Flare The Flagler Review Volume 28 Issue 1
Our mission is to express creativity, spark inspiration, and bring life to art. Situated in St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, our staff continually strives to bring creative energy into each page of our publication. Our purpose is to accurately represent the artists while welcoming them into a historic community that continues to uphold the value of ingenuity and originality. By selecting the best poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and art from artists across the nation, FLARE works to create a truthful collaboration of the human experience. Like a flare sent into the darkness, the flames of creativity fuel our community. FLARE is a literary journal published by students through the Flagler College English Department. The publication is printed annually in the spring, along with a Web site. FLARE seeks to publish both up-and-coming and established writers. Accepting of both the traditional and experimental in the poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, and screenplay genres, we strive to showcase a variety of colorful, vibrant works from passionate writers. Awards: • First place, Four-Year Literary Magazine of the Year, College Media Association’s 2015-16 Pinnacle College Media Awards • Third place, Four-Year Literary Magazine of the Year, College Media Association’s 2014-15 Pinnacle College Media Awards
© 2018 FLARE: The Flagler Review, a publication of Flagler College. Visit www.theflaglerreview.com for subscription information and submission guidelines.
Volume 28, Issue 1 Spring 2018
Staff Editors Tiffany Coelho Isabelle Rodriguez Managing Editors Caitlin Costello Erica Riccio-Polletta Advisor Brian Thompson
Fiction Editors Cali Getson Lauren Piskothy Angelica Spencer Poetry Editors Gary Calderon-Ng Stevie Knight Katherine Stairs Non-Fiction Editors Caitlin Kimball Brett Scheilding Marketing Director Elizabeth Browning
e live in a world of contrasting ideas and emotions; our lives contain as much joy as sadness, humor as anger, and pleasure as pain. Through each medium of art, whether it be a poem or a painting, there is an opportunity for these emotions to bridge the gap and connect us all through empathy. Without empathy, art is simply paint on canvas or, writing just words on paper. But when we gain an emotional understanding of what these works are trying to convey, these words, paint, and graphics transform into impressions we can recognize in our loved ones and in ourselves. Empathy may come from dark places, like the link between father and son in No One Can Tell You based on their shared experiences as soldiers, or bright places, like Casey O’Connell’s colorful and engaging artwork. Either way, every work within our Spring 2018 edition has emotionally impacted the members of our staff in a poignant way. This publication explores the relationship empathy establishes through introducing the passionate works of our diverse artists to our readers. We hope these pieces will affect you in the same way they have impacted us.
Tiffany Coelho & Isabelle Rodriguez Editors
Table of Contents
Fiction No One Tells You
Ending Up 40 Nicole Sharp
Eve Loves Jezebel
Beauty in the Dirt
The Writing Woman
The Scarlet Lowercase Letter A Book is a Machine, Idling
36 Ryan Tilley 37 Michael Trocchia
Another Au Revoir 38 Kendra Mills
Non-Fiction The Witnessing 23 Susan Montag
Garden of the Mind
Man Imagines Featured Artist
14 Richard Vyse 17 Casey Oâ€™Connell
Spacial Harmonies 35 Marsha Solomon Curiosity 39 Halli Lilburn
Leda Heike Anan Mighty wings beat on painted glass, All could hear but none would act, Save one whose feet on unwashed grass, Lent footprints to a soiled tract. Will there be pain? What is the use of these conceits? Such is, but it happens again. Many times the story repeats. Can I will my transformation? I canâ€™t take you until you are free, Shall I find communion in a game of cards? Live life under the shadow of the sea. What is a lifetime to eternity? A spasm to a life? A consummation in flight, Time wonâ€™t remit nor love repent, To invite the trespass of the gods, Walk the pulverizing present, And bear the weight of a moment.
Untitled Paola Tavoletti Acrylic and Oil Pastels
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Eve Loves Jezebel Jenn Carter When I was alive, I hesitated. It is so easy to fall out a window into a garden. To paint your face, and then all that is left is your skull, and the bones of your hands you refused to pray with. In purgatory I still make wishes. I wish last night when Jezebel and I were on her balcony, I wouldâ€™ve held her hand when we heard the howls of dogs barking from down below. Her wine glass shook in her grasp. I wish I had stilled it with my fingers. I wanted to take her in my arms then and kiss her ears. Instead, I left her to hear the cries of beasts alone. Her fingers propped her head up, as if the crown was still there. I asked her to come inside with me, she refused. She chuckled softly at the deepening echoes of growls below. I wanted to save her then. If only I had reached for the apple sooner. We would have been better off. 3
Beauty in the Dirt Jess Mize I grew up from the dirt where you left me, like a bleeding Hyacinth. But it wasnâ€™t Apollo, it was my bare hands. And the blood on my knees from the freshly formed flowers will show you that there is so much beauty in dirt.
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Garden of the Mind Bette Ridgeway Acrylic 5
Unseen Hand Jacqueline Jules Tumors ate your organs like a rat gnaws wood, creating a hole between this world and the next. As you predicted, my endless prayers could not close it. How do I praise now? Or even bless my bread? When the one mercy I will always desire more than anything else is denied. You often argued with me: “Religion divides!” “Remember the Crusades!” Last night, when screens flashed with yet another frenzied soul, strapped to a bomb and belief. I saw your logic, touting headlines, to prove the absence of an unseen hand. It did not stop me this morning from returning to the same pew, moving my lips to chants learned in childhood. But if you’re watching, you’ll see my eyes stray from the book, unable to focus as before.
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No One Tells You Ian Peterkin
n his closet I found his old dress uniform, two pairs of shoes, and a box. The clothes in the dresser drawers were rolled up neatly, orderly—economical. I sat on his bed, placing the
box beside me and looked inside. His orders were yellowed and tattered at the edges. At the bottom of the box was an envelope with his Purple Heart, Silver Star, and identification tags. I placed his medals back in the envelope, then held up his tags and turned them over in my hand. He must have polished them often because they were free of the tarnish you see on old metal. On his nightstand was a picture of Mom with my sister and me.
