‘Lost and Found’ by M. M. Elmendorf

soft cartel may 2018

To say he’d grown used to it would be a lie. How did one grow habituated to being alone? Not alone by choice, or alone by necessity, or even alone by militant or alien forces. But alone by providential forces beyond comprehension; alone by fate, you might say, and a fate that clearly despised him.

Fortune did not always favor the bold because if it did he would not be so alone. He’d boldly made promises to the masses that he’d been unable to keep; he’d boldly reassured them that “all will right itself in the end” when the first sign of trouble had reared its fastidious head; he’d boldly clung to his own obstinate optimism when the mortality rates had risen, the resources depleted, and the remaining dredges of normalcy in life were completely stripped away. No, he was proof that sometimes being bold meant being stupid and that “fortune” was a force that favored whomever she pleased. In the end, his boldness had been his hubris, his fate had been the destruction of all he’d known and taken for granted, and now he was forced to grow accustomed to a life of uninterrupted solitude.

The months (or was it years?) of solitary existence since had not been kind to him. Shaggy and unkempt, his hair fell about his bearded and weathered face like a noisome cloud: at times shielding him from the elements; at times plastering against his face as snakely tendrils shining bright with oil and sweat. He kept his nails clipped, mostly because it hurt like hell when they broke off and once he’d had a close call with amputation as infection had set in from the muck that had gotten crusted underneath near the nail bed. He thought that at one time he’d been handsome, his body svelte and attractive, his charm effervescent and alluring. But now what muscles remained attached to his frame were there by necessity; all softness of a privileged life blasted away by the world he’d mistakenly created and in which he sought survival.

Continue reading “‘Lost and Found’ by M. M. Elmendorf”

‘Civilization and Its Discontents’ by Larry Smith

soft cartel may 2018

Total silence. Split screen. Credits on the left. On the right, a naked woman facing the camera. She is surrounded by a small group of fully clothed men and women, slightly moving toward each other and milling about as if at a cocktail party, but not speaking. A few glance at the naked woman. A few glance away. A few smile slightly. The woman’s face remains impassive.

The credits conclude on the right. The woman and the others are on the left. None of the people seen in the opening shots appear at any time in the scenes to follow.

A guttural and intense male voice is heard singing the refrain from Old McDonald’s Farm, incanting “eee eye eee eye oh.” He sings it three times.

Four couples in a tasteful but not luxuriant apartment sipping drinks. The men are dressed in jackets but no ties. The women are well-dressed, a little more than casually dressed but not at all formally. There are photographs and a couple of paintings on the wall. Rear left is a bookshelf full of books. Sounds of their conversations filter through to the audience but it is more of an indistinguishable low murmur. Among the words that do become audible: “Everything there is delicious” (male voice); “She’s going to be 12 next month” (female voice); “They’ve got this one painting that was extensively damaged” (female voice); “How many blue states are at risk?” (male voice).

Meg and Mark on couch, Jack standing by couch, Melissa in chair. Melissa is a pleasantly plump, pretty woman in her thirties. Meg and Jack are in their thirties too. Mark is grayer-haired and looks older. The murmur of other conversations is still heard with occasional words being audible, such as “he was elected in any event” and “the question is whether or not they actually believe what they’re saying.”

Continue reading “‘Civilization and Its Discontents’ by Larry Smith”

‘Lust at First Sight’ by S. Seme

soft cartel may 2018

I was looking for a house to rent. An ad in the local paper read, “M/F to share sprawling, ranch house on an acre of land; $500 a month including utilities.” That’s just what I was looking for. I called and made an appointment to meet the owner and to look at his house.

The house was out in the boondocks, and it was no sprawling ranch house by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, it resembled one of those small motel cabins in back of a motel office that you see on a busy road.

I pulled in the driveway. “This can’t be the right place,” I thought. I checked the address, and it was the correct address. I decided to leave and started up the motor. I was about to back out of the driveway when another car pulled in. In my rearview mirror, I saw a very attractive man behind the wheel.

“What a hunk,” came from my lips, surprising me.

” I hope I didn’t keep you waiting. I’m John,” he said.

“How are you?”, I asked in an almost inaudible voice. I felt hot and nervous. I didn’t expect this. “Oh, oh, what’s next?”, I asked myself.

