Vol. 5 Issue 18: Convalescence

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Vol. 5 Issue 18 New York, London, Hong Kong, Philippines

Convalescence


new reader magazine June 2022 | Vol. 5 Issue 18 COVER IMAGE

Absence - Tresh Le CREATIVE STAFF Managing Editor

: Carl Jason Tabiolo

Assistant Editor

: Joseph Chino Castañares

Writers and Production Staff

: Sarah Eroy, Regie Ann Vocales,

Layout Artist

: Ronel Borres

Publicists

: Neen Arcilla, Jam Abella

Researchers

: Marjon Gonato, John Paul Vailoces, Ma. Fe Tabura,

Deborah Dacuno, Max Betonio

Miguel Kilantang III CONTRIBUTORS

Gina Tranisi, Nate Berneking, Sam Taylor, John Kucera, Alexander Etheridge, Izaskun Díaz, Saria Adams, Kyle Hilsey, Syeda Anika Mansur, Jane Wang, Louis Efron, Joanna George, Samara Doumnande, Matt Surface, Veronica De Simone, Megan Luebberman, Leah Mueller, Michael Cibeno, Kring Demetrio, Howard Skrill

MARKETING AND ADVERTISING

Richard Warren richard.warren@newreadermagazine.com

SUBSCRIPTIONS

subscription@newreadermagazine.com www.newreadermagazine.com Phone: 1 800 734 7871 Fax: (914) 265 1215 Write to us: 100 Church St. Suite 800 New York, NY 10007 ISSN 2688-8181

All Rights Reserved

NataliaSinelnik


EDITOR’S NOTE

Dear Readers,

I find every day in my life to constantly deal with scenarios where my shoulders are heavy, my head tense, and my mouth dry. It takes a certain immediacy to come up with a solution for every purpose that I see every day. These purposes may be a pending deadline, or a relationship gone wrong. An entangling responsibility. I think of responsibility as a perpetually streaming waterfall. Water splashing, I’m left on the plunge pool vainly waiting with no end and constantly losing my footing. Gushing, I can’t seem to reassociate with another sound other than that of the waterfall. Perhaps, being soaked makes me feel that I belong. How do I see something else outside who I am? Something that deals with me inwardly? What is this tending of the self? To discuss a little bit about Issue 18’s current theme the word convalescence simply means to recover gradually after a sickness. Meaning, that it is to stay in recuperating mode and away from returning to whatever responsibility one must tend to. That is, by no means, an easy thing to resort to, especially when you’re a working adult. The worries of responsibility are all that matter. To our readers, I write this note not to be a life guru or to provide a solution but from the perspective of someone who hasn’t figured everything out. A whine. A complaint. A rant. Whatever you may call it. All of these make me think that I suffer from a sickness with a name I’ve no recollection of; to be bothered by not knowing what brings joy and satisfaction unique only to me and for me solely. Of which I’m not sure, I find that reading a lot gives me a glimpse of healing. A diffusion of thoughts dealing with the outside world’s something or someone. Maybe, it is because reading is as easy as putting on the lens of someone figuring out how he does things, and in hopes that his story may be similar to mine and with a provided solution. Until now, my diagnosis is at the mercy of each writer I read from and I hope he has the treatment for it. In doing so, I can finally be at the point of healing and further into convalescence. To end this probably mid-20s version of a whimper, I do hope that you, our readers, will continue flipping through this issue and find every artist that contributed to making this magazine a whole. To see and feel every tinge of emotion they have put into their writing and drawing, I hope that your experience with them will be an evocative one. Still, with pride and honor, I share these talents and the gifts they bring to you.

Jason Managing Editor


Contents Feature

Poetry

Art

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NPM’22 and the Haiku Hedge

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114 Dungo

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Poetically Pulled for a Purpose

BILL ARNOT

CARL JASON 14 22

Paranoia at Work SAMARA DOUMNANDE

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44 46

MATT SURFACE

92

56 58

64

72

78 80

108 Take Time To... Heal

MAX BETONIO 119 Artwork NICK STEPHENSON

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Ambrosia Response to Frost An Irrelevant Fear Cimmerian Shade Gray Men Also Cry Cigarette Butterflies JANE WANG

VIVIAN MARTINEZ

118 An Open Letter to Healing

Ex-Communicated - The Futile Battle of Acknowledged Growth Seekers Be Free

SYEDA ANIKA MANSUR

Writer’s Corner

SARAH EROY

My Favorite Shape is a Circle

KYLE HILSEY

104 Dreaming of Canada

Unititled, 2022

Lost to Pain

SARIA ADAMS

MEGAN LUEBBERMAN

106 How Should You Heal?

Its. Split.

Nigh

MICHAEL CIBENO

LEAH MUELLER

HOWARD SKRILL

IZASKUN DÍAZ

Top Of The World

102 Feelings of the Flowers

115 Lenin in Yellow and Blue, Baquedano

JOHN KUCERA

Coffee Break One Giant Leap

KRING DEMETRIO

SAM TAYLOR

VERONICA DE SIMONE

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Anamnesis NATE BERNEKING

Featured Bookstores

Fiction 36

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Art About Art Being Destroyed

CHINO CASTAÑARES 28

GINA TRANISI

Spontaneity and Perseverance

NICK STEPHENSON

In the Kitchen, After Dyeing My Mother’s Hair

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In the Eye of the Beholder Beautiful Trees Oh, Father Cracked Sweet Revenge LOUIS EFRON

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Wind Chime Petals I’m sorry JOANNA GEORGE

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Contributor’s Corner

alkir

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Bill Arnott’s Beat

Bill Arnott’s Beat:

NPM ’22 and the Haiku Hedge It was the cusp of NPM. Spring was in full bloom, literally. National Poetry Month coincided with Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival and the city’s trees were putting on a show. Explosions of pastel pink dotted bike lanes and dusted the alleys. Park fringes were tucked into softly diluted blankets of red carpet fanfare. At least that’s how it looked to me. It was Kyoto on the opposite side of the ocean. I was huffing and puffing my way, jogging a seawall like a fairy tale wolf, pissing off pigs and sending them into the streets. Not their fault, mind you. Construction was never a porcine forte. After what felt like a very long while I reached the end of the road, a bubble enclosing tennis courts by a swath of amber-hued sand, where driftwood logs form a breakwater and innocent children fly kites while idiot adults kitesurf. It was here I noticed a hedge of green holly. Well, patches of holly with alder and cedar, but stressing the holly results in a much nicer meter. And tucked and pinned in the branches of greenery were dozens and dozens of poems. Haiku to be precise. And it wasn’t even yet poetry month! An extended haiku event coincides with the blossom fest, the whole thing feeling terribly literary, and wonderfully Japanese. It speaks, in a way, to the area’s Pacific Rim heritage, same as the region’s dragon boats, a blending of culture that blurs with the tides and loses itself in sea mist horizons. I chose not to break my stride, fearing I’d never get going again, so I slowed only marginally and glanced at a few, the unmistakable, abridged looking lines in 5-7-5 on the page. There was even a Biennale installation peeking from the lightly trimmed hedge, part of a Greater Vancouver open air art exhibit, ongoing displays showcasing international talent, some of the best known being Yue Minjun’s A-maze-ing Laughter, what people know as The Laughing Men, and Dennis Oppenheim’s Engagement, two outsized engagement rings precariously balanced on a slope facing the union of ocean inlet with urban creek. Poetry happenings were centering on the theme of intimacy. And I thought no better representations spoke to this concept. In the case of Minjun’s men, fourteen giants

in bronze sharing a laugh, welcoming all to join in their merriment. While Oppenheim’s enormous rings, heavy with tremulous symbolism, speak not only to flaws in the industry, the institution, but to the unending optimism and promise inherent in continuous circles of metal. Not necessarily shared sincerity, but invariably intimacy. Carrying on past the hedge of haiku I was acutely aware of the intimate nature of the place itself. Over the water, high hills in vibrant blue and green actually gleamed, cuts of primary palette under sea-coloured sky. Atop the whole thing was a frosting of white, late season snow, the outline a lumpy wedding cake, waiting to be cut and awkwardly eaten with interlocked arms. As I ran, white gulls bisected a cloudless sky while a wide-winged bald eagle drifted over the trees. To my delight I spotted a hummingbird from a long way away. It hovered over a street, then a park, and alit in a scraggly hemlock. I wanted to laugh like the big men in copper and tin, a sensation of bliss on a nondescript morning, unseen bands of silver and gold connecting it all. All of us. In what I can only describe as intimacy.

*** Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries, and winner of The Miramichi Reader’s Very Best Book Award for nonfiction. When not trekking the globe with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, making music and friends. @billarnott_aps

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Contributor’s Corner

Poetically Pulled for a Purpose INTVW by Carl Jason Unintended, but Natural To write is to inscribe coherently composed emotion. In some of its aspects, at least, it is true. In Gina Tranisi’s case, writing started as a mere errand to send handwritten cards and letters. A natural inclination in sharing and feeling others’ joy and sadness. “These practices taught me the importance of gratitude, of naming grief and loss, and of celebrating others’ wins as though they were my own.” In hindsight, these instances of writing foreshadowed her calling toward a more noble reach and for her artistic journey. Some kind of awakening. An artist’s ability to feel is his or her rooted trigger to dismantle or to create everyday scenarios in their creative sphere. Gina, from handing small papers of goodness and grief, continued on to her teenage years to win her first-ever literary award. A deeper appreciation aroused within her when the wonders of poetry embraced her back, a consequence of seeking literature as means of expression. “When I was sixteen, I attended my first poetry slam and learned that poetry was bigger than letter-writing and rhyming. It was loud, funny, image-rich and rhythmic. Slam poetry is written to be read aloud, so from my years of competing locally and nationally, I learned how to write for sound.” Poetry, being one of the freest forms of writing, allows one to play around with it. On the contrary, what sets a poet apart from being just a writer for a hobby is when he or she sees a poem as a complicated and dedicated composition of words. Putting these capabilities of poetry at heart, Gina distinguished herself from just being an aspiring writer at the time. Her preference and development in writing show how much dedication she has to poetry.

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As a writer, coping with everyday life while maintaining one’s craft is an arduous task that frequently is intensified by pesky thoughts like doubt or feelings of uncertainty relative to the profession and its competition. Gina, like many writers and artists, pronounces comparison with those who studied MFA or the discipline. “When I sit down to write, it can feel like my brain is working against me, reminding me— often in the middle of a draft— that I don’t have an MFA or a book deal and live in a state other poets might struggle to put on a map. Who could care about my stories?” It can be daunting when—just as rich as the world of creativity—being a writer means being compared and competing with those who have made their mark and who are about to be.


Fiction Poetry Confidently, Gina diffuses these fearful thoughts by going on to gratifyingly transformative exercises such as powerlifting, running, and hiking. Doubt on competition over her capability speaks much about her. Relatively, confidence is one attribute that must be natural for someone as talented and dedicated as Gina. “I remind myself that I am possible, and then I return to the page because my spirit constantly pulls me back. I think that’s what being a writer is—a constant and determined return to the page.” Maintaining, Gina healthily and successfully returns to her writing with constant positive energy. It helps to know that behind her approach to writing is her trust in her eye for perceiving reality as unique. As if with an internal creative machine, Gina continues to put a unique perspective of reality with a tinge of her imagination. Gina wasn’t always this passionate about writing, even though the endeavor rewarded her during her teenage years. She studied Biology in college and ultimately thought she was going to live a quiet life and become a dentist. A noble profession, still. Rewardingly, her continuous dedication to writing allowed her to be recognized during her 2nd year.

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Contributor’s Corner

“When I received my first literary publication during my second year of college as a Biology major, a good friend filmed my reaction. Somewhere on the internet, there is a video of me asking, “Are they sure?” and wondering whether or not the literary magazine had gotten in touch with the right girl. Because my aspirations for an artistic life were non-existent, everything about this journey has been a beautiful surprise.” “A beautiful surprise”, as she would have it, is such an adorable phrase to describe her first dip into the poetry scene. Doubt and not being able to aspire should not be in the same breath with a teenage Gina as poetry seemed to be embedded deep within her. Talent combined with enthusiasm dictated her path toward a more expressive form of profession. Rest assured, her video about her asking and being adorably surprised from being chosen is going to circle the internet still. On In the Kitchen, After Dyeing My Mother’s Hair

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Appreciative, Gina tries to capture moments with her mother whom she deeply cares about. In the Kitchen, After Dyeing My Mother’s Hair is a “snapshot”—as she would call it—of a greater, personal pleasant activity she had with other women friends and family. To leave it to another woman to fondle your hair and swap its color with another is just one of the many mundane activities that writers like Gina can depict in words that encapsulate a much larger emotion and importance. “It’s a snapshot of one of the most trusting, intimate moments you can share with another girl—kitchen hair dyeing.” Having her mother as a subject in her poetry shows her strength in capturing familial and personal moments. Thankfully, she still has her mother to share more memories with. Her writing about these topics is just Gina’s way of etching their memories in a poem in which no time, nor death holds firm; only to be relived while being read. “When people die, we have a tendency to make them perfect. As a writer, I’m now on a mission to accurately capture my mother’s complications, her quirks, her


Fiction Poetry

imperfections. I don’t want to paint her death with a broad brush. When she passes, I want to be left holding a bouquet of poems that reminds me of her gray hairs, her unparalleled love of Lester Holt, and the whisper of her hot Italian temper when, on very rare occasions, she burned turkey piccata. It’s important to me that her legacy—flaws and all—outlives us both.” The gentleness and nostalgic elements of her writing also give way not just to her adored mother. To preserve what remains of their relationship, Gina has now started writing more about her father. Struggle with mental illness may cause her to feel she is losing her father, but her writing translates differently on her hold to the person. In poetry, the text and sound combine to form a different embrace where memories create warmth. “More recently, I’ve also begun writing about the complexities of my relationship with my father and his chronic, debilitating mental illnesses. For more than a decade, I have been too ashamed to write about the ways my father’s diagnoses, including Bipolar Disorder and Depression, have disappeared him from me. I am writing to preserve what’s left of our relationship.”

With her writing ability to draw out emotion from readers, Gina is no stranger to speaking about impartiality. “I feel incredibly called to write about violence—both perceived and real—perpetrated against women. I write about the ways whiteness affords women who look like me billboards and press conferences when so many BIPOC and transgender women go missing from the world without search teams and hotlines. I want the absence of every girl to elicit ferocious and identical screams from the world’s throat.” It comes naturally for writers to feel a sense of responsibility to address topical issues. In Gina’s case, continued neglect or awareness of their well-being is a concern everyone should give notice about. Many would agree that such concern is true and it is only right that writers like her continue to write about such topics. It is bothering and bleak if society is without writers who not only shape ideas, but also evoke courage to speak against injustice. A channel for creativity, Gina successfully turns her writing to be with a purpose.

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Contributor’s Corner Her Artistic Journey and Nebraska Writers Collective For writers and other artists, creating is a very special quality they can gift to themselves and eventually to their audiences. To extract pieces of reality, digest them internally and expel them in a different and evocative way is such a beautiful thing to witness in how artists work. As much as it is special, the mood to create is a vital thing to propel them into tinkering with the world around them. For Gina, enjoying a drink by the bar got her into the mood for creating. “This year, I decided to build myself a Bar Residency. Each Sunday, I took myself to a nearly-empty dive bar for two hours. I would order a single, raspberry seltzer and write poems…I have spent an enormous amount of my life operating at what I would call pressure-cooker-capacity: relishing being busy, sprinting to the next goal line, even rushing to be more expedient in my relationships. I am finally slowing down, and removing the pressure from poetry completely.” Settling into bars to drink a little and write poems soon translated into her appreciating fleeting experiences with random people as a great inspiration for writing. Sitting by the bar seems to be a good place for banking her ideas to write about. To “bottle” these moments where a stranger’s life meets hers allows for her to not give in to the pressure of coming up with something to write. Eventually, opportunities came upon Gina for which she was totally pleased and grateful. “Every acceptance, every invitation to interview, every offer to facilitate a writing workshop is humbling, a total delight. I hope to never lose that spirit. In Spring 2021, I was accepted into two MFA programs and thought that meant I had “made it” as a writer. It was a devastating financial reality to realize that, even with full funding, I could not afford to give up my nonprofit job and move across the country without amassing thousands of dollars in debt. I’m enormously proud of myself for every line of poetry I’ve written since having to decline those MFA offers.” Reality, oftentimes, comes crashing with a weight we ought to upsettingly accept. Thoughts of debt and giving up one’s job are not easy to deal with or even consider a choice. Gina, even after declining MFA programs, is a writer nonetheless. It is to her joy that the discipline of writing is not bound to one’s academic credibilities. Rather, to continue creating and appreciating the art of writing precedes becoming a writer. It comes as a truth for her that to be a writer is to be impactful,

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within or beyond academia. Today, Gina serves as a Program Director at NWC or Nebraska Writers Collective, an Omahabased 501(c)3 nonprofit. “As the Program Director, I supervise a team of more than 40 paid Teaching Artists who lead writing workshops and creative programs across the state. We run the secondlargest youth poetry festival in the country each spring.” With a noble course, she anchors now on reaching out to others who aspire to be writers. It is a beautiful narrative of how from declining offers for MFA eventually translated into a career in arts with the purpose of connecting with others. Hers is an inspiring story of how dedication and talent alone will pave the way for one to be an instrument of transforming people—to be a writer which she thought was a profession ideally made for those with MFA. “When community partners and donors see the work that we do in action, they often say that what we do changes lives. But what I can say with confidence is that our programs saved my life when I was a young, queer girl trying to navigate the world, especially in the confines of a Catholic school system. I participated in the first Louder Than a Bomb youth slam poetry festival the NWC ever hosted, and it set my life on a creative course towards community-building and empowerment through poetry.” To reflect, this program that she once only participated in helped her break free from a restrictive institution. It speaks of how much writing, which in her case is poetry, allows for one’s freedom and being on a platform where you can have control and confidence. “I am the only team member who has seen our organization at every level—from participant to full-time director—and take pride in that decade of affiliation with the NWC. As a Capricorn, managing a team of poets can be chaotic, but the importance of what we do for our state and the artists who live here eclipses any day-to-day stresses of my position.” Her time with NWC continues to be a fulfilling job. Her time spent with the organization allowed her to evaluate it completely. Until this time, appreciation for what they do is what sets her to shrug off any stress that comes with fulfilling her role. We’re sure that the “chaotic” word she refers to could only be a result of handling creative people which brings about great dynamics as their uniqueness collide and coincide. “Working with the folks in our Writers’ Block program has been the most influential and rewarding part of my creative career thus far. I’ve spent my life reluctant to


Poetry reveal that my family has been touched by the criminal justice system. My personal connection to incarceration only strengthens my belief that none of us should be defined by the worst decision we’ve ever made.” Not just for people like Gina was in her teenage years, NWC also offers relief and creative opportunities for the incarcerated. Feelings of injustice in the criminal justice system only fuel her to put in more work on their Writers’ Block Program. A writer by heart, she is sure to see to it that no four walls of incarceration shall restrict one’s artistic touch. Of which she proudly shares, “Our Writers’ Block participants are some of the sharpest writers in our state. Full stop. When they analyze poetry, when they share their own drafts, when they offer one another feedback, I take notes. Their talent and relentless work ethic demands that I be a better listener, educator, and writer.” Contrary to a one-sided outreach, it is amazing how these people who are often overlooked are some of the most talented whom she cares to learn and grow with. It is of poetic reach how conventions of their separation from society do not constrict them from touching and affecting people outside, still. All these are the unusual wonders that writing can bring about to people.

lost in its rhythmical composition and assimilate each writer’s thoughts and knowledge it encapsulated in. Directly opposite to the bleak confines of prison, Gina and the NWC certainly indulge the incarcerated with the colors of the world outside. We can only wish that their efforts will aid in acclimating them back to society. In evaluating her journey as a writer, she shares a very humble and student-like response. Gina hopes to learn more along the way, in which she shares, “I have no doubt that I am standing at the beginning of my poetry journey, which excites me beyond measure because I want to believe that my best writing is only ever ahead of me. My late creative writing instructor, Kate Sommer, once called me a seeker, and I like to think that term is synonymous with poet. My hope for other writers is that they will remain curious, practice joyful resistance, and keep seeking, which only ever means keep writing. Conclusion is not yet in sight for Gina’s artistic journey. Though properly established in the community, she still has plenty of people to grace with her talent. Her ever hopeful seeker attitude should come helpful in realizing all her aspirations left in the creative field. A consequence of her talent and innate dedication and passion for writing, Gina is undoubtedly a person who’s poetically pulled for a purpose.

