Road to Montgomery

The winter breeze encouraged Michael’s body forward as he strolled down the pathway, his face determined. The dull thuds of his leather shoes echoed throughout the silent street, the dusty windows of the apartments watching every step. The tall brick giants towered over on either side of him, each separated by the dark lines of the alleys. The sky was like the shallow water of the coast, bright, with the afternoon sun gazing out in the horizon. The thirteen year old hugged his oversized jacket, the warmth of the sun, a mere candle. Michael smiled. His body tingled with thrill and excitement as his mind pictured the great scene. The huge mass of people, the shaking of hands, the empowering speech, the shouts of agreement and deafening applause. Mr King for President? Absolutely, amen, Michael thought dreamily. He glanced back to an empty street, only a crow perched on a nearby post-box. Everyone must be there already, Michael thought. He realised the approaching grey clouds behind him, urging him on. 

“The speech will be at half past three at the capitol.” 

When he had heard the news at the gathering, his passion for change burned fiercely. Yet his mother’s thoughts clashed with his.

“It’s too dangerous! Don’t you remember what happened to Emmett Till? Let the adults protest. They don’t need kids around.” his mother had explained back at the apartment.

Michael had dismissed his mother’s worries and snuck out unnoticed. Mr King was coming here, to Montgomery, with thousands of people from Selma marching with him! Mr King! The man he admired most. Michael also had a dream. He wanted equality in all areas, including education. He was sick of hearing white teenagers bullying him and his friends about how terrible his education was and making crude comments of his skin. Michael wanted to be a part of the thousands that supported Mr King and he wasn’t going to miss the speech. He quickened his pace down the path, readjusting his flat cap in the process. Suddenly, the faint sound of voices reached his ears and Micheal stopped in his tracks. He recognised the voices to be male and came from the apartments to his left. Maybe some latecomers, he thought. It would be great to have some company. As the voices became clearer, a flicker of doubt crossed his mind. What if it’s – His thoughts were interrupted as two white adults appeared out of an alley, fifty metres away. They instantly saw him and their mouths shut to form wicked grins on their pale faces. 

Michael ran. 

His heart pounded against his chest as he heard the fast footsteps behind him, getting closer every second. Fear was running beside him when he took a right turn into one of the alleys desperate to find someone on the other side of the apartments. The narrow alley was unwelcoming as the filthy smell of decaying rubbish reached his nostrils and the nest of crows squawked, taking flight as he ran past. Michael heard the men behind him laughing as they chased after him effortlessly. Tear swelled in Michael’s eyes as he imagined the end result. But maybe he had a chance. Maybe there was a group of his own in the next street. Maybe there was hope. 

He was wrong.

To his horror the end of the alley was blocked by a brick wall. He spun around facing his two pursuers just metres away. Michael desperately banged on the closest door near him screaming for help. There was no reply. Michael’s heart sank as his pursuers approached. Both looked to be their mid-twenties, casually dressed, slim and their ghostly skin haunted him. He didn’t want to be the next Emmett Till. He screamed for help. No one replied.

“Tried to run away did ya,” the first one said with a devilish grin.  

“He’s probably going to that ridiculous speech,” the other scolded to Michael. “Well, not anymore.”

Suddenly, a man appeared at the entrance of the alley, noticing them. He was older than Michael and shared the same skin colour. A glimmer of hope shone into Michael’s soul. 

“Help me, sir!” Michael screamed waving. 

Michael caught a slight flicker of fear in the eyes of the two white men as they stopped advancing to Michael and quickly turned their heads to see the newcomer. But was already gone.

He left me.

The two white men burst out laughing, mocking the cowardly man as they regained their confidence. The last sparks of hope died inside of Michael. Fear had killed courage, despair replaced excitement and his will to live controlled him. 

“I wasn’t going to the speech, I swear!” Michael cried as the white men refocused their attention to him.

“Is that so?” sarcasm poisoned his throat. “May I ask, have you ever heard of Emmett Till?”

The conversation ended.

Michael laid on the cold hard ground. He silently gasped for air, each time more painful than the last. He tried closing his red rimmed eyes hoping it would lessen the pain, but it was agonizing. The white men left, leaving Michael with bruises all over his body, a gash across his face and several broken ribs. He wanted to shout for help. He wanted to scream. He wanted to live. He didn’t want to die. I’m not ready. Please, Lord help me. Please. Crying, his tears watered his final resting place. He was cold, but the sun was covered by the dark clouds and the chilling breeze was unmerciful. The doors that stood closed continued to stay silent. He heard the wings of death flutter down and it’s claws landing lightly near him. I don’t want to die. Michael forgot about the speech, the protest and his dream. He breathed his last. He just wanted to live.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy Xu is a high school student studying in Epping Boys High School in Sydney, Australia. Coming first in English out of his whole grade in 2019, this local Vegemite eater likes to read and write various genres of fiction in hope to hook and engage his readers with his short stories.

