How I Killed April’s Father | Sal Difalco

Image: Leonard Resse

Yellow suits April, with her tiny porcelain doll face, wispy blonde hair, and raspy voice. She looks so pretty in yellow. It’s a warm late summer afternoon. April’s yellow sundress flutters as we walk along the stone path through her mother’s vegetable garden. She’s wearing red plastic sandals that slap the path stones. Muscular tomato vines grow along the weathered privacy fence, with cracking red fists of tomatoes. Big zucchinis hang from a bamboo pergola like the legs of green giants. Things fly about, small dark birds and glinting insects; big blue flies knock into us; everything smells of tomato stalks and rotting tomatoes and snails.

Come, April says. Come with me. At the end of the path stands the peeling white garage with the broken door and its red roof softening like crayon in the sun. It’s cool in there, April says and takes my hand in her hand, waxy and warm. It is cool in the garage, but not that cool. It smells of gasoline and mown lawn. But there is no car. She shows me a red iron pump her father uses to pump air into the tires of his red bicycle. He rides the bicycle to his job at the steel mill about a mile down the road. My father used to work there. He worked there before the fire. We lived in a different house before the fire. I only remember it a bit, in little bits.

April and I play checkers. She beats me. She says that she never beats her daddy. I don’t say anything, but I think her father must be mean not to let her beat him now and then. What about your daddy? she asks. He died, I say, in a fire. That’s sad, she says.

She unfastens her right sandal, removes it from her foot, and shakes out a stone. Her foot is small and white and delicate. Her baby toe has no toenail. I smile at her. She puts her sandal back on, tightens the strap. We play checkers again. She beats me again. I don’t like losing, but I don’t mind losing to her. Winning makes her so happy. Do you miss your daddy? she asks. I tell her I don’t remember much of him; I was small when he died. I hope my daddy never dies, she says. We play checkers again. This time I win.

Her mother brings us lemonade. Her mother all bright and wearing white with red polka dots, red lipstick, white sandals, and toenails painted red. How you kids doing? she brightly asks. We’re fine, April says. That’s terrif, says her mom. That’s just dandy.

Mommy, April says, you know what I want? I want daddy to live forever. Aw, her mother says, that’s so sweet. I’ll tell daddy what you said, hon. Okay, now, you kids be good. I’ll bring snacks in a bit. Does your friend like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Do you like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, little man? she asks me. I nod. I like them. I’m not hungry, but I like them.

Later, I tell April that her daddy will die one day. She stares at me with her small blue doll eyes; they look like little marbles. After a long moment she asks, Why would you say that? Well, everybody’s going to die one day, I say — but now I know I’ve made a mistake. The vibration between us has changed. I should not have said that about her father dying, no matter how true. I try to apologize, but she lowers her head and curls a hand to her mouth. Big tears drop from her eyes.

April, I say softly, I’m really sorry I said that about your father. But my words only make her cry harder. I’m afraid that if her mother comes out she will think I hit her daughter or hurt her somehow. I’m so sorry, I say again, but April makes a sound in her chest and points to the garage door. Out, she says. I want you out. Without another word I leave.

A week goes by and I don’t see April. I don’t try to call 0n her. I feel bad for what I said. I feel like a bad kid. I am a bad kid. I try hard to be good, but I am bad. My grandmother used to say I was born that way. She died. Now she says nothing. Then Mr. Ward next door tells me a dump truck hit April’s father while he rode his bicycle to work. He died immediately, Mr. Ward says. Poor bugger.

My mother goes to the funeral, but I don’t. She tells me it was very sad, almost as sad as my father’s funeral. Poor bugger.

I don’t see April for the rest of the year. Every day I think about her. I miss her. I miss her little face, her button nose, her small white feet, her blue doll eyes. I hear she’s gone to stay at her grandmother’s place for now because her mother is having problems. When I see her mother standing on her front porch she looks sad, so sad. Her eyes are dark; she’s lost a lot of weight. She doesn’t say hello to me. She doesn’t even see me. April must have told her what I said in the garage. Maybe she blames me for her husband’s death. I should have never said anything.

