Month: May 2023

CNF: Advice and Caution, or How to Be a Tall Woman

by Erica Goss


  1. Forgive the boy next door who yells at you on your way to first grade. “Lurch” is one of the few words he knows.

  3. Breathe through the growing pains. They will last for years.

  5. Stand up straight. Ted Cassidy, the Addams Family’s original “Lurch,” was 6’9”, and he never slouched.

  7. Your brothers are tall and thin. This fact will be noted with approval.

  9. You are tall and thin. You’ll be compared to a certain garden vegetable.

  11. Your heart will start beating irregularly at age nineteen. Your back, neck and shoulders will hurt most of the time. This is normal for tall people.

  13. Understand: there is a height—five foot eight, perhaps—beyond which you’ll make men uncomfortable.

  15. Accept that the available pool of men your height is extremely limited.

  17. Date a short man, just once. Or twice. Leave him when his friends start asking what it’s like in bed.

  19. Be kind when someone asks you, ever-so-sweetly, to grab that jar from the highest shelf at the grocery store. Don’t give in to the temptation to ask that same person to pick something up off the floor for you.

  21. Refuse to discuss the weather up here, down there, or anywhere.

  23. Always wear flats.

  25. Remember that black makes you look taller. So do vertical stripes. You certainly don’t want to look any taller than you already are.

  27. Accept that your ankles and wrists will show.

  29. Learn to sew. Be sure to add six inches to all seam allowances.

  31. Explain, patiently, that at no time in your life have you ever played basketball. This will make some people angry. They will accuse you of wasting your height.

  33. Be aware that being tall makes you look older. Starting at age twelve, remind men that you are not eighteen. You’ll have to be firm on this one, because they won’t believe you.

  35. Get used to the back row.

  37. Get used to the view from the back row: pink scalps, dandruff. Ring around the collar.

  39. Get used to feeling slightly embarrassed most of the time.

  41. Get used to the fact that tall women in popular culture are usually depicted as freaks.

  43. Change the subject when someone mentions Attack of the 50-Foot Woman. Try to forget how the boy next door would yell, “Please please don’t hurt me!” rolling his eyes and pretending to be afraid of you.

  45. Never, ever use words with the suffix “ess,” especially “poetess” or “giantess.”

  47. When pregnant, be careful not to bump into people. Your belly will be higher than you realize.

  49. Act like you don’t know the answer when someone asks you how tall you are. Alternatively, ask that person how tall she thinks you are. Treat it like a fun way to get to know each other.

  51. When asked if you’ve ever modeled, respond with “Once, but it wasn’t for me.”

  53. Ignore articles that claim tall people die earlier than short people. Try to ignore your irregular heartbeat.

  55. Rejoice when studies suggest that being tall is correlated with higher IQ, higher income and lower risks of diabetes, dementia and heart disease.

  57. Acknowledge, ruefully, your tall, high-IQ father’s death from complications of dementia.

  59. Wonder why you are usually the tallest woman in the room.

  61. Wonder where the other tall women are.

  63. If you were a man, people would assume you were in charge.


Erica Goss is the author of Night Court, winner of the 2017 Lyrebird Award from Glass Lyre Press. Recent and upcoming publications include The Colorado Review, The Georgia Review, Oregon Humanities, Creative Nonfiction, North Dakota Quarterly, Gargoyle, Spillway, A-Minor, Redactions, Consequence, The Sunlight Press, The Pedestal, San Pedro River Review, and Critical Read. Erica served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, California, from 2013-2016. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she teaches, writes and edits the newsletter Sticks & Stones.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Advice and Caution, or How to Be a Tall Woman”?
A few months ago, I started thinking about my life as the owner of a non-standard body. I was six when people started telling me I was tall. At such a young age, I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but I soon learned that it came with baggage. My mother reminded me to stand up straight while the kids in my neighborhood made tall jokes. It was very confusing.

As I grew into my tall body, I discovered that being tall is a condition people will tell you about. As a tall woman, it’s very hard to avoid attention—I’m always ready for the comment about my height that might come from someone anywhere, at any time.

I created the list as a sort of protection spell, from one tall woman to another. These were the things I had to learn the hard way. I wanted to share that wisdom with someone younger, hence the “advice and caution” of the title.

I tried to include the comical parts of being tall as well as the less amusing ones. Like most things, it’s a mixed bag. It’s taken me a lifetime to accept my body for what it is, and to appreciate it without judgment. Actually, I’m still working on that.

