Digging Through No.1

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We launched our new monthly reading series in The Red Room at KGB Bar on January 14, 2020. It was a cool, rainy evening and many of our friends were there to celebrate the works of Paul Beckman, Tamar Eisenman, JP Infante, Christine Kendall, Hadley Moore, and Joanna C. Valente. All our readers gave absolutely stellar performances. As a special treat Tamar Eisenman performed three of her songs. I can’t thank all our performers enough for making the night a success. And much love and thanks to Lori and KGB for lending us their wonderful venue.

We will be hosting our next reading on Tuesday, February 11 at 7 PM.

For more info on our readers and for news on upcoming events, visit our Reading Series page.

 

Happy New Year!

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Dear Friends,

In a celebratory lunch with coworkers, the question as to whether a decade ends on the last day of 2019 or the last day of 2020 came up and it’s true that according to the Farmer’s Almanac, the end of the decade is December 31, 2020, but to me, the cusp represented by a year “0” is too enticing to pass up. And what is the future and what will a new year, a new decade birth? Despite the uncertainties of our strange world, we hope what follows illuminates and keeps expanding our culture.I want to take this moment and sincerely thank you for all you’ve done to help us serve the writing community. Digging Press is a collaborative organization promoting the poetics of language and the visual arts. It’s an expansion of what began with our journal, Digging Through The Fat, a way for me to live and not just exist as a member of the literary project. We know we are a small fish in an ever-expanding pond of literary and arts organizations and that your choices in who to follow and support are vast. We thank you for the gift of your attention and we hope that you continue to read and share our publications. Your presence over the last six years has made it possible for us to share our platform with over 170+ writers, poets, and artists.

I also want to express my gratitude to our contributors. Thank you for teaching me how to appreciate a multitude of aesthetics through your intellectual and artistic experiments. They have shown me the importance of plurality and I’m deeply indebted for this invaluable education.

In 2020, we begin a new decade with hope and continued dedication to our mission. Digging Press will announce a third winning chapbook, and publish Ain’t Country Like You by Abigail Carl-Klassen, the second chapbook in our series. Digging Through The Fat will continue proliferating new works by poets, writers, and artists on our website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Our new monthly reading series, Digging Through in the Red Room at KGB Bar, NYC will debut on January 14 and will feature readings by Paul Beckman, JP Infante, Christine Kendall, Hadley Moore, and Joanne C. Valente. We are super excited that the incredibly talented singer-songwriter, Tamar Eisenman will also be joining us for a musical performance to celebrate the night. And lastly, our podcast, Digging Through with Gessy Alvarez will continue with more talks about art and the life of the mind. At the cusp of 2020, we look forward to each of these endeavors.

As we move forward into a new decade, we need to think about how we can help our world grow and support those who are also working to help in this evolution. For Digging, that means a world that values experimentation in the arts, where thinking and dialogue are valued.

Thank you–simply and with sincerity–for all the ways you make Digging what it is and will be. Much love to you in the new year, new decade.

Flowers,

Announcing the Digging Through Reading Series

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Digging Through is a reading series curated and hosted by Gessy Alvarez. It takes place on the second Tuesday of the month in The Red Room at KGB Bar. We aim to entertain and celebrate cultural omnivores by showcasing a diverse mix of writers, poets, and local musicians.

Upcoming Event

January 14, 2020 – 7PM

Paul Beckman’s short story collection Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press), was a finalist for the 2019 Short Story Indie Book Awards. He had a story selected for the 2018 Norton Micro Fiction Anthology and was one of the winners of Best Small Fictions 2016. He won the Editor’s Choice Award in 2016 from Fiction Southeast and was in the Wigleaf Top 50. His stories have appeared in Spelk, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, Thrice Fiction, and The Lost Balloon. Paul earned his MFA in creative writing from Bennington College.

John Paul “JP” Infante is a teacher and writer who curates and hosts arts and culture events. He’s taught creative writing at CUNY’s Lehman College and writing workshops throughout New York City. He holds an MFA in fiction from the New School and is a contributing editor for Dominican Writers. His prose and poetry can be found in the Kweli Journal, Acentos Review, The Poetry Project, Rigorous Literary Journal, and other publications. He’s won the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, the Bernard L. Einbond Memorial Prize, the Aaron Hochberg Family Award, and DTM Magazine’s “Latino Identity in the U.S.” essay contest.

Christine Kendall’s short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals including the Kweli Journal and The Summerset Review and her debut novel Riding Chance (Scholastic), was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens. Her second novel, The True Definition of Neva Beane, is forthcoming in the fall of 2020. Christine also serves as a juror for the New York City Book Awards. She currently lives in Philadelphia where she co-curates and hosts the award-winning reading series, Creative at the Cannery.

Hadley Moore’s collection Not Dead Yet and Other Stories won Autumn House Press’s 2018 fiction contest and was published in September 2019. Her fiction has appeared in McSweeney’sWitness, Amazon’s Day One, the Alaska Quarterly Review, the revived december, the Indiana ReviewMidwestern Gothic, and elsewhere. She is at work on a novel and another collection and is an alum of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She lives near Kalamazoo, Michigan.

tumblr_inline_p1ua3dRpal1qbit1o_500Joanna C. Valente is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015)  Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), Sexting Ghosts (Unknown Press, 2018), No(body) (Madhouse Press, 2019), and #Survivor (The Operating System, 2020). They are the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing By Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017), and received an MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the senior managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine, and a professional tarot reader. Joanna also teaches courses at Brooklyn Poets.

With Musical Performance By:

Tamar Eisenman is a guitarist, producer, and singer-songwriter. She’s released five official studio albums and received an Emmy nomination in Israel for the best original soundtrack in the documentary “The CGS.” On her Electric Solo and power trio concerts Tamar mixes meticulous yet live-feel production styles with a sensitive singer-songwriter ethic presenting a versatile musical attitude, she sounds equally at ease with the delicate acoustic ballads as she does with energetic guitar-driven songs. You can find out more about Tamar at  www.eisenwoman.com.

(Photo by Dor Malka)

Click here for Facebook Event Page

Click here for the Red Room at KGB Bar

 

Leah Oates, Artist Spotlight No. 26

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ARTIST STATEMENT

The world thus appears to be a complicated tissue of events in which connections of different kinds alternate, overlap or combine and thereby determine the texture of the whole. All phenomena are processes, connections, all is in flux, and at moments this flux is visible.

Peter Matthiessen from The Snow Leopard

The Transitory Space series deals with urban and natural locations that are transforming due to the passage of time, altered natural conditions and a continual human imprint. In everyone and in everything there are daily changes and this series articulates fluctuation in the photographic image and captures movement through time and space.

Transitory spaces have messy human energy that is perpetually in the present yet continually altering. They are endlessly interesting, alive places where there is a great deal of beauty and fragility. They are temporary monuments to the ephemeral nature of existence.

More photographs by © Leah Oates


Leah Oates has a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design and an M.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a Fulbright Fellow for graduate study at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. In Toronto, in 2019 Oates had a solo show at Black Cat Artspace and group shows at Propeller Art Space and at Connections Gallery and was part of the 2019 SNAP Photography Auction. Oates has upcoming group shows in Toronto as part of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival in Xpose 2019 at the Papermill Gallery and at Arta Gallery. Oates has a solo show in spring 2020 at Wychwood Barnes Community Gallery in Toronto. In NYC Oates had solo shows at Susan Eley Fine Art, The MTA Lightbox Project at 42nd Street, The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, The Center for Book Arts, Henry Street Settlement and A Taste of Art Gallery and locally at Tomasulo Gallery in New Jersey, Real Art Ways in Connecticut, Sara Nightingale Gallery in Water Mill, Long Island and the Sol Mednick Gallery at the Philadelphia University of the Arts. Oates has had solo shows nationally at Anchor Graphics, Artemisia Gallery and Woman Made Gallery in Chicago and internationally at Galerie Joella in Turku, Finland.

Artist’s website:  www.leahoates.com

 

Stories No. 83 – Bobbi Steele

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Xenophobia

By Bobbi Steele

I tried not to look at the mirror in front of me, but it was drawing me in. The tugging on my eyes pulled them further up from the sink, to the faucet and finally to the edge of the mirror. There were lint and dust covering the sink in the back, and I used my finger to slowly push it off into a small, wet ball on my finger that I promptly washed off.

The tears were still running down my face, and I heard a toilet flush behind me. It was too crowded here, and I could still hear them laughing in my mind. The images of them pointing and laughing at me while I tried to give my presentation assaulted me over and over again, making my muscles constrict. Making it impossible to breathe. The others in the hallways now snapping their necks in my direction and whispering to their friends about the cause.

There had never been a time where I had felt foreign. Where I had felt different. I had been born and raised in a monolithic culture where everyone was just a copy of the next. Same eyes. Same Hair. Same goals in life. It had suffocated me, so I ran. Just as I was running now, but this time, through the hallways padded with unruly red and blue carpet, I knew I had someone there for me. It was a quick message after class on the toilet begging for someone to make the pain go away.

The door swung open to the smoking area, and I saw Nisan. She had been my friend since the beginning of my second master’s degree, and she knew how mean the other students could be. How they followed me to the bathroom. How I lost my job for my sexual orientation. They had also come from villages around Germany that had raised them to think that anything foreign was bad. Most of the others had quit and joined the comparative literature program, but the thought of only having six seminars didn’t scare me.

Nisan handed me a cigarette that she had rolled and tried to tell me how it was all going to be okay. My ears were rushing with sounds and her voice was blended out by my anxiety. It was the slow turning of the gravel and the grass in front of us that alerted me to something wrong. I felt myself fall as the ground began to shake and the slight tilt that I had assumed was imagined began to become impossible to ignore.

Small rocks were sliding down as the earth began to tilt and the ground began to look more like a ramp than an actual place to stand. But people continued walking as if they didn’t notice anything. Nisan continued to talk to me as if there wasn’t a serious problem and the ground itself wasn’t moving underneath our feet. My eyes darted around as I held onto the ashtray that was mounted to the ground for support. The cold metal felt good against my skin, but I could vaguely hear Nisan’s voice in the background asking if I needed help.

A woman and her friend walked past us and laughed as they saw my face. I heard them talking to each other about how the foreigners come to Berlin to take drugs and become prostitutes, and I looked at Nisan to see if she had understood them. Her eyes were still on me, and I felt the small tilt of the ground that had been uncomfortable turn into an almost 45-degree tilt.

The ashtray was the only thing that was holding me to the ground as Nisan started to call an ambulance on her phone. I tried to tell her that I didn’t need one, but no words came out. I felt the flashbacks of earlier semesters hit me like bullets: following me to the toilet after class to tell me that I was too stupid, telling others that I only got a job with the professor because I slept with her, in Kassel when I had a German writing tutor help me write a paper and had a professor tell me that it wasn’t written in German, being taken on a walk on my first job and having my boss tell me that I would never learn German, never make friends and how I should go home now.

The 45 degrees had slowly warped into 90 degrees, and I was holding onto the ashtray while dangling in the air. Nisan was still able to stand, but I couldn’t look up at her without seeing my red hands that were slowly sweating and slipping around the pole of the ashtray. I saw my bag next to me that also seemed fine. Even my tears hit the earth while gravity pulled me to some unknown place.

The earth began tilting faster now as people stared at me from a distance and pointed. Nisan yelled for help and my body was dangling from the ashtray at the same 135-degree angle as the earth. I could feel inside of me that if I let go, there would be no finding my way back to the ground where the others were. I could see more and more of the sky replacing where the ground was.

One of my hands slipped from the sweat, but I caught myself quickly enough to keep my balance. Nisan yelled and tried to hold my body. I could imagine from her perspective, it must have looked like I had incredible upper body strength, but I hadn’t gone to the gym since I was in Kassel. There was this irrational fear that one of the Germans would follow me and hurt me.

The ground had stopped moving, and I hung from the ashtray. We were now completely parallel to the sky, and I cried tears that hit the ground. Nisan was trying to communicate on the phone to the ambulance while the Germans watched us from a safe distance. I heard them hang up on her since she couldn’t explain to them what she wanted in German.

The memories continued to hit me, and I felt my muscles cramping. Janos telling me that I just had a bad personality and would be unhappy anywhere. Being told that I was overdramatic when I saw a man beaten in a bus when he wanted to open a window to let the cigarette smoke out. Having my German friends introduce everyone by name and me by nationality. Having the Germans continuously call me fat and racist because of where I am from. Not being able to go to the grocery store without my girlfriend being treated poorly for the color of her skin. Watching the woman at the foreigners’ office yell „AUSREISEN! AUSREISEN JETZT“ to a woman from Africa because she couldn’t speak German without a French accent. Watching her coworker look away ashamed and attempt to push me and my girlfriend out of the room quickly as she told him to deny her application.

It was too much. The trauma. The fighting for acknowledgment. Trying to integrate into a community that doesn’t want anything to do with you. I let go and felt my body dangling. The voices were still chattering, but I knew that I couldn’t hold on for much longer. I didn’t want to. I let go with my other hand and felt myself moving through the sky. The people got smaller and smaller until I eventually could make out some of the lakes in Berlin. Some of the cities in Germany. Other countries around Germany. I was free.

 

Bobbi Steele is currently a writer and lost literature student in Berlin, Germany. She is completing two masters’ degrees in New German Literature and English Literature at the Freie Universität Berlin with a focus on cognitive narratology. This focus has led her to mix literary theories with creative styles of writing to inspire something entirely new.

Photo Credit: Devil in the Devil´s grotto at the Hercules Monument in Kassel, Germany © Angela Rohde / Adobe Stock

Summer J. Hart, Artist Spotlight No. 25

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ARTIST STATEMENT

My work is about obsessiveness and obsession. I repeat minor movements with a blade to draw objects that are indicative of natural forms such as leaves, feathers, barnacles, and seaweed. Sewing, layering, and adding lights allow the work to operate across three dimensions, using both shadows and vacancies as marks.

I am astounded by the resiliency of the forest: the endless process of reproduction, mutation, and evolution. Even after we trample it, cut it all down, build from and over it, new seeds scatter, vines reach. My work explores the way nature reclaims the built environment. Who or what will fill the vacancies after we have passed through—emerge from the wreckage and colonize, metastasize, assert control?

Tyvek provides protection—covering, wrapping, and insulation for the home. I use it because, although it mimics the fragility of paper, it is durable enough to weave, sew, and cut into drawings that stretch from ceiling to floor: creating dense “living walls.” I use both the negative and positive pieces—weaving the off-cuts into thickets or clusters, collecting all of the tiny pieces & suspending them to mimic swarms or clouds / an omen for the augur—that moment when starlings blackout the sun.

More photographs by © Summer J. Hart


Summer J. Hart is an interdisciplinary artist from Maine, living in the Hudson Valley, New York. Her written and visual narratives are influenced by folklore, superstition, divination, and forgotten territories reclaimed by nature. Her poetry appears in Northern New England Review, Third Point Press and E-Verse Radio. Her mixed-media installations have been featured in galleries including Pen + Brush, NYC, Gitana Rosa Gallery at Paterson Art Factory, Paterson, NJ, and LeMieux Galleries, New Orleans, LA. She is a member of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation.

Artist’s website:  www.summerjhart.com

Instagram: @summerjhart_studio or https://www.instagram.com/summerjhart/

Stories No. 82 – Amber Baird

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The Mattress

By Amber Baird

Samantha told him about the Russians. Her parents told her not to, of course, but she had to tell someone, and Charlie was her best friend. He sat beside her, under the tree in her backyard, and squinted at her through the sun filtering through the leaves.

The remains from their picnic lunch were scattered around them — empty store-brand yogurt cups, the leftover crust from Charlie’s sandwich, half-full cans of pop. Samantha used her spoon to dig a hole in the dirt idly. She liked the feel of the dry groundbreaking and crumbling as she forced the spoon in.

“Aren’t you scared?” he asked.

She shook her head. “They don’t know I’m the princess they’re looking for.”

He nodded. “That makes sense.”

*

It was Charlie that found out about the guy on the corner first. His grandmother had warned him not to go near his house because something nasty had happened. He’d agreed, as always, but discarded her instructions as soon as he was out from her watchful eye.

He wasn’t going there without Samantha, though. No way. She was a year older than him — eight, rather than his seven — and usually knew what to do when the situation got complicated.

He waited for Samantha to walk home from the private school she attended, which got out later than his public school. He sat on the stoop of her porch, his chin in his hands.

The sound of a plane flying overhead shook him out of his thoughts. It must be the Russians, looking for Sam.

*

They didn’t usually go that far down the street, anyway. If Charlie’s grandmother hadn’t mentioned it, they probably never would have, but now they knew there was something to see, some reason to be there.

Honestly, Samantha avoided it when she was with Charlie because she didn’t like to pass the empty lot where his old house used to be before his mama blew it up making drugs. Charlie pretended it didn’t bother him, but she knew better.

They had to take care of each other.

*

They were only a few houses away when a kid called out to them from a well-manicured yard that didn’t really fit in with the rest of the neighborhood. He was maybe four or five, just a little baby. “Hey! I know you guys. Can you play with me?”

“No, you don’t!” Charlie exclaimed because it felt like something he should refute, though there was really no reason the kid didn’t know them.

“I’m Jacob,” the kid said. When neither Charlie or Samantha introduced themselves, he just kept talking. “Are you boyfriend and girlfriend?” the kid asked.

“None of your business!” Samantha shouted just as Charlie said, “No!”

The kid was playing with a yellow truck. He made vroom-vroom sounds as he moved it back and forth in the grass. As if the sounds were merely part of the conversation, he continued, “You know about Buck?”

*

It wasn’t the Russians that burned her up, her parents said. That was an e-lec-tri-cal fire. She liked to pronounce all the syllables, to really feel them in her mouth. The word felt like make-believe. How could a house just decide to burn?

How could a house just decide to burn a little girl?

It was no one’s fault, that was the main thing her parents wanted her to remember. It was no one’s fault. Samantha thought that was silly, though, because it was obviously the Russians’ fault. Houses don’t just decide to burn.

