IRON HORSE PHOTOFINISH
Leslie Jill Patterson Nonfiction Editor
Elena Passarello Poetry Editor
Geffrey Davis Fiction Editor
Katie Cortese Special Projects Managing Editor
Literary Review PhotoFinish
Meghan E. Giles Managing Editors
Nancy Dinan Jessica Smith Jasmine Bailey Jennifer Popa
Associate Editors: Margaret Emma Brandl, Emma Brousseau, Nathaniel Brown, William Brown, Jennifer Buentello, Dakota Chisum, Claudia Diaz, Alexa Dodd, Mykayla Fontaine, Meghan E. Giles, Jacob Hall, Mary Beth Holm, Katherine Jackson, Maeve Kirk, Jesse Lawhead, Brook McClurg, Beth McKinney, D Patterson, Matthew Porto, Catherine Ragsdale, Sara Ryan, Kate Simonian, Briana Stewart, Robby Taylor, Jeremy Tow, Peter Vertacnik, Valerie Wayson, Mary White, and Davis Winchester. Cover and Interior Photos: Shutterstock. Copyright © 2018 Iron Horse Literary Review. All rights reserved. Iron Horse Literary Review is a national journal of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. It is published six times a year at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, through the support of the TTU President’s Office, Provost’s Office, Graduate College, College of Arts & Sciences, and English Department.
PhotoFinish | December 2018 Foreword
Leslie Jill Patterson
Finalists Grace at the Pavilion Cutpurse Canticle The Song of Every Movieâ€™s Eagle Two Hymns The Key Things You Left Behind Terminus Devilish Things We Lost Lost and Found
Winner Oxblood Contributors
2 4 7 9 10 12 14 17 20 23 26 28
Anna Scotti David Sullivan David Kikuchi Kari Flickinger K. T. Landon Susan Kikuchi Penn Stewart Avital Gad-Cykman Holly Teresa Baker Timothy Reilly
Here in Texas, many of us had hoped Beto would defeat Ted Cruz, and it was disappointing, even heartbreaking, when he didn’t. Nonetheless, for the first time in the twenty-five years I’ve lived here, Lubbock County, which has always been blood-red Republican, turned “pink.” And knowing that Democrats have taken the House again, finally giving the American government some legitimate checks and balances—well, this New Year’s Eve has the scent of a genuine fresh start for the first time since 2016. We are opening some doors in the United States—women as Senators in states that have never elected females, the first Native American and Muslim congresswomen in the House. And we’re closing others—turning away from mass incarceration and preparing for the results of the Mueller investigation. Who knew a shut door could symbolize promise or optimism? In response to this year’s prompt, many submitters interpretted the photo in the same dual way, writing about opportunities unlocked or moments concluded. I’m particularly taken with the few pieces in which the narrator or persona holds the critical key in his or her hand and either stops, waiting in indecision, or chooses to throw the occasion away altogether. Sometimes, it would seem, opening a door is not always the best choice. Many of the flash poems and essays in this, our midnight year-end finale, also address loss—those keys left behind on that table reverberates as a symbol of forgotten objects, places, and people. Moving forward requires giving something up, sometimes a willing sacrifice, sometimes a surrender made under duress. It’s a cycle, living; always making room for improvement and new experiences but simultaneously letting go. We thank our contributors for “seeing” the photo from so many different perspectives. It’s always such a pleasure to wrap up one production year and start another, together with our contributors, exactly at the stroke of midnight. Here’s hoping 2019 fulfills all its promise—
LESLIE JILL PATTERSON EDITOR
Grace at the Pavilion Anna Scotti
You can’t see from this perspective, but there’s an angel hovering above, not up in the clouds, but right over their heads—if the woman in the blue slacks looked up, she’d see a confusion of snowy feathers, and later she’d swear there’d been a swan, or a goose, anyway, something big and white and fairly aggressive, right there in the pavilion by the train terminal. But she doesn’t look up. No one does, not even the man in umber pants when he feels a touch against his neck like his ex-wife’s hand, fine-boned and gentle. Nor the the balding man, arms laden with packages, when he smells that sweet drugstore face powder his mother wore, and her mother, too. Instead, he shakes his head and checks his watch. It’s his night to see his daughters. There’s a woman in a fuchsia coat, and she’s lonely, and thinking about stopping to get a drink. She can almost see the angel; there’s a mist like sea foam, and she tells herself it’s steam rising from the subway vent. She blinks. She has an idea for a watercolor, nothing as trite as an angel—maybe fog rolling across the pavilion, and a girl rising from it like Venus from the foaming sea, or maybe birds, a flock as clean and sleek as ice—she slips her phone back in her pocket and heads home to paint.