“Nebraska’s prison system is grossly overcrowded and operates at something like 115 percent of its design capacity (2019). We disappear people—sometimes for decades—do not provide them with effective rehabilitative services, and then expect them to return to our community and establish themselves as tax-paying members of society when we have burdened them with barriers to finding housing, education, employment, and voting opportunities.” As perceived by her and the obvious neglect of the system, it is alarming and saddening how these people are stuffed together—no remorse for their quality of being human as if livestock. It is easy to relate to how Gina feels for them. “There is no poetic way to say the system is broken. The work that our nonprofit does through Writers’ Block will never solve systemic issues, but can provide moments of levity, relief, hope, and creativity in an otherwise oppressive and untenable environment.” A ray of hope, writing in the form of poetry helps in expressing not just one’s concern and emotion. Poetry allures one to get

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Contributor’s Corner

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Fiction Prose

Spontaneity & Perseverance INTVW by Jin Manson Writers, as artists of the literature world, require a specific approach to their creative process to formulate a thought or idea, and express it in words that portrays their story. Leah shares how she gets her ideas and the essential key to her creativity. “I’m a pantser. Much of the time, my ideas come to me as I go along, in a sort of lightning-bolt fashion. I have a general idea of what I want to write about, and I take it from there. I’m often surprised by the odd, random images that pop into my brain. Where do they come from? It’s an astonishing process, and spontaneity is a big part of it.” When it comes to fiction stories, the third-person narrative is commonly used to provide multiple angles of the plot to the readers, resulting in a complex and rich story. However, there are some cases wherein a fiction story is narrated in a secondperson narrative, as the technique is executed meticulously in Dreaming of Canada by Leah Mueller, producing a unique and powerful perspective to the readers. “I started experimenting with second-person narrative several years ago. The first time I ever saw it used effectively was in the novel “Bright Lights, Big City.” I was intrigued by the way the technique fostered empathy for the main character. Since I didn’t start writing in earnest until ten years ago, I had to become confident with my writing style before I attempted second-person narrative. It just seemed to work for this story. I wanted the adult readers to identify with the mindset of a 13-year-old protagonist, and the technique was perfect for that objective.” Choosing the right subject for a story can be tricky. Factors such as age, gender, and race all add up to the character’s personality that contributes to the epitome of a story. Readers can heavily relate to the transition of coming-of-age characters, as they depict the feeling of growing up and moving from a part of their life to the next.

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Contributor’s Corner

“Young people are fascinating. They have many of the same hopes and dreams as adults, but they’re not nearly as cynical. As such, their perspective holds a freshness that is often not found in older folks. But children aren’t all innocence. There is a clarity to their perceptions that isn’t clouded by constant analytical thought. That’s why they so often say things that cut right to the bone.” An author’s childhood plays an all-important role in their works. Their surroundings and upbringing strongly influences their perspective and serves as a foundation of their first few written works. Mueller expresses that the exaggerated realism of people and situations with a touch of satirism, much like the art of Norman Rockwell, paints the town she used to live in, which serves as the inspiration for the setting in her flash fiction. “I spent part of my childhood and most of my adolescence in Tuscola. I still have dreams about the house my family lived in. It was both a happy and profoundly depressing time for me. The town always reminded me of a Norman Rockwell print, but with a sinister undercurrent. I was constantly reminded of the malevolence that lurked just beneath the surface.” Living with and amongst others in this unpredictable yet beautifully chaotic world serves as inspirations for storytellers. Even in the most mundane situations, some can obtain creativity for an interesting story, just as Mueller states that she finds inspiration in things that most would consider prosaic. “Much of what I write is fictionalized memoir. Some of it is more literal, and other works are more symbolic. I find inspiration in everything, including the parts of life that would normally be considered mundane. I don’t know if the mundane really exists as such. If a scenario seems mundane, perhaps we’re not looking closely enough.” Writers, just as any persevering creative, progresses over time. In the first few years of her career, Mueller has been asked to write more prose, resulting in a more compressed yet powerful impact in her recent works. She shares that challenge and determination has molded her into the writer she is today. “My work has gotten much tighter since I first started publishing in 2012. My interest in flash fiction has helped immeasurably with this process. How do you tell a dense, intriguing story using as few words as possible? I love the challenge. When I first began to write poetry, I developed a story-telling style that readers and editors either loved or hated. Folks asked me, “Why don’t you write more prose?” Finally, I took their advice. Now, my poetry is shorter, and my prose has become increasingly compact, yet more fluid.”

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“How do you deal with writer’s block?” is probably the most asked question any writer has encountered. A change of scenery, a breath of fresh air, or sharing ideas with like-minded people are a few common things that break the ice for most writers. Mueller has a different approach to the vexatious mental block, with a creative strategy and sheer determination. “Prompts help a lot. I have a little plastic container filled with words that I sometimes use when I’m stuck. I’ll pull a word and use it as a jumping-off point. But really, the only way to get through writer’s block is to just plaster my butt into a chair and keep typing until the inertia goes away. Writing is like physical exercise—the endorphins don’t usually kick in until I’m about 15 minutes into it.” Mueller continues to create captivating stories and poetry, as she shares her plans for her chapbook that’s in the works and how she coped with grief and loss by going on an unconventional road trip after a tragic experience of her beloved spouse. “My books are evenly split between poetry and prose. I’m versatile in that way, though sometimes a bit scattered. Last summer, after my husband’s death from cancer, I took a road trip down Route 66. I did the entire route backwards, from Los Angeles to Chicago. Traditionally, folks drive from east to west, but since I live in Arizona, Los Angeles was a much handier origin point. Now that I’ve had some time to process the experience, I want to write a novella about it. In the meantime, I’m currently working on a chapbook of poetry, to be released sometime in the upcoming months.” There are still countless untold stories and unheard artists yet to be discovered. Storytellers that have yet to make a name for themselves and create a remarkable impact in the literary community. In the grand scheme of things, it’s safe to assume that the world is favored with the entrancing works of Leah Mueller.


Fiction Prose

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Featured Author

James Kalomiris INTVW by Penelope

To understand the inner workings of the universe we must be open to seeking the truth outside of what we believe in. Whether that may be from different philosophies or religions, enlightenment is out there. James Kalomiris gives us an in depth view of the Vedas, one of Hinduism’s most esteemed scriptures, in his book the Vedic Dharma. Thought to be among the world’s oldest scriptures, Veda is regarded as a gold mine of knowledge and wisdom. NRM: Describe yourself briefly. What drew you to writing in the first place? James Kalomiris: I graduated from State University with a Philosophy major. There are only two things you can do with a Philosophy major—teach or go into law. I chose to teach and was a teacher for many years. I taught at all levels—even at the University level as a student professor. Later, I decided to change careers and go into law. I graduated from law school and have worked in law firms since. Teaching and law are very writing-intensive professions. While I always wrote before, being a teacher and working in a law office has sharpened my writing skills. Even though they concern Vedic religion, I use the same legal analytics and writing skills in my books to extract the message of the Vedas. NRM: What has drawn you to the Vedas? James Kalomiris: Some years ago I injured my back. My doctor recommended therapy. I started going to yoga classes. I did, and I was blessed to find a magnificent yoga teacher. While we were engaging in the poses, she would explain why we were doing the yoga poses. I wanted to know more, and my teacher recommended several books on yoga. Being a bookworm by nature, I started reading anything I could find. One thing led to another. I started studying the Vedas. I was immediately transfixed by what they had to say. From the beginning and since its message is something very familiar to me. NRM: What have you personally learned from nature and the cosmos that you apply to your daily life? James Kalomiris: I learned how I am, everyone and everything is part of Nature---what is called in the Vedas “the One”--- and I act accordingly.

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NRM: Do you think that other cultures would benefit from the knowledge brought by the Vedas? If so, how? James Kalomiris: Absolutely. The message of the Vedas is part of the “perennial wisdom” which exists in all cultures and has always existed. NRM: There is so much we can learn from the past. Do you think our modern times can reconcile with the ancient world? James Kalomiris: I do. I think a lot of people are looking for answers, whether for personal liberation or life issues. I strive to provide Vedic lessons to the modern world. NRM: How can we be open to old beliefs and philosophies without sacrificing what we believe in today? James Kalomiris: By having an open mind. The problems we confront today are not new, and the Vedas can provide guidance. At its core, the message in the Vedas is consistent with modern beliefs. This is my goal in writing this and my other books, making the Vedas relevant to the contemporary world. NRM: To people on a journey of enlightenment, what words of wisdom can you give them? James Kalomiris: Life is not a destination but, as you said, a journey. Our lives, the experiences we have in life, happen for a reason. Many times we are not aware of why things happen, but there is a reason nonetheless. Still, despite our struggles in life, there is always Hope. This is symbolized in the Vedas with the constant battles between Indra and Vrtra. Their battle can be viewed as between Good (Indra) and Evil (Vrtra, the Serpent). They fight a never-ending battle. For the large part, Indra is victorious, but afterward, time and again, Vrtra reemerges. It is a never-ending battle. If I am going to leave the readers with something, it is “Never give up.” James and his wonderful musings remind us how it is wise to take insight from a myriad of perspectives. It becomes restrictive and stale if you just take it from one place. He encourages us to study the Vedas and the holistic ideologies it provides and how to apply them in our daily lives.


Featured Author

John Shtino INTVW by Penelope

John Shtino on America Today Looking into unconventional ideologies, John Shtino shares with New Reader Magazine a whole different standpoint on controversial political figures, corrupt economic systems, and American democracy. NRM: Tell us a little about yourself? What got you into writing? John Shtino is an Albanian American son of Albanian immigrants born in 1943 in East Pittsburgh, PA. (Football— coal—Steel-and—and then Progressive union country). His mother was a homemaker and an Albanian poet—his father worked at the Westinghouse and was active in union activities—and his uncle was a very strong union man involved in progressive politics to include Albanian politics which he wrote about and studied extensively. After being in East Pittsburgh (“Old Green and White School”) up to the age of six, John moved to the East Side of New York City where he learned the ways of the world. In the coming years, he learned that he had a proclivity for poetry (almost certainly inherited) and a very strong interest in politics-public policy— philosophy—and government—graduating with a degree in Public Administration from Baruch City College of New York. In the many coming years—from say twenty to late fifties—while spending considerable time enjoying and writing some poetry and studying his public policy-oriented field of interest—the vast majority of time was spent in what some may call good time bad habit pursuits. At the age of approximately fifty nine, he had a near death experience which reversed his priorities dramatically to where he still spent some time on good time bad habit endeavors but spent an obsessive amount of time as compared to what the average human could expand in creating work product in areas of interest which produced work product to wit: Several books of poetry; A fiction book which is ready for publication on the good time bad habit epoch of 1960’s New York City entitled: “Purple Haze”; A massive public policy work entitled: “ A Public Policy Revolution Ending Four Decades (1970-2010) of Economic Stagnation and Three Decades ( 1998-2010) of Growing Income Inequality in the United States: Justice for All: A New Direction for a New America” is published; Three new inventions are ready for patent; a vast number of poems—public policy and philosophical/political articles and essays—and short stories—posted on facebook— and to what is the subject of this Author’s bio: The Chap Book and Posters related to: “ The Trump 666 Chronicles” to be published.

NRM: What compelled you to write this book? Was there a specific turning point in your life that convicted you in bestowing this knowledge to the world? What compelled me to write this book is my love and reverence for an American Constitutionally due process reasonable freedoms law based Democracy that at least respects and aims for the goal of social-economic—and racial justice and reveres the precepts of an ethical culture (Honesty—charity—chastity--respect for facts—decency—fair play—respect for others and the elderly— etc,) society—and my belief that we are in the midst of a great civil war where America needs to move strongly toward fighting the fascist democracy killing Trump—666 led movement and bring the Trump 666 Russian collaborating seditious brown shirted traitors to justice. This book is therefore a call to arms and action trumpeting the fact that not one policy or set of economic or social justice policies are at stake here but the fate of this great nation as a bulwark of freedom standing strong against fascism whether in the form of the Third Reich—or The Dictatorship of the Proletariat— or Trump 666’s brand of American Hitlerism. The fate of one of the greatest nations in the history of man is at stake— the sacrifice of our Greatest Generation and their compatriots throughout the ages are at stake. Unlike what occurred in 1930s Germany where Hitler was given a “slap on the wrist” and went on to have sixty million people—and cities—and cultures—and societies–murdered or maimed in the holocaust of fascism—these American seditious traitors must be brought to justice and this cannot pass. NRM: “The Trump-Mr.666-Chronicles: A Chapbook” is a head-turning title. Tell us about your thought process on picking the title of this book. The thought process on naming the Chap Book, “The Trump 666—Chronicles” was simple in that Trump has not one single solitary redeeming quality and stands for the embodiment of evil on earth. For him—there are no means—however hurtful, disgusting, degrading, or lacking in common decency—that can be eliminated in achieving a goal even where that goal is as astounding as destroying American Democracy and overthrowing a valid election for President of the United States. He stands for everything and nothing in his quest for unlimited power and reveres authoritarian regimes. He degrades war heroes—calls those who serve suckers—lies with every word out of his mouth— instills hate for the other and plays this fascist Hitelerian scapegoat game to the hilt—he demeans the weak and infirmed—treats Ethical culture as an inconvenience—believes he has the godgiven right to grab a “Young girls’ ass”—his evil has no bounds and is so profound and his lack of any reflection related to an exercise of conscience is so great that he is the equivalent of the most evil forces that drove and drive men like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Vlad “The Impaler Child Murderer” Putin. He is the personification and embodiment of Satan himself—and hence “The Trump 666 Chronicles.” NRM: Your book questions how many Christian believers support Trump and his administration, although his platform may seem anti-christian to others. Can you tell us your thoughts on this? In regards to the support for such an immoral 666 creature as trump is by a vast swath of Evangelical Christians, one can surmise that many support Trump because of his convenient late in life discovery of the abortion issue and his appointment of Supreme Court Justices who despite their lying assurances on Roe V Wade

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Featured Author will almost certainly impose their religious beliefs on the country and give the government the incredible power to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term whatever the circumstance. Beyond the particular issue of abortion, these so-called believers in small government and individual freedoms support a very strong and large federal presence in a multiplicity of matters such as substantially eliminating the separation between church and state and allowing school prayer—financial and other support for religious schools—and a host of actions by government confirming their implicit and overt support of their version of Christianity as America’s state religion. It would seem that there is no immorality that Trump exhibits that cannot be forgiven or condoned so long as that immorality leads to the Evangelicals’ preferred policy positions. He—Trump so stands against almost everything that a true religion and ethical culture represent. This support along with the police state powers they would give the government to affect their policies would be remarkable were it not for the lack of principle in modern Conservative circles to include the religious right. In the movie, “The Devil and Daniel Webster”, the results of this support are made clear. For the few pieces of Gold furnished to them by Trump (strong support for their religious goals and Policies towards enshrining them in law), these religious zealots—the American Taliban—has no limits in the immorality they would stand for so long as Trump—the man who stands against almost everything that Jesus is for and for Everything Jesus is against—delivers the Judas pieces of Gold they seek. Religion—both on a personal and societal basis has much to recommend it but extreme religious zealotry and the harm it has caused throughout the ages is not one of them. Evangelicals are a clear example of this which leads to a rightful labeling of them as the American Taliban. These Evangelicals have what they believe is a foolproof escape hatch for any of their actions on earth. They believe in the “Forgiveness Pass Sucker Play” which allows them entry to heaven so long as they repent and believe. Were it not for the immense power of the church bureaucracies who perpetrated this fraud to massively increase its power and allure, this belief would seem remarkable in its naivety. Unfortunately for these believers, they will learn that they cannot simply repent the cavalcade of their sins to include their heretical support of Trump 666 and be welcome to heaven. In this vein—as a strong believer in an ethical culture and what flows from that belief, I can see that the God that created the Universe would approve of a system that balances the plus and minuses of one’s good and bad actions on earth with a measure of repentance and faith when evaluating an individual on judgment day but that a “ Free I believe Repentance Pass” is a preposterous notion as it relates to this all-important eternal decision. Since it would be tragic to see the many who have consorted with Trump’s immorality that have been fooled by this scam, the chapbook covering this subject is a warning to Evangelicals that—unless they dramatically change their realworld behaviors—it is extremely unlikely that they will escape the rightful punishment of eternal hell. While this warning concerns many Evangelicals, it clearly does not apply to someone like Jimmy Carter, a truly remarkable religious man. He clearly has a strong faith in God and Jesus—He teaches the word of God to young and old—and lives his life in accordance with that word. He is a brilliant, humble, polite, considerate, and honest ethical culture giant that shows Trump, and his supporters, as the moral pygmies that they are. Carter has covered all the bases and is an exemplar of what religious belief combined with ethical culture can achieve—unfortunately, a minority in the Evangelical community.

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NRM: Your book has lyrical elements in some parts. Can you talk about your writing style and what shaped it? My style of writing just evolved as a function of my experiences and writings over time—naturally in the course of my pathway through life—consistent with my innate aptitude for poetry and creative expression which, in my view, is inherited and God-given and is difficult to achieve in the absence of this gift. The writing is almost at all times geared to as if I am talking the words to the audience in my natural cadence desiring to clearly express myself and leave puzzlement to crosswords. NRM: What influences your daily life based on your political beliefs? The guide post to my daily life both to personal actions and literary work products produced are the principles of an ethical culture. For me, they are the foundation of what American greatness is about. This ethical culture—among so many things—includes honesty, respect for facts, justice, self-reliance, charity, religion, racial tolerance, reasonable due process, freedoms-civic responsibility, and respect for the law. Respect for others includes the elderly—social, economic, and amp. Racial justice, and concern for others—and others like ethical culture values—are the bedrock of good American politics, policies, public policy, and life itself. These ethical culture values are so reflected in our Constitution and Bill of Rights that both are immortal beautiful documents. This ethical culture is intrinsic to all good religions but belongs to all including those who are not religious as it likely comes from the universal mind and forms the basis for what much valuable religious thought is and is the guidepost for a moral life irrespective of one’s religion. To the extent one can emulate the shining examples throughout history of the practice of ethical culture, that person enhances their moral potential. That is why my daily activities and work product, as applied to all matters, attempt to exhibit the virtues of an Ethical Culture. NRM: Are you afraid of people’s judgment of your views of bureaucracy? How do you deal with criticism, if there is any? I am not at all afraid of people’s appraisal of my views as a historical analysis of the past performance of bureaucracies as applied to all areas in relation to what has been achieved versus what can potentially be achieved in too many cases—to include most notably in the area of social-economic, and racial justice— demonstrates a substantial performance deficiency—a deficiency in many cases caused not by the imperfection of bureaucracies but actually reflect the efficiencies of same. Moreover, as these views are furnished to move the society toward actions I desire, the response and appraisal of the work are both essential and welcome and help shine a light on the society reacting to it. NRM: What would be the ideal government system for America today? And why? If there was a magic wand that could get the job done, my best choice for an ideal American government would be to transfer the British system to the United States and go for it. Inasmuch there is no magic wand, my choice would be to radically reform the American system covering many areas such as the election of the President and Vice President by a popular vote—implementing a one man one vote scenario—completely reform the Supreme Court to include term limits, qualifying criteria, and demanding more transparency and honesty in confirmation hearings—laws to protect Democracy—and other reforms to most importantly include the most critical one: Ending the Filibuster rule and massively enhancing Democracy.


