Judith Skillman – Umbel



Framework of wild carrot, cluster of stars,
obsolete sunshade, diminutive of autumn

harbor us now as we wander into darkness– far from the sun, its ray and disc.

Inside out umbrella, keep us in this winter
and from straying

toward those others where the snow berried grandmother
feathers a nest
for the mole.




Judith Skillman’s new collections are Broken Lines—The Art & Craft of Poetry (Lummox Press, 2013), and The Phoenix—New and Selected Poems 2007 – 2013 (Dream Horse Press). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, The Midwest Quarterly, The Iowa Review, The Southern Review, A Cadence of Hooves, and other journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of grants from the Academy of American Poets, the Washington State Arts Commission, the Centrum Foundation, and the King County Arts Commission. She teaches for Yellow Wood Academy. See judithskillman.com


Sassafras Literary Magazine issue 4




Gloria Garfunkel - Thunderstorms in South Dakota 
Matthew Laffrade - Choked City 


Gary Beck - Night Thought, Remote Father 
Tina Egnoski - Electroconvulsive Therapy;Dinner Guests at the Country House,
Apolitical Apothegm

Bruce Hinrichs - What seems now, well, only too ordinary
Seth Howard - Stepping Through The Door 
Kathie Jacobson - NEWTOWN

Don Kingfisher Campbell – Brothers 
Maureen Kingston – Threshold Dream, Dementia Aspic 
Steve Klepetar - A Silence, Laughing at the Leaves 
Justin Million - Convent, The Fourth Act 

Gaetan Sgro -Every Night We talk About The Same Thing, 
Afternoon, June 
The Coast
John Sibley Williams - Beirut,
                                I'm Reading Sunday’s Headlines That Call for Things Like Justice 

Jeremiah Walton - Road Trips Seen Thru Motel Rooms 
Jeffrey Zable - Natural Born Killer, Dear Editor/s 
Thomas Zimmerman - Forget to Die
Ali Znaidi – Counter Replica, Australian Horoscope 


Rebecca Andem - Fumes
Terry Barr - “Andy, It's Therapetic”


Ece Zeber: Self-Portrait, Scene 1 - 6, untitled

Sassafras issue 4 - PDF

Ali Znaidi – Counter Replica, Australian Horoscope

Counter Replica

Inside a page
there is always
a phage replicating
itself & when it is
dreams, &
antiphons to a lingering
restless want for flying




Australian Horoscope

The Magpie, March 21-April 20

The sun will return and engulf your realm with sublime lights.
You have to seize the opportunity and capture the cherry blossom
before the return of the owl. The sun will make you amaze people
with enigma and light.

The Kookaburras, April 21-May 21

The leaves of the tree woman begin to fall. That is a bad omen.
But if you are brave enough, you can bring luck through chasing
the sunrise in Antarctica.

The Bowerbird, May 22-June 21

You can’t imagine how mysterious your life would be
if you dwell in the cave for a period of time just to ponder.
And if you like to cast a spell on the opposite sex, just forget
about decorating your bower because simplicity has its enigma, too.

The Rainbow Lorikeet, June 22-July 22

Just keep looking at the horizons because your luck
is buried in a little cloud that is hiding behind the rainbow.
The day you will shoot that cloud with your arrow,
the rain will fall and fill in your empty buckets with water of luck.

The Kangaroo, July 23-August 23

Your heart is telling you to stand just in the middle and watch.
But your fate is going to be hit by a beefy brawny buffalo if you don’t move.
If you find it difficult to move, just begin with trivial things.
Try to change your pillow. Maybe, a new pillow can make your life start afresh.

The Rabbit, August 24-September 22

Don’t drink water all day not just to experience thirst,
but also to remember that your life is inundated with water.
So if you like your life to be always fertile just don’t deny the water
and grow a rose in the desert to poison any daring snake.

The Koala, September 23-October 23

The crow is coming again cawing to encumber your weary soul.
So just follow that flock of sparrows and listen to their songs—
a panacea for all your aches. Music will fill your termite-infested room with fresh air.
The Emu, October 24- November 22

Never lock your horse in the stable. Just saddle it and start out
trying to surpass the howling wind. When rekindled, your innate power
can grow olive trees in the North Pole.
The Crocodile, November 23-December 21

If you start eating a pizza, just finish it all.
Nothing can infest your life but those crocodile tears.
Don’t play the role of the victim.
You shall overcome all obstacles, if you don’t throw
half of your pizza in the dustbin.

The Turtle, December 22-January 20

Some people with prosthetic limbs did cage the dragon.
So just uncage fear from your heart,
and don’t forget that Venus is watching over you
on top of your shell.

