Our October Illustrator is Dawn Surratt!

I am thrilled to be able to announce our October illustrator: Dawn Surratt!


Dawn attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as a recipient of a Spencer Love Scholarship for Visual Arts and graduated with a degree in Studio Art. While working in a gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina she soaked up the work of the many talented artists and photographers working in the surrounding area and spent time at the Light Factory’s darkroom printing images and learning about photography.


When life moved Dawn to Athens, Georgia she spent her time experimenting with other art forms such as book making, collage and paper making while raising a daughter. After her father unexpectedly died in a tragic accident, she found herself gravitating towards working with grieving people and later attended graduate school, finishing a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Georgia. The next 20 years were spent working with hospice patients in rural and urban settings. This very sacred and intense work became the backbone of her photography echoing strong undercurrents of transition and loss in her visual images.


Dawn’s images speak to the realm of imagination and the internal, emotional dialogue that resides in all of us. Although they are simplistic in nature, their complex nuances of emotion are reminders of the effects of time on us all.

We are so very fortunate to have her illustrate our upcoming issue. Stay tuned!


“Harmony” by Richard Bader

“Confined to Memory” by Dawn Surratt

Anna suggested it. In theory they took turns, but in fact it was usually Anna.

O sink hernieder nacht der liebe.” Descend upon us night of passion. From Tristan and Isolde. The fury it caused when it first played, the rage at Wagner for composing it. Erik admired Wagner. Maybe it was his Teutonic roots. Erik the Red, Anna had called him the night they met, at that party after Carmen, even reached up and flicked his hair where it hung down over his forehead. Erik the Receding now, more like. Tristan had an incompleteness he could relate to, the way it left you hanging, waiting for something that never fully arrives.

And it was in his range, though that high A might give him trouble. Anna would sing it beautifully, of course. Though not the way she once did.

Erik sat at the piano, a baby grand that took up half their living room, fingers hovering just above the keys. “Don’t be all warbly,” she said, smiling to let him know she meant it in a good-natured way, and he smiled back to reassure her that it didn’t hurt. That reminder. Always that reminder of what he wasn’t. Gieb vergessen dass ich lebe, the song went. Let us live our life forgetting. If only it were that easy.

But he knew what she meant. That first E-flat, in the second line, held for three beats: nacht der lie (one, two, three) – be. Like starting too slow on a bike, wobbling a little before you get your balance. It was right where she came in, echoing his phrase, so he hoped she didn’t notice, but he saw it in something she did with her eyebrows.

Anna had been a brilliant Carmen that night all those years ago, performing with raw ferocity, The Italian equally brilliant as Don José, their chemistry intoxicating. Erik was there because a college friend was on the opera board and invited him, to the performance and the after-party for donors paying insane amounts to breathe the same air she breathed, even as her beauty took their breath away. Their wives expected The Italian and tried not to look devastated when he didn’t show. It was said he had other plans. L’amour est un oiseau rebelle, Anna had sung. Love is a rebellious bird.

“Stop,” Anna said at the point just before, one after the other, they sang their way into the night of love. Eric’s fingers paused above the keys. “Let’s go over that part again.”


She had been the rising star. Only twenty-four, young—some thought too young—for the roles they were giving her, with extraordinary range and versatility, a voice that could be liquid and soothing or could explode with fire.

Anna Colston. The Anna Colston. In her silver dress with the plunging neckline, reaching up with a pale arm to touch his hair, the backs of her slender fingers brushing lightly against his forehead. Her golden hair tumbling in waves, blue eyes sparkling, mouth wide with mirth, enjoying the effect she was having on him. “Erik the Red,” she said. “Such a pleasure.” That way South Africans have of making pleasure sound illicit and thrilling.


O sink hernieder nacht der liebe, Erik sang, his voice rising with more confidence this time, no wobble on the E-flat. She followed him, traces of nectar still there in her voice after all this time, but now it was as if it had been aged in oak barrels and become a deep red wine, full-bodied, maybe a little sediment at the bottom.

“Shit!” she said, slamming her hand on the piano. Mad at herself now, something off in her voice that he couldn’t detect. “Again.”


“Call her,” his college friend had urged later that night.

“How?” Erik asked, part of him aching to see her again, part of him hoping to discover the impossibility of that, like standing on a high ledge too narrow to support him, but with a view too captivating to resist. A high-school music teacher didn’t just call a woman destined to become one of the world’s great sopranos, even if she does flick his hair. “You can’t just call Anna Colston.”

They were sitting in a taxicab outside Erik’s apartment. The friend took a business card from his wallet and wrote something on the back: the name of Anna’s hotel, the number of her room. “She’s only here for three more days,” he said.

