WEEKLY FLASH PROSE AND PROSE POETRY: Flash(back) to the Winners of the Spring 2018 Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

Water

By Allie Mariano, Winner of the Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

The cement steps disappear into Pontchartrain brack and Mississippi mud. A flock of shock-green parakeets roost on the rail. Our kayak is chained to its posts. We’re lucky we built houses seven feet off the ground. The higher the house, the closer to God. Murder is down; petty crime is up. This is a roguish, half-governed place.

A little skiff approaches with three teenage boys. They hold a sousaphone, a trombone, a snare drum. They look ahead, somber. The snare drummer raises one stick in greeting. The sousaphone player takes a deep breath and presses his lips to the mouthpiece. His cheeks dimple. “St. James Infirmary” moans from the horn: slow, mournful, in a minor key. Let her go, let her go. God bless her.

When the water started rising, the rich by the lake with their nice brick homes and their carports were SOL. The rest of us lifted our shotguns. We scooped sand and lifted and scooped sand and lifted, and a couple people made a few more feet. Then, they rounded us up, they made us leave; they told us the city would soon be gone.

Today, we climb in the kayak and follow the band. We pass the cemeteries first. As the water rose, the crypts stayed put. Bodies seeped out, bone laced with remnant flesh floated amongst the graves. Now, statuesque angels stand tiptoe on the water, a concrete stag looks out over the water-imbued city. A popular tourist attraction, these cities of dead. Now there is nothing, and the tourists won’t be deterred, enchanted as they are by the ravaged. A parakeet flies overhead and settles on the nose of our craft. Three more follow suit. The brass band speeds up; the sousaphone player keeps playing. When I die, please bury me in a top hat. The sky is gray and threatens rain.

Down the street, Canal, as it is, past the half-submerged pedestal where Jeff Davis once stood. The corner bar, the Holy Ground, took water and held it. Its doors are gone; its insides fully flooded. Past the hospital complex, under the highway, must and mildew scented. Fat droplets fall on our heads. Ahead, the tallest buildings rise from the water like lifeless cypress. On the left, the Quarter, deader than it’s ever been.

We came back, like we always come back, even though they said it was gone. All the wood was damp and spotted black, nothing bleach couldn’t cure. They told us we couldn’t take any more water, not for a decade. This flood will just drain into the coast. It sounds like bullshit.

Ahead, the levee separates this lake-city from the river. Once dirt and grass, it is piled high with sand bags. On the other side, a Mississippi steamboat bursts with people. They shoulder each other to see the drowned city; those in front clasp the rail and look out in wonder. They look well fed. It’s early, and this band is smart. The tuba has stopped its solo second line, and the boys don’t look at each other. The snare player counts off, steady, and they begin. Joyful. You’d never guess the tuba warmed up on a dirge.

The tourists clap. An older man on the boat knows the lyrics and claps his hands. This is all we’ve got. Everything is water. They throw food into the boat: packaged cookies, apples, cans of Coke. We can taste the syrup. We could climb on board, abandon ship, find a new place. Somehow, the water suits us. The scavenging and the singular pursuit of survival. It seems better to stay. The parakeets fly up and land on the boat’s awning. It feels sad, but they will come back.

Originally published in CutBank 88 and featured online here.


Holding His Fire

By Daryl Scroggins, Runner-Up in the Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

Before he died from spilling bug killer on himself, Mr. Gallardo would show us neighborhood kids his command center. If you knocked and offered to mow his lawn or clean his gutters, anything, he would open his door and tell you to come on in. Most of his house never had any lights on. 

What he liked to show off was in a room with a world map on the wall, where bright tube lights made you squint. There were racks of rifles and shotguns in there, and a long table that looked like it was made out of pistols. He made his own bullets at a table on the other side of the room, and he showed us special kinds he had invented himself—some he said could never be sold, even in America. He had a 4 gauge shotgun shell he said was filled with glass eyes. He had a pistol cartridge with a star-shaped slug that he said would turn into metal spaghetti on impact. I think he had some magical beliefs too, because he said he had a shell that Would Not Fire unless you said a secret word before pulling the trigger, and a pistol that, if stolen, would fire the first time the muzzle lined up with the thief’s face.

