Month: October 2021

Desire Lines

by Jamie Etheridge


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


Jamie Etheridge’s creative writing can be read in X-R-A-Y Lit, Anti-Heroin Chic, JMWW Journal, (mac)ro(mic), Bending Genres, Emerge Lit, Essay Daily and Rejection Letters, among others. She is currently working on a memoir about her fugitive father and her childhood on the road. Jamie tweets @LeScribbler and you can visit her website at LeScribbler.com.


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

In the writing of this piece, I learned that there are more than 15 possible definitions for the noun ‘line’, creating dozens of synonyms. Some of my favorites include: column, queue (cue in American English), echelon, rank, row, tier, chain, progression, sequence, array, marshal, classify, balance, lay out, alphabetize, ambit, arena, circle, demesne, kingdom, boundary, blueprint, direction and purpose. Each takes me one step closer to understanding my daughter’s impulse to create her own lines.

This Vicious Cycle

by Jeff Ronan


[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.]


I pretend I can’t hear the question, which isn’t entirely true. I’m waiting for a drink I don’t need, debating (selfishly) how shitty a son I’ll be if I don’t take the train down tomorrow, when I feel a sharp poke in my ribs. The woman is cute but peppers her sentences with a phony-sounding laugh. She leans in and repeats: “My friend and I were wondering – ha ha – if you’re into guys or girls?”

The friend standing behind her smiles at me and downs the rest of his beer. A colorful tribal tattoo circles his bicep, which I normally find cheesy, but looks good on him. He sees me looking at it and winks. I fight the urge to lick my chapped lips.

The bartender wordlessly delivers my whiskey, and I scan the bar to see if any of my coworkers can see us. Dela is programming Honky Cat into the jukebox for the second time in an hour, while Micah, misreading the vibe of the room, tries to hand out shots of Jäger. He catches my eye, and I turn away.

I rarely join my office’s Friday happy hour, but Erika called during my lunch break. Our father had passed out while buying scratch-offs and was back in the hospital for the umpteenth time in two years. Each time this happens, the doctors repeat their cycle of tests, and Erika grows convinced that this will be the time that we’ll find a cause, if not a cure. I want to tell her that it’s pointless; that they’ll say the same thing they always do: “From what we can see, there’s nothing wrong with him.”

I turn back to the pair, their eyes expectant, and I notice the guy’s tattoo again. What I thought was some kind of tribal marking is actually a coral snake, winding around his arm and disappearing up the sleeve of his t-shirt. I imagine a version of myself finding out where the snake ends.


Somewhere, a glass shatters, followed by a smattering of sarcastic applause. I want to ask how many times they’ve used this pickup line. And if every guy has as much difficulty choosing one of the two answers they’re looking for. Instead, I reach out and gently tug on the hem of the woman’s shirt and give the answer that I can live with for tonight.


Jeff Ronan is a New York-based writer, actor, and podcaster. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Bards and Sages Quarterly, Sci Phi Journal, Dream of Shadows, City.River.Tree., and the anthology Ink. For more, visit jeffronan.com


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

I was stuck in the middle of a different short story when the idea for This Vicious Cycle came to me. It arrived in a rush, mostly over the course of a single day (would that all stories would be so kind). The title is a mashup of two different songs by the excellent band The Dear Hunter.

Try Not To Breathe

by Ciarán Parkes


[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.]


Try not to breathe
until the hug is over. Point your face
over the other person’s shoulder, gazing

into the social distance, then
step back into it. Try to make it quick
as possible. Feel the afterglow

of oxytocin flooding through your brain
from such close contact. Smile behind your mask. Wait ten days or so

in case of symptoms.
Cautiously repeat


Ciarán Parkes lives in Galway, Ireland. His poems have appeared in The Threepenny Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, and other places.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Try Not To Breathe”?

Living on my own during Covid meant long periods without any human contact. I remember reading how-to guides to safe hugging online, and wondering how all that oxytocin would feel like. The poem wrote itself very quickly.

