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Month: February 2024

The Cows

by D Angelo

 

A handful of cows, fed up with their predestined fate, decided to abandon the pastures and move into an unoccupied house. They ate Doritos and watched football. Drank Budweiser as rain pecked at the windows. Sometimes lightning would charge like a bull across the sky. The cows would laugh at the irony before curling up against each other for warmth. The cows did all the chores, including mowing the lawn, and enjoyed the experience. When the original owner of the house appeared, she fell to her knees and wept, having never experienced this kind of life before.

 

Shortlisted for the 2023 Manchester Poetry Prize, D Angelo (also credited as D A Angelo) is a UK-based writer with work in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Sage Cigarettes, Flights of the Dragonfly and Petrichor Mag.

 

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

This is loosely based on actual incidents. My research brought up bizarre incidents of cows occupying empty houses in rural areas such as Montana, only for their owners to return shocked. Nobody knows why cows (and other animals) do this. I wanted to put a surreal spin on it and create a small story alluding to the unhappiness we can all face at times.

Practicing

by Matthew Anderson

 

Below the house, the pest control man inspected the crawl space for termites. Crawling along the cinder block perimeter of the wall, he looked for signs of termite tubes. The little mud highways they build as they chew through the insides of houses. He crawled on his belly, following the beam of his headlamp. He turned his head one way, then the other, waving his circle of light across the bricks. He has found many things in crawl spaces. A rusted knife. Dog collars. Scared and coiled snakes. But most often what he found was death. Stiff rats and stinking opossums teeming with maggots. He often wondered about how painful their deaths were, often imagined his own bones giving way, shattering inside of him from the impact of a car, like so many small frail creatures. He orbited death like a lonesome moth transfixed by a lightbulb. He spoke nothing of it to anyone. He spoke little about anything. But he felt a peculiar peace when deep inside of cool, quiet crawl spaces. Sometimes, after finishing a termite inspection, instead of going home to her unwavering disappointment in him, he would turn over to lie on his back and perform his only ritual. He would let his gloved hands flex in the dirt and feel the cold of the ground slowly leaching his heat. He would turn off his headlamp and stare up into the blackness that had just been the floorboards above. He would let his eyes adjust to the deepest dark, a soothing blindness. He would set his hands atop one another on his stomach and close his eyes. He would lie in the dirt as still as stone, and imagine never seeing such a world again.

 

Matthew Anderson is a Southerner living in Portland, OR with his fiance and two Sphynx cats. He experiments with prose poetry and non-fiction and is currently working on a memoir. His work can be found at medium.com/@matthewdavisanderson and he can be found on Instagram @yerboymatthew.

 

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

I actually was a pest control man myself. I spent many long hours crawling around and squeezing myself through tight spaces under houses. There is a true strangeness to crawl spaces. I’ve had rats and frogs run across me, seen black mold cover entire floors, and once found a dirty old crack pipe. Yet I did become quite comfortable in them, and I would sometimes turn off my light and take a quick 20 minute nap in the dirt. I have definitely slept beneath the goings-on of many people in their houses in Charlotte, NC. I would never do that job again, but it was a unique experience that I still ponder from time to time.

CNF: A Daughter Contemplates

by Michelle Bitting

 

How strokes and seizures have put him in the hospital again. We come to say hello. He’s eating chicken in a chair— parmigiana, salad, ranch dressing and a roll. Better than yesterday! Says the nurse. His mind was on a boat, somewhere in San Diego, yanking at tubes, the strapped-on oxygen. Arm restraints. He who never held back, stomping I am the King! around the house, his throne front and center. After all the chaos, here is his final crown— an EEG meter reading the heady Zeus bolts— his aim, his honor under fire. I could object how old age and infirmity so mercifully erase the past in a white room where his face— so genuinely sweet, so delighted to see me— as if my little boy, as if. What is this all about? My mother at her window repeating doctor reports, struggling to get it straight, comb it along her own ravaged folds. Half a century he marched us, the spoils doled, the strict conditions— captives and a promise of allegiance— my brothers not able to make it, buried out there in ghost country. The quality of mercy grows strained. His wife, his perennial sun sits confused, not knowing if rising or setting, a waning orb. Hands that grasp at keys can’t hold where they go— locked in a crib if it comes to it. They don’t believe I won’t bolt, silly, so long ago I left but look how machines beep on. He finishes his sorbet, the hospital tray I’ve placed outside, needing to head home. He moves to stand, thinking he’s going with me, forgetting the nightie, the tube sucking gold between his legs. Alarms will go off, the nurses come running if he tries. He looks to me, hoping for reprieve, and for a moment I love him mistaking me. Whoever it is he believes I am.

