Ana Schwartz is a doctoral candidate in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania and teaches high school English in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She is working on a translation of Herralde Prize-winning author Alvaro Enrigue’s first novel.
TO WHAT SURVIVED Sculpture by Mario Loprete For my concrete sculptures, I use my personal clothing. Through my artistic process in which I use plaster, resin, and cement, I transform these articles of clothing into artworks to hang. The intended effect is that my DNA and my memory remain inside the concrete so that the person who looks at these sculptures is transformed into a type of postmodern archeologist, studying my works as urban artifacts. I like to think that those who look at my sculptures, created in 2020, will be able to perceive the anguish, the vulnerability, and the fear that each of us may have felt in the face of a planetary problem that was covid 19. Under a layer of cement are my clothes with which I lived during this nefarious period — clothes that survived covid 19, very similar to what survived after the 2,000-year-old catastrophic …chop! chop! read more!
DRUNKDADDY by Francine Witte Punches a hole in the cakey window. The hole is the size of a woman’s head. My mother’s head. Tells the window, good, now you are broken, too. Blames the window for being so gooked up with grime he couldn’t see my mother driving the hell out of our lives. If I’d seen it, Drunkdaddy says, I could have stopped it. He takes off his t-shirt and wraps it around his bloody knuckles. Suck it up, Drunkdaddy tells his nakedchest self. He looks around the living room, stained glass lamp and pom pom pillows. My mother’s piano with the photo gallery on the top. Head shot of her like a movie star. Drunkdaddy picks it right up like he’s gonna break that too, but doesn’t. Blood drop after blood drop falling on the rug. He puts the photo back and walks over to the liquor cabinet. …chop! chop! read more!
A LETTER FROM MY FATHER TO ME by Mimi Yang My mother asked me to kill a spider, so I take her body out into the rice fields and I let the millet swell up beneath me in a furious roar. A burning now nested into my fugitive lungs. I’m trying to be honest. All great murders begin at the mirror, where my mother curses her hands for my filth, & I watch without saying a word. All learned discipline is violent by nature, & I have only ever been fearful of that—to be a monster & her reflection all at once. To look in the mirror find her staring back at me from the bus seat window, her same stories of hunger seeping into the moving city. Or to find my father, what pieces I know of him, what wars he’s left me here to fight for him. & …chop! chop! read more!
POP SONG by Matt Thomas These eggs that I wash every morning before tucking them into the carton remind me of washing my daughter no less carefully, with an eye to the future knowing her cost and improbability. Like stroking a pocket rabbit’s foot, thumb stopping on the sharp bone beneath the fur: the luckiest things are the least likely. Roll an egg in your palm: it’s a spirit level finding true. Once, stumped around a friend’s deathbed, a nurse suggested some music to pass to I think of that phrase, humming to the radio above the hens squawking, winners to date, praising. Matt Thomas is a smallholder farmer and occasional community college teacher. His work has appeared recently in Triggerfish Critical Review, Killing the Buddha, and the Hampden-Sydney Review. He lives with his partner and their daughter in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
PLAYHOUSE by Tess Kelly It arrived on a surprise Saturday in the bed of Uncle Tony’s pickup. The wooden playhouse our grandfather built had cedar shakes, a rooster-topped weathervane, and real hinged windows that opened wide like our astonished mouths. Soon enough my sisters and I busied ourselves among the little wooden sink and stove, the little wooden table and chairs, all manufactured in Grandpa’s basement, where mounted tools stood ready to serve and the smell of wood shavings imbued the air. And one day, while we pretended to be grown-ups fixing lunch for invisible children, half a boy’s face appeared through a glass pane, his hair the color of baby chicks, his eyes full of June sky. A boy attached to a name that’s drifted from me, afloat on a raft of lost memories. We unlatched the window to offer cheery greetings. Hello, he whispered in return. Then he …chop! chop! read more!
