The MFA in Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College

September 3rd, 2015

A Hiccup in Time

I heard it on the radio yesterday.
Scientists have discovered a hole in time,
filled with nature’s hair and empty bottles.
I tried to follow along.

I heard it on the radio yesterday.
Scientists have discovered a hole in time,
filled with nature’s hair and empty bottles.
I tried to follow along.
I imagined walking down a smooth street
and tripping on a lip of concrete—
(the scientists call this lip the event horizon).
Beneath this lip,
a black-mouthed sinkhole opens up—
blacker than the death of a dog.
The hole is infinite but the size of a pinprick—
expansive enough to contain a thousand black suns.
On the other side of the hole,
the sidewalk smooths again.
Everything that falls into this hole disappears
into its mysterious depth:
baby shoes,
love letters,
arguments,
fold in on themselves—
scramble,
and become random particles
never to reemerge.

The story made me feel very small.
Smaller than when I look up at the moon.
I realize I am a mere adhesion
on a thin tissue of time.
I am a postage stamp
on the missing envelope.
I am a floater,
a small pair of wings that forgot how to fly.
I am a cluster of pink buds falling
into a gap of my humility.

 

*

 

Suzanne O’Connell lives in Los Angeles where she is a poet and a clinical social worker. Her work can be found in Forge, Atlanta Review, G.W. Review, Reed Magazine, Permafrost, Mas Tequila Review, The Round, The Griffin, Sanskrit, Foliate Oak, Talking River, Organs of Vision and Speech Literary Magazine, Willow Review, The Tower Journal, Thin Air Magazine, The Evansville Review, Serving House Journal, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Licking River Review. She was a recipient of Willow Review’s annual award for 2014 for the poem Purple Summers. She is a member of Jack Grapes’ L.A. Poets and Writers Collective.

What motivates her to create:
“I write to communicate. It is a conversation first with myself and then hopefully with others. In my career as a therapist, I mostly listen, so this poetry-type of conversation is new and liberating.”

Minimize
August 17th, 2015

2 Poems

Dogs are making human history (right)
When humans deal with dog days (right)
When the sullen, sultry sky witnesses:
Fraud, fervor, frenzy — yes
It is our inner heat that has been
Warming the whole atmosphere
Like Julius’s inflated heart

Seasonal Stanzas

July

Dogs are making human history (right)
When humans deal with dog days (right)
When the sullen, sultry sky witnesses:
Fraud, fervor, frenzy — yes
It is our inner heat that has been
Warming the whole atmosphere
Like Julius’s inflated heart
 

August

With stone fruits
Like plums, apricots, peaches
Ripening rapidly
In this month of the sickle
It is high time to cut open
The secrets of sunlight
In their hardened hearts
Wrapped with the fleshiest
The juiciest season
 

September

In the open fields
Nothing, not even a wish is left
Except bare stems
Deep holes, bald twigs
But behind each closed door
Is a cozy room
private or public, full of
Colored fruits, plump seeds
And overflowing minds
As if all ready for the new school
of thought
 

*
 

Personality Programmed
- Believe it or not, the ancient Chinese 5-Agent Principle accounts for us all.

1.
Metal (born in a year ending in 0 or 1)
- helps water but hinders wood; helped by earth but hindered by fire
he used to be totally dull-colored
because he came from the earth’s inside
now he has become a super-conductor
for cold words, hot pictures and light itself
          all being transmitted through his throat

2.
Water (born in a year ending in 2 or 3)
- helps wood but hinders fire; helped by metal but hindered by earth
with her transparent tenderness
coded with colorless violence
she is always ready to support
or sink the powerful boat
          sailing south

3.
Wood (born in a year ending 4 or 5)
- helps fire but hinders earth; helped by water but hindered by metal
rings in rings have been opened or broken
like echoes that roll from home to home
each containing fragments of green
trying to tell their tales
          from the forest’s depths

4.
Fire (born in a year ending 6 or 7)
- helps earth but hinders metal; helped by wood but hindered by water
your soft power bursting from your ribcage
as enthusiastic as a phoenix is supposed to be
when you fly your lipless kisses
you reach out your hearts
          until they are all broken

5.
Earth (born in a year ending in 8 or 9)
- helps metal but hinders water; helped by fire but hindered by wood
i think not; therefore, I am not
what I am, but I have a color
the skin my heart wears inside out
tattooed intricately
          with footprints of history

 

*

 

Yuan Changming is an eight-time Pushcart nominee and author of five chapbooks, and is the most widely published poetry author who speaks Mandarin but writes in English. Since mid-2005, he has had poetry appear in Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review and 1069 others across 36 countries. With a PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan in Vancouver.

