Month: May 2019

When She Comes Down from the Mountain

by Carolyn Oliver


“If a person who has lived at sea level meets up with his twin who has lived in the mountains, he will find that his sibling is slightly older than he.”
— Carlo Rovelli, from Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre


When she comes down from the mountain, her hair sheds ice and pine, and her clothes are bleached soft by a closer sun. In our joined shadow, her compact form nestles like a denned fox, in the way (before we breathed air) we twined our limbs in Gordian knots. Surgeons cut our mother wide and fast, then drew us out as one nearly strangled squirm of flesh. Until she left the sea for the mountain, we grew like a spill of water seeping across canvas: impossible to tell where our edges began and ended, who led or followed or evaporated, atom by atom, drawn in with a breath.

Now, under lavender-copper lilacs in their dying season, she takes my hand to pull me, laughing, toward the cold sea. Between waves we dig trenches, scooping wilting red fronds that susurrate away. I pluck one from her hand and glimpse beneath her ring a fleck of brown, like a snail’s shell swirled among clam pieces before the tide brings them back home. On my skin: a shadow, a mere eddy in the sand. Then I know (as I watch her lean into the salt spray that soaks her sleeve and stars her hair with pearls) my sister has traveled ahead of me.

When she goes back to her mountain, trades sea whispers for rock scrambles and glacier lakes, I will find a new mountain twice as high as hers and make my home there under the sharp sun, until we return to Earth and time together.


Carolyn Oliver’s very short prose and prose poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Indiana Review, Jellyfish Review, jmww, Unbroken, Tin House Online, CHEAP POP, Midway Journal, and New Flash Fiction Review, among other journals. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family. Links to more of her writing can be found at carolynoliver.net.


See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “When She Comes Down from the Mountain”?

This piece started out over two years ago as a poem in blank verse, which I began as soon as I finished reading Carlo Rovelli’s Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (highly recommended). Although I was pleased with the content of the poem, I kept fiddling with the stanza breaks; I could never quite land on a set that made the poem the strongest version of itself. And then out of the blue, a few months ago, I realized I could try recasting it in prose, and then it came together—not effortlessly, but more quickly than I imagined possible. 

CNF: on invention

by Natasha Sajé
italics from The Most Excellent Book of Cookery (1555) trans. Timothy Tomasik and Ken Albala

Counterfeit Snow: First a quart of good rich milk. Make sure it has been a year since the cow had a calf. Add six egg whites, one ounce of rice flour, a quarter pound of powdered sugar, whip together like butter. Skim off what comes to the top. That’s the snow. Put it on a plate.

Travel the little tunnel that spans from known to un. Run out of air and breathe anyway.

Peacock and Capon Barded Like Porcupines: Find the slenderest cinnamon sticks, cover in sugar like candy, as long as three or four fingers. Pierce them into said game like the spines of a porcupine. Place the sauce at the bottom of the bowl, making sure it does not touch.

Put a finger in the fish tank and an angel brushes by. Or a sharklet.

Milk jasper: Nice rich milk and the same amount of egg whites. Add chopped parsley, white powder, salt. Mix and simmer and when you have stirred it well, squeeze it in a cloth after it has cooked for a day. Then cut it into slices and fry in butter.

Which flowers are edible? You could be frugal and grow your own. Or forage. Constraints are as useful as bones.

A bowl of elderflowers and as many red roses. Put them into boil and then strain them. Add to this some fine flour, eight egg yolks, two or three ounces of sugar, and a quarter ounce of cinnamon. A bit of powdered saffron, a bit of salt. Mix together and fry as you would other fritters.

The Puritans named girls Patience and Tace, which means silence. Use your tongue for tasting, your hands for cooking and writing. Both for love.

Take marrow, take rhubarb, take plantain, shepherd’s purse and a little comfrey. Anoint your hands with this and then you can place them into boiling water.

Make a rule.

There should not be cloves with shad nor with fried eggs.

Then break it.


Natasha Sajé is the author of three books of poems, including most recently, Vivarium (Tupelo, 2014); a critical book about poetry, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory, (Michigan, 2014); and a book of creative nonfiction, Terroir: Essays on Otherness, forthcoming from Trinity UP in 2020. Her honors include the Robert Winner and the Alice Fay di Castagnola Awards from the Poetry Society of America, the 2002 Campbell Corner Poetry Prize, a Fulbright Scholarship to Slovenia, and a Camargo Fellowship in France. Sajé teaches at Westminster College in Salt Lake City and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program. www.natashasaje.com


See what happens when you click below.

