Tag Archives: XX (Winter 2019)

“The Scream” – Fiction by Gloria g. Murray

A woman wakes up dead on her seventieth birthday in “The Scream,” Gloria g. Murray’s phantasmically surreal short fiction from our Winter 2019 issue.

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WHEN I AWOKE THE MORNING OF MY SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY, I KNEW I WAS NO LONGER ALIVE.  Every part of me seemed so light under the sheets.  I tried to move each limb but without sensation. My eyes seemed open yet I couldn’t blink. My fingers were clawed around the sheets.

I looked about. The room seemed the same—the screen saver on my computer zigzagging into pink, green and yellow lines, the sunlight filtering through the blinds, my pink slippers positioned at the side of the bed. Everything was as always until I looked into the mirror. My mouth was open in a Munch scream so that I couldn’t move my lips. I put my hand on my breast but felt nothing, not even a flutter.

It seemed like I floated down the steps to the kitchen. Everything was as usual—the coffee pot ready to brew. I turned it on to hear that sweet, perking sound, inhale that savory smell. I opened the blinds and stared out at the familiar sump across the street, my neighbor’s American flag blowing in the January wind. Perhaps it was all a dream. Yes, a Picasso nightmare from which I would eventually awaken. I avoided the mirror in the hallway. I wanted to speak but my mouth wouldn’t move.  I grabbed the phone but it fell from my hand, and then I too fell to the floor. I lay there for I don’t know how long before I heard the front door opening.

A man and woman walked in. Hmm, lots of goodies here, the woman said. Yes, most everything is sure to go, the man answered. We could probably set it up for three weeks from today. The woman nodded and they proceeded to walk around, inspecting everything. After admiring one of my statues, the woman said—Oh, this Rodin, I’m sure it will go!  Oh no! Not The Kiss, the one I found at a garage sale and sprayed pale pink to cover the cracks.  And these prints of Frida Kahlo, the woman smiled—lovely.  But I’m not sure in Suburbia many would know who she was.

 I poked at my mouth. Damn it—OPEN!  They continued walking around, tapping the piano keys on the out-of-tune Winter upright, the one my dear friend played while I sang off-key, the one he claimed was firewood.

Well, we might get something for this—but it’s doubtful, the man commented. Hmm, the woman agreed. Then they went upstairs to my bedroom. Well, look at this, the woman said, rattling through some of the files and papers on my desk, examining the computer my fingers had stroked like a lover, long, long into the night. The lady was a writer. How about that?  Well, we might get something for the computer and printer. I suppose her children could come and collect the books and the writings and any other incidentals.

My poetry, plays…poetry for which I had never achieved real notoriety, just a local contest now and then, the two free contributor copies, a couple of my plays performed at local one-act festivals by senior citizens in various stages of Alzheimer’s.  The couple wandered about for a while before they came down, took one last look around and closed the door behind them. Yes, they had come and assessed my life in all of ten minutes. Continue reading “The Scream” – Fiction by Gloria g. Murray

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“Hey Joe” – Poetry by Jeremiah Driver

Jimi Hendrix – Abdul Mati Klarwein, 1970

“Hey Joe” is one of two gritty & gunslingin’ poems by Jeremiah Driver in our Winter 2019 issue.

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BECAUSE IT’S QUIET AND CRAZY ONE HAS REASON
to pause. Because questions
can fill the space between two people
and open anybody wider than another’s answers.
Because a truth that can be told
isn’t true. Where you goin’

with that gun in your hand? Because the first note
transforms Jimi from Jimi

who becomes a teller who is asking
Joe, who is not Jimi,
nor the person Jimi is not
the gun.

We listen because someone will die
someone will murder
because he caught her messing round with another man
but the shot is not heard. There are notes,
chords, and rhythm—blues: polyphonic shuffling

dysfunction that functions to melt people’s brains
so that the daemon can live
as long as people listen.

{ X }

JEREMIAH DRIVER earned an MFA in Writing at Sarah Lawrence College, won the Thomas Lux Award, has been a horse trainer, a service member in the United States Army, worked heavy construction in Manhattan, and taught literacy/ writing in Queens and the Bronx. He blogs at jeremiahdriver.wordpress.com. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in TerminusColumbia JournalUCity ReviewPrairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, and Piecrust.

“The Rules of Magic Blankets” – Fiction by E.H. Brogan

illustration by E.H. Brogan

Childlike logic grapples with nighttime terror in “The Rules of Magic Blankets,”  E.H. Brogan‘s playfully spooky flash fiction from our Winter 2019 issue.

