Submissions: FAQs, Deadlines and What’s Really Up

‘Tis a new year. ‘Tis the time to revamp and re-explain the submissions process. I understand it can be a bit confusing when I have monthly themes going on for most of 2016. I’m not trying to make it difficult; readers and writers alike tend to get excited when there are themes happening, so I wanted to try this as an experiment.

 

 

  1. I don’t understand how to write to a theme. How do I do that? It makes me feel so intimidated. 

 

Well, then, get the theme’s idea out of your head. Wipe that slate clean and write what YOU write and write it well. Send it in (in a word doc PLEASE ::SMILEY FACE::) to me directly at kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com

2. I want to submit to a theme, but what are they? When are they? Can I submit to a later one now? What the hell? 

All valid questions, all valid concerns. Here is the theme schedule:

February: INVISIBILITY (chosen by contributor Kate Jones)

March: WOMEN’S WRITING MONTH (chosen by…me?)

April: LETTING GO (chosen by contributor Hillary Umland)

May: NOSTALGIA (chosen by contributor Gene Farmer)

June: FIRST LOVE (chosen by contributor Christopher Iacono)

July: THE JOURNEY (chosen by contributor Rob True)

August: PERCEPTIONS (chosen by Tino Prinzi)

September: WHAT IF? (chosen by @voimaoy)

You may submit to any of these themes starting January 31st until February 28th. I like to take things one month at a time. SO, I will implore you to submit for WOMEN’S WRITING MONTH and INVISIBILITY MONTH starting NOW. All I need you to do is write the theme you are contributing to in the headline.

March 15th we will re-open for submissions and stay open for an amount of time that is for now TBD, during which time you may also submit to all remaining themes.

3. Do you have a word-count limit? What about margins, etc? 

Dear Lord. We don’t have any of that shit. I refuse to stifle my artists’ creativity by setting stupid margin specifications. Ridiculous. And as for word count, it depends on the piece of work, honestly, man. Flash fiction is really popular with our writers and readers, but then again, so is regular fiction. So, write what YOU write. Attachments are fine. I don’t mind PDFs, but be prepared to send me a word doc of the same thing if we are going to publish you.

4. So, what kind of work do you publish? 

Fiction, non-fiction, essays, poetry, abstract poetry, art. Here at Sick Lit Magazine, we make it our mission for the sky to be our limit. We can do anything when we break down these walls that have been superimposed upon us our entire lives. Fuck formatting. Fuck margins. Throw it out the window and write what other people won’t. Write things that scare you and excite you.

5. Why submit to you? 

Why not? We get international traffic and have an amazing network of supportive writers and artists; and I stand behind all of my writers’ work. It may be diverse as hell, but it should be that way. I am a liberal feminist to the core.

Listen, if you’re a writer, you have a burning talent inside you that needs to get out. Put a pen to paper or put your hands on a keyboard and just go–and don’t censor yourself–not even for a second. The minute you do, you won’t do justice to your characters or your story.

Any suit-wearing moron can string words together in an e-mail and make it sound cheery and half-way motivational. But how many people can convey emotions in a way that make your cheeks flush?

I am here at Sick Lit Magazine to bring REAL writing and REAL literature back into the hands of the public; not mass-marketed, watered-down bullshit that they pedal from “Writer’s Digest.” A recent piece of advice from them to get published was: “No longer is it acceptable for a book to ‘get good’ ten pages in.” Following this advice, we wouldn’t have any of our classics that we know and love today. Following this advice, Catch-22 is out. And how many would-be classics are being passed over because of this line of thinking?

Write with passion, write what you’ve always wanted to, write with soul and stand behind your work.

If I am not a big fan of what you’ve sent me (I’m a real person, I e-mail back, I promise), I’ll tell you edits I’d propose and ask you what else you’ve got. I’m not other literary journals.

 

If you have any other questions, feel free to send them to my e-mail, which again is kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com

Cheers,

Peace and Love,

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

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Keegan McInroe: the Musician, Writer, and the Ultimate Talent.

Sick Lit Magazine: As I listened to your LP [Uncouth Pilgrims] from beginning to end, I heard sounds reminiscent of Robert Earl Keen, Stevie Ray Vaughn all the way over to the other end of the spectrum at Rob Zombie. I love your range and diversity–all of this being said, what largely inspired this range? Many people have compared you to Tom Waits over the years; I think that is largely attributed to the grit and soul in your voice. However, I think in terms of style, yours is quite different. In fact, I think one could just as easily compare the intensity of your voice to that of  James Brown.

Keegan McInroe: Oh wow! James Brown and Rob Zombie are two I haven’t heard before. Tom Waits I’ve heard often, even before I knew who Tom Waits is. He’s definitely an influence, though. And there are other musical influences, of course, from old country and blues and folk, but perhaps the largest inspiration for the particular sounds of the album was two-fold: the songs themselves and the musicians my co-producer Ben Napier and I chose to help us color the songs with. 
 
I had decided on the theme and title for the album before most of the record was written. Uncouth Pilgrims is a phrase I got and held onto years ago from Mark Twain’s travelogue The Innocents Abroad, and whereas his pilgrims were religious in nature, the pilgrims on Uncouth Pilgrims are romantic. But love, despite being the perhaps assumed end goal of a romantic pilgrim, often isn’t. So sometimes the songs and stories called for a more gentle, romantic treatment, but certainly some called for a more base, lusty, and grittier handling. And of course, the way those more gentle and less gentle songs come through, will be filtered through my rootsy musical influences.
 
I’ve been very fortunate to get to know and become friends with many great musicians in the Fort Worth [Texas] scene, in particular. And, as I don’t have a set band, per se, there’s a lot of freedom to bring in musicians that you feel will serve the song or push the song in a direction you’d like to see it take. Of course, sometimes in that process, you end up with some musical moments that are quite unexpected, something quite beyond the demoed idea. And for this record, we did a great portion of the more electric tracks live, so then that really carries some energy into songs that might not occur in a more heavily stacked and overdubbed session. 
 
Ultimately, the overall and diverse sonic feel of the album is very much what I had set out to achieve, but certainly there were also many surprises that came about from all the various minds coming together to bring the thing to life. Though, from my work on my previous albums, these surprises aren’t unexpected — if that makes sense. You know there will be happy accidents and surprises when you set out. The surprises and bringing to life of the songs is one of my favorite parts of the process.
 keeganmcinroe1
 
SLM: Uncouth Pilgrims goes from upbeat ballads to fast-paced bluesy, rock with sick guitar riffs, to songs with a choir in the background. It’s truly a beautiful record. What artists/musicians did you listen to growing up? Who would you say shaped your style? 
 

KM: Thank you so much! To be honest, most of my time growing up was listening to whatever was coming out of popular country music on the radio, though I did get a little Marty Robbins and Jimmy Dean from my grandmother’s record player. But it wasn’t until I listened to the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty album when I was about 14 or so, that I started desiring to play music myself. So the Dead’s more folk, acoustic stuff was a big early influence, as was Jim Croce and Ben Harper — first song I learned how to play was Harper’s tune “Burn One Down” — and Widespread Panic, who I spent a lot of time following around the country slinging bootleg t-shirts from the back of my VW Bug. 
 
As I began to play more, people like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and Tom Waits all became bigger influences. And it wasn’t until I started listening to and watching Townes van Zandt’s and Mississippi John Hurt’s fingerpicking styles that I started working out that part of my playing, so they’re probably two of my biggest guitar influences at the moment. They’ve definitely helped shape whatever style I may have.
 Keegan Mcinroe@Comptoir Des  Arts-22
SLM: What’s playing in your CD player/record player/iphone right now? 
 


