Screen Reading

Mini reviews of current issues of online literary magazines

Reviews by Kirsten McIlvenna

 

The Bacon Review :: Digital Americana :: The Fib Review :: Five Quarterly :: Fogged Clarity :: Halfway Down the Stairs :: Goblin Fruit :: The Medulla Review :: On the Premises :: Per Contra :: Printer's Devil Review :: The Writing Disorder

[Back to Screen Reading Index]

 

Posted November 26, 2012

Printer's Devil Review CoverPrinter’s Devil Review

Volume 2 Number 2

Fall 2012

Biannual

In an introduction to this issue’s featured artist—Caleb Cole—Joshi Radin discusses how Cole takes old group photographs and whites out all people but one. “We focus on this individual,” writes Radin, “plucked from the crowd. Confined by the white space where companions once crowded, she is alone even in the company of others.” Take, for example, “There Yet,” in which you can see a young girl’s blank expression, barely visible. It may have been lost in the photo originally, blocked out by the other children. Each of the photographs emits loneliness, solitude. “As a group,” Radin says, “They are all alone together.” The pieces of writing contained in this issue speak that same message to me.

“Tchaikovsky, 1944” by Cassandra de Alba is a sestina that wonderfully demonstrates this idea:

Her footprints are muddled in the bloody snow.
The ballerina wants only to dance
but these bodies and trees
are such poor partners. The trees
lean crooked like bad teeth.
She is trapped in an awful dance,
avoiding rats by lifting her feet
well over the dirty snow.
They have started to eat bodies in the night.

In Jenean McBreaty’s fiction piece “Warflower,” the main character Olga fights to stay alive as food rations are cut. “Death was stalking her.” Thinking only of staying alive, Olga forces herself not to think about the others: “I want nothing that might keep me here. No friends, no teachers, no love.”

Brad Abruzzi’s “New Jersey’s Famous Turnpike Witch” is a creative story about a woman who lives in hiding on the turnpike, coming out only in her witch costume to give a show as she “traffic-surfs.” She seems alone in the world, only having communication with those she calls her Engineers. In attempt to keep her rating on Crimedog.com, she decides it is time for another show, but this time something goes horribly wrong. Never meaning to harm anyone, a young boy ends up crashing his car because of her. Caught between the desire to stay anonymous and the duty she feels to take care of the boy, Alice eventually decides to get him to the hospital—with help from two guys that call themselves the Impalers—but Alice rarely leaves her turnpike because something always bad happens when she does. “Think baby steps, she tells herself. Just stay conscious, try not to hurt anybody.”

Scattered with more fiction, poetry, and art, this issue melds, tying the lost souls into a collection where they can all be alone together.
[pdrjournal.org]

top of page

 

Fogged Clarity CoverFogged Clarity

Issue 42

November 2012

Monthly

This issue of Fogged Clarity contains poetry, one piece of fiction, music, an interview, and a review. At first, I was concerned about there being so little in the issue (not realizing at first its monthly publication cycle), but each piece is strong and worth reading.

The fiction piece, “Has Anyone Seen My Gal?” by Sutton Strother, tells the story of a young girl on her birthday, trying to understand the world around her. It begins:

When her father died, Granny couldn’t afford a casket. She refused everyone’s money, and in the end, when she could think of nothing meaningful to do with the ashes they brought her, she poured what was left of my great-grandfather into the kitchen trashcan. “He’ll get where he’s going, anyhow,” she told us. For a long time after that, I believed everything we threw away was taken to Heaven.

At her birthday party, Kady’s family is focused on everything but her, but she doesn’t mind—she had just broken the A string on the ukulele and doesn’t want anyone to find out. She finds comfort when her Aunt Cindy comes to visit, carrying with her a baby doll as she mourns her miscarriage. The rest of the family treats Cindy like she is crazy, but Kady is able to connect with her.