He called her the next day to invite her to have dinner with him that night after the performance. “What?” she answered, not “Hello,” sounding distracted, impatient, as if he’d interrupted something. Then, “Who are you again?” And he felt like a fool, his words tripping over themselves as he tried to explain. “Oh!” she said, interrupting him and laughing. “Erik the Red.” To his astonishment, she accepted.


He played the section over. It was a simple phrase, in a part where they traded solos. Erik thought she sounded perfect, but he didn’t say so because he knew it would make things worse. She was frustrated by what eluded her, irritated that he couldn’t tell the difference.

Vas vir dachten, vas uns dauchte. All that daunted, all that haunted.


That second night he paid for the best seat he could afford and again watched Anna’s Carmen steal the heart of The Italian’s Don José and then break it, discarding him for the bullfighter, the act of betrayal that would destroy her. As the audience rose in gratitude, Erik worried about how he could possibly satisfy a dinner companion like Anna Colston.

They went to a Spanish restaurant he knew in a cobblestone alley where she surprised him by wanting to talk about him. He told her about the cello competitions he had won as a boy, the scholarship to Oberlin, the doors to a performance career that refused to open for him, and his decision to teach instead. He told her how he used to fill in occasionally with the symphony when a cellist was sick or away. He told her about the baroque quartet he played with, the recording they planned to make. “And my father was a teacher,” he said, as if that explained something.

She said, “It must be so rewarding to work with young people, though.” That one word, sharp as piano wire, underscoring what separated them: Though.

Erik took a sip of the Rioja he had ordered that cost nearly what he made in a week, hoping it would steady him. “With your talent, I imagine you were spared the political games.”

“My first role,” Anna said between big bites of paella, “I got by fucking the conductor.” She said it brightly, matter-of-factly, as if she were commenting on the previous day’s good weather, her blue eyes watching for his reaction.

An older couple approached their table, the woman gushing over Anna’s performance that evening, the man standing back. They asked for her autograph, and Anna obliged, writing it on the playbill the man took from his overcoat pocket. The couple looked awkwardly at Erik, wondering what role he played, this lesser star dimmed by the supernova of Anna Colston. The man, a short man with wispy gray hair, held the playbill and pen out to him. Erik looked at Anna, who laughed into the back of her hand. Erik took the pen and wrote in a bold cursive so Anna could see: Erik the Red.


Tristan was built of sounds that had no business being with each other, with harmonies dissolving into dissonance, intrusions thwarting the musical release. It was music that helped shape the surrealism of Dali and the paranoia of Hitchcock.


He drove her back to her hotel and wasn’t sure he heard correctly when she invited him up. In bed with her that night he was nervous, hesitant, intimidated by her experience. It was like holding a Casals cello—you wanted to play it at the standards it deserved, but feared doing so was beyond your reach. He had to teach in the morning, and left her room wondering if this was another audition he had failed.

But she would call whenever she played nearby—La Boheme, Rigoletto, Otello—and he would go to see her, and they would go out somewhere after, or go straight to her hotel room.

Months later, in Philadelphia, during the last performance of Lucia di Lammermoor, at the end of “Il Dolce Suono,” one of opera’s most demanding arias, from his seat Erik heard passages that were meant to soar but that failed to, and saw on Anna’s face not just the grief of Lucia, but also a fear that was Anna’s alone. Something was wrong. Backstage he found her in tears. She was too young, her voice too immature, the music had pushed her too far. A crowd had gathered around her: at age twenty-four Anna Colston’s vocal cords had hemorrhaged.

The Italian stood apart from the others talking to the young mezzo-soprano who played Alisa, Lucia’s handmaid.

They agreed that after surgery she would move in with him so he could help with the recovery. For over a week Anna didn’t speak at all, and for weeks after that she spoke only when necessary, and not much above a whisper. No singing, no shouting, no vocal outlet for what she felt. Things needed time to heal. She created a language on his piano, a modest upright back then, letting the emotion held in music reflect her moods, pounding the flat of her hand on the lower keys when she got frustrated.

He cooked for her, cared for her, consoled, encouraged. His students looked at him differently as word spread that a famous opera star lived with their teacher. Mr. Zimmerman. With Anna Colston. With Anna Colston. He slept on the couch though, because she worried that if they made love she might cry out.

One day Erik came home from teaching to find her at the piano, her eyes red from crying. A newspaper lay folded there: Don Giovanni, at the Met, The Italian in the title role.

They took the train to New York, Anna staring out the window the whole way.