Striding purposefully toward us, the young father in jeans, hands shoved in his pockets against the chill, is confident his keys will be where he left them, and they will be. He will make it home in time to scoop his toddler off the sidewalk where she has wandered, her mother exhausted on the sofa, belly swollen again. The girl in the foreground, the one with black hair spread across her narrow shoulders like a silken shawl, will meet her husband tonight, and although she did not choose him, someday she will love him, and he will love her back. The angel touches the girlâ€™s head with one dark finger and whispers in a language the girl mistakes for the cryptic wind. You canâ€™t see the lost child clinging to the granite pediment where the keys lie; in fact, no one has seen him, yet, but in a moment, the man in umber pants will turn and consider ignoring the boy huddled against the cold granite, eyes shut against the terror of grownup legs rushing all around him. The angel will let grace drift down on the man like snowflakes, like raindrops, like the petals of a rare and precious flower, and the man will move toward the child, one arm outstretched, murmuring words he believes the boy will understand. The angel isnâ€™t real, of course, but their intersecting lives are blessed as if she were. She folds her pristine robes around herself. She spreads her arms wide, loving them. She moves on.
Cutpurse Canticle David Sullivan
Be aware that pickpockets may use any ploy to divert your attention while stealing your wallet or passport. Use money belts, concealed pockets, or secured pockets. Be leery of strangers, particularly if they are overly solicitous. —from Fulbright Orientation Handbook
I love your easy stride as you enter this packed subway and we lurch away from the platform. I love the smell of your close body, the tweed itch of your sports coat, the way you raise your hand to steady yourself on the hang-bar. I love the way you shake down your Mount Blanc watch and expose your zippered back pocket, tailor-made for a tourist’s safety. I love the threads as they part stitch by stitch beneath my razor blade’s kiss. Love the worn curve of your wallet, still warm from hugging your body, while my fingers extract your bills blind. I slide it back in and even risk a pat on your not-too-fat derriere. You pat yourself down to reassure yourself I wasn’t there. I’d be a fool to linger. Though I want to whisper gratitude to the coral of your ear, this is my stop. By the way, your keys grace the raised marble by the kiosk. I won’t be needing them, but loved silencing their jangle.
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The Song of Every Movie’s Eagle David Kikuchi
“Kee-eeeee-arr” is the call of the red-tailed hawk, as transliterated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. These hardy, improvisational birds occur across all open North American habitats, where they make this purest of raptorial sounds in several contexts: for one, in flight through blue skies daubed with cottonballs of cloud, where occasionally they make barrel-rolls with a potential mate, two sets of talons locked together; they may also vocalize whilst fucking atop nests of dried sticks or while they bicker over how to feed a brood of downy siblicidal chicks. And sometimes they must scream alone as they disembowel cottontail rabbits, seeking those strawberry hearts. I wonder how many times they gape their beaks to curse but give a blessing, and how often wars begin with the same joyous cries as sex. That keen noise is a red-tail’s one turn of phrase—its single key to unlock the vagueness of the universe. We must be kin to hawks, the way we helplessly repeat “I love you,” which must from time to time fit better than a first approximation.
