Finalists

On Moonless Nights

Eric Botts

Unseen, the Moon carves marionettes in self-portrait and sets them skyward, suspended by the hair of children, night by night, sliver to globe. Though the horizon burns, the night never ends, lurking in shadow as the Moon stalks the Sun. No night is moonless. Grifter, trickster, the Moon mimics newness by the lies of light.

 

Eric Botts writes essays and produces audio stories in Pittsburgh; he has a day job, but it is not interesting.

 

 

The Year You Returned to L.A.

George Uba

Two fives fetched a tank of premium.
Marked ten years in exile after internment.
(A pair of buffalo-head nickels
roamed the prairie where the camp stood.)
Cesium was tense and unstable.

The last day I saw you alive,
you needlessly apologized from your bed
for my unmissed 55 candles
and cake. Years ignitable—
like cesium.

 

George Uba is author of Disorient Ballroom (Turning Point). His American-born parents were interned during World War II due to their Japanese ancestry.

 

 

Ba Bao Fan

Lucy Zhang

We show our spines like a stegosaurus, mold glutinous rice around our bones & decorate them with treasures: dried longan, dates, black sesame, adzuki bean paste, darkened with brown sugar & oil, our backs smoothed & softened & cushioned, so nai nai will say you gained weight! & squeeze our arm–it sinks like tofu sponge under her spindly fingers.

 

Lucy Zhang writes, codes, watches anime, and can be found on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.

 

 

A Railroad Man

Meg Sipos

Isaac plays chicken with the trains every Saturday and walks along the tracks, waiting for the familiar vibrations of the rails while taking swigs from his flask. It’s not that he has a death wish. He just wants his blood hot and ready and flowing. He wants to remember what it’s like to breathe in life.

 

Meg Sipos is a Pittsburgh-based writer, editor, and podcaster.

 

 

Drip

Leeor Margalit

We are in his apartment in the tiny shower together which is to say we are naked and we are touching and yet honesty is much more intimate than sex and by that I mean I could live in this moment forever but eventually, the water will run cold and his patience will run out.

 

Leeor Margalit (@leeormargalitpoems) is a 22-year old from Southern California currently living on a kibbutz in Israel.

 

 

I Create a Paint Color / I Name Crushed Haze

Dorian Kotsiopoulos

You spoke to me about the delicacy
of watercolor, how the grey green
silvery blue of beach grass was muted
but somehow velvet rich.

I wanted you to touch my breast.
I wanted to know where you’ve been.
Mostly, I wanted to know why you left.

 

Dorian Kotsiopoulos’ poems have appeared in literary magazines, including Poet Lore, Salamander, and Smartish Pace.

 

 

Legacy

Grace Song

In the Museum of Civilization, there are hundreds of hummingbirds. Their throats darken into red lilies. Feathers gleam with beetle scales. When I take their photo, the camera melts the birds into silhouettes. Everything washes away, except the tags on each curled foot. They glow like emerald eyes, a jaguar’s face hidden in the dark.

 

Grace Q. Song is a Chinese-American writer from New York.

 

 

Art Lessons

David Slay

At some point the paintings would seem finished. Standing beside me, my teacher would quietly regard my work. Taking my brush in his hand, he would add a few strokes here and there. I always was surprised to see what had been missing. I had learned the craft, but he made the art.

 

David K. Slay’s short fiction and creative nonfiction can be found in a group of diverse literary journals—most recently in Toho Journal Online, and nonfiction craft articles are in CRAFT Literary and Submittable’s “Content for Creatives” blog.

 

 

Next

Lilia Marie Ellis

Half perfect—like a hill smoothed with footprint and snow in ashen aftermath, alabaster, the forfeited life regained again as new—I don’t know what I’ve reached, there are no stars in the sky to hold it up to. Is this joy, having arrived at last, or my best impression? Would it make a difference?

 

Lilia Marie Ellis is a trans woman writer from Houston. Her work has appeared in publications including The Nashville Review. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @LiliaMarieEllis!

 

 

In Praise of Rude Awakenings

Sharman Gazaway

That cold splash
the gasp—chill slick
down your spine—
hard flat facts
slam ham-fisted
into your gut
some heat-lit thing inside
turns and burns
pig on a spit
clarity’s smoke
stings your eyes
eyelids stutter. No
warning no pricking of thumbs
yet still it has come
with a clap.

 

Sharmon Gazaway writes from the deep south in multiple genres and her work is in Daily Science Fiction, Tiny Spoon, Backchannels, The Society of Classical Poets, microverses.net: Octavos and more.

 

 

Postmodern Courtship

K.S. Dearsley

On the back of the card, he had written: “Marry me.”

The front showed two monkeys eating fruit. Was the large monkey protecting the small one? Was it maternal or macho? Were they sharing their spoils or squabbling? Or stealing forbidden pleasure? Perhaps they were simply two monkeys eating fruit.

She threw the card away.

 

K.S. Dearsley’s fiction is the result of reading too much as a child. Her work has appeared in publications as diverse as StoneStone and Diabolical Plots.

 

 

Disabled Like Me

Jon Fain

When I’m out rolling, people stare. Not long ago some older dude made a show of stopping and saluting, so there’s at least two reasons I’m staying in these days. I’m not your flag. I’m not a sweetener for your sour conscience. I’m the bad dream you missed, the difference between night and day.

 

Jon Fain has other smidgen fictions in 50 Word Stories, Molecule Tiny Lit Mag, and The Dribble Drabble Review.

 

 

Egg

Samantha Pilecki

“You need a shower,” said Julie, eyeing her son. He was saturated with sweat and still wearing his dusty track uniform.

“No I don’t,” he said.

Julie didn’t hesitate. She went to the fridge and got out an egg. She cracked it on his forehead. The white trickled down, leisurely.

“Now you do,” she said.

 

Samantha Pilecki works as a librarian and therefore enjoys librarian-y things, such as smoking cigars, caring for rats, and reading tarot cards.

 

 

License

Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri

Once I was young and counted license plates. Memorizing
states conveyed careful observation.

Now the virus invades once-exotic letters.

I consider reporting visitors, think of familiar names felled.

But I imagine chasing plates, Quixote reincarnated, while the virus watches in the shadows.  I imagine people wearing fear, bewilderment, and amusement.

I laugh. I’ve cried enough.

 

Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University and has had work nominated for the Pushcart.

 

 

Hiding

Kathleen Castro

Fires burn things
so they can lie.

Let’s hide behind them tonight.

Our hands are glass
and our tongues, ice.

Bring the logs, fry us down.

I’m shaking, they’re singing.
I’m talking, they’re screaming.

Turn up the small talk, drown pain out.

Fires burn things
so they can lie.

Go ahead, hide behind them tonight.

 

Kathleen Castro is an Ecuadorian-American English major at Miami-Dade College in Downtown Miami.