# 'A Skier in The Land of Dreams' by Irina Tall Novikova
# 'Self-portrait As A Bundle Of Losses, Knotted Up Reasonably As A Guise Of Flowers' & 'Portrait of God as a Missing Dad' by Paul Chuks
# 'Under The Ground' by Mykyta Ryzhykh
# 'Elegy, Three Inches' & 'A Love Poem Might Be Possible' by Robin Kinzer
# 'Almost as much as She wants to see you fly' by Mathew Gostelow
# 'Bilingual' & 'Desperate Measures' by Olivia Burgess
# 'Reece Mews, 1991' & 'Incantation' by Italo Ferrante
# 'The Other Worlds Songs', 'there are wolves in sky and, during the waltz of the hidden, epistolary episodic belles lettres to the shoreline unknown ~' & Four Photographs by Brian Michael Barbeito
# 'Our Chemical Art' by Stephen Orr
# 'Elvis Loses His Cape in the Emergency Room', 'Eco Poem For Jared' & 'Lord, My Problems Are All First World' by Will Schmit
# 'An Iridescent Mood' & 'A Tragedy Shakespeare Forgot to Write' by William Doreski
# 'Two Days in Miami' by Stephanie Young
# 'Monochrome' by Megan Feehley
# 'Coronation of the Damned' by Olivia Grace Viteznik
# 'A Glum Day and Dour' by Chris Dahl
# 'Cherry Blossoms 1, 3 & 4' by Russell Streur
# 'The Quietness of Waiting' by Oladejo Abdullah Feranmi
# 'A Long Walk East' by Corey Bryan
# 'Pasture Statues' by Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi
# 'Let Me Go' by Stephanie Haun
# 'Viaje Inaugural' & 'Things I hope I'll never have to explain to my little sister' by N. L. Rivera
# 'Arrival' & 'Out of Nowhere' by John Grey
Letter From The Editor
The world is welcoming the return of spring once more, as it emerges from the ground with its fistfuls of flowers and the birthing of new life from hedgerow to harbour, days lengthen, the sun lingers a little longer over us, and the nights grow warm in their beds. Our February and March submissions periods absolutely breezed by and we skipped up a bounty of new Spares for our Volume 6 collection.
While submissions have begun to pour in for our forthcoming AI Protest Supplement “ART/ificial” which is set to release this summer to mark our first year anniversary as a publication, I have been quietly watching this edition of Spare Parts Lit emerge and weave itself together out of blank pages and open tabs.
This volume bursts like a garden; a jumble of blossoms, each soft-petalled body unique, each bestowed by its maker with the gift to produce its own fruit. The contributors of Volume 6 offer up a bouquet of rich fantasy, photography, love, anxiety, power, art, pressure, pain, redemption and mystery.
We would ask that readers please be aware that we have one Trigger Warning amongst the pages of this volume, which is signposted ahead of the piece. We believe that discussions must be opened regarding some of the ugly realities of life and in particular the sanctity of consent, but we also recognise that many may need to be given control of when and how they interact with and process these matters.
In all of my letters I have made an attempt to convey the passion and the fulfilment I experience in running and editing this magazine - over the last year it has driven, pushed and powered me through all of life’s unpredictable terrain. I don’t know what the future holds for this publication, nor do I know where the road ahead leads, but I do know that we are going the distance, that Spare Parts Literary will continue to stand for creatives and provide an open platform for their work, and that I will do all in my power to nurture its growth and to encourage and edify this community.
And so, it is once again with boundless joy that I invite you to embark upon your journey through the astounding Spare Parts Literary Volume 6.
(Editor in Chief)
A SKIER IN THE LAND OF DREAMS
By Irina Tall Novikova
Irina Tall (Novikova) is an artist, graphic artist, illustrator. She graduated from the State Academy of Slavic Cultures with a degree in art, and also has a bachelor's degree in design.
The first personal exhibition "My soul is like a wild hawk" (2002) was held in the museum of Maxim Bagdanovich. In her works, she raises themes of ecology, in 2005 she devoted a series of works to the Chernobyl disaster, draws on anti-war topics. The first big series she drew was The Red Book, dedicated to rare and endangered species of animals and birds. Writes fairy tales and poems, illustrates short stories. She draws various fantastic creatures: unicorns, animals with human faces, she especially likes the image of a man - a bird - Siren. In 2020, she took part in Poznań Art Week. Her work has been published in magazines: Gupsophila, Harpy Hybrid Review, Little Literary Living Room and others. In 2022, her short story was included in the collection "The 50 Best Short Stories", and her poem was published in the collection of poetry "The wonders of winter".
SELF-PORTRAIT AS A BUNDLE OF LOSSES,
KNOTTED UP REASONABLY AS A GUISE OF FLOWERS
By Paul Chuks
“My mother forbade us to walk backwards.
that is how the dead walk, she would say.” - Anne Carson.
I try to turn my sins against me with a straight face
but like the lores of mountains are
hidden beneath stones, I leave them under
the nakedness of my skin. This is where unbelief begins;
to chase transgressions up the tree of morality. At the choir
session, three verses are sung in my mother's tongue in an
attempt to church me. This is a story frequent in history
but nobody has ever smiled at it: a boy wakes up
and watches his faith wear away, then he is tethered away from
what can be loved & dropped at the edge of tragedy. What is
morality if not a divine dream of human behaviour?
& what is a dream if not the pleating of two realms
into a pair of shut eyes? life is born, but death is what lingers—
meaning our bodies are formed from hands dipped in
darkness & things not of light have secret attraction, like
the black hole. I wish to God my body a guise of flowers. Is it not how to serve God when our faith is dead? how prayers turn
to wishes & water our tongue in days of sorrow. My love
died in July, what is most painful is that another July is nigh
& my love will die again—even in remembrance. I have found
that ironies are the mathematics of language, because how does
one solve the equation of a thing dying even in its remembrance? that would be walking backwards like the dead & our mother already forbade us.
PORTRAIT OF GOD AS A MISSING DAD
The story goes like this; a boy wakes up from sleep to meet
his mournful mother. He has known her only as the origin of
his being. At school, other kids present the candy their fathers
bought them for lunch. At home, curious to know, he asks; Where is my Dad?
Silence, they say is loud too, but never did
they say the roaring sound above us was its language and it understood thundering down a heart.