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THE RULES OF MAGIC BLANKETS ARE AS THIS:

IF i am a child, and IF i am tucked in, and IF i cannot sleep;

IF the leaves and arthritic finger-branches of the deciduous tree outside my window insist on shifting, sometimes furtive, sometimes maniac and distressed;

and IF no matter the size of the moon or its lost face there’s ambient light eternal thrown by streetlamps and adult windows lit up after dusk, so that the second-story shadows cast in my room of the animal-alive old oak can never die or be obliterated, so i can never flee them except into sleep, which my terror keeps me from;

and IF i am sure that in the stammer and slide of thrown-off dark on darker void i’ve seen – i do not know for words but i have seen, and my just-minted eyes are sharp and while i cannot name them that i saw, — cannot explain them, cannot be said in any adult sense to understand them in intellect or language or your grown-up fashion — in flashes: sinister tails on ground snake hidden, the sheen of matted fur, reptile armor formed of scales, light refracted in two condensed red eyes peering out a well, the hint of mushroom breath rotting but with caution in between and around bladed fangs;

IF, THEN it can be said: i know there bide monsters in the murky depths around me, yes, my very bedroom, and somewheres, for once a monster finds a favored haunt it advertises, it leaves a scent to telegraph the sweet spot among all of them. so yes IF there exist monsters in my very room THEN magic must so too.

so IF there’s monsters who drag nails as long-grown as my fingertip to bottom palm along the ground while they stalk, and i trust my eyes and this IF, it’s only IF to speak to you — then i can use magic on my side, too. monsters and magic or nothing.

so IF i can smell their long-past meals of little sleepless girls and boys in fragments ossified under yellow claws and scores of morsels slicked among their greasy beards and wedged between their teeth then i declare my blanket’s unreal too.

it’s already special, woven wide so holes were left through it in the thick-spun cotton weave. i call it my cold blanket because when summer’s hot, the windows open and the cicadas all a hundred degrees or four more in their hum i cannot dream of sleep without some blanket despite sweat so in covering me this one is my solution. this blanket which is here but also halfway not in spaces blooms in its existence out along two planes: this one where my parents see me, kiss my cheek and smooth the linens down as well as that other one where in the closet a shadow grunts between his breaths and the oak tree branches become witch hands which scrape at the windowglass.

so IF there are monsters and magic THEN i cast this spell: my cold blanket cobwebs over me til i become invisible to monsters while they prowl. slithers and ghouls find nothing. so long as any part of me’s slipped under this my beige-spun sentry, unshrinkingly vigilant, i’m like its holes unseen. all i took and made this happen with was my sweat and fear and my belief, unswerving, whipped and cooked from child-sense.

what i see, i see. i cannot root out all the monsters but can manage to keep me safe. so IF there’s magic and there’s monsters i don’t even mind – i turn on my side and sigh and like a jaw snaps shut, another night’s conquested. i sleep with the confidence of death.

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E.H. BROGAN creates in Newark, DE. She writes poetry and prose, sometimes. She sketches, draws, paints, colors, collages, creates artisan paper/paper products, knits, and bookbinds in between John Irving novels (currently; the Irving expedition kicked off in 2018, to continue until completion). She has had art or writing published in places like Flapperhouse, Five2One Magazine and Sideshow, Red Paint Hill, and the Portland Review. Her blog is not updated frequently but a list of all publications with links can be found at emilyhopebrogan.blogspot.com. She also tweets @wheresmsbrogan and IGs her casual art at comics_by_e.h.brogan

“Santarella Garden” – Poetry by Kailey Tedesco

The Bride – Gertrude Kasebier, 1902

“Santarella Garden” is Kailey Tedesco‘s beautifully bizarre poem of blood & bridehood from our Winter 2019 issue.

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SWEET

on its own is not a word to conjure anything of the sort. Santarella was not home to me, yet blood runs down
my leg and into the drain of its shower.

Santarella asked to be invited into me, and I said yes. Santarella’s reflection is only seen
on the surface of its own ponds.

The photographer tells me to be serious for just a goddamned second, but I’ve forgotten that I’m the bride.

In every photograph, I’m laughing with the many hors d’oeuvres, somewhere
in the background.

The symbol of our marriage is up at the peak of the silo, with the dark and all the stars. Without it, nothing
can proceed as usual.