WAR GAMES by Peter DeMarco In the car trip to a Pennsylvania V.A. hospital when I was twelve, my mother told us that our great Uncle Roy was a veteran of World War I and couldn’t communicate anymore. The ride was three hours of empty landscape outside the window. AM radio. A song about a roller skate key. Jumble puzzle books and Spider-Man and Archie comics. At the hospital, Uncle Roy was seated in a wheelchair in the visitors’ area, with a fireplace and couches. When he saw us he howled, like an animal. We stood there, frozen, until our mother motioned my younger brother and sister and myself towards him. He drooled and stared at me, his eyes opening wide. It’s almost like he recognizes you, my mother said. Then he started crying and she made us sit on the couch, where I heard her tell him how I …chop! chop! read more!
WAR AND PEACE 2.0 by Emily Steinberg Emily Steinberg is a multi-disciplinary artist with a focus on painting and visual narrative and her work has been shown across the United States and Europe. Most recently, her first cartoon and Daily Shouts story were published by The New Yorker. Since 2013, her visual narratives have been regularly published in Cleaver Magazine. In 2019 she became Visual Narrative Editor at Cleaver and now curates submissions. Her memoir, Graphic Therapy, was published serially in Smith Magazine. Steinberg teaches visual narrative at Penn State University, Abington College, and Drexel College of Medicine, where she is Artist-in-Residence. She did her undergraduate and graduate work at The University of Pennsylvania where she received an MFA in painting and lives just outside Philadelphia. To submit graphic narratives for consideration in Cleaver, contact Emily at [email protected]
TWO POEMS by Sadie Shorr-Parks Winter on Earth In my bruise blue Subaru with the drooling sunroof rattling down skyline drive. Winter on earth can mean leafless branching, iced asphalt. Headache sunlight ahead: a migraine to match the moment. Winter can be a dice game in West Virginia towns. Boil that water, baby, the good things have already happened. Modern Ledas We pulled up in gold Jettas and ate up all the other girls. I brought the sky with me: a black-on-black bandana. A swan mingled among us graceless in baseball cap. I said, be careful of the transformed: men untethered from themselves. Already the lawn had sprouted crinkled plastic cups, red flowers. He left with a freshman. He ran red on the drive home. Sadie Shorr-Parks teaches writing at Shepherd University, where she is the Director for the Society for Creative Writing. She is the author …chop! chop! read more!
IF YOU WANT TO BE LOVED, LOVE by Meg Pokrass “If you want to be a horse, be a horse.” Her father said this when he talked about the family infrastructure, how weak it was. When she was little, she wanted to become strong as a horse to make him happy, so she tried to become one, but it never worked. Later, there was the shock of loving a man with the soul of a tree. She had always wanted to be a bird, at least in her dreams. But when she was with this man, she didn’t want to be anything, she only wanted to fly to him. The doctor told her that if she wanted to be loved, next time she needed to love. She didn’t understand what he meant, so she stared into his eyes. They looked like the eyes of a sad, old …chop! chop! read more!
BIRTHING LESSONS by Rebecca Ackermann The woman on the screen howls in agony and communion as her partner reaches into the water to grasp their child’s crown and pull him free. They are all three naked, swirling in blood and insides. Sunlight pours in from a round window above the blue-tiled tub. All three cry, the woman and her partner whisper a few words to each other, then the screen cross-fades with a video of the ocean before it turns black. “Does that bathroom come with the class fee?” jokes the pregnant woman in the multi-colored jumpsuit from the other side of the circle. She has a big black bun balancing on the very top of her head, which dips and recovers like a sleepy passenger when she speaks. “I think we could have a great baby in that tub. Our bathroom is, let’s say, less photogenic.” Her companion rolls …chop! chop! read more!
RIDING WEST TOWARD THE WOODS by Deb Fenwick The dandelions in the front yard have the audacity to pop up screeching yellow, blanketing the lawn. I’m crouching, trowel in hand, yanking and destroying. The soil won’t easily yield. But neither will I. I’m determined to unearth every last one. Each spring, I try to get the upper hand—dig them up before the yellow flower stage—eradicate them before they turn to seed and drift through the breeze, propagate, and start the whole cycle over. I plunge the narrow blade of the trowel around the perimeter of a large clump of toothy leaves, working it around the edges, rocking it up and down to unearth the taproot. Dandelion roots go deep. In the halcyon haze of childhood, dandelions were daisies. Wildflowers. Wishes. By the time I had a mortgage, they’d lost their magic. I don’t try to keep up with neighbors who …chop! chop! read more!
