Author Archives: Copperfield

About Copperfield

Since 2000, The Copperfield Review has been a leading market for short historical fiction. Copperfield was named one of the top sites for new writers by Writer's Digest and it is the winner of the Books and Authors Award for Literary Excellence. We publish short historical fiction as well as history-based nonfiction, poetry, reviews, and interviews.

Dear Readers

When it comes to the question “Pumpkin spice lattes, yes or no?” I am very much on the “Yes!” side. Actually, I like the cold brew pumpkin foam better.

Autumn is always a crazy time of year for me even under normal circumstances (remember those?). Things are even more crazy this year. With having to learn the ins and outs of online teaching, I’ve been so busy lately I’ve hardly had time to breathe.

Things are calming down at least some now that I’m starting to understand a bit more about how online teaching works although I realize I still have so much to learn.

I’m also finishing my first nonfiction book and a new historical novel that will be ready in time for Christmas. In between teaching, and writing, and more writing, we’ve been going through some fabulous submissions at Copperfield. We’ve had so many great submissions that we’ve booked all our slots through January 2021. That’s amazing! Keep the great submissions coming.

We also have a brand spanking new newsletter with the latest news and information from Copperfield, including our latest publications. Everyone who signs up will receive a free digital copy of our first anthology, History Will Be Kind.

Despite the craziness, I hope you and your loved ones are well. And I wish a very healthy and happy new year to all of my friends who are celebrating the year 5781 beginning September 18. Shana Tova!

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We’re Booked Through 2020!

We’ve been receiving some amazing submissions at Copperfield, so much so that all of our slots through 2020 are now filled. Wow! Thank you to all our great contributors.

Please keep in mind that our response policy has changed. To keep up with the latest from Copperfield, be sure to check our Submission Guidelines on a periodic basis because things do change.

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Marceline White

Sewing machines line up in tidy rows like schoolgirls at dismissal.
Girlish laughter, a babble of Yiddish, Italian, and English floats
Through the air, cutting the loud thrum of the machines as the girls \
and machine becoming one instrument, an alchemy
Of sorts. No fairytale this. Rather than spin hay to gold, 
the y sew pieces of cloth to shirts, for which
Receive green not gold. Nothing gold can stay. 

Fabric eddies around their feet, white whorls, bits of white cotton
Fly through the air like snow. It is cold and the factory feels chilly
Despte the press of bodies. Outside in Washington Square Park,
Gentlemen and ladies stroll through the park in shirtwaists & skirts,
Fine suits, hats and parasols to protect their skin from the sun. 

The wealthy, their lives made out of whole cloth, the finest materials, walk through
Washington Square Park, oblivious that young women, their lives pieced together 
From fragments, watch them from large picture windows, ten stories closer to the clouds.

Late afternoon. Fabric and shirtwaists stacked in neat piles. Marbled monuments
To youth, energy, work. An ember catches, smoke rises from below. Flames dance
Along the walls, leap from one wall to another. A terrible beauty.
It becomes clear that there is nowhere to go, no way to leave alive. 

A young woman steps up to the window frame,
flings her hat into the air, opens her purse, 
Rains money down to the crowd below, who watch in horror.
She jumps. A young man holds out his hand, helps a young woman onto the windowsill
In another life, he would be helping her into a carriage. 
He holds her away from the building, lets her drop. In another life, 
he would be waltzing her in a ballroom. He does the same for a second and third woman. 
A fourth woman steps up, his love. They embrace, kiss. He holds her out into space 
Drops her. He follows, jumps with his hat on, wearing brown socks and black shoes.
Pas de deux. 
 
Laws were passed. Everyone agreed “Never again”. 
101 years later, 112 young women in bright shalwar kameez
Enter the Tazreen factory, never to emerge.
_________________________________________________________________________

Marceline White is a Baltimore-based writer. She writes policy, prose, poems, essays, and plays. An artist and activist, Marceline’s poetry has appeared in The Free State Review, The Loch Raven Review, The Shattered Wig Review, anthologies including Ancient Party: Collaborations in Baltimore, 2000-2010; and Life in Me Like Grass on Fire.  Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in Woman’s Day, Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Sun, and Mother Jones

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Kari Bovee

Kari Bovee is the author of the historical novels Girl with a Gun, Peccadillo at the Palace, Folly at the Fair, and Shoot Like a Girl from Bosque Publishing.

