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Month: June 2020

underwater

by Yanna Regina Mondoñedo

 

Pretend you’re drowning. Hold your breath. Know that a single slip
will kill you.

Peer through the thin white line — heart
stuck in your throat. Feel fear
whisper against your ear.

Ten more seconds, and it’ll be over.
Nine more, and you can breathe.
Eight, until you’re free.

Seven, you’ll live.
Six.
Five.

Four –

Found you,
          I whisper,
and you sigh.

You ask me if I want
to play something else.

 

Yanna Regina Mondoñedo is a homegrown local – born, raised, and residing – in the town of Los Baños. She is currently completing her undergraduate degree in Communication Arts at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. You may also find her published piece, entitled Elvira, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

 

See what happens when you click below.

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

I had written “underwater,” ironically, above it. I was mid-flight, from Singapore to Manila, just hours after seeing a childhood friend. Back when the Internet wasn’t as popular as it is today, we would play on gravel roads, muddy parks, or in the confines of her home. Hide and seek was one of the all-time favorites, especially on a hot summer afternoon. Part of the game, of course, was to hide until the seeker gives up, and to keep yourself still in a quiet house in sweltering heat was often only tolerable if one would pretend to embrace herself in cool, (maybe constricting, but still,) very cool water.

The Camels’ Apple Tree Series, 3 of 8

by Serge Lecomte

 

Serge Lecomte was born in Belgium. He came to the States where he spent his teens in South Philly and then Brooklyn. After graduating from Tilden H. S. he worked for New York Life Insurance Company. He joined the Medical Corps in the Air Force and was sent to Selma, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. There he was a crewmember on helicopter rescue. He received a B.A. in Russian Studies from the University of Alabama. Earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Russian Literature with a minor in French Literature. He worked as a Green Beret language instructor at Fort Bragg, NC from 1975-78. In 1988 he received a B.A. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Spanish Literature. He worked as a language teacher at the University of Alaska (1978-1997).

He was the poetry editor for Paper Radio for several years. He worked as a house builder, pipefitter, orderly in a hospital, gardener, landscaper, driller for an assaying company, bartender in one of Fairbanks’ worst bars, and other jobs. He resided on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska for 15 years and recently moved to Bellingham, WA.

 

See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Camels’ Apple Tree Series”?

Serge Lecomte began his life as a writer, publishing numerous poetry collections and graduating to novels. His novels could be described as somewhat surreal. Crossed realities usually yield amazing and sometimes shocking results. He works mainly in acrylics on watercolor paper but has recently begun working on canvas. He would describe his work as eclectic because he is still learning and is willing to experiment with shapes and colors depending on the mood (sometimes contradictory) of the theme he might be working on. The images are a blend of the natural world and imaginary creatures. Some of his paintings have a message (subtle), most do not. But then you see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear. After all, everyone has a view and take on the world around them. I am engaged with the world around him and vice versa.

Silence and Sound

by Mason Binkley

 

My toddler twins jump from the juice-stained sofa, soar and crash. They roll around on the floor in knots of naughtiness with their limbs buckling and bending at odd angles, their high-pitched screams and bursts of laughter echoing off walls.

The woman in the apartment below beats her ceiling and yells, “Shut up, it’s late! Control your kids!”

I’ve told them again and again to calm down, do something with their quiet voices: draw a picture, build a house with Lincoln Logs, or watch a cartoon on the television screen they cracked. Although they pretend to heed my instructions, their eyes and smirks betray their intentions and within minutes they’re spinning and howling and colliding, headlocks and knee kicks, louder and louder.

And where the hell is Hank? The man who said, “We’ll make it work,” after I had asked at twelve-weeks pregnant, “How can we raise twins when we can barely support ourselves?” The man who won’t answer my calls or texts, who will probably stumble in later smelling like a beer swamp.

“Come here!” I say. “Gobble, gobble!”

Tonight’s meal consists of Tyson chicken nuggets with ketchup, applesauce with cinnamon, and milk with a pinch of Benadryl.

They sit at the table, both shirtless with red marks on their bodies from the roughhousing. In near-perfect synchronicity, they reach for their cups. Their heads tilt back, white liquid zigzagging down from the corners of their mouths.

The woman below delivers the fiercest blow yet and says goodnight in her own special way, “Thanks for sucking!”

But for once there’s no noise.

It’s disorienting, this abrupt absence of sound. I close my eyes.