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Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger

In my collection of poetry Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger, I explore the time period in which my mother grew up in post-WW2 Austria. The book became an idea after I wrote “Hunger,” a poem based on her stories of that time period. My mother was declining with Alzheimer’s, and because she was losing her memory, I conceived a book based on the few stories I remembered and research. I focused on the children. The main sources I used were After the Reich by Gile MacDonagh, Wir Besatuzungskinder: Toechter und Soehne Allierten Soldaten ERzaehlen by Ute Baur Timmerbrink, interviews, and online sources. 

From MacDonagh I learned about how the Allies responded to the victory of the war not as liberators but as conquerors. They put soldiers in prison camps and treated them similarly to the Jews.  Rheinwiesenlager was one of them, where the prisoners were set in barracks, fed little, and forced to endure the cold out in the hail. They ate little out of their tin cans of food and slept on wooden bunks with no mattresses. Mock executions tortured them. America exercised its revenge and felt justified. The women during the war fended for themselves because most men were away on the battlefield, and food was scarce. The Russian soldiers often raped the women and some children were left homeless. The first section of my book explores the experience of people, mostly children, during these hungry postwar years.

The Austrians suffered more hunger than the Germans because Germany had more infrastructure and industry and was able to recover more quickly than Austria, which had an economy based more on agriculture. An entire bartering system started, where people traded their watches, shoes, cuckoo clocks, etc.  for food. I perused antedotes and characters that MacDonagh wrote about to understand, for example, how many apricots were worth how many bottles of schnaps.

I also interviewed Helmut and Ingvild Birkhan and my uncle in Austria. Helmut grew up with a socialist father who never fought in the war. They stayed outside of Vienna in a village. He had to wear an old pair of his mother’s high heels to walk a mile to the school. They gathered nettle, berries, and mushrooms in the forest. When the Russian soldiers came during the occupation, they hid and built shelters out of brambles because the other women hiding in a shelter in order not to be raped wouldn’t let his family join them, since his family had a young baby who cried and made noise that would alert the Russian soldiers. Ingvild Birkhan told me stories of how she and her mother and siblings moved several times. When they left their first shelter, they buried half their belongings. They, too, gathered food from the forest and desperately tried to hide from the Russians.

Some women became pregnant and gave birth to Besatzungkinder, “Occupation children.” Some came from loving relationships, women who fell in love with Allied soldiers who took them out to see music, dance, and drink schnaps. Many of the Americans were African American, and the children born through these relationships grew up in a still racist country where they were frowned upon for being “Negerkinder.” Some were from Russian soldiers who were kind. Some were fathered by rapists. These children usually grew up fatherless, and the mothers were frowned upon.

My mother began declining from Alzheimer’s when she turned sixty. When she resided in a nursing home and lost all her memory, then her language, it was then that I wished I had asked for more stories. What I did know was that they lived in Russian-occupied Leoben, Austria, and my grandmother died of Lupus at thirty-five, leaving my nine-year-old mother and her three siblings to an abusive stepmother and years of hunger.

In the Midwest, where my mother immigrated with my mentally ill father, I grew up as an American. My mother labored all summer in the garden, and our fridge was always packed. The second half of my book explores my life growing up in a family with an immigrant mother and a mentally ill father, who in 2010 committed suicide by throwing himself out of a window in Vienna. The metaphorical broken man of Vienna became the literal broken body of my father.

We need to look at the period after the war as a warning.  Immigrants are separated from their families on the border of the U.S. and right-wing countries are gaining traction throughout the world.  If we do not address history and learn from it, everyone will suffer. If we project our shadows onto the very bodies we share as the human race, the cost could be tremendous, and we will all pay the consequences.

______________________________________________________________________________

Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado and lives with her two children, husband, and pets. Her books include a chapbook Beside Herself (Flutter Press, 2010) and two previous full-length collections, Rust and Coming Up for Air (Word Tech Editions, 2016, 2018). She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize four times. Currently, she is an instructor of English at Front Range Community College and works as a writing coach and ghostwriter. In her free time, she swims miles in pools and runs and hikes in the open space of Colorado’s mountains and plains.

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J. T. Evans

I.
 
May.  The Moon When Ponies Shed Their Shaggy Hair. 
Horsemen against a red western sky ride through White River Valley. 
Warriors, women and children trail in the twilight dust, ghostlike,
pushing forward, reaching back to the bleeding horizon. 
Buffalo gone.  Freedom gone.  The sacred circle broken.  Huddled
by the fort at the foot of ancient cliffs, places of dreaming,
they chant the peace song.  Dog soldiers and Indian scouts
surround the horsemen:  Little Hawk, Big Road, He Dog, and their chief,
the man they call Strange One. 
 
In silence he roams among them, noticing none but the children. 
Solitary creature, like a hawk on the wing.  Small and slim, a single feather
at the back of his head.  Braids of brown fur-wrapped hair hanging long
over plain buckskin, a Winchester dangling at his knee.  His power,
a boyhood vision of the world behind this one.  Spirit home of all things living, 
where he and his horse dance queer like shadows floating,
giving him the name Tashunka-Uitco, Crazy Horse. 
 