I wanted to be glib and come out with a witty remark. Instead, I managed, “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?” I couldn’t have been more mundane.

John showed me his house, or should I say his cabin. It was too small for two people. There was only one bathroom and it was very small. It had been a closet and was converted into a bathroom. The original bathroom was in the house attached to his. Someone had made two houses from one.

I ignored my one rule about house shares; never share a bathroom, especially with a man. But I seemed to ignore everything but John. I left a deposit and planned to move in the following Monday. And John was kind enough to offer to borrow a friend’s van to help me move in.

Driving home, I daydreamed about my new housemate. I was home, lying on my bed separated from John by thin sheet rock. He had just come home and was in his room. I heard his bed squeak as he laid down. I listened intently. I heard him cough. “If I’m real quiet, maybe I can hear him breathing,” I thought.

I wondered if he slept in pajamas or if that was too confining for him. Maybe he slept with the bottoms on, or maybe he slept nude. I pictured him lying on his bed nude. His magnificent body lying so close to me was too much.

I couldn’t resist him. I wanted him. I had to be with him. I was out of control with desire. I rushed to his room and into his waiting arms. We made passionate, unforgettable love and when it was over, he told me he loved me and wanted to marry me. I felt so peaceful lying next to him and at the same time felt unimaginable joy.

A car horn interrupted my thoughts. I knew I had made a mistake renting that house. Living with a man I was attracted to would be uncomfortable, and an unrequited love would send me frantically searching for a new rental. I would be hurt and temporarily homeless.

“I’ve got to get out of this,” I thought. I called John when I got home and told him that his house was too far from my job, which wasn’t a total lie.

John proved to be as considerate as he was handsome. He returned my deposit, but I was disappointed that he didn’t ask me out. Maybe I should have asked him to meet me for a drink sometime, but I didn’t want to take the chance of being rejected.

Isn’t it absurd that when a handsome man is kind and polite, because it’s so unexpected, it knocks you for a loop?

Three Poems by Kam Walters

soft cartel may 2018


You gave me a waiver from wearing your head dress tomorrow you, you considerate racist. I thought, once, we could both enter a solemn exchange of saliva and house pets. I thought we could be that buzzing space between cell phones that radiates tumors when we won’t look at each other. There were two bathroom sinks and you said the left one was yours because I left toothpaste on the edges and it hardened and blackened and when you bent over it it spread to your hair and now you have casino buffet hair. We never existed. Not in a rom com way but really, you are a person that never existed yet. I ask to preserve this note for the day when out of all possibilities you read it and it makes perfect sense. There is no other reason to hurt than to acknowledge that something has waited a very long time for you to experience it but there is nothing special really about you. It is just an infinity of possibilities playing out and at some point two things will happen at once and a lot of people have died in the time it took for those two things to meet. You’ll die graciously so that a woman can have conjoined twins all to herself and the father can forget his pregnant wife and fall into the Colorado River from a very high place into a very shallow rapids.

Nature Lover

There was once a town on my finger and I licked it. Then there wasn’t a town on my finger. Mmmhmm my tongue and its history. You might remember it was August and oh about 1 am or so and the puddles were too warm and greasy. I pushed you and you fell into one. The oily water was your tuxedo which was better than the pant suit you had on once I said yessir that cut is finer by half. Your look weighed 500 kilograms and you pluncked it onto me so what was there to do but lick it? Another time you jumped off the Chrysler building right after calling me. It went to voicemail and I haven’t listened to it yet but when I do I salivated and kept salivating until I dried up and fell to the ground and was trampled into dust that spread out like mold on the family hiking trail.

My Savior

I want a Hot Pocket
with your face chopped up
so nicely inside. Not

in a mean way, but in the way
I just said. I can’t stand

knowing other people
do nice things. I can’t stand

that most things work
in ways I could not recreate say
in an apocalypse. Like
the way the paths of airplanes

make our planet look moldy. I
wish I was the moldy one. Or at
least both of us I feel unloved.

