01/17/2020

Gary Percesepe ~ Where We Are Now

Daniel Berrigan tells a sto­ry about a con­queror who comes into our city. He is a huge, super­hu­man fig­ure, and is pre­ced­ed by rumors of invin­ci­bil­i­ty. He has con­quered every­where and our city is next. We are afraid and there is noth­ing to be done except make peace with him; he is all pre­vail­ing. He comes clos­er and clos­er, and we begin to notice that he has no army; he is all alone. Yet we know that –more

Joseph Young ~ How to Write Flash Fiction

Begin

Begin with a thing. Make it a spar­row. A spar­row cling­ing to the stem of an Easter Lily. Make the spar­row silent. We don’t want too many voic­es this ear­ly on. Let the lily speak for itself.

Enter

Now, enter. This is how things get going. You need a dog. This dog is red but the top of its head is blonde, bleached by the sun. The dog swims every day. Get that dog mov­ing! Don’t for­get about –more

N. Minnick ~ Four Poems

COWBOY BOOTS

Sometimes an urge takes hold of us and pulls us onto the dance floor
even though we only want to sip our drink and observe.

I don’t mean one of those sud­den, fleet­ing urges
like pee­ing off the back of the boat

or kiss­ing the girl you’ve been stam­mer­ing before
under a porch light that is being pecked by moths,

but an urge that leads to a life no one saw com­ing;

like leav­ing your com­fort­able –more

Christopher Linforth ~ Belief

On the day we flee town, we will want the neigh­bor­hood to know what hap­pened. We will tell sto­ries about our step­fa­ther to the kind and not-so-kind men on our street, to the cops who size us up to see if we are under­age, turn­ing tricks, will turn a trick with them. We will run door-to-door and con­fess to the rumors cir­cu­lat­ing in town. We will bypass the church­es, the mosque and syn­a­gogue, and the –more

Gary Percesepe ~ Philosophy

The para­troop­ers fall and as they fall
They mow the lawn. –Wallace Stevens

Everyone was talk­ing about a phi­los­o­phy of life. It seemed impor­tant and the kind of thing that could stand one in good stead for years to come. Things were falling apart. The ex: mon­ey again. No news there. My best friend Flipper was freak­ing out on me again. Two kids in need of school clothes and new footwear. And I had –more

Tommy Dean ~ Here

            We all live poor­ly here. Use mail-in rebates at the hard­wood store, get drunk at Sammy’s on Friday nights, and let our chil­dren run around in their under­wear in our front yards. They wave flags, swords, and guns, prac­tic­ing for the com­ing days when sol­dier is the only job that comes with ben­e­fits. 

            We –more

Jay Merill ~ A Cousin from Leicester

Late but not quite mid­night. Marina Melba stands on the com­mu­nal bal­cony of the flats. She pulls a cig­a­rette with ele­gance from a pack­et. Lights it with­out look­ing, eyes fixed on the balustrade and fog­gy sky. 31st December is the date.

            Tess on her way to meet friends stops by the ele­va­tor. Pops out to the bal­cony for a sec­ond, –more

Jules Archer ~ From the Slumbarave Hotel on Broadway

The hotel key was ours. A rec­tan­gu­lar piece of hard plas­tic with the words PLAY SLEEP REPEAT on the front. New York City. That humid sum­mer day when it rained frogs and peo­ple shield­ed them­selves with their umbrel­las, only to be pelt­ed any­way. Four con­cus­sions. One death. And us? We were snug in our suite. Plush pil­lows, silk sheets, turn­down ser­vice. A mini bar we emp­tied. We filled that hotel –more

Mason Binkley ~ Whoa Golly

We’re togeth­er again, three old buds stand­ing in a dark clos­et at our thir­ti­eth high school reunion. We can hear the eight­ies music from the audi­to­ri­um one floor below us. What are we doing? I’d let Larry tell you, but he’s wor­ried he’s hav­ing a heart attack. And Justin, he thinks the police will barge in any sec­ond. He’s already prepar­ing a legal defense. 

We’re still best friends, –more

David Dodd Lee ~ Two Bronze Figures Near the Ocean

Her hair some­times sailed on her. She was a point in the dis­tance, as if the entire uni­verse had poured from a con­ver­gence. She thought, It’s just as well.