KM: One unusual thing now is a really great Hunter S. Thompson boxset of his personal voice-recorded notes from various different assignments he found himself working on. There’s been a heavy dose of David Bowie lately. There’s the pretty constant Bob Dylan and Tom Waits and Townes van Zandt and Willie Nelson presence. Strangely, though, often when I’m alone or driving, I kind of prefer silence to listening to music. One is constantly inundated with music and voices, so I realized several years back that I increasingly will find myself sitting in silence over turning on the radio or something.

SLM: What inspires your songwriting? 

KM: Heartbreak in it’s various forms, predominately. Melancholy and rain and grey skies are inspiring. But also travel. Travel and the inevitable stories from the road are a big inspiration for this latest album. 

SLM: Tell me about some of the most exciting and/or humbling experiences you’ve encountered thus far in your musical career. 
 

KM: For me the most exciting part of my music career is being able to travel like I have. Back in October I just returned from my sixth tour of Europe since 2012, and I am planning the next tour for this coming summer. I absolutely love getting to explore Europe and the United States and meet and get to know the people and cultures in the various places. Music has been a great vehicle for that. 
 
Travel can also be quite humbling, as it can challenge preconceived notions and ideologies that might be lingering somewhere inside you. 
 
It’s also quite humbling and powerful anytime someone comes up to me to tell me about how this or that song touched them, what it meant to them, how it helped them.

SLM: What are some of the pros and cons of the music industry today? What are some of the issues you have with it? 

KM: Some pros that come to mind are the unbelievable and amazing growths in technology, both online and in recording, which has made it possible for anyone and everyone to get their art out to the world without needing thousands and thousands of dollars to do it. To some degree, this has also brought some of the power back to the artist and out of the hands of record executives and so on.
 
Of course, those same amazing technologies have also brought their own challenges in terms of over-saturation of online and physical markets and listener fatigue. But I prefer the more decentralized nature to the fat cat gate keepers deciding who can and can’t be heard — which they still have plenty of say in. 

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[Some of Keegan’s Instagram photos]

SLM: For some of our readers who may not be familiar with you, your musical talent and your sound, where can we listen to your new LP? Where can we buy it? Are you touring? And, lastly, do you have anything released on vinyl? 

KM: This album and all of my previous albums — as well as up to date touring information — are available directly from my website (http://www.keeganmcinroe.com/albums) for name-your-own-price download. 
 
You can also get a digital or physical copy from CD Baby at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/keeganmcinroe3
 
If you prefer iTunes, it is available here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/uncouth-pilgrims/id1069266856
 
And it’s available to stream on Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/keegan-mcinroe
 
I am playing around Texas some, including the album’s release party in Fort Worth at Lola’s Saloon on February 13. And plans are coming together for a return tour in Europe this summer. 
 
I would love to have the new album released on vinyl, but unfortunately the funds aren’t there at the moment to make that happen. Which is a pity, because I’d love to hear it that way. I am confident somewhere down the road, that will happen. 

SLM: How have your musical influences changed over the years? How has it affected your sound [if at all]? 

KM: My musical influences have grown and expanded, but I don’t know how much I’d say they’ve changed. The initial influences are still present. They just have more company now. 

SLM: Since we are also a literary journal, would you mind telling some of our readers about your writing career? 

KM: My writing career, aside from songwriting, has been pretty limited to this point. In 2001, I was inducted into the International Society of Poets, a far loftier-sounding designation than it is, I assure you. I’ve done a small amount of writing for the online news site Digital Journal, particularly during the Occupy Dallas protests. 
 
Most noteworthy, I suppose, would be the online column I wrote for the Fort Worth Weekly during the summers of 2013 and 2015 called Texas Troubadour Abroad, wherein I shared some of my experiences from the road. 
 
I hope to do much more writing in the future. I currently have about three to five novels/screenplays/who-knows-whats in long incubation waiting to be birthed, but there’s no real sign there’ll be any fresh hatchlings outside of songs in the near future as I am fairly busy pushing this new record, booking shows, and getting ready to hit the road as much as possible in this new year.
SLM: What piece/pieces of advice would you give to a struggling writer or musician who’s been rejected over and over again, on the verge of quitting? 

KM: Oh boy. I think one of the biggest things is to find out what’s really important to you. If having a bunch of material things is important, having a nice place to live, a nice car to drive, and so on, then probably quitting isn’t a bad idea, especially insofar as looking at it as a way to make a living. Even when you’re real good and somewhat established, it’s often quite difficult to make much money, though certainly there are ways. 
 
However, if the writing is more important, if the freedom of the lifestyle of a so-called artist is appealing in its reality — versus the romanticized ideal — if the pushed lifestyle we’re all indoctrinated to believe we need and must achieve is not so much a concern, or better yet if it’s somewhat anathema to you, well then continue writing and create the reality you wish for yourself. 
 
Create the reality you wish for yourself, either way, in every and any way you’re able. 
 
But more practically, patience is important. And along a similar line, nothing is more discouraging and less helpful than comparing yourself to others. Don’t worry about what Bob Dylan was doing at your age. That’s gonna hurt. Look at what you’re doing now, what you want to be doing tomorrow and how you can improve, and take the practical steps to get you closer to there. 

SLM: What’s the best venue you’ve ever played? 
 


KM: Probably the castle I played this past summer for the Sigulda Blues Festival in Latvia. 

SLM: Tell me something that not many people know about you. 
 


KM: I got very involved in Ron Paul’s grassroots campaign for president in Fort Worth in 2008. It led to me getting to actually play before he spoke on two different occasions. He was very gracious, and actually the first time, he even used my p.a. so he spoke into the same microphone for his speech that I use night after night. 

keeganmcinroe2

***
To learn more about Keegan McInroe and his music, please see the links below: 
SLM’s favorite song from McInroe’s LP Uncouth Pilgrims:
or you may listen to it here:

 The Ascent Of Feminist Poetry- by Charles Bane, Jr.

(Cover art by Laura Grover)

 

Acknowledgements

The germ of this book lies in essays that appeared online at That Lit Site, The Washington Independent Review of Books, and New Black Man, curated by Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of African and African American studies at Duke University. Professor Neal has never failed to make me feel welcome as a contributor. I feel gratitude also to Dustin Pickering, Publisher of Transcendent Zero Press who accepted the following work for publication before it was completed.

For Ann, always

 

 

 

1.

“And she laughed secretly, saying: After I am grown old, and my lord is an old man, shall I give myself to pleasure?”
Genesis 18: 12

 

Not long ago, noted literary scholar Harold Bloom read the passage above and realized it could not have been written by a man. Bloom, sensitive as a tuning fork, recognized the writer’s wry mockery of the eternal male belief in his prowess. In November, 1991, Bloom published The Book Of J, called his finest book by the New York Times, and in which he identifies one of the key authors of the Hebrew Bible, “J” ( for her reference to her Creator as “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” ) as a woman. We cannot know J or her times but we can marvel at the special place of women to the Hebrew sages who wrote in the Talmud that ” God counts the tears of women.”

It is the argument of this short work that feminist poets have not merely exploded the traditional male, all- white Western Canon but are creating a golden age of new verse that is being ignored, sometimes willfully, but more fully because Americans no longer read contemporary poetry. We are literally lost without it, because the ancient Greeks recognized that poets serve as our historians, and secular prophets.

There are many reasons for poetry’s collapse: children are required in the classroom to read poets who do not speak in their voice, or to their times. This is tragic because there are serious, working poets in virtually every community or nearby who would gladly visit and beckon them to poetry’s recesses.