A memory presents itself, coming uninvited, but welcome: I was a girl, watching my mother practice “Ave Maria” on her piano in the living room. She played flawlessly from beginning to end, but what I remember most vividly was the instant the piece concluded, how still and quiet we were. I learned then of a silence so precious it must be divine.

The boys slam their cups onto the table and burp. They gaze at me with enormous smiles. Blake has a chipped tooth on the bottom row, whereas Brian has a chipped tooth on the top row. They have Hank’s dimples.

They inhale the rest and ask for more, globs of ketchup in their laps. I melt cheese on crackers, their favorite. How can their stomachs hold this much food? I imagine them as teenagers, eating everything I own.

My phone vibrates on the table. It’s a typo-ridden text from Hank: “Sorry. Was ketching up with the guys. On metro. Be home son. Keep twinzoes awake so I can tuck them infer bed. Xxooo”

How did I allow such chaos into my life? My parents raised me in a home marked by order and calm. After dinner, my father read to me or helped me with schoolwork while my mother practiced. She taught theory and composition, but her passion was performance. Night after night, she lost herself in music.

Blake and Brian slide down into their chairs, all droopy eyelids and extended bellies. They yawn back and forth.

“I don’t want to do this alone,” I reply to Hank, “but will if I have to.”

One of the boys, I don’t know which, finally mumbles those long-awaited words, “I tired, Mama.”

And again there’s silence, but not the kind that comes from awe. I can see my mother there in the living room, candles burning on the windowsill, her fingers frozen over the keys as the final notes of “Ave Maria” ripple through air.

 

Mason Binkley is the author of the flash fiction collection, Familial Disturbances (Ellipsis Zine, 2019). His stories have appeared most recently in JMWW, New World Writing, and New Flash Fiction Review. He reads for Pithead Chapel and lives in Tampa, Florida. You can read more of his work at www.masonbinkley.com and find him on Twitter: @Mason_Binkley.

 

See what happens when you click below.

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

This story, which underwent countless revisions over a period of one year, is rooted partly in experience. I am a proud father of identical twin boys, once lived in an apartment with a noisy and obnoxious neighbor, and have always cherished classical music, so I am quite familiar with variations of silence and sound. Beethoven and banging, Schubert and shouting. But fiction requires more than mere experience, as we know. At some point, imagination must come out and play.

CNF: The First Wife

by Wilson Koewing

 

My brother’s first wife died sitting on a couch watching daytime television. Morphine and sleeping pills. She was with a different man by then and that’s where he found her.

The first time seeing her was seeing her white Civic. She drove by my parent’s house with a friend. Tempting my brother outside. I was back from my first college stint. I drank in the garage, which had large windows and a view of the road. Over and over again she drove by.

It wasn’t long before she became a fixture at family functions. My brother was all-in.

A baby came. My nephew. A good and decent boy.

I recognized her as a problem early, but I was just a level-headed guy without a future; I watched my brother destroy his future on the big screen.

I was living on the coast, only branching out in the Carolinas then. Trying to get states away but unable to figure out how yet.

I came home at Christmas.

When she received her present, she flipped; my parents were replacing her car’s tires.

“No,” she said. “I want the money.”

“That’s a great gift,” my dad said.

“You should be happy with a gift like that,” my mother said.

“I’ll take my baby and never come back if you don’t give me the money.”

“You know you can’t use your child to get money from my parents, right?” I said.

Crying, she sprinted from the house carrying my nephew. I have no idea where she went to this day. Probably to drive around in her Civic with bad tires.

I wandered out to my dad’s garage with a beer. My brother followed. I was concerned.

“You know you can’t talk to her that way, don’t you?”

“I’ll talk to her any way I please.”

He jacked me up against the wall by neck.

“You’re never going to change me, brother,” I said, gasping for air.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he said, releasing me.

I brushed myself off and lit a smoke. I exhaled in his face.

“The fuck is wrong with you?”

***

I was living in New Orleans when I got word. I’d been living there a while. I went to eat crawfish outside at a place on Carrollton. The Streetcar dinged to a stop at the light every half hour or so like it was stupid. I devoured crawfish and drank local drafts.

When I was finished, I staggered toward my car. There was a little girl dancing alone on the sidewalk. Real slow. My phone rang. It was my mother. It was unlike her to call.

I was the only one around to witness that little girl dancing; she was living and dying in space.

