MARCH 6, 2018| ISSUE no 233
crack the spine
Shannon L. Bowring
True Love Impotence
short fiction by Shannon L. Bowring
Artist: Margot Fletcher, Abstract, 2017. Oil on canvas. 48 cm x 60 cm.
“Observe the way the artist uses color to evoke an emotional response from the viewer.”
Ginny paused to let the group consider the canvas before them. It was a typical midday crowd – several elderly men and women, young parents with a child about five years old, two college girls, and one gay couple who kept lagging behind to whisper in angry tones to one another.
Ginny had been working at the gallery a few years now, giving tours, kiss-assing artists, hosting fundraisers and special events. She loved all of it, taking the energy of the museum back home each night to her cramped studio apartment over the Chinese restaurant on Mill Street. The odor of teriyaki haunted Ginny as she sat in front of her easel and took up the brush, bleeding color and hope onto her blank canvas. So far, she had sold nothing other than a few small landscapes to a local coffee shop. But still she woke every morning with that feeling like a ball of hot lead lodged deep under her sternum – the conviction that one day, her own work would hang on gallery walls. One day, she would have a painting like this.
When this painting had appeared at the gallery about a month ago, Ginny had been cast under its spell at once. True to its name, it was an abstract, a large canvas of swirling reds, blues, and purples. But if you looked closer, you could discern shapes and patterns among the chaos. It was the work of a genius, Ginny thought, and she wasn’t the only person to hold such an opinion. The painting had soared in popularity over the past few weeks, netting write-ups in the newspapers and sparking a mass following on social media. Though the piece itself was gorgeous, Ginny guessed part of its appeal was the mystery regarding its creator.
Because Margot Fletcher did not consent to interviews, most of what was known about the woman was pure conjecture. But some things were certain. She was neither a local artist nor one of the seasonal painters who flocked to the Maine coast each summer to draw inspiration from the state’s iconic beaches and lighthouses. Fletcher’s work had not appeared in either modest collegiate museums or the higher-end galleries down in Boston and New York. Ginny had hoped to catch a glimpse of the elusive painter at the gallery’s annual Emerging Artists luncheon, but was told Fletcher had politely declined the invitation.
In Ginny’s mind, Margot was a petite honey-blonde in her mid-to-late thirties. Childless, unmarried, well-traveled, a self-sufficient recluse who lived in the western wilds of Maine or the northeastern reaches of New Hampshire, in a cottage she’d had renovated to accommodate her artistic nature. Bright curtains, ornate tile mosaics, flowers always blooming in hand-fired clay pots. Ginny imagined the studio where Margot painted, the White Mountains smiling over her shoulder through the leaded glass windows as she lost herself in her work.
“What the hell’s it supposed to be? It looks like a toddler painted it, for Christ’s sake.”
Pulled out of her reverie, Ginny glanced around to see the man in the leather jacket curling up his lip at the painting. Ginny cleared her throat and stepped back before the group. “Well, sir,” she said. “It’s your right to think so. That’s the best part of art, after all. Everyone sees a piece a little differently.”
Before leading the group – minus the man and his partner – on to the next exhibit, Ginny looked back for one last glance at the painting, reveling in the exquisite whorls of colors. Like waves in the sea, she thought, mingling together to form limitless possibilities.
The Lovers, Pt. I
“What the fuck is your problem?”
Jonathan stared at Russell, standing there with his manicured hands stuffed deep in the pockets of his leather jacket. He hadn’t wanted to come to the museum today, Jonathan knew that. But he’d hoped Russell would have changed his mind once he saw this painting. It was the kind of piece they both usually loved – obscure yet bright, intangible yet undeniable in its presentation.
“Russ? I asked you a question. What is your problem?”
Russell shot Jonathan the look he usually reserved for beggars holding signs on the medians in Portland. “Have you ever stopped to think I don’t owe you an explanation for every fucking little thing, Jon?”
“You’ve been snapping at me all day, which is bad enough. I could deal with that, though, if it were just that. But you’ve been distant for weeks, Russ. So actually, yes, you do owe me an explanation.”
“You know, you rival your mother in the art of nagging.”
These types of arguments had become frequent lately, all the more disquieting because they had never fought often. Together they had weathered many storms – losing Russell’s mother to breast cancer, Jonathan’s father’s aversion to their relationship, an unsteady job market that had left both men, at different points of time, unemployed. But these days, Russ had met success as a freelance photographer, and Jonathan loved his job as a drama teacher at the community theater. They rented a loft in the Old Port, walking distance from bars, restaurants, and galleries. Life was good - or it had been, until Russell suddenly began to grow distant and moody.
It had started at the beginning of August, around the time Russ had shot that wedding in Bar Harbor. Jonathan didn’t want to presume infidelity – not only was it boring and cliché; it also just wasn’t Russell. After a somewhat rocky beginning to their relationship a decade ago, they had both settled contentedly into monogamy. Whatever was going on with Russ now was something else, something perhaps far worse than a drunken romp in bed with another man.
“Russ, please,” Jonathan said. “If something’s wrong, tell me. Whatever it is, we’ll get through it.”
Russell drew in a deep breath, exhaling slowly. “It’s bad, Jon,” he said. “It’s really bad. If I tell you, you’ll never look at me the same way again.”
For a few moments, the two of them stood there, staring up at the canvas on the wall. Jonathan could lose himself in the rich colors, the texture of the paint. It was a beautiful piece, full of life and wonder and sensuality and purpose. Deep within the swirls of red, there was a shape like a heart, a shape like a rose. A shape like love.
“I’ll always think you’re the most complicated, brilliant, unnerving piece of art in any room,” Jonathan said, tugging on Russell’s sleeve. He hoped the words were right. As right as the colors on the canvas in front of them, each one bleeding into the next.
The Lovers – Pt. II
God, the way Jonathan was looking at him. Russell couldn’t bear that look – all that love written so plainly across the familiar topography of Jon’s face.
It would have been easier if it had been an affair. Messy and painful, yes – but salvageable. Neither of them had been perfect in that first year of their on-again/off-again relationship, when both of them were still coming to terms with what it meant to be a gay man in a city that embraced homosexuality. (Jonathan likened it to a starving person being introduced to an all-you-can-eat buffet – with so many choices, you couldn’t very well take just one plate of mashed potatoes. You had to go for the surf and the turf, and don’t forget dessert.) They had dealt with those issues before and come out on the other side, and Russell knew if they had to, they could do it again. But this…This was beyond fixing.
