SISTERHOOD How the Books we Both Read Helped Me Write My Sister’s Life into Fiction A Craft Essay by Jane Rosenberg LaForge When my sister, Susan, was still in elementary school, a family friend gave her a book for her birthday, The Wizard of Wallaby Wallow, by Jack Kent. Dyslexic as a child, Susan wasn’t much of a reader, so the gift was unusual. In time though, she overcame her disability, it seemed, because she wanted to read the instructions for building things. Even after she managed to build her crystal radio set, or her darkroom, or teach herself how to play guitar, words and language were never Susan’s forte. Her conversations with friends and family often ended in arguments, and she could be cruel—prompting friends not to speak to her for years at a time—without meaning to be. During one of her lowest periods, when she was anorexic, my mother … chop! chop! read more!
WHITE MAGIC by Elissa Washuta Tin House, 432 pages reviewed by Eric Buechel In Elissa Washuta’s book of linked essays, White Magic, she writes about her substance abuse candidly, describing getting high with cough syrup as a teenager in her school’s bathroom between classes. In a later scene, a doctor pleads with her to stop drinking—there’s something wrong with her insides, and she’s been urinating blood. As these essays progress, Washuta retraces the reasons for her self-destructiveness in a culture that treats her, a Native woman, as an expendable object. To understand her experience, she uses ideas from witchcraft, tarot, astrology, and even Twitter discourse as resources. With this, she creates a beautifully-rendered piece of art that isn’t easily labeled. Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz tribe of southern Washington. I grew up not far from their reservation. I also lived in Seattle during the time that she did, … chop! chop! read more!
A BOOK BY ANY OTHER NAME: ON TITLES AND DATING A Craft Essay by Melinda Scully Imagine a reader is on a blind date with your book or short story. Maybe a friend set them up, or they ventured out for a local singles speed-dating extravaganza. The specifics don’t really matter. The point is, the reader is on the hunt for a new story to love, and it could be yours. How exciting! Your story walks up to the table, and in mere moments, the reader subconsciously asks and answers about seventeen questions in their head, maybe starting with… What is your story wearing? Did it walk up confidently? Is it smiling? Does it smell weird? Did your story pass the test? Did you even know you were being tested? Let’s hope so, because by this time your reader already knows whether they want to proceed with the date. Readers … chop! chop! read more!
LA BALEINE by Claire Rudy Foster I did not know anything about whales until I became one. In the first trimester of my pregnancy, I transitioned, changing into a creature that was part meat and part ocean. My pregnant body was flush with proteins, ions, and nutrients for the first time since my childhood. Like a whale’s, my body produced massive amounts of progesterone, a hormone that blasted through me like tropical waves. My twenty-three-year-old heart refilled my capillaries, deadened from heavy drinking and drug use. When I looked in the mirror, I saw that I was actually glowing, the way pregnancy is said to imbue a halo around you while you’re gestating. My cheeks were pink all the time, as though I was permanently post-coital. I sweated more. My body felt like it was filling out, as though my cells were plumping up like pillows of sweet ricotta-filled ravioli … chop! chop! read more!
THE MOMENT I KNEW I LOVED _________ by Sydney Steward My Grandmother I look up from my phone, scouting the street signs for a match—Madison Avenue. I turn left, quickly glance across the road for oncoming traffic, and press on. The air is cold; it’s late January. My feet ache against the concrete, but nothing can stop me. A happy panic propels me forward. This is the day we have been waiting for. The hospital sign begins to peek into sight. Once I arrive at the lobby, I pause to unzip my coat. I ask the receptionist for directions to her room. The hallways feel familiar: high ceilings, bright lights, a chemical shine along the tiles. After navigating a maze of elevators and corridors, I spot my mother through the glass window, and she motions me over. Surrounded by my entire family, there she sits. Tubes and drains and … chop! chop! read more!
CHRIST (OR MAYBE JOHN LENNON) IN A PRISON WAITING ROOM
by Maya Savin Miller
In small town Georgia, the prison plays Christmas music over the waiting room speakers on the Fourth of July. My mother hands my brother and me two dollar bills for the vending machine. We buy Snickers bars and then lay down on the floor to watch the moths clicking in the light fixture slowly grow still. I will tell my father about the ramen we cooked in the motel coffee pot the night before. He will say something like: sounds like a feast to me or I wish I could have been there. We will talk about small things for the next three hours—my father’s voice muffled and tinny, wrung through the broken speaker at the bottom of the plastic phone. I will tell him about the crabs I am going to catch with a chicken leg and some twine—how the man who owns the dock said he would boil them for me. My father will say he remembers the Fourth of July last year: You kids frying in the sun like eggs on the pavement. The dogs making messes of their water bowls—the way their fur smelled like Fritos and coconut shampoo. Later that night, the air still so thick I could swallow it whole, I will listen to John Lennon sing Happy Xmas (War Is Over) as fireworks light up the bluff.