The corporate power supporting wealth inequality decimates legions. Only Farrar, Straus And Giroux among major publishing houses remains interested in poets.  And the large- scale publishing firms that produce popular fiction and nonfiction are themselves part of media conglomerates the media that advertise their authors, and  against which small presses can’t compete.  The fastest way to have a query ignored by a literary agent is to write in the subject line ” My book of poetry.”

Finally, academic poets are a separate class who continue a tradition of believing the general reader will not understand their work ( “Yeats”, T.S. Eliot remarked in an interview with the Paris Review, “that Gaelic writer). After E.E. Cummings’ death, his wife, Marion wrote a friend, ” Academics hated my husband because he only wrote short poems, but above all, because he was popular.”

But poets , working as cashiers or waitresses, or juggling multiple jobs as they pursue a Master’s degree, still write, even knowing that the indifference of  the public overspreads them like winter cover, and, unlike J, whose radical gift was harnessed  to a narrative, gaze up and long to be pleasured by the cosmos:

 

 

“Stargazing” by Ariana Nadia Nash

The stars are all the skin

I’ll never touch. They are

the bright points of years

I have not lived, the names

I do not know. They speak

to worlds inside myself

I will not learn. They shock —

this spread of stars, these motes

of fireballs, this milky

conflagration. In their depth

and beauty, they are

the most intricate map

of the unknown, the most

wild moan of silence.

 

 

 

2.

 

When a recent CNN poll noted that only 7% of Americans had read a poem in the last year, a  new introduction , using all the language of polish on my shelf, is where I look for remedy. I do not want feminist poets whose gifts are dominating contemporary letters, to be spirits, flickering near us unseen:

 

 

Vastness of dusk-after a day.

what is a person? Too late

to ask this now. The court has ruled

a corporation is a person.

Persons used to be called souls.

On the avenue, a lucky person

stands in a convenience store

scratching powder from his ticket —

silver flecks fall from his thumbs

to galaxies below.

 

Brenda Hillman*

 

 

 

Poetry begins, and I’m writing from personal experience, in the unconscious and those who are chosen randomly to write it begin their craft in childhood. ” ‘Dragoon’ ‘”, Dylan Thomas said to his sister as small boy, “isn’t that a wonderful word?”  Sylvia Plath was published at eight.  Susan Sontag self published her poems at nine (“I got through my childhood in a delirium of literary exaltations.”).  At fourteen, Edna St Vincent Millay wrote: “in the hush of the dying day, / The mossy walls and ivy towers of the land of Romance lay. / The breath of dying lilies haunted the twilight air / And the sob of a dreaming violin filled the silence everywhere.”

I believe the unconscious  – which we know from dreams does not record time – stores a culture’s collective memory of its art. This explains the impetus and inexplicable confidence every poet feels as they write.  There’s more: when a poem is finished, its writer – and this is a common experience – often feels they are not its creator.  The poet reads a superior artwork but feels no part of it, though he/she may have wept through its setting down, so deep were the feelings stirred.

Without doubt,  women felt this impulse and longed to “wrestle with the polis” (a critic’s compliment of Brenda Hillman’s work) throughout the worst  of times.  “Whenever you read anonymous at the end of a poem”, said Virginia Woolf, “it is woma

Feminist

poets have not only overcome the suppression of traditional Western literature, they are adding new discoveries to its foundation stones. In the 1970’s, “Songs Of The Troubadours” appeared in print, translated from Provencal by Anthony Bonner. The work of the jongleurs had first come to the notice of Ezra Pound, the champion of all that is worthwhile in literature. Pound was astonished by the modernity of the poems which would not be equaled until the appearance of Yeats. And there scholarship might have ended were it not for Matilda Bruckner’s seminal  ” Songs Of The Women Troubadours”, published in 2000 ( Garland Library Of Medieval Literature), followed in 2013 by Meg Bogin’s ” The Women Troubadours ” ( Norton Paperback ).

But for the male lot : critics, academic advisors and peers who wish to smother feminism as it’s expressed in poetry, the way is closed:

 

We Never Remember The Last Argument | Sarah Bartlet

The smell of your mom’s dress is closed.

A magnolia’s heavy unlatched tongue is closed.

The bitter scratch at the back of your throat is closed.

Your childhood’s rebuttal is closed.

The road holding up an arc of trees and their strange covenant is closed.

Disappearing on schedule is closed.

A field of rabbits spreading their fur around is closed.

I am easing myself daily closer to the ground is closed.

I am easy on paycheck night is closed.

Lying next to you in a box of bourbon-soaked cherries is closed.

I am almost the same taste and timbre as the empty field is closed.

Our eyes staying closed in proximity is closed.

Telling me this child isn’t my child is closed.

Telling him he belongs where belonging means absence is closed.

When you try to identify the poison it is closed.

The ravine raising its mouth up to the sky and swallowing the last horse is closed.

A review of the maximum leverage available here is closed.

My hands asking to release this fistful of air is closed.

Try and make another decision without me and you’ll see what I mean is closed.

Reporting back on a dream’s dialogue with awakening is closed.

I want to get on an airplane for the last time is closed.

I want to never come back here except to you is closed.

Crows dropping chestnuts and letting us crack them is closed.

Fists of flowers punching through the dirt no matter what the air says is closed.

You plus I plus you plus I plus you plus you plus constant fucking is closed.

Like a tail in the door being able to take it all back is closed.

The olden days where ships hefted the seas apart like god is closed.

Access to regret too pristine to share leaving its knife out is closed.

An element of surprise is closed.

Ask yourself where your blood is and say it’s right here is closed.

Your grandmother’s curtains refusing to move for a casual breeze is closed.

My great-grandmother swallowing her death down is closed.

Taking the land for ourselves is closed.

Erasing an entire year of a bed nailed to the floor is closed.

Making you the bed is closed.

Making you an object of forgiveness or sparkling teeth is closed.

Making this unremarkable is closed.

Narrative that reflects absolute truth is closed.

Believing in truth as fact under trees at night after a fire takes the stars away is closed.

The scissors we use to make snowflakes stay sharp is closed.

Another year of windows softening our gaze is closed.

Holding my breath under water to panic the heart is closed.

Tell me one last time please is closed.

Our mouths together dredging words thick as oil is closed.

The hatch over the mouse in your chest is closed.

Being small in the arms of myself is closed.

Holding on to a rock with a child holding on to me in a running tide is closed.

Looking for mistakes like feet look for glass is closed.

Body as fist as ship as celestial navigation is closed.

Brick by brick this hole in the side of our house is closed.

Won’t you wait somewhere just out of sight while I do this is closed.

Which of us was left holding the bag is closed.

Believing it’s possible to run the clock out is closed

Please oh please oh please oh please oh god is closed.

3

 

So far, I’ve painted a bleak portrait of  feminist contemporary poetry and its lack of place in the life of the American reading public. I have a particular gripe with public libraries that have given themselves up to the tidal wave of detritus ( shelves of eight copies of the same unread book ) that floods them from major publishers, and which neither seek out or give space to the amazing poetry being offered by small presses. Nor do libraries subscribe to many of the literary journals that are the lifeblood of American poetry.

But against this weight, we can balance the lighted open spaces of the internet where important work can be found and where its authors can find a sense of support and community on social media. They are there as one, on Facebook or Twitter or both: Sarah Blake, Susannah Nevison, Erica Jong, Jamila Woods ( recent winner of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. They are all here, as well as literary journals publishing in English around the globe. Submitting to these journals is only a keyboard away, and American women poets are appearing, online and in print, in Sweden, Thailand, the Philippines, and Australia–which has a close-knit feminist community.