What notivates him to create:
I enjoy playing with whims and words while poetry functions as my personal religion.

Minimize
August 10th, 2015

Millwright

Optical motion sensors
display two thousand dreams
two thousand times a minute.

Optical motion sensors
display two thousand dreams
two thousand times a minute.
Two thousand automatic tongues
lick two thousand labels and
two thousand automatic thumbs
smooth them to the vessels
wherein his dreams, with
muted squeals and giggles
splash and bask as if on
an outing to the lake.

Robot arms extend.
Stainless hands with
rubber fingerprints lift
and drop the vessels
into cardboard cases.
A shuddering conveyor,
stacks on stacks on palettes
in a warehouse mind.

The millwright’s lips,
sculpted as if in clay,
nest on a pillow, flutter and snore,
a noise like a window fan
with a stuttering blade.

*

Jesse Minkert lives in Seattle. Wood Works Press published a letterpress collection of his microstories, Shortness of Breath & Other Symptoms, in 2008. His work appears in the Georgetown Review, the Chaffin Journal, Studio One, the Minetta Review, Randomly Accessed Poetics, Confrontation, Paper Nautilus, Mount Hope, Floating Bridge Review, and Harpur Palate.

What motivates him to create:
“My father was an artist and my first teacher when I was twelve years old. Up until that time, I had no talents that would single me out from others my age, but when I learned to draw, I found a new person in me. I pursued the visual arts through two degrees, but a threat to my vision suggested that I should turn in a new direction, so I began to write more. At this point, creativity is like an autonomic function in my body. If I’m not working on something, I tend to wither, and at my age, withering is not much of a metaphor.”

Minimize
August 1st, 2015

Notes from the War, Written

by soldiers seen not heard.
Swinging their wild oats.

by soldiers seen not heard.
Swinging their wild oats.
Breathing in each day,
breaking it hard, while

the rocket seeds start
to open, then shut,
lives and afterlives
deferred.

Out here there’s a story
written on every man’s skin:
the text of his dreams,
color of rusty gold,
cushion for his fall.

 

*

 

Eileen Hennessy is a native of Long Island and now lives in and loves New York City. Translator of foreign-language documentation and books on art history into English from several other West European languages, she works as an adjunct associate professor in the translation studies program at New York University. Her poems and short stories have been published in numerous literary journals, including Confluence, The New York Quarterly, Paintbrush, The Paris Review, Western Humanities Review, and others. This Country of Gale-force Winds, a collection of her poems, was published by NYQ Books in 2011.

 
 

What motivates her to create:

“I’m motivated by an intense internal pressure to write that feels physical. The pressure is so powerful that I don’t have to engage in ‘maneuvers’ to get myself started—I sit down and start writing, without further ado. At times during the day I’ll feel a sudden pressure or urge: An unfinished poem is demanding to be worked on, immediately. The pressure is so intense that I have to stop what I’m doing (luckily I’m self-employed!) and spend at least a few minutes or a half-hour working on it. I notice that I’ve used the word ‘pressure’ four times here. I could have used the word ‘drive’ or ‘urge,’ but the sensation of physicality that overcomes me at such times dictated the use of the word indicating a physical state.”