The Eucalyptus, January 21-February 18

Welcome to the wilderness!
Finally, you are going to learn how to sleep
without blankets next to thousands of scorpions.

The Redback Spider, February 19-March 20

If you don’t know the goat’s monologues in the
haunted cave, you are missing out like a crazy.
What you need is some strangeness to spice up
the emptiness of your life.






(Australian Horoscope was first published in Phantom Kangaroo on 13/04/2012)

Ali Znaidi (b.1977) lives in Redeyef, Tunisia where he teaches English. His work has appeared in The Rusty Nail, The Tower Journal, Mad Swirl, Stride Magazine, Red Fez, & other ezines. His debut poetry chapbook Experimental Ruminations was published in September 2012 by Fowlpox Press (Canada). From time to time he blogs at aliznaidi.blogspot.com.

John Brantingham – Graham Greene Saved Me That Year

Graham Greene Saved Me That Year


The first year of teaching is hard. If you do it right, every year of teaching is hard, but the first is the most difficult. I was a year out of an MFA and part-time teaching all over Los Angeles. Part-time teaching is badly named. When people start teaching at the college level, they teach part-time at three or four colleges or universities. I was teaching eight classes that semester, twice as many as full-timers were supposed to teach, and I was a bit burned out.

So I picked up Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair during finals week. We’d read a lot of Greene in grad school of course. I’d admired his work without ever loving it, but this one hit me in just the right direction at just the right time.

Good books can do that to you. They don’t always do that, but they certainly can. I started reading the night before finals started. I had a stack of research papers to return to students, and I used the novel as my break, snatching six or ten pages between the volumes the students had poured themselves into. I wasn’t used to the heartbreak that students go through or the triumph either. I wasn’t used to seeing college from this side of the chalkboard.

It had been a year of firsts.

And in that year of firsts, I had decided to stop being a writer without knowing I had. I was in love with teaching. I still am. And that love for watching students adapting to the college lifestyle had pushed too many things out of my life. I’d lost friends. I’d stopped going to family functions. I had stopped writing and worse, stopped reading for pleasure.

The End of the Affair brought me back.

It’s probably not Greene’s best book, but it’s up there. A narcissistic writer makes claims like “Anyone who loves is jealous” and “I hate you, God. I hate you as though you actually exist.” By the end, we see our hero’s slow conversion to Catholicism, see that he’s a bad person, but that we like him. We admire and hate him. It’s a fantastically complex book in writing and idea as all Greene’s work is, as Greene was complex himself.

So I read it during lunch and dinner and to my wife, and I read it after they filed out of the finals, and I realized that yes, I was a teacher, but I was a reader too, and that I still truly did still want to be a writer.

And when I finished his novel, I still had papers to grade, but between them and during meals and whenever I could, I started to put together a poem that had occurred to me while reading The End of the Affair.


This blog post was published on September 16th, 2013 at johnbrantingham.se


John Brantingham have been featured in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac and have had hundreds of poems published in magazines in the United States and England. His books include the short story collection, Let Us All Pray Now to Our Own Strange Gods and the crime novel Mann of War.

Tom Sheehan – Searching for Mushrooms and Trolleycars

Searching for Mushrooms and Trolley Cars

(Amanita Colyptraderma and Electric Street Cars)


They came out of West Lynn or East Saugus years ago, dark mushroom seekers, with their long-pieced poles, their own language whose word for amanita, to the initiate, would tell where their roots began, whether they were Florentine, Roman, or islander, Piana di Cartania. They might say Cocoli, Coconi or Coccori, the delicacies growing thirty or forty feet up on the great elms in the circled green of Cliftondale Square, those huge sky-reaching elms that fell to the hurricanes of ’38, or Carol in the ‘50s, finally to the toll of traffic demanding the green circle be cut down to size.

Once, in a thick fog, on my third floor porch, the mist yet memorable, I remember thinking the elms were Gardens in the Clouds.  I felt a bloom rise in me, a taste fill my mouth. They don’t come for amanita anymore because the elms have all gone, those lofty gardens, those mighty furrowed limbs; now shrubs and bushes stand in their place you can almost see over. Nor do the street cars come anymore from Lynn into Cliftondale Square. They say the old yellow and orange ones,  high black-banded ones, red-roofed ones,  real noisy ones, ones long-electric-armed at each end, the ones off the Lynn-Saugus run, are in Brazil or Argentina or the street car museum in Kennebunkport, Maine, quiet now forever as far as we are concerned, those clanging, rollicking machines that flattened pennies on the tracks so that good Old Abe became a complete mystery, or the Indian Chief, him and his background, became as flat and as charmless as his reservation.

