Issue No. 9, Summer 2014

By Butterfly Wings
Allie Marini Batts

Anastasia’s face is a soft canvas of powder and pigment: in measured brushstrokes, there is alchemy, where pale eyelids transform into the jewel toned wings of butterflies. With an onyx rake, her lashes spider out and cast shadows like nets over cheekbones that climb higher and more angular, like the rise of a mountain vista. Ruby red as a fairy tale, her lips tension like the strings and riser on the bow of Cupid, crimson as myth. Anastasia’s skin is tattoo ink and fabric: leather, lace, silk. Delicate nylon; stockings floating from garter snaps and a belt that’s supposed to be hidden, but isn’t. Vanity or immodesty; becoming as a wing breaking free from the chitin glass of a chrysalis. Cold cream, linseed oil, turpentine, wash. Sunlight through stained glass in the late afternoon. Throwing strokes of the spectrum like bright shadows that slide from saturated to watercolor before diluting into colorlessness again. The water runs clear as glass without a wave behind it, breaking blue. She undresses and cocoons herself in sheets, white and soft as a canvas. The night is a dark secret, like what happens to the imago between caterpillar and the tentative test of wings unfurling.  Across the expanse of oceans and continents, a butterfly lights and lands on the surface of a mirror. Anastasia shifts in her sleep; the fluttering of wings. The tinkle of stained glass coiling down the drain like water running clear again. The winds kick up and weave between pressurized bands. A hurricane, when she wakes.


Allie Marini Batts is an MFA candidate at Antioch University of Los Angeles, meaning she can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has been a finalist for Best of the Net and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is managing editor for the Nonbinary Review of Zoetic Press and has previously served on the masthead for Lunch Ticket, Spry Literary Journal, The Weekenders Magazine, Mojave River Review, and The Bookshelf Bombshells. Allie is the author of the poetry chapbooks, “You Might Curse Before You Bless” (ELJ Publications, 2013), “Unmade & Other Poems” (Beautysleep Press, 2013), and “This Is How We End” (forthcoming 2014, Bitterzoet). Find her on the web: https://www.facebook.com/AllieMarini.

Issue No. 9, Summer 2014

Tip of the Iceberg
Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

The African bushveldt is no place for cats.

Jonas and I thought ours were safe when we left them in the suite the morning of the safari drive. None of the guests took their animals on the drives, of course. The lodge didn’t allow it. The tattooed man with the wolf hybrids was turned away from the game truck when he showed up with his dogs. “Stupid,” I muttered to Jonas as the man argued with the guide before stalking off.

When we returned, replete with sightings of wildebeest and hippos and a lone shaggy-maned lion, we found the cats, Luis and Dean, lounging by the veranda door. They had escaped their harnesses.

Jonas frowned and scratched his head, raising a bristle of cowlicks. He looked very young and tired as he inspected the harnesses.

“Did they break?” I asked.

“No.” He considered the two tabbies gravely. “Wonder what’s gotten into them. They’ve never slipped out of their gear before.” He tossed the straps on the bed.

At dinner in the main lodge that evening, we sat at a table with nine of the other guests, several of whom had their dogs with them. One couple was accompanied by a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. To our surprise, the man with the wolf hybrids was dining without his animals. Jimmy, the lodge manager, took a seat near Jonas and me.

“Mr. and Mrs. Corwin, where are your cats tonight?” He brushed a crumb off the table.

“Upstairs.” Jonas took a sip of bottled water. “They got out of their harnesses earlier, so we thought it best to keep them in the room.”

My fork paused halfway to my mouth at the look on Jimmy’s face. “Is something wrong?”

“You’ve traveled with them before?”

“Sure. St. Thomas, Vermont, Santa Fe. . . .”

“But never to Africa? Any part of it?”

We shook our heads.

“The brochure says cats are welcome,” I said. “And safe.” I recalled that when we had checked in we were told ours were the only felines staying at the moment.

Jimmy hesitated and glanced at the wolf-hybrid owner, who was sneaking a slice of eland to someone else’s Weimaraner. He lowered his voice. “I know it’s the way of the world now, but personally I don’t believe pets should travel with their people, despite the synthetic gene.”

“The KDN2A gene?” Jonas sat back. We had thoroughly researched the genetic modification process before adopting Luis and Dean. “What about it?”

Jimmy waved the question away. ”Animals are not children.”

I looked down at the table and said very quietly, “For some of us they are.”

Jimmy considered my words. “I apologize. I didn’t mean to sound insensitive. But in a way you’re supporting my point. I think scientists should focus on deciphering this blight that has afflicted young women and stop messing with animal genetics. We know less than we think. Never mind what any of the brochures or lodges say. I’m speaking from what I’ve seen.”

He leaned closer. “Especially cats. Cats are not like dogs or other animals. They tap into something here. It’s their spirit that does it and they have no choice.”

He was interrupted by the chef signaling to him from the kitchen.

“Excuse me.” Jimmy rose. “You should examine them after dinner.”

Jonas and I looked at each other. Jonas got up, bunching his napkin onto the table. “I’ll be right back. Ask them to keep my food warm.”

“Can’t we wait?” I glanced at my watch.

But Jonas was already leaving the table.

He came back fifteen minutes later, hair awry as if he’d run his hands through it. He pulled the photo pad out of his pocket and handed it to me. He’d caught the cats standing, leaning their front paws against the glass door of the veranda. They resembled lynxes, broad and thick-furred and twice their normal weight.

“What. . . ?” My voice tightened. “We need Jimmy.”

#

That night we followed Jimmy’s advice and slept with the cats tightly harnessed and tied to the bedposts. Their leashes were long enough for comfort. They could jump on and off the bed and reach the litter box and their water dishes. We latched the bathroom window securely and propped the overnight bag in front of it.

“You’re competing with what calls them from outside,” Jimmy had said.

“Will they get small again?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Has this happened before?”

Jimmy’s silence was all the answer I needed. Anger flashed through me. “Then why does the camp allow guests to bring cats?”

“I run the lodge. I don’t own it or the camp. I can’t control their policies.” The defensiveness steamed out of his voice and he added, “The owners are foreigners. They think everything can be fixed with the push of a button.”

Neither Jonas nor I slept the first few hours. Luis and Dean were heavy on our legs, and it was impossible to find a comfortable position with fifty pounds of cat sprawled across the bed, especially when we were so worried. But sleep eventually took us.

When I woke I lay in the crook of Jonas’s arm a while before realizing no one was on my feet. I peered into the dark, recalling the noise I thought I had dreamed.

When I turned on the light I saw the empty harnesses. An agitated whine escaped me as I jumped out of bed and looked around, then rushed into the bathroom. The overnight bag was on the floor and the window above the toilet wide open. Tufts of stippled gray fur clung to the edges, caught in the escape.

#

In the morning I pushed Jonas to go fishing at the dam as he’d planned.

“I’m not going without you,” he protested.

I handed him the sunscreen. “We’ve already paid for the airboat, and it’s bad enough that we’re losing my half of the money.”

“I’m staying with you.”

“You’ll be back by noon. I’ll look for them. I’ll be here if they come back on their own.” A tear rolled down my cheek and I turned away. Jonas put his arms around me and I buried my face in his chest.

But they didn’t return on their own. I stood on the veranda most of the morning, broad hat shading my eyes. Through the binoculars I saw two giraffes fighting neck-on-neck and what looked like a large pack of jackals chasing a hyena. The resonant grunting of a male lion tolled like a bell in the distance.