There are three contributing poets: Kathy Fagan, Ely Shipley, and Jim Tolan. Shipley’s “Shortly after dying” is written in short lines, building tension as the narrator cradles an infant that will not stop crying:

I carried it around. My arms
grew tired.
No one else would touch it.
Its face
was becoming skeletal.
It would not eat.
The milk was sour.
We lived
after an apocalypse.
We wandered
our urban desert.
Sometimes, we sat
on a playground swing
and watched the man with stumps
for arms and legs
dance on the sidewalk for food.

And as a sucker for a great ending to a piece, I enjoyed Shipley’s “Like a photo” best. It ends:

                             Quiet
on quiet, we lie
paws up, until sheets erect
a tent held by our heads. With flashlight
poised, you show me
myself as a child, one
I’ve never seen.

I found Fogged Clarity to be unique in the fact that it includes a sampling of a band’s album along with a special Fogged Clarity Session. You can hear Bryan Laurier & The Lost Acres’s LP album and then listen to Laurier play three acoustic songs recorded just for this issue. One of the songs, “All of My Heart is Burning,” has never been released.

Fusing together writing, music, and visual art, Fogged Clarity offers something diverse and imaginative.
[foggedclarity.com]

top of page

Per Contra CoverPer Contra

Issue 25

Fall 2012

Quarterly

Per Contra's fall issue offers a varied sampling of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art.

My favorite piece of fiction comes from Al Bray: “The Replica City.” An old man visits Warsaw, where he was born. At the train station, he imagines he sees his parents, though he doesn’t remember what they look like—he was separated from them as a child and raised in England. He suspects that they were both killed by the Nazis. “Since childhood, he’d had a particular image: the two of them, carrying battered suitcases which they wouldn’t need, his father weak and hollow-cheeked from hunger, his mother a slim, defiant wraith. He’d struggled without success to replace it with the image on the old postcard from the train station.” The whole story takes place in Warsaw as he struggles to connect with his past: “When something precious is taken from you, you want it back, one way or the other.”

In Cynthia Mitchell’s “Mama’s Stockings,” the narrator discovers that her mother is secretly—or later as we find out, perhaps not so secretly—in love with a man that is not her husband, not the narrator’s father. This knowledge drastically changes the narrator's views: “that was the year my mother stopped being my mother. . . now the things she said and the advice she gave me came, not from a mother, but from a woman with a secret.”

Most of the poetry reminds of nature, the “tops of tall pines,” “birds migrating south,” “white nebulae of weeds,” “the dry husks of dead beetles.”

In Darcy Cumming’s “Death Angel,” the death angel is “our tardy visitor, / all bones and a fringe / of red hair”:

her claws listlessly fold
above legs that stretch and glide
then snap back their quick hinges.
Under her expensive black dress
transparent wings begin to unfold,
nether parts in parchment casings
swell. Death Angel stands
apart. She feeds on our voices.

Each of the pieces in this issue offers unique insight, different views. Per Contra’s intent is “to offer more than one way of looking at the world,” and with this they succeed.
[www.percontra.net]

top of page

Posted November 19, 2012

The Medulla Review CoverThe Medulla Review

Volume 4 Issue 1

2012

Triannual

Before you read The Medulla Review, take everything you think you know about our world and throw it out the window; the stories contained within the issue will challenge new ways to think about the way it actually works. You’ll discover a world in which all men turn, quite literally, into pigs; you’ll meet a man who removes, again quite literally, the faces of women before he can sleep with him; you’ll be introduced, in biography form, to Judas Horse, the world’s greatest cheese artist (“he is best known for his map sculptures of each of the fifty United States and territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the USVI done entirely in cheese, chewed into shape by his own unique teeth”); and you’ll even find yourself navigating a maze as a lonely lab rat.

“Pig Days” by Amy Boyles is a flash piece in which slowly all the men in the world—the young boys too—turn into swine. Perhaps women are empowered by this, but there is one important thing that goes wrong—without men, they cannot reproduce. A highly entertaining plot, “Pig Days” is backed with humorous and witty lines. When one male manages to escape his fate as a pig, a publicity company decides to hold a competition to see which woman he will choose: “At the announcement, girls fainted in front of their television sets, forty-year old women made appointments with their plastic surgeons and those of us in menopause began bleeding again.”

