Monday, October 26, 2020

What If A Billionaire Reality Star Became President?

 by 2020 Humor Second Prize Winner Cadence Mandybura

Where this story falters is in its abundance: it feels like a piling-on of the ridiculous, grotesque, petty, and, frankly, racist.

Write what you know, they say. And what does every writer know? Rejection. And, if you're lucky, constructive feedback from editors.

For many of us, it's been hard to look away from the ongoing reality show of U.S. politics over the last few years. My humorous piece, "Notes from the Editors on Orange is the Darkest Color," has a simple premise: what if the all-too-real story of the 45th President of the United States were the plot of a novel submitted for publication? It's too unbelievable for the editors of Ersatz Press, I'm afraid, although they do have some useful feedback for the author.

The world has already changed since I first wrote the piece. We can only hope the author of Orange is the Darkest Color takes some of the editorial feedback to heart in revising the manuscript. 

Read the full piece in Bacopa Literary Review 2020. I hope you enjoy my writing; you can learn more about me at and on Twitter @cade_bura. 


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

An Ominous Undertone

by 2020 Short-Short First Prize Winner Sarina Bosco 

Short-short fiction, or flash fiction, has been around roughly since the time of works like Aesop's Fables. But throughout my college and writing career I somehow never came across the genre. I took classes on rhetoric, on electronic literature, on the classics - but never once was flash fiction discussed. 

The concept confused me at first (and still does a lot of the time). Most literary journals seem to want a story beginning to end crammed into less than 1,000 words, which is quite a feat even when done poorly. But I like a challenge. As a writer you can choose to put yourself in a box - this is sometimes an incredibly helpful exercise - or you can choose to find new ways to approach a project. With "An interval of time just before the onset" in Bacopa Literary Review 2020, I opted for the latter. 

"An interval" isn't a story in the traditional sense but the elements are all there. The piece was inspired by thunderstorms, which I've always loved, and that feeling just before them - the feeling comprised of all of your senses warning you that something is coming. 

Everything on the cusp. The blades of grass turning in twilight, leaves showing their pale undersides, the wind picking up. The fine hair of the body lifting, listening. 

The tone of "An interval" is completely up for interpretation. While I tend to anticipate storms with excitement, others dread them. And 2020 has definitely brought an ominous undertone into our daily lives. But what I love most about thunderstorms is the after-effects; the cleansing feeling, everything damp and dripping a bit, that fresh smell that comes from plants releasing oils they've been building up. 

We're at a point in our lives, society, government, where we are on the cusp of something. I'd like readers to consider going about their lives the way "An interval" approaches the storm - with all senses open, ready to take on what's coming. 


Instagram: @sarina_writesalot

Saturday, October 17, 2020

In The Face of Our Mortality

by 2020 Fiction contributor Alison Clare

When I’ve been asked about the inspiration for “Appointment. Psychic Surgeon. Manila. 1972." I say, “Well, you should really speak to my mother-in-law. What she’ll tell you is bananas.” A couple of years ago, she had asked me to transcribe her journal from a journey she took to the Philippines in the summer of 1972. About halfway through the project, sitting on the couch of her home in Northern California, I put down the tiny spiral bound journal and said, “Did this really happen?”  

Essentially, the short story I penned is inspired by the ordeal she suffered at the hands of famed Filipino psychic surgeon Tony Agpaoa. Her mother, dying of stomach cancer and terrified of modern medicine, turned to him in the hopes of a miracle cure. He had pretended to excise the tumor from her mother’s stomach in an elaborate show of blood and extracted flesh. It was such a confusing and upsetting experience that she had rarely talked about the trip she had undertaken, only months before her mother’s death. Upon reading the story in Bacopa Literary Review, my husband looked up and said, “This is what happened to my mom?”

Later that night, I received a message from my brother-in-law after having read the story exclaiming, “Mind blown,” followed by the appropriate head exploding emoji. A few days later I spoke to my mother-in-law (who had given me her blessing to publish the story) and she said, “I like what you did with the chickens and the blood . . . because that’s what they did, and at the time we just didn’t know.” 

I suppose this is the power of stories: to lift the lid, expose a version of our histories and share them in a light in which they have never been seen. My story is fictional, and not at all a perfect recreation of what my mother-in-law experienced, but I think it honestly reflects the emotion of the truth: the hope, faith, fear, and crushing disappointment we experience in the face of our mortality.

. . . Yana moved from the idea of one quick cure to another, from day to day. On that particular hazy San Francisco morning, Yana's faith had been in the square firmly upon the promises of the Peoples Temple. By lunch time, she was enamored with the legend of the Great Surgeon . . .
Yana lay now on a bare metal table, draped in red cotton blankets. A deep blue clay bowl had been positioned by her head, partially covered by a thin sheet of muslin, ready to catch the cancer when it was extracted . . .