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

Because I’m a Francophile and a good cook, an historian colleague gave me the new translation of this cookbook. I immediately knew I wanted to make something with it, similar to the way a cook sees an unknown ingredient (longpepper!) and wants to use it. Iterations of this piece included merely editing it into a found poem and a treatise on class distinctions in this period (peasants were eating barley mush while the nobility was indulging). My final spur was the way invention transcends art forms, crafts, and genres, and that I, like the cookbook writer, enjoy being able to give advice.

Focus on Sunday: The Dark

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.]


This is the dream of deep dark places, the dream-readers tell us about caves. Are those hieroglyphics that require deciphering? Is there magic in those symbols? A spell? An incantation? What might arise were one to read them aloud?


It is into such places that we descend to seek the light. Here, the light reveals hidden messages from some invisible messenger. Into what dark place might you bring your work to seek the light? That is what this Sunday asks you to consider.



Meg Boscov lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education & dog training, along with her burgeoning interests in photography & gardening.



Florence, Katrina, Maria: The Standpoint of Water

by Leah Griesmann

“This is a tough hurricane—one of the wettest we’ve ever seen. From the standpoint of water, rarely have we had an experience like it.” — Donald Trump


1 Florence

From the standpoint of water, fish are pieces of sparkly jewelry

From the standpoint of water, a boat is ticklish

From the standpoint of water, the earth is a giant pizza crust that keeps on encroaching, so water keeps slapping it back

From the standpoint of water, the sun is a flashlight and the moon is a secret

From the standpoint of water, a shudder, a ripple, a wave


2 Katrina

When the levees gave out, the water was troubled. When the damn broke, the water was mad. Water was tired of being labeled the bad guy, just for doing what water’s got to do. Water flows, water surges, water rises when ever given the chance. But it seemed like everyone had it out for water, trying to pile it with sandbags, stop its direction, hinder its flow. Everyone was coming at water with boats and bails and media cameras, shouting at water like it had really done it this time, when they were the ones who had built the damn dam in the first place. Why couldn’t everyone just look at the situation from water’s point of view?


3 Maria

“In a certain way, the best job we did was Puerto Rico, but nobody would understand that. I mean, it’s harder to understand.” — Donald Trump

I see her hips first, the sway. Then the long curly hair falling down her arched back. Her bare arms are sweat-bathed, her skirt is bobbing above strong brown calves, a gold chain on a slim ankle. I wait every day just to see her, lapping the shore with a view of the café she meets friends at in Yabucoa.

You might not know what it’s like to suddenly increase in size. To not be able stop it, I mean—like when a tumor metastasizes, overtaking the body, or the Hulk bursts out of Bruce Bannner’s tight pants.

I didn’t use to swell like this. I used to keep it in check. The tides changed, they say. The ice has melted.

You wouldn’t know that I too dreamt of closeness. That in Yabucoa I only wanted to embrace her hips, her arms, surround her tan flesh with my warm salty frothiness, support her while she swam with her face to the sky.

But the rains came and the tides kicked up and the temperatures rose like a fever. Yet I would have forfeited my every sea just to plant a wet kiss on her lips and not carry her on her stomach.

Too much of water hast though, Poor Ophelia. Her clothes spread wide and mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up,

From the standpoint of water, the earth grows smaller; the people no longer recede

From the standpoint of water, a home is a conch shell, a town is a twig

From the standpoint of water, the earth is on fire, a heartbeat, a siren, a wave


Leah Griesmann has received grants and residencies for her fiction from the MacDowell Colony, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, the Virginia Quarterly Review Writers’ Conference, The Key West Writers Workshops, The Writers in Paradise Conference, as well as a Steinbeck Fellowship in Fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in PEN Center USA’s The Rattling Wall, The Weekly Rumpus, J Journal: New Writing on Justice, and This Side of the Divide: Stories of the American West, among other publications.

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

I wrote “The Standpoint of Water” after a call to participate in an AWP offsite “partnered” reading event, mostly to help get over my fear of live readings. I began “The Standpoint of Water” as a kind of response to a piece on Hurricane Maria by my reading partner Robert Egan. Before writing the piece, I kept staring at length at one of Donald Trump’s most ludicrous statements on Hurricane Florence. What I didn’t anticipate was that this bizarre quote would become my entry point to really consider what water’s standpoint might be.

The Humming

by Clint Margrave

(Found on Nextdoor app.)

Sarah M., Silver Lake Reservoir

I know this may sound strange, but is anyone else experiencing what seems to be intermittent humming in the day and then a constant barrage of it at night?
posted on 2 Jan. to Silver Lake Reservoir and 23 nearby


Debbie S., Elysian Valley

OMG! i hear it 2. it started right after thanksgiving. it cycles—30 minutes off and then hums for 3 minutes. first heard it at 4am when it woke me up. ugh! so Annoying!


Mads C., St. George Slope

I hear it sometimes. Freight trains along the river tracks?


