WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "The Ashes" by Andrew Johnson

The Ashes

by Andrew Johnson

An hour this side of the ashes, an hour this side of the forehead imposition, words whispered to you in the cathedral at dawn: Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. After receiving the ashes, after the liturgy, the scripture reading, homily, passing of the peace, here on the far side of the ashes smudged on foreheads, and upon your departing the cathedral there is a tension in how to start the day: wipe the mark from your forehead so no one on the street will see how you pray, or leave the ash there so that, in spite of risking vanity, the mark might be felt by your mind, a way to remember your mind, a reminder. Remember you are dust.

This side of the ashes now, but troubled: Before the ashes, the fire. Ash doesn’t simply appear. Something that once had been is now burned back to dust. Something destroyed. Out of destruction, ash.

In January you stood on a hillside in the Ojai Valley of California, looking across a mountain range ravaged by the Thomas fire two months earlier. You did not know what you were seeing. What was there before, green bursts of trees? Underbrush? Creatures? Homes? From afar you didn’t know what had been destroyed, only the charred and dirt-dark evidence of destruction.

So you listened to locals explain what had been, what was lost, what was spared, what remains. You listened to those whose homes were destroyed as they searched for the words beyond easy explanations, beyond phrases like Time will heal and We shall rebuild. They search beyond such easy words because their eyes have seen the coming of the fury of the fires. They have seen an approaching glow on the horizon that somehow burned a hole in their hearts that their hope slipped through for a week or two. They saw black snow falling upon their rooftops, landing on tree branches, getting caught in their children’s eyelashes. They saw what was coming. Some of them evacuated, others stayed put, stayed put because of duty or fear or resolve or nowhere else to go. But they all saw what was coming. Perhaps they see most clearly what might be on the horizon for all of us with feet set to earth. Perhaps they will remember this for us.

Remember you are dust. Fires will cleanse and destroy and nearly miss your home by thirty feet only to destroy your neighbor’s fields and you will not know what it means to be spared anymore. Outside, your blue-eyed son is blinking his long lashes toward the sky, feeling the breeze and not knowing what it carries. And now, here, an hour this side of the ashes, you wonder once again what must die, what must be cleansed, what demands recovery and what requires relinquishing, what shall be destroyed, and what is hidden deep that just might bloom among ruins, if anything, if anything, if anything.


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About the Author:

Andrew Johnson lives in Kansas City, Missouri. His poems and essays have appeared in Crazyhorse, Guernica Daily, Sonora Review, Storm Cellar, MAKE, Passages North, and elsewhere. In 2018 he was the recipient of a NEA fellowship residency at the Vermont Studio Center. He is the author of the essay collection On Earth As It Is.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Q: What should I do if no one asks me to Prom?" by Sam Leuenberger

Q: What should I do if no one asks me to Prom?

by Sam Leuenberger

A: I can tell you one thing. You shouldn’t mope around your mom’s duplex during Grand March and take pics of everything that’s precious and ephemeral, like the sunset or a chipmunk or a busted camp chair or galoshes filled with swamp water. The pics will last longer than the emptiness you feel inside of yourself thinking of all your peers, at Prom, having fun and getting laid. If it rains, and it will, because it does, it always does, lock the bathroom door and take pics of yourself modeling the black dress you wore to your cousin’s wedding last summer. It doesn’t fit anymore because you’re fat, but if you suck in your gut maybe nobody’ll really notice. Fill the bathtub. Light some candles. Picture all the boys in your Chem class who are on the track team, or in the band, that you’d like to murder and go down on. In that order. If such a thing were even possible. Splash in flickering darkness. Then rinse all the short brown hairs off your dad’s single blade razor. Yellow Bic. Stretch out your arms. Let your thoughts be untied. Little red ribbons, running down your wrists. Someone Instagram this shit. But first. Have you noticed. If you take a picture of ugliness, pain, suffering, or failure, nothing changes. Nothing is completed. Nothing resolved. Nothing erased. The picture, if it’s good, might make you feel, for a moment, as though all ugliness, pain, suffering, or failure is justified. Because one of the things that art does (even pseudo art)—or at least one of the things that art pretends to be able to do (even pseudo art)—is reify ugliness, pain, suffering, and failure; though, we know, in and of themselves, these things are without purpose, meaning, or value and benefit, in their ultimacy, not at all from reification. What art does, what art can do (even pseudo art), is suggest the perception of purpose, meaning, or value where purpose, meaning, and value do not exist. That is what we mean by reification. It is a comfort we are accustomed to in this age of information & entertainment to confuse a model for reality. To voyage for ages on the sea of a map. America, how many times must I tell you. It doesn’t matter that cameras did not exist during Bible times. Because even if a photograph or photographs existed of the risen Christ, all the Doubting Thomases of the world (you know who you are) would say the image is a hoax. Doctored. Photoshopped. I, for one, happen to know that such a photograph does exist. Only it is not quite a photograph, but an image captured by an early photographic process employing a cod-liver-sensitized silvered plate and sea salt vapor. The image was discovered in the breast pocket of a Qahtani street merchant who was trampled by horses, in the city of Shibam (Manhattan of the Desert) (City of Mud), while attempting to retrieve an ancient counterfeit gold coin that the merchant had nearly pawned to the wife of a Presbyterian minister from Rocky Grove, Pennsylvania, when, fatefully, the worthless coin slipped out of the merchant’s grasp and he stumbled out into the heavily trafficked street without looking and, fuck, lowered his head into the horses’ path.