I was twelve when that picture was taken. We had gone to
Sears. Dad was supposed to be there too, but he left us, as he did many times. The night before, I heard Mom and him fighting and then, from my bedroom window, watched as he drove off in the car. I walked into the kitchen and saw Mom wiping away her tears with a dishtowel. She tried hard to make me believe she hadn’t been crying.
“Your father wasn’t always like this you know,” she said.
“Like what?” I asked.
They had met at the VA hospital. Mom was visiting a cousin
who came home from Vietnam in bad shape. He lost an arm and had shrapnel embedded in one leg. She could hear a man yelling at the top of his lungs in a room across the hall from her cousin. She watched as a young orderly ran out of the man’s room. Her cousin told her the lunatic in the other room had caused that more than once during his stay.
Over the several weeks Mom visited her cousin in the VA, she
also got to know Dad, the lunatic down the hall. She saw tenderness in my father during those months in the hospital. By the time her cousin was released, she started dating my father. In five years they would be married and two years later I would be born, in 1979. Dad worked a long list of odd jobs over the years, never staying in one job for too long. His rage was usually to blame for that. More often than not, he’d find work as a janitor. He would come home late in the evening after drinking in one of the dive bars in West Haven and then pull out a six-pack from the fridge. Even though my mother worked an average of 60 hours as a nurse, he’d expect dinner on the table when he came in. If there was ever a time when his meal wasn’t on the table, he berated her, and kicked over furniture.
My father stood five feet and ten inches, but he seemed bigger
because of his solid frame. I lived in fear of him. But I loved him and always tried to make him proud. When I’d come home with a good report card, he would hold it up and nod. “I never finished high school, went right into the Army.”
By the spring of my senior year, I was accepted to a few different
colleges, but even with financial aid I fell short on tuition. I was sitting in the living room one afternoon, when I saw a commercial on TV about the Reserves. It promised money for college and showed young people a little older than me wearing their uniforms. I called the number on the screen and was surprised by how soon the recruiter called me back.
I arranged to meet the recruiter the following Monday, and
he told me about tuition waivers and the G.I. Bill. I signed up soon thereafter and was driven to Springfield, Massachusetts, for the ASVAB test and a physical examination. I decided to do basic training the month after high school graduation. 8 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
The whole time I was in contact with the recruiter, I kept it a
secret from my family. The first person I told was my little sister; she looked at me for a while, not sure if I was joking, and then when she realized I wasn’t, she ran up to me and hugged me tightly. After she let me go, she said, “Don’t go shooting yourself in the foot.” I decided to break the news to my parents over dinner. My mother told me she was proud. My father got up from the table and left the house. I thought for sure he would be the one who was most proud.
I found him later that night sitting at the kitchen table. He had
his head tilted to one side, looking at me through heavy lids.
“It’s the faces that you see over and over. No one tells you that,”
He didn’t seem like my father at that moment. I didn’t say a
word; I just backed out of the room, not taking my eyes off of him. He never talked to me about his experiences in Vietnam before that or since. He could drink a handle of vodka and never stumble or slur his words. That was the only time I saw him drunk.
I traveled west of Pennsylvania for the first time. The long bus
ride afforded me the opportunity to take in the state of Missouri. It was endless flat land and farms and the occasional strip mall. I was eighteen and more than a thousand miles away from anyone I knew. I started to feel homesick. I rode on the bus with two other kids from Connecticut, glad for their company. We all shared our thoughts about what we were expecting on our first day of basic. The kid from Vernon told me that he heard it was like an intense fraternity hazing.
“My uncle told me it’s all mind games,” he said.
“Dude, that’s not the worst of it,” the other one said. “I hear
they put saltpeter in your food.”
“What does that do?” I asked. 9
“Keeps your dick limp.”
My mood changed from one of nervous anticipation to solemn
Our drill sergeants seemed to delight in the fear they read on
our faces. We were herded on to a truck and one drill sergeant said, “Get your face in the f---ing bags.” When we arrived at Fort Leonard Wood, men with round, brown hats barked at us from every direction. After the first day of exercise, I was hospitalized for two days from dehydration. One of my drill sergeants came to visit me in the hospital and we talked. With tears welling up in my eyes, I asked him if the rest of training would be hard, and he said, “It’s supposed to be, but if you quit this, you will quit everything else in life.”
Those first few weeks in basic were the longest and the nights—
shortened by fire watch—never left me feeling rested. I, like many of the other privates, became adept at falling asleep while standing up or taking micro-naps at every opportunity. The penalty for getting caught by the drills was to be taken aside and “smoked,” which meant doing push-ups and other workouts to the point of exhaustion.
At night while lying in my bunk, I read letters from home. My
sister wrote to me about how tense things had gotten between Mom and Dad. In a way, I felt I betrayed my sister by leaving her home alone to deal with the fights. But, the truth is, if I were there, nothing would be any different.
I met teens and twenty-somethings from all over the country.
My favorites were the ones from the South. The Southerners were laid back and good-humored. With the exception of a pair from South Carolina, who spoke in an impenetrable argot only they could understand, I got on well with most of them. My bunkmate 10 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
came from Kentucky, and I joked around with him at night. It made me feel less homesick and helped pass the time.
“Hey, Kentucky. You ever eat opossum?” I asked
“Yeah, ain’t much meat on ‘em, though.”
“You eat everything you shoot?”
“You got a cousin or uncle named Jim Bob?”
He smiled, turned to me and said, “Why, yes, Connecticut. I do,
indeed, have an uncle named James Robert.”
All of the guys I met from the Northeast joined the Army to
get money for school, just like me. The ones from the South joined for other reasons. They were small-town heroes, often serving because of relatives who had served before them.
The days began to meld into one another, and basic training
wound down. I had my fun on the rifle range, threw live grenades— that made my knees shake from adrenaline—and was ready to go home. The other soldiers in my barracks shared the same sentiment.
One evening, at a bivouac site, miles from the lights of any
cities, I stood under the cloudless sky, looking at the stars and gasped. Growing up in a city, never having gone camping, I did not know how many stars were visible in the night sky: eternal darkness perforated by infinite points of light. I must have looked like a fool, because my bunkmate said, “Haven’t you seen the stars before, Connecticut?” I shook my head and said, “No, not like this.”