Two Hymns Kari Flickinger
Amazing, his hummed silence wet my ear with an errant beer-tongued grace and my viscous body struck tympanic and holy. This sweet sound is a sea-starved, hungry sea1 reverberating, lapping at new shores—thigh on hot thigh—metal twinge of a violent symphonic beast conducted with ferocity of clamping jaws and thumping, purpling finger pads. He entangles with a wretch like me, a wretch like me. Lead me home. How precious serration—teeth grazed shoulders, necks last night. Joy in night. Then light appears. Today’s lost leather strip—lost homing division between this choice and belief—of a last night him and a forever him who blindly strokes his arms on our sofa in a paradise I can no longer enter.
W. B. Yeats “A Crazed Girl”
The Key K. T. Landon
Lost or left matters less than locked or unlatchedâ€” what was kept in or what freed, who was bereft, who relieved.
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Things You Left Behind Susan Kikuchi
i suppose it was wrong for me to think that just because you were someone’s father, you were good. what an infantile and meaningless measure of a person’s character: to be good. or to be a parent, for that matter. i knew better. but i set aside my better judgment to spend the weekend with you, because despite the contradictions, i knew you to be good. (it is better to ask: is he decent? is he consistent? how does he speak to those of lesser status than himself ? to say nothing of the more obvious questions.) but you were always good to me, even if you were not so to others. you left: your dirty drawers in the hotel bathroom, a mangled toothpick on the bedside table, the odor of aftershave and Don Julio tequila on the sheets. your wife and child you left earlier, in the one-bedroom apartment you rented in the suburbs. finally, somehow, you left your keys in the plaza where we said our final goodbyes. we kissed awkwardly, bumping noses. i kissed you a second time, out of what maybe seemed like passion but was really anxiety. i didn’t know what else to do with my face. you were already gone and stepped into a taxi when i realized you had left the keys behind. there were a lot of them, and i don’t know what they opened. the cost of losing them was probably terrible. i fingered them awhile, feeling the stirrings of something like attachment. thought of calling you and didn’t. are cheaters always forgetful? the forgetting an act of omission, an act of bliss. i didn’t speak of your family that weekend, colluding in your silence. i wanted to ask what you told them, resisted. my auntie or the community or my boss—whose real needs and necessities were invoked to justify your absence? instead i said, mmhmm, when you said, do you like this? smiled when you stroked my hair, permitted an act that can only be described as fornication to occur on the bed, in the bathtub, and also on the carpet. the sex was like a small collision, dull and chaotic and empty. it wasn’t forced or cruel, just a sensation from which i derived very little pleasure. long after your taxi vanished, i stayed still, not looking up at the people passing by. i took the keys. sat riding the bus and chewing the leather keychain until my jaw ached and my teeth gnashed together, then got off at 38th street and threw them in the gutter. i looked crazy but then again who’s looking.
Terminus Penn Stewart
In the plaza, we sit and talk. My eyes follow the diagonal lines formed by slate tiles as they cut across the order of the brick pavement. I follow the pattern like Magellan, hoping to return to the origin, but I keep getting lost, diverted. “You never listen,” she says. “What?” I ask, hoping for a smile. “See? You never take things seriously.” “I thought I didn’t listen.” “Don’t be such a jerk. You heard what I said but tried to make a joke out it instead of listening to me.” Her eyes latch onto mine. She does this when she’s really angry. I decide it’s best to shut up and listen, though perhaps I should speak. I should say how I love how her hair tickles my face when I hold her in bed, how the nape of her neck begs kisses, how her laugh triggers my smile, how her eyes see all of me, even the parts I try to lock away. “You just don’t care. Do you?” “I’m listening.” “Stop mocking me.” “Really.” “You do this all the time. I don’t know if I should take you seriously or not. If I do and you’re joking, I look like a fool. If I don’t and you’re earnest, I’m an ass. There’s just no winning with you.” She says I’m like a lock with tumblers that shift each time it’s used. A key might work once, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll work a second time. “I can change,” I say. “Exactly. That’s the problem.” We sit there and watch people traverse the plaza for a while. Young couples walk arm in arm, mothers push strollers with toddlers in tow, tourists mug for selfies in front of
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the fountain, and businessmen and women dressed in power suits stride toward important meetings. Everyone is going somewhere as we sit, trying to unlock our problems—the private in public, the internal talked about openly. “So where do we go from here?” I ask. “I’m lost. We’re lost. So what does it matter?” “Let’s go for a walk. I have something I want to show you,” I say. But really, I just need to feel the muscles in my legs work, to move forward, even if I don’t know where we’re going or if we’ll make it back. If we walk far enough, I’m sure, we’ll stumble upon something I’ve heard her mention: a dog with three legs that catches Frisbees, a juggling mime on a unicycle, a tree split by lightning that grew back together, or maybe the Pont des Arts bridge. I stand and extend my arm. Her hand finds mine, and we blend into the crowd in the plaza and look like any other couple, one with a destination, a future, a past left behind.