This is love unfinished & the boy relates to every tragedy that could trigger a tear. This story
repeats itself when he prays the same prayer for years & there is no
response; when he learned about slavery & wondered where God was;
when his best friend died of something God healed in the bible &
when the headlines kept reporting about bombings. Perhaps one has not lived
if a question has not been echoed back as an answer. To articulate
the silence between himself, God & his father, he says the trauma of silence
should title his biography. If you held
his face & watched his eyes, you'd see
a hologram of him wandering many
stories & if you kissed him, there he'll
stand & rage— telling you
no matter the subject, the question
remains; where is God & my Dad?
Paul Chuks is a songwriter, poet, and storyteller. He is of Igbo descent and resides in Nigeria. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Brittle Paper, Heavy Feather Review, Trampset, Ginosko, and elsewhere. He is a reader at Palette Poetry, Mud Season Review, and The Forge. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s analyzing hip-hop verses or moving his body rhythmically to the songs raving on his roof.
UNDER THE GROUND
By Mykyta Ryzhykh
Рeople sit around
Рeople are sitting inside
light haze in the belly of graceful flowers
this is not a landscape
Mom, Dad, what's the matter with you?
We are like worms we are like worms
We crawl under the ground
Mykyta Ryzhykh is the Winner of the international competition «Art Against Drugs», bronze medalist of the festival Chestnut House, laureate of the literary competition named after Tyutyunnik. Long list of awards Lyceum, Twelve, awards named after Dragomoshchenko.
ELEGY, THREE INCHES
By Robin Kinzer
Lying on the beige stretch of my bedroom carpet
is a mouse curled in on himself. Silent and still,
his pose mimics the dried-out husk of a cicada’s shell.
Tiny dun sweep of fur, I lean closer to check
if he’s still breathing. My fat black cat, long gone,
has likely made a play-thing of him. He did not
stand a chance. The mouse’s breath comes
in uneven gulps. I call two emergency veterinarians.
One is closed, and the other chokes back a laugh
when I say mouse. By the time I’ve made a bed
for the mouse out of tissues and a coffee tin, he
has stopped breathing. A pale cellulose pillow
props up his miniscule head. A stray coffee bean
rests just beneath the limp curl of his tail.
Now he has been taken from me, just as you
were taken from me in this same season,
six winters ago. My cat, guiltless, watches
as I search for a shovel. My feet stick
and stutter as I force them to the frozen ground.
I nestle the mouse’s body deeper into
the coffee tin, and bury him in the cold earth.
A LOVE POEM MIGHT BE POSSIBLE
Kat demands an elegy without drugs.
Try hard to conjure up, but the first date
was crouching on checkered kitchen floor
over thin yellow lines of crushed Adderall.
First kiss, swooned stomach. Believed body
was riding a Ferris wheel, but only after snorting
chalky rows of driver’s license-cut cocaine inside
a filthy bathroom stall smelling of rosewater.
First sex stimulated by oxycodone, tongues
loose and hips looser. Freckled flesh flung over
paper-pale, anodyne glow spread from scalp to sole.
On truly desperate nights, even gluey blue bottles of Nyquil
passed between grasping fists. The morning after, memories
made liquid, the night before an ooze of limbs and laughter.
Kat demands an elegy without drugs.
Says to remember first date again: the purple hair
dye massaged with tender palms into tingling scalp.
The fashion show: vamping in pearls, plaids, feather boas.
Two bodies squeezed into tiny dorm room bed until
five a.m., laughing stomachs sore. Pills long forgotten.
Night of first kiss. Crying in the backseat of a Manhattan
taxi, after wallet and lucky thrift store sweater were stolen.
Head cradled in lap. Fingers tickling across face
like friendly spiders, rope laddered spine unknotting.
Sober, the sugar-spun morning after first sex:
Sunlight filtering through pink sequin curtains,
prism-bursts scattered over bare breasts.
Hesitance gone. Catapulting into kiss.
Then peanut butter pancakes for breakfast.
The truth? A love poem without drugs may be possible.
But not an elegy. Not when worn-out veins finally
found fentanyl, sealing the envelope of suicide note.
Not when regret tries to rewrite every memory, like
undoing the drugs from happy memories might undo
the drug at the end. Might undo the end altogether.
Robin Kinzer is a queer, disabled poet, memoirist, teacher, and editor. Robin has poems and essays published, or forthcoming, in Kissing Dynamite Poetry, Blood Orange Review, fifth wheel press, Delicate Friend, Anti-Heroin Chic, Rooted in Rights, and others. She’s a Poetry Editor for the winnow magazine. She loves glitter, Ferris wheels, vintage fashion, sloths, and radical empathy. She can be found on Twitter at @RobinAKinzer and at www.robinkinzer.com
ALMOST AS MUCH AS SHE WANTS TO SEE YOU FLY
By MaThew GosTelow
I remember when they handed you to me. A blanket-bound bundle, sparkle-dark eyes wide open. A perfect baby girl. I was shocked that something so small could summon feelings so big - bigger than that stuffy room, than the whole hospital. Bigger than the sky. More love than I thought possible. But also fear. Fear that I would hurt you by mistake. Just picking you up felt like an epic journey, an exercise in risky logistics.
Moments after you were born, you kicked one foot free of your blanket cocoon. I couldn’t stop staring at your little toe. The tiniest, curliest, pinkest shrimp I ever saw. I was terrified I’d harm that toe before it even touched the ground. I had cold sweats, imagining it caught on my clothes, twisted unnaturally.
I get that same icy shock right now, thinking of what you’re about to do.
I dreamed last night about getting you ready to walk to school on your own. Do you remember? We did it in stages. I let you take the lead; watching you decide where to turn, when to cross, checking you knew the route and looked both ways. You were sure-footed, careful, confident. Each day I left you a little earlier. First I waved you off at the gates. Then across the road from school. On the corner. At the end of our road. Until eventually we kissed goodbye at home.
That day, watching you step out on your own, there was a lump in my throat; part love, part pride, part fear. Those great big feelings, bundled in your blanket, they never disappeared. They grew bigger with every passing year. Looking back, I realised that process – training you to walk to school – was more for my benefit than yours. It helped me let go, by degrees.
It takes an incredible force to leave Earth’s gravity. The man from the agency explained it to me. He called it ‘escape velocity’. It’s thirty three times the speed of sound - three times faster than a bullet leaving a rifle, he said. The image didn't reassure me. The planet resists, you see. She wants to hold you, keep you safely grounded, almost as much as she wants to see you fly.
He says you’ll be away for almost three years. Nine months in the aluminium belly of that ship, before you land on the surface. You’ll live there, on another world, for a year, experimenting, testing, before you start your journey home. Your feet, that curly toe, will be the first to walk on Mars. That lump is back in my throat, feelings fighting for space inside.
