Tag Archives: literary magazine

Jeff Friedman

Strip Poker

My lover shuffles the deck, fanning the cards into a bridge. The cards arc like a rainbow, then fly wildly through the air like fish hurling out of the water into the mouths of bottled-nosed dolphins that leap to catch them in their hungry mouths.

The cards land on the table as full houses or runs of clubs. I take off my shoes, my sox, my Sherriff’s badge while she leans in, giving me a peek at her breasts and her valley of cleavage, and a bead of sweat glistens in the shadow of the valley. I take off my shirt, my undershirt, all my chains and Jewish bling.

“What’s next,” she asks as a royal flush shines on the table. I take off my jeans, and she loosens her waves of thick brown hair, and removes the cream colored blouse over her yellow crop top.

“Just to make you feel better,” she says.

We live and dress in layers, I think, but now there’s not much between me and the world. “You’re a real hustler,” I say, a card shark.

“More of a magician,” she answers and waves her hands over the cards, “Presto,” as they open on the table, 4 aces. Now I remove my striped boxer knits. She rotates her index finger in circles, and I do several full turns.

“Now what,” I ask.

“Let’s keep going, she says and deals another hand, then another and another and another until off come the tattoos spreading across the floor: an orange crossbow, a wolf’s head, a Moorish façade, three neon snakes dancing, a fountain of coins, and the complete Dead Sea scrolls in microscopic print, and a map of the 80s. She turns over the cards until I discard my costume of flesh, my bones, my fountains of blood and step out of myself into air.
“One more hand?” she asks.

Dybbuk

When the dybbuk knocked on the door, we at first didn’t answer. “Should we let him in,” my wife whispered. I shook my head.

“But he might be a good dybbuk,” she said.

“A dybbuk is a dybbuk,” I answered. But he pounded on the door so hard it began to crack. “Come in,” I said and shut the door.

Before I could ask him to put up the cash for a new door, it repaired itself, the cracks disappearing. He looked like an ordinary dybbuk, a sparse thatch of hair, a simpering grin, a yellow light in his eyes. “Don’t you recognize me,” he asked. We looked at each other and then back at him. “I’m your Uncle Morty.”

“I don’t have an Uncle Morty,” my wife replied. “I don’t either,” I added.

“You look like family,” he said and pulled out his cellphone, tapping on the GPS. “Oops, right street, wrong country.” Now he had a warm smile on his face. “I’m your aunt Esther’s brother.”

“Who’s got an aunt Esther?” we answered. “Small world,” he said. “It’ll come back to you.”

He sniffed the air, smelling the brisket and potatoes roasting. “The table’s set for three. You must have been waiting for me to arrive. When will dinner be ready? I need to freshen up.”

I held my arm out straight to stop him from going any farther, but he laughed and passed through me, vanishing. We heard cabinets slamming and the refrigerator opening and closing.

A moment later he stood at the table pouring three glasses of wine. “Where did you get that bottle of wine?” I asked.

He raised his glass: “Dybbuks should stick together.” Reluctantly, my wife and I touched our glasses and drank the wine.

~~
Jeff Friedman has published six poetry collections, five with Carnegie Mellon University Press, including Pretenders (2014), Working in Flour (2011) and Black Threads (2008). His poems, mini stories and translations have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, New England Review, The Antioch Review, Poetry International, Flashfiction.net, Hotel Amerika, Flash Fiction Funny, Plume, Agni Online, The New Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Smokelong Quarterly, The Vestal Review, and The New Republic and numerous other literary magazines. Dzvinia Orlowsky’s and his translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. Friedman and Orlowsky were awarded an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship for 2016.

 

Kelli Russell Agodon

Overcrowded With Ghosts

My nights are packed with mourning—barn swallow in the closet, fishhook attached to its beak.

I once had a sister named Hazard, we daydreamed about orchids, I washed the blood out of her hair.

My nights are packed with panic—thunderstorm in the west of my brain, earthquake beneath my ribs, someone I know is dying, had died, is holding the gate open for death, but death is sleeping on the porch.

Is this the moth my sister longed for? Moth becomes mother becomes a suicide
in the flowers. Orchid. Greenhouse.

When my sister died it wasn’t because she was brokenhearted, instead it was a cancer
that wouldn’t let her swallow. It wasn’t because she grew up without a mother, but because her body grew too much. Like blossoms. Like tumors.

My nights are packed with lightning. Ghost storms of the past, someone whispering, Who’s next? The room is dark with worry. My phone blinks on the nightstand, my sister blinking in the stars.