We compared stories after he died, and we had all asked him what gun he would use on a Tyrannosaurus Rex. He had it in the crawl space under his closet floor. The barrel was as long as he was tall, and instead of a stock it had a trailer thing with wheels that unfolded, and it had chains and metal stakes to keep it from rolling back too far when it was fired. Whenever someone asked him if he had ever shot it, he always said he would not have a gun he had not fired. I was the one who had to go and ask him how that could be true, if the new gun you buy has never been fired before you shoot it, you own it and haven’t fired it. I think that hurt his feelings. He stopped letting me in, and everybody says that was the start of him not being so friendly. I said I was sorry, but they all said who could tell what might make a guy like that go twitchy.

But I think maybe a question can kill you. One that has the magic in it that has a way of slipping up on a person like a little piece of dirt in your mower’s gas tank.

. . .

An ambulance came, and they him out of there, and then the bomb squad came for the gunpowder. There was yellow tape all over the place and extra locks put on all around, but Mr. Gallardo had shown us The Tunnel. A tunnel works both ways if you know where the booby traps are, and we did. He had said he didn’t have any family, so we figured it would be a shame to see the police get everything when they already had a SWAT team.

Someone said the funeral home director let a story slip out about what happened when Mr. Gallardo was cremated. There were some loud popping noises while he was in there going up in smoke, and when they raked up the ashes to put in an urn they found an almost melted .22 derringer. It was a mystery, but we figure he knew he’d be going to the hospital when he called 911, and he didn’t want to go unarmed. So he, you know, did what people do when they hide drugs.

As far as I know, the T. rex gun is still there. It would be hard to get it through The Tunnel, so you would have to take it right out the front door. I bet there’s at least one pistol still in there too.

. . .

Sometimes, I dream about that big gun in the crawl space, and it’s always the same dream. There’s a family like mine living in that house, and aliens are invading, everything blowing up and people screaming, and everybody runs to hide under the floor. Someone shines a flashlight on boxes and boxes of ammo stacked up all around. They are wondering what it’s for when the spotlight finds it—the only gun that will make you feel safe again when you don’t know what world the trouble is coming from. 

Originally published in CutBank 88 and featured online here.


A Posture of Grace

By Kim K. McCrea, Runner-Up in the Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest

April shattered at my feet, a barnacled shell salvaged from a maze of days, days battling kelpies at the bottom of the sea. This morning, I look up to see it is May. The grass is thick, riotous and defiant. The buds of the honey locust tree, the last leaves to unfurl, open fists of gold, the misers. Rosemary is blooming and the rhododendrons shine like starfish. A black crow flies east against a white cloud, blue sky. I am prone to seasickness. I am back on land.

On the first day of April, I sat at my father’s cluttered kitchen table and clutched the edges like a tipping raft, fighting to keep my balance. 

In my father’s house, keeping watch. Walk him, faltering and wizened, to the toilet. Inspect his leavings expecting to read an oracle: tea leaves, this is, omens found in flights of birds. In two weeks, he will be the same age as his own mother when she died, died at last, alone and unmoored in a house of strangers caring for the old and unanchored. Stand watch. Old men enduring assaults on their flesh to repair the rending of time threatening to choke the bowels. Slipping backward, further under the waves, with each incision and intrusion--glasses of water, pills of different colors, oatmeal and soup, laundry to wash away the blood and urine, a cane, a heavy walker, a cane, a slow recovery, if it comes, silver hair a broken halo from hours upon the pillow, bandages on his head where he slipped and fell and bled. I sit alone and keep watch. Three days ago, a tiny golden bird hit the window above me and broke its neck. I put it in a box to see if it would survive, somehow. Later, I wrapped it in a shroud of paper towels and whispered a small prayer for forgiveness, for the waste, my sorrow. Ask pardon.

My father was sinking below me, fading into the distance, sifting down in the murk at the bottom of the sea. I tucked him in bed and kissed him goodnight. I stood watch. The next day, I maneuvered him somehow back into the hospital. Each morning, I stopped at the hospital cafeteria and cheated the self-serve espresso machine into adding an extra shot to my latte. I tipped the cashier extra because I felt guilty. I drew the curtains around the hospital bed, straightened the blankets, and consulted the nurses. I asked for clean towels and soap, filled the plastic tub with warm water, and swished a washcloth through it. I sat beside the bed and read my book. Gradually, Dad got stronger. Kicking toward the quivering surface, we struggled upward.

