Clever Fox Literary Magazine - Issue 003

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A note from the editors

is hard to believe that Clever Fox is in its third year! We are eternally grateful for our readers, and most importantly, our incredibly talented writers and artists. As we continue to find our footing, we appreciate all of your patience while we’ve pulled together Issue 003. We are proud to share this collection with the world and sincerely hope that you enjoy it! -Nikki & Elaina CFLM Editors Table of contents Fiction art & Photography Poetry non-Fiction flash & Micro Fiction 03 The Booth | Stephen Avitabile 05 From the Other Side | Jordan Nishkian 08 Persephone’s Parable | Brandi Ocasio 11 Mr Sunday Funnys | Sheldon Kleeman The I’s Alone | Sheldon Kleeman Rear View Dog | Sheldon Kleeman 12 A Dirt Road Anthem | Laura Holt Farewell to a Comet | Shamik Banerjee Friend | Zoe Dial 13 Sicily! | Lisa Macaione Mother | Erin Mullens 14 Opening Night Tickets For Sale | Tristan Tuttle The Kid | Shaurya Pathania Mother Wound | Caiti Quatmann 15 Father | Benjamin Bishop Place in Space | Dana DeFranco Snags | Megan Jauregui Eccles Spontaneous Combustion | R.M. Engelhardt 09 Fear and Tornadoes | Zoe Dial 1O The Lakehouse | Keith Hoerner The Importance of Having a Large Vocabulary (and Dictionaries) | Benjamin Bishop 2 16 LOVE | Taryn Paige Mid-April | Lisa Macaione And it’s always you | Megan Jauregui Eccles 17 Nocturnal | Shaurya Pathania Artist Biographies Cover Credits

Fiction The Booth

The first time I ever stepped foot in a booth, it was pure bliss. Lovely like the taste of sweet tangerine. But I could always tell there was that slight hollowness to it. Those gaps, those holes, just needing to be filled in, in order to be a complete euphoric experience. I always thought that I needed to fill those holes. But I was wrong.

It was the lilacs.

A lot of people call them the lilacs. Only because they create that purply feeling. I think it makes things look purple. I’m not entirely certain, it’s hard to tell when you’re under the influence of the booth. But there is definitely a purple feel.

Before I met you, I’d definitely been to my share of booths. They had a few booths in my neighborhood growing up. Hit my first one when I was 16. I remember that orange glow, that warming feeling, my heart racing, my insides feeling so squishy and so happy and so vanilla ice cream with a side of lemon sherbet. I was hooked after the first time.

I’d hit up different booths as often as I could. All similar, slight differences. It wasn’t until I was 19 that someone mentioned the lilacs. Drop the purple into that warm orange atmosphere and get the full experience. Your whole damn paintbrush gets covered. You got the whole spectrum.

The lilacs, they fill in the holes, they make it complete. When you step in a booth and you turn the faucet on, the orange that washes over you is always a great feeling. Don’t get me wrong. But shill out a little extra for the lilacs, they sprinkle it in through the top while you’re in the booth, it’s a fine powder, but it goes everywhere.

Your muscles ache in the best way. Everything is warm and tender… with just a drop of icy cold at the tip of every extremity. Ooh what a rush!

After my first time stepping in the booth with the lilacs… I knew I wanted that shit every time. But I didn’t get it every single time. The first dealer only gave it to me once. Then he wouldn’t supply me anymore.

The second dealer let me have lilacs a few times but that was it.

Then it was a lot of finding booths without any lilac supplied.

I went through the next few years, trying different booths all over the city, other cities too… even one in a different state. I’d find dealers with lilacs occasionally and I always dropped everything, spared no expense, let that purple wash over me.

But there was never any consistency.

Then I found you. You got that good lilac.

You told me, come aboard, I’d get the lilac all the time. So I did. And I was pretty good at the job too. But you were the best. And you had the sweetest lilac this side of the Hudson.

It started off with me hitting the booth four times a week and you gave me the lilacs every time. After six months, it was three times a week. No complaints. It was consistent and it was



But soon, it became two times a week. And a cut back on lilacs. Only supplied them every other time. Then I only started to see the lilacs a couple times a month, once a month, then only on special occasions.

Where we stand now, you still have me running business. I’m still a top earner. I still wheel and deal. You need me. But where the fuck are the fucking lilacs? I ain’t seen a hint of purple in 18 goddamn months!

It’s bad enough I’ve been reduced to the booth… classic style. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the booth gets the job done. With those sweet, hollowed out tangerines bouncing off the tongue and the body. But we all know that’s not the best feeling you can have. You need purple to balance out the orange. You need purple to fill in the gaps. You need the full spectrum to feel that full feeling of happiness and elation.

I’m in the booth every day now. In secrecy. When you aren’t here. I think you understand I’m in there every day. In fact, I know you do because you’ve commented on it a few times. But now you say nothing about it.

You rarely talk to me about business or booths or lilacs. We pass each other in the halls and it’s like we’re damn near strangers.

I’ve stopped asking for lilacs. It became embarrassing after the ninth time I asked and the ninth time in a row I was rejected. They aren’t coming anymore. I get it now.

But at least leave me to my booth! It’s all I have! My 15 minutes in the booth every day, at a time when I’m alone and you’re not here. Dreaming of lilacs. The lilacs you supplied. The lilacs others have supplied in my past. Lilacs I just imagine that are out there that I wish I could get my hands on… from rivals. From competition. Of course, I can’t go there to get my lilacs. I work here.