“Russ?” Jonathan said. “Please. I’m going crazy over here.”
“Give me a minute, Jon. I just need a minute, okay?”
Jon sighed. “I’ll catch up with the group and come back in a bit.”
Russell watched Jon walk away, his shoulders rounded and scrunched up almost to his ears. Jon had always carried his stress in his upper back, and he’d begun to suffer migraines because of it over the past few years. They should get him to a chiropractor, Russ thought. Some kind of doctor who could ease his suffering a little.
Russell squared his jaw, angry with himself for thinking about doctors and cures for pain. When he’d gone in for a check-up back in August, just a few days before the Barstow/Price wedding up in Bar Harbor, Russ hadn’t felt any trepidation. Though he hadn’t been to the doctor in years (no self-employed freelancer could afford decent health insurance), Russ had been feeling pretty good. He and Jon, both self-conscious about their expanding waistlines, had begun jogging several months before, and Russell had cut sugar out of his diet to see even more results on the bathroom scale. Other than some fatigue and a few flare-ups of IBS, Russ had had no complaints, health-wise.
So when the doctor had delivered the news, sitting there in her tight black pencil skirt and starched white coat, Russ had thought it must be some kind of joke.
“I’ve had the same partner for nine years,” he’d said. “It’s impossible.”
“I’m afraid it’s not just possible, it’s certain. Your bloodwork confirms it.” She had paused, offering Russell an apologetic glance. “You’ve had the virus a bit longer than nine years. I’d guess about ten, as you’ve just begun displaying symptoms that typically occur once the virus progresses to the AIDS stage.”
“But there haven’tbeensymptoms,” Russ had insisted.
“Diarrhea. Fatigue. You told me you recently got a stronger eyeglasses prescription due to blurred vision. And, finally, weight loss – which, of course, wouldn’t have appeared as abnormal, as you’ve been intentionally trying to lose a few pounds.”
The doctor had then explained that once the virus reached this final stage, there was little to be done. There would be an inevitable (unenviable) end.
He knew he had to tell Jonathan – not only because Jon needed to know about what was currently festering in Russell’s blood, but because (and this is what really killed Russ) he needed to know what might be flowing through his own body, lying dormant or about to boil over. But how? How do you tell the love of your life that you may have accidentally committed both suicide and homicide?
Russell stared at the canvas before him. It was the kind of piece they would both usually love, Jonathan had been right about that. But when Russell looked at the painting now, all he felt was a low hum of rage and disgust flowing through his veins. Why did the artist have to use so much damn red? It was the color of passion, of anger. The color of warning, of failure. It was the color of blood congealing into sick nothingness, stopping a heart that had once murmured love with each beat.
Mommy was wearing a bright red dress Wyatt had never seen before. She looked pretty in it, and Wyatt had told her so before asking if she would wear it on their next picnic.
“This dress is for special occasions, baby,” Mommy told him, and then looked tired when he asked her to explain what that meant. “It’s not for a picnic with a five-year-old boy, that’s all.”
Wyatt had never been in a place like this. They’d gone to the big science museum in Boston once, and sometimes Daddy took him to the Children’s Museum in Portland when Mommy needed a day to herself. In those places, you could touch stuff and no one got mad. But today when Wyatt had reached out to put his hand on a woman made of white stone, he’d been yelled at not only by his Mommy but also by the lady leading their group around to all the paintings and statues.
“Wyatt Joseph!” Mommy had said. When she used both his names like that, Wyatt knew she meant business.
“But look, Mommy, her boobies are even bigger than yours.”
Her cheeks had turned as red as her dress, and Wyatt knew he’d have gotten a time-out if they hadn’t been in public. But Daddy leaned in close to Mommy and whispered something in her ear, and Mommy swore under her breath and walked away. After that, Wyatt had lost interest in everything. The girl who talked about the art was boring. The paintings were boring. Everything about this day was boring.
“You said we could go to McDonald’s,” he said, tugging on Mommy’s skirt. “We’ve been here forever.”
“Told you we should’ve gotten a sitter,” Mommy whispered to Daddy. Wyatt didn’t think he was supposed to hear it. Then again, maybe he was. Sometimes Mommy said things to him. Things like, “I can’t remember the last time I could pee without a kid banging on the bathroom door.” Or “This house used to be clean before I had a wild child running loose through the place.” Or (and this one she said fairly often, so it hurt a little more, like a bee sting rather than a mosquito bite) “Sometimes I wonder why I ever let Daddy talk me into having kids. I could have been a writer, did you know that? I was nearly finished with my novel. But then I got pregnant. And now… well, now here we are.”
“Wyatt, sweetie,” Mommy said. “You need to be patient.”
“Daddy said if I was good we’d go get Happy Meals. Well, I’ve been good. And this museum is lame. And I’m hungry.”
Mommy turned to Daddy. “Great idea bringing him along, Nate. Can’t wait to get hot and heavy with you at the goddamn McDonald’s play-scape later. So much for a romantic afternoon together.”
“Callie, that’s enough. You wanted to go out, we’re out. Can’t you just calm down?”
Wyatt sighed and turned to face the painting. “Look at the colors,” the museum lady was saying, so he did.
He saw red and blue and purple. Colors inside of colors. And patterns, too. The red swirl was a rose flying in the wind. The dark blue triangles were masts of big ships, bouncing on a stormy sea. And the purple splotches were the raindrops flying back up into the sky, like when Wyatt jumped into a big mud puddle and watched the water splashing all around him. It was a good painting, Wyatt decided, and he could see why the museum lady smiled when she looked at it, tilting her head to get a better view.
He copied her movements, staring up at Mommy and Daddy, tilting his face to one side and then the other. No matter how he turned, they still looked the same. Mommy in her dress, shaking her head and rolling her eyes at Daddy. And Daddy, staring back at her and clenching his jaw. Both of them silent. But it didn’t matter. What they wanted to say was written all over their faces. And what they wanted to say was nothing nice. Nothing nice at all.
She could have (would have) been a writer. She could have (would have) been a world traveler. She could have (would have) been rich. Instead she was a mother.
Callie knew there were many rich, traveling writers who were also mothers, but she knew she could (would) never be one of them. Wyatt was a full-time job. Even now that he was in kindergarten half the day, the demands of mommy-hood kept her busy at all hours. Dishes had to be washed; laundry had to be folded and put away; dinners needed to be cooked. There were errands to run, checks to mail, endless groceries to buy. When Wyatt was home, he demanded constant attention. He got bored quickly, with everything from his Matchbox cars to the cartoons Callie had bookmarked on Netflix.
