Tag Archives: Issue 10

Bedtime Story

My father rapes me every night and I cry.

I don’t like him in my bed—until I do.

Poor child, so young, no voice, only

legs spread, open and aching, I grow to love him.

He yanks his pajama bottom strings

leaving me alone in a puddle of goo.


Leaving me alone in a puddle of goo,

he yanks his pajama bottom strings.

Legs spread. Open and aching. I grow to love him,

poor child, too young. No voice. Only

I don’t like him in my bed until I do.

My father rapes me every night, and I cry.

Viriginia Sutton

Virginia Chase Sutton’s chapbook, Down River, was published last fall. Her second book, What Brings You to Del Amo, won the Morse Poetry Prize and is being re-issued by Doubleback Books. Embellishments is her first book and Of a Transient Nature is her third. Seven times nominated for the Pushcart Prize, her poems have won a Poetry Scholarship at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, and the National Poet Hunt. Poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Puerto del Sol, Comstock Review, Laurel Review, and Peacock Journal, among many other literary publications, journals, and anthologies. She lives in Tempe, Arizona, with her husband.

The Tramp

The first circus clown was a woman.

Painting her face came easy to her;

She had been doing it for years.

Makeup made the scars go away,

Or so she thought.

Now, she wore it like war paint.


The giant red nose

Held the broken one together.

Like plaster from the doctor who believed her,

Every time she said, she’d fallen off the stairs.


The exaggerated mouth was just lipstick

Pulled outside to hide her frown.

The one painted tear hid her real ones.

Who cried only 1 tear otherwise?


The raggedy-patched jacket completed her outfit,

Oversized clothes were de rigueur anyway.

As they say: Cover up your legs, cover up your face, cover up your arms.

She had been called a tramp too…

So she decided ‘that’s what I’ll be then, maybe?’


The clown, like a waking woman,

Is always a spectacle.

So, when she took the oversized mallet and hit herself,

The audience laughed.

Just as they always did.

At least, this time,

She did the hitting.

Sneha Sundaram

Sneha Sundaram is an engineer and a poet. Her poems have been published in Noctua Review, Jaggery, Whirlwind, JACLR by UC Madrid, Sonic Boom, among others. Her first book of poems will be published in 2019 by BombayKala Books.

When You Live in the Desert


Dad shows me how to skin the diamondback by the creek behind the house. He is kneeling in the mud, his boots pressing square stamps into the uneven riverbed. I killed the snake earlier that morning. I drove a shovel through its body. It lunged at me and I wasn’t scared then. I was scared just before, when I found it there, coiled behind the rose bush, scared by me just the same. It felt like an accident more than anything else.

“I’m pretty proud of you,” Dad said then, after he came over from mowing dry grass. “It was brave to take in on by yourself.” Then he leaned on my shovel and told me I was now a man.

The snake still writhed, frantically alive, when he said that. If it could, I’m sure it would have been screaming. I yanked its body from its head, scales severing in thin chords, muscles elastic, and tossed it in a cardboard box. The trail of trickled blood in the red dirt made me want to vomit. Its jaw still flexed open and shut, snapping at the scent of prickly pear cacti, slower and slower each time. I nodded at Dad, and didn’t agree.

At the riverbed, Dad says we can eat the meat for lunch. It’ll be a man to man kind of thing. When he peels halfway down the length of the snake, he hands me the still twitching corpse, tells me to finish the job. I dip it in gentle ripples and rip down to the rattle, a toy in my dirty hand. And in one tug, the tail slips between my blood-curdled fingers and into the river current, carried away and out of sight in seconds.

“Goddammit,” Dad says. “What a waste.” Under his store-bought cowboy boots, the dirt crunches.

I go back to where the snake head dries, sand sticking in clumps to its drooling open end. I dig a shallow hole, stopped by flat rock. I push the head in and cover it. I don’t feel better about killing it, but I do feel better about peeling its skin off.

We make lunch in the fire pit we built last summer. Flames reach towards roots of nearby crabapple trees. A stray dog wanders nearby, but Dad scares it away. It’s just a puppy and it likes the smell of our frozen hamburgers over the fire. It watches from the edge of the field, just on the other side of a shallow section of creek. Its wet paws press round stamps near the larger squares in the muddy ground.

“It’ll be fine,” Dad says. “This is the desert, the tough things survive here.”

“It’s just a puppy.”

“The desert will make it get tough. That’s why your mother lets me keep you here in the summers.”

The meat sizzles over the fire. Dad reaches into the pit with his bare hand and moves a log to make a teepee shape. It collapses on crumbling ash. I go to the other side of the field where I chopped a pile of wood yesterday. I wrap my hand underneath some logs and feel something bite into my palm. I picture another diamondback seizing revenge.

“What’s taking so long?” Dad calls.