In the United States alone, there are (at the last count) over 400 small presses, some long standing (Copper Canyon Press was the first to publish Pablo Neruda in North America) and others as new as bread from the morning oven. And these in turn are branching out, publishing exclusively the voices of women, queer, bisexual and transgender and gender-fluid poets, some making themselves heard for the first time in literary history:

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t Sleep

 

Can’t sleep

sitting up

typing

wiping

at tears

(shed for fears)

My fingers bleed.

I don’t know who i am

I don’t know what to say.

Each day

I am different

and have to meet myself

for what feels like

the first time in a long time.

I battle with the boy

inside me

The boy within

who can’t seem to see

a way

to emerge/become

submerge/just be.

I am he

as much as i am me.

I can’t sleep for the fear,

my heart murmurs

and strings pull deep

and sinew

inside of me.

I ache

as i rest

body quiver,

I am displaced

disgraced,

lost and weary.

To sleep

in peace,

to be

and be free.

He cries silent

inside

within

heart and mind and body and soul

He makes me whole

complete

He is beside me.

Cloaked and daggered

he weeps tears

for all the years

he has spent

in the dark

and without

an identity

to identify.

He is me

and together we sit

awake

and silently.

In the darkness we cry.

– Jacqe Matelot

 

These “prophets of the invisible” ( Wallace Stevens) find solidarity in their talks across the ether with women who are experiencing the same struggle. And they are fed courage and creative nourishment from the works of other poets, posted daily by journals or fans.

This reminds me of an imperative of  creating poetry I did not mention earlier, but which is its high- borne standard: a master- poem is beautiful. A poem cannot be malignant and be a poem. It cannot be read and understood by only a few but must affect every reader with the same touch:

 

 

 

 

Sea Foam Palace

(Bubbling and spuming

as if trying to talk under

water, I address you thus:)

Must I pretend not to love

you (in your present bloom,

your present perfection — soul

encased in fleshly relevance)

so you won’t believe me

just another seabed denizen

vying for your blessed attention?

Some of us (but not you)

are so loosely moored

to our bodies we can

barely walk a straight line,

remaining (most days) only

marginally conscious.

We stagger and shudder

as buckets of   blood or sperm

or chocolate mousse or spittle

or lymph or sludge sluice

continually through us…

 

I love the way you wear your

face, how you ride this life.

I delight in the sight of you,

your nervous, inquisitive eyes,

though I try to act otherwise.

Being stoned out of thy mind

only amps up thy fearsome

brain wattage. Pardon my

frontal offensive, dear chum.

Forgive my word-churn, my

drift, the ways this text message

has gotten all frothy. How was it

you became holy to me? Should

I resist, furiously? Is this your

true visage, shaken free, flashing

glimpses of what underlies

the world we can see? Do not forget me

murmurs something nibbled

by fish under the sea.

 

After dark you’re quick-silvery,

wet /slick /glistening. Don’t

make me chase you, dragging

my heavy caresses, a pair of

awkward, serrated claws,

hither and yon. Give me a swig

of   whatever you’re drinking,

to put me in tune with the cosmos’s

relentless melt, with the rhythms

of dish-washing, corn-shucking,

hard-fucking, bed-wetting, and

the folding of   bones of other loves

into well-dug graves…    may we

never become lost to the world.

By Amy Gerstler

 

 

 

 

4

 

“Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You ( white women) fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reason they are dying.”    Audre Lorde

 

In its June , 2014, issue – made available online, The Atlantic published Ta- Nehisi Coates’  “The Case For Reparations.” It electrified Black America and the public at large as had nothing since the 1968 Kerner Report which declared that White and Black America lived lives separate and unequal.

It would not be enough, Coates eloquently argued, to balance the ledger for the descendants of slaves who had created America’s enormous foundation of wealth under the lash for two hundred and fifty years. What had followed “Reconstruction” was a systemic racism that virtually assured that African Americans would remain a permanent underclass, with no recourse to finance or political power.  The payment of large scale reparations to Black households would not be only just, but the only measure that would allow African Americans to eliminate inequities in employment, housing , health services and education in a single generation.

Nothing about the dangers of being Black in the United States was piecemeal  and the murderous impulse to body and spirit of racism was evident in the tens of thousands of Black men, many non- violent offenders, who historically had worn chains and now were locked behind iron bars. In the street, unarmed Black men were being shot or choked by the police.

Over these  grounds flared poet Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric”. It illuminated the soul crushing reality of her experience:

from Citizen: “You are in the dark, in the car…”

By Claudia Rankine

 

/

 

You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.

 

You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.

 

Why do you feel okay saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, be propelled forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind.

 

As usual you drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said. It is not only that confrontation is headache producing; it is also that you have a destination that doesn’t include acting like this moment isn’t inhabitable, hasn’t happened before, and the before isn’t part of the now as the night darkens 
and the time shortens between where we are and where we are going.

 

/

 

When you arrive in your driveway and turn off the car, you remain behind the wheel another ten minutes. You fear the night is being locked in and coded on a cellular level and want time to function as a power wash. Sitting there staring at the closed garage door you are reminded that a friend once told you there exists a medical term — John Henryism — for people exposed to stresses stemming from racism. They achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure. Sherman James, the researcher who came up with the term, claimed the physiological costs were high. You hope by sitting in 
silence you are bucking the trend.

 

/

 

When the stranger asks, Why do you care? you just stand there staring at him. He has just referred to the boisterous teenagers in Starbucks as niggers. Hey, I am standing right here, you responded, not necessarily expecting him to turn to you.

 

He is holding the lidded paper cup in one hand and a small paper bag in the other. They are just being kids. Come on, no need to get all KKK on them, you say.

 

Now there you go, he responds.

 

The people around you have turned away from their screens. The teenagers are on pause. There I go? you ask, feeling irritation begin to rain down. Yes, and something about hearing yourself repeating this stranger’s accusation in a voice usually reserved for your partner makes you smile.

 

/

 

A man knocked over her son in the subway. You feel your own body wince. He’s okay, but the son of a bitch kept walking. She says she grabbed the stranger’s arm and told him to apologize: I told him to look at the boy and apologize. And yes, you want it to stop, you want the black child pushed to the ground to be seen, to be helped to his feet and be brushed off, not brushed off  by the person that did not see him, has never seen him, has perhaps never seen anyone who is not a reflection of himself.

 

The beautiful thing is that a group of men began to stand behind me like a fleet of  bodyguards, she says, like newly found uncles and brothers.

 

/

 

The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.

 

At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?

 

It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.

 

I am so sorry, so, so sorry.

 

/

 

 

In its first four months of publication by Graywolf Press, Citizen sold 40,000 copies, an astonishing number for a small press. The book was a Finalist for the National Book Award, and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. There is nothing comparable to Rankine’s talent, save perhaps for the poetic-artistic genius of Matthea Harvey. The two have in common that both had collections entered for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. But the anonymous panel of judges gave the award to a male poet, from an all- male list of Finalists.

