Sunday, April 15, 2018

Flash Fiction: Short and Tumultuous

By Editor in Chief Mary Bast
The lofty stance, the cosmic range, and the haunting music of Trakl's poetry now mark him, with Rilke, as perhaps the last great representative of what could be called the sublime tradition in German. Herbert Samuel Lindenberger, Georg Trakl
Our 2017 Flash Story Prize-winner Stephanie Emily Dickinson illuminates the short, tumultuous life of  Georg Trakl (1887-1914) in  Excerpts from the Trakl Diaries: A Collection of Tales (31: "Strangeress," 32: "The Snow," 33:"The Train," and 34: "Military Exercises" below). Her inspiration, George Trakl, protested "against the corrupt, fallen condition of humankind." To fully appreciate Dickinson's skill in creating new work while capturing the haunting music of Trakl's Expressionist poetry, click here for some of Trakl's poems, then read "Military Exercises," one of Dickinson's Collection of Tales available in Bacopa Literary Review 2017:
Military Exercises
1914. Heat has trapped itself. The light stays midmorning while we march through grass that rain has dampened. Linden trees around the parade ground throb with white scent. The grass blades lash themselves to my boots. My comrades chase not a ball but a soldier in pale goggles who kicks at a creature. The sky is the color of a giant spiked wheel breaking bodies as it rolls. The hardwoods hidden, spider webs embrace them. Back and forth we drill, a strophe that believes its steps have returned to the 4th grade where recess has begun. The bigger boys play. Each scrambles to pick up a stone or a stick. The animal that I took for a black cat is a rat, thin and elongated. Brownish black with a tail longer than its head and body, it blinks at the brightness with its poor eyes. My comrades are hoisting the culprit up and applying weights, they are setting the two forks, the prongs plunged into the flesh, against the neck. The tallest takes from his jacket pocket a wire contraption and baits it. I smell the sweetness of bacon. Red tort. Pig kidney flamed in rum. The rat tries to flee, pulling its strange cordy tail, skittering one way and then the other. The rat squeaks piteously and drags its little body. Nein, I say, drawing my service revolver. Nein. I will save the heretic. Give me the contraption, free the wire from the rat's neck. My comrades laugh, they clamor to swing the rat now that its blood is trickling through the air. Soon it will be August. War. The rat no longer claws the earth but kings it. Millions breed with the red slugs and frogs. Corpse rats. Millions of rat Robespierres to avenge, fewer rat Buddhas to forgive here under the lover's linden trees whose white perfume masks the executioner's sweat.

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Stephanie Dickinson was raised on an Iowa farm, graduated with an MFA from the University of Oregon, and now lives in New York City. Along with Rob Cook, she publishes and edits the literary journal Skidrow Penthouse, now in its 10th year. She has received multiple distinguished story citations in the Pushcart Anthology, Best American Short Stories, and Best American Mysteries. And we've previously posted about her The Emily Fables and Heat: An Interview with Jean Seberg.

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