Minimize
July 30th, 2015

Dominatrix

an old man calls me
on the phone each night;
i wear doves on my feet

to please him

an old man calls me
on the phone each night;
i wear doves on my feet

to please him

& cover myself with light
soft like curtains. somewhere, i am still
a virgin

{

ashamed of the word
woman

of animals that eat
their young

to preserve some
youth that never
existed

women are
destructive

especially when
they are not effortlessly

skinny

as pine needles
still stuck to bark

}

in my belly i carry
accumulation of years

& fights

as careless as
evolution

turning daisies
to coyotes

to humans who sixty
years took to learn
the vehicle

& sometimes i pick up
the keys not knowing
what they’re for

*

 

Joanna C. Valente is sometimes a mermaid and sometimes a human. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014) and received her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Her second full-length collection Marys of the Sea is forthcoming from ELJ Publications in 2016. She also has two chapbooks, The Gods Are Dead & Xenos, forthcoming from Deadly Chaps Press and Imaginary Friend Press. Some of her work appears, or is forthcoming, in The Huffington Post, Columbia Journal, among others. She founded Yes, Poetry in 2010, and is the Managing Editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Her ghost resides at her website: joannavalente.com.

What motivates her to create:
“Telling truth, empowering the voiceless, advocating for women are all my motivations for writing.”

Minimize
June 5th, 2015

Refrigerator Mom

Mother’s first four children were all appliances. Cuisinart was the oldest, then came the Microwave twins. Everyone assumed I’d be the last. Mine had been a difficult birth; Mom’s screams had caromed off the walls of the warehouse for a day and a half. One of the washing machines told me in confidence that he’d …

Mother’s first four children were all appliances. Cuisinart was the oldest, then came the Microwave twins. Everyone assumed I’d be the last. Mine had been a difficult birth; Mom’s screams had caromed off the walls of the warehouse for a day and a half. One of the washing machines told me in confidence that he’d been afraid her hinges would pop off.

“You almost finished her,” he said. “She was at the repair shop for three days. It was touch and go for a while, but she came back good as new.”

After I came along, Mom kept her doors closed for a long time, but shortly after my sixth birthday, we began noticing small changes. Her lights were shutting off for seconds at a time and there was an odd rumbling in her ice maker, and we all knew she was storing something extra.

Mom was mum on the subject of our fathers, but we had our suspicions. She could never resist a sale. The twins arrived a few weeks after a special on microwaves. Space heaters had been marked down twenty-five percent two months before I pushed my way past her water chute. The early days before my first plug-in are hazy, but I have a vague memory of hearing Mom sigh when a particularly sleek, tricked-out model was taken off the shelf.

The origins of her fifth child, however, were a complete mystery. His birth wasn’t met with the usual round of congratulations from the other machines. No one had a clue what to say or do. We’d never seen anything like my little brother – a small, hairy, mewling creature who was warm and wet to the touch. Everyone just stood around staring until Vacuum flipped him over to check for a battery pocket or electric socket, but the only openings on my brother were small holes at each end that didn’t conform to any plug shape I’d ever seen. When I brushed up against him, he left a greasy smudge on my shiny black surface and I didn’t go near him for a long time after that. Mom released a blast of water from her filter to clean him off and he let out a howl that rose to the ceiling and stayed there, like a dark cloud.

The twins, Cuisinart and I were all more or less able to fend for ourselves after our first power surge, but the new baby remained helpless long after Mom disgorged him. It took him days just to roll over. Unable to turn back again, he just laid there, his four little legs flailing in the air, until Mom managed to nudge him over with her foot grill.

After the initial shock, Mom warmed to the new baby, so much so that her ice cube maker couldn’t maintain its proper temperature and began to leak on a regular basis. From time to time, I had to clean up after her, turning myself on high until the water dried.

“My little Furball,” she would wheeze, flapping her right door open and shut to keep him cool.

“You’re going to damage yourself if you keep that up,” Cuisinart warned, but Mom ignored him. In spite of, or maybe because of, his strangeness, she seemed to love our new little brother best of all. At night, she would scoop up the fuzzy creature in her salad bin and rock him in and out in vain attempts to put him to sleep.

“She never did that for me,” Cuisinart grumbled.

“By the time you were his age, you were already blending and mixing,” I reminded him.