Hot and discouraged, I went down to the main lodge, one side of which overlooked a part of the valley I couldn’t see from our room. I found Jimmy smoking a vitamin cigarette at the entrance to the dining room.

“Nothing yet?” he asked. His deep brown skin gleamed with sweat, and he mopped his forehead with a fresh handkerchief.

I shook my head.

“May I?” He held his hand out for the field glasses, then walked with them to the wood plank porch off the living room. He was careful to pinch the cigarette dead between his fingers before shoving it in his pants pocket.

From here we could see a stretch of land more like savanna than thorny veldt. Jimmy scanned the terrain. “The grass can hide a lot unless you know how to look.”

I’d left my sunglasses upstairs, and the morning’s continual scrutiny of the tawny earth made my eyes feel bleached. I rubbed them with the heels of my hands just as Jimmy exclaimed “I see them!”

Without taking his eyes off the spot in the landscape, he handed me the binoculars and pointed. After a few seconds I found what he was referring to.

They were tearing something apart, ripping tattered flesh from red-soaked bones in a matted indentation of grass.

“They look huge.” I held my breath.

“They are.”

“We’re never going to get them back, are we?” I thought it would break me to say it. The feeling inside was like that of glass grinding into bits.

Jimmy said nothing for a long time. Then, “Maybe there’s something we can try. No guarantees, though.”

The look in my eyes must have been pitiful. “What?”

He touched my shoulder. “I need to talk to someone first.”

#

By the time I got there they had dragged much of the carcass away, flattening the grass. From the stripes on what was left of the hide it looked like a young kudu, the russet topknot on its shoulders crimped with blood. I followed their path a short while and then stopped. It was dangerous being here. They might take me for someone intruding on their kill. Other predators were sniffing the dead animal’s scent right now, making their way to it. Somewhere in the area a lion’s arunhh, arunhh, unusual at this time of day, continued haunting the air.

I clucked and whistled, and two heads popped up about thirty yards away. I looked at them without the binoculars, wanting them to recognize me. They squinched their eyes in acknowledgment and immediately went back to their meal, ignoring me as they would have done at home in front of their food bowls. Carefully I made my way back to the main lodge.

Jonas would return soon. I stood on the porch from which Jimmy had sighted the cats. Now their presence was indicated only by a slight movement in the grass, a shifting in one spot as they hunkered over the meat. From the kitchen on the other side of the living and dining rooms I heard a loud crash, then another, then raised voices.

The chef stormed through the swinging doors. “I cannot do what you ask,” he said, untying his apron.

“But you’ve done it before, Wande.” Jimmy followed on his heels. “I’ve seen you.”

“It is not to be done lightly.” Wande turned and faced Jimmy. “Look, Mr. McCarthy, I do not mean to be disrespectful. Yes, I have done it, but I cannot do it for every tourist who comes here not understanding the world they live in. It seems to me you too do not understand the power beneath everything.”

Jimmy ran his hands over his face. “I understand more than you think.”

He noticed me, and Wande followed his gaze. The chef hung his head for a moment, then walked toward me. “I did not mean for you to hear that.”

I felt suddenly weary, deflated, and homesick. “This has never happened to us before.”

“This camp needs to change its policies.” Wande’s words were sharp, his bloodshot eyes riveting mine, as if I were responsible for Luanango Camp’s protocol. He swallowed hard. “All right. I will try to help you,” he said, but he looked distressed.

#

That afternoon Wande came to our room carrying a white plastic bucket and a trowel. “I need something of yours. Clothing. Something you have worn.”

I handed him a sweater while Jonas grabbed a pair of shorts.

Wande eyed them. “Preferably something you will not want to wear again.”

“Oh,” I said. “A pair of socks?”

“Socks will do.”

Jonas ripped off his sweaty tee shirt.

“Place the items in here.” Wande lifted the lid on the bucket and a meaty, stomach-turning odor rose from it. “Quickly.”

Jonas made a face. “What is that?”

“Better that you don’t know.”

I walked Wande to the door. “What are you going to do?”

He shifted the bucket to his other hand, taking care not to let it touch his khakis. “I am going to put this out for them to eat. If it works, it will be within twenty-four hours.”

If?

He sighed. “Yes, most likely. But no guarantees.”

“What if other animals get to it instead?” Jonas plucked a clean shirt from the closet.

“Yes indeed,” was Wande’s reply.

Puzzled, we followed him, averting our faces from the smell when he dug Jonas’s tee shirt out with something that looked like vaguely digested viscera and plunked the heap on the hillside below our suite. Then he led us to the sweep of savanna where they had killed and torn into the young kudu. He scooped out the remainder of the bucket, including my socks, into the grass.

“You may want to watch for them.” He turned and headed toward the main lodge.

Jonas started following him, but I held him back, and we went up to our suite, where we kept vigil the rest of the afternoon.

For hours before dinner we scanned the landscape with the binoculars. No one came to eat Wande’s offerings.

At dinner Jimmy seemed to make a point of sitting at the other end of the table next to a tall, doughy man with eyes that looked dimmed by medication.

“Do you think he’s avoiding us?” Jonas whispered.

“Maybe.” I studied Jimmy discreetly. “I think he put himself out on a limb with Wande.”

“But he’s Wande’s boss.”

“This seems to go deeper than that.”

After dinner we took the binoculars to the porch off the living room and tried to see what we could in the areas bright with floodlights. Later, from our room, we looked also, but visibility was poorer up there in the dark. We went to bed without having spotted our two cats.

#

When I heard the noise at the door I lay still for a moment because I thought it was in the room. Someone was pushing at the heavy outside door—thud, thud, thud—as if oblivious to the lock. My eyes adjusted as the knob rattled, and I clutched at Jonas.

He woke immediately. We stared beyond the bed before rising. Jonas reached the door first, flipped on the outside light, then pulled the drape away from the window.

He stepped aside so I could see.

They were bigger than before, one slightly larger than the other. Both were thick-necked and strange under the scraggly manes. Their tabby stripes glistened like oil. From their solemn faces to their tufted tails, their musculature carried a gravitas far beyond the one they were born with. The smaller of the two, Luis, stopped pawing at the doorknob and put his face against the window when he saw me, pushing his broad black nose against the glass and leaving streaks. He licked the glass as Dean nudged him aside to extend his own salutations.

I was mesmerized by the sight of the huge tongues lapping at the window, the thick incisors just the other side of the glass, the long whiskers with curled ends. When they opened their mouths to meow, a growl instead rumbled from each and they seemed taken aback when I flinched.

“What do we do?” I whispered. Dean’s ample cheeks flattened against the glass. I thought of all the nights he had jumped onto the bed and pushed his nose into mine, holding it there in prolonged greeting as I kissed his face and rubbed his ears until he settled against my chest.

Jonas took my hand. “We can’t let them in, you know.”

“I know.” We might never be able to let them in again. We might have to go home without them. They had not eaten the food Wande set out for them, or maybe it wasn’t working.

Jonas tried to convince me to go back to bed with him, but I spent the rest of the night sitting up against the door, hearing them stir just on the other side of it, wondering if they could feel my love the way I could feel their confusion. Something pulled at me from outside. I wanted to hold them both in my arms. I wanted to be devoured by them.

