Read Aloud BOB MACKENZIE
Memorabilia EDILSON A. FERREIRA
My Name Is Not KATHLEEN A. LAWRENCE
Power KEN YUKAY CHIN
The Power in a Second BRUCE KAUFFMAN
Resurrection Wounds MATT MAULDIN
Zirak KYLE CLIMANS
Power ELIZABETH BANFALVI
On Forgetfulness and Love JESSIE READ
What Could Have Been Glorious RAJNISH MISHRA
This is a World BETH GORDON
The Shape Shifter ANDREW SCOTT
Duelling a Demon
Roots ADRIANA GREEN
Undone SOPHIA KING
Open Your Eyes. ALYSSA COOPER
DUSKA DRAGOSAVAC & JACLYN ACRE
Inside Back Cover NICK ROMEO
FREE LIT MAGAZINE Editor-in-Chief Ashley Newton
Literary Editor Eunice Kim
Kyle Climans, Alyssa Cooper, Adriana Green, Bruce Kauffman
Jaclyn Acre, Elizabeth Banfalvi, Ken Yukay Chin, Duska Dragosavac, Edilson A. Ferreira, Beth Gordon, Sophia King, Kathleen A. Lawrence, Bob MacKenzie, Matt Mauldin, Rajnish Mishra, Justin Patrick, Karin Pryal, Jessie Read, Nick Romeo, Andrew Scott
Free Lit Magazine is a digital literary magazine committed to the accessibility of literature for readers and the enrichment of writing for writers. Its mission is to form an online creative community by encouraging writers, artists, and photographers to practice their passion in a medium that anyone can access and appreciate.
We are all born with power. What distinguishes our power from others’ is how much of it we have – and how much is given or taken away. Power is a struggle that we see in our political leaders, in social issues, and even in our day-to-day lives. Perhaps most noteworthy as of late has to do with the #metoo movement and the ways in which we are seeing victims reclaim their power. There are serious implications that come with the exchange of power. Those who have the ability to influence other people have an important role to play, and we can only hope they will do the right thing. When we lose our power, we feel worthless, drained, and lose all confidence. The good news is that we can gain that power back without harming someone else. Only then will we see that we’ve always had power, it was just up to us to find the source of it: from within. I can’t tell you where your power lies, but I only know that it is worth discovering, and worth using for good. Ashley Newton Editor-in-Chief
The Words Issue May 2018
BOB MACKENZIE the words donâ€™t matter here only caress wash ravage rush through and across senses of sound writ everywhere it is not written it is not written it is not written the moving finger writes but having writ leaves cold stone remains take two and call me he said not wrote call me not write right the power is not in but behind and before the words
in the beginning perhaps but thought sound and light energy pure and simple electric power also were and were with the first and all saying by eye gesture intonation flow flux howl rant rave dance fire smoke captive words undone doing here the power is only the words donâ€™t matter
EDILSON A. FERREIRA Suddenly, a grain of sand invades an oyster, peacefully lying in the depths of the oceans, unhappy a route accident. Then, in order to protect itself from irritation, oyster quickly covers uninvited visitor with layers and layers of nacre, mineral by which is fashioned its internal shell. The grain of sand gains a fine coat, what performs iridescent and stunning a pearl. Some route accidents like this permeate our lives, on unexpected days and by unexpected intruders. Perhaps by a similar way we have made our pearls: --memorable statues, symphonies and sonnetsâ€”
My Name is Not
KATHLEEN A. LAWRENCE Please, don’t call me honey or luv or sweetie or darling or girl or girlie, for that matter, or beautiful or babe or sexy or chick or yours. Please call me by my name or don’t call me, at all. Okay, hon?