The Italian gave a stellar performance, seducing the audience as completely as his character seduced his lovers. At the end people stood and shouted his praises.

Erik leaned down to her. “Go see him,” he said. “I’ll wait for you outside.” But when the curtain drew shut, she hooked her arm through his and steered them toward the exit. That night in an Upper East Side hotel room they made love for the first time in months.

She started back with baby steps, the two of them singing together in his apartment. Erik surprised her with how well he could sing, his voice somewhere between a baritone and a tenor but passable with either. As her strength and confidence returned, Anna began taking small roles with lesser operas, like a big-league pitcher rehabbing his arm in Tulsa, and they were all too glad to have her because of what her name meant at the box office. Audiences loved her, hearing greatness because that’s what they wanted to hear. Critics were more guarded. “A brave effort by Anna Colston as she attempts a comeback,” wrote one, young and trying to make a name for himself. “This may not be the Anna Colston we once knew, but what her voice may have lost in range it makes up for with depth and weight.”

“I’m mezzo,” she said bitterly after reading that review, as if the word were Italian for failure. “I’m fucking mezzo.”

“Give it time,” Erik said.

“Witches and bitches. From here on out, that’s what I play. Witches and bitches.”

The call came: the Seattle Opera wanted her to play Gertrude, shallow, adulterous Gertrude. “Hamlet’s mother?” Erik heard her say into the phone. “I’m twenty-five years old and you want me to play Hamlet’s mother?” She was assured that it would be fine, that their costume and makeup people were excellent. “They just want me to sell tickets,” Anna said after hanging up, but she took it.

He went with her. They rented an apartment downtown and he would sit watching in the empty opera house as she rehearsed. In the middle of a scene two days before opening everything stopped abruptly, the young girl playing Ophélie sobbing, inconsolable, others in tears with shocked looks. “What’s going on?” Anna asked someone.

The Italian had flown his plane into the side of a mountain near Chamonix.

Anna played a convincing but uninspired Gertrude, and never sang professionally again.

“I can’t live in his shadow,” Erik said to her when she brought up the topic of marriage.

A thin smile pulled at her lips. “We all live in shadows,” she said.


With tonal harmony notes and chords form in ways the ear and brain expect. Many of the world’s finest classical works fall into this category, with Bach in particular pushing the form to its artistic limits. In Tristan, Wagner launched an assault on tonality, and nowhere more noticeably than with what came to be called the Tristan chord, made up of the notes F, B, D-sharp, and G-sharp, which in relation to the key and the notes around it becomes jarring, disorienting, unresolved. Wagner paved the way for a modernist disintegration of tonality—for Debussy, Bartòk, Stravinsky, for music that was disturbing, daring, and occasionally scandalous. “Rite of Spring” provoked a riot when it premiered in Paris. It was music that fooled the ear, deceived the brain, yet for those who gave it a chance, it would somehow manage to create its own kind of balance, built upon imperfection and vulnerability and the unexpected.

Des Tages Dräuen nun trotzten wir so? Erik sang. Have we day’s menaces thus defied? Then she followed him, and they sang together of unmeasured realms of ecstatic dreams, of endless self-knowing, of love’s utmost joy. He sang confidently, as well as he could, and when they finished he looked at her for affirmation. But she was off somewhere, which could have been Sydney or Vienna or Moscow or her hospital bed or their bed or another bed or any aria she or anyone else had ever sung.

“Again,” she said, and he turned back the pages and started to play.



Richard Bader is a former a restaurant cook, whitewater rafting guide, and college communications director who now earns his living working as a writer and consultant for nonprofit organizations. He also sings in a church choir, though nowhere near as well as the characters in this story. His fiction has been published by the Burningword Literary Journal, SN Review, and National Public Radio. This is his third story for r.kv.r.y.

Read more about this story here.


“The Way She Is” by Claire FitzSimmonds

“Childhood Narratives,” Image by Dawn Surratt

It’s strange, everything being the same.

I wake up for the first time at 7:47 and roll over until 8:40. At 9:02, my bladder gets me out of bed. I check for blood, but after six days the wipe comes away clear. While the coffee brews, I open the bills that Max has forgotten to pay. At the very second I was reminding him yesterday, as he was saying “Yes, Molly, I will right after this,” he was forgetting. I pay them out of my account and take half the amount from his stash of cash in the drawer of the coffee table.

It’s just like any other day. Except it’s getting warmer. May is a week away, and I go outside to the stoop. There’s barely room for my coffee and my legs, but I squeeze myself together and try not to knock the mug into the bushes.

