The clock just bore it down. Merry Christmas the president tweets from his midnight toilet and the sheets of lake effect have been coming down for hours. I’m here in the hotel. Praise be to the newborn savior for the Admiral Station outside my window a beacon in the blizzard a spirit of steadfastness. Although anyplace to buy a lonely meal tonight is closed the cigarettes are only $5.88 plus tax nonstop. The woman attendant stands half out the door smoking. My hotel heater blows the attendant exhales the wind dislodges a shelf of snow from the gaspump canopy falling to the sidewalk and the whole construction wobbles. I ought to buy this woman a pack of her favorite brand in the Christmas spirit. The snow keeps on falling and the plowmen won’t work till morning.
A rustcolored SUV pulls around back and hitches to the pump. The driver heads inside to buy a bag of Rolled Gold. I watch him through several panes of glass. Through another I watch George Bailey return home unsuicided his wife Donna understandably skittish but relieved and the scab of revelers sing He’s a Jolly Good Fellow—but coming home isn’t always an occasion for drinking songs. Sometimes all you’ve got is snow falling and everyday miracles lay you out such as the Great Lake Michigan swimming in on a raft of stormclouds. Neither humanly good nor bad just boundless.
The driver lays his life on the counter. The movie ends. The room comes up to heat and everybody makes it home.
Josh Boardman is from Michigan. He is the author of the chapbook Plantain (West Vine Press, 2018) and conducted the Latin translation project We, Romans (2015). His stories have appeared in journals such as the Fanzine, New York Tyrant, BULL, Maudlin House, and Catapult. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he is working on his first novel and a collection of stories about his hometown.
Ella was coloring the most beautiful, abstract thing I have ever seen. I said, that is the most beautiful, abstract thing I have ever seen. No, mama, she said, it’s a giraffe. Of course it is! Those eyes, those ossicones, those spots! I am often mistaking things: my mother for a saint; strangers for familiars; my husband for a manhole. One morning, I walked in to teach my 8 am class, and my students were electrons. I traced their particles in the lights. Emma: a loop! If you trace something for long enough, it makes you dizzy; you lose it in the double slit. Even with the clouds I do this. I point to them and say, that looks like a ship, and then, suddenly, I am halfway across the Atlantic: my stepfather clangs his spoon against a glass; the pool is cold; the captain is kind. If things were what they first appeared, then nothing would be as it is.
Nicole Callihan’s books include SuperLoop (Sockmonkey Press 2014) and Translucence (with Samar Abdel Jaber, 2018), and the poetry chapbooks: A Study in Spring (with Zoe Ryder White, 2015), The Deeply Flawed Human (2016), Downtown (2017), and Aging (2018). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin House, Sixth Finch, Painted Bride Quarterly, The American Poetry Review, and as a Poem-a-Day selection from the Academy of American Poets. Her novella, The Couples, was published by Mason Jar Press in summer 2019.
Winner of the 2020 Chapbook Contest, judged by Zach Schomburg
The mechanical bull dreams of being a real bull. The real bull is also a freelance detective operating in the rangelands. He has one steadfast partner: the lonesome bartender. For many years the lonesome bartender and the real bull travel from bar to bar in one-horse towns, winning love and solving local mysteries. Someday soon they will stop needing to close every case and they will head north, to the prairie, side by side.
The maintenance of the mechanical bull is the lonesome bartender’s responsibility. He tends to the padded flooring around the mechanical bull so it remains soft and green. He’s solved every mystery of the mechanical bull's motor; he makes sure it will run for a long time to come. Someday he will have his own range of soft green grass and a few head of cattle to walk alongside him.
While the bar is closed the mechanical bull awakens as a real bull. He is not the only one. They escape from wood and tarpaper watering holes across the country, trying to find the wide open land. If only they get far enough North: then they will become real bulls forever. At night the lonesome bartenders must roundup their missing mechanical bulls. Every year this seems to happen, a mystery they hope someday to solve.
This excerpt was previously published in Mid-American Review.
Ori Fienberg's writing has appeared or is forthcoming in venues such as Essay Daily, PANK, Diagram, Mid-American Review, Subtropics, BOAAT, and Rattle. Fienberg is a graduate of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa, works for the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, and lives in Evanston, IL.
Turkey Day on the frontier and the wild lice come along, jump ship and wade out to the shores of the domestic chicken heading off to market live, and then one of the fancy breeds catches a foreigner’s eye and he takes it back across the sea. Once more the wild lice jump ship. It starts again and again. Their home becomes everywhere.