From my porch high on the square, I’d watch thin long poles extending men’s arms, needles of poles they’d fit together, as they reached for the white-gray knobs growing in cloudy limbs. They wore red or blue kerchiefs around thick necks, like Saturday’s movie cowboys if you could believe it, as if any moment they could slip them over their faces and hide out in such bright disguises. They’d cut or tap loose the amanita, see it fall slowly end over end, like a field goal or a touchdown’s point-after, down out of the upper limbs, cutting a slowest curve and halved orbit, and they’d swish butterfly nets to catch the aerial amanita, or Cocoli, as it might be; or their women, in kerchiefs and drawn in and almost hidden away, faces almost invisible, with an upward sweep of gay aprons would catch the somersaulting fungi, the amanita colyptraderma, or being from Piana di Cartania, calling out its name Coconi or Coccori,

Oh, Mediterranean’s rich song airing itself across the green grass of Cliftondale Square, Brahminville being braced, uplifted. I was never privy to know their roots, their harsh voyages, to know where they landed and why, and now their sounds are lost forever, their voices across the square, the gay and high-pitched yells setting a brazen mist on Cliftondale, their glee as a soft white clump of fungi went loose from its roost, coming down to net, swung apron, or quick hat as if a magician worked on stage in the square, heading for Russula Delica, Cocoli Trippati, Veal Scaloppine, Mushroom Trifolati, Risotto Milanaise or plain old Brodo dei Funghi. All these years later I know the heavens of their kitchens, the sweet blast front hallways could loose, how sauce pots fired up your nose, how hunger could begin on a full stomach when Mrs. Forti cooked or Mrs.Tedeschi or Mrs.Tura way over there at the foot of Vinegar Hill feeding her gang of seven and their guests.

And I grasp for the clang-clang of the trolley cars, the all-metallic timpani of their short existence, the clash of rods and bars stretching to the nth degree, of iron wheel on iron rail echoing to where we ear-waited up the line with fire crackers’ or torpedoes’ quick explosions, and the whole jangling car shaking like a vital Liberty Ship I’d come to know intimately years later on a dreadful change of tide. How comfortable now would be those hard wooden seats whose thick enamel paint peeled off by a fingernail as I left her initials and mine on the back of a seat, wondering if today someone in Buenos Aires or Brasilia rubs an index finger across the pair of us that has not been together for more than sixty years.

But somehow, in the gray air today, in a vault of lost music carrying itself from the other end of town, that pairing continues, and the amanita, with its dark song-rich gardeners, though I taste it rarely these days, and the shaky ride the streetcars, for all of a nickel on an often-early evening, softest yet in late May, give away the iron cries and, oh, that rich Italiana. Once a sheer edge of moonlight, a reflection hung in my mind of a whole night’s vision, the smell and the sound of it all, the touch of things as they were.



(bio from Press 53)

TOM SHEEHAN is the author of Brief Cases, Short Spans (Press 53, 2008) and Epic Cures (Press 53, 2005). He has been nominated for the illustrious Million Writers Award twice and the Pushcart Prize twelve times. He has received a Silver Rose Award from American Renaissance for the Twenty-First Century (ART) and the Georges Simenon Award for Excellence in Fiction. His first short story collection, Epic Cures (Press 53), received a 2006 IPPY Award Honorable Mention. Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea in 1951, an experience that forever changed his life and serves to inform his writing. In addition to short story collections, Tom Sheehan has published three novels, five books of poetry, and three books of memoir and nonfiction. He lives in Saugus, MA.

Sara Flemington – my palm

my palm

is more pallid when wet, while hovering over the surface of a river,
when circulation slows to a crawl – bare feet, glass skin, numb mauve toes and levitating minnows
circling my ankles. show me the symmetry in the blue of their schools and my single stalk of shin.
show me how the tide can lift these oval breasts, weighted, graying like rocks; how this wind
can re-alight them, tint them champagne again beneath an unconditional moon.
for death is a moment of time passing along with others, a moment
where a body is no more than silt, at best. Miss Edna, Miss V.,
what became of you could become of me, otters swinging beneath a deluged torso
from which beavers may salvage limbs, fingers, toes.
on the beach lies a trail of papers i wish to reinvent themselves as trees. may the ink sweeten to sap,
my paroxysms burst into peculiar red leaves,
so when I join you, finally, amongst the Ouse, the sea, the current coursing perpetually
beneath a single glowing stone, my words will fall from their pin-thin branches
to lie on the groove of the green waters, stuck
in a reflection of the heavens forever.



