Historical Fiction Competition 2020
The first time I saw Elsie she was skating on the moon.
Cold out here, I said to her. Snow’s all thick and wet like lard.
Elsie blinked. She stopped spinning; fell right there and cracked a crater in the ice.
“Yes,” she whispered, sopping wet and waterlogged, arms flapping, fluttering. “Yes,” she whispered, softer this time as she slid back onto the surface of the moon, and looked straight up at me.
The second time I saw Elsie the air was like cold tea. Too sweet, too brisk: so raw and crisp it was suffocating. She was walking to the schoolhouse, kicking rocks across the trail as she tugged on her loose curls. Though nearly a half a year had passed, her sweater was damp, her hair doused. Still sodden from falling through the moon, I suppose. Still soaked.
I spotted Suzy behind the salmonberry bush before she did -- all dumpling hands and pinched eyes. “Elsie,” she...
**trigger warning: mentions of systematic racism, violence
her street is stock-still like stagnant summer air,
humid like a thunderstorm morning. sometimes
she wants to run ten miles just to break the wind.
& when she looks down at her hands she wonders
if it’s possible to be trapped inside of her own body,
trapped inside a house that isn’t quite a home.
& she has her mother’s eyes. real deep & blue
& bright, for her childhood was plain & simple.
she wishes it could be the same for everybody else.
& at night she traces the lines on her fingers & rubs the
linoleum & breathes. there are so many who are no
longer breathing. too many; too much.
& she sighs at the campaign signs, for her town is a red one;
her state is a broken one. [& she freezes when they tell her
how sixty miles down forty-one they shot him seven times]
Flash Fiction Competition 2020
Ma’s eyes are always spilling.
Last summer the hydrangeas died; she planted them too Early. The Early got Ma. Got the girl, too.
Ronnie said Ma will get over it, said he oughta head to the orphanage and get her another. Been a year! I punched Ronnie’s meaty face.
Ma’s skin’s scrubbed all raw now: raw like the chapped hydrangeas; broken, cracked. She thinks the Early’s her fault; strokes her now-flat stomach and withers away.
But Ronnie’s pudgy lips don’t know when to close. Tells his prize-wife to move on, whispers --
Death, my dear, is always on time.
"My Heart is Like"
I know what my heart is like;
this beating, breathing, blooming soul:
it is like a ghost, lost in this finite
moment: hidden in tattered folds.
It is like a shadow, scorched by the air,
wandering & waiting & watching,
it’s only ever halfway-there.
In order to live, humans have to eat. But, do we know where the food that we consume comes from? Food is oftentimes at the root of exploitation -- the average cocoa farmer in Côte d'Ivoire is paid less than $200 a year, and in Mexico, the avocado industry attracts problems such as extortion, kidnapping, and oppression. So, how can we, as consumers, not feed into the cycle that exploits farmers?
The first step is quite simple: know what you’re eating -- where it came from, for Knowledge is Nourishment.
Monday sees Mangoes in her Dreams.
Swollen, Ripe, Too-Many, Too-Much
she says. Sweet, Plump, Soft As Tar In The Summer,
she says. Mangoes, she says, Bloated Things;
Monday sees Mangoes in her Dreams.
She sees them when Ma plants the geraniums in July
& spades the earth. Skewers it. Spears it. Spills pools
of molten dirt to dribble over the flower box -- sweet juice,
sticky juice. Mushy like overripe Mangoes.
Monday sees Mangoes in her Dreams.
They splatter her in her sleep & blister the stagnant air,
leech the cicadas songs with sap; drown them. The sterile
hills fill with fruit, sluice through Ma’s geraniums & twist
& turn & flood & jerk her awake. Awake, Awake.
Monday hides from The Mangoes.
Sometimes they writhe through the crevices in
her sneakers & she sees them in clear day -- brisk dawn.
Monday, they tell her, Don’t Run, We’re Just Same:
Left In The Sun Long Enough,
Letter Writing Competition 2020
Sometimes I wonder if we’re both looking up at the same Sky. I suppose that scientifically speaking, we are, though when light pollution snakes in from the nearby cities and scours My Sky in a distorted haze, all I can see is fog. Surely, it’s not the same for you.
Last time I visited, the stars swaddled me in tapestries of silk, quilts of lust. I remember feeling as if I could touch them -- as if I could taste the sweet light rolling down my tongue like honey. I’ve never seen so many in one place, I’ve never seen a Night Sky so clear and deep and still, and I wonder -- has it changed?
