Literary as hell.

Author: The Furious Gazelle Editors (Page 1 of 55)

No Horses Here by Leslie Dianne

No horses here
maybe an antlered moose
in the distance
stopping when it catches
a hint of our scent
there’s no color this winter
just white kissing
steep slabs of mountain
formed from the shifting
of earth by faraway gods
we are tiny in this valley
the wind could lift us
and carry us for miles
and over time we
would become stone
caressed by the cold
and we’d mimic the mountains
and fall in love with
the snow

 

______________

Leslie Dianne is a playwright, poet, novelist, screenwriter and performer whose work has been acclaimed internationally at the Harrogate Fringe Festival in Great Britain, The International Arts Festival in Tuscany, Italy, The Teatro Lirico in Milan, Italy and at La Mama, ETC in NYC.  Her stage plays have been produced in NYC at The American Theater of Actors, The Raw Space, The Puerto Rican Traveling Theater and The Lamb’s Theater, and at Theater Festivals in Texas and Indiana. She holds a BA in French Literature from CUNY and her poetry appears in The Wild Word, Sparks of Calliope, The Elevation Review, Quaranzine, The Dillydoun Review, Line Rider Press, Flashes and elsewhere.  Her writing was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best Of The Net.

It Was Like That by Wood Reede

It was like the time we were in that coffee shop, the one on the corner of 7th Street. 

It was late December, or maybe January. 

We walked up Avenue A, bundled against the winter. I held your arm, my boots slipping on black sidewalk ice, the cold coming up through the soles of my shoes and my three layers of wool socks, prickling and then numbing my feet until I whispered—f  u  c  k  !—in your ear. Drawing out each letter to emphasize my discomfort, and at the same time the pleasure of this moment. Your ear was red and ice-cold, and my lips probably hovered a little too long, but I was debating whether or not to warm your ear with my mouth. I didn’t, but I wanted to so badly. 

It was after we shed scarves and coats and sweaters, and after we slid into the booth with the green vinyl seats and the speckled Formica tabletop, and after you ordered paprikash and I ordered a salad with the dressing on the side. We talked in spurts and smiled at our jokes, and then we were quiet—the kind of quiet you share when you really know a person, the kind of quiet that is rare and precious and painfully perfect. 

 

You were relaxed and smooth with no ripples or swells, and I was a stone that skips across the surface and then falls to the silty bottom.

It was then. 

You looked at me and asked what I was thinking, and I didn’t tell you because I couldn’t. I couldn’t because it was so big. I couldn’t because the words would not come. I couldn’t because I knew if I did, I would explode into a million sugar crystals, all sharp and jagged and sweet and small. 

The waitress arrived with plates balanced on her arm and a ballpoint pen behind her ear. Your dinner was piping and hot with wisps of steam that fairly shouted: I am love, I am comfort, I am! My dinner was crisp and cold with all the flavor on the side and did not shout anything except caution and distance. 

I watched the moment slip away, the moment I was about to tell you what I was thinking, the moment I was about to transform. I watched as you ate, and I realized that I could never tell you, because I was afraid of what it meant. 

Instead, I picked up my fork, speared a piece of lettuce and ate it without the dressing.

It was like that. 

 

THE END

Shepherds Quake by Francis Felix Rosa

Claude had not slept well in the muck and soot, dreaming feverishly of home and his village being swallowed in imaginary flames. He did not wake from the sound of artillery fire, though of course it was there, always, like a ticking clock. Instead, he woke to men debating. 

“This whole business is like mixing oil with water,” Jacques said. “Now I have to walk around at night to the smell of Tommies, like wet dog.” 

Another infantryman brushed off the French sergeant’s comments, pulling his goatskin coat closer to his body as if that might do something to ease the cold. “Surely us Brits aren’t all that bad. The latrines are what really do us in; all that flooding makes a mess of things.”

“I was talking about the dead ones,” Jacques said, almost smiling. “You all know how to take a bullet in the head if nothing else.” 

