The Twilight Zone

         begins with dissonant strains of the national anthem, further distorted by the rink’s poor acoustics, accompanying the humming exit of the Zamboni machine.  In the white glare of overhead lights, they signal it’s time to “get in the zone” for the free skate warm-up.

You don’t want to hear about the “home of the brave,” or “bombs bursting in air,” knowing better than to take an early victory lap.

         Your group is called for warm up. Skating around twice, getting the feel of the ice. A spin, then on to  jumps. Look confident. Don’t look at others. One more double Axel. The five minutes almost up.

         Skating  first means cutting warm-up short. Going last, losing the feel of the ice, hearing competitor’s applause, convincing yourself you don’t have to pee again. Order drawn from a hat.  You deal with the hand you’ve been dealt.

       The calling of your name, the assuming start position center ice, the waiting for music to begin. In an arena so hushed you can hear your pulse hammering. Breathe. You’re in the air at an angle. Ban the vision. Smile. Just four interminable minutes.  Flirt with the audience after the double flip. You actually land it. Barely. The final spin, so fast the blood vessels break in your forearms. The list of your mistakes, as you wait for the marks in “the kiss and cry.”  At what point does your pulse return to baseline, breathing to normal?  At what point do you emerge from the twilight zone?  Maybe never.

Lorraine Hanlon Comanor

Lorraine Hanlon Comanor is a former U.S. figure skating champion and U.S. team member. A graduate of Harvard University, Stanford University School of Medicine, and the Bennington Writing Seminars, she is a board-certified anesthesiologist and author or co-author of 35 medical publications.  Her personal essays have appeared in the NER (Pushcart Nominee), Boulevard (Notable in Best American Essays of 2020), New Letters, Ravens Perch, Ruminate, Gold Man Review, Book of Matches, Deep Wild, Consequence, Joyland Magazine, in press The Healing Muse and The Rumpus.

Moon Child

We drank Tang, just like the astronauts,

but stopped short of breakfasting

on freeze-dried eggs. Saturdays,

Dad melted Crisco in the fryer,

dropped little meteors of batter

into the bubbles, served up fritters

with real maple syrup. Sixties kids

had it made in the shade— all-day freedom

on banana-seat bikes, Oscar Meyer

bologna sandwiches eaten on the fly,

Nestle’s chocolate chips folded

into Toll House cookie dough by Mom,

a June Cleaver clone except that she wore

capris instead of a dress, and hair statuesque

in an eight-inch beehive. Her Max Factor lipstick—

Electric Pink— always freshly applied,

the house swept, dusted, and promptly at 6,

martini’d. The family’s crisp white edges

began to curl at cocktail hour, threatened to tear

at dinner, the effort of kindness simply

too burdensome for our mission commander to bear.

As the Green Giant canned peas were passed

and the potato-chipped tuna noodle casserole

spooned out, one wrong word, an errant opinion,

an ill-timed sigh— and all planets ceased

rotation around the sun. I sat farthest away,

little brother too close. Little elbows on the table…

a big man can be a fast man. A spoon a weapon.

A woman, powerless. A moon child escapes

in her mind-made spaceship— rocketing away

to the lunar maria, their vast darkness

so perfect for hiding.



Ann Weil

Ann Weil is a past contributor to Burningword Literary Journal. Her most recent work appears in Maudlin House, Pedestal Magazine, DMQ Review, 3Elements Review, The Shore, and New World Writing Quarterly. Her chapbook, Lifecycle of a Beautiful Woman, debuted in April 2023 from Yellow Arrow Publishing. To read more of her poetry and flash fiction, visit

The Goats

Even before the car turned into their driveway, Wilma and Edgar could see they had visitors.

            “Is that what I think it is?” Edgar said to his wife of forty years.

            “I believe so,” she answered.

            “Oh, well.” He peered out at two small goats. They had taken over the small porch—one  nibbled at the leg of Wilma’s rocker, the other rubbed its backside against a porch post.

            “That post is loose,” Edgar said.

            “Aren’t you going to park?” Wilma asked.

            “Reckon so.” Edgar removed his foot from the brake. He stopped shy of the carport, not wanting to lose sight of the goats.