Fairytale in Fractures

1.
Sometimes through the darkness you can see the bioluminescence in the waves, an ocean of constellations, someone moving a magic wand through the seawater. There was no light streaming through the castle window, but the moat glistened. Everything that shouldn’t glow was glowing, everything that didn’t want to be touched was being touched, and when you disturb the plankton it shines for a moment.

2.
I leave out the part when I was sixteen and my friend took me into the back bedroom of his castle. And instead, I tell you how later that night I walked two miles down railroad tracks carrying a puppy I‘d found, guessing he’d been abused or tossed from a car. I leave out the part where I was hurting and instead focus on the moonlight shadowing Puget Sound, how I knew another train was coming by the ripples in water, how the bioluminescence stayed by my side all night. I leave out the part where he pushed me down on his sister’s twin bed and instead focus on walking to the only vet still open after midnight.

3.
Sometimes in the darkness you can’t see the darkness, like when a friend is no longer a friend, but then, we didn’t have a name for it, like someone moving a wand through the seawater—everything that shouldn’t be known is known, and if you injure the plankton that part of it will die.

4.
I leave out the part where I left the castle, because there never really is a castle and instead tell you the easiest way to stop suffering is to find something more hurt than you are and carry it near your heart for many miles. I won’t describe to you the villains, who are probably not villains in other people’s lives. I won’t go into the details of days/weeks/years after, how long it took to trust again, but will say—I set the puppy in a towel on the receptionist’s lap then washed the blood off of mine. Sometimes we have to walk home alone on railroad tracks. Sometimes we have to do our best to fight off a prince. But because the world hopes for happy endings, I will tell you—the dog and I both survived.

~~

Kelli Russell Agodon is a poet, writer, and editor from the Pacific Northwest. She’s the author of six books, most recently, Hourglass Museum (Finalist for the Washington State Book Award in Poetry & the Julie Suk Poetry Prize) & The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice. She is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press where she works as an editor and book cover designer. Her work has appeared in magazines such as The Atlantic, New England Review and O, The Oprah Magazine. Kelli is also the Co-Director of the Poets on the Coast writing retreat as well as an avid paddleboarder, mountain biker, and hiker. She lives in a sleepy seaside town a floating bridge & a ferry ride away from Seattle. www.agodon.com / www.twosylviaspress.com

 

Matthew Minicucci

Kappa

It’s raining again, you say. Near flow and no-slip. Car on the curvature of space and time and boxed wine. Here: the clear empty well of a disappointed glance. New glacier. Gravitation and some brief disturbance of co-habitation. Volume as a function of change in pressure and stress. What a fucking mess.

By which I mean these voices long-graveled. By which I mean a singular sort of silence caught in the distribution of moments: steel fixed joint; live load at an adjacent point. All of it indeed a moving, variable weight.

Factor this, solve for that. Say for any cardinal along the road, Z is true. Z might be number of beats possible by each wing divided by miles not migrated. Or how it’s always a sad, sad distance to one special, sharp-crested mate; that tiny brown sweater she always likes to wear in winter.
~~
Matthew Minicucci is the author of two collections of poetry: Translation (Kent State University Press, 2015), chosen by Jane Hirshfield for the 2014 Wick Poetry Prize, and Small Gods, forthcoming from New Issues Press in 2017. He is the recipient of fellowships and awards from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Wick Poetry Center, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received his MFA. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from numerous journals and anthologies, including Best New Poets 2014, Blackbird, Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, and The Southern Review, among others.

 

Amelia Martens

Some Day We Will be Scientists, or Farmers

 

We have begun the experiments. Peek-a- Boo Birdhouse, with two-way mirror so the
girls can spy on chirpy hatchlings, watch cartoons, and cry. Next comes the Roots-
Vue Farm Kit, dirt pellets fluffed to life by fork and seven cups warm water. The Egg
Carton Garden, with optimistic beans. Our refrigerator monitors a series of magnetic
hypotheses, obscured by coupons and photos of babies who no longer exist. All the
while our house spins slowly through space; the dog in the yard is in his eighth
rotation between ball and treat, between fence and oblivion. From the moon, Earth
is aglow in blue flame. We are observed by satellites of dead stars, as if, by
prediction, we will rise up and be absolved.

~~

Amelia Martens is the author of The Spoons in the Grass are There
To Dig a Moat (Sarabande Books, 2016), a book of prose poems selected
for the 2014 Linda Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature. She met her
husband in the IU MFA program; their collaborative projects include a
reading series, a literary journal, and two daughters.