Do you know I wrapped myself
in dumpsters and put
your smell on me like a taco? Do you

know I screamed at the wall for 3 years
and in the end there was a little
concave there
in front of my mouth. That’s magic

I’ve done and the elderly woman
down the street stepped off her roof
something about Christmas lights

but I don’t think so. She knocked on my
window right before and

mouthed this one’s for you, kid.

Kam Walters writes a lot of poetry and most of it sits on his computer but every once and a while it goes out to the world or his students at an alternative middle school. He lives in Boise, Idaho. He pays a lot of money to read and write at BSU and doesn’t pay a lot of money to read and write on his own.

Three Poems by Eric Harvey

soft cartel may 2018

War Horse

Goodbye old friend, you’ve served me well;
you did your job throughout this hell.
Exhausted – now you’re lying here;
within your eyes I see the fear.

My pal is calling…let him go,
he’ll never learn, he’ll never know
how dire it is to lose a friend,
but I’ll stay with you to the end.

And if the Hun should come before
you’ve breathed your last in this damn war,
then, so be it, I’ll die with you,
for loyal friends must see it through

until the end, when we’ll be seen
as one – once more on England’s green
and pleasant land for which we fought,
to plough God’s fields as we were taught.

I hear the bullets whizzing by,
the screaming men, the battle cry.
You lift your head to shield my heart,
and bullets tear your neck apart.

I hold you tight with bloodied hand,
I try to rise, I try to stand.
I feel the shrapnel from the shell–
Goodbye old friend, you served me well

Of Mice and Men

We had a little visitor,
his fur was brown and white,
He ran into our lounge one day
and gave the wife a fright.

He popped out of the skirting board,
and scurried ‘cross the floor,
The wife has said she does not want
to live here anymore.

I said ‘He was just curious-
a gentle little mouse’
She said, ‘Then let him poke around
in someone else’s house!

If he’s not gone by Friday night
I’m going back to Mum’s,’
I thought about it long and hard
and fed the mouse some crumbs.

I bought myself a humane trap
to catch my furry friend,
and placed it where I knew he ran,
so I could apprehend.

Next morning when I checked the trap
my little mouse was there,
I tried to pick him up but he
just zig zagged everywhere.

I took him to the garden shed,
where my wife never went,
My sanctuary from nagging voice
where happy hours were spent!

Went to the shop and bought a cage,
to keep my new friend in,
We got to know each other as
I taught him discipline.

The wife began to rant and rave,
when I went to my shed,
Suggested I should pack my clothes
and move in there instead.

I’d had enough, she drove me mad,
she tried to spoil my life,
That’s when I went back to the shop
and bought my mouse a wife!

Needless to say, they got on well,
if you know what I mean!
Within six weeks the babies came,
I counted them – FIFTEEN!

Then five weeks later…more arrived,
I was inundated
Words In my book ‘How mice can breed’
are very understated!

And so my master-plan was born,
I let them loose inside
the house that she had made her own,
since she became my bride.

I sat there in my male retreat,
and waited for the screams,
Sure enough, they deafened me,
but fulfilled all my dreams.

She didn’t even pack her bags, she
ran back home to mother,
A pair of whingers – it was clear,
they deserved each other!

And me? I love it on my own,
surrounded by my mice,
It’s great that she’s not here to moan
it really is so nice.

I cut my toenails in the lounge,
walk bare around the house,
No one to nag, in fact, it’s just
as quiet as a mouse!

Continue reading “Three Poems by Eric Harvey”

‘A Different Kind of Day’ by Heather Legg

soft cartel may 2018

Getting dressed for school on this rainy cold Monday, Allie was drawn to the scarf hanging on the antique coat rack tucked in the corner of her small room. She had to dig it out from underneath rarely touched hats and too many bags, but she felt compelled to wear the knitted scarf today as soon as she saw its tattered edges hanging beneath her worn denim jacket, as if it called to her. Maybe she wanted it to shield her from the January chill, or maybe for those other reasons that happened when she wore it. Who knew that this Goodwill treasure would have such an impact?

Her mom was at the hospital working the early shift, so Allie filled her water bottle, grabbed a pop tart and her book bag and headed out to the bus stop, tossing the tail end of the scarf over her shoulder. As she walked down her apartment building stairs, she saw Mrs. Roberts with Josie. With one look at the angry bruise on Mrs. Roberts face, Allie knew the night had been rough for her. She was gripping the baby just a little too tightly than what was natural, and Allie knew the fear was doing that.