A Little Airshow

by Kim Chinquee


On my fourth date with the banker, I wait at the table. He arrives talking on his phone, in his suit and tie. He’s some minutes late, as he said he would be. I was a minute late, so I’m relieved that finally this time, he didn’t arrive before me. We’re at Angelo’s, a place he’s never been. He asked me to pick a place near me. The place is Italian and not as fancy as the one down the street he’s been to many times.

When he gets to the table, I stand, we hug. We kiss. I say, “I already ordered wine.” I haven’t sipped it yet though. I ordered a sparkling and like to watch the bubbles.

He’s tall. His hair is white and clean-cut. His eyes are blue. He has dimples, white teeth and clear skin. I keep forgetting his age, but I think that he is sixty. I teach art. I should be better about numbers. I’m just over fifty. We met on Match. The inventory, at least for me, and what I’m looking for, is pretty slim there.

Our last time together was at my house, after he had dinner with his mother. It was my first time seeing him wearing something casual. Shirt and jeans. I gave him a tour of my garden, and though it was starting to get late, the moonlight glowed on the roses, the bellflowers, and he said he loved the scent. We hugged there in the back and he kissed my neck. My dogs wagged their tails. The singing birds gave us a little airshow.

He stayed the night. He gave me backrubs. After sex, he held me in his arms, and said it was my job to stay there. He fell asleep and started snoring. I stayed locked into his arms. I tried to relax. I told myself to relax. I told myself, enjoy this. After a while, I just told myself to take in all the senses. I took in his smell. The texture of his skin. The sound of him. I studied his face and even watched him breathe. I finally fell asleep there.

He’s regional president and manages 34 banks. Or maybe 43? He gets up at five am and does yoga every morning. My first time at his apartment, we woke early and had another round of touching. He lives downtown in a renovated apartment with high ceilings. His unit is the highest. He made me coffee. I wasn’t sure I’d see him again.

I can miss the bus on some things.

This is my first spring/summer in my new home. New things bloom each day. Today it was the hollyhock. Yesterday, daylilies spouted up. And the trumpet vine! Every morning, after breakfast, I visit the raspberry bushes, and eat every ripe thing I see. Every one’s a gift. Every one’s delicious!

I drive to the lakeshore, where I swim with fellow athletes. We wear nylons under wetsuits to help us get them on right. Through goggles, we see rocks and fish. We rotate our arms and legs, our bodies, moving through the waves. Loons are quiet trumpets on the water. I cycle with my friends, and we ride for miles with hydration systems, disc brakes, electronic shifting, carbon wheels. We go down hills at high speeds. Sometimes we have to traverse to get up them.

After Angelo’s, the banker comes to my place.

We go up to my bedroom.

We remove our clothes and we wait for the roar.


Kim Chinquee is the author of seven collections, most recently SNOWDOG (Ravenna Press). Her next collection PIPETTE is forthcoming with Ravenna Press, along with her novel-in-flashes BATTLE DRESS (Orphan + Widow House). She’s the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, senior editor of NEW WORLD WRITING, chief editor of ELM LEAVES JOURNAL, and she co-directs the writing major at SUNY-Buffalo State.


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

“A Little Airshow” was crafted using prompt words and a prompt sentence: airshow, inter-tube, lakeshore, loon, trumpet, Wait for the roar. I chose these prompts for my writing group while doing an open water swim in Lake Erie with my triathlon friends, and there were spectators all around waiting for an air show. I was curious about that. I guess that was the stem of this piece.


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.


10/22 • Ciarán Parkes
10/24 • Jeff Ronan
10/25 • Jamie Etheridge
10/28 • Sheldon Siporin
10/30 • John Van Dreal
11/01 • Lucinda Kempe
11/02 • Carol Taylor
11/04 • Elizabeth Spragins
11/08 • Michelle Ross
11/09 • Myron Kukla
11/11 • Nanar Khamo
11/15 • TBD
11/18 • TBD
11/22 • TBD
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11/29 • TBD
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