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Month: January 2023

CNF: The Gift of the Acadians

by Paul Hostovsky

 

He was the only Deaf person in his family. And he mostly kept to himself. Because no one in his family bothered to learn how to sign. He didn’t learn it himself until they sent him away to the school for the Deaf. Where he lived during the week. And he only came home on the weekends. For years and years. And home began to feel less and less like home. Because the language of home wasn’t his language. Because sign language was his language. So home was the school for the Deaf where everyone signed. And that’s where he met his future Deaf wife. And she took his last name, a French name that went all the way back to the French Acadians, who fled Nova Scotia during Le Grand Derangement in the 1700s and settled in the American colonies. And the French Acadians kept to themselves mostly. Because the American colonists didn’t speak French. So there was a lot of inbreeding–cousins marrying cousins–which was probably how a recessive genetic quirk got passed all the way down to the little Deaf boy. Who thought he was the only one. But he wasn’t the only one. Because his wife was Deaf and pretty soon they had their first child, and that child was born Deaf. And he and his Deaf wife didn’t know what to think. They laughed and rejoiced. And two years later the twins were born Deaf. And they laughed and rejoiced again. And again. And home was sign language. And he and his wife and his children were home. And he was never so happy in his life. A life in which he had thought he was the only one. But he wasn’t the only one. Because the others were all on their way. And they’d been on their way all this time. They were a long time coming. But here they all were now. And he supported his Deaf family by working for the post office as a letter carrier. He delivered letters for over forty years. By the time he retired he was a grandfather. And his three grandchildren were Deaf. And their flying little hands and their beautiful animated little faces were a gift. And this was the gift of the Acadians. This quirky, genetic gift. And it was a precious gift in spite of what the doctors and the audiologists said. It was a hidden gift that took a long time to be found. But a short time to unwrap. The gift of a large Deaf family–Deaf children, Deaf grandchildren, Deaf sons- and daughters-in-law. All signing up a storm. All gathered around the old Deaf grandfather. Who was never so happy in his life.

 

Paul Hostovsky’s latest book of poems is Mostly (FutureCycle Press, 2021). He has won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, and has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. He makes his living in Boston as a sign language interpreter. Website: paulhostovsky.com

 

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

I make my living as an ASL interpreter. So I hang out a lot with Deaf people. A Deaf guy once told me a version of this story when we were sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, waiting for his name to be called. He has a distinctly French-sounding name, and I originally used his name as the title for the piece, when I wrote it a few weeks later. I actually know his family, and his kids went to school with my daughter, who is also Deaf. But then I thought he might not appreciate my using his name without his permission. Especially if the piece gets published. So I changed the name to a different French-sounding name. Then I decided to get rid of the name altogether and not name any names, because it could be (and it is) the story of more than a few Deaf (and DeafBlind) people whom I have known over the years. By the way, it was the French who founded the first school for the Deaf in the world. And ASL is a linguistic offshoot of French Sign Language.

Superman Flying Over a Nude Beach

by Pedro Ponce

 

There was a new joke at school. One boy would approach another, his hand raised level with his chin. “What’s this?” he would ask, palm down, skimming the hand flat through the air. If I squinted hard enough, I could see the middle finger curled down and folded against the meat of the palm.

The other boy would merely watch in response, knowing the question was rhetorical. After a moment of following the hand’s trajectory, the first boy would deliver his shrill punchline: “SUPERMAN FLYING OVER A NUDE BEACH.”

I laughed as hard as I could along with the others.

I practiced the gesture repeatedly on my own—while doing homework, folding laundry, setting the table for dinner. No matter how many times I tried to imitate what I saw at recess and lunch each day, the cryptic gesture refused to yield its secret.

“What are you doing?” my mother asked, as she watched my hands, unlinked by prayer, float above the dining room table. The days were getting shorter, making everything inside show more brightly against the fading sky.

Saying nothing would only betray something. I formed a fist and coughed into it.

My mother shook her head and asked for the salt. I watched my father nudge the salt and pepper toward the center of the table. I grabbed them in my right hand. Both shakers fit easily under my palm.

“I said I wanted the salt.” My mother spoke down to her plate. I clenched both shakers over the tablecloth, waiting.

My father set down his fork and knife. He reached for his water glass and took a long drink. He seemed to study the bright red flowers stitched into the tablecloth as he set the glass down. I felt the strain in my fingers spread through my wrist and down toward my elbow.

“Let her have both,” my father said. “I’m never really sure what she wants.”

The tip of my middle finger emerged from between the drab plastic shakers. I moved to set them down. As words erupted to either side of me, I watched the protruding tip of my finger hover and descend toward the shadow of wings skimming the corner of a place mat.

 

Pedro Ponce’s flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including hex, Moon City Review, and Wigleaf, as well as in the anthologies New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and The Best Small Fictions 2019. His latest collection is The Devil and the Dairy Princess: Stories, published by Indiana University Press.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Superman Flying Over a Nude Beach”?

I often start with images—in this case, an actual hand gesture I recall making the rounds of my elementary school many (many) years ago. Games are never just for fun. There are those who get them, and those who don’t. Those who don’t are usually more interesting to me than those who do, and those who don’t but pretend they do are the most interesting of all. Of course, there are lots of other things this narrator doesn’t get, and I was trying to capture this feeling, his growing awareness of all he doesn’t know, even about those closest to him.

