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Month: December 2022

Far from Rockabye

by Jennifer Markell

 

At the mall she felt clean & she needed clean since he’d used up her shampoo & her hair was greasy under her winter hat. She walked the aisles as if they were freshly paved streets, enjoying the smoothness underfoot. Music overhead asked nothing of her. At Hearth and Home, she let her hand linger inside a cushioned oven mitt. Her fingers surfed the tide of bath mats, stroked the raveled fringe of a pashmina blanket. She watched young couples register for kettles & candlesticks. High school girls maneuvered the racks at Crush, man-handling the pre-faded jeans with rips in them like un-sutured wounds. The air smelled of somebody’s mother. She couldn’t go back to him. Always the danger of delicate lingerie. Nightgowns made her cry.

 

Jennifer Markell’s first poetry collection, Samsara, (Turning Point, 2014) was named a “Must Read” book of poetry by the Massachusetts Book Awards in 2015. Her second book, Singing at High Altitude, was published in November 2021 by the Main Street Rag. Jennifer’s work has been included in The Bitter Oleander, The Cimarron Review, Consequence, RHINO, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and the Women’s Review of Books, among others. Before joining the board, she received the Barbara Bradley and Firman Houghton Awards from the New England Poetry Club. For the past twenty-four years, Jennifer has worked in community mental health and as a therapist. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and three well-versed cats.

 

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

Years ago I worked at a homeless shelter for women. I served meals, handed out tiny bars of soap and towels for the showers, talked with the guests. I became aware of how vulnerable the women were, how vulnerable we all were, living in a country with a frayed safety net. Recently I saw a woman walking at the mall whose demeanor made me think she must be homeless. I wondered about her story and wanted to explore it and get closer to her through writing. Who was she, what had brought her to this point in her life, and what was she looking for at the mall? As I began to write, the pathos of her story took shape in my mind through the material objects she was drawn to.

At the Altar of Her

by Andrey Uzarski

 

He loved her from the moment he laid eyes on her: Hania, his little girl.

She laughed a symphony— this girl. She told stories that rivaled all fantasy. She had his skin and eyes and every Earthly part, so no one could mistake that they were blood.

She had his heart, sealed in a jar beneath her bed.

In the nights when she would wake, crying great storm clouds, he rushed to her side and wrapped her tight in his arms.

“You’re safe here,” he said. “Sweet girl, this is home.”

This was home, just the two of them.

He cooked her dinner by the light of the lamp, the sky outside a blue-black shroud, the smell of fresh liver and browning onions trapped inside their flimsy walls.

“So hungry!” she cried, draping herself across the table.

“You’re too young to be such a queen.”

She giggled at this, a subdued strings section. “But you’re a queen!”

“I’m a grown-up.”

He thought this was the truth; sometimes he wasn’t sure.

Sometimes his guts were too big for his body.

Sometimes he couldn’t remember which of them had birthed the other.

He spooned the meal onto her plate—pink, with hand-painted flowers—and served it with a flourish, a napkin over his arm, bending carefully to avoid his stitches.
“For the lady,” he said as he placed it before her.

She dove in with her hands and no hesitation, tearing the tissue apart to her liking, sharp teeth gnashing, throwing scraps across the room.

His mother would call her a beast of a girl. He smiled as he watched her instead. “It’s good?”

She nodded.

“That’s my darling.”

He wiped the grease from her mouth when she finished, revealing her glowing, grinning face— his face, his dimples. Her happiness set the room afire.

And come tomorrow when it grew back, he knew he could cut himself open again.

 

Andrey Uzarski is a transgender writer and student of English currently studying abroad in Germany. His fiction has appeared in The Crucible, the undergraduate magazine of Earlham College, where he also works as a co-editor. He will graduate this May. You can find more from him at andreyooze.wordpress.com.

 

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

I wrote this in the final stretch of recovery after major surgery, having just received permission to resume normal activity. Every time I stretched, or moved my arms, or lay down in the wrong way, I still felt the seams where I’d been opened and then sewn back shut. Every time I took off my shirt, I gawked at the novelty of my own appearance. The body is a common focus in my writing— through transition, through pregnancy, through change and loss of all kinds— but it’s not so often that I get to work in the midst of my own nonfigurative body horror.