DUSKA DRAGOSAVAC & JACLYN ACRE
Please, don’t call me honey or luv or sweetie KEN YUKAY or darling or girl CHIN or girlie, for that matter, or babe nuclear weapons, now that’s power beautiful or Thermo or sexy or chick yours. The or ability to incinerate entire cities The main battle tank Can ram or blast it’s way through most obstacles Please call me by my name Pretty impressive display of raw power or don’t call me, at all. As are sports cars, muscle builders, large caliber firearms Okay, hon? And lots and lots of money But none of these have any power Compared to the ability to change people’s mind
What does it take To convince an entire people That you are a deity Or something close to it What does it take To have the masses scream and shout your name To faint in your presence Or take off their panties and throw them on stage Or to make young men and women Go out and fight and die for you Because you told them it was the right thing to do Don’t know what it takes to have that kind of power Nor do I want to know I will go on record to say That I am not civilized enough Not intelligent enough And I am not weak enough To want that kind of power
The Power in a Second BRUCE KAUFFMAN
in any second a day can turn around on itself become something different something more they all the instants in our lives always arriving unnoticed those few that can change look like any other second already having come before but these few have something within them that allows then creates a low quiet spark as the match of each ourselves glances against the hard surface of day that second then flashing ignites becomes inside us a flame becomes then a fire within hot enough to forge metal and we courageous enough in it to then mold that hot and splattering iron into a simple key that key unique our own the one that can unlock the only door into the full and gracious room of this day beyond it and into this then safe and gentle house of all the days before of all the days still coming 9
Resurrection Wounds MATT MAULDIN
Twisting the ground, walk upon the word â€“ crusted intervals, functioning page breaks Born again, breached idol, resurrecting wounds, dress rehearsal parasites â€“ mincing meaning Bearing witness and cross, Calvary, transfixing vantage from sanctimonious high, degraded order Infestation lies, scurrying across blurred lines, bloated pollution rhythm, worshipping in gray markets
KYLE CLIMANS The rocky slope was slippery in the rain, making Lirshor curse his foolish choice to wear sandals. He gathered the bottom of his novice robes in one hand as he held the other hand out to balance himself. The effort was useless, for the strong winds beating the side of the mountain meant that he wobbled precariously, even when he was standing still. Lirshor wondered again why he had been so pig-headed and foolish to venture this far, but he knew that he had to have an answer to his doubts. And if the Dai’Loq elders could not provide such an answer, then nobody could. The elders had lived near the peak of Mt. Zirak for as long as the Namasani faith had existed. Or at least as long as the records had stated as such. Lirshor was in such a crisis that he no longer fully trusted the sacred texts with their simple truths. As he climbed, Lirshor sensed a ray of morning sunlight peaking through the rain and the howling winds. He was filled with a desire to kneel and pray, as was his faith’s custom six times a day, but he had enough trouble struggling onward in these conditions, let alone stopping to pray. He suddenly spied the peak of the mountain, rising up like a spike towards heaven. The highest point on the recorded earth, this was a sacred place for the Namasani. Life began here for them when their last prophet, nameless but for his title, had brought the holy texts to them after he had fasted on the peak for twenty days and nights. Before him, hundreds of arrogant men and women had ventured up to speak with the Gods, only to litter the mountain’s base with their shattered bones. Lirshor had once asked why the nameless prophet was not considered arrogant for his own venture and his answer had been a beating by his instructor, which had only ended with a confession whispered to one of the holy men in his school. And so now he climbed the mountain. He had nearly fallen a dozen times, only just surviving by the skin of his teeth. Lirshor had lost any inkling of time during his lonely quest, but now he finally saw the peak in the distance. The pathway, which had begun as a dirt road cut into the grass by the mountain, had trickled down to a small route cut into the rock, only for that to disappear into a few hints of human travel scattered along the way up. Even those had gone by now, though. Lirshor cried out as he was forced to use both hands to climb, causing his robe to entangle his feet. In his fury, Lirshor took his knife and slashed at his robe until his long legs are bare, and only his loincloth covered his shame. Shivering violently from the cold, Lirshor climbed faster, desperate to reach his salvation. He wondered what he would find when he arrived. So many stories were told in secret of the Dai’Loq elders that it was impossible to determine what was fact and what was myth. The elders never left their mountain home, they had abandoned food and water because of their closeness with the Blessed One himself. They spoke to him directly, they chose whose prayers could reach him, they descended down from the mountain once a month to impregnate the women. The stories ranged from mystical to lewd, for none of them could truly be disproven unless you climbed Mt. Zirak to see for yourself. Lirshor grunted as rocks and gravel came loose from above him and clattered down the slope. Only his strong grip saved him from being swept away to his death, though his body 11