DR. WILLIAM’S FAMILY FIX-U SHOP by R. C. Barajas Youngest Daughter Services and Pricing For Middle Son and Eldest Daughter, see separate price sheets. Limited services available for Eldest Son Overall Assessment of Youngest Daughter………………………$45 Dr. William will give a quick but thorough visual inspection. This inspection will include but is not limited to: Estimate-by-glance of current weight (accurate to within 4.3 grams) and advisement on how to lose a few pounds Evaluation of current educational achievements and goals with expression of disappointment/resignation that Youngest Daughter seems to be just floating around in life Feigned interest in work/art/academic activity (as appropriate by current “phase” of Youngest Daughter) 3-point shift in conversation to determine degree of self-absorption Exhaustive recounting of Dr. William’s own activities/food consumption/health and that of his wife Nancy and of their current dog(s) An invitation for Youngest Daughter to stay for dinner Tune-up of Youngest Daughter………………………$65 Customer testimonial: …chop! chop! read more!
THE SOFT ANIMALS by Nathan Willis There are four deer in the garage. They’re made of metal and they don’t have heads. Mom’s been sneaking out at night when she thinks I’m asleep. This is what she’s been working on. She wants to take them to the craft show, but she can’t get them in the trailer by herself. They’re too big. There’s a utility bucket in the corner with the leftover pieces she didn’t use. I tell her I’ll help in the morning and take the bucket. On my way upstairs, I stop in the dining room, where we keep Dad. Logistically, it just makes the most sense. It’s the only place that’s both out of the way and big enough to facilitate his hospital bed. The doctors had diagnosed him as unresponsive. He’s connected to hoses that keep him alive. The hoses run through the wall to a …chop! chop! read more!
THE UNDERCURRENT by Mariana Sabino The Czech woman had returned to the wrong place, that much we knew, and we weren’t about to watch out for anyone, especially this pearl smeared with oil. She arrived in one of the local public vans, not in her own car as you would expect. Taking the van could only mean money was scarce. She stepped onto the street in front of our bar, at the route’s final stop, having trouble with her bulging suitcase. We figured she must be over forty now, her face thin and pale like paper, her hair streaked with long white lines. As she trundled that suitcase in the direction of Samuel’s house, the left wheel dislodged from the main frame, wobbling and then toppling over like a broken leg. I’d done my share of schlepping around without going anywhere, but this story isn’t about me. The thought of …chop! chop! read more!
SIX RANTS FROM A NASTY YELLOW GIRL by Luisa Luo One, I am a byproduct of post-colonialism, fortunately and unfortunately. Post-colonialism is my explanation for everything I have been put through from racism to sexism to homophobia to the Red Scare you name it. There is a root to all problems and I’m thrilled to reveal that the root is right here. To understand post-colonialism, we ought to understand that the world wasn’t so divided back then. My land was connected to the land bridge across the Bering Strait, like the other colonized people, and the colonizers. We weren’t so different back then, all unapologetically naked and crude. I come from a tradition more ancient than the ancient colonial invasions. Where I belong, we possess the only mythological story in the world, a narrative unlike others: we believed that a flood wiped out the entire human civilization. So devastating children …chop! chop! read more!
THE DRIVE HOME by Will Musgrove In the distance, black clouds blanket the sky like cake frosting, and streaks of rain shade the warm air. Strong winds jostle my buddy Jake’s rusted sedan, make minor corrections to our trajectory, whisper to us through cracked windows. We’re quiet. Making a sound might scare away the time we have left. Then lightning licks the ground, and we begin counting. We reach twelve Mississippi before we hear the boom. Three or four miles of sun-filled highway remains in front of us, but we continue toward the storm because it’s the way home, the only place we have left to go. We departed as underdogs and will return as failures. Fans of walk-off home runs, of late-inning magic, we’d gone to become baseball players. The night before the open tryout, we watched the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino, the Cubs the …chop! chop! read more!