Some hours, while I sat with my father, I read from Home by Marilynne Robinson. The novel is set in Iowa, in a small town called Gilead. The author’s spare language, with lines as lean as an Amish chair, is often difficult for me to grasp. I must read a paragraph several times to take its meaning, sounding out each sentence like a primer. Perhaps it’s a difference in vernacular, a syntax of rhythms that is unfamiliar to me, or the gentle piety of Midwestern pastors that is foreign. I’m still working my way through the book.

It is the idea of grace that Robinson returns to like chaining psalms. “Assuming a posture of grace,” is a phrase I read and ponder as I sit with my father. I conjure Isadora Duncan draped in a sheer pale gown striking an arabesque. And what is grace? What does it mean to assume a posture of grace?

Recovery was slow, yet steady. In the middle of the month after he was discharged, we celebrated Easter and his 85th birthday together. With a posture of grace, first comes the possibility of forgiveness. And, with forgiveness, then comes the possibility of understanding, Robinson goes on to write. I have come to realize a posture is not a pose, but a raw and persistent readiness, that grace is simply, but not only, a tender embrace of mercy. I return to the idea as I stand in the garden, pondering how we broke the surface in our embrace and found footing again. As I’m pulling up long blades of grass, I notice the grape leaves are unfolding. The new green leaves are edged in rose.

Originally published in CutBank 88 and featured online here.


About the Authors:

Allie Mariano lives in New Orleans. Her writing has appeared in Saw Palm, Day One, and in New Orleans’ Times-Picayune. She is the nonfiction editor for Midway Journal. She is working on a novel, and she’s happy to be here.

Daryl Scroggins lives in Marfa, Texas. His poems, short stories, and creative non-fictions have appeared in magazines and anthologies across the country, and his most recent book is This Is Not the Way We Came In, a collection of flash fiction and a flash novel (Ravenna Press).

Kim K. McCrea worked as a system analyst for 25 years, building out the internet of things, before returning to letters. In 2017, Kim won the Treefort Wild West Writing Prize and was a finalist in both Proximity Magazine’s Essay Prize and the Barry Lopez Creative Nonfiction Contest. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Tishman Review, Thoughtfuldog, and Watershed Review. Kim lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she wrangles her Labrador in the rain and scouts for Great Blue Herons.

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: "Prayers for the Lost " by Melissa Goode

Prayers for the Lost

By Melissa Goode

Benediction

We are, all of us, dust. The priest reduces us to sinners and ash. You didn’t believe any of this, I know. The ceiling is dense heaven-blue. Bless me and keep me safe (surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life). The priest calls upon the saints, the angels. He blesses you (eternal rest give to them, O Lord). We pray for you and so we should because who knows where the fuck you are? I want it again, the first touch of my tongue to you. I will lick you clean, you are a knife, and I will curl my tongue and protect myself until I cannot anymore. On the altar, the candles burn and burn, they smoke. You aren’t here. This is where I think you are—you wait by the river for me in gold-white light. It is glorious, isn’t it? Tell me. 

#

Burial at Sea 

At the bottom of our street, the waves crash over and over, and they will not stop. Last night in my sleep, the sea gathered itself into a tsunami and collided into our house. In our bedroom of water we drowned, our heads pushed against the ceiling. People sunbake on the beach, they swim, and I don’t know how they aren’t terrified. I wasn’t always like this. Once, we stood in the sea. You pulled me close, my ten toes left the sand, and you were hard, rigid against the centre of me. Right. There. Water lapped at my lips, and I tasted salt, and you held me up as if I weighed nothing. I didn’t think about sharks or whales or any other thing. I should have. In the depths of the ocean there is the survival of the fittest which only means the survivors are eating everyone else. A school of sharks encircle a baby whale, separating it from its mother. Blood blooms in the water, and new bones descend to the seabed. The mother whale swims away, and I don’t understand that either. 

#

Act of Contrition 

I build a body of pillows in our bed. In the dark, from the corner of my eye, it is you. Hello, beautiful. You pull me down, your arms band tight around me. Your heat (you are my furnace). We don’t talk about this enough—the astonishing headiness that comes from lying on a body, being carried and being consumed. I hold your face as if that will keep you here longer. You look over my shoulder, and now I know—you cannot look me in the eye. Don’t say sorry, and I won’t say it to you. Bury yourself into me. Call me love. Drop your mouth to my ear and say, keep still. I will. I promise. 2AM. 3AM. 4AM. Every hour is another hour closer to you. You are at the river. Baby boo, sweetheart. Take my shoulders and push me under the surface. Do it. 

