Decades ago, autodidact & bloody-minded optimist kerry rawlinson gravitated from sunny Zambian skies to solid Canadian soil. Fast-forward: she follows Literature & Art’s Muses around the Okanagan, still barefoot, her patient husband ensuring she’s fed. She’s cracked some contests (e.g. Cago; Fish Poetry Prize) and features lately in Synchronized Chaos, Spelk, Tupelo Quarterly, Across the Margin, Yes Poetry, Pedestal, Reflex Fiction, Riddled With Arrows, ArcPoetry; among others. kerryrawlinson.tumblr.com @kerryrawli
Open House at a Paper Mill
I was embarrassed of it all then—
the Hane’s pocket t-shirts, the steel-toed boots
that smelled of leather, sweat, and
sickening sweet paper pulp.
My father’s world was
white and beige, dull steel
of machinery, the color of gloom,
miles of life walked away on concrete.
I saw it once, open house
day, families crowded into lookout rooms,
paper cups of orange
drink and powdered-sugar donuts.
Outside, tractor trailers held
their loads of trees, long pines,
all their limbs removed, just
waiting to feed these machines.
After 25 years, I try to wear
his life like a badge, like
his suffering has earned me
an identity, working class status.
The dumb luck of prosperity:
my grandmother writes to say she
is so happy that we have what they
could never get—the house of our dreams.
That’s the hope of immigrant life—
black lung and alcoholism,
poverty and welfare checks—
it ends up here: new cars, college degrees.
We can’t surrender it all
to future generations and smile.
The shoulders we stand on
ache with a knife-digging hurt.
Jennifer Judge’s work has been published in Rhino, Literary Mama, Gyroscope Review, Blueline, Mothers Always Write, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Every Pigeon, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Rockvale Review, Juniper, Under the Gum Tree, and The Comstock Review, among others. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets 2018, and Best of the Net 2018. Her work was also selected to appear in a Jenny Holzer art installation in the Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia. Her first collection of poetry is due out in early 2021 from Propertius Press.
Looking for Love: To-Do List of a Lake Monster
1. First things first, brush my matted hair. Braid a tadpole necklace and pin a frog behind one ear.
2. Float in marshy shallows and forget cold crash and white bite spray, drowned descent and forced rebirth from skin to scales, all in turbid shades of gray and green and waxen blue.
3. Scour lakebed for fossils. The diplodocus is almost complete! That missing rib, I’ll find it yet, buried in sands from ages past. A beast’s need for union is such a timeless quest.
4. Search sunken tin pan freighter for ruffled shirt with button cuffs. Lie in shoal and watch the cove, where a dirt path winds and soft-skinned stroll. Drift away, but sense the shore vibrations still: dancing violin, coupled laughter, clinks of glass.
5. Afternoon nap in western bog.
6. Find a mate. Cast a line or throw a net?
7. Twilight cruise near the beach, smell the flesh with every breath.
8. Lure a lady from the path . . . wail a siren call and spew a lentic scent! Spy her in starlight, moonlight, gaslight glow; she’ll sense my soul, my other half. Listen now, it’s safe to step! Tread through muddy cattails and spreading ferns, slip-slide slick lichen stones, and wade into wavy warmth . . . .
9. Hooked you! Seaweed bound, lasso round. Grind your heels, kick up sand, through clouds of silt and salty tears I see you yet! Don’t hide beneath an algae bloom or I’ll drag you to a deeper gloom. We’ll build a bed of snails and burn it bright. Be my slimy bride, in veil of rotted sail and clanking rusted anchor chains behind. Webbed feet, pointed teeth, cool blood reborn, another spiny savage with red heart pumping deep.
10. We’ll tumble through splendid years, embraced in wet blissful paradise, until rough green gods with seismic squeeze mold our home to mountain. Perched on peak, caged by icy crystal ocean, we’ll bet on bobbing arks while glaciers creep.
11. I’ll spot an emerald spec as the floods recede, follow me, we’ll flop on down. Finned creatures crawling, pine needles pricking, we’ll find a pond and dive again, forever to swim a murky heaven and ride this world’s smooth blue-green spin. Together.
Marilee Dahlman grew up in the Midwest and currently lives in Washington, DC. Her other stories have appeared in Cleaver, The Colored Lens, Five on the Fifth, Metaphorosis, Timeworn Literary Fiction, and online at The Saturday Evening Post.