In another very short flash piece, Robert Scotellaro gives great insight from developing a small slice of life—a husband watching his wife for a few moments as she practices levitation:

My wife has propelled herself, gradually, nearly a foot across the room, beaming. If only we lived our lives in freeze frame, that nano second off the ground, could be more fully savored.
Sweat dripping off the ends of their noses, they continue to struggle up and down. Down, because gravity is a bitch. Up, because some things just seem to matter that much.

I can’t stop thinking about the imagery and sounds in Kelly Michels’s poem “Notes from the Missing.” Here is a small taste:

If I put my ear to the ground,
I can hear children laughing on another continent
like the taste of honey,
blue light spilling from their eyes
their lips parting an ocean
faces not yet crowded
or known or ripped apart
by time, smooth as clouds,
smooth as coins ricocheting
off rain puddles.
I want to be them,
take their voices into my throat
breathe them into my lungs

Featuring fiction, flash fiction, and poetry, The Medulla Review offers a lot of outrageous stories and plots that are backed with carefully crafted writing.
[www.themedullareview.com]

top of page

 

The Fib Review CoverThe Fib Review

Issue 13

October 2012

Triannual

Hear the name The Fib Review and you may think it is a journal dedicated to literature about lies. But actually, it showcases a unique form of poetry—the Fibonacci poem. Based off of the Fibonacci sequence (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 . . . or Fn = Fn-1 + Fn-2), the poems use the number of words or syllables on a line to build the pattern, making the journal a wonderful creative outlet for math-lovers.

But, of course, the poems can’t just be for pattern’s sake; they must be able to stand alone as poems. Editor Mary-Jane Grandinetti writes, “The difficulty in writing a Fib is after the poem is written, is it really a poem, or is it just a statement broken down into a pattern that fits the number sequence?” While all the poems in this issue are not my favorite, it’s safe to say that they are all really poems—and not just a pattern.

Tiana Cutright contributes a four part poem titled “Immortality”, in which each part repeats the sequence. My favorite section is the second:

I
gave
away
unicorns,
bedding, not with myths,
but beneath your factual bones

Laurie Kolp’s “Ballerina Branches” compares a ballerina’s limbs in arabesque to the branches of the tree “across the window / As you try to sleep. Fear not my wistful ways; just watch.”

And while most of the poems are short, no longer than five lines or so, some poems venture further such as Kit Kennedy’s “Question” which hits twenty-one words in the last line: “into a colorful pattern (a Fibonacci sequence) no one in her immediate circle would second guess nor rudely question her, why.”

Aalix Roake’s seemingly untitled poem elegantly ends “Since now we can see / All the cracks in our minds and hearts.”

And a writer’s archive offers up each past contributors name along with the issues that they have appeared in, making it clear that once a lot of these writers have begun to use this style, they will return to it. What an interesting and great thing when English and math can meld into one.
[www.musepiepress.com/fibreview]

top of page

 

On the Premise CoverOn the Premises

Issue 18

November 2012

Triannual

Populated by winners of each contest, each issue of this magazine has a different premise. This issue includes three winners and three honorable mentions on the premise of time. At first, I wasn’t looking forward to the pieces, expecting the classic race against time scenario, but I was pleasantly surprised to see time handled in a much different way.

The first place winner—which I will agree is the best in the issue—is T. N. Collie’s “The Fugu Feast.” Imagine a camp where everyone desires to end his or her life. Imagine that they do not mind not knowing when it will happen, as long as it does. And imagine that these people are willing to play games, take chances with fate, until they do die. Imagine that, and you’ve got the premise for this story. 

Each day is a different game, and the characters choose whether or not to play. Most haunting—to me at least—is Wednesday’s game: Tic-Tac-Toe. “The lines of the game had been spray-painted white on the grassy terrain making nine large squares with a round hole dug into each of them, ten feet deep.” Each player is either an X or an O, and when they decide where to go, they must get inside the hole and while someone else seals it shut with a large boulder. The winners come out of the holes; the losers are left in the holes to die.