END


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About the Author:

Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in The Penn Review, Best Small Fictions, Superstition Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and Monkeybicycle, among others. Three of her stories were chosen by Dan Chaon for Best Microfictions 2019, including her story “I Wanna Be Adored” (CHEAP POP) which was also chosen for the Wigleaf Top 50 for 2019. She lives in Australia. You can find her here: www.melissagoode.com and at twitter.com/melgoodewriter

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: "Monsieur Kim" by David Aloi

Monsieur Kim

by David Aloi

Monsieur Kim had a birthmark the shape of the Eiffel Tower in the center of his neck, or at least that’s what he liked to tell us. I always thought it looked more like a regular triangle, or at my most imaginative, the state of New Hampshire. What I liked about him, and what I told the police, is that he created a totally immersive setting for us each day we walked into class. Played us Edith Piaf and François Hardy, drank café au laits, tore apart baguettes to pass around, held his chalk like a cigarette.

Je m’appelle Monsieur Kim, et vous? and Quelle heure est-il? and Aimez-vous le pamplemousse?. He did the throaty thing with his r’s and encouraged us to take our index and middle fingers and press on our throats as we annunciated r-focused phrases like mercide rienje parle français.

“If you feel that vibration, like you have a bee caught in there,” he said. “You’re doing it right.” 

Matty Grapuso and D.J. Friedman, who sat in the back of the classroom near the cardboard cutout of Céline Dion telling the world to Étude!, would make chokey blowjob noises, as though they knew firsthand what getting one sounded like. Monsieur Kim, the professional he was, just ignored them or asked them to do the noises en français. When Matty and D.J. asked him how to say “fudgepacker” in French, he told them, which ultimately was a mistake because they ended up carving the word into snow on the windshield of Monsieur Kim’s Jetta. 

*

Here are a few other things I know about Monsieur Kim that might be useful: he has a pastry chef friend named Paul who, on “Crème Brûlée Day,” came in and blowtorched some vanilla pudding for us. I know his parents, both city workers, recently visited for the holiday from Seoul because he mentioned his excitement to finally show them his new life. I know that at lunchtime, even when the Indiana winter is at its most bitter, he burrows out into Parking Lot C to eat liver sausage sandwiches and cornichons in his car. I also know that on the weekends, he drives 40 miles out of Bluffton to Fort Wayne to go dancing. I only know this because my Aunt Brenda works the graveyard shift at one of those roadside diners where the coffee tastes like gasoline and she’s seen him a bunch, all sweaty, wearing tank tops in a blizzard. She told me Monsieur Kim gets everything à la mode, even his beef hash.

On the day we all returned from Christmas break and the last time we ever saw him, Monsieur Kim was dressed like a mime. Black and white stripes, suspenders, a beret. No stinky cheese or grape juice for us to try, no Godard or Truffaut trailers for us to watch, not even Amélie on a muted loop. He sat at his big teak desk in the front of the class with his head down on a pile of old vinyls. When Matty masked some obscenity in a cough, Monsieur Kim looked up and made a desperate frown, his face covered in a thick coat of white paint, two black tears falling from each of his eyes. Half the class laughed uncomfortably. My own breath quickened. I saw Katie Zimmer bite the eraser right off her pencil.

Monsieur Kim moved slowly to the chalkboard and wrote, in large loopy letters, au revoir. First he made me stand. I repeated the phrase a couple times: au revoirau revoir. He touched my neck, gently, signaling for me to roll my r’s. He went around the room and made everyone do it. Stand. Repeat the phrase. Annunciate. Au revoir. He placed his fingers on our throats until he heard the chokey sounds. He stayed silent and in character, just like a mime is supposed to, and we all just played along.


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About the Author:

David Aloi is a writer living in Los Angeles. He received his MFA in fiction from California College of the Arts and has worked at McSweeney’s, ScholarMatch, Medium, and Grindr. His writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Flaunt, INTO, Cuepoint, and Switchback. In 2019, he was awarded a LAMBDA Fellowship for Emerging LGBTQ Voices as well as a MacDowell Fellowship. He is currently finishing a book of stories about modern (gay) life.

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: "Active Fault" by Grace Campbell

Active Fault

by Grace Campbell

The town roller rink is always scaled in the grime of hopeful, hormone wrapped anxieties, drugstore perfume, the offal of viscous nacho cheese, and the immanent potential of a fistfight. All of these things come free or five-finger discounted, and you never leave without reeking like the entire combination.