was battered and bleeding. He cursed and wept as he struggled upward, until his eyes beheld a strange sight. So high up in the mountain, he beheld a patch of black earth, protected by a barrier made of small boulders, from which several plants were growing. Lirshor’s experience on communal farms allowed him to identify garlic and potatoes, while others were beyond his recognition. Several small chickens and goats picked at the meagre mountain vegetation which grew elsewhere. At the far end of this plateau was the entrance to a cave, just under the peak itself. It was lit by torches inside, safe from the wind. Lirshor truly wept then, and despite his exhaustion and his injuries he scrambled to his feet and ran into the cave, crying out his joy. Inside, he beheld several men and women in thick robes. The youngest was a man in his 40s, while the eldest was a woman who looked so old that Lirshor could not guess her age. All of them looked him with surprise on their faces. Shaking, Lirshor attempted to kneel, but instead he collapsed on the stone floor. One of the men grabbed a spare robe and put it around Lirshor’s shoulders, “Rest, brother, you have had a long journey.” Lirshor shook as he caught his breath. He felt as though the journey had taken thirty years, and he was left a quivering mess of skin and bones. The eldest woman approached him, “I am Aylas. Welcome to our humble abode. But why have you come, brother?” Lirshor looked up, “For answers that none but you could give me.” The elders exchanged knowing glances, even as Aylas spoke again, “Ask your questions.” Lirshor slowly wobbled back to his feet from the cave floor, “Why does the Blessed One allow good people to suffer? Why are the wicked free from punishment or retribution or guilt?” Aylas slowly shook her head, “The Blessed One is not to be questioned in such a way.” Lirshor paused, and his eyes widened. Not this answer again! “You cannot do this,” Lirshor declared, “You must answer me! The great elders are closest to the Blessed One, every child knows that! It’s why I climbed this whole way to find you!” The elders sighed and shook their heads as though they were all in a secret together. Aylas spoke again, “You do not wish to know the truth, child. You are not ready yet.” Lirshor felt rage course through him, and it melted some of the weariness away. “Yes!” He roared. “Yes, I am ready!” His furious contradiction echoed all around them, drowning out the wind itself. The elders slowly dispersed, except for Aylas. She sighed and took a step forward, “The Blessed One is not responsible for the good man suffering and the evil man profiting.” Lirshor frowned, “Has the Blessed One not the power to make things right? Why then, does nothing change?” Aylas sighed sadly and said nothing to deny his accusations. Lirshor felt his fury slowly give way to fear. It was not the fear of death which he had felt all the way up the mountain. It was a much older fear which he had carried throughout his life, like a birthmark. It was not always felt, or noticed, but it never strayed far from his mind. Aylas spoke again, “Young man, have you ever asked yourself why we elders stay up here near the peak of Mt. Zirak?” “Because it is how we become closer to the Blessed One,” Lirshor replied instantly, quoting every instructor from his childhood. 12
Aylas sighed, “No. We are no closer to the Blessed One up here than the meanest worm in the soil of the lowest valley. For the Blessed One is everywhere. This is a truth which we have discovered.” Lirshor frowned, “That does not explain why you came here.” For the first time, Aylas smiled, but it was an unnerving sight. The old woman’s mouth curled so that her wrinkled face was stretched apart. Lirshor could see that there was no real mirth in her expression, only the wryest of amusement. “We are here because we have learned the truth of the world’s flaws. It is not the Blessed One who causes evil to spread. His absence is not to blame either. Evil is not some entity which ruins lives with a purpose, young man.” Lirshor struggled to understand what Aylas was saying, but the well of fear inside of him was taking him to a truth which he dared not consider. Aylas went on, “It is we who bring out worst troubles into existence. We must find the Blessed One because we need guidance in a world which offers us none. How many bones lie at the foot of this mountain?” Lirshor was thrown by the question. He thought back to the yellowed, rotting remains of men and women that he had passed. The sights had caused him to vomit twice before he could continue onwards. “How many of them deserved to die so cruelly? Was it the Blessed One who allowed them to die to reach this holy place? No. This is not a true holy place, child. It is a retreat from a world we are guilty of creating. We live here in isolation to find a simple truth which we can tend to and nurture in