CONFESSIONS OF A CARELESS CABBAGE PERSON by Jamie Nielsen “There’s only one kind of trap that works. It’s the five-for-a-dollar, old-fashioned kind with a spring on a piece of wood.” My sister raises and trains horses in the mountains outside Reno, Nevada. She’s a single mom of three small humans, nine rescue dogs, two rescue cats, and up to thirty-something horses, depending on when you ask her. She traps mice in two barns full of hay and grain, dog chow, and sundry equine medications. Her days begin and end with the hard physical labor of feeding and watering. Doctoring, shoveling, scrubbing, hauling. Foals are born here in the earliest, blackest hours of the new day, slippery, fragile, and steaming in the cold. There is no room for gnawed electrical wires or contaminated feed. No question, given rodent-borne hantavirus and Lyme disease. There is no safe cover for a mouse under …chop! chop! read more!
LIFE IS TOO SWEET FOR THIS LEVEL OF IDGAF by Timothy Boudreau We’re here too short a time to shuffle grumpily to work, we’re missing opportunities. Donny scowls at Mrs. Levinson when she asks him to cash her check in small bills; while I’m grumbling, tearing up the updated rate sheet, Maura aims a kick at an empty box someone left in front of the vault—guys, why are we living this way? Lenny can’t even think about Wealth Management anymore, he’s got tumors squirming inside his organs like maggots through old meat. We don’t deserve to be luckier or live longer, but maybe we are and maybe we’re going to. The wind is low today, the sun is like the kiss itself of heaven so why can’t we feel it. The saddest thing isn’t that Lenny’s gray face can’t manage a cracked smile, that on his off days his bald head ducks behind the curtain when we wave …chop! chop! read more!
INTUITION by Maggie Mumford 1. An acorn appears. The orb centered on the welcome mat in the curve of the C, the WEL and the OME forming a bracket. I decide the placement is an accident of nature and that this tree part was sent by the combination of a loose stem and a strong wind. I turn the knob on the door I painted green. I step over it and into my house. The soft jazz my husband plays warms the kitchen, where he is cooking potato leek soup. I say, “It’s the strangest thing.” He nods. At this point he is used to me finding strangeness where he would find nothing. When I was a little girl, a little girl went missing. The TV did nothing but talk about her for months or what felt like months. The news anchors’ voices at once somber and thrilled: tonight …chop! chop! read more!
DECADENCE, ’94 (SOUTHERN) by Damian Dressick Rounds in quick succession at Café Lafitte in Exile bleed into slave quarters on Iberville. A sofa included in his rent. New Orleans lore. Amyl nitrate. Fan of porn mags spread across the cocktail table, Honcho, Blueboy. We’re talking the same shit over and over. One of us is embarrassed. By the time it’s light, we’re pressed together in the cramped bed. Exposed brick walls. Framed Nagel print. His cock is thick, easy to get off. I’m verging on sober, uninterested. Birds make their noise outside the window. Truck drivers bang barrels onto Royal Street. I close my eyes. The sheets are clean. . . . . . . Damian Dressick is the author of the novel 40 Patchtown (Bottom Dog Press) and the flash collection Fables of the Deconstruction (CLASH Books). His writing has appeared in more than fifty literary journals and anthologies, …chop! chop! read more!
TWO POEMS by Mitchell Untch Twin I I. I had thought we’d said everything we needed to say when you were in the hospital and the nurses were running around trying to figure out how to make you more comfortable. Would you like some more water? But I continued to have entire conversations with you in my head. Now, no one speaks. You died of a virus no one knew the name of. And when scientists found a name, our parents declared that people like you deserved to die. No one would touch you. No one from family went to your funeral. Your body was burned. II. Trees lose leaves in winter. Every year birds return to lusher resorts. No one thing ever leaves, I tell myself, falls away completely. When does it become unreasonable to cry? I lay lilacs next to your headstone, all of our family now gone, …chop! chop! read more!
MEMORY REMAINS AS SKELETON by Mateo Perez Lara The lover: I cut into Mark’s frail // pulled out anxious apologies weathered by silence, we never said much but I come up with shame, loads of Jack Daniel’s sketches of boys he wanted more of and I could blame myself or blame him but all we have left is desolation and too many questions a hollow cavity meant to be filled up is still empty love is dragged across pulled out anger, its bitterness buds buzzed and vomits-up from those drinks at the bar and I remember the night I fell out of Mark’s truck // toppled down that hill, stained shirt, flowered from the wine, so wretched and red like me // the way Mark // never loved anyone that was not white and if I could ask him now we would still fight about that, but he has already …chop! chop! read more!
