Galatic Energy, Sea Life

Galatic Energy, Sea Life

by Sandy Coomer

Sandy Coomer is an artist and poet living in Brentwood, TN. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies and she is the author of three poetry chapbooks and a full-length collection titled Available Light (Iris Press). Her art has been featured in local art shows and exhibits, and has been published in journals such as Lunch Ticket, Gravel, The Wire’s Dream Magazine, Up the Staircase, Taxicab, Spider Mirror and The Magnolia Review, among others. Sandy is currently the director of Rockvale Writers’ Colony in College Grove, TN.

Two Translations of Dana Ranga

by Monika Cassel

Carcharodon Carcharias

Auch wenn ich rufe, bleib – du wirst nicht bleiben. Du erkennst mich von weitem, nichts kann dich täuschen.

Dein Herzschlag, ein Laut, schöner als ein Wort. Hunger verbindet verlässlich und das Vergnügen zu fragen,

was gibst du mir? Geschwindigkeit und Liebe, Fett und Blut. Nun lege dich auf mich, ich will dich tragen.

Schon lange folge ich dir, gierig auf Wunden und Rauschen. Verweigerte Botschaft, ich hörte dich

atmen und singen in stiller Bucht. Wasser kennt keine Narben; Druckwelle, Abschied, akzentfreie Entfernung

zwischen dir und mir. Ich brauche Gewissheit, mein Wissen um dich ist das Grauen. Lamna, lamnidae,

Himmel und Wasser wollen nichts wissen. Was vermag die Vernunft, wenn das Neue lockt? Betäubtes Glück schwimmt an der Kette.

Dein Fleisch, es zuckt und ruht. Augen auf, Augen zu. Mit rotem Bund durchziehe ich die Meere, in der Hoffnung

du würdest warten. Neugier hält dich fest, Korallenbusch, erglüht durch mein Rufen; die Verstecke leuchten.

Wenn ich tausend Herzen schlagen höre, weiß ich, dass es Abend ist. Jetzt stehst du vor mir, deine Arme sind offen. Ich bleibe dir fern,

so weit wie deine Hand hinausreicht. Wie fremd ich dir bin, wie fremd ich mir bin. Meer, Zelle mit zwei Kernen, ich und du



Great White Shark

Even when I cry out, stay, – you will not stay. You recognize me from afar, nothing can deceive you.

Your heartbeat, a sound more beautiful than a word. Hunger makes a reliable bond, as does the pleasure in asking,

what will you give me? Speed and love, fat and blood. Now lay yourself upon me and I will carry you.

For a long time I have followed you, greedy for wounds and roaring. I heard you, a message that was withheld,

breathing and singing in a quiet cove. Water has no scars; shock wave, parting, an accentless distance

between you and me. I need certainty, my knowledge of you is dread. Lamna, lamnidae,

Sky and water play dumb. What can reason do when the new beckons? Numbed fortune swims on a leash.

Your flesh, it twitches and rests again. Eyes open, eyes shut. I move through the seas with a red band, in the hope

that you might be waiting. Curiosity detains you, a bush of coral, all aglow from my cries; the hiding places shine.

When I hear a thousand hearts beat I know that it is evening. Now you stand before me, your arms are open. I keep my distance,

stay as far away as the reach of your hand. How strange I am to you, how strange I am to myself. Ocean, a cell with two nuclei, you and I


Monika Cassel was raised bilingual in the United States and Germany. As Chair of Creative Writing and Literature at New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe, she developed a high school creative writing program with the support of the Lannan Foundation. Her poetry chapbook, Grammar of Passage, won the Venture Award and is forthcoming from flipped eye publishing. Her poems have appeared in The Laurel Review and Phoebe Journal, and her translations have appeared in POETRY MagazineGuernicaAsymptoteHarvard Review Online, and others. In 2016 she was a Travel Fellow to the American Literary Translators Association Conference and she is currently a Poetry Fellow at the Attic Institute’s Atheneum Program. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Dana Ranga was born in 1964 in Bucharest. In 1987 she emigrated to Germany, where she studied semiotics, film studies, and art history at the Free University of Berlin. Her first book of poetry, Stop (2005), was written in Romanian. Ranga is the director of several award-winning documentaries, including East Side Story (1997) and I Am in Space (2012). Her first book of poems written in German, Wasserbuch, was published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2011 and received the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, an award for authors whose mother tongue is not German, in 2014. A second book of German poetry, Hauthaus, was published in 2016. Several of Ranga’s Romanian poems have been published in English translation; her work has also appeared in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, and Moldova.

Three Translations of Jacques Viau Renaud

Sendero

by Jacques Jacques Viau Renaud

Sendero retorcido de dolor
mordido por la sangre
y botas que envenenan.
Sendero fecundado de cruces,
de cielos ausentes
y de esqueletos de árboles
en coloquio con la muerte.
Con la muerte que cicatriza llagas
llagas abiertas
para mi solo
por mi solo
para el hombre
por los hombres.
Sendero que huye de la urbe
ebrio de humo y de alchoholes
dilatados de ausencias
espera…
Sendero de abortada presencia
de horizontes
siempre viejos
mordido
por la sangre
y botas sordas
al gritos de la tierra.