CNF: Water Skiing

by Jenny Burkholder


I watch your burial from a hard-back chair of grief in front of dim computer screen. It’s February, and we’re deep in the pandemic; my father, along with hundreds of thousands of others, are dead. The chair is broken, so I sit in it every day of to remind myself Stop your bellyaching.

Hundreds of people gather on ZOOM because of cancer not COVID. Only your family stands in the cold at your gravesite, and your Rabbi asks us over and over to mute, but the chatter continues as more and more people log on; you have hundreds of friends who cannot be silenced.

One shouts into the screen, I can’t find the fucking volume. Her name is Susan. I begin to laugh, mostly because I have cried so much, and Susan laughs, too, and scoffs, Look at all the wives, they look so old. Someone, whose name I have forgotten, politely reminds her that we can all hear her.

Her square goes black.

Now, I’m scrolling through pages and pages of papery skin, my own sagging and furrowing around my lips. I wonder how many of these mothers grieve for your mother, who wishes she could have seen gray bristly whiskers growing on your chin.

What can I say? My own cancer has become boring and routine, and you’d be thrilled to know that when I see our shared doctor, we talk about Leo Kottke and sometimes, how much we miss you.

I know you love to laugh, so in your honor, I will adopt the day’s metaphor. Like you, I want to hold the boat’s tow rope tightly, letting it pull me lap upon lap around the lake, until my legs ache, my knuckles whiten, and my biceps quiver. It’s then and only then!—such a precarious balancing act on one ski, maybe two—that I will tap the top of my head and let the rope go.


Currently Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Poet Laureate, Jenny Burkholder’s poems have appeared in North American Review, The Maine Review, and Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, among others. Her chapbook, Repaired, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016. Read more of her poetry and creative nonfiction at overexpressed.net.


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

This poem is for AL who died of breast cancer at 55 years old. Just months earlier, my father had died of COVID, and AL died on his birthday. This creative nonfiction prose poem is about how being alive is a wonderfully precarious act of balancing grief and joy.

Edgar Allan Poe would kill to visit my childhood home

by Stacey Forbes


Listen, there are bones in the basement. A murder of crows in the field. Poe would die, if he wasn’t dead already in a gutter where the rain has bashed his brilliant brains in. They say he drank himself to death but I know better. Something bit him. The bones are the tails of squirrels. The backs of rabbits. The head of a deer that looks and looks. It was rabies that killed Poe. Maybe he staggered into the night, absinthe-lit and grieving for Annabel Lee. Maybe booze threw him into the path of a vampire bat after all. Sometimes I drink to boil the bones clean. The elk’s flank. The wild turkey’s claw. Mouths to feed upstairs and hearts in the walls. My father says he hunts for us. In the dream where the rifle taps at the door of this poem, I believe it.


Stacey Forbes won first place in the 2021 Plough Poetry Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2022 Fish Publishing Poetry Prize. Her poems are published or forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Terrain, The American Journal of Poetry, Carve, and Split Rock Review, among others. Born in the Pennsylvania countryside, Stacey now lives in Tucson, Arizona.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Edgar Allan Poe would kill to visit my childhood home”?

In literature, my first love was Edgar Allan Poe. My English teacher loved Poe and recited The Bells and The Raven from memory, wild-eyed and gesturing and pacing the room. It was a scary and wonderful chapter in my young life. The pinnacle was a field trip – we drove from my small Pennsylvania town to a theater in New York to see a live performance of The Telltale Heart. I was completely mesmerized. On the ride back I thought, what would Edgar think of our home? My father was an avid hunter, feeding our family venison, rabbits, pheasants and, once, a wild Turkey for Thanksgiving. Skins, furs and bones could often be found in our basement and barn as animals were dressed for the butcher. I had often wondered about their hearts. Their ghosts. It wasn’t hard to imagine heartbeats reverberating in our walls. My small country life and Poe’s vast demons came together in a compression of prose I wrote to express how haunted, and how alive, his work made me feel as a child. Poe helped me give words to the terror and wonder of a child’s mind. I allowed his stories and mine to blend and dovetail together in this piece, the way they did in my imagination.