NO NAME ISLAND by Lara Markstein In the beginning, in that first month that they’d lived with their uncle on Aorere Drive as kids, Hamish and Kylie passed whole days in the bay. Before Stuart could go on about the cost of diesel with the lights they left on in every room, they kicked free of the breakfast table and rushed down the hillside into waters that clouded with each step, their feet skimming the soft surface of the earth. Hamish scanned the sea for stingrays, pale sprats, and sea snails with perfect spiral shells. When the tides turned, the bay became mud flats, bubbling with sand flies. So they walked south towards the tip of the peninsula. They were scouts, searching for new routes and lands, as they followed the water to the boulders of the headland, which they could clamber over timed right. The sea still licked at …chop! chop! read more!
SHADOW WATER by Rosemary Jones This is how I heard the story. The this. The that. The this and that. I was at the hospital with my daughters to visit their grandpa, Geoff, who had fallen playing indoor bowls. One small, ambitious move and he was a hip disaster. Maybe they could operate. Maybe they couldn’t. He had a lung condition. I don’t know the medical details. Just two nights before when we’d had dinner together, he announced that it looked like he’d make it to ninety. Sheepish grin. For the past two, three, no, four generations, the fathers and grandfathers and greats had died aged eighty-nine. At his desk some years before, he’d unfolded a family tree, his gnarly finger confirming the facts of the matter. But he was going to break the record. From his hospital bed by the window, he stared longingly at his granddaughters as I’d …chop! chop! read more!
URGENT by Gemini Wahhaj When Polly’s father died, she received an outpouring of love from his friends. She was grieving by not taking any calls—no tears, no ceremony, just silence, and a total loss of appetite—but these were international calls, coming from Bangladesh, in the middle of the night, from strange-looking numbers. Her father had died in Bangladesh. Her mother had died a year before that. Polly was an only child, unmarried, living by herself in faraway Houston, where she knew few Bengalis, certainly not anyone from her parents’ past. She had left home two decades ago for a master’s degree in the US and never returned. “Come back and settle your property,” Bashir Uncle advised Polly over the crackling phone line one night. Another night, she woke up to fierce ringing and Rahim Uncle’s words, “We are all meeting to discuss how to help you.” Yet another of her …chop! chop! read more!
a rust chewed pipe by Alex Wells Shapiro The glug above my left ear (a rust chewed pipe next to my right arm) manifests as yellow beads welling at my bedfoot ; a neighbor stabs my wall open with the sharp side of a hammer tearing up drywall in strips & puffs ; we determine the issue is time & agree nearby sinks cannot be used & he slops a patch across the fresh cavity. The super’s plumber cousin is scheduled to come tomorrow ; overnight beads run & recede & a tide of dehydrated piss rises around my mattress ; I scoop it out the windows with the super & his cousin & all the neighbors in glasses & our hands as the sun begins scaling lakefront high rises, flinching at back splash, shouts of ‘Incoming!’ accompanying each toss, down to our ankles ; Chris installs a new strip …chop! chop! read more!
ANNOUNCING CLEAVER’S SUMMER LIGHTNING ’22 FLASH CONTEST Show us what strikes you and lights up your summer! Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, we’re excited to see your compact and commanding work. Submissions open June 1, 2022 and close August 1, 2022 Judge: Meg Pokrass $500 First Prize $250 Second Prize $100 Third Prize Prizewinners will be published in Cleaver’s Winter Issue, December 2022. Finalists may also be offered publication. Submission Guidelines: Up to 500 words per flash piece. The initial submission fee is $20 for one story, with an option to upload two additional stories for $10 apiece. No previously published work. Please remove your name and any other identifying information from your manuscript, including the file name. All work must be submitted through our Submittable by 11:59 pm EDT on August 1st. We cannot accept paper submissions. Winners will be announced in November. Prior to the announcement, all submitters …chop! chop! read more!