Sara Flemington completed her Honors BA in English and Creative Writing from York University, where she received the Sorbara Award for Creative Writing, the Judith Eve Gewurtz Memorial Prize for Poetry, and an honorable mention for the President’s Prize for Short Fiction. She has featured at numerous reading series around Toronto, including CIUT Radio, and her work is forthcoming in Paper Darts. Sara lives in Toronto.

Proudly presenting the first issue of Sassafras – thank you!

Thank you, all writers!

Just a brief note to tell you all how happy I am with the first issue of Sassafras, and what a thrill it is to see all this inspiring writing come together in this first collection.

The outcome of this very first issue of Sassafras is organic, and very diverse, in themes, voices and writers backgrounds, as well as rich in cultural influences and languages.

I’m very impressed by all the great submissions I have received, well beyond my expectations, and I hope to publish a lot more in the issues to come.


[edit: Sassafras is now on Facebook: link  https://www.facebook.com/sassafrasmag]

PS. The very first submission to Sassafras Literary Magazine arrived via old school postal service (it never happens!) in a large, bright orange envelope. To my surprise it contained a nice written piece and some references to online material, and that is how I came across the artwork for the first issue. I find it  amazing that a submission has been transferred from the all analogue to the digital, hopefully, to be available to many.

PS.II  Please open the PDF file of the magazine with a single page view, it does open that way from the desktop, (not when opened directly from WordPress). The 2-page spread view doesn’t seem to be possible to change, once in WordPress. Let me know if you know the trick!

Thanks to the writers who contributed to the first issue:

Amy Attas
Guy R. Beining

Carly Breault
Tessa J Brown
Wayne Burke
Alyssa Cooper

Will Fawley
Miguel Gardel
John Grey
Linda Hegland
Desirée Jung

Victoria Martinez
rob mclennan
Corey Mesler
Dora Mushka
Linda Nguyen
Kenneth Pobo

First issue

Issue one
September 2nd, 2013
Sassafras Literary Magazine - Issue one (PDF) updated
Guy R. Beining - Exit Sign
               - Hard To Look At (both published in POETICKS)


Carly Breault - Unrefined, I Smell Smoke
Tessa J Brown - Foundations
Alyssa Cooper - Towards the Light, Goodbye Kiss
John Grey - The Car.In the Stream.
Desirée Jung - Taking a Deep Breath on Peculiar Days
Victoria Martinez - Advance Preparation
Corey Mesler - I Am The Light, Be Aware
Kenneth Pobo - Two Autumns Ago, Sometimes Pink
Wayne Burke - Snapshot, 1958

Flash fiction and flashling

Will Fawley - The Black Sp.t
Miguel Gardel - The Sun Shines Bright in California
Linda Hegland - The Repetitive Nature of Drowning
Rob McLennan - Untitled 1 and 2
Linda Nguyen - Pretty Things


Amy Attas - Luck
Dora Mushka - Carrots, Pickle Relish

Guy R. Beining - Xitonorus, crawls under camouflage of a giraffe
Four characters dissect life; spanning 1938 - today.

Sassafras Literary Magazine ISSUE 1 - (PDF) updatedExit Sign

Hard To Look At

Dora Mushka – Carrots, Pickle Relish


She stands in the carrot patch mulling over this year’s harvest. A deformed rainbow blend of reds, purples, yellows and oranges. She hoped their roots would grow strong and straight; penetrate deep into the rich dark soil. She sorts through the sad harvest; biggest to smallest. The small pile grows fastest. She remembers putting the seed in the ground. She imagines them on her plate. Perfectly shaped and shaved legs, the warm butter melting and sliding down their smooth round thighs, colors glistening, inviting her to take a bite. Not these carrots. Planted too thick again! She didn’t have the heart to thin; to pull things out that wanted to grow. She could have mixed carrot seeds with radish seeds, planted a seed tape, but she never did. But it wasn’t all her fault though, every rock or lump of dirt seemed to divert their growth, stop them up into stubby toes, or shred them into octopus legs. None looked like the marketing marvel of mechanically formed baby carrots in the grocery store. Easy to eat, easy to clean; perfect fast food snacks. She picks up a carrot, wipes it on her pants and munches it down as she walks back to the house. Maybe next year she will plant a seed tape.

Pickle Relish

Tart and Tangy Pickle Relish; the recipe appeals to her. She has a lot of cucumbers. She watered them well a week before, and they exploded onto production, climbing the corn stalks, growing fat and juicy. The best crop she’d ever grown. She remembers reading that cucumbers hated corn. It seemed a harsh emotion for cucumbers, but she made a mental note at the time, and then quickly forgot. It’s a small garden after all and things that hate one another have to get along. She picked a good two dozen large ones and set them to crisp up in cold water.

