online magazine for short, good writing

Category: Genre-Bender

they are building a house on my chest

by a contributor

Isabelle Davis

(we create metaphors of death and dying to symbolize love as if people cannot survive on their own. we are self indulgent and dramatic and over the top. we are telling the truth the only way we know how.)

when I’m with her I line up our inhales and exhales perfectly. she knows I do this but not how much it matters. breathing becomes simple again. I feel alive again. she keeps me far away from metaphorical death and dying. it’s when I’m far away from her that I start to believe. I’m no longer convinced that little men aren’t carefully stacking bricks on my chest. I squeeze my eyes shut as tight as possible and I can almost imagine her hand wrapped around my waist but not quite. someone tells a funny joke I try to relay to her but doesn’t quite translate over text and so then we both feel stupid. we sit in silence on the phone and I struggle to hear what I can’t feel—but the line doesn’t pick up the delicate in/out of her lungs. the construction workers pick up their pace.

the foundation has always been set in me. good and bad have never been simple. I am not the only one who notices this but sometimes I feel like it. some things that make people cry make different people laugh and some things make people both laugh and cry. I guess I could have seen this as beautiful but it mostly just made me see most things as uncertain. that’s the foundation I built my life around—my soul around. it started in my chest so that’s where they lay the bricks. every day every hour every minute every second away from her means that more bricks collect on top of my lungs. they press down. hard.

it symbolizes suffocation. I know because it’s my metaphor. breathing becomes the hardest thing in the world without her. but then she touches my face or moves a piece of my hair back or hugs me and the house blows away. she barely blinks on it and that force disintegrates the bricks into nothingness because she is everything.

tom hanks forgot how to breathe when his wife died in sleepless in seattle. on my tenth birthday I watched that movie and cried the whole way through because god, did those people know how to love. getting oxygen to the brain is one of the most basic functions. synchronizing intrinsic actions becomes the most important thing to me. it breaks the foundation of uncertainty I’ve spent so long harboring in me. when she falls asleep the pattern changes and I have to adjust but that’s okay.

Isabelle Davis still has plastic glow-in-the-dark stars hanging on her ceiling. She worked as a writer and Columns Editor for Pacemaker winner Niles West News and currently edits for The Lawrentian. Her work has appeared in Dirty Chai and Wes Anderzine. She is currently pursuing a Creative Writing degree. You can find her on twitter @isa13itch.

Ars Poetica, Sort Of

by a contributor

Kathleen Brewin Lewis

Because you think your poetry has become too full of clear skies and morning birdsong, you begin breaking your pills in half. There’s a little line in the middle of the peachy, oval medication you take each day indicating it is designed to be divided. The act makes a small but satisfying popping sound. Now you take only half of a pill per diem.

After a couple of days, a little fog rolls in, but just around the periphery. You can feel your bruises again, can finger the bumpy ridges on your scars—old friends. You’re back to arranging your words in a beat-up notebook in random coffee shops, and what you write about has an edge. Not a black hole, just an edge. You can still be chirpy with your friends and family, like they like you to be, which is why you keep taking half a pill.

You realize you had actually missed crying, like you’d miss the rain if it never fell anymore. Similarly there are days you think you just might jiggle for joy. And there are other benefits to cutting your dose in half: You can have two glasses of wine without feeling like your tongue is malfunctioning. You don’t fall asleep with your mouth hanging open in the movies. You write better poetry when you are pissed at your boyfriend. Or at least you write faster, pounding away on the keyboard or bearing down hard with that pencil, putting urgency–and a kind of insurgency–into your work.

Here’s the thing: it’s supposed to hurt when the hardwoods start to drop their leaves; it’s appropriate to be filled with feeling when the sun lowers itself into the sea.  Hunky-dory turns out to be half-hearted. There’s no more riveting place from which to write than what feels like the beginning of the end.

Kathleen Brewin Lewis is an Atlanta writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Yemassee, Southern Humanities Review, Foundling Review, Heron Tree, Weave Magazine, and The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. V: Georgia. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is senior editor of Flycatcher journal. She has an MA in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University.

Aphorisms and Epigrams

by a contributor

Nick D’Annunzio Jones

Maisons Closes

For prostitutes there,
no act was impossible,
except, of course, love.


Al Contrario

What passions weave,
by reason is undone,
the Pope wrote Pope.


Avant le Déluge

Fat tails and bubbles.
Traders scoff at kurtosis.
Black swans crane their necks.


Oscar Wilde

After 20 years of love, a man feels like a king;
after 20 years of marriage, he feels like a queen.