THIRTEEN POTSHOTS AT THE PROSE POEM a Craft Essay by Mike James An alien lands at a city basketball court at night. He either lands inside a science fiction story or he lands inside a prose poem. ◊ Prose poems are the pulp fiction of poetry. They exist to be read with flashlights beneath wool blankets at night. ◊ Prose poems are kept in basements and attics. They are seldom invited to dinner parties and award shows. ◊ Howie Good, wrote, “The prose poem exists to challenge and provoke and to raise a defiant middle finger to all who would colonize consciousness.” Howie Good knows how to write a prose poem. ◊ Readers consider prose poems to be autobiographical at the same rate as they consider all other poems. The introduction of aliens, mermaids, parrots, Bhutan, private detectives, or drag queens will not dissuade this tendency. ◊ A prose …chop! chop! read more!
SHADE OF BLUE TREES by Kelly Cressio-Moeller Two Sylvias Press, 79 pages reviewed by Dana Kinsey In her debut collection Shade of Blue Trees, Kelly Cressio-Moeller conducts a tremendous chorus of voices that rise in a dirge so mournful and lush that all of nature harmonizes; the beauty spellbinds, making the reader feel as if we’ve been privileged to witness language as a potent kind of magic. Mary Oliver, Joni Mitchell, Virginia Woolf, Paul Gauguin, Amy Winehouse, and e.e. cummings live in her lines, chant in her forests, and drench her in spring rain. She hears each of their voices and repurposes their words, sometimes as epigraphs, other times as dazzling lines within the music of her verse. Cressio-Moeller’s resulting symphony binds death and rebirth in the same notes, as she announces in “Threshold”: “Sometimes all that remains is rebirth. / Play me a mournful tune.” This poem, and so …chop! chop! read more!
GROWING SEASONS: On Plants and Poetry A Craft Essay by Luiza Flynn-Goodlett Like most things, it began with beauty: My first apartment after college overlooked the backyard of several Crown Heights buildings, which had become an unofficial dump with stained mattresses, twisted remnants of recliners, and an impressive pack of raccoons. I’d just escaped an abusive relationship with a woman who’d unraveled my self-esteem and told me I’d never be a writer, and was working at a pizza shop by Union Square. I’d climb onto the fire escape outside my bedroom window to smoke and look down on this compromised patch of wildness, snow-draped in winter and then bursting—if you looked hard enough—into blossom by spring. I didn’t have my own plants then, but as I tapped my cigarette on the rusted railing and watched ash dance toward the green tangle below, I had a building sense that I’d traveled …chop! chop! read more!
SHOW, THEN TELL: Crafting Fiction with Alive Exposition by Grace Evans While writing a first draft of a novel, I turned one scene and an economical one-paragraph description of a mother-daughter relationship into seven scenes dramatizing every aspect of their dynamic. Why? A writing craft book advised me to focus on plotting and crafting scenes, and that eventually I would string all my scenes together and find myself with a complete manuscript. So, I stretched every idea into a scene that included conjuring an event, developing conflict, and fleshing out character. I invented beginnings, middles, and ends. My draft got longer and slower. It started to bore even me. I didn’t end up with a decent manuscript draft, but with a realization: a novel should be some scenes, maybe even mostly scenes, but not every character detail or piece of information deserves a whole scene. To be sure I wasn’t …chop! chop! read more!
MAKING EACH STORY ITS OWN a Craft Conversation with Tony Taddei author of THE SONS OF THE SANTORELLI speaking with fiction editor Andrea Caswell Tony Taddei’s debut story collection, The Sons of the Santorelli, is a fast read: the prose is smart and snappy, the characters are funny and flawed, and we can’t look away from the situations Taddei has put them in, situations he believes “best evoke their mortality and individual points of view.” I recently had the opportunity to speak with the author about his book and the craft of short fiction. The discussion included reflections on writing family sagas, the do’s and don’ts of assembling a linked story collection, finding just the right words, and how Taddei’s training as an actor has helped him as a fiction writer. Our conversation has been edited for clarity. —AC, May 2022 Andrea Caswell: Tell us about the title and the …chop! chop! read more!
A LESSON FROM MY THIRD-GRADE SELF On Writing from the Heart, A Craft Essay by Vivian Conan I was fifty-two when I chanced upon the bright marigold flyer taped to a streetlight in my Manhattan neighborhood. The Writer’s Voice at the West Side YMCA, it said. One of the courses listed: The Personal Essay. I had never heard that term, but it sounded like just what I’d been looking for. From the time I learned to print, I’d wanted to be a writer, even though on a parallel track, I believed all the books that were ever going to be written had already been written. I got this impression from the pictures on a card game called Authors that I played with my brother. With old-fashioned hairstyles and names like Sir Walter Scott, authors were, most assuredly, all dead. In third grade, I learned cursive, the grownup way of writing, …chop! chop! read more!
