Issue Forty-Two – Summer 2023

The Heart of the Mountain

By Ari Blatt

The hike up the mountain had been steep, and arduous, and screed. Fine scree underfoot on the lone flat saddle and more gradual slopes created gardens of wildflowers: gardens of lupine and verbena and paintbrush and heather and aster and penstemon and anemone. But scree of any grain size on the steeps left nothing to hold onto besides the assurance that nothing is secure, that it is best to learn to move with the pulse of the mountain, to understand that one step forward could mean nothing and everything at once, that one step contained the entirety of a world and all its possibilities.

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Heavy as a Butterfly Ball

By Nick Godec

Ryan looked out the window. The tall pines swayed in the strong breeze. Their bristles had started to turn from green to brown. The winds blustered violently. He glanced at the uprooted tree, sorry for the thick mesh of roots that had been torn and uncovered by the storm.

The night before, Ryan had been awake in bed answering an email from his boss, his fiancée Sarah asleep by his side. He’d seen the flash, then the tear in the sky, and seconds later heard a creaking groan

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Visual Art

By Lisa Lamoreaux

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Lifeguard and Snake Charm

By Aruni Wijesinghe

By mid-June it is finally warm enough to swim in the backyard pool. She plies the water, her cupped hands and the soles of her feet sculpting hearts as she breaststrokes. Along the bottom is the occasional drowned lizard. She feels their small deaths. Their waterlogged graves. She pauses her laps when she discovers a bumblebee struggling, watches

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The Thing about Rivers

By K. Andrew Turner

Little rivers started forming first. We didn’t know where they came from, but they started showing up everywhere. And in the strangest places. Mrs. Belfre discovered one on 7th and Main, that started at the top of the Geller building.

Yes. The top. And the river just flowed down the side of the building and into the street, where it disappeared near John’s Bodega.

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By Nina Pond Bayer

I had been gone from my apartment for eleven days, caring for my widowed mother in a big house on a small lake not too very far away. And when I returned home, my bag in hand, I opened the front door to find that Jason was gone. Again.

I climbed the stairs and stood in the doorway of our bedroom,

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Brothers on a Train

By Ruthie Marlenée

Benjamin is dead. In later years, this is what Abraham Newman got used to telling others, his self included.

The Newman brothers were as diametrically different as night and day. Their mother Maisie reckoned nature had forgotten to hang out the moon the evening she gave birth to a boy child on August 11, 1899. After a quick labor, Abraham emerged high-speed from the tunnel, dark as the night, eyes like nuggets of coal and voice screeching like a tortured soul in search of light.

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By Maryanne Chrisant

After I lost Sébastien and my baby to the fever, I found myself on a bench in El Trebol bus station. I knew I was waiting for the bus to Antigua, where Sebs and I met. We weren’t of Guatemala City. His ghost won’t walk these streets. I don’t know the time or how I got to this bench, but I must be on that bus. I check the inside pocket of my jacket. I have my ticket. Its presence is reassuring.

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What Doesn’t Kill Us: A Ten-Minute Play

By Roger Collins

Time: New Year’s Eve, 2022

Place: downtown Cincinnati, OH

Set: the limited view of a hotel room represented by two adjacent chairs facing the audience. One chair holds the hotel’s festive welcome basket.

Synopsis: A young unmarried couple arrive at their hotel room to continue their New Year’s Eve celebration and end up making memories of the evening’s planned and unplanned surprises.

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Acts of Love

By Winston Widjaja Lin


Anton: 22 years old at the start of the script. Ukrainian Jewish American.
A BA/MA student in Columbia University’s Russian, Eurasian, and Eastern
European Studies program. Boyfriend to Winston.

Winston: 23 years old at the start of the script. Taiwanese Indonesian American.
An interior designer in VOCI D’s Los Angeles location. Boyfriend to Anton.

Note from the script writer: Each quote at the beginning of every scene is from a poem in Carl Phillips’ poetry collection The Rest of Love.

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Jackie Robinson, My Father, and Me

By Paul C. Rosenblatt

On Sunday, May 18, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in a Major League baseball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He was the starting first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers. My father took me to that game. We had been to three other Chicago Cubs games, so I had a sense of how many people typically attended a game at Wrigley Field. When we entered the park I was amazed at how many people were already there, far more than I had ever seen at a Cubs game.

