Ski Lift

Flash
Zack Peercy


Photo Credit: TMAB2003/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

We’re sitting on a ski lift and my butt is cold. I can’t tell you this because of what I already told you. So we continue to sit in silence.

We’ve taken this ride before. Every year, we come to this mountain and you try to convince me to wear the goggles, and I tell you to get a better hat, and we quote that ski instructor who was totally hitting on you. And right now, if I hadn’t said what I said, we would be making bets on who would beat who down the hill.

The sun is setting behind the mountain. The ski lift continues its ascension as we chase the remains of the day, chase yesterday, chase the moments before I said what I said.

You turn to me in the fading light. You say something I don’t want to hear. And I know that this will be our last time racing down the slopes.

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Zack Peercy is a playwright. He’s been published in The Sandy River Review, among others. Email: zackpeercy[at]gmail.com

What the Anemometer Measures

Flash
Becca B. Jenkins


Photo Credit: Mark Blasingame/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Her science teacher called them geodes, but she knew them as thunder eggs. To be precise, all thunder eggs are not geodes, and not all geodes are thunder eggs. But sometimes one and the other are the same.

This is the anemometer, her science teacher said. Do you know what it measures?

It measures the wind. The wind at her back. The speed of her feet. The space between where her toe last was and where her heel touches again. The space between the last letter she wrote and the next one she begins. The space that widens when she stretches her metatarsals, that shrinks when she crinkles herself, her entire self, into a ball.

This is what the anemometer measures.

No, her teacher said. It measures the wind.

He is wrong.

He has science. She has life.

Her mother taught her the four directions, the four mountains, the four colors, the four elements, the four seasons, the four everything. The four phases of life. But she didn’t have four everything. She didn’t have two grandmothers and two grandfathers. She didn’t have two parents and a sibling. She didn’t have her own four limbs.

I’ll hold the pen for you, her classmate said.

Don’t be silly, she replied. See how it fits in the space between my toes?

Sometimes you find jasper in the geode, her teacher said. Not at the center, but in the area around it. It is often red, from the presence of iron. It is almost never blue.

She is red. She is iron. She is always blue.

Last night she dreamed of the raven. She was jealous of his two wings.

You have legs like the bear, the raven said.

But I don’t have four, she replied, only two.

In the morning, her mother poured her coffee. The flavor astringent and dead.

She drank it down and told her mother she didn’t want to go to school.

You have to learn their stories, her mother replied. You must learn their maps.

But I don’t want to go where they want me to go, she said.

Her mother shook her head. At your center is a silk road, her mother said. A route from one world to the next. A path from sea to sky.

But I can’t carry anything back, she told her mother. Only what fits in one palm.

She stretched her single set of metacarpals as evidence.

You have the wind, her mother said.

This is the anemometer, her teacher said. Do you know what it measures?

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Becca Borawski Jenkins is a writer and editor. She holds an MFA in Cinema-Television Production from USC and has short stories appearing or forthcoming in The Forge, The Knicknackery, Panorama, Five 2 One, and Corium. She lives with her husband in an RV they built by hand, on an off-grid homestead somewhere in the Idaho Panhandle. Email: beccabjenkins[at]gmail.com

Flames

Flash
Jenny T.H. Chiu


Photo Credit: Annie Roi/Flickr (CC-by)

Shimmery full moon this morning when I was walking to the train station, reminded me of the day you broke your middle finger and the breakfast crawled with ants but I didn’t care.

In my dreams
you trace your fingers between my thighs, aglow under the moonlight, and your reptilian-cold skin presses against mine so tenderly that when you lie asleep and I lie awake breathing, I do not have to whisper to myself, it’s love, it’s love, it’s love.

In my dreams
I hold you at gunpoint, but you just do that half-smile of yours, daring me to pull the trigger, pull it, pull it. I always end up tossing the bullets into my mouth, like bitter medicine you said was good for me.

In between my dreams
poison ivy grew out of cracks on the stone steps of our house. I kept trying to prune it. It kept growing up.

You always said you didn’t smoke, so who set the house on fire, who, who? In the smog I looked for the poison ivy, and choked my way out. Window panes shattering behind. I didn’t look for you.

Today, I sit out here in the blazing heat, watching the cat pick up a dead bird with its yellow crooked teeth. Glint in its eyes says, look what I caught. I wanted to look away.

Wish I could knock this cigarette out of my own hand.