Furball wriggled around all night, but spent most of the morning curled up like a light bulb filament. As the days leached into weeks, I stopped resenting my little brother. Watching his daily struggles softened my springs. Nothing came easily to him; breathing, eating, sleeping all seemed to require a colossal effort that made his whole body quiver. The rest of us used grills and platforms to avoid contact with the ground, but he would purposely lower his pink, squishy belly to the floor and rub against the pocked concrete, emitting strange little grunts as he rolled around in the grit and dirt. When he was done, he would sit up on his back legs and pick off bits of dust and muck with his front ones, occasionally popping some small bit of something into his mouth.

For my mother’s sake, the other machines tried to ignore my brother’s odd habits, but I was strangely compelled by him. Mother often told me that when I was young, I was fascinated by clipped wires and would poke and pull them even if they were sharp or hot. It was the same with Furball. I couldn’t stop watching him, no matter how painful or embarrassing his behavior. He moved in small, cautious steps and sought out dark, cramped spaces. He clawed at holes as if he was trying to bury himself alive. Some days, he kept digging even after he’d cut himself. Then he’d waddle back to wherever Mom was, leaving behind bright, red streaks to mark his trail.

“He’s going to rust over before his first year,” Cuisinart predicted, “and I’m guessing his warranty doesn’t cover self-inflicted damage.”

“I don’t think it’s rust,” I whispered, careful to keep my whirr down so the others wouldn’t hear.

“Then what is it?”

“I don’t know. Something worse.”

“What could be worse than rust?”

I saw a few of the dishwashers leaning toward us so I didn’t answer. Relations with our neighbors were bad enough. Whatever sympathy Furball had generated when he first arrived had evaporated without a trace. When they thought I had shut down for the day, I sometimes heard the others gossiping about our family, blaming Mother for the stain on the community.

“She should have gotten rid of it before it slid down her chute,” Coffee Maker hissed one night, steam coming out of his cover so fast and thick it soaked his filter lining.

Convection Oven agreed. “She had to have known something was wrong. A mother always knows.”

“Killing it would have been a mercy. What kind of life is that – slithering around like a silverfish, sponging up crumbs and spiders.”

“Please, not while I’m baking.”

They changed the subject to the upcoming shift in daylight savings time, which required everyone to re-set their clocks a week earlier than usual.

Cuisinart has tried to convince me that I imagined the whole thing, but I swear I saw Coffee Machine lean over to pour boiling water over Furball a few days later. My little brother was on the floor licking himself at the time. Like so much else about him, Furball’s self-cleaning mechanism was painfully inefficient. No matter how much he contorted his limbs, he couldn’t reach all of his parts. And somehow he smelled worse after a cleaning than before, as if all he’d managed to do was add a layer of fresh must to his already rank odor.

His cleaning cycle took forever to complete. He sometimes worked on the same spot so long I was afraid he’d rub off his glossy, black finish, which was his only attractive feature. Ordinarily, he would turn at the slightest noise or motion, like a highly sensitive thermostat that adjusted to the tiniest change in the atmosphere, but when he was washing, he shut down. Anyone out to harm him would have waited for that part of his day to make a move.

Since it was an unusually warm April afternoon and I didn’t have much to do, I noticed Coffee Maker fill himself up past his high water mark. At first I thought it was a mistake, but then I saw him lean to one side to accommodate the extra liquid. I decided it was some kind of experiment. The last few years had been rough on the coffee machines. They were required to perform all kinds of new tricks – steam cream, foam milk, melt chocolate. I’d heard Coffee Maker complain bitterly about having to keep up with all the new fads.

“You have no idea what the pressure is like,” he’d fumed more than once. “I have recurring nightmares about spontaneous combustion. It’s gotten so bad I had to cut down on the caffeine.”

When I saw him shuffle to the edge of his shelf just before he was about to boil over, I knew he wasn’t testing his liquid capacity. I blew my alarm whistle as loudly as I could. He jumped back at once. The hiss of steaming water hitting the floor was smothered by the fuss over my safety valve going off. By the time I managed to assure the others I was alright, all signs of Coffee Maker’s crime had dried up. Since I didn’t have any evidence, I kept my suspicions to myself. Cuisinart was the only one I confided in and he dismissed my concerns with a single turn of his blades.