But just leave me to my booth! Lately you started coming around during Booth Time. Interrupting. Causing me to postpone. Put it off. Cancel.

You know I need this. Why can’t you let me have it?

Now you’re coming around and not letting Booth Time happen. I’m only getting in 2-3 booths a week. The days when I’m planning on it, and having to cancel, oh those days are no good! I’m agitated all day. I can’t focus. I feel like there is a rage just at the edge of my forehead that wants to rocket out my fingertips.

You brought me on with promises of lilacs in the booth all the time. Over and over. You slowly pulled away my purple. Now you’re pulling away my sweet tangerines. And to top it all off, what am I? Just another cog to the machine. Just out there doing a job. No more pleasantries. No more conversations.

No more lilac.

I hate it here. I’m thinking about resigning.

But where would I go? Who would have me? Could I get in

somewhere else? Start all over? I don’t know if I have it in me.

It intrigues me, sure. Exotic possibilities in different places. Different scenery. Different strains of lilac. Maybe there are more earthy smelling ones out there. Larger lilacs. Smaller more potent lilacs.

But then it scares me. Different scares me. I want the same… same ol’ same ol’. But the same ol’ ain’t even the same ol’ with you. Because even that is foreign. I hardly remember the scent of the lilacs you supply. It’s been so long. I remember in theory. But the memory of the scent eludes me.

No, the same ol’ is just me alone in that booth… day in… day out… no lilacs. Just that sweet tangerine… those hollow holes begging to be filled in by that luscious lilac purple… but with only me there to stand amidst an incomplete yet lovely sensation.

Something mimicking the best feeling in the world… but falling just short. A hollow imitation of true happiness. At least it feigns happiness and lets me feel like I have an imaginary grasp of it.

Can you just leave me to that? Or release me. Fire me. Force me to go find work elsewhere. Because I can’t take the step off the premises. I can’t be the one to pull the trigger. I don’t have it in me. You make the decision. You let me have what I want or force me out.

If you do that, then I’ll go looking for my euphoria elsewhere.

Until then, I’ll just be trying to fill these hollow holes. A painter with nothing but orange paint. Trying to paint a field of lilacs.

Stephen avitabile

Stephen Kramer Avitabile is a New-England-born, Los-Angelesbased writer. In addition to writing short stories and novels, he has also written screenplays and his own sets for stand-up comedy. When he’s not writing, he spends much of his time watching TV, movies, and sports with his partner Evelyn, guinea pig Peggy, and tortoise Joey… and also feeding any animals outside his apartment.


From the other side

Your breath casts a growing fog over the glass while the other side, slicked with rain, gets battered by this morning’s storm.

Seagulls fight hard against the opposing wind, and the high gray tide’s horizon blends into a colorless November sky.

You always find yourself in this moment: one hand wrapped around a full ceramic mug, staring out the window, ebbing with a sense of longing—even if you never knew what you were longing for.

“How long have you been coming here?” Danny asks, mopping up a puddle of syrup with an already-saturated bite of pancake. A crumb catches the corner of his mouth and leaves its sticky imprint.

“Um, I dunno,” you answer, watching him roll up the sleeve of his green flannel to reach for an extra napkin from the dispenser. “I try to come by when I’m passing through to—”

“It’s really good,” he says between chews, “Sorry I interrupted. What were you saying?”

“Oh, it’s nothing.” You shrug and break off a crisp end of nearly-burnt bacon. “It still looks the same.”


“Yeah.” You nod, eyeing retro staples around the diner: burgundy vinyl booths, a fish tank, an out-of-order jukebox, a display case full of pie.

“So,” he says, bringing your attention back to his hazel eyes and next-day stubble, “it’s been a pretty successful first couple of months.”

“Has it been a couple of months?”

“Six weeks.”

“Mm,” you respond, lifting your lukewarm coffee mug to take a generous sip.

Hot liquid scorches the tip of your tongue, and you can’t help sucking in a sharp inhale.

“Woah, you ok?”

“Yeah,” you say, returning your mug back to the table.

“Damn, you just went for it,” Danny says, lifting his fork and knife to begin cutting into his short stack.

You stare. “What?”

“The waitress just topped that off for you,” he answers, pouring syrup over his pancakes.

You peer into your mug and are met with a trail of steam rising to wrap around your tired face, climbing into your sinuses and poking at the front of your brain.

You and Danny have been going out for a while now. He’s nice to you, you think, though you have very few points of reference. He’s cute, too, in the way he makes you laugh even though he doesn’t say anything funny.

Does he ever say anything funny?

“Dammit, I’m a mess,” he says, examining the heavy blue sleeve of his hoodie which he had tracked through some syrup. You reach for more napkins on instinct, only to have your fingers met by a plastic backing.

“Gah, I’ll be right back.” He stands, brushing past your shoulder and leaving you with a clear view of the fish tank along the back wall.

It’s void of fish, but still full of water with a bubbling filter and pink plastic coral. A man walks by it, tugging his son towards the door, but not before the kid smacks his small, fleshy hand against the glass.