It took everything I had to keep myself from easing out the door into their big paws and the loving grip of their astonishing teeth. Eventually I fell asleep.

At morning’s light I woke before Jonas and immediately looked out the window.

Luis and Dean, small and soft and appearing exceptionally tired as only cats can do, slept curled a few feet away. They had reverted to their original selves. To make certain I wasn’t dreaming, I waited a moment before I opened the door and stepped out.

#

We found Jimmy before the other guests came down for breakfast. He smiled as I held out my hands to him. “You must have good news,” he said.

“How can we ever thank you?” I kissed him on the cheek and Jonas shook his hand. “And Wande—what can we do for Wande?”

Jimmy’s gaze jumped to something behind me, and Jonas and I turned. Wande had come in from the porch. I caught a whiff of whatever he had been carrying in the bucket yesterday. He was wiping his hands on a blue bandana, and when I approached to thank him he said, “No, you mustn’t touch me. I must clean myself first. I am glad it worked.”

His expression signaled a weight on his mind. I ventured, “Wande, would you be insulted if we offered you—”

He shook his head. “No, please, nothing. I could not accept it. Be grateful, and go home.”

A sound of irritation escaped Jimmy.

Jonas touched my arm. “We’ve already talked about that, Wande. We’re leaving as soon as we can make arrangements.”

“It is for your own good.”

“Yes.”

“And the larger good.” Wande turned to Jimmy, whose eyes were cast down and unreadable. “I need to show you something.” To us Wande said, “You may come too, if you like.”

We followed him through the kitchen and outside to a rocky area of heavy brush behind the lodge. A small stream trickled nearby. The familiar stench of the bucket filled the air.

“Here.” Wande pushed aside a clump of grass. “Look.”

A small cheetah, its abdomen ripped open, lay on its side. Wande squatted near it while I put my hand over my nose.

“This is not an ordinary cheetah.” He reached for a paw and squeezed the pad until a couple of claws popped out. “See—they are fully retractable. Like a house cat’s. A cheetah’s claws are always out. And look at the short legs, the small wide face. The nose is very broad. This is an ancestor of the cheetah. An ancient predecessor.”

Jimmy put his hands over his eyes and stood with shoulders slumped.

Wande stood up. “We shall have to destroy it immediately.” He looked around as if to make sure nothing was lurking nearby.    “Sometimes animals that have not already begun turning go back very far in their evolution if they eat from this ritual. Your cats went back to what they were a few days ago, but this cheetah became what it might have been thousands of years earlier. But that is not the worst thing. Something else has killed and eaten it. The same thing will happen to it. And so on, if we do not find it first.”

My face burned with shame, even though we couldn’t possibly have known this would happen.

“We must start right away.” Wande’s mouth set in a line. “The last time we did this, we were lucky.”

Jonas’s words were barely audible. “What happens if you can’t find . . . .?”

Wande stood up without replying.

I thought of our two little ones in the suite and hoped they were still in their harnesses. I gazed into Jonas’s sad gray eyes. “We should go.”

The hot breeze from the northwest smelled of earth and dry leaves, cuffing our ears playfully but with an insistence that carried an implied threat. We crested the slope near the walk that led to the veranda. Jonas, ahead of me, stopped and held up a warning hand. Beyond the bushes, the backs of two sorrel-hued heads came into view near the sliding glass doors.

People in some of the lower suites had seen animals coming right up to their rooms, but here on the hillside such visits were rare. I crept closer to Jonas. Two creatures with the sloping backs of hyenas but no spots on their coats nosed about the veranda entrance. They were very large and paced back and forth, evidently excited by something inside the room.

That something could only be our cats.

One of the animals rose on its back feet with forepaws against the glass, brawny shoulders tapering to small hindquarters and a long, bushy tail.

I tugged at Jonas and we backed up, watching through a gap in the bushes.

The animal that was still pacing paused to look at us. A hot spasm hooked through my bowels as the glittering eyes above the long, dark snout settled on me. After a moment it decided we were of secondary interest and returned to sniffing along the bottom of the doors, worrying the place where they overlapped.

I turned slightly at the sound of a branch breaking.

Wande, followed by Jimmy, was coming upslope. I held a finger to my lips, and Wande nodded. He carried what looked like an automatic weapon. Jimmy turned briefly to glance at the bottom of the hill, where two men were hauling away the cheetah carcass.

Wande stopped beside us, taking in the scene on the veranda.

I leaned toward his ear. “What are they?”

“Not what they should be.”

As if in protest, the two animals let out a howl that lamented through the sun-drenched air and simmered atop it like an attenuated cloud. One of them started baying and the other immediately followed, both circling frantically, as if frustrated beyond belief. The baying transmuted into the familiar nervous yapping of hyenas harassing prey, punctuated by mournful, looping wails that made the hair on my neck lift.

Wande raised his gun.

“He’ll tranquilize them first,” Jimmy said. “To make sure.”

Jonas stared at the hyenas as if in a trance. “The cheetah. . . ?”

“Probably,” Wande replied, and fired the first shot.

One of the animals yelped and sprang in our direction but then fell to the flagstones with a soft thump. Wande had already fired at the second hyena, which seemed to trip on its own feet before slumping over.

I exhaled.

Wande went to inspect the animals. I slid open the glass doors and slipped inside.

I’d expected to find Luis and Dean cowering under the bed. Instead I had to close the door quickly to keep them from bolting out to join the inspection. They were free of their harnesses, complaining fiercely while pawing the door, eyes glinting with an alien thing that all but obliterated the love I usually saw there. Luis shrank from my touch and Dean ignored me except to glare accusingly once.

They coiled around my feet. Jonas gave me a grim look.

That was when it occurred to me that our cats were as interested in the hyenas as the hyenas had been in them.

Jimmy approached the door. I indicated the cats and let him in as they hovered like piranha around his legs. He looked at them in dismay. “I’d keep an eye on them even when you’re back home.”

“Jimmy—”

He avoided my eyes.

“Jimmy, do you think. . . ?”

“That’s a question for Wande, not me,” he said, sliding open the door and stepping out. He gave me a sympathetic look before pulling the door shut.

I knelt to be closer to Luis and Dean, whose protest had reluctantly diminished to an intermittent yowling. Their celadon eyes were luminous in the late morning sun. I offered my hand to them, and they looked at it warily before rubbing against it. I buried my face in the fur of their backs, first one and then the other, and I inhaled the luxuriant, turbulent aroma of the veldt.


Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin’s short fiction has appeared in Bards and Sages Quarterly, Absent Willow Review, and the anthology Skulls & Crossbones: Tales of Women Pirates. Some of her poetry has been published in Shadow Road Quarterly, Rose & Thorn Journal, and Golden Sparrow Literary Review.

Issue No. 9, Summer 2014

Maid Myrta’s Children
Iva Levarre

Once upon a time there was a woman named Maid Myrta. She was small and slight, with gentle, patient eyes and a way of walking that made her appear to be weightless. Her small cottage was on a hill some distance above the village, and thus its inhabitants rarely made the climb up to it.

The villagers thought Maid Myrta ought to have a shriveled appearance, with bitter, hungry eyes and a heavy, trudging gait, for when she passed through the village they said of her “There goes Maid Myrta. I would not be her for anything; she has no children or even a husband and lives high on a lonely hill.” On account of these afflictions, they were surprised that she remained so buoyant and serene.