I feared that “Miss Betty Comes”—third place winner—by Theresa Rovillo would be one of those time-chaser stories (as the first section starts building up with specific times), but I was happy to find out that instead it was a piece about Miss Betty, a ghost that haunts the apartments, who never leaves but “always comes home.” Does that make sense to you? Well, it doesn’t make sense to the tenants either, but they have figured out that as long as their doors are all shut at the same time for a certain amount of time on the fifteenth of the month, life will be normal.

In Ruba Abughaida’s “Traveling” (honorable mention #2), the characters fight the clock of life: “Time—that had spread before them as endless, sometimes suffocatingly so—was now a withered sliver of a thing that they grasped onto, praying it would slow down.” On a trip to London (from Lebanon) to visit their daughter, Mary and Henry must decide what’s best as Henry’s health dwindles.

Of course make sure to read the other three pieces as well that come from John Burridge (“Reset Romance,” second place), Sarina Dorie (“The Quantum Mechanic,” honorable mention #1), and James Calbraith (“Transmission,” honorable mention #3).
[onthepremises.com]

top of page

 

Posted November 12, 2012

Goblin Fruit CoverGoblin Fruit

Autumn 2012

Quarterly

To set the feel for the rest of the issue, the editors of Goblin Fruit start it off with the haunting image of “The Vigil” by Mike Allen (for a visual of this “woman,” check out the art by Elisabeth Heller for the issue): “Where her eyes affix cannot be guessed. / Beneath a hat of iron wire / hang tattooed skins that veil her face.” Reading the rest of the issue, you’ll get the sense that she is watching you:

If something starts in motion,
so will she:
Her steed combust and roar to life,
her veil pulse,
her weapon howl.
If even a soul stirs,
so will she.

C.W. Johnson’s “Vigor Mortis” is about how the narrator’s mother was “dead” a lot: “Sometimes it stretched into weeks, until / she began to smell and we buried // her in the garden.”

                                    And now,
now my sister insists mother is dead.
The telephone’s been quiet as a coffin,
and last year sister bought a headstone,
but I say, any moment she’ll open her eyes,
spit out the worms,
and shake off the earth once more.

The last lines of Virginia M. Mohlere’s “Cardiomythology” are haunting as well, but in a different way:

It is a heart
constructed by a lonely doll-maker,
                    cobbled together with stitches and tape,
                    parts knocked off like the moon,
                    formed and reformed.
As a bone knit after fracture
is stronger,
this heart
is more elastic, powerful, but it
simply ticks off time —
worn out by tumult,
ruddering from star to star.
Hoping to wash up
finally
on a quiet grey shore.

Rachel Dacus ends the issue with “Kingdom”: “Let the cobras bite as they will. / Here’s my breast. The sting won’t last. / I’m taking back my kingdom.”

There are several more poems in this issue to give you chills. By the time you finishing reading, you’ll feel your blood turn cold, goosebumps will have traveled up your back, and you’ll be looking over your shoulder—is she still watching?
[www.goblinfruit.net]

top of page

 

Halfway Down the Stairs CoverHalfway Down the Stairs

September 2012

Quarterly

This issue of Halfway Down the Stairs, the “Chaos” issue, features poetry, fiction, and nonfiction that have been written, as Editor Joseph Murphy says, by overcoming “chaos, distraction, frustration and more.”

“The Screaming Beet” by Elizabeth Weaver was my favorite fiction piece. The story comes through the eyes of Emily, a young girl whose baby sister Rose is a terror: she never stops screaming. The child’s thought process is both entertaining and innocent:

Could Emily find someone to take a screaming baby? Maybe she could leave Rose on someone’s doorstep, but everyone probably knew Rose belonged here since she hadn’t heard of another newborn in the neighborhood. Could she throw Rose out with the garbage? No, she reasoned. The garbage men would hear Rose and leave her behind, maybe even ring the bell to find out why Rose was thrown away and then Emily would be in trouble. The more she thought about it, the more convinced she was that there should be a place to bring babies that people don’t want anymore.