The recipe suggested using the food processor to chop the vegetables. Easy. Her mother used a food grinder with a hand crank. The same one dad used for sausage. It was mounted onto a wooden board that clamped to a table top. A bushel basket of cucumbers sat to the side – another equally large tub sat under the grinder to be filled with ground relish. She remembers helping push the cucumbers into the feeder while her mother turned the crank; watching as the blades cut through the flesh. They would make dozens of jars, and eat them all the next year.

Today, however, she cuts the recipe in half and makes only four or five small jars. She pulls out the food processor, roughly chops the cucumbers, red peppers, a couple tomatoes and onions then places them into the container. They are minced in seconds. She measures out turmeric, mustard seed, cloves and allspice, places them in vinegar, water and sugar to boil. She works from generations of practiced competence, sterilizing jars, filling them with hot relish, and processing in hot water. She loves the satisfying “thunk” of the lids as they seal. Feels pride as she writes on the labels: Tart and Tangy Pickle Relish 2013.

Bio: Dora Mushka is an aspiring writer, searching; after a career of writing for governmental publications, to find her natural voice as a writer, with the help of writer in residence Bernadette Wagner at Last Mountain Cultural Centre (LMLCC), Saskatchewan, Canada.

Amy Attas – Luck



Now that my grandfather has lived eighty-seven years, he chooses to remember his life in brief stories, filed under reductive headings like “Luck”.

It was luck that his wife agreed to move across the world to marry him, and luck that they had healthy children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren.

It was luck that got him his first job in Montreal. If he’d not been offered that job at the last possible moment, he would have been sent back to war-torn Greece and conscription.

It was luck that brought him to Montreal, when he was desperate to continue his education to avoid deportation. He heard a man in the lab at MIT speaking French and struck up a conversation with him. My grandfather was lucky his parents had chosen to speak French in the home, in Salonica, Greece, when he was a boy. Because he knew French he could talk to the visiting engineer, explain his urgent need to find a new sponsoring university, and eventually gain entrance to McGill.

It was luck that gave him a one-year visa to the United States and Canada, not just the three-month visa he’d originally been issued. If he hadn’t been delivering a parcel from Athens to the Greek embassy in New York City, the woman at the embassy wouldn’t have offered to extend his visa.

It was luck that a peanut seller on the streets of New York City spoke Greek, and could give him directions to the embassy.

It was luck that got him out of Greece in 1948, when the country was in civil war and all males between the ages of 18 and 50 were barred from leaving the country. He was lucky to win a scholarship for summer study at MIT, lucky someone at MIT could pull favors with the American Ambassador to Greece.

It was luck that kept him alive in Nazi-occupied Greece. His family of non-practicing Jews spent the later war years in hiding in a mountain village. Whenever they heard rumour of Nazi inspections they’d spend a few nights in the woods outside town. One morning, returning from the woods to their temporary home, they encountered two Nazi soldiers. One of the soldiers shouted at my grandfather, and my grandfather thought he’d be killed. Luckily, the soldier only fancied my grandfather’s walking stick, and took only that.

It was luck that a Nazi patrol outside Athens was disorganized. My grandfather fled Athens for the mountains in a crowded truck, but was halted on the road by that patrol. My grandfather’s mother told the soldiers they were attending a wedding in the next town. The soldiers were late, and didn’t have time to search the vehicle. They ordered the passengers to check in at the next town (they never did) and let them carry on their way.

It was luck that my grandfather’s parents fled from their home in Salonica to Athens. Very few Jews from Salonica survived the Holocaust.

Genealogically, I’m one-quarter non-practicing Lucky to be alive.

Bio: Amy Attas is a graduate of York University’s Creative Writing program. Her stories have appeared in anthologies by Summit Studios and Cumulus Press, and her reviews in The Rover and The Winnipeg Review. She grew up in Pinawa, Manitoba, and now lives on the road, paying the bills planting trees.

Linda Nguyen – Pretty Things

Pretty Things

Mom, Dad and I were in Wildwood, New Jersey for a vacation. I was only three. I didn’t know what a vacation was, but I knew it meant that Dad didn’t have to work for a while.

“Yay! Đi biễn chơi!” I said in Vietnamese. We’re going to the beach! I’d only learned the word for beach when we left Montréal by car, but I didn’t know what the beach was until the sand was under my sandals, and the green-blue ocean I saw stretched on forever. Even the sky could touch it. Mom covered me in sunscreen while I built sand castles, the grains of which were coarse and uneven. Dad hobbled over to the edge of the water, testing how it was with his feet, and he came back with a pail full of cloudy water. He poured it next to my sand castle.

“Your castle will be stronger with water,” he said, and it was! My dad was a genius!