Is it good luck to have blood run down my leg and into Santarella’s shower? I’m asking this to everyone I see, just before I lean to kiss them on the cheek.

With each kiss, I remember I’m the bride.

Is it good luck to have fingernails full of Santarella?

The soil is crawling into me, like a tantrum. It wants to be put to bed. Moss wounds my gown, yet I must
reach the top of the silo before the photographs are taken and I forget
that I’m the bride.

In every photograph, I’m crawling on my hands and knees up the Santarella garden, like a freak storm. It’s
snowing in September. I lie there in it, knowing I may fall asleep and never wake.

When I rise my gown rises with me. The snow has cleared and we have sun for our photographs.

On the way to Santarella, blood got on the driver’s seat. I was never the bride in my entire life. As I drove up
the Santarella garden, it became so goddamned dark.

(Goddamned is used here incorrectly. The dark was not damned by any god. It was just sweet. Like blood.)

The candle light could not penetrate the dark. It grew too quickly all around me. The Santarella garden became
a sound instead of a place, and I had difficulty experiencing it fully. The guests
of the wedding only spoke to me in spells.

But the dark scabbed over my body and my gown and my blood like a new skin
and that is what I wanted the whole time. More than anything.

Once I was inside the dark, I could experience everything fully.

And so I walked up the Santarella garden and spiral wooden staircase and into the shower with checkered tile and I bled what I needed to into its drain.

And the sun shone on the pond, of course, because everything was of the dark now including the sun. Including me. My bouquet was so moody and when I tossed it, it almost refused

to bleed out from the darkness and into the drain of the shower.

I am the bride, I remembered, and it shows in every photograph.

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KAILEY TEDESCO is the author of She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publishing) and These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press). Her second collection, Lizzie, Speak (winner of White Stag Publishing’s poetry contest) will be released in early 2019. She is the co-founder of Rag Queen Periodical and an editor for Luna Luna Magazine. You can find her work featured or forthcoming in Fairy Tale Review, Prelude, New South, fields, Bone Bouquet Journal, and more. For further information, please visit kaileytedesco.com. 

“Knives, nails and keratin” – Poetry by Alice Riddell

La temperanza, Woman Holding a Knife –
Konstantinos Parthenis, 1938

“Knives, nails and keratin” is Alice Riddell‘s raw & piercing poem from our Winter 2019 issue.

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AFTER ONE TWO MANY,
She rips the nails from their beds
Like children on Christmas morning,
Eager to open
A fantasy of something else.
But there is only coal
And air exposed on rawness.

Having eleven stitches into her chin
Felt like a bow
Tied by her mother.
Smart for church,
All dressed up
In that robe,
Where blood ran down
Between her breasts.
Kitchen knife,
Two K’s
But the silence of the last haunts her,
Its noiselessness
Cuts flesh and screams.

She digs
With small white keratin,
Not the ripped ones
Some are saved
For this very occasion.
They mark
Like crescent moons
On a powder dusk sky,
The shoulder and neck canyon
The valley of palms and wrists
Reflected back.

Pinches;
Like ants
Like too-tight denim
Like winter winds
Like plucking eyebrows
Like her sister,
Her mother made her wear mittens to school
Because she nipped other kids,
Nip sounds better than pinch
Pinch is only one letter away from punch.
She painted the most beautiful blues,
Lapis Lazuli slaps
Violent violets
Sucker for shallow skulls.

She watched the glow
Of the cigarette lighter
Its receptacle invitation,
Its perfect finger shaped hole
To burn off those remaining.
Licked by invisible flames
Sucked out of soreness
By salvia,
By means of salvation.
Fingertips aflame are like burning bridges,
They frizzle and melt into themselves
Only to regrow again more painfully.

{ X }

ALICE RIDDELL is originally from the U.K. and is currently studying at NYU’s Center of Experimental Humanities. She is Editor-in-Chief of an interdisciplinary journal called Caustic Frolic and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Breadcrumbs Mag, Vol. 1 Brooklyn and Anthropolitian. Alice has also read her work as part of the Dead Rabbits Reading Series. She is an avid table tennis player.

“And Nothing But” – Fiction by dave ring

The Truth – Ferdinand Hodler, 1903

“And Nothing But” is dave ring‘s brutally honest flash fiction piece from our Winter 2019 issue.

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MY TRUTH? THE FUCK. 

My truth has teeth and hundreds of legs and chews apart the bodies in the middle of the night.  My truth leaves a smudge behind to remind you of what it once undid.