Featured Author In this regard, unless the so-called “Nuclear Option” of ending the Filibuster and implementing Democracy with a big “D” is accomplished, almost all good government imperatives will go nowhere. This so-called “Nuclear Option” of ending the Filibuster is in fact a rightful ending of the original Nuclear Option democracy killing Filibuster which exploded two hundred years after the beginning of the Nation without any basis in the Constitution and democratic rule. To those who say this is dangerous as minority rights need to be strong, we say enough is enough where the majority effectively needs control of both houses of Congress, the Presidency, and a majority in both houses—to pass legislation—with all of these being subject to the electorate every two years. Regarding this democracy killing Filibuster, was MC Connell worried about the “Nuclear Option” when he ended the Filibuster where high court appointments are concerned and went on to pack the Supreme Court? The answer is an emphatic NO and rightfully so on the part of Republicans who managed to gain control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency to do so. So let’s end the Filibuster, and get on with Majority rule constrained by clear electoral requirements and the oversight of future elections where a new majority can reverse legislation passed with such change often involving extreme political consequences from the electorate. As to Right-wing radical Republicans now warning about ending the Filibuster—who never saw a compromise they liked—and who tried to seditiously steal an election fairly won for “ The American Hitler” in grand New York fashion, our reply is: “ It’s good to be King.” NRM: In your opinion, how can we transform the face of the country? What necessary steps do we have to take to achieve a true non-elitist democracy? A plan to transform the nation is fully laid out in my book published in 2010 entitled “A Public Policy Revolution Ending Four Decades (1970-2010) of Economic Stagnation and Three Decades (19982010) Growing Income Inequality in the United States: Justice for All: A New Direction for a New America—presently being updated under the title: “Big Ideas for Big Problems Towards Creating a More Perfect Union and Better America.” The original book, and the coming update, deals with a whole host of actions which will change America dramatically by utilizing ideas only constrained by the principles of an ethical culture and the Constitution covering almost every conceivable areas: ending the Filibuster; reforming the Supreme Court to institute term limits, enhanced professional qualifications with less partisanship, and increase the emphasize on transparency and honesty with in-depth questioning in confirmation hearings; improving all aspects of increasing access to integrity-based voting throughout the nation; more laws to protect Democracy and the Bill of Rights; an increased reliance on fact analysis of problems and programs to create cost-conscious effective solutions to problems; emphasizing the tenets of the Bill of Rights; and creating programs to improve the indices of social/economic & racial justice in the United States; recognition of the clear indisputable fact of racism in the United States and the related history of slavery with programs to address the problem. Continuing this implementation in a more specific public policy vein: Management by objective forensic pay as you go balance budgeting; utilizing low interest rates to replace due on maturity government bonding with long term self amortizing bonding; completely and fully funding all government trust funds and insurance programs; treating government as a modified entrepreneurial earning entity which to the extent feasible earns a modified return for goods and services rendered to and on

behalf of its client—the American people; completely reforming the military to a war last “far more boots on the ground” much more efficient cost conscious military force meeting all needs; utilizing the principle of public enterprise employment which will save massive monies, cut welfare, and meet needs in many neglected areas emphasizing the value of work to society; establishing a minimum living wage; entering into fair free trade agreements improving foreign economies while at the same time protecting vital strategic industries to the benefit of all and our balance of trade deficits; implementing a new green deal which will be a massive economic benefit to the United States—decrease reliance on fossil fuels from unreliable and sometimes unsavory sources—and finally realistically attack the existential problem of climate change; effecting Constitutional gun regulation in line with the regulated militia criteria in the Constitution; enshrining choice as the law of the land regarding abortion; strengthening the separation between church and State and freeing the country from the attempted dictatorship of the Taliban oriented American Right Wing Evangelicals; encouraging fair free enterprise in the United States with fair regulation to protect the public interest; and a whole hostof other ideas and policies to reform the face of the nation. Beyond the cavalcade of problem-solving ideas and policies already discussed, one of the most critical reforms will end the “Super Supply-Side feed the rich drip down Laffer Curve” economic system which has dominated America for most of the modern era. This deeply flawed system and its massive tax-cutting premises are clearly flawed and rather than leading to claimed growth where these reduced tax collections are more than made up for by tax revenues emanating from stronger GDP growth than would have otherwise occurred have in fact led to massive deficit and debt—economic stagnation as relates to the countries potential—and massive income inequality in the United States to the benefits to the top one percent of earners and detriment of all other Americans. The reform under our program will replace this oligarch entitled feed the rich system with a Demand Push economic system which recognizes that the paramount power and driving force of a most efficient economy is the labor, entrepreneurship, and demand created by the Lower, Middle, and Upper Middle classes of America. In this respect, a vast panoply of policies such as: the Living Minimum wage; fully funded government sponsored retirement and medical insurance programs; investments in infrastructure research and development toward creating maximum living wage employment; unleashing the immense economic growth to be derived from the Green New Deal; employing efficient and useful public enterprise employment to attack welfare and maximally enhance employment promoting fair free enterprise as opposed to regulations and rules which favor the select category of super wealthy Amercian oligarchs; encouraging honest unionization; ending all subsidies aimed at the super rich who pay for these almost criminal benefits thru political donations and the power of dark money; reforming a disgraceful tax system so that the very wealthy pay their fair share and return to the Treasury the trillions of dollars robbed by them with the help of Super Supply-Side acolytes—leading to fully funding needed programs, reduced deficits and debt, and much needed and fair tax cuts for all other Americans who have borne the brunt of this blatant robbery of the Federal Treasury over much of the modern era; and on and on towards implementing ideas and reforms to change the face of this great nation and create a far more just and better America.

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Artist Profile

INTVW by Chino Castañares A plein-air artist, realist, and a documentarian living in the boroughs of New York City, Brooklyn, together with his loving wife. You can often find him stroking his colored pencils at Green-Wood cemetery; creating magnificent art pieces inspired by funerary and other significant monuments. As a documentarian of various defacements of important monuments, it has sparked his desire to pursue plein-air drawings. The splashing of vibrant colors and the way light dynamically falls onto monuments fueled Howard’s creative mind. “The splashing of monuments often adds brilliant color to my images.” Howard told NRM. His project,The Anna Pierrepont Series (named after Anna who is a grand dame of 19th century Brooklyn), that dates back to late August 2011— explores the fate of public monuments and their impact on the erasure of public and private memory. Most of his art are sourced from extant images and objects, although his images may appear absurd, “it is the reality unfolding in the current moment that is absurd.” He said. The Anna Pierrepont Series started out quite modestly, when his previous project petered out, Howard and his wife sat on the waters of Red Hook, Brooklyn, and as he drew the Statue of Liberty from a distance, one thing led to another. One of his recent works, Baquedano, which portrays Manuel Jesús Baquedano González a Chilean politician and soldier on horseback; based on an equestrian statue that was placed at Central Plaza in Santiago before it was removed in 2021. The statue was the center of much controversy amidst the Chilean’s protest that began in October of 2019, some of these protestors doused the metal general and his innocent horse with gallons of red paint and set him ablaze. An unfortunate event but from the ashes there is a certain beauty that Howard captures in the thick of it all.

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Feature He had this to say about the besmirching of the equestrian statue by the protestors:

“Making images of the intentionally erased is a formal challenge.” He added.

“Monuments advance certain explanations of the past and blot out others. Monuments to warriors on horseback have been raised nearly everywhere celebrating institutional violence directly inwardly or outwardly.”

In an interview with NRM we asked Howard a series of questions pertaining to history, and the politics involved in statutes on the arts.

Warriors on horseback, like the Baquedano, are raised to imposing heights in urban centers that people in the contemporary moment are increasingly turning against with ferocity. “When the warrior is celebrated for violence directed inwardly, individuals from targeted communities often reside in the warrior’s shadow, hovering above them as a constant reminder of their powerlessness and marginalization as the warrior stares forward from the saddle of his obedient horse, often at enormous heights such as Manuel Jesús Baquedano González in Santiago, Chile.”

NRM: By defacing public monuments, does this act determine an erasure of history? Do people get to rewrite history? Howard Skrill: “The graffiti added to the Baquedano is a historical narrative that collides with the extant narrative of the monument’s creators. This interchange is not only fascinating but forms new historical narratives. The Anna Pierrepont Series explores this process. The argument that history is inviolable because it is ‘historical’ is absurd. Lived reality in its vastness and dynamism is selectively pruned to correspond to particular narrative arcs. People of the past are not uniquely entitled to shape our current moment as we are not so entitled to do so for people yet to come.”

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Artist Profile

NRM: How do public monuments symbolize a piece of our history? Howard Skrill: “Sites of memory are places where identity is forced upon those who pass through these mostly urban places. Monuments are extraordinary examples of hubris as witnessed in Anna’s sarcophagus. Anna insisted on being remembered, the passage of time increasingly revealing her folly. Monuments are almost always physically durable.” NRM: Do the crafting of these statues represent arts in politics? Howard Skrill: “Monuments transcend politics because of the durability of their material nature, freezing into place social orders that appear inevitable. We are witnessing not epochal but rather revolutionary change.” “I spoke recently to a Jewish refugee from the Old Soviet Union. The man lived through removals of Lenin statues and professed no love for Lenin. He also understood that removals reflect profound political instability preceding new epochs of an uncertain nature. His fears were entirely justified and he emigrated to the US.”

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NRM: Do you think that your choice in politics should always reflect on your art? Howard Skrill: “When Florentine artists created portrait likenesses of the Medici, the works were simultaneously political and formal. American abstraction emerged from dystopic modern experiences and was fueled by the desire for fundamental, societal, and economic transformation. As these works gained notoriety, the formal was emphasized and the political erased, opening space for a revolutionary praxis, co-opted and neutralized, to become ubiquitous. I have been asked repeatedly whether I believe statues should be removed or remain in place. Monuments are political, the erasure that they apply is eventually applied to them as well.” Howard expresses the same flamboyance and realism from one of his other pieces on The Anna Pierrepont Series, such as Lenin in Yellow and Blue—a statue of the former Premier of the Soviet Union Vladimir Lenin, his coat adorned with Ukrainian yellow and blue. Great artists don’t just pop out of the blue; they are made. To make such an artist requires years of hard work and drive and so,


Feature

we asked Howard: where did you find your inspiration from? Howard Skrill: “I have long been an adherent of the German artist Gerhard Richter who appropriated extant historical representations, exploring the intersection of nostalgia and trauma.”

“What I’m attempting in each picture is nothing other than this...to bring together in a living and viable way, the most different and the most contradictory elements in the greatest possible freedom.” -Gerhard Richter-

He has been exploring plein-air drawings for over a decade now; his works were originally exclusive to plein-air with erasures discussed in textual companions. But, due to current events, he now creates his projects almost exclusively inside his studio with text migrating into images directly. Howard’s favorite medium for expressing his kinds of art are marks and liquids on paper including pencils, gouache, pour paint, ink and gesso. In a short video that Howard sent to NRM, he demonstrates his artistic techniques—he starts with light colors such as yellow and orange for the outline, then followed by darker and lighter colors to be intertwined with the original marks. As he defines the contours of his sketches, his hand brushes over the outlines, smudging and covering blank areas with a burst of pigments; finally an image emerges amidst the chaos that ensued on the formally white paper. As good an artist as Howard is, he still faced many challenges while working on his craft; we asked: what was the most challenging theme he has worked on and what was the easiest? Howard Skrill: “I had a remarkable experience when I worked on the campus of Bronx Community College where I taught for a decade as an adjunct teacher instructing non-majors in the art survey. The campus is the home of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans featuring bronze portrait bust likenesses of ‘Great Americans’. One of these great Americans was Robert E. Lee. In 2013, I drew the bust in plein-air and was quite happy with the image, particularly the shadows that I captured falling upon his face in a spring early afternoon. Choosing the bust was easy because it was steps from the doors of my building. Lee was elevated to the curious status as a ‘Great American’ of a country he both repudiated and invaded. Such thoughts did not occur to me in 2013. I returned to draw the bust’s absence days after Charlottesville, fully aware of the absurdity of the circumstances of its inclusion and removal. Realizing the depth of my ignorance was difficult.” His works are always thought provoking and mesmerizing; consistently exploring how art functions to influence collective perceptions. A realist and documentarian, memorializing a remarkable moment before it is consumed by something new. You can check out more of his works at Howardskrill.blogspot.com.

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Featured Bookstores

Title Wave Books

T

itle Wave Books is a quirky and cozy bookstore located at 2318 Wisconsin St. NE, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is a bit off the beaten path, but worth the finding.

Title Wave Books has had four owners since its opening in 1994, starting as a homeschool curriculum store and then blossoming into a full-fledged bookstore carrying all genres. They still specialize in educational materials, though. Current owners, Liberty Goldstein, and Leslie Gulley, bought the store in 2015 when it was in danger of closing its doors for good. Being homeschool moms themselves, they found themselves in need of something to put their hands to as their own children were graduating and moving on. They couldn’t stomach the idea of this amazing resource for homeschool families disappearing. They wanted to keep the legacy alive, so they bought it. Title Wave Books has since become what many call the “Cheers of bookstores” because when you walk in the door, they know your name … or soon will. Aside from dealing in books, the store also adopts cats through Cats Around Town, a program of Animal Humane of New Mexico. So far, they have seen 27 cats placed in homes since they got involved with the program in July of 2019. They see it as a rewarding alternative to having a bookstore cat. Liberty and Leslie believe strongly in supporting their community and shopping local to bolster the local economy. They do consignments with many local authors and makers. They also carry tea from Vampyre Tea Company, a local teamaker that currently has 20 unique and flavorful blends. There is often a fresh pot of tea available for customers to sample. And there is always coffee available, as everyone who works at Title Wave is a coffee lover. Visit for a cup and a good book, and leave with a new favorite place to be.

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Featured Bookstores

The The Wind, Wind, The The Willow Willow Bookstore Bookstore

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he Wind, The Willow Bookstore opened in March of 2018 in response to the only retail bookstore in town closing its doors. Our philosophy, like that of Neil Gaiman, is that a town can’t call itself a town short of having a bookstore. “What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”

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New Reader Media

Chapter2books B

rian and Sue Roegge opened the store in 2011 in downtown Hudson, WI.

Brian had been running a St. Paul credit union for the last 25+ years. Sue was a teacher. Both were/are, of course, avid readers. When Brian’s credit union merged with a larger institution, he was looking for a new career. There was nothing either one of us wanted to do more than open a bookstore. It was so exciting choosing our opening inventory and designing the store. Everything went smoothly except for some technical glitches here and there. We’re a general interest store selling new and used books, gifts, toys, and games. We offer frequent book signings, events, and children’s programming like story time. Chapter2Books is located in the beautiful downtown shopping and restaurant district of Hudson, WI. We are a year-round dynamic, community located on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Our place attracts day-trippers from all over the area, as well as being a vacation destination for families due to being on the St Croix River. Our current inventory includes over 5,000 new titles. We host events all year, for adults and young children. We have a vibrant monthly poetry group and a book club that’s been meeting for 7 years. We also engage the whole community in a monthlong summer activity for children. We’ve hosted some notable authors over the years but also take pride in the support we’ve always offered to local and self-published writers. Some of the notable authors include Fredrik Backman, William Kent Krueger, Kyle Mills, Kate DiCamillo, Jason Reynolds, W Bruce Cameron, Austin Kleon, Lorna Landvik, Homer Hickam, and Temple Grandin.

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Literary Work

In the Kitchen, After Dyeing My Mother’s Hair GINA TRANISI

I wash dishes by hand, thinking hard about what she calls, the long haul of losing your mother. She fixates on fading—how people vanish from intersections, corner stores, entire neighborhoods despite years spent growing up, growing families, growing sick of themselves before reckoning with forgiveness. Her friends are full of cancer, laughter, joint pain, memories of my mother, once young and sipping margaritas, salted wind sifting through her curls like my hands when she admits, I cannot reach the back, holding fade-defying box dye in warm mahogany, hairbrush, and plastic gloves towards me— sacred offering I will miss years after she has gone from view.

Gina Tranisi is a Program Director of the Nebraska Writers Collective (NWC) and lifelong Nebraskan, she works closely with the youth slam poetry festival, Louder Than a Bomb Great Plains. She leads writing workshops inside correctional facilities through Writers’ Block, an NWC-sponsored program that brings creative opportunities to incarcerated writers. She was a finalist for December magazine’s 2020 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Young Scholars in Writing, One Magazine, and other journals. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

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Poetry

lanabrest

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Poetry

Anamnesis NATE BERNEKING No one ever wants to admit memory’s sharp edge That sense with age that I’m the only one left. I can still see it all, and the young paying any attention, Grow incessant. What was it like? Who was with you? And, why? Give us a story, an account, or testimony. As with Scripture, it doesn’t matter when every fact isn’t quite right So long as it comforts those with the least need, who never ask Does it hurt? Surely they must know. Bones and bodies cracking, forced back into lost places Re-membered. Members re-attached. Memory mysteriously embedded. A memory so sacred, so severe, as to say of it This is my body. My blood.

New to publishing poetry, Nate Berneking works as both pastor and attorney for a large, mainline Christian denomination. Living in rural Missouri, his job requires him to spend much time traveling, including significant drives throughout the Midwest. That travel provides the opportunity to reflect on the people and landscape around him, and that’s when he finds the words to begin his poems. When he isn’t working, he spends warm months in his garden or tending several colonies of honey bees and colder months reading and writing. He has published one professional book and several articles related to his work for the Church.

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Literary Work

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Fiction

PARANOIA AT WORK Samara Doumnande

“Happy Anniversary, honey!” There was a sour taste in Tevin’s mouth as he entered the room. Lachelle Scott, his wife of eight years, was standing before him in a purple sun-dress clasping a bottle of sparkling white grape juice and she was all smiles. He closed the door of their apartment, entered the musty, outdated kitchen, and sighed. White grape juice? I’m gonna need something stronger. Where’s the gin? “How was your day, babe?” She approached him and gently kissed him on the cheek. The smell of her cherry-rose perfume intoxicated his soul. But as instantly as Lachelle had leaned in for the peck on his cheek, she pulled away. The abruptness of the kiss was startling. Tevin’s heart palpitated in his chest. Did she know? Had she found out somehow? She set the bottle on the counter. Tevin’s gaze followed the glass bottle to a trail of stubborn coffee, tea, and juice stains on the same countertop. The stains had been there for years: Compliments of the previous residents of the place before them. These stains were what Lachelle hated most about the apartment. Initially, when they had moved in, Tevin had promised her they’d only be renters there for a year. Then they’d get their own place. A lump as thick as cotton formed in his throat as he recalled his promise. A simple year had quickly turned into six. Feeling his wife’s gaze, he glanced up and their eyes met. “W-what’s wrong?” He could barely get the words out. “Nothing, honey. I just have to tell you something.” He rubbed the back of his neck, his fingers traveling upward through his thick curly black hair. “Uh, okay… I have to tell you something too.” “Okay, but can I go first?” There was a sudden air of delight in her voice. “I can’t wait. I’m gonna give you the best anniversary gift ever, Tevin. What I have to say is just so exciting!” He didn’t know what to say. Apparently, whatever she was going to share with him was good news. For Pete’s sake, it was their wedding anniversary! And he didn’t want to put a damper on her good news by sharing his bad. He didn’t want to tell her that the company that he had been working for five years had suddenly cut his hours in half. That they would have

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Literary Work to cut back on their expenses. That he was worried about making rent. That now they would no longer be eligible for medical insurance. I can’t spoil her good news. He sighed and decided to let her speak. What he had to tell her would have to wait. Forcing a smile and with a feigned upbeat voice, he asked, “What is it, Lachelle?” A brilliant smile glowed across her beautiful face. It was like watching the glorious sun come up after a night of studded stars. She stroked her abdomen with the delicateness of a butterfly and beamed. “I’m pregnant!” Welp, that explained the white grape juice. # Tevin spent the rest of his weekend behaving as if nothing was wrong. In fact, instead, he behaved as if everything was right. He celebrated his anniversary in style. He not only took Lachelle to an expensive steak house but afterward, they went out to see the most expensive play in the city. Moreover, he lavished her with gifts: with everything from her favorite perfume, to a new tennis bracelet, to a new purse, to an entirely new wardrobe. And he charged all these things to a credit card. Poor Lachelle never suspected a thing. She didn’t know they couldn’t afford it, for Tevin had told her he had gotten a huge bonus for being such a good employee. But time was running out. The imaginary world that he had created for himself was beginning to crumble. It was seven o’clock on a Monday morning and Tevin had to be at work in an hour. What was he going to tell his wife when he came home early today, from a shift of only four hours? Was there someplace he could go until the end of the day… until six o’clock when he usually came home? Tevin pulled back the sheets and glanced across his bedroom. The early streaks of dawn penetrated his bedroom window. From the window, his gaze followed a ray of sunlight dancing across his wife’s face. He watched, mesmerized, as the warmth and gleam from the sun’s rays worked together to pry her round, chestnut eyes open. He did his best to hide his thoughts. “Good morning, beautiful.” Her head rose from the pillow and she smiled. “Good morning, honey.” A few unruly thick, jet-black braids peaked out from her nightcap, framing her soft round face. One had fallen to her lower lip and the plumpness of her lips made Tevin yearn for a kiss. He leaned in and enjoyed the suppleness of them. When the pair pulled away, Tevin watched as Lachelle gently tucked the unruly braids inside of her night cap. Her gorgeous, almond eyes were shaded by thick black lashes. Her soft brown skin glistened. She was radiant. Beautiful. Inside and out. And he hated lying to her. But he didn’t want to worry her. He would get another job. Fix things