It’s been too long since I last saw Your Sky: Alaska’s Sky.
I used to think that it was simply a blanket, that the Sky was sewn from silky drapes -- threads of moonlight. Back then, my imagination had been dipped in...
How to be a Good Creature
Mount Iliamna bleeds in layers of frost, leeching snow drifts from its worn limbs.
It towers above Cook Inlet like a skyscraper, films of sleet decorating its sides and billowing into the still waters of Kachemak Bay. From a distance, the summit looks as if it can fit between my chapped fingertips, but as the Edna Frances chugs farther into the bay, it grows bigger.
Purple bags circle across my face, a sign of exhaustion, but even still, I open my eyes wide, running my fingertips through the water and breathing in the sweet mountain air. Bliss is not infinite, yet my scientifically-mannered brain craves it, craves the unconfined feeling that spirals through my veins like a corkscrew. For here, I’m nothing more than a girl swaddled by eternity: treading through broken waves and rugged tide-pools, hair tangled in the wind. Here, I drink the neverending sky.
Grandpa pulls the sputtering vessel to a halt, years of wisdom gleaming beneath...
If you take the southbound interstate past The Falls; Good Hope,
broken cement freeways and cracks pooling with dust,
if you take the southbound interstate [keep going, almost there],
you’ll snap between the walls of this city,
it’s crumbling facade.
A pulse dwells in these glass towers, beating, breathing,
slates of transparency basking in clean air, clear air.
Even these skyscrapers hide behind walls of supremacy,
flickering limpid screens. It’s a cage, you see, for brass rods mark
borders here, rim neighborhoods and spew exhaust. Southside,
Northside, Eastside, Westside [does it ever end?].
I wasn’t alive in ‘93 when cryptosporidium poured through
the water like liquid lava, drowned districts and scrawled
segregated lines. I wasn’t alive when the atmosphere
altered and pollution began to split, sticky crests of wind
puffing through communities, leaving some pristine and taintless
while others suffered beneath the ties of an unequal system.
But I am here now; twenty-seven years past the...
/ i am the child of broken sunbeams / light that doesn't 'wane till 11:26 on solstice, / woodstove voices and crackling hearths, / lust that flows like lava. / remember this moment, young girl / it'll only get darker in winter. /
/ i am the daughter of neon overalls / bright orange straps and Xtratuf boots / chapped feet skipping through tidepools / and mussels rubbing twixt my fingertips, / rocks piled in threadbare pockets. / maybe if i weigh myself down with seashells / i won't forget this place. /
/ i am the sister of the kenai mountains: / hair coiled beneath porcelain peaks and / hands running through kachemak bay, / boulders of glacial rock. / i am the child of nose-crinkles and shudders / spoon drifting past the lonely eyeball that / bobs in my fish-head soup. /
/ i am the peculiar girl / running through the harbor and wedging clouds in my...
Wear your crown, little one. This world is twirling, winding,
dancing like the stock-still pirouettes you hold in late-May
rain. Water won't sluice through your soul 'less you let it,
drizzle can only cleanse your throat when you stop scrubbing
bleach cross your bursting essence, stop bundling
fragments of yourself beneath the linoleum:
fake as the smile plastered to your face.
Look here, little one. Press your nails to the window-panes,
we're bumping through the world [it's still moving, still going].
Carpe diem, young girl: moments don't last forever,
stars don't shine for eternity, but your fate is now. Paint the
states and sprinkle colors through the brisk sunset air, wash life
cross this tarnished pleather truck -- grab the wheel and float
us round the globe.
Stop, little one. I'm right here. Can't you see me?
We sip pineapple popsicles in June but noon-light shadows my
face, always too bright. Still, I'm near.
You shiver, child; Lake Michigan is...
we, two strawberry-tie-dyed fish-out-of water beings ran our
sixth-grade soles through pistachio grass and let the wind
dance past our ponytails. we, two sneaker-peeling,
dry-heaving entities skipped past the dusty infield and
chalky dirt, waved at one another and spewed words
like sputtering tendrils of gas from our mouths.
we, two teetering neophytes, timid newcomers,
met between pounding shoes and gasping breaths,
sticky coils of September air.
