This year at AWP, we’re going all out. The conference is coming to The Conium Review‘s home city of Portland, OR. We’re doing an event every night of the conference, starting with “Books & Brass: An Evening of Prose, Poetry, and Live Jazz” on Thursday, March 28th. Next, we’re hosting a “Literary Masquerade” on Friday, March 29th. Finally, we’re pleased to announce the lineup for our final event, “The Northwest Micropress Fair After Party” on Saturday, March 30th. This particular event follows the Northwest Micropress Fair, which is an independently organized book fair held in the Cleaners at the Ace Hotel. We’ll be tabling at this micropress fair and we’ll also have a booth at the main AWP Conference bookfair. We’ll be selling books and doing author signings at each location.
About the Event
The After Party officially begins at 7:30 when the doors of the Cleaners at the Ace Hotel reopen for business. The readings start at 8:00pm, with music to follow and a cash bar available. The Northwest Micropress Bookfair and After Party includes a ton of presses, including Presses and producers include: Entre Ríos Books, Scablands Books, Chin Music Press, Page Boy Magazine, Sage Hill Press, SPLAB, Short Run Seattle, Blue Cactus Press, Frontera Magazine, Margin Shift Reading Series, Cadence Video Poetry Festival / Northwest Film Forum, Till Writers, Ravenna Press, StringTown Press, Papeachu Press, Rhododo Press, Coast | No Coast, Winter Texts, Crab Creek Review, Poetic Games, Not a Pipe Publishing, Cascadia Rising Review, The Conium Review, Arq Press, Overcup Press, and Floating Bridge Press.
This will be a big event on the final night of the conference. Don’t miss it! Reading for The Conium Review are TJ Fuller, Chelsea Harris, and Simone Person. Find this event on Facebook.
About the Readers
TJ Fuller writes and teaches in Portland, Oregon. His fiction has appeared in Hobart, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. He won the 2017 Flash Fiction Contest at The Conium Review.
Chelsea Harris has appeared in The Portland Review, Literary Orphans, The Conium Review, Grimoire, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others. She received her MFA from Columbia College Chicago and currently lives in Washington State.
Simone Person is the author of Dislocate, the winner of the 2017 Honeysuckle Press Chapbook Contest in Prose, and Smoke Girl, the winner of the 2018 Diode Editions Chapbook Contest in Poetry. She grew up in small Michigan towns and Toledo, Ohio and is a dual MFA/MA student at Indiana University in Fiction and African American and African Diaspora Studies. In 2018, Simone became the Prose Editor for Honeysuckle Press. She sporadically, and to varying degrees of success, uses Twitter and Instagram at @princxporkchop.
The day her youngest left for college, she came home with two cats. A boy and a girl, just like her children. Everyone understood. The nest was empty. It’s that thing. It’s only natural.
“You’re such a little peanut,” she said to one of the cats. “My little Peanut. Peanut Butter. Peanut Butt.”
“Biscuit,” she said to the other. “Bisquick. Little Bisque. Bisque-Kitten. Biscuit-Tin. Lobster Bisque. My little Lobster, sweet Lobster Claw.”
She bought them beds and toys and treats. She let them scratch her couch. She scooped their poop twice a day. She liked the crunching sounds they made when they ate their dry food with their precise little teeth. The metal tinkling of the tags on their collars, like tiny bells, joyful sounds that let her know they were close.
It wasn’t enough. While her husband was at work, she went to the pet store and bought some rabbits. The rabbits proceeded to do it like rabbits. More rabbits. Her husband helped her build hutches around the house. She fed them each their own head of lettuce. She stuck her fingers through the wire cages. They were soft, impossibly soft, so soft, eight, sixteen, twenty-four soft little feet, lucky feet.
Too many rabbits, her husband said. The nest was too full. He made her put an ad in the local paper: bunnies for sale. But then he had a heart attack, and when the house was dark and her children had left again and all the flowers had wilted and she put the cards away and there weren’t any more casseroles in the freezer, she was grateful she still had the rabbits, and it seemed to her, in fact, that she did not have enough rabbits.
Maybe it wasn’t rabbits, precisely. Maybe it was something else she needed. Hamsters. Hamsters were small. They could fit in your pocket. That could be her new thing. Now that she was not all the things she used to be, she could be the lady who did that, who went around town with a hamster in her pocket.
The hamster did not like her pocket. It did not mind its cage: the wood chips, the brightly colored tubes, sucking from the metal tip of the water bottle. The sound of its nails against the plastic, its feet scrambling through the loops, comforted her. “Silly hamster,” she said. “Hamster-Ham. You are my smoky little Ham.”
When she got the hamsters she also got two goldfish. Impulse buy at the checkout line. The same way she would sometimes buy a candy bar, or a trashy magazine. Two fish, a tank, a filter, fish flakes, pink pebbles, seaweed plants, a castle, a plastic diving man, a Jacques Costeau. She wondered what they would do if she stroked their glittering scales with the pads of her fingers.