The rain thuds harder on the other side of the window. You break off another piece of bacon and lean your forehead against the cool glass. You don’t flinch at the hard, oncoming pellets of rain, but let its vibrations soothe your clenched jaw, massaging the tension.

Here you are again, hand on mug, face on glass, eyes on ocean. And the longing—

“Are you going to eat?”

You lift your head. Danny’s back on the other side of the booth in a grey tee; he must have taken off his hoodie. You couldn’t do that, you’d be too cold.

“Hey,” he says, waving his hand at you. “It’s going to get cold.”

“I’ve been picking at it.”

“Your utensils are still wrapped up.”

You glance at your untouched napkin roll, then your untouched plate of bacon and eggs.

“Are you feeling ok?” he asks, cutting into the last pancake in his whittled-down stack.

“Yeah. Tired, I think.”

He peers over to your side of the table and into your mug. “Let’s get you a refill,” he says before waving down the waitress.

You glimpse into the ceramic mug, seeing a thin ring of coffee settled at the bottom.

The waitress appears with the coffee pot in hand—there’s a fullness behind her white apron and a dewy glow to her cheekbones. She smiles at you, friendly enough but vacant, and she fills your mug.

“When you get a chance,”

Danny adds, “I think mine is supposed to come with orange



“Ah! Sorry ‘bout that,” she answers, placing her hand on her belly. “Baby brain.”

You laugh with her, even though it wasn’t funny.

“Congrats!” he responds. He’s good with strangers.

“Thank you, I’m lookin’ forward to it,” she smiles at him, this time with more authenticity. “Do you have any?”

You shake your head.

He says yes—that you’re due next summer.

You look at him, unsure.

He eyes you. “I know we weren’t going to say anything for a few months, but I think Racquel can keep our secret.”

“Congratulations, you two,” she whispers before letting her eyes grow wide at the coffee she just poured you. “Oh, I’m so sorry, that’s not decaf! Let me get you a fresh cup.”

She removes the mug from your hand. “Be right back with your decaf...and that orange juice.”

He chuckles as she walks to the other side of the nearby counter. “She’s nice.”

You pad your fingers against your stomach.

“Do you feel sick?” Danny asks you.


“I think I’m fine, just tired,” you answer, leaning your head onto the window, fixing your eyes back onto the ocean. All that’s missing is—

“Here you go,” you hear Racquel return and place your mug onto the table. “Are we all ready to order?”

You glance up at her, then to Danny’s empty booth. His paper placemat setting is spotless; there’s not even a ring of condensation from a water glass.

“Um” is all you can manage.

“Do you want another minute?” she asks.

You turn your head over your shoulder towards the bathroom. “Yes, please.”

“Take your time, I’m here all day.”

You slip your hand into the handle of the calescent mug. Before she walks too far from you, you ask, “Is this decaf?”

Racquel looks confused. “Did you want decaf? I thought you asked for regular?”

“Yeah, that’s…” You survey the diner. Two teens select a song from the lit-up jukebox and Van Morrison starts to play. “That’s fine, thank you.”

She nods and walks to a booth behind you that’s ready for their bill.

The two girls by the jukebox sing along to “Brown Eyed Girl” on their way back to their friends at the counter. The TV screens in the corners above them flash with replays of the Giants’ victory over the Rangers in the World Series.

Pressing the heels of your palms onto your eyes, you take a deep breath and inhale the warm, charred smell of coffee.

“What’s good here?” Danny’s voice snaps your head up. One hand on the laminated menu, one unbuttoning his green flannel, his eyes dart around the lengthy breakfast section.

You tilt your head and flash your eyes to the TVs: Paris is in mourning. The jukebox sits, silent, with a sign reading “Out of Order” taped to its front. Adele’s “Hello” fills the otherwise-quiet diner.

“Hello from the other side,” he jokes, waving at you. “You ok there?”

“I don’t feel too well,” you say, noticing an ache begin to grow in your chest. You steady yourself on his bright, hazel eyes.

“You just need to eat. You’ll feel better,” he says, tapping his finger on the Breakfast Special. “Road trips on an empty stomach are never fun.”

You nod, holding the mug of hot coffee to your body with both hands. With his head bowed into the menu, you can see the lonely fish tank; still empty, still bubbling.

“I know what I want,” he says, “the Breakfast Special: a short stack with eggs any style, four pieces of bacon or sausage, and an orange juice. Perfect.”

He studies you, and for a moment, you forget everything you know about him.

“I’m a little nervous to meet them,” he says, placing his menu off to the side.

“Meet who?”

He laughs. “Your parents.”

You touch the hot ceramic to your lower lip. “They’ll like you, at least my—”

“Do you know what you want?”

Before you can say no, he takes the menu from in front of you and stacks it on top of his.

“What were you saying?”


“I don’t remember,” you say into your mug as you begin to take a tentative sip.

“Do you want to tell them before or after dinner?” he asks, tugging on the wet sleeve of his blue hoodie. You search his face: he’s clean-shaven and a tiny nick, freshly clotted, glistens on his chin.

A small sparkle on your left hand catches your eye.

“What can I get for you today?”

Racquel’s eyes meet yours as she pulls a notepad out of her apron. She can wrap its ties around herself twice.

“I’ll have the Breakfast Special, please,” Danny answers, “and she’ll have your eggs and bacon plate.”

“And how’d you like those eggs?”

“Scrambled,” he responds, “and can we get the bacon extra-crispy?”