Path

translated by Ariel Francisco

Path twisted by pain
bitten by blood
and poisonous boots.
Path fertile with crosses
of absent heavens
and skeletal trees
in colloquium with death.
With a death that scars over sores
open sores
only for me
for man
for mankind.
Path that flees the city
drunk on smoke and silences
where the drunk whore of liquor
dilates absences
wait—
Path of aborted presences
of horizons
always old
bitten
by the blood
and deaf boots
to the howls of the earth.

Estoy Tranando de Hablaros de mi Patria

by Jacques Viau Renaud

ESTOY tratando de hablaros de mi patria,
aquella que comienza a deslizarse
allá donde crecen las guazabaras,
las cayenas fragiles,
los cantaros sedientos y polvorientos,
la yerba rara,
amarillenta,
solitaria lanza midiendo el corazón de mi Isla.

ESTOY tratando de hablaros de mi patria,
desde aqui,
desde mi guarida salina,
desde Santo Domingo,
quizas os hable de ambas:
son dos terrones complementarios
puntos cardinales de mi tristeza
caidos de la rosa de los vientos
como amantes cuyo abrazo se rompieran.

ESTOY tratando de hablaros de mi patria,
de su prole de montes y altibajos,
de planicies soñolientas,
donde ha mucho parieron ríos:
muchedumbre de cristales apiñados en las hondonadas.

MI PATRIA
es una tierra elevada
de dilatados herbazales y doradas mazorcas
que cruzan los mares y se van muy lejos
mientras los hombres del monte y la llanura
se dilatan hambrientos.

Es una tierra con muchos montes pelados,
sonoros rios de apaciguada fauna
y violentos vegetales…

CRUJE mi patria al parir
y sus proles se reducen
y parecen hojas desprendidas
confundiéndose en los bosques con la magra corteza de los
arboles.

ALLI, aprisionada entre dos brazos de arcilla,
roca y piedra,
duerme una ciudad que huele a muerto,
a caña madura,
a virgen alcohol terrosa
como resina de nudosas raíces destacadas.

ES UNA ciudad de calles sin nombres
y atajos de espanto,
habitada hasta en las grietas,
en las cloacas,
quedamente recorrida por las ratas y los murciélagos.

ES UNA ciudad de muchas proles numerosas,
de millares de niños que nunca crecieron,
que nunca supieron el color de los faroles
ni del alba con pan y sin lágrimas,
de niños que maduraron las tumbas,
la tierra apisonada adornada de girasoles,
y la luz de las pupilas ciegas.

ALLI he nacido,
de alli parti atado a la sangre,
solo, después de los años,
descubrí en mi pecho la mancha roja,
entonces aprendí a leer en las hojas,
a hablar con la tierra
y a callar cuando ella reconstruía la historia
de los muchos muertos que la sustentan,
de la sangre que alimentó sus frutas,
del llanto que sostuvo la precocidad de sus montes.

MUCHO tiempo ha transcurrido desde que parti,
nada ha cambiado,
siguen los ismos montes pelados,
la misma vegetación de vegetales y girasoles,
de cafetales oscuros y pastizales estrellados,
solo el hambre ha crecido,
ya no hay lugar en los cementerios
ni en mi Isla patrias,
solo dimensiones de tierra y harapo,
de muertos desencajados en el vientre del barro.

ASI es mi patria,
prolongación del Santo Domingo que llora,
asi es mi guarida,
prolongación del grito que recorre los montes,
los caminitos,
los bosques,
desde el otro lado de la sangre,
desde la mole de San Nicolás,
hasta la frente de cristal salobre
y esqueletos de peces mudos amontonados sobre la playa
creciendo y haciéndose montañas
entre redes hambrientas y ahumados pescadores.
Allí los muertos se hacen peces hermosos,
algas extensas, musgo silencioso,
o acantilado de rumores que la noche protege.

HE QUERIDO hablaros de mi patria,
de mis dos patrias,
de mi Isla
que ha mucho dividieron los hombres
allí donde se aparearon crear un río.

I am Trying to Tell You about My Homeland

translated by Ariel Francisco

I’m trying to tell you about my homeland,
the one that begins to slip
there where the guasabara trees grow,
the fragile peppers,
the thirsty dust covered pitchers,
the yellowish
strange grass,
lonely spear measuring the heart of my island.

I’m trying to tell you about my homeland,
from here,
from my saline lair,
from Santo Domingo,
maybe I’ll speak of both:
they’re two complimentary mounds
cardinal points of my sadness
fallen from the wind’s rose
like lovers breaking their embrace.

I’m trying to tell you about my homeland,
of her children, her peaks and valleys,
her sleepy plains
where countless rivers are born:
crowds of crystals huddled in the hollows.

My homeland
is a plateau
of betrayed herbs and golden corn
that cross the seas to go far off
while the people of the mountains and plains
grow with hunger.

It’s a land of many bare mountains,
loud rivers of cheerful wildlife
and violent flora.

My homeland cracked giving birth
and her children wither
and look like dying leaves
confusing themselves in the forest of thin barked trees.

There, imprisoned between two clay arms,
rock and stone,
sleeps a city that smells of death,
of sugarcane,
an earthly virgen liquor
like the resin of great gnarled roots.

It’s a city of nameless streets
and ghostly alleys
even the cracks are inhabited,
even the sewers,
quietly traversed by rats and bats.

