Issue Forty-One – Winter 2023

What We’re Reading, Winter 2023

By The Editors

Here’s what SHARK REEF editors have been reading lately.

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A Love Affair with Words

By Shari Lane

Words are powerful.

It likely comes as no surprise that an editor of a literary magazine believes words and stories matter. If you’re reading this essay, I suspect you agree. At times it feels like the very survival of our species is at stake. Because we are dependent upon each other and simultaneously often have conflicting needs and wants, we must find ways to reach across the yawning void, to bridge the gap, if only momentarily, between the “you” and the “me.”

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Visual Art

By Ann Vandervelde

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Into the Wind

By Thomas Lerczak

Out for a drive, my wife Julie and I traveled across the open, rolling Illinois countryside under turbulent December skies that seemed almost like a painting by one of the great masters: high billowy mountains of white and gray, constantly changing shape, reflecting the late afternoon sunlight in deep yellows, nearly orange in places, and mostly heavy with water vapor, and then not. Every once in a while we could see

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Provenance: Aegean Apparitions

By L. Shapley Bassen

I looked up from my drawing into the blinding sunlight but could not see more than the silhouettes of the bodies speaking above me. Among the dark, deep voices speaking rapid Greek was a familiar woman’s voice also speaking in that strange language, all oo’s and k’s and plosive p’s. Beside me in the trench dug ten feet into this archeological earth was another member of the Brit team, a girl in her twenties named Juliet. She and I got on only civilly because she was a London type and I was a Scot she nicknamed ‘Burr’

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The Murder of Toads, 1958

By John Brantingham

On Tuesday, Henry has an algebra test that he’s going to fail so he skips class and since he’s probably going to catch it anyway, he swipes his father’s .38 from the back of the closet where his pop thinks it’s hidden. His pop’s got a box of bullets there too, and he’s never noticed before that some of the rounds are missing. His dad is drunk most of the time anyway, so he probably wouldn’t suspect Henry if Henry just flat out stole the pistol and sold it. The old man would probably just think he’d misplaced it.

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Act Two

By J. Lee Carey

Between takes, the beloved comedian sat in his trailer, nursing a LaCroix and streaming the Indians and Royals on a late model MacBook.

He was slouching in the orange and brown plaid upholstered dining nook. Change comes slowly to set-trailer décor. There was a largely untouched food platter by the mini-sink glistening with unaccountably tasteless melon slices and strawberries.

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Defining Normal

By A. L. Diaz

“Unfortunately, she didn’t say anything during her session.”

“She hasn’t eaten in two weeks. She was already skinny and now she’s getting worse.”

“Just keep pushing her to eat. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.”

“And the scratching?”

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Pamela, Shamela, and Me: A modern take on Richardson’s Pamela and Fielding’s Shamela

By Beth Ford

Cast of Characters
MR. B., a wealthy local politician who has helped a lot of people in the area and has a sterling reputation; fortyish

PAM, a young woman who worked on Mr. B’s latest reelection campaign




PAM’S MOM (voice)

MARCHERs, four diverse women who join Pam’s protest march

Act I, Scene 1

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To the Future

By Diane Lefer

“Disgusting!” was our mother’s word for the way the other kids danced. When we told our classmates we weren’t allowed, they thought we must belong to a cult. It’s just our mother was uncomfortable with our bodies. Years later, when she caught on that we enjoyed sex, she seemed less disgusted than surprised. And when we started to bring home partners of a race other than our own, she said we were doing the right thing, that this was the future even if it made her, she said, uncomfortable.

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1 + 1 = 3

By Peter Obourn

My family all loved each other, but I don’t think we understood each other.

My dad was honest about it. I just don’t understand you kids, he’d say to my sister and me.

My sister would say she understood but she didn’t. She was clueless.

My mother was hard to read. When I told her stuff, she’d say, um, hmm, the um a lower note than the hmm, which might mean she understood me, or maybe she was simply acknowledging she heard me.

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By Birgit Sarrimanolis

Sometime before dawn the telephone rang, shrill and startling. The man sat up abruptly, ripped from an exhausted, dreamless sleep. A click in the line, a pause. Rushing with static, his uncle’s voice came haltingly. “Theo Dimitri,” the man stated as though acknowledging a fact, with no exclamation of hearing the familiar voice an ocean away. He listened. “Katalaveno,” but he felt as though he understood nothing. The words, yes; so much the language he did not use much nowadays still allowed him. But beyond that, nothing. “Tha ertho avrio.” He would go tomorrow. The man rubbed two fingers across the grooves that furrowed his forehead in a futile effort to erase them.