My truth knows the way to the door.  My truth has weight.  My truth can get me into any hardhold in this town fast as anything.  My truth gets me kicked out even faster.

My truth stops motherfucking trains in their motherfucking tracks.

My truth has a reputation.

My truth ain’t all class:  My truth fucks the landlord.  My truth pays the rent.

My truth got me the codes to T-Rex Tsang’s secret stash.  My truth saved Billy Jean Angelou’s ass during the Smoketown Massacre.  My truth scored rides on the jury-rigged rollercoaster at Beth the Eastside Boss’s cannibal roadshow and then got me out alive.  My truth slid along One-Eye Lawson’s hairy tit, flitting back and forth, while my hand did things to his dick that made him shout so loud I could hear his bodyguards gritting their teeth from their post outside the door.

My truth tricked power chords from the pulverized Stratocaster that Skullface Suzy has hanging on her wall like it was a stuffed elk, the barely tuned strings twanging with sadness like a lover that knows every amp in the world is dead.  My truth returned that guitar to its place with a reverence when Suzy called me back to bed, even though Suzy doesn’t deserve her.

My truth went back after dark.  My truth had sticky fingers.  My truth knew when to admit that it got us into all this trouble.

My truth knows that Skullface Suzy never stops.  My truth can tell when the hourglass is running out.

My truth knows when to get out of town and how to bum a ride on the I-90 all the way here from where the sun licked the surface of the lake with a flicker of magenta at the first light of dawn.  My truth knows never to stop looking over my shoulder.  My truth lets the chariot idle on the tarmac, chauffeur snoozing in the back, his bare spine slick with sweat against the vinyl seats, jeans still around his ankles, lips still tingling from a post-coital smoke.  My truth still sings of the spark, the sweet tar.

My truth knows to check that the gun is loaded.

My truth can’t do this much longer, but this gun has seven 9mm lies in the clip, plus one in the chamber.

And Pinocchio ain’t shit.

{ X }

dave ring is the community chair of the OutWrite LGBTQ Book Festival in Washington, DC, and the editor of Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was from Mason Jar Press. More info at www.dave-ring.com.  Follow him on Twitter at @slickhop.

“Protest Magic” – Fiction by Justine Talbot

Nude witch with red hair riding a broom surrounded by bats in a moonlit sky
The witch – Luis Ricardo Faléro, 1882

“Protest Magic” is Justine Talbot‘s surreal & spellbinding flash fiction from our Winter 2019 issue.

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THE SPELL WON’T WORK. Hardly any protesters showed up to the combination sit-in/die-in/group hexing session, and those who did left immediately after their deaths. Lucille knows one witch’s rage isn’t enough to save the lake. Still, when the air around her pops and fizzles like dying sparklers, she can’t help but blame herself.

She conducts her spellwork in front of a large brown cube with gray glass windows. All of her magical implements have been respectfully borrowed from the lake. The elements are represented by a ramekin full of lake water, a pile of ashy weeds, a goose feather, a fishbone. Her wand is a moldy stick.

Inside the cube, twelve men and one woman sit at a long table and pretend not to agree. Lucille can hear them when she puts her ear to the glass. “If we drain the lake, what will the tourists do in the summer?” asks the woman.

“There won’t be any tourists next summer,” says one of the men.

“Oh, thank God,” the woman says quickly. “I just meant, if there were still tourists … well, they’d need somewhere to go, wouldn’t they?”

“Without the lake, there won’t be any tourists,” says a different man. “You can be sure of that.”

“Thank God,” the woman says again.

Lucille paces around the cube a few times, murmuring to herself. Then she crouches down out front and peers through the glass, squinting at each board member in turn.

“I bind you,” she whispers, concentrating on a very fat man with mean eyes. The fat man sneezes.

“I bind you.” A pugnosed young man starts scratching at his collar like a stray dog.

“I bind you.” A skinny old man starts coughing and doesn’t stop.

“You okay, Mickey?” asks one of several balding men with his back facing the window. “You need some water or something?”

“I need something,” the old man says hoarsely. But no one gets him water.

Lucille turns her attention to the woman, who sits at the head of the table—or maybe it’s the foot. “I bind you,” she whispers.

But the woman doesn’t act bound. Her slender hands twitch against the table. “I think I’ll go out for a smoke,” she says.

Continue reading “Protest Magic” – Fiction by Justine Talbot