I’ve been hesitating too long and when I check my hand, I see a splinter threaded below the base of my fingers. It hurts, but I don’t want to tell Dad. It slides in and out of my skin, two pin-pockets, pockmarks of blood, though nothing really bleeds. I flex my fist a few times as I walk back to the fire pit. The burgers are burnt, but still cold in the middle. I build a small teepee of branches. The heat kicks up and the burgers sizzle a little more. The puppy still waits on the other side of the river, watching and licking its lips.

“You trying to kill me?” Dad asks.

He points to one of the thicker logs. Around it curls the countless legs of a tarantula the size of a dinner plate. It moves slow, eight eyes coursing back and forth across the waving grass, our coiled bodies.

Dad pokes at the fire. “What are you going to do with it?” he asks. It’s not scary. Orange spotted and furry. Red tinted like the dirt around it.

I open and close my fist. “Leave it be.” I say. The two pockmarks in my palm burn. “Put it back in the pile?”

Dad sighs and picks up the log and digs it into the heart of the fire. There’s no sound, but I’m sure I can hear the spider squeal.

The burgers are near cemented to the grate by the time they are ready. We scrape them off and eat what we can and let the rest burn off in the cooling fire.

“Let’s start the walkway,” Dad says, heaving himself up, palms pressed into his knees.

I start digging around the dirt-caked yard, looking for flat rocks. Dad’s idea is to place a series of flat rocks in a rough path from the end of the porch. He wants to grow grass between the rocks and make it look inviting, even though he doesn’t want visitors and green grass would look out of place among this desert landscape.

The puppy approaches as I stab around the edges of a purple-gray stone, large and flat. It looks at me and wags its tail, its head low. I can see its ribs and cuts along its skinny legs. A few cactus needles sticks from its back, dug in deep. He jumps away when I try to step closer, so I keep stabbing around the rock. It’s much bigger than I expect. I cut deep again and again and can’t reach the bottom.

“That’s a good one to start with,” Dad says, approaching with his shovel and a long iron pole meant to pry heavy things apart. He knifes it under the rock and begins grunting. The sound of thick metal clanging against rock scares the puppy back to the other side of the shallow creek. “This one,” Dad says, between grunts, “can go right at the edge,” he stabs again, his hairy arms flexing with his hairier knuckles, “of the porch. Can you help?”

I’m just standing and watching and so I hurry to dig more earth away from the opposite edges of the rock. Carving out the sides, we see it’s more of a boulder. “Grab the wheelbarrow,” Dad says, straightening his back. “We’re gonna get this thing out of the ground if it kills us.”

I jog across the open field, my boots blistering my soft feet. Anxiety wells in my chest like pebbles in my lungs. When I get back to Dad, he’s got the boulder propped on the iron wedge. He’s panting a few steps away.

“You know,” he says, his hands on his hips, and gaze drifting off across the field of cut hay. “Nothing comes easy in the desert.”

“I brought the wheelbarrow.”

“The desert is where the toughest things live,” he says. And then he tells me to grab two beers from the fridge. I hurry inside. I’m sweating for the first time that afternoon. The pinholes in my hand turn a shade of purple. They itch inside my skin.

We drink while staring at the rock. It isn’t the first beer I’ve had with him, but it’s the first one that feels like it matters.

“You killed a rattlesnake today,” he says. “You’re a man now.”

I never felt like I wasn’t.

The dog approaches from behind. In our silence, it sits next to Dad, looking up at him. The desert sun beats down on the three of us and I’m afraid to move. But the moment drags on longer and longer and Dad already finished his beer and I am not close to finishing mine. I try to drink faster.

I work up the courage to speak. “Should we…should we keep trying to get the rock out?”

He studies the inside of the clear bottle. “It’s on top of a nest of fire ants.” And now I can see the frenzied red lines erupting from underneath. He sighs. “Can’t just one fucking thing be easy in this place?” I listen to the wind pour over the mesa to the east.

“The desert is for the toughest things,” I say.

“Fuck off, Jay,” he says. He looks at the dog at his feet. It adjusts its position, straightens its back, knows it’s being noticed. They stare at each other for a moment. Somewhere, I hear a final crack of the fire smolder through dry wood. The sound of a car drifts from the highway on the other side of the mesa. The puppy stares big black eyes at Dad, whose knuckles tighten around the neck of the bottle.

I sneeze and when I open my eyes the puppy is gone, escaped back beyond the fire and over the creek.

“I can always just drop you back off at the airport. You can go back to your mommy if you want.”

I don’t look at him and I chug down the rest of the beer, even though it makes my stomach queasy. “I think there’s some good rocks over there.” I point towards the backside of the house. It isn’t the first time he’s threatened me. “Maybe I’ll just start poking around those.” He doesn’t know his threats mean less the more he makes them.

He leads the way to the small rocky crop. The blood on my shovel still shines dark in the afternoon light, glinting each time I jab downwards, popping small, flat rocks from their dirty holes.

The puppy returns to the fire pit. He tries to lick scorched meat from the grate but can’t without burning himself. Dad goes to a larger rock towards the bush line, and I walk over to the pit, get close to the dog before he notices. My boots crunch on the ground. From the grate, I pull tendrils of meat and let him take them from my palm. When he is comfortable enough to stay close, I pick him up. His body slacks into my palm. I feel strong, even though this is a small dog, and a minor effort.