Angry with me once for talking back to her, my mother told me that I had started the fire that caused my father’s death. She said that I’d been playing with matches in the basement — after she had told me more than once to never do this — near a can of kerosene, and set everything on fire. Later she said it wasn’t true. But I believed her the first time.


Sal Difalco is a Sicilian-Canadian satirist and writer currently living in Toronto.

Book Review | The Eden of Perhaps by Agnes Vojta

Reviewed by South Broadway Press Editor, Brice Maiurro

Agnes Vojta’s full-length poetry collection, The Eden of Perhaps, finds itself welcomed into a lineage of poets existing in liminal spaces. In an early poem in the collection, What If, Vojta asks the reader “what if the answer is not here/there, either/or, but both, between, and?” In our society, plagued by othering, perfectionism, and divisiveness, Vojta’s poems continue to ask the right questions all throughout the collection.

I believe it is often the work of a poet to consider grey space. This may feel contrary to what someone thinks of when they think of a poet, self-assured and convicted, preaching their gospel or anti-sermon to an enraptured audience, but there is often more truth when a poet brings along a healthy sense of humility. Poets like John Brehm speak to and curate collections on impermanence. In a 2020 episode of the podcast Between the Covers, Pulitzer Prize recipient Natalie Diaz encourages the acknowledgement of not understanding, or even misunderstanding. Ocean Vuong, in his poem Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong shares with the reader “the most beautiful part of your body/ is where it is headed.” Many great poets have learned to walk the tight rope of transition, to balance on the line of maybe.

I was particularly stricken by Vojta’s poem, Atonement:

Sometimes I wish I belonged
to a religion that practices confession.

I can walk in the forest and confess to the trees,
kneel by the river and whisper to the water,
stand in the field and shout to the sky –
but who will pronounce me shriven?

I have to prescribe my own penance,
whip my body to exhaustion to drown out
the mind’s self-flagellation,

and wait for the unpromised peace.

Being raised Catholic, I am no stranger to this attitude of religious penance that Vojta brings forth in the four short stanzas of Atonement, but though she mentions at times she longs for this space of confession, she ultimately settles, or unsettles, in the uneasy space of waiting “for the unpromised peace.” Vojta’s style at times reminds me of the beloved American poet Mary Oliver. An iceberg—in the sense that often below the surface of the deceptively simple words is ten secret tons of depth. Vojta is something of an iceberg herself. In Atonement, she seems to remind us that religion may present us some feeling of closure, but where a truth lies is in understanding that no peace is promised. These are the words that could shake a world free of the imprisonment of ignorance and return us to a shared experience of unknowing.

The book is brimming with bop after bop. In Seeds of No Return, Vojta, in a kind of magic, bans “the word never” from her mind. In Accomplished Hamster, Vojta manages to turn the cute allegory of a hamster on its wheel into a dark social commentary on hopelessness. Vojta’s poems are no stranger to humor, but they wield it like a knife. In Greeting Cards They Don’t Make, Vojta stands on her soapbox to announce the world’s lack of a greeting card that appropriately states inside “I hope the bastard rots in jail.”

It seems to me that Vojta must live her life as a student to poetry, often passing through the world with dreamer’s eyes. Finding compassion in the dying words of the Mars rover, Vojta creates a beautiful eulogy for a robot in My Battery is Low and It’s Getting Dark. Vojta hoists a feminist fist of dissent that RBG would applaud throughout the collection, including a disruptive reworking of such classic, albeit dated, fairy tales as Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty.

 What’s refreshing about Vojta’s Eden of Perhaps is that it is, in fact, a collection. The poems are in conversation with each other, coming together like a multitude of seeds in the juiciest most pungent pomegranate you’ve ever eaten, unapologetically dripping all over the blueprint of a broken society.

Having read Vojta’s poems, I find myself more willing to say “I don’t know” as I move through my daily life, and while this may sound like some kind of defeat to some, for me it’s a nice walk through the garden in an imperfect Eden that feels more real than anything that they are trying to sell us.

              The Eden of Perhaps was published by Spartan Press and is available for purchase here.

Trying to Explain America to My In-Laws | Keri Withington

Image: Specphotops

Yes, Florida’s also in the South.
Yes, we’ve been there.
Yes, we’re planning to go there again,
maybe this summer;
no, we didn’t know anyone in that school,
but yes, we all know someone in that school.

Yes, the kids are safe…well, not really safe.
I talked to M this morning about what to do:
whether to wait in the first fire alarm,
how to listen in hallways,
where to hide if she needed to.

Then I sent her to school
with her cello
and packed lunch
as if this were normal.

As if I should be talking to her about survival,
instead of test scores and school dances.
As if any of us know what 6th grade is like
when you’re worried about making it home alive.
Yes, I say, I realize this is not normal. Yes is to say,
I know the rest of the world doesn’t understand,
and neither do we. No, I say, it won’t make anything change.
It won’t end America’s love affair with guns
because we’ve seen that we’ll let children die over and
over again and that’s what it means.

I stop and think and almost finish.
We’ll let children die before we run background checks.
We’ll let children die before we stop automatic
and armor-piercing and the hard-on for the NRA.

But I realize all those are just conditionals
to the central fact, and the fact of the matter is
America let’s its children die.

We’ve been letting them die.

I remember Columbine;
I remember Sandy Hook.
I remember all the stories in between
and all the schools since.

Yes, I say, America.


Keri Withington (she/her) is an educator, vegan, and pandemic gardener. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Wild Word and Blue Fifth Review. She has published two chapbooks: Constellations of Freckles (Dancing Girl Press) and Beckoning from the Waves (Plan B Press). Withington lives with her husband, three children, and four fur babies in the Appalachian foothills. You can find her in Zoom classes for Pellissippi State, trying to turn her yard into an orchard, or on FB (@KeriWithingtonWriter).

Where Do People Go When They Die? | Kevin Ridgeway

Image: Pawel Czerwinski

his lips were purple
and his breath was gone
after I tried to blow it back inside of him
but it blew my hair up over my crying eyes
as I listened for his heart and checked
for his pulse, a man so full of life
the night before, but a heart attack woke him
long enough to reach over to my bed
to wake me up so I could save his life.
I remained asleep as we both fell out
onto the floor in between our beds
his dead body pinning me into a rug burn
that did not heal for weeks after his life force
passed through mine and left me standing there,
gazing at him there in the middle of the floor–
done and over with and never again–until
I realized his life force found refuge in mine
when I heard him laughing inside of me.


Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press) and nine chapbooks of poetry including Grandma Goes to Rehab (Analog Submission Press, UK). His work can recently be found in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Plainsongs, San Pedro River Review, The Cape Rock, Trailer Park Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Cultural Weekly and The American Journal of Poetry, among others. He lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.

Fiddle with the left hand | D.S. Maolalai

Image: Steven Johnson

a sketch of the 12
bar blues, approximate
C major, central
and key. now
I play occasionally

in passing at a party –
my close friends onto
my limited repertoire
but acquaintances somewhat
impressed. especially
since it seems
I can improvise;
just fiddle it a little
with the left hand
over pentatonic
scales. that’s how
you do it – learn
how to play
like it’s nothing. be casual –
order in spanish
and in french when you all
go on holiday. know

how to wire
a plug at the table. how to drive
cars manual. spell
certain words. play
a little piano. how
to write a poem
about doing
other things.


DS Maolalai (he/him) has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)

The Pandemic in Pollyville: The Supermarket | Glass Cactus Productions

Glass Cactus is a Denver-based screenwriting and filmmaking team.

Amanda E.K. is a queer writer, filmmaker and writing coach, and the former editor-in-chief of Denver, Colorado’s Suspect Press. She writes for Playlove and Out Front Magazine, teaches a weekly drop-in writing class, and she’s currently pitching her memoir about growing up in fundamentalist purity culture. Follow her on IG @amanda.ek.writer.

Jack Oberkirsch is a film/media composer from Denver, CO. His musical background is mostly comprised of playing drums and guitar in local and touring punk/hardcore bands. In the last few years however, he made a transition to composition and writing instrumental music. Of course, he still does play in a few local bands although things have slowed down in that field since COVID.