“You overheated,” he whined. “No machine is reliable in that condition.”

“I was fine the night I heard him talking to Convection Oven.”

“Let’s face it, he didn’t say anything the rest of us haven’t thought.”

I kept quiet about Coffee Maker, but it turned out that I wasn’t the only one who had seen him cross the line from thought to action. Furball retreated more and more into the dark, moist edges of the warehouse, sniffing and pawing at the ground as though he was searching for something. Every now and again, his head would pop up and he’d bark short, happy barks, but then, moments later, he’d be stretched flat on the floor, like a deflated plastic tube.

He began disappearing for longer and longer periods of time, discovering hidden pockets of filth and damp that none of us would have gone near. At first, Mother panicked whenever he was out of sight for more than a few minutes, but she gradually became accustomed to his absences.

“My baby is growing up,” she would sigh, causing the cubes in her ice maker to shift slightly. She managed to convince us that she’d adjusted to the new independence of her youngest child until the day that he failed to reappear before dark and she blew her light out worrying.

“He’ll be back. You know how he is, always chasing after some dust bunny or piece of lint,” Big Microwave said, but I could tell from his uneven ring tone that even he didn’t buy what he was saying.

Since Cuisinart and I were thinner than our wide-bodied brothers and better able to negotiate narrow spaces, we went out to look for Furball. After an hour or so, I found him crouched up at the back of a packing crate. I signaled to him with my lights, but there was no response. Cuisinart ordered him to come out, but he still didn’t move.

“That’s it,” Cuisinart grunted, gears grinding, “I’m going to get him.”

“Let me do it.” I was afraid Cuisinart might switch into his blend cycle given his mood and the noise would be too much for my fragile little brother. As I inched toward the back of the box, I noticed scratch marks all over the cardboard. Bits of chewed up paper were strewn across the bottom of the crate and it was covered in mouse shit. I couldn’t help wondering if Furball felt some kind of kinship with the rodents that were the bane of the warehouse. Whatever the source of its appeal, he was reluctant to the leave the crate. In the end, I had to drag him out. By the time we brought him back to Mother, she was vibrating from her egg container to her bread box. Streaks of water were running down her sides; I shifted my dial to high to dry her off before she did any permanent damage.

After his discovery of the crates, Furball seemed happier. He slept peacefully for long periods of time. He ate voraciously, gobbling up every cabbage leaf and tomato slice that Mother tipped out of her salad bin. Within weeks, he doubled in size. He no longer tested the floor before taking a step, but covered ground in quick runs, his body a furry blur.

By the end of summer, Furball was no longer the subject of constant speculation. He’d become a fixture of the community, albeit a strange one who didn’t seem to serve any particular function. Life at the warehouse was relatively quiet until the quarterly visit of the exterminator. Since summer was my slow time and I was off a lot, I’d completely forgotten about the seasonal purge. I’ve often wondered if things would have been different if it hadn’t been such a hot, sluggish afternoon and I’d been functioning at a higher capacity, but really what could I have done – sealed Furball in a crate, forced him into storage? By the time his howling woke me up from a deep sleep, it was already too late. Following the keening sound, I found him pawing a pile of dead mice, as if he was trying to wake them up.

He rarely left Mother’s side after that. Every now and then, he would nibble a few bread crumbs, but he didn’t eat enough to sustain a cockroach. His already warm body began to burn. Desperate, Mother scooped him into her ice tray one afternoon to cool his fever, but when she checked on him a few minutes later, he was dead.

At first, she sealed herself up tight, refusing to part with the body. By the fifth day, however, the smell was unbearable and she reluctantly released Furball’s remains. She never recovered from the loss; from that day forward, water ran continually down her sides.

I begged her to activate her cleaning cycle, but she lost all interest in taking care of herself. When the first signs of rust appeared, my brothers and I took pains to hide them, covering Mother’s spots with every magnet we could find, but “Kiss Me I’m Irish” and “West Virginia Is For Lovers” failed to save her. She couldn’t stop leaking. Worse, I don’t think she really tried. It was as though she wanted to pour herself out, drop by drop.