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Avital Gad-Cykman He is the only one who grew horns. These little bumps rising from the upper part of his head are small like a young goat’s horns and soft like cartilage. At three, when his horns emerge like teeth, he studies them curiously with his fingers, but his father tells him he’d better leave his demon’s horns alone. People hate devils. It’s natural, his mother tells him, but he hears her say to his father, It’s more natural for goats. She gives the boy smart haircuts to disguise the little growths and advises him to avoid wind and water. He spends hours at home playing the clarinet. The music teacher says he’s a prodigy. He becomes brilliant at math and literature as well. He’s seen a farmer slaughtering a goat. Hats, he finds at the age of fifteen, aren’t popular, and neither is he. Jazz music steels him, however, as do the climbing classes he takes, wearing a helmet. One day, he tries to cut off his horns, but the initial scratch bleeds like a split throat. Plastic surgery is out of the question; because he bleeds so much, he’d spill himself out. Horns, like women, are from the devil, his father says. His mother rolls her eyes and promises the boy he will find love. He hopes so. He decides to become one of the head-covered people, although they are religious. A shtreimel would have been perfect, but the Hasidic community knows its people. He finds himself another hat, larger than a kippah but smaller than the shtreimel. In his tight gray hat, he starts playing in the city orchestra and at one of the outdoor cafés downtown. His best chance to find a woman hiding little growths on her head
must be around the café areas. He plays every Friday, climbs rocks and walls twice a week, and prays on the occasions his clothes convince him he’s religious. He’s excited to discover a woman in a greenish country hat listening to him play and smiling as if she knew something nobody else did. Perhaps he is not the only one with horns in the city, the country, or the continent. When she heads to the beach, he forgets his keys with the address tag on the table as he hurries to buy himself trunks in the nearest stall. The sand and the breeze are disturbing, but she isn’t. Her smile glows under her hat and around her glamorous sunglasses at his sight. She is not unfriendly. He is not too religious to enter the sea with her. They will keep on their hats, of course. But then, he notices in shock, she takes hers off, and her head is egglike. She leads the way to the water, so she doesn’t realize he turns away from the shore and the wind and the people who hate devils. He returns to a house he finds locked, pushes back his hat, sits on the steps, and waits.
Things We Lost Holly Teresa Baker
We used to joke about it—the things we lost. How we used to shake all the entryway shoes maracas in search of misplaced keys. How, having misplaced our passports, we once upended the niture until the living room looked as if the world had been turned on its side in a fun-house op illusion. Or how we had to dig our hands between the tweed couch cushions and into the creva in the backseat of the Honda looking for my wedding band, coming away, instead, with pen caps nickels and miniature nests of my own wiry hair. Gosh, that hair got everywhere, even the foot of bed between the fitted sheet and mattress. It’s enough to send anyone packing. I’m so sorry abou hair. We’ve had adventures though, haven’t we? When the remote ended up in the dishwasher, we laug so hard the neighbors called the cops for a domestic disturbance. When you couldn’t find your f drive, we went so far as to have the dog X-rayed. That time abroad, when I left my purse on the t it took us two days to track it down. I fell in love with you in a train station, searching for lost th Every spring, you blamed me for losing an hour of daylight. Every fall, you found it for me, in junk drawer, with the spare batteries for the clocks and smoke alarms. We made a good pair. Didn’t It was practice, you said, for when the day came and we lost the big things: a job, maybe, or house because of the lost job, or faith in God because of the lost house. We had to lose things, said, to find them again. What about this? I asked, my hand pressed to your chest as our legs slid together that night. Your smiling lips found mine in the dark. If we can find mislaid credit cards, you said, and cars den in parking lots, and the incurable runaway dog, we can find anything. Were you preparing me to do it alone? You know how I am in a world of lost things, my sin minded obsession with reunification. I see a lone shoe in the gutter and fear for its owner’s bare f I find an abandoned wallet and don’t rest until it’s returned. I’ve stopped going to the post office more: the faces of missing children on the bulletin board give me nightmares. I am constantly b with the fear that that one thing, the thing you want and need most of all, is lost for good. When I filed the missing persons report, it had been only twenty-four hours. They asked me i fought, if there was another woman, if you had ever done anything like this before. I had no answ You weren’t supposed to be the big thing. But I have practiced. We have to lose, things, you said. That’s the first step.