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About the Author:

Sam Leuenberger's fiction and poetry have appeared in The Collagist, Timber, The Gravity of the Thing, Fourth & Sycamore, Every Pigeon! and Glint. His story “Puzzle” was nominated for the Best of the Net 2017.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Decay: A Triptych" by Dev Murphy

Decay: A Triptych

by Dev Murphy

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About the Author:

Dev Murphy is an artist and writer from Northeast Ohio, now living in Pittsburgh. Her art has been featured in Brevity Magazine, New Ohio Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere, and her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Entropy Magazine, The Pinch, Jellyfish Review, Occulum, and elsewhere. She tweets @gytrashh.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

 

 



WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Springtime Haibun" by Robert Lee

Springtime Haibun

by Robert Lee

Spring is a here I am, now I’m gone event in Western Montana. It is a drawn-out affair as tumultuous and capricious as a marriage on the tenacious, twisting, path toward eventual divorce. Spring is a February flirt. A day or two of sun and snowmelt, and then,  That’s it! I’m out of here. Good luck finding someone to keep you warm, followed two weeks later by,  Wait! I’m back. Please embrace me. Look, I’ve brought birds—Bohemian Wax Wings. They fly like Ferlinghetti’s poems; They are sky dancers with Andy Warhol as god  and choreographer. Dozens will  swoop down to decorate your Mountain Ash, devour those fermented orange berries and fall to the vanishing snow, drunk as poets. Feral cats feast. Soon, it’s mid-March, the Ides, and Spring slams the door once more. Color me gone. Let the damn winds blow. How about another foot of snow? Our world is cold and empty until the shifty imp returns, this time carrying crocuses, yellow and purple and white and orange, fragile little beauties but low enough to the ground to evade March  lion’s breath—until snows bury them and Spring leaves the scene once more, Sorry, it’s not working. I’m just not ready. This time, loneliness sets in, seems an eternity. April comes and brings more snow. It’s almost May when Spring sneaks back, vibrant now, sap running high, showers us with tulips, rouses us with robins’ songs, startles us with the inharmonious harmony of geese working northward—into the teeth of one last tempest. Why can’t those lawyers set a date? I’ve had enough. We’re done!

            Only humans dare

            place seasons on calendars

            nature does not read.


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About the Author:

Robert Lee is the author of Guiding Elliott (Lyons Press 1997), reissued in paper back by Mountain Press 2013. His poetry chapbook Black Bear Holds a Hole in His Paws was inspired by three autumns spent as writer in residence in Hydaburg, Alaska for the Missoula Writing Collaborative (M.W.C.). His poetry collection, Breath, was published in September 2018 by Foothills Press. Robert has taught for M.W.C. for over twenty years. His work has appeared in the anthologies New Montana Storiesand Poems Across the Big Sky I & IIMontana Magazine, and in numerous literary journals including CutBank. Robert is a tutor for the Writing and Public Speaking Center at the University of Montana. He resides in Missoula, Montana with his bride, the lovely Rosemary Lynch.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Barbarians" by Marie Baléo

Barbarians

by Marie Baléo

Kafka was the one we loved. We awaited the rewinding of the tape that would bring K back to life, dug into the first lines of the book feverishly just to see him again. The air in the last days of K’s life was so raw that we no longer took note of the humid heat in our bottle-green classroom, forgot the endless revolution of the ventilator, whose half-orbit we bent to follow.