     Hardwick under­stood her, if he were also some­times spar­tan in the extreme, bare pots stored in bare unpa­pered cab­i­nets. Once again, he watched as she was absorbed, turned to vapor in some oth­er sphere. Her hair, tak­en –more

Peter Jay Shippy ~ Three Prose Poems

Hatchings

Parades always made her tired, so it wasn’t sur­pris­ing that the assas­sin fell asleep on the roof.

As she napped, the roof became quite crowd­ed.

A fam­i­ly of six had a pic­nic, fried chick­en and pota­to sal­ad. Their baby gummed lime gela­to.

The super pre­tend­ed to repair the cool­ing duct. His tool­box was full of ale.

An octo­ge­nar­i­an who had learned to swim in the Baltic Sea leaped into the wood­en water tow­er for her dai­ly laps.

A boy wear­ing an aviator’s hat fed his pigeons. One of the birds, Charles, was wor­ried about Amelia, his mate. She hadn’t returned from their after­noon flight. The boy under­stood, so he stroked Charles’ head and whis­tled, “Volière.”

The octo­ge­nar­i­an climbed out of the tow­er only to dis­cov­er that she had for­got­ten her tow­el. The fam­i­ly cleared their pic­nic and after apol­o­giz­ing for the crumbs and green stains, wrapped her in their plaid blan­ket. She invit­ed the fam­i­ly, the boy, and Charles to her apart­ment for choco­late cov­ered prunes.

The Super emp­tied his last bot­tle, closed his tool­box, walked toward the rail­ing to take in the view and almost stepped on the assas­sin. He noticed her rifle. Italian. A Marinetti. He picked it up and looked through the scope. There was an old hen cir­cling the build­ing. The sky was melt­ing like a Creamsicle. He clicked off the gun’s safe­ty and tucked it under the assassin’s arm.

The assas­sin dreamed that she was a girl in her bed­room hav­ing a pil­low fight with her sis­ter.

Feathers fell through the air, tick­ing their cheeks.

Insomnia

My doc­tor rec­om­mend­ed that I rent one of those birds trained to whis­tle lul­la­bies.

I was dubi­ous, but des­per­ate.

On the dri­ve from the rental place, Polly per­formed a beau­ti­ful ren­di­tion of “Scenes from Childhood” fol­lowed by Satie.

I was hope­ful.

Once home, I broke her neck, plucked, cut, brined, bast­ed and a few hours lat­er: Perroquet au Vin! Lovely.

And you know what—it worked! I slept like the dead.

Of course, the rental place charged me a late fee.

Que sera, sera.

An Eel Soup Digression

Because the nav­i­ga­tor did­n’t under­stand that the crease in the map depict­ed a crease in the sea, the ship had to weigh anchor. The cap­tain forced the nav­i­ga­tor to row a dinghy through the line, to reck­on its effects.

Meanwhile, in the gal­ley, the cook was cre­at­ing a bouillabaisse—conger eel, sea robins, fen­nel, cod bones, bou­quet gar­ni, saf­fron, mus­sels, olive oil, gar­lic, white wine, smoke of the after­life, French bread, cayenne pep­per, lit­tle neck clams, toma­to paste, and Thibault, the very lob­ster that was con­duct­ed through the streets of Paris by Gérard de Nerval.

Concurrently, the nav­i­ga­tor was remem­ber­ing a poem about a boy who thought the cres­cent moon was a bro­ken moon and the stars were its pieces. He could smell the soup. At least, he thought, as the water began to churn, I’ll have some­thing good to eat tonight.

~

Peter Jay Shippy is the author of Thieves’ Latin, Alphaville, How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic, and A Spell of Songs. His 5th book, Kaputniks, will be pub­lished by Saturnalia Books in 2021. About A Spell of Songs, John Yau wrote: “One day, not long ago, Meret Oppenheim walked past Edward Hopper in Paris, and an elec­tric cur­rent passed between, and from that cur­rent was born Peter Jay Shippy.…” Shippy has received fel­low­ships in dra­ma and poet­ry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2002 he won the Iowa Poetry Prize and in 2005 he received a Gertrude Stein award for inno­v­a­tive poet­ry. In 2009 Shippy received the Governor’s Citation for Outstanding Artistic Achievement. He has pub­lished wide­ly, includ­ing The American Poetry Review, The Boston Globe, Iowa Review and Ploughshares. Shippy teach­es lit­er­a­ture and writ­ing at Emerson College in Boston.

