In Twos

by on Nov 30, 2017

Her glasses are on the night table. Propped up on two cushions, she is asleep, her mouth half-open, a bubble of saliva shifting on her lip with every breath. The ceiling fan purrs. A quiet room, otherwise. Tiptoeing near her bed I see a tiny fly approach her face. As if sensing it, she raises her arm, brushing against her forehead. I stop breathing. But she continues in her sleep, as if she is on a journey and this moment that just passed was but a momentary stop, a blip, a slight distraction.

no one
in the mirror
night of ghosts


Stella Pierides is a poet and writer. Her books include: Of This World: 48 Haibun (Red Moon Press, 2017) and Feeding the Doves: 31 Short and Very Short Stories (Fruit Dove Press, 2013). Her haiku and micropoetry collection In the Garden of Absence (Fruit Dove Press, 2012) received a Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award. Currently she manages the Per Diem: Daily Haiku feature for The Haiku Foundation. Find her online at

In Homage to Those Who Metamorphose

by on Sep 21, 2017

Lithe and tanned, tattooed and bandana-ed, he caught every eye in an evening class of adult learners sharing notes and dreams plus breath mints and chips from the snack bar two stories below.

He tracked the action with a non-blinking gaze and shared deep-exhaled ideas, throaty words caressing the room–life truths from a biker Yoda in boots.

One evening toward the end of May he told the hushed room of imprisonment for violent offenses; anger management classes; parole; loss of parental rights; drug abuse; total, utter, visceral despair; and hate–mainly for himself, but directed at others.

You wouldn’t have liked me very much then, he said, striding out the door, leather-clad, helmet in hand.


Sarah Bigham teaches, writes, and paints in Maryland where she lives with her kind chemist wife, their three independent cats, an unwieldy herb garden, several chronic pain conditions, and near-constant outrage at the general state of the world tempered with love for those doing their best to make a difference. Find her at

Once Upon a Linear Time

by on Aug 23, 2017

i don’t believe in space wormholes, time travel, events unravelling counter-clockwise. what is becomes what was. time is an arrow. resurrection comes only in memory, the rising of the dead, the rolling back of the stone in mind and dream. this is the dimension of ghost where physical laws don’t rule and time isn’t an arrow shot from a bow. the constant struggle to keep from slipping into randomness. forces weakening until connections loosen like petals falling from the autumn flower. although once upon a linear time everything was as simple as leaping over a puddle in spring.

the lilac not yet
in full bloom and already
florets in decay


Marianne Paul is a Canadian poet and novelist. She won the 2016 Jane Reichhold Memorial Haiga Competition multi-media category, and the 2016 Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku International, Canadian division. To learn more of her work, visit and


by on May 24, 2017

I hear the voices of the water.  Not mermaid voices.  Not fish, nor cetacean, voices.  A civilization of voices.  The soft, careful voices of warriors plotting.  The bruised, back of the hand voices of lovers who believe for stern seconds that passion is prized more if it is endless.  The battleship-gray voices of mothers disowning their children.  The boastful voices of those who have accomplished nothing.  The red glowing barn voices of those scheming wealth out of poverty.  The gossamer voices of suppression.  One voice that believes there are no voices, shouting.  A voice hidden in a far off lagoon, lingering in the shallows like a rifle shot.  Brute voices and soft.  A community of voices, a society of voices, a civilization of voices, all with mouths at my ear united in one common, tentacled plea:  drown, drown.


Ken Poyner’s latest collection of short, wiry fiction, Constant Animals, and his latest collections of poetry—Victims of a Failed Civics and The Book of Robot—can be obtained from Barking Moose Press, or Sundial Books. He often serves as strange, bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power lifting affairs.  His poetry of late has been sunning in Analog, Asimov’s, and Poet Lore, and his fiction has yowled in Spank the Carp, Café Irreal, and Bellows American Review.  Find him online at

Sacred Stones

by on May 12, 2017

In the breathless way that only five-year-olds have, she explains to me the importance of each of the rocks in her box of precious things, held inviolable in the secret spot in the top drawer under all the socks. Since I well recall the totemic power of sea-glass and flat, smooth river stones for warding off evil and standing as sigils of fate’s approval of my existence, I listen to her recitation of each stone’s biography in the absent-but-present way that loving uncles have about them.

Her words wash over me, tumbling from her in little bursts of enthusiasm, rife with wandering asides, non sequiturs, and sighs of frustration at her own inability to articulate the ocean of meaning inside her. To the casual listener, it sounds like a grocery-list of items being ticked off in a sing-song litany. It sounds like that to me, too, except that I love her. So I listen past the tuneless song of “…and then…and then…and then” until I don’t hear it anymore, and I can actually listen instead.

She’s too young to affect the rhythms of a story-teller, the body-language, cadence, and intonations. The rise-and-fall, tension-and-resolve musical qualities of a story well-told are beyond her, for now. But the need to convey, to be understood, for her truth to be recognized… these things are well within her grasp, and they animate the story of her stones until it becomes epic. But not if you saw it written down. A transcript of it would be boredom itself, filled with “…and then…and then…and then.”