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Lost and Found Timothy Reilly
A lone set of keys evokes in my mind an image of skeletons. This image persists from a childhood memory of an old black-and-white cartoon, in which a “skeleton key” turns into its namesake and dances to the music of a xylophone. I do my own panicky danse macabre whenever I misplace a set of keys. My reaction is surely disproportionate to the situation: it’s not a matter of life-or-death. Nevertheless, I’ll scramble around, looking under cushions, inside cupboards and drawers, on top of the refrigerator—until my wife brings me down to earth. “Where were you last?” she’ll say. “Retrace your steps.” Her advice always works. Memory becomes more interesting with age. I’ve had words fall down a sinkhole—in mid-sentence, at mid-day—only to resurface when my head hits the pillow. I can remember TV jingles from the 1950s, poems and songs memorized in the second grade, my childhood phone number (it began with the word “Lambert”), but I’ll often draw a blank when trying to remember a common word like backhoe. Personal memory lapses don’t scare me. Human history is great with memory lapses. Forgotten burial sites of once mighty kings are sometimes stumbled upon while repaving parking lots and sidewalks. Bones of the less mighty are also brought to light in unexpected ways. “Bones of Thirty Monks Found, One Baby” was the headline of a Reuters article I had read over twenty years ago. The article was about skeletons discovered by workers extending the London Underground railway system through the former site of an ancient abbey. The lone skeleton of an eighteen-month-old baby was the oddest detail. The baby’s remains confused the archeologists as well. But what troubles me to this day was a single sentence concerning the archeologists’ indecision about whether to rebury the bones or place them in a museum.
What is the shelf-life of human dignity? What you are we once were; what we are you will be. The monks ate bread and drank wine. They tilled their gardens, scraped their knuckles, copied manuscripts, cared for an abandoned child, and buried their dead with reverence and sacrament. The monks daily chanted the psalms. Listen closely: My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
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PhotoFinish 2018 Author Name
Oxblood Jennifer Martelli
On the new brick pedestrian mall over the cracked cobblestones, the wormhole next to the granite curb swallowed the whole day, & my father’s ghost fled so fast, he dropped his keys. I can’t bear this juxtaposition: three skeletons—silver & bronze with fool’s gold shafts, looped heart bows to open the door at grandma’s, bank box, workshop; the spare key I lost to our old house on the cul-de-sac; his discount keys for the pharmacy. And that oxblood cowhide fob, his thumb print staining the leather a deeper blood, I’d know those whorls of his anywhere. He bit his nails: my father bit them down to the raw underskin, chewed until his fingertips beaded blood, grew sore. How can they walk away—all these folks—when the sun glints off keys’ metal teeth, mellows the leather? I can see where his thumb pressed hard: even in death, he’s nervous, though it’s been so long, years forgetting & rushing. My heart’s at the end of the skeletons’ metal bows, his thumbprint constellation of black holes, whorl of eaten-up stars.
Contributors HOLLY TERESA BAKER currently lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches writ-
ing at UMass–Dartmouth. Her work has appeared in New Ohio Review, Crab Orchard Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Eclectica, and others.