My savta, rendered mute long before I was born, could not speak in words other than “time to change the batteries,” but she could sing. I remember my mother’s voice in my ear the first time we went to speak with Judge Kelley: Don’t tell them we’re Jewish. Dad can come home sooner if they think we celebrate Christmas. At a time in my life when everything felt confusing and unpredictable, when the lines that had previously defined my existence became increasingly blurred, this rule made survival seem easy. And so I started listening to Christmas music when I was angry, when I was afraid, when I felt powerless, when nothing else made sense. My savta, trapped in a sentence, found her way out through song—and I intended to do the same. During the time of my father’s incarceration, I used up all of the remaining space on my hand-me-down iPod downloading Christmas music.
I do not remember the day my father returned home from jail, but I remember the day before. I sat across from my childhood best friend, thighs sticking to the linoleum-covered booth, as she told me that she was planning to become a famous singer when she grew up, and so we couldn’t be friends anymore once my dad got home. She had heard that associating with criminals could hurt her career, and she wasn’t willing to take any chances. When the waitress came to take our order, I asked if the peppermint pancakes were any good. She responded, “I don’t know. I don’t eat at this shithole.” Once the waitress was gone, I asked if we could still be friends for the rest of the day. And then, for no reason, we both started to laugh—we fell apart like that, cracking up in the back booth of the Waffle House. I asked my mother to pick me up from the restaurant. I remember her humming from the front seat of the car on the ride home, her voice punctuating the song playing softly over the stereo. Like my savta, she listens to Yiddish music when she’s afraid. Like my savta, she never admits when she’s afraid. That night, I found I Want to Come Home for Christmas by Marvin Gaye and emailed my best friend the link.
A year later, I found my iPod resting in the top drawer of my dresser next to a photo of my dad, my brother, and me. It was wrapped up in a sock, the way someone might wrap up a knife. The battery had begun to ooze, leaving the iPod frosted over with sulfuric acid residue. The specific model had been discontinued in 2007, and it took about a month for the replacement batteries to arrive in the mail. But when I finally changed the batteries and when the small screen flickered on, I could not bring myself to press play. Just like the music, my reliance on this iPod, loaded with Christmas music, with proof that we were not Jewish, with reasons why my father should be allowed to return home, had been seasonal.
Maya Savin Miller is a highschooler from Los Angeles, currently living in the mountains of Colorado. Her prose and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Cargoes, Up North Lit, Hadassah, Battering Ram Journal, Bluefire, Skipping Stones, Polyphony Lit, and the Sierra Nevada Review. Her writing has been recognized by Princeton University, Hollins University, Columbia College, Rider College, Library of Congress, and Blank Theatre, among others. She was a 2020 finalist for Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate, and her short story, “Trudie’s Goose,” has been adapted into a film by Israeli filmmaker Liran Kapel.
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL YOUR LIFE? by L. L. Babb In a minivan borrowed from Connie’s sister, Connie and Lori were on their way to the town of Locke. Connie drove, keeping her eyes straight ahead. So far there had been no road signs for Locke. On the first leg of the trip, Connie had jabbed at the radio buttons, changing the stations—music, talk, static, music—then, somewhere around Antioch, she seemed to reach a detente with the ominous murmur of NPR. Lori’s hearing was not the best, but she hesitated to ask Connie to turn up the volume. The two-lane road crossed back and forth over the river, over drawbridges and through the Sacramento delta sloughs. The morning turned sunny, the sky above them was a giant, blue bowl tinged gray at the horizons with the dissipating fog, and although there was a considerable amount of traffic, they were … chop! chop! read more!
HEAVY BREATHING IN NIGHT: Paintings by Morgan Motes Morgan Motes’ work is a visual representation of the feeling of being alone in nature. It is an expressionistic attempt to return to a sublime and nuanced world often left out of our technologically mediated lives. His method is conversational and meditative, letting paint speak for itself, leading to compositions that are as organic and living as they are fragmented and foreign. His paintings are abstract, without temporal beginning or ending, and present a moment in its full affective force. Landscapes are not landscapes, but heavy breathing in night. [ click images to enlarge ] Ring Park / Acrylic on canvas / 2019 / 30×36 A few years ago, I spent a day hunting shark teeth in Gainesville, Florida’s Ring Park. It was very strange to un-bury shark teeth from a creek, miles away from any beach, from when Florida was … chop! chop! read more!
SLOW STARTER by Louise Barry 1. I stand at the kitchen table, poking at a lump of raw bread dough. “I don’t understand why it’s not rising,” I say. My roommate wants to be helpful. “Sometimes it’s the temperature of the room,” she says. “It likes a dark, warm environment. Maybe put it in a cupboard for a while.” Working with yeast is a negotiation; the yeast is in negotiation with the temperature and humidity in your home, and with the other ingredients you mix with it. My recipe tells me to combine the ingredients—salt, yeast, flour, water—and leave them alone for a minimum of twelve hours, preferably eighteen. Actually, the phrase used is “let dough rest,” as if the dough is feeling tired. I’m tired too, but I have a restless need to act in response to crisis. It’s difficult to come to terms with the idea that some … chop! chop! read more!