They moved to Dayton after, put her in the fancy school with Jesus to remind her that someone was looking out for her. No one knew she was a princess there, they just knew her as the girl-who-still-smoldered, her skin giving away her history.

*

“Did that hurt?” Jacob asked, pointing to the overly-smooth patch on Samantha’s cheek. He stood with Charlie and her outside Buck’s house at the end of the street, a tall Victorian painted puke-green.

Charlie didn’t want Samantha to answer. Sometimes when they talked about what happened she got really mad, and other times she got really sad, so he changed the subject. “What happened to Buck?”

Jacob shrugged his little shoulders, barely covered by the oversized Dumbo t-shirt he wore. “Melissa said he had a gun and ate it.” He mimed a gun with his finger and stuck it in his open mouth. He didn’t mention who Melissa was.

Charlie let that settle over him.

“Why?” Samantha asked. She looked very serious, her eyebrows knit in concentration.

“I dunno,” Jacob said. “Melissa said he put out his brains.”

*

 

It was the next day when Samantha and Charlie decided to go back to Buck’s house. Neither one of them could explain why they felt like they had to go, and neither one questioned the other’s motives.

Samantha felt like she needed to be close to death, to sit beside it. It wasn’t something she wanted to talk about, though.

There were people on the front porch of the ugly greenhouse, coming in and out, so the kids decided to go behind it, to see it from another angle. Behind the house, in the alley, was a pile of furniture. An old writing desk, missing drawers. Tables. A couple of beat-up dining chairs. And a mattress, bright white and yellow and red all over.

They stood there together, looking at the mattress, the evidence of Jacob’s story. Charlie grasped for her hand, and Samantha accepted him readily. She would try to forget what she saw that day, but she would always remember the feel of Charlie’s hand in hers, as they both shook.

 

 

Amber Baird is a writer whiling away most of her days in the IT industry. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her wife and two cats.

Photo Credit: © gabe9000c / Adobe Stock

Vanessa Charlot, Artist Spotlight No. 24

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ARTIST STATEMENT

As a documentary photographer, she seeks to capture the raw beauty of black and brown people as they balance their lives on the fine line of resilience and struggle.

More photographs by © Vanessa Charlot


Vanessa Charlot, a Miami native is a self-taught documentary photographer that began her art career while exploring the rural parts of Haiti. She started to document intimate parts of everyday people in rural Haiti and amassed an impressive body of work that explores spirituality, socio-economic issues, and sexual intersectionality. Experiencing life in developing countries became the catalyst by which Vanessa actively documents marginalized people throughout the world.

Artist’s website:  www.vanessacharlot.com

Instagram: @vanessa.charlot or https://www.instagram.com/vanessacharlot/

Stories No. 81 – Gary Singh

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Voodoo

By Gary Singh

Slim occupies a vinyl bar stool, accompanied by a personalized chalice with hoppy German lager direct from the tanks downstairs. His name is carved onto the side of the mug.

Camille’s alto voice, a younger, more dusty version of Edith Piaf, floats in like counterpoint to the chaos of sports on nine televisions. She emerges from the kitchen right when Slim struggles with the newspaper crossword he swiped from the bar. It was Camille’s crossword, the one she usually folds up and places into her ticket book, the crossword she always works on, between schlepping garlic squid, sliders and identical glassware. He often watches Camille make fun of the brewery customers, usually convention delegates with ill-fitting rack suits, identical lanyards, and tote bags.

Slim remembered one time when every patron was mauling his way through a $25 salad, all of them wearing the same trade show exhibit-floor clothing: a sky blue dress shirt one size too big, khaki slacks and white Reeboks. He looked at Camille’s crossword puzzle and she laughed out loud when she showed him the clue for 27 down: Robots that look like humans. The answer was “androids.”

“We live inside a crossword puzzle,” Slim told her that day. “Every time I come in here, it seems that way.”

“Crosswords will help you with everything in life,” she said. “They’re like therapy.”

On most days, Slim would find time to escape the office for a few hours in the afternoon, deadlines be damned, taking his own copy of the crossword with him, bringing it down here to the brewery during her shift, just so both of them could compare answers and support each other while she worked the bar area, slinging plates of obnoxious Kobe beef sliders, the kind of thing he refused to pay for.

But today is not one of those afternoons. Back at the office, one of the ad reps had snagged the office copy of the newspaper, leaving no crossword for anyone else. So here at the brewery, Slim takes a pen to the crossword that was already lying around on the bar.

He doesn’t think Camille will be upset that he’s hogging the crossword, her crossword, and she proves him right. Just as he begins to get stuck, she appears without him even asking. She glides over, decked out in the brewery’s all-black uniform, a goddess of mercy assisting with the clue for 23 across — It has its charms — the answer of which he’s too confused to realize is “voodoo.”

Growing up surrounded by perpetual conflict had its charms too. Like when he woke up every morning to a different set of circumstances, his parents in harmony one day, dissonant and screaming the next. If dad came home with flowers and a pizza, it was always temporary. The next day, he’d stumble right through the screen door, recently 86’d from the bar down the street. Mom was more obvious. She threw a lamp across the room, smashed his vodka bottles, scratched his face and pulled his hair out. Every day from Slim’s youth until he left home at 16, nothing was constant. His nervous system remained on guard forever, always ready to jump in response to a shadow moving across the wall or anything similar. Inconsistency became necessary and routines became exotic foreign voodoo.

Now it all spirals back to the end of the bar, where Slim sits every other afternoon. Even above the television noise, Camille’s alto voice sails through the chaos. He looks over to the opposite end of the bar, where Camille is showing her phone to another dude. It triggers him to think of the few times he’d attempted to hit on her, only to have her whip out the phone and answer a text from her boyfriend, as if the text had arrived right that moment. They went through this two or three times before he finally got the hint.

So he eventually scribbles in the answer for 23 across, “voodoo,” not with a pencil, but with a pen, because Camille once said this turned her on. Taking a break for a second to finish his lager, he turns to see that she’s come back once again, this time to look over his shoulder at the crossword as it lies on the bar in front of him. With precision, she puts her finger down and taps on the empty boxes designating 47 down.

“I know what that one is,” she says with a slight wink.

“Which one?”

“I’m not going to help you. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself.”

“That’s OK, I’m used to it.”

“I’ll give you a hint,” she says. “It’s too many letters for measles, mumps or chickenpox.”

He hasn’t even reached that section of the puzzle. But after hearing her voice, Slim looks straight at the clue for 47 down: Childhood disease.

She’s right. He would have to figure it out himself.

 

Gary Singh’s byline has appeared over 1100 times, including newspaper columns, travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry, and short fiction. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. His website is: https://www.garysingh.info

Photo Credit: picnote / Adobe Stock

Ted Vasin, Artist Spotlight No. 23

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ARTIST STATEMENT

Through an inimitable method where superfine curvy thread-like brushstrokes resemble pulsating organic fractals, my paintings aim to radiate an energy vibration. Using translucent interference acrylics I paint multiple ultra-thin layers without compromising color vibrancy. Each subsequent layer modifies the color of the one beneath it, creating an efflorescent luminism. These additions expand conventional associations between a painting’s color content and the way that colors transform into different illusions of light whose hues and saturations shift as the viewer walks past and around the works.

More art by © Ted Vasin


A Pollock-Krasner recipient, Ted Vasin was born and educated in Moscow. He was an artist-in-residence at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, exhibiting at the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the De Young Art Center. Ted has exhibited for two decades both internationally and statewide including shows at the 101/exhibit, Limm Art Gallery, Davis Art Center, artMRKT Hamptons, Frey Norris Gallery (currently Wendi Norris), Tarryn Teresa Gallery, Sotheby’s New York, Tel Aviv, and Amsterdam, Stanford Art Spaces.

Artist’s website:  http://tedvasin.com

Instagram: @tedvasin or https://www.instagram.com/tedvasin/

Stories No. 80 – Victoria Giang

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Ghost Voice

By Victoria Giang

They called it the ghost voice because of the way it crackled and warbled into a piercingly high register. It was a voice to captivate and bind the listener. Ros had it.

“Once I fed a flower only music,” she confessed to Eung, her manager, confidante, and lover. Likewise, he slaked her thirst with a stream of abuse so endless that her sobs lost their sounds.

That cattleya she had cared for bloomed only once, then its green tongue hung limp, and the plant never again burst out in color. A flower is a leaf that has gone mad with love, so says Goethe. She had always thought that a flower was a leaf trembling with song. Her people were pleased to have produced Ros, flower among leaves, and she sat happily among them, offset by their adoration.

Eung was one of those hopeless decadents first to die under the Khmer Rouge, an unknown bourgeois to be slain on sight – you only had to see his paisley satin shirts to know – but that foreknowledge wouldn’t have provided any consolation to a heart so rare.

The cattleya of her confession was born in a little village outside of Battambang when it was emerald green with recently sown rice. Can you see her then? In those sun stricken fields, a child too shy to speak one day broke into song, a clear and unearthly voice. Issued from a little girl, it was eerie and entrancing. Those who heard her stood stiff as the young shoots. Was she possessed by spring fever? Or was she a ghost in the body of a girl? How strange that she should suddenly sing! Now that the habit of silence was broken, she gained the power to inflict it on others, their voices caught in throats choked with sobs. As she sings, she appears, girl and woman, only through a veil of tears, conjured like a specter.

In ancient times, apsaras only danced, so in Siem Reap, kings kept hundreds of lovely slaves who could channel these supreme beings dancing on a rotation to ensure the continued spinning of the globe. Shiva creates the world with his dance atop a turtle’s back, and it stops turning when he tires. Maya, the illusion of reality, is revealed or disappears.

As puppets, we spin and twirl to move the world. What a heavy burden to bear! At every conceivable moment, a person is moving their limbs in this eternal dance. When the ghost voice pierced the veil, the burden somehow became joyful again. After all, what other choice is there? Bending in the fields, quick gestures of the hands to dig and pluck somehow seemed refreshing, like the hand motions of earthly angels who pluck strings in the air. The endless entertainments of Sihanouk’s capital, which had become so forced and tedious were festive and novel again, if only for a moment, but the impression of that moment brought vigor with it.

Now let’s conjure him up again, Sinn Sisamouth waiting outside the studio door. Strumming his mandolin with downcast eyes and a half-smile, he leans against a wall, his face inscrutable as the severed heads of statues sleeping beneath Bayon, but he comes alive at the call of Ros’ voice, as if he were a spring that patiently endured being wound, and she, in her infinite mercy, had released him.

At twenty-eight, she has the fresh, sweet face of a naive girl, but carrying along the memories of two miserable husbands has given even her romantic songs a melancholy hard to bear. So light, she seems fragile enough to die of heartbreak, but the ghost voice has as much a hold on her as anyone who has heard it. It sings inside her head. Though she badly wishes to die, it infuses her with a warmth and vitality that has her continue to open herself to love and betrayal.

They’re all phantoms now. I hear their voices floating to me through the aether of the tape deck. The brutality and senselessness of death at the hands of dead-eyed children, sparkling only with blood lust, boys in black shirts. The edges of these violent memories have dulled now. Little is left of that generation, those on either side. A prince powerless to fight against stronger powers descends into decadence, signaling the end of an empire. Everyone in the capital drowning in meaningless luxury. The golden parasol shades them all, hides the harshness of a life stripped of any authentic action, and any freedom. So no decisions were made, each day was lived to the height of its pleasure. Opulent films starred the prince, inviting the citizenry to share in this depraved decline. The party swept the provinces and our Ros, a little snail selling girl with a supernatural and alluring voice was caught up in it.

These empty pleasures, this opulent escapism was imbued with dignity and meaning again. Chasing women led to love, revelry gave way to celebration, and slowly the peasants, never shaded by parasols, prepared themselves to gaze at the sun, to face fate and the future boldly and meet its challenges.

We all know how that turned out. The ghosts still surround us, their voices carry through. That kind of vitality to face up to reality, to swim, fly, and dance through life’s pains and pleasures, that never really dies. It haunts us always, waiting for a chance to come alive again.

 

Victoria Giang is a writer from South Florida who has lived in Taipei, Taiwan for the last several years. She is currently a graduate student of Asia Pacific Studies at National Chengchi University. In her free time, she writes and edits a feminist zine called Frisson.

Photo Credit: simon gurney / Adobe Stock

allison anne, Artist Spotlight No. 22

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ARTIST STATEMENT

allison anne’s work is the result of years of self-directed experimentation with many mediums, but explorations with collage in the past several years have become their focus — particularly as a way to explore creativity, trauma and mental health. allison works with rescued, found or recycled materials as often as possible, using collage and correspondence art as ways to explore intuitive intersections and interactions between media, medium, and function in their art practice.

More art by © allison anne


allison anne is a queer non-binary collagist, mixed media artist, illustrator + graphic designer from minneapolis, minnesota.

Artist’s website: http://allisonanne.com/

Instagram: @allisonannedesigncreate or http://www.instagram.com/allisonannedesigncreate

 

Stories No. 79 – Lee Matthew Goldberg

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Join Us

By Lee Matthew Goldberg

Rockabilly music about the Holy Ghost pumps through the windows of the Salvation Gateway Fellowship Church, a small, red shack with a giant neon cross on the roof, its buzzy light flickering in the dawn. Nestled between two deflated hills in the Missouri Ozarks, this wonky, stitched-together building is the only beacon for miles. The surrounding landscape provides enough acoustics for God to hear if he wanted, but God hasn’t cared to listen to the town of Salvation in a long time, at least not the same God one would expect to cup a hand around his ear and listen for praises.

Dusty roads petering off into swells of dirt have led a dozen cars toward Preacher Earley and his snake-handling show. For over half a century, the Earley clan has performed these rituals in their Pentecostal church. Beginning with Preacher Earley’s father Cy Sr., and the man’s unwavering belief in the taming of serpents, the Earleys have shocked and awed the local folk and proven their speck of a town could be touched by a greater power since neither father nor son had ever been bitten before. Unfortunately, Cy Sr. died of untreated gangrene in his foot in the 1970s, wholeheartedly convinced that he’d be protected from above even after his toes turned black and yellow and began to fall off. Cy Jr. has been running the circus ever since, now an elderly man with a cane and a slipped capital femoral epiphysis, which causes immense pain and his knees to wobble and knock together.

Much like the son took over from the father, the rickety church welcomes the children of those who first came to see Cy Earley Sr., even though the population of Salvation has dwindled. The allure of a burgeoning meth trade and even the group of isolated people living beyond the lone mountain have also begun to siphon some of the regulars. The Gateway Fellowship adheres to strict dress codes such as uncut hair, ankle-length dresses and no cosmetics for women; and short hair and short-sleeved shirts for the men. Tobacco and alcohol are frowned upon, an antithesis to the “Meth-ers” and the bacchanal nature of the people beyond the mountain.

Still, on Sundays especially, the little outhouse with the neon cross roars. Jasper with his long, calloused fingers is a whiz at bass guitar and Ike’s been playing banjo ever since he was big enough to pick one up. Mose with his missing teeth reaches a heavenly sound on the harmonica and Mary Lou bangs the keys of the piano like she’s trying to release the spirit from within. But they are all just backups to Preacher Earley, the true master of ceremonies.

So it’s on the cycle of April’s full moon that Moon parks his pickup truck in the dusty lot and hops out. In a different life, his chiseled good looks may have led him down a path as a model, but in this one, he has a higher calling. He’s let his mane of hair grow wild, the scruff on his face hasn’t been shaved in weeks, and dirt has been trapped under his fingernails for even longer. He wears a loose shirt, seemingly homemade, which exposes a thick tuft of chest hairs; but his eyes are his greatest gift, a smoldering green with the ability to make someone feel special, and wanted, and drawn to him. Once in St. Louis while he was up on a soapbox spouting about the ills of capitalism, a woman thought he was Jim Morrison, risen from the dead. She was so convinced that she wept when he told her he wasn’t and that his name was Moon. When she asked if it was his first or last name, he replied: “it’s the only one that matters.” He told her the past never had to exist if you didn’t want it to and that he’d been reborn with a sole moniker and she could as well. The next day he gave her a new name and she found herself leaving behind all of her possessions and traveling with him, not the first to become spellbound and far from the last.

The morning of this cycle, Moon had received a message while he was hanging upside-down nude. Just the words Salvation Gateway Fellowship floating behind his irises—he knew what it meant. So he immediately came to stalk the church, making a snake-like sound with his tongue as he enters. The inside is erupting in a din of sounds; the noodling notes causing him to tap his foot. Amaleen, a middle-aged woman who looks as if she’s swallowing her top lip, has a microphone in her hands, her throaty voice singing about the “Holy Ghost’s Power.” Two-dozen hard scrabbled townies raise their palms to the ceiling and spin around in a trance. On shaking legs, Preacher Earley pivots from side-to-side. He wears coke-bottle glasses an inch thick, his comb-over pasted down on the left side of his head with spit. He holds a pit viper snake in his hands, purely in his element, a smile so wide his molars show.

“You’re gonna die in the flesh!” he shouts. “This flesh is gonna go back in the earth!”

Amen. C’mon, preach now, rumbles the parishioners, the ones whose eyes haven’t receded yet in their skulls, or collapsed to the floor in dizzy exhaustion.

Moon watches the snake curl around Preacher Earley’s arm, his eyes blazing.

“But that spirit you got gon’ stick around through Armageddon! Till the end of time!” Preacher Earley declares.

Jangling a tin bucket, a cross-eyed woman weaves between the parishioners. She stops in front of Moon.

“Save your soul?” she asks, her cross-eyes only looking at her nose. Moon stares her down until she moves on.

“Now I can help y’all pray right if you’re willing to give!” Preacher Earley proclaims. “But ya gotta really give and feed this church.”

Moon raises his eyebrow, skeptical. Sticking out his tongue, he hisses at the snake. The snake becomes aware of Moon, as if understanding. It lunges at Preacher Earley, sinking its teeth into his cheek.

Preacher Earley lets out a cry, his knees giving up the fight as he crumbles. Foaming at the mouth, he shakes as blood oozes from the bite.