And Nate wasn’t there. His job as a cardiothoracic surgeon meant long, unpredictable, stressful hours. It wasn’t as though Nate could step away from someone’s open chest to call Wyatt and talk him down from a temper tantrum. Callie had known this going into motherhood, but for some reason she could no longer remember, she had convinced herself everything would magically work out. But it hadn’t, and she had turned into the kind of woman she’d always pitied and resented – a washed-up, worn-out, suburban mom, whose only purpose in life was to mind house and pull Cheerios out of her son’s nostrils.
And yet in spite of everything, Callie had wanted to go out on a date with her husband. He had the day off and wasn’t on call – a rarity, one she’d wanted to take advantage of in all the best ways. The gallery, a fancy dinner, champagne. Callie had had the whole day planned. Nate had told her he’d figure out what to do with Wyatt. She should have known he’d drop the ball.
Callie glanced down to make sure Wyatt wasn’t paying attention. (Sometimes she forgot herself, said terrible things to the boy. She hated herself for it, but when he was the only person she interacted with, certain things were bound to come out.)
“You want to know what I think?”
“I think you meant for this to happen.”
“I meant for you to dress up like a prostitute and bully me in public? Oh yes, Callie, that’s exactly what today’s plan was. Congratulations on being right yet again.”
Callie felt her face flame. She wished she’d never worn this damn dress. It was too good for a day like this, a life like this. It belonged to another version of herself, one she would probably never know again.
There had only been a few trysts with Tony, an old friend who’d moved back to the area when Wyatt was three. Tony had made Callie feel slightly more alive. He’d bought her the dress, asked her to wear it for him with nothing on underneath. She had felt sexy for the first time in years. But she had ended that dalliance after Nate had begun to grow suspicious, going so far as to check Callie’s phone for messages when she left the room. Memories of that time were hazy now, like something that had happened to another woman.
Now, Nate was glaring at her, angry red blotches on his cheeks. She knew all the things that he would wait until when Wyatt was in bed to say to her. She couldn’t (wouldn’t) deal with him now. Instead, she turned her attention to the abstract on the wall. If she stared hard enough at that column of dark amethyst in the center of the painting, Callie thought she could see the figure of a woman retreating down a long, crooked hallway. The woman was wearing a dress, and the door at the end of the corridor was locked up tight.
He should have known this was just going to be a hassle. He should have left Callie at home and taken Wyatt to the go-kart track, like Wyatt had been begging to do for months now. But Nate had ignored his misgivings and consented to this date, because a man should want to spend time with his wife on his day off. A man should get excited at the sight of his wife in a dress like that. But trying to talk to Callie on the drive to the gallery as she had pointedly ignored Wyatt’s demands for another juice box, Nate had only felt exhausted. It was so much damn work to do anything with her. She was so demanding, overbearing, cynical.
Before Wyatt had come along, Callie had been a different woman. Vivacious, sexy, always ready for the next adventure. Nate had felt like the luckiest man alive, falling asleep beside that woman every night. They’d been the kind of happy that most people never get in their lifetime. Nate had thought that adding a kid to the mix would only make that happiness greater. He should have listened to Callie when she said she wasn’t sure. Nate didn’t regret having his son – but he did wonder if by bringing the boy into the world, he hadn’t done something selfish and stupid, just so he could add another item to the growing list of the things that defined him – doctor, homeowner, husband, father. It was possible, Nate could admit to himself, that mother was not an item Callie had necessarily wanted to add to her list of superlatives.
Maybe Callie really would have become a famous author if he hadn’t pushed her into having a kid. Nate had read some of her stories and knew she wasn’t without talent. But all her notebooks had been put away after Wyatt came along. Her thousand-watt grin faded to a wry half-smile that rarely made an appearance. He hated her – and himself – for taking away the woman he’d once loved. Sometimes he got so angry he felt like punching holes in walls. Sometimes he could almost justify that rage to himself – he worked like a bastard, literally healing people’s broken hearts, and then came home to a screaming kid and a nagging wife. A wife who stared at the television like a zombie as she folded clothes. A wife who may or may not have fucked some other guy (Nate would never be able to prove it, just one more thing to add to the list of things that pissed him off).
“This could have been a nice day,” Callie said.
“You make it impossible for any day to be nice,” he said, grimly satisfied by the way his words made her flinch.
Nate turned to the canvas. The painting was too large, an insult to the more modest ones beside it. It begged to be looked at and admired, yet it had little to offer. The colors reminded him of a heart he’d recently dissected. All the arteries had been blocked with fat, leading to the patient’s early death at forty-seven. There was nothing Nate could have done by the time the woman appeared on the table. Her heart, tired from the struggle for oxygen and blood, had given up as soon as Nate made the first incision into her chest. By the time Nate held it in his hands, the heart was a red and purple mass of useless muscle. Nothing more than rotting meat.
“What do you see?” Lexi asked, leaning over to mumble in Hannah’s ear. “In the painting?”
Hannah squinted at the canvas, all those swirls of colors. She didn’t see anything. “A dude raking leaves. A woman weaving a basket. Buddha.”
“I see an existentialist struggle between man and the government. Big Brother shit, you know? Maybe that philosophy class is finally making an impression on me.”
“Or maybe you’re high.”
Before arriving at her freshmen year of college, Hannah had been petrified she would be paired with some right-wing, rosary-counting nut for a roommate. But she and Lexi were made of the same cloth. They loved Florence & the Machine and abhorred Taylor Swift. They stayed up late discussing the myriad ways their parents’ generation had screwed them over. Both majoring in English – Lexi in literary criticism, Hannah in poetry – they had several classes together, which made it easy for one of them to skip a lecture on occasion, knowing the other would take dutiful notes. And it didn’t hurt that Lexi had primo weed connections. Her ex-stepbrother – or maybe it was her cousin, Hannah could never remember – was a grower and loved giving out free or discounted samples.
Lexi lowered her voice. “Want to know what I actually see? Two lovers, bodies writhing in pleasure.”
For Lexi, everything was about sex. She had a steady stream of guys following her around campus, a growing collection of personal erotic poetry she liked to read aloud to Hannah for the sole reason that Hannah was still a virgin. “Think of this as free sex ed,” Lexi would say. “You, of all people, need to be educated.”