After completing basic training, I went to college that fall and
partied and did everything college kids do. That was right up until that day in September. My roommate woke me up and told me to watch the TV screen. The Towers were on fire, and I watched live, as they fell. 11
He turned to me and said, “Do you think it was an attack?”
I continued to look at the screen and then said, “No, couldn’t
be. Must be some mistake with the radar or something.”
After my first tour, Mom and Dad came to see me on the base.
That was the last time I would ever see the two of them together. My father appeared weak to me somehow, frail and unsure. The toll of his alcoholism was apparent; his hands shook. The lines in his face were more profound, his skin desiccated. I shook his hand. Somehow a hug felt like the wrong thing to do.
By my last tour, I knew something was wrong with me. I felt
better over there than I did back in the States. I became accustomed to the sounds of mortars and the smell of cordite from firefights. I even started to like the grit that got into the MREs that I ate. I began to believe I could keep living like that forever. That was until the day I could no longer function.
We were leaving a village in Kunar Province. We had just finished
questioning some villagers about a possible Taliban hideout. I remember the way one of the men kept averting eye contact. That was never a good sign. We didn’t get much information out of the people we detained, so we moved on.
I brought up the rear and the lieutenant was less than ten
meters ahead. He was from Tennessee and had this funny drawl. When he said my name, it sounded like “Steve-uns,” not Stevens. We used to joke about it. I remember he talked about his wife that day and the baby girl he had yet to meet.
When a man steps on a landmine, he doesn’t blow up—he
vaporizes. In an instant, the lieutenant was gone. Everything he was, or ever would be, disappeared in a pink mist.
No one tells you that.
I looked for soap inside Dad’s medicine cabinet and found
several bottles of prescriptions. Some of them were familiar, and 12 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
some weren’t. I returned to his bedroom, watching as the last rays of the sun filtered through the blinds. I poured a glass of his vodka and drank it and another. I wondered what memories kept him up at night—what he tried to drink away. In my dreams, I don’t see the explosion. I see that lieutenant smiling back at me, and he says something. But I can never make out the words.
Man Imagines Richard Vyse Acrylic
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The Writing Woman Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Must our skin or religion be the same to know our fellowsâ€™ clockworks Does being the same let us see in acute focus or force astigmatism. The anthropologist writes of Veiled Sentiments she observes in Bedouin back chambers, of Habib and poetry nourished by isolation. We are told the writing woman is half Arab and so trusted, trusted by the desert tribe and trusted by her fellows to do her research without prejudice. I lived in back chambers of a different design, when women wore only skirts and pearls or pansy housedresses. I didnâ€™t know we were repressed. That was what we had. Pearls and cubed steak to fry. We knew no other and were happy. Now, knowing what we know, we see past happiness as something else. Smirnoff nips look like vinegar bottles in the pantry fast-emptying bottles of Valium in the medicine cabinet, clandestine meetings 15
with a doctor who knew how to space babies and all about knitting needle tools. So don’t tell me we cannot write, or critique, or call our work other women’s poems—Bedouin, Chinese or Sioux—because our complexions are different, our mores, the way we spend our days. We are made alike enough, slept in shadows enough to connect.
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Featured Artist Casey O’Connell
In a Sense, Squirrels Are Romantic Casey O’Connell Acrylic and Oil Stain 17
Bisous Casey O’Connell Acrylic and Oil Stain
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Castor Casey Oâ€™Connell Acrylic and Oil Stain
Panic Attack Casey O’Connell Acrylic and Oil Stain
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How did you find your current style? Did it develop or has it been consistent since you started painting? A. Ever since I was little, I was obsessed with my grandmother and her paintings. It wasn’t so much her style as the standards she set. Everything she created felt like an inside joke that you would never be a part of unless you spent a ton of time with the painting. My standards are consistently based on my desire to make the work deeply personal without giving everything away. Q. Many of your works capture a beautiful simplicity within them. Do you think simplicity in art is important? A. It has taken me a long time to get to this point. When I first started, I threw everything on the canvas. I was too scared of being wrong, so I tried to please everyone. A little love, a little sadness, a little pattern, a little text... I felt like I had to justify painting each painting. Don’t get me wrong, I love that work, it is the foundation of my current work. It is just really young. Over the years, I have gone to great lengths to fine-tune my vocabulary and become a better editor. It is actually the same in all areas of my life. I keep a very simple house and studio. I don’t like clutter of any kind. I have worn my version of a uniform for the past five years. I hate small talk and keep a very small circle of friends. I believe the more I simplify, the more freedom I have to chase my thoughts. Q. Do you approach your works as being more political or as an escape from the world? A. I think my work is how I come to terms with the world around me. This past year has opened my eyes to the political side of what I have taken for granted in the past. I think that shift in awareness has played a roll in the questions I am now forced to ask myself on a daily basis. I would love to one day thank Rachel Maddow for that. 21
Casey O’Connell’s work has appeared in The New York Times, New American Paintings and Juxtapoz Magazine. She has exhibited her work in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Las Vegas, Austin, New Orleans, Savannah, and Miami. Casey studied at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., before heading west. She lives in Leucadia, Calif., with her cat, Bill.
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The Witnessing Susan Montag “How the news will flash around the earth to all the great crowd of survivors when the first of the dead humans are resurrected!” – Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1966
y grandmother was a Jehovah’s Witness. She was not a very good one, because she did things they were not allowed to do, like smoke cigarettes and say goddamn it
and become addicted to prescription drugs. I also highly doubt she ever knocked on anyone’s door. My sister and I called her a halfassed Jehovah’s Witness. She even gave us birthday presents, and they are definitely not supposed to do that.
