Seriously… by Afieya Kipp

Seriously...

 

Afieya Kipp (she/her) is a queer poet, editor, and text-based artist born in Brooklyn, NY. She is the author of the forthcoming titles, Investments in Weak Vessels (Whiskey Tit Books) and nude. She lives in northern New Jersey where she carries poems in her wallet and is an MFA candidate at Lindenwood University. Follow her on Twitter @AfieyaK or visit her website at www.afieyakipp.com.

Drink Like a Bird by Meg Pokrass

John and I watched their lights behind us. When we broke down, the others were invisible.

“Take a walk with me,” said John, getting off the snowmobile, telling me to use my legs. And so we went back and forth, trying not to act helpless and pitiful. We were trying to move. It was fifty below.

* * *

Ma once said: “Good men do not make good lovers.”

She always said what a mother should not.

Even when he was sleeping, he let me hold him. He snored like the dogs – gently whistled.

“Keep moving,” he said, persuading me, lifting snow from the ground, saying that I must drink snowy water from his lips.

“Be like a bird,” he said.

I remembered the dogs at home, someone would probably hear them.
So we spent the night like this, paying attention to what was not true, me drinking from my husband’s mouth. Worrying about dogs.

* * *

On the second night, I saw lights approaching, a man waving his greeting, breaking through silence. John’s eyes were still open, but he looked like a child’s drawing — dark holes for a nose and a white, straight mouth.

“Hi!” I shouted. “Here!”

I remember John’s strange ideas that kept me alive, and I think about what my mother said, and why she could say that. I think about why John insisted on living here in a frozen world and how I might have said no so long ago.

Sometimes I dream that I am feeding him just as he fed me like a bird. In that dream, he still does push-ups, closing his eyes with his hands, freeing the dogs to love me as only dogs can do.

 

Meg Pokrass is the author of four collections of flash fiction, and one award-winning collection of prose poetry, Cellulose Pajamas, which received the Blue Light Book Award in 2016. Her writing has been widely anthologized, most recently in the forthcoming Best Small Fictions 2018, edited by Aimee Bender (Braddock Avenue Books) and two Norton Anthologies of flash fiction: Flash Fiction International and New Micro–Exceptionally Short Fiction. A new flash fiction collection, Alligators At Night will be released in 2018 (Ad Hoc Fiction). Meg is the founder of New Flash Fiction Review.

Diagnosis by M. Stone

He gave you a small bakery box
but didn’t reveal its contents,

didn’t warn you to handle
the grenade inside with paralyzing care.
Now I take it from your aching fingers
and shake the cardboard square—

never did have the patience
for a pendulum descending—

but the grenade rolls around in the dark,
pin securely in place. It holds its breath,
waiting for me to blink.

 

M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared in San Pedro River Review, UCity Review, and numerous other journals. She is the author of the micro-chapbook Evolving God (Ghost City Press) and the chapbook Lore. Find her on Twitter @writermstone and at www.writermstone.wordpress.com.

The Giant by Joaquin Fernandez

I am not a giant.”

She used to say it to herself in the mirror after it became clear that she would not stop growing. She mouthed the words to herself in the mirror as her chambermaids stretched corsets and snapped whalebone at her mother’s vanity.

I am not a monster.”

After she outgrew her bed and slumped overnights in the den, she would whisper into the night. She frowned in the dark on her mothers fainting couch, all stretch marks and grumbling stomach, an embarrassment behind the partition. Late night shuffles into the pantry for biscuits and jam and bacon grease. She was, after all, a growing young lady. She lay, worried and drowsy, watching the mice play till dawn. One night, the sweet bitterness of her father’s bourbon taught her again to sleep and she learned to love it, stiff neck mornings and all.

But I’m still a girl.”

She was 14 when her mother told her she would no longer attend school. She had taken to wearing two quilts sewn together, a patchwork Goliath with shy eyes and the audacity of bare arms. Her size had become an issue of decency. At seven feet, she slouched, towering over her parents and brothers. No one followed when she stormed out. No one argued when she wrapped her big hand over her father’s favorite bottle. The good china rattled as she stomped away. Every room in the house had become a cage, built to hold the smallest of mice, but the barn felt like it was hers. She yelled at the moon and scared the horses.

When the lights of the main house went dark, she knew that this was where she belonged. Half-drunk and desperate, she wept. Face in her hands, elbows in the dirt, she sobbed mercilessly. She stopped, puzzled and sopping wet. She looked down and saw her own face, bleary-eyed, massive, and beautiful. She stood and she smiled when she realized it. She had wept a flood. The horses sputtered and chuffed in curious protest, splashing about in their newly ponded stalls. The Giant laughed at their confusion, a low wry chuckle, but regretted it when she saw the fear in their eyes. Without warning, their world had ceased to make sense.