Latina poets, Native American and Asian- American women, and a constellation of others: their body of work has reached the critical mass that will add diversity to anthologies and swell the Western Canon:

 

 

 

regarding the yellowface poet

[ Poem in response to m.d.h., white poet who used a Chinese pseudonym to get published in Best American Poetry. ]

 

choi jeong min

for my parents, Choi Inyeong & Nam Songeun

in the first grade i asked my mother permission

to go by frances at school. at seven years old

i already knew the exhaustion of hearing my name

butchered by hammerhead tongues. already knew

to let my salty gook name drag behind me

in the sand, safely out of sight. in fourth grade

i wanted to be a writer & worried

about how to escape my surname – choi

is nothing if not korean, if not garlic breath,

if not seaweed & sesame & food stamps

during the lean years – could i go by f.j.c.? could i be

paper thin & raceless? dust jacket & coffee stain,

boneless rumor smoldering behind the curtain

& speaking through an ink-stained puppet?

my father ran through all his possible rechristenings –

ian, issac, ivan – and we laughed at each one,

knowing his accent would always give him away.

you can hear the pride in my mother’s voice

when she answers the phone this is grace, & it is

some kind of strange grace she’s spun herself,

some lightning made of chainmail. grace is not

her pseudonym, though everyone in my family is a poet.

these are the shields for the names we speak in the dark

to remember our darkness. savage death rites

we still practice in the new world. myths we whisper

to each other to keep warm. my korean name

is the star my mother cooks into the jjigae

to follow home when i am lost, which is always

in this gray country, this violent foster home

whose streets are paved with shame, this factory yard

riddled with bullies ready to steal your skin

& sell it back to your mother for profit,

land where they stuff our throats with soil

& accuse us of gluttony when we learn to swallow it.

i confess. i am greedy. i think i deserve to be seen

for what i am: a boundless, burning wick.

a stone house. i confess: if someone has looked

at my crooked spine and called it elmwood,

i’ve accepted. if someone has loved me more

for my gook name, for my saint name,

for my good vocabulary & bad joints,

i’ve welcomed them into this house.

i’ve cooked them each a meal with a star singing

at the bottom of the bowl, a secret ingredient

to follow home when we are lost:

sunflower oil, blood sausage, a name

given by your dead grandfather who eventually

forgot everything he’d touched. i promise:

i’ll never stop stealing back what’s mine.

i promise: i won’t forget again.

— Franny Choi

 

 

 

 

 

 

bird’s nest by Jamila Woods

 

after max sansing

 

when daddy says my head is a bird’s

nest, he means a momma bird might find it

inviting. my hair: a place to raise her first eggs,

a place her first babes might call out to her, a place

she might fly back to from the wet morning dirt, chewing

a worm in the side of her cheek, so her baby might swallow

it down easy, so her baby might fall asleep with a full stomach

and never dream of falling, so i might rise from sleep

on a Sunday morning, come downstairs dressed

for church with a head full of morning songs,

uncombed hair, hear my daddy chuckle,

search for words, and call it wild

 

 

 

5

 

The internet is many things, but its extraordinary, all- encompassing power is on display at any mall where young people walk with their faces glued to I-phones. It is also home to the counter culture of feminist poets who, shunned by traditional publishing, must become marketers of their work, and slip around the corner and ahead of major media outlets who are too monolithic to take notice of individual social media phenomena. “Major” authors don’t appear on podcasts, that reach thousands. Desktop publishing allows a poet to create “ads” from Google images that they can post on  their Facebook, Twitter accounts  and their own websites to let the public know that a poem has been accepted by a journal, with links, and that a manuscript has been sent out, and then accepted by  small press. Every achievement is a victory, and the web is no place to be modest about them.A network on social media, for every poet, should be more than just cliques of other wordsmiths, and literary bodies. It should include all who long for culture, the beautifully expressed and the substantive that bears no resemblance to the tabloid present.

Small presses have no marketing budgets or public relations staff. The poet must take on the role of partner in their dreams with the publisher who accepts them. Copies must be sent out to reviewers, not of major newspapers or magazines that ignore poetry, but to the growing legion of book bloggers/ reviewers on the web. Whatever large or small town the poet lives in deserves the added luster of a poet-in-residence and laureate. Publication of a first book of poetry ( and no pleasure equals the first box of copies of  one’s first book delivered to a home address) is only the start of a promotional journey that requires the same energy and imagination that sparks creative artistry. Readings are often welcome at public libraries ( that frequently pay the author) as well as independent bookstores that are thriving.

Poets must beat major publishers who distribute poetry collections fractionally, at their own game. Poets should insist that their manuscripts, however and whenever possible be published, in the same volume, in Spanish and English, not only to address America’s changing demographics, but to have the ability to sell their books to the Latin American market, in whose culture literature is prized. In Spain, Cervantes’ birthday is a national holiday and banners celebrating it hang from lamp posts in Madrid ( Would that we did it here for Emily Dickinson or Mark Twain). China Mobile.com distributes English language books to the millions o English- speaking Chinese who crave to read books from the West, and where English is mandatory in grammar schools.

” Poets”, wrote Shelley, ” are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. ” This is not hyperbole. Jamila Woods, whose poetry was quoted here, and who was profiled in the online Blavity:The Voice Of Black Millennials,  is the Associate Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, and a founding member of its Teaching Artist Corps. The revered Nikki Giovanni has acquired so many awards for her activism that they take up a full page on her website.

Poets are notoriously insecure about their craft and many starting poets worry they will not be published: they will,  and later poets brood and worry also that their legacy will not be remembered. It’s a baseless fear, as the dynamics of poetry creation prove. Once it is expressed, a poem cannot be lost;  and if the Western Canon must be hugely expanded to not become obsolete, it nonetheless contains poets who unknowingly sensed a future more welcoming than in the past. Tennyson’s Ulysses was content to ship off into obscurity, but Virgil’s pen brought another band to a foreign, unknown shore. At first, the men of Aeneas are afraid of the strange landscape but then their leader finds a stone- carved artwork. ” Do not be afraid”, he says, ” these are mortals such as we, and mortal things touch their hearts.”

 

***

About the author:

 

Charles Bane, Jr. is the author of three collections of poetry including the recent ” The Ends Of The Earth: Collected Poems ( Transcendent Zero Press, 2015 ) as well as “I Meet Geronimo And Other Stories”  ( Avignon Press, 2015) and ” Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall ( Collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry Series for The Gutenberg Project.


 

About the artist:

 

Laura Grover believes art is for everyone.  She enjoys drawing animals, people, and flowers but her true love is comics.  Laura lives in the woods of Maine with her roller derby life partner, just enough cats, and a baby-on-the-way.  You can see more of her finished work (or hire Laura) at www.lgroverdesign.com and also follow her misadventures in pregnancy at her comic diary, “Unexpecting” : apregnancycomic.tumblr.com

 

***

charles bane jr - bust

Charles Bane, Jr. is the author of three collections of poetry including the recent ” The Ends Of The Earth: Collected Poems ( Transcendent Zero Press, 2015 ) as well as “I Meet Geronimo And Other Stories”  ( Avignon Press, 2015) and ” Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall ( Collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry series for The Gutenberg Project. His most recent publication is “The Ascent Of Feminist Poetry ( Transcendent Zero Press, 2015 )

 

 

 

One High, One Low – by G.J. HART

Although tempted, Douglas Montgomery III refused to interpret them as retribution. Yes, the affair had compromised his ability to care, but the doctor’s prognosis was clear; there was nothing he could have done to help his wife.

He first heard them the day after the funeral: two short notes; un-nuanced and atonal. One high, one low, with an insipid syncopation that jarred against the steady rhythms of the house.

Must be the wind, he thought.

At first they were barely audible; Douglas imagined a subtle draft, julienned into aimless notes by ragged brickwork. But with each passing hour they become louder and more insistent until he began to feel like a stranger in his own home.

One moment he heard them in the kitchen. The next in the lounge. Then, in the rooms above him, screaming like a panicked locomotive.