The Brit frowned, a heavy disgust spreading across his face. they both moved on down the trench and Claude felt sick at the thought and the smell. 

There was no sun at dawn, just gray powder that sped forward in the wind. It was the debris of whole nations, Europe itself, floating through air as civilization collapsed into pinched moments of gunfire. It rained a deep cold, crusted into slush, then stopped, freezing hell over again. Claude attempted to ring out his clothes, but they were soaked and stiff; the clay and blood stains would not come out. Fresh mud seeped into his boots. Claude did not bother to move, letting the chill sweep over him until he shivered. 

Everyone shivered in those days, pressed between the pastures of Flanders, and the icy bristle of the sea. The men, hardly boys, shifted about in slow clumps of frost and weaponry. They were worms gnawing holes in the soil, searching, blindly grasping about in darkness for a place to hide from the tremendous weight of war.

Claude exited the dugout as officers called for inspection. They had new paths to shovel before it got too light. The troop’s breath were plumes vanishing in the air around them as they ladled out dirt. Claude slipped into the work, tunneling on muscle memory alone, gripped with the unshakable thought that they might be digging their own shallow graves.

At break, men complained about flooding, how the mud and holiday parcels were slowing carts down, and now rations were already dwindling this week. But mostly they complained about each other. The story went that toward the start of the war, French and British regiments had been fighting the Germans close by. There was a dip in the land. Like marbles rolling down opposite ends, they clanged into one another and by sheer force of momentum had merged into a single unit. The battalion was a total oddity, a beast patched together from separate parts and now left stuck and misshapen in the haze of war. Claude didn’t mind the company; the French always played good poker.  

 The complaints went on while Claude picked at a canned collection of old vegetables in a rancid broth, stuffing the end of a carrot and a rotted cube of turnip into his lapel for later. The grease of the tin-meal congealed into fat on his fingertips. He pulled his fingers together, rolled the fat into a waxy ball, and stuck it with the vegetables.

Soldiers were clustered together in a narrow space along the trench. They chewed the food like cattle, heads bent down against the wind. Claude tapped the shoulder of a tall French lieutenant with cigarettes to trade for the bulk of his turnip. The Frenchman was gaunt, a skeleton under faded colors of a blue and red uniform.

He spoke musically in his French babble. Claude pieced words together. The Frenchman divided the turnip into slivers and handed Claude a cigarette. Claude lit it silently, squatting behind a wall of sandbags, holding it away from the sky, cupping fumes with his palm so it did not all trail out at once. The bitter-warm taste, like toasted birch, was still new to him. The way it massaged the brain was desperately familiar. His father was there with his tobacco breath, pacing back and forth in Claude’s bedroom, railing against the Boers and lost battles amongst green hills from his own youth, then the image was gone. Several men gravitated toward the smell, huddling near Claude, wordless.

A fellow Brit, barely recognizable, with sunken eyes and curled hair approached Claude, taking in the nicotine.

“Sometimes,” the infantryman said, “I think the explosions have made silence uncomfortable to me. If you ever put me in a silent field, I will kill everything that moves.” The infantryman turned back toward the front. A shower of heat and radiant beams replaced the dim sun and rumbled. “If you put me in a noisy field, I will kill everything that moves…but only because I am ordered to.”

He winked at Claude.

Claude puffed his cigarette, eyed the strange infantryman, and shrugged. The others stared at them both. A fat Englishman, a Frenchman built like steel, and two more bony Parisians who gazed with a hollow presence at the world around them.

“Artillery,” the infantryman continued, “it is a symphony.”  He demonstrated, thumbing through air. Hands moved in smooth invisible waves.

This should have been amusing, but it was not. Claude shuffled away an inch. The strange soldier pulled a carrot stick from his pocket and stepped up a ladder out onto the parapet, hands whipping around faster in the wind. He acted like he was composing in front of a grand orchestra of kindled sod and iced earth, swinging his arms as shells dropped up ahead.

The men, gathered in their nicotine-orange glow, ran toward him. The large Frenchman was there first tackling the infantryman into the puddle at their feet.

 “Keep your hands down, by God!” the fat Brit yelled.

A quick tap of bullets flew overhead, everyone crouched down expecting death. Claude followed their example. The infantryman lay still. His uniform was soaked, a drab thread of khakis and badges that meant nothing now. He stared unblinking at Claude and would not stop. Claude backed away further and put his cigarette out against the trench wall; they all did. The winds changed, and the smoke was pushing too far upward. Taps of bullets traced back toward them, then faded away again. One of the gaunt Parisians took the carrot from the ground. He did not wipe off the grime but just stuck it in his cheek and gnawed.

“What’s wrong with him?” Claude asked.

A brash soldier appeared strapped with extra bayonets, the French sergeant who Claude recognized with a lurking disdain as Jacques.

“He has gone mad,” Jacques said. He spoke in loud accented English. “It happens to everyone eventually.”  

Jacques walked over the soldier’s body and toward the Frenchman with cigarettes. The other soldiers dragged the madman to the side where he sat up and fluttered his hands in tiny circles, still composing his melody. Claude’s breath increased. Plumes grew hotter on his tongue. He couldn’t help himself and followed Jacques.

“You say eventually?” Claude sputtered this out and almost walked into Jacques as the sergeant stopped and turned back. “But this has to end soon. I’ve been hearing words of possible peace.”

Jacques looked Claude up and down, like admiring a porcelain doll.

“There is no end to war.” 

Jacques grinned; his teeth had a sharpness to them. “Victories, defeats, armistice, these are just words. They mean nothing. But guerre, guerre means something. It means a going on. That is what is expected of you and me. You go on, and when you don’t go on there will be no words because you’ll be dead.”

“So what of peace?”

It was Christmas Eve, Claude had silly thoughts coursing through him. He wanted to be preparing a round slick pheasant with his grandfather, heating vegetables until onions caramelized in the iron pan, whipping the plum pudding together with candied raisins and sugared milk. He wanted to be in church pulling his sister’s hair to the sound of a cedar-box organ until his mother smacked him. He wanted to feel the seaside bustle when they rode into Portsmouth, where he would press his face against a shop window full of tin soldiers and a Meccano construction kit.

Continue reading

Poetry by Donna Reis

Comrades in Grief
For David

We are finally together.
How we loved the blessed,
but it is only you and I now.
We must drink each other
like holy wine as though
we can never get enough
knowing the morning light
could vanish at any moment.

 

Strikes

My father loved to savor a rainstorm.
I’d join him under the corrugated, green
fiberglass held up by wrought iron
scrolled posts. We’d sit in those circular
straw chairs that are now all the rage.
I’d shriek as lightening pierced the sky,
and thunder crashed and rumbled.
Dad would say, There he is. That’s Rip
Van Winkle bowling. We’d listen.
That’s a strike. I’d breath in the metallic
air cheering Rip’s perfect score
knowing the stormy evening with my
father was perfect as well.

___________________

Donna Reis is the author of two full length poetry collections: Torohill (Deerbrook Editions, 2022) and No Passing Zone (Deerbrook Editions, 2012), which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is co-editor and contributor to the anthology, Blues for Bill: A Tribute to William Matthews (The University of Akron Press, 2005). More at: https://www.donnareis.com/

2023 Halloween contest winner: “Assassin 4” by Joseph Kiaza

The letter arrived on Tuesday in a plain white envelope with no return address. Inside was a mossy green card with a smiling, toothy jack-o-lantern on the front and a speech bubble that read, “Boo!” Will frowned and flipped it open.

The message was written in black pen and long, looping letters.

 

Dearest William,

I am going to kill you on October 28th. The method I will employ is electrocution, though this may be subject to change, depending on unforeseen factors (i.e. weather). There is absolutely nothing you can do to stop me, so I encourage you to enjoy your life to the fullest in the weeks you have left. Machu Picchu is lovely this time of year.