Despite her shortcomings, though, if she was provoked,
she could explain the teachings of her religion. She seemed to believe it. She also had literature from Watchtower Bible and Tract Society all over her house when I was growing up. I would often browse through these things, the Awake! magazine and the little hardback books with names like “Where Are the Dead?” So I probably understand their beliefs better than the average worldly person—that is, someone who is not a Jehovah’s Witness. Jesus, for instance, is not the same Jesus as he is in mainstream Christianity. He was not God in the flesh, but rather a very special guy who lived in heaven before he came to Earth. Also, he was not crucified on a cross, but on a pole. I’m not sure why that is an important point to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it seems to be. There are other differences—many of them—but the thing that most amazes people is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe they will go to heaven. 23
Heaven holds only one hundred and forty-four thousand people, and it is already full. What will happen to them, they believe, is that they will be resurrected from their graves at the end times and live forever on the earth. There are some complicating details about who will be resurrected. There is something about a tribulation period. I don’t understand how it is all to unfold, exactly. But I do know that at the end of times, according to the Witnesses, people will rise bodily from the grave and live on the earth without death and suffering, forever.
Until then, the dead lie in wait in their graves in a state of
The dead returning? It made me think of zombies. The
Monkey’s Paw. The undead of vampire novels. I liked the prickly fear this made me feel, in the same way I liked it when I read the Stephen King book Pet Sematary and it scared the s--- out of me. To this day, when Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door, I take their stuff. I have an urge to invite them in, to listen to what they have to say, because I know it will fill me with a dreadful nostalgia. But I do not dare. I understand that I can never let them in. ***
Maybe you are home, sitting at your computer. You are supposed
to be working, but instead you are looking at Facebook. One of your friends posts: “Does someone know what is going on out at Oakdale Cemetery?” What an odd question, you think.
But right after that another friend, from a completely different
part of the country, posts, “What is happening at Riverside Cemetery? Does anyone know? There are a bunch of emergency vehicles out there.”
You get a text message. It is from your daughter. She says, “Mom.
Have you heard what is going on?”
“What?” you text back.
“Come over to the cemetery,” she writes to you. “The one on
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“Why?” you ask. But she does not respond.
You are already putting on your shoes. Getting your keys.
Grabbing your purse.
You glance at the computer as you go past. It’s still on Facebook.
An article from NBC has just been posted. “Chaos at Arlington National Cemetery,” the headline reads.
You are out the door. ***
My grandmother’s religion came from her mother, Edith.
Edith started life as a Catholic, but converted to being a Jehovah’s Witness well into her adult life. Though I can’t say for certain why this happened, my study of family history has helped me piece together a speculation. It’s a terrible speculation, one where I imagine a conversion born of unbearable grief.
Edith had twelve children, but only nine of them survived her.
Her firstborn son, Earl, pulled a pan of boiling water off the
stove onto himself in 1902 when he was a toddler, and he died three days later at home as his mother watched, the old country doctor powerless to help. Even though this happened before my grandmother was born, Earl’s death encoded a fear of boiling water into the DNA of my family. This fear was passed to my grandmother, to my father, to me, and now to my children, to whom I’ve told the story of the scalded baby. “Never leave the handle pointed out,” I’ve warned them, because the story is that Earl reached up and grabbed the handle of the pot. In 1902. And we are still talking about it like it happened last week.
Then there was Ruby, an older sister to my grandmother, who
was pushed down the stairs by a neighbor girl, fracturing her skull. Ruby lived the rest of her short life in an institution, severely brain damaged. She died at the age of 19, either of neglect or as a result of the seizures she suffered after the injury. Within a year, another 25
of my grandmother’s sisters, Ruth, died at 21. While doing research after my grandmother died, I asked her elderly brother-in-law what had happened to Ruth. He told me that Ruth “got bit by a tick” and that her leg turned black.
Perhaps Catholicism, with its far-off heaven, did not have what
my great grandmother Edith needed to help her bear the weight of these deaths—deaths that were not just early, and tragic, but also horrifying. Maybe one day a Jehovah’s Witness knocked on her door and told her that she would not have to settle for a ghostly afterlife, but that she would see her dead children again in the flesh. And soon, too. That her children would be restored to life, to health, not scalded, not institutionalized, not with black limbs. She could have them back—here, on the earth. She would be able to put her actual human arms around them, pull their living bodies to her and hold them. Maybe there was something in that idea that Edith could not resist. And who could blame her really? ***
My fascination with Watchtower publications continues to
this day, over a decade after my grandmother has gone to her own grave. I especially like the early ones. The modern publications seem polite, more politically correct perhaps. There is less gore. The early ones, though, especially from the 1960s and back—those are gritty and raw and terrifying. For many years I had a book of children’s Bible stories on my desk, a book full of nightmare inducing illustrations. I’d show it to people and they would gasp, and then we would laugh at the thought that it was meant for children. There was Isaac, blindfolded, his hands bound. There was Abraham, holding a knife to his son’s throat. There were giants, grabbing smaller men by the hair, holding them aloft to cut their throats. There were animals and people drowning as Noah’s Ark sailed away without them. I no longer have this book in my house because when my son moved out, he asked if he could have it. He 26 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
too had become transfixed. I told him that he could take it, as long as he never showed it to any actual children.
Another book I found, a dour looking tome entitled Bible
Readings for the Home, had page after page of full-color illustrations, each one weirder than the next. One page showed an angel pulling a small child from a freshly churned grave. Standing next to the grave are the child’s parents. They make me think of the TV show Mad Men. He is in a suit and she, with tight curls around her face, is in a modest dress and heels. They are smiling, and reaching out their arms to retrieve their resurrected baby from the radiant angel, who looks like a seven-foot tall, blonde surfer with wings, wearing white bed sheets. I showed this illustration to my daughter Emma once, when she was about twelve years old. She looked at it for a long moment. Then she said, “I wouldn’t be smiling. I would be screaming.” Then she demonstrated the way she would scream, exactly, mouth and eyes wide, her hands clutching the sides of her head. I laughed, but I thought, you know, she’s probably right. ***
As you leave the cul-de-sac and pull out on to the main road,
several cars pass you going recklessly fast. The cemetery on Cooper is not far. You turn the corner. Cars have started to line up along the road. In fact, from the other direction, the road is blocked from the traffic. A police car is there, its lights flashing. You see your daughter’s car on the other side of the cemetery entrance—obviously she had gotten caught in whatever this is, in her attempt to get home. You park several blocks away; you get out. You walk briskly toward the cemetery. What is happening? You wonder. Where is my daughter? You stop walking for a second to try to call her, but your phone is suddenly non-functional. Instead of the call going through, you get static. You start walking again. As you approach the cemetery, a woman runs past you going the other way. She looks as if she has seen something horrifying. “Hey,” you shout after her, but she does 27
not stop. ***
My grandmother’s first husband John was an abusive drunk
who ended up in prison for stealing a car. She divorced him, but at some point before the divorce, she got pregnant by a different man who was also married to someone else. That pregnancy resulted in twins. One of the twins was my dad. My grandmother passed the twins off as being fathered by John, and she never told anyone the truth. I figured it out years later, only by messing around in DNA databases, something my grandmother could never even have imagined as a possibility.
