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So today was long. So everywhere you turn is surmounting noise about collusion, Russia, and #45. So you’re tired of reading articles and listening to audio files online, because you can’t shake the fear that things might sour and turn aggressively political. Buck up! Cleaver has your back. This morning we published our 17th issue, which is brimming with fictional realities you’ll actually want to dive in to, as well as art, poetry, and nonfiction that balm Cheeto-induced wounds. Now, I can’t promise that this issue will be completely devoid of political comment or metaphysical moments, but the comments and the moments you do cross will be the good kind: the ones you savor and reminisce upon long after reading.

To wet your appetite for the fierce, funny, and poignant works awaiting you in Issue 17, I have compiled 5 of my favorite pieces and listed them below.

The first poem in the list, “Hydroquinone,” written by Sean Flood, has been recorded for Cleaver’s flagship podcast, On the Edge, edited and hosted by intern Ryan Evans. Throughout Issue 17, there are ample opportunities to hear additional author readings.

After enjoying the poems and prose I’ve chosen for you, take a moment to wade through the rest of the issue. Go a head. Indulge. You know you want to…

-Rosie Huf, Senior Editor of Life As Activism 

1. HYDROQUINONE
A poem by Sean Flood

*Click here for the audio file

Death bruises like a
tornado; the land is new. We had

only just arrived when the
tornado came and tore everything
up. Watch the eye sweep him up into

the vortex; he is your husband.
Burn
these documents, they are
your slave papers […]

2. CARTOGRAPHY
A poem by Emily Paige Wilson

The window reminds me how cold it is outside: the snow and sudden wind. I don’t know if I can give up this warmth, hands wrapped around a cup of coffee. Her finger traces an itinerary and then there it is: a small town sloping into Slovakia’s northern border. Jalubí. A word I’ve never seen before but recognize the way snow knows the ground and feels it must either stick or melt, the way the bridge knows the river though they’ve never touched. My family has been searching for a farm in Jalobee for years, a town remembered as a misspelling […]

3. WITH “Y” AS AN ABSENCE OF PAIN
by Sarah Sarai

There is nothing new to this particular story. A white policeman; a rookie; a quote/unquote misunderstanding; a split-second decision—well, not really a decision, because a decision requires consideration. More a nasty-as-hell impulse on the cop’s part. And that’s that for the teenager, the goofy kid […]

4. ESCAMBIA
by Donald Ryan

“How much for a bundle?”

“Three even.” The man was older than Father. His clean-shaven face opposed the gruff voice of a harried life.

“Fresh?”

“Plucked rightly this morning.” The day’s labor still remained under his fingernails. “Ripe for the picking.”

Father pulled a five from his wallet and pocketed the change, and with the peaches we piled back into the car. Mother cradled the wicker basket in her lap, cosseting the fruit as Mother Earth had done.

“Would you care for a peach? They’re ripe,” Mother asked my aunt.

“It was just like he was sleeping,” my aunt said, not turning from the window and the blur of passing greenery. Mother reached back anyway and placed a peach in my aunt’s limp palm. Her fingers naturally curled to the pressure.

“It’s good for you,” Mother said towards the windshield, solemn yet tender.

My aunt pulled her stare into the car, eyeing the fruit like it was dredging a memory she was indifferent to remembering. She rolled it over in her hand, taking in the curve like it made no difference it was round. She put it to her nose to paint the picture clearer and left it there, breathing in the peach. “It was just like he was sleeping,” she whispered to the fruit […]

5. ALARM
by Sandra Shaw Homer

Suddenly, a strident male voice sounds through the closed hall door: “Evacuate the building! Everyone evacuate the building!”

For the first time, it occurs to me there might really be a fire. I slip on my jacket and hat and pick up my purse, just as a male patient shuffles with agonizing slowness through the door from the recreation room. I say, “We must leave the building,” and my heart sinks as I realize he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. The charge nurse returns and, taking the old fellow by the arm, directs us both to the fire exit.

In the hall, all is pandemonium. Even the ambulatory patients are incapable of making it to the fire exit on their own. The staff is operating on adrenaline and rote training. At the exit, I hold the door open for the wheelchairs and aides guiding the patients on foot. One grand dame holds up traffic by asking me what I’m laughing about. There is a twinkle in her beautiful gray eyes. Perhaps she sees a joke and wants to share it. Perhaps there really is a smile on my face. Someone from behind gently pushes her forward. Feeling a little useless where I am, I ask one of the aides what I can do to help […]

*Image above is the Issue 17 Cover image: “Urban American Gothic.” by Tina Blondell


Rosie-Huf-200 Rosie Huf is the Senior Editor of Cleaver Magazine’s Life As Activism feature and manages the Editors’ Blog. Recently, she received her Master of Liberal Studies degree from Arizona State University, the concentration in Nonfiction and Publishing. She has had several interviews published in Superstition Review and has a forthcoming nonfiction piece in Sundog Lit.