peace.” Lirshor slowly sank down to sit on the cold stone again. His weariness had returned; it was wearying to realize one’s life had no true meaning. He looked up at Aylas again, “How many have you told of this truth?” Aylas shrugged, “I have lost count. We few who can face it and make the best out of it stay here and live in quiet humility. You are welcome to stay if you wish. Or you may return to your home.” Lirshor wept then, and his grief was such that he could not speak for several moments. A number of elders brought him food or tried to comfort him, but nothing calmed him except his own exhaustion. He finally glared at Aylas again, “How can I ever go back? How can I stay and abandon all I have known?” Aylas looked down at him with a sad expression on her face but said nothing. Her wisdom had been delivered and there was nothing more to say, it seemed. No, Lirshor thought, he knew there was nothing more to be said. He cursed his instructors for building a false ship of lies and lashing him to it from the earliest days of his childhood. He cursed his own kind with such rage in his mind that he felt ready to faint. He did not curse the Blessed One, but not out of respect for that great deity, but because cursing the Blessed One would accomplish as little as prayer. With a sudden lurch, Lirshor stood up, and made his choice. His first real choice, he felt, and it would also be his last. He turned and stormed out of the cave, back onto the plateau, limping despite the pains in his body and mind. The elders had been merciful, for they had kept one truth away from him. But that truth was plain as day before him now. Not all the bones at the bottom of Mt. Zirak lay there by accident. 13
ELIZABETH BANFALVI What is power? Is it a powerful wind that can knock down trees or is it the breeze that flows across your cheek and ruffles your hair? The Earth has power. It rotates daily. The moon rotates around the earth. It can move water into waves and currents and air into wind and mighty hurricanes. The moon has the ability to alter tides and our moods. Earth can erupt and change whole landscapes. Water can boil or freeze and form icebergs. Fire can melt ice or burn large forests. Rain and snow fall from the sky and land on the earth. It can flood or feed it. It runs across the earth seeking a destination. Plants and trees grow and mature and then begin again the next year. How do they know when to change? Birds and insects fly through the air and some migrate thousands of miles. Some insects change from one form to another. They transmute and transform. Eggs form into mighty fish swimming in the water and the mighty seas. There are the mighty whales, sharks, dolphins and they live in so many different oceans. They speak to each other in waves of sonar in their own language. What do they say to each other? Creepy crawlers dig holes and shed skins. They burrow and oxygenate the earth. They cleanse, dispose and regenerate. No piece of healthy earth is without them. Animals roam the earth. They live with us. What would our lives be without them? We hurt them. We kill them for our food. Without them, we could not live. Yet do they hunt or kills us without provocation? Do they purposefully antagonize us? Power â€“ what is it? It is the power of knowing ourselves and the world that surrounds us. Power is knowing your own strength and respecting others.
On Forgetfulness and Love JESSIE READ
i know what it is like to like someone so much you hate them to curl in the new days arm begging the sun to forgive the moon there are times i wish to be forgetful they say blessed are the forgetful and i dont wish to be depressed i dont wish to hold the moon around my shoulders hoping that ill be brought to light, brought to life they say people will depression have a more accurate perception of reality and no moment is tangible and i cannot grab time by the hand and ask it to stop the moon doesn’t sway to the beat of my silver devilled tongue there is no moment that is infinite and we are not infinite but forgotten i have lost myself in moments, in people wanting to feel alive i wear the moon as a cape proving that even on the darkest of nights, you can always be your own superhero like i have witnessed the impossible air lick the dew sprung up upon the night i have let it cherish me in its arms as i wait pot bellied pot bellied i am broken pot bellied we are fixed bloated from the unforgiving night that pulls heavy like forgiveness baring its teeth and I’m sorry you loved me into hating me i’m sorry i can’t hold the same fortunes anymore I’m sorry i hold this guilt like a sachet (not a purse indiana jones has one too) i’m sorry i will never be alan from the hangover because he’s a bitching character i am here just alone, and raw and fresh and here what more do you expect of me
What Could Have Been Glorious RAJNISH MISHRA
Flashes of gold on mud brown ripples. Not crimson, though I wanted that, nor silver, but golden. Not blue or turquoise, but mud brown. Ripples that run from my eyes to the end of the plane where early morning sand, meets cloudy morning sky. No, the glimmer did not, could not come to life. I tried, then tried harder to focus, but a page was flipped somewhere, it broke the waves, then another was flipped, and the next. Anger, frustration rushed in to fill my mind. Out went what could have been glorious.