All the villagers said of Maid Myrta was true: she lived a solitary, quiet life that to everyone else seemed empty, and she did indeed desire very much to have children she could care for and teach and love, and receive many gifts in return from their innocence and sweet purity. Yet, to the villagers’ wonder, she remained soft and light, never dragged down by her desire, though every so often, as she sat in her silent cottage reading or sewing—for she earned her living by sewing the village children’s clothes—she would sigh a wistful sigh and imagine several of them, all her own, sitting around her in play or reverie.

Now one day as Maid Myrta busily sewed, a peddler toiled up the hill to her cottage with his full cart rattling and tinkling behind the white pony that drew it. Maid Myrta had already risen and opened her door when he reached it. She and the peddler greeted one another cordially, and Maid Myrta, out of politeness, looked over the wares in his cart.

When she had seen everything she said with regret “Peddler, you have many fine things here, though I regret I have not the money to buy even one of them, for I am but a poor seamstress for the village. And there is really only one thing I desire of life: children of my own.” Few people who encountered Maid Myrta ever heard her speak half as many words as she spoke to the peddler, and to none other had she named her greatest desire. There was something kindly in the peddler’s face that drew the words from her lips.

The peddler, in turn, was touched by Maid Myrta’s honesty and wistfulness. He thought for a moment, gazing at her down-turned face. Then he disappeared into the cart and after a moment emerged from it holding a black wooden cupboard about the size of a small oven and which had a door in the front of it with a long curved handle. He held the cupboard out to Maid Myrta.

“This cupboard gives its possessor what she wishes for,” he said. “I offer it to you with no cost, maid, for those who reveal with honesty their desires are the first to receive them. Though I cannot reveal from whence I came by it, I entreat you to accept it from me.”

“I will, of course,” was Maid Myrta’s gracious reply, “For I could not believe it to contain harm coming from a good-willed man such as yourself.” She took the black cupboard into her hands, expecting it be heavy; but it was light as air.

“Open it thrice, once each morning,” the peddler instructed her. “No more and no less, for its power does not exceed three blessings.” Then he doffed his cap to Maid Myrta, climbed atop his cart of wares, and betook his way past her cottage and away down the other side of the hill.

Maid Myrta returned to her cottage with the black cupboard, laughing a little to herself. Though she would not for the world have refused the good peddler’s gift, she doubted very much that it could give her children, whatever magic it may contain. Nevertheless, she carried it upstairs and placed it beside her bed, resolving to open it the following morning when she woke and see what it yielded, if anything at all. She wholly doubted that the peddler would have willfully swindled her. He had no reason to, as he had demanded no payment for the article.

Once again Maid Myrta became absorbed in her work, and thought no more of the peddler’s gift until she woke the next morning, while shadows of children, born of wistful dreams, danced about her.

The first thing that met Maid Myrta’s waking eyes the next morning was the black cupboard.

“I may as well open it as the peddler bid me,” she thought mildly as she rose from her white bed.

When Maid Myrta enclosed the rounded iron handle in her small hand it grew warm, and a single note, like the first beckoning of a lovely tune, sounded. The door swung open, and Maid Myrta caught her breath.

Curled into the low space of the cupboard was a child made entirely of dark green leaves, looking up at her with bright yellow eyes and a warm smile. With an entreating gesture that utterly won Maid Myrta’s heart, the child raised her hands up to hers. Maid Myrta took them and drew her from the cupboard, quite mesmerized by the creature’s wild yet trusting yellow eyes that gazed steadily up into hers.

“I think you are the most beautiful child I have ever beheld, and all of them are beautiful,” said Maid Myrta in her quiet, half-hesitant voice. “Bless the peddler who gave me that black cupboard! He was not lying when he said it would grant my wish, though he hardly warned me of what form it would take. Child of leaves, I know not how you stand here with me, but do you think I and my cottage would be to your liking?” Inwardly she trembled that the strange child would wish to go elsewhere, for already Maid Myrta felt that she belonged to her.

The child did not look away from Maid Myrta before answering. “Yes. They already are. I am yours, and you are mine!”

Maid Myrta’s eyes filled with joyful tears. “So it is!” she said, cradling the smiling creature’s head in one hand. The leaves that covered it were soft and pliant. “At last, a child—my own child.”

The two went downstairs hand in hand, and Maid Myta quickly came to know the leaf-child very well. She needed neither food nor drink, but appeared to subsist entirely upon sitting near Maid Myrta, her mother; and when she moved and walked the leaves of her body made a soft rustling sound. Her smile stretched across her green face as widely as any contented child, her orb-like eyes giving Maid Myrta the impression that she was to the leaf-child an exceedingly wise and caring mother.

The most striking thing about the leaf-child was that she sang, in a voice like the murmur of a breeze, both stories and wordless tunes alike, so beautiful that they made Maid Myrta’s heart ache, Magic and significance abounded in the most simple, common words when the leaf-child sang them. If she sang of a donkey grazing placidly in a field, Maid Myrta would be as enchanted by it as by ones concerning grand, exciting events and folk.

Maid Myrta would have liked to simply gaze upon the leaf-child and listen to her singing, but the leaf-child said “I will sing as you sew, dear mother, and so your work will be pleasure and pass with speed.” And so, the entire day, as Maid Myrta went about her tasks, the leaf-child sang and sang without tiring, and also paused to talk as a normal child would, asking questions about Maid Myrta, her cottage, her sewing, the children she made clothes for, and the village. Maid Myrta felt a tiny quiver of fear that her child would desire to leave the cottage to explore the world around her, to seek more company, but she seemed content—ecstatically so—to abide in the cottage to sing and talk for her mother whom she loved dearly already. And so Maid Myrta was reassured. Her heart seemed as if it would burst for happiness.

When darkness fell, Maid Myrta perceived that the leaf-child’s songs had grown drowsy, as had her yellow eyes, which began to close. Maid Myrta laughed and drew her into her arms. “My child, you have toiled all day for my benefit. Now you must rest!” She took the leaf-child up to the spare room beside her own, wondering what she would lay her on. But into the bare space had materialized a little green bed just the child’s size, and so Maid Myrta laid her in it, drew the covers snugly under her chin, and sat by her until she fell asleep. Even in sleep did her music continue in very faint notes, the long veil of leaves which was her hair spread over the pillow. Maid Myrta stroked it and went to her own room, forgetting the black cupboard that stood inside it. All she could think of was her child, whose music lulled her soundly to sleep.

When Maid Myrta awoke the next morning the first thing that met her eyes was again the black cupboard beneath the window.

“I see no use in opening it a second time,” she said to herself, for her thoughts were far from greedy. “I have a child of my own; my heart is full. But perhaps it holds something for her like the little green bed.” And so Maid Myrta grasped the curved handle a second time. It grew warm, with a brief quiver in the air like the movement of a nearly visible form. The door swung open, and Maid Myrta again caught her breath.

Curled into the low space of the black cupboard was a child made entirely of pink cloud. With her airy limbs and blue eyes, mellow as an afternoon haze, she seemed born of rosy dawn. She too put out her hands and smiled up at Maid Myrta with simple trust.

Maid Myrta drew her from the cupboard. “Another child!” she exclaimed in wonder. “I did not dare to think my wishes would come true a second time! My dear, if you will stay with me as my child, I shall be your mother, to love and care for you.”