Hannah looked at the canvas again, trying to see what Lexi did. But there were no lovers frolicking in those swirls of paint. However, the woman weaving the basket was standing up. Walking to the edge of the painting. And leaning out to offer Hannah another toke. Shit, maybe she’d gone a little overboard this morning.
“Why are you smiling?”
“Just thinking of something Adam said the other night.”
“Now there’s a dude who wants to show you some good lovin’. Seriously, girl, he looks at you like you’re a glass of water in the desert. When are you going to throw the poor boy a bone? No pun intended.”
Hannah didn’t answer. The group had fallen silent, everyone staring up at the painting to suck out some kind of meaning from it. Hannah had never really gone for art, if she was being honest. But Lexi liked this gallery, and it was easier to go along with that girl’s impulses than to suggest another outing. Plus, her only other alternative had been to go to Adam’s room for some “Netflix and chill” time – something Hannah wanted desperately to avoid.
It wasn’t that she was disinterested in sex. Hannah was plenty interested. She’d spent many nights alone in her tiny bed imagining what sex with Adam – or any attractive guy – might be like. But every time Adam slipped his hand beneath the waistband of her jeans, Hannah felt herself freeze up. She’d push him away with some excuse, each one more feeble than the last. He’d been patient, but they had been together three months now. Hannah knew how it went. They were in college. Adam wasn’t a virgin. They had an endless supply of free condoms from the student health center. Why not just let it happen? Adam was sweet to her – he always made sure to have an extra sweatshirt at the ready, knowing she often felt chilly. He was a nice boy, as far as college boys went. She couldn’t make sense of why she kept pushing him away.
Sometimes Hannah had a nightmare. It was always the same. There was a playground, empty swings swaying in the cold air. The squeak of rusty hinges. Gravel digging into her elbows and knees. A dark presence behind her, pushing her down. Hannah thought it was a boy she knew in grade school. Kenny Carpenter, a hulking, crooked-toothed boy who delighted in following Hannah home after school and throwing rocks at the back of her head. Sometimes in the dream he would say something, something about how what they were doing was just a game. But when Hannah asked the rules of the game, the boy laughed. When she woke from this nightmare, Hannah was panicked, not knowing whether it was a dream or a memory.
Hannah looked harder at the painting, surprised to see that there was something real hiding behind the strokes of reds and blues after all. The shape of a girl. Short, underweight, unsure of her movements. And behind her, almost obscured – but not quite – behind a splotch of dark purple, another figure. That of a boy. Tall for his age, with rough hands and a Jack O’Lantern smile. And the girl was almost – but not quite – far enough away for him to reach.
Eighty-four miles to go. The VW had enough gas to last until the very end; she wouldn’t have to stop at all. She could just keep on going until she reached the end of the road, where the land fell away and the ocean rolled out before her like a swath of blue heaven.
Margot assessed her physical condition. Her teeth felt fuzzy, covered in sugar from the sodas she’d been tossing back to keep herself awake. Her long copper hair was oily at the scalp and dry at the ends. She’d been wearing the same shorts and tank top since she’d stopped in Nevada to take a hasty sink-bath in a gas station. She could smell herself, a mixture of sweat and stale donuts. All things considered, Margot decided, she was in pretty good shape.
With the money from the painting, Margot could have taken this trip through more dignified means. A first-class plane ticket. A sumptuous, private car on a cross-country train. Or she could have at least bought a new vehicle, something better than this clunker she’d been driving since she had gotten her license a decade ago. But Margot hadn’t wanted to do any of those things. Bertha was her faithful steed, conveying her everywhere she’d ever had to go since she was sixteen, and Margot didn’t believe in fixing things that weren’t broken.
Her cell phone rang, jarring her out of her thoughts. It was the third call in as many hours. She rolled her eyes and picked up. “Ma. I told you. I’ll call you when I get there.”
Margot gripped the steering wheel tighter. “Vincent,” she said. “I asked you not to call.”
“I was wrong,” he said. “Okay? I’m sorry, baby. I miss you. Can’t you just turn around and come back home now?”
Not trusting herself to steer the car while having this conversation Margot pulled over to the side of road.
“I’m not coming home.”
“Ever? You really expect me to believe that? It’syou, for Christ’s sake. The girl who has panic attacks when she has to go to the store by herself. The girl who got locked out of the apartment and was so embarrassed she couldn’t even call the super to come let her in. The girl who gets lost driving to the pharmacy. And now… what? Now you’re suddenly the girl who leaves her fiancé in the middle of the night with no warning and takes off on some god-damn Kerouac road trip to the fucking coast of California?”
“I’m not a girl,” Margot said, her voice so quiet even she could barely hear it. “I’m a woman.” It was always like this. Vincent manipulating every conversation, steamrolling her with incontrovertible logic, and all Margot could do was offer up the feeblest of arguments in defense of herself.
“I said I was sorry. I’ll change. I’ll do whatever you think I should do. Just come home.”
“Vincent, no,” Margot said, mustering up all the resolve she could manage. “The wedding’s off. It’s over.”
“For Christ’s sake, Margot, it was only one time!”
Reflexively, Margot reached up to touch the spot on her jaw where he’d hit her two months ago. There had been a bruise for weeks, and her left molar had cracked down the middle from the impact. The first thing she’d done after she had sold the painting was to go to the dentist to have the tooth fixed. The second thing had been to pack her bags, write Vincent a note, and pull away from the curb at 2:00 AM, Bruce Springsteen mumbling low on the radio, coaxing her along.
“That’s what my father always said to my mother,” Margot said. “Fuck that shit, Vincent. I won’t live like that.”
“You’re a cunt. You know that, right?”
“And you’re a miserable, small-pricked, sad excuse for a man.”
Margot hung up before he could reply. She was done with his words, done with his presence looming over her everywhere she went. That was her old life. She looked out at the road before her, the pavement curving away from her like a question mark.
She put the car in drive and pulled back into the lane, turning the radio up loud to drown out the memory of Vincent’s voice. That voice didn’t belong to this new life. Not much did. Selling that painting had been the new start to everything. The piece itself had been a fluke – just something Margot painted one night while she had sat around drinking boxed wine, waiting for Vincent to return from work or the club or wherever the fuck he went on Thursday nights. Margot had never painted anything before, but the tenant before them had left his old art supplies in the upstairs closet, and Margot was buzzed from the wine and bored out of her mind. The end result had been laughable. It was the kind of crap hippies and rich windbags exalted as being a work of genius, some deep reflection of humanity. When her mother had seen it and insisted it could sell for big bucks, Margot had rolled her eyes.