My older brother's fifteenth birthday consists of a long streamer-laden table flanked with burled knots of boys too big for their behavior and a sheet cake squiggled over in gooey, rushed cursive by some bakery employee in his own age bracket but with a verifiable income.

We are poor, and it is the first party we've hosted anywhere but our own home, so it's the big time. The Stoketon Roller Rink, where Whitney Houston's love-pumped ballads make the place bounce like a restless leg over an active fault. I wear my velour baseball-style top with some gold flowers printed across the front because velour is fancy and it makes me look what I suppose is rich. I even brush my hair, something no one notices and something cast in culpability once I see the photos, days later, where my brother's friends crouch behind me, all making the finger-down-the-throat vomit gesture toward the back of my gleaming, snarl-free head. Was the hair brushed too much or not enough? Was the shirt too tight or not enough? Was the smile too broad or not enough?

Maybe not velour, next time. Maybe never velour, in the interest of no Next Time. Maybe no smiles or only those at half-mast so they fall on the indifferent side of the anger/shame blade. Maybe no more roller rink, where, no matter how fast on my feet, I still fail. 

Maybe no more gleaming eyes toward the flat-white of the cake that tasted like nothing real and distracted me, eyes affixed to the sliceless perfection of it, from the stinging clutch of older boys. Behind me, they chant words that will later pivot the blade into other, sharper words, all the way from the hilt to the point, many times, no matter how baggy or snarl free. 

Eventually no one will be able to read what the whole glistening length spelled out or remember that I wore my last unfettered smile on the ride to the rink, wondering if they would play Whitney, please play Whitney, both my legs restless for some damn Whitney. I will skate away from the business of girlhood with my grin atrophied as a torn streamer, reeking like the whole combination caught in the photograph taken at exactly the moment I was lacing up my twelfth year.

My mother sees the whole scene happen, captures the shot anyway. 


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About the Author:

Grace Campbell is a co-founding editor and writer at Black River Press and Fiction editor at 5x5 Literary Magazine. She is the author of the flash chapbook Girlie Shorts (2018). She was awarded a June Dodge fellowship at the Mineral School in 2018. Her work has been chosen for inclusion in Best Small Fictions 2019 (Sonder Press) as well as earning finalist status in competitions at Split Lip and Atticus Review. You can find her work in Brevity, Joyland, Gravel, Foliate Oak, New Flash Fiction Review and elsewhere. She's got a soft spot for tinted lip balm and corgis. 

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: Three prose poems by Steven Cramer

By Steven Cramer

Jamaica

In Jamaica, if you live in the mountains, the slim, hairpin turns are relentless as Jehovah’s Witnesses. You honk so much the mechanic replaces your car’s horn along with its brakes.  Everywhere, people smell the sea in the air.  Not the ocean, the sea.  They keep watch on the horizon as it might be listening.

In Jamaica, it’s good to write good poems, better to be a good poet.  So thought my dear dead friend, Wayne—whose name doesn’t mean “invisible giant” but does to me; whom I loved but couldn’t tell I loved.  He wouldn’t hear of it. He’d rather sail. A thermos of rum and coke in one hand—Is there anything more sacred than a child reading a book?—in the other, his cap he’ll set on my young son’s head, whose name all afternoon will be First Mate.


Stazione

Two Roma boys stuck tulips in the front pockets of my jeans.  A Roma girl tried to lift my wallet, but I swatted the scrubbed little urchins away. If they’ve grown up, maybe they’ve matured into a trio of neurobiologists.  You and I had been visiting our favorite passion: Brunelleschi’s crucifixion in the Santa Maria Novella.  The sun shone on the street thieves’ faces, olive-skinned as Christ’s mortified flesh.  The third time our train was announced and you hadn’t returned from the newsstand, I briefly lost my lifelong craving to be in a headline.  For the time being, this memory curls up, searches for a safe enclosure, like a dog that’s learned to trust its crate.  Then you touched my shoulder.  For the rest of our honeymoon, I kept staring at you, as if a band of kidnappers had just set you free.


Written During a Depression

There once was a man with no imagination.  He never even dreamed.

Neuroscientists claim that when you wake convinced you haven’t dreamed, you’ve actually forgotten four to six excursions into a mailbox the size of a covered bridge, where a family of scorpions affix price tags to paperweights.