“I will stay with you as your child,” said the cloud-child, looking earnestly up at her. Her voice was soft as a wisp of cloud in the sky.

“Then you must come to meet your sister, in the next room,” said Maid Myrta, her heart swelling further, and hand in hand they went to the bed of the leaf-child, who greeted and was greeted by the cloud-child with gladness.

The cloud-child’s person was soon revealed to Maid Myrta and the leaf-child. Her smile was a small dreamy one, she appeared to want nothing more than to be near Maid Myrta and the leaf-child, and she too needed neither food nor drink. Now as to her special ability. Every movement and glance the cloud-child made was like a graceful dance, all of them connecting into a single one and yet remaining separate, as unique as each cloud in the sky. If she opened a door twenty time in succession, the action would be lovely in a wholly different way each time. No movement of the cloud-child’s was sharp; each flowed.

Now, with her two remarkable children, Maid Myrta could hardly think of her work for staring at them. But the cloud-child said “I shall dance to my leaf-sister’s singing as you sew.”

And so, while Maid Myrta worked, she had her two children beside her, feeling as though she resided in paradise itself with their heavenly song and dance. The cloud-child spoke to Maid Myrta too, adding her soft comments and questions to the leaf-child’s lively ones. At dusk, when the cloud-child’s movements became slow and languid and the leaf-child’s song dwindled, Maid Myrta took them up to bed holding each of their hands, wondering where she would put the cloud-child, for she could not fit with the leaf-child into the little green bed. But when she reached the room there was a little pink one next to the green, and the cloud-child fit perfectly inside it, with the long veil of cloud which was her hair spread over the pillow. Maid Myrta stayed in the room until she and her sister slept, the cloud-child’s dance seeming to go on to the leaf-child’s music in her even breath, and then went to her own room and got into bed, where she was lulled to sleep, again having forgotten the black cupboard on the floor beside her bed.

When she awoke the next morning, the first thing her eyes met was, once more, the black wooden cupboard. “Even less do I see reason to open it again,” Maid Myrta laughed to herself. “I have all I could desire. One less blessed should be in my place to open the cupboard. Yet I will again open it. Perhaps inside will be a gift like the little beds for both my children.” And so for the third and last time she grasped the curved wooden handle, which grew warm as a small flash of bright light winked out from a corner of the cupboard like a promise of treasure. The door swung open, and Maid Myrta caught her breath.

Curled into the low space of the black cupboard was a child made entirely of glowing golden light. Even her eyes were golden, and though her lips did not smile, her eyes were very warm, so that they immediately struck tenderness in Maid Myrta’s heart. Maid Myrta drew the child out almost before she lifted her hands.

“Well, I should not be surprised to find you, too, with my other two children in the next room!” she said. “Will you join them in accepting me as your mother?”

The light-child nodded and squeezed Maid Myrta’s hands.

“Come to your sisters,” said Maid Myrta, the glow of her face almost as luminous as the child’s. Hand in hand they went to the beds of the leaf-child and cloud-child, where they met their new sister with cries and embraces of welcome.

It was speedily discovered that, unlike her two sisters, the light-child could not speak. But this fact mattered little, for the golden light that constantly emanated from her form spoke for her, filling the room she was in with peaceful, contented thoughts. If her companions were sad, her light would comfort them; if angry, it would soothe them; if merry, it would echo their joy. And the richness of its gold was far superior to the kind man so covetously collects. It was as beneficial as the sun’s rays, lighting the chambers of the heart.

The light-child had no necessity for food and drink either, and she sat beside Maid Myrta as if the good dame was the source of her radiance.

Maid Myrta knew not how to focus on her sewing, but the eyes of the light-child told her she would continue to glow as she worked, while the leaf-child and the cloud-child sang and danced. When they spoke, she did too in her silent way.

And so all that day Maid Myrta had the best of company to render each moment of it exquisitely lovely. The magical abilities of all three children complemented one another to perfection. Truly, never did any family seem so flawless.

Maid Myrta’s eyes brimmed with tears. “My children, my children!” she cried. “We shall be so happy together—so very, very happy.”

When evening came, the song of the leaf-child quieted, the dance of the cloud-child slowed to dreaminess, and the glow of the light-child dimmed. Maid Myrta took them up to bed, with the light-child in her arms and the leaf-child and cloud-child at her sides. There was a third little bed, all of gold,  in the room when they reached it, and it was the perfect size for the light-child, with the long veil of light which was her hair spread over the pillow. Maid Myrta waited until the three of them slept, the light-child’s glow remaining faintly about her. Then, after kissing the brow of each and stroking her hair, she went to her own room, where she patted the black cupboard.

“You have served me very well,” she told it, getting into bed. “I ought to give it back to the peddler, that he may use it to grant another her deepest wish.” With this thought, she fell into a sleep even more sound than those of the two previous nights.

Weeks passed, in which time Maid Myrta was happier than she had ever conceived anyone could be. Her three children filled each moment with magic as she gazed upon them and listened to their song and talk. They aided her enormously in her work simply by staying near, following her about the house or sitting around her chair as she sewed, the leaf-child singing, the cloud-child dancing, and the light-child glowing. As Maid Myrta had long dreamed of, she was a mother, surrounded by three children who adored and trusted her, and whom she adored and trusted in return. They were never irritable or naughty, but sweet and affectionate to her and to one another. And they said innocent things with wisdom, humor, beauty in them. Her nights no longer felt hollow and lonely, for the room next to her own was filled.

“My darlings,” Maid Myrta thought whenever she gazed at the three of them.

As the weeks passed, however, change came over her. She began to feel and look anxious. When she left the cottage, as she often had to to buy supplies and deliver the clothes she sewed to those who had ordered them, leaving her three children behind, she whisked along as if pursued—for indeed she was, by worries of what might befall her children whilst she was away from them. Someone might hear the leaf-child’s singing and approach the cottage, unable to resist its lure, and discover all three sisters. Though Maid Myrta had entreated her children never to open the door to anyone but their mother, still they might, as creatures unsuspecting of danger. Then the intruder would see what wonders they were and steal them away, and she would be left desolate. Village children might stray up the hill and entice the three children from the cottage to seek adventures, so that they would never wish to return to their quiet home life with her. Their sweetness might be ruined in the company of rowdy village children. They might argue amongst themselves, speak impudently to her.

Maid Myrta shuddered at all of these fears and rushed to get home. The villagers, seeing how she no longer walked with gentle grace as if nothing hurried her, but was bent forward over her flying feet, head bent and hands grasped about the neck of her cloak as if in fear it would be wrenched from her shoulders by the wind, said amongst themselves “See how troubled Maid Myrta looks! She runs along like a madwoman. Perhaps her lonely life has turned her mind at last.” They shook their heads and exchanged knowing glances.

None of them guessed Maid Myrta’s secret or, indeed, that she had one at all, and great was her relief each time she returned to her cottage atop the hill to find her three children safe, waiting for her and crowding about her in joy when she entered. And they were all together again. Maid Myrta smiled upon them as before, yet her brow was wrinkled as she thought of her worries. If any of the villagers found out the existence of her children and their remarkable appearances and abilities, they would call it unfair that a singular, barely respectable woman such as herself should have more beautiful and gifted children than they. Moreover, she had come by them through magical means anyone might use, and therefore had no right to keep them as hers alone, they would say. The villagers would want the children for themselves, even demand them, and how could Maid Myrta oppose them if they did? Such was the enchantment of her children that she was sure no one could look upon them without coveting them.