The parishioners are all caught up in the spirit, oblivious.

Moon calmly backs out of the church.

The snake slithers through the crowd toward the exit too.

Later, the congregation has gathered outside as Preacher Earley is being led on a gurney into an ambulance. The onlookers are wailing, lost in their grief. The cross-eyed woman sits shell-shocked on the curb.

Moon goes over to two teenagers. He wears a Polaroid camera around his neck. The boy and girl hang back from everyone else, close to one another as if a magnetic energy connects them. They rest their heads on each other’s shoulders in mourning.

The boy is slim, his arms like broomsticks hanging out of his short-sleeved shirt. He’s got a few hairs for a mustache that looks like it started sprouting yesterday. His hair is haphazardly cut in a bowl shape, the sides shorn and prickly.

The girl has a sucked-down lollypop on her ring finger, her mouth purpling from the grape taste. Yellow bangs cover her eyes, leaving just two black dots peering through. She wears a baby blue, floor-length dress that only allows her hands to breathe, everything else hidden.

“Terrible shame,” Moon says. His voice has a laconic Southern sway to it like it could rock you to sleep.

Sniffling, the teenagers both nod.

“Preacher Earley was so kind,” the girl says. “He used to make a quarter appear behind my ear when I was little.”

“Makes you wonder where the Holy Spirit was to protect him?”

The boy and girl look up confused.

“Luke 10:19 says, ‘I give unto you power to tread on serpents and nothing shall by any means hurt you.’” Moon says, shaking his head. “But I certainly didn’t see that power earlier. Just the good preacher’s eyes bulging out of his sockets as the venom got him.”

The boy lets out a heartbreaking gasp.

“Just makes me question is all…”

“Question what?” the boy asks.

Moon leans in close, moving in for the kill. “The good book mostly. Definitely not god, never god, but I question if we’re interpreting Him the right way. If He truly is who we believe Him to be.”

Moon puts his arm around both, breaking them up.

“Now my momma used to say food is the best remedy for tragedy. Why don’t I buy you both some breakfast at the Limbo Diner?”

The girl looks at the boy for approval. “My stomach is grumbling?” she says.

“Their peach pancakes are out of this world,” Moon replies.

“Pardon, but who are you, sir?” the boy asks.

“You can call me Moon, just like that luminous pearl hanging in the night sky.”

Moon lets go to take a Polaroid of each of them.

“What you do that for?” the boy asks.

Moon waves the pictures until they develop.

“See how sad you are in those pictures? I guarantee you’ll never be that sad again now that you’ve met me.”

Moon pats his pickup truck that idles behind them.

“Come, y’all can jump in the back and let the wind dry your tears.”

“You don’t look familiar,” the boy says. “You from around these parts?”

“No, but I’ve been in the area for about three hundred and sixty-five cycles. Or a year as you might call it. Long enough to know I’ll be staying.”

The boy and girl still hang back uncertain.

“We better get a move on,” Moon says, with a shuffle. “Come noon those pancakes’ll all be gone.”

The girl shrugs and climbs into the back. The boy hesitates, but he doesn’t want to let her go by herself, and he doesn’t want her to think he’s scared and not a man. He’s eighteen now and he figures it’s time to stop being so afraid of everything. Finally, he climbs in the truck beside her.

Moon goes to the driver’s side door and catches a glimpse of the ambulance as its siren blares. He faces the Mountain in the distance and gives it a sly grin.

“But are either of these the one we’ve truly been waiting for?” he asks, his voice barely a whisper as he thinks his thoughts out loud. “The one who will help take us beyond our wildest dreams?”

Moon jumps in the pickup and revs it up. In the back, the teenagers huddle as they drive away down the dusty road until the Gateway Fellowship becomes nothing more than a blip along the horizon.

Two parishioners, Jasper and Mary Lou watch them go. Jasper works on chewing off a hangnail.

“Who’d those two head off with?” Jasper asks.

Mary Lou shields her eyes from the sun and frowns.

“One of them people o’er the mountain. The devil in his flesh.”

They watch as Moon’s pickup gets smaller and smaller until a swell of dirt blocks it from sight.

 

 

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of Slow Down, The Mentor, and The Desire Card with two other books coming out in 2020. He lives in NYC. Follow him at Leematthewgoldberg.com and @LeeMatthewG

Photo Credit: mrjo_7 / Adobe Stock

Kon Markogiannis, Artist Spotlight No. 21

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ARTIST STATEMENT

Kon Markogiannis is an experimental photographer-mixed media artist-visual poet-independent researcher with an interest in themes such as memory, mortality, spirituality, the human condition, the exploration of the human psyche and the evolution of consciousness. He embraces the indexical qualities of photography and its immediate impact on the viewer, but what he is mainly concerned with are the ways “reality” can be transformed. By manipulating the photographic medium and/or combining it with other media he is able to develop a personal and simultaneously transpersonal language that negotiates between subjective art and the photographic document. He sees his work as a kind of weapon against the ephemeral or, as Vilém Flusser would say (Towards a Philosophy of Photography), a “hunt for new states of things”.

From the Divine Decay series by © Kon Markogiannis


Kon Markogiannis has been exhibiting his art for many years (mainly in Greece and the UK) and his work has been featured in various books, journals, and magazines. His university studies include a BA in Visual Communication Design, an MA in Photography and a Doctorate in Fine Art. He currently lives and works in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Artist’s website: https://www.konmark.com/

Blog: http://konmark.blogspot.com/

 

Stories No. 78 – William Lemon

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Inconvenienced by Death

By William Lemon

The guests poured into the hotel pool dressed in robes, bathing suits underneath their fake, downy fur. The children did not bother with such pretense. They wore as little as possible, unafraid of cancer or the judging eyes of their peers. I joined the procession, tie still about my neck.

Near the entrance to the pool, a cry from the bushes brought my progress to a halt. A small bird, no bigger than my fist, shrieked in desperation. I scanned the area, expecting some doting fowl to race toward him, a reluctant progenitor with a mouthful of worms. Not a soul stirred, though. The little bird remained all alone in the bramble.

When I cried for help, the congregation inside ignored me. The drone of adult conversation suppressed my voice. Not even my flailing arms caught their attention. The parents drank and laughed, heads turned away.

Below, the wailing became louder. I hovered above this poor bird, hand placed on my cleft. After a plan failed to materialize, I went with my only real option: I stormed the lobby, armed with photographic proof.

 

At the front desk, a man in a suit stood upright like a scarecrow, eyes hollow.

“How may I help you, sir?”

“Um, yeah, well, there’s this bird that’s by the pool.”

“How dreadful.”

I waited for him to continue speaking, but the words never materialized. The man shifted his vision to the middle distance, eyes blank with a doe-like sincerity. I repositioned myself to meet his gaze.

“And? What will you do about it?”

“The situation will be handled promptly.”

“Well, good.”

I drummed my fingers on the desk. Though I tried to create a rhythm, the beat came out wonky. Even to my ears, it felt like a disjointed mess.

“Can I offer you a drink voucher,” the man said. “The bar makes a lovely Caipirinha.”

I paused for a moment. White cotton formed at the sides of my mouth. “Ah, well, I suppose so,” I replied. “I’ve earned it, right? Good Samaritan and all.”

“Of course, sir.”

His smile trembled when writing out the coupon. It reminded me of how my arms used to quake in gym class, straining to do just one pull-up. I could not look back as I exited the lobby, sure I’d notice something else from childhood.

I positioned myself toward the pool before ordering my drink. Despite the impossible warmness of alcohol, my tie felt attached, even though I removed it upon arrival. Like a phantom leg, it throbbed for attention. After one more, then another followed by another one, the noose tighten. I called for a shot just before leaving. The sweetness from the lemon drop made my tongue and canker sores pulse with electricity.

 

On the way back to my room, its cry echoed through the concrete canyons of the hotel. My little bird sat atop a black plastic bag inside the garbage area, resting in a pool of unknown fluid. With drunken hands, I constructed a burrow of newspaper and plastic bags. Like baby Jesus, he cooed in his makeshift bed, unaware of the future that awaited him.

In the lobby, the man now slept upright, hands in the shape of a y to support his chin.

“Uh, excuse me, sir,” I said, cupping my hands so that my voice would travel. “Thanks to you, the hotel has an almost-dead bird on its property.”

He blinked before answering, eyes slowly registering our connection.

“I am sorry, sir?”

“You tossed the bird into a dumpster. How is that taking care of the problem?”

“Sir, I will handle this personally this time. There is no need to–.”

“No, there is a need to get angry. I am so goddamn peeved right now. You cannot imagine the review I am going to write on Yelp. What’s your name again?”

“It’s–.”

“It’s what, guy?”

“It’s–.”

Tears began to stream down. In the middle of speaking, he slumped over, curling into a little ball. He rocked back and forth on the floor.

“Mister?”

“I just want to go home,” he whimpered.

“Ah, well, yeah, I’m sure you—” I said, not bothering to finish my sentence. He retreated further underneath the alcove.

“You don’t get it,” he replied, voice muffled. “I haven’t slept in forever; the hotel wants us here in twelve-hour shifts. I can’t think anymore.”

I walked around the front desk, moved his chair out, then sat down next to him. I folded my legs like a kindergartener, inching closer.

“I’m a good person,” he said.

“I’m sure you are.”

“I told the maintenance guy about the bird, and he said he would take care of it.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” I replied, “It must be that jerk’s fault.”

He stopped rocking for a brief moment, positioning himself toward me. While his eyes were red, he had a calmness swirling about the center.

“Maybe you didn’t try hard enough?” The man’s voice shook at the end, wobbling ever so slightly before crashing.

“But I did,” I said. “I went and told you as soon as I found him.”

“And then you put it on me,” he replied. “Just because I’m here in this position and you’re there in that one, why do I have to deal with it?”

“I mean, I suppose it’s not all on you. It’s on me maybe?” I said, not intending it to come out as a question. “I can take a swing, I guess.”

His head no longer sagged between his knees but rather swiveled like a bobblehead.

“Let me get you Animal Control.” He scribbled the number out, then folded the paper into fours. After passing off the responsibility, he managed to stagger to his feet. A faint smile crept over his face, curving slightly at the edges.

 

Back at the nest, I found only darkness. The lights above me buzzed for a moment before turning on. The bulb created a halo over the whole garbage area. Though shadows obscured the bird, I pictured two different possible outcomes. One bird, languidly, lifted its head, meeting my gaze with an almost half-smile. The other, however, slumped over at my touch, no longer in control. Both scenarios had their own set of consequences, none of which seemed preferable. With eyes closed, I thrust my hand into the shadows to secure the little bird.

A faint sound appeared when I pulled him out of the darkness. I imagined nursing the little guy back to health in my hotel room, wrapped in Kleenex so I wouldn’t catch any diseases. I’d have to take him to the conference, too. My hand hesitated a moment. I didn’t let go. I held him in the darkness. The daily slog of parenthood kept playing in my mind, every monotonous aspect of life now a routine, scripted. I held my hand inside the darkness until the light above me went out. His chirping reappeared, louder than when I first met him at the pool. I scampered back to the lobby with him wrapped in plastic, hands shaped like a nest.

The man at the front desk barked at me when I left him on the doorstep.

 

William Lemon teaches literature and composition at Los Angeles City College.

Photo Credit:  Gudellaphoto / Adobe Stock

Lillian Young, Artist Spotlight No. 20

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ARTIST STATEMENT

I have always had a passion for history and incorporate it into my artwork. Growing up, my family made sure that I was well educated about the struggles, victories, and heroes in Black history. While learning those stories I realize that the history that I know is not necessarily what my peers know. Often history may seem irrelevant but has consequences in how we understand and react to current events. In highlighting these moments I work to make a connection to the social anxiety felt today from the rise in racism, loss of representation, and my own struggle of continuing to fight for equality today.

More Art by ©Lillian Young


Historical artist Lillian Young attended Texas Christian University where she received her BFA in Studio Art and an emphasis in Art Education. Lillian depicts forgotten or not well known moments from the Black experience, focusing on lesser-known black leaders, stories, events and objects that are commonly known by the black communities, but unknown by the general public. Lillian is currently attending Michigan State University for her MFA in Studio Art.

Artist’s website: lillartlife.org

Instagram: @canuseeher or https://www.instagram.com/canuseeher

 

Stories No. 77 – Paul Beckman

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Smell You Later

By Paul Beckman

The Sunday of my sixth birthday I was waiting on the stoop for my father to pick me up. Usually he’d take both my older brother and me together on his monthly pickups but not on birthday months. He wanted those to be special and memorable.

That Sunday turned out to be memorable but not special. I sat on the stoop from eight in the morning until it got dark and mom made me go into the house. I fought her. “What happens if he comes in fifteen minutes or ten or even two minutes and I’m not sitting and waiting?” I asked, “He’ll honk his horn,” my mother said, “so go sit in the kitchen and have something to eat. You know he’s not coming. You know he doesn’t like you and that means he doesn’t want to be alone with you.”

“I haven’t eaten because he always takes us out for a special birthday dinner, and I don’t want to miss it,” I said.

The shrink listened as I told this story, made a few notes, and hmmed after each sentence.

“How did that make you feel?” he asked.

“I’m not going to answer that question,” I said.

“Is it too painful?”

“No. it’s too trite. Be creative, show some interest, don’t ask the question that’s become a cliché.”

“We should examine why that question bothers you so much.”

“You bother me more,” I said as I got up, grabbed my jacket and walked out of his office. He followed me. There was a young woman sitting in his waiting room. “Same time next week?”

“Not on your fucking life,” I said. And then I told the girl the shrink was useless, and she should leave, and she told me he was her father and they were going out for dinner, “Watch he doesn’t duck out the back door,” I told her.

I’m forty-eight and this was my fifth and last shrink. I had other more pressing issues besides my father but after sitting they all asked me to tell them about my family and the shrink problem finder always homed in on him.

Later, I got on the I95 parking lot that some call a highway and headed to Milford to pick up my ten-year-old son, James, to go to Chuck E. Cheese and then a batting cage. I didn’t call because he had no cell phone and I didn’t want to get ragged on by my ex so when I pulled into their driveway forty-five minutes late they were out in the backyard at the picnic table eating pizza with a couple of James’ friends.

“Hey, buddy. Did you save room for Chucky?”

“No. I got hungry and mom heated up a couple of pizzas.”

“OK. Grab your gear and let’s hit the batting cage and we’ll have time for a movie.”

“Too late, Dad. Sorry. I figured you weren’t coming so I invited Mel and Alex over for the weekend.”

“Well, why didn’t you call me?”

“Why didn’t you call me?” James asked.

“Talk to you later,” I said.

“Bye, Dad.” He said and I could hear the sadness in his voice, so I turned and waved him over and we sat on the front lawn. “James, I’m sorry. I was at the doctor, left my appointment early and got caught up in the turnpike rush hour traffic. You’re right. I should’ve called but I didn’t want to get into an argument with your mother.”

“You shouldn’t blame her for your mess up, Dad.”

“I’m not blaming her. I already told you what happened and apologized. What more can I do?”

James shrugged.

“Why don’t you say goodbye to your friends and grab your duffel and come over for the weekend.”

“I can’t. I gave them my word we’d hang out together and they could stay the weekend. You wouldn’t want me to not keep my word, would you? Smell you later.”

I stared at James as he walked back to his mother and friends and never turned around to look at me. With tear-filled eyes and angry thoughts, I headed over to the batting cages to take out my frustration with some cuts at the ball. On my third time hitting with the speed cranked up I turned and saw James and his friends standing, watching me. I stared at them as ball after ball passed by me. “Three strikes, you’re out!” called the ticket taker and I dropped my bat on the ground and walked to my car.

 

Paul Beckman’s short story collection Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press), was a finalist for the 2019 Short Story Indie Book Awards. He had a story selected for the 2018 Norton Micro-fiction Anthology and was one of the winners of Best Small Fictions 2016. He won the Editor’s Choice Award in 2016 from Fiction Southeast and was in the Wigleaf Top 50. His stories have appeared in Spelk, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, Thrice Fiction, and The Lost Balloon.

Photo Credit:   22 North Gallery / Adobe Stock

DARKRECONSTRUCTION, Artist Spotlight No. 19

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ARTIST STATEMENT

I am an emerging nonbinary queer artist working in acrylic and watercolor paints, creating abstract expressionist paintings, and a graphic designer with over a decade of experience. Born in St. Petersburg and raised in Bensonhurst, I currently live and create art in Woodhaven, NY. My work focuses on the contrast between urban life and nature. I am inspired by concrete walls overgrown by ivy and tree branches, train underpasses covered in graffiti and grass, a strong New York summer rainstorm beating against my window, the decaying Red Hook warehouses, tiny alleys, and the way the air smells on the first few days of September. It is my aim to create paintings that bring a moment of serenity and calm to the viewer.

More Art by ©DARKRECONSTRUCTION


DARKRECONSTRUCTION is an emerging non-binary queer artist from Queens, NY using abstract expressionism to explore the contrast between nature and urban life.

Artist’s website: https://www.darkreconstructionart.com

Instagram: @DARKRECONSTRUCTION or https://www.instagram.com/darkreconstruction/

 

Stories No. 76 – Lucy Zhang

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Orion

By Lucy Zhang

The first room to the left on the second floor was my brother’s room. Four pieces of tape held a poster of NGC 2024, the star-forming region—ribbons of cloud and smoke, specks of light that penetrated greys and blacks which, instead of obscured, conjured an inexplicable hope to where stars glimmered, mysticism to where they did not. Constellation Orion hung on the door and we had a piece of the sky in our house. The inside of his room remained unremarkable during the day—white walls surrounding a full-sized bed, an IKEA desk, and a collapsible chair taken from the basement. But at night when the lights were off, the blinds drawn, phones on do-not-disturb mode, stars emerged: circular pieces of glow-in-the-dark stickers positioned one after another, wall to wall, stretched constellation after constellation. My brother didn’t care for spatial accuracy; he’d cram the whole sky into his room if he could.