You are thirty-five years old and you know better than to open the envelope that feels like a strip of hot metal in your hand. The return address is from the federal prison in Pensacola. You don’t have to open it to know it’s from Inmate 607439. You do know that if you read it, the letter will sear your heart. Just holding the envelope, you remember the cleft in his chin, the feel of his breath against your neck. If you read it, you will long for something you shouldn’t, and you may risk everything you’ve achieved in the last eight years —career success, a fiancé who adores you, an upstanding reputation in the community.
Your fiancé Marc doesn’t object to the nights and weekends your career requires, makes excellent paella, and sends roses to your mother on her birthday. You nod your head at the litany of his virtues. Yes, yes, he is a good man. But his love wraps around you like a shroud. You check your phone. Marc will be home any minute.
Words sit like sparks on your tongue. You crave talking to someone about 607439, the same way you used to jones for his fingers snaking down your stomach. Maybe you should call Joy, your best friend, and tell her you’ve received this letter. She’ll tell you to burn it and flush the ashes in the toilet. She’ll remind you of the years of therapy, the money you spent on lawyers to clear your conscience and get a divorce. You won’t remind her that she arranged the blind date with the man who became 607439, that she was the maid of honor at your wedding, and that she never told you about the deception that simmered behind his sea blue eyes.
You sneeze from the lemon polish your cleaning lady uses. You don’t recall asking Alexa to play Bob Marley, but his voice fills your living space. Your hips sway slowly, and you’re on your honeymoon in Jamaica, making love on the beach, so in love—or was it in heat—that you ignored the sand fleas and land crabs making their way along the shore. You swallow the longing for his arm around your waist, for trips to rain forests and mountain peaks. You remember how he sent you to shop in island bazaars with a wallet full of cash. A sweet and generous gesture! And then you discovered he did this to keep you busy while he arranged drug drops on remote islands in the Keys. You laugh bitterly at your naivete.
Your phone dings. Marc will be late; the gym is crowded, and he wants to finish his routine. He says don’t cook dinner, he’ll bring home Thai. You tell Alexa to shut up.
You sit on the sunporch and hold the letter to your nose the same way you held 607439’s shirts when he was in Columbia on business and, worried that he would meet a violent death, tried to breathe him into you. If you call your mother, she’ll tell you to shred the letter. Whatever you do, she’ll say, don’t tell anyone about him, especially Marc. This has been her mantra since 607439 was imprisoned. She refuses to believe that you knew what 607439’s import business entailed, and after a while you willingly participated in it. In an escalating voice she’ll recite the sins of 607439: how he used you to transport cocaine; how he spent his nights away from you; how he blackened your eye when you flushed away his stash. She’ll bring up her cousin, the state senator who arranged for a plea deal if you turned state’s witness, and whose influence kept you out of the newspapers. She never hesitates to tell you any of this should the past inadvertently come up.
You’ve told Marc you were married to a man who was a deadbeat and disappeared after the divorce. Marc promises not to disappoint you. He listens to your opinions, introduces you to interesting people, and shares your love of foreign films. He is a competent, considerate lover. He believes the body is a temple that should never be tainted with anything stronger than alcohol. He says people who do drugs are idiotic for damaging their brains. You nod as if you agree with him. He works out, runs, drinks kale smoothies, and avoids desserts. You don’t tell him that for several months the smoothies you drank were made with psilocybin mushrooms; the brownies you baked were seasoned with hash. Your mother is right. Don’t tell anyone in your new life about your old one. What happened was years ago and has little bearing on who you are today. You repeat this to yourself whenever the hankering for excitement and adventure make you want to take a plane to South America and explore the Amazon.
Your phone dings again. Marc is almost home. You know the letter from 607439 is telling you he’ll be released next month. For years you’ve listened to his voicemails about the things he made in woodshop, the books he’s read, the stories he’s written, the fights he’s won. You’ve treated them like messages from the dead and never responded. But you know he’s being released because you’ve kept a calendar and marked off the days of time served. You hold the letter tightly. No matter what happens in your new life, something inside you resists letting go of the old one.
The front door opens. Marc juggles the bags of food in one arm, and with the other pulls you to him. His muscles are taut, strong. The letter is folded in your pocket, a piece of lit charcoal pressed between you. You spoon the red curry duck into bowls. While Marc pours glasses of pinot gris, he talks about his day, his ebullience unshakable.