CATCHING AIR by Darlene Eliot Kevin rolled his ankle on August 25th and never stopped talking about it. The steep hill, the bearings, the cross street of killer cars, the way he caught air before landing on the compost heap placed-there-by-God so he didn’t snap his spine. He remembered I was the oldest but squinted at everyone else, like peering through an algae-covered aquarium. It took two Christmases before we could listen without glancing at each other, grateful he didn’t catch the looks between siblings, nephews, nieces, and a brother-in-law who stopped skating. We tried to focus on his eyes, his bushy eyebrows, the scar like a question mark where his hair refused to grow. We embraced his omissions and errors, listening over and over, until the recall was as comforting as a fireside chat and the passing of mashed potatoes, his grip firm on an inverted bowl as he … chop! chop! read more!
SILENT KILLER by James Stewart III Nine months into the global pandemic that has taken more than 200,000 lives in the US, it was finally my turn to go to the doctor. However, despite the ever-present fear and paranoia that turns every cough into COVID-19, the virus wasn’t my main concern: it was eczema, those dry, cracked, red, itchy patches I’d suffered for years. Flare-up after flare-up on the backs of my knees, the crevices between fingers, my elbows, and nearly everywhere else, with only weak, over-the-counter ointments providing scant relief. Insured at last and thirty-five, I figured now might be a good time to establish a regular relationship with a doctor. It was early September in Chicago, and the summer was still holding firm. But as a Midwesterner, I knew that could change at any hour. My wife, pregnant with our first child, drove me to the appointment and … chop! chop! read more!
I LIKE IT by Jinna Han If there was a fly on the wall right now, my eyes would be following it. As there isn’t, I resign myself to banging my feet against the chair leg and watching my pencil roll across the table before I reach out and stop it with a finger. Then again—roll, and then stop. And again—roll, and then stop. I like it. “Han Jinna.” I look at my dad. There’s a map of the Korean Peninsula. Goguryeo, Silla, Baekjae. It all seems like a long, long time ago. I rest my hand in my chin, pencil sitting still in front of me now as I listen to him lecture about some kings or emperors. “Oh,” I say, sitting up when I remember something. “Is this when the guy in the historical drama put on a blindfold and then shot a bunch of arrows and he … chop! chop! read more!
SUNRISE by Steve Gergley Manga Today I stole a violin and sold it for drugs. It belonged to a blond-haired kid no older than fifteen. I took it after he walked out of church and started masturbating to a manga in the woods. Later, as I pushed off in the Value King bathroom down the street, I thanked God for anime tits. When I came down, I wondered why he made me. Good Shit This morning my parents kicked me out of the house for the fourth time in a year. They said it was for good this time, but they always say that. When I talked to Father Patrick about it, he changed the subject to rehab and NA. But I still have my dad’s iPad I stole and the shoelaces from his new running shoes, and I can’t let good shit go to waste. Sunrise Last … chop! chop! read more!
House of Mirrors by Neal J. Suit The police cruiser appeared as the dusty orange of dusk settled. The car’s lights and sirens remained off because it wasn’t an emergency. Rumors swept across the town. Katie had run away. She was abducted. She hurt herself. Two days passed. No one saw Katie. She vanished over an eight-block area, disappearing between a pharmacy and her front door. A week passed. Her mother navigated the house alone, abandoned years before by the man who called himself Katie’s father. Her mother taped pictures of Katie on telephone poles, storefront windows, and coffee house billboards. The refrain became familiar: Missing 14-year-old female, 5’2”, 105 pounds, short blonde hair. As if everyone didn’t already know. As if everyone didn’t catch their breath when they glimpsed chin-length blond hair. Katie’s mom wandered the empty town at night, a single beam of light from a slowly dimming … chop! chop! read more!
13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT SEX by Christina Berke “Abstinence,” my health teacher says. “It’s the only guaranteed way to avoid STDs and pregnancy.” My mother never gives me the talk; my father’s girlfriend slides a book to me about changing bodies. Mine has already developed; I have the biggest tits in town. ◊ “Sweet,” I think. I am eighteen, pre-rape. A boy picks me up in his convertible Mustang, newly-cut hair combed back, and I feel all 1950s. He comes to the door; doesn’t honk like the others. He brings me softly pink roses and packs a picnic of turkey sandwiches and merlot, and we eat under the stars, surrounded by people and music. We are at the Hollywood Bowl and I feel spoiled. It takes him over four dates just to kiss me. He is too nice for me. ◊ “None of your business,” my boyfriend who doesn’t … chop! chop! read more!
AURAL by B. Bilby Garton Before I learned that wounded birds are rarely rehabilitated in treehouses, I studied acoustics in a small yellow farmhouse. It started out elementary, like any other subject. A man’s loud voice: this is anger. Mother’s soft voice ducking beneath: this is fear. With plenty of practice, I advanced quickly. By the second grade, I could distinguish, in a fraction of a second, which thumps and bumps meant bruises, and which were harmless. I learned not just amplitude but pitch and tone. When his voice hit a certain frequency, I knew it was time to hide in my room. From my flimsy shelter I drilled in the dark: the crisp echo of cowboy boots across an empty living room…the scuffle of soles. After eight years, Mother decided I was ready for advanced acoustics and moved us in with a man who walked on rubber soles and … chop! chop! read more!
