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Month: November 2020

Long Gone

by Jenny Bitner

 

In the old days if something important happened, you would whisper it to the bees and they would protect you—births and deaths were all told. But nobody is telling the bees the news anymore. No woman late on her period is whispering, “I’m pregnant,” and no grieving husband announces, “Julie is gone.” What do the bees do if they aren’t filled with stories? Like a lover waiting for a text that never comes, they disappear. “My father died,” I whisper to the empty night.

 

Jenny Bitner’s fiction and poetry has been published in Mississippi Review, The Fabulist, The Sun, Fence, Corium, Fourteen Hills, Mid-American Review and PANK. Pine Press published a chapbook of her poetry entitled Mother. Her story “The Pamphleteer” was published in Best American Nonrequired Reading. Her work was also included in the anthology Writing That Risks. Her nonfiction has appeared in Utne Reader, To-Do List, The San Francisco Bay Guardian and Men’s Health. She earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia. She is a hypnotherapist and a member of the Writers Grotto. Her novel Here Is A Game We Could Play is coming out in Spring 2021.

 

In Defense of Tweeting Even While I’m Dying

by Zainab Omaki

 

[Editor’s Note: This piece is part of the “Topical” series, with each piece solely submitted to and chosen by the Final Reader Pietra Dunmore.]

 

Because if I don’t, people will hear that I died at the Abuja protests, shot in the back while racing away, but never know that I was a real person, an individual distinguishable from the dozens of others who bled out onto the street under a yellow sun. Because my father still tells me stories under the orange glow of candlelight when the electricity goes out—and it goes out often— about how he grew up in the glory days of this country. When he was a child, they attended school for free, ate government paid lunches finer than anything they had at home, graduated to a surplus of jobs that they were practically begged to fill. His mouth twists mournfully when he gets to the end. “You people will never know a country like that,” he says. Because, last month, my friend,Kunle, was coming back from clubbing in the middle of the night and the police stopped him on the road and beat him until his lungs collapsed in on themselves, for having orange hair, for wearing a pink crop top, for behaving in an effeminate manner when being gay is illegal. Strangers rushed him to the hospital entrance but the nurses took one look at the severity of his condition and used their bodies to block their doors. “We don’t have the equipment oh,” they shouted. “Go to St. Mary’s.” At St. Mary’s they sent him to National Hospital. By the time the car squealed to a halt in front of the Emergency room at National Hospital, he was dead. Because on Twitter there is a scrolling list of fourteen names of other people killed by the police, I have recited them so many times, they’ve developed a cadence in my head, like a song, but who wants that type of song stuck in their head? Because when I turned eighteen, four years ago, my sister cackled, “Finally old enough to vote!” And I’d hissed long and loud in our stuffy living room. Who was going to waste time voting? Politicians would just rig the elections. I’d camped out in front of the TV too many times watching counting sessions where the number of votes exceeded the number of people in a State, and the politicians would swivel to glance at each other and break into laughter, like it was some type of joke. Because on my last trip to Lagos, I couldn’t afford to go by air so I went by road. We jostled in potholes the size of our bodies and got pulled to a stop by armed robbers. They made us all stand in a line and they went from person to person collecting our belongings, roughly feeling our breasts, our crotches, anywhere something might be hidden. I was trembling, my bladder threatening to give way, thinking about all the stories I’d heard of robbers raping men and women on the side of the road, passing diseases onto them. God please, God please, looped in my head. When they let us go, no one called the authorities. We just piled back into the car and finished the journey. Because every single season, rain floods Lagos and we laugh at people in the middle of residential areas, ploughing through the water on canoes. Guffaw. Guffaw. Guffaw. But we don’t complain to Urban Planning department because we know its Minister, dubbed ‘the smiling Minister’, will flash his white teeth on TV and nothing will be done. Because a shaky video of a heavy set policeman shooting a man at point blank range at a high-end hotel in Port Harcourt somehow cut through our apathy, our belief that things would always go on this way because it has always gone on this way. Our outrage overwhelmed the internet, bringing us out in a swarm onto the streets. Because ardors will flag without a visible reminder to be pulled up and recalled, a last reminder: this is why we’re doing it. Because ‘I’m shot, I’m dying’ are a rallying cry, not sent out into a void, but into fertile soil. Four words raises a multitude of others.

 

Zainab A. Omaki has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia where she was the recipient of the Miles Morland African Writer’s scholarship. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Passages North, Transition Magazine, The Rumpus, TSS Publishing and other spaces. She is currently a Reader in Residence at Smokelong Quarterly

 

See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “In Defense of Tweeting Even While I’m Dying”?