“What are you doing?” Dad asks from his digging spot.

“I’m just trying to help this thing.” I place my fingers around the end of the cactus needles in his backside. He yelps and tries to wriggle away. I repeat that it’s going to be ok.

Dad doesn’t say anything, but I can hear him clanging his shovel harder and harder into the ground. He curses with effort.

I yank the needles out one by one. Black blood doesn’t trickle into his short fur. I put him back down and he yelps but doesn’t go far. He inches back with cautious steps.

Dad is on his knees, pulling up a rock with his bare hands. I walk back over to him, knowing I did a good thing. He spits at me when I approach. “Can you fucking help me for once?” he says, curling his fingers into the ground. “Just do the work.”

I stare at him and for a minute imagine that he is the snake, slithering across the ground until I take his head off with the sharp end of my already bloody shovel. In the desert, I wonder if he would ever be found. Gripping the handle against forming blisters of my palm, I chip away at the sides of the rock. We dig out its round bottom, wedging it back and forth between my shovel and his hands. The splinters feel like needles in my hand. I ignore the pain.

Dad feels around the edge, forcing his grubby hands over its flat surface when he stops. I swear I hear the puncture of pierced flesh. He doesn’t make a noise, but lifts his wrists up to reveal the severed head of a rattlesnake dangling by its fangs.

“Is it still venomous?” I don’t know if I ask out loud.

He stares at me and doesn’t pull the dirt-caked head from his wrist.

I grip my shovel to defend myself when Dad kneels back into the earth. Behind him, a thin red trail of fire ants approach. I feel dizzy. Not far away, the puppy laps at the river bank, looking at Dad from the corner of its eyes. I know that rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal, but I wonder all the same if he is tough enough to survive, out here in this heat, in this rural desert, where we aren’t the ones who decide if we get to live or not.

Zack Butovich

Zack Butovich is an MFA student in fiction at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he teaches composition and is one of the managing editors for their literary journal, the Blue Earth Review. He has had previous work published with The Citron Review, Arcturus, and Wilderness House Literary Review. He is currently at work on a full-length novel.

Surviving the Flood


Arkansas and Tennessee in 1927


The Dakotas and Nebraska in 1993


Grandma on the roof, muddy cane and goodbye


Farms becoming reservoirs of mud


State Farm and Allstate prepping commercials


Waters recede along with college plans


Soybeans and hope are planted again


Bismarck shelters and Omaha warehouses can house orphans one more day







Katrina’s howls break levees


Sharecropper’s grandkids become just more shit in the deluge


Like a stillborn refusing to die in the muck between the debris


Slippery balance finds a buried peace in relocation and zoning variances


A flyover shows death as something beautiful


A child finds the body of her mother and sings a lullaby












Joni sings about a river she’d like to skate away on


Maybe the same one Huck and Jim took as they lit out


Currents of fear explode into a flood of rage


Torn roots are gathered to tear skin, break bone


Becoming the mortar of our walls


America becomes a place to escape from


Children in tents and cement rooms cry


Watering a battered nation needing to be baptized



Glenn Moss

Glenn Moss is a media lawyer by trade and has been been writing poetry, stories and plays since high school in Brooklyn. He went to Binghamton University, where he wrote a five act play for a course in Jacobean Literature. That experience encouraged him to continue writing, and in law school at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, he wrote a play for a course in Jurisprudence. Returning to NYC and a life in law and family, he continued to write poetry and stories amidst contracts and business plans. He believes that each area of writing is enriched by the other, with even contracts benefiting from a bit of poetic dance. He has poems and stories published in Ithaca Lit, West Trade Review, Oddville Press, 34th Parallel and Oberon Magazine.


On the far side

of the lake,

they’re calculating

how to shake me

from my bench

so I’ll leave

my lunch behind.


Despicable – these

ducks who seem

innocent enough,


who will trouble waterways

to ruffle my peace

with unrelenting eyes.


I admit

every staring thing

unhinges me:

the maple peering

into our living room,

the cat spying

on the patio,

the kid pounding drums

on his steering wheel

as I stroll within

the crosswalk lines.

Nothing, it seems,


the grace of privacy.


psychologists’ protests,

this phobia is real –

as real as

Thinking makes it so.



I’ll tackle

exposure therapy

and face off

each anatidae

in town.



For now,

my deep breaths

summon up a prayer

that dabblers, divers,

and buffleheads

will close their eyes

once they realize

all I have

is hummus

spread edge-to-edge

on organic celery.


* The irrational fear of being stared at by a duck

Carolyn Martin

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has journeyed from New Jersey to Oregon to discover Douglas firs, months of rain, and dry summers. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in publications throughout North America and the UK, and her fourth collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released by Unsolicited Press in early 2019. Find out more about Carolyn at www.carolynmartinpoet.com.