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The Lost Brother

By Adrienne Pine

Nearly eight years after my father’s death, I received a phone call from the nurse I had hired at the end of his life. Jen was a kind and compassionate person, and she had been at his side when he passed away. Because of her other commitments, she was unable to attend his funeral, but she had posted a condolence note to his obituary notice on

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Sentimental Value

By Carol Owens

Large and heavy, my ring: four gold dolphins arcing gracefully over my finger. It’s really two rings, joined by a slender circle of sapphires, set in gold. Widow now, no longer wife, I had chosen to take my husband’s wedding ring from the chain around my neck. I’d sandwiched both rings, one on either side of my fifth anniversary sapphire ring.

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You Can Call Him Al

By Kathleen McGuire

It was sometime during the blurry semester-to-semester haze of my sophomore year of college that I met Albert. My best friend Nick (now my husband) introduced us outside a dive bar in Ybor city or maybe Albert just hopped into Nick’s car on the way to Chipotle one night. What I do know is that once I knew Albert, he was always there, like a facial feature, permanent and recognizable and without it, you aren’t quite you.

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The Open Gate

By Richard LeBlond

“I know I look white,” she said, “but I have the high cheekbones of the Chippewa. I’m half white. I was adopted.”

That’s how she introduced herself as I ate breakfast at a coffeehouse in an outport near Corner Brook in western Newfoundland. Later that morning I encountered her on a guided walk in Gros Morne National Park. After the first stop, she disappeared.

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The Gift of Old Age

By Leslie Hill

Somewhere in mid-life, I read Jenny Joseph’s poem, ‘Warning’, and laughed out loud.

‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple. With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.’

It’s a joyous ode to the freedom old age brings, a shrugging off of other people’s expectations. I understood it immediately.

As a young girl I just didn’t think about old people. My grandparents were the only seniors I knew. With them I was outwardly respectful but uninterested. If I thought about them at all, I might have felt pity for the limitations they lived with, physical frailty, near-invisibility, a limited future.

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My Mattress Spies on Me… and No One Cares

By Lisa Friedlander

I knew a somnolent position of my body parts existed by which I could fall, slide, or dip into sleep, and stay there for a reasonable seven hours. But I hadn’t found it on the old mattress with its fortress of pillows buttressing my attempts to get every limb and my head comfortable at the same time. Even when occasionally, I achieved that sensation of releasing all muscular tension in my neck without burying my nose in the pillow too deeply to breathe, I failed to maintain it for more than a few moments.

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Divorce Pending

By Ann Bodle Nash

The day I heard he was leaving I was shocked. My eldest daughter’s husband of fifteen years, a forty-eight-year-old who sports a reddish beard and a ball cap, and a shiny pickup truck. Father to their only child. I had encouraged the purchase of the truck, supporting this man’s dream, when my daughter had demurred. It turned out the truck was useful.

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The Rollover

By Andrew Alexander

I’d never seen a Renault Dauphine before that August afternoon. I’d been basking in the sun on the painted wooden stoop of our tenement. It was close to noon and another high school summer vaca-tion day was drifting by.

Sly drove up in in the strange-looking car, it was small, low, and short and black.

“Where’d you get that?” I said, never knowing Sly to have a car or a driver’s license for that matter.

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Latch Key for Boys

By B. J. Wilson

I told my brother that the BB I was going to fire

at him, from our second story window, wouldn’t hurt,

that his layers would protect him from the sting.

And I imagine him, now, walking into drizzle,

a desperate wonder wrapped around him

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Birth Announcement

By Carey Taylor

Let’s begin with her feet. Ten proper toes
pressed into pink ink then pressed again on one

side of a small card—two tender rhodies
determined to root in the heavy dark of a Port Orford winter.

The first question I ask the nurse is not is it a boy

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Your Eyes Are Not a Camera Drone

By Mary Ellen Talley

Cactus bee
and white-winged dove pollinate by day
Long-nosed bats
swarm the blooms each night
The blossoms become ripe red fruit for the desert

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What Your Sleep Tastes Like

By T. Dallas Saylor

On the couch you slumped over
into my shoulder, your lips parted.

When you slumped over the couch
& dropped your half-eaten scone,
your parted lips dripped crumbs into my shoulder.

