Month: July 2023

CNF: The system moves toward what it studies

by Lina Herman


At our project launch, I try to convince my clients that they should focus their attention on what’s working. The system moves toward what it studies, I say in all earnestness.

I apply this approach indiscriminately.  At least it wasn’t tylenol, I said after my middle daughter swallowed two bottles of antidepressants.

I hand out over-sized multi-colored post-its to the whole team. We will use these to create a preferred future, I assure them.


She’s been living to go to that show, says my oldest daughter. I’d driven four hours through traffic to take her sister to West Hollywood. A 17-year-old whose who seems to wear the same false eyelashes as my daughter has crossed over from tiktok to headlining at The Echo. She’s just about my age, my middle daughter kept saying, winding her way toward the stage.

She told me she’d decided to make it ‘til the concert then kill herself after you got home, says my oldest daughter.

 But now she’s gonna hold off.

 Why are you upset? my oldest daughter asks.  This is a good thing.


The century agave in my front yard has flowered. Clusters of vibrant red blooms tower ten, maybe fifteen feet overhead. It probably has root rot, my oldest daughter who’s studying botany tells me. They flower when they get distressed, then they die.


I apply my consulting methods to my parenting too.

What conditions would best enable your intended outcomes? I ask my daughter. How can you make space for what possibilities might emerge?

 I’m not your fucking client, says my daughter.


When middle-managers write complaints on their post-its, I use a purple marker to rewrite the statements with a positive bent. We each understand our own roles and responsibilities, and how we impact our teammates, I offer.


My daughter spits on my face when I try to shake her awake to take her meds and finish her homework and get to first period. I  gather her computer and her car keys and her cell phone and leave the room in a fit.  I stand alone in the kitchen breathing heavy and clutching the items she needs to do what I’m asking.

She’s acts like a fucking cunt my husband says later that night. I wait some minutes before I relocate to the living room. Not so few that I’m taking off in a huff. But not so many that he’ll think my departure is unrelated.


I keep buying new productivity workbooks. I keep them piled on my nightstand. Getting Things Done. The Morning Sidekick. Atomic Habits. Essentialism. Deep Work. I like to read the introductory chapters before I go to sleep.  Apply order to chaos they promise me. Be creative, strategic, and simply present.

What I’d like as an outcome of this process, the COO tells me as I roll post-it covered newsprint into giant cylinders and wrap colored rubber bands around them, is for my team to want what

I want them to want.



Lina Herman lives in California where she writes poetry and short prose. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Salt Hill Journal, and BOOTH, among others.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The system moves toward what it studies”?

For some time, I’ve journaled small vignettes or moments that catch my attention, either from the day or from memory and whether or not I understand in that moment why they are meaningful. Over time, I’ve noticed an intersection between different themes–the work material, the daughter’s struggle, the mother’s attempts to influence her daughter. This piece emerged when I began to curate and reshape the vignettes, to play with how I wanted them to sit with one one another, with how they might mosaic into a larger whole.

The Drive

by Douglas Cole


They did not speak. They drove. Gabriel was used to it, knew this was how his father was in his most unguarded times, silent. They drove out onto the highway and headed north, driving in the dark. Then they pulled off onto the access road and went down into the town. The streetlights were fixed in a blinking pattern, yellow all around. They did not see another car. Then they drove up to the ferry terminal, paid a cashier in the booth and went onto the ferry. Neither of them said a word.

They stayed in the truck for the crossing. It smelled of leather and mink oiled boots and rifle iron and cigarettes. Gabriel’s father opened a window and smoked and blew the smoke out the window and leaned back in the seat and turned on the radio. He fiddled with the dial and came onto a Hank Williams song and let it sit. The ferry horn sounded three time and the boat pulled out into the sound and rocked softly while they listened to the music. This was the same way they’d go to see his cousins, Gabriel thought, but the thought was meaningless because they were not going to see his cousins. The path was familiar, that was all. He looked out at the blackness of the water, the far faint lights of homes on the islands. What was it like to live on an island? It seemed like a dream, desirable and at the same time unreal. He did not want his life the way it was, now that he was a bad kid. On an island he would be alone.

Daylight was beginning to form, glowing up along the eastern mountain range across the sound as they drove off the ferry and onto the two-lane highway. Then they were back driving through the darkness of trees, alone except for the eyes in the forest. His cousins were out here. They were probably asleep right now.