During her first marriage, as well as after the divorce, my
grandmother was a waitress at the Chicken Inn, a honky-tonk on the edge of town where people would drink beer, eat chicken, and dance. Photos of my grandmother from this time show her tall, slender, a striking beauty. It was at the Chicken Inn that she probably met my biological grandfather, the married man whose identity she kept secret all the remaining years of her life. It may have been here as well that she met her second husband Jack. Jack was the only father figure my dad ever had—and he was not a very good one. Jack was a womanizer and an all-around a--hole, and my father grew up to the sound of Grandma and Jack screaming at each other. Although Jack was a bad man, he made enough money that my grandmother no longer had to wait tables at the Chicken Inn, so instead she spent her days stoned on prescription drugs. Her doctor seemed happy to keep her plied with valium and pain pills and who knows what else. This is how I remember her, mostly. Nodding out in her chair, sleeping through the day, smoking cigarettes and muttering incoherently while gazing out the plate glass window in her living room. And this is how, I think, my father avoided being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. While his older sister became a lifelong member of the religion, my father and his twin 28 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
grew up running the streets of their small town, collecting buckets of snakes and dropping cherry bombs into abandoned wells. Through family dysfunction, they managed to avoid capture.
Eventually, my father would meet my mother, a Catholic
girl, and they would conceive me about ten minutes after they graduated from high school. My mother lapsed in her Catholicism as soon as she was married, and I was raised in a religious wilderness, free to form my own ideas. Occasionally I would go to mass with my Catholic grandmother, and as I mentioned, I would read the Watchtower at my other grandmother’s house, while she slept away her afternoons. I felt open to any and all possibilities. To heaven, to reincarnation, to ghosts. I was open, even, to the strange stories in the Watchtower about people coming back from the dead to live on Earth again. All forms of reality seemed possible when I was a kid, and I was free to sniff the air to try to figure it out. ***
People are coming out of the cemetery. Some are running,
terrified, but others just seem to stroll. You consider turning around yourself, just getting out of there, but you now feel desperate to find your daughter. A woman approaches you; she’s dressed strangely, like she’s an extra in a movie that takes place in 1850. “Excuse me,” she says. “What are these?”
She has a German accent.
“What are what?” you ask, still walking.
“These,” she says. She points at the cars. You just hurry past her.
You get to the entrance of the cemetery. The cop is standing
there. Just standing. He’s staring straight ahead as if entranced. People are rushing about. A lot of people.
“What’s happening?” you ask the cop.
“I don’t know,” he says. You can barely hear him because he
whispers. He doesn’t look at you. “I don’t know.” 29
Suddenly you see your daughter, and she rushes to you. Her eyes
are wide; she’s frantic. She is panicked in a way you have never seen her before. She grabs you. She’s trying to mouth something.
“What?” You are shaking now, shouting. “What? What?” ***
The truth is, my family almost did become Jehovah’s Witnesses
when I was around eleven years old. That was when my father’s twin brother Russ died. He was 31 years old, a bachelor, a Vietnam veteran, a brakeman for Burlington Northern Railroad. He liked to sail, and he took his sailboat on vacation to the Gulf of Mexico with his friend Fred. An unexpected storm came up, the boat capsized, and they both died. Other boaters found the men the next day, floating in their life vests. They had tied themselves together before they died.
Russ was a central presence in our lives. He was tall, good
looking, kind and smart. His death was unthinkable, a thing that cracked the world apart and left us in a million pieces. It was the next step of ruination for my grandmother. She slipped further away, took even more drugs. My father, who had always been slender, got depressed and within months started to get fat. And suddenly there were Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting at our kitchen table. Perhaps like my great grandmother Edith, my dad could not comprehend an Earth where he would never again stand in the company of his brother’s living flesh. My dad did not want to see Russ again someday in a far-off gauzy heaven. He wanted to see him here. He wanted Russ to come out of that grave. As Edith wanted Earl and Ruby and Ruth to come out of their graves and return to her.
So the Jehovah’s Witnesses would sit at our kitchen table
and explain their cosmology to us. They do not have pastors or ministers who lead the church, but only elders—men who take turns leading. I remember Jim Peckham, a pale, slight man with a 30 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
head full of black hair. I asked him if dinosaurs had been real or if my teachers were lying to me. He was pleased with my question and explained to me that, yes, the dinosaurs were real, but they had lived only a few thousand years ago, not millions.
We went to their services a few times. I wore jeans and I stood
out because the women and girls were supposed to wear dresses. I hated dresses, and I wouldn’t budge on this despite my mother’s urging, and the other girls at the Kingdom Hall stared at me.
This didn’t go on for very long, maybe for a couple months.
My parents quickly concluded that becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses was a bad idea. For many years afterwards, we had an unspoken agreement in our family that we would all just pretend that none of that had happened. Years later, I dared to break the rule and I brought it up to my mother. “What had happened?” I asked. Why didn’t we join them? She told me about how they started trying to control our family, telling us what to do. I think my mother had enough religion, having grown up Catholic, getting smacked around by nuns at school, and she wasn’t interested in more. Maybe the Jehovah’s Witnesses had chided her about her daughter wearing pants to their service, and she thought, f--- this. But I think that what probably happened was that my dad had come to terms with reality. Russ was dead. He was not coming back, no matter what Jim Peckham said.