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Mother Milk

By Mer Monson

Sons are not often carved
in the cashmere shape of tenderness,
but still, he reaches out his arms
at least once a day—-
a long hug, sometimes longer,
as though he is quenching a thirst
for swallows of milk

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Rural Electrification

By William Miller

A single naked light bulb, a single line
stretched across winter fields, brought the new century
to my grandmother’s house. For a hundred years,
fire light, oil light and candlelight
dimly lit a two-room farmhouse.

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Cat at the Window

By John Delaney

The cat peeks behind the lace curtain
to get a clearer look through the glass.
For all he knows, he lives in Plato’s Cave,
and here’s an exit. But surely his life
is real: the tin foil balls, the catnip toy,
the scratching post—all the hideouts
he has found safe haven in. Surely,
they are real. And yet there, beyond the glass,
a breeze stirs, colors sparkle in the sun,
sounds rebound. A different world obtains.

In the summer, the glass becomes a screen,
and then smells are added to the tableau
spread before him. Such mysterious scents!
Now there’s even a dark creature flying
across the sky, making a raucous noise.

The cat may never go outside to test
his thesis. What would he make of it all?
Could he have lived a real life there?
He tries to see what he has sacrificed
to let a human being love him here.

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By Rose Mary Boehm

There is no sleep, just deep exhaustion.
And as I probe the mists of life I am surprised
by finding unexpected riches.
Like Pharaoh, I have been well endowed
with all the preciousness I need
for an eternal death time and beyond.

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From the 49th Parallel…Bellingham, Washington

By Barbara Bloom

So far north here, sometimes
it feels like we’re teetering
on the very edge of the Earth
and into the region the ancient maps
called Terra Incognita.

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What Lingers: January in Elmwood Jail

By Carol Park

The deputy in slacks and knee-high boots heaves
a weighty door—neglect, injury, violence.
They’ve come to lead a prayer service, she tells forty
females wearing thin orange uniforms. They
scatter round a large, cool room—walls empty
of all color. A resident standing in her four-bed section,

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They See a Pile of Windows

By Niki Kantzios

in the barn.
I see a greenhouse.
End of the reign for
a pile of rotting frames
that have served out a century
at least,

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By Miriam Edelson

When I picked up the telephone in the kitchen of my parents’ house that afternoon in 1975, I had no idea I’d be delivered such devastating news. A boy I was close to had been killed in a freak tractor accident the day before on the kibbutz in Israel where I had recently lived. His name was Gilles and he had come to the kibbutz with a group of young people from France. He was my good friend during the four months I had spent there, less than a year earlier. My heart broke when I heard the sombre words spoken over the telephone line. I was eighteen years old.

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Hooray for the Underdog

By Shari Lane

As a writer, I think a lot about what makes a hero—or a villain, for that matter. And it’s not just about developing character and story arc; stories, for me, are a way of making sense of the world. So in pondering the concept of heroism, the question isn’t whether a particular character dons a brightly-colored cape and reveals heretofore unknown super powers, but rather whether a real person voluntarily helps others, even when that choice may involve sacrifice and/or risk.

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What We’re Reading, Summer 2023

By The Editors

There are so many reasons to love being on the SHARK REEF editorial board! We have front row access to marvelous writing and art, and we get to support writers and artists. I imagine each story, essay, poem, and work of art as a glimmer of light in the darkness, and am reminded of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” (Also quoted by Willy Wonka, in case you’re wondering where else you heard the sentiment.)

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I Was Born to Live in a Café

By Paul Graseck

After attending a 2018 opening of a retrospective exhibit in which one hundred pieces created by native Rhode Islander and internationally known artist, Morris Nathanson, were on display, we headed to a local restaurant to chat about the exhibit in the afterglow of its opening. His body of work—paintings, wood block prints, “found art” assemblages, and drawings—filled two rooms at a spacious gallery. The exhibited works reached back to 1955, the earliest a pen and ink watercolor, Funeral in Tatco.

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Going to Work

By Kate McCorkle

The day Jason got orders for Iraq, I was teaching night school in Nashville, which meant leaving Clarksville around four-thirty. He wouldn’t muster until evening, so I left the house first. Framed by the doorway, he waved goodbye wearing his battle dress uniform, BDU’s—now khaki for the desert—as I got in the Pontiac and drove away. He had the empty house.

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