Only after Vincent had clocked her in the face had Margot become desperate enough to make a few bucks, to break away from him for good. She had brought the painting to the gallery, pretending she knew something about art, and, to her shock, had been offered an outrageous sum for it. And that was that. Less than a week later, bank account fat and grinning as it never had from her part-time cleaning job, Margot had left.
Now the only thing that stood between her and complete freedom was sixty-seven miles of open road. The ocean was waiting for her, and Margot, for the first time since she’d let Vincent kiss her in the bathroom of that sleazy bar three years ago, was ready to dive in.
He sits, head low, eyes down. Whispering quietly to himself, or maybe to whatever God he believes in, if he believes in one. Buzz, slide, clink.
Stand up, son. It's time to go.
No call. The red phone hasn't rung. He's out of time.
He stands, shuffling in chains. One man takes each arm, a macabre escort, and they take the long last walk down the pale green corridor to the room where liquid death is waiting in IV lines designed to preserve life.
micro fiction by Amanda McLeod
The Long Last Walk
poetry by Anum Sattar
This poisonous vine blames me that I have towered above her,
and made her anchor her tendrils around my leafless boughs,
but in my defense, I merely spread out my arms to shield her
from the menacing birds that snatched the berries off her stalk,
and thus, let her clamber her way onto other shoulders
and in doing so, she leaves me to rot away, until I finally fall.
True Love Impotence
I act as guardian: Feed him, bathe him, wheel him to movies – to themes I know he once enjoyed. Claud sleeps in a coma. The world adores and watches his every twitch, hoping that he too will remain in the Deepest of Love. Like the Coma Couple who have been in the Envyest of Love for twenty years: Twelve years more than Claud has been incapacitated. The Coma Couple were the first to have been recognized as to having fallen into the most Profound Kind of Love: Their facilities had collapsed while their love for each other grew stronger, making them helpless, making them the Example for Everyone. The Coma Couple, at first, were the cause for much anger, then the catalyst for much celebration.
Claud had fallen unconscious a few years after our meeting. No one though had ever experienced such Great Love before the Coma Couple had been stricken. Their love soon conjured passion in others prompting people’s hearts to also grow stronger while their limbs surrendered to their new learned adoration. Governments began promoting True Love, running advertisements with prizes – luxurious hospital bed, decorated bedpan – attached for those who achieved such love. For those who failed to fall into a Love so Deep, the Government assisted by creating classes called Devotion Yoga and Lust Mediation, in hopes of aiding couples to achieve partial- then paraplegic- then quadriplegic-paralysis, ending in a coma. But no one, other than the Coma Couple and Claud, had entered such sleep.
Claud had fallen into paralysis, a quadriplegic, within the first month of our dating due to, what he labeled, our wondrous conversation and extraordinary sex and a connection that he had desired for-many years. “I love you,” Claud had confessed within weeks of our introduction. He never questioned my normality.
Claud, when we first met, told me that he had once felt a Strong Love long before the Coma Couple became world renown. He had said, “I was six when I fell in the park.” Claud had been walking with his single mother, who had been so heart broken by Claud’s father that she became Incapable of Loving, which meant she had to act as guardian for Deep Lovers: The consequence for True Love Impotence.
“Are you sure you didn’t just trip?” I had said. We were holding hands, staring into each other’s eyes. Some had alleged we were in love.
“I’m sure,” Claud had said. “I started to cry because I was scared. I couldn’t move my legs. Mother rushed over to me, picked me up. She too started crying.”
“When Mother realized that I was Paralyzed by Love, she yelled: ‘It’s inappropriate for a child, especially a son, to fall in love with his mother.’”
“But I love you so much,” Claud had said to her.
“You’re not allowed to love me,” Claud’s mother yelled, tears dripping from her face. Claud told me that he had begun to wail after his mother dropped him onto the cold concrete, walked away, not once looking to see if he were undamaged.
“I began to again feel my toes as she continued away from me. Then I could move my legs,” Claud had said. “I never again fell disabled for Mother.”
Claud lays in bed most days. I’m required to wheel him to the living room, to the dining room, to the bedroom, to all the rooms, like the Government expects. I must place him in front of cameras for the World to watch. Sometimes I wave, sometimes I smile, at the World as they marvel at Claud’s incapacitation. I though envision the World waving and smiling back at me, not him.
Within two years of our relationship Claud had become senselessly disabled. I didn’t understand why. He had often confessed his love- and had sent love letters-to me and had acted the gentlemen by opening doors, by buying flowers, and by cooking my favorite meals. I never understood the point. Claud, during another one of our lull times, told me about the first time that he thought he had fallen in love.
“I felt a tingle in my foot,” Claud had said.
“Why are you telling me this?” I had said.
“I want to tell you everything. Communication is the most important means to True Love. And I desire True Love.”
I had laughed. I thought that he was joking. As the gentlemen that Claud believed himself to be he continued with his childish story: “She was beautiful, but I never fell incapacitated like I have with you.” Claud was a newly categorized Quadriplegic.
“How sweet,” I said.
“I had wanted to love her,” Claud had said, looking miserable. “We were childhood friends. I liked her pigtails. We had kissed in elementary school.”
I had stared at his weak frame, then I looked away from his disfigurement. I knew then that I had complete control over him.
“I don’t know where it went wrong,” Claud had said. “We could have, should have, been the Coma Couple. We were the Perfect Match”
It was in that moment that I had realized that love was for the weak, for someone like Claud. Why must I be like everyone else, I wondered. But I remained by Claud’s side and I watched and I smiled with Claud as the news reported of couples falling disabled in the middle of malls, or crashing immobilized on highways, or as men or women subsided upon first sight to their supposed True Love, but nothing near the Coma Couple. It was during Claud’s failed love story that I determined to never give myself, my power, to anyone, especially to Claud. So I began to secretly counter, “I love you too” or “You mean the world to me too” or “You make me happy too” to as many people as I could, as the Government believes I should, knowing that the they all need me more than I would ever need them.
flash fiction by James Seals
It felt like indigestion all along but it wasn’t going away. The same old sensation started assuming new meaning over time, unless the same old sensation wasn’t the same nor old. That is what prompted me to get myself checked out. At first, whenever I attempted to pronounce endoscopy I instinctively made the second o long and put the accent on they, like endoscope-ee. I eventually conditioned myself to put the accent on the first o and make the second o short, as in end-ah-ska-pee. If only the levers of our thoughts were as conveniently slack as the sounds of our words.