“I’m hoping to research quantum foundations. Which is basically quantum mechanics and is really weird, and maybe that means we don’t understand it perfectly. So I want to help understand it better,” he told me when I was nine and he was thirteen. He tried to explain his research interests to me several times and I eventually learned to stop asking “What does that mean?” and instead say “Cool.”

When it was his twelfth birthday, my brother received a telescope—not the kiddy telescopes but the over one-thousand-dollar type that astronomers use. That night, we sat outside on the deck, both of us in thin cotton pajamas weathering the chilly April air, and he pointed out every single star and astrophysical body he could find to me. Every time he located something new, he’d hold the telescope positioned towards the star, and then he’d crouch down to my height to readjust the view as I walked up to the eyepiece. I didn’t know what I was seeing, but I remember feeling small against a world so big, and how my brother seemed to have transcended the telescope, swept up with the world.

***

On Fridays, when neither of us had school work due the next day, we’d stay up for hours after my parents went to sleep, lying side by side on his bed. One summer night, when the house had already cooled and we could close the window without fear of melting, I found myself tuning out my brother’s descriptions of the same constellations glowing from the room ceiling. I tilted my head to the right to face him, watching his eyes dart from one sticker-formed star to another, his mouth movement stretching and loosening the skin over his cheekbones, his words coming out more loudly than he likely realized. My eyelids dropped before flickering back open—I knew he didn’t like it when I fell asleep. But then my eyes fell shut again and I, now only aware of the soft cotton comforter and subtle heat of a body next to me, heard but no longer listened. Maybe if I had listened, I would have been able to wake up the instant I noticed when the stream of words about Cancer, the constellation under which he was born, had halted.

When I first felt his hand, I thought he had misplaced it. But then it traveled: his large hand and his fingers and their calloused distal interphalangeal joints from gripping pencils too hard, down my ribcage, following the steep dip from bone to stomach–a swamp of smooth skin—then back up at the edge of my hip bone, the last sharp edge before the soft flesh of my thigh. Wandering. Then a finger slid between my thighs, as though unaware how to approach this new territory—with a childish hesitance. A curiosity. Eyes still shut, I turned onto my side, facing him, maintaining my slow breath. I fidgeted my head on the pillow, curled a hand close to my chest, and remained still. Sleeping. His hand shot away from me the instant I moved to adjust my sleep position. The next day he acted as though nothing had happened. I did the same.

I was thirteen and he was seventeen.

***

“Mail me my telescope” was the last thing my brother told me. Or more accurately, the message came as a phone vibration against my thigh and a push notification that I swiped away from the screen and marked as read.

Before he left for college, I had asked him: “Do you want your telescope?”

“No, I’ll be too busy to use it,” he told me. “You can have it so you don’t forget about me.” We laughed—although I wasn’t certain what was funny. Then he left with one suitcase and a backpack and no telescope, and I headed back to my room—the first room to the right on the second floor with an entrance blocked by a bare door.

I didn’t mail him his telescope. He didn’t have a telescope, after all, it was mine: my telescope standing in his room, peaking at the window as though to beckon someone to draw the curtains apart so it could lift open its eyelids and see the world.

I thought it was silly that my brother died in a car crash, of all things. The other driver was drunk, and there’s no match between a BMW X6 and a Honda Fit. The police said it was hard to tell who was in the car at first, the body blanketed by a steering wheel, blood, and darkness. He was returning to the university from Death Valley that night, they said after finding his phone’s GPS attempting to navigate a corpse back to next morning’s midterm. I was fourteen back then, and I pulled an all-nighter, staring up at the ceiling of glowing stickers that supposedly represented big exploding balls of gas. They looked more like holes puncturing the wall to me, and on the other side a hidden light source—nothing I needed a telescope to see, but when I closed my eyes, I refused to sleep.

 

Lucy Zhang is a software engineer and holds a B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science. She watches anime, writes poetry and fiction (when patient enough), and sleeps in on weekends like a normal human being. She can be found at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/.

Photo Credit:  ©Maximusdn / Adobe Stock

Nicole Havekost, Artist Spotlight No. 18

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ARTIST STATEMENT

I am currently making large soft sculptural forms that more directly reference the functions and systems of the body. Hair grows, odors develop, wounds ooze, bones degrade, hormones falter; I can actively influence these processes of my physical form, but I cannot control any of them fully. My body is mine, but it is also an organism with its own needs. I am compelled to explore this organism that exists and acts beyond my desires. If I digest contaminated food, it is expelled by my body. My diminishing hormones cause excessive bleeding and roast me from the inside out as I age into menopause. Sudden movements are painful as muscles become dysfunctional from weakness and injury. These functions occur regardless of my efforts. My previous work explored my body and its discipline with very careful and precise forms. These new figures and forms allow me to explore this growing intimacy and acceptance I have with the organism that is my physical form. The act of sewing is integral to these new forms. The stitch, by piercing, pulling and closing, is both aggressive and restorative. Stitching is an act of accumulation. It is a collection of marks, moments, and attachments that give shape to a form. In undertaking the process of sewing in these figurative forms, I can come to rest in my own body more fully.

More Art by ©Nicole Havekost


Nicole Havekost is an artist living in Rochester, Minnesota. Her own work is varied in media and technique but linked by her interest in material and process. Her work has a delicate and feminine quality, but one that is driven by her particular obsessions. Recently, Nicole was a 2018 Artist Initiative Grant recipient from the Minnesota State Arts Board and a 2018 Advancing Artist grant recipient from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council. She was also a finalist for the 2016 Jerome Emerging Artist fellowship and she was a recipient of a 2013 Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. She has recently exhibited work in New Orleans, Dallas, and Tasmania, Australia. Nicole earned her BFA in Printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA in Printmaking from the University of New Mexico.

Artist’s website:  http://nikimade.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nikimade/

 

Stories No. 75 – Kathryn Ordiway

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Saturday Siren

By Kathryn Ordiway

‘I mean, the hotter the weather, the more people murder,’ your husband says as he wades waist-deep in the murky water. ‘Serial killers and Kansas, you know?’

You have only your feet in the lake, legs stretched long from your place on a blanket because the color—the twinges of red and brown and earthy green—disgusts and concerns you.

This is your husband’s idea of a date: July humidity, a pebbly beach that hurts to walk on, egg salad sandwiches from a 7-Eleven en route, a chorus of shrieking and splashing children. Later, there will be fireworks and more shrieking children, less splashing. Later, he’ll crack open a fresh beer, cross his legs at the ankles, and look for lost magic in those fireworks. Later, he’ll probably snake his hand around your neck and bury you alive with his weight and his kisses.

Your husband is carrying a Miller Lite with him, a damp offering to his young-twenties memories of lakeside fourths with cooler, clearer water, cooler, cleaner air. Cooler friends, too, he’s quick to remind anyone who will listen. This date, this attempt at sparking intimacy and common enjoyment, it is just a ritual in remembrance of his past without you, a backward gaze you don’t quite fit in.

The Saturday test siren goes off, and you tilt your face into the sun. Here is a long, blaring reminder that you have barely reached the heat of the day, that you have hours to go until you rest easy in the cool embrace of the ceiling fan–chilled bedsheets. Noon, the siren cries. Nine-plus hours until the fireworks.

You had to pack the car on a whim this morning, barely even remembering where the beach towels were hidden. Swimsuits had to be fished out of plastic bins where rarely used clothing is stored. Water shoes, lost. Sun hats, missing in action. And all the while, your husband pacing around in the kitchen, tapping his too-long nails on the countertops to signal his impatience, sometimes clenching his fists.

You were invited to a neighborhood barbecue to celebrate the holiday, had RSVPed and volunteered to bring a raspberry and blueberry torte, but he decided not to go. ‘Too square,’ he said from in front of the stove where he was frying thick pepper bacon. ‘I have a better plan.’

Too square, as if you hadn’t spent the previous evening in your overgrown backyard, sitting in plastic Adirondack chairs, swapping facts from two separate presidential biographies about two separate assassinated presidents.

Too square, he said, and you picked up your phone and tried to figure out how to apologize for bailing on appearing and bringing dessert.

‘Think of it this way,’ he says now as he comes out of the water, dripping and goose-pimpled, to stand before you and the picnic blanket. ‘It’s hot all the time, and flat probably, and there are almost no trees, zero air-conditioning. Every time you go outside is a danger. Too hot to run or to bike. Too hot to do anything. No shade.’

You cannot tell if he’s describing his image of Kansas or the eventual apocalypse. You’re busy peeling one of the sandwiches apart, watching small chunks of egg fall onto your crossed shins. Sweat inches down your spine as your smack the sandwich back together—you hate, and he loves, egg salad, just as you hate, and he loves, the heat.

‘It’ll just go on and on, the heat, with no relief. Wouldn’t you go crazy?’

‘You haven’t even been to Kansas,’ you say in response, and you lie back on the blanket. He offers a line of shade across your feet and ankles, a welcome relief.

‘I’ve been to Kansas tons of times.’

But you’ve closed your eyes to him and the sun and the flies and the lick of green at the edge of your vision that is probably a tree.

‘Tons of times.’

Somewhere behind you, there are children throwing rocks and jumping about. You can hear the thwack of frisbees in palms, the thump of a father tossing a baseball into his daughter’s mitt. There are women comparing sunscreen brands, kids smacking each other with foam noodles.

You overhear a boy telling a girl about the octopus that lives in the lake, red and bloated, tired and angry, waiting for food, snaking its tentacles toward the shallows for prey. You hear her squeal, then giggle.

‘Serial killers and Kansas,’ your husband mutters as he joins you on the blanket. Shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, the spots where the two of you touch are momentarily cooled by the lake on his skin.

‘What else is there to do?’

You turn and squint into his wide face, certain you’ve missed something.

 

Kathryn Ordiway is a technical editor for a scientific journal and a fiction writer. She studied English, with concentrations in Creative Writing and Literature, at Saint Vincent College. Her work has appeared in New Flash Fiction Review, 805 Lit + Art, littledeathlit, and Francis House. She lives in Oklahoma, where she’s always waiting for it to rain. She’s on Twitter @KatOrdiway.

Photo Credit: ©ricardoreitmeyer / Adobe Stock

Letisia Cruz, Artist Spotlight No. 17

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ARTIST STATEMENT

My illustrations are rendered primarily in pen and ink on paper. I am inspired by strong, trailblazing women who push boundaries, forge their own paths, and define for themselves what it means to achieve success. I am also inspired by the take-no-shit attitude of the 1990s and transformative self-expression made possible through art, poetry, and music. ​My illustrations often depict tattooed girls straddling light and dark, gazing into their own abyss, and defining their sense of self. Much of my work is infused with elements of nature and centered around the seasons, the passing of time, and the theme of rebirth.

More Art by ©Letisia Cruz


Letisia Cruz is a Cuban-American writer and artist. She is the author of The Lost Girls Book of Divination (Tolsun Books, 2018), and her chapbook Chonga Nation was selected as a finalist in the 2018 Digging Press Chapbook Competition. Her writing and artwork have appeared in [PANK], Ninth Letter, The Acentos Review, Gulf Stream, 300 Days of Sun, Moko Caribbean Arts and Letters, and Ink Brick, among others. She is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MFA program and currently lives in Florida with her partner and two cats.

Artist’s website:  https://www.lesinfin.com/

Instagram: @lesinfin or https://www.instagram.com/lesinfin/

 

Stories No. 74 – M. DeVoe Talley

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Reeled In

By M. Devoe Talley

I saw you then in the summer from the promenade of that county fair as you lay on your back in the near grass and I wandered with girlfriends I barely knew. The late low sun dazzled your tangle of blond hair, and a mustache made you look older, closer to twenty-eight—which was good. Demigods of a lesser mythology, callow and vain, ignorant and cruel. Aware of our powers, but not mindful of how fast they might fade, with the sunset, with the summer.

You seemed a prince in exile, yet the center of attention, and I felt something, perhaps not love, but a desire or demand. I wanted one of you. I’d thrown away yesterday’s university boys and wanted tomorrow’s man. I was of the moment, at my zenith, and therefore entitled to have you. Our beach tans cast us in bronze, the photo-aging of the sun’s revenge decades away. And I reeled you in, as I could do, for the initial catch is easy; it’s only the keeping that requires a sustained spell beyond pheromonal witchcraft—an anguished concentration.

You might have made eye contact and advanced toward me even had I been another, more conventional, less exotic.

“Hey, babe. What’s happening? Never seen you before.”

You deserted your coterie of male friends and the random women lingering nearby trying not to look hungry. I wore light blue eye shadow, knock-me-down pumps, and a halter top. Together we were fashioned of mirror sunglasses, pastel colors, and faded jeans, carrying Salem menthols and looking for beers, and somebody had a joint so no reason to hassle about all that. Be patient, bliss will arrive.

My girlfriends retreated in whispers, beach grass in the wind. While your sports car guys were still sprawled languorously on the green, waiting for the electricity of night to animate them. Aware of the magic, our magic, they nodded their heads, almost bobbing in a rhythm of agreeance. Spellbound. The whole scene playing out as if predestined, the magnetic pull of moon and tides bringing us together as shadows extended and a slight breeze kissed our hair. The wind couldn’t chill the long day’s warmth baked into the ground.

Then we walked, laughing about things that may not have been funny but were because we chose them to be. “That Ferris wheel looks crazy.”

“Yeah, I know. So many lights.”

Smiling when words failed. Baring teeth in an ancient mating ritual.

The sunlight came in slivers and shards, a sky still pale blue, and only the children had confusion worrying their faces. Where’s mom and dad? When do we eat? And perhaps dinner could be improvised, somewhere down the road. At IHOP or Friendly’s or Howard Johnson, ordered off embossed menus while parental restrictions wavered from the exhaustion of an eternal day that stretched right past eight at night. As ice cream and milk shakes melted over young mouths then spilled over their clothes in messy nocturnal joy, and at the very nature of being alive. Because of summer: not much of anything to do or not do, nowhere to get to in a hurry or stay at for any given time. Deadlines and curfews, the restraints that harness the world most of the year, becoming vague, almost intangible near the solstice.

The cotton candy and popcorn we gathered were discarded along our trajectory through makeshift avenues created by rows of carnival game booths and food stands.

“Check out all this stuff.” You spoke using simple phrases, and during those beginnings we imagine more interesting people hidden in the shy silences.

The fairway grass lay flat, trampled beneath our feet, a faint tang of manure wafting from distant pony rides, and carny voices hawking for our attention but receiving none. I brought you in close and nuzzled your neck, and pressed my breasts against you casual-like when it’s never casual-like, after we shared a forgotten Schaefer beer plucked from melted ice water in a cooler. We fell into one another when the sun came down to greet us, glowing orange like live coals nestled in the high branches behind a wall of trees to the west. The whole slender long island of Long Island stretched out before us: potato fields and manicured gardens, orchards and tangles of brush. Mountains impossible, the flat topography mapped by houses and lanes, by the open meadow just beyond us with a lone horse whinnying in a paddock.

In the finality of night, we searched for a bar or club on a jetty, the slap of bay waves against dock pilings, where a band might play a favorite summer song, or we could find a jukebox that never quieted. Only the urge to be orphaned from our families a constant. Indifferent to politics and churning foreign wars that could barely grip us, the greater world remained a rumor we chose to ignore.

And later we undressed, if not that evening, then soon after and time again. No details linger, but it doesn’t matter if it was fantastic, or drunken, or fumbling and apologetic, or wild and animalistic. We looked good together, and when we walked nestled in a symbiotic form, people watched us, not so much in jealousy, but in understanding that such was the way of the world, and to hate this thing, to hate us, would only expose their thorny, embittered souls. For that was the reason to live while young. Applaud it as it passes by, pay respect and then seek it for yourself, or go cradle a memory of when it once burned inside, relentless.

We were bonded forever and ever, and our forever lasted through August. I came from the city; you were a local. “Bonackers” they called you. You skippered boats, day fishing trips where you reeled-in the big one for clients. In the lazy recumbent hours you confided, “I want to sail the coast with you, clear down to South America and then across Cape Horn.”

We would somehow end up eventually, miraculously in the Mediterranean—beyond our struggles, and relaxed in a facsimile of love that had traveled stormy and arrived intact. It would all occur the following June after my senior year ended and you made more money, and it was as good a plan as any hatched in youthful passion. And might have even happened. But graduation took me to Europe and I never returned to Long Island and you never wrote or called me. Perhaps someone else joined you on our delirious, insane voyage.

#

I woke up throbbing with this memory, a fever dream that submerges the sleeper then throws them back onto land startled and uncertain in a reality that appears strange after being so deeply immersed. To navigate a marriage not sparked by electricity, but comforted by the sameness, the lasting quality of longtime possessions when so much that is transient falls away in life. We choose the things of worth that ground us, to remind us who we are, not who we were. It’s a selection process, and the autumn of life brings different choices than during those prolonged sunsets of our brazen youth.

Max DeVoe Talley was born in New York City and lives in Southern California. His fiction and essays have appeared in Fiction Southeast, Gravel, Santa Fe Literary Review, Entropy, Hofstra University – Windmill, Bridge Eight, and Litro. Talley’s novel, Yesterday We Forget Tomorrow, was published in 2014, and he is an associate editor for Santa Barbara Literary Journal.

Water Color Illustration:  ©  lcrms / Adobe Stock

2019 Digging Press Chapbook Spring/Summer Results

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We’re so happy to announce the results for the 2019 Spring/Summer Digging Press Chapbook competition. This year’s winner is…

Ain’t Country Like You by Abigail Carl-Klassen (Poetry)

Abigail Carl-Klassen is a poet, writer, educator, translator and activist. Raised in a rural community in the Texas panhandle, she relocated to the U.S.-Mexico border where she worked for many years in El Paso in community development and public education. She has done ethnopoetic work with migrant workers, Old Colony Mennonite communities in Mexico and Texas, social workers, homeless communities, immigrant communities along the U.S.-Mexico border, and most recently, with Central American migrants and asylum seekers in Mexico.