            Locked in her own stupor, Wilma was thinking of all the times she’d asked Edgar to screen in the porch. Her concern had been mosquitos that kept her from enjoying late afternoons outside.

She looked at the largest of the goats—the one with a clump of hair hanging from its chin. An image of Edgar in his fifties leapt from her memory—he’d sworn he’d never shave the goatee. She smiled, thinking of the day he had.

            She wondered, aloud, “Where did they come from.”

            “Probably the goat farm down the road,” Edgar said.

            “They travel that far?”
“Oh, yes, farther.” Edgar wanted Wilma to stop talking. They would have to go in to bed soon; it was already past eight. He could feel her restlessness.

            “We’ll have to go in,” she said.


            As the couple sat in silence, the goats began prancing around. The older goat came to the very edge of the porch and looked squarely into Edgar’s eyes. The animal let out a loud, “Blleeeeaaahhh.”

            Wilma flinched.

            “They’re testing us,” Edgar said.

            “Well, I don’t like it.”

            “Now, now.” Edgar patted her left knee. Her dress had ridden up her leg. He felt the warmth of her skin beneath his hand.

            She said nothing. He could feel the tension running through her.

            He hoped she wasn’t recalling all his foibles. That’s what she did now. He was too distant, too independent; then other times he was too nice, too cloying. He knew she was waiting for him to get out of the car and chase the goats away. Then she could go straight to her room, get out of her travel clothes, and lie down on her bed, alone.

            The goats romped some more; one hopped onto Wilma’s rocker and fell back as the chair rocked suddenly.

            This made Edgar laugh. “Look at them. I wish I still had that kind of energy.”

            “Blah,” his wife said.

            There was something about the way Wilma said, “Blah.” Edgar could feel his hand, still on his wife’s knee. A flash of old desire nudged him, touched him deep—much as if a sexy woman had bumped against him, and he was forced to pay attention.

Edgar couldn’t understand it, but he felt young again, ready. He looked into his wife’s eyes and squeezed her knee.

             “You old goat,” she replied.

Juyanne James

Juyanne James is the author of The Persimmon Trail and Other Stories (Chin Music Press, 2015) and Table Scraps and Other Essays (Resource Publishers, 2019). Her stories and essays have been published in journals such as The Louisville Review, Bayou Magazine, Eleven Eleven, Thrice, Ponder Review, and Xavier Review, and included in the anthologies New Stories from the South: 2009 (Algonquin) and Something in the Water: 20 Louisiana Stories (Portals Press, 2011). Her essay “Table Scraps” was a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2014. She lives and teaches in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Dragonfly Puzzle Box


Honeyed mystery of mahogany,

oak, walnut, teak, Fall’s tawny

offerings sanded into curves,

smooth invitation to touch,

like the sun-warmed thigh

& rising hip of that sunbaked

young woman you once were,

drowsing on a black sand beach

in Santorini, water beading

on your belly.



This box hides your secrets:

How did you get from there to here?

What bodies? What lies?

The stolen quarters/kisses,

the unmade bed, the 6 a.m. departure.

What did you know & when?



After you’ve been unmade,

can you learn trust like fitting

pieces of different puzzles

together? Remember how

they returned your uterus

to its wet cave after the knife

discharged its shrieking cargo?



How do you birth yourself

into a new name, receive

the gift of it in another’s mouth,

let it melt onto another’s tongue

like Amaro—bitter/sweet & smoky,

let that same tongue undress

your inhibitions, rendering

skin & sinew, splaying bones,

exposing the last hidden chamber?



Is it too much—

all this allowing?

How your ribcage’s rusty hinges

once oiled with clamor and hush

swung wider and wider in desire.



Were you too much, wearing

your need like drought?

How he slipped away

in millimeters of silence,

disappearing even as he stood

before you—naked, dripping,




Your blind fingers stagger

around the subtle lynchpin.

Had we arrived at the end

of each other? Or could a box

be a road to reunion?



Relax. Let surrender carve

a door to a new dimension. Step

through. Let his arms curve

around you. Let his elegant hands

reveal what was jigsawed shut:

a lacuna large enough

for hope.