“You and your brothers will be just fine,” she said when I pleaded with her to lower her temperature. My once pristine Mother, who used to reline her shelves every month without fail, was slowly rotting away. When I nuzzled against her, red dust stuck to my surface and powdered the ground. On hot days, when we kept the windows open, the wind blew pieces of her away.

And then she shut down altogether. One by one, my brothers and I pressed against her, hoping to hear the familiar buzz that used to lull us to sleep, but she was gone. The next day, a truck came to take her to the landfill. I knew that I would never stop missing her. Time only repaired the superficial injuries, the cuts and dents that hurt like hell at the time but could be painted over. Real damage couldn’t be fixed.

We reminisced about Mother from time to time, but no one ever mentioned Furball again. It took me a while, but I gradually understood why we were so afraid to acknowledge my brother’s pitifully brief existence. It wasn’t his dampness, his mewling, his weakness – mice and maggots had always been part of our world. What we couldn’t bear was the knowledge that this helpless, hopeless creature had slid out of one of our own, and maybe, just maybe, another Furball was growing inside us, waiting to be born.

*

Amy Bitterman has had short fiction accepted by The Cream City Review, The Literary Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review, The G.W. Review, The William and Mary Review, Switchback, Kerem, Jewishfiction.net, The Crescent Review, Poetica, The Sand Hill Review, Emrys Journal, Folio and Lilith. In 2015, she received a “Special Mention” for the Pushcart Prize for her story “Breeding Grounds”.She currently teaches at Rutgers University.

What motivates her to create: “To be honest, the primary reason I write is that the creative process, for all its frustrations, makes me happy. I love the effort of focusing my thoughts on a specific idea or emotion and then working through the puzzle of trying to find the right words to express that event or feeling.”

Minimize
May 26th, 2015

JOIN US IN NYC

Join us May 31 in NYC as we celebrate our second year building a home for writers, artists & creative minds! There’ll be food. There’ll be drink. There’ll be some damn fine literature We’ll see you there, right? Let us know on Facebook!

Join us May 31 in NYC as we celebrate our second year building a home for writers, artists & creative minds! There’ll be food. There’ll be drink. There’ll be some damn fine literature

We’ll see you there, right? Let us know on Facebook!

Mville Review Presents 2015

Minimize
March 12th, 2015

Cat’s Paw

I’d lost track of how long I’d been living alone, Padre, but some habits die hard so every June I still hauled the beach chairs out of the cellar, mine and Edna’s, wiped away the cobwebs and dust, cleaned off the mildew, then lined them up straight and neat as a firing squad against the …

I’d lost track of how long I’d been living alone, Padre, but some habits die hard so every June I still hauled the beach chairs out of the cellar, mine and Edna’s, wiped away the cobwebs and dust, cleaned off the mildew, then lined them up straight and neat as a firing squad against the wall of the trailer. Get the joke, Padre? Neat as a firing squad. No matter. I liked the view of the mountains from under the carport, especially in the evening when the sun did things to the greenery. I’d take supper in the carport those evenings, setting my plate on Edna’s chair. Nothing ever changed ‘cept for the weather. That was my only visitor, the weather, until Lemmie, short for Lemieux or Lemoine or Lemaire or Lemanger or some name like that, slouched by walking on the shoulder of the road where no one ever walked ‘less their car broke down and they were looking for help.

Lemmie didn’t stop that first time, just trudged by with a nod. I liked a man what respected another man’s privacy. I wished Lemmie did stop that first time ‘cause if he had I would’ve run him off which means you and me wouldn’t be having this chat.