It was inspired by a tweet during the recent #ENDSARS protests and the debate swirling online about sharing personal moments of grief. My initial thoughts had been that certain moments are to be inhabited not shared but then I began to turn it around in my head and see arguments for why that might not necessarily be the case.

A Slight Change in Tonight’s Performance

by Annie Berke

 

Management: Circle the one that applies—

The role of the Wife and Mother will be played by an illustrious Juilliard graduate.

The role of the Wife and Mother will be played by your husband’s sexiest ex-girlfriend.

The role of the Wife and Mother will be played by a housecat who is a touch psychic.

The role of the Wife and Mother will be played by a rickety broomstick.

The role of the Wife and Mother will be played by a broken mood ring.

*

Ladies and gentlemen, we ask you to bear with us as we make this delicate but necessary transition. The Wife and Mother will endure her replacement with tact – and, we suspect, no small amount of relief. She will slip wordlessly out the stage door, the performance being already in progress.

 

Annie Berke is a scholar of film and television, a freelance writer, and the Film Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books. She lives in Maryland.

 

See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “A Slight Change in Tonight’s Performance”?

After my son threw down his sippy cup for the 400th time, the milk splattered on the floor and spelled out the words of this micro-fiction. I am but a humble scribe.

20:10:20 Massacre (an anonymous order)

by Kelvin Kellman

 

[Editor’s Note: This piece is part of the “Topical” series, with each piece solely submitted to and chosen by the Final Reader Pietra Dunmore.]

 

Between heaven and earth, lagoon and dry land,
no greater sting had I grieved before today, when
Lagos, soaked up in blood, wept for her young.
It began with demands. For rights, for space, air;
for living in one’s country without dread.
A fear of a lie, a fear of bullets, a fear of death,
in the hands of folks saddled with the duty of protecting.
In lieu however, they besieged us with guns and bullets.
And that mantra, spewed out of their crooked tongues:
I will kill you and nothing will happen! We assembled with
requests, to be heard, asking to live as humans and not game.
But we forget, the general in his labyrinth recognizes nothing
in the least human, only cattle. Before the soldiers, they cut off
the lights, cut off the cameras, and then killed the billboard.
And in a trice, men in olive green jumped out of trucks and opened fire.
Over 60 people perished today. Lucy died with half her head missing for
asking a better country. Men: fathers, brothers, with chests and guts
blown open, laid shoulder to shoulder singing the national anthem
until they expired. The Governor pleads innocence.
The command, he says, are forces beyond his direct control.
The army snatched away bodies but denies complicity.
The president, still silent, received an emir in his province
with fanfare. Leaving us asking: who gave the order?

 

Kelvin Kellman writes from Nigeria. He’s had works featured or forthcoming in Green Briar Review, The Blue Mountain Review, Hawaii Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Solstice Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.

 

See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “20:10:20 Massacre”?

On the 20th of October, 2020, youths in Nigeria who have never seen a country work, as the country has an enduring history of corruption, bad governance, mortal extortion and arrogation of power by a rogue element of the police, took to the streets in peaceful protest demanding better governance and police reform. The government in response, sent soldiers to open fire on the protesters. Scores of youths had their lives snuffed out and many were left lethally injured.

Being part of the protesters, to say that I am livid does not about cover how I feel on account of the unsavoury turn of events; how the degenerate civilian government led by a former general to whom dialogue is alien, responded with bullets to youths demanding accountability. More so, I had comrades lose their lives in the most gruesome manner. It could have easily been me who got hit that night. It is my hope that with this poem, which I wrote that very night and edited the following day, I’ll find some form of closure, and that the departed wherever their spirits lead, know that they did not die in vain. I hope also that this poem expresses the wanton devilry exhibited by the current Nigerian government. Because even now, days after that bloodbath, the president has refused to address the shooting.

Sunday Focus: Hope

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.]

 

“Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.” — Rebecca Solnit “Most psychologists define hope as a yearning for something possible but not certain—such as a better future—and a belief that you have some power to make it happen,” writes Elizabeth Bernstein in the WSJ. “And they believe it has two crucial components: Agency, or the motivation, to achieve the desired goal. And a strategy, or pathway, to do that. This is how it differs from optimism, which is the belief the future will work out no matter what you do.”

“You can think of hope as a PPE—a Personal Protective Emotion.” — Anthony Scioli. Here’s to hope, to 2021, to everyone who did more than just believe: who strategized and acted. Thank 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. Check out her photo-essay coffee-table book HAND IN HAND here.

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