Sue T., Echo Park South

Hi Folks. Go to searchbox and enter “humming” or similar terms for past ideas about this.


Tim Q., Los Feliz Hills

Yes! I did last night after mid night. It was deep and low and bizarrely, if I moved to certain points in the room I wasn’t able to hear it. Does this sound like the hum you have been hearing?


Julio A., Atwater Village

I thought it had something to do with the plumbing under the house.


Kevin C., Atwater Village

Tim Q., in the right sized interior space the humming can be amplified. This is obviously not a definitive answer, but an idea nonetheless.


Fe K., St George Slope

Its not constant for me. It comes and goes. Its not loud. Its more like it underlies everything else I can hear…


Jeff S., Atwater Village

I havne’t heard anything.


Taryn P., Silver Lake

We heard it to. What in the world could it be folks?


Cory G., Echo Park South

It’s probably the Russians ; )


Dan L., Atwater Village

Been hearing it on foggy nights since 2007 when the freight trains come down the tracks off Colorado.


Kim F., Silver Lake Reservoir

I attribute it to Scientology mind control. Grab your tinfoil hat!


Cory G., Echo Park South



Alandra W., Silver Lake Tularosa

Glad to know other people hear this too. It’s been bothering me forever. My roommate never hears it. He thinks I’m crazy for sure.


Vlad G., Adams Hill

It’s been swarming season. That could be it. Maybe your near a hive?


Karen N., Silver Lake Reservoir

I finally had the doctor prescribe me something because it kept waking me up at night.


Henry A., Eagle Rock East

Vodka helps ; )


Rebecca P., Los Feliz Hills

Sometimes I’ll go weeks without hearing it, but then it always comes back.


Judy R., Elysian Valley

Before my husband passed, he used to talk about it. I never knew what he meant. Now I finally understand.


Kevin C., Atwater Village

This type of hum has been reported around the world for quite sometime. It is usually left completely unexplained and plagues both cities and rural areas in the same manner. It is always reported as being audible to some and not others, and easier to perceive at night.


AJ A., Waverly Heights

I must agree. This has been reported all around the world. I have been experiencing it myself for the last 10 years. As crazy as it sounds it may be coming from deep beneath the surface. Strange things that only those who are in tune can feel and hear…


Sarah M., Silver Lake Reservoir

Wow. Thanks for all the great replies, everyone. I definitely agree it could be coming from beneath the surface for sure. I hear it mostly at night when my ear is on the pillow. Though I swear it’s getting louder. I’m glad I’m not alone.



Clint Margrave is the author of Salute the Wreckage (2016) and The Early Death of Men (2012), both published by NYQ Books. His stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Threepenny Review, Rattle, Cimarron Review, The Writer’s Almanac, 3AM, Bartleby Snopes, Literary Orphans, decomP, as well as in the recent LA Fiction Anthology: Southland Stories by Southland Writers by Red Hen Press. His novel, Lying Bastard, is forthcoming from Run Amok Books. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

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

I had moved to a new neighborhood and decided to download the Nextdoor app. I soon realized it was a platform for paranoia and anxiety. My neighborhood was a calm, quiet and safe place, but from the posts on the app., you’d have thought it was crime ridden and dangerous. I realized people were using this app. in this communal anxious way. “The Humming” came from a real post about a humming someone was hearing in the neighborhood. As I scrolled through the responses, it lost its literal meaning and began to take on metaphoric significance, a stand-in for all of our inner anxieties. The story had been much longer, but it was the compressed version that finally worked best.

(Not a) Succulent Sunday: 1000 words

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.]



A picture, the saying goes, is worth a thousand words, a word-count that also serves as the upper limit for many definitions of flash fiction. And photography also shares the “flash” with flash fiction, but what of the fiction? Is there any fiction in a photograph? Is the fiction all in the focus, on what’s beyond the borders, outside the frame? The flash illuminates but also leaves out; it creates a frame, a border, a fence.

Here, the flower reflects upon its reflection. Or is it its shadow? Beyond the frame, a whole other world exists, like the sun casting that shadow, the hill that holds the rocks, the gardener, the house, the people who inhabit it, the other succulents in the rocks, the toad in the rock, the snake, the bees and the ants and so on. What might you focus upon today? In that focus, where is the fiction? That is what this (not a) succulent asks you to reflect upon this Sunday.



Meg Boscov lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education & dog training, along with her burgeoning interests in photography & gardening.



How to Survive a Bear Attack

by Jennifer Moore

1. Avoid eye contact
An easy one to start us off. Easy for a two-year-old anyway. For someone who thinks covering their eyes makes them invisible.

2. Back away slowly
Oh yes, I’ve seen the footage the nice people took on their phones and plastered over the internet. It’s still up there all these years later. Backing away like a pro, I was.

