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Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

1. I have begun listening to music again, needing something sweet in a hard world. I have been pleasantly surprised going from one Tiny Desk Concert to another. It’s a kind of shock to feel certain things again, to remember how much you used to feel, to realize how long you’ve gone without feeling. There are people who listen to music all the time, and there are people who don’t listen to music at all, and there are people who listen to music but are unaffected, and all these people are supposed to exist in the world and understand each other.

2. Go back far enough and every unhappy couple is a happy couple—even your parents. Time is moving and time is stuck. Replicated endlessly, they wonder how they got here, in the kitchen (it’s always the kitchen) after a fight. In dreams, too, you appear in a place without knowing how you got there.

3. You can get so tired, sometimes, you feel like you’ve already returned to the dust, except that it’s mud. It rained last night, you see, and the earth could not drink it all. There’s a vehicle parked down the street called the Mud Truck that serves coffee. You’re made of mud, you think, so might as well put more of it in you.

4. You’ve already seen so many people for the last time. Now and then you see someone you thought you would never see again. The effect is like listening to music.

5. The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but how many lives does it take to bend it? There was a guy, Paco, who worked on the line at a bar & grill restaurant where I bartended on the weekends. He was a funny guy. His jokes helped keep the energy up during long late-night shifts. Some of the waitresses liked him. Nobody knew how old he was, but he said he couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t grown. He had no father but such a large family that he never felt like he’d missed out on anything. He complained often about his gay brother, not because he was gay but because he “mooched too much.” He had worked dozens of jobs in his life, many much worse than his current one. He was acquainted with several cats, and they came to him behind the restaurant, even when he had nothing for them to eat. One night, waiting for the train home, he flicked a cigarette butt on the platform. He was a litterer, in other words. Someone saw him littering, and he got cited for it. Sometime later, he didn’t show up for work, and they had to hire another line cook.

~Bram Shay, Editor


Poetry

The Maiden with the Rose on Her Forehead by Marc Frazier

The Crossing by Lynn Hoggard

Postcards to Budapest by David Koenig

Candle Making by Richard Weaver

Fiction

Brady Wants to Get Shot by Ron Riekki

Summer After Summer by Ewa Mazierska

Creative Nonfiction

Henri Rochemont by Joseph E. Fleckenstein

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Build yourself a time capsule. Fill it up with the excess portion of your disappointment and disgust. Stuff it with the nausea induced by their unending, towering lies. Pour in the words you need to remember. You will need these things later, and you will be glad to have them close at hand. They will be buried there, right there, not two inches down. In the meantime, you will need to be strange and find strange ways to fight. Those who can will resist, and those who can’t will persist.

When the time comes—in eight months, in two years, in four years—your capsule will be ready to be unearthed. When you pry it open, you’ll find that the things that you saved have intermingled and coalesced. They have become a monster, a golem at your command. You will unleash it, and it will drag you uphill. You will look down at where you languished, and then, then you will not fail to act.

~Bram Shay, Editor

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Blessed Reposed image

Blessed Reposed by Douglas G. Campbell

 

The Cupboard is not where we store our politics (though you could probably infer where we stand after a relatively superficial skim), so I’m not referring to the U.S. presidential race when I say that it’s been a difficult summer. Some people are safer than ever, golden parachutes and all; others are living through violence that would not be out of place in the medieval era. If there’s a bright spot, it’s the collective human urge to catch the colorful, preposterous creatures planted in your immediate virtual environment. I’m talking, of course, about Pokémon Go and the way it’s injected the prosaic backdrop of our cities and suburbs (there’s room for improvement in rural areas, I hear) with life and whimsy. Yes, it’s artificial, but we’d never hoof five-kilometer laps around our neighborhoods to look at the same tired scenery, would we?

I won’t make the obvious analogy between a goofy monster hovering over your cracked sidewalk and the effect literature has of remaking the trusty old human experience. I’m taking a different angle with the fact that the monsters in your proximity have a shelf life of about 15 minutes before they’re rotated out for a new crop. It’s mortality (our pet obsession) at its finest: a quest—largely meaningless—to acquire all of the spoils we see. We will never succeed. But we might just spend enough time at it to run down the clock.