“You got it,” she says, scribbling on the order slip. “It’ll be right out for you!”

You watch her reflection step away before locking your eyes back onto the seamless horizon. You always find yourself here, longing.

The bell above the door jingles and you look to face Danny’s vacant seat, fronted by a finished plate with tracks of syrup, a crumpled napkin, and an empty glass of orange juice. A check for the “Bfst Special” and a “#12, scrambled, bacon xtra crisp” sits on the edge of the table. An additional ring is on your finger, but the fish tank across from you is still bubbling, still empty.

Danny’s hand touches your arm on his way back from the bathroom. He pushes down the sleeves of his black sweatshirt, and his thick, bearded mouth asks if you took care of the bill.

You shake your head and follow his gaze to your full plate and an empty to-go


“You need to eat something,” he says, picking up the tab. “I’ll ask for some toast.”

He heads to the cash register with a new waitress behind it. A picture of Racquel with a baby joins the collage of photos taped to the wall behind the counter, and clips from protests in Hong Kong flash on the TV screens.

She runs his card as you float a hand onto your empty belly. He looks tired, defeated.

Tightness stretches across your chest as you turn to press your head onto the glass. The rain is still pattering, the gulls still flying, and you are still longing.

“You need to eat.”

Dark clouds create waves in the sky.

“I’m trying to talk to you.”

A wilted branch from a nearby tree is thrown across the beach.

A piercing pain in your stomach joins the chronic ache in your lungs.

A large tangle of seaweed is ejected from the tide.

“Can I top that off for you?”

A crescendo of white-tipped waves crash against wind-blown sand.

Do you remember when we used to sing—

Hand on mug. Face on glass. Longing. Longing.

“What do you think of the name Racquel?”

The fog from your shallow breath clouds your vision.

“Do you need another minute?”

Your breathing is labored, coming in short gasps.

Sha la la la la la la la-la la la te da

Your muscles writhe with every inhale.

Where is the horizon?

Your face is pulled away from the glass as you collapse onto the sticky tile floor. Racquel rushes over to you, scooping you up in her hands. You can’t help fighting her and the air that’s suffocating you.

“How’d you manage that?” she asks, rushing you to the fish tank. She eases you into the cold, cold water.

You float for a moment, feeling the water hold your weight, hearing nothing but the subtle pulse of bubbles.

Racquel mouths something to you from the other side of the glass and walks away, leaving you an unobstructed view of the diner. A boy glimpses at you on his way to the jukebox while his grandmother points at a slice of pie in the display case. The TVs show a commercial for a mattress sale, and Racquel carries a tray of breakfast food to a family taking up two tables along the back wall.

Not too far away, there’s a woman at a booth, staring out the window, holding a mug and watching the rain. You swim toward her, pushing through the light, bubbled current until you feel your face against the glass.

Jordan Nishkian

Jordan Nishkian is an Armenian-Portuguese writer based in California. Her prose and poetry explore themes of duality and have been featured in national and international publications. She is the Editorin-Chief of Mythos literary magazine and author of Kindred, a novella.


Persephone’s Parable

Persephone was born into this world as a weed growing between the cracks in the pavement. When people first noticed her, neighbors would speak in hushed voices to each other over the fences and hedges, craning their heads. Did you see that weed in the middle of the street? One suburbian blonde whispered to the other. Oh yes, the other shushed, shaking her head, eyeing the weed, her lips pursed in disgust. All the neighbors had seen weeds growing in the cracks, sure, but this one was different. Home strategies to eradicate the weed did not stick like it did to other plants growing where they did not belong, and everytime a wife convinced her husband to go outside to take care of it, ripping it out over their heads and disregarding it, it would simply come back, stronger than ever. Eventually, all the people on the street knew the weed that was Persephone, and knew that she was not leaving, and thus, they turned their backs, setting their jaws.

One day, the weed grows a flower: soft, delicate, white petals unfolding around the other. A child playing in their yard points to the flower, screaming. Mom! Mom! Look! A flower in the street! He yells. Oh yes, the mother begins, sighing, that’s Persephone. She has...huh, grown...and the mom trails off, screwing her eyes towards the weed that was evidently never a weed in the first place, but a bouquet in the making. The mom presses her lips and decides to not say anything else. The other neighbors follow her example, and do not say anything about the odd plant, growing despite all their efforts.

One day, her body looks to the neighbors like it never has before, and everyone stalls. They do not stall in amazement, or pride, or fear, but they all gawk in pity and shame. She is a blight on the bodies around her, tainting their image with her passion. She tries gifting them oblivion, but they refuse. They do not understand her present, and they all try to pour vinegar over her head. Instead of dying, another white bud begins to grow next to the first.

Persephone grew up in the South, but belongs in the bay, with the giants and the fae folk that roam. She was not made for the scratching whispers and pointed looks she was spared in her youth. No, she was made for the hills, for the trees, for the degradation she will weave into her clothes and she will carry herself as the myriad of everyone she has ever met. The people who tried to suffocate

her before she could breath did not succeed, and therefore, how could anyone, ever, anywhere, do the same? She has already won, her bones curving, her ribs pointing inward, her chin held high, a stunning, handmade cape flowing around her shoulders. Everyone in the South and this piece of shit school and all those who had ever dubbed Persephone as a weed will only look at her as she is leaving, and in the trail of will and beauty and love she leaves behind, they wonder how they had never seen her before.