In a truly inclusive, multicultural America, everyone will feel marginalized.



t’s th lngst wrd
wtht vwls n nglsh.
Lks Rssn, thgh, dsn’t t?


Chicago Style

Cat fog
14.34 Metaphor


Brooklyn Semordnilap

Yo! Oy!



Hey, Lana!
Don’t get up.
You’re content.


Dorothy Parker

If the masses are asses
And some asses are massive
Boy, I fear the greenhouse gasses


Rebuttal to Rebuttals of Robert Frost’s Rebuttal of Free Verse

Tennis without a net may be difficult but only because it is no longer tennis.



If you fear you’re a sociopath, you’re not.


Sign [Found] Inside Le Trapeze,
A Sex Club in Manhattan

Please Keep
Torso Covered
Near Buffet Table

Nick D’Annunzio Jones lives and writes in Seattle. He is a former reporter for The New York Times and has published poetry in numerous journals in the United States, Ireland, Sweden and Australia.

See Nick’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

Book Club Primavera

by a contributor

Richard Baldasty

Springtime, we clamored, and there it rose like enchantment summoned: birds giddy on last year’s berries, ants out from hiding, little plants with little bells dancing mazurkas whether it rained or hailed or sun barged through. We felt it in our bones, bones getting frisky, bones feeling stretchy, vertebrae eager for some primo vernal whoop-de-do. Which may, or may not, have connected with the start of the uprising. In any case, revolution did begin almost the very next thing. Nothing violent yet still decisive: our wintry old rulers fled within a fortnight. What then could we do? Potatoes had already been planted, also early bitter greens. But it was yet much too soon for even thinking about tomatoes or a heat-lover like purple Thai basil. So we fell back upon the usual, embarrassingly inept erotic home videos, an ill-conceived do-it-yourself basement remodel, adopting a shelter dog no one could love, joining another book-and-brew club. We read Kafka, drank pilsner. We reread Tess of the d’Urbervilles and got drunk butt-ugly on room-temp brown ale. It was so sad, all of it, page upon page, but we stayed with her, hoping against hope it might end better this time. Of course, it didn’t, Tess taken away again for hanging, for certain things remain too sorely engraved ever to change.

Richard Baldasty’s poetry and short prose have appeared in Pinyon, Epoch, and New Delta Review among other literary magazines. Work archived online includes publication in AntipodeanSF, Dark Fire, Café Irreal, and Marco Polo Literary Arts; Twitter verse at escarp and Twitter fiction at Seven by Twenty; literary collage in Fickle Muses, Ray’s Road Review, and forthcoming (May) with Big Bridge; and text/image at Shuf Poetry and (mid-April) Burrow Press Review.

See Richard’s list of 5 Things You Should Read tomorrow in our ongoing contributors’ series.

From the Kitchen of Helena Wilson

by a contributor

by Camille Griep

Chocolate Chip Cookies (with notes)


1 cup shortening (not butter)

1 cup brown sugar (dark brown)

1/2 cup white sugar (I know, I know)

1 tsp vanilla extract (the real kind)

2 eggs (room temperature)

2 cups flour (plus a little extra just in case)

1 tsp baking soda (not powder)

1 tsp salt (kosher)

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (whatever you prefer)

1. Preheat oven to 385 degrees. I know. You think I made a typo. You’re saying to yourself, Helena doesn’t know a teaspoon from a teakettle. You’re smirking that you’ve baked cookies for years and your idiot sister probably meant 375. I don’t care if you use your fancy-assed convection oven or your hundred dollar Williams-Sonoma baking mats. It just matters that the temperature is 385. Apparently it isn’t acceptable that I do even one thing better than you, so you publicly insist (at our father’s goddamned wake, for Christ’s sake) that I give you the recipe because Michael liked them so much. So don’t fuck with me.

2. Put the shortening into the bowl of your custom painted Kitchen Aid. No, you can’t use butter. Yes, you constantly assert that you’d never feed Michael chemicals, lest the two of you damage your organic reputations, but what you don’t tell your foodie group won’t hurt them. You can’t discard things just because they aren’t made exactly how you wish they were. You’d waste everything in your fridge that way and Michael hates waste even more than you hate chemicals and you should know this by now.

3. Firmly pack the brown sugar into a cup. I mean really pack it. With your entire ninety pound frame.

4. Add the white sugar. Yes. Terrible, white, bleached, nutrition-less sugar.

5. Add the vanilla. You can take this opportunity to use that really expensive shit you bought in Madagascar. It’s better than letting it evaporate. Like Dad used to say, you can’t take it with you. He sure didn’t. I’m really enjoying his coffee maker, though. That was very generous of you to think of me.