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Jenny T.H. Chiu is a first-year university student currently living in Australia, although she has lived in Asia for most of her life: Taiwan, China and Singapore. Email: fragulity[at]gmail.com

Three Poems

Poetry
Sam Payne


Photo Credit: Ed Dunens/Flickr (CC-by)

The Lakehouse

Each day I wake
to the sway of your breath
gentle as a lake

see your naked back
glistening in the morning light.

Drift a finger over your skin
and watch the hairs rise
like rowers lifting their oars

then I wait, treading water
until you turn and the current
pulls me under.

 

The Silence Bird

You may see it gliding in the low light
above the surface of a lake. Perhaps you
could catch a glimpse of it hovering
in the look of lovers or soaring high
in the sky of a snow field.

It has been known to perch
on the white lines of a poem
and dip its wings in the instant
between heartbeats, between breaths
before a new-born cries.

But it always returns to nest on the white stretch
of a blank page, fluffing feathers, closing its eyes
waiting for art to make a noise.

 

The Boy Next Door

He liked to map the stars and count the craters
on the moon, he liked the way blue ice pops
stained his tongue and sitting on the back
of my bike as we flew down the street
like debris from a comet shooting through
the earth’s atmosphere.

He liked collecting tadpoles on Sundays in spring
and every year with sleeves bunched at the crooks
of our elbows and grubby knees and knuckles,
we’d lie flat on the ground, scoop them gently
into our palms before placing them
in an old margarine tub.

Once he showed me a pip in a petri dish
nestled in wet cotton wool, said he was growing
an apple tree before telling me everyone thought
his mother was crazy, and even as I shook my head
I thought about the time she cursed at the clouds
and threw a chair across the garden that bounced
three times before landing in mud, churned up
by the paw prints of their dog.

And in our kitchen, my mother sighing and shaking
her head, drying her hands on a tea towel, before
quietly closing the windows.

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Sam Payne is a writer living in Devon. She has recently completed a degree in English Literature and she would like to write a novel but poetry is a small child forever following her around and demanding attention. Email: sampayne1978[at]live.co.uk

Two Poems

Poetry
Salvatore Marici


Photo Credit: Kyle Strickland/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Amid Life

New immigrants from
North Africa, Eastern Europe, live with French
in this working class Paris neighborhood.
During this fall evening
young couples, a few with strollers

stroll the avenue
eat at Little Cambodian,
visit a bistro where people drink
beer, wine, and coffee. Two men
raise their glasses, Tchin Tch…
Blast drowns the clink. Gust broadcasts
metallic shards. Walls, furniture, flesh
take. Black masked men run
into the ruin carry assault rifles,
shoot anybody with movement.
Outside as if on a carousel
they rotate, clench triggers.
Five bullets pierce a bakery.

Next morning
the Moroccan-born owner
bows his head at a makeshift memorial
across from his store
then turns, walks to the door.
Inside he sweeps slivers of glass,
tapes holes in the store front window.
Then he kneads white dough,
shapes loaves, lets rise, bakes bread.

Sweet goodness sprinkles streets,
the shock breathes.

 

Spilled Wishes

Left hand grabs the brown bottle
right twists plastic cap
glued to a cork. Plug squeaks
above twelve-year-old scotch
where the whiskey waits
to breathe
decanting
like a genie
trapped in stuffy air.
She asks what she can grant.
Knuckles knock the glass
before I answer.

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Salvatore Marici’s poetry has appeared forthcoming in Toasted Cheese, Descant, Spillway, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, Earth’s Daughter and many others magazines and anthologies. Marici has written a poetry book review for Toasted Cheese. He has a chapbook, Mortals, Nature and their Spirits, and the book Swish Swirl & Sniff (both Ice Cube Press). Ice Cube Press scheduled to publish his third book in spring 2017. Marici served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and he is a civil servant retiree as an agronomist. Email: redwineandgarlic[at]yahoo.com

Three Poems

Poetry
Michael Paul Hogan


Photo Credit: Chris Devers/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Cape Cod

Atlantic-facing, Eastern seaboard,
the white-framed houses are splashed and flattened
before the wind. Their galvanised metal windows
have a snow-coming brightness,
a lathered razor’s edge,
open and angled
like a Cubist painting.

Along the waterfront
the men wear thick white sweaters and woollen caps
that contrast strangely with their still-suntanned faces.
Their thigh-high rubber boots are blistered with fish scales
and they practise an economy of language,
staccato and functional,
an index of first lines.