Across the street cars spill into the arena’s parking lot, four hours early for today’s basketball game. Further down, three firemen wash a truck in front of the station, and another block away a man in tattered pants with dreads down his back stands by the light and holds a sign. No one lowers their window. Trees rustle and clouds darken, clues that rain is coming. The morning glories that grow in tangles on the chain link fence around the empty lot behind our apartment building have folded in for the day, but the rest of the world opens around me.

After a few more minutes, I take my cup and go inside to start the day. My dad would laugh for the rest of the week if I told him I’m a workaholic, but not painting for the last five days has been torture. I’ve dreamed of my mistakes, of a streaky sky, of somehow turning the canvas in with a hole where the girl’s head should be. Once I woke up in a sweat from a dream that I’d accidently thrown it away. Does it say something awful that the loss of a painting is the nightmare that’s been plaguing me?

I step back and study my work. The tree behind the girl is wrong, too fluffy and fake. The coloring of the sky isn’t close to a match. I falter between the blue and the green paint, wondering what part is less scary. Fear is inevitable when I’ve gone a long time, or not long at all, without painting. I might have forgotten how.

Like so many times before, I choose a spot and attack. The tree is easy to fix, the sky not at all. A little orange and it’s cheesy, only blue and it’s boring. This woman probably wants boring for her daughter. I smile. If only she knew how boring trauma can be. Of course there’s a difference when trauma barges in unexpected and when it is recruited for a purpose. No thank you, not quite yet doesn’t always work.

I glance at the picture I’m going off of. The little girl – Christine, I think – stares at the grass with her lips in a straight line, though her mother asked me to paint her looking at the camera and smiling. “You know,” she said, nudging my shoulder with hers. “Lighter.” I’ve painted an outline, but it would help if I could see her eyes. Mrs. Grant has a Facebook page but her pictures are no help. Her 10-year-old daughter apparently skipped all family vacations and church cookouts. So I focus on the sky and grass and a patch of tulips. I’ll save Christine for tomorrow.

At 2:00 I tell myself I’ve worked long enough. Washing my brushes is therapeutic: running my fingers through the hairs, working out the paint, watching it gush into the sink. The red of the flowers oozes between my fingers, squishy and cool, and I stand a few extra seconds with my hands under the faucet looking at the print hung above the sink, a gift from a friend on Max and my wedding day. A little boy and little girl hold hands in a baby’s breath field. Their hair blows in front of their faces, and my chest opens up when I look at it. Every other inch of this apartment is taken up with the kitchen table, the loveseat we refer to as a couch, the octagon coffee table, hardly bigger than the stoop. There’s no place for storage, so boxes and plastic crates are stacked in the corner of our bedroom, taking up what little extra space we have. Sometimes I think I’m suffocating, not even able to spread my legs out on the couch, but right here I can breathe.

The ceiling creaks above me. Max is stirring. I sit at the table with my book, but I read the same page three times while listening for his feet on the stairs. Through the triangular window over the back door, I see the clouds have lightened. Max appears at the foot of the stairs.

“Good morning, honey.”

“Good afternoon.” I hop up, not saving my place. “Let’s go for a walk.”

He asks if he can eat breakfast first, and I tap my toes while he pours a bowl of cereal. He eats it in three bites, rolling his eyes at me the whole time.

We turn down Farraway first and begin our argument over which house we will buy someday. I want the light blue one with the roof we could go out on, the hint of a garden behind the house, windows stretching the length of the walls. I’d wind my own morning glories through the white wooden fence. Max insists on the one painted orange, overgrown with vines and broken toys abandoned in the yard. As an artist, he says, I should want that one too. But I want a pretty home, a place to raise children, a place with a yard where I will take pictures and they will look at the camera and smile, arms draped happily over each other’s tanned shoulders. Instead of saying so, I loop my arm through his.

“We are lucky.” I take a long stride, banishing how thin his cash looked this morning, the shiny new balance on the credit card we’d just paid off last month, the tiny trickle between my legs.

“Very lucky,” he agrees. He’s worried, but I don’t know any other way to set him at ease than to act how I feel. I don’t know how much is allowed to be said. I am happier than ever. I am so relieved.

“Do you want to eat lunch?”

“I just ate breakfast.”


Without further discussion, we turn toward the pizza place three blocks over. I order a glass of wine; he gets a beer. He tells me his book is coming along. In a year or ten he might be ready to query. He’s had several short stories published, but this is his first novel. I haven’t read it, but I believe in him more than I would have thought possible. He grunts when I say so. I tell him I don’t know how I’m supposed to paint eyes I can’t see, and he says I’ll figure something out. This annoys me so I take two pepperonis off his last piece.

