Tag Archives: new flash

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

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.

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.

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.

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


Josip Novakovich

Wake Up

My pet peeve, I told my writing class, is a story that starts with, I woke up and . . . Why not start later, in the middle of the morning, with the action? But after my class, at 11:59 a.m., I reconsidered my writing teleology.

How are you, I asked perfunctorily a big football player type of a man on an elevator ride in Sykes Building in Tampa, Florida, at 12:25 p.m., a very clean and glassy structure on the banks of a very dirty and stinky and beautiful river with manatees moving around like bits of geology. The elevator on the way up suddenly decelerated and we sort of levitated, even his cravatted 350 lbs. did, as he opened up his glossy mouth rimmed with oversized overwhite porcelain teeth:

I woke up!

All is well, he woke up, he’s alive, and what more could he ask for? I liked it. Life is good if you wake up.

Have a dental day! He ushered me out of the elevator. Well, that’s another wise one. That means you will be smiling. Will I be smiling?

And now this sultry dawn I remember the man’s response. Not only am I dreaming that I can’t wake up but I have figured out that I can’t, and have tested it. I got up. I got out of bed, and I am stumbling around my apartment, tripping over sleeping cats, and my winter boots, although it’s spring, or so I think, as cherry petals are blowing through the apartment and my daughter, or least I think it’s my daughter, is sneezing in another room, or at least I think it’s another room, but could be another apartment, another time, another universe. It’s too dark for me to see the subtle lily purples of cherry blossoms, and I am breathing too deeply, almost snoring, to sneeze, although of course, before sneezing I would draw a deep breath, and maybe I am sneezing, maybe it’s not my daughter, and someone is crashing the windshield of my black BMW parked on Parker Street in front of the First Baptist Church, and why not Second Baptist, or even nicer, the Last Baptist. And I see through  the window, a man is trying to stop the batter who is smashing my car, but the batter has just hit him on the head and knocked him down, and I still don’t know whether I woke up  or whether I am sticking to my sheets in the Sealy bed. Shouldn’t I run down and rescue the man who has failed to rescue my car, but the intention more than counts, it wounds. If I am not awake I am not only dreaming but nightmaring, and I am not sure I would like to wake up to this, violent drunks and good men, the violent killing the well meaning, and evil winning over the good, unlike in fairy tales and theology and America, in front of the Last Baptist Church. And then I didn’t wake up.


Josip Novakovich is author of three short story collections. He grew up under the authoritarian rule of Marshal Tito in Croatia, studied medicine in Serbia, and in America studied psychology, then creative writing at Vassar and Yale. He now lives in Montreal, where he teaches creative writing at Concordia University.