The Great Surgeon yanked one hand into the air, holding it high with a cry of victory. Held tight in his fist, a bloody mass of muscle and sinew bled furiously, the red running down his wrist and forearm . . .
Nadia . . . stumbled, knocking against the wall, searching for the waiting room . . . pulled at the first door handle she saw and fell through the opening into a dark grey room. The walls were badly water damaged and the smell of mold was heavy in the air. A fluorescent tube buzzed above Nadia's head. Blinking into the bright light, she stared in horror at the sight of a man standing at a steel table, hands deep inside the entrails of a dead chicken . . .

*   *   *

Alison Clare is a recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she completed her masters in English. She lives in Los Angeles with her bearded husband, baby daughter, and two neurotic rescue dogs. She is a voracious reader and, when her time comes, she will most likely meet her end crushed under the tower of books on her bedside table. Links to other work Alison has published can be found at her Instagram page @aliclarewrites.

Read Alison Clare's "Appointment. Psychic Surgeon. Manila. 1972."
2020 Bacopa Literary Review,
pp. 95-97

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A Familiar World, But Emptied

by 2020 Creative Nonfiction contributor Virginia Watts (Ginny Pina)

Living during this pandemic as a writer has been “weird,” a silly little word I have liked since I was seven or so. I didn’t want to write about the experience. I thought, "Every writer is writing about it. We’ll all sound the same."

Then I did write about it in “The Mouth on the Mountain” (Bacopa Literary Review 2020). I couldn’t shake the feeling that I have been here before.

During the stay-at-home months, 

Suddenly, our world has taken on a Hopperesque appearance. Familiar, but emptied. 

Those sweeping aerial views of the streets and alleyway of Philadelphia without people. On the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, where Rocky Balboa once raised his arms victorious in the early morning light, only pigeons and a piece of paper trash blowing by.

The experience brought me back to riding through the mountain tunnels of Pennsylvania in the back of my parents’ car.   

Like a sudden vacuum seal, the plop of a bell jar over an African violet, entering a tunnel stamped out a sunny day, stopped falling snow, vanished rain drumming on the car roof. 

It felt very much like our world had been slipped right out from under our feet. Places we could no longer go to. Friends and family we could no longer see. Dreams we were not sure we should continue dreaming.

But just like the trust one takes in construction of a way to travel safely through the heart of a mountain, this essay landed me in a place of confidence and hope. 

Even though this is not a place you are used to, you must take this journey. There is no other way to go. Trust the tunnel. Keep looking for the light.

 Read "The Mouth on the Mountain" 
in Bacopa Literary Review 2020,
pp. 165-167

*   *   *

Virginia Watts is the author of poetry and stories found in Illuminations, The Florida Review, The Blue Mountain Review, The Moon City Review, Permafrost Magazine, Palooka Magazine, Streetlight Magazine, Sky Island Journal among others. Winner of the 2019 Florida Review Meek Award in nonfiction and nominee for Best of the Net Nonfiction 2019 and 2020, her poetry chapbooks “The Werewolves of Elk Creek” and “Shot Full of Holes” are upcoming for publication by The Moonstone Press.  


Sunday, October 11, 2020

A Trek West with Indiana Jones

By 2020 Poetry contributor Jennifer Grant

I’ve spent a lifetime battling asthma, so I am familiar with hunkering down for a few weeks until my lungs decide to behave and function properly. Like many in my North Central Florida college town, I began self-quarantining the second week of March when medical advice stated that those with “pre-existing conditions” should consider removing themselves from threat of COVID-19.

I assumed I wouldn’t be housebound very long, so I decided to take this “lockdown” as an opportunity to pour myself into poetry. Instead of creativity, I found myself in a mud puddle of despair and desperate for the consoling words of other writers. I wondered how art survives in times of chaos and uncertainty.

Two months into quarantine I had barely written anything besides journaling gibberish. Then a mentor of mine started Zooming to bring her southern poet friends together. She posted weekly questions and prompts for the 12 of us and challenged us to revisit form. 

Poetic form has always brought me comfort during uncomfortable times. Maybe it’s because I have to concentrate on what I am trying to convey. Or, maybe it’s just the soothing rhythm. Although a Haibun only has pieces of Haiku sprinkled within, I used a rambling form of prose poetry to convey a surreal travel narrative in my "Off-Kilter Haibun on May 14, 2020," which I am honored to have published in Bacopa Literary Review 2020.  

As a side note, it was serendipitous that the same day I finally left my Gainesville house (donning a surgical mask) was the day Lewis and Clark began their historic wilderness trek west. I love when poetry magic happens that way.

                                       Off-Kilter Haibun On May 14, 2020

The same day Lewis and Clark departed to explore the wildness of the northwest, my canine co-pilot and I prepare for our own expedition. Our Corps of Discovery does not disembark from Camp Dubois outside St. Louis, Missouri but a cleared-out college town in North Central Florida. Lewis and Clark's goal was the Pacific Ocean. Mine is less grandiose--a mere 58 miles straight away to the Gulf of Mexico.