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somehow. And then tell her about his hours. He pondered further. Maybe he could go to a friend’s place after work. But no… then word might somehow get back to her. Maybe he could just drive around. But no, that would spend gas money and he had already spent so much on his wife’s anniversary gifts. Maybe he could just sit in a coffee house? That was it. He could bring his laptop and search online for another part-time job while he waited for evening to approach. That way Lachelle would never know. “I’ve got to get up to go into work. You sleep as long as you can,” he told his wife. “I know you were up late last night with Avril.” Avril Scott had just turned one a month ago and she was the pride and joy of her parents. Last night, Lachelle had been up with her due to a fever. “I’ll see you later this evening.” And with those words, Tevin headed to the bathroom to shower and shave. When he finished, he headed to the nursery just across his and Lachelle’s bedroom. There he kissed his daughter’s forehead as she slept soundly in her crib. Moments later, he was in his car and on his way to work. # The next few months progressed much the same. He’d rise in the morning, kiss his wife and child, shower and shave and get in the car to drive to work. Tevin worked at a web hosting company by the name of Corella Connects as a customer service rep. He’d been working there for five years now and loved his work. It was a vast pleasure to work in a field where he could talk to people from all over the world. He had learned so much about the culture of his customers: everything from what kinds of foods they liked to eat, to the politics of their countries. Knowing these small details about his customers had allowed him to establish a solid rapport with many of them. He was a good employee and although Corella Connects took notice of this fact, they still managed to cut his hours in half. “A small black coffee, please.” A petite young woman with curly blond hair nodded and rung up his order. She handed him his coffee and he took a seat at the back of the cafe. All around him he could hear the murmur of voices. The cash register dinged, and a mobile phone rang at the table beside him. Its owner answered and his gaze trailed to the other tables around him. Several people sipped at cold or hot beverages and a few ate baked goods from the cafe’s small bakery. A family of four gathered around a table to the left of him. The husband and wife were reading from a magazine. Their children—two boys—looked between the ages of five and six. They were reading from a picture book. Tevin smiled at them. It was so nice to see a family reading together and


Fiction not glued to a computer screen. Such a sight was a rare gem and lacking in the world today. As he meditated on these thoughts, his mobile phone began to hum. It was Lachelle. She had been going through the mail and came across a bill from her obstetrician’s office that was sky high. She had contacted the office’s billing department and they had informed her that according to the couple’s insurance company, Lachelle no longer had coverage. There was a nervous tremor in her throat. “What’s going on, Tevin?” This was it. His secret was out. Corella Connects had given a two-month grace period before their health insurance ran out. And his two months were over. He sighed and took a deep breath. “Hold on a moment. I’ll be home soon. We need to talk.” # “Why didn’t you tell me?” “Because I’m a man. I’m supposed to be the protector, the provider. I’m supposed to take care of my family and be the breadwinner. My father taught me no less. It’s my job.” “And for the last two months you’ve been putting our life on credit cards? What about the debt?” “We didn’t have a choice.” “You could have told me. It’s you that didn’t give me a choice.” “If I had told you what would you have done?” “I don’t know. We could have spoken to my parents, at least. I’m sure they could have hel—” “Don’t give me that crap, Lachelle. I’m the man of this household! If I wanted your daddy’s money, then I would have asked him for it a long time ago. I got this. We got this. You hear me? We can do this. We will get through this. We’re two grown adults with one baby and another on the way. We can’t keep running to your pa and Momma Jean every time there is a problem.” “But—” “Lachelle, we got this!” “But what are we going to do? I’m four months pregnant. How are we going to pay for the baby’s health care? For my health care? For yours? And what about Avril’s? “I’ll find another job soon. Meanwhile, we have good credit. We’ll keep charging it.” “But—” He ran his finger along her jawline and cupped her chin. “I need you to just trust me, Lachelle.” He kissed her forehead. “Can you just trust me?” His heart melted as a slow smile formed on her beautiful mahogany lips. “Okay,” she breathed. #

Within twenty-four hours, Tevin and Lachelle formed a plan. They decided to cut back on their expenses. No more eating out and no more movie nights or plays. They cut their cable service, got rid of the landline phone, and canceled their magazine subscriptions. All of these things they had made a joint decision on. But there was one thing that Tevin did, without consulting his wife first in order to cut down on expenses. He began to ration his pills. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia eleven years ago, Tevin had struggled cruelly with the illness. But when he met his wife, then a nurse, who worked in the same hospital he was a patient, she gave him the strength he needed to fight the illness. He had a crush on her from the first day he met her. He’d been watching a football game on television in the community room of the psych ward of Albitra Hospital and the Dallas Cowboys had just scored a touchdown. Although having been in and out of states of psychosis, he was thrilled. The Cowboys were on top. But nothing could delight him more than the young woman who had just walked in the room. She was a nurse and she had come to take his blood pressure. She was dressed in navy blue scrubs and sported black glasses, red lipstick, perfectly arched thick eye-brows, and shoulder-length box braids that framed her soft angelic face. And sick as he was, he flirted hard with her that day. He was delusional and paranoid but not too delusional that he couldn’t recognize a beautiful woman when he saw one. “What’s your name?” he asked. She pointed to the name tag clipped to her shirt. It read Lachelle. “Lachelle,” he started, “I feel compelled to tell you that you put me under a spell. It’s because, quite frankly, honey, I think you’re swell. Will you be mine? Only time will tell. Do you hear that? I think it’s a bell. The bell of my heart rings only for you. Please be mine. Say you feel the same way too! I’m so in love with you. You really have no clue. My poor heart aches. It does not know what to do—” She smiled at him and handed him a small plastic cup filled with water and two small pills. “Take these. That’s something you can do.” He swallowed the pills and gulped down the water. Anything for Lachelle. From that day forward he did everything she asked of him. He took his meds and he listened intently when the doctors and nurses communicated with him about his illness. Prior to meeting Lachelle, he had been in denial about having schizophrenia and refused to take his meds. As a result, he had been in and out of the hospital several dozen times. But there was something in the way this woman always smiled at him. It was reassuring. It gave him confidence. It told him he could do anything. She believed in him. So, he believed in himself. He could battle schizophrenia. And he told himself, if this woman wants me to take my medication, then I will.

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Literary Work By the time he left the hospital he was convinced and accepted his diagnosis. All because of Lachelle. After his discharge, the pair remained friends for six months before finally deciding to date. A year later, they were married. Tevin smiled at the memory of how he had rhymed to his wife that day. Perhaps he came on a little too strong? Just a bit. But it didn’t freak her out. She was used to the rhyming. Something she’d seen a lot of her schizophrenic patients do. It was called clang association. His rhymes just seemed to make a little more sense than most schizophrenic patients, as though they were a little aggressive, they were still logical. And as for the flirting, she was used to that too. Lachelle was a stunning young woman and you’d have to be blind not to admire her beauty. But she handled herself professionally. Never once did she cross the line between patient and nurse. And it wasn’t until six months, following his discharge, that she would even consider dating Tevin. By then, he was healthy and well and she had fallen in love. He was handsome, kind, and treated her like a queen. How could she refuse? Tevin poured the contents of a small orange bottle on the top of his dresser. Small round pills fell out in a scattered pile. Carefully he slid a single pill from one side of the dresser to the other, counting intently, as he followed the task in the same manner with the remaining pills. Just ten left. I have to ration them smartly. If I take one every three days, this bottle should last me for another month. That’ll buy me enough time to figure something out. Lachelle’ll never know. After popping one in his mouth, he refilled the bottle with the remaining pills, and left for work. It didn’t take long for Tevin’s health to decline as a result of his decision. He was slipping on the job and had already sabotaged several customer’s accounts. He had been pulled into his boss’s office on many occasions with warnings that if he didn’t shape up soon, he would be let go. And then it happened. A few days later, he found himself on the phone speaking to a customer. The customer, a woman named Barbara Jenkins, had signed up for a free trial at Corrella Connects and wanted to discontinue the service before it ended. Tevin stared at his monitor and spoke into his microphone. “Just a sec, mam.” Where was it? How could the discontinue button be there one minute and gone the next? ALEX IS HAVING FUN WITH YOU. HE’S MANIPULATING YOUR COMPUTER REMOTELY. THAT’S WHY YOU’VE BEEN SLIPPING UP AT WORK. HE WANTS EVERYONE TO THINK YOU’RE A BAD EMPLOYEE. HE’S JEALOUS OF YOU. HE’S AFRAID YOU’LL BE PROMOTED AND THAT YOU’LL TAKE HIS JOB. HE’S THE ONE BEHIND ALL THIS. FIRST, HE CUTS YOUR HOURS, THEN HE PLAYS HEAD GAMES WITH YOU. YOU WANT TO KNOW WHERE THE DISCONTINUE BUTTON IS? ASK ALEX. Tevin shuddered at the sound of the voices. He had been hearing them for three days now and was starting to grow paranoid.

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Could Alex, be the reason behind all of my troubles? He trembled at the thought. IT’S A SET UP. ALEX HAD A FAKE CUSTOMER CALL IN. YOUR SO-CALLED CUSTOMER DOESN’T NEED HER SERVICE DISCONTINUED. SHE’S A PHONY ACTRESS HIRED BY ALEX TO STRESS YOU OUT BY MAKING BUTTONS DISAPPEAR ON YOUR SCREEN. THEY BOTH WANT TO MAKE YOU LOOK CRAZY. He heard coughing on the other end of the line. Without hesitation the words fell from his lips— “Bless y—” DON’T BOTHER SAYING GOD BLESS YOU. IT WAS A FAKE COUGH. BARBARA’S JUST TRYING TO MUFFLE HER LAUGHTER. SHE HAS ALEX ON THE OTHER LINE. ALEX IS IN HIS OFFICE LISTENING IN. BOTH ARE LAUGHING RIGHT NOW. AT YOU! Anger pumped through Tevin’s veins. They’re trying to make a fool of me. They think I’m stupid, but I’m not. Glaring at the screen of his monitor he got an idea. I’ll play along with their little game. I’ll show them who’s the smart one. I won’t even put the discontinue request in. I won’t let them make a clown of me. He swallowed and shifted in his chair. And then he spoke. “You’re all set, mam. I’ve discontinued your plan.” And with an acerbic tone he added, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Barbara was completely oblivious to Tevin’s agitated mood. “No, sir. Thank you. You’ve been most helpful,” she replied. “Have a wonderful afternoon.” “Thank you,” responded Tevin, in a bitter tone. “You as well.” The line disconnected and Tevin would never put in her request. # A month lapsed and Tevin continued to hear voices, but his symptoms went unnoticed by his wife, his boss, and his co-workers. Indeed, they had no idea how sick he had become. The voices were frequent, and they railed at him in his mind causing him to grow more and more paranoid at work. However, miraculously there hadn’t been any additional slip ups at his job. That is until the same customer contacted Corella Connects. “A sixty-four-dollar charge? For what? I recognize your voice. You’re the same person I spoke to a month ago about discontinuing. You were supposed to take care of this for me!” Barbara snapped. Barbara was a new customer that Tevin hadn’t developed a strong rapport with. He had only spoken to her once and that was a month ago. Unlike so many of his other customers, he did not know her favorite foods or anything about her family life. Clearly the woman was vexed at him. How could he make this right?


Fiction He stared at the screen. Sure enough, she had received a sixty-four dollar charge. And it was all his fault. All because he’d gotten paranoid and failed to discontinue her service thirty days ago. “I’m sorry for the problem, mam. Yes, I apologize, I was supposed to take care of that for y—” DON’T YOU DARE APOLOGIZE. APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT? NOT ALLOWING HER TO PLAY HEAD GAMES WITH YOU? I’M TELLING YOU, SHE AND YOUR BOSS ALEX ARE JUST TRYING TO MAKE YOU LOOK CRAZY. INSTEAD OF APOLOGIZING, YOU SHOULD CURSE HER OUT AND TELL HER ABOUT HERSELF. YOU NEED TO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF! The hairs on the nape of his neck stood up. His heart raced, but he quickly gathered himself together and with a confident air sat with is back erect in his chair. Lifting his chin in the air, he thought, who does this crazy woman think she is… trying to play head games with me? His nostrils flared. But he spoke calmly. “Look, mam. I know what you and my boss, Alex, are up to. You’re an actress hired by him in order to make me look crazy so that I lose my job.” “What?” Barbara responded. “I don’t understand. What are you even talking about? Are you crazy?” At the sound of the word crazy, Tevin pounded his fist on his desk. The sound disturbed several Corella Connect employees who were working in neighboring cubicles. They came rushing at once to Tevin’s desk. But he ignored them, yelling into his mic. “No! You just want me to think I’m crazy. I’m not crazy. You’re crazy. Crazy for what you’re doing to me. But I know you are a hired actress!” “Tevin, are you alrigh—” “I’m not an actress! You and your company owe me sixtyfour dollars.” He rose from his chair and pulled the mic closer to his lips. “I don’t owe you jack! And you and Alex both owe me an apology! You’re lucky I don’t call the cops!” Scottie Thomas, an older man in his sixties, who sat in the cubicle behind Tevin’s approached him. He extended his hand. “It’s alright. Just give me the mic. Everything will be fine—” “What’s going on here?” The voice was both stern and firm. It belonged to Alex whose gaze fell upon the older man’s visage. “Scottie, what’s going on here?” “I don’t know, boss. Looks like Tevin is having trouble. He’s on the phone with a customer. Screaming at her. I was just trying to get the mic away from him.” Alex scanned the half dozen faces that had gathered around Tevin’s desk. “Everyone back to your cubicles. I’ll take care of this.” The crowd parted like the Red Sea. Ten minutes later Tevin found himself sitting across from Alex in an elegantly-furnished corner office. Alex removed his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and placed his spectacles on his desk. “What’s all of this about Tevin? Why

were you yelling at that customer?” Tevin crossed his legs and gave him a smug look. “I don’t know. You tell me. Why was I yelling at that customer?” Alex sighed. “I honestly don’t know. I didn’t hear the whole conversation you had with her before you hung up on her. But what I do know is that your behavior was uncalled for and very unprofessional. We can’t have such toxic behavior here at Corella Connects. It affects everyone. Clients, customers, and employees. I’ve given you chance after chance to get your act together, Tevin. But this last… outburst… this thing… well this just takes the cake. I’m going to have to let you go.” # So, he was let go. And Lachelle didn’t take the news easily. “What are we going to do?” she fumed, never knowing that something was deeply wrong with her husband. She could not know. How could she? When for the past few months his flare-ups of delusional paranoia had only taken place at work. She was a trained nurse but had no idea how serious Tevin’s psychosis was. So, she railed at him and degraded him hard. There were arguments of rage and bitterness. She was beside herself, throwing many fits. And poor Tevin just swallowed it. He inhaled it all. He let her berate him and strip him of being a man. He nodded silently to her insults and never once spoke a mean word about her though she had much to say about him. On the surface he was stoic. But on the inside, he was dying. Her taunts and her tantrums had eaten away at his soul. Delusional thoughts began to fester. His heart cried out in pain. Dear Lord, why so much suffering? And instead of the Lord answering him back, fraudulent voices began to chant in his ears: BEHOLD! THE WORD OF THE LORD IS AS FOLLOWS: THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO END. THERE WILL BE NO MORE AFFLICTION. NO MORE SUFFERING. YOU AND YOU’RE WIFE WILL NO LONGER NEED HEALTH INSURANCE BECAUSE THERE WILL BE NO ILLNESS OR DISEASE. GOD WILL HANDLE THE HEALTH CARE OF YOUR UNBORN CHILD. THE WAY OF LIFE AS YOU KNOW IT WILL ALL FALL AWAY. THERE WILL BE NO DOCTORS FOR THE LORD WILL PROVIDE. HE WILL PROVIDE OPTIMAL HEALTH, WEALTH, HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY FOR ALL WHO LOVE AND FEAR HIM. HE WILL PROVIDE FOOD, WATER, CLOTHING AND SHELTER. THERE WILL BE NO SUFFERING. DO NOT PUT YOUR FAITH IN MAN, FOR THE LORD IS HERE. MY CHILD. IT IS A NEW DAY! WE ARE GOING TO MAKE A NEW HEAVEN, A NEW EDEN. IN JUST A FEW DAYS. JUST YOU WAIT AND SEE. Tevin smiled at the comfort he felt from his voices. He wasn’t doing well, and he didn’t know it. In short, his psychosis was escalating. However, he was still taking his meds. That is, every three days anyway.

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Literary Work # # A few days later, after Tevin had just taken his meds, Sam and Bernice Armstrong a neighborhood couple, decided to stop by the Scott’s residence. Lachelle had scheduled a play date for Avril with the couple’s daughter Jessica. She was the same age as Avril. As the two babies sat on the carpet playing with multicolored plastic building blocks, Lachelle entertained her two friends with pleasant conversation and a cheese platter. Tevin sat beside her on a creme love seat, spaced out, listening to voices. And, unfortunately, no one was aware of it. MY CHILD, THE TIME HAS COME. DO YOU KNOW WHAT DAY IT IS TODAY? IT’S EDEN DAY. THAT’S RIGHT. YOU ARE IN HEAVEN. I HAVE MADE A NEW WORLD FOR YOU AND HAVE DELIVERED MY PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS. AT THIS TIME, MY PEOPLE OF THE WORLD ARE ALL INNOCENT. I WANT YOU TO BE THE FIRST TO DECLARE YOUR INNOCENCE. STRIP NUDE, LIKE ADAM AND EVE AND TESTIFY TO SAM AND BERNICE THAT I HAVE CREATED A NEW WORLD. THEY CAN BE APART OF IT TOO. BUT FIRST THEY HAVE TO DECLARE THEIR INNOCENCE BY STRIPPING NUDE! AND SO DO YOU! A feeling of weightlessness came over Tevin. Pleasure filled his soul. Could this be it? Was heaven really here? No more problems? No more worries? Just peace and prosperity? And all he had to do to claim it was strip nude? At once, Tevin removed himself from the sofa and stood on his feet. He removed his t-shirt and jeans so swiftly that Lachelle, Sam, and Bernice, hardly knew when it happened. But then there was a gasp. It came from Bernice. Lachelle’s gaze went from Bernice’s face to her nearnaked husband standing in his boxers between two babies and their blocks in the middle of the living room floor. “Tevin! W-what are you doing?” A certain shock and a moment of realization suddenly came over him. Perhaps the pill that he had taken earlier was beginning to have some effect on him. He pulled up his jeans, sought the wall for support and glided against it until reaching the door. What am I doing?

He took in all the faces around him. There were a variety of people from different backgrounds. Some black, some Hispanic, some Asian, some white. Some young, some old. Men. Women. Young teens. Mental illness does not discriminate. As Tevin pondered these thoughts, a heavy-set woman with auburn hair cleared her throat. “May I have your attention, please?” All heads in the room turned in her direction. “My name is Stephanie Little, and I’ll be your facilitator this afternoon…” Her voice trailed off. He could not think. Could not make sense of her words. They were like Morse code, a language he could not interpret. All because he had walked in the room. # He had taken away his focus. He had taken away his concentration during the entire meeting. And he was staring right at him. Tevin looked away. He had so looked forward to this group, but now that Alex was present, he was beside himself. What was he doing here? Did he come here to laugh at him? No that couldn’t be it. Tevin had long since acknowledged he had been delusional about his boss. There was something going on. But what? As the facilitators voice trailed over the room like background music, Tevin’s gaze settled back on his boss who had taken a seat across from him. At times Alex would return his gaze, then he’d look down at his hands, and glance erratically around the room. The facilitator droned on and on. The tension in the air continued to build. Tevin’s heart raced and his palms became sweaty. And then Alex locked eyes with him. This time he did not look away but held his gaze firm and steady with a slight tilt to his head. What did it mean? He could not read his eyes. What did they represent? Anger? Irritation? Pity? And then the meeting was over. The motley group of people who had gathered in the room rose from their seats and left, but Alex remained in his. And so did Tevin.