It’s a city full of countless children,
of countless children that never grow up,
that never learned the colors of lanterns
or the dawn, with bread and without tears,
of children who ripen in tombs,
the tamped ground adorned with sunflowers,
and the light of blind eyes.

Here, I was born,
from there I left, tied to the blood,
alone, after years,
I found the red stain inside me,
and then learned to read the leaves,
to speak with the earth
and quiet when she reconstructs the history
of the many dead that sustain her,
of the blood that fed her fruits,
the screams that sustained her precocious mountains.

So much time has passed since I left,
nothing has changed
those same bald mountains go on,
the same vegetation of vegetables and sunflowers,
the same dark coffee fields and starry pastures,
only hunger has grown,
there’s no more room in the cemeteries
or in the crying eyes
or in my island homeland,
only dimensions of dirt and rags,
of the dead unhinged by the wind from the mud.

This is my homeland,
an extension of Santo Domingo crying,
this is my haunt,
extension of the cry echoing from the mountains,
the paths,
the forests,
from the other side of the blood,
from the mole of Saint Nicholas,
to the face of the brackish crystal
and the bones of deaf fish piled on the beach
making and becoming mountains
between hungry nets and smoked fisherman.
Here the dead turn into handsome fish,
covered in algae, silent moss,
or cliffs of rumors protected by the night.

I’ve been trying to tell you about my homeland,
of my homelands,
of my island
that has long divided man
there where they came together to create a river.

LA LLUVIA

by Jacques Viau Renaud

La lluvia se abría sobre el pavimento
dibujando.
Ociosas prostitutas
semiescondidas
se guarecian
esperando algun tonto beodo
que vierta en sus enganchados encantos
su semanal hambre aguantada
de agrio sudor infecundo
de mujer que se rompe las uñas y los dedos
de niños que aguardan el plato siempre lejano
el postre extrañisimo.

La vida transcurria
los focos de los automóviles
asediaban las calles de impúdicas visiones.
La voracidad babeante de los callejones oscuros
abría orificios en la carne del hombre.

Los guardias
y sus fusiles
la policia y sus garrotes
el espia y su largo oído
anunciaban el estallido
anunciaban la muerte sobre las espaldas de la lluvia.
Finamente cayendo
como lianas transparentes y quebradizas
que dejan entre sí estrechas compuertas
por donde el aire se escapa seco
en esta noche de caluroso diciembre
abierto a la sangre
como una migaja abandonada en un puñado de hambre.

La vida transcurria.
Los guardias
y las prostitutas se hacían señas
y pronto las palabras no eran más que recuerdo.
Los niños
cubrían sus cuerpecitos con sus manos
pequeñitas
expuestos a la lujuria del tiempo.

Los grandes señores
codeando la noche cambiaban de ropaje
para extirpar de la infancia
la honradez todavía incipiente de los arrabales.

Los callejones aullaban un sucio espanto.
La noche se deshacía
se alejaban las estrellas
las prostitutas
cansadas
bostezando se marchaban,
mientras que un niño limpiabotas
empujaba las pocas puertas que del amor quedaban.

Diciembre con dias sangrientos
y dilatados
empapados de savia rebelde
arrancada del pueblo como raíces
que van limpiando las mugrientas edades pasadas
levantando la vida.

The Rain

translated by Ariel Francisco

The rain opens over the pavement,
drawing.
Idle prostitutes
half hidden
protecting themselves
waiting for some drunk idiot
to empty into their charmed hooks
holding in that weekly hunger
of sour sterile sweat
of women that break their nails and fingers
of children that await that far off plate
the strange dessert.

Life goes on
the car headlights
besiege the streets with lewd visions.
The drooling veracity of dark alleys
opens holes in the body of man.

The guards
and their rifles
the cops and their clubs
the spies and their long hatred
announcing the blood
announcing the outbreak
announcing the dead on the back of the rain.
Falling finely
like transparent and brittle vines
leaving narrow gates between them
where the dry air escapes
in this hot December night
open to the blood
like an abandoned crumb in a handful of hunger.

Life goes on.
The guards
and prostitutes signal each other
and soon words will only be memories.
The children
cover their small bodies with their hands
tiny
exposed to the lust of time.

The large men
hustling through the night change clothes
to remove their childhood
honor still incipient in the suburbs.

The alleys howl a dirty ghost.
Night comes undone
the stars back away
the women
tired
yawning, they march,
meanwhile a shoeshine kid
pushes the few doors left by love.

December of bloody
and dilated days
soaked with the sap of rebellion
pulled from the people like roots
that clean the grim past
lifting up life.

Moving Sand, Moving Water, Moving People

by Heather Marie Spitzberg

As a child I lived on a narrow street without shoulders or painted lines. Across the pavement was what we called the swamp. Beyond the swamp was a small clear lake. Our feet entered that cool water and emerged with cuts from mussels to become covered in sand and pine pitch. I wondered about that sand, misplaced as it was, at the edge of the otherwise rocky shore.

We shared that place with a scattering of other homes and hundreds of hemlocks and oaks. I glided from water to land as effortlessly as the beavers inhabiting the stream that fed the lake. My dad and I regularly walked the stream, and I delighted in beavers slapping their tails to warn others of our arrival.