Best,

Assassin 4

 

Without thinking, Will slid the card back into the envelope and put it underneath the other mail he’d picked up, as if by undoing the operation of having seen it he could make the letter not exist. He quickly realized this was stupid and took the card back out, staring at it while rubbing his neck. After a minute he walked over to the table, grabbed his cellphone, and dialed a number.

His mom picked up on the last ring. “Can it wait?” she asked.

“Er.”

“Are you about to die?”

“Well…” That would depend on how you defined about to. “I guess technically no.”

“Then it can wait,” she said, and hung up.

Will placed the phone back onto the table. He still gripped the card in one hand, holding it away from him as though it were foul-smelling. Wandering over to his desk chair, he booted up his computer and began searching the Internet.

As it turned out there was a wealth of information on cards like this. It was a rare but not unknown phenomenon: people would start getting letters in the mail at any point from a year to a couple weeks before their inscribed expiration date, and without fail, they would indeed be killed, or die in some terrible accident—be it semi-truck collision or shark attack, house fire or hunting mishap.

In no recorded case did the target ever survive. Nothing was known about the assassins except their unblemished professional record; if you received one of these letters, you would die on the date they said you would. No exceptions. None.

Will wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this.

He had always possessed the vague notion that he would die someday, but he tried not to think about that too much. He didn’t really believe in an afterlife, not because he’d given it much consideration, more just a feeling that it seemed rather implausible. When his time came, he figured that would be that. The World, for all intents and purposes, would end.

He’d had a dream once that was sort of about dying: in it he’d gone to sleep and woken up at the very end of the universe, but he was the only one there; everyone else in the entire world had lived their lives and died and turned to dust, and humanity itself had ceased to exist a hundred billion years ago, leaving him alone at the very end of things—he had missed it all.

That was what dying was like, he imagined: the separation of oneself from time, so that the moment your brain stopped processing all of time skipped forward some impossibly large amount. Viewing it that way it was clear that, if you knew you were going to die, there really was no point in worrying about anything.

He played solitaire on his computer for a while, and then eventually got up and pinned the card to his refrigerator with one of his fridge magnets, a smaller magnet in the shape of a leopard seal. Then he washed his hands and went to go make himself an egg salad sandwich.

Continue reading

2023 Halloween Contest Finalist: Baba Yaga Revived by Diane Funston

Glass cobalt evil eyes from Turkey

hang in windows in every room. 

A hammered tin Hamsa

hangs outside each entrance. 

 

These baubles I placed for protection 

from all harm, 

the seen and unseen. 

 

After centuries of abuse,

words and other wounds

I forgave Baba Yaga,

whom I believed 

would no longer eat children.

 

Her advanced age, gnarled weak bones

grew frail in unforgiving winters,

she grew lonely with failing powers. 

 

I moved her out of her high-rise hut

into our warm home 

far away from black ice. 

 

I tended my garden 

as she grew accustomed 

to nourishing meals and healing sun. 

 

I began to wonder 

if there was maybe a little love

or was I merely a place to eat and rest…

 

Her voice regained 

familiar strength and timbre

I heard her chanting spells behind her door. 

 

Her responses to my questions 

growled back

Her elderly hands grew talons

ready to pierce and slice 

even the most innocent requests.

 

In between battles about last century’s war

I prayed daily to my god of poetry.

 

I found myself denying recent scratches 

rinsing drops of blood down the drain. 

I shielded torn flesh from my loved ones

I was cursed with guilt 

for welcoming her in.

 

When the plague locked us all inside for months,

it was easy to cover my scars and wounds. 

 

“Come here”Baba Yaga hissed one day,

after she again drew blood with her tongue,

her claws reaching for me,

 

“Mother knows you need redoing.”

 


Diane Funston lives in Marysville, California. Diane has been published in journals including California Quarterly, Lake Affect, Tule Review, San Diego Poetry Annual, Whirlwind, Summation, among others. She served two years as Poet-in-Residence for Yuba-Sutter Arts and Culture Her chapbook, “Over the Falls” was published by Foothills Publishing in 2022.

Book Review: End Credits: How I Broke Up with Hollywood by Patty Lin

Book Review: End Credits: How I Broke Up with Hollywood by Patty Lin

Reviewed by Tess Tabak

Writer Patty Lin crawled her way up from working in the lowest rung of TV to writing for hit shows like Friends, Desperate Housewives and Breaking Bad. Who would walk away from a career like that – and why?

End Credits: How I Broke Up with Hollywood Book is a very honest, down to earth memoir that explains just exactly why Lin decided to “break up” with Hollywood. Starting from her upbringing in an Asian-American household, Lin explores the factors that crafted her perfectionism and drive to succeed – two qualities that the TV industry quashed. Lin’s plight is presented compellingly, a tell-all in a conversational tone that details the highs and lows of the job. There are some high highs (partying with Selma Hayek, anyone?) and low lows (skipped meals, skipped holidays and a few broken teeth) that make this an engaging roller coaster ride.

Lin dovetails the story of finding her professional autonomy with her romantic tribulations. She mirrors her toxic relationship with TV with her toxic long-term boyfriend Carl, who happened to be the one to get her her very first opportunity in the biz and encouraged her to put ambition over personal needs. Their unhappy relationship will be familiar to many women who’ve dated men who puts their career over everything else. Lin went on a long journey of self-discovery and spirituality, and she shares some of the lessons she learned during the course of this mostly unhappy period in her life that will be relatable even if you don’t work in TV.

One thing I was a little disappointed in is that Lin never connects the emphasis on perfectionism she faced growing up to the way that the TV industry failed her. She touches on some of the ways it’s more difficult to succeed in TV as a woman and a minority, including the social isolation and alienation of being treated as less than, but she never makes a direct parallel between the enormous pressure her parents put on her to succeed to the way she cracks under the stress of her film industry jobs. The industry she portrays is definitely toxic, and there’s a reason writers are currently on strike, but I think she missed an opportunity to reflect on the extra challenges she faced and deliver a more nuanced message. I couldn’t help wondering at times if it wouldn’t have been easier for her if she had entered the industry more inured to criticism, as some of her white male colleagues probably were. Overall though, this was a fascinating read on one person’s experience with the industry, including behind the scenes insights on some of the biggest shows of the aughts.

 

End Credits will be available August 29 by Zibby Books.

The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Poetry by Gabriella Garofalo

Let’s call it a day, shall we, as we’ve been traipsing
From waves to clouds, from clouds to waves,
Among weeds, and a fire fearing the waves,
That heartless white all over-
But they’ll soon come back to clean

Her thirst, her hunger, not now,
As they’re not listening, too busy wondering
Whose son he is the mongrel-
So, don’t ask for angels, for comets, from births,
Or days from demise, my soul’s in rehab,
Soon to be dismissed, and no goddess shall reply
While running in red hot shoes-
And when you’ll fall down, my blessed fury,
My soul gasping among vertical words,
I’d have to tie you up, my soul so young and green,
Who confuses stars for shadows, when out of fear
Her light is throwing herself to trees and seasons,
When neither maps nor sextants light up ambos,
Alarms, dross, while you keep stroking rooms,
Streets, secluded spots-
So, moon, leave it alone, if they say blue takes care
Of everything, even keeps you safe
If by any chance you are cold-
No need to ask, ‘cause the blue of the sky
Looks so disheveled, and the trees of disappearance
Can’t give you their best fruits-
She’s here, the last light coming back in small bites
Ready to fight thorn bushes if you reject fear
Or ask too much-
That’s why you pay so dearly for the sound of cicadas,
An angry summer, my October sowing ghastly seeds,
When your hands awaken your breath,
And desertion turns up, but can’t grasp light-
Father, my father, use a different clay,
You see, other fathers break forth,
Shouting you betrayed our search of clouds,
Sheets in the wind, tense times-
Now listen, why did you ask for animals
To sit next to small creatures,
Why did you give them absolute freedom,
Ever the innocent visionary artist,
And look now, we both bound to stay
Outside the garden, I fed up and sick
With all the blue shapes you handed to water,
Skies, detachment, respite, you in such a fright
That they’ll report you for being a jackal,
Both our blue minds loaded with evil,
And a bloody world.