In this way, you’re like the man—call him Man II—who forgets to tip his daughter for Thanksgiving dinner.

As for Man I, nothing: no keel-billed toucan on his shoulder when he looks in the mirror; no sonic puns on fatigued and graffiti; no grandmothers, in the guise of cats wearing Balinese masks, performing shadow dances to The Funeral March of the Marionettes.   

Man II, as a boy, had fantasies of eloping with a trapeze artist.

There she is now, swinging back and forth between the Niagara and Victoria Falls.  Just try calling her a dream.


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About the Author:

Steven Cramer is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Clangings (Sarabande). His work has appeared in AGNI, The Atlantic Monthly, Field, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New England Review, The Paris Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. Recent poems have appeared in American Journal of Poetry, Barrow Street, Carolina Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, and Plume. He founded and teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University.

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: "Hunger Pangs" by Matt Tompkins

Hunger Pangs

By Matt Tompkins

I came home hungry and he had already started cooking. He was hungry too, he said. He made a feast: rack of lamb, whipped potatoes, braised greens. We ate it all. We ate it fast. And we washed it down with a nice pinot noir. Feeling festive and restless, and still hungry, we made a pot roast. I chopped the carrots and onions and garlic while he salted and seared the meat. When that was done and gone, we pulled cheese and grapes from the fridge. Water crackers from the pantry and a second bottle of wine, a halfway-decent Sauvignon blanc. We made short work of that, then moved on to some single-barrel bourbon and Salvadoran cigars—his boss gave him the bottle and the box with his last bonus. He wondered aloud what he had been saving them for. It was only ten and we were wakeful and we were hungry and so we kept on. A half-carton of orange juice, extra pulp, we passed back and forth, alternating with swigs from a gallon of sweet tea; a punch bowl full of corn flakes with two serving spoons between us. We found things in corners of kitchen cabinets we didn’t know existed. Things we must have bought, but who knows when. A tub of chocolate frosting. A tin of dried sardines. A few packets of ramen, chicken flavor, reduced sodium. Before long we were scraping bottom. Scooping baking soda from the box. I emptied the salt shaker into the back of my throat and he knocked back the last of the almond extract and he looked at me like, OK, what next? Nothing was left, the shelves were empty. The kitchen was unkempt. The litter of boxes and jars left us up to our ankles in drift. So we ordered some pizzas and Buffalo wings and pad kee mao and saag paneer, and when the bell rang we waded toward the door. We didn’t waste time with plates or forks, we just tore open the cartons and gulped it all down. When we’d called all the restaurant numbers we knew, when we’d finished the takeout and tossed down the boxes, we wiped at our mouths with our fists and went on. We slipped off our shoes and gnawed at the leather. Tore off our shirts and shredded the cotton, which pilled in our teeth and got stuck in our throats. Swallowed the buttons like vitamin pills. Then we took to the bathroom and bedroom and den: ripped white feathers from pillows, tan sheets from the bed, pulled out coils and batting and memory foam, digested the lampshades and lightbulbs alike. And from under the bed—where the bed had been—we grabbed the dust bunnies that hid. Squeezed out tubes of toothpaste, shook vials of mouthwash, and shampoo and hand soap and painkiller capsules. When the faucets and fixtures and fittings were finished, we paused for a moment, then dug further in. We pulled up the carpet and splintered the floor. Picked our teeth and kept picking. We stripped off the paint from the walls and dissolved it in water and drank by the pitcher and still we were hungry, still we weren’t full. We dug into the walls and munched hunks of plaster, slurped wires like spaghetti and ground down the pipes. Our teeth were half-wrecked and our eardrums were ringing but neither of us had an endgame in sight. When even the blocks of the concrete foundation were dust in our stomachs, we went for the cars. We twisted off pieces of headlights and bumpers and stretched out our jaws and jammed it all in. Then we turned our sights out to the houses around us and thought of the people inside, and we looked at each other and knew without speaking that, yes, we were thinking the same.


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About the Author:

Matt Tompkins is the author of Odsburg (Ooligan Press, Fall 2019) as well as several fiction chapbooks. His stories have appeared in the New Haven Review, Post Road, and online at the Carolina Quarterly and Puerto del Sol. He works as a copy editor and lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter.

