Women’s Liberation

I write about my mother in beginnings. 1187 words. Then 1090, then 886, then 690. Finally, something I title, “Mom, Trying,” but it’s a blank page. A pretend surface for zero ideas. A bald-faced failure. Mine and hers.

Then not-made-up short fiction: a 1971 protagonist, sedated by Elavil and Valium. Her doctor calls her one of his unhappy housewives. She walks through her living room in the mid-afternoon, her gauzy nightgown brushing the carpet, the house empty. She picks up the local college newspaper from the coffee table and sees a headline: “Sexuality Conference Begins Next Week.” She reads the words women’s liberation for the first time.

Her legs fail her. She grabs the back of a frayed wingback chair and holds on. She does not fall. She reads the story again and again.

She leaves her husband, a drunken narcissist English professor.

But also her two children, who are none of these.

Here, I stop writing.

A few years later, my mother files for custody and wins, her debt a mountain, her regret an ocean below.

She now appears in essays I write: At 16, I make myself vomit as she pounds on the locked bathroom door. At 18, I withhold plans to drink and drink and drink as she waves goodbye from the front door. At 22, I sob in paranoia and panic as she drives me to a hospital.

At 25, I ache with morning sickness and shame as she asks no questions and, I am certain, wipes out her savings account when she mails the check inside a folded note. I’m so happy to help, she writes. I’m glad I can do this. Make sure you get enough sleep. Each line level across the page, her cursive steady.

As I revise this, she is dead at 83. She had dementia. All of her lifelong struggles gone, her final hours both terminal and restless, tremors of objection she could not control.

Mom, I said. I held my face in her line of vision as her knees shook beneath her sheet. Do you know who I am?

A storm of memory in her eyes.

Yeah, she said.

She would not have retained my thanks, I tell myself. She would have forgotten, immediately, who I am.

It’s your daughter, I could have said. Who you loved.


Anna B. Moore

For the last two decades, Anna B. Moore has been publishing creative nonfiction, essays, and short fiction in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including The Missouri Review, The Offing, and Identity Theory. Two of her essays were nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net 2022; her first novel will be published by Unsolicited Press in 2024. She lives in Northern California—read more of her work at www.annabmoore.com.


Each time gets you instant skinny. As soon as the kid slips out. Okay, maybe not exactly “slips.” More like twenty-two hours of show-off stoic teeth-clenching stuffed-down guttural silent wailing, spring-loaded contorted spasming and twisted viscera vice-gripped wrenching, on all fours, crouching, bucking, crouching, bucking, butt-up then flipping, or being flipped, waxed pussy exposed to probing perineum massaging fingers stretching skin not meant to be stretched so thin it rips…. No! No! No! No! I changed my mind. Too late, can’t go back, can’t stop now. No epidurals for you. Just fifteen milligrams of morphine that do nothing. NOTHING. Get it out of me! They won’t let you push. Not now, just rest, just wait. The calm between storms. Worse than the searing stabs of pain is waiting for it to attack again. You’re doing great. Take a break, have a rest.… YOU HAVE TO SHIT IT OUT NOW! Why won’t the let you? Jerking, kicking, flailing, an animal eviscerated from the inside out, sinewed innards ripped apart like string cheese. You clutch Naomi Wolff’s Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood so hard it drips ink onto crumpled sheets, scream accusations during the exorcism to nurses checking vitals. Your husband’s face so close you could bite it off as he mansplains Lamaze-class breathing techniques. FUCK him and anyone else in the room not being ripped right now from sphincter to urethra by a live basketball trying to drive itself through a pinhole. He orders in Thai food and watches a crime show while you “rest.” Then, finally, spun on your side, legs held up and out, one final UGHHH ….  Easy. And you are skinny again. Or, at least not pregnant. Instant relief. You can breathe all the way. Your body torn, pulled inside out, is yours again. The infant placed upon your chest, slimed-alive pygmy alien crawls blind-eyed to the nipple and suckles.

You can see your feet and roll on your stomach again. And the boobs, a puberty you never had, big and hard, so full and round they look fake, Instagramable tits producing life juice, immunity superfood full of nutrients. And you thought pregnancy gave you boobs? These are another category, cups so full they shoot way up the alphabet. For the first time in your life, you have a chest that sticks out, more proud and womanly than ever been before.