They went on through the mill town with its sandstone buildings blasted by salt waves, and then back into forest, the endless corridor with the boles fluttering past in the gray illumination of the car lights, and Gabriel thought of sasquatch, the creature of the woods, looking out from the deep of the forest. The road was becoming as they drove on it, because they drove on it and believed a road must be there for them to drive on. Really, they were still asleep in their beds. Really, they were asleep in another life and would wake up curious about these scenes that would quickly fade as they went into the rush of their other worlds. And the people in those worlds were only asleep in other worlds, and this went on for a long time, maybe forever. This is what he kept thinking as they drove in the dark, away from the sunrise that would soon overtake them, that was overtaking them even now but only in the stream of sky above, changing from darker gray to lighter gray to light, while the trees retained their impenetrable darkness.


Douglas Cole has published six poetry collections and the novel The White Field, winner of the American Fiction Award.


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

I’d just finished writing The White Field, my first published novel but not the first one I’d ever written. The White Field is written in the first person. A point of view that worked for the character in that book. Then…once I was finished, in the sense of having written, typed, edited once a full draft…I was hit by a barrage of voices. There was Sara/Michelle, in flight after providing condemning evidence at her father’s trial; Jones, an expert with money on his way down with a bad drinking problem; and Gabriel, a kid from the northwest on the cusp of adulthood, hovering for a time in that kid-zone of dream. These three characters spoke in turn to the tune of a full braided novel, of which this one piece from Gabriel’s story is a snapshot—the tension of that space where the real, the unreal, the past-present-future blur.

How to prepare figs and honey:

by Molly Thatcher


The summer I turned 15 there was a wasp nest in the attic above my bed. Every night I lay there listening to the wasps’ luxurious cannibalism, hovering just above my head. The sound of scratching larvae turned my brain to dumb pulp; my ingrown prayers punctuated by chewing “wasp-fig,” “wasp-fig.”

I always prayed at night. I’d do it while gripping and pulling at my nylon nightdress so it wouldn’t touch my clammy body. I knew already god was meant to hate me, but calling my thoughts prayers put them in italics. As prayers, my secret desires and loathings weren’t trapped inside my mind with the chewing wasps but stage direction: italicised and already leaning out from my body in anticipation.

One September morning the men came and gassed the wasps. The tiny bodies I’d heard growing sprinkled down through impossible ceiling seams onto my pillow, their embryonic legs adorably curled-up in mute defeat.

Looking down at them, I was indecently outgrown. I blushed as I cleared away the corpses.


Molly Thatcher is an emerging writing. This is the first time her fiction has been published, but her non-fiction art and literary criticism has appeared in The Oxonian Review and The Virginia Woolf Miscellany. She studied an MSt in modern and contemporary literature at Oxford University and currently lives in London. She finds joy in writing about the queer stuff of life, the materials of history, and all things morbid.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “How to prepare figs and honey:”?

This piece is part of a longer work about the experience of living back in your childhood bedroom. The wasp situation didn’t happen exactly this way. I was unfortunate enough to have a wasp nest above my bed and was driven slightly mad by the noise. However, it happened when I was older, and I never felt the need to pray. I’ve always felt though that my self-loathing teenage mind resembled a fig: this ingrown flower around a hateful but helpless wasp. So, the imagery has always been associated with that age to me.

The Museum of Girlhood

by Annie Fay Meitchik


Hello and welcome, hola and bienvenidos, to The Museum of Girlhood. As we enter the museum, please take off your shoes unless you’ve come wearing kitten heels or penny loafers, otherwise frilly socks will be provided for you for the duration of your tour. As we wait in this entryway for folks to prepare their feet for the softness and fragility of the eggshell and feather floors we will soon be walking upon, please feel free to take note of the way we have designed these walls leading us into the museum. Each of these pink and red archways came from Mother Earth, the greatest girl of all, and the paints are made from her gifts—the red pigment comes from Hawaiian dirt and the shades of pink are actually all of the bubblegum bubbles that have ever gone off and floated away from glossy pink lips.

Now that you’re all ready, follow me. On our left you’ll notice a dark classroom with a television set on wheels playing a film about puberty that lacks any substance. Notice how young the girls are, only eight or nine years-old, and take notice of how there are no boys in the room learning alongside the girls about how their bodies work. Because, of course, why would boys need to learn about that? They’re only eight or nine years-old, remember, very innocent and very young.