Halfway home, we stop at an intersection and wait for our turn to cross. The wind blows through his hair, but his spiral curls don’t move. There’s a pot behind him, bursting with marigolds. He asks why I’m smiling that way, and I toss my head so my hair whips in my eyes.

At home, he says he has to write. He’ll be parked on the couch for the rest of the day, more of a workaholic than me though 2:30 was early for him to wake up. I go upstairs and open the door off our bedroom. There’s no porch connected, but a breeze rustles the faded flowered sheets, the closest thing we have to a field.

I reach down to turn off the lamp that lives on the floor. I spread my arms above my head and stretch my legs out to the end of our bed, almost to the crates. I take up the length of the room. I take up all this space. Rain blows inside and splatters on my toes. I am reminded for the second time today, the thousandth time this week that I love our life. I am reminded to be patient. And I wonder again if I should feel guilty, at least for not feeling guilty.

I try again. I recall the white room, the crinkling paper, the glimpse of metal speculum and plastic bowl before the doctor said ‘it’s done’ as lightly as if announcing sandwiches. I wanted a chicken sandwich. I close my eyes and do my best to freeze the moment I walked into the emptied-out waiting room and Max sprang to his feet. I remember the dull walls darker than they were and then I turn on my side, toward the sky. The clouds have turned purple and black, an almost cushy velvet, like a place I could sink into. Another second and there’s a monsoon, the full weight of a pent-up sky swirling around me. Angry but somehow still soft.

Sometime I fall asleep, and when I wake up, Max is beside me, the tips of his fingers tangled in the ends of my hair, his ankle brushing mine, his mouth gaping open. The rain has stopped. Tears burn my eyes but not the way they should. More like another smile. I kiss the tip of his nose and slip out of bed.

The clock on the stove glows 2:47. Another day has started. I tiptoe through the kitchen, avoiding squeaky boards, and stare at my painting. After several minutes I pull out the picture. Christine stares down studiously, her mouth tight, pale arms straight as rods that finish in clenched fists. I’ve painted her looser, the way her mother asked. A crease to her elbows, a tilt of her head, daintier hands. A free and happy girl. I guessed at how a smile might look, and I guessed all wrong. She looks more like me than Christine, more like a painting than a girl.

I take my brush and coat it in white. With wide strokes, I slash through her elbows and face, the angriest strokes through her smile. When the paint is dry enough to start all over, I paint her looking down, expressionless, the tiniest hint of brown peeking through wispy lashes.

I paint her the way she is.



Claire FitzSimmonds lives and writes in Louisville, Kentucky. She graduated from Asbury University in 2009 with a journalism degree. She has dabbled in blogging, but “The Way She Is” is her first published fictional piece.

“Dark Feather” by Christine Fadden

“Didn’t Make It,” Image by Dawn Surratt

You fell in the fall.
A few feet,
out front.

In those seconds of slipping
black paint arcing above you like a crow’s wing
a brush spinning away from your hand
that paint
pooling on the pavement of your driveway
and then drying,
this is when you start dying.

When spring comes,
too soon this year,
it will go to your garden out back,
to land light
on those boulders we hauled
from dead Drunkard Joe’s yard
before his house sold.

In the spring, the catnip will sprout.
Your cats remain
cared for.

You fell in the fall
but spring will be the season when
suddenly nobody will see you
tending to future tomatoes
changing out the seed and suet
watering soil for berries you would turn into jam.

We don’t know where
a slip will take us—
don’t ever imagine that a streak of black paint
on our hand
will weigh indelibly on the minds
of those we leave behind.
We don’t know when
the endangered birds we counted
will turn to zeros,
or if the wildflowers will ever come back
and prove the rain pretty.



Christine Fadden’s work appears in Hobart, Louisiana Literature, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Gulf Coast, The Louisville Review, PANK, Joyland, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the 2014 Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival Prize and the 2013 Blanchan Award through the Wyoming Arts Council. She lives in the Olympic Rain Shadow, beneath some trees.

Read an interview with Christine here.

“Aloha to Alcohol” by John Wojtowicz

“At What Point Does a Moment Become a Memory?” by Dawn Surrat

It’s the sight of Rosalita severed in half
on the dashboard that haunts me most.
Her sunbathed grass skirt left to expose
the spiral spring core that once made her
hoop and hula to the rhythm of the road.
I can’t recall the impact or the EMS.
The sobriety tests and subsequent handcuffs
are just a flicker compared to the picture
of the wreckage wrought to my Rosalita.
The promise of sobriety soothed my mother’s
sleeplessness as marijuana medicated mine.
My former four-wheeled white stallion
was scrapped with Rosalita’s torso still attached.
Firmly mounted, she had only wavered
to sway side-to-side with her ukulele;
a peripheral pleasure that produced
a smile even during hazes of consciousness.
The image of her broken body and shattered
porcelain face precedes every “last drink.”
Before the world again reminds me of what
makes inanimate objects so easy to love.



