Issue 1.17

Like A Thief In The Night

Between the sheets, I tuck Amy in, kiss her softly on the forehead—she’s still clutching her teddy bear—and I lie down in my own room. The clear light of the southern constellations dances with the moon, its pale silver sliver hooking the stars. In their sparkles, Orion, wielding a sword, steps over the mountains. He stretches from east to west—glorious—a prince ruling the night. His throne, framed by my housetop window, gables the roof. I close my eyes, a smile stenciled on my face, and I fall into dreams.

Amy, just born. My wife was vibrant, before the complications. Then she died. I cursed you as before—a schoolboy facing bullies dressed in fake Army camouflage. They stomped me with cheap combat boots, broke my ribs. Darkness covered me like a shroud. My thoughts twisted into shapes of demons, like the ones that grew inside me after all those killings in war. I still wrestle in my sleep and bayonet the dark. Before dawn, I am haunted by the thump of bodies thrown to the ground; the silent curdling of blood like the cold prick of ice running up and down my spine. Where were you?

I awaken in sweat-soaked sheets, my eyes staring down violence. Where am I? No jungle. The bedroom floor is cold in the unconscious night.

I check on my daughter. There’s something about her innocence that I wish I had. It is peaceful and quiet. Her teddy bear sleeps with its eyes wide-open and that without-a-care look. But it is too still, too quiet. The sun crests the pines; the moon had long since fled. Amy’s bed, hardly disturbed. There is no soft body under the sheets, no Amy, just shadows lurking. I run to the stairway. “Amy,” I yell, but there’s no answer.

Perhaps I am still in my dream, but my soul spirals in the pangs of horror. I remain alone. I clench my teeth and curse again, then simply weep the shame of being unprepared. For like a thief in the night, he came, and took her.

No one knows the day or hour (Matthew 24:36)

John C. Mannone has recent poems in North Dakota Quarterly, Foreign Literary Review, and Le Menteur. He was awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. A retired university physics professor, John lives between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Even The Flowers are Homesick

In the shower I remember that I’m not right
for this world. I can tell by the way the water
rolls off my skin, like it doesn’t want to be here

either. In a bar I remember when a friend asks
how I am or when a stranger passes close
enough for me to catch the smell of her sun

baked skin while I am lost in smiles like traffic
jams and face after stripmall face. Do you also
remember you don’t belong when you’re twirling

your hair around your finger or cleaning the dishes
with both hands? Does it ache behind your eyes
to think of what home might be? I wonder if you

share the secret wish to wander too deep into
the woods just to see if a dark and hidden place
without anyone unlike us could offer holy ground. 

The Kind That Keeps

We are the kind that keeps sadness
tally marked on bodies until it turns
into something else, the way rain
taps tin roofs before flood flattening.
You once told me ignorance isn’t bliss,
it’s survival, I remember as I fly
on my bike at night on black road
rivers. Some days I pass time
with grandma eroding and I pick
at the pieces, she is sorry there aren’t more
pictures of me, she says you liked to play
alone. Here’s you cupping a cocoon. Here’s
your mom at sixteen. You’re holding up
a trout by its gills like you shouldn’t.
I think to ask, when did it start for her,
for you, that violet knotted anger, the tide
that takes us—instead I meditate, I kill
gardens, I wait tables, I take photographs
I’ll never develop, I date someone nice,
I don’t like to play alone anymore. He likes
the green of my eyes, also from you,
but he doesn’t know that so I keep
him as close as I can.

Isabelle Correa is from Washington and lives and teaches in Vietnam. Her writing can be found in Pank, Trampset, Third Point Press, and others and is forthcoming in Stone of Madness Press. She is currently working on a collection of flash fiction. Follow her on Twitter @IsabelleJCorrea.

Fool’s Gold

The waves come charging in like great angry bears, their torsos leaning in for the plunge, pumping sinew through the cracks in the rocky shoreline. We are arguing about the colour of the sea tonight. You think it’s all steel and sharkfin, but I am thinking of how dense waves are: tons of force, cubic feet of liquid, kneaded together into one mass so that if there were a gleam, a flash, a vein of cornflower-blue hidden among the breakers, no-one would ever know—unless they were watching carefully.

So here I am, watching the waves fissure against the shoreline, aching for a glimpse of blue. We are drinking grain vodka, which is the level of alcohol where they stop telling you where it’s from and start telling you what it will do to you, and the half-filled bottles are balanced on our phone torches, projecting swirling bubbles of gold onto the cave ceiling. And despite the dreich weather and the near-ethanol inside of us, we feel safe, which means:

Shae shows us their Tinder swipes, Aspen complains about transphobes on Twitter, and I am talking at length about the stutter I had until eighth grade.

Chickens keep gravel in their craw to grind food down, and it used to feel like I had gravel in my brain, skittering around just as my sentence was hanging half-formed and cutting the words to semaphore. If the stones are still up there somewhere, I guess they’re pearls now, just like there’s gold floating around in the vodka bottle, and if you watch, really watch, the prowling waves as they fall upon the shore, you can just make out a streak of cornflower blue, hanging like skylark-song in the Scottish air.

Nick Newman grew up in China and Scotland, and studies English Lit at the Uni of Leeds. His work is forthcoming in Mineral Lit Mag, Lucky Pierre, Stone of Madness, and Capsule Stories, and you can find him procrastinating on twitter @_NickNewman.