In 1985 Hurricane Gloria doused us with rain, wind, and panic. Birches weren’t supposed to be horizontal against a sky the color of a yellowed bruise. After days of helping crews remove debris from the roads, we inspected the river. A fallen maple created a new bridge to cross. A sheared-off tree top blocked the deer path we followed. The beavers’ dam had broken. Water poured over the breached sticks and mud as it might out of a pitcher. The animals had begun rebuilding in a different place, further downstream. I wish my young self knew to study the advantages of that location over the other.

In 1994 I stood on the shore of a private-access beach, spiral-bound notebook in hand, salted air frizzing my hair. Finished with my count of Piping Plover nests, I slid my notebook into my waistband and walked to where the land ended at fast flowing water between me and the next beach to the south. In the middle of the river that fed acres of tidal marshes behind the beaches floated a brachiosaurus-sized machine that scooped buckets of sand onto a barge.

The beach maintenance person told me they were returning the canal to where it belonged after Bob moved it. He meant Hurricane Bob, which had devastated the New England coast over two years prior. Twenty feet away, on the other side of the flowing water, was a public-access beach. Once the birds fledge, he said, they’ll pump sand on the dunes to restore them, too. He pointed to where snow fencing and months-old Christmas trees wrangled sand into a pile attempting to grow valuable dunes.

The naturalist in me held back a scoff at the idea that a canal or dunes belonged anywhere other than where they existed, no matter human need, history, or understanding.

The young woman in me who had been raised by local government employees in the Country’s Live Free or Die state saw the consequences of twenty feet of shore on tax base, tourism, and the owner’s sense of, well, ownership.

In the mid-twentieth century, my mom grew up outside of Daytona Beach before moving north. The beach she knew formed one half of a track with cars speeding onto the adjacent Route A1A for a race’s second leg. Flattened dunes provided seating for the throngs of fans, precursors to today’s NASCAR enthusiasts.

We visited throughout my childhood, years after the beach was rescued from the racetrack. Dunes had been restored and hotels built. Mom commented on the beach’s improvement, even with its risky towers. Perhaps that was true, for a while. Until the sand eroded like the snowbirds flying north in the summer.

In 2018 I visited a town in southern Florida connected to the mainland by bridges. On the southern tip of the island, at the end of a breakwater, squatted a round structure that looked like a misplaced granary. Curious, I learned it was a decades-old sand pump that became necessary with the expansion of a non-navigable entry to the Intracoastal. The expansion interfered with natural sand drift, preventing sand from traveling further south. Now, erosion on the shore to the north of the pump created a three-foot drop between the dry sand where children played and the wet area where waves crashed and joggers ran.

Around the corner from that pump station stood a wall of white plastic sandbags. They were not temporary. Along with a grassed berm, they protected a waterfront building that appeared less than a decade old. A seawall and mighty boulders tried to hold back the waves, which crashed into the rocks, spraying warm salty mist onto my eyelids. With tide in half-way and the moon only three-quarters full, larger waves were assured

In 1987 we moved from that house across from the swamp. As much as I loved the location, I never trusted it. Our home sat dozens of feet higher than the grade of the road in a notch that had been blasted out of a face of granite. I feared the boulders, and trees, and millions of pounds of dirt hanging above us. None of those slipped; the water got us. Pouring rain on the frozen ground created sheets of water flowing overland toward the lake. The house held strong, but the window wells filled, and thirty-six inches of water flowed into our basement. Our cat drowned.

We left for unrelated reasons, but it felt right.

Heather Marie Spitzberg has over twenty years of environmental science, law, and writing experience. She lives in New York’s Capital Region with her husband, twin son and daughter, and rescued dog, Thor.

CLIK2CHAT

by Daniel Marcus

The house was full of people and the insect hum of their voices.  Their presence made his living room look oddly foreign and it was easy for Bob to imagine for a moment that he, too, was a guest.  He stood awkwardly next to the fireplace, drink in hand.  People approached, inquired, veered off. Nearly everyone had brought something to eat or drink and every available surface in the kitchen was loaded with casseroles, salads, plates of cookies, sushi mandalas, paella pans.  There was something about bereavement and food.  It wasn’t comfort — there could be no comfort — but it was deeply tribal nonetheless.  What Bob really wanted was a good, stiff drink, but he was afraid of where that would lead, so he sipped his glass of Pinot and tried to not look like he wished they would all just fucking leave.

A cluster of Jenna’s friends, bristling with piercings and spiky hair, huddled near the door.  Bob had known most of them since pre-school.  A willowy girl in sleeveless denim, Lu, caught his eye.  She walked up to him and gave him a loose-limbed hug.

“You guys okay?” she asked.

Bob had a sudden, vivid memory of a trip to Marine World, maybe six years back, an impossibly distant other life.  It was just Jenna, Lu, and him.  The girls orbited about him like wild, giggling moons as they explored the park.  They slept, curled up in the back seat together, the entire drive home.  It was a good day. 

Bob shrugged, smiled sadly. How could we be okay?

“Sorry — stupid question.”  She looked away, biting her lip.  A single tear tracked down her cheek.  She took a breath, looked up at him again.  “How’s Mrs. P. holding up?”

“She’s hanging in there.  I’m really glad you came, Lu.” 

In fact, Mrs. P. hadn’t stopped crying for three days and was upstairs now in a shade-darkened room, tossing in a sweat-drenched Ambien doze.  Bob was almost glad of his hostly duties because they took him off the front lines with her.  He felt a stab of guilt at the thought. 