He tore down cupboards and emptied rooms. He purchased a stethoscope and listened at every wall and floor. He found mouse holes and plugged them with expanding foam.

His normal routines were abandoned. He neglected himself. He didn’t shower for days.

Douglas looked elsewhere. Workmen were fitting new windows in the gatehouse. Could they be the source? He already knew they hated him; he’d seen them snigger as he passed.

He tried to talk to them, eviscerating his conversation of everything but the tersest, mostly prurient captions. But still they hid their mouths.

He hurried inside, locked the door and sat down on the last remaining kitchen chair. He heard laughing outside and smiled.

Forget them, he thought; why should he care? After all, he was now sole legatee of a property that had already doubled in value.

Gritting his teeth, Douglas Montgomery III leant back and began to hum an artless strain comprised of two notes; un-nuanced and atonal. One high and one low.

***

facebook_1453268681319

G. J. Hart currently lives in Brixton, London and is published or cued in The Harpoon Review, The Legendary, Yellow Mama, Spelk Fiction, Schlock Magazine (UK), Horror Within Magazine, Three Minute Plastic, Literally Stories, Fiction on the Web, Shirley lit mag, The HFC journal, Under the Fable, The Unbroken Journal, The Pygmy Giant, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Drabble, The Squawk Back, 521 Magazine, Visual Verse, Fewer Than 500 Magazine among others. 

 Find him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/gj_hart

Submissions? Yes, please.

I know, I know, I originally said we were closed to all non-solicited submissions until January 31st. I changed my mind. We have a themed month coming up, Kate Jones’s “Invisibility” theme for February. If you know anything about me or SLM, you’ll know that I will encourage you to interpret this loosely, much like I interpret the bible (haha?). Invisibility can be the way you feel when you’re hurting or depressed; the way that people seem to flee when they see you coming and you’re in a bad mood. It can also be the way we’re treated as women sometimes, especially when it comes to the workplace and our children. It can be interpreted into a horror story. Invisibility is such a great theme because it encompasses SO MANY other themes. So, at this time, if you have not been invited to submit or have not been previously published by SLM, you MAY SUBMIT FOR THE THEME OF INVISIBILITY. (Please send all submissions to me directly at kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com )

It may sound comical, but I got my latest bit of writing inspiration from an episode of Arthur that my kids were watching yesterday. One of the characters, Sue Ellen, met the author of Coraline.

He told her that everyone has a story to tell; everyone’s story is unique.

She had a concern. “But some people don’t like it.”

“Not everyone will like your story,” he said. So true. “But your story still needs to be told. It needs to be heard. And it will eventually find the right audience.”

I was standing in the kitchen scrubbing old oatmeal out of not one, but THREE bowls (hell might be cleaning old oatmeal out of bowls, I’m fairly certain) when I heard this, not thinking much of it.

But the more that it sank in, the more riled up I got.

I woke up this morning with the words still stuck in my head.

As a writer myself (and journalist and editor), I’m GREAT at inspiring you guys to send in your writing and boosting you up. However, am I so great at doing the same for myself? Not really. When I see the numbers that my own fiction gets compared to some of yours, I can’t lie and say that it doesn’t bother me or discourage me, as silly as that may sound.

There’s never a rhyme or reason necessarily when a piece of art, poetry, fiction, etc, gets hardly any views versus getting a lot of views.

Most often, the hardest advice to follow is your own.

Give me a piece of writing that came from the heart that needs a few semicolons instead of commas ANY DAY over a piece of over-edited, mass-marketed CRAP. I’m serious. When I call myself the editor, I’m not saying that to self-glorify. I edit a lot of the work that you read on here; and that’s OKAY. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Don’t call yourself an editor if all you did was copy and paste it and ADD typos. (It’s happened to me.)

ALL OF YOU are contributors to a truly one-of-a-kind, passionate, transparent publication that is unapologetic for what it is. And I continuously find myself humbled and honored to be at the receiving end of your submissions. As I’ve said a million times and will say a million times more, I don’t understand the editors who seem like they hate their jobs. When my inbox is inundated with submissions, I am happy. That means that things are going well.

Having too much content to choose from is a gift from the gods! It’s not a burden. And the moment that it becomes a burden is the moment that I think the editor job is no longer the right job for you. It’s true. Even for me.

***

Peace and Love, SLM team 🙂

Cheers!

Your loving editor,

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

FullSizeRender (47)

Laugh/Inhaling Suburbia/Raucous II – by Z.M. WISE

Laugh

Laugh. Laugh. Snicker.
Got humor?
Have jokes will travel.


 

Humor: my greatest ally.
I make love to you every day,
burying my voice in your
euphoric environment.


 

Echoing in barbaric ‘ha-ha’ tones,
a lullaby of chuckles,
sent to my loved one.


 

She deserves this after
a life time of killing tears,
lusting after anger suppression,
staring at the cobblestone floor.


 

In this one humane body,
a laugh attack is necessary.


 

Bittersweet and demented,
a quip that is corny.
Who cares about the rule of thumb,
the total number of guffaws?


 

Losing it alongside you!
It feels like I have
ingested a carton full of
uppers with kicks of caffeine.


 

We are two hyenas without
obligatory cares in this world,
two saplings who evolve
into a serene, elated green.


 

Until death’s alarm clock rang,
we collected certain seconds.
When her celebratory funeral
occurred on a blackened evening,
we laughed.

 


 

Inhaling Suburbia

Overjoyed white sweatshirt
grins quite widely on unnecessary Christmas cards.
And their middle-class picket fence
property is Suburbia’s epicenter.


 

Spoiled dairy product man adds
one more indictment to his mortal list.
And his provincial death is a
byproduct of Suburbia’s upbringing.


 

Rays tan her to a crisp,
this tuned-out sunbathing beach woman.
And her solar-powered life is
indifferent to Suburbia.


 

Auto-functional people have
footprints in synchronization.
Climate changing, heartbeat quickening
in the eye of Suburbia.


 

Raucous II
CLASH! CRASH!


 

Dishes thrown at traumatized lady.
Under unvarying pressure,
obsessive possessive behavior becomes him.


 

Invisible leash, complete with choke collar,
‘round her cornered neck.
Emotions,
hindered by his empty words and
concrete fists.


 

For ages, she has ‘wanted to leave,’
but weekly death threats have altered her psyche.


 

This is not jealousy.
This is a raucous ruckus inside her mind,
driving her to saddened madness.
Scars have said otherwise.
Cuts and bruises persuade her further.


 

She will not only escape,
but stand on those two feet of independency.
She needs no man to hold her down.
She needs no man to hold her back.


 

She has aspirations of her own,
aspirations that will align these two worlds.
Martians and Venusians become one.
Taste the sweetness of diversity easing its way into unity.


 

Stand for the uncalled for thunderbolts.
Bolt out his limbo door and
roar with thunder from within.


 

You are woman!
You are person!


 

Nothing on this goddamn planet could be further from the truth.
Your ever-loving power is our generator, our life force on tap.


 

Step forth,
for it is your time.
No more dead end tears.
Teach them how to conquer the fool who calls himself Fear.