And as the tension of the story builds and comes to a close, Emily finally understands the reason why Rose may be screaming so loud and endlessly.

Bradford Philen, who teaches high school English in Beijing and is working on writing about West Africa, contributes an original and unique tale in “Here and There.” The narrator, a woman from Beijing, tells about her new home in Africa:

There, in Shanghai, bad man there. Here, bad man, here, but, here, this people warm. They know bad, but they see bad, and they help people with the bad. They make cold turn warm in mystery way, like the ancient man of my Shanghai and my people. There, in Shanghai, they no have warm like here, in Africa. There, in Shanghai, they lose that warm. It too cold there.

Both the nonfiction pieces are personal, reading almost like journal entries. Diane M. Perrone’s “The Babysitters” was intriguing for the details, like stepping into the memories of a friend’s. And “New Landscapes of Home” allows the reader to feel the stress and embarrassment Leah Givens feels as the mother of her ex (her ex being someone whom she admits she may love again) takes care of her newly adopted cat while she is on vacation; but the mother takes it upon herself to clean and reorganize Givens’s apartment.

After looking up several of the Hebrew words that Trinya Gaynon uses in “Golem, Goats, Grandma,” I appreciated the poem and its insights through the golem:

Calling the mud to defend us,
cool clay from the river soothes
our hands, relieves the itch from each sting.
We clothe our golem in discarded
blue jeans and trace EMETH
on its forehead, bind
our truth to water and clay,
and it can’t talk back.

The characters in Halfway Down the Stairs speak, they feel real to me, especially in the nonfiction (obviously), but even in the fiction and poetry. The issue is alive; it breaths. In an easy-to-read format, there is much to consume here.
[www.halfwaydownthestairs.net]

top of page

 

The Writing Disorder CoverThe Writing Disorder

Volume 3 Issue 3

Fall 2012

Quarterly

If you’re looking for a great amount of reading packed into one issue, look no further than the latest issue of The Writing Disorder. And this issue is even larger than their typical issue, expanded to accommodate even more writing.

The fiction section brings characters who are breaking, molding, changing. In Caroline Rozell’s story, the narrator finds herself vulnerable, trying to mask the large bite mark on her lips from an eager man. Marc Simon’s “The Honeylocust Tree” portrays an elderly woman who is seemingly loosing her memory; she leaves her assisted living home and wanders to her own house, finally learning, with dismay, that her sons have sold it and she no longer owns it. And the character in Linda Nordquist’s piece, out on a walk with her dogs, finds reflections and ponders through the passing of puddles: “I am not well-equipped for avoidance. I look the world straight in the eye, always have. I would like to say I never look back, but I do—often—curious as to why of it, why this road traveled and not that.”

The poetry brings “dark eyed hookers,” secrets kept in boxes in kitchen cupboards, “soft and buttery babies with wings,” dusty rooms, a boy’s eyes that “looked like the / muddy waters of a childhood / creek,” and love notes to Katy Perry.

Chelsey Clammor tells her nonfiction story through a list of numbered sections, stopping at 42 because it has always been her lucky number: “and so I will end here, not wanting to break the chain of luck, to endanger my hopeful belief that something positively ominous will seep out of this waiting.”

With 10 pieces of long fiction, 5 pieces of nonfiction, multiple poems from each of the 6 poets, and 3 featured artists, The Writing Disorder certainly makes use of the online venue, possibly publishing more than would be feasible or affordable for a print magazine.
[www.thewritingdisorder.com]

top of page

 

Posted November 5, 2012

Digital Americana CoverDigital Americana

Fall 2012

Digital Americana is living up to its name; it is redefining literary magazines in the digital world and ever enhancing the reading experience. This special “Redact” issue encourages breathing new air into the writing already published there.