“They are mine!” Maid Myrta cried to herself. “They must not be taken from me!” And she woke several times in the night and hurried to their room to see that they still lay in their little colored beds in undisturbed sleep, with peaceful breath. Her doors and windows were always shut and bolted securely.

The three children did not appear to perceive their mother’s perpetual anxiety, for, as it increased, so did their joy and brightness. The leaf-child sang louder each day, the cloud-child danced with yet more sweeping movements, and the light-child’s glow grew more luminous. Soon the cottage would not be able to contain the song, dance, and light within it.

One day it could not. Anyone who stood outside the cottage would hear the leaf-child’s song, glimpse the cloud-child’s gliding and flitting, and behold the golden glow of the light-child streaming from every corner. Maid Myrta, peering out from behind the curtains to ensure that no one did stand outside the cottage, bit her lip in trepidation.

The next day anyone at the bottom of the hill would hear and see the children. Maid Myrta fretted and trembled. The following day, anyone across the fields would be aware of them. Maid Myrta sobbed and moaned, entirely forgetting to enjoy her children herself. “My children, my children, you must be quieter, and more still!” she begged.

Three pairs of eyes—one yellow, one blue, the other gold—looked upon her, and three smiles—one wide, one mysterious, the other not seen on lips—were turned her way. “We must be so,” their owners said, “For we live to give you joy with our song, dance, and light. The more worried you become, the more we seek to comfort you. For we have noticed how you worry.”

“You have given me much joy and comfort,” Maid Myrta assured them desperately, “Enough to last the rest of my days if you stopped now. But please, please quiet your song, still your dance, dim your glow! The villagers will take you away from me if they discover you, and I shall be your mother no more!”

But, no matter how Maid Myrta begged, her children did not lessen their activities. The leaf-child’s music was, the next day, deafening, the cloud-child’s dance overwhelming, and the light-child’s glow blinding. All the way down in the village the villagers heard clearly the breathtaking song, glimpsed the soaring dance, and saw the radiant golden light, and all three penetrated to their hearts as they had to Maid Myrta’s. They stopped their work and gathered in the square, gazing past the houses and farms and fields to the cottage on the hill.

“Angels must occupy Maid Myrta’s cottage,” they said to one another in astonishment. “Or else heaven itself has descended there. We must go to see which is the case.”

Maid Myrta saw them coming. From a window she watched them leave the square, cross the fields, and ascend the hill toward her home: men and women, young and old alike, and children; every occupant of the village came, as she thought, to discover her children and take them away from her.

And so, in a fit of violent boldness she had never before displayed, her cheeks flushed and her hair like a heap of hay from her hands wringing themselves through it, Maid Myrta flung open the cottage door and faced the crowd.

“I suppose,” she said, her voice high and carrying, “That you have come to investigate exactly what it is that has drawn your attention to my cottage. I shall show you.” She turned and whisked back into the cottage.

The villagers were quite shocked to have found her in such a state. Surely she had gone mad, as they had thought of late.

The music and dance suddenly ceased and the glow shrank like a doused candle flame. Maid Myrta emerged again, drawing the leaf-child, the cloud-child, and the light-child before her.

“Behold my three children, my three beautiful children who have been my joy and companionship during the weeks past,” Maid Myrta continued, as the mouth and eyes of every villager widened at the sight. “Now, sing—dance—glow!” Maid Myrta tapped each child lightly on the head, at which she commenced her talent. “Hear and see!” Maid Myrta bid the villagers.

There was silence and stillness as the leaf-child sang, the cloud-child danced, and the light-child glowed, each more beautifully than she ever had before.

After several minutes had passed, the three children ceased unbidden and smiled up at their mother, grasping her hands in their little ones. But she did not look up from the ground, her head and shoulders drooping and her hair hanging limp about her face, which was wet with tears.

Her voice was soft and weary as she spoke. “Take them,” she said. “Take them from me to enjoy them yourselves, as I knew you would. A simple, singular woman such as myself has no rightful hold on such enchanting creatures, it seems.” The bitter words uttered in Maid Myrta’s feeble voice were pitiful.

As silence greeted her, she looked up slowly to see that the villagers all stared at her in frank puzzlement.

“What do you mean?” one of them finally asked.

“Why on earth would we take them from you?” inquired another. There were murmurs of the same sort and nodding of heads.

 Maid Myrta’s face now mirrored their confusion. “You mean—you will let me keep them—won’t take them for yourselves? I thought you would, as they are so beautiful and gifted and you would think it unfair that I should have them.” She moved yet closer to her children, searching the villagers’ faces for any sign of deceit.

“We have no intention of taking your children from you,” said a third villager. “We simply came to find out what dwelt in your cottage to make such lovely music, movements, and light.”

“We are very happy for you, Maid Myrta, that you at last have children, and very fine ones.”

Maid Myrta stared at the crowd before her, at the graciously smiling people she had thought would inquire without mercy into where her children had come from, then claim the benefits they gave for their own. Instead, they whom she had fancied as sneering folk who looked down upon her actually wished her well. There had been no need to fear losing her children to them after all.

Maid Myrta laughed a small laugh, looking sheepishly up at the villagers and attempting to tidy her mussed appearance. “I see now that I have expected ill from you without reason,” she said. “I am sorry for it, both for having misjudged your characters and for worrying myself to hysteria so that I no longer enjoyed my three children. They can sing, dance, and glow like no mortals can and are the most charming of company. I will, of course, share their gifts with you. I will bring them into the village with me so that you too may benefit from their abilities as you go about your work. And they may play with your children.”

“That is kind of you,” the villagers replied. “For nowhere in the world could such children be found.”

“Mother,” said the leaf-child, tugging at Maid Myrta’s hand and looking up at her in much the same way that she had before emerging from the black cupboard that first day. “I will sing for them now.”

“And I will dance,” said the cloud-child, taking Maid Myrta’s other hand and looking up at her in the same way.

“I will glow,” said the light-child with her steady golden eyes.

“Yes, my children,” consented Maid Myrta. “Give them the same gifts you have given me.” She had no more fear that the villagers would be stricken with greed for them.

And they were not. They watched and listened, and marveled and smiled in pleasure, and when evening came and the three children grew sleepy, the villagers, with sighs of appreciation, took their way home down the hill, none demanding more entertainment, only giving Maid Myrta further tidings of congratulation for her good fortune.

After tucking in her children that night,  Maid Myrta went to bed for a long, untroubled sleep, patting the black wooden cupboard as she did so.

“Not only has it granted my deepest wish, but it has also shown me how best to cherish it. If only the peddler would come back, so I could thank him and return it!”

Strangely enough, the peddler stopped at the cottage the very next day. Maid Myrta begged him to come in and see what the cupboard had given her. He stayed a long time, listening to the leaf-child, gazing upon the cloud-child and the light-child, and talking with Maid Myrta. At the end of the day, the two were betrothed, and they married the following week accompanied by the song, dance, and light of the three children and attended by cheering villagers. And so Maid Myrta gained a husband as well, and her children a father.

The leaf-child, cloud-child, and light-child went often to the village with Maid Myrta, who resumed her former unhurried and peaceful manner, and around the countryside with the peddler, giving pleasure and joy to all they met. They were always welcomed and enjoyed, but never did any of the villagers think of seizing them for gain; and, wherever they might roam, they always returned to their mother and father in the cottage atop the hill, where they sang, danced, and shone best.