A Conversation with Ann de Forest Editor of the Anthology WAYS OF WALKING New Door Press, 258 pages Interview by Amy Beth Sisson I met writer Ann de Forest many years ago, but during the pandemic we formed a new connection around poetry. We became critique partners and attended Claire Oleson’s Poetic Anatomies class. Ann is an accomplished writer in multiple genres who often focuses on the resonance of place. When she mentioned she was editing an anthology of essays about walking, I knew it was something that I, as a walker, reader, and writer, wanted to get my hands on. After reading the advance reader copy, I was impressed not only by the excellent essays but by the thoughtful structure of the collection. I was delighted to have this conversation with Ann about the project. (The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.) —ABS, April 2021 Amy Beth: …chop! chop! read more!
THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN AND OTHER STORIES OF DIRTY COMPUTER by Janelle Monáe Harper Voyager, 321 Pages reviewed by Kristie Gadson In her latest album Dirty Computer, songstress and visionary Janelle Monáe sings of a future bathed in the blinding light of a new regime. In a world where an individual’s inner circuitry—their deepest thoughts, feelings, and desires—faces judgment from the illuminating eye of New Dawn, freedom is sought out by those who find liberation in the shadows. Monáe’s songs follow the story of Jane 57821, whose queerness made society view her as a deviant with unclean coding—a “dirty computer.” Dreaming of a better future, Jane 57821 broke free of the chains of New Dawn by daring to remember who she really was, sowing the seeds of revolution in her wake. The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer is a collaborative work with influential writers of the Afrofuturism genre, …chop! chop! read more!
THE ORIGINAL GLITCH by Melanie Moyer Lanternfish Press, 362 pages reviewed by Michael Sasso “Jesus was a carpenter, King Arthur was an orphan, and Laura was a broke, lonely millennial.” This is how Laura, the artificially intelligent protagonist, is summed up in Melanie Moyer’s sophomore novel, The Original Glitch (Lanternfish Press, October 2021). Every generation envisions its savior as one of its most unassuming: so, while the Wachowskis gave us introverted, Gen-X cyberhacker Neo in The Matrix films, Moyer provides Laura, the downtrodden but culturally-aware Millennial. Unlike Neo, however, Laura cannot escape her virtual prison, and her “magical” digital powers are lackluster. It is telling of the Millennial ethos that, even though the novel is about saving the world, the universe of The Original Glitch is familiar, ordinary, prosaic. Laura is created in reaction to a malevolent AI named Theo. When Theo’s creator, Dr. Kent, starts to believe that he’s …chop! chop! read more!
EXTRA CREDIT by Colette Parris The three of us together constitute a smidge of impurity in what would otherwise be an unadulterated cup of salt. Not the Himalania Fine Pink Salt that will run you $8.99 for ten ounces at Whole Foods. (That’s right. I just googled the price of pink salt at Whole Foods, because I’m all about precision. And while I was at it, I checked to see if gluten-free blueberry waffles are back in stock. Alas, no.) I mean the regular iodized salt that you can get for less than a dollar at Target, the salt that comes in the dark blue cylinder with the yellow-dress girl and her wholly unnecessary umbrella. What do umbrellas have to do with salt? For that matter, what do girls in yellow dresses have to do with salt? I digress. By “the three of us,” I mean me, Lakeisha, and Annette. …chop! chop! read more!
ODE ON BRAISES (AND ODES) by Gregory Emilio For we, which now behold these present days, Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise. —Shakespeare, “Sonnet 106,” lines 13-14 “Rhyme,” according to the poet and classicist A.E. Stallings, “is an irrational, sensual link between two words. It is chemical. It is alchemical” (Stallings 2009). It is fascinating to think of how words are connected by sound—that similar sounding words may be drawn to each other like magnets. Praise and days: some subterranean, implicit contract, light giving unto light, phoneme of the first letter, the sound of dawn. And to think that consonants and vowels are all we have to work with to create the kindred spirits of rhymes. Vowels expand, billow up with breath, while consonants crack open and/or shear off the edges. In the word “praise,” the vowel sound “a” gets buoyed up by the plosive “p,” sustained …chop! chop! read more!