The issue opens up with an essay explaining the background of redaction and erasure’s form: “Redaction literature comments on and creates a dialogue with received forms, ideas and texts.” The essay explains that “Visual poetry offers a chance to find overlooked or missing words, to restore as well as delete, to highlight the beauties of lost phrases and heal or bypass severed connections.”

This special issue encourages this visual poetry, this hashing, this deleting, this recreating. The iPad app features a way to take different colored markers and block out words or entire sections of pieces of the magazine, making your own poetry amongst what already exists. In a video featured on their site, new users found it easy to use and enjoyed being able to create from what was already there.

Speaking of which, there is quite a lot already there. There are stories, poetry, interviews, reviews, and art. While I cannot speak of the iPad app (though I assume it to be similar), the iPhone issue was easy to navigate. To read a piece you scroll down and to move to the next, you scroll across. There is also a button on the top to return to the menu or to “home.”

“You’re Not Safe Here” by David Cameron was unlike anything I had read before. Right from the beginning, I felt unsure about the main character; can I really like him? Now selling real estate and running open houses, he is a retired Catholic priest, an alcoholic who left the church because he is now a sex offender. The character, while perhaps not likeable, is insanely interesting, and the scenario—an open house event he must host while nursing a massive headache in this house which has no sink, has a trick bedroom door that locks people inside it, and has a gigantic Jacuzzi in the basement—is original and full of tension.

“We Killed Them” by Thomas Pescatore is a poem that is often all too truthful:

Artists don’t sit inside all
day to write and type and suffer,
they play on their iphones and macs
with dull eyes editing music files,
remixing old sounds, taking
photographs that seem
somehow older even though they
don’t know why . . .

This is a poem I think would be fun to use the redact feature on. Another that would be fun would be Jeanpaul Ferro’s “Throw Like a Girl” which is full of intense and eye-popping images. It starts, “We thought there was blood on our hands / from all the strawberries that we had picked.”

Andrew Kozma contributes a flash fiction piece titled “Nebraska” which discusses the character’s move to D.C. from “Smack Dab.” No matter what he does to describe the town to people of the big city, they all still think of the typical small town featured in the movies. Eventually, even he thinks of it this way.

With there being so many online magazines cropping up daily, it is hard to see which ones will survive. But with the places Digital Americana is headed, I think it’ll be around for a while, paving new ways for us to experience literature, new ways to carry it with us wherever we go, new ways to react to it and redact to it.
[thedigitalamericana.com]

top of page

 

The Bacon Review CoverThe Bacon Review

October 2012

Monthly

Although the November issue went live literally minutes after I finished reading this issue, I urge you to excuse the fact that this review is for the October issue. The October issue marks the magazine’s one year anniversary, and I figured it needed a celebration. And there’s a lot to celebrate here.

The first of the four featured pieces is poetry from Katherine Coles. Here is a sample from the start of her poem “Two Kinds of People”:

Those who love the wind, and. Those
Who believe in words. Or who believe
In time as if an instant were something
Anyone could measure, who believe anything
Can be divided into two. Or three. And.

John Elliot’s “The Song of Sirens” is a fiction piece about a man in his forties who feels stuck in his normal day-to-day routine. Every day, when he goes to the park, he notices “The Crazies.” He describes them in the beginning of the story—a foreshadowing to the way he slowly loses his mind throughout the rest of the piece:

The Crazies are made of flesh and bone, like you and me. Their haggard faces and twisted fingers only suggest what they really are; their curse is worse than exile to the urban underworld: panhandling for change, flashing a cracked-tooth grin, weaving stories of unfathomable sorrow for the well-dressed passerby.
They sing too. Their music is the wail of the banshee, and the sweet song of sirens. Thankfully, most of you can’t hear them: like the tones emitted from a dog whistle, they sing in pitches unrecognizable to the 21st century sound-bite trained ear—a marvelous product of accelerated evolution.