The distance to Mars expands and contracts, he said. When it’s close - just thirty four million miles - we’ll get to talk. But even when our orbits pull us three hundred million miles apart, past radio range, my love and fear and pride are big enough to bridge the void between us.
Mathew Gostelow (he/him) is a dad, husband, and fledgling writer, living in Birmingham, UK. Some days he wakes early and writes strange tales, which have been published by Lucent Dreaming, Janus Literary, Roi Faineant, The Ghastling, Ellipsis, Stanchion, Cutbow Quarterly, voidspace and others. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2022 and has won prizes in contests run by Bag of Bones Press, Bear Creek Gazette, and Beagle North. You can find him on Twitter: @MatGost
By Olivia Burgess
The clock taps her watch: just gone six.
Spices wait in their little jarred globes, music ebbs
and nods along to a bassline I heard a while ago.
There are granite facts in this language, the dialect
of a dissolved stock cube
the flour pot, the sugar jar
the military assort of bowls under the sink. Our most-loved pan
hums and simmers
(garlic, mustard, dill)
and someone will ruffle my hair,
another insists on an apron while I rush for befuddled nonsense.
Thinking of moonlight -
the back door swung for steam -
the stars chatter and bray. Starchy water rises to a crest.
Someone will nick a morsel from the hob, and I will pretend
to be angry like a child in a play.
An oven preheats, winks,
a kettle angrily boils like the blood
in my heart,
seizing and prancing and soaring. Flattened with the
rolled pastry on the silicone baking sheet because
nostalgia of the present is never built to last. I’ll have to
leave this moment, this momentous life-eclipse
to answer myself outside
this kitchen, this house, my mind.
The pan is for right now
and I’m thinking
how wonderfully solitary
My uncle said that every time a ‘slow’ was printed on the road, it meant someone had died.
He stood in the flushed candlelight pouring wine, sloshed cherry crimson
tinkling sonnet in a spotless glass.
I never knew that paint could be the outline of bodies
every half mile, two yards, then climbed by my rare footfall. Soon there won’t
be anymore room
save the vomit of resin paint and the jagged lines of tyre scars. I don’t have many fears,
minus the normal ones,
sacrilegious conjures of plane crashes and the drip of IV’s
Maybe throw a cliche like love and death and mourning
Make myself feel better, home remedy.
I wonder if he knows how many times I’ve locked myself in a bathroom
and spun round with the light fixtures
Or if he can remember the way soaring fifty feels like taking flight,
a steering wheel in blind hands. Being seventeen feels like holding a breath
for as many days as possible
how first light in the morning is to search for the side in your chest for the ache.
He won’t know the unmistakable nuance of a stranger’s staring eyes, right at the small hole
in your back where your pigtails used to linger
a bookbag at your feet. Things have changed. I’ve wrung myself out
a thousand times over
a million different mirrors
no matter how many nail varnishes I try to paint over myself
I’m still me, whoever that is.
I’m not a religious person, but there’s a prayer for every ‘slow’ on that hopeless, gunmetal grey.
Olivia Burgess (she/her) is a 17 year old poet raised and residing in the UK. She has a smattering of publications from a short story chapbook to a variety of literary magazines including Paper Crane Lit. When she's not composing poetry (usually based on herself, nature, or her muse) she's telling unnecessary jokes and staring, for no apparent reason, at the moon. More can be found on her Instagram @light.green_eyes
REECE MEWS, 1991
By ITalo FerranTe
I ask you what you can’t ask a ghost.
When can I repair myself?
How do I paint a gasp
in thinned oil paint?
I miss you,
your infra-red cuffs,
the imprint of corduroy
on my cheeks.
Day of the year: hypodermic.
Time of the year: high-strung.
You were sick of me
breathing & blinking off-kilter.
You pushed a roller sponge
into my throat.
Prey or fury, man vs beast,
asthmatic lilac. Remember me
streaked & blurred.
A pre-verbal scream.
This is a pope.
That is an electric chair.
Is this a boudoir or a theatre?
I stick my eyelids together.
after Taylor Swift
this is me trying
light slowed by water
the palette of a scream
this is me trying
a hologram of you
the size of a sugarcube
this is me trying
you hold me like a bird
groomed by gravity
this is me trying
a mote of dust
a whiff of hurt
this is me trying
you hum in my eyelids
like a carousel
this is me trying
the faster I run to you
the more mass i gain
this is me trying
can I bury you
beyond my marrow
this is me trying
we’ll lose bones
if we age together
this is me trying
louder than the beeps
after a soak cycle
this is me trying
the breaking of my voice
was your favourite trauma
Italo Ferrante (he/him) is a queer poet who earned a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick. To date, his work has been selected for publication by Poetry Salzburg, Impossible Archetype, Cardiff Review, Sage Cigarettes, Inflections Magazine, Lighthouse, and Orchard Lea Press. Recently, his poem "Ode to Abruzzo" has been shortlisted for the Oxford Brookes' International Poetry Competition (2022).
THE OTHER WORLD SONGS
By Brian Michael BarbeiTo
after the dawn and its mist, was the day, prosaic and normal, clear and neither good or bad, and then the strange dusk where shapes melt away and night afterwards overtakes streams and estuary, inlet and lake, boulevard and rural road and city street. that is when the angels used to arrive, or be heard, finally heard. they sang songs together, actual angels, and the songs were melancholic and rueful, crestfallen and lamenting something. I wondered why they sang. I wondered for years and years and years as I listened to them. they didn’t bother me, or comfort me too much. they were on the side of good and not bad. but why were they always sad? oh how deep and intense they were, w/their songs. but now they are long gone and sometimes how I miss them so. oh angels, come back and sing your songs. astral tunes. limbo lyrics. other world whines. complaints from eternity. what would or could a mystic orphan lost soul do in a suburban place surrounded by mediocrity, ambition, modernity? nothing, that’s what. but I miss the songs. please sing a song old friends, just once, somewhere sometime somehow. perhaps in the deep and still witching hour when the wind whistles wild unencumbered through the distant reeds on the edges of towns hardly known, when one is all alone, near lonesome loam, far and far and far my friend, so very far from anything like home.