***

IMG_20130321_195824

Z.M. Wise is a proud Chicago native, poet, co-editor and poetry activist, writing since his first steps as a child. He has been a written-word poet for almost two decades and a spoken-word poet for four years. He was selected to be a performer in the Word Around Town Tour in 2013, a Houston citywide tour. He is co-owner and co-editor of Transcendent Zero Press, an independent publishing house for poetry that produces an international quarterly journal known as Harbinger Asylum, with his dear friend and founder Dustin Pickering. The journal was nominated Best Poetry Journal in 2013 at the National Poetry Awards. He is also an Assistant Editor at Weasel Press with another dear friend, Weasel. He has published four full length books of poetry, including: ‘Take Me Back, Kingswood Clock!’ (MavLit Press), ‘The Wandering Poet’ (Transcendent Zero Press), ‘Wolf: An Epic & Other Poems’ (Weasel Press), and ‘Cuentos de Amor’ (Red Ferret Press. Other than these four books, his poems have been published in various journals, magazines, and anthologies. The motto that keeps him going: POETRY LIVES! Mr. Wise will make sure to spread that message and the love of poetry, making sure it remains vibrant for the rest of his days and beyond.

Besides poetry and other forms of writing, his other passions/interests include professional voice acting, singing/lyricism/songwriting, playing a few instruments, fitness, and reading.

 
 
 
 
 
 
*Photography courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*

10.0 – by Molly Mary O’Brien

10.0

 

She lives on the moon, teaching gymnastics. She’s way too old to compete now, ancient at 28. She can no longer do a double layout punch front, which is where you flip forward in the air twice with your whole body extended and rigid, then bounce against the floor hard and immediately flip once the other way, like a domino that changed its mind. She tried it alone in the gym a few nights ago and understood one handspring in that she didn’t have it. All of her bones were saying no to her at once.

 

But she won the gold all-around medal back in Tokyo, partially on the strength of that tumbling trick, and the kids are learning it fast. Her medal is back home in Houston along with all the stuff that she wasn’t allowed to take with her, and really it’s probably stolen, or liquified, and generally just not anyone’s top priority at this point down there. There’s an indoor gym with Earth gravity and an outdoor gym with moon gravity. She gets them acquainted with all the tricks in the Earth gravity gym, where the landings insult their ankles and the falls flatten their lungs, until their wrists are made of steel and their calf muscles look to her like little critters trapped under skin—muscle ferrets. Only when they’ve truly mastered gravity does she let them outside and do handsprings uninterrupted for minutes in a row, add a casual handful of twists to their layouts and barely feel the impact. When it had looked like time was pretty much up on Earth, they had a list of everyone who could do things well, and they picked one of each person, and she was the person they picked who was the best at what she did, the best and the youngest. She said yes immediately. What did she have back home? Her mother, who had tried to steal her endorsement money from Wheaties and Fitbit. Her coach, who weighed her every day. She had no friends, no boyfriend. Her life was the gym, she flipped in her dreams. Other moon colonists struggled with the move, but a regimented life of sacrifice and discomfort had not been an adjustment for her.

 

Sometimes she’s in the outdoor gym, easing kids over the vault to get them acquainted with upsidedownness, guiding their bodies. She’s facilitating the tumbles of moon-born babies who have never seen New York or rivers or cable news or ferrets. And she thinks of what would happen if she turned them a little too hard, and they flipped out of her hands and away from the station and continuously into the atmosphere, holding perfect form the whole time, perpetual motion machines in full-body leotards and helmets. She wants to inflict total freedom upon them. She wants to see weightlessness embraced fully. The return to the surface, the end of the trick, the deference to limits: what a disappointment to her.

 

But she doesn’t let them go — she can’t. She has them finish practice, hands out dehydrated granola bars, sends them to the locker room. There’s an exhibition meet next month with China’s station and rumor has it their gymnasts are in excellent form.

 

What a disappointment it has always been, to land.

***

molly o'brien

***Molly Mary O’Brien is a writer from Vermont, living in Brooklyn / on the internet. She’s had work published in PANK, Paper Darts and more, and writes customized stories for people at Dedication Magazine (http://dedicationmag.tumblr.com).
Find her on Twitter at @missmollymary ***

The Other Woman – by DEE LEAN

The other woman.

I sat across from her looking her in the eyes and holding her gaze. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

I’m not what she expected; I’m not the monster she awaited.

Words fell out of her mouth trying to tell me things that I knew weren’t true. Excuses and reasons on why she tore my life apart.

I stopped her somewhere between the justification and the accusations. I told her she was welcome to him. He held nothing in my heart or my head. A coward from start to end and a problem I was happy to give.

She explained to me that they were in love and love conquers all. My lips curved up in a slight smile.

I tell her, “I’m happy that you’re in love and I owe you many thanks; if it wasn’t for your immoral and dirty behavior I’d still be stuck in a place of routine and unhappiness.”

She opens her mouth to argue but I place a hand up to indicate I have not finished.
“Have you ever been so in love, you would watch the world burn all around you to be with that one person who stops your heart? Have you ever been so in love that you would burn the world down, just to have his touch?”

She looks confused.

“I have and it’s all thanks to you.”

A look of annoyance flashes across her face. She knows she will never have what I have. She thought when she stole what was mine that she had it all. She knows she was wrong.

I think of the man that tore me apart and, for the first time, feel relief. Then I think of the man that put me back together and I feel as close to Nirvana as I’m ever likely to be.

I stand up and beam at her.

“Thank you for all that you’ve done and I’m sorry for your troubles.”

I leave her in utter confusion and I leave a new woman.

I walk out into a whole new world with nothing but peace in my heart.

***

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***Dee Lean believes that a writer that doesn’t write is like a soul without a mate; aimlessly wondering without a purpose. Born in Belfast, Ireland, Lean currently lives in Melbourne, Australia and is a single mother to two gorgeous kids that get her up and inspire her to see and seek the good in all. When people ask her what she does, she simply says, “I write.” Lean is now a regular contributor at Sick Lit Magazine. She tweets at: https://twitter.com/Dede18 ***

*Featured image courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*

Life – by KATE JONES

Life

I’m in a wheelchair flying down the corridor of the hospital and I think, this is something we’d laugh at if I wasn’t in total agony. This is just the kind of shit we usually find funny. I’d be getting him to try and race me as fast as I could. But it doesn’t seem so funny and he looks white as a sheet behind the chair, so I don’t say anything.

We get to the delivery suite and the midwife is waiting for us. I don’t know what the hurry is, dear, you’ll probably be hours yet, she says. I’m pushed through to a room and stagger out of the chair as another contraction hits. My stomach’s in a vice. It’s like torture. Punishment. I sit on the edge of the bed. It feels like the baby’s head is already coming down my legs, I say to the midwife, who laughs. I curl my hand into a fist, but he stops me, grabbing my hand and holding it. He looks at me, like, don’t do something you’ll regret.   So I say, teeth clenched, Could you maybe just take a quick look?

I pull down my trousers and she bends down to look. She shoots her head straight back up. Jesus, the baby’s halfway out! she says, pulling me onto the bed. I want to say I fucking told you, but I don’t want to risk it. I need her on my side right now.

Another midwife appears from nowhere and passes me a tube of gas and air. I put the pipe into my mouth, suck hard as the pain starts creeping over my stomach, crunching it tighter, tighter…then the flood of relief from the pipe. I flop back onto the pillow like a junkie, temporarily sated. I smile at him. He looks shit-scared. He ought to have a suck on the pipe.

Get ready to push, the midwife says, and I try to push while I’m sucking the pipe, but he takes it off me. Give me that back, mother-fucker, I shout. He looks embarrassed, passes it back. The midwife laughs. I push like I’m pushing a god-damn beach ball out.

And I go to call out for my own mother, I want my god-damn fucking mother, right now. And then I remember – she’s dead. And now I’m going to be the mother. Me. And the thought of all that responsibility winds me. They’re going to let me out of this hospital with a life – a tiny human being and I’m not sure I even know how to take care of myself yet.