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: "My Party Trick" by Tucker Leighty-Phillips

My Party Trick

by Tucker Leighty-Phillips

I opened my mouth in front of the bathroom mirror to discover a tiny flame flickering on my tongue. My mouth had ached with a burning throughout the night, so I was unsurprised to see what looked like a borrower’s bonfire in the small of my maw. I tried to swallow the tiny torch but it scorched my throat as it spread and flared, so I choked it back up, kept it in place and tried to dampen it with saliva. I chugged a half-empty bottle of water on my bedroom nightstand but it was no use. Trying to remove the flame from my body felt a lot like trying to run away from my feet.

Work was harder than usual. Any time I tried to speak, the mouth-fire charred my words before they made contact with the air past my lips. Every sentence became a burnt husk, blackening out any semblance of meaning.

I’m feeling sick, I tried to say to my boss. Black smoke billowed from my lips like a loose secret.

What about Alan Thicke? She responded.

I sat at my desk and searched the internet for mouth fire symptoms, causes and cures. My phone rattled like an alarm until I unplugged the cord. A coworker walked by and said It’s a hot one out there today, ain’t it?

The fire had done a number on my teeth as well, heating them like a farmer’s branding iron until they became white-hot. I tried to eat my sandwich in the break room with gentle nibbles, but my lips sizzled and smoked when they came into contact with my incisors. Someone brought out a birthday cake for Myrtle in finance and everyone gathered around. They sang the birthday song and encouraged Myrtle to blow out the six candles they’d jammed in the white icing. The flames flailed and waved, crying as Myrtle took a deep-chested puff inwards and out towards the cake. I watched as the flames suffocated and died out, and I felt a heavy growing in my own chest, cinnamon-red anger simmering towards Myrtle and whoever had made the decision to put those candles there in the first place. What use is a fire if you won’t let it burn, I thought. I squeezed my sandwich so tightly that it nearly fell apart, the bread smushed, mustard seeping through the top and out the sides, dripping into my palms. I set it down and took a couple deep breaths. Myrtle stared at me open-mouthed with a party hat on her head.

I sent my boss an email saying I needed to take the afternoon off.


The fire was so engulfing, it started to feel like a curse. Although my previous experiences with curses had been rudimentary, just a hex back in high school, I knew that many of them were monogamous, only attaching themselves to a single person at a time, so I figured I’d try to pass it on. Who’d passed it to me in the first place, I wondered.

I went to a bar, not my regular bar, but a buffalo wing sports bar, a place where a drifter could find another drifter and make quick work of one another. Finding a man was easy. I watched a football game on television and waited for the first one to ask who I was rooting for. I’d let them fate themselves.

The Texans, I said. He misheard me. The man bought two shots, and when I drank mine flame burst from my lips like a great sneeze. He laughed and called it my party trick. He bought another round. The smoke alarms screeched as I drank. He loved it, I loved it, the way my tiny flame grew massive. It wasn’t long before we were back at his, some sad room devoid of passion, a white wall peppered with mishaps and a white mattress hugging the floor. God, to live without primary colors.

When he kissed me, he caught fire. He’d tried to smother the flame with his wet tongue but it failed, blistering as it retreated from my mouth and back into his own. The smoke from his body tinted the walls and the smell of burnt hair wafted like a ghost through the hallway. I considered the hallway fire alarm for a moment, but left without any showing of mercy.

At home, I opened my mouth into the mirror again and watched my flame pulse and sway like a small heartbeat. I couldn’t stop wondering what else in the world was flammable. There I was, pressing my index finger to my tongue like I was ringing a doorbell, the small blaze singeing my skin until I removed it. I closed my jaw and smiled, curling my sizzled black lips into a gaping curve like the Cheshire Cat. I blew my reflection a cherry-red kiss and swallowed deeply, letting the fire trickle into my chest where it heated my ribs like hot metal. I figured I’d go back to the bar for another drink.


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About the Author:

Tucker Leighty-Phillips is an MFA candidate in Fiction at Arizona State University, where he is currently the Managing Editor for Hayden's Ferry Review. His work has appeared at Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, Whiskeypaper, and elsewhere. He can be found on social media at @TheNurtureBoy.