THERE ARE WOLVES IN THE SKY AND, DURING THE WALTZ OF THE HIDDEN, EPISTOLARY EPISODIC BELLES LETTRES TO THE SHORELINE UNKNOWN ~
the past is a long while away, when there was the dream of an orange city and the night, and another and me caught in fright, trying to make our way. or the great and grand cathedrals north. I told the woman, ‘there used to be a church under the ground, and I went there and it was beautiful and old and functional,’ and the woman surprised me by saying first, ‘I know,’ and secondly, ‘it is gone now…’ and I thought about all that and there were wolves in the firmament one two three maybe more. and I listened to so many things, hundreds of things, and read until my eyes couldn’t function, but in the end I closed my eyes and tried to listen to the rainstorms. Mata once read The Thorn Birds near southern balconies whilst I watched the skies over the sea. and one day, someday, I will live in the skies over the sea. why do you long for much? opulence. fashion. power. fame. money. food. the new. the gauche. the decadent. more. more. more. why, if you were different, you could live in the sky ov’r the sea. w/me. we could live there forever. w/the wolves. I will be there anyhow. you should stop by. oh one time I went down there after a long strange dream and walked the coastline at dawn. joggers. yoga people. walkers. the world. but I was always a stranger. I only looked up in the end and yearned for home, longed to live again in the air, w/out a care, where the astral wolves sway by the thousand fold lair.
Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian poet and photographer. Recent work appears at The Notre Dame Review.
OUR CHEMICAL ART
By STephen Orr
For the eyes of Tho. Morgan
Just remember, Thomas, if not you, then who? Twenty years work and my boys arent interested, Bessie’ll sell the whole lot, the cameras, the paper and chemicals, the cart and Mavis (as you know, just point her in the right direction) to the highest bidder. So its just you. And now youre saying well, he chose, he did it, what do I owe him, and youre right, you owe me nothing, except perhaps the memory, the times we spent photographing those mountains, those fat families and their harmoniums and dead children and the ocean and square-riggers and when you said, Mr Trent, Mr Trent, look at that! don’t we have a spare plate? So heres the bits I didnt show you, and all of its yours now, all of the secrets, and the stuffs in my redroom.
There are dozens of glass plates, and when theyre done, reuse the old ones. Equal parts collodion and potassium iodide. Once through, wait a bit, then silver nitrate (and use sparingly).
If you havent got an eye yet you never will, but Ive always said you have, you have got an eye, Thomas! Look for the heart of a thing, the bit that makes you feel happy-sad-and-good-and-bad, something, there has to be something in what youre photographing. If the Reynolds want another memento mori (and they will) its because they loved their bubba despite it taking three breaths and dying. You know you cant afford to waste a plate, so keep your eye, son. Say to yourself, would the old bastard have done it? Would he? Dont waste your time on hills, or the moon. Any idiot knows what the moon looks like and it’ll always be there and most people excepting fools dont need reminding.
Once it’s done, give it a good hour to dry, longer if you can. While youre waiting, crack your eggs, get your whites, mix your albumen, add the ammonium chloride (1.8%). I may be low, you may need to buy more, I was about to, but as youve probably guessed, my decision was made quickly, this letter even quicker, and now Im dead and gone (praise the Lord!) youll have a few jobs to take care of.
Make your mixture, stir, leave it a day, strain it, tip it in the tray on the top shelf (you know the one), make sure you get all the air bubbles, like I showed you, all of them, then soak your paper on one side (like Ive showed you), then your silver nitrate (20%), and remember what weve been doing together since you signed on, Tom. Remember that lady, the old woman in the gaming house and I said it makes a picture of you, maam, and she said that box, it draws a picture of me, and I said it doesnt draw, it makes it, like you and me standing here now, just us, here, now, and she said but how can I be in two places at once! and I said, well, its complex … She was a pitifully stupid woman, Tom, as am I a man, having given up so close to the finishing line, but then again, so much pain Ive avoided. Is this right, Tom? To avoid what Gods set out for us?
So now your exposure. Youre best with that job, youre quickest, always were, youll have no troubles. Then, when youre ready, mix your gold chloride with water, and reuse it, you can get ten prints from half a bottle, and dont forget the baking soda, mix well, and I guess this is the bit Ill miss, when the images appear, when a man and woman and child make another life, there, on the paper, still magic, dont you think, Tom, magic? And I told that lady, Johnson or James or something, I showed her and said there you are and there youll be forever, and isnt that a miracle, and she said Im not sure I want to last forever, and I said why not, so your great-great-grandchildren might know what you looked like, and she said a person comes and goes, and has their bita time, and thats all they should expect, and I said no, no, whys that, just cos its always been that? I grant you eternal life, missus! But she wouldnt hear of it, said only God grants eternal life, didnt want to outlast herself, took the photograph (remember?) and ripped it into small pieces and said a person should be grateful for the moment, if thats whats given then who are we to meddle with Gods plan? And maybe she was right, Tom. But our Chemical Art, our art of Light and Life and Death is an act of faith. Do you see that? Life beyond our town, our city, our country, our time, our world, and if thats the case, I might be judged harshly, but at least Ill know (but wont!) you understood, forgave me, carried on our little alchemical church.
Where was I? Youve got your paper in your gold-toner, no more than four minutes, time it, Tom, four minutes, and then the most important thing of all, the fixer, because just cos an image is there one moment doesnt mean it will be the next, lots of things can happen, Tom … one minute you see a person then they fade and theyre gone and its an expensive piece of paper with nothing on it, see? So you gotta be careful to fix it properly: bita water, 15% sodium thiosulfate, mix it well, make sure it all goes in. It all fades. Funny, cos theres not a single photograph of me, Tom, so youll only have your memory to rely upon (Bessie and Charlie, too) and isnt that wonderful, like the old lady said, just your bit of time.
Wash it well, let it dry, you know how, and watch its not humid, the paper hates humidity, and when its dry put it in a frame and give it to whoever, and watch their face, Tom. Like I said, every man and woman (children are too dumb, I guess) likes to think people will remember them, think well of them. Its all we have to hope for.
Then theres the case of money. If you could slip Bessie a few dollars now and then, thatd be nice.
And the photograph Ive attached here. 18-something, me and my brother, little kiddies on the pier, and that old man, that Fenton, the one who started all this, who took me on and taught me everything, the first photograph he ever took, he reckons, and Jack and me (bless his soul) were just fishing, and we were happy, and he called across the river, hey, you two, hold still while I take your photograph, and I called whats a photograph, and later, he showed me. See, theres proof that me and Jack were having a good time, nothing but our fishing lines and the sun and the breeze and each other, happy (despite the fifty years of shit that followed). Once, and just for a while, for an hour perhaps, but thats enough, isnt it, Tom?