Coetzee was the one we despised. We were made to read passages of Waiting for the Barbarians aloud, after which I decreed the novel to be the dollar-store version of Heart of Darkness. We were ordered to excavate the author’s intentions at every turn of phrase, scolded when we could not. I imagined a cravated employee of the Ministry of Education in an office overseas, whose nameless existence served a sole purpose: to sanction official interpretations of Coetzee, Kafka, and the other authors we had discovered when we had been handed the French baccalauréat program for the class of 2006.

Bonnefoy was the one we hated. Poetry demanded that we acknowledge our emotions, a dangerous admission neither my best friend nor I could concede to. We tore paper from our notebooks and scribbled odes to our hatred of Bonnefoy. We passed them back and forth under the table, answering each other in rhyme.

Outside of the school, Beirut awaited, a litany of beige Mercedes idling in the drip of traffic, palm trees standing guard by the sea. Hundreds of arms hung out of car windows, fingers wading through the sunshine. 

After the baccalauréat, we went into her garden and dug a hole. Cautiously, we tore apart Waiting for the Barbarians and Les planches courbes, severed the pages from their spines, and sunk our nails into the paper. After we had destroyed the books, we poured oil on their remains and set them on fire.

There are photographs of this. We look alike: two dark-haired, smiling teenagers in flip flops, pastel t-shirts, and the flared jeans of the mid-2000s. 

My best friend lighting a match.

The way I lean away from the pit, scared of the fire.

I only remembered this image years later, holding a copy of Fahrenheit 451 in both hands, discovering its incipit.

We poured water onto the hot ashes. We scraped the remnants off the blackened grass with a shovel and flung them into the shallow pit. Some words would not go easy; they could still be deciphered among the wet ashes, strings of letters like ghosts.

We buried them. 

Less than three weeks later, and two days into the war, I was collecting my belongings in the dark in preparation for repatriation when a strange silence overcame the room. I felt my lips part and heard: Someone must have been spreading lies about Josef K, for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one morning.


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About the Author:

Marie Baléo is a French writer, poet, and editor born in 1990. Her work has been nominated for a Best of the Net, Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Passages North, PRISM International, Yemassee, Litro, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is an editor at Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel. Marie grew up in Norway and Lebanon and currently lives in Paris.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "A sudden canyon" by Lauren Suchenski

A sudden canyon

by Lauren Suchenski

but i never do
have to lose you,
isn’t that right?

as every rock lingers in your name, every strange stone face heralds your voice, every fragment of fragments fingers along your forestry – you, angel pulpit; you, profit of my lifetime; you, mountain of chunked ash and debris still carrying me; you, current of river-wide ocean smiles; you, hurricane of frenzy, of yellow-brick-road hair, of condemnation of the nation you narrated me through; you, of bending arrows pointing towards a future splintered across the time-beaten mountains (now hills, now prairies, now basins dried of water long rained and gashed upon the silt); you, silk of my sanity, surrender of my serendipity, curtain of love laced around the ancient sunrise still rising; still rising, i still rise for you; still waiting, i still wait for you; some lover smashed in time, particle-d in relativity, part-of-me in relative motion around your orbit, part of the sea still chasing our muddy heels – trying to wash clean the reverie. part of my sleep still a waking dream; part of my day still a walking sleep; part of the dreamtime wrapped around my torso like a corset, tying me together with the strings and quarks of quaking time; circus rhymes and mangoes and limes; all the times we timed ourselves tracing the universe from my path to your path, and back again. and the moment the paths parted – like a rift on the landscape, a sudden canyon – an archeological arched back – a rotating cuff of surface gruff – a tilled tile of tectonic plate grooved out of place – a pothole in the desert – a leap too steep to meet // and time – tearing towards like a catapult, forgetting your name, forgetting our path, peeling roads away like dunes, like anthills craned away from their foundation. how does the feeling of our never touched future still feel like a path under my feet that i cannot walk? is it buried deep, my songline smothered? or is it vanished, like a penciled blueprint laughing?