And one day, she will lay back in her grass patch in contentment, and allow the decay to creep. She has never known such dreams as the ones that cloud her mind as she drifts, and she smiles. It is not sad, it is not happy. It is simply that; a smile. I remember, before this day came, I cried in her arms. I tell her what I have been dealing with, and she listens, rubbing my back. I do not like to talk about myself, but in the presence of Persephone’s white aura, it seems silly to hide my thoughts. I share my writing, my anxieties, my secrets. She shares hers. She tells me over candle light one night that she is worried she is still a weed, looking over her shoulder as she does. I shake my head, laughing. Of course I laugh; what a silly thing to say–a weed! She laughs too, I think, and then tells me she is leaving soon. I tell her I would die in her arms, bury myself with her, if I could.

The insects come first, followed by the carnivore’s and, finally, the earth. Her corpse leaves behind a gown, covered in blood, maggots, and webs, and the roots connect itself to Persephone’s only wish: to leave behind something permanent, and beautiful, and entirely her own. Her corpse dress now lives behind glass that is unmatched with its clarity and protection, extended with wire, standing proudly in pose as if she was wearing it herself, and people travel all around the world to see her myriad. I pin the newspaper clipping of her exhibit to my mirror, too old to see it in person, and yet too young to let go.

Brandi Ocasio

Brandi Ocasio is a 21 year old writer and student at Bennington College. This is her first published work, and she is incredibly excited to get her name out. Currently, she is working on her senior work; a 500 page urban fantasy horror novel that is set to be complete by 2024.


Fear and tornadoes

It’s 1:00 a.m., and I am still awake. Nothing unusual. I simply prefer the nighttime to the daytime. It’s quieter and all that. A thunderstorm rages outside, flooding the roads and sidewalks, pounding against the windows.

Sitting in bed on my phone, I feel the device vibrate against my hands with an emergency alert. I jump in place, now wary of my surroundings. I read the alert in a heightened state of fear. It says my county is under a Tornado Warning, and I need to go to the basement ASAP.


My vision grows fuzzy as I roll out of bed, and I have to lean against my desk as the tingling in my temples fades. There’s an increasing sensation of nausea in my stomach and throat but, too anxious to care, I ignore it and run to my parents’ bedroom. It’s difficult to move around the house, even the ten paces from my room to theirs, with all the lights off.

Regardless, I reach the side of their bed, tap my parents on the shoulder, and say, “Hey.”

My parents sit up in bed at the same time. My mom, clearly ready to go back to bed, asks, “What’s up?”

“There’s a tornado warning in place right now. It says we need to go to the basement.”

“Oh. I’m sure it’s fine, honey. Just go back to sleep.”

“Um, okay.”

Feeling confused, I wait a moment longer to see whether they understand the urgency of my presence. My dad’s snoring drowns out any thoughts I may have had about waking them up again, so I reach for the doorframe and feel my way out of the room.

I still want to head to the basement, so I start walking back to my room to grab a few essentials. On my way back, I find my brother standing in the hallway, just outside his bedroom.

“What’s going on?” he asks.

“There’s a tornado warning. I told Mom and Dad we need to go to the basement, but Mom said it’s fine.”

“Huh?” His eyes are all but closed, crinkled in sleep-deprived confusion.

Deciding further explanation won’t make any difference, I say, “Don’t worry about it.”


We both go back to our rooms. As soon as I enter mine, I freeze. I can’t move. I know I need to gather all my things to take to the basement, but fear has overtaken me, locking my joints and clogging my nervous system. It is in this paralyzed state that I hear a faint but clearly distinguishable sound. A sound anyone from Kansas is all too familiar with.

A moving train.

Except it’s not a moving train. There are no train tracks near my house.

It’s a tornado.

Just as I hear the tornado, the tornado siren goes off.

My mom comes rushing out of her room at just that moment. I can hear everyone scrambling now that the tornado siren has woken them up, socked feet shuffling against the hallway’s hardwood floors.

“Go downstairs,” I say, scanning the hall to make sure everyone is awake and on the move.

Rushing down the stairs, I realize we are in a life-or-death situation. Nothing is as scary as this.

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.

I need to get us downstairs now, before the tornado comes.

Zoe dial

Zoe Dial is a student at Colorado State University majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. She loves writing across fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Her goal is to become a published author and pursue an MFA in creative writing. You can find her reading, writing in a coffee shop, or exploring her college town’s food and art scenes.


Flash & Micro fiction

The Lakehouse

Deep below the lake’s murky surface, there sits—intact—a house. A two-story structure of Carpenter Gothic details like elaborate wooden trim bloated to bursting. Its front yard: purple loosestrife. Its inhabitants: alligator gar, bull trout, and pupfish. All glide past languidly—out of window sashes and back inside door frames. It is serene, and it is foreboding. Curtains of algae float gossamer to and fro. Pictures rest clustered atop credenzas. A chandelier is lit, intermittently, by freshwater electric eels. And near a Victrola, white to the bone, a man and a woman waltz in a floating embrace.

Keith Hoerner

Keith Hoerner (BS, MFA, current PhD candidate) is founding editor of the Webby Award recognized Dribble Drabble Review, an online literary ezine and print anthology series of all things “little-ature.” To date, his writings have been featured in 150+ lit mags / best-of anthologies across five continents.