Few weeks later, saw Lemmie again, this time at the Key West. Funny name for a bar in a place where first snow’s October and ice-out comes late May. Some barkeep converted the last unit of a factory row house into an after hours place with plastic pink flamingos and inflatable beach toys shaped like palm trees and sharks and an old fishing net or two and called it the Key West. Even hung a picture of Ernie Hemingway over the bar, telling the factory workers Ernie was an old fishing buddy. I didn’t read more than the next guy, but I recognized Ernie from Life magazine. That’s why I liked Life, the pictures.
Where was I? Lemmie. Right. Anyway, that night Lemmie sat down the far end of the bar, away from the pinball and the juke box and the horny factory girls wondering where their beauty went, sipping Canadian. Not nursing, sipping. Drunks nurse; drinkers sip. Lemmie was a drinker, never looking nowhere but deep into his glass like some special secret was hiding out  under the Canadian. Me, I only drank beer, one or two a night, and there was no secrets at the bottom of the schooners favored by the Key West. No one but me ever noticed how schooners fit the décor of the Key West more than mugs. I mentioned it to Scales, the barkeep when all this went down, and he gave me that look he saves for people he asks to leave against their wishes.

You say get to the point. You in a rush? Well, one thing I got is time, the whole rest of my life as a matter of fact, and stories always expand to fill the time you got.

Speaking of time, it was the time of year for me to take my chairs in for the season. You remember the chairs, mine and Edna’s, in the carport. I always waited for the third frost, more trustworthy sign of winter than some weather man with maps and radar; but third frost came late that year, postponed by one of them long stretches of Indian summer that lingers like a woman’s smell on your skin after one of them nights. When it came though, it came with a vengeance, like waking up the morning after to an empty bed and an empty wallet and knowing you been had. Still, when the sun warmed the chairs enough to melt the frost, I took them in for the season, stacking them behind the furnace which was the warmest place in the cellar, the place where the cat slept. Always had one. That’s why my friends call me Cat, ‘cept for Scales who didn’t call me nothing. The mildew you ask? I could never figure where it came from neither.

One morning shortly later the doorbell rang which confused me ‘cause I didn’t remember what it sounded like; but I figured it out by the second or third ring. Lemmie looked like he hadn’t found much truth in Canadian, but he didn’t smell like he’d been drinking and I’d already made the coffee so I figured there’d be no harm being neighborly and asking him in to share it. What did I know, huh Padre?

If Lemmie was anything he was direct. Said, they say you’re good with ‘lectricity. I just stared into my coffee, not letting on how right he was, asking him if them’s the same they that call me Cat. Lemmie said he’s looking for a good ‘lectrician so I figure he’s working construction and tell him about some of the others, the ones good with wood, plumbing, bricks, drywall, things like that; but Lemmie just shook his head and said he only needed a ‘lectrician and only one at that. Cash pay, Lemmie said.

Lemmie stopped coming to the Key West after that and I didn’t see him around town none. No one did, but then so many people drifted through on their way to or from that strangers didn’t keep their novelty too long. That’s why no one at the Key West remarked ‘bout Lemmie’s absence. Finally, come early November, Lemmie phoned, said to pack for a few days, said he’d pick me up sunrise in the morning. Not an early riser but I needed the jack so I said I’d be ready. I thought about saying adios to Scales since most others just snuck off without saying good-by. Don’t know why I decided ‘gainst it. Might have been different if I had, do you think? Spare me one of those smokes, Padre. Thanks. Always said I’d quit someday. Guess someday’s finally here.

Anyway, Lemmie picked me up and drove me down county to Munroe Falls, the biggest city in the whole county and all, but Lemmie said he’s got more people on his block back in Brooklyn. Big block, I said, but Lemmie he just smiled and said he liked it that way. Person could get lost in Brooklyn, he said. Person could get lost anywhere, I said back. Anyway, I wired the Christmas displays, doing everything ‘cording to code, testing and retesting the connection, the grounds, thinking nothing ‘bout it ‘til I read in the paper how the Mayor was ‘lectrocuted turning on the Christmas lights. Paper figured someone rigged the wiring, did a big write up on crosswiring, front page. Funny, though, it never actually explained what crosswiring was. Just quoted the FBI report how the wires was rigged to send a killer jolt through the switch. Anyway, that’s how I got fingered for the Mayor’s murder.