    Boat-less and Unmoored

With a red and white Igloo cooler in the front seat of my borrowed blue Honda and Indiana Jones (with his favorite beef bone) in the back, I am ready for the trek west. Sixty-three days of quarantine has me longing for greener scenery. The sun is already high and hot and I think I should've shoved off sooner. Clark said in his journals that it was cloudy that morning in 1804 when they were fixing for a start. They didn't leave Camp River until 4 o'clock. Lewis and Clark traveled in a  55-foot keel boat. My ride has a cracked windshield and is 196 inches from nose to backside.

    In Pursuit of Adventure 

It's nearly 20 minutes into our journey before my second in command, Dr. Jones, and the traffic settle. Then the rhythm of purple and yellow pansies prancing roadside and ditches dotted with wading snowy egrets soothes. An osprey winds its way through the slash pines, leading me deeper into nature's nest and farther from fear of a virus that could ravage my asthmatic chest. But death looms near Otter Creek and I spy a grey faced coyote, lifeless on the road's shoulder. Just beyond, on a corner, a couple in white surgical masks sells shaved ice snacks the same color as the blood pooled around the poor dead hound's head.

    Viral Pioneer

As I contemplate my own fate, my trusted navigator (my phone), announces my destination on the right. It's here that Capt. Carl of Cedar Key offers me a grin and his grouper catch for today.

    This spring pandemic
    where nothing is black and white
    except my Shih-tzu

*   *   *

Jennifer Grant is a former newspaper journalist who resides in Gainesville, FL. Her first collection of poetry, Good Form, was published by Negative Capability Press (2017), and a tiny chapbook, Bronte Sisters and Beyond by Zoetic Press (2018). Her chapbook Year of Convergence is now available through Blue Lyra Press and on Amazon. A virtual reading is scheduled for Oct.30 at City Lit Books in Chicago. Her latest non-fiction can be found in the current issue of Maine Review.

Friday, October 9, 2020

"Ascension" by Oliver Keyhani: Cover Art and Ekphrastic Micropoem


Artist and poet Oliver Keyhani's ekphrastic micropoem accompanies his 2020 cover art, "Ascension": 
"You were always looking for a way to bind the feathers of angels to a history of science. The living maintain a constant distance from the dead. I am now beating against your ribcage."

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Reflections on "Drunk and Digging"

By 2020 Poetry contributor Mickey Mahan 

My poem, “Drunk and Digging,” in Bacopa Literary Review 2020 is one piece in the poetic, literary montage entitled “THE FLYING BUSMAN: an urban poem of dramatic potential,” and, like all entries in the 185-page manuscript, a snapshot of a day-in-the-life of a transit bus driver. 

All the poems are experiential moments on the fly. The manuscript contains poems depicting the slow, picaresque unfolding of a day on the city streets set within the larger context of an individual life story.  So, it’s life on the bus, and off the bus. In the bus garage, on the go; in the home. Concrete. Dreamy. Erotic. Comic. 

“Drunk and Digging” happened exactly as depicted in the poem. It was a funny moment of frustration and surprise, a confirmation of the infinite potential of the unexpected! I had never seen this particular rider before and never saw him again. 
But, somehow, those short, fragmentary interactions leave a deep impression. Remember-ing the incident and rereading the poem now, that brief bus trip assumes a wholeness of vision that gives a nutshell version of a bus driver’s life. A holler becomes a hoot, and the seriousness of proper and improper, right and wrong, find their dissolution in a disheveled drunk.  

Ricky The Flying Squirrel he ain't
staggering across the gas station lot
opposite side of the street
earflaps on his fur hat flapping
in mock take-off
and I'm wondering if he'll make it
to the other side without getting run over
gesticulating for the bus with unhinged arms

I pull the bus to the curb and wait
don't ask me why
"thanks a lot my friend" he slurs
through an unkempt white beard almost bewitching
as it sparkles with snow
that face has chased down more than one bus
in its day
as he steadies himself on the sidewalk
staring up at me through floating eyes
I wonder which step will be his last

. . .

we knock down the city blocks
with him teetering and me tensing
until we reach downtown
last stop
everybody off
and he's elbow deep
digging in his pockets
begging me
"please buddy just another minute
I know it's here somewhere"
and in a couple of tittering tipsy steps
he descends and lands on the sidewalk
feet as firmly planted as a telephone pole
and I think
"I'll be damned he did it"

*    *     *

Mickey "The Flying Busman" Mahan's poems--after three decades behind the wheel of a transit bus, writing on a pocket-size memo pad WHILE he drives, pen-in-teeth (he calls his writing practice "Writing On the Edge Of My Seat")--have raised an itch the driver's seat can't scratch. So, away they go!