Then the shitting starts. The first day out for a walk, alone with your precious angel perfect infant snug-wrapped close against your body, swaddled in the all-natural fiber baby wrap, imbuing you with a preternatural youthful beauty, though yours was a geriatric pregnancy. You wear white slip-on sneakers, the denim maxi-skirt from a French designer bought on sale at a boutique you permit yourself to browse in only once every two years, if that. The air as alive as you and your newborn. A bright calm clean day bears witness as you mother life upon your very being when your body decides to go rogue, and your anus explodes, a poop right there on the street. Your butthole expels a warm soft-serve you feel ooze down your thighs. You want to run the block and a half home but must keep the legs closed, fast walk in urgent tiny Geisha steps. Squeeze sphincter, squeeze sphincter, hold it, hold it… Almost home, your body relaxes before you are ready; something opens, dribbles out a warm splurt again. You all but throw your precious days-old cargo onto the bed, work fast to extricate yourself from the muslin cloth and leap onto the toilet. With speed and care you pull the postpartum mesh underwear down and out, so as to not spread the excrement even more, a move you will come to perfect in years to come when changing infants and toddlers in the same predicament. An expert in the tender cleaning of messes.


A. Cabrera

A. Cabrera’s creative nonfiction and fiction have appeared in The New Guard, Brain,Child Magazine, Colere, Acentos Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Best Travelers’ Tales 2021 Anthology, Deronda, Anti-Heroin Chic, and other journals. Their work has been nominated for a Pushcart Award and adapted for stage by the Bay Area Word for Word Theater Company.

Swear to God? Or How to Seduce the Most Beautiful Girl in Town

Male high school students back in the 1950s were prone, like teenage boys everywhere, to boast about their exploits. Whenever one of them told a story that was hard to believe, the others would blurt, “Swear to God?” The storyteller was required to reply: “Swear to God!” The tale often involved some sexual exploit that had about as much chance of being true as the teller’s having recently been transported by aliens to the moon. Never mind: if it was lurid enough or entertaining enough, fantasy would happily substitute for reality. For enormous whoppers, the other boys would say not merely, “Swear to God?” but also “Mother’s honor?” To which the proper response was: “Mother’s honor” uttered with right hand raised, left hand over the heart, and eyes tilted heavenward. It is unclear which was more sacred, whether “Swear to God?” ranked first because it was invoked first, with “Mother’s honor?” called upon simply to bolster the case or whether “Mother’s honor?” ranked higher because it was invoked last and was the ultimate court of appeal. There were other solicitations, such as “No shit?” and “Cross your heart?” but “Swear to God? and “Mother’s honor?” got top billing. One particularly tall tale required that we pull out all the ritual stops. My glibbest sixteen-year-old friend, for whom truth was absolutely no constraint, concocted a story of how the most beautiful older girl in town had succumbed to his charms. She was in her mid-twenties, had dark, dreamy eyes, full, sexy lips, large pert breasts, and an irresistible beauty mark halfway down her right cheek. The seduction tale proceeded in a heated frenzy for at least fifteen minutes during which my friend omitted no obscene detail whatsoever and his panting cohort listened in rapt awe. At the climax of which, so to speak, the group shouted: “No Shit?! Cross your heart?! Mother’s honor?! SWEAR TO GOD?!” To which my friend calmly replied, with his right hand raised, left hand over his heart and eyes titled heavenward: “No shit. Cross my heart. Mother’s honor. Swear to God.”


David Blumenfeld

David Blumenfeld (aka Dean Flowerfield) is a former philosophy professor and associate dean who in retirement returned to writing poetry, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature, which he abandoned in his thirties to devote full-time to philosophy. One of his recent pieces was cited in Best American Essays, 2022 as a “notable essay;” another received a Pushcart Prize nomination; a third was “highly commended” in the 2022 Autumn Voices international poetry competition and will soon be republished in Five Points. His work for children has appeared in The Caterpillar, Balloons Lit. Journal, Smarty Pants, Carmina, and various anthologies.  www.davidcblumenfeld.com


I shift a pile of books on my desk, and dozens of slips of paper shower to the floor. They’re wrinkled and torn, some no larger than one square inch, each decorated in my dad’s shaky cursive—noting an idea, a page number, the name of a theologian long dead.

My dad threw away nothing. His home office was uninhabitable, full of faculty meeting agendas from the 70s; sixty years of tax returns; yellowed articles about canning tomatoes and pruning apple trees; tattered lecture notes for every class he ever taught; a lifetime of letters from his mother.

During his final year, I pressed him to go through boxes—“What do you want to keep?”—and he would grow quiet, brow furrowed. I scolded him as I sat on his living room floor, sorting bag after bag of junk mail. “Why don’t you just throw these away?”