a path nevertheless – deep in the canyon banks, eroded and corroded and –

oh, there you are again – the rocks, the trees, the everythingbreeze, the sound of the sound of the echo of the songline still singing // the path towards the path disappearing and reappearing like a dream, like a joke, like a penciled blueprint laughing

oh, there you are – right in front of me – the curled sunlight streaming – the never-ending race between my dream, yours, and the one we’re all waking from


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About the Author:

Lauren Suchenski has a difficult relationship with punctuation and currently lives in Yardley, PA. She has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize as well as twice for The Best of the Net and her chapbook “Full of Ears and Eyes Am I” is available from Finishing Line Press. You can find more of her writing on Instagram @lauren_suchenski or on Twitter @laurensuchenski. 

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Before We Were Born Again" by Heather Bourbeau

Before We Were Born Again

by Heather Bourbeau

There once was a child who saw the water rise before our radars did. They tried to warn their parents, but the child was too young, the parents too filled with faith in engineers and instruments, in public servants, and in all they had known. Nearly smiling, the child repeated more loudly, “The Embarcadero will fall, old boundaries return, and new hope blossom in the wake.” And as their parents absorbed the child’s incongruous eloquence, a wave just beyond the bridge began to grow and the sirens sounded in earnest. 

I cannot say this was the first sign. We both know that would be a lie. There had been signs for centuries, but we chose to believe in fairy tales of man outwitting nature and beast. Hubris was humanity’s most developed muscle and our greatest weakness. 

So the child was initially ignored, and we entered the time of unhappy coincidences.  

Our leader went for a swim in seemingly calm waters, trying to charm a woman he saw and thought he should have. However, before he was half way to her, he got caught in a quick and persistent undertow, the first ever recorded in the area. The medical examiner noted the fullness in his chest from water and moss and fish that lodged in his lungs. On the other side of the great river, the object of his desire walked to the bank unscathed, wrote a book, did a speaking tour, then retreated to the house she wanted to be left alone in from the beginning.  

Soon thereafter, the speaker of the parliament was preparing for a hunt, checking his rifle, marking his face, plotting his perch when a stag crept unheard from behind and speared him with his impressive rack of horns. The coroner said the speaker suffered greatly in the hour or so it took for his hunting companions to find him and call an ambulance. During that short but shockingly fatal period, the chief gun lobbyist tripped on an unseen vine and in an effort to steady himself, set off the fully prepped rifle of his now dead friend. It was so incredibly unlucky, we all agreed. 

Then a yacht carrying the CEO of a large plastics manufacturer was trapped in sludge, which was unusual enough in that part of the ocean. But then he pierced his arm on a pole as he worked with crewmen to create an opening for the vessel. Well, this was bad luck indeed, but then the blood attracted the tiger sharks that eventually devoured him after the pole broke and the velocity of the break threw him over the sludge pack and into the sea. Such, such bad fortune. How ironic, how sad for his family, we all sighed with a slight look over our shoulders. 

But once again, we were told not to worry, to play Fortnite, to continue shopping, watch another comedy special, and forget. We were living in a golden age of options. We were grateful. We were numbed.  

By the time the convention happened, we began to suspect something was awry. Children had found the guns left in their teachers’ desks, cities were transformed as floods and quakes flattened landfill, women razed industries that had ignored and profited from their pain, and the turtles—it really was the turtles that made us pay attention—the turtles began walking onto roads. Turtles gathered in front of diners, at office parks, in football stadiums. Their eggs were left on highway onramps and in front of power stations. There were too many to simply kill. Overnight turtles had become like cane toads. We were equal parts confused, charmed, and furious. The turtle issue was the initial reason we convened. We tried to solve “the problem,” but the more we argued to find the root cause, the quieter, the more alert we became.  

We called upon the child, who had by then become a young adult. They helped us to breathe fully again, to learn the language of wild cats and elk, to mourn the illusion of control, to listen to the rhythms of water and sun, and become aware of how a footfall can crush the ants, carry a seed, or change a world.  