Her work has been published in English and Spanish and has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Catapult, Guernica, Willow Springs, Cimarron Review, Aster(ix), Kweli, Matter, and Huizache, among others. She has been anthologized in IMANIMAN: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands (Aunt Lute) and New Border Voices (Texas University Press), among others, and is a staff writer at Poets Reading the News. She earned an MFA from the University of Texas El Paso’s Bilingual Creative Writing Program, taught at El Paso Community College and the University of Texas El Paso.

Our finalists and honorable mentions are:

FINALISTS
Sea Glass Catastrophe by Quinn Rennerfeldt (poetry)
Kalamansi by Div S. (poetry)
Amo e Canto by JC Reilly (hybrid)
The Baklanov Equations by Fred McGavran (fiction)

HONORABLE MENTIONS (alphabetical)
Jezebel by Carol Burbank (poetry)
I drew a flag upside down on your back by Robin Gow (poetry)
Golden Years by Paul Ilechko (poetry)

Congrats to our winner, finalists, and honorable mentions!

Sumantra Mukherjee, Artist Spotlight No. 16

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ARTIST STATEMENT

In my city, Kolkata, post-colonial is not a theory, but a fact of daily life. It has left India in a crisis of identity. My generation heard and read the old stories of varied cultures, living traditions and a multitude of languages, but nowadays is separated from them to a great extent. One common denominator creating the changes our society is going through seems to be that what looks Western must be better. This creates a hybrid lifestyle in food, music, politics and religion, where the imported takes precedence over the existing. The Indian skin is no longer preferred by the Indians. FAIR & LOVELY by Unilever is one of many skin whitening creams advertising success at work and at home by virtue of acquiring white skin alone. Not only is lifestyle affected, contemporary politics borrows heavily from populist foreign models. A general idea of fear dominates our discussion everywhere, in India today it has become a daily part of life. I feel helpless towards these circumstances and want to create a position from where I feel able to act.

My way of dealing with these circumstances is reflecting through imagery, using local symbolism and iconography, composing a contemporary visual commentary accessible to any who are affected. This necessarily extents to a public context, where painting and posters are put out in the streets to make them available to those I try to speak to.

More Art by Sumantra Mukherjee


Sumantra Mukherjee is a graduate of The Government College of Art and Craft in Kolkata. His solo shows include: “Cloud 9,” (Kolkata); Titled as NORMAL (Het Wilde Weten, Rotterdam);  and more recently “Chiriya Chug Gayi Cake” (Society of Contemporary Artist Space, Kolkata).

Artist’s website: http://sumantramukherjee.blogspot.com/2016/01/normal-het-wilde-weten-rotterdam-nl.html

Instagram: @sunnydewall or https://www.instagram.com/sunnydewall/

Additional website: http://artdistrict13.com/artist_profile.php?artist_id=48#

Stories No. 73 – Christina Rosso

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What Happens When the Ride Stops

By Christina Rosso

  1. The wave curled, a claw digging into flesh. My tiny body thrashed in the ocean, the pressure of the wave on my neck and shoulders like a thousand bricks. Saltwater bled from my nose and throat. It was like being on the tilt-a-whirl at the Malvern Fair. I would ride it until I was hunched over, my head between my knees, my strawberry blond hair licking the trampled, trash-littered grass. But unlike the tilt-a-whirl, these tidal waves weren’t a ride I could get off.
  2. My mother-in-law called to congratulate me on the big news. What big news? I asked. You’re pregnant! she said, her voice shrill with glee and pride. I looked at my husband in confusion. I wasn’t pregnant. He and I both knew I was incapable of creating life.
  3. It played out before me in slow motion, as though it wasn’t happening to me. A film reel that could be paused and edited and restarted. The lean muscles in his body pinned me to the mattress. Pause. That’s not correct. Rewind. Play. The lean muscles of his torso pinned me to the mattress, the lean muscles of his legs pinned Jess to the mattress. Both of us, teenage girls, out past curfew, under the weight of a monster, who had, until three minutes prior, been a prince.
  4. My hand clutched the still warm soft down of her tiny head. Her face was ghoulish in its blue coloring, and pinched, as though the birth canal had disgusted her. And why shouldn’t it? It had killed her, drowned her in amniotic fluid and blood. I had killed her, my body betraying its sacred duty. I could feel the witch behind me, her laugh a wheeze of dust and decay scraping my shoulder.
  5. There’s always been something about you and death, Jess said. Her voice earnest and unwavering, as though she was telling me she liked my most recent hair color. Of course, she was right. Normal people didn’t find dying birds and rodents on sidewalks and hiking trails and at work. They didn’t pause to watch their little lungs pushing out labored breaths like a car on empty, stalling and then stopping. Normal people slept through the Witching Hour, eyes gently closed, their breathing even; they didn’t sit with every light on, their eyelids peeled back, heartbeat frantic, waiting and watching for something to come. Or strike. Normal people didn’t have visions of destruction and chaos during meditation and acupuncture, where everyone and everything swirled and burned around them as they sat cross-legged and watched, worry free. Normal people didn’t have a spirit attached to them like I did.
  6. At the start of the Witching Hour, the piercing clang of the piano began. Every night I was propelled out of sleep by this haunting lullaby. A thick knot in my throat, I tiptoed into the hallway, careful not to step on the spots that squeaked. I always knew I was in danger, yet still I moved closer, as though a strong breeze pushed me forward, towards her. Her neck spun like an owl’s at the exact moment her skeletal fingers stopped playing. I opened my mouth to scream, but it was gone, a patch of pink, pliable skin in its place. Like a wave, the witch surrounded me, her long fingers like spider’s legs wrapping around me, her claws penetrating my freckled skin. Blood dripped from the fresh wounds. Like the confusion and time lapse when you nod off to sleep and jerk violently awake, suddenly the witch had me in the water, her shriveled hands surprisingly strong. They held me down, a thousand bricks on top of my neck and shoulders. The saltwater burned my nose and throat. My tiny body thrashed against the witch even though I knew it was pointless. I peeled my eyes back wide; I wouldn’t blink. I wanted to see what would happen when the ride stopped.

 

Christina Rosso is a writer and bookstore owner living in South Philadelphia with her bearded husband and two rescue pups. Her debut collection, SHE IS A BEAST, is forthcoming from APEP Publications. Her writing has been featured in FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Ellipsis Zine, and more. Visit http://christina-rosso.com or find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.

Photo Credit:  © korionov / Adobe Stock

Not Dead Yet by Hadley Moore – Book Review No. 9

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The Rage and Compassion
Book Review by Gessy Alvarez

Not Dead Yet
By Hadley Moore
Winner of the 2018 Autumn House Fiction Prize
Autumn House Press, September 2019
216 pages, $17.95

In Not Dead Yet, Hadley Moore’s intense debut story collection, the desolation of bereavement is depicted in ways that are both complex and deeply compassionate, drawing rich characters that are utterly flawed and human. In the opening story, “When My Father was in Prison,” a young boy envies his neighbor’s relationship with her father and competes for the attentions of his overwhelmed mother (“I think the boys will kill me”)  and his frustrated teenage brother (“Just don’t tell him about Carl, okay.”) A child struggles with violent impulses as his mother grows more detached from him in the chilling story “Mother and Child.” And, in the titular story, a man, whose first wife died of cancer, must once again prepare for the caretaking of someone he loves.

In each of the nine stories in this collection, Moore conjures the agony and absurdity of surviving life’s obstacles, heartaches, and disappointments, revealing the inner layer of our deepest fears and frustrations. Moore’s characters are diverse but connected to each other through their strengths and weaknesses, their need for emotional connection and their overwhelming anxiety. In beautifully rendered scenes, Moore extracts the good, bad, and ugly. Negotiating between shocking imagery and revelatory inner monologues, Moore’s chosen dramatic movements wisely amp up our narrative anticipations and take us in unexpected directions.

Volume 6 of Digging, Calls for Submissions, & More

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Volume 6 of Digging is halfway done!

Much thanks to all our 2019 contributors so far: (nonfiction) Andrew Rihn and Simona Zaretsky; (poetry) henry 7. reneau, jr, Lisa Nance, Nolan Meditz, Bryan D. Price, David Midkiff, Thea Matthews, Alex Wells Shapiro, Morgan Peacock, KG Newman, Gabrielle Peterson, Lorraine Henrie Lins, Bina Ruchi Perino, Katherine Lutz, Stephanie R. Nahhas, Annalee Eagerton, and rhea moon. You can read all their amazing works in our latest volume here.

Much thanks to our assistant editors: Ernesto L. Abeytia, Lindsay Costello, Tova Kranz, Alexis Groulx, and Karen Levy for generously donating their free time and editorial eyes during the poetry and nonfiction submission periods.

We’ll be featuring Artist Spotlights and Fiction during the fall and winter months. Stay tuned!

 

Calls for Submissions

Call for Fiction Submissions through August 31st.

Send no more than ONE piece during the reading period. Word limit: 1,500 or less. Please do not email your submissions. Flash fiction is welcomed.

Use the Submittable button or view our guidelines at our website here.

 

The Digging Press Chapbook Series Competition is open for submissions through Oct. 15 for fiction, poetry, or hybrid manuscripts. We seek innovative manuscripts that are inventively personal and richly imagined. We are inspired by the works of Clarice Lispector, Augusto Monterroso, Lynne Tillman, Óscar Esquivias, Giannina Braschi, Italo Calvino, Lydia Davis, Zakaria Tamer, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa, Sonia Sanchez, Ocean Vuong, Sam Sax, Claudia Rankine, Eileen Myles…

Use the Submittable button below to submit or view our guidelines at our website here.

New Publications by Mandy-Suzanne Wong

We are so proud of Mandy-Suzanne’s accomplishments. Here’s a listing of her latest publications:

Mandy-Suzanne Wong is the author of Awabi, the first chapbook in our Digging Press Chapbook Series. The chapbook is available for purchase here. Submitters receive a 20% discount when purchasing the book from Submittable.

Podcast

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Poetry No. 47 – rhea moon

Featured

delicate

you brush with one tender
finger under your earlobe
the very
spot
just three evenings prior
i watched in earnest

a trembling sentry sat behind you in church

the vulnerable flesh poised
to meet the prospect of my lips
and i could’ve just
swept that spot

gentler than a feather duster bumping
everything on the way down

or so i thought it might be like

you pointed upward
DYKES
RULE!
scrawled on the ceiling

it’s true

next day
while in the bookstore
with Boosie
i caught sight of you
in a blazer
and you moved me

super serious
conveyer belt smooth
you strode off

with the enthusiasm of a recent convert
i marked the sign of the cross
grateful
i prayed a sacred vow
from this mouth
to that spot


rhea moon is the author of “midnight zone”, a first chapbook, lives in pittsburgh, pa, and is a single parent. rhea has an essay forthcoming in Argot Magazine.

© rhea moon

Photo Credit:  © rachid amrous / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 46 – Auden Eagerton

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Telling the Bees

I keep the hive you left
as a makeshift ribcage,
feed it the roots of my blanks.

I open my palms—
———————scraps.

The rest is stomped ash in my hands
every grain smudged teeming
into the next. A smattering
gesture on an abacus.

I am chronic reenactment,
anthropologist, spooling into
honeycomb the inkblots of legends.

Plasma and smarting cedar.
A child gashed,
———–suspended aperture.

Edematous ruination.


Auden Eagerton is a non-binary poet located in Kennesaw, Georgia. They received a Bachelor of Arts in English, as well as a minor in Film Studies, at Kennesaw State University. Their interests lie heavily in studying American literature and poetry. In addition to publishing their own poetry, Eagerton aims to one day become an editor for a literary magazine and be involved in both sides of the publishing process. Their work has been featured in Exhume Literary Journal, Cathexis Northwest Press, LandLocked Magazine, Across the Margin, DASH Literary Journal, The Bookends Review, and The Orchards Poetry Journal, and is upcoming in peculiar, The Meadow, and Kudzu.

© Auden Eagerton

Photo Credit:  © Серафима Манекина / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 45 – Stephanie R. Nahhas

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Gutters of February

When my aunt got sick,
I didn’t understand how a brain
could eat itself away,
how can a brain eat itself,
like coils of a serpent eating its own tail,
that relentless self-destruction.
It’s not easy turning ash into ember,
not easy to undo what has been done.
If it’s beautiful and glows red and orange,
it still burns itself into dust.
When she wasn’t aching, (was she aching?)
there were moments
she’d forget the atrophy, the disjointed flails,
sharp edge of shale cutting her knuckles,
knocking out her teeth.
How many times
do I throw a penny into a pond,
until I realize that hope is the product of the mind?
That hope is a ruby smashed in mud,
that the mind in my family is often an enemy.
Little thoughts, give me a story to stomach.
No more throwing you into dirty water;
No more chicken bones thrown into the gutters of February.

nuances of sound

I have a native tongue that doesn’t hold home well

these syllables don’t roll
the staccato is not sharp

too foreign for here
too foreign for there
not an entity in either country

to hold roots in two places that want nothing to do with each other
to live in a land that tells your people they cannot come

but you are here
and here doesn’t want your people
here would have turned you away too if it could

how many times have I held my tongue
for fear of the sounds that would follow

to live in a place where they cannot hear my foreign and
they cannot see my olive

my tongue not chained to a dialect
or a language
or a border

have you ever heard the sadness
of geography

it is in my Arabic

Syria Villanelle

I will tell you what I remember:
Blood flooded gutters on the holy day
Not easy turning ash into ember

The clothes I wore were torn and tethered
Stench of sulfur led me astray
I will tell you what I remember

It was the middle of November
Smoke crawled the streets and down my airway
Not easy turning ash into ember

Ringing ears as I stumbled through town center
Heads like trophies were put on display
I will tell you what I remember

Spilled fruits of the local vendor
Neighbors shot down, refusing to obey
Not easy turning ash into ember

Ancient nation forced to surrender
The Syria I knew fades away

I wasn’t there yet I remember
Not easy turning ash into ember

 

Raised on the northwest side of Chicago, Stephanie R. Nahhas is a recent graduate from Butler University, where she studied creative writing and chemistry. She will be continuing her education at The Ohio State University pursuing her doctorate in optometry. She also spent her high school years as a member of her school’s poetry slam team. Much of Stephanie’s work involves her Syrian heritage and finding her identity within being a first-generation American.

© Stephanie R. Nahhas

Photo Credit: “camping dans le désert syrien” © gaelj / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 44 – Katherine Lutz

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A la criolla puertoriqueña

The water lays flat like
A plate of glass ready
To rise up and stand
Between the sun and me.
The sand is a fine,
White powder dappling
My feet as I walk
Across the sandbar like
A water bug.

On the island of Vieques
Where a bomb dropped from the sky
And created beaches like the Plains—
A flat, people-less expanse—
I wade in the radioactive space
Between my tourist experience
And mainland colonialism
And ask myself, is the water so warm and lovely?

I eat beans tender with the
Spices of my mother’s
Louisiana youth.
I read a la criolla on the menu.
I breathe in blue with each
Bite of mofongo.

I watch for signs of Taínos
In the locals’ blue jeans
And fried chicken.
Like seeing Choctaw in
The roots of sassafras.
I search for shards of pottery,
Hollowed canoes
In the powder beaches
And crisp, blue water.

When Santa Maria comes
I see white visions
On a stage, three weeks after
Mom died. My rage
Laid waste to the city
Folded in my memory.

Katrina did not take as many
Lives as Maria. She only took
A city while Maria took an island
Both painted grey and flat
And ready to rape. Is this
The end of creole-style?

Can the puertoriqueños go home
To New York, Pennsylvania
Or Chicago? Make their
Island anew on asphalt and tile.
I will not tell them what I know—
What they know—
Of exile and carrying a culture
In the smallest
Corner of your heart.

I will not sing the emptiness of a creole girl,
A husk-less canoe
A grounded pecan.

Katherine Lutz holds a B.A. in Biology and Spanish from Wellesley College and an M.S. in Science Journalism from Boston University. She is a longtime, Boston-based science and health writer and a more recent poet.

© Katherine Lutz

Photo Credit: © spacaj / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 43 – Bina Ruchi Perino

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Every Sunday Morning

Divinity must live within herself.  –Wallace Stevens

 

She didn’t plan
———on being married and quartered,
battered and bursting –

are Her palms
———close enough to the aarti light?
does She pray

on crossed legs
———for saffron nectar enough?
If She had four arms,

She’d hold each child
———from the cremating house,
she’d hold him down

until he’d wash
———Her feet with his own blood,
until he’d see

the face of Kali
———on Her ash-smeared tongue.

 

 

Bina Ruchi Perino is a University of North Texas post-baccalaureate student, seeking a Bachelor of Arts in English, Creative Writing. Her work can be found in the North Texas Review, The Nassau Review, Sink Hollow, and more. Her flash fiction is forthcoming in Euphony Journal.

© Bina Ruchi Perino

Photo Credit: © / Adobe Stock

Essay No. 11 – Simona Zaretsky

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Letters to Flowers

We stand in that field. The sun traces you in gold and you shine from behind, with one hand resting on the rough stone. The stone rises up to your fingers, needing your touch like you need its grey assurance. There is a lot of necessity sitting heavy in the July humidity. The grass a sweet shade of green, patiently waiting for the breeze. And we stand, the usual crowd: me, you, sister, black granite. Maybe marble. I’ve never asked.

We discuss the Tree of Life designs etched into neighboring stones. Slender trunks with branches reaching up to a divine sky, brushing last names in bold, capital letters, loud with absence. Two of these wistful pictures; did they coordinate, the stormy rectangles whispering at sundown? We say the long, syllabic names that entertain us; not to criticize them, how could we with a name like ours? But to hear the company my mother keeps. To wonder what holidays and Sunday mornings sound like for the eternal. If I don’t look away from the stone, I risk falling in.

I search the smooth marble surfaces, looking for faces peering out of curling years and stories tucked between corners. I ache for someone else’s grief. My chest tightens with the familiar craving to breathe in their story like the smell of summer rain. To know their secret wishes, darkest moments, and fiery triumphs, who they loved and why they loved, and where they went when they couldn’t.