our tounges bled navy in June. they stained below
the incense of burning marshmallows and drizzly
zephyrs, leaching sweet cerulean frosting and treacles
of honey -- a flood of faux sky. perhaps if our palms
melt into sapphire sugar-crystals we'll be able to reach
up up up and squish stars between our fingertips, June smiling
down at our finally-summer faces. for here, we run through the
dandelion grass and forget the too-long school-year. here, we hide
beneath the obsidian night and prickly brambles, chase each
other through the yard and clutch our sides...
chapped hands wedged between the window-panes and i,
air-conditioned shell of uncertainty, grasp green twixt my fingertips.
there, look, out the charcoal truck's apertures: little girl squeezing a metallic
fishing-pole, line slithering through the reservoir like spaghetti noodles -- pink bows
in her cinnamon hair.
there, look: mustard cornrows and scarlet barns, rusted porcelain farmhouses
crumbling in facades of memories, smashed under the harsh winds of the world.
are we not, too, simply wood panels and broken limbs, crushed beneath
the weight of our earth?
there, look: train tracks pushing past walnut soil, crusted with blotches of
fatigue and groaning under the sprinkle of dandelion seeds. perhaps one day
they were bathed in cars and trampled under dreamy-eyed people,
hope wavering round their bodies.
there, look: it's a small town, smaller streets, curved like the nimble
lines of my soul -- weak and delicate and afraid. can these fraying roads
compete with the highway that cuts through their solemn fields and church...
We tumbled into the world with strawberry hair and indigo eyes.
The tips of our skulls sprouted roses, deeper and redder than the crimson streaks that trickled through Máma’s fingertips.
“No,” she gasped when she first peered down at our baby-fat ringed limbs, our saltwater veins and identical smiles. “No, these are not my children.”
Baba placed a wary hand on her shoulder and sighed, face twisted in confusion as he winced. “What should we do?”
Máma turned away from us, tears slipping down the nape of her neck. “The Dvořák’s will only talk, only stare. Rumor ‘ill spread, you know it. So we can’t keep ‘em, we can’t.” She paused, scooping us up as water continued to stream down her cheeks. “They’re cursed, the four of ‘em. We can’t let ‘em curse us too.”
Baba nodded and shook his head: yes ma’am, yes ma’am. Together they walked us toward the door that day, the day that we tumbled...
i. obsidian is the color of death. gowns of ebony, coils of raven; draped like curtains to skin.
maybe if you clench the crimson veins of your knuckles and scrunch your brows
you can dissipate into phosporus & oxygen & helium beneath the calamity creases of
your dress, streak broken scintillas through the cerulean atmosphere and frisk into the rain.
but the hushed voices & solemn words sweep harsh strokes into reality, wisping gray songs
& wilted petals as aunts you forgot existed brush the blotches of your cheeks,
perfume ruins of rancid baby powder & fermented cabbage.
ii. when he asks you, takes your hand, you can't answer. the pain is too, too deep;
spilling the contents of your soul onto linoleum, obsidian fabric peeling the chapped
flakes of your limbs. this, you think, is how Cleopatra must've felt.
but his footprints ravel out the door when you cease to say words,
mud stained to the carpet, feet running &...
i. wrap the tips of your fingers round clouds & coil your dreams to
cotton candy pearls. your brain is frothing fantasies, steam an effervescence of
lapis-lathered strokes sprawled to linen.
you said ecstasy can't be deafened & layers of obsidian foam won't
cease the screaming that pumps blood &
rings tumultuous traces cross marrow,
but if you creak the floorboards frozen & remember
what they told you, waves crash
blue blue blue & stuff your lungs till they wither.
so tuck your eyelids, close them & waver through faux tethers of
universe, milky and sweet like plump drops of honey slipping down your throat.
your mind will soak in cotton candy, fluttering as it ferments
taffy-pink ringlets, ballet-slippers
ii. but you shall awaken dazed in bubblegum wads,
voice tugging you to go back, slither towards the dark dark oblivion creased in the
crevices of your skull, doesn't it seem so bright? if you don't think about it,
"give one's attention to a sound."
ii. flesh draped in curtains behind the tendrils of your hair. do you
hear the wind? its right there
sluicing cross brown curls & dancing toward
your eardrums: [stuffed and full like Christmas dinner] don't you see?
there are vibrating strings bouncing through the world, sound & waves & light
that flourish our existence, tulip petals & daffodils blooming from our skulls;
why don't you hear me?
iii. sometimes i scream crackle-hot coils of burning inferno
but you can't listen under the pitter-patter of rain that sears
through the canyons of your mind.
i run from deep deep oceans of blue gray black &
laugh at the sky pouring waves of cobalt down my throat,
lost times doused in thick droplets.