Gary Percesepe ~ Berrigan

My mom just called from the nurs­ing home. She sur­vived anoth­er painful heart episode. She asked me how the peo­ple liked the Italian songs I sang in church. She has asked me this before. I have sung no Italian songs, in church or any­where else. Then she sang a lit­tle bit over the phone. It was love­ly, though her light sopra­no voice is now low and hoarse. I asked her to sing some more. I thought, I need to learn some good Italian songs and sing them in church.

I’ve been read­ing Berrigan’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, as some of you know, the der­ring do of the rad­i­cal Catholic priest who loved America enough to speak the ter­ri­ble truth about America’s addic­tion to vio­lence, racism, and war. And again and again, Berrigan tells of his moth­er, who stead­fast­ly stood by him. “With her, a thou­sand dif­fi­cul­ties did not cre­ate a sin­gle doubt.”

After his broth­er Philip was arrest­ed for throw­ing human blood on draft files in Baltimore, while he him­self was arrest­ed in Washington dur­ing a protest against the war, Daniel called home. His mother’s calm on the phone touched him. He explained things, as best he could. “You mean,” his moth­er respond­ed, “that you are out of jail and your broth­er is in?”

Glen Pourciau ~ Gala

I couldn’t see my way clear to make it to the annu­al Gala.  I had RSVPed under self-imposed pres­sure, but I wasn’t above claim­ing a sud­den ill­ness should any­one men­tion my fail­ure to attend.  I’d cleaned myself up in a more fas­tid­i­ous man­ner than usu­al and had stuffed myself into my aging tux, which had over the years man­aged to elude moth­dom.  I’d then gazed with revul­sion in a too-large mir­ror and asked:  “Do I wish to present this per­son as me?”  Who was this alleged per­son?  Not some­one I knew, I was sure of that.  I imag­ined all the buffed-up human beings pack­ing the Gala hall, beam­ing with mer­ri­ment, chest-high drinks abet­ting the façade.  How would I fit in, one who was unable to ban­ish from con­scious­ness my unpol­ished and frag­ment­ed self-image.  I couldn’t arrive in my nat­ur­al state of iden­ti­ty while in tux dis­guise, and I couldn’t tol­er­ate hours of unabat­ed grin­ning by every­one with­in eye­shot.  I had an embar­rass­ing his­to­ry of rude­ness when con­front­ed with repet­i­tive ques­tions or sto­ries from cer­tain annoy­ing peo­ple who seemed to lie in wait for me.  My per­for­mances had the humil­i­at­ing out­come of mak­ing me less bear­able than they were.  Take Trowbridge, who’d some­how caught wind of my prostate trou­ble and had grown exces­sive­ly fond of shar­ing his prostate issues and ask­ing me: “How’s our favorite gland doing?” I didn’t like the unin­tend­ed impli­ca­tion that my prostate could be his favorite gland.  After sev­er­al sim­i­lar encoun­ters I’d asked if he want­ed me to bend over so he could address his favorite gland direct­ly or if he want­ed to make an exam­i­na­tion and reach his own con­clu­sions.  I should have been more sen­si­tive, respect­ing the trau­ma of his prostate surgery and his desire to com­mis­er­ate with me on the decline of one of our most pri­vate parts.  Yet, I did not see it that way and didn’t care to pre­tend that I approved of his out­sized inter­est in my out­sized prostate.  Trowbridge retreat­ed upon hear­ing my heavy-hand­ed mes­sage, and when­ev­er I see him I sense endur­ing dis­tress from my out­burst.  Also sure to be there was Mossland, a man deeply in love with his hunt­ing dogs and full of sto­ries detail­ing how they’d helped him kill great num­bers of ani­mals.  I’d final­ly told Mossland that I envi­sioned a future dog breed that would halt in its tracks and point at flee­ing flocks of hunters so that high­ly evolved apes could more eas­i­ly shoul­der their rifles and pick them off.  He hasn’t come with­in close range of me since, and I sym­pa­thize with his desire to avoid me.  I couldn’t doubt that if I attend­ed the event, numer­ous peo­ple would be unhap­py to see me there, despite my past char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions.  I thought it best not to inflict myself on oth­ers, con­ve­nient­ly elim­i­nat­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of oth­ers inflict­ing them­selves on me.  By stay­ing home, I was mak­ing a small con­tri­bu­tion to social well-being at the Gala.  I heard it was an unmit­i­gat­ed suc­cess.