I’ve grown into the mantel of a storyteller in the midst of a clan of storytellers. To stand out from among the group of Bards and Bullshitters I hail from is a feat unto itself, believe me. So I listen with a different kind of attention to the tale of her sacred stones, hearing the story beats like a drum out of time, implying the shape of truths buried in her. Witnessing her evolution from Sunday to Sunday is something to behold. Soon this little one, with her earnest “…and then…and then…and thens” will be gone, replaced by a big-time first-grader with a grasp of relevant conversational threads, and a developing instinct for the social cues to tell which story, and when. And then her tales will rise to take their place on the long arc of the living narrative made up of every story ever told.

But for now she stumbles forward, leading with intention and meaning in the absence of all the words, as we ever have, as we ever will, for they are the millennial predecessors of syntax and grammar. When our ancestors grunted and gestured with stone knives and bear-skins, their intention and meaning was still plain to each other, and so we arose. As we ever have, as we ever will.

I know well the frustration of words that fail, that cannot contain the life they describe. When my own stories lay flat on an imaginary page, lifeless as a recitation from any randomly chosen page in the phone book, their content as stilted as a grocery-list of unrelated events, strung together by mere grammar and syntax, “…and then…and then…and then.” When all the editorial tricks are just tricks that cannot hope to animate the lifeless heap of characters we made up so we don’t have to grunt anymore. And I stare at them until it seems hopeless, all these meaningless squiggles on an electronic page that doesn’t actually exist outside the uncreated space of charged particles they inhabit. So it is that  tens of thousands of words disappear into digital nullification, countless ones and zeroes recycled for better purposes. Delete.

But some days, when I’m lucky, the love comes in.

When it does —when everything seems to shine, and even the wrong words seem to rhyme— and I’m out on the street and the 3/4 time of my steps counterpoints the 7/8 time of my heart, and every dog’s bark and shoddy muffler Dopplering away from me sings a song; the play of light and shadow is a game that the whole world is hoping I’ll notice and join in. I’m like a drop of water having rejoined its vast ocean at last, yet still a drop. The breeze chases my heels along and I am subsumed by a love of every single thing, ever.

Every person on the street, every distant soul in far-away lands, my flesh and blood; my family and friends like a fire in my bones. Even those that have betrayed me, every person that has ever cheated me, every criminal that has ever stolen from me, are separated from me only by their own illusion of “otherness.” And all the heartbreak in the world —even this I love, in the way that you love a willful child who must learn in their own way; regretful that they must, but content to walk alongside while they do.

Then everything unnecessary passes away, and the words that remain —that actually tell the story, that hold the essence of the life they describe— are animated by the love of what I’ve beheld. So the breath of life comes across the dry bones of mere words, anima whetting their marrow, such that they rise up to join the long arc of the living narrative, the one that God Himself is writing about each one of us, and literally everything else. A story of every attosecond of existence, every tear fallen, every dream dreamt; about the orbit of subatomic particles, and the beat of a butterfly’s wing in China.

A brokenhearted story of love and sacred stones.


Lawrence Elliott is a retired Journeyman Carpenter of twenty years. He’s enjoying a second act in life in the employ of the University of Oregon. He blogs about autobiographical oddities at Scratched in the Sand


by on Apr 24, 2017

I have lented the ‘shoulds’ in years past. This year, I will lent what steals my breath. I will lent the cycling shrieks of war cries empty, and war cries full. This year I will lent the streaming compulsive—media and social media and the rites of the angry. This year I will lent the proclamations of imminence—every one.  This year I will lent the proclamations of eminence—all but one.

This year I lent, so that prayers made quiet, and prayers made loud I can hear myself. I can hear the whisper call of power and holiness simmering, resonating, in the presence of the Throned. In the just-beyond-my-eyelids.


Tiffany Grantom is a mother of five, doula, paralegal, wearer-of-many-hats-busy-monger who hopes for a season with time to write a book.  Today, just scribbles and lists, and fly-by wording glories.  Also found in working clothes at

Scattering in Harmony

by on Feb 9, 2017

The ashes scattered and danced on the calm surface of the Rock River.  After a quiet minute Cynthia squeezed his hand and whispered:

“But this is probably illegal, right?”

Oliver didn’t answer. Clutching his other hand was her son Jimi, now a stocky eight-year-old, and Oliver had no desire to go beyond this moment.

“Right?” She asked again.

Jimi broke free and scampered a few yards farther across the bridge, the better to watch the last of the ashes as they disappeared into the elements. Oliver turned to her and kissed her forehead. He said:

“Lady, I am indeed a real lawyer, and I’m here to tell you there’s nothing ‘probably’ about it – we have committed an exquisitely illegal act.”

“Well, then, I’ll just tell them it was my lawyer’s idea.”

“Great plan. That should work.”