Iva Levarre has always loved to write, particularly stories inspired by sentimental fiction and fairy tales.

Issue No. 9, Summer 2014

Okay
Monica Nawrocki

If I close my eyes and listen, I can hear rustling in the tree tops even though the air is still. Trees don’t really need a breeze to talk. Today, I imagine the whispers are our voices, recorded by the leaves, playing back to us now as I paddle slowly across the lake. I hear the songs we sang together quietly in our self-conscious attempts to harmonize. I hear us negotiating which rock to go to – more sun, but less space; flat rocks but early shade. I hear you laughing at my silly jokes.

“Remember the Cassis lisp?” I ask, almost shy.

You are sitting backwards, facing me as I paddle in the stern, your fingers trailing in the water. “Of course,” you say, eyes closed, face offered up to the sun. I think you might give me a line or two, but you just smile, remembering.

My heart is full to see your lovely faced soaked in sunlight, reflecting gold to heaven. My throat tightens and your eyes open. “It’s alright, Love,” you say and close your eyes again. “Remember: It’ll be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

I blink and focus on the paddle. We round the point and head toward the marshy bay at the end of the lake. Our spot is hidden at the back of the cove, guarded by the thick reeds that pull at paddles and send half-hearted explorers off in search of easier strokes.

I find myself slowing, my heart pounding with dread. How strange that dread is a form of anticipation.

Almost daily, for two weeks now, you’ve left little reminders of my promise.

“Yes, I remember. Maybe tomorrow, if the weather holds.”

Why now, I wonder? It’s been eight months since I made the promise, but you’ve just started prodding now. What I feel from you is not urgency and I sense you want this done as much for me as for you.

I nose the canoe through the strong stalks and emerge in the little clearing we first found so many years ago. The rock looks warm and inviting.

When I have secured the boat and joined you on the moss, you nod at the pouch I carry.

“Let’s get it done, Sweetheart. Then we’ll nap in the sun. It’ll be okay.” Your voice is honey warm but it barely penetrates my heart, gone icy.

My head is crackling with images, memories, sounds, words, smells. “I don’t want to, in case . . .”

“It’ll be okay in the end,” you whisper and nudge the pouch toward me. Tears stream down my face as I loosen the drawstring and open the plastic bag inside. I stand at the edge of the water and throw handfuls of ash into the air; watch some fall to the water, others dance away on the same indiscernible air currents that hold the eagle circling above.

“Friend of yours?” I ask through strained throat muscles, pausing to watch.  I have asked you this a hundred times; long ago you claimed the eagle as your guide. Without squinting, you sweep your gaze into the bright sky to observe the great wings hovering effortlessly.  It circles closer, dips slightly, as if in greeting.

I turn back to the ashes and continue, my heart a tear-soaked sponge. I had always imagined the words of Mary Oliver in this moment, or maybe ee cummings. But all I have to offer are garbled sobs and hitched, ragged breathing that constricts my chest and throat until I can barely get oxygen. I am dizzy.

Grief knocks me off my feet and I clutch the rock surface as the epicentre tries to shake me loose.

The aftershocks subside and you are there, stroking my hair and whispering in my ear and my heart slows, the terror ebbs, and relief that you are still here floods through me; washes over me like a tsunami. I let myself be held in your arms, let myself relax into your lullaby, let myself let go.

When I awake, the sun is low in the sky and you are gone, but peace has replaced your presence. Did you leave it? Breathe it into me as I slept? I try to recall my dreams but all I remember is warmth.

I push the canoe off the rock and head home alone with the empty pouch in the belly of the canoe. I can’t think what I will do with it. I can’t think what I will do without it.


Monica Nawrocki lives with her partner and dog on a small island off the west coast of Canada. She earns her living as a substitute teacher—often reading under-construction manuscripts to captive classroom audiences and happily impersonating someone different every day. She is the author of one book and her fiction and non-fiction pieces have appeared in various journals and anthologies in Canada and the U.S. Visit her at http://monica-nawrocki.blogspot.ca.

About the Contributors


Untitled #3
Ira Joel Haber

Paul David Adkins lives in New York and works as a counselor.

Julie Brooks Barbour is the author of Small Chimes (Aldrich Press, 2014) and two chapbooks: Earth Lust (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, 2014) and Come To Me and Drink (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Waccamaw, diode, storySouth, Prime Number Magazine, The Rumpus, Midwestern Gothic, Blue Lyra Review, and Verse Daily. She is co-editor of the journal Border Crossing and an Associate Poetry Editor at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. She teaches composition and creative writing at Lake Superior State University.

Allie Marini Batts is an MFA candidate at Antioch University of Los Angeles, meaning she can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has been a finalist for Best of the Net and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is managing editor for the Nonbinary Review of Zoetic Press and has previously served on the masthead for Lunch Ticket, Spry Literary Journal, The Weekenders Magazine, Mojave River Review, and The Bookshelf Bombshells. Allie is the author of the poetry chapbooks, “You Might Curse Before You Bless” (ELJ Publications, 2013), “Unmade & Other Poems” (Beautysleep Press, 2013), and “This Is How We End” (forthcoming 2014, Bitterzoet). Find her on the web: https://www.facebook.com/AllieMarini.

Donna Beck writes poetry and likes to take photographs as well. Sometimes a “happy accident” happens and the photo comes out better than expected.

Carol Berg’s poems are forthcoming or in The Journal, Spillway, Heron Tree, Redactions, Pebble Lake Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and Verse Wisconsin. She has received a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her most recent chapbook, Her Vena Amoris, is available from Red Bird Chapbooks.

Katie Booms is a writer, visual artist, and advocate for community-building. She welcomes collaboration of all kinds and can be found on Twitter as @ka_booms. She earned her MFA at the University of Wyoming, served for a year with AmeriCorps at the Freret Neighborhood Center in New Orleans and recently taught at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. Her poetry just appeared in Midwestern Gothic and Every Day Poems.

Karen Bovenmyer holds an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University.

Anne Brannen currently makes her home in Albuquerque, to which she has returned after a decades long absence. She is a former professor of medieval literature and current mistress of herself. Her poetry has been published in such various journals as Cabinet des Fees, Literary Mamas, New Mexico Poetry Review, and Kestrel.

William Cullen, Jr. is a veteran and works at a non-profit in Brooklyn, NY. His poetry has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Camroc Press Review, Christian Science Monitor, Gulf Stream, Pirene’s Fountain, Poppy Road Review, Right Hand Pointing, Spillway, and Word Riot.

Carolyn Cushing is a poet inspired by nature, slightly obsessed with cells, and currently focused on the places where life and death meet. She has published recently in Plum and Freshwater. In 2012 she was a finalist for the Philbrick Poetry Award of the Providence Athenaeum. Her poetry blog is http://unstoppablewholeness.wordpress.com

Alejandro Escudé is the winner of the 2012 Sacramento Poetry Center Award. The winning manuscript, My Earthbound Eye, was published in September 2013.

He received a master’s degree in creative writing from U.C. Davis and teaches high school English in Santa Monica, California. He is also a recent Pushcart Prize nominee and, among other journals, his poems have appeared in California Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Phoebe, Poet Lore, Rattle, as well as in an anthology entitled How to Be This Man, published by Swan Scythe Press.