The heady scent of ginger and garlic unsettles your stomach. He tilts his head, his eyes soft. “Are you okay?” His concern rattles your heart. You want to tell him about the heat against your hip.
“You haven’t tried the curry.” He trails a finger down your back, igniting an unexpected shiver of desire.
You take a spoonful of food, inhale its tomatoey aroma, then let it sit on your tongue. His fingers travel along the waistband of your pants. The sweet and spicy flavors of the curry unfold. You swallow, surprised at how delicious it tastes.
Rayne Debski’s stories have appeared in national and international publications including Mslexia, The Summerset Review, Fifty Word Stories, REAL, Blue Earth Review, and Necessary Fiction, and have been selected by Liars League NYC and other professional theatre groups for public readings. She is the editor of two anthologies published by Main Street Rag Press.
Robin Bissett received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Minor in Creative Writing from Trinity University in May 2020.
A fourth generation West Coaster, C.W. Buckley lives and works in Seattle with his family. He writes about precious things, and what their loss means for us all. His writing explores geek culture, conscience, faith, and fatherhood. His work is forthcoming in the anthology Undeniable: Writers Respond to Climate Change. He is a contributor to Washington Poetic Routes, and appeared most recently in Dappled Things, Timberline Review, Camas, Image Journal, and Catamaran Literary Reader. He is the author of BLUING, a chapbook from Finishing Line Press. You can follow him as @chris_buckley on Twitter.
Nicole Foran (MFA, University of Cincinnati) is a mixed-media artist and educator based out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Her work investigates memory, moral reasoning, and identity. Nicole’s work is exhibited internationally, and she has upcoming solo exhibitions in Wyoming and Michigan. Several of her pieces are to be included in small group shows in California and Wisconsin. When she is not in the studio, Nicole is snuggling her two Boston Terriers or going on hikes with her family.
Olga Gonzalez Latapi is a poet and MFA candidate in Writing at California College of the Arts. Although her writing journey started in journalism, she is now pursuing her true passion: exploring the world of poetry with a mighty pen in hand. Her work has been published in Teen Voices, Sonder Midwest, BARNHOUSE (Box of Parrots), iaam.com and The Nasiona magazine. Originally from Mexico City, she currently lives in San Francisco.
Valyntina Grenier is a multi-genre artist living in Tucson, Arizona. Her visual art and poetry have appeared in Lana Turner, High Shelf Press, JuxtaProse, Sunspot Lit, Bat City Review,and The Impossible Beast: Poems of Queer Eroticism, Damaged Goods Press. Her double debut poetry chapbook Fever Dream / Take Heart, Cathexis Northwest Press, 2020, features paintings from her LGBTQIA+ series Cloudshow | Utopia. Find her at valyntinagrenier.com or Insta @valyntinagrenier.
Russian-American poet Stella Hayes is the author of One Strange Country (What Books Press, forthcoming in 2020). She grew up in an agricultural town outside of Kiev, Ukraine and Los Angeles. She earned a creative writing degree at University of Southern California. Her work has appeared in Prelude, The Indianapolis Review and Spillway, among others.
River Elizabeth Hall is a poet and naturalist. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Cirque, High Shelf, Into the Void, and Tinderbox, among others. She was a semifinalist in the 2019 Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Award.
Ann Howells edited Illya’s Honey journal from 1999 to 2017. Publications include Under a Lone Star (Village Books Press), So Long As We Speak Their Names (Kelsay Books), Painting the Pinwheel Sky(Assure Press), Black Crow in Flight (Editor's Choice, Main Street Rag), and Softly Beating Wings, winner of the William D. Barney Contest (Blackbead Books). Her poems have recently appeared in Chiron Review, Slant, and San Pedro River Review.
Penny Jackson’s work has been published in The Edinburgh Review, The Croton Review, The Gideon Poetry Review, Story Quarterly, Real Fiction, and others. Honors include a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, The Elizabeth Janeway Prize in Fiction from Barnard College, and a Pushcart Prize. She is also a playwright and a film writer.
Mickie Kennedy is an American poet who resides in Baltimore County, Maryland with his family and two feuding cats. He enjoys British science fiction and the idea of long hikes in nature. His work has appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Artword Magazine, Conduit, Portland Review, Rockhurst Review, and Wisconsin Review. He earned an MFA from George Mason University.