i run from daffodils and dandelions, salmon-berry shards soaked in
blush-pink memories of when the rain didn't scowl & we could
cling to the rope-swing, mush our Xtratuf's through the slough.
i run through the last frontier & pounds of shell-white
halibut, thyme-crusted to my skin till i fall through Canada &
land back home.
i run from cornfields & red barns & cows grazing past
combs of emerald, lakeside trails sprawled in oak roots,
shoelaces quivering to dirt.
i run from city-air & wash my hands in light pollution,
stare at the sky and wish for the stars,
longing for deep deep oceans and lost lost times.
i run from this body, from these too-long legs and this too-delicate heart.
i run till my lungs burn and my limbs scream and...
we drink moments like lemonade,
let time fizz sour & sweet beneath the suds
of our tongues, perfect for a second and then gone;
yellow liquid slipping yellow memories down our
we grasp minutes between our fingertips as if they're
infinite, curl the crevices of our hands round cell-phones
& scroll, camera click-clicking
yellow pictures through yellow lenses into the
we run faster than the wind,
feet cracking cement, chiseled boards of
gray life smashed under the curves of our heels
as we speed past; eyes plastered to
yellow futures twirling yellow years beyond our
isn't it funny how it took a pandemic for us to look
at the stars?
they were always there, always burning & shining & fluttering
tendrils of sizzle-hot light, though we just didn't
we are imperfect beings, always rushing, moving, sprinting,
forgetting what never left.
we are all
stars for moonlight pours
from the crevices of our eyelids sluicing
helium & hydrogen as we
burn & burn & burn.
we are all
suspended between our
fears, vast oceans of Space dripping
shards of obsidian down our
doubt as we
wait & wait & wait
for this to
we are all
constellations, melting pots &
points of sizzle-white light
drawn together by
lines as we
watch & watch & watch
we are all
unsure and uncertain,
sputtering worry like
exhaust, gas slinking through
we are all
burning & burning & burning
waiting & waiting & waiting
watching & watching & watching --
stars in the same
you dream of the days where your feet no longer scrape the cinnamon floors of your gray-walled home, flaked-skin chipping past the sidewalk of your brick-lined neighborhood: driveways etched in too-straight lines, grass frosted in emerald.
you are afraid of growing up yet you spend your days wishing yourself out of the silent middle-class suburb that your feet are tied to, spend your days tired and lost and alone.
you never did child-like things, never played with those kids who live on the corner in that speckled-navy house, their faces wide and deep and blooming with laughter as they squish their feet through the overgrown retention pond. you never played with the neighbors, never threw rain boots round the edges of your heels and ran through the thick brush of the quiet woods resting behind your screen-door, you never waved at that angry farmer that keeps to the gold corn-field and laughed as he hollered and shook his fist, never scampered...
i press hope between the folds of an egg-shell box,
press life in the creases of chiseled cardboard strands
stretched beneath shards of
strawberry-Popsicle stains --
the residue of sticky summer dreams smeared
bubblegum-pink cross blue-jeans.
i press love through the ringlets of a dandelion necklace,
weave memories through metal and
watch as the sun shimmies its rays through the
window-panes and laughs
at the butterscotch glow it mirrors,
the floured hands that grasped its light,
wore tendrils of gold
before i did.
i press courage through the ocean's eyes,
roll persistence past obsidian-stroked shells
dipped in saltwater and fish-blood,
specks of rhubarb and salmon berries and
fiddle heads and ink clotting acid into
i press hope to the peels of my fingertips,
shower love in in the wisps of my hair,
sprinkle courage on the ends of my toes and
smile as the the world waves back in rays of
strawberry-butter sunlight and mustard-soaked
waves for despite the...
your hands are too big for this
your fingertips are too deafening to tiptoe cross the
your head is too jam-packed with words to thrum with silence, too screech to a halt and steep in the stardust that clots the corners of your lips -- too bright to be tarnished by a
its funny how the onyx pinpricks in your pupils glow fuchsia when you laugh, rose-speckled cheeks cocked back so that the legs of your chair graze the
sun's broken rays drawn to the crook of your
you said they told you there is no place on this earth for your
no place for your sand-sprayed hair, crimson-dusted cheeks,
head laced with fragments of
you said they told you your existence is a mere
speck and that
but they did not lacerate the pores of your soul out of
they did not shake their...