The importance of having a large vocabulary (and Dictionaries)

As an English teacher or teacher of English language, I have a large stack of dictionaries and a few thesauruses in my classroom. I use these books as examples of ancient artifacts to illustrate to students what life was like before “the invention of the internet.” Some of the students are quite impressed and a few will even flip through the pages. One student even fainted once from the dust that came off the stack of books. I quickly had another student look up the word “woozy” and then use it in a sentence. He said, “She was woozy from the dust on the dictionary.” She was okay after another student looked up the word “resuscitate.”

I do have one of the thesauruses propping up, supporting, bracing, or underpinning the edge of my student work table at the rear of the classroom. It is actually pretty useful for this. Some students will occasionally use a thesaurus or a dictionary as a ruler, if one is not available at the time. Once, a student used the thesaurus as a shield or barrier from the coming onslaught of some, not so pleasant words. Long story short, it is important to keep a copy of a dictionary or a thesaurus inside the classroom because you never know when you will need one.

I rarely use a dictionary myself; however, just this last week I happened to be on the tail end of an unsolicited compliment. As I was taking my regular mid-afternoon nap, my boss happened to enter my room. She dropped a dictionary onto my desk with a resounding thud and my ears let out a clamorous cry. I glanced up to see her walking out of the room. I looked at the dictionary, perplexed at first, until I saw that she had tabbed a page. I flipped open the dictionary and saw that she had highlighted the word “fungible”.” Turns out, my boss thinks I’m a pretty fun guy.

Benjamin Bishop

Benjamin Bishop is a married father of three children and resides in Southern California where he enjoys the beach and camping. Benjamin teaches English Language Arts and has both a Bachelors and Masters in English Literature. Benjamin was co-winner of the 2023 haiku contest on, has poems published in the upcoming poetry anthologies, Fly and Wild, published by Hey Hey Books, and is currently working on his own upcoming poetry collection, A Ballad of Yesterday and Tomorrow.


Mr sunday funnys

by Sheldon Kleeman | Bio on page XX

Medium: Mixed Media; Hand-cut comic book and glue stick

the i’s alone

Sheldon Kleeman | Bio on page XX

Medium: Mixed Media; Hand-cut magazine and glue stick

Rear view dog

by Sheldon Kleeman | Bio on page XX

Medium: Mixed Media; Hand-cut magazine images and glue stick



Farewell to a comet

Shamik Banerjee

Long you stayed above this life-birthing sphere. Have you a memoir as now you take leave? What did you savvy of existence here? Like us, will you too at departure, grieve?

Will you to your cometic brethren tell, of great promontories, of sloshing waves, of a millrace, a tableland, a dell, or how the soil’s munificence life saves? Or plants’ inchoate saplings, soft and mild, or finned swimmers’ locomoting ‘neath seas, or of four-leggéd sprinters of the wild or beltways in magnanimous cities?

a dirt road anthem

Laura Holt

Summer clay beneath my feet Stains my skin a faint reddish-brown When I walk Where my ancestors walked. Your way is flat, Hard-packed, Strong, Sturdy. Even spring rains And winters frosts Cannot move you, Cannot wash you away. Your kiss leaves a taste Of dry grit on my lips. Beneath you, My roots grow deep.

Laura holt

Laura Holt is the award-winning author of the YA Star-Crossed series and Village of Salt and Sorrow. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in Calla Press, Pegasus Literary Magazine, Ginosko Literary Journal, and the Eber & Wein 2015 Anthology. She is a self-professed word witch with a passion for mythology, history, and caffeine who enjoys telling stories about angry girls with magic powers and wild natures, whose bark is as bad as their bite. When she’s not writing, you can find her stretched out on a yoga mat, hiking down wooded trails, or wandering the aisles at a local bookstore searching for her next great read. She lives in small-town Georgia with her daughter, three cats, and a lot of fake plants.

Follow her on Instagram to stay up to date on bookish news, events, and book and music recs, or subscribe to her monthly newsletter for even more exclusive content and writer resources.

Or, if on personkind, what will it be? Will it be on Mouths that both bless and shrew, Minds with adhesion and duplicity, or those ‘Eyes’ whose veiled tears none saw but you?

shamik Banerjee

Shamik Banerjee is a poet and poetry reviewer from the NorthEastern belt of India. He loves taking long strolls and spending time with his family. His deep affection with solitude and poetry provides him happiness.

Friend Zoe Dial the difference between a Friend & a Fiend can bridge loves, souls, metaphysics & logistics A letter. zoe dial
on page 9.


Lisa Macaione

Sicily! Coursing through my veins fiery as Etna lava, blood stained dark as Nero d’Avola. A sleek eggplant in my hands forever will make me weep. Was it there—the bloom of white mandevilla in a terra cotta pot growing as casually by the sea as a Greek goddess?

The waves of the Tyrrhenian crash against me at night I was there— I was there— the taste of salt on the air lemons on the breeze mountains jutting like giants guarding the shores, sheltering stucco villages soaked by sun. I crossed those cobblestone streets, beneath balconies with laundry waving overhead, prayed in cathedrals built by centuries of conquerors, and I, so small, in so much awe. How can I be anywhere else now that I have known Sicily?