“Mrs. Roberts, let me take Josie to the bus. Mine is just a few minutes after hers so I’ll be there until she gets on,” Allie spoke up.

“Ummm, Allie. Thanks. I’ve got her, though,” she answered, her voice rough and ragged.

“Really, I don’t mind,” Allie responded, and to her own surprise, she reached out and placed her hand on Mrs. Roberts’ arm, looking her in the eye. “It will be okay, but you need to do some things now. I’ve got Josie. I’ll get her on the bus.”

Looking a little bewildered, Mrs. Roberts relented with a brave and newly determined sigh. “You’re right, I do. I guess I need to go ahead and do it,” She didn’t have to say thank you because Allie saw the thanks in the woman’s red rimmed eyes.

Allie took Josie’s hand, noticing how thin it was. Slowly the small hand’s grip tightened around Allie’s hand, and then held on as if Allie were all she had.

Continue reading “‘A Different Kind of Day’ by Heather Legg”

‘Faith, Charity’ & ‘The Second Coming, Part II’ by Lee Passarella

soft cartel may 2018

Faith, Charity

Flying from the south in two big ragged Vs
they meld, first into one bigger W and then
a final, single V, northbound. Wind picking up,
the dead brown of last year’s oak leaves, magnolias’
leathery green, nudged upward, pointing to where I look.

Is it that wind—a headwind I can’t see but guess at—
that makes them wheel, 360, before heading north
again? Or is it the little flock they’ve seen to the east,
some hundred feet below them, two hundred feet behind,
quawwk-quawwking as they climb, wings beating
it seems twice as fast as those ahead, above them.

Soon, they merge into one even grander V,
spread out three hundred feet above the framing
pines. Perhaps at this gray fag end of a February day,
they already see their home far away from home:
a watery smudge somewhere among those endless pines
that I, too, can see now. Without quite seeing.

The Second Coming, Part II

But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?

—Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”

It was a second Pentecost, fires of self-sufficiency
playing around the faces of the once-moribund
while the tongues they heard spoken were,
at the same time, familiar yet remote. Not the sober
glossolalia of Latin and medieval Latin and New
Latin slickly glossed by tonsured interpreters
of All Things Holy. No. The hearers were astounded:
they wondered how hear we every man in our own tongue,
wherein we were born?

But now, it’s said the churches where Luther preached
and where Calvin preached are as quiet and as solemn
on any Sabbath as on a Tuesday. The curious Sunday tourists
are even more curious about the few diehards
they find there, the white-headed and the credulous,
come to drink the same old wine from the same old skins.
That shopworn vernacular once held holy,
once the very Grail itself.

Hamlet’s come back home from Wittenberg
to attend a funeral. But he’s too late. And far too serious
about things. They tell him to lighten up,
that everybody loses somebody or something
he cares about, eventually.

Lee Passarella served as senior literary editor for Atlanta Review magazine, editor of Kentucky Review magazine, and editor-in-chief of Coreopsis Books, a poetry-book publisher. He also writes classical music reviews for Audiophile Audition.

Passarella’s poetry has appeared in Chelsea, Cream City Review, Louisville Review, The Formalist, Antietam Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Literary Review, Edge City Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Snake Nation Review, Umbrella, Slant, Cortland Review, and many other periodicals and ezines.

Swallowed up in Victory, Passarella’s long narrative poem based on the American Civil War, was published by White Mane Books in 2002. It has been praised by poet Andrew Hudgins as a work that is “compelling and engrossing as a novel.” Passarella’s has published two poetry collections: The Geometry of Loneliness (David Robert Books, 2006) and Redemption (FutureCycle Press, 2014). Passarella also has two poetry chapbooks: Sight-Reading Schumann (Pudding House Publications, 2007) and Magnetic North(Finishing Line Press, 2016).

‘SEX AT OFFICE DEPOT’ & ‘DR. SUESSING’ by Wendy Cobourne

soft cartel may 2018


Bargain box of envelopes says
No-lick, Instant-stick
Popular No. 10 style.

I twitch a tired brow.

I take them home
And stash them like a secret.