Stephen Orr’s first novel Attempts to Draw Jesus was based on the disappearance of Simon Amos and James Annetts in the Great Sandy Desert in 1986. His fascination with Australian landscapes has since led to the Barossa Valley of the 1950s (Hill of Grace, an examination of Lutheran fundamentalism), the suburbs of Adelaide, the Australian wheatbelt, as well as second-hand car yards. At the same time he has written for a range of publications on subjects as diverse as Glenn Gould’s radio documentaries and Scottish graveyards.
Stephen has worked as a secondary English teacher since 1996, mentored young writers and won or been nominated for a range of state, national and international awards such as the Dublin International Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award.
He lives in Adelaide.
ELVIS LOSES HIS CAPE IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM
By Will SchmiT
Hollow body guitar lies ready to ache in a velveteen case,
like stitches down a breastbone fat frets staple the neck.
The high e string, bent like a haywire, pokes a ventricular
hole in the wall of sound reasoning, ambulation is reduced
to a slow hand grasping for the chord, and a rock steady beat
depends on how that hand falls and where a finger picks
up the surgical riff. Open heart tuning takes a trained ear
for a slide, wah-wah pedals amplify a detectable blue note
in the foot stomping monitor. It’s one for the money
and two will leave scars. A flat third leaps into the air,
the bridge looms large in the land of a thousand dances.
The pop chart dodges a bullet, the instruments are sterilized,
a surging crowd waves an arc of bic lighters,
behind a curtain the hit machine sweats an encore.
ECO POEM FOR JARED
The pinkest blossoms fall to the gray street. The sun,
like a comedian, turns summer into a drought. Year in
year out we commemorate the lost bees, search the ice
shelf for new definitions, jargon away the wilderness
as kindling while a coyote cub paws an abandoned bus.
Try explaining New Year’s to a washed-out bridge,
use the twisted metal rails to point back to town. Up
-stream bears fish for running salmon under documentary
drones. A community notebook, on a teeter totter of logs
and stones records, “I was here.” Never, what to do next.
An unseasonal snow falls like a thousand white cranes
shitting in slow motion above the coastal trees. Venus
and Jupiter, with no climates left to lose, shine against
the black sky like prayer beads with skin in the game.
The moon pulls us like a sister to the front of the line,
assigns shovels to fight the fire, waters the rose, plants
darling trees, stirs a new river in the belly of the beast,
pours concentration from palm to palm, spreads wide
the reading lamp, initiates another round of singers to
the sound of the ground gearing up for the final war.
LORD, ALL MY PROBLEMS ARE FIRST WORLD
The etiquette to address heaven is far above
my tip of the hat. When folks say, “Love has no strings,”
I tune my guitar. A fox jumps the sunset fence.
I pour something biodegradable down the drain.
The morning’s daffodils spring from the mud.
I order therapy socks online, buy two, get one
person to see our future. Power lines
are threatened by the gale, road crews
in bright yellow, string makeshift poles
amid the rain sagging redwoods.
My phone has enough charge to stream
late night jazz. I grind coffee by hand,
set up the propane to boil water,
wonder how my grandparents made
love last without ice cube trays or
kept their eyes from going star blind.
Will Schmit is a folk poet making the coffeehouse circuit in the Redwood Forest towns of Northern California. Will has been performing on the live stage, with or without musical accompaniment, for better, or worse, than forty years. Will’s most recent recording Fix My Car A Spoken Word Mythology is available for streaming at Spotify and on iTunes.
AN IRIDESCENT MOOD
By William Doreski
In an iridescent mood I cross
the frozen marsh to explore
the forest beyond. Skunks and fox
scatter, but the purple brown
tree trunks remain aloof. Years ago
I tracked myself through these woods
and found blood spoor in the snow.
Since then I’ve dreamed of bones gnawed
in the leaf-fall, gutted carcasses
abandoned by hunters, stone-lined
cellar holes gradually healing.
Today I’m scouting for nests perched
in leafless boughs to determine
if we’re losing all our songbirds
or if they’ve retreated deeper
into lonely woods to evade us
and our storms of microplastics.
I count a few nests but not enough
to account for last spring’s lack of song
in my neighborhood. No thrush
or painted grosbeak, hardly a sparrow
or phoebe. Winter looms ahead,
the forest upholstering in drifts
heavy enough to keep me indoors.
Ten days before Christmas, though,
only a dusting of snow preserves
my footfall for whomever follows.
When I circle back to the marsh
I feel that follower closing in
so I lengthen my stride and cross
the ice-slick in two or three minutes
and reach the paved road where friendly
dog-walkers brighten the landscape.
When my shadow catches up with me
I re-incorporate it into myself
and go home still iridescent
enough to light the pages
of some harmlessly readable book.
A TRAGEDY SHAKESPEARE FORGOT TO WRITE
This morning the wind plays a role
in a tragedy Shakespeare forgot
to write. A role like Iago’s
but without the cunning rhetoric.
We’re afraid for us. The trees
mistake this winter storm for
the Great New England Hurricane,
which left hardly anyone standing.
Rain scrawls threats on the metal roof.
Whirlpools posture then dissolve.
The sunrise withholds its colors,
hoping for a better afterword.
We feed the cats as if someone
has a future. We clean all three
litter boxes respectfully,
regardless of our mutual fear.
The wind won’t let us forget.
It cups in our ears and savages
places we might have sheltered
had we lain in bed long enough
to forgive each other’s trespass.
A divinity could cloud-walk
across the storm and calm it,
but we lack the faith to empower
such a brazen illumination
free of the usual redundancies.
The gusts favor the warming south.
They form massive speech balloons
we can’t fill without rereading
every play that Shakespeare finished,
enabling a mimicry even
the tossing trees would respect.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Dogs Don’t Care (2022). His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.
TWO DAYS IN MIAMI
By STephanie Young
I knew you for two days, in Miami
Ten years my junior,
you were someone’s girlfriend
and so was I.
I see in you what slipped from me
You swim alone in the ocean,
we watch you from the chilly shore
No towel, no change of clothes
At a tourist trap on the strip
you buy a sweatshirt that says:
So we don’t have to go home
we strain to glimpse the juicy sunset
melting down the wrong side
“I really admire you” you tell me, tipsy in the way back seat
“I want to be like you, when I’m your age”
I don’t tell you
I don’t know anything
“You have so much time”, I tell you
Knowing it feels bad to hear
unless it’s no longer true
You reappear later
in frantic texts and social media posts
“If you come back now, we will just forget all about it,” I bargain with no one
Then I see you on the news.