A CLAMOR OF VOICES by Samantha Campagna Cars are backed up two blocks in line to pull into a big-box store. It’s still cold in the suburbs of Chicago and a frenzied mob of people rushes into the store in puffy coats to fill their carts with non-perishables: 12-packs of toilet paper, tubes of Clorox wipes, bags of rice, arms full of assorted canned vegetables. An argument breaks out between two people staking claim to the last box of tissues. A woman berates a worker in the chemical aisle because all of the disinfectants have disappeared from the shelves. I work as an automotive technician in this big-box store, a one-stop-shop for everything essential: frozen hamburger, fish oil capsules, adult diapers, flat-tire repair. In late March, I clock-in five minutes late, as usual, and strip bare in the dank dressing room that smells of oil and used socks. I ease … chop! chop! read more!
INSTRUCTIONS FOR COHABITATING WITH AN AGING PARENT by Susan Hamlin Number of people required: One still-independent ninety-year-old mother One more-than-middle-aged child Necessary tools: 10 x 12-foot guest room that used to be your brother’s bedroom (yours is now “the computer room”). 6 x 8-foot guest bathroom that used to be yours and now has meticulously arranged, starched cotton hand towels that you are not allowed to use. Patience Additional Resources: One twin bed of the pair inherited from your grandmother’s front bedroom. Half a closet with hangers foraged from other closets in the house all full to the brim with parent’s seasonally color-coordinated warm-up suits. A couple of drawers cleared out of a dresser that normally holds Christmas wreaths, centerpieces, and the sixty-year-old green and red felt elves whose heads won’t stay on anymore. A 6 x 13-inch space on bathroom counter to arrange your toiletries since cupboard space is … chop! chop! read more!
TRUCKIN’ by Meg Pokrass and Aimee Parkison Truckers’ wives warned me it was a lonely life, unless I was willing to travel with you. When we go truckin’ together in my mind, I see so much life out the truck windows as the towns and cities unfold along the highway. I’m with you as you drive into the night sundown and as you drive into the morning dawn. No atlas could ever tell the way roads are carved into the maps of memory. When I see your truck rolling out of the driveway, I wonder about the crates in back. How many people will eat from the boxes of cereal you’ve driven from X to Y? How much of your life has been devoted to trucking bread from a factory to a restaurant where teenagers slap together chicken sandwiches before shoving them into paper bags? When you call me, you … chop! chop! read more!
THE GREENER MY GRASS by Dylan Cook Maureen could clearly remember the day in December the two young professors moved in across the street and how much more she respected them back then. It was a shame that Mrs. Graham had passed, really, but Maureen liked the idea of two yuppies coming into that stuffy, gray house, sprucing it up a little bit, and bringing some fresh energy to the neighborhood. And professors, no less! With any luck, they’d be the first step in turning Manasquan into a kind of cultural center along the Jersey Shore where intellectuals and artists lived and worked, anything that would warrant it being bolded on maps. Each box they pulled from their U-Haul held that dream. When she first met the professors, they had been so warm and kind, so cute behind their nearly matching pairs of glasses, that Maureen, for the first time … chop! chop! read more!
FLARE by Mike Nees As she clocks in, Jillian looks up from the computer to find a wrinkled envelope dangling in her face. Her chest tightens. “Thank god you’re here,” Sonya says, waiting for her to take it. “Everyone’s calling out.” Jillian grabs the letter, slips it in her apron pocket. “Not me,” she says, out of breath. She and her dad are nowhere near the estimate the mold people gave them, and the latest bloom inflames her airways. “What are my tables?” While Sonya checks the floor plan, Jillian answers the phone ringing at the counter. The man on the other end starts placing an order for pick-up, but his kids can’t make up their minds. You want Denny’s before the apocalypse or not? he shouts. She hears rumblings about getting Chili’s instead. As the debate drags on, Sonya glares at her. “Can I help you?” Jillian asks the … chop! chop! read more!
BEING WHOLE AFTER A DIAGNOSIS by Anthony Aguero I. Diagnosis Someone likens your body to soured-meat, Flies swarming the thighs, a hint of cinnamon Brushes just underneath your nose. ELISA, has confirmed the inevitable. O you enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. II. Treatment Plan Someone says take this ad infinitum. One by one, Opal, green pills sitting at the bottom of a valley. Nothing violet or green ever growing. Stribild was approved by the US FDA in August 2012 For human bodies. A cocktail of Vitekta, Tybost, Viread, and Emtriva. III. Non-Adherence Someone mentioned they smelled a thing dying In the apartment you lived in. You checked each And every corner – he put a flashlight in your throat. Says It’s you. You prepare an ofrenda with only cinnamon sticks. Immunocompromised. Death in the white- Blood of my body. IV. Reminder Death likes to tap at the sole of your foot. It … chop! chop! read more!