“Your brother’s wife is dead,” my mother said.

I felt a strange prickle over my shoulders. Relief. I didn’t like her, didn’t know her, and had long since gone away. We both said it all by the things we avoided saying. I was years and miles from my family but couldn’t quit them. They say you are where you’re from. I’m sentimental enough to buy into about anything. So, there I stood listening.

When we hung up, I started walking. I headed up to Canal street. I couldn’t stop thinking about that little girl dancing alone. As I turned the corner and headed in the direction of the Quarter, I glanced back to see if the little girl was still dancing, but I couldn’t see her; there was already too much distance between us.

 

Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. He received an MFA in creative writing from The University of New Orleans. He lives in Denver, Colorado. His work is featured or forthcoming in Five on the Fifth, X-R-A-Y, Pembroke Magazine, Ghost Parachute, The Menacing Hedge, Tiny Molecules and The Hunger Journal. He is a fiction reader for The Maine Review, Fractured Lit and Craft.

 

See what happens when you click below.

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

“The First Wife” was difficult to write, as it pertains to a bad holiday memory and an especially bleak moment in my recent family history, but the pieces that prove most difficult often provide the best catharsis and the most striking results. I labored over constructing the second section of the piece to accurately reflect the day I heard the news and to capture the chilling coincidental presence of the little girl dancing alone on the sidewalk. My first instinct, the wrong instinct, was to present the section with hindsight that served to question the nature of the coincidence. I quickly (and wisely, I believe) decided to present the scenario more or less exactly how I witnessed it, without commentary born of distance. To this day, I am haunted by the moment; it felt like the universe gifting me a tiny glimpse into the fabric of reality and time. Of course, it was almost certainly a mere coincidence, but such a pointed, eerie coincidence demanded further exploration and at the very least, documentation.

The Camels’ Apple Tree Series, 2 of 8

by Serge Lecomte

 

Serge Lecomte was born in Belgium. He came to the States where he spent his teens in South Philly and then Brooklyn. After graduating from Tilden H. S. he worked for New York Life Insurance Company. He joined the Medical Corps in the Air Force and was sent to Selma, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. There he was a crewmember on helicopter rescue. He received a B.A. in Russian Studies from the University of Alabama. Earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Russian Literature with a minor in French Literature. He worked as a Green Beret language instructor at Fort Bragg, NC from 1975-78. In 1988 he received a B.A. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Spanish Literature. He worked as a language teacher at the University of Alaska (1978-1997).

He was the poetry editor for Paper Radio for several years. He worked as a house builder, pipefitter, orderly in a hospital, gardener, landscaper, driller for an assaying company, bartender in one of Fairbanks’ worst bars, and other jobs. He resided on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska for 15 years and recently moved to Bellingham, WA.

 

See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Camels’ Apple Tree Series”?

Serge Lecomte began his life as a writer, publishing numerous poetry collections and graduating to novels. His novels could be described as somewhat surreal. Crossed realities usually yield amazing and sometimes shocking results. He works mainly in acrylics on watercolor paper but has recently begun working on canvas. He would describe his work as eclectic because he is still learning and is willing to experiment with shapes and colors depending on the mood (sometimes contradictory) of the theme he might be working on. The images are a blend of the natural world and imaginary creatures. Some of his paintings have a message (subtle), most do not. But then you see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear. After all, everyone has a view and take on the world around them. I am engaged with the world around him and vice versa.

CNF: Flash

by Kate Carmody

 

A memory flashes into my mind—of a book given to me, How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, a book I didn’t read until long after it left its original owner, a book of breaths, whispering, beckoning, a book that introduced me to “One Art,” the beautiful textual body that broke my heart, given to me, lovingly, by a woman whose name escapes me, a woman who enjoyed talking deeply about life and literature and living the life of a writer, a woman whom I remember little about except she was from Bend, Oregon, her husband worked with me at a high school in the Azores Islands, she was short like me, she had curly hair like me except hers was kinkier and peppered with gray, she was not a frequenter of happy hours or teacher social functions, since she was quieter than the others, she was not as attractive as her rugged, smart, sexy, silver fox husband, who always seemed to wear shirts that made me wonder what was underneath whenever we’d speak, and I’d lose track of whatever he was saying, his musings on history, but when she spoke to me, slowly and tenderly, unbuttoning whatever I cloaked myself with to hide that day, I understood intimacy differently—like a one night stand.

