Month: October 2022

The We Part

by Francine Witte


At first, we didn’t know it was a gunshot.

We, being me, as Nathan was actually asleep. Which actually is most of the time.

The street below our apartment is filled with people, even at 2 a.m. Nathan said we shouldn’t move in above a bar. I think he also meant we shouldn’t move in, but the me part of we won out saying it was a good commute to work. Somehow, I thought that might help things.

It didn’t.

I don’t think we’ve had one good night together since we lived here. And the me part of we hasn’t slept for ten whole minutes in a row. The Nathan part of we comes home and doses himself with a melatonin/cough syrup combo. Insists it’s to block out the noise from the bar.

Another bang or boom or whatever. Most nights, the me part of we tries to not hear the breaking glass, the fuck-you, man’s, the throat clear of the constant Harley’s. Most nights I sit up watching Nathan. He is REM-sleeping, his eyelids all jumpy, maybe the only part of him that moves anymore when I’m around. Don’t you hear all that noise, Nathan? The me part of we is asking. I pretend he is stroking my hair, “shhh, I love you,” he is saying.

The me part of we wonders what to do about the noise outside. What’s the best thing to do with a gunshot? Do you run towards it or away? The me part of we wonders the same thing about love.

Nathan is lying there, snoring up the night like a chainsaw, like a motorcycle, like a man who is ignoring me. All of those things more danger than a gun.

I look out the window to the street below. Light swirl of cop cars and a shot man on the ground. Woman in handcuffs, “I love you, I love you,” she says as they lead her away. Love kills again. I look back at Nathan. Drifting and distant and not any part of we anymore.

Quiet now. Quiet enough to close my eyes. The only sound is Nathan snoring, the buzz of it cutting a hole just big enough for me to crawl out of.


Francine Witte’s flash fiction has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. She has stories upcoming in Best Small Fictions 2021, and Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton.) Her recent books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (ELJ Editions,). Her latest book is Just Outside the Tunnel of Love (Blue Light Press.) She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She lives in NYC.


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

I wrote this story in a workshop led by Tommy Dean. The workshop was based on the short stories of Raymond Carver. We read “I Could See the Smallest Things,” and the prompt has us really examining the small things we could put in a story. A noise, a shift in the air, etc. It was the idea that the tiny moments are what can build a story. I started my draft of “The We Part” by thinking of the things in this couple’s life. They live above a noisy bar, the snoring, the husband sleeping himself out of the marriage. All of these small things adding up to one turning moment. Then I started writing, and the phrase “the we part” came up. I thought how “we” is always made up of at least two people and even though there seems to be a solidarity in the word, there often isn’t any at all.

CNF: Exam

by Kathleen McGookey


When I drop quarters in the meter near Bronson Park, I always buy more time than I need. My optometrist says near-sighted people focus on what’s within reach. If I remove my glasses, clouds form faceless smears; the horizon becomes a concept like kindness or faith. My optometrist is near-sighted, too, and doesn’t mind when, in the darkened room, I can’t choose between the lenses he flips through–one, or two? Better, or worse? His machine presses my head into the chair. He hands me a small laminated card, illuminates it, and asks me to read words the size of a grain of rice on the church steps, the freckle at the corner of my husband’s mouth, my infant daughter’s eyelash. As he takes the card back, he says I did well, only I’ve mistaken tersely for tenderly, and alien for alive.


Kathleen McGookey has published four books of prose poems and three chapbooks, most recently 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 in journals including Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, December, Field, Glassworks, Miramar, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Quiddity, and The Southern Review, and was featured on American Life in Poetry. She has received grants from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sustainable Arts Foundation.


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

I’ve worn glasses for almost fifty years. My eyesight is so bad now that if I took my glasses off and forgot where I put them, I would never find them. But this never happens, because I am very careful. Having an eye exam always makes me feel a kind of resignation, because often I can’t choose between the options that are presented to me. I can always tell when it’s time for one, though, because I find myself misreading words. I used some of my favorite misreadings in this piece.

Fortune Teller of Non/Belonging

by Rayya Liebich

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



Rayya Liebich (she/her) is a writer and educator of Lebanese and Polish descent. She is the author of the award-winning chapbook Tell Me Everything (Beret Day Press) and the debut full-length poetry collection Min Hayati (Inanna Publications). A finalist for seven Creative Nonfiction contests in 2022 including The CBC Nonfiction Prize, The International Amy Award for Memoir, Event Magazine Creative Nonfiction Contest and The Fiddlehead CNF Contest, her work has appeared in Poetry Pause (League of Canadian Poets),WordWorks Magazine (Federation of BC Writers), Atticus Review and elsewhere. Obsessed with non-linear forms of CNF, she is completing a hybrid memoir entitled “Milk Teeth” on her simultaneous experience of motherhood and mother-loss. She lives in Nelson BC where she finds joy in teaching creative writing to youth and adults.