SOMETHING’S GOTTA CHANGE a Visual Narrative by Michael Green Michael Green is a physician and artist who lives and rides his bicycle throughout Central Pennsylvania. He is a founding Board Member of the Graphic Medicine International Collective, an organization devoted to the intersection of the medium of comics and the discourse of health care, and is co-author of the Graphic Medicine Manifesto from Penn State University Press. He is a Professor of Humanities and Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, where he teaches a course on comics and medicine for medical students, and has published several landmark articles on the use of comics in medical education. Text: Page 1 Something’s Gotta Change… When I awoke this morning, my iPhone was dead and all my favorite apps crashed. No email, no text, no nothing. Half asleep, my mind started to race. Was this a massive Russian hack … chop! chop! read more!
THE SECOND STEP by Meggie Royer That night, the door so waterlogged with rain it stuck for hours, hinges flush with the frame, a mouth against spine. In the woods that year, several syringes we could never place, some long-ago nectar unraveling like thread. It was body memory, the feeling of pushing the plunger, neurons pulsing into every bell tone. We filled them with marigolds instead, gold punched into sharpness; that night, they clattered against the door like hail. Knowing we couldn’t let them in was easier than knowing we could. Meggie Royer is a Midwestern writer, domestic violence advocate, and the founder and editor-in-chief of Persephone’s Daughters, a literary and arts journal for abuse survivors. She has won numerous awards for her work and has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. She thinks there is nothing better in this world than a finished poem. … chop! chop! read more!
AS TRANSPARENT AS IT GETS by Heikki Huotari Just because you’re parasailing doesn’t mean this call’s not coming from inside your house. As mirror neurons turn, I’m casting demons and fly fishing with them. In each multi-facet is a hidden hook. It’s possible that Satan is deceiving me. With Gertrude Stein I beg to differ then along with Gertrude Stein I beg to differ. What is not yet yellow is a yellow cat. What will they think of next? A palace for each personage and vice versa. Veni, vici, vidi, says restroom graffiti and, The joke is in your hand why are you looking here? Nor filler nor refrain, this content will not stop but is it pheasant under glass? In a past century, Heikki Huotari attended a one-room school and spent summers on a forest fire lookout tower. He’s a retired math professor and has published poems in … chop! chop! read more!
DISSECTION by Amy Beth Sisson After school my teacher helped me pull the pink downy breast feathers to clear the skin and make an incision She put the scalpel into my hand smaller than the body pinned to the black wax tray I cut to reveal porous bones, tiny intestines, spongy lungs. This would never happen now A teacher today would lose her job Though plenty of robins are still found dead on sidewalks Night before last I didn’t hear the screech owl whose cry had kept me awake all week When I awoke you came to mind out in the smoke-choked west Where birds are falling from the skies of the migratory flyways I texted but you still haven’t replied But today in the early hours I again lay listening for the descending whine and long trill Amy Beth Sisson is sheltering in a small town outside of Philly. … chop! chop! read more!
HAVANA, ILLINOIS, AUGUST 2020 by Peter Wear White clouds, so many white clouds pause above August’s green cornfields– an armada of triremes, sails cast in marble, cross empty skies armies dreamed held destinies that might outlive them, mortal sons clad in fathers’ bronze, the taste of blood and glory drying in their mouths, all to die for a face whose singular beauty was fictitious. But the clouds pass. I never cared much for histories of war. Honor and bravery I cajoled, things best left to veteran halls and empty cinemas, dive bars nursing the pings of automatic gunfire locked behind a whisky cabinet. Two miles east bone-white barns crease under bronze rot, husks abandoned by molting cicadas whose cries fill the air hissing lost prayers: please don’t leave me alone, not here. The Cubs are playing on the radio tonight. Announcers remember their green years, the injuries, the trivia, take … chop! chop! read more!
WHERE I WAIT FOR YOU by travis tate The river before anything else, the glazed sun emerging gently from evening. You, brightly looking towards what I hope is me or, some future tense self where I’m dangling slightly less from crisp edges. I’m all in-tuned, harmonic. Your beaded breath on my neck in the morning, not like beautiful but your stale mouth close to my ear. Quick horizon made from our bodies lying close & the damned buildings spiked up from the concrete. I see us in our dizzy haze, walking close, shaking our bodies in each others’ directions, seeing my parents, eating food from a plate we share on the veranda, our bungalow. I want a river to run through me, make a beard of your bramble, something to put my hairs through in the wet evening. Are you constant in your shaking? The riverbed is small, something growing … chop! chop! read more!
CLEAVER WORKSHOP GIFT CERTIFICATES Gift the writer in your life with a writing workshop. Cleaver Magazine offers affordable online workshops in flash, fiction, creative nonfiction, visual narrative, poetry, and mixed genres. Our workshops are taught by Cleaver editors, university creative writing professors, and professional writers and editors. We host both synchronous and asynchronous courses using Zoom and on Canvas, an easily accessible, private online platform. You don’t need any special accounts, equipment, or textbooks to join––just a computer or tablet and an internet connection. All reading materials are included in the class fee. Gift certificates can be applied to any Cleaver course. Here’s how to purchase: Enter the amount you wish to purchase Tell us the name and email address of the recipient and the gift message. Let us know what date to send the certificate. If you have any additional internal notes for us, include them in the notes … chop! chop! read more!