Jenna’s friends were the first to leave.  Lu turned on her way out and gave him a sad, little wave. Bob’s colleagues from the office were next — a handshake conga line and a pat on the shoulder from the head of the firm.  His secretary hugged him and cried a little. 

“Give my best to Allie,” she said.

“I will,” Bob promised.  

After the neighbors left, and a few other parents from the school community paid their respects and backed out the door looking guiltily relieved (fellow travelers for many years, their connection now abruptly severed), there was just Allie’s sister, Darcy, and her deadwood husband, Frank. 

Darcy flitted about cleaning while Frank helped himself to a healthy dose of Glenlivet from Bob’s liquor cabinet.

“Hell of a thing,” Frank said. “So young.”

Bob remembered Jenna’s description of him as “that fucking retard Aunt Darcy married” and nearly smiled, then caught himself, and a wave of grief rushed through him like the ocean through a rocky channel, leaving him breathless for a moment.

“You okay, Bob?” Frank asked, a hint of slur in his voice.

“Yeah, I’m fine, Frank.  I just need to sit down.”

Bob sat in one of the two floral patterned wing chairs bookending the fireplace.  Frank stood watching him for a moment, then sat in the matching chair, resting his drink on his thigh. 

They spoke no further and Bob tried to will his mind empty of thought. 

After a few moments, Darcy appeared, pushing back an errant blonde lock from her forehead.

“All clean,” she said.  She was a ditz, but Bob had come to like her, even love her, over the years.  Her luck with men was almost comically abysmal. 

“Thanks, Darce,” Bob said.  “You didn’t have to do all that.”

She leaned over and pecked him on the cheek.  “Don’t worry about it.  You just take care of Allie and yourself.”

When they left, silence descended on the house with the finality of a closing curtain.  Bob returned to the chair next to the fireplace and sipped his drink.

Upstairs, Allie awakened and began to weep, a soft, desperate keening that seemed to come from everywhere in the house at once. 

Bob sighed.  He didn’t want to face her and felt it again, that pinprick of guilt. Her grief was no more acute than his, he felt, but it demanded more attention.  Infinite attention, really — a black hole that swallowed all solace.  He didn’t blame her at all.  He just didn’t know how to help her.  He couldn’t even help himself. 

He set his glass on the coffee table and went upstairs.  The hallway was dark.  The door to Jenna’s room was open a crack.  He walked past without looking in.  His bedroom door was shut and he placed his palm flat against it.  From within, the sound of weeping continued. 

“Allie?”

There was no answer.

He gently pushed the door open. The air in the room was humid and had a strange, oceanic smell.  Allie sat on the edge of the bed.  Her grief had an animal quality: primal, pre-verbal.  He sat next to her, put his hand on her shoulder. She vibrated with a fine tremor, like a bird.  Every now and then she would gasp, a breathing reflex. The keening would catch, then continue.    

Bob pulled back the collar of her nightgown just a bit, kissed her bare shoulder, and left her there.



Bob’s home office was a long card table in a corner of the garage.  There was a multipurpose printer, a big monitor, a keyboard. Several rows of shelves sagged under a haphazard collection of tools, books, and boxes with faded, peeling labels.  In the opposite corner, amidst a litter of discarded plastic lawn toys, sat a red bicycle with flat tires and training wheels. Faded blue ribbons dangled limply from the handlebars.

He sat down and stared at the flat, grey screen until he imagined motion within its depths. He pushed back his chair and went back in the house.  He cocked his head to listen.  Allie had stopped crying.  He imagined her sitting on the edge of the bed staring off into nothing. The furnace sighed on.  A car whispered past on the street outside. 

Bob poured himself two fingers of Glenlivet and returned to the garage.  He sat at his desk and took a sip of whiskey. His eyes watered and his chest filled with heat. 

He missed her so badly.  It was like a physical hypersensitivity, a migraine or an opiate withdrawal, a painfully acute awareness of smells and changes in light.

He double-clicked a shortcut on his desktop and her homepage appeared.  There were dozens of pictures, mostly of Jenna smiling, occupying a center of gravity among several friends, a couple of somber art-school poses and several with Allie and Bob.  He was glad that she wasn’t embarrassed to post them. 

In her most recent photograph, just a few days before she died, she had shaved her head and carved, in the emerging stubble, swirling Maori-like designs.  She had a pierced eyebrow and upper lip.  This too was something of an art-school pic, but in spite of its edginess, it seemed to capture better than the others the essence of Jenna as a much younger girl. He could see her peering out, smiling, just behind the hardware and the adolescent piss-off frown. 

Her profile said she liked basketball (he knew that), Rimbaud (he had no idea), and motorcycles (he’d have to have a talk with her) — and it hit him again, that surge of grief (have a talk with her) so acute he lost track of himself for a moment. 

Her status read:

Smith is nice.  Mt Holyoke is a gothic prison. Amherst is Amherst. In Logan now, waiting for the plane home. I love airports, monuments to transience. The static hiss between stations!

She must have posted from her cell phone, minutes before the explosion.  Bob tried to imagine it – an instant of heat and light, intense pressure, a sound like the sky ripping open. He hoped it was fast, that she didn’t have time to register what was happening. He wondered if she thought of them in those last milliseconds, then cursed his narcissism.    