The sunlight is pale, the color
of whiskey with too much water…

This is the transitory gap
between fall and winter. The oilskin-yellow and orange leaves
caulk the New England gravestones, clustered
like oyster shells above the town, and even the sails
of the Atlantic fishing fleet
have a chiseled edge, white
as the whalebone, tall as the harpoon.

 

Interiors

I / The Garden of Allah

The evening has smoothed itself out
like cellophane. The girl across the court
talks on the telephone in her underwear;
talks from room to room, disappearing
and reappearing, as though performing

in two plays at once: now angry, now
pleading. An actress with two leading roles
and an audience of two: one listening, the
other watching… I light a cigarette and,
strangely, she does the same. We smoke together

across the silence of the courtyard and
it’s listening she’s doing now, half-sitting
on the back of a canework chair, half naked,
twisting the telephone cord around her hand
as though reeling her lover in.

 

II / Valldemossa

Typewriting at two a.m.
I listen to the spatter of the rain
against the leaves. The air slips cool
and eel-like through the open windows,
leaving a film of moisture on the keys.

Three a.m. Four… I think of Chopin
composing his preludes at Valldemossa,
can almost smell the wet orange trees,
and find myself playing the Corona
in time to the sound of raindrops on the leaves.

There is something unreal about morning
when the night has been seen through towards it.
I smoke a cigarette and watch
the world develop like a photograph,
rippling into focus through the rain.

 

III / Manhattan

The dress she wore shone like a movie screen
before the movie. Like parachute silk.
Or the label on a bottle of vodka.
A collapsed star
absorbing color.

She was alone, that much was obvious
from the wary looks the other women gave her,
but her detachment was something deeper,
the loneliness of the vampire,
of Dracula’s daughter.

I watched her across the room,
holding but not drinking a pale blue cocktail
and staring intently at a (genuine) Mondrian
as though recognizing
her own abstraction.

 

Circus

This is a high-wire act.
The hawk on the wind’s invisible trapeze
scorns a safety net of heather,

prefers to perform over rock
or risk the juggling harvester,
will not be hurried, but waits

for the perfect moment
then drops
in silent freefall, grips

his struggling partner
and swings back up, triumphant,
to the tent’s blue apex.

The act is done.

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Michael Paul Hogan is a poet, journalist and literary essayist whose work has featured extensively in the USA, UK, India and China. His poetry has appeared in over thirty literary magazines and in five collections, the most recent of which, Chinese Bolero, illustrated by the great contemporary Chinese painter Li Bin, was published in 2015. He currently lives in England and is working on a new collection of poems. Email: michaelpaulhogan[at]yahoo.co.uk

Two Poems

Poetry
John Grey


Photo Credit: Stéphanie Crombé/Flickr (CC-by)

The Hustlers

He’s out there on the sidewalk.
determined to save all souls.
I drop a quarter in his cup
but I refuse his pamphlet.
I never took Jesus for a beggar.
Or someone who grabs my arm,
regales me to repent.
I’m in a hurry, I tell him.
He replies that there’s no hurry
in eternity.
Yes, and my boss
only thinks he’s God.

A block further
and some guy’s handing out pamphlets
to a strip club.
It’s easier to take one
than be badgered.
It finds its way
into the nearest trash bin.

And let’s not forget
the restaurant owner
who’s on the sidewalk
poking a menu in my face.
Or the guy selling knockoff handbags.
Or watches. Or art books.
Or his sister for all I know.

This city figures it needs to
be in my face.
Then I pass a woman I’d like to know better.
She’s the first one all day
who shrinks from the sight of me.

I got little money
and everybody wants it.
I got a lot of love
but there’s no walking those streets.

 

The Female Poet in the Book Store

She read what seemed to be
an enormous number of her poems,
but there were none that showed
any insightful observation of society.
If her work was any guide,
she was indifferent to the outside world.
There were enough words in her own condition
to fuel a lifetime of poetry.

She shared with us her addictions,
her broken love affairs,
her deadly relationship with her family,
even the travails of her monthly period.
Defeated most times, angry often,
unrelentingly pessimistic
and with body parts to match,
she was like a patient
in an operating theater
who does the cutting open herself.
Blood and bile,
spit and choler,
we got everything bar her stomach contents.

Of course, I applauded
when she was done.
It helps set a guy apart
from whoever he’s applauding.
Then I bought one her books.
Surprisingly,
her intestines were not included.