They live in among the feathers and the scales, feeding on the wounds and the natural environment, wingless and flat, barely a tenth of an inch, with three pairs of legs culminating in two sharp claws that scrape as they scurry. Their feathered households cannot ignore them. They lay their eggs on the barbs of the feathers. Several thousand can inhabit the surface of a single chicken.
They’re not alone in the world. Forty families claim kinship. The children can be killed by their antics, but the adults rarely register more than a serious bit of irritation and weight loss.
If there’s someone around to notice, the children can be dipped or dusted. Modern methods have not improved things. They go the easier route and treat only the roost.
We turn against ourselves without realizing. We leave home right there in the back yard, in the woods at the edge of the clearing, and our weaknesses invite the neighbors, who stay too long and consume whatever lives on the surface. We feed our enemies because they need us, irritated by our welcome. We forget with a deep unknowing vengeance and it returns, eating away at us. Why can we no longer just fly away? Why must we have enemies to survive? I only want to consider how the sun and the moon have chosen only to glimpse each other from time to time and not discuss it.
Rich Ives has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award. His books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press--poetry), Sharpen (The Newer York—fiction chapbook), The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking (What Books--stories) and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press--hybrid).
Image from an animated movie of an eye still unsevered from its ocular nerve, dangling from its socket, from the black gap in the skull.
Hearing somewhere no writer gets over their childhood.
He wrote, “and the clouds bowe over the lake, / And there are gods upon them.”
In childhood, finding on my father’s shelf a book entitled Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me. In one, when the children are, for a scavenger hunt, tasked with locating objects that might stand as substitute parts for a man (i.e.: grapes for eyes), she discovers two in the upstairs room, kneeling over the body of her husband, enucleating him with spoons.
What in this so struck me with fear? So much so that, later that afternoon, having left home for the first day of the first of the season’s camping trips, I stood dazed until dusk at the lake’s rim, unable to get over it.
Unable to see past it, or see it, even now, as more than a doubling of the underside of an overcast sky. More than a surfaceless brightness.
He burned it for me, my father, when he found out how much it, the book, had shattered me.
Parts of our lives were formed into images that stay with us.
Faith that in my childhood home there is yet a room I haven’t been in.
Slight curvature to the cross-reflecting image that presents itself between two mirrors: to tend away from eternity; to pull toward seeing the back of one’s own head. The pulling toward that happens to the mind as it seeks to reach its own horizon.
To try and catch the eye contracting.
At the pine-tips, droplets. Seen at a distance: their new edges, twice-described and silver. World of adumbration. World behind—not beside—this one.
This silver-edged eye-hole.
It isn’t the mind that dilates or contracts. Instead, like the iris, the mind lets the world work in it, to determine the density it will fill within circumference. In a moment of indolence, the world narrows—idling car, forehead pressed against the window glass, observing particles stuck there flare with light; a light the eye seeks to limit or look from—the world that lets in light.
What it seeks to see.
How much of me there.
My teacher writes, “it would exist without me; a fact I need to be true.”
Asking my mother to find for me the silver-backed and -bordered hand-mirror I as a child would use for this self-same purpose. To put behind my head my eyes. Me between, or the faith at least I’m there between.
Watching her root for it for me in the cabinet underneath the counter.
Kylan Rice lives in North Carolina, where he is working on a PhD in nineteenth and twentieth-century American poetry and poetics. He obtained his MFA in poetry from Colorado State University. His creative writing has been published in Tupelo Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, Full Stop Quarterly, Kenyon Review, West Branch, The Seattle Review, among other venues. He is editor-in-chief for The Carolina Quarterly.
It wasn’t like that. I came home from work early. Made myself warm water with honey and lemon. I called two friends from home and hung up when I got the dial tone. Pulled a couple blankets over myself. I put on Rick and Morty and said I could take as long as I needed. It was almost kind. Not a hike or a mountain top but rather a Forest of familiar black trees. When Alex called I threw up all 8 lithium. We went to Denny’s. I told my parents over a Denver omelet and we talked about outpatient. I called a new psychiatrist that my insurance covered. Went off lithium and started taking Risperidone. Wrote new poems. No more girl in the bathtub. I brushed my hair. Walked through town in my University of Pennsylvania sweatshirt and clean jeans. It wasn’t like that at all. It was spring again. Like a timer had started, counting down. ♦
Marianna White was born in Seattle, WA, but currently lives in Denver, Colorado, where she is finishing up her undergraduate degree. When not writing she can be found listening to bad pop music. Her writing has been published previously in Leopard Skin and Limes, Juked, Petrichor Review and others.