6. Now mix everything up until it’s fluffy and then stop. This takes about thirty seconds. That’s just a little bit longer than it took you to learn to roller skate, to decide to take Dad off life support, to reel in the man I’d always loved.

7. Crack the eggs into a small bowl to — you’ll love this part — ensure there are no imperfections. No shells, no blood, no half-formed chickens. Add them into the bowl and mix another thirty seconds, until just incorporated. That’s just a little bit shorter than it took for me to string a sentence together after you called to announce your engagement.

8. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt with a whisk. Together, these things are as white and fluffy as your wedding dress.

9. Turn the mixer on low. Gradually add the flour into the mixture until it becomes the consistency of play-doh. If it isn’t that consistency, add flour by the 1/2 cupfuls to get it that way. Careful, the flour does tend to poof its way out of the mixer at this point, and I know how much you hate messes.

10. Take the bowl off the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. You can do this with the mixer, but the chocolate chips will break. You’ve never had a problem breaking things (elbows, hearts, etc.) but it will make the cookies unsightly and nobody would want that.

11. Spoon large scoops of dough onto a cookie sheet, leaving them in a rough ball about 2-3 inches apart. I can get 16 on a normal sheet. Don’t crowd them. Don’t smash them. Yes, you could make them smaller, but that isn’t the point of a cookie. A cookie is special. You don’t eat a cookie every day. When you decide to eat one, do it with abandon. Eat a big fat cookie and revel in it instead of picking your way through the small, cold, detritus of your kitchen. If you want to make these for Michael, the least you can do is to make them fucking correctly. With soul (if you still have one).

12. Bake one sheet at a time for exactly 12 minutes. Let the cookies sit on the sheet for another two minutes and then put them on a cooling rack. This will allow them to stay chewy in the middle without allowing them to seep through the slats of the rack like a science project. Like me after your reception when I had to be rescued from that strappy deck chair, trapped by bourbon and purple bridesmaid’s bows. Like Dad’s skin in the casket, forty pounds lost in as many days.

13. Eat cookies immediately with milk. Laugh about how you’ll make them for the children you secretly don’t want.

14. Claim it’s your recipe.

15. Please, don’t ever do this to me again.

Camille Griep lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. Her work has been featured in Every Day Fiction, The First Line, Bound Off, Short, Fast & Deadly, and Punchnel’s.

See Camille’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

Climate Change

by a contributor

Michael Landweber

The Storm came for Jimmy last Tuesday. Me, Cal and Ralston were sitting on the porch, drinking beer, watching the street like usual, when it appeared ’cross the way in front of Jimmy’s house.

It was just like we’d seen on the news. Just like all those videos on YouTube.

My favorite video is one of the first ones. You know the one that was took in the subway in New York. Some tourist was shooting movies of his family when the cloud appeared, that dark familiar cloud, a thunderhead in a bottle. It just oozed out of the ceiling and hovered there for a moment, growing larger, blocking out a couple of the fluorescent lights. There’d been some reports by then, so folks knew what was coming and they started screaming and running, but they’re on a subway platform, so there’s really no place to go. This was before we all knew running didn’t make no difference. The tourist kept rolling, though his wife told him to get the hell out of there and his kids were crying in the background. He just keeps shooting, steady as a government job, keeping the Storm in his sights, even as it moves toward him, then over him, then past him. It stops over this young guy with scraggly hair on his face and none on the top of his head. Now we all know what’s coming, but he didn’t really, not then. So, he moves left and the cloud stays over him and then he moves right and it follows. The rain starts down on him. Everyone else has scattered away, so he’s the only one getting wet. And he stops fighting it, just stands there, soaking in it, as the tornado drops down around him and the lightning starts crackling inside it. After a minute, it all just disappears, the tornado, the lightning, the cloud, the guy, gone.

Turns out the cloud is really small. No bigger than a Buick. And in person, it ain’t that big a deal, just hanging there, threatening to rain on someone. For a moment, before it headed toward Jimmy’s front door, I wondered if it was gonna come get one of us instead. You do feel that in your throat, I have to admit, the possibility of it.

“Should we call Jimmy,” Cal said, not really a question.

“Nah,” Ralston said, reaching down for his spare bottle. “Wouldn’t matter none.”