John Wojtowicz grew up working on his family’s azalea and rhododendron nursery in the backwoods of South Jersey. He is currently employed as a social worker and takes every opportunity to combine this work with his passion for wilderness. Besides poetry, he likes bonfire, boots, beer, and bluegrass. He has been previously published in Stoneboat, Five2one, Naugatuck River Review, El Portal, and The Mom Egg.


“Night Shelter” by Roy Bentley

“The Fatal Moment” by Dawn Surratt

Above this agnostic ground, the dark rises
from the floor of the pines and it comes down
from branches as a mist after unsensational rain.
There’s a squall and sycamore leaves louver open.

Bobcats know the proportion of dry to wet spaces.
And this one is all paws and impatience, pacing off
provisional shelter under the trees. He pads before
unbraiding a dinner rabbit. Clouds across a blue

moon near an ocean can be a human face, Threat,
and still subordinate to the next meal. In one version
of the life of this cat, eyes saucer at machine sounds
on the best route of escape. Again, he falls to work—

maybe the natal den is a cave and springtime kittens
off New Jersey 539, but a rabbit in the mouth is worth
two driven from cover elsewhere. By a log the needles
are thin, tensile arms. Hilled and dry enough for now.



Roy Bentley was born in Dayton, Ohio. He is the author of four books and several chapbooks. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Blackbird, Shenandoah, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review and elsewhere—recently, in the anthologies New Poetry from the Midwest and Every River on Earth. He has received a Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA (in poetry), as well as fellowships from the arts councils of Ohio and Florida. These days, he makes his home in Pataskala, Ohio.

“Those Who Once Lived There Return” by Wendy Miles

“What We Leave Behind,” Image by Dawn Surratt.
(See also “The Unspoken” by Margaret MacInnis.)

There where a golden bird is made
golden by October’s slanting light,

through the threshold of the hidden house
the empty clothes are seated in chairs.

The threshold gone, go ahead
and float. No one to see. Listen.

One loose shingle shifts
and forever tumbles.

A wooden drawer wails,
one hammer hitched on scissors.

You know something lies dead
across the road. Barbed wire fence,

rusted, looks to have uprooted posts
and embedded itself in tight periphery.

Even so, how can anyone sleep
with the windows nailed shut?

Can the bird know how golden
its body becomes? If you place the cup,

twist the dishrag, fold it in such a way,
look out the window again. You saw once

a cat snatched up by a hawk, legs
splayed straight as sticks.

How those bodies merged.
How those bodies merged

and awakened the air.



Wendy Miles’s work has been anthologized and appears in places such as Arts & Letters, Memoir Journal, Tupelo Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, Hunger Mountain, storySouth, The MacGuffin and Alabama Literary Review. Winner of the 2014 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, semi-finalist for the 2016 and 2013 Perugia Press Prize and a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she teaches writing at Randolph College in Virginia.

Read an interview with Wendy here.


“Clearing Ivy” by Alan Toltzis

“Signs,” Image by Dawn Surratt

Its roots felt their way across my skin
looking for soft spots,
probably digging in wherever
it was easiest. Who’s to say?

With unforgiving tedium,

it crept

and wound

and clutched

dislodging mortar in a retaining wall
and bending a trunk under its weight.

Inevitability has no need to rush.

Miles of twisting gnarled vine
grip until
barehanded and bloody-knuckled
you rip and scrape away at the aftermath
revealing little claw marks
etched into its path.



Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment and the founder of The Psalm Project, which teaches poetry to kids in middle and high school. Recent work has appeared in Right Hand Pointing, The Provo Canyon Review, As It Ought to Be, Red Wolf, and Burningword Literary Journal. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

Read an interview with Alan here.


“Weightless” by Glenn Miller

Image by Dawn Surratt

Through the front glass, I see only sky. Since we separated from the runway and left Janelle standing beside the small terminal, smiling and holding the video camera and that silly balloon, I’ve kept my eyes straight ahead at the sky.

“These seats are comfortable!” I shout over the engine’s roar. My voice cracks. I sound more sickly than I really am. I should be happy, I know, because I’ve made it to another birthday and because a private flying lesson is a great gift from my wife.

But I’m not happy. I’m scared to death.

Carl the pilot taps the side of his headphones. “You don’t have to shout,” he says.