Originally from Argentina, he lives with his wife and two kids in Los Angeles, California. You can find more information about him and his work on alejandroescude.com.

Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in USA and Europe and he has had 9 one man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum & The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Since 2007 His paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 160 on line and print magazines. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner grants, the Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grant and, in 2010, he received a grant from Artists’ Fellowship Inc. He currently teaches art to retired public school teachers at The United Federation of Teachers program in Brooklyn.

Patrick Cabello Hansel has published poems in Hawai’i Pacific Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Turtle Quarterly, Passager, Parachute, Perfume River Poetry Review, The Meadowland Review and other journals, and has poems forthcoming in Red Earth Review, Talking Stick and the anthology Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women. He was selected for the 2008-09 Mentor Series in Poetry at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, and was a 2011 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grantee. His novella Searching was serialized in 33 issues of The Alley News.

Troy Harris is a computer programmer during the day and a writer at all other times. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Dah Helmer’s poetry has appeared in many publications, and most recently in The Sandy River Review, Stone Voices Magazine, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Orion headless, Words & Images In Flight, and Miracle Magazine, and is forthcoming in Eunoia Review, Perfume River Review, and Literature Today. The author of two collections of poetry from Stillpoint Books, his third collection is due for publication in 2014, also from Stillpoint. Dah lives in Berkeley, California where he is currently working on the manuscript for his fourth book.

Duane L. Herrmann lives on rolling prairie near Topeka, Kansas. His work can be found in: American Poets of the 1990’s, BAFA, The Blue Pen, cyclamensandswords.com, Flint Hills Review, Inscape, kansaspoets.com, Little Balkans Review, LiteraryYard.com, Manifest West, Midwest Quarterly, New Horizons, Orison, the Passionate Few, Phoenix Sound, Planet Kansas, Potpourri, Whirlwind Review, World Order, Kansas Poets Trail in downtown Wichita, KS, and the Map of Kansas Literature (website).

His major collection of poetry is: Prairies of Possibilities.

Alexandra Isacson’s poetry chapbook, Narcotic Silks, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. She is also the author of Poetic Anthropologies, a tribute to the humanities, published by Medulla Press. Her poetry has been nominated for Pushcarts and The Best of the Net Anthology. She has published in Van Gogh’s Ear, Blue Fifth Review, New World Writing, & other awesome places.

Elizabeth Johnston’s poetry has appeared in Organs of Vision and Sense, The Muse: an International Journal of Poetry, Yellow Medicine Review, Trivia: Voices of Feminism, The Journal of South Texas English Studies, The Mom Egg Review, New Verse News, as well as in two book anthologies, B, and Veils, Halos, and Shackles: International Poems on the Abuse and Oppression of Women. She is a founding member of the Rochester-based writer’s group, Straw Mat. She teaches writing and gender studies at Monroe Community College and, in her spare time, teaches writing as therapy for cancer survivors at the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester.

Emma Karnes was born in Rochester, New York and now lives in Ithaca, New York. She has had poems published in Teen Ink Magazine and Word Soup End Hunger. Emma continues to write poetry and hopes to share her work with as many people as possible.

Kat Lerner hails from the ever-breezy Pacific Northwest, where she writes fiction and poetry and teaches creative writing. Her work has appeared in publications including Word Catalyst Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Wilderness House Literary Review, Triggerfish Critical Review, Labyrinth, and Inkspeak.

Julie Jeanell Leung’s creative nonfiction has been published in the Bellingham Review and her essays have been selected as a finalist for the Annie Dillard Creative Nonfiction Award and the Hunger Mountain Creative Nonfiction Prize. After studying biochemistry and writing at Brown University, she is currently a student in the Rainier Writing Workshop, the MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University.

Iva Levarre has always loved to write, particularly stories inspired by sentimental fiction and fairy tales.

Victor Liu is a high school senior attending Branson School in Ross, CA, and is honored to have recently enrolled as part of Stanford University’s Class of 2018, planning to major in English. He recently had the honor of being awarded 1st Place in Marin Poetry Center’s annual anthological competition. His influences include ee cummings and William Carlos Williams. Beyond writing, Victor is also an artist and enjoys gallery excursions.

Molly McCormack is the Managing Editor of A NARROW FELLOW Journal of Poetry. Her poems have been published in several journals. She is also an accomplished blues and folk musician, performing and teaching both mountain and hammered dulcimer at numerous venues across the country.

Matt Morris has appeared in various magazines and journals, including ABZ, DMQ, 88, Hunger Mountain, New York Quarterly, Runes, and others. He has received five Pushcart nominations. His first book won the 2003 Main Street Rag Poetry Award; Pudding House has published his chapbooks, Here’s How and Greatest Hits. He currently lives on what remains of a farm in West Virginia with his goldfish Homer.

Monica Nawrocki lives with her partner and dog on a small island off the west coast of Canada. She earns her living as a substitute teacher—often reading under-construction manuscripts to captive classroom audiences and happily impersonating someone different every day. She is the author of one book and her fiction and non-fiction pieces have appeared in various journals and anthologies in Canada and the U.S. Visit her at http://monica-nawrocki.blogspot.ca.

Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin’s short fiction has appeared in Bards and Sages Quarterly, Absent Willow Review, and the anthology Skulls & Crossbones: Tales of Women Pirates. Some of her poetry has been published in Shadow Road Quarterly, Rose & Thorn Journal, and Golden Sparrow Literary Review.

William Reichard is a poet.

Jo Taylor is an ER nurse with twenty-one years of experience. She’s recently left the ER and found work from home doing chart reviews which is a bit boring comparatively but it allows her time to read and write daily. She writes fiction and poetry.

Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a fulltime firefighter for the city of Murphysboro. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to Peru.


Petals
Donna Beck

Issue No. 9, Summer 2014


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Ira Joel Haber

Summer Feature, 2014
Four Paintings by Victor Liu

Fiction
Path Before Giants by Jo Taylor
Tip of the Iceberg by Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin
The Red Red Rose by Karen Bovenmyer
Maid Myrta’s Children by Iva Levarre
Backup and Restore by Troy Harris

Flash Fiction
By Butterfly Wings by Allie Marini Batts
Okay by Monica Nawrocki

Creative Non-Fiction
Selkie by Julie Jeanell Leung

Poetry
The Summerland by William Reichard
My Wife’s Cryogenics by Paul David Adkins
Cloud Fables by Jonathan Travelstead
Persephone Explains the Pomegranate by Anne Brannen
The Giraffe by Matt Morris
Wisdom and Father, Dream by Patrick Cabello Hansel
Delilah Scorned by Elizabeth Johnston
Little Red by Katie Booms
Two Doors Down by Molly McCormack
Emergence by Carolyn Cushing
A Dream Held In A Mouth by Dah Helmer
footfalls and how the glass feels the moment before it by Victor Liu
[crafting the curve] and [iron-bellied] by Emma Karnes
Tiny Pond by Duane L. Herrmann
Stone by Julie Brooks Barbour
Her Swedish Fairy Tales: the Girl Who Fasted Too Long by Carol Berg
There Are Men in This City Who Dress Their Sons Like Themselves and Pulpo by Alejandro Escudé
Overheard Conversations No. 1 by Kat Lerner
The White Poppy by Alexandra Isacson
On Your Hundredth Birthday by William Cullen, Jr.


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Ira Joel Haber

About the Contributors