Issue Thirty-Eight – Summer 2021

Greetings, SHARK REEF Friends

By Stephanie Barbé Hammer

I don’t know about you, but 2021 has been a difficult year for me so far. In January, I came to the sad conclusion that living in a beautiful but very rural place wasn’t working for me. As soon I realized this, my husband of a billion plus years got carted off to a distant hospital with a mysterious internal infection that might have killed him.

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Visual Art

By Kris Ekstrand

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Star Slinger

By Deborah Burghardt

Knowing others plot
and await your surrender,
knowing if you do surrender,
they may kill you anyway—
that kind of knowing
is not my country.

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Spring Fling

By A. L. Diaz

He burst through the door and rushed in, all but buckling over the scuffed-up ivory sink. What had he just done?

He ran the water as cold as the tap allowed and splashed his entire face before bracing himself with the basin. Against his tongue he still tasted her. Against his fingers his still felt her. Against his body he still wanted her. When he closed his eyes, he saw her, his body trembled, his heart quickened. A chilling disgust shot through his veins, so he forced his eyes open.

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Barbie Tag

By Kirtida Gautam

After getting the lead role in a Hindi movie, I had sat down with Vritika, my stepma, and Dad, and asked them if I should pursue acting or continue preparing for the IIT-JEE exams to get into an engineering school. A day ago, I had called Mom and my stepdad and asked them the same question.

First time in my entire life, all the four oldies were in complete agreement. “Acting. You’re an inborn show-stealer.”

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The Bicycle

By Andrew Alexander

Newark was a bustling post-world war II metropolis, and I was maybe seven, possibly eight years old. A long time ago. There were no air-conditioned buses then and the beige-colored bus I was on had split windows; they were metal frames that slipped from the top only, down one half of the opening. On Saturdays, I rode to the church where, in the sacristy, I would polish the candelabra that decorated the main altar at Mass on Sunday. It was summer, and the sun had climbed atop the city. As I remember, the ride was like any other, for a while. My bus

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A Mother Removed

By Vivian Montgomery

I was on the cell phone during my mother’s last breath. I was on the cell phone. A conversation with a funeral home director can’t quite qualify as chatting, but I remember it that way, I was chatting, it was easy-going and on the surface, unhurried despite my having said earlier in the conversation “There’s not much time.” I was arranging things for the aftermath, unaware that the aftermath was forming itself in those small seconds between one question about procedure

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Beech Forest

By Madelaine Zadik

Year after year, my mother awaited those flaming red hues. The shrubs lining our rural road flaunted their fall glory in a dazzling foliage extravaganza. As we neared the scarlet hedge in the center of Goshen, Massachusetts, my mother gathered herself in anticipation. At the first glimpse, she would shout out, “Euonymus!” or something close to it. She was so proud of remembering the name. Sometimes she’d get only the first few syllables, and I’d help her with

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If Only Connemara

By Catherine A. Smith

Imagine this said with a brogue:

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”

I stop bending the little paper tab that holds the dress onto my paper doll. My grandmother’s voice precedes her by only a second before she looms over me.

“You were supposed to be watching him!”

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Watch Me/ Say My Name

By John Brantingham

Cali is out of work for three weeks before it looks grim enough that she talks her sister into designing a website where for a price men can message her to do anything that they want her to do. In four days, the sisters understand that “anything they want” is predictable enough that they can have a menu with set prices. What keeps the guys coming back, and they do, is that she always says their name while she’s doing what she does, with a little lilt at the end, the way

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The Breatharian

By Daniel Adler

Ciara finishes chopping the red onion, tomato, avocado, squeezes the lime and mixes it in the tub so Nikki can pack it; grabs a green juice for tomorrow’s breakfast and clocks out. It’s already after two-thirty and Chicken’s waiting.

This, Ciara’s third day of her breatharian diet—no water, no food, just ether, as the ancients called it—is easier than the first two days; the initial discomfort of hunger and

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Act Three

By Wayne Cresser

One afternoon, long after lunch, they noticed that the actor wasn’t looking so good. When he wobbled during a particularly long take, one of the crew reacted, making a faint move toward the set. The actor was leaning over a balcony railing, confronting his defiant daughter who stood in the capacious parlor of their very large house.

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Ancestral Song

By A. J. M. Aldrian

I stood on a pedestal, looking in the mirrors of my life and lives before me, reflected. And I waited, cocking my head, attempting to understand how I got to this point and why.

This was supposed to be an unaffected visit to my Grandfather’s home, now I was dressed in the marriage gown of his dead wife.

“Try it on,” he said, egging me on. “I’d like you to have it…see you in it.”

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Night Music

By Susan Knox

I’ve rented a small room in a century-old Seattle office building for ten years and it’s been a boon to my writing. But my quiet space was compromised when a psychotherapist moved into an adjoining space. The opening for radiators that served both spaces and the thin wallboard separating our offices leaked sound; often a susurrus but it caused me to strain to hear the next-door discourse—although I didn’t always have to strain.

