January 2023 | nonfiction
The grey trout flops on the ice and stills, its blood clotted. Dave holds the rigid fish trophy-high, and I snap a photo to prove our lives are as full as the trout’s thick belly. The fish’s mouth gapes, its body wall-mounted stiff.
It’s late, this fishing. This casting into the dark maw of lake with spider-web lines that glisten in the lowering sun. I stamp the membrane of ice, knowing we forged a two-foot hole with the hand auger, yet wonder if it’s strong enough to hold us. My silhouette stretches across the surface, strange and taffy-pulled. I raise my shadow hand; I’m still here.
Frozen fish stuffed into our bag, we mount the snowmobile and fly past gnarled scrub brush teetering on the edge of the timberline. Cold bites my jutted kneecaps. I want to release my arms hooked around Dave’s waist and soar into the darkening expanse, but instead, I brace harder and close my eyes. I am a plane, a roller coaster, a train barrelling south.
The moon is a silver-scaled bowl, the sky brilliant black. Dave cuts the engine at the cabin, our silence heavier than the snow. Northern Lights peek around a ring of clouds and trawl across the sky in purple, green, and yellow tendrils.
Inside, the woodstove spears heat into each corner. Knife poised beneath a gill, he guts each fish and drops the rubbery heads into a bucket, a hollow sound, and I wonder if that’s the sound of falling out of love, not sharp and sudden, but quiet. Slow. The row of headless trout fans across layers of outdated Northern Times; warmed blood blurs the newsprint. I press my thumb to the warmth and edge the paper in a line of fading whorls, like roses, until they vanish.
Dawn Miller’s most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Cleaver Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, Fractured Lit, Typehouse, Jellyfish Review, Guernica Edition’s This Will Only Take a Minute anthology, and The Maine Review, among others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives and writes in Picton, Ontario, Canada. Connect at www.dawnmillerwriter.com and on Twitter @DawnFMiller1
January 2023 | nonfiction
Make yourself comfortable right here on the massage table. Just clean up the brows, right? Not too thick, not too thin. You’re tired? Go ahead and rest. So tell me about your life–where do you work? Oh that must be fun. I’m sure your students looove you. They are so lucky to haaaave you. You’re awesome. Your skin is beauuuutiful. If my customers have beautiful skin I tell them. You must drink a lot of water. You look really hydrated. I looove this music too. It’s Pandora. Hipster Cocktail Party Station. They have so many great stations. I love Pandora. It really helps because it sounds so happy and the world is going craaaaazy! The world is craaaazy right now and I’m going craaaazy. Have you seen Black Mirror on Netflix? Go home and watch it. It’s awesome. So awesome. You don’t have any chin hairs. Oh wait. There’s a couple. I’ll just pluck ’em. And one more. I can save you money by not waxing your chin. We’ll just do the lip and the brows. I’ll set you up with a frequent-wax-customer-card so you’ll get a discount after ten visits, whatdya think? Wow, are those your bike bags? They’re so big! I could probably fit in one of them. You could definitely fit in one of them. Are they waterproof? Sure, I can trim your eyebrows. It’s my favorite thing to do. I hate when they get long, like they’re reaching for the sky. Have you watched the January 6 hearings? All those rioters need jail time. Your skin is great, it doesn’t get red like most people’s when I wax them. You’re soooooo lucky. I didn’t think I’d like Liz Cheney but she’s awesome. It’s great that you’re right in the neighborhood. You can just bike over after work. We’re so close! That’s great. It’s just the three of us here. Heidi, Lisa and me. Lisa walked in right before you did. We loove it here. It’s so awesome. We’ve been here 15 years. Heidi’s the owner and she’s so great. Is purple your favorite color? Your glasses are purple, your shirt is purple. It looks awesome on you. I loooove your shirt. It’s so soft, so purple. It looks awesome with your yellow sweater. Okay, I’m just gonna let this wax dry on your lip. I’m just gonna turn on this bright light here to make sure I got all the hairs. Oops just one more chin hair. Deep breath. Ready, here we go.
Tess Kelly’s work has appeared in Sweet, Cleaver, and Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, among other journals. She lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.
October 2022 | nonfiction
You find yourself in your junior high milk room-turned-dark room on a Saturday morning being taught to process film by your 8th grade science teacher. (His suggestion.)
You are crying because the prior afternoon your dad cuffed you so hard that the space before your eyes became a black-and-white checkerboard of spots. You willed yourself not to faint, kept your head up, eyes forward, and walked to your room, where you closed the door and laid down until morning.
You are enveloped in the pungent odor of metallic solution emanating from a silver tray. You are, instead of comforted, given your first French kiss by this balding man. His hands slide beneath your lavender tee as his wife and two eldest children come into focus in the developing fluid. Apparitions entering into black and white, the Mrs., so young then, sits on a park bench, toddler at one knee, baby clasped in a white blanket in her arms, and smiles into the lens, into her future.
Janine Harrison wrote the memoir/guidebook, Turning 50 on El Camino de Santiago: A Solo Woman’s Travel Adventure(Rivette Press, 2021), poetry collection, Weight of Silence (Wordpool Press, 2019), and chapbook, If We Were Birds(Locofo Chaps, 2017). Her work has appeared in Haiku for Hikers, Veils, Halos, and Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women, Not Like the Rest of Us: An Anthology of Contemporary Indiana Writers, A&U, Gyroscope Review, and other publications. She teaches creative writing at Calumet College of St. Joseph and serves as a Highland Arts Council member. Formerly, Janine was a Highland Poet Laureate, an Indiana Writers’ Consortium leader, and a poetry reviewer for The Florida Review.