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: "Freak" by Damian Dressick

Freak

by Damian Dressick

Freak had a beard like a beehive made of cancer, skin raw as abattoir beef. Pacing behind the night bar on the St. Ann block of Bourbon Street, he even poured beer like a fixture. How long does it take to surrender selfhood to the category of local color?  Ten years? Twenty? Thirty, going once? Just call me Freak, he’d say. Can identity be ceded so utterly as to become another curiosity in the place you haunt? An upright piano played by Armstrong? An AA chip nailed to the wall? Is it comforting somehow to be freed from the tyranny of agency by routine, by circumscription, to let your past cast a shadow that dwarfs your future? We all knew Freak had been in a band back in ’67, ’68—not one we listened to, not one we’d even know if it came on the radio. For our part, we younger bartenders, with our flirting and cups of Hennessy stashed in the well, looked to the old man as a clock. Steel wool ponytail, janky gait, stale blue eyes, Freak let us know what life looked like when it was over.


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About the Author:

Damian Dressick's stories and essays have appeared in more than fifty literary journals and anthologies, including W.W. Norton’s New Microfailbetter.com, New Orleans Review, Barcelona Review, New Delta Review, Smokelong Quarterly and New World Writing. Damian has won the Harriette Arnow Award, the Jesse Stuart Prize and was a finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter Prize. A Blue Mountain Residency Fellow, he holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. Damian teaches in western Pennsylvania. For more information, check out www.damiandressick.com.

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: "reading the signs can be terrifying" by gary lundy

reading the signs can be terrifying 

by gary lundy

especially when they have to do with the body. what meaning the
sudden light headedness. the following vertigo. the small bump
noticed after showering. a toenail grown black over a few days.
then those outside the common grounding. a worn out symphony of
small complaints. or the always neatly groomed beard. a head scarf
worn perfectly. this season invites introspection. even though of
little use. let the man judge himself our parent tells us. be still
unless spoken to. yet even then words carry a premium of
unintentional meaning. write toward a rhythmic confusion. few care
to listen even when they are the only one speaking. as usual the
fine art embroils. close your eyes and imagine your hands and their
hands embracing. how easily hope is retrieved after a successful
childbirth. even in these final days of lost years. a sound of
hammering clean an espresso machine. when mail is lost not
delivered. wrap up the habitual package of wasted time. glow in the
dark balloons. a vacant retrieval of the memory of pure laughter.
perhaps i prepare for the arrival of empty words. where words are
simply themselves. carry no representation. jocular insomnia.
where do the dozens climb after dark. a toilet bowl stopped up.
there's a common assumption that tomorrow will lighten minutes
later. darkness floods minutes earlier. my ankles sored by entropy.
a broken and discarded printer abandoned in the alley. tall gangly
young one seduces. looks out a front window. pointing out which of
the many trees. there is nothing quick about these notes that drone
on and on. although not forever.


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About the Author:

gary lundy's poems have appeared most recently in Setu: Western Voices Special Edition, Alexandria Quarterly, Incidia, Spider Mirror, Show Your Skin, Oxidant | Engine, and Antinarrative. His most recent book, each room echoes absence, was released by FootHills Publishing (March 2018). gary is a retired English Professor and queer living in Missoula, Montana.

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 Quiet Blue" by Jenn Powers 

A Quiet Blue

by Jenn Powers 

The least he can do is hiss. Coiled, black. That’s how we girls detect danger, sense hate. Blood takes the shape of a heart, the easiest lure of symbols, deep into the earth’s core. Fire so hot it’s cold. His desire is the broken neck of a beer bottle in an alleyway. The heels skid raw, down to the marrow. The romantic moon is a liar—it’s not safe. It’s a tale for future generations, but we girls won’t listen. We want what we want. We smile and take it, the ripped sheath between lips. Our sundresses are slashed away and sewn back onto our skin with twine. First, take a good look at what he considers wrong: electricity, hair, lightning, flesh. The rush of rain cleaning sheets, healing slit wrists, bandaging the words burnt into skin: dirty, whore, worthless. We girls float like daisy chains. We trail the serpents down boiling rivers. We shake, we kneel, we scream, we beg until it turns a quiet blue. Like the news of a death in early morning. But no one’s died. It’s just the same feeling. It’s just what’s been taken from us. Bones, birth, dust. Nothing, everything. something. Like a damaged Polaroid later made into art. Made into that indescribable, unexpected beauty of something supposedly ruined.


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About the Author:

Jenn Powers is a writer and visual artist from New England. She is currently at work on a psychological thriller. She has work published or forthcoming in The Pinch, Jabberwock Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Calyx, and Spillway, among others. Her work has been anthologized with Kasva Press, Scribes Valley Publishing, and Running Wild Press. Please visit www.jennpowers.com for updates and more information. 

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: "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