Christina Klein received a Fullbright Fellowship in 2018. She received her MFA from Florida State University in 2017.
Stephanie Launiu is a Native Hawaiian lifestyle and cultural writer who lives and writes on the Big Island of Hawaii. At the age of sixty, she went to college and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Hawaiian Pacific Studies from the University of Hawaii. She loves nothing more than to write about these islands.
Claire Lawrence is a storyteller and visual artist living in British Columbia, Canada. She has been published internationally, and her work has been performed on BBC radio. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Geist, Litro, Ravensperch, and Brilliant Flash Fiction. She was nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. Her artwork has appeared in Wired, A3 Review, Sunspot, Esthetic Apostle, Haunted, Fractured Nuance, and more. Her goal is to write and publish in all genres, and not inhale too many fumes.
Ethel Maqeda is a writer originally from Zimbabwe, now resident in Sheffield. Her work is inspired by the experiences of African women at home and in the diaspora. Her work has been published in various issues of Route 57, the University of Sheffield’s creative writing journal, Verse Matters (Valley Press, 2017), Wretched Strangers (Boiler House Press, 2018), and Chains: Unheard Voices (Margo Collective, 2018).
Alena Marvin is a young woman seeking the spark to light her imaginative fire. The twenty-year-old aspiring author is just about due for a quarter-life crisis, and she uses that chaos to fuel her creativity.
Cassandra Moss was born in Manchester and grew up just outside the city. She studied English with Film at King's College, London. and subsequently worked in the film industry for Sister Films, Working Title, and Vertigo. Since 2009, she has been an EFL teacher. After moving to Ireland, she recently completed an MPhil in Linguistics at Trinity College, Dublin. Her short fiction has been published in Succour, 3am Magazine, Cricket Online Review, Squawk Back, And/Or, The Passage Between,and Posit.
Alli Parrett is a prose writer and hold a Masters in Creative Writing from University of Glasgow. Though she was born in Illinois, she’s spent much of her adult life in the Pacific Northwest and Scotland. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two dogs. Her work has appeared in Issue 42 and Issue 43 of From Glasgow to Saturn, The Write Launch, and Crab Fat Magazine.
Samantha Schlemm is an emerging writer and graduate student in the MA in Writing Creative Nonfiction program at Johns Hopkins University.
Hediana Utarti is a sixty-year-old API immigrant who came to the US in 1986 to study political science. Although she graduated, she felt her life had more purpose in her current work at San Francisco Asian Women’s Shelter (sfaws.org).
Gabrielle Vachon is a fulltime hair and makeup artist in Montreal and Toronto, as well as part-time writer to soothe her soul (just kidding, her anxiety is Submittable’s whipping boy). She has been published in Cosmonauts Avenue, Maudlin House, and Corvus Review, and has been an invited reader at Slackline Series. She holds an Honors English Literature degree from Concordia University, and lives with her beloved husband Justin and puppy Lola in Montreal.
Hannah van Didden writes where the story takes her—usually somewhere dark but truthful; often beautiful. You will find pieces of her scattered around the world, in places such as Tahoma Literary Review, Crannóg, Southerly, Breach, Atticus Review, and Southword Journal.
Mekiya Walters is a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas’s MFA program and lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Kim Waters lives in Melbourne, Australia. She has a Master of Arts degree in creative writing from Deakin University. Her poetry has appeared in The Australian, Shanghai Review, Going Down Swinging On-line, Verge, Offset 16, Communion 5, Tincture,and Antithesis.
Virginia Watts is the author of poetry and stories found or upcoming in Illuminations, The Florida Review, The Blue Mountain Review, The Moon City Review, Permafrost Magazine, Palooka Magazine, and Streetlight Magazine, among others. A finalist in 2020 Philadelphia Stories Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest, winner of the 2019 Florida Review Meek Award in nonfiction, and nominee for Best of the Net 2019 in nonfiction, Virginia resides near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Omer Wissman; a serialized CNF; thirty-six-year-old multidisciplinary artist; degrees in psychology and music; published in most Israeli magazines. Born someplace where people go for sickness unto death, Rescued away to the nearest town, where he developed such neat capacities as object permanence, crying out every drop of vodka he’d drink, and the art of loving and hating a person at the same time. A few years ago, fell in love with writing, and the rest remains to be.
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