# # Tevin willingly agreed to be admitted into Albitra hospital as a psych patient. He remained on the psych ward for three days, then was discharged. As a part of his discharge plan, he was scheduled to meet with his psychiatrist and therapist twice a month in order to discuss the stressors in his life. He was also put in touch with a case-worker who he was told would help on the financial end with a variety of government programs. Additionally, he joined a mental health support group.

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“I had no idea.” Alex rubbed at his brow. “Forgive me,” he said, rising from his seat and extending an arm. “I just didn’t know. You’d think that I would have figured it out.” He sighed. “Here I thought that you had gone rogue by being rude to customers when in reality you were just dealing with a lot of complications. “It’s okay. I—”


Fiction “I should have known. I’m schizophrenic myself. That’s why I’m here, for Pete’s sake. At this very meeting.” He moved in closer. “Tevin, you were the best employee I’ve ever hired—in the entire twenty-year history of the company. And your customers are missing you. I couldn’t see it before, but it all adds up. It just makes sense now. Never in my mind did I imagine that the reason for your aberrant behavior was due to mental illness. Please forgive me.” Tevin shook his head in disbelief, uncertain of it what was unfolding in front of him was reality or just a dream. He felt a tightness in his chest. This was the man who had cut his hours. This was the man who had taken away his health care. This man was the reason for him having to ration his pills. For him getting sick and ultimately losing his job. Forgive him? How could he possibly do that? What Alex had put his family through the past few months was unforgivable. He had embarrassed himself before his neighbors because of Alex. Had Alex not have cut his hours in the first place, none of this would have happened. Now he had lost the respect of everyone, including his neighbors. Even Lachelle it seemed had lost respect for him until she found out he had been sick. He could never get those last months back again that he had spent in psychosis. He became breathless, gasping for air. He inhaled. Exhaled. And then letting out a single breath, whispered the words, “I. Forgive. You.” His heart pounded in his chest. Where had that come from? A warm smile presented itself on Alex’s lips. “Would you mind grabbing some lunch with me? It’ll be my treat. I have a lot to say.” # Tevin and Alex sat side by side at Trudy’s cafe. His former boss bared his heart and soul on the subject of mental illness, sharing that his own mother, now deceased, was also schizophrenic. He shared stories of what it was like as a young boy to watch her struggle as a mentally ill single parent. How she had fought through her torment and suffering with the voices to provide the best life possible for him. Tevin took it all in. There was so much compassion and understanding in Alex’s eyes. After placing their orders, Alex reiterated his apologies to Tevin. “I want to offer you your job back. That is… if you want it… it’s yours.” Tevin was breathless. Could this really be happening? Was he really getting his job back? His heart raced, but he smiled warmly at Alex and replied in the affirmative. “Thank you, sir. You don’t know how much this will mean to my family. We already have a daughter who is one. And we have another little one on the way.” Alex sighed. “Actually, I’ve been wanting to take you back on full-time for some time now. We recently let a dozen

employees go for reasons that I can’t discuss. So there has been an opening for full-time employment for a while. But due to the abnormal behavior we were seeing with you at work, I just couldn’t. But now that I have a better understanding of what you were going through, the offer still stands. I’m not just offering part-time employment, Tevin. But full-time.” # Two years later, Tevin closed the doors of his red SUV and led Lachelle by the hand up a newly tarred driveway. “No peeking behind that blindfold, now.” Lachelle responded with a squeal of delight. They walked a few more paces before Tevin removed the blindfold and the darkness fell away. Lachelle took in the sight. Directly in front of her was a sign. It read “SOLD.” And just beyond that sign was a lovely Tudor style home, white with black trim and grand bay windows. A cherry tree, rosebushes, and evergreen trees beautified the front yard. The front door opened. Inside stood gray-haired Momma Jean with a sweet smile on her lips. She was holding Avril’s hand who stood beside her. And pa stood next to Avril, holding Lachelle and Tevin’s one-year old son in his arms. “He wanted it to be a surprise,” Momma Jean called out from the house and waved. “We didn’t know about it either, until only about an hour ago. “But we are so glad he invited us to share in creating this joyous memory. We are overwhelmed with pleasure and hope you four will be very happy here.” Tevin turned to his wife. “It’s ours, honey. We did it. Our first home. No more coffee, tea, or juice stains on our countertops.”

Samara Doumnande is an African American fine artist and author who has written and illustrated two children’s books and one general audience book. In addition to writing short stories, she currently has three novels which are works in progress in the psychological fiction genre. To learn more about her current writing projects as well as her advocacy for the mentally ill, please visit her author website at: SamaraDoumnande.com. Samara lives in West Henrietta, NY with her husband and three daughters.

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tomnamon

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Poetry

It’s. Split. SAM TAYLOR My handwriting seems Lowly It seems Old And though I see change I haven’t dwelled on it since Kindergarten I think I need to be healing Again For today, My excitement comes From standing above The busted shower drain And smelling Pepper Cooking below There’s no point In that I’ll prefer the shirts with buttons I’ll ditch the closet mirrors I’ll write literature I’ll make signatures I’ll use cursive and Mind my weight As boys do

Samuel Taylor (10-21-2000) is a student writer studying at the University of Dayton in Ohio. Raised in Cincinnati, his writing, primarily poetry, focuses on living with and overcoming eating disorders in a midwestern climate. His debut poetry collection, OAF, will be published in late 2022. His current work resides in Orpheus, an art and literary magazine out of Dayton, Ohio.

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royaltystockphoto

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Poetry

Lost to Pain JOHN KUCERA Long ago, when I was wordless and alone, what I did know of the face I held to the mirror of my mother, how space became a feature, a form, an artifice between us. Even now as I remember the face lost to pain, then madness, then painlessness to fire I see the ghost I made and unmade like a bed. I hear her in the kitchen, sleepless, when I wake at night and words are far away. And when they come, if not the words then voices, glances, cries. I call them hers. The ones she’s lost to pain, then madness. I call and because dawn burns for those it mourns and in returning turns away, I enter a gallery of animate objects where everything is dead and moving. The doll with its string. The mechanical arm. The beaded curtain. They are artifacts of what is here and not quite here, not quite adventure or farewell, words bereft of animals to speak them. The primordial mass cultured with light. The slightest seizure more terrible than stillness. I call and I enter the space with two lone heads—the first with its bright complexion: the other bluish-gray—and although bound together by their hair, they do not face each other and when they move, the bright one says yes. The dark one says no and the theater is cold as x-rays are an absurd French movie, the kind my mother hated like madness and pain. Like all who live and do not live, who unearths a self so abstract the person disappears, these abject gestures toward a deeper recognition are stilted, callous, masked as shamans who, as beasts, are never original but ancestral beyond words. I talk to my mother still.

John has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature from Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He currently reside in Phoenix, Arizona, where he teaches Writing online.

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jozefklopacka

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Poetry

White Elk

—for my grandmother

ALEXANDER ETHERIDGE Listener of windy creeks, she leads her young through the wind-frosted and desolate steppes— Love is a furnace in her hooves. Half frozen, she’d lie flat with hail piling up, so the strays could follow her pulse back. Snowy elk, recalling again when she heard a greenwood note like little children sounding out names. Now coming to her end, she thinks of her first calf born on white and transparent leaves, and with a cloudward glance, sees an ancient promise begin to prove itself.

Alexander Etheridge has been developing his poems and translations since 1998. Some of his publications include poems appearing in The Cafe Review, The Sojourn, The Parallax, Abridged Magazine, The Dawntreader, Susurrus Magazine, The Journal, and others. He was the winner of the Struck Match Poetry Prize in 1999.

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COFFEE BREAK Veronica De Simone

Translated by: Giulia Ricciardi.

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I stretch my legs out under the table and look outside. The sky has clouded over and the dim light that shines over the city isn’t enough to chase the shadows away. Maybe it’s better: the sun isn’t appropriate for this kind of visit. “Would you like to order, Miss?” The waitress has already come twice. She’s young, with narrow shoulders and spindly pianist-like fingers. She wasn’t here five years ago. “Not yet.” I look at my wristwatch. It’s the new tic New York has given me. “I’m waiting for a friend.” “Would you like something while you wait?”


Fiction I glance behind her. The diner has been enlarged; I didn’t notice this when I came in. The glass shelves loaded with pastries shine invitingly on the right side of the counter. I go closer to take a look. I smile; there’s also our “study boost,” the pistachio and almond Tiramisu that your mom used to bake when I came over to yours. “Our baker makes them,” the waitress tells me proudly. “He’s my brother, you know.” “Really?” She nods. “He’s always had a huge passion for baking, so when Mr Galimberti put up the ad that he was hiring, he immediately came forward.” She keeps talking, her mouth moves, but it’s like watching a silent film in color. I nod to make it seem as if I’m participating in the conversation. You worked here, too; you loved baking, too. All these coincidences hurt. “If you don’t mind some advice, you must absolutely try the cheesecake or the apple pie. They’re delicious, trust me.” I let a few seconds pass, as if I’m really considering her suggestion. The truth is, I’ve already chosen. “I think I’ll take a slice of pistachio and almond Tiramisu.” I smile and look at the time. 2:07pm. I take two packets of brown sugar. “And also a black coffee and a latte to go.” The waitress stares at me confused. “Aren’t you going to wait for you friend anymore?” “He’ll never be on time. We’ll eat the Tiramisu here, but we’ll never make it if we sit around and drink.” I bite the corner of my mouth. “You know… he’s that kind of guy.” “A pathological latecomer?” I nod, and in her eyes shines a knowing glint, as if she had just remembered having a friend like you herself. But no one could ever be like you. You were the only one who was able to make a strength out of your quirkiness. “Here.” She hands me the paper cups and a small plate with two forks. I smile and turn around to go back to the table. You are there. The words take flight and I can’t think. In my eyes and my mind there’s only you. I breathe in, breathe out and in once again. I blink but you don’t disappear. You haven’t moved an inch. The first step is a struggle. I wish I could run away… from you, from myself, from this diner. The door is right there, close, I could reach it now. I’ve always been a coward, the scared squire who runs away before the dragon. But a promise is a promise, and today it’s my turn to wear the armour.

I manage to reach the table without stumbling in fear. “Hello, you” You say. With my fingers I lightly trace the contour of the golden pendant under my sweater. If I were to press a little more, I’d be able to draw the face of the Virgin Mary, her hands closed in prayer over her breast. “Hello, you.” “I was waiting for you.” “Where did you come from? I didn’t see you.” You smile. Two dimples appear at the corners of your mouth, rounding your cheeks. “I passed by you, but you didn’t notice me. Too busy badmouthing me to the waitress, I guess.” I take a seat and hand you the latte, the plate with the Tiramisu in the middle of the table, forming a bridge. “You never change.” You take the cup e put it down beside the napkin holder. “The important thing is that I’m on time for our coffee break.” I nod, biting my lip. Between 2pm and 2:30pm, the coffee break. Mine and yours. Ours. “I missed you, Miky.” You stretch your hand out, curl it gently around my arm, and the tension I had in my body melts away. You’ve always had this ability to make people feel at ease with little. Everyone used to say it. But now our friends aren’t here, and you can enchant only me with your magic. “So, how are you?” Your voice is high pitched, like a little boy at a fair. It suits you, like the light that used to shine in your eyes every time we met. It’s discernible even now: it’s a wheat stem in a field of wild weeds. It’s always summer in your eyes. “Fine, all things considered. I found a job in New York at a small publishing house. I don’t earn much, but the editor told me that as soon as I finish these months of apprenticeship he’s going to offer me a permanent job.” “Do you still write?” I shake my head. “I don’t have much time to myself.” You wrinkle your nose, furrowing your eyebrows. You smelled the lie. I’ve never been good at lying, especially to you. “When there ain’t no time, you just find it. It was our motto, remember?” “We used to say it to each other all throughout school and college.” I snort. “You liked telling me so every time I refused to hang out because I had to study.” “’Cause that was just an excuse to stay at home under a pile of blankets watching some TV show. If I hadn’t been there, you would’ve turned into a hermit during exam period.” “I could argue that, because of you, I had to study day and night to finish preparing for some exams.” You cross your arms over your chest and lean back on the chair. “Better stressed for a week than going missing for a month.” I laugh, I can’t help it. “You never change.” “You don’t either.” You brush aside a curl from your nose and lightly touch the paper cup with your index and middle finger. “So, Miky, why ain’t you finding the time to write?” I look down at my coffee. The smoke rises towards the ceiling in spiralling ribbons, spreading the smell around us.

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Literary Work I take a sip, taking longer than necessary to swallow. The truth is, I can’t string a single sentence together anymore. I’d like to, but the most beautiful words are gone. Only the ones related to paperwork, email and postal payments are left. No rhetoric, no nuances, no fanciful styles. I read others’, evaluate them, choose them. I’m judge, jury and executioner of future writers. But my words, they have dried up. Like flowers between the pages, like pepper in the cupboard, like blood on… “How about you?” You shrug. This isn’t what you hoped I’d say to you. But you’ll answer because you have nothing to hide. “Fine, even though being here without you is awful. I miss going and pestering you at the print shop. A very serious guy with the expressiveness of a dead fish works there now. I had way more fun when you were there.” “Yeah, I know.” I crack a smile. “You used to make me go crazy.” “My, my, you’re so dramatic. I’ll have you know that I made your afternoons less boring.” “And perhaps I should also thank you for all the scolding that I took.” You wave your hand in front of your face as if you’re batting a fly away. “Mr Moore adored you too much to scold you.” I suppress a laugh and stir my coffee. “Maybe.” “And, I tell you, he wasn’t the only one: it’s thanks to you that many students at our college graduated. Even Edward, thanks to all the times he came to you to print his notes,” you make quotation marks with your fingers “was able to graduate.” “You always exaggerate.” You chuckle. “C’mon, Miky, you’re a pretty girl, smart and easy-going. Being near you made yours truly very jittery most of the time.” “Why?” “’Cause all our peers, or almost all of them, had a crush on you. You can’t imagine all the glares I got because of you.” “Suuure. It wasn’t because you couldn’t shut up even while you were eating.” “This could be another reason, but not the main one by any means.” You grab the fork by the Tiramisu and point it at me, twirling it between your thumb and index finger like a magic wand. “The true reason behind the hatred towards my person was you, Mikhaela Flake.” I look up at the sky and shake my head. It’s difficult to remain serious around you. Or sad. Your very presence is a crucifix against all my demons. You put the fork back down on the plate’s edge and interlace your fingers under your chin. “Speaking of boys, are you still with Andrew?” “No, I’m not. It has been over for a while now.” “But you were great together.” You’re right; Andrew and I completed each other. And it’s because of that that it hurt so much to say goodbye. When we broke up, the best parts of me remained stuck in his heart, in his flesh. “I know, but it didn’t work out in the end. We fought

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every day. We stopped loving each other long before admitting it was over.” I sigh and rub my eyes. The Tiramisu is still between us, untouched. I grab the fork and point at it with my chin. “Do you want some?” “Eat up. I know how much you love it. I bet that you can only dream of it in New York.” “Only because I’m too lazy to look for a good bakery.” You shrug and cross your arms over your chest. Your smile has changed. You always have a different one for every occasion, and you wear them all with the same elegance with which you wear your nice pair of trousers. This smile is the one that means “I know I’m right,” with your lips curled upwards showing the thin half-moon of your teeth. While eating, I can’t stop observing it. The taste of Tiramisu fades on my palate. “So now you live alone?” “Not at all. I share the rent with two other girls.” “Do you get along with them?” I nod. “They’re good people.” You huff. A curl snaps upwards, hovers for a bit and falls back down on your nose. “You’re always so stingy when it comes to compliments.” I dab my mouth with the napkin. My thoughts roll against the walls of my mind, jingling like coins at the bottom of a piggy bank. They wouldn’t be enough to buy even a bag of candies, forget satisfying your curiosity. “Giorgia was my first roommate. She’s a tough girl, with clear ideas about what she wants to do with her life. At first we didn’t get along, but in time we learned to understand each other. Sometimes we still argue, we sulk for a bit, and in the evening we end up sprawled on the couch to watch a movie together. Lydia arrived later. She’s still a student.” “Oh? What’s she studying?” “Materials Science. A strange mix between physics and chemistry.” “Sounds difficult.” “It is. When I come home she’s often sitting at her desk doing her homework. Sometimes we even have to remind her to eat. I believe that, if Giorgia and I weren’t there, she’d even forget to dress up in the morning.” “A bit like you the last year of college.” I crack a smile. “I wasn’t as messed up!” “You mean to tell me that you didn’t have to threaten her of smashing down the door?” I bite the corner of my mouth to suppress a chuckle. “Not yet, but at this rate, I think we’ll be forced to.” “And then you’ll have to drag her out to a pub.” “She isn’t the type.” “Don’t tell me that she follows the doctrine of no-alcohol, too.” “Only during exam period. But she’s more likely to buy a beer and drink it at home in front of a movie and a big pizza.” “Almost like you.” “Almost, yeah.” “Are you happy, Miky?”