The horses used to scare her as a child, all galloping kicks, teeth and sinew. But now they demurred to her with downcast eyes. She unlatched the first stall and heard it squeak open behind her as she walked to the next one. In the horses eyes, she saw her father’s fear. Her mother’s. Her own. One by one, the horses trotted out, nervous at their own freedom. The last one waited for her, clever eyes flashing in the moonlight. She reached for the horse tenuously.

Invited, the horse dipped her head and nuzzled The Giant’s belly with a doggish playfulness. The Giant ran her fingers through the horse’s mane while the other horses sprinted into the night with a graceful thunder. By the time the lights came on in the main house, the horses were gone, and The Giant with them, just another wild thing running free in the moonlight.

 

Joaquin Fernandez has appeared in Rhythm & Bones, AFTERMATH, and Chaleur Magazine among others. He is a recovering filmmaker and Miami native perpetually tinkering with his first novel.

i think i need a shock collar by Kat Giordano

a shock collar that jolts me out of my idiocy every time I wonder if you still think I’m your soulmate

a shock collar that jolts me a second time, but more painfully, whenever i start to think how hot it would be if you used a shock collar on me in bed

a shock collar that causes a giant neon sign that says WORRY WON’T KEEP YOU SAFE to slowly lower itself from the ceiling and blind me

a shock collar that keeps me from calling you whenever I’m afraid

a shock collar that can determine whether it makes sense for me to be afraid and then only shocks me in the moments where it doesn’t

a shock collar containing a giant mechanical hand that stamps YOU CANNOT WORRY YOURSELF INTO BEING LOVED backwards on my forehead in red ink and holds a mirror up to my face and makes me read it and then the red ink gives me a full-body rash

a shock collar that comes with rash ointment

a shock collar that tells me the truth

a shock collar that was designed to tell me the truth and only validates my feelings and when I call tech support they assure me my device isn’t defective

a shock collar that replays conversations between us in which you tell me you love me

a shock collar that loves me

a shock collar that tells me I deserve to hurt but the only batteries to the remote are at your house

 

Kat Giordano is a poet (1%) and massive millennial crybaby (99%) who lives in New Jersey. She co-edits Philosophical Idiot and works for a law firm somehow. She is also the author of many highly embarrassing social media meltdowns. Her poems have appeared in Occulum, Ghost City Review, Awkward Mermaid, The Cincinnati Review, CLASH Magazine, and others. Her debut full-length poetry collection, The Poet Confronts Bukowski’s Ghost, is available now.

The Fount of Destruction by Julie Zuckerman

By 8:30 pm, the line snaked three times around The Fount of Destruction, and Pete’s manager came by to give him the Jersey Joyland “keep it moving” signal, meaning: be ruthless and weed out anyone too young or too small. Pete forced anyone licking their soft serves or pinching tufts of cotton candy when they reached the front to move aside. If the kids grumbled or tried to hand off snacks to their parents, he pointed to the simulated smoke seeping out of The Fount’s interior, the lava-breathing monsters on the posters, the fake flames lapping the opening, and barked, “This is no ride for whiners!” Sometimes the fathers argued, got in Pete’s face, but he’d learned from his own dad how to stand up to that kind of aggression. The mothers of the rejected riders looked relieved; as kids disappeared through the entrance they could hear the booming voice of The Fount proclaim, “You will not return the same.”

Pete narrowed his eyes and surveyed the next load for kiddies to reject: a girl around 12 whose green pallor boded poorly, a little dude in a Carson Wentz jersey trying to puff himself up like the star quarterback, identical twin brothers shoving each other. He wouldn’t be sorry to leave Joyland behind at the end of the summer; by this time next year he’d have his degree and hopefully a real job in New York City.

At the exit, Pete’s coworker helped the kids unbuckle their safety belts, and then wiped down the seats of the ones who’d been so frightened they’d wet their pants. This kind of thing happened on other rides too – all Joyland exit greeters were given packages of wet wipes – but The Fount was known to be the most pee-inducing.

Joyland was 100 feet from the Atlantic, a boardwalk in between, but the nights were too black and the music too loud to see or hear the waves. The seagulls that snatched sunbathers’ snacks during the day – Shoobies from Philly who didn’t know how to guard their sandwiches or soft pretzels – stayed away in the evenings. Pete’s mom had sailed away on those waves, but unlike those exiting The Fount, she’d never returned.