DUSKA DRAGOSAVAC & KARIN PRYAL
This is a World BETH GORDON
where alligators push their scaly nostrils their prehistoric teeth through ice to breathe in southern Florida where my neighborâ€™s baby is perfect a cotton candy fairy tale and when she cries my quiet heart vibrates like harp strings a victim of radiation poisoning where slammed doors make me wonder who is coming up the stairs with automatic weapons or crates filled with spicy lemons where stragglers appear old women hand-feed lichen to the last herd of caribou where a dilapidated railroad trestle vanishes into weeds pulls kudzu and armadillo bones over its spindly legs and tells me to move on where the cats recall frozen dirt from yesterday and will not leave the house where a phone call lurks in my peripheral vision my mother asks are you sitting down?
The Shape Shifter ANDREW SCOTT
The Shape Shifter came make your emotions tingle the perfect temptress, changing to your desires pretending to love your soul and heart all the while manipulating the beating blood flow Whispers in your ear to tell you that above you the skies are a fuzzy, darkened grey when your eyes see the true fluorescent, clear blue talons entering your mind, stirring confusion truth no longer guides the visions seen in the blurred eyes The cloak of deceit takes all forms of treachery brilliant angels are actually fiery paths laying crumbling bricks that feel smooth to the touch Flying chameleons, swarming, sapping strength filling you with assurances even as you grow feeble feelings of loss a deception fill your skin a jester left dancing in the court of fools desolation and isolation left to you as a gift from the Shape Shifter
Duelling a Demon JUSTIN PATRICK
“Mr. Oakes!” shouted the driver, a bald, portly man with a thick moustache and a strong grip on the reigns. “Git up here and give me some cover fire!” The four-horse team galloped furiously under the noonday sun, whipping around the bends so fast that the coach almost tipped over, much to the dismay of the four passengers. Rifles cracked at the party’s heels, and bullets thudded into the thick wood of the coach, riddling the luggage strapped to the top so much that small fibres of fabric from shredded clothes became free and flew out in the party’s wake, leaving a tell-tale trail of periwinkles and lavenders for their pursuers to find. The young, brown-haired man in a dapper burgundy suit Miss Ellie was facing rose to his feet and gripped the window ledge to keep from falling over. Over the past two days on the road, she had grown to enjoy his company, as he had always managed to keep the conversation quite interesting with stories of his escapades at Yale where he had studied to become a lawyer. He took off his bowler hat and placed it in her quivering hands. “Keep this safe for me,” he smiled, as if it was just another society dance with the Connecticut debutantes. “Oh, John,” she murmured, yet before she could say more, he kicked open the coach door and hurriedly clambered up the side to where the driver, a Mr. Shephards, was waiting with an 1885 Sharps Carbine outstretched in one hand and the reigns in the other. Miss Ellie didn’t know much about guns, but Mr. Shephards was always going on about how it could lick a buzzard off a chuck wagon three hundred yards away, so she figured it was good quality. The second after John disappeared from her view, the open coach door was smacked back and forth as a bullet embedded itself into the frame, causing splinters to shoot about like jagged shards through the coach. Miss Ellie cried out as she felt a sharp pain in her cheek and turned her head away to cover her face in her hands. In the darkness of her closed eyes, she heard another bullet thud into the door, followed by a third and a lurching sound that ended as quickly as it had come. Miss Ellie peeked at the door to see that it was gone, leaving only a rectangular hole in the side of their sanctuary. The widow Bartlett beside her had started to wail uncontrollably into a handkerchief, and grey-bearded Dr. Evansworth across from the widow was searching frantically through his medicine bag. Above her, Miss Ellie heard a louder gunshot as John let loose a round from the carbine, which was reciprocated with a series of quick shots back. A bullet must have hit one of the luggage straps, since she could feel the vibrations of all of their belongings tumbling down the back of the coach and onto the road. She hoped that this would at least stall the bandits a bit, but she quickly realized it also left John and Mr. Shephards with little to hide behind. Suddenly, a rider burst from the woods on the side of the broken door, a six-gun in his right hand that pointed towards the sky. The man’s face was covered by a blue bandanna save for piercing blue eyes as cold as death, and a swamp-coloured cowboy hat rested atop his head. The doctor finally found what he was looking for, a tiny pistol, yet before he could begin to aim, the stranger shot him twice through the chest, causing the old man to cringe and fall forward into the lap of the widow who screamed. Miss Ellie seemed frozen in place, unable to move, think, or even breathe. Everything became drowned out by the rapid beating of her heart. 22