They walked to Jimi. River gulls swooped in and out of the afternoon sun, their shadows on the water as graceful as their true selves in the air.

“Mom, once Grandma Millie and I saw an eagle here, a real eagle!”

“I remember, sweetie, because you wrote me a letter all about it. I still have it. I’ll always keep it with my most-important-papers.”

Oliver thought of another most-important-paper that would be waiting for them back in Janesville, the one that awarded him guardianship of Jimi. They would pick it up from the courthouse on Monday before driving Cynthia back to the women’s prison in Taycheedah. Her funeral furlough ended Monday at midnight and they were not going to be late. She still had four months on her ticket and nobody wanted an extension.

Millie had been his client for a year, a remarkable grandma taking care of the fatherless little boy while his mom served two years for selling dope. Marijuana, in fact. Nothing else. Now his client was dead and he was in charge of Jimi. They had taught him nothing of this back in law school.

“Hey,” he said, “did I ever tell you about my buddy Sean? The one who works out in Arizona?”

He gave them no opportunity to respond before beginning his story:

“Sean works in a tiny town, Sacaton, on the Gila River Reservation. After his first year they had a dinner in his honor and someone from the Tribal Council announced: ‘From this day forth, Sean shall be known as Walking Eagle. We are extremely grateful for his service.’

Sean was touched, he told me, and then the Judge of the Tribal Court stood up, and said ‘Of course, Sean, we chose that name because you’re so full of crap you’ll never fly.’

Everyone laughed, Sean told me, no one more than he did.”

Jimi giggled all the way back to the shore, followed by his mom and Oliver. There were worse things than full immersion in the music of laughter.

May it always be so, Oliver implored anyone who might be watching.  Even Millie.


Tony Press tries to pay attention and sometimes he does. His short story collection, Crossing the Lines, was published in 2016 (Big Table). He’d love for you to buy it. He lives near San Francisco and has two Pushcart nominations but not one website.

I Have Me Some Hobbies

by on Jan 30, 2017

I take advantage of everything—mostly people and of these people mostly friends. I have other hobbies. Yes, I consider taking advantage a hobby and “found” items I display in my modest ranch house near the beach but the lists and the taking advantage summaries I keep hidden away in my knotty pine den with two boards that open to a secret closet by a spring opener. My found things are scattered all around the house, including my stash closet. One day in the supermarket I spotted an open purse in the baby carrier of a cart.  After watching the lady shopper walk off a few aisles and no one else was in the ethnic foods aisle I snagged the wallet and hit a mother lode of cash, credit cards, even a debit card with the password written on it. I sold that for five hundred dollars to some degenerate at a bar. Outside the hardware store I took a wheel barrel on display and filled it with bags of potting soil and wheeled it to my car at the far end of the parking lot and asked some young guy with the hardware store logo on his apron if he’d help me unload the soil and get the wheel barrel in my car. He couldn’t have been nicer so I gave him a $2 tip. That’s how my collections go. My bookshelves have a bunch of library books that I was able to walk out with in my backpack and my walls have pictures I’ve taken off of doctors office walls. You’d be surprised how many doctors are good photographers and like to display their work. I list the “found objects” in a moleskin notebook and keep it in my hide-a-way along with my “taking advantage” of moleskin. Who can remember so many items? I have to make some changes because my house is filling up with things I no longer treasure, Yesterday; I started dropping my collected wallets randomly into open purses in the supermarket.


Paul Beckman’s story, “Healing Time” was one of the winners in the 2016 The Best Small Fictions and his 100 word story, “Mom’s Goodbye” was chosen as the winner of the 2016  Fiction Southeast Editor’s Prize. His stories are widely published in print and online. His published story website is and his latest collection of flash stories, PEEK, is available on his site.

Natural Outlaws

by on Jan 17, 2017

I. Hubble’s Law

The Universe’s overriding impulse is to back away. The further that galaxies are from each other, the faster they move to increase that separation. For almost fourteen billion years, the Universe has been accelerating away from connection, away from communion. This makes me immeasurably sad: what could be lonelier than a Universe full of galaxies whose first principle is to recede from one another at an ever increasing speed?

II. Length contraction

If you make a long bus go fast enough, you can enclose it in a short barn. You need to be snappy with the doors, though. By this logic, you can fit a metre rule in a thimble if your sleight of hand moves likes lightning. You can even stick a length of swiftly moving truth in the fine cracks across your beliefs.

III. Illumination

Seeing is subtraction. Leaves are green only because of all the colours of light, green is the only hue the leaf refuses to embrace. It happily absorbs enlightenment from red to violet, gaining heat and energy whilst hopscotching over the middle ground of green. And so it is that a black hole accepts all, absorbs all, embraces every colour, every wavelength of light.  Likewise, white results from complete indifference, lack of engagement at any frequency, deflecting away every encounter with the light.


Melissa Fu grew up in Northern New Mexico and now lives Cambridgeshire, UK. Skeletons in her closet include a couple of physics degrees and many valiant but disastrous attempts at classroom teaching. Learn more at or