • Maureen Alsop
03/12 • Maureen Alsop (11 of 12)
03/16 • Tara Laskowski
03/05 • Maureen Alsop (12 of 12)
03/23 • Kim Chinquee
03/25 • Lucinda Kempe