The rider began to draw closer to the coach until he was able to grip the side of the doorframe with his hand. His knuckles were rough and hairy, with many scares from countless conflicts like this one. Beyond the man’s hand, Miss Ellie saw the stout arm of Mr. Shephards extend outward, holding a sawed-off double barrel. The driver fired and an explosion of blood and bone erupted from the head of the stranger’s horse, yet just before the beast toppled head over heels in the dirt, the man swung himself off his mount and into the coach with her and the widow Bartlett. The carbine cracked again overhead, unable to save the two women from the terror that was inside. The widow screamed again and began swatting her purse at the man in a frenzy, but he slapped her soundly twice, once with the front of his hand and once with the back, before opening the other door and tossing her out through it. Miss Ellie tried to find words to say, but her mouth was dry and no sound came out. The stranger grabbed her roughly by the neck so tightly she could barely breathe, pulled down his bandana to reveal a face of coarse black stubble like the back of a pig, and rammed his lips to hers to begin kissing her so fiercely, her lip began to bleed. She instantly became overwhelmed by the stench of a body unwashed for many weeks, mixed in with the rancid smell of tobacco, whisky, and rotten teeth. He had been chewing tobacco the whole time, and the toxic substance was forced into her mouth, causing her to half-gag, half-choke as a trail of black liquid trickled down the corner of her mouth. She hit him frantically in an attempt to shake him off, but this only caused her attacker to grab her hair so hard she thought he would rip it out. The pain was even worse on the inside. She felt powerless, and the pit of her stomach flared up like a great ball of fire that tortured every inch of her being. Her once frozen mind now rushed with a thousand thoughts: social pressure, how others would view her, whether she would be killed soon after or be taken captive to spend the rest of her days at the mercy of this monster. The worst thought for her however was of whether she would be forced to live a life without love from this point forward, be it constantly robbed from her or that she would become incapable of giving or receiving it. Dark thoughts of sadness and worse things flooded her mind, but with a great surge of will, she pushed these thoughts away on the foundational principle that she was still alive. She had to act; she had to think of a plan. It was then that she remembered the doctor’s pistol. She thought it had fallen back in the bag after he was shot. Using all of the strength and courage left in her, she rose to her feet and began kissing the monster back as hard and fierce as he was doing to her. The assailant was so astonished that he released his lips and stared. In the most confident voice she could muster, Miss Ellie did her best impression of a seasoned dancehall girl. “I like it rough. Give me all you’ve got you filthy animal.” As soon as these words were uttered, she threw herself at him, pushing him back against the opposite wall. She latched her lips to his and steered him with her body so he was lying down lengthwise on the seat. Now on top of him, she ripped off his hat and yanked his thick, wild mane with one hand while her other groped about for the medicine bag. After a few seconds, she found it and reached inside, yet just as her fingers touched smooth, wooden handle, the coach hit a bump and they both flew off the seat and landed hard atop the doctor’s corpse in the aisle. The bag went into the air as well, causing its contents to spill all over the seat they had just occupied. She didn’t see the pistol, but a glimmer of silver caught her eye. She clambered back atop the attacker, grabbed the doctor’s scalpel, and jabbed it down into the demon’s throat as hard as she could. Blood spurted up from the man like a fountain, bubbling as he struggled unsuccessfully for breath. Her beautiful yellow and lace dress became spattered and stained, and spots of red 23