A slithering sensation and a body shoots out. It’s a girl! The midwife shouts, jubilant. She’s just managed to catch her in a rugby-style tackle. I look at him and he looks like he’s going to faint. I lift my head to try and see. There’s a white maggoty-looking shape covered in blood and a shock of black hair. The midwife walks over to the corner with her. There’s muttered voices.

And it all goes quiet.

And that baby’s not making a sound. Not a fucking sound.

And I look into his eyes standing there beside the bed, still holding the tube of gas and air. And I’m looking for some kind of reassurance – anything. But he just looks back, terrified. And he looks over to the corner and I want him to ask the midwives what’s going on, but he doesn’t, he just stands there, holding that damn tube in his hand, limp and ineffective.

And I try to get up off the plastic mattress and it sticks to my thighs like peeling off a plaster, and the pool of blood is forming bigger, between my legs, and siding across the mattress and I look away and feel ashamed that I’m making a mess, and I want to ask if I can get a cloth or something and I fall back onto the plastic pillows and I wonder, fleetingly, how many women’s lives have been shaped in this room, on this bed.

And then I hear it.

Soft and slow, beautiful and clear as birdsong and it’s my daughter’s first cry and she’s pushed into my arms and folds into my breast and takes life from me, drinking deep, knowing what to do even if I don’t, and I’ve never felt so alive.

***

KATEJONES

 

***Kate is a freelance writer based in the UK who writes articles, including regular contributions to online women’s magazine Skirt Collective, as well as publishing life writing and poetry both in print and online.  She has a passion for flash fiction and short stories, and is usually found lurking around coffee shops, writing and listening to other people’s conversations. 

She blogs at www.writerinresidenceblog.wordpress.com.

Find Kate on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/katejonespp ***

Creative Writing – by ROB TRUE

The process of creative writing, from an uneducated, dyslexic idiot with no qualifications

 

If you’re sitting there staring at a blank screen, or piece of paper, not knowing what to write, you’re going nowhere.

Nobody gives a fuck if you have a BA, or an MA or some other qualification for creative writing; it ain’t gonna help – wondering what to write is nowhere-bound. You’re trying so hard, you get nowhere. You know where, nowhere!

Get up and go out.

Grab a beer on the way and drink it walking down the street. If you’re not tuff, act hard, if you are tuff, play the fool. Look people in the eye, so you can see through their windows, see what they really are. Start a fight, it doesn’t matter if you win, or lose. Or fuck someone, a real dirty fuck. Put some effort into it, make it epic. Do something visceral, act like a cunt, or do something you haven’t done before. Do something you’re not allowed to do. Go and steal something. Don’t be afraid.

Think differently around things, look at them inside out, upside down. Throw left, or right wing politics, or concepts of right and wrong out the window. Instead of being politically correct, noble, or moral, play devil’s advocate next time you argue. Fuck with other people’s ideals and sensibilities, twist ‘em up and get in their heads. Don’t come with a fixed point of view, but counter attack with flexibility of free thought, watching from above, taking out the weaknesses in their fixed ideas. Look for the feeble words in their arguments and swipe the ankles, like a hunter taking out the lame member of a herd. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong. Words are magic.

Look at people, their strange interactions and weird relationships. See how bizarre life is, the structures and rules we create around us for some understanding of a so-called reality which doesn’t really exist. Open up all the doors you have bolted shut in your mind, from fear, or self-preservation of your sanity, or wanting to fit in with an imagined normality, until all the monsters are released and then, let them destroy you. Laugh at sad, or disturbing events and cry when you’re happy, while listening to electronic music of a nineteen eighties video game. All this is dangerous; your magic will grow stronger.

I remember when I was a kid at school and the art teacher told us to do something based on the human body. Now I wasn’t particularly inspired at that moment, I’d already done figure drawings and a few surreal pictures with figures in. I’d even painted a half-naked nun with an upside-down cross, morphing into a cock. Anyway, I was staring at this blank paper and I knew that was going nowhere, so I put down my pencil and punched myself in the face as hard as I could. My nose burst and I let the blood drip all over the page. I called it Nosebleed. The teacher and other pupils, were quite horrified, but I was rather pleased with it. I’ve still got it.

Don’t sit there wondering what to write, just write something, anything.

Write about when you got beat up in a fight, or that time you knocked someone out with one punch, or something strange that happened when you were drunk, or high, or about what a cunt your mother is, or how you bullied some poor kid at school, or got bullied, depending on where you stood in the absurd hierarchy and pecking order of these moronic animals that we are. Write about the argument you had the other day with your brother, or the best, or worst fuck you ever had. Write about the inside out chick you found still alive after your cat played with it and how you smashed it with a brick to put it out of its dying misery and how beautiful its broken guts looked, all flattened and feathery blood mess. Write about going down on a beautiful girl and as you go to kiss her pretty little pussy, a snake suddenly shoots out of it and bites you on the face. Write about something real, or just make it up, it doesn’t matter if its bullshit, or if it makes you sound like a prick.

When I write something, it’s usually because I already had the inspiration. It could be from a dream, or real events, or just an image, a vision, or an idea that just appears in my head, like magic.

I write mostly short stories, which are about fifty/fifty fiction/true stories. In between I fuck, fight, work, steal, drink, laugh like an idiot, get into trouble, hurt, get hurt and think. I generally don’t try to write anything.

I don’t like to strain. I never squeeze out a shit. I wait ‘till its banging on the back door, so when I sit down, it just falls out with ease.

I just get ideas beamed in and the creativity spills out like magic, or vomit. I write it down as quick as I can and it feels effortless and beautiful. Making art, or writing for me is an other-world experience. The effort comes into play if I work back over it. (I don’t always do this, but sometimes it is necessary to make the best of a piece). I have a friend who is a biker and this process always reminds me of a chopper. Take a motorbike and chop it. All the fairing off, back to the basic frame and machine. Then polish it up and bolt on all the fancy accessories. I sort of do the same by chopping out the introductions, the explanations, take out unnecessary words and strip it back to raw idea, the magic. Then I fuck around with the words a bit to allow them to flow better with a rhythm of poetry and punch. This process I find equally amusing and not at all a chore. I never stare at a blank screen, or page.

I remember in a film, or maybe a TV program years ago, someone said something along the lines of don’t try, just do, or don’t do. I can’t remember the exact line, or if it was Mr Miyagi, or Yoda, or Cain from Kung Fu. Probably all three said it one way, or another. Those words always rung true to me.

So there it is, don’t force it. If you’ve got it in you, it’s in there somewhere. It will come to you when you’re not expecting. While you walk the street, or at work, or something. I work in construction and I come and go when I please, but if you work in some shitty office when this happens, up end your desk and jump out the fucking window, run all the way home and hit that keyboard hard, let it all flow out the way it comes in on a beam of golden light and don’t stop for nothing, or no one ‘til it’s all run out. Even if you have to shit in your pants, just keep going until its done with you, because you’re no longer in charge, the idea has taken over, possessed you.

You are just the vehicle, the pathway for it to enter this dimension.

***

IMAG1850 (2)

***Rob True was born in London 1971. He left school with no qualifications, dyslexic and mad, in a world he didn’t fit into. He got lost in an abyss, was sectioned twice and spent the best part of a decade on another planet. He returned to earth just in time for the new millennium, found a way to get on in life, married a beautiful girl and lived happily ever after. She taught him how to use paragraphs and punctuation and his writing has been a bit better ever since. Find him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/robjtrue  ***