I don’t know your story
I’ll never figure it out
In my story, though, you live in the ocean
You live for two days
You burn brightly, on the right side
You’re swimming back towards us,
on Shark Patrol
Stephanie is a psychologist, academic, and writer. Her creative work has appeared in Heart Balm Lit and Plainsongs Poetry Magazine.
By Megan Feehley
The nothingness becomes aware of itself in the presence of a desaturated sunset. The view is idyllic–the rooftop of some massive, domineering building. Isolated. Jammed high enough into the sky that traffic is only a faint, distant buzz from below. The sun bobs on the horizon, dull even in the way it burns her eyes. Streaks of it bounce off the black glass that coats the structure. An office, the memory floats to her. She sways like a willow branch.
When did the sky lose its color? The varying scales of blandness spread like a mold, eating decaying clouds. She scrapes her fingernails against the concrete ledge. She sits with her legs crossed, distantly aware that one squinted glance at her dangling shoes would spell trouble. She used to paint sunsets because they were easy; you couldn’t go wrong with them. Splatters of pink, blankets of gold, pools of orange.
Deep sadness is hastily shoved aside by a blazing terror at this horrible emptiness. The sun slips away. The monolith building is a nest full of busy bustling bees. Her cubicle is on the twelfth floor. The ugliness of it all is enough to have tears springing into her eyes. The air is cold up here; goosebumps ripple across the skin of her arms.
God, when did it get so dark? This is the closest she’s been to heaven–there’s no doubt about that. It’s not supposed to be barren like this. She’s itching now. A little urgent thing grasps the starter chord on the old motor in her head and pulls pulls pulls until it recoils with a guttural snarl. Then she’s stumbling back, away from the ledge, and onto her ass. Too close, too close.
It’s not just the sky, is it? She’s been drifting through the haze, hollowed out into weightlessness, unable to catch the cues of passing time. It’s all smothered under a sheet of smoke and ash. She unfurls onto her back. The night is an ocean of black pricked with little bleeding stars. They regard her with distant understanding. From up here it's almost like their little secret.
Megan Feehley is a queer writer and poet from San Diego, California. She graduated from San Diego State University in 2020 with a BA in English. Megan enjoys the strange and thrilling aspects of life. She is also partial to lazing with her cats and night drives along the coast.
CORONATION OF THE DAMNED
By Olivia Grace ViTeznik
The gaunt and twisted bodies of my lords & ladies lined the pews,
eager for a monarch to be anointed,
and the reign of terror to commence.
She who was born from light
will devote herself to darkness.
Their haggard voices wailed maniacally,
“Long live the Queen.”
Hollow faces stared as I marched to their drums,
With cloudy eyes
and the proudest of smiles.
Yet, despite their countless gazes
I never felt more alone.
And I knew, should the ceremony conclude,
I would meet an isolation I thought impossible.
The power before me was freedom no longer
But a heavier burden
Destine to fuel my rage
And ensure my rule of this barren kingdom.
Shrill support turned to impatience
as I could not bring myself to kneel.
wondering why I had left my home in secret,
with bridges unburned.
Their sickly shrieks echoed as the crown shattered upon the floor.
Gnarled hands reached
Pleading for damnation
as I stumbled out the gates,
their land ablaze behind me.
Nothing more shall fester here.
With filthy robes and bloody feet
I wander the wastelands.
A shimmering wall finally insight along the horizon.
Battered and newly hopeful
I return from whence I came
To bend the knee before Compassion.
To be born anew
Olivia Grace Viteznik is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. She uses her
various backgrounds in theater, production, music, design, and communications for
outside-the-box extrospection and self reflection.
A GLUM DAY AND DOUR
By Chris Dahl
begins with a memory that flares
in my hand like a burning branch.
Some things we can save
for future use, but what burns
consumes itself and we are left with
only a fraction of what it once was.
By this morning it was obvious the roses
were done. Now the vase has been
dried and stored. How long do I hold on
before the pain is overwhelming?
Memory as torch, illuminating
the local sorrows. Drop it
and I could save myself, but then
the house might burn down, the whole
forest catch fire.
Day clings sullen and dull but it’s too early
for lights—and even the darkness when it arrives
will not be epic darkness. Have you ever tried
to measure “enough?”.
Another blossom falls
from the flowering shrub. Even though
it’s only August there comes a time
when everyone leans toward destruction.
And the burning transfixes us, the burning
like a miniature star, voracious in appetite,
unrepentant. All the trees, all
the flowering plants grow toward the sun.
They are not confused
by what crackles and roars.
Chris Dahl hopes to cup a handful of murky pond-water and reveal another world half-hidden in this one Her chapbook, Mrs. Dahl in the Season of Cub Scouts, was published after winning Still Waters Press “Women’s Words” competition. Her poems have been placed in a wide variety of journals—most recently in Bennington Review and Whitefish Review—and she has had poems nominated both for Best of the Internet and a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Olympia, Washington where she serves on the board of the Olympia Poetry Network and edits their newsletter.
CHERRY BLOSSOMS 1
By russell STreur
CHERRY BLOSSOMS 3
CHERRY BLOSSOMS 4
Holder of two awards for excellence from the Georgia Poetry Society, Streur is the author of Fault Zones (Blue Hour Press, 2017) and his work is included in the anthology of Georgia poetry Stone, River, Sky (Negative Capability Press, 2015). His photography has been widely exhibited online and in the Atlanta (GA) area. He is currently the editor of the on-line eco-poetic journal, Plum Tree Tavern, located at https://theplumtreetavern.blogspot.com/
THE QUIETNESS OF WAITING
By Oladejo Abdullah Feranmi
The hand of dawn
burns the finger rays away
and come out; so bright
we call it love; The twigs
and the squirrels
and every tree becomes beloved.
That's how everything loves;
falling and burning
in the uprightness of eternity.
Quietly. Morning is born
again; in an elsewhere that bows
the storm of another heart.
And the stones are filled and patient
with the roses sitting upon them
waiting for someone
to bring down the moon's ring
on a twilight that can
never leave the stars lonely;
that cannot leave your fingers naked.