Imagine what a different life this would have been for me had
the Witnesses closed the deal. ***
“What?” you shout at your daughter.
And then you see it. Standing at a nearby grave is an eight foot
tall—thing. A glowing white thing. With wings. And a human head. You take a step back. You feel your bladder go slack and you almost pee your pants. It looks toward you, and for a second you think you might die. The terror comes up your throat like a burn. But then 31
it looks away again, looks down toward the grave, and the grave starts to churn. Suddenly—up, up, up, as if through levitation comes a pile of bones and a scrap of fabric. The bones start to spin, maybe like they are in an invisible clothes dryer. The giant white winged creature has its hands raised. Sparks fly. And suddenly there is an entire person where the bones were. The angel somehow sets this person down. A boy, about 11 years old, wearing a suit. His face is blank. He stands there.
And you are running. You have your daughter by the arm
and you are pulling her. You have the same look on your face as the woman you had seen earlier fleeing the cemetery. Now you are passing people who are approaching. They try to talk to you. They shout, “What’s happening? What’s wrong?” You don’t stop to answer. You keep running. You try to get into your car, but it is now blocked in. There is no way to get out by driving. Your daughter screams again, but you pull her across lawns. You run through backyards toward your house.
A woman shouts at you from her deck, a cell phone to her ear.
“Hey! What’s going on?”
You just keep running. ***
My husband and I have a joke where we call beautiful days
Jehovah’s Witness days. In addition to the terrible things depicted in their publications—the murderous giants and such—the Watchtower publications I read as a kid showed all kinds of pleasant scenes. Pretty, smiling women picking apples from the trees; lines of happy people walking together off toward green horizons. Of course, the lions and the lambs, together in peace. I remember the descriptions of this new world, the way my grandmother would talk about it sometimes, the way Jim Peckham explained it at our kitchen table. The world would be perfect in the new system. They actually called it that, the new system. No death. No sickness. No 32 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
suffering. Just day after day of joy, blue skies and endless feasts. So when the day is particularly pleasant, when the temperature is perfect, the sky is clear, and the flowers are in bloom, I will breathe out contentedly and say, “Today is a Jehovah’s Witness day.” And my husband knows what I mean because he’s known me for a long time. “It really is,” he’ll say.
But it leaves me to wonder, philosophically, what it would be
like for humans in this kind of world. To live forever in a state of perfection. Would we not get incredibly bored? Would time not lose all meaning? The human experience is so defined by our finite situation, our knowledge that we will eventually face death— wouldn’t we lose something of who we are to have that taken away? I think of my house cats, living in a more-or-less continuous state of bliss, each day quite pleasant, one after another. The sun comes up, they eat, they nap, the sun goes down. They would not be surprised if it went on and on like this for ten thousand years—if it went on for eternity. They have no reason to suspect it won’t. We would have to become like this, too, I think, in this new system. We’d have to become more like neutered cats. Our self-awareness, our desires, our sense of the passage of time, these things would have to melt away. Our minds would crack otherwise. In our present human state we would go mad in a perfect world—as we would go mad if our dead really did return to us. ***
You get to the house. You run in. You slam the door. You lock
it. You and your daughter both sink to the floor, arms around each other, trembling. Your daughter is whispering, “What the f---. What the f---. What the f---.”
“It’s not real,” you say. “It’s not real. Do you understand? Not
But then you hear something. She hears it, too. It’s upstairs. It’s
like someone is opening and shutting doors, maybe looking around. 33
You both go silent. And then you remember—your grandmother’s urn. It had been in the closet of the spare bedroom, where you put it ten years ago when you grew tired of having to look at it on the fireplace mantle. You and your daughter look at each other. Her eyes are inches from yours, stuck frantic with dread. “Mom,” she mouths.
You hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs. ***
My grandmother died in 2006. She made it much longer than I
thought she would; her death seemed to be impending for at least twenty years before that. The man who spoke at her funeral was a Witness. He stood there and said that my grandmother no longer existed at all, that she was nowhere, not in heaven, not in hell. But when the time was right, he said, she would exist again. She would come up out of her grave. She would live again on the earth under a new system, one without suffering, without death. She would be restored. Right at that moment, in the sadness of having to say goodbye, the idea almost appealed to me. Maybe, if I could bear the shock, it would be good to see my grandmother resurrected— not just alive again as she was, sad and sick and disappointed by so many things. Restored. Made whole, as she was before all the sorrow, before the abuse, the addiction. To see her like she was before I was born, before even my father was born, to see her hustling around serving beer at the Chicken Inn, tall and beautiful, cracking jokes, drawing the attention of everyone in the place. To see her happy. Imagine such a thing.
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Spacial Harmonies Marsha Solomon Acrylic
The Scarlet Lowercase Letter Ryan Tilley Their marriage sanded down by cruel retorts: Abrasive tongues, inflammatory words. In happy times the sand remained contained. The shattered vows preceded shattered glass. The splattered sand returned to wedding site. The scattered multicolored grains were free. As grains were blown by wind, their spirits sank. Surrendered severed scarlet sand. Subject to the whim of wind and the selfish air. The glass protection gone, like wedding rings. The symbols pawned for insufficient pay. The years of love destroyed by months of hate. But sand does seek escape from bottled glass. It longs for the heat of the beach or the cold of the sea.
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A Book Is A Machine, Idling Michael Trocchia “A book is a machine to think with...” -I.A. Richards In a book almost 175,200 hours long there’s a man, homesick, far gone, cutting away one memory from another, like loin from loin, like the marble of fate from fat. He thinks of himself as an inventor of sorts: his newest, a machine that makes ghosts of heroes and heroes of ghosts. Though tried and true, no one else in the book will buy the machine—no matter the distance he’s travelled from home. Those who wait for his return are also inventors of sorts. Hers, for instance, is a machine that sorts the hours: an hour soaked in calfblood, an hour folded in half and half again, an hour of refusals, of drunken song, an hour washed up along the rocks, an hour of endless thread. Even the boy invents things. Small machines floating across the surface of the mind like a fleet of toy ships finally sailing home.