He was right about that, of course. When the Storm comes for you, there ain’t nothing you can do about it. Just let it take you. That’s why me and Cal and Ralston sat on the porch and drank a bit in our spare time, rather than hiding like some folks. Folks like Jimmy who didn’t go to work no more and stayed in their basements all day and read the websites trying to figure out how to outsmart the Storm. I like some of the websites, the one with the ticker in particular, that one that tells you how many people the Storm’s gotten so far. Don’t know how the guy knows how many have disappeared – the Storm’s popping up in more and more places these days – but he claims to know and it’s more interesting than the sites that want $19.95 to tell you how to survive, more honest I think. Last I checked, the Storm had taken nearly ten thousand, but that was a couple of days ago, before Jimmy.

People been praying a lot, saying this is the apocalypse. The End Days, one person at a time. Others think it is aliens or maybe the government or maybe someone else’s government. No one really knows.

The lights went out in Jimmy’s house, all of them. That’s one of the first things the websites say to do, like the Storm has eyes or something, like it can’t see in the dark. Those sites are full of it – no one knows what the Storm is. No one knows why it comes for some or who’s gonna be next. No one knows. Jimmy must’ve figured out it had come for him – maybe he heard the rustling of the wind or felt the change in air pressure. So what’d he do? Turned out his goddamned lights.

The Storm disappeared through Jimmy’s front door. So much for all that security we saw him installing a couple weeks ago. For a few minutes, nothing happened and we thought maybe Jimmy got this one covered, maybe he’s got this rap beat, maybe he’d be a celebrity living through the Storm and all, and folks would want to talk to us and put us on the news because we were there when it happened.

No such luck. We saw the flashes through the basement windows. One two three, then gone. Then, silence and darkness from Jimmy’s house. Cal took out his cell phone to call the hotline just like they said to do on the TV. Scientists and government folks will come out and check out Jimmy’s house and take some samples that won’t help much. No one needs to get the body – there ain’t none to be got.

I reached into the cooler for another beer and listened to Cal call in the sighting.

“Jimmy oughta known better,” Ralston said, handing me the bottle opener.

I cracked the cap right off and took a long, deep swig, knowing without a doubt that that was the damn whole truth.

Michael Landweber’s stories have appeared in Fugue, Fourteen Hills, Gargoyle, Barrelhouse and a bunch of other places. His first novel, We, will be published by Coffeetown Press in September 2013. He is an Associate Editor at Potomac Review and a contributor at Pop Matters. He won’t find it at all creepy if you follow him @mlandweber.

See Michael’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.


by a contributor

Marci Vogel

Occasionally it rings, and so we answer without identifying the caller because we are of the few remaining who don’t have caller ID, and anyway it’s probably either my dear one’s mother or mine, or maybe the lady from Helping Hands for the Blind. She never says what she wants exactly, just announces: Helping Hands for the Blind, voice trailing off in expectation.

Lately it’s just as likely to be Alan from the Census Bureau. We’re on a first-name basis–mine’s Jane, as in Doe. My dear one accepted a $25.00 gift card in exchange for participating in a special survey, and now Alan calls monthly to find out what happened to money we no longer have.

We once spoke for an hour, and I told Alan how I spent the former president’s tax-rebate on artwork, a painting called Little Deaths which remains unhung on our wall, and how I spent my dear one’s, too, on a Japanese maple he planted over the loyal body of our red chow, who died in the spring. “Alan,” I asked, “how exactly do you check-off this information? Are there boxes on your spreadsheet for beauty, for sadness?”

“Don’t you worry, Janie,” he said, “I’ve got my tricks.”

My dear one refuses to speak with Alan anymore. At least the devil waits until you’re dead before he collects, he said after the third month. I tried in good faith to speak for all the Does in the house, but last time Alan called, I told him I couldn’t answer any more questions, not until summer, when the days were longer, and it felt as if I had more time. “I’m hanging up on you, Alan,” I said. “I’m sorry,” and I was.

The Helping Hands for the Blind lady, now that’s a different story. We’ve never cut her off, not once. Maybe it’s because she has no tricks, only leaves enough space between words. Helping Hands for the Blind, she says, and we respond: Nothing, sorry. But once in a while––when the leaves on the maple are scarlet, for example––we answer: Yes, we do have something to offer, and her familiar voice on the line lights up: Fine! Pickup Wednesday. I’ll call back to remind you, and she does.

Marci Vogel is a native of Los Angeles, where she attends USC’s PhD Program in Literature and Creative Writing as a Provost Fellow. Her poetry has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the AWP Intro Journals Award. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in FIELD, Puerto del Sol, ZYZZYVA, Anti-, and the Seneca, Colorado, and Atlas reviews. Her first chapbook, Valiant, is available from Finishing Line Press.

See Marci’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.