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Learn to Count Backwards While There Is Still Time

By Barbara Kristaponis

I am trying to write about having a brain tumor and being alone. I would rather be cleaning. An icy-sidewalk night at the corner of Broadway and 79th, and I forgot what day it was. And then I could not bring to mind what month it was. What year. What time of day. I asked my mind to bring me back to the date. And then by accident I bumped into our homeless neighbor who collects for God’s Love We Deliver. His long gray dreads spun out as he steadied himself.

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I Learn to Appreciate Soft Butter on Our Vacation

By Louisa Muniz

Being brave in rain is not easy. When it stops
I find an outdoor cafe near the hospital.

Running back & forth to see you
hooked up to beeping buzzing machines
is a heft of stone in my chest.

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Clocking Out

By Alan Perry

The metal gray time-clock
seemed to monitor every movement.

Its glassy face never blinked
as it belled interruptions through the day.

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Accident

By Bill Ratner

I count concrete squares on the way
to school like a gambler counting cards.
Tree roots nudge up the sidewalk.
Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.

I leap at the cross-piece on the power pole,

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First Day

By Valentina Cano

It wasn’t always a hotel, you know. It started its life as a tuberculosis sanatorium, one of those that catered to people who slept in furs. It’s high enough in the mountains for it, of course, it’s the hotel at the highest altitude in all of Europe, but at the time, there were higher sanitariums. More expensive ones, which was all that those people cared about. As if paper bills could return the chipped pieces of their lungs. The coughs these walls have heard! And none of them the delicate scraping of porcelain against porcelain that you may expect from

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Turkey Vultures

By James Hessler

I do my rounds, feeding cattle and horses every morning, on a ranch in the Sierra Foothills in California, north of Yosemite. It is a fight every morning at daybreak, from sleep to consciousness. I’m not naturally a morning person. But still I rise, dress, and go. My captured animals must be fed.

Half asleep, the rounds are routine and boring. Awake, really awake, if I can get there, the early morning is unique and amazing. Here, in this place, at this time, being alert will be rewarded with something interesting, fascinating, exciting, maybe even life changing.

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Call to Wake

By Sarah Carleton

he crack of dawn is a dark rinse,
humidity descending, night lifting,
bird band rattling while the lead sings
a long note and the counterpoint chirps
witchy witchy witchy witchy witchy

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Bobcat*

By C. T. Holte

After you have driven a lot of farm tractors
and a Cat D-8 so ancient that
the pony motor started with a pull rope
and was so persnickety in cold weather
that you wondered if the diesel
would ever turn over, you’d think
a Bobcat wouldn’t be that exciting.

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Nono Memories

By Trista Hurley-Waxali

I want to say I came to the city to find a job at the company, or that there was someone waiting here to make these noisy days worth it, but the truth is that I wanted to escape the grasp of the small town. It wasn’t something my parents thought was folksy but encouraged, both growing up in the city fighting for a stool at the bar. One night both of them ordered the same drink at the same time and it was enough to break the ice between two strangers. They told anyone who listens that they wanted one day to have their long island iced tea on a porch

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Heavy Thunder, Real Rain

By Michael Hanner

I know this face and which dog is mine.
I’m looking out my window,
the one that holds this morning,
its slanting sun, rain storms, snow.

I’m looking out that window
It’s Saturday morning, beyond the glass

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Riding an Ebike at Seventy

By John Delaney

With pedal assist and a throttle,
the hills sit lower and shorter.
I ride farther and bolder than I ever did.
Through the workhouse of the world
I visually dance, and the air parts
as I pass, not as gauntlet but
honor guard in a Tour de France.

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Tidal Shift

By Whitney Cooper

A childhood spent evading his lumbering
footsteps. His eyes in the recliner
every evening, awaiting
any wrong movement—his ears
listening for some crude thought to escape my mouth.

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Anticipatory Set

By Donna Isaac

Where does the bee go after the hollyhock?
A stick boy with a blue balloon waited to see,
the bumble so ripe in summer air.

Doesn’t everyone watch and wait?
The ice is out on the lake.

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Dry Cabin

By Cody Kucker

Between spokes of a spring-borne bicycle,
the redpolls peck at snow,
foraging through clumped leaf chaff for seeds.

The bicycle’s purple,
a pedal permafrosted, its tires flat.

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Threshold

By Samantha Malay

on sidewalks slick with rotting leaves
we wait for a freight train to pass

don’t oversleep
we will meet in the middle
of an empty room
in a town of hard shadows
windshield glare and drooping vines

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“Take your broken heart and make it into art” — Carrie Fisher

By Jessica Dubey

Make wallpaper of your greatest losses,
the smallest saved to decoupage
a Pandora-proof box

Sew a quilt from a sundress
tattered at the hem like a failed affair
or the first pair of shorts you ever bled through

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