Meredith Allard: When and why did you begin writing, and did you always write historical fiction?

Kari Bovee: I’ve journaled and written stories for as long as I can remember. When I first started writing novels, no, I didn’t write historical fiction, but I’ve always written mysteries. My first few novels (that shall remain nameless) were contemporary mysteries. I’ve always had a love for anything historical, so I decided to take my two interests and merge them.

M.A.: I’ve always had a fascination with Annie Oakley. How did you come to write about the girl with a gun? What makes her a good topic for historical fiction?

K.B.: I love learning about amazing and empowered women in history and those are the types of women I want to feature in my novels. We’ve seen depictions of Annie Oakley in plays and movies, but I always thought they portrayed her as rather one dimensional. Several years ago I saw a PBS American Experience special on her and I realized what an incredible person she was. Her life as a child was not an easy one, but she discovered early on she had a talent for something. Shooting. She shot game to help put food on the table and to sell to local merchants. After she won a shooting contest against Frank Butler, who became her husband, she started utilizing her talent and eventually became one of the most famous women in the world excelling at a sport that was dominated by men. And she did this without compromising herself in any way. She didn’t try to bend to anyone else’s ideal of what it was to be a celebrity, or a performer, or a person. She made her way in the world without being anyone other than herself, and that was tough for women in the 1800’s.

M.A.: What makes your book(s) different?

K. B.: I’ve taken an iconic woman in history and used her self-empowerment, celebrity, and integrity to make her a really good amateur detective. I think I’ve also put some fun into writing about historical people and events. I’ve tweaked some of the history for the sake of the story, but I think I’ve stayed true to who Annie Oakley was as a person, even though I’ve put her in some interesting situations.

M.A.: All authors have a different path as they seek publication. What was your journey to publication like?

K.B.: Long! I’ve had a couple of agents throughout the years, but couldn’t break into the world of traditional publishing. I opted to go with a hybrid publisher to get my feet wet, but now have my own imprint and publish my own books. That said, I didn’t go into independent publishing without thoroughly investigating it and learning as much as I could about it. And, I would never put a book out into the world without having a team of professionals helping me with editing, cover design, etc. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy having ultimate control over my books and career.

M.A.: What are the joys/challenges of writing historical fiction for you?

K.B.: I love doing research, and I do quite a lot of research before I work on a particular project, but it makes the writing a little slower. Things come up when I’m writing and then I will have to stop and look into it to make sure I’m not completely off base. Right now I am working on the second book in my Grace Michelle mystery series and I find that I have to stop writing and look something up for historical accuracy. If I’m not careful, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole and get completely distracted. I think the enjoyment I get from writing historical fiction comes down to learning about people, places and events I might not have explored before. It’s a constant education and I love being a student!

M.A.: What is the research process like for you?

K.B.: When I decide what it is I’d like to write about, I start looking into things like historical setting, the clothing of the era, word usage and slang words or phrases. I usually have real-life historical figures in my books, whether they are the protagonist (like Annie Oakley) or secondary characters. Even if they make a cameo appearance, I need to do a little research on them to make sure I get their “essence” correct. If the book centers around an event in history, like the second and third books in the Annie Oakley series, I need to look into those events. Folly at the Fair takes place at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. Most of the buildings that were built for the fair are no longer there, so I had my work cut out for me. I was able to find a great book that explained the history of the fair, the layout of the grounds and the buildings, and what each attraction was like. It was great fun to go back in time and imagine myself participating!

M.A.: Do you travel for research? If so, what role does travel play in your writing process?

K.B.: I have not traveled specifically for research, but I’ve been to many of the places where my stories are set. So, I guess it works in reverse for me. But with the internet it’s pretty easy to get whatever you need for research. For the book I am working on right now, I had planned to go to Los Angeles/Hollywood for research but then COVID-19 happened. I’ve been to LA many times, but I was looking for specific buildings, streets, neighborhoods, etc. so, I decided the next best thing was to find a map of Los Angeles in 1924. I was thrilled to find one in mint condition on Etsy. Saved me a lot of time, money, and my health!