On your right is a new exhibit. Notice the following behind the display case: A porcelain sculpture of hands calloused from monkey bars, a slim hardcover book with a pink linen cover that reads in gold embossed letters A Guide to the Importance of Always Saying Please and Thank You: Even When You Don’t Mean It, a selection of beads and friendship bracelets, a training bra from a box store, and a Victorian dollhouse.

Next we’ll be entering our botanical building. Even though we’re now outside, continue to use your inside voices, thank you. Feel free to quietly explore the fairy garden, the roly-poly farm, or the mermaid fort. Notice how the garden is made of delicate moss and glitter and how the fort is made of pool floats and towels, that when placed over the jets send a good feeling to a weird place that we’ll not explore further because, as you recall, we didn’t discuss this back in the dim classroom.

Moving on, welcome to the hall of ballet slippers. This interactive exhibit allows visitors to fill out cards, writing down a dream they once had as a child that they never achieved as an adult. In your best cursive penmanship, please write down your failure or failures if you’re feeling ambitious or motivated to do so, and place your scroll inside one of the many ballet slippers covering the walls and ceiling, thank you.

As we exit through the gift shop, I hope you’ll buy a souvenir to remember this journey. I’m often told at the end of these tours that visitors expected things to take longer, but see, the road through girlhood is rather short and there’s not much we can do about that. Please dispose of your frilly socks in the white wicker bin to your left. Today, we’re offering a promotional deal on purchases of pressed flowers, ruled notebook paper that’s ripped along the edges for writing letters to crushes, and impossibly tiny animal figurines that come in sets of four to symbolize a specific type of family. Any of these items can be yours today for 20% off their original price with the code Please that you can use at check out.


Annie Fay Meitchik is a writer and visual artist with her BA in Creative Writing from The New School. Through storytelling, Annie aims to amplify the voices of marginalized identities, advocate for equality in art/educational spaces, and synthesize her own life experiences all with a comedic edge. Learn more at: https://www.anniefay.com/.


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

I thought of this entire piece in one sitting at 3:00 a.m. This creative nonfiction essay utilizes details from my own experiences and explores defining the body as a place. I liked playing around with the repeated use of the phrase “Thank You” and writing in such a unique, almost sci-fi voice.

Lovers’ Disappearance

by Thomas Hobohm


I started off slow. I lost names, faces. Soon I ceased to understand the objects around me, their categories: colors, shapes, functions. It wasn’t long before I forgot myself, who I had been, was, wanted to be. I became nothing, I became nothing I couldn’t be. I learned techniques of emptiness, how to pour water out of an already-empty carafe, how to construct a vacuum that doesn’t contain even itself, a vacuum of vacuums. In this non-place, communication ceased, being ceased, events ceased. It was there that you fell for me: my vacant stare pulled you down, your arms pulled me up. With your bare hands you built a boy and named him me. It wasn’t dialectical. You created something from nothing, from nowhere. And now that something has run away, abandoned you. So, you’ll start off slow. You’ll lose names, faces. Soon you’ll cease to understand the objects around you. Don’t worry: I’ll find you someday, which is to say I’ll find the things that could become you, and I’ll assemble the thing you could become.


Thomas Hobohm lives in San Francisco but grew up in Texas. They are the Web Editor at The Adroit Journal, and their work has appeared in Poetry Online, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Astrolabe. Find them at https://www.thomashobohm.com/.


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

This piece emerged out of my reading of Alain Badiou’s work, specifically “In Praise of Love” and “Philosophy and the Event.” Badiou speaks of love as “The Scene of Two”—for him, when two people fall in love, they construct a new subjectivity together, a wholly new orientation toward life. I began to imagine what it would be like to truly forget the world, and to create a new one with my beloved. And then what it would feel like for that world to fall apart. The final piece ended up a lot shorter than my first draft, because my natural impulse as a writer was to add more details, more signifiers, more descriptions. While revising, I cut most of that out to convey the sense of loss that had motivated me to write the piece in the first place. If I’m being honest, I believe romance is really like that: you lose yourself, you are found, you find somebody, they are lost. It is happening everywhere, all of the time.


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