~T.M De Vos, Editor

Poetry

Evidence by Catherine Arra

Threshold by Gary Beck

Unfinished Business at the Halfway House by Jean Berrett

How long before I… by SuzAnne C. Cole

Without by Alexis Fedorjaczenko

An Unconventional Breaking and from Anger this Motivation by A.J. Huffman

Suicide by Gayle Newby

Elegy by Sharon Scholl

Return and Stranded on Horn Island by Richard Weaver

Nonfiction

Far from Heaven by Scarlett Gray

Fiction

Resurrection by Howard Brown

The Visible Man by Beth Sherman

 
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One remembers. One forgets. Snow drifts down and specks the tops of things. A man crosses the street to buy a sleeve of scratch cards from a kiosk. All the newspaper headlines are gloomy and ecstatic. A cheap pack of cigarettes now costs twelve bucks. Running into an old friend is like two roads converging in a wood. Turns out, one was just the long way around.

Today, we leave winter behind with an issue full of cacophony and bad sense. We leap into tales of ill-fated scuffles and ill-conceived plans, and we explore cave spaces and gorges and spare rooms and hospitals. We ask how one is supposed to know the right way to act at a party, and we wonder, and the end of the day, if politics comes down to a button and a smile.

~Bram Shay, Editor

Poetry

There Ought to Be a Manual by C. Wade Bentley

Burning Wishes  by Guiseppe Getto

One Poem by Couri Johnson

Spare Room by Suzanne Richter

Evil Wise Girl by Dvorah Telushkin

Nonfiction

Muslim Apologies by Alia Hussain Vancrown

Fiction

Cambridge Close by Raquel Moran

Of Masters and Marionettes by Faith Thomas

The Magician by Dylan Henderson

 

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The cephalopod, specifically the octopus, is our mascot for this autumnal lament/salute to impermanence. (Thank Sy Montgomery’s marvelous The Soul of an Octopus for our current obsession.) I’m thinking not only of its amorphous shape and feats of disguise—It can escape from its tank and squeeze into cracks in the wall! It can camouflage itself to look like a cloud passing over sand!—but also of its vulnerability. It’s a nautilus without a shell, “a big packet of unprotected protein,” who received with the gift of shapeshifting the curse of perpetual defensiveness—and of hunting down the calories to maintain its constant flight and invention (Montgomery, 82).

Since it wouldn’t be Gloom Cupboard if we didn’t find some metaphor for human mortality and general fallibility, I would suggest that we’re in similar straits. We need just enough intelligence to communicate, and ingratiate ourselves, with one another; too much, and we’re melancholic, antisocial, and misanthropic (and read online literary journals with names like Gloom Cupboard). Too much, and we store our collective memory and cultural markers on external servers (like GloomCupboard.com) and keep little inside. Worst of all, it makes life too hard to give up. All of the shapeshifting and makeovers and striving and dragging our packets of protein through school or work or traffic or behind a lawn mower. We know how it will end, but we need to see the shadow pass over us. We need to escape our tanks.

~T.M. De Vos, Editor

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 The first thing you need to know is that I’m not Chinese.
My name is Raymond Wong and I stopped being Chinese
at the age of five.

And so begins Raymond Wong’s touching account of his own coming of age as a Chinese American. I’m Not Chinese is part memoir, part travelogue, part lyric essay, and it is entirely warm and moving. Wong takes us with him on his journey from resentment to openness and insight, and his is a book that, while appearing at first unassuming, is, we come to realize, thick with humor and understanding.

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Vanessa Blakeslee’s short story collection, Train Shots (Burrow Press, 2014), gives you a little pause. True to the title, the breaths between stories are like the pauses in between downing shots.

Blakeslee is not afraid to end things on a suspenseful note, and I still find myself wondering about the fates of some of the characters.  For example, Layla in “Barbecue Rabbit” kept me up at night, wondering about her and her unhappy, psychopathic son, Ethan. The ending  gives such a rush. Without spoilers, let’s just say I wonder how many people wind up getting listed in the police report. It is rare to find an author who creates characters that stay with you so vividly once the book is closed.

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