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December 2013 Issue | Word Riot
Issues | December 16, 2013

December 2013 Issue

FLASH FICTION Champagne Breakfast by Catherine Chiarella Domonkos On Father’s Beard by Jody Sperling The Ventriloquist by Marcelina Vizcarra God Bless the Child by Shaun Turner

NOVEL EXCERPTS Understudies by Ravi Mangla Rebrand by Jim Matthews The Revenant by George Saitoh

CREATIVE NONFICTION Notes on the Great Pigeon Race Disaster by Alicia Catt

POETRY The Rainy Days We Said We’d Always Keep to Ourselves by Dason Anderson Unemployment Poem #2 by Fatimah Asghar CAROLINE WHO WILL YOU PRAY TO NOW THAT YOU ARE DEAD: SAINT RITA by Caroline Crew Two Poems by Megan Dobkin Barn Paint by Cody Ernst

Creative Nonfiction | December 15, 2013

Notes on the Great Pigeon Race Disaster by Alicia Catt

I. My neighbor, the hunter, keeps his flock of homing pigeons in a backyard loft. All summer he trains his dogs to point and flush the birds out of hiding—practice for the open season to come. The pigeons are tools, not game, prized for their extraordinary inner compasses: particles of iron in the birds’ beaks align with magnetic north. Navigating via low-frequency soundwaves and scent cues, a pigeon released in a faraway field—even hundreds of miles from anything familiar—will immediately cut a straight path back to his nest. A well-bred pigeon knows instinctively where he belongs—will live and die knowing—will

Poetry | December 15, 2013

Three Poems by Ephraim Scott Sommers


We are barefoot and ashing and stomping our cigarettes into the bottle-capped carpet of your Cedar Creek apartment. I’m afraid of what you’re capable of bringing out in me: to want nothing at all outside of your living room— a glass table, a deck of cards, eight packs of Kool Menthol Filter Kings, eighty Pabst bottles, and a tangerine thermos of silver rum. My roommate and I across from your roommate and you. In our game of war, the winner and loser drink together, will sleep together and forget about it

Novel Excerpts | December 15, 2013

Rebrand by Jim Matthews

He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster Let him in constancy follow the Master…


(Noalsy the Bailiff)

Like a lot of paranoid kids I invented my own superstitions, so as to be bound by them. Mostly quite arbitrary and to do with things like holding your breath while crossing between two Belisha beacons and not blinking till the white dot on the telly disappeared. Get ready press the off switch and stare the bleeder right out. If anyone disrupted those customs I’d feel off-key all day.

I never had any time for things like broken

Reviews | December 15, 2013

Partial List of People to Bleach by Gary Lutz

Review by Art Edwards

I stumbled across the collection Partial List of People to Bleach at Powell’s Books and was drawn to two elements. First, I loved the title, and second, its author Gary Lutz was a writer whose work had intrigued me in the past. I’d bought a copy of his I Looked Alive a year earlier and—despite being blown away by a sentence or two—had put it aside. The book eventually found its way into my sell-back pile, and I’d regretted ever since not giving Lutz a better shot. A flip to the book’s back cover revealed this

Flash Fiction | December 15, 2013

On Father’s Beard by Jody Sperling

center>Listen to a reading of “On Father’s Beard” by Jody Sperling.


Father tripped on his beard while running to the hospital where Mother was in labor.      Outside the delivery room, a nurse barred Father—his cavernous beard, with chambers for cloud and cabins of lighting, was just too dangerous; a quark’s discharge could induce disaster. And what if the doctor, hurried, became lost in the labyrinth of wires, cords, tangles? What then? Father must wait outside the delivery room.      Mother delivered four hours later, a son.      Once a nurse had cleaned the child and

Reviews | December 15, 2013

The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati

A Conversational Review by Angela Woodward and Cooper Renner

COOPER: Hello, Angela. I hope you’ve been having a good semester and are looking forward to a winter break soon. You and I have both been reading Dino Buzzati’s The Tartar Steppe, a “modern classic” that isn’t nearly as well known in the US as it ought to be, even though it’s been available in English translation for sixty years now. Buzzati was Italian and lived through the Mussolini years. I wonder what you think about the manner of life he depicts in The Tartar Steppe–if it directly reflects his experience

Poetry | December 15, 2013

he looks by Darrian Wesley

at me or the grey slacks i try on, noticing where off-the-rack affirms commercial bottom. it’s apple picking season and my sweet tooth is still a sweet tooth. we debut, past the time limit of our calling what we do dates. i walk into the dressing room, welcoming. he let’s me close the door without him. we fit each other, he shouts, well, like a zipper.