There once was a child who saw the water rise before we did, and now we swim with their grandchildren over the remains of world exhibitions that once touted the triumphs of man. 


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About the Author:

Heather Bourbeau’s fiction and poetry have been published in Alaska Quarterly ReviewCleaverEleven Eleven, Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Chalkboard, Open CityThe Stockholm Review of Literature, and the anthologies Nothing Short Of 100: Selected Tales from 100 Word Story and America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience (Sixteen Rivers Press). She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Our Father" by Kathy Z. Price

Our Father

by Kathy Z. Price 

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About the Author:

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Kathy Z. Price is a recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry.  Her poetry is included or appearing soon in TriQuarterly Review, Rumpus, Pleiades, Cincinnati Review, Sin Fronteras, Spillway, and Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, (Henry Holt) as well as African Voices, and The World.  She has received poetry fellowships with Fine Arts Work Center, Community of Writers Squaw Valley and Cave Canem. She’s a performance poet who has performed her work at Lincoln Center, St Marks Poetry Project, and The Whitney Museum with performances in Central America and Europe. Price is also the author of Mardi Gras Almost Didn't Come This Year, (Simon & Schuster, 2021), and an award winning poetic picture book, The Bourbon Street Musicians, (Houghton Mifflin), which received a starred review from ALA Booklist, a Notable Book Award, a New York Times Book Review.



About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Baby Boy Walgreens" by Haley Ward

Baby Boy Walgreens

by Haley Ward

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About the Author:

Haley Ward is a new resident of Phoenix, Arizona. She moved to The Valley from Florida to teach High School English on the weekdays and climb as many mountains as she can on the weekends.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Mourning Ceremony" by Mara Panich-Crouch

Mourning Ceremony

by Mara Panich-Crouch

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About the Author:

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Mara Panich-Crouch is a writer, artist, and bookseller in Missoula, Montana. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and English from Purdue University and completed post-graduate studies at the University of Montana. Her work has been published in The Missoulian and is forthcoming in several anthologies.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY SPECIAL FEATURE: "Creekside Drama" by Chris La Tray

Creekside Drama

by Chris La Tray

from One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays From the World At Large (2018, Riverfeet Press)

I have a favorite spot a couple miles up a popular local trail system that parallels a creek. I begin at the main trailhead. I pass the signboard that displays a map, the rules for use, and warnings of bear and mountain lion activity. Next is a rocky cliff face, maybe thirty feet high, that reflects the sound of the nearby creek and turns it into a kind of echo chamber. There is typically quite a number of other people out and about; cyclists, joggers, and families pushing baby strollers. I’ve even encountered hunters on bicycles pulling trailers of elk quarters, taken from the wilderness area fifteen miles deeper.

A little more than half a mile up and over a small bridge that crosses another feeder creek there is an option to hitch right on a side path. A sign indicating dogs must be on leash (generally ignored, as Missoulians typically do), and mountain bikes are prohibited. That’s the one for me. It follows the creek bank for the most part, and there are several branches, but it doesn’t really matter which one I take because they all reconnect anyway. Not so many people take this route. The path is a slight, often uneven, meandering incline for a little more than two miles before it forks. One may continue up a steeper side-hill left that rejoins the main trail. But veering right, down maybe two hundred yards to a beach of the creek itself, is my spot.

There is an old log that extends into the stream. When the water isn’t running high I can walk out onto it and sit. I’ve read there. The last few times I’ve gone I’ve actually sat in the dirt and rocks on the beach and meditated. It’s often breezy, the water is rushing and gurgling even at the lowest point in summer, and it feels wilder than it is. In winter it breaks my heart with its beauty, and not just because it is a little more difficult to reach and significantly less visited by others.

About the bears and lions. I’ve never seen a mountain lion in the vicinity, but I’ve seen plenty of black bears. There are copious birds in the area too; I particularly keep my eyes open for American dippers, popping around on rocks in the middle of the stream, frolicking as they seem to do. It’s always thrilling, no matter what I see. Even chipmunks will grab my attention, especially if they are particularly surly. My mood soars when I am out in all of this.