CREATIVE NONFICTION CLINIC with Sydney Tammarine Here is your opportunity for one-on-one editorial feedback on a work-in-progress. Writer Dinty W. Moore says that creative nonfiction equals curiosity plus truth. CNF comes in a variety of forms: from expansive memoir to intimate personal essay to the lightbulb “eureka!” of flash. But in any form, nonfiction seeks a deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. It requires a well-told narrative, conflict, careful pacing, and a dynamic mind thinking on the page. Whether you have an essay near completion to submit to journals or programs, or have written a draft and don’t know what to do next, an experienced editor will offer the guidance and encouragement necessary to realize your best work. Creative nonfiction writer and editor Sydney Tammarine will read your essay (up to 4000 words) and offer constructive written feedback regarding what’s working, what needs attention, and how to improve in … chop! chop! read more!
THE BOOK OF ATLANTIS BLACK: THE SEARCH FOR A SISTER GONE MISSING by Betsy Bonner Tin House, 272 pages reviewed by Laura Smith “Remove toxic people from your life” is one of today’s modern mantras. It’s easy advice to give, but it can be impossible to follow. Author Betsy Bonner can vouch for this. Her personal history is steeped in family toxicity: an environment of abuse, uncertainty, and guilt from which she just can’t shake free. Bonner knows this. She also considers herself the lucky one. In her memoir, The Book of Atlantis Black: The Search for a Sister Gone Missing, Bonner writes, “My own life has been shaped by what I inherited; most of all, my sister’s story.” Her sister, Atlantis Black, the self-named alias of a volatile rock musician from Pennsylvania, was found dead in a hotel room in Tijuana on June 25, 2008. The cause of death … chop! chop! read more!
MORE MIRACLE THAN BIRD
by Alice Miller
Tin House Books, 352 pages
reviewed by Jozie Konczal
I approached More Miracle than Bird, Alice Miller’s debut novel about W.B. Yeats and his erstwhile muse, Georgie Hyde-White, as a poet interested in learning about Yeats and the woman who influenced his work. Although we get insights about the poet and his work, the novel is more about the journey of his muse, a naïve but determined rebel attempting to thwart the traditional roles that have been carved out for her. We see her youthful struggles and missteps, but by the novel’s close, we see a woman who has learned that holding onto the philandering Yeats means reshaping herself into someone who can contribute to his work.chop! chop! read more!
Six Days in November by Emily Steinberg Emily Steinberg is an artist, writer, and educator whose work has been shown across the United States and Europe. She has been named the first Artist in Residence at Drexel College of Medicine in Philadelphia, where she works with medical students to translate their medical school experiences into words and images. Her visual narratives have been regularly published in Cleaver Magazine where she has recently taken on the role of Visual Narrative Editor. Her memoir, Graphic Therapy, was published serially in Smith Magazine and her short comic “Blogging Towards Oblivion,” was included in The Moment (HarperCollins). She is a Lecturer in Fine Art at Penn State University. Steinberg earned her MFA. and BFA from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. To submit graphic narratives for consideration in Cleaver, contact Emily at [email protected]chop! chop! read more!
by Seyda Mannion
“Excuse me, Miss, is this yours?”
I turn and see the large, inquisitive eyes of a woman behind me. I’ve been startled from my thoughts, and I am briefly confused as my eyes follow her outstretched arm, down her red sleeve, to the pointed tip of her manicured finger. My neck scarf has fallen to the floor. I bend awkwardly over my carry-on to stuff it back into my bag, deeper this time.
I smile at her, looking past her eyes at the gray-streaked red hair that hangs limply at the sides of her temple. “Thank you.”chop! chop! read more!
SPEAKING OF SUNFLOWERS by Evan Anders the world is bare bones an orphan after rage relinquishes her arrow. magnolias ago, sunflowers stormed my mouth every night an attempt to take ownership of the sun every tide stumbling into decimation a collied exists as a reminder we were born a flicker of elegance. autumn evolved with our refusal to compromise, a sea turned to snow, the sea’s last poem another battle with the sheets every destroyer has a price to pay for petals strewn upon the floor. who am i to question this state of decay? stripped bare the world is stone soured on the promise of gold speaking of sunflowers each petal a faceless instinct a glimpse at where the dust gathers i’ve glorified my share of silk. where once i was a storm i am afraid where once i cherished chaos, chaos became my craft. where do i go … chop! chop! read more!
my lover starts seeing by Lis Chi Siegel after a.b. yehoshua’s “facing the forests” my lover starts seeing our house as a forest. my lover begins counting by the tree its singing throbs with more than words, whisperings of warm & summer & night. sacredness bringing a lump in his throat. this green, this sea does not rustle, it’s small, like tombstones, something constant with its leaves. my lover would welcome conflagration. my lover would leap into its arms. ………………………this is to say: ………………………it hasn’t always ………………………been this silent here. the crimson glory of sunlight, the distant oil spill sea behind that of the trees, sap leaking like spit from his ridged & cracking ………………………tongue. ………………………now kindled, ………………………now his eyes glow. ………………………how assertively the forest ………………………leaves its mark. now fire burns, like a prayer, a mad moon … chop! chop! read more!