It seemed he was living half the time in fugue – replaying snippets of time with her, random moments, conversations real and imagined.  They surfaced haphazardly, pulled him in, played themselves out, and left him stunned and empty.

His eyes kept returning to the icon in the upper right corner of the screen, a yellow smiley-face in side profile beneath a word bubble.  Inside the bubble: Clik2Chat.

He slid the cursor over the icon, hovered for a moment, then willed his finger down on the mouse button.

Jenna’s avatar appeared next to his keyboard: a smiling, translucent, foot-tall pixie.  Tiny diamonds of dust swam in the light beams emanating from small, twin sources beneath the screen.  The scan had been taken about a year before, so it captured Jenna before her severe phase.  Her hair was shoulder length and she wore jeans and a plain, green t-shirt. She tilted her head, a coltish gesture he knew well.

“Hey, Dad. What’s up?”

Bob’s breath caught in his throat.  The voice was almost right – Jenna, with syllables oddly clipped.  He knew it was nothing more than a bit of digital magic cranked out by a kid hunkered down in a cubicle amidst a litter of Nerf toys and empty soda cans, but it was still a shock.

Jenna tilted her head the other way.

“Hey, Dad.  What’s up?”

This is stupid, he thought.

“Hi, Jen.”  His voice cracked.

“Hey!  How are you?”

Bob didn’t say anything. The avatar shifted her weight, brushed back her hair.

“You’ve probably figured out that I’m somewhere else right now.  My little Doppel-G here will record whatever you want to tell me and I’ll have a look at it later.” 

“We miss you terribly.”

Jemma frowned disarmingly.

“Sorry, didn’t get that.”

“We love you.”

Jenna smiled.  “I love you, too, Dad.”

“We’ll always love you.”

“I love you, too, Dad.”

From far away he heard the high whine of engines, a plane settling in to SFO final approach.  He cocked his head, listening, until he couldn’t hear it any more.  

“You haven’t said anything for awhile, so I’m gonna go.  Bye!”

“No!” Bob shouted, startling himself.  “Wait!”

Jenna tilted her head again, looking, he imagined, just a trifle impatient.

The static hiss between stations, he thought.

Something rustled outside, probably a raccoon.  He closed his eyes and saw clever, busy hands.

“You haven’t said anything for awhile, so I’m gonna go.  Bye!”

He did nothing this time.  After a few seconds, the image winked out. 

He sat there for a long time.  When he was ready, he pushed his chair back, stood up, and stretched.  He let himself back into the house and went upstairs.  Allie was sleeping again, her breathing deep and regular. 

He slipped his clothes off and slid under the sheets, careful not to wake her.  She whimpered softly, turned on her side facing away from him, and backed closer.  He curled to fit her, feeling her warmth, draping his arm across her hip.  He shifted restlessly as he drifted off to sleep and she moved in response, their somnambular dance as familiar as walking. 

Daniel Marcus’ short fiction has appeared in many literary and genre venues, including Asimov’s SF, ZYZZYVA, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Witness. Some of these stories were collected in “Binding Energy,” described by Salon.com as “a cross between Raymond Carver and William Gibson.” He is also the author of the novels Burn Rate and A Crack in Everything. He has taught Creative Writing at the UC Berkeley Extension Program and Gotham Writers’ Workshop.

Dream in Which I Am Rapunzeled

Ridiculed among the villagers. Little teapot, short and stout. Little fireplug. Since I am slow and susceptible to kindness, the witch traps me easily. She makes bold promises. To unbutton my bulk. To bouquet me beautiful. To prime me, photo ready, for a prince. So I do not fight. She tells me thinness is next to godliness. She banners that shame until I surrender. I let her ladder me to the tower and lock the door. Turret me. Starve my mudflank, my curve and hedgerow. Brick and mortar me away from all pleasure. I let her shave my escape braid in dusk’s blue light.

by Donna Vorreyer

Donna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (Sundress Publications, 2016) and A House of Many Windows (Sundress, 2013) as well as eight chapbooks, most recently The Girl (Porkbelly Press, 2018). 

Queen of the Sunken City

by Susan DeFreitas

The King of King Street poled his skiff across Calhoun, looking for his queen. Sometimes in the mornings she could be found around Market, meeting her day’s appointments with “dem tourists from foreign,” as his granny used to say.

Tourists had been coming to the Sunken City of the South since long before it had sunk—coming to see the Rainbow Row and the Battery and the grand old churches built upon the backs of slaves. Coming to take the tours, most of which omitted such distasteful details.

Tours such as this one here on Calhoun Street—which, like all of the streets downtown, was no longer a street at all, but a glittering canal, reflecting the half-submerged historic homes and churches that appeared on all the postcards. A fellow in a flat hat at the helm of a water taxi steered it slowly into the mangroves of Francis Marion Square, telling stories to white folk made whiter by their reflective nanoscreen, which made their whiteness gleam.

“Here to the south side of the square, just beyond the Lindsey Graham Memorial Mangroves, you’ll see the statue of John C. Calhoun,” the guide said, stilling the motor. He gestured to the bronze statue on high, which the King always thought of as the white man in the sky. “Calhoun was one of the state’s most illustrious citizens. He served as a senator and US Vice President in the years leading up to the First Civil War, and he was an prominent advocate of states’ rights.”