 

Kate Carmody is a writer, teacher, and activist. Her work has been published in Stain’d Arts and Lunch Ticket and is forthcoming in Lady/Liberty/Lit. She received her MFA from Antioch University in Los Angeles. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and dog, Corky St. Clair. The three of them are in a band called Datafacer. Find her on Twitter @KateCarmody8.

 

See what happens when you click below.

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

This piece came to me a few weeks after AWP 2019. I was working in my sunroom when Garth Greenwell’s reading at AWP popped in my head. I started thinking about the pleasure in hearing a master of language read. I thought about how I’m glad I got to share that moment with some of my closest writing friends and was reminded of How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry by Edward Hirsch, which was the first book I read that defined the intense connection between the reader and writer.

CNF: Eyeball

by Brianna Neumann

 

When I was a teenager and found out about my eye condition, my eye doctor took the surface X-ray they had taken of my eyeball and drew a little man on it. “Imagine there was a little guy, walking on the surface of your eye,” he said. “It’d be sort of like the moon. Lots of craters, lots of bumps. It wouldn’t be an even plane for him to walk on.”

I know that he obviously didn’t mean this to make me feel bad, just as a visualization, but I felt bad for the little man trying to wobble his way across the surface of my eye. I imagined him tripping, landing on his knees, sticky with eye goo. I imagined the toe of his shoe getting stuck underneath my contact as I slid it on in the morning. I imagined, when I cried, he had to cower behind my eyelid, clutching my eyelashes, praying for the flood to stop.

Years later, when I was an adult, I went to a different eye doctor after moving to a new city and he looked at my eyes for a long time. “You have moderately progressed keratoconus,” he said, which is the medical name for the surface of your eye being bumpy like the moon. “It shouldn’t get any worse if you don’t rub your eyes.” He was a thicker man, five-o-clock shadow, sleepy eyes, a voice like a frat boy. He turned in his little spinny chair to glare at me. “Don’t rub your eyes! I’m serious. I want you to never rub your eyes again.”

I took him incredibly seriously. I never touched my eyes, and if there was an itch, I blinked it out until my eyes watered, until it seemed like I could have wound my finger behind my eyeball and scratched deep into my skull.

One night, I was plastered on my favorite drink, vodka sodas, leaning on the table, giggling. On the ride home, my eye itched and I reached up drunkenly, not even thinking, to scratch it. I began to rub my eye and it felt borderline orgasmic, like finally peeing after a long wait or releasing a trapped sneeze. I tried to picture the poor little man, bumping around from side to side, clinging desperately to my lumpy eyeball. But I couldn’t feel bad for him because rubbing my eyes just felt so good.

“There’s a zero percent chance keratoconus will make you go blind,” my eye doctor told me, ripping the top sheet of the prescription pad off. It was for eye drops, to help allergies, in case I did feel compelled to rub my eyes. “I treat, like, sixty keratoconus cases a year. They told us at a medical conference that the average eye doctor has like, four patients with keratoconus. I was like, four? It seems like everyone in New Mexico has keratoconus, and then they rub their eyes and it just gets worse and worse.” He laughed. “Maybe it’s all the damn chamisa.”

Chamisa is a flowery yellow plant that grows in ten-foot-high bushes in northern New Mexico, where I was living at that point. It looks like golden lace pouring down the sidewalks, but it stinks like wet dog, and releases some sort of extra-potent pollen that causes a state-wide wave of allergies every season. Combined with the juniper trees crouching everywhere, people who are new to New Mexico basically have the flu for a month or so every spring.

I didn’t tell my new eye doctor about my old eye doctor drawing a little stick figure man onto the print-out of my eye photograph. I didn’t tell him that I still sometimes picture that little man. Lounging beneath the Silly Putty moon that is my eyeball, reading A Clockwork Orange, still in his puffy spacesuit and oversized helmet. When he peers out from under my eyelashes and sees a bartender pouring me a fresh vodka soda, blooms of chamisa waving in the background, my contact lens bobbing like a big satellite dish, he rolls his eyes, knowing he’s in for a rough night.

 

Bri Neumann is a queer writer currently based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She finds herself drawn to the lyric nature of the everyday, and writes fiction, nonfiction, and hybrid works. Her current work is an attempt to mix her normal life with things that aren’t quite so normal. She has a BA in English from Arizona State University, and will be attending New York University for her MA in the fall of 2020. Currently, she works teaching film and creative writing to teenagers, and is writing a novel about oracles and generational trauma.