Weeks later she was out running errands. She was buying food for herself and for the cats and the fish and the hamster and the rabbits. When she got to the dairy section, she thought, how silly. How silly to spend money when there are creatures that will give these things to you for free.
She bought a full-grown chicken and a couple of chicks. She named the chicken Pokey. “Little Poke,” she said. “Hey there, Pokey-Partner.”
She put the chicken in a coop in the yard and the chicks under heat lamps in the living room. Their yellow feathers glowed under the hot red lights. She cupped a chick in her hands and said, “What a lovely fluff. Fluffy baby.”
Then, of course: a cow for the milk. A couple horses, because, why not?
To the horses, she said: “Beautiful. Perfect,” and she ran her palm over their wet velvet noses, kissed the wide hard plane of their foreheads.
Birds: lovebirds, parrot, parakeets. She gave them their own room. “This is for the birds!” she punned. Soon, she joked to no one in particular, she would need an ark. But, she laughed, there were sometimes more and sometimes less than two of every kind.
But when she fell asleep at night, she thought: this is not what I want. How have I strayed so far from what I want?
What she really wanted was to lock herself inside a cage. For someone to feed her, bathe her, pet her, brush her. She wanted someone to make up nicknames for her, call her sweet diminutives, to hold her, tightly, so tightly she could not breathe, and tell her that she was beautiful, perfect, perfect; that she was the best thing in the whole world, the only thing, and she wanted to go limp in that warm embrace, to know nothing except the sound of a soft voice singing her praises, unintelligible words of comfort, murmurs of endless, boundless love.
About the Author:
Jillian Jackson is a graduate of the MFA program in Fiction at Boston University, where she received the Florence Engel Randall Graduate Fiction Award. She’s also the recipient of a St. Botolph Club Foundation’s Emerging Artist Grant. Her work appears in Smokelong Quarterly and Misadventures Magazine.
This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith.
Image Credit: © Vadim Gnidash – stock.adobe.com
On the island, the greatest hunters move together, as one mass. They are so great. They have killed many things such as eagles, trucks, trees, tigers and people. When the greatest hunters roam the island, people come out of their houses to yell, “Roam, roam!” This is tradition. No one knows if the cry is an admonishment to go away and roam far from here, or if it’s a banner of respect for the hunters’ peripatetic life.
This has all happened for centuries.
Don’t we all want to be the greatest? Haven’t we all been pushed too far?
The greatest hungers roll in on themselves. They don’t got no step that ain’t for themselves. They slide. Then, past a new cemetery, all dug up and mounded: “New Lots Available: 784-2948.”
Something cracks in them, then splits. Sounds inside like a nose clicking, some deep disruption sinus cavity click. Deep click that disturbs the inner throat and head peace.
They take protective and reactive measures, which include don’t look at the moon and be celibate, especially from creeps. But it’s no good, the cemetery split has seeded and gone to grown, like tapping the tiniest nail into a temple. Pain is good until it pulls asunder, and down they go, collectively. What good is a great hunter who’s scared of dying?
That’s the kind of rhetorical question that great hunters dread, because there’s only one answer. They are, in a word, fucked. Useless. Once such swelling handlers of the hunt, now staring blank into their own ever-present hanging graves.
And so, now what? Can a society survive without its great hunters? We didn’t think so. We thought we’d go hungry, as fucked as they were, but no, funny thing, we survived. On our own. We didn’t kill no elephants, but we made it by trapping song birds, whacking them and subsisting on their songs, which proved much more mentally enlivening than any strand of animal protein, if also a bit less sustaining. We went peace. And after we ate the great hunters, we decided nothing else would ever be designated as “great.” We certainly weren’t, and we knew it, even when the songbirds proved hard to trick, because they grew wary of our traps. Still, we were so far from great. Our songs were pretty, sure, but we were the only ones who heard them. They were only for ourselves.
Sometimes we think back to the days of the greatest hunters. Such thoughts are always red and fleshy. We often remember the anger inherent in meat and chase. Sometimes, we must admit, we miss the smell of it all. Such carnage smelled thick with industry. Now it’s all sound, and that sustains us. We sweat sound, now, and smile all as one song. We make our hand gestures that say, open up, and we sing it.
About the Author:
Jefferson Navicky’s work has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Crossborder, Quickfiction, Stolen Island and Hobart. He works as the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection, teaches English at Southern Maine Community College and lives in Freeport, Maine with his partner where they watch the bluejay boss the bird feeder.
This piece was selected as part of the “Dis/appearances” theme, guest edited by Matt Tompkins, author of Souvenirs and Other Stories and Studies in Hybrid Morphology.
Image Credit: © bekkersara – stock.adobe.com