Another Au Revoir Kendra Mills
We swam together in the broken night sky, fracturing the constellations with our arm-strokes, and resting, we let the stars sit solemn in our palms. I think back to finding just one of your hairs on my pillowcase, not knowing then I’d become your part-time barber. I don’t know how I’ll get away from nearly loving you, and the curve of your signature, and the folds of your eyelids. I think when it is over, and the tsunami inside me has subsided to ripples, I will still miss making you laugh, and the warmth of your body. But, when I send heart-shaped stones across the ocean, those little ‘I love you’s’ will go to someone else.
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Curiosity Halli Lilburn Multimedia Collage
Ending Up Nicole Sharp
ou end up this way. Not quite sure of the man standing next to you, the man you sleep next to every night, whose snoring has kept you awake for the last fifty-two years.
You end up this way, embarrassed to smile because during the
early years, you couldn’t afford dental work for yourself, only for your children.
You end up this way, trying to be patient when your grandson
asks you to “say cheese”, as he aims the lens on his fancy phone that stores the pictures in a place you don’t understand. How do you understand this young man who is constantly on that tiny phone that looks like a toy?
My grandson shows me the pictures on a tiny screen. I yearn
to tell him that isn’t me in that picture. It couldn’t possibly be me. Instead, I pat his hand and thank him.
His new wife is with him. She’s blonde, wears nice clothes. Uses
the tips of her painted fingers to pick up something she dropped in the dirt. I want to laugh at her, but don’t. She nervously cheeps like a meek bird and asks me how my husband and I managed to stay together so long?
How do I tell this perfectly made up girl that it takes a lot of
hard work; that you have to get your hands dirty?
You end up this way; you don’t start out with these intentions.
You end up this way, a stranger among people who call themselves family.
I didn’t start out this way. I didn’t start with this annoying
haunch of my shoulders. The years tried to push me down. The same passing years changed my hair, too. I touch my gray, brittle hair. I didn’t start out this way. 40 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
I had long black hair that framed my strong shoulders. I had
shiny black hair when times were hard, when the world was full of dust, and when downtrodden families had no other choice than to become nomads.
I was an Indian girl then. Stripped of my people’s comfortable
animal skin clothing and forced into proper gingham and stockings and placed in an orphanage with my brother.
I kept my hair though.
I met a cowboy when I was a young girl, a man who loved me
for my hair and my smile and my strong shoulders. He told me his secrets, he told me his dreams, he told me of our future. He courted me and told me he’d take me away from the confinement of the city. He promised me land, so my soul could roam free once more. He promised me the moon and stars. He blushed when we first kissed. I was fifteen and I married my sweet cowboy.
I imagined my return back to the open plains with sun as far as
the eye could see, with mountains in the distance, with wild earth beneath my toes. It was not a dream when I awoke early in the mornings to help my cowboy as we tended our few cows, a garden, and our little piece of land. It was home.
The war came and my brother went away. He sent me letters,
reassuring me he was going to be fine. Only the letters came home. His body was never found. They placed a marker for him in a special cemetery for soldiers. I never made it to that place, which is fine, because my brother never really made it there either.
We tried to have babies, my cowboy and I. I lost the first two;
girls. I buried them near the house by the creek, under a tree where I planted pretty flowers. I didn’t want to try anymore for babies.
My cowboy would sit with me at the end of the day and smile
and look deep into my eyes; he’d brush my long black hair and we’d quietly share our stories. 41
The floods came that winter, after the war was over, as the
heart of the world healed. When it rained, we were thankful, we needed the water, but it didn’t stop. It collected in the rivers and ruined crops. My cowboy and I tried to move our cows to higher ground. I became sick then. The doctor told me I was pregnant once again.
The farm survived the floods; our heard grew and so did my
cowboy’s ranch. We had two boys and a girl, and we spent many days laughing and smiling. I taught my children about their ancestors, about the ways of those that came before them. I taught them how to make fry bread and told them stories about the coyote and wolf. But the rock-n-roll music and the movies got in the way of their heritage. And television stole their birthright.
The boys married and helped out on the farm; they built homes
nearby and I held my grandbabies, rocked them in my arms, and whispered stories of their ancestors in my rusty native tongue.
My girl went to college and called to tell me about the “real
world.” She told me about civil rights and women’s rights. She told me that there had been a disservice done to women. She told me about women’s freedom and about women standing up for themselves. Then she asked me what I wanted. I told her I had everything I ever wanted. She told me I didn’t, she told me I had been brainwashed by a male dominated society. I tried to tell her about my parents, my grandparents, her ancestors. I tried to tell her about the land I loved. She didn’t listen.
I worked next to my cowboy and watched my grandchildren
grow up into strong boys and beautiful girls. They came to visit, often bringing offerings, gifts of gadgets filled with what they called technology. I smiled and thanked them. I didn’t understand what was wrong with the old ways.
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I smiled at my grandson’s wife and gave her hand a pat. My
grandson told me he’d send a copy of the pictures. I wondered if that would be all that would be left of me when I died. A photograph of a weathered old woman, whose eyes desperately screamed, “I didn’t start out this way, I ended up like this.”
As they drove away, my cowboy’s hand finds mine. I look at
him, worried, but there is a twinkle in his eye. He doesn’t see the old woman I do, he still sees the young girl with the long black hair. Maybe ending up this way, maybe it’s not quite so bad.