Michael Copperman contributes the nonfiction piece, “Club Sweet.” Copperman taught at Delta Horizon’s after school program for a while, but he never felt like he belonged there. One night he was invited out to Club Sweet—the only bar in the town—with his female coworkers. The night turned into something he wasn’t expecting, and some of it feels like a dream. For example, he can’t find record of the band that played there ever existing. “I never belonged in the Delta when I was there,” he says. “I thought then that was the fault of the place, hadn’t realized isolation is what you carry with you. Once I left, everything returned me, demanded reckoning. That night was just there, linking me for a moment in a chain whose ends rarely meet.”

And then there is Jamie Grefe’s “Headcheese.” I can’t really do this chase justice by describing it: you’ll just have to read it. Here is a small sampling:

Shots hit everywhere. The barn is swiss with stars at night peeking through. Too much smoke. The axeman is frozen, body fluttering and holier than a roast duck. Those bullets he’s feeling are strings of blood. He roars smoke, goes down, topples, stumbles, topples, falls and shot upon shot pour into the barn: polka dots. Light it up in holes and through blasted wood I can see it, taste the old man’s house. It burns brighter now, orange popping, but the sheriff, when he comes in, is redder than a B-flick devil. He’s cracking off rounds into the axeman, fuming and cussin, until he sees me.

And so, so what if the party month is over? We can still celebrate: enjoy the October issue! And, of course, head to the home page for the November issue which features an interview with New Orleans poet Bill Lavender, a nonfiction piece by Santa Jimenez, a fiction piece by Roy Bentley, and poetry by Paul Hostovsky.
[www.thebaconreview.com]

top of page

Five Quarterly CoverFive Quarterly

Issue 2

October 2012

Quarterly

For each issue, Five Quarterly publishes five poems and five pieces of fiction, all selected by five judges (which also change with each quarter). The judges for this issue are Stephen Paul Miller, Fernando Perez III, Jasmin Rosario, Cheryl Wilson, and Tiphanie Yanique.

“It began to burn” by Jaylee Alde is a fiction piece involving the relationship between a boy and his “mother.” When she moved in to take care of him, “the space between [them] was an empty highway littered with used furniture and blank walls.” During three occurrences, she becomes almost possessed, accusing the little boy of being the devil. By the end of the story, I’m not sure which character to like/believe. It’s perfect for the Halloween season (yes, yes I know I’m a little off on the timing again).

Leesa Cross-Smith contributes a piece titled “Hold on, Hold on,” in which a woman runs away from her husband to another man. Yet, she doesn’t (sexually) prefer one over the other. In fact, she wishes to have both men at her at the same time, not really caring about the emotional turmoil that might create: “Maybe Dom (her husband) was right,” she says. “Maybe nothing mattered to me.”

In Nicole Wolverton’s “The Earl of Beaumont,” the main character seeks a rescue from the men who come into her diner, the strangers from out of town. Stuck in a small town as a waitress, she seems desperate to find a rich man who will whisk her away: “It was a lucky day: two strangers, and all in the same hour.”

“Progress” by Michelle Malthees has wonderful lines such as “Oh yes, I’ll say, // it’s precious this progress / between birth and death’s // sunny and clean split.” As does Brent Lucia’s “The Mouth Knows” which starts “I once knew a girl dancing on the edge of a thin, white tooth.”

Matthew Kabik’s “How to Become a Perfect Living Statue” was wonderfully refreshing, breathing new life into the classic story of a character afraid to confront her fears. The main character, Andrea, makes her money by being a statue street performer. Coping her blind, death-bed-ridden mother, Andrea takes to sleeping with a man she doesn’t even find attractive and who she admits probably isn’t giving her his actual name. She lives out her life and speaks the way she would have to on the street, through body language only: practicing, “She said ‘I don’t need you’ by pulling her lips tight and putting her hands on titled hips. Andrea said a dozen other things, but the mirror got too cloudy to hear them.”

There are a lot of interesting and unique characters in this issue; I encourage you to flip through and meet them. Who knows what you’ll find in the next issue of Five Quarterly; the editors are constantly changing, allowing for new writing, viewpoints, and styles to emerge.
[fivequarterly.org]

top of page