Fiction That last question glides between us and lands on the table. I want it to fly away like every other, but the silence is too heavy. You look at me and I know that you won’t say any more. That the time to face the dragon has come. “Why do we have to talk about it?” “’Cause this is the reason for your return.” I take a deep breath and hold onto my coffee cup. The leftover heat is almost scalding my cold hands. “It’s not that simple.” “No, it’s not.” The dimples at the corners of your mouth deepen and your expression grows serious. “But we need to talk.” “You… you’re wrong.” “You scared?” The itch caused by the tears makes my eyelids tremble. I bury my head in my hands, and my hair falls in front of my face. “It never passed.” “Even after all this time?” I shake my head. “I went to New York so I didn’t have to remember every day what I lost, but it isn’t enough.” I bite my cheek to hold back a sob. “It’s never enough.” “What d’you think you’re gonna do, then?” “Don’t know…” My shoulders arch with me. The pain burns me from the inside out. I hug myself and hold on to the golden pendant to contain it, so that it can only eat away at my flesh and not spill out. “I… I’m not like you, Alex. I’ve tried to stay here, make things work, but I couldn’t do it.” “Not your fault.” “Yes, it is! If I had had even a sliver of your strength, I wouldn’t have needed to run away. Instead I ruined everything: my relationship with my parents, with our friends, with our town. Andrew tried to stay, but in the end I lost him, too.” I shiver. It’s the first time that I admit it out loud, and it’s like something has broken. Words flow up through and out of my throat like a flood that I’m incapable of stopping. “I can’t write anymore because you aren’t here. Since the day you’ve been gone, it’s like I don’t have anything more to give to the world. I stare at the blank page for hours, doing nothing but thinking about that goddamn white t-shirt.” Tears slide along the curve of my cheeks. I wipe away one, and soon after another wets my fingers. I clench my fists and rub them against my eyes. I’m so stupid: squires can’t defeat the dragon. You remain quiet. I disappointed you, I know, like I disappointed everyone else. I won’t blame you if you disappear, too. You’d have every reason to. Cowards don’t deserve even a prayer. “Forcing yourself to forget is useless, Miky.” Your voice is gentle like the caress on my hand. “You must let it go.” “I don’t know if I want to.” “It’d be the right thing to do.” “I don’t care. I want to keep you with me. I want to close my eyes and remember all the good times we spent together. If you go away, I…” My fingers tremble. I have to wind them

around the coffee cup in order not to drown. I breathe and lift my head up again. Your face flutters beyond the wall of tears. “Do you remember our last year of college? Our road trip in Finland? I talk about it, but it’s like I’ve never lived it. I remember the names of the places, but the sounds, the smells and the landscapes are gone. And when I look at the pictures I wonder if that girl is really me.” You stare at me, and I don’t know what else to say. Maybe I said too much. I dab my tears with a tissue and collapse on the chair with my hands under the table, like a little girl who has just been grounded. Speak, I beg you. I know I shouldn’t demand anything from you, but I can’t stand this silence. I need your voice to fill it, and to keep breathing. You’re the only one now who can make me feel alive. “Do you remember the year my father died?” How can I forget? You disappeared for a whole semester. “I had to run away from home to get over my grief, didn’t I? My therapist suggested a different path, but I was hurting too much to wait. So I took my backpack and money, and left. The destination wasn’t important.” Your fingers intertwine with mine and it’s like they fill all my voids. “I slept a bit here and there. I wanted to be alone, didn’t care about comfort. The only company that I could stand was that of booze. I often drank myself to sleep. Then, in the morning I got up, I ate and I started walking.” I put my hand on yours to let you know I’m here. “I walked aimlessly, looking for that reason. I didn’t delude myself by thinking that everything would go back the way it was before, but I wanted to fix myself and my inner clock before going back home and facing life.” During the pause in your breath you close your eyelids halfway, as if you’re enjoying the caress of the wind in your memory. “At the start of summer, I came across a small town in the mountains. I wasn’t sure how long it’d been since my departure. According to my phone five months, but it seemed to me that I’d left home just a few days before. Every time I considered going back, I convinced myself that I wasn’t ready. That night I found shelter under the trees not far from the road. I threw my backpack on the ground and started drinking a beer. There’s nothing I wouldn’t have given to fall asleep, but during the day the rain forced me to stop time and time again, and I’d walked less than I hoped. Inevitably, I found myself thinking of my father. I couldn’t conceive that he was dead. Even though I went to the morgue and saw his corpse with my own eyes, I couldn’t and wouldn’t accept it.” I didn’t know that you were hurting so much. Or maybe I simply forgot. I clench my fingers and interlace them on my legs, near my stomach, where nails of shame dig in even more. Egoistically, I wonder why you haven’t shared your pain with me. Now I know that people aren’t enough if we ourselves are lost. “It’s amazing how many things I could remember. When he took me fishing, his hands next to mine while I put the lure

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Literary Work in the hook, the exaggerated movement of his waist when he showed me how to throw the fishing line. I think he did that on purpose, to make me laugh, y’know. He was the kinda man who couldn’t bear seeing others sad. Some used to say that he was a bit quirky, but I believe they never understood him. I’m ashamed of having thought the same myself sometimes.” You crack a smile and scratch at a spot under your right eye. “Wanna know the weirdest thing? More moments that we spent together came back to me that night than all the other times I spent thinking of him.” I know what you’re talking about. During these five years, I stored away all the fragments of you in my sleepless nights. I only need to close my eyes, and pictures of us pour down from the cracks of my memory like droplets. Drops that turn into a river, a sea, an ocean. When I manage to fall asleep, I fall into a dream. And there, at the bottom made of golden sand, there’s you, waiting for me with your denim jacket, black dress shoes and the nice red tie. You take my hand and we wander aimlessly, talking about us, like we did after church or at lunch at my grandma’s on Sundays. As if time still belonged to us. “I cried that night. I didn’t at the funeral or the wake. I’d heard my mom, shut inside her bedroom, strangling her tears, but I could never do it. And when I stopped, I realized that I was ready.” “Ready for what…?” “For letting time take my father away. This is the meaning of starting to live again, Miky. To forget is a natural process, there’s nothing we can do about that. And it’s alright, ‘cause if we constantly remember how much death is present in our daily life, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the sun.” You grab my hands, and this time there’s a new strength, a vigour which is reflected in the determination of your gaze. “But me, us, we won’t disappear, ever. Only the little things will remain, those things that warm your heart when it rains and it’s cold outside.” “I don’t want to lose you…” “I’ll always be here, Miky. Like when you chuck a diary away in a box and find it again years later. Wherever you decide to put me, I’ll wait for you. And when you’re happy, you’ll only need to rummage inside you to see me again.” You take my face in your hands and put your forehead against mine. The customers at the counter resemble shadows, the music white noise. The pitter-patter of the rain fills my ears. It feels like I’m outside with you, wrapped in the same scarf, with our hair flat on our cheeks and the umbrella over us like a frame. We’re you and me once again, and the world a spectator. “I love you…” I whisper. “I love you, too.” A kiss on the nose. Our ‘See you tomorrow.’ You lean back and stand up, putting your imp-like red beanie on your head. “Gotta go now. See you there?” “Yeah… Yes.” I sniff and take a deep breath to pull myself together. “I’ll go and wash my face. I’ll be back in a minute.” I stride towards the bathroom. I look at myself in the mirror. My eyes are red, the lipstick has faded and the foundation has melted. I’m the very picture of a disaster, yet I feel better. I

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grab a few tissues and wipe away what is left of my make-up before exiting. You’re already gone, obviously. My wristwatch says it’s 2:17pm. “Are you alright, Miss?” The waitress’ voice surprises me from behind. I turn around and nod. “Don’t worry.” “Are you sure? I could bring you a glass of water if you wish.” “It isn’t necessary, really. Rather, could you give me a lid for the coffee?” She glances at our table. Your cup is still there, full. A ribbon of smoke thins upwards. “I could put it in a bag if you want. At least it won’t get wet.” I go to the cashier, pay and exit. Outside the drops are so many that they resemble a solid and viscous wall. As soon as I get into the car, I open the glovebox. I leaf through all the CDs until I find the one I was looking for. The tune of I wish you were here wafts through the air inside the car. I stopped listening to Pink Floyd, and now, for the first time in five years, my eyes don’t get misty. My heart aches, yes, but for that it’ll take longer. I turn on the engine and leave. I stop in front of the cemetery at 2:30pm. I enter with small steps, the umbrella in one hand and the coffee bag in the other. I walk with my head held high until I see your profile in the distance. I stop before you. Alexander James Freeman 1994 – 2015 I take out your coffee and put it beneath your photo. You’re wearing your favorite t-shirt, the white one of Pink Floyd with the prism stamp on the front. You had it on even when you died in the car crash. No matter how much your mother tried, she could never wash away the bloodstains. “Sorry if I made you wait for so long,” I whisper and hold the umbrella tight to my chest, over the golden pendant. I breathe in the smell of rain. I hold it in my nose and feel it spreading into my lungs. I’ve forgotten how good it could be. “I know that our coffee break has passed, but I want to talk some more with you. I’ve got so many things to tell you.” You don’t answer, naturally, but it doesn’t matter. I know that you’re listening. That is what you always did best. I smile, and I let the sun in.

Veronica De Simone (Milan, 1994) graduated in Biology at Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca and now is studying to become a nutritionist. A writer since 2013, in 2018 she directed “Oltre le Nebbie del Tempo”, an illustrated anthology to raise funds for charity. Her short stories are featured in various anthologies, such as “Guerriere” (Le Mezzelane, 2019), and “Prisma vol. 2” (Moscabianca Edizioni, 2020), and have been shortlisted in contests, such as Urania Short 2021 (Mondadori). In 2022 she published a novella, “I fiori di Yggrdrasill” (Moscabianca Edizioni).


Fiction

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darrenwhi

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Featured Author Poetry

My favourite shape is a circle IZASKUN DÍAZ I’m stuck between the people to my left and to my right. Squished by the crowd, they keep lifting me off the ground and there’s too many of them and I’m too skinny and weak to get hold of my feet and get them to stay where they were at the start. I can’t hear myself think in this house. Are the walls really that thin? I swear I had a million things to say about where people keep putting my fucking feet Taken off the ground on a plane then dropped on the concrete from high enough to sprain my ankle and too quick for me to even see where I am See if the sky is supposed to be blue then Why has it always been gray? If my skin is olive then why has it always looked birch? Do you understand? Because for you, skies are not intermittent and words aren’t anything that stands in your way. For you, words fall where you want them to. You lead the way and they build your path and you think about them like a fish thinks about water. But I had to notice when you were next to me swimming upstream that

if you’re a salmon then I’m a frog And when I want to search for the words or the phrases or the adjectives i have to skim los verbos adverbios palabras I don’t know if they’re there aquí refrán redewendung disant and I haven’t even stood up yet. I haven’t even stepped outside I’ve been sitting here since you were by my side and there’s been hundreds of others and I’m still sitting where I have to start I continue to be surprised every time that my pillow can’t soak up all of the red and the sound when I scream in it. And if I break a line through my skin the pain concentrates organized controlled it stings and I’m always surprised that blood might be red when it finally leaks but the red in my head stays inside And there’s a million things that I try And for you, something always seems to work But I can’t make a move without breaking a glass with my heel or hitting a domino with the back of my hair or falling by accident down the stairs and nothing ever fits the way you want it to unless it’s a square but my favorite shape is a circle

Izaskun Diaz is a young Spanish girl living in an old German neighborhood. She thinks, dreams, and writes in English because she grew up outside of Spain. She has recently graduated from an international school in Hamburg. She is 18 years old, and plans to study English literature at university. Her passions are music, literature, and people.

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FeaturedWork Author Literary

lilun

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Poetry

ExCommunicated The Futile Battle of Acknowledged Growth SARIA ADAMS Lack of Being Seen, or Heard And Everything in between with Words Is my True Bane, Ultimate Hurt, Pang Elevated Heart Retreated Psyche Truth Dismissed Feelings of Going Insane Ex-Communicated Though I know my Truth I Am Sane! Just not Plain, Pyrasphere Knowledge Obtained Growth Gained Infinite Lives Ingrained Miscalculations through Humanity’s Existence Out of the Fear the Grow Unknownst to The Know They Create the Hate of their Realities Plane Cause and Effect Attracting Not but All that’s Lower, Inane

Stephanie Adams has been into writing verses since she was 10 years old. Now 31, she has maintained her writing and has won several contests online within her city. She uploads almost every single poem she has on Poetizer, an app that she sees as a platform for her to show what she’s passionate about. Artistic by nature, she plans to translate her writing into music of which she has tracks ready.

Though to Walk in Technicolor Will let your True Colours Show Auric Vibrance Through the Balance in Love See how bright you’ll Glow In Harmony with Gaia In Unity With Flow from Above Ask and See, Through Lens of Mind They will Help you Balance All Energy If you Walk in Unification, in Trine Of Body, Psyche, and Spirituality Finding Your Truth from the Middle Path Of Gaia, Godhead, and Inner Divine

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Literary Work

Seekers Be Free SARIA ADAMS

Clear my Mind Chrono coming, It’s my Time Destiny unfurled, Got to stay in Trine Feelings surging, Energies emerging Calibrating Vibrations as High as Divine Forever to change, More to go and gain Zen in body, mind, and brain Confusing those who I try to tame Filling all with beautiful design Creation is within my grasp Reality to fix the past All I do, I start anew To chase my dreams, without further ado

What can I do to get through to you? Planting seeds seem to not hold, but few Realization must come to a head The time was past Now passed again Change your ways, find the path Soar high, and stay, with nothing left Projections reflect your real perception Not to blame for insecure conceptions Must I leave for you to see All the Gods have opened to me? I just want us, if it must be romanben

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Poetry Fiction

I’ve let go, so we can both be free I’ll wait forever, I’ll be here My love for you grows stronger We must face our fear Detach the material, hold back tears This is the end, I’ll be fine my dear Just got to conquer yourself, your actions Your reality can be clear Fate redeemed, but naught Fall due to ignorance you sought Solidify all that is to be Past was missed, now it will come in triplicity

Three by three, and I’ll be free Why can’t you take my hand? Be free with me? We could conquer our Opposers Vanquish ones who rule Take the seats at the heads of men To show the way, and give the tools The world can prosper, We can thrive Gaia to be forever strong and alive What can’t you see? All will come to Be? Focus your energy on positivity Dreams to come true Seekers to solve all life’s Mysteries

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Literary Work

Nigh SARIA ADAMS

Harmony must be Sought Seeds of Life Force Will not Grow If Not Be Weary of Output Love All to See, Through Unconditional Divinity Love Dances With Chaos Behind Fiery Reveries Find Truths for You to Prove to Creation You’re Worthy of SourceFlow And Gaias’ Sheltering Safety due to Elevated Vibrations Accept the Old Love all in Past

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Chaos Must Thrive in Knowing Growth in Pain From Psyche, Soul Negatively Constructing My Trials and Tribulations Strength in Self Balancing Reinforcements of the Psyche Integrate All Frequencies Encompassing your Reality Your Knowledge in All to Be the Foundations you move Your Truth to Build as you Progress and Improve Must Integrate for Maximum effect on Healing Spiritually Metaphysically Unification in Harmony, Serenity, and Trinity Truth Within for your Hand in Destiny Love All of You for You You’re Divinely Perfect Through and Through No Matter what Anyone Says or They Do Haters are Gonna Hate Competitors Will Negate and Subjugate your truth


Poetry Fiction

borojoint

All Govern Themselves None Are to Subjugate or Force Subservient need Not Equate or Show Course For If Balance, Equality Is to be Stricken from Man War Would Never Cease Loving Notions Decrease Megalomaniacs would Lie in All Corners Hate Would Increase Disharmonious Frequencies would Destroy, Decay And Energetically Release Lower State would Not flow, Must find Peace Leading to Anger, Fear, Hateful Prana Bubbles of Negativity, All need to let Go In Order to Unify the Solidified Energies of Positivity and Peace For Gaia to Harmoniously Grow

Cause and Effect, Karmic Law Mindful of Energy Creation Intent to be Sent Grounding, Cleanse. Mom and Dad want their Light Children To Flow and Help on their Behest Bending Vibrations of Love Quickest Vibes in the End Transmuted from Source Base, Neutrality To Defend All Earth, Humanity, All Creations Through Force/Love we Send Energetic vibrations Healing all that Enclose in it’s Match Either Through Mother Gaia, Spiritual Self, Dad/GodHead

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Literary Work

Ambrosia KYLE HILSEY

As the crimson light beckons the moon, it peers between lax branches atop my canopy. Listening to suburban pilgrims journeying with no mark nor destination, Entering their life’s monologue for but a moment to gain wisdom of the world around. The sun’s kiss greets me in a somber wave of utter ecstasy. No means of discontent or worries take a seat upon the table. Alone but no woeful words await upon the inkwell. This pen shall converse with delight and pleasure. Memories of lost loves or regret will not breach the vaporous barricade. Yearning exclaims of sorrow dissipate through tranquil smog. Fruitful fumes engulf this cocoon serenaded to the sounds of mockingbirds. Entranced by the prism of my glass counterpart, He fills me once again with tasteful conversation that cannot be heard, only savored with sighs of utter contentment. Dialogue is one of thought, only interrupted by passerby’s exclamations. Through the clouds, words of Coleridge overtake me and dream of the wondrous Xanadu. Is this the entrance to pierce the smoke-covered veil? To slip into the romantic chasm and drink the milk of paradise.

Kyle Hilsey is a poet and playwright from Delaware County, PA. With his previous works appearing in Inkwell Magazine, Two Sentence Horror Stories, Digital Dealer Conference, and The Tri-State Theatre Festival. He hides his love of poetry behind skull tattoos and pinups, and appreciates the written word for masking his “delco” accent. He is currently in the works of completing his first chapbook, “Written Jukebox”.

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Poetry Fiction

kocastock

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ursula1964

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Poetry

Response to Frost KYLE HILSEY

As the path continues on through the twists and bends, we call life,

Separated. Uncertainty,

Searching on past the stops and delays that prevent momentum. Following no destination just the hopes of the one instantaneous moment that it may intersect, With the beautiful merge praying that the path shall widen and journey on in harmony. They find themselves miles ahead feeling that a stronger bond will arrive with an addition, As the path widens, they yield off to take new roles as providers and nurturers, Focusing all concern on their new partner in this journey. As the path strides ahead, the young road begins to part ways, In its own search for crossroads.

The path they once formed has been cracked and weathered by the stages of life Is it easier to follow separate paths? Could this broken road be saved by the love they once had or have the damages to this path been too much? Will their bond ever be the same? Do they even wish to journey on or even care of what they once had? Is the real road less traveled the one that leads back to this loving crossroad?

Now that the two roles have finished, they find themselves once again

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Literary Work

kwanggallery

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Poetry Fiction

An Irrelevant Fear KYLE HILSEY

I have to be honest with myself, I am afraid of comedians No, this isn’t some bullshit phobia. Fear derives from understanding and relating. Audiences can’t connect. Only seeing shallow hilarity, But when the laughter ends being met with shock and sympathy. That’s where it rings true for me. It can be hard for people to understand, Tragedy and comedy are two faces of the same mask. Weighted thoughts of sadness become a siren’s call Too irresistible to resist. We fear showing that side to isolate us even more. Let’s be honest sad sacks are never the life of the party. So, we resort keeping the upbeat and hysterical façade. For a fleeting moment this masks the muffled Cries of that all too familiar serenade. Yet as my kin succumb to the beckons Feels we are playing a stacked game Where no one has footing to become Atlas. Sympathy and empathy are a fool’s solution, But everyone offers it as a last resort. I need to find a way to deafen the maestro, Or I fear I shall too take my final bow with this reprise.

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Literary Work

One Giant Leap Matt Surface

You know, you’re about the fiftieth person who’s asked me that. About how it felt. It’s a special form of madness you all have, asking the same question, expecting a different response. The closest I can think of is when you’re napping in the middle of the day. The kind when it’s just after work, you’ve got a while before dinner, and what the hell kind of hurt is a little shuteye gonna do? Then BOOM, you wake up three hours later, shit scared, and feeling the closest to a pile of garbage a man can get. If you want to know, if you need to know, that’s the best I got. Shit, how would you feel? Dozing through a whole ten years of your life? One moment you’re at your son’s little league game, jumping up and down with his twin sister in the stands, and the next you’re staring down a foul ball

screaming toward your head? Fast-forward a decade, and you’re in a hospital, you don’t know left from right, and your two kids, your babies, ain’t fucking babies no more, not to mention your wife’s got another man’s rock on the finger where yours used to be, because who the hell comes out of a ten-year coma lucid, let alone living? Now just how would that sit with you, doc? You wanna know how it felt? Like waking into a fucking nightmare. Everyone’s so happy, so glad that daddy’s back in action, returned from vegetable-death-limbo, and God must I be just thrilled to live and tell the tale? But I’m not, okay?! I’m just fucking not. Do you know what it’s like to lose your family? I don’t mean it literally, of course, but you gotta understand doc, they’re not the same people. My kids couldn’t even do long division and now they’re grown. Drinking age. Shit, they could up and join the armed forces if it tickled their fancies. Imagine, my son didn’t know his ass from his elbow and now he’s studying law at one of the top universities in the state. And my daughter, God bless her, she only cared about boy-bands and bubble tea, and now she’s shacked up with some scrawny fucker in a punk band who couldn’t look you in the eyes unless you taped a pair of joints to them. Say what you want, run all the genetic tests you’ve got in this fluorescent dungeon, but I’m telling you, those ain’t my kids.

cassettebleue

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Fiction And I don’t give a damn that Gail remarried. Hell, if she’d had her lights put out like I did mine, I’d probably have done the same in half the time. I don’t even care that the fucker looks just like me, living my life in my house, raising my kids, or whoever the fuck they are. I just don’t, so don’t think I do. I know it’s you who sent the shrink, but don’t think I need one for that. No sir.

Can’t you bring me back, doc? For Christ’s sake, the cars drive themselves, have they not managed time travel yet? Are you leaving? Well, that’s fine. Tell me, can you smoke in hospitals again? No?

But for the love of Christ, you gotta help me out, doc. I’m drowning here. It’s not just them, it’s the world. I read this article yesterday by some geezer bitching about people being glued to their phones, but how can you blame them? Those things do fucking everything! Shit, if I could watch the game, pay my bills, download porn and film myself doing it in 5 minutes, then what the hell do I need anything else for? For what it’s worth, doc, I appreciate what you’re doing here. The whole keeping me afloat, life is precious shtick. I get it. But ten years of life support, it isn’t peanuts. Who the fuck is gonna pay for that? It sure ain’t me. It sure as shit ain’t Kid Vicious the daughter-fucking wonder, either. Not a chance. I don’t even wanna see the bill, you’d need a whole wing of shrinks to get me through that one.

Sweet Jesus, I hate it here.

Matt Surface was born in Brooklyn, New York and works in the fields of healthcare and biomedical research. He has published several manuscripts in scientific journals, as well as opinion essays in the New York Daily News, and Welcome2theBronx, the largest independent blog and news site in The Bronx.