Elya Braden

Elya Braden is a writer and mixed-media artist living in Ventura County, CA, and is an editor for Gyroscope Review. She is the author of the chapbooks Open The Fist (2020) and The Sight of Invisible Longing, a semi-finalist in Finishing Line Press’s New Women’s Voices Competition (March 2023). Her work has been published in Anti-Heroin Chic, Prometheus Dreaming, Rattle Poets Respond, Sequestrum, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, The Louisville Review, and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets.

O The Leaving

I listen to U2

while the MRI machine clinks into action

and Bono croons

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,

his voice muffled by the hygienic sleeves

covering the headphones,

his words far away,

poltergeist from the past.


Eyes closed,

I see myself riding in the Mercury Sable,

traveling from Bakersfield to the Bay Area,

Santa Ana winds whipping

my hair into a frenzied halo,

the setting sun gilding

the hills on Pacheco Pass–

their curves round as sea lion heads–

the highway a gash,

the murky reservoir just one of many

promises that won’t be kept.


The road ahead winds serpentine

as we sing

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

out into the night,

my restlessness the persistent backbeat

pushing us away from here,

the only place

we’d ever really feel

was home.


I can tell you now

I’d never felt so free, so alive,

ignorant of all

I was leaving behind,

though the valley below flatlined,

and the Harris Ranch cows

lowed a mournful warning

I never fully understood until

much later:

don’t leave don’t leave     don’t leave


Jennifer Randall Hotz

Jennifer Randall Hotz is a poet currently living in Pennsylvania.  She holds an M.A. in English from San José State University.

Clapping Game

They played on the rug, Erica Hashimoto and her mom, they played the clapping game. Her mom said the words, and they clapped their hands across the empty air.

Willy was a German,

Willy was a thief,

Willy came into my house,

And caused a lot of grief.

Erica knew the game. Her mom had learned it in camp, where she and the other girls had clapped their mittened hands and laughed, and the only variation was to say it louder than the last, because in camp what else was there to do?

Her mom stopped playing on the rug. She got up. It was 1965, and there were lots of things to do. The moms were coming over for the big luncheon. Becky Sakamoto and Erica and the other girls were to play in the front yard.

* * *

Willy was a German.

Erica could see the moms through the big window. They were seated in the living room around the rug and talking. What were they talking about? Erica was bored with the girls’ games, so she went in to sit on her mom’s lap. She watched the women smoke cigarettes and talk in allusions she did not understand.

Willy was a thief.

“What is camp anyway?” she finally burst.


Willy came into my house.

Erica slipped out of her mom’s lap and went back to the other girls, her bobbed hair bouncing. Click of white leather sandals. Erica was not curious about camp. Not really. And her mom never suggested that she should be.

And caused a lot of grief.

Erica found her dad on the front lawn, watching the children play in the street. He was standing on their half of the duplex lawn, beside the dried out vegetables patch with its little Popsicle sticks that told you what had tried to grow. Erica took his hands, and allowed herself to be spun, round and round, saying “Willy was a German, Willy was a thief, Willy came into my house…” Then Erica’s white sandals dragged in the brown grass. Her dad was done. They held hands. He said nothing. He fought for breath.

“We don’t say those words,” he wheezed.

And caused a lot of grief.

Erica didn’t ask her dad about camp. She knew the story, how they called him Charlie Hustle, the way he ran the bases, even when the dust was bad, he ran so fast, and the dust stuck in his lungs, and Erica didn’t ask because she knew. Walking out to the girls in the street, she held her dad’s hand. He didn’t hold hers back. She didn’t expect him to.

We don’t say those words.

We don’t say any words at all.

Evan Morgan Williams

Evan Morgan Williams has published over fifty short stories in literary magazines famous and obscure, including Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, ZYZZYVA, Witness, and Antioch Review. He has published three collections of short stories: “Thorn,” winner of Chandra Prize at BkMk Press in 2014, “Canyons: Older Stories” self-published in 2018, and “Stories of the New West,” published by Main Street Rag Press in 2021. Williams holds an MFA, tattered and faded, from the University of Montana in 1991. He has just retired after 29 years as a Language Arts teacher in Oregon’s toughest middle school.

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