3. Don’t run
On my little legs? Fat chance. I’d only just mastered backing away.

4. Make a noise
Screaming counts. Doesn’t matter what you’re screaming about – it’s volume we’re after here. Scream about the bump on your head (that’s what you get for backing into the wall with your hands over your eyes). Scream because you soiled your nappy on the way down. Scream for your Mummy. That works. I mean, it doesn’t bring her back, but it brings the other people running. It brings all the phones out. Sets them to ‘record’.

5. Stand tall
Not quite so easy for a two-year old. Especially not a malnourished one with stunted growth.

6. Fight back
Or wait for the pale-faced zookeeper to rescue you. That does the trick just as well. If not better.

7. Avoid eye contact
With everyone who isn’t your Mummy. And none of them will be.

(Feel free to carry on screaming.)

8. Lie
Tell yourself she didn’t mean it.

Tell yourself her hands slipped.

Tell yourself it was the drugs. That she didn’t know what she was doing.

That’s it. Keep telling yourself that.


Jennifer Moore is a British writer and children’s author from Devon. Her fiction publications include The Guardian, Mslexia, The First Line and Short Fiction.  She is a previous winner of both the Commonwealth Short Story Competition and the Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest. Find her online at jennifermoore.wordpress.com or on Twitter @JennyWriteMoore.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “How to Survive a Bear Attack”?

“How to Survive a Bear Attack” grew out of a number of recent news stories about people jumping or falling into zoo animal enclosures, with terrifying footage readily available on the internet. I originally conceived it as a wolf attack but decided bears worked better. 

CNF: Luck of the Draw BINGO

by Kathy Kehrli

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


Kathy Kehrli is owner of The Flawless Word, where she focuses her energies on math educational, financial, business, and marketing copy writing and editing. She is a graduate of the Pan-European MFA program in creative writing at Cedar Crest College. Her creative nonfiction has been published in the anthology In Celebration of Mothers and in The 3288 Review, York Literary Review, and The Sunlight Press. It also appears in the 2019 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, where it placed second in the publication’s annual essay contest. She was a finalist for the 2016 Penelope Niven Award in Creative Nonfiction and in Paper Nautilus’s 2018 Debut Series Chapbook Contest.

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

I wrote this piece as an assignment for Nicole Breit’s CNF Outlier’s II course that tasked me with the generation of a visual essay. The form came quickly and naturally to me, but the initial draft left out what became of the two dogs mentioned in the essay. Nicole’s astute feedback challenged me to dig a little deeper into the animals, which ultimately opened up a greater level of impact with the overall story.

Succulent Sunday: The Question

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.]



“Look deep into nature,” Einstein said, “and you will understand everything better.” Each Sunday, Meg Boscov’s camera takes that deep dive, discovering the remarkable, the unfamiliar, the transcendent.


In “Oven Bird,” Robert Frost ends with this question: “What to make of a diminished thing?” Is Frost’s poem the answer? Is the photograph above another answer? How might compressed creative arts—such as flash fiction—also answer that question? The diminished thing in Frost’s poem might be the world itself, the highway dust over all, humanity’s rise coinciding with Nature’s decline. But we also capture something of Nature that would not be present without us, something beyond the words we’ve created to describe it, something captured in that photo above. Can you capture it? That is today’s challenge from the succulents.



Meg Boscov lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education & dog training, along with her burgeoning interests in photography & gardening.



The Ellspermanns (4 of 4)

by C.R Resetarits

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


Author’s Note
The images used are part of my family tree—the Ellspermanns—who were a huge family (eight kids, scores of cousins). I’ve compressed the experience of them by just focusing on the women (all successful, outlandish and resolutely single). The last of these died two months ago at age 104, a final act of compression. I hope a bit of their energy and love of fun comes across. The  way the colors really made their smiles and eyes pop were the key and the surprise for me.


C. R. Resetarits is a writer and collagist. She has had work recently in Chattahoochee Review and Confrontation; out now in December and Saltfront, out soon in Southern Humanities Review and Modern Language Review. She lives in Faulkner-riddled Oxford, Mississippi.


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.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now OPEN. The reading period for standard submissions closes June 15, 2021. Topical Thursdays’ submissions are open year-round. Submit here.


05/10 • Barbara Diehl
05/11 • Frankly Ajaye
05/13 • Omer Berkman
05/15 • Brett Biebel
05/17 • Deanna Baringer
05/21 • Mary Kuna
05/24 • Mike Itaya
05/27 • Elizabeth Edelgass
05/31 • Kayla Pongrac
06/03 • TBD
06/07 • TBD
06/10 • TBD
06/14 • TBD
06/17 • TBD
06/21 • TBD
06/24 • TBD
06/28 • TBD
07/01 • TBD
07/05 • TBD