My admiration of his genius was short lived as I was distracted by all the different rocks in the sand when the water washed over them. Some big, some small, some smooth, some colourful, and some with patterns on them. I found a big one though, the size of a chicken egg. I took a break from castle-building and collected several of them, not as big as that first one, but I kept the ones I liked. I put them in my trouser pockets. Dad came back, drenched from his swim. He asked Mom to reapply the sunscreen.

“Amy, come here so I can apply sunscreen on you too,” she said.

I crawled back from my sand castle, my shorts dragging below my waist, almost off my bum.

“What are in your pockets?” Dad asked.

“Đồ đẹp,” I said. Pretty things.

Dad reached into my pockets, shaking his head but smiling.

“Don’t put stones in your pockets,” he said. “They’ll just drag you down wherever you go.”

“No they won’t,” I protested.

“Fine. Keep them,” he said. “See if I’m right.”

When it was almost time for dinner, Dad folded the beach chairs and umbrella. He carried them up to our motel while Mom brought up her beach bag and our cooler. I was tasked with bringing my castle-building tools, but my shorts kept falling down. Before we got to the massive stairs that led up to the boardwalk, I abandoned all my pretty things. Mom waited for me, smiling but not saying a word. Once we got to our motel room, Dad turned and asked me “Where are all your rocks?”

“I had to leave them behind,” I mumbled, my eyes beginning to tear up.

“I was right, wasn’t I? Don’t be sad,” he said while hugging me. “Giỏi, ba thương.” Be good and I’ll love you, he said, as if I had to be good or he wouldn’t love me at all. Sometimes, it hurt to find out how much of a genius he was.

Bio: Linda Nguyen is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in Montréal where her mind wanders and her fingers type.

rob mclennan – two untitled stories


Driving hours down highway, we pass a houseboat docked on a small rise of earth, some twenty miles from the closest body of water. A dream of ocean, between blacktop and tree-line, tied to a hydro pole. What would happen if the houseboat unmoored? Perhaps nothing, perhaps everything. Perhaps the entire illusion of what the anchor holds floating away into unrecoverable distances.


I prefer the theory that time is a single point, as opposed to a linear trajectory. Every moment ever happened or will sharing this, from the War of 1812 to the moon landing to the chaos in Egypt to the birth of my grandfather to the creation of Stonehenge to my fingers brushing up against your face the first time.



Bio: rob mclennan lives in Ottawa. He is the author of twenty books (poetry, fiction, non-fiction) winner of the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. Recent titles: Songs for little sleep, (Obvious Epiphanies, 2012), Grief Notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2012), Missing Persons (2009). He is the editor and publisher of Chaudiere Books, The Garneau Review, Seventeen Seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics, and the annual Ottawater. During 2007-8 he was a writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta. He frequently post reviews, essays, interviews and more at robmclennan.blogspot.com

Linda Hegland – The Repetitive Nature of Drowning

The Repetitive Nature of Drowning

When Simon first drowned, he was nine.

The summer it happened, Simon woke in the bee-buzz somnolence of the oppressive, sweltering mornings, already feeling he gasped for every hot breath. His sweat-stiffened hair was cemented to his head and his skin felt like old paper – parched and thin. Though Simon spent the whole of his cricket-choked and star-lit summer nights in the screened sleeping porch, rarely entering the stifling hot house but to change clothes and eat, still the dog days sapped his small-boy exuberance from him. He felt limp as an effeminate wrist, as wrung out as a well-used dishcloth.

The only repository of coolness in the whole of Simon’s small interior town was the lake – so wide that one could see nothing of the other side but a purple haze; so cold as to make one’s hesitant degree-testing toe shrivel white and aching; so deep as to be bottomless – dank, dreary home of a behemoth sleek and lonely. Simon visited there every day, pushing his face close to the surface, inhaling great gulps of moist air, rolling gouts of biting water down his bony back. He wiggled his fingers to attract minnows, swatted at ravenous mosquitoes, and ventured no closer than the wet rocks at the very edge of the water.

His mother would have been mad as a cut snake had she known he was at the lake. Deep, and cold, and wide as it was, it was nothing like an algae-scummed swimming hole or friendly simmering stream at which small summer-bewitched boys were meant to spend their adventures. It was not the place for scabbed-kneed boys’ antics or reckless dares. The family picnicked only once at the shore. It was a windy day and his older sister took a picture of him with her boxy Brownie camera, sitting on a rock. Behind him the water churned and swirled and lifted itself in irate curls of spume. Simon’s smile was hesitant as his seat was precarious, and his hair was tousled and blown across his face. After eating they had hastily packed up thermoses and blankets and hurried back to their old car. The lake had seemed affronted with them; the sun had eclipsed itself behind dark clouds and the cold gray air had bled the gayety from their outing.