ELEVEN MICRO-MEMOIRS FROM THE PANDEMIC by Freesia McKee 1. To mix the kimchi, I used two precious latex gloves, so that later, I could take out my contact lenses. 2. Took a long walk by myself. At the crosswalk on Biscayne, someone in a white work van held an N95 mask out the driver’s window in the hope that sunlight would kill the virus. I finished crossing the street, then burst into tears behind my own face covering. Such a safety measure is so inadequate, and yet, this seems to be about all we can do. 3. First COVID death here in Miami-Dade County yesterday. Early this morning, I saw Dmitri walking his dog. He said that the guy who died was his workout buddy at the muscle gym they both belonged to. “He was in his 40s, completely healthy, didn’t have HIV or nothing.” I wonder what it means … chop! chop! read more!
REPARATIONS WINE LABEL Text by J’nai Gaither Illustrated by Phoebe Funderburg-Moore Click on images for full-size. Full Text of Label: Blacks in Wine Matter Reparations Red Wine United Colors of America Nappy Valley 2020 401mL 16.19% by volume To be acknowledged and included in this White wine industry is all people of color have ever wanted. Though wine is as global as industries come, it has never been welcoming to people of color. Even in South Africa, on the Mother Continent, most wineries are owned by White South Africans, though there has been a push to put the economic opportunities of winemaking into the hands of Black people. After 401 years, time is up. Drink and protest responsibly. Reparations is made from Petite Sirah and Tannat, two thick-skinned black grapes that offer a hearty and savory liquid meal to the adventurous imbiber. With hints … chop! chop! read more!
FIVE WAYS THE WORLD ENDS by K.S. Lokensgard By Drought The year the rains never came, the ground dried up and cracked wide open. Dust settled on laundry hung in the yards and you appeared on my porch, hands clasped. In the fields, only the grasses survived, growing tall around our knees. There was a sense that it was all ending, but no one talked about it. When even the grass started to turn yellow, we knew. You stood there, folding a blade of grass in half and half again, squeezing each crease. From the stoop, we watched garbage drift through the empty streets, waiting for the earth to swallow us up. By Flood The price of boats skyrocketed. We carved one out of a tree trunk, the way the natives used to. Our blisters sang out, but our panic kept us moving. On TV, we watched aerial footage of … chop! chop! read more!
THE PRICE OF HANDS
by Brian Ellis
You can try the gloves,
but the gloves will work
two hours tops. The grape juice
has crept inside of them.
Your hands are being braised now.
Your fingernails have become
the consistency of cake frosting.
The tips of your fingers are translucent.
TERRA IN FLUX An Ekphrastic Collaboration by Mark Danowsky and John Singletary The word ekphrasis comes from the Greek for the description of a work of art produced as a rhetorical exercise, often used in the adjectival form ekphrastic. It is a vivid, often dramatic, verbal description of a visual work of art, either real or imagined. In ancient times, it referred to a description of any thing, person, or experience. The word comes from the Greek ἐκ ek and φράσις phrásis, ‘out’ and ‘speak’ respectively, and the verb ἐκφράζειν ekphrázein, “to proclaim or call an inanimate object by name”. [tap on any image to enlarge] Terra in Flux The bathroom mirror breaks my face no, my face breaks the mirror nose, a Picasso— all comes down to energy * In Tai Chi, you create an imaginary ball then pass, smooth smooth, smooth sculptor at the wheel passing it, passing … chop! chop! read more!
PETS FOR PENITENTS
by Christopher David Rosales
It started off with cats, which was what my cellmate Rudy had, til his cat shrunk down to the size of a kitten, then a mouse, then disappeared altogether. Every once in a while, at night, besides the usual squeaks of the roaming guard’s boots, I’d hear squeaks of a different kind. Through the slight light at Rudy’s bunk, I could see where he lay with his head propped on one hand, the other hand cupped in front of a squinted eye. An eye he’d wink at me before putting his finger in front of his mouth and saying, “Shhhh.”chop! chop! read more!
THE ESPERANZA PROJECT Music by Richard Casimir “Antumbra” (poem) by Herman Beavers In classical music, a fermata is a pause of unspecified length printed above a note or rest. It is represented by an eyebrow above a dot, nicknamed a “birdseye” or “cyclops eye.” How long that pause should last is left to the discretion of the performer or the conductor. In March 2020, the music world paused, subito—suddenly—leaving concert halls dark for the foreseeable future, and an entire industry stunned and unemployed. For how long, we can only guess. And yet, by comparison, this Great Silence seems trivial: a global pandemic is killing millions. The rest struggle against police brutality, racial injustice, the rise of fascism, the precarious state of democracy. In late June, as our American cities broke open in protests over the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I received a WhatsApp message from my longtime … chop! chop! read more!