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Literary Work

Cimmerian Shade SYEDA ANIKA MANSUR

Sun shines in full bloom after days of staying gloom. Trees have stretched from their melancholic days, they sway amidst the sweet breeze that too was silent for days. Down by the Forlorn Lake: lovers, kids, elders; all join in happy parades abandoning their towers of sorrows so soon. Perhaps the lake should be renamed, Even the birds burst out in melodies of Euphrosyne, forgetting monodies of Oizys. After the uninvited Winter’s dreadful gifts, Nature is in a waltz with Spring. The Sun, the Trees, the Forlorn Lake, lovers and kids the elders, the birds, Nature, and Spring all have healed from their sorrows indeed; for they lost a devoted friend, only. Yet, I remain the same even after days I live in my dolorous state. Life has taken an eternal cimmerian shade all my happiness now wanders cloaked in venta black. For I lost the one who kept me safe for nine months inside; showed me the world through her loving eyes. For two hundred and eighty more, to guide me through with symphonies of resilience, and to teach me all that was under and beyond the limitless horizon.

Born and brought up in the beautiful landscapes of Bangladesh, Syeda Anika Mansur is doing her MA in English. Her heart finds solace in poetry, painting, and nature. Her poems have appeared in In Parentheses, Shabdaguchha, Wingless Dreamer, and Poets Choice. You can find her on Instagram at @hearthacker_anika

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Poetry Fiction

kirilart

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Poetry

Gray

SYEDA ANIKA MANSUR I travel through gray lanes gray skies over gray walls gray dew drops on gray grass, gray curtains hung in windows of gray timbers, gray cloths sway in gray air under the gray sun. Gray atmosphere roams these gray streets gray cycles, cars, bikes trapped in the cue of gray traffic lights. Gray leaves fall upon gray lawns nestled upon the gray trees, gray birds sing gray songs. Gray people walk with gray souls gray smiles, gray tears, gray laughs linger in the faces of the children with gray hearts. I rove along this gray town among all the gray sounds, I hear this gray voice say “Oh, what a wonderful blue sky!” Bringing me to realize, this gray-ness all along is only within my gray mind.

giorgiorossi73

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robangel69

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Men Also Cry SYEDA ANIKA MANSUR

People say men don’t cry But I tell them otherwise I saw my father cry, not once But many times. He cried for many things, Without feeling shy. Such as the times when in carriages His daughters in bridal attire passed by; Those were happy tears mixed with gloom inside. And often, when he would bid goodbye With no guarantee to return He would shed silent tears, holding us near Till he went to O.T in time. People say men don’t cry But I tell them otherwise I saw my father cry, When he would silently pray to his Lord at night; And sometimes even during the daytime. He would cry by watching the news: Of people in hunger, dying, tortured Or the times when his mother and sisters died. People say men don’t cry But I tell them otherwise I saw my father cry, When my mother died

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Literary Work

kuco

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Poetry

Cigarette Butterflies JANE WANG

These porcelain cheeks beguile butterflies. I smile demurely at the lady with bird ears blowing cigarette smoke in empty church pews, soot and sin a potent shroud. Smells like steamed egg, splash of black vinegar, like orange medicine before blue death. It was 1997 and my father couldn’t pronounce the word chaos to save his life! That’s ancient history now. In the gleam of everlasting, I am floating by the Rio Grande of queen mother’s tears, still beloved by the second-best. I still dream about the shadow’s faint voice outside my door — baritone with a rasp. Allure the spectral monarch in; the right smile can recall time immemorial.

Jane Wang studied Asian American history at Emory University. She views poetry writing as a medium for exploring her Chinese cultural roots and processing traumatic emotions such as grief. Her other interests also include cooking, bullet journaling, and sudoku. Currently she is a new college graduate preparing to apply for law school.

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Poetry

In the Eye of the Beholder LOUIS EFRON

Head surgically arched back, a Drawbridge peaked Like open arms Adorning a pillow of silky golden Curls A skilled hand delicately prepares to Carve A cherub’s mark from a radiant Canvas Sharp silver puncturing milky Skin A tear of blood rolls up a stained Cheek Filling an obscure oval ruby pool A willing sacrifice Under stark white lights An inspired surgeon Creating a signature work called PERFECTION A gasp for air A heartbeat Ceases A blemish too deeply rooted in the Soul Removed An exchange for life A bladed artist’s Muse So near perfection Cast Aside DEAD In a heavenly body of Perfect beauty

rolffimages

Louis Efron’s writing has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, and over 100 other national and global publications. Several of his new poems will soon be published in POETICA REVIEW, The Orchards Poetry Journal, and Academy of the Heart and Mind. He is also the author of four books, including How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love; Purpose Meets Execution; Beyond the Ink; as well as the children’s book What Kind of Bee Can I Be?

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Literary Work

briste

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Poetry

Beautiful Trees LOUIS EFRON

Petrified roots cemented deep In the rigid jaws of Earth Arms struggling against another storm Fruit and leaves dead yet unfallen Thrust to crack Crack to break Limb to limb, serpentine rain Fills the spaces between Two imposing figures nestled in a wood Crowded with figures and their long shadows One, shades of aged grey and rippled bronze The other, pinkish amber bleeding into raspberry veins Both broad bodies of grit and thirst Stamping tainted legacies into the yielding earth Vying forever for a bit more sunlight, reaching Down through their cracks for where shared roots Lovingly break open the earth

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Literary Work

liyavihola

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Poetry

Oh, Father LOUIS EFRON

Adrift on lamenting clouds, an ephemeral tune A father that no longer answers All doors in this long hallway of doors, closed Shadows flicker in a reflective pool of cancer A father that cannot answer Fingers stretch and slip, an unstoppable ascent to heaven Shadows flicker over the skin like cancer Eyes shut, translucent marbles in the sand Fingers swiftly curling back, recoiling Celluloid faces melt in the fire inside His eyes, lost marbles in the sand A stained vessel descends into earthly dreams Frozen light sealed beneath undying screens Open doors, memorials to intoxicating laughter, bittersweet tears A bright light extinguished under a blanket of glistening mist Floating on lamenting clouds, the briefest tune

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Poetry

Cracked LOUIS EFRON

If I took a hatchet to my skull The matter would be pinkish, white A cotton candied paintbrush swirling Chemical hues on spongy palettes The matter is not black or white or grey Cellophane messengers meandering in, out of folds Stirring chemicals spreading darkened tones Broken junctions too wide for thoughts to leap Tired souls recoating vibrant pigments growing dull Peering out a broken window to gleam purpose Delivering energy to desperate thoughts, empty canvases Severed pathways, a million puzzles forced into disarray Focus fades into a shadowy mosaic of abandoned dreams Dissipating chemicals, churning into spent trays of hope Crooked corridors lead to more and more dead ends If I finally take a hatchet to my skull

romi49

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sval

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Sweet Revenge LOUIS EFRON

Beware of the lollipop man An alluring sugar-coated façade Constructed to tempt the nose delight the eyes seduce the tongue A vengeful treat spun from a child with popped lips like an overripened plum that failed to shield its juicy red flesh from the crushing fist of a schoolyard bully A seed becomes a beautiful flower A boy grows to an able man still entrenched in dirt of the past Wounds that do not heal covered with thick, cracked lipstick highlighting the rot that has taken root below A weekend chemist toiling in a basement laboratory of insidious elixirs producing wonderful flavors, like

Fruit Punch to the Throat Strawberry Flesh Erosion Lemon Lime Interior Coat Cherry Blood Organ Explosion Toxic sweets mounted on arrow-tipped spears positioned to strike the hearts of oppressors through rusty chain link playground fences now lifeless in the cradled arms of parents who unknowingly traded a dollar for most precious life when God turned his back on us Tears falling diluting the dye at the corner of still mouths The Lollipop Man once a boy in a syrup-stained apron picking at little souls with balmy hands like a roadkill occupied vulture attempting to balance the scale of hard, but brittle Injured hearts

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Literary Work

TOP OF THE WORLD Michael Cibeno

May 1989. Based on a true story. (But really, aren’t they all?) I knew I shouldn’t, but my friends could be very convincing. As a sort of pre-graduation celebration, they decided we should ditch school and drive down to the shore. I’m sure it was Emil who came up with the idea. We called him “Katt” on account of his last name, Kattermann. It suited him perfectly because he had a certain feline quality of somehow always getting his way. “C’mon, Mikey,” he purred as I wedged myself into the passenger seat of his cherry red Pontiac Fiero. “It’s too gorgeous a day to be sitting in classes.” I really couldn’t argue with that. We met up with the others in the parking lot of the A&P supermarket. Wayne was already there, leaning against the hood of his silver Mercury LN7. We called him “Dicky” on account of his middle name being Richard. He was sporting his Maverick look with brown leather jacket and aviator sunglasses. A minute later, Todd came screeching in. At six and half feet tall, he possessed no quality that could be described as subtle. Changes by Yes blared from his white Nissan 200SX. As you’ve perhaps ascertained, my friends had in common a penchant for second-rate sports cars. And we all had our nicknames. Todd’s was “Wacky,” which was bestowed after Katt once walked in on him jerking… Well, never mind, you don’t need to hear that. The guys called me “Spanky” (but for reasons totally unrelated to Wacky’s moniker).

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So the four of us headed out of the county and toward the nearest entrance to the Garden State Parkway. I stayed in Katt’s car, while Dicky jumped into Wacky’s. (Dicky wanted to drive, but Wacky complained the LN7 didn’t have enough room for his giraffe legs.) Nowadays, I suspect it’s hard for kids to cut school. It seems every absence triggers a call or text to whomever is listed as next of kin. But back then, I don’t think schools were quite as vigilant. We made it to the beach and Wacky opened up the Nissan’s hatch to reveal a styrofoam cooler filled with a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon (in cans). On account of his size, he was almost always able to buy beer from a local bar whose owner wasn’t overly concerned about checking IDs. A lot of things were different back then. None of us had really eaten breakfast, so the beers went to our heads pretty quickly. We were having a grand old time throwing a Frisbee, and feeling quite superior to all our classmates stuck in a big brick building on this glorious summerlike day. Until the police showed up. Boy, were my parents pissed. The fact that my own dad was a cop didn’t really make things any easier. Well, maybe it did because when the officer who busted us found out who my father was, he called all our parents and no charges were pressed. Still, we had to serve a week of detention at school, and I was grounded for a month. I tried to pass the time reading or figuring out keyboard riffs on my little Casio CZ-101. At about 9PM on a Friday night, I was working on the main riff from Van Halen’s Jump when the phone in my room rang. (I was allowed to have a separate phone line so that I could use the modem on my Commodore 64 without tying up the house’s main line.) “Hallo. Is dis Michael?” I immediately


Fiction recognized the accented voice. Her name was Mariette. She was one of a group of Swedish girls who came to work as au pairs for the summer. I met her just the weekend before at a bonfire party at Katt’s house. I have to say I was smitten from the moment I saw her. The light from the fire reflected off her waist-long blonde hair, and her Nordic silhouette appeared to me like something from a piece of art. She smiled when we made eye contact, and we ended up talking for a while. I had given her my number as a friendly gesture, hoping for more but not really expecting anything. “Hi, Mariette, how are you?” “I’m great! But actually, to tell the truth, I’m a little bit sad because, you know, we are free tonight but we really have nothing to do. Would you like to spend some time, and we do something together?” The cadence of her accent was like singing. It was mesmerizing and I loved the sound of it. “I’m sorry, did you say ‘we’?” “Well, yes, me and Marie.” I remembered she had arrived at the bonfire with an attractive darker haired girl. I also remembered something else in that moment – the fact that I was grounded. And there I was with a chance to go out with two beautiful girls from Europe. That was a pretty

rare opportunity in little Sussex County back in those days. I imagined boasting about it to my friends afterwards. I just couldn’t bring myself to tell this girl that I’d been grounded. She’d surely call someone else who wasn’t under house arrest, and the thought of that was unbearable. “I’ll pick you up in half an hour.” I opened my bedroom door just a crack and peered down the darkened hallway. I could tell the light in my parents’ room was off. Dad had just come off a double shift from work, so they had both gone to bed early. I checked myself quickly in the mirror. Ideally, I would have taken a shower and had a change of clothes. But that would have made too much noise, and anyway the clock was ticking. I arranged my pillows beneath the blanket to sort of appear like a body was in there. (I didn’t have the Ferris Bueller crash test dummy setup, but this would have to do.) I descended the staircase gingerly to the ground floor, making sure to avoid all the creaky spots. Releasing the emergency brake and putting it into neutral, I rolled my powder blue Dodge Colt to the bottom of the driveway, and as far from the house as I could push it before starting it up. This sort of maneuver was one of the benefits of having manual transmission, which my father had not so patiently taught me to drive. I checked my rear view mirror until the house was no longer visible. No lights came on, so I figured my escape had gone undetected. Mariette greeted me when I arrived at the front door of her host family’s house. I was

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Literary Work nervous about my status as an escapee, but her smile made that dissolve. She gave me an unexpected hug and a kiss on the cheek. Her friend, Marie, appeared from behind and asked, “So, where are we going?” That was a good question. My friends were all out on their own dates. (Their parents apparently had not doled out punishments as severe as mine.) I blurted out the only thing that came to mind. “Would you girls like to go see a movie?” The girls looked at each other, tilted their heads slightly, and frowned. “We are feeling very much energy,” explained Mariette. “Maybe a place we can dance, yes?” Discos may abound in Sweden, but the only place to dance on a Friday night in our neck of the woods was a rednecky joint called The Hayloft. I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring the girls there. I thought out loud, “There really isn’t a lot to choose from outside of the city…” The girls lit up. “Ooh, the city! We have not yet seen. Could you take us?” I felt my anxiety return. It was one thing to sneak out of the house to visit a girl fifteen minutes away. Driving into the city was a whole ‘nother ball of wax. My friends and I had been on several occasions, but I’d never done the driving. We didn’t have electronic navigation devices back then, so I knew I’d have to rely on signs and my wits. The rational part of me wanted to tell the girls I’d be happy to escort them into the city some other time, but that this particular evening was not ideal. But they were beaming with excitement, and I didn’t want to be the one to deflate it. And I had this feeling that any chance of getting closer to Mariette hinged upon this moment. “All right, ladies, the city it is.” The drive wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, but I admit I was apprehensive about getting lost. I knew I had to take I-80 East to I-280 East, and then follow the signs for the Holland Tunnel. Sounds easy enough, but I was notorious for getting confused by signs, merging lanes, and all the other variables that were not part of my everyday countryside driving experience. But I did my best to play it cool in front of the girls, who had been chatting away in their native tongue most of the trip. I breathed a sigh of relief when we reached the toll booths for the tunnel, but got jittery again when it spit us out into the city. Thankfully I didn’t have to navigate the busy streets for too long before finding a parking garage. (And thankfully my wallet was stuffed with a sufficient supply of cash from my weekend job bussing tables at a local restaurant.) I pulled up the emergency brake, turned off the car’s engine, and turned to my passengers. “Alright, girls, here we are.”

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They were wide-eyed with excitement as we made our way out to the street. Marie asked, “So, where are we going?” As with the previous time she asked the same question, I really hadn’t a clue. We were all underage, so that severely limited our options. I became annoyed that my “land of the free” had such an unreasonable drinking age. Heck, I didn’t even need to drink – just to take these girls somewhere they could dance and have some fun. Thankfully it was a pleasant evening with lots of people outside. We walked through Greenwich Village where there were street performers breakdancing on large sheets of cardboard, or banging on drum kits fashioned from various sized plastic buckets. Music blared from boomboxes mounted on human shoulders, and the pungent odor of weed occasionally wafted through the air. Now and then I wondered if anyone at home had discovered my absence. But at that moment I figured it was worth it – even if I got grounded for another month. We walked through Washington Square Park and made our way down to Little Italy. Good thing the girls were wearing comfortable shoes. I figured they might like to get a cup of coffee. That seemed like a European thing to do, even this late in the evening. We found a little place with tables set up outside, so we stopped and each had an espresso with a cannoli. Then we continued down to Chinatown, which I thought the girls might find interesting. The streets there were fairly quiet but we could see through windows that the dim sum restaurants were still bustling. We’d covered a lot of ground, and I was about to ask the girls if they’d like to get a cab back to the car. Mariette looked up and pointed at something in the distance. I immediately saw what had grabbed her attention. “Pretty tall, aren’t they?” Though I’d seen them many times before, they never failed to impress me. “You want to get a closer look?” The girls both nodded with blue eyes wide. Though the buildings appeared close, they were actually several blocks away, and it took a while to reach them. When we finally did, we stood at the base of one and looked straight up. The tower was so tall that it created the dizzying illusion of arcing out over you. Marie actually stumbled backward a step. I reached out to catch her. Mariette laughed and said, “Oh, the view from up there must be amazing! Is it possible to go up?” “Well,” I answered, “normally it would be.” I looked at my watch and saw that it was nearly 2AM. “But the observation deck closed hours ago.” Then an idea occurred to me. I led the girls to one of the adjacent buildings, known simply as “5 World Trade Center.” When I’d snuck out of my room five hours earlier, this was perhaps the last place I thought I’d


Fiction wind up. It was where my father worked. The Port Authority police desk was located in the basement of the building. I understood that word would get back to my father that I’d been here. I approached the desk with polite caution and addressed the officer with three stripes on his sleeve. “Hello, sergeant, I’m Michael Boyer, Lieutenant Boyer’s son and….” He looked up from his paper. “You’re Boyer’s kid? You’re not looking for your old man, are you?” “No, I know he’s not on duty. I just, well, these girls are visiting from Sweden and…” A couple of other nearby officers stopped whatever they were doing to check out my companions. “I know it’s closed, but they really wanted to see the view from up top, and I was hoping…” “No problem, kid. Hang on a sec.” He grabbed a big walkie talkie and said something into it. A crackle came back followed by a tinny voice. A minute later, another officer carrying a large ring of keys appeared. He motioned for us to follow him, and led us back outside the building toward the South Tower. He unlocked one of the thick glass and metal doors and let us inside. “We’re gonna use the service elevator,” he explained, as if it made any difference to us. At this point, the girls were rather giddy. They understood that we were receiving some special treatment. I must admit, though I was trying not to show it, I felt like a big shot. Sometimes having a cop for a dad was a pain. But sometimes it did have its benefits. The elevator shot up and we could feel that it was moving fast. The girls put their hands to their tummies and giggled – all the way up the 110th floor. The officer, who had been quite reserved up to that point, gave a playful smile, leaned toward me, and said softly with a wink, “Nice job, kid.” We reached the top and the doors slid open. The officer pulled a cigarette from his shirt pocket and said, “I’m gonna hang out here. You guys go ahead and enjoy the view.”

One of the girls shouted to be heard over the roar of the wind, “Oh, goodness, it is so beautiful!” They were holding hands and jumping around in circles. (They looked like little kids, but for the bouncing of their ample bosoms.) The sky was clear and, up here above the glow of the city, we could clearly see the clusters of stars against the canvas of night. A jetliner flew by and I could easily read the markings on its fin and fuselage. Down below, lights of traffic twinkled and danced while, upon the water, the oxidized copper green lady with the thorny crown and raised torch kept her perpetual vigil. I felt something press against me from behind. I turned my head and saw it was Mariette, who had wrapped her arms around my waist. Her body felt warm and soft, and I savored the sensation for several moments before turning to face her. Without hesitation or awkwardness, she kissed me. We stood there and held each other for a while. At one point, I thought I felt the building sway slightly. I remembered my dad once told me skyscrapers were designed to do that. I thought that perhaps, in some ways, I was like those towers. Though the winds of life and change might cause me to reel and falter at times, I would never collapse as long as I stood firm upon my foundations. Marie appeared from around the corner. “Hey, are you two lovers going to stay up here all night?” The three of us then proceeded to run around the perimeter of the roof like little kids on a playground. It felt like the joy of those moments would last forever.

Michael Thomas Cibeno is a language educator who formerly lived in Japan, and now resides in northwest New Jersey. His first novel, Masaru, is currently available, and he is now working on a collection of short stories from the 1980s.