Lisa Macaione

Lisa Macaione is a writing workshop facilitator with an MA in English Literature from Leiden University in the Netherlands. Her poems have appeared in Panorama Journal, Belt Magazine, and Literary Mama, among others. She lives in her hometown of St. Charles, Illinois with her husband and two daughters.


Erin Mullens

I walk down the Street. So cold. My fingers move But don’t feel.

This foreign country

Roils my blood

And hurls up memories

Spitting them out faster Than I can sort them, ever.

My mother sent me Chex Mix. I cried when I ate it.

I would’ve thought a Gucci purse Was the best present I could get But it’s not. It’s home Wrapped in blue plastic And shipped via Korean mail.

When the snow falls I see my little brother Pulling me outside Play with me, he says. And when I go to a pizza shop Where the waiter and I Communicate only via looks The cheese tastes like the flight here When the land slowly became ocean And I slowly became a foreigner.

Sometimes I hated America. Always I hated America. I cried too much on my own. But I feel out of place here, too And so my form twists, contorts I stretch like rubber And retreat like the waves.

My mother calls me And I don’t know what to say. I’m still alive, I tell her. I know because I feel too much. Maybe someday I can explain But when I am old enough to have the words I fear she will be too old to hear.

Erin Mullens

Erin Mullens (she/her) is an American college student with a passion for writing. She is an assistant poetry editor for October Hill Magazine and when she is not writing she enjoys reading the news and hiking in the woods. Her poems have appeared in The Amazine, Raw Lit, Iceblink Lit, Words & Whispers Magazine, and Persimmon Review. You can follow her on Instagram at @moonchildisuhgood.


Opening Night tickets for sale

Tristan Tuttle

There are now micro-plastics inside of infants and parasites from organic food and chemicals pouring into the Ohio River Basin and if you don’t reject straws you’re part of the problem and if we could all CHILL THE HECK OUT maybe we could get along but also stand your ground, okay?

Like, we need to fight!

Fight the devil, fight each other, fight the power, fight the snowflake democrats and the greedy republicans! Feed the homeless and eat the rich but use their charitable contributions. Yell ugly things loudly to cover up the fact that this is all virtue theater, sound and fury

signifying n o t h i n g

Tristan Tuttle

Tristan Tuttle is a writer and poet who lives in north Georgia with her husband Jared and their two daughters, Jubilee and Rejoice. She spends her days chasing her girls through the garden rows and writing about it. Her debut poetry collection A Kudzu Vine of Blood and Bone was a #1 New Release on Amazon. She can be found at as well as on Instagram @tristantuttle and on Substack at

The Kid Shaurya Pathania

The kid eats, the kid sleeps, the kid falls, the kid cries the kid picks his nose, And then the kid smiles.

Shaurya Pathania

Shaurya Pathania is a 21 years old who does nothing for a living right now. He struggles with opening sachets of sauce and has a keen interest in poetry. Few of his works are published in Spillwords, Exist otherwise, Drip Lit, Indian Periodical and elsewhere. You can reach out to him @shauryapathania__ on Instagram

mother wound

Caiti Quatmann

There’s no guide for mourning the living no five steps for enduring festering fetid lesions of upheaval

turgid thermal tendrils of grief

purulent pernicious pillories of anguish

septic sloughy tethers of torment

these insidious mother wounds

Caiti Quatmann

Caiti (she/her) is a teacher and emerging poet. She taught and studied writing at the University of Missouri--St. Louis. Caiti writes about issues important to her life from mental health, motherhood, and neurodiversity to education and learning. Caiti has been published online by LitBreak Magazine and The Closed Eye Open. She is regular contributor to ASDE’s Tipping Points Magazine and an editorial assistant for HNDL Mag. Caiti lives with her husband and children in St. Louis, Missouri, and can be found on Instagram @CaitiTalks


Benjamin Bishop

My dad left his kids in a hurry. He moved all the way to Missouri. He stopped at the bar, Then got in his car. Now he’s the father in the clergy.

Benjamin Bishop

Biography on page 10.

Place in Space

Dana DeFranco

we carry the space on our backs we fly between the dots / we slip through the broken lines /

because these are not lines

we fly between the notes and drown out the sounds we wash the echoes in aquifers and shades of indigo

we learn that wherever there is love it’s from the other side

we don’t even know our real names and still we are always here together

just breathing as we take our place in space

Dana DeFranco

Dana DeFranco is a writer and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. Much of her work explores the ways in which our humanity is both fragmented and healed within the everyday. Dana’s poetry has appeared in The Raven’s Perch, 2River View, Papers Publishing, and other literary magazines. Her poem “Suffice” was featured on KALW San Francisco’s radio program, Bay Poets. Dana’s first chapbook, Blends and Bends, was recently published by Bottlecap Press. Dana holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry from Mills College in Oakland. She is a full-time Pisces.


Megan Jauregui Eccles

I screamed into the forest and the forest screamed back, the wails of hollow trees echoing inside my bones, rattling until they snap, all of me decaying in the leaf litter to feed another wasted life

MEgan Jauregui Eccles

Megan Jauregui Eccles lives in the foothills of San Diego and is a novelist, professor, and accidental poet. When she’s not re-homing rattlesnakes, she plays Dungeons and Dragons with her five sons and hatches a variety of poultry.