Contributors Heike Anan is the pen name for an American writer born and raised in Missouri, but now residing just outside of Stockholm, Sweden. Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in decomP magazinE and apt, and she is currently working on her first poetry chapbook. Jenn Carter is an MFA Poetry Candidate at the University of Minnesota. She is originally from Jacksonville, Fla., and received a B.A in Theatre and Creative Writing from Florida State University. Her work has been called everything from heretical to healing. She doesn’t mind. Carolyn Howard-Johnson was accepted for inclusion in Poets & Writers prestigious list of published poets, is a multi-awardwinning novelist and poet, and is widely published in journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. One of her poems won the Franklin Christoph poetry prize. She was an instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program for nearly a decade. Learn more about all her books at http://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfile or http://howtodoitfrugally.com. Her most recent poetry book, Imperfect Echoes, was published to the acclaim of Midwest Book Review, which called her poetry “articulate, gifted, insightful, iconoclastic, and a truly impressive literary talent.” Self-published in the tradition of poets for millenniums, Imperfect Echoes is a USA Book News Award finalist and was 44 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
given the Bronze in Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards Jacqueline Jules is the author of three chapbooks, Field Trip to the Museum (Finishing Line Press), Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications), and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press. Her poetry has appeared in over 100 publications including The Broome Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Hospital Drive, and Imitation Fruit. She is also the author of 40 books for young readers. Halli Lilburn has works published with Leap Books, Carte Blanche, Vine Leaves, Tesseracts and many others. She teaches Creative Writing and Art classes. She has designed and published a coloring book called Collections and Curiosities. Kendra Mills recently graduated from the American University of Paris with a degree in history and law. She writes in her free time and her poetry has been published in Junto Magazine, Glacial Erratic, and the Aquinnah Lighthouse Anthology. Jess Mize is the author of the poetry chapbook Whores are Always Melancholy. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous publications both online and in print. Some of those publications include Ink in Thirds, Fem Lit Mag, UnbrokenJournal, New Pop Lit, Bottlecap Press, and The Free State Review. She has two daughters, Hannah Elizabeth and Sophia Pompeii. Her favourite author is Stephen King. Susan Montag is a writer and artist who lives in Saint Cloud, Minn. She is the author of two books, Nude Ascending a Staircase (fiction) from Bellowing Ark Press, and Finding the Way: A Tao for Down-to-Earth People (a modern version of the Tao Te Ching) from Nicolas Hays Press. She is currently working on a novel. Ian Peterkin is a lecturer at Rochester Institute of Technology’s 45
international campus in Dubai, UAE. His stories have been featured in Río Grande Review, Helix, and Wagner Lit. Bette Ridgeway has exhibited globally with over 80 museums, universities, and galleries, including: Palais Royale, Paris and Embassy of Madagascar. Some of her awards include Top 60 Contemporary Masters, Leonardo DaVinci Prize, and Oxford University Alumni Prize at Chianciano Art Museum. Mayo Clinic and Federal Reserve Bank are amongst Ridgeway’s permanent public placements. Many books and publications have featured her work, among them: International Contemporary Masters and 100 Famous Contemporary Artists. Ridgeway has also penned several books about her art and process. Nicole Sharp is a fiction writer. She lives in Idaho and is an overcaffeinated purveyor of world travel (and, of course, literature.) In her free time she hikes while listening to Italian language lesson podcasts. Marsha Solomon is a New York area artist whose work has exhibited nationally and internationally in galleries and museums. “Spacial Harmonies,” shown here, has been on view in prestigious institutions like Guild Hall Museum in East Hampton. “Spacial Harmonies” is from Solomon’s series of abstract paintings called “From Rhythm To Form.” In them, she creates an ethereal field of color, like an imaginary, alternate space for the viewer to enter. There, emotions are evoked by color, line, depth, and movement that unite to create an atmospheric, mystical realm of serenity infused with energy. Paola Tavoletti is an Italian artist-writer. She has a degree from the European Institute of Design in Rome and worked as art director and illustrator for advertising agencies, for publishers, and for private clients. She followed multidirectional and diversified paths in her life: Graphic designer, illustrator, art director, fashion designer (printmaking and hand painting on clothes). She is also a fitness instructor and personal trainer, garden 46 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
designer, painter (her paintings are in collections in Italy and Saudi Arabia), and writer. She has a passion for visual poetry and created a collection of her poems combined with her paintings. In recent years she has also been published in international magazines including Russia Today, Petite Hound Press, Helen: a literary magazine, Poetry WTF, Fiftiness, Her Heart Poetry, and Adanna Literary Journal. Her web site is paolatavoletti.wixsite. com/illustrator Ryan Tilley graduated from LSU. In 2006, he moved from Baton Rouge, La., to Altamonte Springs, Fla., with his wife and son. Ryan currently works as a medical biller and freelance editor of novels. He has been writing poetry for 33 years and has won numerous awards, including placing two poems in the Writer’s Digest poetry contests, as well as winning runner-up twice in 2017 in The Saturday Evening Post’s bimonthly limerick contest. His book, A Prophet’s Burden: The Raven Returns, is available on the Internet. Michael Trocchia’s poetry and prose have appeared in journals such as The Boiler, Caketrain, Colorado Review, Tarpaulin Sky, Vestal Review and The Worcester Review. He lives in the Shenandoah Valley, where he teaches philosophy and works in the library at James Madison University. Richard Vyse is an internationally collected artist who has shown in galleries in Manhattan and Honolulu. He has studied at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and taught at Pratt in Brooklyn. His art has been featured in many art magazines, and is included in the Leslie+Lohman museum in Manhattan.
To Our Supporters and Benefactors, This issue of FLARE: The Flagler Review would not have been possible without the generous support of the following Flagler College departments, organizations, and individuals. Thanks for your ongoing assistance. President Joseph G. Joyner Dean Alan Woolfolk Judith Burdan Darien Andreu Lisa Baird Kim Bradley Liz Robbins Connie St. Clair-Andrews Jay Szczepanski Department of English Department of Art & Design Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society A special thank-you to Laura Smith, Jim Wilson, Carl Horner, and all those who have directed The Flagler Review in years past.
48 â€˘ FLARE: The Flagler Review
Heike Anan Jenn Carter Caroyln Howard-Johnson Jacqueline Jules Halli Lilburn Kendra Mills Jess Mize Susan Montag Casey O’Connell Ian Peterkin Bette Ridgeway Nicole Sharp Marsha Solomon Paola Tavoletti Ryan Tilley Michael Trocchia Richard Vyse
Cover Art “Sorry Rodger, You Tiger Now” Casey O’Connell
The Spring 2018 edition of FLARE: The Flagler Review, the award-winning literary journal of Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla.
Published on Apr 17, 2018
The Spring 2018 edition of FLARE: The Flagler Review, the award-winning literary journal of Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla.