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

Mourning Ceremony

by Mara Panich-Crouch


About the Author:


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


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:


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.


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.


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.