“Sorry!” I shout. “I’m just nervous!”

As the plane climbs, a pocket of air collapses below us and we jerk downward. My stomach contracts. I feel like I’m going to vomit, but it’s a false alarm. I learned during chemo how to tell a false alarm from the real thing. Still, I’m nauseous. Sweat beads form where my hair has begun to grow back.

“Alright,” says Carl. “Now we’re going to bank.”

“No! No banking!” My skin hurts.

“Don’t freak out on me, chief. We have to bank at some point. Can’t fly straight forever. Remember, it’s your birthday, so just enjoy. Okay?”


“No. Need. To. Yell,” Carl says, his voice rising. There’s a sharp crack of static after every syllable. “Relax-ckk,” he says.

I breathe deeply. Cold air, tinged with the smell of fuel, invades my lungs.

I imagine being in the car, on our way home. Janelle will drive. She will point up at the sky and pat my knee, which will still be shaking. Then we will hit a pothole, and I will bite my tongue.

I hear a ckk in my headphones – a ghost of a sound.

The more I study the sky, the more immense it becomes. I could fall forever there. My fright would shift – from the fear of crashing to the fear of being trapped in perpetual terror.

The plane bounces again – another air pocket.

I think of ways to get back at Janelle for planning this, but not much frightens her – not heights nor speed nor water. And she’ll eat anything…crickets, snake, brains, heart.

I think of telling her the cancer has returned. Or maybe I’ll dress up as a zombie. She hates zombies.

When the plane’s engine slows, I look at the instrument panel and spot a gauge showing two horizontal lines twisting away from one another.

We’re banking right.

“Enjoy the view!” Carl yells.

But I’ve shut my eyes. I slip toward the door and feel weightless for a moment.

Then something sputters and dies.

The engine.

“Shit-ckk,” Carl says. I open my eyes wide. Carl is fiddling with knobs and turning the ignition key. His hands are white.


“Come on,” he mutters.

We begin to fall.

I’d be panicking if the view wasn’t so astounding. Now, instead of blank sky, I see earth through the windshield. The sun has broken through the clouds, and a shaft of light expands until it bathes the valley in warmth. The fields below are a series of plush carpets in green and gold.

The airport is in the distance. I wonder if Janelle can hear that the engine has died. I wonder, too, if Carl will radio the tower. “Mayday, mayday,” I expect him to say, not that there’s anything they could do. Our fate, I know, is up to us – only us. Still, it seems the normal thing to do.

“Should we call someone?” I ask, noticing the stillness of the ride now that we’ve lost power. Air flows around the plane, enveloping us in an unwavering hum.

“Yes.” Carl’s eyes are moist. He nods, but makes no move toward the radio.

I zero in on it. It looks just like a car radio. I click one button and then another until I hear static, followed by a beep. “Good,” Carl tells me.

“Hello? Is anyone there?” I ask, looking upward through the windshield. “Can anyone hear me?”

A tinny voice answers. “This is control. Carl, you’re losing altitude. What’s your status?”


“Carl!” the voice snaps. “What the hell’s going on?”

“Um, we’ve lost power,” I say. “But we’re dropping fast.”

“The engine died!” Carl adds.

“Can’t we just glide?” I ask, imagining a peaceful landing softened by thick alfalfa.

“Of course,” says the voice. “But you’re a lot better off with an engine. You need speed, Carl. Come on, this is standard stuff, for Christ sakes.”

“I tried.” Carl turns the key again but there is no response.

“Drop your nose!”

“I said I tried!”

“More! Do it now, before you run out of room.”

When Carl doesn’t move, I reach for the wheel.

“Now!” the voice commands. My fingertips touch the hard plastic. I look up. The terminal and its short runway are impossibly close. How did they get that close?

For a moment, I’m back in the hospital. Every morning, my room was full of flowers, the only scent that didn’t nauseate me.

“Tell Janelle,” I say. “Tell her I’m okay.”

Leaning forward, I press on the wheel, hard and fast. The plane’s nose sinks. Air rushes by, faster and faster. The windows rattle. Then there is another noise.


The engine rumbles to life. The propeller’s blades spin. Carl cheers so loudly that I have to shrug off my headphones. I feel the wheel being pulled back. I release my grip. Carl is re-animated, poking at gauges and rocking in his seat. His smile is wide and he moves his lips, but all I hear is the engine.

Carl banks the plane hard. Again, I slide toward the door. This time, I keep my eyes open. We’re in a low pivot over the runway.

Rising toward the opening in the clouds is a shiny, silver orb: my birthday balloon.