King almost laughed as he poled on past, his dark skin bare to the sun. The only reason the white man in the sky had escaped being sunk was because the city fathers had seen fit to raise him up so high. And why? Long ago, any Black folks who happened to pass would do their best to deface him. Rumor had it the statue of John C. Calhoun was missing the pinky finger of its left hand, which sat casually upon the man’s hip, as if he were disciplining a dog.

“King,” came a voice from down the way. “How you going, boss?”

“All right, all right.” King shaded his eyes from the sun. There upon the wrought-iron balcony of the Floating Flophouse stood Nestor, tying up his catch. “How you keeping, Nesta?”

“Fine, man, fine. You see?” Nestor held aloft a glistening magenta fan from which dangled strands of blue.

“Man, you crazy,” King told him. “You eat that thing?”

“You en eat jellyfish chop chop?”

“I eat saltfish chop-up.”

Nestor laughed. “Saltfish? You try. I en able with shark, man. Shark got teeth.”

King just shook his head. Like King’s granny, Nestor hailed from the islands to the south—what was left of them now—which is why he talked so broad. He’d made the harbor last spring on his cunning Third World raft, a riprap of sea trash, slipped in under the guard, and promptly installed himself amid the rotting grandeur of the Floating Flophouse. (Which did not actually float, though rumor had it, upon occasion, the air mattresses of its inhabitants did.)

“Nesta,” said King. “You seen the queen?”

The man smiled, showing teeth. “Queen Street way she dey.”

King lifted his hand in thanks and poled past.

Past Society, Wentworth, Hassell, and down by Market, where the boardwalks of the city converged—where tourists stepped up from sleek water taxis to wander the stalls of the New Market, which sat atop the roof of the old.

Altogether, a pod of scuba divers dropped off the promenade, their airbreathers affixed to their faces. Even as one group dropped, a barker stood at dock, rustling up the next. “See the Sunken City in all its grandeur! Shipwrecks, pirates, and Blackbeard’s Revenge! Opulent marble malls, mausoleums, and museums! Swim inside the Circular Church!”

King sucked his teeth in derision as he poled past. Of course, he had taken such a tour himself once—who could resist the invitation to see the Sunken City from below? But just like the water-taxi tours, the scuba tours were full of hokum. The mall, museum, and mausoleums were real enough, as was the Circular Church, which really was a wonder—much of the stained glass was still intact, and when the sun shone through it, illuminating beds of kelp swaying in your wake, and the headset played “Amazing Grace,” it was enough to make the Devil himself get religion.

But the Queen Anne’s Revenge was no more than a rich man’s yacht from the 2040s worked over by crafty hucksters. It had been picked up from the Ashley River by Hurricane Yvette and dashed against the Old Slave Mart, as if in recompense—and the skeletons of those so-called pirates were no more than the city’s poorest citizens, whose bodies had lain so long under the sodden trash, awaiting emergency management, that they’d never been claimed or buried.

King knew that now—knew too the real reason the seas had risen, the heaviest buildings had sunk, and the great storms had grown so fierce. All of this he knew because of the queen, and today, he’d decided, was the day he would present to her what it was he knew. A humble craft, but an old one, in which he might find favor.

King stopped to drop his dipper in an eddy that had formed near Jacob’s Alley and fished out a bright yellow bag—#4 plastic, good quality—and added it to the pile at his feet. Soon he’d have enough for another basket, like those tied up on display to the fore of his craft, which would fetch a good price at the market.

When King reached Queen Street, he anchored his pole and turned his skiff in one smooth, practiced maneuver. From a nearby rowboat, patched up with cheap nanobond, three boys were watching him, but they looked away when he caught them. Their plastic roses were loosely folded, their sea baskets slack and lopsided. King lifted his chin in their direction, in dismissal, and away they rowed down Queen.

And there she stood, a vision in yellow beside St. Philips Church. The tourists she was addressing bore only superficial resemblance to those he’d seen in the water taxi, and to those strapping on scuba gear at the market; some were white and some were black, and some murmured to one another in a language King thought perhaps was French, but all of them were attired in such a style that his finest sea basket would not have fetched a price sufficient, he suspected, to purchase even one of their shoes.

“In 1835,” the queen was saying, “the original church burned to the ground. Three years later, the church that stands before you now was built, in the Wren-Gibbs style, common in the churches of Charleston.”

The queen’s immense yellow sunhat bobbed as she spoke. Her manner and bearing bespoke a lineage stretching back to Nefertiti, and her elocution, her various degrees from good Canadian colleges. But she was not above dressing the part of the guide, in anachronistic style—in that full, flowing sundress that brushed the tops of her sandals, in that beribboned hat so broad a brood of children could have gathered in its shade, all of it as yellow as the #4 plastic King had just fished from the canal. The color gleamed against her blue-black skin.

“Two years later,” the queen was saying, “the statesman and outspoken advocate of slavery John C. Calhoun was buried in the West Church Yard here, and then, during the First Civil War, moved to the East Yard, for fear his grave would be desecrated by Union troops. However, efforts to protect Calhoun’s grave would ultimately prove in vain, as the massive tomb built by the state legislature in 1880 would in fact be desecrated, in 2054, just before Hurricane Yvette. Unbeknownst to the elders of St. Philips Church, a crafty activist would carve his own epitaph—or should I say, epithet? ‘Here lies John C. Calhoun, a real motherfucker.’”