 

Michelle Bitting was short-listed for the 2023 CRAFT Character Sketch Challenge, the 2020 Montreal International Poetry Prize, the 2021 Fish Poetry Contest judged by Billy Collins, and a finalist for the 2021 Coniston Prize and 2020 Reed Magazine Edwin Markham Prize. She won Quarter After Eight’s 2018 Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest and was a finalist for the 2021 Ruminate Magazine, 2019 Sonora Review and New Millennium Flash Prose contests. She is the author of five poetry collections, Good Friday Kiss, winner of the inaugural DeNovo First Book Award; Notes to the Beloved, which won the Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award; The Couple Who Fell to Earth; Broken Kingdom, winner of the 2018 Catamaran Poetry Prize; and Nightmares & Miracles (Two Sylvias Press, 2022), winner of the Wilder Prize and recently named one of Kirkus Reviews 2022 Best of Indie. Her chapbook Dummy Ventriloquist is forthcoming in 2024. Bitting is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Literature at Loyola Marymount University.

 

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

Writing ‘A Daughter Contemplates’ wasn’t easy due to the critical and complex family situation(s) referenced that continue to confound and haunt me and my work. Still, the words came fast, in a flood that I attribute to the watershed effect of the psyche unleashed and prompted by distressing, unexpected events. In terms of formal considerations, the poem was written in verse, but then needed the container of the prose poem with justified margins to hold all its significant viscera and with tension. A little story that leaps around and about the writer’s memory and current physical experience that feels strangely at odds and defamiliarized in relation to the past. And yet, the view is somehow miraculously new? Maybe poems, in their own way, help us bridge these impossible and oft irreconcilable differences, or at least liberate space to allow the needs of seemingly discordant forces: body & psyche, honesty & mercy to ride alongside in peace, and in conversation with each other.

Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain

by Laton Carter

 

A bird in my backyard sounds like it’s choking. It isn’t my yard, the apartments all share it, but still—it feels like it’s there for me. Just one maple. Grass, some geraniums for a border. You’d think I’d see it, but I never have. The bird only sings. I don’t mean strangulation. I mean that single falling grace note proceeding the central pitch. It drops like a warble.

If you stare at a sofa long enough, it becomes a country. The seams, the cushions, the backrest, they’re territories. All the people who’ve sat there are tourists. Some more than others, and the ones who return become residents. Look at that face. His deep set eyes, the buried self. I don’t know what to call it and have it be right: self-loathing, self-doubt. It leans out to be fixed.

I never let my license expire. Cosmetology sounds a lot like space, but it’s lids and brows, cheeks and a jaw. You get to draw on them, watch the surface transform into something it isn’t. Make-up is a damn better protection than a gun. Drink your coffee and think about it. It doesn’t make sense until it does.

The tablets in my mouth at first were bitter. Then you don’t notice a thing. The grandmother I’m holding is a pillow. Her breast against my cheek is all I want just for a little while.

 

Laton Carter’s fiction appears or is forthcoming in A-Minor Magazine, Atticus Review, The Boiler, Indiana Review, The MacGuffin, Necessary Fiction, and Split Lip Magazine. Carter works in a middle school in Western Oregon.

 

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

While Patsy Cline is generally credited as the first female country singer to sing about divorce (1955), it took thirteen more years for the word itself to appear in song. Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” (1968) chronicled the taboo of divorce before the misconstrued “Stand By Your Man” made Wynette a household name. This piece of fiction, which borrows its title from a Reba McIntyre song, attempts to compress Wynette’s humility in the face of pain.

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