~

Glen Pourciau’s sec­ond col­lec­tion of sto­ries, View, was pub­lished by Four Way Books. His first sto­ry col­lec­tion, Invite, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. He’s had sto­ries pub­lished by AGNI Online, The Collagist, Epoch, New England Review, New World Writing, The Paris Review, Post Road,and oth­ers.

Lucinda Kempe ~ Queer Birds

I sat on the back­stairs, on the top step near the screened kitchen door, wait­ing. I did a lot of wait­ing. For Maud Ellen to come talk, or my grand­moth­er, Mamoo, or Daddy when­ev­er he’d appear, or for our dogs, Wanda and Beebee. Pinning down the dogs was easy; I could pre­tend to be a dog if I had to. I did wait­ing so well I’d turned it into art. But some­times I got bug­gy. Buggy made me feel like I’d burst. And around here burst­ing spelled trou­ble in a bot­tle full of lit­tle white tabs.

Maud Ellen mate­ri­al­ized from the front yard and dropped into Uncle Walter’s chair made of plumb­ing pipes, the same chair my father hanged him­self on. She had a Don Q and her Lark 100s.

Let’s talk about bats, Mama,” I said, using the inti­mate to snag her atten­tion. I was hap­py she’d come. I had to talk quick. Everybody in my fam­i­ly, except the dogs, liked flight.

Bats?”

I like bats.”

I know noth­ing about bats.”

Why not?”

Bats are not some­thing I am inter­est­ed in.”

Why not?”

I don’t think about them.”

I do. Bats eat bugs. I don’t like bugs.”

Yes, I sup­pose they do,” she said, puff­ing on her Lark.

I bet they eat those cat­fish-sized cock­roach­es like the one fly­ing around the chan­de­lier in the front hall last night. Mamoo was so fun­ny, shriek­ing and flap­ping her arms like she might fly, too, and you bat­ting at the roach like a slug­ger. Would Uncle John real­ly throw us out for break­ing Mummy’s antiques?

Maybe we could trap a bat, bring it inside. Get it a bat house and a swing. Whenever those roach­es come along, we’ll let it loose and watch as it sucks their necks. Or maybe it swal­lows them whole, feet first—the way the French do when they eat those lit­tle birds.”

Maud Ellen stirred the air, and almost blew me off the step. She stamped out her cig­a­rette. “I’m going inside to eat a banana.”

Don’t you think a bat would eat those bugs?”

I have no earth­ly idea,” she said.

She prac­ti­cal­ly flew up the steps. I jumped up to let her pass. The screen door slapped its frame. I want­ed to tell her we wouldn’t have to be afraid any­more about bugs and Mamoo pop­ping Phenobarb to calm down. As usu­al, I’d said too much.

In her hur­ry, Maud Ellen left her Larks. I sat back down, tucked my arms around my knees and prac­ticed wait­ing again. This time I’d wait for a sign. The sky was fast dis­ap­pear­ing around the arm of the oak. That’s when I saw it, a queer dark bird with a plas­ter-white face and eyes-as-blue-as-my-blond-head­ed dolls, fly­ing in the yard. The clos­er it came the big­ger it got until it got right up in my face. I opened my mouth. It glid­ed inside. As high as a kite on white tabs, I unfurled.

~

An M.F.A grad­u­ate of Stony Brook University, Lucinda Kempe’s work has been pub­lished or is forth­com­ing in Midway Journal, Bending Genres, The Southampton Review, Elm Leaves Journal, and the Summerset Review. Wigleaf longlist­ed her micro fic­tion (2018 and 2019). Her fic­tion “I Became a Girl” was nom­i­nat­ed for the 2020 Pushcart Prize.