I can’t remember when we all turn back when I link arms with my sister, and you take her other arm and we touch the stone. As sudden as death, we are all together. We are whole, together like we haven’t been in years; the chatter, the observations, the weather notation is all just dinner talk. And here we stand, eating our emotions. We are tantalizingly normal. A hard-won heartbeat. We feast on amnesia and I am so satisfied. The warmth that flushes to my toes to my fingertips fills my throat, with the most comfortable sense of being full. Beautiful in its unexpectedness but terrible in its leaving, its shattering potential.

When the heartbeat ends, I cannot look at the stone. I cannot touch the chipped rough rectangle on top, that so many of the stones have. Onyx with yawning flowers my mother drew carved on either side of her name, her years, and her three words; each one responsible for explaining her significance to her family, her importance to the world, and her ultimate injustice in death so young. Beloved.

The injustice is for those on the other end of beloved, the buzzing longing that we hear on these stagnant afternoons. The parents the children the you. I am only ever filled with questions: about my mother, about you, about the immense sea of human life, waves rolling ever higher.

Since we visited Mount Hope on Sunday, I feel emptier, more filled with this sloppy, roiling compulsion to know lives and lies that drip so profoundly in this saturated July air. Did she choose the flowers? Did she know she was going to die, lying in the hospital bed, holding our small hands? Did you? How do we keep going? Fifteen years later I miss her more than ever and I still don’t know how to tell people, no, my mother died when I was young, but I’m okay now; I’m healed by the churning of time and the careful, sugared lies my memory sings me to sleep with. If you get over death, you’re a ghost. If you get stuck, you’re just one of us.

On this Sunday, you told her we were all done with school now; even though you looked at us, your words fell towards the stone and the now burning grass. Each blade beginning to simmer green. Sister says I’m wrong, says my memory was weeded even breathing in the moment. But I know you were talking to her. Wanted her to be there.

That moment of wholeness was everything, as delicious as that first bite of apple when the golden leaves crackle to the ground; it leaves me with three rattling seeds and a browning chewed core.

I’m afraid to think of her constantly hovering nearby, a woman I almost knew, but I’m terrified to believe she’s gone forever and that I can never hug her again. I know I should be better now, but I don’t know what to do with this sadness, where to hide it on joyful days and how to remember on grey ones. This missing. I look for my mother in all the women I meet. I consider whether they would be a good mother, whether I would want them to be my mother. I hunger for their approval, their advice, their wisdom; things I’m not entitled to from them. Sometimes I think I just have to sit with the sadness. I have to be quiet and whisper myself happy. Other times I think this can’t be right. It’s been fifteen years, I should be over it; so I wrap the sadness and longing in red velvet and put it in a cedar box and bury it deep deep in the ground with nothing but a smile to mark its presence below.

We stand.

 

Simona Zaretsky is a writer posing as a New Yorker, happy to be perpetually lost. She attended Sarah Lawrence College where she studied English and History. Her work was recently featured on the podcast The Literary Whip. She’s always looking for another book to add to her stack and she has a no-longer-secret passion for seashells.

© Simona Zaretsky

Photo Credit: © Avgustus / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 42 – Lorraine Henrie Lins

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The Last Time I Heard From Her

She’d written me
on the backside label
from a can of Libby’s corn kernels
to tell me that she was doing well
and thought I’d love the idea
of getting corn-label greetings
instead of the forty-seven cent
postcard she bought her mom.

Some nights,
when I miss her most,
I’ll unfold the label,
watch the way her hand
pulled letters into words,
the blue-inked loop
of the a connecting
her misspelled greeting,
flinch at her their instead of there.

I wanted her anarchy back then,
to be the one that sent
scenic-viewed postcards
when the idea of home
became something she
wanted to touch again.

 

Lorraine Henrie Lins is a Pennsylvania county Poet Laureate and author of four books of poetry. She serves as the Director of New and Emerging Poets with Tekpoet and is a founding member of the “No River Twice” improvisational poetry troupe. Lins’ work appears in publications and collections, and a small graffiti poster in Australia. Born and raised in the suburbs of Central New Jersey, the self-professed Jersey Girl now resides outside of Philadelphia where she has learned to pump her own gas. www.LorraineHenrieLins.com

© Lorraine Henrie Lins

Photo Credit: © Brad Pict / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 41 – Gabrielle Peterson

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what was meant by woem

written in pencil on the subway window.
the faint urgency, or else he/she (she) (he)
would have waited for a pen;
graphite’s small struggle against
the synthetic sill. still, what is “woem?”
woman? womb…poem? the space between apples.
the sound a belly makes when it has nothing.
the drunken or sleep laden conviction
to say something, but say it wrong.
to announce, nonetheless,
no particular portion of pain.
nothing but the buried and creviced pit
of need. here is my woman. my womb. my woe
for you to have or not have. for you to not even know
you have the option of having.
the stately moons attached to a letter,
wrong or not wrong, they pull.

 

Gabrielle Peterson is a Chicago-based writer who has work that has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Literary Bohemian, Eunoia Review, Triggerfish Critical Review, Front Porch Review, Cider Press Review, Connotation Press, and Sooth Swarm Journal. She writes poems every day on the train and lives with her fat cat Penelope. More of her work can be found at www.gabriellempeterson.com.

© Gabrielle Peterson

Photo Credit: © Kit / Adobe Stock

Calls for Submissions – Chapbook and Artist Spotlight

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The Digging Press Chapbook Series Competition

Deadline June 15

Click image for more info.

Submit fiction, poetry, or hybrid chapbooks between 16 – 36 pages. Selected manuscripts have a small print-run (100 – 120 copies), and authors receive 20 copies plus $250 payment. Reading fee: $10.

 

 


Artist Spotlight Call for Submissions

Ends July 15

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Submit a link to your Instagram and/or website artist portfolio. Include a short bio, artist statement, and a high-resolution .jpeg image that best represents your body of work via Submittable. Please DO NOT email us your submissions.

submit


Where to Buy Our Chapbook

Click image to go to shop.

Our first chapbook, Awabi by Mandy-Suzanne Wong is available at DiggingPress.com, at our Shopify store, and at Amazon. We’ve received wonderful feedback from readers so far. If you have read the book, please remember to leave us a review at Amazon or at Goodreads.  You can also follow #AwabiChapbook on Twitter or Instagram.

 

 

Poetry No. 40 – KG Newman

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A Brief History of Brokenness

The year I was born
a historic hailstorm came.
Everyone lost cars, windows.
The shards never fully swept.

In time, the suburb recovered.
Insurance copped for solar panels,
HOAs bought replacement birds.
I grew up assured of the sun

even though my closet overflowed
with raincoats. I had two Nintendos.
We weren’t rich in other ways
despite a chandelier on the porch.

Here I struggle today, still timid
under clouds, but relentless.
Carefully releasing everyone I love
into the dry, bright sky.

 

 

KG Newman is a sportswriter who covers the Colorado Rockies for The Denver Post. His first two collections of poems, While Dreaming of Diamonds in Wintertime and Selfish Never Get Their Own, are available on Amazon. The Arizona State University alum is on Twitter @KyleNewmanDP and more info and writing can be found at kgnewman.com.

© KG Newman

Photo Credit: © Uzfoto / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 39 – Morgan Peacock

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it’s keeping me up at night

 

Morgan Peacock is a poet, visual artist, and translator whose poetry has appeared in the Columbia Poetry Review, Second Draft Press, and the Plum Creek Review, among others, as well as in a self-published chapbook. She received her MFA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago.

© Morgan Peacock

Photo Credit: © munandme / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 38 – Alex Wells Shapiro

Featured

Grappling

for EJ

the shared gaze had always been
falling on avatars,
but we are
young and naked
because guys get changed together.
so, unleashed, following eyes,
limbs forming fluid knots sliding
through our own creases,
long and smooth like Medusa’s
dancing hairs
giggling into submissive, one had to finish
atop, and as if remote
controlled, with a chin sitting
where balding will begin
and hips fit in each other like legos,
the pinned boy’s yelp was the bell
to resheathe from knees to breasts
bodies going unrubbed til hormones
harden into stubborn bone.

Alex Wells Shapiro is a poet and artist from New York, living in Chicago. He received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2017. A former athlete, much of Alex’s work physicalizes interpersonal and environmental relationships. He has recently published work in NUNUM, Storm Cellar, unstamatic, and Genre: Urban Arts. More of his work may be found at www.alexwellsshapiro.com.

© Alex Wells Shapiro

Photo Credit: © yuravector / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 37 – Thea Matthews

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MARIGOLD | Tagetes erecta

 

 

 


Born and raised in San Francisco, CA, Thea Matthews earned her BA in Sociology at UC Berkeley where she studied and taught June Jordan’s Poetry for the People. She has delivered her poetry at various literary settings, some of which include Litquake, San Francisco’s Lit Crawl, the National Queer Arts Festival, and the Berkeley Poetry Festival. She has expected work to be featured by Thirty West Publishing House, Fog Lifter Press, and AK Press. Currently, Thea is working on getting her debut collection UNEARTH [THE FLOWERS] published, and finishing her first chapbook.

© Thea Matthews

Photo Credit: © Olexiy / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 36 – David Midkiff

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Footnotes



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Midkiff is a Pacific Northwest U.S. born poet and educator currently living in London. He writes to create a space for himself in the world. His work has previously been featured in “Window Cat” by bighugpublishing, “Resistentialism” by Poetastard Press, and the Barely South Review. In 2016, he released a self-published chapbook entitled “EdotGdot”. His next collection is forthcoming. Connect with him at midkiffwrites.com

© David Midkiff

Photo Credit: © Nuamfolio / Adobe Stock

New Podcast – Episode 13

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Cultural Omnivore, Ep. 13

We’re back. Want to know what ‘cultural omnivore’ means to us…tune in!

 

Check out other episodes at Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

Poetry No. 35 – Bryan D. Price

Featured

My animals are out

We went to buy an angle grinder,
the wheel as light as a cat’s paw.
She wants to translate a chair.
Give it a brand new life. Later that night—

listening to the White Album in its entirety.
Mixing wine with water like
in the age of Cupid and Psyche.
Like responsible humans
not yet addicted to pain and its appetites.

Like insects.
Like everything else that tends
to abbreviate itself. A man commits suicide.
As troubling as that sounds it gets worse.

Everything is dry here.
Pink skin as high as the eye can see.
All the stories are about fires and wind.
Crows passing through car windows into safety.

When he left us he looked more like a crane
rising from common wood sedge lacquered
by the rays of the sun,
fingertips scorched awkwardly
into the skin of my arm.

Like the fire that chases animals
out of the forests
and then off the earth entirely.

 

 

Bryan D. Price’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Menacing Hedge, Portland Review (online), Posit, and R.KV.R.Y. He lives and teaches in the suburbs of southern California where he writes about time, memory, utopia, and its opposite.

© Bryan D. Price

Photo Credit: © srady / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 34 – Nolan Meditz

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Montauk by Sunrise

I venture the thoughts of these
men who outpaced the sun

to the shoreline, who weather
the salt spray and uneasy perches

upon the rocks that abut their island
and cast their nets into receding

dark. They trace a hymn in horizon
fire to the pulse of the world

they love and keep trying
to haul up closer themselves

knowing so much of that world
will slip through the mesh

before first light. Watching them
for what feels like an hour,

I cannot tell if any one of them
has caught a single fish.

 

Wake 

Dementia. That is how she died,
how we’re all dying – withering

into water and fading into sky
with the only hope of return an uncertain
answer to an uncertain prayer
for winter to come again.

No one could remember the photograph
of her brother – the one from Gottschee

who spoke strange German and
broken English, whom no one had seen
in years. They were laughing, so I’m told,
amid the endless song from the birds

outside who whistled like tea kettles
left on the stove far too long.

We were late to the party held in her memory.
We decided to play pool in the other room
while the adults talked and drank.
No one mentioned her name,

until Danny struck the cue ball
and turned to Frank
as the nine echoed
into the corner pocket.

 

Vault

A hollow branch upon a wire
reflects each star, and darkness
in its abundance cradles light.

Game boards and picture frames
delineate abstractions
to approach something greater:

mirror, canyon, sun, abyss.

 

Nolan Meditz is a poet and professor who originally hails from Long Island. He currently lives in Weatherford, OK, where he teaches writing at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

© Nolan Meditz

Photo Credit: © Nuamfolio / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 33 – Lisa Nance

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Plagiarizing the Full Moon Chapter Of Victor Pelevin’s Omon Ra

I picked up the I suddenly felt
I lowered my I nodded & I ran
Outside a red poster

The first time I drank
Was the winter of my fourteen shriveling pieces
Of painful comparison with the beautiful American
Flying magazine

If not for the bottles of cosmic
Asking “want some?” & I did I
Winking tongues like petrol
But that was a long time ago

Crept unhurriedly
In a suit like a snowdrift up-ended
I understood immediately & I closed my eyes

Tea nearly burnt in a saucepan
The country in which I lived

 

Us Scenario

Another wife & her husband
Have been printing garlands in rose-loads
I would help you, but I “cook” too much
Forget to drink water

Obsessed with dosas how they foam
My zoos of rotten jars mimic the credits
To The Land Before
Time to watch the polyp sprout its’ leg

I was sad because I thought I had
Two left to eat, but I see now there are three
The last lies in an ear of parchment
Hidden unnamed kitten

& He: my man is
More dimpled than most
Spends his day vacant
Snagged on the toast

 

Calendar

The Famous Faces
Drawn by hand
Calendar is laughing
From the top of its spinner
The bouffant above its eyes
& the sockets that keep them
Woefully shaded

When I was a baby
I spun by myself
On the devil’s playground
What passed as merry-
go-round in those days a
Concrete disc to pile upon
With iron pipes
For the kids

Not to insist
On another time but I had
A pendulum uncoils once.
My friend flew out
Of our tire swing
& cracked her bone

Where it stuck out
Of a small red X
Like something
Vertical finally

 

 

Lisa Nance is an artist, bookseller, waitress & a poet. She lives in Asheville, N.C. & often looks to her ancestry of Black Mountain college students for insight. She is currently teaching herself to glaze in oils by painting from life a wall of marshmallows that she built herself. She is reading the Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin.

© Lisa Nance

Photo Credit: © EddieCloud / Adobe Stock

Poetry No. 32 – henry 7. reneau, jr.

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WALLER COUNTY JAIL  2 BLKS

for Sandra Annette Bland

(Malum prohibitum) Wrong only because the law prohibits it,
————————not because it is morally wrong. (Malum in se)

The calm nurture of a Black mother’s wrath, a hollow that sorrows
an endless mouth, a daughter’s dead star

still burning in her eyes. Because the Law said:  failed to signal
a lane change. The difference this time

was that we had the proof, a viral unmasking of porcine predator &
prey. The look in her eyes said she wasn’t long for this world.

Her mugshot mouth of suicide voice, the drool collapse & bitter of.
Her too much of nothing too valuable to lose,

but the D.A.
can use a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, can disparage

the truth, carefully exalting each & every prejudice,
to sanctify as righteous

the assassination of her character. Like Trayvon Martin
deemed Kong in a hoodie while Black, or Mike Brown

made a convenience store thief in death:  In his pocket—-
———————————————————were two lighters,

———————————————————two $5 bills & a bag of
——————————————————–what appeared to be marijuana,
——————————————————–the investigator said.

————————————————————————-He had gunshot wounds
————————————————————————-in the head, chest
————————————————————————-& right arm.

But you are not who they believe you are. You’ve had
much harder times than sittin’ in jail for three days.

You’ve always known, what makes them comfortable
kills every conjugation of Nigger (i.e. thug, demon, criminal)

every Black affinity for disobedience. You’ve always known,
you can stand there, surrender to the cop, & still be killed.

But she does not fear what they think she fears:

Like Jesus,
she was raised in a blended family.

Like Jesus,
she was brutally arrested.

Just like Jesus,
she died in the custody of Authority.

——————————————————————-We lock behind doors
——————————————————————-what we don’t value

——————————————————————-as much as what we do value. And yet,
——————————————————————-if we redefine value

——————————————————————-we find that it all comes down to
——————————————————————-whose eyes are assessing the worth.

Any attempt to survive means every Black body for itself, the way
we do something by doing nothing, a small animal’s scream, like silence:

——————————————————————————————————–#sayhername

———————————————————————vibrating against the din of metal,
———————————————————-& the call & response chant of umbrage,
beating plastic battalion buckets of dissent
to police-state blocked streets.

Are you thinking about killing yourself today?

 

April 29, 1992

A tribe of hammers
can speak the language of riot
in the shadow dialect of umbrage (equal to
four hundred plus years
of not trust a word come out they mouth)
the banging battalion of beaten plastic buckets,
the fevered pitch of thermometer
surrounded by bitten tongue to
spite the face

The seams fraying &
the bits of cotton started to burst through
like one bad-one
away from the worst

Because ruin can happen as slowly as
awaiting the last days, when God
will pour out
his seven bowls of wrath, or
the carrion ravage of flies
on a bag of shit in the summer heat

Graffitied on the walls
of the looted &
burning storefronts
was the warning :  Pretend it isn’t real &
hopefully, it won’t happen to you

 

henry 7. reneau, jr. writes words of conflagration to awaken the world ablaze, an inferno of free verse illuminated by his affinity for disobedience, like a chambered bullet that commits a felony every day, an immolation that blazes from his heart, phoenix-fluxed red & gold, exploding through change is gonna come to implement the fire next time. He is the author of the poetry collection, freedomland blues (Transcendent Zero Press) and the e-chapbook, physiography of the fittest (Kind of a Hurricane Press), now available from their respective publishers. Additionally, he has self-published a chapbook entitled 13hirteen Levels of Resistance, and his collection, The Book Of Blue(s): Tryin’ To Make A Dollar Outta’ Fifteen Cents, was a finalist for the 2018 Digging Press Chapbook Series. His work has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

© henry 7. reneau, jr.