The group tittered; this was, after all, as advertised, “The Truly Troublesome True History of the Sunken City of the South.” King could have listened to the queen all day. Which in fact he had, more than once, though he’d never approached her so boldly.

“John King,” she said, turning to him. “What can I do for you today?”

Floating there at her feet, the king felt a fool—what, after all, had he expected, interrupting her this way? He stood there on his skiff for a moment tongue tied, all his troubles doubled: the great tower of St. Philips rising above and rippling below, the tourists in their fine clothes, and in the center of it all the queen, lemon yellow and blue-black in her immense beribboned hat. He may have been the King of King Street, but here, he could see, just two blocks to the east, he was no more than riff raff, sea trash.

Finally, he lifted that yellow #4 plastic bag. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, and then, in his best approximation of the Queen’s English: “My apologies for interrupting. I thought perhaps your group might be interested in a traditional African American handcraft dating back in this region nearly four hundred years. Might I offer a demonstration?”

Under her hat, the queen lifted an elegant eyebrow. “Please,” she said, “by all means.”

King explained the way peoples from West Africa enslaved in the Sunken City—long ago, before it had sunk—had woven baskets of bulrush. Their descendants had carried on the tradition with sweetgrass, and now, in modern times, folks made such baskets with sturdy recycled plastics, deposited daily in the canals of the historic peninsula—likewise the city’s iconic roses, prized as souvenirs, once folded from the fronds of the palmetto.

Now the fine tourists listened to John King speak, as if he really were a king. Now the queen watched him from beneath the benevolent brim of her hat—in such a manner as to suggest perhaps, in time, she might grant him a private audience.

By the time he turned, lifted a hand in farewell, and poled his skiff down Queen Street, one perfect yellow rose lay folded at her feet.

Susan DeFreitas has never been able to choose between fantasy and reality, so she lives and writes in both. A first-generation American of Caribbean descent, she is the author of the novel Hot Season, which won a Gold IPPY Award for Best Fiction of the Mountain West. Her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry has been featured in the Writer’s Chronicle, the Huffington Post, the Utne ReaderStory Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, High Desert Journal, and many other journals and anthologies. In 2017, The Oregonian named her “One of 25 Oregon Authors Every Oregonian Must Read.”

The Broken Parts

Have you ever been in the shower when there was an earthquake? Dated a relative by accident? Wanted to eat toothpaste? Ripped off your pants while dancing? A lot of things happened yesterday. You know they happened, but don’t necessarily know the details. Mannequin arms that a buddy gave me. Heads that look like pumpkins collapsed and rotting in a field. Two ghosts discussing invisibility in front of a mirror. I see them every day. I can’t keep doing that. It’s scary, and it’s messy, the buckets there on the floor failing to catch all the falling drops of rain.

by Barbara Good

I Cut My Hair in the Community Garden

I say a friend is like a pocket knife that doubles as a nail file that turns into a weapon wants to trim hair tips. I snip off split ends in a community garden. I battle the stiff affect perfect of endings. I say a lie tastes like strawberry kool-aid, a sharp tang, a lurid red lingering on the tongue, round the lips. Like sugar accumulates into cavities, a lie hangs around, eventually aches. I once swallowed an icicle whole because Karen wouldn’t talk to me at recess. A lie tastes like a secret penny I won’t say how many I’ve saved. How many I’ve kept away from boys who begged, bolstering claims for one little lick. If you watch a plant, it won’t grow. There’s no way to talk to a garden. I say poets of place-based tapioca and crib-loyalty line up in the Home Depot paint aisle to sampling variants of purple. We all need a home, a mammalian habit, a wall to climb when folks love us too much. I’ll wind up alone, licking these lonesome briskets. I call my friend Lucy. Say give me a hand with this loathing I’m carving out. We call it a pumpkin.

by Alina Stefanescu


Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Alabama. Her poems and prose are recent or forthcoming in DIAGRAM, New South, Mantis, VOLT, Cloudbank, Prairie Schooner, NELLE, and others. She serves as Poetry Editor of Pidgeonholes, President of the Alabama State Poetry Society, and co-founder of the Magic City Poetry Festival. Her first poetry chapbook, ‘Objects in Vases’ (Anchor & Plume Press, 2016) won the ASPS Poetry Book of the Year Award. Her first poetry collection, ‘Stories to Read Aloud to Your Fetus’ (Finishing Line Press, 2017) included Pushcart-nominated poems. Her debut fiction collection, ‘Every Mask I Tried On’, won the Brighthorse Books Prize and was published in May 2018.

Two Poems

by Rachel Deer-Katz

Wannabe Tease Before Her High School Reunion

You wished somewhere there were whales
who wanted to beach themselves for you.

Who lived and died to have the whole oily weight
of their forked tails boiled down to perfume so you

could douse your thin wrists and feel cold,
cleaner than last year’s bones. Do they know

you still try to charm men senseless until
the smell of lilies, wilting, stings their eyes?

Well, you were never really one to leave them
freezing, with your cardigan or your scrimshaw

beads. You always end up going home
alone. There, everything is groomed

slick and chromed as the curved backside
of a spoon. Like your reflection warping.

At home, in their drawers, your spoons
lie against each other like virgins.