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John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review. Email: jgrey10233[at]aol.com

Little Murders

Poetry
Liz Dolan


Photo Credit: Ed Schipul/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

In the summer of soap
you are ninety-nine
and 44/100% pure-hearted,
Your feet barely
sweep the floor.
You sit tall and
listen. Nothing you do measures up.

Each week you begin again
with a fresh bar of Ivory
carving the head,
breast, wings, the beak.

Sweat clouds your glasses.
Your fingers stiffen, bleed.
Bearing your wingless gift home,
you dig in your nails and scrub
from your hands the ruby stains.

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Liz Dolan’s poetry manuscript, A Secret of Long Life, nominated for a Pushcart, has been published by Cave Moon Press. Her first poetry collection, They Abide, nominated for The McGovern Prize, Ashland University, was published by March Street. An eight-time Pushcart nominee and winner of Best of the Web, she was a finalist for Best of the Net 2014. She won The Nassau Prize for Nonfiction, 2011 and the same prize for fiction, 2015. She has received fellowships from the Delaware Division of the Arts, The Atlantic Center for the Arts and Martha’s Vineyard. Email: lizrosedolan[at]comcast.net

Confined to Thought

Poetry
Holly Day


Photo Credit: Oliver Quinlan/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

If all of our conversations existed only on postcards, if we only
communicated through tiny messages wrapped around the legs of pigeons, if
we were only allowed to speak to one another in carefully-planned semaphore
then, perhaps, we would work. These things we say to one another
need too much planning, carry too much weight for spontaneous voice.
These things are too heavy to be propelled by irresponsible breath.

If you could only give me the time, I could formulate an answer to your accusations
write them down on origami paper, fold them into a swan
push it across the kitchen sink to you as I wash the dishes. Your retort
could come to me in pre-ordered letters of airplane exhaust
spread across the sky, where they make perfect sense.

If this was how we talked, it would be so quiet in this house.
I could concentrate on all of the things that make you so perfect to me
your smell, the way you walk, the feel of your hands
rough against my back. I could hold my tongue long enough
for the tulip bulbs and crocuses out in the garden
to push through all those layers of frozen dirt
to sprout and bloom
and scream for me.

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Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Oyez Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, while her recently published books include Music Theory for Dummies (3rd edition), Piano All-in-One for Dummies, The Book Of, and Nordeast Minneapolis: A History. Email: lalena[at]bitstream.net

Strive Toward the Light

The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Stephanie “Baker” Lenz


Photo Credit: Stephanie Lenz

When the sun came up on Wednesday, November 9, I was standing on a balcony overlooking the western end of the Seven Seas Lagoon. I’d tried to sleep the night before but my husband wanted to watch the election returns. I stirred in the wee hours, heard the phrase, “his acceptance speech,” said to myself, “I reject this,” and rolled over to get more sleep.

It didn’t work so well.

My ten-year-old son woke first and he was crushed to learn that his candidate hadn’t won. He feared going back to school, partly because he’d been a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton and partly because the new president-elect had mocked a disabled reporter and he thought his classmates would feel freer to mock his autism.

My daughter woke early for her, all ready to celebrate with a day at Walt Disney World. She thought I was playing a poor practical joke. We had to turn on CBS This Morning; she wouldn’t believe it until Norah O’Donnell confirmed it for her.

Days before, we’d decided that on one of the two days we’d be spending at Disney Studios (one of the four theme parks of the Walt Disney World Resort), we’d all wear our Star Wars gear. As we dressed, we decided it would be that day. My husband and I had matching T-shirts: Leia and Han silhouettes overlaid with “I love you” and “I know,” respectively. I did my hair in halfhearted Leia buns, did my daughter’s unruly hair in a three-looped Rey style (which became Leia buns by the end of the day).

I saw Star Wars when I was 5, in the summer of 1977. I’d read the comic books and I had a handful of the toys already (Leia, Luke, Darth Vader, and Obi-Wan Kenobi) but I was still spellbound. I fell in love with Han Solo and decided I wanted to be Princess Leia. Last December, I took my kids to see The Force Awakens and watched my daughter be inspired by Rey in the same way.

The first thing we encountered after orienting ourselves in the park was the hourly March of the First Order, where Captain Phasma marches her troops from the park entrance to a stage. Phasma demands allegiance from the gathered tourists—some of whom cheered and some of whom raised lightsabers in defiance—then marches back, all set to the foreboding Imperial March.