BROOD X by Gwen Mullins Brood X is the largest brood of 17-year cicadas. This brood is found in three separate areas centering around Pennsylvania and northern Virginia, Indiana, and eastern Tennessee. The largest emergence of Brood X appears as adults only once every 17 years. —National Park Service Back then, everyone still called me Gwendy, so it was in the body-in-progress of thirteen-year-old Gwendy that I first encountered the cicadas of Brood X. The emerging insects, like my boy cousins, were four years my senior. I was intrigued but disgusted by the intricate carapaces the cicadas left behind, and a delicious tingle of fear shivered across my skin when the living bugs slapped against my legs or tangled in my hair, their unwieldy, red-eyed forms a harbinger of anxieties that had not yet surfaced. I spent a lot of time alone in those days—meandering through the town that is, …chop! chop! read more!
SKATE HAVEN by Amy R. Martin I’m already roller skating when the DJ announces it’s time for a “Couples Skate” and I see the sign light up on the wall next to the clock and the rink lights dim and I feel a whoosh and Sean—the boy who pops wheelies in front of my house every summer morning on his Schwinn while I eat Lucky Charms and watch The Richard Simmons Show, the boy who one day soon will give me an ID bracelet that I will have to return because my mom will say I’m too young and won’t let me keep it, the boy who one day after high school will move to Texas with a red-haired girl who everyone will call a slut and far worse things besides—reaches his hand out to me. He is the best athlete at school, and he has light brown skin and hazel …chop! chop! read more!
EVEN IN THE DARK by Cristina Trapani-Scott 1. You make sourdough bread because it’s easier to focus on the simplicity of water and flour than on anything else. You marvel at how water and flour blended can start life. You think of science and the way this pairing draws yeast from air. You remember the air in the hospital waiting room, the sour chill, and the way your yeasty thoughts bloomed faster than you could breathe, faster than you could form sentences, so the words came out lonely florets. Please, won’t walk, will walk, maybe, I don’t know. 2. Now, you speak to flour and water in full sentences. You whisper to yeast the way you might a plant, like you did your child lying in the hospital bed. You cajole it with a gentle voice, urging it to expand and breathe, to grow and move. Bread sustains us, you …chop! chop! read more!
A POEM WHEREIN I TRY, AND FAIL, TO IDENTIFY MY TUESDAY GENDER by Quinn Rennerfeldt Have you ever been forced ………….to swallow a pill of light ………….………….unguided hands rubbing the tract of your throat ………….to slip it past the chokepoint ………….………….like a shhh and something blue and lamplike then resides ………….inside you, threading the acids ………….………….of your stomach like an anxious goldfish irradiating ………….the viscous liquids ………….………….in small neon pings shining scales amongst darkness ………….morse code messages in bubbles ………….………….trying to regurgitate themselves from your mouth ………….agitate against the fishtank ………….………….of molars and stress-clenched jaw and yet you are still a stranger ………….always have been but now ………….………….you have an aquatic carcinogen to fault, furtive bioluminescent flame ………….lighting the way for doubt ………….………….and the feelings cramped in the fake sand, slowly stirring ………….the blonde grains from dormancy ………….………….like a creature where it oughtn’t be Quinn Rennerfeldt is a queer poet …chop! chop! read more!
WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN WHEN YOU’RE STUCK by Louella Lester On the fifth day of the heat wave, even though the asthmatic air conditioner is faltering, Char stops going outside. Not to get fresh air. Or to exercise. Or to soak up the sun’s Vitamin D, of which a lack could cause her to…well, she isn’t sure what it will cause, but people are always talking about it like it matters. She just doesn’t give a shit anymore. When Seth left, two months before, she lied about her feelings—told friends it was over long ago. “If he didn’t leave, I would have. Don’t worry, I’m enjoying the time alone.” So, the heat is a relief. A real excuse to stay home. A simple explanation. Wearing only panties and a tank top she melts into the chair nearest the aquarium that Seth left behind, getting up only to go to the toilet. …chop! chop! read more!