On a day when the sky was the colour of faded amber and the sun seemed to fill the entire sky, Simon went again to the lake. On that day, there was no wind. The air was still, so still, holding its own breath in anticipation. The surface of the water was as sleek and as glossy and as black as the flank of his Angus calf – first prize in the 4-H fair, warm tongue sucking at his fingers.

And for no reason that Simon could say, nor could ever be asked, he stepped out onto the lake surface expecting the solidity of a marble floor and had remarkably taken several steps before he knew himself to be sinking, the icy cold numbing his body so as make him feel it had left him. He pulled his arms down by his side, lifted his head to look at the retreating sky . . . and accepted. He heard the lonely beast’s aching moans; he was aware of sinking with the smoothness of a hot knife through butter, leaving nothing to the world – not even a memory of the event as there was no one there to witness his stepping out of the world.

At just the point when his lungs, on fire, were to fill with water; at just the point when there would have been no returning, he felt himself lifted and flung onto the shore with all the ceremony of a caught fish. He flopped and gagged, gaped and gasped. He stood and ran from the lake, ran as fast as squelching shoes and sodden clothes would allow him – and then swallowed the secret of his drowning along with the green water still sputtering at his lips.

The second time Simon drowns, it’s for keeps.

An old man now; daily swims at the local pool. The walls are comfortably confining, the blue water holds no secrets. No rocks, no minnows, no moaning from the depthless depths. A sea-themed gallery of mermaids and seahorses on the ceiling solely for the benefit of back-strokers. Stroke and pull, stroke and pull.

Suddenly a cramping pain that clamps his heart and squeezes with a grip as if fearing a fall from a cliff into an abyss. As he looks up at the lights refracted and blurred through the water, as he watches the spindrift from his lungs bubble to the surface in fewer and fewer bubbles, as the booming in his ears reaches a dreadful dissonance , a great darkness fills his brain. With the undeniable, suffering perception that someone, something is coming to fetch him, he thinks, oh – I remember this.

Bio: Linda has published two short, short stories in the New Zealand ‘Smarter Than Jack’ book series, and is published (upcoming) in the Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature. She lives and writes in Port Coquitlam, BC.

Miguel Gardel – The Sun Shines Bright in California

The Sun Shines Bright in California

I once met a little girl with the whispiest blond hair I had ever seen. One day I slept with her mother who was as blond and pale as the little girl, and early in the morning I had to get back to base. The little girl was up and the mother was ahead of me and was pulling on the shade and suddenly the sun flooded the room and the little girl looked like a halo. Like a halo. Not that she had a halo. She was the halo. No angel, no Virgin, no saint: a glowing circle of gold, transparent and beautiful. It was the warm halo of the home I did not have. And her mother said, “Jennifer Ann, come drink your milk.” And the little girl moved from the light and looked at me sensing that she was never going to see me again. And I had thought she would remember me forever because I had brought her candy in the evening and had kissed her face and she called me Sheeshis (my name is Jesus). Her mother had told me she had caught her drinking a little boy’s pee while the little boy peed. But the mother didn’t create a big commotion, she simply told her not to do that again. When I left them I thought of Jennifer Ann sweetly remembering me, the man who gave her candy and kissed her face.

Bio: Miguel Gardel lives in New York and attended the City College. He has worked at many things from janitorial to journalism. His stories and essays have appeared in Bilingual Review, Best Fiction, Red Fez, Pemmican, Press One and other publications.

Will Fawley – The Black Sp.t

The Black Sp.t

When he first noticed the black spot he wasn’t sure how long it had been there. It was small and black and solid and on the palm of his hand at the base of his thumb. It looked like this: . It was the same size too. It was only a speck really, that’s why, at first, he thought it was just a pen mark. But when it didn’t wash off three days later he began to worry. He began to suspect that the spot was growing, though he still could not tell if it was under his skin or above.

He scratched at it as if hoping to dislodge it. He visited Dr. Angee, the man who had taken care of he and his wife and all three of their children until they left for college. He wasn’t satisfied when the Doctor told him it was probably nothing more than a freckle. He also wasn’t satisfied when the dermatologist told him it was a blood blister, or when the oncologist told him it could be a number of things but definitely not cancer.

The black spot was growing, yes he was sure of it. He couldn’t prove it to Dr. Angee when he went back for another checkup, but he knew it. When the doctor saw him again he said the spot was nothing to worry about and said he could prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or cut the spot off whichever he preferred.