Well, I said to myself, at least we got to see a woman in charge.

After that, we decided to do a character meet-and-greet and get it out of the way before the park got too crowded. Choosing Dark Side before Light Side, we met Kylo Ren, an impressive character who used the movie character’s voice in a set of available phrases and interactions. But by that point, I was not feeling it when it came to Dark Side characters. The PhotoPass photographer snapped me digging in my heels, hands on hips, telling Ben Solo to call his mother (Leia) because she worries. It’s my new Twitter avatar.

Our Light Side character was Chewbacca. I knew we’d be seeing him because we’d run into some friends in the Dark Side line who’d already visited the Light Side. My friend recommended a Wookiee hug—she was headed back for a second one—and I took her advice when we met Chewie.

We browsed the movie props, met a Jawa, shopped in the gift shop and basically just soaked in the energy of being surrounded by people with a common, geeky interest. Before lunch, we went to a short compilation film about the Jedi Path, complete with the warnings about the temptations of the Dark Side of the Force: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

The last Star Wars themed thing we did at the parks that day was to ride Star Tours, a 3D, motion-simulated flight in a vehicle that creates realistic sensations of movement through space. It’s different set of destinations every time you ride it but the theme is the same: one of your fellow riders is a rebel spy (“I’m The Rebel Spy” T-shirts are in the gift shop) and Darth Vader is trying to use the Dark Side of The Force to capture and punish all riders on the shuttle. Of course, the Light Side prevails and you’re delivered safely to a rebellion or resistance destination. The moral of the story, as you often find in the Star Wars universe, is that the Light shines upon those who resist the Dark.

I don’t know if my propensity toward rebellion came before or after the character of Princess Leia entered my life. I didn’t have much to rebel about before first grade except meatloaf (again) or wanting to pick my own clothes for school.

My kids aren’t particularly rebellious, even though I encourage them to be. What they both do have is a quiet courage that gets them through everything from a normal school day to a week-long vacation full of overwhelming sights and smells that could trigger a meltdown at any moment.

In the days following the election, inspired by our day at Disney Studios, I leaned heavily on my hero Leia both as inspiration for myself and for my kids. Leia never sat back and let things happen to her or around her unless there was no other option. Leia was always assessing her surroundings, noting whose talents could be utilized or what escape routes were available, creating plans with limited resources, and recruiting new rebels to her cause. Leia acted and had no time for words without action behind them. She’s a war-weary general now but she came into our consciousness as a clever politician.

Pop culture doesn’t look kindly on female characters who are bold, take charge, and have little time for romance. Sure, there are occasional heroines we can look to as examples (see comic books and sci-fi especially) but very few female characters have these traits inherent to their character in and out of difficult situations and not just when it’s called for. Women in fiction often must “pay” for being outspoken or for making a difficult choice (even Leia, objectified after breaking Han out of the Carbonite).  Unfortunately, this sentiment carries over into real life too. You might find an article praising an actress who juggles her career and family life but you’ll find many more articles questioning whether everyday women can “have it all” or asking who suffers when women balance work and family, professional and personal goals. Single women are shamed for being single. Single mothers are shamed for having children outside of marriage. Childfree women are shamed for not wanting or not being able to have children. Working mothers are shamed for working. Mothers who work full time caring for their families are shamed for not working outside the home.

It seems America will be led by a man who said that working women getting pregnant is an “inconvenience” for business (part of his long history of objectification). He encourages people to hate and revels in his own hate. He demands allegiance and punishes those who don’t supplicate. He promises military might in exchange for diminished freedom. He plays upon fear to gain popularity. Forbes and Daily Kos compared him to a Sith Lord; the Forbes article appeared nearly a year before the election.

My kids continued to ask why so many people—not a majority but more than expected—would vote for someone like the man he continues to portray himself to be. The best reply I could come up with is that fear affects choices, that if I had to guess, I’d say that some people voted out of fear whether they recognized it as fear or not. As we know, fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Fear is the path to the Dark Side.

For as much darkness as there can be—either for one person, a nation, a planet, or a galaxy—there will be light. It’s tempting to stay in darkness or to let fear control or suppress action. But what would Princess Leia do? Act. Rebel. Lead. Speak truth to power. Retain compassion. Be resolute. Control what you can, even in the face of fear. Strive toward the Light.

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Editor’s Note: This essay was composed before the passing of writer and actor Carrie Fisher and is dedicated to her memory.

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Email: baker[at]toasted-cheese.com