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Pyro Days

By Tim Clancy

When I was a kid, my friends and I often played with matches and, by extension, fire. We had ready access to everything we needed. The adults made that easy. Many of them smoked, so matches were easily found, and taken, from most kitchen cupboards. And the garages in our suburban Detroit neighborhood contained all kinds of flammable liquids, like cans of gasoline, kerosene, or paint thinner, not to mention actual lighter fluid. In those days, the mid-1960s, most parents were comfortably oblivious about what their kids were up to. “Go outside and play,” they’d say. So we did—with matches and things that would burn.

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Developmental Milestones

By David Blistein

There’s been extensive research into “the role of the father in child development,” including a 656-page academic albatross by that title that’s currently in its fifth edition. But what about the role of the child in a father’s development? Emily certainly played a significant role in mine.

By the time she was two years old, she had figured out how to run around, eat her own food, and communicate with and without words. Her worries were few and quickly forgotten—a real mark of maturity.

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Letting Go and Letting In

By Peter Gibb

My time here on earth is moving into its late innings. All the more reason to live each remaining day as fully and authentically as I am able.

“Fully and authentically.” What does it really mean? How can I best pursue such an intention? Two complementary desires seem to guide my discretionary time:

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By Sharon Goldberg

Here’s the history of life as we know it. First came single-cell organisms around 4.1 billion years ago in hydrothermal vents, many scientists say, deep in the ocean. About 600 million years later came multi-cellular organisms. Hundreds of millions of years after came the earliest animals. Hundreds of millions of years after that came the ancestors of modern humans. Perhaps there’s a fragment somewhere in my DNA that remembers my unicellular origin, remembers when my ancient relatives propelled through the sea engulfing nutrients. Is that why I am hypnotized by the ocean?

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Dewey Lane

By Carrie Lynn Hawthorne

Redwood trees surround the three-acre lot on all sides. Sun streams through the leaves, beams of light in the fog. In the orchard, branches hang heavy with plums, pears, crabapples. Locusts buzz, doves coo, and birds of prey flap their heavy wings. The oppressive humidity fills my sinuses, giving me the sensation that I’m underwater.

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And We Pretend

By Sam Wise

A single silent
Tear hangs
On your cheek
And we pretend
Not to look
At each other

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Another Lake

By Murray Silverstein

Dusk again, and clouds, the clouds: fluffed-up balls
with wispy tails, every shade of orange and gray

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Shaving the Ghost

By Jay Klokker

An old man nicks his chin shaving and hears
his dead father sigh, sees his father’s hand
search the cabinet for the fat styptic pencil
that got dumped in the trash fifty years ago.

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Les Nouvelles

By Michael Hanner

It was the kind of news should come
in a light blue envelope with French stamps
and my name and address in cursive, in black ink
or typed on an Olivetti with keys in need of cleaning,

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Poem About the Wind

By Charlie Glick

I’ve always wanted to write a poem about the wind
doing what wind does: speaking
in leaves, shaping
sails on horizons, lifting
the pappi of dandelions into sunlight
over parking lots, or purring
in the cracks of shut rooms,
wind at the shift of seasons screaming,

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While My Mother Worked the Night Shift

By John Dorroh

My father dipped me in milk gravy
so thick and velvety I wanted to play
with it, mash it into the palm of my left hand.

He offered cathead biscuits before
school on dark January days after the
Christmas hangover. It was almost enough.

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Farewell Tour

By John Delaney

Gradually, the rock bands of the Sixties
announce their final concert tours
as their members turn wistful and eighty.
They try to salvage that early glory
one more time for us, the loyal fans
who have followed their tabloid story
and will pay anything to see them perform

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A Nice Girl’s Temptation

By Rose Mary Boehm

She met him on the way to Sunday school,
his hair unruly and his shoes untied,
fresh face of a boy, eyes of the man who’ll
never give in, nor bend, neither abide

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Shark Reef

By Andrew Robin

We went out seeking eagles.
We found two ravens and a gull

and strands of bull kelp left ashore
in fraying shawls the driftwood wore.

We found bones.
A seal had washed up in the stones;

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Man on the Moon

By Michael Gray

It was the day after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, but I just didn’t give a rat’s ass. What did that have to do with me? I’d just turned eighteen, sported a perpetual hardon, and cruised a canary yellow 1967 Firebird with chrome wheels. High school was in my rearview mirror and shrinking by the second. My grandfather called me a hotspur, and I thought I sensed a trace of admiration. I sure liked the sound of it: hotspur. There goes that hotspur, my grandfather would tell my mother whenever I’d peel out from our driveway.

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By Kathleen Holliday

As if drought could ever empty it
the well of grief glimmers full
topped up like a bitter drink
we never ordered.

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