October 2022 | nonfiction
I sometimes lie on a hammock in my garden. My “yard” I call it because I’m American now. And I look up at the trees above the hammock and at the house and the windows. I feel quite alone at these times. I mean not alone as in “lonely” but cut off from the world around me, in my own world. Undisturbed. And while lying there, I sometimes listen to an audio book. Today it was a book of short stories by an old friend, Christine Schutt. We haven’t been in touch for years. Two stories stayed with me. One was about a woman who lives in the suburbs with her husband and teenage son. At the beginning of the story, she has just come back from a day shopping in the city. She is waiting on the deserted station platform. It’s dark. But neither her son nor the husband is there to meet her and no one picks up the phone when she calls home. There are no taxis. So she decides to walk. Decides it really isn’t too far even though she is carrying bags full of clothes she bought for her husband’s birthday. The story is just about her walk. It ends before she arrives home.
In the winter, I often sit in the family room with the lights off listening to books. This winter, I listened to Maggie Gyllenhaal read Anna Karenina. Her voice is relaxing. Often so relaxing that it put me to sleep. I was sorry when it was over. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s face is familiar to me from films, so it was easy for me to picture her in her studio speaking into a microphone, the book open on a device like a kindle or on her computer screen. I imagined her leaning forward slightly.
A still life is a painting of things not people. But the term makes me think of people too. For instance, I think of myself as a still life because I’m still alive. Funny how the word “still” can mean different things.
Today, as I sit alone in a dark corner, I look out at the trees in my garden.
Nigel Paton is a teacher at a high school in New Jersey. Nigel’s writing has appeared in Tiferet: Journal – Fostering Peace Through Literature and Art. He can be seen and heard at poetryarchive.org. He spent part of this summer, 2022, at the Edinburgh Festival, happily revisiting the fringe where his play about Mervyn Peake was once performed.
October 2022 | nonfiction
The inside of the ice-cream truck is a hot dark closet with syrup air that gags. We are rumbling around a New Jersey cul-de-sac and no one can catch us. My six-year-old fingers are soft worms straining to hold onto the slippery silver rod above. The floor shakes, but my bare legs do a clumsy dance to stay standing. The man in the white uniform driving looks back at me and smiles. I wonder if my big sisters can see me. The ledge of the slide-open window is too high to peek over. The tinkling bells and cries of the neighborhood children outside, the radio voices of Diana Ross and The Supremes inside cannot drown out the sound of my blood pounding: This is the bravest thing I have ever done. …baby love, my baby love / Been missing ya, miss kissing ya.
We stop so hard I must grab the bar with both hands. I bump up against the freezer with sticky red popsicles, ice-cream sandwiches, and fudge bars. I cannot wait to see the faces of the others clutching quarters in their hands, when I pop out of this ice-cream limousine. They have never been inside, like me. I will spring out in surprise.
But the only face I see is my father’s.
What is he doing here? He is never here when we buy ice-cream. He is away “on business” when we buy ice-cream, when we ride bikes, when we go to Brownies, when we have back-to-school nights. When we wake up because our mother is crying, smoking and drinking from the jug of red wine on the kitchen table. My father’s eyes scare me; he looks like a killer. I am afraid he is going to hit me. But he lunges past, at something white behind me.
A. Cabrera’s poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction essays have appeared in The New Guard, Brain Child Magazine, Colere, Acentos Review, Ravensperch, Best Travelers’ Tales 2021 Anthology, Deronda, and other journals. Their work has also been nominated for a Pushcart Award and adapted for stage by the Bay Area Word for Word Theater Company.
October 2022 | nonfiction
There’s singing and then there’s Freddie Mercury. Out of the deep and deepening well of sound just there in him as if music like a swarm of bees searching for home at last finds it in him, pours into him, seeps into every molecule of bone and marrow, shimmers the blood flowing through every capillary, flumes up into his throat and rushes out to buoy me on the exhilarating, turbulent sea of Bohemian Rhapsody, waking my fallow griefs, fruiting them in every bare note of a capella then oozing into ballad then punching up my flagging spirit with fisticuffs of opera and hard rock then wafting ever so slowly like a collapsing mylar balloon sinking back and hovering over the reflecting well of sound in him and submerges there.
Biographer David Bret puts Mercury’s deep, throaty rock-growl nudging a tender, vibrant tenor to life, then scaling a high-pitched, perfect coloratura, pure and crystalline, in my ears, and for a moment I hear the small shatters of broken glass on kitchen floors, the throb of tired feet and stubbed toes on a narrow trail. I draw a breath of musty, fragrant air, duck my head into a dust devil whirl of exhilaration and then I’m wrapped in the chill of lost ways and then lifted in crazy joy, into the mosaic of a stained glass window sunlight beamed through the pinwheeling colors splashed onto a stone cathedral floor.
He’s humming now, collecting minors and majors, pulling out useful detritus from his storied life as he draws out a velvet chair, directs me into it, and settles me at the groaning board of the feast. The late summer dusk chorus of crickets starts up and I do not shut the windows all night.
Paula Marafino Bernett
Paula Marafino Bernett’s poetry has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Clackamas Literary Review, The Louisville Review, Margie, Nimrod International Journal, Rattle, Salamander, Tar River Poetry, and Whiskey Island, among others. Her lyric essay “Digression and Memory, The Handmaiden Effect” and a companion essay “Four Hands Improvising on a Piano” appeared in Fourth Genre. A lyric essay “The Smallest Leaning Begins …” was published in Eastern Iowa Reviewand Birdcoat Quarterly published “Lady Mondegreen Rises from the One Who Was Laid Upon the Green.” The flash essay “How a Person Becomes a Body” was published by Gigantic Sequins and nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MaLa from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM. She lives in NYC with Chance, her beloved Chessie.
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