 

See what happens when you click below.

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

I have a very unique and sometimes troubling relationship with my eyeballs, and the concept of a little man living on one of them was something that’s been floating around my brain since I was a teenager. One day I was just doing some generative work, and it was like he just tugged on my eyelashes and said, “hey, write about me!” I didn’t realize until I was doing just that how funny he is and how could serve as a catalyst for a nonfiction piece.

Sunday Focus: Blues

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.]

 

“Everything comes out in blues music: joy, pain, struggle. Blues is affirmation with absolute elegance.” ~ Wynton Marsalis

“The blues ain’t nothing but a good man feelin’ bad.” ~ Leon Redbone

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. Check out her photo-essay coffee-table book HAND IN HAND here.

The Camels’ Apple Tree Series, 1 of 8

by Serge Lecomte

 

 

Serge Lecomte was born in Belgium. He came to the States where he spent his teens in South Philly and then Brooklyn. After graduating from Tilden H. S. he worked for New York Life Insurance Company. He joined the Medical Corps in the Air Force and was sent to Selma, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. There he was a crewmember on helicopter rescue. He received a B.A. in Russian Studies from the University of Alabama. Earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Russian Literature with a minor in French Literature. He worked as a Green Beret language instructor at Fort Bragg, NC from 1975-78. In 1988 he received a B.A. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Spanish Literature. He worked as a language teacher at the University of Alaska (1978-1997).

He was the poetry editor for Paper Radio for several years. He worked as a house builder, pipefitter, orderly in a hospital, gardener, landscaper, driller for an assaying company, bartender in one of Fairbanks’ worst bars, and other jobs. He resided on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska for 15 years and recently moved to Bellingham, WA.

 

See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Camels’ Apple Tree Series”?

Serge Lecomte began his life as a writer, publishing numerous poetry collections and graduating to novels. His novels could be described as somewhat surreal. Crossed realities usually yield amazing and sometimes shocking results. He works mainly in acrylics on watercolor paper but has recently begun working on canvas. He would describe his work as eclectic because he is still learning and is willing to experiment with shapes and colors depending on the mood (sometimes contradictory) of the theme he might be working on. The images are a blend of the natural world and imaginary creatures. Some of his paintings have a message (subtle), most do not. But then you see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear. After all, everyone has a view and take on the world around them. I am engaged with the world around him and vice versa.

CNF: AP English Assignment

by Kathleen McGookey

 

It’s totally effort-based, my daughter says. To get an A, all we have to do is write two pages on true wisdom and happiness. But the students must have to do more than write a description of a night like the August night years ago, at Gun Lake, when the wind slowly blew the clouds away from the moon and the boy I was beginning to love and I saw the water come alive with the golden bodies of hundreds of minnows flashing through the shallows. And though the humid air was filled with mosquitoes, not fireflies, and though the boy laid his palm on my stomach and I can’t remember what he whispered except that it made me laugh, nothing was decided and yet everything was, our future a box wrapped in moonlight, my parents still alive and watching television in the cottage behind us, blue light flickering at the edge of our vision. Dying was for other people, nothing to spend even a minute on then, under that moon, watching those minnows, the lake like another presence breathing with us there in the dark.

 

Kathleen McGookey’s most recent books are Instructions for My Imposter (Press 53) and Nineteen Letters (BatCat Press). She has also published We’ll See, a book of translations of French poet Georges Godeau’s prose poems. Her work has appeared recently in Columbia Poetry Review, December, Field, Glassworks, Miramar, Quiddity, The Southern Review, and Sweet.

 

See what happens when you click below.

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

One day my son came home from school, and as he told me about his day, he actually said the dialogue that opens the poem. The contrast between his tone of voice and what the assignment required really struck me. I wondered what the teacher was thinking, giving this ambitious writing prompt to a group of high school seniors. I just couldn’t get that line out of my head, so I wrote this poem. (And I eventually changed son to daughter in the poem because a reader thought it worked better—I’m not totally comfortable with the change but I have a daughter, too, so I can live with it.)

News

Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.

Submissions

Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now OPEN. The submission period closes June 15, 2020; submit here.

Upcoming

10/19 • Lucy Zhang
10/20 • Helen Beer
10/22 • Donald Ranard
10/26 • Diane Gillette
10/29 • Marsha McSpadden