A SACK OF POTATOES, THE TIRED FARMER, & THE MIGHTY WORLD A Visual Narrative by Steph Jones Steph Jones is the Assistant Farm Manager at Pennypack Farm & Education Center, a thirteen-acre non-profit organically growing vegetable farm in Horsham, PA. She majored in Studio Art at Bates College and has been working at Pennypack since 2015. Since her first summer at the farm, she has been fascinated with the natural world around her and its wonder has greatly influenced her artwork. Steph loves how her art shows her what she knows about this world and what is important to her within it. She is a farmer, she is an artist, and she believes they are the same.chop! chop! read more!
FIELD NOTES FOR THE MAGICIAN: SLEIGHT OF HAND by Rosemary Kitchen I. Mother teaches me to read the ages of bald women hooked to IV stands in cracked knuckles, the prominence of veins in fingers and wrists. We whisper, like the palmists of the Memorial Oncology Ward II. Mother’s gurney vanishes between swinging doors, and Father practices the trick of folding down ring and middle fingers, of straightening pinky, extending thumb, cupping the symbol for love in a trembling hand. The Magician might call this the Palm Proper—letting two fingers press into root of thumb to form a bridge at the hollow of the hand where anything small enough can hide III. After the diagnosis, we listen to the tick of a wristwatch covering its face with both hands. On a sundial, the titanic body of our nearest star can be transfigured into a hand made of shadows. IV. In … chop! chop! read more!
by Shanna Merceron
She spread her legs and the neon blue lights shifted like we were underwater. She was wearing underwear, but they were crotch-less, white elastic stretching around her hips to hold her tips. Her hair was brown. I don’t like brunettes, especially not with how short she kept it, just barely brushing her shoulders, yet I watched her with interest. She stood up and moved to a pole languidly, her steps not in sync with the beats of the music. She was in her own world, she spun around the pole, her head hung like it was out a window, letting the breeze blow through it. She shimmied down the pole and then she was seated again, in front of me, her legs splayed out, she lifted her butt once, twice, maybe she thought that it counted as dancing, and then she went back to the pole.chop! chop! read more!
by Ben Austin
My freshman year of college I lifted weights and kickboxed five days a week. The kickboxing gym was four miles down Riverside and I biked there every weeknight. There wasn’t a bike lane on Riverside and cars honked. My brakes screeched.
On my way home I stopped for Taco Shack. I tried doing the drive thru once but they said I needed a car to use the speaker box so I ate inside. I was drenched and sometimes bruised from the workouts and the staff looked at me while I ate the burritos.chop! chop! read more!
TO MAKE AND EAT TIME:
Pork Rillettes in a Pandemic
by Greg Emilio
And one day, just like that, you will make time.
You will make time to dust off the cookbooks you’ve never used. You will pick up the fat French tome and crack it open and it will smell like your grandparents’ kitchen. The papery redolence of oil, roasted chicken. The splattered windows of grease stains as holy as stained glass. Time to finger the recipes their pencils annotated. Time to make, and make do, to use what you have: time trapped in a half-forgotten bottle of Muscadet.
You will make time, because suddenly, you, and the rest of the world, will have time.
Lured by economy and the blind contingency of time and place, you will come to a recipe for rillettes. Pâté-tender pork preserved under a layer of lard. Peasant’s butter back in the day, the fat cap keeping the meat for months. (Time to seek out foods that will stand the test of time.)
After a perilous excursion to the grocery store and a trip to the butcher (by comparison heaven on earth), you will be ready to set the cure on your inch by inch chunks of pork shoulder: salt, garlic, ginger, coriander, black pepper, and white wine. Plus the unexpected warmth of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.
And this is how you will set the cure. And this is how the beginning of time is made. And now, you must wait three days.chop! chop! read more!
SOME OTHER CONTINENT by Melissa Benton Barker The drink was called Spring Breeze. Elin had three of them at brunch, but Lucy never drank in the morning, so she’d missed it. It was the third night of a weekend cruise Elin had purchased on sale months ago, and they sat outside on an ill-lit and almost empty deck as the ship charged somewhere between Miami and the Bahamas. There was a stiff wind and no moon. Instead of the desired Spring Breeze, Elin bought two bottles of Amstel Light back to the table. “The bartender won’t make it,” she said. “What do you mean he won’t make it?” said Lucy. “Apparently it’s a daytime drink.” There was a pinching sensation at the crown of Elin’s head, as if she were a plush toy in a claw machine, drawn upward by those spindly metal fingers. She didn’t enjoy Amstel anymore, but … chop! chop! read more!
INTERVAL by Sue Mell Nine seconds to warm the applesauce for my mother’s morning medication. To wrestle my fury, replace it with a light-hearted care. Even as a kid I shied away from her clinging hand; now her need for me is bottomless. Nine seconds to watch the red-bellied woodpecker hunch his body around the feeder, the sparrows scattering with bitter complaint. To mentally revise my steps for the most efficient diaper change—wipes here, Desitin there, the wastebasket cradled in the bars of the rolling table just so. Nine seconds to remember a time I had not taken this on. To ignore the man jogging freely past, his face mask dangling below his chin. To see the sunlight flicker as wind bends back the trailing spirea branches, setting tiny white petals adrift like snow. Then the beep of the microwave and on with the day. Sue Mell is a graduate … chop! chop! read more!