Writing My Dissertation at Brookhaven National Laboratory

by Kenton K. Yee

 

I chose theoretical physics for its sunrise qualities: bright lights, rustling leaves, praying mantises. Accuracy, precision were sacred. Deer and ticks. Comets and planetesimals. Every true equation rhymes with the rustle of leaves. We had assignments, of course: to explore as many what-if possibilities as we could think up. By the second cup of coffee, ideas came faster than kettle steam. Waiting for the whistling, I saw the blur of tossed die and knew, yes, I want to spin and spin. I want centrifugal force to rip off my frown and fling my flesh into the spiraling arms of acceptance.

 

Kenton K. Yee writes from northern California. His recent poetry appears (or will soon appear) in Rattle, The Threepenny Review, Constellations, Plume Poetry, Analog, The New Verse News, The Indianapolis Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Hollins Critic, Ligeia Magazine, and Pembroke Magazine, among others. Chapters of the dissertation I wrote at Brookhaven National Laboratory while a UCLA doctoral candidate were published in Nuclear Physics B and Physical Review D.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Writing My Dissertation at Brookhaven National Laboratory”?

Although I’m not claiming it as nonfiction, this prose poem reflects what I remember about my dissertation writing experience. Writing the prose poem, I realized what I loved wasn’t thinking about mathematics but the feeling of how, when ideas came, they “came faster than kettle steam.” This is why I was so passionate about pursuing theoretical physics and is why I’m passionate today about pursuing creative arts.

Three Moments

by Eric Bosse

 

NEW YEAR’S EVE
Our daughter comes through in a tutu, chopping off the heads of imaginary goblins with a plastic ax. Our son hops through on her trail, flimsy football helmet perched on his head. He declares himself the Prince of Superheroes: “Tom’s the name!” My wife braids her hair and scrolls her phone for news. My socks are thick. My toes are cold. Snowflakes zigzag past the windows. A moment in time. Gone. This happened years ago if it happened at all.
 

WOMS
I show the girl a photo of a wombat. She is disappointed to discover that a wombat is not, in fact, a bat with woms. I ask her what a wom is. “I don’t know,” she says. “That’s what I was excited to find out.”
 

UNREALITY
The boy in the car seat shouts, “Stinky toot!” The girl says, “Hush now.” I say that wasn’t a nice thing to say. The boy says, “Don’t worry, Papa, you just imagined it.” I glance at the rearview mirror and say, no, I heard it. “Oh, then don’t worry, Papa,” he says, “I just imagined it.”

 

Eric Bosse is the author of Magnificent Mistakes (Ravenna Press 2011) and his stories have appeared in The Sun, The Collagist, FRiGG, Hobart, Wigleaf, New World Writing, and Matter Press.

 

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

These pieces come from a chapbook I’m putting together, gathering more of these moments from this time. Lately, I’m dwelling on the looming transition from parent-of-children to parent-of-adults; and sometimes it feels like the very best part of my life is about to end. I’ve collected moments like these over the years, written them down as transcriptions of life. When I recently returned to these, each moment felt entirely whole and alive to me, years after they happened. They are minor moments, yet they feel durable enough to last for an eternity. I’ve grown obsessed with the brevity of our time on earth and the knowledge that the planet is four and a half billion years old. If I’m lucky, I’ll get seventy-five or eighty or ninety years–barely a breath in the life of this rock, which, itself, is a speck in a vast, expanding universe. I am overwhelmed, nearly every second. These are the ripples I’ve made.

George Washington’s Bandaid

by Stefanie Freele

 

We had to dig a trench. For the tortoise’s fence as she needs winter quarters to semi-hibernate. It might have been Betsy Ross’s hair band we found in the dirt first, the very same band she used to hold back distracting tendrils as she sewed with concentration on the American Flag. Or the sharp piece of glass shattered from Ben Franklin’s light bulb. We located the sturdy feather used to write the Declaration of Independence, and a pen tip from 1907, proudly made by Joseph T. Pen, whose wife invented the Pencil. Her name was Maryanna. Every treasure must have a story. Two soil-encrusted beads: jewels lost for centuries from the queen’s crown when she came to visit the garden and tripped on a root. A sticker, most likely dropped by Abraham Lincoln on his way to return that penny. A small rock with white: a drop of paint from a hurried Picasso, or from that troubled bloody guy who cut off his ear? The Mariana Trench we called it, George Washington’s trench. Dig! Someone—a huge fan of David Attenborough—pointed out that the Mariana Trench isn’t necessarily the deepest on the planet because we haven’t discovered everything about earth yet. Go discover, we shouted, Go! as we dug farther, further, deeper, uncovering King George’s favorite green crayon, tile from a nearby undiscovered Egyptian tomb containing King Tut’s coffee cup collection, a reddish clay piece of the world’s original wheel. There was shouting and ah-has and look! The reptilian eyes of the tortoise watched as we unearthed history and when asked if she’s happy, none of us knew how to respond. How do you tell? She’s a tortoise, we shrugged. We don’t speak tortoise.

 

Stefanie Freele is a previous contributor to The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. Her short fiction can be found in Flash Fiction Online, Glimmer Train, and Witness. Stefanie is the author of two short story collections: Feeding Strays (Lost Horse Press) and Surrounded By Water (Press 53).

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “George Washington’s Bandaid”?

Sulcata tortoises show affection by bumping into you. Should you be bumped by a tortoise, I would think it ranks as a special moment. Staring into a tortoise’s eye is much the same as gazing into the night sky. How do you make sense of something so expansive?

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

02/26 • D Angelo
03/04 • Steve Cushman
03/11 • Rita Taryan
03/18 • Jessica Purdy
03/25 • TBD