Going through his things, I sometimes discovered a treasure: the letter written to his congressmen when he was twelve years old, imploring them to help the people of Finland and China; the curled black and white photos of him at eighteen on a San Diego pier in his Navy uniform; notebooks from his first year at Yale, thanks to the GI Bill. Each provided a glimpse into an earlier version of my dad, before I knew him.

But why keep the departmental minutes from 1982? The dozens of church bulletins? The wrapping paper scraps and flyers from neighborhood handymen he never hired?

Now that Dad is gone, it’s up to me to parse what has value and what does not. But now, of course, everything holds more value than it did before—each item or paper or Post-It note a tether back to him.

So, I have become a curator of his things: the faded red tape dispenser and the heavy lead stapler that sit on my desk; his unfinished manuscript, which I emailed to myself for safekeeping; hundreds of his notated books that populate my shelves; his Martin Luther bobblehead perched on my dining room window sill; his prize tangerine tree, which I carefully rotate into the sun. And those many slips of paper decorated in his shaky scrawl—the physical manifestation of his mind at work—those I hold in my open palm like wilted blossoms so that they, too, are not lost to me.

Kate Hopper

Kate Hopper is a writer, editor, writing coach, and the founder of Motherhood & Words®. She is the author of Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood, winner of a Midwest Independent Publishing Award, and she’s co-author of Silent Running, a memoir of one family’s journey with autism and running. Her writing has appeared in a number of journals, including Brevity, Creative Nonfiction’s True Story, Longreads, Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times online, Poets & Writers, and River Teeth. Kate has taught creative writing for over 20 years, and lives in Minneapolis with her family. For more information about her work visit www.katehopper.com.

Featured Author: Richard Holinger

Governing the Western Field

Mowing the field west of the train car my grandfather bought in 1935, a retired Pullman, the “Constitution.” It perches above Rock Creek, overlooking a floodplain of thick woods where bluebells carpet the floor in spring.

I’ve waited too long. The grass, two or three feet tall, hides mounds of dirt and winter-downed branches dropped from oaks fringing the field’s perimeter. My right foot rides the Deere’s clutch continuously, my right hand on the mower’s lever to raise when hearing the blade hit wood or hillock. Duck out of the way as brambles and branches the vertical exhaust pipe catches then sweeps back at me. The first pass goes slowly, in first gear, gas levered high to speed the mower’s revolutions, my path a snail’s coil into the center, throwing what amounts to hay bubbling out like a wake behind the five-foot blade, the right front tire treading on previously mown grass. The fuzz of dust and seeds build on my naked back. Something briefly blinds an eye. The knuckles on the index finger of my left hand turning the steering wheel burns like it’s been macheted. The mower lowers to kill what poison ivy it can. I swing as close as possible to the trunks of outlying trees to cut the flora around visible and invisible roots.

There used to be beef cattle here. We’d climb the fence, the top wire barbed, and walk with our hardballs, mitts, and Louisville sluggers to the open area of the field from which we’d chase any cattle grazing there back into the woods and ravine beyond left field. We’d pitch and hit, run to first while the outfield ran down the ball, no one not stepping in cow pies, their crusted shells squished open to gooey yellow filling spreading onto the rubber bottoms and up the canvas sides of Keds. Rules were Main Man out, right field closed if not enough players, at-bat team pitches to itself, and any ball thrown to home plate for an out can’t be intentionally dropped.

Now the fence is down, the farmland’s sold, and the floodplain where my brothers and farmers on horseback herded cattle up to the barns for feeding has been given to the town for a public park. Our family owns only the five acres around the train car.

A third time around mulches, somewhat, the long, bunched, pale green clumps of stems, thistles, and occasional early wildflower. The field needs raking. I’ll wait for people to help me with that. It’s illegal, but we’ll burn the piled grass, the gray smoke giving us away. No one will bother to come. It is, after all, early spring, and nature needs to be governed.

Richard Holinger

Richard Holinger’s books include the essay collection, Kangaroo Rabbits and Galvanized Fences, and North of Crivitz, poetry of the Upper Midwest. His work has appeared in Southern Review, Witness, ACM, Ocotillo Review, and Boulevard, and has garnered four Pushcart Prize nominations. “Not Everybody’s Nice” won the 2012 Split Oak Press Flash Prose Contest, and his Thread essay was designated a Notable in Best American Essays, 2018. Degrees include a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a M.A. in English from Washington University. Holinger has taught English and creative writing on the university and secondary school levels and lives northwest of Chicago far enough to see deer, turkeys, and foxes cross his lawn. He’s working on two collections, creative nonfiction and short fiction, many pieces already appearing in journals such as Iowa Review, Western Humanities Review, Chicago Quarterly, Hobart.

Ice Fishing

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

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

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