About the author:

Darrian Wesley is a poet. He has his BA degree (2011) from Bradley University. His work has been featured in The Feminist Wire.

Novel Excerpts | December 15, 2013

Understudies by Ravi Mangla

Whenever I passed a parked car with a scrawled price in the window, I invariably pulled over for a closer look. For a long time I devoted myself to the conspiracy that some ruffian was siphoning gas from my tank, before conceding to the chilling truth: my truck was a guzzler. In a modern world, ten miles to a gallon was the rough equivalent of highway robbery.      I parked at the end of the driveway. A man was sitting on the front steps, can in koozie. The closer he came, the larger he loomed, with biceps as wide as

Poetry | December 15, 2013


Today’s anthem is made by August it tastes like bees on the tongue,

I mean I’ve seen what you think are roses & so I barnstorm your mouth with actual bloom—

I know a little about coaxing life:

the mornings spent softening fire wood to get a green glimmer.

It is possible to grow something completely detached from your human self,

to keep loving a monster for the sake of smaller monsters

like exchanging roses for a motorbike escape.

Horse power or man power, machine or machines—

you impossible ants, you tiny hearts with no answer.

It takes a

Poetry | December 15, 2013

Unemployment Poem #2 by Fatimah Asghar

Praise your body for its pockmarks:              the scars around your nipple, the constellation              of bruising that is your shoulder blade.

Praise the fur you were born with:              the thick knit wool down your legs, the way             you are more sheep than woman, the prickle

and scratch of you. Praise the lumpy back fat, the quiet             cellulite, the tiger marks across your thighs,              that even though you are starving,

you still cannot get rid of. Praise the concave ass, the raised moles             of your calves. Praise the way this keeps and has kept             you off the

Poetry | December 15, 2013

Forensic by Noel Sloboda

While his rheumy eyes demand no matching sets of prints to convict, I ask if the game warden believes we did this deed, we really would leave our prize laid out like a pile of copper and crimson Tinkertoys.

Yet unschooled in how to hunt, I have no idea where is best to stow a fallen whitetail. Why this one resolved to rest beside our home I cannot begin to guess: there is nothing here to eat—neither corn, nor wheat—

only great swaths of synthetic green we are extra careful to keep as flat as those next door. I

Poetry | December 15, 2013

The Rainy Days We Said We’d Always Keep to Ourselves by Dason Anderson

Somehow I’ve missed the rain that’s been falling all afternoon. It was here, dripping from the eaves while I sat with a beer painting black circles on my knee. I could say I heard it pattering in the gravel, but I’m not sure if that’s a lie or not. I’d like to think I saw the grey mist falling, but I know my gaze was entrenched in the light of somewhere else, and the sound of wooden pellets dropping on a tin-can roof — what some call a much-needed watering — was your voice, or the shadow of a two

Flash Fiction | December 15, 2013

Champagne Breakfast by Catherine Chiarella Domonkos

In my mother’s room, tucked in the frame of the mirror over her dresser, there’s a faded picture of my parents on a beach. He’s in swim trunks and aviators, and plays an air guitar. She looks up at him from a blanket, teenage body in a bikini, blue eyes sparkling. One hand keeps a floppy hat on her blond head while the other presses a cheek like she’s shouting, Would you just look at my man!

Gray hair hangs limp down her back. One puffy red hand stubs an unlit cigarette while the other swirls the dregs of

Novel Excerpts | December 15, 2013

The Revenant by George Saitoh

Listen to a reading of “The Revenant” by George Saitoh.

SYNOPSIS: After over a decade of exile in France, from a Yugoslavia since dissolved into independent states, Zinc embarks on a reluctant homecoming aboard his small cargo vessel, the Baceuse. From the moment of departure across a winter Mediterranean he is tormented by what he has left behind and what might lie ahead. En route he passes the beautiful island of Corsica where he spent a forgettable but not forgotten year of training with the French Foreign Legion to become the man he wished he had been when his hometown