covered her face like war paint. She pulled out the blade and drove it in again, and again, and again. The man went limp, yet she still kept stabbing until her arms got tired and she was forced to take a breath. All this time, she realized the other outlaws were still exchanging fire with the stagecoach party, the latter of which seemed to be shooting at a lower rate than before. She clambered back to her original seat to see that Mr. Shephards was still at the reigns. The driver turned back and loosed two powerful shots with the double barrel, yet he was struck in the face with return fire and fell off the front of the coach. When the wheel struck Mr. Shephard’s portly frame, the coach tipped over and began to roll. Miss Ellie clung to her seat as hard as she could, but the coach broke free of its team, tumbled off the road at a breakneck speed and crashed into a rocky cliff. She lost her grip, flew up to strike the ceiling, and came down hard in the aisle before losing all consciousness. *** There were periods when Miss Ellie wasn’t fully awake, but could just catch glimpses of what was going on. She recalled two outlaws examining what was left of the coach. “They didn’t stand much chance. Best leave ‘em for the vultures and head south.” More time passed, it got dark, and then it got light again. When Miss Ellie was finally able to come to, morning sunbeams peaked through the cracks and holes in the coach. She groggily sat up to a throbbing headache and a terrible thirst. Her muscles ached when she tried to move them, yet to her surprise, she had no broken bones, as by some miracle, the doctor’s body had absorbed the brunt of her impact. There were even a couple sharp boards from the coach that had impaled the doctor’s body but had not gone through enough to hurt her. She coughed and spit the remainder of the chewing tobacco out of her mouth. Her fingers brushed the soft, familiar brim of John Oakes’ hat and she grasped it tightly. She would keep it safe. She was badly bruised, and it took her a while to climb out of the wreckage and emerge into the bright sunlight that enveloped her with a welcoming embrace. She walked out to the road, which was a long straightaway alongside a rock cliff, and spied a still shape laying in the road back the way she had come. She walked toward it for what seemed like hours, and when she finally got to it, she realized to her horror that it was young John, shot in the heart and run over by the very coach he was trying to save. Thinking back, she figured that his death had caused the bump that had allowed her to grab the scalpel. Her companion had seemed to be more successful saving her when dead than when he was alive. She found the Sharps carbine a little ways away, picked it up, brought it back to John’s body, and sat down next to it cross-legged with the rifle in her lap. Not quite knowing why, she placed the burgundy bowler hat on her head. In that pose she waited, too shaken to walk, yell for help, or even cry. A few hours later, a family of travellers came by in a wagon and took her to the nearest town where she was cared for and given rest. When she was well enough, the sheriff and his two deputies listened to her story and asked her if she could identify the two men that got away. “I don’t remember what they looked like,” she said, her eyes staring straight ahead past the lawmen and through the window towards the endless blue sky beyond. “But I know where they’re going.”
DUSKA DRAGOSAVAC & KARIN PRYAL
ADRIANA GREEN not sure if I can make up for the time lost to get it back would I’m reliving what it looked like to see a new me in each mirror that I passed in each new poem I would write I found a sense of something long forgotten maybe it was my ability to stand with my head held high but now I’m talking like I’m drunk into a microphone spilling out my guts spilling my drink on the audience never once have I have ever seen a mirror with such honesty All this power that I have lacked to speak up or to stand out opportunities dropped like breadcrumbs that only ever led me back to where I was born The city where I swore that I would never stay well now I think I’m going to make this my final resting place And to give back what it has given to me that’s the energy that makes this whole thing cyclical Almost laughable in a way, almost predictable if you’re really looking for it there’s a method to achieving the truth that you seek But the power that it requires also stems from dropping the ego you so desperately need Or at least it’s what you elude to when you have nothing left to prove Step back, get out of your own way.