Facing the Blue Coats, he stares down the darkness.  Ferocious eyes,
face of blazing rage.  The soldiers fear him above all others, fear his strong medicine,
his war club, his scalping knife.  They have heard the stories.  Or lived to tell their own. 
How he chewed dried eagle heart and wild aster flowers for power and protection
from the guns and bayonets, the bullets like hail around him.  How on the plains
and in the hills, charging into battle on a yellow pinto, eager and tireless
for the killing, he whipped them on the Powder, along the Yellowstone,
beside the Rosebud, at the Little Big Horn.
 
And after all that, this. The final insult.  Bringing the Lakotas to the Soldier Town,
trading skin tepees for canvas tents, bounty for hunger.  Surrendering weapons
and horses and vigor to the whites who swell like flood waters over the land,
following the smell of gold. Wishing for the evening wind waving
through tall grass, for the blazing fires of village centers where the people
dance and sing Hoka hey!  Hoka hey!  until night gives birth to morning sun
rising over the breaks of distant bluffs.  Longing for the old days, the Indian ways.
 
 
II.
 
Spotted eagle circling above me. 
Plunging at my feet.
Under its wing, iron knife stuck deep. 
Blood filling my moccasins. 
Drum beating in my head like horse hooves
on hollow ground.  Great Spirit, take me
to distant dark country where my anger can roam free,
far from white man’s chains and crooked tongues. 
Our ways and theirs, different
as sun from moon.  Hey-a-a-hey!  Have courage my people.
Only the earth endures. 
Behold!  In the clouds, a thunder being smoking healing herbs
in the holy pipe.  A rider with lightning limbs
on a white-faced bay facing east.  Behold!
All tribes, one nation.  Walking the black road home. 
Hou!  This day my heart is good.
It is a beautiful time to die.
 
 
III.
 
Messenger comes
with slow feet of bad news:
Betrayal and lies.
Promises broken.
Red steel, long knife
flashing in late sun.
Brave warrior
drops to the dust
by the soldiers’ iron house,
dark pools of blood
mirror sacred sky.
 
Ahh-h!  Curly, my son.
Strong, good and wise man!
A father’s heart heavy with loss.
A mother’s tears like rain
spilling over smooth stones.
The people’s vision blinded,
their voice silenced,
stars turning toward midnight.
No killing, no taking of scalps
can bring you back
or make the darkness fade.
But your spirit will rise,
and your bones will sleep
under grass facing blue sky
along a creek beneath cottonwoods
crowded by plum and chokeberry thickets;
where as a boy
you liked to run
and hunt and dream,
the earth, rain and four winds
your only companions.
This holy place
your father and mother alone
will know, and we will die
holding the secret in our breasts
with eternal love for you,
our son, our Strange One.

______________________________________________________________________________

J. T. Evans is a writer living in Richmond, Va.

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Joanie DiMartino

“Still, when we take into consideration the Glory 
attached to a whaleman’s life, one perhaps ought to be happy.”
from Whale Hunt, by Nelson Cole Haley
Harpooner on the Charles W. Morgan, 1849-1853

Sometimes on the cuttin stage
to leviate the back break
of work I let my mind wander 
to New Bedford, but it’s always autumn,
when those leaves were sun-baked
to the color of pumpkin pie,
and I remember that Eve
of All Hallows when I found
my daughter by the fireside
telling fortunes with her friends.
See, they was paring apples,
turnin the fruit over and over
in their hands, tryin to keep
the peel in one piece 
to learn in the future if their husbands
will be rich or not.
Well, I hollered at them, 
said they were no better’n them girls
from Salem, those villagers
callin folks witches,
while I threw the apple peels
in the fire. Now I stand 
here in the hot sun
over beggar sharks as we strip
blubber from this whale, 
rotate the beast until peeled 
clean in one long piece,
longin to smell those burning
apple peels instead,
and I don’t need no crystal ball
or a clear sea to foretell
that those girls’ll marry whalers,
every last one of ‘em, 
and there’s no use 
in none of us wishin on 
wealth from a paltry 
lay of whale oil.

______________________________________________________________________________

Joanie DiMartino has work published in many literary journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Alimentum, Calyx, and Circe’s Lament: An Anthology of Wild Women.  She is a past winner of the Betty Gabehart Award for Poetry. DiMartino is the author of two collections of poetry, Licking the Spoon and Strange Girls, and is completing her third manuscript, “Wood to Skin,” about the 19th-century whaling industry, for which she was a 38th Voyager on the Charles W. Morgan.  Joanie also is a historian and museum professional; she currently serves as the curator and site superintendent of the Prudence Crandall Museum, a National Historic Landmark. Her poetry often addresses historical topics. Visit her website at www.joaniedimartino.com.

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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.

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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.

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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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