paint me a blank page so that the tips of my toes may curl across an empty canvas, so that the marrow of my bones may seep into an alabaster soup and leak shades of chiffon on a paper without words.
paint me a blank page so that the strands of your brush bend with new beginnings, bristles fluttering in coarse strands of horse-hair and smooth wisps of celery-peels, stroking oblivion onto cellulose.
paint me a blank page so that i may dance out of the Noise that ferments my life, thin and salty and stinging with too-old vinegar -- crawling, crawling, crawling 'till it drowns out the voice that matters most, 'till it runs crimson with its caustic distractions.
why do we find ecstasy in the ephemeral?
why do we let Noise ooze its lead-soaked paint-crusted self into our eardrums, letting
speak louder than the
Five Line Fiction
december told her to remember -- to stop. december told her to listen to its breath: cold and sharp and plump with tendrils of ice-shards -- to freeze her raveling sneakers and mold them into the tile. december told her to silence the pounding inside of her head and let her limbs soak into mist, to slither back to the slices of aluminum that speckled the traffic-swarmed road, to grasp the moment inside of her fingertips -- the moment that her life fell apart.
she hated december, hated the way that it stole what mattered most away from her, hated the way it plucked him from the ground and left her alone on the broken pavement, the marrow inside of her freezing into dust.
yet as her palms clenched the wavering memory, december froze and showed her his face, showed her his eyes as they sparkled under the moonlight, his smile blooming into...
she told you that you are clotted in stardust. born of space-shards and ultraviolet fuse. bathed in strings of syrup slithering criss-cross through the coils of your curls: moonlight.
she told you that your feet are thicker than salmon-skin. plump and thick with oil and grease. gravel crumbling to the crevices of your heels as they dance through the dust. gills writhing with purple.
she told you that your hands are the world. layers upon layers of raindrops flakes, zephyrs whispering past your worn palms, sprouting swirls of water. she told you that your fingertips spew words.
he told you to split butter with olive oil. be sure to use both, both, and plops halibut into stainless-steel. both, and sprinkles lemon-pepper back and forth, sizzling black and gold and white, steam wisping through the air, cuffing to your wrists tighter than the vacuum seal.
he told you to grasp your hands to the fishing-pole, ingrain them...
he pressed his cracked fingers to the
crank of the snow-blower, tendrils of
gas curling 'till they were thicker than heavy
the apricot-speckled lettering choked its
excess: pollution clinging to the tree-bark, swimming
through syrup cement. You Do Know That's Hurting The Environment?
Yes, Yes, But We Won't Be Needing It Anymore, Will We?
[sputter-sputter] the metal skewered to its stop, coughing
as it squirted out one last breath,
dry-heaving chemical-creaked soup
onto pavement, blue
dripping from the
even as i stumbled, feet crunching
[smog flowing like lava from a
linoleum ribcage] --
the air cuffed my wrists,
Spring Is Here.
She told you to press your hand to the drywall so that you could feel the raindrops between your fingertips.
She told you to imagine that the water was seeping through the plaster -- strands of splintered hair twining past your veins, curling into wet locks.
She told you to remember this moment, to promise Time that you would not forget the minutes that you spent with your palm grasping speckles of gypsum, raindrops blooming into the crevices of your skin.
Yet, the memory swam into a crater -- splattered with masses of crimson retentions, drowning in a thick shadow of black.
It was the Noise that suffocated it, the constant sound thrumming through your eardrums, the swirling tendrils of smoke that layered your frolicking mind. It blasted everywhere your feet stepped, sneakers chipping the cement; it willed your mind into a rhythm: busy and freckled with forgetfulness -- regret.
the universe rained shards of broken drizzle, droplets cleaving the gravel, blue sprouting from the clouds as they whispered into puffs of splintered cerulean:
"the ground is merely a sliver of earth, someday you will join the sky."
springtime nodded, its land frolicked with mist -- tendrils of ice returning to the sea, squeezing its droplets to the window-panes so that the world couldn't peer past. the salmonberries stretched their coral buds, gravity tapping its fingertips on their stems as they bloomed from the land's cracked ribcage, willing themselves towards empty, singing blue.
"someday you will join the sky."
mud sang back.
it slithered past the fiddleheads. swirled the continent. it caked towards a blur lathered with fear, teabags drowning in boiling ringlets. it swam across states: chiseled treebark thudding linoleum cement. footprints covered in whirring mold. the birds tilted their heads at the wreathing brown and creaked into stillness, their cacophony laced crimson.
"the sky --"