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

I discovered the hidden power of the de-centered hermit crab essay in a class developed by Nicole Breit (www.nicolebreit.com) and delivered by Rowan McCandless. Exploring my nebulous and fraught relationship with my identity and lineage I tried to find a visual container that could simplify the deep questions I was asking myself about my place of belonging. Somewhere down my rabbit hole I came across Michel Foucault’s term Heteropia (spaces that are other) and the term Outopia, meaning no place, which I had never hear of before. Combinatory play must have been involved because soon I was constructing a playground game “Cootie Catcher” to host my deep philosophical and racial questions.


For me, the most fascinating thing about writing is always the discovery. I am in love with CNF because the possibility to bend forms leads me to strange and sometimes magical leaps in my creativity and understanding of myself.

August Afternoon, Delaware County, PA

by Michael Cocchiarale


Strollers and cycles flow along a paved path that wraps around the memorial park. In the pavilion, three middle-aged men in wan shirtsleeves sweat to bring the oldies back to life. “My Girl” first, followed by the off-key “ooohs” of “She’s Gone.” Outside the park, past the refreshment stand, a blacktop lane slides toward the side door of a funeral home, from which a casket descends. Plodding Hall & Oates rocks the pine boat steered by pallbearers into the dark shell of the hearse. Beyond, oblivious to the mourners, customers pour from WAWA, toting coffee and hoagies for the road.


Michael Cocchiarale is the author of the novel None of the Above (Unsolicited, 2019) and two short story collections–Here Is Ware (Fomite, 2018) and Still Time (Fomite, 2012). His creative work appears online as well, in journals such as Fictive Dream, South Florida Poetry Review, The Wild Word, Unlikely Stories Mark V, and Ovunque Siamo.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “August Afternoon, Delaware County, PA”?

The park is real. The musicians too. And the funeral home is nearly right next door. In the first draft, the juxtaposition of park and funeral home was my focus. However, during the revision process, I decided to add a WAWA, a convenience store that is ubiquitous in the Philly burbs and beyond. I thought the image of customers heading for the road provided appropriate closure for a piece about movement and flow.

After the Camp Fire

by Rae Gouirand


That November, I have to mask to leave the house, to take out the trash, to pick up library books, to return library books, the air putrid with smoke that’s hung for weeks since the fire that burned Paradise two hours north of us. We’ve been in the house, under the same roof, six months, have barely just begun to kill the thirsty lawn the realtors automated only for us to refuse to water it. Cars, rooves, sidewalks turn different shades, greased with ash that grows more dimensional, more iridescent as the days drop out their bottoms and blur together, indistinguishable from the smoke. Go driving, the horizon is nearer, comes so close to the body, it feels a little like one’s stepped into mud-bottomed river that may never again settle, may never again go clear. An accretion, an accumulation, an unendingness as the atmosphere fills and fills with silt, no rain coming, no way to lift the lid. It has been two weeks. The streets are empty aside from the wild turkeys that roam the neighborhood as they do in northern California every November, picking apart the first of the fallen citrus in driveways, pulling late kale and chard from neglected beds, roaming at a speed that doesn’t betray ravenousness. Schools cancel, offices cancel, everyone says don’t go out. I can smell the damage through my mask, despite the fact that it’s rated the highest, so after I push my library books through the slot, I walk around the front of the branch, its assuringly creamy Spanish colonial stucco face, to the rose garden that the Friends tend. I might as well: I am clearly not protected. I breathe as much of what muscles through the air as any living thing; I feel my tongue going flickery, just as I do in my house, its chimney flue locked in open position, particulate motes floating out from the black gates. Roses that have been open more than a few hours have collected the foul residue in the folds of their petals, and have ceased to read as flowers, but those on the edge of flowering reveal shades that read as shock. Momentary, all of them, in every shade from yellow to scarlet to lilac. And scent! I inhale as though starving, as though praying they might grab hold of some sensory receptor inside and overwrite the only message. Into the noxiousness the roses assert their fragrance, almost an I, as suggestive and out of context as similes.


Rae Gouirand is the author of two collections of poetry, Glass is Glass Water is Water (Spork Press, 2018) and Open Winter (winner of the Bellday Prize, Bellday Books, 2011), the chapbooks Little Hour (winner of the Swan Scythe Chapbook Contest, Swan Scythe Press, 2022), Jinx (winner of the Summer Kitchen Competition, Seven Kitchens Press, 2019) and Must Apple (winner of the Oro Fino Competition, Educe Press, 2018), and a short work of nonfiction, The History of Art (winner of the Open Reading Competition, The Atlas Review, 2019). She leads several longrunning independent workshops in northern California and online, including the cross-genre workshop Scribe Lab, and lectures in the Department of English at UC-Davis.


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

I think for almost everyone who lived in northern California in 2018, November of that year represents a crossing-over from a before to an after (or a since) in terms of our direct, lived experience of the climate catastrophe. A few months before the Camp Fire, my wife and I bought and moved into a fixer-upper in a town where neither of us had lived before, so in the background of that moment for me were these other ways my day to day was being re-ordered and re-oriented. This poem came out in one straight shot, in the present tense, about a year ago–the first prose poem I’d written in years and the first clear sign for me (prose poem as indicator species?) of a new body of work that I’d already been quietly adding to for a couple of years without understanding it as anything.


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


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