Could something physical be invisible, pain with phantom properties? I had a haunted stomach, which made the gastroenterologist a ghost hunter. He was young, almost too young, but unusually friendly.
“My name’s Steven,” he said, extending his hand to introduce himself as I lay prone on the table. It was as if we were meeting in his office for a business transaction which, of course, we were.
During the preparation for the procedure he was making strained attempts to initiate Spanish with the Hispanic nurse. This seemed vaguely subversive, an enlightened rejection of the intolerant notion that if they come here they should be expected to speak our language. His bilingual effort was virtuous and clumsy and sad all at once. The nurse graciously complied with the project, interspersing slight nods of the head with demure smiles and gently delivered corrective feedback as her mother tongue was getting chopped up.
“Why do you look so worried?,” the doctor asked me, his words, intended to comfort, only served to confirm in me a sense of disembodiment. My face had a mind of its own. I caught a glimpse of what I presumed to be the recording instrument that would be entering my body via my throat. Above us hung a video monitor that would be featuring a live telecast of my innards. I suddenly felt everything had reversed. The pain inside was the only thing that was real and I had become the phantom. I was sedated as swiftly as promised. At some point there was a smear of a discussion between the medical professionals that I could barely penetrate at the edges.
De Niro seems to have emptied himself out to become the part he’s playing and then not got enough material to refill himself with: his LaMotta is a swollen puppet with only bits and pieces of a character inside, the film critic Pauline Kael noted.
Steven the ghost hunter emerged in the recovery room while I was slowly regaining my bearings.
“How you feeling?,” he asked with a proper degree of sincerity.
“That’s good. Okay, you do have some signs of gastritis and reflux, for which I am writing you a script for Prevacid. But, you also have these enlarged veins on your esophagus, which we need to talk more about. Set up an appointment for some time next week.” His impression left me cold. I failed to see a relationship between his words and my body. Spoken words move through the air whimsically and weightlessly but the human body is a physical entity with discernible borders, certain gravity.
She turned her lack of self-awareness into a triumph, said Pauline Kael’s daughter at the elder’s memorial tribute.
My wife drove us straight from the doctor to a movie theater. We figured the moment was ripe to escape into darkness and enter another world. The problem was the comedy we decided to watch was so awful that it didn’t offer me an opportunity to forget anything but rather reminded me of how deeply flawed the world can be. Over the next several hours my mind continued restoring its strength and grappling with Young Doctor Steven’s parting words. I’d been diagnosed with Non-bleeding grade I esophageal varices. Something unforeseen had been detected. It wasn’t an ulcer. It wasn’t cancer. But, it was alarming. I had varicose veins on my esophagus. According to the internet, they could grow and burst, leading to profound internal hemorrhaging, septic shock and finally death all in a matter of minutes. I was told it wasn’t even related to the discomfort that brought me to the doctor in the first place. It was an accidental discovery. A true ghost had been revealed and I was scared shitless.
It is an egocentric condition that engenders an inability to differentiate the unique from the universal, asserted the developmental psychologist David Elkind.
I was back to the gastroenterologist a week later to further review the results of the endoscopy. Sitting in his office, Steven the young ghost hunter seemed discomfited, spooked by the very ghost he had found but not captured.
“How many drinks a day do you have?”
“You mean only on the days I drink or an average number of drinks factoring in the days I don’t drink.” Doctors’ questions could so often sound like trick word problems.
“Do you have more than three drinks a day on most days?,” he clarified.
“Okay. We usually just see these kinds of tortuous veins in people with portal hypertension whose livers are not functioning well. There is typically a distinct insult to the portal vein. This all kind of goes hand in hand, but you seem too healthy for all that. I’ve actually never seen a case of esophageal varices without an underperforming liver. It’s a puzzle. I think I’m gonna order you an ultrasound of your abdomen to see if we can get a better picture of what’s happening in there.”
In there were sprawling pathways carrying life-affirming messages. It was a metropolis of interconnectedness running through me but totally disconnected from me. A new SAT question cropped into my head to punctuate my confusion. Esophageal Varices: Portal Hypertension as Punch Line: Joke. I definitely wasn’t laughing. This much I knew. I had a drunk’s diagnosis. It was esophageal varices that permanently took Kerouac off the road.
How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?, asked the baseball pitcher Satchel Paige.
A week later I was in the radiology center getting prepped for my ultrasound. A jaunty technician with a large smile but slight body came in and introduced herself as Kathy. She proceeded to spread the scanning gel across my stomach. It was jarringly cold and sticky. She started sliding the wand over my midsection while staring at a video screen out of my view. She would pause to type away on a keyboard like a cashier punching in my liability at a checkout line. Kathy was capturing still images of the potentially rogue activity transpiring in my body.
“How do things look?,” I cautiously asked.
“The radiologist will look over the film,” she dutifully offered, skillfully dodging my question.
Some days later I got a copy of the report. Impression: Unremarkable abdominal ultrasound. Etiology for patient’s esophageal varices uncertain by ultrasound.
“Don’t keep going to those local yokels,” my aging father advised, disparaging the vast majority of the medical profession. “You have to go to New York.” The best ghost hunters apparently were in New York City.
After asking the regimented set of questions and administering a quick physical examination around my stomach, the gastroenterologist began tossing around some thoughts from his 17th floor office overlooking the corner of 166th and Broadway.
“This could very well be nothing, but I’d like you to get an MRV of the abdomen,” running his left hand over his goatee and then through his thinning hair. His face had the look of an illusionist.
“A what?,” I asked, instantly impressed with Merlin’s confidence and use of obscure acronyms.
“It’s like an MRI, but gives you a better picture of potential circulatory problems around the liver.” I don’t think he really meant it would givemea better picture, but I had no problem going along with it as long as it did for somebody whose judgment I could trust.
“I’m going to want you to get it with contrast,” he added. I decided not to question it. This was between the doctor and my circulatory system. They didn’t need someone like me to get in between them.
It took me some effort to locate an imaging center near me that did an MRV. A few of them had never even heard of it. I started thinking that maybe my dad was right. In the weeks leading up to my appointment my wife and I bickered more often than usual. One day I started watching television when I probably should have been cleaning the bathroom.
“There you go again, thinking only about yourself. Start being a team player. Think of it as practice for when the baby comes.” she protested.