I look down to see Janelle. The camera is at her feet, in pieces, and her hands are raised, high above her head, stretching toward me.



Glenn Erick Miller’s writing has appeared in The Citron Review, Red Earth Review, and Agave Magazine among others. He is a recent first-place winner in the Adirondack Writing Center’s annual awards and is currently writing a novel for young adults.


“Somewhere Else” by Tom Saunders

“The Places We Hide,” Image by Dawn Surratt

Liam walked down the hill from the rented cottage and along by the churchyard wall. He felt a pinprick bite on his ear and looked up. A column of gnats hung over him in the evening air like an unclear thought.

Opposite the village green, several youngsters were skateboarding down the sloping concrete apron in front of the pub, aiming themselves at one another and only changing course at the very last moment. The lone girl taking part dipped and swerved with particular grace, redistributing her weight with fluid movements of her arms, hips and feet, her pony-tailed ringlets flying. She reminded Liam of a girl surfer he and Justine had watched in Cornwall the September before. How envious he had been of the way the girl laughed to herself as she splashed out of the ocean and walked back up the beach, her eyebrows and lips white with sea-salt. After dropping her board on the sand, she shook her arms and legs in a shivering dance, shouting out that the water was “Tit-freezing cold.” It hadn’t been easy to look away from the elastic curves of her wet suit, the long zip an invitation – drawing it down like peeling a fruit.

“So all the tales about men in middle-age are true,” Justine teased him later, having followed his eyes. “I want to make it absolutely clear that I won’t wear rubber for you no matter how nicely you ask.”

The village telephone-box was of the old-fashioned sort, the exterior pitted and scabbed with layer upon layer of red paint. Its battered appearance and survival into another time seemed almost stubborn. Perhaps there was a kind of liberty in being overlooked, in being allowed your own history, your own lost world? Opening the door, he remembered the Japanese soldier who, when rescued from a lonely Pacific island twenty years after VJ-Day, refused to believe that the war was over and his country had been defeated.

Even on a summer evening the box’s interior was redolent of urine and wet wool, of shelter on dark, rainy days. There was a dead matchstick, a Kit-Kat wrapper and a wizened brown apple-core on the shelf beside the receiver. On the floor there was a sooty mark where somebody (the parish pyromaniac?) had unaccountably tried to build a fire.

“Oh it’s you,” Justine answered. The disdain in her voice sounded vengeful, a weapon readied in advance.

“Don’t get too enthusiastic, now,” he said.

“I won’t.”

“Expecting a more attractive offer, is that it?”

“And you’d care, I suppose.”

Liam stepped back into the life he used to live. He asked how her preparation for the new teaching term was progressing; if there had been a call or letter from Davy; how she was coping with the bills; if the garden was getting overrun; whether her car was going okay. As he spoke, he listened to what he was saying as a stranger might listen. It was eerie, the feeling of being on the outside, at a distance, eerier yet to discover he was able to talk across that distance. Here was here and there was there.

Justine’s replies were listless, resentful. “Feel easier now, do you?” she said when his questions began to falter. “Feel everything at home is all right so you can go on exactly as you are, go on treating me the way you’re treating me? I don’t have to stand for this, you know. I might be a fool for you, but I’m not a fool. If you think I don’t have what it takes to carry on on my own then you’re wrong. If I have to manage I will, so don’t kid yourself on that score. You never know, keep on as you are and you could well find there’s nothing for you to come back to.”

Liam allowed her to run on, to get it all out. “None of what’s gone on has been about you,” he said when she had finished. “You know that.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“Don’t pretend to misunderstand. I feel bad enough as it is.”

“Do you?”

“You’ve been very patient.”

Her laughter was bitter. “What choice have I had.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Are you?”

“How can you ask that?”

His certainty seemed to take her by surprise. There was a pause.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“You sound different,” she said.

“Do I?”

“Yes. More in control.”

It was Liam’s turn to laugh now.

“Does that mean you’re not?” she said.


Justine sighed to herself. “You haven’t got three wishes. You’re who you are now. Nothing stays the same. You’ll have to come to terms with it eventually,” she said.

“I know.”

“You agree?”

“Of course I do. I’m not stupid.”

There was another pause.

“Are you still there?” Liam asked.


“You’ve gone very quiet.”



Tom Saunders, an award winning writer has a novel Inappropriate Happiness and two collections of short stories, Brother, What Strange Place is This? and Roof Whirl Away, , as well as his poetry collection To the Boy, available in print and on Kindle at Amazon UK and USA. They can also be directly purchased from the Reuben Books website. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, appeared in many anthologies, and is an ardent photographer in the UK where he lives.