A favorite wildlife encounter—among the best I’ve had in my life—happened here. A couple years ago, in the fall, I thought to step out onto some flat rocks to facilitate a better vantage point for a photograph of the changing leaves. I took a step, heard a splashing at my feet, looked down, and saw a decent-sized garter snake engaged in swallowing a small brook trout.

This snake had the fish firmly by the tail. Up out of the water, pinned between two slimy stones, the fish’s gills were flexing steadily, but not quickly. It was dying. Being killed, actually. My immediate reaction was to want to rescue the fish, but I hesitated. Why should its life be more important than that of the snake, a creature who must prey on others or die? So I left them alone, and sat back to watch the struggle unfold. I was transfixed, and found it oddly emotional. The fish wiggled and strained at times, but the snake was patient. Slowly its jaws were taking in more and more of the fish. It was probably a week’s meal, and that snake wasn’t about to let the trout go. It was hard for me to imagine the snake could even manage the entire fish, but obviously it knew what it was doing.

At one point hikers, two young women, approached with raucous, unleashed, lab-looking dogs. I stood from my crouch to keep them away with wide, waving arms. I didn’t want the dogs to mess up what the snake was trying to accomplish. My attempted explanation—sputtered things about a snake and a fish and unhinged beasts—likely sounded like the ravings of a madman. The women eyed me with looks of mild concern before ascending a steep hill that leads up and out of this little canyon.

I couldn’t watch the entire drama play out. Darkness was falling, I had no headlamp, and I had a place to be. I remained creekside as long as I could, then I hustled back out of there, tightly clutching my cell phone and the photos I’d taken. I vowed to return the next day and see if there was any sign of what had happened, and I did. But there was nothing there. No snake, no fish, and I’ve seen neither species in that location since. 

I remember though, and I still keep my eyes open.


About the Author:

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Chris La Tray is a writer and photographer. His freelance writing and/or photography has appeared in Montana QuarterlyThe Drake, the Missoula Independent, the MissoulianKnives IllustratedVintage GuitarMontanamagazine, Alaska Airlines’ Beyondmagazine, and World Explorermagazine.

La Tray is Chippewa-Cree Métis, and is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. He lives in Missoula, MT.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.

WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "100 Words X 5" by Anne McGouran

100 Words X 5

by Anne McGouran

1. The badass in front of me in Giant Tiger checkout line in parachute pants and a “Shoot Informers Not Drugs” muscle T looks like he might be living rough in the Walmart parking lot. Then again, he could be the Banksy wannabe tagging condo hoardings in drippy splatter font. “Are you dumb? All’s we need is one good skate park” over top of “Taste the Ultimate in Luxury”. A tagger who goes by ‘Missguided Yoofs’ just obliterated “Toast the 4 Seasons Good Life in Collingwood” with “Grape Jelly’s Good on Toast!!!” and a line of flying ants clutching butter knives.

2. Holocaust survivor Dr. Felix Zandman roughed out his breakthrough bulk metal foil resistor on a luncheon napkin. Vladimir Nabokov doodled butterflies; Samuel Beckett sketched golfing scenes; Henry Miller drew naked women; Colette did line drawings of her Maltese cat and a bulldog snacking on marrowbones. In the 1960s, design scientist Buckminster Fuller doodled zeppelins airlifting housing units to illustrate urban planning efficiencies. Around that time, I was wearing a school uniform with snap-on cuffs made out of some kind of gyprock that chafed my wrists. During study period, I’d unsnap the cuffs and doodle Latin swear words: “Es stultior asino. 

3. Every Sunday, my landlady Mrs. Ridley hosted an “at home.” Effete young men from the United Church gorged on cheese straws, stale Swiss roll and the loaded “tipples” cart. If I was in my room with the single burner hot plate overlooking streetcar tracks, Mrs. R would bellow, “Where’s our scholar? Come tell us all about love in the Renaissance!” I’d sing for my supper then hide in the powder room where a 1950s photo montage of Deer Park socialites and their milky-white daughters hung above the vanity. I filched an eyebrow pencil and crosshatched moustaches on their rosebud mouths.