KARI FLICKINGER’s poetry and short stories have been published or are forth-
coming in Moonchild Magazine, Quiet Storm, Panoply, MilkJournal, Susurrus, The Daily Californian, and The DVC Inquirer. She is an alumna of UC Berkeley.
AVITAL GAD-CYKMAN’s work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, McSweeney’s
Quarterly Concern, Michigan Review, Ambit, Glimmer Train, and W. W. Norton’s International Flash Fiction Anthology, among other magazines and anthologies. She was born and raised in Israel and lives in Brazil. She is the author of Life In, Life Out.
DAVID KIKUCHI was born near Chicago, Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where he majored in biology, creative writing, and chemistry. He holds a PhD in biology from UNC–Chapel Hill. Currently, he is a postdoctoral researcher in Tucson, Arizona, where he studies the ecology & evolution of communication between species. SUSAN KIKUCHI writes, creates, and works as an organizer in Minneapolis. K. T. LANDON is the author of Orange, Dreaming (Five Oaks Press, 2017). She received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the 2013 winner of the Arts & Letters PRIME Poetry Prize, a finalist in Narrative’s Ninth Annual Poetry Contest, and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of
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the Net anthologies. She serves as a Poetry Reader for Muzzle, and her work has appeared in Best New Poets 2017, Passages North, and Ibbetson Street, among others.
JENNIFER MARTELLI, winner of
this year’s PhotoFinish, is the author of My Tarantella (forthcoming from Bordighera Press), as well as the chapbook After Bird (Grey Book Press). Her work has appeared or will appear in The Sycamore Review, Baltimore Review, Green Mountains Review, Sugar House, Superstition Review, Thrush, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Martelli has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes, and is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is a poetry editor for The Mom Egg Review.
TIMOTHY REILLY has been a professional tubaist (including a stint with the
Teatro Regio of Torino, Italy). He has published most recently in Zone 3, The MacGuffin, and Superstition Review. He received a 2017 Pushcart Prize nomination. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Jo-Anne Cappeluti, a published poet and scholar.
ANNA SCOTTI’s poems appear occasionally in The New Yorker. She was a finalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize (Nimrod International Journal) and the Louise Bogan Prize (Trio House books), and has been awarded prizes by the Telluride Institute, Yemassee, and other publications. She was a finalist for the 2015 Photofinish and is delighted to find her work in IHLR again. See more of her work at www.annakscotti.com. PENN STEWART lives and writes in Wichita Falls, Texas. He’s the author of the
novel Fertile Ground, from Knox Robinson Publishing, and the forthcoming short
story collection The Water in Our Veins, from Big Wonderful Press. His short stories and nonfiction have appeared in Pacifica Literary Review, Word Riot, Hippocampus Magazine, Front Porch Review, Fresh Yarn, and elsewhere. To learn more about Penn, visit his website: pennstewart.com.
DAVID SULLIVANâ€™s books include Strong-Armed Angels; Every Seed of the Pome-
granate, a book of co-translation with Abbas Kadhim from the Arabic of Iraqi Adnan Al-Sayegh; Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet; and Black Ice. He won the Mary Ballard Chapbook poetry prize for Take Wing, and his book of poems about the year he spent as a Fulbright lecturer in China, Seed Shell Ash, is forthcoming from Salmon Press. He teaches at Cabrillo College.
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Iron Horse Literary Review would like to thank its supporters, without whose generous help we could not publish Iron Horse successfully. In particular, we would like to thank our benefactors and equestrian donors. If you would like to join our network of friends, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the various levels of support. Benefactors ($300) Wendell Aycock Lon and Carol Baugh Beverly and George Cox Sam Dragga Madonne Miner Charles and Patricia Patterson Gordon Weaver Equestrian ($3,000 and above) TTU English Department, Chair Brian Still TTU College of Arts & Sciences, Dean Brent Lindquist TTU Graduate School, Dean Mark Sheridan TTU Provostâ€™s Office, Provost Rob Stewart TTU Presidentâ€™s Office, President Lawrence Schovanec
Our annual finale, released at midnight on New Year's Eve, contains poems and prose in response to a selected photo.