Photo Credit: © Victor Tongdee / Adobe Stock

Essay No. 10 – Andrew Rihn

Featured

_

Tyson vs. Francis
Jan 29, 2000
MEN Arena, Manchester, England

No prophet is accepted in his own country: a familiar ring in a foreign land, Mike Tyson takes refuge inside a Brixton police station and asks by bullhorn to be broken out. A British newspaper bought advertising space on the soles of Francis’s shoes, anticipating the front page photos of him laid low, their logo foreshortened in dramatic fashion. And yet, Mike Tyson looks to the referee, his eyes asking for a break to every clinch, an opportunity to set up his power punches – opportunities he once would have opened himself.  These long shot days without synonyms, grim and fugitive, desiccating.

 

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Tyson vs. Savarese
Jun 24, 2000
Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland

The ring like a scroll, a monologue, a place where prophecy can reveal newness shimmering like a bruise on the flesh of the world. One thing about Tyson that you can be sure of, writes James Mossop, is that he senses the finish is imminent and knows how to execute it. The river’s cool waters parted by a rolled up robe: the cloth we are cut from, the teardrops and the dew. A finish and not an end; an execution and not a performance. When we watch Mike Tyson fight, we are watching a man losing himself with every victory.

 

Tyson vs. Golota
Oct 20, 2000
The Palace, Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S.

The contest between expectation and revelation, between division and exponential multiplication, between boundary and vital limitless joy. If Mike Tyson is in fact Mike Tyson’s own worst enemy, he is not only Elijah but also Ahab, both the fiery prophet and the scoundrel king. Golota, known for fighting dirty and throwing low blows, stands toe-to-toe with Mike Tyson, two bad men, guillotines of our collective conscience, breaking bones for us. That this is a sport of reinvention is made all the more clear by the fact of its constancy, by the myriad reminders and flagrant consistency with which it evolves.

 

Andrew Rihn is a writer of essays, poems, and scholarly articles. He is the author of several chapbooks, including America Plops and Fizzes (Sunnyoutside Press) and The Rust Belt MRI (Pudding House). Along with his wife, the writer Donora A. Rihn, he co-authored the chapbooks The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: An Election Cycle (Moria Books/ Locofo Chaps) and The Day of Small Things (Really Serious Literature). Together, they live in Portage Lakes, OH with their two rescue dogs.

© Andrew Rihn

Photo Credit: © k_yu/ Adobe Stock

New Book, Chapbook Call for Submission, and More

Featured

Last year, we launched our inaugural call for submissions for the Digging Press Chapbook Series. We were overwhelmed by the response the call garnered. Over 250 submissions were entered. We chose one winner, four finalists, and 15 semi-finalists. When we announced Awabi by Mandy-Suzanne Wong as the winner in September 2018, we set a tight production schedule. Our goal was to debut the winning chapbook at AWP19 in Portland.

 

It was a hectic time for many reasons, but somehow we managed to produce a beautiful, pocket-sized book. The cover art is an original work by our Creative Director Cynthia Alvarez. Cynthia also worked on the book design.

 

We are doing it all over again this year. Our chapbook series submission period will be open until June 15. There is a $10 reading fee which will go towards book production expenses. If you are a student or in financial need, we will waive the fee. Send an email request to editor@diggingthroughthefat.com for instructions on how to submit your chapbook.

Lastly, we are so excited about Press Fest 2019! Join us on Saturday, May 11, 1-6PM at The Brooklyn Public Library. Press Fest is part of The PEN World Voices Festival. Check out the incredible event schedule here.

Press Fest 2019

 

Community No. 39

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by Bryanna Licciardi and Bill Yarrow.

BRYANNA LICCIARDI

Bryanna Licciardi has received her MFA in Poetry and is currently pursuing her PhD in Literacy Studies. Her debut chapbook SKIN SPLITTING is out from Finishing Line Press (2017). She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and has had work appear in journals such as Poetry Quarterly, BlazeVOX, 491 Magazine, Adirondack Review, and Cleaver Magazine. Visit www.bryannalicciardi.com for more about her.

Title: Fish Love
First Line(s):

1.
The first boy to touch me
threw me on a bed
and smothered my mouth
in his mouth. I tasted
the pizza we’d just shared,
garlic, tomatoes.

URL: https://themantlepoetry.com/issue-2/bryanna-licciardi-fish-love/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: November 2017
Journal: The Mantle – https://themantlepoetry.com/submissions/

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Title: Pack
First Line(s):

May 21, 1908

Spliced together early this morning, Frank,

the world’s first two-headed dog,

 

owes much to the scientific resourcefulness

of a Doctor Charles Claude Guthrie.

 

URL: https://inklettemagazine.com/2016/08/17/pack/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: August 17, 2016
Journal: Inklette Press – https://inklettemagazine.com/submissions/


BILL YARROW

Bill Yarrow, Professor of English at Joliet Junior College and an editor at Blue Fifth Review, is the author of The Vig of Love, Blasphemer, Pointed Sentences, and five chapbooks, most recently We All Saw It Coming. He has been nominated eight times for a Pushcart Prize. Against Prompts, his fourth full-length collection, is forthcoming from Lit Fest Press in 2018.

Title: WHOAMI
First Line(s):

I am running around the perimeter of a collective farm at dawn. In the distance is a mountain made pink by a faint sun shining wanly on its highest snow. Four guards in four watchtowers search the surrounding terrain for attempted terrorists.

URL: http://www.portyonderpress.com/bill-yarrow—whoami.html

Genre: Prose Poem
Publication Date: April 2018
Journal: Eastern Iowa Review – http://www.portyonderpress.com/guidelines.html

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Title: Worship

URL: http://www.rulrul.4mg.com/index_57.html

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: September 2018
Journal: First Literary Review-East – http://www.rulrul.4mg.com/index_1.html

Photo Credit: © stone36 / Adobe Stock

Community No. 38

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by Amanda L. Pugh and Will Clattenburg.

AMANDA L. PUGH

Amanda Pugh is an adjunct professor of communications at Jackson State Community College in Jackson TN. She has been writing for as long as she can remember, both short stories and poetry, and it’s one her favorite things to do besides drink coffee and teach. Her work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Tennessee’s Best Emerging Poets, Our Jackson Home, Down in the Dirt, and Spilled Ink (the literary journal of Jackson State Community College). thebuzzonamanda.wordpress.com

Title: Tornado Season (memoir)
First Line(s):

Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year in the South… no not Christmas, but …

Tornado Season!!! (Da duh DAAA)

URL: http://www.deadmule.com/amanda-pugh-tornado-season-memoir/

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication Date: April 1, 2018
Journal: The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature – http://www.deadmule.com/about-the-dead-mule/

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Title: This Is What Its Like
First Line(s):

Depression.

Mental health.

Self-care.

Buzzwords to some, real life to others…either way you hear a lot about them currently.

 

URL: http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/06/08/this-is-what-its-like/

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication Date: November 2015
Journal: Tuck Magazine – http://tuckmagazine.com/


WILLIAM CLATTENBURG

Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Will Clattenburg attended Yale and Long Island University, before earning an MFA in Creative Writing from New Mexico State. His writing has appeared in New Mexico Magazine, Digging Through The Fat, Typishly, and Platform Review (forthcoming). He lives and teaches in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Title: Parallel Lines
First Line(s):

Long afterward, when he was a new father rocking his son to sleep in a dark one-bedroom apartment on a sloping street of poplars and a view of the barges on Upper New York Bay, after his wife had braised a whole chicken and called him to dinner and they had made love on the kitchen counter and he’d impregnated her and then watched with the cautious fascination of a new parent as she grew taut as an apple…

URL: http://www.estheticapostle.com/parallel-lines?utm_campaign=edf76526-ab2d-4223-a321-3658c08b31fc&utm_source=so

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Journal: The Esthetic Apostle – http://www.estheticapostle.com/?utm_campaign=edf76526-ab2d-4223-a321-3658c08b31fc&utm_source=so

 

Photo Credit: © Allusioni / Adobe Stock

Community No. 37

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by Andrew Lafleche and P.E. Portal.

ANDREW LAFLECHE

Andrew Lafleche is an award-winning poet and author of six books. His work uses a spoken style of language to blend social criticism, philosophical reflection, explicit prose, and black comedy. Andrew enlisted in the Army in 2007 and received an honourable discharge in 2014. He lives in a small lakefront home with his wife and two children. https://ajlafleche.com/

Title: a red house in the trees
First Line(s):

black shingles

silver turbine that hasn’t spun
doesn’t spin
or spins very quickly
it appears to be standing still

URL: https://barrenmagazine.com/a-red-house-in-the-trees/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: June 2018
Journal: Barren Magazine – https://barrenmagazine.com/submissions/

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Title: defeated
First Line(s):

fleas in a goddamn jar
jumping and hitting the lid
jumping and
hitting the lid
learning not to jump so high

URL: http://www.bywords.ca/november2015/index.php?p=1

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: November 2015
Journal: bywords – http://www.bywords.ca/


P.E. PORTAL

P.E. Portal is an emerging writer living on the wild west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She writes about the nature of truth and the truth of nature. She is completing her first chapbook, “Paper Temples.”

Title: Salty Dreams
First Line(s):

Lurid leaves
experimental
you were pointing to
the truth,
but mother said that
words,
like waves,
are dangerous,

URL: http://www.heartwoodlitmag.com/heartwood-broadside-series-finalists-2018/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: November 2, 2018
Journal: HeartWood – http://www.heartwoodlitmag.com/submit/

 

Photo Credit: © Andrii Pokaz / Adobe Stock

Community No. 36

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by David K. Slay and Evan Williams.

DAVID K. SLAY

After retiring from full-time work as a psychologist, David K. Slay completed two years of short story writing workshops, primarily in the UCLA Writers’ Program. His first published short story appeared in the 6th annual edition of Gold Man Review, and several others are in both on-line and print journals, including most recently the Winter 2019 issue of Calliope. He is interested in stories that generate self-awareness, or reveal something true about human nature. He lives in Seal Beach, California.

Title: Living with the Animals
First Line(s):

We had moved from a small, dank apartment in the Pacific Northwest to a rather charming Spanish-style stucco in Southern California.

URL: https://view.joomag.com/flumes-volume-1-issue-2/0441477001482184432

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: December 2016 – Vol. 1, Issue 2
Journal: Flumes Literary Review

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Title: Police Suspect Gang Involvement
First Line(s):
Soon after retiring, Russell began riding a bike to the beach in the town where he lived. The bike was a relic of his daughter’s adolescence, long ago rejected by her as hopelessly uncool and left to gather dust in the garage.

URL: https://randomsamplereview.com/2017/01/25/police-suspect-gang-involvement/

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: January 25, 2017
Journal: Random Sample – https://randomsamplereview.com/submit/


EVAN WILLIAMS

Evan Williams is a freshman at the University of Chicago. He is incapable of winding up a hose, and often burns himself while lighting candles.

Title: If Plates Are Shirts Are Milk Jugs
First Line(s):

then it’s dawn or dusk or
some other time of dark
and you can hear him on the stairs
in the hallway in the kitchen—

URL: https://rockvalereview.com/issues/issue-three-november-2018/if-plates-are-shirts-are-milk-jugs-by-evan-williams/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: November 1, 2018
Journal: Rockvale Review – https://rockvalereview.com/submissions/

 

Photo Credit: © Tierney / Adobe Stock

Community No. 35

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by David Estringel and McKayla Conahan.

DAVID ESTRINGEL

David Estringel is an avid reader, poet, and writer of fiction, creative nonfiction, and essays. Future plans include teaching college English and continuing to work on his first book of poetry, Shields of Thunder and Storm. His work has been accepted and/or published by Specter Magazine, Literary Juice, Foliate Oak Magazine, Indiana Review, Terror House Magazine, Expat Press, and The Good Men Project. He is currently a Contributing Editor (fiction) at Red Fez and weekly columnist for The Good Men Project. David Estringel can be found on Twitter here.

Title: Kiss Me, Again, Again, and Again
First Line(s):

The coppery taste of meat beneath your sweet breath lingers
Like a penny on the tip of my tongue.
Head or tail?

URL: https://terrorhousemag.com/kiss/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: October 25, 2018
Journal: Terror House Magazine –  https://terrorhousemag.com/submissions/

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Title: Blue Sky through Bare Branches
First Line(s):

I look, upwards, at blue sky through bare branches,
The dewy wet of cool, green grass on my back,
Clinging,
Sinking,
Pulling me further away from this place.

URL: https://www.foliateoak.com/david-estringel.html

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: 2018
Journal: Expat Press – https://www.foliateoak.com/submit.html


MCKAYLA CONAHAN

McKayla Conahan is a queer non-binary writer from South Carolina currently working as a stargazing tour guide in Wyoming. They got their degree in Astronomy from the College of Charleston, and will be attending VCU in the fall for their MFA in Poetry. They have been published in Fall Lines, Rabbit, Sink Hollow, and elsewhere, and have won the South Carolina Student Poetry Prize and the Susan Laughter Meyers Scholarship. Their favorite sweet is green tea mochi ice cream. It tastes like how a perfect spring day on the water feels.

Title: Lomita Creek: An Elegy
First Line(s):

“Think about the itch of fall into the next
fluffed pile of leaves. The bitter taste of a plum
from your dark little tree…”

URL: https://www.sinkhollow.org/volume-v

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: May 10, 2018, pp. 24-25
Journal: Sink Hollow – https://www.sinkhollow.org/

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Title: 1943
First Line(s):
We do not go to the ghetto, where the children’s drying clothes
hang on the barbed wire like examples, but burrow, instead,
between the roots of spruce, at daybreak learn to shoot
with the weapons Vitka brings…”

URL: https://sweetlit.com/issue-11-1/poet-mckayla-conahan/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: September 2018
Journal: Sweet: A Literary Confection – https://sweetlit.com/guidelines/

 

Photo Credit: © andigreyscale / Adobe Stock

2018 Editor’s Picks

Featured

We are so happy to announce our 2018 Editor’s Picks.

Fiction

Art by ©Cynthia Alvarez

The Awakening by Nancy Stohlman
Excerpt: “After the Rapture, the people were waking up, but I’m not sure what that meant, and I’m not even sure they knew what it meant, and I never trusted anyone who claimed to have woken up. My friend claimed to have woken up a few months ago, but she still seemed like a bitch to me. And, even at Starbucks, they would stare at you, and if you weren’t awake they wouldn’t draw a heart in your latte foam.”

Nonfiction

Photo by icon0.com (via Pexels)

Deliverance by David Nicholas Rigel
Excerpt: ““Hi, David. I’m Bob Ford, an educator for the local health department.” He said while swabbing my index finger with an alcohol pad. “Why are you here today?”
“To get tested for HIV,” I said. Sarcasm was a nervous habit of mine. It covered my anxiety like a comfy yet ill-fitted sweater.”

Honorable Mentions

Art by ©Cynthia Alvarez

The Hive by Will Clattenburg (fiction)
Excerpt: “Wallace had a few artistic ventures going—in her head. First: she wanted to buy or dig around her parents’ junk drawer for one of those Kodak or Fuji self-winding cameras and use it to take pictures of the oversize parking lots of abandoned Big K’s, Basco Bests, I Got it at Gary’s, Superfreshes, Giant Supermarkets and other bankrupt chain retail and grocery stores.”

_

Art by ©Cynthia Alvarez

The Limbo Meet-up Group by Trista Hurley-Waxali (fiction)
Excerpt: ““Are you going with the navy blue pants?” My husband smiles.
I refrain from showing how nervous I am. Going to a meetup group that I found online is out of my element. I remind myself, sometimes it’s good to leave the house. I imagine the people attending this meetup have good intentions.”

_

Photo by ©Gessy Alvarez

The Writer Archetype by Anna Kaye-Rogers (nonfiction)
Excerpt: “The rings on her fingers are clunky but tasteful, something only she could have pulled off. Her hair is swept up in a messy bun held secure by a hair tie and mutual understanding with gravity. She is the portrait of an artist as colorful eccentric, shuffling tarot cards and fangirling over authors whom she reverences with soft, hushed tones.”

Much love and thanks to our Volume Five 2018 contributors: (visual artists) Cynthia Alvarez, C. O’Connor, Summer J. Hart, Martine Mooijenkind, Jake Jackson, Kirsten Valentine, Alexis Avlamis, Odding Wang, Faizan Adil, Michaela Bosch, Dolores Furtado, Fernanda Amis, Adam Lupton, Ross Allison, Aaron Billings, Elsa Leydier and Kuzana Ogg; (writers) John Murphy, Demy Ren, Laura Winnick, Wm. Brett Hill, Nancy Stohlman, William Clattenburg, Trista Hurley-Waxali, Raffi Boyadjian, and Kevin Richard White. And all our eclectic and generous 2018 Community contributors.

Ever loving gratitude to our Creative Director, Cynthia Alvarez, who keeps our visual presence alive and vibrant, and a huge thank you to our dedicated staff readers: Ernesto L. Abeytia, David S. Atkinson, Alexis Groulx, and Karen Levy.

Check out Volume 5 here.

Community No. 34

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by N.L.H. Hattam and Mary Bone.

N.L.H. HATTAM

N. L. H. Hattam has kept creative writing as a constant companion, both in writing and reading. N. L. H. Hattam took a circuitous route to embracing creative writing as more than a hobby, graduating from SNHU with a degree in English and Creative Writing in 2017 after stops at Hampshire College, Roehampton University, and SCSU, studying subjects ranging across Forensic Entomology, Theater, Anthropology, and Art History, among others. N. L. H. Hattam appreciates the time others take to read/enjoy the writing of any author and feels honored to be the subject of such gifted attention even if only for a brief time before the torches are lit and pitchforks sharpened.

Title: Anthropomorphized
First Line(s):

You chase me down in forests of my making,
Electric, wooden, concrete, all.
Outside the talk-talk chains and
Wolf sharp teeth born.

URL: https://www.genreurbanarts.com/anthropomorphized/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: August 23, 2018
Journal: Genre Urban Arts – https://www.genreurbanarts.com/submit/become-contributor-featured/

 


MARY BONE

Mary Bone has been writing poetry and short stories since the age of twelve. Her poems can be found at Literary Yard, Oklahoma Today Magazine, Poetry Pacific and elsewhere.