Leave me the fuck alone.
Do not call me on the phone,
Do not wake me in the morn,
Do not make me leave the house,
I don’t want to go, go out.
I am thinking, leave me be,
I am brooding, leave it to me.
I am running ‘round in squares,
I am counting how much air.
I am writing purloined poems,
I must survive, alive, alone.

Wendy Cobourne is a former reporter who abandoned the formulaic restrictions in order to focus on creative writing. She has published one poem, one micro-fiction story, and one short story. A few of her favorite writers are Italo Calvino, Charles Bukowski, and William S. Burroughs.

‘Dilemma’ by Lahari Chatterji

soft cartel may 2018

Padma could feel the warmth of the noodles in her hands as she wrapped the square, pink Tiffin box with a checked napkin, knotted it and tucked in a blue plastic fork. She picked up the red water-bottle with the green strap and shook it to check whether she had filled it up already. As the clock chimed from the dining room shelf she rushed to her bedroom mirror to mask the shadows of her fatigue with a few strokes of the blusher. She punched a kalka shaped bindi on her forehead and drew out her leather purse from the unlocked wardrobe. Only a few ten rupees notes were left in it. Those were enough for the day. She would ask her husband for some money when he returned at night.

Anshu pricked her omelette to pull out a piece of green chilli and held it aloft before Aryan’s eager eyes. Aryan, elder to her by three years, snatched it from her fork. Slipping a finger underneath the top bread of his sandwich, he added it to the tiny rings of chilli sprinkled on the white fibres of boiled chicken and chewed his breakfast with relish. He hated eggs and Anshu could not stand the taste of chicken.

“Hurry up,” Padma called out while unzipping her children’s school bags to check whether they had packed all the books and exercise copies as per their respective timetables. She did not want them to suffer the humiliation of standing outside the classroom as punishment for an entire period.

Piles of soiled utensils crammed the kitchen sink. She had no time for them now: she would tackle them only after dropping her children to school. Her in-laws lacked faith in school buses. At least, she did not have to spread old newspapers near the school gates and sit there for hours like many other Moms, who chaperoned their children back home. Her younger brother-in-law, who was still enslaved by sleep, would be ready by then. He would mount his bike and whizz to the school to pick them up.

As usual, before leaving Padma faced the corner of the room where a small, burnished, cuboid projected out from the wall like a balcony. It was from this wooden block that the Gods and Goddesses surveyed her family. The smell of incense still hung in the air. She joined her hands to seek their blessings. Then clutching Anshu’s hand, she hurried towards the bus-stop, often on the verge of tripping while trying to keep pace with Aryan, who almost galloped along the bustling street.

They did not have to wait long for bus number 22. Loping to the door of the vehicle, she paused to watch her children climb safely into it. Then a sudden excitement gripped her as she hitched up her sari a wee bit to raise her leg and land on the steps of the bus. Will he be there today?

Continue reading “‘Dilemma’ by Lahari Chatterji”

‘Lucky’ by Rich Elliott

soft cartel may 2018

I am standing in the middle of Boone Lake. It’s a sunny, late-winter afternoon, and a layer of cold sweat lies on the thawing ice. The air has a bite. I am splashing in puddles on the ice, trying to make it crack. A few yards away patches of open black water taunt me.

My friends on shore have gone silent, like, What the hell is he up to? The lake is deep, and the ice is thin, and what I’m doing is really stupid. So why am I doing it?

The answer is complicated.


People have always told me I’m lucky. This started when I was young. Something providential would happen to me, and my parents would say, “Well, Tommy, you’re the lucky one.”

This narrative made me feel special. Like I was favored by the gods or something. For a long time I felt I deserved to be lucky because I was a good boy.

For no rhyme or reason, lucky things did, in fact, happen to me. For example, I was always finding money on the ground, once even a hundred-dollar bill. This led to my habit of looking down when I walk.

I also had uncanny fortune when it came to my teachers. Each year I was assigned to the best teacher in my grade. Our school had some really terrible teachers, but mine were always the ones who had us skipping ahead in math, building rocket ships, memorizing Shakespeare sonnets, and running laps around the other kids.

Continue reading “‘Lucky’ by Rich Elliott”