Pedro Ponce

The Library Shelves of Babel

The Library’s closure went largely unremarked, apart from a segment or two on the nightly news. Our screens filled with colored bars charting the inevitable: Maintaining books was too expensive. The city budget had been slashed. Key supporters had left the Library Board. In the live shot from downtown, the lights of the front lobby streaked the pavement beyond, despite the hour. Such waste was precisely what led city auditors to recommend closure, noted the reporter, pushing fruitlessly for effect at the pane of a sliding door.

Many of our last Library visits were years ago, for school, and these we remembered for reasons having nothing to do with the Library itself—the novelty of leaving class in the middle of the day, the teacher’s distraction as we boarded the bus, our chatter ignored as she counted heads, the free boxed lunch sealed with the arched golden emblem familiar from birthday parties. Perhaps we were, briefly, enthralled by the taxidermy displays on the second floor, the moose and calves grazing at the base of a waterfall, the shadows of snake and badger against the starkness of desert sand. But soon enough, we snickered knowingly at the artifice of painted backdrops and plastic vegetation, the anatomy bared in tableaux of nursing animals or prehistoric caves. We looked overhead, as instructed by an associate librarian, at the whale skeleton suspended over the entrance of Science and Technology. Mistaking obedience for attention, he proceeded fastidiously through the specimen’s provenance and natural history. The pallor of rib and mandible blurred as we fixed on the skylight far above, where the sun’s slow tilt teased us with the hours remaining before our release to dusky driveways.

The closure was an unfortunate necessity, we all agreed. Were there any way to stop it, we would certainly do our part. Some of us began petitions and fund drives, even as the first public works vehicles arrived to clear the collections for demolition. We happily lent our signatures and spare change. But when the news reported their failure—often by wide margins—we had to resist the urge to gloat. We had always chafed at the Library’s stillness and sterility. We could see now, not without some shame, that we wanted the Library gone, its vitrines shattered, its artifacts discarded, its volumes surrendered to wind and rain.

The problem started small. As work approached its seasonal apex, as reverie yielded to family routine, it was hard to recall the last time we had scanned the sky for the Library’s tessellated dome, the stilled face of the inset tower clock. From behind treasured picture books read as bribery for sleep, between nightcaps hoisted to televised laughter, we could feel the Library’s vacancy. Nostrils filled with the musk of marbled pages; fingers idled, remembering the crisp cards of the outmoded catalog, the texture of continents as we spun the globe in the street-level atrium. We came to ourselves in slippered feet, peering out through the gaps in closed curtains.

The intrusions proliferated, forming paths the further we pursued them. Over the straps of cocktail dresses and smoking cigars, glanced askance as we checked wallet phones, the ridges of an old volume emerged in our line of vision. Above restaurant booths, in a corner we hadn’t noticed before, a stuffed wombat from the time of Cortez, a twig bearing a hummingbird nest, a ten-cent piece inset for scale. We took our time coming back from the lavatory to confirm what we had seen. Indeed, the book spines and pedestals bore numbered labels typed long before we were born. The City seal appeared in purple ink at the fore edge of closed volumes.

The more we found of the collection—in pawn shop windows, outdoor bazaars, waiting rooms—the more vivid and inscrutable the uncollected, which piled at our feet in windswept detritus, and rose to the sky in towering opacities. The pigments on a pottery shard, the legs of a dung beetle, the oar recovered from the last great disaster at sea, all hinted at a secret order, now dispersed invisibly throughout the quadrants of the city.

Dissembling a growing panic, we approached the city’s representatives themselves. What had happened, we inquired, to the Library’s collections, so vast and comprehensive that a full catalog was never completed? We had no plans to claim any of what remained; to possess a mere volume or artifact would only recall the missing whole.

The contents had been claimed, we were told, before the call abruptly cut.

Popcorn and concession candy staled as we recognized the map pinned with a fictional president’s campaign strategy in the latest war room thriller. Volumes lent credence to law offices, hotel lobbies, bank vestibules, furniture displays. We stared through transparent reflections at the growing array.

We gathered outside the abandoned Library. If we encountered any barriers warning of impending demolition, they fell with little effort. The revolving doors spun smoothly as they gathered us towards the central stairway. We ascended the bowed marble, faster as we reached the top. Before us rose a ziggurat of empty shelves, diminishing to a point far above. The spaces between were wider than we remembered when, as children, we could barely run a finger between the bottom of one shelf and the row of books below. We tested the lowest rung. The surface was firm, withstanding the pressure of hands and feet. With some effort, we folded ourselves into place, nestling back against the dark concrete, the coolness of metal bracing our heads.

~~

Pedro Ponce is the author of Dreamland, a dystopian noir novel that is being published in serial form by the Satellite Collective’s online journal Transmission.