Forthcoming at Quatrain.Fish

Quatrain.Fish publishes very short poetry of four lines or less. Here’s their Editor’s Note:

I know for myself, when I set to write a short poem, I tend to end up with about six lines. Those of course, won’t be welcome here at Quatrain.Fish. Most poetry of four lines or less (fewer, if you insist) isn’t a poem at all, but part of a poem or an ill-formed thought. Yet if, as Poe claimed, long poems aren’t poems at all, then perhaps the most poetical of poems is the shortest of poems.

Perhaps.

True or not, a perfectly crafted, tiny poem is like a sharp knife or a sex-laden wink, an empty elevator shaft or the perfect vista bursting through fog: perfectly captured images and emotions that can creep into our lives and never leave. We hope Quatrain.Fish publishes one or two or three or thirty that can be that for you.

A piece of mine was just accepted for publication. I look forward to sharing it soon.

In the meantime, check out Quatrain.Fish. They are permanently closing to new submissions in December, so get your short work to them soon.

So We Had a Wake

This is a story about a dream, or a memory of a dream. It was published years ago at another ghost town called Slingshot.

I think these pieces leant themselves very well to the the kind of online writing that was emerging in the late 00’s. It’s a shame so many of those venues, many of which were very good, are no longer around. Pour one out for each of them, I guess.

So We Had A Wake

You came over in red high tops from a yard sale and your old bandana with a Rubbermaid trunk of things for me to keep. Your Junior Legion plaque. Records from the bank you worked at one summer, but you never worked at a bank. You worked in a furniture factory and a Bible software company. There were toy baseball bats that I thought I might let my son play with but would maybe keep wrapped forever, a baseball with funny faces, binders from Seminary and records. “Have you heard any news of any kind?” I asked, afraid of why you were doing this. “I haven’t heard,” you said and I tried to remember how I felt when you were given back to us. I don’t remember what I said when I found out, like I’d missed the news but still knew it, like I coveted the chance I must have had to jump and yell and strip and beat my chest. I should have bruises there like butterflies, their brown shadow wings spreading from my sternum. My knuckles would be burger meat, my lungs would break my ribs, my throat would cut and chafe on the impossible proclamation, would scab and petrify, vanity, I’d bleed the truth out in a dribble. If you hadn’t really died, once, if I found out they had been mistaken, a clerical error, even a resurrection. What they can do with medicine, now. But I don’t remember. 

I think you better leave me with the trunk, too, so I have a place to keep this all just how it is, you know, and I don’t say just in case because just in case is doubt and doubt kills t-cells, eats your organs. You have been so positive. You smile at everything you show me. “I probably shouldn’t have taken these,” you say about the jump drives from the bank that are branded with Jerry Dior’s batsman. “They might be interesting.” 

I wonder if you were lucid all those mornings you slept through class, if you were conjugating Greek declensions, parsing Hebrew in your dreams. I wonder if you parse me now, if first and second person are constructs of the living. If your Thou to my I is only feltboard Jesus. 

I understood that you were private, but I understand now, after our visit is consumed by things I don’t sleep through — my wife calling after church to wake me up for lunch, my son in the background saying “Hallelujah, Daddy!” — why you didn’t want a funeral. You couldn’t say goodbye and wouldn’t let me, either. And so when you visit in the morning, as often as the intervals in which I’d always seen you, we don’t have to talk about how we miss each other, I don’t have to ask if the end hurts or know how scared you were to go. The night is hypothetical and it seems we both are only sleeping.

Evensong

Another early piece. This was published at elimae when Cooper Renner was the editor. It was a very good journal. This story is 100 words long.

Evensong

Thaddeus, age 3, set the Evensong in shallow water. Small waves rose and fell, and, retreating, carried Thad’s small ship further from the shore. Squealing and on pigeon toes Thaddeus retrieved it, and, safely back, he cast the tiny schooner headlong into the sea. His father’s strides were long and easy and for a moment Thad was sorry for the rival ocean and the fight he’d picked. His father bent low and pressed Thad to his chest and from tall grass on the bluffs above, they watched a red sun sink behind the green and Thad said, “Bring it back.”

How All Literary Rejection Letters Should Start

 

 

 

 

This lets you know right away that the rest of the email is not about your Pushcart nomination.

After the obligatory “Dear Author/Writer/Word Processing Chimpanzee,” the very first word of the first sentence should be “unfortunately.” This saves writers from having to scan the rest of the text for the word. It also means that if the writer’s e-mail service shows body text previews, the writer doesn’t even have to open the email to know s/he’s been slush-piled. I still recommend reading the actual rejections just in case there are specific comments or requests for more work.

This message has been brought to you by the editors of a review somewhere in the formerly industrial midwest. Remembering which story I sent them four months ago is pretty tough, and it looks like they forgot the title, too.

Since many of you visit this blog looking for bits and pieces about the MFA process and the nuts and bolts of trying to get pieces published, I thought I’d share the secret hierarchy of rejection letters.

1: The standard form letter like the one seen here.  Not very gratifying, but don’t take it personally.  You’re busy, they’re busy, and that’s just how it goes.  That said, don’t submit to a market that doesn’t allow simultaneous subs, or, if you do, submit other places anyway. In my opinion, markets have no right to tell you not to submit elsewhere, especially in the current climate.
2: The form letter with your name and the title of your piece.  Pretty standard practice.  I think I get more rejections with this level of personalization than without.
3: The personalized rejection letter with a personal note telling you how much they liked your story, even though it’s not for them, and encouraging you to send them more. In the super-competitive and completely subjective literary world, this can feel almost as good as an acceptance when you’re moving along this spectrum.  When you’re at this point with a specific piece or a specific market, you know that the editors really looked hard at your piece, thought about it, and saw enough promise (or whatever they look for) to personally encourage you as a writer.  No one owes you that, so when you get it, it’s a good thing.  Follow up with a thank you.

No, I’m not really upset with the formerly industrial midwestern review for rocking the old #1 on me.  It comes with the territory, and if you can’t handle something like that, you’re going to need to toughen up if you want your stories told, and if you’re going to write the kinds of stories people will want to share. And remember: this entire process is based on subjective responses to art.  You will fail often, especially in the beginning.  The important thing is to keep trying and, if you must fail, to keep failing better.