4. My father would sit at the kitchen table and rant about “Black ’47,” Ireland’s famine year. He didn’t live to see the Famine Memorial in Toronto’s Irish Park which opened in 2007. Tucked behind massive grain silos at the southeast corner of Bathurst Quay, this “cemetery without bodies” honours famine migrants who fled to Toronto in 1947. Five bronze statues face the skyline. I’m still haunted by one Famine ghost, the figure of a traumatized young boy with clumsily splayed hands… uncertain how to move forward. On an adjacent boulder someone scrawled: “Too much remembering makes a stone of the heart.”

5. Grosse Île in the Gulf of St Lawrence east of Quebec City was a quarantine station for victims of the Great Irish Famine… lost to ship fever, starvation, cholera, typhus. Jagged ridges mark the mass graves. After pausing at the Celtic Cross monument, I walked through hemlock forests and marshes full of starlings and bulrushes. Inhaling the life force of rare gentians and ferns, I almost forgot the island is full of ghosts. Later, I learned that two men quarantined in the fever sheds scavenged rough wooden planks then hand-carved a storm-tossed ship and a cozy cottage among the flowering maples.


Anne McGouran

Anne McGouran

About the Author:

Anne McGouran’s nonfiction appears in Queen’s Quarterly, Smart Set, Coachella Review, Journal of Wild Culture, and is forthcoming in Northern Terminus Journal. Her fiction appears in Understorey Magazine and Emrys Journal. She resides in Collingwood, Ontario where she has developed a fascination with ice huts and orchard ladders.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.



WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: "Home Kill" by Kirby Wright

Home Kill

by Kirby Wright

The blonde hostess carries a pack of Archetype Cards to the table. She shuffles. Ancient Kauri trees frame a view of Muriwai Beach below her house. This meditation circle has become habit for the women after Pilates on Saturday mornings. She deals: one card per woman, face down.  

She asks for a volunteer. A redhead flips over her card and reveals The Fool. “I am my card,” she mumbles, staring out the bay window to the Tasman Sea. The black dots that are surfers make her think of a flock on an ever-shifting landscape of hills and dips. She admits she can’t get Garfunkle’s “Bright Eyes” out of her head. Life for her is a working ranch, where sheep grazed from the front door up a grassy rise. They were family. Her husband called them “our investment.” She supervised summer sheerings, filled troughs, and handfed lambs. She loved the smell of newborns and barley. She had her favorites: Wooly Willy, Big Mama, and Lambskin. The flock was good company during her childless days on the ranch, in those blue hours when self-doubt and longing switched the world of color to black and white. Her husband stunned her when he phoned in the mobile butchers. A Home Kill truck rumbled through, kicking up tiny dust tornadoes.

“You are Sheep Woman,” the hostess says. 

The redhead nods. “I only see shadows.” 

Sheep Woman watched men climb out of a white truck. A tattooed man spat. The driver shook hands with her husband. They drove the flock by clapping and shouting—one kicked Wooly Willy. Big Mama hunkered down. The driver got back in his truck and gunned it. The rumble frightened her sheep up the hill. A horn blast made Big Mama scamper. All the sheep were gone, except for a wobbly newborn. She knew everyone would be herded into a pen below the crest, the only structure she couldn’t see. “Stay inside,” her husband warned before snatching the lamb and vanishing over the hill. Low voices mixed with calls of “Ma, ma, ma.” The whine of whirling saws turned the green hill black. The breeze carried a blood stench through the screen as she washed a greasy skillet. She felt ugly. A desire to sell everything and move to Australia burned inside. Part of her wanted a divorce. A bigger part wanted to die.

The meditation circle is silent. The women know confession is the first step but that grace comes only after forgiveness. The hostess asks for another volunteer. A new bride raises her hand.

Sheep Woman leaves. The aroma of baking scones comforts her in the kitchen. She pours Earl Gray into a white cup, cooling it with cream. She remembers the sound of metal striking and avoids hitting the porcelain sides while stirring. She studies a sea with waves breaking deep and spitting their white toward shore. A Takapu drops as if wounded. The surfers are gone.  

The wind off the Tasman rattles the Kauri like bones.


Kirby Wright

Kirby Wright

About the Author:

Kirby Wright won the 2018 Redwood Empire Mensa Award for Creative Nonfiction. His new book is The Queen of Moloka'i, based on the life and times of his Moloka'i grandmother.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.