Oladejo Abdullah Feranmi is a Poet, writer, and veterinary medicine student from Ibadan, Nigeria. An Haikuist, He reads submissions at Sea glass literary magazine and edits for the incognito press. His works are published in Gone Lawn, Brave Voices Magazine, The Lumiere Review, and more. He tweets from; @oaferanmi_
A LONG WALK EAST
By Corey Bryan
The birds gossip to one another
as I walk back from the farmer’s
market, whispering to each other that I
spent way too much on daikon radishes
and hibiscus soda. I take refuge from their
words in my own mind. I had a crazy
thought today, my love, and I just wanted
to bounce it off your romantic brain.
I thought about how wild the world is
that if I just leave my house and walk
in one direction long enough I would reach
the ocean eventually. If I spent less time
writing poetry and more time walking east,
I could revel in the sea breeze and shake
the sand from my hair. I could kiss the salt
spray and build castles out of driftwood.
I could weave the dune reeds into a fiber
crown and place it upon your head
and anoint you queen of the universe
or at least our 30 feet of white sand.
So if you think that that’s a good idea
and that yes, I could easily take a break
from writing poetry I will lace up my good
walking shoes, my dear, and leave the pens
and paper at home, walking east into the sunrise.
Corey Bryan is a fourth year student at Georgia State University majoring in Rhetoric and Composition. He is currently writing daily poetry prompts, along with some original poems, with a friend of his at poetryispretentious.com. He has 2 poems forthcoming at Sage Cigarettes Magazine and The Bluebird Word.
By Alfredo SalvaTore Arcilesi
Cate mooed with her.
The cow stared at them.
Millie giggled at the old joke, a pure, authentic song.
Cate giggled with her, exaggerated, trembling notes.
The cow stared at them.
Millie continued to pet the cow's cheek. Cate stroked the other, looking for signs of impatience in the otherwise stoic animal, searching its blank yet somehow knowing eyes for knowledge of her charade. What made her want to release the scream that had been lodged in her throat for inconceivable minutes was how Millie, sitting comfortably in her numb arms, was so far away from screaming; Millie, who had every justification for adding her shrill voice to the one behind them. She hadn't asked Millie if she was all right; doing so would have given her the impression something was wrong.
She hadn't asked Millie her actual name; as far as the little girl's amiable behaviour indicated, they had known each other all their lives, and names didn't matter. She hadn't asked Millie her age; from the moment she took the little girl into her arms, she could tell the small human being was no older than her career.
Three-years-old, Cate mused again, as she transferred Millie from one desensitized arm to the other, careful not to break contact with the cow. Three years, and once again she imagined the retirement banner, growing longer and larger as the idea cooked in her mind, advertising the pitiful number.
Cate was grateful for the brown-and-white animal's presence. Moreover, she was grateful that the cow was the first thing Millie had noticed. She wouldn't have thought to mosey on over to the cow; instinct—training—would have told her to immediately transport the dishevelled little girl to her car; and there they would have waited for the next routine steps. And then she would've known something was wrong, she thought. And then she would've started screaming.
A scream perforated the ambience, a cocktail of pain, fear... and perhaps a note of anger.
“Mooooo!” Cate issued her loudest impersonation yet. Millie echoed her sentiments, prolonging and exaggerating the bovine language until it devolved into more giggling.
Another scream smothered the laughter, and, for a terrible moment, Cate thought she felt Millie stiffen; thought she saw registration on the little girl's suddenly sagging face.
“Moo mooooo moo moo moo mooooo moo,” Cate interjected, the single word spoken in the rhythm of conversation. She fixed upon Millie's eyes, hoping the little girl would take the bait, ready to shift her little body should she decide to go peeking behind her back, toward the scream.
Millie's bowed lips glistened, saliva pooling as she gathered her thoughts about the conflicting sounds. Cate readied her own lips with another string of nonsensical cow-speak, when Millie broke out of her trance, and fired off a meaningless statement of her own: “Mooooo mooooo mooooo”—laughter—“mooooo moo moo moo.”
Relieved, Cate kept the dialogue flowing for as long and as loud as was necessary to beat the intermittent screaming from Millie's ears. As their banter rose and fell with the outbursts behind them, she imagined how the others must have seen them: vulnerable backs; a revolving red light highlighting Millie's arms wrapped comfortably—Or is she in shock? Cate couldn't decide—around her neck; mooing from unseen lips; the cow itself unseen, blocked by their combined bodies.
How unreal it must have appeared to them. How grotesquely real it was to her.
How beautifully real it was to Millie.
A terrible thought returned Cate to their cozy huddle: This is your first time, isn't it? The scream she struggled to keep deep down in her gorge threatened to erupt. It occurred to her that this cow—not the pair grazing further down the fence, dangerously close to the break; not the calf flanked by several adults; not the others standing nonchalantly, laying nonchalantly, living nonchalantly; not the countless others that might have been a blur in Millie's passenger window—but this cow might very well have been the very first cow Millie had ever seen.
Cate mooed, and wondered if Millie could detect the underlying melancholy. You don’t need to meet a cow, she desperately wanted to assure the little girl. Not now. Not like this. She was certain that when Millie was one day no longer a size fit for one's arms—There's no guarantee of that, Cate sadly reminded herself—she might learn to hate the cow. All cows. The way Cate hated them for what they had done to Millie. To her.
To Millie's mother.
The human sounds behind them were less frequent now, quieter, the pain, the fear, the anger—if ever there was—giving themselves to realization. Cate hoped Millie's mother would soon forget how to scream; hoped her mother forgot her daughter's name. This line of thinking was drenched in selfishness, but Cate had accepted it... for now; may guilt torment her later. It was just that she and, more importantly, the cow had worked so damned hard to keep Millie occupied.
Or are we keeping the cow occupied? Cate thought for the first time.
Artisan baker by trade, Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi has been published in over 80 literary journals worldwide. Winner of the Scribes Valley Short Story Writing Contest, he was a Pushcart Prize nominee, and twice nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net. In addition to several short pieces, he is currently working on his debut novel.
LET ME GO
By STephanie Haun
They held hands while walking in silence through the midway. Listening to the blended sounds of the Bottle Stand, balloons popping at the Balloon and Dart, and the incessant bell of the High Striker, they dodged couples and families laughing and squeezing happiness from every single moment in existence on that midway.
They never said a word. They never stopped to play lose games of skill or chance. They never looked at each other.
He kept his fingers interlocked with hers. Her nostrils flared while her lips quivered.
She finally spoke softly. “Let me go.”
He clenched her hand tighter.
Stephanie L. Haun holds an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Creative Nonfiction from Queens University of Charlotte. Previous works have been published in The Smart Set, Drunk Monkeys, Beyond Words, The Centifictionist, and others. Stephanie is a Perry Mason fanatic, an avid knitter, and a sometimes trombonist. She can be found on Twitter: (@shaunwriter) and Instagram/Facebook (@stephaniehaunwriter). Her website is www.stephaniehaun.com.