The kid in the Carson Wentz t-shirt neared the front. Maybe 10, but short for his age. Pete’s gaze darted from the top of the boy’s head to the height chart. He was about to make the universal “you’re out” gesture with his thumb when a man whose forearms were as thick as the rotting beams holding up the boardwalk elbowed his way towards the front, a Coors in each hand. The kid’s eyes told Pete he’d already seen plenty of destruction. If he squinted, the boy’s missing inch and a half became less visible.

“You don’t look like the type to wet your pants. Am I right?” Pete leaned down, his voice not unkind. He’d been about the kid’s age when his mother had left.

The boy smirked, a tough guy. But Pete felt a kinship with these kids, the ones whose fathers spent most nights at the bars along Atlantic Avenue or sometimes in a holding cell until they could sober up. Who came home sowing strife, full of liquor, mean and snarly, like his old man.

“Go ahead,” he said to the boy, taking the requisite four tickets. He pointed to the next empty compartment, a few yards away from the fake flames at the Fount’s mouth.

The kid rushed past but then wavered when he got to his seat. Pete called: “Get in. You’ll make it.”

 

Julie Zuckerman’s debut novel-in-stories, The Book of Jeremiah, will be published by Press 53 in 2019. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Salt Hill, The SFWP Quarterly, Ellipsis, formercactus, Sixfold, descant, and The MacGuffin, among others. A native of Connecticut, she now lives in Israel with her husband and four children.

Pecan Grove with Body Farm by Jack B. Bedell

Scrub brush sprawled and dead vines
along the edge of the trees, and bones

lying in fresh dirt. What would a deer
need to bring it here? Nothing green

to eat, no smell of new grass or
water to draw it into this clearing.

It chews a rib bone as quietly
as it can, skittish but not ready

to leave. I’m sure it would rather
crack pecan shells in its teeth

for soft meat, but it has this grave
all to itself, and more bones around its feet.

 

Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, fall 2018). He has been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.

Outline for an Eco-Romance by Ori Fienberg

Opening Scene:

Joe and Cindy are talking. They are both very beautiful and young, in love, and about to graduate from college. Joe has been promised a job by his reclusive and highly successful grandfather. Joe is bringing Cindy to meet his parents, at their yearly family retreat to Montauk. Cindy is worried because she does not think Joe’s conservative parents will like her, and also because she has a deep-rooted fear of bonfires, which are an important family tradition.

Inciting Incident:

Cindy meets Joe’s parents, but they are taken aback because Cindy is actually an oak tree. Joe’s parents are not into inter-Kingdom partnerships, but they agree that they will try to get to know her. Only Joe’s grandmother is unfazed, declaring that Cindy seems to be a lovely young tree.

Decisive Moment:

Cindy agrees to go to the bonfire, to show Joe’s family that she can have a good time with them, despite being an oak tree.

Mishap Scene:

When Cindy sees the bonfire, and determines that in fact a large amount of the wood being used on it is oak, she begins to cry, dropping leaves everywhere. She runs into the forest, and Joe follows her. Cindy wants Joe to come live in the forest with her. Joe does not want to live in the forest because he is not sure how he will be able to take the corporate job his grandfather offered him in his multinational landscaping business. Joe convinces Cindy that his family didn’t have the oak wood in the woodpile out of spite.

Climax:

Cindy tells Joe that she’s worried about losing him, and that she will not leave the forest until they are married. They find the tallest tree in the forest, an old white pine to marry them, and then they consummate their relationship.

Falling Action:

Cindy invites the children of Joe’s family to climb her. When Joe’s parents see the children having a good time with Cindy, they feel better about their relationship.

External Challenge:

Joe’s parents inform them that Joe’s grandfather, the reclusive millionaire who sponsors the family retreat, has decided to join them. Joe’s grandmother is very nervous.

Dénouement:

It is revealed that Joe’s grandfather is actually a highly successful shrub. He has stayed hidden out of embarrassment, but now, since it’s become clear that Joe is deeply in love with Cindy, he comes to give his blessing. Joe and Cindy admit that they have already married according to an ancient tradition, and they learn that it was the same way for Joe’s grandshrub and grandmother. A tear of joy comes to Joe’s mother’s eye when she spots a budding acorn on one of Cindy’s branches.

 

Ori Fienberg’s poetry, essays, and short stories appear in many venues including Always Crashing, Cincinnati Review, Essay Daily, Pank, Subtropics, and ZiN Daily. A graduate of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, Ori works for Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies and lives in Evanston, IL. This piece was completed at a Sundress Academy for the Arts Writers Coop Residency. Read more at www.orifienberg.com.