“Are you kidding?! Who switched the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer last night? Who loaded the dishwasher? Who changed the light bulb in the garage?,” I proudly rattled off my accomplishments without a pause, building to a satisfying crescendo.
“You’re dreaming!” She said waving me away with her hand. I took it as a sign my evidence was too strong for a viable defense. It was a decisively successful stand against her meager attempt at portraying me as an unhelpful ingrate. She kept score too much. The amount of work I did around the house was too directly correlated with how invested I was in the marriage. Her formulations were faulty. I helped and I cared even though these two factors operated independently of one another. If there was a compassion deficit to be identified it was in her cavalier attitude about my condition. She didn’t seem concerned in the absence of a quantifiable malady. Some believe ghosts are nonexistent while others believe they are just elusive.
What do you think I’d see if I could walk away from me?, sang the rock and roll icon Lou Reed.
The large framed technician with patches of facial stubble instructed me to lie perfectly still so the magnet could properly extract out of me the required information.
“Since you’re getting an image with contrast I’ll be hooking an IV up at your wrist. Now, as the dye gets injected you might feel an itchy sensation, but that should go away pretty quickly,” he explained, all flesh and whiskers. His heavy breathing was creating a polyrhythm with the anxious thumps in my chest. It struck me as odd that this stranger so confidently could tell me, not only how something was going to make me feel, but how long it would be that I would feel that way.
“I assume the dye helps with reading the image?,” I asked, feeling an obligation to assume some level of ownership over what was to be pumped into my body.
“That’s right. It gives the doctor a more thorough analysis.” I suddenly felt like a diagram with those transparent overlays that provide layered details of the human anatomy, my being a schemata for others to ponder. It was both alienating and loving.
As I lay in punishing stillness, most of my body entombed in the machine’s shell, I instantly began swelling up on the inside with an unsettling warmth and just as quickly the feeling subsided as the dye was being absorbed into my waiting organs. Over the next 25 minutes letting science have its way with me, I wondered about the safety of these tests. At what point did the very act of observing change that which was being observed?
Neighbors were stunned when they first found out what happened.
“She seemed like an attentive and loving mother always driving the kids around to their daily activities,” stated Fran Simon, who lived around the corner from the family.
However, others who knew her well saw another side. A close family acquaintance who preferred to remain anonymous commented, “She had not been acting herself for the last few months. She’d get easily irritated and bent out of shape over small things. Like recently when I was over to the house and a fruit bowl accidentally got broken. The way she reacted you would have thought her house just burned down. It was like she was becoming another person. I don’t think she realized it, though.”
Two months to the day of my first endoscopy, I was back on 166th and Broadway with Merlin, the New York doctor. His secretary had called several weeks earlier with the news that the MRV had come back normal and that he wanted to perform his own endoscopy so he could see what the story was for himself.
“The varices tend to express themselves more fully when a lower dose of sedatives is used. So let me know your comfort level as we go,” Merlin spoke like we were working together on a collaboration.
I was wide awake as he started lowering the apparatus down my throat. I immediately started gagging over the violation to my body.
“Okay, hold on,” he exclaimed with a trace of disappointment to his voice. He sprayed a mist toward the back of my throat which virtually put me out.
I look at myself but I’m missing. I know myself: it’s not me, the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa wrote.
As I was reviving in the recovery room, I felt like something of a failure for not being able to endure the procedure with only minimal sedation. Merlin threw open the curtains.
“How’s it going in here?”
“Okay,” I didn’t mention my disturbance over needing more of the sedative.
“So, you have what appears to be the beginning of mild varices on your esophagus,” he explained as if the original endoscopic finding never happened. “It is merely an anatomical variant. Let’s put it this way, I probably wouldn’t want to see what might happen to be on an X-ray of my body. Now go home and enjoy that baby. We’re done.”
I left the office, stepping onto Broadway. The words anatomical variant landed on me like a valentine, raw poetry but easy to pronounce.
Was I happy or was I just not aware?, opined the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.
short fiction by Bill Cole
And people fell in love and into careers,
abusive relationships and dead-end jobs,
money, gangs, fame, obscurity.
They fell into pools, drunk, and off bridges,
into each other on trains and then to a mass
of feet to pick up their papers, all scattered about
the one time they need to be on time.
Some fell into themselves—strange selves,
abyss selves—a fall that disappears
a penny. Some fell into towns
they couldn’t find with a map,
and then fell into them again,
years later, by only the stars.
People fell into comas and out of habits,
by what they held and what slipped away.
There was never any stabilization to be had—
even if one fell with the wish of never
rising back—because what can be said
about the futile battle with gravity, a sublet
What cliff, I don’t remember.
On the way to another falling out and
I noticed you, across the notch:
Snow, your new morning clothes.
New Morning Clothes
poetry by KG Newman
I stitched together this fragment of the past much like a quilt, from actual memories, stories, and what I inferred from combinations of the two.
First, the place. Brazos County, Texas, occupies the triangle of land between the Brazos and Navasota Rivers. The city of Bryan shares a boundary with College Station and Texas A&M University.
Now a memory. I am four years old, and I hear my father and mother scream at each other through the wall between my bedroom and theirs. In the daylight, their voices keep even. The only sign of discord is the distance between them. No embraces, no pats on the shoulder, no handholding, no quick, peck-like kisses, no apparently accidental brushes of hip against hip, no physical contact of any kind. I'm far too young to notice something missing I've never seen, but I can feel the repelling force, like what happens when I try to push the north poles of two magnets together.
Once the house lights are out, their hostility is less ambiguous. Their words are blurred, either by the walls or by the insulation of decades, because I can't tell you now exactly what they said. But the content is clear. The marriage is a ring of hell; a battleground from which neither one can walk away. All of this happened every night of every year I lived in that house, which was roughly nineteen.
The house is in a yard, and the yard is vast. A giant A-frame swing of rusty pipe competes with a huge live oak for domination of the back. The side yards flank the steeply roofed, story-and-a-half, clapboard bunker in which we eat and sleep. The front is a flat expanse of Saint Augustine green, punctured by the branchless trunk of a dead tree by the walk.
Now comes a section I don't remember, but heard from them and they told to others in my presence many times.
I am not allowed to leave the yard, but I do. Maybe I want time and distance away from them and their unrelenting tension, or I feel no compulsion to obey their rules, since they can't agree on any rules between themselves that don't go away every night, or they're right when they tell me I'm the source of everything wrong with the family. All speculation, of course. I don't know why I felt compelled to leave the yard.