Working on The Pandemic In Pollyville has definitely been a challenge for Jack. With it being in the style of silent film, music has to cover the entirety of each episode which meant Jack had to write progressions and melodies that could carry the entire episode from start to finish. Also, the music used was very different in style from episode to episode so Jack had to tackle genres of music he had never attempted before to score some of the installments.

West Colfax | Eli Whittington

Image: Stephen Leonardi

I.

Shirtless in January

Pale potbelly poverty

Hanging over tattered belt

buckle

Leaning casually

Over a  pine-green trash can

II.

Drug-weaned cheeks

Steele gaze forward

Popping a wheelie

On the Northside sidewalk

For half a block

Balance perfect


Eli Whittington is a mediocre farmer and an okay parent. They enjoy long walks on rhe forest floor because the ocean is really far from here, and kind of scary. They are the author of ‘Treat me Like you Treat me like you Earth’ published by the late Suspect Press. They also have two tracks of spoken word on Black Marlet Translation’s Punketry album. They are really bad at playing banjo, but will always be, more punk than Brice.

Elizathebeth.com has poems on it that are nearly impossible to read on a phone.

28 | Matt Clifford

Image: Pawel Czerwiński

We had language and we had water, they wouldn’t let us have both. We knew what the water was capable of. We said yes to it and our reflections. They closed the park at midnight. We spit at the sky and talked it into the ground with masks on we spoke from our heart. Those with the least to empty talked loudly with mouths wide open. The hate was too infectious to be prevented. They hated that which did not concern them. They were unconcerned with the hatred. They said that’s what it is as if it had always been because they said it because they said it that’s what it is. I didn’t say anything when nobody asked. I just walked into the water on a mission. It held me as water does. I became to become again. I floated away for dry land. 

How little time the relatives have and how stuck they are in it. The ones who are determined to make love happen live as though it’s about to. At all times their hearts are breaking and while the city spins so fast that they are used to it each one is a quake in heaven. There are ghosts who would bleed to stop it, angels who mourn eternally for all the hurt that has already been absorbed and can’t ever be reversed. They have so much compassion and nowhere to go with it. The things they understand wouldn’t make sense in a vision. You can’t just be told it as ecstatic divine revelation. It has to be discovered by sitting in the dirt longer and writing every word down and walking the letter across town. I waited until I learned how to recognize the instruction and then followed it with a diligence fit for bricks that want to bring out the best from behind the sun. I only tried to tell you about it. When I couldn’t it was enough to kill. That was when I returned to the water. There were so many people walking out of it. I couldn’t look them in the eyes. They didn’t stop me. 


The Matt Clifford (right) did so see his shadow thus marking four more weeks of Tax Season.
(www.blackmarkettranslation.com)

Petrichor | Mārta Ziemelis

Image: Matt Artz

When you leave the desert,
your mind forgets the heat,
but your body remembers.
When you leave the desert,
the smell of wet dust
right after rain
lingers in your nose,
hopeful, electric, forever refreshing.
When you leave the desert,
the desert keeps a piece of you.


Mārta Ziemelis is a Toronto-based emerging poet and established literary translator. Her poetry has appeared in The Ice Colony and CRUSH Zine. It is also forthcoming in the Sapphic Writers zine “Out Of The Wardrobe”. Her Latvian-English translations include “Do you exist, or did my mind invent you?”, a poem by Gunta Micāne (TransLit Volume 11: An Anthology of Literary Translations, 2017), two short stories in the anthology The Book of Riga (Comma Press, 2018), and Narcoses, a poetry collection by Madara Gruntmane, co-translated with Richard O’Brien (Parthian, 2018).” Instagram.

Rotting Eaves | Michael T. Young

Image: Del Barrett
Across the park, an old clock tower
surrendered itself to moss and vines. 
Tendrils coil along the clock hands, 
twine the gears and down the shafts. 

Finches knit knobby twigs, grass, and leaves,
nesting in vents and through the hollows 
where the eaves have rotted, remaking 
what we leave behind into the life that follows.

Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, Gargoyle Magazine, One, Rattle, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Facebook. Twitter