Writing at Rohs Street

September 23, 2014 / Haiku exercise

Haiku #1

River curves away
Blue sky sweeps above, cloudless
iphone memory

I am trying not to feel like I have to pin beauty down, like a butterfly to a board. But I can’t seem to stop.

Another haiku?

Haiku #2

Captured river, caught
Pinned down, like a butterfly
iphone memory

I’m thinking so much lately about what is precious, and how scraps of precious things live in my phone, collected there like when Hermione Granger charmed her beaded bottomless bag in the last Harry Potter book, so it could hold everything that was essential to battle Lord Voldemort: a tent the size of a house, books, food, clothes to take the chill off, life-saving medical supplies, anything she needed to move the story ahead—what magic, that story.

Magic like iphones are magic, in their way. My iphone: I resisted getting one for so long, after reading in horror about the Chinese workers who made them—probably still make them, who am I and Apple’s PR machine kidding? The workers housed in gray dormitories in smoggy cities where poison air stings throats and eyes, workers—flesh and blood people—harnessed like plow horses to relentless time clocks.

Down another time-ladder, I slip to another century, another magical book, Little Women—the March sisters and Marmee refusing to wear silk dresses because of the child labor that went into making them. No, the March women wore plain Poplin, unfashionable, virtuous. Except for Amy. Selfish, vain Amy — and guess what? I’ve become Amy, haven’t I?

To assuage my guilt, I use my iphone to collect tiny bits of the world, to fashion a beautiful mosaic of songs I love, of my two daughter’s text messages, of hundreds of photos snapped when the light! THE LIGHT! Stuns me, as if maybe I might someday be trapped in a windowless dormitory, a joyless world where my pictures of nature and cryptic messages from the past will be the only things that sustain me?

Maybe that’s the fear. That if I don’t somehow bottle it, it will all vanish? Is that why I’ve recorded the songs of crickets and cicadas? So in some deep cold winter moment, I can hear summer again? All those notes I make, poem fragments and angry rants and ideas and books I should read, want to read, all the flotsam and jetsam of life flowing past like the mighty Ohio did this morning, when I captured it in my iphone. Snap!

Pinning it all down, like a butterfly, pinned. A picture Lydia texted me, of her, smiling, hugging that pretty Border Collie in her college apartment, if I save it there, and look at her smile, will that keep her smiling, always?

I pour over my collection sometimes, find beauty, pain, insights and treasure: those notes I when I wake and can’t find my journal, tip-tip-typing instead of scrawling, frantically recording those recurring dreams of ice and glaciers and endless winters, mixed in with sunshiny sunflowers in a vacant lot.

It’s all in there.

Ohio River photo
Ohio River, September 23, 2014



Their maracas shake in dark trees: even indoors, windows closed, fans on:
they thrum, thrum, a constant presence, insect-induced tinnitus
I like their cascading drone, insistent announcement—we live!
Humans, greedier than any insect, haven’t killed them off, not yet,
unlike the passenger pigeons, once so plentiful
flocks of them darkened the daytime skies for hours
went from most populous bird on the planet
to extinct in a century, a blink of time.
Martha, last survivor, died alone in captivity
a hundred years ago last Monday
just  a stroll from my house,
in a cage at the
Cincinnati Zoo—
it’s still there
on display


-September 3, 2014

Ten More Literary Magazines for the Best Flash Fiction

This is very belated, but I’m thankful and honored for the mention over at michaelalexanderchaney.com! Great site, packed with literary advice and reviews. Check out this post for flash publication ideas.



The flash markets on this list include the best around. They’re not impossible to break into. Not as much as say, Willow Springs, whose editor informed us recently here on this blog that only one out of a thousand pieces gets picked for publication from the slush pile. One out of a thousand! That’s roughly the same odds as Bono being the next pope, of sneezing with your eyes open, or [ gulp ] of asteroid 1999 RQ36 smashing into Earth.

While these magazines are not so apocalyptically stingy with their acceptance, they’re still selective (and I’ve got an asteroid belt of rejections from them in my in-box to prove it).

You might think of this list as as continuation of an earlier post on the very best, since these magazines are more challenging to break into than those on the other two lists I’ve compiled: Top 10…

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Nowhere to go

deer in yard


Yesterday morning at seven-thirty, I went for a walk. The sun was streaming down Evanswood, turning the street into a golden river of light. Across that river, in the neighbor’s front yard, a trio of deer placidly munched hostas, unbothered by the dog walkers and the pack of school children milling at the bus stop at the corner.

I snapped an iPhone shot of the deer, a slender chesnut doe, and her twin fawns, still wearing their star-speckled coats. I felt sad and happy all at once.

I love deer. As a child, I obsessively drew pictures of deer. Bambi was my favorite book. Deer were shy and quiet, like I was, yet they were also swift and mysterious and tapered. I still think they are the most elegant creatures, with their long legs and big dark eyes—the Audrey Hepburns of the animal kingdom.

Yet standing there, watching them devour what was left of the Shapiro’s lilies, I felt sad, too. Because seeing deer in the neighborhood is no longer a novelty. They are everywhere. Their numbers are growing and there’s nowhere for them to go.

My gardening friends mourn the loss of their hostas, and I get that. But: the deer. They have nowhere to go, and whose fault is that, exactly?

A couple hours later, I drove off on an errand.

At the intersection of Martin Luther King and Central Parkway, a young woman stood, holding a sign that read “hungry & homeless.” She was tall, thin, sun-browned, her face already a little leathery though she couldn’t have been much past thirty. I thought of that famous photo, you know the one I mean? That one of the sad-eyed depression-era migrant mother, her face a map of her worries?

I’m famous for never having cash on me, but earlier I’d found a ten dollar bill while loading the washer, and I’d shoved it in my pocket, feeling pleased.

I looked at her, motioned, rolled the passenger window down.

“Thank you,” she said, taking the crumpled bill. And then, as she realized it was a ten and not just a dollar, her whole face lit up. “Bless you,” she said, joy transforming her face, stripping away years, until I could imagine her in high school, dreaming of her future.

Maybe she’ll drink it or shoot it up or something. Or maybe she’ll get to eat a good meal. Not my call. One thing I know for sure, she didn’t grow up dreaming she’d be standing in the hot September sun next to an interstate and a White Castle, begging.

There are so many in this world, with nowhere to go.

I drove away, wishing I’d found a twenty, or maybe two twenties, folded carelessly together and left in the pocket of my walking shorts. That happens sometimes, when you have as much as I do. I wondered if I’d have handed it over, had it been twenty dollars, or forty, and I hoped that I would have.