When I step out of my mother's field of vision, she launches a drama that plays without variation uncountable times. Here is approximately how it goes:
"He’s been hit by a car! A pervert’s got him! Find him!"
She whips Dad and my older sister into a frenzy. They search, and Mother’s shrill voice calls my name. They find me, invariably in a neighbor’s yard on the same block. I'm not hiding.
They bring me home, but Mother's screams don't stop. My father, desperate to calm her down, takes off his belt and beats me. My sister begs him to stop. Eventually Mother calms down, and he stops.
Again and again, I leave the yard. Again and again, my father's belt strikes me. Frustrated by their inability to force a four-year-old into submission with pain, my parents cast about for an alternative.
The next time, they take off my clothes and put a diaper on me. My father holds me up to the big, round mirror on the dresser. That's a memory. I can see that reflection to this day.
"If you act like a baby," my mother says, "we'll dress you like one."
My father puts me down, and I dive under the bed. Dad reaches for me; Mother gets hysterical. Hours pass before I come out.
Still, they got what they wanted. I never left the yard again. Authority triumphed. All was well at last.
They were so impressed with the results of this new method of child control by humiliation, in the years that followed, they took every occasion to tell the story of how they returned balance to the universe with a diaper. They told it, in my presence, to relatives, to acquaintances, and to strangers. The story entered the family archive of stories. With each telling, the villain, that defiant child who refused to be beaten into submission, was painted in darker colors, and the parental brilliance of switching to psychological warfare appeared more creative and, at the same time, unavoidable.
And the people who listened nodded, and smiled, and said nothing.
It's different now. They're dead, and I'm the storyteller.
I have a supplementary tale in which I do not behave at my best, but which fills a gap I feel a need to fill. This I remember in every detail.
I'm in my teens, in the living room with my younger sister. I walk past her, and for some reason I put my hand on her neck. She says nothing. I go on my way.
Mother comes screaming at me. She says, because of me, my sister lost consciousness. Mother slaps me as hard as she can. My father takes off his belt. I stand in their bedroom, and he swings it at the backs of my legs. My knees buckle under the pain.
I am horrified at what I'd done to my sister. I'd endure any punishment they had for me. However, the pain wakes something up. It's not a memory. I reach back through the years to offer a degree of respect for the four-year-old I'd been, who'd taken so many of these lashes, yet wouldn't bend.
creative non-fiction by Jesse Minkert
Shannon L. Bowring
Shannon lives in Bath, Maine. She holds a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from the University of Maine. Shannon’s work has appeared in JMWW, The Maine Review, the Hawaii Pacific Review, Sixfold, and the Joy of the Pen online journal, for which she won the Verdi L. Tripp Fiction Award in November, 2016.In 2017, her short story “Leave Her Wild” was nominated by JMWW for a Pushcart Prize. She is also the author of Twice Sold Tales, a blog published by the Bangor Daily News from October 2015 – February 2017
Bill Cole is a school psychologist, public education advocate and adjunct professor of developmental psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. His work has been published in Eclectica, California Quarterly, The Great American Literary Magazine, Lowestoft Chronicle and Flash Fiction Magazine, and he has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. His fiction has also appeared in Highlights for Children Magazine for which he received their Pewter Plate Award as Author of the Month.
Jeremy Jusek is a freelance writer living in Cleveland Ohio with his wife and two kids. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arcadia and currently facilitates a poetry workshop through the Cuyahoga County Public Library, which is entering its fourth year and publishing its first anthology. Learn about his publications and other projects at jeremyjusek.com.
Amanda McLeod is an Australian author and artist. Her fiction can be found in The Fredericksburg Literary And Art Review, Sick Lit Magazine, KYSO Flash, and other places. She is a cheese and coffee connoisseur and enjoys being outside, even if it’s raining.
Jesse Minkert lives in Seattle. He is Executive Director of Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences. For over twenty years he has written short radio plays to be performed and produced by blind and visually impaired young people in the Blind Youth Audio Project, and also many pieces for the Jack Straw New Media Gallery workshops at the Jack Straw Cultural Center, Seattle, Washington, in collaborations between Jack Straw and Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences. In 2008, Wood Works Press published “Shortness of Breath & Other Symptoms.” In 2014 Minkert self-published his chapbook, “RAFT,” with poetry and graphics by the author. His work has appeared in over seventy journals including the Cream City Review, Confrontation, Mount Hope, the Floating Bridge Review, the Minetta Review, Poetry Northwest, Common Knowledge, and Harpur Palate. Thanks to Raven Chronicles, he is a 2016 Pushcart Nominee. This year Finishing Line Press published his poetry chapbook, “Rookland.”
KG Newman is a sports writer for The Denver Post. His first two poetry collections, “While Dreaming of Diamonds in Wintertime” and “Selfish Never Get Their Own,” are available on Amazon. He is on Twitter @KyleNewmanDP.
Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review, Crack the Spine and more than 300 other publications.
Anum Sattar is a junior studying English at the College of Wooster in Ohio, USA. Her poems have been published the American Journal of Poetry (Margie,) Better than Starbucks! The Florida Review, Grey Sparrow, Oddball Magazine, Artifact Nouveau, Off the Coast, Strange POEtry, Between These Shores Literary & Arts Annual, Conceit Magazine, A New Ulster, The Cannon’s Mouth, The Journal (i.e. The Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry,) Wilderness House Literary Review, Poydras Review, The Cadaverine, Verbalart: A Global Journal Devoted to Poets & Poetry, The Wayne Literary Journal, Deltona Howl, The Weekly Avocet (every Sunday Morning,) Poets Bridge, The Ibis Head Review and Tipton Poetry Journal. She won the third Vonna Hicks Award at the college. Whenever possible, she reads out her work at Brooklyn Poets in New York City.
James Seals earned his MFA in Fiction at Southern New Hampshire University. His stories have been published in Amoskeag Journal, Forge Journal, Rio Grande Review and others. James also has published a couple of essays and numerous poems. His stories “White, Like You” (’13) and an excerpt, “Turned His Eyes Away” (’14), from his novel American Value won SNHU’s graduate writing contest. SNHU’s MFA faculty awarded James’ masters’ thesis the Lynn H. Safford Book Prize.
BECOME A MEMBER OF CRACK THE SPINE
CRACK THE SPINE LITERARY MAGAZINE