It was not in his head, he knew it, so he asked Dr. Angee to cut the black spot off. The doctor made a show, pumping the anesthetic into the syringe, pushing the air out, flicking the tube, and then squeezing it into his thumb, he needed to believe this would work.
His hand bled red, clear and healthy, and then scabbed up into a new black spot. In the back of his mind he worried that the new black spot would never go away, even though he knew that was ridiculous, the black spot was gone for good.

But the new black spot did not go away after three days. It did not go away after a week. Or three weeks. It did not go away after a year, and none of the doctors would see him about this new black spot. He watched the new black spot every day, sure it was growing. He watched the new black spot until he died.

Bio: Will Fawley holds an MFA from George Mason University where he worked as a fiction editor for Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art.

Wayne Burke – Snapshot, 1958

Snapshot, 1958

The sound of the rain — its patter and drip

is as soothing as being held in my father’s grip

above his head as he lies face-up on the ground,

my mother sitting at a picnic table in the background.

My father has a white t-shirt on and is looking at me

while I soar at the ends of his arms, a turkey-shaped bundle,

in the air, looking ahead.

Bio: Wayne Burke has had work published recently in Boston Review, FORGE, and Bareback.

Kenneth Pobo – Two Autumns Ago, Sometimes Pink

Two Autumns Ago

I stopped in at Pete’s, got us

bi-colored sweet corn. We argued

about cabinet space. The cats

cried to go out on the porch,

though Margot, approaching nineteen,

chose the warm area behind

the propane stove. I went to work,

you went to work, cataclysm casing

the house, checking when we leave

and return. Warm days got arthritic,

turned colder. Frost ate windows.

Even then we thought everything

would go on as it had. Fall fell. Winter,

barely a day old–mom died.

Hardly a warning. Chicken wings

browned in the oven. The basement

smelled damp, needed vacuuming.

Sometimes Pink

You’re beat. Work flattens

us out so we’ll slide easily

into coffins. I’m beat.

I’d kiss you but I’m coffee

that has drabbed in the percolator

for two days. Come,

let’s walk in the garden.

The usual suspects: an orange

rose eaten by Japanese beetles,

a dahlia prepping a red

and yellow bloom, too slow,

too slow. What’s this?

Behind a pile of wood

under a blue tarp—

a Rose of Sharon: how

did it get there? Something

pink and perfect leading us,

gently, back inside

to make love.

Bio: Kenneth Pobo has a chapbook forthcoming from Eastern Point Press called Placemats.  His work has appeared in: Word Riot, Centrifugal Eye, Stickman Review, decomP, and elsewhere.

Corey Mesler – I Am The Light, Be Aware

I am the light

I am the light

under your door

you apprehend

just before

sleep comes. Your

dreams shimmer.

And in the

morning you will love me

as if it were meant to be so.

Be Aware

The demon

you fear


will be the

one who

wakes you

every morning.

His name

will be yours


his tools

the ones you

crafted for him.

Bio: COREY MESLER has published in numerous journals and anthologies. He has published 7 novels, 3 poetry collections, 3 books of short stories, a dozen chapbooks of both poetry and prose. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times, two of his poems were chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. His fiction has received praise from John Grisham, Robert Olen Butler, Lee Smith, Frederick Barthelme, Greil Marcus, among others. With his wife, he runs Burke’s Book Store in Memphis TN. Find him at http://www.coreymesler.wordpress.com.

Victoria Martinez – Advance Preparation

Advance Preparation

I feel ready to — prepared to (shh) die.
,that is —
not equipped.
But the bite marks on my frame scream
Open mouthed.
A pitch only dogs can hear
violence! Violence!
Infinitely empty : the ether
between the quarks
between the neutrons
between my cells your cellsyourteeth
Infinitely neither here, nor

Bio:  Victoria Martinez (@eigenmotion) is an editor and science writer, previously for the Canadian Light Source. Her literary work has appeared in Cactus Heart and Eat It, a literary anthology on food and feminism.

Desirée Jung – Taking a Deep Breath on Peculiar Days

Taking a Deep Breath on Peculiar Days

His father’s homosexuality bothers him

Even though he’s old. He takes sides with his mother.

Hospitalized in a care facility, his deliriums include his lovers,

Imaginary, because he doesn’t recognize anyone anymore.

In disharmony, he laments having abandoned them.

The hospital director, sitting in the entrance,

Welcomes Gustavo, who repeats his line again,

Like an echo. He often resists when visiting his father

and his resistance is a subtleness of his interactions.

The music in the hallways, as if a band was playing,

despite his misery, makes his sadness sound improbable.

“How is your father today,” is the question that persists.

Bio: Desirée Jung is a writer and translator who spends her time between languages, Portuguese and English, and countries, Canada and Brazil. When not writing, she likes to go out for long walks and have warm talks with friends.