M.A.: Which authors are your inspiration—in your writing life and/or your personal life?

K.B.: I’ve been inspired by so many. In my writing life, of course the Grande Dame of mystery, Agatha Christie, is a great source of inspiration. I also like Elizabeth George, Phillipa Gregory, C.W. Gortner, Anne Perry, Deanna Raybourn, Rhys Bowen, and the works of Larry McMurtry.

When I’m in the mood to completely escape reality I like to read some of the 19th century classic authors like the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, and Elizabeth Gaskill. I never get tired of them!

 I’ve found Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic a wonderful source for inspiration and creativity, and I’ve been working through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way this summer.   

M.A.: What advice do you have for those who want to write historical fiction?

K.B.: Like with any genre, I think you need to be emotionally invested in it to do it well. If you don’t love history, or love reading historical novels, it might not be the way to go because the research is so integral to the process. And if you are one of those writers who love to do research more than anything else, keep in mind that you are going to have to sit down and actually write at some point!

M.A.: What else would you like readers to know?

K.B.: I’d love to hear from them! If they want they can go to my website at www.Karibovee.com and subscribe to my newsletter to become a part of my community (and get the prequel novella to the Annie Oakley series, Shoot like a Girl, for FREE.) There is also a contact form where they can send me an email.

I also have a Facebook Group called the Kari Bovee Fan Club https://bit.ly/3533tqR  and I’m building a community there, too. In both places they can find out about all of my news and upcoming releases, get to know my horses and dogs, and I also have a lot of fun giveaways, so some come on over and join me!

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karibovee_writer/?hl=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KariBovee/

Twitter: https://bit.ly/2KWUoay

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/karibovee/

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The Fall of Kiev

Turrets atop the Kiev-Pasazhyrskyi railway station were smoldering in the winter air. Engines of biplanes ripped overhead. A sick feeling that her movements are being tracked by artillery fire. The early fighting has left the steel of the bombarded rails in shreds like coiled zippers. The few armored vehicles like tattered dinosaur carcasses struck by ferocious, antediluvian lightning.

“Government reports are calling us ‘heroes,’” says her brother in English, their preferred language since a childhood of English governesses, and before their father, prominent member of the Directorate, was killed by an assassin’s bullet.

She surveys in the hall the hungry Ukrainian People’s Army volunteer soldiers coughing and wheezing, their mad eyes black without sleep. January freeze on their spines too numb to fear. Lenin had sent the Red Army across the border to back the insurgents, vowing not to pardon any captured volunteer. “They’re saying they’ll never let anyone take our land,” she says.

Every surface not pulverized had been pierced by bullets and shrapnel, every pane of glass blown out. Those without multiple wounds from the first attack on the station had ignored the ultimatum issued by the Bolsheviks to withdraw. There was optimism after a government counterattack had driven the invaders to the far side of the outer tracks. But on the second day of fighting, huddled up against concrete walls, they lost a large portion of the new terminal building.

Her brother lost count of the times he had run supplies and ammunition throughout the tunnel network connecting the rail yard and outbuildings to the new terminal. So accustomed to the constant gunfire ringing in the corridors, he hadn’t perceived its planned absence or his suddenly-audible footfalls. Fewer than twenty of the volunteers had remained holed up in the hall on the first floor when the second floor seemed to evaporate in the silence of their deaf ears. The ceiling came crushing down on them, the unheard sound of their bones crunching like someone biting down on huge ice cubes.

He darted back. Below the surging mass of smoke, little blue flames curled around splintered joists and cinder blocks. Muscle and bone there. Tendons and limbs. He began to dig in the rubble at the spot where bones of a wrist and fingers poked out, shattered and spiked like a broken umbrella. Its chest collapsed, a volunteer’s body emerged. Dead. Yet life there must be: the debris emitted buried, clarion wails. He was nearly deaf.

By luck, or by the extrasensory connection binding families, he unearthed his sister, the excavated lump’s left arm flopping down from her shoulder like a smashed wing. He carried her across a service road to a ditch. Lying there her skin and uniform blended with the dirty snow, and the blood trail from her ears was too small to give her away to the biplanes. When her eyes met her brother’s, she nodded, and in the space of a breath he was gone again.

Enemy cries and orders must have echoed in the corridor. A sudden commotion of shots pocked the buckling floor. He ran on. In the hall, human entrails seemed to bubble up from the rubble in the chaotic heat. Smell of burnt hair and charred skin among the chemical odor of construction materials in this satanic demolition. He dug maniacally, not feeling the skin tear away from his fingers or the nails crack off. He tossed aside armfuls of the muss. Cast off chunks of concrete revealed a torso, then a neck, then a head. Something not right with it.

He dug on in a lunatic’s rage, routing out a fairly whole human. No expression on its face to tell how long it had suffered. The deeper he reached, the hotter the inside of the mound became. As soon as he dug enough to clear an air passage for one, he went on searching for another. Afterwards, he heaved them out and willed them under gunfire to the ditch.

Ignoring the approaching attacker’s shots, he had made no association between jeopardizing his life and saving theirs. The last two he had dredged up and carried died. He went back again. Another body was laid alongside his sister, next to the others. The following one coughed up blood, went fish-gray, and expired halfway to safety. His sister watched as he, panting, set down the last volunteer twice before he made it back. Little hatchet heads of shrapnel buried in this last soldier’s chest. He was dead when the little brother eased him down to his rescued comrades.

A flurry of shells was flattening what remained of the new terminal building. An artillery unit and two armored personnel carriers were moving in. When he had risen to go back into the flying bullets, his sister rolled forward on her good side and wrapped herself around one of his bootlegs. For nearly five meters, he dragged the gnarled barnacle, until he was stayed by the only voice besides his mother’s that could have penetrated him: “Oleksander.”

“Yes, Kateryna?” he asked, lifting his gaze to the station.

“Oleksander,” she rasped through a grating cough.

“Yes, Kateryna?” he asked, without straining his ears at all.

“Brother, let it be,” she whispered, looking into his eyes, suddenly lacquered by tears.

Many of the volunteers Oleksander had dug up lived out their last hours in hellish pain. Some lasted years maimed, a few survived harmed. None forgot.

At dawn, Stalin, his cowcatcher mustache bristling with pride, hoisted a Russian SFSR flag above the wreckage. It flapped before a cold, colorless sun, greeting the fall of Kiev.

_______________________________________________________________________

Jeffrey Brodsky’s writing has appeared in magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and Europe, including El Pais and Barcelona Metropolitan. He has an M.A. from the University of Amsterdam and lives in Barcelona. This is Jeffrey’s debut fiction publication. His brand-new Twitter account: @JeffreyBrodsky5

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Yusuf Tahir

The armies of the Great Khan,
swiftly as hawks,
surrounded the ancient city of Bamyan.
Destruction blackened the brow of the Khan
because the city was slow to fall,
and he was impatient for glory in lands far.
 
But the way was found to the City,
through the heart of the fair princess of Bamyan,
who fell for a bold Tartar
when she saw him.
And she told the secret way to the city,
which was beneath the mountains, over the streams.
So, in the blind heat of her love
she did betray, unknowingly,
the well-guarded secret
of countless generations gone by,
and the lover pressed her to his breast,
promising to make her queen over vast domains.
 
The strong city fell through treachery;
The enraged conqueror spilled blood freely.
Then he ordered the deaths of many,
including the Princess; she betrayed her fathers!
The arm that had embraced her so tenderly,
was raised to kill her, with a single sharp blow!
Thus ended her young, un-bloomed love,
under the hoofs of conquering horses.

____________________________________________________________________________

Yusuf Tahir has written numerous poems on diverse topics, his favorites being nature, the human condition, destiny, and desires. His poetry collection was published in 2003 by Pearls Book’em Publishers Atlanta under the title Just like a blooming rose

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The Best American Short Stories 2019

The Best American Short Stories 2019 With an Introduction by Anthony Doerr 

Published by Mariner Books/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review by Daniel Picker  

The latest edition of the venerable series: The Best American Short Stories, 2019 edition, burns brightly with stories that use colloquial language to illuminate contemporary issues.  Ten of these stories shine as the constellation that appears as The Best American Short Stories 2019.

Anthony Doerr’s essay steps off from his youthful searching through Rust Hill’s Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular.  Doerr, with both humor and seriousness, notes that Hills, the former fiction editor at Esquire, presents rules worth breaking at least some of the time.  Both Doerr and Pitlor also discuss their lives as writers and parents of growing children.

Both Pitlor and Doerr extol the virtues of reading, and Pitlor notes that today it seems increasingly difficult to find the time to read an actual short story or book, with the ubiquity of competition from “YouTube”, “streaming,” “TV shows and video games,” all of which draw the attention of her twin 12–year–old sons.  Pitlor notes the important role short stories may play in forcing Americans to slow down.  Doerr sees the short stories of today as mirrors of the political turmoil in society, and notes that he selected his 20 Best while enduring “the Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh” and “finished these stories as the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee.”  Doerr peppers one paragraph with contemporary issues: “white privilege” and “xenophobia racism and the wealth gap.”

The 20 stories here include at least ten as the bright stars of the constellation that makes up The Best American Short Stories 2019.  A handful of the stories capture youthful passion in vibrant contemporary language.  Jamel Brinkley’s “No More Than a Bubble” describes a post-college party where two young men pursue two young women at a party in Brooklyn;  the story’s passionate pursuit appears: “A neat ladylike Afro bloomed from her head, and she was a lighter shade of brown than her friend with the buzzcut, a thick snack of a girl whose shape made you work your jaws.”  This matches the backstory of the narrator’s father, who referred to his wife as “cioccolata, agrodulce.”  Other stories in this collection burn with the vibrant dialogue and colloquial language of American youths.  Jenn Alandy Trahan’s “They Told Us Not to Say This” begins with “THE FEW WHITE BOYS in our town could ball.”  Trahan’s story, among the shortest in the book, packs power and life.  Ella Martinsen Gorham’s “Protozoa” describes the life of a teen girl who observes an “eyesore McMansion” and endures a classmate’s slam poetry and nicknames.  The story reveals the power posted videos hold in the lives of teenagers.

Wendell Berry’s story, also among the briefest, has the longest title: “The Great Interruption: The Story of a Famous Story of Old Port William and How It Ceased to be Told (1935–1978)” burns with the embers of another era.  Berry’s story masterfully recreates an earlier period in 20th century America.  Berry’s story within a story, ignores Rust Hills’ advice, while drawing attention to a youthful witness.  Berry eloquence evokes not only a different time but also revives the importance of stories: “Port William was by then losing its own stories, which were being replaced by the entertainment industry, and so it was coming to know itself only as a ‘no place’ adrift with every place in a country dismemoried and without landmarks.” The story of Port William, with its tinge of scandal and fun, draws from another age, before “the coming of the machines.”  The important larger story surrounds the lives of this country place and surrounds the lives of Americans: “That was the defining story then, of Port William and thousands of places like it.  It was the story of the young people, changed by the change of the times, who by the war’s end or the midcentury had found their way to city jobs and salaries or high wages, and who returned after that only to visit a bedside in a nursing home, at a loss for something to say, or to bury the dead.”

Veteran science fiction master Ursula LeGuin contributed a period piece, “Pity and Shame” which also masterfully depicts 19th century America.  Her story recalls the fire of a passion from long ago: “She’d loved making love with Petey, back when they ran off together, the wanting and the fulfilling. . .  What she and Pete had had was like a bonfire that went up in a blaze.”  She compares that with nursing a broken man: “This was like a lamp that let you see what was there.”

Manuel Munoz, with his story “Anyone Can Do It” burns with a different sort of passion, one for survival.  The lives of migrant workers on the roadside of society in the Central Valley of California contemporize the realm of John Steinbeck. Munoz’s tale of the 1980’s sheds light on the immigration issue and seems contemporary in revealing the lives of itinerant workers of Mexican heritage as it quietly moves toward its conclusion without letting on their impending losses.

Jim Shepard’s “Our Day of Grace” recreates 19th – century lives of those who struggle to survive a precarious existence amid loss.  Shepard, recreated the letters of those suffering through America’s Civil War, brings to life those who fought and lived during the conflagration of America’s devastating Civil War, which redefined American values.  Shepard has brought to life the lives of those soldiers and their families involved in America’s Civil War, which concluded in 1865.  The issues of that war continue to plague America.

Said Sayrafiezadeh’s “Audition” describes two young men who after working construction, watch NBA basketball on TV, and slide into cocaine abuse.  This story, among the four which originally appeared in The New Yorker, where Jeffrey Eugenides’ “Bronze” also first appeared.   “Bronze” contains a panache for remarkable rhetoric.  Much of the story takes place on an Amtrak train in the late 1970’s.  As the story travels from New York City to Providence, Rhode Island, the conflicted protagonist attempts to comprehend his college life.  Eugenides, in comments near the back of the book, discusses his difficulties in revising his story.  All the contributors lend insight in the Contributors’ Notes.  The compilation also includes the list of “Other Distinguished Stories” and notes publications publishing short stories in 2019.

The two finest stories in the collection touch on Berry’s themes within his “story of Port William.”  Doerr, in his introduction, notes that Alexis Schaitkin’s “Natural Disasters” deals with the lack of “authenticity” so prevalent in American society.  Within the penultimate section of Schaitkin’s story she includes the important details leading to the story’s conclusion.  In the face of an impending natural disaster from a tornado, the main characters find a shelter for survival, yet post near obliteration, news of a brother’s backstory adds the story’s last devasting blow.

The bright star or Venus of this collection, “Hellion” burns with sassy sarcasm; it appears as a Southern, rhetorical masterpiece akin to the work of Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty.  With its brilliant evocation of a swamp in the Southeast, the story brings to life a beloved, yet snappy pet alligator, a drunken father, and a hard – working, and mostly absent mother.  Julia Elliot’s narrator, a vibrant12–year–old girl describes the scene: “When I cut my motor cicadas blared like summer’s engine.  We scrambled from the cart, hunkered down by Dragon’s hole, dug deep by my daddy back in April when I’d found the baby gator moping motherless in the swamp.” This story shines, as it describes the dangerous gator, and it presents the girl’s new friend, a young “city” boy who endures the taunts of local, rural redneck boys. Julia Elliot’s “Hellion” captures, with humor and pathos, all that makes reading American short stories still important and worthwhile in this 21st century. 

________________________________________________________________________

Daniel Picker studied at Harvard and Oxford and completed an MA in English from Middlebury College in Vermont. His book reviews and personal essays have appeared in Harvard ReviewThe Sewanee ReviewThe Philadelphia InquirerMiddlebury MagazineThe Oxonian Review, Rain Taxi Review of Books, and The Irish Journal of American Studies. Daniel Picker was awarded The Dudley Review Poetry Prize at Harvard and he received a fellowship from The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.  He is the author of a book of poems, Steep Stony Road (Viral Cat Press of San Francisco 2012). Fiction by Daniel Picker appears in The Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Kelsey Review, The 67th Street Scribe, and The Abington Review.  Daniel Picker studied fiction writing with Southern author and native Virginian, David Huddle, and studied poetry writing with Irish poet and Nobel winner, Seamus Heaney. Daniel Picker has reviewed books by John Banville, David Updike, William Corbett, Jim Lynch, Adam Begley on John Updike, W.S. Di Piero, John Berryman, Doug Holder, John Elder, Rick Hillis, and several others.  

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Rosalind Adam

All Grandmas spoke Yiddish
when I was five. I now understand
she came from far away
bringing her feather bed
for winter night snuggling
and her candlesticks
for Friday evening prayers.
 
She never spoke of the journey,
of being third class cargo
forced to disembark at Tilbury,
down-wind of discerning Londoners,
scrutinised by Health Inspectors,
defleed, deloused,
dehumanised.
 
She never spoke of the warnings
from Government officials,
from Times letter writers,
even from London Rabbis;
no room, no jobs, don’t come.
She came anyway.
There was no choice.
 
She sought work
sweat-shop-stitching,
cutting, machining,
becoming part of an East End shtetl
with Jewish neighbours, kosher shops,
a Synagogue on every other corner.
She almost forgot to be afraid.

______________________________________________________________________

Rosalind Adam lives in Leicester, UK. She is the author of several children’s history booksincluding The Children’s Book of Richard III. Her poetry has been published in anthologies and online sites. In 2018, she won the G. S. Fraser poetry prize and was awarded a distinction for her Masters in Creative Writing at The University of Leicester.

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Beatriz F. Fernandez

Father Abelard, they call me—father, 
who shall never be one again.
Even this reminder cannot break me,
though my love for you was torn
from my breast as violently
as my manhood from my flesh.

When I met you, you were but a girl,
yet in your mind what worlds burned!
Your eyes—my incandescent girl, your eyes
glowed with mysteries I could not fathom—
even now you remain opaque
to me, who knew you best of all men.
As your teacher, I fanned those flames
into a bonfire—as your lover,
I was consumed by it.

Together, you and I, we defied them—
we survived. Summer dragonflies
bereft of wings, we will not fly again—
the tidal waves that stormed between us
seem but surface swells to me now.

The dry husk my soul represents
consoles itself with the promise
of redemption in another realm.
I entreat you, Heloise, to embrace
likewise this redoubled peace,
though in your words I read a spirit
unresigned to this new life.

Never doubt that I remember you—never—
you rule forever an enclosed parcel
of my mind, as a queen
over a once fertile land
that now lies fallow.

________________________________________________________________________

Beatriz F. Fernandez is the author of The Ocean Between Us (Backbone Press, 2017) and Shining from a Different Firmament (Finishing Line Press, 2015) which she presented at the Miami Book Fair International. She has read her poetry on WLRN, South Florida’s NPR news station and was the grand prize winner of the 2nd annual Writer’s Digest Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Falling Star Magazine, Label Me Latina/o, Thirty West Publishing House, Words Dance, and Writer’s Digest, among others. Beatriz has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes as well as Best of the Net.  Twitter: @nebula61.  

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Avra Margariti

Stuttgart, 1942
 
The baker, the butcher, the florist—
they all call him my brother.
But no common blood
runs between our veins.
We didn’t grow up together,
Ansel and I.
We just wish to grow old side by side.
Old as bristlecone pines.
Old as monoliths.
But with war spreading septic through the world
and more and more people carted off to the camps,
that’s beginning to look like a pipe dream.
 
#
 
Entire generations of Ansel’s family
have owned Schwarz & Sohns,
the funeral parlor situated under our apartment.
Business has never been better,
and I guess we have this war to thank,
this father that eats his children.
Ansel builds the coffins,
no longer glossy, silk-lined hardwood caskets,
but rough, bare boxes made of planks of wood
nailed haphazardly together.
It’s better than being tossed into mass graves
or left to rot in the street, he says.
I let him handle the black-clad mourners,
the hollow-eyed orphans thin as stick insects,
the wailing, thrashing widows.
I’m better with bodies than I am with people.
I set their features, embalm, groom, dress them,
good as new.
I’m better with quiet.
Sometimes I think how Ansel’s father
prepared my mother’s body,
back when Ansel and I were unlucky thirteen.
How my boy, his father’s apprentice,
built her a final bed to rest.
And it’s a good thing my mother is dead
because the war,
it would have broken her heart.
 
#
 
“Good morning,” I tell Ansel
when I enter the parlor’s kitchenette.
He hands me a cup of coffee and leans in for a kiss,
forgetting the screws and nails peeking out of his mouth
like rays from a sun.
The dark circles around his eyes are the colors of dusk.
“Busy day?” I ask, sipping the precious coffee, tar-black—
cream and sugar elusive birds.
“Several bodies came in today. A suicide pact, I think.
I’ll be in my workshop if you need me.”
He returns to his frantic coffin-making,
and I to the embalming room
where the bodies await,
the smell of formalin and decomposition clinging to me,
a second skin.
I look out the window as I work,
a new nervous tic,
always waiting to hear the tell-tale stomping
of heavy boots on cracked cobblestone,
inhale the stink of hate.
I search for signs the Gestapo is here to take us away,
stuff us into striped uniforms with inverted triangle badges,
pink as the insides of the bodies
laid out on my embalming carts.
 
#
 
Sometimes, when I can no longer stand
to look out the window and brace myself for the worst,
I wander through the rows of makeshift coffins
in Ansel’s workshop.
I see the holes in the coffins,
though I turn a blind eye:
little pinpricks studded through, only visible
to me, who knows Ansel’s handiwork,
the workings of his brain.
I see the people entering the funeral parlor,
how Ansel rushes them all the way back to his workshop,
to talk in clandestine whispers for hours on end.
He’s putting us in danger,
and we’re already under a lot of scrutiny,
being two lads and all, two unwed
so-called brothers who look nothing alike,
living under the same roof.
I thank heavens every day
we haven’t been conscripted and sent to battle
(yet, a little slithery voice inside me hisses),
but now a new danger looms,
and my heart feels tight as a kite string.
“You know you can tell me anything,”
I tell Ansel in bed at night.
Just when I think he’s asleep, I hear him cry,
soft wheezes like the wind through the cracks in the woodwork.
I hold him, as I did after my mother’s funeral,
back when she was buried in the casket he made for her.
Oh, how we cried together in the deserted cemetery afterward,
the stone angels our only witnesses.
Ansel whispers, “I couldn’t bear it anymore.
Doing nothing. Being afraid. I’ve been helping
some Jewish and Romani folks escape, hiding them
in the coffins long enough to be transferred to a safe house.
You can hate me for my secrets, Gilbert,
but I tried to keep you safe.”
I kiss his tears away, ignore the fear coiled in my gut, and tell him,
“I’ve never loved you more than I do now.”
 
#
 
Love is no shield.
I don’t know why I keep forgetting that.
I’m still in my mortician clothes
when Ansel bursts into my domain.
“The police,” he says, paler than the cadavers around us,
“they know.”
“How?” I stammer, breath thick through my respirator.
Ansel claws at his scalp. “Someone turned me in.
My people don’t know who, exactly.”
I think about the baker, the butcher, the florist—
all those in the street who did nothing when our neighbors
were taken away.
I did nothing, too, playing it safe,
playing pretend with myself.
Not anymore.
Ansel keeps talking, frantic words strangling each other.
“They only know about me—my coffins.
My family business, Gil. I can keep them away from you if I—”
“No,” I utter with vehemence. “You’re not sacrificing yourself.”
“Then what do you propose?”
He leans weary against my silver tool table.
Deflated.
Defeated.
Right now, I’m not thinking about
the barbed wire noose wrapped around my heart,
or how I’m more comfortable around bodies than people,
or even how I might never see my mother’s grave again.
My voice is as steady as my hand is with a scalpel when I say,
“Bring me in contact with your people. I have a plan.”
 
#
 
The coach lumbers down uneven roads.
It rattles, a relic, branches slapping its sides,
the horses neighing, agitated.
And I—in the back of the windowless wagon,
surrounded by coffins—pray to childhood angel statues.
I don’t believe we’re in Stuttgart anymore.
Ansel’s people thought it best I don’t know where we’re going.
Where their safe house is.
I have my mortician’s license at hand in case someone stops us,
my fingers crossed the way my mother taught me
to call luck to our side.
My hand drifts toward the closest coffin,
rubbing against the gritty wood.
I close my eyes and picture Ansel’s fingers
on the other side, pressed against mine,
flowers turned toward the far-off sun.
My breathing turns shallow in response,
as if I’m the one trapped inside the cramped space,
dark as a womb.
Hold on, I think. Just a little while longer.
The coach comes to a screeching halt.
The driver opens the wagon doors, a halo of light blinding me.
His chin juts toward me.
“You’re on foot from here on. Your man,
he knows the way to the safe house.”
I rush to Ansel’s coffin,
grabbing the hammer from my pack,
bloodying my fingers in my haste to get the coffin open.
I pull the lid back and draw Ansel up
by the lapel of his coat.
I kiss him on the lips as if I’m waking Sleeping Beauty.
He kisses me back, taking greedy gulps of air and
freedom.

________________________________________________________________________

Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, The Forge Literary, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Argot Magazine, The Arcanist, and other venues. Avra won the 2019 Bacopa Literary Review prize for fiction. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.

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