Home Improvement

by Stephen Tuttle

 

The time had come to replace our windows, so we called a window company, and they sent a salesperson who confirmed that our windows were old and shabby. You need new windows, she said. We know, we said, that’s why we called you. Have you considered mirrors? she said. Our mirrors are fine, we said. But not your windows, she said. No, we said, our windows are shabby. You just said so yourself. So, let’s get you some mirrors, she said. No, we said, just windows. Right, she said. Later that day, all our windows had been replaced by mirrors. This made us angry at first because they weren’t even two-way mirrors, the sort that let some light in. To the salesperson, we said, What good are mirrors that don’t let light in? But she didn’t hear us. She was admiring herself in a mirror that was leaning against the house where a window used to be. This one is very nice, she said. We agreed that that one was very nice. We asked when it would be installed, and she told us that it was installed. No, we said, installed-installed and not just leaning against the house like that. Look at this frame, she said. The frame was gold and beautiful but maybe a little ornate for our tastes. The mirror itself was so large that it was never going to fit. We were about to say so when the salesperson invited us to stand where she was standing and look at the mirror from there. So we each took a turn in front of the mirror, feeling flattered by what we saw there.

 

Stephen Tuttle’s fiction and prose poetry has appeared in The Nation, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. He teaches courses in fiction writing and American literature at Brigham Young University and is currently at work on a book-length collection of microfictions.

 

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

It emerges from a process I’ve been enjoying for the last couple of years. I’ll use a random word generator to create juxtapositions that spark ideas (this one might have been “mirror” and “house,” for example). I try out a lot of these, seeing what sticks and throwing out the rest (the majority). Sometimes, though, I land on something that feels genuinely surprising to me and “Home Improvement” is one of those.

The Princess and the Pearl

by Linda Kirk

 

The princess knew it was too late when the warning came from beyond this life. Two of the three little pigs had cried out to her: We took your pearl and ignored it – you ignored ours. She heard their voices while lying on a monument made from clear plastic mattresses. The prince stood smiling at her from the bottom of the translucent stack. Just how many are there? Ten? Twelve? You’re so sensitive, he said from below, holding a pearl – or was it a pea, bleached white from the sun. He poured the pearl from one hand to another, and from up on top, she couldn’t tell if he had palms or paws with pinsharp claws, sharp as a trap. I like how I can see through them, he said, nodding at the sheer assembly. The better to watch you with. Whichever it was, pea or pearl, when he slipped it below the very last mattress against the floor, her tower teetered and shifted, the shrill vibration rifling up her legs and belly. She thought then of her friends. The foolish pigs had built their foolish houses, and she her foolish bed, where she waited: a pearl, or a pea, a wolf, tongue, and teeth, and an ending in the morning.

 

Linda Kirk is special education teacher with a BA in writing living in Madison, Wisconsin with her family. Her publications of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction with Rose Red Review, Apeiron Review, and Running Press are the hopeful precursors to well-written but pleasantly addictive romance novellas, as of yet unpublished.

 

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

Sometimes smashing together the biblical wisdom of Jesus’ parables with the more recent wisdom of children’s fairy tales just works – like adding balsamic vinegar to stir-fry sauce. You taste, nod, and enjoy. The first version of “The Princess and the Pearl” began as a doodle in the ample margins of a church bulletin and never outgrew its roots.

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 closed. The reading period for standard submissions opens again March 15, 2023. Submit here.

Upcoming

07/08 • Meg Eden
07/15 • Tim Raymond
07/22 • Mike Itaya
07/29 • Eric Steineger
08/05 • Baylee Less-Eiseman
08/12 • Rae Gourmand
08/19 • Chiwenite Onyekwelu
08/26 • John Arthur
09/02 • TBD
09/09 • TBD
09/16 • TBD
09/23 • TBD
09/30 • TBD