Title: Flying South For The Winter
First Line(s):

I went into an armed camp,
As I was flying south for the winter.
Feathers flew, I survived, becoming
A singed, smoked-out version of myself.

URL: https://thenir.wordpress.com/2018/08/11/two-poems-mary-bone/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: August 10, 2018
Journal: The New Ink Review – https://thenir.wordpress.com/submissions-2/

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Title: Leroy’s Hill
First Line(s):

It’s safe to say that not many people go to Leroy’s Hill anymore. Leroy Baron never married and died at a ripe old age of an unknown illness. The house is barely standing.

URL: http://spillwords.com/leroy’s-hill/

Genre: Flash Fiction
Publication Date: October 30, 2017
Journal: Spillwords – http://spillwords.com/u-submit-spillwordspress-u-blog/

 

Photo Credit: © Mari Dein / Adobe Stock

Community No. 33

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by Dudgrick Bevins and Evelína Kolářová.

DUDGRICK BEVINS

Dudgrick Bevins is an artist and educator from North Georgia. He now lives in New York City with his partner and their very grumpy hedgehog, Ezri. He teachers creative writing and literature.

Title: Baby Blankets
First Line(s):

Her body was found in the basement,
A knotted rope around her neck,
Head caved in, oozing blood
Through a soft white blanket.

URL: https://thewritelaunch.com/2017/06/baby-blanket-no-1-no-2-no-3/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: 2017
Journal: The Write Launch – https://thewritelaunch.com/submission-guidelines/

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Title: Scry
First Line(s):

I read your photographs
Like tarot cards,
Scrying as much as prying –
Evidence-based speculation –
An interrogation
Into your past.

URL: http://ashejournal.com/2018/03/23/scry-the-photo-tarot-of-my-grandfather/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: March 23, 2018
Journal: Ashé Journal – http://ashejournal.com/submission-guidelines/


EVELÍNA KOLÁŘOVÁ

Evelína Kolářová is a young artist from the Czech Republic. Her ambition now is to become a renowned author and publish a book of poems. Although a clichè in a way, she always looks for ways to change the world – and finds that the best way to do it is with her poems.

Title: beef steak
First Line(s):

everytime you try to say those words to me I cannot help but to think
of beef steak with mashed potatoes

URL: http://reallysystem.org/issues/seventeen/beef_steak/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: Spring 2018
Journal: Really System – http://reallysystem.org/submit.php

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Title: CXCIV
First Line(s):

i have been thinking about this number a lot recently, i don’t know why.

URL: http://www.thegamblermag.com/evelina-kolarova/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: June 4, 2018
Journal: The Gambler – http://www.thegamblermag.com/submit/

 

Photo Credit: © Musicman80 / Adobe Stock

Community No. 32

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by Lucia Orellana Damacela and Gary Singh.

LUCIA ORELLANA DAMACELA

Lucia is the author of Life Lines, (winner of The Bitchin’ Kitsch Chapbook Competition, 2018), and Sea of Rocks, forthcoming. Her poetry and prose have been published in both English and Spanish in more than twelve countries. Lucía has lived in the Americas, Europa and Asia, tweets at @lucyda and blogs about her writing at notesfromlucia.wordpress.com.

Title: Installation
First Line(s):

Trey was used to visitors who were there simply because they hadn’t found anything else better to do on a rainy day. Or who seemed to think they were at a museum.

URL: https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/2017/09/22/installation-by-lucia-damacela/

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: September 22, 2017
Journal: Jellyfish Review – https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/submissions/

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Title: Bird Dreams
First Line(s):

They could be confused with a shadow,
a dormant construction of the morning

URL: https://tinhouse.com/bird-dreams/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: October 11, 2018
Journal: Tin House – https://tinhouse.com


GARY SINGH

As a scribe, Gary Singh has published over 1000 works, including newspaper columns, travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry, and short fiction. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press), and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. http://www.garysingh.info

Title: The Absurdist Son of an Immigrant Grapples with Comprehending His Google News Feed
First Line(s):

Google News tells me academics in India are robbing literature of any personal touch. Poor literature breeds poor syllabus breeds poor literature, a vicious cycle while banner ads of Clarks walking shoes keep stomping across my laptop.

URL: https://burningword.com/2018/07/the-absurdist-son-of-an-immigrant-grapples-with-comprehending-his-google-news-feed/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: July 2018
Journal: Burningword Literary Journal – https://burningword.submittable.com/submit

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Title: Low Season in Grado
First Line(s):

Before the high season
when the bandsaw chorus of German tourism
begins to slice through the simplicity,

URL: http://lowestoftchronicle.com/issues/issue35/garysingh/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: September 2018, Issue 35
Journal: Lowestoft Chronicle – http://lowestoftchronicle.com/submissions/

 

Photo Credit: © Beboy / Adobe Stock

Community No. 31

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by Abigail Carl-Klassen and Henry Goldkamp.

ABIGAIL CARL-KLASSEN

Abigail Carl-Klassen’s work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Cimarron Review, Willow Springs, Guernica, Aster(ix) and Kweli, among others. She was shortlisted for the Society for Humanistic Anthropology’s 2016 Ethnographic Poetry Prize and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets 2015. She is a staff writer for Poets Reading the News and her chapbook Shelter Management will be released in 2017 with dancing girl press. She earned an MFA from the University of Texas-El Paso’s Bilingual Creative Writing Program and taught at El Paso Community College and the University of Texas-El Paso.  https://abigailcarlklassen.wordpress.com

Title: Doble Sentido: Tips for Travelling While Central American
First Line(s):

Which name do you want? I travel with a Mexican name, but I can give you my Guatemalan name if you want.

URL: http://www.hinchasdepoesia.com/wp/doble-sentido-tips-for-traveling-while-central-american-centro-de-migrantes-2017/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: October 2017
Journal: Hinchas de Poesía – http://www.hinchasdepoesia.com/wp/submit/

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Title: I’ve Been Deported Ten Times: A Honduran Seeks Refugee Status in Mexico
First Line(s):

60 pesos for my immigration picture. There is a woman who does it for 50, but sometimes she cuts off too much and immigration won’t take it. Then you have to pay and take it again.

URL: https://catapult.co/stories/ive-been-deported-ten-times-a-honduran-seeks-refugee-status-in-mexico

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication Date: April 21, 2017
Journal: Catapult – https://catapult.submittable.com/submit


HENRY GOLDKAMP

HENRY GOLDKAMP has lived along the Mississippi River his entire life. Recent work appears in CutBankSLANTBlood Orange ReviewSwamp Ape ReviewPretty OwlPermafrost, and others. His work has been nominated twice for 2017’s Best of the Net. His public art projects have been covered by Time and NPR.  Instagram.com/thisbadbeach

Title: Denim Fig Leaf (Innocent Version)
First Line(s):

The apple’s crunch is a work-song now on Spotify.
We follow the artist; we dance to a rave, a rager.
The spirit’s only uniform is some bit of sticky flesh.

URL: http://www.glittermobmag.com/henry-goldkamp.html

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: January 2018
Journal: glitterMOB – http://www.glittermobmag.com/submit.html

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Title: American DIY (Innocent Version)
First Line(s):

As an alternative method of distressing your denim, boil them in extravagance, cayenne, and heaps of bay leaf for about twenty minutes.

URL: http://www.crag.dog/american-diy

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: March 2018
Journal: CRAG – http://www.crag.dog/submit/

 

Photo Credit: © aregfly/ Adobe Stock

Community No. 30

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by Sandeep Kumar Mishra and Gerard Sarnat.

SANDEEP KUMAR MISHRA

Sandeep Kumar Mishra is an outsider artist, an International freelance writer and a lecturer in English with Masters in English Literature and Political Science. He has edited a collection of poems by various poets – Pearls (2002) – and written a professional guidebook – How to Be (2016) – and a collection of poems and art – Feel My Heart (2016).

Title: At Eventide
First Line(s):

The pale elderly Sun looking back,
Through the holes of warm mountainous gaps

URL: https://www.rambutanliterary.com/issue-four-sandeep-kumar-mishra.html

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: 2017, Issue 4
Journal: Rambutan Literary – https://www.rambutanliterary.com/submit.html

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Title: Pebbles
First Line(s):

Time smoothes rainbow hardness

Of tree basalt, vermillion jasper,

URL: http://reallysystem.org/issues/fifteen/pebbles/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: 2017, Issue Fifteen
Journal: Really System – http://reallysystem.org/submit.php


GERARD SARNAT

Gerard Sarnat is the author of four critically acclaimed collections. HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014) and Melting The Ice King (2016) are available at select bookstores and on Amazon. http://gerardsarnat.com

Title: Brain Noise
First Line(s):

There’s a past I lived in

as an interesting fellow
but gave it up

URL: http://ndrmag.org/poetry/2014/04/brain-noise/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: May 2014
Journal: New Delta Review – http://ndrmag.org/submissions/

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Title: 67% Hopperized Bathos
First Line(s):

Freshboy eye candy larva, after Latin class in the Harvard Yard, this puerile grub

put out 2/3’s the hard yards required to acquire Life Magazine’s worn mustachioed
thrift-shop-Brooks Brothers-tweed-jacket-torn-leather-elbow-patches + pipe persona.

URL: http://bluelyrareview.com/gerard-sarnat/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: March 31, 2016
Journal: Blue Lyra Review – http://bluelyrareview.com/submissions/

 

Photo Credit: © anakin13 / Adobe Stock

Community No. 29

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by Paul Beckman and Leigh Fisher.

PAUL BECKMAN

Paul’s third collection, Kiss Kiss, was published by Truth Serum Press in the Spring of 2018.
Author’s Website: www.paulbeckmanstories.com AND www.pincusb.com

Title: Sunday Brunch at the Olympic Diner
First Line(s):

Sunday’s line for breakfast at the Olympic Diner was a block and a half long instead of the usual block.

URL: http://belomag.com/sunday-brunch-at-the-olympic-diner-by-paul-beckman/

Genre: Flash Fiction
Publication Date: July 8, 2018
Journal: Beautiful Losers – http://belomag.com

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Title: Momma
First Line(s):

I’m Momma just before she’s ready to go out.

URL: https://bendinggenres.com/2018/04/06/momma/

Genre: Flash Fiction
Publication Date: April 6, 2018
Journal: Bending Genres – https://bendinggenres.com/submissions/


LEIGH FISHER

Leigh Fisher is from New Jersey and works as a help desk technician by day, but she is a writer around the clock. She is tackling graduate school applications, eager to study literature. She has been published in Five 2 One Magazine, The Missing Slate, Heater Magazine, and Referential Magazine.
Author’s Website: https://medium.com/@sleeplessauthor

Title: The Will (pg. 43)
First Line(s):

A light to illuminate the dark
A tiny beacon of hope,

URL: https://issuu.com/rpdsociety/docs/december_2016

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: December 1, 2016
Journal: Rain, Party, and Disaster Society – https://rpdsociety.submittable.com/submit

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Title: Witness
First Line(s):

There’s a small, quiet person
Hanging in the doorway

URL: https://vendingmachinepress.com/2017/01/19/witness-by-leigh-fisher/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: January 19, 2017
Journal: Vending Machine Press – https://vendingmachinepress.com/submissions/

Photo Credit: © Goinyk / Adobe Stock

Community No. 28

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by David S. Atkinson and Wm. Brett Hill.

DAVID S. ATKINSON

David S. Atkinson is the author of Apocalypse All the Time, Not Quite so Stories, The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes, and Bones Buried in the Dirt. His writing appears in Literary Orphans, The Airgonaut, Connotation Press, and others.
Author’s Website: http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com

Title: Colloidal Suspensions Are Mixtures of Small Particles Dispensed in Gas or Liquids Regardless Whether You Had a Building Permit When They were Made or Not
First Line(s):

Once the dollar store started carrying boxes of Jell-O brand lime gelatin it was pretty obvious what we had to do.

URL: https://punchdrunkpress.com/2018/02/02/colloidal-suspensions-are-mixtures-of-small-particles-by-david-s-atkinson/

Genre: Flash Fiction
Publication Date: February 2, 2018
Journal: Punch Drunk Press –
https://punchdrunkpress.com/submissions/

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Title: ‘Psychomania’ Resulted in the Deaths of Hundreds of Angst-Riddled Teenagers, but the Important Thing is that the Crap About the Toad Made No God Damned Sense
First Line(s):

Lazarus was getting pretty sick of this shit.

URL: http://five2onemagazine.com/psychomania-resulted-deaths-hundreds-angst-riddled-teenagers-important-thing-crap-toad-made-no-god-damned-sense/

Genre: Flash Fiction
Publication Date: March 9, 2018
Journal: Five 2 One Magazine – http://five2onemagazine.com/submission-guidelines/


WM. BRETT HILL

Wm. Brett Hill grew up just outside of Athens, Georgia but now makes his home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He primarily writes flash fiction and short stories and is a five-time winner of NaNoWriMo.

Title: Red Did It
First Line(s): 

“She could smell him, lupine musk marking every branch, every leaf, every inch of the ground.”

URL: http://www.dimeshowreview.com/red-did-it-by-wm-brett-hill/

Genre: Flash Fiction
Publication Date: October 22, 2017
Journal: Dime Show Review – http://www.dimeshowreview.com/submission-guidelines/

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Title: Funnel Cake
First Line(s):

“Ready to go, Slugger?”

URL: https://flashfictionmagazine.com/blog/2018/05/23/funnel-cake/

Genre: Flash Fiction
Publication Date: May 23, 2018
Journal: Flash Fiction Magazine – https://flashfictionmagazine.com/submissions/

Photo Credit: © blvdone / Adobe Stock

Community No. 27

Featured

In this week’s community, we feature works by Danielle Mitchell and Jim Ross.

DANIELLE MITCHELL

Danielle Mitchell is the author of Makes the Daughter-in-Law Cry (Tebot Bach 2017), selected by Gail Wronsky for the Clockwise Chapbook Prize. Her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Eleven Eleven, Harpur Palate, Animal, Four Way Review, Nailed, and others. She is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the founding director of The Poetry Lab in Long Beach, California.
Author’s Website: https://poetryofdanielle.com/

Title: Google Ghazal
First Line(s):

Results: Danielle Mitchell is an actress known for
Cold Squad & Genie in the House known for

URL: http://vinylpoetryandprose.com/2018/08/danielle-mitchell/

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: August 12, 2018
Journal: Vinyl –
http://vinylpoetryandprose.com/submit/ 


Title: Interview with Girlhood Fears
First Line(s):

Railroad tracks. Boys & spit. Teacher saying come to the board.
These are the things you fear, girl. Mouth spinning like a top.

URL: http://baltimorereview.org/index.php/spring_2018/contributor/danielle-mitchell

Genre: Poetry
Publication Date: Spring 2018
Journal: Baltimore Review –
http://baltimorereview.org/index.php/submit


JIM ROSS

Jim Ross resumed creative pursuits in 2015 after retiring from a 40-year-career in public health research. He’s since published 60 pieces of nonfiction, several poems, and 180 photos in 70 journals in North America, Europe, and Asia. His publications include Bombay Gin, Columbia Journal, Gravel, Ilanot Review, Lunch Ticket, MAKE, and The Atlantic. He and his wife–parents to two health professionals and grandparents of four toddlers–split their time between Maryland and West Virginia.

Title: Heart in My Hands
First Line(s): 

“Wake up! Michael’s stopped breathing. We gotta go.”

URL: https://thewildword.com/heart-in-my-hands/

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication Date: February 22, 2018
Journal: The Wild Word – https://thewildword.com/submissions/

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Title: Getting Dangerous
First Line(s):

This is a story about a t-shirt and a kid and how that t-shirt and kid got older together and how the t-shirt turned dangerous.

URL: https://entropymag.org/getting-dangerous-by-jim-ross/

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication Date: March 9, 2018
Journal: Entropy – https://entropymag.org/submission-guidelines/

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Photo Credit: © soft_light / Adobe Stock

Martine Mooijenkind, Artist Spotlight No. 15

Featured

ARTIST STATEMENT

Martine Mooijenkind, alias Knutseltroep, is a collage artist currently situated in Gouda, The Netherlands. In addition to her profession as a care attendant for the disabled, she practices the art of collage making and works as a freelance graphic designer. Her works are mostly surreal. By merging several seemingly incompatible worlds into a new universe, she tries to increase the dynamic between audience and author by objectifying emotions and investigating the duality that develops through different interpretations.

Again and again, the artist leaves us orphaned with a mix of conflicting feelings and thoughts. By experimenting with aleatoric processes, Mooijenkind formalizes the coincidental and emphasizes the conscious process of composition that is behind the seemingly random works. The thought processes, which are supposedly private, highly subjective and unfiltered in their references to dream worlds, are frequently revealed as assemblages.


Artist’s website: https://www.behance.net/ikheetgeenjan
Instagram: @knutseltroep or https://www.instagram.com/knutseltroep/

 

Congratulations to Our Pushcart Nominees

Featured

Fiction

how we talk when we talk like ladies by Laura Winnick (May 9, 2018)

Hermes by Demy Ren (June 6, 2018)

Desert Diner Robbery by John Murphy (June 13, 2018)

Nonfiction

Twin Peaks’ Agent Cooper, the Tibetan Buddha by Ciel Qi (January 10, 2018)

Congratulations and good luck!

[We did not publish any poetry in 2018 but never fear, we will rectify the matter in the new year.]

 

Jake Jackson, Artist Spotlight No. 14

Featured

ARTIST STATEMENT

Jake Jackson is an illustrator from Toronto, Ontario; his Instagram is filled with colourful illustrations of influencers, hot people with a hint of vulgarity that is tastefully done. He primarily works in Digital Media, picks a subject, and transforms their photo into an art piece that shows perfection in flaws. The idea behind this is to exploit the double-edged nature of fame, beauty, and ego to cultivate a vulgarity that is both eerie and captivating. His portraits invade the sterile, effortless allure of the Instagram models, celebrities, and selfies. To be drawn by Jackson is to be seen.


Artist’s website: www.realfakerapper.com
Instagram: @realfakerapper or https://www.instagram.com/realfakerapper/