As we walked out onto the terrace, the winds slapped at us from all directions. The girls’ long hair whipped about, and the sleeves of their blouses billowed. Even with the protective barrier all around the roof’s edge, still I felt a need to grab hold of something, as though the wind might lift us up and carry us out into the abyss. I recalled a story I’d once heard about how a coin tossed from up there would supposedly land with enough force to kill some poor unsuspecting passersby below. Someone had also once told me that, if you were able to jump from the top, the air currents would carry you several city blocks away, or into the Hudson River. That all may have been a bit far-fetched, but from up there anything seemed possible.

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Poetry

Wind Chime JOANNA GEORGE A plunge, a dive, a strike into the hardened core – Tight with the passage of time, A raid through the morning blues An assault by the whimsy wind, scattering the mauve silence into a million possibilities, as the wind chime shook its statued posture from a mere decorative chandelier to spill the first tunes of melody of a welcome note. The first time I saw her, she was wrapped in snowy baby clothes, barely opening her eyes and palms, but those little cheeks flushed red with life The next time she was clothed in some bleached outfit, She closed herself tight to the world, eyes, fist, mouth and everything that made her – closed to the world ……. closed tight as a period to a sentence. It was during the in between periods of two years, the cerulean blue separating dusk and dawn, the color of her favorite dress that mom still preserves, where she opened her arms to let me, hold her to let me, hold her joy, while she kicked away my sorrows - my baby sister; She dribbled a pinch of her smile Her first one for me while pointing her tiny fingers to the wind chime, a bitter sweet memory that will go on reverberating on the front porch with every wind ransacking the threads of my wind chime.

Joanna George writes from Pondicherry, India, recently her poems were short-listed for the Isele Poetry Prize. Her works appear or are forthcoming in Parentheses Journal, Hennepin Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Honey Literary, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, West Trestle Review, Epoch Press, and others. She tweets @j_leaseofhope.

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Poetry

Petals JOANNA GEORGE

When the therapist asks me of the white sheet covering her face like the fluffy clouds suddenly over a bright noon sun, bringing in a shade of gloom over, I think of the colorful petals from her infanthood now filling the wooden casket – bridging the space between death and life, those petals as if spun on a color ring at the speed of light, transforming into a blind whiteness, lying like a margin around her petite figure, cuffing her body still from lifelessness never letting her to schools and books, colorless, lifeless bleached and placid suddenly like her….around her… on her…. petals she will never pick up for decorating the ten circles of our traditional attapookalam on harvest festival as she herself had already become the lamp at the center of the pookalam surrounded by circles and circles of petals My little sister on her way to the grave.

borojoint

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Poetry

I’m Sorry JOANNA GEORGE

I’m sorry my house is on fire and I live in it, I didn’t notice your text messages or missed calls. I’m sorry I was drinking this poison and trying to think a way to kill it, that I forgot you might be waiting, I’m sorry I look forward to cooking, despite the poison in me – a hope that my family will make it to lunch. I’m sorry that I came to you, leaning onto you whenever possible – for a slight whisper of hope in my vacuumed chambers of life that cultured itself to hold only silence in every space and matter; But I’m deeply sorry I didn’t notice you suffocating in my breathlessness, See? there is a lot of oxygen burning down my glass house, that we have very little left in our lungs. I’m sorry I can’t reach to you at times when I’m drowning in this fire, becoming it. And I’m sorry that I become this distant nebula – holding dust, gas and everything you find in a fire, while you keep waiting for me to collapse back into the star you always loved. But I’m not sorry that I can’t always be her, your exciting lover, there are times, I become the asbestos of my house, tolerating the fires of my father’s addiction from turning my home into stumps of sober ash.

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FEELINGS OF THE FLOWERS Megan Luebberman

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Tiny Bluets, content in their being. A delicate strength, Everlasting in the woods. After a strenuous journey up the trail, Ruby was near collapse from exhaustion. Her legs shook, the achiness finally kicked in and the stitch in her side pinched. She hadn’t come here in twelve years. Taking the trip in the distant past as a hyper, enthusiastic child was easier. Last one over the hill loses– Yet, the view from the very top was still worth it. Ruby


Fiction

sunnyunivers

stopped short and gazed out. Seeing the wide, grassy meadow laying out down below returned her breath to her all at once. Tiny, tight clusters of soft blue were scattered throughout the wispy greenery. Let’s roll down the hill and land in the fluffy flowers! Ruby had not been back to this spot in what seemed like a lifetime, but it hadn’t changed. The semi-shady clearing was encircled by the same thick trees that watched over everything, acting as guardians to the sacred land. The wildflowers danced in the untamed grass as a slight breeze picked up every so often. The distinct, yet muted color of the bluets brought back the most nostalgia.

They’re so cute and tiny! They look like little butterflies… Ruby’s tired legs carried her down into the clearing, the soreness completely forgotten. The soft ground bent under the weight of her heavy trodden steps, but she didn’t notice how the earth hugged her feet. She was focused on the bluets poking out from the patches of reindeer moss, subtle but boldly standing tall. They seemed to be flashing her smiles with their distinctive, pale yellow centers. I can make you a crown out of them! Sit still while I measure your head. When she reached the first large patch of bluets, Ruby sank to her knees. She rubbed the soft petals in between her fingers slowly. Mud soaked into her jeans where her knees pressed into the dirt. I know mom might get upset about dirtying my dress, but it’s totally worth it! Ruby turned around slowly on her knees, and then laid down among the flowers as her sister liked to do. The petite bluets surrounded her head, a few stroking her cheek when she turned over to look at them directly. More recent memories flooded in. I have to go now. The plane is leaving shortly. Ruby pressed down the flowers flatly with the palm of her hand, then removed it. The bluets sprung up again, unbothered. This mission field could be dangerous. Yes that’s true, but…. She repositioned her head among the flowers, using the clumps of moss as a pillow. It wasn’t the comfiest, but it worked. The light blue sky spanned out infinitely above her. There’s people out there who need my help. Ruby felt as if she was a flower herself for a moment, tucked away in one small, anonymous meadow. I’ll keep in touch, writing to you every month. The flowers were never bothered way out here. Go back there, where we used to play. The last letter she’d received had talked about their childhood adventures, frolicking in the forest. Speak to the little blues for me, Ruby. Ruby turned away from the all-encompassing sky, to the bluets once more. She sighed, then slowly closed her eyes in acceptance. When she opened them again, Ruby whispered with a soft smile “My sister says hello.” The flowers bowed in the wind as a response. The shade of the trees kept the wind cool and refreshing. The bluets would always be there to remember them, passing on the story of two girls in murmurs across the woodlands. This she was certain of, because, after everyone was gone, the flowers would still have memories of it all, forever.

Megan Luebberman is currently an English major, with an emphasis in creative writing, attenging Vanguard University. Her favorite genres to write in are fantasy and science fiction. One day, she hopes to publish her own books in order to inspire and spark the imagination of others. In her free time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her calico cat named Allie.

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Dreaming of Canada LEAH MUELLER

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Fiction

Y

ou are thirteen and live with your parents in a large gray house on the corner of Niles and Pinzon. Your home holds secrets in every crevice. Its beveled glass windows are half hidden by oak trees. No one knows what goes on inside. Tuscola, Illinois resembles a scene from a Norman Rockwell print, only more sinister. You escape from home whenever possible and speed through the streets on your bicycle. Each building exudes malevolence. At any moment, someone might emerge and taunt you. At least you can outrun them. Your social studies teacher has given you an assignment: pretend you’re going to Canada in a car with unlimited gasoline. Otherwise, you own nothing. You have a $500 allowance, which you must use to purchase everything you need—a tent, sleeping bag, frying pans, silverware, food, and clothing. It’s 1972, so these items are cheap. Still, you need to budget carefully and write an essay about your experience, itemizing all expenses. You peer at Sunday ads in the local newspaper, taking voluminous notes. Though you’ve never been to Canada, you imagine an exotic, tree-covered land, full of polite citizens. Nothing like Tuscola, with its drab cornfields and malevolent teenagers. You fantasize about canned pineapple and new blue jeans. Three pairs for ten dollars. Could you afford a camp stove, or would firewood and matches be sufficient? What about a fishing pole? You pedal your bike towards Route 36, dreaming of escape. A small white building on the corner serves as your turnaround point. The place stood vacant for years, but today it bustles with activity. Two men are hauling boxes of fruit inside. Fresh bananas, oranges, even a pile of mangoes. You wonder what it would cost to purchase fruit for your imaginary excursion. Couldn’t hurt to ask. As you draw closer, you notice the men’s matching red hair and pale, freckled skin. Identical twins! They introduce themselves as Larry and Don. When you mention your assignment, they look thrilled. For the next two weeks, you visit the fruit store every day. Larry and Don answer your questions and listen patiently as you complain about your classmates. “I don’t see why anyone would be mean to a nice girl like you,” Larry says. Your mother is suspicious of your new friends. You expect her to punish you for spending time at the fruit store, but she just shakes her head and says, “I don’t like it.” When you explain your assignment, she reluctantly complies. You finally complete your paper and head to the fruit store to share the good news. After you pedal to the window and peer inside, you notice the interior is barren, vacant. Every piece of fruit has vanished. An empty pop can sits alone on a counter, like someone drank it fast and disappeared. A couple of upended boxes remain on the dusty floor. Larry and Don have left like thieves in the night. The feeling of betrayal is so intense that it makes you dizzy. You go home, retreat to your bedroom, and cry for an hour. Your mother demands to know the reason for your distress. You have no choice but to tell her. “Good,” she says. “There was something really creepy about those two men.”

You wonder how she could possibly know, since she never showed any interest in meeting them. Your mother spends all her time in the house, corralling your unruly siblings and dodging blows from your stepfather. “There’s something really creepy about our entire household,” you snap. For once, your mother has no reply. The teacher gives you an A-plus. He is so taken with your essay that he reads it aloud to the class. Afterwards, the kids hate you more than ever. You don’t really care because you know they’re idiots. You wish Don and Larry were around. They’d be so proud of you. Four years later, your parents sell the house and move to a smaller town. Your new classmates are even worse than the kids in Tuscola. You do manage to make one friend. Pat smokes Kools and drives a 10-year-old Mustang. She’s not a deep thinker, but at least she likes you. The two of you spend Saturday afternoons on the road, driving between towns. You love to look at old farmhouses and imagine who lives there. One afternoon, you spot a man with a blue pickup truck, selling watermelons by the side of the road. Pat doesn’t want to stop, but you insist. She screeches to a halt, and you run over. With a shock, you recognize the man’s red hair and ruddy complexion. You don’t know if you’re looking at Larry or Don, but it hardly matters. His face breaks into a crooked grin. “Well, I’ll be darned,” he drawls. “How have you been?” “Where’s your brother?” You’re almost breathless with excitement. “Larry’s home today. But I’ll tell him you said hello.” You choose a watermelon from the pile and hand him a couple of bucks. It’s the first time you’ve actually paid one of the brothers for their wares. Don grins and stuffs the money into his pocket. “Great to see you again,” he says. “How’d your assignment go?” “Oh, fine.” You wonder if you should ask about his mysterious departure. After a moment, you decide against it. The reason no longer matters. You toss the watermelon into Pat’s back seat. She leans out the window, looking bored as she exhales smoke. Pat can’t sit still for long. The poor girl doesn’t even like the taste of watermelon. You climb into the passenger seat and wave at Don. Pat fires up the engine, and the two of you roar off in a cloud of exhaust. For the first time in weeks, you feel happy. Your watermelon rolls and bounces in the back seat. You can’t wait to get home, cut open the fruit, and feel its juices roll down your chin.

Leah Mueller is the author of ten prose and poetry books. Her work appears in Rattle, Midway Journal, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, etc. It has also been featured in trees, shop windows in Scotland, poetry subscription boxes, and literary dispensers throughout the world. Her flash piece, “Land of Eternal Thirst” will appear in the 2022 edition of Sonder Press’ “Best Small Fictions” anthology. Visit her website at www.leahmueller.org.

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How Should You Heal? VIVIAN MARTINEZ

How does one start on the path to happiness? Is there a formula for this? Is there a one-step way to healing? – The process appears impossible especially at times of sadness. Perhaps, healing begins when a person transforms himself into something other than his or her own sentiments. However, when viewed from a broader viewpoint, the world is a man-made realm of psychodrama that drags you away from its true nature. Time, for example, is one factor that influences the process of healing. The majority of it pushes you to places where light is not shed, attacking weak spots that disrupt your equilibrium; physical, emotional, and mental energy. Firstly, most people equate healing solely with its physical element, ignoring the factors that contribute to it as a whole. Traditionally, this has only been possible because of cultural knowledge. Until recently, recovery was heavily centered on one’s emotional strength and was given the most care, much like asthma or any other dangerous ailment. Knowingly, there are those people who pray while others observe rules, fast or meditate. Though healing has always been linked to one’s faith or belief in something from previous generations, everyone’s path is valid even in ways that provide their own connection to their own god. We must all recognize the fact that everyone has their own manner of approaching god. Parallel to how a patient chooses a doctor who shares his or her own core beliefs. Meanwhile, healing may take its journey in the form of physical feelings. People injure themselves in order to experience a scolding sensation, which makes them be aware of the thoughts that are preventing them from moving forward. Other individuals would go about transforming themselves and see no harm, but our bodies are so intelligent that these sensations would have a significant impact on one’s healing route. Because there are those that see things like this regardless

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of the repercussions. Being able to associate these things would give meaning to the fundamental pillars of emotional sustenance, thus an essential part to feed emotional, physical and mental hunger. Similarly, accepting one’s pain is a necessary step towards recovery. Understanding its fundamental reason is a crucial step for progress. As human beings, we are designed to overcome the hardships that will establish a barrier in the way of our progress. We give a nuance of hope to one’s existence in this way, a method to resuscitate the drowning into deep pain. Healing otherwise does not give you a set of rules to follow, nor tell you to overcome hard situations in this type of way. It does the contrary, it is safe to say that this is on the foundation that directs your own pacing on things and not by means of how it is perceived by other people. It is important that we may be able to break down like a puzzle and enter juggling one’s struggle and break into shattered pieces. It is significant to choose how we clean, HOW WE HEAL. So, HOW SHOULD YOU, WE HEAL? The answer is, no one knows. No one ever dared to know. Because the process makes it a guilty pleasure, it will never be an issue if one may want to take a long peak of it. Indulgence to grit will help you determine your focus on healing and progress thus reclaiming your confidence of overcoming it through time. We should in a way declare how we want to rearm ourselves through putting order on those that allocate a big factor on our own thoughts, will and ideas. The decision of moving forward from something that kept you stagnant for a long period of time may be hard to handle but will be worth it.


Writer and Artist’s Corner Fiction

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Take Time To... SARAH EROY

Take time to breathe, Take time to hurt, Take time to feel other emotions, Take time to process your thoughts, Take time to let your heart be numb, Take time to accept everything, Take time to heal.

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Writer and Artist’s Corner Fiction

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Writer and Artist’s Corner Fiction

Untitled, 2022 SARAH EROY

I will drop everything, Especially the things that don’t serve their purposes anymore, I shed off old pain and negativity, Change is inevitable, A whole new vista is welcome, And raise my glass to fresh ideas, I may lose myself in the process, But I chose how I heal.

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Heal SARAH EROY

Healing isn’t a race, It doesn’t happen overnight, Facing your trauma head-on may be the hardest thing to do— but it is one of the most important ways to heal, It takes courage to be open about your past wounds— Even more so handling them, But what can we do? We just can’t be stuck in the past and repeat the cycle.

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DUNGO Kring Demetrio: DUNGO is a piece inspired by Davey Langit’s song with the same name as it is created as its single cover. The song is about a nourishing love, a love that comforts and helps them grow. I figured that it would be best to portray a version of Thumbelina. Yes, Thumbelina, a woman born out of a flower—and this aspect of the tale seems best to demonstrate that feeling of nourishment and comfort from love.

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Writer and Artist’s Corner Fiction

LENIN IN YELLOW AND BLUE V. Lenin personifies the Russian revolution. Soviet era monuments dot the landscape of the Soviet Republic of Ukraine that achieved independence in the 1990s. Ukraine is currently groaning around the statue of Lenin in his great coat. Here he stands, draped in Ukrainian yellow and blue when the underlying palette is mud.

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Writer and Artist’s Corner Fiction

BAQUEDANO Manuel Jesús Baquedano González was a Chilean senator and military leader and the subject of a massive equestrian statue that rose high above a central plaza in Santiago before its 2021 removal for ‘repairs’.

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An Open Letter to Healing by Max Betonio

Dearest Friend,

Mr. Rogers used to say, “Anything That Is

Hi. How have you been? I hope you’ve been doing

is under our control but we can always make a

well or at least better. You’ve been through quite a bit. The past few years have been difficult.

You’ve been hurt, you’ve been lost, you’re dealing with things and that’s alright. You are a work in progress.

Mention-able, Is Manageable.” Not everything

choice. I know words of comfort might not be the best thing for you right now. Maybe today you have to feel all the negative emotions. I

understand how it feels. The pain might not even fully go away. And that is okay, we’re human.

I understand how everything can get

I think the world often tells us that you have

Sometimes, I ask, “how can we get through today

Maybe you won’t right now, but letting people

overwhelming. It’s both terrifying and dismal. knowing that we’re stuck in an endless loop of

grief and sadness?” We often feel compelled to mask it. But what will become of our pain if

all we did was smile? I think you’ll learn alot

about freedom when you are honest to yourself.

I hope you allow yourself to feel your feelings. Sometimes, what we hear is either the total silence or the loudness of the voices in our

heads. Whatever noise that is. It is important to address it. I haven’t healed fully either.

I think we will always have remnants of our

sadness and our traumas. There’s always a few things I tell myself whenever I feel self-

destructive: you are doing your best, you are

enough, you are not your mistakes, you are not

running out of time, you’re going to make it, and never compare your pain to others.

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to deal with everything alone. You don’t have to. touch your heart is okay. Don’t close yourself off to the world. There’s so many wonderful things in life you still have to experience. There are

so many friends you haven’t met yet. They’ll be there for you, I promise.

Have courage. Have faith. And remember to

forgive yourself too.

All my love,

Your friend


Writer and Artist’s Corner Fiction

Convalescence, derived from the Latin root, valescere, which means to begin to grow strong. Stages of recovery require staying off your feet, as depicted in the illustration, to gradually regain physical and mental stability.

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To-Read-List New Reader Media, a creative marketing firm working in partnership with New Reader Magazine, takes on the challenge of bookmarking emerging voices in the indie publishing world. Presented in no particular order, here’s New Reader Media’s reading list for this quarter of 2022!

My Time JEFFREY GOLLAND While retirement seems the ultimate freedom everyone anticipates after years of hard work, retirees could find the period rather drenched with stress and uneasiness.

The Imaginary and Realistic Perspective, of Alpheaus III: Alpheaus III, Story Gallery ALPHEAUS A BEVANS A touch to the soul, a motivation to the mind. A clever perspective in life, Alpheaus enriches his readers with his book. The Imaginary and Realistic Perspective, of Alpheaus III: Alpheaus III, Story Gallery shares a set of stories each with a unique input that gives its readers a lesson in life to contemplate to.

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Helping you connect with your audience online and beyond.

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Articles inside

Artwork

1min
pages 119-121

Dungo

1min
page 114

Lenin in Yellow and Blue Baquedano

1min
pages 115-117

How Should You Heal?

3min
pages 106-107

Dreaming of Canada

5min
pages 104-105

Feelings of the Flowers

3min
pages 102-103

Coffee Break

21min
pages 50-55

Top Of The World

14min
pages 92-95

Ambrosia Response to Frost An Irrelevant Fear

3min
pages 64-69

Wind Chime Petals I’m sorry

3min
pages 96-101

Ex-Communicated - The Futile Battle of Acknowledged Growth Seekers Be Free

4min
pages 58-63

One Giant Leap

3min
pages 70-71

My Favorite Shape is a Circle

2min
pages 56-57

Lost to Pain

2min
pages 46-49

Spontaneity and Perseverance

26min
pages 14-21

Poetically Pulled for a Purpose

14min
pages 8-13

NPM’22 and the Haiku Hedge

3min
pages 6-7

Featured Bookstores

3min
pages 28-31

Paranoia at Work

30min
pages 36-43

In the Kitchen, After Dyeing My Mother’s Hair

1min
pages 32-33

Anamnesis

1min
pages 34-35

Art About Art Being Destroyed

7min
pages 22-27
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