By N. L. Rivera
he finds a scar on my stomach
and traces a path up to my sternum,
winding slowly, patient
in his exploration—
i think about the ocean
about bodies of water
and how they might have prevented
he charts a map
of all the routes he could have taken,
measures the distance to my heart
in nautical miles
he tells me he’s waited
to find me. i think about
about central america,
and the arawak-speakers
who, for reasons we can only guess,
left their land,
and landed in
all these dreams we call home.
he brings his lips to mine.
i think of all the tides
that brought us together,
and i am grateful.
i am grateful.
Please be advised that the following poem includes reference to Sexual Assault
THINGS I HOPE I'LL NEVER HAVE TO EXPLAIN TO MY LITTLE SISTER
why you should pick your friends carefully
and how you’ll never know
who to be afraid of
until it’s too late
and why you should always
tell your friends or your
partners or your family
“no” as often as you can
(see who really listens)
and that two-thirds of all sexual assaults
are committed by someone
the victim knew
and how you’ll never know
who to be afraid of
until it’s too late
and how to stitch yourself back together
when someone who you never gave permission
decides to treat your body
like kindergarten arts-n-crafts:
tear you all up and cut off the corners
and hang you on their fridge
that sometimes there
is just nothing we can do, sometimes
your body betrays you, sometimes
you end up a prisoner to yourself
so that’s why you have to practice saying “no”
til the word leaves your mouth
easy as your breath
that two-thirds means
majority which means
listen i’m speaking from personal experience here
that the odds really are not in our favor so
learn how to say “no” goddammit
i’m begging you to learn how to say “no”
i swear to god, honey,
i wish i was lying
but you’ll never know who to be afraid of
until it’s too late.
N.L. Rivera is a queer Latino writer currently based out of New Jersey. Their work has appeared and/or is forthcoming in Miniskirt Magazine, Bullshit Lit, beestung, and elsewhere. One of these days he’ll develop a strong sense of identity, but in the meantime, they plan to keep writing poetry. Online, he tends to lurk on Twitter @nrrrivers and Instagram @n.l.riversss.
By John Grey
Love will come
and it will claim a heart.
Looking for cause
is as pointless as arguing
who discovered America.
Vikings, Italians, lost colonies,
Phoenicians, Chinese, Carthaginian...
I can make a case for them all.
I can even argue for those
blown off-stream who didn't even
know they were here,
didn't even know what they'd done.
It's still love
even if it feels more like remorse
It's love even if the newspaper did it,
or the bright light of day
or the unwinding smoke of a cigarette
or the slurp of spaghetti through lips.
Trying to explain it
is to shoot holes in your argument.
Besides, what is sufficiently known,
doesn't bare repeating.
What can never be known
works in all our favors.
Be content that a landing was made
on a place that could support it.
There was someone already there.
For them, the gifts you bring:
warm, feed, shelter,
even hurt and kill.
Discovered at a price
but still discovered.
OUT OF NOWHERE
I recall your lovely smile, Marie –
the patch of earth,
the green-lit avenue,
the blue eyes – opened suddenly wide –
in every single way
and the voice
from which soft singing emerged –
laughter always –
and the light brown hair
like a thrush’s wing in the moonlight,
perfume like remnants
of a Persian dream –
yes, I have a memory
that swears it was you.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Floyd County Moonshine. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.
By Nic Job
In the early morning their brain feels like honey. There is a sweetness to the gelatinous weight of their limbs, and stickiness to fog lingering in their thoughts. The cuddles and only-half-good-natured-groaning-at-the-alarms time of day. The when-he-wakes-up-for-work time of day. He sets his alarms earlier than he has to just for these moments. They’re still honey-like, and cling to him.
Some mornings, they ooze out of bed after he does; join him in the shower, curl against his back as he makes coffee, putter around the kitchen packing him lunch while he eats breakfast. Kiss him at the door.
Other mornings, they stay in bed. They doze, drifting, as he wanders in and out of the bedroom for kisses between items in his morning routine. Those mornings, sometimes sleep drags them back under, and sometimes they are coaxed from the bed for one last kiss by the door. He leaves for work, and they nurse a mug of tea until their own alarm starts ringing.
Only then do they do their own teeth-brushing and hair-combing and breakfast. It hasn’t been that long, so the oatmeal is still warm on the stove. Feed the cat, check the hummingbird feeders on the porch, do the dishes.
Their laptop is open on their desk, so when they settle in with another mug of tea it is only a click of a mouse and a brief scan of their fingerprint on the power button before they are staring at the same document they have been staring at for weeks. There is no editor to give them deadlines, no expectations on this, their first manuscript.
He built their office so that the light would stay soft, but always saturate the room. A place ideal for such scholarly pursuits as writing. It was on the opposite side of the house as his workshop, so the noise of his machining didn’t disturb them in the hours between his return from work, and their abandonment of the day’s productivity. It was quiet now, barely an hour or two after his departure. They put on a Spotify playlist of Taylor Swift instrumentals. Familiar enough to hum along to, unfamiliar enough to avoid pesky word muddling.
They minimize the document tab. Open another.
Have any of their knit hats on Etsy sold? One, but it is already finished and just needs mailed. Honey still lingers around their thoughts. Is there a cache of blog posts scheduled for publication? Yes, but a couple more couldn’t hurt. They wander between office bookshelves, leafing through writing manuals and how-tos and anthologies. Searching. Compiling. Making mental archives of content and curating a couple of potential posts. Any new journal contests or interesting submission calls? They scroll through the Submittable open submissions list, clicking on each one. Even those they know they won’t enter. There are a couple though, that they may stand a chance at, so they send pieces—consider it a win.
They use the free LinkedIn Learning access on their old school email to look up courses on web design. Digital publication. Web management. They add fifteen new courses to their library. They watch the first ten minutes of three of them. They switch to old project management saves, and spend an hour and twenty-five minutes taking notes on a lecture detailing Gantt charts.
After lunch, they return to their manuscript with a fresh cup of tea. Honey Hibiscus, from Jamaica. Allegedly.
Nic Job is a student of the world and spends as much time as they can traveling and observing. Cultures, places, people, and themself. Their work appears in Club Plum, Oyster River Pages, and Olit. Follow more of their work on their website Life's Looking Glass of Words and Twitter @nicwrites13.