Next day, Chief arrests me so I tell him about Lemmie and Brooklyn and all, but no one’s seen Lemmie since he returned me back to my trailer and Brooklyn never heard of him. Lot of blocks in Brooklyn, I guess. Chief asks about fingerprints but that coffee cup Lemmie used it’s been washed ten times over. I still had the hundred Lemmie paid me stashed under the living room rug. Hated to part with it, but, as Chief said, I’d have no use for it if he couldn’t turn up a print. Only turned up mine. You know how it goes when you see a big bill like that ‘specially when it’s been a lifetime since the last one. Another joke, Padre. Get it?

You don’t believe me, do you, Padre? No matter. Everyone here’s innocent or they wouldn’t be here. No, I don’t blame the jury. I’d vote the same way. And that lady attorney, she did her damnedest, but, hell, whoever messed with them wires was a damn better ‘lectrician than me.

Regrets? I’d like my last supper in my carport, beach chairs and all, watching the sun do its thing to the greenery. It’s almost the season to take ‘em out. Instead of lettin’ you pick what you want to eat, they ought to let you pick where you eat it. I’d pick the carport, facing the mountains. Hell, they could do me right there soon as I finished. Wouldn’t be so scary then. Well, Padre, thanks for hearing me out. If you ever make it to the Key West, tell Scales Cat said, hey. Tell him I still got eight lives to go.

*

 
S. Frederic Liss, a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize sponsored by University of Georgia Press, has published or has forthcoming 36 short stories and has received numerous awards and other forms of recognition for his short fiction including The Florida Review Editor’s Award for Fiction; James Still Prize for Short Fiction sponsored by Wind; Midnight Sun Award for Fiction sponsored by Permafrost; Third prize in the Arthur Edelstein Prize for Short Fiction; Finalist for the Raymond Carver Award for Short Fiction sponsored by Carve Magazine; and Honorable Mention in the New Letters Literary Award for Fiction and the Glimmer Train June, 2014 Fiction Open. Liss has also been published in The Saturday Evening Post, The South Dakota Review, The South Carolina Review, Dogwood, The Worcester Review, and Fifth Wednesday Journal. In addition, Liss was a finalist in the Bakeless Prize Competition sponsored by Middlebury College and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Liss earned a MFA from Emerson College, Boston, MA and was the recipient of a Grant-in-Aid in Literature from the St. Botolph Club Foundation, Boston, MA where he leads a workshop in writing fiction.  

What motivates him to create:
“I write fiction because I enjoy it. When it stops being fun, I’ll stop writing fiction. This doesn’t mean its easy as enjoyment is often more difficult to attain than disappointment. I appreciate this response may seem selfish compared to those who claim they write fiction to communicate great truths, but it goes to the heart of the matter. Truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.”

Minimize
February 26th, 2015

Diminished

If she comes back from Disneyland,
I want to tell her that desire
is ninety percent of the crime.

If she comes back from Disneyland,
I want to tell her that desire
is ninety percent of the crime.
That we’re both guilty
for not staying madly in love
with each other.
It’s not too late to read old love letters.
How the heart swells to the size of the sorrow.
That you can bleed or burn or fall
when you wish upon the wrong star.

*

Keven McGowan was born and raised in the Plot section of Scranton, PA, he has two chapbooks, Rubric and No Passengers.

What motivates him to create:
“I write for fun and sport. It’s a hunger.”

Minimize
February 18th, 2015

Recipe for Death

Breathe
as much
as possible.

Breathe
as much
as possible.

 

*

 
 

David James has published two books and five chapbooks (most recently, No Way to Stop the Bleeding, Finishing Line Press, 2014). More than thirty of his one-act plays have been produced from New York to California. He teaches at Oakland Community College in Michigan.

 

What motivates him to create:

“Writing is a way to make sense of what’s happening around me, to try to create some order from the blizzard of events, emotions, and time. I agree with Wallace Stevens who said, ‘Poetry is the daily necessity of getting the world right.’ To be truthful, I’d have to change the quote to read ‘weekly necessity’ since I don’t write every day. But it is safe to say if I didn’t write, my life would be messier and more confusing than it is…”

Minimize