Spontaneous Combustion

R.M. Engelhardt

Into words

R.m. Engelhardt

R.M. Engelhardt is a poet, writer & author whose work over the last 30 years has been published in such journals as Thunder Sandwich, Full of Crow, Rusty Truck, Writers’ Resist, Dry Land Lit, Rye Whiskey Review, Hobo Camp Review & many others. He currently lives & writes in Upstate NY and his books of poetry are entitled “DarkLands” (Published By Whiskey City Press 2019) & “We Rise Like Smoke Poems Psalms & Incantations” (Published by Dead Man’s Press Ink 2021). His new book of poems is entitled “RAW Poems By R.M. Engelhardt 2023” All books available on

One day I shall Become young Again I shall Become truth I shall See all beauty And like the lotus Each morning shall Blossom forth


Taryn Paige

i won’t quiet my love, not in a world that is overshadowed by disarray and separation.

people go through the motions, the lows of incredible hurt and the highs of ecstatic joy. you never know what they face each day, though.

this is one reason why i will never compromise my outward kindness to others.

i show love in several ways: in the poems i write in connection to a small detail about someone, in the understanding i show when things don’t pan out like i thought;

in the small messages of get home/drive safe, i know you can do it! and let’s talk about this,

in the material things of my own that i would give up in a heartbeat to someone who needed them more than me.

my heart is a faucet that won’t shut off. it pours and it pours love from every square inch.

i am a lover. i am an empathizer. i was given a gift of loving unconditionally in a world plagued by spite and hate.

even so, it will not quiet my love for the world. for the people. for me.

Taryn Paige

Taryn Paige is a recent Ohio State University graduate and author to two books of poetry, Extremities and To the Afterlife. She has been published in several online zines and in Ohio Bards Poetry Anthology: Poetry by Ohio Poets (2023). Taryn is an art lover, a muscle car enthusiast, and a mental health advocate. She is currently working on her next book and in the process of bringing her current books to a shelf near you.


Lisa Macaione

(After James Tate’s “The Last Days of April”)

In our home’s garden the champagne daffodils bunch like bouquets, the bulbs a gift from you last Mother’s Day. They blush in beds we tilled, the yard work all our doing. We held our wedding in April. That year, spring’s warmth awakened late,

bright the green grass, trees still bare. No flowers blooming, but white roses on our cake.

Lisa Macaione

Biography on page 13.

and it’s always you Megan Jauregui Eccles

How is this second skin warmer than your exhalation Apple blossom, mud, gin Spit me out, swallow me again

Beg me to remember the feel of your tongue on my name White clover, blood, liqueur Break me open, ask for more

Megan Jauregui Eccles

Biography on page 15.


Nocturnal Shaurya Pathania

the fridge frights

me, in the night empty of light, it doesn’t glow at all,

and still, I put my hands inside, it captures, it holds, I fumble , I grope.

I search in dark and end up with nothing, but a crumble of bread and me.

I’ll boil some water for me, if only I can stand up, but my room is cold and so are my bones.

Shaurya Pathania

Biography on page14.

Artist biographies

SHeldon Kleeman

Sheldon Kleeman is a multi-medium artist mixing collage and assemblage with written words and music. Self-taught and drawn to surrealism, abstract cubism, social and political commentaries, influences include Dali, Picasso, and Matisse. Originally from Philadelphia, Kleeman is now living in Trenton NJ. Kleeman’s objective as an artist is to “find the abstract in realism to let the abstract’s colors and shapes define my artwork.”

Instagram: @kleemansheldon

Cover & Photo credits

The cover of Issue 003 is by the wonderful Melanie Muñoz. Learn more about Melanie below.

COVER: Kyoto Medium: Digital Photography

Melanie Muñoz

Melanie Muñoz is a college student focusing on digital media and marketing; according to Muñoz, “I am a mixed-media artist, but I like to focus on digital art.”

More about the cover image from Muñoz: “This picture was shot in Kyoto near the Buddhist temple known as Kiyomizudera. The streets alongside the temple capture the traditional and calmer essence of Japan. Neon lights and loud music are usually pictured when thinking of Japan. I wanted to contrast that by capturing this image. These bustling streets are filled with tea shops, kimono rental shops, and everything matcha.”


Clever Fox Literary Magazine utilizes free stock photography courtesy of Unsplash to add a visual element to our publication. We thank and would like to recognize those works below, and of course, encourage you to enjoy and support the artists behind these works. As our publication grows, we look forward to including more artwork and photography submissions from talented artists all over the world!

• Page 2: Photo by Birger Strahl

• Page 3: Photo by Engin Akyurt

• Page 4: Photo by FLY:D

• Page 5: Photo by Hans Vivek

• Page 7: Photo by Ahmed Hasan

• Page 8: Photo by bady abbas

• Page 9: Photo by Michal Mancewicz

• Page 10: Photo by Lily Banse

• Page 10: Photo by Syd Wachs

• Page 12: Photo by Alexander Andrews

• Page 13: Photo by Josh Hild

• Page 14: Photo by Siora Photography

• Page 14: Photo by Daiga Ellaby

• Page 15: Photo by Filip Zrnzević

• Page 16: Photo by Laura Vinck

• Page 17: Photo by Cherry Laithang

• Page 17: Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie

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@cleverfoxlitmag on Looking for more? Click the image to read issue 002

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