non-alcoholic nights

by Karan Kapoor


as my mother sleeps beside him my father furrows his brows thinks of the snake in his spine pigeons in the park hunger Paris terrorists in Kashmir lizard on the wall spelling the illusion she is holding the wall whisky his father’s catheter his liver my hunchback crow’s feet around his eyes boiling milk temples lepers he considers making chai lurks by the stove chooses against turns on the TV listens to a Mohammed Rafi song turns off the TV saunters to the balcony observes the night undressing into dawn blue as Shiva’s throat catches a butterfly resting on the money plant tears it in half thinking the flies under the streetlamps are better off than him looking down on the tarmac wonders what if he has cancer returns to his room turns on the TV listens to the same song turns off the TV reaches his back to scratch an itch counts the people who owe him money the money they owe him drums the name of Rama on his fingertips with his thumb envies the sleep surrounding him yet out of reach unconquered as the sun glares at my mother the melody of her snores alters as she turns to the other side from one dream to another


Karan Kapoor has been awarded or placed for the James Hearst Poetry Prize, Frontier Global Poetry Prize, Rattle Annual Prize, Ledbury Poetry Prize, Julia Darling Memorial Prize, Red Wheelbarrow Prize, John & Eileen Allman Prize for Poetry, Orison Anthology Award, and Literary Taxidermy Competition. Their manuscript Portrait of the Alcoholic as a Father was a semi-finalist for the Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize. Their poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, North American Review, Poetry Online, Colorado Review, Prism Review, The Offing, Strange Horizons, Bellevue Literary Review and elsewhere. They’re an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech. You can find them at: karankapoor.co.in.


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

This poem is part of a manuscript titled ‘Portrait of the Alcoholic as a Father’. For almost four years, I’ve been composing a profile of my father which also results in a kind of self-portrait. Discreetly observing my father’s restless yet oddly rhythmic movements in the devil hours of the night, this poem began as a list. As many of these images blossomed in each other’s company, I stitched it into prose because I love prose poems and because sometimes poetry needs the palms of prose to contain its unruliness. Here I am trying to step into my father’s stream of consciousness as he struggles with the frustration of insomnia and wavers on the tightrope between waking and sleepwalking.

CNF: To the Flight Attendant Who Loves Their Job

by Emily Brisse


When you were young—seven or eight—you lingered in front of the bathroom mirror switching between different poses: surprise looks like this; amusement looks like this; pleasure is a pursing of the lips, the laugh going inward and down, zinging. At first, you did this with the bathroom door open. Before long, you learned to always close it, to mime. And then: middle school, its odorous pubescence, the locker rooms, its myriad daily small and large tortures. Or—maybe not. Maybe, by that time, you’d learned the power of owning your pleasure, and you knew a mirror as another necessary chance for you to smile at yourself. “Hey there,” you said, out loud. “Today’s going to be a good day—it’s going to be superb.” Later, you found yourself needing something harder to define. It wasn’t money, but needing money was an easy answer, so you got a job—a string of them—and smiled behind Target checkout counters, at the family ordering cheeseburgers at the neighborhood Burger King, at the teenage girls trying out different shades of lipstick at Sephora. “That shade looks superb on you.” (Which it did: a nice rose gold complements almost every skin tone.). But the best has been this job, these hours you spend 32,000 feet in the air, the highest stage, in which you clip seatbelt buckles together with a flourish, in which you motion “left” and “right” and “down” and “no smoking, please” with gestures as smooth and heartfelt as the most gifted dancers. You walk back and forth between your two sections of this airplane with gravity and responsibility and joy in meaningful labor. There are many here who don’t see you. But that’s okay. You understand now. It is less about the mirror (though you still grin into them—why not? Your smile is superb.) and more about the good work of being you.


Emily Brisse’s essays have appeared in publications including the Washington Post, The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction’s True Story, Parents, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and River Teeth. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, she is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, a Curt Johnson Prose Award finalist, and a recipient of a Minnesota Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant. She teaches high school English just outside Minneapolis, and writes about presence and positivity (not the toxic kind) on Instagram at @emilybrisse.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “To the Flight Attendant Who Loves Their Job”?

What can I say? This essay is a love letter to a person with whom I shared recycled air for a mere three hours and will never see again. They brought me delight, appreciation, a packet of pretzels and a tomato juice. If they hadn’t been so committed to their work, I might have waved them over, asked them to tell me the secret of their joy, and then extended a probably-awkward thanks. Instead, I took out my battered blue notebook and imagined, so I wouldn’t forget.


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 again December 15, 2023. Submit here.


11/27 • Michael Mark
12/04 • Helen Beer
12/11 • Rachel Rodman
12/18 • Betsy Robinson
12/25 • Trish Hopkinson
12/31 • Kim Chinquee
01/01 • Jill Michelle