SOPHIA KING today I saw my brother cry s only he knows how head down... confused pain in my head he shot that boy dead. seventeen not yet a man the only brother I have known mommy cried beside me her little warrior all grown still alone. silent he stood in the coolness of the courtroom like he used to just before daddy threw his fists father... gone before our fourth sister was born impressing upon the quiet storm that was mommy’s little warrior
designed for no one “tell me what it means to feel blessed when you ain’t got no luck on your side” words spit from daddy’s mouth wounds bleeding from his tongue blood that stains healing left undone. daddy’s vulnerability unseen wild masculinity for my brother to emulate tears hidden the drops of salty waters left for us mothers, sisters, and daughters. as they took my brother away sobs echoed in the emptiness mommy fell beside me her little warrior like her a voice restless choked ...breathless.
like her surviving each day trying not to cower to daddy’s sharp blows singing me lullabies protection from her woes. sins passed down resting on our little shoulders too heavy to carry but needed to survive the tip of a gun cheap welfare systems 27
Open Your Eyes. ALYSSA COOPER Open your eyes. This is not a dream and I am not a vision. I am not your wish fulfillment, not your fantasy, I will not step quietly into the roles that have been defined for me – I cannot be bought by your position, by your bargaining, by your gender; this interaction is not a transaction, I cannot be bought, I will not be owned, open your eyes, and see – I do not owe you anything. This is not a story and I am not a character, I am not an archetype, I am not your manic pixie dream girl, I was not sent here to save you – I am not a mirror, but a window, it is not my job to place your life in your own hands, I take lovers fully-formed or not at all – and I will not hear your negotiations. I will not paint roses on your walls unless you deserve them. I am not nearly as mysterious as you want me to be, just open your eyes – here is my flesh, as ephemeral as yours. Here is my blood, running red and warm. Open your eyes, and see me, not as woman, not as girl, not as prize, or conquest, not as wife, or daughter, or sister, or mother, but as 28
human. Open your eyes, and see. See these scars that I have worn since birth. See the way they multiply with every new confession – one woman, two women, twelve women, fifty women, open your goddamned eyes, and see the chains around my wrists – this is not a fairy tale, and you are not a hero. We are not damsels, and we will not be saved, we are not princesses, and we will not be given, tell me – how long did you bite your tongue? How long did you swallow secrets, how many times did you choke on them, before the mountain of guilt was tall enough to climb, tall enough to plant your flag in the wreckage, how many hands did you trample along the way? Did you even see them there, beneath your boots? Did you feel the bones crack, from the weight? Or were your blind eyes still stubbornly turned away? The righteous flag that you planted landed squarely in my spine, but I will not be paralyzed. Open your eyes, and we will pluck them from your skull – 29
we will not quake beneath your wolfish gaze. We will not bathe in your platitudes, we will not be trampled, we will not be swayed, these interactions are not transactions, these bodies are not currency, we will not be bought, we will not be owned, we will not be ignored. Not anymore We will save ourselves. We will save each other â€“ and you â€“ you will not be owed.
OUR CONTRIBUTORS... Without the submissions from writers, artists, and photographers, Free Lit Magazine would not be possible! Please take the time to visit other websites linked to projects our contributors have been involved in, as well as the websites/social media platforms run by some of this issueâ€™s contributors: JACLYN ACRE - Facebook KYLE CLIMANS - Twitter ALYSSA COOPER - Website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook DUSKA DRAGOSAVAC - Website EDILSON A. FERREIRA - Website BETH GORDON - Twitter ADRIANA GREEN - Website, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube BRUCE KAUFFMAN - Finding a Voice on 101.9FM CFRC SOPHIA KING - Instagram BOB MACKENZIE - Facebook, Amazon Author Page, and Reverbnation KARIN PRYAL - Instagram NICK ROMEO - Instagram
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