 

______________

Born in Italy some decades ago, Gabriella Garofalo fell in love with the English language at six, started writing poems (in Italian) at six and is the author of these books “Lo sguardo di Orfeo”; “L’inverno di vetro”; “Di altre stelle polari”; “Casa di erba”; “Blue Branches”; “A Blue Soul”. You can find her here.

Book Review: Nuking Alaska by Peter Dunlap-Shohl

Reviewed by E. Kirshe

Nuking Alaska is a slim graphic novel that sums up Cold War-era feeling with blunt comedy and chaotic energy. The author, Peter Dunlap-Shohl, spent over two decades as a cartoonist for the Anchorage Daily News. Dunlap-Shohl’s editorial cartooning style combined with his wit make Nuking Alaska an unusual historical snapshot. 

Nuking Alaska is part memoir and part history lesson. Dunlap-Shohl recounts his childhood memories alongside illustrative blurbs surrounding significant events many of which play out in or around his home state of Alaska. If you’re looking for a quick summary of the Cold War in America, a simplified overview of what the Cold War was, and the key players, you’ll get that here. You’ll also find a personalized intimate view of the time period told through the voice of a political cartoonist. 

The book opens with his memory of a catastrophic earthquake. He recalls him and his siblings gleefully playing in their shaking near-collapsing house, before being pulled out by a neighbor. Of course, to a child this was pretty exciting; it’s only later that they realize how bad the damage was. And it’s only way later that people hear about how damaged the nearby nuclear housing sites were and that they had been close to radioactive contamination. 

One thing that Dunlap-Shohl is great at is just focusing on how utterly ridiculous people are. He continuously points out the obvious flaws and even stupidity of the plans of the people in power. Even “brilliant” scientists, like Edward Teller, or Robert Oppenheimer, are shown to be fixated on their nuclear goals with little regard for the world around them. He presents an early US government plan, project “Chariot” (an idea to excavate a new harbor in Alaska by blowing away land with atomic bombs) with a tone that suggests a constant “eye roll”. 

However, as much as he makes fun of political powers’ hard-on for nuclear weapons he never denies the seriousness of the situation. He carefully considers both the environmental effects of nuclear tests and of course, the people who were impacted. He commends people who averted near-catastrophes. He details how many people are believed to have died as a result of cancer from working on former testing grounds and what little concern if any was shown to them by the government that created the problem. He doesn’t let you forget the stakes. 

The constant reminder throughout the book is how close we came to nuclear destruction, and like his childhood self playing in the ruins of an earthquake, many were or are blissfully unaware. And it’s that combo that makes Nuking Alaska a fast-paced intriguing read but also a creepy one.

As Dunlap-Shohl says in the closing pages, multiple disasters were only avoided by the courage of those involved and a good dose of luck, and reminds us that “luck eventually runs out.”

 

Nuking Alaska is available now from Graphic Mundi.

The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Poems by Diane Webster

BATHROOM SPACES

He props the bathroom door open

maybe to allow odious odors

freedom to assault more noses than his,

maybe a latent move for voyeurism

as he stands in a stall hidden

only by waffled plastic

knowing it’s him by his shoes,

maybe afraid of closed-in spaces,

dreaming of peeing in snow

or a desert highway where

evaporation is almost quicker than he,

maybe the wind banged open

the outhouse door when he visited

grandpa, and he stained his best shoes

in a startled turn around move

exposed for a moment,

exposed for longer as he scuffed dirt

onto a wet shoe on long path back.

 

GOING

As a child, I got up from the couch

and said, “I have to go to the lavatory,”

until my aunt said, “You don’t have

to announce it.  Just go.”

 

What a concept?  That I could get up,

walk down the hall and go

without letting anyone know

where I was going.

 

How brave I became in going,

but everyone knew,

and it made me feel

like going even more.

« Older posts

© 2024 The Furious Gazelle

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